HotFreeBooks.com
The Woman from Outside - [on Swan River]
by Hulbert Footner
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's Note: Obvious errors in the text have been corrected. Changes have also been made to make spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation use consistent. A full list of changes is at the end of the text.]



THE WOMAN from "OUTSIDE" [On Swan River]

By HULBERT FOOTNER Author of "The Fur Bringers" etc.

THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY Publishers New York

Copyright, 1921 by THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY All Rights Reserved

PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I THE WHITE MEDICINE MAN 1 II HOOLIAM 15 III THE UNEXPECTED VISITOR 24 IV MORE ABOUT CLARE 35 V THE FIRST STAGE 46 VI THE KAKISAS 59 VII ON THE RIVER 68 VIII THE LOG SHACK 83 IX THE FOOT 96 X THE START HOME 111 XI THE MYSTERY 129 XII IMBRIE 139 XIII THE RESCUE 154 XIV PURSUIT 172 XV UPS AND DOWNS 192 XVI THE LAST STAGE ON SWAN RIVER 212 XVII THE HEARING 243 XVIII A LETTER FROM MAJOR EGERTON TO HIS FRIEND ARTHUR DONCOURT, ESQ. 256 EPILOGUE 264



THE WOMAN FROM OUTSIDE



CHAPTER I

THE WHITE MEDICINE MAN

On a January afternoon, as darkness was beginning to gather, the "gang" sat around the stove in the Company store at Fort Enterprise discussing that inexhaustible question, the probable arrival of the mail. The big lofty store, with its glass front, its electric lights, its stock of expensive goods set forth on varnished shelves, suggested a city emporium rather than the Company's most north-westerly post, nearly a thousand miles from civilization; but human energy accomplishes seeming miracles in the North as elsewhere, and John Gaviller the trader was above all an energetic man. Throughout the entire North they point with pride to Gaviller's flour mill, his big steamboat, his great yellow clap-boarded house—two storeys and attic, and a fence of palings around it! Why, at Fort Enterprise they even have a sidewalk, the only one north of fifty-five!

"I don't see why Hairy Ben can't come down," said Doc Giddings—Doc was the grouch of the post—"the ice on the river has been fit for travelling for a month now."

"Ben can't start from the Crossing until the mail comes through from the Landing," said Gaviller. "It can't start from the Landing until the ice is secure on the Big River, the Little River, and across Caribou Lake." Gaviller was a handsome man of middle life, who took exceeding good care of himself, and ruled his principality with an amiable relentlessness. They called him the "Czar," and it did not displease him.

"Everybody knows Caribou Lake freezes over first," grumbled the doctor.

"But the rivers down there are swift, and it's six hundred miles south of here. Give them time."

"The trouble is, they wait until the horse-road is made over the ice before starting the mail in. If the Government had the enterprise of a ground-hog they'd send in dogs ahead."

"Nobody uses dogs down there any more."

"Well, I say 'tain't right to ask human beings to wait three months for their mail. Who knows what may have happened since the freeze-up last October?"

"What's happened has happened," said Father Goussard mildly, "and knowing about it can't change it."

The doctor ignored the proffered consolation. "What we need is a new mail-man," he went on bitterly. "I know Hairy Ben! I'll bet he's had the mail at the Crossing for a week, and puts off starting every day for fear of snow."

"Well, 'tain't a job as I'd envy any man," put in Captain Stinson of the steamboat Spirit River, now hauled out on the shore. "Breaking a road for three hundred and fifty mile, and not a stopping-house the whole way till he gets to the Beaver Indians at Carcajou Point."

The doctor addressed himself to the policeman, who was mending a snowshoe in the background. "Stonor, you've got the best dogs in the post; why don't you go up after him?"

