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Title: Jack Chanty - A Story of Athabasca
Author: Footner, Hulbert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Frontispiece: "Such was Jack Chanty, sprawling on his little raft"]



  JACK
  CHANTY

  A Story of Athabasca

  _by_

  Hulbert Footner

  _Author of_

  "New Rivers of the North"
  "Two on the Trail, Etc."

  GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
  DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & CO.
  1913



  Copyright, 1913, by
  DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

  All rights reserved, including that of
  translation into foreign languages,
  including the Scandinavian

  Copyright, 1913 by
  FRANK A. MUNSEY Co.



  TO
  F. C. F.



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I. The Hair-cut
  II. The Company From "Outside"
  III. Talk by the Fire
  IV. The Conjuror
  V. Jack Hears About Himself
  VI. The Price of Sleep
  VII. An Emotional Crisis
  VIII. The Feminine Equation
  IX. Yellow Metal
  X. A Crumbling Brain
  XI. The Show Down
  XII. Jack Finds Out
  XIII. The Retreat
  XIV. Bear's Flesh and Berries
  XV. An Expedition of Three
  XVI. The Tepees of the Sapis
  XVII. Ascota Escapes
  XVIII. The End of Ascota
  XIX. An Old Score Is Charged Off
  XX. The Little Great World



ILLUSTRATIONS

"Such was Jack Chanty, sprawling on his little raft" . . . . . .
Frontispiece

"Tempted by the hand that lay on the ground beside him, he caught it up
and pressed it to his lips"

"He's not here!" she cried hysterically

"F. G." he said grimly, "Francis Garrod"

"Come and get me, white man!" cried Jean Paul, over his shoulder



JACK CHANTY



I

THE HAIR-CUT

The surface of the wide, empty river rang with it like a
sounding-board, and the undisturbed hills gave it back, the gay song of
a deep-chested man.  The musical execution was not remarkable, but the
sound was as well suited to the big spaces of the sunny river as the
call of a moose to the October woods, or the ululation of a wolf to a
breathless winter's night.  The zest of youth and of singing was in it;
to that the breasts of any singer's hearers cannot help but answer.

  "Oh! pretty Polly Oliver, the pri-ide of her sex;
  The love of a grenadier he-er poor heart did vex.
  He courted her so faithfu-ul in the good town of Bow,
  But marched off to foreign lands a-fi-ighting the foe."


The singer was luxuriously reclining on a tiny raft made of a single
dry trunk cut into four lengths laced together with rope.  His back was
supported by two canvas bags containing his grub and all his worldly
goods, and a banjo lay against his raised thighs.  From afar on the
bosom of the great stream he looked like a doll afloat on a shingle.
The current carried him down, and the eddies waltzed him slowly around
and back, providing him agreeable views up and down river and athwart
the noble hills that hemmed it in.

  "I cannot live si-ingle, and fa-alse I'll not prove,
  So I'll 'list for a drummer-boy and follow my love.
  Peaked ca-ap, looped jacke-et, whi-ite gaiters and drum,
  And marching so manfully to my tru-ue love I'll come."


Between each verse the banjo supplied a rollicking obbligato.

His head was bare, and the waves of his thick, sunburnt hair showed
half a dozen shades ranging between sienna and ochre.  As to his face,
it was proper enough to twenty-five years old; an abounding vitality
was its distinguishing character.  He was not too good-looking; he had
something rarer than mere good looks, an individuality of line and
colouring.  It was his own face, suggesting none of the recognized
types of faces.  He had bright blue eyes under beautifully modelled
brows, darker than his hair.  One eyebrow was cocked a little higher
than the other, giving him a mocking air.  In repose his lips came
together in a thin, resolute line that suggested a hard streak under
his gay youthfulness.

He was wearing a blue flannel shirt open at the throat, with a blue and
white handkerchief knotted loosely away from it, and he had on faded
blue overalls tucked into the tops of his mocassins.  These mocassins
provided the only touch of coxcombry to his costume; they were of the
finest white doeskin elaborately worked with silk flowers.  Such
footwear is not for sale in the North, but may be surely construed as a
badge of the worker's favour.

Such was Jack Chanty, sprawling on his little raft, and abandoning
himself to the delicious sunshine and the delights of song.  It was
July on the Spirit River; he was twenty-five years old, and the blood
was coursing through his veins; inside his shirt he felt the weight of
a little canvas bag of yellow gold, and he knew where there was plenty
more to be had.  Is it any wonder he was filled with a sense of
well-being so keen it was almost a pain?  Expanding his chest, he threw
back his head and relieved himself of a roaring fortissimo that made
the hills ring again:

  "'Twas the battle of Ble-enheim, in a ho-ot fusillade,
  A poor little drummer-boy was a prisoner made.
  But a bra-ave grenadier fou-ought hi-is way through the foe,
  And fifteen fierce Frenchmen toge-ether laid low.

  "He took the boy tenderly in his a-arms as he swooned,
  He opened his ja-acket for to search for a wound.
  Oh! pretty Polly Olive-er, my-y bravest, my bride!
  Your true love shall nevermore be to-orn from your side!"


By and by the raft was carried around a wide bend, and the whitewashed
buildings of Fort Cheever stole into view down the river.  Jack's eyes
gleamed, and he put away the banjo.  It was many a day since he had
hobnobbed with his own kind, and what is the use of gold if there is no
chance to squander it?

Sitting up, he applied himself to his paddle.  Edging the raft toward
the left-hand bank, he left the main current at the head of an island,
and, shooting over a bar, paddled through the sluggish backwater on the
shore of which the little settlement lay.  As he came close the
buildings were hidden from him by the high bank; only the top of the
"company's" flagpole showed.  The first human sound that struck on his
ears was the vociferous, angry crying of a boy-child.

Rounding a little point of the bank, the cause of the commotion was
revealed.  Jack grinned, and held his paddle.  The sluggish current
carried him toward the actors in the scene, and they were too intent to
observe him.  A half-submerged, flat-bottomed barge was moored to the
shore.  On the decked end of it a young girl in a blue print dress was
seated on a box, vigorously soaping an infant of four.  Two other
ivory-skinned cupids, one older, one younger, were playing in the warm
water that partly filled the barge.  Their clothes lay in a heap behind
the girl.

She was a very pretty girl; the mere sight of her caused Jack's breast
to lift and his heart to set up a slightly increased beating.  It was
so long since he had seen one!  Her soft lips were determinedly pressed
together; in one hand she gripped the thin arm of her captive, while
with the other she applied the soap until his writhing little body
flashed in the sun as if burnished.  Struggles and yells were in vain.
The other two children played in the water, callously indifferent to
the sufferings of their brother.  It was clear they had been through
their ordeal.

The girl, warned of an approaching presence, raised a pair of startled
eyes.  Her captive, feeling the vise relax, plunged into the water of
the barge with incredible swiftness, and, rapturously splashing off the
hated soap, joined his brothers at the other end, safely out of her
reach.  The girl blushed for their nakedness.  They themselves stared
open-mouthed at the stranger without any embarrassment at all.  The fat
baby was sitting in the water, turned into stone with astonishment,
like a statue of Buddha in a flood.

Something in the young man's frank laugh reassured the girl, and she
laughed a little too, though blushing still.  She glowed with youth and
health, deep-bosomed as Ceres, and all ivory and old rose.  Her
delicious, soft, roundness was a tantalizing sight to a hungry youth.
But there was something more than mere provoking loveliness--her large
brown eyes conveyed it, a disquieting wistfulness even while she
laughed.

He brought his raft alongside the barge, and, rising, extended his hand
according to the custom of the country.  Hastily wiping her own soapy
hand on her apron, she laid it in his.  Both thrilled to the touch, and
their eyes quailed from each other.  Jack quickly recovered himself.
Lovely as she might be, she was none the less a "native," and therefore
to a white man fair game.  Naturally he took the world as he found it.

"You are Mary Cranston," he said.  "I should have known if there was
another like you in the country," his bold eyes added.

The girl lowered her eyes.  "Yes," she murmured.

Her voice astonished him, and filled him with the desire to make her
speak again.  "You don't know who I am," he said.

She glanced at the banjo case.  "Jack Chanty," she said softly.

"Good!" he cried.  "That's what it is to be famous!"  Their eyes met,
and they laughed as at a rich joke.  Her laugh was as sweet as the
sound of falling water in the ears of thirst, and the name he went by
as spoken by her rang in his ears with rare tenderness.

"How did you know?" he asked curiously.

"Everybody knows about everybody up here," she said.  "There are so
few!  You came from across the mountains, and have been prospecting
under Mount Tetrahedron since the winter.  The Indians who came in to
trade told us about the banjo, and about the many songs you sang, which
were strange to them."

The ardour of his gaze confused her.  She broke off, and, to hide her
confusion, turned abruptly to the staring ivory cupids.  "Andy, come
here!" she commanded in the voice of sisterly authority.  "Colin!
Gibbie!  Come and get dressed!"

Andy and Colin grinned sheepishly, and stayed where they were.  The
smile of Andy, the elder, was toothless and exasperating.  As for the
infant Buddha, he continued to sit unmoved, to suck his thumb, and to
stare.

She stamped her foot.  "Andy!  Come here this minute!  Colin!  Gibbie!"
she repeated in a voice of helpless vexation.

They did not move.

"Look sharp, young 'uns!" Jack suddenly roared.

Of one accord, as if galvanized into life, they scrambled toward their
sister, making a detour around the far side of the barge to avoid Jack.

Mary rewarded him with a smile, and dealt out the clothes with a
practised hand.  Andy, clasping his garments to his breast, set off
over the plank to the shore, and was hauled back just in time.

"He has to have his hair cut, because the steamboat is coming," his
sister explained; "and I don't see how I can hold on to him while I am
dressing the others."

"Pass him over here," said Jack.

Andy, struck with terror, was deposited on the raft, whence escape was
impossible without passing the big man, and commanded to dress himself
without more ado.

Mary regarded the other two anxiously.  "They're beginning to shiver,"
she said, "and I can't dress both at once."

Jack sat on the edge of the barge with his feet on the raft.  "Give me
the baby," he said.

"You couldn't dress a baby," she said, with a provoking dimple in
either cheek.

"Yes, I can, if he wears pants," said Jack serenely.  "There's no
mystery about pants."

"Besides, he'd yell," she objected.

"No, he won't," said Jack.  "Try him and see."

And in sooth he did not yell, but sat on Jack's knee while his little
shirt was pulled over his head and buttoned, sucking his thumb, and
staring at Jack with a piercing, unflinching stare.

"You have a way with babies," the girl said in the sweet, hushed voice
that continually astonished him.

He looked at her with his mocking smile.  "And with girls?" his eyes
asked boldly.

She blushed, and attended strictly to Colin's buttons.

Colin, fully attired in shirt, trousers, and moccasins, was presently
dismissed over the plank.  He lingered on the shore, shouting
opprobrious epithets to his elder, still in captivity.  At the same
time the baby was dressed in the smallest pair of long pants ever made.
He was as bow-legged as a bulldog.  Jack leaned back, roaring with
laughter at the figure of gravity he made.  Gibbie didn't mind.  He
could walk, but he preferred to sit.  He continued to sit cross-legged
on the end of the barge, and to stare.

Next, Andy was seated on the box, while Mary, kneeling behind him,
produced her scissors.

"If you don't sit still you'll get the top of your cars cut off!" she
said severely.

But sitting still was difficult under the taunts from ashore.

"Jutht you wait till I git aholt of you," lisped the toothless one,
proving that the language of unregenerate youth is much the same on the
far-off Spirit River as it is on the Bowery.

Jack returned to the raft and unstrapped the banjo case.  "Be a good
boy and I'll sing you a song," he said, presumably to Andy, but looking
at Mary meanwhile.

At the sound of the tuning-up the infant Buddha in long pants gravely
arose stern foremost, and reseated himself at the edge of the barge,
where he could get a better view of the player.

Jack chose another rollicking air, but a new tone had crept into his
deep voice.  He sang softly, for he had no desire to bring others down
the bank to interrupt his further talk with Mary.

  "Oh, the pretty, pretty creature!
  When I next do meet her
  No more like a clown will I face her frown,
  But gallantly will I treat her,
  But gallantly will I treat her,
  Oh, the pretty, pretty creature!"


The infant Buddha condescended to smile, and to bounce once or twice on
his fundament by way of applause.  Andy sat as still as a surprised
chipmunk.  Colin was sorry now that he had cut himself off from the
barge.  As for the boy's big sister, she kept her eyes veiled, and
plied the scissors with slightly languorous motions of the hands.  Even
a merry song may work a deal of sentimental damage under certain
conditions.  And the sun shone, and the bright river moved down.

"Thank you," she said, when he had come to the end.  "We never have
music here."

Jack wondered where she had learned her pretty manners.

The hair-cutting was concluded.  Andy sprang up looking like a little
zebra with alternate dark and light stripes running around his head,
and a narrow bang like a forelock in the middle of his forehead.  Jack
put away the banjo, and Andy, seeing that there was to be no more
music, set off in chase of Colin.  The two of them disappeared over the
bank.  Mary gathered up towels, soap, comb, and scissors preparatory to
following them.

"Don't go yet," said Jack eagerly.

"I must," she said, but lingering.  "There is much to be done before
the steamboat comes."

"She's only expected," said Jack of the knowledge born of experience.
"It'll be a week before she comes."

Mary displayed no great eagerness to be gone.

A bold idea had been making a covert shine in Jack's eyes during the
last minute or two.  It suddenly found expression.  "Cut my hair," he
blurted out.

She started and blushed.  "Oh, I--I couldn't cut a man's hair," she
stammered.

"What's the difference?" demanded Jack with a great parade of
innocence.  "Hair is just hair, isn't it?"

"I couldn't," she repeated naïvely.  "It would confuse me so!"

The thought of her confusion was delicious to him.  He was standing
below her on the raft.  "Look," he said, lowering his head.  "It needs
it.  I'm a sight!"

Since in this position he could not see her face, she allowed her eyes
to dwell for a moment on the tawny silken sheaves that he exhibited.
Such bright hair was wonderful to her.  It seemed to her as if the sun
itself was netted in its folds.

"I--I couldn't," she repeated, but weakly.

He swung about and sat on the edge of the barge.  "Make out I am your
other little brother," he said insinuatingly.  "I can't see you, so
it's all right.  Just one little snip to see how it goes!"

The temptation was too great to be resisted.  She bent over, and the
blades of the scissors met.  In her agitation she cut a wider swath
than she intended and a whole handful of hair fell to the deck.

"Oh!" she cried remorsefully.

"Now you'll have to do the whole thing," said Jack quickly.  "You can't
leave me looking like a half-clipped poodle."

With a guilty look over her shoulder she drew up the box and sat down
behind him.  Gibbie, the youngest of the Cranstons, was a solemn and
interested spectator.  Jack thrilled a little and smiled at the touch
of her trembling fingers in his hair.  At the same time he was not
unaware of the decorative value of his luxuriant thatch, and it
occurred to him he was running a considerable risk of disfigurement at
her hands.

"Not so short as Andy's," he suggested anxiously.

"I will be careful," she said.

The scissors snipped busily, and the rich yellow-brown hair fell all
around the deck.  Mary eyed it covetously.  One shining twist of it
dropped in her lap.  He could not see her.  In a twinkling it was
stuffed inside her belt.

Meanwhile Jack continued to smile with softened eyes.  "Hair-cutting
was never like this," he murmured.  He was tantalized by the
recollection of her voice, and he cast about in his mind for something
to lead her to talk more freely.  "You were not here when I came
through two years ago," he said.

"I was away at school," she said.

"Where?"

"The mission at Caribou Lake."

"Did you like it there?"

He felt the shrug in her finger-tips.  "It is the best there is," she
said quietly.

"It's a shame!" said Jack.  There was a good deal unspoken here.  "A
shame you should be obliged to associate with those savages," he
implied, and she understood.

"Have you ever been outside?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"Would you like to go?"

"Yes, with somebody I liked," she said in her simple way.

"With me?" he asked in the off-hand tone that may be taken any way the
hearer pleases.

Her simplicity was not dullness.  "No," she said quickly.  "You would
tell me funny lies about everything."

"But you would laugh, and you would like it," he said.

She had nothing to say to this.

"Outside they have regular shops for shaving and cutting hair," he went
on.  "Barber-shops they are called."

"I know," she said offended.  "I read."

"I'll bet you didn't know there was a lady barber in Prince George."

"Nice kind of lady!" she said.

The obvious retort slipped thoughtlessly off his tongue.  "I like that!
What are you doing?"

Her eyes filled with tears, and the scissors faltered.  "Well, I
wouldn't do it for--I--I wouldn't do it all the time," she murmured
deeply hurt.

He twisted his head at the imminent risk of impaling an eye on the
scissors.  The tears astonished him.  Everything about her astonished
him.  In no respect did she coincide with his experience of "native"
girls.  He was vain enough for a good-looking young man of twenty-five,
but he did not suspect that to a lonely and imaginative girl his coming
down the river might have had all the effect of the advent of the
yellow-haired prince in a fairy-tale.  Jack was not imaginative.

He reached for her free hand.  "Say, I'm sorry," he said clumsily.  "It
was only a joke!  It's mighty decent of you to do it for me."

She snatched her hand away, but smiled at him briefly and dazzlingly.
She was glad to be hurt if he would let that tone come into his mocking
voice.

"I was just silly," she said shortly.

The hair-cutting went on.

"What do you read?" asked Jack curiously.

"We get newspapers and magazines three times a year by the steamboat,"
she said.  "And I have a few books.  I like 'Lalla Rookh' and 'Marmion'
best."

Jack, who was not acquainted with either, preserved a discreet silence.

"Father has sent out for a set of Shakespeare for me," she went on.  "I
am looking forward to it."

"It's better on the stage," said Jack.  "What fun to take you to the
theatre!"

She made no comment on this.  Presently the scissors gave a concluding
snip.

"Lean over and look at yourself in the water," she commanded.

Obeying, he found to his secret relief that his looks had not suffered
appreciably.  "That's out of sight!" he said heartily, turning to her.
"I say, I'm ever so much obliged to you."

An awkward silence fell between them.  Jack's growing intention was
clearly evident in his eye, but she did not look at him.

"I--I must pay you," he said at last, a little breathlessly.

She understood that very well, and sprang up, the scissors ringing on
the hollow deck.  They were both pale.  She turned to run, but the box
was in her way.  Leaping from the raft to the barge, he caught her in
his arms, and as she strained away he kissed her round firm cheek and
her fragrant neck beneath the ear.  He roughly pressed her averted head
around, and crushed her soft lips under his own.

Then she got an arm free, and he received a short-arm box on the ear
that made his head ring.  She tore herself out of his arms, and faced
him from the other side of the barge, panting and livid with anger.

"How dare you!  How dare you!" she cried.

Jack leaned toward her, breathing no less quickly than she.  "You're
lovely!  You're lovely," he murmured swiftly.  "I never saw anybody
like you before.  I'll camp quarter of a mile down river, out of the
way.  Come down to-night, and I'll sing to you."

"I won't!" she cried.  "I'll never speak to you again!  I hate you!"
She indicated the unmoved infant Buddha with a tragic gesture.  "And
before the baby, too!" she cried.  "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

Jack laughed a little sheepishly. "Well, he's too young to tell," he
said.

"But what will he think of me?" she cried despairingly.  Stooping, she
swept the little god into her arms, and, running over the plank,
disappeared up the bank.

"I'll be waiting for you," Jack softly called after her. She gave no
sign of hearing.

Jack sad down on the edge of the barge again.  He brushed the cut hair
into the water, and watched it float away with an abstract air.  As he
stared ahead of him a slight line appeared between his eyebrows which
may have been due to compunction.  Whatever the uncomfortable thought
was, he presently whistled it away after the manner of youth, and,
drawing his raft up on the stones, set to work to take stock of his
grub.



II

THE COMPANY FROM "OUTSIDE."

The Hudson Bay Company's buildings at Fort Cheever were built, as is
customary, in the form of a hollow square, with one side open to the
river.  The store occupied one side of the square, the warehouse was
opposite, and at the top stood the trader's house in the midst of its
vegetable garden fenced with palings.  The old palisade about the place
had long ago disappeared, and nothing military remained except the
flagpole and an ancient little brass cannon at its foot, blackened with
years of verdigris and dirt.  The humbler store of the "French outfit"
and the two or three native shacks that completed the settlement lay at
a little distance behind the company buildings, and the whole was
cropped down on a wide, flat esplanade of grass between the steep bare
hills and the river.

To-day at the fort every one was going about his business with an eye
cocked downstream.  Every five minutes David Cranston came to the door
of the store for a look, and old Michel Whitebear, hoeing the trader's
garden, rested between every hill of potatoes, to squint his aged eyes
in the same direction.  Usually this state of suspense endured for
days, sometimes weeks, but upon this trip the river-gods were
propitious, and at five o'clock the eagerly listened for whistle was
actually heard.

Every soul in the place gathered at the edge of the bank to witness the
arrival.  At one side, slightly apart, stood the trader and his family.
David Cranston was a lean, up-standing Scotchman, an imposing physical
specimen with hair and beard beginning to grizzle, and a level, grim,
sad gaze.  His wife was a handsome, sullen, dark-browed, half-breed
woman, who, unlike the majority of her sisters, carried her age well.
In his grim sadness and her sullenness was written a domestic tragedy
of long-standing.  After all these years she was still a stranger in
her own house, and an alien to her husband and children.  Their
children were with them, Mary and six boys ranging from Davy, who was
sixteen, down to the infant Buddha.

A small crowd of natives in ragged store clothes, standing and
squatting on the bank, and spilling over on the beach below, filled the
centre of the picture, and beyond them sat Jack Chanty by himself, on a
box that he had carried to the edge of the bank.  Between him and Mary
the bank made in, so that they were fully visible to each other, and
both tinglingly self-conscious.  In Jack this took the form of an
elaborately negligent air.  He whittled a paddle with nice care,
glancing at Mary from under his lashes.  She could not bring herself to
look at him.

While the steamboat was still quarter of a mile downstream, the people
began to sense that there was something more than usual in the wind,
and a great excitement mounted.  We of the outside world, with our
telegrams and newspapers and hourly posts, have forgotten what it is to
be dramatically surprised.  Where can we get a thrill like to that
which animated these people as the magic word was passed around:
"Passengers!"  Presently it could be made out that these were no
ordinary passengers, but a group of well-dressed gentlemen, and
finally, wonder of wonders!  what had never been seen at Fort Cheever
before, a white lady--no, two of them!

Mary saw them first, two ladies, corseted, tailored, and marvellously
hatted like the very pictures in the magazines that she had secretly
disbelieved in.  In another minute she made out that one of them,
leaning on the upper rail, smiling and chatting vivaciously with her
companions, was as young as Mary herself, and as slender and pretty as
a mundane fairy.

Mary glanced swiftly at Jack.  He, too, was looking at the deck of the
steamboat and he had stopped whittling his paddle.  A dreadful pang
transfixed Mary's breast.  Her hands and feet suddenly became enormous
to her, and her body seemed like a coarse and shapeless lump.  She
looked down at her clean, faded print dress; she could have torn it
into ribbons.  She looked at her dark-browed mother with eyes full of a
strange, angry despair.  The elder woman had by this time seen what was
coming, and her lip curled scornfully.  Mary's eyes filled with tears.
She slipped out of the group unseen, and, running back to the house,
cast herself on her bed and wept as she had never wept.

The steamboat was moored alongside the half-submerged barge.  She came
to a stop with the group on the upper deck immediately in front of Jack
and a little below him.  True to the character of indifference he was
fond of assuming, he went on whittling his paddle.  At the same time he
was taking it all in.  The sight of people such as his own people, that
he thought he had put behind him forever, raised a queer confusion of
feelings in him.  As he covertly watched the dashing, expensive,
imperious little beauty and three men hanging obsequiously on her
words, a certain hard brightness showed briefly in his eyes, and his
lips thinned.

It was as if he said: "Aha! my young lady, I know your kind!  None of
you will ever play that game again with me!"

Consequently when her casual glance presently fell on the handsome,
young, rough character (as she would no doubt have called him) it was
met by a glance even more casual.  The young man was clearly more
interested in the paddle he was making than in her.  Her colour
heightened a little and she turned with an added vivacity to her
companions.  After a long time she looked again.  The young man was
still intent upon his paddle.

The first to come off the boat was the young purser, who hurried with
the mail and the manifests to David Cranston.  He was pale under the
weight of the announcement he bore.

"We have his honour the lieutenant-governor and party on board," he
said breathlessly.

Cranston, because he saw that he was expected to be overcome, remained
grimly unconcerned.  "So!" he said coolly.

The youngster stared.  "The lieutenant-governor," he repeated
uncertainly.  "He's landing here to make some explorations in the
mountains.  He joined us without warning at the Crossing.  There was no
way to let you know."

"We'll do the best we can for his lordship," said Cranston with an
ironic curl to his grim lips.  "I will speak to my wife."

To her he said under his breath, grimly but not unkindly, "Get to the
house, my girl."

She flared up with true savage suddenness.  "So, I'm not good enough to
be seen with you," she snarled, taking no pains to lower her voice.
"I'm your lawful wife.  These are my children.  Are you ashamed of my
colour?  You chose me!"

Cranston drew the long breath that calls on patience.  "'Tis not your
colour that puts me to shame, but your manners," he said sternly.  "And
if they're bad," he added, "it's not for the lack of teaching.  Get to
the house!"

She went.

The captain of the steamboat now appeared on the gangplank, ushering an
immaculate little gentleman whose salient features were a Panama hat
above price, a pointed white beard, neat, agile limbs, and a trim
little paunch under a miraculously fitting white waistcoat.  Two other
men followed, one elderly, one young.

Cranston waited for them at the top of the path.

The captain was a little flustered too.  "Mr. Cranston, gentlemen, the
company's trader here," he said.  "His Honour Sir Bryson Trangmar, the
lieutenant-governor of Athabasca," he went on.  "Captain Vassall"--the
younger man bowed; "Mr. Baldwin Ferrie"--the other nodded.

There was the suspicion of a twinkle in Cranston's eye.  Taking off his
hat he extended an enormous hand.  "How do you do, sir," he said
politely.  "Welcome to Fort Cheever."

"Charmed!  Charmed!" bubbled the neat little gentleman.  "Charming
situation you have here.  Charming river!  Charming hills!"

"I regret that I cannot offer you suitable hospitality," Cranston
continued in his great, quiet voice.  "My house is small, as you see,
and very ill-furnished.  There are nine of us.  But the warehouse shall
be emptied before dark and made ready for you.  It is the best building
here."

"Very kind, I'm sure," said Sir Bryson with off-hand
condescension--perhaps he sensed the twinkle, perhaps it was the mere
size of the trader that annoyed him; "but we have brought everything
needful.  We will camp here on the grass between the buildings and the
river.  Captain Vassall, my aide-de-camp, will see to it.  I will talk
to you later Mr.--er?"

"Cranston," murmured the aide-de-camp.

Cranston understood by this that he was dismissed.  He sauntered back
to the store with a peculiar smile on his grim lips.  In the free North
country they have never become habituated to the insolence of office,
and the display of it strikes them as a very humorous thing,
particularly in a little man.

Sir Bryson and the others reconnoitred the grassy esplanade, and chose
a spot for the camp.  It was decided that the party should remain on
the steamboat all night, and go into residence under canvas next day.
They then returned on board for supper, and nothing more was seen of
the strangers for a couple of hours.

At the end of that time Miss Trangmar and her companion, Mrs. Worsley,
arm in arm and hatless, came strolling over the gangplank to enjoy a
walk in the lingering evening.  At this season it does not become dark
at Fort Cheever until eleven.

Jack's raft was drawn up on the beach at the steamboat's bow, and as
the ladies came ashore he was disposing his late purchases at the store
upon it, preparatory to dropping downstream to the spot where he meant
to camp.  In order to climb the bank the two had to pass close behind
him.

At sight of him the girl's eyes brightened, and, with a mischievous
look she said something to her companion.

"Linda!" the older woman remonstrated.

"Everybody speaks to everybody up here," said the girl.  "It was
understood that the conventions were to be left at home."

Thus Jack was presently startled to hear a clear high voice behind him
say: "Are you going to travel on the river with that little thing?"

Hastily straightening his back and turning, he raised his hat.  Her
look took him unawares.  There was nothing of the insolent queenliness
in it now.  She was smiling at him like a fearless, well-bred little
girl.  Nevertheless, he reflected, the sex is not confined to the use
of a single weapon, and he stiffened.

"I came down the river on it this morning," he said politely and
non-committal.  "To-night I'm going just a little way to camp."

She was very like a little girl, he thought, being so small and
slender, and having such large blue eyes, and such a charming,
childlike smile.  Her bright brown hair was rolled back over her ears.
Her lips were very red, and her teeth perfect.  She was wearing a silk
waist cunningly contrived with lace, and fitting in severe, straight
lines, ever so faintly suggesting the curves beneath.  In spite of
himself everything about her struck subtle chords in Jack's memory.  It
was years since he had been so close to a lady.

She was displeased with the manner of his answer.  He had shown no
trace either of the self-consciousness or the eager complaisance she
had expected from a local character.  Indeed, his gaze returned to the
raft as if he were only restrained by politeness from going on with his
preparations.  He reminded her of a popular actor in a Western play
that she had been to see more times than her father knew of.  But the
rich colour in Jack's cheek and neck had the advantage of being under
the skin instead of plastered on top.  Her own cheeks were a thought
pale.

"How do you go back upstream?" she asked with an absent air that was
intended to punish him.

"You travel as you can," said Jack calmly.  "On horseback or afoot."

She pointedly did not wait for the answer, but strayed on up the path
as if he had already passed from her mind.  Yet as she turned at the
top her eyes came back to him as if by accident.  She had a view of a
broad back, and a bent head intent upon the lashings of the raft.  She
bit her lip.  It was a disconcerting young man.

A few minutes later Frank Garrod, the governor's secretary, who until
now had been at work in his cabin upon the correspondence the steamboat
was to take back next day, came over the gangplank in pursuit of the
ladies.  He was a slim and well-favoured young man, of about Jack's
age, but with something odd and uncontrolled about him, a young man of
whom it was customary to say he was "queer," without any one's knowing
exactly what constituted his queerness.  He had black hair and eyes
that made a striking contrast with his extreme pallor.  The eyes were
very bright and restless; all his movements were a little jerky and
uneven.

Hearing more steps behind him, Jack looked around abstractedly without
really seeing what he looked at.  Garrod, however, obtained a fair look
into Jack's face, and the sight of it operated on him with a terrible,
dramatic suddenness.  A doctor would have recognized the symptoms of
what he calls shock.  Garrod's arms dropped limply, his breath failed
him, his eyes were distended with a wild and inhuman fear.  For an
instant he seemed about to collapse on the stones, but he gathered some
rags of self-control about him, and, turning without a sound, went back
over the gangplank, swaying a little, and walking with wide-open,
sightless eyes like a man in his sleep.

Presently Vassall, the amiable young A.D.C., descending the after
stairway, came upon him leaning against the rail on the river-side of
the boat, apparently deathly sick.

"Good heavens, Garrod!  What's the matter?" he cried.

The other man made a pitiable attempt to carry it off lightly.
"Nothing serious," he stammered.  "A sudden turn.  I have them
sometimes.  If you have any whiskey----"

Vassall sprang up the stairway, and presently returned with a flask.
Upon gulping down part of the contents, a little colour returned to
Garrod's face, and he was able to stand straighter.

"All right now," he said in a stronger voice.  "You run along and join
the others.  Please don't say anything about this."

"I can't leave you like this," said Vassall.  "You ought to be in bed."

"I tell you I'm all right," said Garrod in his jerky, irritable way.
"Run along.  There isn't anything you can do."

Vassall went his way with a wondering air; real tragedy is such a
strange thing to be intruding upon our everyday lives.  Garrod, left
alone, stared at the sluggishly flowing water under the ship's counter
with the kind of sick, desirous eyes that so often look over the
parapets of bridges in the cities at night.  But there were too many
people about on the boat; the splash would instantly have betrayed him.

He gathered himself together as with an immense effort, and, climbing
the stairway, went to his stateroom.  There he unlocked his valise, and
drawing out his revolver, a modern hammerless affair, made sure that it
was loaded, and slipped it in his pocket.  He caught sight of his face
in the mirror and shuddered.  "As soon as it's dark," he muttered.

He sat down on his bunk to wait.  By and by he became conscious of a
torturing thirst, and he went out into the main cabin for water.  Jack,
meanwhile, having loaded his craft, had boarded the steamboat to see if
he could beg or steal a newspaper less than two months old, and the two
men came face to face in the saloon.

Garrod made a move to turn back, but it was too late; Jack had
recognized him now.  Seeing the look of amazement in the other's face,
Garrod's hand stole to his hip-pocket, but it was arrested by the sound
of Jack's voice.

"Frank!" he cried, and there was nothing but gladness in the sound.
"Frank Garrod, by all that's holy!"  He sprang forward with
outstretched hands.  "Old Frank!  To think of finding you here!"

Garrod stared in stupid amazement at the smile and the hearty tone.
For a moment he was quite unnerved; his hands and his lips trembled.
"Is it--is it Malcolm Piers?" he stammered.

"Sure thing!" cried Jack, wringing his hand.  "What's the matter with
you?  You look completely knocked up at the sight of me.  I'm no ghost,
man!  What are you doing up here."

"I'm Sir Bryson's secretary," murmured Garrod, feeling for his words
with difficulty.

Jack's delight was as transparent as it was unrestrained.  The saloon
continued to ring with his exclamations.  In the face of it a little
steadiness returned to Garrod, but he could not rid his eyes of their
amazement and incredulity at every fresh display of Jack's gladness.

"You're looking pretty seedy," Jack broke off to say.  "Going the pace,
I expect.  Now that we've got you up here, you'll have to lead a more
godly and regular life, my boy."

"What are you doing up here, Malcolm?" asked Garrod dully.

"Easy with that name around here, old fel'," said Jack carelessly.  "I
left it off long ago.  I'm just Jack Chanty now.  It's the name the
fellows gave me themselves because I sing by the campfires."

"I understand," said Garrod, with a jerk of eagerness.  "Good plan to
drop your own name, knocking around up here."

"I had no reason to be ashamed of it," said Jack quickly.  "But it's
too well known a name in the East.  I didn't want to be explaining
myself all the time.  It was nobody's business, anyway, why I came out
here.  So I let them call me what they liked."

"Of course," said Garrod.

"Knock around," cried Jack.  "That's just what I do!  A little river
work, a little prospecting, a little hunting and trapping, and one hell
of a good time!  It beats me how young fellows of blood and muscle can
stew their lives away in cities when this is open to them!  New country
to explore, and game to bring down, and gold to look for.  The fun of
it, whether you find any or not!  This is freedom, Frank, working with
your own hands for all you get, and beholden to no man!  By Gad!  I'm
glad I found you," he went on enthusiastically.  "What talks we'll have
about people and the places back home!  I never could live there now,
but I'm often sick to hear about it all.  You shall tell me!"

A tremor passed over Garrod's face.  "Sure," he said nervously.  "I
can't stop just this minute, because they're waiting for me up on the
bank.  But I'll see you later."

"To-morrow, then," said Jack easily; but his eyes followed the
disappearing Garrod with a surprised and chilled look.  "What's the
matter with him?" they asked.

Garrod as he hurried ashore, his hands trembling, and his face working
in an ecstasy of relief, murmured over and over to himself.  "He
doesn't know!  He doesn't know!"



III

TALK BY THE FIRE

Jack was sitting by his own fire idly strumming on the banjo.  Behind
him was his canvas "lean-to," open to the fire in front, and with a
mosquito bar hanging within.  All around his little clearing pressed a
thick growth of young poplar, except in front, where the view was open
to the river, moving smoothly down, and presenting a burnished silver
reflection to the evening sky.  The choice of a situation, the proper
fire, and the tidy arrangements all bespoke the experienced campaigner.
Jack took this sort of thing for granted, as men outside ride back and
forth on trolley cars, and snatch hasty meals at lunch counters.

The supper dishes being washed, it was the easeful hour of life in
camp, but Jack was not at ease.  He played a few bars, and put the
banjo down.  He tinkered with the fire, and swore when he only
succeeded in deadening it.  He lit his pipe, and immediately allowed it
to go out again.  A little demon had his limbs twitching on wires.  He
continually looked and listened in the direction of the fort, and
whenever he fancied he heard a sound his heart rose and beat thickly in
his throat.  At one moment he thought: "She'll come," and confidently
smiled; the next, for no reason: "She will not come," and frowned, and
bit his lip.

Finally he did hear a rustle among the trees.  He sprang up with
surprised and delighted eyes, and immediately sat down again, picking
up the banjo with an off-hand air.  Under the circumstances one's pet
affectation of unconcern is difficult to maintain.

It was indeed Mary.  She broke into the clearing, pale and breathless,
and looked at Jack as if she was all ready to turn and fly back again.
Jack smiled and nodded as if this were the most ordinary of visits.
The smile stiffened in his face, for another followed her into the
clearing--Davy, the oldest of her brothers.  For an instant Jack was
nonplussed, but he had laid it down as a rule that in his dealings with
the sex, whatever betide, a man must smile and keep his temper.  So,
swallowing his disappointment as best he could, he greeted Davy as if
he had expected him too.

What Mary had been through during the last few hours may be imagined:
how many times she had sworn she would not go, only to have her desires
open the question all over again.  Perhaps she would not have come if
the maddeningly attractive young lady had not appeared on the scene;
perhaps she would have found an excuse to come anyway.  Be that as it
may, she had brought Davy.  In this she had not Mrs. Grundy's elaborate
code to guide her; it was an idea out of her own head--or an instinct
of her heart, rather.  Watching Jack eagerly and covertly to see how he
took it, she decided that she had done right.  "He will think more of
me," she thought with a breath of relief.

She had done wisely of course.  Jack, after his first disappointment,
was compelled to doff his cap to her.  He had never met a girl of the
country like this.  He bestirred himself to put his visitors at their
ease.

"I will make tea," he said, reaching for the copper pot according to
the ritual of politeness in the North.

"We have just had tea," Mary said.  "Davy will smoke with you."

Mary was now wearing a shawl over the print dress, but instead of
clutching it around her in the clumsy native way, she had crossed it on
her bosom like a fichu, wound it about her waist, and tucked the ends
in.  Jack glanced at her approvingly.

Davy was young for his sixteen years, and as slender as a sapling.  He
had thin, finely drawn features, and eyes that expressed something of
the same quality of wistfulness as his sister's.  At present he was
very ill at ease, but his face showed a certain resoluteness that
engaged Jack's liking.  The boy shyly produced a pipe that was
evidently a recent acquisition, and filled it inexpertly.

Jack's instinct led him to ignore Mary for the present while he made
friends with the boy.  He knew how.  They were presently engaged in a
discussion about prairie chicken, in an off-hand, manly tone.

"Never saw 'em so plenty," said Davy.  "You only have to climb the hill
to bring back as many as you want."

"What gun do you use?" asked Jack.

The boy's eyes gleamed.  "My father has a Lefever gun," he said
proudly.  "He lets me use it."

"So!" said Jack, suitably impressed.  "There are not many in the
country."

"She's a very good gun," said Davy patronizingly.  "I like to take her
apart and clean her," he added boyishly.

"I'd like to go up on the prairie with you while I'm here," said Jack.
"But I have no shotgun.  I'll have to try and put their eyes out with
my twenty-two."

This sort of talk was potent to draw them together.  They puffed away,
ringing all the changes on it.  Mary listened apart as became a mere
woman, and the hint of a dimple showed in either cheek.  When she
raised her eyes they fairly beamed on Jack.

Jack knew that the way to win the hearts of the children of the North
is to tell them tales of the wonderful world outside that they all
dream about.  He led the talk in this direction.

"I suppose you've finished school," he said to Davy, as man to man.
"Do you ever think of taking a trip outside?"

The boy hesitated before replying.  "I think of it all the time," he
said in a low, moved voice.  "I feel bad every time the steamboat goes
back without me.  There is nothing for me here."

"You'll make it some day soon," said Jack heartily.

"I suppose you know Prince George well?" the boy said wistfully.

"Yes," said Jack, "but why stop at Prince George?  That's not much of a
town.  You should see Montreal.  That's where I was raised.  There's a
city for you!  All built of stone.  Magnificent banks and stores and
office buildings ten, twelve, fourteen stories high, and more.  You've
seen a two-story house at the lake; imagine seven of them piled up one
on top of another, with people working on every floor!"

"You're fooling us," said the boy.  His and his sister's eyes were
shining.

"No, I have seen pictures of them in the magazines," put in Mary
quickly.

"There is Notre Dame Street," said Jack dreamily, "and Great St. James,
and St. Catherine's, and St. Lawrence Main; I can see them now!
Imagine miles of big show-windows lighted at night as bright as
sunshine.  Imagine thousands of moons hung right down in the street for
the people to see by, and you have it!"

"How wonderful!" murmured Mary.

"There is an electric light at Fort Ochre," said the boy, "but I have
not seen it working.  They say when the trader claps his hands it
shines, and when he claps them again it goes out."

Mary blushed for her brother's ignorance.  "That's only to fool the
Indians," she said quickly.  "Of course there's some one behind the
counter to turn it off and on."

Jack told them of railway trains and trolley cars; of mills that wove
thousands of yards of cloth in a day, and machines that spit out pairs
of boots all ready to put on.  The old-fashioned fairy-tales are
puerile beside such wonders as these--think of eating your dinner in a
carriage that is being carried over the ground faster than the wild
duck flies!--moreover, he assured them on his honour that it was all
true.

"Tell us about theatres," said Mary.  "The magazines have many stories
about theatres, but they do not explain what they are."

"Well, a theatre's a son-of-a-gun of a big house with a high ceiling
and the floor all full of chairs," said Jack.  "Around the back there
are galleries with more chairs.  In the front there is a platform
called the stage, and in front of the stage hangs a big curtain that is
let down while the people are coming in, so you can't see what is
behind it.  It is all brightly lighted, and there's an orchestra, many
fiddles and other kinds of music playing together in front of the
stage.  When the proper time comes the curtain is pulled up," he
continued, "and you see the stage all arranged like a picture with
beautifully painted scenery.  Then the actors and actresses come out on
the stage and tell a story to each other.  They dance and sing, and
make love, and have a deuce of a time generally.  That's called a play."

"Is it nothing but making love?" asked Davy.  "Don't they have anything
about hunting, or having sport?"

"Sure!" said Jack.  "War and soldiers and shooting, and everything you
can think of."

"Are the actresses all as pretty as they say?" asked Mary diffidently.

"Not too close," said Jack.  "But you see the lights, and the paint and
powder, and the fine clothes show them up pretty fine."

"It gives them a great advantage," she commented.

Mary had other questions to ask about actresses.  Davy was not
especially interested in this subject, and soon as he got an opening
therefor he said, looking sidewise at the leather case by the fire:

"I never heard the banjo played."

Jack instantly produced the instrument, and, tuning it, gave them song
after song.  Brother and sister listened entranced.  Never in their
lives had they met anybody like Jack Chanty.  He was master of an
insinuating tone not usually associated with the blatant banjo.
Without looking at her, he sang love-songs to Mary that shook her
breast.  In her wonder and pleasure she unconsciously let fall the
guard over her eyes, and Jack's heart beat fast at what he read there.

Warned at last by the darkness, Mary sprang up.  "We must go," she said
breathlessly.

Davy, who had come unwillingly, was more unwilling to go.  But the hint
of "father's" anger was sufficient to start him.

Jack detained Mary for an instant at the edge of the clearing.  He
dropped the air of the genial host.  "I shall not be able to sleep
to-night," he said swiftly.

"Nor I," she murmured.  "Th--thinking of the theatre," she added lamely.

"When everybody is asleep," he pleaded, "come outside your house.  I'll
be waiting for you.  I want to talk to you alone."

She made no answer, but raised her eyes for a moment to his, two deep,
deep pools of wistfulness.  "Ah, be good to me!  Be good to me," they
seemed to plead with him.  Then she darted after her brother.

The look sobered Jack, but not for very long.  "She'll come," he
thought exultingly.

Left alone, he worked like a beaver, chopping and carrying wood for his
fire.  Under stress of emotion he turned instinctively to violent
physical exertion for an outlet.  He was more moved than he knew.  In
an hour, being then as dark as it would get, he exchanged the axe for
the banjo, and, slinging it over his back, set forth.

The growth of young poplar stretched between his camp and the esplanade
of grass surrounding the buildings of the fort.  When he came to the
edge of the trees the warehouse was the building nearest to him.
Running across the intervening space, he took up his station in the
shadow of the corner of it, where he could watch the trader's house.  A
path bordered by young cabbages and turnips led from the front door
down to the gate in the palings.  The three visible windows of the
house were dark.  At a little distance behind the house the sledge dogs
of the company were tethered in a long row of kennels, but there was
little danger of their giving an alarm, for they often broke into a
frantic barking and howling for no reason except the intolerable ennui
of their lives in the summer.

There is no moment of the day in lower latitudes that exactly
corresponds to the fairylike night-long summer twilight of the North.
The sunset glow does not fade entirely, but hour by hour moves around
the Northern horizon to the east, where presently it heralds the sun's
return.  It is not dark, and it is not light.  The world is a ghostly
place.  It is most like nights at home when the full moon is shining
behind light clouds, but with this difference, that here it is the
dimness of a great light that embraces the world, instead of the
partial obscurity of a lesser.

Jack waited with his eyes glued to the door of the trader's house.
There was not a breath stirring.  There were no crickets, no katydids,
no tree-toads to make the night companionable; only the hoot of an owl,
and the far-off wail of a coyote to put an edge on the silence.  It was
cold, and for the time being the mosquitoes were discouraged.  The
stars twinkled sedulously like busy things.

Jack waited as a young man waits for a woman at night, with his ears
strained to catch the whisper of her dress, a tremor in his muscles,
and his heart beating thickly in his throat.  The minutes passed
heavily.  Once the dogs raised an infernal clamour, and subsided again.
A score of times he thought he saw her, but it was only a trick of his
desirous eyes.  He became cold to the bones, and his heart sunk.  As a
last resort he played the refrain of the last song he had sung her,
played it so softly none but one who listened would be likely to hear.
The windows of the house were open.

Then suddenly he sensed a figure appearing from behind the house, and
his heart leapt.  He lost it in the shadow of the house.  He waited
breathlessly, then played a note or two.  The figure reappeared,
running toward him, still in the shadow.  It loomed big in the
darkness.  It started across the open space.  Too late Jack saw his
mistake.  He had only time to fling the banjo behind him, before the
man was upon him with a whispered oath.

Jack thought of a rival, and his breast burned.  He defended himself as
best as he could, but his blows went wide in the darkness.  The other
man was bigger than he, and nerved by a terrible, quiet passion.  To
save himself from the other's blows Jack clinched.  The man flung him
off.  Jack heard the sharp impact of a blow he did not feel.  The earth
leapt up, and he drifted away on the swirling current of
unconsciousness.

What happened after that was like the awakening from a vague, bad
dream.  He had first the impression of descending a long and
tempestuous series of rapids on his flimsily hung raft, to which he
clung desperately.  Then the scene changed and he seemed to be floating
in a ghastly void.  He thought he was blind.  He put out his hand to
feel, and his palm came in contact with the cool, moist earth, overlaid
with bits of twig and dead leaves, and sprouts of elastic grass.  The
earth at least was real, and he felt of it gratefully, while the rest
of him still teetered in emptiness.

