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Title: Dick Kent with the Mounted Police
Author: Richards, Milton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                               Dick Kent
                        with the Mounted Police


                           By MILTON RICHARDS


                               AUTHOR OF
                      “Dick Kent in the Far North”
                      “Dick Kent with the Eskimos”
                        “Dick Kent, Fur Trader”
                   “Dick Kent and the Malemute Mail”


                    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
                        Akron, Ohio    New York

                           Copyright MCMXXVII
                    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
                 _Made in the United States of America_



                                Contents


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I The Scar Faced Indian                                              3
  II At Little Moose Portage                                          14
  III Dick Shoots the Rapids                                          27
  IV Through the Flames                                               39
  V MacKenzie’s Landing                                               47
  VI A Grizzly Shows Fight                                            55
  VII The Rifled Cache                                                65
  VIII Dick Drops a Moose                                             75
  IX Pierre Govereau                                                  83
  X Toma and a Cold Snap                                              94
  XI Slush Ice                                                       102
  XII The Blizzard                                                   110
  XIII Dick Sees a Ghost                                             120
  XIV An Unwelcome Visitor                                           127
  XV Outwitting the Enemy                                            135
  XVI A Journey Through the Night                                    145
  XVII The Stolen Huskies                                            153
  XVIII A Hungry Pack                                                162
  XIX The Circle of Death                                            171
  XX Sandy Disappears                                                179
  XXI The Man From Crooked Stick River                               184
  XXII A Skirmish in the Night                                       194
  XXIII Gray Goose Lake                                              200
  XXIV Chief Black Dog’s Scheme                                      209
  XXV The Attack on the Fort                                         216
  XXVI Lost Underground                                              222



                   DICK KENT WITH THE MOUNTED POLICE



                               CHAPTER I
                         THE SCAR FACED INDIAN


Dick Kent tossed aside the wolf trap he had been trying to repair, and
turned to his chum, Sandy McClaren.

“Let’s go back to your Uncle Walter’s at Fort Good Faith,” said Dick
restlessly. “It’s getting too quiet around here.”

Sandy McClaren’s big blue eyes turned from the marten pelt he had been
scraping. “I’m with you, Dick. Uncle Walt needs us, too. He’s still
having a lot of trouble with that outlaw, Bear Henderson.”

For a year after finishing school in the United States, Dick Kent and
Sandy McClaren had been pursuing adventure two hundred miles north of
Hay River Landing, Canada, where they had gone to visit Sandy’s uncle.
Lately they had come to Fort du Lac at the invitation of Martin MacLean,
the factor there. The savage northland already had woven its spell of
dangerous adventure about them, but Fort du Lac had proved dull after
the excitement of the more lawless trading post supervised by Sandy’s
uncle on the northern fringe of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s territory.

Dick and Sandy had turned toward the big log store building where Martin
MacLean bartered for furs, when they stopped dead, looking northeast
along the trail that curved about a high headland of pine forest.

“What’s that?” cried Dick suddenly.

“Looks like an Indian runner!” Sandy exclaimed.

“I’ll tell Mr. MacLean,” Dick stretched his athletic legs toward the
store.

The fur trader came out on Dick’s heels a moment later, his broad, bony
frame and bearded face tense at the hint of trouble.

“It’s a runner all right,” confirmed the trader, watching the distant
figure, which was rapidly approaching.

Presently a swarthy faced Indian, his coarse black hair streaming about
his haggard features, fell almost exhausted into their arms.

“Help me carry him in,” Martin MacLean commanded. “He’s tuckered out.
We’ve got to get him to talk. There’s trouble somewhere.”

They tugged the limp body of the runner into the store and lay him on
several bales of fur. The trader hurried for stimulant, which he forced
between the Indian’s teeth. The runner soon opened his eyes. All three
bent over him as he spoke:

“Him Bear Henderson take um post—from Mister McClaren,” gasped the
runner. “Tie um up. Kill all good Injuns!”

Dick Kent’s face paled as he turned to Sandy. “Henderson has captured
your Uncle Walter!”

“Well, he’ll get his when the mounted police get there,” flared Sandy,
his Scotch temper showing itself.

The factor of the post turned to them. They fell silent. “Boys, I can’t
leave the post,” he said, “and I don’t trust any of the Indians around
the store. Can I depend on you to go down the river and get Malcolm
Mackenzie?”

“Can you!” Dick and Sandy chorused, “I should smile.”

“You know what this means,” the trader went on sternly. “Bear Henderson
is a powerful man. There isn’t a doubt this runner was followed here.
There may be men right here at Fort du Lac who are in sympathy with the
outlaw. Henderson is plotting against the whole northern frontier held
by Hudson’s Bay Company. It’s life or death.”

“We’ll do it!” Dick cried eagerly. “Tell us what to do.”

“All right then. You go by canoe down the river to Mackenzie’s Landing.
Tell Mackenzie I asked him to go with you to the mounted police post at
Fort Dunwoody. You know the trail that far. Malcolm knows it from the
landing on. There’s a grub cache he might have forgotten. In case he
has——” the boys followed MacLean behind the counter. From the strong box
the trader drew a map. “Now here is our post,” the trader continued,
indicating a dot on the rough map with a match end, while Dick and Sandy
followed him attentively; “There’s Little Moose Portage, and further
down Mackenzie’s Landing, the free trader’s post. Twenty miles further
the river swings north and you leave the water and go by land. Then
here’s where you strike the cache of food——”

Dick’s sudden, startled cry interrupted. “What was that at the window!”

“I didn’t see anything,” whispered Sandy.

“Sure you weren’t imagining something?” said the trader.

“I know I saw a face right there a moment ago,” Dick insisted, pointing
to a window in the rear of the long store. “It seemed to be an Indian’s
face which was covered with hideous scars.”

MacLean walked back and pulled the curtains shut over the window. He
returned and went on explaining the location of the cache and the route
to be taken to Fort Dunwoody.

Once started, Dick and Sandy were not long in preparing for the trip
down the river to Mackenzie’s Landing. They cleaned and oiled their
30.30 Ross rifles, packed a canoe with flour, beans, bacon, coffee,
salt, sugar and camp utensils, and saw that they were well supplied with
ammunition.

On their last trip to the canoe from the storehouse, Sandy, too, had a
singular surprise. But he did not cry out. Instead, he called softly to
Dick, who was a little ahead of him.

“I saw the same face you saw behind those boxes over there on the
landing,” Sandy said tensely. “Make believe we didn’t notice anything.
Then we’ll pick up our rifles and walk down the river till we get where
we can see behind the boxes.”

“All right,” Dick replied cooly, his dark eyes gleaming as they always
did at the promise of excitement.

“Don’t shoot. Capture him,” Dick added, as they deposited their packs
into the canoe, picked up their rifles and started off down the river
bank, their eyes bent to the left.

When they had advanced far enough to see behind the boxes, they turned
and looked. The face was gone! There was no one behind the packing
boxes.

Sandy scratched his head. “Blame it, I know I saw somebody watching us.”

“Come on, we’ll look closer.” Dick led the way forward and they examined
all the boxes, but found each one empty.

“Looks queer,” Dick admitted.

“Those Indians can disappear mighty suddenly,” Sandy said. “Let’s tell
Mr. MacLean.”

They hurried back to the store. The trader plainly was deeply concerned
over what they had to tell. “I tell you, boys, I hadn’t ought to let you
make this trip,” he said, pacing back and forth. “Henderson has men here
that I know nothing about. They say he has secret operatives all over
the northern frontier. Sandy’s uncle never would forgive me if anything
happened to you fellows. But I don’t see what else I can do. The mounted
police must be notified.”

“Well, Sandy and I aren’t men,” Dick replied modestly, “but you know
we’ve been in the north country for a year now and so far we’ve taken
pretty good care of ourselves. Sandy’s Uncle Walter will tell you that.”

The trader surveyed Dick Kent’s stalwart figure and Sandy’s more stocky
frame with a renewal of confidence. “Yes,” he concluded, “I believe you
fellows will come out all right. Shake.”

Dick and Sandy gripped Martin MacLean’s hard hand. They felt a glow of
admiration for the big “sourdough” who had so complimented two
“chechakos,” or tenderfeet. The trader drew from his pocket a wallet of
money and thrust it into Dick’s hand, with the remark it might come in
handy for expenses.

An hour later the boys were gliding down the river, Dick in the stern
steering, Sandy in front on the lookout for snags. The dark walls of
spruce forest on either side closed in on them with a mysterious
silence. They seemed to feel malevolent eyes watching them as they
sheered the oily surface of the stream. The strange face both had seen
at Fort du Lac remained in their memory and made them silent as they
forged along with the current. It was the last warm days of fall;
already a hint of winter was in the air, and with the threat of danger
hovering about was combined another feeling of dread, as if the very
atmosphere of the vast, lonely land heralded the approach of mercilessly
cold weather.

“You watch the south bank, and I’ll watch the north,” Dick broke the
silence when the landing at Fort du Lac had faded from view around a
bend. “I think we’ll be followed by land if our suspicions are correct
and there’s really some one on our trail.”

“They’ll have to follow by land for a ways anyway,” rejoined Sandy. “Mr.
MacLean will see them if they use one of the canoes at the landing. But
I suppose they have a canoe hidden somewhere along the river.”

“That’s about it,” Dick agreed. “We’ll keep sharp watch and be ready to
duck if there’s any shooting.”

They paddled on silently for a quarter of an hour, making good time and
keeping to the center of the stream. They were just passing a large heap
of driftwood, lodged in an eddy near the north shore, when Sandy called
Dick’s attention to something under the brush.

“What do you make of that light brown object just the other side of the
little sand point sticking out into the river?” asked Sandy.

“I was looking at it myself,” responded Dick. “I thought it was a log
with the bark off it at first, but it might be a canoe.”

“It looks a lot like a canoe—as if they tried to hide it under some
brush but the brush sprung up after they left and exposed it.”

“We’ll turn in and see,” Dick plied his paddle lustily, and the light
craft swerved toward the shore.

“Aren’t we taking an awful risk?” Sandy was cautious. “Suppose they’re
close to us.”

“We’ll take a chance,” Dick returned. “Better take a chance now than
have them catch up with us in that canoe. It’s plain they’re not here
yet.”

Nerves keyed high at thought of the peril they might be floating into,
Dick and Sandy bore swiftly into the sand point, and presently the
bottom of the canoe grated on the gravel. Dick leaped out into the
shallow water and beached the canoe, Sandy following closely.

“It’s a canoe sure enough!” Dick exclaimed when they reached the spot
where they had seen the suspicious object.

“And they tried to hide it,” Sandy came back, as they drew nearer. “See
the tracks in the mud? Say! That canoe hasn’t been there a day, if
that!”

“You’re right!” Dick cried, “and right here and now we’re going to see
that nobody chases us in this canoe.”

“Be careful,” Sandy cautioned.

“We’ll set her adrift,” Dick went on, unheeding Sandy’s precautions.
“Here, Sandy, you grab the bow and I’ll get around behind and push. Soon
as we get it out in the current it’ll float down where they can’t find
it. We might sink it, but we’d have to tow it into the river and we
haven’t time.”

Sandy fell to work with a will. The canoe was lodged in the mud rather
securely and they strained for some minutes before it at last came loose
with a suck and splash that nearly tumbled Sandy over. An instant later
they had shoved the canoe out into the stream, where the current caught
it and carried it past the sand point.

The young adventurers paused to gaze with satisfaction upon this blow
they felt they had dealt the enemy, when a sound from the shore drew
their startled attention.

“Listen,” whispered Dick.

They could hear a crashing among the trees. Looking toward the forest
they could see nothing at first. Then suddenly, into a small clearing
that led down to the river bank, burst three men, running and waving
their rifles menacingly.

“Quick! The canoe!” cried Dick hoarsely. “Don’t stop to shoot. We’ve got
to get away. They’re after that canoe. It’s the Indian with the scarred
face!”

Sandy tumbled into the stern of the canoe in one flying leap, and as
Dick shoved on the prow, he picked up his paddle and stroked backward.
The canoe left the beach with a lunge, and Dick was nearly precipitated
into the water as he leaped into his position in the bow. As they
crouched to paddle, three shots sounded and bullets cut the water about
them.

“Downstream fast,” shouted Dick. “Stay low, Sandy.”

Rifle balls were flying thick and fast as they rounded the sand point,
paddling frantically after the canoe they had set adrift.

“Diable!” they could hear an enraged cry in French, as their pursuers
found the canoe gone and the boys escaping.

Dick turned and looked back. All three of the men were kneeling with
rifles leveled. “Duck!” he shouted to Sandy just in time.

The rifles cracked almost as one and two bullets ripped through the
bottom of the canoe, plowing up splinters in their wake.

“We’ve sprung a leak,” called Sandy almost immediately. “Those shots
have put the canoe out of commission!”

Dick glanced about at the bottom of the canoe. Sandy was right. The
bullets had struck below the waterline and the river was gurgling in
around the packs and blankets.



                               CHAPTER II
                        AT LITTLE MOOSE PORTAGE


Dick Kent thought swiftly. There was no time to lose. The canoe was
filling fast. Already it was growing perceptibly heavier. Ahead he could
see the canoe they had set adrift. It was a long chance, but it was the
only thing to be done, aside from swimming to the other shore and
abandoning all their packs and camp equipment.

“Sandy!”

“What?” panted his chum.

“We’ve got to switch our packs into that empty canoe.”

“Catch it first, I’ll say!” cried Sandy.

They redoubled their efforts on the paddles. The drifting canoe was
spinning slowly in the stream. Waterlogged as they were, they yet were
slowly gaining on the empty craft. Out of rifle range from the sand
point, the bullets of their pursuers no longer endangered them as they
skipped across the water yards short of their mark.

Slowly they overhauled the empty canoe, and at last Dick reached out and
grasped the prow, hauling it to the side of their own sinking craft.
Dropping their paddles then, they straddled the two gunwales and with
their legs held the canoes together while with all haste they
transferred their dunnage. Working grimly and silently they had almost
finished when the canoes began to whirl slowly in the current. Sandy
lost his balance and toppled into the water, his hoarse shout of
surprise muffled as the river closed over his head.

Sandy came up from the cold bath. Dick shouted encouragement, extending
a paddle to his chum while he alone held the canoes together. In a
moment, spluttering and shivering, Sandy crawled back into the loaded
canoe.

The leaking canoe was rolling on its side when the last blanket was
taken from it. The young men picked up their paddles and struck out with
all speed. They feared their pursuers, since they no longer appeared on
the sand point, had run back into the forest and were coming along the
river bank into rifle range.

“B-r-r-r, that sure was no warm bath,” chattered Sandy.

“Keep paddling, and warm up,” Dick called over his shoulder. “We’ll go
ashore and dry your clothes when we’re sure we’ve got away from them.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when a rifle shot sounded from
the shore some distance behind them. A bullet whined over their heads
and plunked into the river.

“There they go again!” cried Dick. “Let’s bear toward the other shore
and see if we can’t get out of range.”

Crouching over their paddles they swerved to the right and gradually
paddled out of range once more.

Until late in the afternoon the boys kept up a killing pace with the
paddles. Sandy, warmed by the stiff exercise, would not permit Dick to
go in shore on his account, and so they drew into the swift current
above Little Moose Portage.

The canoe was beached on the shore opposite the one where the enemy had
put in an appearance miles behind. It was an excellent camp site. They
were only about three hundred yards above the rapids, whose swift
current, filled with sharp stones, made it necessary to go on by land to
a point where the river was less dangerous. They could hear the sound of
the rushing water.

“We’ll keep sharp watch while we make camp,” said Dick. “Those fellows
may have found another canoe and caught up with us.”

“Even if they come on by land they can’t be so very far behind,” Sandy
added, shivering a little now that the warming work on the paddle was
discontinued.

Dick and Sandy had paddled many miles that day and they were very tired.
A year before they could not have kept on that far. But the north
country had hardened their already healthy bodies, until they laughed at
the exertion that would have put a southland boy flat on his back.

A campfire of pine cones and dead wood soon was crackling cheerily. Dick
set on the coffee pot and mixed up some flapjacks while Sandy took off
his moccasins and sox by the fire. By the time Sandy was fairly dry the
meal was ready, and the boys fell to ravenously. Now and again they were
startled by some sound from the forest, but each time the noise proved
to be only that made by a wild animal investigating their campfire.

“We’ll take turns on watch tonight,” Dick said, sipping his last cup of
coffee.

“Let’s draw straws for the first trick,” Sandy suggested.

“No,” Dick objected, “that ducking you had gave you the hardest day.
I’ll take the first watch.”

Sandy wanted it otherwise, but Dick insisted.

“Well, if you’ll be sure to wake me up when my turn comes,” Sandy was
already yawning, “it’s all right with me.”

Soon Sandy was rolled in his blankets, close by the fire, which was
welcome indeed in the chill of the autumn evening.

Dick took a position in the shadow of a clump of willows where the
firelight would not reveal him to any prowlers of the night that might
investigate too closely. Here he squatted Indian fashion, his rifle
across his knees. Many thoughts passed through his mind as the time
slowly passed. That Sandy and he were on the most perilous mission of
their lives he knew. But contrary to being frightened by impending
danger, he was overjoyed. It was what he and Sandy had come north
for—adventure. And they were getting it.

“We ought to get to Mackenzie’s Landing day after tomorrow,” he mused,
talking low to himself to keep from going to sleep. It was too dangerous
to walk about. “That means three or four more camps before we get a
guide. Gee, I wish we could go on by ourselves. If Sandy or I only knew
the country around Fort Dunwoody—but we’d get lost, and we can’t afford
to lose any time with Sandy’s uncle in Bear Henderson’s hands. Wonder——”

Dick sat up suddenly, listening. It seemed to him that above the ripple
of the river water and the low rumble of the distant rapids he heard the
scrape of a canoe bottom on the gravel. His heart leaped and beat on
painfully. What if some one stole their canoe, or crept up and attacked
them! The thought galvanized him into action.

He dropped to his hands and knees, his rifle clutched in his right
fingers. It was only a short distance to that part of the beach where
they had dragged the canoe up out of the water. Dick crawled quietly
along among the shadows to the fringe of undergrowth bordering the
beach. At first the glare of the firelight in his eyes made all appear
very dark by contrast, but gradually his vision was adjusted, and he
could make out the vague form of the canoe.

“Wonder if it was only my imagination,” he mumbled, not seeing anything
amiss. “But——” he caught his breath. The canoe had moved!

Sure enough, difficult as it was to see distinctly, he knew the canoe
had rocked from side to side.

“What could it be?” he whispered, straining his eyes.

It seemed now that he could see a darker blot of darkness moving above
the rim of the canoe, but he was not sure. There was but one thing to
do—crawl out of the sheltering bushes and across the sand to a point
from which he could ascertain just what was moving the canoe.

The decision made, Dick did not hesitate a moment. Half way to the
canoe, he stopped and lay prone on his stomach, listening and watching.
What little breeze there was blew from the canoe toward him, so that an
animal would not easily detect his approach unless it heard him.
Faintly, Dick could hear a scratching sound, as if some sharp instrument
agitated the sand and gravel. He was more puzzled than ever.

He moved on again, drawing one knee cautiously after the other, careful
that his rifle was ready for instant firing. Ten feet further and the
scratching sound ceased suddenly. Dick was now within a few feet of the
prow of the canoe. He stopped dead still, and, resting on his knees,
raised his rifle.

“Who’s there?” he called sternly.

A sudden commotion followed. Around the prow of the canoe flashed two
round glowing eyes, and a bearded, tuft-eared cat face. Dick’s rifle
crashed. There was an inhuman squall of pain; a ball of fur and fury
bounded high into the air and fell writhing, spitting and snarling
within three feet of Dick, who leaped to one side.

“Hi! Hi! Dick, where are you?” It was Sandy calling from the campfire.
He had been awakened by the gun shot.

“It’s all right, Sandy,” Dick called back, stooping over the animal he
had killed. “Only a lynx scratching around the canoe. Come and take a
look. Gosh! I must have hit him right between the eyes.”

Sandy came running up, and bent over the dead lynx. When the cat’s last
struggles ceased, the boys hauled it into the firelight.

“I was scared half to death,” Sandy grinned sheepishly. “I was dreaming
we were in Fort Good Faith with Uncle Walter and about a million wild
Indians were whooping and shooting at the stockade.”

“You can bet your bottom dollar I didn’t feel so calm about the time
that lynx came around the canoe and looked me in the eye,” Dick
confessed. “I never took aim at all—just blazed away. Lucky shot I call
it. I thought it was some one trying to steal our canoe.”

“What time is it?” Sandy inquired, getting up and stretching.

Dick drew out a fine watch which had been a graduation present. “Only
ten o’clock,” he reported. “You can go back to bed, Sandy. My watch
isn’t half done.”

The young adventurers talked a few minutes after Sandy was back in his
blankets. But Sandy soon fell asleep. In spite of the excitement brought
on by the killing of the lynx, Sandy was so tired that he went back to
sleep almost immediately.

Dick looked down at the lynx. “He’s sure a beauty,” he whispered
proudly. “I kind of wish I hadn’t killed him now. It’s a shame to kill
animals when a fellow can’t use their fur or meat.”

He returned to his position in the shadow of the willows and sat there
patiently until midnight, when it was time to awaken Sandy. The fire had
died down and he heaped more wood on it. He never felt more wide awake
in his life. Sandy was sleeping soundly.

“Sandy, you’re pretty tired,” Dick murmured, looking down at his chum,
“and I feel just about as fresh as when we pitched camp. Guess I won’t
wake you up—just let you sleep until morning.”

There was an affection like brotherhood between the two boys, who had
been neighbors and chums from infancy up. And since Dick was two years
older than Sandy, he often felt somewhat like an older brother would
feel toward a younger. Perhaps this induced Dick to resume his watch
without awakening Sandy.

When Dick sat down again he was sure he could stay awake all night, but
the flicker of the firelight, the whispering silence of the forest, and
the ripple of the river were like a pleasant lullaby. Before he knew it
he was nodding, and presently he fell sound asleep. Head drooping over
his knees, Dick slept unknowing, while the fire died down and the deep
blackness of the northland night crept over the silent camp.

Sandy awakened with a start at four o’clock. It still was dark, as the
days were shortening with the approach of winter. He did not know why
Dick had not awakened him, and he was at first fearful that something
had happened to his chum.

“Dick, Dick,” he called softly, sitting up in his blankets, trying to
pierce the gloom with his eyes.

There came no answer. Quietly Sandy reached out and one hand closed on
his rifle. The feel of the cold steel comforted him. He had begun to
learn what an encouraging companion a firearm can be in those lonely
climes where they are necessary if one would live long.

Arising, Sandy began a search of the camp and quickly came upon Dick,
sound asleep a little way off.

“Ho, ho,” laughed Sandy mischievously, “I’ve got one on you now, old
boy. Asleep on watch, huh. I’ll fix you.”

His fears relieved, Sandy’s sense of humor cropped out. He could not
resist playing a good joke on his chum.

Sandy thought a moment, then hit upon an idea, which he quickly put into
execution. The fire had gone out, and Sandy’s scheme was no other than
to rebuild it so close to Dick that it would sizzle the sleeping lad’s
chin.

Soon Sandy had the fire crackling and snapping within two feet of Dick’s
face, as he lay on the pine needles where he had fallen over during the
night.

Setting about breakfast, Sandy chuckled as he watched Dick begin to
squirm and mutter in his sleep as the heat reached him.

At last Dick turned over, and flinging out one hand, almost plunged it
into the fire. Sandy cried out sharply, and jumped forward to keep
Dick’s hand out of the fire, when his chum leaped up wide awake.

“What! How——” Dick stammered, blinking his eyes.

Sandy doubled up with laughter. Dick soon saw the joke and joined Sandy
in a hearty laugh. Then he quickly grew serious.

“That’s the worst thing I could have done,” Dick accused himself.
“Suppose Henderson’s men had crept up on us while I was asleep. Sandy,
I’ll never forgive myself for this. I can’t blame them for shooting
soldiers that sleep on guard duty—after tonight.”

“Oh, never mind,” Sandy’s optimism came to the front. “What’s the
difference. We’re safe and sound, aren’t we?”

“That doesn’t excuse me for neglecting my duty,” Dick insisted. But as
he reached for the tin plate of bacon and camp bread that Sandy handed
him, Dick cheered up. “What beats me,” he concluded, “is that I was
going to let you sleep till morning, Sandy. Guess I wasn’t as tough as I
thought I was.”

“That’s just like you,” Sandy retorted. “Just because you’re a couple of
years older than I you think you ought to do all the heavy work.”

“Well, I’ll see that you do your night watching after this,” Dick
promised. “And now we’d better get started. If those fellows kept on
after us they’ve had just about time enough to catch up.”

It did not take the boys long to break camp. The trail that led along
the bank past the dangerous Little Moose Rapids to safe water was on the
other bank of the river, and Dick and Sandy prepared to paddle across.
Once on the trail, they planned to shoulder their packs and the canoe
for the jaunt over the portage. They shoved out the canoe without mishap
and were cutting across the swift current of the Big Smokey river above
the rapids, when on the other shore, at the point where they intended
landing, Dick thought he saw a wisp of smoke ascending, as from a
campfire recently extinguished.

“Sandy, do you see any one over there?” Dick called.

“I see a kind of smoke haze among those little spruce trees,” Sandy
replied.

“You know what I think?” Dick went on, sturdily plying his paddle, “that
gang is waiting for us over there. They’re in ambush. As soon as we get
close in they’ll open fire. I’ll bet I’m right. If I am we don’t dare
try to land.”

“Well, there’s no trail around the rapids on the side we camped,” Sandy
returned. “We’d have to detour about twelve miles that way to get back
to the Big Smokey.”

They were slowly drawing closer to the opposite bank, the swift current
pulling them downstream a little in spite of their efforts. The boys
were silent as they drew closer, undecided which way to turn, almost
certain now that a warm reception awaited them on the portage trail
landing. Suddenly Dick spoke cooly, but tensely:

“Backwater, Sandy. Don’t act excited. We don’t dare go on. I just saw
two rifle barrels thrust over a hump of moss on a fallen tree.”

Sandy did not falter at the warning. He reversed his paddle, as Dick was
doing, and the canoe came almost to a standstill.

“We’ll have to shoot the rapids!” Dick’s voice was like the snap of a
whip as he made known his daring resolve.



                              CHAPTER III
                         DICK SHOOTS THE RAPIDS


At Little Moose Rapids the Big Smokey river plunged through a gorge
nearly a half mile long before it finally came once more to a gentler
incline where canoeing was safe. Only the most daring of canoeists ever
risked piloting a frail craft through this treacherous stretch of water,
and many who had dared had been drowned. Dick’s last minute resolution
was one of desperation. Though he and Sandy were experts with the
paddle, yet they never would have considered attempting to shoot any
rapids had death or capture not threatened them.

“We’ll never make it!” the optimistic Sandy was shaken from his
cheeriness by Dick’s desperate resolve.

“We’ve got to!” shouted Dick, as with one strong stroke of his paddle he
swerved the canoe head on with the current, and they sped straight
toward the gorge.

At the maneuver they heard an angry shout from the shore that had been
their destination. Even at that distance they could detect the menace in
that cry, and with added zeal they bent to their paddles.

Then a rifle cracked and a ball whistled across the water behind them.
Another and another shot was fired while they sped on swifter and
swifter.

“We’re getting out of range!” Dick cried.

“I hope so,” panted Sandy.

“They’re poor marksmen, anyhow,” Dick returned.

They both fell silent as they left one danger behind, only to face one
almost as threatening.

The river swiftly narrowed and deepened as they swept down between the
high walls of the gorge. A sullen roar of the water against the numerous
rocks and against the solid walls could be heard. The canoe seemed to
shoot ahead like a leaf on the wind. Louder and louder grew the sound of
rushing water. Then the boys saw the first wave of foam and spray where
the water whirled among several huge boulders.

Sandy was in the bow, Dick in the stern when they struck the first angry
whirlpool.

