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Title: Never Fire First - A Canadian Northwest Mounted Story
Author: Dorrance, James French
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: Constable La Marr wondered if the slogan of the
Mounted applied in case one had to deal with an insane native.]



  NEVER FIRE FIRST

  _A Canadian Northwest Mounted Story_


  BY

  JAMES FRENCH DORRANCE

  CO-AUTHOR OF "GET YOUR MAN,"
  "GLORY RIDES THE RANGE"


  _Frontispiece by_
  CHARLES DURANT



  NEW YORK
  THE MACAULAY COMPANY



  COPYRIGHT, 1924,
  BY THE MACAULAY COMPANY


  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



  To
  JOHN WOODS DORRANCE

  FATHER AND FRIEND



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I Chance of Morpheus
  II The Eskimo Way
  III Complication Astounding
  IV Best of Bad Business
  V Silver and Black
  VI Regard for the Law
  VII Wanted--An Eskimo Fox
  VIII The Hero Fugitive
  IX The Skein Tangles
  X Hard Knuckles
  XI The Scarlet Special
  XII Living Targets
  XIII His Montreal Promise
  XIV A Double-Barreled Case
  XV Under Suspicion
  XVI The "Widdy" in Gray
  XVII Richer than Gold
  XVIII A Cryptic Messenger
  XIX Into the Night
  XX Morning's Maze
  XXI The Closed Creek
  XXII Figure of Speech
  XXIII When Morning Came
  XXIV Tent-Told Tales
  XXV Clutch of the Breed
  XXVI Boot and Booty
  XXVII Bright with Promise



NEVER FIRE FIRST



CHAPTER I

CHANCE OF MORPHEUS

From the "dig-in" of the snow-bank where he had spent the blizzard
night in comparative comfort, Constable La Marr of the Royal Mounted
looked out upon a full-grown day.  The storm that had driven him to
shelter had passed, or at least was taking a rest.  For once he had
overslept and where days, even in winter's youth, are but seven hours
long, the fault caused him chagrin.

That a "Mountie" in close pursuit of a murder suspect should have
made such a slip was disconcerting even to one so young as La Marr.
He found little consolation in the fact that when he had enlisted in
the Force he had not dreamed of an Arctic assignment, but had
expected one of those gayly uniformed details in Montreal or Quebec.

His concern, if the news ever leaked out, was of the reaction upon
his immediate superior, Staff-Sergeant Russell Seymour.  But small
chance of that leakage unless he himself weakened--or
strengthened--and tested the adage that confession is good for the
soul.  Seymour, a grimly handsome wolf of the North in command of the
detachment post at Armistice, was now two months absent on an irksome
detail of snow patrol, one that should have fallen to the rookie
constable, except for his inexperience.

La Marr stamped out of the snow-hole that had sheltered him and
restored circulation by vigorous gymnastics.  Light as was his trail
equipment, being without sled or dogs, he had not suffered, having
learned rapidly the first protective measures of the Arctic "cop."

He was about to make a belated breakfast from his emergency pack when
his glance chanced toward the north and focused upon a furred figure
headed down the snow ruff on a course that would bring him within
easy reach.

"Aye, not so bad!" he congratulated audibly.  "I get me man by
sleeping on his trail!"

He chuckled as he watched the snow-shoed Eskimo stumble directly
toward the trap that was set for him by chance of Morpheus.

Yet the young constable took no chances.

A murder had been committed two days before at Armistice, almost
within the shadow of the police post.  The crime seemed a
particularly atrocious one to him from the fact that a white man, a
trader's clerk, had been the victim.  Any Eskimo who would go to such
lengths was either desperate or insane.  La Marr felt called upon to
be very much on guard as he waited within the shelter of the
snow-trap.

He had not a doubt that the native approaching was his quarry, any
more than he had of that quarry's guilt.  He wondered if the slogan
of the Mounted applied in case one had to deal with an insane native.
It would be easy--and providentially safe--to wing the oncomer,
undoubtedly unaware of the nearness of a Nemesis.

But the training at the Regina school of police that a "Mountie"
never fires first is strict and impressive.  Constable La Marr could
not take a pot shot even with the intent only to wound the flounderer.

Next moment surprise caught him--surprise that Avic, the red-handed
culprit, was fighting his way back to camp.  But wait, he'd have to
revise that thought for this particular murder had been done in a
peculiar native fashion that shed no blood.  Anyhow, why should one
so obviously guilty of killing a white man in a bronze man's country
be headed toward the police post from which he had made a clean
get-away?

No answer came to La Marr.  He merely waited.

The Eskimo floundered on.

The constable's concealment was neat enough in a country where all is
white.  It was better even than bush or shrub, for they were so rare
as to be open to suspicion.  At just the right second he lunged
forward and took the native entirely by surprise.  The two went over
in a flurry of snow.

For a moment the Eskimo struggled fiercely, possibly thinking that
his fur-clad assailant was an Arctic wolf.  But his resistance ceased
on recognizing he was in human grip.

La Marr yanked his captive to his feet and searched for weapons,
finding none.  Then he remembered the rules of the Ottawa "red book"
and pronounced the statutory warning.

"Arrest you, Avic, in the name of the king; warn you that anything
you say may be used against you.  D'ye understand?"

As he asked this last, which is not a part of the official warning,
he realized that Avic did not.

"Barking sun-dogs, why didn't the good Lord provide one language for
everybody?" he complained.  "Anyway, there ain't much chance of my
understanding anything you may say against yourself.  I'll tell it
all over to you when I get you to the post.  Now we'll mush!"

"Ugh--yes," grunted the Eskimo, seemingly undisturbed.

The young constable was puzzled by the prisoner's demeanor.  He
stared at the man, whose stolid expression was heightened by thick
lips and high cheek-bones.  Perhaps the native did not know he was in
the hands of the police and on his way to pay for the dreadful crime.

Raising his _parkee_, La Marr disclosed the scarlet tunic which he
wore underneath.  It was the color of authority in the far North; no
Eskimo who ever had seen it before could doubt it.

There was no gleam of intelligence in the dark eyes that stared from
behind narrow, reddened lids.  There dawned upon the constable a
possibility.  The Eskimo was snow blind under the curse of the
Northland winter which falls alike to native and outlander, at times.
That would explain his back-tracking.  Rather than wander in circles
over the white blanketed tundra until a miserable death came to his
rescue, he was hurrying back, while a glimmer of sight yet remained,
to take his chances with the mystery called "Law."

"Not a bad choice," thought La Marr as he stepped out ahead to break
the trail that the night's blizzard had covered.

After locking his prisoner in the tiny guard room, a part of the
one-story frame structure that sheltered the small detachment, the
constable started for the post of the Arctic Trading Company a few
hundred yards away.  He was young, La Marr, and pleased with himself
over his first capture of importance.  He anticipated satisfaction in
discussing the arrest with Harry Karmack, the only other white man at
Armistice now that Oliver O'Malley had passed out.

But he did not get across the yard.

The report of a rifle from down the frozen river, which flowed north,
halted him.  He saw a dog team limping in over the crust,
unmistakably the detachment's own bunch of malamutes.  The man at the
gee-pole could be none other than Sergeant Seymour, returned at last
from the long Arctic patrol.

Here was a vastly more important auditor for his triumph.  He sprang
forward to offer salute and greetings and to help with the malamutes,
for an Eskimo dog team always arrives with a flourish that is
exciting and troublesome.

Once the animals were off to their kennels and before Seymour fairly
had caught his breath from the last spurt into camp, the young
constable was blurting out the details of Oliver O'Malley's untimely
end.

"But I've captured the murderer!" La Marr exclaimed in triumph.
"I've got Avic, the Eskimo, hard and fast in the guard room.  Come
and see."

With interest the sergeant followed the lead of the one and only man
in his command.

The native had been squatted on the floor with his back against the
wall near a stove, the sides of which glowed like a red apple.  On
their entry, he rose muttering in gutturals that meant nothing to the
constable.  Seymour gave one glance of recognition, then turned.

"You've got a murderer, sure enough, La Marr," he said with that
slowness of speech so seldom accelerated as to be an outstanding
characteristic.  "But his name's not Avic and by no possibility could
he have had anything to do with the killing of O'Malley."

"Then who the hell----," the constable began.

"This is Olespe of the Lady Franklin band.  For three weeks he's been
my prisoner.  On the sled out there are the remains of the wife he
killed in an attack of seal-fed jealousy."

The chagrin of Constable La Marr was written in gloom across a face
so lately aglow.



CHAPTER II

THE ESKIMO WAY

Grim, indeed, had been Sergeant Seymour's sledded return to his
detachment.  For more than two hundred miles across the frozen tundra
he had driven his ghastly load--the murdered woman wrapped in deer
skins after the native custom, sewed up in a tarp and lashed to a
_komatik_, the Labrador sled that gives such excellent service on
cross-country runs.  All this, that the inquest which the Dominion
requires, regardless of isolation, might be held in form and the case
against the uxoricide assured.

And out ahead, unarmed, and under "open" arrest, had mushed the
murderer himself, breaking trail toward his own doom.  Often in the
whirling snow, Olespe had been beyond his captor's sight.  But never
had he wavered from the most feasible course to Armistice; always had
he been busily making camp when the dogs and their official driver
caught up at the appointed night-stop.  No white man could have been
entrusted with such "fatigue duty" under like circumstances.  Three
weeks of such opportunity for remorse must have been too much.

But Seymour was not thinking now of this recent ordeal.

The case of Olespe, except for the formalities of coroner's inquest,
commitment and trial was settled.  The plight of his unhappy
constable held the pity of the sergeant, always considerate.

"I'm not blaming you, Charley," he assured.  "Until you've been up
here a few years, all Eskimos look right much alike."

"Can't I start after the real Avic at once," pleaded the constable.
"I'll make no second mistake."

La Marr was as eager as a hound held in leash after its nose has
rubbed the scent.  But he could not, just then, bring himself to
confess his over-sleeping.

Seymour did not answer at once, but set about taking off his heavy
trail clothes and getting into the uniform of command.  He was a
large built man, but lean of the last ounce of superfluous flesh
owing to the long patrols that he never shirked.

The scarlet tunic became him.  Across the breast of it showed lines
of vari-colored ribbons, for his service in France had been as
valorous as vigorous.  He had gone into the war from his Yukon post
and, almost directly after the armistice, back into the Northwest
Territories to establish one of the new stations of the Mounted in
the Eskimo country.

The green constable chafed under the silence, but he did not make the
mistake of thinking it due to slow thinking.  With Seymour many had
erred in that direction to their sorrow.  The sergeant certainly was
slow in speech, but when he spoke he said something.  He might seem
tardy in action, but once started he was as active as a polar bear
after a seal.

"No hurry about taking after this Avic," he said at last.  "Likely
he'll not travel far this double-thermometer weather."  The reference
was to a jocular fable of the region that to get the temperature one
had to hitch two thermometers together.  "At worst he can't get clear
away--no one ever does, except when old man Death catches him first.
We'll hold our inquest, then I'll issue a warrant."

"And detail me to serve it?" La Marr's question had that breathless
interrogation point of secret self-accusation.

To Seymour's thin lips came that whimsical smile which transformed
his whole expression, despite its blanket of beard.  To a student of
expression, this would have shown the tenderness of a woman to be
concealed beneath the life-hardened mask.  His grimness melted like
snow beneath the caress of a Chinook wind; yet warning remained that
this gentleness was not open to imposition.

"Right-o, Charlie," he promised.  "I've made mistakes in my day and
been thankful for the chance to rectify them.  You're nominated to
bring in whoever is named in the warrant after the inquest.  Let's
go."

He put on a pea-jacket, on the sleeves of which the stripes of his
rank stood out in deep yellow.  On a thatch of towsled, brownish hair
he settled the fur cap proscribed in the regulations for winter wear.

Outside they first attended the disposal of the sled.  Without
telling the post's native hostler the grim nature of their load, they
saw it placed in a shed which had the temperature of a morgue.

Adjoining the police buildings on the south was the establishment of
the Arctic Trading Company, Ltd.  This was a low but substantially
built structure of timber and stone, also facing the frozen river.
The "Mounties" entered the storm door which gave upon the factor's
quarters, with the intention of divorcing Harry Karmack from his book
and pipe long enough to accompany them to the scene of the local
crime.

"Dear eyes, but it's glad to see you home again, Serg.," was the
trader's greeting, as he arose from his chair beside an "airtight
burner" and extended his hand for a hearty grip.  "Things have come
to a pretty pass in the territories when the 'Skims get to biting the
hands that are feeding them."

Seymour met this comment with a grave nod.  Like others of the Force
on Arctic detail, he was surprised at what approached an epidemic of
murderous violence among their Eskimo charges, in general a kindly
and docile people.

A prepossessing individual was Harry Karmack, not at all the typical
trader.  He was dark, from a strain of French blood in his Canadian
make-up, with laughing eyes and a handsome mouth.  As he seldom took
the winter trail, he shaved daily "so as not to let the howling North
get the better of me," as he liked to put it.  His smooth cheeks
contrasted sharply with the bearded ones of the officers, their
growth cultivated for protection on the snow patrols.  Generally
Karmack wore tweeds over his powerful frame and a bright tie beneath
the collar of his flannel shirt.  At that, he was a seasoned
sour-dough and a sharp trader, respected and feared by the natives.

"What do you think's got into the blood of the breed all of a
sudden?" he asked.

"We've handed them too many rifles, for one thing," offered Seymour
slowly.  "But don't you worry, the Mounted will get the deluded
creatures in hand.  Will you come with us for a look at the O'Malley
scene?"

Karmack reached for his furs.

"If you don't," he remarked, a severe note in his voice, "you scarlet
soldiers won't be any safer than us traders.  When I think of young
O'Malley, one of the finest chaps I ever knew, struck down here at a
police post----"

A catch in his voice stopped him.  Taking a battery lantern from a
cupboard beside the doorway, he signified he was ready for the said
inspection.

La Marr led the way to the scene of the crime--a stone hut half
buried in the snow.  At the door he broke the R.C.M.P. seal which he
placed there before setting out on his futile pursuit of the suspect.

"Nothing was disturbed, sir," said the constable in a hushed voice.
"Everything is as Karmack and I found it when we came to investigate
why O'Malley did not return to the store."

They stepped out of the gathering dusk into a windowless room.  The
roof was so low as to cause the shortest of them to stoop.  The
trader pushed the button on his lantern and raised it.

Across the cave-like room, which was bare of furniture after the
Eskimo fashion, Seymour stared.  There, in a sitting posture on a
sleeping bench, was all that was mortal of the assistant factor.

In life, O'Malley had been a handsome youth of pronounced Irish type.
Sudden death had wrought so few changes that the sergeant had
difficulty in believing that he looked on other than a sleeping
fellow human.  A dankness, as of a tomb, served to convince him.

The victim's head rested against the back wall of the hut; his
crossed feet upon a deerskin floor covering.  Clutched in one hand
was a black fox pelt.  Upon the sleeping bench beside him lay one of
silver.  Both looked to be unusually fine skins.  Presumably, some
dispute over the price of the prizes was the motive of the crime.

Karmack stepped closer with the light; indicated by gesture a knotted
line of seal skin around the victim's throat, the end dangling down
over his _parkee_.

"The Eskimo way!" muttered the trader brokenly.

The shudder that passed through Seymour's wiry frame was not observed
by the companions of the inspection.  No more was it caused by the
untimely fate of Oliver O'Malley.



CHAPTER III

COMPLICATION ASTOUNDING

As is the silken kerchief to the Latin garroter, so is the Ugiuk-line
to the Eskimo bent upon strangulation.  Strong reason had Sergeant
Seymour of the Mounted to realize the possibilities in the clutch of
the stout cord made from the skin of a bearded seal.

Although he had made no mention of the fact in Karmack's quarters,
when the trader pronounced warning that the out-of-hand Eskimos soon
would be clutching for the throats of the wearers of the scarlet,
already had they clutched at his.  The vivid memory of his narrow
escape had brought his involuntary shudder at sight of the sinister
drape about O'Malley's throat.

On the farthest-North night of his last patrol, he had elected to
sleep in a deserted igloo on the skirts of a village rather than
suffer the stifle of an occupied one.  After midnight he had awakened
from a strangling sensation to find himself in the hands of two
stalwart assailants.  The knot of a similar seal-hide line was
gripping his throat.  He had thrown off the pair only by an effort so
supreme as to leave him too weak to follow them through the snow
tunnel into the storm.  Probably he never would know their identity
or be able more than to guess at their motive as one of fancied
revenge.

Seymour did not speak of this now as they stood in the hut of
tragedy.  No more did he mention the news that slowly was filtering
through the North that Corporal Doak, Three River detachment of the
Royal Mounted, and Factor Bender of the Hudson's Bay company post had
been slain in a brutal and treacherous manner.  To spread alarm was
no part of his policy.  But over at the post was the Ugiuk-line that
had been used on him and in his mind was a vivid idea of its practice
in Eskimo hands.

From these--the fearsome souvenir and the shuddering memory--he
suspected that the O'Malley case was not as open-and-shut as it
seemed.  For him, mystery stalked the crime, one that would not be
solved by the apprehension of Avic, the Eskimo.

Silently, he completed his immediate investigation of the crime.  Two
points stood out to confirm the suspicion born of his intimate
knowledge of the Eskimo garroting methods.  Upon the _corpus delicti_
there was absolutely no mark except the sinister purple rim about the
throat and a blood spot beneath the skin where the knot in the seal
line had taken strangle hold.  In the hut there was no sign of a
struggle such as he had put forth to save himself in the igloo, not a
dent in the earthen floor or a skin rug out of place.  Yet, as he
well knew, O'Malley was a powerful youth and of fighting stock!

"Let's have the facts--such as you know."  The sergeant turned
suddenly to Karmack.

"Dear eyes, I should say you shall have them--every one," returned
the trader eagerly.

Despite certain mannerisms and his unusual--for the
outlands--fastidiousness of dress, Karmack was straightforward and
exceedingly matter of fact.

Word from native sources, it seemed, had reached the trading
company's store several days before that Avic was in from his trap
line with fox pelts "worth a fortune," according to Eskimo standards.
He had borrowed this hut in which they now stood in the outskirts of
the town from a relative and had sent the native for the makings of a
"party," or _potlatch_.  The hunter himself had not appeared in camp
or sent any direct word to Karmack that he had fox skins for sale.
He had no debit on the books of the Arctic company, so the reasonable
supposition of his aloofness was that he meant to drive a hard
bargain.

Skilled in barter with the natives, Karmack said he had countered by
betraying no interest in the arrival of the aloof hunter.  He had
felt confident that, given time, Avic would run short of funds for
entertaining and market his catch at a reasonable figure.  But, at
length, had come disturbing rumors over his native "grape-vine."
Avic had heard, the rumor went, that the Moravian Mission has
established a new trade store at Wolf Lake, near the big river--the
mighty Mackenzie.  He was excited by tales of high prices paid there
and was planning to migrate to that market with his prizes.

"It was then," continued Karmack, "that I told O'Malley to mush over
to see this bird and talk him into a good humor.  The young chap had
developed a knack at sign-language barter, although he knew little
Eskimo; I was busy on a bale of furs at the store.  He was just to
persuade Avic to come into the post where we'd come to some
satisfactory agreement as to price for whatever the 'Skim's traps had
yielded.

"By gar, sir, two hours passed and Oliver did not come back, nor was
there any sign of the hunter.  The mission shouldn't have taken him
half an hour, for all in the name of reason that the native could
have wanted was for us to come to him with an invitation.  I began to
get anxious and started out to see what was what.  Meeting La Marr
out front, I asked him to come along with me, still with no
apprehension.  We found what you yourself have seen--exactly that and
nothing more."

He paused for a moment with his emotion, then: "Holy smoke, man, if I
had known what would eventuate, I'd never have sent him but gone
myself.  They're afraid of me, these confounded huskies, and I'd
grown to love that boy as a brother!"

"What do you know about O'Malley, Karmack--how he came into the
territories--what he'd done in the provinces--all that sort of
thing?"  Seymour asked the disjointed question seemingly satisfied
with the other's preliminary statement.

The trader was silent a moment, thinking.

"Not a great deal, come to think of it," he said, before his
hesitation had become pronounced.  "A tight-mouthed lad, Oliver, when
it came to his own affairs.  He hails from Ottawa and was sent out by
the president of the Arctic Trading Company.  Brought a letter from
the big chief telling me to make a trader out of him, if possible.
Evidently his people have money or influence.  Perhaps there's some
politics in it.  I don't really know, old bean."

"Hadn't been in any jam down below, had he?"

"Oh, rather not--not that sort at all.  May have seen a bit of
Montreal or Quebec and perhaps had crossed the home bridge to Hull,
where it's a trifle damp, you know, but nothing serious, I'm certain.
The big chief never would have sent me a blighter."

The sergeant asked for the victim's next of kin and who should be
notified.

"Oliver never spoke of his family," answered the factor.  "Had a
picture or two on the packing box he used for a bureau, but we never
discussed them.  Said to notify the head office if anything went
wrong with him.  Dear eyes, the lad was peculiar in some ways.  You'd
think----"

The sergeant's interest seemed not to lie in the trader's thoughts.
He had two inquests on his hands, to say nothing of the capture of
Avic of the foxes.  For the moment forgotten was the fact that he had
promised Constable La Marr this detail.  Moreover, there remained
that suspicion, born from his own narrow escape from the Ugiuk-line,
that there was more behind the murder than appeared on the surface.
He led the way from the hut; waited until La Marr had affixed another
police seal on the door, then moved ahead into the main trail, a
sled-wide path which camp traffic kept beaten down between the banks
of snow.

A shout from down-trail startled them.  From out of the increasing
dusk, bells jangling, bushed tails waving like banners, dashed a dog
team dragging a light sled.  Wondering, they flattened against the
snow to give gangway.  The arrival of a strange team at that time of
year was an event.

The sled was braked to a halt a few yards down the trail.  A tall
driver, slim despite an envelopment of furs, sprang from the basket
and waited for them to come up.

"I thought I recognized a uniform in passing--and I need direction."

The voice sounded clear as a bell on the evening frost and
unmistakably feminine.  Moreover, it carried none of the accent
peculiar to the half-breed mission-trained women who spoke English.
They looked closer into a face of pure white and eyes that might have
been brushed into the pallor with a sooty finger.

A white woman in Armistice--a young and comely girl of their own
race!  Think how incredible it must seem to three who had settled
down to an October-April winter of isolation.

"I'm Sergeant Seymour, of the Mounted, in charge of this detachment,"
offered the policeman, for once speeding his speech.  "Who're you
looking for, ma'am?"

"I must find Oliver O'Malley's fur trading store.

"And who might be seeking our young trader?"  The sergeant kept from
his voice any hint of the dread that had clutched him.

"I'm Moira O'Malley of British Columbia--his sister."

This astounding complication left the three men speechless, glad for
the dusk that helped mask the consternation that must be written on
their faces.



CHAPTER IV

BEST OF BAD BUSINESS

In his grown-up life, Sergeant Seymour had met a procession of
emergencies.  Seldom had he failed to do the right and proper
thing--the best for all concerned.  But never had he faced a more
difficult proposition than that presented by the young woman who now
faced him on the trail, awaiting news of the brother she had
journeyed so far to join.

When he thought of what lay in the hut they had just replaced under
Mounted Police seal, he was distressed to the quick.  When he
pondered the distress and disappointment that must be hers when she
learned the truth, that hidden strain of kindness within him promptly
interposed barrier against his blurting out the facts, police
fashion.  He felt that he must temporize.

"You've come to the right camp, Miss O'Malley, but your brother won't
be in to-night.  In the morning----.  But surely you did not mush
from the Mackenzie alone?"

A small sigh, doubtless of disappointment at the further delay,
passed her lips; but no exclamation came.  Evidently she was a
self-contained young person.

No, she explained readily, she had not come alone.  The Rev. Luke
Morrow and his wife were behind with another sled and they had
traveled only from Wolf Lake.  The Rev. Morrow, it seemed, was a
friend and fellow churchman of her father, then stationed at Gold,
British Columbia.

"_Only_ mushed from Wolf Lake!" exclaimed Constable La Marr,
stressing the only, although after one glance into her wonder face he
was hating himself the more for having let the fox hunter get away
from him.

The missionaries were having trail trouble, she continued.  Being so
near journey's end, she had dashed on with her lighter load, hoping
to send her brother to help them into camp, as well as being the
earlier to the reunion.

"Constable La Marr will go out at once," declared the sergeant.  "How
far are they?"

"Scarcely a mile.  We were in sight of your flag when they spilled."

La Marr at once took the back trail, not waiting to go to the post
for the worn police team nor, considering the distance, wishing to
experiment with the girl's strange huskies.

At the moment Moira turned to quell an incipient dog fight; the
sergeant turned quickly to Karmack.

"Not a word to her until after the inquest--until we've a chance to
break it to her gently."

The trader nodded agreement and was introduced when she had
straightened out her team.

"Mr. Karmack was--is your brother's chief here at lonely young
Armistice."

For a moment he held his breath for fear the verb slip would be
noticed and the question of tense raised.  The girl, however, was too
much interested in her surroundings to heed.  The trader helped by
bowing in his best manner and seizing one of her mittened hands in
both his own for a warm greeting.

"A fine lad, Oliver.  Dear eyes, what a fine chap!"

His startling exclamative caused her own eyes to open, but Karmack
merely grinned in amiable fashion.

"I hope you and your friends will accept the poor hospitality of the
trading post, at least for this night," he concluded heartily.
"We'll have plenty of room."

"But isn't there a mission house," began the girl.  "I thought the
Morrows----"

Seymour interrupted.

"Nothing doing, Karmack, with your commercialized hospitality.
They're the first visitors of the winter; I claim them in the name of
the king."  He turned to the girl.  "The mission house hasn't been
opened for months.  We'll make you comfortable at the detachment
barrack--won't have to use the guard room, either.  If you'll draw
rein at the flag pole----"

Her "mush--mush on!" to the dogs rang clear and gave the policeman
further speech with the factor.

"You couldn't have her there to-night, Karmack, in view of what I
have to tell her to-morrow.  Her brother's things scattered all
about----she'd ask too many questions.  Have you tangled in no time."

Again Karmack nodded agreement.  He hadn't thought of that, but only
of being hospitable.  It would have been a treat, though, to
entertain such a charmer under the chaperonage of the missionary
couple.  He would send up some butter for their supper.  That of the
police stores smelled to the heavens.

"That's fine; if ours came from cows, they were athletes," Seymour
replied with a grimace.  "Come up with yourself for coffee.  And I
wish you'd send your man for their dogs and kennel them for the
night.  My malamutes raise Billy-blue when there's any new canine
clan in sniffing distance."

The isolation of Armistice, with its difficulties of transportation,
combined with its newness as a police post caused even the living
room of the detachment to take on a barracks-like austerity.

The scant furniture had been made on the spot and was all too rustic.
There were bunks along three walls and a scattering of skins upon the
rough boards of the floor.  A lithograph of King George, draped with
the colors, occupied a position of honor, the only other decoration
being a print of the widely popular "Eddie," Prince of Wales.  But
logs blazed cheerfully in the stone fireplace and Moira O'Malley,
divested of her outer trail clothes, looked very much at home as she
stood to its warmth.

Not until he returned from the kitchen and the starting of a
"company" supper did Russell Seymour realize in full the startling
beauty of the Irish girl who had come to them at such an unfortunate
moment.  She was within an inch of being as tall as himself as she
stood there on the hearth.  Her lampblack hair, coiled low on her
lovely neck, actually was dressed to show her small ears--and almost
had he forgotten that white women had pairs of such.

A generous mouth, full and red of lips, sent his eyes hastening on
their fleeting inspection when she became aware of his presence in
the kitchen doorway.  If the even rows of pearls behind those lips
had flashed him a smile then, the temptation must have been too
great.  Her slender figure merely hinted at rounding out in its mould
of black blanket-cloth.  He glanced shyly at her ankles--always the
cover-point in his estimate of feminine pulchritude.  She still wore
her trail _muckluks_ of fur, clumsy looking as a squaw's sacking, but
he knew beyond doubt how silk stockings and pumps would become her.

In the eyes he had remarked on the trail, however, Moira's beauty
reached its highest peak, he decided.  They were as blue as the heart
of an Ungova iceberg and as warm as the fire which glowed behind her.
They looked out at him in a friendly, inquiring way from behind
lashes as dark as an Arctic winter night.

And on the morrow those lashes would be wet with tears of grief.  At
the moment he'd gladly have given his hope of heaven to have ushered
a laughing young Oliver O'Malley into the room.

"Decorative, to say the least," she remarked, at last flashing him
the threatened smile.

"Yes, ma'am--what ma'am?" he stammered.

"The uniform of the Mounted as you wear it in that door frame," she
teased him.  "At that, I'd rather see it--you on a horse."

He fell back on the only defense he knew--a pretense at seriousness.
"Up here we're the Royal Canadian _Dis_-Mounted Police, Miss
O'Malley.  We know only two seasons--dog and canoe.  There isn't a
single 'G' Division mount north of Fort Resolution.  By the time I
see a horse again, I'll probably have forgotten how to ride.  I'll
climb aboard Injun style and try to steer him by his tail."

The sergeant was glad to hear the crunch of steps upon the snow.
Under the circumstances, he was in no mood for persiflage and more
than willing to give up the bluff that seemed required.  He stifled a
sigh of relief as La Marr ushered in the missionaries.

A quiet couple, plain, both a trifle frail-looking for Arctic rigors,
the Morrows proved to be.  Serious as they were about "The Work" to
which they were prepared to give years of sacrifice, both were
"regulars" in the life of the North.  Scarcely would they wait to
warm up before insisting on helping their hosts prepare supper.
Moira, too, insisted on having a hand.  The lean-to kitchen refused
to hold them all, however, so Seymour cited the "too many cooks" rule
and discharged all but Mrs. Morrow.

The meal which soon was on the oilcloth was more substantial than
formal.  It consisted of warmed-up soup from a great kettle that held
a week's supply at a time, then sizzling carabou steaks, sour-dough
bread, boiled beans and bacon and, of course, marmalade from distant
England.  It was the sort of menu that "sticks to the ribs"
gratefully after a day in the open.  When Karmack came in for his
promised coffee, he found the post gayer than ever he had known it to
be.  Yet, for three of them buoyancy was as forced as jigging at a
wake.

With tact increased by the fear that some chance slip would disclose
to their lovely guest the news that he felt temporarily should be
kept from her, Sergeant Seymour discovered that the ladies were worn
by their long run in the biting cold.  He threw open the door of
"officers' room," disclosing a wood fire crackling in a Yukon stove
and two bunks spread with blankets fresh from the post's reserve
supply.

"Not much to offer as a guest room, but our one best bet," he
apologized.  "I'll confess frankly that there isn't a single
bunk-sheet in the detachment.  But I think I can guarantee a sound
sleep for both of you.  I'll promise there'll be no breakfast alarm
in the morning, but the makings of a meal will be beside the kitchen
stove when you're ready."

Protest unexpected came from mild-mannered Mrs. Morrow.  "But we're
routing you out of house and home, sergeant," she exclaimed.  With a
nod of her blond head, she indicated an extra uniform which dangled
from a hook against the wall, telltale staff stripes upon its crimson
sleeve.

"A dreadful thing to do," added Moira.  "And on your first night home
after your long patrol!"

That portion of Seymour's face that was not bearded took color from
the tunic that had betrayed him.  "And I thought I'd removed all
trace of the former occupant.  Must be getting color blind."  He
carried the jacket into the living room.  "Don't worry about your
reverend, Mrs. Morrow; he'll bunk as snug as a bug out here with La
Marr and me," he called back.

There was a chorus of good-nights; then the men settled to their
pipes before the fireplace.  After a reasonable wait in silence,
Seymour lowered his voice and communicated to Luke Morrow the news of
the tragedy.  Without reservation, the missionary approved their
course of keeping it from Moira until after the necessary legal
formalities had been carried out.  Then, he said, he would take
charge with a religious reverence that might lighten the blow.

"She's a wonderful woman, Moira O'Malley," he said with deep feeling.
"She endeared herself to everyone who met her over at Wolf Lake.
Utterly wrapped up in her brother, this will be a terrible blow.  I
wonder if----"  He hesitated.  "Would it be admissible, do you think,
to tell her of the death but not the fearful form?"

