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"What in Halifax - ?"

"Shove 'em up!" came the crisp, peremptory order.

Eight hands wavered skyward.

"Is this a hold-up - or what?" one of the teamsters wanted to know

"Call it whatever you like. You with the fur cap hitch up the mules to
the second wagon. Don't make a mistake and try for a getaway. You'll
be a dead smuggler."

The man hesitated. Was this red-coat alone?

Tom strolled out of the ditch, a sawed-off shotgun under his arm.
"I judge you bored through your difficulties, constable," he said

"Through the bed of the wagon and the end of a rum keg. Stir your
stumps, gentlemen of the whiskey-running brigade. We're on the way to
Fort Edmonton if it suits you."

If it did not suit them, they made no audible protest of disagreement.
Growls were their only comment when, under direction of Beresford,
the Montanan stripped them of their weapons and kept guard on the
fur-capped man - his name appeared to be Lemoine - while the latter
brought the mules to the wagon pointed out by the officer.

"Hook 'em," ordered Morse curtly.

The French-Indian trapper hitched the team to the wagon. Presently
it moved beyond the circle of firelight into the darkness. Morse sat
beside the driver, the short-barreled weapon across his knees.
Three men walked behind the wagon. A fourth, in the uniform of the
North-West Mounted, brought up the rear on horseback.



When Bully West discovered that such part of the cargo of wet goods
as was in wagon number two had disappeared and along with it the four
mule-skinners, his mind jumped to an instant conclusion. That it
happened to be the wrong one was natural enough to his sulky,
suspicious mind.

"Goddlemighty, they've double-crossed us," he swore to his partner,
with an explosion of accompanying profanity. "Figure on cleanin' up on
the goods an' cuttin' back to the States. Tha's what they aim to do.
Before I can head 'em off. Me, I'll show 'em they can't play monkey
tricks on Bully West."

This explanation did not satisfy Whaley. The straight black line of
the brows above the cold eyes met in frowning thought.

"I've got a hunch you're barkin' up the wrong tree," he lisped with a
shrug of shoulders.

Voice and gesture were surprising in that they were expressions of
this personality totally unexpected. Both were almost womanlike in
their delicacy. They suggested the purr and soft padding of a cat, an
odd contradiction to the white, bloodless face with the inky brows.
The eyes of "Poker" Whaley could throw fear into the most reckless
bull-whacker on the border. They held fascinating and sinister
possibilities of evil.

"Soon see. We'll hit the trail right away after them," Bully replied.

Whaley's thin lip curled. He looked at West as though he read to
the bottom of that shallow mind and meant to make the most of his

"Yes," he murmured, as though to himself. "Some one ought to stay with
the rest of the outfit, but I reckon I'd better go along. Likely you
couldn't handle all of 'em if they showed fight."

West's answer was a roar of outraged vanity. "Me! Not round up them
tame sheep. I'll drive 'em back with their tongues hangin' out.

At break of day he was in the saddle. An experienced trailer, West
found no difficulty in following the wagon tracks. No attempt had been
made to cover the flight. The whiskey-runner could trace at a road
gait the narrow tracks along the winding road.

The country through which he traveled was the border-land between the
plains and the great forests that rolled in unbroken stretch to the
frozen North. Sometimes he rode over undulating prairie. Again he
moved through strips of woodland or skirted beautiful lakes from the
reedy edges of which ducks or geese rose whirring at his approach. A
pair of coyotes took one long look at him and skulked into a ravine.
Once a great moose started from a thicket of willows and galloped over
a hill.

West heeded none of this. No joy touched him as he breasted summits
and looked down on wide sweeps of forest and rippling water. The
tracks of the wheel rims engaged entirely his sulky, lowering gaze. If
the brutish face reflected his thoughts, they must have been far from
pleasant ones.

The sun flooded the landscape, climbed the sky vault, slid toward the
horizon. Dusk found him at the edge of a wooded lake.

He looked across and gave a subdued whoop of triumph. From the timber
on the opposite shore came a tenuous smoke skein. A man came to the
water with a bucket, filled it, and disappeared in the woods. Bully
West knew he had caught up with those he was tracking.

The smuggler circled the lower end of the lake and rode through the
timber toward the smoke. At a safe distance he dismounted, tied
the horse to a young pine, and carefully examined his rifle. Very
cautiously he stalked the camp, moving toward it with the skill and
the stealth of a Sarcee scout.