The young sergeant raised his head with a grin. He was a good-looking, long-limbed youth with a notable blue eye, and a glance of mirthful sobriety. "No, thanks," he drawled. The others gathered from his tone that a joke was coming, and pricked up their ears accordingly. "No, thanks. You forget that Sarge Lambert up at the Crossing is my senior. When I drove up he'd say: 'What the hell are you doing up here?' And when I told him he'd come back with his well-known embellishments of language: 'Has the R.N.W.M.P. nothing better to do than tote Doc Giddings' love-letters?'"

A great laugh greeted this sally: they are so grateful for the smallest of jokes on winter afternoons up North.

Doc Giddings subsided, but the discussion went on without him.

"Well, he'll have easy going in from Carcajou; the Indians coming in and out have beaten a good trail."

"Oh, when he gets to Carcajou he's here."

"If it don't snow. That bit over the prairie drifts badly."

"The barometer's falling."

And so on. And so on. They made the small change of conversation go far.

In the midst of it they were electrified by a shout from the land trail and the sound of bells.

"Here he is!" they cried, jumping up to a man, and making for the door.

Ben Causton, conscious of his importance, made a dramatic entrance with the mail-bags over his shoulder, and cast them magnificently on the counter. Even up north, where every man cultivates his own peculiarities unhindered, Ben was considered a "character." He was a short, thick man of enormous physical strength, and he sported a beard like a quickset hedge, hence his nickname. He was clad in an entire suit of fur like an Eskimo, with a gaudy red worsted sash about his ample middle.

"Hello, Ben! Gee! but you're slow!"

"Hello, fellows! Keep your hair on! If you want to send out for catalogues in the middle of winter you're lucky if I get here at all. Next month, if the second class bag's as heavy as this, I'll drop it through an air-hole—I swear I will! So now you're warned! I got somepin better to do than tote catalogues. When I die and go to hell, I only hope I meet the man who invented mail-order catalogues there, that's all."

"You're getting feeble, Ben!"

"I got strength enough left to put your head in chancery!"

"What's the news of the world, Ben?"

"Sarge Lambert's got a bone felon. Ally Stiff lost a sow and a whole litter through the ice up there. Mahooly of the French outfit at the Settlement's gone out to get him a set of chiny teeth. Says he's going to get blue ones to dazzle the Indians. Oh, and I almost forgot; down at Ottawa the Grits are out and the Tories in."

"Bully!"

"God help Canada!"

While Gaviller unlocked the bags, Ben went out to tie up his dogs and feed them. The trader handed out letters to the eager, extended hands, that trembled a little. Brightening eyes pounced on the superscriptions. Gaviller himself had a daughter outside being "finished," the apple of his eye: Captain Stinson had a wife, and Mathews the engineer, an elderly sweetheart. The dark-skinned Gordon Strange, Gaviller's clerk, carried on an extensive correspondence, the purport of which was unknown to the others, and Father Goussard was happy in the receipt of many letters from his confreres. Even young Stonor was excited, who had no one in the world to write to him but a married sister who sent him long, dutiful chronicles of small beer. But it was from "home."

The second-class bag with the papers was scarcely less exciting. To oblige Ben they only took one newspaper between them, and passed it around, but in this mail three months' numbers had accumulated. As the contents of the bag cascaded out on the counter, Stonor picked up an unfamiliar-looking magazine.

"Hello, what's this?" he cried, reading the label in surprise. "Doctor Ernest Imbrie. Who the deuce is he?"

"Must have come here by mistake," said Gaviller.

"Not a bit of it! Here's the whole story: Doctor Ernest Imbrie, Fort Enterprise, Spirit River, Athabasca."

It passed around from hand to hand. A new name was something to catch the attention at Fort Enterprise.

"Why, here's another!" cried Gaviller in excitement. "And another! Blest if half the bag isn't for him! And all addressed just so!"

They looked at each other a little blankly. All this evidence had the effect of creating an apparition there in their midst. There was an appreciable silence.