Then he became conscious of a comfortable emanation, as from a fire;
sight returned, and he saw that there was a fire.  It had a familiar
look; it was the fire he himself had built some hours before.  He felt
himself, and found that he was covered by his own blanket.  "I have had
a nightmare," he thought mistily.  Then a voice broke rudely on his
vague fancies, bringing the shock of complete recollection in its train.

"So, you're coming 'round all right," it said grimly.

At his feet, Jack saw David Cranston sitting on a log.

"I've put the pot on," he continued.  "I'll have a sup of tea for you
in a minute.  I didn't mean to hit you so hard, my lad, but I was mad."

Jack turned his head, and hid it in his arm.  Dizzy, nauseated, and
shamed, he was as near blubbering at that moment as a self-respecting
young man could let himself get in the presence of another man.

"Clean hit, point of the jaw," Cranston went on.  "Nothing broke.
You'll be as right as ever with the tea."

He made it, and forced Jack to drink of the scalding infusion.  In
spite of himself, it revived the young man, but it did not comfort his
spirit any.

"I'm all right now," he muttered, meaning: "You can go!"

"I'll smoke a pipe wi' you," said Cranston imperturbably.  "I want a
bit of a crack wi' you."  Seeing Jack's scowl, he added quickly: "Lord!
I'm not going to preach over you, lying there.  You tried to do me an
injury, a devilish injury, but the mad went out wi' the blow that
stretched ye.  I wish to do you justice.  I mind as how I was once a
young sprig myself, and hung around outside the tepees at night, and
tried to whistle the girls out.  But I never held by such a
tingle-pingle contraption as that," he said scornfully, pushing the
banjo with his foot.  "To my mind it's for niggers and Eyetalians.
'Tis unmanly."

Jack raised his head.  "Did you break it?" he demanded scowling.

"Nay," said Cranston coolly.  "I brought it along wi' you.  It's
property, and I spoil nothing that is not my own."

There was a silence.  Cranston with the greatest deliberation, took out
his pipe and stuck it in his mouth; produced his plug of tobacco,
shaved it nicely, and put it away again; rolled the tobacco thoroughly
between his palms, and pressed it into the bowl with a careful
forefinger.  A glowing ember from the fire completed the operation.
For five minutes he smoked in silence, occasionally glancing at Jack
from under heavy brows.

"Have ye anything to say?" he asked at last.

"No," muttered Jack.

There was another silence.  Cranston sat as if he meant to spend the
night.

"I don't get too many chances to talk to a white man," he finally said
with a kind of gruff diffidence.  "Yon pretty fellows sleeping on the
steamboat, they are not men, but clothespins.  Sir Bryson Trangmar,
Lord love ye! he will be calling me 'my good man' to-morrow.  And him a
grocer once, they say--like myself."  There was a cavernous chuckle
here.

Jack sensed that the grim old trader was actually making friendly
advances, but the young man was to sore, too hopelessly in the wrong,
to respond right away.

Cranston continued to smoke and to gaze at the fire.

"Well, I have something to say," he blurted out at last, in a changed
voice.  "And it's none too easy!"  There was something inexpressibly
moving in the tremor that shook his grim voice as he blundered on.
"You made a mistake, young fellow.  She's too good for this 'whistle
and I'll come to ye, my lad,' business.  If you had any sense you would
have seen it for yourself--my little girl with her wise ways!  But no
offence.  You are young.  I wouldn't bother wi' ye at all, but I feel
that I am responsible.  It was I who gave them a dark-skinned mother.
I handicapped my girl and my boys, and now I have to be their father
and their mother too."

A good deal less than this would have reached Jack's sense of
generosity.  He hid his face again, and hated himself, but pride still
maintained the ascendency.  He could not let the other man see.

"It is that that makes you hold her so lightly," Cranston went on.  "If
she had a white mother, my girl, aye, wi' half her beauty and her
goodness, would have put the fear of God into ye.  Well, the
consequences of my mistake shall not be visited on her head if I can
prevent it.  What does an idle lad like you know of the worth of women?
You measure them by their beauty, which is nothing.  She has a mind
like an opening flower.  She is my companion.  All these years I have
been silenced and dumb, and now I have one to talk to that understands
what a white man feels!

"She is a white woman.  Some of the best blood of Scotland runs in her
veins.  She's a Cranston.  Match her wi' his lordship's daughter there,
the daughter of the grocer.  Match her wi' the whitest lilies of them
all, and my girl will outshine them in beauty, aye, and outwear them in
courage and steadfastness!  And she's worthy to bear sons and daughters
in turn that any man might be proud to father!"

He came to a full stop.  Jack sat up, scowling fiercely, and looking
five years younger by reason of his sheepishness.  What he had to say
came out in jerks.  "It's damn hard to get it out," he stuttered.  "I'm
sorry.  I'm ashamed of myself.  What else can I say?  I swear to you
I'll never lay a finger of disrespect on her.  For heaven's sake go,
and let me be by myself!"

Cranston promptly rose.  "Spoken like a man, my lad," he said
laconically.  "I'll say no more.  Good-night to ye."  He strode away.



IV

THE CONJUROR

Morning breaks, one awakes refreshed and quiescent, and, wondering a
little at the heats and disturbances of the day before, makes a fresh
start.  Mary was not to be seen about the fort, and Jack presently
learned that she and Davy had departed on horseback at daybreak for the
Indian camp at Swan Lake.  He was relieved, for, after what had
happened, the thought of having to meet Mary and adjust himself to a
new footing made him uncomfortable.

Jack's self-love had received a serious blow, and he secretly longed
for something to rehabilitate himself in his own eyes.  At the same
time he was not moved by any animosity toward Cranston, the instrument
of his downfall; on the contrary, though he could not have explained
it, he felt decidedly drawn toward the grim trader, and after a while
he sheepishly entered the store in search of him.  He found Cranston
quite as diffident as himself, quite as anxious to let bygones be
bygones.  There was genuine warmth in his handclasp.

They made common cause in deriding the gubernatorial party.

"Lord love ye!" said Cranston.  "Never was an outfit like to that!
Card-tables, mind ye, and folding chairs, and hanging lamps, and a
son-of-a-gun of a big oil-stove that burns blue blazes!  Fancy
accommodating that to a horse's back!  I've sent out to round up all
the company horses.  They'll need half a regiment to carry that stuff."

"What's the governor's game up here?" asked Jack.

"You've got me," said Cranston.  "Coal lands in the canyon, he says."

"That's pretty thin," said Jack.  "It doesn't need a blooming governor
and his train to look at a a bit of coal.  There's plenty of coal
nearer home."

"There's a piece about it in one of the papers the steamboat brought,"
said Cranston.

He found the place, and exhibited it to Jack, who read a fulsome
account of how his honour Sir Bryson Trangmar had decided to spend the
summer vacation of the legislature in touring the North of the
province, with a view of looking into its natural resources; that the
journey had been hastily determined upon, and was to be of a strictly
non-official character, hence there were to be no ceremonies en route
beyond the civilities extended to any private traveller; that this was
only one more example of the democratic tendencies of our popular
governor, etc.

"Natural resources," quoted Jack.  "That's the ring in the cake!"

"You think the coal they're after has a yellow shine?" suggested
Cranston.

Jack nodded.  "Even a governor may catch that fever," he said.  "By
Gad!" he cried suddenly, "do you remember those two
claim-salters--Beckford and Rowe their names were--who went out after
the ice last May?"

"They stopped here," said Cranston.  "I remember them."

"What if those two----" suggested Jack.

"Good Lord!" cried Cranston, "the governor himself!"

"If it's true," cried Jack, "it's the richest thing that ever happened!
A hundred years from now they'll still be telling the story around the
fires and splitting their sides over it.  It's like Beckford, too; he
was a humourist in his way.  This is too good to miss.  I believe I'll
go back with them."

From discussing Sir Bryson's object they passed to Jack's own work in
the Spirit River Pass.  No better evidence of the progress these two
had made in friendship could be had than Jack's willingness to tell
Cranston of his "strike," the secret that a man guards closer than his
crimes.

"I don't mind telling you that I have three good claims staked out,"
said Jack.  "In case I should be stopped from filing them, I'll leave
you a full description before I go.  I'll leave you my little bag of
dust too, to keep for me."

"You're serious about going back with them, then?" said Cranston.

Jack nodded.  "I ought to go, anyway, to make sure they don't blanket
anything of mine."

In due course Jack produced his little canvas bag, which the trader
sealed, weighed, and receipted for.

"There's another thing I wanted to talk to you about," said Jack
diffidently.  "I can't hold these three claims myself.  I want you to
take one."

"Me?" exclaimed Cranston in great astonishment.

"Yes," stammered Jack, still more embarrassed.  "For--for her, you
know--Mary.  I feel that I owe it to her.  I want her to have it,
anyway.  She needn't know it came from me.  It's a good claim."

Cranston would not hear of it, and they argued hotly.

"You're standing in your own daughter's light," said Jack at last.
"I'm not giving you anything.  It's for her.  You haven't any right to
deprive her of a good thing."

Cranston was silenced by this line; they finally shook hands on it, and
turned with mutual relief to less embarrassing subjects.  Jack had the
comfortable sensation that in a measure he had squared himself with
himself.

"Who's running the governor's camp?" asked Jack.

"They brought up Jean Paul Ascota from the Crossing."

"So!" said Jack, considerably interested.  "The conjuror and medicine
man, eh?  I hear great tales of him from all the tribes.  What is he?"

Cranston exhibited no love for the man under discussion.  "His father
and mother were half-breed Crees," he said.  "He has a little place at
the Crossing where he lives alone--he never married--but most of the
time he is tripping; long hikes from Abittibi to the Skeena, and from
the edge of the farming country clear to Herschel Island in the Arctic,
generally alone.  Too much business, and too mysterious for an Indian,
I say.  He's a strong man in his way, he has a certain power, you
wouldn't overlook him in a crowd; but I doubt if he's up to any good.
He's one of those natives that plays double, you know them, a white man
wi' white men, and a red wi' the reds.  Much too smooth and plausible
for my taste.  Lately he has got religion, and he goes around wi' a
Bible in his pocket, which is plumb ridiculous, knowing what you and I
know about his conjuring practices among the tribes."

"I've heard he's a good tripper," said Jack.

"Oh, none better," said Cranston.  "I'll say that for him; there's no
man knows the whole country like he does, or a better hand in a canoe,
or with horses, or around the camp.  But, look you, after all he's only
an Indian.  Here he's been with these people a week, and already his
head is turned.  They don't know what they're doing, so they defer to
him in everything, and consequently the Indian's head is that swelled
wi' giving orders to white men his feet can hardly keep the ground.
Their camp is at a standstill."

"Hm!" said Jack; "it's a childish outfit, isn't it?  It would be a kind
of charity to take them in hand."

A little later Jack ran into the redoubtable Jean Paul Ascota himself,
whom he immediately recognized from Cranston's description.  As the
trader had intimated, there was something strongly individual and
peculiar in the aspect of the half-breed.  He was a handsome man of
forty-odd years, not above the average in height, but very broad and
strong, and with regular, aquiline features.  Though Cranston had said
he was half-bred, there was no sign of the admixture of any white blood
in his coppery skin, his straight black hair, and his savage,
inscrutable eyes.  He was dressed in a neatly fitting suit of black,
and he wore "outside" shoes instead of the invariable moccasins.  This
ministerial habit was relieved by a fine blue shirt with a rolling
collar and a red tie, and the whole was completed by the usual
expensive felt hat with flaring, stiff brim.  A Testament peeped out of
one side-pocket.

But it was the strange look of his eyes that set the man apart, a
still, rapt look, a shine as from close-hidden fires.  They were
savage, ecstatic, contemptuous eyes.  When he looked at you, you had
the feeling that there was a veil dropped between you, invisible to
you, but engrossed with cabalistic symbols that he was studying while
he appeared to be looking at you.  In all this there was a certain
amount of affectation.  You could not deny the man's force, but there
was something childish too in the egregious vanity which was perfectly
evident.

He was sitting on a box in the midst of the camp disarray, smoking
calmly, the only idle figure in sight.  Tents, poles, and miscellaneous
camp impedimenta were strewn on one side of the trail; on the other the
deck-hands were piling the stores of the party.  Sidney Vassall, with
his inventory, assisted by Baldwin Ferrie, both in a state approaching
distraction, were pawing over the boxes and bundles, searching for
innumerable lost articles, that were lost again as soon as they were
found.

Vassall was not a particularly sympathetic figure to Jack, but the
sight of the white men stewing while the Indian loafed was too much for
his Anglo-Saxon sense of the fitness of things.  His choler promptly
rose, and, drawing Vassall aside, he said:

"Look here, why do you let that beggar impose on you like this?  You'll
never be able to manage him if you knuckle down now."

Vassall was a typical A.D.C. from the provinces, much better fitted to
a waxed floor than the field.  The hero of a hundred drawing-rooms made
rather a pathetic figure in his shapeless, many-pocketed "sporting"
suit.  His much-admired manner of indiscriminate, enthusiastic
amiability seemed to have lost its potency up here.

"What can I do?" he said helplessly.  "He says he can't work himself,
or he won't be able to boss the Indians that are coming."

"Rubbish!" said Jack.  "Everybody has to work on the trail.  I'll put
him to work for you.  Show me how the tents go."

Vassall gratefully explained the arrangement.  There was a square tent
in the centre, with three smaller A-tents opening off.  Jack measured
the ground and drove the stakes.  Then spreading the canvas on the
ground, preparatory to raising it, he called cheerfully:

"Lend a hand here, Jean Paul.  You hold up the poles while I pull the
ropes."

The half-breed looked at him with cool, slow insolence, and dropping
his eyes to his pipe, pressed the tobacco in the bowl with a delicate
finger.  He caught his hands around his knee, and leaned back with the
expression of one enjoying a recondite joke.

Jack's face reddened.  Promptly dropping the canvas, he strode toward
the half-breed, his hands clenching as he went.

"Look here, you damned redskin!" he said, not too loud.  "If you can't
hear a civil request, I've a fist to back it up, understand?  You get
to work, quick, or I'll knock your head off!"

The native deck hands stopped dead to see what would happen.  Out of
the blue sky the thunderbolt of a crisis had fallen.  Jean Paul, the
object of their unbounded fear and respect, they invested with
supernatural powers, and they looked to see the white man annihilated.

The breed slowly raised his eyes again, but this time they could not
quite meet the blazing blue ones.  There was a pregnant pause.  Finally
Jean Paul got up with a shrug of bravado, and followed Jack back to the
tents.  He was beaten without a blow on either side.  A breath of
astonishment escaped the other natives.  Jean Paul heard it, and the
iron entered his soul.  The glance he bent on Jack's back glittered
with the cold malignancy of a poisonous snake.  It was all over in a
few seconds and the course of the events for weeks to come was decided,
a course involving, at the last, madness, murder, and suicide.

On the face of it the work proceeded smartly, and by lunch time the
tents were raised, the furniture and the baggage stowed within, and
Vassall's vexatious inventory checked complete.  His effusive gratitude
made Jack uncomfortable.  Jack cut him short, and nonchalantly returned
to his own camp, where he cooked his dinner and ate it alone.

Afterward, cleaning his gun by the fire, he reviewed the crowded events
of the past twenty-four hours in the ever-delightful, off-hand,
cocksure fashion of youth that the oldsters envy, while they smile at
it.  His glancing thoughts ran something like this:

"To be put to sleep like that!  Damn!  But I couldn't see what I was
doing.  If it hadn't been dark! ... At any rate, nobody knows.  It's
good he didn't black my eye.  Cranston'll never tell.  He's a square
old head all right.  I suppose it was coming to me.  Damn! ... I like
Cranston, though.  He's making up to me now.  He'd like me to marry the
girl.  She'd take me quick enough.  Nice little thing, too.  Fine eyes!
But marriage!  Not on your cartridge-belt!  Not for Jack Chanty!  The
world is too full of sport.  I haven't nearly had my fill! ... The
governor's daughter!  Rather a little strawberry, too.  Professional
angler.  I know 'em.  Got a whole bookful of fancy flies for men.
Casts them prettily one after another till you rise, then plop! into
her basket with the other dead fish.  You'll never get me on your hook,
little sister...  I can play a little myself.  If you let on you don't
care, with that kind, it drives 'em wild....  Shouldn't wonder if she
had old Frank going....  Rum start, meeting him up here.  What a scared
look he gave me.  I wonder! ... He's changed....  Very likely it's
politics, and graft, and getting on in the world.  Doesn't want to
associate too closely with a tough like me, now....  Oh, very well!
These big-bugs can't put me out of face.  I can show them a thing or
two....  I put that Indian down in good shape.  I have the trick of it.
He's a queer one.  They'll have trouble with him later.  Women with
them, too.  Hell of an outfit to come up here, anyway."

Jack's meditations were interrupted by Frank Garrod, who came threading
his way through the poplar saplings.  Jack sprang up with a gladness
only a little less hearty than upon their first meeting the night
before.

"Hello, old fel'!" he cried.  "Glad you looked me up!  We can talk off
here by ourselves."

But it appeared that Frank had come only for the purpose of carrying
Jack back with him.  Sir Bryson had expressed a wish to thank him for
his assistance that morning.  Jack frowned, and promptly declined the
honour, but upon second thought he changed his mind.  There was a plan
growing in his head which necessitated a talk with Sir Bryson.

They made their way back together, Frank making an unhappy attempt to
appear at his ease.  He had something on his mind.  He started to
speak, faltered, and fell silent.  But it troubled him still.  Finally
it came out.

"I say," he said in his jerky way, "as long as you want to keep your
real name quiet, we had better not let on that we are old friends, eh?"

Jack looked at him quickly, all his enthusiasm of friendliness dying
down.

"We can seem to become good friends by degrees," Garrod went on lamely.
"It need only be a matter of a few days."

"Just as you like," said Jack coolly.

"But it's you I'm thinking of."

"You needn't," said Jack.  "I don't care what people call me.  You
needn't be afraid that I'll trouble you with my society."

"You don't understand," Garrod murmured miserably.

However, in merely bringing the matter up he had accomplished his
purpose, for Jack never acted quite the same to him afterward.

A little to one side of the tents they came upon a group of finished
worldliness such as had never before been seen about Fort Cheever.
From afar, the younger Cranston boys stared at it awestruck.  Miss
Trangmar and her companion sat in two of the folding chairs, basking in
the sun, while Vassall and Baldwin Ferrie reclined on the grass at
their feet, the former, his day's work behind him, now clad in
impeccable flannels.  The centre of the picture was naturally the
little beauty, looking in her purple summer dress as desirable, as
fragile, and as expensive as an orchid.  At the sight of her Jack's
nostrils expanded a little in spite of himself.  Lovely ladies who
metamorphosed themselves every day, not to speak of several times a
day, were novel to him.

As the two men made to enter the main tent she called in her sweet,
high voice: "Present our benefactor, Mr. Garrod."

Garrod brought Jack to her.  Garrod was very much confused.
"I----I"--he stammered, looking imploringly at Jack.

"They call me Jack Chanty," Jack said quietly, with his air of "take it
or leave it."

"Miss Trangmar, Mrs. Worsley," Garrod murmured looking relieved.

Jack bowed stiffly.

"We are tremendously obliged," the little lady said, making her eyes
big with gratitude.  "Captain Vassall says he would never have got
through without you."

A murmur of assent went round the circle.  Jack would not out of sheer
obstinacy make the polite and obvious reply.  He looked at the elder
lady.  He liked her looks.  She reminded him of an outspoken cousin of
his boyhood.  She was plain of feature and humorous-looking, very well
dressed, and with an air of high tolerance for human failings.

"In pleasing Miss Trangmar you put us all under heavy obligations,"
said Baldwin Ferrie with a simper.  He was a well-meaning little man.

"By Jove! yes," added Vassall; "when she's overcast we're all in
shadow."

Everybody laughed agreeably.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Linda Trangmar, "one would think I had a fearful
temper, and kept you all in fear of your lives!"

There was a chorus of disclaimers.  Jack felt slightly nauseated.  He
looked away.  The girl stole a wistful glance at his scornful profile,
the plume of fair hair, the cold blue eyes, the resolute mouth.  All of
a sudden she had become conscious of the fulsome atmosphere, too.  She
wondered what secrets the proud youthful mask concealed.  She wondered
if there was a woman for whom the mask was dropped, and if she were
prettier than herself.

Meanwhile Jack felt as if he were acting like a booby, standing there.
He was impelled to say something, anything, to show them he was not
overcome by their assured worldliness.  He addressed himself to Vassall.

"You have had no trouble with the Indian, since?"

"None whatever," Vassall said.  "He's gone off now with some of the
people here."

Garrod took advantage of the next lull to say: "Sir Bryson is waiting
for us."

Jack bowed again, and made a good retreat.

"I told you he was a gentleman," said Linda to Mrs. Worsley.

That lady had been impressed with the same fact, but she said
cautiously, as became a chaperon: "His manner is rather brusque."

"But he has manner," remarked Linda slyly.

"We know nothing about him, my dear."

"That's just it," said Linda.  "Fancy meeting a real mystery in these
matter-of-fact days.  I shall find out his right name."

"They say it's not polite to ask questions about a man's past in this
country," suggested Vassall with a playful air.

"Nor safe," put in Mrs. Worsley.

"Who cares for safety?" cried Linda.  "I came North for adventures, and
I mean to have them!  Isn't he handsome?" she added wickedly.

The two men assented without enthusiasm.

Within the main tent Sir Bryson was seated at a table, looking the very
pink of official propriety.  There were several piles of legal
documents and miscellaneous papers before him, with which he appeared
to be busily occupied.  It was noticeable that his chief concern was to
have the piles arranged with mathematical precision.  He never finished
shaking and patting them straight.  At first he ignored Jack.  Handing
some papers to Garrod, he said:

"These are now ready to be sent, Mr. Garrod.  Please bear in mind my
various instructions concerning them."

Garrod retired to another table.  He proceeded to fold and enclose the
various documents, but from the tense poise of his head it was clear
that he followed all that was said.

Sir Bryson now affected to become aware of Jack's presence with a
little start.  He looked him up and down as one might regard a fine
horse he was called on to admire.  "So this is the young man who was of
so much assistance to us this morning?" he said with a smile of heavy
benignity.

Jack suppressed an inclination to laugh in his face.

"We are very much obliged to you, young sir--very," said Sir Bryson
grandly.

"It was nothing, sir," said Jack, smiling suddenly.  He knew if he
caught Garrod's eye he would burst out laughing.

"I now desire to ask you some questions relative to the big canyon,"
continued Sir Bryson.  "I am told you know it."

"I have just come from there," said Jack.

"Is there a good trail?"

"I came by water.  But I know the trail.  It is well-travelled.  There
are no muskegs, and the crossings are easy."

"You know the canyon well?"

"I have been working above it for three months."

Sir Bryson favoured Jack with a beady glance.  "Um!" he said.  And then
suddenly: "Are you free for the next month or so?"

Garrod raised his eyes with a terrified look.

"That depends," said Jack.

"Are you prepared to consider an offer to guide our party?"

Garrod bit his lips to keep back the protest that sprang to them.

"If it is sufficiently attractive," said Jack coolly.

Sir Bryson opened his eyes.  "Three dollars a day, and everything
found," he said sharply.

Jack smiled, and shook his head.  "That is the ordinary pay of a white
man in this country," he said.  "This is a responsible job.  I'd expect
five at least."

Sir Bryson made a face of horror.  "Out of the question!" he exclaimed.

"I'm not at all anxious for it at any price," said Jack.  "It will be
difficult.  You are very badly provided----"

"We have everything!" cried Sir Bryson.

"Except necessities," said Jack.  "Moreover, men should have been
engaged in advance, good packers, boatmen, axemen.  We can't get good
material on the spur of the moment, and I have no wish to be blamed for
what goes wrong by others' doing."

Sir Bryson puffed out his cheeks.  "You take a good deal on yourself,
young man," he said heatedly.  "Let me ask you a few questions now if
you please.  What is your name?"

"I am known throughout the country as Jack Chanty."

"But your real name."

"I do not care to give it."

A long breath escaped slowly from between Garrod's clenched teeth, and
he wiped his face.

The little governor swelled like a pouter pigeon.  "Tut!" he exclaimed.
"This is preposterous.  Do you think I would entrust myself and my
party to a nameless nobody from nowhere?"

Sir Bryson, pleased with the sound of this phrase, glanced over at
Garrod for approval.

"I'm not after the job, Sir Bryson," said Jack coolly.  "You opened the
matter.  I am known throughout the country.  Ask Cranston."

Garrod, seeing his chief about to weaken, could no longer hold his
peace.  "Wouldn't it be as well to let the matter go over?" he
suggested casually.

Sir Bryson turned on him very much annoyed.  "Mr. Garrod, by your
leave," he said crushingly.  "I was about to make the suggestion
myself.  That will be all just now," he added to Jack.

Jack sauntered away to talk the matter over with Cranston.

Sir Bryson spoke his mind warmly to his secretary concerning the
latter's interference.  Garrod, however, relieved of Jack's presence,
recovered a measure of sang-froid.

"I'm sorry," he said smoothly, "but I couldn't stand by and listen to
the young ruffian browbeat you."

"Browbeat nothing," said the irate little governor.  "Bargaining is
bargaining!  He stands out for as much as he can."

Garrod turned pale.  "You're surely not thinking of engaging him!" he
said.

"There's no one else," said Sir Bryson.

"But he's more insolent than the Indian," said Garrod nervously.  "And
who is he? what is he?  Some nameless fugitive from justice!"

"You overlook the fact that he doesn't care whether I engage him or
not," said Sir Bryson.  "Our assurance lies in that."

"A shallow pretence," cried Garrod.

Sir Bryson turned squarely in his chair.  "You seem to be strangely set
against hiring this fellow," he said curiously.

Garrod was effectually silenced.  With a gesture, he went on with his
work.

Later he sought out Jack again.  They sat on a bench at the edge of the
bank, and Garrod suffered himself to answer some painful questions
first, in order that he might not appear to be too eager to broach the
subject that agitated his mind.

At last he said with an assumed heartiness in which there was something
very painful to see: "I tell you it did me good to hear you giving the
old man what for this afternoon.  He leads me a dog's life!"

"Oh, that was only in the way of a dicker," said Jack carelessly.  "He
expected it.  Any one could see he loves a bargain."

"Don't let yourself in for this one," said Garrod earnestly.  "You'll
repent it if you do.  He'll interfere all the time, and insist on his
own way, then blame you when things go wrong."

"The trouble with you is you're in awe of him because he's the Big
Chief outside," said Jack.  "That doesn't go up here."

"Then you mean to come?" faltered Garrod.

"If he accepts my terms," said Jack.  "I don't mean to let myself go
too cheap."

Garrod's head drooped.  "Well--don't say I didn't warn you," he said in
an odd, flat tone.



V

JACK HEARS ABOUT HIMSELF

Jack was subsequently engaged as chief guide to Sir Bryson's party.
Days of strenuous preparation succeeded.  For one thing the stores of
the expedition had to undergo a rigid weeding-out process; the
oil-stove, the bedsteads, the white flannels, and the parasols, etc.,
were left behind.  There was a shortage of flour and bacon, which the
store at Fort Cheever was in poor shape to supply.  Last winter's grub
was almost exhausted, and this winter's supply had not arrived.  The
Indians, who are the store's only customers, live off the land during
the summer.  Cranston stripped himself of what he had, and sent a
messenger down the river with an urgent order for more to be sent up by
the next boat.

Jack was hampered by a lack of support from his own party.  Vassall and
Baldwin Ferrie were willing enough but incapable.  Garrod blew hot and
cold, and altogether acted in a manner inexplicable to Jack.  Only the
man's obvious suffering prevented the two from coming to an open
quarrel.  Jack dismissed him with a contemptuous shrug.  The little
governor issued and countermanded his orders bewilderingly and any
malcontent was always sure of a hearing from him.  But Jean Paul
Ascota, from whom Jack had most reason to expect mischief-making, gave
him no trouble at all.  This in itself might have warned him of danger,
but he had too many other things to think about.

It cannot be said that Jack bore all his hindrances with exemplary
patience.  However, he had an effective weapon in his unconcern.  When
matters came to a deadlock he laughed, and, retiring to his own little
camp, occupied himself with his banjo until some one came after him
with an olive branch.  They were absolutely dependent on him.

On the eighth day they finally got away.  Mounting his horse, Jack took
up a position on a little mound by the trail, and watched his company
file past.  For himself he had neglected none of the stage-trappings
dear to the artistic sense of a young man.  His horse was the best in
the company and the best accoutred.

He had secured a pair of shaggy bearskin chaps and from his belt hung a
gigantic .44 in a holster.  He wore a dashing broad-brimmed "Stetson,"
and a gay silk handkerchief knotted loosely around his throat.  The
sight of him sitting there, hand on hip, with his scornful air,
affected little Linda Trangmar like a slight stab.  She bit her lip,
called herself a fool, and spurred ahead.

Jean Paul Ascota rode at the head of the procession.  Jack had seen the
wisdom of propitiating him with this empty honour.  The Indian had
likewise seen to it that he obtained a good horse, and he rode like a
careless Centaur.  Passing Jack, his face was as blank as paper, but
out of Jack's range of vision the black eyes narrowed balefully, the
wide nostrils dilated, and the lips were tightly compressed.

Sir Bryson's party followed: the spruce little governor, an incongruous
figure on his sorry cayuse; the two ladies, Garrod, Vassall, and
Baldwin Ferrie.  At the very start Sir Bryson objected to riding at the
tail of Jean Paul's horse, and Jack was obliged to explain to him that
there are certain rules of the trail which even a lieutenant-governor
may not override.  The place at the head belongs to him who can best
follow or make a trail.

The two ladies wore khaki divided skirts that they had been obliged to
contrive for themselves, since side-saddles are unknown in the country.
In regard to Miss Trangmar and Mrs. Worsley, Jack had strongly urged
that they be left at Fort Cheever, and in this matter Garrod had almost
desperately supported him, volunteering to stay behind to look after
them.  His activity booted him nothing with his little mistress.  When
she heard of the suggestion she merely smiled and waited until she got
her father alone.  As a result here they were.

There was one more white member of the expedition of whom some
explanation must be given: this was Thomas Jull, lately cook on the
steamboat, and now transferred to the position of camp cook.  The whole
design of the journey had been threatened with extinction at Fort
Cheever by the discovery that a cook had been forgotten.  There was of
course nothing of that kind to be obtained at the fort.  Jull's cooking
had all been done on stoves, but Jack, promising to initiate him into
the mysteries of campfires, had tempted him to forsake his snug berth.

He was a fat, pale, and puffy creature of indeterminate age, who looked
as if his growth had been forced in a cellar, but he was of a simple,
willing nature, and he had conceived an enormous admiration for Jack,
who was so different from himself.  He had already acquired a nickname
in the country from his habit of carrying his big head as if in
momentary expectation of a blow.  Humpy Jull he was to be henceforth.

Four Indian lads completed the party.  This was barely sufficient to
pack the horses and make camp, but as Jack had explained to Sir Bryson
the best he could get were a poor lot, totally unaccustomed to any
discipline, and a larger number of them would only have invited
trouble.  They must be worked hard, and kept under close subjection to
the whites, he said.  There were twenty laden horses, and five spare
animals.

They climbed the steep high hill behind Fort Cheever and Jack, watching
the train wind up before him, thrilled a little with satisfaction under
his mask of careless hardihood.  Notwithstanding all his preliminary
difficulties, it was a businesslike-looking outfit.  Besides, it is not
given to many young men in their twenties to command a
lieutenant-governor.

This was not really a hill, but the river-bank proper.  From the top of
it the prairie stretched back as far as the eye could reach, green as
an emerald sea at this season, and starred with flowers.  Here and
there in the broad expanse grew coverts of poplar saplings and
wolf-willow, making a parklike effect.  The well-beaten trail mounted
the smooth billows, and dipped into the troughs of the grassy sea like
an endless brown ribbon spreading before them.

The progress of such a party is very slow.  The laden pack-horses
cannot be induced to travel above a slow, slow walk.  Twice a day they
must be unladen and turned out to forage; then caught and carefully
packed again.  On the first day a good deal of confusion attended these
operations.  Little by little Jack brought order out of chaos.

As the pack-train got under way after the first "spell" on the prairie,
Jack, not generally so observant of such things, was struck by the look
of weariness and pain in Garrod's white face.  It was the face of a man
whose nerves have reached the point of snapping.  Jack did not see as
far as that, but: "The old boy's in a bad way," he thought, with a
return of his old kindness.  After all, as youths, these two had been
inseparable.

"I say, wait behind and ride with me," he said to Garrod.  "We've
scarcely had a chance to say anything to each other."

Garrod's start and the wild roll of his black eyes suggested nothing
but terror at the idea, but there was no reasonable excuse he could
offer.  They rode side by side in the grass at some distance behind the
last Indian.

"Do you know," said Jack, "I've never heard a word from home since the
night I cleared out five years ago.  Tell me everything that's
happened."

"That's a large--a large order," stammered Garrod.  "So many little
things.  I forget them.  Nothing important.  I left Montreal myself
soon after you did."

"Why did you never answer my letter?" asked Jack.  "You know I had no
one to write to but you."

"I never got a letter," said Garrod quickly.

"That's funny," said Jack.  "Letters don't often go astray."

"Don't you believe me?" demanded Garrod sharply.

Jack stared.  "Why, sure!" he said.  "What's biting you?  You're in a
rotten state of nerves," he went on.  "Better chuck the life you're
leading, and stay up here for a year or two.  What's the matter with
you?"

Garrod passed the back of his hand across his weary eyes.  "Can't
sleep," he muttered.

"Never heard of a man up here that couldn't do his eight hours a
night," said Jack.  "You'd better stay."

Garrod made no answer.

"You're not still hitting the old pace?" asked Jack.

Garrod shook his head.

"Gad! what a pair of young fools we were!  Trying to cut a dash on
bank-clerks' salaries!  That girl did me a mighty good turn without
meaning it when she chucked me for the millionaire.  What's become of
her, Frank?"

"She married him," Garrod said; "ruined him, divorced him, and married
another millionaire."

Jack laughed carelessly.  "Logical, eh?  And that was what I broke my
young heart over!  Remember the night I said good-bye to you in the
Bonaventure station, and blubbered like a kid?  I said my life was
over, 'member?--and I wasn't twenty-one yet.  You were damn decent to
me, Frank.  You didn't laugh."

Garrod kept his head averted.  His lips were very white.

"We went through quite a lot for a pair of kids," Jack went on.  "We
always stood by each other, though we were such idiots in other
respects.  What we needed was a good birching.  It takes a year or two
of working up here to put an only son straight with himself.  Life is
simple and natural up here; you're bound to see the right of things.
Better stay, and get your health back, old man."

Garrod merely shook his head again.

"My uncle is dead," Jack went on.  "I saw it in a paper."

"Yes," said Garrod.

"And left his pile to a blooming hospital!  That's what I lost for
clearing out, I suppose.  Well, I don't regret it--much.  That is, not
the money.  But I'm sorry the old boy passed out with a grouch against
me.  I thought he would understand.  He had a square head.  I've often
thought there must have been something else.  You were quite a
favourite of his, Frank.  Was there anything else?"

All this time Garrod had not looked at Jack.  At the last question a
wild and impatient look flashed in his sick eyes as if some power of
endurance had snapped within him.  He jerked his head toward the other
man with desperate speech on his lips.  It was never uttered, for at
the same moment an exclamation broke from Jack, and clapping heels to
his horse, he sprang ahead.  One of the packs had slipped, and the
animal that bore it was sitting in the trail like a dog.

After the pack had been readjusted, other things intervened, Garrod
regained his own place in the procession, and Jack for the time being
forgot that his question had not been answered.

Jack's dignity as the commander of the party often sat heavily upon
him, and he was fond of dropping far behind in the trail, where he
could loll in the saddle, and sing and whistle to his heart's ease.
His spirits always rose when he was on the move, and the sun was
shining.

Jack had a great store of old English ballads.  On one such occasion he
was informing high heaven of the merits of "Fair Hebe," when upon
coming around a poplar bluff he was astonished to see Linda Trangmar
standing beside her horse, listening with a smile of pretty malice.
She had a bunch of pink flowers that she had gathered.  Jack sharply
called in the song, and blushed to his ears.

"Don't stop," she said.  "What did Reason tell you about Fair Hebe?"

Jack made believe not to hear.  Our hero hated to be made fun of.
"It's dangerous to be left behind by the outfit," he said stiffly.

"I knew you were coming," she said coolly.  "Besides, I got off to pick
these flowers, and I couldn't get on again without being helped."  She
thrust the flowers in her belt.  "Aren't they lovely?  Like crushed
strawberries.  What are they called?"

"Painter's brush," said Jack laconically.

He lifted her on her horse.  She was very light.  It was difficult to
believe that this pale and pretty little thing was a woman grown.  She
had a directness of speech that was only saved from downright impudence
by her pretty childishness.

"Now we can talk," she said as they started their horses.  "The truth
is, I stayed behind on purpose to talk to you.  I wish to make friends."

Jack, not knowing exactly what to say, said nothing.

She darted an appraising look at him.  "Mr. Vassall says it's dangerous
to ask a man questions about himself up here," she went on.  "But I
want to ask you some questions.  May I?  Do you mind?"

This was accompanied by a dazzling smile.  Jack slowly grew red again.
He hated himself for being put out of countenance by her impudence,
nevertheless it cast him up high and dry.

She took his assent for granted.  "In the first place, about your
name," she chattered; "what am I to call you?  Mr. Chanty would be
ridiculous, and without the Mister it's too familiar."

"You don't have to bother about a handle to my name," he said.  "Call
me Jack, just as you speak to Jean Paul or Charlbogin, or any of the
men about camp."

"That's different," she said.  "I do not call Mr. Garrod, Frank, nor
Captain Vassall, Sidney.  You can make believe what you choose, but I
know you are my kind of person.  If you are a Canadian, I'm sure we
know heaps and heaps of the same people."

Jack began to find himself.  "If you insist on a respectable name call
me Mr. 'Awkins," he said lightly.

"Pshaw!  Is that the best you can invent?" she said.

It was a long time since Jack had played conversational battledore and
shuttlecock.  He found he liked it rather.  "'Awkins is an honorable
name," he said.  "There's Sir 'Awkeye 'Awkins of 'Awkwood 'All, not to
speak of 'Enery 'Awkins and Liza that everybody knows about.  And over
on this side there's Happy Hawkins.  All relatives of mine."

The girl approved him because he played the foolish game without
grinning foolishly, like most men.  Indeed his lip still curled.  "You
do not resemble the 'Awkinses I have known," she said.

It appeared from this that the little lady could flatter men as well as
queen it over them.  Jack was sensible that he was being flattered, and
being human, he found it not unpleasant.  At the same time he was
determined not to satisfy her curiosity.

"Sorry," he said.  "For your sake I wish I would lay claim to
Montmorenci or Featherstonehaugh.  But 'Awkins is my name and 'umble is
my station.  I don't know any of the Vere de Veres, the Cholmondeleys
or the Silligers here in Canada, only the toughs."

She did not laugh.  Abandoning the direct line, she asked: "What do you
do up here regularly?"

"Nothing regularly," he said with a smile.  "A little of everything
irregularly.  I have horses across the mountains, and I make my living
by packing freight to the trading posts, or for surveyors or private
parties, wherever horses are needed.  When I get a little ahead of the
game like everybody else, I do a bit of prospecting.  I have an eye on
one or two things----"

"Gold?" she said with shining eyes.  "Where?"

"That would be telling," said Jack, flicking his pony.

"Do you know anybody in Toronto?" she asked suddenly.

He smiled at her abrupt return to the main issue, and shook his head.

"In Montreal?"

His face changed a little.  After a moment he said slyly: "I met a
fellow across the mountains who was from Montreal."

"A gentleman?"

"More or less."

"What was his name?" she demanded.

"Malcolm Piers."

She looked at him with round eyes.  "How exciting!" she cried.

"Exciting?" said Jack, very much taken aback.

"Why, yes," she said.  "There can't be more than one by that name.  It
must have been Malcolm Piers the absconder."

Her last word had much the effect of a bomb explosion under Jack's
horse.  The animal reared violently, almost falling back on his rider.
Linda was not sufficiently experienced on horseback to see that Jack's
hand had spasmodically given the cruel Western bit a tremendous tug.
The horse plunged and violently shook his head to free himself of the
pain.  When he finally came back to earth, the actions of the horse
seemed sufficient to account for the sudden grimness of Jack's
expression.  His upper lip had disappeared, leaving only a thin, hard
line.

"Goodness!" said Linda nervously.  "These horses are unexpected."

"What did you call him?" asked Jack quietly.

"Absconder," she said innocently.  "Malcolm Piers was the boy who stole
five thousand dollars from the Bank of Canada, and was never heard of
afterward.  He was only twenty."

He looked at her stupidly.  "Five thousand dollars!" he repeated more
than once.  "Why that's ridiculous!"

"Oh, no," she said eagerly.  "Everybody knows the story.  He
disappeared, and so did the money.  I heard all the particulars at the
time, because my room-mate at Havergal was the sister of the girl they
said he did it for.  She wasn't to blame, poor thing.  She proved that
she had sent him about his business before it happened.  She married a
millionaire afterward.  She's had heaps of trouble."

Jack's horse fretted and danced, and no answer was required of him.

"Fancy your meeting him," she said excitingly.  "Do tell me about him.
They said he was terribly good-looking.  Was he?"

"Don't ask me," said Jack gruffly.  "I'm no judge of a man's looks."
He scarcely knew what he was saying.  The terrible word rang in his
head with a clangour as of blows on naked iron.  "Absconder!"

"Do tell me about him," she repeated.  "Criminals are so deadly
interesting!  When they're gentlemen.  I mean.  And he was so young!"

"You said everybody knows what he did," said Jack dully.  "I never
heard of it."

"I meant everybody in our world," she said.  "It never got in the
newspapers of course.  Malcolm Piers's uncle was a director in the
bank, and he made the shortage good.  He died a year or so afterward,
leaving everything to a hospital.  If Malcolm Piers had only waited a
little while he wouldn't have had to steal the money."

"Then he would have been a millionaire, too," said Jack, with a start
of harsh laughter.

She didn't understand the allusion.  She favoured him with a sharp
glance.  "Funny he should have told you his real name."

"Why not?" said Jack abstractedly.  "He didn't consider that he had
done any wrong!"

How ardently Jack wished her away so that he could think it out by
himself.  Little by little it was becoming clear to him, as if revealed
by the baleful light of a flame.  So that was why his uncle had cut him
off?  And Garrod had not answered his question.  Garrod knew all about
it.  Garrod was the only person in the world who knew in advance that
he had been going to clear out, never to return.  Garrod was deep in
debt at the time.  Garrod had access to the bank's vault.  This
explained his strange, wild agitation at the time of their first
meeting, and his actions ever since.

"What's become of him now?" Linda desired to know.  She had to ask
twice.

Jack heard her as from a great distance.  He shrugged.  "You can't keep
track of men up here."

"Did he tell you his story?"

He nodded.  "It was different from yours," he said grimly.

"Tell me."

"It is true that he was infatuated with a certain girl----"

"Yes, Amy----"

"Oh, never mind her name!  It was difficult for him to keep up the pace
she and her friends set, but she led him on.  Finally she made up her
mind that an old man with money was a better gamble than a young one
with prospects only, and she coolly threw him over.  It broke him all
up.  He was fool enough to love her.  Everything he had known up to
that time became hateful to him.  So he lit out.  But he took nothing
with him.  Indeed, he stripped himself of every cent, sold even his
clothes to pay his debts around town before he went.  He came West on
an emigrant car.  Out here he rode for his grub, he sold goods behind a
counter, he even polished glasses behind a bar, until he got his head
above water."

This was a long speech for Jack, and in delivering it he was betrayed
into a dangerous heat.  The girl watched him with a sparkle of
mischievous excitement.

"A likely story," she said, tossing her head.  "I know that old Mr.
McInnes had to put up the money, and that he altered his will."  She
smiled provokingly.  "Besides, it's much more interesting to think that
Malcolm Piers took the money.  Don't rob me of my favourite criminal."

Jack looked at her with his handsome brows drawn close together.  Her
flippancy sounded incredible to him.  He hated her at that moment.

A horseman dropped out of his place in the train ahead and came
trotting back toward them.  It was Garrod.  Seeing him, a deep, ugly
red suffused Jack's neck and face, and a vein on his forehead stood
out.  But he screwed down the clamps of his self-control.  Pride would
not allow him to betray the secrets of his heart to the light-headed
little girl who was angling for them.  They were riding around another
little poplar wood.

"Look!" he said in as near his natural voice as he could contrive.  "In
the shade the painter's brush grows yellow.  Shall I get you some of
those?"

"No, thank you," she said inattentively.  "I like the others best.
Tell me about Malcolm Piers----"

Garrod was now upon them.  His harassed eye showed a new pain.  He
looked at Linda Trangmar with a dog's anxiety, and from her to Jack.
Jack looked abroad over the prairie with his lips pursed up.  His face
was very red.

"Oh, Mr. Garrod, what do you think!" cried the girl.  "This man met
Malcolm Piers across the mountains.  The boy who absconded from the
Bank of Canada, you know.  You used to know him, didn't you?"

There was a pause, dreadful to the two men.

"Oh, the little fool!  The little fool!" thought Jack.  Out of sheer
mercifulness he kept his head averted from Garrod.

"What's the matter?" he heard her say sharply.  "Help him!" she said to
Jack.

This was too much.  Making sure only that Garrod was able to keep his
saddle, Jack muttered something about having to speak to Jean Paul, and
rode away.  His anger was swallowed up a pitying disgust.  His passing
glance into Garrod's face had revealed a depth of despair that it
seemed unfair, shameful, he--the man's enemy--should be allowed to see.



VI

THE PRICE OF SLEEP

They camped for the night on a grassy terrace at the edge of a deep
coulee in the prairie, through which a wasted stream made its way over
a bed of round stones toward the big river.  The only full-sized trees
they had seen all day grew in the bottom of the coulee, which was so
deep that nothing of the branches showed over the edge.

The horses were herded together, and unpacked in a wide circle.  Each
pack and saddle under its own cover was left in its place in the
circle, against loading in the morning.  As fast as unpacked the horses
were turned out to fill themselves with the rich buffalo grass.  The
old mares who had mothered most of the bunch were hobbled and belled to
keep the band together.

Jack, Jean Paul, and the Indian lads saw to the horses.  Jack also
directed Vassall's and Baldwin Ferrie's inexpert efforts with the
tents, and between times he showed Humpy Jull how to make a fire.

Sir Bryson, Linda, and Mrs. Worsley, in three of the folding chairs
which were the object of so much comment in the country, looked on at
all this.

"I feel so useless," said Linda, following Jack's diverse activities,
without appearing to.  "Don't you suppose there is something we could
do, Kate?"

"It all seems like such heavy work, dear," said Mrs. Worsley.

Sir Bryson, folding his hands upon his comfortable centre, beamed
indulgently on the busy scene.  "Nonsense, Linda," he said.  "They are
all paid for their exertions.  You do not concern yourself with
household matters at home."

"This is different," said Linda, a little sulkily.  She was sorry she
had spoken, but Sir Bryson would not let the matter drop so easily.

"How different?" he inquired.

"Oh! up here things seem to fall away from you," said Linda vaguely.
"You get down to rock bottom."

"Your metaphors are mixed, my dear," said Sir Bryson pleasantly.  "I
don't understand you."

"It doesn't matter," she said indifferently.