Glances exchanged by the three laymen showed that they appreciated
the missionary's struggle--kindly thought against strict
truthfulness.  Long had he taught the "truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth."  But just now he wavered.

"By gar!  It absolutely would!" Karmack vociferated.

Seymour's quick wit worked out a solution.

"An accident of the Arctic prairies.  I'll trust having that one
marked up against me in the Doomsday Book."

"Blessed are the kindly of heart," murmured the "sky-pilot."  "So be
it!"

Of course, they all realized that Moira would learn in time the
nature of the "accident," but that need not be until Time had its
chance to salve the wound.  The arrest of Avic need not bring about
disclosure, once the whites in Armistice were pledged to keep it from
her.  She might know him only as another unfortunate, misguided
Eskimo slayer, a handcuff brother to Olespe of the Lady Franklin
band, then in the guard room.

"But Mrs. Morrow?"  The thought came suddenly to Seymour that the
woman missionary spoke some Eskimo.  "She'll hear of it from the
natives."

Luke Morrow smiled; they did not know of the iron which was in the
make-up of his little blond wife as he did.

"She is a good woman, so merciful.  I will pray this out with her in
the morning."

For a time, gloomy silence held the group around the fireplace.
Suddenly Karmack leaned over and grasped Morrow almost roughly by the
shoulder.

"Parson, do you know why that girl left her father and the
comparative comforts of a British Columbia gold camp to share a
trader's shack in bleak Armistice with her brother?"

The trader's demand scarcely could have been more vehement had he
personally resented Moira's coming.  "I know that he did not expect
her.  What's more, he never even spoke of having a sister."

The missionary's calm was perfect.

"She had no way of letting him know that she was coming to spend the
winter with him, once the wireless she sent to Edmonton failed to
reach Wolf Lake," he replied.  "She came through herself by team in
the first storm of winter.  We had great difficulty in keeping her
with us until we ourselves were ready to make the trip across
country.  She'd have come through with an Indian dog driver if we had
not protested so stoutly."

"All that to see a brother, eh?" snorted Karmack.  "Are you certain
she is his sister?"

Seymour sprang to his feet, an angry glitter in his gray eyes.
"Enough of that, Karmack!  Express another such doubt and out you
go--for good."

For a moment, a snarling expression strove to master the trader's
face.  The missionary poured oil.

"I'm sure Mr. Karmack meant nothing wrong.  He's just a bit upset by
all these happenings."

"Upset?  Dear eyes, yes--I'll say I'm upset."  The factor made a
quick grasp for peace, for the sergeant looked dangerous.  "All I
meant was that I could understand a wife going to such an effort to
join a husband, but not a sister."

"Any reason to believe Oliver O'Malley had a wife?"  Seymour remained
stern.

"None in the world.  But a sister----  To make a trip like that, she
must have had some very pressing reason."  Again his eyes questioned
the parson.

"If there existed any other than sisterly affection," said Morrow
evenly, "she did not express it to me."  His manner was so final as
to make further questioning discourteous.

Clumsily as Karmack had used his probe, he had but echoed a query
that had been in Seymour's mind from his first realization of Moira's
superlative comeliness.  The sergeant had meant to ask about this
when he and Morrow were alone, and he would have put his question
without giving offense.

Why had one who deserved to be the honored toast of the Dominion
rushed into the Arctic wilds, evidently unasked, certainly
unexpected, at a time of year when it would be next to impossible to
send her back?

Was there any connection between her coming and what had occurred so
recently in the Eskimo hut?  Had she brought a warning of some sort
to this beloved brother and been lulled into thinking she might delay
for a missionary escort and still be in time to serve and save him?

Those rapid-fire speculations, unvoiced, seemed to advise only
negative answers.  Yet why had she come?

Constable La Marr, who had been silent all evening to a point of
moodiness, now snapped Seymour from his thoughts with a question of
his own.

"And when are you going to turn me loose after that accursed Avic?"
he demanded in a tone that was scarcely subordinate.

The missionary looked up at his violence, but had no censure for the
speech of it.  These men who give their lives to lighten the Arctic
native's sorry burden grow accustomed to strong language.

"At daybreak you will take the dogs, mush over to Prospect, and
subpoena those three mining engineers wintering there to serve on
coroner's jury.  Bring them back with you.  Miss O'Malley need know
of only one inquest."  He glanced with thoughtful eyes toward the
closed door of the inner room.  "After that----"

One look at the young constable's face must have told any who saw it
that Avic, the Eskimo, would need to hide like a weasel to escape
that arm of the law.



CHAPTER V

SILVER AND BLACK

La Marr was away at dawn with a _venire facias_ for each of the three
gold explorers, the only competent jurors within reach.  As it was a
matter of forty miles' rough sledding to the prospectors' camp and
return, the inquests could scarcely be held before the late
afternoon.  That the girl whose emotions they were conspiring to
protect might be too busy for vagrant suspicions, Sergeant Seymour
suggested to the Morrows that they open up Mission House while he was
at liberty to help them.

"Don't want to seem inhospitable, Mrs. Morrow," he said in his
slowest, most deferential manner, "and you know you'll be welcome
here as long as you care to stay, but I'm sure you want to get into
your own place as soon as possible.  Never know when some Arctic
hades is going to cut loose and take me out on the trail.  I'm off
duty this morning--more than ready to help with the heavy work."

This brought an offer from Moira O'Malley that struck the hearts of
those who knew.

"Our sergeant of the Dismounted is positively brilliant this
morning," she said, confounding him utterly with twin flashes of
Irish blue.  "Why, all the time I attended school in Ottawa, I saw no
one more considerate.  You see, when Oliver gets back from this
inconsiderate mush of his, I'll become quite useless as your
handmaiden, Emma, with all the things a brother will be needing done
for him."

Mrs. Morrow had not been advised of the true situation, but she had
her own ideas as to the proper habitat in an outland's camp for a
girl like Moira.

"Oh, you'll keep right on living at Mission House as long as you're
here, my dear," she said.  "The shack of a bachelor trader is no
place for so dashing a belle."

"But I know Olie's quarters, whatever they are, will need my sisterly
attentions," she protested, spreading unconscious agony to the two
men.  "His room at home always was a sight.  A place for everything
but nothing in its place seemed to be that Mick's motto."

As the two men went on ahead to the small dwelling that had been
closed since the previous spring thaw, Seymour found himself asking
again why she had come.  Were sisters as devoted as that?  As
motherly?  Never having had a sister, he was unable to answer.

The pair stripped weather boarding from doors and windows, aired the
house thoroughly and carried in a supply of wood from the shed.  They
then closed it tight and built roaring fires in every available stove
to remove the winter chill.  The native hostler from the post already
had shoveled paths through the snow.

So far as the two males could see, but little inside cleaning would
be necessary.  But the women, on coming to the house presently,
revised that verdict and fell to with broom and mop.

The smoke from Mission House stove-pipes probably had been reported
to Karmack, for he arrived presently, his interpreter drawing a
toboggan loaded with provisions which were presented to the
missionaries with compliments from the trading company.  The gift was
gracious, the supplies being of a sort not found in the somewhat
meager store of staples provided by the societies.  They were
gratefully received.

Came then a second shock from Moira, again an innocent one, in the
form of coupled questions.

"But Mr. Karmack, have you locked the store?" she asked first.

"Not much trade these wintry days and if customers come, they'll
stick around like summer bull-flies."  He accomplished the only laugh
of the morning.

"But who is there to tell Oliver, when he comes back, that I've
arrived and am waiting?"

Harry Karmack's freshly shaved, usually ruddy face went as white as
the girl's natural pallor at this unexpected turn to his attempted
whimsicality.  He staggered back as if she had struck him a blow.
Seymour, standing near, steadied him into a chair.

"That bad heart of yours again, old top?" the sergeant asked quietly.

No one ever had heard of anything being the matter with Karmack's
heart, but the timely question served to cover his emotion.  Mrs.
Morrow noticed it, but did not wonder thereat,  Evidently Moira had
hit these sons of isolation hard, and there were in prospect
interesting sessions, she thought, for Mission House living room that
winter.

Seymour decided he had endured enough agony for one morning and so,
on the plea of police routine, started for the post.  But the
thumbscrew of misadventure was to receive one more turn.  From the
door of Mission House the melodious voice of Moira carried to him.

"Oh, Sergeant Scarlet, please do keep an eye open for my merry
brother along Rideau Street, or whatever you call the thoroughfare
which passes your headquarters."

"And I'll have him paged at the Chateau Laurier and ask for him out
at Brittania Park," he managed to answer in terms of the city of her
schooling.  But he had no heart for the jest, mindful of the change
that soon must come to her happy mood.

He entered the police shack by the back door and looked in for a
moment on Olespe.  His prisoner from Lady Franklin oblivious of his
fate, seemed to revel in the luxury of the guard room's warmth.  The
sergeant went through and out the front way.

"Rideau Street indeed," ran his thoughts.  "What a name for that
streak through the snow in Armistice!"

At that, Moira showed that she knew her Ottawa, for Rideau is the
street on which face the red brick headquarters of the Royal Mounted.
Would that she had never left the capital!  Would that he could waft
her home again, sacrifice though that would be in this ice-bound
isolation!

Straight to Avic's hut he went and broke the seal upon the door, as
was his right.  Again his eyes were upon all that remained of her
"merry brother."  He wondered about death and the hereafter and
various things that never should enter a Mountie's mind--not when
he's stationed north of Sixty-six.

Then, suddenly, his eyes seemed to open as though a mote had been
cast from each.  Perhaps this was effected by the magic of Moira's
charm and beauty.  Certainly he saw details that had not impressed
him the previous afternoon.

As might a wolverine in defense of her young, he pounced upon the
silver fox pelt that lay on the sleeping bench beside the murdered
youth--lay in such a way as to indicate its purchase had already been
negotiated.  He studied the set of the fur and sniffed at the tanning
on the inner side.  His eyes widened as he held the beautiful exhibit
before him and realized the possibilities that were opened up by this
definite clue.

"Magic skin," he murmured half aloud after the fashion of men who
find themselves often alone in the wilderness.  "You widen the
mystery; may you help to close it!"

Gently, without shrinking from the cold touch, he removed the last
clutch of O'Malley's fingers from the black fox--probably the pelt of
ostensible contention.  Close examination of this showed the same
conditions to exist.

Neither of the foxes had been trapped in the present winter; both had
been cured at least a year.

"Magic skin," he repeated, and breathed a wish too fervent for
utterance even in the hut where he stood alone.

In the act of wishing, memory put its finger on him.  There came to
mind that famous tale of Balzac's, "The Magic Skin."  The story dealt
with the hide of an ass which, with every wish invoked from it,
shrank until the greedy owner was threatened with the disappearance
of his magic possession.

Perhaps Seymour had best cease wishing.  But he recalled he had a
pair of magic skins in hand; grew defiant of the venerable myth, and
wished again, more fervently even than before that it would fall to
his lot to solve the deepened mystery of the Oliver O'Malley murder.

Opening the pea jacket of his winter uniform, he tucked both furs
beneath his tunic.  Closing and resealing the hut, he strode back to
the police cabin.  Had he intended to appropriate the silver and
black treasures for his own gain, he scarcely could have hidden them
more carefully.



CHAPTER VI

REGARD FOR THE LAW

Nowhere in the civilized world, perhaps, is there more respect paid
to the coroner and his inquests than in the Dominion of Canada.  This
regard is not confined to the settled provinces, but reaches beyond
the Arctic Circle even to the farthermost post of the Royal Mounted
in latitude 76--Ellesmere Island, on the edge of the Polar Sea.  This
afternoon in Armistice was being devoted to the ancient formality of
the law.

As one of the miners, brought in by Constable La Marr from Prospect
to serve as juryman, put it in half-hearted protest to Seymour:

"You red coats would hold an inquest at the North Pole if word came
to you that some one was violently dead up there."

In his capacity as coroner, Sergeant Seymour first called the inquest
over Mrs. Olespe, whose Eskimo name was too complicated with
gutturals for English pronunciation.  Upon chairs and one of the
bunks in the living room of the post sat the jury--the three gold
hunters from Prospect and Factor Karmack.  At a table beside his
superior was Constable La Marr, acting as clerk of court.

The prisoner, more stolid than sullen, was brought in from the guard
room and planted on another of the bunks beside Koplock, the
interpreter who regularly served the Arctic Traders.

Seymour's first difficulty was to make certain that Olespe understood
the warning that had been given him at the time of his arrest, for he
had not entirely trusted the ability of the volunteer translator who
had served him up North.

"Ask him if he knows who the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are," was
the first address to the interpreter.

There followed verbal explosions back and forth.

"Olespe says they are the rich men of the country," reported the
interpreter.

Shrugging his shoulders over the apparent hopelessness of the
situation, Seymour tried again: "Ask him what he thinks the police
came into the country for."

"To make us unhappy," came the report presently.

"In what way--unhappy?"

"By not let us shoot at what is ours to shoot and which we can hit."

Feeling that he was making progress, the sergeant got to the vital
point.  "Ask him what I said to him when I put him under arrest?"

"He says," translated the interpreter, "you told him he'd get hurt if
he talked too much."

Seymour decided to let it go at that and led the way to the
outbuilding used as morgue.  There Olespe identified the remains of
his wife, which had been sledded so many snowy miles because there
was no possibility of finding a white jury nearer.  The Eskimo added
indifferently what was translated into "She no good wife."

Back in the station the sergeant told of his investigations at the
scene of the crime, listed possible witnesses and summarized their
version of a tragedy all too common among the Eskimo who are prone to
the _ménage à trois_.  The jury promptly brought in a verdict against
Olespe, and Seymour, in his capacity of magistrate, held him to trial.

They were ready then for the second case of the day, the formal
inquiry into the death of Oliver O'Malley.  As Karmack was to be the
most important witness, a change was made in the jury by substituting
for him the recently arrived missionary.  With these four and his
constable clerk, Seymour went down the trail to the hut which Avic
had occupied.  That Karmack elected to stick by the stove at the post
until the jury returned caused the coroner-sergeant secret rejoicing.
He saw to it that La Marr did not enter the hut.  The jury, seeing
the interior for the first time, did not miss the fox-pelt clews
which he had appropriated that morning.

Karmack and the Eskimo relative who had loaned Avic the hut, gave the
only testimony.  This the jury held sufficient on which to find a
verdict against the fox hunter and when the fact had been duly
recorded the coroner's court was declared closed.

The saddest task of the day was at hand--one from which these strong
men shrank, but which none was ready to shirk.  Presently a strange
procession came up the trail from the hut of tragedy.  In the lead
was the police team of malamutes, with La Marr beside the foremost
dog, holding him by leash to a dignified pace.  They drew a sled
carrying a blanketed burden.  This vehicle Seymour steadied with the
aid of a gee-pole.  The prospectors and Harry Karmack brought up in
the rear with bowed heads.

The way led, naturally, to the newly opened Mission House at the door
of which Morrow met them.  The dogs were unhitched and taken away by
La Marr.  The others picked up the sled and carried it into one of
the bedrooms.  From another room could be heard stifled sobs and
words of comfort.  Moira O'Malley knew, then, that her sisterly rush
into the Frozen North, whatever its real object, had been in vain.
The missionary's wife had broken the news of death without the real
detail and now was comforting her.

On returning to the post, Seymour was momentarily surprised to see
that the police dog team had been hitched to another sled--this one
lightly loaded.  The native hostler was holding them in waiting.
Inside he found La Marr pacing the floor like some animal tenant of a
zoo.

"Where away, Charlie?" he asked.

"After Avic.  I'm just waiting for you to issue the warrant.  You
promised me the chance at him, you must remember."

"But why to-night?"

The constable gave him an impatient glance.  "I can make that Eskimo
camp on Musk-ox to-night; I'll be that far on my way.  Haven't we
lost time enough through my mistake?"

It took but a moment for Seymour to issue the warrant charging one
Avic, Eskimo, with the murder by strangulation of Oliver O'Malley,
which was in accord with the verdict.

"Remember the motto of the Force, young fellow," he cautioned as he
handed over the document.

La Marr stuffed it into a pocket underneath his _parkee_.

"Aye--get me man!"

"Not that," said his superior with a frown.  "It's 'Never fire
first!'  See that you bring Avic back alive.  There's more depends on
that than you know."

The constable looked startled.  "You don't mean----  Why it's an open
and shut case.  The coroner's jury----"

"Bring Avic back alive, that's all.  Good luck."

La Marr squared himself for a formal salute and went out into the
gathering dusk.  He had his orders.



CHAPTER VII

WANTED--AN ESKIMO FOX

After the excitement attending his return from the North patrol, the
short winter days and the far longer nights passed slowly for the
O.C. of Armistice detachment, now reduced to commanding himself.  One
week--two weeks--part of a third had been crossed off the calendar
without any word coming from his man-hunting constable.  Seymour
wasn't exactly worrying yet, but he was beginning to wish he had not
been so generous about giving young La Marr this chance to redeem
himself.

Above all else he desired the custody of Avic, the fox hunter.  The
body of the accused Eskimo would not satisfy him; no more would a
report of his death.  Nothing would do but Avic in the quick.

Often in the endless evenings, while intermittent blizzards raged
about the shuttered windows, he would take out the black and silver
pelts.  From various angles he would argue their bearing on the case.
More than ever was he assured that they were not of recent trapping.
The fur was that of animals which had been through a long, easy
winter--one when rabbits had been plentiful.  This was not a rabbit
winter on the arctic prairies east of the Mackenzie.

These particular foxes had been trapped in the early spring, or he
was no judge of fur quality.  That this spring had not been the
previous one was shown by the seasoned state of the tanning.
However, this tanning did not appear to be Eskimo work, but that of
Indian squaws further south.

Every Eskimo has a flock of cousins.  He had visited several in the
immediate vicinity who claimed more or less of that relationship to
the missing Avic.  He had examined the work of their women on furs.
A pronounced difference in process seemed evident to him.

The film of mystery brought into the O'Malley murder by his own
knowledge of Eskimo strangling had been intensified into a shroud by
his study of the exhibits he had secreted.  Yet, speculate as he
would, there was no other apparent line of suspicion than that of the
native's guilt.  He was at loss how to proceed until he had
questioned the man for whom the warrant had been issued.

Each time he looked at the pelts, one outstanding fact came to mind:

No Eskimo ever held a pelt, after his woman had cured it, longer than
it took to get to the handiest trader.  It was against all rhyme and
reason that two fox pelts, worth many times their weight in gold,
would remain in the hands of a ne'er-do-well like Avic so long after
they were marketable.  How, then, had the native come by them?

Under ordinary circumstances--rather, under the amity of
suffer-isolation-together which had existed prior to the tragedy, he
might have gone to Harry Karmack with his problem.  At least, the
factor could have given him an expert's opinion as to when the skins
had become pelts by virtue of trapping and tanning.

But a breach yawned between the two--one unwittingly caused by the
fair addition to the limited population of Armistice.  It wasn't an
open one, so far, but both knew that it existed and bridging it was
the last thought of either.  They were unadmitted rivals for the
favor of Moira O'Malley.  Anyone who knew the man, could have read
the sergeant's interest in his countenance.  Contrary to winter
practice of toilers of the trails, his face had been clean shaved
from the morning after La Marr's departure.  The trader, on his part,
showed intensity of his heart-hurt by countless little attentions to
the young woman.

The unfortunate brother had been laid away upon the highest knoll
near the camp after a simple service conducted by Rev. Morrow.  The
girl had held up under her bereavement with a courage that commanded
all their admiration.  No hint of the real cause of Oliver's death
had reached her, so guarded had been the four resident whites who
knew.  From the Eskimo, of course, she learned nothing.  She had
accepted the report of an "accident of the Arctic" and had asked no
embarrassing questions as to details.  The finality of death seemed
to suffice; nothing else mattered.

A week after the funeral, a stranger would not have known from her
manner that suddenly she had been deprived of one of her dearest
relatives.  She never spoke of having a philosophy of life, but
something of the sort seemed to sustain her.  Her whole behavior
indicated that she was determined not to make others unhappy with her
personal grief.  They all had their lives to live in a location that
made life difficult.  Moira O'Malley would do her utmost to make the
winter as happy as might be.  She did not even ask if it were not
possible to send her "Outside," now that the reason for her presence
had been removed by Fate.

Harry Karmack, bearing a book to Mission House in the hope that
gloomy thought might be diverted thereby, had been the first of the
rivals to discover her mental attitude.  He had been prompt to act on
his important discovery.  Besides the volume, he left an invitation
to dinner for the girl and her hosts.  Sergeant Russell Seymour,
official head of the tiny community, was not among those present,
having received no invitation.

Now, this was a breach of camp etiquette which could not be
overlooked.  Far worse than the cut direct, it was nearly as much an
insult as a blow in the face.  When a handful of whites are
segregated in a bronze man's country, they naturally cling to each
other as they do to the "alders."  Everyone possibly within the pale
is invited to everything that approaches a function.  Even squaw-men
are asked to attend if they retain a semblance of presentability.

There was no possible question that Factor Harry Karmack's dinner was
a function.  Although it had never been mentioned by Moira or the
Morrows, the sergeant had all the details.  These had been relayed by
his native hostler who had them direct from the Arctic's interpreter,
the latter having acted as butler for the all-important occasion.
The meal had been served in courses, mind you, for the first time in
the history of the camp.  The factor's store of delicacies, even to
the tinned plum pudding, intended for the Christmas feast, had been
freely broached.

Seymour could not hope to equal such a spread from police rations,
but he was not to be outdone in hospitality.  Miss O'Malley and the
Morrows had accepted his invitation to a sour-dough luncheon.  The
factor had not accepted for an excellent reason that you probably can
imagine.

The three from Mission House were coming this very noon and the
sergeant had been occupied part of the morning correcting the
haphazard housekeeping of quarters.  In fact, they had come, as was
attested by the knocking upon the front door.

More lovely than ever Moira seemed to him as she returned a smile to
his enthusiastic greetings.  She was dressed to-day entirely in
white, the first time he had ever seen her in anything but black.

"What a snow bird you are, Moira!" he exclaimed, almost forgetting to
greet the missionaries.

"In that case, I'm relieved you're not packing a gun, Sergeant
Scarlet."

"Not even side arms," he said, releasing his whimsical smile.  "I'm
the one that's wounded--fluttering.  Put your wraps in the tent, all
of you, and I'll put you to work."

For the first time they noticed the stage-setting he had created for
his social bow.  Every stick of furniture had been removed and the
floor covered with reindeer moss, gray, soft and fragrant.  Two
reserve sleds, padded with outspread sleeping bags, were evidently
intended to serve as seats.  The "tent" to which he had referred them
was a drape of canvas over the door leading into his own room.  About
the hearth were scattered pots, pans and dishes of tin.  The
fireplace glowed like a camp fire permitted to grow dim for culinary
service.

"So this is what you meant by a sour-dough party," observed Mrs.
Morrow, her voice betraying her enthusiasm over the idea.

"Wonder if I'm hard-bitten enough by now to get the idea?" Moira
asked them.

"We're hitting the trail," explained the missionary.  "We've just
pitched camp and are about to make muck-muck.  As Northwesterners
never pack grub for idle hands to eat, we'd better strip off our
coats and get into action."

Where the fire glowed the hottest, Seymour rigged an iron spit from
which he suspended a shank of caribou on a wire as supple as a piece
of string.  Beneath, he placed a pan to catch the drippings.  To
Moira he entrusted a second wire so attached that an occasional pull
kept the meat turning.

"There's nothing more delicious than roast caribou," he advised her,
"and this is the very best way to roast it."

Luke Morrow was to attend the broiling of a dozen fool-hens--a
variety of grouse--which the sergeant had shot that morning.  To Mrs.
Emma was assigned the task of picking over a mess of fiddle-head
ferns which, by some magic, he had kept fresh since fall.  He was
certain that, when properly boiled, they would produce a dish of
greens more delicate than spinach.

"And you, Russell?" queried the girl, for they soon had taken to
first names, except that she sometimes called him "Sergeant Scarlet."
"Because of your rank, I suppose you'll merely boss the job and eat
twice as much as anyone else."

He did not answer, but fell to his knees beside the open mouth of a
flour sack.  With the aid of water and an occasional pinch of baking
powder, he quickly mixed a wad of dough.  Greasing a gold-pan with a
length of bacon rind, he filled it with the dough and stood it up
facing the fire.

"I'm baking bannock," he answered Moira's quizzical look.  "When the
outside is browned, I'll toss it like a pancake, and soon we'll have
a better bread than mother ever made."

The primitive feast at last was ready and they fell upon it seated
tailor-fashion upon the moss.  The caribou was so tender, remarked
Rev. Morrow in complimenting the fair spit attendant, that you could
put your finger through it.

"Don't waste time putting anything through it but your teeth,"
remarked their host.

Later, when they had turned to moss berries and condensed "cow,"
provided as a typical desert, Moira expressed regret that Seymour's
attractive young constable was not present to share the feast.

"Have you heard anything from La Marr, Seymour?" asked the missionary.

"Not a word."

Something in his tone startled the girl.  "Has he gone on a dangerous
mission?" she asked.  "Are you worried about him?"

The sergeant shook his head.  "He's one of the trail-boys and will
find others to stand by if he's in trouble."  And after a moment's
silence, he quoted:

  "The cord that ties the trail-boys has lashed
    Them heart to heart;
    No stage presents their joys, no actors
      Play their parts;
    Their struggles are seldom known, because
      Through wilds untrod
    These daring spirits roam where there is
      Naught but God."


The spell of silence that followed his pronouncement of the Deity was
rudely broken by a hammering on the outer door.  So peremptory was
the summons that Seymour sprang to his feet, crossed the room and
flung the door open, only to start back in amazement.

"Avic of the foxes, by all that's holy!" he exclaimed.

Framed in the doorway, his small eyes peering from a strained face
out of the wolverine hood of his _parkee_, the fugitive Eskimo stood
alone.  Instead of handcuffs on his wrists, he held a rifle across
his breast.



CHAPTER VIII

THE HERO FUGITIVE

As the sergeant moved forward intent upon seizing the rifle, the
huge, raw-boned Kogmollyc came into the room with a bound that
carried him well over the threshold.  The move had every appearance
of an attack of one demented; but before Seymour could grapple with
him the lack of hostile intent was made manifest.

The rifle Avic carried was thrown regardlessly to the floor.  With a
snarl inhuman, the Eskimo threw himself down beside the platter of
caribou roast.  The odors of cooked food had proved too much for
racial restraint.  Hunger had brought on the precipitate action.

For several minutes, Seymour and his guests stood and watched the
fugitive with amazement.  He went at the deer shank after the fashion
of a starving malamute.  Sinking his teeth into the succulent meat,
he tore out great mouthfuls which he swallowed without chewing.  At
first growls were interspersed between the bites, but gradually these
were succeeded by grunts of satisfaction.  Once he dropped the shank
to fill his mouth with bannock, but he returned to the meat, sucking
at it while yet his mouth was crowded.

Seymour stooped for the gun, recognized it as a service weapon and
grew suddenly grave.

"La Marr's rifle," he muttered.

Crossing to the native, he gripped the back-thrown hood of the
_parkee_ and dragged him, sputtering protestingly, to his feet.  Avic
was considerable to lift, but Seymour was strong and deeply aroused.
The caribou shank came with the savage, held in teeth that demanded a
last bite.

"Here, you dog, drop that!" came gruff command.  "Want to founder
yourself?"

Morrow, too, recognized the danger of overloading a stomach long
deprived of food, took hold of the meat and tore it away from the
Eskimo.

"But surely they'll let him eat more later?" asked Moira of Mrs.
Morrow in a hushed tone.

Seymour spoke rapidly to the missionary, asking him to go to the
trading post for the interpreter.  In some way, the Eskimo grasped
the gist of this request.

"Avic, he speak them Engleesh," was his surprising statement.

"Then tell me, where you get this gun?" Seymour demanded.  "Where is
the red coat that owns him?"  Unwittingly he had fallen into the
broken speech of the few natives who know other than their own tongue.

Avic grinned widely, showing ivory fangs, in the openings between
which shreds of meat still hung.

"Him hungry all same me," he said.  "Him out there----" He gestured
to the front door which one of the women had closed.  "----stay by
sled."

Something about this reply seemed to tickle the native for he laughed
until the loose folds of his _parkee_ rippled.  Neither Seymour nor
Morrow waited to learn the reason for the mirth, but dashed out the
door.

In the furrowed trail they found La Marr, holding the dogs with
difficulty, for they recognized they were at trail's end.  The
constable was in his sleeping bag which was lashed to the _koinatik_.
He had "stay by sled" for an excellent reason.  His leg was broken.

"Well, Charlie, I see you got your man," said Seymour, by way of
being cheerful, as he steadied the sled which the dogs, under
Morrow's guidance, were pulling up the bank into the yard.

"No, Serg., me man got me."  The response was in a voice weak from
suffering.

They carried him into the house, sleeping bag and all.  Before
attempting the painful ordeal of extracting the broken, unset limb
from the fur-lined sack, they fed him the breast of one of the fool
hens that had been left from the interrupted feast.  At Seymour's
request, the two women went into the kitchen to prepare hot water for
the impending operation and a strong broth of which the constable
would be in need afterward.

As every missionary in the North is something of a surgeon as well as
a lay physician, Luke Morrow hurried to Mission House for his kit.
The while, Avic sat on the hearth, contentedly munching a chunk of
bannock which no one had the heart to take away from him.

When the room was cleared, Sergeant Seymour leaned over his constable
for a low-voiced question.  "Is Avic under arrest?"

"I--I hadn't the heart, after all he's done for me," said the injured
mountie.  "He brought me along willingly enough.  Didn't seem the
least afraid about coming back to the post.  Go easy on him,
sergeant.  I'd have been wolf food if it hadn't been for him."

The arrest had to be made quickly, before Moira chanced back into the
room if their kind-hearted plot was to be sustained.  Seymour got the
Eskimo's attention, reminded him that he understood English, and went
through the formal lines of arrest and warning, with the addition
that it was "for the murder of Oliver O'Malley."

"Sure," said the native, who had learned some of his English from
American whalers at Herschel Island.  "I savey.  What do?  When we
go?"

Seymour did not understand the significance of this last question,
but hadn't the time to inquire into it.  Leading Avic to the guard
room, he turned him in to make friends with Olespe or not, as Eskimo
etiquette might decree.

As he was locking the door of the cell room, Moira came from the
kitchen with improvised splints and a roll of bandages.  She told him
quietly of her service in France with a Red Cross unit and asked
permission to help with the operation.

"If I can handle the ether or anything----"

"Thank you, Moira," the sergeant interrupted.  "If Dr. Morrow can use
you, I'll call."

The parson-surgeon returned with medicine and instrument cases.  The
sleeping bag was slit down its top-center, as the least painful way
of removing the patient, and gently they carried him to an improvised
operating table in Seymour's quarters.

Morrow proposed an anæsthetic.  Even in the hands of a skilled
surgeon, he declared, the bone-setting would be most painful; he was
just a clumsy, well-intentioned amateur.

"Damme if I'll go out of my head for just a jab of pain," the doughty
constable exclaimed.

"A whiff of ether will make it easier, Charlie," suggested his
superior.  "And I'll whisper a secret--Miss O'Malley is ready to
administer it.  She served with us in France."

La Marr's black eyes gleamed a second in appreciation.  Then he shook
his head decisively.

"Aye, and that wouldn't be so bad," he said.  "But I've smelled the
sweet stuff before.  When I am coming out of it I tell all I know.
We'll take no chances of ragging her with babbling about Oliver's
murder."  He turned to Morrow.  "Let's go, parson, and do your
darndest to make me a straight leg."

The operation took some time, the break being a compound requiring a
preliminary reduction.  In this Moira did help and perhaps her
presence was as potent as anæsthesia.  At any rate, not a cry escaped
the lips of the broken Mountie.

When the splints finally were fastened and the patient refreshed with
a cup of fool-hen broth, Seymour asked an account of the pursuit and
accident.

"If you'll hand my jacket--wrote report when I thought we wouldn't
pull through."  He passed over his note book.  "I want to sleep now."

