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Produced by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Mary Meehan and
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net









THE HEART OF UNAGA

BY RIDGWELL CULLUM

AUTHOR OF "_The Triumph of John Kars_," "_The Law Breakers_," "_The Way
of the Strong_," _etc._


A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York

Published by arrangement with G. P. Putnam's Sons

COPYRIGHT, 1920
BY RIDGWELL CULLUM

Made in the United States of America

The Knickerbocker Press, New York




CONTENTS


PART I

I. - JULYMAN TELLS OF THE "SLEEPER" INDIANS

II. - THE PASSING OF A DREAM

III. - THE GOING OF STEVE

IV. - UNAGA

V. - MARCEL BRAND

VI. - AN-INA

VII. - THE HARVEST OF WINTER

VIII. - BIG CHIEF WANAK-AHA

IX. - THE VISION OF THE SPIRE

X. - THE RUSH OUTFIT

XI. - STEVE LISTENS

XII. - REINDEER

XIII. - "ADRESOL"

XIV. - MALLARD'S

XV. - THE SET COURSE


PART II

I. - AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS

II. - THE SPRING OF LIFE

III. - MANHOOD

IV. - KEEKO

V. - A DUEL

VI. - THE KING OF THE FOREST

VII. - SUMMER DAYS

VIII. - THE HEART OF THE WILDERNESS

IX. - THE CLOSE OF THE SEASON

X. - THE FAREWELL

XI. - THROUGH THE EYES OF A WOMAN

XII. - KEEKO RETURNS HOME

XIII. - THE FAITH OF MEN

XIV. - THE VALLEY OF DREAMS

XV. - THE HEART OF UNAGA

XVI. - KEEKO AND NICOL

XVII. - THE DEVOTION OF A GREAT WOMAN

XVIII. - THE VIGIL

XIX. - THE STORE-HOUSE

XX. - THE HOME-COMING

XXI. - THE GREAT REWARD




The Heart of Unaga




PART I




CHAPTER I

JULYMAN TELLS OF THE "SLEEPER" INDIANS


Steve Allenwood raked the fire together. A shower of sparks flew up and
cascaded in the still air of the summer night. A moment later his
smiling eyes were peering through the thin veil of smoke at the two
dusky figures beyond the fire. They were Indian figures, huddled down on
their haunches, with their moccasined feet in dangerous proximity to the
live cinders strewn upon the ground.

"Oh, yes?" he said. "And you guess they sleep all the time?"

The tone of his voice was incredulous.

"Sure, boss," one of the Indians returned, quite unaffected by the tone.
The other Indian remained silent. He was in that happy condition between
sleep and waking which is the very essence of enjoyment to his kind.

Inspector Allenwood picked up a live coal in his bare fingers. He
dropped it into the bowl of his pipe. Then, after a deep inhalation or
two, he knocked it out again.

"'Hibernate' - eh? That's how we call it," he said presently. Then he
shook his head. The smile had passed out of his eyes. "No. It's a dandy
notion. But - it's not true. They'd starve plumb to death. You see,
Julyman, they're human folks - the same as we are."

The flat denial of his "boss" was quite without effect upon Julyman.
Oolak, beside him, roused himself sufficiently to turn his head and
blink enquiry at him. He was a silent creature whose admiration for
those who could sustain prolonged talk was profound.

"All same, boss, that so," Julyman protested without emotion. "Him same
like all men. Him just man, squaw, pappoose. All same him
sleep - sleep - sleep, when snow comes," Julyman sucked deeply at his pipe
and spoke through a cloud of tobacco smoke. "Julyman not lie. Oh, no.
Him all true. When Julyman young man - very young - him father tell him of
Land of Big Fire. Him say all Indian man sleeping - so." He leant over
sideways, with his hands pressed together against his cheek to
illustrate his meaning. "Him father say this. Him say when snow come All
Indian sleep. One week - two week. Then him wake - so." He stretched
himself, giving a great display of a weary half-waking condition. "Him
sit up. The food there by him, an' he eat - eat plenty much. Then him
drink. An' bimeby him drink the spirit stuff again. Bimeby, too, him
roll up in blanket. Then him sleep some more. One week - two week. So.
An' bimeby winter him all gone. Oh, him very wise man. Him no work lak
hell same lak white man. No. Him sleep - sleep all him winter. An' when
him wake it all sun, an' snow all gone. All very much good. Indian man
him go out. Him hunt the caribou. Him fish plenty good. Him kill much
seal. Make big trade. Oh, yes. Plenty big trade. So him come plenty old
man. No him die young. Only very old. Him much wise man."