“Use your paddle to push off the rocks,” shouted Dick above the rumble
of the water.

They scudded past a huge, wet boulder, seemed almost flung against
another, only to be whisked into a deep pool where it was all Dick and
Sandy could do to keep the canoe from turning clear around. Out of the
pool, they danced on once more. The rapids were clear of rocks for a
space, but they were moving so fast that it seemed no time before they
reached a giant buttress of stone that seemed to bar the way.

“Push off,” cried Dick. “I’ll backwater. Heave now. Here we go!”

They shaved the bluff so closely that the grind of the canoe upon the
rock could be heard. The dash of water against the cliff showered down
upon them, and the canoe took in a bucketful.

“Dip the water out!” shouted Dick, while they spun into another deep
pool, the cliff behind them.

Sandy began frantically bailing out the water with his hat, while Dick
desperately held the canoe bow against the current.

The gorge was deeper now, almost shutting out the early morning
sunlight. All about spray flew in the air, like driving mist, and the
roar of rushing water was almost deafening. The canoe was holding up
well, yet its two occupants realized its frail shell would be shattered
to atoms if but once it was thrown upon one of the countless rocks they
seemed to miss by inches.

“I hope we don’t hit a waterfall,” shouted Sandy as he ceased bailing
water and drew a long breath.

“Let ’er come,” responded Dick daringly, swerving the canoe this way and
that with a lusty stroke of his paddle.

“Look out, another rock!”

Sandy turned from his bailing and grasped his paddle just in time. In a
crouch he met the boulder with the end of the paddle and pushed. The
canoe forged off to the left, dodged in between two other rocks, and
once more they reached a space comparatively straight and free from
obstructions. Like an arrow they shot onward.

The noise of the foaming water was fast increasing in volume. Dick
feared a waterfall, and silently he nerved himself for it, and none too
soon. Dashing down a narrow channel and bobbing around a curve like a
cork on ocean waves, he saw ahead a mist of spray and the rumble of
falling water burst upon his ears.

Sandy could not suppress a cry of terror, but white-lipped Dick managed
to hold his breath for what was to come. “Hold tight!” he shouted to his
chum. “I’ll hold her straight, and we’ll dive over. We’ve a chance. It’s
not high.”

Straight toward the edge of the waterfall the canoe shot with terrific
speed. The rumble of the water was frightful. Then they went over. One
glimpse they had of the whirlpools boiling below the falls as the prow
of the canoe swept over and the light craft leaped into the misty air,
like a ski jumper.

It was only a short drop of about five feet, but when the canoe struck
the churning water, it spun and spun about, wallowing in the foam. Dick
and Sandy were drenched to the skin in a moment. All they could do was
cling to the canoe, hoping against hope.

“Hang to that rock ahead, if we go under!” Dick cried, above the thunder
of the falls.

“I can’t see!” Sandy shouted back, rubbing the water from his eyes and
coughing.

Then the canoe struck something submerged, and turned over on its side,
tipping Dick and Sandy into the boiling whirlpools.

Dick clung to the side of the canoe as the water washed over him. For an
instant Sandy disappeared, then Dick saw him come up, also clinging to
the canoe, which had not entirely turned over, but had shipped so much
water that it was sinking.

Presently, canoe and swimmers were whipped into a deep pool below the
falls, and Dick and Sandy began desperately flinging water out of their
craft. A little later they crawled back into their canoe, wet as half
drowned rats, and Dick pushed off into the center of the stream.

The worst was over. Below the falls the gorge widened out slowly and the
current grew more sluggish. For a quarter of an hour they glided on
silently without need of their paddles, except to keep the craft in the
center of the stream.

“Whew! I hope we don’t run into any more rapids,” Sandy breathed more
freely.

Dick emphatically agreed. “Next time,” said he, “I’ll prefer facing the
bullets, I think. Gee, if the fellows back in the U. S. A. knew what
we’d just gone through they’d have a fit.”

“They’ll never believe it,” Sandy opined.

“We’ll make ’em believe it if we live to tell it,” vowed Dick, pulling
extra hard on his paddle and making the canoe leap forward like a live
thing. “But, to change the subject, I guess we left the enemy behind
this time.”

“I’ll say so,” Sandy came back, “but two duckings in two days isn’t
fair. Where can I stop off and get dry?”

“I think we’d better keep moving till noon,” Dick advised. “Then we can
kill two birds with one stone—eat and dry off too.”

Sandy saw the wisdom of this and fell silent, bending his energies to
the paddle. They made good time until about noon, when they espied a
sandy shoal ahead of them that promised plenty of dry firewood for a
campfire. They drew in, beached the canoe and made camp. An hour later,
dry again and in good spirits, they pushed off and went on down the
river.

“Seems as if I smell burning wood in the air,” Dick remarked a couple of
miles further on.

“I do too,” Sandy replied, “——must be a forest fire somewhere near.”

“Hope it’s not too near,” said Dick, “a forest fire would hold us up a
while even if we are on the river. I’ve heard my father tell about the
fires they used to have in Oregon. They’re no joke.”

Sandy was about to add what he knew of forest fires when they both
sighted another canoe toiling upstream. At that distance they could not
at first distinguish whether there was more than one in the canoe.
However, they held any stranger they might meet a possible enemy, since
Martin MacLean had told them how far-reaching was the hand of Bear
Henderson, and so they prepared for hostility.

Slowly the two canoes drew together. Sandy quietly picked up his rifle,
while Dick continued paddling. They could now see there was but one man
in the canoe.

“Hello there,” Dick hailed.

The stranger waved a hand, ceased paddling, except to hold his canoe
against the current, and waited for the boys to glide up. He was a tall
man, with long, dark hair and a leathery face.

“Where you goin’?” he asked as the canoe prows touched.

“Mackenzie’s Landing,” Dick replied, seeing nothing hostile in the
other’s demeanor, and seeing no reason why he should not reveal his
destination, if not his errand.

“I got my grub stole back river a piece,” the stranger said, pointing
over his shoulder with one thumb. “Have you fellers got plenty of grub?”

“Sure,” Dick answered. “Want to eat with us? Our grub’s a little wet,
but it swallows all right.”

“I’d be obliged,” the stranger returned, “but mebbe you wasn’t figgerin’
to stop jest now.”

“We just had a snack,” Dick admitted, “but if you’re hungry we’ll split
what we have.”

“I jest need enough to get me to Fort du Lac.”

“Fort du Lac!” Dick and Sandy chorused. “We just came from there!”

“So? Wal, it’ll be nigh three days canoein’ up river, an’ I’ll need
grub. No time to hunt. You fellers didn’t happen to run across an Injun
with a heap of scars on his face?” the man asked, searching their faces.

“A scar faced Indian!” Sandy exclaimed. “Why——”

“Well, yes,” Dick broke in with a warning look at his chum. “We noticed
a fellow of that description at the fort. Didn’t think much about him,”
Dick was cautious.

“You fellers needn’t be afraid to tell me all you know,” the stranger
had noticed Dick’s reserve and his interruption of Sandy. “I ain’t
publishin’ my business but my name’s Slade.”

“Not Malemute Slade, the scout for the mounted!” Dick exclaimed, for the
man’s reputation as a scout was a fable in the north country, and many
times he had heard it spoken with awe and admiration.

“There’s them call me Malemute Slade,” admitted the tall man cooly, “but
what was that about this here scar faced Indian?”

Dick then related the queer experiences at the fort.

The canoes were permitted to drift on down the river while they talked.
Malemute Slade listened attentively.

“His name’s Many-Scar Jackson,” Slade told them when they had finished
with their story. “He’s wanted for murder down the river a piece. But
that’s nothin’ to this Henderson breakin’ loose. That’s news to me, an’
it’ll be news for the mounted maybe. I’ve heard rumors f’r a long time,
but didn’t think much of it. A tough customer, Henderson. You fellers
wants to watch y’r step. If I seen any of the gang that was foller’n you
I’ll square up with ’em.”

In the keen eyes and the lean jaw of the far-famed Malemute Slade the
boys saw that which made them confident that Slade could “square up”
with most any one or any number.

“Tell the factor you saw us and that we’re all right—only got a ducking
when we shot Little Moose Rapids,” Dick said.

Malemute Slade’s eyes lighted up. He looked with new respect at Dick’s
wiry figure. “So you fellers shot the Little Moose an’ come through
alive—wal, I swan. You must have toted a dozen rabbit’s feet.”

“Not a one,” Dick replied modestly, while Sandy grinned with pride.

“Y’r apt to have somethin’ worse on your hands afore you get to
Mackenzie’s,” Malemute surprised them. “There’s a forest fire whoopin’
it up back a piece, an’ it’ll maybe hit the river afore you pass it.
There’s a bit of smoke in the air now. Hey!”

Dick and Sandy started up and looked where Slade pointed.

Nearly four hundred yards down the river a stag had come down to drink
and was standing half in and half out of the water. The canoes were
slowly drifting down upon it.

“You fellers want a fresh haunch o’ venison f’r tonight?” queried
Malemute.

“You bet!” Dick and Sandy chimed, “but the deer’s seen us and we can’t
get close enough for a shot.”

“Reckon I can drop him from here,” Malemute Slade replied cooly.

“What!” Dick exclaimed incredulously.

Malemute’s only reply was slowly to raise his 45.70 lever action rifle
to his shoulder. Dick and Sandy watched breathlessly. Motionless as a
statue, the big man took aim before his rifle crashed. As the echo of
the shot sounded in the silent forest, the stag leaped upward and fell
into the river with a soundless splash.

“Now you fellers split your grub with me, an’ I’ll be goin’ on. If I had
time I’d paddle down an’ cut a hunk off that deer. But I’ll have to be
moochin’.”

Malemute Slade thought nothing of the wonderful exhibition of
markmanship he had just made, and Dick and Sandy were awed to silence as
they undid their packs and transferred half their food into the scout’s
canoe.

Malemute Slade paid them in king’s coin for the provisions.

“You’ll probably see me again afore this Henderson business is over, but
it’s hard tellin’,” was Malemute’s parting prophecy. “Au revoir.”

“Au revoir,” the boys sang out the French “so long,” and started on to
where the stag had fallen.

Late that evening, making camp at a point they judged somewhere within
fifty miles of Mackenzie’s Landing, the smoke of the forest fire was so
strong it made them cough. They had paddled a little way up a small
creek for the night, thinking to make themselves more secure from a
possible night attack from Henderson’s men, who seemed so determined
they should not get to the mounted police.

“I’m afraid we’re in for it,” Dick shook his head concernedly.

“It sure feels as if we were close to a fire,” Sandy agreed dubiously.

“Well, we’ll need all the sleep we can get at any rate,” Dick concluded,
as he rolled into his blankets, and Sandy prepared for the first watch.



                               CHAPTER IV
                           THROUGH THE FLAMES


That night Dick slept fitfully. The place where they had camped was in a
deep coulee, unwooded except for a few clumps of red willow. Straight
above them, at the top of an almost perpendicular wall of red shale and
crumbling sandstone, was a dark fringe, which marked the beginning of a
mighty forest of spruce and jack pine. Moaning in his sleep, Dick sat up
and commenced rubbing his eyes. Then he paused to stare in open-mouthed
wonder.

The coulee was full of smoke. It floated around them in a ever
thickening cloud, while above, plainly visible in the glare of the
conflagration, sweeping down from the north, he beheld a thick, dense
column of smoke, which seemed to span the coulee like a black bridge.

Ten feet away, Sandy, on sentinel duty, coughed and dug at his eyes. In
alarm, Dick threw aside his blankets and crawled hurriedly forward to
consult with his chum.

“Sandy!” he shouted, “the fire is all around us. We’ll die like rats in
a trap if we stay here. Why didn’t you awaken me before? Let’s hurry
back to the river and our canoe.”

“Can’t,” said Sandy laconically, “I’ve been watching that. There’s a
belt of fire between us and the river. We should never have camped so
far away from it.”

“Well, you know we thought we’d be safer from Henderson’s men up here,”
Dick replied.

The boys could hear plainly the howling of the wind and the distant,
thunderous roar of the fire. Accustomed as he had become to danger since
his sojourn in the north, Dick could not overcome a sudden feeling of
fear and apprehension.

“Where will we go?” shivered Sandy. “It seems to be all around us.”

“We’ve got to go through it somehow,” Dick answered, not altogether
sure, himself, what ought to be done. “It’s dangerous to remain here any
longer. What do you think is best?”

Sandy, eyes running water, scratched his head in perplexity.

“If we could get to the river,” he said, “we’d be safe. I don’t see any
other way.”

A few moments later, two disconsolate figures clambered up the side of
the coulee and struck off hurriedly at right angles with the fire. With
a catch in his throat, Dick perceived the huge walls of flames bearing
down upon them. For several miles, at least, they were cut off from the
river. Even the sky glowed dully like a large orange disk through a
thick blanket of smoke.

“What’s that!” exclaimed Sandy, suddenly starting back.

Something had shot past them through the underbrush—a heavy body,
hurtling along in mute terror. Almost immediately came other bodies,
small and large—rabbits scurrying almost between their legs; deer,
jumping past in a wild stampede; bear and moose, crashing their way
forward in a cumbersome, heart-stirring panic, as they ran from the
fire.

“If they’re afraid, it’s about time we were,” Sandy declared grimly,
through set teeth. “If this smoke gets any worse we’ll be suffocated in
another ten minutes. My throat feels as if I had been drinking liquid
fire for a week.”

Twenty feet away a flying ember settled down on the dry grass and
immediately burst into flames. With the ever increasing velocity of the
wind, similar patches of fire sprang up around them on every side.

“I’m afraid,” said Dick, fighting bravely against mounting despair,
“that we’ll never make it. I never saw such a wind.”

Sandy did not reply. With handkerchiefs pressed to their noses and
mouths, the boys struggled forward for another quarter of a mile.

By this time the heat had become terrific. Dick’s face felt as if it had
been washed in a bucket of lye. Sandy’s cheeks were streaked with tears,
not tears of grief, but tears of misery from smoke-tortured, bloodshot
eyes.

“No use,” choked Sandy, plunging down a short embankment with Dick at
his heels. “I’m about ready to quit. You see,” he explained, struggling
with the lump in his throat, “I’m getting dizzier and dizzier every
minute. This heat and smoke is getting me.”

Dick put out his hand with an assurance he did not feel, and patted his
chum on the shoulder.

“Buck up,” Dick encouraged, “we’ll get out of this somehow. I tell you,
Sandy, we’ve got to do it. Maybe this——”

Dick never finished what he was about to say. His foot slipped, and with
a startled exclamation, he pitched forward, completely upsetting Sandy.
In a moment both boys had rolled and slid down a steep bank. It seemed
there was no end to the fall, and Dick’s heart almost failed him as he
thought of what fate might meet them below. Perhaps they were rolling
toward the brink of a cliff hundreds of feet high, perhaps they would
fall into some rock cluttered canyon, or again, they might be drowned in
some deep lake at the bottom of the bank.

Then they reached the bottom with a jarring impact that shook the breath
from their bodies. When they recovered enough to look each other over,
Dick was sitting upright, astride of Sandy, who lay in a crumpled,
groaning heap under him. Dick heard, or thought he heard, the trickle of
running water. His right foot felt pleasantly cool. When he put out his
hand to investigate his fingers encountered water.

Sandy was half submerged in a tiny pool, and was sinking fast, before
Dick could pull him back to safety. Dazed from the fall, Sandy sputtered
a moment, then inquired excitedly:

“Have we got to the bottom?”

“I guess so,” replied Dick. “At any rate there seems to be a sort of
creek running along here. Are you all right, Sandy?”

“Well, if I’m not, I soon will be,” answered Sandy, more cheerfully.
“Wait till I get a drink of this water. Boy, I’m dry. Do you think we’ll
be safe here?”

By way of answer, Dick pointed up to the wide belt of fire. “It’s closer
than it was before. We’re protected down here from the heat and smoke,
but that won’t last long. In two hours this place will be as hot as a
stove. Our only chance is to keep on moving.”

“I hate to leave this water,” said Sandy, gulping large mouthfuls of it.

“I don’t intend leaving the water,” Dick assured him. “It’s just
occurred to me that our best plan will be to follow this little creek.
It’s probably fed from a spring and will eventually run either into a
lake or river. Once we get into more water we’ll be pretty safe.”

Sandy thought Dick was right, and a few minutes later, greatly
refreshed, they set out again, following the creek downstream.

Two miles further on the creek ran into a larger stream, and a little
later as they hurried around a curve, Sandy, who was in the lead, gave
vent to an exclamation of despair.

“Look at that!” he shouted. “The fire has cut in ahead of us.”

Sandy was right. Not more than a quarter mile downstream, the fire was
raging on both sides of the creek, and even as they looked, a large jack
pine, flaming to the top of its highest branches, swayed suddenly in the
wind and went crashing forward in a shower of sparks and burning embers.

Sick at heart, the two young adventurers stood for a short time,
scarcely daring to think of their predicament. Apparently there was
little chance of escape, the main body of the fire behind them, another
fire sweeping ahead.

“We’ve got to get through,” Dick muttered. “We’ll have to take a chance,
Sandy. The fire ahead hasn’t been burning long and it’s not as far
through it—maybe not more than a hundred yards. Somehow, I feel certain
that this creek will take us straight on to the Big Smokey where we left
the canoe.”

Sandy’s face brightened a little. “I believe you’re right, Dick. If a
burning tree or branch doesn’t fall on us, we can make it. We’ll have to
wade right down through the center of the stream. If it gets too hot we
can dive under the water. I’m going to take off my shirt, soak it in
water and breathe with it around my head.”

“A good idea,” approved Dick. “I’ll do it too.”

A half hour later, two boys emerged, wet and blackened, from a cloud of
smoke and flame and advanced painfully along the creek to a point where
it emptied into the Big Smokey river. Behind them thundered the terrible
conflagration, getting closer every moment. Moose, deer and caribou
stood trembling at the river’s edge, or struck boldly out into the
stream. The boys turned north and followed the river for a mile before
they discovered the object they sought. It was daylight now, though the
smoke made it difficult to see far. Yet the light, graceful Peterboro
canoe, loaded with supplies, did not miss their searching eyes. As they
pushed it into the river and climbed in, Dick Kent gave voice to a
fervent exclamation.

“We made it, Sandy!” he exulted, as he dipped his paddle once more into
the bosom of the Big Smokey.

Sandy was about to share Dick’s rejoicing, when the movements of a huge
brown bear, which had splashed into the water behind them, attracted his
attention. The bear was swimming straight for the canoe.

“Shove out quick!” cried Sandy suddenly, but too late.

The brown bear, blinded by smoke, and thinking the canoe some log to
cling to, clawed at the rim of the frail craft and pulled down. The
canoe went over, spilling its contents into the river, while the bear,
finding the craft unstable, swam on out into the river.



                               CHAPTER V
                          MACKENZIE’S LANDING


The plunge into the river revived both Dick and Sandy. Gasping, they
came up for air, only to breathe the choking smoke and gases of the
burning forest. They knew that the canoe was upside down and that their
packs were in the bottom of the river. The bear was nowhere to be seen.

“Are you all right, Sandy?” called Dick, hoarsely.

“You bet,” Sandy replied, a bit faintly.

Among the burning brands sizzling in the water, and the flying sparks,
they struggled with the canoe. In a few minutes they had righted it,
though it was half full of water. The paddles, they could see, had gone
with the packs.

“Look for a paddle!” shouted Dick. “They must be floating around
somewhere.”

“There! I see one,” Sandy dived off as he spoke, and swam back quickly
with a paddle in one hand.

But look as they did they could not locate the other paddle.

“We can’t look any longer. We’ll have to change off with one paddle,”
Dick called a little later.

Dick paddling, they started on. The heat still was stifling, but they
felt that the air was growing cooler. The wind seemed in their faces,
which would tend to bear the fire back along the river. Wild animals of
all kinds still could be seen in the water, wallowing along the shore or
swimming the stream. But they had no more dangerous encounters with the
frightened beasts.

Two hours of paddling, shifting the paddle back and forth between them
as soon as one grew tired, and they came to a comparatively clear
stretch of water. Here the fire was deeper in the forest, and had not
eaten out to the bank yet. In greedy gasps, Dick and Sandy drew in the
gusts of cool, pure air that were wafted over them.

“Look back, Sandy,” Dick called.

The whole sky was a mass of red flames behind them, and an ocean of
smoke was rolling ceaselessly upward.

“Mackenzie’s Landing can’t be much further,” Sandy said when they had
looked their last upon the great fire.

“No, we ought to make it by night. We’ll have to make it or camp without
grub or blankets. I prefer going on,” Dick stated.

“So do I,” Sandy rejoined.

Some distance further on, as they rounded a huge bend in the stream,
they could not suppress a cheer. In the distance they could see the
shoulder of a high, barren bluff which was the ten-mile landmark on the
trip to Mackenzie’s Landing.

It was late in the afternoon when in the distance they at last viewed
the stockade and roofs of Malcolm Mackenzie’s trading post. Blackened
and disheveled, nearly exhausted, they guided their canoe to the pier,
where three half-breeds were watching them curiously. The half-breeds
helped them secure their canoe, and listened without comment to some of
their story of the eventful journey.

“Malcolm Mackenzie, he sick,” one of the half-breeds told them. “No can
go. Him burned bad when fight with fire.”

“Did you hear that?” Dick turned to Sandy.

“Yes—just our luck. Now what?” Sandy returned, a little disheartened, as
the half-breeds led the way into the stockade.

“We can talk to Mr. Mackenzie, can’t we?” Dick asked one of the men, as
they entered the post.

“Yah, I guess.”

Presently, they were ushered into a room smelling of liniment and
arnica. On a bunk lay Malcolm Mackenzie, his head and one arm swathed in
bandages. Evidently he was suffering considerably from serious burns. He
turned his head as the boys came in.

“Bear Henderson has captured Fort Good Faith,” Dick blurted out. “My
friend’s uncle has been imprisoned. Mr. MacLean sent us to you. He said
you would lead us to the mounted police post at Fort Dunwoody.”

“I’ve feared this,” Malcolm Mackenzie’s eyes narrowed, “but you see how
it is with me, boys. I can’t travel. Got some bad burns while fighting
that forest fire. But I can send an Indian who knows the trail.” He
turned to one of the half-breeds, who was standing behind Dick and
Sandy. “Send in Little John Toma,” he commanded.

A little later Dick and Sandy saw a young Indian enter. He was handsome
in a dark, inscrutable way, and though not very tall, was powerfully
built. He stood respectfully at attention, seeming more intelligent than
many of his kind.

“Toma,” Mackenzie spoke, “I want you to lead these young men to Fort
Dunwoody as fast as you can. Travel light. You ought to make it in four
days if everything goes right.” He turned back to the boys. “Did MacLean
say anything about a cache of grub along the way?”

“Yes,” Dick reached into his pocket and drew out the map the trader had
drawn indicating the position of the cache of food on the trail to Fort
Dunwoody.

Mackenzie took the map, glanced at it and handed it to Toma. “It’s on
Limping Dog Creek,” said Mackenzie, “just where that gorge you follow
intersects the stream. You know the place.” To Dick and Sandy:
“Introduce yourselves and get acquainted. Toma will get everything ready
for you to go on. Take a rest as soon as you eat. Oh, Calico, Calico!”
he called to some one.

As the boys and Little John Toma passed out, a large, waddling Indian
woman came in. They heard Mackenzie instructing her to get a meal ready
for his visitors before the bear-skin curtain dropped behind them and
they found themselves in the spacious living room of the post.

Dick and Sandy awkwardly introduced themselves to the young Indian who
was to be their guide.

“Glad to meet,” Toma surprised them by saying, his teeth flashing
whitely in a smile.

Dick and Sandy quickly felt that they were going to like Toma.

“I’ll bet he’s the son of a chief,” Sandy said to Dick, when the young
Indian had gone, and they were busy at the wash bench, scrubbing off
some of the smoke and ashes of the forest fire.

The boys ate heartily of the food the Indian woman placed before them on
the rough board table. As soon as they were through they were shown to a
comfortable bunk behind moose-hide curtains. Scarcely had they lay down
when they fell into sound slumber.

It seemed to Dick Kent that he had only been asleep a moment when a
hand, gently shaking his shoulder, awakened him. He looked up into the
smiling face of Toma, the young guide.

“Time to go,” said Toma. “You wake up other fella.”

As the curtains fell, and Toma disappeared, Dick turned and shook Sandy.

An hour later they bid goodbye to Malcolm Mackenzie and wished him
speedy recovery from his burns. The canoe lay ready packed with
provisions at the landing when they arrived there. Toma was starting to
push off. Dick and Sandy hopped in, and Toma sprang lightly into the
bow.

“Now for Fort Dunwoody,” Dick breathed a sigh of relief.

“If I wasn’t an optimist,” Sandy added, “I’d say we aren’t there yet by
a long shot.”

Toma silently sculled the craft into the center of the river, and they
were once more floating down the stream. The boys marveled at Toma’s
deftness with the paddle, though they themselves were experts. The young
Indian seemed able to make the canoe fly with his quick, powerful
strokes.

A half hour of paddling and the roofs of Mackenzie’s Landing had
disappeared in the haze of the morning, and once more the walls of the
silent spruce forest closed in on either side of them.

Late that night they camped some twenty miles from the trading post, in
a little clearing at the river’s edge. Toma mentioned “bear sign,” and
so they hung up their flour and bacon on a tree bough for fear a bear
might get it.

Sandy kept first watch while Toma and Dick slept.

It was a dark night. Only the stars were out, and when the fire died
down Sandy scarcely could see a dozen paces from the camp. Occasionally
he glanced into the shadows, listening to the mysterious sounds of the
forest, and starting up at each crackle of a twig or rustle of
undergrowth.

Sandy wondered if the men on their trail had been thrown off, and
imagined what he would do if they would suddenly attack. As he thought
of the dangers threatening Dick and him, his hand tightened on his
rifle.

It was nearly eleven o’clock, the time he was to call Toma for the
second watch, when Sandy became conscious of some sinister presence.
Before he really saw or heard anything, he shivered and looked fearfully
about into the gloom of the forest.

A scratching and grunting noise attracted his attention to the tree
where they had hung up the flour and bacon. It seemed he could hear the
shuffle of heavy feet and the wheeze of giant lungs as he listened
intently.

“I won’t call Dick and Toma,” thought Sandy. “It may be only my
imagination. I’ll go see what it is.”

Heart beating wildly, Sandy commenced to creep toward the point he had
heard the noises. He could see nothing in the dark, yet as he strained
his eyes it seemed to him that one portion of the blackness was blacker
than the rest.

Suddenly, he heard the crashing of a splintered tree bough. A low,
vibrating growl followed, and Sandy dropped upon his stomach. There came
a slapping, thumping sound, then an angry growling and tussling. The
dark blot lurched downward. Sandy raised his rifle and blazed away at
the shape. A rambling roar rose in the night.

“Dick! Toma!” cried Sandy, as he turned about and fled, hearing behind
him the rush of a heavy body pursuing him.



                               CHAPTER VI
                         A GRIZZLY SHOWS FIGHT


Toma and Dick were already on their feet when Sandy rushed toward them
out of the gloom.

“It’s a bear, a giant bear!” cried Sandy. “Run! I’ve wounded him!”

The angry roar behind Sandy was all that was needed for Dick and Toma to
take to their heels with alacrity.

“Get up tree, get up tree!” Toma called to them.

Faster than they ever before had climbed a tree, Dick and Sandy shinned
up one in the dark. The bear charged beneath them in the underbrush. The
huge beast wheeled on finding his prey had taken to the trees and
circled the trunk which supported Dick and Sandy. Toma’s calm voice came
through the gloom from a near-by tree:

“Him grizzly all right,” Toma told them. “You stay in tree. I get down
to rifle pretty quick.”

“You surely must have wounded the bear,” Dick whispered to Sandy. “I’ve
heard they won’t attack unless they’re wounded.”

“I don’t know what I did,” Sandy came back breathlessly. “I just blazed
away and ran. Believe me, I don’t want to go down there again while that
monster is wandering around looking for me. He’d chew us up in about two
bites and a half.”