In the living room, the sergeant bent over this blurred scrawl in
pencil:


  _Sert. Seymour, O.C.
  Armistice Detachment._

_Sir:_ I have the honor to report:

Followed fugitive from one camp to another, always a jump or two
behind him.  Seemed not to know where he was headed.  Ate all my own
supplies.  Took to Eskimo grub.  Not so worse after stomach gets
used.  Three days ago, crossing lake on gladed ice.  Think it was
Lake Blarney.  Dogs sight a stray wolf.  Run away.  Sled swerves into
fishing hole.  Me thrown into water.  Leg broken.  Make edge of ice
and crawl out.  Can't go farther.  Dogs catch, kill and eat wolf.
Come back looking for me, but not near enough so I can swing on sled.

Am freezing to death when come Avic over my trail.  For why?  He
makes camp in spruce, builds fire, tries to fix leg best he can.
Asks, "Where go?"  I say Armistice.  We start.  Blizzard comes; grub
goes.  Can't find cache.  May be we get through chewing
leather,--maybe not.

Can't make Avic as O'Malley's strangler.  Gentle as a woman with me.
He's not under arrest, but trying his darndest to get me back to
post.  If blizzard holds, neither of us will.  Maybe this reach you
some day.

  Respect.,
    C. LA MARR,
      Constable R.C.M.P.


Returning to the improvised hospital to ask a question or two needed
to fill in gaps in the report, Seymour found Moira sitting beside the
bed, stroking the fevered brow with her strong, white hands.  She
raised one in caution.  The patient was asleep.



CHAPTER IX

THE SKEIN TANGLES

Partial explanation of Avic's queer behavior came next morning from
the Eskimo himself.  After breakfast, but before Moira had arrived to
undertake her tour of nursing La Marr, Seymour brought the suspect
out for examination.  The Huskie beat him to the first question.

"When we go?"

Remembering that this identical inquiry had been last voiced by the
native the previous afternoon, the sergeant surmised that it must
have some significance.

"Go--go where?" he asked.  "Where do you expect to go, Avic?"

The Eskimo made a sweeping gesture in a southerly direction. "Up big
river," he mumbled gutturally.  "See all world.  Ride in smoke wagon
on land, same like steamboat on water.  Live in stone house, big as
mountain.  Good grub.  Long sleeps.  Warm like summer all time."

"And why should all that good luck come to you?" Seymour demanded.
"Who's been putting such fool ideas into your head?"

Avic looked puzzled.  There were words in the sergeant's questions
that were new to him.  The officer was about to simplify his query
when the native blurted out the desired information, evidently
sensing that some support was needed by his expectations.

"Nanatalmute boys, she kill white man.  Red policeman take boys on
long trip.  Treat her fine, them boys.  Stay away two, three
freeze-up.  Come back big mens."

Seymour groaned inwardly as he grasped the reference.  The
Nanatalmutes were the Eskimo who roam the Arctic foreshore to the
west of the Mackenzie River.  Some years ago an abusive trader had
been killed by two youths of the tribe.  The authorities of that day
decided they should be taken "Outside" for trial.  The court
developed certain extenuating circumstances which resulted in
penitentiary sentences for the pair.  In prison, they learned to
speak English and were given mechanical training.  At term's end,
they were returned to their band in this land of "midnight suns and
noonday nights."

Theorists held that the two would spread a respect for the white
man's greatness and power--that their tales of punishment would make
the land safe for the interlopers of another race.  The effect,
Seymour well knew, had been different.  The Nanatalmutes had reported
that they had been royally treated.  They described the wonders of
provincial cities, the thrills of the railway travel, the surprising
warmth, the palatial house in which they lived and countless other
details that had impressed their childlike minds.  Almost, did this
mistake of the Law put a premium on white murder, so great was the
envy of the two who had turned punishment into signal honor.

So this was Avic's motive for the murder of young O'Malley!  Seymour
had the native's word that he expected a trip "Outside."  The only
implication was practically an admission of guilt.

The sergeant knew that procedure had changed.  Courts now were sent
into the farthest North and trials held at or near the crime's
locale.  Conviction in Avic's case would more likely mean a hanging,
with his fellows looking on, than a pleasure jaunt anywhere.  But of
this he did not speak.  Even this practical admission from the native
did not convince him that the Huskie alone was responsible for the
killing.  His own deductions from the situation in the hut were too
well grounded and vivid.

"When we go?"  Again came the query from the eager native, this
repetition sharpened with impatience.

"Not soon," answered Seymour with a shrug; then suddenly turned the
inquiry.  "Where did you get those fox skins you show to the factor?"

"Avic trap foxes--black and silver," came the ready answer.  "Avic
fine hunter--ver' best."

"When did you take them from your traps?"

Seymour considered this question vital.  He was convinced that the
skins had been cured many months before.  If the native lied about
this, he would feel certain that his sense of mystery had not been
misplaced; that there was more behind the murder than Avic's desire
for a trip into the outside world.

The Eskimo did not answer at once.  He seemed to be counting back.
The sergeant gave him his time.

"Not count weeks and days," he said at last, "Avic trap 'em when the
sun go away and the snow comes."

"You mean just after this winter began?" Seymour wished to guard
against any misunderstanding.

"This same winter.  Avic cousin wife fix 'em plenty.  Avic bring 'em
to post.  Much travel better than trade-barter from store, so not
sell.  When we go?"

The sergeant did not press the inquiry at the moment.  There was a
long, long winter ahead of them in which he hoped the whole truth
would out.

Several practical reasons decided his next move.  He put both of the
accused natives under open arrest.  Cell room at police quarters was
at a premium and food of the sort the natives required was difficult
to prepare in a white man's kitchen.  The health of the prisoners,
which must be his concern until the court had passed on their guilt,
was certain to be better if they lived under native conditions.
Friends and relatives were more than ready to take them in for
sustenance allowance he granted each.  After making them understand
that they were not to leave camp under penalty of his wrath, he
turned them loose--a parole, it may be said here, that was not broken.

The happiest weeks in Russell Seymour's memory were those that
immediately followed.  With his lone constable bedfast, his presence
at or near headquarters was required unless some dire emergency rose.
For once, he thanked his lucky stars that nothing happened to break
the joyous monotony.

For a week, Moira, in her role of nurse, spent most of her days at
the post.  While she was kindness itself to La Marr and anticipated
most of his wants, there was no doubt that her real interest was in
the sergeant.  A close friendship sprang up as they found many
interests in common and exchanged life stories with endless detail.
At that, each had their mental reservations.  Nothing the girl said,
for instance, threw any light on her real reason for making her
unseasonable and unexpected northward dash.  And his lips never
hinted that he was hopelessly in love.

In holding back, however, the girl had every advantage over the man.
She did not need word of mouth to tell her the state of his feelings.
Indeed, her worry was over the promptness of her own heart, as she
confided to Emma Morrow.  Was propinquity disturbing her judgment,
and isolation distorting her viewpoint?  She feared a mistake that
might make them both unhappy in the future.  With a tact that at
times made her feel cruel both to him and herself, she held the
situation level with the spirit of friendship.

Her attitude was made easy by the more active wooing of Harry
Karmack.  The handsome factor was not held back by any sense of
poverty, which is felt perforce by anyone who had little but his
police pay, a far from princely dole.  Karmack was as persistent as
circumstances and Moira would permit; quite too impetuous, in fact,
for the comfort of one whose interests were divided.

For a time, the girl was put to it to keep the two apart.  When they
both "made" Mission House at the same time, she felt that she was
spending the evening in a TNT factory.  While the men never actually
clashed physically, she felt certain that only Seymour's military
discipline kept them apart.  At last, she was forced to put them on
schedule, giving each two evenings a week, but with understanding
that they were not to come even on their assigned nights unless she
previously sent them word.  The need for such an expedient could
scarcely arise "Outside," but she saw no other way out of the
difficulty in Armistice, unless she was ready to undertake a
"for-better-or-worse" decision.  And out of this situation grew
Russell Seymour's greatest despair.

The first of his evenings arrived, but no summons from the Irish
beauty.  The next afternoon, with Mrs. Morrow, she dropped in at
police headquarters to cheer the convalescing constable.  She chose a
time when she must have known the sergeant was afield exercising the
police team of malamutes.  Also, according to La Marr, she had not
been indisposed the previous evening.

A second of Seymour's scheduled visits passed into the discard of
time with no word from her, and then a third.  Being an exponent of
direct action, Seymour decided to learn the reason for this sudden
change which, to him, was unexplainable.  He made certain she had not
started on her daily snow-shoe sprint about the camp, an exercise of
which she was fond and at which, for a girl, something of an expert.
Mid-afternoon, he presented himself at Mission House.  Luke Morrow
admitted him; carried his request for an interview.

More anxious than he dared to admit, even to himself, the sergeant
waited, his fingers crunching the fur of his cap as he paced the
living room.  Even before Morrow spoke on returning, he knew the
beauty's thumbs were down.  The missionary's expression was too
sympathetic for any answer.

"Miss O'Malley asks that you'll excuse her, sergeant," was his formal
report.

"Is she ill?"

"Not physically, I'm afraid."

Seymour was too dazed for his pride to come into action.  To be
turned away without a word didn't seem fair.  What's more, it wasn't
at all like Moira O'Malley.  Surely he had the right to know his
fault--his crime?

"Thunderin' icebergs, Luke Morrow!  Tell me what I've done to be
treated like this?" he demanded.

"I'm sure I can't imagine, Russell."

"Does Madame Emma know?"

The sky-pilot shook his head.  "Moira has not mentioned your name to
either of us since the last evening you spent here."  He hesitated a
moment.  "She does know at last that her brother was murdered--that
such was the accident of the Arctic we reported to her."

"Then she thinks I'm responsible for trying to soften that ordeal?"
Even as he asked, however, he felt certain that there must be
something more of a misunderstanding than that.

"I took full responsibility for our not telling her the full
details," said Morrow.  "You'll remember I first suggested----"

"Then Karmack must have----"

He did not finish, but flung himself out the door.  Before the
missionary could utter a word of caution or advise moderation,
Sergeant Seymour was plowing the trail for the Arctic's establishment.



CHAPTER X

HARD KNUCKLES

If it is true, as Kipling says, that "single men in barracks don't
grow into plaster saints," it is doubly true of the same in lonely
detachment shacks of the Royal Mounted scattered about the Arctic
foreshore.  Living week upon week with the thermometer at the
breaking point, with the momentary sun blackened out for days in
swirling snow, with a sameness of grub that fairly gnaws the
appetite, the wonder is that they carry through with even members of
their own outfit.

Suddenly mix in with this condition of life an attractive,
unattached, unexpected white woman and you have a yeast more potent
than dynamite.  Let some outsider stir the mixture with the ladle of
false witness and surely the dough overflows the pan.

As he descended upon the trading post and the tricky factor, Russell
Seymour was scarcely a staff non-com of the Royal Mounted.  For the
moment he was simply a he-man who happened to be encased in the
king's scarlet.  Even as he was accustomed to express regard for the
rights of others, so was he ready to defend his own.  A dangerous man
for the time being and one with an initial advantage over Karmack,
for Seymour's nerve was backed by morality and right.

He did not trouble to knock on the door of the factor's living
quarters, but yanked at the latch-string.  Finding no one in the
comparatively luxurious living room, he stamped into the store, a
low-ceilinged 36 x 24.  Along one wall were shelves on which were
displayed the "junk" that goes to make an Arctic trader's stock.
Protecting these notions, generally more than less unsuited for
customer's use, was a counter.  From the ceiling along the other
wall, depended the furs and pelts that had been taken in barter and
not yet baled for shipment to the marts of trade where women would
pay whatever price the market exacted that they might adorn
themselves.

Harry Karmack was there, gloating over some fox skins just taken at a
fraction of their value from one of the Indian hunters who had come
up from the South.  If he was surprised at the unannounced visit by
way of his living quarters, his face did not betray it.  It was a
perfect mask.

"You've been making yourself quite a stranger, sergeant," he said,
his tone pleasant enough.  "It's the very devil what a havoc woman
can make of man-to-man friendships up here in the Frozen North.  Is
it possible you've come to whimper at my success with Moira--Miss
O'Malley, the finest woman----"

"Not to whimper, Karmack," Seymour cut in.

"Best take your medicine, sergeant.  As a mere Arctic cop, on next to
nothing a year, you never had a chance to be anything more to her
than an entertaining decoration.  From now on, you won't even
decorate."

Under this insult-to-injury, Seymour held himself with his stoutest
grip.

"I came," he declared with an ominous outward calm, "to learn just
what you said to Miss O'Malley when you broke our pact of silence
about Oliver's murder."

"Oh, I said just that--told her as gently as possible certain facts.
It was high time she knew.  Did you expect me to ask your august
permission after what has happened?"

The factor put away the pelts he had been examining on Seymour's
entry and, with casual manner, came from behind the counter.  On the
open floor of the store the rivals faced each other.

"You told her more than the facts in this case, Karmack," the
sergeant said, his words dragging with earnest emphasis.  "I'm here
to know what you said and know I will--even if--I am compelled to
bash you up."

Karmack laughed harshly, perhaps to show a confidence which he just
may have felt, knowing how long-suffering the Mounties are by hard
training and practice.

"Threatening violence, eh?" said the factor with a sneer.  "Thinking
of using your police power to repair your shattered romance?  Dear
eyes, what a blooming bone to pull!"

"I'm not here as a policeman and I'll lay aside the tools of my
trade."

Unhooking the belt that held a holstered revolver to his hip, he
placed the accouterments upon the counter at the end nearest the
front door.  Beside them he laid a "come along," a small steel
article with chain attachment useful in handling refractory
prisoners.  With his long arms swinging loosely at his sides, he
strode back to face the factor.

"Now, Karmack, what else did you tell the girl?"

"Perhaps I showed her how careless kind you are to Avic, named by the
coroner's jury as her brother's murderer."  The handsome factor was
enjoying himself.  "Of course it would be likely to please her,
seeing the only suspect yet named wandering about the camp at will,
living in idleness on your bounty, likely to slope off into the snows
and never be heard from again."

"The Eskimo is under open arrest--regular enough under the
circumstances.  I'll stand----"

Seymour caught himself.  He did not need to defend his official
conduct to this trouble maker.  Moreover, he felt that Karmack must
have gone further with his insinuations.  The matter and manner of
Avic's custody might have carried the girl to him in protest, with
demand for an explanation; but it was not enough to have brought
about an utter break without a word.

"Let's hear the rest of it, Karmack--the whole damnable
misrepresentation."  Fingers twitching beside the yellow stripe of
his trousers showed his tension.

"Perhaps I told her about the foxes--the silver and black!"  The
factor's tone was triumphant.

Seymour's expression was too well schooled to betray any surprise at
this unexpected thrust.  "What about the fox pelts?"

"They disappeared, didn't they, most mysteriously?  They were in the
hut when you left it under seal the night of your return and Moira's
arrival.  The hut still was sealed when you took the coroner's jury
there the next day, but the pelts were not.  The jury never saw them.
That's what about the fox pelts."

Seymour's lips were as white as the freshly drifted snow outside and
his voice as cold as the temperature when he asked what the factor
meant to insinuate.

"Perhaps the kindest interpretation for you," Karmack began with
gloating insolence, "is that those fox pelts are buying an easy
winter for Oliver O'Malley's slayer with an ultimate get-away in the
spring.  In other words, Seymour, you're a disgrace to the uniform
you wear--the first I've ever met with.  You're a low-down, grafting
bribe-taker and to show you how I respect----"

Instead of finishing his tirade, the factor flashed out with his
right in a vicious upper-cut.  Seymour sensed rather than saw it
coming.  Having developed a cat-like quickness, he might have dodged
and let the blow slide past; but preferred to take it on his jaw of
iron.  He needed, he felt, the sting of it to release for the
deserved punishment of his detractor all the latent powers within his
rangy frame.

At once, the hard-knuckled mill was on--a furious battle of males,
for this session, primitive males.  Science, if either of them knew
aught but the rough and tumble tactics of the outlands, was forgot.
Blows were exchanged with a rapidity that must have been beyond the
scoring of ring-side experts had there been any present.  In the
States, thousands pay their tens of dollars to see fights that were
so little like this one as to seem primrose teas.  There was nothing
gentle about it.  Not until Karmack sprawled his length on the rough
board floor was there the slightest breathing space, unless you'd
call breathing the insucked breaths between clinched teeth that
sounded more like exhausts from wheezy locomotives.

Seymour stepped back to give the factor time and space to rise if
fight still was left in him.  Great as was his provocation, he
insisted on fighting fair.  That there are no rules for
rough-and-tumble made no difference to him.  He couldn't hit a man
who was down.

Karmack came up with a surprising show of strength, his eyes gleaming
dangerously.  One of these the sergeant closed with a body-wrecking
jolt.  In turn, he was knocked heavily against the counter.  The
sharp edge of this caught him across the small of the back, a
terrific kidney blow.  The surge of pain seemed to open the hinges of
his knees.

At that vital moment, when he must have been hard put to keep his
feet in any event, the factor fouled him with a vicious kick on the
shin.  It was inevitable that Seymour go down.  In falling, though,
he managed to lunge his body forward, gaining a clutching grip on his
opponent's torso, and carrying him along.

There on the floor they rolled over and over like a couple of polar
bears in deadly combat.  First one and then the other was on top and
in position to jab.  Claret splotches marked their irregular course.
Fingers tangled and untangled, now in the factor's black mop, then in
the sergeant's brown one.  The latter's uniform was tattered; the
factor's tweeds were shredded.  Punishment, however, was well
distributed and the battle, so far, a draw.

But this winter, Karmack had held close to his store and spent long
hours with his pipe; Seymour had roamed the open and seared his lungs
with the vital air of the North.  In the end, this difference which
leather-pushers know as "wind condition" told its tale.  The factor
was rasping when the Mountie was still breathing with comparative
ease.  Longer and longer on each turn was the policeman holding the
uppermost position.

Suddenly Karmack, underneath, ceased violent struggles.  It seemed he
had weakened.

"Had 'nough?" demanded Seymour.  "Ready to tell the girl the truth?"

For answer, he felt the press of steel against his ribs.  He realized
in a flash that the factor had drawn a gun from some handy
concealment and that his seconds probably were numbered unless he
rolled instantly out of range.

Roll he did just as the pistol growled.

The bullet grazed a button from his official tunic, then thudded into
the plasterboard that covered the log wall.  Next second, with a
bone-breaking wrench, he twisted the weapon from the trickster's
fingers.  Scrambling to his feet, he threw down upon his opponent,
meaning to cover him, just as the front door of the store was thrown
open.

With the rush of icy air from without came a shrill feminine cry more
startling than any previous happening of the contest.

"Don't shoot!" was the command that followed.  "Don't you dare shoot,
you uniformed brute!"

Seymour turned to see Moira glaring at him from behind an automatic
pistol of her own, a blue-black little gun that was held as steady as
a pointed finger.  The sky-pilot up at Mission House was a pacifist,
the sergeant knew.  Doubtless he had told the girl the direction his
anger had taken him.

"At last I believe," the girl went on, passion in her voice, but not
the slightest waver in her aim.  "Well chosen was the name I gave
you, Sergeant Scarlet!"

The stress she gave her nickname for him startled Seymour.  "Just
what do you mean, Moira?" he asked, keeping one eye upon the prone
factor who seemed as startled by the intrusion as himself.

"That I've found the murderer of my brother and don't propose to see
him claim another victim."

So that was what Harry Karmack had told the girl.  That was why the
light of her wondrous eyes had gone out for him.  Any added hate of
his enemy that might have grown from this was lost in her statement
that she believed.  To make certain that she considered him guilty,
he put the direct question.

"After what I've just seen--on top of all that was pointed out to
me--I'm forced to believe," she said brokenly.  "Go, before I take a
vengeance that is not mine to take, but the Law's.  Go--go!"

As broken as the gun he flung at Karmack, Sergeant Seymour gathered
up his sidearms from the counter and stalked out of the Arctic's
store room.



CHAPTER XI

THE SCARLET SPECIAL

Ten days after the battle between the sergeant and the factor, the
quiet of Armistice camp was again upset, this time most unexpectedly
by the arrival of the "scarlet special."  A corporal of the Royal
Mounted breezed in by dog team over the frozen wastes from far-away
Athabaska, the end of rail gateway of the North, where English to
some extent gives place to Cree.

That he brought no mail--beyond a sealed order bag for Sergeant
Seymour--showed that the special's visit was as sudden as a telegram.
But he did carry a late newspaper or two and several magazines that
gave week-by-week gists of the world's news since Armistice last had
heard from "Outside," so his unexpected arrival was more than welcome
to the whites in the camp.

To the disappointment of Corporal Gaspard Le Blanc, the short, plump
but doughty French-Canadian who had made the remarkable trip, Seymour
was not at the post.  The morning after the fight, a report had
reached the detachment that a band of Eskimo on Skelly River were
destitute.  With Constable La Marr still convalescing from his
accident, the sergeant had set out to investigate.  His return was
expected any hour of any day.

As the orders were sealed, the corporal to open them only when
assured that something had happened to the ranking non-com to whom
they were addressed, there seemed nothing to do but wait.

Factor Karmack was the first to call at headquarters.  He met with a
cold reception from La Marr, who naturally had sided with his
superior on learning of the aspersion put upon the Force by the fur
trader's insinuations in the O'Malley case.

"I hear there's a special in from outside," began the factor in his
blandest manner.  "Hope he had a good trip."

"Aye, not so bad," returned the constable, as communicative as a seal.

"By any chance, did he bring any mail for me?"

"Nothing but police business,--this special."

If Karmack was disturbed, he took pains not to show it.

"But surely he brought some newspapers.  Might I borrow----"

"I'm sending a spare paper over to Mission House," was the chilly
response.  "You'd best go there for your news, Karmack."

The factor made as graceful an exit as any one could have asked,
nodding pleasantly to the newly arrived corporal.  Familiar with the
usual fraternity of life in the land of bared boughs and grieving
winds, the genial Gaspard expressed surprise.

"What the hell how is?" he asked.  "You gots something on that crow,
_non_?"

"I don't like him," was all La Marr replied, not caring to bare his
superior's heart troubles even to one of the Force.

The corporal, steeled against prying into personal affairs, asked no
further questions.  The two spent the day pleasantly by the open
fire, which Avic--the prisoner under open arrest--kept replenished,
it happening to be his week for headquarters fatigue duty.

At four in the afternoon, Sergeant Seymour mushed in, tired and worn
from his long errand of mercy.  This he had solved by moving the
improvident band to another camp of natives who were well supplied
with food, the usual procedure in a country where it is impracticable
to move relief supplies in mid-winter.

His first glance at the features of the corporal, who turned out to
help him with the dogs, acted as a cocktail that banished all
fatigue.  A strange Mountie in quarters could mean only excitement of
some sort and that was the most joyous tonic the sergeant knew.

Scarcely did he wait to peel off his trail clothes, so eager was he
to break the seal of the dispatch bag.  It held but a single sheet of
orders--a dispatch from the commissioner himself dated at Ottawa more
than five weeks before.  With the two subordinates looking on in an
interest that dared not be put into question form, he read and reread
the message.  The second scanning thereof snapped him to his feet.

"When did you arrive, corporal?" he asked.

"This morning--early."

"Said nothing about what brought you, I hope?"

A smile flicked the ruddy Canadian face and the French shoulders
shrugged.  "How could I, when I know not why they sent me on such a
mush of the devil?"

"Karmack was here asking for mail--for the loan of papers," added La
Marr.  "I told him to go to Mission House for his news."

"Good enough," nodded the O.C. and started getting into the uniform
which he wore when at the detachment.  In his absence the tunic had
been made fairly presentable, with few traces of his clash with the
factor.  "I'm going out for a prisoner," he said at the door.  "You
boys sit tight."

Straight across to the store of the Arctic Trading Company he
stalked, but to meet with disappointment.  Both the store and
dwelling of Karmack were locked.  Even the native interpreter was not
to be roused.  But the sergeant remembered what the constable had
said about going to Mission House for newspapers.  Doubtless, the
factor was there, reading what had happened in the all-alive world
since last report.  It would not surprise him to find the four making
a news feast out of the unexpected boon--reading aloud in turn every
morsel of type, even to the new advertisements.  He quartered to the
house of the Morrows.

"Safe home again, Seymour," Luke Morrow greeted him and dragged him
hospitably into the living room.  "It is well, but I wish you'd been
a day sooner."

Seymour did not trouble to learn what the missionary meant by his
concluding wish, but asked at once if Karmack was calling.

The missionary shook his head, his expression one of genuine surprise.

"Sort of expected to find him--reading papers brought in by special,"
explained Seymour.  "La Marr said he had sent some over to you and
told Karmack to come here for the news."

"Why--but--"  Morrow was disturbed to a point of stammering distress.
"The factor was here this morning, but he had news of his own.
Didn't he leave the keys to the trading post with you police?"

Seymour in his turn, was aroused.  "The keys!  Why should he leave
his keys with us?"

"He came here shortly before noon," explained the sky-pilot.  "Said
the scarlet special had brought him a summons to Ottawa that could
not be denied.  He meant to ask you people to take charge until his
relief arrived.  His years of pioneer service in the North had been
rewarded at last, he told us, and he was to be made a high official
of the Arctic at the Ottawa headquarters.  Naturally, we rejoiced
with him."

"The nerve of the scamp!" exclaimed the sergeant.  "The only word the
special brought was a warrant for his arrest.  He has been robbing
the company for years and they've just found him out--got the proof.
I came to arrest him.  He must have surmised that the coming of the
special meant only one thing and decided to make his get-away.  And
howling sun-dogs, this warrant I hold is a secret one!  No general
alarm has been sent out.  Can I see Miss O'Malley--perhaps he's told
her something of his plans?  In the interests of justice, after she's
seen the warrant, I'm sure she'll not protect him, much as she
dislikes me."

The missionary seemed stunned.  He bent over in his chair and cupped
his hands over his eyes in an attitude of prayer.

"Good Lord, forgive us for our sins of omission," Seymour heard him
murmur.  "We are but mortal and the flesh of all mortals is weak.
How were we to know----"

"Here, here!" interrupted the sergeant impatiently, although he had
respect enough for prayer.  "It's not your fault that Karmack got
away or that you let him use Mission House in his courtship.  You
good folks couldn't have known he had done anything wrong.  Send for
Miss O'Malley at once.  I've no time to lose."

Luke Morrow forgot his supplications for pardon and sprang to his
feet.  "No time to lose.  You're right.  That scoundrel was
persuasive and we were weak.  Karmack took Moira with him, offering
her safe conduct to her friends and home in British Columbia.  We'll
never forgive ourselves for----"

But Sergeant Scarlet was gone in too great a hurry to close the door
behind him.



CHAPTER XII

LIVING TARGETS

Like a Windigo hoodie of the sub-Arctic on the trail of a craven
Cree, Sergeant Seymour pushed through the white silence in pursuit of
his fugitive.  If the capture of Harry Karmack, embezzler, spurred
him officially, the saving of Moira O'Malley from the fate that
seemed in store for her lent wings to his snow-shoes.  To himself he
did not deny the fact that the personal interest was the most potent.
There would be weeks and weeks, if required, to run down the
dishonest trader.  Didn't the Royal Mounted always get their man?
But there were only hours, he sincerely believed, in which to spare
the most beautiful feminine creature he had ever seen a lifetime of
humiliation and grief.

This was no night for travel.  All the rules of Northern trails
forbade it.  With the spirit thermometer down to sixty-five below, he
should have been snugly in camp in some snow bank, wrapped in
rabbit-skin robes or encased in a sleeping bag, with his malamutes
snuggled around him.  The spirit within that enabled him to defy the
inexorable grip of the frost was the same that had not permitted him
to delay pursuit's start an hour.

Frankly, he would not have gone out that night after Karmack had the
rascal been escaping alone.  Considering the factor's passenger,
however, nothing could have kept him at the Armistice detachment post.

There action had been swift once he had the fell news from Luke
Morrow.  At quarters, he had turned over the post to Corporal Le
Blanc.  He was to keep the Arctic company's trade-room and furs under
seal; to do no trading except that which the welfare of visiting
Indians and Eskimos demanded.  Hardship might be worked if the
trusting natives came in to exchange their furs for supplies and
found no mart.  The two Eskimo murderers were to remain under open
arrest unless they displayed signs of wanderlust after his departure.
La Marr was to take no chances with his injured leg, the corporal to
make such patrols as were absolutely necessary.  Thus, like a good
commander, he prepared for the all-too-many eventualities of winter
travel.

Morrow had followed him to police quarters almost at once with an
offer of the Mission House malamutes for the stern chase--stern in
more than one sense of the word.  Knowing that both the police teams
were worn out--the one of the scarlet special and the other of
mercy's errand--Seymour had accepted the mission's team, although he
preferred always to drive his own dogs when they were in the least
fit.

From Morrow, he had details of Karmack's morning visit which had
resulted in Moira's unfortunate decision to attempt to go "Outside"
under his escortage.  Karmack had said he meant to take the shortest
course to the Mackenzie on the frozen surface of which he expected to
find a more or less traveled trail.  He would be delighted to have
Moira's company.  She could drive her own team and would find it easy
to follow his own huskies.  They would have the Arctic's interpreter,
a famous musher, to break trail and keep them on the right track.  It
would be an express trip, he had declared, and she would find herself
with her friends before she knew it.

"Emma and I tried to dissuade her from taking the chance," the
missionary had told Seymour with tears in his voice, "but the
temptation was too much for the girl.  We assured her she would be
welcome to spend the rest of the winter, but she wanted to depart the
scene of the tragedy."

At the moment, Seymour had wondered how much her ill-founded
disappointment in him had affected her decision.  And this thought
kept recurring to him now as he followed the double sled trails.  It
clinched his determination to overtake them at the earliest possible
moment.

Fortunately there was no wind to-night and he had nothing to contend
against but the bitterness of the cold.  He was traveling "light"
with caribou pemmican, hardtack and tea as the major contents of his
grub sack.  The mission dogs were running as if out for an exercise
jaunt; but the air was too frigid to permit much riding for their
driver.  Often he had to hold them back that he might not become
absolutely winded.

Already he had proved one lie in Karmack's statement to the girl and
the missionary, as reported with undoubted truthfulness by the
latter.  The fugitive was not headed directly for the Mackenzie
River, the natural highway "Outside."  That would have taken him by
the Wolf Lake trading and mission station.  Even in the night, the
sergeant recognized the ridge they were following and that there had
been a sharp veering to the south-west.  The course would bring them
to the river far from any outpost and doubtless Karmack, if he got
away, would continue to avoid all such on the way up river until
certain he had out-distanced any pursuit.

The possibility that already the girl regretted her hasty decision to
leave the Morrows occurred to him as a possible reason for Karmack's
change of course.  If she had threatened to give up the attempt upon
reaching Wolf Lake, the factor, naturally, would give the other
missionaries a wide berth.  But cheering as was the idea, he soon
dismissed it.  Moira O'Malley was not the sort to turn back on an
endeavor, and it was improbable that there had been any alarming
overtures from Karmack so early in the wild project.  He was clever,
was Handsome Harry, and, by his own boast, experienced with women.
He would wait until he had completely won her by the countless
services that would crop up on a trip of this sort.  All the more
reason, then, for Seymour to overtake and capture before they got
beyond reach of return to Armistice.  Again and again his goad of
caribou hide snapped near the ears of his team.  The panting animals
flattened their bodies while he rode the sled in defiance of the
frost.

Soon after break of day, belated in this latitude and season, came
his reward.  In the course of the night's sled run he had worked out
of the bare tundra country of the foreshore into a region splotched
here and there with brush.  Now he saw rising from one of the clumps
ahead a spiral of smoke marking someone's breakfast fire.

No difficulty was there in guessing whose fire--not in the Great
Barrens!  Evidently, from the distance covered, Karmack had driven
far into the night, but, none the less, did not mean to be deprived
of an early start on the second day of his dash for freedom.

Seymour dragged the mission dogs to a halt a mile away from the
fugitive's camp.  When rival teams meet on the snows, they dash at
each others' throats with a chorus of yowls and all the strength of
their respective masters is required to keep them apart.  The
sergeant expected to be engaged otherwise than clubbing malamutes
when he got to that breakfast fire.

Accordingly, he untraced the team and chained them to the sled in
such a way that any attempt to move that vehicle on the part of the
animals leashed to one side would immediately meet with resistance of
the dogs on the other side.  Such an anchorage he had tried before
and proved effective; in fact, it is about the only one possible in
the open snow-fields.