The white man smiled tolerantly. He shrugged.

"Guess you got a nightmare, Julyman," he said. "Best turn over."

Steve had nothing to add. He knew his scouts as he knew all other
Indians in the wide wilderness of the extreme Canadian north. These
creatures were submerged under a mental cloud of superstition and
mystery. He had no more reason to believe the story of "hibernating"
Indians than he had for believing the hundred and one stories of Indian
folklore he had listened to in his time.

Julyman, too, considered the subject closed. He had said all he had to
say. So the spasm of talk was swallowed up by the silence of the summer
night.

The fire burned low, and was replenished from the wood pile which stood
between the two teepees standing a few yards away in the shadow of the
bush which lined the trail. These men, both white and coloured, had the
habit of the trail deeply ingrained in them. But then, was it not their
life, practically the whole of it? Stephen Allenwood was a police
officer who represented the white man's law in a district as wide as a
good-sized European country, and these scouts were his only assistants.

They were at headquarters now enjoying a brief respite from the endless
trail which claimed all their life and energies. And such was the nature
of their work, and so absorbing the endless struggle of it, that their
focus of holiday-making was little better than sitting over a camp-fire
at night smoking, and occasionally talking, and waiting for the call of
nature summoning them to their blankets.

It was a wonderful night, still and calm, and with a radiance of
starlight overhead. There was the busy hum of insect life from the
adjacent woods, a deep murmur from the sluggish tide of the great
Caribou River which drained the country for miles around. The occasional
sigh that floated upon the air spoke of lofty pine crests bending under
a light top breeze which refrained from disturbing the lower air. The
night left the impression of unbreakable peace, of human content, and a
world where elemental storms were unknown.

But the impression was misleading, as are all such impressions in
nature's wild, and where the human heart beats strongly. There was no
content in the grey eyes of the white man as he sat gazing into the
heart of the fire. Then, too, not one of them but knew the cruel moods
of the great Northland.

A wonderful companionship existed between these men. It was something
more than the companionship of the long trail. They had fought the
battle of life together for eight long years, enduring perils and
hardships which had brought them an understanding and mutual regard
which no difference in colour, or education could lessen. For all the
distinction of the police officer's rank and his white man's learning,
for all the Indians were dark-skinned, uncultured products of the great
white outlands, they were three friends held by bonds which only the
hearts of real men could weld.

The territory over which Steve Allenwood exercised his police control
was well-nigh limitless from a "one-man" point of view. From his
headquarters, which lay within the confines of the Allowa Indian Reserve
on the Caribou River, it reached away to the north as far as the Arctic
Circle. To the west, only the barrier of the great McKenzie River marked
its limits. To the south, there was nothing beyond the Reserve claiming
his official capacity, except the newly grown township of Deadwater, two
miles away. Eastwards? Well, East was East. So far as Inspector
Allenwood knew his district had no limits in that direction, unless it
were the rugged coast line of the Hudson's Bay itself.

His task left Steve Allenwood without complaint. It was never his way to
complain. Doubtless there were moments in his life when he realized the
overwhelming nature of it all. But he no more yielded to it than he
would yield to the overwhelming nature of a winter storm. That was the
man. Patient; alive with invincible courage and dispassionate
determination. Square, calm, strong, like the professional gambler he
always seemed to have a winning card to play at the right moment. And
none knew better than his scouts how often that card had meant the
difference between a pipe over the warm camp-fire and the cold comfort
of an icy grave.

Julyman was troubled at the unease he observed in the white man's eyes.
It had been there on and off for some days now. It had been there more
markedly earlier in the evening when the white man had helped his girl
wife into the rig in which Hervey Garstaing, the Indian Agent, was
driving Dr. and Mrs. Ross, and their two daughters, to the dance which
was being given down at the township by the bachelors of Deadwater.
Since then the look had deepened, and Julyman, in spite of his best
efforts, had failed to dispel it. Even his story of a race of
"hibernating" Indians had been without effect.

But Julyman did not accept defeat easily. And presently he removed the
foul pipe from his thin lips, and spat with great accuracy into the
heart of the fire.

