THE FUR BRINGERS
A STORY OF THE CANADIAN NORTHWEST
Author of "Jack Chanty," "Thieves Wit," "A Substitute Millionaire," etc.
THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY
Copyright, 1920, by
THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the U.S.A.
I JUNE FEVER
II FORT ENTERPRISE
IV THE MEETING
V AN INVITATION TO DINE
VI THE DINNER
VII TWO INTERVIEWS
VIII IN AMBROSE'S CAMP
X ANOTHER VISITOR
XI ALEXANDER SELKIRK AND FAMILY
XII GATHERING SHADOWS
XIII THE QUARREL
XIV SIMON GRAMPIERRE
XV THE PLAN OF CAMPAIGN
XVI COLINA COMMANDS
XVII THE STAFF OF LIFE
XVIII A BLOODLESS CAPTURE
XIX WOMAN'S WEAPONS
XXI THE SUBTLETY OF GORDON STRANGE
XXII THE "TEA DANCE"
XXIII FIRE AND RAPINE
XXIV COLINA RELENTS
XXVII A CHANGE OF JAILERS
XXVIII A GLEAM OF HOPE
XXXI THE ALARM
XXXII THE TRAP
XXXIII THE TEST
XXXIV ANOTHER CHANGE OF JAILERS
XXXV THE JAIL VISITOR
XXXVI COLINA'S ENTERPRISE
XXXVIII THE FINDING OF NESIS
XXXIX THE TRIAL
XL AM UNEXPECTED WITNESS
XLI FROM DUMB LIPS
XLII THE AVENGING OF NESIS
XLIII NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS
THE FUR BRINGERS
The firm of Minot & Doane sat on the doorsill of its store on Lake
Miwasa smoking its after-supper pipes.
It was seven o'clock of a brilliant day in June. The westering sun
shone comfortably on the world, and a soft breeze kept the mosquitoes
Moreover, the tobacco was of the best the store afforded; yet there was
no peace between the two. They bickered like schoolboys kept indoors.
"How many link-skins in the bale you made up today?" asked Peter Minot.
"Three-seventy-two," his young partner answered in a surly tone that
was in itself a provocation.
"I made it three-seventy-three," said Peter curtly.
"What's the difference?" demanded Ambrose Doane.
"Seven dollars," said Peter dryly.
"Well, you can claim the extra one, can't you," snarled Ambrose, "and
make an allowance if it's found short?"
"That's not the way I like to do business!"
"Too bad about you!"
The older man frowned darkly, clamped his teeth upon his pipe, and held
His silence was an additional aggravation to the other. "What do you
want me to do," he burst out with an amount of passion absurdly
disproportionate to the matter at issue, "cut it open and count it over
and bale it up again?"
"To blazes with it!" said Peter. "I want you to keep your temper!"
"I'm sick of this!" cried Ambrose with the wilful abandon of one
hopelessly in the wrong. "You're at me from morning till night!
Nothing I do is right. Why can't you leave me alone?"
Peter took his pipe out of his mouth and looked at his young partner in
astonishment. His face turned a dull brick color and his blue eyes
He spoke in a voice of portentous softness: "Who the hell do you think
you are? A little gorramighty? To make a mistake is natural; to fly
into a temper when it is discovered is childish. What's the matter
with you these past ten days, anyway? A man can't look at you but you
begin to bark and froth. You'd best go off by yourself a while and eat
grass to cool your blood!"
Having delivered himself, Peter pulled deeply at his pipe and gazed
across the lake with a scowl of honest resentment.
It was a long speech to come from Peter, and it went unexpectedly to
the point. Ambrose was silenced. For a long time neither spoke.
Little by little the angry red faded out of Peter's cheeks and neck,
and his forehead smoothed itself. Stealing a glance at young Ambrose,
the blue eyes began to twinkle.
"Say!" he said suddenly.
Ambrose twisted petulantly and muttered in his throat.
"Stick out your tongue!" commanded Peter.
Ambrose stared at him in angry stupefaction. "What the deuce—"
"No," said Peter, "you're not sick. Your eyeballs is as clean as new
milk; your skin is as pink as a spanked baby. No, you're not sick, so
There was another silence, Ambrose squirming a little and blushing
under Peter's calm, speculative gaze.
"Have you anything against me?" Peter finally inquired. "If you have,
out with it!"
The young man shook his head unhappily.
"Forget it then!" cried Peter with a scornful, kindly grin. "You
ornery worthless Slavi, you! You Shushwap! You Siwash! Change your
face or you'll give the dog distemper!"
Ambrose laughed sheepishly and stole a glance at his partner. There
was pain in his bold eyes, and the wish to bare it to his friend as to
a surgeon; but he dreaded Peter's laughter.
There was another long silence. The atmosphere was now much clearer.
Peter, having come to a conclusion, removed his pipe and spoke again:
"I know what's the matter with you."
"What?" muttered Ambrose.
"You've got the June fever."
Ambrose made no comment.
"I mind it when I was your age," Peter continued; "when the ice goes
out of the lake and the poplar-trees hang out their little earrings,
that's when a man catches it—when Molly Cottontail puts on her brown
jacket and Skinny Weasel a yellow one. The south wind brings the
microbe along with it, and it multiplies in the warm earth. Gee! It
makes even an old feller like me poetical. After six months of winter
Still Ambrose kept his eyes down and said nothing.
Peter smoked on, and his eyes became reminiscent. "I mind it well," he
continued, "the second spring I was in the country. The first year I
didn't notice it so much, but the second year—when the warm weather
come I was like a wild man. I saw red! I wanted to fight every man I
laid eyes on. I felt like I would go clean off my head if I couldn't
Ambrose broke in on Peter's reminiscences. He seemed scarcely to have
"I don't know what's the matter with me!" he cried bitterly. "I can't
seem to settle down to anything lately. I've got no use for myself at
all. I get so cranky, anybody that speaks to me I want to punch them.
God knows I need company, too. It is certainly square of you to put up
with me the way you do. I appreciate it—"
"Aw, bosh!" muttered Peter.
"I've tried to work it off!" cried Ambrose. "You know I've worked,
though I've generally made a mess of things because I can't keep my
mind on anything. My head goes round like a top. Half the time I'm in
a daze. I feel as if I was going crazy. I don't know what is the
matter with me!"
"Twenty-five years old," murmured Peter; "in the pink of condition!
I'm telling you what's the matter with you. It's a plain case of June
fever. Ask any of the fellows up here."
"What am I going to do?" said Ambrose. "As it is, I work till I'm
ready to drop."
"I mind when I had it," said Peter, "I came to a camp of French
half-breeds on Musquasepi, and I saw Eva Lajeunesse for the first time.
It was like a blow between the eyes. You do not know what she looked
like then. I didn't think about it this way or that; I just up and
married her. I was glad to get her!
"Man to man I'll not deny I ain't been sorry sometimes," he went on;
"who ain't, sometimes? But, on the whole, after all these years, how
could I have done any better? She's good enough for me. A man worries
about his children sometimes; but I guess if they go straight there's a
place for them, though they are dusky. Eva, she has her bad points,
but she's been real good to me. How can I be but grateful!"
This was a rare and unusual confidence for Peter to offer his young
partner. Ambrose, flattered and embarrassed, did not know what to say,
and said nothing.
He was right, for if he had referred to it, Peter would have been
obliged to turn it into a joke. As it was, they smoked on in
understanding silence. Finally Peter went on:
"You see, I gave right in. You're different; you want to fight the
thing. Blest if I know what to tell you."
"Eva and I don't get on very well," said Ambrose shamefacedly. "She
doesn't like me around the house. But I respect her. You know that."
"Sure," said Peter.
"I couldn't do it, Peter," Ambrose went on after a while with seeming
irrelevance—howsoever Peter understood. "God knows it's not because I
think myself any better than anybody else, or because I think a man
does for himself by marrying a—by marrying up here. But I just
couldn't do it, that's all."
"No offense," said Peter. "Every man must chop his own trail. I won't
say but what you're right. But what are you going to do? A man can't
live and die alone."
"I don't know," said Ambrose.
"Tell you what," said Peter; "you take the furs out on the steamboat."
"I won't," said Ambrose quickly. "I went out last year. It's your
"But I'm contented here," said Peter.
Ambrose shook his head. "It wouldn't do me any real good," he said.
"It makes it worse after. It did last year. I couldn't bring a white
wife up here."
"Well, sir, it's a problem," said Peter with a weighty shake of the
This serious, sentimental kind of talk was a strain on both partners.
Ambrose made haste to drop the subject.
"I believe I'll start the new warehouse to-morrow," he said. "I like
to work with logs. First, I must measure the ground and make a working
Peter was not sorry to be diverted. "Hadn't we better get lumber from
the 'Company' mill?" he suggested. "Looks like up to date somehow."
"A board shack looks rotten in the woods?" said Ambrose.
"You're so gol-durn artistic," said Peter quizzically.
Minot & Doane's store was a long log shack with a sod roof sprouting a
fine crop of weeds. The original shack had been added to on one side,
then on the other. There was a pleasing diversity of outline in the
main building and its wings. The whole crouched low on the ground as
though for warmth.
Three crooked little windows and three doors so low that a short man
had to duck his head under the lintels, faced the lake. The middle
door gave ingress to the store proper; the door on the right was the
entrance to Peter Minot's household quarters; while that on the left
opened to a large room used variously for stores and bunks.
Farther to the left stood the little shack that housed Ambrose Doane in
bachelor solitude, and a few steps beyond, the long, low, log stable
for the use of the freighters in winter.
Seen from the lake the low, spreading buildings in the rough clearing
among gigantic pines were not unpleasing. Rough as they were, they
fulfilled the first aim of all architecture; they were suitable to the
The traveler by water landed on a stony beach, climbed a low bank and
followed a crooked path to the door of the store. On either hand
potato and onion patches flourished among the stumps.
From the door-sill where the partners sat, the farther shore of the
lake could be seen merely as a delicate line of tree tops poised in the
Off to the right their own shore made out in a shallow, sweeping curve,
ending half a mile away in a bold hill-point where the Company's post
of Fort Moultrie had stood for two hundred years commanding the western
end of the lake and its outlet, Great Buffalo River.
To one who should compare the outward aspects of the two
establishments, Minot & Doane's offered a ludicrous contrast to the
imposing white buildings of Fort Moultrie, arranged military-wise on
the grassy promontory; nevertheless, as is not infrequently the case
elsewhere, the humbler store did the larger trade.
The coming of Peter Minot ten years before had worked a kind of
revolution in the country. He had brought war into the very stronghold
of the arrogant fur monopoly, and had succeeded in establishing himself
next door. The results were far-reaching. Formerly the Indian sat
humbly on the step with his furs until the trader was pleased to open
his door; whereas now when the Indian landed, the trader ran down the
hill with outstretched hand.
Far and wide Minot & Doane were known as the "free-traders"; and some
of their customers journeyed for three hundred miles to trade in the
little log store.
The partners were roused by a shrill hail from up the shore. Grateful
for the interruption, they hastened to the edge of the bank.
Summer is the dull season in the fur trade. Most of the firm's
customers were "pitching off" among the hills, and visitors were rare
enough to be notable.
"Poly Goussard," said Ambrose after an instant's examination of the
dug-out nosing alongshore. Ambrose's keenness of vision was already
known in a land of keen-eyed men.
"Taking his woman to see her folks," added Peter.
Soon the long, slender canoe grounded on the stones below them. It
contained in addition to all the worldly goods of the family, a swarthy
French half-breed, his Cree wife and three coppery infants in pink
The man climbing over his family indiscriminately, landed and came up
the bank with outstretched hand. The woman and children remained
sitting like statues in their narrow craft, staring unwinkingly at the
Mrs. Goussard as a full-blooded Cree was considerably below Peter's
half-breed wife in the social scale, and she knew better than to make a
call uninvited. Even in the north, woman, the conservator, maintains
"Stay all night," urged Peter when formal greetings had been exchanged.
"Bring your family ashore."
Poly Goussard shook his head. Poly had a chest like a barrel, a face
the color of Baldwin apples and a pair of rolling, gleaming, sloe-black
eyes. His head of curly black hair was famous; some one had called him
the "Newfoundland dog."
"I promise my wife I sleep wit' her folks to-night," he said. "It is
ten miles yet. I jus' come ashore for a little talk."
"Fine!" said Peter, "we're spoiling for news. Come on up to the store
and have a cigar."
Seven hundred miles from the railway a cigar is something of a
phenomenon. Poly Goussard displayed twenty dazzling teeth and made
haste to follow. The three men entered the store and found seats on
boxes and bales.
"Me, I work all winter at Fort Enterprise," said Poly.
"So I heard," said Peter. "You've had quite a trip."
The rosy half-breed shrugged. "It is easy. Jus' floatin' down the
Spirit River six days."
"What kind of a job did they give you at Enterprise?" asked Peter.
"I drove a team, me, haulin' logs to the saw-mill," said Poly. "There
is plentee work at Fort Enterprise."
"The Company's most profitable post," remarked Peter to Ambrose. "They
have everything their own way there." The look which accompanied this
suggested to Ambrose it would be a good place for Minot & Doane to
start a branch.
"What did you think of the place, Poly?" asked Ambrose.
The half-breed flung up his hands and dramatically rolled his eyes.
"Wa! Wa! Towasasuak! It is a gran' place! Jus' lak outside!
Trader him live in great big house all make of smooth boards and paint'
yellow and red lak the sun! Never I see before such a tall house, and
so many rooms inside full of fine chairs and tables so smoot' and shiny.
"He is so reech he put blankets on the floor to walk on, w'at you call
carrpitt. Every day he has a white cloth on the table, and a little
one to wipe his hands! I have seen it! And silver dishes!"
"There is style for you!" said Peter, with a whimsical roll of his eye
in Ambrose's direction.
"There is moch farming by the river at Fort Enterprise," Poly went on;
"and plaintee grain grow. There is a mill to grind flour. Steam mak'
it go lak the steamboat. They eat eggs and butter at Fort Enterprise,
and think not'ing of it. Christmas I have turkey and cranberry sauce.
I am going back, me."
"They say the trader John Gaviller is a hard man," suggested Peter.
Poly shrugged elaborately. "Maybe. He owe me not'ing. Me, I would
not farm for him nor trade my fur at his store. Those people are his
slaves. But he pay a strong man good wages. I will tak' his wages and
snap my fingers!
"But wait!" cried Poly with a sparkling eye. "The 'mos' won'erful
thing I see at Fort Enterprise—Wa!—the laktrek light! Her shine in
little bottles lak pop, but not so big. John Gaviller, him clap his
hands, so! and Wa! she shine!
"Indians, him t'ink it is magic. But I am no fool. I know John
Gaviller make the laktrek in an engine in the mill. Me, I have seen
that engine. I see blue fire inside lak falling stars.
"Gaviller send the laktrek to the store inside a wire. He send some to
his house too. They said it cook the dinner, but I think that is a
lie. If a man touch that wire they say he will jomp to the roof! Me?
I did not try it."
Peter chuckled. "Good man!" he said.
The wonders of Fort Enterprise were not new to Ambrose. Other
travelers the preceding summer had brought the same tale. With the air
that politeness demanded he only half listened, and pursued his own
On the other hand Peter, who delighted in his humble friends, drew out
Poly fully. The half-breed told about the bringing in of the winter's
catch of fur; of the launching of the great steamboat for the summer
season, and many other things.
"Enterprise is sure a wonderful place!" said Peter encouragingly.
"There is something else," said Poly proudly. "At Fort Enterprise
there is a white girl!"
The simple sentence had the effect of the ringing of an alarm going
inside the dreamy Ambrose. He drew a careful mask over his face, and
leaned farther into the shadow.
"So!" said Peter with a glance in the direction of his young partner.
"That is news! Who is she?"
"Colina Gaviller, the trader's daughter," said Poly.
"Is she real white?" asked Peter cautiously.
"White as raspberry flowers!" asseverated Poly with extravagant
gestures; "white as clouds in the summer! white as sugar! Her hair is
lak golden-rod; her eyes blue lak the lake when the wind blows over it
in the morning!"
Peter glanced again at his partner, but Ambrose was farthest from the
window, and there was nothing to be read in his face.
"Sure," said Peter; "but was her mother a white woman ?"
"They say so," said Poly. "Her long tam dead."
"When did the girl come?" asked Peter.
"Las' fall before the freeze-up," said Poly. "She come down the Spirit
River from the Crossing on a raf'. Michel Trudeau and his wife, they
bring her. Her fat'er he not know she comin'. Her fat'er want her
live outside and be a lady. She say 'no!' She say ladies mak' her
sick.' Michel tell me she say that.
"She want always to ride and paddle a canoe and hunt. Michel say she
is more brave as a man! John Gaviller say she got go out again this
summer. She say 'no!' She is not afraid of him. Me, I t'ink she lak
to be the only white girl in the country, lak a queen."
"How old is she?" inquired Peter.
"Twenty years, Michel say," answered Poly. "Ah! she is beautiful!" he
went on. "She walk the groun' as sof' and proud and pretty as fine
yong horse! She sit her horse like a flower on its stem. Me and her
good frens too. She say she lak me for cause I am simple. Often in
the winter she ride out wit' my team and hunt in the bush while I am
"What did Eelip say to that?" Peter inquired facetiously. Eelip was
"Eelip?" queried Poly, surprised. "Colina is the trader's daughter,"
he carefully explained. "She live in the big house. I would cut off
my hand to serve her."
"I suppose Miss Colina has plenty of suitors?" said Peter.
Ambrose hung with suspended breath on the reply.
Poly shook his curly pate. "Who is there for her?" he demanded.
"Macfarlane the policeman is too fat; the doctor is too old, his hair
is white; the parson is a little, scary man. All are afraid of her;
her proud eye mak' a man feel weak inside. There are no ot'er white
men there. She is a woman. She mus' have a master. There is no man
in the country strong enough for that!"
There was a brief silence in the cabin while Poly relighted his cigar.
Ambrose had given no sign of being affected by Poly's tale beyond a
slight quivering of the nostrils. But Peter watching him slyly, saw
him raise his lids for a moment and saw his dark eyes glowing like
coals in a pit. Peter chuckled inwardly, and said:
"Tell us some more about her."
Ambrose's heart warmed gratefully toward his partner. He thirsted for
more like a desert traveler for water, but he dared not speak for fear
of what he might betray.
"I will tell you 'ow she save Michel Trudeau's life," said Poly,
nothing loath, "I am the first to come down the river this summer or
you would hear it before. Many times Michel is tell me this story.
Never I heard such a story before. A woman to save a man!
"Wa! Every Saturday night Michel tell it at the store. And John
Gaviller give him two dollars of tobacco, the best. I guess Michel is
glad the trader's daughter save him. Old man proud, lak he is save
Poly Goussard, having smoked the cigar to within half an inch of his
lips, regretfully threw the half inch out the door. He paused, and
coughed suggestively. A second cigar being forthcoming, he took the
time to light it with tenderest care. Meanwhile, Ambrose kicked the
bale on which he sat with an impatient heel.
"It was the Tuesday after Easter," Poly finally began. "It was when
the men went out to visit their traps again after big time at the fort.
There was moch frash snow fall, and heavy going for the dogs. Colina
Gaviller she moch friends with Michel Trudeau for because he was bring
her in on his raf las' fall.
"Often she go with him lak she go with me. Michel carry her up on his
sledge, and she hunt aroun' while he visit his traps. Michel trap up
on the bench three mile from the fort. He not get much fur so near,
but live home in a warm house, and work for day's wages for John
Poly paragraphed his story with luxurious puffs at the cigar and
careful attention to keep it burning evenly.
"So on Tuesday after Easter they go out toget'er. Colina Gaviller ride
on the sledge and Michel he break trail ahead. Come to the bench,
leave the dogs in a shelter Michel build in a poplar bluff. Michel go
to see his traps, and Colina walk away on her snowshoes wit' her little
"Michel not ver' good lok that day. In his first trap find fool-hen
catch herself. He is mad. Second trap is little cross-fox; third trap
"Come to fourth trap, wa! see somesing black on the snow! Wa! Wa!
Him heart jomp up! Think him got black fox sure! But no! It is too
big. Come close and look. What is he catch you think? It is a black
"Everybody know some tam a bear wake up too soon in winter and come out
of his hole and roll aroun' lak he was drunk. He can't find somesing
to eat nowhere, and don' know what to do!
"This bear him catch his paw in Michel's little fox trap. It was chain
to a little tree. Bear too weak to pull his paw out or break the
chain. He lie down lak dead.
"Michel him ver' mad. Him think got no lok at all after Easter. For
'cause that bear is poor as a bird out of the egg. Michel mak' a noise
to wake him up. But always he lie still lak dead. Michel think all
"Bam-by he lean over with his knife. Wa! Bear jomp up lak he was burn
wit' fire! Little chain break and before Michel can tak a breath, bear
fetch him a crack with the steel trap acrost his head!
"Wa! Wa! Michel's forehead is bus' open from here to here lak that!
Michel drop his knife in the snow. Him get ver' sick. Warm blood run
all down his eyes, and he can't see not'ing no more.
"Bear grab Michel round his body and squeeze him pretty near till his
eyes jomp out. Michel say a little prayer then. Him say him awful
sorry he ain't confessed this year.
"But always he fight that bear and fight some more. Always he is try
get his hands aroun' that hairy throat. Bear tear Michel's shoulder
with his teeth. Michel feel the hot blood run down inside his shirt
and get cold.
"Michel, him always thinkin' Colina is not far, but he will not call to
her. She is only a girl him say; she can't do not'ing to a crazy bear.
Bear hurt her too, maybe, and John Gaviller is mad for that.
"So Michel he jus' fight. He is ver' tire' now. And always they
stamping and tumbling and rolling in the snow, and big red spots drop
"Colina, she tell me the end of it. Colina say she is walkin' sof' in
the poplar bush looking sharp and all tam listen for game. All is ver'
quiet in the bush.
"Bam-by she hear a fonny little noise way off. Twigs crackling, and
somesing bumping and tromping in the snow. Colina think it is big game
and go quick. Some tam she stop and listen. Bam-by she hear fonny
snarling and grunting. She know there is a fight and she is a little
scare. But she go more fas'.
"Wa! Wa! What a sight she sec there! Poor Michel he pretty near
done. She can't see his face no more for blood. She think he got no
face now. Michel he see her come, and say to her loud as he can: 'Go
way! Go way! You get hurt and John Gaviller give me hell!'
"Colina say not know what to do. Them two turn around so fas' she
'fraid to shoot. She run aroun' and aroun' them always looking for a
chance. Bam-by she see the handle of Michel's knife in a hole in the
snow. She grab it up. She watch her chance. Woof! She stick that
bear between the neck and the shoulder!
"That is all!" said Poly. "Bear, him grunt and fall down. Stick his
snoot in the snow. Michel crawl away. Colina is fall down too and cry
lak a baby. For a little while all three are dead!
"Then Colina wash his wounds with clean snow, and tear up her petticoat
for to mak' bandage. She put him on his snowshoes and drag him back
where the dogs is. She bring him quick to the fort. In one week
Michel is go to his traps same as ever. That is the story!"
"By God, there's a woman!" cried Peter. Ambrose said nothing.
When Poly Goussard reembarked in his dug-out a heavy constraint fell
upon the two partners.
Ambrose dreaded to hear Peter call attention to the remarkable
coincidence of Poly's story following so close upon their own talk
together. He suspected that Peter would want to sit up and thrash the
matter to conclusions.
At the bare idea of talking about it Ambrose felt as helpless and
sullen as a convicted felon.
In this he underrated Peter's perceptions. Peter had lived in the
woods for many years. He intuitively apprehended something of the
confusion in the younger man's mind, and he was only anxious to let
Ambrose understand that it was not necessary to say anything one way or
But he overdid it a little, and when Ambrose saw that Peter was "on to
him," as he would have said, he became still more hang-dog and perverse.
They parted at the door of the store. Peter went off to his family,
while Ambrose closed the door of his own little shack behind him, with
a long breath of relief.
Feeling as he did, it was torture to be obliged to support the gaze of
another's eye, however kindly. So urgent was his need to be alone that
he even turned his back on his dog. For a long time the poor beast
softly scratched and whined at the closed door unheeded.
Ambrose was busy inside. As it began to grow dark he lit his lamp and
carefully pinned a heavy shirt inside his window in lieu of a blind.
Since Peter and his family went to bed with the sun it would be hard to
say whom he feared might spy on him. One listening at the door might
well have wondered what the activity inside portended.
Later Ambrose opened the door and, putting the dog in, proceeded
cautiously to the store. Satisfying himself from the sounds that
issued through the connecting door that Peter and his family slept
deeply, he lit a candle and quietly robbed the stock of what he
required. Then he wrote a note and pinned it beside the store door.
Carrying the bundles back to his cabin, he packed a grub-box and bore
it down to the water.
His preparations completed, he went to his shack to bid good-by to his
four-footed pal. Job, instantly, comprehending that he was to be left
behind, whimpered and nozzled so piteously that Ambrose's heart began
"I can't take you, old fel'!" he explained. "You're such a
common-looking mutt. Of course, I know you're white clear through—but
a lady would laugh at you until she knew you!"
Even as he said it his heart accused him of disloyalty. He suddenly
changed his mind.
"Come on!" he whispered gruffly. "We'll chance our luck together. If
you open your head I'll brain you! Wait here a minute."
Job understood perfectly. He crept down to the lake shore at his
master's feet as quiet as a ghost. Seeing the loaded boat he hopped
delightedly into his accustomed place in the bow.
During June it never becomes wholly dark in the latitude of Lake
Miwasa. An exquisite dim twilight brooded over the wide water and the
pine-walled shore. The stars sparkled faintly in an oxidized silver
sea. There was no wind now, but the pines breathed like warm-blooded
Ambrose's breast hummed like a violin to the bow of night. The poetic
feeling was there, though the expression was prosaic.
"By George, this is fine!" he murmured.
Job's curly tail thumped the gunwale in answer.
"I'm glad I brought you, old fel'," said Ambrose. "I expect I'd go
clean off my head if didn't have any one to talk to!"
Job beat a tattoo on the side of the boat and wriggled and whined in
his anxiety to reach his master.
"Steady there!" said Ambrose.
Presently he went on: "Three hundred miles! Six days for Poly to come
with the current; nine days to go back! Fifteen days at the best!
Anything might happen in that time. . . . Poly said no danger from any
of the men there. But some one might come down the river! . . . If
wishing could bring an aeroplane up north!"
After a silence: "I wish I could get my best suit pressed! . . . It's
two years old, anyway. And she's just come in; she knows the
styles. . . . Lord, I'll look like a regular roughneck!"
Next morning when Peter Minot threw open the door of the store he found
the note pinned to the door-frame. It was brief and to the point:
You said I ought to go by myself till I felt better. So I'm off.
Don't expect me till you see me. Charge me with 50 lbs. flour, 18 lbs.
bacon, 20 lbs. rice, 10 lbs. sugar, 5 lbs. prunes, 1/2 lb. tea, 1/2
lb. baking powder, and bag of salt. Please take care of my dog. So
long! A. D.
P. S.—I'm taking the dog.
Peter, like all men slow to anger, lost his temper with startling
effect. Tearing the note off the door and grinding it under foot, he
cursed the runaway from a full heart.
Eva, hearing, hastily called the children indoors, and thrusting them
behind her peeped into the store. Peter, purple in the face, was
wildly brandishing his arms.
Eva closed the door very softly and gave the children bread and
molasses to keep them quiet. Meanwhile the storm continued to rage.
"The young fool! To run off without a word! I'd have let him go
gladly if he'd said anything—and given him a good man! But to go
alone! He'll break an arm and die in the bush! And to leave me like
this with the year's outfit due next week!
"I'll not see him again until cold weather—if I ever see him! Fifty
pounds of flour—with his appetite! He'll starve to death if he
doesn't drown himself first! He'll never get to Enterprise! Oh, the
consummate young ass! Damn Poly Goussard and his romantic stories!"
John Gaviller and Colina were at breakfast in the big clap-boarded
villa at Fort Enterprise.
They were a good-looking pair, and at heart not dissimilar, though it
must be taken into account that the same qualities manifest themselves
differently in a man of affairs and a romantic, irresponsible young
They were secretly proud of each other—and quarreled continually.
Colina, by virtue of her reckless honesty, frequently got the better of
her canny father.
"Well," he said, now with a gesture of surrender, "if you're determined
to stay here, all right—but you must live differently."
At the word "must" an ominous gleam shot from under Colina's lashes.
"What's the matter with my way of living?" she asked with deceitful
"This tearing around the country on horseback," he said. "Going off
all day hunting with this man and that—and spending the night in
native cabins. As long as I considered you were here on a visit I said
"Oh, didn't you!" murmured Colina sarcastically.
"—But if you are going to make this country your home, you must
consider your reputation in the community just the same as anywhere
else—more, indeed; we live in a tiny little world here, where our
smallest actions are scrutinized and discussed."
He took a swallow of coffee. Colina played with her food sulkily.
Her silence encouraged him to proceed: "Another thing," he said with a
deprecating smile, "comparatively speaking, I occupy an exalted
position now. I am the head of all things, such as they are. Great or
small this entails certain obligations on a man. I have to study all
my words and acts.
"If you are going to stay here with me I shall expect you to assume
your share; to consider my interests, to support me; to play the game
as they say. What I object to is your impulsiveness, your
outspokenness with the people. Remember, everybody here is your
dependent. It is always a mistake to be open and frank with
dependents. They don't understand it, and if they do, they presume
"Be guided by my experience; no one could justly accuse me of any lack
of affability or friendliness in dealing with the people here—but they
never know what I am thinking of!"
"Admirable!" murmured Colina, "but I'm not a directors' meeting!"
"Colina!" said her father indignantly.
"It's not fair for you to drag that in about my standing by you and
supporting you!" she went on warmly. "You know I'll do that as long as
I live! But I must be allowed to do it in my own way. I'm an adult
and an individual. I differ from you. I've a right to differ from
you. It is because these people are my inferiors that I can afford to
be perfectly natural with them. As for their presuming on it, you
needn't fear! I know how to take care of that!"
"A little more reserve," murmured her father.
Colina paused and looked at him levelly. "Dad, what a fool you are
about me!" she said coolly.
"Colina!" he cried again, and pounded the table.
She met his indignant glance squarely.
"I mean it," she said. "I'm your daughter, am I not?—and mother's?
You must know yourself by this time; you must have known mother—you
ought to understand me a little but you won't try—you're clever enough
in everything else! You've made up an idea for yourself of what a
daughter ought to be, and you're always trying to make me fit it!"
Gaviller scarcely listened to this. "I'll have to bring in a chaperon
for you!" he cried.
"Oh, Lord!" groaned Colina. "Anything but that! What do you want me
"Merely to live like other girls," said Gaviller; "to observe the
"That's why I couldn't get along at school," muttered Colina gloomily.
"You might as well send me back."
"You're simply headstrong!" said her father severely. "You won't try
to be different."
"Dad," said Colina suddenly, "what did you come north for in the first
place, thirty years ago?"
The question caught him a little off his guard. "A natural love of
adventure, I suppose," he said carelessly.
"Perfectly natural!" said Colina. "Was your father pleased?"
Gaviller began to see her drift. "No!" he said testily.
"And when you went back for her," Colina persisted, "didn't my mother
run away north with you, against the wishes of her parents?"
"Your mother was a saint!" cried Gaviller indignantly.
"Certainly," said Colina coolly, "but not the psalm-singing kind. What
do you expect of the child of such a couple?"
"Not another word!" cried Gaviller, banging the table—last refuge of
Colina was unimpressed. "Now you're simply raising a dust to conceal
the issue," she said relentlessly.
Gaviller chewed his mustache in offended silence.
Colina did not spare him. "Do you think you can make your child and
hers into a prim miss, to sit at home and work embroidery?" she
demanded. "Upon my word, if I were a boy I believe you'd suggest
putting me in a bank!"
John Gaviller helped himself to another egg with great dignity and
removed the top. "Don't be absurd, Colina," he said with a weary air.
It was a transparent assumption. Colina saw that she had reduced him
utterly. She smiled winningly. "Dad, if you'd only let me be myself!
We could be such pals if you wouldn't try to play the heavy father!"
"Is it being yourself to act like a harum-scarum tomboy?" inquired
Colina laughed. "Yes!" she said boldly. "If that's what you want to
call it? There's something in me," she went on seriously. "I don't
know what it is—some wild strain; something that drives me headlong;
makes me see red when I am balked! Maybe it is just too much physical
"Well, if you let me work it off it does no harm. If I can ride all
day, or paddle or swim, or go hunting with Michel or one of the others;
and be interested in what I'm doing, and come home tired and sleep
without dreaming—why everything is all right. But if you insist on
cooping me up!—well, I'm likely to turn out something worse than
harum-scarum, that's all!"
Gaviller flung up his arms.
"Really, you'll have to go back to your aunt," he said grimly. "The
responsibility of looking after you is too great!"
Colina laughed out of sheer vexation. "The silly ideas fathers have!"
she cried. "Nobody can look after me, not you, not my aunt, nobody
but myself! Why won't you understand that! I don't know exactly what
dangers you fancy are threatening me. If it is from men, be at ease!
I can put the fear of God into them! It is the sweet and gentle girl
you would like to have that is in danger there!"
"I'm afraid you'll have to go back," said Gaviller.
Colina drew her beautiful straight brows together. "You make me think
you simply want to get me off your hands," she said sullenly.
Gaviller shook his head. "You know I love to have you with me," he
"Then consider me a fixture!" said Colina serenely. "This is my
country!" she went on enthusiastically. "It suits me. I like its
uglinesses and its hardships, too! I hated it in the city. Do you
know what they called me?—the wild Highlander!
"Up here everybody understands my wildness, and thinks none the worse
of me. It was different in the city—you've always lived in the north,
you old innocent—you don't know! Men, for instance, in society they
have a curious logic. They seem to think if a girl is natural she must
be bad! Sometimes they acted on that assumption—"
"What did I tell you!" cried her father. "Men are the same everywhere!"
"Well," said Colina, smiling to herself, "they didn't get very far.
And no man ever tried it twice. Up here—how different. I don't have
to think of such things."
"I have to think of settling you in life," said Gaviller gloomily.
"There is no one for you up here."
"I'm not bothering my head about that," said Colina. She went on with
a kind of splendid insolence: "Every man wants me. I'll choose one
when I'm ready. I can't see anything in men except as comrades. The
decent ones are timid with women, and the bold ones are—well—rather
beastly. I'm looking for a man who's brave and decent, too. If
there's no such thing—"
She rose from the table. Colina's was a body designed to fill a
riding-habit, and she wore one from morning till night. She was as
tall as a man of middle height, and her tawny hair piled on top of her
head made her seem taller.
"Well?" said Gaviller.
"Oh, I'll choose the handsomest beast I can find," she said, laughing
over her shoulder and escaping from the room before he could answer.
John Gaviller finished his egg with a frown. Colina had this trick of
breaking things off in the middle, and it irritated him. He had an
Colina groomed her own horse, whistling like a boy. Saddling him, she
rode east along the trail by the river, with the fenced grain fields on
her right hand.
Beyond the fields she could gallop at will over the rolling, grassy
bottoms, among the patches of scrub and willow.
It was not an impressively beautiful scene—the river was half a mile
wide, broken by flat wooded islands overflowed at high water; the banks
were low, and at this season muddy. But the sky was as blue as
Colina's eyes, and the prairie, quilted with wild flowers, basked in
the delicate radiance that only the northern sun can bestow.
On a horse Colina could not be actively unhappy, nevertheless she was
conscious of a certain dissatisfaction with life. Not as a result of
the discussion with her father—she felt she had come off rather well
But it was warm, and she felt a touch of languor. Fort Enterprise was
a little dull in early summer. The fur season was over, and the flour
mill was closed; the Indians had gone to their summer camps; and the
steamboat had lately departed on her first trip up river, taking most
of the company employees in her crew.
There was nothing afoot just now but farming, and Colina was not much
interested in that. In short, she was lonesome. She rode idly with
long detours inland in search of nothing at all.
Loping over the grass and threading her way among the poplar saplings,
Colina proceeded farther than she had ever been in this direction since
summer set in.
She saw the painter's brush for the first time—that exquisite rose of
the prairies—and instantly dismounted to gather a bunch to thrust in
her belt. The delicate, ashy pink of the flower matched the color in
On her rides Colina was accustomed to dismount when she chose, and
Ginger, her sorrel gelding, would crop the grass contentedly until she
was ready to mount again. To-day the spring must have been in his
When Colina went to him he tossed his head coquettishly, and trotting
away a few steps, turned and looked at her with a droll air. Colina
called him in dulcet tones, and held out an inviting hand.
Ginger waywardly wagged his head and danced with his forefeet.
This was repeated several times—Colina's voice ever growing more
honeyed as the rose in her cheeks deepened. The inevitable
happened—she lost her temper and stamped her foot; whereupon Ginger,
with lifted tail, ran around her like a circus horse.
Colina, alternately cajoling and commanding, pursued him bootlessly.
Fond as she was of exercise, she preferred having the horse use his
legs. She sat down in the grass and cried a little out of sheer
Ginger resumed his interrupted meal on the grass with insulting
unconcern. Colina was twelve miles from home—and hungry.
Desperately casting her eyes around the horizon to discover some way
out of her dilemma, Colina perceived a thin spiral of smoke rising
above the edge of the river bank about a quarter of a mile away.
She had no idea who could be camping on the river at this place, but
she instantly set off with her own confident assurance of finding aid.
Ginger displayed no inclination to leave the particular patch of
prairie grass he had chosen for his luncheon.
As Colina approached the edge of the bank she heard a voice. She
herself made no sound in the grass.
Looking over the edge she saw a man and a dog on the stony beach below,
both with their backs to her and oblivious of her approach. Of the
man, she had a glimpse only of a broad blue flannel back and a mop of
She heard him say to the dog: "Our last meal alone, old fel'!
To-night, if we're lucky, we'll dine with her!"
This conveyed nothing to Colina—she was to remember it later.
In speaking he turned his profile, and she received an agreeable shock;
he was young; he was not common; he had a fair, pink skin that
contrasted oddly with his swarthy locks; his bold profile accorded with
What caught her off her guard was his affectionate, quizzical glance at
It was a seductive glimpse of a stern face softened.
The dog scented her and barked; the man turning sprang to his feet.
Colina experienced a sudden and extraordinary confusion of her
He was taller than she expected—that was not it; in the glance of his
eager dark eyes there was a quality that took her completely by
surprise—that took her breath away. This in one of the sex she
The young man was completely dumfounded by the sight of her. He hung
in suspended motion; his wide eyes leaped to hers—and clung there.
They silently gazed at each other—each with much the same pained and
Colina struggled hard against the spell. She was badly flustered.
"Please catch my horse for me," she said with, under the circumstances,
He did not move. She saw a dull, red tide creep up from his neck, over
his face and into his hair. She had never seen such a painful blush.
He kept his head up, and though his eyes became agonized with
embarrassment, they clung doggedly to hers.
She knew intuitively that he blushed because he fancied that she, from
his rough clothes, had judged him to be a common tramp.
She was glad of it—his blush gave her a little security.
But she could not support his glance. She all but stamped her foot as
she said: "Didn't you hear me?"
With a visible effort the young man collected his wits, and with
unsmiling face started to climb toward Colina. The dog, making to
follow him, he spoke a word of command and it returned to the boat.
Face to face with him Colina felt as if his glowing dark eyes were
burning holes in her.
"Where is he?" he asked soberly.
Colina merely pointed across the bottoms where Ginger could be seen
still busy with the grass.
"I'll bring him to you," he said coolly, and started off.
His assurance exasperated Colina. "It isn't as easy as you think," she
said haughtily, "or I shouldn't have asked for help!"
He turned his head, his face suddenly breaking into a beaming smile.
"I know horses," he said.
Colina was furious. He made her feel like a little girl. She bit her
lips to keep in the undignified answer that sprang to them. Inside her
she said it: "Smarty! I shall laugh when he leads you a chase!" She
sat down in the grass under a poplar-tree, prepared to enjoy the circus
There was none. Ginger having tired of his waywardness, perhaps, or
having eaten his fill, quietly allowed himself to be taken. The young
man came riding back on him. Colina could almost have wept with
He slipped out of the saddle beside her and stood waiting for her to
mount. There was no consciousness of triumph in his manner.
His eyes flew back to hers with the same extraordinarily naïve glance.
When Colina frowned under it he literally dragged them away, but in
spite of him they soon returned.
Many a man's eyes had been offered to Colina, but never a pair that
glowed with a fire like this. They were at the same time bold and
humble. They contained an imploring appeal without any sacrifice of
self-respect. They disturbed Colina to such a degree she scarcely knew
what she was doing.
He offered her a hand to mount, and she drew back with an offended air.
He instantly yielded, and she mounted unaided—mounted awkwardly, and
bit her lip again.
He did not immediately loose her rein. Out of the corner of her eye
Colina saw that he was breathing fast.
"It will he late before you get home," he said. His voice was very
low—she could feel the effort he was making not to let it shake.
"Will you—will you eat with me?"
The modest tendering of this bold invitation disarmed Colina. She
hesitated. He went on with a touch of boyish eagerness: "There's only
a traveler's grub, of course. I got a fish on a night-line this
morning. Also there's a prairie chicken roasted yesterday."
A self-deceiving argument ran through Colina's brain like quick-silver:
"If I go, I shall be tormented by the feeling that he got the best of
me; if I stay a while I can put him in his place!"
She dismounted. The young man turned abruptly to tie Ginger to the
poplar-tree, but even in the boundary of his cheek Colina read his
With scarcely another glance at her he plunged down the bank and set to
work over his fire. Colina sedately followed and seated herself on a
boulder to wait until she should be served.
Now that he no longer looked at her, Colina could not help watching
him. A dangerous softness began to work in her breast; he was so
boyish, so clumsy, so anxious to entertain her fittingly—his
unconsciousness of her nearness was such a transparent assumption.
Colina was alarmed by her own weakness. She looked resolutely at the
He was a mongrel black and tan, bigger than a terrier, and he had a
ridiculous curly tail. He had received her with an insulting air of
"What an ugly dog!" Colina said coolly.
The young man swung around and affectionately rubbed the dog's ear.
"The best sporting dog in Athabasca," he said promptly, but without any
Colina bit her lip again. It seemed as if everything she did was mean.
"Of course his looks haven't anything to do with his good qualities,"
she said. Here she was apologizing.
"He's almost human," said the young man. "I talk to him like a person."
"Come here, dog," said Colina.
The animal was suddenly stricken with deafness.
"What's his name?" she asked.
"Come here, Job!" said Colina coaxingly.
Job looked out across the river.
"Job!" said his master sternly.
The dog sprang to him as if they had been parted for years, and
frantically licked his hand. This display of boundless affection was
The young man led him to Colina's feet. "Mind your manners!" he
Job in utter abasement offered her a limp paw. She touched it, and he
scampered back to his former place with an air of relief, and turning
his back to her lay down again. It cannot be said that his enforced
obedience made her feel any better.
AN INVITATION TO DINE.
Lunch was not long in preparing, for the rice had been on the fire when
Colina first appeared. The young man set forth the meal as temptingly
as he could on a flat rock, and at the risk of breaking his sinews
carried another rock for Colina to sit upon. His apologies for the
discrepancies in the service disarmed Colina again.
"I am no fine lady," she said. "I know what it is to live out."
Colina was hungry and the food good. A good understanding rapidly
established itself between them. But the young man made no move to
serve himself. Indeed he sat at the other side of the rock-table and
produced his pipe.
"Why don't you eat?" demanded Colina.
"There is plenty of time," he said, blushing.
"But why wait?"
"Well—there's only one knife and fork."
"Is that all?" said Colina coolly. "We can pass them back and
Starting up and dropping the pipe in his pocket he flashed a look of
extraordinary rapture on her that brought Colina's eyelids fluttering
down like winged birds. He was a disconcerting young man. Resentment
moved her, but she couldn't think of anything to say.
They ate amicably, passing the utensils back and forth.
After a while Colina asked: "Do you know who I am?"
"Of course," he said. "Miss Colina Gaviller."
"I don't know you," she said.
"I am Ambrose Doane, of Moultrie."
"Where is Moultrie?"
"On Lake Miwasa—three hundred miles down the river."
"Three hundred miles!" exclaimed Colina. "Have you come so far alone?"
"I have Job," Ambrose said with a smile.
"How much farther are you going?" she asked.
"Only to Fort Enterprise."
"Oh!" she said. The question in the air was: "What did you come for?"
Both felt it.
"Do you know my father?" Colina asked.
"No," said Ambrose.
"I suppose you have business with him?"
"No," he said again.
Colina glanced at him with a shade of annoyance. "We don't have many
visitors in the summer," she said carelessly.
"I suppose not," said Ambrose simply.
Colina was a woman—and an impulsive one; it was bound to come sooner
or later: "What did you come for?"
His eyes pounced on hers with the same look of mixed boldness and
apprehension that she had marked before; she saw that he caught his
breath before answering.
"To see you!" he said.
Colina saw it coming, and would have given worlds to have recalled the
question. She blushed all over—a horrible, unequivocal, burning
blush. She hated herself for blushing—and hated him for making her.
"Upon my word!" she stammered. It was all she could get out.
He did not triumph over her discomfiture; his eyes were cast down, and
his hand trembled. Colina could not tell whether he were more bold or
simple. She had a sinking fear that here was a young man capable of
setting all her maxims on men at naught. She didn't know what to do
"What do you know about me?" she demanded.
It sounded feeble in her own ears. She felt that whatever she might
say he was marching steadily over her defenses. Somehow, everything
that he said made them more intimate.
"There was a fellow from here came by our place," said Ambrose simply.
"Poly Goussard. He told us about you—"
"Talked about me!" cried Colina stormily.
"You should have heard what he said," said Ambrose with his
venturesome, diffident smile. "He thinks you are the most beautiful
woman in the world!" Ambrose's eyes added that he agreed with Poly.
It was impossible for Colina to be angry at this, though she wished to
be. She maintained a haughty silence.
Ambrose faltered a little.
"I—I haven't talked to a white girl in a year," he said. "This is our
slack season—so I—I came to see you."
If Colina had been a man this was very like what she might have
said—-to meet with candor equal to her own in the other sex, however,
took all the wind out of her sails.
"How dare you!" she murmured, conscious of sounding ridiculous.
Ambrose cast down his eyes. "I have not said anything insulting," he
said doggedly. "After what Poly said it was natural for me to want to
come and see you."
"In the slack season," she murmured sarcastically.
"I couldn't have come in the winter," he said naïvely.
Colina despised herself for disputing with him. She knew she ought to
have left at once—but she was unable to think of a sufficiently
telling remark to cover a dignified retreat.
"You are presumptuous!" she said haughtily.
"Presumptuous?" he repeated with a puzzled air.
She decided that he was more simple than bold. "I mean that men do not
say such things to women," she began as one might rebuke a little
boy—but the conclusion was lamentable, "to women to whom they have not
even been introduced!"
"Oh," he said, "I'm sorry! I can only stay a few days. I wanted to
get acquainted as quickly as possible."
A still small voice whispered to Colina that this was a young man after
her own heart. Aloud she remarked languidly: "How about me? Perhaps I
am not so anxious."
He looked at her doubtfully, not quite knowing how to take this.
"Really he is too simple!" thought Colina.
"Of course I knew I would have to take my chance," he said. "I didn't
expect you to be waiting on the bank with a brass band and a wreath of
He smiled so boyishly that Colina, in spite of herself, was obliged to
smile back. Suddenly the absurd image caused them to burst out
laughing simultaneously—and Colina felt herself lost.
Laughter was as dangerous as a train of gunpowder. Even while he
laughed Colina saw that look spring out of his eyes—the mysterious
look that made her feel faint and helpless.
He leaned toward her and a still more candid avowal trembled on his
lips. Colina saw it coming. Her look of panic-terror restrained him.
He closed his mouth firmly and turned away his head.
Presently he offered her a breast of prairie chicken with a
matter-of-fact air. She shook her head, and a silence fell between
them—a terrible silence.
"Oh, why don't I go!" thought Colina despairingly.
It was Ambrose who eased the tension by saying comfortably: "It's a
great experience to travel alone. Your senses seem to be more
alert—you take in more."
He went on to tell her about his trip, and Colina lulled to security
almost before she knew it was recounting her own journey in the
preceding autumn. It was astonishing when they stuck to ordinary
matters—how like old friends they felt. Things did not need to be
It provided Colina with a good opportunity to retire. She rose.
Ambrose's face fell absurdly. "Must you go?" he said.
"I suppose I will meet you officially—later," she said.
He raised a pair of perplexed eyes to her face. "I never thought about
an introduction," he said quite humbly. "You see we never had any
ladies up here."
In the light of his uncertainty Colina felt more assured. "Oh, we're
sufficiently introduced by this time," she said offhand.