"Must be somebody who started in last year and never got through," said Mathews. He spoke with an air of relief at discovering so reasonable an explanation.

"But we hear about everybody who comes north of the Landing," objected Gaviller. "I would have been advised if he had a credit here."

"Another doctor!" said Doc Giddings bitterly. "If he expects to share my practice he's welcome!"

At another time they would have laughed at this, but the mystery teased them. They resented the fact that some rank outsider claimed Fort Enterprise for his post-office, without first having made himself known.

"If he went back outside, he'd stop all this stuff coming in, you'd think."

"Maybe somebody's just putting up a joke on us."

"Funny kind of joke! Subscriptions to these magazines cost money."

Stonor read off the titles of the magazines: "The Medical Record; The American Medical Journal; The Physician's and Surgeon's Bulletin."

"Quite a scientific guy," said Doctor Giddings, with curling lip.

"Strange, he gets so many papers and not a single letter!" remarked Father Goussard. "A friendless man!"

Gaviller picked up a round tin, one of several packed and addressed alike. He read the business card of a well-known tobacconist. "Smoking tobacco!" he said indignantly. "If the Company's Dominion Mixture isn't good enough for any man I'd like to know it! He has a cheek, if you ask me, bringing in tobacco under my very nose!"

"Tobacco!" cried Stonor. "It's all very well about papers, but no man would waste good tobacco! It must be somebody who started in before Ben!"

Their own mail matter, that they had looked forward to so impatiently, was forgotten now.

When Ben Causton came back they bombarded him with questions. But this bag had come through locked all the way from Miwasa Landing, and Ben, even Ben, the great purveyor of gossip in the North, had heard nothing of any Doctor Imbrie on his way in. Ben was more excited and more indignant than any of them. Somebody had got ahead of him in spreading a sensation!

"It's a hoe-axe," said Ben. "It's them fellows down at the Landing trying to get a rise out of me. Or if it ain't that, it's some guy comin' in next spring, and sendin' in his outfit piecemeal ahead of him. And me powerless to protect myself! Ain't that an outrage! But when I meet him on the trail I'll put it to him!"

"There are newspapers here, too," Stonor pointed out. "No man coming in next spring would send himself last year's papers."

"Where is he, then?" they asked.

The question was unanswerable.

"Well, I'd like to see any lily-handed doctor guy from the outside face the river trail in the winter," said Ben bitterly. "If he'll do that, I'll carry his outfit for him. But he'll need more than his diploma to fit him for it."

At any rate they had a brand-new subject for conversation at the post.

* * * * *

About a week later, when Hairy Ben had started back up the river, the routine at the post was broken by the arrival of a small party of Kakisa Indians from the Kakisa or Swan River, a large unexplored stream off to the north-west. The Kakisas, an uncivilized and shy race, rarely appeared at Enterprise, and in order to get their trade Gaviller had formerly sent out a half-breed clerk to the Swan River every winter. But this man had lately died, and now the trade threatened to lapse for the lack of an interpreter. None of the Kakisas could speak English, and there was no company employee who could speak their uncouth tongue except Gordon Strange the bookkeeper, who could not be spared from the post.

Wherefore Gaviller welcomed these six, in the hope that they might prove to be the vanguard of the main body. They were a wild and ragged lot, under the leadership of a withered elder called Mahtsonza. They were discovered by accident camping under cover of a poplar bluff across the river. No one knew how long they had been there, and Gordon Strange had a time persuading them to come the rest of the way. It was dusk when they entered the store, and Gaviller, by pre-arrangement with Mathews, clapped his hands and the electric lights went on. The effect surpassed his expectations. The Kakisas, with a gasp of terror, fled, and could not be tempted to return until daylight.