Tossing each of the seven in the team a frozen fish, he removed his
_parkee_, exposing to ready grasp the revolver at his hip.  From its
deer-hide case, he unlimbered his rifle as a precaution against being
"potted" in case his approach was discovered at too great a distance
for small-arm accuracy.  Then he moved swiftly forward, the tails of
his "webs" leaving a wake of flying snow.

Evidently, the three of the flight party were at breakfast, for he
bore down on the temporary camp without alarm.  Soon he was near
enough to hear the dogs of their two teams snarling over the morning
meal.  Noting that they were tethered between him and his objective,
he circled for a safer approach.

Almost was he upon the camp when he saw Karmack departing in the
direction of the dogs.  Easily could he have picked off the accused
embezzler with his rifle.  But----

"Never fire first!"

With the real slogan of the Royal Mounted he admonished himself under
his breath.

Nearer over the crunching snow he crept on that clumsy-looking but
most effective footgear which man may have adopted from the snow-shoe
rabbit.  Now he could make out the front of a pup tent, doubtless
thrown up for the protection of the beauty of the party.  Koplock,
the Arctic's interpreter, could be seen packing utensils for the
start.  The girl was not in sight.

Two minutes more would have brought him into camp and everyone under
cover of his rifle.  Then, from out of the tent, came Moira, facing
him!

He heard her cry out; could not determine whether from surprise at
the unexpected appearance of a human stalking out of the white
solitude or as a warning to her companions.

Of these, Karmack whirled at first alarm, but the native did not look
up from his task.  Evidently the factor recognized the unwelcome
visitor, for he started back with a rush, drawing his automatic as he
ran.

"Never fire first!" the voice of training whispered as the sergeant
hurled himself toward his foe.

Karmack's pistol barked.  A bullet whizzed past the policeman's ear,
a narrow miss but as good as a mile.

Now came the King's turn.  Upward to his shoulder swung the gun with
which Seymour had won many a target match.  In a second, it seemed,
Karmack must bite the snow.

But the gun never was fired.  Into direct range between the two men,
Moira O'Malley had flung herself, a tall, fur-clad figure.  The human
target of the scoundrel momentarily was blanketed.  What mattered it
that the school girl of Ottawa was pointing an automatic as steadily
as she had held it upon him in the trade room that time back in
Armistice.  Sergeant Scarlet could not fire upon an innocent woman.

He barely saw a whiff of smoke leave the mouth of her pistol,
scarcely heard what seemed a double report, when a burning sensation
along one temple and across the side of his scalp threw him backward
to a fall on his side.

And as he toppled into the snow, to lie inert and helpless, it seemed
to him that the glorious girl lunged forward to the same cold couch
that was his.

Was it possible that, by some involuntary pressure on the trigger, he
had fired at Moira O'Malley?  In the paralytic clutch of the moment
he could not answer the heart-burning question.

Consciousness must have fled Seymour's mind for just a moment.  With
its return, he realized that Karmack was shouting excited orders to
Koplock, the interpreter.  Haunted by that last glimpse of Moira
tumbling forward into the snow, the sergeant tried to raise himself
for another look over the tragic stage.  Only his brain seemed awake;
body muscles refused to respond to its demand.  He could only lie
there, staring into the dingy, low-hung sky, and listen.

"Very bad affair this one, boss," he heard.

The voice was Koplock's and the conversational tone, which carried
through the frosty stillness plainly, indicated that the interpreter
and the factor stood together.

"The red-coat killed her firing at me, you can see that and swear to
it, can't you?" Karmack demanded.

"But no, Meestair Karmack," came from the native.  "She is hit from
the back.  It was your bullet that lay her low.  Koplock swear to
nothing but the truth."

An imprecation sprang from the factor's lips, but scarcely registered
with the listening sergeant.  He was too filled with rejoicing that
no involuntary shot of his had struck her down.

"It don't matter," he heard Karmack grumble.  "Go have a look at the
policeman.  If only she killed him----"

Seymour heard the crunch of snow-shoes; knew that the native was
coming toward him.  What should he do?  He was convinced that his
wound was only a "crease"; hoped that the muscular numbness would
pass.  To feign death under the native's inspection was his first
impulse.

But to that plan, several objections immediately presented
themselves.  The mission-schooled Eskimo would be hard to deceive
with no more convincing evidence than a bullet graze.  Again, there
was no telling how long the paralysis that gripped him would
continue.  No one could lay out in to-day's temperature for any
length of time without freezing.

He recalled that Koplock had always shown a dog-like devotion to him;
undoubtedly was grateful for the fees which Seymour had paid for his
services as interpreter for the government.  Certainly the native was
greatly disturbed by what had just happened.  To throw himself on the
Eskimo's mercy held some risk but more chance of ultimate safety than
attempting to play 'possum.

In the moment of the bronze man's crossing, the sergeant had argued
this out and come to a decision.

His eyes were closed when Koplock stood over him and touched his body
with the toe of his muckluck.  The native stooped for a close
examination of the head wound.  Seymour's eyes opened, his lips moved
in a whisper.

"Stand by your king," he said.  "Tell Karmack I'm dead, but don't go
on with him."

Koplock assented with a wink and quickly straightened.

"Him passed out," Seymour heard him call to his employer.  "Center
shot."

"Not so bad," came the unfeeling response from the factor.  "That's
what he gets for edging into my affairs.  Come here, you."

The sergeant heard the native shoeing back and then came the
calloused instructions of a hard-pressed fugitive who could not
afford to lose his head in such an emergency.

"I must mush on with my dogs," said Karmack.  "Take the girl back to
Armistice on her sled.  Tell them--oh, make up any story you like;
you'll do that anyhow.  I'll be where they'll never get me."

"What do with him?" Koplock asked, pointing toward Seymour.

"The cop--let the wolves bury him."

Five minutes or so after Karmack's "Mush--mush on!" had signalled his
continuation of flight, Koplock again was at the side of the sergeant.

"Him very bad mans, that Factor Karmack," he said as he began a
vigorous massage of Seymour's limbs.  For a moment he worked
vigorously to restore circulation and the officer was able to reward
him by twitching his fingers.

"Big joke, this on Karmack," went on the native, chuckling gutturally.

"Where's the joke with Miss O'Malley dead?" Seymour demanded, as the
Eskimo turned him over to knead his spine.  Koplock was too much
engaged in his operations to reply readily, then:

"The most big joke him is Miss O'Malley she am not dead but just some
hurt like you."

The effect upon Seymour was magical.  Power returned to his muscles
as suddenly as it had departed from them.  Of his own will, he turned
over and sat up in the snow.  With the Eskimo's aid, he got to his
feet.  He glanced anxiously over the battle scene, but could see
nothing of the beloved figure.  His eyes put the question.

"Koplock carry her to tent," answered the native.

"Good boy, Koplock!"

Slowly, for his legs were numb, and with the native's grip to steady
him, Seymour walked to the tent.  There the girl lay wrapped in a
rabbit-skin robe, gazing open-eyed at the roof, upon her flushed face
an expression of surprise, as if she did not understand just what had
befallen her.

"Thank heaven you're alive!" cried the Mountie, staring down at her,
his eyes brimming with tears of rejoicing.

"You--you!" she murmured.  "Where is Mr. Karmack?"  She seemed afraid
and her wide eyes accused him cruelly.

Seymour sat down beside her.  "After nearly murdering you, _Mister_
Karmack has continued his flight," he said.  "You and I will thrash
this out once and for all, Moira.  The wound of his shot in your back
will have to wait until I've cleared your mind of certain
apprehensions."

She turned from him, but he felt certain that she would listen.
First he assured her of his great liking for her brother, a mutual
regard, he believed.  Then he recounted every pertinent detail of the
brutal strangling with the Ugiuk-line, not forgetting the evidence of
the two too-well-curried fox pelts.  Frankly, he set forth Karmack's
jealous motive in casting her suspicions upon himself.  Her own
misinterpretation of the scene she had interrupted in the trade room
was contended with a convincing account of the entire struggle,
ending with Karmack's attempt to shoot him.  To prove the factor's
real reason for flight, he read her the warrant which the "scarlet
special" had brought from Ottawa.

"And to-day," he concluded, "while trying again to kill me, he shot
you instead."

Slowly the girl turned her averted gaze.  With a glad throbbing of
heart, he saw she was convinced.

"And I believed--a thief," she mourned.  "I started for the provinces
with him that I might the sooner have the law on you.  My heart told
me--why, why didn't I listen--that it could not be you.  Oh, Sergeant
Scarlet, can you ever forgive me?"

"Forgiven already--and forgotten, all but Karmack's devilish part,"
he assured her.

Now, for the first time, the girl noticed the gash across his scalp.
"But you--you're wounded.  How----who?----"

"It's just a scratch," said he cheerfully.  "Knocked me out for a
bit, you know, but all right now.  The how and who don't matter.
Suppose we see how slightly you're hurt?"

Koplock stood in the tent door with a pan of boiling water, heated at
Seymour's orders.  The sergeant took this from him and sent him to
bring in the police team.  Then, with deft fingers, he set about an
examination of what proved to be a shoulder wound.

To his great relief, he found that the bullet had gone entirely
through, leaving a clean bore through the muscles, with no need for
probing.  The girl's coma, so like death as to deceive the excited
factor, evidently had been from shock.  Applying a first-aid
dressing, he bundled the injured shoulder against the cold.

Koplock, with fingers none too gentle, looked after Seymour's own
injury and bandaged it with material from the police emergency kit.
Then they gathered brush from the thicket and built a rousing fire
before the tent.

That they would make no attempt to move that day was Seymour's first
decision.  The girl, he felt, needed rest after the shock of her
wounding more than immediate attention from one with more surgical
experience than he possessed.  Whether to take her back to Armistice
or across country to Wolf Lake required more consideration.  The fact
that there was a missionary surgeon at the lake who had more skill
than Luke Morrow finally decided him.  Moreover, by going to the
trading post, he would be much nearer the frozen highway of the
Mackenzie over which his pursuit of Karmack must continue.

In the afternoon, as they lounged in the tent with the genial warmth
of the brush fire playing upon them, Seymour broached one of the
mysteries of the eventful winter.

"Mind telling me, Moira, what brought you on this wild, unseasonable
dash into the North?" he asked her.

"It was fear, Sergeant Scarlet--fear for my brother."

He was surprised.  "You mean that you had a premonition that
something was going to happen to him?"

"Not that exactly," the girl amplified her first response.  "There
was a motion picture I chanced to see in Ottawa.  It was a dreadful
thing called 'The Perils of the North' or something like that.  The
young man in the picture, away from all of his own kind--well, you
know what might happen.  He became a--a squaw man.  I got to thinking
of Oliver.  He had dashed off while I was on a visit in Montreal and
hadn't even said good-bye.  There was nothing really to keep me in
the cities and I decided my place was with him.  That was why I came
and not in time----" she broke off with a sob.

Sergeant Seymour assured her that her apprehensions of her brother
becoming a squaw-man were absolutely unfounded.  A cleaner specimen
of young Canadian, he declared, had never fared to the Arctic
foreshore.  But he did not tell her, then, the real reason behind
Oliver O'Malley's ill-starred venture.



CHAPTER XIII

HIS MONTREAL PROMISE

The scene in the rotunda of Montreal's impressive Windsor Station was
as lively as it was metropolitan.  Trains arrived with their
outpourings of passengers, baggage laden, rejoicing at journey's end
in the Paris of Canada.  Immigrants, queerly dressed, stood about in
huddled groups, waiting to be herded into the cars that would carry
them to the wheat lands of Saskatchewan or the green forests of
British Columbia.  "Red caps" bustled about with the expensive
looking luggage of tourists bound back to their own United States
with their thirsts, for once, thoroughly quenched _sans_ any
violation of law.

At one gate to the train shed, an explosive Frenchman bade a tearful
farewell to a brother ticketed for Winnipeg.  At another, behind a
brass guard rail, a tall, upstanding citizen waited with impatience
the coming of the Ottawa express.  His fur coat was unbuttoned and an
open-faced suit of evening clothes showed beneath.  In fact, even his
oldest friends in the far North might have passed him by without
recognizing Staff Sergeant Russell Seymour, on special detail.

The hunt for Harry Karmack, embezzler of the funds of the Arctic
Trading Company, Ltd., of course, had not been given up.  This was
Seymour's "special"--and would be until the fugitive was apprehended,
as is the way of the Royal Mounted.  Even a report brought to Fort
McMurray by a wandering Chipewyan that the factor's body had been
found frozen at the foot of Ptarmigan Bluffs had not halted the
search an hour.  The Indian's story was too "pat"; the last
lost-in-blizzard note signed "Karmack" too obvious a plant.

A blizzard there had been, to be sure, a stem-winder.  Just in time
to escape the white scourge howling South, Seymour had mushed into
Wolf Creek Station with his precious invalid.  But he could not
believe that the Armistice factor had permitted himself to be caught
in the storm.  Too long had Karmack been in the North to meet any
such tenderfoot fate.  An old trick, that of reporting one's self
dead by freezing.  The thief might have saved himself the expense of
hiring the Indian to bring in the "death notice," for all it was
believed.

This blizzard had held Seymour at Wolf for three endless weeks.
There had been just one recompense.  At the end of that period the
mission surgeon had pronounced Moira sufficiently recovered to
continue her trip by dog team.  The weather had favored them and
eventually they had found themselves in Athabaska, end-of-steel!  The
trains of the Canadian National and the Grand Trunk Pacific had
carried them to Ottawa, the girl to a welcome in the home of friends,
the sergeant to report at headquarters.

After a conference with the commissioner, Seymour had stepped out of
uniform and into plain clothes.  The still-hunt then begun had
continued for three months, leading first to Quebec whence Karmack
had originally hailed.  There the sergeant had obtained information
which confirmed his disbelief of the lost-in-blizzard note.  Karmack
had paid a stealthy visit to his old home and departed.  Rumor had it
that he had gone to the States.  Therefore, Seymour did not cross the
border to look for him.  Knowing the man and his inclinations, the
sergeant's hunch was Montreal.  From a rented room on City Councillor
Street, midway between the French and Up-town quarters of the city,
he had played his hunch industriously, but so far without result.  He
had kept away from the mounted police headquarters on Sherbrooke West
and not once had he been taken for what he was, even by fellow
members of the Force.

He was growing tired of the city's confinement, but not discouraged.
One day he would meet his man, know him no matter what his disguise.

This was to be a night off, the first he had taken since getting back
to civilization.  It was to be a gala, reunion night; and it was
beginning, for the Ottawa express had just ground to a stop in the
shed outside the high iron grill.

His pulse beat quicker as he scanned the in-comers--first the
smoking-car compliment, then the day-coach passengers and, at last
the Pullman elect.  Then he saw her, coming with the poise of a
queen, a small black bag in her hand.  Neatly he hurdled the brass
barrier and at the very gate he took her into his arms and kissed her.

"Moira, Moira!  You're a glad sight for tired eyes," he murmured.

"But not here, Sergeant Scarlet; not here with the world looking on,"
she whispered in pretended protest.

He did not care how much of the world saw, for between them an
understanding for life had been reached on the trail.

A taxi, its wheels wearing chains with which to grip the snowy
streets, hustled them to the Mount Royal Hotel, where he had reserved
a room for her.  In less time than most men would have believed
possible, she had rejoined him in the lobby, a vision fit to
snow-blind the gods, gowned in shimmering silver with a black fringe
setting it off.

Evenings with Moira were too precious to leave anything to chance and
Seymour's program had been carefully prearranged.  Again they took a
taxi and the taxi took them out St. Catherine Street to a brilliant
electric fairyland--the Venetian Gardens.  What mattered it that snow
never lies in the streets of Venice?  Well might they have been in
sunny Italy once they had climbed a flight of stairs to pleasure's
rendezvous above.

As they entered the huge dancing room, the lights went low and the
orchestra that doesn't "jazz" began the soft measures of a waltz.
They did not wait to find their table, but swung away with the
music--for their first dance together.

And when they were seated, she asked across the narrow board: "Do
they teach dancing, as well as riding and straight-shooting, at the
Regina depot, Sergeant Scarlet?"

"You're forgetting, you big beau'ful Irisher, that I've been to
France since I left the Mounted's riding academy."

After they had danced again: "It's hard to wait, Russell.  Sometimes
I wonder if it's worth while.  Will you ever get your man?"

On the frozen trail, after he had spoken the three magic words and
she had returned them to him with equal fervor, they had agreed that
marriage was not to be thought of until Harry Karmack had been
brought to book.

It was a long moment before he answered.

"I've got to get him, Moira.  There'd not be complete happiness for
us with that business unfinished.  You wouldn't want to change a fine
old County Mayo name like O'Malley for that of a quitter would you,
now?  But know this, girl o' mine----"

He did not finish, his interest claimed by a large red-headed man, a
bit the worse for liquor.  This chap's attention had been attracted
by a pair of police constables, resplendent in their brilliant
uniforms, handsome young fellows attached to the Montreal detachment,
which has a reputation for "swank."

"Take those young Mounties a bottle of wine and mark it down on my
check," the rubric one was saying to the waiter.

The woman with him, a pretty French girl, reached across the table in
an effort to quiet him.

"You leave me alone, Florette," he resented.  "I got most all the
money in the world and those brave lads work for next to nothing a
year."

"Next to nothing a year."  Seymour repeated the expression under his
breath.  Where had he heard that expression before as applied to the
same Force which yonder cubs decorated?  In a flash he was
transported back to the trade-room of a sub-Arctic factor.

"But know this, girl of mine," Seymour repeated.  "Get him I will."



CHAPTER XIV

A DOUBLE-BARRELLED CASE

Sergeant Russell Seymour of the Royal Canadian again was
mounted--actually astride a horse with spur at heel and a fine feel
of leather between his knees.  The best part of the continent
separated him from the Montreal fairyland and the regal beauty in
whom his ambition and hope lay centered.

An exigency of the service--the policing of the mushroom gold camp
which he was approaching--had been responsible for the sudden shift
of action's scene.  Not that the hunt for the Armistice embezzler had
been forgot or abandoned, but with the idea that a cold trail might
warm if left alone for a while, its crossing effected when least
expected.

The problem at Gold, British Columbia, was so large a one that the
authorities had overlooked no advantage.  The fact that Seymour had
never seen service in the province presented the attractive
possibility of his making a preliminary survey in plain clothes,
severely plain, in truth--as plain as stained khaki, scuffed leather
and battered felt could materialize.

The fact that the region was that selected by Moira's father for his
missionary activities and that she proposed soon to join the parent
did not make the summer prospect less attractive for the big
policeman.  The lovely creature riding beside him, however, was not
the Irish girl but another he had overtaken entirely by chance.

"Of course," he was saying to her, "it wouldn't be a worth-while gold
rush if there wasn't plenty of crowds and excitement.  Do you think
I'm in time?"

"Oh, there's still a chance for you to locate a pay claim--if luck's
riding with you," she said cheerfully.  "Scarcely a day passes
without someone reporting a new 'discovery.'  But you're just three
days too late for our first real excitement.  One of the B.C.X.
stages was held up and robbed last Monday."

Almost did the sergeant give himself away at this crime report.  In
more ways than his fair informant could possibly imagine, he felt too
late.

At a recent conference in Hazelton, a railroad town on the Grand
Trunk Pacific, Assistant Commissioner Baxter, in command of the
division in which the new diggings lay, had decided that the sergeant
should remain incognito until he had had opportunity to study the
field of his new important command.  In the role of one of the
gold-crazed "rushers" the news of the camp would float unrestrained
in his presence.  He should be able to get an advance line on those
who were prone to lawlessness, as well as identify the element which
might be counted on the side of law and order.  Moreover, he could
form an unbiased opinion as to the prospective permanency of the camp
and the number of constables needed to police it satisfactorily.

He had shipped a "war bag" containing his uniforms and personal
effects by the stage line of this same British Columbia Express which
the girl had just mentioned.  The charges were prepaid and the
baggage was to be held until called for.  Then he had set out on a
rangy police horse, Kaw, over the Old Sun Trail, a time-blazed path
into the Yukon country, from which a cross-cut had let him into
Argonaut Valley.

"Did the robbers get--make their escape?" he asked, remembering in
time to cut the professional tone from his question.

"Clean as a whistle.  They killed the driver at the reins so there
isn't a clew even to what they looked like or how many there were."

"But the passengers?" he ventured to ask.

The girl shrugged shapely shoulders.  The face that looked from
beneath the shielding brim was framed in ash-blond wavelets.  The
figure that had looked so boyish from a distance, while he was
overtaking her, was now rounded into exquisite feminine lines.  Her
corduroy riding trousers were frankly worn without hint of a skirt,
but her gray flannel shirt was V'd at the neck to show a marble
throat such as no boy could have endured.  And in the belt that
pouched a man-weight automatic was the final touch--a small bouquet
of waxen snowflowers.

In answer to his question she told him that there were no passengers
in the coach.  "It was the inbound baggage wagon they held up, you
see--doubtless by mistake."

As he pondered the unusual circumstance of road agents mistaking a
baggage wagon for a passenger-carrying coach, they were startled by
gun fire.  Seymour's expert ears placed it a short distance ahead and
to the right of them--a bit nearer town.  He recognized the snarl of
a rifle and, a moment later, the bark of a pistol.  Unquestionably,
the reports had come from different weapons.

A half-stifled scream drew his attention to the girl at his side.
The effect on her was surprising.  She could not have showed greater
alarm if one of the bullets had perforated her hat.  Every trace of
color had fled her cheeks.

"Oh, that it's just some hunter and not----"

If she finished her prayerful expression, Seymour did not hear it,
for she had dug heels into her horse and the animal was skimming the
trail.

Kaw took after the cayuse full tilt; his rider, the while, listening
for other shots, but heard none.  Ahead, he saw the girl round a
sharp turn into what seemed to be a through road into town.  If she
was seeking the source of the shots they had heard, he knew she need
not go far.

When his black negotiated the turn and the road was spread out before
him, he saw that she had arrived.  Her horse stood nosing another and
she was kneeling in the trail beside an indistinct figure.  In a
moment he had dismounted and stood beside her.

"Too late," she cried, looking up at him with a terrified expression.
"If only I hadn't slowed to chat with you--I feared they would get
him and was riding to warn him.  I thought there was plenty of time
to get to town before he started."

She did not blame him for the delay; seemed only to accuse herself.
For the sergeant, there was enough of surprise in the figure of the
slain man to occupy his mind and eyes.

"Who--who is he?" he asked after staring a moment.

"He's our new mounted police officer, Sergeant Russell Seymour," she
said, her voice hushed.  "Don't you know the uniform when you see it?"

Seymour did recognize that particular uniform far better than she
possibly could have imagined, but he refrained from admitting it.

Reaching down, the sergeant raised the girl to her feet; but he did
not set her right on the mistake in identity.  The case looked
double-barrelled to him inasmuch as it gave him an inside line on the
holdup of the express company's stage and a lead toward at least one
element of the heterogeneous camp which was opposed to the coming of
the Dominion's law-bringers.  He meant to handle both angles with the
utmost effect and the fact that they existed must for a time remain
his secret.

"Looks like murder," he said, his eyes leaving the stolen uniform and
focusing on the wound, the clean hole of a steel bullet in the right
temple.

"It is murder--from ambush," the girl declared, her voice sharp with
conviction.

But Seymour was not so sure.  Without disturbing a convulsive death
grip, he examined the revolver held in an outflung hand.  It had been
discharged once.

"'Twasn't a complete ambush, anyway," he reasoned.  "He had some hint
of what was coming.  Couldn't have drawn his gun after that bullet
hit him.  The way my ears read the reports, he fired just after the
rifle spoke--probably a spasmodic pull on the trigger with no aim or
hit.  You know, Mounties are not supposed to fire first.  The rule
has killed a number of them."

"He was so brave--absolutely fearless," she murmured.

Seymour might have gone further in reconstructing the crime, but he
checked observation on the subject lest she suspect his training.

"You knew him well, Miss----Miss----" he asked, partially to divert
her mind from his professional deductions.

"I'm Ruth Duperow," she told him.  "My uncle is a missionary here."

At once he remembered Moira's description of the colorful cousin who
was keeping her father company.  The contrast in type was remarkable.

"Yes," she went on, "I knew the sergeant quite well and admired--both
my uncle and I admired his courage and uprightness."

"You said his name was----"

The girl's frankness did not desert her.  "His real name was Russell
Seymour but we knew him first as Bart Caswell.  You see, he has been
here for a month, studying the camp without anyone suspecting that he
was not the mining expert he pretended he was.  Not until the stage
robbery did he disclose who he was and put on his uniform."

Seymour turned to hide a smile; the plan which the girl outlined as
Bart Caswell's sounded so exactly like his own.  When he turned back
to her, his hand was stroking meditatively a clean shaven chin.

"Is there a coroner in Gold?" he asked.

"When a man was killed in a shaft cave-in on Sweet Marie Creek last
week, a deputy acted before uncle read the service," was the girl's
information, delivered with a frown.  The reason for the contraction
of brow appeared when she added "That deputy sheriff and coroner is a
chump named Sam Hardley, and he didn't like Bart--I mean Mr. Seymour."

The real Seymour made mental note of this fragment without seeming to
be impressed or more than casually interested.

"At that, Hardley will have to be notified, I suppose," Miss Duperow
went on.  "It's the law, isn't it?"

The sergeant nodded.  "Something of the sort.  But first I'm going to
have a little look into the brush to see--what I can see.  Mind
waiting for a few minutes?"

"Don't risk it," cried the girl, taking a step toward him and laying
an impulsive hand upon his sleeve.  "Whoever murdered Bart may be
lurking in the brush and wouldn't hesitate to take a shot at you.
You don't know how desperate the----"  She broke off in sudden
caution and finished inconsequentially: "One killing is enough for
to-day."

"A killing too many," he assured her, but swung into the saddle.
"I'll take no unnecessary chances, and I'll not be gone long."

With the girl's disapproving look following him, he rode into the
underbrush to the left of the trail.  From that direction, he
figured, had come the bullet.  He had small hope of any encounter.
With the cowardly attack neatly turned, he could conceive no reason
why the perpetrator should hide around the scene of the crime.  There
was a chance, however, that he might pick up the trail of departure
and learn its trend before the camp's amateur sleuths got busy and
blotted out all signs.

On superficial survey, it seemed to the sergeant that the bogus
officer had been riding out from town on some mission not entirely
unsuspected by those against whom he meant to act.  Near the trail
forks, someone had lain in wait and killed him.

One shot had sufficed.  Caswell's effort to answer undoubtedly had
been futile.  Then the slayer had slunk away in the brush.  It seemed
unlikely that he would go into town; entirely reasonable that he
would return whence he had come.  Seymour imagined that that would be
the place for which the pretended Mountie was bound, were that ever
determined.  That the escape had been through the brush seemed
likely, since nobody had passed them on the trail after the shooting.

Twenty yards into the brush, he set Kaw parallel with the trail that
followed the River Cheena.  The undergrowth was not too thick for
riding if one watched for fallen trees and devil-club thickets.  The
ground, soft from recent spring rains, took tracks like putty.  An
Indian in moccasins might have passed without leaving a trail, but
any booted white must have shed footprints like Crusoe's man Friday.

Soon, the officer picked up horse tracks so fresh as to be still
sucking moisture from the muskeg.  These angled toward the trail over
which he had followed Miss Duperow.  He traced them back to a clump
of poplars.  There he found evidence that a horse had been tied,
evidently having been ridden from the main trail.

Footprints coming and going testified to a round trip in that
direction.  He examined these with care.  In measuring these with a
lead pencil, for lack of a tape, he noted the impress of a peculiar
plate on the side of the right sole.  Either the wearer was slightly
lame or possessed a gait that made it advisable to reinforce the
outer edge of his boot.

The foot trail ended in a patch of salmonberry bushes, already in
thick leaf and furnishing an ideal curtain.  Groping about where the
earth was beaten down, he soon discovered a copper cartridge case.
His eyes sized this as having been thrown from a 30-30 Winchester,
the same sort as that his saddle carried, one likely to be common in
that region.  Undoubtedly the dented case had held the steel nosed
bullet that had ended the career of the crook who had dared
impersonate a Mountie.

When Seymour stood erect, he saw he was head and shoulders above the
bramble screen, in plain view and easy range of the tragedy scene.
Doubtless in the very spot which he occupied, the murderer had stood
erect to fling a taunt or shout a false warning at the approaching
horseman; then he had shot before the other could act.

The circumstances of the crime reproduced to his own satisfaction,
Seymour squandered a moment in studying his partner of the trail, his
scrutiny unsuspected by the fair object thereof.

Ruth Duperow stood uncovered, her hat hanging from the horn of her
saddle.  The sun played upon the unmeshed waves of her silver-gold
hair, bringing out unnumbered glints.  She was taller than he had
thought, almost as tall as her cousin, Moira.  Her face was buried in
hands that rested on the saddle seat, her poise slumped and heavy
with grief.

"Poor youngling," mused the sergeant in deep sympathy.  "She's taking
it hard.  These gentlemen crooks sure raise Ned with the ladies.
Knowing that her uncle was a missionary, this Bart would not be at
loss what trumps to lead.  Reckon his blossoming out in my scarlet
just topped the bill.  Must have cut quite a figure in life, this
Bart Caswell--or whatever his real name was.  Handsome dog, too.  No
resemblance to me."  He turned away with the hope that someone else
would have the job of telling her the murdered man himself was a
criminal.

Regaining his horse, Seymour mounted, minded to follow the hoof-print
trail for a way.  This was child's play; Kaw attended to it, leaving
the sergeant free to peer ahead.  Meantime, his mind was busy
revolving the surprising facts with which chance had equipped him.

He saw no need for mental doubt over the stage robbery.  The uniform
in which Bart was clad unquestionably was the dressier of the two he
had enclosed in the bag and shipped to Gold.  The "E" Division had a
new tailor, a mistake had been made in stitching on the insignia and
trace of the change remained on the sleeve.  Even had there been
other members of the Force in the district, he would have sworn to
that uniform.  He had not a doubt that the handsome deceiver of
Cousin Ruth either had held up the stage single handed or had
participated in the crime.

He could not agree with Ruth Duperow that the road agent, or agents,
had mistaken the express vehicle for one of the passenger coaches in
use on this difficult line.  That did not stand the test of reason,
any more than did a supposition that the robbery had been for the
sake of obtaining the uniform of a mounted police officer.  No one
possibly could have known that such a rig was in transit.  At best,
the authority which any spurious wearer might command, must be of
brief duration for the owner could be counted on to follow his
clothes.  The risk was not worth the fleeting advantage.

The sergeant did not have to argue himself into a conviction that he
must seek elsewhere for the purpose of the holdup.  Some other
shipment--just what, he meant to find out--that was coveted and worth
taking chances to secure must have been expected.  He believed that,
in examining his loot, the robber-murderer had come upon the uniform
and had decided to use it in some other bold stroke without the law.

The sergeant could not withhold admiration for the daring which the
man who called himself Caswell had shown in his last hours of life.
To put on the trusted and feared uniform, to declare himself the
representative of Dominion authority and to undertake the solution of
his own crime was a coup as clever and novel as it was impudent.  Had
the culprit stopped there, he might have made a clean get-away with
whatever else of loot the stage carried.  Seymour concluded that the
prize which had made him resort to murder must be of great value.  He
did not overlook the possibility that Bart might have been slain by a
pal dissatisfied with the division of the spoils.  But, in view of
hints dropped by Ruth, he was inclined to believe that this morning's
slaying had no connection with the B.C.X. crime.  The girl, after
all, was his best source of information.

Just as he was about to turn back and question her further, the horse
tracks he was following broke from the bush into the switchback trail
and were lost.  At once he swung Kaw around for the return canter.
Shortly he overtook his own pack cayuse faithfully plodding in
pursuit, and took the animal under halter, that it might not become
confused at the crossroads.

At the turn, he saw that a group of men had gathered about the
lifeless figure of Bart.  A freight wagon drawn by three yoke of oxen
had been stopped near by and reins dropped on four or five saddle
horses.  But he looked in vain for his companion of chance.  Ruth
Duperow and her mount were gone.