"But—what should I do at the fort?" he asked. "How can I see you
She smiled with a touch of scorn at his simplicity. "That is for you
to contrive. You will naturally call on my father; if he likes you, he
will bring you home to dinner."
Ambrose smiled with obscure meaning. "He will never do that," he said.
"Why not?" demanded Colina.
"My partner and I are free-traders," he explained; "the only
free-traders of any account in the Company's territory. Naturally they
are bitter against us."
"But business is one thing and hospitality another," said Colina.
"You do not know what hard feeling there is in the fur trade," he
"You do not know my father," she retorted.
"Only by reputation," said Ambrose.
The shade of meaning in his voice was not lost on her. Her cheeks
became warm. "All white men who come to the post dine with us as a
matter of course," she said. "We owe you the hospitality. I invite
you now in his name and my own."
"I would rather you asked him about me first," said Ambrose.
This made Colina really angry. "I do not consult him about household
matters," she said stiffly.
"Of course not," said Ambrose; "but in this case I would be more
comfortable if you spoke to him first."
"Are you afraid of him?" she inquired with raised eyebrows.
"No," said Ambrose coolly; "but I don't want to get you into trouble."
Colina's eyes snapped. "Thank you," she said; "you needn't be anxious.
You had better come—we dine at seven."
"I will be there," he said.
By this time she was mounted. As she gave Ginger his head Ambrose
deftly caught her hand and kissed it. Colina was not displeased. If
it had been self-consciously done she would have fumed.
She rode home with an uncomfortable little thought nagging at her
breast. Was he really so simple as she had decided? Had he not baited
her into losing her temper—and insisting on his coming to dinner?
Surely he could not know her so well as that!
"Anyway, he is coming!" she thought with a little gush of
satisfaction she did not stop to examine. "I'll wear evening dress,
the black taffeta, and my string of pearls. At my own table it will be
easier—and with father there to support me! We will see!"
Colina did not see her father until he came home from the store for
dinner. She was already dressed and engaged in arranging the table.
John Gaviller's eyes gleamed approvingly at the sight of her in her
finery. Black silk became Colina's blond beauty admirably. Manlike,
he arrogated the extra preparations to himself. He thought it was a
kind of peace offering from Colina.
"Well!" he began jocularly, only to check himself at the sight of three
places set at the table. "Who's coming?" he demanded with natural
Colina, busying herself attentively with the centerpiece of painter's
brush, wondered if her father had met Ambrose Doane. She gave him a
brief, offhand account of her adventure without mentioning their
"But who is it?" he asked.
She answered a little breathlessly; "Ambrose Doane of Moultrie."
Gaviller's face changed slightly. "H-m!" he said non-committally.
"Doesn't the table look nice?" said Colina quickly.
"Very nice," he said.
"We must prove to ourselves once in a while that we are not savages!"
"Naturally! Do you want me to dress?"
Colina, who had not looked at her father, nevertheless felt the
inimical atmosphere. She stooped to a touch of flattery. "You are
always well dressed," she said, smiling at him.
"Hm!" said Gaviller again. "Call me when you're ready." He marched
off to his library.
Colina breathed freely. So far so good! Ambrose Doane had not been to
call on her father. He was hardly the simple youth she had decided.
But she couldn't think the less of him for that.
When she heard the door-bell ring—Gaviller's house boasted the only
door-bell north of Caribou Lake—her heart astonished her with its
thumping. She ran up to her own room. Ambrose according to
instructions previously given was to be shown into the drawing-room.
Another wonder of Gaviller's house was the full-length mirror imported
for Colina. She ran to it now. It treated her kindly. The crisp,
thin, dead-black draperies showed up her white skin in dazzling
On second thought she left off the string of pearls. The effect was
better without any ornament. Her face was her despair; her eyes were
misty and unsure; the color came and went in her cheeks; she could not
keep her lips closed.
"You fool! You fool!" she stormed at herself. "A man you have seen
once! He will despise you!"
She could not keep the dinner waiting. Bracing herself, she started
for the hall. A final glance in the mirror gave her better heart.
After all she was beautiful and beautifully dressed. She descended the
stairs slowly, whispering to herself at every step: "Be game!"
Though the sun was still shining out-of-doors, according to Colina's
fancy, every night at this hour the shutters were closed and the lamps
lighted. The drawing-room was lighted by a single, tall lamp with a
Ambrose was standing in the middle of the room. He had changed his
clothes. His suit was somewhat wrinkled, and his boots unpolished, but
he looked less badly than he thought. At sight of Colina he caught his
breath and turned very pale. His eyes widened with something akin to
awe. Colina was suddenly relieved.
"So you dared to come!" she said with a careless smile.
He did not answer. Plainly he could not. He stood as if rooted to the
floor. Colina had meant to offer him her hand, but suddenly changed
Instead, with reckless bravado considering her late state of mind, she
went to the lamp and turned it up. She felt his honest, stricken
glance following her, and thrilled under it.
"You have not met my father?"
Ambrose "took a brace" as he would have said. "No," he answered.
"I thought very likely you would see him this afternoon," she said with
a touch of smiling malice.
His directness foiled it.
"I waited down the river," he said. "I didn't want to have a row with
him that might spoil to-night."
"What a terrible opinion you have of poor father!" said Colina.
"Does he know I'm coming?" asked Ambrose.
"What did he say?"
"Nothing! What should he say?"
"He has boasted that no free-trader ever dared set foot in his
"I don't believe it! It's not like him. Come along and you'll see."
"Wait!" said Ambrose quickly. "Half a minute!"
Colina looked at him curiously.
"You don't know what this means to me!" he went on, his glowing,
unsmiling eyes fixed on her. "A lady's drawing-room! A lamp with a
soft, pretty shade!—and you—like that! I—I wasn't prepared for it!"
Colina laughed softly. She was filled with a great tenderness for him,
therefore she could jeer a little.
Ambrose had not moved from the spot where she found him.
"It's not fair," he went on. "You don't need that! It bowls a man
This was the ordinary language of gallantry—yet it was different.
Colina liked it. "Come on," she said lightly, "father is like a bear
when he is kept waiting for dinner!"
The two men shook hands in a natural, friendly way. With another man
Ambrose was quite at ease. Colina approved the way her youth stood up
to the famous old trader without flinching. They took places at the
table, and the meal went swimmingly.
Ambrose, whether he felt his affable host's secret animosity and was
stimulated by it, or for another reason, suddenly blossomed into an
entertainer. When her father was present he addressed Colina's ear,
her chin or her golden top-knot, never her eyes.
John Gaviller apparently never looked at her either, but Colina knew he
was watching her closely. She was not alarmed. She had herself well
in hand, and there was nothing in her politely smiling, slightly
scornful air to give the most anxious parent concern.
Under the jokes, the laughter, and the friendly talk throughout dinner,
there were electric intimations that caused Colina's nostrils to
quiver. She loved the smell of danger.
It was no easy matter to keep the conversational bark on an even keel;
the rocks were thick on every hand. Business, politics, and local
affairs were all for obvious reasons tabooed. More than once they were
near an upset, as when they began to talk of Indians.
Ambrose had related the anecdote of Tom Beavertail who, upon seeing a
steamboat for the first time, had made a paddle-wheel for his canoe,
and forced his sons to turn him about the lake.
"Exactly like them!" said John Gaviller with his air of amused scorn.
"Ingenious in perfectly useless ways! Featherheaded as schoolboys!"
"But I like schoolboys!" Ambrose protested. "It isn't so long since I
was one myself."
"Schoolboys is too good a word," said Gaviller. "Say, apes."
"I have a kind of fellow-feeling for them," said Ambrose smiling.
"How long have you been in the north?"
"I've been dealing with them thirty years," said Gaviller with an air
Ambrose refused to be silenced. Looking around the luxurious room he
felt inclined to remark, that Gaviller had made a pretty good thing out
of the despised race, but he checked himself.
"Sometimes I think we never give them a show," he said with a
deprecating air, "We're always trying to cut them to our own pattern
instead of taking them as they are. They are like schoolboys, as you
"Most of the trouble with them comes from the fact that anybody can
lead them into mischief, just like boys. If we think of what we were
like ourselves before we put on long trousers it helps to understand
Gaviller raised his eyebrows a little at hearing the law laid down by
twenty-five years old.
"Ah!" he said quizzically. "In my day the use of the rod was thought
necessary to make boys into men!"
Ambrose grew a little warm. "Certainly!" he said. "But it depends on
the spirit with which it is applied. How can we do anything with them
if we treat them like dirt?"
"You are quite successful in handling them?" queried Gaviller dryly.
"Peter Minot says so," said Ambrose simply. "That is why he took me
"He married a Cree, didn't he?" inquired Gaviller casually.
Colina glanced at her father in surprise. This was hardly playing fair
according to her notions.
"A half-breed," corrected Ambrose.
"Of course, Eva Lajeunesse, I remember now," said Gaviller. "She was
quite famous around Caribou Lake some years ago."
Ambrose with an effort kept his temper. "She has made him a good
wife," he said loyally.
"Ah, no doubt!" said Gaviller affably. "Do you live with them?"
"I have my own house," said Ambrose stiffly.
Here Colina made haste to create a diversion.
"Aren't the Indian kids comical little souls?" she remarked. "I go to
the mission school sometimes to sing and play for them. They don't
think much of it. One of the girls asked me for a hair. One hair was
all she wanted."
The subject of Indian children proved to be innocuous. They took
coffee in John Gaviller's library.
"Colina brought these new-fangled notions in with her," said her father.
"They're all right!" said Ambrose soberly.
Colina saw the hand that held his spoon tremble slightly, and wondered
why. The fact was the thought could not but occur to him: "How foolish
for me to think she could ever bring her lovely, ladylike ways to my
He thrust the unnerving thought away. "I can build a bigger house,
can't I?" he demanded of himself. "Anyway, I'll make the best play to
get her that I can!"
In the library they talked about furniture. It transpired that the
trader had a passion for cabinet making, and most of the objects that
surrounded them were examples of his skill. Ambrose admired them with
due politeness, meanwhile his heart was sinking. He could not see the
slightest chance of getting a word alone with Colina.
In the middle of the evening a breed came to the door, hat in hand, to
say that John Gaviller's Hereford bull was lying down in his stall and
groaning. The trader bit his lip and glanced at Colina.
"Would you like to come and see my beasts?" he asked affably.
"Thanks," said Ambrose just as politely. "I'm no hand with cattle."
He kept his eyes discreetly down.
Gaviller could not very well turn him out of the house. There was no
help for it. He went.
The instant the door closed behind Gaviller, Ambrose's eyes flamed up.
"What a stroke of luck!" he cried.
It had something the effect of an explosion there in the quiet room
where they had been talking so prosily. Colina became panicky. "I
don't understand you!" she said haughtily.
"You do!" he cried. "You know I didn't paddle three hundred miles
up-stream to talk to him! Never in my life had I anything so hard to
go through with as the last two hours. I didn't dare look at you for
fear of giving myself away."
There was an extraordinary quality of passion in the simple words.
Colina felt faint and terrified. What was one to do with a man like
this! She mounted her queenliest manner. "Don't make me sorry I asked
you here," she said.
"Sorry?" he said. "Why should you be? You can do what you like! I
can't pretend. I must say my say the best way I can. I may not get
Colina had to fight both herself and him. She made a gallant stand.
"You are ridiculous!" she said. "I will leave the room until my father
comes back if you can't contain yourself."
He was plainly terrified by the threat, nevertheless he had the
assurance to put himself between her and the door.
"You have no cause to be angry with me," he said. "You know I do not
disrespect you!" He was silent for a moment. His voice broke huskily.
"You are wonderful to me! I have to keep telling myself you are only a
woman—of flesh and blood like myself—else I would be groveling on the
floor at your feet, and you would despise me!"
Colina stared at him in haughty silence.
"I love you!" he whispered with odd abruptness. "No woman need be
insulted by hearing that. You came upon me to-day like a bolt of
lightning. You have put your mark on me for life! I will never be
His voice changed; he faltered, and searched for words. "I know I'm
rough! I know women like to be courted regularly. It's right, too!
But I have no time! I may never see you alone again. Your father will
take care of that! I must tell you while I can. You can take your
time to answer."
Colina contrived to laugh.
The sound maddened him. He took a step forward, and a vein in his
forehead stood out. She held her ground disdainfully.
"Don't do that!" he whispered. "It's not fair! I—I can't stand it!"
"Why must you tell me?" asked Colina. "What do you expect?"
"You!" he whispered hoarsely. "If God is good to me! For life."
"You are mad!" she murmured.
"Maybe," he said, eying her with the resentment which is so closely
akin to love; "but I think you understand my madness. Talking gets us
nowhere. A dozen times to-day your eyes answered mine. Either you
feel it too or you are a coquette!"
This brought a genuine anger to Colina's aid. Her weakness fled. "How
dare you!" she cried with blazing eyes.
"Coquette!" he repeated doggedly. "To dress yourself up like that to
drive me mad!"
Colina forgot the social amenities. "You fool!" she cried. "This is
my ordinary way of dressing at night! It is not for you!"
"It was for me!" he said sullenly. "You were happy when you saw its
effect on me! If it's only a game I can't play it with you. It means
too much to me!"
"Coquette!" still made a clangor in Colina's brain that deafened her to
everything else. "You are a savage!" she cried. "I'm sorry I asked
you here. You needn't wait for my father to come back. Go!"
"Not without a plain answer!" he said.
Colina tried to laugh; she was too angry. "My answer is no!" she cried
with outrageous scorn. "Now go!"
He stood studying her from under lowering brows. The sight of her like
that—head thrown back, eyes glittering, cheeks scarlet, and lips
curled—was like a lash upon his manhood. The answer was plain enough,
but an instinct from the great mother herself bade him disregard it.
Suddenly his eyes flamed up.
"You beauty!" he cried.
Before she could move he had seized her in her finery. Colina was no
weakling, but within those steely arms she was helpless. She strained
away her head. He could only reach her neck, under the ear. She
"I hate you! I hate you!" she murmured.
Their lips met.
Colina swayed ominously on his arm. She sank down on the sofa, still
straining away from him, but weakly. Suddenly she burst into
"What have you done to me!" she murmured.
At sight of the tears he collapsed. "Ah, don't!" he whispered
brokenly. "You break my heart! My darling love! What is the matter?"
"I am a fool—a fool!—a fool!" she sobbed tempestuously. "To have
given in to you! You will despise me!"
He slipped to the floor at her feet. He strove desperately to comfort
her. Tenderness lent eloquence to his clumsy, unaccustomed tongue.
"Ah, don't say that! It's like sticking a knife in me! My lovely
one! As if I could! You are everything to me! I have nothing in the
world but you! Forgive me for being so rough! I couldn't help it! I
couldn't go by anything you said. I had to find out for sure! It had
to happen! What does it matter whether it was in a day or a year? The
minute I saw you I knew how it was. I knew I had to have you or live
like a priest till I died."
Colina was not to be comforted. "You think so now!" she said. "Later,
when you have tired of me a little, or if we quarreled, you would
remember that I—I was too easily won!"
"Ah, don't!" he cried exasperated. "If you say it again I'll have to
swear. What more can I say? I love you like my life! I could not
despise you without despising myself! I don't know how to put it. I
sound like a fool! But—but this is what I mean. You make me seem
worth while to myself."
Colina's hands stole to her breast. "Ah! If I could believe you!" she
"Give me time!" he begged. "What good does talking do! What I do will
Little by little she allowed him to console her. Her arm stole around
his shoulders, her head was lowered until her cheek lay in his hair.
They came down to earth. Ambrose seated himself beside her, and
looking in her shamed face laughed softly and deep. "You fraud," he
Colina hid her face. "Don't!" she begged.
He laughed more.
"What are you laughing at?" she demanded.
"To think how you scared me," he said. "With your grand clothes and
high and mighty airs. I had to dig my toes into the floor to keep from
cutting and running. And it was all bluff!"
"Scared you!" said Colina. "I never in my life knew a man so utterly
regardless and brutal!"
"You like it," he said. Colina blushed.
"I had no line to go on," said Ambrose with his engaging simplicity.
"I never made love to any girls. I haven't read many books either. I
guess that's all guff, anyway. I didn't know how the thing ought to be
carried through. But something told me if I knuckled under to you the
least bit it would be all day with Ambrose."
They laughed together.
John Gaviller's step sounded on the porch outside. They sprang up
aghast. They had completely forgotten his existence.
"Oh, Heavens!" whispered Colina. "He has eyes like a lynx!"
Ambrose's eyes, darting around the room, fell upon an album of
snapshots lying on the table. He flung it open.
When Gaviller came in he found them standing at the table, their backs
to him. He heard Ambrose ask:
"Who is that comical little guy?"
Colina replied: "Ahcunazie, one of the Kakisa Indians in his winter
Colina turned, presenting a sufficiently composed face to her father.
"Oh," she said. "You were gone a long while. What was the matter with
She strolled to the sofa and sat down. Ambrose idly closed the book
and sat down across the room from her. Gaviller glanced from one to
another—perhaps it was a little too well done. But his face instantly
resumed its customary affability.
"Nothing serious," he said. "He is quite all right again."
Ambrose was tormented by the desire to laugh. He dared not meet
Colina's eye. "It is terrible to lose a valuable animal up here," he
After a few desultory polite exchanges Ambrose got up to go. "I was
waiting to say good night to you," he explained.
"You are camping down the river, I believe."
"Half a mile below the English mission. I paddled up."
"I'll walk to the edge of the bank with you," said Gaviller politely.
As in nearly all company posts there was a flag-pole in the most
conspicuous spot on the river-bank. It was halfway between Gaviller's
house and the store. At the foot of the pole was a lookout-bench worn
smooth by generations of sitters.
Leaving the house after a formal good night to Colina, Ambrose was
escorted as far as the bench by John Gaviller. The trader held forth
amiably upon the weather and crops. They paused.
"Sit down for a moment," said Gaviller. "I have something particular
to say to you."
Ambrose suspected what was coming. But humming with happiness like a
top as he was, he could not feel greatly concerned.
Still in the same calm, polite voice Gaviller said:
"I confess I was astonished at your assurance in coming to my house."
This was a frank declaration of war. Ambrose, steeling himself,
replied warily: "I did not come on business."
"What did you come for?"
Ambrose did not feel obliged to be as frank with father as with
daughter. "I am merely looking at the country."
"Well, now that you have seen Fort Enterprise," said Gaviller dryly,
"you may go on or go back. I do not care so long as you do not linger."
Ambrose frowned. "If you were a younger man—" he began.
"You need not consider my age," said Gaviller.
Ambrose measured his man. He had to confess he had good pluck. The
idea of a set-to with Colina's father was unthinkable. There was
nothing for him to do but swallow the affront. He bethought himself of
using a little guile.
"Why shouldn't I come here?" he demanded.
"I don't like the way you and your partner do business," said Gaviller.
There was nothing to be gained by a wordy dispute, but Ambrose was only
human. "You are sore because we smashed the company's monopoly at
Moultrie," he said.
"Not at all," said Gaviller calmly. "The trade is free to all. What
little you have taken from us is not noticeable in the whole volume.
But you have deliberately set to work to destroy what it has taken two
centuries to build up—the white man's supremacy. You breed trouble
among the Indians. You make them insolent and dangerous."
"Company talk," said Ambrose scornfully. "A man can make himself
believe what he likes. We treat the Indians like human beings. Around
us they're doing well for the first time. Here, where you have your
monopoly, they're sick and starving!"
"That is not true," said Gaviller coolly. "And, in any case, I do not
mean to discuss my business with you. I deal openly. You had the
opportunity to do my daughter a slight service. I have repaid it with
my hospitality. We are quits. I now warn you not to show your face
"I shall do as I see fit," said Ambrose doggedly.
"You compel me to speak still more plainly," said Gaviller. "If you
are found on the Company's property again, you will be thrown off."
"You cannot frighten me with threats," said Ambrose.
"You are warned!" said Gaviller. He strode off to his house.
IN AMBROSE'S CAMP.
Ambrose was awakened in his mosquito-tent by an alarm from Job. The
sun was just up, and it was therefore no more than three o'clock. A
visitor was approaching in a canoe.
In the North a caller is a caller. Ambrose crept out of his blankets
and, swallowing his yawns, stuck his head in the river to clear his
The visitor was a handsome young breed of Ambrose's own age. Ambrose
surveyed his broad shoulders, his thin, graceful waist and thighs
approvingly. He rejoiced in an animal built for speed and endurance.
Moreover, the young man's glance was direct and calm. This was a
native who respected himself.
"Tole Grampierre, me," he said, offering his hand.
Ambrose grasped it. "I'm Ambrose Doane," he said.
"I know," said the young breed. "Las' night I go to the store. The
boys say Ambrose Doane, the free-trader, is camp' down the river. So I
talk wit' my fat'er. I say I go and shake Ambrose Doane by the hand."
"Will you eat?" said Ambrose. "It is early."
"When you are ready," answered Tole politely. "I come early. I go
back before they get up at the fort. If old man Gaviller know I come
to you it mak' trouble. My fat'er he got trouble enough wit' Gaviller."
Tole squatted on the beach. There is an established ritual of
politeness in the North, and he was punctilious.
"You are well?" he asked gravely. Ambrose set about making his fire.
"I am well," he said.
"Your partner, he is well?"
"Peter Minot is well."
"You do good trade at Lake Miwasa?"
"Yes. Marten is plentiful."
"Good fur here, too. Not much marten; plenty link."
"Your father is well?" asked Ambrose in turn.
"My fat'er is well," said Tole. "My four brot'ers well, too."
"I am glad," said Ambrose.
More polite conversation was exchanged while Ambrose waited for his
guest to declare the object of his visit. It came at last.
"Often I talk wit' my fat'er," said Tole. "I say there is not'ing for
me here. Old man Gaviller all tam mad at us. We don't get along. I
say I fink I go east to Lake Miwasa. There is free trade there. Maybe
I get work in the summer. When they tell me Ambrose Doane is come, I
say this is lucky. I will talk wit' him."
"Good," said Ambrose.
"Wat you t'ink?" asked Tole, masking anxiety under a careless air. "Is
there work at Moultrie in the summer?"
Ambrose instinctively liked and trusted his man. "Sure," he said.
"There is room for good men."
"Good," said Tole calmly. "I go back wit' you."
Ambrose had a strong curiosity to learn of the situation at Fort
Enterprise. "What do you mean by saying old man Gaviller is mad at
you?" he asked.
"I tell you," said Tole. He filled his pipe and got it going well
before he launched on his tale.
"My fat'er, Simon Grampierre, he is educate'," he began. "He read in
books, he write, he spik Angleys, he spik French, he spik the Cree. We
are Cree half-breed. My fat'er's fat'er, my mot'er's fat'er, they
white men. We are proud people. We own plenty land. We live in a
good house. We are workers.
"All the people on ot'er side the river call my fat'er head man. When
there is trouble all come to our house to talk to my fat'er because he
is educate'. He got good sense.
"Before, I tell you there is good fur here. It is the truth. But the
people are poor. Every year they are more poor as last year. The
people say: 'Bam-by old man Gaviller tak' our shirts! He got
everyt'ing else.' They ask my fat'er w'at to do."
Tole went on: "Always my fat'er say: 'Wait,' he say. 'We got get white
man on our side. We got get white man who knows all outside ways. He
bring an outfit in and trade wit' us.' The people don't want to wait.
'We starve!' they say.
"My fat'er say: 'Non! Gaviller not let you starve. For why, because
you not bring him any fur if you dead. He will keep you goin' poor.
Be patient,' my fat'er say. 'This is rich country. It is known
outside. Bam-by some white man come wit' outfit and pay good prices.'
"Always my fat'er try to have no trouble," continued Tole. "But old
man Gaviller hear about the meetings at our house. He hear everyt'ing.
He write a letter to my fat'er that the men mus' come no more.
"My fat'er write back. My fat'er say: 'This my house. This people my
relations, my friends. My door is open to all.' Then old man Gaviller
is mad. He call my fat'er mal-content. He tak' away his discount."
"Discount?" interrupted Ambrose.
Tole frowned at the difficulty of explaining this in English. "All
goods in the store marked by prices," he said slowly. "Too moch
prices. Gaviller say for good men and good hunters he tak' part of
price away. He tak' a quarter part of price away. He call that
discount. If a man mak' him mad he put it back again."
The working out of such a scheme was clear to Ambrose. "Hm!" he
commented grimly. "This is how a monopoly gets in its innings."
"Always my fat'er not want any trouble," Tole went on. "Pretty soon, I
t'ink, the people not listen to him no more. They are mad. This year
there will be trouble about the grain. Gaviller put the price down to
dollar-fifty bushel. But he sell flour the same."
"Do you mean to say he buys your grain at his own price, and sells you
back the flour at his own price?" demanded Ambrose.
Tole nodded. "My fat'er the first farmer here," he explained. "Long
tam ago when I was little boy, Gaviller come to my fat'er. He say:
'You have plenty good land. You grow wheat and I grind it, and both
"My fat'er say: 'I got no plow, no binder, no thresher.' Gaviller say:
'I bring them in for you.' Gaviller say: 'I pay you two-fifty bushel
for wheat. I can do it up here. You pay me for the machines a little
"My fat'er t'ink about it. He is not moch for farm. But he t'ink,
well, some day there is no more fur. But always there is mouths for
bread. If I be farmer and teach my boys, they not starve when fur is
"My fat'er say to Gaviller: 'All right.' Writings are made and signed.
The ot'er men with good land on the river, they say they raise wheat,
"After that the machines is brought in. Good crops is raised.
Ev'rything is fine. Bam-by Gaviller put the price down to
two-twenty-five. Bam-by he only pay two dollar. Tams is hard, he say.
Las' year he pay one-seventy-five. Now he say one-fifty all he pay.
"The farmers say they so poor now, might as well have nothing. They
say they not cut the grain this year. Gaviller say it is his grain.
He will go on their land and cut it. There will be trouble."
"This is a kind of slavery!" cried Ambrose.
"There is more to mak' trouble," Tole went on with his calm air.
"Three years ago Gaviller build a fine big steamboat. He say: 'Now,
boys, you can go outside when you want.' He says: 'This big boat will
bring us ev'rything good and cheap from outside.'
"But when she start it is thirty dollars for a man to go to the
Crossing. And fifty cents for every meal. Nobody got so much money as
"It is the same to bring t'ings in. Not'ing is cheaper. Jean Bateese
Gagnon, he get a big book from outside. In that book there is all
things to buy and pictures to show them. The people outside will send
you the t'ings. You send money in a letter."
"Mail order catalogue," suggested Ambrose.
"That is the name of the book," said Tole. In describing its wonders
he lost, for the first time, some of his imperturbable air. "Wa! Wa!
All is so cheap inside that book. It is wonderful. Three suits of
clothes cost no more as one at the Company store.
"Everyt'ing is in that book. A man can get shirts of silk. A man can
get a machine to milk a cow. All the people want to send money for
t'ings. Gaviller say no. Gaviller say steamboat only carry Company
freight. Gaviller say: 'Come to me for what you want and I get it—at
"And this is supposed to be a free country," said Ambrose.
"The men are mad," continued Tole. "They do not'ing. Only Jean
Bateese Gagnon. He is the mos' mad. He say he don' care. He send the
money for a plow las' summer. All wait to see w'at Gaviller will do.
"Gaviller let the steamboat bring it down. He say the freight is
fifteen dollars. Jean Bateese say: 'Tak' it back again. I won't pay.'
Gaviller say: 'You got to pay.' He put it on the book against Gagnon."
Tole related other incidents of a like character, Ambrose listened with
ever mounting indignation. There could be no mistaking the truthful
ring of the simple details.
Not only was Ambrose's sense of humanity up in arms, but the trader in
him was angered that a competitor should profit by such unfair means.
With a list of grievances on one side and unqualified sympathy on the
other, the two progressed in friendship.
They breakfasted together, Job making a third. Ambrose found himself
more and more strongly drawn to the young fellow. He was reminded that
he had no friend of his own age in the country. Tole, he said to
himself, was whiter than many a white man he had known.
Job, who as a rule drew the colorline sharply, was polite to Tole. Job
was pleased because Tole ignored him. Uninvited overtures from
strangers made Job self-conscious.
Tole and Ambrose, being young, drifted away from serious business after
a while. They discussed sport. Tole lost some of his gravity in
talking about hunting the moose.
Not until Tole was on the point of embarking did the real object of his
visit transpire. "My father say he want you come to his house," he
"Sure I will," said Ambrose.
Tole lingered by his dugout, affecting to test the elasticity of his
paddle on the stones. He glanced at Ambrose with a speculative eye.
"Maybe you and Peter Minot open a store across the river and trade with
us," he suggested with a casual air.
Ambrose was staggered by the possibilities it opened up. He knew the
idea was already in Peter's mind. What if he, Ambrose, should be
chosen to carry it out? He sparred for wind.
"I don't know," he said warily. "There is much to be considered. I
will talk with your father."
Tole nodded and pushed off.
Ambrose and Colina had had no opportunity the night before to arrange
for another meeting. Ambrose stuck close to his camp, feeling somehow
that the next move should come from her.
It was not that he had been unduly alarmed by her father's threat,
though he had a young man's healthy horror of being humiliated in the
beloved one's presence.
But the real reason that kept him inactive was an instinctive
compunction against embroiling Colina with her father. She had only
known him, Ambrose, a day; she should have a chance to make sure of her
own mind, he felt.
As to what he would do if Colina made no move, Ambrose could not make
up his mind. He considered a night expedition to the fort; he
considered sending a message by Tole. Either plan had serious
disadvantages. It was a hard nut to crack.
Then he heard hoofs on the prairie overhead. His heart leaped up and
his problems were forgotten. He sprang to the bank. Job heard the
hoofs, too, and recognized the horse. Job hopped into the empty
dugout, and lay down in the bow out of sight, like a child in disgrace.
At the sight of her racing toward him a dizzying joy swept over
Ambrose; but something was wrong. She stopped short of him, and his
heart seemed to stop, too.
She was pale; her eyes had a dark look. An inward voice whispered to
him that it was no more than to be expected; his happiness had been too
swift, too bright to be real.
He went toward her. "Colina!" he cried apprehensively.
"Don't touch me!" she said sharply.
He stopped. "What is the matter?" he faltered.
She made no move to dismount. She did not look at him. "I—I have had
a bad night," she murmured. "I came to throw myself on your
"Generosity?" he echoed.
"To—to ask you to forget what happened last night. I was mad!"
Ambrose had become as pale as she. He had nothing to say.
She stole a glance at his face. At the sight of his blank, sick dismay
she quickly turned her head. A little color came back to her cheeks.
There was a silence.
At last he said huskily: "What has happened to change you?"
"Nothing," she murmured. "I have come to my senses." His stony face
and his silence terrified her. "Aren't you a little relieved?" she
faltered. "It must have been a kind of madness in you, too."
He raised a sudden, penetrating glance to her face. She could not meet
it. It came to him that he was being put to a test. The revulsion of
feeling made him brutal. Striding forward, he seized her horse by the
"Get off!" he harshly commanded.
Colina had no thought but to obey.
He tied the rein to a limb and, turning back, seized her roughly by the
"What kind of a game is this?" he demanded.
Colina, breathless, terrified, delighted, laughed shakily.
He dropped her as suddenly as he had seized her, and walked away to the
edge of the bank and sat down, staring sightlessly across the river and
striving to still the tumult of his blood. He was frightened by his
own passion. He had wished to hurt her.
Colina went to him and humbly touched his arm.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
He looked at her grimly.
"You should not try such tricks," he said. "A man's endurance has its
There was something delicious to Colina in abasing herself before him.
She caught up his hand and pressed it to her cheek.
"How was I to know?" she murmured. "Other men are not like you."
"I might have surprised you," he said grimly.
"You did!" whispered Colina. The suspicion of a dimple showed in
He rose. "Let me alone for a minute," he said. "I'll be all right."
He went to the horse and loosened the saddle girths.
Colina could have crawled through the grass to his feet. She lay where
he had left her until he came back. He sat down again, but not
touching her. He was still pale, but he had got a grip on himself.
"Tell me," he said quietly, "did you do it just for fun, or had you a
"I had a reason."
"What was it?" he asked in cold surprise.
"I—I can't tell you while you are angry with me," she faltered.
"I can't get over it right away," he said simply. "Give me time."
Colina hid her face in her arm and her shoulders shook a little. It is
doubtful if any real tears flowed, but the move was just as successful.
He leaned over and laid a tender hand on her shoulder.
"Ah, don't!" he said. "What need you care if I am angry. You know I
love you. You know I—I am mad with loving you! Why—it would have
been more merciful for you to shoot me down than come at me the way you
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I never dreamed it would hurt so much! I
had to do it—Ambrose!"
It was the first time she had spoken his name. He paused for a moment
to consider the wonder of it.
"Why?" he asked dreamily.
Colina sat up.
"I worried all night about whether you would be sorry to-day," she
said, averting her head from him. "I thought that nothing so swift
could possibly be lasting. And then this morning father and I had a
"I was starting out to come to you, and he caught me. He all but
disowned me. I came right on—I told him I was coming. And on the way
here I thought—I knew I would have to tell you what had happened.
"And I thought if you were secretly sorry—for last night—when you
heard about father and I—you would feel that you had to stand by me
anyway! And then I would never know if you really— So I had to find
This confused explanation was perfectly clear to Ambrose.
"Will you always be doubting me?" he asked wistfully. "Can't you
believe what you see?"
She crept under his arm. "It was so sudden!" she murmured. "When I am
not with you my heart fails me. How can I be sure?"
He undertook to assure her with what eloquence his heart lent his
tongue. The feeling was rarer than the words.
"How wonderful," said Ambrose dreamily, "for two to feel the same
toward each other! I always thought that women, well, just allowed men
to love them."
"You dear innocent!" she whispered. "If you knew! Women are not
supposed to give anything away! It makes men draw back. It makes them
"It makes me humble," said Ambrose.
"You boy!" she breathed.
"I'm years older than you," he said.
"Women's hearts are born old," said Colina; "men's never grow out of
Her head was lying back on the thick of his arm.
"Your throat is as lovely—as lovely as pearl!" he whispered, brooding
The exquisite throat trembled with laughter.
"You're coming out!" she said.
"I don't care!" said Ambrose. "You're as beautiful as—what is the
most beautiful thing I know?—as beautiful as a morning in June up
"I don't know which I like better," she murmured.
"Of what?" he asked.
"To have you praise me or abuse me. Both are so sweet!"
"Do you know," he said, "I am wondering this minute if I am dreaming!
I'm afraid to breathe hard for fear of waking up."
She smiled enchantingly.
"Kiss me!" she whispered. "These are real lips."
"Sit up," he said presently, with a sigh, "We must talk hard sense to
each other. What the devil are we going to do?"
She leaned against his shoulder.
"Whatever you decide," she said mistily.
"What did your father say to you?" asked Ambrose.
She shuddered. "Hideous quarrelling!" she said. "I have the temper of
a devil, Ambrose!"
"I don't care," he said.
"When I told him where I was going he took me back in the library and
started in," she went on. "He was so angry he could scarcely speak.
If he had let it go it wouldn't have been so bad. But to try to make
believe he wasn't angry! His hypocrisy disgusted me.
"To go on about my own good and all that, and all the time he was just
plain mad! I taunted him until he was almost in a state of
ungovernable fury. He would not mention you until I forced him to.
"He said I must give him my word never to see you or speak to you
again. I refused, of course. He threatened to lock me up. He said
things about you that put me beside myself. We said ghastly things to
each other. We are very much alike. You'd better think twice before
you marry into such a family, Ambrose."
"I take my chance," he said.
"I'm sorry now," Colina went on. "I know he is, too. Poor old fellow!
I have you."
"You mustn't break with him yet," said Ambrose anxiously.
"I know. But how can I go back and humble myself?"
"He'll meet you half-way."
"If—if we could only get in the dugout and go now!" she breathed.
He did not answer. She saw him turn pale.
"Wouldn't it be the best way," she murmured, "since it's got to be
He drew a long breath and shook his head.
"I wouldn't take you now," he said doggedly.
"Of course not!" she said quickly. "I was only joking. But why?" she
added weakly. Her hand crept into his.
"It wouldn't be fair," he said, frowning. "It would be taking too much
"Too much!" she murmured, with an obscure smile.
Ambrose struggled with the difficulty of explaining what he meant. "I
never do anything prudent myself. I hate it. But I can't let you
chuck everything—without thinking what you are doing. You ought to
stay home a while—and be sure."
"It isn't going to be so easy," she said, "quarreling continually."
"I sha'n't see you again until I come for you," said Ambrose. "And
it's useless to write letters from Moultrie to Enterprise. I'm out of
the way. Why can't the question of me be dropped between you and your
"Think of living on from month to month without a word! It will be
ghastly!" she cried.
"You've only known me two days," he said sagely. "I could not leave
such a gap as that."
"How coldly you can talk about it!" she cried rebelliously.
Ambrose frowned again. "When you call me cold you shut me up," he said
"But if you do not make a fuss about me every minute," she said
naïvely, "it shames me because I am so foolish about you."
Ambrose laughed suddenly.
There followed another interlude of celestial silliness.
This time it was Colina who withdrew herself from him.
"Ah," she said with a catch of the breath, "every minute of this is
making it harder. I shall want to die when you leave me."
Ambrose attempted to take her in his arms again.
"No," she insisted. "Let us try to be sensible. We haven't decided
yet what we're going to do."
"I'm going home," said Ambrose, "to work like a galley-slave."
"It is so far," she murmured.
"I'll find some way of letting you hear from me. Twice before the
winter sets in I'll send a messenger. And you, you keep a little book
and write in it whenever you think of me, and send it back by my
"A little book won't hold it all," she said naïvely.
"Meanwhile I'll be making a place for you. I couldn't take you to
She asked why.
"Eva, Peter's wife," he explained. "In a way Peter is my boss, you
see. It would be a horrible situation."
"I see," said Colina. "But if there was no help for it I could."
"Ah, you're too good to me!" he cried. "But it won't be necessary.
Peter and I have always intended to open other posts. I'll take the
first one, and you and I will start on our own. Think of it! It makes
me silly with happiness!"
Upon this foundation they raised a shining castle in the air.
"I must go," said Colina finally, "or father will be equipping an armed
force to take me."
"You must go," he agreed, but weakly.
They repeated it at intervals without any move being made. At last she
"Is this—good-by?" she faltered.
They both turned pale. They were silent. They gazed at each other
deeply and wistfully.
"Ah! I can't! I can't!" murmured Colina brokenly. "Such a little
time to be happy!"
They flew to each other's arms.
"No—not quite good-by!" said Ambrose shakily. "I'll write to you
to-morrow morning—everything I think of to-night. I'll send it by
Tole Grampierre. You can send an answer by him."
"Ah, my dear love, if you forget me I shall die!"
"You doubt me still! I tell you, you have changed everything for me.
I cannot forget you unless I lose my mind!"
Ambrose, having filled the day as best he could with small tasks, was
smoking beside his fire and enviously watching his dog. Job had no
cares to keep him wakeful. It was about eight o'clock, and still full
It was Ambrose's promise to visit Simon Grampierre that had kept him
inactive all day. He did not wish to complicate the already delicate
situation between Grampierre and Gaviller by an open visit to the
former. He meant to go with Tole at dawn.
Suddenly Job raised his head and growled. In a moment Ambrose heard
the sound of a horse approaching at a walk above. Thinking of Colina,
his heart leaped—but she would never come at a walk! An instinct of
wariness bade him sit where he was.
A mounted man appeared on the bank above. It was a breed forty-five
years old perhaps, but vigorous and youthful still; good looking, well
kept, with an agreeable manner; thus Ambrose's first impressions. The
stranger rode a good horse.
"Well?" he said, looking down on Ambrose in surprise.
"Tie your horse and come down," said Ambrose politely. He welcomed the
diversion. This man must have come from the fort. Perhaps he had news.
Face to face with the stranger, Ambrose was sensible that he had to
deal with an uncommon character. There was something about him, he
could not decide what, that distinguished him from every other man of
Indian blood that Ambrose had ever met.
He wore a well-fitting suit of blue serge and a show of starched linen,
in itself a distinguishing mark up north. "Quite a swell!" was
Ambrose's inward comment.
"You are Ambrose Doane, I suppose?" he said in English as good as
Ambrose's own. Ambrose nodded.
"I knew you had dinner with Mr. Gaviller last night," the man went on,
"but as you didn't drop in on us at the store to-day I supposed you had
gone back. I didn't expect to find you here."
He was fluent for one of his color—too fluent the other man felt.
Ambrose was sizing him up with interest.
It finally came to him what the man's distinguishing quality was. It
was his open look, an expression almost of benignity, absolutely
foreign to the Indian character. Indians may give their eyes freely to
one another, but a white man never sees beneath the glassy surface.
This Indian in look and manner resembled an English country gentleman,
much sunburnt; or one of those university-bred East Indian potentates
who affect motor-cars and polo ponies. Oddly enough his candid look
affronted Ambrose. "It isn't natural," he told himself.
"I am Gordon Strange, bookkeeper at Fort Enterprise," the stranger
The bookkeeper of a big trading-post is always second in command.
Ambrose understood that he was in the presence of a person of
consideration in the country.
"Sit down," he said. "Fill up your pipe."
Strange obeyed. "We're supposed to be red-hot rivals in business," he
said with an agreeable laugh. "But that needn't prevent, eh? Funny I
should stumble on you like this! I ride every night after supper—a
man needs a bit of exercise after working all day in the store. I saw
the light of your fire."
He was too anxious to have it understood that the meeting was
accidental. Ambrose began to suspect that he had ridden out on purpose
to see him.
The better men among the natives, such as Tole Grampierre, have a pride
of their own; but they never presume to the same footing as the white
men. Strange, however, talked as one gentleman to another.
There was nothing blatant in it; he had a well-bred man's care for the
prejudices of another. Nevertheless, as they talked on Ambrose began
to feel a curious repugnance to his visitor, that made him wary of his
"Too damn gentlemanly!" he said to himself.
"Why didn't you come in to see us to-day?" inquired Strange. "We don't
expect a traveler to give us the go-by."
"Well," said Ambrose dryly, "I had an idea that my room would be
preferred to my company."
"Nonsense!" said Strange, laughing. "We don't carry our business war
as far as that. Why, we want to show you free-traders what a fine
place we have, so we can crow over you a little. Anyway, you dined
with Mr. Gaviller, didn't you?"
"John Gaviller would never let himself off any of the duties of
hospitality," said Ambrose cautiously.
He was wondering how far Strange might be admitted to Gaviller's
confidence. That he was being drawn out, Ambrose had no doubt at all,
but he did not know just to what end.
Strange launched into extensive praises of John Gaviller. "I ought to
know," he said in conclusion. "I've worked for him twenty-nine years.
He taught me all I know. He's been a second father to me."
Ambrose felt as an honest man hearing an unnecessary and fulsome
panegyric must feel, slightly nauseated. He said nothing.
Strange was quick to perceive the absence of enthusiasm. He laughed
agreeably. "I suppose I can hardly expect you to chime in with me," he
said. "The old man is death on free-traders!"
"I have nothing against him," said Ambrose quickly.
"Of course I don't always agree with him on matters of policy," Strange
went on. "Curious, isn't it, how a man's ruling characteristic begins
to get the better of him as he grows old.
"Mr. Gaviller is always just—but, well, a leetle hard. He's pushing
the people a little too far lately. I tell him so to his face—I
oppose him all I can. But of course he's the boss."
Ambrose began to feel an obscure and discomforting indignation at his
visitor. He wished he would go.
"You really must see our plant before you go back," said Strange; "the
model farm, the dairy herd, the flourmill, the sawmill. Will you come
up to-morrow and let me take you about?"
His glibness had the effect of rendering Ambrose monosyllabic. "No,"
"Oh, I say," said Strange, laughing, "what did you come to Fort
Enterprise for if you feel that way about us?"
Under his careless air Ambrose thought he distinguished a certain
eagerness to hear the answer. So he said nothing.
"I'm afraid you and the old gentleman must have had words," Strange
went on, still smiling. "Take it from me, his bark is worse than his
bite. If he broke out at you, he's sorry for it now. It takes half my
time to fix up his little differences with the people here."
He paused to give the other an opportunity to speak. Ambrose remained
"The old man certainly has a rough side to his tongue," murmured
"You're jumping to conclusions," said Ambrose coolly. "John Gaviller
gave me no cause for offense. I was well entertained at his house."
"U-m!" said Strange. He seemed rather at a loss. Presently he went on
to tell in a careless voice of the coyote hunts they had. Afterward he
casually inquired how long Ambrose meant to stay in the neighborhood.
"I don't know," was the blunt answer.
"Well, really!" said Strange with his laugh—the sound of it was
becoming highly exasperating to Ambrose. "I don't want to pry into
your affairs, but you must admit it looks queer for you to be camping
here on the edge of the company reservation without ever coming in."
Ambrose was wroth with himself for not playing a better part, but the
man affected him with such repugnance he could not bring himself to
dissimulate, "Sorry," he said stiffly. "You'll have to make what you
can of it."
Strange got up. His candid air now had a touch of manly pride. "Oh, I
can take a hint!" he said. "Hanged if I know what you've got against
"Nothing whatever," said Ambrose.
"I come to you in all friendliness—"
"Thought you said you stumbled on me," interrupted Ambrose.
"I mean of course when I saw you here I came in friendliness," Strange
explained with dignity.
"Well, go in friendliness, and no harm done on either side," said
For a brief instant Strange lost his benignant air. "I've lived north
all my life," he said. "And I never met with the like. We have
different ideas about hospitality."
"Very likely," said Ambrose coolly. "Good night!"
When his visitor rode away Ambrose turned with relief to his dog. The
sight of Job's honest ugliness was good to him.
"He's a cur, Job!" he said strongly. "A snake in the grass! An oily
scoundrel! I don't know how I know it, but I know it! A square man
would have punched me the way I talked to him."
Job wagged his tail in entire approval of his master's judgment.
Ambrose turned in, feeling better for having spoken his mind.
Nevertheless, as he lay waiting for sleep it occurred to him that he
had been somewhat hasty. After all, he had nothing to go on. And,
supposing Strange were what he thought him, how foolish he, Ambrose,
had been to show his band.
If he had been craftier he might have learned things of value for him
to know. Following this unsatisfactory train of thought, he fell
ALEXANDER SELKIRK AND FAMILY.
Again Ambrose was awakened by a furious barking from Job. It was even
earlier than on the preceding morning. The sun was not up; the river
was like a gray ghost.
Ambrose, expecting Tole, looked for a dugout. There was none in sight.
Job's agitated barks were addressed in the other direction.
Issuing from his tent, Ambrose beheld a quaint little man squatting on
top of the bank like an image. He had an air of strange patience, as
if he had been waiting for hours, and expected to wait.
His brown mask of a face changed not a line at the sight of Ambrose.
"What do you want?" demanded the white man.
"Please, I want spik wit' you," the little man softly replied.
"Come down here then," said Ambrose.
The early caller looked at Job apprehensively. Ambrose silenced the
dog with a command, and the man came slowly down the bank, cringing a
The quaintness of aspect was largely due to the fact that he wore a
coat and trousers originally designed for a tall, stout man. Ambrose
suspected he had a child to deal with until he saw the wrinkles and the
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I Alexander Selkirk, me," was the answer.
Ambrose could not but smile at the misapplication of the sonorous
Scotch name to such a manikin.
"You Ambrose Doane?" the other said solemnly.
"Everybody seems to know me," said Ambrose.
Alexander stared at him with a sullen, walled, speculative regard,
exactly, Ambrose thought, like a schoolboy facing an irate master, and
wondering where the blow will fall.
To carry out this effect he was holding something inside his voluminous
jacket, something that suggested contraband.
"What have you got there?" demanded Ambrose.
Without changing a muscle of his face, Alexander undid a button and
produced a gleaming black pelt.
Ambrose gasped. It was a beautiful black fox. Such a prize does not
come a trader's way once in three seasons. The last black fox Minot &
Doane had secured brought twelve hundred dollars in London—and it was
not so fine a specimen as this.
Lustrous, silky, black as anthracite; every hair in place, and not a
white hair showing except the tuft at the end of the brush.
"Where did you get it?" Ambrose asked, amazed.
"I trap him, me, myself," said Alexander.
"Are you offering it to me?" asked Ambrose, eying it desirously.
"'Ow much?" demanded Alexander, affecting a wall-eyed indifference.
Ambrose made a more careful examination. There was no doubt of it; the
skin was perfect. He thrilled at the idea of returning with such a
prize to his partner. He made a rapid calculation.
"Five hundred and fifty cash," he said. "Seven hundred fifty in trade."
A spark showed in Alexander's eyes.
"It is yours," he said.