Camp had been pitched in a small open space surrounded by bushes.
Through the thicket, on the south side, he picked a way, pushing away
each sapling and weed noiselessly to make room for the passage of his
huge body. For such a bulk of a figure he moved lightly. Twice he
stopped by reason of the crackle of a snapping twig, but no sign of
alarm came from his prey.

They sat hunched - the four of them - before a blazing log fire,
squatting on their heels in the comfortable fashion of the outdoors
man the world over. Their talk was fragmentary. None gave any sign of
alertness toward any possible approaching danger.

No longer wary, West broke through the last of the bushes and
straddled into the open.

"Well, boys, hope you got some grub left for yore boss," he jeered,
triumph riding voice and manner heavily.

He waited for the startled dismay he expected. None came. The drama of
the moment did not meet his expectation. The teamsters looked at him,
sullenly, without visible fear or amazement. None of them rose or

Sultry anger began to burn in West's eyes. "Thought you'd slip one
over on the old man, eh? Thought you could put over a raw steal an'
get away with it. Well, lemme tell you where you get off at. I'm gonna
whale every last one of you to a frazzle. With a big club. An'
I'm gonna drive you back to Faraway like a bunch of whipped curs.

Still they said nothing. It began to penetrate the thick skull of
the trader that there was something unnatural about their crouched
silence. Why didn't they try to explain? Or make a break for a

He could think of nothing better to say, after a volley of curses,
than to repeat his threat. "A thunderin' good wallopin', first off.
Then we hit the trail together, you-all an' me."

From out of the bushes behind him a voice came. "That last's a good
prophecy, Mr. West. It'll be just as you say."

The big fellow wheeled, the rifle jumping to his shoulder. Instantly
he knew he had been tricked, led into a trap. They must have heard him
coming, whoever they were, and left his own men for bait.

From the other side two streaks of scarlet launched themselves at him.
West turned to meet them. A third flash of red dived for his knees. He
went down as though hit by a battering-ram.

But not to stay down. The huge gorilla-shaped figure struggled to
its feet, fighting desperately to throw off the three red-coats long
enough to drag out a revolver. He was like a bear surrounded by
leaping dogs. No sooner had he buffeted one away than the others
were dragging him down. Try as he would, he could not get set. The
attackers always staggered him before he could quite free himself for
action. They swarmed all over him, fought close to avoid his sweeping
lunges, hauled him to his knees by sheer weight of the pack.

Lemoine flung one swift look around and saw that his captors were very
busy. Now if ever was the time to take a hand in the mêlée. Swiftly he
rose. He spoke a hurried word in French.

"One moment, s'il vous plaît." From the bushes another man had
emerged, one not in uniform. Lemoine had forgotten him. "Not your
fight. Better keep out," he advised, and pointed the suggestion with a
short-barreled shotgun.

The trapper looked at him. "Is it that this iss your fight, Mistair
Morse?" he demanded.

"Fair enough. I'll keep out too."

The soldiers had West down by this time. They were struggling to
handcuff him. He fought furiously, his great arms and legs threshing
about like flails. Not till he had worn himself out could they pinion

Beresford rose at last, the job done. His coat was ripped almost from
one shoulder. "My word, he's a whale of an animal," he panted. "If I
hadn't chanced to meet you boys he'd have eaten me alive."

The big smuggler struggled for breath. When at last he found words, it
was for furious and horrible curses.

Not till hours later did he get as far as a plain question. "What does
this mean? Where are you taking me, you damned spies?" he roared.

Beresford politely gave him information. "To the penitentiary, I hope,
Mr. West, for breaking Her Majesty's revenue laws."



All week Jessie and her foster-mother Matapi-Koma had been busy
cooking and baking for the great occasion. Fergus had brought in a
sack full of cottontails and two skunks. To these his father had added
the smoked hindquarters of a young buffalo, half a barrel of dried
fish, and fifty pounds of pemmican. For Angus liked to dispense
hospitality in feudal fashion.