CHAPTER XV

UNDER SUSPICION

None of the usual greetings of the Northern trail were offered
Seymour as he rode up to the group.  Instead, he found himself the
target for a battery of frowning glances.  The men presented a stolid
front of frigid scrutiny.  The probability flashed upon him that, as
the first stranger to reach the scene, he was under suspicion in
connection with the crime.

The sergeant stopped his horse and was about to dismount when there
was a movement among the men.  A short, stout man, from whose ample
belt dangled a small cannon of a revolver, waddled forth to stand
before him.

"What's happened?" asked Seymour quickly deciding to say nothing of
his previous visit.

"That's what we're goin' to find out," said the fat man in that
shrill small voice with which humans of undue girth often are
afflicted.  "Who're you?"

This question was as natural as Seymour's own, but the manner in
which it was asked put him on edge.  And since Bart had appropriated
his name along with his uniform, he could not answer truthfully
without laying himself open to a further explanation than he proposed
to make at that moment.

"As for that, who're you?" he snapped back.

"I'm Deputy Coroner Samuel Hardley."  The speech was pompous; so was
his turning back of a coat lapel to exhibit a nickle-plated badge of
office.  "I'm also deputy sheriff and represent the law of British
Columbia in Gold."

Seymour had suspected his interrogator's identity; was ready with his
"Glad to meet you, chief."

"And I've got authority to make you answer my questions," piped the
deputy.  "Where you from and what's your business?"

"From the Caribou country by way of the Old Sun trail," Seymour
answered truthfully enough.  "There's my outfit."  He jerked his
thumb over his shoulder toward the pack horse which stood with
prospector's equipment in broadside view.  "That tells you what my
business is."

"Be ready to prove it.  What you know about this murder?"

The sergeant wished he knew just how the Duperow girl stood in this
matter.  Probably, for reasons of her own, she had gone on before any
of the town party had arrived--possibly because she had heard them
coming.  If any of them had seen her, it seemed evident that she had
not mentioned his participation in the discovery, or that he was
beating the bush on the case.  Yet, after all her seeming frankness
and her keen personal interest in the victim, why had she "slid out."
Since he could not answer that mental query, he decided on reticence
in answering the deputy's spoken one.

"I don't know anything about it," he replied with no appreciable
delay, although without accenting the "know," as he should have done
in strict truth.

"Queer you should come ambling along with Seymour of the Royal
Mounted lying in the road not yet cold," grumbled Hardley.  "Yes
sir-ee; it looks right queer to me.  I think I'd better take you in
on suspicion."

Seymour bore down on him with a most direct glance, the blue of his
eyes almost black in their intensity--black as the ears of Kaw
between which he was forced to look for exact focus.  "And I think
you'd better do nothing of the sort--on suspicion.  I'm a Canadian
citizen; I have and know my rights."

The sergeant, of course, was running a sheer bluff.  The provincial
officer might have placed him under arrest; but to suffer detention
was not in Seymour's program, for relief from it probably would
require the disclosing of his identity at a time when he felt he
could work more to advantage under cover.  In the brief moment of
their roadside controversy, he had "sized" his man and believed him
one who would yield to a stronger will without other than ocular
demonstration.

But he did not have time to prove his estimate of Hardley.  Aid, or
interference--whichever way one looked at it--came from an unexpected
quarter.

"The stranger's right, Sam," spoke a handsome, blond-haired chap
whose look of intelligence recommended him to Seymour as above
average.  "You haven't any call to arrest him just because he
happened along a public trail at an unlucky moment.  Far as that
goes, you might better arrest yourself."

"What you driving at, Phil Brewster?" demanded Hardley, breaking away
from the stranger's gaze and turning on his fellow townsman.  "Are
you hinting that I had any hand in sending 'West' one of his
majesty's officers?"

"You was jealous of him," put in an old man with a twisted face; the
driver of the oxen, if one could judge from the goad upon which he
leaned.

"And sore as a pup when you found he had been here a month without
your suspicioning," contributed another townsman.

Evidently Hardley was not surrounded by any picked posse and was none
too much respected as the peace officer of the community.

Relieved to be out of the calcium, at least for the moment, Seymour
swung from his horse and crossed the road to look at the body of
Bart, the natural move had he really been stranger to the tragedy.

The deputy chose to ignore the jibes of his neighbors.  But he
renewed his demands upon Brewster for an interpretation of his
insinuations, reminding him he was no "bohunk freighter" to be talked
to as an ox.

"Oh, I don't think for a minute that you kicked off the staff
sergeant," the handsome chap began to explain.  To the real Seymour,
listening, came a creepy feeling at the use of his name in such a
connection.  "I was just using you as an example to show your hasty
methods with this stranger," Brewster went on.  "You were sitting in
your saddle and staring down at the remains when I rode up from the
creeks.  But I didn't suspect you of firing the shot or even of
knowing anything about it."

Hardley looked somewhat mollified.

"But Sam was jealous," persisted the ox-driver.

"Stop your noise, Cato!" shrilled the deputy.  "There was a perfectly
good reason for my being first on the scene.  I saw the sergeant ride
past my shack all uniformed-up and looking as if he meant business!"

"More'n you'd know how to look," goaded Cato, playfully prodding the
deputy with one of his inordinately long arms.

"Want me to bash you up?" Hardley demanded, irritated; then went on
with his explanation.  "For reasons best known to himself and beyond
my ken, now never to be disclosed to mortal understanding, Seymour
hadn't been taking me into his confidence either before or after
uncovering himself.  It wasn't good policemanship on his part, I'll
say, but I'm big enough of a man----"

Cato's crackling laughter interrupted.  "Big enough, I'll say--but of
a man?" he burst out.

"Anyway, I figgered I knew the breed of wolves up the creek better
than he did and that he might need help.  You know Sam Hardley's gun
is always ready.  So I saddled up old Loafer there and took out after
him, prepared to lend a hand to law and order as was my sworn duty."

There was further exchange among the Goldites--theories regarding the
new crime, gratuitous advice for the fat deputy, speculation
regarding its effect on the outside reputation of the camp.  Glad
that interest had shifted from himself, Seymour listened
subconsciously.

Suddenly his attention was claimed by a decoration which had not been
on the uniform when he had at first scrutinized it.  Into the breast
opening of the serge coat was tucked a spray of snow flowers.

"Her last tribute," his thoughts whispered.  "And an ill-considered
one if she has any reason for not wanting her little world to know
that she first discovered the crime."

It was unlikely that the imposter had been anywhere that morning
where he could pluck flowers which Seymour knew to grow only in the
deeper gulches where the packed snow of winter resisted the thaws of
spring to the last.  The wearing of the nosegay was so out of keeping
with the character that Bart had assumed as to attract attention.
The sergeant wondered that the men arguing behind him had not already
noticed and questioned its presence.

Kneeling ostensibly to tie a bootlace, he rectified the girl's
mistake by plucking forth the flowers and tucking them into an inside
pocket of his coat.  The others, although approaching, evidently had
not noticed this deft appropriation.  Ruth Duperow's connection with
the tragedy was her secret unless later she wished to take the camp
into her confidence.

"It's a cinch that these two killings are linked," Hardley was
shrilling to all ears within range.  "When I get the man that killed
the sergeant, I'll have the man that shot the B.C.X. driver; and,
vice versa, if I get the man that killed the stage driver, I'll have
the one that shot the sergeant."

"Which one do you calculate to get first, Sam?" asked Brewster,
straight-faced as an undertaker.

The pudgy deputy stared at him in momentary suspicion, then took the
bait.  "Cato the Ox might be excused a fool question like that, Phil,
but I'd have thought you'd be wise to vice versa.  Don't you see,
man, that these murderers are one and the same?"

"Then I'd advise you to throw down on that one and the same quick as
the Almighty will let you," said Brewster.  "The Mounties will be
riled to the core over the killing of one of their own; they'll swarm
in here like flies as soon as the news gets out."

The mining camp's deputy coroner was obviously disturbed by this
logical counsel.  Although the morning was not warm, he whipped out a
saffron-colored handkerchief and mopped his brow.  Evidently that
ministration did not satisfy for he took off his hat and polished his
pate, which was disclosed to be as bald as an eagle's.

"'Spite your astonishing ignorance in some things, Phil, you
sometimes show a glimmer of sense," he said at last.  "I was headed
right in the first place.  I've got to make some arrests and have the
victims ready for the Mounties when they come swarming."

His eyes, while delivering himself of this pronouncement, had fixed
on the sergeant.

"Victims--you said it," offered Seymour in calculating defense.
"Some arrests.  I suppose you'll make a bunch of them.  Well, start
in with me and bring in lots of company.  You might as well make the
mounted police plumb disgusted with you while you're about it."  For
a moment he watched Hardley squirm under this obvious scorn, then
added: "Isn't a coroner's inquest the first of orderly procedure in a
case of this sort?  If you get a verdict from a jury, you'll have
something to stand on when--when the Mounties come."

Hardley embraced the offering found in Seymour's sudden change from
scorn to a practical suggestion.  "I'll have an inquest with all due
respect to the law, just as soon as we can get the late
staff-sergeant into town," he shrilled.  "See that you stick around,
stranger.  There's no telling at who the coroner's jury will point
the finger of guilt."

Seymour nodded agreement.  From official experience, he knew that
there was no telling.



CHAPTER XVI

THE "WIDDY" IN GRAY

In the slipshod procedure of Deputy Sam Hardley the professional
policeman had an illustration of why the force of which he was a
member was needed to supplement some county peace officers of the
Dominion.  Although the fat official undoubtedly believed a
commissioned officer of the mounted police had been murdered in cold
blood while in the pursuit of duty, his handling of the ease proved
most perfunctory.  There was no close study of the immediate
surroundings; not even a beating of the bush to determine the point
from which the fatal shot was fired.

The fact that the victim's revolver had been fired once was noted,
not by Hardley, but by the citizen addressed as Phil Brewster who, it
developed, operated a freight packing business between Gold and the
creeks.  Doubtless, the tragedy of the express driver had been
handled with similar carelessness, and this unlucky Bart Caswell
given every opportunity to launch his daring impersonation.

About all that Hardley did was go through the pockets of the uniform
while one of the crowd made a list of contents as they were produced
and placed in a large handkerchief.  There was a wallet meagerly
supplied with small bills, a pocket knife, a ring of keys and a briar
pipe--not any of which were familiar to Seymour.  But there was in
addition a certified copy of his own commission as staff-sergeant of
the R.C.M.P., which had been in the war bag, and a sheaf of official
blanks.  These proceeds of the search were knotted within the
handkerchief and deposited in Hardley's pocket, presumably to be
handed over to the Mounted.

Soon, the waiting freight wagon was impressed into service as a rude
catafalque.  With the horsemen in procession formed behind, the
cortege headed for the near-by camp.  Its pace, at least, was
funereal, thanks to oxen deliberation.

Once into the main street, Seymour found a semblance of permanency in
the town.  The establishments of two rival trading companies were
built of logs and surprisingly fronted by show windows.  The one
hotel, in distinction from several bunk houses, had two stories, with
a false front atop the second.  Seymour noted also a restaurant, a
chop house, a pool hall, several "soft" drink emporiums--all of rough
board construction.

A shack of slabs, roofed with cedar shakes, crouched beside the hotel
and supported the sign:

  OFFICE OF SHERIFF
  GOLD BRANCH
  OFFICE OF CORONER


Evidently it was from the door of this that Deputy Coroner Hardley
had seen the imposter set out on his fatal ride.

Near this shack stood the temporary post office which divided a store
room with the records of the mining recorder.  The First Bank of Gold
occupied a tent with a wooden floor.  For the reassurance of
customers and for the information of all, this tent wore a banner on
which was painted: "Our palatial permanent home is under construction
across the street."  Glancing in that direction, the stranger saw a
structure of corrugated iron, awaiting a roof.

Gold, at this season of the year, was a night town, so the streets
had been practically deserted as the small procession entered.  Even
though most of the population was at work up the creeks, there was
something of an outpouring into King Street as the news of the
shooting spread.

Some fifty men and a scattering of women gathered to mill about the
freight wagon soon after the oxen were halted before Hardley's shack.
From the vantage of his saddle seat, Seymour studied their faces as
they received the news, but caught no trace of any emotion that
interested him.  All seemed genuinely shocked; none, too deeply
moved.  He heard many express regret over such a drastic blow at the
law.  If any rejoiced, they did so secretly.

Deputy Hardley consulted with important citizens, identified for
Seymour by the one nearest his stirrup as the bank manager, the camp
doctor, and the principal realtor.  Presently the deputy shrilled an
announcement that in his capacity of coroner he would swear a jury
and hold an inquest at one o'clock in the uncompleted bank building.

The freight wagon, its somber burden covered with tarpaulin, was
drawn to a position at the rear of the unfinished structure, which
was open where workmen were laying a heavy flooring for a vault.  The
townsmen, their curiosity satisfied, began to disperse about their
mundane affairs.

In turning Kaw to be about his own, Seymour came face to face with
Ruth Duperow, who evidently had just reached town and at speed, for
her mount was puffing.  The color of excitement was high in the
girl's cheeks.  But no hint that she ever had seen him before came
from the young woman who, within the hour, had been so solicitous of
his welfare as to try to keep him from entering the brush in search
of the murderer.  Her eyes did not avoid his; they simply did not
know him.

Having administered this puzzling cut direct, she focused on the
gallant figure of Brewster who rode alongside her, his handsome face
alight with undoubted admiration.

"What has happened?" Seymour heard her ask.

"Your dashing sergeant-of-staff has been murdered."  Brewster's reply
was fittingly low.

The girl's eyes flashed angrily.  "Terrible!  I must say you don't
seem greatly distressed, Mr. Brewster, and I'll thank you not to
connect me with the poor brave man by saying _my_ sergeant."

"You've been seeing so much of this Bart person, Ruth, you hadn't had
any time for your old friends.  Of course, I'm sorry for the way he's
been put out of the running, but----"

"That 'but' does you small credit.  Who do you suppose----"

"Hardley hasn't decided yet."  Seymour caught the flicker of contempt
in the freighter's eyes.  "Better come and have dinner with me at the
hotel; this isn't our tragedy."

Her displeasure seemed increased, and she gathered her reins.  "I
wouldn't think of it," she said with decision.  "I must carry the
dreadful news to uncle."

Whirling her horse, she dashed away up the road over which she had so
lately come.

"Some actress, but why?" murmured Seymour.

There were several why's that the sergeant found it necessary to
consider.  Why had she cut him at their second meeting?  Why had she
feigned entire ignorance of what had happened?  He could only hope
that the same answer would serve for all--that she had acted so in
the hope of being more free to work out a solution of the mystery as
to who had killed Bart.

It was evident from Brewster's complaining attitude that the imposter
had paid Miss Duperow enough attention to arouse the handsome
freighter's jealousy.  And Brewster had misplayed his hand by
allowing his feeling to crop out at such a moment when he should have
shown the murderer's detection and punishment to be his chief
interest.  He now stood staring up the street after her, looking
utterly discomfited.

Dismounting, Seymour led Kaw across the street and joined Brewster,
who snapped out of his mood upon being addressed.  The information
the sergeant sought was pleasantly given.

The stranger undoubtedly could get a room, such as it was, at the
Bonanza Hotel.  Brewster himself lived there.  The "eats" weren't
much, but he could take pot-luck at the restaurant.  If his room
wasn't airy enough, he could get ample ventilation by poking his
finger through the partitions.  He'd find the stables "around back."
There was no telegraph office--yet, and no radio.  Yes, the camp was
a little slow in catching up with the times.  The next mail would go
out in the morning.

"Guess I'd better tell that suspicious deputy where I'm stopping,"
Seymour remarked when duly posted.

Brewster laughed and shrugged his shoulders.  "Don't mind Sam
Hardley, stranger.  By now his mind is loping along some other line
of suspicion.  Better come to the inquest, though.  With Hardley in
the coroner's seat it will be better than vaudeville."

The sergeant did attend the inquest in the unroofed bank building,
where the workmen had "laid off" for the "event."  That he did not
find it as amusing as Brewster had promised was not entirely due to
the queer feeling that came with every mention of his name as that of
the central figure.  He writhed at the official flounderings of
Hardley, who made an exhibition of a jury which, under sensible
direction, would have proved competent.

Seymour had heard strange coroners' verdicts before, but that which
this fat deputy sponsored was a prize-winning oddity.  Hardley read
it aloud:


    "We, the jury in this murder case duly impaneled, do and now
    hereby report that Staff-Sergeant Russell Seymour of the Royal
    Mounted Canadian Police, in the pursuit of duty in the proximity
    of Gold, B.C., did come to an untimely death to the regret of
    this afflicted law-abiding community.

    "We, the jury, etc., do find and hereby report further that the
    aforesaid lamented Seymour was murdered by a rifle bullet fired
    by the man who held up the B.C.X. stage and killed Ben Tabor,
    driver thereof and subject of the last preceding inquest of this
    court, both being foul and fatal murders.

    "We, the jury, etc., do find and hereby report still further,
    that Deputy Coroner Samuel Hardley, Esq., reached the scene of
    the tragedy with commendable promptitude.  We direct him to draw
    such posse as he finds necessary from amongst the citizens of
    Gold and run to earth the perpetrator of these dastardly crimes;
    and, furthermore, we express our confidence that he will leave no
    stone unturned to justify his reputation as a fearless officer
    with the encomiums of a successful capture dead or alive."


Hardley's shrill voice was softened by the huskiness of proudful
emotion as he finished the reading.  From his seat on an empty
packing box in the front row of spectators, Phil Brewster uttered a
fervent "A-men!" then, catching the eye of Seymour who stood along
the wall, he winked sardonically.

"Needless to say, fellow citizens of Gold," Hardley shrilled on after
having cleared his throat, "your officer appreciates the confidence
of which this jury of his peers has so fitly delivered itself.  He
will leave no stone unturned to bring to a rope's end the foul fiend
guilty of sending to perdition these two men, one a brave officer of
the law and the other a worthy driver of the B.C.X. mules.  He would
respectfully suggest that before you leave this temporary temple of
justice, so kindly loaned for the occasion by the public-spirited
manager of the First Bank of Gold, each and every one of you look for
the last time on one who gave his life that this should be a more
decent and law-loving mining camp."

For this last suggestion, Seymour could forgive Hardley's astonishing
lack of modesty, even his consigning to "perdition" the two
casualties.  Although the fat deputy could not have imagined it, he
had done the sergeant a pronounced favor.

Seymour lost no time in gaining a position from which he could watch
the reaction on every face that looked upon Bart.  His attention was
caught by a little woman of pleasing countenance, in a drab dress and
the beflowered hat of an outsider, whom he had noticed casually
during the hearing.  Now that the line had thinned to nothing and
even the deputy had left his guard-of-honor post, the little woman
came forward haltingly and bent over the rude catafalque.  Seymour
could not see her face for the moment as it was shadowed by her hat
brim, but he heard a stifled sob.  For an instant, she tottered and
seemed so likely to fall that he took a quick step toward her.  His
aid, however, proved unnecessary.  With a shudder, she recovered
herself and hurried away, dabbing at her eyes with a bit of cambric.

As the only individual who had shown the least personal emotion, the
policeman's interest followed her.  So did his steps.  Outside, he
felt fortunate when he fell in with an acquaintance of the morning,
Cato, the driver of oxen.

"Who is the little woman in gray?" he asked casually.

"She's a widdy, but not looking for a second," Cato's face was more
twisted than usual by its sarcastic grin.

"And I'm not seeking a first," Seymour set him straight.  "I asked
because she seemed more affected than the other women by Hardley's
tribute line."

The old ox driver seemed reassured.  "She's just a big-hearted Jane,
owner and cook of the Home Restaurant down the street yonder.  The
sergeant boarded with her before he bloomed out in the royal uniform.
I boarded there too, until she turned me down.  I'm just
wondering--was it him in the offing that made her cold towards me?
Course, he wouldn't look at her, not serious; him being a
staff-sergeant in secret.  But women nurse wild hopes--'specially
widdies.  Maybe I'd have a chance now he's been plugged into the
discard."

Seymour glanced at him in amazement; that he, with his caricature of
a face, could speak of women nursing wild hopes.

Evidently Cato read his thoughts.  "You needn't look so doubtful,
stranger."  He flared with resentment.  "Ox driving brings mighty
smart wages up here, and I got a claim on Hoodoo Creek that may make
me one of them mill'onaires when I get round to working of it next
winter.  Women can read behind the mask--'specially widdies."

Anxious to be off on the trail of his hunch, the sergeant was not
sorry when they came to the Brewster warehouse and Cato left to
inquire about his next load of freight for the creeks.  Russell
Seymour felt suddenly hungry--for home cooking.



CHAPTER XVII

RICHER THAN GOLD

There was no one visible in the Home Restaurant when Seymour entered.
While talking to Cato, however, he had seen the woman unlock the door
and disappear within, and now, after he had shut the door noisily
behind him, he heard someone moving behind the partition in the rear.
He had time to make choice between a seat at one of the two small
tables or a stool at the oilcloth-covered counter beside the range.
Presently she came into the room.  He was seated at the counter.

That she had been crying was evident; also that she had made an
effort to remove the traces.  Inwardly Seymour regretted that he had
not left her alone longer with her grief.

"I'll leave it to you, ma'am," he said as she came to take his order.
"Whatever is easiest for you in the way of a square meal."

She murmured an apology for Gold's scanty markets, but thought she'd
be able to feed him without falling back on the can-opener.  Bread
had been baked that morning, she told him, as she set out a stack of
soft slices.  But she could not speak as encouragingly about the
butter's age.

Seymour liked her voice, understanding its sad inflection, and he
could feel full sympathy for her wan smile.  Fortunately the range
was directly in front of his seat; he could study her without seeming
rude as she placed a steak to broil and sliced potatoes for a raw-fry.

In the course of his intent study of her, his hope grew that
something valuable could be drawn from her.  With the second sip of
coffee, he broke bluntly into the matter in hand.  "Well, they got
poor Bart at last, I see!" he remarked.

He could see that he had startled her, as he had intended to do.  She
looked at him sharply, as if to make sure he was the stranger she had
taken him to be.  For a moment he feared she was going to break into
tears, but with an effort she controlled herself, evidently being no
stranger to sorrow.

"You knew Bart--the sergeant?" she asked, choking back a sob.

"In a way of speaking--yes," said Seymour.  "I know that he was not
an officer of the Royal Mounted."

With uncertain steps she felt her way along the lunch counter.

"Not--not an officer?" she faltered.  "Why, what do you mean, sir?"

"Just what I say, madam.  What's more, I know that Bart's sudden
taking makes you a sure-enough widow, instead of a pretended one.
You have my deepest sympathy, Mrs. Caswell."

To himself, Seymour justified his seeming harshness of utterance on
grounds of professional necessity; that there might be real mercy for
the woman also involved, in case he succeeded in breaking through her
reserve, was another consideration.  Everything depended upon her
reaction to this "shot" assertion.  He had followed her on a hunch
bred of her emotions at the imposter's bier.  Old man Cato had given
him a plausible reason for her showing of grief.  While studying her
when she stood over the range, however, the idea had come to him that
she had been Bart Caswell's wife.  He was prepared to be shown that
the woman herself was not a criminal, even by inclination.  In fact,
he was predisposed to believe that she would prove essentially honest.

"You're wrong, stranger--wrong on both counts!" the woman replied.
She had steadied herself, was forcing her voice to hold an even tone.
Seymour could not yet be sure that his hunch was right.

"Mr. Seymour was a staff-sergeant," she went on.  "The coward that
murdered him will learn that to his sorrow when Russell's mates come
from headquarters to avenge his death.  As for my being his
widow----"  She essayed a little laugh that was almost too much a
strain upon her histrionic powers.  "I'm not saying what might have
come to pass had not death stepped in; but as it stands, he was just
a brave friend and a good-paying boarder."

A moment the sergeant merely stared at her; then he leaned along the
counter toward her.  "You'd like to see your brave friend's slayer
punished, wouldn't you?"

A flash of fury lit her worn face; her teeth clicked ominously and
her small, work-roughened hands clinched.

"I'd give the world if it were mine and count it well spent!" she
cried.  "If ever I find out who--"  She checked herself, evidently
fearing that she was going too far in behalf of a "brave friend and a
good-paying boarder."

"Then tell me all you can about Bart, his recent movements and what
he had planned for the future," urged Seymour quietly.  "I'm here to
get the man who killed him, Mrs. Caswell."

Probably it was more his repetition of that "Mrs. Caswell" than his
declaration of purpose that suddenly unnerved her.  It was such
convincing indication that her denials had not been believed.  She
sank into a chair that stood by the front window and buried her face
in her hands.  She looked so hopeless that Seymour's heart was wrung
with pity for her.  His hunch had been right, but there was no need
now to press it unfeelingly.  She should have all the time she needed
for sobbing readjustment.

"How come you to think you know so much about him--about us?" she
asked presently without looking up.

"I know, ma'am.  I am the real Russell Seymour--the sergeant whose
uniform he wore."

His mask was off.  He had been more frank than at first he intended
to be, but, in all circumstances, he considered the temporary secret
of his identity safe with her.

Bart's widow started up in her chair.  "Here so soon!" she exclaimed.

"Not soon enough, though, I'm sorry to say.  If the Force had planted
a detachment here with the first Chinook, probably your husband would
not have been tempted to hold up the B.C.X."

Mrs. Caswell groaned in her anguish.  "You know--about--about that,
too?"

"Naturally.  How else would he get possession of my uniform?  Tell
me, madam; what did he expect to gather in when he held up the
baggage stage?  It's a cinch that he couldn't have known that my
clothes were in transit."

But the little woman was not persuaded to answer at once.  Seymour
had to show her his official shield, which he had taken from its
place of concealment in his trail pack when he stabled the horses
before the inquest.  He went to some pains, also, to show her that
although she was an accessory after the crime, no charge would be
placed against her if she helped in unraveling the latest murder.

He pointed out that, in view of the stolen uniform in which Bart had
been killed, she could not hope to prevent the fatal stage robbery
from being laid to him.

"But I can save his memory the disgrace of a brutal murder!" the
widow cried, as though suddenly persuaded that the officer was a
genuine one.  She fluttered out of her chair into a more confidential
position at the counter.

"Bart did shoot Ben Tabor but he had to fire in self-defense.  It was
his life or Tabor's; he made a brave man's choice."  She paused a
moment to catch a sob that seemed determined to escape, then
proceeded to eulogize as best she might.  "Bart Caswell was the
gentlest of men.  I never knew of his harming a soul before.  Except
for his wrong idea that the world owed him a living and his peculiar
way of collecting it, there is nothing that could be said against
him."

"I'm ready to be shown, Mrs. Caswell," the sergeant encouraged her.

He listened then to the old, old story of the double-cross in a new
setting and with unusual variations.  The First Bank of Gold,
according to the widow, used considerable currency in its purchase of
dust from the miners.  To guard against robbery, the shipments were
made in supposed secrecy by the weekly baggage stage, but the driver
knew of the valuable load he carried occasionally.  Caswell and Tabor
had been friends in Vancouver before either came into the north
country and soon after their meeting in Gold, the robbery had been
planned.

Bart had "stuck" the stage at the agreed point, only to be told by
Tabor that the expected $30,000 shipment for that week had been
withheld.  Not then suspicious, Bart had accepted the statement as
fact, expressed his hope that they'd have better luck next time, and
was disappearing into the brush when Tabor fired upon him.  The
bullet struck a silver plate in Bart's back that had been placed
there to repair a wound received during a Seattle gun-fight some
years before.

The blow staggered him, but he was uninjured.  Turning as his friend
was in the act of firing again, he had brought down the traitor with
a single shot.

A hurried search of the express book showed that the currency
shipment had been made.  Driving the stage off the trail, Bart had
examined the load thoroughly but had found no bank package.  He
concluded that Tabor had concealed it somewhere along the trail,
meaning to get the whole of the loot for himself after putting the
blame on the friend he expected to kill.

Watchful for flaws in the widow's account, Seymour seized upon a
seeming one.  "But if Bart had been killed in the brush, no loot
would have been found on him," he pointed out. "Tabor still would
have been held responsible for the currency."

"They had planned in advance," she smiled wearily, "that Tabor should
report his stage robbed by three masked men.  He need only have sworn
that the other two got away with the bank package."

Seymour made mental note of at least one way of checking up on Mrs.
Caswell's account, then asked her about the uniform.

"Your bag was the only thing on the wagon that Bart thought might be
of use to him," she admitted with an air of frankness that was
convincing.  "He brought it here--to a room he was supposed to have
been renting from me--in the half story above the restaurant.  When I
found him there trying on the suit, he told me about his hard luck."

The sergeant felt that the crux of the interview was approaching, but
meant to get at it gradually, retaining the full advantage of the
confidence he had established.

"The idea of impersonating an officer of the Mounted--was that merely
to assure him a getaway for the Tabor killing?" he asked.

"Partly to delay an investigation of that by pretending to have
undertaken it himself; more to help him in another enterprise he had
in view up the creeks."

Considering a moment, Seymour ventured:

"Having failed in landing the bank currency, he was going after gold
in the raw, perhaps?"

"He told me there was something richer than gold----"

The noisy opening of the street door interrupted.  They glanced up to
see Cato entering.  Looking like a horrid gnome, with his long arms
dangling almost to the ground from his misshapen shoulders, the ox
driver advanced to a stool one removed from Seymour.  Upon this he
pulled himself, after giving his neighbor the merest of nods.  From
the odor of his breath, he evidently had fortified himself for this
untimely visit with bottled courage.  He leered at the widow as if he
considered himself assured of welcome now that his attractive rival
had been eliminated.

"'Tis a starving man you see before you, Mary, Queen of Scots," he
declared.  "But a starving man with a jingle in his pockets.  With
all the goings-on in camp, I'm rejoiced that the Home is open for
serving meals that is meals."

Recalling the hope which Cato had expressed on the street a short
while before, Seymour wondered how long he would have to wait for an
opportunity to finish his interview.  He attacked the steak that had
been neglected, hoping that the old man would be too engrossed in his
"chances" to notice that the meat was cold.

"I haven't forgotten that second cup of coffee, sir," the widow had
presence of mind enough to offer.  "If you'll be wishing for supper
this evening, please come in by eight as I'll be closing early."

Seymour took this as both his dismissal and an appointment for the
widow to finish.  Until eight o'clock, then, he would have to wait to
know what Bart Caswell had in mind that was richer than gold and was
to be had on the Creeks of Argonaut with the aid of a Royal Canadian
police uniform.



CHAPTER XVIII

A CRYPTIC MESSENGER

From the Home Restaurant, the sergeant went to the stables where
already he had made his horses comfortable.  He secured a clothes
poke from the pack of his outfit.  The Bonanza Hotel proved
advantageously informal in that he was asked "two dollars a night in
advance," instead of being confronted with a register for his name
and address.  A key, attached to a tin disk too large for any normal
pocket, was tossed to him by the grouchy boniface, who informed him
he would find No. 12 at the head of the stairs.

Opening a canvas door supported on a pair of leather hinges, Seymour
entered a tiny room lighted by a single window.  It was furnished to
the minimum with a blanketed cot, a chair and a table of the roughest
construction.

As he sat on the edge of the cot, he recalled the crowded events of
the life that had been his in the few months since the strangulation
of Oliver O'Malley.  Up at Armistice post, by now, the first mail
must have arrived.  Constable La Marr would know that a "court" was
about to start from Ottawa to give Olespe of the Lady Franklin band a
trial for his life.  He'd know, too, that Avic would not be tried
just then because the case against him would be incomplete without
the testimony of Harry Karmack, the fugitive factor who undoubtedly
had robbed the Arctic Trading Company.  And when would he find
Karmack--when and where?  And Moira O'Malley, when would she arrive
in Gold to join her bereaved father until that capture time?

The events of the day, however, were too stressing for his practical
mind to long concern itself with anything but the matter immediately
at hand.

"Richer than gold!"  The last words of the widow kept recurring to
his thoughts.  What could this presumptuous crook of the wilds have
had in mind?  The sergeant could think, of course, of commodities
that were more precious than the yellow metal, but of none that were
indigenous to that upper corner of British Columbia.

So he puzzled over the remark until he concluded that Bart must have
used a figure of speech.  He would await the widow's interpretation.

Seymour was not surprised to find that he did not think of Mrs.
Caswell as a participant in Bart's outlawry.  Without protestations
of innocence or any oral plea that she had tried in vain to reform
the daring rascal, she had acquitted herself of culpability.  The
weary lines in the face that must have been beautiful not so long
ago, the haunted look in her dark eyes, even her superb first effort
at denial had won the Mountie's sympathy.