Dick knew that Sandy’s caution bump was working again, and he smiled in
the dark. He did not intend to let Toma go down after the bear alone.
Yet he believed the young Indian would protest if he revealed his
intentions.

“Got your rifle?” Dick called to Toma, not intimating his resolution.

“I got gun,” Toma called back.

“I wish I’d thought to bring mine along,” Dick muttered, “but then it
takes an Indian to shin up a tree with a heavy rifle in his hand I
suppose. Anyway I have my knife.”

“Don’t go down, Dick,” whispered Sandy, as the bear crashed about in the
brush below them.

“Nonsense, Sandy, I’ve got as much chance as Toma. We can’t let that
bear wreck our camp. That’s what he’s up to.”

“Then I’ll go down too,” Sandy stubbornly decided.

They could not hear Toma’s movements with the bear making so much noise,
but Dick suspected the guide already had slipped down from his tree and
was stalking the wounded grizzly, perhaps close enough to get in a fatal
shot.

Presently, they could hear the bear make off into the gloom toward the
campfire. When Dick and Sandy dropped down out of the tree, the bear
seemed to be on the other side of the campfire, clawing and mouthing
over their dunnage.

“You better stay up in the tree,” Dick said.

“Not on your tintype,” Sandy snapped. “If you go, I go.”

“Well, then, we’ve got to get our guns,” said Dick. “Mine’s right where
I got out of my blankets.”

“Seems to me I dropped mine just before I started climbing the tree,”
Sandy was feeling around in the dark. “Yes, here it is,” was his
triumphant call.

Toma seemingly had vanished. Since his last words, they had heard
nothing more from him. Dick judged the guide was stalking the bear from
some other direction. At any moment he expected to hear the report of
the Indian’s rifle, and see the flash of it in the gloom.

Sandy alone armed, save for Dick’s hunting knife, the boys began a
stealthy advance toward the camp where they could hear the bear slashing
and groveling about, evidently in some pain, for they were sure now that
Sandy’s shot had taken effect.

The coals of the campfire shed a faint glow. As the boys drew nearer, on
hands and knees, they could see the bulk of the grizzly outlined. He
seemed a mammoth of his kind, and indeed was a fearful beast to meet in
the forest.

“I’ll bet he’s wrecked our camp outfit,” Dick muttered. “Careful, Sandy,
don’t get too close. Let’s wait till he gets away from the fire a little
further, then I can get my rifle.”

Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, when Toma’s rifle crashed in
the dark on the left, and Dick and Sandy saw a streak of flame, and
heard the roar of the bear, plainly hard hit. The grizzly rose upon his
hind legs and turned toward the spot he believed his enemy was hidden.
Then Sandy leveled his rifle and fired, drawing bead as best he could
just under the huge beast’s forelegs.

At this second shot, the bear seemed undecided just which way to charge.
He stopped, his head turning from side to side, growling horribly, not
hit hard enough to fall.

Toma shot again, then Sandy. The grizzly dropped to all fours, and began
clawing at his breast. Toma shot again from another position. The bear
rose up again with a roar of pain and rage and started for Dick and
Sandy, who turned to flee. Then the big beast, without any apparent
reason whatsoever, wheeled about and made off into the forest in the
opposite direction.

“He’s hit hard!” cried Dick, hurrying forward.

Toma came out of the gloom like a shadow. “He go off die,” said the
Indian. “Be careful he no come back. I go see where he go.” Toma
disappeared after cautioning the boys to stay where they were until he
returned.

The minutes passed slowly while Dick and Sandy waited the return of
Toma. Finally Dick grew impatient and was about to go on to the campfire
for his rifle, when Toma appeared again, as if he had risen out of the
earth.

“She all right,” Toma reported. “Him keep going. Him die somewhere.”

Relieved, Dick and Sandy approached the campfire. Toma already was
heaping on more wood. As the flames leaped upward, and the light chased
away some of the surrounding shadows, Dick and Sandy breathed freely
once more. However, sleep was far from them after the narrow escape from
being clawed by the wounded bear. They ventured about to see what damage
the big grizzly had effected.

They found Dick’s and Toma’s blankets torn to shreds. The coffee pot was
crushed flat and the sugar sack broken open, its contents scattered.

Dick hurried to the bough where they had hung the flour and bacon. “Hey,
look here—Sandy, Toma!”

They joined Dick. The bough had been broken down; the flour was
scattered about as if the sack had exploded; the bacon was gone.
Searching about in the gloom they found hunks of chewed rind among the
pine needles. Only one small chunk of bacon was left, and this they
preserved in one of their knapsacks.

“Him no hungry,” Toma grunted, “him play. Him chew bacon up, spit him
out.”

“Well, he did us plenty of damage all right,” Dick said ruefully.

“Looks like we were in for a hungry spell,” Sandy added, resignedly.

“Humph! We have bear steak for breakfast,” Toma exclaimed significantly.

“That’s what I call justice,” Dick laughed.

All three went back to the campfire then and squatted around the
crackling flames. The excitement had loosened Toma’s tongue, it seemed,
and he began telling stories of other bears he had known, and whom his
father had known. Dick and Sandy listened with rapt interest to the
simple tales of the young Indian.

Almost the balance of the night passed with Toma’s droning voice
relating thrilling adventures among the tribes in the far north. Toward
dawn Sandy turned in for an hour or so of rest, but Toma and Dick
remained awake.

The sun had scarcely topped the distant forest skyline when Dick and
Toma awakened Sandy, and all three gathered up what they could of the
wreckage remaining of their provisions.

“Now we gettum bear steak,” Toma said.

In single file they followed the gliding figure of the guide, as he set
off on the trail of the grizzly.

“See that track!” Dick exclaimed presently, pointing with his rifle at a
spot of soft leaf-mold.

“It’s a bear track, all right,” conceded Sandy, “—and look! There’s
blood on that bush.”

“We sure hit him a lot of times—I mean you and Toma,” Dick corrected. He
felt disappointed that he had not actually been in on the killing of the
bear, since he had had no rifle. But the thrill of trailing a wounded
grizzly made him forget.

Toma seemed to follow the trail as if by instinct. Where Sandy and Dick
could see no sign whatever, Toma went unerringly forward, always with
that gliding, noiseless, pigeon-toed pace, that seemed tireless, though
it was kept up with an ease and speed that made Dick and Sandy run.

For a half mile they wound among the trees, beginning to come upon spots
where the bear had dropped down to rest. At these points the blood was
drying in large clots. Finally, approaching a fallen tree, they came
upon the grizzly, stone dead!

Dick and Sandy were about to cheer, yet the actual sight of the bear
made them a little sad. The great monarch of the forest never again
would proudly tread the forest aisles. Yet the boys felt a certain
satisfaction in having won in a battle with such a powerful foe.

Toma immediately began skinning one haunch of the great bear. “Him old
and tough,” grunted Toma, “but we cook um long time. That make um
tender.”

Dick laughed. “The old boy will make stringy eating.”

“I wish we could take his hide,” Sandy sighed.

“It sure would knock the eyes out of the fellows back home,” Dick said.

“No time to skin,” Toma interrupted. “Hide too heavy carry. Mister
Mackenzie say mus’ travel light.”

“Yes, it’s impossible for us to have the old fellow’s hide, but that’s
no reason why we can’t have his scalp.” Suiting his action to his words,
Dick drew his sharp hunting knife and stooped over the head of the
wilderness king. With Sandy’s help they took the old grizzly’s scalp,
ears and all, as a trophy.

“It’s yours and Toma’s,” Dick smiled, when they had finished. He held
the scalp out to Sandy.

Sandy’s eyes lightened. “Let Toma have the scalp. I’ll take the claws.”

Dick’s hunting knife once more came into play. The bear’s claws measured
as long as five inches, and Sandy was exceedingly proud as he at last
pushed them into a side pocket of his leather coat.

Toma was waiting when they had finished. The guide had his knapsack
filled with the tenderest steaks he could cut.

At a jog trot they set out for the river and their campsite, and soon
they were grilling bear steaks over the fire.

When they broke camp they had provisions for two scanty meals, including
some of the bear steaks which they saved from breakfast. The canoe
packed, they once more set out down the river.

“We make um grub cache tomorrow,” Toma encouraged them. “Get um plenty
grub there.”

Late that afternoon, without mishap they reached a point where Toma said
they must abandon their canoe and go on by land, since the river swung
off in another direction. They carefully hid their canoe in some
underbrush along with two others left by a party that had recently gone
on ahead of them, and started out on foot.

Dick and Sandy were very tired long before Toma showed signs of slowing
up, but they gamely stuck to the pace without complaint.

They were angling down the side of a long ravine, toward a spring, which
Toma muttered would be a good place to camp, when of a sudden, the guide
stopped dead.

“Hide quick!” Toma whispered, with a significant gesture of one sinewy
brown hand.

Dick and Sandy crouched.

“Think um bad fellas ahead,” Toma explained. “You stay here. I go ahead;
look um over.”

Dick and Sandy were glad to sink down and rest their weary legs. But the
warning in Toma’s voice did not escape them. They were keyed to sharp
watchfulness as Toma dropped to his hands and knees and disappeared
silently among the bushes.



                              CHAPTER VII
                            THE RIFLED CACHE


Dick and Sandy had crouched in hiding for upwards of a half hour before
Toma returned. He came as he had gone, silently, like a ghost almost, so
stealthy were his movements, so clever his woodcraft.

“What did you find?” whispered Dick, anxiously.

“Two, t’ree—five bad fellas,” Toma counted on his fingers. “One Pierre
Govereau lead um. They got um spring for tonight. We go round um. Got
to. Them fellas friends Bear Henderson. They watch um trail for police.
’Fraid police go to Fort Good Faith.”

Dick and Sandy exchanged glances. Their weariness was temporarily
forgotten in this new peril. They began to understand the far-reaching
power of the man who had captured Sandy’s uncle and had taken possession
of Fort Good Faith on the edge of the northern wilderness.

“We go,” Toma urged, his only excitement revealed by the swift movements
of his eyes as they roved this way and that.

Silently the Indian guide melted into the underbrush, Dick immediately
behind him, Sandy in the rear. For nearly two hundred yards they went
onward, almost at snail’s pace. It was twilight now. Long shadows of
tree and bush stretched everywhere.

At last Toma signaled for them to stop. Dick and Sandy dropped flat. Not
more than three hundred feet ahead a campfire twinkled through the
trees, and, motionless, between them and the fire, stood a silent
figure, with rifle on his shoulder. It was a guard. Dick divined the
figure, so like the tree trunk against which it stood, had even escaped
the sharp eyes of Toma at first.

Four men were sitting around the campfire, and they could hear the
mutter of gruff voices. Once or twice a louder than usual exclamation in
French arose above the other sounds. It seemed the leader of the party
was haranguing his men, or disciplining one of them.

Suddenly Dick started and clutched Sandy’s arm.

“That guard!” he exclaimed under his breath. “It’s the scar faced
Indian!”

Sandy paled a little. It seemed almost impossible that the Indian could
have gotten ahead of them. His appearance was as mysterious as had been
their glimpses of him at Fort du Lac and along the Big Smokey river.

Toma was motioning for them to bear to the right. They crawled off after
the guide in that direction.

Neither Dick nor Sandy knew which of them made too much noise, or
revealed some part of his body, yet they had crawled no further than a
dozen paces when the guard moved, turned and looked straight at them.
Toma, watching over his shoulder, fell flat, Dick and Sandy following
his example. Had they been seen?

The guard, his rifle ready for use, started slowly toward them. Tensely,
Dick and Sandy watched Toma for a sign as to what course to take. They
saw Toma slowly turn to his side. The guide swung his rifle to his
shoulder as he lay.

Just as the guard cried out, Toma fired.

The scar faced Indian whirled, dropped his rifle and fell to his knees,
clutching at one shoulder. Dick and Sandy got a glimpse of the men at
the fire leaping up and snatching their rifles, as they took to their
heels after Toma.

For several minutes they sprinted in the wake of the young Indian’s
flying heels, hearing behind the crash of their pursuers through the
underbrush, and their cries to one another.

Then, before a hollow tree, half covered by the dead branches of a
lightning-blasted pine tree, Toma halted suddenly. He motioned to them
to follow and disappeared into the half-obscured hole in the tree. Dick
and Sandy slipped in after him. There was barely enough room in the tree
for three to stand upright, but they managed to crowd in, while Toma
quickly arranged the dead branches over the hole until their hiding
place was entirely covered from view.

The distant shouts grew louder, as the men beat the brush looking for
them. Two came closer and closer, until at last they stopped before the
hollow tree, so near that the three hidden feared their heavy breathing
might be heard.

“I thought I saw ’em go this way,” one said, in a harsh voice.

“Mebbe so,” the other, apparently an Indian, answered. “It look like
they jump in air an’ fly away.”

“Pierre sure will give us the devil if we let ’em get away,” said the
first. “Can’t blame him. Henderson will skin him alive if these trails
aren’t kept clean of Hudson’s Bay men and mounties.”

“I see bush move over d’er!” the Indian ejaculated.

The two men moved off in another direction, and the boys in the hollow
tree breathed easier.

“No go yet,” Toma advised. “Wait till all quiet.”

The minutes passed slowly while they waited in their cramped position.
The shouts of the searchers grew fainter as they apparently abandoned
the chase. Presently all was still. Toma peeped out through the branches
covering the entrance to the hollow tree. After looking carefully about,
the guide pushed back the branches and stepped out. Dick and Sandy
followed. They were learning lessons in woodcraft every hour from this
child of the forest.

“I think we ought to go back to the camp, steal up close and see if we
can’t learn something of your Uncle Walter, Sandy,” Dick announced.

“Is it worth the risk?” Sandy came back. “Can’t we do better by hurrying
on to Fort Dunwoody?”

“It’s true we can’t do much without the aid of the mounted police,” Dick
studied. “Yet I’d like to know, if it’s possible, just what has been
done with your uncle—how they’re treating him.”

Dick asked Toma what he thought of trying to learn something by
eavesdropping. “If you think um best thing do,” Toma replied. “That scar
face got best ears of all. He wounded now. Not much good; what say I
try?”

“No, you’ve done plenty of this already, Toma,” Dick was firm. “I’ll go
this time. You wait here where you can cover me with your guns if I am
detected.”

Toma, assured Dick was determined to go, grunted his assent, and a
moment later Dick disappeared into the bushes on his perilous venture.
Sandy and Toma crawled back to within gunshot of the camp, where the men
had gathered again, gesticulating to one another, plainly undecided what
to do.

When Dick left his chum and the guide he realized the danger he faced.
Yet he knew any information he might gain would be more than valuable to
the police when once he got in touch with them. Govereau’s men were
talking so loudly that he had little trouble in overhearing them. The
leader’s heavy voice broke out in French, which disappointed Dick, for
he knew very little French. Then Govereau changed to broken English,
evidently for the benefit of a member of his band who did not understand
French.

“We go on queeck, ketch them,” Govereau was saying. “Sure t’ing them
fella are zee ver’ ones come from Fort du Lac. That devil Many-Scar an’
them others—they let zem get through Little Moose, I bat. We go.”

The four began breaking camp hurriedly. The scar faced Indian was
reclining with one arm in a crude sling. He arose with the others and
rolled up his blanket with one hand, as if nothing were wrong with him.

Dick was disappointed in not hearing anything regarding the situation at
Fort Good Faith. But, as he could think of nothing to do about it, he
edged about and crept back to Sandy and Toma.

“They’re breaking camp,” he told his companions. “They think we’ve gone
on ahead. Suppose we fool them and camp right here after they leave.”

Toma’s face lighted up and Sandy was jubilant at the chance to rest his
weary legs. A few minutes later, hidden in the bushes, they watched
Govereau and his four men string out on the trail and quietly disappear
into the forest. They got a close look at the leader of the band as he
passed, and Dick and Sandy could not suppress a shiver of dread. The man
had an exceedingly evil and cruel face.

Dick hid his disappointment in learning nothing of Henderson’s movements
and of Sandy’s uncle in his elation at this opportunity to camp where
Toma had planned. They would be fresh for a long hike next day, which
would take them to the hidden cache of provisions.

Toma said little while they prepared their scanty meal, which was for
the most part, bear steak. Every now and then the guide looked up at the
sky and sniffed the air.

“Storm pretty soon. Winter come. Heap big blizzard few days,” he finally
confided to Dick and Sandy.

“That means we’ve got to make a raise of a dog team,” Dick said, tearing
off a huge hunk of cold bear meat.

“Good thing Mr. MacLean gave you that money,” Sandy observed.

Dick agreed with his chum, stifling a yawn. Already his eyes were
closing. Toma consented to take the first watch, and in a few moments
Dick and Sandy were sound asleep in their blankets.

The night passed without incident, Dick and Sandy taking their turns on
watch. At dawn they were on the trail again, leaving camp hungry. They
hesitated to shoot at any small game for fear Govereau’s men might be
near. Toward noon, however, Dick’s gnawing stomach got the better of his
caution, and he knocked over a partridge. They made a short stop,
broiled the partridge and divided it.

Appetites a little appeased, they were off again, hoping to make the
cache of provisions on Limping Dog Creek by nightfall. Late in the
afternoon they trudged down into the canyon designated by MacLean on the
map.

It was twilight when the canyon walls widened and grew less precipitous.
Toma said they were nearing Limping Dog Creek. Sandy was hobbling from a
slight sprain received when he tripped over a root, and Dick was far
from fresh.

“Flapjacks will sure taste good,” Dick murmured.

“Amen,” Sandy groaned in answer.

When at last they came in sight of the creek, Toma stopped to compare
landmarks with the map.

“There um three trees,” Toma pointed to some huge balmagiliad trees that
stood out from the smaller jack pines like giants.

They hurried forward. Martin MacLean had said the cache was in the third
of the three big trees nearest the creek. They speedily reached the tree
and Toma climbed it. He was gone for some time, Dick and Sandy straining
their eyes upward through the dark foliage.

Toma came down much slower than he had gone up. As he dropped to the
turf, Dick and Sandy awaited anxiously his report.

“Him gone,” said Toma briefly. “Cache not there!”

Dick’s eyes narrowed, and Sandy’s countenance grew glum indeed.

“Maybe this isn’t the tree,” Dick ventured.

“Him right tree,” Toma was certain.

“It must have been Govereau’s men,” Dick spoke, after a short silence.

“Mebbe so,” Toma grunted.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                           DICK DROPS A MOOSE


The loss of the cache, more than anything else, had cast its shadow of
gloom over the spirits of Dick and Sandy. Toma, however, who had made
the discovery, seemed not so deeply concerned.

“We catch um meat,” Toma attempted to cheer the boys. “Mebbe bye an’ bye
we eat.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” declared Sandy, thinking of the lonely
strip of bacon and the one handful of flour, which were all that
remained of the provisions the grizzly had destroyed. “To tell you the
truth, I haven’t seen very much game lately. Have you, Dick?”

Dick shook his head, forced to acknowledge the truth of Sandy’s
statement.

“When a fellow’s hungry,” Sandy complained, rubbing his lame ankle,
“he’s hungry, that’s all, and a mouthful of bacon is about as much good
to him as a drop of fresh water in the ocean.”

“Me no eat one time for whole week.” Toma reminded them.

Both boys looked up in astonishment.

“A whole week!” gasped Dick, “great guns! I hope we don’t come to that.”

“Mebbe set snare for rabbit tonight,” encouraged Toma. “Toma good ketch
um rabbit.”

“I could eat two or three rabbits,” Sandy grumbled, taking up the slack
in his belt.

As they made their way onward, Dick seriously considered their plight.
Thoughts of the ruthless, cold-hearted rifling of the cache by Bear
Henderson’s men filled him with an anger that was difficult to suppress.
But anger or resentment could not help them now. The thing to do was to
abandon any attempt at further progress that day and put in a few good
hours hunting while it was yet daylight.

“Boys,” he decided, “we’d better pitch camp here for a while, until we
can bag some game. My suggestion is that each of us start off in a
different direction. We must keep track of the time and be sure to get
back to camp by dark. The chances are that at least one of us will be
successful.”

“It’s hunt or starve,” agreed Sandy. “Which way do you want me to go?”

“Toma had better try his luck here in the creek valley,” said Dick,
“because game is apt to be more plentiful here and he’s the best hunter.
You and I can make our way into the hills, keeping about half a mile
apart. Shoot anything at all that has meat on its bones,” and he winked
slyly at Toma.

“I could eat a skunk and like it,” groaned Sandy. “By the way, before we
start don’t you think we’d better divide that bacon?”

With a queer, inexplicable feeling, Dick produced the last morsels of
food from their packs and divided them carefully. If he gave Sandy a
little more than an equal portion, no one, with the possible exception
of a tiny sparrow perched on a branch overhead, could have noticed it.
They ate in silence, and in silence they arose immediately after their
inadequate meal and started off for the hunt.

“I don’t think I’ll ever see anything,” Dick muttered to himself, “or if
I do the chances are that the pesky thing will get away. Hang it all,
why did Govereau, or whoever it was, have to find that cache?”

Dick’s mood brightened a few minutes later as he came up through the
autumn sunshine to the foot of a slope, thickly covered with stunted
pine. It looked like a very good hiding place for ptarmigan, or possibly
even deer. He unslung his rifle and went forward as cautiously as he
could, one finger hovering close to the trigger of his gun.

But, after an hour’s slow progress, Dick had begun to lose hope. He had
seen nothing. Apparently the forest was as devoid of all animal life as
a city street. Except for a hawk, circling lazily about high overhead,
there was neither bird nor beast anywhere in that lonely stretch of
wilderness.

Mopping his perspiring brow, the young hunter finally sat down for a
moment’s rest, before continuing his course to the top of a high ridge.

Then an abrupt, totally unexpected crackling in the heavy Saskatoon
thicket ahead caused him to start—almost in wonderment. His breath came
quickly. He half rose, then fearing, that even his slightest sound might
spoil everything, he sank down again, his left hand nursing the cold,
blue barrel of his Ross rifle.

More crackling, a sudden parting of the bushes, and Dick’s heart almost
stood still. A large bull moose, majestic in his stature, crashed into
view.

By this time Dick was fairly trembling with excitement. Twice he
endeavored to raise his rifle to his shoulder. His arm shook so much
that he knew it would be worse than useless to attempt a shot while his
nerves were in such a condition.

“I can’t do it,” thought Dick, then across his mind flashed the mental
picture of a cache, broken into and robbed, and the sneering face of
Pierre Govereau mocking him. Then his rifle went to his shoulder, and
two loud reports rang out in quick succession. The moose stumbled, but
did not fall. Dick heard quite plainly its sudden snort of alarm and the
crash of underbrush as it struck off at terrific speed directly down the
slope in the direction from which he had but recently come.

The moose was wounded, he knew, but he also was well aware from previous
experience that a wounded moose will often travel for miles before it
falls. Galvanized into action, Dick was off, following the blood-stained
trail, hoping against hope that either Sandy or Toma might intercept the
animal before it had become lost in the intricate tangle of brush and
woodland that lay to the south.

Sliding down a particularly treacherous part of the trail, Dick’s foot
caught in an exposed root and he fell heavily. As he bounded to his feet
again, he thought he heard a distant shout—but he was not entirely sure.

For twenty minutes more, he pushed forward rapidly, sometimes almost
losing the trail of the moose. Then finally he did lose it altogether.
Search as he would, the telltale tracks had disappeared as magically and
as unaccountably as if the animal had leaped into the air and flown away
to a place of safety.

“It’s the most unusual thing I ever heard of,” Dick commented aloud,
racing about in a vain effort to discover some sign that would point out
again the trail that had so suddenly vanished.

In despair his eyes fell upon a level formation of rock not more than
thirty feet away. Could it be that the moose had passed that
way—scrambled over the level rock floor in its mad race with death? If
so, it would explain the mysterious disappearance of the tracks; but
there must be blood-stains somewhere.

“Whoop-ee!” he shouted as his quick eyes made out the signs he
sought—small splotches of red scattered across the smooth surface of
sandstone. And shortly thereafter, he hurried on again, like a young
bloodhound finding fresh scent along the path ahead.

“I’ll be more careful next time,” he assured himself. “It would be a
pity if this moose got away. I’d have been ashamed to show my face in
camp.”

Two miles further on he almost forgot about the moose. Through a screen
of willows, skirting a small creek, he caught the faint movement of some
living thing—something that stood concealed and which watched him
furtively as he made his way along through the dead and matted grass of
the little valley.

Dick felt instinctively that some danger threatened. What this was he
had no way of finding out, yet the feeling persisted that he was being
watched, spied upon by an enemy more terrible than any wild denizen of
the forest. As he advanced swiftly on his way, he was conscious of a
strange tingling of nerves, as if he half expected at any moment to be
pounced upon and overcome by an unknown assailant.

“I’ve never felt so queer about anything in my life,” he confided to the
silent trees, as he hurried quickly along. “I’m sure that I saw
something move there in the bushes, and I’m positive that it wasn’t an
animal that walks on four legs.”

Just then, an object lying on the ground, immediately ahead, drove every
other thought from his mind. With a glad cry he sprang forward, and, a
short time later, stood looking down at the prostrate body of the bull
moose, majestic even in death.

A lump arose in Dick’s throat as he stood there silently regarding it.
“Poor old fellow,” he breathed, “it was a shame to do this. But perhaps
you saved us from starving. Maybe——”

A shout close at hand roused Dick from his musings. Wheeling about his
eyes lighted with pride and happiness, as he espied the approaching
figures of Sandy and Toma.

“Good for you!” Sandy exclaimed, as he strode up to where his chum was
standing. “I just knew you’d do it. Say, I believe it’s the biggest
moose I ever saw.”

“You ketch um big fella,” complimented Toma. “It is good.”

Together the three young adventurers stood admiring the moose. So
interested had they become that not one of them caught the sound of
stealthy footsteps until a heavy, threatening form, followed by three
others, pushed its way within the circle of admiring eyes.

With a cry of warning, Dick sprang back, clutching his rifle tightly.
Then he looked at the man.

It was Pierre Govereau!



                               CHAPTER IX
                            PIERRE GOVEREAU


Govereau advanced menacingly. Backed by the rifles of the three
villainous looking men with him, the three boys could do nothing.

“What you do wiz my moose?” Govereau snarled.

“Do you mean to say you shot that moose!” Dick exclaimed angrily.

“It iss so,” Govereau avowed brazenly.

“You lie!” Dick exclaimed hotly. “I shot that moose. I can prove it.
What do you mean by holding us up this way. We have done you no harm.”

“It iss Henderson bizness—zat.” Govereau turned and signaled his men to
bind the three young men.

“You’ll sweat for this,” Dick gritted.

“Not so much as you,” Govereau taunted. “Young fellas like you should
stay home wiz zee mamma.”

Dick gritted his teeth again, but resolved to keep his mouth shut. He
must save his breath to get Sandy and Toma out of the mess. It must have
been Govereau’s men watching him when he had felt so queer on the trail
of the wounded moose.

Dick did not resist the moose-hide thongs as they were bound mercilessly
tight about his wrists. Sandy and Toma followed his example. There were
other ways of getting the better of Govereau, and it might be easier if
they submitted, or seemed to submit, mildly to capture.

They could see one of the men slicing steaks from the moose haunch
before, at a guttural command, they were started off into the woods,
northward along Limping Dog Creek.

An hour’s tramping brought them to Govereau’s camp, four miles up the
creek. The scar faced Indian was there to greet them. He leered at the
captives hatefully. Dick felt that the Indian knew one of them had shot
him at the camp forty miles away, and that the savage would do anything
in his power to wreak vengeance.

Govereau had made his headquarters in an old cabin, deserted by some
trapper. There were two rooms, and the three young captives were shoved
into the smaller of them, their hands still bound behind them. Probably
their captors realized they would soon untie themselves, but since with
the huge oaken bolt shot on the door, there was no way of getting out of
the room, they did not bother themselves about it.