"Now, for my part, I think this the most agreeable sight in the world,"
Sir Bryson went on.  "All these people working to make us comfortable,
and dinner coming on presently.  It rests me.  Fancy seeing one's
dinner cooked before one's eyes.  I hope Jull has washed his hands.  I
didn't see him do it."

Sir Bryson had no intention of making a joke, but Mrs. Worsley laughed.

"Speaking of dinner," continued Sir Bryson, "I hope there won't be any
awkwardness about our guide."

"Jack Chanty?" said Linda quickly.  "What about him?"

"My dear!  I wish you wouldn't be so free with his vulgar name!  Do you
suppose he will expect to sit down with us?"

"Why not?" said Linda warmly.  "It's the custom of the country.  The
whites eat together, and the Indians.  Can't you see that things are
different up here?  There are no social distinctions."

"Then it is high time we introduced them," said Sir Bryson with the
indulgent smile of one who closes the matter.  "I shall ask Mr. Garrod
to drop him a hint."

"You'll only make yourself ridiculous if you do," said Linda.

Mrs. Worsley spoke but seldom, and then to some purpose.  She said now:
"Do you know, I think the matter will probably adjust itself if we
leave it alone."

And she was right.  Nothing was further from Jack's desires than to sit
down with the party in the big tent.  Apart from other considerations
he knew which side his bread was buttered on, and he chummed with the
cook.  Jack and Humpy slung their little tents side by side behind the
fire, and Jack waited to eat with Humpy after the others were through.

It was Humpy Jull's debut as a waiter, and Sir Bryson was thereby
likewise provided with a new experience.  Humpy was very willing and
good-natured.  He was naturally a little flustered on this occasion,
and with him it took the form of an increased flow of speech.  To his
simplicity, waiting on the table obligated him to play the host.

"Walk in, people," he said genially.  "Sit down anywheres.  You'll have
to excuse me if I don't do things proper.  I ain't had no experience at
the table with ladies.  I never did have no face, anyway.  A child
could put me out."

Sir Bryson became turkey red, and looked at his aide-de-camp.  Vassall
made believe not to see.

"I'll just set everything on the table," Humpy went on innocently, "and
you dip right in for yourselves.  The bannock ain't quite what it ought
to be.  I didn't have the time.  When we get a settled camp I'll show
you something better."

"How far have we made to-day?" Sir Bryson asked pointedly of Vassall to
create a diversion.

Humpy took the answer upon himself.  "Eighteen miles, Governor," he
said.  "We would have stopped at Mooseberry Spring two miles back, but
Jack said there was no firewood thereabout.  So we're late to-night."

"We have everything, thank you," said Sir Bryson icily.  "You needn't
wait."

"I don't mind, Governor," said Humpy heartily.  "Jack and me ain't
going to eat till you are through.  I want to make sure you folks gets
your fill."

"I think the bannock is very good, Mr. Jull," said Linda wickedly.
"The raisins are so nice."

"I had 'em and I thought I might as well put 'em in," said Humpy,
highly pleased.  "Some finds it hard to make good baking-powder
bannock, but it come natural to me.  Jack, he baked it for me."

Sir Bryson ceased eating.  It was Jack who prevented an explosion.
Possibly suspecting what was going on within the tent, he called Humpy.
Linda pricked up her ears at the sound.

Humpy ducked for the door.  "If there's anything you want don't be
afraid to sing out, Governor," he said.

Sir Bryson slowly resumed his normal colour.  He made no reference to
what had happened except to say severely: "Belinda, I'm surprised at
you!"

"Oh! don't be stuffy, father," returned his daughter, inelegantly.

The members of Sir Bryson's suite were accustomed to these little
passages.

When they issued from the tent Jack Chanty and Humpy were to be seen
supping cheek by jowl beside the fire, and Linda said with a flash of
intuition:

"I'll be bound, they're having a better supper than we had!"

She was only guessing, but as a matter of fact, in the case of a party
as large as this, there are bound to be tidbits, such as a
prairie-chicken, a fish or a rabbit, not sufficient to furnish the
general table, and these naturally fall to the share of the cook and
his chum.

Afterward, while the Indians washed the dishes, Jack smoked and Humpy
talked.  Humpy was the kind of innocent braggart that tells tall tales
about nothing at all.  He was grateful to Jack for even the appearance
of listening, and Jack in turn was glad of the prattle that enabled him
to keep his face while he thought his own thoughts.

"Last winter when the steamboat was laid up," said Humpy Jull, "I was
teaming for the company down to Fort Ochre.  Say, it's wild country
around there.  The fellers advised me not to leave my gun behind when I
druv into the bush for poles.  One day I was eatin' my lunch on a log
in the bush when I hear a grizzily bear growl, right behind me.  Yes,
sir, a ding-gasted grizzily.  I didn't see him.  I didn't wait.  I knew
it was a grizzily bear because the fellers say them's the on'y kind
that growls-like.  Say, my skin crawled on me like insec's walkin' on
my bare bones.  I never stop runnin' till I get back to the fort.  The
hosses come in by themselves.  Oh, I let 'em laugh.  I tell you I
wa'n't takin' no chances with a grizzily!"

Meanwhile Jack, for the first time in his life, was obliged to face a
moral crisis.  Other threatening crises hitherto he had managed to
evade with youth's characteristic ingenuity in side-stepping the
disagreeable.  The first time that a young brain is held up in its
happy-go-lucky career, and forced to think, is bound to be a painful
experience.

Up to now Jack had taken his good name for granted.  He had run away
when he felt like it, meaning to go back when he was ready.  Now, when
he found it smirched he realized what an important thing a good name
was.  He raged in his mind, and justly at the man who had destroyed it;
nevertheless a small voice whispered to him that it was partly his own
fault.  For the first time, too, he realized that his name was not his
exclusive property; his father and mother had a share in it, though
they were no longer of the world.  He thought too of the streets of the
city that was so dear to him, now filled with people who believed that
Malcolm Piers was a thief.

The simplest thing was not to think about it at all, but go direct to
Frank Garrod, and "have it out" with him.  But Jack was obliged to
recognize that this was no solution.  Every time he had drawn near to
Frank since the afternoon, Frank had cringed and shown his fangs like a
sick animal, disgusting Jack, and making it impossible for him to speak
to Frank in any connection.  A look in Frank's desperate eyes was
enough to show the futility of an appeal to his better feelings.
"Besides, I couldn't beg him to set me right," Jack thought, his hands
clenching, and the vein on his forehead swelling.

Force then suggested itself as the only recourse, and the natural one
to Jack's direct nature.  This was no good either.  "He's a sick man,"
Jack thought.  "He couldn't stand up to me.  If I struck him----"  A
cold fear touched his heart at the thought that he had no way in the
world of proving himself honest, except by means of a free and
voluntary statement from a man who was obviously breaking, and even now
scarcely sane.

The problem was too difficult for Jack to solve.  He found himself
wishing for an older head to put it to.  More than once his thoughts
turned to the wiser and older lady in Sir Bryson's party, to whom he
had not yet spoken.  "I wish I could make friends with her," he thought.


The second day on the trail was largely a repetition of the first.  The
routine of making and breaking camp proceeded more smoothly, that was
all.  On this day as they rose over and descended the endless shallow
hills of the prairie, the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies rose into
view off to the west.

Jack and Frank Garrod held no communication throughout the day.  Garrod
showed an increased disorder in his dress, and a more furtive manner.
On the trail there were no secretarial duties to perform, and he kept
out of the way of the other white members of the party.  He had always
been considered queer, and his increased queerness passed unnoticed
except by Jack, who held the clue, and by Jean Paul Ascota.  The
half-breed watched Jack, watched Garrod, and drew his own conclusions.

Jean Paul on the face of things was turning out an admirable servant,
capable, industrious, and respectful.  The white men, including Jack,
would have been greatly astonished could they have heard the substance
of his low-voiced talk to the Indian lads around their own fire.

"I held my hand," he said in Cree, "because the time is not come to
strike.  One must suffer much and be patient for the cause.  But I have
not forgotten.  Before I am through with him, Jack shall be kicked out
of camp, and then he shall die.  My medicine works slowly, but it is
very sure.

"Jack is only one white man," he went on.  With an ignorant, easily
swayed, savage audience Jean Paul was superb in his effect of quiet
intensity.  "I will not let him spoil my plans against the race.  The
time is almost ripe now.  I have visited the great tribe of the
Blackfeet in the south.  They are as many as the round stones in the
bars when the big river is low.  I have talked with the head men.  They
are ready.  I have visited the Sarcees, the Stonies, the Bloods, and
the Piegans; all are ready when I give the word.  And are we not ready
in the North, too? the Crees, the Beavers, the Sapis, the Kakisas, and
all the peoples across the mountain.  When Ascota sends out his
messengers a fire shall sweep across the country that will consume
every white man to soft ashes!"

Thus it went night after night.  The four lads listened scowling, a hot
sense of the wrongs of the red race burning in each breast.  But it was
like a fire in the grass, blazing up only to expire.  They fell asleep
and forgot all about it until Jean Paul talked again.  Perhaps they
sensed somehow that Jean Paul talked to them largely for the
satisfaction he got out of his own eloquence.

To-night Jean Paul was watching Garrod.  By and by Garrod wandered away
from the campfires, and Jean Paul followed.  Garrod mooned aimlessly
around the tents with his head sunk on his breast, zigzagging to and
fro in the grass, flinging himself down, only to get up and walk again.
For a long time Jean Paul watched and followed him, crouching in the
grass in the semi-darkness.  Finally Garrod sat down at the edge of the
coulee, and Jean Paul approached him openly.

"Fine night," he said with an off-hand air.

Garrod murmured an indistinguishable reply.

"Me, I lak' to walk in the night the same as you," Jean Paul went on in
a voice indescribably smooth and insinuating.  He sat beside the other
man.  "I lak' sit by one black hole lak' this and look.  It is so deep!
You feel bad?" he added.

"My head," murmured Garrod.  "It gives me no rest."

"Um!" said Jean Paul.  "I cure you.  With my people I what you call
doctor."

"Doctors can't do me any good," Garrod muttered.

"Me, I not the same lak' other doctors," said Jean Paul calmly.
"First, I tell you what's the matter.  Your body not sick; it's your,
what you call, your soul."

Garrod looked at him with a start.

Jean Paul lowered his voice.  "You hate!" he hissed.

"What damn nonsense is this?" said Garrod tremblingly.

"What's the use to make believe?" said Jean Paul with a shrug.  "I
doctor--conjuror they call me.  I know.  You know what I know."

Garrod weakened.  "Know what?" he said.  "How do you know?"

"I know because same way I hate," said Jean Paul softly.

Garrod breathed fast.

"Shall we put our hates together?" murmured Jean Paul.

But there was still life in Garrod's pride of race.  "This is
foolishness," he said contemptuously.  "You're talking wild."

Jean Paul shrugged.  "Ver' good," he said.  "You know to-morrow or some
day.  There is plentee time."

"Keep out of my way," said Garrod.  "I don't want to have anything to
say to you."

The darkness swallowed Jean Paul's smile.  He murmured velvetly: "Me, I
t'ink you lak' ver' moch sleep to-night.  Sleep all night."

Garrod partly broke down.  "Oh, my God!" he murmured, dropping his head
on his knees.

"You got your pipe?" asked Jean Paul.  "Give me, and I fill it."

"What with?" demanded Garrod.

"A little weed I pick," said Jean Paul.  "No hurt anybody."

"Here," said Garrod handing over his pipe with a jerk of bitter
laughter; "if it does for me, so much the better!"

Jean Paul drew a little buckskin bag from an inner pocket, and filled
the pipe with herb leaves that crackled as he pressed them into the
bowl.  Handing it back, he struck a match.  Garrod puffed with an air
of bravado, and a subtle, pungent odour spread around.

"It has a rotten taste," said Garrod.

"You do not smoke that for taste," said Jean Paul.

For several minutes nothing was said.  Garrod nursed the pipe, taking
the smoke with deeper, slower inhalations.

"That's good," he murmured at length.  There was unspeakable relief,
relaxation, ease, in his voice.

Jean Paul watched him narrowly.  Garrod's figure slowly drooped, and
the hand that carried the pipe to his mouth became uncertain.

"You got enough," said Jean Paul suddenly.  "Come along.  You can't
sleep here."

Garrod protested sleepily, but the half-breed jerked him to his feet,
and supporting him under one arm, directed his wavering, spastic
footsteps back to the tents.  Garrod shared a small tent with Vassall
and Baldwin Ferrie.  One end opened to the general tent, the other was
accessible from outdoors.  Jean Paul looked in; it was empty, and the
flap on the inner side was down.  In the big tent they were playing
cards.

Garrod collapsed in a heap.  Jean Paul deftly undressed him, and,
rolling him in his blanket, left him dead to the world.  Before leaving
the tent he carefully knocked the ashes out of the pipe, and dropped it
in the pocket of Garrod's coat.  Immediately afterward Jean Paul in his
neat black habit showed himself in the light of the fire.  Sitting, he
was seen to gravely adjust a pair of rimmed spectacles (his eyes were
like a lynx's!) and apply himself to his daily chapter of the Testament
before turning in.

In the morning Garrod awoke with a splitting head and a bad taste in
his mouth.  However, that seemed a small price to pay for nine hours of
blessed forgetfulness.

There followed another day of prairie travel.  Sir Bryson, when he
wished to communicate with Jack, made Garrod his emissary, so that the
two were obliged to meet and talk.  On the approach of Garrod, Jack
merely sucked in his lip, and stuck closely to the business of the day.
These meetings were dreadful to Garrod.  Only an indication of what he
went through can be given.  In the condition he was in he had to avoid
the sharp-eyed Linda, and he was obliged to stand aside and see her
ride off with Jack out of sight of the rest of the train.  By nightfall
his nerves were in strings again.

On this night after supper Jean Paul took pains to avoid him.  Garrod
was finally obliged to go to the Indians' fire after him.

"Look here, Jean Paul, I want to speak to you," he said sullenly.

Jean Paul, closing the book and taking off the spectacles with great
deliberation, followed Garrod out of earshot of the others.

"I say give me another pipeful of that dope, Jean Paul," Garrod said in
a conciliatory tone.

The half-breed had dropped his smooth air.  "Ha!  You come after it
to-night," he sneered.

"Hang it!  I'll pay you for it," snarled Garrod.

"My medicine not for sale," replied Jean Paul.

"Medicine?" sneered Garrod.  "I'll give you five dollars for the little
bagful."

Jean Paul shook his head.

"Ten!  Twenty, then!"

Jean Paul merely smiled.

A white man could not possibly humble himself any further to a redskin.
Garrod, with a miserable attempt at bravado, shrugged and turned away.
Jean Paul stood looking after him, smiling.  Garrod had not taken five
paces before a fresh realization of the horrors of the night to come
turned his pride to water.  He came swiftly back.

"You said you were a doctor," he said in a breaking voice.  "Good God!
can't you see what it means to me!  I've got to have it!  I've got to
have it!  I can't live through another night without sleep!"

"Las' night you tol' me to kip away from you," drawled Jean Paul.

"Forget it, Jean Paul," begged Garrod.  "I'll give you all the money I
have for it.  A pipeful for God's sake!"

Jean Paul continued to smile, and, turning, went back to the fire, and
took out his Testament.

Garrod _did_ live through the night, and the day that followed, but at
the approach of another night, white man as he was, he delivered
himself over to Jean Paul Ascota, the half-breed, body and soul.



VII

AN EMOTIONAL CRISIS

Toward the end of the fourth day the pack-train wound down a hill to
Fort Geikie, and they saw the great river again, that they had been
following all the way, but at some distance from the bank.  Fort Geikie
was no more than a couple of log shacks maintained during the winters
as an outpost for trading with the Indians.  At present the shacks were
boarded up, and the Indians ranging away to the north and the west.

The prairie came to an abrupt end here, and immediately before them
rose the steep foothills, with the mountains proper looking over their
heads behind.  Around a point off to the left the river issued foaming
from between grim, hewn walls of rock.  Up and down river it was called
significantly, "Hell's Back door."  "Hell's Opening," it followed, was
at the other end of the canyon.  For upward of twenty miles between the
river roared down in unchecked fury, grinding the drift-logs to shreds.

The log shacks stood in the middle of another grassy esplanade, but
here elevated high above the river.  The party camped on the edge of
the steep bank, with a lovely prospect visible from the tent openings.
The river was swifter and much narrower here; far below them lay a thin
island, and beyond, the river stretched away like a broad silver ribbon
among its hills, the whole mellowed and glowing in the late sunshine.

As soon as the horses were turned out Jack made his way to Sir Bryson.

The governor led him into the tent.  "Well?" he said, seating himself,
and carefully matching his finger-tips.

"My instructions were to take you to the big canyon," said Jack.  "Here
we are at the lower end of it.  Do you want to make a permanent camp
here, or to push farther on?"

"Let me see," said Sir Bryson.  Producing a paper from his pocket, he
spread it on the table.  Jack saw that it was a handmade map.  "The
lower end of the canyon," he repeated to himself.  "That will be here,"
and he put his finger on a spot.

Jack's natural impulse was to walk around the table, and look at the
map over Sir Bryson's shoulder.  As he did so, Sir Bryson snatched it
up, and held it against his breast like a child whose toy is threatened
by another child.

Jack, with a reddening face, retired around the table again.  "I beg
your pardon," he said stiffly.  "I didn't know it was private."

Sir Bryson reddened too, and murmured something indistinguishable.

Suddenly it came to Jack that he had seen the map before, and a smile
twitched the corners of his lips.  Since Sir Bryson wished to make a
great secret of it, all right--he, Jack, was not obliged to tell all he
knew.

Sir Bryson did not see the smile.  He was studying the map again.  "How
far is it to the top of the canyon?" he asked.

"Twelve miles," said Jack.  "The trail, as you see, cuts across a bend."

"Is there a good place to camp?"

"Better than here.  First-rate water, grass, and wood."

"Can we cross the river if we wish to?"

"There are any number of boats cached along the shore.  Everybody bound
downstream has to leave his boat there."

"Very well," said Sir Bryson.  "Let's move on to-morrow."

When Jack joined Humpy Jull he said briefly: "I was right.  The old boy
is travelling by Beckford and Rowe's map."

"Did you tell him what they were?" asked Humpy, all agog.

"No," said Jack coolly.  "He wouldn't have thanked me.  He'll find it
out himself in a couple of days."

"The nerve of it," said Humpy, tremendously impressed, "to play the
governor himself for a sucker!  There'll be the deuce to pay when it
all comes out!"

It was impossible for Jack's spirits to remain permanently depressed.
To-night, after a long silence, the banjo and the insinuating baritone
were heard for a while by the fire.  At the sound, Linda, in the big
tent, changed colour.  The ladies still dressed for dinner as far as
they could, and Linda, with her elaborate hair arrangement, the pearls
in her ears, and the rings on her fingers, made an odd urban figure to
be here on the lonely plains.

Her attention wandered, and finally she committed the capital crime of
bridge.

"You've revoked!" cried Sir Bryson aghast, "when the game and the
rubber were ours!"

She was not much cast down by her parent's reproaches.  "Kate, take my
hand," she said cajolingly.  "I've no head for the game to-night."

They changed places, and Linda carried her chair outside the door of
the tent.  The cook-fire was only some twenty paces distant, and she
saw Jack in his favourite attitude, the small of his back supported
against a log, and the banjo across his thighs.  The admiring Humpy
Jull sat on the other and of the log, whittling a stick.

Jack saw her come out, and he felt the call that she sent him.  He drew
in his upper lip a little, and stayed where he was.  He would have been
glad enough to go of his own volition, but the hint of coercion made
him stubborn.  Linda was finally obliged to retire beaten.

Next morning the pack-train climbed the steep hill that barred the way,
traversed the ancient portage around the canyon, and finally camped
beside the river again in a little clearing that has been a
camping-place since before the white men found America.  Looking across
to the left, a smooth wall of rock seemed to bar the river's progress;
an ominous hoarse roar issued from its foot.  All around them rose
moderate mountain heights green to their summits; farther upstream were
the first-class peaks.

After lunch a riding-party to High Rock, down the canyon, was talked
about.  Long afterward Jack remembered that it had first been suggested
by Jean Paul, who volunteered to put the camp in order while they were
away.  All the whites set out except Humpy Jull.  Garrod accompanied
the others.

A change had come over Garrod, a comfortable daze taking the place of
the wild, harassed look in his eyes.  He rode apparently without seeing
or caring where.  He and Jean Paul had ridden together all morning, and
it was observable that the white's man eyes followed all the movements
of the Indian in a mechanical way.  The two were rapidly becoming
inseparable.  No thought of danger to himself from this connection
occurred to Jack.  By this time he had forgotten the scene at Fort
Cheever.

They first visited "Hell's Opening" on foot, having to climb over a
tangle of great trunks cast high on the rocks by the freshets.  One of
the great sights of earth rewarded them.  The mighty river, a thousand
feet wide above, plunged through a cleft in the rock that a child could
have tossed a stone across, and, pent within its close, dark walls,
swept down with a deep, throaty roar.

The beholders remarked upon it according to their several natures.

"Very pretty," said Sir Bryson.  "Let's get on."

"By Jove!" said Sidney Vassall.

"Tertiary rocks of the Cambrian period," said Baldwin Ferrie, or
whatever they were.

Garrod looked with lack-lustre eyes, and said nothing.

Linda looked at Jack.  Seeing that he was genuinely moved by the sight,
familiar as it was to him, she began to enthuse.  It sounded overdone
to Jack, and he turned on his heel.

Mrs. Worsley looked at it with shining eyes, and said nothing.

As they rode on it commenced to rain softly, and Sir Bryson was for
returning.  His daughter opposed him, and all the others rallied to her
support.  Garrod in particular, though he seemed to have no interest by
the way, was dead set against giving up the expedition.  They rode
through a magnificent, untouched forest.  The cool gloom, the slow drip
of the leaves, and the delicious fragrance of the wet greenery created
an effect the impressionable ones in the party were not soon to forget.
Sir Bryson grumbled.

In one of the various rearrangements of the party Jack found that Mrs.
Worsley was riding next behind him.  Swinging around, he talked to her,
hanging sideways over his saddle.

"No one has passed this way this year," he said, glancing at the trail.

"I don't see how you know the path at all," she returned.  "I can see
nothing."

Jack explained the blazes on the trees.  "Beyond the next creek I
blazed a trail myself last year," he said.  "The old trail was too
steep for white men's horses."

"You know the country well."

"I feel as if this bit was my own," he said, with a look around.

Crossing a little stream he pointed out the remains of a sluice and
cradle, and explained their uses to her.  "Joe Casey had his camp on
that little hill two years ago," he said.

"What luck did he have?" she asked.

Jack shook his head.  "But we all know the stuff's somewhere about," he
said.

Kate Worsley was able in turn to tell Jack something about the showy
plants they passed, and a bird or two.  Jack's knowledge of the flora
and fauna was limited strictly to what would serve a man for fuel or
food.

"I believe this life would suit you, too," he said, approving her
strongly.

"I believe it would," she said with a smile, "if there was any place
for such as I."

"You would soon make a place," he said.

Linda, following Mrs. Worsley in the trail, wondered jealously why Jack
never unbent with her like that.

Though they were never out of hearing of its thunderous voice, they had
no sight of the canyon again until they suddenly issued out on the High
Rock, five miles from camp.  A superb view arrested them.  The trail
came out on a flat, overhanging table rock two hundred feet above the
water.  The spot was in the middle of a wide bend in the walls of the
canyon, and they could therefore see both up and down, over the ragged
white torrent in the bottom.

This was their destination.  To dismount they had to cross the rock to
a stretch of grass beyond.  They instinctively lingered first for a
look.  Jack, Mrs. Worsley, Linda, Vassall, Sir Bryson, and Baldwin
Ferrie lined up in that order, taking care to hold their horses in a
safe eight or ten feet back from the naked edge.  Looking down river
afforded the finest prospect; here the steep, brown walls fell back a
little, and in the middle of the torrent rose a tall rock island, like
a tower, crowned with noble spruce trees.

Garrod, who had dropped behind the others, now came out from among the
trees on to the flat rock.  His horse appeared to be fretting.

"Better dismount and lead him across," Jack flung over his shoulder.

If Jack had looked squarely at Garrod the look in the man's eyes would
surely have caused him to draw back himself and dismount.  But he was
intent at the moment in pointing out a seam of coal in the face of the
rock opposite.

None of them could ever tell exactly what happened after that.  Garrod
did not dismount, but attempted to ride across behind the others
through the narrow space between their horses and the thickly growing
trees.  Jack was sitting loose in his saddle with an arm extended.
Suddenly his horse shrank and quivered beneath him.  With a snort of
pain and terror the animal sprang forward, reared on the edge of the
rock, attempted desperately to turn on his hind legs--and, with his
rider, disappeared.

They heard breaking branches below, and a moment later a dull crash on
the rocks far beneath.  No sound escaped from any member of the party.
The awful silhouette of the rearing horse on the edge of nothing had
frozen them into grotesque attitudes of horror, and they looked at the
empty place as if they saw it still.  Finally Vassall swore in a
strange, soft voice, and Sir Bryson began to babble.  Their horses,
infected by the terror of their riders, suddenly turned of one accord,
and shouldered each other off the rock to the grassy terrace at one
side.  Garrod slipped out of his saddle and lay inert.  The horses that
followed jumped over his body.

One by one the others half-rolled, half-slipped out of their saddles.
Linda Trangmar was the first to reach the ground, and it was she who
crawled back over the rock like a lithe little animal, and looked over
the hideous edge.  She saw that several spruce trees grew out obliquely
from a ledge beneath the rock, and that horse and rider had fallen
through the tops of these.  Far below she saw the lump of dead
horseflesh on the rocks.  It had struck, and rolled down a steep
incline to the water's edge.

The three men watched her, trembling and helpless.  Sir Bryson's legs
failed him, and he sat abruptly in the grass.  Kate Worsley crawled
toward Linda on her hands and knees, and attempted to draw her back.

"Come away, come away," she whispered.  "It's too horrible!"

"Let me be!" said Linda sharply.  "I haven't found him yet!"

Suddenly a piercing scream broke from Linda.  Kate, by main force,
snatched her back from the edge of the rock.

"He's safe!" cried Linda.  She clung to Kate, weeping and laughing
together.

They thought it was merely hysteria.  Vassall, extending his body on
the rock, looked over.  He got up again, and shook his head.

High Rock was the highest point of the cliff on the side where they
stood.  The stretch of grass where the horses were now quietly feeding
inclined gently down from the flat table.

"There he is!" screamed Linda, pointing.

Following the direction of her finger, they saw Jack's head and
shoulders rise above the edge of the grass.  Pulling himself up, he
came toward them.  He sat in the grass and wiped his face.  He was
terribly shaken, but he would never confess it.  His pallor he could
not control.  All this had occurred in less than a minute.

The men gathered around him, their questions tumbling out on each other.

"I am not hurt," said Jack, steadying his speech word by word.  "I
slipped out of the saddle as we went over, and I caught a spruce tree.
I had only to climb down the trunk and walk along the ledge to the
grass."

Their questions disconcerted him.  He got up, and coolly throwing
himself down at the edge of the rock, looked over.

"Come back!  Come back!" moaned Linda.

"Poor brute!" Jack said, turning away.

As he came back, Linda, straining away from Kate's encircling arms,
bent imploring eyes on him.  Jack looked at her and stopped.  Instead
of the worldly little coquette he had thought her up to now, he saw a
woman offering him her soul through her eyes.  The sight disturbed and
thrilled him.  It came at a moment of high emotional tension.  He gave
her his eyes back again, and for moments their glances embraced,
careless of the others around.  Had it not been for Kate's tight clasp,
Linda would have cast herself into his arms on the spot.

"What could have startled your horse?" Sir Bryson asked for the dozenth
time, breaking the spell.

Jack shrugged.  "Where's Garrod?" he said suddenly.

Garrod had completely passed out of their minds.  They found him lying
in the grass a little to one side.  He had fainted.  It provided a
distraction to their shaken nerves, and gradually a measure of calmness
returned to them all.  Kate Worsley and Vassall worked over Garrod.
Jack, who felt a strong repugnance to touching him, rode back for water
to the last stream they had crossed.

When Garrod returned to consciousness the shock to his confused
faculties of seeing Jack standing in front of him, and his mingled
remorse and relief, were all very painful to see.  He babbled
explanations, apologies, self-accusations; none of them could make out
what it all amounted to.

"Don't," said Jack turning away.  "I don't blame you.  I should have
made everybody dismount at once.  It was my own fault."

At the time he honestly believed it.

It was a very much sobered procession that wound back to camp.  As they
climbed the side of one of the steep gullies, leading their horses,
Jack and Linda found themselves together.

"I tell you, it gives you a queer start to fall through space," said
Jack with a grim smile.  "I never lived so fast in my life.  Down below
I saw every separate stone that was waiting to smash me.  And in that
one second before I grabbed the tree I remembered everything that had
happened to me since I was a baby."

"Don't talk about it," she murmured, turning away her head.  At the
same time a little spring of gladness welled in her breast, for it was
the first time that he had ever dropped his guard with her.

"Do you care?" he said, off-hand.  "I thought you were the kind that
didn't."

She flashed a look at him.  "Would you have me the same to everybody?"
she said.

He lifted her on her horse in the way that had suggested itself to him
as most natural.  It was not according to the fashionable conventions
of riding, but Linda liked it.  Her hand fell on his round, hard
shoulder under the flannel shirt, and she bore upon it heavier than she
need.  They rode on with beating hearts, avoiding each other's eyes.

It signified only that their combined ages made something less than
fifty, and that each was highly pleasing in the eyes of the other sex.
His scornful air had piqued her from the first, and he had seen her
hard eyes soften for him at a high-pitched moment.  Young people would
be saved a deal of trouble if the romantic idea were not so assiduously
inculcated that these feelings are irrevocable.

In camp after supper they found each other again.

"Too bad about the mosquitoes," said Jack a little sheepishly.

"Why?" she asked, making the big eyes of innocence.

"There's no place we can go."

"Let's sit under your mosquito bar."

Jack gasped a little, and looked at her with sidelong eyes.  True, his
tent had no front to it and the firelight illumined every corner, still
it was a man's abode.  Linda herself conceived a lively picture of the
consternation of Sir Bryson and his suite if they knew, but they were
good for an hour or more at the card-table, and, anyway, this was the
kind of young lady that opposition, even in prospect, drives headlong.

"Humpy Jull will chaperon us," she said demurely.  "You can sing to me."

"All right," he said.

Linda sat in the middle of the tent, with a man on either hand, and the
fire glowing before them.  Jack reclined on the end of his spine as
usual, with the banjo in his lap.  The spirit of at least one of his
hearers was lifted up on the simple airs he sung.  An instinct prompted
him to avoid the obviously sentimental.

  "Exact to appointment I went to the grove
  To meet my fair Phillis and tell tales of love;
  But judge of my anguish, my rage and despair,
  When I found on arrival no Phillis was there."


Between songs Linda, in the immemorial way of women, made conversation
with the man of the two present in which she was not interested.

"Don't you like to look for pictures in the fire, Mr. Jull?"

"Sure, I like to look at pitchers," returned Humpy innocently.  "But
there ain't never no pitchers in camp.  I like the move-'em pitchers
best.  When I was out to the Landing last year I used to go ev'y night."

Jack was partly hidden from Humpy by Linda.  Tempted by the hand that
lay on the ground beside him, he caught it up and pressed it to his
lips.  When he sang again, the same hand, while its owner looked
innocently ahead of her, groped for and found his curly head.  At the
touch of it Jack's voice trembled richly in his throat.

[Illustration: "Tempted by the hand that lay on the ground beside him,
he caught it up and pressed it to his lips"]

When she thought the rubber of rubbers would be nearing its end Linda
made Jack take her back.  Walking across the narrow space their
shoulders pressed warmly together.  They walked very slowly.

"I ought to have told you my name," murmured Jack uncomfortably.

"I know it, Malcolm, dear," she breathed.

"Who told you?" he demanded, greatly astonished.

She twined her fingers inside his.  "I guessed, silly."

"Well, I didn't take the money," he said.

"I don't care if you did," she murmured.

"But I didn't," he said frowning.

"All right," she said, unconvinced and uncaring.

"What are we going to do?" he said.

"Oh, don't begin that," she said swiftly.  "This is to-night, and we're
together.  Isn't that enough?"

They had reached the tents.  Of one accord they turned aside, and in
the shadow of the canvas she came naturally into his arms, and he
kissed her, thrilling deliciously.  The delicate fragrance of her
enraptured his senses.  It was light love, lightly sealed.

"Kiss me again," she murmured on her deepest note.  "Kiss me often, and
don't bother about the future!"



VIII

THE FEMININE EQUATION

Jack turned in filled with a nagging sense of discomfort.  He felt
dimly that he ought to have been happy, but it was very clear that he
was not.  It was all very well for her to say: "Don't bother about the
future," but his stubborn mind was not to be so easily satisfied.  It
was true he had not committed himself in so many words, but with girls
of Linda's kind he supposed a kiss was final.  So the future had to be
considered.  It was now more than ever imperative that his name be
cleared.  She didn't seem to care much whether he were honest or not.
There was the rub.  He scowled, and rolled over to woo sleep on the
other side.

In the end he fell asleep, and dreamed a fantastic dream.  He was King
David, wearing a long gray beard and a white gown.  He was at sea in a
motor-sailboat of extraordinary construction, having a high, ornate
cabin, over which the boom had to be lifted whenever they came about.
There was a beturbaned lascar at the tiller, whom he, King David,
treated with great contumely.  Linda was along, too, also clad in
biblical costume with a silver band around her brow.  She was strangely
meek, and she plucked continually at his sleeve.

A great storm came up; the waves tossed, the boat was knocked about,
and he couldn't get a spark in his engine.  He suspected that the
lascar knew much better than he what to do, but out of sheer, kingly
wilfulness he went contrary to everything the brown man suggested.  Nor
would he heed the insistent plucking at his sleeve.

Then suddenly a mermaid uprose beside the boat, and the sea was
miraculously stilled.  Her long, black, silky hair hung before her
face, and streamed over her deep bosom and her lovely arms.  All would
be well if he could but distinguish her face, he felt.  He leaned
farther and farther over the rail, while the fretful plucking at his
sleeve continued.  He implored the mermaid to push back her hair.

Then he awoke.  Some one was pulling at his sleeve, and a voice was
whispering: "Jack, wake up!"

He sprang to a sitting position, throwing out his arms.  They closed
around a bony little frame encased in a rough coat.  He recoiled.

"It's only me," said the small voice.

The fire had burned down to dull embers, and Jack at first could see
nothing.  "Who are you?" he demanded.

"Davy Cranston."

"Davy Cranston?" repeated Jack.  It was a moment or two before his
dream-muddled brain conceived the identity that went under this name.
"What does this mean?  What do you want?  How did you get here?" he
demanded in great surprise.

"It was Mary said we had to come," the boy replied abashed.

The girl's name had the effect of ringing a bell in Jack's
understanding.  "Mary?  Where is she?" he asked quickly.

"We're camped up on the bench," the boy replied.  "She's waiting for
us.  Come to our camp, and we can talk."

Jack was ready in a moment, and they set off.  The afterglow was under
the north star, and by that Jack knew it was midnight.  The camp was
wrapped in perfect stillness.  When they got clear, and began to climb
the trail, a little fiery eye beckoned them ahead.

In answer to Jack's further questions the boy could only reply that
"Mary had a warning," which only heightened the questioner's wonder and
curiosity.

The camp was pitched on the edge of the low bench above the river-flat,
and they saw her, from a little distance, crouching by the fire that
made a little crimson glory under the branches.  She was listening with
bent head to hear if there was one pair of footsteps approaching or
two.  Behind her the two little A-tents were pitched side by side,
their open doors like mouths yawning in the firelight.

As they came within radius of the light she lifted her face, and Jack
without knowing why he should be, was staggered by the look in her deep
eyes, an indescribable look, suggesting pain proudly borne, and present
gladness.

"You're all right?" she murmured, searching for what she might read in
his face.

"Surely!" said Jack wonderingly.  Further speech failed him.  The sight
of her threw him into a great uneasiness that he was at a loss to
account for.  She was nothing to him, he told himself a little angrily.
But he could not keep his eyes off her.  She had changed.  She looked
as if her spirit had travelled a long way these few days and learned
many difficult lessons on the road.  She had an effect on him as of
something he had never seen before, yet something he had been waiting
for without knowing it.  And this was only Mary Cranston that he
thought he knew!

"There was a danger," she said quietly.  "I did not know if we would be
in time to save--to help you."

"Danger?  Save me?" Jack repeated, looking at her stupidly.  "Good God!
How did you know that?" he presently added.

Mary's agitation broke through her self-contained air.  To hide it she
hastily busied herself picking up the dishes, and packing them in the
grub-box.  Fastening the box with its leather hasp, she carried it into
her tent.  She did not immediately reappear.

"Where have you come from?" Jack demanded of Davy.

"Swan Lake."

"Have you been there ever since you left the fort?"

The boy nodded.  "Tom Moosehorn's three children got the measles," he
explained.  "They are pitching at Swan Lake.  Tom came to the fort to
ask my father for medicine, and when Mary heard that his children were
sick, she said she would go and nurse them, because Tom's wife is a
foolish squaw, and don't know what to do for sickness.  And I went to
take care of Mary."

"Where is Swan Lake?" asked Jack.

"Northwest of the fort, two days' journey," said Davy.  "We were there
a week, and then the kids got well.  On the way back home Mary had a
warning, She said she felt a danger threatening you."  Shyness overcame
the boy here.  "You--you were friendly to us," he stammered.  "So we
wanted to come to you.  We didn't know where you were, but Mary said
the warning came from the south, so we left the trail, and hit straight
across the prairie till we came to the river trail.  There we found
your tracks, and followed them here."

"A warning!" said Jack, amazed.  "What do you mean?"

"I don't know," the boy said simply.  "Mary has them."

Mary returned to the fire with a composed face.  All three of the
youngsters were embarrassed for speech.  How could they find words to
fit the strange feelings that agitated them.

Jack, gazing at Mary's graceful pose, on her knees by the fire,
suddenly exclaimed: "Why, it was you, all the time!"

"What was?" asked Mary.

"The mermaid."

"What's a mermaid?" Davy wanted to know.

Mary answered before Jack could.  "An imaginary creature, half woman,
half fish."

"Why, how did you know?" asked Jack unthinkingly.

"Do you think I know nothing?" she said, with the ghost of a smile.

He had the grace to redden.

They made Jack tell them his dream.  They laughed, and the tension was
relieved.  They were all grateful for something else to talk about.
There was one thing in the dream that Jack left out.

"Who was the woman who kept pulling at your sleeve?" asked Mary.

Jack lied.  "Nobody I know," he said lightly.  "One of King David's
five hundred wives, I suppose."

Davy laughed, but Mary looked affronted.  "You're confusing David with
Solomon," she said coldly.

Jack looked at her uneasily.  This was she whom he had dismissed merely
as one of the girls of the country!

"And he sat up and hugged me as if I was a girl," Davy put in with
relish.

Jack and Mary looked away from each other and blushed, but for
different reasons.

They could not long keep away from the subject that filled their minds.
"Blest if I can understand it," murmured Jack.

They knew to what he referred.  "Nobody can," said Mary.

"You must have had this warning several days ago."

"Three days," said Mary.

"Nothing happened to me three days ago.  Nothing until to-day----"

"Ah!" she said sharply.

"That was an accident," said Jack.  "My horse shied on High Rock, and
jumped over the ledge.  I caught on a tree."

Mary's eyes brooded over him, and her hands went to still her breast.
"Was there any one behind you?" she asked quickly.

"Yes, Garrod."

"Perhaps it was no accident."

Jack stared at the fire.  "Perhaps not," he said slowly.  After a while
he added.  "Still I don't understand."

"Many of the people have such warnings," Mary said quietly.

Jack frowned.  "You are not a savage," he said.

"We are one fourth Indian," Mary said with a kind of relentless pride.
"It is silly to make-believe that we're not."

Jack went on to tell them in detail what had happened during the day,
suppressing, however, all that related to Linda.  One thing led to
another; he could hardly have explained how it came about, but Mary's
eyes drew out what he had believed was locked deep in his heart, the
story of his early days, and of Garrod's treachery that he had just
found out.  Sister and brother had little to say to the story, but
their shining eyes conveyed unquestioning loyal assurance to him.  It
needed no words to tell him they knew he was no thief.  Jack
experienced a sense of relief such as he had not felt since the moment
of his making the ugly discovery.  When he considered the net of
circumstance that bound him round sometimes he was almost ready himself
to doubt his honesty.

"I knew there was something behind," Mary murmured.  "It was the day
you found him out that I had my warning.  I'm glad we came.  Maybe we
can help you"--she looked at him questioningly--"if you will let us
stay."

"As long as you like," said Jack.  "It's my idea we'll all be turning
back in a couple of days.  In the meantime Davy can help with the
horses.  We're short-handed."

"Couldn't we camp here by ourselves?" asked Mary quickly.

Jack shook his head.  "It would look queer," he said.  "You had better
ride into our camp in the morning as if you'd just come."

Mary presently sent him home.  The fire had paled, and the trees began
to rise out of the graves of darkness at the touch of the ghostly wand
of dawn.  The youngsters' pale and slightly haggard faces had a strange
look to each other like things that had been left over from yesterday
by mistake, and were hopelessly out of place this morning.

Jack lingered awkwardly.  "Look here," he blurted out, "I haven't
thanked you for coming.  I don't know how.  But you know what I feel!"

Sister and brother looked exquisitely uncomfortable, and absurdly
alike.  "There's nothing to be thanked for," murmured Mary.  "Of course
we came!  That's what I had the warning for."

They shook hands.  Mary's hand lay for an instant in Jack's passive and
cold.  But later she pillowed her cheek on that hand because he had
touched it.


The permanent camp, that Sir Bryson had graciously permitted to be
called Camp Trangmar, had been laid out with considerably more care
than their nightly stopping-places.  The main tent, with its three
little wings, was erected at the top of the clearing, facing the river.
A canvas had been stretched in front to make a veranda.  On the
right-hand side of the open square was Humpy's cooking outfit under
another awning, with Humpy's tent and Jack's lean-to beyond.  Across
the square was Jean Paul's little tent and the ragged brown canvas that
sheltered the Indians.  The camp was ditched and drained according to
the best usage, and around the whole was stretched a rope on poplar
posts, to keep the straying horses from nosing around the tents in
their perpetual search for salt.

After breakfast next morning Sir Bryson issued a command for Jack to
wait upon him.  As Jack approached, Linda and Mrs. Worsley were sitting
under the awning, each busy with a bit of embroidery.  Jack, who had
been for a swim in the river, looked as fresh as a daisy.  As he passed
inside Linda smiled at him with a frankness that disconcerted him
greatly.  If she was going to give the whole thing away to everybody
like this!  However, Mrs. Worsley gave no sign of having seen anything
out of the ordinary.

It transpired that Sir Bryson wished to make a little exploration up
the river.  He inquired about a boat, and Jack offered him his own
dugout that he had cached at this point on his way down the river.  Sir
Bryson was very much concerned about the speed of the current, but Jack
assured him the Indians were accustomed to making way against it.

Sir Bryson cast a good deal of mystery about his little trip, and made
it clear that he had no intention of taking Jack with him.  Jack, who
had a shrewd idea of his object, had no desire to be mixed up in it.
He swallowed a grin and maintained a respectful air.  He had discovered
that there was more fun to be had in playing up to the little
governor's grand airs than in flouting him.  Afterward he would enact
the scene by the fire, sure of an appreciative audience in Humpy Jull.

It was arranged that Sir Bryson should start in an hour, and that his
party should take a lunch against an all-day trip.

As Jack came out Linda rose to meet him.  "We will have the whole day
to ourselves," she said softly.

Jack was nonplussed.  Somehow, such a frank avowal dampened his own
ardour.  He glanced at Mrs. Worsley to see if she had heard, and his
face stiffened.  At this moment a diversion was created by the sound of
horses' hoofs on the trail.

They looked around the tent to see Mary and Davy trotting down the
little rise that ended at the camp, followed by two pack-ponies.  Linda
had not seen Mary before.  Her eyes widened at the sight of another
girl, and a very pretty one, riding into camp, and quickly sought
Jack's face.  A subtle and unbeautiful change passed over her at what
she fancied she read there.

Sir Bryson, attracted by the sound, came out of the tent.  "Who are
they?" he asked Jack.

"The son and the daughter of the trader at Fort Cheever."

"Very pretty girl," said Sir Bryson condescendingly.  "Pray bring them
to me that I may make them welcome," he said as he went back.

Jack vaulted over the fence, and the three youngsters shook hands again
with beaming smiles.  Jack forgot that in order to keep up their little
fiction he should have appeared more surprised to see them.  Linda
looked on with darkening eyes.  Jack led the horses around the square
to the place next his own tent, where they were unpacked, unsaddled,
and turned out.  He then brought Mary and Davy back.  Linda was not in
evidence.

Within the tent Sir Bryson welcomed them as graciously as a king.
"Very glad to see you," he said.  "Which way are you travelling?"

Davy's adolescence was painfully embarrassed in the presence of the
great man, but as the man of his party he blushed and faced him out.
"We are going home," he said.  "My sister has been nursing some sick
Indians at Swan Lake."

Sir Bryson did not know of course that Camp Trangmar was not on the
direct road between Swan Lake and Fort Cheever.  "Ah!" he said, "most
worthy of her, I'm sure.  I trust you will remain with us a few days
before you go on."

"If I can help around," said Davy.  "Jack Chanty said you were
short-handed."

"Excellent!  Excellent!" said Sir Bryson.

Jack made a move toward the door, and Davy and Mary promptly followed.
Sir Bryson fussed among his papers with an annoyed expression.  As much
as anything pertaining to his official position he enjoyed dismissing
people.  Consequently when they left before they were sent he felt a
little aggrieved.

Outside, Sidney Vassall and Baldwin Ferrie were now with the two
ladies.  Linda was reclining languorously in the folding chair, with
her little feet crossed in front of her.  She was pale and full of fine
lady airs.  Any one but Jack would have known that there was trouble
brewing.

"Introduce your friends," she said to Jack in a clear, high voice.

Jack was only conscious of an extreme discomfort.  He was oppressed by
a sense of guilt that he resented.  The air seemed full of electricity
ready to discharge on some one's head.  He looked very stiff and boyish
as he spoke the names all round: "Miss Cranston, Davy Cranston; Miss
Trangmar, Mrs. Worsley, Captain Vassall, Mr. Ferrie!"

They all smiled on the embarrassed newcomers, and made them welcome.
In particular Linda's smile was overpoweringly sweet.  Without changing
her position she extended a languid little hand to Mary.

"So nice of you to come and see us," she drawled.  "I hope you will
remain with us until we go back."

To Jack this sounded all right.  He felt relieved.  Even yet he did not
see what was coming.  Mary's perceptions were keener.  With a slightly
heightened colour she stepped forward, took the hand with dignity, and
let it fall.

"Thank you," she said quietly.  "Not more than a day or two."

"But we need you," Linda insisted, "both of you.  Your brother can help
the men who are nearly worked to death, and if you would only help Mrs.
Worsley and me with our things, you know, and other ways----"

Mrs. Worsley looked quickly at Linda, astonished and indignant, but
Linda affected not to see.  As Jack realized the sense of what she was
saying, a slow, dark red crept under his skin, and his face became as
hard as stone.

Mary took it smilingly.  Her chin went up a little, and she drew a slow
breath before she answered.  "I'm sorry," she said quietly, "but I have
no experience with ladies' things."