A knock on the canvas door of his room interrupted his study of the
local situation.  Arising, he unhooked the latch, whereupon the
improvised door swung inward of its own weight and the accord of its
makeshift hinges.

Disclosed in the frame, filling it perpendicularly but sadly lacking
in horizontal proportions, stood a gaunt, miner-clad figure,
distinguished by a pair of deep-set eyes which burned like living
coals and a shock of white hair which waved its freedom when his
slouch hat was removed.

"Will you pardon me, stranger; no intrusion meant."  The voice was
soft and a smile of utmost benignity came into play.  "In the midst
of life, we are in death."

"The missionary--Moira O'Malley's father and the uncle of the
morning's colorful trailmate!" was Seymour's instant thought; but he
gave no sign of the presumed recognition.

"Safe enough statement in this camp to-day," he said to his visitor.

"I'm the sky-pilot of these diggings," the other announced in a
pulpit voice that rumbled through the hall.

"Won't you come in, sir?"

The missionary declined with a shake of his head.  "I must hasten on
my weekly rounds, distributing lessons from the Word.  Won't you
accept one of these and promise me to read it?"  He held out a small
tract taken from a handful which he carried.

The sergeant glanced at the title: "What Shall It Profit a Man----"
He smiled tolerantly, thinking what a queer yet lovable character his
future life's companion had for a parent.

"It is not meet that we should be seen in conference," O'Malley's
voice had been lowered to a whisper; then suddenly it boomed so that
all beneath the roof might hear: "I trust you will read that tract,
brother--read and profit thereby."  And with that, he stalked down
the hall as though in search of other needy souls.

Seymour watched him.  On getting no answer from the next door, the
gaunt frame stooped to slip a tract under it.  At another a woman
answered his knock and a "sister" was informed that in the midst of
life she was in death.

Back in his room, Seymour pondered the single whispered sentence with
which the sky pilot varied what evidently were his wonted words when
distributing tracts.  Had Moira written that he had started for Gold
and that he knew more than anyone in the world about the family's
Arctic tragedy?

But that was impossible, for he had been able to spend but a moment
with the girl when orders came to him at Montreal to report at once
to the assistant commissioner in command of "E" Division at
Vancouver.  Seymour himself had not known then that he would
eventually arrive in plain clothes at her father's mission station.

What, then, could the whisper mean unless there was a
message--temporal rather than spiritual--for him hidden somewhere in
the pamphlet?

But when he shook its leaves, no enclosure dropped out.  He examined
the margins without raising a sign.  The inside back cover was blank
but nothing had been written thereon.  He remembered that the
missionary had picked the tract seemingly at random from a pack of
several dozen and he was discouraged.

Still, the whisper persisted.  "It is not meet that we be seen in
conference"--he recalled every significant word of it.  Surely such
words had not been spoken at random.  Drawing the chair to the
window, he sat down and began a more intensive study of the printed
sheet.  Soon, an ink dot beneath a letter rewarded him; then others.
Presently he picked out a sequence of dotted letters spelling
"P-a-r-d-o-n."

The process reminded him of reading sun-heliograph or taking a
blinker message at night.  Undoubtedly the communication was of
importance that the girl should have gone to such trouble to assure
secrecy.  The uncle, too, must have shared the secret or he could not
have been trusted to pick out the message-dotted tract.  From his
clothes poke, the sergeant took out a writing pad and with his pencil
set the indicated letters into words, with this final result:


  P-a-r-d-o-n m-y v-a-m-o-s-e a-n-d c-u-t B-o-t-h
  f-o-r g-o-o-d o-u-r c-a-u-s-e B-a-r-t s-a-i-d y-o-u
  c-o-m-i-n-g t-o h-e-l-p N-o-w m-u-s-t c-a-r-r-y o-n
  a-l-o-n-e B-e c-a-r-e-f-u-l K-e-e-p s-i-l-e-n-t C-o-m-e
  o-u-r c-a-b-i-n l-a-t-e t-o-n-i-g-h-t G-r-e-e-n
  R-i-v-e-r a-t G-l-a-c-i-e-r R-u-t-h D-u-p-e-r-o-w.


The message amazed him on more than one count.  She had "left him
cold" at the point of discovery and later on refused to recognize him
on the streets of Gold for the good of "our cause."  What cause?
Unless that was her way of indicating law and order, he knew of no
cause they had in common.  Again, he was to "carry on alone."  What
did she expect him to carry on?

Of course, he meant to carry on until he had the man who would have
kidnapped Moira O'Malley, except for the enactments of the snows.
But why go back to Moira?  This cousin was of a different type.
Beautiful, to be sure, but not his sort of beauty--not the sort that
thrilled and held him.  He stopped ruminating with a jerk.  Almost
had he forgot----

Most puzzling of all was that "Bart said _you_ were coming."  Who did
she think he was, anyway?  That she had made a faulty surmise of some
sort was evidenced by the fact that she still held the crook at his
assumed sergeancy value.

As for the rest of the message, nothing would please him better than
to accept the strangely sent invitation to call.  It would mean
getting in touch with Moira quicker than he could hope to do if he
continued his incognito role in the camp.

Seymour turned his attention for some time, then, to an intensive
study of the blue print map of the district which he had purchased at
the surveyor's office on riding into Gold that morning.  His hope was
to find a way toward the creeks after nightfall without asking
questions.

His morning course to the point where he had overtaken the
boyish-looking rider was easily traced, and thence into town.
Working back, he found the trail over which Ruth Duperow had come and
followed that to the mouth of Glacier Creek.  Evidently the girl, for
some reason, had taken a roundabout course that morning, for he found
that a more direct trail to town followed the Cheena.  His
acquaintance with the Indian tongue was sufficient to spare him the
map-maker's mistake of adding the word river to a name that really
included it in the "na" suffix.

From such detail as was drawn into the map, he judged that Glacier
was not much of a creek.  It appeared to start in a nest of glaciers
and to flow through a cañon as from the neck of a bottle.  Between
the Cheena and the cañon was drawn a square with a legend, "Indian
Mission."  That no mining claims were marked off on this creek,
although those surrounding it were well staked, seemed remarkable;
but the stranger did not try to guess the answer.

For no other reason than that the name had lodged in his mind,
Seymour sought out Hoodoo Creek on the map and found the claim
accredited to Cato--Thirteen Above.  If the long-armed ox-man cited
it in advancing his hopes with the widow, Seymour hoped that the
number would exert its supposedly baleful influence.

From the blue-print, he turned to writing a report to his chief in
Vancouver to whom word of the murder of his "Staff-Sergeant Russell
Seymour" had undoubtedly been sent without delay.  He took a grim
sort of enjoyment in an opening after Mark Twain:

"I have the honor to state my safe arrival in Gold, B.C.  Any reports
of my violent death that may reach you are _slightly exaggerated_."

In the terse English that has made mounted police reports models of
modesty, he told how he had "run into" two murder mysteries in
addition to the embezzlement case which had brought him from the Far
North.  One of these, with its accompanying stage robbery, he
believed he had solved except for stray angles that did not affect
the capital crime.  He was at work on the second murder case, with
fair progress.

Over his final paragraph, which was headed "Suggestions," according
to the form followed by the Force in official communications, he
pondered deeply.  Whatever he wrote there, he had reason to believe,
would be incorporated into an order soon after passing under
Assistant Commissioner Baxter's eyes.  On this particular independent
command, he was anxious not to make mistakes.  Finally he wrote:


    "Am not prepared to pass judgment, at this time, on the
    permanency of Gold.  From what I have seen, however, the district
    sadly needs Dominion policing.  Would suggest that you send at
    your earliest convenience one (1) sergeant and two (2)
    constables, mounted and with suitable camp equipment.  As I may
    be working under cover on this second, unsolved murder, please
    instruct the sergeant to make camp on his own responsibility and
    act accordingly until he hears from me.  Tell him to disregard
    reports of my demise as unfounded and----"


A strident "Come in!" evidently in answer to a knock he had not
heard, sounded in the adjoining room and caused him to raise his pen
from the paper with the sentence incomplete.

"Hello Brewster, glad I found you in."

The shrilled greeting was in an unmistakable voice.  Its wording
informed Seymour that the agreeable freighter of his morning's
acquaintance was his immediate hotel neighbor.

"What can I do for you, Hardley, you honorable strong arm of the law?"

The voice was Brewster's--the same that had remarked the thinness of
the tar-paper partitions.  They were veritable sounding boards.
Seymour could hear every word.

"Wanted to ask your advice, Phil, about some points in this Mountie's
murder."

The genuine sergeant winced involuntarily.  It was a very bad joke.
He doubted that he ever would become accustomed to Sergeant Seymour
spoken of as murdered--done for.

"Shoot," he heard Brewster invite.

"It's this way, Phil.  Seymour must have been quite a responsible
member of the Force.  As you said this a.m., his snuffing is going to
make a noisy roar-back.  I got to report it to somebody in the
Mounted--but who and whereat?"

Seymour fidgeted uneasily in the silence that followed, evidently due
to Brewster's considering his answer.  He detested eavesdropping;
never had resorted to it on any of his cases.  By way of letting the
two in the adjoining room know of his presence, he scraped his chair
noisily over the bare floor.  This warning, however, failed to check
Brewster, or even to lower his voice.

"I remember reading that Vancouver is the nearest staff-office of
this new Canadian Mounted Police, but I've just been thinking----  If
they send a lot of Mounties into Gold and run down these
stage-robbing murderers, you're not going to get any credit.  I'm
strong for home industry, even in justice.  Why don't you delay
reporting the sergeant's death until you land your man?"

"Say you're a real friend, Phil, even if you do try to ride me
sometimes.  I need the credit for turning a trick like that.  It
might make me sheriff when the old man gets through.  But--but would
I dare?"

Seymour started for the hall but on the way, heard Brewster's reply:

"Write your report, Sam, but don't post it until after tomorrow's
mail has gone.  That'll give you a week.  Then address the letter to
Ottawa, which will give you a few days more.  In that time, you ought
to have the murderers rounded up.  You can forget what I told you
about there being any Vancouver headquarters."

Surprise at such advice from a seemingly public-spirited citizen
delayed Seymour's knock until he had heard it through.  Of course,
all this might be merely a sign of real, though mistaken, friendship
for Hardley.  On the other hand, was it possible that Brewster had
personal reasons for wishing to delay the coming of the Mounted?

With this question to the fore of his mind, Seymour knocked on the
adjoining door and was invited in.  His entry seemed not to disturb
either of the two.

"Just wanted to tell you that the next room is occupied and that the
partition between is more or less of a megaphone," he said in a light
tone.  "If you've any secrets----"

Brewster's laugh was natural enough to be reassuring.  "If we were
talking secrets, stranger, we'd take to the brush.  I've lived in the
Bonanza since the day it was opened, and I don't even think secrets
behind these make-believe walls."

The sergeant dismissed his unintentional eavesdropping with a shrug
and turned to the deputy.

"Out on the trail this morning you seemed to think you might want me
later.  You'll know now where to find me--Room number twelve."

"Forget this a.m., old topper.  I was maybe a little mite excited out
there at the scene of the crime.  There ain't sech a lot of
difference between deputy sheriffs and mounted sergeants.  It might-a
been me lying there deader than dead.  Your happening along looked
sort of queer.  I'm seeing straighter now.  You're welcome to Gold
and I hope you get what you come for."

"You'll find me strong for law and order," Seymour replied.

This seemed to invite Hardley to real confidences.  Beckoning Seymour
from the doorway, he edged his chair closer to the cot on which
Brewster reclined in his stockinged feet.

"Don't mind telling you two in confidence," he leaned forward and
whispered, "that I'm in a fair way to nabbing the two who robbed the
stage and killed Tabor and Seymour.  Maybe I ain't seemed to be doing
much, but I've got clews to burn already."

"You have?" cried Brewster, hunching himself into a sitting position
on the cot.

Hardley nodded assuredly.  "There were two of them in the bush lying
for the sergeant this morning.  One had a Winchester 30-30 and used
it to kill Seymour.  One rode a horse that was shod in front but
plain behind."  He paused, evidently, from his expression, to collect
the encomiums he considered his due.

"Important if true, Sam," Brewster observed.

"Quick work," admitted the Mountie, honestly surprised; his hand was
in the trousers pocket that held the cartridge case picked up that
morning.  "How in the world did you learn all that?"

Hardley seemed to relish supplying the details, even though he had to
whisper them.  Apparently he had forgotten that one of his confidants
was an utter stranger both to him and to the camp, one whose name
even he did not know.  His was country-official vanity advanced to
the _n_th degree.

"Dr. Pratt dug out the bullet, which fixed the brand of the gun with
which the deed was done.  Then I've got a half-breed boy on my staff
who's keen as a Gordon setter in the bush.  He found the horse track
of the two from the scene of the crime.  Now I'm looking for a man
with a 30-30 repeater and a horse that's shy on shoes."

Surprised that Hardley should have shown so much initiative, and
apprehensive that he was getting too near "home" for comfort, Seymour
framed a diverting question.

"What do you know about the chap who was killed?"

"You mean this last one--Staff-Sergeant Seymour?" asked the deputy in
turn, but merely as a preface, not waiting for an answer.  "Kirby of
the First Bank has heard of him.  Says he was nicknamed 'Sergeant
Scarlet' up in the Northwest territories, and is guilty of some of
the hardest patrols ever made.  He must have been a regular fighting
machine.  Autopsy proved that."

Sergeant Scarlet!  That was the nickname Moira had given him!  But
others, to be sure, had used it before his beautiful Irisher.
Perhaps his reputation as a man-getter had spread further than he
knew.

Anyway, his chance to check up on Widow Caswell had arrived sooner
than he expected.  He showed casual but sufficient interest in the
disclosures mentioned.

"The sergeant had been under fire before, and more than once,"
declared Hardley.  "The doctor found a silver plate bracing his spine
high up between the shoulders.  And, would you believe it, there was
a dent in that plate which looked as if he'd been hit in the
identical repair spot by some later bullet!"

"Checked to a T," thought Seymour of the widow's tale.

He became more than ever anxious to be clear of the talkative deputy.
With all his false surmises, the natural-born bungler had corralled
some accurate information and might make a deal of trouble for him.
At first chance he got back to his room.

With a few swift strokes, he completed and signed his report.  His
O.C. must be prepared for that murder report, whether Hardley finally
acted on Brewster's advice or not.

Hurrying from the hotel into King Street, Seymour found the post
office and mailed his letter.  Then, although the hour was only
seven, he advanced casually upon the Home Restaurant.  He was eager
to be on his way to the creeks before Hardley stumbled, as possibly
he might, upon the fact that Seymour's rifle, stored with his outfit,
was a 30-30 and that Kaw was "shod in front and plain behind."



CHAPTER XIX

INTO THE NIGHT

"You were saying, Mrs. Caswell----"

Seymour's wait at one of the Home's small tables had been long drawn.
The slender widow was worked "ragged" to cook and serve the tide of
customers that, by perverse chance, had set in particularly strong
that evening.

Fortunately, all were strangers to the sergeant and he congratulated
himself that he had attracted only passing notice as he sat seemingly
absorbed in an old fiction magazine, with his coffee never quite
finished before him.  He had gained nothing by coming early, for it
was nearly nine o'clock when at last they found themselves alone.

"Are you too tired to talk, Mrs. Caswell?  You've had a hard day,"
the sergeant interrupted himself.  The widow smiled wanly, a grateful
light in her eyes, but replied that she would prefer to "have it over
with."

"Let me see," she considered, for appearance's sake supporting her
weary self by leaning over a stool, instead of sitting down at the
table beside him.  "Where was I this afternoon when that old pest
broke in?"

"I trust you punctured Cato's hopes?"  The sergeant could not resist
the momentary digression.

"The presuming ox had been drinking," she said.  "He gave me,--well,
let's call it an argument; but I had the last word.  He'll not come
bothering around here again."

After a smile and nod of approval, Seymour returned to their
unfinished business.  "You were telling me what Bart had in view up
the creeks.  Something 'richer than gold'--wasn't that the way you
put it?"

"His very words," the widow went on in the glow of loving
reminiscence.  "Naturally, I was curious, for I thought the gold was
all there was worth while up here.  I asked him what he meant."  With
that, her lips were stilled and a dreamy look came into her eyes.

The sergeant did not believe that she had paused with aggravating
intent, or even from any sense of the dramatic.  Doubtless, her
thoughts were with the departed rogue.  But that was no place at all
for her to stop; he just couldn't wait longer to learn what in Gold
was richer than gold.

"Yes--yes!" he prodded, glancing at his watch to suggest a time
reason for his hurry.

"Why, Bart just took me into his arms in a gentle, big-bear way he
had--at times--and said--I'll never forget; it made me so happy."

Again she was living over what evidently had been the big moment of
her recent life; but that fact did not ease in the least Seymour's
present impatience.

"Well, what did he say?"

"Bart said--'All you'll care to know, Marge old dear, is that I'm
going to put something over in the name of the law and within it.
I'm going to rectify a wrong.  In the name of the Royal Mounted, I'm
going to loot some looters.'  That's what Bart said, and you can
understand, Mr. Sergeant, how happy it made me."

For another brief moment, Margaret Caswell succeeded in forgetting
her recent bereavement.

"That talk was the morning after the unfortunate stage--business,"
she went on with just a little break in her voice at the mention of
the crime.  "Bart went forth in his borrowed uniform to establish
himself at the hotel as befits an officer.  He dropped in here for
supper and we had a fine talk.  He told me that nobody seemed to
doubt his authority and that the whole camp was breathing easier at
sight of the scarlet and gold."

Exactly like a woman to be accurate about the clothes he wore,
thought Seymour, and he pictured the swath the handsome crook must
have cut in the new camp all excited with its first big crime.

"Bart knew that he would have to work fast," the woman was saying.
"From letters or orders he found in the bag, he was aware that you
would soon be coming in plain clothes.  In spite of the fact that he
would be acting in the name of the Law and that all his so-called
lifting would be from Montreal crooks, he'd be forced to make a
getaway over the Alaskan border, from there to catch some through
steamer to the States."

"Montreal crooks!"  More than ever was Seymour now interested.  Was
it possible that, in that inexplicable way of the almost trackless
wilds, his trail here would cross that of Harry Karmack's--that his
unsolved assignment might be completed and his pact with Moira
validated?  Harry Karmack, he well knew, had been hand in glove with
the worst of Montreal's underworld characters, although there the
lawless element had been able to cover the embezzler.

But the woman was going on: "It was agreed that I'd stay right here
running this eating place, until I heard from him.  You see, it was
safe enough, for we had been very careful and no one suspected that
there was any relationship.  After that evening, I never saw Bart
again to speak to."

That she might not yield to this call upon her emotions, Seymour put
out a couple of rapid fire questions.  "You think, then, that one of
these so-called Montreal crooks got him?  Any line on them?"

"No line," she answered regretfully, after a moment's thought: "None
at all, unless--  There's a young woman he met up the creeks, a
missionary's relative, I believe.  I saw her speak to him one day on
King Street and, of course, he _had_ to explain.  He met her when he
was just plain Barton Caswell and was out prospecting.  From her
uncle, he learned of the wrongs being done by the Montreal gang, but
until that uniform fell into his hands, he did not conceive any way
of getting the best of them.  Perhaps these missionary folks can help
you."

Evidently Bart had played his cards with the skill of an expert,
thought Seymour.  From the widow's impassioned admission she held no
grudge against the Duperow girl.  There had been no hint of slur in
her tones that mentioned the younger, prettier woman.  All this
suggested that she must have had implicit faith in the crook's love
for her.

Declaring his intention of looking up the mission folks, the sergeant
returned to the subject of the loot.  Had she asked no further about
the nature of it?

"I surely did, but his answer was always the same.  'Richer than
gold, Marge, richer than gold.'  He said he'd be the first mounted
policeman in the history of the Force to make a clean-up, even if he
was one only for a week.  This stroke was to mean luxury for me, a
home in an orange grove in California, diamond rings set in platinum,
fine dresses--everything!  I think this morning, when he rode out so
bravely, that he hoped never to come back to Gold.  The loot is up
there in the creeks, you know, and Alaska is still further on.  Any
hour the real staff-sergeant--who has turned out to be you--might
have ridden in, as, in truth, you did."

Satisfied that the bandit's widow withheld nothing worth while,
Seymour was anxious to be off about the invitation which Ruth Duperow
had "dotted" to him.  He felt, however, that he owed Bart's widow
something for the information which, once she started to impart it,
had been given so frankly.  He was minded to pay at once, even if the
coin thereof was only good advice.

"For the present, you had best sit tight here and say nothing, Mrs.
Caswell," he began.  "I suppose it was easy come, easy go with Bart;
that he leaves you practically nothing.  From what I've seen of your
trade this evening, you have a paying proposition in the restaurant.
I don't see any reason why you can't go on with it."

"But when people know----"

"Maybe they need never know that Bart was anything but a boarder,"
Seymour interposed hopefully.  "You seem to have guarded your secret
well when even infatuated old Cato didn't suspect your man of being
more than a suitor."

The little woman had been too distressed to give thought to her own
future; naturally she seemed uncertain about it.  Then suddenly the
flame of that love which was beyond Seymour's comprehension, but
within his appreciation, flared to decision.

"But they will have to know if I save Bart's reputation!" she cried.
"I'll not have the world think he killed that double-crossing stage
driver in anything but defense of his own life."

Here was complication which disturbed the plans that the Mountie,
impelled by his rugged conviction that every person was entitled to a
square deal, had been making for her.  He had no time to argue with
her, so went on to impress her with what was vital to his own
operations.

He could work to a better advantage toward the capture of Bart's
slayer if the double unmasking was delayed.  Her promise to say
nothing until he gave her leave was his for the asking.  The town
folks would probably arrange an appropriate funeral for the dead
"sergeant"; she would need to attend as a sorrowing acquaintance, but
she must keep a tight rein on her emotions if she wished to aid in
the capture.  In this, ordeal though it would be, Mrs. Caswell
promised to do her best.

As he arose to leave, he offered her his big hand.  She reached out
her small one timidly.

"I never thought I'd be shaking hands with a Mountie," she confessed
in a murmuring voice, "I'm afraid I've hated you wearers of the
scarlet, you were so all-sure of getting the men you went after and I
never knew when Bart would fall into your clutches.  But now----"

"That's all right, ma'am.  You've helped a lot and I only hope I can
get this crowd."  He started for the door, but remembered one thing
more.  "That war bag of mine--I suppose Bart took it to the hotel
when he moved.  I'll be needing that other uniform when this mystery
is cleared."

"The bag is still upstairs," she said quickly.  "Bart only took some
documents and papers besides what he wore.  He didn't know but what
his identity would be questioned when he suddenly changed from a
mining expert to a policeman."

"And the room--is it rented?"

She shook her head.

"Then, if you'll accept me as a tenant until further notice we'll let
the bag stay where it is.  The rent?"

"I couldn't think of taking rent from you when you're working out my
revenge," she said.

Seymour frowned.  "I'm seeing that justice is done, madam," he said,
referring to her use of the word revenge.  "I am teaching Gold the
value of human life.  And I'll pay for the room--the usual rate."

To escape further discussion he hurried into the fallen night.
Pondering the marvelous complexities of the women met in a day on the
"Last Frontier," he nearly plumped into a mud hole which lay out
front.  Close to the shack lay a beaten path; this he followed.  At
the corner he was edging into the vacant lot which adjoined, when,
without a swish of warning, something blacker than night fell over
him.

Instinctively he struck out at this blackness, his knuckles denting a
yielding substance that had a fibrous touch.  Before he could throw
off its enveloping folds, he felt a pair of strong arms go around his
waist.  They closed in as with a gathering string.  The covering
evidently was a horse blanket judging by the smell.

As a sudden surge of fury against such artful man-handling lent him
strength to thrash about, a heavy blow fell upon the back of his
head.  He felt his knees weaken under the shock of it, but clawed and
strained to break the hold about his waist.  A second hammering blow
descended.  His ability to struggle failed him.  His knees gave way.
He was sinking into vast depths.  The Gold garroters, whoever they
were and whatever their object, had got him.  "Scarlet" Seymour was
out!



CHAPTER XX

MORNING'S MAZE

The awakening of Sergeant Seymour was painful; never before had he
known that a head could ache with the throbs that were racking his.
Presently his mind took hold of a fragmentary idea--horse-blanket.
Upon this, after a mental struggle, he was able to spread a picture
of his sorry going-out at the hands of some mining-camp thugs,
doubtless intent on robbing him.

His next wonder was what had awakened him and by way of answering
that, he opened his eyes for a look around, the greatest surprise of
which was broad daylight.  The sun, then, must have served as his
alarm clock--called him out of that night which was darker than any
he had ever known before.  Now its rays were streaming into a cabin
room in which he lay, fully clad, upon a straw-stuffed bunk.

He did not bother to get up just then; he merely lay back on the
inadequate pillow of his slouch hat and "listened" to the ache of his
head.  The idea that he had been robbed persisted.  To his surprise,
he found that the currency belt around his waist had not been
disturbed.  Surely mining camp crooks would know where to look for
his valuables!

Then he slid his right hand over his chest to feel the holster that
hung beneath his left arm.  Greater surprise!  His gun lay ready in
its usual concealment.

The conclusions, painful in their process, were at once comforting
and disturbing.  He had not been trimmed or even frisked.  Robbery
could not have been the motive behind the attack outside the widow's
restaurant.  Then--what?

Slowly he raised himself to a sitting position upon the bare bunk and
permitted his eyes to rove until they settled upon another shock to
his tortured comprehension.  This was found in the narrow window
through which the sun was streaming.  Iron bars crossed the opening.
He must be a prisoner in jail.

"Deputy Sheriff!  Samuel Hardley, the strong arm of the law!"

He swung his feet to the floor and took a somewhat wabbly stand.
Further survey convinced him beyond doubt that he was in the
blundering deputy's one-cell bastile.  This proved to be built of
logs with a door as thick as that of an ice box and studded with
nails.  The two windows were near the log ceiling, narrow, oblong and
barred.  There were three bunks along as many walls and a Yukon stove
in the cell's center--no other furnishings, but enough for a frontier
jail.

So, that was the lay of the cards, he mused darkly--the explanation
of the surprise attack.  After their talk in Brewster's room at the
Bonanza, the fat deputy must have located Kaw--shod in front but
plain behind--and his 30-30 rifle which he had left in the stable.
Hardley had realized, then, that his ill-considered revelation of
clews would have put his man on guard.  Learning that Seymour,
supposed murderer and robber of the stage, was in the restaurant he
had made ambush and effected his arrest along safety-first lines.

There the deputy's caution seemed to have stopped, thought the
sergeant, enjoying again the reinforcing feel of his gun.  Neglect to
search his prisoner was quite in keeping with other official blunders
which the fat man had made.  Seymour would have to give Hardley
credit, however, for effecting a silent, bloodless capture--with a
blanket, as he remembered it.

Full assurance on this point awaited his glance.  Almost at his feet
lay the thing--a worn horse-blanket.  Possibly the deputy had covered
him with it before locking him in and, in the restlessness of
thud-impelled slumber, Seymour had kicked it off.

A bottle that stood on the sheet iron stove invited inspection.  Even
before he picked it up, the stars on its label prepared him for the
brandy smell which a sniff at its neck brought forth.  If Hardley had
been fortifying his courage with that high-powered stuff, it was no
wonder he overlooked the gun.  A drink of the liquor might have
strengthened Seymour; but he realized he would need all his wit in
the heated session which he meant should begin with the deputy's
arrival at the jail.  Lifting the stove top, he permitted the pint
which remained in the bottle to gurgle into the ashes of some
long-ago fire.

Seated on the edge of one of the bunks, he took stock of the
situation.  He had missed the late-night appointment at the O'Malley
cabin on Glacier Creek.  The missionary folk would think, probably,
that they had left too much to his intuition in their excess of
caution.  That, however, meant only delay and, while hours were
precious, he would make up for lost time once free of Hardley's
detecting.

It began to look as though he was not a huge success as a plain
clothes man.  He had taken off his mask for Bart's widow.  Ruth
Duperow evidently believed him to be a constable come to aid the
murdered "sergeant."  Now it seemed likely that he would be forced to
make a confidant of the talkative Hardley in order to be able to
carry on at all.  If Bart had not made the uniform a conspicuous
target for one bad outfit of that region, he'd be tempted to at once
climb into the scarlet which the bandit had left unworn.  Never had
he liked under-cover patrols, but in this particular case, he felt
that "civies" were essential.

An hour had passed since his awakening and he was beginning to wonder
when the obese deputy fed his prisoners at his perforce boarding
house.  If the surmise taken from the half-filled bottle of "Four
Star" had been freely partaken, Hardley might sleep late that morning
and awaken with a "head" that would make his visit to the guard house
a second thought.

Seymour thought of firing his pistol through the window in a hope of
attracting attention to his plight; he even went so far as to
unlimber the weapon.  But he recalled that he had not the slightest
idea of where the calaboose was situated, for it had not come to his
notice in the course of his one crowded day in Gold.  That it did not
stand immediately back of the sheriff's office he was certain, and it
might be on the camp's outskirts for all he knew to the contrary.  It
seemed the part of wisdom to reserve his ammunition; at least to give
the deputy another half-hour of grace.

In his impatience to be out and going, the sergeant began to pace the
floor.  Already, his physical fitness was asserting itself, returning
him rapidly to normal.  There was a pair of bumps on the back of his
head where the two put-out blows had landed, but there was no sign of
a scalp wound, thanks to the protection the thick blanket had
afforded.  Except for the confining bars and that ice-box door, he
was entirely able to be out, carrying the law where it sadly was
needed.

On his fourth or fifth round of the small room, he paused before the
door, seized with a commanding impulse to expend his surplus energy
in beating upon it.  He had seen prisoners behave in that same futile
fashion in his own guard rooms and, for the sake of quiet, had put
irons on them when they persisted.  But there was no one in this
inhospitable place to put irons on him, so he yielded to the extent
of beating a tattoo on the stout planking.

To his amazement, the door gave slightly under his touch, which was
no way at all for a self-respecting jail door to behave.  This
"giving" suggested the application of more force.  Crouching, he put
his shoulder to it and the heavy portal swung open.  He had been
"jugged" in an uncorked "jug," and there was nothing now to keep him
from going where and when he listed.

He delayed just long enough to examine the fastenings which had not
fastened.  A heavy padlock hung securely locked in its deep-set
staple, but the hasp had been left outside, folded back against the
door.  For the first time that morning, Sergeant Scarlet smiled; more
than that, he grinned.  For once he was indebted to too much brandy.

Outside, under the blue sky, he took several deep breaths of
vitalizing air.  He had seen his own prisoners do that upon being
released from confinement, but never understood the impulse as he did
now.  A moment was necessary to get his bearings; the jail stood on a
knoll a hundred yards back from King Street.

To make tracks out of camp was his first inclination.  But at once he
rejected any attempt at escape.  That would only start Hardley in
pursuit, probably with that posse the coroner's jury had authorized
so superfluously.  Rather, he must quiet the deputy's suspicions,
even to disclosing his official identity, if necessary.  Picking his
path, he strode down the incline to King Street.

As he neared the Bonanza, he saw Hardley come off the porch and
waddle in his direction.  But at first sight of him, the deputy
merely added another to the morning's list of surprises.  This one
took the form of a cheerfully waved greeting, as from friend to
friend.  By no stretch of the imagination could it have been expected
from an officer sighting a prisoner who had just broken out of jail.
Seymour advanced, puzzled and on guard.

"You're out early this morning, stranger," Hardley shrilled when the
paces that separated them were few.  "Just been up to your room
looking for you but heard no 'Come in.'"

The sergeant studied the man a moment, then replied: "Sorry I was
out.  What can I do for you, now that you've found me?"

"I noticed yesterday that you have a come-hither eye," went on the
deputy in a lower voice.  "I've got a hunch them murdering stage
robbers are camped in a cañon south of town a-ways.  Thought you
might like a little frolic as one of my official posse.  No danger to
speak of, for I'll be leading you and we'll all be armed to the
shoulder-blades.  Better come if you've got the time to spare."