"How can we make a trade?" asked Ambrose, perplexed. "John Gaviller
would never honor any order of mine. I have no goods here to give you
"All right," said Alexander imperturbably. "I go to Moultrie to get
"You, too," said Ambrose. "I can't import you all."
"I got go Moultrie, me," said Alexander. "I got trouble wit' Gaviller.
He starve me and my children. They sick."
"Gaviller say give no more debt till I bring him my black fox,"
Alexander went on apathetically. "Give no flour, no sugar, no meat, no
tea. My brot'er feed us some. Gaviller say to him better not. So now
we have nothing. We ongry."
This promised difficulties. Ambrose frowned. "Tell me the whole
story," he said.
The little man was eying the grub-box wolfishly. Throwing back the
cover, Ambrose offered him a cold bannock.
"Here," he said. "Eat and tell me."
Alexander without a word turned and scrambled up the bank and
disappeared, clutching the loaf to his breast. The white man shouted
after him without effect. He left the precious pelt behind him.
Ambrose shrugged philosophically. "You never can tell."
Presently Alexander came back, his seamy brown face as blank as ever.
He vouchsafed no explanation. Ambrose affected not to notice him. He
had long since found it to be the best way of getting what he wanted.
The breed squatted on the stones, prepared to wait for the
judgment-day, it seemed.
After a while he said with the wary, defiant look of a child beggar who
expects to be refused, perhaps cuffed: "Give me 'not'er piece of bread."
Ambrose without a word broke his remaining bannock in two and gave him
half. Alexander bolted it with incredible rapidity and sat as before,
Ambrose, wearying of this, dropped the pelt on his knees, saying: "Take
your black fox. I cannot trade with you."
It had the desired effect. Alexander arose and put the skin inside the
tent. "It is yours," he said. "Give me tobacco."
Ambrose tossed him his pouch.
When the little man got his pipe going, squatting on his heels as
before, he told his tale. "Me spik Angleys no good," he said,
fingering his Adam's apple, as if the defect was there. "Las' winter I
ver' poor. All tam moch sick in my stummick. I catch him fine black
fox. Wa! I say. I rich now.
"I tak' him John Gaviller. Gaviller say: 'Three hunder twenty dollar
in trade.' Wa! That is not'in'. I am sick to hear it. Already I owe
that debt on the book. Then I am mad. Gaviller t'ink for because I
poor and sick I tak' little price. I t'ink no!
"So I tak' her home. The men they look at her. Wa! they say, she is
miwasan—what you say, beauty? They say, don' give Gaviller that
black fox, Sandy. He got pay more. So I keep her. Gaviller laugh.
He say: 'You got give me that black fox soon. I not pay so moch in
The apathetic way in which this was told affected Ambrose strongly.
His face reddened with indignation. The story bore the hall-marks of
Certainly the man's hunger was not feigned; likewise his eagerness to
accept the moderate price Ambrose had offered him was significant.
Ambrose scowled in his perplexity.
"Hanged if I know what to do for you!" he said. "I'll give you a
receipt for the skin. I'll give you a little grub. Then you go home
and stay until I can arrange something."
Alexander received this as if he had not heard it.
"You hear," said Ambrose. "Is that all right?"
"I got go Moultrie," the little man said stolidly.
"You can't!" cried Ambrose.
Alexander merely sat like an image.
This was highly exasperating to the white man. "You've got to go home,
I tell you," he cried.
"I not go home," the native said with strange apathy. "Gaviller kill
"Nonsense!" cried Ambrose. "He has got to respect the law."
Alexander was unmoved. "He not give me no grub," he said. "I starve
This was unanswerable. Ambrose, divided between annoyance and
compassion, fumed in silence. He himself had only enough food for a
few days. The breed wore him out with his stolidity.
"Well, what do you want me to do?" he asked at last.
"Give me little flour," said Alexander. "I go to Moultrie."
"What will you do with your family?"
"I tak' them."
"My woman, my boy, my two girl, my baby."
"Good Lord!" cried Ambrose. "Have you a boat?"
"Non! There is timber down the river. I mak' a raf, me."
"It would take you two weeks to float down," cried Ambrose. "I have
only thirty pounds of flour."
Alexander shrugged. "We ongry, anyway," he said. "We lak be ongry on
Ambrose swore savagely under his breath. This was nearly hopeless. He
strode up and down, thrashing his brains for a solution.
Alexander, squatting on his heels, waited apathetically for the
verdict. He had shifted his burden to the white man.
"Where is your family?" demanded Ambrose.
Alexander looked over his shoulder and spoke a word in Cree. Instantly
four heads appeared over the edge of the bank. Job barked once in
startled and indignant protest, and went to Ambrose's heels.
Ambrose could not forbear a start of laughter at the suddenness of the
apparition. It was like the genii in a pantomime bobbing up through
"Come down," he said.
A distressful little procession faced him; they were gaunt, ragged,
appallingly dirty, and terrified almost into a state of idiocy. First
came the mother, a travesty of womanhood, dehumanized except for her
tragic, terrified eyes.
A boy of sixteen followed her, ugly and misshapen as a gargoyle; he
carried the baby in a sling on his back. Two timorous little girls
They lugged their pitiful belongings with them—a few rags of bedding
and clothes, some traps and snowshoes, and cooking utensils. The
smaller girl bore a holy picture in a gaudy frame.
Ambrose's heart was wrung by the sight of so much misery. He stormed
at Alexander. "Good God! What a state to get into. What's the matter
with you that you can't keep them better than that? You've no right to
marry and have children!"
Somehow they apprehended the compassion that animated his anger, and
were not afraid of him. They lined up before him, mutely bespeaking
Their faith in his power to rescue them was implicit. That was what
made it impossible for him to refuse.
"Here," he said roughly. "You'll have to take my dugout. I'll get
another from Grampierre. You can make Moultrie in six days in that if
you work. That'll give you five pounds of flour a day—enough to keep
The word "dugout" galvanized Alexander into action. Without a glance
in Ambrose's direction, he ran to the craft, and running it a little
way into the water rocked it from side to side to satisfy himself there
were no leaks.
Turning to his family he spoke a command in Cree, and forthwith they
began to pitch their bundles in.
Ambrose was accustomed to the thanklessness of the humbler natives.
They are like children, who look to the white man for everything, and
take what they can get as a matter of course. Still he was a little
nonplused by the excessive precipitation of this family.
It occurred to him there was something more in their desperate
eagerness to get away than Alexander's tale explained. But having
given his word, he could not take it back.
From father down to babe their faces expressed such relief and hope he
had not the heart to rebuke them. Alexander came to him for the food,
and he handed over all he had.
"Wait!" he said. "I will give you a letter for Peter Minot. Lord!" he
inwardly added. "Peter won't thank me for dumping this on him!"
On a leaf of his note-book he scribbled a few lines to his partner
explaining the situation.
"You understand," he said to Alexander, "out of your credit for the
black fox, John Gaviller must be paid what you owe him."
Alexander nodded indifferently, mad to get away.
As Alexander's squaw was about to get in the dugout she paused on the
stones and looked at Ambrose, her ugly, dark face working with emotion.
Her eyes were as piteous as a wounded animal's. She flung up her hands
in a gesture expressing her powerlessness to speak.
It seemed there was some gratitude in the family. Moved by a sudden
impulse she caught up Ambrose's hand and pressed it passionately to her
lips. The white man fell back astonished and abashed. Alexander paid
no attention at all.
In less than ten minutes after Ambrose had given them the dugout the
distressed family pushed off for a new land. Father and son paddled as
if the devil were behind them.
"I wonder if I done the right thing?" mused Ambrose.
The Selkirks had not long disappeared down the river when Ambrose
received another visitor. This was a surly native youth who, without
greeting, handed him a note, and rode back to the fort. Ambrose's
heart beat high as he examined the superscription.
He did not need to be told who had written it. But he was not prepared
for the contents:
Come to me at once. Come directly to the house. I am in great trouble.
Ambrose, hastening back to Gaviller's house with a heart full of
anxiety, came upon Gordon Strange as he rounded the corner of the
company store. The breed was at the door. Evidently he harbored no
resentment, for his face lighted up at the sight of an old friend.
"Well!" he said. "So you came to see us."
Ambrose felt the same unregenerate impulse to punch the smooth face.
However, with more circumspection than upon the previous occasion, he
returned a civil answer.
"Have you heard?" asked Strange, with an expression of serious concern.
Ambrose reflected that Strange probably knew a message had been sent.
"Heard what?" he asked non-committally.
"Mr. Gaviller was taken sick last night."
"What's the matter with him?" asked Ambrose quickly.
Strange shrugged. "I do not know exactly. The doctor has not come out
of the house since he was sent for. A stroke, I fancy."
"I will go to the house and inquire," said Ambrose.
He proceeded, telling himself that Strange had not got any change out
of him this time. He was relieved by the breed's news; he had feared
To be sure, it was terribly hard on Colina, but on his own account he
could not feel much pain of mind over a sickness of Gaviller's.
The half-breed girl who admitted him showed a scared yellow face.
Evidently the case was a serious one. She ushered him into the
library. The aspect, the very smell of the little room, brought back
the scene of two days before and set Ambrose's heart to beating.
Presently Colina came swiftly in, closing the door behind her. She was
very pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She showed the
unnatural self-possession that a brave woman forces on herself in the
presence of a great emergency. Her eyes were tragic.
She came straight to his arms. She lowered her head and partly broke
down and wept a little.
"Ah, it's so good to have some one to lean on!" she murmured.
"Your father—what is the matter with him?" asked Ambrose.
The look in her eyes and her piteous shaking warned him to expect
something worse than the tale of an illness.
She lifted her white face.
"Father was shot last night," she said.
"Good God!" said Ambrose. "By whom?"
"We do not know."
"He's not—he's not—" Ambrose's tongue balked at the dreadful word.
She shook her head. "A dangerous wound, not necessarily fatal. We
can't tell yet."
"You have no idea who did it?"
Colina schooled herself to give him a coherent account. The sight of
her forced calmness, with those eyes, was inexpressibly painful to
"No. He went out after dinner. He said he had to see a man. He did
not mention his name. He came back at dusk. I was on the veranda. He
was walking as usual—perfectly straight. But one hand was pressed to
"He passed me without speaking. I followed him in. In the passage he
said: 'I am shot. Tell no one but Giddings. Then he collapsed in my
arms. He has not spoken since."
Ambrose heard this with mixed feelings. His heart bled for Colina.
Yet the grim thought would not down that the tyrannous old trader had
received no more than his deserts. He soothed her with clumsy
"Why do you want to keep it a secret?" he asked, after a while.
"Father wished it," said Colina. "We think he must have had a good
reason. The doctor thinks it is best. There has been a good deal of
trouble with the natives; many of them are ugly and rebellious. And we
whites are so few!
"Father could keep them in hand. They are in such awe of him; they
regard him as something almost more than mortal. If they learn that he
is vulnerable—who knows what might happen!"
"I understand," said Ambrose grimly.
"So no one knows, not even the servants. I have hidden all
the—things. Of course, the man who did it will never tell." The calm
voice suddenly broke in a cry of agony. "Oh, Ambrose!"
He comforted her mutely.
"It is so dreadful to think that any one should hate him so!" said poor
Colina. "So unjust! They are like his children. He is severe with
them only for their good!"
Ambrose concealed a grim smile at this partial view of John Gaviller.
"He lies there so white and still," she went on. "It nearly breaks my
heart to think how I have quarreled with him and gone against his
wishes. If waiting on him day and night will ever make it up to him,
I'll do it!"
Ambrose's breast stirred a little with resentment, but he kept his
mouth shut. He understood that it was good for Colina to unburden her
"Ah, thank God I have you!" she murmured.
They heard the doctor coming, and Colina drew away. She introduced the
"Mr. Doane is my friend," she said. "He is one of us."
The doctor favored Ambrose with a glance of astonishment before making
his professional announcement. Ambrose saw the typical hanger-on of a
trading-post, a white man of Gaviller's age, careless in dress, with a
humorous, intelligent face, showing the ravages of a weak will. At
present, with the sole responsibility of an important case on his
shoulders, he looked something like the man he was meant to be.
It was no time for commonplaces.
"John is conscious," he said directly. "He is showing remarkable
resistance. There is no need for any immediate alarm. He wants to
make a statement. I made the excuse of getting pencil and paper to
come down. In a matter of such importance I think there should be
"I will go," said Colina.
Giddings shook his head. "Your father expressly forbade it," he said.
"He wishes to spare you."
Colina made an impatient gesture, but seemed to acquiesce.
"You go," she said to Ambrose.
Giddings looked doubtful, but said nothing.
"I'm afraid the sight of me—" Ambrose began.
"I don't mean that you should go in," said Colina. "If you stand in
the doorway he cannot see you the way he lies."
Ambrose nodded and followed Giddings out.
"What is the wound?" he asked.
"Through the left lung. He will not die of the shot. I can't tell yet
what may develop."
Ambrose halted at the open door of Gaviller's room. The windows looked
out over the river, and the cooling northwest wind was wafted through.
The hospital-like bareness of the room evinced a simple taste in the
owner. The gimcracks he loved to make were all for the public rooms
The head of the bed was toward the door. On the pillow Ambrose could
see the gray head, a little bald on the crown.
Giddings, after feeling his patient's pulse, sat down beside the bed
with pad and pencil.
"I'm ready to take down what you say," he said.
The wounded man said in a weak but surprisingly clear voice:
"You understand this is not to be used unless the worst happens to me."
"You must give me your word that no proceedings will be taken against
the man I name—unless I die. I will not die. When I get up I will
attend to him."
"I promise," said Giddings.
After a brief pause Gaviller said:
"I was shot by the breed known as Sandy Selkirk."
Ambrose sharply caught his breath. A great light broke upon him.
Gaviller went on:
"He caught a black fox last winter that he has persistently refused to
give up to me. Out of sheer obstinacy he preferred to starve his
family. Yesterday Strange told me he thought it likely Selkirk would
try to dispose of the skin to Ambrose Doane, the free-trader who is
hanging around the fort."
Giddings sent a startled glance toward the door.
"Strange said perhaps news of it had been carried down the river, and
that was what Doane had come for. So I went to Selkirk's shack last
night to get it. I consider it mine, because Selkirk already owes the
company its value. Any attempt to dispose of it elsewhere would be the
same as robbing me.
"Selkirk refused to give it up, and I took it. He shot me from behind.
There were no witnesses but his family. That is all I want to say."
"I have it," murmured Giddings.
The gray head rolled impatiently on the pillow. "Giddings, don't let
that skin get away. I rely on you. Be firm. Be secret."
"I'll do my best," said the doctor.
He came to the door, ostensibly to close it, showing a scared face. "I
didn't know what was coming," his lips shaped.
Ambrose nodded to him reassuringly, meaning to convey that nothing he
had heard would influence his actions.
Giddings closed the door, and Ambrose returned down-stairs with a heart
that sunk lower at each step. What he had at first regarded calmly
enough as Gaviller's tragedy he now clearly saw was likely to prove
tragic for himself.
It was useless to try to put Colina off.
"I must know!" she cried passionately. "I'm the head here now. I must
know where we all stand."
Ambrose told her. To save her feelings he instinctively softened the
harsher features. It did not do his own cause any good later.
"Oh, the wretch!" breathed Colina between set teeth. "I know him! A
sneaking little scoundrel! Just the one to shoot from behind! To
think we must let him go! That is the hardest."
Ambrose was silent.
"We must get the skin," she went on eagerly. "Giddings can't handle
the natives. You do that for me."
"It is too late," said Ambrose grimly. "He is gone with it."
"Gone?" she exclaimed, with raised eyebrows. "How do you know?"
"He came to my camp at dawn," said Ambrose. Honesty compelling him, he
added with a touch of defiance; "I gave him my dugout."
Colina shrank from him.
"You helped him get away!" she cried.
"I didn't know what had happened," he said indignantly.
"Of course not!" said Colina, with quick penitence.
But she did not return to him. Presently the frown came back; she
began to breathe quickly. "You saw the skin; you must have talked with
him. You took his part against father!"
Ambrose had nothing to say. He could have groaned aloud in his
helplessness to avert the catastrophe that he saw coming.
It was as if a horrible, black-shrouded shape had stepped between him
She, too, was aware of it. For an age-long moment they stared at each
other with a kind of chilled terror.
Neither dared speak of what both were thinking.
At last Colina tried to wave the hideous fantom away.
"Ah, we mustn't quarrel now!" she said tremulously. "Couldn't the man
be overtaken and the skin recovered?"
"Possibly," admitted Ambrose. "I wouldn't advise it."
Colina, freshly affronted, struggled with her anger.
"Let me explain," said Ambrose. "I agreed to take the skin from him,
but on the understanding that out of the price Mr. Gaviller must be
paid every cent of what was owing him." His reasonable air suddenly
failed him. "Colina," he burst out imploringly, "it was worth more
than double what your father offered! That was the trouble! What is a
skin to us? I pledge myself to transmit whatever price it brings to
your father. Won't that do?"
"Don't say anything more about it," said Colina painfully. "You're
right; we mustn't quarrel about a thing like that."
A wretched constraint fell upon them. For the moment the catastrophe
had been averted, but both felt it was only for the moment.
They had nothing to say to each other.
Finally Colina moved toward the door.
"I must see if anything is wanted up-stairs," she murmured. "Wait here
When Colina returned she said immediately: "Ambrose, can you stay at
Fort Enterprise a little while longer?"
His heart leaped up. "As long as I can help you!" he cried.
They looked at each other wistfully. They wanted so much to be
friends—but the black shape was still there in the room.
"I'd be glad to have you stay here in the house," said Colina.
Ambrose shook his head. "I'd much better stay in camp."
She acquiesced. "There are three white men here," she went on,
"Giddings, Macfarlane the policeman, and Mr. Pringle the missionary.
Each is all right in his way, but—"
"They're all in love with you," suggested Ambrose.
She smiled faintly. "How did you know?"
Ambrose shrugged. "Deduced it."
"You see I cannot take any of them into my confidence."
"Colina!" he said. "If you would only let me—"
"Ah, I want to!" she returned. "If only, only you will not abuse
him—wounded and helpless as he is!"
Here was the black shape again.
"I suppose Gordon Strange will run the business," said Ambrose.
"Naturally," said Colina. "He knows everything about it."
"If you want my advice," Ambrose said diffidently, "do not trust him
She looked at him in astonishment. "Mr. Strange is almost like one of
the family. He's been father's right-hand man for years and years.
Father says he's the best servant the company possesses."
"That may be," said Ambrose doggedly, "but a good servant makes a bad
master. After all, he is not one of us. If you value my advice at all
you will never let him know he is running things."
"How can I help it? I haven't told him yet what has happened; but Dr.
Giddings and I agreed that he must be told. He never mixes with the
"Of course he must know your father was wounded, but he needn't be told
how seriously. If I were you I would make him inform me of every
detail of the business on the pretext of repeating it to your father.
And I would issue orders to him as if they came from your father's bed."
"How can I?" said Colina. "I know nothing of the business."
"I can help you," said Ambrose—"if you want me to. I know it."
"But, Ambrose," she objected, "what reason have you to feel so strongly
against Mr. Strange?"
"No reason," he said; "only an instinct. I believe he's a crook."
"Father relies on him absolutely."
"Maybe his influence with your father was sometimes unfortunate."
Colina's eyebrows went up. "Influence! Father would hardly allow his
judgment to be swayed by a breed."
"You're a woman," said Ambrose earnestly. "You should not despise
these feelings that we have sometimes and cannot give a reason for. I
saw Strange on my way here. I exchanged only half a dozen words with
him, yet I am as sure as I can be that he was glad of the accident to
your father and hopes to profit by it somehow."
Colina was still incredulous.
"Look what he wrote me this morning!" she cried. "It sounds so
She handed him a note from the desk. He read:
DEAR MISS COLINA:
They are saying that your father has been taken ill; that the doctor
has been with him all night. I am more distressed than I can tell you.
You know what he is to me! Do send me some word. He was so cheerful
and well yesterday that I cannot believe it can be serious. Native
gossip always magnifies everything.
If it is all right to speak to him about business, will you remind him
that a deputation from the farmers is due at the store this morning to
receive his final answer as to the price of wheat this year. As far as
I know his intention is to offer one-fifty a bushel, but something may
have come up to cause him to change his mind. Unless he is very ill, I
would rather not take this responsibility upon myself.
Do let me have word from you.
"Anybody can write letters," said Ambrose. "It sounds to me as if he
was just trying to find out how bad your father is. He could easily
put the farmers off."
"I can't believe he's as bad as you say," said Colina gravely. "Why,
he was here long before I was born. But I will be prudent. With your
help I'll try to run things myself."
Ambrose sent her a grateful glance—shot with apprehension. He dreaded
what was still to come.
"This question of the price of the wheat," Colina went on; "we have to
give him an answer or confess father is very ill."
Ambrose nodded gloomily.
"Fortunately that is easy," she continued; "for he spoke about it at
dinner last night. He means to pay one-fifty." She moved toward the
desk. "I'll send a note over at once."
The critical moment had arrived—even more swiftly than he feared. He
could not think clearly, for the pain he felt.
"Ah, Colina, I love you!" he cried involuntarily.
She paused and smiled over her shoulder.
"I know," she said, surprised and gentle. "That's why you're here."
"I've got to advise you honestly," he cried, "no matter what trouble it
"Of course," she said. "What's the matter, Ambrose?"
"You should offer them one-seventy-five for their wheat."
The eyebrows went up again. "Why?"
"It's only fair. Two dollars would be fairer."
"But father said one-fifty."
"Your father is wrong in this instance."
Colina frowned ominously.
"How do you know?" she demanded.
"I know the price of flour at the different posts," he said
deprecatingly. "I know the risks that must be allowed for and the fair
profit one expects."
"Do you mean to say that father is unfair?" she cried.
He was silent. An unlucky word had betrayed him. He could have bitten
his tongue. Still, he reflected sullenly, it was bound to come. You
can't make black white, however tenderly you describe it.
Colina sprang to her feet.
"Unfair!" she cried. "That is to say a cheat! You can say it while he
is lying up-stairs desperately wounded!"
"Colina, be reasonable," he implored. "The fact that he is suffering
can't make a wrong right."
"There is no wrong!" she cried. "What do you know about conditions
"They come to my camp," he said simply, "one after another to beg me to
"And you were not above it," she flashed back, "murderers and others!"
An honest anger fired Ambrose's eyes. "You're talking wildly," he said
sternly. "I'm trying to help you."
With a great effort he commanded his temper, "What do you see yourself
in your rides about the settlement?" he asked. "Poverty and
wretchedness! How do you explain it when times are good—when this is
known as the richest post in the north?"
Colina would have none of his reasoning. "These are just the dangerous
ideas my father warned me against!" she cried passionately. "This is
how you make the natives discontented and unruly!"
"You will not listen to me!" he cried in despair.
"Listen to you! I see him lying there—helpless. I am sick with
compassion for him and with hatred against the creatures who did it.
And you dare to attack him, to excuse them! I will not endure it!"
"I am not attacking him. Right or wrong, he has brought about a
disastrous situation. He's the first to suffer. We're all standing on
the edge of a volcano. We are five whites here, and three hundred
miles from the nearest of our kind. If we want to save him and save
ourselves we've got to face the facts."
Of this Colina heard one sentence. "Do you mean, to say that father
brought this on himself?" she demanded, breathlessly angry.
Ambrose made a helpless gesture.
"I am to understand that you justify the breed?" she persisted.
"You have no right to put words into my mouth!"
Colina repeated like an automaton. "Do you think the breed was
justified in shooting my father?"
"I will not answer."
"You've got to answer—before you and I go any farther!"
"Colina, think what you're doing!" he cried. "We must not quarrel."
"I'm not quarreling," she said with an odd, flinty quietness. "I'm
trying to find out something necessary for me to know. You might as
well answer. Do you think the breed was justified in shooting my
Ambrose, baited beyond endurance, cried: "I do! He went into the man's
house and laid hands on his property. Even a breed has rights."
Colina bowed her head as if in polite acceptance. "You had better go,"
she said in soft tones more terrible than a cry. "I am sorry I ever
The bitterness of lovers' quarrels is in ratio with their passion for
each other. These two loved with complete abandon, consequently each
could wound the other maddeningly.
But the plant of their love, vigorous as it was, was not rooted in old
acquaintance. When the top withered under the blasts of anger there
was no store of life below. Now each was secretly terrified by the
strangeness of the being to whom he had yielded his soul.
Ambrose, wild with pain, no longer recked what he said. "You make a
man mad!" he cried. "You will not listen to reason. A thing must be
so just because you want it that way. I rack my brains for words to
save your feelings, and this is what I get! Very well, you shall have
the bald truth."
"Leave the house!" cried Colina.
"Not until I have spoken out!"
She clapped her hands over her ears.
"That is childish!" he said scornfully. "You can hear me! Throughout
the whole north your father is called the slave-driver!"
Colina faced him still and white. This was the very incandescence of
anger. "Go!" she said. "I'm done with you!"
"One thing more," he said doggedly. "The price of wheat. I shouldn't
have said anything about justice. Putting that aside, it will be good
business for you to pay the farmers their price. Otherwise you'll have
red rebellion on your hands!"
As Ambrose made for the door he met Gordon Strange coming in.
"Wait!" Colina commanded. "I want you to hear this."
It was impossible to tell from her set face what she meant to do,
Ambrose waited, hoping against hope.
"You want to know about the wheat?" said Colina.
"First, your father," said Strange, anxious and compassionate.
"He is not dangerously ill," said Colina.
"Ah!" said Strange. "Yes, the farmers are waiting."
Colina said clearly: "The price is to be one-fifty per bushel."
"That's what I thought," said Strange. "I will tell them." He went.
"Ah, Colina!" cried Ambrose brokenly.
She left the room slowly, as if he had not been there.
Ambrose could not have told how he got out of the house.
Ambrose lay in his tent with his head hidden in his arms, trying not to
think. Job licked his hand unheeded. A hail from the river forced him
to rouse himself. As he crawled out he instinctively cast a glance at
the sun. It was mid-afternoon.
Tole Grampierre landed on the stones. "You are seeck!" he exclaimed,
seeing Ambrose's face.
Though life loses all its savor, it must be carried on with a good air.
"Mal de tête!" said Ambrose, making light of it. "It will soon pass."
Tole accepted the explanation. He told Ambrose that he had come that
morning and found him gone. He had come back to tell him what the
white man already knew—that, though Gaviller had been laid low by a
mysterious stroke, he had sent word from his sick-bed that he would pay
no more than one-fifty for wheat.
"The men are moch mad," Tole went on in his matter-of-fact way. "They
not listen to my fat'er no more. Say he too old. All come to meet to
our house to-night. There will be trouble. My fat'er send me for you.
He say maybe you can stop the trouble."
"I stop it?" said Ambrose, laughing harshly. "What the devil can I do?"
Tole shrugged. "My fat'er say nobody but you can stop it."
It was clear to Ambrose that "trouble" signified danger to Colina.
"I'll come," he said apathetically.
"Where is your dugout?" asked Tole.
"Bring all your things," said Tole. "You stay at our house now till
you go back. My mot'er got good medicine. She cure mal de tête."
Ambrose reflected bitterly that Mrs. Grampierre's simples could hardly
reach his complaint. Nevertheless, he was not anxious to be left
alone—he was not one to nourish a sorrow. He packed up what remained
of his outfit, and Tole stowed it in the dugout.
The Grampierre house was a mile and a half above the Company's
establishment on the other side of the river. The two young men had,
therefore, a three-mile paddle against the current.
Landing, Ambrose saw before him a low, wide-spreading house built of
squared logs and whitewashed. Ample barns and outhouses spread around
a rough square. The whole picture brought to mind a manor-house of
earlier and simpler times.
The patriarch himself waited at the door. He was a fine figure of
manhood—lean, straight, rugged as a jack-pine. He had the noble
aquiline features of the red side of the house, and his dark face was
wonderfully set off by a luxuriant, snowy thatch.
Ambrose, indifferent as he was, could not but be struck by the old
man's beauty, and his dignity was equal to his good looks. Young
Tole's naïve pride in his parent was explained.
Ambrose was introduced to a wide interior of a dignified bareness.
This was the main room of the house; the kitchen they called it, though
the cooking was done outside.
It was spotlessly clean; none too common a thing in the north. Clearly
these people had their pride.
Still Ambrose was reminded of the difference between white and red, for
the women of the house were ignored, and when later he sat down to sup
with Simon and his five strong sons the wives waited humbly on the
Afterward the men sat before the door, smoking. Simon kept Ambrose at
his right hand, and conversed with him as with an honored guest. He
avoided all reference to what had brought him.
When Ambrose, not understanding the reason for his delicacy, asked
about the coming meeting, Simon said:
"When all come you learn what every man thinks. I not want to shape
your mind to my mind until all are here."
They came by ones and twos, a little company of twenty-odd. Many
anomalies of race were exhibited. Some showed a Scotch cast of
feature, some French, some purely Indian.
One or two might have been taken for white men had it not been for an
odd cast of the eye. Yet it might happen the Indian and the white man
were full brothers. The general character of the faces was stolid
rather than passionate.
There was little talk.
The room having been cleared, they went inside. The women had
disappeared. Simon Grampierre sat at an end of the room, with Ambrose
at his right, and his sons ranged about him. The other men faced them
from the body of the room.
There were not chairs for all, but indeed chairs suggested church, the
trader's house, and other places of ceremony; and those without,
squatting on their heels around the walls, were the happier.
Talk was slow to start. They kept their hats on and stolidly looked
down their noses. When it began to grow dark a single little lamp was
brought in and stood upon a dresser in the corner.
The wide room with its one spot of light and all the still, shadowy
figures conveyed an effect of grimness.
Simon Grampierre opened the meeting. Out of courtesy to Ambrose all
the talk was in English.
"Men!" said the patriarch. "John Gaviller send word that he will pay
only one-fifty a bushel for our grain. We meet to talk and decide what
to do. All must agree. In agreement there is strength.
"Already there has been much talk about our grain. I will waste no
words now. For myself and my sons I pledge that we will not sell one
bushel of grain less than dollar-seventy-five. What do the others say?"
One by one the men arose and repeated the pledge, each raising his
right hand. Ambrose began to be aware that the stolidity masked a high
emotional tension. It was his own presence that restrained them.
Simon rose again. "I have heard talk that you will spoil your grain,"
he said. "Some say let the cattle and horses in the field while it is
green. Some say burn it when it gets ripe. That is foolish talk.
"Grain is as good as money or as fur. A man does not feed money to
cattle nor burn up fur. I say cut your grain and thrash it and store
it. Some one will buy it.
"Gaviller himself got to buy when he see we mean to stand together. He
has made contracts to send flour to the far north. Who wants to speak?"
A little man of marked French characteristics sprang to his feet. His
eyes flashed. "I speak!" he cried.
"This Jean Bateese Gagnon," explained Simon to Ambrose.
"Simon Grampierre say wait!" cried the little man passionately.
"Always he say, 'Wait, wait, wait!' All right for Simon Grampierre to
wait. He got plenty beef and potatoes and goods in his house. He can
"What will a poor man do while he wait? What will I do—starve, and
see my children starve? If we not sell grain we get no credit at the
store. Where I get warm clothes for the winter and meat and sugar and
powder for my gun?
"What do we wait for, un miracle? Do we wait for Gaviller's heart to
soften? We wait a long tam for that I fink, me! While we wait I think
Gaviller get busy. He say he come and cut our grain. Will we wait and
The old man interrupted here: "If Gaviller put his men on our land we
fight," he said.
"Aha!" cried Jean Bateese. "He will not wait then. You say let us cut
our grain and store it and wait for one to buy," he went on. "What
will Gaviller do? I tell you. He will go to law! It is not the first
time. He mak' the law to serve him.
"We all owe him for goods. He will send out and get law papers to say
because we owe him money for goods our grain is his grain. If he got
law-papers the police come and take our grain for him. Wat you say to
Old Simon was plainly disconcerted. He turned to Ambrose. "Will you
Ambrose's heart sank. How is a dead man to sway passionate, living
men? However, he rose with the best assurance he could muster.
"I have only one thing to say," he began, conscious of the feebleness
of his words. "John Gaviller is a sick man. I have seen the doctor.
You cannot fight a sick man. I say do not accept his price—do not
refuse it. The grain is not ripe yet. Wait till he is well."
A murmur of dissent went around the room. Ambrose being a stranger,
there was a note of politeness in it.
Jean Bateese sprang to his feet again. "Ambrose Doane say wait!" he
said. "He is good man. We lak him. But me, I am sick of waiting!
"To-day we hear John Gaviller is sick. All are sorry. All forget we
have trouble wit' him. We wait to hear how he is. Wa! he say to us
right out of his bed dollar-fifty or starve! Why should we wait till
he get well? He does not wait!"
Another man, a burly, purple-cheeked son of earth, took up the harangue
at the point where Jean Bateese dropped it. This was Jack Mackenzie,
"Me, I am sick of waiting, too!" he cried. "Always we wait, and John
Gaviller do what he like! Why he put down the price of grain? Why he
do everything? It is to keep us in his debt. We can work till our
backs break, but he fix it so we are still in debt.
"Because we can do not'ing when we are in his debt. We are his slaves!
We got to break our slave chains. It is time to act. Now I say out
loud what all are whispering: let us burn the store!"
Thirty men took a sharp breath between their teeth. There was a little
silence; then quick cries of approval broke out. The meeting was with
Ambrose, thinking of Colina, turned a little sick with apprehension.
Simon rose to still the noise, but Mackenzie held the floor.
"I know w'at Simon Grampierre goin' to say!" he cried, pointing. "He
goin' to say if you break the law you fix yourselves. They send many
police and put you all in jail. Simon Grampierre got good property.
He not want lose it.
"Me, I say all right! I go to jail. There is a trial. Everything got
come out. John Gaviller he cannot make slaves after that. I say let
them send me to jail. My children will be free!"
The meeting went wild at this. Simon had lost control. Even his own
sons, as could be read in their faces, sympathized with the speakers.
The old man betrayed nothing in his face. He stood like a rock until
he could get a hearing.
"Jack Mackenzie say I rich," he said proudly. "Say I think of my
property first. I now say whatever we do, we do together. We will
decide by vote. If you vote to burn the store I will put the fire to
They cheered him to the echo. Some cried: "Burn the store!" Some
cried: "Vote!" By this move Simon captured their attention again. He
held up a hand for silence.
"Wait!" he said. "I have a little more to say. Jack Mackenzie say we
got to break our chains. Those are true words! But how? If we burn
the store we only rivet them tighter.
"Gaviller will cry these are bad men and lawbreakers. These are
incendiaries! It is a word the white men hate. They will say do
what you like to the incendiaries. They deserve no better."
The strange word intimidated them. But a voice cried defiantly: "Must
we wait some more?" And their cries threatened to down the old man.
"No!" he cried in a voice that silenced them. "Here is Ambrose Doane!"
He paused for dramatic effect.
"I ask Ambrose Doane to our meeting to talk with us. I now say to
him"—he turned to Ambrose—"you have heard these men. They are so
much wronged they cannot see the right. They are so mad they don't
know what they do.
"I ask, Ambrose Doane, will you save them from their madness? Will you
help us break our chains? Buy our grain?"
THE PLAN OF CAMPAIGN.
An absolute silence followed Simon Grampierre's unexpected words. The
astute old man had withheld his proposal until the psychological
moment. Ambrose was a little dazed by it. He rose, feeling every
eager eye upon him, and said slowly:
"I must have a little time to consider. I must talk with Simon
Grampierre. I will give him my answer before morning."
Simon said to the company: "Men, will you sell your wheat to Ambrose
Doane at a dollar-seventy-five?"
The question broke the spell of silence. There could be no mistake
that the proposal was successful. A chorus of acclamations filled the
"Very good!" said Simon. "I will talk with Ambrose Doane and try to
make him trade with us."
The meeting broke up. It was then a little after nine.
Simon and Ambrose went apart to a bench on the river bank. There were
innumerable questions to be asked and answered. Simon estimated that
the grain in question, provided they had no frost, would amount to
twenty thousand bushels of wheat, and half as much oats. It was a
momentous decision for a youth like Ambrose to be called upon to make.
The greatest difficulty was how to grind the wheat.
"You have an engine here?" asked Ambrose.
"Yes, for our thrashing-machine," said Simon.
"I could order a small process mill from outside," said Ambrose, "but
it's doubtful if we could get it in this year."
"I have a hand mill," said Simon. "We call her the mankiller. Work
all day, grind a couple bags of flour. It is very old."
"Could it be rigged to the engine?" Ambrose asked.
"Wa! I never think of that," said Simon. "Maybe grind four bags a
Ambrose had no intention of giving an answer until he had communicated
with Colina. Strongly against Simon's advice, he insisted that
Gaviller, as he said, must be given one more chance to relent. Simon
unwillingly yielded. At ten o'clock Ambrose and Tole started down the
river in a dugout.
Ambrose did not mean to seek the interview with Colina. Before
starting he scribbled a hasty note.
The farmers have asked me to buy their grain. I've got to do it unless
you will pay their price. It's not much good to say it now, but I'd
sooner cut off my hand than seem to be fighting you.
I can't help myself. You won't believe it, but it's a fact just the
same, if you won't pay their price I must, in order to save you. If
you will agree to pay them one-seventy-five, I'll go back to Moultrie
to-morrow, and never trouble you again. AMBROSE.
Landing below Gaviller's house Ambrose sent Tole up the bank with this.
In a surprisingly short time he saw the half-breed returning.
"Did you see her?" he demanded.
"Yes," said Tole.
"Did she send an answer back?"
Ambrose held out his hand, and Tole dropped the torn fragments of his
own letter into it. Ambrose stared at them stupidly. He had steeled
himself against a possible humiliation at her hands—but to be
humiliated before the half-breed!
He drew a long breath to steady himself, and opening his hand, let the
fragments float away on the current.
"Let us go back," he said quietly.
During the whole of the way he did not speak.
Grampierre was waiting for them in the big kitchen.
"I will now give you my answer," said Ambrose.
"Well?" said the old man eagerly.
"It is only a partial answer. I agree to purchase enough of your grain
at one-seventy-five to see you all through the winter; and I agree to
bring a stock of goods here to supply your necessities."
Simon warmly grasped his hand. "It is well!" he cried. "I expected no
"I will return to Moultrie to-morrow," Ambrose went on in his dull,
quiet way. "I will consult with my partner, and if we can finance it,
we will buy all your grain."
"Tole shall go with you," said Simon. "You can send him back to me
with a letter."
Ambrose went to bed, and slept without dreaming. Nature is merciful.
After a certain point of suffering has been passed, she administers an
Next morning Ambrose transacted his business with Simon, and prepared
for the journey, to all appearances his usual matter-of-fact self.
Only Job perceived the subtle change in his master. The faithful brown
eyes continually sought Ambrose's face, and the ridiculous curly tail
was agitated in vain to induce a smile.
On the afternoon of the sixth day following, Ambrose and Tole landed at
Moultrie. Nothing was changed there. The sight of Peter's honest red
face was like balm to Ambrose's sore heart.
Seeing Ambrose, the remnants of Peter's anger evaporated like mist in
the sun. He clapped his young partner on the back until the other's
Peter's blue eyes beamed with honest gladness, meanwhile he uttered
loud abuse in his own style.
"So you're back, damn you! You ornery little whipper-snapper! To
sneak off from working like a breed after you feed him! I was hoping
I'd never lay eyes on you again. But here you are to plague me!"
Ambrose smiled sheepishly, and gripped his hand.
Peter sent Tole off to Eva to be fed, while he went with Ambrose to the
latter's little shack. Ambrose looked around his own place curiously.
It was like another man's house now. He had lost the old self who used
to live here.
"What's happened to you?" asked Peter with an offhand air.
"Why do you ask?" said Ambrose quickly. He hated to think it was all
written in his face.
"You look older," said Peter. "I don't see you grinning so much."
Ambrose immediately grinned—after a fashion. "I've got a lot to tell
you," he said. "We'll talk after supper."
Half the night they talked. Ambrose laid his proposal before Peter in
anxious trepidation. Peter earned the young man's lifelong gratitude
by the promptness and heartiness of his response.
"You did right!" he cried with another clap on the back. "It will be a
fine adventure! We'll go into Fort Enterprise and make a killing!
We'll buy all the grain in sight!"
"It's a big weight to swing," murmured Ambrose.
"Sure!" cried Peter. "But no man would refuse it. What if it does
break us? We're young. And we'll have a grand run for our money."
The excess of Ambrose's relief unnerved him a little. "Peter, you're a
man!" he murmured brokenly. "I was near crazy, wondering if you'd
stand by me!"
"Hey, cut it out!" cried Peter. "Buck up! We got work to do to-night!"
Throughout the hours of darkness they counted up their resources,
decided as to the friends they could call on for assistance, and
planned ways and means.
There was not a day to be lost, and it was first of all decided that
Ambrose must start for the outside world next morning. Once started he
would be out of touch with his partner for good, therefore every
question had to be discussed that night, and there were a hundred.
Ambrose was astonished by Peter's pluck and dash in business affairs.
Like many another junior partner he had been accustomed to patronize
his elder a little.
"I'll stand by you to the limit," Peter had said. "But this is your
put. You must do everything yourself."
Therefore, after the details had been arranged, it fell to Ambrose to
compose the letter to Simon Grampierre. It was the longest letter he
had ever written.
Tole and I arrived yesterday after a quick trip. I have talked with my
partner. We agree to purchase all the grain grown around Fort
Enterprise this season at one-seventy-five per bushel.
We will load up a york boat immediately with a small load of supplies
for present use. Tole will steer it up the river. He will take this
letter to you. It may take four or five days to get a crew.
(Here followed an inventory of the goods they had decided to send.)
We appoint you our agent to distribute these goods. I will send you a
book in which to put down all the charges. Let the crew of the york
boat have two dug-outs to return home in, and keep the york boat at
your place to send down grain and flour later.
I have missed the steamboat on her first trip out. I will start to-day
by canoe with an Indian. It will take me ten days to cross the lake
and go up the Miwasa to the landing and so to town.
I will order a full outfit in town, and bring it in immediately by way
of Caribou Lake, and down stream to you. I will bring a little process
mill if I can get one. If I have no trouble you will see me about the
first of September. Anyway I will be in before the ice begins to run.
Coming back I will have no trouble going up the Miwasa or Musquasepi or
across Caribou Lake, because Martin Sellers has steamboats there, and
he is independent and friendly to us. They can't stop me on the Spirit
River either, because I can build a raft and bring my stuff down.
Where they will try to get me is on the portage between Caribou Lake
and the Spirit. They will try to tie up the teams. On my way out I
will see Martin Sellers about it. He has power.
As soon as the grain is begun to be thrashed start the mankiller going
to try and get a little ahead with the flour.
Send Tole and another good man in a dugout up to the crossing to meet
me. Let them start August 8.
I am sending by Tole two bottles of Madeira wine. Send it to the sick
man at the fort without letting him know it comes from me. For
yourself Peter Minot sends a box of cigars with his compliments.
If I think of anything else I'll write at the landing and send it in by
the August mail. My regards to the boys.
On August 25, well within his schedule, Ambrose arrived at Spirit River
Crossing with ten loaded wagons.
For six long days they had been floundering through the bottomless
mudholes of the portage trail and men and horses were alike played out;
but the rest of the way to come was easy, and Ambrose paid off his
drivers with a light heart.
The york boat and crew he had engaged at the crossing were
non-existent, and no explanation forthcoming. He had met with similar
small reverses all along the line. This one was not important; it
meant three days delay to build a raft.
There was a current of nearly four miles an hour to carry him to his
destination, and no rapids in the three hundred miles to endanger his
Tole Grampierre and his brother Germain were waiting for Ambrose. With
two such aides he could afford to smile at the mysterious scarcity of
labor which developed on his arrival.
Tole's budget of news from down the river contained nothing startling.
John Gaviller had been very sick all summer with pneumonia as a result
of his wound. He was getting better: "pale and skinny as an old rabbit
in the snow," in Tole's words.
Gaviller had sent up the launch to get what grain had been grown at the
crossing; but it was not enough to fill his contracts for flour up
north. He had been obliged to pay two dollars a bushel for it.
Ambrose smiled at this piece of information.
Ambrose waited eagerly for some word of her who was seldom out of his
thoughts, but to Tole the matter was not of such great importance.
Ambrose could not bring himself to name her name. Not until Tole had
covered everything else did he say casually:
"Colina Gaviller rides all around on her yellow horse. She is proud
now. Never speaks to the people."
That was all. Ambrose's heart stirred with compassion for the one, who
by her loyalty was forced to embrace the wrong cause.
Another time Tole remarked: "Gordon Strange run the store all summer."
"So!" said Ambrose. "What do the people say about him? What does your
Tole shrugged. "He say not'ing," he said cautiously. He could not be
induced to commit himself further in this direction.
They built their raft, and loading up, started without untoward
incident. Traveling day and night, allowing for stoppages and delays,
they expected to be nearly five days on the way.
On the third day, Ambrose chafing at their slow progress, put the
dugout overboard, and set off ahead to warn the settlement of their
coming. He had no hesitation leaving the raft with the Grampierre
boys; they could handle it better than himself.
He paddled all day, and at night cut down a tree so that it would fall
in the water, and tied his canoe to it, that he might not be blown
ashore while he slept.
For hours he lay waiting for sleep, watching the stars circle round his
head as his canoe was swung in the eddies, and considering his
He could not rest for his eagerness to be at the end of his journey,
though he had no hope of what awaited there—that is to say not much
hope; there is always a perhaps.
But how could Colina relent when she beheld him arriving laden with
ammunition to make war upon her? Ambrose wondered sadly if any lover
before him ever found himself in such a plight.
By ten o'clock next morning he was within a mile or two of Grampierre's
place. The river was dazzling in the morning sunlight, the air like
The poplar trees had put on their gorgeous autumn dress of saffron and
scarlet, which showed like names against the chocolate colored hills.
Suddenly in a grassy ravine on his right, Ambrose saw the "yellow"
His heart set up a furious beating. No power on earth could have
prevented him from landing, though common sense told him clearly no
good could come of it. That "perhaps" drew him ashore, that hope
After a short search he found her sleeping under a poplar-tree in a
hollow of the bank that was hidden from the river.
She wore her khaki riding-habit, as usual; her head was couched in the
crook of her arm, and in the other hand she held her Stetson hat by its
strap. Ambrose brooded over her wistfully.
Her face was paler and thinner; evidently she herself had not been
having too easy a time these two months past.
These blemishes on her beauty made her seem infinitely more beautiful
and dearer to him. And all relaxed and disarmed in sleep as she was,
it seemed so easy a thing to gather her up in his arms and make her
forget what divided them.
Ambrose's dim thought was: "If somehow I could only send her real self
a message while her head-strong, unreasonable self is asleep, maybe
she'd confess the truth when she woke."
While he was hungrily gazing at her her eyelids fluttered. He moved
back to a more respectful distance. She awoke without alarm. For an
instant she lay looking at him as calmly as a babe in its crib.
Then in a flash recollection returned, and she sprang to a sitting
position, both hands, womanlike, flying to her hair. She eyed him with
a certain discomposure. It was as if she felt that she ought to be
furiously angry, and was somewhat dismayed because it did not come.
"What do you want?" she asked coldly.
In her cold eye Ambrose was conscious of a wall between them more
impenetrable than granite. His heart gave up hope. "Nothing," he said
"It's not exactly agreeable," she said, frowning, "to find oneself
Ambrose started and frowned. This construction of his act had not
occurred to him. "I saw Ginger from the river," he said indignantly.
"I landed to find you."
"What did you want?" she asked coolly.
"I don't know," said Ambrose.
There was a silence between them. Her cold look told him to go. Pride
and common sense both urged him to obey—but he could not. He was like
a bit of iron filing in the presence of a magnet.
"I—I suppose I wanted to find out how you were," he said at last.
"Was that so extraordinary?"
She ignored the question. "I am well," she said.
"How is your father?" he asked.
She looked at him levelly and did not answer.
A slow red crept up from Ambrose's neck. "I asked you a civil
question," he muttered.
"If you want a truthful answer," said Colina clearly, "I think you have
a cheek to ask."
"I didn't shoot him!" Ambrose burst out.
"What is the use of our bandying words?" she asked with cold scorn.
"Nothing you can say to me or I to you can help matters now."
"Good Lord, but women can be stony!" Ambrose cried involuntarily.
Colina took it as a compliment. Her eye brightened with a kind of
pride. "I don't know what men are!" she cried. "Apparently you want
to fight me with one hand and hold the other out in friendship. Only a
man could think of such a thing."
Ambrose gazed at her sullenly. "You are right!" he said abruptly. "I
am a fool!"
He left her with his head up, but inwardly beaten and sore. Somehow
she had got the better of him, he could not have told how. He was
conscious of having intended honestly. This cold parting was worse
than the most violent of quarrels.