There was a faint ring of irony in the last two words, and excepting
Jack, who was too angry to see anything, it was evident to the others
that Mary had returned just a little better than she got.  Linda
evidently felt so, for naked malice peeped out of her next speech.

"We would be so glad to teach you, wouldn't we, Kate?  And it would be
so useful for you to know!"

Mrs. Worsley bent over her work, blushing for her young friend.

Mary continued to look at Linda steadily, and it was finally Linda's
eyes that were obliged to stray away.  "Thank you," said Mary, "but we
will be expected at home in a few days."

"Oh, sorry," said Linda casually.  She nodded at Mary, and smiled the
inattentive smile that women mean to stab with.  "Kate, do show me this
next stitch," she said, affecting a sudden absorption in her work.

Mrs. Worsley ignored the question.  Her face was now almost as red as
Jack's.  What passed between these two ladies when they presently found
themselves alone may be guessed.

Jack, Mary, and Davy crossed the little square.  There was a commotion
going on inside Jack that he could not in the least analyze.  He was
furiously angry, but his sidelong glances at Mary dashed his anger, and
made him fall to wondering if he had rightly understood what had
happened.  For Mary, instead of being humiliated and indignant as one
might suppose, was actually smiling.  She carried her head high, and
the shine of triumph was in her eye.  What was a man to make of this?
Jack could only long in vain for a head to knock about.

The explanation was simple.  "How silly I was to be so afraid of her,"
Mary was thinking.  "To give herself away like that!  She's a poor
thing!  I'm a better woman than she, and she knows it now.  She can be
jealous of me after this."  Behind these thoughts another peeped like
an elf through a leafy screen, but since the maiden herself refused to
see it in its hiding-place it is not fair to discover it to the world.

Mary refused to refer in any way to what had happened, and Jack was
therefore tongue-tied.  All he could do was to show his sympathy in the
ardour of his muscular efforts on her behalf.  He put up their two
tents, and stowed their baggage; he cut a wholly unnecessary amount of
balsam for Mary's bed, and chopped and carried wood for their fire,
until she stopped him.  All this was observable to Linda watching from
afar under her lashes, and in the meantime Kate was not sparing her.

Jack forgot all about Sir Bryson's order until a peremptory message
recalled it.  After he had embarked the governor, Baldwin Ferrie, and
three Indians in the dugout, he swung an axe over his shoulder, and set
off up the trail to chop down a tree or two, and "think things out," as
he would have said.  The operations of the human consciousness that go
under the name of thinking differ widely in the individual.  Meanwhile
it should be mentioned that Jean Paul and Garrod had started on
horseback with the object of finding a camp of Sapi Indians that was
said to be not far away.  They were gone all day.  Jack hardly thought
of them.

In a grove of pines beside the trail Jack swung his axe, and the blows
rang.  His design was to make a flagstaff for the centre of the camp.
There was an immense satisfaction in stretching his muscles and
planting the blade true.  The blood coursed through his veins, and he
tingled to his finger-tips.  He felt so much better that he thought he
had solved his problems.  This was what Jack called "thinking things
out."

He was engaged in chopping the limbs from a trunk with the stern air of
concentration that was characteristic of him, when something caused him
to look up, and he saw Linda standing near with an appealing aspect.
He frowned and went on chopping.  Linda sat down on a stump and looked
away with an unsuccessful attempt at unconcern.  How astonished Vassall
or Baldwin Ferrie would have been could they have seen their imperious
little mistress then.

There was a long silence except for the light strokes of Jack's axe as
he worked his way up the stem.  Jack enjoyed a great advantage because
he was busy.  It was Linda who was finally obliged to speak.

"Haven't you anything to say?" she murmured.

"No," said Jack promptly.  The light branches did not offer him a
sufficient outlet for his pent-up feelings, and he wantonly attacked
the bole of the biggest tree in sight.  Linda watched the swing of his
lithe body with a sort of stricken look.  There was another silence
between them.

"Jack, I'm sorry," she said at last in a small voice.

Jack was not so easily to be appeased.  "You shouldn't come away from
camp alone with me like this," he said.  "Followed me," was what he had
in mind, but he spared her pride that.

"I don't care what anybody thinks," she said quickly.

"I do," said Jack.

"Afraid of being compromised?" she asked with a little sneer.

"That's a silly thing to say," he answered coolly.  "You know what I
mean.  I don't intend to give your father and the other men a chance to
throw 'thief' in my teeth.  When I've cleared myself I'll walk with you
openly."

"I was sorry," she said like a child.  "I couldn't rest until I had
told you."

Jack was silent and uncomfortable.  Whenever she sounded the pathetic
and childlike note, the male in him must needs feel the pull of
compassion and he resented it.

"Don't you care for me any more?" she murmured.

Jack frowned, and aimed a tremendous blow at the tree.

Real terror crept into her voice.  "Jack," she faltered.

"I don't take anything back," he said stubbornly.  "I'll tell you when
I feel like telling you, but I won't have it dragged out of me."

He returned to his tree, and she prodded the pine needles with the toe
of her boot.  After a while she returned to the charge.

More like a child than ever, she said: "Jack, I acted like a little
beast.  But I said I was sorry."

"That's all very well," said Jack, "but you can't expect to make me so
mad I can't see straight, and then have it all right again just for the
asking."

"You're ungenerous," she said, pouting.

"I don't know what you mean," he said obstinately.  "I have to be what
I am."

There was another silence.  They were just where they had started.
Indeed no progress was possible without an explosion and a general
flare-up.  It was Jack who brought it on by saying:

"It's not to me you should be saying you're sorry."

Linda sprang up pale and trembling, and the flood gates of invective
were opened.  It is no advantage to a jealous woman to be a governor's
daughter.  Linda in a passion lacked dignity.  Her small face worked
like a child's preparing to bawl, and her gestures were febrile.  What
is said at such moments is seldom worth repeating.  Jack did not hear
the words; it was her tone that stung him beyond endurance.  But at
last a sentence reached his understanding.

"How dare you bring her here, and install her under my eyes?"

"Bring her here?  What do you mean?" he demanded in a voice that forced
her to attend.

"Oh, you know very well what I mean!" she cried.  "You knew she was
coming this morning.  I saw it in your face.  You didn't even pretend
that you were surprised.  And you took her part against me all the way
through."

There was enough truth in this to make Jack furiously angry in turn.
His voice silenced hers.

"I did take her part!" he cried.  "And I'd do it again.  What have you
got to complain of?  Just like a girl to fly into a rage and blame
everybody all around, just to cover her own tracks!  What did you mean
by offering to engage her as your maid?  You don't want a maid.  You
only did it to insult her!  I was ashamed of you.  Everybody was
ashamed of you.  If you're suffering for it now, it's no more than you
ought."

Under all this and more she sat with an odd, still look from which one
would almost have said she enjoyed having him abuse her.

And so they both emptied themselves of angry speech, and the inevitable
moment of reaction followed.  Both Linda and Jack began to feel that
they had said too much.

"I'm sorry," she said humbly.  "It's true, I was only jealous of her,
because you seemed so glad to see her."

"If it's any good to you to hear it," said Jack sheepishly, "she's
nothing to me--that way."  Even as he said it his heart accused him.

"Besides," said Linda irrelevantly, "she's mad about you."

"That's nonsense!" said Jack.  Nevertheless he quickly turned to pick
up his axe in order to hide the telltale red that crept into his face.

"It's all right now, isn't it?" said Linda coaxingly.  "Come and kiss
me."

He obediently went, and, stooping, kissed her upturned lips.  But for
both of them the delicious sweetness had flown.  Jack could not forget
how ugly her face had looked in a passion, and Linda remembered how he
had worked for Mary.

"You didn't do it like that last night," she said, pouting.

"I felt differently last night," said Jack doggedly.  "How can I get up
any enthusiasm when you make me do it?"

Her breast began to heave again.  "You said you had forgiven me," she
said.

"Oh, don't let's begin that again," said Jack with a dismayed look.  "I
haven't anything to forgive you.  If you want to make things really all
right, you can do it in a minute!"

She sprang up again.  "I won't!  I won't!" she cried passionately.
"It's her coming that has made the difference since last night!  How
dare you suggest that I apologize to her!  I'd die rather!  I hate you!
Don't ever speak to me again!"

Of a sudden she was gone like a little tempest among the trees.  Jack
sat down on the trunk he had cut, and rested his chin in his palms,
terribly troubled in his mind.  This sort of thing was new to him, and
it seemed of much greater moment than it was.

Pretty soon she came flying back again, and casting herself in his
arms, clung to him like a baby, weeping and whimpering.

"Take care of me, Jack!  I don't know what I'm doing or saying!"

His arms closed about her, and he patted her shoulder with an absurd,
sheepish, paternal air of concern.  What else could he do?  "There,
it's all right!" he said clumsily.  "Don't distress yourself.  It'll be
all right!"

"And you won't make me apologize to her?" she implored.

"No," he said with a shrug.  "I don't suppose it would do any good if
you did."

Linda lay perfectly still.  A sense of sweet satisfaction stole into
her breast.  It had been a hard fight, but she _had_ made him do what
she wanted.

"Hanged if I know what's going to become of us," thought Jack gloomily.



IX

YELLOW METAL

The fiction that coal was the objective of Sir Bryson Trangmar's
expedition was scarcely maintained; indeed, once they got away from
Fort Cheever the word was never heard again.  On the other hand, a
little word that resembled it circulated continually with a thrilling
intonation.  Stories of gold and gold-hunters were told over the fires
in English and Cree.  Baldwin Ferrie, the geologist, kept the subject
agitated by cracking every likely looking stone he came to with his
little hammer, and by studying the composition of the mountain tops all
day with his powerful glasses.

We are told that the essence of comedy lies in the exposure of
pretentiousness.  That being so, the comic spirit is highly developed
up North.  In town pretentiousness is largely a matter of give and
take; we are all pretending to something, and we are obliged to seem to
allow the pretences of our neighbours in order to get them to allow
ours.  But up North they are beholden to no man, and, sardonic jesters
that they are, they lie in wait for pretentiousness.  Woe to the man
who goes up North and "puts on side."

One like Sir Bryson was therefore bound to be considered fair game.
His official position was no protection to him.  There is a story
current about a governor-general, and another about an actual prince of
the blood, who did not escape.  All of which is to say that Jack,
notwithstanding his perplexities in other directions, was looking
forward with keen relish to the return of Sir Bryson's
"exploring-party."  He only regretted that there was none at hand but
Humpy Jull with whom to share the joke.

They landed toward the end of the day, Sir Bryson and Baldwin Ferrie
looking very glum.  Jack was sent for.  He found Sir Bryson alone at
his table, looking more than usually important and puffy.

"Do you know two men called Beckford and Rowe?" he asked.

Jack adopted an innocent-respectful line.  "Yes, sir," he said.  "They
were working in the pass here at the same time I was."

"Are you, or have you ever been, associated with them?"

Jack shook his head.  "I'm on my own," he said.  "Always."

"What kind of a reputation do these men bear?" asked Sir Bryson.

"Bad," said Jack.

Sir Bryson frowned, and squeezed his pointed beard.  "How, bad?" he
wanted to know.

"Confidence men.  They were square enough up here.  They had to be.
They saved their game to work outside."

"How do you know all this?" demanded Sir Bryson.

"It's no secret," said Jack.  "Beckford bragged about what he'd do."

"And did no one take any steps to stop them?"

"It was none of our business," said Jack.  "And if it had been we
couldn't very well follow them all over, and warn people off, could we?"

Sir Bryson snorted.  "Where have they staked out claims?" he demanded.

"Oh, all over," said Jack.  "Anything good they keep dark, of course."

"Did you ever hear of Dexter's Creek?"

Jack bit his lip.  "Oh, yes," he said with an innocent stare.  "Those
were what they called their sucker claims."

Sir Bryson swelled like a turkey-cock, and turned an alarming colour,
but he said nothing.  What could he say?

Your Northern humourist is merciless.  Jack was not nearly through with
him.  He went on full of solicitude: "I hope you didn't fall for
anything on Dexter Creek, Sir Bryson.  If you'd only mentioned it
before, I could have warned you, and saved all this trip!"

"I have nothing to do with Dexter's Creek," said Sir Bryson quickly.
"I have other objects.  I merely promised the attorney-general of the
province to do a little detective work for him."

Jack could appreciate quick wits in a victim.  "Well turned," he
thought, and waited for Sir Bryson's next lead.

"Well, well," said the little man testily.  "Explain what you mean
by--by this vulgar expression."

"Sucker claims?" said Jack wickedly.  It really pained him that there
was no one by to benefit by this.

"You needn't repeat the word," snapped Sir Bryson.  "It is offensive to
me."

"It's this way," said Jack: "Most of the prospectors in the country are
staked by bankers and business men outside.  And when they at last make
a strike, after years of failure, maybe, their backers generally step
in and grab the lion's share.  Consequently the men up here are sore on
the city fellows; they have none of the hardships or the work they say;
they just sit back comfortably and wait for the profits.

"Beckford said that he and his partner had been done a couple of times
in this way, and they were out to get square with the bankers.  When
they found anything good they kept it dark, and went outside and sold
some fake claims to raise the coin to work the good ones.  Beckford
said it was just as easy to sell fake claims as good ones, if you went
about it right.

"I said," Jack went on, "they'll set the police after you.  Beckford
said: 'They can't.  We don't make any misrepresentations.  We're too
smart.  We make a mystery of it, and the sucker gets excited, and
swallows it whole.  We do the innocent game,' he said; 'we're the
simple, horny-handed tons of soil from the North that ain't on to city
ways.  We make 'em think they're putting it all over us, and we sell
out cheap.  Two of us can work it fine!"

"I said," Jack continued, "'I don't see how you can get anybody to
shell out real money unless you offer to come back and show them the
place.'  'We always do offer to come back,' Beckford said, 'and we get
all ready to come.  But at the last moment one of us is took real sick,
and the other refuses to leave his dyin' pardner.  By that time the
come-on is so worked up he comes across anyway!'"

During this recital Sir Bryson's face was a study.  A kind of shamed
chagrin restrained him from a violent explosion.  Jack "had" him, as
Jack would have said.  The little beard was in danger of being plucked
out bodily.

"You can go now," he said in an apoplectic voice.

"There was one thing more," Jack said at the door.  "Beckford said that
if you picked your man right there was no danger of a prosecution.
'Choose one of these guys that sets an awful store on his
respectability,' he said, 'and he'll never blow on himself.'"

A deeper tinge of purple crept into Sir Bryson's puffing cheeks.

Jack lingered for a parting shot.  "Any man who did get let in for such
a game," he said with a great air of innocence, "hardly deserves any
sympathy, does he, Sir Bryson?"

Sir Bryson was now beyond speech.  He got to his feet; he pulled at his
collar for more air, and he pointed mutely to the door.

Jack embraced Humpy Jull by the fire, and moaned incoherently.  No
amount of laughter could ease his breast of the weight of mirth that
oppressed it.  Never was such a joke known in the North.

During the rest of the evening Jack was in momentary expectation of an
order to break camp and turn back, but none came.  On the contrary,
Humpy reported, from the scraps of conversation he had overheard at the
dinner-table, that Sir Bryson, being convinced there was gold somewhere
in the pass, was determined, with Baldwin Ferrie's assistance to do a
little hunting on his own account.  Jack smiled indulgently at the
news.  It was not long, however, before he had to change his superior
attitude.

Early on the following morning he was fishing in the backwater below
camp, while Baldwin Ferrie sat on a projecting point of the bank above,
patiently searching the mountainsides with his glasses.

"I say," Ferrie suddenly called out, "how far is that peak over there,
the pointed one?'

"About nine miles in a line from here," said Jack.  "Fifteen, up the
river and in."

"What's it called?"

"Tetrahedron," said Jack.  "A surveyor named it."

"Do you know it at all?" asked Ferrie.

"Pretty well," said Jack, off-hand.

"The slope on this side," asked the geologist, "I suppose there is a
stream that drains it?  Could you take us to it?"

Jack looked at him hard, and reeled in his line before he answered.
"There is a little stream," he said, approaching Ferrie.  "It has no
name.  It empties into Seven-Mile Creek above here.  Anybody could find
it.  Why do you ask?"

Ferrie was an amiable soul, and not at all secretive, like his master.
He went into a detailed explanation of the geological formation of
Tetrahedron peak.  "You see, it's different from the others," he said,
offering Jack the glasses.  "There's a good chance of finding free gold
in the bed of the creek that drains the slope on this side."

Jack whistled in his mind, as one might say, and looked with a new
respect at Baldwin Ferrie and his field glasses.  For it was on that
very little stream he had washed his gold, and there his claims were
situated.  It had taken him months of strenuous labour to find what the
geologist had stumbled on in half an hour sitting still.

Baldwin Ferrie toddled off to report to his master, and Jack sat down
to do some quick thinking.  This discovery came of the nature of a
thunderclap.  The possibility of their finding his claims had occurred
to him, but he had counted at least on having time to prepare against
it, and here it was only the third day.  Jack had made sure of the
choicest claim on Tetrahedron Creek for himself, and that, of course,
they could not touch.  But the two adjoining claims, practically as
rich, were still vacant, and Jack meant to have at least the bestowal
of those himself.

Sir Bryson presently ordered Jean Paul to get the dugout ready for
another all-day trip.  In excluding Jack from any share in the
preparations he saved that young man from an embarrassing position, for
had he been officially informed of the destination of the river party,
Jack would have had to make explanations on the spot.

As it was, even before Sir Bryson was ready, he became busy on his own
account.  Finding Davy, he said: "Catch two horses, and saddle them for
you and Mary.  You've got to do something for me, and for her to-day.
There's not a minute to lose.  While you're saddling up, I'll explain
everything to Mary."

Davy, who would have gone through Hell's Opening itself at Jack's
command, raced away to find the horses.

Mary was at the door of her tent sewing.  At the sound of Jack's step
she lifted her quiet eyes.  There was something in the uplift of Mary's
eyes that stirred Jack queerly, seeing that he was as good as engaged
to another girl, but he put that aside for the present.

Before he could speak she asked quickly: "What's the matter?"

He sat beside her on the ground.  "Something doing," he said,
"something big!  Listen hard, and don't give it away in your face.  Go
on sewing as if I was just passing the time of day."

"I'm listening," she said quietly.

"You know I told you I'd been prospecting," Jack began.  "Well, I made
a rich strike on the little creek that comes down from Tetrahedron
peak.  I staked my claim there, and two claims adjoining mine for
whoever I might want to go in with me on it.  The names and dates
aren't entered on the two stakes yet, and of course if these people
find them they have a right to enter their own names.  Baldwin Ferrie
has doped it out that there's gold on that creek, and that's where
they're off to now.  You and Davy must get there first."

"But how can we?" she said.  "They're starting."

"It will take them three hours to make the mouth of Seven-Mile Creek
against the current," he said.  "You can ride it in one.  Davy is
getting the horses.  If you can get yourselves across the river before
they come up, the claims are saved."

Mary went on with her quick, even stitches without a break.  "Tell me
exactly how to go," she said.

"Six miles west by the Fort Erskine trail, and then down to the river.
You leave the trail where it turns to the north, under three big pines
that stand by the themselves on the bench.  Look sharp and you will
find a trail that I blazed down to the river.  At the end of it I left
a little raft for crossing back and forth.  If it has been washed down
you'll have to knock another one together.  Cross the river, and land
at the lower side of Seven-Mile Creek.  You'll find my landing-place
there, and a good trail back to the little creek, and my old camp.  The
first square post is a hundred feet upstream from the campfire.  You
can't miss it.  Keep on going until you come to the second post, and
the third one."

"What must we do when we find the posts?" she asked.

"Read the notice on the first one, and that will show you.  It reads:
'I, Malcolm Piers, hereby give notice of my intention to file a claim,'
and so forth.  And signed and dated at the bottom.  The inscriptions
are all written on the other two.  All you have to do is to fill in
your name on the second one, 'I, Mary Cranston,' and so on, and on the
third post Davy writes, 'David Cranston, Junior.'"

Mary stopped sewing.  "My name," she said, "and Davy's?"

"The second claim is yours in your own right," said Jack.  Seeing her
expression, he hastily added: "It was a deal that I made with your
father before we started.  As to the other, Davy can sign that back to
me."

"So will I sign mine," said Mary quickly.  "I couldn't take it."

"We can argue that out when you come back," said Jack.  "There's not a
minute to lose.  Davy's got the horses.  Make sure you have a lead
pencil to write on the posts.  After you've signed them get back
without running into the governor's party if you can.  I don't want the
storm to break until I am there to receive it."

Ten minutes after Sir Bryson with Baldwin Ferrie and three Indians, had
pushed off from the bank, Mary and Davy Cranston sauntered
inconspicuously away from camp, and, mounting their horses outside, set
off at a dead run west on the Fort Erskine trail.



X

A CRUMBLING BRAIN

Jack set about to fill his anxious day as full as possible with small
tasks.  Along the shore toward the mouth of the canyon he found another
dugout sticking out from among the bushes, and he pulled it out to put
it in repair in case a second boat should be required.  It needed new
cross-pieces to hold the sides from spreading.

While he was seated on a boulder whittling his little braces out of
snowy poplar, Garrod came shambling over the stones toward him.  Jack,
seeing the high-powered rifle he carried, turned a little grim, and
while apparently going on with his work, watched the other man
narrowly.  His ideas covering Garrod had taken a new direction since he
had talked with Mary.

Garrod came slowly, pausing, starting jerkily, fluctuating from side to
side.  When he thought Jack's eyes were upon him he turned his back
like a child, and made believe to look off up the river.  His eyes were
blank and lustreless, but close-hid under the thickened lids glimmered
a mean furtive sentence.  There was no striking change in him; the
canvas suit was still in fair condition; he shaved every morning from
force of habit; and when he was spoken to he could still answer with
sufficient intelligence.  But any one experienced in diseased mental
states would have recognized at once that this man was in no condition
to be trusted at large with a gun.

Among the members of Sir Bryson's party there existed an entire absence
of formality together with an entire absence of intimacy.  They were
not curious about each other, consequently Garrod's state excited no
remark.  True, Mrs. Worsley wondered a little, but she had always felt
an antipathy to Garrod; as for the others, they merely said, "Queerer
than ever," and dismissed him with a shrug.

Jack, watching the wavering figure approaching him now, thought of the
reckless, hawk-eyed youth of five years before, and was made thoughtful
by the change.  "Gad!  Life has had him on the toaster," he thought.

When Garrod came close enough to be heard he stammered, avoiding Jack's
eyes: "I--I want to talk to you, Malcolm."

"Put down the gun," said Jack coolly.  "Out of reach."

Garrod immediately laid it on the stones.  "You don't think that I----"
he mumbled.

"I don't think anything," said Jack, "but I'm taking no chances."

Garrod's eyes strayed everywhere, and his voice maundered.  "I suppose
you think I'm an utter cur.  I know it looks bad.  But not that----
Maybe you think that I--your horse--on the cliff----"

"I'm not accusing you," said Jack.

Garrod sat down near him.  "I--want to talk to you," he said,
forgetting that he had said it before.

"All that you and I have to say to each other can be put in one
question and answer," said Jack.  "Are you going to square me?"

"I--I'd like to," stammered Garrod.

Jack looked up surprised.  There was more in the answer than he had
expected.  "You will?" he cried, bright-eyed.  "You've come to tell me
that!  By Gad! that would be a plucky thing to do after all these
years.  I didn't think you had it in you!"

"I--I'd like to," murmured Garrod, as before.

"Easy enough if you want to," said Jack.  "You only have to speak the
truth."

"That wouldn't do you any good," said Garrod.

"What do you mean?" Jack demanded.

"It's not what you think," said Garrod.  "I didn't take the money."

"Who did then?"

"The bank was robbed," said Garrod.  "The morning after you went away.
Three men broke in during the night, and hid until morning.  When
Rokeby and I opened the safe, they overpowered us and got away with the
money.  We had no business to open up until the others came, and we
were afraid to tell.  I thought it wouldn't do you any harm as long as
you were away.  If you had come back I would have told."

There was a glib tone in all this that caused Jack's lip to curl.
"Well, what's to prevent your telling now?" he asked.

"They wouldn't believe me," said Garrod.  "They'd think I was just
trying to shield you, my old friend."

"But there's Rokeby to back you up!"

"He's dead," muttered Garrod.

A harsh note of laughter broke from Jack.

"I suppose you don't believe me," said Garrod.

"Hardly," said Jack.  "It fits in a bit too well."

Garrod's voice rose shaky and shrill: "It's true!  I swear it!  Three
men; French, they were.  I can see them now!  One was young; he had a
scar across his forehead----'

"Oh, cut out the fine touches," said Jack contemptuously.  "Any fool
could see you were lying."  He went on whittling his brace.

Garrod's voice sunk to a whimper.  "It's true!  It's true!"

Jack began to perceive that it was scarcely a reasonable being he had
to deal with.  He took a different line.  "I guess you've led a dog's
life these last few years," he said quietly.

Garrod looked at him queerly.  "Oh, my God," he said in a flat voice.
"Nobody knows."

"I suppose you know what's the matter with you," said Jack.  There was
no answer.

"It's what the story-books call remorse," said Jack.  "You can't go to
work and ruin your best friend without having bad dreams afterward."

"I never took the money," Garrod murmured.

Jack ignored it.  "Your friend," he repeated with a direct look.  "Do
you remember, as we stood waiting for my train to pull out, you put
your arm around my shoulders, and said: 'Buck up, old fel'!  We've got
in many a hole together, and we always saw each other out!  Count on
me--until death!'  Do you remember that?"

"Yes," murmured Garrod.

"And next morning you took the money to pay your debts, to get you out
of your hole, knowing they would put it off on me.  You pushed me into
a hole as deep as hell, and left me to rot there."

Garrod put up a trembling hand as if to fend off a blow.  "I didn't
take it," he murmured still.

"Look me in the eyes, and swear it," demanded Jack.

He could not.

"Now, look here," said Jack.  "You're in a bad way.  You can't stand
much more.  There's going to be a grand show-down to-night.  Do you
think you can go through with that?"

"Eh?" asked Garrod, dully and anxiously.

"Listen to me, and try to understand," said Jack impatiently.  "Sir
Bryson has gone to look at my claims.  He will read the name Malcolm
Piers written on the post, and when he comes back he will know who I
am, and there'll be the deuce to pay.  Do you think you're in any state
to face me down?  Why, man, the very look of you is enough to give you
away!"

Garrod merely looked at him with dull, frightened eyes.  "Suppose you
could face me down," Jack continued, "what then?  You can't face
yourself down.  You were born a decent fellow at heart, Frank, and you
can't get away with this sort of thing.  It's got you.  And every new
lie you tell just adds to the nightmare that's breaking you now.
You've reached the limit.  Anything more, and you'll go clean off your
head."

"You'll tell Sir Bryson everything," muttered Garrod.

"When I am accused I defend myself," said Jack.

"I couldn't go through with it.  I couldn't," Garrod said like a
frightened, stupefied schoolboy.

"Sure, you couldn't," urged Jack, pursuing his advantage.  "Make a
clean breast of it before Sir Bryson comes home, and you won't have to
face him at all.  By Gad! think what a load off your mind!  You'd be
cured then; you'd sleep; you'd be a man again!"

But Garrod murmured again: "I didn't take the money."

Jack fought hard for his good name.  His need lent him an eloquence
more than his own.  In all this he never stooped by so much as a word
to plead for himself.  "Why shouldn't you tell the truth?" he
persisted.  "What good is this life you're leading to you?  It'll kill
you in a month.  Chuck it all, and stay in this country, and win back
your health, and your brains, and your self-respect."

Garrod wavered.  He half turned to Jack with a more human look.
"Would--would you be friends with me again?" he murmured.

"I'd stand by you," said Jack quickly.  "I've got my start up here, and
I could give you a good one.  As long as I stood by you no one could
rake up old scores.  But it couldn't be just the same as it used to
be," his honesty forced him to add.

Jack waited with his eyes fixed compellingly on the other man.
Garrod's eyes struggled to escape them, and could not.  Suddenly he
broke down, and buried his head in his arms.  "I'll do it!" he sobbed.

Jack sprang up.  "Good!" he cried with blazing eyes.  "The whole truth?
You took the money, and spent it, and let them fasten the theft on me?"

"I took the money, and spent it, and let them fasten the theft on you,"
repeated Garrod.

Jack drew a long breath, and, sitting again, wiped his face.  Not until
he felt the sense of relief that surged through him did he realize how
much this had meant to him.  He could look almost kindly on the
stricken figure in front of him now, and the sobs inspired him with
none of the disgust he would have felt at any other time.  He waited
patiently for Garrod to recover himself.  When the man at last became
quiet he said, not unkindly:

"Are you ready now?"

"For what?" asked Garrod, lifting a terrified face.

"Let us go back to camp.  Vassall is there.  You can tell him."

Garrod desperately shook his head.  "Linda--Miss Trangmar is there.  I
couldn't--I couldn't have her hear me!"

"But we could take Vassall away."

"No," he said.  "Don't you understand?  Vassall is after her.  He'll be
glad of this.  I couldn't tell him."

"What if he knew about Linda and me," thought Jack with a sidelong
look.  "Gad! but life's a rum go!"

"I'd rather face Sir Bryson," stuttered Garrod.  "Wait till Sir Bryson
comes back.  I swear I'll tell him the whole truth, and you shall be
there."

"You're right, I'll be there," said Jack grimly.  He considered,
frowning.  It might be better to confront Sir Bryson with Garrod
direct, but Sir Bryson would not be back for five or six hours, and who
could tell what contradictions of mood would pass over this half-insane
man in the interval.

As if reading his mind, Garrod said: "I won't take anything back.  You
needn't be afraid--if you let me stay with you.  You're my only hope.
Let me stay with you.  Give me something to do all day."

Jack rubbed his chin in perplexity.  "Will you write out a confession?"
he finally asked.

Garrod eagerly nodded his head.

"Wait here, then," commanded Jack.

Jack ran to his tent, where he got a pen and his note-book, and
returned to the dugout.  He was gone but two minutes, nevertheless as
he sprang down the bank he saw that Garrod was no longer alone.  Jean
Paul had joined him.

It did not occur to Jack that the half-breed had any concern in this
affair, but he was annoyed by his intrusion just at this minute.  He
looked at him sharply.  Jean Paul stood idly chewing a grass-stalk, and
looking out over the river with a face as expressionless as brown
paper.  Garrod was sitting as Jack had left him, looking at Jean Paul.
A change had passed over his eyes.

Jack's temper got a little the better of him.  "What do you want here?"
he demanded.

Jean Paul turned with an air of mild surprise.  "Not'ing," he said.
"Wat's the matter?  I saw you and Garrod here, and I came.  I got
not'ing to do."

"Go find something," said Jack.  "Clear out!  Make yourself scarce!
Vamoose!"

Jean Paul, with a deprecatory shrug, walked slowly on up the beach.

"I have pen and paper," Jack said eagerly to Garrod.

Garrod's dazed eyes were following Jean Paul's retreating figure.  He
paid no attention.  It was only too evident that his mood had changed.

Jack's face grew red.  "Have you gone back on it already?" he said with
an oath.

"I must go," muttered Garrod, struggling to rise.

Jack thrust him back.  "You stay where you are!"

But as soon as Jack took his hands off him Garrod endeavoured to get up
and follow Jean Paul, who by this time had climbed the bank.  Garrod's
wasted strength was no match for Jack's but Jack could hardly see
himself sitting there holding the other man down until Sir Bryson
returned.  He looked around for inspiration.  There was a length of
rope fastened to the bow of the dugout.  Cutting off a piece of it, he
tied Garrod's wrists and ankles, and let him lie.

Jack sat down and filled his pipe, watching Garrod grimly meanwhile,
and trying to puzzle out a solution.  The man spoke no articulate word
except to mutter once or twice that he must go.  Occasionally he
struggled feebly in his bonds like a fish at the last gasp.  Still it
did not occur to Jack to connect this new phase of his sickness with
the appearance of the half-breed.  Jack's heart was sore.  "Of what use
was the confession of a man in such a state?" he thought.  In Jack's
simple system of treatment there was but one remedy for all swoons or
seizures, viz., cold water.  Upon thinking of this he got up and,
filling his hat in the river, dashed the contents in Garrod's face.

It had the desired effect.  Garrod gasped and shivered, and looked at
Jack as if he saw him for the first.  He ceased to struggle, and Jack
untied the ropes.  Garrod sat up, a ghastly figure, with the water
trickling from his dank hair over his livid face.

"I'm all wet," he said, putting up the back of his hand.  Without
expressing any curiosity as to what had happened, he dried his face and
neck with his handkerchief.

"Do you remember what we were talking about?" asked Jack, concealing
his anxiety.

"You wanted me to write something," Garrod said dully.

"Are you willing?"

Garrod nodded, and held out his hand for the pen and the little book.

Jack breathed freely again.  The blade of a paddle served Garrod for a
writing table.  The man was entirely submissive.

"But do you know what you're doing?" demanded Jack frowning.

Garrod nodded again.  "You want me to write out a confession," he said.
"What shall I write."

Jack dictated: "I, Francis Garrod, desire to state of my own free will
that on the morning of October ninth, nineteen hundred and six, I took
the sum of five thousand dollars from the vault of the Bank of Canada,
Montreal.  I knew that Malcolm Piers had gone away, and I allowed the
theft to be fixed on him."

He signed the page, and dated it.  Taking the book, Jack slipped it in
the breast pocket of his flannel shirt.  Jack was genuinely moved.  It
was borne in on him dimly that though he was technically the injured
party, it was the other man who showed the wound.

"You'll feel better now," he said gruffly.

Garrod lay back on the stones, and covered his face with his arm.  "I
suppose you loathe me, Malcolm," he muttered.

"You've gone a long way to make it up," Jack said, in the keenest
discomfort.  "Just give me a little time."

Garrod's thoughts strayed in another direction.  "What will _she_ say?"
he whispered.

Considering everything, this was a poser for Jack.  "You've got no
business to be thinking about girls in your state," he said frowning.
"Put her out of your mind, man, and go to work to win back what you've
lost."

Garrod reverted to the night five years before.  "I didn't mean to take
the money," he murmured.  "I couldn't sleep after you went, that night,
and all night I played with the idea as if it was a story.  Supposing I
_did_ take the money, you know, how I would cover my tracks, and so on.
But I never meant to.  And next morning when I went to the bank I was
alone in the vault for a moment, and I slipped the package in my pocket
just to carry out the idea, and Rokeby came in before I could put it
back.  Then the money was counted, and the shortage discovered.  I had
plenty of other chances to put it back, for the money was counted
twenty times, but I was always afraid of being seen, and I kept putting
it off, and at last the alarm was given and it was too late.  They were
old bills and they couldn't be traced.

"I don't know how I lived through the time that followed.  I was afraid
to put it back then, because the fellows talked about my changed looks,
and I knew if the money turned up they would suspect me.  As it was,
they thought I was grieving on your account.  I was, too, but not the
way they thought.  I set a store by you, Malcolm.  I didn't mean to
injure you.  I just drifted into it, and I was caught before I knew.
The thought of meeting you brought the sweat pouring out of me.  I
thought you would come back.  I bought a revolver, and carried it
always.  If I had come face to face with you it would have nerved me to
turn it on myself, which I couldn't do alone.

"You didn't come.  The thing was quickly hushed up.  I left the bank,
and my life went on like anybody's.  I didn't think about the money any
more.  But something had changed in me.  I was nervous and cranky
without knowing why.  I couldn't sleep nights.  I was full of silly
terrors, always looking around corners, and over my shoulder.  And it
kept getting worse."

Garrod's voice never varied from the toneless half-whisper that was
like a man talking in his sleep.  "Then I came up here," he went on,
"and ran into you without any warning.  It was like a blow on the
temple.  It all came back to me.  Then I knew what was the matter.  I
didn't kill myself on the spot, because I found you didn't know.  I
wish I had.  I've died a thousand deaths since.  It was like little
knives in my brain thrusting and hacking.  I could have screamed with
it----"

Jack's increasing discomfort became more than he could bear.  "For
heaven's sake, don't tell all this," he burst out.  "At least not to
me.  I'm the one you injured.  Pull yourself together!"

"It is a relief to get it out," Garrod murmured with a sigh.  "I can
sleep now."

Jack got up.  "Sleep, that's what you need," he said.  "Come back to
your tent, and lie low for the rest of the day."

"I--I don't want to be alone," stammered Garrod.

"Well, stretch out here in the grass," suggested Jack.

"You won't go away without waking me?" Garrod said anxiously.

"All right," said Jack.

Above the stones of the beach extended a narrow strip of grass, shaded
from the sun by thickly springing willows.  Behind and above the
willows the trail skirted the escarpment of the bank.  Garrod crawled
into the shade and stretched himself out.  Once or twice he started up
to look rather wildly if Jack were still there; finally he slept.

Meanwhile Jack, returning to the dugout, took up his poplar braces
again, with the instant concentration on the job in hand of which he
was capable.  Jack's highly practical temperament was at once the
source of his strength and his weakness.  On the one hand, he conserved
his nervous energy by refusing to worry about things not immediately
present; on the other hand, his refusal to track these same things down
in his mind often left him unprepared for further eventualities.  At
this moment, while his attentive blue eyes directed his sure hands, he
had not altogether ceased to think of the strange things that had
happened, but it was only a subconscious current.  There was evidence
of it in the way his hand occasionally strayed to the pocket of his
shirt to make sure the little book was still there.

Jack had pushed the dugout partly into the water.  The stern floated in
a backwater on the lower side of a little point of stones that jutted
out.  On this point impinged the descending current, which was
deflected out, straight for the opening in the wall of rock, a thousand
feet or so downstream.  Little could be seen of this opening from
above; the first fall hid the white welter below, and the bend in the
walls of rock closed up the prospect.  It was as if the river came to
an end here in a round bay with a stony beach, and rich, green-clad
shores.  Only the deep, throaty roar from under the wall of rock gave
warning that this was really "Hell's Opening."

Jack thought of no reason for watching Garrod now, and his back was
turned to him as he worked.  He therefore did not notice that the
leaves of the willows above Garrod's head were occasionally twitched on
their stems in a different way from the fluttering produced by a
current of air.  Only a sharp and attentive eye could have spotted it,
for the movement was very slight, and there were long pauses between.
After a while the leaves low down were parted, and for an instant a
dark face showed, bright and eager with evil.  It was Jean Paul.
Marking Jack's position and Garrod's, he drew back.  Garrod was
immediately below him.

More minutes passed.  The patience of a redskin is infinite.

Finally Garrod began to twitch and mutter in his sleep, and presently
he rolled over on his back, wide awake.  Jack threw him a careless
glance, and went on working.  As Garrod lay staring at the leaves over
his head, a change passed subtly over his face; the lines of his flesh
relaxed a little, a slight glaze seemed to be drawn over his eyes.  In
the end he slowly raised himself on one elbow, and looked at Jack with
an exact reproduction of the cunning, hateful expression Jean Paul had
shown.  He quickly dropped back, and lay, waiting.

Presently, Jack having finished the shaping of his braces, picked up
hammer and nails, and with another off-hand glance at the apparently
sleeping Garrod, climbed into the dugout.  He put in the stern thwart
first, sitting on his heels in the bottom of the dugout, with his back
toward the shore.

Garrod raised his head again, and seeing Jack's attitude, drew himself
slowly up, and came crawling with infinite caution down over the
stones.  Back among the leaves a fiery pair of eyes was directing him.
This was where Jack's faculty of concentration proved his undoing.
Driving the nails as if his soul's fate rested on the accuracy of his
strokes, he never looked around.  Garrod covered the last five yards at
a crouching run.  Seizing the bow of the dugout, and exerting all his
strength, he heaved the craft out into the stream.

The force and the suddenness of the shove threw Jack flat on his back.
By the time he recovered himself, the dugout fairly caught in the
current and, gradually gaining way, was headed straight for Hell's
Opening.

If Jack allowed the moment to take him unawares, it must be said he
wasted no time when it came.  His faculties leaped in the presence of
danger.  His bright, wary, calculating eyes first sought for the
paddle, but it lay back on the stones where Garrod had used it.  He
looked at Garrod.  The man had picked up his gun, and was running
toward him.  He kept pace with the moving dugout along the edge of the
stones.  Not more than fifty feet separated the two men.  Jack measured
the distance to the backwater.  Ten swimming strokes would have carried
him to safety.

"If you jump overboard I'll shoot," Garrod murmured huskily.  "I'll get
you easy in the water!"

Jack saw that it was madness he had to deal with, and he wasted no
words with him.  Garrod, crouching, stumbling over the stones, with his
strained, inhuman eyes fixed on Jack, was an ugly sight.  He muttered
as he went:

"I've got to kill you.  I can't help it.  I've got to!"

Jack stood up in the canoe.  The blue eyes were steady, and the thin
line of his lips was firm, but the rich colour slowly faded out of his
sunburned face, leaving it like old ivory.  All this had happened in a
moment; the dugout was not yet fully under way, though it seemed to
Jack as if it were flying down.  The harbouring backwater still
stretched between him and the shore.  He had a minute or longer to make
his choice.  The roaring canyon that ground its great tree-trunks into
shreds was vividly present before his eyes; on the other hand, he could
jump overboard and make his bobbing head a mark like a bottle for a
madman to shoot at.  A minute to decide in, and there he was tinglingly
alive, and life was very sweet.

A woman's frightened voice rang out: "Jack! what are you doing out
there?  Come ashore!"

He looked and saw Linda standing in the trail by the bank's edge.
Garrod was hidden from her by the intervening bushes.  She came flying
down, regardless.  Garrod heard the voice, and, turning toward it,
stopped dead.  His muscles relaxed, and the butt of the gun dropped on
the stones.

Jack laughed, and jumped overboard.  Half a dozen strokes carried him
into the backwater; twenty landed him hands and knees on the stones.
Rising face to face with Garrod, he snatched the gun from his nerveless
hands and sent it spinning into the bushes.  Without looking at the
girl he ran and caught up the paddle, ran back along the stones,
plunged in and, heading off the dugout, wriggled himself aboard.  It
became a question then of his strength against the sucking current.
The dugout hung in the stream as if undecided.  Finally it swung around
inch by inch, swept inshore, and grounded with perhaps five yards to
spare.

As he landed the second time Linda cast herself weeping and trembling
on his dripping bosom.  "What did you frighten me like that for?" she
cried, beating him with her small fists.

Jack laughed, and held her off.  "It's a good boat," he said; "besides,
the hammer was in it, the only one we have."

"How did you get adrift?" she demanded.

Jack looked at Garrod with a hardening eye.  Garrod still stood where
he had stopped.  His eyes were blank of sense or feeling.  Linda flew
toward him, her slight frame instinct and quivering with menace.

"You coward!" she hissed.

Jack held her off.  "Let him alone," he said.  "His wits are clean
gone!"

He started to lead Garrod, unresisting, back to camp.  Suddenly he
remembered the note-book, and his hand flew to his pocket.  It was gone.



XI

THE SHOWDOWN

Sidney Vassall, wondering what had become of Linda, wandered about camp
covertly looking for her.  The amiable young aide-de-camp had his dull
heartache too, these days.  An instinct warned him that the humble
attitude he displayed toward her would never succeed in focussing the
little beauty's attention on himself, but he was unable to change it.
He was the victim of his own amiability.

Coming to the edge of the bank, he met the odd little procession coming
up; Garrod with his wild, blank stare; Jack with his hand twisted in
Garrod's collar, and Linda following at a little distance, pale, angry,
and frightened.

Vassall's jaw dropped.  "What's the matter?" he stammered.

Jack let go his hold on Garrod, and scowled at him, angry and
perplexed.  "He's mad," he said shortly.  "Clean daft!"

Vassall fell back a step.  "Easy, for God's sake," he murmured.
"She'll hear you."

"Oh, she knows," Jack said carelessly.  "The question is, what are we
to do with him?"

The first command in Vassall's highly artificial code was: "Keep it
from the women!"  Turning to Linda with a shaky imitation of his polite
smile, he said: "Mrs. Worsley has been wondering where you were.
You'll find her in the big tent."

To which Linda's impatient rejoinder was: "Don't be silly."

"This is no place for you," Vassall went on earnestly; "I beg that you
will go to Mrs. Worsley, and let us attend to this."

"No place for me?" Linda burst out.  "What do you think I am, a doll?
I can be as much help to Jack as you can!"

Vassall turned pale at the sound of the familiar name on her lips.

Garrod stood motionless, apparently neither seeing nor hearing.

"He's quiet enough now," said Jack rubbing his chin; "but you can't
tell when he may break out again.  A tent is no place to keep a madman.
We'll have to tie him up, Vassall."

"Oh, we can't do that," murmured the other man.  He all but wrung his
hands.  "This is too dreadful!  Miss Linda, I beg of you!  What will
Sir Bryson say?"

Linda's eyes passed contemptuously over him.  "What is there I can do?"
she asked Jack.

"Find Jean Paul," he said.

As if evoked by the sound of his name, the half-breed issued at that
moment from among the trees on their left, and approached them.  If his
designs had miscarried, he gave no sign of it.  One could hardly have
guessed that he harboured designs.  His face was as smooth as velvet,
his manner calm, respectful, inquiring.

"Wat's the matter?" he asked.  He looked at Garrod and appeared to
comprehend with a start.  "Ah, weh-ti-go!" he said, using the Cree word
for madness.  He shook his head in sober compassion.  "I t'ink so me,
before; many days he is act fonny."

It was perfection, and Jack was completely taken in.  It seemed good to
him to find some one quiet and capable.  "He will have to be tied up
and watched," said Jack.  "He tried to launch me into the canyon."

"Wah!  Wah!" exclaimed Jean Paul, holding up his hands at the thought.
"I put him in my tent," he went on.  "You and I all time watch him."

Thus Garrod was given in charge of Jean Paul, as Jean Paul had
designed.  He led him away, looking rather amused.  White men were so
easy to fool.

Jack went back for the gun, and to search up and down in case he might
have dropped the precious note-book on the shore.  Linda tagged after
him, and Vassall followed Linda, because he could not support his
bewilderment and dismay alone.

"What are you looking for?" Linda kept asking.

"Something I lost out of my pocket," Jack said; "a note-book."  He
could not bring himself to tell her more.

It was not there of course.  The canyon had it long before this.  When
they returned to camp Humpy Jull was carrying lunch into the big tent.
Linda commanded Jack to change his clothes and come and eat with them.
He shook his head.

She stamped her foot.  "You must come!  Kate has to be told.  We need
you to hold us together.  Kate!" she called out.  "Make him come and
have lunch with us."

Mrs. Worsley nodded and smiled from the door of the tent.

"Very well," said Jack.  "One minute."

Then Linda perversely frowned and bit her lip because Kate could bring
him with a nod, where she was unable to command.

It was not a cheerful meal that followed.  Jack told Mrs. Worsley
briefly what had happened, Vassall supplying a lamentable chorus.  Mrs.
Worsley took it with raised eyebrows and closed lips.  Afterward Jack
relapsed into silence.  He had difficult matters of his own to think
of.  None of them knew of his intimate connection with Garrod, and it
was impossible for him to speak to them of what concerned him so
closely.  Meanwhile the three talked as people always talk, of Garrod's
strange behaviour during the last few days, and how anybody could have
seen what was going to happen, if anybody had thought.

After they had come out of the tent, Jack saw Mary stroll through the
trees on the westerly side of camp.  His eye brightened.  Since they
were back so soon they must have been successful.  Mary quietly set to
work to prepare their dinner.  In a little while Davy appeared dragging
the saddles.

"What have they been up to?" Linda said curiously.  "They've been gone
all morning."