That Hardley did not know Seymour had spent the night in jail seemed
indubitable.  The Mounted officer could not explain it.  Too much to
blame upon the brandy this seemed, for the deputy had been absolutely
sober in Brewster's room.  But explanations could wait.  Here was a
chance to be about his police business without disclosing that he had
any.

At once Seymour expressed his regret.  He honestly had no time to
spare.  Hardley could understand how anxious he was to get to the
creeks and locate something for himself.  The deputy should have no
trouble recruiting enough men, citizens who knew the country better
than any stranger could and who already had staked their claims.  He
was for the law every time--Seymour was, but he'd appreciate being
excused from service this once.

"Sure, I understand, friend," agreed the deputy.  "Be on your way and
the best of luck to you.  My down-river hunch may be all wrong, so
keep your eyes peeled for a horse that's shod in front and plain
behind.  The rider of him is the killer of Sergeant Seymour, or I'm a
liar and as a deputy sheriff, not worth the powder to blow me to
blazes!"

Half an hour later, a horse that was shod before and plain behind
traveled north out of Gold.  His rider was Sergeant Seymour himself,
not his killer.



CHAPTER XXI

THE CLOSED CREEK

By noon, Seymour had his A-tent pitched on the hank of the Cheena,
between the trail and the stream, a few rods below the point where
Glacier Creek made its indigo-colored contribution.  Above the
scrubby timber spiralled the smoke of the hidden mission, to which
the officer proposed to pay a neighborly call when he had finished
the meal of bacon and beans which he was preparing.

Yesterday, O'Malley and his niece had made it plain that they wished
a conference with him to be secret and under cover of night.  His
unexplained capture had made that impossible.  Whether or not their
caution was well founded, he was unwilling to await the fall of
another night.  He would need to make camp somewhere and felt it
might better be near enough to excuse an open call.  Hence he had
pitched his tent here.

But Seymour had done more that morning than ride out from Gold five
muddy miles and make camp.  His years of detachment service had made
him something of a jack-of-all-trades, and his cayuse-packed outfit
was comprehensive.  Kaw, grazing on the lush grass of the meadow, now
was as neatly shod as he could have been at the hands of any
blacksmith.  No longer was the animal a fit subject for Deputy
Hardley's suspicions.

The sergeant had scoured his tin dishes in the river bank sand and
was returning to the tent when he saw a horseman observing him from
the main trail.  The man stared a moment longer, then rode toward
him.  Soon, Seymour recognized him and wondered at such curiosity
from a man of affairs.

"You're my first visitor, Brewster!" he called as the cordial
freighter drew near.  "Welcome to camp.  If you'd been fifteen
minutes earlier, I'd have fed you.  Now, if you're hungry, over
there's the grub box."

"So it's really you?"  The visitor's response was oddly halting, as
if he was finding it difficult to believe his eyes.

"To my best knowledge and belief, I'm no one else."

Brewster laughed and swung into a chatting position by hooking one
leg over the horn of his saddle.  "And here I was hot-footing into
town to get you out of jail."

"Kind of you, but apparently unnecessary," Seymour offered a laugh of
his own.  "Where did you get the idea I was in limbo?"

The sergeant did not need to feign his look of mystification.  That
the news of an arrest that Hardley himself did not remember had
traveled to the creeks to be heard by Brewster served only to deepen
the puzzle.

"Did Hardley mention jail to you?" he asked.  "He didn't to me, and I
saw him just before I left town."

"It wasn't Hardley--haven't seen him since he left my room last
evening.  But Cato said Hardley had pinched you and locked you up.
He declared he had helped in the capture and was pleased with
himself."

At mention of Cato, the sergeant was suddenly in the clear, although
not so much as an eyelash flicker betrayed the fact.  He recalled now
the inordinately long arms of the man.  Doubtless these had puckered
the blanket around his midriff and beaten him into unconsciousness.
The lovelorn old codger, fired with jealousy, must have been stalking
the widow's place, mistaken him for a rival and acted under the
dictates of his brandy-befuddled brain.  That he had forgotten to
confide the fact of imprisonment to Hardley was evident; but then, he
had neglected to lock the jail.  How the ox driver had got possession
of the key was a detail unexplained, but Seymour would never be
sufficiently curious about that to inquire into it.  To have been
taken single-handed by Cato was not particularly flattering, even
though the gnome was possessed of superhuman strength.

"Wasn't Cato hitting the hootch yesterday?" was all he asked of the
driver's employer.

"He was that," admitted Brewster, "and he had a hang-over this
morning.  But how he ever imagined----  Oh, well, there's no harm
done, long as it was only a drunken dream.  I was afraid Hardley
would lose another day getting after the Seymour murderers and I
didn't want to see you suffer from his foolishness.  But you've
picked a queer place to camp, strikes me.  Didn't you know that
Glacier Creek is closed?"

The sergeant had not heard this and was curious to know how any creek
could be "closed."  Brewster told him.  The genial old missionary,
Shan O'Malley, had laid the foundation for the situation in the early
days of the rush.  With more foresight than many laymen, he had seen
what was coming.  To hold the Indians of his congregation, or
whatever he called it, and to keep them from contact with the white
"rushers" as far as possible, he had induced them to claim, stake and
register every foot of bar and bench from the cañon entrance back to
the glacier.  To make a close corporation of it, he and his niece
Ruth had staked the two full claims between the cañon gate and the
Cheena.  Glacier Creek had not proved a bonanza, but O'Malley did not
seem to care; the laziest Siwash could pan out a living, and the old
man was keeping his flock together.

Then along came Bonnemort and Kluger, a shrewd pair from somewhere
back in eastern Canada.  They saw a chance of operating the Glacier
Creek diggings on a large scale.  The Bonnemort of the combination
admitted to being a half-breed, and he knew how to handle the
Siwashes.  Before the missionary knew what was up, the pair had
leased every Indian claim beyond the cañon gate.  Moreover--and
Brewster was forced to smile appreciatively as he told it--they had
hired the Indians to work their own claims.  When all was set, they
posted a "No Trespass" sign and stationed an armed guard at the
narrow entrance.  When this sentry turned back the sky-pilot intent
on visiting his flock, the whole district had learned of the coup.

Brewster said he had been right friendly with Ruth Duperow and her
uncle at that time.  Because of their fears that the Siwashes were
being robbed, he had brought Sam Hardley to investigate.  The B. & K.
outfit had produced their leases and the Indians denied that they
were being worked against their will.  As no established trail ran up
the creek, which was a veritable cul-de-sac because of its glacier
source, Hardley had decided that the leases were within their rights
and that there wasn't a thing to be done about it.  The creek was
still closed, and because there was only one entrance--through the
narrow mouth of the cañon, where one man could hold up a regiment--it
was likely to remain so until the within-the-law operators took down
the bars.

"I lost out with the sky-pilot and Miss Duperow because I wouldn't
storm the gate," Brewster concluded regretfully.  "About that time
appeared this Sergeant Seymour, then under cover as a mining expert.
He fell hard for the girl, which is not against him, for there isn't
a finer in all B.C. than Miss Ruth.  I don't know what he thought of
the monopoly or what he intended to do when he got into uniform.  As
you know, the stage robbers killed him before he got saddled up."

"What do you make of it yourself?"

Brewster shrugged his broad shoulders.  "I may be prejudiced.  You
see, while I lost my best girl, I landed my B. & K. packing contract.
I'll say they pay their bills.  Hope you won't think I was trying to
horn into your game by criticizing your camp selection.  But I
thought you might not know how things stood on Glacier."

Seymour thanked him, then glanced into the river.  "Maybe I like the
looks of the Cheena," he added.

"Scouting for dredger people, eh?" Brewster made shrewd surmise.  "I
hear they're cleaning up strong in the Klondike.  The Cheena ought to
pay rich for anyone with money enough to put in a hydraulic plant.
Remember that Philip Brewster is in the freighter business in case
you begin operations.  Good luck to you and goodbye for the present."

The sergeant watched Brewster ride across the flat to the main trail;
noted that he turned back toward the creeks.  Evidently the freighter
had been riding into Gold to effect, as he said, Seymour's release.
An obliging individual, Brewster, even if he had given his fat deputy
friend foolish advice about holding back the Mounted.

So Glacier was a closed creek.  A guarded "gate" had been swung
across its cañon mouth.  Upon what?  Upon Bart Caswell's something
"richer than gold," he strongly suspected.  Perhaps upon the
"sergeant's" slayer as well.  Seymour was part Irish; he enjoyed
passing the impassable--or trying to.



CHAPTER XXII

A FIGURE OF SPEECH

Carrying an empty tin pail from his mess outfit, to lend
borrowing-color to his neighborly call, Seymour trudged openly to the
mission.  This proved to be a sizeable log structure without cross or
belfry which served both as dwelling for the missionary and a place
for the Indians to worship.  It had been up several years, from the
dead look of the logs.  The outlook was upon Glacier Creek rather
than upon the Cheena.  A forest of scrubby cedar and fir skirted the
back of it, while not far away was that misplaced rock spur which
formed one flank of the closed cañon.

His coming was announced in chorus by several malamutes chained to
individual dog houses in the front yard.  The venerable sky-pilot
himself was at the front door ready to admit him.

"You are welcome, brother--more than welcome," was his greeting.
"Your arrival relieves my daughter of the necessity of riding to Gold
to assure us that nothing has happened to you."

"Your daughter----  I thought I'd met your niece!  Circumstances
beyond my control made last night's appointment----"

Seymour's excuses were interrupted by the sudden entry, from what
seemed to be the kitchen, of Moira, a radiant surprise in a blue
gingham apron below the hem of which showed her riding boots,
testimony that she, not the blond Ruth, had been about to ride to his
rescue.

"When----?" was all he was able to gasp as he reached out for both
her hands.

"Last night's stage--  To think that you----  Oh!  Ruth has told me
all about how finely you've taken hold of the situation!"

"And Miss Ruth--where is she?" he asked.

"She's had a hard blow in the death of a man she had come to trust.
Isn't it enough--glad enough that I'm here, Sergeant Scarlet?  I know
you must be hungry after that long ride from town.  In a
minute-and-a-half----"

Seymour reassured her, telling of the precaution he had taken to
cover his visit by establishing camp near by.  He pointed to the
bucket.  "Anyone seeing me come here with this, surely must take me
for a borrowing neighbor, don't you think?  Already I've been spotted
as a scout for a gold-dredging outfit with designs on the Cheena."

"Then, brother, if you'll pardon me, I'll hand you over to Moira,"
said the Missionary.  "I'm engaged in a vital work--nothing less than
the translation of the Epistles into Chinook.  I try to leave all
temporal affairs to my daughter and my niece for my time is short--my
time is short.  You will find her most competent and more fully
informed in the details of this outrageous intrigue than I am myself.
In this grievous time of turmoil which has befallen us, I thank the
good Lord every hour for the return of such a daughter."

"Father, dear!" she gently hushed him.

While the girl was engaged in settling him at a table near a window
and arranging his books and papers, Seymour glanced about the
comfortable living room.  Every stick of furniture, he perceived, was
frontier made.  The few wall decorations were Indian handiwork--rude
carvings in wood, garishly painted; reed basketry of beautiful
design; a bow and arrows, canoe paddles.  The floor coverings were
skins that had never been in the hands of a professional taxidermist.
There was an air of home about the place never to be found in the
quarters of the longest established police detachments.  In this
instance, probably, it was the touch of Ruth, the grieving cousin, or
of Moira herself before she had put into the Far North in behalf of
her supposedly vagrant brother.

He crossed to the fireplace in which cedar logs were in a crackling
blaze.  Its rock was native galena in which the brownish stains of
iron predominated, but so besprinkled was it with mineral facets as
to look alive where the fire played upon it.  On the mantel were a
totem pole and several pieces of carved ivory but no trace of
"Outside," not even a phonograph.  Either Moira and Ruth were
satisfied with existence in the wild or did not wish to be reminded
of civilization.

When Moira rejoined him after having settled her father at his
self-assigned task, Seymour was fingering idly several specimens of
heavy, grayish mineral which lay at the end of the mantel.

"Frog-gold, my father calls that stuff," said the girl.  "It's the
plague of our Glacier Creek placers, cluttering up our sluices and
utterly worthless except in rare instances, such as----"

She ran her eyes over the specimens and picked out one that was
shaped curiously like a human hand.  In the gray palm was a small
nugget of gold, worth possibly a dollar.

"Take this one as a souvenir of your first visit to the mission," she
said, and held it out to him.

He had been on the point of asking her for one of the curios, because
of a possible connection with the case that had occurred to him, so
accepted the gift gladly.

"Do you know the real story of the closing of Glacier Creek, Moira?"
he asked, the matter-in-hand always on his mind.

"I heard it all last night from father and from Ruth," she assured
him.  "This pretended Mountie who has just been murdered made an
inspection of the creek in father's behalf because of his love for my
cousin.  It's a trouble creek, I tell you.

"This Bart Caswell made friends with a hired gunman that Bonnemort
and Kluger had on guard and slipped into the gulch where the claims
are located.  He showed great skill in keeping under cover and was
not discovered until the next afternoon, by which time he had seen
more than enough.

"His report," Moira went on, "was worse than father had feared.  The
conscienceless scoundrels had made slaves of all our people, plying
them with liquor and working them heartrending hours under the whip.
Bart thought the slavers knew their days of oppression were numbered,
and were trying to strip the claims of their treasure in the shortest
possible time.  Undoubtedly the guard at the gate was as much to keep
the slaves in as the whites out.  Isn't that an intolerable state of
affairs?  Do you wonder that father is beside himself with anxiety,
realizing his impotence until Canada wakes up to what is going on?"

There was no doubting her honest rage, or that it was unselfish, as
neither her cousin's claim nor her father's was being plundered.

"Did I understand you to say that Bart was discovered up the gulch?"
Seymour asked.

"Bonnemort himself discovered him slipping through the brush near one
of their long sluice boxes," Moira informed him.  "He would have
beaten Bart to death had not his partner happened along.  Kluger, who
evidently is the brains of the combination, didn't want a white man
murdered 'on the works,' as he put it.  They brought Bart to the gate
and literally kicked him into the open, warning him that he'd have no
second chance.  If ever they caught him trying to spy on them again,
they threatened to shoot him on sight."

Seymour recalled the widow's version, undoubtedly the true one
concerning Bart's motives and mental processes regarding the Glacier
Creek plunderers.  "Until that uniform fell into his hands, he did
not see any way of getting the best of them," Mrs. Caswell had told
him.

Bart's plan from that point was easily deduced.  Once in uniform, it
had been necessary for him to "stall" in regard to the Tabor
murder--to checkmate Hardley with any citizens' investigation by
pretending to make his own.  He seemed to have found time, too, for a
reassuring visit with Ruth Duperow and perhaps to advance whatever
personal game he was playing with the girl.

Yesterday morning the imposter had set out for the guarded cañon on
Glacier Creek, counting on the magic of the Mounted uniform, which,
for once, had failed to cast its wonted spell.  Possibly this failure
was because the plunderers had recognized the counterfeit.  But the
sergeant was not ready to credit that explanation.  He preferred to
think that it pointed to the desperation of the gold strippers, who
would not hesitate to add the murder of a non-commissioned officer to
their other crimes.

The sergeant was forced to admit to himself the neatness of Bart's
scheme as he now surmised it.  Had the uniform "worked," the fake
sergeant would have taken the B. & K. clean-up, ostensibly to hold it
until the courts adjudicated the Indians' claims.  Once the treasure
was in his possession, he would have made off with it over the
conveniently near Alaskan border and escaped with it on some
southbound steamer that touched at no British Columbian port.  Just
possibly, because of that gift of tongue with women of which Seymour
already had seen evidence, Bart would have persuaded Ruth Duperow to
accompany him.

"I'll give the Glacier diggings a look-over," he said with a decision
that was not as sudden as it sounded, and got to his feet.

Seymour's expression showed as little concern as though he proposed
going to the door to glance at the weather prospects.  He was not
underrating the risks that would come with an attempt to work from
the inside out; but he was ignoring them so far as any surface
indication was concerned.  From the scout he was determined to make,
he had every hope of getting the needed direct evidence; at least, he
would determine what was "richer than gold" that had led Bart Caswell
to tempt fate once too often.

"You'll never get past the gate!" Moira cried in despair and possibly
some disappointment that he had taken her own arrival so placidly.
"Bonnemort himself has taken charge of the guard there.  He was there
yesterday morning and yelled to Ruth: 'Tell your friend a uniform
makes a fine target!'  It was that renewed threat that sent her
toward town with her too-late warning.  This morning, since you had
been delayed, I went over to the creek.  He was there, but kept
silent--even when I called him a murderer.  I tell you, Sergeant
Scarlet, darling, the cañon is closed!"

Seymour smiled his appreciation of the care she was showing in his
behalf.  So she had dared call Bonnemort a murderer to his face!  The
wonder was she hadn't drawn a bullet for herself instead of silence.

"I'm figuring on coming _out_ through the cañon, Moira dear--sort of
unlatching the gate from the inside.  There must be another way in."
Seymour's tone was confident, although the other way of which he
spoke was yet to be found.

"There _is_ another way in!"

This welcome declaration boomed upon their ears from the old
missionary at his desk under the window.  Evidently he had not been
so absorbed in his Biblical translation as they had thought him.  Now
he pushed back his chair and crossed to the fireplace.

"I discovered this other way while exploring the spur last spring,
just before this curse of gold fell upon us," he explained.  "Had I
known what Bart was up to, I'd have shown him this secret way.  I did
not actually enter the gulch by it, not trusting muscles that are
getting ragged with age, but you can, brother, if your head is level,
your fingers and toes strong."

"Score one for the sky-pilot of Argonaut!" cried his daughter,
throwing her arms around his neck and patting him on the back.
"Since they've smitten us on every cheek we possess, it's high time
we smote them back."

In planning for the hazardous attempt immediately, Moira O'Malley's
insistence on going along proved a complication.  Before the sergeant
realized her trend, he had admitted knowing only a smattering of
Chinook.  The girl, it seemed, spoke the tongue of the provincial
Indians fluently.

"These Siwashes are by no means as dumb as they look," she said.
"They will know who left the diggings on this murder ride yesterday
morning.  They'll tell me and then you'll know the man you're after."

Seymour at once rejected her offer as rash beyond reason.  Her
father, however, seemed passive, perhaps silenced by his admiration
for her courage.

"Why, I'll be safe enough with such an officer as you to protect me,"
Moira declared.  "Think what you've already done for me!"

But her trustfulness did not appeal in this extremity.  Seymour
insisted that such a piece of scouting was no work for a woman.  She
might cross-examine her Siwashes after he had cleared the creek of
whites, but not before.  In the end, therefore, there was a
compromise, to the extent that Moira should come as far as the edge
of the gulch--to see that her father got home safely.

The sergeant departed from the mission openly, carrying his tin pail.
He even hoped that the house was, as the girl feared, being watched
through a glass from the cañon's mouth.  At his camp, he made hurried
preparations, pocketing a supply of "hard" rations and extra
cartridges for his gun.  Down in the meadow, he unpicketed both
horses.  They could be trusted to stay near the tent and, in case his
return was delayed, they must not suffer from want of grass and
water.  Although the Rev. O'Malley had said nothing about need of a
rope for his "other way in," Seymour quickly spliced the two picket
strings and coiled the length over his shoulder.  Gaining cover of
the timber, he made his way as rapidly as possible to the rear of the
mission house where the O'Malleys awaited him.

The spur proved a hard climb and the missionary needed help over
several of the rougher places.  But at length he brought them to a
point where the sheer wall of the boxed-in gulch was many feet lower
than the remainder.

Even there, a dizzy drop intervened between the top and a narrow
ledge that promised a path to timber line for one who was certain of
foot.  The old man pointed out certain crevices and projections by
which a daring climber might work his way down to the ledge; but the
sergeant was glad he had brought his rope with which to simplify the
start.

The risk that anyone would catch sight of him as he lowered himself
seemed slim, for the creek at this point was some distance away and a
thick growth of fir lay between.  At any rate, this was a risk to be
taken; he must negotiate that ledge in daylight.

"You'll come out at the Indian burying ground," said the missionary.
"I'm sure it lies in front of this dip in the wall.  Conceal yourself
there for the night.  The Siwashes will be anywhere else after
darkness falls."

With this sage advice, the veteran missionary started back over the
trail, his mind already speeding to other matters now that he had
done all he might in the one at hand.

For just a moment the lovers who had been through so many trying
experiences enjoyed their first interval alone since the Montreal
parting.  This was more mental than physical in view of the stress of
the situation.

"You've explained to Ruth?" Seymour asked presently.

"In part--that you're the real Russell Seymour.  She still thinks
that this Bart was an officer but using your name for some official
reason.  I haven't told father about Oliver yet, and--should I tell
him?"

As often, Seymour's expression was an enigma to her.

"Not yet," he said finally.  "It just may take some of the sting away
if you can present him with a son-in-law in partial place of his
first-born who cannot be returned."

"You think, Russell--oh, do you think you are on the track----"

"I'll get him--Karmack--somewhere," he assured her.

Having knotted his rope at fifteen-inch intervals, the sergeant made
one end fast to a sturdy young cedar which grew near the edge and
cast the loose end into the cañon.  As nearly as he could determine
by peering over, the hemp reached almost, if not quite, to the ledge.

"How soon shall we look for your return?" Moira asked a bit
hysterically when all was ready.

"When I come out through the cañon gate."  He hoped his laugh was
reassuring.



CHAPTER XXIII

WHEN MORNING CAME

The rope proved long enough but there was no overhang.  And the ledge
was a path down the face of the cliff, but so fragmentary that many
times the hold of his fingers forced into crevices alone made it
passable.  At the very start, an apparently solid piece broke off
under his weight and almost cast him into the depths.  After that
lesson, which came so near to being his last, he sidled along the
wall so that his toes might set as near the face of it as possible.

Fifty feet from the bottom of the gulch the ledge ended.  He was
forced to stake all on a hazardous leap into the top of the nearest
fir tree.  While the upper branches gave under his hundred and eighty
pounds and countless needles pricked him, his fall was broken and
eventually stayed by the stouter limbs below.

In the gathering dusk he gained the burial ground of which O'Malley
had spoken.  Familiar as he was with the native customs of the
Northland, he felt thankful, when this settlement of the dead loomed
up in the gloom, that he had been prepared for the spectral effect.
Built on stilts above each grave were huts of bizarre woodwork.  In
each, he knew, were housed the particular personal treasures of some
departed brave, but nothing of intrinsic worth.

Seymour was not superstitious and, much as he might have preferred
other habitation for the night, he did not hesitate to borrow a
lodging here.  Selecting the most commodious of the "hatches," he
climbed under its roof.  Although this particular 8x10 boot-box
boasted both a spire and a dome it was open on one side, presumably
for the purpose of exhibiting a black bottle, an alarm clock from
which the works had been removed, and other heirlooms of some Siwash
gone to happier hunting grounds.  It offered a measure of protection,
however, against the chill that came with darkness.  As he had no
blanket and dared not light a fire, this "spook roost," as he thought
of it, was more than welcome.

A short distance up the creek from his refuge and on the opposite
bank lay an Indian camp of four or five families, to judge by the
number of supper fires.  He watched the natives through their meal,
the while munching a tasteless emergency ration that was guaranteed
to be rich in calories.

The Indian camp proved unusually quiet.  He had heard Eskimo hunting
parties make far more of a powwow around their night fires of
blubber.  There was no ribald song or laughter, no fighting, which
were to be expected if the despoilers were supplying the natives with
liquor, as Moira had told the sergeant.

The yelping of many hungry dogs warned him of the folly of trying to
scout the camp under cover of darkness.  He decided to stay where he
was and to begin his explorations in the morning when work was under
way.  Gradually, with the fires, the noise of the camp died out, as
if the sleeping mats were superattractive to the natives after a hard
day's work on the placers.

Politics made strange bedfellows, Seymour had heard.  Well, he stood
ready to testify that police duty in the Argonaut Valley brought one
to strange beds, too.  His first night in a jail bunk; his second in
a Siwash mausoleum!  And on both occasions, nothing softer than his
hat for a pillow!

But the murmur of the rushing creek and the soughing of the firs
invited sleep; he yielded to the lullaby.

A crash like thunder awoke him at one time in the night, but he found
the sky clear on looking out.  Not until a second report came could
he locate the source--the glacier in which the creek had its source.
The green monster was sloughing off its ice.  There came variations
in the alarm whenever new crevasses were split with a terrific,
smashing noise.

The worst start of the night, however, came in a sense of falling and
landing with a thump that shook every bone in his body.  That he had
fallen and landed, not dreamed the sensations, became clear when he
found himself on the ground and looking up at the hut.  He had rolled
out of "bed."

Seymour was up the next morning with the klootchmen, and they arose
with the sun.  Before the Indian camp was thoroughly awake, he had
slipped out of the burying ground and gained the cover of the timber
fringe along the south wall of the gulch.

From what he could see now of the formation, he determined that
Glacier Creek was not as inaccessible as reputed.  There were other
possible entrances, at least one of which appeared less hazardous
than that by which he had come.  In the past, the natural entrance to
the cañon had always been open and no one had ever found it necessary
to work out another.

Refreshing himself at a spring upon which he had stumbled, he turned
first to an investigation of the cañon a quarter of a mile below.  So
nearly did the wings of the rocky spur meet that there was scarcely a
hundred feet between walls at the narrowest point.  Through this gap,
Glacier Creek poured without hindrance.  Along the opposite wall ran
a wagon-width trail.

At a point about halfway through the cañon stood two tents, the
canvas of which still was white.  Doubtless this was the camp of the
guards and, perhaps, that of the promoters of the steal.  Just now he
was satisfied with placing this camp; close investigation could wait
until he learned what "richer than gold" was being gleaned up the
gulch.

Slowly he worked up the stream, keeping back from the bank and well
screened by the brush.  Breakfast was over at the camp near which he
had spent the night.  Twenty Indians, men and women, were at work
picking and shoveling in a near-by bench and wheeling loaded barrows
to a long wooden sluice box into which a small stream of water had
been diverted.  The onlooker was puzzled that they were working with
such seeming good-will.  In fact, he had never seen natives so
industrious.  Nowhere was any whip-armed master visible.

A blast from upstream did not concern him greatly, as he thought the
glacier was cutting daylight capers.  But when other reverberations
crashed out at regular intervals, he felt certain that dynamite was
being exploded.  This would explain why the Siwashes were able to
work so freely in the frozen gravel and gave color to Bart's report
that the claims were being "stripped."

Exercising the utmost caution, he worked his way eastward until he
crouched opposite an exaggerated "ant hill" of activity, undoubtedly
the scene of major operations.  There were three sluices here, near a
bench that had been shattered by a recent explosion.  No crew of
white miners could have shown greater industry or fewer lost motions
than the natives at work there.  And as below, he saw no sign of a
white oppressor.

Then, from a tent near the Indian encampment, there emerged a brawny
man who answered the O'Malleys' description of Bonnemort, he who
nearly had done for Bart.  Six feet two or three and built from the
soles up, he stood looking over the busy scene.

In a flash, Seymour recognized the red-headed man who had insisted on
sending wine to the young Mounties in that Montreal cabaret.
Something of a change of scene, this; but not so surprising in
Canada--land of far-flung opportunities.

The sergeant surmised this to be the alleged breed's first appearance
of the morning.  Confirmation came with the appearance of a young
squaw bearing a tray of breakfast which she spread on a rough table
before the tent.  Indeed, this breed must have a "way" with the
Siwashes, thought the sergeant, to command from them such competent
service.  From his reserved seat in the brush, he envied him the cup
of steaming coffee and, later, the cigar which the autocrat of the
wild lighted.  This last was particularly tantalizing to one whose
pipe must perforce remain cold.

Presently came a small man on horseback, all-white, puttee-clad, and,
on reasonable supposition, one Kluger by name.  Dismounted, the new
arrival, reputed to be the "brains of the outfit," did not come to
his partner's shoulder; but from the rapidity of his movements,
Seymour judged that his small frame concealed a dynamo of energy.
The two conferred a moment, then started toward the sluice box.

Peering from behind the bushes, Seymour felt as though he were
watching some well-lighted motion picture.  He saw Bonnemort call a
couple of Siwashes to them; but no word of their conversations
reached him.

For an hour he watched them as they directed the morning clean-up of
the treasure gathered on the riffles--cross cleats of wood on the
bottom of the sluice troughs--from the pay dirt washed the previous
day.  One departure from the regular placer practice stood out.  The
gleaners carried two sacks, one twice the size of the other.  At
every riffle, contributions were made to each.

If this was a division of the yield between the managing sharpers and
working owners, it seemed unnecessarily clumsy.  Why did it need to
be done on the dump in such piecemeal fashion?  Both parties to the
proceeding seemed satisfied, however.  There was no haggling, not
even discussion over the division, if such it really was.

In the end, the two whites, between them, carried the larger and
heavier sack to Bonnemort's tent, while the two Indians who had made
the cleaning carried off the smaller bag to one of their wickiups.

After spending several minutes within the tent, behind closed flaps,
the partners came out and started down-stream, Bonnemort walking with
long strides beside the mounted Kluger.  To the sergeant, the
supposition seemed reasonable that they were bound for a clean-up at
the lower diggings and that, for a time, the upper creek would be
free of whites.  He decided upon a bold stroke, the success of which
would depend upon how far the Siwashes had been taken into confidence.

Going down the creek bank in the brush until he was out of sight of
the camp, he gained the trail and started back.  He walked as openly
as though he belonged to the outfit; stopped at several points to
look critically at the work being done, then strode on with a nod or
grunt of approval.  None challenged his advance; not even a look
questioned him.  He entered the tent as though he had every right to
do so, as, indeed, he had, although it was a right of a different
sort than any who observed him might have imagined.

As the canvas flaps fell behind him, he made a rapid survey of the
interior--two folding cots with bedding, camp stools, a table built
of empty dynamite boxes with the labels of the "Kingdom Come" brand
much in evidence, and an improvised clothes horse hung with an
assortment of masculine apparel.  His particular interest settled on
what looked like a carpenter's tool chest, but which, for want of any
likelier container, he took to be the camp's treasury box.  Without
much hope; he stooped and tried the lid.  It was locked.

In the act of kneeling to examine this, the tent was suffused in
sunlight from the opening of a flap.  He straightened and turned as a
young squaw entered, her head bound in a bright-colored bandanna.
Possibly she was the fastidious Bonnemort's chambermaid, he thought,
come to make the bed.  His heart was pounding.  An alarm would ruin
all.

"_Kla-how-yah!_" she grunted the usual Chinook greeting, but evinced
no surprise at finding him in the tent.

"Don't mind me," he managed to reply with a well assumed assurance,
hoping she at least could understand English, even though she did not
speak it.

But she spoke it, and to his utter consternation.  "Right good
make-up if it fools a Mountie," she said with a lilting laugh that
was controlled not to carry beyond the canvas.  "How do you like me
as a _klootch_?"

"Moira!" he whispered.

"None other, Sergeant Scarlet."



CHAPTER XXIV

TENT-TOLD TALES

Seymour stood and stared at the young woman, marveling at her
complete transformation.  A right good make-up, she had called it.
He could truthfully make the statement stronger.  When her eyes were
hidden and her voice stilled, all trace of his beloved was gone.  She
looked as Siwash as though she had been born on the trail of a squaw
mother and had passed her babyhood strapped to a board.

The fine lines of her slim young figure were swathed in rags after
the fashion of the North Coast native women.  Waist line was nil, her
makeshift skirt seemed to drop from her shoulders.  For a one-piece
garment, it certainly was of pieces, patched and pinned and tied
together.  He doubted if she could step out of it without taking it
apart.

To her complexion she had done something to give it a rich copper
tinge.  The hands were stained to match.  Her lips had been thickened
with paint lines and over her patrician nose ran a series of blue
lines, a counterfeit of the tattooing with which the Argonaut native
women disfigure themselves.  A finger tied up in a soiled rag added
the last touch of verisimilitude.

Recovering from his first shock, Seymour reminded himself of their
situation.  "Didn't I make it plain yesterday that your coming here
was beyond all reason?" he demanded almost petulantly.

"Not so far beyond as myself," she murmured rebelliously.  "I'm here,
am I not?  And you'll find me more reasonable for having had my own
way."