Simon Grampierre was waiting on a point of his land that commanded a
view up and down river. Here he had set up a lookout bench like that
at the fort. At sight of Ambrose he shouted from a full breast and
hastened down to the waterside. He received him with both hands
"You have come!" he cried. "It is well!"
Ambrose was surprised and a little disconcerted to see the grim old
patriarch so moved.
"Where is your outfit?" Simon asked anxiously.
"Half a day behind me," said Ambrose. "It is safe."
"Have you flour?" asked Simon.
"Flour? No!" said Ambrose staring. "With twenty thousand bushels of
"Have you got a little mill?"
Ambrose shook his head. "There was none in Prince George," he said.
"I had to telegraph to the East. It had not arrived when I was ready
to start, and I couldn't wait.
"I made arrangements for it to be forwarded; a friend of mine will
bring it in. Martin Sellers promised to hold the last boat at the
landing until October 1st for it."
"Wa!" said Simon, raising his hands. "That is bad! We need flour. We
cannot wait a month for flour."
"What's the matter with the mankiller?"
"Broke," was the laconic answer. "We fix it. Every day it break
again. Now it is all broke."
"Well, every family will have to grind for themselves," said Ambrose.
Simon shrugged. "We have a new trouble here."
"What is it?" Ambrose anxiously demanded.
"The Kakisa Indians," Simon said. "They are the biggest tribe around
this post, and the best fur bringers. They live beside the Kakisa
River, hundred fifty miles northwest.
"All summer they come in two or six or twenty and get a little flour,
little sugar, tea, tobacco from me. They want to trade with you
because Gaviller is hard to them like us. They are good hunters, but
he keep them poor.
"In the late summer they come all together to get a fall outfit. They
are here now. They want a hundred bags of flour. They come to me. I
say I have got no flour. They go to the fort.
"Gaviller say; 'Ambrose Doane bought all the grain. You want to trade
with him; all right. Make him sell you flour now.'
"They are here a week now—sixty teepees. I feed them what I can. It
is not much. They are ongry. They begin to talk ugly."
Ambrose would not let Simon see that he was in any way dismayed by this
situation. "Where are the Indians camped?" he asked coolly.
"Mile and a half down river. Across from the fort."
"Very well," said Ambrose. "Tell them at your house to keep watch here
until Tole and Germain come with the raft. Six men should be ready to
help them land and unload. You come with me in the dugout, and we will
go down and talk to the Indians."
A gleam of approval shot from under Simon's beetle brows. "Good!" he
said. "You go straight to a thing. I like that, me!"
Ambrose found the teepee village set up in the form of a square on a
grassy flat beside the river. The quadrangle was filled with the usual
confusion of loose horses, quarrelsome dogs, and screaming children.
Simon called his attention to a teepee in the middle of the northerly
side distinguished by its size and by gaudy paintings on the canvas.
"Head man's lodge," he said. "Name Joey Providence Watusk."
"A good mouthful," said Ambrose.
"Joey for English, Providence for French, Watusk for Kakisa," explained
He called a boy to him, and made him understand that they wished to see
the head man.
"I send a message that we are coming," he explained to Ambrose. "He
lak to be treated lak big man. It is no harm when you are trading with
Ambrose agreed. "So this what's-his-name fancies himself," he remarked
while they waited.
"It is so," said Simon, grimly. "Thinks he is a king! All puff up
with wind lak a bull frog. He mak' me mad with his foolishness. What
would you? You cannot deal with the Kakisas only what he say. Because
only Watusk speaks English. He does what he wants."
"And can nobody here speak Kakisa?" Ambrose asked.
"Nobody but Gordon Strange. It is hard talk on the tongue."
"What else about him?"
"Wa! I have told you," said Simon. "You will know him when you see!
All tam show off lak a cock-grouse in mating-time. He is not Kakisa.
He is a Cree who went with them long tam ago. Some say his father was
a black man."
"So!" said Ambrose. "And they stand for that?"
Simon shrugged. "The Kakisas a funny people. Not mix with the whites,
not mix with other Indians lak Crees. They keep old ways. They not
talk about their ways to other men. So nobody knows what they do at
home." Simon lowered his voice. "Some say cannibals."
"Pooh!" said Ambrose, "that yarn is told about every strange tribe!"
"Maybe," said Simon, cautiously. "I do not know myself."
The Indian boy returning, signified that Joey Providence Watusk awaited
THE STAFF OF LIFE.
Lifting the blind over the entrance, Ambrose dived inside the teepee,
Simon Grampierre at his heels. In the center a small fire burned on
the ground, and behind it sat five dark-skinned figures in a semicircle.
Not one of the five faces changed a muscle at their entrance. The
principal man with a grave inclination of the head, waved them a
blanket which had been placed for them opposite him.
It was like an old-time Indian council, but the picturesqueness was a
good deal spoiled by the gingham shirts they wore, and the ill-fitting
coats and trousers from the store.
Moreover, the red men's pipes, instead of the graceful calumets were
English briars with showy silver bands. The bowl of Watusk's pipe, of
which he appeared to be inordinately proud, was roughly carved into the
likeness of a death's head.
Watusk was an extraordinary figure. Ambrose was reminded of a quack
doctor in poor circumstances. He was middle-aged and flabby, and had
long, straggling gray hair, bound round with a cotton fillet, none too
He wore a frock coat all buttoned up before, each button constricting
his fat, with a bulge between. His trousers were made from a blanket
once white, with a wide black band around the calf of each leg, and he
wore fine doeskin moccasins, richly embroidered with silk.
His dirty fingers displayed a quantity of brass rings from the store,
set with gems of colored glass. His heavy, loose-featured face was
unremarkable, except for the extraordinarily bright, quick, shallow
eyes, suggesting at different moments the eyes of a child, an animal,
and a madman.
His skin showed a tinge of yellow as distinguished from the pure copper
of his companions, and Ambrose was reminded of the black man.
Watusk grandiloquently introduced his four companions. "My
councilors," he said: "Toma, minister of state; Lookoovar, minister of
war; Mahtsonza, minister of interior; Tatateecha, minister of medicine."
Thus their uncouth names as Ambrose got them. He avoided Simon's eye,
and bit his lip to keep from laughing. The four were all small men
with the fine characteristic faces of pure bred savages.
They understood not a word of what was said, but preserved an
unshakable gravity throughout. Ambrose, as they were named, christened
them anew, according to their several characteristics: Coyote, Moose,
Bear and Weasel.
The last was a little shriveled creature, hung with charms and amulets
in tobacco bags until he looked like a scarecrow. He had an eye even
wilder and shiftier than his master's.
"Conjure-man," murmured Simon in Ambrose's ear.
"Let Ambrose Doane speak," said Watusk. He used good English.
Ambrose had adopted from Peter Minot the maxim: "Make the other man
speak first, and get a line on him." He bowed politely. "Ambrose
Doane will not speak until Watusk has spoken," he said.
Watusk highly gratified, bowed again, and forthwith began. "I am glad
to see Ambrose Doane. He is good to my eyes lak the green leaves in
spring. He is come to Fort Enterprise and there is no more winter.
"The name of Peter Minot and the name of Ambrose Doane make good words
to my ear. They are the friends of the red men. They pay good price
for fur. They sell outside goods cheap. I want a box of cigars me,
same lak you send Simon Grampierre."
Ambrose recognizing Watusk's type was not put out by the sudden drop
from the sublime to the ridiculous. He now had a "line" on his man.
Swallowing his laughter, he answered in a similar strain.
"I am glad to see Watusk. I wish to be his friend. I come from the
big lake six days' journey toward the place of the rising sun. So far
as that men tell me of the Kakisa nation, and tell of Watusk who rules
"Men say the Kakisa men are the best hunters of the north and honest as
the sun in summer-time. Men say Watusk is a wise chief and a good
friend of the white men. I have plenty cigars in my outfit."
The chief swelled with gratification until his much-tried buttons
threatened altogether to part company with his coat.
A good deal more of this airy exchange was necessitated before Watusk
could be induced to talk business. When he finally condescended to it,
the story was as Simon had forecast:
"When Ambrose Doane come here I say to my people: 'Trade with him. He
will be your father. He will feed you.' Now when they come for flour
Simon Grampierre say you got no flour.
"When I go to John Gaviller for flour, he mock me. He say: 'You take
Ambrose Doane for your father. All right. Let him feed you now.' So
I am not know what to do. Every day my people more ongry, more mad.
"Pretty soon the young men make trouble. There is no game here. We
can't stay here without flour. We can't go back without flour. I am
feel moch bad. But Ambrose Doane is come now. It is all right!"
The last of this was delivered with something like a leer, warning
Ambrose's subconsciousness that Watusk, notwithstanding the flowery
compliments, wished him no good.
"I have plenty of grain," he said warily. "Let each woman grind for
her own family."
Watusk shook his head. "Long tam ago we got stone bowls for grind wild
rice in," he said. "So many years we buy flour all the bowls is broke
and throw away now."
Ambrose could not deny to himself the gravity of the situation. He was
reminded afresh that he was dealing with a savage by the subtle,
threatening note that presently crept into Watusk's smooth voice.
"John Gaviller say to Gordon Strange for say to me: 'Ambrose Doane got
all the grain. Let Ambrose Doane sell his grain to me, and I give you
Ambrose, perceiving the drift, swore inwardly.
"Gordon Strange tell that in Kakisa language," Watusk went on slyly;
"some hear it and tell the others. All know now. If my people get
more hungry what can I do? Maybe my young men steal the grain and take
it to Gaviller."
"If they lay hands on my property they'll be shot," said Ambrose,
Watusk spread out his hands deprecatingly. "Me, I tell them that," he
said. "But they are so mad!"
"John Gaviller is trying to use you to work his own ends," said Ambrose.
Watusk shrugged indifferently. This was the real man, Ambrose thought.
"Maybe so. You got trouble with Gaviller. That is not my trouble.
All I want is flour."
"You shall have it!" cried Ambrose boldly. "Enough to-morrow morning
to feed every family. Enough in three days to fill your order."
Watusk appeared to be a little taken aback, by the prompt granting of
his demand. "Where will you get it?" he asked.
"I will get it," Ambrose said. "That is enough."
When Ambrose and Simon got outside the teepee Simon asked the same
question: "Where will you get it?"
"I don't know," said Ambrose. "Give me time. I'll find a way!"
"If Gaviller gets the Kakisa fur you'll make no profit this year,"
"I have to consider other things as well as profit," Ambrose said.
"There are more years to come."
Reaching the dugout, Simon asked: "Where now?"
"To the Fort," said Ambrose. "You don't have to come."
"We are together," said Simon grimly.
Ambrose, deeply moved by gratitude, growled inarticulately. He felt
himself young to stand alone against such powerful forces.
Crossing the river, they landed below the big yellow house and applied
at the side door for Colina. She had returned from her ride, they were
told. They were shown into the library.
In this little room Ambrose had already touched the summit of
happiness, and tasted despair. He hated it now. He kept his eyes on
Simon was visibly uneasy while they waited. "You think this any good?"
"No," said Ambrose bitterly. "I know well enough what I'll get. But
I've got to go through with it before taking the next step."
"John Gaviller live well," said Simon significantly, but without
Colina came in with her queenliest air. She had changed her riding
habit for clinging white draperies that made her look like a lovely,
arrogant saint. Ambrose, raising his sullen eyes to her, experienced a
new shock of desire that put the idea of flour out of his head.
To old Simon, Colina inclined her head as gracefully and indifferently
as a swan. The grim patriarch became humble under the spell of her
white beauty. He fingered his hat nervously. To Ambrose Colina said
with subtle scorn meant for his ear alone:
"What is it?"
Ambrose screwed down the clamps of self-control. "I asked for you," he
said stolidly, "because I did not know if your father was well enough
to talk business. May I see him for five minutes?"
"No," she said, without condescending to explain.
"Then I will tell you," said Ambrose. "It is about the Indians across
the river. I must have some flour for them."
"Must?" she repeated, raising her eyebrows.
"They are suffering from hunger," he said firmly.
"You will have to see Mr. Strange," she said coolly. "He is in charge
of the business."
"This is a question for the head to decide," warned Ambrose.
"You will have to see Mr. Strange," she repeated, unmoved.
Ambrose's eyes flamed up. For a moment the two pairs
contended—Ambrose's passionate, Colina's steely. The man was
struggling with the atavic impulse to thrash the maddening, arrogant
woman creature into a humbler frame of mind.
It may be, too, that deep in her heart of hearts Colina desired
something of the kind. Perhaps she could not master her worser self
alone. Anyhow, it was impossible there in her own stronghold, with
Simon looking on. They were too civilized or not civilized enough.
Ambrose merely bowed to her and led the way out of the room and out of
"Thank God, that is over!" he murmured outside.
Crossing the square, they entered the store. It was the first time
Ambrose had been inside that famous show-place of the north, but he had
no eyes for it now. Gordon Strange welcomed them with smiling
"Come in! Come in!" he cried, leading the way into the rear office.
"Sit down! Have a cigar!"
The scowling Ambrose stared as if he thought the man demented. He
waved the cigar away and came directly to the point.
"I want to find out what you're willing to do about the Kakisa Indians."
"Sure!" cried Strange with apparently the best will in the world. "Sit
down. What do you propose?"
"How much will you charge me to grind me five hundred bushels of grain
"I'm sorry," said Strange. "The old man won't hear of it."
"Will you let them starve?" cried Ambrose.
"What can I do?" said Strange distressfully. "I'm not the head."
"Grind it in spite of him," said Ambrose. "Humanity and prudence would
both be on your side. You'll get their fur by it."
"I think Mr. Gaviller expects to get the fur anyway," said Strange with
a seeming deprecatory air—but the suspicion of a smirk wreathed his
"Then I am to understand that you refuse to grind my grain at any
price," said Ambrose.
"Orders are orders," murmured Strange.
"Has Gaviller given you this order since he knew the people were
"He has told me his mind many times."
"That is not a direct answer. Some one must take the full
responsibility. If I write a short note to Gaviller will you deliver
it and bring me back an answer?"
Strange hesitated for the fraction of a second. "Yes," he said.
Ambrose wrote a succinct statement of the situation, and Strange
"Gaviller will never do it," said Simon.
"I don't expect him to," said Ambrose. "But he's got to commit
In due course Strange returned. He offered Ambrose a note, still with
his deprecating air. It was in Colina's writing. Ambrose read:
"John Gaviller begs to inform Mr. Ambrose Doane that the only proposal
he is willing to discuss will be the sale to him of all the grain in
Mr. Doane's possession at one dollar and a half per bushel. In such an
event he will also be willing to purchase Mr. Doane's entire outfit of
goods at cost. It will be useless for Mr. Doane to address him further
in any other connection.
"Enterprise House, September 3."
Ambrose stood reflecting with the note in his hand. For a single
moment his heart failed him. His inexperience was appalled by the
weight of the decision he had to make.
Oh, for Peter Minot's strong, humorous sense at this crisis! The
thought of Peter nerved him. Peter had taken it for granted that he
would make good. Ambrose remembered the sacrifices Peter had
cheerfully made to finance this expedition.
To accept John Gaviller's contemptuous offer would not only be to
confess a humiliating failure, it would mean pocketing a loss that
would cripple the young firm for the time being.
Peter would say: "Lose it if you must, but lose it fighting." This
thought was like an inspiration to Ambrose. His jaw stiffened, and a
measure of serenity returned to his eyes. He passed the note to Simon.
"Read it," he said coolly, "and save it. It may be useful as evidence,
A subtle change passed over Gordon Strange's face. For the moment he
was pure Indian. Quickly veiling his eyes, he asked with an innocent
air: "What does Mr. Gaviller say?"
This was too much for Ambrose to stomach. "You know damned well what
he says!" he answered scornfully.
Strange swallowed it. "Is there any answer?" he asked.
"No!" said Ambrose.
The half-breed's curiosity overcame his prudence. "What are you going
to do?" he asked slyly.
Ambrose strode out of the store without answering.
The two men paddled back to Grampierre's place in silence. Simon with
native tact, forbore to ask questions. Such is the potency of the
white man's eye that the leader of the breeds had unhesitatingly
yielded the direction of affairs to the youth who was little more than
a third of his age.
Upon landing, Ambrose pointed to the lookout bench. "Let us sit there
and talk," he said.
"Simon," he said immediately, "suppose it came to a fight, how many men
do you think Gaviller could count on?"
The old man took the question as a matter of course. "There is the
policeman, the doctor and the parson," he said. "The parson is best
for praying. There is the engineer and the captain of the steamboat;
there is young Duncan Greer.
"In summer he is purser on the steamboat; in winter he is the miller.
That is six white men. John Gaviller is no good yet. There is the
crew of the steamboat, and the men who work for wages, maybe fifteen
natives, not more."
"What sort of a man is Greer?" asked Ambrose.
"A lad; full of fun and jokes; a good machinist."
"Where does he sleep at the Fort?"
"He has a room in the old quarters. Gaviller's old house."
"Does he sleep alone?"
"Simon," said Ambrose, finally, "can you get me twenty-five good men by
dark; steady men with cool heads, who will do what I tell them?"
"I can," said Simon.
"Let them meet at your house," Ambrose went on. "Let every man carry
his gun, but you must see that the magazines are emptied, and that no
man has any shells in his pocket. I will have no shooting. Above all,
do not let the Indians know that anything is going on to-night."
"It is well!" said Simon laconically. The old dark eyes gleamed.
A BLOODLESS CAPTURE.
In a more innocent state of society such as that which exists in the
north, such a thing as a nightwatch is undreamed of. Insomnia is
likewise unknown there. At eleven o'clock every soul in Fort
Enterprise was drowned deep in slumber.
There was no light in any window; the very buildings seemed to crouch
on the earth as if they slept, too. At sundown a film of cloud had
crept across the sky, and the moon was dark. It was the very night for
deeds of adventure.
Down on the current came a rakish york boat floating as idly as a piece
of wreckage. Its hold was filled with bags of grain, on which squatted
and lay many dark figures scarcely to be distinguished from the bags.
No whisper marked its passage; not a pipe-bowl glowed. On the little
steering platform stood Simon Grampierre wielding a long sweep run
through a ring astern. The ring was muffled with strips of cloth.
Simon kept the craft straight in the current, and as they approached
the Company buildings, gradually edged her ashore.
The dark steamboat lay with her nose drawn up on a point of stones
below the flagstaff. Steamboat and point together caused a little
backwater to form beyond, of which Simon was informed.
All he had to do was to urge the nose of his boat into it, and she
grounded of herself at the spot where they had chosen to land; that is
immediately below the mills.
A dozen moccasined men let themselves softly into the water, and
putting their backs under the prow lifted her up a little on the
stones. Instantly, as if by the starting of a piece of machinery a
chain of bags was started ashore from hand to hand.
Ambrose and Tole, who was to be engineer, climbed the bank to
reconnoiter. So far no word had been spoken.
Above, along the edge of the bank, were three small buildings in a
line, close together. That in the middle was the engine house, with
the sawmill on the left and the flour mill on the right.
Ambrose and Tole made for the engine which was housed in a little
structure of corrugated iron. The door faced the sawmill. It was an
iron sliding door, fastened with hasp and padlock.
Ambrose inserted the point of a crowbar under the hasp, and the whole
thing came away with a single metallic report. If any sleeper was
awakened by the sound, hearing no other sounds, he probably fell asleep
again. Anyhow no alarm was raised as yet.
Tole went back to get assistance in carrying slabs into the engine
room. The sawmill was merely an open shed, and there was an abundance
of fuel in sight.
The water supply, being furnished by gravity from a tank overhead, was
With the aid of his electric torch, Ambrose found the belt to run the
flour mill in a corner of the engine room. So far so good. His
instructions to Tole were simple.
"I'll let you have one man to help you. If they besiege us, I won't be
able to communicate with you. Whatever happens, keep the engine going.
Store enough slabs in here to keep her going all night, then close the
door, and fasten it some way."
The flour mill was likewise built of corrugated iron. It had two iron
doors, one giving on the road, fastened with a padlock, the other on
the river side, hooked from within.
Ambrose broke open the first, and throwing back the second, allowed the
grain bags to be hustled inside direct from the beach.
He lit a lantern, and cloaking it within his coat, examined the
machine. His heart sank at the thought of his difficulties, supposing
the next step of his plan should fail.
Ambrose was enough of a machinist to appreciate the difficulty of
operating this complicated arrangement of wheels and rollers and frames
by lantern light.
Taking five velvet-footed men, he set off around the back of the store,
and across the corner of the square to the "quarters." The building so
designated was in the middle of the side of the square facing the river.
It was a low, spreading affair, of several dates of construction. Once
Gaviller's residence, it was now used to house the white employees of
the company and chance travelers.
Greer's room was in the end of the building nearest the store. The
policeman slept at the other side, separated by several partitions.
The room they were making for had a door opening directly on the yard.
It was not locked. Ambrose merely lifted the latch and walked in with
his five men at his heels.
Inside, in the thick darkness they heard the sound of deep breathing.
Ambrose flashed his light around. A typical boy's room was revealed,
with college banners, colored prints, photographs and firearms.
On a bed in the corner lay the owner, a good-looking blond boy sleeping
on his back with an arm flung above his head. He was a hearty sleeper.
Not until the command was twice repeated in no uncertain tones, did he
waken. It was to find himself looking into the blazing white eye of
the electric torch.
"What time is it?" he murmured, blinking.
One of the men chuckled.
"Time to get up," said Ambrose grimly.
"Hey, what's the matter?" cried the voice from the bed in accents of
"Get up and dress," commanded Ambrose.
"What for?" stammered the boy.
"I have five armed men here," said Ambrose. "Do what you're told
without asking questions. If you make a racket you'll be cracked over
the head with the butt of a gun."
As he spoke Ambrose flashed the light from one to another of his men.
The sight of the quiet dark-skinned breeds, each with a Winchester on
his arm was sufficiently intimidating. The boy swung his legs out of
"All right," he said, philosophically. "Throw your light on my
clothes, will you?"
He commenced to dress without more ado. Presently he asked coolly;
"What do you want me for, and who are you anyway?"
"I'm Ambrose Doane," said Ambrose. "I've seized the flour mill.
You've got to run it."
"There's no grain there," said Greer.
"I brought my grain with me," said Ambrose.
A sound like a chuckle escaped the boy. No doubt he was well-informed
as to the situation. "You didn't lose much time," he said.
They started back to the mill, a breed on either side of Greer with a
hand upon his shoulder.
"If you make a break, you'll be knocked down and carried in," warned
Apparently Greer had no such intention. He was a matter-of-fact youth
and prone to laughter. He laughed now. "Golly! the old man will be in
a wax when he hears of it! How many men have you got?"
"Twenty-five," said Ambrose.
"Well, he can't blame me if I'm forced to work by overwhelming numbers!
Oh, golly! but there'll be a time to-morrow!"
Ambrose breathed more freely. This which had promised to be the most
difficult part of his plan was proving easy.
Entering the mill, Greer looked around the dim place with its little
crowd of still, silent, armed men, and chuckled again. "Darned if it
isn't as good as a melodrama!" he said.
"Go to it!" said Ambrose, pointing to the machinery. He lit plenty of
lanterns, careless now if the fort were aroused. They had to wake up
sooner or later. "You can smoke," he said to his men.
Matches were quickly struck, and coals pressed into pipe bowls with
guttural grunts of satisfaction.
Greer lit a cigarette, and picked up his oil can and wrench as a matter
of course. He set to work, whistling softly between his teeth.
Ambrose, watching him, could not make up his mind whether this was due
to pluck or sheer light-headedness. Either way, he was inclined to
like the boy.
"I say, Ambrose," Greer said cheekily. "Give us a hand with these
bolting frames, will you? Do you want fine flour or coarse?"
"The most in the least time," said Ambrose.
"We'll leave in the middlings then. It's wholesome."
They worked amicably together. Greer in his simplicity explained
everything as they went, and Ambrose cannily stored it away.
Fortunately, the mill had lately been operated, grinding the grain from
the Crossing, and all was practically in readiness to start. Within an
hour after the landing of the party, Tole turned on his steam.
The wheels began to revolve, Greer threw in the clutch, and presently a
veritable stream of flour began to issue from the mouth of the machine.
Ambrose repressed an inclination to cheer.
The steady hum of machinery was more effective to awaken the
inhabitants of the Fort than any scattered noises.
The sounds of movement began to be heard among the houses. Lights were
lit, and doors opened. No one who looked out of doors could mistake
what was going on, for a stream of sparks was now issuing from the
The first notice of attack came in a single shot from across the road.
A bullet sang through the doorway, flattening itself with a whang on
the iron wall. Those around the opening fell back.
Some one crashed the door to. Ambrose as quickly opened it, and
stooping low, peered out. He was in time to see a crouching figure
disappear around the corner of the store. Something in the bulk of it,
the neat outline gave him a clue.
"Strange, by gad!" he said to himself.
Aloud, Ambrose said: "The door must be open. We've got to see and hear
what they're up to. Let every man keep out of range. Make a wall of
the bags of grain on this side of the machine, and put the lanterns
behind it, so Greer will have light."
While they worked to obey him, Ambrose, flinging himself down at full
length, watched with an eye at the crack of the door. He saw a group
of men gradually gather at the corner of the store. They advanced,
hesitated, fell back.
Finally, an authoritative figure showed itself. Ambrose guessed it to
be Macfarlane, the policeman. He advanced boldly down the sidewalk,
and took up a position across the road. The others straggled after him.
"Who is there?" challenged the leader. Ambrose distinguished the tunic
and forage cap.
Ambrose rose, and opening the door wider, showed himself. "Ambrose
Doane," he said. He warily watched the crowd, for any movement
suggestive of raising a gun.
"You're under arrest!" cried the policeman.
"All right," said Ambrose coolly. "What charge?"
"You'll have to come and take me!"
"If you resist the law the consequences will be on your own head!"
"I accept the consequences."
"Stop the machinery!" cried the policeman. "If you destroy the mill
we'll all starve!"
"The miller himself is running it," said Ambrose coolly. "With a gun
to his head," he added, grinning over his shoulder. "I seized him in
his bed and carried him here."
"Good man!" Greer, behind him, gratefully murmured.
"If you refuse to give yourself up I'll take you by force!" cried
"Come ahead!" sang Ambrose. "I've got twenty-five men here. They have
orders not to shoot, but if you open fire on us, the consequences will
be on your head!"
"I'll do my duty!" shouted the policeman.
"Get your crowd together!" taunted Ambrose. "Lay your guns down, and
come on over and put us out if you're men enough. We'll stand by the
The men behind Ambrose raised a cheer. The sound did not improve the
morale of the other side. Even in the dark, the difference between the
two crowds could be felt.
Ambrose's men were fighting for what they felt to be their rights; the
men behind the policeman had no incentive—except their jobs.
Macfarlane paused to consult with another man—probably Gordon Strange.
The others talked in excited whispers, and circled on one another
without making any forward movement. Messengers were despatched up and
down the road.
Suddenly a petticoated figure came flying down the sidewalk from the
store. Ambrose's heart leaped up, and then as suddenly calmed. He
told himself grimly he was cured.
It was Colina. "What are you standing here for?" she cried
passionately. "Are you afraid? They are nothing but common robbers!
Go and put them out!"
No man moved.
"Fire on them!" cried Colina. "I order it! I take the responsibility."
They still hung back. Macfarlane could be seen attempting to
expostulate with her.
"Don't speak to me!" cried Colina. "When you find robbers in your
house you shoot them down! You're afraid! I will go myself!"
All in a breath she came flying across the road. Ambrose, surprised,
fell back a step from the door. Before he could recover himself she
stood in the middle of the shed facing them with blazing eyes.
She had risen hastily; her glorious hair was twisted in a loose coil
and pinned insecurely; the habit she had thrown on was still open at
She had caught up a riding-crop; the knuckles that gripped it were
white. Ambrose, admiring her in an odd, detached way, was reminded of
Bellona, the goddess of anger.
"What does this mean?" she cried.
"What you see," said Ambrose coldly.
"Get out!" she cried. "All of you! I order it!"
The men cringed under her angry glances, and their eyes bolted. Only
the sight of Ambrose standing firm, kept them in their places. Colina
turned on Ambrose.
"You thief!" she cried with ringing scorn.
Ambrose coldly faced her out. Somehow he found it was his turn to
smile. As a matter of fact he had suffered so much at her hands that
he had become callous and strong enough to resist her.
Indeed there was a kind of bitter sweetness in this moment. She, who
had humiliated him so many times was now powerless before him, let her
rage as she might. He was only human.
Seeing the cold smile Colina felt as if the ground was suddenly cut
from under her. Her cheeks paled, and the imperious blaze of her eyes
was slowly dimmed.
When the bolt of passion is launched without effect, a horrible
blankness faces the passionate one. The men seeing Colina falter
breathed more freely. They were frankly terrified of her.
Colina fought on though her forces were in confusion. "Have you
anything to say for yourself?" she demanded of Ambrose. "What are you
doing on my father's property?"
"I have nothing to say," said Ambrose. "You know the situation as well
Once more their eyes contended. Hers fell. She turned away from him.
When she came back it was with an altered air. "May I speak to you
alone?" she asked in low tones.
"Please say it here," said Ambrose. "They cannot hear."
"My father—" she murmured with a deprecating air, "I am afraid this
will kill him. I have locked him in his room. I don't know what he
will do. Can't you stop until to-morrow?"
"If you will pledge yourself for him to finish grinding my grain
to-morrow," said Ambrose.
"How can I pledge him?" she said pettishly. "I am not his master."
"Then we must grind on."
She was silent for a moment, looking on the ground. When she raised
her eyes the look in them sent all the blood flying from his heart.
"Ambrose!" she murmured on the deep note he remembered so well. "Have
He stared at her in a kind of horror.
"How can you be so hard to me?" she murmured.
She overdid it. Behind the intoxicating, soft appeal of her eyes, he
perceived a dangerous glitter, and steeled himself.
"Come outside a moment," she whispered, turning up her face a little.
The unregenerate man in him leaped to accept what she offered and still
hold firm. If she chose to play that game let her take the
consequences? His more generous self held back. Somehow he realized
that the humiliation would almost kill her—later.
"It is too late," he said coldly.
This in itself was a humiliation the proud Colina could not have
conceived herself living after. From between narrowed lids she shot
him a glance of the purest hate, and quickly turned away.
The riding crop switched the air like the tail of an angry cat. There
was a silence. All watched to see what she would do next.
Meanwhile the mill was grinding smoothly. The young miller was hidden
from Colina by the barricade of grain bags. Finally she looked over
the top and saw him attending the machine.
"Greer!" she exclaimed in surprise.
The boy started, and turned a pair of stricken eyes in her direction.
His ruddy cheeks paled a little. Manifestly she wielded a power over
"Are you against me?" she murmured sadly.
This was the same tone she had just used to Ambrose. His lip curled.
"He has to do what I tell him or be knocked on the head," he said
Colina ignored this. "You could fight for me if you would," she
murmured to the boy.
A hot little flame of jealousy scorched Ambrose's breast. He laughed
jeeringly. "Who's next?" he cried.
Colina, not looking at him, drew a baleful breath between her teeth.
Suddenly she turned, and with hanging head slowly made her way toward
Ambrose thought she was beaten, and a swift wave of compassion almost
unmanned him. He abruptly turned away. He could stand anything but to
see Colina defeated and grieving. He clenched his teeth to keep from
crying out to her.
She had another card to play. She stopped at the door, and looked
about through her lashes to see if the way out was clear.
"Duncan!" she softly cried. The word was accompanied by a dazzling
smile of invitation.
The boy dropped his wrench as if he had been shot, and vaulting over
the grain bags, was out through the door after her before any one could
As Greer disappeared in the darkness several men started in pursuit.
Ambrose was quicker. He flung himself into the opening, and thrust
them back. Though he was on fire with jealousy, he would not go after
Greer, nor let the others go.
He could scarcely have explained why—perhaps because he dimly
apprehended that it was Colina's game to drive him mad with jealousy.
"Let him go," he said thickly. "I will run the mill myself!"
So long as the wheels revolved smoothly and the stream of creamy flour
issued from the mouth of the machine the miller had a sinecure.
Ambrose scowling and grinding his teeth scarcely saw what his eyes were
turned on. His mind was busy outside.
He was sharply recalled to his job by a tearing sound from within the
machinery. The flour came out mixed with bran. The wheels jammed and
Ambrose threw out the clutch, and doggedly attacked the problem. It
was cruelly hard to concentrate his mind on machinery while a damnable
little voice in his brain persisted in asking over and over:
"Where are they? What are they doing? How far will rage carry her?"
He contrived to remove the torn frame without much difficulty, but how
to clean out the mass of stuff that clogged every part of the mechanism
defied his ingenuity. Apparently the thing must be taken apart. How
could he hope to put it together by lantern light?
There was a stir at the door, and Duncan Greer slouched in with a
hang-dog scowl. Never in his life had Ambrose been so glad to see a
man. He was careful to mask his joy. He glanced at the boy carelessly
and went on with his work. Duncan came directly to him.
"I'm your man," he muttered. "For keeps, if you want me."
"Sure," said Ambrose, very offhand. "Help me get this thing going,
As they worked side by side in the lantern light, Ambrose perceived a
red welt across the boy's forehead and cheek that was momentarily
growing darker. He smiled grimly. Duncan, finding his eyes fixed on
it, flushed up painfully.
"Women are the devil!" he muttered.
A great unholy joy filled Ambrose's breast. In his relief he could
have hugged the boy, and laughed.
"Don't abuse the women, my son," he said grimly. "They have to fight
with what weapons they can. You were warned. You only got what was
coming to you!"
When the machine was running smoothly again, Ambrose went to the door
"They've gone," he said. "I don't think they'll trouble us again
before morning. You can all sleep."
Daybreak and the following hours found Ambrose and his party on the
qui vive for a renewed demonstration from the other side. None was
Neither Macfarlane, Gordon Strange, nor Colina could have mustered a
corporal's guard of the natives to their aid. The breeds in their own
mysterious way had simply disappeared.
Without them, the half dozen whites could do nothing against Ambrose's
strong party. Colina herself had suffered a moral defeat, and required
time to recoup her losses.
In the back of the store the white men and Gordon Strange held lengthy
consultations without agreeing on any course of action. Strange in his
modest way deferred to Macfarlane and the others.
But John Gaviller's absolute sway at the post had sapped the lesser
men's initiative. He was not able to be present, and they were
It was decided to send for help to police headquarters at Caribou Lake.
They could not despatch the big steam-boat which had been dismantled
for the winter, but the launch was available.
Gaviller had it to use at the end of summer when the water ran low in
the river. They managed to collect enough half-breeds for a crew;
Masters ran the engine, and Captain Stinson piloted.
Thus in order to send for help the little force had to rob itself of
two of its best defenders. They got away in the middle of the
afternoon. With luck they could be back with the red-coats in two
weeks or three.
Meanwhile the mill was grinding blithely.
Ambrose, who desired at all costs to keep the Indians in ignorance of
what was happening, for fear they might get out of hand, sent Germain
Grampierre to his father's house to get what little flour they had, and
carry it to Watusk to feed the Kakisas for that day.
As far as he could see there was no other communication from one side
of the river to the other. He observed the departure of the launch,
with a calm brow. He guessed its errand, and was not at all averse to
having the police brought down, and the whole matter thoroughly aired.
All day the wheels revolved, and all during the following night,
Ambrose and young Greer watching the machine by turn.
At breakfast time on the second morning the hopper was empty, and the
last bag of flour tied up. They had enough to satisfy the Kakisas
demands, and something besides.
In the center of the shed Ambrose left the miller's tithe in payment,
with an ironical note affixed to one of the bags. The flour was loaded
in the york boat, and the entire party set off in high feather.
Their arrival with the flour at the Indian camp created something of a
sensation. The children came running down to the water, capering and
shrieking, accompanied by the barking dogs.
Men followed, eager to toss the bags to their shoulders. They made a
long procession back to the teepees, the women crowding around,
laughing, gesticulating, and caressing the fat, dusty bags.
By Ambrose's orders the bags were piled up in an imposing array in the
middle of the square. He knew the value of a dramatic display.
The half-breeds who had been on duty for thirty-six hours, scattered to
their homes up and down the river. Simon Grampierre and Tole remained
The york boat was left drawn up on the beach below the camp. To this
fact Ambrose traced all the subsequent disasters. But he could not
have foreseen what would happen. The Indians at the sight of so much
food were as candid and happy as children.
When the last bag of flour topped the pile, Ambrose sought out Watusk.
He found the head man as before, evidently awaiting an official
communication, with his dummy councilors on either hand. Watusk's
smooth, flabby face was as blank as a plaster wall.
"I have brought your flour," said Ambrose with a note of exultation
justifiable under the circumstances.
Watusk was not impressed. "It is well," he said with a stolid nod.
Ambrose was somewhat taken aback. An instant told him that Watusk
alone of all the tribe was not glad to see the flour. Ambrose scented
"Where you get the flour?" asked Watusk politely.
"I borrowed Gaviller's mill to grind it," Ambrose answered in kind.
Watusk's eyes narrowed. He puffed out his cheeks a little, and Ambrose
saw that an oration was impending.
"I hope there will be no trouble," the Indian began self-importantly.
"Always when there is trouble the red man get blame. When the fur is
scarce, when summer frost turn the wheat black it is the same. They
say the red man make bad medicine.
"Two white men have a fight, red man come along, know nothing. Those
two white men say it is his fault, and kick him hard. You break open
Gaviller's mill. Gaviller is mad, send for police. When the police
come I think they say it is Watusk's fault. Send him to jail!"
It was evident from this that Watusk was pretty well informed of what
had happened. "How do you know they have sent for the police?" Ambrose
Watusk shrugged expressively. "I see the launch go up the river in a
hurry," he said.
In the light of his insolent demand two days before, the Indian's
present attitude was more than exasperating. "This is foolishness,"
said Ambrose sharply. "I sell you the flour. How I got it is my
affair. I take the responsibility. The police will deal with me!"
"I hope so," said Watusk smugly.
"I have made out a receipt," Ambrose went on. "You sign it, then
distribute the flour among the people, and give me the men's names so I
can charge them on my book.
"To-morrow I give it out," said Watusk. "To-day I put the flour in
Gaston Trudeau's empty house by the river. Maybe goin' to rain
"Just as you like about that," said Ambrose. "When are you going to
pull out for home?"
"Soon," replied Watusk vaguely.
"They tell me it is the best time now to hunt the moose," remarked
Ambrose suggestively. "And the bear's fur is coming in thick and soft.
You have been here two weeks without hunting."
Again Watusk's eyes narrowed like a sulky child's. "Must the Kakisas
got hunt every day?" he asked spreading out his hands. "The people are
weak with hunger. We got eat before we travel."
Ambrose left this interview in a highly dissatisfied state of mind.
Later in the day Watusk must have thought better of his surliness for
he sent a polite message to Ambrose at Simon Grampierre's house,
requesting him and Simon to come to a tea dance that night.
He had borrowed Jack Mackenzie's house for the affair since no teepee
was big enough to contain it. Mackenzie's was the first house west of
the Kakisa encampment.
"Tea-dance! Bah! Indian foolishness!" said Simon.
"Let us go anyway," said Ambrose. "I feel as if there was something
crooked going on. This Indian will bear watching."
THE SUBTLETY OF GORDON STRANGE.
At the same moment Gordon Strange was sitting on the bench at the foot
of the flag-staff, smoking, and gazing speculatively across the river
at the teepee village.
Colina issued out of the big house, and seeing him, joined him. It was
her first public appearance since the scene at the mill, and it was
something of an ordeal.
Her face showed what she was going through. She was elaborately
self-conscious; defiance struggled with a secret shame. In her heart
she knew she was wrong, yet she thirsted for justification.
"What is the situation?" she asked haughtily.
Strange told her briefly. His air was admirable. He betrayed no
consciousness of anything changed in her; he was deferential without
He let her understand that she was still his peerless mistress who
could do no wrong. This was exactly what Colina wanted. She warmed
toward him, and sat down.
"Ah! I can talk straight to you," she said. "The others act as if the
truth was too strong for me!"
"I know better than that," said Strange quietly. "You have the best
head of any of us."
"Except when I lose it!" Colina thought. She smiled at him more warmly
than she knew. A little flame that leaped up behind the man's eyes
warned her. "Would he ever dare!" she thought.
"How is your father?" asked Strange quietly.
She shrugged helplessly. "Still weak," she said, "but there has been
no return of fever. I have managed to keep the truth from him, but he
suspects if. I cannot keep him in his room much longer."
"Ah! It makes me mad when I think of him!" Strange muttered.
There was a silence between them. His sympathy was sweet to her. She
allowed it to lull her instinct of danger.
"What about the Kakisas?" she asked. "I gathered from Macfarlane's and
Dr. Giddings's careful attempts to reassure me, that they feared danger
from that source."
Strange smiled enigmatically.
"Surely the idea of an Indian attack is absurd," said Colina. "There
hasn't been such a thing for thirty years."
"I know the Indians better than any man here," said Strange. "One may
expect danger without being afraid."
"Danger!" cried Colina, elevating her eyebrows. "They would never
"Not of themselves—but with a leader!"
"Ambrose Doane?" said Colina quickly. Her intelligence instantly
rejected the suggestion, but self-love snatched at it in justification.
Wounded vanity makes incongruous alliances. "That would be devilish!"
Strange shrugged. "I can't be sure of what is going on," he said. "I
don't want to alarm you unnecessarily. But I have a reason to suspect
Colina turned pale. "Tell me exactly what you mean," she said.
"The Indians have learned by now how easy it was to seize the mill," he
said with admirable gravity. "It seems to me that to the Indian mind
looting the store will next suggest itself. We know they are incensed
against your father. His long weakness makes them bold."
"But these are merely surmises!"' cried Colina.
"There is something else. Their minds work obliquely. They never come
out straight with anything. I have received a kind of warning. It was
an invitation to spend the night with Marcel Charlbois down the river.
But it came from the other side."
"Why should they warn you?" asked Colina.
"Some man among them probably has compunctions," said Strange.
"Watusk, the head man is a decent sort. Perhaps this is his way of
letting me know that he cannot keep his people in hand."
"What do you expect will happen?" she asked.
"I think there will be an attack to-night," he said quietly. "It is my
duty to tell you. If it doesn't come, no harm done."
Strange's quiet air was terribly impressive. Colina sat pale and
silent, letting the horror sink in. She was no weakling, but this was
a prospect to appal the strongest man.
"We are so helpless!" she murmured at last.
A spark, one would have said of satisfaction, shot from beneath
Strange's demurely lowered eyelids. "We cannot depend on our breeds,"
he went on soberly, "and Greer has gone over to the other side."
"That leaves us four men and yourself and your father. If we had a
stone building we could snap our fingers at them but everything is of
wood. And fire is their favorite weapon. There are two courses open
to us. We can go before they come, or we can stay and defend
Colina stared before her, wide-eyed. "Father would never let us take
him away without an explanation," she murmured. "And if we told him
what we feared, he would flatly refuse to go—"
Strange maintained a discreet silence.
Colina suddenly flung up her head. "We stay here!" she cried.
Strange's dark eyes burned—but with what kind of a feeling Colina was
in no state to judge. "You're brave!" he cried. "That's what I wanted
you to say!"
"What must we do to prepare?"
"There is little we can do. We must abandon the store. There is no
way to defend it. Perhaps they will be satisfied with looting it. We
will all take up our station in the house. At the worst, I do not fear
any harm to any of us, except perhaps—"
"Father?" murmured Colina.
"They have been wrought up to a high pitch against him," Strange said
"Oh, why did that man have to come here!" murmured Colina.
They were silent for a while, Colina looking on the ground, and Strange
watching Colina with his peculiar limpid, candid eyes, which, when one
looked deep enough, were not candid at all.
He finally looked away from her.
"There is something I want to say," he began an low tones. "Your
father—he shall be my special care to-night. They can strike at
him—only through me."
"Ah, you're so good to me!" murmured Colina.
"Do not thank me," he said quickly. "Remember I owe him everything.
All I am. All I have I would gladly—gladly—I sound melodramatic,
don't I. But I don't often inflict this on you. You know what I mean.
If I could save him!"
Colina impulsively seized his hand. Tears of gratitude sprang to her
eyes. "I will thank you!" she cried. "You're the best friend I have
in the world!"
"And even if I owed him nothing," Strange went on, not looking at her,
"he would still be your father!"
An hour before Colina would have crushed him. But it came at an
emotional moment. She was blind to his color then.
"I will never, never forget this," she said.
He respectfully lifted her hands to his lips.
The under devil whose especial business it is to preside over fine
acting must have rubbed his hands gleefully at the sight of his
dark-skinned protégé's aptitude.
THE "TEA DANCE."
When Ambrose and Simon Grampierre arrived at the tea-dance they found
present as many of the Kakisas of both sexes as could be wedged within
Jack Mackenzie's shack.
All around the room they were pressed in tiers, the first line
squatting, the second kneeling, the third standing, and others behind,
perched on chairs, beds and tables, that all might have a clear view of
The cook-stove occupied the center of the room, and around it a narrow
space had been left for the dancers. The air was suffocating to white
lungs, what with human emanations combined with the thick fumes of
Watusk, still sporting the frock coat and the finger-rings, had
improved his costume by the addition of a battered silk hat with a
chaplet of red paper roses around the brim.
He squatted on the floor in the center of the back wall, and places had
been left at his right and left for Ambrose and Simon. He was disposed
to be gracious and jocular to-night.
For very slight cause, or for none at all he laughed until he shook all
over. This was his way of appearing at his ease.
As they took their places Ambrose was struck by the pretty, wistful
face of a girl who knelt on the floor behind Watusk. It had a fine
quality that distinguished it sharply from the stolid flat countenances
of her sisters.
It was more than pretty; it was tragically beautiful, though she was
little more than a child. What made it especially significant to
Ambrose was the fact that the girl's sad eyes instantaneously singled
him out when he entered.
As he sat in front of her he was aware that they were dwelling on him.
When he caught her glance, the eyes naïvely suggested that she had a
communication to make to him, if she dared!
The fun had not yet commenced. The two drummers sat idle in a corner,
and all the company sat in stolid silence. Only Watusk chatted and
laughed. The women stared at Ambrose, and the men looked down their
noses. All were somewhat embarrassed by the presence of a white man.
Ambrose, looking around, was struck by the incongruity of the women's
neat print dresses and the men's store clothes taken with their savage,
walled faces. Such faces called for blankets, beads, war paint and
Ambrose, seeing the entire tribe gathered here as it seemed, thought a
little anxiously of the flour he had been at such pains to grind.
Mackenzie's house was a good distance from the teepees, and the shack
they were using for a store-house almost as far on the other side.
"Is anybody watching your flour?" he asked Watusk.
"I send four men to watch," was the reply.
"Good men? Men who will not sneak up to the dance?"
"Good men," said Watusk calmly.
Watusk presently gave a signal to the stick-kettle men, and they
commenced to drum with their knuckles. The drums were wide wooden
hoops with a skin drawn over one side.
The drummers had a lamp on the floor between them, and when the skin
relaxed they dried it over the chimney. Like dances everywhere this
one was slow to get under way. No one liked to be the first one to
take the floor.
Gradually the drummers warmed to their work. The stick-kettle had a
voice of its own, a dull, throbbing complaint that caused even
Ambrose's blood to stir vaguely.
Finally a handsome young man arose and commenced to hitch around the
stove with stiff joints, like a mechanical figure. The company broke
into a wild chant in a minor key, commencing on a high note and
descending the whole gamut, with strange pauses, lifts and falls.
Half way down the women came in with a shrill second part. It died
away into a rumble, ever to be renewed on the same high, long-drawn
note. Ambrose was reminded of the baying of hounds.
The dancer knotted his handkerchief as he circled the stove. Dancing
up to another man, he offered him the end of it with some spoken words.
It was accepted, and they danced together around the stove, joined by
The hunching, spasmodic step never varied. Ambrose asked Watusk about
"This is the lame man's dance," his host explained.
"What lame man?" asked Ambrose. "How did it begin?"
Watusk shrugged. "It is very old," he said.
The first man dropped out, and the second chose a new partner.
Sometimes there were two or three couples dancing at once. Partners
were chosen indiscriminately from either sex.
In each case the knotted handkerchief was offered with the same spoken
formula. Ambrose asked what it was they said.
"This is give-away dance," Watusk explained. "He is say: 'This my
knife, this my blanket, this my silk-worked moccasins.' What he want
to give. After he got give it."
Ambrose observed that each dancer laid two matches on the cold stove as
he took his place, and when he retired from the dance picked them up
again. He asked what that signified.
Watusk shrugged again. "How do I know?" he said. "It is always done."
Ambrose learned later that this was the invariable answer of the
Kakisas to any question concerning their customs.