"Bimeby she come," he said, in his low, even tones, while his black,
luminous eyes were definitely raised to the white man's face. "Oh, yes.
Bimeby she come. An' boss then him laff lak hell. Julyman know. Julyman
have much squaw. Plenty."

Steve started. For a moment he stared. Then his easy smile crept into
his steady eyes again and he nodded.

"Sure," he said. "Bimeby she come. Then I laff - like hell."

Julyman's sympathy warmed. He felt he had struck the right note. His
wide Indian face lit with an unusual smile.

"Missis, him young. Very much young," he observed profoundly. "Him lak
dance plenty - heap. It good. Very good. Bimeby winter him come. Cold lak
hell. Missis no laff. Missis not go out. Boss him by the long trail. So.
Missis him sit. Oh yes. Him sit with little pappoose. No dance. No
nothin'. Only snow an' cold - lak hell."

This time the man's effort elicited a different response. Perhaps he had
over-reached. Certainly the white man's eyes had lost the look that had
inspired the Indian. They were frowning. It was the cold frown of
displeasure. Julyman knew the look. He understood it well. So he went no
further. Instead he spat again into the fire and gave himself up to a
luxurious hate of Hervey Garstaing, the Indian Agent, whom all Indians
hated.

Julyman was only a shade removed from his original savagery. There were
times when he was not removed from savagery at all. This was such a
moment. For he abandoned himself to the silent contemplation of a vision
of the heart of the Indian Agent roasting over the fire before him. It
was stuck on the cleaning-rod of his own rifle like a piece of bread to
be toasted. Furthermore his was the hand holding the cleaning-rod. He
would willingly throw the foul heart to the camp dogs - when it was
properly cooked.

His vision was suddenly swept away by a sound which came from somewhere
along the trail in the direction of Deadwater. There was a faint,
indistinct blur of voices. There was also the rattle of wheels, and the
sharp clip of horses' hoofs upon the hard-beaten road. He instinctively
turned his head in the direction. And as he did so Steve Allenwood stood
up. Just for a moment the white man stood gazing down the shadowed
trail. Then he moved off in the direction of his four-roomed log house.

Left alone the Indians remained at the fireside; Oolak - the
silent - indifferent to everything about him except the pleasant warmth
of the fire; Julyman, on the contrary, angrily alert. He was listening
to the sounds which grew momentarily louder and more distinct. And with
vicious relish he had already distinguished Hervey Garstaing's voice
amongst the rest. It was loud and harsh. How he hated it. How its tones
set the dark blood in his veins surging to his head.

"Why sure," he heard him say, "the boys did it good. They're bright
boys."

In his crude fashion the scout understood that the Agent was referring
to the evening's entertainment. It was the soft voice of Mrs. Ross which
replied, and Julyman welcomed the sound. All Indians loved the "med'cine
woman," as they affectionately called the doctor's wife.

"It was the best party we've had in a year," she cried enthusiastically.
"You wouldn't have known old Abe's saloon from a city hall at Christmas
time, with its decorations and its "cuddle-corners" all picked out with
Turkey red and evergreens. And you girls! My! you had a real swell time.
There were boys enough and to spare for you all. And they weren't the
sort to lose much time either. The lunch was real elegant, too, with the
oysters and the claret cup. My! it certainly was a swell party."

The wagon had drawn considerably nearer. The quick ears of the Indian
had no difficulty with the language of the white folk. His main source
of interest was the identity of those who were speaking. And, in
particular, he was listening for one voice which he had not as yet been
able to distinguish. Hervey Garstaing seemed to do most of the talking.
And how he hated the sound of that voice.

"Why, say, Dora," he heard him exclaim in good-natured protest, as the
outline of the team loomed up out of the distance. "I don't guess Mrs.
Allenwood and I sat out but two dances. Ain't that so, Nita?"

Julyman's ears suddenly pricked. He may have been an uncultured savage,
but he was a man, and very human. And the subtle inflection, as the
Agent addressed himself to Steve Allenwood's wife, was by no means lost
upon him.

"Three!"

The answer came in chorus from the two daughters of the doctor. And it
came with a giggle.

"Oh, if you're going to count a supper 'extra,' why - Anyway what's three
out of twenty-seven. There's no kick coming to that. Guess a feller
would be all sorts of a fool - - "

"If he didn't take all that's coming his way at a dance," broke in the
doctor's genial voice, with a laugh.