They brought a good little bundle of fur, including two silver fox skins, the finest seen at Enterprise that season. They laid their fur on the counter, and sidled about the store silent and abashed, like children in a strange house. With perfectly wooden faces they took in all the wonders out of the corners of their eyes; the scales, the stove, the pictures on the canned goods, the show-cases of jewellery and candy. Candy they recognized, and, again like children, they discussed the respective merits of the different varieties in their own tongue. Gaviller, warned by his first mistake, affected to take no notice of them.

The Kakisas had been in the store above an hour when Mahtsonza, without warning, produced a note from the inner folds of his dingy capote, and, handling it gingerly between thumb and forefinger, silently offered it to Gaviller. The trader's eyes almost started out of his head.

"A letter!" he cried stupidly. "Where the hell did you get that?—Boys! Look here! A note from Swan River! Who in thunder at Swan River can write a white man's hand?"

Stonor, Doc Giddings, Strange, and Mathews, who were in the store, hastened to him.

"Who's it addressed to?" asked the policeman.

"Just to the Company. Whoever wrote it didn't have the politeness to put my name down."

"Maybe he doesn't know you."

"How could that be?" asked Gaviller, with raised eyebrows.

"Open it! Open it!" said Doc Giddings irritably.

Gaviller did so, and his face expressed a still greater degree of astonishment. "Ha! Here's our man!" he cried.

"Imbrie!" they exclaimed in unison.

"Listen!" He read from the note.

"GENTLEMEN—I am sending you two silver fox skins, for which please give me credit. I enclose an order for supplies, to be sent by bearer. Also be good enough to hand the bearer any mail matter which may be waiting for me.

"Yours truly, "ERNEST IMBRIE."

The silence of stupefaction descended on them. The only gateway to the Swan River lay through Enterprise. How could a man have got there without their knowing it? Stupefaction was succeeded by resentment.

"Will I be good enough to hand over his mail?" sneered Gaviller. "What kind of elegant language is this from Swan River?"

"Sounds like a regular Percy," said Strange, who always echoed his chief.

"Funny place for a Percy to set up," said Stonor drily.

"He orders flour, sugar, beans, rice, coffee, tea, baking-powder, salt, and dried fruit," said Gaviller, as if that were a fresh cause of offence.

"He has an appetite, then," said Stonor, "he's no ghost."

Suddenly they fell upon Mahtsonza with a bombardment of questions, forgetting that the Indian could speak no English. He shrank back affrighted.

"Wait a minute," said Strange. "Let me talk to him."

He conferred for awhile with Mahtsonza in the strange, clicking tongue of the Kakisas. Gaviller soon became impatient.

"Tell us as he goes along," he said. "Never mind waiting for the end of the story."

"They can't tell you anything directly," said Strange deprecatingly; "there's nothing to do but let them tell a story in their own way. He's telling me now that Etzooah, a man with much hair, who hunts down the Swan River near the beginning of the swift water, came up to the village at the end of the horse-track on snowshoes and dragging a little sled. Etzooah had the letter for Gaviller, but he was tired out, so he handed it to Mahtsonza, who had dogs, to bring it the rest of the way, and gave Mahtsonza a mink-skin for his trouble."

"Never mind all that," said Gaviller impatiently. "What about the white man?"

Strange conferred again with Mahtsonza, while Gaviller bit his nails.

"Mahtsonza says," he reported, "that Imbrie is a great White Medicine Man who has done honour to the Kakisa people by coming among them to heal the sick and do good. Mahtsonza says he has not seen Imbrie himself, because when he came among the Indians last fall Mahtsonza was off hunting on the upper Swan, but all the people talk about him and what strong medicine he makes."

"Conjure tricks!" muttered Doc Giddings.

"Where does he live?" demanded Gaviller.

Strange asked the question and reported the answer. "He has built himself a shack beside the Great Falls of the Swan River. Mahtsonza says that the people know his medicine is strong because he is not afraid to live with the voice of the Great Falls."

Stonor asked the next question. "What sort of man is he?"