Watusk was exerting himself to be hospitable, continually pressing cups
of steaming bitter tea on Ambrose and Simon. Ambrose, watching him,
made up his mind that the chief's unusual affability masked a deep
The sharp, shifty eyes were continually turning with an expectant look
to the door. Ambrose found himself watching the door, too.
To Ambrose the uncouth dance had neither head nor tail; nevertheless,
it had a striking effect on the participators and spectators.
Minute by minute the excitement mounted. The stick-kettles throbbed
faster and ever more disquietingly. It seemed as if the skin of the
drums were the very hearts of the hearers, with the drummers' knuckles
searching out their secrets.
Eyes burned like stars around the walls, and the chant was renewed with
a passionate abandon. The figures hitched and sprang around the homely
iron stove like lithe animals.
Suddenly the noise of running feet was heard outside, and a man burst
in through the door with livid face and starting eyes. The drumming,
the song, and the dance stopped simultaneously.
The man cried out a single sentence in the Kakisa tongue. Cried it
over and over breathlessly, without any expression.
The effect on the crowd was electrical. Cries of surprise and alarm,
both hoarse and shrill, answered him. A wave of rage swept over them
all, distorting their faces. They jammed in the doorway, fighting to
"What is it?" cried Ambrose of Watusk.
Watusk's face was working oddly with excitement.
But it was not rage like the others. The difference between him and
all his people was marked.
"The flour is burning!" the chief cried.
"This was what he expected," thought Ambrose.
As he struggled to get out, Ambrose's hand was seized and pressed by a
small warm one.
He had a momentary impression of the wistful girl beside him. Then she
was swept away.
FIRE AND RAPINE.
The Kakisas ran down the trail like a heap of dry leaves propelled by a
squall of wind. To Ambrose it all seemed as senseless and unreal as a
The alarm had been given at a moment of extreme emotional excitement,
and restraint was thrown to the winds. It was like a rout after battle.
The men shouted; the women wailed and forgot their children. The
throng was full of lost children; they fell by the road and lay
Ambrose never forgot the picture as he ran, of an old crone, crazed by
excitement, whirling like a dervish, rocking her skinny arms and
twisting her neck into attitudes as grotesque as gargoyles.
The trail they covered was a rough wagon-road winding among patches of
poplar scrub and willow. Issuing out upon the wide clearing which
contained their village they saw afar the little storehouse burning
like a torch, and redoubled their cries.
They swept past the teepees without stopping, the biggest ones in the
van, the little ones tailing off and falling down and getting up again
with piteous cries.
Reaching the spot, all could see there was nothing to be done. The
shack was completely enveloped in names. There were not half a dozen
practicable water-pails in the tribe, and anyhow the fire was a good
furlong from the river.
Ambrose, seeing what a start it had got, guessed that it was no
accident. It had been set, and set in such a way as to insure the
shack's total destruction. He considered the sight grimly.
The mystery he had first scented that morning was assuming truly
formidable proportions. He believed that Watusk was a party to it; but
he could not conceive of any reason why Watusk should burn up his
There was nothing to be done, and the people ceased their cries. They
stood gazing at the ruby and vermilion flames with wide, charmed eyes.
Among the pictures that this terrible night etched with acid on
Ambrose's subconsciousness, the sight of them standing motionless, all
the dark faces lighted by the glare, was not the least impressive.
With a sickening anxiety he perceived the signs of a rising savage
rage. The men scowled and muttered. More than once he heard the
words: "John Gaviller!" Men slipped away to the teepees and returned
with their guns.
Ambrose looked anxiously for Watusk. He could not reach the people
except through the man he distrusted.
He found him by himself in a kind of retreat among some poplars a
little way off, where he could see without being seen. Ambrose dragged
him back willy-nilly, adjuring him by the way.
"The people are working themselves into a rage. They speak of
Gaviller. You and I have got to prevent trouble. You must tell them
Gaviller is a hard man, but he keeps the law. He did not do this
thing. This is the act of another enemy."
"What good tell them?" said Watusk sullenly. "They not believe."
"You are their leader!" cried Ambrose. "It's up to you to keep them
out of trouble. If you do not speak, whatever happens will be on your
head! And I will testify against you. Tell the people to wait until
to-morrow and I pledge myself to find out who did this."
"You know who did it?" asked Watusk sharply.
"I will not speak until I have proof," Ambrose said warily.
"What happened to the men you left on guard?"
"They say they play jack-pot with a lantern near the door," said
Watusk. "See not'ing. Hear not'ing. Poof! she is all burn!"
"H-m!" said Ambrose.
They were now among the people.
"Speak to them!" he cried. "Tell them if they keep quiet Ambrose Doane
will pay for the flour that is burned up, and will grind them some
more. Tell them to wait, and I promise to make things right. Tell
them if they make trouble to-night the police will come and take them
away, and their children will starve!"
Watusk did, indeed, move among the men speaking to them, but with a
half-hearted air. He cut a pitiful figure. It was not clear whether
he was unwilling to oppose them or afraid.
Ambrose did not even know what Watusk was saying to them. At any rate
the men ignored their leader. Ambrose was wild at the necessity which
made him dependent on such a poor creature.
He followed Watusk, imploring them in English to keep their heads.
Some of the sense of what he said must have reached them through his
tones and gestures, but they only turned sullen, suspicious shoulders
That Ambrose should take the part of his known enemy, John Gaviller,
seemed to their simple minds to smack of double-dealing.
The roof of the burning shack fell in, sending a lovely eruption of
sparks to the black sky. At the same moment as if by a signal one of
the savages brandished his gun aloft and broke into a passionate
Once more Ambrose heard the name of Gaviller. Instantly the crowd was
in an uproar again. Cries of angry approval answered the speaker from
every throat. The man was beside himself. He waved his gun in the
direction of the river.
Ambrose waited to hear no more. He saw what was coming. Black horror
faced him. He ran to the river, straining every nerve. He heard them
behind him. Then it was that he so bitterly reproached himself for
having left the york boat within reach.
Leaping down the bank, he put his back under the bow and struggled to
push it off. He would gladly have sacrificed it. It was too heavy for
him to budge. Tole Grampierre and Greer reached his side.
"Quick!" cried Ambrose breathlessly. "Set her adrift!"
But at that moment the whole tribe came pouring over the bank like a
flood. Ambrose and the breed sprang into the bow of the boat in an
endeavor to hold it against them. Old Simon presently joined them.
"Back! Back!" cried Ambrose. "For God's sake listen to me, men! Go
to your lodges and talk until morning. The truth will be clear in the
daylight! The police are coming. They will give you justice.
"Justice is on your side now. If you break the white man's law he will
wipe you out! Where is your leader? He knows the truth of what I say.
Watusk is not here! He won't risk his neck!"
It had about as much effect as a trickle of water upon a conflagration.
They made no attempt to dislodge Ambrose from in front, but swarmed
into the water on either side, and putting their backs under the boat,
lifted her off the stones. Scrambling over the sides, they shouldered
Ambrose and the breed ashore from behind.
Ambrose shouted to the breeds: "Go home and stay there all night. You
must not be mixed up in this."
"What will you do?" cried Simon.
The york boat was already floating off, the crew running out the
sweeps. Ambrose, without answering, ran into the water and clambered
aboard. In the confusion and the dark the Indians could not tell if he
were white or red.
He made himself inconspicuous in the bow. His only conscious thought
was how to get a gun. He had no idea of what to do upon landing.
Upon pushing off, moved by a common instinct of caution, the Indians
fell silent, and during the crossing there was no sound but the
grumbling of the clumsy sweeps in the thole-pins, and the splash of the
Standing on the little platform astern, silhouetted against the sky,
Ambrose recognized the man who had given the word to attack Gaviller.
He marked him well. He was of middle size, a tall man among the little
Kakisas, with a great shock of hair cut off like a Dutchman's at the
On the way over Ambrose was greatly astonished to feel his sleeve
gently plucked. He studied the men beside him, and finally made out
Tole under his flaring hatbrim.
Into his ear he whispered: "I told you to go home."
"I go with you," Tole whispered back. "I your friend."
Ambrose's anxious heart was warmed. He needed a friend. He gripped
"Have you a gun?" he asked.
The breed shook his head.
"Get guns for us both if you can," said Ambrose.
On the other side, the instant the york boat touched the shingle, the
Indians set up a chorus of yelling frightful to hear, and scrambled
Ambrose and Tole were among the first out. Together they drew aside a
little way into the darkness to see what would happen. There was no
need to warn the Company people; the yelling did that.
The Indians set off across the beach and up the bank, working
themselves up with their strident, brutish cries. The habits of thirty
years of peace were shed like a garment. The young men of the tribe
had never heard the war-cry until that moment.
Ambrose followed at their heels. At the top of the bank, to his
unbounded relief, they turned toward the store. He still had a little
time. All he could do was to offer himself to the defenders.
"I'm going to the side door of Gaviller's house," he said to Tole.
"Get guns for us, somehow, and come to me there."
He knew that Tole, who was as dark as the Kakisas, and in no way
distinguished from them in dress, ran little risk of discovery in the
There was no sign of life about the post; every window was dark. The
Indians swarmed across the quadrangle without meeting any one.
As Ambrose reached the fence around Gaviller's house he heard the
store-door and the windows go in with a series of crashes. He crouched
beside the gate to wait for Tole. It was useless for him to offer
himself without a weapon.
They started a fire outside the store. Fed with excelsior and empty
boxes, the flames leaped up instantaneously, illuminating every corner
of the quadrangle, and throwing gigantic, distorted shadows of men on
the store front.
On the nearer side of the fire the silhouettes darted back and forth
with the malignant activity of demons in a pit. Men issued out of the
store with armfuls of goods that they flung regardless to the flames.
Already they were dressing themselves up in layer after layer of
clothes until they no longer resembled human creatures. What they
could not wear they hung about their necks.
Some came out tearing at food like wolves. Others darted into dark
corners of the square to hide their prizes. A man appeared dressed in
a woman's wrapper and hat, and capered around the fire to the
accompaniment of shrieks of obscene laughter.
There was a continuous sound of rending and crashing from within the
store. The trader in Ambrose groaned to witness the destruction of
good weapons and cloth stuffs and food. Some one would suffer for the
lack of it in the winter.
Within the store, by the door, a furious altercation arose. This was
where the case of cheap jewelry stood. Two men rolled out on the
Ambrose saw a raised arm, and the gleam of steel. After a few moments
one of the men got up and the other lay still. Thereafter, all who
went in and came out stepped indifferently over his body.
Ambrose gazed fascinated and oddly unmoved. It was like a horrible
play in a theater. The insane yelling rose and fell intermittently.
At last Ambrose saw a man detach himself from the group and run around
the square, darting behind the houses for cover. The runner reappeared
nearer to him, and he saw that it was Tole. He came to him, running
low under shelter of the palings. He thrust a rifle into Ambrose's
"Loaded!" he gasped. "Plenty more shells in my pocket."
"Did you hear any talk?" asked Ambrose. "Are they coming over here?"
"Talk no sense," said Tole. "Only yell. It is moch bad. They got
"Whisky!" echoed Ambrose, aghast.
"A big jug. It was in the store."
Ambrose's heart sank. "Come," he said grimly.
As Ambrose and Tole started in the gate they were hailed from the dark
doorway under the porch. "Stand, or I fire!" It was the voice of
"It is Ambrose Doane and Tole Grampierre," cried Ambrose.
They heard an exclamation of astonishment from the door.
"What do you want?" demanded the voice.
"To help you defend yourselves."
From the sounds that reached him, Ambrose gathered that the door was
open and that Macfarlane stood within the hall. From farther back
Colina's voice rang out:
"How dare you! Do you expect us to believe you? Go back to your
"They are not my men," Ambrose answered doggedly.
"Wait!" cried still another voice. Ambrose recognized the smooth
accents of Gordon Strange. "We can't afford to turn away any
defenders. I say let him come in."
Ambrose was surprised, and none too well pleased to hear his part taken
in this quarter. There was a silence. He apprehended that they were
consulting in the hall. Finally Macfarlane called curtly:
"You may come in."
As he went up the path Ambrose saw that the windows of the lower floor
had been roughly boarded up. The thought struck him oddly: "How could
they have had warning of what was going to happen?"
"There's barbed wire around the porch," said Macfarlane, "You'll have
to get over it the best way you can."
Ambrose and Tole helped each other through the obstruction. They found
Macfarlane sitting on a chair in the doorway, with his rifle across his
"Go into the library," he said.
The door was on the right hand as one entered the hall. Within a lamp
had just been lighted; even as Ambrose entered Colina was turning up
Heavy curtains had been bung over the windows to keep any rays of light
from escaping, and the door was instantly closed behind Ambrose and
Inside the little room that he already knew so well Ambrose found all
the defenders gathered. The only one strange to him was little
Pringle, the missionary, who sat primly on the sofa. It had much the
look of an ordinary evening party, but the row of guns by the door told
John Gaviller sat in his swivel chair behind his desk, leaning his head
on his hand. Ambrose was shocked by the change that three months'
illness had worked in him.
The self-assured, the scornfully affable trader had become a mere
pantaloon with sunken cheeks and trembling hands. Ambrose looked with
quick compassion toward Colina.
She went to her father and stood by his chair with a hand on his
shoulder. She coldly ignored Ambrose's glance.
"What have you to say for yourself?" Gaviller demanded in a weak, harsh
"Do you know the reason for this attack?" demanded Ambrose.
Several voices answered "No!"
"All the flour was stored in Michel Trudeau's shack. Some wretch set
fire to it and destroyed it all. Naturally they thought it was done by
John Gaviller's orders. This is their reprisal."
"You dared to think we would stoop to such a thing!" cried Colina.
The general animosity that he felt like a wall around him made Ambrose
"I said they thought so," he retorted. "I harangued them until my
throat was sore. I couldn't hold them, and I hid myself and came with
them, thinking perhaps I could help you."
"How did they come?" asked Strange smoothly.
"In my boat that they seized," said Ambrose.
"It all comes back to you whichever way you trace it," cried Gaviller.
"If you had not attacked us yesterday, they would never have dared
to-day! You have brought us to this! I hope you're satisfied. I
warned you what would happen as a result of your tampering with the
natives. If we're all murdered it will be on your head!"
"On the contrary, if we're murdered it will be because they found
whiskey in your store," retorted Ambrose.
"Impossible!" cried Gaviller and Strange together.
Ambrose laid a hand on Tole's shoulder. "This man saw it on the
counter," he said. "I sent him to the store to get guns for us both.
It had no business to be there, as you all know."
"They must have brought it with them," said Strange. "I locked the
"Of course they brought it," said Gaviller.
"Not much use to discuss that point," said Ambrose curtly. "They have
it, and it has robbed them of the last vestiges of manhood. They're
nothing but brutes now."
The old man rose. "Silence!" he cried quaveringly. "You are insolent!
By your light-mindedness and vanity you have raised a storm that no man
can see the end of! You have plunged us into the horrors of Indian
warfare after thirty years' peace! How dare you come here and attempt
to hector us! Silence, I say, and keep your place!"
"Father," murmured Colina remonstratingly. "You must save your
He shook her off impatiently. "Must I submit to be bearded in my own
house by this scamp, this fire-brand, this destroyer?"
Ambrose could not bandy words with this wreck of a strong man. He
signed to Tole, and they went outside and joined Macfarlane.
The three of them waited in the doorway in a kind of armed truce,
smoking and watching the Indians across the square. At any moment they
expected to see the yelling demons turn against the house.
By and by Ambrose heard the library door open. The light inside had
been put out again for greater safety.
He heard Colina come out, and go the other way in the passage. He knew
her by the rustle of her skirts. She went up-stairs on some errand.
His heart leaped up. He could no longer deceive himself with the fancy
that he had ceased to love her. Not with death staring them both in
the face. He quietly made his way back into the house to intercept her
on her return.
When he heard her coming he whispered her name. Here in the middle of
the house it was totally dark.
"You!" she gasped, stopping short. But the scorn had gone out of her
voice, and somehow he knew that he was already in her thoughts when he
spoke. He put out a hand toward her.
"Don't touch me!" she whispered, shrinking sharply.
There, in the compelling darkness, with danger waiting outside, they
could not hide their souls from each other. "Colina," he whispered,
"don't harden yourself against me to-night. I love you!"
Her breath came quickly. She could not speak. Her anger against
Ambrose was, at the best, a pumped-up affair. She felt obliged to hate
him because she loved her father. And her overweening pride had
supported it. All this fell away now. She longed to believe in him.
Perceiving his advantage he followed it close.
"It may be the last night," he whispered. "I'm not afraid to speak of
death to you. You're no coward. Colina, it would be hard to die
thinking that you hated me!"
"Don't!" she murmured painfully. "Don't try to soften me. I need to
"Not to me," he whispered. "I love you!'"
She was silent. He heard her breathing on a shaken breast.
"If I knew it was my last word I should say the same," he went on. "I
came back to Enterprise because I thought I had to come to save you!"
"It hasn't turned out that way, has it?" she said sadly and bitterly.
"There is some evil influence working against us all," he said. "If I
live I shall show you."
"I don't know what to think," she murmured.
They were standing close together. Suddenly the sense of her nearness
in the dark, the delicate emanation of her hair, of her whole person,
overwhelmed his senses like a wave.
"Oh, my darling," he murmured brokenly. "Those devils outside can only
kill me once. You make me die a thousand deaths!"
"Ah, don't!" she whispered sharply. "Not now. First, I must believe
He beat down the passion that dizzied him. He sought for her hand and
gripped it firmly. She allowed it. "Listen," he said. "Take me into
the light and look in my eyes."
Her hand turned in his and took command of it, drawing him after her.
Crossing the stair-hall they entered the dining-room. Colina closed
the door and lighted the lamp.
Ambrose gazed at her hungrily. She came to him straight and, offering
him both her hands, looked deep into his eyes.
"Now tell me," she murmured.
This was the real Colina, simple as a child. Her eyes—the lamp being
behind her—showed as deep and dark as the night sky.
Her lovely face yearned up to his, and Ambrose's self-command tottered
again—but this was no moment for passion. His voice shook, but his
eyes were as steady as hers.
"I love you," he said quietly. "When you hated me most I was doing the
best for you that I could. I—I'm afraid I sound like a prig. But it
is the truth. I stood out against you when I thought you were wrong
because I loved you!"
Her eyes fell. Her hands crept confidingly up his arms. "Ah! I want
so to believe it," she faltered.
He thought he had won her again. His arms swept around her, crushing
her to him. "My love!" he murmured.
She went slack in his arms and coldly averted her head. "Do not kiss
me," she said.
He instantly released her.
"It's not the time," she murmured. "It seems horrible to-night. I—I
am not ready. By what happens to-night I will know for always!"
"But, Colina—" he began.
She offered him her hand with a beseeching air. "I do not hate you any
more," she said quickly. "You have a lot to forgive in me, too. Be
merciful to me. Show me—to-night."
He drew a steadying breath. "Very well," he said. "I am contented."
The long suspense wore terribly on the defenders of the house.
To wait inactive, listening to the frightful yelling and watching the
play of the fire, not knowing at what moment yelling, bullets, and fire
might be directed at themselves, was disorganizing to the stoutest
When the attack should come all knew that their refuge was more like a
trap than a fortress. Ambrose wished to abandon the house for the
Catholic church up the river.
This little structure was stoutly built of squared logs; moreover, it
was possible that some lingering religious feeling might restrain the
Indians from firing it.
The suggestion was received with suspicion. John Gaviller refused
point-blank to leave his house.
As the hours passed without any change in the situation they began to
feel as if they could endure no more. They were almost ready to wish
that the savages might attack them and have done with it.
They endlessly and vainly discussed what might be passing in the red
men's minds. Tole Grampierre, hearing this talk, offered to go and
There was no danger to him, he said. Even if they should discover that
he was not one of themselves, they had no quarrel with his people.
Ambrose let him go.
He never returned. Ambrose and Macfarlane helped him through the
barbed wire, and he set off, making a wide detour behind the houses
that faced the river, meaning to join the Indians from the other side.
Most of the Indians had for some time been engaged in rifling the
warehouse, which adjoined the store behind.
Ambrose and Macfarlane, anxiously watching from the porch, heard a
sudden outcry raised in this quarter, and saw a man come running
desperately around the corner of the store, pursued by a howling dozen.
Ambrose knew the runner by his rakish, broad-brimmed hat and flying
sash. His heart leaped into the race. Tole was gaining.
"Go it! Go it!" Ambrose cried.
Tole was not bringing his pursuers back to the big house, but led the
way off to one side by the quarters. Only a few yards separated him
from the all-concealing darkness.
"He's safe!" murmured Ambrose.
At the same moment half of Tole's pursuers stopped dead, and their
rifles barked. The flying figure spun around with uptossed arms, and
plunged to the ground.
Ambrose groaned from the bottom of his breast. Nerved by a blind rage,
his own gun instinctively went up. He could have picked off one or two
from where he stood. Macfarlane flung a restraining arm around him.
"Stop! You'll bring the whole mob down on us!" he cried. He looked at
Ambrose not unkindly. The sacrifice of Tole obliged him to change his
Ambrose turned in the door, silently grinding his teeth. At the end of
the passage he found a chair, and dropped upon it, holding his head
between his hands.
The face of Tole as he had first beheld it—proud, comely, and full of
health—rose before him vividly.
He remembered that he had said to himself then: "Here is one young,
like myself, that I can make a friend of." And almost the last thing
Tole had said to him was: "I am your friend."
It was his youth and good looks that made it seem most horrible.
Ambrose pictured the bloody ruin lying in the square, and shuddered.
Gordon Strange offered to go out in order to make sure that Tole was
beyond aid. It seemed like a kindly impulse, but Ambrose suspected its
Even from where they were, a glance at the huddled figure was enough to
tell the truth. None of the others would hear of Strange's going.
Colina and Giddings pleaded with him. Gaviller forbade him. Strange
with seeming reluctance finally gave in.
Whenever he witnessed such evidences of their trust in the half-breed
Ambrose's lip curled in the darkness. He was more than ever convinced
that Strange was a blackguard.
Evidence he had none, only his warning intuition, which, among the male
sex at least, is not considered much to go on.
It gave Ambrose a shrewd little twinge of jealousy to hear Colina
begging this man not to risk his life by leaving the house.
About three o'clock it began to seem as if they might allow themselves
to relax a little. The madness of the Indians had burned itself out.
There had not been enough whisky perhaps to maintain it for more than a
In any case, since the whites had been spared at the height of their
fury, it seemed reasonable to hope they might escape altogether. The
yelling had ceased.
Most of the men were now engaged in carrying flour and other goods down
to the york boat. The watchers from the house wondered if they dared
believe this signified an early departure.
As the tension let down it could be seen that John Gaviller was on the
verge of a collapse. Colina strove with him to go to his room and rest
on his bed.
He finally consented upon condition that she lay in her own room
up-stairs. Colina and Gordon Strange half led, half carried the old
Strange, returning, relieved Macfarlane's watch at the side door.
Macfarlane, Ambrose, Giddings, and Pringle lay down on the sofa and on
the floor of the library.
Three of them were almost instantly asleep. Not so Ambrose. As soon
as he saw the half-breed left in sole charge his smoldering suspicions
leaped into activity.
"If he's meditating anything queer this is the time he'll start it!" he
thought. He took care to choose his position on the floor nearest the
door. He left the door open.
From the outside only occasional sounds came now. The Indians were
busy and silent. Within the house it was so still that Ambrose could
hear Gordon Strange puffing at his pipe.
The half-breed was sitting in the doorway outside, with his chair
tipped back against the wall. By and by Ambrose heard the front legs
of the chair drop to the floor, and an instinct of caution bade him
close his eyes and breathe deeply like a man asleep.
Sure enough Strange came into the library. He was taking no pains to
be silent. Stepping over Ambrose he crossed to the mantel, where he
fumbled for matches, and striking one made believe to relight his pipe.
Now Ambrose knew that Strange had matches, for when they took John
Gaviller up he had seen him light the lamp at the foot of the stairs
and return the box to his pocket.
This then must be a reconnoitering expedition. Ambrose had no doubt
that when the match flared up the half-breed took a survey of the
He left the room, and Ambrose heard the chair tipped back against the
wall once more.
A little later Ambrose became conscious that Strange was at the library
door again, though this time he had not heard him come.
He paused a second and passed away as silently as a ghost—but whether
back to his chair or farther into the house Ambrose could not tell.
Rising swiftly to his hands and knees he stuck his head out of the
door. There was light enough from the outside to reveal the outlines
of the chair—empty.
Without a thought Ambrose turned in the other direction and crept
swiftly and softly through the passage into the stair hall. He did not
know what he expected to find. His heart beat thick and fast.
He scarcely suspected danger to Colina, who was strong and brave. Was
it her father? Reaching the foot of the stairs he heard a velvet
He hastened up on all fours. The stairs were thickly carpeted.
Gaining the top his strained ears detected the whisper of a sound that
suggested the closing of Gaviller's door.
He knew the room. It was over the drawing-room, and cut off from the
other rooms of the house. To reach the door one had to pass around the
rail of the upper landing.
Arriving at the door he did indeed find it closed. Under the
circumstances he was sure Colina would have left it open.
He did not stop to think of what he was doing. With infinite slow
patience he turned the knob with one hand, holding his electric torch
ready in the other.
When the door parted he flashed the light on the spot where he knew the
bed stood. The picture vividly revealed in the little circle of light
realized his unacknowledged fears.
He saw Strange kneeling on the bed, his face hideously distorted, his
two hands at the old man's throat.
Strange yelped once in mingled terror and rage like an animal
surprised—and with the quickness of an animal sprang at Ambrose.
The two men went down with a crash athwart the sill, and the door
slammed back against the wall. There was a desperate struggle on the
Strange was nerved with the strength of a madman. He could not have
seen who it was that surprised him, but in that frantic embrace he
"It's you, is it?" he snarled. "I've got you now!"
Forthwith he began to shout lustily for help. "Macfarlane! Giddings!"
Colina was already out of her room. She did not scream. The three men
were on the stairs.
"Bring a light!" gasped both the struggling men.
It was Colina who lit a lamp and carried it out into the hall with a
steady hand. Ambrose was seen to be uppermost. Recognizing the two
men her face darkened with anger.
"What does this mean?" she cried. "Get up instantly!"
Ambrose wrenched himself free and stood up.
"Don't let him escape!" cried Strange.
Ambrose laughed a single note.
"He tried to kill your father!" panted Strange. "I arrived in the nick
Ambrose gasped and fell back in astonishment. Such stupendous
effrontery was beyond the scope of his imagination.
"It's a lie!" he cried. "It was I who discovered him in the act of
strangling your father!"
Then for the first Colina swayed. "Oh, God!" she murmured, "have we
all gone mad!"
Macfarlane seized the lamp from her failing hand. Colina ran unevenly
into her father's room. They heard her cry out within. Giddings ran
to her aid. He made a light in the room and closed the door. The
little parson moaned and wrung his hands.
Macfarlane had drawn his revolver. "If you make a move I'll shoot you
down!" he said to Ambrose—thus making it clear whose story he believed.
"You can put it up," said Ambrose coolly. "I'm going to see this thing
Strange had got his grip again. His smoothness was largely restored.
He actually laughed. "He's a cool hand!" he said.
"You damned black villain!" said Ambrose softly. "I know you now. And
you know that I know you!"
It did not improve Ambrose's case to say it, but he felt better. The
half-breed changed color and edged behind Macfarlane's gun.
Colina presently reappeared, showing a white and stony face. "Mr.
Pringle," she said, "go down and lock the side door and bring me the
key. The rest of you go to the library and wait for me."
Ambrose flushed darkly. That Colina should even for a moment hold the
balance between him and the half-breed made him burn with anger.
Passionate reproaches leaped to his lips, but pride forced them back.
Turning stiffly he marched downstairs before Macfarlane without a word.
She should suffer for this when he was exonerated, he vowed. That he
might not be exonerated immediately did not occur to him.
In the library Strange and Macfarlane whispered together. When Pringle
rejoined them all were silent. For upward of ten minutes they waited,
facing each other grimly.
The strain was too great for the nerves of the little parson. He
finally broke into a kind of terrified, dry sobbing.
"For God's sake say something!" he faltered. "This is too horrible!"
Macfarlane glanced at him with a contemptuous pity and stood a little
aside from the door. "Better go into the front room," he said. "You
can't do any good here."
The little man shook his head, and going to the window turned his back
on them and endeavored to master his shaking.
Shortly afterward Colina came down-stairs. At her entrance all looked
the question none dared put into words.
Colina veiled her eyes. "My father only fainted," she said levelly.
"Dr. Giddings says he is little worse than before."
A long breath escaped from her hearers.
Strange cunningly contrived to get his story out first. As he spoke
all eyes were bent on the ground. They could not face the horror of
the other eyes.
Pringle was obliged to sit on the sofa to control the trembling of his
limbs. The others stood—Macfarlane, Colina, and Strange near the
door—Ambrose facing them from in front of the desk.
"You will remember," Strange began collectedly, "it was I who advised
that this man should be admitted to the house. I thought we could
watch him better from the inside. I have never ceased to watch him
from that moment.
"When you all turned in and I was left at the side door I kept my eye
on this room. The last time I looked in I saw that he had disappeared.
He had slipped so softly down the hall I had not heard anything.
"I instantly thought of danger to those up-stairs, and crept up as
quickly as I could without making any sound. I found the door of Mr.
Gaviller's room closed. I knew Miss Colina had left it open. I opened
it softly, and saw Doane on the bed with his hands at Mr. Gaviller's
A shuddering breath escaped from Colina. The little parson moaned.
"He sprang at me," Strange went on. "We rolled on the ground. I
called for help, and you all came. That is all."
Ambrose was staggered by the breed's satanic cleverness. After this
his own story must sound like a pitiful imitation. He could never tell
it now with the same assurance.
"Surely, surely they must know that a true man couldn't take it so
coolly," he thought. But they were convinced; he could see it in their
He felt as powerless as a dreamer in the grip of a nightmare.
When Strange finished there was a significant silence. They were
waiting for Ambrose to speak. Stiffening himself he told his story as
manfully as he could. Conscious of its weakness he wore a hang-dog air
which contrasted unfavorably with Strange's seeming candor.
No comment was made upon it. Ambrose could feel their unexpressed
sneers like goads in the raw flesh. Only Colina gave no sign.
Macfarlane turned to her for instructions.
She contrived to maintain her proud and stony air up to the moment she
was obliged to speak. But her self-command went out with her
shuddering voice. "I—I don't know what to say," she whispered
"Surely there can be no question here!" cried Strange with a voice full
of reproachful indignation. "I have served Mr. Gaviller faithfully for
nearly thirty years. This man's whole aim has been to ruin him!"
"This is the tone I should be taking instead of letting him run me
out," Ambrose thought dispassionately, as if it were somebody else.
But he remained dumb.
"What earthly reason could I have for trying to injure my benefactor?"
cried Strange. His voice broke artistically on the final word. "You
all know what I think of him. Your suspicions hurt me!"
Macfarlane crossed over and clapped him on the shoulder. Colina kept
her eyes down. She was very pale; her lips were compressed and her
hands clenched at her sides.
Ambrose bestirred himself to his own defense. "Let me ask a question,"
he said quietly to Strange. "You say when you opened the door you saw
me with my hands on Mr. Gaviller. How could you see me?"
"With my electric flash-light," Strange instantly answered.
"That's a lie," said Ambrose. "The flash-light was mine. I can prove
it by a dozen witnesses."
"Produce it," said Strange sneering.
"You knocked it out of my hand," said Ambrose. "It will be found
somewhere on the floor up-stairs."
Strange drew his hand out of his pocket. "On the contrary, it is
here," he said. "And it has never been out of my possession. As to
your identifying it, there are dozens like it in the country. It is
the style all the stores carry."
Ambrose shrugged. "I've nothing more to say," he said. "The man is a
liar. The truth is bound to come out in the end."
The white men paid little attention to this, but it stung Strange to
reply. "If Mr. Gaviller were able to speak he'd soon decide between
At that moment, as if Strange's speech had evoked, him, they heard
Giddings in the hall.
"Has he spoken?" they asked breathlessly.
Colina kept her eyes hidden.
Giddings nodded. "He sent me down-stairs to order Macfarlane to arrest
Colina fell back against the door-frame with a hand to her breast.
"Did he—did he see him?" she whispered.
"No," said Giddings reluctantly. "He did not see his assailant. But
said to accuse Strange of the deed was the act of a desperate criminal."
"You're under arrest!" Macfarlane said bruskly to Ambrose. Turning to
Colina, he added deprecatingly: "You had better leave the room, Miss
She shook her head. Clearly speech was beyond her. Not once during
the scene had Ambrose been able to see her eyes, Macfarlane waited a
moment for her to go, then shrugged deprecatingly.
"Will you submit to handcuffs or must I force you?" he demanded of
Ambrose did not hear him. His eyes were fastened on Colina. So long
as he was tortured by a doubt of her he was oblivious to everything
The heart knows no logic. It deals directly with the heart. Love
looks for loyalty as its due. Ambrose was amazed and incredulous and
sickened by his love's apparent faint-heartedness.
"Colina!" he cried indignantly, "have you nothing to say? Do you
believe this lie?"
Her agonized eyes flew to his—full of passionate gratitude to hear him
defend himself. His scorn both abased and overjoyed her. Her heart
None of the others recognized what was passing in those glances.
Macfarlane took a step forward. "Here! Leave Miss Gaviller out of
this!" he said harshly.
Ambrose did not look at him, but his hand clenched ready to strike.
His eyes were fixed on Colina, demanding an answer.
Color came back to her cheeks and firmness to her voice. "Stop!" she
cried to Macfarlane in her old imperious way. "I'm the mistress here.
My father is incapable of giving orders. You've no right to judge this
man. None of us can choose. There is no evidence. I will not have
either one handcuffed!"
Macfarlane fell back disconcerted. "I was thinking of your father's
safety," he muttered.
"I will watch over him myself," she said. She went swiftly up the
Ambrose sat by himself on a chair at the junction of the side passage
with the stair hall. Naturally, after what had passed, he avoided the
other men—and they him.
It was growing light. He saw the panes of the side door gray and
whiten. Later he could make out the damaged front of the store across
Macfarlane was again upon watch by the door. Strange and Pringle were
in the library. Giddings was with Colina and the sick man up-stairs.
Ambrose watched the coming of day with grim eyes. He had had plenty of
time to consider his situation. True, Colina had not failed him, but
he did not minimize the dangers ahead.
He knew something of the uncertainty of men's justice. Out of the
tumult of rage that had at first shattered him had been born a resolve
to guard himself warily.
Daylight had an odd effect of novelty. It seemed to him as if years
separated him from the previous day.
Strange came out of the library to take an observation. At the sight
of him Ambrose's eyes burned. If scorn could kill the half-breed would
have fallen in his tracks.
"They're still quiet," remarked Macfarlane.
"Too quiet," said Strange. "If they made a noise we could guess what
they were up to!"
The two men held a low-voiced colloquy by the door. Ambrose supposed
that Strange was again offering to go out to reconnoiter. The
policeman was expostulating with him.
He heard Strange say; "I'm afraid they may attempt to wreck the mill
before they go. That would be fatal for all of us. I had no
opportunity yesterday to put on new locks."
Macfarlane begged Strange not to risk himself.
"He's safe enough," thought Ambrose grimly.
Strange finally had his way.
Ambrose speculated on what his real object might be. "That bull-headed
redcoat is likely to get a surprise!" he thought.
In less than ten minutes the half-breed returned. Macfarlane warmly
grasped his hand.
"It's all right," said Strange. "I went straight up to them. I had no
trouble. Even now the older heads are thinking of the consequences. I
think they'll be gone directly."
After some further talk in low tones Strange went back into the
library, and Macfarlane sat down with his gun across his knees.
Once more quiet ruled the house. Ambrose's head fell forward on his
breast and he slept uneasily.
He was roused by the cry they had waited all night in dread of hearing:
Strange and Pringle ran out into the hall. Low as the cry was it was
heard above. Colina and Giddings came flying down-stairs. Ambrose had
already joined the others.
In the face of the deadly danger that threatened the men forgot their
animosity for the moment. They were all crowded together in the narrow
passage, far enough back from the closed door to see through the panes
without being seen.
The five whites were afraid, as they might well be—but without panic.
The half-breed was suspiciously calm. They lacked an unquestioned
"That is Myengeen leading them," said Strange; "a bad Indian!"
"Macfarlane—tell us what to do," said Giddings.
"They're quiet now," said Colina. "I shall speak to them!"
Macfarlane put out a restraining hand. "Leave this to me!" he said
"We're in each other's way here," cried Ambrose. "Let us spread
through some of the rooms."
"Right!" said Macfarlane. "Doane, Giddings, and Miss Colina—go into
the library and throw up the windows on this side. Shoot between the
boards if I give the word. The guns are inside the door."
A cry from Strange brought them out into the hall again. "They've
raised a white flag! They want to parley not to fight."
The others murmured their relief.
"Open the door!" cried Strange. "I will speak to them."
Ambrose fell back a little. The other men crowded around Strange,
urging him to be careful of himself. Strange was doing the modest hero!
It was a pretty little play. At the sight of it a harsh jangle of
laughter rang inside Ambrose. Colina took no part in the scene.
Strange stepped out on the porch. Ambrose heard him speaking the
uncouth Kakisa tongue, and heard the murmur of replies. He would have
given a bale of furs to understand what was being said.
The exchange was brief. Strange presently stepped inside and said:
"They say they want their leader—Ambrose Doane."
A dead silence fell on the little group. They turned and stared at
Ambrose. He, for the moment, was stunned with astonishment. He was
aware only of Colina's stricken, white face. She looked as if she had
"They say they are ready to go," Strange went on. "They promise to
make no more trouble if we give Doane up. If we refuse, they say they
will take him, anyway."
"It's an infernal lie!" cried Ambrose desperately. "I am no leader of
She did not believe him. Her eyes lost all their luster and her lovely
face looked ashen. She seemed about to fall.
Giddings went to her aid, but she pushed him away. She seemed
unconscious of the presence of the ethers. Her accusing eyes were
fixed on Ambrose.
"I believed in you," she murmured in a dead voice. "I believed in you!
Oh, God!" Her hands were flung up in a despairing gesture. "Let him
go!" she cried to Macfarlane over her shoulder, and ran down the hall
and up the stairs.
A CHANGE OF JAILERS.
There was a significant silence in the passage when Colina had gone.
Finally Macfarlane said stubbornly, "He's my prisoner. It's my duty to
hold him against any odds. It's the first rule of the service."
Giddings and Pringle urgently remonstrated with him. Strange held
apart as if he considered it none of his business. At last, with a
deprecating air, he added his voice to the other men's.
"Look here," he said smoothly; "you know best, of course; but aren't
there times when a soldier must make his own rules? All of us men
would stand by you gladly, but there's a sick man up-stairs that they
have been taught to hate. And a woman."
Macfarlane gave in with a shrug. "I suppose you'll stand by me if I'm
hauled up for it," he grumbled.
He drew his revolver and stood aside to let Ambrose pass. The others
likewise drew back, as from one marked with the plague. Every face was
hard with scorn.
Ambrose kept his eyes straight ahead. When he appeared on the porch,
cries, apparently of welcome, were raised by the Kakisas.
Ambrose supposed that Strange had made a deal with the Kakisas to put
him out of the way. He believed that he was going straight to his
He accepted it sooner than make an appeal to those who scorned him. He
wished to speak to them before he went; but it was to warn them, not to
ask for aid for himself.
He faced the little group in the doorway. "I tell you again," he said,
"this is all a put-up job. You know nothing of what is going on but
what this breed chooses to tell you. He's a liar and a murderer. If
you put yourselves in his hands, so much the worse for you."
The white men laughed in Ambrose's face. The breed smiled
deprecatingly and forgivingly.
"Hold your tongue, and be thankful you're getting off so easy,"
Macfarlane said, full of honest contempt.
Ambrose became very pale. He turned his back, on them, and, climbing
over the wire barrier, marched stiffly down to the gate. The
consciousness of innocence is supposed to be sufficient to armor a man
against any slanders, but this is only partially true.
When one's accusers are honest, their scorn hurts, hurts more than any
other wound we are capable of receiving. Ambrose was of the type that
rages against a hurt. At present, for all he was outwardly so pale and
still, he was deafened and blinded by rage.
It was now full daylight. An extraordinary picture faced the watchers
from the doorway—the ruined store in the background, the grotesque
crew hanging to the fence palings.
Their ordinary rags were covered with layers of misfit clothing out of
the store, while many of them wore several hats, and others had extra
pairs of shoes hanging around their necks.
There was a great display of gaudy silk handkerchiefs. Pockets bulged
with small articles of loot, and nearly every man lugged some
particular treasure according to his fancy, whether it was an alarm
clock or a glass pitcher or a bolt of red flannel.
The younger men, still susceptible to gallantry, mostly were burdened
with crushed articles of feminine finery, gaily trimmed hats, red or
blue shawls, fancy satin bodices, corsets with the strings dangling.
The faces, after a night of unbridled license, showed dull and slack in
Myengeen, whom Ambrose had marked earlier as a leader of the mob,
gripped his hand at the gate and cried out with hypocritical joy.
Others crowded around, those who could not obtain his hands, stroking
his sleeves and fawning upon him.
There was an ironical note in the demonstration. Ambrose observed that
the majority of the Indians looked on indifferently. He smelted
treachery in the air.
The mob, facing about, started to move in open order toward the river.
Ambrose, as they opened up, caught sight of the two dead bodies. It
afflicted him with a dull at the pit of the stomach—these were the
first deaths by violence he had witnessed.
They still lay where they had fallen—the Indian sprawling in the
middle of a black stain on the platform; Tole huddled on the bare earth
of the quadrangle. Ambrose's heart sank at the thought of returning to
Simon Grampierre with the gift of a dead son.
The Indians gave no regard to the bodies—apparently they meant to
leave them behind. Ambrose with no uncertain gestures commanded
Myengeen to have them taken up and carried to the boat. It was done.
When they got down the bank out of sight of the house Myengeen and the
others gave over their hollow pretense of enthusiasm at Ambrose's
Thereafter none paid the least attention to him.
He saw that they had not only loaded the boat they came in, but on the
principle of in for a penny, in for a pound, had also taken possession
of one of the company york boats, and had loaded it to the gunwale.
They immediately embarked and pushed off. Ambrose secured a place
below Myengeen's steering platform. In the bottom of the boat, at his
feet, lay the wizened Indian in his rags, and the straight, slim body
of Tole—side by side like brothers in a bed.
Tole's face was not disfigured; serene, boyish, and comely, it gave
Ambrose's heart-strings a fresh wrench. He covered them both with a
piece of sail-cloth.
Across the river, as the Indians started to unload, Watusk came down to
the beach, followed by several of his councilors. It was impossible to
tell from his inscrutable, self-important air what he thought of all
His flabby, yellow face changed neither at the sight of all the wealth
they brought nor at the two dead men. Ambrose demanded four men of him
to carry Tole's body to his father's house.
Watusk kept him waiting while he listened to a communication from
Myengeen. Ambrose guessed that it had to do with himself, for both men
glanced furtively at him. Watusk finally turned away without having
answered the white man.
Ambrose, growing red, imperiously repeated his demand. Watusk, still
without looking at him directly, spoke a word to some Indians within
call, and Ambrose was immediately seized by a dozen hands.
He was finally bound hand and foot with thongs of hide. This was no
more than he expected, still he did not submit without a fierce but
When it was done his captors looked on him with respect—they did not
laugh at him nor evince any anger. It was impossible for him to read
any clue in their stolid faces what was going forward.
Half a dozen of them carried him up the bank and laid him at the door
of a teepee. Presently Watusk passed by. Ambrose so violently
demanded an explanation that the Indian was forced to stop. He said,
still without meeting Ambrose's eye:
"Myengeen say you kill Tom Moosa. You got to take our law."
"It's a lie!" cried Ambrose, suffocating with indignation.
Watusk shrugged and disappeared. It was useless for Ambrose to shout
at any of the others. He fumed in silence. The Indians gave his
dangerous eyes a wide berth.
Meanwhile the camp was plunged into a babel of confusion by the order
Boys ran here and there catching the horses, the teepees came down on
the run, and the squaws frantically to pack their household gear.
Infants and dogs infected with a common excitement outvied each other
in screaming and barking.
Ambrose saw only the beginning of the preparations. A horse was
brought to where he lay, and the six men whom he was beginning to
recognize as his particular guard unbound his ankles and lifted him
into the saddle.
They never dared lay hands on him except in concert—he took what
comfort he could out of that tribute to his prowess. They tied his
bound wrists to the saddle-horn, and also tied his ankles under the
horse's belly, leaving just play enough for him to use the stirrups.
The six then mounted their own horses, and they set off at a swift lope
away from the river—one leading Ambrose's horse.
They extended themselves in single file along a well-beaten trail.
This, Ambrose knew, was the way to the Kakisa River—their own country.
A chill struck to his breast. Any intelligible danger may be faced
with a good heart, but to be cast among capricious and inscrutable
savages, whom he could neither command nor comprehend, was enough to
undermine the stoutest courage.
Nevertheless he strove with himself as he rode. "They cannot put it
over me unless I knuckle under," he thought. "They're afraid of me.
No Indian that ever lived can face out a white man when the white man
knows his power."
Several dogs followed them out of camp. There was one that the others
all snapped at and drove from among them. Ambrose suddenly recognized
Job, and his heart leaped up.
He had left him at Grampierre's the night before. The faithful little
beast must have followed him down to the Kakisa camp and have been
waiting for him ever since to return.
During the events of the last half-hour Job had no doubt been regarding
his master from afar. The other dogs would not let him run at the
horses' heels, but he followed indomitably in the rear.
Every time they went over a hill Ambrose saw him trotting patiently far
behind in the trail. When they stopped to eat there was a joyful
Ambrose no longer felt friendless. He divided his rations with his
humble follower. The Indians smiled. In this respect they evidently
considered the formidable white man a little soft-headed.
A GLEAM OF HOPE.
In the middle of the third day of hard riding over a flower-starred
prairie, and through belts of poplar bush, they came to the Kakisa River.
By this time Ambrose had become somewhat habituated to his captivity. At
any rate, he was more philosophical. He had been treated well enough.
There was a village at the end of the trail. Hearing the astonishing
news of what had happened, the people stared at Ambrose with their hard,
bright eyes as at a phenomenon.
Ambrose figured that they had left Fort Enterprise a hundred and fifty
miles behind. He looked at the river with interest. He had heard that
no white man had ever descended it.
He saw a smoothly flowing brown flood some two hundred yards wide winding
away between verdant willows. A smaller stream joined it at this point,
and the teepees stretched along either bank.
Across the larger stream loomed a bold hill-point with a striking clump
of pines upon it, and under the trees the gables of an Indian
burying-ground like a village of toy houses.
The flat where the rivers joined was hemmed all around by low hills. On
the right, half-way up the rise, a log shack dominated the village—and
to it Ambrose's captors led him.
This was evidently intended to be his prison. Window and door were
closely boarded up. The Indians tore the boards from the doorway and,
casting off Ambrose's bonds, thrust him inside. They closed the door,
leaving him in utter darkness. He heard them contriving a bar to keep
Ambrose, after waving his arms about to restore the circulation, set to
exploring his quarters by sense of touch. First he collided with a
counter running across from side to side.
Behind, in the middle of the room, he found an iron cook-stove; against
the right hand wall were tiers of empty shelves; at the back a bedstead
filled with moldy hay; on the left side an empty chest, a table, and a
Thus it was a combination of store and dwelling; no doubt it had been
built for Gordon Strange's use when he came to trade with the Kakisas.
The window was over the table. Ambrose found it nailed down, besides
being boarded up outside. He had no intention of submitting to the
deprivation of light and air.
He picked up the chair and swinging it delivered a series of blows that
shattered the glass, cracked the frame, and finally drove out the boards.
He found himself looking into the impassive faces of his jailers.
They did not even seem surprised, and made no demonstration against him.
Ambrose whistled. Job came running and scrambled over the window-sill
into his master's arms.
Later one of the Indians came with strips of moose hide which he pinned
across outside the window. From each strip dangled a row of bells, such
as are fastened to dog-harness. It was cunningly contrived—Ambrose
could not touch one of the strips ever so gently without giving an alarm.
Thereafter, as long as it was light, he could see them loafing and
sleeping in the grass outside with their guns beside them. After dark
their pipe-bowls glowed.
Three days of inexpressible tedium followed. Had it not been for Job,
Ambrose felt he would have gone out of his mind. His window overlooked
the teepee village, and his sole distraction from his thoughts lay in
watching the Indians at work and play.
His jailers put up a teepee outside the shack. There were never less
than three in sight, generally playing poker—and with their guns beside
Ambrose knowing the inconsequentiality of the Indian mind guessed that
they must have had strong orders to keep them on guard so faithfully.