She intended following him from the first, she admitted, and for that
reason she had watched his descent from the top of the cliff, marking
the difficulties he had overcome.  After helping her father back to
the mission, she had given her evening to make-up and costume.  She
left home before daybreak.

"Do you mean to say you tip-toed that ledge and made the jump into
the fir tree?" he asked incredulously.

She shook her head, flashing him a smile.  "I profited by watching
you.  I came all the way down by rope, bringing an extra coil, ready
knotted, from the mission and tying it to the end of yours."

"But you won't be able to fool the squaws!" he observed, again
looking troubled.

"Haven't tried.  They think I slipped in to see how they are faring
and togged out as one of them that the whites would not suspect my
visit.  They seem pleased--perhaps flattered--and will keep my
secret."

Seymour did not relish the situation created by her persistence.  The
girl's presence was a grave complication.  It handicapped him just
when his investigation was advancing with unexpected smoothness.  But
now that she was in, his duty was to get her out safely.

"And how are your Indian wards faring?" he asked, by way of gaining
time to figure out the safest, most expeditious exit for her.

"They puzzle me for they have no complaint," she answered.  "Either
conditions have changed or that imposter was sadly misled in his
observations.  Actually, the Indians seem to look upon Bonnemort and
Kluger as benefactors.  '_Hiyu skookum_ Boston men,' they call the
rascals."

"B. & K. are taking the bulk of the clean-up," Seymour told her.  "I
watched the divvy when they stripped the sluices out front this
morning."

"But that doesn't seem possible," Moira protested.  "I hear from two
of my most trusted klootchmen that the Indians are given _all_ the
gold."

Seymour seemed not to have heard.  He was.  crossing to the front of
the wall tent where, beneath the table, he had sighted a sack exactly
like the treasure-weighted one he had seen the partners carry from
the creek.  But if this was the same, it had been emptied.

"All the gold, I said," repeated the girl, impatient at his seeming
lack of attention to her astonishing report.  "What do you make of
that, Sergeant Scarlet?"

"I'll say that is right kind and unbelievably generous of B. & K. and
that a right lively surprise is awaiting my Irisher when I get her
out of jeopardy."

The sergeant had upturned the sack and was shaking it.  A single
jagged lump, evidently held in the fabric when the sack had been
dumped, thudded to the ground.  Both leaned over to examine it.  The
girl straightened first.

"More of that old frog-gold," she said with another low, aggravating
laugh.

Seymour picked up the specimen.  It was of the same grayish, metallic
substance as the hand-shaped piece which Moira had given him at the
mission.  This one, however, held no yellow offering.

"Richer than gold!"  In thought, Seymour murmured Bart's exclamation
of promise to Mrs. Caswell.

He believed that at last he knew the answer to one part of the
Glacier Creek riddle.  But he said nothing to the girl about his
hopes as he pocketed the fragment.

"You said the Siwashes would tell you which of the two men rode away
from the gulch, the morning of the murder," he reminded her.  "Did
they?"

"That's another peculiar thing," she replied, lines of perplexity
wrinkling her stained brow.  "My _klootchmen_ friends insist that
both Kluger and Bonnemort were here as usual all that morning.  They
made _hiyu_ clean-up--gathered much gold--that Thursday morning and
are positive they are not mistaken about the kind white men.  The
Indians haven't heard that Bart was murdered; they still are
chuckling at the way he was run out of the gulch."

"That would seem to leave us cold--as cold as we are on the trail of
that scoundrel Karmack, wouldn't it?"

Not a flicker did the girl show to indicate that she had hope of
hearing something in that particular get-your-man direction.

But within the tent Seymour saw something else to convince him that
the search for Bart's slayer was exceedingly "warm."  In the presence
of this second inanimate witness, he was more anxious than ever to
get the girl safely out of the gulch--before the fireworks.

"I'm nearly through in here," he went on.  "Have you planned how you
will get yourself out?"

"I can go back the way I came, I suppose," she answered with a pout
that was not as effective as it would have been had she been
naturally clad.  "But I thought you were going to open the cañon
gate--from the inside out?"

"Even so, I can't have you within range when I--when I pick the lock."

"You mean--you mean there may be some shooting?" she demanded with
suppressed excitement.

He did not like the gleam of hope that seemed to shine in her eyes.
"You've done your part, Moira--more than any other woman would have
dared to do.  I wonder if I can trust you to wait for me in that
graveyard down the creek?"

"To sit and idly wait when I might have a hand in the excitement!"
she moaned.  "Being a woman is an awful handicap, Sergeant Scarlet."

"That will be the helping part in this crime clean-up," he assured
her, "to sit and wait.  And if I do not come for you, you are to make
your own way back to the mission and wait some more until other
Mounties arrive to settle the score.  You've done enough; leave the
rest to me."

Moira protested that she had accomplished nothing but the ruin of
their theories.  Couldn't she do something constructive?

"We are done with theories and it's time I demonstrate some facts,"
said the sergeant in a convincing tone.  "I feel certain I can
promise you the arrest of Bart's slayer if you'll go at once to the
hide-out I suggested."

"But the _klootchmen_ said----"

"Squaw talk--forget it."  He was growing impatient.  "Likely they
don't know one day from another.  Any moment Bonnemort may return.
Don't risk his seeing you.  Please go while there is time!"  He
turned to the tent front and held back one of its flaps.

"Moira unwelcome--a new sensation!" she murmured disappointedly, then
shuffled out of the tent with the flat-footed walk of an Argonaut
squaw.

The sergeant watched her a moment.  How brave, how resourceful she
was!  Then he turned and focused his gaze on an overturned boot that
lay near the improvised clothes horse.

This was a right boot, according to the sole of it.  Staring at him
from the outer edge of that sole was a peculiar plate, presumably to
counteract the wear of some foot lameness or a peculiarity of gait.
As plainly as if it had been articulate, this told him; "The man who
wears me killed Bart Caswell!"



CHAPTER XXV

CLUTCH OF THE BREED

Making her way down Glacier Creek, giving no attention to the working
Siwashes and receiving none from them, Moira O'Malley wondered what
discovery this enigma of the Mounted had held back from her.  She did
not resent particularly his lack of confidence, feeling that she had
not earned it.  That he seemed to disbelieve what the _klootchmen_
had told her of the continued presence of the white and near-white
spoilers at once troubled and gratified her.  She hated to think that
the Indian women would mislead her; but she did want the slayer of
her cousin's sweetheart captured and punished.  Hope of that seemed
built on the Thursday morning absence of either Kluger or his partner.

At the start of this requested exit, the girl did not hurry, but
ambled along squaw fashion.  Once across the creek and out of sight
of the upper diggings, she meant to take to the brush.  The Glacier
natives would see her no more until Seymour came for her.  That he
would come for her--that he would be able to come for her, she did
not doubt.  From the moment she had seen him stride into the tent of
Bonnemort as if he owned it, she had felt certain of his ultimate
success.

She reached the creek and was about to climb to the foot log when she
heard some one start across it from the other side.  Raising the eyes
which she had held downcast throughout the walk from the tent, she
saw, with a tremor of alarm, that Bonnemort had beaten her to the
improvised bridge.  She sidled away from the log's end and seemed
intent on watching the stream.  Of course, the up-risen breed would
be above noticing a squaw drudge, but she preferred to take no
unnecessary chances.

With eyes steadily averted, she waited.  The heavy steps drew nearer
as the big man set his feet on the flattened surface.  Then suddenly,
they ceased.  He had halted at the end of the log.

"Look up here, you _klootch_!"

The tone was that of a request, but it brought to the girl a sudden
chill of terror.  She dared not look up, yet scarcely dared she
refuse.

Evidently patience with a squaw was not held a virtue by the master.
"Sulky, eh?" he grumbled and sprang down from the log to stand
directly in front of her.  Reaching out, he took her chin between
thumb and forefinger and tilted it until her stained face looked up
into his.

"A new one, ain't you?" he asked.  "Thought I hadn't seen you before,
princess."

A look came into his dark eyes that frightened her more.  Not daring
to utter protest for fear her Chinook would betray her, she cuffed at
the hand which held her and broke his hold.  Bonnemort's chuckle
sounded more ominous to her than an imprecation.

"A Siwash _klootch_ with spirit--and a beauty to boot!" he exclaimed.
"There is something new under the sun.  Your light's been hidden long
enough, young wildcat.  Take a stroll up to my tent and we'll talk it
over."

His huge hand closed upon her shoulder with a firm grasp, but without
undue violence.  When he started back to camp, she stepped, perforce,
at his side.  Although tall for a woman, the red-haired breed was
head and shoulders above her, and she recognized a captor that could
only be circumvented by guile.

He tried her out with several impertinent questions.  Was she
married?  What would she take for a kiss?  Did she like white men,
the big bear kind?

He seemed to disown the Indian blood that was reputed to flow in his
veins.  Evidently he spoke little Chinook, for he complained at her
refusal to understand English.

As they strolled slowly along, Moira wasted no thought on
self-censure.  Seymour had been right--her exploit was absolutely
wild.  Escape she must, but if humanly possible by her own wit,
without involving the Mountie or even disturbing him in his
investigation.  A plan flashed into her mind and she hastened to
perfect it.

With just the reluctance she thought her role required, she
accompanied him to the placers.  The Siwash men who looked up from
their mining grinned at her or turned stolidly away.  It was nothing
to them that this skookum Boston chief saw fit to pay attention to
one of their women.  No hope of help lay in that quarter.

When she reached that section of the placer where the two squaws to
whom she had disclosed herself earlier in the morning were working a
sluice, she began to struggle, hoping they would come to her rescue
without disclosing her identity.  But with her first jerk,
Bonnemort's fingers tightened like a vise, as though he had been
expecting some such move.  She continued to struggle.

Fear that Seymour had gone into ambush within the tent and would come
to her aid, to the upsetting of all his plans, kept her from crying
out for help.  One of the squaws did throw down her shovel and start
toward her, but the other called her back.  They whispered a moment,
then turned their backs and resumed their toil.

Even the realization that her Indian friends, hardened by the sorcery
of too much gold, had failed her, did not lift her voice.  At the
head of the creek, she glimpsed the glacier imbedded in the
mountainside like a gigantic prism, its innumerable facets reflecting
the sunlight in all the colors of the rainbow.  On either side lay a
fringe of brush and timber.  All these invited her, offering
sanctuary from a fate that promised to be worse than death.  But
first, before she could flee to the hope of escape they held out, she
must break the clutch of Bonnemort, the half-breed.

As she twisted and squirmed, her nails marked his face with furrowing
scratches; but the smart of these seemed only to inflame him the
more.  As penalty, he demanded a kiss then and there where all her
tribe could see.  In the struggle to enforce his low-voiced decree,
the bandanna that bound Moira's head fell to the ground.  Her
marvelous hair was revealed.

Both hands seized her and held her off, as helpless in his clutch as
though she had been a child.  For a moment his eyes enjoyed the oddly
masked beauty of her.  But soon, with comprehension, there entered a
new light--that of recognition.

"So!" he muttered, baring his teeth as an angry beast bares its
fangs.  Transferring his hold to her streaming hair, Bonnemort flung
the girl from her feet and started to drag her toward the tent.

At last, all other hope gone, Moira O'Malley screamed for help---the
help of her Mountie.  The green old glacier broadcasted her distress,
reverberating her shrieks until the gulch rang with them.


Within Bonnemort's tent "Scarlet" Seymour knelt before a chest, the
lock of which he had just succeeded in breaking.  He was staring with
dilated eyes upon the real wealth of the Glacier Creek placers--truly
richer than gold.

As he reached out his fingers to run them through the heaping gray
wealth, a scream sounded.  It might have been the cry of a buzzard
soaring in the blue above the camp.

But the next moment the shriek took definite form as a human's cry
for help.  Then came the shrill of his name--a long-drawn "Russell!"

In a flash he comprehended.  Moira had been discovered and had fallen
into the hands of the despoilers.  Without closing the lid of the
treasure chest, he sprang to his feet and lunged out of the tent.  A
hundred yards down the path, he saw the breed and the girl in
desperate struggle.  Toward the scene of the unequal combat hastened
a score of Argonaut natives.

Seymour charged down the incline.  "Coming, Moira!" he shouted.

The breed heard and flung his intended victim from him to the rocks.
One glance at the oncoming figure enlightened him.  "Wolves run in
pairs!" he exclaimed.  "And die together!"

Moira saw him draw a revolver.  Had he fired from the hip, her
opportunity never would have come.  But Bonnemort, confident in the
distance that still separated him from the unknown rescuer, paused to
take aim.  The girl's fingers had closed around a rock.  With all her
might she hurled it at his head.

Her aim was poor, but its faultiness proved fortunate.  The missile
struck Bonnemort's wrist as his finger pressed the trigger.  The
bullet went wild.  The gun was knocked from his hand and was thrown,
by some muscular freak, within Moira's reach.

For a second, Bonnemort stood nursing his injured wrist; then, with a
snarled curse, he sprang to recover his weapon.  But Seymour, at the
end of his rush, crowded him off; the girl seized the gun and
scrambled to her feet.

She could not understand why the sergeant did not draw and declare
himself.  As the enemy already had fired, he was no longer under
restraint of that Quixotic slogan.

Bonnemort, too, looked puzzled, but evidently took heart from his
foe's restraint, for he advanced threateningly.  Fearing that Seymour
would be no match in a rough-and-tumble, Moira tried to press the
miner's gun upon him, but the sergeant waved her back.

"Hold off the Siwashes," he demanded.  "This brute has a beating
coming to him."

Bonnemort advanced with a chortle of joy, delighted that luck favored
him with the respite of physical combat.  So many things could happen
in a battle of fists.  The man-to-man struggle was on.

After his initial rush, which the sergeant cleverly side-stepped, the
breed's main idea seemed to be to throw his powerful arms about his
opponent.  Except for occasional swings, which would have knocked
Seymour out had they found their mark, his efforts were directed to
this end.

The sergeant had his Armistice detail to thank for his ability to
evade.  The Eskimo of the Arctic foreshore is above average height,
large muscled and trained by occasional necessity to battle with
Polar bears.  When boxing matches were put on at the detachment, in
lieu of other diversion, Seymour had acted as instructor.  His
greatest difficulty had been to break his pupils of "hugging" and to
teach them that a punch was more effective than a clinch any day or
where.  As a result, he was not only trained to the minute, but
highly practiced in slipping out of clinches.

From the first, Bonnemort fought like the Eskimo, trying again and
again for a crushing embrace.  With each vain effort, Seymour exacted
punishment with jabs and cuts to the face.  Never was he caught by
the other's powerful arms.

For the alleged half-breed, the contest was soon sanguinary.  His
eyes and lips suffered and his nose became grotesque.  On the other
hand, Seymour was practically unmarked except for a lump on his
forehead and a splotch on his cheek where Bonnemort's fist had
touched him.

_Klootchmen_ and braves had come from all parts of the diggings and
stood in an irregular circle, staring in open-eyed wonder at the
battle.  Moira was having an easy task keeping them back, although
she still held the gun ready.  No partisan spirit developed.  If
anything, their grunts at clinches evaded and blows sent home favored
the strange, more compact fighter.  The sergeant was unknown to them,
but the fact that the mission girl sponsored him with gun point was
enough for them.

Bonnemort's wind was first to fail him and for an untimed round or
two, Seymour played for him with hard punches to the body at every
opportunity.  It became clear that the spoiler's bulk was more "beef"
than muscle.  He was becoming a spectacle.  His rushes lost their
force; his swings grew hopelessly wild; his guard, never effective,
broke down entirely.

"Punishment enough for manhandling you?" Seymour asked Moira, as the
whirligig of battle brought him facing her.

"Yes--yes, he's paid!" she cried.

The sergeant waded in then, regardless of the embrace he no longer
feared.  He beat Bonnemort to his knees.  No _coup de grâce_ was
necessary, as the overgrown miner was blubbering for mercy.  The
Siwash gallery was beginning to grumble that none was delivered when
they saw the victor produce a pair of handcuffs and snap them on the
defeated one's wrists.  Bonnemort seemed too dazed to notice the
official trend in the situation, until--

"I arrest you, Harry Karmack, in the name of the King for the murder
of Oliver O'Malley, at Armistice, Northwest Territories."

Stunned by the surprise of his capture, turned white by the shock of
the unexpected charge, the former factor stared about him wildly.

As for Moira O'Malley, the double surprise was almost too much.
Fright had prevented her recognition of the familiar features of her
Northern suitor now that his hair was turned to red; and all through
the hunt, no hint had come to her from the close-lipped sleuth of the
open places that the man he had sworn to "get" had raised his hand
against her brother.



CHAPTER XXVI

BOOT AND BOOTY

"You'd best behave, Karmack."  Seymour accented the name of surprise
that the girl might become convinced that their hunt was really done.
"Your dyed pate don't fool me and I'm no longer bound by our slogan
of 'never fire first.'  You took a couple of first shots up in the
Arctic, remember, and have just tried another here.  One false move
and you get yours."

Karmack stood very still.  "What do you mean by that murder talk,
Seymour?" he asked after a moment in which, evidently, he realized
the folly of further denial of identity.  "I may have squeezed a
little from the grasping old Arctic to give me a start in British
Columbia, but I swear I had nothing to do with the strangling of
young O'Malley."

Moira still seemed puzzled.  "I thought--  Didn't the jury say that
Avic, the Eskimo--"  She could not finish for emotion.

"It takes two men to use the Ugiuk-line effectively," Seymour
explained to the girl.  "I know, for I've had one around my own neck
and barely broke out of the clutch.  This fiend hired Avic to help
him put your brother away--hired him with promise of a trip Outside
to be tried for murder.  Can you imagine!  Now it will be ex-Factor
Karmack who takes the trip--Inside."

Karmack moved restlessly, with the result of tightening the
sergeant's grip.  "But man, what motive could I possibly have had?"
he begged nervously.  "What motive?"

"From some outside source you learned that O'Malley had been sent to
Armistice to investigate you and you knew that, despite your best
efforts, he had succeeded in getting the goods.  What you didn't know
was that already he had sent out his report.  I've been almost sure
of your guilt ever since I learned that those black and silver fox
pelts came from your old company's store room, two of the lot you
held out on your employers."

Seymour turned to Moira.  "Would you mind, dear, telling those
Siwashes to get back to work?  Please convince them who I am and that
I've taken charge in the king's name.  That always goes strong with
Indians.  Make them understand that none of them is to leave the
diggings."

Moira seemed to shake herself together from this blow he had
delivered with all possible mercy.  "I don't exactly understand,
friend, but I thank you."  She stepped into the circle of wondering
natives and repeated his orders in Chinook.

"But he wears no uniform," objected one in English.

"He needs no scarlet tunic," the girl replied.  "_He is the law_."
This also she repeated in their jargon of gutturals.

On order, Karmack led the way to the tent.  Seymour followed close
behind with his arm supporting Moira, who seemed a bit unsteady.

There was a groan from the pretended half-breed when he saw that the
lid of the treasure chest was thrown back.

"Since when did the Force take to breaking the locks of honest men?"
he snarled.

Instead of answering, Seymour slammed down the lid and motioned his
old enemy to seat himself upon the chest.  Then he crossed the tent
and picked up the tell-tale boot.  Returning with it, he made a
comparison.

"Thought so," he murmured.

There was no need for further measuring and he tossed the gear under
the table.  Karmack had the biggest feet he had ever seen.  By no
possibility could one of them have been forced into the boot which he
had just flung down.

Knowing nothing of the footprints Seymour had found near the scene of
Caswell's killing, Moira O'Malley looked on at the comparison of
boots in mystified silence.  Karmack seemed to have a better grasp of
the reason behind the test.

"I'm no murderer," he muttered, glowering at his captor.

"Wait until I get your latest partner, Kluger," said the sergeant.

Seymour seemed on the verge of enlightening Moira when she raised a
hand of caution.  "Listen," she whispered.

They heard hoof beats hammering into camp.  Some one on horseback was
coming at speed.  The sergeant crossed to the tent front and peered
out between the flaps.

"Guess we won't have to go for Kluger, after all," he said, still
peering.

Karmack muttered an oath, his petulance directed against old lady
Luck, who gets the credit for the best and blame for the worst that
happens to illogical humans.

"Bonnie--Bonnemort!  Where are you?"  The deep-throated call came
from outside.

"Where d'you suppose?" Seymour called back in a voice that he hoped
would pass for the pretended half-breed's.

He turned to Moira, quietly directing her to crouch behind the
treasure chest and keep her gun on the ex-factor.

"No more fighting with fists,--please!" she begged.

"There's no woman in this man's case," he whispered, and motioned for
silence.

Phil Brewster walked into the tent a moment later, and Seymour
realized it was the first time he had seen him on foot.  The affable
freighter stepped with a limp.

"What you sitting there for, you big boob?" Brewster put his question
to Karmack before glancing about the tent.

"Thinking it over, perhaps."  From a point back of Brewster, where he
had stood unnoticed, Seymour broke in before the pretender could
speak for himself.

Brewster whirled, and with the move his gun appeared from handy
concealment.  But the sergeant had expected some such desperate act
and was ready.  His left hand caught the freighter's right at the
wrist and swung it upward.  Brewster's bullet let a look of blue sky
through the canvas roof, while the muzzle of the Mountie's revolver
prodded the ribs of his suspect.  The freighter saw fit to obey a
command to drop his weapon.

"Sorry I haven't more bracelets with me," Seymour said.  "Moira, if
you'll look under the clothes rack, where I found that boot just now,
you'll find a length of rope."

"What's all this about, you high-binder?" Brewster demanded.

"You remind me--I neglected to introduce myself when we met yesterday
and the day before.  Karmack, there, might tell you that I call
myself Seymour, sergeant of the Royal Mounted."

"But he's dead!" blurted out Brewster.

"Not that he knows of," Seymour assured him quietly; "but you have a
very good reason for thinking so.  Now, if you'll oblige by putting
your hands behind you--"

When Brewster obeyed, perforce, the sergeant directed Moira to tie
the wrists.  After he had inspected the knots and recovered the
fallen gun, he suggested that Brewster sit down on one of the cots
until they were ready to start back to Gold.  The freighter, in doing
so, swung his right leg over his left knee.  From his seat on the
opposite cot, Seymour saw on the exposed sole one of the peculiar
leather-saving metal plates in which he was so interested--the one
that had made its impression in the soil near the scene of the
murder.  Reaching under the table, he retrieved the spare boot he had
thrown there and saw that they matched in every particular.

"Just to make everything according to Hoyle, Brewster," the sergeant
said, "I now place you under arrest for the murder of Bart Caswell,
alias Sergeant Seymour."

Brewster seemed stunned at the charge.  His eyes, as if by instinct,
avoided Seymour's steady gaze.  He looked at the scowling Karmack,
starting slightly at his first glimpse of the nickeled wristlets the
man wore.

"Who's the boob now?" snarled Karmack.  "Leaving tracks with your bad
foot for any fool Mountie to read!"

"Shut up, you fool!"  A look of fright crossed Brewster's handsome
face.  For a second he seemed about to spring upon Karmack.  Then, as
quickly as it had come, the spasm passed.  He turned his eyes on
Seymour.  "If you ever press this ridiculous charge," he said, "I'll
prove it false to the jury.  I've done some freighting for the B. &
K. outfit, nothing more.  Rode in here to-day to collect a bill.
Down at the cañon, Kluger passed me on to Bonnemort.  I ran into
you--and trouble."

After a moment's pause, Brewster continued: "Say, if you really are
Sergeant Seymour, who was the uniformed bird that came to Gold as
Bart Caswell?"

"Bart Caswell's widow is ready to tell the court why he killed Ben
Tabor in robbing the B.C.X. stage of my uniform and papers," the
sergeant answered somewhat cryptically.

"Poor Ruth," murmured Moira.  "She really believed."

"Well, I'll be----" Brewster began.

"Told you Caswell was a crook," whined Karmack.  "No yellow legs
would have let himself be caught the way I got him that day up here
on the creek."

Seymour waited for Moira to speak.  When she came toward him her face
wore the bravest smile he had ever seen on a woman.

"What next, pardner?" she asked whimsically.

"The first step," he told her, "is to rig up some sort of an M.P.
seal for that treasure chest I broke open."

Without ceremony, the sergeant lifted Karmack to his feet and ushered
him to the left-hand cot.  From that seat, the disfigured
ne'er-do-well might glare more conveniently at Brewster.

"But that chest holds only frog-gold," Moira reminded Seymour.  "The
Siwashes have all the real gold, and it belongs to them."

"You don't really think that a close and crooked corporation like
Brewster, Kluger and Karmack would supply food, dynamite and expert
management for a bunch of Indians only to take their pay in pretty
specimens, do you, Moira?"

She studied the proposition from the new angle which his question
presented.  "It doesn't seem reasonable, but----"

"It isn't reasonable," he interposed, raising the lid of the chest
that she might feast her eyes upon its heaping gray store.  "This
frog-gold, as your father calls it, happens to be platinum--worth six
times its weight in gold."



CHAPTER XXVII

BRIGHT WITH PROMISE

With his astonishing declaration of the real richer-than-gold wealth
of the Glacier Greek placers, Seymour turned to Brewster for
confirmation.  "What is the current quotation on platinum?" he asked.

But the freighter no longer was affable.  "I'm no bureau of
information," he growled.

"Try me," offered Karmack with a return of his old-time effrontery.
"Dear eyes, at the present time that platinum is worth a hundred and
fifteen simoleons an ounce--was up to a hundred and seventy during
the war!"

"And the purest gold brings a trifle over twenty dollars," the
sergeant reminded the girl.  "You see I was nearly exact."

With a quick glance, as if the presence of such a store of wealth
frightened her, Moira lowered the lid.

"Then the Glacier Mission Indians are----" she hesitated.

"Rich--for them," he supplied.  "What's more the O'Malley claims
between the cañon mouth and the Cheena are heavier with frog-gold
than those up the creek, or I don't know my mineralogy.  You and your
father and Miss Ruth will be near-millionaires."

Seymour would not have cared to explain the worried look that came
unbidden into his eyes, had he been taxed with it.  Complications
foreseen were responsible.

He improvised a flimsy fastening to replace the lock he had broken,
and pinned over the chest crack a sheet of paper on which he had
written "Officially Sealed, R. Seymour, Sergeant, R.C.M.P."  Then he
made a young Siwash, picked by Moira, vain for life by swearing him
in as a special constable and placing him on guard at the tent door.
His instructions were to permit no one to pass until Seymour
returned, and he was entrusted with Brewster's gun to support his
authority.

Inspection showed that the Siwashes had gone back to work under
"king's orders."  Seymour had no thought of telling them how rich
they were making themselves, until their status was fixed by the
proper court.  Meantime they'd be best off, continuing their labor,
for "all the gold" allotted them by the spoilers.

With Brewster tied to his saddle and Karmack, still handcuffed, on
foot, the prisoners were started down creek under the guns of the
sergeant and his volunteer aid.  Beneath the non-com.'s arm was a
worn boot for a lame right foot, his prize "Exhibit B."  First honors
in the evidence line were in the commissioner's vault back in
Ottawa--"Exhibit A," a pair of fox pelts, one silver and one black.
Of the three murders he had solved, that of poor Oliver O'Malley
would always have first place in his personal record book.

On the down creek tramp, Seymour told Moira what he knew of the
wonder story of platinum.  Her missionary father had not been the
first to call this occasional associate of gold a nuisance and to
throw it away, not knowing what else to do with it.  In less than a
generation the gray metal had emerged from the lesser metals, crept
past silver and then raced beyond gold into the limelight of
popularity.  Whatever the ultimate fate of the ore it was certain to
remain a treasure-metal until long after Glacier Creek had been mined
out.

For his own satisfaction, as well as hers, he outlined the plot
against the Indians as he now saw it.  Phil Brewster, he believed,
had recognized platinum in the frog-gold which the Siwashes were
discarding.  The freighter had sent back to Montreal for Kluger to
direct the harvest.  Knowing at least something of Karmack's plight,
Kluger had brought the Armistice murderer with him as an assistant
and had posed him as a half-breed as part of the disguise.  Whether
or not the latter knew that the father of the youth he had caused to
be slain in the Arctic lived in the immediate vicinity of the
platinum bed was a question.  At any rate, the criminal probably
figured that he would be safer in a sealed British Columbia cañon
than in the cafés of the city that lately has become the gayest in
North America.  Brewster undoubtedly had been riding guard outside
under cover of his established freighting business.

The trio had corralled the Indians on their own claims in the easiest
possible way--by giving them all the gold that was sluiced, while
they took the six-times richer platinum.  Their discovery that Bart
Caswell had recognized their precious metal had sealed his death
warrant.  Its execution had been prompt, as she knew.  He could only
hope that the official executions which seemed called for would not
be too long delayed.

After some persuasion and the reminder that Moira was a persistent
young person, he sketched the steps by which he had walked through
the local mystery.  His conviction that Bart had robbed the stage,
based on recognition of the uniform, had given him a "head start" and
had proved a lever with the widow Caswell.  She had started him on a
"richer than gold" search.  Moira herself, with her tip about the
frog-gold, had spurred him, for he suspected it to be platinum.  The
squaw tale that the Siwashes were getting all the gold had helped,
and the shaking of a platinum nugget from the ore sack had completed
his enlightenment.  As for the black-hearted Karmack, whose hair had
turned red--well, that was an excellent piece of dyer's art, but one
Scarlet Seymour would be long forgiving himself for not having
recognized it as such that memorable night at the Venetian Gardens.

"Do you suppose my being there had anything to do----" began Moira.

"Why, most wonderful girl alive, I particularly wanted to get him to
close the books with----"  He interrupted himself at thought of the
platinum wealth at the mouth of the creek.

They passed the graveyard diggings without disturbing the Siwashes at
their labors.  At the tent camp in the cañon, Seymour surprised
Kluger, sacking platinum for the get-away which Brewster had warned
him was imminent.  The little man was so preoccupied with his
delightful task, and in such fancied security, that the sergeant had
a gun to his back before he looked up from the booty.  Two additional
saddle horses were annexed here, which Moira and Seymour mounted.

At the "gate" they surprised one of the two hired guards in
controversy with O'Malley.  Anxious about his daughter, the old
missionary was trying to talk his way into the gulch.  At seeing his
employers under arrest, the guard resigned on the spot and could not
hand over his rifle soon enough.  On the ride into Gold, the other
guard was encountered, headed back to his "work."  Single-handed,
Shan O'Malley made the last necessary capture, adding another
prospective witness for the king's case.

Not until Seymour had gone through the formality of borrowing the
town jail from Deputy Hardley, and the prisoners were safely immured,
with the ice-box door really locked, did Moira seem to remember her
costume.  A signal sent from her seat in the saddle brought the
sergeant out of the curious crowd about the log calaboose.

"I can't stay to celebrate your victory, Russell," she informed him.
"I've got to get back to my tribe--my scrubbing brush.  I've just
realized that I must look a--a scandal in this rig.  Even in Gold,
B.C., I have a social standing to maintain."

Her threatened departure surprised him, left him suddenly confused.
"Your standing as a heroine in Gold couldn't be disturbed by a blast
of dynamite after what you've done to-day," he assured her.  "And
have you forgotten--don't you realize what it means that at last I've
got my man?  I've got to go back to Glacier to-night, you know.  I'd
thought of dinner and an official escort home."

For a moment she considered, then the eyes which he once had likened
as being "smudged in by a sooty finger," flashed him all the love in
their world.

"Sorry I can't wait in this rig, Sergeant Scarlet," she teased, "but
there's nothing to hinder your coming to the mission on Glacier as
soon as you're ready."  She started her horse.  "But be sure," she
called back to him, "be sure not to forget to bring my father with
you.  He's the only parson in these diggings."

She had gone before he could thank her; but all the platinum on
Glacier couldn't buy from him the memory of those recent crowded
hours.

The crowd remembered that he was a member of the Force, even if he
had momentarily forgotten that fact.  They clamored about him for
details of the crime clean-up, few of which they would hear from him.
There was Deputy Hardley to be put straight about the B.C.X. holdup;
and Mrs. Caswell to thank for her "richer than gold" help, and
special constables to be selected and sworn for service at the
borrowed jail and on the creek.  Indeed there was much for
Staff-Sergeant Seymour to do in his new domain, but when at last he
was free he saw to it that the Rev. Shan O'Malley brushed stirrups
with him all the way to Glacier.



THE END.





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