“Well?” Dick turned to Toma and Sandy, when at last they were left
alone.

Toma’s face was as stolid as ever. Sandy had nothing to say. He sat down
on the bunk at one side of the room.

“I guess we’re in a pickle, all right,” Sandy said at last.

Dick paced back and forth twice, then stopped before the door, which he
carefully inspected. The door seemed heavy enough to repel the attack of
a battering ram, say nothing of three boys. Dick turned back to Sandy
and Toma. “Govereau will question us now, I suppose,” Dick spoke
rapidly. “And he’ll probably take us out separately to see if our
stories are the same. He’ll want to know just how much we know of
Henderson’s movements and what we are trying to do against him.”

“What shall we say?” Sandy scratched his head. Toma said nothing. The
young Indian seemed to feel that the situation was beyond his ability to
handle.

“We’ll tell Govereau that we have been visiting the factor at Fort du
Lac—spending our vacation there, and that we were on our way south—to
return home. How’s that?”

“That sounds all right,” Sandy responded, a little dubiously.

“No go so far east if go south from Fort du Lac,” Toma’s dark eyes
blinked rapidly.

Dick thought a minute. “Then suppose we have some one at Fort Dunwoody
that we want to see before we leave for home—a cousin.”

“That’s the trick,” Sandy agreed enthusiastically.

“Then we all understand what we’re to tell,” Dick resumed. “Toma, how
about it?”

“I tell um,” was the taciturn reply.

“If Govereau believes our story he may let us go,” Dick concluded. “If
he learns the truth he may do something worse than just hold us behind a
locked door.”

All three were silent for a time while Dick paced back and forth. Upon
his shoulders he realized was now the bulk of responsibility. Toma might
excel him on the trail, where native woodcraft and instinctive stealth
was the chief requirement, but in the present situation Toma was at best
only a willing servant. And it was Sandy’s nature to depend upon his
chum, himself only offering what suggestions occurred to his lower mind.

“I’ve a plan to escape, if this first scheme fails!” Dick suddenly
stopped his pacing and looked about him.

Sandy jumped as if shot, so sudden was Dick’s exclamation. “Let’s hear
it,” the young Scotch lad cried eagerly. Toma brightened.

Dick turned to Toma. “Sandy or I would be glad to do this,” he addressed
the young guide, “but it’s just about impossible for us. Can I depend on
your support, Toma?”

“I do my best; what you say I do?” Toma promised sincerely.

“My plan is this: when Govereau questions you, Toma, you are to express
a desire to join him—to turn against us. See? With you on the outside
there’s much more chance of escaping than with all three of us in here.
Can you do it, Toma?”

“I try.”

“Then I’ll leave everything to you once you get outside. Of course,
Govereau may get wise to what you are up to. But, again, he’s no doubt
pretty anxious to get more men in his band.”

As Dick concluded his instructions, there came a noise at the door, and
the bolt was shot back. A sharp, rat-like face, that of a half-breed,
was pushed in. “You come,” said the man, indicating Dick.

Dick and Sandy both realized that a crisis was at hand. If they revealed
their real mission to Govereau they would without doubt never reach the
mounted police. Perhaps they would not reach them anyway, yet there was
a good chance that Govereau might let them go if they convinced him of
their ignorance of any of Henderson’s business.

“Good luck, Dick,” Sandy’s voice was a little husky.

“Never mind, old boy, I’ll make out,” Dick cheered him.

Toma was visibly affected, and Dick reassured him also. Short as the
time had been that Toma had been with them, there seemed already a
strong bond of friendship between the young Indian and the two young
adventurers.

Dick squared his shoulders and followed the rat-faced half-breed into
the other room. Dick now faced Pierre Govereau. The Frenchman was seated
at a board table across from the door which just had been closed after
Dick. At one side of the room a huge fireplace roared and crackled. The
rat-faced half-breed went over and squatted before the fire, picking up
a red-hot iron in a pair of tongs. Dick Kent shivered as he saw what the
man was doing. But he met Govereau’s eyes unflinchingly.

“What iss zee bizness you bean on when you make for zee Fort Dunwoody?”
Govereau came straight to the point.

“My friend and I are visiting in Canada,” replied Dick cooly. “The
factor at Fort du Lac was an old friend of my chum’s father. I have a
cousin in Fort Dunwoody that we wanted to call on before we went home.”

“I zink you lie,” growled Govereau. He sat silent for a moment, glaring
at Dick as if he would hypnotize the young man with his snake-like eyes.
But Dick’s gaze did not falter.

“Why you fear my men?” Govereau’s voice cracked like a whip.

Dick hesitated a moment. Sandy’s uncle’s welfare might depend upon his
misleading the villainous Govereau. “We had been told there were bandits
along the trail to the fort,” Dick replied in a clear voice.

“Haw!” scoffed Henderson’s lieutenant, and wheeled to the half-breed at
the fireplace. “Napio, zee iron now. We make zee young upstart talk
right.”

Dick recoiled slightly as the Indian arose and came forward with a short
piece of iron, red hot and smoking in the tongs. Govereau came out from
behind the table. Dick’s hands were still tied behind him. The Frenchman
seized Dick in an iron grasp and tore away his shirt front.

“You tell zee truth now,” Govereau hissed. “Queeck, Napio!”

The iron was pushed close to Dick’s naked breast. He could feel the heat
of it already searing his skin.

Then the door opened and the half-breed hesitated. Govereau turned,
snarling at the interruption. An Indian stood in the door.

“Men all go way,” said the intruder. “They drink firewater. M’sieu
Govereau, you come bring them back.”

“Throw him back in. We finish wiz him tonight,” Govereau ordered the
half-breed. “Bring zee young white one. I come soon,” he waved away the
Indian at the door.

Dick reeled into Sandy’s arms a minute later as he was roughly pushed
into the back room. “He’ll call you next, Sandy,” Dick gasped a little
weakly. “If he asks you why you feared his men, say you thought they
were bandits.”

Sandy pressed Dick’s arm to signify he understood and followed the
rat-faced half-breed out into the front room. Dick and Toma waited only
a few minutes before the door opened and Sandy was pushed in once more.
Govereau had not attempted to torture Sandy. He seemed in a hurry to go
after his men. They could hear him cursing through even those thick, log
walls, for Sandy’s story had tallied with Dick’s.

It was Toma’s turn next, and Dick talked earnestly with the guide as to
the method he was to use in convincing Govereau of his desires to be a
traitor to his white friends. Dick was now certain that Govereau would
not believe their story. Toma was their last chance.

They waited for some time before Toma was called. Then the half-breed
came again, and beckoned to the guide. In high suspense Dick and Sandy
watched him disappear through the door.

In a half hour they took courage. Toma had not come back. They waited an
hour and still Toma was not thrown back among them. Their spirits rose.
Toma had then convinced Govereau of his sincerity.

It was growing dark now, and at any moment Dick expected Govereau to
call for him again. The Frenchman seemed to have a personal enmity for
Dick, perhaps because of the young man’s refusal to be cowed by
browbeating.

“What if Toma really does turn traitor?” Sandy broke a long silence. “I
heard Uncle Walter say these Indians couldn’t be trusted too far.”

“I don’t know why, but I trust Toma absolutely,” Dick replied
confidently, “that Indian is smarter than we think. If Govereau really
is convinced that Toma is going in with him we’ll soon be out of here.
When I think what your uncle may be going through up there, I can’t sit
still.”

“Well, he couldn’t get much worse than we have already,” Sandy returned
grimly. “Gee, I never thought we’d come to this when we left Fort du
Lac.”

“I could stand it better if I wasn’t so hungry and thirsty,” Dick
declared.

“You said it,” Sandy heartily sanctioned. “I guess they’re going to
starve us too.”

“Do you notice it’s growing colder?” Dick asked presently.

“I thought maybe it was because we didn’t have any fire.”

“I remember Toma said we were due for a blizzard,” Dick recalled.

“Funny why Govereau doesn’t call one of us out again,” Sandy mused.

“He’s after his men I expect. An Indian reported they were drinking
while I was being questioned. The fellow saved me from being tortured.”

Engaging in a wandering conversation, Dick and Sandy whiled away two
more long hours, in which they managed to untie each other’s wrists, and
kept warm by walking back and forth and swinging their arms. They were
almost certain now that Govereau had gone. If so, then if Toma hadn’t
been forced to go with the Frenchman, he would be more able to help
them.

It was along toward morning when Dick started up out of a doze to hear
the sound of a blow and the muffled fall of a body in the front room.
There was a sharp stifled cry. Then Dick shook Sandy to wakefulness.

“What is it?” whispered Sandy, leaping to his feet.

“S-s-sh,” Dick cautioned.

Through the darkness in the room they could hear the heavy wooden bolt
on the door of their prison sliding backward.



                               CHAPTER X
                          TOMA AND A COLD SNAP


With bated breath Dick and Sandy awaited some sign of the identity of
the person who was entering so stealthily. Was it the scar faced Indian
coming for vengeance, or was it—the warmth from the other room was
rushing in. It was Toma’s voice that came to them.

“Quick! Come! Govereau gone long way.”

Hearts leaping with joy, Dick and Sandy joined the young guide in the
darkness. He led them out into the larger room, picking his way with a
certainty that revealed he could see in the dark.

“Watch for one fella on floor. I hit him on head with rifle,” Toma
whispered. “Govereau’s men all go to post ten miles south where they
drink fire-water. Govereau heap mad. Him after them. They come back
anytime. He take me long with um. I run away. He know what I do now. You
bet he know.”

Toma swung open the cabin door, and Dick and Sandy followed him out. It
was so cold their teeth commenced chattering almost immediately. They
buttoned up their jackets and hurried off into the night.

“We’ll make Fort Dunwoody yet,” Dick shivered, almost gladly.

“I’ll say we will,” Sandy came back.

Then they fell silent as they took Toma’s tireless, jogging pace,
beneath a cloudy sky. Again the Indian’s trail wisdom came in like a
God-send. Dick and Sandy did not know where they were going, but they
had a feeling that Toma certainly did.

How long they ran they did not know when they began to feel damp spots
on their cheeks and hands.

“It’s snowing,” Dick panted over his shoulder.

“I know it,” wheezed Sandy.

“Ought to cover our trail,” Dick came back.

“I guess so, but I can’t talk. I’ve got to save my wind. You must be
made of iron.”

Dick said no more, and presently Toma slowed down. It was snowing
heavily now, and with the going getting harder underfoot, Dick and Sandy
were grateful for the slackening of the pace. Yet they sensed something
unusual ahead had been the cause of it, and were not perfectly at ease
by any means.

Finally Toma came to a dead stop at the edge of a clearing. Peering
ahead through the gloom and the falling snow, they could see the lights
of a cabin twinkling.

“You stay here; I go on,” Toma instructed in a low voice. “My brother
live here. Him give us warm clothes. I see if all right first. Wait for
me.”

Dick and Sandy hovered in the undergrowth and watched Toma’s figure melt
away into the gloom in the direction of the cabin.

“I hope he gets some clothes for us,” Sandy chattered.

“And I’m glad Govereau didn’t take my wallet,” said Dick. “We can pay
for what we get now.”

“The Frenchman didn’t think we had any money, I suppose,” Sandy opined.

They fell silent then, for against the lighted window they could see a
head silhouetted through the falling snow. Toma was peering in at the
window. For an instant the guide’s head was outlined there, then it
disappeared. Presently a shaft of light shot out over the snow as the
door opened and closed. A moment later the door opened again, though the
boys could not see who entered.

Dick and Sandy expected Toma to come back for them almost immediately,
or at least signal that all was right. But the minutes passed and the
guide did not return nor make a sign. The boys began to worry.

“What do you suppose is keeping him?” Dick wondered.

“I don’t know,” Sandy replied, “but I do know I can’t stand still in
this cold much longer.”

“We’ll circle around the cabin and come in closer,” Dick directed. “If
something has happened we want to be sure we don’t get into trouble,
too. Toma’s brother may have been killed by Henderson’s men. The country
seems to be alive with the villains.”

Silently they started around the cabin. Half way around, Dick stumbled
and fell over something in the snow. Sandy stopped dead and a gasp of
horror came from his lips.

“Dick!” he exclaimed. “You’ve fallen over a dead man!”

Dick got up, more shaken by the identity of the thing he had fallen over
than by the fall.

Covered by the light film of snow that had fallen, and which was
steadily growing heavier, was the body of a man. In the gloom they could
not distinguish his features, but they were put on their guard. Armed
only with their hunting knives, they felt that the utmost caution must
be exercised in further advances.

“Toma’s in trouble. I know it now!” Dick ejaculated.

“Well, it’s up to us to get him out,” Sandy retorted.

Drawing their knives they started stealthily for the cabin. They could
hear no sound of life, and the knowledge of what was lying behind them
under the snow made the atmosphere doubly fearsome.

At last they reached the single window through which they had seen Toma
look into the cabin. Dick cautiously raised his eyes over the sill. He
looked only an instant, then he quickly ducked downward.

“It’s the scar faced Indian!” he made the astounding disclosure to
Sandy. “And there’s another with him. They have Toma bound. He’s lying
on the bunk. I could see his eyes. They’re playing cards and talking.
How in the world did they ever catch Toma?”

“That Indian again,” muttered Sandy. “How the deuce did he get here
anyway. We saw him last at Govereau’s camp. It’s ghostly the way that
fellow shows up everywhere.”

“Govereau must have sent him here on some dirty business,” Dick decided.
“Perhaps Toma’s brother had valuable furs stored here.”


With mutual consent they crawled away from the cabin and hid in the
trees at the edge of the clearing, where they tried to decide on a plan
by which to rescue Toma. That they had a good chance of success they
were sure. The scar-faced Indian had the use of but one arm since the
wound Toma had given him, so they had but one real man to deal with.
Still they were as well as unarmed. What could they do?

“I’ll tell you what,” Dick was speaking fast. “You go out into the woods
and begin calling for help, anything to get one of them out of the
cabin. Then I’ll slip in and see if I can’t take care of the other one
and get hold of a rifle. The Indian will probably stay inside, and
wounded as he is I’m sure I can handle him.”

“Gee! That’s a ghostly job you have for me to do,” Sandy whispered
ruefully.

“We’ve got to do it, Sandy,” urged Dick. “It won’t hurt to try. You keep
hidden, and when one of them comes out to see what’s wrong, keep quiet.
I’ll do the rest.”

Dick and Sandy gripped hands, then parted. Dick crept around to a point
opposite the door of the cabin, waiting tensely until Sandy began his
part of the ruse. He did not have to wait long. Presently, from afar in
the forest, a shriek as of some one in mortal agony, arose. Sandy was
doing well.

“H-e-l-p, oh, h-e-l-p,” his voice rang out, high and shrill.

Sandy repeated his call several times, then the cabin door opened, and
as Dick had hoped, the scar faced Indian’s companion came out. He had a
rifle in his hands.

Again Sandy’s cry rang out from a little further off. The man hesitated
no longer, but stepped from the cabin door and walked across the
clearing into the trees to investigate. He disappeared in the direction
of Sandy’s unearthly wailing.

Dick ran forward across the clearing, his moccasins making no noise in
the snow. He remembered that the scar faced Indian had been sitting at
the table facing the window. Therefore, if he had not changed his
position, his back would be to the door.

Pausing before the door, Dick found it open a crack. Cautiously he
pushed it open a little more and peered in. The Indian still was sitting
with his back to the door. He was idly shuffling the cards. Against the
bunk where Toma lay bound, Dick could see a rifle leaning. One leap
across the floor and he would have this rifle. It was a desperate
chance, but he must make the best of it.

Swift as a panther, Dick threw open the door and leaped in. The
astonished Indian was scarcely half out of his chair when Dick had the
rifle in his hands.

“Hands up!” he cried.

Whether the Indian understood English or not, Dick did not know, but his
words had the required effect. Slowly the scar-faced Indian turned his
ugly face upon his captor, his mouth twisted into an evil, smirking
grin. Dick stepped forward and drew the revolver from his captive’s belt
and tossed it into a corner. Then he backed toward the bunk with the
rifle still trained on the Indian. Quickly, he drew his knife and
slashed Toma’s bonds.

“Ha! Now we got um!” Toma tore the gag from his mouth, leaned up and
picked up the revolver Dick had thrown away. In a trice, then, Toma had
lashed the scar-faced Indian to his chair.

Dick already was expecting the return of the Indian’s companion. With
the Indian secured, both Toma and he turned their attention to the door.
With bated breath they waited and listened for approaching footfalls.



                               CHAPTER XI
                               SLUSH ICE


Toma and Dick no longer could hear Sandy hallooing, and Dick judged that
his chum was safely in hiding. Yet, as they waited, guns trained on the
door, a rifle shot shattered the silence. It came from the direction
taken by the man who had gone to investigate the calls for help. Dick’s
face paled. What did it mean? Had poor Sandy fallen? Had the man found
him?

“I’m going out,” Dick said tensely to Toma a moment later.

Whatever Toma’s reply was Dick did not hear it, for with an impatient
leap he flung open the door and disappeared. Toma remained behind, not
sure that his young white friend’s move had been wise, yet believing he
could do more to help if he stayed in the cabin.

When Dick left the cabin he made straight for the point from which he
thought the rifle shot had come. It was growing lighter. In the east a
faint gray fan of light showed over the forest—dawn. He ran on for a
little way, then he came upon tracks. Pursuing these at a run, he came
in sight of the man who had left the cabin an hour before. The meeting
was a surprise for both.

Dick dodged behind a tree as the other fired from his hip. The ball
whizzed harmlessly over Dick’s head, and he shot hastily. His shot also
went wild, but the other took to his heels. Dick did not pursue him, but
began calling for Sandy. Presently he was rewarded by a distant shout
and in a few minutes the chums were reunited.

“Did he shoot at you?” Dick queried anxiously.

“No, I don’t know what he shot at. Maybe he thought it was me,” Sandy
replied. “I’m half frozen. Gosh, it seemed hours out here.”

“Let’s hurry back to the cabin,” Dick hastened. “Toma is there, and
we’ve captured the scar faced Indian.”

Sandy was too cold to care how many Indians had been captured, and he
hobbled along after Dick like a stiff, old man.

“I hope Toma is all right,” Dick said anxiously as they neared the
cabin.

On the threshold of the cabin they stood a moment later in stark
amazement. Toma lay bleeding and silent on the floor, and the scar faced
Indian was gone!

“Well, if that doesn’t beat anything!” Dick ejaculated, rushing to Toma.

The young guide came to at the application of a little water. His head
had been struck with something; an overturned chair revealed what the
escaped Indian had probably used.

“He slip out ropes some way,” Toma explained when he could sit up once
more. “I watch door when him jump on me. That all I know.”

“I’m glad you’re alive—that’s all I can say,” Dick said thankfully.

“Hello, what’s this?” Sandy hurried from the fireplace where he had been
warming himself to the crude wooden table. A slip of paper with writing
on it lay among the scattered playing cards. Dick also hastened forward
and read the roughly scrawled words:

  Pierre Govereau:

  Send Many-Scar Jackson and Swede to Big John Toma’s cabin. We want the
  black fox fur he has hidden there.

                                                         BEAR HENDERSON.

Dick and Sandy read it aloud to Toma.

“This my big brother’s cabin,” Toma explained simply. “Last night I see
no one when look in window. I go in. That Many-Scar and other fella come
in, ketch me. I not know where Big John is. They not find um black fox.
Big John sell um black fox t’ree weeks go by.”

Dick and Sandy dropped their eyes. They now felt sure who the man was
that Dick had fallen over—the dead man. How could they tell Toma? At
last Dick took the guide’s arm. Silently they went out, Sandy following.

Toma showed no emotion as they showed him the body partly covered with
snow. He might have been a wooden image as he said quietly:

“Him Big John Toma; I know before I see. I feel he dead. That
Many-Scar——” something choked off his voice. His dark eyes suddenly
flashed and glowed like coals of fire.

“I wouldn’t give ten cents for Many-Scar’s life, slick as that Indian
is,” Sandy whispered.

Dick nodded.

Though all felt they had no time to lose, since Govereau’s men might be
expected to follow them, they could not leave Toma’s brother without
burial.

All three set to work under the spruce trees, hacking through the frozen
soil with axes. In a half hour they had dug a shallow grave. Wrapped in
blankets, they gently lowered the body of Big John Toma to its last
resting place.

Dick fashioned a rude cross from two saplings, which he showed to Toma.
The young Indian nodded. “Good; him Christian—me too,” said the guide.

When they had placed the last sod on the mound, Dick and Sandy left
their friend alone by the grave and went to the cabin to prepare for
continuing their journey. They found much pemmican and dried fish, upon
which Big John Toma had existed, but nowhere any flour or coffee. By the
time they had arranged shoulder packs and had donned whatever warm
clothes they had found, Toma had joined them. He seemed his old self
once more, though Dick and Sandy knew that behind his mask of
indifference was deep sorrow and a mighty resolve for the redskin’s
revenge upon the murderer of his brother. The guide refused to take the
money Dick offered him for the food and clothing they had taken from Big
John’s cabin.

“We three days from Fort Dunwoody now,” Toma told them when they were
ready for the trail. “Not sure we make um three days. Big blizzard come
pretty soon now. Mebbe tomorrow. We get um dog sled then. Need um bad.”

All that day Toma led them due southeast, across higher ground, where
vegetation was sparse. They crossed one shallow valley where there were
no trees at all, and upon a ridge at the other side made camp. It was an
advantageous spot from which to watch the back trail, and before they
started on they were disturbed by the sight of three tiny figures. The
men were undoubtedly on their trail. Straight across the valley they
toiled and they were coming fast.

“I’ll bet it’s Govereau!” Dick exclaimed in alarm.

“Yes, and it looks as if we were only about three miles ahead of him,”
Sandy declared. “Let’s get a move on. I don’t want to get mixed up with
him again.”

“Neither do I,” Dick heartily agreed.

Toma was of the same mind, and they all set off at a fast pace when once
more they took to the trail. They felt confident they could lengthen the
lead on their pursuers, but two hours after noon, when they paused to
rest on a high ridge, they looked back and were astounded to see the
three men not more than a mile behind them.

“Them best trail men Govereau got,” Toma protected his own prowess on
finding that he had been outpaced.

They started on again, doubling their former speed. A half hour more
brought them to the banks of a river.

“Him Saskatoon River,” Toma told them. “Him full slush ice. We make um
raft in hurry; get over, then we safe from Govereau.”

Dick and Sandy looked off across the sullen expanse of the Saskatoon. As
Toma had said, it was filled with a slow-moving mass of slush, formed by
night freezes and day thaws.

They fell to work like Trojans on a raft, lashing dead logs together
with tiny saplings and tough vines. It was a cumbersome raft that they
at last shoved out into the icy stream. With poles to propel the
unwieldy craft, they began the perilous trip across the river. The delay
caused by the building of the raft had given their pursuers time to
overtake them, and at any moment they expected to hear a shout or rifle
shots from the shore they were slowly leaving behind.

One side of the raft was heavier than the other, and out in the current
they came near being spilled off, before they followed Toma’s example
and balanced the logs by shifting their weight from side to side.

Pushing on desperately, they reached midstream, when their pursuers
reached the river. But the few shots that were fired fell short. The
boys had poled the raft out of range. Waving their hands to the
chagrined men they reached the other shore and, abandoning their raft,
hastened on.

Once more snow was spitting out of the gray heavens, and it was growing
steadily colder. They hiked for three miles, then Toma advised a halt
The guide began immediately throwing up a shelter of boughs. Dick and
Sandy helped with a will, and they finished none too soon. With the fall
of night the blizzard Toma had prophesied swept down upon them like a
thousand, shrieking demons.



                              CHAPTER XII
                              THE BLIZZARD


When the boys awoke on the following morning, numb and stiff from cold
in spite of the protection of their crudely constructed shelter, a full
six inches of snow covered the surface of their blankets.

“Snow make um much warmer to sleep,” Toma explained to them, as he
crawled out of his bed, very much as a husky gets out of a snowdrift.

Dick turned his eyes towards the open door of the shelter and shivered.
Contrary to his expectations the storm had not abated during the night.
A shining, white wall of snow almost shut out any view of their camp
surroundings, while the wind continued to howl furiously.

To all appearances, the boys were shut in by the high, white walls of a
snow prison. Snow sifted in the door of their shelter and through the
numerous cracks in the walls.

“I’m not crazy about getting up,” Sandy observed, with a seriousness
that brought a laugh from Dick and Toma. “Anyhow, nobody can get
anywhere in a storm like this.”

“The wind, she blow from northwest,” Toma cut in. “No get lost when wind
blow hard like that. Keep wind on left side. No like—but better than
stay here.”

The young guide counted slowly on his fingers, and went on:

“Me know place where young Indian live. Him called Raoul Testawich. Got
um cabin nice and warm, an’ mebbe we ketch um good dog team there.”

“Fine!” exclaimed Dick, “we’ll make a try for it. Sure you won’t get
lost?”

Toma shook his head.

“No,” said the guide, with assurance. “I find way all right. Best thing
we go.”

Somewhere in the back of Dick’s mind there was some doubt as to the
advisability of facing such a storm, yet he had implicit faith in the
prowess of Toma, and he did not question the young Indian’s ability.

“It’ll be great to get near a warm fireplace again,” said Dick. “What do
you say, Sandy?”

Sandy’s answer was to spring up out of his blankets and commence
immediate preparations for breakfast. A fire was started with
considerable difficulty, and less than an hour later the three boys were
on the trail again, walking Indian file with Toma in the lead.

But the storm was worse even than they had anticipated. It was fury
unleashed, it sucked the very breath out of their mouths and blew
through their mackinaws as if they had been cheesecloth. Dick imagined
that the weight of the snow-laden air alone was sufficient to prevent
any long continued trek across that blinding field of white.

Taking turns breaking trail, they proceeded at a slow pace, puffing with
exertion. And always they kept the wind on their left, Toma calling out
encouragement from time to time to keep up the spirits of his
less-hardened and less-experienced comrades.

Moisture froze on their coat collars, formed by the warmth of their
breath against the freezing wind. Breathing became more and more
difficult, and Sandy, the weaker physically of the three, began to
complain of aching muscles and finally stopped short, panting heavily.

“I’m tired out,” he gasped, “——all in. Dick, I don’t believe I can go a
step further. Can’t we sit down and rest?”

Dick was on the point of acceding to Sandy’s request, when Toma, several
paces in the lead, came back, crying out his disapproval.

“No! No!” shouted the guide above the howling of the wind. “No do that;
get um legs all stiffened up. Bye an’ bye can’t move. Mebbe we better go
slower, but no sit down.”

“I’ll try to go on,” declared Sandy bravely, “but you fellows better
stop now and then to give me a chance to breathe. I tell you I’m all
in.”

And so they went on, bracing themselves against the fury of the wind,
shuffling forward through mounting drifts, in places piled waist high,
as if to block their progress. On several occasions, so violent was the
storm that it was impossible to see anything. Once, fighting their way
through a smothering fog of white, Toma shouted out a warning.

They were traveling down a sharp incline at the time, attempting to
reach a river bottom, where towering cliffs would protect them somewhat
from the force of the wind. Toma shouted to them. His keen ears had
detected a sound other than that made by the blizzard. It was a
different sound, and he had heard it before—a queer rumbling, followed
by a mighty roar.

With a quickness born of desperation, the guide seized Dick and Sandy by
the arms and pulled them out of the path of an almost certain death.

As the boys stood trembling and appalled at the deafening tumult about
them, what seemed at first a vast mountain of snow, went shooting past,
carrying everything before it. The snowslide left in its wake nothing
but a wide belt of barren ground—even huge rocks had been torn away from
the earth and hurtled on into the storm.

“That was close enough to suit me,” declared Sandy in a tragic whisper,
as the boys continued their descent. “I’ve never seen a snowslide
before, and I don’t wish to see another one. Do you feel shaky, Dick?”

“Yes, I do,” admitted Dick, his cheeks slightly pale. “I thought the
entire upper part of the valley wall was falling in on us.” He turned to
Toma. “Do you suppose,” he inquired, “that it’ll be safe to go down?”