Strange, after putting the question, said: "Mahtsonza says he's very good-looking, or, as he puts it, a pretty man. He says he looks young, but he may be as old as the world, because with such strong medicine he could make himself look like anything he wanted. He says that the White Medicine Man talks much with dried words in covers—I suppose he means books."

"Ask him what proof he has given them that his medicine is strong," suggested Stonor.

Strange translated Mahtsonza's answer as follows: "Last year when the bush berries were ripe (that's August) all the Indians down the river got sick. Water came out of their eyes and nose; their skin got as red as sumach and burned like fire."

"Measles," said Gaviller. "The Beavers had it, too. They take it hard."

Strange continued: "Mahtsonza says many of them died. They just lay down and gave up hope. Etzooah was the only Kakisa who had seen the White Medicine Man up to that time, and he went to him and asked him to make medicine to cure the sick. So the White Medicine Man came back with Etzooah to the village down the river. He had good words and a soft hand to the sick. He made medicine, and, behold! the sick arose and were well!"

"Faith cure!" muttered Doc Giddings.

"How long has Imbrie been down there by the Falls?" asked Gaviller.

"Mahtsonza says he came last summer when the ground berries were ripe. That would be about July."

"Did he come down the river from the mountains?"

"Mahtsonza says no. Nobody on the river saw him go down."

"Where did he come from, then?"

"Mahtsonza says he doesn't know. Nobody knows. Some say he came from under the falls where the white bones lie. Some say it is the voice of the falls that comes among men in the shape of a man."

"Rubbish! A ghost doesn't subscribe to medical journals!" said Doc Giddings.

"He orders flour, sugar, beans," said Gaviller.

When this was explained to Mahtsonza the Indian shrugged. Strange said: "Mahtsonza says if he takes a man's shape he's got to feed it."

"Pshaw!" said Gaviller impatiently. "He must have come up the river. It is known that the Swan River empties into Great Buffalo Lake. The Lake can't be more than a hundred miles below the falls. No white man has ever been through that way, but somebody's got to be the first."

"But we know every white man who ever went down to Great Buffalo Lake," said Doc Giddings. "Certainly there never was a doctor there except the police doctor who makes the round with the treaty outfit every summer."

"Well, it's got me beat!" said Gaviller, scratching his head.

"Maybe it's someone wanted by the police outside," suggested Gordon Strange, "who managed to sneak into the country without attracting notice."

"He's picked out a bad place to hide," said Stonor grimly. "He'll be well advertised up here."

* * * * *

Stonor had a room in the "quarters," a long, low barrack of logs on the side of the quadrangle facing the river. It had been the trader's residence before the days of the big clap-boarded villa. Stonor, tiring of the conversation around the stove, frequently spent the evenings in front of his own fire, and here he sometimes had a visitor, to wit, Tole Grampierre, youngest son of Simon, the French half-breed farmer up the river. Tole came of good, self-respecting native stock, and was in his own person a comely, sensible youngster a few years younger than the trooper. Tole was the nearest thing to a young friend that Stonor possessed in the post. They were both young enough to have some illusions left. They talked of things they would have blushed to expose to the cynicism of the older men.

Stonor sat in his barrel chair that he had made himself, and Tole sat on the floor nursing his knees. Both were smoking Dominion mixture.

Said Tole: "Stonor, what you make of this Swan River mystery?"

"Oh, anything can be a mystery until you learn the answer. I don't see why a man shouldn't settle out on Swan River if he has a mind to."

"Why do all the white men talk against him?"

"Don't ask me. I doubt if they could tell you themselves. When men talk in a crowd they get started on a certain line and go on from bad to worse without thinking what they mean by it."

"Our people just the same that way, I guess," said Tole.

"I'm no better," said Stonor. "I don't know how it is, but fellows in a crowd seem to be obliged to talk more foolishly than they think in private."

"You don't talk against him, Stonor."