Any thought of escape was out of the question. He could not travel a
hundred and fifty miles without a store of food. He sought to keep out a
little from every meal that was served him, but he got barely enough for
him and Job, too.
On the fourth day the arrival of the main body of Indians from Fort
Enterprise created a diversion. They came straggling slowly on foot down
the hill to the flat, extreme weariness marked in their heavy gait and
their sagging backs.
Only Watusk rode a horse. Every other beast was requisitioned to carry
the loot from the store. Some of the men—and all the women bore packs
also. This was why they had been so long on the way.
True to their savage nature they had taken more than they could carry.
As Ambrose learned later, there were goods scattered wantonly all along
Ambrose naturally anticipated some change in his own condition as a
result of the arrival of Watusk. But nothing happened immediately. The
patient squaws set to work to make camp, and by nightfall the village of
teepees was increased fourfold.
In the motionless twilight each cone gave a perpendicular thread of smoke
to the thin cloud that hung low over the flat.
As the darkness increased the teepees became faintly luminous from the
fires within, and the streets gleamed like strings of pale Japanese
lanterns. Ambrose, expecting visitors, watched at his window until late.
In the morning he made the man who brought his breakfast understand by
signs that he wished to speak with Watusk. The chief did not, however,
vouchsafe him a call.
To-day it transpired that the Indians were only making a temporary halt
below. After a few hours' rest they got in motion again, and all
afternoon were engaged in ferrying their baggage across the river in
dugouts and in swimming their horses over.
On the following morning, with the exception of Watusk's lodge and half a
dozen others, all the teepees were struck, and the whole body of the
people crossed the river and disappeared behind the hill. All on that
side was no man's land, still written down "unexplored" on the maps.
Thereafter day succeeded day without any break in the monotony of
Ambrose's imprisonment. He occasionally made out the portly figure of
Watusk in his frock coat, but received no word from him.
It was now the 20th of September, and the poplar boughs were bare. Every
morning now the grass was covered with rime, and to-day a flurry of snow
fell. Winter would increase the difficulties of escape tenfold.
Ambrose speculated endlessly on what might be happening at Fort
Enterprise. He thought, too, of Peter Minot who was relying on him to
steer the hazarded fortunes of the firm into port—and groaned at his
As with all solitary prisoners, throughout the long hours Ambrose's mind
preyed upon itself. True, he had Job, who was friend and consoler in his
dumb way, but Job was only a dog.
To joke or to swear at his jailers was like trying to make a noise in a
vacuum. Not to be able to make himself felt became a positive torture to
On the night of this day, lying in bed, he found himself wide awake
without being able to say what had awakened him. He lay listening, and
presently heard the sound again—the fall of a little object on the floor.
The chinks of the log walls were stopped with mud which had dried and
loosened; nothing strange that bits of it should fall—still his heart
He heard a cautious scratching and another piece dropped and broke on the
floor. Now he knew a living agency was at work. Job growled. Ambrose
clutched his muzzle.
Suddenly a whisper stole through the dark—in his amazement Ambrose could
not have told from what quarter. "Angleysman! Angleysman!"
Awe of the supernatural shook Ambrose's breast. He had come straight
from deep slumber. A fine perspiration broke out upon him. It was a
woman's whisper, with a tender lift and fall in the sound.
Job struggled to release his head. Ambrose sternly bade him be quiet.
The dog desisted, but crouched trembling.
The whisper was repeated; "Angleysman!"
A man must answer his summons. "What do you want?" asked Ambrose softly.
"Where are you?"
"Here—at the corner. Come to the foot of your bed."
Ambrose obeyed. Reaching the spot he said: "Speak again."
"Here," the voice whispered. "I mak' a hole in the mud. Put your ear
down and I spik sof'."
Ambrose identified the spot whence the sound issued. He put his lips to
it. "Who are you?" he whispered.
"Nesis," came the softly breathed answer. "I your friend."
Friend was always a word to warm Ambrose's breast, and surely at this
moment of all his life he needed a friend. "Thank you," he said from a
"I see you at the tea-dance," the voice went on.
Ambrose had an intuition. "Were you the girl—"
"Yes," she said. "I sit be'ind you. I think you pretty man. When we
run out I squeeze your hand."
Ambrose grinned into the darkness. "I thought you were pretty, too," he
"Oh, I wish I in there," she whispered.
He was a little nonplused by her naïve warmth.
"The men say you strong as one bear," she went on. "They say you got
gold in your teeth. Is that true?"
"Yes," said Ambrose laughing.
"I lak' to see that."
In spite of the best intent on both sides conversation languished. It is
difficult to make acquaintance through a wall of logs. Finally Ambrose
asked how it was she could speak English, and that unlocked her simple
"My fat'er teach me," she said. "He is half a white man. He come here
long tam ago and marry Kakisa. He spik ver' good Angleys. When Watusk
is make head man he mad at my fat'er because my fat'er spik Angleys.
"Watusk not want nobody spik Angleys but him around. Watusk fix it to
mak' them kill my fat'er. It is the truth. Watusk not know I spik
Angleys, too. My fat'er teach me quiet. If Watusk know that he cut out
my tongue, I think. I lak spik Angleys—me. I spik by myself so not
forget. I come spik Angleys with you."
"Your father is dead?" said Ambrose. "Who do you live with?"
"Watusk," came the surprising answer. "I Watusk's youngest wife. Got
"Good Lord!" murmured Ambrose.
"When my fat'er is kill, Watusk tak' me," she went on. "I hate him!"
"What a shame!" cried Ambrose, remembering the wistful face.
"I wish I in there!" she whispered again.
"Will you help me to get out?" Ambrose asked eagerly. "I can make it if
you can slip me some food."
"I not want you go 'way," she said slowly.
"I can't live locked up like this!" he cried.
"Yes, I help you," she whispered.
"Could you get me a horse, too?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "But many men is watch the trail for police. Tak' a
canoe and go down the river."
"Where does this river go?"
"They say to the Big Buffalo lake."
"Good! I can get back to Moultrie from there. Can you bring me a strong
"I bring him to-morrow night, Angleysman."
"I will cut a hole in the floor and dig out under the wall."
Nesis was not anxious to talk over the details of his escape. "Have you
got a wife?" she asked. "Why not?" There was no end to her questions.
Finally she said with a sigh: "I got go now. I put my hand inside. You
can touch it."
Ambrose felt for the little fingers that crept through the slit, and
gratefully pressed his lips to them.
"Ah!" she breathed wonderingly. "Was that your mouth? It mak' me jomp!
Put your hand outside, Angleysman."
He did so, and felt his fingers brushed as with rose-petals.
"Goo'-by!" she breathed.
"Nesis," he asked, "do you know why Watusk is keeping me locked up here?
What does he think he's going to do with me?"
"Sure I know," she said. "Ev'rybody know. If the police catch him he
say he not mak' all this trouble. He say you mak' him do it all. Gordon
Strange tell him say that."
A great light broke on Ambrose. "Of course!" he said.
"Goo'-by, Angleysman!" breathed Nesis. "I come to-morrow night."
After this, Ambrose's dreary imprisonment took on a new color. True,
the hours next day threatened to drag more slowly than ever, but with
the hope that it might be the last day he could bear it philosophically.
Hour after hour he paced his floor on springs. "Tomorrow the free sky
over my head!" he told himself. "I'll be doing something again!"
He watched the teepees with an added interest, wondering if any of the
women's figures he saw might be hers. The most he could distinguish at
the distance was the difference between fat and slender.
In the middle of the morning he saw Watusk ride forth, accompanied by
four men that he guessed were the councilors. Watusk now had a
On his head he wore a pith helmet, and across the frock coat a broad
red sash like a field marshal's. He and his henchmen climbed the trail
leading back to Enterprise.
Later, Ambrose saw a party of women leave camp, carrying birch-bark
receptacles that looked like school-book satchels. They commenced to
pick berries on the hillside. Ambrose wondered if his little friend
were among them.
They gradually circled the hill and approached his shack. As they drew
near he finally recognized Nesis in one who occasionally straightened
her back and glanced toward his window. She was slenderer than the
The shack stood on a little terrace of clean grass. Above it and below
stretched the rough hillside, covered with scrubby bushes and weeds.
It was in this rough ground that the women were gathering wild
Coming to the edge of the grass, they paused with full satchels,
talking idly, nibbling the fruit and casting inquisitive glances toward
There were eight of them, and Nesis stood out from the lot like a star.
The four men playing poker in the grass at one side paid no attention
Nesis with a sly smile whispered in her neighbor's ear. The other girl
grinned and nodded, the word was passed around, and they all came
forward a little way in the grass with a timid air.
Their inquisitive eyes sought to pierce the obscurity of the shack.
Ambrose, not yet knowing what was expected of him, kept in the
The fat girl, prompted and nudged by Nesis, suddenly squalled something
in Kakisa, which convulsed them all. Ambrose had no difficulty in
recognizing it as a derisive, flirtatious challenge.
Not to be outdone, he came to the window and answered in kind. They
could not contain their laughter at the sound of the comical English
Badinage flew fast after that. Ambrose observed that Nesis herself
never addressed him, but circulated slyly from one to another, making a
cup of her hand at each ear.
Becoming emboldened, they gradually drew closer to the window. They
made outrageous faces. Still the poker-players affected not to be
aware of them. As men and hunters they disdained to notice such
Suddenly Nesis, as if to prove her superior boldness, darted forward to
the very window. Ambrose, startled by the unexpected move, fell back a
step. Nesis put her hands on the sill and shrieked an unintelligible
jibe into the room.
The other girls hugged themselves with horrified delight. This was too
much for the jailers. They sprang up and with threatening voice and
gestures drove the girls away. They scampered down-hill, shrieking
with affected terror.
When Nesis placed her hands on the sill a thin package slipped out of
her sleeve and thudded upon the floor. Ambrose's heart jumped.
As the girls ran away, under cover of leaning out and calling after
them, he pushed her gift under the table with his foot. One of the
jailers, coming to the window and glancing about the room, found him
unconcernedly lighting his pipe.
When the poker game was resumed Ambrose retired with his prize to the
farthest corner of the shack. It proved to be the knife he had asked
for, a keen, strong blade.
She had wrapped it in a piece of moose hide to keep it from clattering
on the floor. Ambrose's heart warmed toward her anew. "She's as
plucky and clever as she is friendly," he thought. He stuffed the
knife in his bed and resigned himself as best he could to wait for
Fortunately for his store of patience, the days were rapidly growing
shorter. His supper was brought him at six, and when he had finished
eating it was dark enough to begin work.
Outside the moon's first quarter was filling the bowl of the hills with
a delicate radiance, but moonlight outside only made the interior of
the shack darker to one looking in.
Ambrose squatted in the corner at the foot of his bed, and set to work
as quietly as a mouse in the pantry.
He had finished his hole in the flooring and was commencing to dig in
the earth, when a soft scratching on the wall gave notice of Nesis's
"Angleysman, you there?" she whispered through the chink.
"Here!" said Ambrose.
"The boat is ready," she said. "I got grub and blanket and gun."
"Ah, fine!" whispered Ambrose.
"You almost out?" she asked.
He explained his situation.
"I dig this side, too," she said. "We dig together. Mak' no noise!"
Since the shack was innocent of foundation it was no great matter to
dig under the wall. With knife and hands Ambrose worked on his side
until he had got deep enough to dig under.
Occasional little sounds assured him that Nesis was not idle. Suddenly
the thin barrier of earth between them caved in, and they clasped hands
in the hole.
Five minutes more of scooping out and the way was clear. Ambrose
extended his long body on the floor and wriggled himself slowly under
Outside an urgent hand on his shoulder restrained him. Throwing
herself on the ground, she put her lips to his ear. "Go back!" she
whispered. "The moon is moch bright. You must wait little while."
Ambrose, mad to taste the free air of heaven, resisted a little
"Please go back!" she whispered imploringly. "I come in. I got talk
He drew himself back into the shack with none too good a grace.
Standing over the hole when she appeared, he put his hands under her
arms and, drawing her through, stood her upon her feet.
He could have tossed the little thing in the air with scarcely an
effort. She turned about and came close to him.
"I so glad to be by you!" she breathed.
She emanated a delicate natural fragrance like pine-trees or wild
roses—but Ambrose could only think of freedom.
"You managed to get here without being seen," he grumbled.
"You foolish!" she whispered tenderly. "I little. I can hide behind
leaves sof' as a link. Your white face him show by the moon lak a
little moon. Are you sorry you got stay with me little while?"
"No!" he said. "But—I'm sick to be out of this!"
She put her hands on his shoulders and drew him down. "Sit on the
floor," she whispered. "Your ear too moch high for my mouth."'
They sat, leaning against the footboard of the bed, Like a confiding
child she snuggled her shoulder under his arm and drew the arm around
her. What was he to do hut hold her close?
"It is true, you ver' moch strong," she murmured. "Lak a bear. But a
bear is ogly."
"You didn't think I was pretty to-day, did you,", he said with a grin,
"with a week's growth on my chin?"
She softly stroked his cheek. "Wah!" she said, laughing. "Lak
porcupine! Red man not have strong beard lak that. They say you
scrape it off with a knife every day."
"When I have the knife," said Ambrose.
"Why you do that?" she asked. "I lak see it grow down long lak my
hair. That would be wonderful!"
Ambrose trembled with internal laughter.
"I lak everything of you," she murmured.
He was much troubled between his gratitude and his inability to
reciprocate the naïve passion she had conceived for him. It is
pleasant to be loved and flattered and exalted, but it entails
"I never can thank you properly for what you've done," he said clumsily.
"I do anything for you," she said quickly. "So soon my eyes see you to
the dance I know that. Always before that I am think about white men.
I not see no white men before, only the little parson, and the old men
at the fort. They not lak you? My father is the same as me. He lak
white men. We talk moch about white men. My fat'er say to me never
forget the Angleys talk. Do I spik Angleys good, Angleysman?"
"Fine!" whispered Ambrose.
She pulled his head forward so that she could breathe her soft speech
directly in his ear.
"My father and me not the same lak other people here. We got white
blood. Men not talk with their girls moch. My fat'er talk man talk
with me. Because he is got no boys, only me. So I know many things.
"I think, women's talk foolish. Many tam my fat'er say to me, Angleys
talk mak' men strong. He say to me, some day Watusk kill me for cause
I spik the Angleys.
"So in the tam of falling leaves lak this, three years ago, my fat'er
he is go down the river to the big falls to meet the people from Big
"My fat'er and ten men go. Bam-by them come back. My fat'er not in
any dugout. Them say my fat'er is hunt with Ahcunza one day. My
fat'er is fall in the river and go down the big falls.
"They say that. But I know the truth. Ahcunza is a friend of Watusk.
Watusk give him his vest with goldwork after. My fat'er is dead. I am
lak wood then. My mot'er sell me to Watusk. I not care for not'ing."
"Your mother, sell you!" murmured Ambrose.
"My mot'er not lak me ver' moch," said Nesis simply. "She mad for
cause I got white blood. She mad for cause my fat'er all tam talk with
"Three years ago!" said Ambrose. "You must have been a little girl
"I fourteen year old then. My mot'er got 'not'er osban' now. Common
man. They gone with Buffalo Lake people. I not care. All tam I think
of my fat'er. He is one fine man.
"Las' summer the priest come here. Mak' good talk, him. Say if we
good, bam-by we see the dead again. What you think, is that true talk,
Ambrose's arm tightened around the wistful child. "Honest truth!" he
She opened her simple heart fully to him. Her soft speech tumbled out
as if it had been dammed all these years, and only now released by a
touch of kindness.
Ambrose was touched as deeply as a young man may be by a woman he does
not love, yet he could not help glancing over her head at the square of
sky obliquely revealed through the window. It gradually darkened.
"The moon has gone down," he said at last.
Nesis clung to him. "Ah, you so glad to leave me!" she whimpered.
He gently released himself. "Think of me a little," he said. "I must
get a long start before daylight."
She buried her face on her knees. Her shoulders shook.
"Nesis!" he whispered appealingly.
She lifted her head and flung a hand across her eyes. "No good cry,"
she murmured. "Come on!"
Nesis led the way out through the hole they had dug. Job followed
Ambrose. Outside, for greater safety, he took the dog in his arms.
The moon had sunk behind the hill across the river, but it was still
dangerously bright. Nesis took hold of Ambrose's sleeve and pointed
off to the right. She whispered in his ear:
"Ev'ry tam feel what is under your foot before step hard."
She did not make directly for the river, but led him step by step up
the hill toward a growth of timber that promised safety. The first
hundred yards was the most difficult.
They rose above the shack into the line of vision of the guards in
front, had they elevated their eyes. Nesis, crouching, moved like a
cat after a bird.
Ambrose followed, scarcely daring to breathe. Even the dog understood
and lay as if dead in Ambrose's arms.
The danger decreased with every step. When they gained the trees they
could fairly count themselves safe. Even if an alarm were raised now
it would take time to find them in the dark.
Nesis, still leading Ambrose, pattered ahead as if every twig in the
bush was familiar to her. She did not strike down to the river until
they had gone a good way around the side of the hill.
This brought them to the water's edge at a point a third of a mile or
more below the teepees. Ambrose distinguished a bark canoe drawn up
beneath the willows. In it lay the outfit she had provided.
He put it in the water, and Job hopped into his accustomed place in the
"You love that dog ver' moch," Nesis murmured jealously.
"He's all I've got," said Ambrose.
Her hand swiftly sought his.
"Tell me how I should go," said Ambrose hastily, fearing a
Nesis drew a long sigh. "I tell you," she said sadly. "They say it is
four sleeps to the big falls. Two sleeps by quiet water. Many bad
rapids after that. You mus' land by every rapid to look. They say the
falls mak' no noise before they catch you. Ah! tak' care!"
"I know rivers," said Ambrose.
"They say under the water is a cave with white bones pile up!" she
faltered. "They say my fat'er is there. I 'fraid for you to go!"
"I'll be careful," he said lightly. "Don't you worry!"
"At the falls," she went on sadly, "you mus' land on the side away from
the sun, and carry your canoe on your back. There is pretty good
trail. Three miles. After that one more sleep to the big lake. A
Company fort is there."
Like an honest man he dreaded the mere formulas of thanks at such a
moment, but neither could an honest man forego them. "How can I ever
repay you!" he mumbled.
She clapped a warm hand over his mouth.
As he was about to step in the canoe Ambrose saw a bundle lying on the
ground to one side that he had not remarked before. "What is that?" he
"Nothing for you," she said quickly.
The evasive note made him insist upon knowing.
For a long time she would not tell, thus increasing his determination
to find out. Finally she said very low: "I jus' foolish. I think
maybe—maybe you want tak' me too!"
Ambrose's heart was wrung. His arm went around her with a right good
will. "You poor baby!" he murmured. "I can't!"
She struggled to release herself. "All right," she said stiffly. "I
not think you tak' me. Only maybe."
"By God!" swore Ambrose. "If I live through my troubles I'll find a
way of getting you out of yours!"
"Ah, come back!" she murmured, clinging to his arm.
"Good-by," he said.
"Wait!" she said, clinging to him. She lifted her face. "Kiss me
once, lak' white people kiss!"
He kissed her fairly.
"Goo'-by," she whispered. "I always be think of you. Goo'-by,
Ambrose put off with a heart big with compassion for the piteous little
figure he was leaving behind him. His impotence to aid her poisoned
the joy of his escape.
The worst of it was that it was impossible for him to return the
feeling she had for him—even though Colina were lost to him forever.
Her unlucky passion almost forbade him to be the one to aid her.
Yet he had profited by that passion to make his escape. He must find
As he drove his paddle into the breast of the dark river, and put one
point of willows after another between him and danger, it must be
confessed that his spirits rose steadily.
Never had his nostrils tasted anything sweeter than the smell of warm
river water on the chill air, nor his eyes beheld a friendlier sight
than the cheery stars. The one who fares forth does not repine.
After all he had only known Nesis for two days; she was fine and
plucky—but he could not love her, and that was all there was to it.
He had matters nearer his heart than the sad fate of an Indian maiden.
Master of his actions once more it was time for him to consider what to
do to get out of the coil he was in. Nesis passed into the back of his
No desire for sleep hampered him. He had had enough of sleeping the
past two weeks. His arms had ached for this exercise. There was a
fair current, and the willows moved by at a respectable rate.
He estimated that he could put forty miles between him and the Kakisa
village by morning. The pleasant taste of freedom was heightened by
the spice of heading into the unknown, and by night.
Night returns a rare sympathy to those who cultivate her. Ambrose, so
far as he knew, was the first white man ever to travel this way. This
river had no voice. The night was so still one could almost fancy one
heard the stars.
Sometimes the looming shapes of islands confused him as to his course,
but if he held his paddle the canoe would of itself choose the main
He had no apprehension as to what each bend in the stream would reveal,
for with the experienced riverman's intuition he looked for a change in
the character of the shores to warn him of any interruption of the
current's smooth flow.
"Like old times, old fel'!" he said to his dumb partner.
Job's tail thumped on the gunwale. Ambrose contended that at night Job
purposely turned stern formost to the most convenient hard object that
his signals might be audible.
"To-night is ours anyway, old fel'," said Ambrose. "Let's enjoy it
while we can. The worst is yet to come!"
It was many a day since Job had heard this jocular note in his master's
voice. He wriggled a little and whined in his eagerness to reach him.
Job knew better than to attempt to move much in the bark canoe.
In due course the miracle of dawn was enacted on the river. The world
stole out of the dark like a woman wan with watching. First the line
of tree-tops on either bank became blackly silhouetted against the
graying sky, then little by little the masses of trees and bushes
resolved into individuals.
Perspective came into being, afterward atmosphere, and finally color.
The scene was as cool and delicate as that presented to a diver on the
floor of the sea. As the light increased it was as if he mounted into
shallower water toward the sun.
The first distinctive note of color was the astonishing green of the
goosegrass springing in the mud left by the falling water; then the
current itself became a rich, brown with creamy flakes of foam sailing
down like little vessels. While Ambrose looked, the world blossomed
from a pale nun into a ruddy matron.
With the rising of the sun the need of sleep began to afflict him. He
had thought he never would need sleep again. His paddle became leaden
in his hands, and Olympian yawns prostrated him.
He did not wish to take the time to sleep as yet, but he resolved to
stimulate his flagging energies with bread and hot tea.
Landing on a point of stones, he built a fire, and hung his little
copper pot over it. The sight of everything he had been provided with
brought the thought of Nesis sharply home again, and sobered him.
Here was everything a traveler might require, even including two extra
pairs of moccasins, worked, he was sure, by herself. "How can I ever
repay her?" he thought uncomfortably.
Job was gyrating madly up and down the beach to express his joy at
their deliverance. Ambrose was aroused from a drowsy contemplation of
the fire by an urgent bark from the dog.
Looking up, he was frozen with astonishment to behold another bark
canoe sweeping around the bend above. When motion returned to him, his
hand instinctively shot out toward the gun. But there was only one
figure. It was a woman—it was Nesis!
Ambrose dropped the gun and, jumping up, swore helplessly under his
breath. He stared at the oncoming boat, fascinated with perplexity.
During the few seconds between his first sight of it and its grounding
at his feet, the complications bound to follow on her coming presented
themselves with a horrible clearness. His face turned grim.
Nesis, landing, could not face his look. She flung up an arm over her
eyes. "Ah, don't look so mad to me!" she faltered.
"God help us!" muttered Ambrose. "What will we do now?"
She sank down in a heap at his feet. "Don't, don't hate me or I die!"'
It was impossible for him to remain angry with the forlorn little
creature. He laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Get up," he said with a sigh. "I'm not blaming you. The question
is—what are we going to do?"
She lifted her head. "I go with you," she whispered breathlessly. "I
help you in the rapids. I bake bread for you. I watch at night."
He shook his head. "You've got to go back," he said sternly.
"No! No!" she cried, wringing her hands. "I can' go back no more!
Las' night when you go I fall down. I think I goin' die. I sorry I
not die. I want jump in river; but the priest say that is a bad thing.
"I can' go back to Watusk's teepee no more. If he touch me I got kill
him! That is bad, too! I don't know what to do! I want be good so I
see my fat'er bam-by!"
She thought he was relenting, and came and wound her arms about him.
"Tak' me wit' you," she pleaded like a little child. "I be good,
Ambrose firmly detached the imploring arms. "You mustn't do that," he
said as to a child. "We've got to think hard what to do."
"Ah, you hate me!" she wailed.
"That's nonsense!" he said sharply. "I am your friend. I will never
forget what you did for me!"
He took an abrupt turn up and down the stones, trying to think what to
do. "Look here," he said finally. "I've got to hurt you. I should
have told you before, but I couldn't bring myself to hurt you. I can't
love you the way you want. I'm in love with another woman."
She flung away from him, shoulder up as if he had raised a whip. Her
face turned ugly.
"You love white woman!" she hissed with extraordinary passion. "Colina
Gaviller! I know! I hate her! She proud and wicked woman. She hate
my people!" Nesis's eyes flamed up with a kind of bitter triumph. Her
voice rose shrilly.
"She hate you, too! Always she is bad to you. I know that, too. What
you want wit' Colina Gaviller? Are you a dog to lie down when she beat
Ambrose's eyes gleamed ominously. "Stop it!" he cried. "You don't
know what you're talking about." His look intimidated her. The fury of
jealousy subsided to a sullen muttering. "I hate her! She bad to the
people. She want starve the people. She think her yellow horse better
than an Indian!"
Ambrose, seeing her lip begin to tremble and her eyes fill, relented.
"Stop it," he said mildly. "No use for us to quarrel."
She suddenly broke into a storm of weeping and cast herself down,
hiding her face in her arms. Ambrose could think of nothing better to
do than let her weep herself out. He sat down on a boulder.
She came creeping to him at last, utterly humbled. "Angleysman, tak'
me wit' you," she murmured, clasping her hands before him. Her breath
was still caught with sobs. "I not expec' you marry me. I not bot'er
you wit' much talk lak' a wife. I jus' be your little servant. You
not want me, you say: Go 'way. I jus' wait till you want me again."
Ambrose turned his head away. He had never imagined a man having to go
through with anything like this.
"Always, always I work for you," she whispered. "Let Colina Gaviller
marry you. She not mind me. I guess she not mind that little dog you
love. I jus' poor, common red girl. She think not'ing of me!"
Ambrose laughed a bitter note at the picture she called up. "That
would hardly work," he said.
"But tak' me wit' you," she implored. She finally ventured to lay her
cheek on his knee.
He laid a hand on her hair. "Listen, you baby," he said, "and try to
understand me. You know that they are going to try to put off all this
trouble on me. They will say I made the Indians do bad. They will say
I tried to kill John Gaviller. The police will arrest me, and there
will be a trial. You know what that is."
"Everybody see you not a bad man," she said.
"It's not as simple as that," he said with a wry smile. "I have nobody
to speak for me but myself. Now, if you go away with me everybody will
say: 'Ambrose Doane stole Watusk's wife away from him. Ambrose Doane
is a bad man.' And then they will not believe me when I say I did not
lead the Indians into wrong; I did not try to kill John Gaviller."
"I speak for you," cried Nesis. "I tell Gordon Strange and Watusk fix
all trouble together."
"If you go with me, they will not believe you either," said Ambrose
patiently. "They will say: 'Nesis is crazy about Ambrose Doane. He
makes her say whatever he wants.'"
"It is the truth I am crazy 'bout you," said Nesis.
Ambrose sighed. "Listen to me. I tell you straight, if you go with me
it will ruin me. I am as good as a jailbird already."
She gave her head an impatient shake. "I not understand," she said
sadly. "You say it. I guess it is truth."
There was a silence. Nesis's childlike brows were bent into a frown.
She glanced into his face to see if there was any reprieve from the
hard sentence. Finally she said very low:
"Angleysman, you got go to jail if you tak' me?"
"Sure as fate!" he said sadly.
She got up very slowly. "I guess I ver' foolish," she murmured. She
waited, obviously to give him a chance to speak. He was mum.
"I go back now," she whispered heart-brokenly, and turned toward her
With her hand on the prow she waited again, not looking at him, hoping
against hope. There was something crushed and palpitating in her
aspect like a wounded bird. Ambrose felt like a monster of cruelty.
Suddenly a fresh fear attacked him. "Nesis," he asked, "how will you
explain being away overnight? They will connect it with my escape.
What will they do to you?"
She turned her head, showing him a painful little smile. "You not
think of that before," she murmured. "I not care what they do by me.
You not love me."
He strode to her and clapped a rough hand on her shoulder. "Here, I
couldn't have them hurt you!" he cried harshly. "You baby! You come
with me. I'm in as bad as I can be already. A little more or less
won't make any difference. I'll chance it, anyway. You come with me!"
"Oh, my Angleysman!" she breathed, and sank a little limp heap at his
Ambrose blew up the forgotten fire and made tea. Nesis quickly
revived. Having made up his mind to take her, he put the best possible
face on it.
There were to be no more reproaches. Her pitiful anxiety not to anger
him again made him wince. Her eyes never left his face. If he so much
as frowned at an uncomfortable thought they became tragic.
"Look here, I'm not a brute!" he cried, exasperated.
Nesis looked foolish, and quickly turned her head away.
Over their tea and bannock they became almost cheerful. Motion had
made them both hungry.
Ambrose glanced at their slender store. "We'll never hang out to the
lake at this rate," he said laughing.
"I set rabbit snare when we sleep," Nesis said quickly. "I catch fish.
I shoot wild duck."
"Shall we leave one of the canoes?" asked Ambrose.
She shook her head vigorously. "Each tak' one. Maybe one bus' in
rapids. You sleep in your canoe now. I pull you."
Ambrose shook his head. "No sleep until to-night," he said.
Ambrose was lighting his pipe and Nesis was gathering up the things
when suddenly Job sprang up, barking furiously. At the same moment
half a score of dark faces rose above the bank behind them, and
gun-barrels stuck up.
Among the ten was a distorted, snarling, yellow face. Ambrose snatched
up his own gun. Nesis uttered a gasping cry; such a sound of terror
Ambrose had never heard.
"Shoot me!" she gasped, crawling toward him. "You shoot me!
Angleysman, quick! Shoot me!"
Her heartrending cries had so confused him, he was seized before he
could raise his gun.
Ambrose was pacing his log prison once more. The earth had been filled
in, the hole in the floor roughly repaired, and now his jailers took
turns in patrolling around the shack.
Imprisonment was doubly hard now. Day and night Nesis's strange cries
of terror rang in his ears. He knew something about the Indians' ideas
of punishing women. His imagination never ceased to suggest terrible
things that might have befallen her.
"God! Every one that comes near me suffers!" he cried in his first
The explanation of their surprise proved simple. Watusk and his crew,
pursuing them in two dugouts, had seen the smoke of their fire from up
They had landed above the point and, making a short detour inland, had
fallen on Ambrose and Nesis from behind. Nesis had been carried back
in one dugout, Ambrose in the other.
During the trip no ill-usage had been offered her, as far as he could
see, but upon reaching the village she had been spirited away, and he
had not seen her since.
His last glimpse had shown him her child's face almost dehumanized with
Ambrose now for the first time received a visit from Watusk. Watusk
had also traveled in the other dugout ascending the river, and they had
exchanged no words.
He came to the shack attended by his four little familiars, and the
door was closed behind them. These four were like supers in a theater.
They had no lines to speak. Watusk's aspect was intended to be
In addition to the red sash he now wore three belts, the first full of
cartridges, the second supporting an old cavalry saber, the third
carrying two gigantic .45 Colts in holsters.
He carried the Winchester over his arm, and still wore the grimy pith
helmet. Ambrose smiled with bitter amusement. It seemed like the very
sport of fate that he should be placed in the power of such a poor
creature as this.
"How!" said Watusk, offering his hand with an affable smile.
Ambrose, remembering the look of his face when it rose over the bank,
was sharply taken aback. He lacked a clue to the course of reasoning
pursued by Watusk's mongrel mind. However, he quickly reflected that
it was only by exercising his wits that he could hope to help Nesis.
He took the detestable hand and returned an offhand greeting.
"You mak' beeg mistak' you try run away," said Watusk. "You mos' safe
"How is that?" asked Ambrose warily.
"I your friend," said Watusk.
Ambrose suppressed the inclination to laugh.
"I keep you here so people won't hurt you," Watusk went on. "My people
lak children. Pretty soon forget what they after. Pretty soon forget
they mad at you. Then I let you out."
"Do you still mean to say that I killed one of your men?" demanded
Watusk shrugged. "Myengeen say so."
"It's a lie!" cried Ambrose scornfully. An expectant look in Watusk's
eye arrested him from saying more. "He's trying to find out how much
Nesis told me," he thought. Aloud he said, with a shrug like Watusk
himself: "Well, I'll be glad when it blows over."
"Two three day I let you out," Watusk said soothingly. "You can have
anything you want."
"How is Nesis?" demanded Ambrose abruptly.
There was a subtle change in Watusk's eyes; no muscle of his face
"She all right," he said coolly.
"Where is she?"
"I send her to my big camp 'cross the river."
"You shouldn't blame Nesis for helping me out," Ambrose said
earnestly—not that he expected to make any impression. "She's only a
child. I made her do it."
Watusk spread out his palms blandly. "I not blame her," he said. "I
not care not'ing only maybe you get drown in the rapids."
Ambrose studied the brown mask narrowly. Watusk gave nothing away.
Suddenly the Indian smiled.
"You t'ink I mad for cause she go wit' you?" he said. He laughed
silently. "Wa! There are plenty women. When I let you out I give you
This sounded a little too philanthropic.
"H-m!" said Ambrose.
"You lak little Nesis, hey?" inquired Watusk, leering.
Ambrose was warned by a crafty shadow in the other man's eye.
"Sure!" he said lightly. "Didn't she help me out of here?"
"You lak talk wit' her, I t'ink."
Ambrose thought fast. The only English words Nesis had spoken in
Watusk's hearing were her cries of fright at his appearance. In the
confusion of that moment it was possible Watusk had not remarked them.
"Talk to her?" said Ambrose, simulating surprise. "Only by signs."
"How she get you out, then?" Watusk quickly asked.
This was a poser. To hesitate was to confess all. Ambrose drew a
quick breath and plunged ahead.
"Why, she and a lot of girls were picking berries that day. They came
around the shack here and began to jolly me through the window. I
fixed Nesis with my eye and scared her. I made a sign for her to bring
me a knife. She brought it at night. I put my magic on her and made
her help me dig out and get me an outfit. I was afraid she'd raise an
alarm as soon as I left, so I made her come, too."
"Why you tak' two canoe?" asked Watusk.
"In case we should break one in the rapids."
"So!" said Watusk.
Ambrose lighted his pipe with great carelessness. He was unable to
tell from Watusk's face if his story had made any impression. Thinking
of the conjure-man, he hoped the suggestion of magic might have an
"I let you out now," said Watusk suddenly. "You got promise me you not
go way from here before I tell you go. Give me your hand and swear."
Ambrose smelled treachery. He shook his head. "I'll escape if I can!"
Watusk shrugged his shoulder and turned away.
"You foolish," he said. "I your friend. Good-by."
"Good-by," returned Ambrose ironically.
Ambrose walked his floor, studying Watusk's words from every angle.
The result of his cogitations was nil. Watusk's mind was at the same
time too devious and too inconsequential for a mind like Ambrose's to
track it. Ambrose decided that he was like one of the childish,
unreasonable liars one meets in the mentally defective of our own race.
Such a one is clever to no purpose: he will blandly attempt to lie away
the presence of truth.
In the middle of the afternoon Ambrose, making his endless tramp back
and forth across the little shack, paused to take an observation from
the window, and saw three horsemen come tearing down the trail into
They flung themselves off their horses with excited gestures, and the
camp was instantly thrown into confusion. The natives darted among the
teepees like ants when their hill is broken into.
Watusk appeared, buckling on his belts. The women that were left in
camp started to scuttle toward the river, dragging their children after
Ambrose's heart bounded at the prospect of a diversion. Whatever
happened, his lot could be no worse. At the first alarm three of his
jailers had run down to the teepees. They came back in a hurry.
The door of the shack was thrown open, and the whole six rushed in and
seized him. Ambrose, seeking to delay them, struggled hard. They
finally got his hands and feet tied, cursing him heartily in their own
tongue. They hustled him down to the riverside.
All the people left on this side were already gathered there. They
continually looked over their shoulders with faces ashen with terror.
The men who had horses drove them into the river and swam across with a
hand upon the saddle.
The women and children were ferried in the dugout. So great was their
haste they came empty-handed. The teepees were left as they stood with
fires burning and flaps up.
Watusk passed near Ambrose, his yellow face livid with agitation.
"What's the matter?" cried the white man.
The chief was afflicted with a sudden deafness. Ambrose was cast in a
dugout. The indefatigable Job hopped in after and made himself small
at his master's feet.
The mad excitement of the whole crowd inspired Ambrose with a strong
desire to laugh. The water flew in cascades from the frantic paddles
of the boat-men.
Arriving on the other side, Ambrose was secured on a horse, as on his
first journey, and instantly despatched inland with his usual guard.
As he was carried away they were dragging up the dugouts and concealing
them under the willows. Watusk was sending men to watch from the
cemetery on top of the bold hill.
Ambrose's guards led his horse at a smart lope around a spur of the
hill and along beside a wasted stream almost lost in its stony bed. A
dense forest bordered either bank. The trail was broken and spread by
the recent passage of a large number of travelers; these would be the
main body of the Kakisas a week before. Ambrose guessed that they were
following the bed of a coulée.
Through the tree-tops on either hand he had occasional glimpses of
steep, high banks.
After a dozen miles or so of this they suddenly debouched into a
verdant little valley without a tree. The stream meandered through it
with endless twists.
Except for two narrow breaks where it entered and issued forth, the
hills pressed all around, steep, grassy hills, fantastically knobbed
The floor of the valley was about a third of a mile long and half as
wide. It was flat and covered with a growth of blue-joint grass as
high as a man's knee.
The whole place was like a large clean, green bowl flecked here and
there with patches of bright crimson where the wild rose scrub grew in
Ambrose, casting his eyes over the green panorama, was astonished to
see at intervals around the sky-line little groups of men busily at
work. They appeared to be digging; he could not be sure. One does not
readily associate Indians with spades. His guards pointed out the
workers to one another, jabbering excitedly in the uncouth Kakisa.
They rode on through the upper entrance of the valley and plunged into
forest again. Another mile, and they came abruptly on the Indian
village hidden in a glade just big enough to contain it.
It had grown; there were many more teepees in sight than Ambrose had
counted before. They faced each other in two long double rows with a
narrow green between. Down the middle of the green ran the stream,
here no bigger than a man might step across.
Ambrose was unceremoniously thrust into one of the first teepees and,
bound hand and foot, left to his own devices. He managed to drag
himself to the door, where he could at least see something of what was
going on. He looked eagerly for a sight of Nesis, or, failing her, one
of the girls who had accompanied her on the berry-picking expedition,
and who might be induced to give him some honest information about her.
He was not rewarded.
All who entered the village from the east passed by him. Watusk and
the rest of the people from the river arrived in an hour.
Here among safe numbers of their own people they recovered from their
alarm. Ambrose suspected their present confidence to be as little
founded on reason as their previous terror. Watusk, strutting like a
turkey-cock in his military finery, issued endless orders.
At intervals the workers from the hills straggled into camp. Ambrose
saw that they had been using their paddles as spades. A general and
significant cleaning of rifles took place before the teepees.
At dusk two more men rode in, probably outposts Watusk had left at the
river. One held up his two bands, opening out and closing the fingers
twice. Ambrose guessed from this that the coming police party numbered
The last thing he saw as darkness infolded the camp was the boys
driving in the horses from the hills.
He shared the teepee with his six guards. Sleep was remote from his
eyes. Nevertheless, he did fall off at last, only, it seemed to him,
to be immediately awakened by his guards.
His ankles were unbound, and he was made to understand that he must
ride again. Ambrose, seeing no advantage to be gained by resistance,
did what they ordered without objection.
He got to his feet and went outside. A pitiful little yelp behind him
caused him to whirl about and dart inside again.
"Hands off my dog!" he cried in a voice that caused the Kakisas to fall
back in affright.
There was a little light from the fire. Their attitude was
conciliatory. In their own language they sought to explain. One
pointed to a kind of pannier of birch-bark hanging from a teepee pole,
whence issued a violent scratching.
"Let him out!" cried Ambrose.
They expostulated with him. None made any move to obey.
"Let him out!" commanded Ambrose, "or I'll smash something!"
Watusk, attracted by the noise, stuck his head in. The matter was
explained to him. Lifting the cover of the pannier, he exhibited the
frightened but unharmed Job to his master.
"Him all right," he said soothingly. "Let be. We got mak' new camp
to-night. Can't tak' no dogs. Him come wit' women to-morrow."
Ambrose did not believe him, of course; but if help were really so
near, he felt it would be suicidal to provoke a conflict at this
moment. Apparently they intended the dog no harm. He assumed to be
contented with Watusk's explanation.
"Good dog," he said to Job. "You're all right. Lie down."
Ambrose mounted, and they tied him on as usual. On every hand he could
see men mounting and riding out of the village. His heart slowly rose
into his throat.
Could it be meant that he was to take part in a night attack on the
police? Surely the redcoats would never allow themselves to be
surprised! Anyhow, if he was to be present, it would be strange if he
could not help his own in some way.
His horse was led up the hill, off at right angles to the village.
Watusk remained near him. As they rose to higher ground the moon came
into view, hanging above the tree-tops across the valley, preparatory
to sinking out of sight.
In its light the objects around him were more clearly revealed.
Apparently the riders were straggling to a rendezvous. There was no
haste. The terrible depression which had afflicted Ambrose since Nesis
had disappeared was dissipated by the imminence of a great event.
He lived in the moment. Out of the tail of his eye he observed
Watusk's mount, a lustrous black stallion, the finest piece of
horseflesh he had seen in the north.
Ambrose heard a confused murmur ahead. Rising over the edge of the
hill he saw its cause. A great body of horses was gathered close
together on the prairie, each with its rider standing at its head.
The animals jostled each other, bit and squealed, stamped their
forefeet, and tossed their manes. The men were silent. It made a
weird scene in the fading moonlight.
Men and horses partook of a ghostly quality; the faces nearest him
blank, oval patches, faintly phosphorescent, were like symbols of the
tragedy of mankind.
Watusk kept Ambrose at his side. Facing his men, he raised his hand
theatrically. They sprang to their saddles and, wheeling, set out over
the prairie. Gradually they lengthened out into single file.
Presently the leader came loping back, and the whole body rode around
Watusk and Ambrose in a vast circle. It was like an uncanny midnight
The riders maintained their silence. The only sounds were the thudding
of hoofs on turf and the shaking of the horsemen in their clothes.
Only one or two used saddles. The rifle-barrels caught dull gleams of
At another signal from Watusk they pulled up and, turning their horses'
heads toward the center, made as small a circle as their numbers could
Watusk addressed Ambrose with a magniloquent air. "See my children,
white man! Brave as the white-face mountain bear! Swift as flying
duck! This only a few my men. Toward the setting sun I got so many
more wait my call.
"By the big lake I got 'nother great army. Let white men tak' care how
they treat us bad. To-morrow red man's day come. He got Watusk lead
him now. Watusk see through white man's bluff!"
It was impossible for Ambrose not to be impressed, ridiculous as
Watusk's harangue was. There were the men, not less than two
hundred—and twenty police to be attacked.
Watusk now rode around the circle, addressing his men in their own
tongue, singling out this man and that, and issuing instructions. It
was all received in the same silence.
Ambrose believed these quiet, ragged little warriors to be more
dangerous than their inflated leader. At least in their ignorance they
were honest; one could respect them.
In more ways than one Ambrose had felt drawn to the Kakisas. They
seemed to him a real people, largely unspoiled as yet by the impact of
a stronger race.
If he could only have talked to them, he thought. Surely in five
minutes he could put them to rights and overthrow this general of straw!
Watusk rode out of the circle, followed by Ambrose and Ambrose's guard.
Several of the leading men, including one that Ambrose guessed from his
size to be Myengeen, joined Watusk in front, and the main body made a
soft thunder of hoofs in the rear.
They were headed in a southeasterly direction—that is to say, back
toward the Kakisa River. They rode at a walk. There was no
conversation except among the leaders. The moon went down and the
shadows pressed closer.
In a little while there was a division. Myengeen, parted from Watusk
and rode off to the right, followed, Ambrose judged from the sounds, by
a great part of the horsemen.
The remainder kept on in the same direction. Half a mile farther
Watusk himself drew aside. Ambrose's guards and others joined him,
while the balance of the Indians rode on and were swallowed in the
Watusk turned to the right. Presently they were stopped by a bluff of
poplar saplings growing in a hollow. Here all dismounted and tied
their horses to trees.
Ambrose's ankles were loosed and, with an Indian's hand on either
shoulder, he was guided through the grass around the edge of the trees.
He speculated vainly on what this move portended.
No attack, certainly; they were striking matches and lighting their
pipes. Suddenly the dim figures in front were swallowed up.
Immediately afterward Ambrose was led down an incline into a kind of
pit. The smell of turned earth was in his nostrils; he could still see
the stars overhead. They gave him a corner, and his ankles were again
Soon it began to grow light. Little by little Ambrose made out the
confines of the pit or trench. It was some twenty-five feet long and
five feet wide. When the Indians stood erect, the shortest man could
just look over the edge.
Ambrose counted twenty-one men besides Watusk and himself. It was
close quarters. When it became light enough to see clearly, they lined
up in front of him, eagerly looking over. One was lighting a little
fire and putting grass on it to make a smudge.
Ambrose got his feet under him, and managed after several attempts to
stand upright. He was tall enough to look over the heads of the
Stretching before him he saw the valley he had remarked the evening
before, with the streamlet winding like a silver ribbon in a green
But what the Indians were looking at were little pillars of smoke which
ascended at intervals all around the edge of the hills, hung for a
moment or two in the motionless air, and disappeared. Ambrose counted
eight besides their own.
Watusk exclaimed in satisfaction, and ordered the fire put out. This,
then, was the explanation of the digging—rifle-pits!
Ambrose marveled at the cunning with which it had all been contrived.
The excavated earth had been carried somewhere to the rear.
Wild-rose scrub had been cut and replanted in the earth around three
sides of the pit, leaving a clear space between the stems for the men
to shoot through, with a screen of the crimson leaves above.
So well had it been done that Ambrose could not distinguish the other
pits from the patches of wild-rose scrub growing naturally on the hills.
Ambrose's heart sank with the apprehension of serious danger. He began
to wonder if he and all the other whites in the country had not
under-rated these red men. Where could Watusk have learned his
tactics? The thing was devilishly planned.
With the cross-fire of two hundred rifles they could mow down an army
if they could get them inside that valley. Each narrow entrance was
covered by a pair of pits. Every part of the bowl was within range of
Ambrose feared that the police, in their careless disdain of the
natives, might ride straight into the trap and be lost.
"Watusk, for God's sake, what do you mean to do?" he cried.
Watusk was intensely gratified by the white man's alarm. He smiled
insolently. "Ah!" he said. "You on'erstan' now!"
"You fool!" cried Ambrose. "If you fire on the police you'll be wiped
clean off the earth! The whole power of the government will descend on
your head! There won't be a single Kakisa left to tell the story of
Watusk's face turned ugly. His eyes bolted. "Shut up!" he snarled,
"or I gag you."
Ambrose, bethinking himself that he might use his voice to good purpose
later, clenched his teeth and said no more.
At sunrise a fresh breeze sprang up from the south. Soon after a
whisper of distant trotting horses was home upon it. Ambrose's heart
leaped to his throat. An excited murmur ran among the Indians. They
picked up their guns.
Watusk's pit was one of the pair covering the upper entrance to the
valley. It was thus farthest away from the approaching horsemen. It
faced straight down the valley. Through the lower gap they caught the
gleam of the red coats.
Ambrose beheld them with a painfully contracted heart. He gaged in his
mind how far his voice might carry. The wind was against him.
Presumably he would only be allowed to cry out once, so it behooved him
to make sure it was heard. However, the same thought was in the minds
of the Indians. They scowled at him suspiciously.
Suddenly, while it was yet useless for him to cry out, they fell upon
him, bearing him to the ground!
After a fierce struggle Ambrose was securely bound and gagged. He
managed to get to his feet again. His soul sickened at the tragedy it
forecast, yet he had to look.
To his overwhelming relief he saw that the redcoats had halted in the
lower entrance to the valley. Evidently the possibility of an ambush
in so favored a spot had occurred to their leader. The baggage was
His relief was short-lived. Presently the advance was resumed at a
walk, and a pair of skirmishers sent out on either side to mount the
hills. Ambrose counted sixteen redcoats in the main body, and a man in
plain clothes, evidently a native guide.