"I suppose they have their own matters to attend to," Mrs. Worsley
said, relieving Jack of the necessity of answering.

When a decent interval had elapsed Jack strolled over to the Cranston's
fire.  "Were you in time?" he asked casually.

Mary raised a face as controlled as his own.  "Yes," she said.  "We did
what you told us."

"Did you meet the other party?" he asked anxiously.

She shook her head.  "We found your raft," she said; "so we had plenty
of time.  We landed above Seven-Mile Creek, so they could not see the
raft when they came up.  After we had marked the posts we crossed the
little stream, and came back on that side, as they went up the other.
We heard them.  The Indians would see our tracks of course, but Sir
Bryson pays no attention to them."

"Good!" said Jack.  "That has turned out all all right, anyway."

Mary searched his face, and a flash of anxiety appeared in her quiet
eyes.  "Something has happened here?" she said.

Jack nodded.  His constricted breast welled up.  Here was somebody he
could tell.  He did not reflect on the ambiguity of the situation.  He
only knew instinctively that he needed help, and that help was to be
had in those deep eyes.  However, he stuck to the bare facts of his
narrative.

"There's a good deal beneath that," said Mary.

"Yes," he said.  "I'll tell you when I can."

"You must let me help you," she said earnestly.  "I understand the
people so much better than you can."

"The people?" he said surprised.

"The natives," she said.  "I think that Jean Paul is at the bottom of
this."

Jack stared at her.  This was quite a new thought to him.  It required
consideration.

Their further talk was prevented by the customary shrill hail from up
river, announcing the return of the boat party.  Travelling downstream,
they were able to make ten miles an hour, consequently they arrived
close on the heels of the Cranstons, who had left Seven-Mile Creek an
hour before them.

Jack went back to the others at the door of the big tent.  Linda
received him sulkily, but he made believe not to be aware of it.

"Who will tell Sir Bryson?" murmured Vassall.

"I will," said Jack firmly.  "I have to talk to him anyway."

"What about?" demanded Linda.

"Mining claims," said Jack "and other things!  There has to be a
general showdown to-night."  He spoke with affected carelessness,
nevertheless his heart was beating at the thought of what he must go
through with.

They looked at him questioningly.

"You may as well all know it," said Jack.  "I am Malcolm Piers."

Before Mrs. Worsley and Vassall had time to recover from their
stupefaction at this announcement, Sir Bryson and Baldwin Ferrie came
striding from the river-bank.  It appeared as if all Sir Bryson's river
expeditions were doomed to disappointment.  Again he was in a furious
temper, and trying without success to conceal it.  He passed inside the
tent without noticing anybody.  Baldwin Ferrie followed him.  Jack,
without waiting for a command, went in after them.

Sir Bryson flung himself into a chair, and opened up on Jack without
any preliminaries.  "You say you have worked up and down this pass," he
said.  "Did you ever hear the name Malcolm Piers?"

"Yes, sir," he said.

Sir Bryson leaned forward in his chair, and peered at Jack through
squeezed-up eyes in a way that he intended to be magisterial and
intimidating.  "Where is this fellow now?" he barked.

Jack smiled a little grimly.  "He is before you," he said quietly.  "I
am Malcolm Piers."

Sir Bryson fell back in his chair, and puffed.  He appeared to have
suffered a sudden loss of motive power.  "Well, well, I knew that," he
said flatly.  "But I didn't expect you to have the assurance to admit
it to my face."

"I have no reason to conceal my name," said Jack.

Sir Bryson gradually worked himself up again.  "No reason?" he cried.
"You young blackguard!  It was an honourable name until it descended to
you!  I ought to have guessed the truth from your intimacy with the
details of these swindling operations.  No reason?  We'll see what the
law has to say to that!"

"The law?" said Jack, quickly.  "The money which I did not take has
been paid into the bank.  What has the law to do with it?"

Sir Bryson smiled disagreeably.  "Apparently you do not know," he said,
"that you are under indictment for grand larceny, and that your uncle,
Mr. McInnes, directed his executors to see that you were prosecuted
whenever you should be found."

This was a staggerer for Jack.

"Aha! that touches you!" said Sir Bryson.  "That shakes your impudence,
eh?  Moreover, I do not think the province of Athabasca, of which I
have the honour to be chief executive, will raise any obstacles to
giving you up to the province of Quebec!"

Jack felt a little sick with helpless rage.  He drew the mask of
obstinacy over his face, and held his tongue.  What could he say?  It
would only draw down their ridicule for him to confess that the only
witness to his innocence was an insane man.

He submitted to receive a long moral lecture in Sir Bryson's best vein.
"Do you realize," the governor said in conclusion, "that as the head of
this province it is my duty to put you under arrest, and hand you over
to the authorities?"

Jack by this time had been goaded pretty far.  "And so prevent me from
filing my claim?" he said with a dangerous light in his eyes.

Sir Bryson swelled and puffed.  "Tut!" he said.  "Naturally the
government does not intend that its valuable mining privileges shall
fall into the hands of felons."

"I am not yet a felon," said Jack quietly; "and the three claims are
not yet yours."

It was Sir Bryson's turn to grow red.  There were no papers handy, and
he fussed with his watch charm.  "As to the other two claims," he said
finally, "you have overreached yourself there.  The notices on the
posts are dated to-day, and it will be easy to prove that your friends
could not have got there before we did to-day."

Jack found a momentary pleasure in describing to Sir Bryson how it had
been done.

Naturally Sir Bryson was infuriated.  "So it appears I have been
harbouring a conspiracy!" he shouted.

"Nothing of the kind," said Jack.  "The three claims were staked out
before you came into the country.  Isn't the rest of the creek enough
for you?  There's plenty of pay dirt.  I have worked for five years to
find this place, and the best of it belongs to me by right."

"Hold your tongue!" cried Sir Bryson tremblingly.  "Don't attempt to
bandy words with me!  You can go until I decide what is to be done with
you!"

It occurred to Jack dimly that he was scarcely acting the part of
prudence in thus exasperating his judge to the highest degree, and he
cooled down.  So they were not going to put him under restraint
immediately.  It would have been rather difficult anyway.  With all his
anger there was an uncandid look in the little governor's eye.  Jack
wondered what he was getting at.  Suddenly the idea went through his
mind that Sir Bryson hoped he might ride out of camp that night, and
never show his face again.  In other words, the unspoken proposal was:
his liberty in exchange for his claims.  Jack smiled a little at the
thought, his fighting smile.

"What are you waiting for?" demanded Sir Bryson.

"I have something to tell you," Jack said, mildly.  "Garrod----"

"What about him?"

"He is very sick.  He appears to have gone out of his mind."

"What nonsense is this?" puffed Sir Bryson.

"Mad, insane, crazy; whatever word you like," said Jack.

The little governor was startled out of his pomposity.  He turned to
Baldwin Ferrie, plucking at his beard.  For the moment he forgot his
animosity against Jack, and asked him innumerable questions.

"Set you adrift?" he said, when Jack had told his tale.  "What could
have led him to do that?"

This was the moment Jack had been dreading.  He drew a long breath,
and, looking Sir Bryson in the eye, told him the whole story of himself
and Frank Garrod.  Sir Bryson, as Jack expected, sneered and
pooh-poohed it throughout.  On the face of it, it was a fantastic and
improbable tale, but a disinterested person seeing Jack's set jaw and
level eyes, and hearing his painstakingly detailed account, could
scarcely have doubted he was telling the truth.  Baldwin Ferrie was
impressed, and he was not altogether disinterested.

"Lost the note-book, eh?" sneered Sir Bryson.  "And you expect me to
believe this on your unsupported word!  Garrod's life has been
exemplary!"

"Miss Trangmar saw me when I was cast adrift," said Jack patiently.
"As to the rest, I think Garrod will bear me out, if he ever comes to
his right senses.  Why not have him in here now, and look him over?  He
may be better."

Sir Bryson was very much excited.  He called Vassall into the tent, and
the three men held a whispered consultation.  Presently Linda came in,
pale and charged with emotion.  She headed directly for Jack.  He
fended her off with a look.

"If you give anything away, it will queer me for good with this crowd,"
he swiftly whispered.

She could not but perceive the force of this.  A spasm passed over her
face.  Turning, she sat in a chair near the door, doing her best to
look unconcerned.

When Sir Bryson saw her, he said: "We have important matters to
discuss, my dear."

"It's only a tent," said Linda.  "You can hear every word outside
anyway."

"My dear----" began Sir Bryson.

"I'm going to stay," said Linda tempestuously, and that was the end of
it.

The upshot of the consultation was that Jack should be confronted with
Garrod.  Sir Bryson was opposed to it, but the other two overruled him.
Vassall went off to get Garrod, and they waited.

Sir Bryson's table was toward the top of the tent, and as he sat he
faced the door.  He frowned, and tapped on the table and pulled his
beard.  Occasionally, in spite of himself, his eyes bolted.  It was as
if a horrible doubt kept recurring to him that the situation was
getting too much for him; that he had stirred up more than he was able
to settle.  Jack stood to the right of the table, with his upper lip
drawn in, his face as hard as a wall.  Poor Jack had no ingratiating
ways when he was put on the defensive.  Mrs. Worsley stole into the
tent, and, sitting beside Linda, took her trembling hand.  Baldwin
Ferrie bent over them, and with a pale face whispered soothing things
that they made no pretence of listening to.

At last Vassall pulled the tent flap back, and Garrod came in.  He was
well-brushed and tended.  He walked without assistance, and his face
was composed.  Manifestly another change had taken place in him during
the last few hours, a change for the better.  Jack's heart began to
beat more hopefully.  There was still something queer about Garrod's
eyes.  Jean Paul Ascota and Vassall followed him in.

The half-breed constituted himself the sick man's nurse.  Seeing a
chair, he placed it for him at Sir Bryson's left, and Garrod sat down.
Garrod had not greeted anybody on entering.  Jean Paul stood over him
watchful and solicitous.  Mary's warning occurred to Jack, but what was
he to do?  The half-breed's attitude was irreproachable.

"I am sorry to hear that you have been very sick, Mr. Garrod," Sir
Bryson began.

"Yes, sir," said Garrod composedly.  "My head has been troubling me
very much."

There was a curious, stiff quality in Garrod's voice, but that might
easily have been accounted for by what he had been through.  In spite
of the man's apparent recovery, a dull anxiety that he could not
explain, began to shape itself in Jack's breast.

"You are quite yourself again?" continued Sir Bryson.

"Yes, sir," said Garrod.

"Do you remember what happened this morning?"

"Yes, sir, up to a certain point.  I had a shock."

"Um!" said Sir Bryson.  "This man," pointing to Jack, "accuses you of
setting him adrift in the current.  Is it true?"

There was a slight pause before each of Garrod's answers.  This time
his hearers held their breaths.

"There is some mistake," he said composedly.  "He was working in the
boat, and it must have drifted off.  I was asleep."

The pent-up breaths escaped.  Jack turned a little paler, and set his
teeth.  He was not surprised; something had warned him of what was
coming.  Sir Bryson looked at his daughter.

"Linda, I understand that you were present," he said.  "Did you see Mr.
Garrod push the boat off?"

"He did it," she began excitedly.  "I know he did it."

"I asked you if you saw him do it?" Sir Bryson said severely.

"No," she said sullenly.  "It was already adrift when I came."

Sir Bryson, with a satisfied air, turned back to Garrod.  "Do you know
this man?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said Garrod.  "It is Malcolm Piers.  We were friends years
ago, before he ran away."

Jack looked at him with a kind of grim surprise.

"He claims," continued Sir Bryson, "that you were the only person who
knew of his intention to leave Montreal for good, and that after he had
gone you took the money and let the theft be fastened on him.  Is that
true?"

There was the same tense pause while they waited for the answer.

"It is not true," said Garrod.  "I knew he was going away, but I knew
nothing about the money until the shortage was discovered."  There was
a pause, and then Garrod went on in his level, toneless voice, "I never
accused him of taking it.  I was the only one who stood up for him.
You can ask anybody who worked in the bank."

A note of bitter laughter escaped from Jack.

Sir Bryson frowned.  "He says," he went on, "that you wrote a statement
this morning confessing that you took the money."

There was a longer pause before Garrod spoke.  "Before or after the
accident of the boat?" he asked.

Sir Bryson looked at Jack.

"Before," said Jack indifferently.

"It is not true," said Garrod.  "I remember everything that happened up
to that time."

Sir Bryson appealed to the company at large.  "Surely we have heard
enough," he said.  "We have laid bare an impudent attempt on the part
of this young man to fasten his crime on one whom he thought incapable
of defending himself."  He looked at Jack with the most terrible air he
could muster.  "Have you anything to say for yourself now?" he barked.

Jack screwed down the clamps of his self-control.  "No," he said.

"Take Mr. Garrod back to your tent, then, Jean Paul," Sir Bryson said
graciously.  "Tend him well, and we will all be grateful."

Before any move was made the company was electrified by a new voice:
"May I speak if you please, Sir Bryson?"  They turned to see Mary
Cranston standing within the door, resolute in her confusion.

Linda half rose with an exclamation.  At the touch of Kate's hand she
sank back, twisting her handkerchief into a rag, her lips trembling,
her pained eyes darting from Mary's face to Jack's and back again.

Sir Bryson sneered.  "Eavesdropping?" he said.

"I was listening," said Mary firmly.  "It is good that I was.  You are
all blind!"

"Indeed!" said Sir Bryson jocularly, looking all around to share the
joke.  "Is it possible?"

Nobody laughed, however.  Mary was not put out by his sneers.  She
pointed at Garrod.  "He doesn't know what he's saying," she said.  "His
lips are speaking at the command of another mind!  It is hypnotism!  If
you don't believe, look at him!"

The seven faces turned toward Garrod with a simultaneous start.  Jean
Paul's astonishment was admirably done.

"See by his eyes, his voice, the whole look of him!" Mary went on.  "He
doesn't even hear what I am saying now!"

None of those who looked could help but be struck by Garrod's
extraordinary apathy.  He sat, as he had continued to sit since he came
in, looking before him with eyes devoid of all expression.

"Garrod!" said Sir Bryson sharply.

After the usual pause Garrod replied like an automaton without moving
his eyes: "Yes, Sir Bryson?"

The governor was very much shaken.  "Well, well," he stammered.  "If
it's hypnotism, who's doing it?"

Mary looked squarely at the man she accused.  "Ask Jean Paul Ascota,
the wonder-worker, the conjurer, the medicine man!"

Jean Paul started, and looked at her with a deprecating smile.  From
her he looked at Sir Bryson with the hint of a shrug, as much as to ask
him to excuse her for what she was saying.  It was almost too well
done.  Mary's eyes clung to him steadily, and any one who looked hard
enough could have seen uneasiness behind the man's smiling mask.  Sir
Bryson, however, wished to be deceived.

He puffed and blew.  "Preposterous!" he cried, casting his eyes around
the little circle for support.

"Send Jean Paul away out of sight and hearing, and we will see if I am
right," said Mary.

"I'll do no such thing," said Sir Bryson irritably.  "We all know what
your interest is in this case, my young lady.  You are one of the
beneficiaries of this young rascal's generosity!"

Jack suddenly came to life.  He turned red, and leaned threateningly
over Sir Bryson's table.  "Sir Bryson----" he began with glittering
eyes.

"Stop!" cried Mary in a voice that silenced Jack's own.  "It is nothing
to me what he thinks of me.  I only want to see the truth come out!"

Only Kate Worsley's restraining arm kept Linda from jumping up.  She
was trembling all over.

"If there is any justice here you can't refuse to do what I ask," Mary
continued, with her eyes fixed on Sir Bryson.  It appeared that the
quiet eyes could flash at need.

The little governor desired strongly to refuse.  He pished, and
pshawed, and fussed with his watch-chain, avoiding the disconcerting
eyes.  But the others in the tent were dead against him.  They were of
Anglo-Saxon stock, and an appeal to justice had been made.  Sir Bryson
could not support the silent opposition of his whole party.

"Very well, I suppose we must go through with the farce," he said
pettishly.  "Jean Paul, will you oblige me by stepping outside for a
moment?"

"He must go as far away as the river bank," said Mary.  "And some one
must go with him."

"I'll go," said Vassall.

The two men went out.

"Now ask him questions," said Mary.

Garrod's eyes looked after Jean Paul uneasily.  He half rose as if to
follow.  There was something inhuman in his aspect.  Baldwin Ferrie
laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.  All their hearts were beating
fast as they watched and listened.

"Garrod, can--can you remember what happened this morning?" stammered
Sir Bryson.

"I want to go," muttered Garrod.

"Frank, don't you know me?" asked Jack.

No reply.

"Frank, didn't you tell me you took the money?" Jack persisted.

Garrod's fingers pulled at his hanging lip, and the vacant eyes
remained turned toward the door.

"Garrod, can't you hear me?" demanded Sir Bryson sharply.

"I must go," muttered Garrod.

It was a painful exhibition.  The beholders were a little sickened, and
none of them wished to prolong it.  Baldwin Ferrie went to the opening
to call Vassall and Jean Paul back.

"Are you satisfied?" asked Mary of Sir Bryson.

"Satisfied of nothing!" he snapped.  "The man is out of his wits.  I
knew that before.  We are just where we started!"

Mary's cheeks reddened with generous indignation.  "Not quite," she
said quickly.  "You were going to believe what he said before.  I have
shown you that he was irresponsible then as well as now.  Let me take
care of him," she pleaded.  "Perhaps I can nurse him back to his
senses."

"Thank you," said Sir Bryson with a disagreeable smile, "but I will see
that Mr. Garrod has _disinterested_ care."

Mary's eyes widened with alarm.  "Not Jean Paul!  After what I have
shown you!"

Jean Paul had come in, and was bending solicitously over Garrod.

Sir Bryson glanced at them.  "You have shown me nothing to his
discredit," he said.

"You won't see anything but what you wish to see!" cried Mary
indignantly.  "Is this your justice, your disinterestedness?"

Sir Bryson lost his temper.  "That will do!" he snapped rapping on the
table.  "I am the master here and I will do as I see fit.  The truth is
clear to all reasonable people," he went on, his eyes travelling around
the circle again.  "Of course I understand that to you and your
lover----"

He got no further.  Linda sprang up like a released bowstring.  "It's a
lie!" she cried, her small white face working with passion.

"Linda!  Linda!" implored Mrs. Worsley, following her aghast.

Linda thrust her away with a strength more than her own.  "Let me
alone!" she cried.  "I won't be quiet any longer!  I can't stand it!"
She ran across the grass, and clung to Jack's arm, facing Mary.  Gone
were all the pretty affectations and refinements; this was the
primitive woman.  "He's not hers!" she cried hysterically.  "He's mine!
He's mine!  She's trying to take him from me by making believe to
defend him.  I can defend him as well as she can.  I don't believe he's
guilty either.  I don't care if he is or not.  I love him, and he loves
me!"

[Illustration: "He's not hers!" she cried hysterically.]

A dreadful silence in the tent succeeded this outburst, broken only by
Linda's tempestuous sobs.  She hid her face on Jack's shoulder.  His
arm was around her; a man could do no less.  Vassall and Ferrie turned
away their heads, shamed and sick at heart to see the lady of their
dreams so abase herself.  Mrs. Worsley sank back in her chair, and
covered her face with her hands.

Mary Cranston, just now all alive, and warm and eager, turned to ice
where she stood.  Jack was fiery red and scowling like a pirate.  For a
second his eyes sought Mary's imploringly.  Seeing no hope there, he
stiffened his back, and drew on the old scornful, stubborn mask,
letting them think what they chose.  If he had had a moustache he would
have twirled it in their faces.  Sir Bryson was staring at his daughter
clownishly.

Mary broke the silence.  "I am sorry," she said, smoothly and clearly,
"that the young lady has misunderstood my reasons for mixing myself in
this.  She need not distress herself any further.  Malcolm Piers is
nothing to me, nor I to him.  If she still thinks I have any share in
him, I cheerfully give it to her here and now."

With that she was gone.  David Cranston would have been proud of her
exit.  Not until after she had gone did any of those present realize
the wonder of it, that as long as she had remained in the tent this
native girl of less than twenty years had dominated them all.

Sir Bryson's faculties were completely scattered.  His eyes were almost
as blank as Garrod's; his hands trembled; his breathing was stertorous.
Whatever his absurdities and weaknesses, at that moment the little man
was an object worthy of compassion.  Gradually his voice returned to
him.

"Linda!  How can you shame me so!" he murmured huskily.  Then in a
stronger voice: "Leave that man!"  He turned to Kate Worsley.  "Take
her away."

The storm of Linda's passion passed with the departure of the other
woman.  She was now terrified by what she had done.  She allowed
herself to be led away, weeping brokenly.

Sir Bryson turned to Jack.  "As for you, you young blackguard," he said
tremulously, "you needn't expect to profit by this.  If she persists in
her infatuation she is no daughter of mine.  But I'll save her if I
can."

Jack's chin stuck out.  He said nothing.

Jean Paul had listened to all this, outwardly shocked, but with the
hint of a smirk playing around the corners of his lips.  Fate was
unexpectedly playing into his hands!  He now looked at Sir Bryson for
orders, and Sir Bryson, as if in answer, rose and said:

"Jean Paul, I order you to arrest this man.  Secure him, and keep him
under guard until we can reach the nearest police post.  Mr. Vassall
and Mr. Ferrie will assist you."


The other two men who, up to the moment of Linda's avowal, had been
well enough disposed toward Jack, now turned hard and inimical faces
against him, and hastened to lend Jean Paul their aid.  All this while
Garrod sat in his chair staring dully before him.

Jack's hands clenched, and his eyes shot out cold sparks.  "Keep your
hands off me," he said.  "All of you!"

Jean Paul with an air of bravado motioned Vassall and Ferrie back.  To
outward appearances he was fully Jack's match.  Lacking an inch or two
of his height, he more than made it up in breadth of trunk, and length
of arm.  He slowly approached the white man, alert and smiling evilly.
For a moment they measured each other warily, Jean Paul crouching, Jack
upright.  Then the half-breed sprang forward.  Jack drew off, and his
fist shot out.  There was the crack of bone on bone, and Jean Paul
measured his length on the grass.  He twisted a few times, and lay
still.

"Good God!" cried Vassall and Ferrie, falling back.  They were not
muscular men.

"He's not dead," said Jack off-hand.  "A bucket of water will bring him
to."

Jack walked to the door with none to hinder.  Holding up the flap, he
faced them.  "You needn't think that I'm going to run," he said.  "I
don't mean to do anything that would suit you so well.  I'm going to
fight for my good name, and my claims, and my girl, and the whole
government of Athabasca can't stop me!"



XII

JACK FINDS OUT

Dinner-time came and went at Camp Trangmar without any one's feeling
much interested except the four Indian lads who ate largely, to the
accompaniment of chatter and laughter by their own fire.  It was
nothing to them what high words were passed, and what tears were shed
in the big tent.  They were making the most of such a time of plenty as
had never come their way before, and was not likely to be repeated.

By the cook-fire Humpy Jull exerted himself to tempt his hero's
appetite--not wholly without success, it must be said; for what had
happened could not check the coursing of the blood through Jack's
veins.  Twenty-five years old must be fed though the heavens fall.
Gabriel's trumpet had better not be sounded for the young until after
dinner.  Jack ate silently and scowlingly.  To one of his nature it was
galling when there was so much to be overcome, not to be up and doing,
not to be able to strike a blow.

Afterward the trees up the trail suffered for his wrath.  Having eased
his breast a little, he sat down to find a way out.  Here, being a
hewer instead of a thinker, he was at a disadvantage.  He was conscious
of an anomaly somewhere.  He was in perfect condition; to fill his
chest, and to stretch his muscles afforded him a keen sting of
pleasure, but wind and limb availed him nothing against the subtle
moral complications that beset him.  It was one thing to defy the
government of Athabasca in a bold voice, and another thing to find a
vulnerable spot to hit the creature.

He was sitting with his chin in his palms, considering this, when Kate
Worsley approached him from behind, and spoke his name.  He sprang up,
scowling.  Linda was waiting a little way off.  "Good heavens!" he
thought.  "Another scene to go through with!"

Mrs. Worsley was always simple in manner, and direct of speech.
"Jack," she said at once, "Linda has told me everything that has
happened between you, and I do not blame you as much as I did at first."

"Thanks," he said, looking away, and speaking gruffly as he was obliged
to do when he was moved.  "I value your good opinion, Mrs. Worsley.  I
don't think of you like the others."

"I am taking you into my confidence," she went on.  "I am in a
difficult position.  Linda is terribly distressed by what has happened.
She begged so to be allowed to see you for a moment, that I was afraid
if I refused--well, I have brought her on my own responsibility.  You
will not say anything to her to make me sorry I brought her, will you?"

"You needn't be afraid," said Jack.  "Nor Sir Bryson.  I can't say it
properly, but I shall not have anything to do with her until I can come
out in the open."

"I knew you felt that way," she said quietly.  "Of course it's no use
telling Sir Bryson in his present state of mind."

"He hates me," said Jack frowning.  "His kind always does.  He won't
give me a chance, and I say things that only make matters worse."  He
rubbed his furrowed forehead with his knuckle.  "It's a rotten,
mixed-up mess, isn't it?" he said with an appealing look.

Her eyes softened.  His strength and his weakness appealed alike to the
woman in her.  Her hand went out impulsively.  "You boy!" she said.
"It's no wonder!"

Jack, wondering what was no wonder, grabbed her hand, and pressed it
until she winced.

"If I can help you, come to me," she said.

"Thanks, anyway," he said.  "But nobody can, I suspect."

"Now talk to Linda," she said.  "Be gentle with her."

Jack frowned.  "I told her not to say anything," he began.

"I know, I know," she said cajolingly.  "But you are strong; be
merciful with her weakness.  Make allowances for women's nerves and
emotions.  It was a terrible scene on us all; most of all on her.  She
was foolish; but there was a kind of bravery, too, in avowing you
before them all.  Think of that!"

"If she only had your sense," said Jack.

Kate smiled and turned away.  "What do you expect?" she said over her
shoulder.  "I'm thirty-eight years old, and I was always plain!
Linda!" she called.  "Three minutes only, remember."  She walked away.

Linda came running, and cast herself in Jack's arms, weeping,
protesting, scarcely coherent.  "Oh, Jack!  I had to see you!  I was
terrified, thinking of your anger!  That woman enrages me so!  I can't
think!  What did you give her a mining-claim for?  If you'd only love
me more, I wouldn't be so jealous of her.  I didn't mean to injure you!
You know I'd never do that!  Don't be angry with me.  I've disgraced
myself forever with them, and if you go back on me too, what will I do?"

What was he to do with the helpless, contrite little thing but comfort
her?  His arms closed around her.  "Who says I'm going back on you?" he
muttered gruffly.

"It's no more than I deserve after disobeying you," she went on.  "I
was such a fool!  I'm so sorry!  Say you forgive me, Jack.  I'll do
better after this!"

"I can't forgive you right away," he said with his awkward honesty.
"But I'm not going back on anything.  Don't distress yourself like
this.  Everything will come right."

"But love me a little," she begged, lifting her tear-stained face.

He put her away not ungently.  "We mustn't," he said.

"Why?" she asked, gripping his arm.

"I promised Mrs. Worsley."

"What did you promise?'3

"Oh, you know," he said uncomfortably.  "Don't you see that if there is
any--well, love-making between us, it makes me out a villain to them?"

"No, I don't see it," she said.  "Not if I make you."

Jack began to sense that father and daughter had an exasperating trait
in common, the inability to see a thing they did not wish to see.  "I
should be blamed, anyway," he said.

"But I'll tell everybody the truth," she said.  "I'm not ashamed of
you.  They shall see that I have chosen you of my own free will."

"You have done harm enough," said Jack grimly.  "Better not say
anything more."

"I don't care," she whimpered.  "I've got to love you."

Jack's face became hard.  "I do care," he said.  "Understand, we have
got to cut all this out.  No one, not even a woman, can make me do what
I don't choose to do."

"Jack, don't speak to me like that," she murmured terrified.

"You brought it on yourself," he said miserably.  "You always seem to
make me stubborn and hateful."

"But you do love me?" she said desperately.

He inwardly groaned.  "I'm not going back on anything," he said lamely.

"That's not enough," she said, beginning to tremble again.  "It would
kill me if you didn't.  They'll never have anything to do with me
again.  I have no one but you.  You must love me.  You do love me,
don't you?"

"Of course I love you," he said with a strange sinking of the heart.

"Then I'll do whatever you tell me," she said submissively.

"No more talks off by ourselves," said Jack.  "And around camp you must
treat me exactly the same as the other men."

"But if you shouldn't succeed in proving----" she began.

"I will," said Jack.

"Time's up, Linda," said Kate, coming back.

Linda kissed him in spite of himself, and hurried away.  Jack breathed
a sigh of relief, and took up his axe again.

At the top of the bench a few hundred yards from where Jack was
working, the trail from over the portage divided.  One branch came down
to Camp Trangmar and the river; the other turned west along the edge of
the bench, and became the Fort Erskine trail.  A mile or two up the
valley the latter was joined by the trail that led directly west from
Camp Trangmar.

As Jack stood breathing himself after a spell of chopping, he became
aware of the sound of horses' footfalls coming along the Fort Erskine
trail.  There was no sound of a bell.  Struck by this fact, he bent his
head to listen attentively.  It is exceptional for the horses to stray
away from the one of their number who is belled.  Moreover, to Jack's
experienced ears, these had the sound of laden horses.  He could not
guess who it might be, but Indians or whites, they would hardly ride so
near to Camp Trangmar without coming in, unless they had a reason to
avoid observation.  He therefore dropped his axe, and ran up the hill
to intercept whoever was coming, and make them account for themselves.

At the forks of the trail to his astonishment he came face to face with
Mary and Davy mounted, and leading their two pack-horses.  The bell of
the leading horse had been silenced with a wisp of grass.  At the sight
of Jack they pulled up in obvious embarrassment.  Jack's heart went
down like a stone in deep water.

"You're pulling out?" he faltered.

"What else was there for us to do?" said Mary coldly.

"Without telling me?" cried Jack reproachfully.

"_I_ didn't want to," put in Davy eagerly.  "Mary said we had to."

Pride, indignation, and exquisite discomfort struggled in Mary's face.
"It seemed easier," she said.  "I'm sorry we met you.  There's nothing
to say!"

"But Mary--Mary!" urged Jack, scarcely knowing what he said, but filled
with his need of her.  "Not like this!  Wait until to-morrow.  Who
knows what may happen to-morrow!"

"What can happen?" said Mary.  "More humiliating scenes?"

Jack caught her bridle rein.  "I swear to you," he said, "if Sir Bryson
or any of the men----"

"I'm not thinking of them," Mary interrupted.  "You can't stop her
tongue.  You've given her the right to speak that way."

Jack hung his head.  Like a man under the circumstances he muttered:
"You're pretty hard on a fellow."

"Hard?" cried Mary sharply.  "What do you think I----"  She checked
herself with an odd smile.

Jack was determined to be aggrieved.  "It's unfriendly," he burst out;
"stealing out of camp by a roundabout way like this and even muffling
your bell."

"That's what I said!" put in Davy.

Mary flashed a hurt look at Davy that forgave him while she accused.
That he should take sides against her at such a moment--but of course
he was only a child.  She was silent.  Swallowing the lump in her
throat, she looked away over the little valley and the river for
support.  All three of them looked at the lovely scene below them,
softened and silvered in the creeping twilight, each wondering
miserably what had happened to the joy of life.

At last Mary said quietly: "It wasn't easy to decide what to do.  I
have to think of myself.  I have to think of father, what he would
like.  There is nothing else.  I am sorry.  You and I cannot be
friends.  We might as well make up our minds to it."

"Why can't we be?" demanded Jack.

"Because you have chosen a girl that will not allow you to have another
woman for a friend," she said.

This was unanswerable.  Jack could only hang his head again.

"I will not be friends with you secretly," Mary went on.  "Nor can I
lay myself open to her abuse.  So we must not see each other any more."

"I need you!" Jack blurted out.  His pride was hauled down.  It was the
first appeal for help that had passed his lips.

"I--I'm sorry," she faltered, but without relenting.  "Watch Jean Paul
well," she went on.  "He can't keep the man hypnotized always.  Get
Garrod away from him if you can."

Jack scarcely heard.  "I'm under arrest," he said.  "You're leaving me
without a friend in camp."

"You have her," said Mary softly, with an indescribable look;
compassion, reproach or disdain--or all three.

"Mary!" he burst out.

She jerked her bridle rein out of his hand, and clapped heels to her
horse's ribs.  "This does no good," she muttered.  "And it hurts!
Come, Davy."  She loped out of sight among the trees.

Davy lingered.  Leaning out of the saddle he put his arm around Jack's
shoulders.  The boy was near tears.  "Jack, what's the matter?" he
begged to know.  "I want to stay.  I feel so bad about it.  I don't
understand.  Why can't we be friends like we were before?  Mary won't
tell me anything.  We think such a heap of you, Jack.  The other
girl--she's nothing to you, is she?  Mary's worth a dozen of her.
There's nobody like Mary.  Why can't you and Mary----"

This was like a knife turned in Jack's breast.  "Get along with you!"
he said harshly.  "You don't know what you're talking about."
Disengaging himself from the boy's arm, he clapped the horse's haunch,
and the animal sprang ahead.  The pack-horses lumped after.

When they were out of sight Jack flung himself full length in the grass
with his face in his arms.  Now he knew.  This pain in his breast was
the thing they called love.  Blind fool that he had been, he had
dismissed her with the light term "native girl," and had not seen that
it was a woman in a thousand, the woman his manhood had always been
unconsciously yearning for, generous, true and lovely.  She rode away,
dragging his heart after her.  He was tied fast.  The pain of it was
insupportable.

"Good God! how did I ever get into it!" he groaned.  "What a price to
pay for a kiss in the dark!"



XIII

THE RETREAT

Two days passed at Camp Trangmar.  There was little outward evidence of
the several storms that agitated the breasts of the company.  The men
left Jack severely alone, and Jack for his own part took care to keep
out of Linda's way.  He made it his business to watch Garrod, visiting
him night and day in Jean Paul's tent, careless of the owner.  There
was no change in Garrod's condition.  Jean Paul sheered off at Jack's
approach like the wary animal he was.  Meanwhile Sir Bryson, Baldwin
Ferrie, and the Indians were busy staking out additional claims along
Tetrahedron creek.

On the third morning the camp was plunged into a fresh agitation.  Jack
and Humpy Jull were breakfasting by the cook-fire, Jack looking like a
sulky young Olympian in the morning sunlight, and Humpy naïvely trying
to cheer him up.

"Gosh!" he said.  "If I had your looks and figger I wouldn't care about
nothin'."

Jack, who disdained the false modesty that disclaims such tributes with
a simper, merely held out his plate for porridge.

Suddenly Vassall came quickly across the grass.  His face was pale and
streaked from the effects of nervous emotion.

"Sir Bryson wants you," he said to Jack.

Jack continued to eat leisurely.  "What about?" he asked, coolly.
"I've no mind to stand up and be abused again."

"Garrod is gone," said Vassall.

Jack's indifference vanished like sleight of hand.  He sprang up.
"Gone!" he echoed.

He headed straight for the big tent, Vassall following, and Humpy Jull
looking after them both with round eyes.

The inside of the big tent presented evidences of confusion.  Breakfast
was spread on the two little tables pushed together, and Linda, Mrs.
Worsley, and Baldwin Ferrie were seated, playing with their food.  Sir
Bryson's chair was pushed back, and his napkin lay on the grass.  The
little man was agitatedly walking up and down.  Jean Paul stood by with
a deferential air.

This time Linda gave no sign at Jack's entrance except for an access of
self-consciousness.

"What do you know about this?" Sir Bryson immediately demanded.

"I know nothing," Jack said.  "I have come to find out."

"Garrod has escaped," said Sir Bryson.

"Why not?" said Jack bitterly.  "He ought to have been secured."

Jean Paul spoke up.  "I get no order to tie him," he said smoothly.
"He all time ver' quiet.  I mak' him sleep inside me, and I tie a
buckskin lace from him to me.  If he move a little I wake.  This
morning when I wake, the lace cut and him gone."

"Did you let him keep a knife, too?" asked Jack, sneering.

Jean Paul looked confused.  "He got no knife w'en I look on him," he
said.

"It sounds fishy," said Jack scornfully.

"Do you mean to imply----" began Sir Bryson.

"Jean Paul sleeps like a cat," Jack went on.  "If so much as a stick
turns in the fire he wakes and looks to see.  Follow it out for
yourselves.  He can't keep the man hypnotized forever.  And once Garrod
comes to his senses, the truth comes out!"

"These are empty accusations," puffed Sir Bryson.  "The poor fellow has
wandered away in his distraction."

"Or been carried," Jack amended.

"By whom?" said Sir Bryson.  "We're all here."

"There are Sapi Indians a few miles west," said Jack.  "Jean Paul is a
power in the tribe."

"Excuse me, your excellency," purred Jean Paul, "if I do this, I not
stay be'ind myself me, to get your punishment."

"Make you mind easy, Jean Paul," said Sir Bryson graciously.  "This
fellow attempts to twist everything that happens, to his own advantage.
I commend your ingenuity, young sir," he added sarcastically.

"We're wasting time!" cried Jack with an impatient gesture.  "He's got
to be found!  Whatever you choose to think of me, you can safely leave
that in my hands.  It means more to me than to any one else.  It means
everything to me to find him."

"Jean Paul says the horses have strayed----" Sir Bryson began.

"The horses, too?" cried Jack.  The half-breed's eyes quailed under the
fiery question that Jack's eyes bent on him.  Without another word Jack
turned and ran out of the tent.


In half an hour he was back--with a grim face.  The occupants of the
big tent were much as he had left them, but Jack sensed from the
increased agitation of their faces, and from Jean Paul's sleekness,
that the half-breed had not failed to improve the interval.

"It's true," said Jack shortly.  "They've been driven off."

It had a terrifying sound to them.  They looked at him with wide eyes.

"I found their tracks on the Fort Erskine trail," Jack went on.  "They
were travelling at a dead run.  The tracks were six hours old."

Sir Bryson stopped his pacing.  "Driven off?" he said agitatedly.  "Are
you sure?  Couldn't they have run off by themselves?"

"They could," said Jack, "but they didn't.  Five of the horses were
hobbled when we turned them out.  The hobbles had been removed."

"Well, well," stammered Sir Bryson, "what are we to do?"

"Let me take ten days' grub from the store," said Jack.  "I'll
undertake to bring Garrod back, and at least some of the horses."

"You'd follow on foot?" Linda burst out.

Jack answered to Sir Bryson.  "They can't travel fast with their
families and baggage."

It was not Jack's safety that Sir Bryson was concerned about.
"But--but, leave us here without horses?" he faltered.

Jack smiled a little.  "What good am I to you?  I'm under arrest.  Jean
Paul has your ear.  Why won't he do?"

Sir Bryson gave no sign of hearing this.  "We must return," he said
nervously.  "We can't stay here--without horses."

Jack's heart sank.  "What have the horses got to do with it?" he asked.
"You're safe here.  You've grub enough for months."

Sir Bryson looked at the half-breed.  "Jean Paul says perhaps it is the
Indians," he said.  "He thinks they may have driven off the horses as a
preliminary to attacking us."

"I not say that, me," put in Jean Paul quickly.  "I jus' say best to be
ready."

"So that's his game," cried Jack scornfully.  "He's fooling you!  It's
an old redskin trick to drive off the horses to prevent pursuit.  But
as to standing up to white men--well, I'm willing to go and take my man
and my horses away from the whole village of them."

Sir Bryson violently shook his head.  Jack saw that the fate of Garrod
had little weight with him.  "We are quite defenceless!" he cried.
"And with the women to look after!  It is my duty to start back!"

Jack's lip curled.

Sir Bryson's voice scaled up shrilly.  "How will we ever get back?" he
cried.

"That's easy," said Jack.  "Twelve miles walk over the portage to Fort
Geikie, then by raft down the river.  We'll make it in two days."

"Can we start this morning?"

Jack flushed.  "No!" he cried.  "Abandon our outfit!  That would be
disgraceful.  It would be the joke of the country.  I won't be a party
to it!  We'll cache the stuff to-day, and you can start to-morrow."

"Very well," said Sir Bryson nervously.  "In the meantime we must keep
a sharp lookout!"

Before Jack left him he made another appeal to be allowed to go after
Garrod.  He might as well have saved his breath.  Sir Bryson and those
with him, except perhaps Mrs. Worsley, were in the grip of panic.  It
was futile to try to reassure those whose notions of Indians had been
gathered from the Wild West fiction of a preceding generation.

Jack came out of the tent sore all the way through.  Taking them down
to the Fort would cost him five precious days.  True, he could get
horses there, and perhaps assistance if he needed it, but the waste of
five days was maddening.

Jack thought for a moment of defying Sir Bryson, and going anyway.  But
he put it from him.  Any white man who abandoned a party that he had
bound himself to guide, no matter what the circumstances might be,
would be disgraced forever in the North.  It is a situation which
simply does not admit of argument.  This sense of guide-responsibility
is strong among white men, because the natives are without it.  They
are prone to shuffle off disagreeable burdens on the slightest
provocation.

Jack set to work with a sullen will.  He took out his soreness in hard
work and in making the Indian lads work.  Hard and long-continued
exertion was a disagreeable novelty to them; before many hours had
passed they were sullen too.

An axe party was immediately dispatched into the bush, and by noon
enough stout poplar logs were cut and trimmed and drawn into camp to
make a small shack.  By supper-time the walls were raised, and the roof
of poles laid and covered with thick sods.  The remaining hours of
daylight were occupied in storing everything they possessed inside.  It
was ten o'clock before they knocked off work.  Meanwhile Sir Bryson, to
Jack's scornful amusement, had insisted on posting Vassall and Ferrie
as outposts against a surprise.

Next morning the governor was plunged into a fresh panic by the loss of
the four Indian lads.  No one saw them go.  They melted out of camp,
one by one, and were seen no more.  Jack was not greatly surprised; he
had seen premonitory symptoms the day before.  It was additional
evidence to him that the other Indians were still in the neighbourhood,
and he was more than ever chagrined to be obliged to retreat without
even an attempt to recover Garrod.

Jack kept out of Sir Bryson's way.  In spite of themselves, however,
the white men leaned on Jack more and more.  Their imaginary redskin
peril strengthened the race feeling, and Jack's energy and
resourcefulness were indispensable to them.  They came to him
sheepishly for aid, but they came.

"What do you make of this desertion?" Vassall asked anxiously.

"Nothing serious," said Jack.  "I don't think Jean Paul has a hand in
it, because it's his game to get us out as quickly as he can.  They
probably vamoosed of their own accord.  When we lost the horses, they
saw the end of their good times.  They've been fed too high.  It makes
'em beany, like horses."

"But what'll we do without them?" Vassall asked.

Jack guessed that the question came from Sir Bryson.

"Tell the old gentleman to keep his shirt on," he said.  "They're no
great loss.  It means that we'll all have to carry a little more across
the portage, that's all."

After breakfast the tents were taken down and stored with the last of
the camp impedimenta in the cache.  When everything had been put
inside, the door was fastened with a hasp and staple removed from one
of the boxes, and Jack pocketed the key.  The loads were then
apportioned and packed, a long job when six of the eight were totally
inexperienced.  Sir Bryson was still looking over his shoulder
apprehensively.  At eleven o'clock they finally set out.

It was a quaintly assorted little procession that wound in single file
along the firmly beaten brown trail through the willow scrub and among
the white-stemmed poplars.  There was a lieutenant-governor carrying a
pack, and striving ineffectually to maintain his dignity under it; and
there was his daughter likewise with a blanket strapped on her
shoulders, and an olive-wood jewel-case in her hand, with a gold clasp.
Jack smiled a little grimly at the idea of a jewel-case being toted
through the bush.

Everybody carried a pack conformable to his strength.  Since the two
women and Sir Bryson could take so little, the others were fairly well
laden.  Jean Paul at the head, and Jack bringing up the rear, toted the
lion's share.  Besides blankets, the outfit consisted of food
sufficient for five days, cooking and eating utensils, guns,
ammunition, and axes.  Jack had a coil of light rope to aid in building
his raft.

Jack put Vassall next behind Jean Paul, with a word in his ear to watch
the half-breed.  Jack felt, somehow, that no serious harm was likely to
befall Garrod so long as he had Jean Paul safely under his eye.  After
Vassall the others strung along the trail, with Humpy Jull, the oddest
figure of all, marching in front of Jack, looking like an animated
tinware shop with his pots and pans hanging all over him.

They started in good enough spirits, for the sun was shining, and the
packs felt of no weight at all.  But on the little hills their legs
inexplicably caved in; their breath failed them, and the burdens
suddenly increased enormously in weight.  It was a long time since hard
labour had caused Sir Bryson to perspire, and the novel sensation
afforded him both discomfort and indignation.  Two miles an hour was
the best they could do, counting in frequent pauses for rest.  The
twelve miles stretched out into an all-day affair.

Once, toward the end of the afternoon, they came to the bank of a small
stream, and throwing off their burdens, cast themselves down in the
grass beside it, all alike and equal in their weariness.  Sir Bryson
was no longer a knight and a governor, but only the smallest man of the
party, rather pathetic in his fatigue.  They were too tired to talk;
only Jack moved about restlessly.  The slowness of the pace had tired
him more than the seventy-five pounds he carried.

As Jack passed near Kate and Linda the latter said petulantly: "I'm
tired, Jack.  I want to talk to you."

Jack's heart sank, but nothing of it showed in his face.  The little
thing's look of appeal always reproached him.  To a man of his type
there is something shameful and wrong in not being able to give a woman
more than she looks for.  "Lord! it's not her fault," he would tell
himself; and "As long as I'm going through with it, I must make a good
job of it!"  So he plumped down beside her.

"Go as far as you like," he said with a kind of hang-dog facetiousness.
"Everybody can see, and Mrs. Worsley is standing guard."

"But I'm tired," she repeated.  "I want to put my head on your
shoulder."  She looked at the spot she had chosen.

Jack became restive.  "Easy there," he said uncomfortably.  "You're
forgetting the compact!"

Linda's eyes slowly filled with tears.  "Hang the compact," she said.
"I'm tired."

"I'll carry your blanket the rest of the way," Jack said gruffly.

"I won't let you," she said.  "You've got a perfectly enormous load
already."

"Pshaw! that featherweight won't make any difference," he said, and
tied it to his pack.

"My feet hurt me," wailed Linda.

Jack frowned at the elegant little affairs Linda called her "sensible"
shoes.  "No wonder," he said.  "Trying to hit the trail on stilts.  Put
out your foot."

His axe lay near.  Firmly grasping her ankle, with a single stroke he
guillotined the greater part of the elevating heel.  Linda and Kate
both screamed a little at the suddenness of the action, and Linda
looked down horrified, as if she expected to see the blood gush forth.
Jack laughed, and performed a like operation on the other foot.  For
the next hundred yards she swore she could not walk at all, but the
benefit of the amputation gradually became apparent.

Never was such a long twelve miles.  Finally, when most of them had
given up hope of ever making an end to this journey, they debouched on
the grassy esplanade surrounding the shacks of Fort Geikie.  Humpy Jull
set about getting dinner, while Jack and Jean Paul cut poplar saplings
and constructed a leafy shelter for Linda and Kate.  The business of
camp had to be carried on; no one seeing these people travelling, and
eating together, and sleeping around the same fire, could have guessed
how their hearts were divided.