The wagon was abreast of him, and Julyman's eyes were studiously
concerned with the glowing heart of the fire. But nothing escaped them.
Nothing ever did escape them. He closely scanned the occupants of the
wagon. Dr. and Mrs. Ross were in the back seat, and their two daughters
were facing them. Hervey Garstaing was driving, and Nita Allenwood was
sitting beside him. It was all just as it had been earlier in the
evening when he had seen them set out for Deadwater.

Oh, yes. It was all the same - with just a shade of difference. Nita was
sitting close - very close to the teamster. She was sitting much closer
than when Steve, earlier in the evening had tucked the rug about her to
keep the chill summer evening air from penetrating the light dancing
frock she was wearing. They were both tucked under one great buffalo
robe now. It was a robe he knew to be Hervey Garstaing's.

As the vehicle passed the fire Dr. Ross flung a genial greeting at the
two Indians. Julyman responded with a swift raising of his eyes, and one
of his broad, unfrequent smiles. Then, as the wagon passed, his eyes
dropped again to the fire.

He knew. Oh, yes, he knew. Had he not sat with many squaws who seemed
desirable in his eyes? Yes, he had sat just so. Close. Oh, very close.
Yes, he was glad his boss had taken himself off. Maybe he was looking
down into the depths of the basket which held the little white pappoose
back there in his home. It was good to look at the little pappoose when
there was trouble at the back of a father's eyes. It made the trouble
much better. How he hated the white man, Hervey Garstaing.

* * * * *

For once Julyman's instincts were at fault. He had read the meaning of
Steve Allenwood's sudden departure in the light of his own
interpretation of the trouble he had seen in the man's grey eyes. He was
entirely wrong.

Steve had heard the approaching wagon, and he knew that his wife and the
other folk were returning from the dance. But almost at the same instant
he had detected the sound of horses' hoofs in an opposite direction. It
was in the direction of his home. Julyman had missed the latter in his
absorbed interest in the return of these folk from Deadwater.

Steve reached the log home in the bluff at the same moment as a horseman
reined up at his door. The man in the saddle leant over, peering into
the face of the Inspector. The darkness left him uncertain.

"Deadwater post?" he demanded abruptly.

Steve had recognized the man's outfit. The brown tunic and side-arms,
the prairie hat, and the glimpse of a broad yellow stripe on the side of
the riding breeches just where the man's leather chapps terminated on
his hips. These things were all sufficient.

"Sure."

"Inspector Allenwood, sir?"

The man's abrupt tone had changed to respectful inquiry.

"I'm your man, Corporal."

The Corporal flung out of the saddle.

"Sorry I didn't rec'nize you, sir," he said saluting quickly. "It's
pretty dark. It's a letter from the Superintendent - urgent." He drew a
long, blue envelope from his saddle wallets and passed it to his
superior. "Maybe you can direct me to the Indian Agent, Major Garstaing,
sir. I got a letter for him."

Steve Allenwood glanced up from the envelope he had just received.

"Sure. Best cut through the bluff. There's a trail straight through
brings you to his house. It's mostly a mile and a half. Say, you'll need
supper. Get right along back when you've finished with him. When did you
start out?"

"Yesterday morning, sir."

The Inspector whistled.

"Fifty miles a day. You travelled some."

The Corporal patted his steaming horse's neck.

"He's pretty tough, is old Nigger, sir," he said, with quiet pride. "Mr.
McDowell wanted me to pick up a horse at Beaufort last night, but I
wouldn't have done any better. Nigger can play the game a week without a
worry. Guess I'll get on, sir, and make back after awhile. That the
barn, sir?" he went on, pointing at a second log building a few yards
from the house, as he swung himself into the saddle again. "I won't need
supper. I had that ten miles back on the trail. I off-saddled at an
Indian lodge where they lent me fire to boil my tea."

Steve nodded.

"Very well, Corporal. There's blankets here in the office when you come
back. This room, here," he added, throwing open the door. "I'll set a
lamp for you. There's feed and litter for your plug at the barn. Rub him
down good."

"Thank you, sir."

The man turned his horse and headed away for the trail through the
bluff, and Steve watched him go. Nor could he help a feeling of
admiration for the easy, debonair disregard of difficulties and hardship
which these men of his own force displayed in the execution of their
work. In his utter unself-consciousness he was quite unaware that
wherever the police were known his own name was a household word for
these very things which he admired in another.