One skirmisher on the left was headed all unconscious straight for a
rifle pit. Ambrose, suffocated by his impotence, tugged at his bonds
and groaned under the gag. "Turn back! Turn back!" shouted his
There was a shot. Ambrose closed his eyes expecting a fusillade to
follow. It did not come. From his pit, Watusk hissed a negative order.
Ambrose heard a shrill whistle from the bottom of the valley, and
opening his eyes, he saw the skirmishers riding slowly back to the main
body. Even at the distance their nonchalant air was evident.
The main body had quietly halted in the middle of the valley. After a
moment's pause, one of their number raised a rifle with a white flag
tied to the barrel.
The Indians surrounding Ambrose, lowered their guns, and murmured
confusedly among themselves. Ambrose looked at Watusk.
The chief betrayed symptoms of indecision, biting his lip, and pulling
his fingers until the joints cracked. Ambrose took a little
encouragement from the sight.
To Ambrose's astonishment he saw the troopers dismounting. Flinging
the lines over their horses' heads, they allowed the beasts to crop the
rich grass of the bottoms.
The men stood about in careless twos and threes, lighting their pipes.
Only their leader remained in the saddle, lolling comfortably sidewise.
The breeze brought the sound of their light talk and deep laughter.
The effect on the Indians was marked. Their jaws dropped, they looked
at each other incredulously, they jabbered excitedly.
Plainly they were divided between admiration and mystification. Watusk
was demoralized. His hand shook, an ashy tint crept under his yellow
skin, an agony of impotent rage narrowed his eyes.
Ambrose's heart swelled with the pride of race. "Splendid fellows!" he
cried to himself. "It was exactly the right thing to do!"
Presently a hail was raised in the valley below; a deep English voice
whose tones gladdened Ambrose's ears. "Ho, Watusk!"
Every eye turned toward the leader. Watusk had the air of a wilful
child called by his parent. He pished and swaggered, and made some
remark to his men with the obsequious smile with which child—or
man—asks for the support of his mates in his wrong-doing.
The men did not smile back; they merely watched soberly to see what
Watusk was going to do about it.
The hail was repeated. "Ho, Watusk! Inspector Egerton orders you to
come and talk to him!"
So it was Colonel Egerton, thought Ambrose, commander of B district of
the police, and known affectionately from Caribou Lake to the Arctic as
Patch-pants Egerton, or simply as "the old man." He was a veteran of
two Indian uprisings. Ambrose felt still further reassured.
Watusk, still swaggering, nevertheless visibly weakened. In the end he
had to go, just as a child must in the end obey a calm, imperative
He issued a petulant order. All the men except Ambrose's guard of six
took their guns and filed out through the back of the pit.
Watusk went last. Glancing over his shoulder and seeing that those
left behind were busily watching the troopers in the valley, he
produced a flask from his pocket and took a pull at it. Ambrose caught
the act out of the corner of his eye.
A few minutes later, Watusk and his followers rode over the edge of the
hill to the left of the rifle pit, and down into the valley. The
policemen scarcely looked up to see them come.
Inspector Egerton and Chief Watusk faced each other on horseback. The
other Indians remained at a respectful distance. Ambrose mightily
desired to hear what was being said on either side. He learned later.
"Watusk!" cried the peppery little inspector. "What damn foolishness
is this? Rifle pits! Do you think you're another Louis Riel?"
Watusk, glowering sullenly, made no answer.
"Have you got Ambrose Doane here?" the officer demanded.
"Ambrose Doane here," said Watusk.
"I want him," said Egerton crisply. "I also want you, Watusk,
Myengeen, Tatateecha, and three others whose names I can't pronounce.
I have a clerk belonging to the Company store who will pick them out.
"I've got to send you all out for trial before the river closes, so
there's no time to lose. We will start back to-day. I will leave half
my men here under Sergeant Plaskett to look after your people. You
will instruct your people to bring in all the goods stolen from the
"Plaskett will have a list of everything that was taken and will credit
what is returned. The balance, together with the amount of damage done
the store will be charged in a lump against the tribe, and the sum
deducted pro rata from the government annuities next year. They're
lucky to get off so easy."
"We get pay, too, for our flour burn up?" muttered Watusk.
"That will be investigated with the rest," the inspector said. "Bring
in your people at once. Look sharp! There's not an hour to lose!"
Watusk made no move. The fiery spirit he had swallowed was lending a
deceitful warmth to his veins. He began to feel like a hero. His eyes
narrowed and glittered. "Suppose I don' do it?" he muttered.
The inspectors white eyebrows went up. "Then I will go and take the
men I want," he said coolly.
"You dead before you gone far," said Watusk. He swept his arm
dramatically around the hills. "I got five hundred Winchesters point
at your red coats!" he cried. "When I give signal they speak together!"
"That's a lie," said the inspector. "You've only a few over two
hundred able men in your tribe."
"Two hundred is plenty," said Watusk unabashed. "That is ten bullets
for every man of yours. They are all around you. You cannot go
forward or back. Ask Company man if Kakisas shoot straight!"
Inspector Egerton's answer was a hearty laugh. "Capital!" he cried.
"Laugh!" cried Watusk furiously. "You no harder than ot'er man. You
got no medicine to stop those bullets you sell us! No? If bullets go
t'rough your red coats you die lak ot'er men I guess!"
"Certainly!" cried the old soldier with a flash of his blue eyes.
"That's our business. But it won't do you any good. We're but the
outposts of a mighty power that encircles the world. If you defy that
power you'll be wiped out like the prairie grass in a fire."
"Huh!" cried Watusk. "White man's bluff! White man always talk big
about the power behind him. I lak see that power, me! I will show the
red people you no better than them!
"When it was known Watusk has beat the police, as far as the northern
ocean they will take arms and drive the white men out of their country!
I have sent out my messengers!"
"What do you expect me to say to that?" inquired the officer
"Tell you men lay their guns on the ground," said Watusk. "They my
prisoners. I treat them kind."
Inspector Egerton laughed until his little paunch shook. "Come," he
said good-naturedly, "I haven't got time to exchange heroics with you.
Run along and bring in your people. I'll give you half an hour."
The inspector drew out his watch, and took note of the time. He then
turned to address his sergeant, leaving Watusk in mid air, so to speak.
There was nothing for the Indian leader to do but wheel his horse and
ride back up the hill with what dignity he could muster. His men fell
in behind him.
They had understood nothing of what was said, of course, but the byplay
was sufficiently intelligible. The whole party was crestfallen.
Observing this air on their return to the rifle pit, Ambrose's eye
brightened. Watusk seeing the keen, questioning eye, announced with
"We won. The red-coats surrendered."
This was so palpably a falsehood Ambrose could well afford to smile
broadly behind his gag.
The half hour that then followed seemed like half a day to those who
watched. Ambrose, ignorant of what had occurred, could only guess the
reason of the armistice.
The police had taken down their white flag. He could see the inspector
glance at his watch from time to time. Wondering messengers came from
the other pits presumably to find out the reason of the inaction, to
whom Watusk returned evasive replies.
Bound and gagged as he was, it was anything but an easy time for
Ambrose. He had the poor satisfaction of seeing that Watusk was more
uneasy than himself.
To a discerning eye the Indian leader was suffering visible torments.
Egerton, the wily old Indian fighter, knew his man.
If he had made the slightest move to provoke a conflict, raged,
threatened, fired a gun, the savage nature would instantly have
reacted, and it would have all been over in a few moments. But to
laugh and light a cigarette! Watusk was rendered impotent by a morale
beyond his comprehension.
The longest half hour has only thirty minutes. Inspector Egerton
looked at his watch for the last time and spoke to his men. The
policemen caught their horses, and without any appearance of haste,
tightened girths and mounted.
They commenced to move slowly through the grass in the track of
Watusk's party, spreading out wide in open formation. The inspector
was in the center of the line. He carried no arms. His men were still
joking and laughing.
They commenced to mount the hill, walking their horses, and sitting
loosely in their saddles. Each trooper had his reins in one hand, his
rifle barrel in the other, with the butt of the weapon resting on his
They were coming straight for the rifle pit; no doubt they had marked
the bushes masking it. Ambrose saw that they were young men,
slim-waisted and graceful. The one on the right end had lost his hat
through some accident. He had fair hair that caught the sun.
This was the critical moment. The fate of the nineteen boys and their
white-haired leader hung by a hair. Ambrose held his breath under the
gag. A cry, an untoward movement would have caused an immediate
The Indians' eyes glittered, their teeth showed, they fingered their
rifles. A single word from their leader would have sufficed. Watusk
longed to speak it, and could not. The sweat was running down his
One of the horses stumbled. The Indians with muttered exclamations
flung up their guns. Ambrose thought it was all over.
But at that moment by the grace of God, one of the troopers made a good
joke, and a hearty laugh rang along the line. The Indians lowered
their guns and stared with bulging eyes. They could not fight supermen
Watusk, with the groan of total collapse, dropped his gun on the
ground, and turned to escape by the path out of the pit.
Instantly there was pandemonium in the narrow place. Some tried to
escape with their leader; others blocked the way. Ambrose saw Watusk
seized and flung on the ground. One spat in his face. He lay where he
Thus ended the Kakisa rebellion. The Indians had no further thought of
resistance. The butts of their guns dropped to the ground, and they
stared at the oncoming troopers with characteristic apathy.
ANOTHER CHANGE OF JAILERS.
The police advanced to within twenty-five yards and, drawing closer
"Watusk, come out of that!" barked the inspector in his parade ground
Ambrose had his first look at him. He was a little man, trigly built,
with a bullet head under a closely cropped thatch of white. A heavy
white mustache bisected his florid face.
No one could have mistaken him in any dress, for aught but a soldier.
He did not look as if patience and fair-mindedness were included among
his virtues, which was unfortunate for Ambrose as the event proved.
As Watusk gave no sign of stirring, he was seized by many hands and
boosted over the edge of the pit. He rolled over, knocking down some
of the bushes and finally rose to his feet, standing with wretched,
His appearance, with the frock coat all rubbed with earth and the
military gear hanging askew, caused the troopers to shout with
laughter. Here was a change from the fire-eater of half an hour before.
"Ho!" cried Inspector Egerton. "The conqueror of the English!"
Watusk drew closer and began to whine insinuatingly. "I sorry I mak'
that talk, me. I can' help it at all. Ambrose Doane tell me that. He
put his medicine on me. I sick."
Ambrose attempted to cry out in his angry astonishment, but only a
muffled groan issued through the handkerchief. He was not visible to
the troopers where he stood in the corner, and he could not move.
"Is Ambrose Doane there?" demanded the officer.
Watusk quickly turned and spoke a sentence in Kakisa. Ambrose saw the
look of craft in his yellow face. One of the men who guarded Ambrose
drew his knife and cut his bonds and untied the handkerchief.
Ambrose's heart beat high. It never occurred to him that they could
believe the wretched liar! He drew himself over the edge of the pit,
helped by those behind.
"Hello!" he cried.
There was no answering greeting. The faces before him were as grim as
stone. For Watusk they had a kind of good-humored contempt—for him a
cold and deadly scorn.
Evidently their minds were made up in advance. The inspector twirled
his mustache and regarded him with a hard, speculative eye.
Ambrose's heart failed him terribly. These were men that he admired.
"What's the matter?" he cried. "Do you believe this liar? I have been
a prisoner up to this moment—bound hand and foot and gagged. The
marks are still on my wrists!"
Inspector Egerton did not look at his wrists. "H-m! Not bad!" he said
grimly. "You're a cool hand, my man!"
The blood rushed to Ambrose's face. "For God's sake, will you tell me
what I could hope to gain by stirring up the Indians?" he demanded.
"Don't ask me," said the inspector. "You were ready to grasp at any
straw, I expect."
In the face of injustice so determined, it was only humiliating for
Ambrose to attempt to defend himself. His face hardened. He set his
jaw and shrugged callously.
"You're under arrest," said the inspector.
"On what charge?" Ambrose sullenly demanded.
"A mere trifle," said the inspector ironically. "Unlawful entry,
conspiracy, burglary, and assault with intent to kill. To which we
shall probably add treason."
Ambrose made no answer. In his heart he had hoped that the empty
charges at Fort Enterprise had fallen of their own weight before this.
The inspector turned his attention back to Watusk. "Deliver over your
arsenal!" he said.
Watusk meekly unfastened his various belts and handed them to a
trooper. Having observed Ambrose's rebuff, his face had become smooth
and inscrutable again.
By this time the Indians had issued out of the pit by the rear and were
standing in an uncertain group a little way off.
"Order them to pile their weapons on the ground," commanded the
inspector. "Let each man make a mark upon the stock of his rifle so
that he can identify it when it is returned. Send messengers to the
other pits with orders for all the men to bring their guns here."
Watusk was eager to obey him.
"Where is your camp?" the inspector asked him.
Watusk pointed. "One mile," he said.
"After we get the guns you shall go there with me and we will examine
Ambrose, hearing this, turned to the trooper who was nearest. "If you
go to the camp get me my dog, will you?" he asked sullenly.
"What's that?" demanded the inspector.
Ambrose explained where his dog was to be found. They looked at him
curiously as if surprised that such a desperate criminal should be
solicitous about a dog. The trooper promised to bring him.
Inspector Egerton continued to issue his orders. "Bafford, ride back
and bring up the baggage. Have my tent pitched in the middle of the
valley below. Emslie"—this was the yellow-haired youth—"I shall hold
you responsible for the white prisoner. You needn't handcuff him. He
couldn't escape if he wished to."
Ambrose had to undergo the humiliation of walking down hill at the
stirrup of the young trooper's horse. Emslie showed a less hard face
than some of the others.
Ambrose sought to establish relations with him by asking for tobacco.
He was hungry for speech with his own kind. But the look of cold
contempt with which his request was granted precluded any further
Upon Inspector Egerton's return from the Kakisa village a meal was
served. Afterward the inspector sat at his folding-table inside his
tent and held his investigations.
There was a deal of business to be transacted. In due course Ambrose
was brought before him. Watusk, whose services were in continual
demand as interpreter, was present, and several troopers.
"It is customary to ask a prisoner upon arrest if he has anything to
say for himself," said the inspector. "I must warn you that anything
you say may be used against you."
Ambrose felt their animosity like a wall around him. "What's the use?"
he said sullenly. "You've already convicted me in your own mind."
"What I think of your case has nothing to do with it," said the
inspector coldly. "You will be brought before competent judges."
"There is something I want to say," said Ambrose, looking at Watusk.
"But not before that mongrel."
The inspector spoke to a trooper, and Watusk was led outside. "Now,
then!" he said to Ambrose.
"Watusk means to turn king's evidence," said Ambrose. "He will make up
what story he pleases, thinking that none of the Kakisas can testify
except through him—or through Gordon Strange, who is his friend."
"Are you accusing Strange now?" interrupted the inspector. "Let me
tell you: Strange is pretty highly thought of back at the fort."
"No doubt!" said Ambrose with a shrug. "There is one member of the
tribe beside Watusk who can speak English," he went on. "In the
interest of justice I ask you to find her."
"Who is it?"
"Her name is Nesis. She is the youngest of the four wives of Watusk."
Ambrose told her story briefly and baldly.
"So!" said the inspector with a peculiar smile. "According to your own
story you eloped with Watusk's wife. Upon my word! Do you expect a
jury to attach any weight to her evidence?"
"I take my chance of that," said Ambrose. "If you want to get at the
truth you must find her."
"I'll have a search made at once."
"Watch Watusk," warned Ambrose. "He'll stop at nothing to keep her
evidence out of court—not even murder."
The inspector smiled in an annoyed way. Ambrose's attitude did not
agree with his preconceptions.
However, he immediately rode back to the Kakisa village with three
troopers. In an hour he sent one of the men back for Watusk. In two
hours they all returned—without Nesis.
Ambrose's heart sank like a stone. By instinct he strove to conceal
his discouragement from his enemies under a nonchalant air.
The inspector, feeling that some explanation was due to Ambrose, had
him brought to his tent again.
"I have searched," he said. "I can find no trace of any such person as
"Naturally, not with Watusk's help," said Ambrose bitterly.
The inspector bit his lip. According to his lights he was honestly
trying to be fair to the prisoner.
"First I searched the teepees myself," he condescended to explain. "It
appears there are several girls by that name. When I called on Watusk
I had him watched and checked."
"The Indians were primed in advance," said Ambrose. "Watusk can pull
wool over your eyes."
"Silence!" cried the exasperated inspector. "Your story is
preposterous anyway. Pure romance. Nevertheless I have instructed
Sergeant Plaskett to continue the search. If any such girl should be
found, which would surprise me, she will be sent out. You can go."
Inspector Egerton with half his force started back for the Kakisa River
en route to Fort Enterprise that same afternoon. They convoyed seven
prisoners, and five additional members of the Kakisa tribe, whom Watusk
had indicated would be material witnesses.
Ambrose watched Watusk ingratiating himself with bitterness at his
heart. The Indian ex-leader's air of penitent eagerness to atone for
past misdeeds was admirable.
They rode hard, and crossed the river before making their first camp.
The next day they covered sixty miles, reaching a station established
by Inspector Egerton on the way over, where they found fresh horses.
At the end of the third day they camped within thirty miles of Fort
Ambrose could never afterward think of these days without an inward
shudder. Pain angered him. Outwardly he looked the hard and reckless
character they thought him, because his sensibilities were raw and
The dog knew. He was free to move about; he was well-fed and freshly
clothed, and the policemen acted toward him with a disinterestedness so
scrupulous it was almost like kindness.
Nevertheless Ambrose felt their belief in his guilt like a hunchback
feels the difference in the world's glance. In his moments of blackest
discouragement the suggestion flitted oddly through his brain that
maybe he was guilty of all these preposterous crimes.
If this was not enough, once he heard them discussing his case. He was
lying in a tent, and there was a little group of troopers at the door,
smoking. They thought he was asleep.
He heard Emslie say: "Doane looks like a decent-enough head, doesn't
he? Shows you never can tell."
"The worst criminals are always a decent-looking sort," said another.
"That's why they're dangerous."
"By gad!" said a third, "when you think of all he's responsible for,
even if he didn't do it with his own hands—arson, robbery,
murder—think what that girl at Enterprise has been through! By gad!
hanging's too good for him!"
"Any man that would lower himself to rouse the passions of the Indians
against his own kind—he isn't worth the name of white man!"
"The worst of it is nothing you can do to Doane will repair the damage.
He's put back the white man's work in this country twenty years!"
Ambrose rolled over and covered his head with his arms. These were
honest men who spoke, men he would have chosen for friends.
Nest morning he showed no sign, except perhaps an added sullenness.
Nevertheless he had received a hurt that would never altogether heal
while he lived.
No matter how swift rehabilitation might follow, after an experience
like this a man could never have the same frank confidence in the power
It was a point of pride with him to be a model prisoner. He gave as
little trouble as possible, and during the whole journey made but one
That was at the last spell before reaching the fort. He asked for a
razor. Colina might scorn him like the others, but she should not see
him looking like a tramp.
Immediately upon their arrival at Fort Enterprise, John Gaviller in his
capacity as Justice of the Peace held a hearing in the police room in
Gaviller's health was largely restored, but the old assurance was
lacking, perhaps he would never be quite the same man again. He was
prompted by Gordon Strange. Colina was not present. Ambrose had not
seen her upon landing.
The hearing was merely a perfunctory affair. All the prisoners were
remanded to Prince George for trial.
Ambrose gathered from the talk that reached his ears that it was
intended to send everybody, prisoners, and witnesses, including Gordon
Strange, Gaviller and Colina up the river next day in the launch and a
To travel seven days in her sight, a prisoner—he wondered if there
were any dregs of bitterness remaining in the cup after this!
They gave Ambrose the jail to himself. This was a little log-shack
behind the quarters with iron-bound door and barred window.
To him in the course of the afternoon came Inspector Egerton moved by
his sense of duty. He officially informed Ambrose that he was to be
taken up the river next morning.
"Is there anything you want?" he asked stiffly.
"I left a friend here," Ambrose said with a bitter smile. "I'd like to
see him if he's willing to come."
"Whom do you mean?"
The inspector looked grave. "He's under arrest," he said. "I can't
let you communicate."
"Can I see his son then, Germain Grampierre?"
"Sorry. He's on parole."
Ambrose had been counting on this more than he knew, to talk with some
man, even a breed, who believed in him. It is a necessity of our
natures under trial. To deny it was like robbing him of his last hope.
Some power of endurance suddenly snapped within him.
"What do you come here for?" he cried in a breaking voice. "To torture
me? Must I be surrounded day and night only by those who think me a
murderer! For God's sake get the thing over with! Take me to town and
hang me if that's what you want! A month of this and I'd be a
gibbering idiot anyway!"
The ring of honest pain in this aroused dim compunctions in the
admirable little colonel. He twisted his big mustache uncomfortably.
"I'm sure I've done what I could for you," he said.
"Everything except let me alone," cried Ambrose. "For God's sake go
away and let me be!" He flung himself face downward on his cot.
Inspector Egerton withdrew stiffly.
Ambrose lay with his head in his arms, and let his shaking nerves quiet
down. A fit of the blackest despair succeeded. To his other troubles
he now added hot shame—that he had broken down before his enemy.
It seemed to him in the retrospect that he had raved like a guilty man.
He foresaw weeks and weeks of this yet to come with fresh humiliations
daily and added pain; if he gave way already what would become of him
in the end? How could he hope to keep his manhood? A blank terror
The sound of the key in the lock brought him springing to his feet.
None of them should see him weaken again! With trembling hands he put
his pipe in his mouth, and lighted it nonchalantly.
It was Emslie with his supper.
"Playing waiter, eh?" drawled Ambrose. "You fellows have to be
everything from grooms to chambermaids, don't you?"
Young Emslie stared, and grew red. "What's the matter with you?" he
"A man must have a little entertainment," said Ambrose. "I'm forced to
get it out of you. You don't know how funny you are, Emslie."
"You'd best be civil!" growled the policeman.
"Why?" drawled out Ambrose. "You've got to keep a hold on yourself
whatever I say to you. It's regulations. Man to man I could lick you
"By gad!" began Emslie. Very red in the face, he turned on his heel,
and went out slamming the door.
Ambrose laughed, and felt a little better. Only by allowing his bitter
pain some such outlet was he able to endure it.
Disregarding the supper, he strode up and down his prison, planning in
his despair how he would harden himself to steel. No longer would he
suffer in silence. To the last hour he'd swagger and jeer.
These red-coats were stiff-necked and dull-witted; he could have rare
fun with them.
He saw himself in the court-room keeping the crowd in a roar with his
outrageous gibes. And if at the last he swung—he'd step off with a
jest that would live in history!
The key turned in the lock again. He swung around ready with an insult
for his jailer.
Colina stood in the doorway.
THE JAIL VISITOR.
The light was behind Colina, and Ambrose could not at first read her
expression. There was something changed in her aspect; her chin was
not carried so high.
She was wearing a plain blue linen dress, and her hair was done low
over her ears. Colina was one of the women who unconsciously dress to
suit their moods.
She looked different now, but she was indisputably Colina.
The sight of her dear shape caused him the same old shock of
astonishment. All the blood seemed to forsake his heart; he put a hand
against the wall behind him for support.
He presently distinguished changes in her face also. It bore the marks
of sleeplessness and suffering. Pride still made her eyes reticent and
cold, but the old outrageous arrogance was gone.
In the wave of tenderness for her that engulfed him he clean forgot the
self-pleasing defiance he had imagined for himself, forgot his
desperate situation, forgot everything but her.
He was unable to speak, and Colina did not immediately offer to. She
stood a step inside the door, with her hand on the back of the one
chair the room contained. Her eyes were cast down. It was Emslie who
broke the silence.
"Do you wish me to stay?" he respectfully asked Colina.
She raised grave eyes to Ambrose. "Is there anything I can do for
you?" she asked evenly.
"Yes," said Ambrose breathlessly.
After a moment's hesitation she said to Emslie: "Please wait outside."
Ambrose's heart leaped up. No sooner had the door closed behind Emslie
than, forgetting everything, it burst its bonds. "Colina! How good of
you to come! It makes me so happy to see you! If you knew how I had
hungered and thirsted for a sight of you! How charming you look in
that dress! Your hair is done differently, too. I swear it is like
the sun shining in here. You look tired. Sit down. Have some tea.
What a fool I am! You don't want to eat in a jail, do you?"
Her eyes widened with amazement at his outburst.
She shrank from him.
"Don't be afraid," he said. "I'm not going to touch you—a jailbird!
I'm not fooling myself. I know how you feel toward me. I can't help
it. If you knew how I had been bottled up! I must speak to some one
or go clean off my head. It makes me forget just to see you. Ah, it
was good of you to come!"
"I am visiting all the prisoners," Colina was careful to explain. "And
getting them what they need for the journey to-morrow."
It pulled him up short. He glanced at her with an odd smile, tender,
bitter, and grim. "Charity!" he murmured. "Thanks, I have plenty of
warm clothes, and so forth."
Colina bit her lip. There was a silence. He gazed at her hungrily.
She was so dear to him it was impossible for him to be otherwise than
"Just the same, it was mighty good of you to come," he said.
"You said there was something I could do for you," she murmured.
"Please sit down."
She did so.
"I don't want to beg any personal favors," he said. "There is
something you might do for the sake of justice."
"Never mind that," she said. "What is it?"
"Let me have a little pride, too," he said. "It isn't easy to ask
favors of your enemies. I am surrounded by those who hate me and
believe me guilty. Naturally, I stand as much chance of a fair trial
as a spy in wartime. I'm just beginning to understand that. At first
I thought as long as one's conscience was clear nothing could happen."
"What is it I can do?" she asked again.
"I am taking for granted you would like to see me get off," Ambrose
went on. "Admitting that—that the old feeling is dead and all
that—still it can't be exactly pleasant for you to feel that you once
felt that way toward a murderer and a traitor—"
"Please, please—" murmured Colina.
"You see you have a motive for helping me," Ambrose insisted. "I
thought first of Simon Grampierre. He's under arrest. Then I asked to
be allowed to see Germain, his son. The inspector wouldn't have it. I
gave up hope after that. But the sight of you makes me want to defend
myself still. I thought maybe you would have a note carried to Germain
"Certainly," she said.
"You shall read it," he said eagerly, "so you can satisfy yourself
there's nothing treasonable."
She made a deprecating gesture.
"I'll write it at once," he said. He carried the tray to the bed.
Colina gave him the chair.
"They let me have writing materials," Ambrose went on with a rueful
smile. "I think they hope I may write out a confession some night."
To Germain Grampierre he wrote a plain, brief account of Nesis, and
made clear what a desperate need he had of finding her.
"Will you read it?" he asked Colina.
She shook her head. He handed it to her unsealed, and she thrust it in
"I'm ever so much obliged to you," he said, trying to keep up the
reasonable air. "How pretty your hair looks that way!" he added
inconsequentially. The words were surprised out of him.
She turned abruptly. It was beginning to be dark in the shack, and he
could no longer see into her face.
Her movement was too much for his self-control. "Ah, must you go?" he
cried sharply. "Another minute or two! It will be dreadful here after
"What's the use?" she whispered.
"True," he said harshly. "What's the use?" He turned his back on her.
"Good night, and thank you."
She lingered, hand upon the doorlatch. "Isn't there—isn't there
something else I can do?" she asked.
"No, thank you."
Still she stayed. "You haven't touched your supper," she said in a
small voice. "Mayn't I—send you something from the house?"
"No!" he cried swiftly. "Not your pity—nor your charity, neither!"
Colina fumbled weakly with the latch—and her hand dropped from it.
"Why don't you go?" he cried sharply. "I can't stand it. I know you
hate me. I tell myself that every minute. Be honest and show you hate
me, not act sorry!"
"I do not hate you," she whispered.
He faced her with a kind of terror in his eyes. "For God's sake, go!"
he cried. "You're building up a hope in me—it will kill me if it
comes to nothing! I can't stand any more. Go!"
His amazed eyes beheld her come falteringly toward him, reaching out
"Ambrose—I—I can't!" she whispered.
He caught her in his arms.
Colina broke into a little tempest of weeping, and clung to him like a
child. He held her close, stroking her hair and murmuring clumsy,
broken phrases of comfort.
"Don't! My dear love, don't grieve so! It's all right now. I can't
bear to have you hurt."
"I love you!" she sobbed. "I have never stopped loving you! It was
something outside of me that persuaded me to hate you. I've been
living in a hell since that night! And to find you like this! Nothing
to eat but bread and salt pork! Every word you said was like a knife
in my breast. And not a single word of reproach!"
"There!" he said, trying to laugh. "You didn't put me here."
She finally lifted a tear-stained face. Clinging to his shoulders and
searching his eyes, she said: "Swear to me that you are innocent, and
I'll never have another doubt."
He shook his head. "No more swearing!" he said. "If you let yourself
be persuaded by the sound of the words, as soon as you left me and
heard the others you'd doubt me again. It's got to come from the
inside. Words don't signify."
Colina hung her head. "You're right," she said in a humbled voice. "I
guess I just wanted an excuse to save my pride. I do believe in
you—with my whole heart. I never really doubted you—I was ashamed,
afraid, I don't know what. I was a coward. But I suffered for
it—every night. Do you despise me?"
He laughed from a light breast.
"Despise you? That's funny! It was natural. A damnable combination
of circumstances. I never blamed you."
They were silent for a few moments. She looked up to find him smiling
"What is it?" she asked.
"Nothing much," he said. "I was thinking—human beings are sort of
elastic, aren't they? After all I've been through the last few
days—you don't know!—and then this—you dear one! It's a wonder the
shock didn't kill me—but I feel fine! Just peaceful. I don't care
what happens now."
It was Colina's turn to lavish her pent-up tenderness upon him then.
After a while she disengaged herself from his arms. "They will wonder
what makes me stay so long," she murmured. "And my eyes are red.
Emslie will see when I go out."
Ambrose poured out water in his basin. "Dabble your eyes in this," he
said. "When you're ready to go I'll call Emslie in. Coming in from
the light, he won't notice anything. You can slip out ahead of him."
Colina bathed her face as he suggested. Catching each other's eyes,
they blushed and laughed.
"We must decide quickly what we're going to do," she said hastily.
"First read that letter," said Ambrose.
She read it, leaning back against his shoulder. "A woman!" she said in
a changed voice and straightened up. She read further. "She helped
you escape!" Colina turned and faced him. "She believed in you, eh?"
she said, her lip curling.
Ambrose's heart sank. "Now, Colina—" he began. "Why, she never
thought anything about it!"
Colina consulted the letter again. "She ran away with you!" she cried
"Followed me," corrected Ambrose.
"She was in love with you!" Colina's voice rang bitterly.
"Are you beginning to doubt me already?" he cried, aghast. "Be
reasonable! You know how it is with these native girls. The sight of
a white man hypnotizes them. You can't have lived here without seeing
it. Do you blame me for that?"
She paid no attention to the question. Struggling to command herself,
she said: "Answer me one question. It is my right. Did you ever kiss
Ambrose groaned in spirit, and cast round in his mind how to answer.
"You hesitate!" cried Colina, suddenly beside herself. "You did! Ah,
horrible!" She violently scrubbed her own lips with the back of her
hand. "A brown girl! A teepee-dweller! A savage! Ugh! That's what
An honest anger nerved Ambrose. He roughly seized her wrists.
"Listen!" he commanded in a tone that silenced her. "As I bade her
good-by on the shore she asked me to. She had just risked death to get
me out, remember—worse than death perhaps. What should I have done?
Answer me that!"
Colina refused to meet the question. Her assumption of indifference
was very painful to see. She was not beautiful then. "Don't ask me,"
she said with a sneer. "I suppose men understand such women. I
Ambrose turned away with a helpless gesture. Colina moved haughtily
toward the door. Within ten minutes their wonderful happiness had been
born and strangled again.
"I don't suppose you will want to send my letter now," Ambrose said
with a sinking heart.
Colina blushed with shame, but she would not let him see it.
"Certainly," she said coldly. "What has this to do with a question of
Ambrose, sore and indignant, would not make any more overtures.
"There's a postscript I must add," he said coldly, extending his hand
for the letter.
"I cannot wait for you to write it," she said. "Tell me. I will add
"I think it likely," Ambrose said, "that Nesis"—Colina winced at the
sound of the name—"has been spirited away from the Kakisa village.
There are two other villages, one on Buffalo Lake and one on Kakisa
Lake, about sixty miles up the Kakisa River.
"They brought her up the river with me, so it is hardly likely she was
sent down again to Buffalo Lake. I think she's at Kakisa Lake, if
Colina bowed. "I will tell Germain Grampierre," she said. Her hand
rose to the door.
Ambrose's heart failed him. "Ah, Colina!" he cried reproachfully and
She slipped out without answering.
Ambrose flung himself on his bed and cursed fate again. He was not
experienced enough to realize that this was not necessarily a fatal
All night he tried to steel his heart against fate and against Colina.
It was harder now. It was an utterly wretched Ambrose that faced the
While it was still early Emslie passed him a note through the window.
Ambrose knew the handwriting, and tore it open with trembling fingers.
MY DEAR LOVE:
I was hateful. It was the meanest kind of jealousy. I was furious at
her because she helped you at the time when I was on the side of your
enemies. I have been suffering torments all night. Forgive me. I am
going to find Nesis myself. That is the only way I can make up for
everything. I love you.
Upon leaving Ambrose, Colina despatched his letter across the river by
Michel Trudeau. She then dressed for dinner.
To-night was to be an occasion, for beside Inspector Egerton they had
Duncan Seton, inspector of Company posts, and his wife.
The Setons had come down with the police. Seton was to run the post at
Fort Enterprise while John Gaviller and Gordon Strange were absent at
Colina, buoyed up with anger, dressed with care. She saw herself
self-possessed and queenly at the foot of her own table's favorite
picture of herself.
Nevertheless, the reaction was swiftly setting in. She couldn't help
having a generous heart, nor could she put away the picture of Ambrose
and his miserable, untasted supper.
At the last moment her courage failed her. She knew the conversation
would have to do solely with the coming trials. She knew Inspector
Egerton's style in dealing with Ambrose. She could not face it.
She sent down-stairs the time-honored excuse of young ladies and,
tearing off her finery, flung herself, like Ambrose, on her bed.
She passed a worse night than he, for while the man accused fate, she
had to accuse herself. Colina was nothing if not whole-hearted; coward
was the gentlest of the names she called herself.
More than once she was on the point of rushing out of the house and,
regardless of consequences, imploring Ambrose's forgiveness.
However, after midnight a way out of her coil suggested itself like a
star shining out. She slept for a peaceful hour.
Long before dawn she arose and awakened her maid. This was Cora, a
stolid Cree half-breed, doggedly devoted to her mistress and accustomed
to receiving her impulsive orders like inscrutable commands from Heaven.
Upon being notified, therefore, that they were about to set off on a
long journey overland instead of by the launch, she set to work to get
ready without surprise or question.
Colina wrote the letter to Ambrose and another to her father. The
latter was a little masterpiece of casualness, designed to prevent
pursuit, if that were possible.
She knew that they dared not wait another day, before starting
up-stream in the launch.
I have heard a rumor of new evidence bearing on the trials. It's not
worth while telling Inspector Egerton and delaying everything, because
I'm not sure of anything. I'm off to investigate for myself.
I'm taking Cora, and shall have a couple of reliable men with me, so
there's no occasion to worry. You must not attempt to wait for me, of
If I secure any information worth while Mr. Seton will find a way to
send me out with it. If I do not, why I'm not an essential witness at
the trials, and of course I'll be all right here with the Setons until
you get back.
She left the letters with the cook, giving precise instructions for
their delivery. That to her father was not to be handed over until her
absence from the house should be discovered. Nothing was to be said
about the other letter.
The two girls saddled Ginger and the next best horse in the stable for
Cora to ride, and took a third horse with a pack-saddle for their
They rowed across the river, making the horses swim in the wake of the
boat. On the other side they set off forthwith on the Kakisa trail.
Colina had decided that it would be a waste of precious time to turn
aside to the Grampierres.
Whether Germain started before or after her, she could find him on the
way. That he would start for the Kakisa River this morning she had no
When they had ridden a couple of miles Cora pointed out to her where
the tracks of four horses struck into the trail. They were just ahead,
They came upon Germain Grampierre and his brother Georges making their
first spell by the trail. Great was their astonishment upon hearing
Colina announce her intentions.
Germain used all the obvious arguments to turn her back, and Colina
smilingly overruled them. He was openly in awe of her, and, of course,
in the end she had her way, and they rode together, Germain shaking his
head with secret misgivings.
They pushed their horses to the utmost, ever urged on by Colina, who
could not know what might be behind them. But she knew they rode the
best horses to be had at Enterprise.
They reached the Kakisa River on the third day without any surprise
from the rear.
They found that the main body of the Kakisas had been brought back to
their village here, where they were pursuing their usual avocations
under the eye of the police encamped on the terrace around the shack.
Colina immediately addressed herself to the police headquarters.
She had remarked Sergeant Plaskett on his arrival at Fort Enterprise, a
typical mounted policeman, and a fine figure of a man to boot—tall,
lean, deep-chested, deep-eyed—a dependable man.
She approached him with confidence. The sight of her astonished,
confused, and charmed him, as she meant it should. He was only a man.
But as she told her story he stiffened into the policeman. "Sorry," he
said uncomfortably. "I have explicit orders from Inspector Egerton not
to allow any communication between these people here and the other
branches of the tribe."
"Why not?" asked Colina.
Plaskett shrugged deprecatingly. "Not for me to say. I can guess,
perhaps. It's not possible to lock them all up, but these people are
under arrest just the same. I must keep the disaffected from mingling
with the loyal."
"That's all right," said Colina, "but you can give me a policeman to go
up the river with me and make a search."
He shook his head regretfully but firmly. "Inspector Egerton ordered
me to leave the up-river people alone," he said. "The coming of a
policeman would throw them into excitement. No one can say what they
might do. I can't take the responsibility."
Colina shrugged. "Then the Grampierres and I must go by ourselves,"
Plaskett became even stiffer and more uncomfortable. "Germain
Grampierre and his brother had no business to leave home," he said.
"By their own confessions they are implicated in the raid on the
Company's flour-mill. They were told that if they remained at home
they would not be molested. But if they attempted to escape they would
immediately be arrested."
"They're not trying to escape!" cried Colina.
"I don't believe they are," said Plaskett. "But I've got to send them
home. Orders are orders."
But this was not the kind of argument to use with a young woman whose
blood is up.
"Don't you recognize anything but orders?" she cried. "Inspector
Egerton is hundreds of miles away by this time. Are you going to wait
for his orders before you act?"
Plaskett's position was not an enviable one. "When anything new comes
up I have to act for myself," he explained stiffly. "The story about
this girl is not new. During the past week I have examined every
principal man in the tribe and many of the women.
"I have not found any clue to the existence of such a person.
Moreover, every man has testified in unmistakable signs that Ambrose
Doane was not only at large while he was with them, but that he
directed all their movements."
"They have been told that by saying this they can save themselves,"
"Possibly," said Plaskett, "but I cannot believe that among so many
there is not one who would betray himself."
For half an hour they had it out, back and forth, without making any
progress. Plaskett used all of a man's arguments to persuade her to
return to Enterprise.
Colina, seeing that she was getting nowhere, finally feigned to submit.
She obtained his permission to go among the Indians by herself in the
hope that they might tell her something they were afraid to tell the
Accompanied by Cora she went from teepee to teepee. The Kakisas showed
themselves awed by her condescension, but still they were
She was Gaviller's daughter. The place of honor by the fire was made
for her, tea hastily warmed up, and doubtful Indian delicacies
produced. But she learned nothing.
At any mention of the names Ambrose Doane or Nesis a subtle, walled
look crept into their eyes, and they became unaccountably stupid.
She was about to give up this line of inquiry when, at a little
distance from the nearest teepee, she came upon a girl engaged in
dressing a moose-hide stretched upon a great frame. There were no
other Indians near. Colina resolved upon a last attempt.
Colina drew near the girl, pausing as if casually interested in her
work. She was a fat girl, with a peculiarly good-humored expression,
and evinced no awe at Colina's approach, but unaffected delight.
Colina obeyed an inward suggestion, sent Cora back to the Grampierres,
and sat down beside Marya, determined to take plenty of time to
establish friendly relations.
This was not difficult. The plump, copper-skinned maiden was overjoyed
by the opportunity to examine anything so wonderful as a white girl at
No part of Colina's person or attire escaped her scrutiny. Marya
stroked her with a soft crooning. The fastidious Colina bore it,
smiling. At the throat of her waist Colina was wearing a topaz-pin, to
which the Indian girl's eyes ever returned, dazzled.
Colina finally took it off, and pinned it in Marya's cotton dress.
Marya gave way to an extravagant pantomime of joy. Bowing her head,
she seized Colina's hand, and pressed it to her forehead.
Meanwhile they exchanged such simple remarks as lent themselves to the
medium of signs. Colina finally ventured to pronounce the name "Nesis"
at the same time asking by a sign which included the teepees if she was
Marya looked startled. She hesitated, but Colina's hold was now strong
upon her. She shook her head. First glancing cautiously around to
make sure they were not observed, she nodded in the direction of up
By simple signs she told Colina that Nesis was in a village (crossed
fingers for teepees) beside a lake (a wide sweep, and an agitated,
flattened hand for shimmering water), and that it could be reached by a
journey with one sleep upon the way. (Here she paddled an imaginary
canoe, stopped, closed her eyes, inclined her head on her shoulder and
held up one finger.)
Colina, overjoyed, proceeded to further question. In the same graphic,
simple way she learned the story of Ambrose's imprisonment and how
Nesis got him out.
"Come!" she cried, extending her hand. "We'll see what Sergeant
Plaskett has to say to this!"
But when Marya understood that she was expected to repeat her story to
the policeman, a frantic, stubborn terror took possession of her. She
gave Colina to understand in no uncertain signs that the Indians would
kill her if she told the secret.
Colina, taking into account the pains they had gone to to keep it,
could not deny the danger. She finally asked Marya if she would take
her, Colina, to the place where Nesis was.
Marya, terrified, positively refused.
Pulling off her gauntlet, Colina displayed to Marya a ring set with a
gleaming opal. It was Marya's she let her understand, if she would
Marya's eyes sickened with desire. She wavered—but finally refused
with a little moan. Terror was stronger than cupidity.
Colina debated with herself. She asked Marya if the way to go was by
Marya shook her head. She gave Colina to understand that the canoes
were all tied up together and watched by the police. She signed that
the Kakisas had a few horses up the river a little way that the police
did not know about.
They stole out of camp at dawn, caught a horse and rode up the river.
Evidently there was regular travel between the two villages. Colina,
thinking of the policeman's confident belief that he had intercepted
all communications, smiled.
Colina finally asked if Marya would put her on the trail to the other
village—in exchange for the ring. Marya, after a struggle with her
fears, consented, stipulating that they must start before dark.
Colina understood from her signs that the biggest opal ever mined would
not tempt Marya to wander in the bush after dark.
Colina did some rapid thinking. She doubted whether Germain Grampierre
after having been warned by the police would go with her to the other
She quickly decided that she didn't want him with her anyway, worthy,
stupid fellow that he was. Yet he had constituted himself her
protector, and he would hardly let her go without him. It did not
promise to be easy to hoodwink both Plaskett and Grampierre.
What she was going to do when she found Nesis, Colina did not stop to
consider. The thing to do was to find the girl, and trust to pluck and
mother wit for the rest.
Colina finally thought she saw her way clear. She asked Marya if she
would meet her in an hour on the Enterprise trail outside of camp. It
was now three o'clock.
Marya, with her eyes upon the opal, nodded. She gave Colina to
understand that she would be waiting at a place where the trail crossed
a stream, and climbed to a little prairie with thick bushes around it.
Leaving Marya, Colina returned to the police tents. Climbing the hill,
she had the satisfaction upon looking back to see that the Indian girl
had foresaken her moose-hide.
The edge of the bush was near her: it would not be hard for her to lose
herself. Simulating an air of discouragement, Colina told Sergeant
Plaskett she had learned nothing and signified her willingness to
return to Enterprise.
"I'd start at once," she said suggestively, "but my horses are tired."
Plaskett was greatly relieved. "I'll furnish you with fresh horses,"
he said instantly. "Let your horses stay here and rest up. I'll send
them in with the first patrol, and you can then return mine."
This was what Colina desired. She smiled on the policeman dazzlingly.
Plaskett sent a trooper for the horses, and himself escorted Colina
back to the spot at the foot of the hill where she had ordered the
Grampierres and Cora to wait for her.
She told Germain the same story. The half-breed who had been
interviewed by Plaskett in the meantime, was delighted by her resolve
to return. He instantly set to work to pack up.
In less than half an hour they started for home. As they mounted the
hill, Plaskett gallantly waved his cap from below. The bush swallowed
them. Colina was thinking: "What shall I do if she is afraid, and
However, less than a mile from the river, they forded a little brook,
climbed a shallow hill, and there, true to her agreement, waited Marya,
standing like a statue beside the trail.
Colina, making believe to be greatly astonished, dismounted, and drew
her apart. Marya, understanding from her glance of intelligence that
the others were not in the secret, gesticulated vividly for their
"She tells me she knows where Nesis is hidden," Colina said to Germain.
"She says she will take me there."
"We will go back," said Germain.
Colina shook her head. "No need for you to come back," she said. "It
will only anger the policeman. You and Georges go on home. I will get
a policeman to go with me."
Germain protested, but his secret desire was to obey the sergeant's
orders, and Colina had no difficulty in persuading him.
A division of the baggage was made on the spot, and they parted. The
Grampierres continued toward Enterprise, and the three girls turned
Colina breathed more freely. Plaskett now believed that she had gone
home with Germain, and Germain believed she had gone back to Plaskett.
Marya had mounted on their pack-horse. They had not gone far in the
trail, when she signified that they were to strike off to the left.
Colina pulled up. "Cora," she said, "it's not true that I am going to
get help from the police. I mean to go myself to the other Indian
village to get the girl I want. You don't have to come. You can ride
after Germain, and tell him I decided I didn't need you."
"I go wit' you," Cora said stolidly.
Colina beamed on her handmaiden, and offered her her hand. She was
willing to face the thing alone, but it was a comfort to have the
stolid dependable Cora at her side. Moreover, Cora was an admirable
cook and packer. Colina was not enamored of the drudgery of camp.
Marya led the way slowly through the trackless bush in the general
direction of the afternoon sun, or southwest. Colina guessed that they
were making a wide detour around the Indian village.
The going was not too difficult, for it was only second growth timber,
poplar and birch, with spruce in the hollows. The original monarchs
had been consumed by fire many years before.
They had covered, Colina guessed, about five miles when the sky showed
ahead through the tree trunks, and Marya signed that they were to
dismount and tie the horses. Leading them to the edge of the trees,
she made them lie down.
They found themselves overlooking a grassy bottom similar to that upon
which the Kakisa village stood. The outer edge of the meadow was
skirted by the brown flood of the river, and trees hemmed it in on
either side. A score of Indian ponies were feeding in the grass.
Marya made Colina understand that the trail to Kakisa Lake traversed
the little plain below alongside the river. She signified that some
men were expected from the upper village that day, and that Colina must
wait where she was until she saw them pass below. Finally Marya
pointed avidly to the opal ring.
Colina handed it over. The Indian girl slipped it on her own finger,
gazing at the effect with a kind of incredulous delight. The stolid
Cora looked on disapprovingly.
Suddenly Marya, without so much as a look at her companions, scrambled
to her feet, and hastened silently away through the trees. She was
clutching the ring finger with the other hand as if she feared to lose
it, finger and all. That was the last of Marya.
Sure enough before the sun went down, they saw a party of four Indians
issue out on the little plain from the direction of up river. Crossing
the grass and dismounting, they turned their horses out and cached
their saddles under the willows.
Then they proceeded afoot. Colina waited until she was sure there were
no more to follow; then mounting, she and Cora rode down to the trail.
THE FINDING OF NESIS.
The afternoon was waning, and Colina, knowing she must have covered
nearly sixty miles, began to keep a sharp lookout ahead. They had had
no adventures by the way, except that of sleeping under the stars
without male protectors near, in itself an adventure to Colina. Colina
took it like everything else, as a matter of course.
Cora had been raised on the trail. In her impatience to arrive Colina
had somewhat scamped her horses' rest, and the grass-fed beasts were
Issuing from among the trees upon one of the now familiar grassy
bottoms that bordered the river, they saw grazing horses and knew they
were hard upon their destination.
A spur of the hills cut off the view up river. Rounding it, the
teepees spread before them. They were contained in a semicircular
hollow of the hills like an amphitheater, with the river running close
Colina had decided that in boldness lay her best chance of success.
Clapping heels to her horse's ribs, therefore, she rode smartly into
the square, appearing in the very midst of the Indians before they were
warned. This village differed in no important respect from the others.
Some of the teepees were made of tanned hides in the old way. The
people were of the same stock, but even less sophisticated. Few of
these had even been to Fort Enterprise to trade.