Ever since Jessie had opened her eyes at the sound of Matapi-Koma's
"Koos koos kwa" (Wake up!), in the pre-dawn darkness of the wintry
Northern morn, she had heard the crunch of snow beneath the webs of
the footmen and the runners of the sleds. For both full-blood Crees
and half-breeds were pouring into Faraway to take part in the
festivities of Ooche-me-gou-kesigow (Kissing Day).

The traders at the post and their families would join in the revels.
With the exception of Morse, they had all taken Indian wives, in
the loose marriage of the country, and for both business and family
reasons they maintained a close relationship with the natives. Most of
their children used the mother tongue, though they could make shift
to express themselves in English. In this respect as in others the
younger McRaes were superior. They talked English well. They could
read and write. Their father had instilled in them a reverence for the
Scriptures and some knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments. It
was his habit to hold family prayers every evening. Usually half
a dozen guests were present at these services in addition to his
immediate household.

With the Indians came their dogs, wolfish creatures, prick-eared and
sharp-muzzled, with straight, bristling hair. It was twenty below
zero, but the gaunt animals neither sought nor were given shelter.
They roamed about in front of the fort stockade, snapping at each
other or galloping off on rabbit hunts through the timber.

The custom was that on this day the braves of the tribe kissed every
woman they met in token of friendship and good-will. To fail of
saluting one, young or old, was a breach of good manners. Since
daybreak they had been marching in to Angus McRae's house and gravely
kissing his wife and daughter.

Jessie did not like it. She was a fastidious young person. But she
could not escape without mortally offending the solemn-eyed warriors
who offered this evidence of their esteem. As much as possible she
contrived to be busy upstairs, but at least a dozen times she was
fairly cornered and made the best of it.

At dinner she and the other women of the fort waited on their guests
and watched prodigious quantities of food disappear rapidly. When the
meal was ended, the dancing began. The Crees shuffled around in a
circle, hopping from one foot to the other in time to the beating of
a skin drum. The half-breeds and whites danced the jigs and reels the
former had brought with them from the Red River country. They took the
floor in couples. The men did double-shuffles and cut pigeon wings,
moving faster and faster as the fiddler quickened the tune till they
gave up at last exhausted. Their partners performed as vigorously, the
moccasined feet twinkling in and out so fast that the beads flashed.

Because it was the largest building in the place, the dance was held
in the C.N. Morse & Company store. From behind the counter Jessie
applauded the performers. She did not care to take part herself. The
years she had spent at school had given her a certain dignity.

A flash of scarlet caught her eye. Two troopers of the Mounted
Police had come into the room and one of them was taking off his fur
overcoat. The trim, lean-flanked figure and close-cropped, curly head
she recognized at once with quickened pulse. When Winthrop Beresford
came into her neighborhood, Jessie McRae's cheek always flew a flag of

A squaw came up to the young soldier and offered innocently her face
for a kiss.

Beresford knew the tribal custom. It was his business to help
establish friendly relations between the Mounted and the natives. He
kissed the wrinkled cheek gallantly. A second dusky lady shuffled
forward, and after her a third. The constable did his duty.

His roving eye caught Jessie's, and found an imp of mischief dancing
there. She was enjoying the predicament in which he found himself. Out
of the tail of that same eye he discovered that two more flat-footed
squaws were headed in his direction.

He moved briskly across the floor to the counter, vaulted it, and
stood beside Jessie. She was still laughing at him.

"You're afraid," she challenged. "You ran away."

A little devil of adventurous mirth was blown to flame in him. "I saw
another lady, lonely and unkissed. The Force answers every call of

Her chin tilted ever so little as she answered swiftly.

"He who will not when he may,
When he will he shall have nay."

Before she had more than time to guess that he would really dare, the
officer leaned forward and kissed the girl's dusky cheek.

The color flamed into it. Jessie flung a quick, startled look at him.

"Kissing Day, Sleeping Dawn," he said, smiling.

Instantly she followed his lead. "Sleeping Dawn hopes that the Great
Spirit will give to the soldier of the Great Mother across the seas
many happy kissing days in his life."

"And to you. Will you dance with me?"

"Not to-day, thank you. I don't jig in public."

"I was speaking to Miss McRae and not to Sleeping Dawn, and I was
asking her to waltz with me."

She accepted him as a partner and they took the floor. The other
dancers by tacit consent stepped back to watch this new step, so
rhythmic, light, and graceful. It shocked a little their sense of
fitness that the man's arm should enfold the maiden, but they were
full of lively curiosity to see how the dance was done.