They were ready for sleep immediately after eating.  Linda and Kate
disappeared, and the men rolled up in their blankets, Sir Bryson
grumbling.  He felt that another little shelter should have been made
for him.  He found it very trying to be obliged to snore in public
among his servants.

Sir Bryson insisted that a watch be maintained throughout the night,
and Jack, who would have laughed at any other time, fell in with the
idea, because he had a notion that Jean Paul might try to slip away.
Jack arranged therefore that the half-breed keep the first watch, and,
at no little pain and difficulty, he remained awake himself to watch
Jean Paul.  At eleven Jean Paul wakened Humpy Jull; at one, Vassall
took Humpy's place.

Jack had left instructions that he was to be roused at three.  It was
already broad day at this hour.  Upon Vassall's touch he staggered to
his feet under the burden of sleep and walked blindly up and down until
he had shaken it off.  He went to the edge of the bank to take a
prospect, Vassall at his elbow.  A better understanding was coming
about between these two.  Vassall made no pretence that he had forgiven
Jack for burglarizing Linda's affections, as he thought, but granting
that, he, Vassall, was doing all he could do to bear his share of their
common burden.

A lovely panorama of river, islands, and hills lay before them in the
cool, pure, morning light.

"I'm going to cross to the island," Jack said, pointing.  "In the
drift-pile on the bar there, there's dry wood enough for a dozen rafts."

"How will you get over there?" asked Vassall.

"Swim," said Jack.

"I'll go along, too."

Jack stared at the slender, pale young city man.  "You!" he said with a
not very flattering intonation.

"Hang it, I'm not going to let you do everything," Vassall said,
frowning.  "I can swim.  It's one of the few things I can do that is
useful up here."

"It's not so much of a swim," said Jack.  "The current carries us.
I'll tow the axe on a stick or two.  But the water's like ice."

"I can stand if it you can," Vassall said doggedly.

Jack looked at him with a gleam of approval.  "Come on and feed then,"
he said off-hand.

They wakened Baldwin Ferrie to stand the last watch, and sat down to
the cold victuals Humpy had left for them.  In front of them the other
men still slept, an odd sight, the three of them rolled up like corpses
in a row in the morning light: lieutenant-governor, half-breed, and
cook, as much alike as three trussed chickens.

While Jack ate, he issued his instructions to Ferrie: "Wake Humpy at
five, and tell him to get a move on with breakfast.  As soon as Vassall
and I knock the raft together, we'll cross back to this side, but the
current will carry us down about a third of a mile.  When the rest of
you have finished eating, pack up and come down to the shore.  You'll
have to walk along the stones to the first big point on this side.
Bald Point, they call it, because of the trees being burned off.  Lose
no time, because we must be started by eight, if we mean to make Fort
Cheever by dark."

Jack and Vassall, clad only in shirt, trousers, and moccasins,
scrambled down the steep bank to the water's edge.  Vassall looked at
the swirling green flood with a shiver.

"Tie your moccasins around your neck," Jack said.  "Leave your other
things on.  They'll soon dry as we work around.  Head straight out into
midstream, and you'll find the current will ground you on the point of
the bar below."

The water gripped them with icy fingers that squeezed all the breath
out of their lungs.  Vassall set his teeth hard, and struck out after
Jack.  They were both livid and numb when they finally landed, and Jack
forced Vassall to run up and down the bar with him, until the blood
began to stir in their veins again.  Then they attacked the tangled
pile of drift logs.

Eight bleached trunks as heavy as they could pry loose and roll down to
the water's edge provided the displacement of the raft.  Jack chopped
them to an equal length, and laced them together with his rope.  On
these they laid several cross-pieces, and on the cross-pieces, in turn,
a floor of light poles, the whole stoutly lashed together.  The outfit
was completed by two roughly hewn sweeps and a pair of clumsy trestles
in which to swing them.  They were greatly handicapped by the lack of
an auger and of hammer and nails, and the result of their labour was
more able than shipshape.  Four strenuous hours went to the making of
it.

"She'll hold," said Jack at last, "if we don't hit anything."

They pushed off, and each wielding a sweep, pulled her back toward the
shore they had started from.  They both watched her narrowly, not a
little proud of their handiwork.  At least she floated high and dry,
and answered, though sluggishly, to the sweeps.  Their common feeling
made Jack and Vassall quite friendly for the moment.

The little group was already waiting for them on the stones, with the
slender baggage.  Apprehension is quicker than the physical senses.
Before he could see what was the matter, Jack sensed that something had
happened, and a sharp anxiety attacked him.  As he and Vassall drew
near the shore he scanned the waiting group closely; he counted them,
and then it became clear!  There were only five waiting instead of six!

"Where's Jean Paul?" he cried out.

The people on the shore looked at each other uncomfortably.  There was
no answer until the raft grounded on the stones.  Then Sir Bryson drew
himself up and puffed out his cheeks.

"He asked my permission to remain to search for poor Garrod," he said
in his most hoity-toity manner.  "And I thought best to accede to his
request."

Jack's jaw dropped.  For an instant he could not believe his ears.
Then he slowly turned white and hard.  So this was what he got for
spending his strength in their service!  This was what he had to deal
with: folly and self-sufficiency that passed belief!  He was angrier
than he had ever been in his life before.  He was much too angry to
speak.  He stepped ashore, and walked away from them, struggling with
himself.

Sir Bryson strutted and puffed and blew for the benefit of all
observers.  His secret dismay was none the less apparent.  None looked
at him.  They were gazing fearfully at Jack's ominous back.

He came back with a set, white face.  "Sir Bryson," he said in a voice
vibrating with quiet, harsh scorn, "I say nothing about myself.  Apart
from that I've shown you clearly, and these people are witnesses to it,
that this half-breed means Garrod no good.  So be it.  If he does for
him now, it will be on your head."

In spite of his bluster, Sir Bryson began to look like a frightened
small boy.

Linda was weeping with anger and fright.  "I told him," she said, "but
he wouldn't listen to me."

Kate, fearful of another outburst, laid a restraining hand on her.

"Here's your raft," Jack went on harshly.  "All you have to do is to
sit on it and keep it in the middle of the river and you'll be at Fort
Cheever before dark.  After letting the breed go, the least you can do
is to let me stay and watch him."

They all cried out against this, even Kate and Vassall, whom Jack
thought he could count on a little.  They all spoke at once in confused
tones of remonstrance and alarm.  "What would we do without you?  We
don't know the river.  We can't handle a raft," and so on.

Above all the others Sir Bryson's voice was heard trembling with alarm
and anger: "Would you desert us here?"

The word brought the blood surging back into Jack's face.  "Desert
nothing," he said.  "I asked your permission.  I do not desert.  Get
aboard everybody, and hand on the bundles!"

They scrambled at his tone, a good deal like sheep.  Jack launched the
raft with a great heave of his back, running out into the water, thigh
deep.  Clambering on board, he picked up a sweep, and brought her
around in the current.  Sir Bryson and the others stole disconcerted
sides glances at his hard and bitter face.  There is something very
intimidating in the spectacle of a righteous anger pent in a strong
breast.  The spectator is inclined to duck his head, and wonder where
the bolt will fall.



XIV

BEAR'S FLESH AND BERRIES

Jack propelled the raft into the middle of the current, and, taking the
sweep aboard, sat down on the end of it with his back to the others,
and nursed his anger.  They sat or lay on the poles in various uneasy
positions.  Sir Bryson, who, until the the day before, had probably not
been obliged to sit in man's originally intended sitting position for
upward of thirty years, felt the indignity keenly.

Every one's nerves were more or less stretched out of tune.  Linda,
watching Jack's uncompromising back with apprehensive eyes, was
exasperated past bearing by her father's fretful complaints.

"What do you want?" she burst out.  "A padded chair?  Don't be
ridiculous, father!"

Sir Bryson swelled and snorted.  "That is no way to speak to your
father, Belinda.  Because you see me robbed of my outward and visible
dignity is no reason for your forgetting the respect you owe me.  I am
surprised at you."

Linda's muttered reply was forcible and inelegant.  None of the others
paid any attention.  Sir Bryson, feeling perhaps that a magisterial air
accorded ill with his tousled hair and his cross-legged position, made
a bid for sympathy instead.

"My feet are going to sleep," he said plaintively.

Jack, overhearing, was reminded again of the resemblance between father
and daughter.  "You don't have to sit still," he said, speaking over
his shoulder.  "You can move about as long as you don't all get on the
same side at the same time."

Sir Bryson, who would not have been robbed of his grievance for any
consideration, continued to sit and suffer dramatically.

Vassall's head was heavy.  Stretching himself out, and watching Linda
wistfully, he finally fell asleep.  Humpy Jull, up at the bow--if a
raft may be said to have a bow--constructed a fishing line out of a
bent pin and a moccasin lace, and baiting it with a morsel of bacon,
fished for hours with the trusting confidence of a child.  Discouraged
at last, he fell asleep beside Vassall.

Thus the morning passed.  Left to its own devices, the raft swung
around and back in the eddying current, and a superb panorama was
ceaselessly and slowly unrolled for any who cared to see.  The river
moved down through its vast trough in the prairie, and an ever-changing
vista of high hills, or seeming hills, hemmed them in.  On the
southerly side the hills were timbered for the most part.  On the
northerly side, where the sun beat all day, the steep slopes were bare,
and the rich grass made vivid velvety effects darkened in the hollows
and touched with gold on the knolls.  The whole made a green symphony,
comprising every note in the scale of green from the sombre spruce
boughs up through the milky emerald of the river water to the high
verdancy of the sunny grass and the delicate poplar foliage.

Of them all only Kate Worsley watched it as if the sight was enough to
repay one for the discomfort of sitting on poles.  Her quiet eyes were
lifted to the hills with the look of one storing away something to
remember.

Now and then a momentary excitement was created by the sight of a bear
grubbing about the roots of the poplar saplings, homely, comical beasts
with their clumsy ways and their expression of pretended cuteness.
Something still wild in the breasts of domesticated creatures like
ourselves never fails to answer to the sight of a real wild thing at
home in his own place.  Since they had no time to go ashore in case of
a hit, no shots were fired.

Once in the middle of the day they landed long enough for Jack to build
a hearth of flat stones on Humpy's end of the raft, and cover it with
clay.  Then, gathering a little store of wood, they pushed off again,
and Humpy built his fire, and boiled his kettle while they floated down.

After lunch Jack's anger was no longer sufficient to keep his neck
stiff.  He had been up since three that morning, and in spite of
himself he began to nod.  Vassall volunteered to keep watch while he
slept.

"There's nothing to do as long as she keeps the middle of the stream,"
Jack said.  "If she drifts to one side or the other wake me."

He stretched himself out, and in spite of the cobbly nature of his bed,
immediately fell asleep.  Linda watched him with the tears threatening
to spring.  He had not spoken to her since they started, and indeed had
scarcely seemed to be aware of her.  She glanced at the others with
rebellious brows.  If it were not for them, she thought, the tawny head
might be pillowed in her lap.

Another hour dragged out its slow length.  Kate Worsley out of pity for
Sir Bryson's increasing peevishness proposed a game of bridge.  It was
hailed with alacrity.  A sweater was spread for a cloth; Sir Bryson,
Kate, Baldwin Ferrie, and Vassall squatted around it, and the cards
were dealt.

"Fancy!" exclaimed Vassall, looking around.  "Rather different from a
game in the library at Government House, eh?"

"And different looking players," suggested Kate with a smile.

"I feel it very keenly, Mrs. Worsley," said Sir Bryson tearfully.  "I
have always attached great importance to the little details of one's
personal appearance.  Perhaps it is a weakness.  But that is the way I
am."

"We're all in the same boat--I mean raft," said Mrs. Worsley
cheerfully.  "Look at me!"

"I will make it no trumps," said Baldwin Ferrie.

Linda, seeing the others fully occupied, moved nearer to Jack, and lay
down where, making believe to be asleep herself, she could watch his
face, calm and glowing in sleep, the lashes lying on his cheeks, the
thin nostrils, the firm, red line of his lips.  If he had only slept
with his mouth open, or had snored, it might have broken the spell that
held her, and a deal of trouble been saved.  Unfortunately he slept
beautifully; and if that was not enough, once he smiled vaguely like a
sleeping baby, and changed his position a little with a sigh of
content.  The sight of her strong man in his helplessness affected the
girl powerfully; when he moved, her heart set up a great beating, and
the alarmed blood tingled to her finger-tips.

During this time but an indifferent watch was kept.  Humpy Jull had
fallen asleep again.  There seemed little need to watch on such a
voyage.  True, they had passed little reefs and stretches of broken
water where the swift current met obstructions inshore, but there had
been no disturbance that extended out into midstream.  The raft was
carried down squarely in the middle of the channel.

Once when it came to Vassall's turn to be dummy, he stood up to stretch
his legs and look about him.  A short distance ahead he saw that the
invariably earthy slope of the hills was broken by an outcropping of
rock on either side.  The band of rock evidently crossed the river, for
in the middle a ragged islet of rock stuck its head out of the water.

Vassall debated on which side of the rock they ought to pass with the
raft.  To a riverman the "middle of the stream" means the main sweep of
the current of course.  Vassall was not a riverman and he did not
observe that the greater body of water made off to the left and around
that side of the island.  The channel on the right-hand side stretched
straight ahead of them, wide and apparently smooth, and to Vassall this
looked like the "middle of the stream."  If he had left the raft alone
the current of its own accord would have carried it around to the left,
but he ran out a sweep and pulled her to the other side.  He saw no
occasion for waking Jack.

A new hand was dealt and he returned to the game.  It was a critical
hand, and the attention of all four of the players was closely fixed on
the cards until the last trick was taken.  Not until then did they
become aware of the grumble of broken water ahead.  They had heard the
sound before on the reefs they had passed.  Vassall, looking up, saw
only a kind of smudge like a thumb-mark drawn across the smooth face of
the river ahead.  The next time he looked he saw darkish spots here and
there between the island and the shore.

The noise became louder.  Finally he got up, and in the act of rising
the ominous white leaped into his view.  It was a reef extending all
the way across.  The dark spots were rocks covered by an inch or two of
water.

For an instant Vassall looked at it stupidly.  The others were
arranging their cards in ignorance of any danger.  Before Vassall could
wake Jack, the hoarse roar of the reef reached the subconsciousness of
the sleeping man, and he sprang up, all standing.  A glance told him
everything.

"What are we doing on this side?" he cried.

He ran out one sweep, and motioned Vassall to the other.  They pulled
with a will.  The others watched, not fully understanding the nature of
the danger yet, but alarmed by Jack's grimness.  He was heading the
raft for the main channel.  They had not reached the island yet, but
Jack soon saw that at the rate they were being carried down he could
not make the other side, nor could he land his clumsy craft on the
shore above the reef.

"Save your strength," he said to Vassall.  "We'll have to chance it.
Everybody sit still and hold on."

A breathless few minutes succeeded.  Jack steered for the widest space
he could see between the rocks.  Those who were sitting down still
could not see much of what was ahead, but the roar of the water was now
sufficiently terrifying.  Moving of a piece with the current as they
were, it seemed as if they were not moving, but that the broken rocks
were striding to meet them, not very fast, but inexorably.  It was hard
to sit and wait.

Then as they came close they saw how the water slipped silkily over the
reef with the dark shadows showing like teeth beneath, and boiled up
below.  The women cried out sharply, and the men turned pale.  It
suddenly became evident how fast the heavy raft was moving.

"Throw yourselves flat and hang on!" Jack shouted.

They obeyed.  There was a dreadful moment of waiting, while the roar of
the water filled their ears.  Then she struck.  One side of the raft
slid up on a submerged shelf, the floor tilted at a steep angle, and
the current surged over the lower side, sweeping everything movable
off.  Jack stood up to his knees in the torrent, pushing desperately at
the heavy sweep.  He budged her inch by inch.

"Lie still!" he shouted.  "For your lives!  We'll make it yet!"

But panic seized upon his passengers.  Somebody scrambled for the high
side of the raft, and the rest followed.  The strain was too great for
the lashings.  A rope parted somewhere, and the floor instantly heaved
up beneath them.  There was a brief, wild confusion of thrashing,
tangled logs and feeble human bodies.  Then the whole thing, logs,
bodies, baggage, and playing cards was swept over into the deep, rough
water below.

When Jack came to the surface he had a confused impression of bobbing
heads and logs on every side.  He seized the nearest log, and
unstrapping the cartridge belt and the gun that were drowning him,
buckled it on.  Meanwhile, he was looking for the long hair of the
women.  He reached one of them in six strokes.  A pair of clutching
arms reached for him, but he dived, and seizing her by the collar,
towed her to the nearest log.  It was Linda.

Leaving her supported, he trod water looking for Kate.  He saw more
streaming hair not far away, and reached the spot as she rose again.
There was sterner stuff here; her face was white and wild, but her arms
were under control.  She put her hands on Jack's shoulders as he
commanded, and he brought her likewise to a log.  A little brown box
came bobbing by, Linda's jewel-case.  Kate coolly put out her hand and
secured it.

All this had taken but a minute.  Jack looked about him.  Everything
was being carried down of a piece with the current, and they were all
close together.  It seemed to Jack as if the whole face of the river
was littered with playing cards.  He had a particular impression of the
deuce of clubs.  Vassall was helping Baldwin Ferrie to a log, and Humpy
Jull had secured the log that bore Jack's cartridge belt.  Only Sir
Bryson was missing.  Farther out Jack saw a feeble commotion, and no
log near.

"See to the women!" he called to Vassall.  "There's a backwater
inshore.  Humpy, save that belt as you value your life!"

The struggling figure sank before he reached it.  Jack swam about the
spot.  It rose again, but out of his reach.  He dived for it.  They
came together, and a pair of frantic arms closed about Jack's neck.
They sank together, Jack struggling vainly.  They rose, Jack got a
breath, and broke the hold.  The struggling ceased.

Swinging the inert figure over his back, Jack struck out for the shore.
It was a desperately hard pull.  They had been carried too far to
obtain any advantage from the backwater.  The logs he passed were of no
aid to him, because the current tended to carry them into midstream.
For a long time the shore seemed only to recede as he struggled toward
it.  More than once fear touched him and he was on the point of going
down.  He rested, breathing deep, and set to it again.  Finally he
ceased to think or to feel, but he continued to struggle automatically,
and he still clung to his burden.

It was with a kind of surprise that he finally felt the stones under
his feet.  He staggered ashore, and putting down the limp figure he
carried, flung himself on the shore utterly exhausted.  How long he lay
there he hardly knew.  As soon as a little strength began to stir in
him, with the man-of-the-wilds instinct he set to work collecting
sticks to make a fire.

He had been carried nearly a mile below the reef.  By and by, far up
the shore he saw some wavering, uncertain little figures.  He was able
to count five of them, so he knew all were safe.  He hailed them
shrilly after the way of the country.  After his little fire sprang up,
he could see that they were coming toward him slowly, the men helping
the women.

They came, a distressed little company, drenching wet, silent and
dazed.  They moved like automatons, as if their limbs were independent
of them, and they looked at each other dully, as if not with full
recognition.  Reaching Jack, they stood around in an uncertain way;
none of them spoke.  It was as if they had lost the faculty of speech
also.  Linda was roused by the sight of her father; with a cry, she
cast herself on his body.

"He's not drowned," Jack said quickly.  "Only stunned a little."

The helplessness of the others had the effect of rousing Jack to an
ardour of activity that transformed him.  His gnawing anger was
forgotten; his black looks were flown.  Their situation was well-nigh
desperate, but here the opposing forces were purely physical, such as
he thoroughly understood, and loved to attack.  His exhaustion passed,
and his eyes became bright.

"Has anybody dry matches?" he sang out.

The dazed ones looked a little amazed at his spirits.  It appeared that
no one's match-safe was waterproof but Jack's own.

"Spread 'em out to dry on a rock," he said.  "They may work.  I have
seventeen good ones.  That's enough at a pinch.  Everybody scatter for
dry wood.  Keep on the move, and get your circulation going.  Humpy,
you build another fire behind the willows for the ladies.  Light it
from this one.  We can have all the fire we want, anyway.  Vassall,
help me here with Sir Bryson.  We must take his wet things off."  He
glanced up at the sun.  "Rest for an hour," he said; "then on the
march!  Red Willow Creek to-night; Fort Cheever to-morrow afternoon!"

"But how are we going to support life on the way?" stammered Baldwin
Ferrie.

Jack pointed to the belt Humpy Jull had brought along.  His gun and his
hunting-knife hung from it.  This, with Linda's jewel-case, was the sum
total of what they had saved from the wreck.

"We have the cannon," Jack said with a laugh.  "About forty cartridges,
and the seventeen matches.  We'll make out."

An hour later they started to climb the steep, high hill to the
prairie.  They took it very slowly on account of Sir Bryson, who was
still white and shaky.  But he complained no more.  Jack's example had
had its effect on all, and a more cheerful feeling pervaded the party.
They were at least dry and warm again.  The men still regarded Jack's
high spirits a little askance.  It did not fit their settled
convictions about him; they resented it slightly while forced to admire.

"Where are we heading for?" Vassall asked.

"There's a trail down this side of the river as well as on the other,"
Jack said.  "I've never been over it, but if we strike straight back we
must hit it."

"How will we get back across the river?"

"Nothing easier," said Jack.  "When we arrive opposite the fort, if
it's daylight, we'll wave a shirt; if it's night, we'll build a fire,
and they'll send a canoe over for us."

Once having accomplished the difficult hill it was easy enough going
over the prairie.  Taking his bearings from the sun, Jack led them in a
line at right angles back from the river.  Linda walked beside him.
Vassall and Ferrie helped support Sir Bryson.  Half an hour's walking
brought them to a trail, as Jack had promised, and their hearts rose.
It was a less well-beaten track than the main route on the north side
of the river, but easy enough to follow.

Jack called a halt.  "Here we are," he said.  "The first good water
that I know of is Red Willow Creek.  I've camped on the river at the
mouth of it.  It will be about seven miles.  Are you good for it?"

They said they were.  No one dreamed of opposing Jack now.  They hung
on him like defenceless merchant-men on their man-o'-war convoy.

"Vassall, you lead the way from here," Jack went on.  "You'll find the
creek in a big coulee.  We'll camp for the night in the bottom of it.
If by any chance you should lose the trail before you get there, just
climb to the highest place you see, and sit down and wait till I come
along."

"But where are you going?" they demanded.

"To hunt for our supper," said Jack.

He issued two of the precious matches to Humpy to make a fire on
arrival.  "There ought to be berries in the coulee," he said.  "Collect
all you can."

Linda clung to him.  "Can't I go with you?" she begged.

He shook his head.  "The hunter must hunt alone."

"Don't be long.  Be very careful.  If we lost you we'd simply lie down
and die."

"Easy!" he said uncomfortably.

Linda glanced at the others.  "Why should I hide it now?" she said.
"I'm proud of you.  They know now why I chose a man like you, a real
man."

Jack had the feeling that additional turns of rope were being taken
around his body.  He blushed and scowled together.  "Linda! for
heaven's sake!" he burst out.  Under his breath, "Wait until I pull you
out of this before you begin to talk."  He turned and fled.

A word of sympathy may be dropped here for Vassall and Ferrie.  It is
hard to have to stand by while your rival has the opportunity to save
the lives of all and sundry, including your own, just because he is in
his own element and you are out of yours.  And then to be publicly
scorned by the girl in the case--for that is what Linda's speech
amounted to.  Linda had no mercy for men; that is why, if you look into
it far enough, she was bound to suffer on her own account.  It was much
to their credit that the two men took it generously.

It was four hours before they saw Jack again.  They had reached the
rendezvous some time before, and Humpy had built a fire on the shore of
the creek, around which they sat in silence, trying not to look as
hungry as they felt, and trying to conceal the common anxiety that
gnawed at each breast: "What will we do if he doesn't come!"

But at last his hail came over the hill, and Jack himself came running
and sliding down the grassy slope, covered with feathers it appeared.
They sprang up with glad cries.  Never did man receive a more heartfelt
welcome.  They were like his hungry children waiting to be fed and
cheered.  It is sweet to be so necessary to one's fellow-beings, but
indeed it was a startling transformation.  At one bound Jack had risen
in their estimation from a disgraced felon to the saviour and preserver
of them all.  Jack felt this, and it was his revenge.

He kissed Linda--he had to--and flung his burdens down.  "Prairie
chicken," he said.  "Sorry to keep you waiting so long, but I hated to
come in until I had got one all round, and I couldn't take any chances.
They're too expensive, anyway; a shell apiece and two misses.
To-morrow I'll try to bring in something more substantial."

Thus they dined off roasted prairie chicken and saskatoon berries,
strictly after Nature's first intention without artificial aids.  And
when one wanted a drink he had to scoop it out of the creek in his
hand.  It was remarkable how easy all this came to them, even to a
lieutenant-governor when he was hungry and thirsty.

The night was harder.  Jack built a sort of lean-to, or wind-break, of
poplar, with a long fire close across in front.  The heat was partly
reflected down by the sloping roof, and in this pleasant oven they lay
in a row on heaped spruce boughs.  The men arranged to take turns in
keeping up the fire throughout the night.  But the ground was cold, and
there was not much sleep to be had.  Jack sat up and told cheerful
yarns of worse nights that he had managed to live through.

At sun-up he was away again.  An hour's patient waiting at the edge of
a berry thicket two miles up the coulee brought him what he sought, a
young black bear.  He brought the hams into camp.  The women looked
askance at his prizes, and elected to breakfast off berries alone.  But
baked in its hide in a pit with hot stones the meat was not to be
despised, and after a few miles on the trail they were all glad to
share it.

All that day Jack convoyed his little company slowly, with many a rest
beside the trail.  They had about twenty miles to cover.  Alone, Jack
would have made it in five hours, but he saw that it would be a great
feat for some of the others if they got through at all that day.  In
spite of what he could do, in the middle of the afternoon Linda gave
out, and Sir Bryson was on his last legs.  The indefatigable Jack then
contrived a litter out of two poplar poles thrust through three
buttoned coats, and Linda and her father took turns in riding the rest
of the way.

Jack was considerably embarrassed by Sir Bryson's attitude toward him
during this day.  The little gentleman, as has been said, was much
chastened.  He was quiet; he issued no orders, nor uttered complaints,
and was unaffectedly grateful for whatever was done for him.  Here was
a change indeed!  Whenever Jack approached him his confusion became
visible and acute.  At the same time he often sought Jack out, and
began conversations which petered out to nothing.  Manifestly he had
something on his mind that his tongue balked at uttering.

It came out at last.  During one of the rests they were all sitting in
the grass, Jack among the others, busily intent upon cleaning the
precious "cannon" with a sleeve of his shirt that he had sacrificed to
the purpose.  Sir Bryson suddenly moved closer to him.

"Young man," he began, and his lofty tone could not hide the genuine
feeling, "they tell me you saved my life yesterday.  I don't remember
much about it myself."

Jack looked up, alarmed and frowning.  "That's all right," he said
hurriedly.  "Everybody did what he could."

"And Linda and Mrs. Worsley too," Sir Bryson went on.  "It was very
gallantly done."

"Vassall would have done it, only I was nearer," Jack said gruffly.
"Please don't say anything more.  It makes me feel like a fool!"

"It must be spoken of," Sir Bryson persisted.  "But it's difficult--I
hardly know----"

Jack did not perceive the exact nature of the old gentleman's
difficulty.  He got up.  "It was all in the day's work," he said
awkwardly.  "You don't need to feel that it changes the situation at
all."

Sir Bryson rose too.  All tousled, creased and bedraggled as he was,
the little governor was never more truly dignified.  "You do not
understand me," he said.  "I--I am very grateful.  Moreover, I am sorry
for things I said.  I desire to acknowledge it here before our friends
who were present when I said them."

Jack looked away in acute embarrassment.  "Very handsomely said, Sir
Bryson," he muttered.

This ended the incident for the present.  The air was much cleared by
it.  However, it gave rise to something it was necessary for Jack to
unburden himself of.  He waited until he could get Sir Bryson away from
the others.

"Sir Bryson," he said doggedly.  "I wanted to tell you that I
understand my being useful to you doesn't clear my name, doesn't make
me any more a desirable suitor for your daughter."

Sir Bryson made a deprecating gesture.

"Under the circumstances," Jack continued, "I don't want her any more
than you want me.  It is agreed between Miss Linda and I that we are to
have nothing to do with each other until I succeed in clearing myself."

They shook hands on it.  Later Vassall and Baldwin Ferrie took
opportunity to follow in the lead of their master and ask to shake
Jack's hand.  For the rest of the day Jack moved in an atmosphere warm
with their gratitude and admiration.  It was not unpleasant in itself
of course, but somehow he felt as if everything that happened tended to
tighten little by little the coils in which he found himself.  Mile by
mile as they neared the end of the journey, and the obstacles
retreated, his spirits went down.  He was elevated into Sir Bryson's
good graces, but not into his own.  This was his ingenious difficulty:
that the girl he didn't want was attached as a rider to the good name
he had to have.

At the day's close he led his bedraggled and dead weary little company
stumbling down the hill to the river bank opposite Fort Cheever.
There, a fire built on the shore, with its mounting pillar of smoke,
soon brought over Davy in a dugout to investigate.  Great was the boy's
astonishment at the sight of them.

Jack burned with a question that he desired to ask him, but he could
not bring his tongue to form Mary's name.  His heart began to beat fast
as they approached the other shore.  He wondered if he would see her.
He hoped not, he told himself, and all the while desiring it as a
desert traveller longs for water.



XV

AN EXPEDITION OF THREE

Mary was not in evidence around the fort.  Jack spent half the night
talking things over with David Cranston in the store.  In the sturdy
Scotch trader he found a friend according to his need.  He experienced
an abounding relief in unburdening himself to a man who merely smoked
and nodded understandingly, without making any fuss.

"You don't have to explain to me that you're no thief," Cranston said
coolly.

That was all to be said on the subject.  As to the feminine element in
his difficulties, Jack was necessarily silent.

"If my sons were a year or two older," Cranston said strongly.  "As it
is I am tied here hand and foot!"

Jack swore at him gratefully.  "This is my fight," he said.  "I
couldn't let you give up your time to it."

"I suppose you'll take some of the men out of Sir Bryson's party back
with you," said Cranston.

Jack shook his head.  "Humpy Jull's all right, but he can't ride, and I
have to ride like sin.  Vassall's a square head too, in his way, but
either one of them would only weaken me.  They don't know the people.
They couldn't face them down.  They couldn't walk into their tepees and
tell the beggars to go to hell."

Cranston smiled grimly.  "Is that what you calculate to do?"

"You know what I mean.  It's a way of putting it."

Cranston considered a moment.  "Take Davy," he said.  "The boy has
pluck.  He would be wild to go."

Jack was more moved than he cared to show.  "Damn decent of you,
Cranston," he growled.  "I won't do it," he added aloud.  "It's too
much of a responsibility.  Jean Paul is clever enough to see that he
could always get at me through the boy."

"What's the alternative then?" asked Cranston.

"I'm going it alone," said Jack doggedly.

Cranston struck the counter with his fist.  "No, by Gad!" he cried.
"I'm the boss around here.  You know as well as I that it's foolhardy
for a man to ride alone at any time--the police don't do it--let alone
into a village of redskins in an ugly mood.  That's tempting them to
murder you.  And if they did, how could we convict them?"

Jack's face hardened.  "They wouldn't murder me," he said, "because I'm
not afraid of them."

"That's all right.  It's too big a chance."

"You'd think nothing of taking it yourself."

"Never you mind that.  I'm the boss here, and I forbid it!"

"You're not my boss," muttered Jack.

"Just the same, I can prevent you, my lad," said Cranston grimly.
"You'll get no outfit from me for such a purpose."

Jack shrugged, and appeared to let the matter go.  Cranston might have
taken warning from his tight lips, but the trader thought, as he said,
that he commanded the situation.

"We'll talk to Sir Bryson in the morning," Cranston went on.

"Pshaw!  Sir Bryson!" muttered Jack.

"I'll get him to send Vassall down to the Crossing in a canoe with a
letter to the police.  I'll send my boy Angus and an Indian along.  The
steamboat will be up in a few days, and they can bring back the police
on her.  If she leaves the Crossing before they get there, the captain
will turn back for the policemen.  With luck they'll all be back in a
week."

"A week!" thought Jack.  "What would I be doing all that time?  Biting
my thumbs?"

By morning Jack had made his plan.  He was only prevented from putting
it into instant execution by his great desire to see Mary, though he
would not acknowledge to himself that that was the reason he hung about
the fort all morning.  He waited until after the middle of the day,
thinking that Cranston would surely ask him home to dinner, but the
invitation was not forthcoming.  Jack did not know it, but the trader
for many years past had been obliged to give up dispensing hospitality
at his own board.  Mrs. Cranston seized on such occasions to assert her
most savage and perverse self.

Meanwhile Jack showed himself assiduously in front of the trader's
windows.  The ladies of Sir Bryson's party did not appear all morning
out of the warehouse where they were quartered, so Jack was at least
spared Linda's surveillance.  His pertinacity was in vain; Mary never
once showed herself.  By afternoon he had worked himself up to a
towering, aggrieved anger.  "She might at least have a word of welcome
for a white man," he thought bitterly, choosing to forget her side of
the case, that she had made plain to him.  At last he gave up in a
passion, and strode away from the fort.

Taking care that he was not observed by Cranston, Jack headed for the
Indian village, which lay on the river-flat, a half mile west of the
fort.  Reaching it, he sought out the head man, and by degrees brought
the talk around to the subject of horses.  Presently a deal was in
progress, and in an hour Jack found himself the owner of two fairish
ponies, with a saddle for one and a pack-saddle for the other.  Some of
the Indians had been trading with Cranston, and by going from tepee to
tepee and offering a premium on the company's prices, Jack was able to
collect the grub he required, together with blankets and a Winchester
and ammunition.  He paid for all this with an order on Cranston, and
with the order he sent back a note:


DEAR CRANSTON: I hope you won't lay this up against me.  I feel as if
you are the only friend I have, and I don't want to make you sore, but
I've got to go.  If I had to hang around the fort doing nothing for a
week I'd go clean off my nut.  You needn't bother your head about me.
I know exactly what I'm going to do, and I'm not going to get murdered
either.  I'll bring you back your horses in a few days, also Garrod and
Jean Paul, unless I have to bury them.

Tell Sir Bryson and his people.

Remember me to Mary.

JACK.


By nine o'clock he had ridden fifty miles, and he camped then only
because his grass-fed beasts could go no farther.  He turned them out,
and ate, and crawled between his blankets by the fire; but not, in
spite of his weariness, to sleep.  He found that he had not succeeded
in galloping away from the ache in his breast: "Mary!  Mary!  Mary!" it
throbbed with every beat.

Wakefulness was a novel sensation to Jack.  Cursing at himself, he
resolutely closed his eyes and counted sheep, but in vain.  He got up
and replenished his fire.  He lit his pipe, and, walking up and down in
the grass of the prairie, gazed up at the quiet stars for peace.  If he
could have inspired his horses with some of his own restlessness he
would have ridden on, but the poor beasts were standing close by with
hanging heads, too weary to eat.

He did fall asleep at last, of course, only to be immediately wakened,
it seemed to him, by a distant thudding of hoofs on the earth.  It is a
significant sound in a solitude, and, sitting up, he listened sharply.
By the movement of the stars he saw that several hours had passed since
he fell asleep.  It could not be his own horses, because they were
hobbled.  In any case there were more than two approaching.  They were
coming from the direction of the fort.  Jack, frowning, wondered if
Cranston would go so far as to attempt to prevent him from carrying out
his purpose.  With instinctive caution he drew back from his fire and
crouched in the shadow of a clump of willows.

Four horses came loping up.  Jack's two came hobbling toward them out
of the darkness, whinnying a welcome.  The fire blazed between Jack and
the new-comers, and he could not see them very well.  He sensed that
there were two riders, and as they slipped out of the saddles it
appeared that one of them was skirted.  For a moment they stood
outlined against the dim light of the eastern sky, and Jack's heart
began to thump against his ribs.  Surely there could be but one such
graceful head poised on such beautiful shoulders, but he couldn't
believe it.  Then they approached his fire, and he saw for sure: it was
Mary and Davy.

She saw his tumbled blanket by the fire, and looked across toward where
he crouched, with the firelight throwing up odd, strong shadows on her
wistful face.  "Jack!" she called softly.  The voice knocked on his
naked heart.

His hardihood failed him then.  He came slowly toward them, trembling
all over, ashamed of his trembling, and horribly self-conscious.  "What
are you doing here?" he asked in a shaky voice.

"We are going with you," murmured Mary.  Her voice, too, was suffocated
as if her heart was filling her throat.

There was a little pause.  Jack looked at her like an unworthy sinner,
who nevertheless sees Heaven opening before him.

"Aren't you glad to see us?" demanded Davy, coming up.

Glad!  Jack was quite unable to speak.  Suddenly flinging an arm around
the boy's shoulders he squeezed him until Davy cried out.  It was meant
for Mary.  She saw.  Dropping to the ground, she made a great business
of building up the fire.

They fell to babbling foolishly without any one's caring how foolishly;
they laughed for no reason, and asked the same questions over again
without heeding the answers.  Jack sprang to unpack and unsaddle their
horses.  When they were finally hobbled and turned out, he came back to
Mary.  She was setting out the grub-box and making tea.  Davy went away
to cut poles for their two little tents.

"You do wish to be friends?" Jack said pleadingly; "after what you
said!"

Mary had recovered her self-possession.  "I couldn't let you go alone,"
she parried.  "That is such a foolish thing to do.  I couldn't have
slept or sat still for thinking of it.  Other things are not changed at
all."

"But you came!" murmured Jack a little triumphantly, and moving closer
to her.

She drew away.  "You shouldn't say that," she murmured stiffly.  "It
wasn't easy for me to come.  And it may cost me dear."

Jack wondered like a man why she was offended.  "I know," he said, "and
I'm not going to let you come.  But I'm glad you wanted to."

This made matters worse.  "I didn't want to," she threw back at him
sharply.  "I came because I was the only one who could help you.  I
know the Indians; they like me; they're a little afraid of me.  And you
can't make us go back.  We have our own outfit.  If you won't let us
ride with you, we'll follow after!"

Jack stared, perplexed and wondering at her hurt tones.  Certainly
girls were beyond his comprehension.  Though so different in other
respects, it seemed they were alike in this: their perfect
inconsistency.  He tried another tack.

"Did your father let you come?"

"No," she said unwillingly.  "He was very angry with you."

"He offered to let Davy come," Jack said idly.

"That's different," she said, wondering at men's stupidity.

Jack's brain moved only about a third as fast as hers.  He frowned at
the fire.  "If you lit out without telling him," he began, "he'll think
that I--what will he think of me!  After I promised."

It was Mary's turn to be surprised.  "Promised what?"

Jack turned stubborn.  "I can't tell you," he said.

"But something that concerns me," said Mary.  "I think I have a right
to know it."

Jack merely pulled in his upper lip.  "You do lots of things without
explaining them to me.  I have the same right."

Mary dropped the inquiry.  "You needn't be anxious about what father is
thinking," she said coldly.  "I left a letter for him, telling where we
were going, and I told him you didn't know we were coming."

They were silent.  Jack stared at the fire, wondering unhappily what
was the matter.  After they had come, and he had been so glad to see
them, to be near a quarrel already!  To heal this inexplicable breach
he put out his hand, and took Mary's.

She snatched it away with astonishing suddenness.  "Don't you dare to
touch me!" she muttered, low and quivering.

He was blankly surprised.  "Why, Mary!  What did you come for then?"

"Not for that!" she cried, with eyes full of anger and pain.  "You
asked me to be friends with you.  All right.  Nothing else!"

"Friends shake hands, don't they?" muttered Jack sulkily.  "One would
think I had the leprosy!"

"You know what I mean," said Mary more quietly.

Jack scowled at the fire.  "I don't see how a man and a woman--if
they're young--like you and I, can be just friends."

"They can," said Mary eagerly.  "I'll show you."

Jack looked at her, eager, wistful, self-forgetful as she was, and a
great irresponsible longing surged up in him.  Passion darkened his
eyes; his breast began to heave.  "I couldn't," he said hoarsely, "not
with you, Mary!"

She avoided him warily.  "Then I must go back," she said sadly.

Jack forgot that he had intended to send her.  "No!  Not now," he said
sharply.

She looked at him with the extraordinary look she had for him, proud,
pitying, and relentless all at once.  "Listen," she commanded quietly.
"Somebody has got to speak plainly.  I will do it.  I like you very
much"--her voice faltered here--"I--I wish to be friends with you--very
much.  But if you are so weak and dishonourable as to make love to me
when you are bound to another woman, I shall despise you, and I shall
have to go!"

Jack recoiled as if she had struck him, and sat staring at her, while
the two hideous words burned their way into his soul.  In all his life
he had never been hurt like this.  She had dealt a blow at the twin
gods of his idolatry: Strength and Honour.  It is true he did not
distinguish very clearly between physical strength and moral.
Strength, none the less, was the word that made his breast lift up, and
Honour, scarcely less.  Honour to Jack meant telling the truth.

The worst of the hurt was that he knew she was right.  It was very true
that some one had to speak plainly.  This was the disconcerting thought
he had been thrusting out of sight so determinedly.  Now that it had
been put into harsh speech it could never be ignored again.

Mary was busying herself with shaking hands among the supper things.
Obviously she could scarcely see what she was doing.  Davy came back
with his poles.

"Go, go help him," she murmured tremulously.

Jack obeyed.

They ate as dawn began to break over the prairie, supper or breakfast,
whichever it was.  Davy's light-hearted chatter kept the situation from
becoming acute again.  There was no further suggestion of their going
back.  Afterward they turned in for a few hours to let the horses rest
out.

Jack took refuge from the mosquitoes in Davy's tent.  He could not
talk, and he turned his back on the boy, but Davy, creeping close,
wound an arm over Jack's shoulder, and, like an affectionate spaniel,
thrust his head in Jack's neck.

"Say, I'm glad I'm here," he murmured sleepily.  "Everything's all
right again.  I'd rather be with you than anybody, Jack.  Say, I'm glad
I'm a friend of yours.  You and I and Mary, we'll make a great team,
eh?  What a good time we'll have!"

He fell asleep.  Meanwhile Jack lay staring through the mosquito
netting at the prairie grass in the ghostly light, and the low-hung,
paling stars, thinking of how a woman had been obliged to remind him of
Strength and Honour.


Admitting the justice of it, he took his punishment like a man.  It was
a much-chastened Jack that issued from the tent into the early
sunshine.  And although he did not know it, he was tenfold more in love
with the hand that had chastised him.  His glance sought hers humbly
enough now.  And Mary?  There was none of the disdain he feared; on the
contrary, her telltale eyes were lifted to his, imploring and contrite
for the hurt she had dealt him.

They looked at each other, and the skies cleared.  Nothing was said;
nothing needed to be said.  It was enough for Jack that Mary did not
despise him, and it was enough for Mary that he did not hate her.  They
were together, and the sun was shining on a sea of green grass.  Their
spirits soared.  Troubles and heartaches vanished like steam in the
sunshine.  Breakfast became a feast of laughter, and Davy was
enraptured.

"Blest if I can understand you two," the boy said with an unconscious
imitation of his hero's casual manner that made Mary laugh again.  "One
minute you're as dumb as owls in the daytime, and the next you're
laughing like a pair of loons at nothing at all."

They justified it by laughing afresh.  "Oh, the loon's a much-abused
bird, Mr. Davy," sang Jack.  "He's not nearly as loony as his name.  I
think I'll adopt a loon for my crest."

"What's a crest?" Davy wanted to know.

"Oh, it's what you have on your note-paper," Jack said vaguely.  "And
they carve it on rings for you to seal your letters with."

Davy looked blank.

"It's a gentleman's private sign," said Mary.  "His totem."

"Sure," said Jack with a surprised look.  "How clever you are!"

Mary blushed to the eyes.

They packed and rode on, a cheerful trio on the trail.  Jack to all
appearances was his old, off-hand self, but he had stored away his
lesson, and he never looked, or seemed never to look, at Mary.  From
her glance at him when she was unobserved one would have said she was
sorry he obeyed her so well.

Mary and Davy rode with the unconscious ease of those who are born to
the saddle.  Mary, who had never seen a riding-habit, had contrived a
divided skirt for herself, as she contrived everything for herself,
cunningly.  With it she wore a blue flannel shirt out of the store,
that she had likewise adapted to her own figure.  She had a man's felt
hat, but, except when it rained, it was hanging by its thong from her
saddle-horn.  Her plentiful dark hair was braided and bound close round
her head.  Tied to her saddle she carried a light rifle, which upon
occasion she used as handily as Jack himself.

Thus she was totally without feminine aids and artifices.  With that
firm, straight young figure, that well-set head and those eyes, she was
finer without.  For all he was making believe not to look at her, she
stirred Jack's deepest enthusiasm, like the sight of distant hills at
evening, or a lake embowered in greenery, or anything wholly beautiful
and unspoiled from the hand of Nature.

The slender Davy showed none of his sister's trimness.  Davy was a
little nondescript.  He possessed "Sunday clothes," but he detested
them, and was only truly happy in his ragged trousers, his buttonless
shirt, and his blackened apologies for moccasins.  Davy was apparently
insensible to cold, and it was all one to him whether he was wet or dry.

At ten o'clock they rode past the little boarded-up store at Fort
Geikie.  Two hours later they reined in at the edge of the bench on the
other side of the portage.  This was the spot where they had parted so
unhappily.  No one referred to that now.  Casting his eyes over the
valley, Jack pointed to a number of dark objects in the river meadows
to the west.

"The horses," said Davy.

One of the little objects reared, and moved forward in a way that was
familiar to them.

"And hobbled again," said Jack with a laugh.

"Of course as soon as you went away they would drive them back," said
Mary.  "They wouldn't want to be found with company horses in their
camp."

Riding down the hill they made their noon spell on the site of Camp
Trangmar.  Jack opened the cache for an additional supply of grub, and
what else he needed: his cherished leather chaps, his canvas lean-to,
and mosquito bar.

"You won't need that," Davy said.  "Sleep with me."

"For Garrod," said Jack.  "We can't let the mosquitoes eat the poor
devil."

Davy caught sight of the banjo inside.  "Bring that," he begged.

Jack shook his head.  "No time for tingle-pingling on this trip," he
said, unconsciously using the trader's word.

Davy begged hard.  "I'll look after it myself," he said.

Jack hesitated.  His fingers itched for the strings.  "Do you think we
had better take it?" he asked Mary.

Mary was only human.  "Why not?" she said.

One could not always be dwelling on one's troubles.  The banjo was
brought out, and while Mary, with veiled eyes, busied herself mixing
bannock, and Davy listened with his delighted mouth open, Jack filled
his chest and gave them "Pretty Polly Oliver."

"That's great!" said Davy with a sigh of pleasure.

Mary said nothing.

"Do you like it?" Jack asked, very off-hand.

"Very pretty," she said.

"Would you dress up as a drummer-boy and follow your lover to the wars,
like Polly did?" Jack asked.

"No," she said promptly.

"Why not?" he demanded, taken aback.

"She was a poor thing," said Mary scornfully.  "She couldn't live
single, she said.  When she did get to the wars she was only in the
way, and put him to the trouble of rescuing her; but it makes a pretty
song of course."

"You're not very romantic," grumbled Jack.

Mary smiled to herself, and attended to the bannock.  After a long
time, when Jack had forgotten all about Polly, she said: "I think
romances are for people who don't feel very much themselves."