The Indian lad shook his head thoughtfully.

“Me no can tell. Mebbe more snowslide after while. We take chance—that’s
all.”

Dick and Sandy hesitated.

“Perhaps we’d better not go down to the river,” said Dick. “It may be a
wiser plan to keep up above, where there isn’t the danger from these
avalanches. No use to risk our lives needlessly,” he pointed out.

Their guide grunted something under his breath, then looked up, his
sober, dark eyes twinkling.

“Snowslide catch us in the valley,” he pronounced. “Big blizzard catch
us on top. Which way you like die best?”

At any other time the two boys would have seen the humor in the
situation, but at that particular moment neither Sandy nor Dick felt
that there was anything funny about it. For a brief interval they stood,
deep in thought, their two youthful faces clouded with apprehension.

“It makes no difference to me which way I die,” declared Sandy at
length, kicking disconsolately at the trunk of a small tree, which had
been uprooted by the force of the snowslide. “We’re more than half way
down to the river now, so what’s the use of turning back. My choice is
the valley. At least, we can travel faster down there, with more
protection from the storm.”

“You’re right,” agreed Dick, “I choose the valley, too. Do you think we
can reach your friend Raoul’s place before dark?”

“Best we can do it take three hours from here,” replied Toma, “an’ night
come early. One hour more mebbe an’ then we no see at all. Dark all
’round. Travel very slow then. Raoul him live on top of river bank ten,
fifteen miles from here.”

Without further word, the three boys made their way quickly down to the
floor of the valley and proceeded on their way. Beneath their feet was
the frozen course of the Bad Heart River, winding forth through a white
world of weird, irregular cliffs, now deeply mantled with snow.

“This is better,” Sandy growled, looking up to where the storm broke
above their heads. “I never would have thought it would make so much
difference being down here. You can actually see a little and hardly
feel the wind at all.”

“Fine!” answered Dick. “But save your breath, Sandy. You’ll need it.”

Monotonously, heavily, the moccasined feet of the three snow-covered
figures crunched along the unbroken trail. In the lead, Toma glided
ahead with an untiring energy that filled Dick with admiration. He
wondered what the young half-breed was thinking about. Was he, too,
secretly fearful of some new impending danger lurking in their path?

He noticed presently that the shadows, flung across the floor of the
valley, were gradually becoming darker and darker, a heavy dusk had
settled around them. Toma, barely four feet away, was a vague,
indistinct blur, completely shutting off his view of the trail in front
of him.

That the fury of the blizzard had not abated, was easily apparent. He
could still hear the wind howling above their heads, and feel the snow
as it sifted quietly down. At every step his feet sunk into the soft,
yielding surface, and his heart pounded like a trip-hammer from the
continuous, never-ending exertion.

“How much farther?” Sandy demanded, a note of despair in his voice. “How
much farther, Toma?”

“No can tell.”

Sandy mumbled and complained to himself. He came stumbling and panting
behind Dick, keeping up an incessant babbling or muttering that filled
his friend with alarm.

“How much farther?” he asked again.

Toma grunted.

“No can tell.”

A snort of fury seized upon Sandy. With a strangled, despairing cry, he
sprang forward past Dick and seized Toma by the shoulder.

“Listen to me you, you—Indian. I’ve got a right to know how far we’ve
gone. Come on, now—out with it!”

Toma turned as if to brush off the detaining hand, when Sandy struck out
with all the force of his right arm. It was an unexpected blow which
sent the young Indian guide staggering to his knees. Aghast, scarcely
believing his senses, Dick stood in bewilderment for a moment unable to
move. With incredible speed, his companion had sprung forward again, his
fumbling, eager hands encircling Toma’s throat.

“Stop it!” shrieked Dick.

A shrill, unearthly shout, terrible in that utter desolation, seemed to
freeze Dick’s blood. Toma and Sandy were at grips, struggling, rolling—a
dark, almost indistinguishable ball against the gray background of
billowing drifts.

“Stop it!” roared Dick again, and, jumping in, endeavored to separate
them. He was still somewhat dazed over the sudden, unexpected turn
events had taken. What had happened to Sandy? What was the meaning of
that unwarranted attack upon the kindly young Indian guide? Had the
hardship and severe nervous strain of the past few days, proved too much
for his friend? Desperately he tugged and pulled at the two combatants,
finally breathing a sigh of thankfulness as Toma rolled on top,
successfully pinning the arms of his assailant.

“Fight all gone,” declared the victor between gasps of exhaustion,
raising one hand to wipe away the blood trickling from a cut over his
left eye. “Hm, poor fellow go sleep bye an bye. Trail too much. Worry
too much. All make him mad like grizzly caught in trap, an’ fight like
grizzly till strength all gone.”

Toma arose, brushing the snow from his clothing, then placed a still
trembling hand on Dick’s arm.

“Him lay there all night—huh?” he inquired. “What you think we do next?
What you think?”

Disconsolately, Dick gazed out into the black pall of darkness which had
gathered around them.

“Toma,” he inquired presently, “do you believe Sandy will feel better
after a while? Will he be able to get up and walk again?”

“Him walk no more tonight,” stated Toma with conviction.

“In that case, there’s only one thing to do. I’ll camp here with Sandy
while you go on to your friend’s house for help. Do you think you can
make it, Toma?”

“You start ’em fire here,” instructed the Indian. “Me make it all right.
Get back two, three hours, mebbe, with dog team and take poor Sandy to
warm bed. Please no worry if I be little late.”

“No,” answered Dick, gulping down a hard substance in his throat.
“Good-bye and good luck to you, Toma. I’ll be here when you return.”

Not a suspicious moisture, but real tears were standing in Dick’s eyes a
few minutes later as he and the young half-breed separated over the
recumbent body of Sandy. A single, warm hand-clasp, then Toma was away,
his footfalls sounding faintly through the dark.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                           DICK SEES A GHOST


Several hours had passed since Toma’s departure, and the fire Dick had
kindled had burned down to a mass of glowing, red embers. The still
falling snow hissed and sputtered over the coals. Off in the distance a
few wolves howled. Sandy lay stretched out at Dick’s feet and the owner
of the feet himself drowsed and nodded in a futile effort to keep awake.

He recovered consciousness a few moments later, however, when a
half-burned stick, lying on the outer edge of the fire, crackled forth
suddenly like a cap in a toy pistol. In an instant he was wide-eyed and
alert, his eyes straining towards the outer rim of darkness. He could
see nothing.

“Dreaming again,” he grumbled to himself, looking down at Sandy, and
wondering how much time had elapsed since the young Indian guide had set
out on his perilous journey through the storm. Then his thoughts turned
to the happenings of the day.

One thing that bothered Dick, and which he had not yet explained
entirely to his own satisfaction, was Sandy’s strange behavior a few
hours previous. The young Scotchman’s violent and unwarranted attack
upon Toma was not in the least like the usual happy-go-lucky conduct
that Dick had ascribed to his friend. Of course, he had heard many times
before, of similar cases where men, driven to the limit of physical
exertion, had acted queerly. It was a sort of temporary mental breakdown
preceding physical collapse. What Sandy needed was a good sleep,
followed by a day or two of complete rest. He’d probably feel better in
the morning.

For the next few minutes Dick busied himself in gathering more wood for
the fire. His first duty was to keep himself and Sandy warm, as warm as
possible in their hastily improvised camp there in the inadequate
shelter of the river bottom.

“Toma will be back in an hour or two,” he thought to himself, “and then
everything will be all right.”

He looked down at Sandy, whom he had bundled up in their two blankets
and hoped devoutly that nothing had happened which might delay the young
Indian’s safe return. Although not in the least doubting the guide’s
prowess, Dick had learned to his sorrow that Govereau’s opposition was
not the only factor to be considered in the successful carrying out of
their plans.

“There is always this blamed wilderness to contend with,” ruminated
Dick. “Treacherous rivers, forest fires, wild beasts, the danger of
freezing to death in the extreme cold or getting lost in a blizzard.
Sometimes I think——”

Exactly what Dick thought will probably never be recorded. He woke
suddenly from his preoccupation, a look of fear in his eyes, every nerve
tingling as if tiny electric wires ran close to the surface of his skin.
A slight sound somewhere out there in the enveloping darkness had caught
his attention. In addition, there had quickly come over him a vague
feeling that he and Sandy were not alone, that an actual presence,
either an animal of some sort or a human being, had intruded within the
circle of their campfire and was ready to pounce down upon them.

For a brief second Dick could scarcely suppress the cry of terror that
had sprung to his lips. He wanted to turn his head to look at the thing
he knew to be immediately behind him, but, for some unknown reason, his
body seemed incapable of action. Instead he sat there, weak and
trembling, the blood pounding in his throat with a force almost
suffocating.

With a truly mighty effort he contrived finally to twist and squirm
around so that his gaze could discern the thing that menaced him, and in
that instant he caught wildly at the trunk of the up-rooted tree upon
which he sat, so frozen with horror, that the person who stood
immediately opposite—probably no more than ten or twelve feet away—might
easily have advanced and overpowered him without encountering even the
slightest resistance.

In all his life, Dick had never seen so strange an apparition. His first
sickening impression was that he was confronted not by a man at all but
by a real ghost, fashioned out of a substance as hard and unyielding as
a block of ice. In the glare of the campfire, the person’s body gave
forth a peculiar gleam or sparkle that so amazed and confounded Dick
that he found himself putting up his hands to his eyes in an effort to
shut out the unusual sight.

“Toma, he tell me come,” issued a friendly voice from the ghost-like
figure, standing there in front of him. “You no ’fraid me.”

Dick came to with a start.

“No,” he mumbled weakly.

“Toma one mile down river,” continued the voice. “Him stuck in ice with
huskies. Mebbe no get sled out.”

“What’s that!” demanded Dick. “I don’t think I understand you.”

“Ice thin where river runs quick. Toma, me, drive on river too close to
rapids. Hurry up get back here for sick fella. We go fast. Toma, me, sit
in sled. All at once ice break. Toma, huskies, me, sled—everybody fall
in river.”

Dick sat and stared incredulously at the speaker. He understood now.
This was Raoul Testawich, Toma’s friend, who, in his broken English, was
trying to describe what had taken place that night farther up the river.
Dick shivered at the thought of that unexpected, icy-cold plunge when
the sled with its two occupants had broken through into the river. No
wonder that young Testawich looked like a ghost, his clothing a
glistening ice and snow-covered mantle of white.

“Is Toma safe?” he questioned eagerly.

“Yes,” nodded the half-breed, “Toma all right, but sled gone. Cut
harness away from sled to save huskies. Toma stay back there now and
watch dogs. What you think; you, me take sick fella along that far?”

“We can try,” answered Dick in an awed voice. “How far did you say it
was?”

“About one mile,” said Raoul.

“We can do it!” Dick stated with conviction. “I know we can—even if we
are compelled to drag and carry him all the way.”

There was admiration and wonder in Dick’s eyes now as he looked at the
ice-clad form of the half-breed. What tremendous endurance Toma and this
man must have. It seemed almost incredible.

He rose quickly, fired with new determination, walked over to the spot
where Sandy lay and, as gently as possible, attempted to arouse him.

“Wake up! Wake up, Sandy!” he called.

Several minutes elapsed before Dick succeeded in dragging his friend to
an upright position. Sandy swayed on his feet, mumbling incoherently,
glaring about him with blood-shot, unseeing eyes. Supported by a
friendly arm on either side, he moved forward, almost a dead weight
between them.

“We get there sooner you think,” encouraged Raoul. “Bye an’ bye we turn
bend in river an’ then you see Toma’s campfire. Little fella pretty
sick.”

They mushed on in silence. Step by step, slowly, at what seemed to Dick
a snail’s pace, they plodded through the darkness towards the place
where the courageous young half-breed guide awaited them. The snow had
ceased to fall. The roar of the storm above their heads had died down to
a faint murmuring. Presently Raoul spoke:

“I see light now. Pretty soon we get to campfire. Then dogs pull sick
fella rest of way to my home.”

“But we haven’t any sled,” interposed Dick.

“Toma tie poles together for sled by time we get there. Make ’em pole
sled for sick fella.”

Again they went on in silence. The light of Toma’s campfire gradually
grew brighter as they advanced. Presently Dick discerned the lonely
figure of the Indian guide and after a time, five blotches in the snow,
five furry forms that snarled and howled as they waited impatiently for
the return of their master.

“We’ve made it!” howled Dick, unable to suppress his exultation. “We’ve
made it, Toma, old boy. Yip! Yip!”

Toma’s answering shout was drowned out by a deafening chorus from the
huskies.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                          AN UNWELCOME VISITOR


The cabin of Raoul Testawich, which stood in a sheltering grove of
spruce a few miles back from Bad Heart river, loomed up through the
darkness several hours later as Toma, Raoul and Dick, with the team of
huskies in the lead, crossed a narrow coulee about thirty yards away
from the house and plunged on through heavy drifts to the narrow,
cleared space immediately in front of the door.

Wrapped in blankets, Sandy still lay on the hastily improvised sled. As
his three comrades gathered about him, a heavy door squeaked open and a
sleepy voice, in Cree, called out a welcome. In an incredibly short time
they had lifted Sandy from the sled and had carried him within, gently
placing him in a bunk at one end of the room.

A young Indian girl, whom Dick judged to be Raoul’s wife or sister,
closed the door after them and advanced swiftly to the mud fireplace
where, over crackling spruce logs, a heavy iron pot sent forth the
pleasant aroma of steaming moose meat. Close by, with growing interest
and enthusiasm, Dick beheld a small table laden with food.

“We eat this time for sure,” grinned Toma, nudging Dick’s arm. “Mebbe
you no want eat now.”

“Like fun, I don’t,” laughed the other. “There are two things I
want—food and sleep. I’m so blamed tired that Raoul will have to wait
until sometime tomorrow before I buy his dog team. I believe I could
sleep for three days.”

“You sleep long you like,” conceded Toma, as Raoul left the room to look
after the dogs. “Him, Raoul, my very good friend. Fine fella. Like ’em
sister, too. Mebbe some day marry girl.”

The far away expression in the young half-breed’s eyes drew a laugh from
Dick.

“I’m glad to hear that,” he said, “and I want to congratulate you. When
do you expect to get married?”

“Four—five—six years,” he answered, counting laboriously on his fingers.
“Father Girard he tell ’em me at mission too young yet. No marry till
get older. Get older very slow,” he concluded, casting woebegone eyes in
the direction of the young lady of his choice.

The re-entrance of Raoul cut short any further reference to the subject
of Toma’s tender affair of the heart. It was well, too, for the face of
the owner of the huskies wore a look of concern as he strode forward and
commenced to remove his outer garments, still thickly encrusted with ice
and snow. As he fumbled with the buttons of his moose-hide coat, he
broke forth excitedly in Cree, pausing now and again to make quick,
explanatory gestures with his hands.

“What’s the trouble?” demanded Dick, who though not understanding one
word that had been spoken, could tell from the Indian’s expression that
something out of the ordinary had taken place. “What did he say, Toma?”

“He say,” interrupted the guide, “that he no like way huskies act.
Huskies tired but no want to lie down and make bed in snowdrift. Huskies
afraid of something, very much afraid.”

“That not all,” Toma continued as a relieved expression brightened
Dick’s eyes. “Raoul him not sure, but see track mebbe made by snowshoe.
Look like snowshoe track only wind blow snow over it. Raoul think
Govereau’s men come here tonight and look for us. What you think? Mebbe
camped not far away.”

For a brief moment, a look of apprehension, of fear, swept through Dick.
The supposition was not entirely impossible. Experience had taught him
that Govereau was both an experienced woodsman and an implacable enemy,
a man who had the disconcerting habit of putting in an appearance at
times when one least expected him. On the other hand, Dick could not
help but believe that the hated French half-breed had not yet succeeded
in catching up with them. The incident at the river when he, Sandy and
Toma had crossed through the ice floe successfully, must have delayed
him considerably.

“I don’t think he has had time to overtake us yet,” said Dick. “If any
one has been here today, it must be someone else.”

Toma shook his head.

“Mebbe you right. I like think so. All same Govereau make you surprise
once in a while. Fool ever’body.”

“That’s true,” rejoined Dick, “but if Govereau really is here, he’s here
and that’s an end to it. There’s nothing that we can do except to fight
him and take our own risks. I think that you and Raoul had better get
into some dry clothes as quickly as possible. A good supper and a sound
sleep afterwards are the first things to be considered. I wonder if I’d
better wake Sandy?”

“Him better sleep long time an’ wake up himself. Him be all right then.”

Dick heeded this advice from Toma and a few minutes later sat down to
one of the most enjoyable meals he had eaten in weeks. Then he and the
young Indian guide tumbled into the bunk above Sandy and were almost
instantly fast asleep, their weary limbs stretching out in the luxurious
softness of a white rabbit sleeping-bag.

They woke on the following afternoon and clambered down from their
perch. To his amazement, Dick beheld Sandy, somewhat pale but otherwise
quite his usual self, sitting at the table, opposite their host. He was
eating gruel from a bowl and conversing in low tones to Raoul.

“Why, Sandy!” exclaimed Dick, unable to conceal his delight. “What has
happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re up.”

“Sure I’m up,” the voice of the young Scotchman rose in jovial good
humor as he glanced across at his two friends, who were dressing
hurriedly. “Didn’t expect me to lie in bed all night and all day too,
did you?”

“Yes, but how do you feel?”

Sandy put down his spoon and swung round to meet Dick’s inquiring gaze.

“A little shaky, I guess, but otherwise about the same as usual. By the
way, Dick, what happened yesterday? When I woke up this morning, I
couldn’t imagine where I was. And funny thing—I can’t remember very much
of what took place on the trail. Did I get hurt?”

“Didn’t Raoul tell you?”

“Not yet.”

Dick picked up his moccasins and began absently to turn them in his
hands. For Sandy’s benefit, it had occurred to him to gloss over the
events of the previous day, to give his friend as little information as
possible. It was not that Sandy’s breakdown was anything to be ashamed
of, considering what he had been through. It was not that, Dick told
himself. It was the possible effect the news might have on him. For
Sandy was proud, and the knowledge of even a temporary weakness on his
part would be sure to cause him a good deal of humiliation.

“You played out on the trail, Sandy,” Dick stated evenly. “I was all in
myself. I hope we never again have so many obstacles and difficulties to
contend with. I can’t imagine what would have happened to us if Toma
hadn’t gone for help. We have Toma and Raoul to thank for getting
through safely yesterday.”

“Toma is always doing remarkable things,” said Sandy. “I can’t help but
admire the way he broke trail through that storm. Wish I had half his
endurance.”

“You no talk about me so much,” Toma broke forth, pretending to be
angry, but grinning in spite of himself. “Me no like ’em all big words.
Mebbe make fun of me.”

“You hurry up dress,” interposed Raoul. “My sister wait in next room to
bring something to eat. Pretty soon we have breakfast middle of the
night.”

“All right,” laughed Dick, “we’ll hurry. I’ll be ready as soon as I put
on these moccasins.”

He was looking at Raoul as he spoke, but was hardly prepared for what
suddenly ensued. The young Indian was abruptly on his feet and had
dashed forward to one side of the room, where he caught up a rifle,
which had been leaning there against the wall. Amazed at first, Dick
quickly caught the significance of Raoul’s actions, as there came to his
ears the dull tromping of feet outside, followed quickly by a loud
thumping at the door. A moment later, a towering, heavy form broke into
the room and stood blinking across at them.

“What you want!” demanded Raoul, flourishing his rifle.

The intruder closed the door behind him, his shifting eyes regarding
each of them in turn. He was a big man, clothed almost entirely in fur,
a parka concealing the lower part of his face. As the four other
occupants of the room stood or sat watching him, he shook off his heavy
mitts, kicked the snow from his feet and removed his parka. His general
appearance, Dick observed, was far from prepossessing.

“What you want!” repeated Raoul.

“You don’t need to be afeered o’ me,” finally grumbled their unexpected
guest, rubbing one burly hand against his bearded cheek. “Put down yer
gun, brother, I ain’t gonna hurt nobody. I jes’ came in to get warm an’
ask fer something to eat. Been hoofing it all the way from Twin Brothers
Creek, near the Big Smokey. Left there this morning. Stranger in these
parts. My name’s Bill Watson. Guess you don’t know me.”

Dick was conscious of a feeling of relief to learn something of the
intruder’s identity. At least, he was not one of Govereau’s men. Then
Dick felt Toma’s face brushing close to his own.

“No like him,” breathed the guide in a scarcely audible whisper.
“Ever’body watch out. See him one time before with Govereau. He come to
find out if you and Sandy here.”

Toma drew back quickly as the stranger’s gaze turned again in their
direction.



                               CHAPTER XV
                          OUTWITTING THE ENEMY


Dick Kent had no reason to doubt that Toma’s stealthily imparted
information concerning the true identity of Bill Watson was correct. The
man had been sent by Govereau. His story of the long trek from Twin
Brothers Creek was a deliberate falsehood intended to deceive Dick and
his friends. He was here as a spy to carry out certain instructions from
Govereau, the accomplishment of which would probably result disastrously
to their expedition.

In a few minutes following Toma’s whispered warning, Dick thought
swiftly. Their safety and the success of their plans depended upon
immediate action. Something had to be done before Watson became aware
that anyone suspected him.

The first step, of course, was to discover some way to acquaint Sandy
and Raoul with the stranger’s duplicity. This, of course, must be
accomplished secretly, and in a manner that would not arouse Watson’s
slightest suspicion.

“If only on some pretext I could get the two of them outside,” thought
Dick, “the rest would be easy. Four of us would have no difficulty in
taking him prisoner. We would bind him hand and foot and then Raoul
could keep him here several days while Sandy, Toma and I continued our
journey with the dog team.”

Annette entered from the adjoining room at Raoul’s summons and began
removing the dishes from the table, in preparation for the meal for
Watson, Toma and Dick. Watson now occupied a chair at one side of the
room, and sat directly facing Sandy. Raoul had moved forward and was
assisting his sister with her task, while Toma, like a restless spirit,
remained unseated, occasionally changing his position from sheer
nervousness.

“I ain’t had very much to eat today,” Watson informed them, producing an
evil-smelling pipe and lighting it with the stub of a match. “Been too
busy mushing to think about it. Trail heavy all the way, too.”

A strained silence followed. It was evident that Watson intended to make
himself perfectly at home, for, a moment later, he stretched out his
burly legs, and, to Dick’s disgust, spat on the floor.

“Where you fellows bound for?” he demanded suddenly of Sandy.

“Nowhere in particular,” replied the young Scotchman non-committally.
“Where are you going?”

Watson’s face darkened with a scowl.

“I ain’t a goin’ to tell neither if that’s the way you feel about it.
Guess you never was taught no manners, young man.”

Sandy turned his head slightly and winked covertly at Dick.

“No offense intended, I’m sure.”

The man from Govereau’s camp grunted something under his breath.

“Little boys ain’t got no business on the trail anyway,” he began again,
this time in a scoffing tone that caused an angry red to mount suddenly
in Sandy’s cheeks.

In his restless moving about, changing positions often, Toma had
presently come to a pause close to Sandy and now stood absently tossing
a small object in his hand, his gaze directed toward Annette and Raoul,
who were completing preparations for supper. Looking at him, no one
would have suspected that any thought, out of the ordinary, lay at the
back of the young half-breed’s mind. His face was expressionless, yet as
Dick watched him, there flashed from them unexpectedly a look that could
not be mistaken.

It was as if Toma had sent him some sort of a signal. What was its
meaning Dick could not possibly imagine until, apparently by accident,
the small object, which looked like a brass buckle, fell from the
guide’s hand and rolled under Sandy’s chair. As he stepped forward and
stooped to get it, Dick knew from the expression on Sandy’s face that
he, too, had been warned.

“Supper all ready,” Raoul announced.

Watson bounded to his feet and was the first to reach the table. Without
waiting for further permission he pulled out a chair and slumped into
it. Dick followed more leisurely, with Toma bringing up the rear. As
they approached directly behind Watson’s chair, Toma’s hand shot out,
poking Dick in the ribs. Half-turning, the recipient of the blow emitted
a startled gasp as he perceived Toma’s long arms steal out and encircle
the unsuspecting guest.

Watson and the chair swayed backward, then toppled over, striking the
floor with a resounding crash. The heavy, powerful form rolled to one
side, endeavoring to break the iron grip of the young half-breed. For a
tense second Dick stood inactive, then leaped to his friend’s
assistance. Attempting to pinion Watson’s arms, to his horror Dick saw
their opponent had actually succeeded in pulling a dangerous looking
automatic from his pocket and was grimly endeavoring to use it.

Dick seized Watson’s wrist in his two hands, putting forth his last
ounce of strength in an effort to force the gun from the man’s grasp. In
quick succession three ear-splitting reports rang out. Annette screamed.
After that Dick was not quite sure what was taking place during that
confused wild scramble on the floor until he felt the heavy body under
him relax and a voice triumphantly proclaim:

“Well, I guess that ought to settle him for a while.”

With perspiration trickling down into his eyes, Dick looked up. Raoul
stood with a small stick of wood in his hands and close beside him
Sandy, a look of triumph on his face, each surveying their now helpless
foe.

“You didn’t hit him half hard enough, Raoul,” Sandy protested. “It was a
good thing for him that I didn’t have that club, myself. I might have
killed him.”

“Hit ’em plenty hard,” Raoul confessed, tossing the stick back toward
the fireplace. “Tie him up easy now. I go get rope.”

Dick and Toma rose to their feet and a moment later Raoul returned with
a rope. Bound hand and foot, Watson was lifted bodily and carried across
the room, where he was deposited not unkindly in the selfsame bunk
occupied by Sandy on the previous night. Dick breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m glad that’s over with,” he declared thankfully. “All things
considered, we’ve been pretty lucky so far. We’ve beaten Govereau at
every turn.”

“Beaten but not licked,” Sandy reminded him. “I’ll have to admit right
here that he’s a mighty tough customer. It’s a good thing Toma saw this
man, Watson, before. Otherwise things might have turned out
differently.”

“We must get an early start in the morning,” said Dick, as he moved back
toward the supper table. “I’d hate to meet any more visitors from
Govereau’s camp. If Raoul is willing, I’ll pay him tonight for the team
of huskies. What do you think would be a fair price for them, Toma?”

“Raoul say he willing to sell for two hundred dollars,” answered the
guide. “That very cheap for good team like that.”

“I’ll make it two hundred and fifty. The additional amount wouldn’t
begin to pay him for all the kindness he has shown us.”

As he spoke, Dick reached in his pocket and pulled out the roll of bills
Factor MacLean had given him on the day of their departure from Fort du
Lac, and, counting out the sum mentioned, passed it over to Raoul.

“I hope I’m not cheating you.”

“You buy best dog team in the country,” Toma stated enthusiastically.
“Mounted police use ’em last winter to carry mail. Govereau go fast to
catch us now.”

“How long will it take us to reach mounted police headquarters?”
inquired Sandy.

“Three, four day if nothing happen,” their guide answered. “First day
snow too heavy to make trail good. After that mebbe get better.”

A short time later, a low groan from Watson attested to the fact that
that gentleman was slowly regaining consciousness. After considerable
tossing and rolling about, their captive finally opened his eyes and
presently called for a drink of water.

“Feeling better now?” Dick inquired solicitously, when he complied with
the request.

“Yeah, I’m feeling better,” came Watson’s smothered retort as he glared
up angrily at his questioner. “I’m feelin’ a blamed sight better than
you’ll be feelin’ in another day or two, I can tell you that.”

“You brought it all on yourself,” Dick reminded him. “You had no
business coming here to play the part of a spy, in the first place. If
you got hurt, it’s your own fault. All I’m sorry about is that the
unpleasant little blow you received on top of your head wasn’t given to
the man who sent you.”

“What do you mean?” bluffed Watson.

“I guess you know what I mean,” Dick spoke coldly, “and please get the
idea out of your mind that we don’t know who you are, and where you came
from.”