A novel excitement pulsed through the girl's veins. It was not the
kiss alone, though that had something to do with the exhilaration that
flooded her. Formally his kiss had meant only a recognition of
the day. Actually it had held for both of them a more personal
significance, the swift outreach of youth to youth. But the dance was
an escape. She had learned at Winnipeg the waltz of the white race.
No other girl at Faraway knew the step. She chose to think that the
constable had asked her because this stressed the predominance of her
father's blood in her. It was a symbol to all present that the ways of
the Anglo-Saxon were her ways.

She had the light, straight figure, the sense of rhythm, the
instinctively instant response of the born waltzer. As she glided over
the floor in the arms of Beresford, the girl knew pure happiness. Not
till he was leading her back to the counter did she wake from the
spell the music and motion had woven over her.

A pair of cold eyes in a white, bloodless face watched her beneath
thin black brows. A shock ran through her, as though she had been
drenched with icy water. She shivered. There was a sinister menace in
that steady, level gaze. More than once she had felt it. Deep in her
heart she knew, from the world-old experience of her sex, that the man
desired her, that he was biding his time with the patience and the
ruthlessness of a panther. "Poker" Whaley had in him a power of
dangerous evil notable in a country where bad men were not scarce.

The officer whispered news to Jessie. "Bully West broke jail two weeks
ago. He killed a guard. We're here looking for him."

"He hasn't been here. At least I haven't heard it," she answered

For Whaley, in his slow, feline fashion, was moving toward them.

Bluntly the gambler claimed his right. "Ooche-me-gou-kesigow," he

The girl shook her head. "Are you a Cree, Mr. Whaley?"

For that he had an answer. "Is Beresford?"

"Mr. Beresford is a stranger. He didn't know the custom - that it
doesn't apply to me except with Indians. I was taken by surprise."

Whaley was a man of parts. He had been educated for a priest, but had
kicked over the traces. There was in him too much of the Lucifer for
the narrow trail the father of a parish must follow.

He bowed. "Then I must content myself with a dance."

Jessie hesitated. It was known that he was a libertine. The devotion
of his young Cree wife was repaid with sneers and the whiplash. But he
was an ill man to make an enemy of. For her family's sake rather than
her own she yielded reluctantly.

Though a heavy-set man, he was an excellent waltzer. He moved evenly
and powerfully. But in the girl's heart resentment flamed. She knew he
was holding her too close to him, taking advantage of her modesty in a
way she could not escape without public protest.

"I'm faint," she told him after they had danced a few minutes.

"Oh, you'll be all right," he said, still swinging her to the music.

She stopped. "No, I've had enough." Jessie had caught sight of her
brother Fergus at the other end of the room. She joined him. Tom Morse
was standing by his side.

Whaley nodded indifferently toward the men and smiled at Jessie, but
that cold lip smile showed neither warmth nor friendliness. "We'll
dance again - many times," he said.

The girl's eyes flashed. "We'll have to ask Mrs. Whaley about that. I
don't see her here to-night. I hope she's quite well."

It was impossible to tell from the chill, expressionless face of the
squaw-man whether her barb had stung or not. "She's where she belongs,
at home in the kitchen. It's her business to be well. I reckon she is.
I don't ask her."

"You're not a demonstrative husband, then?"

"Husband!" He shrugged his shoulders insolently. "Oh, well! What's in
a name?"

She knew the convenient code of his kind. They took to themselves
Indian wives, with or without some form of marriage ceremony, and
flung them aside when they grew tired of the tie or found it galling.
There was another kind of squaw-man, the type represented by her
father. He had joined his life to that of Matapi-Koma for better or
worse until such time as death should separate them.

In Jessie's bosom a generous indignation burned. There was a reason
why just now Whaley should give his wife much care and affection.
She turned her shoulder and began to talk with Fergus and Tom Morse,
definitely excluding the gambler from the conversation.

He was not one to be embarrassed by a snub. He held his ground,
narrowed eyes watching her with the vigilant patience of the panther
he sometimes made her think of. Presently he forced a reëntry.

"What's this I hear about Bully West escaping from jail?"

Fergus answered. "Two-three weeks ago. Killed a guard, they say. He
was headin' west an' north last word they had of him."