He passed into his office and lit the lamp. Then he seated himself at
the simple desk where his official reports were made out. It was a
plain, whitewood table, and his office chair was of the hard Windsor
type.

He tore open his letter and glanced at its contents. It was from his own
immediate superior, Superintendent McDowell, and dated at Fort Reindeer.
It was quite brief and unilluminating. It was a simple official order to
place himself entirely at the disposal of Major Hervey Garstaing, the
Indian Agent of the Allowa Indian Reserve - who was receiving full
instructions from the Indian Commissioner at Ottawa - on a matter which
came under his department.

He read the letter through twice. He was about to read it for a third
time, but laid it aside. Instead he rose from the table and moved
towards the door as the wagon from Deadwater drew up outside.




CHAPTER II

THE PASSING OF A DREAM


Steve and his wife were in the parlour of their little home. It was the
home which Steve had had built to replace his bachelor shanty, and which
together they had watched grow, and over the furnishing of which they
had spent hours of profound thought and happy discussions.

The office was entirely separate, that is, it had its own entrance door
and no communication with the rest. The private quarters consisted of
three rooms. The parlour, a bedroom for Steve and Nita, and, leading out
of the latter, a small apartment sacred to the tiny atom of humanity
which they had christened Coqueline, and whom the man, from the moment
his eyes had been permitted to gaze upon her, some fifteen months
earlier, regarded as the most perfect, wonderful, priceless treasure in
the world. Beyond this, a simple lean-to kitchen provided all they
needed for their creature comfort.

It was all characteristic of the Northern world. The walls were of
lateral logs, and the roof was of a similar material, while the entire
interior was lined with red pine match-boarding. It was strong, and
square, and proof against the fiercest storm that ever blew off the
Arctic ice, which was all sufficient in a country where endurance was
man's chief concern.

Nita was seated in the rocking-chair which Steve had set ready for her
beside the stove, whose warmth was welcome enough even on a summer
night. She was sipping a cup of steaming coffee which he had also
prepared. But there was nothing of the smiling delight in her eyes which
the memory of her evening's entertainment should have left there.

The man himself was standing. He was propped against the square table
under the window. He was smoking, and watching the girl wife he idolized
as she silently munched the slice of layer cake which he had passed her.
He was wondering if the long-expected, and long-feared moment of crisis
in their brief married life had arrived. He had watched its approach for
weeks. And he knew that sooner or later it must be faced. He was even
inclined to force it now, for such was his way. Trouble was in her eyes,
and he felt certain of its nature. Nita was not made of the stuff that
could withstand the grind of the dour life of the Northland which he
loved.

They had been married about three years and Nita had as yet spoken no
actual word of complaint. But the complaint was there at the back of her
pretty eyes. It had been there for months now. Steve had watched it
grow. And its growth had been rapid enough with the passing of the first
months of the delirious happiness which had been theirs, and which had
culminated in the precious arrival of their little daughter Coqueline.

"Guess you must have had a real good time," Steve said, by way of
breaking the prolonged silence.

For reply the girl only nodded.

The contrast between them was strongly marked. Nita was
pretty - extremely pretty, and looked as out of place in this land she
was native to as Steve looked surely a part of it. But her charm was of
that purely physical type which gains nothing from within. Her eyes
were wide, child-like, and of a deep violet. Her hair was fair and
softly wavy. Her colouring had all the delicacy which suggested the
laying on by an artist's brush, and which no storm or sun seemed to have
power to destroy. Her slight figure possessed all those perfect contours
which are completely irresistible in early youth. Furthermore these
things were supported to the utmost by the party frock she was wearing,
and over which she had spent weeks of precious thought and labour.

Steve was of the trail. Face and body were beaten hard with the endless
struggle of it all. His rough clothing, which had no relation to the
smart Inspector's uniform he was entitled to wear, bore witness to the
life that claimed him. His only claim to distinction was the sanity and
strength that looked out of his steady grey eyes, the firmness and
decision of his clean-shaven lips, and his broad, sturdy body with its
muscles of iron.

"You'll be tired, too," he went on kindly. "You'd best get to bed when
you've had a warm. I'll fix the chores."

He moved from his position at the table, and, passing out into the
lean-to kitchen, returned a moment later with a small saucepan which he
placed on the shining top of the stove.

"Mrs. Ross seems to figure it was all sorts of a swell party," he went



Online LibraryRidgwell CullumThe Heart of Unaga → online text (page 1 of 30)