“Where did I come from?” their prisoner blustered.

“From Govereau.”

“Well, what are you gonna do about it?”

There was defiance in Watson’s voice.

“If you mean, what are we going to do with you,” Dick answered, “I might
as well tell you that we haven’t decided yet. A good deal depends upon
the way you behave yourself.”

“We’re thinking seriously of taking you outside and putting a bullet in
you,” chimed in Sandy.

“Yuh better not, if you know what’s best for you,” stormed Watson. “If
yuh try that, Govereau’ll come down here and make mince-meat out of
yuh.”

“He might walk into the same kind of trap you did,” grinned Sandy.

“Where is Govereau now?” asked Dick, shaking his head at Sandy in an
effort to check the useless controversy. “If you answer my questions
truthfully, we’ll let you off a whole lot easier than we would
otherwise. We might even be induced to give you something to eat.”

“He ain’t very far from here.”

“How far?”

“About two miles away. We’re camped in the heavy timber jus’ back from
the river.”

“How did he find out that we are stopping here for the present with
Raoul?”

“One of our men seen a dog team come up here early yesterday morning.
Govereau thought it might be you, so he sent me over to find out.”

“Is that all he told you to do?”

For a few minutes Watson lay, staring about him, apparently quite
oblivious of his surroundings. He paid no attention to the last question
put to him. Finally he turned his head, his gaze meeting Dick’s
squarely.

“You fellows are in a mighty bad position, if you want to know it,” he
suddenly blurted out. “There ain’t one chance in ten thousand that
you’ll ever get through alive. Your only hope is to go back to the place
you come from.”

“I’m not asking you for advice,” said Dick angrily.

“Jes’ the same, I’m tellin’ yuh. I wouldn’t take the whole of upper
Canada to be a standin’ in your shoes just now. You’re only a kid an’
don’t realize how bad a mess you’re in.”

Sandy strode forward and put a hand on Dick’s shoulder.

“No use to bother with him, Dick,” he exclaimed in disgust. “We’re just
wasting time. He’d keep us talking here all night. Our best plan is to
get out of here as quickly as possible. Govereau may be along any time
to find out what has happened to him.”

“I think same, too,” Toma cut in. “What you say I hitch up huskies, and
we start right away?”

Dick glanced from one to the other.

“I guess you’re right. We can’t any more than lose our way in the dark,
and we’ve been lost before.”

“But what are we going to do with him?” Sandy wondered, pointing at
their prisoner.

“We’ll have to leave him here with Raoul,” Dick replied. Then he turned
to Toma’s friend.

“Do you object?” he asked. “You can release him sometime tomorrow. That
will give us a chance to be well on our way before Govereau learns what
has become of us.”

Raoul nodded his head, grinning.

“All right, me keep ’em big fellow in bed. Bye an’ bye feed him with
spoon like little baby. How you like that?” he asked, turning to Watson.

The only reply from the man in the bunk was a snort of rage as he
twisted to one side and glared helplessly about him.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                      A JOURNEY THROUGH THE NIGHT


The lonely journey through the dark proved to be not nearly as difficult
as Dick had expected. An hour after their departure from Toma’s cabin,
the little party emerged from the shelter of spruce and pine, skirting
the river, and drove forth upon a comparatively open prairie, piled high
with drifts.

Here the snow had been packed down by the wind and the huskies were able
to trot across its surface without breaking through. They went forward
at such a brisk pace that Dick, running behind, was forced to admit,
breathlessly, to Toma:

“I can’t keep this up all night. Can’t you slow down once in a while,
and give me a chance to catch my breath?”

“We all ride now,” the guide answered, motioning Dick to a place on the
sled in front of Sandy, who, because of his weakened condition, had been
riding most of the time since they had left the cabin.

A moment later, sitting at his friend’s feet, Dick was conscious of a
new experience. He had never ridden behind a team of huskies before.

“This is wonderful,” he remarked as the dogs sprang forward at Toma’s
sharp word of command. “How easy they pull us, Sandy. If we keep on at
this rate, it won’t take us long to reach mounted police headquarters.”

Toma, who was standing behind, with one hand on the gee-pole, laughed
good-naturedly over Dick’s enthusiasm.

“They go fast tonight,” he admitted, “but mebbe tomorrow we come to soft
snow in woods. No go fast then.”

Somewhere, close at hand, there broke forth a weird, unearthly noise, a
sound that echoed across the stillness, causing both Dick and Sandy to
sit up very straight, hearts thumping excitedly.

“What was that?” they demanded in chorus.

“Wolves,” came the ready response. “We see plenty of wolves from now on.
Rabbits very few this year and wolves always hungry.”

“Well, I don’t want ’em to feed on me,” shivered Sandy. “What would we
do if they should happen along and suddenly decide to make a meal on
us?”

“Shoot,” answered Dick, one hand stealing back in the sled to make sure
that in the hurry of their departure they had not forgotten their
rifles.

“They not come yet,” Toma reassured them. “Bye ’n’ bye weather get more
cold, snow more deep, wolves more hungry. Then we watch out. No travel
like this at night then. Me ’fraid wolves too.”

Dick laughed. “I’m glad to hear that there’s something you’re really
afraid of, Toma. I’d begun to think that nothing could frighten you.”

Another howl from the wolf pack, and Sandy’s mittened hand was pawing at
Dick’s shoulder.

“Honestly, Dick, I don’t like this. Just listen to that! Isn’t it awful?
Toma, are you sure they won’t come over here and try to gobble us up?”

“Plenty sure,” answered the guide.

Sandy slouched back in his seat again, not entirely convinced in his own
mind that Toma was right.

“I hope so,” he grumbled, “but why in the dickens did the rabbits have
to get scarce this year. I suppose they heard we were coming along and
just to make our bad luck complete, hopped off to another part of the
country. I wonder why the wolves didn’t follow them, Toma?”

“Wolves no follow rabbits ’cause rabbits all dead,” patiently explained
the half-breed.

“Who killed ’em?” Sandy wanted to know.

Toma’s whip cracked forth over the boys’ heads, and the huskies sprang
forward with redoubled effort.

“Rabbits no get killed—they sick an’ die,” he answered. “When you live
in this country long time you find out queer thing. Ever’ six, seven
years see many rabbits—like mosquitos in spring. Wolves an’ coyotes all
very fat then. Almost step on rabbits when you walk through woods. When
rabbits many like that, one fellow him get sick, bye ’n’ bye another
rabbit him sick, too. Pretty soon no rabbits left—all dead. No tell you
why.”

Following this explanation, Sandy lapsed into silence for many moments.
There was no sound at all except that made by the pattering feet of the
huskies, and the crunching of the sled under them. A belated moon had
risen slowly from the distant horizon, and in its pure, white light, the
boys could now discern objects, which a few hours before had remained
hidden. Looking about him, Dick saw that the comparatively open space
around them extended southward for many miles, a vast, snow-covered
field, dotted here and there with small patches of poplar.

They were passing one of these tree clumps a short time later when,
plainly discernible, not more than fifty or a hundred yards to their
right, Dick perceived the huge body of a wolf gliding quickly along,
almost abreast of them. The boy’s startled exclamation drew the
attention of Sandy and Toma.

“Follow us like that all night, mebbe,” Toma stated indifferently, “he
no come any closer. He ’fraid us like we ’fraid him.”

“He doesn’t appear to be very frightened,” came Sandy’s dry comment,
“and if he comes one step nearer, I’m going to teach him a few manners.”

“No,” said Dick, “we’ve got to save our ammunition. We may need it badly
a little later on. Besides, I doubt very much whether one wolf would
dare to attack us. It’s a full pack that I’d be afraid of.”

“If there were more than one,” rejoined Sandy, peering fearfully across
at the subject of their conversation, “I think I’d be inclined to pull
this blanket over my head. I simply wouldn’t want to see ’em.”

Dick’s amused laugh was broken short by a sudden snarling from the
huskies. This continued until Toma cracked his whip and shouted out a
sharp word of command.

“No like ’em wolves either,” he explained. “You promise no be afraid if
I tell you something.”

“Certainly,” answered Dick. “What is it?”

“You look on other side.”

Sandy and Dick, following directions, drew in a quick breath of alarm.
Two more wolves, equally as large as the one on their right, trotted
along unconcernedly across the drifts, their furry forms plainly
distinguishable in the moonlight.

“Lord help us!” exclaimed Sandy, with no thought of irreverence.

“Can you beat that?” Dick wanted to know.

“No see wolves any more when morning comes,” Toma attempted to cheer
them. “You wait.”

After that the hours seemed interminable. Both Dick and Sandy had
forgotten about the novelty of their ride. Intermittently Toma’s whip
cracked; the huskies moved on; there was no sound except the slight
noise of their progress across the field of white. On either side
trotted the wolves, three dark shapes, moving like ghosts, never once
quickening or slackening pace. It was with a sigh of relief that Dick
finally perceived the first faint glow of morning across the eastern
sky.

“We stop pretty soon and have something to eat,” announced Toma,
breaking the long silence.

And a few minutes later, when they drew up before a small log cabin,
standing at the edge of a narrow sheltering woodland, their companions
of the night—the three wolves—were nowhere in sight.

“What I tell you,” their guide reminded them.

“Right, as usual,” grumblingly admitted Sandy. “But tell me, Toma, whose
place is this?”

“Another friend—him live here,” answered Toma. “We have breakfast, sleep
two, three hours, then go on some more. No like to travel night.”

It took but a few moments to unhitch and feed the huskies. Dick looked
on with interest as Toma threw each one of the dogs its ration of frozen
fish. Then the three boys strode forward toward the cabin, upon the door
of which the young half-breed knocked loudly. But no answer ensued.

“Guess him gone away,” Toma stated, and pushed open the door. “He no
care if we stay here for little while. Mebbe out on trap line.”

After a fire was started in the fireplace, Dick and Toma proceeded to
get breakfast, while Sandy carried in armloads of wood from the big pile
outside. They ate in front of a crackling flame, joking and laughing
amongst themselves.

“With the help of the huskies,” exulted Sandy, “we’ll soon leave Pierre
Govereau so far behind he’ll never catch up. Won’t he be wild when he
hears how we’ve outwitted him?”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that if I were you,” Dick cautioned.
“Govereau isn’t the only man we’ll have to fear either. You know
Henderson has accomplices all along the line.”

So it proved.

In spite of their good intentions, their determination to sleep only a
few hours, it was morning of the following day when Dick and Sandy awoke
to find their new team gone and Toma hunting around in the underbrush
some distance from camp.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                           THE STOLEN HUSKIES


The dogs were gone, and that was all there was to it, Dick decided a
moment later, after a shouted conference with Toma. They would have to
go on on foot. It was discouraging, but it made Dick more determined
than ever.

“We’ll never get to the fort now,” Sandy grumbled.

“Well, we’re a darn sight closer than we were,” Dick tried to be
cheerful.

They watched Toma circling the camp, looking for tracks. Presently he
came in.

“Some fella steal dogs all right. Mebbe Henderson’s men; mebbe just
plain thief. Who know?”

“Well, they’re gone anyway, and it’s up to us to make the best of it,”
Dick resigned himself. “It’ll be slow work hauling this sled.”

Toma had nothing more to say. His only answer was to slip the breast
band of a dog harness over one shoulder and start the sled. Dick and
Sandy followed his lead and presently they were mushing slowly out on
the trail.

It was exceedingly tiresome business, and within an hour all were leg
weary. The snow had begun to thaw a little, and was soggy underfoot. The
sled runners cut down deeply, making it exceedingly hard pulling, even
with so light a load as they had.

Long before noon they were resting frequently. And it was with great
thankfulness that they at last made camp.

“Phew! That was a stiff jaunt,” Dick panted, lying flat on his back,
even his iron endurance tested to the utmost. Sandy was too winded to
reply. Toma alone seemed to make no note of it. Long since the boys had
ceased being surprised at any of Toma’s feats of muscular endurance.

They were about ready to dine on cold baked beans and coffee, when Toma
called their attention to a movement ahead of them from the direction of
Fort Dunwoody. It proved to be a man and a dog team.

“Honestly, we’re going to meet somebody!” Sandy exclaimed incredulously.
For days they had seen few save enemies.

“Well, maybe this isn’t a friend,” said Dick, dubiously.

Toma studied the man intently as he drew nearer. Finally they could hear
the cries of the driver to his dogs and the occasional cracking of his
long whip. It was a white man; they could tell even at that distance by
the tail to tail hitch of the dogs. Most of the Indians drove in fan
formation, each dog attached to separate tugs of varying lengths.

The stranger stopped some distance from them, and came on more slowly.
Evidently, he himself was not too certain whether or not he was meeting
a hostile party.

They hailed each other.

“I’m Corporal Richardson of the Mounted,” called the lone driver of the
dog team. “Who are you?”

“Hurrah!” cheered Sandy.

“Dick Kent and Sandy McClaren with a guide from Fort du Lac,” Dick
called back through cupped palms.

The policeman seemed satisfied. Cracking his whip over the dogs, he
speedily joined the young travelers.

Corporal Richardson was dressed in a heavy fur coat and parka. When near
the campfire he pulled open his great coat, disclosing the scarlet of
his uniform coat. He listened attentively to Dick’s story of their
adventures, and he seemed favorably impressed with both Dick and Sandy,
though at first he was somewhat suspicious of Toma.

“I left Fort Dunwoody a week ago,” the policeman told them, his steely
eyes unwavering. “We’ve been hearing rumors of Bear Henderson’s
outbreak, and I was sent up here to clear some of these trails. Of
course Henderson is rather foolish to think he can whip the Mounted and
the Hudson’s Bay Company, but he’s made rather a good try at it already.
Last report we had he’d burned two trading posts, and had captured three
more. Mackenzie’s Landing has fallen to him, I understand. They say his
next move is Fort du Lac.”

Dick and Sandy gasped at the revelations of the policeman.

“Didn’t you know about the capture of Fort Good Faith, and the
imprisonment of Walter MacClaren, my friend’s uncle?” Dick asked.

“We did not,” replied Corporal Richardson. “That is news. But of course
Henderson has made a lot of moves we know nothing of. I suppose you’re
after help. It was nervy of you young fellows to break through
Henderson’s lines. You know he isn’t letting any one in or out of the
far north. A man’s life isn’t worth a cent who isn’t hand in glove with
the outlaw. I’m detailed to scout the trail to Mackenzie’s Landing—clear
things up there if possible. I wish I could go with you fellows, but
you’ll have to go on alone and talk to the Inspector. I doubt if you get
help right away. Every officer is out on the trail now, except the bare
few that guard the post. It looks like reserves might be called out in
spite of the fact that we don’t like to do it.”

“Then you think we may even have to go on to Fort Good Faith alone?”
Dick spoke concernedly.

“Oh, no, but you may have to wait for a constable.”

“But we can’t wait!” Dick cried desperately. “We’ve been delayed a week
as it is. Sandy’s uncle must have help.”

Corporal Richardson sympathized with them, but he said he would not
build up false hopes. “I suggest you ask the Inspector for a special
deputization. In times like these every man will be forced into the
service who isn’t an enemy of the crown.”

Dick and Sandy thrilled at this possibility. To think of being for even
a brief period a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police was almost
beyond their dreams.

“I’ll have to be mushing,” announced the policeman. “Too bad you lost
your dogs. I passed a team about ten miles back. I thought the driver
looked rather sneaky. It’s pretty hard to describe ordinary huskies. All
I remember unusual about the team was that the leader, an exceptionally
big fellow, limped with his left forefoot. Not much, just a little.”

“That’s our team, sure enough!” Dick cried. “Remember, Sandy, how that
leader limped?”

“I wish we could catch up with the fellow,” Sandy gritted.

“It’s too late now,” Corporal Richardson shook his head. “I wish I could
split my team with you, but you see I’ve only four and with two I’d be
slowed up considerably. What you’d better do is leave your sled, and
take what you need by shoulder pack. If——”

Corporal Richardson did not finish the sentence. He seemed to start, and
his eyes widened. His hand flew to his chest. Across the snow came the
ringing crack of a distant rifle. The mounted policeman dropped upon one
elbow, as his startled companions hastened to him.

Dick shook his fist at the hills in the direction the shot seemed to
have come from.

“I guess I’m hit pretty bad,” the corporal revived and whispered. Toma
had thrown up the sled as a sort of barricade, if any more shots were
fired, and Dick and Sandy commenced administering first aid to the
wounded policeman. The bullet had struck under the shoulder blade at the
back, and had come out the right side.

“It’s a nasty wound,” Dick said grimly—“maybe a lung is touched.”

“Rather lucky for you fellows at that,” the corporal smiled gamely. “Now
you can use my dog team to tote me back to the fort.”

“Do you have any idea who shot you?” Dick asked.

“One of Henderson’s men without a doubt,” was the faint reply, “the
country’s alive with them. But we’ll beat ’em yet.”

Dick grimly agreed with him.

Strangely enough, no more shots were fired. Dick judged the reason for
this was that a single man had attacked them and had lost courage after
seeing he had drawn blood in a party too strong for him. Yet he could
not be sure. At any moment they might expect the sharpshooter lurking in
the wooded hills to drop one of them. If they were to move on to the
fort they could not remain sheltered from attack.

The limp body of the corporal was speedily transferred to his sled,
after some of the packs had been thrown aside. Dick picked up the
gee-pole, Toma took the lead, and Sandy cracked the long whip.

“Mush!”

They were off, the dogs yelping eagerly down the back trail, overjoyed
at hitting the home trail so soon.

For nearly an hour they advanced at a fast rate of speed, Sandy and Dick
changing off advance guard with Toma. Then they entered a long ravine,
crested with spruce and jackpine. As yet no sign of the man who had shot
the corporal appeared. Then, without warning, from the brow of the
ravine, puffed the smoke of a rifle. A bullet fanned Dick’s cheek, and
he paused and fired at the distant smoke at the top of the ravine.

“Mush! Mush!” shouted Sandy to the dogs, cracking the long whip.

The dogs responded nobly, drawing the sled, carrying the wounded
officer, so fast that the boys could hardly keep up.

Again the hidden rifle cracked from the top of the ravine. This time one
dog gave a sharp yelp, leaped into the air and fell kicking his last in
a tangle of harness.

“He’s killed a dog!” cried Dick angrily. “Quick, get him out of the
harness so we can go on.”

The three remaining huskies were growling and snarling in a mess, and it
was some minutes before Sandy and Toma could straighten them out, cut
the dead dog from his harness and start on again. Meanwhile Dick emptied
his rifle at the brow of the ravine, taking a chance on hitting whoever
was skulking there with such deadly intent.

On their way again, the fast moving sled proved an elusive target for
the sharpshooter. He shot three times without effect. Swiftly they
neared a point where the ravine widened out into a low walled valley,
which was almost barren of vegetation. Once on this clear space they
would be safe, for there was no cover within rifle range for the man who
was dogging them.

Dick and Sandy were almost on the point of giving a shout of triumph
when the hidden rifle cracked again and another dog dropped in the
harness. The sled stopped, and once more the excited dogs got themselves
in a bad mix-up. At the mercy of the mysterious and deadly rifle, the
boys attacked the tangled harness and dogs.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                             A HUNGRY PACK


Scarcely had they cut loose the fallen dog when the rifle sounded again
and the lead dog dropped to his haunches, failing to rise again. Dick
put the dog out of misery with a shot from his rifle, then turned to
Toma and Sandy.

“We’ve got to get that fellow out of his nest. He’s playing with us. As
soon as he finishes with the dogs he’ll start in on us. We might as well
die fighting. Follow me.” Dick wheeled and started up the hill, firing
his rifle as he went, Sandy and Toma not far behind.

The man on the rim of the ravine seemed taken by surprise. His shots
went wild. Only one came close, and that tore through Sandy’s mackinaw.

Shouting at the top of their voices, the boys reached the top of the
ravine. A running figure was just disappearing over a knoll ahead of
them. Dick paused a moment, levelled his rifle and fired quickly. The
figure, some hundred yards distant, leaped high, as if hit, and ran on
limping. Toma and Sandy also fired, but did not hit. They ran on after
the man a little way, then fearing to leave the wounded officer too long
alone, they hurried back, certain they had routed the sharpshooter.

“We’re lucky,” Dick said, as they trotted down the slope of the ravine,
“—not a scratch and he was sure shooting close.”

“I kind of wish I was in Corporal Richardson’s place when I think of
going on with one dog,” Sandy changed the subject, making light of his
narrow escape. “Means we’ve got to buckle into the harness again.”

Toma paused as they reached the sled. They could see him looking up at
the sky.

“Heap snow come soon,” the imperturbable weather prophet announced.
“Make um wolves hungry.”

Dick and Sandy did not think seriously of Toma’s prophecy, for they were
intent on the hard work ahead, and already were stepping into the places
vacated by the dead dogs.

Again they toiled out on the trail to Fort Dunwoody, hauling the wounded
man, who was muttering to himself now in a delirious state brought on by
rising fever.

In an hour it had begun to snow, but the boys kept on. Thicker and
thicker fell the soft, white flakes, until they could see no more than
twenty feet ahead. It was a wet snow, and made pulling the sled harder
than ever. The runners seemed to drag like lead upon the aching
shoulders of the three. They were glad when darkness fell and they were
forced to camp.

“We’re in for an all-night snow storm, I guess,” Dick observed, as the
fire he was trying to start went out for a third time, and he had to
enlist the aid of Toma.

“I’d like to sleep for a week,” said Sandy, from where he was trying to
make the wounded officer more comfortable. “That falling snow is just
like a bedtime story that really does put a fellow to sleep.”

They rolled into their sleeping bags as soon as they had appeased their
appetites, not troubling to keep watch. All night the snow fell, and in
the morning they awakened almost smothered with the wet drifts. The
world was all fresh and white like a new blanket, but they had not taken
ten steps before they knew they would make little progress that day.

“If a crust would only freeze over the snow we could get along faster,”
Dick bewailed.

Corporal Richardson seemed a little better after the night’s rest. His
fever had gone down and an examination of the wound showed it to be
coming along as well as could be expected. He was very weak, however,
from loss of blood.

“Where are we?” the officer asked Dick.

“About fifty miles north of Fort Dunwoody with only one dog,” Dick
replied. “You were unconscious yesterday during the scrap we had with
the same fellow who hit you.”

“Yes, I seemed to have had delirium,” replied the corporal. “I imagined
I heard shooting.”

“Well, you didn’t need your imagination to hear that yesterday,” Dick
assured him.

“It’ll be a wonder if you get through,” the officer said, “better leave
me along the trail somewhere. There’s an abandoned cabin a few miles
this side of Badge Lake. You’ll strike it if you follow the long ridge.
Put me off there with some grub and then have Inspector Dawson send a
man out after me.”

“No, we couldn’t do anything like that,” Dick returned firmly. “In your
condition you need medical care as soon as you can get it. As long as we
can stand you’re going to stay on this sled.”

As if to bear out Dick’s words, the officer fainted dead away.

Alarmed, Dick put a cup of melted snow to the pale lips. The corporal
had just aroused enough to drink when a sound from across the snow
startled Dick so that he spilled the water.

“Listen to that!” ejaculated Sandy.

“I heard it,” Dick replied.

Long, weird, mournful, the howl of a wolf rose and fell in the distance.
It was the hunger cry of the most savage denizen of the northland wilds.
Deep snow had made hunting hard for the wolves, and they were beginning
to take notice of the man prey of the land.

“Him hungry,” grunted Toma.

They set off on the trail once more. A half mile they struggled along
with the sled, when another wolf howled from a different quarter. This
time the cry was answered.

“Wolves come together for big hunt,” Toma explained, with his usual
absence of emotion.

“Here’s hoping they don’t pick on us,” Sandy remarked.

Dick was silent. His face was haggard. The troubles of the trail were
weighing heavily on his sturdy shoulders, and this new danger of the
northland taxed his courage to the utmost. Yet he did not falter.
Instead, his words were cheerful, though they came from drawn lips.

“I guess we have a few shots left in our rifles,” said Dick meaningly.
“Those wolves better not come too close.”

“Few shots is right,” Sandy came back dishearteningly. “Dick, do you
know we have only about ten shots left for each of the rifles? And we
had the hard luck to unload Corporal Richardson’s ammunition when we put
him on the sled. All he has is a belt full of revolver cartridges.”

Dick’s hands clenched on the strap with which he was helping pull the
sled. “Makes no difference, Sandy. After we’ve escaped all these human
wolves that have been after us, I guess we can handle the animals all
right.” But he was not quite so sure as he tried to make Sandy believe.

“Wolves eat um dead dogs back trail,” Toma called from the rear of the
sled, where he was following up after a stiff job of breaking trail.

All afternoon the cries of the gathering pack could be heard, now near,
now far. Once it seemed they were all around them. Then the boys
redoubled their efforts on the heavy sled.

“We ought to pull into that cabin the corporal mentioned before long,”
Dick said worriedly, as he changed places with Sandy.

“I don’t know about that,” Sandy replied. “The corporal was probably
estimating the distance if we made time with a good dog team—but we
haven’t gone more than five miles today.”

They made no stop for a mid-day meal, chewing raw bacon while toiling on
the trail. The fear of the wolves had entered their hearts yet they
would not let one another feel that fear by any spoken word.

Near nightfall they were certain the wolves were trailing them, and they
could not hide it from one another. Far in the rear they could hear the
hunting cry of the pack, and it was blood-curdling.

While the sun still shone over the western skyline, the first of the
wolf pack appeared behind, and the boys knew that they were in for
trouble.

The leader of the wolves was old and wise. For a time he held the pack
of nearly thirty gaunt, gray wolves out of rifle range, waiting for
dark. But hunger could not be denied. The less wise of the pack forged
ahead, and the rifles of the three boys spoke with deadly effect.

Dick’s toll was three wolves before he emptied his magazine. Sandy shot
one and thought he had killed another, but the animal seemed only
stunned, and after a minute leaped up and came on again at a swinging
lope, to be dropped by a shot from Dick, who had reloaded.

Toma did not fire, however. Instead, without any orders from Dick or
Sandy, he made camp in a patch of scrub pine and spruce, where there was
plenty of dead wood. Speedily he made a fire. When Dick and Sandy had
exhausted their ammunition, and had gone for Corporal Richardson’s
revolver, a huge fire was roaring and crackling before the upturned
sled, in whose shelter rested the corporal.

The wolves had drawn off out of gunshot now. Some of them were devouring
their comrades that had fallen. When darkness crept over the little camp
the wolves had completely surrounded it.

“We’ve got to save our cartridges,” Dick said at last. “Toma, how many
have you left?”

“Just gun full up,” replied Toma, which meant he had the magazine of his
repeater full—eight shots.

Dick was fingering Corporal Richardson’s revolver. He was unaccustomed
to handling a revolver and comprehended he could do little real damage
with the small arm, having always used a rifle. Sandy was no better than
he, and when Dick asked Toma if he could shoot with a revolver with
accuracy, the guide shook his head.

“They’re slinking around us in a circle now,” Sandy reported fearfully,
as the shadows deepened.

As he had said, now and again a dark, sinister form glided across the
snow from shrub to shrub, skirting the firelight. Here and there, one of
the pack sat on his haunches, his beady eyes fixed on the camp, while
his mouth slavered. Frequently one of the number raised his nose to the
sky and sounded the hunger howl.

The wolves feared the campfire, and Toma explained that as long as they
could keep the fire going they need not fear any very dangerous attack.
And even if the wolves did rush them they could be repelled by fire
brands.

“I’m going to see what they do when I throw fire,” Dick said presently.
He picked out the nearest shadowy form, and drawing a flaming stick from
the fire, threw it at the wolf. His aim was good and the animal snarled
horribly as the fire fell within a few feet of its feet.

It was close to midnight when Toma confided to Dick and Sandy what they
both feared. The wolves were gaining in number as wanderers joined the
pack surrounding them. The places of those they had killed earlier in
the day, and the few they had managed to pick off after dark were being
filled by other ravenous beasts.