All of them were thinking the same thing, that the man would reach
Faraway if he could, lie hidden till he had rustled an outfit, then
strike out with a dog team deeper into the Lone Lands.

"Here's wishin' him luck," his partner said coolly.

"All the luck he deserves," amended Morse quietly.

"You can't keep a good man down," Whaley boasted, looking straight at
the other Indian trader. "I wouldn't wonder but what he'll pay a few
debts when he gets here."

Tom smiled and offered another suggestion. "If he gets here and has
time. He'll have to hurry."

His gaze shifted across the room to Beresford, alert, gay,
indomitable, and as implacable as fate.



It was thirty below zero. The packed snow crunched under the feet of
Morse as he moved down what served Faraway for a main street. The
clock in the store registered mid-afternoon, but within a few minutes
the sub-Arctic sun would set, night would fall, and aurora lights
would glow in the west.

Four false suns were visible around the true one, the whole forming a
cross of five orbs. Each of these swam in perpendicular segments of a
circle of prismatic colors. Even as the young man looked, the lowest
of the cluster lights plunged out of sight. By the time he had reached
the McRae house, darkness hung over the white and frozen land.

Jessie opened the door to his knock and led him into the living-room
of the family, where also the trapper's household ate and Fergus
slept. It was a rough enough place, with its mud-chinked log walls and
its floor of whipsawed lumber. But directly opposite the door was a
log-piled hearth that radiated comfort and cheerfulness. Buffalo robes
served as rugs and upon the walls had been hung furs of silver fox,
timber wolves, mink, and beaver. On a shelf was a small library of not
more than twenty-five books, but they were ones that only a lover of
good reading would have chosen. Shakespeare and Burns held honored
places there. Scott's poems and three or four of his novels were in
the collection. In worn leather bindings were "Tristram Shandy,"
and Smollett's "Complete History of England." Bunyan's "Pilgrim's
Progress" shouldered Butler's "Hudibras" and Baxter's "The Saint's
Everlasting Rest." Into this choice company one frivolous modern novel
had stolen its way. "Nicholas Nickleby" had been brought from Winnipeg
by Jessie when she returned from school. The girl had read them all
from cover to cover, most of them many times. Angus too knew them all,
with the exception of the upstart "storybook" written by a London
newspaper man of whom he had never before heard.

"I'm alone," Jessie explained. "Father and Fergus have gone out to the
traps. They'll not be back till to-morrow. Mother's with Mrs. Whaley."

Tom knew that the trader's wife was not well. She was expecting to be
confined in a few weeks.

He was embarrassed at being alone with the girl inside the walls of
a house. His relations with Angus McRae reached civility, but not
cordiality. The stern old Scotchman had never invited him to drop in
and call. He resented the fact that through the instrumentality of
Morse he had been forced to horsewhip the lass he loved, and the
trader knew he was not forgiven his share in the episode and probably
never would be. Now Tom had come only because a matter of business had
to be settled one way or the other at once.

"Blandoine is leavin' for Whoop-Up in the mornin'. I came to see your
father about those robes. If we buy, it'll have to be now. I can send
'em down with Blandoine," he explained.

She nodded, briskly. "Father said you could have them at your price if
you'll pay what he asked for those not split. They're good hides - cows
and young bulls."[5]

[Footnote 5: A split robe was one cut down the middle and sewn
together with sinews. The ones skinned from the animal in a single
piece were much more valuable, but the native women usually prepared
the hides the other way because of the weight in handling. One of the
reasons the Indians gave the missionaries in favor of polygamy was
that one wife could not dress a buffalo robe without assistance. The
braves themselves did not condescend to menial labor of this kind.

"It's a deal," the fur-trader said promptly. "Glad to get 'em, though
I'm payin' all I can afford for the split ones."

"I'll get the key to the storehouse," Jessie said.

She walked out of the room with the springy, feather-footed step that
distinguished her among all the women that he knew. In a few moments
she was back. Instead of giving him the key, she put it down on the
table near his hand.

Beneath the tan the dark blood beat into his face. He knew she had
done this in order not to run the risk of touching him.

For a long moment his gaze gripped and held her. Between them passed
speech without words. His eyes asked if he were outside the pale

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Online LibraryWilliam MacLeod RaineMan Size → online text (page 7 of 18)