After lunch, leaving Mary and Davy to finish packing, Jack circled wide
over the river-meadows to round up the horses, and reconnoitre
generally.  Mary and Davy were to follow him.  He found that two of the
horses were still missing; the others were in good condition.  Riding
on up the trail, he dismounted at a little stream to read what was to
be seen in the tracks.  He saw that the horses had been driven back two
days before, and that none of them was hobbled when they crossed the
stream.

At this moment all Jack's senses were suddenly roused to the _qui vive_
by the sound of the hoof-beats of two horses approaching along the
trail from up the valley.  Here was a new factor entering the
situation.  Quickly mounting, he held his horse quiet under the bushes
beside the trail.  The newcomers trotted around a bend; all the horses
whinnied, and Jack found himself face to face with Jean Paul Ascota.



XVI

THE TEPEES OF THE SAPIS

The breed betrayed no surprise, and Jack reflected that he must have
seen the smoke of their fire from up the valley.  He was riding one of
the missing horses, and the other followed with a light pack.  He
smiled blandly, and, bringing his horse close to Jack's, held out his
hand.

"I glad you come back," he said.  "I need help, me."

Jack ignored the hand.  "We're not friends, Jean Paul," he said grimly,
"and we won't make believe."

Jean Paul shrugged like an injured and forgiving person.

"You've got to give an account of yourself," Jack went on.

A spark shot sidewise out of Jean Paul's black eyes.  "To you?" he
asked.

"To me," said Jack coolly, and the blue eyes faced the black ones down.

Jean Paul thought better of his threatened defiance.  "You all time
think bad of me," he said deprecatingly.  "I work for you.  I get the
horses back."

Jack laughed in his face.  "You're not dealing with Sir Bryson now.
You know as well as I do that the Indians are not stealing company
horses.  They might be persuaded to drive them away, but they'd be glad
enough to drive them back when they thought it over.  The horses are
nothing to me.  Where's Garrod?"

Jean Paul shrugged again.  "I don't know," he said.  "I no can find!"

"That's a lie," said Jack.  "You can find anything that you wish to
find in this country."

"Maybe you tell me 'ow?" Jean Paul returned with an ill-concealed sneer.

"We'll find him, with or without you," Jack said.

The horses whinnied again, and presently Jack's little train was heard
approaching along the trail.

Jean Paul started.  Apparently he had supposed that Jack was alone.
"Who you got?" he asked sharply.

Jack ignored the question.  Jean Paul watched the bend in the trail,
lynx-eyed.  When Mary and Davy rode into view his angry chagrin peeped
out.  He immediately put on the ordinary redskin mask, but Jack had had
a look beneath.

"A boy and girl!" sneered Jean Paul.

"Exactly," said Jack.  "The boy and the girl speak the native talk as
well as you do.  They will interpret for me."

As Mary and Davy joined them, Jean Paul greeted them politely, shaking
hands with each, according to custom.  Mary's face was as bland and
polite as Jean Paul's own.  Jack frowned to see her put her hand into
the breed's, but he said nothing.

"What we do now?" asked Jean Paul of all and sundry.  Thus he
gracefully adopted himself into their party.

"Where is the Sapi camp?" asked Jack.

The breed pointed west.  "One day," he said, "thirty mile."

"We'll sleep there to-night."

Jean Paul shrugged.  "My horses tire'."

"Change 'em," said Jack.  "We'll wait for you."

Jean Paul rode after the horses, and Jack sent Davy back to the cache
for the half-breed's tent.

"Wouldn't it be better if we didn't let him see we were suspicious,"
Mary suggested.

"He'll give us the slip again, if I don't watch him."

She shook her head decisively.  "Not now.  He'll never let us talk to
the Sapis without his being there."

Jack frowned.  "My stomach rises against him!  I can't hide it!"

"It would be better," she said gently.

"You're always right," he grumbled.  "I'll try."

Jean Paul and Davy came back and they proceeded.  Their pack-animals
were but lightly laden, and they rode hard all afternoon with very
little speech.  Twelve miles from Camp Trangmar they came on the site
of the abandoned Indian camp.  At this point the Fort Erskine trail,
leaving the Spirit River valley, turned northwestward to ascend beside
a small tributary, the Darwin River.  This stream came down a flat and
gently ascending valley, heavily timbered for the most part, and hemmed
in by mountains wooded almost to their summits.  It was a gloomy way,
for they could see but little through the trees.  Now and then from a
point of vantage they had a glimpse of the magnificent bulk of Mount
Darwin blocking the valley at the top.

They spelled once to eat and to rest the horses.  Riding on, Mary kept
asking Jean Paul how far it was.  At length he said: "Two miles."

They rode a little farther, and came to a brook.  "Let's us camp here,"
said Mary suddenly.  "I'm tired."

Jack stared and frowned.  Mary tired!  "It's less than a mile," he
began.  "We have plenty of time to ride in and see this thing through
before dark----"  He was stopped by a look from Mary.  He was learning
to answer quickly to suggestions from that quarter.

"Oh, well, if you're tired," he said hastily.

When he had a chance apart with her he asked: "What's the game?"

"Don't let's be seen talking together," she said swiftly.  "It's
nothing much, only I think maybe he will steal away to the tepees
to-night to tell them what to say to us.  If he does I'll follow and
listen."

Jack looked his admiration.  "Good for you!" he said.

The invariable routine of camping was gone through with, the horses
unpacked and turned out, the little tents pitched, the supper cooked
and eaten.  Jack pitched his own little lean-to, because lying within
it he could still see all that passed outside.  After eating they sat
around the fire for a while, and Jack sang some songs, that Jean Paul
might not get the idea they were unduly on the alert.  The half-breed
complimented Jack on his singing.

Afterward Jack lay within his shelter, one arm over his face, while he
watched from beneath it.  When it became dark he saw Jean Paul issue
boldly out of his tent and move around as if inviting a challenge.
None being forthcoming, he went back.  A moment later Jack saw a shadow
issue from behind the little A-tent, and steal away into the bushes.

He waited a minute or two, and got up.  He met Mary outside.  "I'm
going too," he announced.

"It will double the risk," she objected.  "There's no need.  Nothing
can happen to me."

"You're wasting time," he said.  "I'm going."

Arousing Davy, and putting him on watch, they set off on the trail.
Crossing the stream, they plunged anew into the fragrant forest of old
pines.  It was a close, still night; the sky was heavily overcast, and
it became very dark for that latitude.  The trail stretched ahead like
a pale ribbon vanishing into the murk at half a dozen paces.  In the
thicker places they had literally to feel for it with their feet.  They
had not very far to go.  After about fifteen minutes' walking the
stillness was suddenly shattered by a chorus of barking from a few
hundred yards ahead.

"That will be Jean Paul getting into camp," Mary said.

The forest ended abruptly, and they found themselves at the edge of a
natural meadow reaching down to the Darwin River.  Below them was a
quadrangle of tepees, faintly luminous from the little fires within, as
if rubbed with phosphorous.  The dogs were still barking fitfully.

"Wait for me here," Mary commanded.

He unconsciously put out his hand toward her.  "Mary----"

She lingered.  "Well--Jack?"

"Let me go instead.  I can't stay quiet here."

"You must.  You don't know their talk as well as I do.  Nothing can
happen to me.  If they do find me out, they are my friends."

"But the dogs----"

"They bark at nothing.  No one minds them."

Her eyes beamed on him softly, like stars through the night; her soft
voice was of the night too; and so brave and tender!  She was adorable
to him.  He abruptly flung himself down in the grass to keep from
seizing her in his arms.

"Go on," he said a little thickly.  "Hurry back."

Hours passed, it seemed to him; it was perhaps half of one hour.  The
dogs barked and howled, and finally fell silent.  A partridge drummed
in the depths of the forest, and an owl flew out from among the trees
with a moan that rose to a shriek of agony.  Down the valley a fox
uttered his sharp, challenging bark, and the dogs returned with a
renewed infernal clamour.  A band of horses stampeded aimlessly up and
down between the tepees.  It was a heavy, ominous night, and every
creature was uneasy.

At last quite suddenly he saw her crouching and running up the grassy
slope toward him.  His heart bounded with relief.

"Be quick," she whispered.  "Jean Paul has started back."

They set off at a run through the black forest, with warding hands
outstretched in front of them.  Their flying feet gave little sound on
the thick carpet of needles.  In a few minutes she slowed down, and
caught Jack's arm.

"All right now," she said.  "He'll take his time.  He suspects nothing
yet."

"What did you learn?" Jack asked.

Following him in the trail, she put her hand on his shoulder to keep in
touch with him in the dark.  The light contact warmed Jack through and
through.  "Jean Paul came to Etzeeah, the head man, to tell him what to
say to us to-morrow.  I listened outside with my ear at the bottom of
the tepee.  They spoke softly.  I couldn't hear everything.  It seems
Jean Paul's talk is always for the people to stand together and drive
the white men out of their country."

"The old story," said Jack.

"He is clever and they are simple.  He tells them my father cheats
them, and gets their furs for nothing.  He says all the redmen are
ready to rise when he gives the word.  He makes them think he is not a
man like themselves, but a kind of spirit.  They are completely under
his influence.  They are excited and ugly, like bad children."

"What about Garrod?"

"Nothing," she said sadly.  "I think they know, but I heard nothing."

"One thing is certain," said Jack; "if we wish to get anything out of
them to-morrow, we'll have to leave Jean Paul behind."

"How can we prevent him from coming with us?"

"I'll have to think about that," Jack said grimly.

Next morning Jean Paul issued out of his tent as demure and
smooth-faced as a copper-coloured saint.  Looking at him they were
almost ready to believe that he had never left it.  He did his full
share of the work about camp, did it cheerfully and well.  He even had
the delicacy--or whatever the feeling was--to retire with his breakfast
to a little distance from the others, that they might be relieved of
the constraint of his company.

"He's a wonder," Jack said to Mary with a kind of admiration.

When they had finished eating, Jack spoke a word to Davy, and the two
of them got a tracking line out of the baggage, a light, strong cord
that Jack had included because of the thousand uses to which it lends
itself.  He gave the coil to Davy to carry, and they returned to Jean
Paul.  Jack covertly made sure that his six-shooter was loose in its
case.  The half-breed, having finished eating, was sitting on the
ground, lighting his pipe.  Jack stood grimly waiting until he got it
going well.  Jean Paul flipped the match away with an air of bravado,
and a sidelong sneer.

"Put your hands behind you!" Jack suddenly commanded.

Jean Paul sprang up astonished.  Jack drew his gun.

"Don't move again," he harshly warned him.  "Put your hands behind you."

Jean Paul slowly obeyed, and Davy twisted the cord around his wrists.

"Wat you do?" Jean Paul protested, with an eye on the gun and an
admirable air of astonished innocence.  "I your man, me.  I all time
work for you.  You always moch bad to me.  No believe no'ting."

"Next time you leave camp at night tell us where you're going," said
Jack with a hard smile.

It did not feaze Jean Paul.  "Mus' I tell w'en I go to see a girl?" he
demanded, highly injured.

Jack laughed.  "Very clever!  But the girl was Etzeeah, and I know all
you said."

Jean Paul fell suddenly silent.

"Kneel down," commanded Jack.  "Tie his ankles together, Davy, with his
wrists between."

Jack finished the job himself, going over all the knots, and taking
half a dozen turns around Jean Paul's body, with a final knot on his
chest, out of reach of both hands and teeth.  He and Davy then picked
him up and laid him inside his own tent.  His pipe dropped out of his
mouth in transit.  Jack, with grim good-nature, picked it up and thrust
it between his teeth again.  Jean Paul puffed at it defiantly.  Jack
fastened the tent flaps back, affording a clear view of the interior.

"I'll have to leave him to you while we're gone, Davy.  Keep away from
him.  Don't listen to anything he says.  Above all, don't touch him.  I
don't see how he can work loose, but if he should"--Jack raised his
voice so it would carry into the tent--"shoot him like a coyote.  I
order you to do it.  I take the consequences."

Jean Paul lay without stirring.  His face was hidden.

"God knows what poisonous mess is stewing inside his skull," Jack said
to Mary, as they rode away.

When the two of them cantered into the quadrangle of the tepees, with
its uproar of screaming children, yelping curs, and loose horses, it
needed no second glance to confirm the report that the redskins were in
an ugly temper.  An angry murmur went hissing down the line like the
sputtering of a fuse.  Every one dropped what he was doing; heads stuck
out of all the tepee openings; the little children scuttled inside.
Men scowled and fingered their guns; women laughed derisively, and spat
on the ground.

Jack and Mary pulled up their horses at the top of the quadrangle, and
coolly looked about them.  Filth and confusion were the keynotes of the
scene.  This was the home-camp of this little tribe, and the offal of
many seasons was disintegrating within sight.  All their winter gear,
furs, snowshoes and sledges, was slung from vertical poles out of
harm's way.  Between the tepees, on high racks out of reach of the
dogs, meat was slowly curing.

As for the people, they were miserably degenerate.  Their fathers, the
old freebooters of the plains, would have disowned such offspring.  The
mark of ugliness was upon them; pinched gray cheeks and sunken chests
were pitifully common; their ragged store clothes hung loosely on their
meagre limbs.  A consciousness of their weakness lurked in their angry
eyes; in spite of themselves the quiet pose and the cold, commanding
eyes of the whites struck awe into their breasts.  They saw that the
man and the girl had guns, but they hung in buckskin cases from the
saddles, and they made no move to reach for them.  They saw the two
speak to each other quietly.  Once they smiled.

It was upon Jack's calling Mary's attention to the absurdity of it,
this little company of tatterdemalions seeking to defy the white race.
There were eighteen tepees, small and large, containing perhaps ninety
souls.  It was absurd and it was tragic.  Remote and cut-off even from
the other tribes of their own people, they had never seen any white men
except the traders at Fort Cheever and Fort Erskine, and the rare
travellers who passed up and down their river in the summer.

"I'm sorry for them," Mary murmured.  "They don't know what they're
doing."

"Don't look sorry for them," Jack warned.  "They wouldn't understand
it."

An old man issued from the largest tepee, and approached them, not
without dignity.  He was of good stature, but beginning to stoop.  He
wore a dingy capote, or overcoat made out of a blanket, and to keep his
long, uncombed gray hair out of his face, he had a dirty cotton band
around his forehead.  Not an imposing figure, but there was a remnant
of fire and pride in his old eyes.

"Etzeeah, the head man," Mary whispered to Jack.

Etzeeah concealed his feelings.  Approaching Jack's horses he silently
held up his hand.

Jack's eyes impaled the old man.  He ignored the hand.  Jack had enough
of their talk for his purpose.  "I do not shake hands with horse
thieves," he said.

Etzeeah fell back with an angry gesture.  "I am no horse thief," he
said.  "All the horses you see are mine, and my people's!"

"You drove away the governor's horses," said Jack.  "And drove them
back after he had gone.  They are company horses.  It was a foolish
thing to do."

"It is Ascota who speaks me ill," cried Etzeeah with a great display of
anger.  "He comes here, and he makes trouble.  He calls us thieves and
bad men.  What do I know of white men, and white men's horses?"

"This is what Jean Paul told him to say," Mary murmured in English.
"They were going to make believe to quarrel before us."

"Since when has the chief of the Sapis learned to lie?" demanded Jack
coldly.

"I, no liar!" cried Etzeeah, taken aback.

"You told a different tale when Ascota came to your lodge last night."

Etzeeah was silenced.  His jaw dropped, and his black eyes looked old
and furtive.

"I have come for the sick white man, Garrod," said Jack.  "Where is he?"

"I have seen no sick white man," muttered Etzeeah.  "Ascota ask me
already."

"Your women hear you lie," said Jack scornfully.  "They are laughing
behind you.  I have had enough lies.  Call everybody out of the tepees!"

Etzeeah stood motionless and scowling.

"Call them out!" repeated Jack, "or I will pull them out by the hair."

Etzeeah raised his voice in sullen command, and the rest of the women
and the children issued out of the tepees, the little children
scurrying madly to hide behind their mothers, and clinging to their
skirts.

Jack pointed to the bottom of the square.  "All stand close together!"
he ordered.

The men scowled and muttered, but obeyed.  There was no reason why any
one of them should not have put a bullet through Jack's breast, sitting
on his horse before them empty-handed--no reason, that is, except the
terrible blue eyes, travelling among them like scorching fires.  Many a
little man's soul was sick with rage, and his fingers itching for the
trigger, but before he could raise his gun the eyes would fall on him,
withering his breast.  It was the white man's scorn that emasculated
them.  How could one fire at a being who held himself so high?

"Go through the tepees as quickly as you can," Jack said to Mary.  "I
will hold your horse and watch them."

Dismounting, she made her way to Etzeeah's lodge.

A hundred pairs of black eyes watched their every movement.  Etzeeah
made to edge back toward the crowd.

"Stand where you are!" Jack commanded.  "I am not through with you."

Etzeeah lowered his eyes, and stood still.

"Etzeeah, you are a fool," said Jack, loud enough for all to hear.
"Ascota feeds you lies, and you swallow them without chewing.  Do you
think you can fight all the white men with your eighteen lodges?  To
the south there are more white men than cranes in the flocks that fly
overhead in the spring.  When your few shells are spent, where will you
get more bullets to shoot the white men?"

"Ascota will give us plenty shells!" cried a voice in the crowd.

"Why isn't Ascota here now to help you?" asked Jack quickly.  "He said
he would be here to show you how to fool me?  Why?  Because I tied him
like a dog in his tent, with a boy to watch him."

They looked at each other and murmured.

"If you did drive the white men away," Jack went on, "how would you
kill the moose for food without their powder?  Who would buy your furs?
Where would you get flour and tea and tobacco, and matches to light
your fires?  Wah!  You are like children who throw their food down and
tread on it, and cry for it again!"

What effect this had, if any, could not be read in the dark, walled
faces that fronted him.

Mary returned to Jack, bringing a gun, which she handed him without
comment.  He recognized it.  It was a weapon that had lately been aimed
at him.

"This is the sick man's gun," he said, looking hard at Etzeeah.

The chief threw up his hands.  "A Winchester thirty-thirty, like all
our guns," he protested.  "There are twenty here the same."

Other men held up their weapons to show.  Jack merely turned the gun
around, and pointed to initials neatly scratched on the stock.

"F. G.," he said grimly; "Francis Garrod."

[Illustration: "F. G.," he said grimly, "Francis Garrod"]

"How do I know?" said Etzeeah excitedly.  "I have no letters.  If it is
the white man's gun, Ascota left it."

"Ascota does not leave a gun," said Jack.  "Where is Garrod?"

"I don't know," muttered Etzeeah.  "I have not seen him."

"You are lying," Jack said coldly.  "For the last time I ask you, where
is Garrod?"

Etzeeah fell back on a sullen, walled silence.

Jack turned to Mary.  "Is there a woman or a child that he sets great
store by?" he asked swiftly in English.

"Etzoogah, his son, the pretty boy yonder," she answered.

Following her glance, Jack had no difficulty in picking out the one she
meant.  He was a handsome, slender boy, a year or so younger than Davy.
Where the other children were in rags, he was wearing an expensive
wide-brimmed hat from the store, a clean blue gingham shirt, new
trousers, and around his waist a gay red sash.  Moreover, he had the
wilful, petulant look of the spoiled child; plainly the apple of the
old man's eye.

"Get me a horse and a rope bridle," Jack whispered to Mary.

There were several horses picketed within the square, handy to their
owners' uses, and Mary made for the nearest.

"You take my horse?" Etzeeah demanded, scowling.

"It is for your son to ride," Jack said with a grim smile.  "Etzoogah,
come here!" he commanded.

The boy approached with an awed, scared air.  Etzeeah started to his
side, but Jack coolly separated them by moving his horse between.  Mary
returned with the other horse, and the boy fell into her hands.  She
smiled at him reassuringly.

"Get on," she said.  "Nobody's going to hurt you.  Come with us to our
camp.  Davy is there."

All the children knew Mary and Davy.  Moreover, there were always good
things to eat in a white man's camp.  The boy was well pleased to obey.
Etzeeah shrilly commanded him to dismount, but the apple of his eye
merely laughed at him.  The old man began to break.  His eyes dulled
with anxiety; his hands trembled.

"What you do with my boy?" he demanded.  "We shoot if you take him."

Jack laughed.  "A red man can't shoot a white man," he said.  "His hand
shakes too much.  We will take the boy to our camp.  We will keep him
until you bring the sick white man to us.  If you don't bring him back,
well, maybe we will send the boy outside and make a white man of him."

Jack gave him a moment.  There was no sign from Etzeeah, except his
trembling.

"Ride on," Jack said to Mary.

They wheeled their horses, and Etzeeah broke down.

His hand went to his throat.  "Stop!" he muttered thickly.  He did not
cry out or protest.  He merely shrugged.  "So be it," he said
stoically.  "I will find Garrod if I can.  Ascota took him away from
camp two days ago, and came back without him."

"Killed him?" cried Jack.

Etzeeah shook his head.  "He was mad.  Madmen are not harmed.  He took
him into the bush and left him."

"Left him to starve?" cried Jack.  "Good God!"

"He was mad," repeated Etzeeah.  "The beasts and the birds will bring
him food."

Jack shrugged impatiently.  "Very well," he said.  "I'll have no more
lies.  You come back and show me the place now, or I take the boy."

"I come," he said.  "Etzoogah, get down.  Get my blanket!"

The boy obeyed, none too willingly, and Etzeeah mounted in his place.
"You feed me?" he asked.

"There is plenty," said Jack.  To Mary he said in English.  "Make him
ride ahead of you out of camp.  I'll stay and hold the crowd.  Sing out
when you reach the trees, and I'll come."

In spite of herself, fear for him transfixed her eyes.  "Jack," she
murmured.

He frowned.  "No weakness.  You must do as I say."

Etzeeah got his blanket, and he and Alary rode out of the square.  The
Indians stirred and muttered angrily, but the blue eyes still held them
chained.  When Mary's "All right!" reached his ears, Jack turned his
horse, and, swinging himself sidewise with a thigh over the saddle,
walked out of the square, watching them still.  The theatrical instinct
of a young man suggested rolling a cigarette to him.  Slipping his arm
through the bridle rein, he got out the bag of tobacco and the papers.

At a hundred yards distance the spell that held the Indians began to
break, and they moved forward between the tepees, cursing Jack, and
brandishing their arms.  Jack's horse started forward; pulling him in,
he moistened the cigarette, watching them still.  Guns were raised at
last--and fired.  Still Jack walked his horse.  He could see that as
yet the gun-play was merely to save themselves in the eyes of their
women.  No bullets came in his direction.  But he could not tell how
long----  He lit his cigarette.

A bullet whined overhead.  Another ploughed up a little cascade of
earth alongside, and his horse sheered off.  A chorus of maniacal yells
was raised behind him.  It was only fifteen yards to the trees.  Jack
threw away the cigarette, and gave the horse his head.  They gained the
forest, with the bullets thudding deep into the trunks on either side.



XVII

ASCOTA ESCAPES.

When Etzeeah caught sight of the little tents through the trees, he
pulled up his horse.  Extending a trembling forefinger, he asked
hoarsely:

"Ascota, is he there?"

"Yes," said Jack.  "He can't hurt you.  He's tied up."

Etzeeah slipped from his horse.  "I wait here," he said.  "I not go
where he is."

"Are you afraid?" asked Jack with curling lip.

Etzeeah had turned pale; his eyes darted from side to side, and he
moistened his lips.  "I am afraid," he muttered doggedly.  "He is more
than a man.  He has made the beasts speak to me; the porcupine, the
bear, the beaver, each after his own nature.  He has made men mad
before my eyes, and brought their senses back when it pleased him.  He
mastered the white man, and made him kneel before him, and bring him
his food.  This I saw.  The like was never known before.  Who would not
be afraid?  What if he is tied?  He will wither me with his eyes!"

Jack and Mary looked at each other in perplexity.

"Blindfold Jean Paul," Mary suggested.

"Good," said Jack with clearing brow.  "Watch him," he added in
English, "and come over when I wave my hand."

Jack led his horse across the brook.  Here another evidence of Jean
Paul Ascota's evil power awaited him.  Davy at sight of Jack sprang up
with an odd, low cry, and came running to meet him, running waveringly
as if his knees were sinking under him.  He cast himself on Jack,
trembling like aspen leaves.

"Oh, Jack!" he gasped.  "I'm glad--oh, Jack!  Jean Paul--"

"He's safe?" demanded Jack.

"He's safe.  Oh, Jack!--he said--he's a devil, Jack.  He made me want
to let him go!  He said--oh! it's horrible!  He said--oh!  I can't tell
you!  Jack!----"

The boy's agonized voice trailed off; he sighed, and, his slender frame
relaxing, hung limply over Jack's arm.  Jack let his horse go, and
waving to Mary to keep back, he bent, and dashed the cold brook water
in Davy's face.

He revived in a moment or two, and clung to Jack.  "Oh, Jack!" he
murmured, "I thought you'd never come!  I was near crazy.  He said--oh!
I can't tell you!"

"Never you mind, old boy," said Jack gruffly.  "Forget it!  Mary and I
are both here.  It's all right now."

He carried him up the bank, and put him down by the fire.  A sip from
Jack's flask further restored him.  Then Jack turned with grim eyes and
clenched fists toward Jean Paul's tent.

"You devil!" he muttered.  It was the word they all used.

"I want to smoke," Jean Paul said impudently.

"Lie there and want it, damn you!" said Jack.  He had much ado to
restrain himself from kicking the beast.  As it was he flung him over
none too tenderly, and taking the handkerchief from the breed's neck,
tied it tight round his eyes.

"There's somet'ing you don't want me to see, huh?" sneered Jean Paul.

Jack was a little staggered by his perspicacity.

He waved his hand to Mary.  She brought Etzeeah across, and flew to
comfort and restore Davy.  They never did learn exactly what Jean Paul
had said to him.  At any mention of the subject the boy's agitation
became painful to see.

Etzeeah after coming into camp never once opened his mouth.  He
regarded Jean Paul's tent as nervously as if its flimsy walls confined
a man-eating grizzly.  He sat down at some distance, and at the side of
the tent where Jean Paul could not have seen him even had his eyes not
been blindfolded.

Jack brought wood, and Mary started to prepare a meal for them all,
before taking to the trail again.  At a moment when there was
comparative silence a loud voice suddenly issued from the tent,
speaking the Sapi tongue.

"Etzeeah is there!"

They all started violently.  It was uncanny.  Etzeeah paled, and sprang
up.  Jack laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"I smell him!" the voice of Jean Paul went on, full of mocking triumph.
"Nothing can be hidden from me!  Etzeeah has betrayed me!  Bound and
helpless though I am, don't think you can escape me, old Etzeeah!  My
medicine travels far!  Your son, your fine boy Etzoogah, shall pay.
He's paying now!  He falls and twists on the ground with the frothing
sickness--the fine boy!  He curses his father!"

Jack was struggling with the frantic father.  "For God's sake, stop his
mouth!" he cried to Mary.  "A gag!"

She flew to the tent, and presently the voice was stilled.  The last
sound it uttered was a laugh, a studied, slow, devilish laugh,
frightful to untutored ears.  We are accustomed to such tricks on our
stage.

Etzeeah lay moaning and wailing, clawing up handfuls of earth to put on
his matted gray head.  Jack arose from him white and grim, and with a
new light in his eyes.

"We've had about enough of this," he muttered between his teeth.

Mary, divining what was in his mind, flew to him.

"Jack!  Not that!  Not that!" she gasped, breathless with horror.

"I'm not going to do it here," Jack said harshly.  "I'll take him away.
What else can I do?  Look at Davy!  Look at the Indian!  This breed is
like a pestilence among us!  He'll have us all stark mad if I don't--"

"No!  No!" she implored, clinging to him.  "You and I are strong enough
to stand it, Jack.  We'll come through all right.  But we never could
forget"--her voice sunk low--"not his _blood_, Jack!"

His purpose failed him.  He caught up her hand and pressed it hard to
his cheek with an abrupt, odd motion.  Dropping it, he turned away.
"All right," he said shortly.  His eyes fell on Etzeeah.  "Get up!" he
cried scornfully.  "This is old woman's talk!  If he can send sickness
through the air, why doesn't he strike _me_ down, who bound him, and
blinded, and gagged him?"

Etzeeah, struck by the reasonableness of this, ceased his frantic
lamentations.

In an hour they were ready for the trail again.  Jack sent Mary and
Davy on ahead with Etzeeah and the pack-horses.  It was arranged that
as soon as they reached the site of the former Indian camp, where
Etzeeah said Jean Paul had turned Garrod adrift, they were to drop the
baggage and go in search of the missing man.

As soon as the others had ridden out of sight, Jack removed the blind
and the gag from Jean Paul and cut the cord that bound his ankles and
his wrists together.  He freed his wrists; his ankles he left bound.
The half-breed stretched out, and rolled on the ground in an ecstacy of
relief.  Finally he sat up, and Jack put the food that had been left
for him where he could reach it.  Jack stood back, watching him grimly,
a hand on the butt of his revolver.

"Are you goin' to shoot me?" Jean Paul demanded coolly.

"I wouldn't waste good food on you if I were," returned Jack.  "Hurry
up and put it away."

"You not got the nerve to shoot me," sneered Jean Paul.

"Try to hypnotize me and you'll see," Jack said with a hard smile.
"I'd be glad of an excuse."

"Why don' you shoot me now?" Jean Paul persisted, with a look like a
vain and wilful child, experimenting to see how far he can go against a
stronger force.

"I'd rather see you hang," said Jack.

"The police can't touch me.  I do not'ing against the law, me."

"There's a thing called treason in this country," said Jack.  "You can
hang for that."

Jean Paul laughed.  "Fort Cheever long way," he said.  "You not bring
me there, never."

"Then I'll bury you on the way," said Jack with his grim start of
laughter.

When Jean Paul had eaten, Jack bound his hands in front of him this
time, and liberated his feet.

"Get on," he said, pointing to the horse.

"You can't make me," Jean Paul said with his sidelong look.

"Shan't try," said Jack coolly.  "You can run along at my horse's tail
if you'd rather."

Jean Paul scowled at the suggested indignity, and climbed on without
more ado.  Jack tied his hands to the saddle horn.

It was seventeen miles down the forested valley back to the site of the
former Indian camp.  This, the ancient route between Forts Cheever and
Erskine, was a good trail, and they covered the distance without
stopping.  Jean Paul rode ahead, Jack following with his revolver loose
in its holster.  It may be said that he almost hoped the breed would
try to escape, to give him a chance to use it, but perhaps Jean Paul
guessed what was in his mind.  At any rate he rode quietly.

Issuing out of the forest at last, the Spirit River valley was spread
before them, with the big stream winding among its wide, naked bars.
The abandoned camp lay below them, a village of bare tepee poles in a
rich meadow surrounded by an open park of white-stemmed poplars.  As
they approached it a fresh anxiety struck at Jack's breast, for he saw
the three pack-horses picketed to the trees with their packs on their
backs.  He knew that only an emergency would have taken Mary and Davy
away without unloading them.  The animals had been rolling, to the no
small detriment of their baggage.  Jean Paul laughed at the sight.

Jack had no recourse but to possess his soul in patience until they
came back.  Meanwhile he unpacked the horses, and pitched their four
little tents, two on each side of the fire.  He bound Jean Paul
securely as before, and put him in his own tent.  He hung the gag from
the ridge-pole with significant action.  Jean Paul's lips were already
bruised and blue as a result of the previous application.

Not until late afternoon was Jack's anxious breast relieved by the
sight of the three horses single-footing it across the meadow.  Davy
rode first, then Etzeeah, looking crestfallen and sullen, and Mary
bringing up the rear, her rifle across her arm, and determination
making her girl's face grim.  Evidently there had been trouble; but the
three of them, and uninjured!  Jack could have shouted with relief.

"He ran away," Mary explained briefly.  "Davy and I had hobbled two of
the riding horses, when he suddenly jumped on the third and headed
north.  He got a couple of minutes' start before we could get the
hobbles off and after him.  When he got in the timber, he turned the
horse adrift, and we lost more time following its tracks.  But I
guessed he would make back to the trail as soon as you had passed, so
we patrolled it, and we nabbed him at last."

"Good work!" said Jack briefly.  It did not occur to him that there was
something rather extraordinary in a mere girl and boy bringing in the
headman of the Sapi Indians by themselves.  He expected it of their
white blood.

There seemed to be nothing for it now but to bind Etzeeah hand and foot
also, and to convert Jack's tent into a cell for him.  The two
prisoners lay in their separate shelters on one side of the fire, while
their captors watched them from the other.  Jack was to sleep with
Davy, and except for Mary's rifle, all the weapons in camp were stowed
in that tent.  The long-threatened rain set in steady and cold, and the
night threatened to be as dark as winter.

They ate their supper inside Davy's tent, while the fire sputtered and
sulked in the rain.  A heavy silence prevailed; for one thing, they
were dead weary, and their difficulties were pressing thick upon them.
The rain did not lighten them.  Jack, looking at Mary and Davy, thought
with softening eyes:

"They're clear grit!  But if I only had another man!"

The instant they had finished eating he ordered the two youngsters to
bed.  "I'll feed the two of them," he said, nodding across the fire,
"and clean up.  It will help keep me awake."

"You need sleep more than either of us," Mary objected.

"If I once let myself go I'd never wake," he said with a laugh.  "I'll
call you at midnight."  It was tacitly understood between them that
Davy was not to keep watch.

His work done, Jack sat down inside the door of Davy's tent to smoke,
and if he could, to keep the fire going in spite of the rain.  He found
that it required too great a blaze to be proof against the downpour.
He had not nearly enough wood to last throughout the night, so he let
it out in order that Mary might enjoy what remained of the fuel.  When
the fire went out he could no longer see into Jean Paul's tent, so he
crossed over and sat down beside him.  Throughout the weary hours he
sat smoking to keep himself awake, until his mouth was raw.  From the
adjoining tent issued the reassuring sound of Etzeeah's snores; Jean
Paul, too, never stirred, and his breathing was deep and slow.

Midnight had passed before Jack had the heart to waken Mary.  He first
took advantage of a lull in the rain to start the fire again.  As he
threw back the curtain of her little tent, the firelight shone in her
face, rosy and serene in sleep, her cheek pillowed on her round arm.
The sight stirred him to the very core of his being.  He knelt, gazing
at her breathlessly.  He forgot everything, except that she was lovely.
He suddenly bent over her with a guilty air, and lightly kissed her
lips.

She opened her eyes.  He sprang away in a panic at the thought of her
scorn.  But she awoke with an enchanting smile.  "Jack I dreamed----"
she began, as if it were the sweetest and the most natural thing in the
world for her to find him bending over her at night--and caught herself
up with a burning blush.  Jack hastily retreated outside.  Neither of
them referred to it again.

Jack was asleep as soon as he stretched himself beside Davy.  The next
thing he knew, something had happened, what it was he could not tell.
He staggered to his feet, and out into the open, drunken, paralyzed
with sleep, and fighting for consciousness.

"Jack, he's gone!" cried Mary.

That awakened him.  He saw her on her knees before Jean Paul's tent,
and ran to her.  The tent was empty.  The rain poured down on their
heads unheeded.  The fire was out.

Mary was in great distress.  "My fault," she said.  "It rained harder
than ever, and the fire went out.  I could not bear to sit beside him
as you did.  It made me sick to be so near him!  I thought I could
watch from my tent.  The wind came up and it was hard to see.  He fixed
the blanket to look as if he was still under it.  He must have slipped
out of the back!"

"But tied hand and foot!" cried Jack.

"The cords are here," she said, displaying them.

"But how?" demanded Jack.

Mary's searching hand found two small stones in the blanket that she
showed Jack; one had a sharp, jagged edge, and the explanation was
clear.  Throughout the hours when Jack sat beside him, and he seemed to
be so sound asleep, the wily breed had been patiently rubbing at the
cords until they frayed apart.

"No more your fault than mine," said Jack grimly.

Simultaneously the thought of Etzeeah occurred to them, and they sprang
to look under the adjoining shelter.  At first glance in the darkness,
the Indian seemed to be safely there, but when Jack put out his hand
the puffed-up blanket collapsed, and there was nothing under it.  At
that, for the first, their strong young breasts were shaken by awe.

"Good God!" Jack gasped.  "He's got him, too!  How could he?  With you
not twenty feet away.  And not a sound.  Is it a man or a devil?"

The pegs that held down the back of Jack's lean-to were drawn, showing
how Jean Paul had entered, and how he had removed his prey.

"Etzeeah--" said Mary tremblingly, "do you suppose Jean Paul has--

"He would hardly take him alive," said Jack grimly, "without a sound."

"But he had no weapon, we know that."

"His hands!"

They were silent.

"But if he did," faltered Mary, "why would he take--take the body away?"

Jack shook his head.  "They are always mysterious," he said.

"He may be near," whispered Mary.  "What's to be done?"

"He's not dangerous to us until he gets a weapon," said Jack.  "Wake
Davy, and you two watch our guns.  I'll bring in the horses."

It was near four, and beginning to be light.  The rain ceased, and a
thick white mist clung to the river-meadows.  It was not easy to find
the horses.  Jack satisfied himself that two of them were missing.  Why
two?  he thought.  He did not find the body of Etzeeah, as he half
expected.

He had to wait for better light before he could look for tracks.  He
found them at last, leading back up the Darwin valley, the fresh
hoof-prints of two horses superimposed on the confusion of tracks they
had made coming and going.  The horses had been ridden at a gallop.
Jack returned to tell Mary.

"He's gone all right," he said.  "And alive or dead, he's taken Etzeeah
with him.  The second horse carried a load too.  He's gone back to the
Sapis for grub and a gun."

Mary searched Jack's face with a poignant anxiety to see what he
intended to do.  "Let him go," she suggested.  "We know that Garrod is
near here somewhere."

Jack stood considering with bent brows and clenched hands.  He finally
shook his head.  "He could come back to-night, and pick us off one by
one around our fire.  We'll have no peace or security until I get him,
Mary.  I'll have to leave Garrod to you and Davy.  You know how much
finding him means to me!"

"But you," she faltered, her eyes wide with terror for him, "you can't
go back alone to the Sapis.  They shot at you!"

Jack's uncertainty was gone.  He raised a face, transfigured.

"Pshaw!  That mongrel crew!" he cried.  "They're the least of my
difficulties.  I'll drop on them before Jean Paul can work them up to
mischief.  _I've got to get that breed_!  No murder can be done in my
camp, and the murderer get away!  No redskin shall ever live to brag of
how he bested me!  I'll get him if I have to ride to hell and drag him
out!"



XVIII

THE END OF ASCOTA

Two hours later Jack rode into the Sapi village for the second time,
and flung himself off his tired and dripping mount.  The horse stood
with hanging head, and feet planted wide apart, fighting for breath.
This time Jack's arrival created little visible sensation.  The people
were otherwise and terribly preoccupied.  A strange silence prevailed,
extending even to the children and the dogs.  Many of the people were
gathered around the entrance to Etzeeah's lodge.  They merely turned
their heads with a scowl, and the men drew on the walled look they
affect in the presence of whites.  In the faces of the women and
children awe and terror were painted.

"Ascota, where is he?" Jack demanded.

Hands were silently pointed up the valley.

"How long?"

"Half an hour," one said.

Outside the square Jack saw two more dead weary horses still wet from
their punishing ride.

"Where is Etzeeah?" he asked.

There was no answer.  All the heads turned as one toward the tepee.

Jack threw back the blind that hangs over the entrance, and, stooping,
entered.  He was prepared for what he saw.  The body of the old man
sprawled on its back beside the fire.  All around the tepee squatted
his wives and his sons in attitudes of sullen mourning.  Etzoogah, the
best-beloved, eyed the body askance with scared eyes, and chewed the
tassel of his red sash.  Etzeeah was not a comely sight.  Death was in
his face, but none of the majesty of death.  His grimy, wrinkled skin
was livid and blackened.  The marks on his scrawny throat showed how he
had met his end.

Stooping, Jack picked up his hand, and let it fall.  It was
significantly cold and stiff.  He decently composed the dead man's
limbs, and signed to one of the women to cover the body with her shawl.

Rising, he looked grimly around the circle.  "This is murder!" he said.

None showed in any way that they heard.

"Who will ride with me to catch the murderer?" he demanded.

None moved.  The faces of the women showed a start of terror.

Jack went outside again, and looked over the silent crowd.  Seeing
Charlbogin, one of the deserters, among them, he went to him.

"Did Ascota speak?" he demanded.

The sulky boy could not resist the command.  "Ascota throw Etzeeah on
the ground, so!" he said with a striking gesture.  "He say: 'This is a
man who betrayed me!  Bury him!'"

A shudder passed through the crowd.  Children wailed and whimpered.

"Then what?" asked Jack.

"He take a gun and a blanket, and moose meat from the fire; he catch a
horse and ride west."

"And you let him go!" exclaimed Jack.

"Ascota is not a man like us," the young man muttered.  "He does what
he likes."

"More woman's talk!" cried Jack.  "Are there any men among you?  Come
with me, and I'll show you stronger magic than Ascota's."

Some of the men affected to smile contemptuously as at an idle boaster.
None moved to follow him.  The obstinacy of their terror faced Jack
like a wall, and he saw the futility of trying to move it.

He cursed them roundly.  "I'll go alone then," he cried.  "Bring me the
best horse there is.  I'll pay."

They shrugged as much as to say: "Let him, as long as he pays."  One
went to get the horse.  In five minutes Jack was pounding the trail
again.

Beyond the village the valley narrowed, and the roar of the plunging
stream rose from the bottom of it.  The bordering hills rapidly became
steeper and higher.  The trail did not follow the course of the river,
but found an easier route along the face of the hills a hundred feet or
so above.  The sides of the hills had been burned over, here, and the
forest was only a wilderness of naked, charred sticks.  Many of these
had fallen in the trail, making slow going for the horse.  Occasionally
the little river paused for a while in its headlong descent to wander
back and forth through a green meadow.  The trail came down to cross
these easy places, and it was only here that Jack could extend his
horse.

The plain tracks of Jean Paul's horse led him on.  Jack could read that
the breed was riding recklessly and distancing him steadily mile by
mile, but he would not on that account risk his own horse's legs
through the down timber.  "I'll get him," he said to himself coolly,
with the terrible singleness of purpose of which he was capable.  In
such a mood he was no longer a man, but an engine.

Jack had come across the mountains from Fort Erskine by this trail, and
he knew it well.  It was evidently for Fort Erskine, where he was not
well known, that Jean Paul was making.  Ahead, through the forest of
bare sticks that hemmed him in, Jack could see the gateway to the
mountains, the magnificent limestone pile of Mount Darwin on the right.
He had worked around the base of Darwin, and all this was familiar
ground.

It was about noon when Jack and his horse, rounding a spur of the hill,
were brought up all standing by the sight of a dark body lying in the
trail ahead.  Dismounting, and tying his trembling animal to a tree,
Jack went forward to investigate.  It was a horse, Jean Paul's horse,
with a broken foreleg, and abandoned to its fate.  Jack's heart beat
high with hope; the end of this thing was in sight now.  The poor brute
raised agonized eyes to him.  Jack could not put a bullet through its
head without betraying his whereabouts, but he mercifully cut its
throat.

He proceeded warily.  He was covered from above by the very steepness
of the hill and the impenetrable barriers of the fallen timber.  The
prints of Jean Paul's moccasins led him ahead.  The trail dropped
steeply to a little stream that he knew well; it drained the easterly
slope of Mount Darwin.  It marked the edge of the burned-over tract,
and on the other side the trail plunged into virgin forest again.

Jack went forward as cautiously as an Indian, taking advantage of every
scrap of cover.  At the brook he lost Jean Paul's tracks.  It was clear
the breed had waded either up or down.  Jack was pretty sure he would
not be far away, for the redskin of Jean Paul's type has no love for
long journeys afoot.  But it promised to be a somewhat extended stalk
and his horse was no use to him.  He therefore went back, cached his
saddle, and turned the beast out hobbled, trusting that it would find
its way back to the last river-meadow they had passed.  Blanket and
grub Jack strapped on his back, and his gun he carried under his arm.

He spent an hour searching up and down the shores of the creek for
tracks, without success.  Neither was there any evidence of Jean Paul's
having returned to the trail farther along.  If Jack was well skilled
in reading tracks, the breed was adept in hiding them.  Jack's only
recourse was to climb.  There is a little eminence abutting on the base
of Mount Darwin and on the top of it a knoll of naked rock that
overlooks the valley for miles up and down.  Knowing the natives'
deep-rooted aversion to drinking cold water, Jack guessed that Jean
Paul would have to build a fire, and from this point of vantage a fire,
however small, would almost surely betray his whereabouts.

Taking his bearings, he made a beeline up the steep slope through the
heavy, old timber that reached up from the valley, and through a dense
light growth of poplar above.  This part of the mountain offered no
special difficulties in climbing, and in half an hour he threw himself
down on the flat top of the knoll, with the valley spread before him.

Mount Darwin reaches a long promontory down the valley it has given its
name to.  The promontory consists of seven little peaks in a row, each
one rising over the head of the one in front, and the seventh is the
actual summit of the mountain.  It was on number one of these little
summits that Jack now lay, looking down the valley up which he had
ridden that morning.  A mile or so away was a patch of green with a
black dot upon it, that he guessed was his horse.

Off to his left, hidden in the forest, the creek came tumbling down
from the snows above; on his right hand the river washed the rocky base
of the monarch.  The easiest way to the summit is right on up over the
succeeding peaks; indeed on this side there is a mountain goat trail
direct to the top.  Darwin can also be climbed, but not so easily, by
ascending the creek for a couple of miles, thence up a steep slide to a
long hogback that leads back to the sixth peak.  On the river side the
rocky cliffs tower six thousand feet into the air, sheer and
unscalable.  Such was the theatre of the pursuit of Jean Paul Ascota.

In all the wide space opened to Jack's eye there was not a sign of
life, except the black pin-point that he supposed was his horse, and a
pair of eagles, sailing and screaming high above the forest.  Nowhere
in the brilliantly clear air was there the least sign of smoke.  He ate
some of his bread and meat while he watched, and smoked his pipe.  He
marked a place around to the right below where the trail passed over a
rocky spur.  On the other side it was open to him through the down
timber; so that Jean Paul could not pass either way on the trail
without his seeing him.

It was hard on the engine of retribution to be obliged to sit and wait.
When his pipe went out he moved restlessly up and down his little
plateau or shelf of rock.  Behind him, the forest grew close and high,
hiding the rest of the mountain.  He never knew quite how it happened,
but at one end of the rock, near the place where he had come up, he
suddenly found himself staring at the perfect print of a moccasined
foot in a patch of moss!  His breast swelled with satisfaction at the
sight; at the same time he frowned with chagrin to think of the
valuable time he had wasted sitting within twenty feet of Jean Paul's
trail.

Jean Paul's path up through the thickly springing poplar saplings was
not more than two yards from Jack's own.  Such are the caprices of the
Goddess of Chance!  He had crossed the rock, and continued on up the
mountain by the mountain goat trail, which first became visible here.
Evidently believing that he had shaken off pursuit, and that no one
would dream of looking for him on the mountain, he was no longer taking
any care to cover his tracks.

Jack hastened after, as keen and determined as a high-bred hound whom
nothing short of a cataclysm could divert from his purpose.  The rough
track followed the top of a stony ridge, which dropped steeply to the
river on one side, and sloped more gradually into a forested hollow on
the other.  A thick growth of pines afforded him perfect cover.  Like
all animal paths, the trail wound like a tangled string among the
trees.  The growth ended abruptly on the edge of a shallow rocky cut
athwart the ridge.  On the other side of the cut rose the steep face of
the second little peak in the series.