There would be no sleep in the camp that night.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                          THE CIRCLE OF DEATH


Toma had cut a huge stack of wood, and it was well he did, for the
moment the fire died down the wolves drew closer. In fact they seemed to
taunt the boys into using the last of their ammunition in firing at the
difficult targets they made.

The one dog was whimpering with fear and cowering under the legs of his
masters in abject fear. Sometimes, however, a low whine sounded among
the wolves, at which the husky pricked up his ears and did not seem so
frightened. Toma tied the dog to the sled with a thong of moose-hide.

As the night wore away, Dick and Sandy risked shot after shot at the
wolves, and now and again they dropped a skulking shadow. But usually
they missed, since Toma objected to giving up his rifle, and they were
forced to use the corporal’s revolver.

“How long do you suppose we can hold out?” Sandy asked in a strained
voice.

“I see no reason why we can’t hold out until they leave,” Dick replied
with more confidence than he felt. “We’ve plenty of firewood. As long as
we have fire to fight with we’re safe.”

“How do we know they’ll leave?” Sandy wanted to know.

Dick shuddered a little, and did not answer. He saw a gray shape loom up
at the edge of the firelight, and raising the revolver, fired quickly.
He gave a cry of satisfaction as he saw the gaunt beast leap into the
air and fall, kicking its last.

There followed a rush of hungry wolves for their fallen companion.
Horrified, the boys watched the dead wolf torn to pieces by the pack.
Dick emptied his revolver into the writhing mass. He could not help but
hit, and he killed another wolf, wounding two others, which the pack
finished.

Sandy began throwing burning brands at the wolves, and they drew off
once more into the darkness, where they paced nervously back and forth,
growling and snarling.

The boys decided that one of them should try to sleep while the other
two watched. Dick arranged three twigs in one hand for Sandy and Toma to
draw from. The one with the shortest twig, after the draw, was to be the
lucky one. Sandy drew the shortest. But after a half hour of futile
tossing about, he gave it up.

“No use,” Sandy joined the haggard watchers at the fire. “One of you
fellows try it. I couldn’t sleep in a million years with those devils
out there waiting to gobble me up.”

“I don’t think I can either,” said Dick. “Toma, you’d better try it. One
of us had better get some rest.”

The guide grunted assent, and rolled into his sleeping bag, which once
had been his brother’s. In a few minutes Toma was breathing steadily in
sound slumber. His calmness gave the boys courage.

“If he can sleep I guess we hadn’t ought to feel so nervous,” Sandy
observed.

“I’ve heard old sourdoughs say an Indian never lets the nearness of
death trouble him when he can’t get away from it,” Dick related, trying
to get his own mind and Sandy’s off their perilous predicament.

“Well, I wish I was an Indian then,” Sandy sighed, “—for the present
anyway.”

The renewed and increased restlessness of their dog attracted their
attention then, and they watched him straining at the moosehide leash.

Dick caught the dog trying to chew through the thong and spoke sharply.

“Funny why he wants to get away,” Dick mused aloud. “One would think the
dog would realize his danger and want to stay near the fire.”

Corporal Richardson’s voice sounded from his blankets. The officer had
awakened and had overheard Dick’s remark.

“There’s a female wolf out there—several of them,” the veteran
northerner answered Dick. “She’s calling to the dog. It’s the mate call
of the wolf and the dog understands it. But only the wisest of
she-wolves understand how to use the call to lure meat for their
stomachs. That dog wouldn’t last three minutes once he left the fire.”

“How do you feel now?” Dick asked, going to the wounded man’s side.

“Much better,” answered the officer, “but my side is stiff and mighty
sore. I’ll be flat on my back for a couple of weeks yet. Couldn’t be
worse luck now that the Inspector needs every man of us.”

“Then you really think we have a good chance escaping from the wolf
pack?” Dick eagerly seized at a grain of encouragement.

The corporal did not answer immediately. “You’d have a lot bigger chance
if you left me here in the morning,” said the corporal steadily.

“Leave you here!” Dick exclaimed. “What do you think we are—cowards?”

“I should say not, Dick Kent,” replied the policeman. “But that doesn’t
make me any less a burden. With this wolf pack surrounding you you’ll do
well to get away from camp at all, say nothing of hauling me along.”

“But we’re with you anyway,” Dick concluded decisively.

“Oh, well,” the officer turned a little, stifling a groan at the
movement, “the wolves may scare up moose or caribou before morning. If
they do they’ll soon leave us alone.”

The conversation had weakened the corporal, and Dick soon left him to
rest, joining Sandy. The boys discussed the situation, listening to the
fearful howls of the wolves, hoping against hope that as Corporal
Richardson had said, they might find other game before morning.

After two hours of sound slumber, Toma quietly arose and joined the two
at the fireside. He said little, but set to work cutting down more wood,
and breaking it up into firewood lengths.

Morning dawned, cold and gray. Dick and Sandy were worn from loss of
sleep. Silently they waited for the wolves to depart. But with the sun
an hour high the pack still circled the camp, tongues lolling, jaws
slavering.

“Will they never leave!” Sandy’s voice faltered.

“Wolf much hungry!” Toma grunted. “Maybe um leave, we start. Sometime
they do.” He looked at Dick to see what he thought.

Dick surveyed the menacing circle of wolves. They had grown bolder as
their hunger increased. Could they hitch up the dog and break out of
that circle of death?

“If you think we have a chance to get out of here, Toma, we’ll try it,”
Dick grimly returned a moment later. “Anything but this suspense suits
me.”

As the boys packed up the wolves grew more uneasy and shifted closer.
Toma scarcely could manage the husky as he hitched it to the sled. The
young guide held his rifle in one hand, working at a disadvantage so
that he might be prepared to shoot at a moment’s notice. Toma’s was the
only rifle left in which there was ammunition, and Dick had shot away
all the revolver cartridges during the night.

It was with many misgivings that a few minutes later they took their
places for the dash through the wolves.

Toma took the lead, with the rifle, Sandy held the dog, while Dick took
up the rear, swinging the camp axe.

Slowly, in grim silence, they pulled away from the fire.

A hundred feet away they discovered they never would get through the
circle. For, instead of retreating, the wolves dashed this way and that,
then rushed them in a body. Sandy’s cry of terror was drowned by the
crack of Toma’s rifle and Dick’s hoarse shout:

“Back to the fire! We can’t make it!”

Then Toma’s rifle was empty, and with clubbed rifle and axe they were
left to fight their way back to the campfire. Slashing with razor fangs,
the wolves leaped in and out. Dick wrought havoc with the axe, and Toma
ploughed his way through the snarling, writhing mass like a Hercules.
When the guide broke through he ran to the fire and commenced throwing
coals and burning sticks with his mittens, until the air was filled with
flying embers. Howls of pain followed as the hot coals burned the
wolves. The scent of singed hair and burning flesh arose.

At last the wolves drew off reluctantly, leaving behind them a trail of
wounded and dying. In the repulsion of the attack the boys had slain
nine wolves and wounded seven. They could see the hairy bodies of the
dead lying scattered all the way from where the fight had begun.

“Wood not last much longer,” Toma’s voice startled Dick.

Dick hastily inspected the patch of wood in which they had camped. As
Toma had said, they soon would be out of firewood. And the nearest wood
was three hundred yards away—outside the circle of death.

Dick and Sandy shuddered; Corporal Richardson stirred and moaned; Toma
began quietly gathering the chips and twigs; half buried in the snow.



                               CHAPTER XX
                            SANDY DISAPPEARS


Sitting by the fire, conscious presently of a light step at his side and
a friendly hand on his shoulder, Dick turned and looked up into Sandy’s
face, as his chum spoke in a voice husky with emotion.

“I guess we’ve about played our last card,” said Sandy. “Right now it
doesn’t look as if Fort Dunwoody was very close, does it?”

“No, not very close,” Dick was obliged to answer, as his tired eyes
swept the narrowing circle of timber wolves.

“We’ve done the best we could anyway,” Sandy went on dejectedly. “I
guess my Uncle Walter won’t receive a whole lot of help from us.”

“Sandy, I used to think you were an optimist,” declared Dick, “but now I
know you’re a born pessimist. Why don’t you try to cheer up?”

Sandy glanced about at the wolves. A scowl puckered his usually placid
brow. “Can’t be very cheerful with those fellows waiting for us,” he
said shortly. “Do you know I sometimes think that big one with the
shaggy head actually grins at me? If he thinks he’s going to pick a
whole lot of meat off my bones he’s badly mistaken.”

Dick grinned in spite of himself. “Exactly what do you mean, Sandy?”

“Well, I’m a whole lot thinner than I was. Toma would make better
eating.”

At this juncture, Toma, who had been cutting what little wood remained,
strode forward with an almost excited look on his face. “I know what do
now,” he announced. “We no got firewood; plenty over by trees.”

“We know that,” Sandy responded impatiently, “but we’re a long ways from
being over there.”

“Me ketch um good idea. No can go to wood with wolves there. We move
fire to wood; move um little at time, one feet, two feet—bye and bye we
get there—mebbe by night we travel fast.”

Toma was right. At nightfall they had accomplished the unusual feat of
moving the fire to another patch of wood. And with the first snarling
approach of the ravenous wolves a replenished fire sprang up to beat
them back. The boys, in exuberance, piled more and more wood on the fire
until it leaped five feet into the still, frosty air, and grew so hot it
melted a circle of snow about it.

Dick breathed a sigh of satisfaction as he crawled into his blankets
hours later. It had been decided that Sandy was to stand first watch
with Toma. Tonight, Dick decided grimly, he would make the most of the
hours allotted him for sleep. He intended to follow Toma’s example and
forget everything in the complete relaxation of weary mind and muscles.

“Got to fight this thing through,” he reminded himself, stretching his
long legs out before the campfire and composing himself for sleep. A few
minutes later, while watching Sandy nervously pacing to and fro, he
forgot all his troubles in a happy loss of consciousness that carried
him away to a land where wolves, blizzards and scar faced Indians did
not once trouble him.

He was awakened by Toma shaking him by the shoulder. “Big wolf eat you
up if sleep like that,” declared the young guide goodnaturedly.

Dick jumped up, once more mentally alert, and shortly piled more wood on
the fire, commencing his lonely vigil. He scanned the fringe of the
firelight for the skulking shapes, which had become so dreadfully
familiar, but he could see none—not a single prowling form anywhere. He
decided that the wolves had moved further back from the fire. Several
times he believed he heard a deep-throated snarl, but he was not sure.

“I hope they’re gone,” he breathed fervently, “so that we can continue
on our way to Fort Dunwoody. We’ve lost too much time already.”

Off to his right a faint glow suffused the east. In another hour, if the
wolves really were gone, they might continue their slow progress, and,
barring emergencies, might reasonably expect to arrive at the mounted
police barracks in about three days.

With the first grin in hours brightening his face, Dick set about
preparing breakfast. He had a frying pan over the fire and was melting
snow for coffee. It was so quiet around him that he imagined he could
hear the low, irregular breathing of Corporal Richardson. Then,
presently Toma stirred, stretched out one arm and yawned:

“Guess I get up,” the guide announced.

“When you do,” Dick replied, “I wish you’d go over and wake Sandy. I’ve
kept his watch for him, and if I wasn’t so busy getting breakfast I’d go
over myself.”

Dick was adding coffee to the boiling water when Toma returned.

“Well, did you wake him?”

The half breed endeavored to speak, but no sound came from his trembling
lips.

“What’s wrong?” Dick inquired, trying to be calm.

“Sandy, him gone!”

“Gone!” Dick’s heart took a sickening plunge.

The light was strong enough now so that they could see that the wolves
were gone, but this happy discovery was not so encouraging with the
disappearance of Sandy.

Horrified at first, at the thought that Sandy must have been eaten by
the wolves, Dick and Toma began a minute search of the vicinity. They
found tracks, but no sign of Sandy. If the departed wolves had slain
Dick’s chum there would have been traces left, at least bits of
clothing.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                    THE MAN FROM CROOKED STICK RIVER


If, as Dick suspected possible, Pierre Govereau had overtaken them again
and somehow made off with Sandy, what then could they do? Corporal
Richardson must go on to the post at all hazards. The infection in the
officer’s wound would kill him unless medical aid were procured soon.
Yet Dick could not leave without knowing what had happened to Sandy, and
making a sincere effort to find his chum. And in that strange country he
could not find his way without the aid of Toma.

“I’ve a good idea what might have happened to Sandy,” Dick mused aloud a
little later.

“What you say?” Toma eagerly asked.

“He’s walked in his sleep two or three times in his life that I know
about, and last night he must have done it again. Now I’m sure he left
the fire after the wolves were gone. If he did then he might have fallen
into Govereau’s hands.” Dick strode back and forth in the snow, almost
beside himself.

“Oh! if some friend would only come along on the way to Fort Dunwoody,”
Dick exclaimed aloud.

“We take um sick fella to cabin,” Toma suggested. “We leave um there
when go look for Sandy.”

At his wit’s end Toma’s suggestion seemed the only way out. Dick felt
his duty to Sandy even greater than that to the minion of the northland
law, and he would not exactly be deserting the policeman if he left him
with food and firewood.

“That’s the thing to do,” Corporal Richardson spoke up from his
blankets. “The Indian has it right. The cabin is between six and eight
miles from here. You can take me there and come back and take up young
McClaren’s trail.”

Dick was glad to hear the officer’s voice, and to learn that he was once
more rational, with abated fever.

“If it’s all right with you, corporal, that’s what we’ll do. Toma, let’s
hurry.”

In a few minutes the camp where they had been held up a day and two
nights had been deserted and out across the vast, endless expanse of
snow, Toma and Dick toiled in the dog traces, dragging the wounded
policeman.

They had gone some two miles and were resting when suddenly they were
startled by the sound of a dog driver’s voice from over the knoll they
had just coasted down. Was it friend or enemy? Dick prayed it was a
friend as he hurried to the top of the little hill and looked.

A team of eight dogs, followed by a lone man, swinging a long whip, was
coming along the trail they had made in the snow. Dick waited till the
man had come a little nearer. Then he revealed himself. The man saw him
almost immediately, and drew his dog team to a slower pace. The stranger
seemed suspicious as to Dick’s identity, but the evident distress of the
young man on the hill reassured him. He came on to within hailing
distance, and stopped his team, raising his rifle.

“If you’re one of that Henderson gang,” called the man threateningly,
“I’ll plug you where you stand.”

Dick breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re bound for Fort Dunwoody,” he
replied. “We’ve got a wounded policeman on our sled and have only one
dog.”

Satisfied that Dick was telling the truth, the shouted to his dogs and
came on. A moment later he joined Dick and Toma alongside the sled.

“By gar, I tink I never get out of dat country.” the newcomer, appearing
to be a French-Indian, mopped his brow. “That Pierre Govereau one tough
customer. Yah!”

“You came in a nick of time,” Dick returned.

“One of our party has disappeared, we think he’s been captured. Now
we’re trying to get a wounded policeman to a place of safety while I and
my guide take a look for my chum. My name’s Dick Kent,” he held out his
hand.

“Me, I’m Gaston Leroi,” announced the stranger, shaking with French
warmth, “that Henderson’s man Govereau kill my partner up on Crooked
Stick River. I get away pretty lucky.”

“And it’s lucky for us you got away,” Dick replied with spirit. He
stepped to the sled and stopped over the wounded officer. “Corporal
Richardson, here’s a man who can help us out,” Dick told the officer.

“Thank God,” murmured the policeman. “What’s his name?”

“Gaston Leroi.”

“Gaston Leroi!” exclaimed the corporal with more strength in his voice
than had been there for hours. “Not the trapper Leroi. Hey! Bring him
around where I can see him.”

At the sound of the wounded man’s voice the French trapper had leaped
forward where he could see the officer’s face.

“By gar!” exclaimed Leroi. “George Richardson! What them fellers do to
you, George?”

Dick was overjoyed to discover the men were old friends.

“Gaston, you won’t mind doing something for me?” he heard the corporal
saying.

“Sacre diable! Do I mind!” Gaston exclaimed.

“It’s like this,” the corporal went on, “these young fellows want to go
back and look for their partner, but they won’t leave me. Could you haul
me to the fort?”

The trapper vociferously expressed his willingness to do this for his
friend, Constable Richardson.

“They’re out of ammunition too,” revealed the corporal. “Just had a long
fight with a pack of hungry wolves. Can you spare some ammunition,
Gaston?”

“What kind of gun you got?” the trapper turned to Dick.

“Ross 30.30,” Dick replied anxiously.

Leroi’s face fell. He turned to Toma.

“I got um 45.70 Winchester,” Toma anticipated the trapper’s question.

“Me, I use 45.70!” Gaston Leroi exclaimed with pleasure and turned back
to Dick, saying: “I use revolver. Like heem better dan rifle. I take
your gun. You take mine. Huh?”

“Suits me,” replied Dick gratefully.

Leroi dived into his packs and soon brought out several boxes of
ammunition, with which Dick and Toma filled their pockets.

A half hour later Dick and Toma bid goodbye to Gaston Leroi, and watched
his dog team, hauling the wounded corporal, disappear over a long hill.
Then the two boys set out over the back trail at a jog trot. They were
determined not to rest their heads until they had discovered what had
become of Sandy.

“Do you think it was Govereau?” Dick asked Toma as they hurried along.

“I not know,” replied Toma, who was slightly in the lead. “Tracks show
only two fella keetch Sandy. Hope snow no more; if not we trail um
easy.”

They did not speak again until they had reached the scene of their
battle with the wolves, where they picked up the trail.

“They’re going north,” Dick spoke, after studying the tracks. “It must
be some of Henderson’s men, though it seems queer Govereau would come
this far south.”

“That Govereau, he bad fella; he go everywhere. No ’fraid anybody. Mebbe
I see that Many Scar.”

Dick fell silent at the mention of the scar faced Indian. He knew Toma
was thinking of his dead brother, and was planning revenge if he met the
murderer, who he believed to be the scar faced Indian. Dick knew nothing
to say which would change Toma’s mind in this respect, so he said
nothing as they forged onward at a mile-eating pace.

They had traveled nearly ten miles into a deeply wooded vicinity, when
the tracks began to grow fresher, and they slowed their pace. Presently
they rounded a bend, and in a tiny valley, drained by a winding, frozen
creek, they came upon an Indian village of a dozen tepees.

Toma seemed as surprised as Dick at the discovery.

“Um war party,” Toma replied immediately. “No good Injun if um fight
White Father.”

“How can you tell they’re a war party?” inquired Dick.

“No squaws, no papooses,” replied Toma abruptly.

As Toma had said there were no women or children to be seen in the camp.
And at different points along the fringe of trees around the clearing,
Dick made out dusky sentinels, armed with long rifles, with feathers in
their beaver bonnets.

“The tracks lead down into the village, so Sandy must be there
somewhere,” Dick mused aloud.

The larger portion of the party of Indians who had thrown up their
caribou hide tepees in the valley, seemed to be absent. Here and there a
warrior squatted before a cooking fire, his rifle leaning close beside
him.

“Look!” Dick suddenly pointed.

A white man had come out of one of the tepees and was walking slowly
toward the creek.

“I see um,” said Toma. “Guess him one Govereau’s men. Huh? Him Henderson
got plenty bad Indian work for him.”

“Then Govereau has joined forces with these Indians,” Dick’s spirits
fell. “It will be one big job getting Sandy away from him now. I wonder
which tepee he is in—er—” he was about to wonder if Sandy was alive, but
dared not trust the words on his tongue. It was too horrible to speak
of—that Pierre Govereau had murdered his chum.

“We wait till dark,” Toma voiced the resolve of both.

At twilight the boys saw a large party come in from the north, in which
there were a number of whites. They were loaded down with furs, which
they probably had stolen. Dick thought he recognized the figure of the
half-breed Pierre Govereau, but could not be certain at that distance.

Slowly darkness fell and the campfires flung out flickering shadows on
the sloping walls of tepees and over the figures of the warriors
squatted around them.

“I make believe I one of them,” Toma whispered presently. “I go
down—find out where Sandy is.”

“It’s an awful risk,” Dick tried to object, “and you aren’t dressed like
they are.”

“I fix that. You wait here—no, you come down closer. Be ready to shoot,
you hear trouble. Jump ’round when you shoot. Make um think you whole
army. I ketch um Sandy.”

Though Dick feared Toma would come to grief, he could do nothing but let
the courageous young guide take the chance, hoping, if worst came to
worst, and Toma was discovered, that he might draw the attention of the
Indians long enough for his red friend to escape.

Toma crawled off down the slope toward the camp, Dick followed him for a
little way, until he reached a heavy copse of brush where he felt he was
within good rifle range of the camp. Toma went on and disappeared,
Dick’s whispered wish of “good luck” following him.

As Dick lay there waiting he could see on the side of the camp nearest
him, the shadowy figure of a warrior sentinel, standing motionless by a
tree, silhouetted by the light of one of the fires. Dick raised his
rifle and drew bead on the guard. It was this warrior who would discover
Toma, if any did, and Dick watched intently for a motion that would
indicate the guard had seen something unusual.

He watched for possibly five minutes, when of a sudden another figure
arose between him and the shadowy guard. There was a swift movement of
the two shadows; they swayed violently, then the guard fell and the
other stooped over him. Then both disappeared in the dark underbrush.

Dick held his breath. Toma had attacked the guard and knocked him down.
In a flash Dick saw Toma’s plan—the young Indian would change clothes
with the warrior and creep into the camp, casually joining the others.

Gripping his rifle, Dick awaited developments. What would happen in the
next hour he did not know, but he hoped for the best.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                        A SKIRMISH IN THE NIGHT


Dick waited what seemed to him several hours, though it could not have
been more than thirty minutes, before he saw a sign of Toma. Then, in
almost the exact position the guard had held, he saw a figure rise up
which he was almost certain was Toma, though the firelight revealed that
the young guide now wore the clothes and head-dress of the sentinel.

“Good for you, Toma,” Dick whispered. “Now if you can only get in among
them without them recognizing that you’re not really a member of their
band.”

Toma did not enter the camp from that side, however. Once more he
disappeared.

A patch of brush to the left caught Dick’s roving eyes, and this he
watched, believing Toma would take this means of getting into the camp
without attracting attention, since the bushes led up to a point very
near one of the tepees.

Dick was right. A few minutes later the bush tops waved a little at the
passage of a creeping body. Presently in the shadow of the tepee nearest
the bushes, Toma rose and walked slowly toward one of the campfires,
where he joined a group. Dick feared Toma might see the scar faced
Indian, and that the guide’s desire for revenge might cause him to
destroy all his chances for the rescue of Sandy. But as time passed and
all went well, Dick felt that Toma must be making good progress in the
dangerous mission he had set out on.

A little later Dick saw a figure, which he took to be Toma, break away
from a group of natives and saunter toward one of the tepees. Evidently
the guide now was either looking for Sandy, or had learned the captive’s
exact position from the conversation of the warriors.

Toma stooped into the opening of the tepee and disappeared. Holding his
breath, Dick watched. Toma was gone some time, then in the flickering
light he appeared again. Would Sandy follow? Dick’s heart beat
painfully.

Then he could not suppress a low cry of exultation as Sandy’s bare head
came out next and the two slipped into the deep shadows of another
tepee. For minutes they did not move, then they suddenly dashed for the
patch of brush that had covered Toma’s entrance into the camp. Dick’s
finger tightened on the trigger.

There was a commotion among one of the groups about the campfires. A
shout sounded, then a rifle shot. The Indians began to run; they had
seen Toma and Sandy!

Dick took quick aim and fired. The crack of his rifle in the silent
forest startled the camp. Dick shot again, hurrying to another position
as Toma had advised. He could see that Toma and Sandy had reached cover,
and that the guide was firing on his pursuers.

The whole camp was in a turmoil now; Indians and whites hurrying hither
and thither, shooting at the flashes of Dick’s rifle. He could not hear
what they were shouting to each other, but he divined they thought he
was quite a number of men, so fast was he firing and from so many
positions.

“I’ll hurry along toward Toma and Sandy,” Dick muttered to himself,
“they’ll know where I am by the sound of my rifle.”

Twenty yards further on Toma and Sandy reached him.

“Thank God you’re safe at last!” Dick embraced Sandy, while Toma kept up
rifle fire on the Indians and whites, who were now charging after them.

With a parting salvo at their pursuers, the three made off into the
night toward Fort Dunwoody. All night they hurried on, hungry and tired,
yet determined to elude Govereau if they dropped in their tracks.

“Him Govereau with Indians,” Toma revealed to Dick. “No see um Many-Scar
Jackson. I hear um talk much. Bear Henderson, him make north country big
nation all his own. Give Indians back their land. Humph! Bear Henderson
crazy—him thief, outlaw. That Govereau bad fella too; keep um police
from come up from south.”

It did not take Sandy long to tell Dick and Toma how he had been
captured by two scouts of Govereau’s band, who had lain in hiding,
looking for a chance to attack. It had been their approach and the
appearance of a herd of caribou going south that had frightened away the
wolves. Dick had been right in suspecting that Sandy had walked in his
sleep. It was almost funny to hear him tell how he had awakened,
struggling in the hands of his captors, dreaming they were wolves
devouring him.

At dawn the travelers reached the shores of a large lake, whose snow
covered ice stretched for leagues and leagues ahead.

“Him Badge Lake,” Toma told them. “We cross um ice, make journey
shorter.”

They stopped long enough to steep coffee and make some flapjacks. Dick
and Toma had taken very few provisions with them when they left Gaston
Leroi, and they now could see that they would have barely enough for
another meal.

Still hungry, they set off across the frozen lake with many a backward
glance to see if they were followed. But if they were, they saw no sign
of Govereau’s band. The silent forest, fading from view as they forged
out farther and farther over the ice, disclosed no running figures on
their trail.

“We cross um lake when sun set,” Toma said. “Maybe see moose when other
side. We eat then.”

It was a long jaunt across the lake. At noon they could see the other
shore, dim and hazy to the south. With hunger gnawing at their vitals
they trudged the last miles across the ice, hearing now and again, a low
rumbling roar as the lake ice cracked open for hundreds and hundreds of
yards. Once they were held up by one of these cracks, wider than the
rest, which they could not leap over. They had to follow this until it
grew narrower. Sandy slipped when they finally jumped the crack, and
fell into the niche. At the bottom the fissure came together, and was
partly filled with slivers of ice. Dick and Toma pulled Sandy out on the
end of a rifle.

Darkness was just falling when they reached the other shore of the lake.
It was with groans of thankfulness that they built a fire and dropped
down to rest for the night.

“I’m all in,” Sandy sank upon his back by the fire.

“I couldn’t have gone much further,” Dick admitted.

Even Toma seemed tired. They did not bother to get supper, but rolled
into their sleeping bags, and fell into heavy slumber, not even keeping
watch.

Dawn found them awake. They finished their provisions for breakfast, and
again took to the trail on the last lap to Fort Dunwoody. They had no
time to hunt, but kept watch among the trees for a ptarmigan or
partridge, or bigger game if they ran across it. But they had bad luck
and the entire day passed with no more than two ptarmigan to show for
their pains.

The birds made a slender meal for the three hungry young men. Toma
chopped out some roots that proved succulent when stewed, and they
managed to fill their stomachs with this, though within an hour
afterwards they were as hungry as ever.

Twenty miles from Fort Dunwoody, at noon of the third day since the
rescue of Sandy, they came abruptly upon a friendly Indian village at
the edge of a tiny lake.

“Now we’ll eat!” cried the haggard Sandy.

And eat they did, in preparation for the last lap of their eventful
journey, for they felt it would be a hard day on the trail.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                            GRAY GOOSE LAKE


“The fort! The fort!” cheered Dick, as the following evening they came
to the edge of a vast plain.

Sandy was overjoyed, so much so that he could not speak.

Sure enough, a half mile ahead frowned the stockade of Fort Dunwoody,
under the rippling flag of the king. Toma did not express himself in
words, but hastened his tireless pace.

Dick and Sandy hurried after the guide, curiously gazing at the fort.
Along the top of the stockade they could see a red-coated policeman
pacing slowly back and forth.