The sudden appearance of Colina's white face affected them something in
the way of a miracle.
Every man dropped what he was about and stared with hanging jaw.
Others came running out of the teepees and stopped dead at the door.
For a moment or two there was no movement whatever in the square.
But they knew Gaviller's daughter by repute, of course, and the word
was passed around that it was she. The tension relaxed. They slowly
gathered around, looking at her with no friendly eye.
Colina searched rapidly among them for one that might answer to the
description of Nesis. There was no girl that by any stretch of the
imagination could have been called beautiful. Not wishing to give them
time to spirit her away, Colina suddenly raised her voice and cried:
There was no answer, but several heads in the crowd turned
involuntarily toward a certain teepee. Colina, perceiving the
movement, wheeled her horse and loped across the square in that
Cora followed, leading the pack-horse. The Indians sidled after.
Approaching the teepee she had marked, Colina heard sounds of a muffled
struggle inside. Flinging herself off her horse and throwing up the
flap, she saw a figure on the ground, held down by several old crones.
"Hands off!" cried Colina in a voice so sudden and peremptory that the
old women, though the words meant nothing to them, obeyed.
Nesis, lithe and swift as a lynx, wriggled out of their grasp, sprang
to her feet, and darted outside, all in a single movement, it seemed.
The two girls faced each other, Nesis panting and trembling. The same
look of bitter curiosity was in each pair of eyes. Each acknowledged
the other's beauty with a jealous twinge. But in the red girl's sad
eyes there was no hope of rivalry. She soon cast down her lids.
Colina thought her eyes the saddest she had ever seen in a human face.
She saw that there was little resemblance between her and her Kakisa
Nesis was as slender as a young aspen and her cheeks showed a clear
olive pallor. Her lips were like the petals of a Jacqueminot rose.
Colina, remembering that Ambrose had kissed them, turned a little hard.
"You are Nesis?" she asked, though she knew it well.
The girl nodded without looking up.
"You know Ambrose Doane?"
Again the mute nod.
"Will you come with me to testify for him?"
Nesis looked up blankly.
"I mean," explained Colina, "will you come and tell his judges that he
did not lead the Kakisas into trouble?"
Nesis, by vivid signs, informed Colina that Ambrose had been a prisoner
among the Indians.
It occurred to Colina as strange, since she could understand English,
that she should use signs. "I know he was a prisoner," she said.
"Will you come with me and tell the police that?"
Nesis turned and with a despairing gesture called Colina's attention to
the gathering Indians who would prevent her. Not a sound issued from
"Never mind them," said Colina scornfully. "Are you willing to come?"
Nesis lifted her eyes to Colina's—eyes luminous with eagerness and
emotion—and quickly nodded again.
"Why doesn't she speak!" thought Colina. Aloud she said: "All right.
Tell them I am going to take you. Tell them anybody that interferes
does so at his peril." She pointed to her rifle.
To Colina's astonishment, the girl lowered her head and flung an arm up
over her face.
"What's the matter?" she cried. "I'll take care of you." She drew the
arm down. "Speak to them!" she said again.
Nesis slowly raised her head. Her eyes crept to Colina's, humble and
unspeakably mournful. She opened her mouth and pointed within.
Colina looked—and sickened. A little cry of utter horror was forced
from her, and she fell back a step, She saw why Nesis did not speak.
The disclosure was too sudden and dreadful.
For the first and last time during that hazardous enterprise her strong
spirit failed. She became as pale as snow and her hands flew to her
breast. Cora, watching her, slipped out of the saddle and glided to
The weakness was momentary. Before Cora got to her the color came
winging back into Colina's cheeks. She thrust the half-breed girl from
her and, striding forward, faced the assembled Indians with blazing
"You cowards!" she cried ringingly. "You pitiful, unmanly brutes! I
don't know which one of you did it. It doesn't matter. You all
permitted it. You shall all suffer for it. I promise you that!"
Under the whips of her eyes and voice they cringed and scowled.
Colina thrust her riding-crop into the hands of Nesis. "Get on that
horse," she commanded, pointing to the pack-animal. "Mount!" she cried
Meanwhile, from her own saddle she was hastily unfastening her rifle.
She resolutely threw the lever over and back. At the ominous sound the
Indians edged behind each other or sought cover behind convenient
Nesis and Cora were mounted. Colina, keeping her eyes on the Indians,
said to them: "Go ahead. Walk your horses. I'll follow." She swung
herself into her own saddle.
Cora and Nesis started slowly out of the square. Colina followed,
swinging sidewise in her saddle and watching the Indians behind.
None offered to follow directly, but Colina observed that those who had
disappeared around the teepees were catching horses beyond. Others
running out of the square on the other side had disappeared around the
spur of the hill.
Plainly they did not mean to let her take Nesis unopposed.
The girls finally issued from among the teepees and extended their
horses into a trot. Cora rode first, her stolid face unchanged; from
moment to moment she looked over her shoulder to make sure that Colina
was safe. Nesis, blinded with tears, let her horse follow unguided,
and Colina brought up the rear.
Colina's face showed the fighting look, intent and resolute. Her brain
was too busy to dwell on tragedy then.
Rounding the hill, she saw that those who had gone ahead had
disappeared. The horses that had been grazing here were likewise gone.
It was not pleasant to consider the possibility of an ambush waiting in
the woods ahead. Other Indians began to appear in pursuit around the
Seeing the girls, they pulled in their horses and came on more slowly.
Colina, wishing to see what they would do, drew her horse to a walk,
whereupon the Indians likewise walked their horses.
Evidently they meant to stalk the girls at their leisure.
Colina, like a brave and hard-pressed general, considered the situation
from every angle without minimizing the danger. She had really nothing
but a moral weapon to use against the Indians. If that failed her,
Night was drawing on, and it would be difficult to intimidate them with
eyes and voice after dark. Moreover, her horses were fatigued to the
point of exhaustion. How could she turn them loose to rest and graze
with enemies both in the front and the rear?
She knew that a favorite Indian stratagem is to stampede the
adversaries' horses after dark. Colina carried the only gun in their
Striking into the woods out of sight of their pursuers, they urged
their horses to the best that was in them. Colina bethought herself of
profiting by Nesis's experience.
"Nesis," she called, "you know these people! What should we do?"
Nesis, rousing herself and turning her dreadfully eloquent eyes upon
Colina, signified that they must ride on for the present. When the sun
went down she would tell what to do.
For an hour thereafter they rode without speaking.
While it was still light they came out on another meadow. Nesis signed
to Colina that they should halt at the edge of the trees on the other
side, and, picketing the horses, let them graze for a little while.
It was done. The horses had to feed and rest, and this looked like as
good a place as any. Meanwhile Cora built a fire and cooked their
supper as unconcerned as if it were a picnic party an hour's ride from
They had no sooner dismounted than the Indians appeared out of the
woods at the other side of the meadow. Seeing the girls, they likewise
dismounted without coming any closer, and built a great fire.
About a quarter of a mile separated the two fires. It grew dark.
Colina sat out of range of the firelight, watching the other fire.
Nesis took the gun and went on up the trail to guard against the
surprise from that side. Cora kept an eye upon the dim shapes of the
tethered horses, and watched her mistress with sullen, doglike devotion.
After an hour and a half Nesis returned, and signing to Cora to saddle
the horses, made a reconnaissance across the meadow.
Coming back to the fire presently, she indicated to Colina that they
were not watched from that side, and that they should now ride on.
Evidently the Indians thinking they had them trapped in the trail were
careless. Indians are not fond of scout duty in the dark in any case.
They softly made ready, taking care not to let the firelight betray
their activities. Nesis's last act was to heap fresh wood on the fire.
Colina, approving all she did was glad to let her run things. She
could not guess how she purposed evading the Indians in front.
They mounted, and proceeded into the woods, walking their horses
slowly. Colina could not make out the trail, but her horse could.
Nesis led the way. They climbed a little hill and descended the other
side. At the bottom the trail was bisected by a shallow stream making
its way over a stony bed to the river.
Halting her horse in the middle of it, Nesis allowed Colina to
approach, and pointed out to her that they must turn to the right here,
and let their horses walk in the water to avoid leaving tracks.
For more than an hour they made a painfully slow journey among the
stones. The intelligent horses picked their way with noses close to
They were now between the steep high banks of a coulée. The trees
gradually thinned out, and a wide swath of the starry sky showed
overhead. Colina's heart rose steadily.
The Indians could not possibly find the place where they had left the
trail until daylight.
They would instantly understand their own stratagem, of course, but
they must lose still more time, searching the bed of the creek for
tracks leaving it. If only the horses had been fresher!
Finally Nesis left the bed of the creek, and urged her horse obliquely
up the steep side of the coulée on the left.
This was the side farther from the lower village, and the Enterprise
trail, and Colina wondered if she had not made a mistake.
Mounting over the rim of the coulée a superb night-view was open to
them. Before them rolled the bald prairie wide as the sea, with all
the stars of heaven piercing the black dome overhead.
It was still and frosty; the horses breathed smoke. To Colina's
nostrils rose the delicate smell of the rich buffalo grass, which cures
itself as it grows. The tired horses, excited by it, pawed the earth,
and pulled at the lines.
They halted, and Nesis turned her face up, fixing their position by the
stars. She finally pointed to the southeast. Colina knew it was
southeast because when she faced in that direction the north star,
friend of every traveler by night, was over her left shoulder.
"But the Kakisa village, the trail back to Enterprise is there," she
objected, pointing northeast.
Nesis nodded. With her graceful and speaking gestures she informed
Colina that all the country that way was covered with almost
impenetrable woods through which they could not ride without a trail.
Southeast, the prairie rolled smoothly all the way to the great river
that came from the distant high mountains.
"The spirit river?" asked Colina.
Nesis nodded, adding in dumb-show that when they reached its banks they
would make a raft and float down to Fort Enterprise.
"Good!" said Colina. "Let's ride on. The moon will be up later.
We'll camp by the first water that we come to."
Mr. Wilfred Pascoe, K.C., arose and cleared his throat musically. He
drew out his handkerchief, polished his glasses, returned the
handkerchief, and paused suggestively.
Mr. Pascoe was assured that he was the leading attraction at the trial
of Ambrose Doane, and that the humming crowd which filled every corner
of the court-room had come for the express purpose of hearing him, the
famous advocate from the East, sum up for the crown.
Indeed, in his opinion, there was no one else in the case. Denholm for
the defense was a sharp and clever lad, but a mere lad! As for the
judge—well one knows these judges in the outlying provinces!
The people of Prince George did not often get a chance to listen to a
man like him, therefore he wished to give them the worth of their money.
He was a dignified, ruddy little gentleman, clad in a well turned
cutaway that fell from his highly convex middle like the wings of a
"My lord and gentlemen of the jury," he began in a voice of insinuating
modesty and sweetness, "in this room during the past four days we have
witnessed the unfolding of an extraordinary drama.
"Through all the criminal annals of this country we may search in vain
for a precedent to this case. In the past we have had to try Indians
and half-breeds for rebelling against the government.
"In such cases punishment was always tempered with mercy; we were in
the position of a parent chastising his child.
"Here we are faced by a different situation. Here we have a white man,
one of our own race charged with inciting and leading the natives to
rebel against authority. By tongue and deed he strove to unloosen the
passions of hell to his own profit!
"Every man of middle age in this Western country knows what Indian
warfare means. The flesh crawls at the picture of shrieking, painted
demons that is called up, the flames, the tortures, the dishonored
homes—gentlemen, it—it is difficult for me to speak of this matter
with a becoming restraint.
"When we come to examine the evidence we are faced by a well-nigh
inextricable confusion. But, gentlemen, the main issue is clear.
"We see the prisoner having made his first false step drawn by
inevitable succession deeper and deeper into the quicksands of passion
and violence. Out of the mass of details I ask you to choose three
facts which in themselves constitute a strong presumptive case.
"First, the trouble at Fort Enterprise—that pleasant little Eden of
the far north, invaded, alas! by the serpent—the beginning of the
trouble I say was exactly coincident with the arrival of Ambrose Doane.
"Second, in every scene of violence that followed we find him a leading
figure. Third, all trouble ceased upon his arrest.
"Let us glance in passing at the first act of lawlessness, the seizing
of the Company's mill. The prisoner admits that he forcibly broke into
the mill, hoping, no doubt, that by confessing the minor offense he may
persuade you to believe him when he denies the greater. This is a very
ancient expedient of accused persons.
"He ground his grain and carried it back to the Indians, and they
stored it in an empty shack across the river. This is conceded by both
"On the following night during the progress of a barbaric dance among
the Kakisas, at which the prisoner was a guest—an honored guest,
remember—an alarm of fire was given.
"Upon running to the scene they found the shack in flames. It was
completely destroyed, together with its contents.
"Now, gentlemen, this is one of the mysteries of the case. No evidence
has been adduced to show who set that fire. Its suddenness and
violence precludes the possibility of its having caught by accident.
It was set, but who set it?
"We are reduced to mere speculation here. Was it any one connected
with the Company? No! They had thousands of dollars' worth of
unprotected goods across the river; they were a mere handful, and the
Indians three hundred. It isn't reasonable.
"Well, then, did any of the Indians set it? Why should they? It was
their flour; they had receipted for it. Lastly, did Ambrose Doane do
it, or have it done? Ah! Let us look for possible motives.
"He was a trader, remember. It had been so easy for him to secure the
first lot; perhaps he wanted to sell them another lot. The simple
Indians, of course, would be persuaded that the incendiary came from
across the river—"
Mr. Denholm rose. "I object," he said. "My eminent friend has no
right to suggest such ideas to the jury. There is no evidence—"
Mr. Pascoe beamed upon his young opponent. "Counsel overlooks the
fact," he said gently, "that I expressly stated this was mere
speculation on my part."
"Overruled," murmured the judge.
Mr. Pascoe resumed: "As to what followed there are several versions.
The prisoner says that he pleaded with the Indians, and tried to keep
them from crossing the river. Simon Grampierre corroborates this; but
Grampierre, you must remember, is the prisoner's self-confessed
accomplice in the seizure of the flour-mill.
"Still, he may be telling the truth. Grampierre was not with Doane all
the time. It is highly probable that the prisoner, seeking to impress
Grampierre, pleaded with the Indians in his hearing. The Indians
couldn't understand English, anyway.
"Watusk testified that he had a conversation with the prisoner during
the fire, but the confusion was so great he cannot remember what was
said. This is very natural.
"Myengeen, Tatateecha, and the other Indians who testified said that
the prisoner did harangue them, and that they understood from his
gestures that he was urging them to cross the river and revenge
"All say it was from him that they first heard Gaviller's name. I
don't think we need look any further.
"Anyhow, the prisoner led the mob down to the beach where his york-boat
was lying, and they all embarked in his boat. He says he tried to keep
them out, but he does not deny crossing with them. Hardly likely they
would take him as a passenger, is it, if he had fought them so
"On what took place in John Gaviller's house that night I will touch
very briefly. It was a ghastly night for the little company of
defenders! We have no eye-witness to the prisoner's dastardly attack
on Mr. Gaviller. Mr. Strange, through the most praiseworthy motives,
has refused to testify against him.
"Mr. Strange takes the ground that since he is obliged to act as
interpreter in this case, no other being obtainable, it would be
improper for him to give evidence.
"In the light of the prisoner's impudent charge against Mr. Strange,
the latter's conduct is truly magnanimous. The charge that Strange
tried to murder his employer is simply laughable. Twenty-nine years of
faithful service give it the lie.
"A great point has been made by the defense that the prisoner had no
motive in attempting to kill Mr. Gaviller. Gentlemen, he had the same
motive that has inspired every murder in history—hate!
"There is any amount of testimony to show with what hatred the prisoner
always spoke of Mr. Gaviller. Gaviller was his business rival, his
rich and successful rival. Gaviller was the head and front of the
powers that opposed his headstrong will. I repeat, it is hate and
opportunity that make a murder.
"Mr. Gaviller was prostrated with weakness. How simple to creep
up-stairs in the dark and finish what the other coward's bullet had
almost accomplished! And how impossible to prove that it was a murder!
Mr. Gaviller's vitality was so low that night, the doctor has
testified, that he himself would not have suspected foul play if he had
found him dead in the morning.
"When they arrested Doane in the house the gun they took from him was
one that had been stolen from the Company store earlier in the night.
"At daylight the Indians came and made a demand on the defenders of the
house for their leader, Ambrose Doane. They threatened to burn the
house down if he was not given up to them. They welcomed him with
extravagant expressions of joy.
"This is positive evidence, gentlemen. Those in the house saw the
prisoner give an order to bear away the dead bodies, and the order was
obeyed. Such little facts are highly significant.
"Watusk's evidence makes the next link. I do not attempt to justify
this unfortunate man, gentlemen. At least he is contrite, and throws
himself on the mercy of the court. Watusk says when they came back
across the river the Indians were sorry for what they had done and
terrified of punishment.
"Watusk urged them to return what they had stolen. He had taken no
part in the looting of the store. But Ambrose Doane would have none of
it. He persuaded Watusk to give the order to break camp and fly back
to the Kakisa River. Doane promised the bewildered Indian that he
would make good terms for the offenders with the police when they came.
"Doane's contention that he was a prisoner among the Kakisas is
unsupported. Watusk and five other Indians have sworn that not only
was he free to come and go as he chose, but that he directed their
"As to the prisoner's story of the Indian girl, ah—a touching story,
gentlemen!" Mr. Pascoe paused for a comfortable, silent little laugh.
He wiped his eyes. "Almost worthy of one of our popular romancers!
"Not very original perhaps, the beautiful Indian maid falling a victim
to the charms of the pale-faced prisoner, whispering to him at night
through a chink in his prison wall, and smuggling a knife to assist his
"Not very original, I say; is it possible he could have read it
somewhere, adding a few little touches of his own? Unfortunately, our
story-teller in his desire for artistic verisimilitude has overreached
"That touch about Nesis—if that is what he called her, being the
fourth wife of Watusk. Why fourth? one wonders. You have heard Lona
testify that she was Watusk's one and only wife. She ought to know. I
fancy I need say no more about that.
"Next comes Inspector Egerton. The inspector testifies that the trap
set for his men in the hills north of the Kakisa River was of an
ingenuity far beyond the compass of the Indian imagination. You have
seen a plan of it. You have heard these simple, ignorant red men
testify here. Could they have made such a plan? Impossible!
"Gentlemen, I ask you to consider the situation on that fair morning in
September when the gallant little band of redcoats rode into that
hellishly planned trap. The heart quails at the imminence of their
"That a horrible tragedy was by a miracle averted is no credit to this
prisoner. That, instead of being the most execrated murderer in the
history of our land, he is only on trial for a felony he has not
himself to thank. He has to thank the Merciful Providence on High who
caused the red man's heart to relent at the critical moment!
"Watusk could not give the order to shoot. You have heard the
policemen testify that the prisoner was furious at the Indian's
pusillanimity. I say it was a God-sent pusillanimity!
"Our merciful law makes a distinction between successful and
unsuccessful crimes, though there is no difference in the criminal. He
is lucky! Gentlemen, all that justice demands of you is that you
should find him guilty of treason-felony!"
Mr. Pascoe sat down and blew his nose with loud, conscious modesty.
The jury looked pleased and flattered. An excited murmur traveled
about the courtroom, and the judge picked up his gavel to suppress
There could be no doubt as to the way popular opinion tended in this
trial. Though the applause was stopped before it began, one could feel
the crowd's animus against the prisoner no less than if they had
shouted "Hang him!" with one voice.
They believed that he had plotted against the popular idols, the
mounted police; that was enough.
The prisoner sat at a table beside his counsel with his chin in his
palm. He was well dressed and groomed—Denholm saw to that—and his
face composed, though very pale; the eyes lusterless.
Throughout Mr. Pascoe's arraignment he scarcely moved, nor appeared to
pay more than cursory attention.
It is the characteristic picture of a prisoner on trial; guilty or
innocent makes little difference on the surface. Nature, when we have
reached the limit of endurance, lends us apathy.
Ambrose had suffered so much he was dulled to suffering. He had not a
friend in the court-room except Arthur Denholm. Peter Minot, after
making a deposition in his favor, had been obliged to hasten north to
look after their endangered business.
There were others who would have been glad to support him, but he would
not call on them. Indeed what he most dreaded were the occasional
testimonials of sympathy which reached him. Friendliness unmanned him.
The other way in which his ordeal made itself felt was in his great
longing to have it over with. He looked forward to the cell which he
believed awaited him as to relief. There at least he would be safe
from the hard, inquisitive eyes which empaled him.
Meanwhile, as they argued back and forth and his fate hung in the
balance, he found himself staring at the patch of pale winter sky which
showed in the tall window. The air was clean up there. The sky was a
noble, empty place unpolluted by foul breath and villainy and lies!
When Denholm arose to speak for the prisoner, the jury regarded him
with curiosity tempered by pity. They liked Denholm, liked his
resourcefulness, his unassailable good-humor, his gallant struggle on
behalf of a bad cause. Plainly they were wondering what he could say
for his client now.
If Denholm felt that his case was hopeless, he gave no sign of it. He
was frank, unassuming, friendly with the jury. His style of delivery
"I will be brief," he said. "I do not mean to take you over the
evidence again. Every detail must be more than familiar to you.
"What my learned friend has just said to you, what I say to you now,
and what his lordship will presently say to you from the bench all
amounts to the same thing—choose for yourselves what you are to
believe. Somewhere in this jungle of contradictions lurks the truth.
It is for you to track it down.
"The prisoner's case stands or falls by his own testimony. We have an
instinct that warns us to disregard what a man says in his own defense.
In this case we cannot disregard it. I ask you not to consider it as
evidence against the prisoner that he has no witnesses.
"If we go over the story in our minds, we will see that under the
conditions of these happenings he could not have witnesses. Therefore,
if we wish to do justice, we must weigh his own story.
"Never mind the details now, but consider his attitude in telling it.
For an entire session of the court he sat in the witness chair telling
us with the most painstaking detail everything that happened from the
time of his first arrival at Fort Enterprise up to his arrest.
"During the whole of the following day he was on the stand under a
perfect fusillade of questions from my learned friend, admittedly the
most brilliant cross-examiner at the bar. He did not succeed in
shaking the prisoner's story in any important particular.
"How, I ask you, could the prisoner have foreseen and prepared for all
those ingenious traps formulated in the resourceful brain of my learned
friend, unless he was telling the simple truth?
"Moreover, the gaps, the inconsistencies, the improbabilities in the
story which my friend has pointed out, to my mind these are the
strongest evidences of its truth. For if he had made it all up he
would be logical. Man's brain works that way.
"Suppose for the sake of argument that the prisoner did accomplish that
miracle; that in his brain he formulated a story so complete in every
ramification that nine hours' cross-examination could batter no holes
"If that is true, it is a wonderful brain, isn't it? The prisoner, in
short, is an amazingly clever young man. Now, can you imagine a man
with even the rudiments of good sense persuading himself that he could
make a successful Indian uprising at this date? There is a serious—"
Denholm was stopped by a commotion that arose outside the door of the
court-room. There was a great throng in the corridor as well. He
looked to the bench for aid.
His lordship rapped smartly with his gavel. "Silence!" he cried, "or I
will have the room cleared!"
But the noise came nearer.
"Officer, what is the trouble outside?" demanded the bench.
The two doorkeepers with great hands were pressing back a threatened
irruption from the corridor. One spoke over his shoulder.
"If you please, sir, there's a young woman here says she has evidence
to give in this case."
AN UNEXPECTED WITNESS.
Those in the court-room jumped up and looked toward the door, and the
confusion was redoubled. Several policemen hurried to the assistance
of the doorkeepers. The judge rapped in vain.
Finally one of the doorkeepers made his voice heard above the scuffling:
"She says her name is Colina Gaviller."
A profound sensation was created within the court. The confusion was
stilled as by magic. All those inside turned back to look at the young
He had leaped to his feet, and stood gazing toward the door with a
wild, white, awakened face. Denholm had a restraining hand on his
shoulder. John Gaviller, Gordon Strange, Inspector Egerton; there was
no man connected with the case but betrayed something of the same
"Admit Miss Gaviller," commanded the judge.
The two policemen, with herculean exertions, made an opening in the
crowd for Colina and two companions to enter and kept every one else
out. The doors were then closed.
At Colina's appearance an odd murmur rippled over the crowd. Her
beauty astonished them. She walked down the aisle of the court-room,
pale, erect, and self-controlled. Captain Stinson and Cora followed
The crowd observed her movements with breathless attention.
All three were admitted within the rail. John Gaviller sat near the
gate. He looked somewhat dazed. They saw her offer him her hand with
a swift smile, charged with meaning.
The gentlemanly half-breed, Gordon Strange, leaned forward, seeking to
attract her attention with an eager smile. Him she ignored. She
turned to the prisoner. This was what the crowd was waiting for.
The pale youth and the pale girl had all the look of the principal
actors in a drama. What was between them? They saw her smile at him,
too—an extraordinary smile, sorrowful, solicitous, cheery. None could
Ambrose was engaged in a desperate struggle to command himself. At the
announcement of her coming hope had sprung up, only to receive a
deadlier wound at the first glimpse of her.
She had not found Nesis; very well, it was all up with him. What
matter how dearly Colina loved him if he had to go to jail? He saw the
cheer she offered him in her smile, but he rejected it.
"Nothing can help me now," he stubbornly insisted. "If I let myself
hope, the disappointment will drive me insane." He fought to recover
Pascoe and Denholm each sprang up to greet the new witness as if by the
warmth of his welcome she would be attracted to his side.
"One moment, gentlemen," said the judge. He addressed Colina, "You
have evidence to give in this case?"
Colina gravely inclined her head.
His lordship frowned. "This is very irregular. I must ask you why you
have delayed until this moment?"
"I have just arrived in town," said Colina.
"Couldn't you have communicated with counsel?"
"I have come from the north. There was no way of sending out a message
ahead. I am the first one out since the freeze-up."
The judge nodded to show himself satisfied. "Is the evidence you have
to give favorable to the prisoner or unfavorable?"
The court-room held its breath for her answer.
"Favorable," she murmured.
John Gaviller looked up astonished.
The judge gave her over to Denholm. "Will you examine?" he asked.
Denholm consulted with his client. Ambrose, up to this moment so
indifferent to the lawyers, could be seen giving him positive
instructions. Denholm expostulated with him. The bench showed
symptoms of impatience. Finally Denholm rose.
"My lord," he said. "I have never seen Miss Gaviller before this
moment. I have no inkling of the nature of her evidence. Left to
myself, I should ask for an adjournment; surely we are entitled to it.
But my client insists on going ahead. My lord"—his voice shook a
little—"none but an innocent man could be so rash!"
"Never mind that," rebuked the judge. He was distinctly nettled by the
upset of court decorum.
"I will therefore respectfully ask the indulgence of the court,"
Denholm went on, "and move to reopen the taking of testimony."
"Proceed," said the judge.
A court attendant led Colina to the witness stand. She was sworn.
Judge, lawyers, and spectators alike searched her grave, composed face
for some suggestion of what she had to say. Nothing was to be read
"Miss Gaviller," said Denholm, "I can only ask you to tell in your own
words all that you know bearing on the offenses with which Ambrose
Doane is charged."
"My father, Mr. Macfarlane, Dr. Giddings have all testified, I
suppose," said Colina. "They can tell you as much or more than I can.
I have come to tell you of things that happened after his arrest, after
all the others went out of the country."
Every one connected with the case sat up. Denholm's eye brightened.
"Please go on," he said and sat down.
Colina, in a low, steady voice, commenced her story at the point where
Ambrose had asked her to find some one to go in search of Nesis.
While she spoke her grave eyes were brooding over the prisoner's bent,
dark head below. He dared not look at her. The court-room was so
still that when she paused for a word one could hear the clock on the
She told of her journey to the Kakisa River; her interview with
Sergeant Plaskett (which provoked a smile); her search among the
teepees; her encounter with Marya, and all that followed on that.
Without a trace of self-consciousness she told how she and Cora had set
off at night on the unknown trail, and how she had ridden into the
middle of the hostile village next day and demanded Nesis.
"Two girls to defy a whole tribe of redskins!"—the thought could be
read in the jurymen's startled eyes.
The twelve men hung out of the box, listening with parted lips. All
that had gone before in this startling trial was nothing to Colina's
When Colina came to her meeting with Nesis her brave port was shaken.
Her voice began to tremble. She could not bring herself to name the
dreadful thing. The judge, perceiving a stoppage in her story,
"Miss Gaviller, if the girl could understand you, why did she answer by
Colina lowered her head. Those near saw her struggling to control a
shaken breast, saw two tears steal down her pale cheeks.
"Do you wish to be excused?" asked the judge solicitously.
She shook her head. "One moment," she was understood to whisper.
An attendant handed up a glass of water.
She finally managed to produce her voice again. "She could not speak,"
she said very low.
"Why?" asked the judge. One would have said the whole room breathed
"They—had mutilated her," whispered Colina. "Her—her tongue—was cut
A single low sound of horror was forced from the crowd. The prisoner
half rose with a choking cry and collapsed with his head in his arms on
Denholm, as pale as a sheet, flung an arm around his shoulders. Every
man connected with the case stared before him as if he beheld the
horror with his physical eyes. Colina's self-control escaped her
She covered her face with her hands and wept like any girl.
FROM DUMB LIPS.
The judge proposed an adjournment. The witness, the prisoner, the
prisoner's counsel were all against it. It was decided to continue. A
breath of relief escaped the spectators. Another day they might not be
able to secure seats in the court-room.
Colina described how they gave their pursuers the slip and gained the
"We decided to make for the nearest point on the Spirit River," she
went on, "and headed southeast. After we had ridden for two hours we
came to a slough of fresh water, and camped for the rest of the night
to let the horses feed and rest. Nesis and I could not sleep. We
talked until morning.
"I asked her questions, and she would answer yes or no, or let me know
by signs when I was on the wrong track. She was wonderfully clever in
making up signs.
"As she made signs to me I interpreted them aloud, and she would nod or
shake her head according to whether I was right or wrong. I had to try
one question after another until I hit on the one she could answer. In
this way little by little I built up her story.
"The next day we continued on the prairie. The sky was heavily
overclouded, and there were flurries of snow. We were lost for several
hours, until the sun came out again. Our food was almost gone, but I
managed to shoot a rabbit.
"The horses were very tired. Whenever we stopped I talked to Nesis.
We stayed up most of that night. It was too cold to sleep. By the end
of the second day I knew everything she had to tell me."
Colina drank some water and went on. "Nesis's story begins a year ago.
In the middle of the winter my father was accustomed to send Gordon
Strange with an outfit to the Kakisa River to trade with the tribe and
bring back the fur.
"While there he lived in a little log shack overlooking the Indian
village. Nesis said it was Watusk's custom to go up to the shack every
night and the two men would talk. She knew that they talked English
together, and she used to steal up after Watusk and listen outside
through a chink between the logs."
Every eye in the court-room was turned on Gordon Strange. The
half-breed made marks with a pencil on a pad and tried to call up the
old modest, deprecating smile. But an extraordinary ashy tint crept
under his swarthy skin.
In spite of himself, his eyes darted furtively to measure the distance
to the door. There were half a thousand people between; moreover, the
doors were closed and guarded by six policemen.
Colina carefully avoided glancing in Strange's direction.
"At that time Nesis had no idea of using what she learned from their
talk," she went on. "She merely wished to hear English spoken, so that
she would not forget what her father had taught her. Nesis attached a
mysterious virtue to the ability to speak English. It was a kind of
fetish with her.
"She believed that her father's ability to speak English had threatened
Watusk's power in the tribe, and that Watusk, on that account, had had
her father put out of the way. Therefore she kept it a secret that she
could speak it, too.
"Nesis said that all of Mr. Strange's and Watusk's talk was against the
white people. She said they used to discuss how the whites could be
driven out of the country. She said that Mr. Strange used to tell
Watusk about how Louis Riel fought the whites.
"He said that Louis Riel would be the king of this country to-day if he
had not gone crazy. He used to ask Watusk how he would like to be a
king. He used to flatter Watusk and tell him he was a great chief.
"He explained to Watusk how he could kill a whole army of the whites if
he could lead them into the little valley beyond the Kakisa."
A gasp of astonishment escaped the court. In almost every sentence of
Colina's there was the material of a fresh sensation.
Ambrose lifted his head, and a little color came back to his cheeks.
Whether or not it saved him in the end, it was sweet to hear himself
Colina continued: "Nesis said that Watusk often complained to Mr.
Strange that my father was always making the goods dearer and the fur
cheaper. Mr. Strange told him to wait a little while and he would see
"Pretty soon things would get so bad, he explained, that the Company
would take John Gaviller away and make him the trader. He told Watusk
to wait until the grain was thrashed next year, meaning last summer,
and there would be great trouble.
"He said if Watusk did everything he told him he would make Watusk a
great man. At different times he gave Watusk presents—silk
handkerchiefs, finger rings, pistols, a sword. By and by he said he
would make Watusk great presents.
"Nesis's story then jumped to the time, last summer, when Watusk and
many of the people rode into Fort Enterprise to get flour," Colina went
on. "In the mean time Ambrose Doane had been to Enterprise, and had
gone away again to get an outfit.
"My father refused to give the Indians any flour because they had been
trading with his competitor. The Indians were angry, Nesis said, and
Watusk was scared. One night Gordon Strange came to see Watusk, and
Nesis listened outside the teepee.
"She said Strange said to Watusk to let the Indians get mad. Strange
said he wanted to have trouble. There was talk of burning the store
then. Strange said that would fix John Gaviller, all right. He told
Watusk that the police would let the people off easily because, as he
said, my father had treated them so badly."
Colina drew a long breath to steady herself. "They talked about the
chances of my father's dying," she went on. "He was very sick at that
time. Mr. Strange suggested to Watusk that it wouldn't take much to
finish him. They both laughed at that.
"He told Watusk that if John Gaviller died he, Strange, would settle
all the trouble, and then the Company would make him the trader for
good. He told Watusk that when he got to be trader he would soon fix
Ambrose Doane, too.
"Mr. Strange was always telling Watusk to tell the Kakisas that my
father hated them, but that he, Strange, was their friend.
"Nesis said that a couple of days after this Ambrose Doane came down
the river, and after him his outfit on a raft. When Ambrose Doane
heard that the Indians were hungry he took men and crossed the river
and broke into the flour-mill and ground flour for them.
"This took two nights and a day. On the second night Gordon Strange
came across to see Watusk again. Nesis said he was so angry that he
started in talking without sending her out of the teepee. He had no
idea, of course, that she could understand English. She made herself
look stupid, she said.
"Mr. Strange was angry because, if the Indians got their flour and went
back to the Kakisa River satisfied, all his plans would be spoiled.
His attempt to create a rebellion among the half-breed farmers had
"Nesis said that Strange cursed Ambrose Doane for spoiling his plans.
She said he told Watusk he must burn the flour, and then the Indians
would surely make trouble. They talked about how to do it.
"It was arranged that Strange was to bring Watusk a big can of
coal-oil: Watusk was to hide it under the floor of Gaston Trudeau's
empty shack, and afterward store the flour there. Then Watusk was to
give a big tea-dance to get all the people out of the way.
"Before going to the dance he was to pour oil over the bags, and leave
the window open so Strange could fire it after he had gone."
Colina paused to take a drink of water. The judge whispered to a court
attendant, who in turn whispered to a policeman. Thereafter the
blue-coat's eyes never left Gordon Strange. The half-breed had lost
all pretense of smiling.
He looked like a trapped animal. The court-room scarcely regarded him.
They hung upon Colina's lips.
Every time she paused her listeners' pent-up breath escaped.
Colina went on: "At the tea-dance Nesis saw Ambrose Doane for the first
time. She said she—" Colina lowered her eyes and sought for a
word—"she liked him. After that she wanted to help him. When the
alarm of fire was raised, and all ran to the burning building, Nesis
kept near to Ambrose Doane and watched all that he did.
"She said she saw him go after Watusk, and heard him make Watusk tell
the Indians not to be foolish, but go back to the teepees until
morning. But Watusk spoke to them half-heartedly and they did not
listen. It was Myengeen, Nesis said, who urged them to go across the
river, and break into the store.
"Nesis did not see what happened at the boat. The crowd was too great
for her to get near. But next morning when they came back she heard
Myengeen say to Watusk that Gordon Strange had sent word that they must
tie Ambrose Doane up and carry him away.
"She said it was soon known throughout the tribe that if the police
came everybody was to say that Ambrose Doane made all the trouble. She
said he was tied up and carried away on a horse.
"When they all got to the Kakisa River a week later she found that he
was imprisoned in Gordon Strange's house, and watched day and night."
So far the power of Colina's story had carried her hearers along
breathlessly with her. Not until she reached this point did a very
obvious question occur to the judge.
"One moment, Miss Gaviller," he said. "I presume you understand that
this story would have more weight as evidence if the girl Nesis was
produced in court. Can she be brought here?"
Once more Colina faltered—and steeled herself. Her eyes became misty,
but she looked directly at the judge. "My Lord," she said simply, "she
THE AVENGING OF NESIS.
His lordship started back thoroughly discomposed. "Really! Really!"
he murmured helplessly. The prisoner hid his face in his arms again.
An audible wave of compassion traveled over the room.
"Should I tell about that?" Colina asked quietly. The judge signified
"On the third morning on the prairie," Colina continued, "the Indians
found us again. They had tracked us all the way from the Kakisa. They
did not attack us, but followed about a quarter of a mile behind.
"There were about fifty of them. Whenever we stopped to rest or eat,
they rode around us in a big circle yelling and firing their guns in
the air—trying to break our nerve."
A gasp escaped her hearers at the picture she evoked—three women on
the wide prairie, and a horde of yelling savages!
"I did not mind them so much," Colina went on simply, "for I was sure
they were too cowardly to attack us. But our food was all gone by this
time, and I could not leave the others to hunt for game. The horses
were completely played out.
"At night we suffered from the cold. We could not make a fire because
the light of it blinded us and showed us to the Indians. On the fourth
night as we were trying to push on in the hope of losing them in the
dark, the horse that Nesis was riding fell down and died in his tracks.
After that we took turns walking.
"Next day they easily found us again. It was very cold, and we could
scarcely keep going. In the afternoon we came to the edge of the bench
of the Spirit River. It was a long way down to the bank.
"When we got there we saw that heavy ice was running in the river. We
had to travel another mile along the bank before we saw enough dead
timber in one place to make a raft. I was afraid we wouldn't have
strength enough to move it. We hadn't eaten for two days.
"It was still daylight, and we made a fire there. The Indians came and
watched us from a little knoll, less than a quarter of a mile back.
"Cora took one of the remaining horses away and killed it, and brought
back meat to the fire and we ate a little. I thought if we slept a
little while we would be better able to start the raft. So Cora and I
lay down while Nesis kept watch."
Colina's voice was shaking. She paused to steady it. "I was careful
to choose a place out in the open," she went on. "We were in a grassy
bottom beside the river.
"The nearest cover was a poplar bluff about three hundred yards back.
He—he must have crawled down to that. I was awakened by a shot. They
had got her!"
Colina's clenched hands were pressed close together, her head was down.
The quiet voice broke out a little wildly.
"Ah! I have never, never ceased to blame myself! I should not have
slept! I ought not to have let her watch! But I never thought they
would dare shoot!"
Colina went on in a schooled voice more affecting than an outcry.
"Nesis was shot through the breast. I had nothing to give her. I
stanched the wound the best way I could.
"I saw at once that she could not live. Indeed, I prayed that she
would not linger—in such pain. She lived throughout the night. She
was conscious most of the time—and smiling. She died at daybreak.
"I do not know what happened after that. I gave out. It was Cora who
saw the launch coming down the river, and signaled it with her
petticoat. They landed and carried us aboard. I remember that.
"I wanted them to turn back and take us up to the crossing. But it was
impossible to go against the current on account of the ice. They took
us down to Fort Enterprise. We took Nesis. She is buried there.
"At Fort Enterprise we had to wait until the ice packed in the river,
and enough snow fell to make a winter trail. Then we started with dog
teams. I brought Captain Stinson and my servant, Cora Thomas, for
additional witnesses. It is seven hundred miles. That is why we were
Mr. Pascoe rose. His erstwhile ruddy cheeks showed an odd pallor under
the purple veins, and he looked thoroughly disconcerted. "My Lord," he
said, "this is a very affecting tale. It is, however, my painful duty
to protest against its admission as evidence."
Colina interrupted him. "I beg your pardon," she said quickly. She
produced a little book from inside her dress. "May I explain further?"
she asked the judge eagerly.
"One moment, please, Mr. Pascoe," said his lordship. He signed to
Colina to proceed.
"I meant, of course, to bring Nesis here," Colina continued. "When I
saw that—that I never would, while I didn't know anything about courts
or evidence, I felt that it would be safer to have a written statement.
"This book is my diary that I always carry with me. That night I wrote
in the blank pages what Nesis had told me, and later when she was
conscious I read it to her, and she affirmed it sentence by sentence.
She understood how important it was.
"You may know that she comprehended what she was doing because she made
me make changes—you will find them here. At the end I wrote her name
and she made a cross. Cora Thomas heard me read it to her, and saw her
make her mark."
The judge held out his hand for the book.
Once more Mr. Pascoe rose. "My Lord," he said, "it must be clear to
you that the ends of justice have been defeated by the dramatic power
of this tale. It would be farcical to ask this jury to deliver an
impartial verdict now. This new evidence must be weighed and sifted
with calm minds. I request that you declare a mistrial, and that—"
A still more dramatic surprise awaited Mr. Pascoe and the court.
Toward the end of the telling of Colina's painful tale Gordon Strange
had been forgotten by all in the room except the policeman detailed to
watch him. This man suddenly made a spring toward the half-breed,
where he sat huddled beside his table. He was too late. The court was
electrified by the muffled sound of a shot. Strange fell forward on
the table. A revolver clattered to the floor from under his coat.
The following is taken from the Prince George Star, January 19, 19—.
At 7.53 P.M. the jury in the trial of Ambrose Doane for treason-felony
returned a verdict of not guilty without leaving their seats. This was
a foregone conclusion. Upon issuing from the courthouse the acquitted
man received an immense ovation from the waiting crowd.
From the Prince George Star, January 24, 19—: Editorial.
THE REAL CRIMINAL!
Now that the trial of Ambrose Doane is a thing of the past, a tragic
miscarriage of justice happily averted, and the excitement abated, it
is time for the thoughtful to examine into the underlying causes of the
trouble at Fort Enterprise.
That there was serious trouble no one denies; but the general
disposition is, since the innocent man is free and the guilty one dead
by his own hand, to forget the whole matter. Now is the time to take
measures to make it impossible for anything of the kind to occur again.
Granting that Gordon Strange, that extraordinary character, played for
high stakes, lost and paid—was he the sole criminal? What sort of
conditions were they up there that made it possible for him to engineer
his unique schemes of villainy?
For years the arrogant policy and the unscrupulous methods of the great
corporation that holds the north of our province in thrall have been
matters of common gossip in the streets. But no man has dared to raise
"They say" that the mighty corporation rides over the helpless redskins
roughshod. "They say" that the Indians are charged exorbitant prices
for the necessities of life, while a mere pittance is given them for
their valuable furs.
Is it true? Who knows? No news comes out of that sealed country save
by the pleasure of the great Company. Certain aspects of the testimony
given in the Ambrose Doane trial leads us to suspect that these charges
are not without foundation.
Parliament should investigate. The question is, does the Province of
Athabasca control the Northwest Fur Company, or does the Company run
From the Prince George Star, January 27, 19—.
GAVILLER IS OUT!
At the head offices of the Northwest Fur Company it was given out this
morning that the resignation of John Gaviller, the Company's trader at
Fort Enterprise, had been accepted to take effect immediately.
Duncan MacDonald, general manager of the Company, said, when asked for
a further statement: "Mr. Gaviller's resignation was requested for the
good of the service. Owing to the conditions of our business the
traders have to be given the widest latitude in the command of their
posts, and we do not always know what is going on.
"Mr. Gaviller was very successful at Enterprise, but the disclosures at
the Doane trial showed that his acts have not always been in accord
with the policy of this company in dealing with the Indians. To our
mind the welfare of the Indians is more important than profits."
Mr. Gaviller was later found at the Royal George Hotel. Upon being
shown the foregoing he did not hesitate to express an opinion of it.
"Put not your trust in corporations!" he said. "I have given them
thirty years of my life, my best years, and here I am turned out over
night! It is the threat of a parliamentary investigation that has led
them to their present panic and attempt to make a scapegoat of me.
"If they think I'll take it lying down they are much mistaken. The
Indians' welfare more important than profits, eh? Excuse me if I
laugh." Mr. Gaviller added somewhat stronger expression.
"You can say from me," he went on, "that not only have I always
followed instructions to the letter, but that twice a year I laid my
books open to the Company inspector, who was informed of the minutest
details of my transactions.
"I accept my share in the blame for what happened. I have learned my
lesson. But let me tell you this, that the policy pursued at Fort
Enterprise was the Company's policy—letter and spirit.
"Moreover, in my time Fort Enterprise has paid thousands and thousands
of dollars to the shareholders of the Company, and I have not profited
one cent beyond my salary."
At this point Mr. Gaviller's daughter came downstairs and he would say
no more. Miss Gaviller declined to speak for publication.
From the Prince George Star, February 3, 19—.
A BEAUTIFUL ADORNMENT.
Our city has the honor of containing at the present moment the most
beautiful set of furs ever exhibited in America. It is to be seen in
the window of Messrs. Renfrew & Watkins's establishment on Oliver
It consists of three magnificent black fox skins smooth and lustrous as
jet, except for the snowy tips of the brushes. Two of the pelts go to
the neck-piece, while the third—the most beautiful skin that ever came
out of the north in the opinion of these experienced furriers—makes
Mr. Renfrew refused to set a value on the furs, but we learn on good
authority that they are insured for five thousand dollars.
There are romantic and tragic associations with these furs. Two of the
pelts have been in the possession of Mr. Renfrew for some time. He
held them on speculation until he could obtain a third to complete the
This one, the finest of the three, was brought out last August by
Ambrose Doane. This was the skin which almost cost John Gaviller his
life, and indirectly induced a rebellion among the Kakisa Indians. All
those who followed the course of the recent trial will remember it.
Upon obtaining the third pelt, Mr. Renfrew sent the three to London to
be dressed and made up. They have just been returned.
A purchaser has already been found for the set. His name is kept
secret, but we are assured that the beautiful furs will remain in this
From the Prince George Star, February 3, 19—.
GAVILLER GOES WITH MINOT & DOANE.
An interesting fact leaked out yesterday when it became known that
Ambrose Doane had made an offer to John Gaviller to take charge of the
new trading-post that Minot & Doane purpose establishing on Great
Mr. Doane could not be found by the Star reporter. Since the trial he
has spent a good deal of his time dodging reporters. He has a private
room at the Athabasca Club which no representative of the press has yet
succeeded in locating.
John Gaviller was found at the Royal George Hotel. He admitted the
truth of the report, and seemed very pleased by his new prospects.
"It tells its own story, doesn't it?" he said. "I belong to the north.
I have traded up there thirty years, and I will not be any worse trader
for what has happened."
In answer to further questions he only shook his head. "I talked too
much to you fellows the other day," he said. "You caught me at a
disadvantage. Nothing more to say. The arrangements between Ambrose
Doane and me concern nobody but ourselves. I may say, however, that
our relations are of the happiest nature."
From the Prince George Star, February 21, 19—.
THE CULMINATION OF A ROMANCE.
In another column of this paper will be found a notice of the marriage
of Ambrose Doane to Miss Colina Gaviller, which took place a week ago
to-day at the Chapel of the Redeemer on Jarvis Street.
The ceremony was performed by the rector, Rev. Algernon Mitford. The
only witnesses were the bride's father, who gave her away, and Mr. and
Mrs. Arthur Denholm.
With the traveling costume the bride wore the wonderful set of
black-fox furs which have been town talk during the past month.
Ambrose Doane was the purchaser.
The news was suppressed until to-day on account of the desire of all
parties to avoid further publicity. We learn that Mr. and Mrs. Doane
and Mr. Gaviller left for the north by stage on the same day.
They part company at Miwasa landing; the bride and groom continue north
to Moultrie on Lake Miwasa, while Mr. Gaviller goes northwest to Fort
Enterprise to settle his affairs, thence to his new post on Great
We learn that Mr. Doane is to run the post at Moultrie, while his
partner, Mr. Minot, will operate an opposition store to the Company at
A private letter from the landing tells of a wonderful van on runners
that Ambrose Doane is building there to house his bride on their long
It is to contain a stove, bookshelves, side-board, piano, and all the
comforts of a city residence, and will be drawn by four horses.
Their way lies over the regular winter road over the ice of the Miwasa
River. Job, the little dog who was mentioned so often during the
trial, will be a member of the party.