Jack paused within the shelter of the trees to reconnoitre.  The great
slope of rock opposite, with its wide, bare ditch, made a well-nigh
perfect natural fortification.  He watched the top of it lynx-eyed, and
presently he was rewarded by the sight of a wisp of smoke floating over
the edge.  Jack drew a long breath and grimly smiled.  So that was
where he was!

He had chosen admirably.  The growing timber ended at the spot where
Jack was, but up above there was enough down timber to keep the breed
in fire until the judgment day, if he wished to stay, and his fire
would be invisible from any point in the valley.  For water, all the
ledges and hollows on the northerly side were heaped with snow; for
food there were mountain goats and ptarmigan; for defence he had only
to roll a stone down on the head of any one who tried to climb to his
aerie.

While Jack watched, carefully concealed, Jean Paul suddenly showed
himself boldly on the edge of the cliff.  The distance was about three
hundred yards, a possible shot, but at a difficult angle.  Jack held
his hand.  It was all important not to put the half-breed on his guard
just yet.  Jean Paul carelessly surveyed the approaches to his
position, and went back out of sight.

Any attack from in front was out of the question.  Only one thing
suggested itself to Jack: to climb the mountain by the other possible
route, and come down on Jean Paul from above.  As soon as it occurred
to him he started to retrace his steps, without giving a thought to the
enormous physical exertion involved.  This way was beset with
difficulties; the bed of the creek was heaped with the tangled trunks
brought down by the freshets.  But Jack set his teeth doggedly, and
attacking these obstacles, put them behind him one after another.

The sun was three hours lower before he stood at the edge of the timber
line on the other great spur of the mountain.  He hesitated here.
Above him extended a smooth, steep slide of earth and stones at least
two thousand feet across, and without so much as a bush or a boulder
for cover.  At the top of this slide was the hogback that led back to
the sixth peak.  If Jean Paul was watchful he could scarcely fail to
see Jack mounting the naked slope.  True, nearly half a mile separated
them, but a moving black spot, however small, would arrest his
attention if he saw it.  He would not mistake it for an animal, for the
only animal on the upper slopes is the snowy mountain goat.

However, Jack had to chance it.  His principal fear was that Jean Paul,
seeing him, might climb down from his rock and gain a long start of him
to the valley.  But he reassured himself with the thought that the
Indian could not guess but that there were others waiting below.  It
would require a stout heart to climb down that rock in the face of
possible fire from the trees.

Jack started his climb.  Occasionally he could see Jean Paul moving
around on his distant rock.  Sometimes he thought the black spot seemed
to stand and watch him, but this was his fancy.  However, when he was
halfway up, he saw him without doubt begin to climb the face of the
third peak, and Jack knew that he had been discovered.  Jean Paul was
going up instead of down.  "I'll get him now," Jack told himself.

Thus began a strange and desperate race for the summit of the mountain.
Until near the end it was anybody's race; Jean Paul was the nearer, but
he had the steeper way to go; he was also the fresher of the two, but
Jack was insensible of fatigue.  The Indian kept himself out of sight
for the most part, but occasionally the configuration of the rocks
obliged him to show himself, and Jack marked his progress keenly.
Meanwhile his own climb was nearly breaking his heart.  He found that
it was only a heart after all, and not a steam-chest.  One cannot run
up a mountain with impunity.

Jean Paul mounted the fourth peak about the same time that Jack reached
the hogback, and threw himself down to ease his tortured breast for a
moment.  Jack had now to turn at right angles, and every step brought
them nearer to each other.  Jack had cover behind the summit of the
ridge all the way to the foot of the last climb.  It was impossible for
either to guess the outcome.  Jean Paul was still the nearer, but Jack
was making better time.  He ran along the slope on a level line and
gained a hundred yards.

When he looked over the top again he was encouraged to see that Jean
Paul was labouring hard.  He had often to throw himself down in full
sight to give his heart a chance.  Meanwhile they were coming very
close.  They were already within gunshot when the peak they were both
striving for intervened between them.  The breed was aiming for one
side, Jack for the other.  Jack wondered, should their heads rise over
the top simultaneously, which would have the strength to lift his gun.

Toward the base of the peak of rock the ridge became steep and broken.
Excruciating pains attacked Jack's legs, and his sinews failed him.  He
dropped to his hands and knees, and crawled on.  He had almost reached
the little peak, when suddenly a dark face looked down on him from over
the top, and he had just time to drop behind a jutting shoulder of rock
to escape the bullet that whistled overhead.  The race had gone to Jean
Paul.

Jack lay debating his next move.  Meanwhile it was grateful to rest,
and to feel the strength steal back.  His case was not yet hopeless, he
decided.  The rounded cone of rock that Jean Paul held was easily
accessible from any point of the arc visible to Jack, and from the
speed with which the breed had gained the summit, he guessed that it
must be even easier from the other side.  With darkness to aid him he
ought to be able to surprise his enemy.  The sun was setting now.  At
close quarters Jack's revolver would give him an advantage.

But this same train of reasoning must have passed through the breed's
mind, for later, upon peeping around his rock, Jack saw that Jean Paul
had retreated from his peak, and was running off to the right across
the flat battlement that connected it with the slightly higher cone
that was the true summit of Mount Darwin.  He had started to scramble
up the face of the rock.  Springing up, Jack fired at him, but it was
too far, and there was cover behind the jutting ledges.  Jean Paul
gained the top in safety.

Jack promptly seized the position he had abandoned.  Rising cautiously
over the side farthest from Jean Paul, he built himself, stone upon
stone, a little parapet upon the summit, behind which he could lie and
watch his enemy through the interstices.  Presently he saw that Jean
Paul was following suit, covering himself behind his wall while he
raised it.  A shot or two was exchanged, but without effect, and as if
by mutual consent they left off.  Their lead was too precious to be
splashed on the rocks.

So they watched, each holding alone, as it were, a heaven-piercing
tower of the same castle, with the battlement between.  It was a dizzy
perch.  The whole world was spread beneath them, a world of confused
gray, and brown mountain peaks like vast stalagmites pointing fingers
toward heaven.  It was like a nightmare sea suddenly petrified with its
waves upheaved.  In the whole vast wilderness there was no suggestion
of mankind or of life.  Up there the thin, cold air sharpened the
senses; one seemed to become aware of the great roll of our planet to
the east, and instinctively clung to the rock to keep from being flung
off into space.

About two hundred yards separated the white man and the breed.  Jean
Paul's position was some fifty feet higher than Jack's, and Jack had
therefore to build the higher parapet.  Nevertheless Jack's heart beat
strong; he had him trapped now.  At the same time it was a
well-defended trap, and there he might sit watching him until
starvation took a hand in the fight.  Jack had only full rations for
one day more; he suspected Jean Paul might be better provided.  A red
man starves slower than a white.  Each could reach plenty of snow to
quench his thirst, but there was nothing to burn up there.  Jack looked
through his peepholes, and considered how he might bring matters to an
issue.

On his right in the corner between the hogback and the final peak there
was a bowl a thousand feet deep or more, with a little lake in the
bottom of a colour between sapphire and emerald.  The sides of the bowl
were steep slopes of rubble.  Jack could not see all this from where he
lay, but he had marked it on the way up.  After dark he thought it
might be possible to crawl around the rim of the bowl to the base of
Jean Paul's tower of rock, and scale it from that side.  This he could
see, and he scanned it hard.  It was a staggering climb--say, two
hundred feet of precipitous limestone.  But it was scarred and ridged
and cracked by centuries of weather; and it was not absolutely
perpendicular.  It might be done.

Having made up his mind, he coolly rolled up in his blanket to sleep
behind his parapet until dark.  Small chance of Jean Paul's venturing
across the battlement.

When he awoke it was as dark as it would get.  He fortified himself
with bread and meat washed down by snow-water.  He left his gun rolled
in the blanket--the revolver would serve better--and he propped his hat
an a stone so that the crown would peep above his little wall.  If it
should become light before he reached him, it might serve to occupy
Jean Paul's attention for a little.  If he succeeded in knocking it off
its stone, so much the better.

The passage around the rim of the bowl offered no special difficulty,
except the danger of starting a miniature avalanche down the slope, and
putting the breed on his guard.  He took it a foot at a time.  In an
hour he drew himself up the first steps of his rocky tower, with the
stars looking over his shoulder.  Stars, too, seemed to be glancing up
at him out of the depths of the black gulf.  He would not let himself
look down.  With the faculty he had, he closed his brain to any thought
of failing or of falling.  "I'm going to get him!  I'm going to get
him!" it beat out like a piston, to the exclusion of everything else.
Darkness aided him in this, that it prevented the awful hazard from
forcing itself on him through his eyes.

His hands had to serve him for eyes, groping, feeling for the ledges
and cracks like the antennae of an insect.  He gave himself plenty of
time; he did not wish to arrive at the top until there was light enough
to make sure of his man.  He had it figured out in his odd, practical
way: three hours, a hundred and eighty minutes; a foot and a half a
minute was ample.  He could afford to rest and to steady himself on
every wide enough ledge.

The face of the rock unrolled itself like a map under the eyes of his
hands, and he remembered each foothold as he put it behind him.  When
he came, as he did more than once, to a smooth, blind face of rock that
barred further progress, he patiently let himself down again, and hit
off at another angle.  His aim was to work himself gradually around to
the back of Jean Paul's tower of rock, and fall on him squarely from
the rear.

He became aware of the approach of dawn through a slight change of
colour in the rock on which his eyes were stubbornly fixed.  He could
not tell how far he had yet to climb, but he had confidence in his
calculations.  Only once was his nerve shaken.  A ptarmigan suddenly
flew out from a cranny above his head with a soft whirring of wings.
He wavered for a second, and the sweat sprung out all over his body.
But he gripped the rock hard, and grimly forced the rising tide of
hysteria down.  "Twenty feet more and I'll have him!" he told himself.

At last, above his head, the face of the rock receded under his
exploring hand, and he knew he had come to the top.  This was the
difficult moment, for how was he to know upon drawing himself over the
edge that he would not find himself looking into the grinning face of
his enemy.  A little push back would be enough!  He paused for a while,
listening.  Suddenly his heart was gladdened by the sound of a shot.
Jean Paul had fallen into his trap, and was popping at the hat.  Jack
called on all the forces of his body, and with a great effort drew
himself silently over the rounded edge of the rock.

Jean Paul was ten yards away, and a few feet above him.  His back was
turned.  He was exposing himself boldly over the top of his parapet,
wondering perhaps why his shots had drawn no reply.  Against the vast
expanse of sky the silhouette still had the neat and ministerial
outline; the Testament still peeped out of the side pocket.  Jack
sprang over the rock.  Jean Paul turned, and Jack had an impression of
blank eyes, fixed as by a blinding flash at night.  Jack's rush bore
him down before he could raise his arms; the gun exploded in the air.
Jack wrenched it out of the man's hands and sent it spinning over the
edge.  They never heard it fall.

Drawing his revolver, Jack got up from the breed.  Jean Paul lay
motionless.  Jack watched him warily.  It was dimly borne in on him
that after all he had been through his difficulties were only now
beginning.  He had got his man and so kept his vow to himself; but,
richly as he deserved death, he couldn't shoot him disarmed.  What was
he to do with him then?

"Get up," he said harshly, "and over the wall with you."

Jean Paul raised himself to a sitting position.  He had not yet fully
recovered from the shock of surprise.  He stared at Jack with a kind of
stupid wonder.  "In a minute," he muttered.

Jack was willing enough to take the breathing-space himself.  Both men
were near the point of physical exhaustion.  After the excitement of
the chase the actual capture was tame.

"Well, 'ere we are," said Jean Paul with an odd start of laughter.
"W'at you goin' to do?"

"I've told you," said Jack.  "I'll take you to the fort or bury you on
the way.  I keep my word."

There was a silence between them.  They were motionless on their little
platform of rock, remote in the great spaces of the upper air.  Jean
Paul looked straight ahead of him with his hard, flat black eyes, in
which there lurked something inhuman and inexplicable, and he idly
plucked bits of moss from between the stones.  What thoughts were
passing through his head only God who made the redskins knows.  When he
turned his eyes again to Jack, it was with the old vain, childish,
sidelong look.

"You t'ink you one brave man, huh, to climb up the rock las' night?"

"Never mind that," said Jack coolly.  "You don't know yet what white
men can do."

Jean Paul sprang up with an extraordinary display of passion.  "White
men!" he cried, flinging up his arms.  "You are not the only men!  I am
a man as much as you!  I am half white and I hate the whites!  My
fathers were white as well as yours.  They beget us and they spit on
us.  Is it my fault that my blood is mixed?  Am I your brother?  No,
your dog that you kick!  Very well.  I will do something no pure white
man ever did.  You go back and tell them!"

On the side of the river, the rock they were on ran up and ended in a
row of jagged points like the jaw of a steel trap, overhanging a well
nigh bottomless void.  With his last words Jean Paul ran out on one of
these points of rock, and stood there, with arms flung up, like a diver
before he makes his cast.

Jack's heart contracted in his breast.  "Come back!" he gasped.

"Come and get me, white man!" cried Jean Paul over his shoulder.
Exaltation was in his face.

[Illustration: "Come and get me, white man!" cried Jean Paul, over his
shoulder]

Jack put up his revolver and, crouching, made to seize the man's legs.
Jean Paul, with a strange, loud cry, stepped off, and was no more.  No
sound of any fall came up.  Jack had not the stomach to look over.


Four hours later he found the thing below.  He had no tools to dig a
grave, and he heaped a cairn of stones over it.  On the face of a great
boulder that overlooked the cairn he scratched an epitaph with the
point of his knife:

  JEAN PAUL ASCOTA
  Killed by leaping from the summit
  of Mount Darwin
  August -- 19--
  A bad man and a brave one.


Then Jack lay down and slept around the clock.



XIX

AN OLD SCORE IS CHARGED OFF

Drawing near to the Sapi village on his return, Jack first came upon a
group of children picking wild strawberries in the meadow, who fled
screaming in advance of him into the compound.  There, every task was
dropped, and every dark face turned toward him.  Fairly startled out of
their affectation of stolidity, they streamed toward him from under the
sun shelters and from out of the tepees with cries of astonishment.
Jack was not deceived by the apparent warmth of their welcome; they
were not glad to see him, only amazed that he should have come back at
all.

He pulled up his horse in the centre of the square, and remembering the
last time he had addressed them, looked them over with a kind of grim
scorn.  Just now he was unable to feel any of the kindness for these
feather-brained children of the woods that Mary had.  He knew the value
of scant speech with them, and he made them wait for his announcement.

At last he said: "Ascota is dead!"

They stirred, and softly exclaimed, but one man laughed.  His example
was infectious; incredulity showed openly in their faces.

"Big talk!" one said insolently.  "Where's the proof?"

Jack quietly untied a little bundle from the back of his saddle, and
unrolling the flour bag in which he had carried his grub, produced a
little book and held it up.  It was Jean Paul's Testament, that they
all knew.  There was a dark and swollen blotch on the leather cover.
The absolute silence with which it was received was more impressive
than their cries.

Jack handed it to the man who had spoken.  It opened in his hands.
There was a crimson stain around the edges of the printed page--wet
crimson.  The man who held it started back, and those looking over his
shoulders gasped.  The book was passed among trembling hands.  Finally
it came back to Jack.

"I will tell you where his body is hidden," said Jack.  "A mile beyond
the crossing of the creek out of Mount Darwin there is a big spruce on
the right-hand side of the trail.  On it I made a blaze with the sign
of the cross in it.  One hundred and ten paces from that tree as you
walk toward the mountain he lies under a pile of stones.  There is a
big rock above, with his name and his story cut upon it."

It was very clear that none of them had any desire to seek out the
spot; indeed, from that time the Fort Erskine trail was closed to the
Sapis by reason of Ascota's grave being upon it.

"Who is the head man now?" Jack demanded.

They turned toward Etzeeah's eldest son, a sullen broad-shouldered
brave, the best physical specimen among them.

"Take warning," said Jack clearly, "you and your people!  Ascota was a
bad man, a big mouth, a trouble-maker, who tried to stir you to evil,
while he kept himself clear.  He dared to speak against the great white
father across the sea.  It was the chickadee piping at the eagle.  He
is dead.  We are all the children of the white father; his children and
his servants.  His police are now at the fort.  You will do well to
ride in and make your peace, before they come to punish you.  That is
all I have to say."

One silently brought him the horse he had left there, and, leading it,
he rode through the quadrangle and away by the trail, without looking
back.  There was no demonstration against him now.  The awe that Ascota
had inspired in them was transferred to the man who had brought about
his death.

Three hours later, as Jack's horse sidled down the hill into the Spirit
River valley, his rider looked with a beating heart for the four little
tents he had left in the meadow below.  They were not there.  A great
disappointment filled him, and a sharp anxiety.  What he had been
through had made greater inroads on his reserve forces than he knew,
and in Mary's deep eyes his weary spirit was unconsciously seeking
harbourage.

However, as he rode up to the ashes of their fire he saw that he had
not been forgotten.  In the forks of two little sticks driven into the
ground was laid a peeled wand roughly shaped like an arrow, and
pointing northeast.  On it had been printed with a piece of charcoal:
"7 miles."

Riding in the direction it pointed he found a freshly blazed trail
through the trees.  It led him among the poplars along the foot of the
bench to the opening of a coulee, up which it turned.  It took him
north through a narrow valley wooded with great spruce trees.  Through
openings in the trees on either hand he could see the steep, naked,
uncouth forms of the foothills that hemmed the valley in.  A trickle of
water flowed musically in the bottom of it.

It was difficult going for the horses over the fallen and rotting
trunks of the untrodden forest, with its treacherous, moss-hidden
pitfalls.  The seven miles seemed to stretch out into thrice that
distance before he came to the end of his journey.  He smelled the
smoke of a campfire long before he could see it.  Finally the trail
turned at right angles, and started to climb.  He issued out of the
trees, and there on a terrace of grass above him he saw the little
tents and the fire; he saw Mary turning toward him with harassed,
expectant face.

A little cry escaped her, and she came flying to meet him.  Jack
slipped off his horse.  A little way from him she caught herself up,
and her body stiffened.  The action brought to Jack's mind all that he
had forgotten, and he turned a dull red.  It had been in his heart to
seize her in his arms.  A horrible constraint descended on them both.
They did not touch hands; they could not meet each other's eyes; speech
was very difficult and painful.

"You are all right?" she murmured.  "Not hurt?"

"Not a scratch."

"And Jean Paul?"

"He is dead."

She started with horror, and in spite of herself glanced at Jack's
hands.

"He killed himself," Jack added quickly.

Her hands betrayed a movement of relief.  There was a silence.

"What about you?" mumbled Jack, scowling.  "What are you doing up here?
Where is Davy?"

"I have something to show you," she said, with a strange look.

He followed her up the slope.  He wondered why there were three tents
pitched.  The third was Jean Paul's A-tent.  Mary threw back one of the
flaps, and he saw a blanketed form inside.

"The kid!" he murmured, full of anxious concern.  But even as he said
it, he saw that it was not Davy.  Stooping, and looking farther within,
he saw a gaunt travesty of the face of Frank Garrod.  The eyes were
closed.

Something clutched at Jack's heart.  He fell back.  "Good God!" he
muttered.  "You've got him!  Is he dead?"

She shook her head.  "Sleeping," she said.  "Come away a little."

They sat on the other side of the fire.  "Davy has gone back to the
cache," she said, taking care to avoid Jack's eyes, "for milk powder,
if there is any, and whiskey, and any medicines he can find.  He will
be back before dark."

"Has he said anything?" asked Jack, looking toward the tent.

Mary shook her head.  "Nothing you could understand.  He is very low.
We will not get him back to the fort.  He was four days in the bush.
He had only berries."

"Then it's too late after all," said Jack apathetically.

"Who can tell?" said Mary.  "They say often they get their full senses
back for a little while before they die."

Jack shrugged.  "Who would believe what he said at such a time?"

Mary was silent.  Her capacity for silence was greater perhaps than
Jack's.

"Tell me about finding him," Jack said.

"We started out as soon as you left," she said, carefully schooling her
voice.  "It was clear Jean Paul would take him among the hills to lose
him, so we struck up the coulee at once.  Too many days had passed for
us to find their tracks, and it had rained.  But I was sure we would
find him in the valley.  The hills were too steep; besides, even a
madman stays by the water.  We looked all day without finding anything
until near dark.  Then we came on some tracks in the mud by the stream.
We camped right there the first night.  There were many coyotes on the
hills, both sides, and I thought he must be near and they
were--waiting."  She shuddered.

"In the morning we found him," she went on in a low voice.  "Just below
here.  He had fallen down beside the water.  His face was in the mud,
but the mosquitoes had not left him.  So I knew he was not dead.  Davy
and I carried him up here where it was dry.  I fed him a little bread
soaked in water.  Davy went back for the other horses and the dunnage,
and to leave a sign for you.  That was yesterday.  This morning Davy
went to the cache."

"Oh, Mary! what a woman you are!" Jack murmured out of the deeps of his
heart.

She rose with an abrupt movement, and went to look at the sick man.
She came back presently with a pale, composed face, and quietly set to
work mixing dough for their evening meal.  There was a long and
sufficiently painful silence.

"It's a funny situation, isn't it?" said Jack at last, with a bitter
note of laughter.

"Better not talk about it," she murmured.  "Let us just wait and see."

Being forbidden to talk about it, the desire to do so became
overmastering.  "Suppose he doesn't say anything," he began.

"It won't make any difference to your friends," she said.  "They know
you're not a thief."

"It's a queer business this having a good name and not having one,"
Jack went on, plucking blades of grass.  "As if anybody cared who took
the money."

Mary offered no comment.

"I'd lose my claims," Jack went on.  "I couldn't go out to file them.
But the governor would never put the police on to me, now.  He'd be too
jolly glad to get rid of me."

Mary refused to raise her eyes from the dough.

Jack thought she hadn't understood what he was driving at.  "You see it
would let me out there," he went on.  "This would be my country for
ever and ever, and the people up here my only friends."

There was another silence.  He looked at her hungrily.  The hard young
face was soft enough now.

"Mary," he murmured hoarsely at last; "I don't give a damn if he never
speaks."

The dough-pan was dropped at last.  She lifted a tortured face.
"Don't," she murmured low and swiftly.  "Don't you see what it means?
Don't you see how you're hurting me?  You mustn't wish it.  Maybe our
thoughts are influencing his sick brain this minute.  He must speak!
He must tell the truth and clear you.  Nothing else matters.  You must
be able to go wherever you choose.  You must be able to look any man in
the face.  I couldn't bear anything else."

Jack scowled, very much hurt--and a little ashamed perhaps.  "I didn't
think you were so anxious to send me outside," he muttered.

She threw him the look of pity and despair that women have for the men
they love who will not understand them, and, springing up, went to look
at her patient again.

By and by Davy arrived.  His greeting to Jack supplied the warmth that
Mary's had lacked.  Jack hugged the boy with a sidelong look at his
sister.  Afterward Jack briefly and baldly told his story by the fire.
Our hero had no talent for description.

"I slept until dark, and then just crawled around the edge of the slide
below the ridge, and climbed up the back of the rock."

Davy's and Mary's eyes were big.  "Climbed up the back of the summit at
night?" murmured Mary.

"Sure," said Jack.  "I took it slow and easy.  As soon as I got light
enough I dropped on him from behind.  That was one surprised redskin!"

"Then what happened?" demanded Davy, breathlessly.

Jack frowned.  "He jumped off," he said shortly.

"Jumped?" they cried.  "Was he killed?" asked Davy.

"Quite," said Jack grimly.  "And some to spare."  That was all they
could get out of him.

They ate their supper, and the sun went down.  Mary, leaving the boys
smoking by the fire, took up her vigil within the door of the little
A-tent.  Davy chattered about the prairie chicken that had flown across
the trail, about the squirrels that had broken into the cache, about
the moose he had seen swimming the river.  Jack with an unquiet breast
sat listening for a sign from Mary.

Suddenly she came out of the tent, dropping the flaps behind her.
"Jack!" she whispered breathlessly.

He sprang to her.

Her clenched hands were pressed hard to her breast.  "He's awake," she
murmured.

"Is he--sane?"

"I--I don't know," she said a little wildly.  "He looked at me so
strangely.  Oh, Jack!"

He took her trembling hand in his firm one.  There was no selfish
passion in him now.  "Steady, Mary," he said deeply.  "We've done the
best we could.  Whatever will happen, will happen.  Better go away for
a little."

She gave his hand a little squeeze, and shook her head.  "I'm all
right," she murmured.  "I must know."

Jack threw back the flaps, and, stooping, entered.  "Hello, there!" he
said quietly.

The sick man turned his head.  His eyes were unnaturally bright, and a
feverish colour suffused his face; his lips were swollen.
"Macgreegor," he whispered.  He passed a hand across his eyes.  "It is
Macgreegor, isn't it?"

Something melted in Jack's breast at the sound of the old boyish
nickname.  "Sure thing," he said, kneeling beside him.

Garrod reached out his hand, and Jack took it.  "Thank God, you're
here," he murmured in the soft, hurried accents of the fever patient.
"I'm going, Macgreegor.  I've made a rotten mess of it, haven't I?
I'll be glad to go if I can square myself with you first.  Where are
we?  It doesn't matter.  Can anybody take down what I want to say?"

Mary's eyes were big with tears.  She produced the pencil Jack had
given her, but it appeared there was not a scrap of blank paper in the
outfit, not a scrap of paper except the little Testament with its ugly
stains.  Davy handed it to her.  On the fly leaves, with their damp,
red borders, Mary prepared to write as Garrod dictated.

"Lift me up a little, Macgreegor," Garrod said.  "I can breathe easier.
Your arm under my shoulders.  That's good.  It's like the day at Ste.
Anne's when I fell out of the tree.  We were seventeen then.  You were
always holding me up one way and another, Macgreegor.  You never knew
what you were to me.  It was quite different from your feeling for me.
I can say it now, anyway.  I was a bit cracked about you."

"You'll wear yourself out talking," said Jack with gruff tenderness.

"It won't take me long," Garrod said.  "I'll have time."

He expressed no further curiosity as to where he was, or how Jack had
come there.  He referred to no recent happening.  His attention was
fixed on the all-concealing gray curtain ahead, through which he must
presently pass, and he hurried to get what must be said, said in time.
There was something uncanny in the perfect clearness of his thoughts,
after what had passed.

"You wonder how I could do as I did if I felt like that toward you," he
went on.  "Well, sometimes I hated you too.  I was jealous of you, you
were so much cooler and stronger than I, so much more of a man.  I
don't suppose you understand.  We're not supposed to be like that.  I
guess I was born with a queer streak."

On the other side of Garrod sat Mary, ready with the pencil and the
book.  Davy, large-eyed and solemn, filled the doorway.

"I, Francis Garrod, being about to die, do desire to make my peace with
God if I may, and with my friend Malcolm Piers, whom I have deeply
wronged.  It was I who took the money from the Bank of Canada that he
was accused of stealing.  None but I knew before-hand that he was going
away, nor his reasons for going.  The morning after he went the sight
of the money in the vaults tempted me.  He had influential friends and
relatives, and I knew there would be no scandal.  I took the money in
old bills that could not be traced.  I have not known a minute's peace
since then.  It drove me mad by degrees, and it is the cause of my
death.

"Should any doubt be cast on this confession, it is easy to verify it.
Within a month of the theft I opened accounts in the following banks
and branches of banks in Montreal."  A list of the banks followed.  "In
each I deposited a small sum.  The total will be about forty-five
hundred dollars.  The rest I kept by me.  Furthermore, among the papers
in my desk will be found a letter from Malcolm Piers dated from
Winnipeg a few days after his disappearance.  The post-mark is intact.
In every sentence of this letter there is proof that the writer had no
theft on his conscience when he wrote it, and no money.  So help me
God!"

Garrod signed the page with a sufficiently firm hand, and Davy and Mary
wrote their names beneath for witnesses.  Jack gave Mary the grim
little volume to keep for him, and she and Davy went away.

"That's done," murmured Garrod with a sigh.  His fictitious strength
seemed to ebb with the sigh.  He slipped down on Jack's arm a little.
"Don't leave me, Macgreegor," he murmured.  "It's all right with us
now, isn't it?"

"Sure, I won't leave you," said Jack.

The voice came in a whisper now with many breaks and pauses.  "The
lights of Ste. Catherine's street, Macgreegor, on a Saturday night, and
the crowds, and the stairs up to the gallery of the old Queen's, how
they echoed under our feet!  We saw the 'Three Musketeers!' ... 'Member
the rink in the winter?  And the old Park Slide? ... And Ste. Anne's,
with the sun shining on the river?  There's another pair of kids
winning the tandem paddles now, eh? ... How good it is to have you
here, old fel'!  'Member the first day I came to work at the bank!  You
blacked Husky Nickerson's eyes because he blotted my ledger.  We nearly
all got fired, but you saved us with your pull.  Husky, too!  How I
admired you, with your crooked eyebrow, and your curly hair, and your
straight back!

"Well, it's all over for me, old fel' ... and nothing to show!  I'll be
twenty-six next month....  Life's a sad thing ... and empty! ... I
wish--I wish I had done differently.  It's good to feel your arm,
Macgreegor! ... What time is it, old fel'?  Pretty near closing-time?
..."


Three days later Jack, Mary, and Davy rode into Fort Cheever in the
evening.  On the fourth horse was lashed a significant looking bundle
neatly wrapped in canvas, the canvas of the other dead man's tent.  A
heartfelt welcome awaited them.  David Cranston showed no anger at his
children.  He only looked from Mary to Jack and back again with a kind
of wistful, inquiring scowl.

During the interval of their absence the steamboat had arrived, and
after waiting twenty-four hours, had returned down river only that
morning, taking Sir Bryson and his party.  Since nothing could be
guessed of the probable return of Jack, the captain had not felt
justified in waiting.  Jack guessed, furthermore, that Sir Bryson had
not exerted his authority to delay the steamer.  The
lieutenant-governor had had his fill of the North.  The steamboat had
brought up Sergeant Plaskett of the mounted police, and a trooper from
the Crossing.

Garrod was buried at dusk on the hillside behind the fort.  Sergeant
Plaskett read the burial service.  Afterward Jack told his story, and
at daybreak the policemen started west to interview the Sapi Indians.
Before noon they had returned with Ahcunazie, the eldest son of
Etzeeah, and the members of his immediate family.  He was on his way in
to make peace with the authorities, as Jack had advised.

David Cranston learned something more from Mary, and something from
Jack.  The situation was too much for the honest trader.  He shook his
head dejectedly, and had nothing to offer.  Measles broke out again
among the Indians at Swan Lake--at least Mary said it had.  At any
rate, she rode away with Angus, Davy's next younger brother, the
following day, and Jack did not see her again.

Cranston had a letter for Jack.  Thus it ran, the paper blistered with
tears, and the headlong words tumbling over each other:


MY OWN JACK: You _are_ mine, aren't you?  I am nearly crazy.  I don't
know where you are or what has happened, and they're taking me away!
How could you go without saying a word to me?  How can you be so hard?
As soon as you get this, come to me!  Come to me wherever you are, or
whatever has happened!  I'll bring father around!  Only come!  I can't
live unless you come!  When I think of your failing me, I am ready to
do anything!  I have no one but you.  They all look at me coldly.  I am
disgraced.  Only you can save me.  I love you!  I love you!  I love
you! ...


And so on for many pages.  Older heads can afford to smile, but to the
inexperienced Jack it was terrible.

The police hearing was concluded two days later.  At evening that day
Jack, declining a lift down the river in Plaskett's canoe, pushed off
alone on the same little raft that had brought him to Fort Cheever a
month before.



XX

THE LITTLE GREAT WORLD

Mr. Malcolm Piers stood before the mirror tying a white bow at the top
of an effulgent shirt bosom.  It was a room in Prince George's best
hotel, and it had been his room for six weeks.  His brown ruddiness had
paled a little, and his face looked harder and older than the wear of
only two months warranted.  Unhappiness or perplexity, or indeed any
emotion, caused Jack to look like a hardy young villain.  Only the eyes
told a tale; a profound discontent lurked in their blue depths.

He finished dressing and took down his overcoat and topper.  Evening
dress became him well, and he knew it, and took a certain satisfaction
in the fact, for all that the world was going badly.  His abounding
health and his hardness marked him out from the usual dancing man.
Hunching into his overcoat, he put out the light, and with the act the
night out-of-doors leaped into being.  Struck by it, he went to the
window and flung it up.

The stars were like old friends suddenly brought to mind.  So they
shone over his own country where there were no grosser lights to
outface them impudently; so they shone nights he had lain well-wrapped
on the prairie, counting them while he waited for sleep; so they shone
through the spruce branches in the valleys.  The town of Prince George
is built on top of the bench, and his window looked into the deep
valley of the river.  It brought to mind his own river, the serene
Spirit; his and Mary's; Mary's whose eyes were as deep and quiet and
healing as the stars.

Leaning against the window-frame, he lost count of time.  He thought of
the nights he had careered over the prairie on horseback under the
stars.  He had called his new horse Starlight, a thoroughbred.  How the
beast would love the prairie!  How his knees ached for him this minute,
to bear him away from all this back to _her_!  How her eyes would shine
at the sight of Starlight!  Never had such a horse been seen north of
the Landing.  How he would love to give him to her!  How fine she would
look on Starlight!  He fell to picturing her under all the different
circumstances he remembered.  Sweetest and most painful was the
recollection of how he had kissed her sleeping in the light of the
fire, and how her soft, warm lips had smiled enchantingly under the
touch of his.

He was brought back to earth by the ringing of the telephone bell in
the room behind him, and a summons from below.  He went down stairs
cursing himself.  "You fool!  To let yourself get out of hand!  What
good does it do?"

It was the night of the hospital ball in Prince George.  The provincial
parliament had reassembled, the courts were sitting, and the little
western capital was thronged with visitors more or less distinguished.
The ball was held under the largest roof in town, that of the armory;
the band had been imported all the way from Winnipeg, and the
decorations and the gowns of the women would have done credit to
Montreal itself.  To the women the particular attraction of the
occasion was the presence of an undoubted aristocrat, Lord Richard
Spurling, seeing Canada on his grand tour.

Linda was radiant, the greatest little lady there!  There was nothing
here to suggest the frightened child who had left such a desperate note
for Jack.  Her world had not turned its back on her; on the contrary,
she had made a grand reéntrée with the halo of adventure around her
pretty head.  She was wearing a dress of rose-madder satin straight
from Paris, a marvel of graceful unexpectedness, hanging from her thin,
alluring shoulders by a hair, and clinging about her delicate ankles.
She was wearing all the pearls that had shared her adventures, besides
some new ones, and a jewelled aigrette in her dark hair.  A whole
company of cavaliers dogged her footsteps, including the lordling
himself, a handsome and manly youngster, irrespective of the handle to
his name.

Jack was not one of the company that surrounded her.  Jack and Linda
had been leading a kind of cat and dog life the past few weeks.  Their
engagement was admitted, but had not been announced.  Jack did not
shine in Linda's world; glumness is the unpardonable sin there.
Moreover, Jack was a perpetual reminder of things she was ashamed of
now.  And there were so many other men!  At the same time she kept a
tight hold on him by the means that such little ladies know so well how
to employ.

Jack kept out of her way until it was time for the first of the two
dances she had vouchsafed him.  As he approached her she could not but
acknowledge his good looks, she was a connoisseur, but a good-looking
thundercloud!  The dance was not a success; they were out of harmony;
they stepped on each other's toes!

"Let's stop," said Linda fretfully.

As soon as they were out of earshot of the crowd she opened on him:
"You haven't been near me all evening!"

"You know I'm at your disposal," Jack said stiffly.  "But I will not
make one of that train of young asses that follow you around."

"You don't have to," retorted Linda.  "And you needn't be rude.  Follow
whoever you please around, but for heaven's sake don't stand against
the walls with a face like a hired mute!"

This stung.  Nevertheless, Jack doggedly admitted the justice of it to
himself, and "took a brace," as he would have said.  "I'm sorry,
Linda," he said manfully; "I'm a bit off my feed to-night.  You know
I'm no good at this sort of thing."

She was merciless.  "It's not only to-night.  It's all the time; ever
since you've been here.  It's not very flattering to me to have you go
round with me as if you were dragged against your will."

Jack pulled in his lip obstinately.  He had made his apology; she had
rebuffed him; very well.  Linda, glancing sideways under her lashes,
saw that she would get no more out of him in this connection.  She made
another lead.

"Take me to the north end of the gallery," she drawled.  "I promised to
meet Lord Richard there at the end of this dance."

Jack obeyed without comment.

"He's an awfully good sort, isn't he?" she went on, with another
sidelong glance at Jack.  "I was surprised to find out how well he
dances.  Englishman, you know!  He likes Canada better every day, he
says.  He's going to stay over for the golf tournament if I will let
him.  He is looking for a ranche somewhere near town."

Jack woke up.  "First-rate head," he said heartily.  "We've talked a
lot about the North.  He wants to make a trip with me."

Linda bit her lip.

Later Jack sought out Kate Worsley, with whom he had a dance.  These
two had made great progress in intimacy.

"Shall we dance?" she said.

"No, please," said Jack.  "Linda says I dance like her grandfather.
One gets rusty in five years!"

"To sit out then," said Kate.  "Let's get in the first row of the
gallery, where we can hang over and watch the giddy young things!"

Their conversation did not flourish.  The night outside still had Jack
by the heartstrings; loping over the prairie under the stars, the
far-off ululation of a wolf, a ruddy campfire in the dark, and beside
it, Mary!

"You're not exactly garrulous to-night," remarked Kate.

Jack turned a contrite face to her.  "I'm sorry.  I wouldn't be rude to
you, Kate!"

"Bless your heart! you don't have to talk unless you are moved to it.
I don't like to see a pal looking so down, that's all."

"Down?" said Jack with a laugh.  "I'm living in hell, Kate!"

"Tell me about it, old man.  You can, you know."

He shook his head.  "I can't talk about it.  I only sound like a fool.
It only makes matters worse to talk about it."

Kate knew her men.  "Change the subject then," she said cheerfully.
"How are business matters going?"

"All right," said Jack.  "I have sold my claim and the other one to Sir
Bryson's company for twenty-five thousand--a fair price."

"Cash or stock?" asked Kate.

"Cash.  I have no talent for business.  I don't want to be in the
company."

"The other claim?" she asked.

"Miss Cranston's?" he said self-consciously:

"I thought there were three."

"The third belongs to Linda."

"Well, what are you going to do now?" she asked.

He looked at her in surprise.  "What do you mean?"

"You're too good a man to hang on here in town," she said off-hand.

"Do you think I'm staying because I want to?" he burst out.  "Good
heavens, I'm mad to get away!  I hate all this!  I'm fighting myself
every minute!"

She looked at him inscrutably.  "My young friend, you're blind!"

"You don't understand," muttered Jack miserably.

"Don't I?" she said, wistful and smiling.  "I've thought quite a lot
about your case, but I wasn't sure that I had the right to speak."

"Oh, Kate!" he said turning to her quickly; "you know I'd take anything
from you!"

She smiled at the way he put it.  "I'm not going to abuse you.  My
advice to you is simply--to go!"

Jack stared at her.

"Go!" she repeated.  "Ride away!  Ride back to your own work in your
own country, the place you suit, and that suits you.  You'd never be
any good here.  Look at Linda in her finery!  This is the breath of her
nostrils.  She has her eye on Montreal--London eventually.  How could
you two ever hope to pull together?  Mind you, I'm her friend too, and
I believe that I'm doing her a service in advising you to ride.  Girls
get carried away temporarily like men, though they're not supposed to.
Girls often get hysterical, and write much more than they mean.
Letter-writing between the sexes ought to be made a felony."

"She has my word," muttered Jack.

Kate shrugged.  "There's the man of it!  It is a fetich!  Would you
spoil Linda's life for the sake of keeping your word, not to speak of
your own life and--perhaps a third!"

Jack's face was obstinate.  "I'll see Linda and put it straight to
her," he conceded.

Kate's eyebrows went up.  "These men!" she said helplessly.  "You ought
to know her a little by this time.  That will do no good.  Much better
go without.  It's a thing that ought to be broken off.  What matter who
does it, or how it's done?  The result will be good."

"I couldn't go unless she releases me," Jack said.

Kate got up smiling.  "We must go back," she said.  "A man must do as
he will.  You are an awfully nice boy, Jack.  I believe I love you for
your very mulishness.  Write to me sometimes out of the North."

"I haven't gone yet," he said grimly.  "You must promise to forget
every word that has been said if I ask you to."

"I promise, dear old man."

For Jack to think of a thing was to put it into instant execution.  He
set off in search of Linda.  One of the likeliest places to find her
was on the balconies.  There was a suite of rooms across the front of
the armory, the officers' club, with a long narrow balcony overhanging
the street.  For the occasion of the ball, potted palms had been placed
at intervals down the balcony, making a series of little nooks, each
with two chairs, and each reached through its own window.  The largest
of the rooms with the balconies outside had been set apart for Sir
Bryson and his party.

Dancing was in full swing below, and Jack found the room empty.  None
of the little nooks outside were occupied.  In one of them Jack sat
down to wait for the end of the dance.  Almost immediately two people
entered the next bower to his.  Their voices were pitched low, and at
first he did not recognize them.

"Now for a cigarette," said the man.

"Lucky man," said the girl.  "I'm dying for a puff!"

"Have one," he said.  "I'll take it from you, if any one comes."

There was a silence, and the striking of a match.  Then a long-drawn
feminine "Ah-h!" which was undoubtedly Linda's.  Jack stood up to speak
to her over the dividing palms.  It was not a thing to do, but Jack was
a man of one idea at a time; he had to speak to her, and his other
dance was at the tail of the evening.  He wished merely to make an
appointment to speak with her later.

As his head rose over the palms he was just in time to see the blond
head of the English boy and Linda's darker, bejewelled head draw close
together, and their lips meet and linger.  They did not see him.

Jack dropped back as if he had been shot, blushing and furious with
himself.  To be a peeping Tom! a thing he loathed.  He silently cut
across the room within the balconies, praying that they might not hear
him.  Wild horses would never have dragged any admission from him of
what he had seen.

But when he got his breath again, as one might say, oh! but he found
his heart was beating blithely!  He felt as if he had burst out of a
hateful chrysalis.  Life was full of joy after all!  A little song rang
in his ear: "It's all right!  It's all right!"  Laughter trembled in
his throat.

He waited about on the stairs for Linda to come down.  She finally
appeared, cool and scornful, her heels tapping on the stairs, the thing
in her hair nodding and sparkling.  Who would ever guess that her
little Mightiness had just been kissed!  The spring of laughter bubbled
up inside Jack.  He presented a bland face to her, but he could not
hide the shine in his eyes, nor the smirk about the corners of his lip.

"What is it?" asked Linda, staring at the change in him.

"Whom have you the next dance with?"

She named a name.

"I know him," said Jack.  "Wait for me upstairs, and I'll see if I
can't make an exchange.  I want to talk to you."

Linda's curiosity was aroused, and she went back upstairs with Lord
Spurling.  In five minutes Jack had rejoined her, and the two of them
went out on the balcony again, in the same nook Linda had shared with
the Englishman.

"Well, what is it?" she asked.

"Linda," he said, "we've done nothing but quarrel since I came.  Let's
cry quits!"

"It hasn't been my fault," she said, all ready for another.

"Never mind whose fault," he said.  "Let's cut it out!"

"What's come over you?" she asked curiously.

"Look here," he said, "up North I promised that I'd come and claim you
as soon as I cleared myself.  Well, I came, and I've been here long
enough to show us both that it's no go.  We're not suited to each
other.  We only get on each other's nerves.  Give me my word back
again, Linda.  Let's shake hands on it, and say good-bye!"

Linda started, and looked at him with big eyes.  "Jack!" she murmured.
"You'd desert me?  You can't mean it?  What would I do?"

She got no further.  The great eyes, the plaintive tremulo, the
threatened tears, all the old tricks after what he had just seen,
struck Jack as too funny!  His laughter broke its bonds.  He threw back
his head, and gave it way.  There was nothing mocking or bitter in it;
it was pure laughter from the relief of his heart.  He laughed and
laughed.  He had had no laughter in weeks.  He was obliged to lean
against the window-frame and hold his ribs as at a vulgar farce.

Linda's expression graduated from amazement to pale fury.  She sprang
up.  The jewelled aigrette fairly bristled with rage.  "How dare you!"
she cried.  "Shut up!  I hate you!  You make me feel like a perfect
fiend!  I'd like to scratch your eyes out!  Go back to your squaw!
It's all you're fit for.  I was going to speak to you myself.
Understand, I'm throwing you over!  I despise you!"  She stamped her
foot.  "Go back to her, and be damned to you both!"

She vanished.  Such was the end of that affair.

Jack went in search of Kate, and found her on a man's arm bound
supperward.  "Could I have a word with you urgent and private?" he
whispered.

Kate looked at his happy eyes and nodded.  "Front balcony, five
minutes," she murmured back.

The balcony again.

"Kate, I'm off!" he cried.  "This very night.  In an hour I'll be
pounding the North trail on Starlight.  I'm so happy I can't keep the
ground.  If the boats have stopped running, I'll ride the whole way
through.  Kate, dear, you've been a powerful good friend to me.  I'd
like to kiss you good-bye."

"You may," she said, smiling and lifting her face.

"There!" he said.  "There! and there! and there!"

"Mercy!" said Kate.  "I'll have to retire to the dressing room for
repairs!  Good-bye, and God bless you!"

After the family had gone to bed, Mary and Davy Cranston stole back
into the living-room, and quietly blowing up the fire, put on fresh
sticks.  They sat down before it, nursing their knees.  Nowadays there
was a stronger bond than ever between Mary and Davy.  In that
disorganized household in the winter this was the only chance they had
to talk together.

"What do you suppose he's doing to-night?" said Davy.

"Who knows?" said Mary.  "A party of some kind, or the theatre."

"If father had let me go out with him," said Davy, "I could have
written and told you everything he did."

"Father was right," said Mary.  "He'll let you go when the time comes.
But that sort of thing would only unsettle you.  We're not society
people."

"I don't see why you're not," said Davy stoutly.

"It's too complicated to explain," she said in a level voice.  "Anyway,
I wouldn't like it."

"Whatever Jack does is all right, isn't it?" demanded Davy.

"He was born to it," said Mary.  "That makes the difference.
Besides----"

"Well?"

"I don't think he likes it either.  But it's necessary for him just at
present."

"I wish I could see him!" cried Davy.

Mary was silent.

"I mean to be just like him," Davy went on.  "Do you think I'll ever be
as strong as that?" he asked anxiously.

"It doesn't matter," said Mary, staring into the fire.  "You can be as
brave and honourable."

There was a knock at the front door.  Brother and sister looked at each
other in surprise.

"A sick Indian," said Mary.

Davy went to see.  He closed the door of the room after him.  Presently
Mary heard a little cry, quickly smothered.  Davy came in again
breathless, and with shining eyes.

"There's--there's some one wants to see you!" he said shakily.  "Oh,
Mary!"

She ran out into the hall.  The front door was open, and he stood
there, broad-shouldered and bulky with much clothing, dark against the
field of snow.  He was bareheaded, and the moonshine was making a
little halo around the edges of his curly pate.  He held out his arms,
and in a twinkling she was in them.

"Mary!  My love!" he murmured.  "I nearly went out of my mind wanting
you.  I've come back for you!  Never to leave you again!"

Their lips met, and their tears ran together.  Mary was the only woman
who ever saw those hard blue eyes fill and overflow.



THE END



  THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
  GARDEN CITY, N.Y.





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