“Who goes there?” the sentry above the gate called when the worn
travelers appeared.

“Friends,” cried Dick. “We’re from Fort du Lac—looking for help at Fort
Good Faith.”

“You the lads that helped bring in Corporal Richardson?” the sentry
gruffly asked.

“Yes.”

The huge gate swung back immediately, and the young adventurers passed
through. The police guard met them as the gate was closed.

“You’ll want to see Inspector Dawson?” asked the guard.

“I think he’s the man we should see,” Dick replied.

Presently they were ushered into the presence of Inspector Dawson, whose
grim face, under a thatch of iron gray hair, broke into a smile, meant
to be kind.

Dick and Sandy gave the scout salute.

“Ah, ha!” said the Inspector, “I see you’ve been members of the Boy
Scouts.”

“Yes sir, first class, both of us,” replied Dick, a little abashed in
the presence of so distinguished a man as Inspector Dawson.

“Corporal Richardson told me about you,” went on the Inspector.

“Then the corporal got in all right,” Dick exulted.

“Yes, thanks to you boys and Gaston Leroi,” Inspector Dawson said.
“He’ll be up and around in a few days now. I’ve already sent relief to
Fort Good Faith,” he concluded.

“Oh!” Dick was both glad and disappointed at once. He had hoped to join
the expedition.

“However, an Indian runner came in today saying that Sergeant Brewster
and Constable Marden, the two I detailed for Fort Good Faith, were held
up at Gray Goose Lake by one of Henderson’s lieutenants and about thirty
renegade Indians. I believe the man’s name is Pierre Govereau. He has a
criminal record here.”

“Govereau!” ejaculated Dick and Sandy in one voice.

“You seem to have met him before,” the Inspector continued briskly. “But
the point I’m getting at is this; I have no men to send on as relief to
Gray Goose Lake. I expect one of my scouts, Malemute Slade, in tomorrow
morning from Fort du Lac where he has cleared things up.”

At mention of Malemute Slade, Dick and Sandy exchanged significant
glances.

“Yes,” the inspector continued. “And I suppose you follows want to go on
to Fort Good Faith. You seem to be able to take care of yourselves.
Would you like to be special deputies?”

“Would we!” Dick exclaimed.

“Hurrah!” shouted Sandy.

Inspector Dawson could not forbear a smile at the boys’ exuberance. “All
right, step forward,” he commanded, arising from his desk.

Dick and Sandy lined up like soldiers while they repeated the oath of
allegiance to the law on specials duty for the duration of the Henderson
outbreak.

The Inspector made Toma an official scout.

“Now good day, boys,” the Inspector said dismissing them. “Report to me
tomorrow morning early. I expect Slade in then.”

Dick and Sandy followed Toma out of headquarters seething with
excitement. They felt themselves full-fledged mounted policemen now,
and, too, they were to take the trail with Malemute Slade, the famous
scout they had met on the Big Smokey. Their only regret was that they
could not don the beautiful uniforms they saw everywhere about the post.

They inquired as to the quarters of Corporal Richardson, and had a long
chat with the convalescent officer. They secured arrangements to pass
the night in the barracks, and once more toasted their shins before a
genuine stove.

Bright and early next morning, Dick and Sandy rolled out of their bunks
and pulled on their clothes.

“It hardly seems possible we’re at Fort Dunwoody,” Dick declared when
they attacked the ample breakfast set before them by the post cook.

Sandy shivered in recalling the narrow escapes they had had and agreed
with Dick.

Toma, who had slept before the fire on a bearskin rug, was as silent as
he always was when off the trail, but his moon face was split by a
continuous smile.

Malemute Slade was waiting at headquarters when the boys reported as
instructed. His dog team of six huge huskies stood in front of the
Inspector’s office, harnessed to the sled, ready for the trail.

Dick and Sandy were pleased to find that Malemute Slade remembered them.
His dark, wind-hardened face lighted up pleasantly, as he shook hands
with his future trail mates.

“Wal, I swan,” he exclaimed, “I guess we’ll do some tall fightin’ now.”

Dick and Sandy assured him they were with him with all they had to
offer, and after Inspector Dawson had wished them good luck, they mushed
across the parade square to the stockade gate, which swung slowly open
for them.

Hour after hour the relief detachment from the post traveled northward.
Malemute Slade would not permit the boys to sleep longer than five
hours. Long before dawn they were up, had eaten a hasty breakfast, while
the dogs wolfed their daily frozen fish, and had hit the trail again.
Dick and Sandy had grown almost as trail hardened as Toma on their long
trip from Fort du Lac to Fort Dunwoody, and they did not complain at the
terrific pace set by Malemute Slade.

On the afternoon of the third day, more than a hundred miles north of
Fort Dunwoody, they saw from the top of a ridge the white, level expanse
of Gray Goose Lake. They had not been molested along the way and they
decided that Govereau was doing all his fighting at Gray Goose Lake.

Around the lake they broke into rough and serrated country, through
which they proceeded cautiously. Soon they heard the faint report of
rifles, by which they located the scene of combat.

Malemute Slade led the way up a long ravine where they left the dog team
in charge of Toma and went on under cover of whatever they found.

“Follow me, lads, an’ don’t fire till I give the word,” Malemute Slade
ordered.

“Look! There they are!” whispered Dick a moment later as they reached
the top of the ravine.

On a rocky knoll, overlooking Gray Goose Lake, they could see the
occasional puff of two rifles. All around the bottom of the little hill
were hidden Govereau’s men, flanked by a deep gorge on their left.

“Now, lads, we’ll take ’em on the run. Shoot an’ holler all you can,”
Malemute Slade’s drawling voice calmed them.

Dick and Sandy tensed for the coming skirmish, tightening their grips of
their rifles.

“Ready,” called Malemute Slade. “Here we go.”

They broke from cover and ran yelling like an army across the space that
separated them from Govereau’s party. The Indians turned and shouted,
seeming paralyzed with surprise. The besieged policemen, on the hill,
seeing reinforcements, also charged, leaping from their hiding place and
firing as they came.

Attacked from two sides, Govereau’s band broke and fled.

“There’s Govereau!” cried Dick.

“An’ here’s where one dirty skunk cashes in,” shouted Malemute Slade,
raising his high-powered rifle. At the report of the rifle, Govereau
fell, Dick and Sandy rushing past his body in pursuit of the others.

Dick barely had witnessed the fall of Govereau before he caught sight of
Toma stalking an Indian, who was trying to crawl away among the bushes.

“Halt, in the king’s name!” commanded Dick, as he recognized the skulker
to be no other than Many-Scar Jackson.

But the scar faced Indian did not halt. He broke into a run toward the
deep gorge on the left, Toma in hot pursuit, and Dick and Sandy close
behind.

Suddenly Dick stopped dead in his tracks, Sandy almost falling over him.
“Toma!” he called, but the guide did not seem to hear.

“He’s going to avenge his brother’s death,” Sandy exclaimed, pushing
ahead.

“Stop!” Dick hauled his chum back. “Toma doesn’t want us to interfere.
It’s his fight. If we see he’s getting the worst of it, then we’ll
help.”

Sandy drew back and with pale faces they watched the two Indians come
together and draw their knives in a duel to the death.

Around and around they circled before Toma darted in like a flash and
drew blood. But Many-Scar made a stab in return, and they saw Toma reel
a little. Then the two clinched, staggered this way, then that, their
knife blades locked.

“Many-Scar has him!” Sandy suddenly exclaimed, raising his rifle.

“Wait!” Dick cried.

For a moment it had seemed as if the scar faced Indian would plunge his
knife into Toma’s breast, but the agile young guide twisted suddenly,
like a snake, and Many-Scar was tripped to his knees.

Then as Toma leaped in to follow up his advantage, Many-Scar whirled
away, leaped to his feet and once more they circled.

“Many-Scar is getting the worst of it,” Dick breathed a few moments
later.

“He sure is,” agreed Sandy exultingly.

Toma’s enemy plainly was weakening. Dick and Sandy prepared to see the
final thrust, when of a sudden the scar faced Indian broke away and ran
like the wind straight toward the gorge.

“They’ll fall into the gorge!” Dick cried, starting to run toward them.

But Many-Scar Jackson and Toma, too, seemed uncognizant of any immediate
danger from a fall. Many-Scar ran like a deer, and as he reached the
edge, he leaped into the air. Like a bird he soared across the space
between the two cliffs, landing safely on the other side, where he
vanished into the bushes.

“What a jump!” exclaimed Dick.

“I can’t believe it,” Sandy said amazedly. “Why, it was a broad jump
record. It’s nearly thirty feet between the cliffs.”

Toma had halted on the brink of the cliff and the boys saw him raise
clinched fists to the sky. Toma had failed this time, but, somehow, the
boys felt sure there was another time coming.

Behind them Malemute Slade was calling. They rejoined the victorious
mounted police, Toma tardily returning.

Presently they were behind the dogs on the trail to Fort Good Faith,
their party now increased to five with Sergeant Brewster and Constable
Marden.

“I hope Uncle Walter has been able to hold out this long,” Sandy
whispered to himself as he ran after the waving tails of the huskies.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                        CHIEF BLACK DOG’S SCHEME


“We’re coming into an Indian village,” Dick called to Sandy, when the
party reached the top of a long ridge.

Sandy, who was some distance in the rear, hurried up and joined Dick. A
village of nearly a score of tepees lay ahead, the smoke of a number of
campfires rising here and there.

Sergeant Brewster, who had taken command, explained that he was about to
enlist the tribe’s aid in an effort at retaking Fort Good Faith.

“Chief Black Dog is a good friend of the mounted,” said Sergeant
Brewster, “and he’ll let us have a few warriors. I suppose Henderson has
tried to get the old fellow on his side, but chief is loyal.”

They entered the village, and had some trouble with the numberless
Indian dogs that rushed out savagely from behind the tepees and attacked
the huskies. Presently several Indians came and called off the dogs,
throwing stones and sticks at them.

Sergeant Brewster addressed one of the braves: “Tell Chief Black Dog a
man from the Great White Father has come to see him.”

The buck hurried away, and soon returned, saying the chief would be glad
to see him, in fact had invited them all to his council tepee.

Leaving Toma to look after the dogs, Dick and Sandy followed Malemute
Slade and the policemen to a tepee much larger than the rest. The
entrance was so high that even Malemute Slade entered erect.

“Gosh, it’s dark,” whispered Sandy, when the tepee flap closed behind
them.

The only light in the tepee was a tiny fire glowing in the center.
Before this Dick and Sandy could make out three shadowy figures. The one
in the center was an aged Indian with snow white hair. He was Chief
Black Dog.

“The white brother comes from the Great White Father. It is good. Peace
with white brother,” the old chief spoke.

“We bring presents from the great chief to the big chief,” Sergeant
Brewster announced, drawing from his mackinaw pockets a fine pocket
knife and a shining tobacco box.

Dick and Sandy could see the old chief’s eyes glitter as they fell upon
the gifts.

“It is good,” said Chief Black Dog, accepting the presents.

The sergeant also gave something to each of the two chiefs seated on
either side of Chief Black Dog, for which they muttered thanks.

“What will the white brother have?” the chief spoke again.

“We wish help to fight the bad outlaw, Bear Henderson,” answered the
sergeant. “He has taken Fort Good Faith from the good factor Walter
MacClaren.”

“It is good. My warriors are brave. They go with you.”

Sergeant Brewster thanked the old chief, then waited for dismissal.
Chief Black Dog sat looking into the fire for a time, his deep eyes
meditative. The boys watched curiously. The chief seemed to be thinking.
At length he spoke:

“The red man would know how many braves the bad chief Henderson fights
with. Some my warriors, young and foolish, with Henderson. I send
warrior in night. He go make believe join Henderson. He find his
brothers there. He find out how many braves hold fort. Come tell me. He
find where big chief MacClaren in prison. We know how to fight better
then.”

“The red man’s words are wise,” replied the sergeant.

“It is good,” the chief said, turning to the chief on his left and
speaking swiftly in his native tongue.

The other chief rose and quietly left the tepee.

“White brother’s men stay, wait for spy, when he come back. One night
maybe. Then we know all.” He waved a withered hand in dismissal.

Dick and Sandy welcomed the open air, when once again they stepped into
the sunlight. At the sergeant’s orders they helped Toma unharness the
dogs.

Chief Black Dog assigned two tepees to the party from Fort Dunwoody.
Dick, Sandy and Toma took one, the mounted policemen the other. An hour
later the boys watched the spy leave for Fort Good Faith, while the war
drums of the tribe summoned the braves to battle.

It was an exciting evening the boys passed, watching the warriors in
their fantastic dances. When at last they went to their tepee to rest,
they were tired, but could not sleep. The wait for news from Fort Good
Faith was proving to be a trying one. So near Sandy’s uncle, yet under
orders to remain idle, the boys chafed and worried.

“I can’t stand it,” Sandy cried. “I want to get there and have it over
with.”

“I know just how you feel,” sympathized Dick. “I want to smell powder
too. But I believe the chief made a wise move, at that. What do you
think, Toma?”

Toma’s dark face, lighted by the fire, brightened. “Him wise chief,”
said Toma. “My father know him long ago when they hunt on Saskatchewan
River.”

“Tell us a story about the old days, Toma,” Dick pleaded, as he squatted
by the fire, “—an Indian story.”

“Yes, do,” Sandy chimed in.

The young guide seemed to be looking far away as he stared into the
glowing coals. Outside, the war drums and the cries of the dancing
warriors echoed in the forest aisles.

“I tell story my father tell me long ago, when I little boy,” Toma
began. “Big medicine man tell my father. It is story of Saskatchewan
River and Great Bear, mighty hunter of the Crees.

“Long ago, by Saskatchewan live big tribe. One hunter, one Great Bear,
he mightier than all big hunters. Him not like Saskatchewan country. Him
want travel far, far—where sun goes down.

“Big medicine man, one Two-Horns-in-the-Bone not want lose Great Bear,
great hunter. Him try keep Great Bear home. But Great Bear don’t care.
He go anyway, he say.

“Then Great Bear get ready go far away. When start,
Two-Horns-in-the-Bone go ’long little way with Great Bear, so Great
Spirit be with him in far lands. They stop on bank of Saskatchewan,
mighty river. Great Bear, lie thirsty. He kneel down, fill up with
water. Two-Horns-in-the-Bone make sign over him, big medicine sign. When
Great Bear get up, medicine man say:

“‘They who drink waters of Saskatchewan shall return before they die.’

“Great Bear, him laugh. Him think Two-Horns-in-the-Bone make fun. Great
Bear young, strong; he laugh at Great Spirit, like him laugh at grizzly.
Him leap in Saskatchewan an’ swim across. Him wave spear goodbye to
medicine man, an’ turn back on Saskatchewan.

“Two-Horns-in-the-Bone go back to tepee. Say nothing. Him very wise.

“Many moons pass. Great Bear go far, far away—to Big Sea, to desert, to
other side of sunset. He fight many battles, always win.

“Medicine man by Saskatchewan, him wait an’ smoke long pipe. Twenty
winters gone by, then spring come. Two-Horns-in-the-Bone walk down to
Saskatchewan. He wait all day. When sunset come he see old man walking.
Old man all bent over, white hair, hobble on stick.
Two-Horns-in-the-Bone watch. Old man come down to edge of water. Him
kneel down and drink. Then he go back and lay down.

“Two-Horns-in-the-Bone go to old man. Him speak, him look in face. Old
Indian, him Great Bear. Old medicine man raise face to sky. ‘The Great
Spirit has spoken,’ say Two-Horns-in-the-Bone. ‘They who drink waters of
Saskatchewan shall return before they die.’”

Toma’s voice died out. The young Indian seemed to be in another land, as
he thought of his father’s people. Dick and Sandy sat spell-bound.

“It is the Legend of the Saskatchewan,” Dick said in a hushed voice.

“It sure was a good story,” said Sandy. “Tell us another one, Toma.”

But Toma shook his head. Dick and Sandy saw a certain sadness in his
face, that the legend had aroused, and they did not urge him. Presently
they rolled into their blankets. Once asleep, they did not awaken until
summoned by Sergeant Brewster.

As they hurried from the tepee on the morning of that day which was to
mean so much, an inspiring sight greeted their eyes.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                         THE ATTACK ON THE FORT


The tepees of the Indian village were arranged in a hollow square, and
in the midst of this were gathered more than fifty warriors, arrayed for
battle.

“Isn’t it a fearful sight!” exclaimed Sandy.

“I’d hate to have them catch me alone in the forest,” Dick responded.

“They’ll help us do for Henderson,” Sergeant Brewster remarked at their
elbow. “The spy came in an hour ago. He reports that Henderson has about
ten half-breeds and thirty Indians holding the fort. They don’t dream of
an attack. Henderson thinks Govereau is taking care of the police.”

“Did the spy find out anything about Uncle Walter?” Sandy queried
anxiously.

“I was coming to that,” continued the sergeant. “It seems that Henderson
has imprisoned him in a cave about a mile from the fort. The spy
believes he can find the cave from what he overheard while inside the
stockade. I’ll detail you fellows to go after the factor. But don’t
leave until we’re sure we’ve taken the fort—that comes first. Toma and
Malemute Slade will accompany, with the spy as a guide.”

They were interrupted by Malemute Slade and Constable Marden driving up
with the dog team.

“Wal, boys,” grinned Malemute Slade, “we’re off for another tussle. As
f’r me I can’t get to it too soon.”

Dick and Sandy laughed and fell into line. The band of Indians already
had started out. They left the village amid the lamentations of Indian
women and the loud barking of the dogs.

They traveled slowly, Sergeant Brewster explaining that they must not
reach Fort Good Faith until nightfall, if they were to surprise
Henderson. Scouts were sent on ahead to report any appearance of
Henderson’s men.

Just before dark the war party came to a halt on the slope of a hill,
from the top of which they could see Fort Good Faith not far away. Dick
and Sandy gazed upon the stockade in awe. They had traveled more than
six hundred miles since leaving Fort du Lac, and at last within sight of
the post, they felt rewarded for all the hardships they had gone through
in an effort to rescue Sandy’s uncle.

“We’ll have to keep out of sight till after dark—that’s all that bothers
me,” chafed Sandy. “I wish we were climbing the stockade right now.”

Sergeant Brewster called to them just then. “Here’s the spy,” he
presented a somber Indian. “He’ll stay close by you until it’s time for
you to go after your uncle. Take your orders from Malemute Slade.”

Worked up to a frenzy by their war dances, the warriors were eager to
attack, and it was all the policemen and the chiefs could do to hold
them back until nightfall.

The minutes seemed like hours. But darkness slowly fell, and the hour of
the attack approached. The Indians grew quieter then. At a word from the
sergeant the war party started on toward the fort.

All was silent until they were under the very walls of the stockade,
then the Indians gave vent to a horrible war cry, and like so many
chipmunks clambered over the stockade. The first inside rushed the guard
at the gate and swung it open for the rest of the party. Rifles and
revolvers flashed in the darkness everywhere, and combined with the
cries of the Indians, made a deafening racket.

Dick dropped down from the top of the palisades on the heels of Malemute
Slade, Sandy and Toma following him. Suddenly he heard Sandy cry out:

“Help, Dick!”

Dick turned and ran toward the sound, his rifle clubbed in his hands. In
the gloom he could see Sandy struggling in the grip of a brawny
half-breed, Dick’s gun stock swept down, and Sandy’s adversary rolled
over and lay still.

“Come on, Sandy. Let’s not lose Malemute,” Dick called.

They could see the policemen concentrating their attack on the door of
the post residence, which had been hastily barricaded.

“Up an’ at ’em,” Malemute bellowed as he rushed to join the mounted
police. Three half-breeds leaped out of the shadows and barred the big
scout’s way. Malemute fired once, swung his fists twice, and the
half-breeds were trampled underfoot.

The surprise attack was over as quickly as it had begun. Dick and Sandy
saw a huge, long-haired man come to the door in answer to the sergeant’s
demand for surrender, and watched the handcuffs snapped upon the
outlaw’s wrists. It was the first look at the man behind all the
trouble. Henderson’s name fitted him, they decided. He looked much like
a grizzly in man’s clothing.

“That wasn’t half a fight,” Malemute Slade complained. “Now if that
pesky spy would show up we’d skip out for the prisoner.”

“There he is!” Dick exclaimed.

The Indian spy and Toma both were approaching at a run.

“Lead on there,” Malemute sang out to the spy. “We’ll be a’ter the
factor now—double quick.”

Led by the spy, the five left the stockade in the hands of the mounted
police, and hurried off into the night.

It was hard going through the deep snow, but the spy seemed to be sure
of the way. Only once did the Indian seem confused. Then he paused while
the rest waited impatiently. Then they were off again.

Presently they came to a narrow canyon. Dick, Sandy and Toma were
running close together. Malemute Slade and the Indian spy were slightly
in the lead.

Suddenly the spy stopped dead, emitting a guttural exclamation.

“Down!” cried Malemute.

Scarcely had all five dropped flat when a hoarse voice sounded,
seemingly out of the wall of the canyon:

“Who’s there?”

“You’ll shore find out in a minute,” retorted Malemute boldly. “Jest
come out where we can see the color o’ y’r whiskers.”

“If you think much of y’r hide you better skidaddle,” replied the voice,
threateningly.

“Haw, haw,” called Malemute. “You’ll be the one to do the skidaddlin’
when we finish with yuh.”

Silence followed, while Dick strained his eyes to see from whence the
voice came.

“It’s from the cave,” Sandy whispered.

Nerves at snapping pitch, the young adventurers awaited the orders of
the scout, who was mumbling to himself. Malemute was about to order a
blind advance, when four dark forms leaped out of the rocks behind them.
Dick Kent had a momentary vision of Malemute Slade pinned under two men,
then something crashed down upon his head and all went black.



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                            LOST UNDERGROUND


Dick Kent regained consciousness slowly. His head pained severely, and
as he passed his hand through his hair his fingers encountered something
warm and sticky. All was silent in the canyon. He sat up with a start,
all coming back to him—the mysterious voice from the canyon wall, the
surprise attack, the blow that had felled him.

“Sandy! Sandy!” he shouted hoarsely. But the dark canyon gave back his
voice in a hollow echo. There was no answer.

“Where have they gone?” Dick wondered. “Have they been killed or
captured?”

He got dizzily to his feet and stumbled along the canyon, feeling his
way. Almost immediately, he felt a depression in the rock. In the
starlight a dark hole yawned in the wall.

“The cave!” he exulted.

Just then he stumbled over something solid, yet yielding. Groping about
his feet, he recoiled in horror. It was the face of a man! In the
starlight he finally made out the body, and saw that it was not one of
his party.

Again Dick called out Sandy’s name, but only the echo of his voice from
the yawning cavern answered him.

Dick’s head was clearing now. He thought swiftly and concluded his
companions must have gone into the cavern in search of Walter MacClaren.
He turned in and groped his way along, calling every now and then. Once
he thought he heard a shout and stopped, but all was silent.

He had a few matches in his pocket and he drew one out and lighted it.
He found himself in a large cave, evidently formed by the erosion of
water. The roof of the cavern was some six feet higher than his head.
Where he was standing there seemed but one passage.

“Well, I can’t get lost if there’s only the main passage,” Dick decided,
and started on boldly, feeling his way in the blackness.

The cavern slanted downward slightly, and leading forward fairly
straight, Dick made good time, though he tested every bit of footing to
make certain he did not step off into a hole, or run into an
obstruction.

Presently he could hear running water, and as the sound grew louder, he
lighted another match. There was no disturbance of air and the flame
burned steadily. Dick could see that the cavern branched at this point.
Down one passage a swift stream of dark water flowed; the other was dry.

About to take to the cavern that was dry underfoot, Dick heard a shout
somewhere in the cave before him. He thrilled as he recognized Sandy’s
voice.

“Sandy, Sandy, here I am!” he answered at the top of his lungs, hurrying
down the cavern from which he believed the voice had come. Once more he
heard Sandy’s shout, but this time it was fainter. Then he heard it no
longer.

“There must be tracks if anyone has passed here,” Dick thought, and
striking a match, stooped down. Plainly, in the moist floor of the
cavern, were the tracks of moccasins. But they were directed both
forward and back, and meant very little.

Thinking to catch Sandy before he was too far away, Dick hastened
forward with less caution. He had advanced some fifty yards, when of a
sudden the earth gave way under him. His cry of terror was drowned by
the sound of falling stones and gravel, as he pitched downward. His
clutching hands encountered a rim of solid rock. With a painful jerk he
stopped his fall, dangling there by his fingers over a chasm he knew not
how deep.

Once he regained his breath and sense, he endeavored to pull himself up.
But he could not quite make it. The hole bulged outward under his feet
and, kick and thresh as he would, he could not get a foothold anywhere.
The rim he was clinging to was so narrow that it was impossible for him
to hold his body up on it even if he pulled himself up by the hands. He
realized that he was part way down the hole, hanging to the conical
wall.

Dick’s struggles slowly weakened. His head was paining him severely. He
realized that he could not hang on much longer, yet gritting his teeth,
he clung on while his muscles burned and his fingers grew numb.

With his last remaining strength, he shouted. But it seemed that his
voice was deadened by the formation of the hole, as if he had shouted
into a barrel. But again and again he raised his voice, though it grew
weaker and weaker.

He did not know whether he imagined it or not, but he thought his last
outcry received an answer. Slowly he was losing consciousness. It seemed
that he could hear the pad, pad of moccasins and more voices. A hand
grasped his wrists, then he gave out.

When once more Dick awakened he found himself in a dimly lighted
underground room. Some one was pouring something hot between his teeth.

“Sandy!” he started up, looking into his chum’s happy face.

“Greetin’s, lad,” called Malemute Slade, smiling down from the other
side of him, “you’ve had a tough time of it.”

“I thought it was all over with as far as I was concerned,” replied
Dick.

“Uncle Walter is here, but he’s pretty sick,” Sandy was telling him. “We
found him in this room, almost dead from starvation. He seems to be a
little better since we fed him some hot broth.”

Dick raised up, his aching head swimming. Across the room, watched over
by Toma, on a heap of balsam boughs, he saw a bearded man, haggard of
face. It was Walter MacClaren.

“I guess I can stand on my pins now,” declared Dick. “But where did you
all go right after I was knocked out?”

“The devils drove us right into the cave,” volunteered Malemute Slade.
“It was a running fight till I climbed on a shelf of rock an’ dropped
down on the beans of a couple of ’em. I cracked their pates, then we
choked the other one till he told us where the lad’s uncle was. Me—I
guess I’ve got about all I want of fightin’ for today.”

“I heard you shouting,” Sandy explained, “but you were in the wrong
branch of the cavern. I had to go clear down to the fork before I found
where you were. You had just about let go of the rock. I was scared to
death when I had pulled you out. I struck a match—and say!—that hole
didn’t seem to have any bottom.”

Dick shuddered, but smiled grimly. He had had a close shave—they had all
had a close shave—but things had come out right in the end.

Malemute Slade had located the store of food kept by MacClaren’s guards,
and they sat down and had a bite to eat. Then, they all gathered
anxiously around Walter MacClaren. With eyes shining, Sandy stooped
forward and patted his uncle’s hand.

“Everything is all right now,” the youth muttered happily. “I’m sure
that Uncle Walt will get better.”

For several minutes they stood there in the half-light, looking down at
the recumbent figure of the man, whose life they had saved barely in the
nick of time. Except for their quiet breathing and the low trickle of
water in an alcove close at hand, the deep hush remained unbroken. Then,
unexpectedly, MacClaren stirred, muttering in his sleep. His eyes
blinked open.

His gaze wavered from one to the other of the little company gathered
around him, and slowly a smile played across his lips.

“Up in a few days,” he managed to articulate weakly. “Thanks—everyone of
you! I’ll be feeling fine in the morning.”

Then, with another smile, he rolled over on his side and went back to
sleep. In a surge of new-found happiness, Dick nodded significantly at
Sandy, and, arm-in-arm, they turned quietly and tip-toed out of the
room.


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--Added a Table of Contents based on chapter headings.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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