The policeman laughed. "No, I stick up for him. It gets the others going. As a matter of fact, I'd like to know this Imbrie. For one thing, he's young like ourselves, Tole. And he must be a decent sort, to cure the Indians, and all that. They're a filthy lot, what we've seen of them."

"Gaviller says he's going to send an outfit next spring to rout him out of his hole. Gaviller says he's a cash trader."

Stonor chuckled. "Gaviller hates a cash trader worse than a devil with horns. It's nonsense anyway. What would the Kakisas do with cash? This talk of sending in an expedition will all blow over before spring."

"Stonor, what for do you think he lives like that by himself?"

"I don't know. Some yarn behind it, I suppose. Very likely a woman at the bottom of it. He's young. Young men do foolish things. Perhaps he'd be thankful for a friend now."

"White men got funny ideas about women, I think."

"I suppose it seems so. But where did you get that idea?"

"Not from the talk at the store. I have read books. Love-stories. Pringle the missionary lend me a book call Family Herald with many love-stories in it. From that I see that white men always go crazy about women."

Stonor laughed aloud.

"Stonor, were you ever real crazy about a woman?"

The trooper shook his head—almost regretfully, one might have said. "The right one never came my way, Tole."

"You don't like the girls around here."

"Yes, I do. Nice girls. Pretty, too. But well, you see, they're not the same colour as me."

"Just the same, they are crazy about you."

"Nonsense!"

"Yes, they are. Call you 'Gold-piece.' Us fellows got no chance if you want them."

"Tell me about the stories you read, Tole."

Tole refused to be diverted from his subject. "Stonor, I think you would like to be real crazy about a woman."

"Maybe," said the other dreamily. "Perhaps life would seem less empty then."

"Would you go bury yourself among the Indians for a woman?"

"I hardly think so," said Stonor, smiling. "Though you never can tell what you might do. But if I got turned down, I suppose I'd want to be as busy as possible to help forget it."

"Well, I think that Imbrie is crazy for sure."

"It takes all kinds to make a world. If I can get permission I'm going out to see him next summer."



CHAPTER II

HOOLIAM

When the spring days came around, Stonor, whose business it was to keep watch on such things, began to perceive an undercurrent of waywardness among the Indians and breeds of the post. Teachers know how an epidemic of naughtiness will sweep a class; this was much the same thing. There was no actual outbreak; it was chiefly evinced in defiant looks and an impudent swagger. It was difficult to trace back, for the red people hang together solidly; a man with even a trace of red blood will rarely admit a white man into the secrets of the race. Under questioning they maintain a bland front that it is almost impossible to break down. Stonor had long ago learned the folly of trying to get at what he wanted by direct questioning.

He finally, as he thought, succeeded in locating the source of the infection at Carcajou Point. Parties from the post rode up there with suspicious frequency, and came back with a noticeably lowered moral tone, licking their lips, so to speak. All the signs pointed to whisky.

At dawn of a morning in May, Stonor, without having advertised his intention, set off for Carcajou on horseback. The land trail cut across a wide sweep of the river, and on horseback one could make it in a day, whereas it was a three days' paddle up-stream. Unfortunately he couldn't take them by surprise, for Carcajou was on the other side of the river from Enterprise, and Stonor must wait on the shore until they came over after him.

As soon as he left the buildings of the post behind him Stonor's heart was greatly lifted up. It was his first long ride of the season. The trail led him through the poplar bush back to the bench, thence in a bee-line across the prairie. The sun rose as he climbed the bench. The prairie was not the "bald-headed" so dear to those who know it, but was diversified with poplar bluffs, clumps of willow, and wild-rose-scrub in the hollows. The crocuses were in bloom, the poplar trees hanging out millions of emerald pendants, and the sky showed that exquisite, tender luminousness that only the northern sky knows when the sun travels towards the north. Only singing-birds were lacking to complete the idyl of spring. Stonor, all alone in a beautiful world, lifted up his voice to supply the missing praise.

Towards sunset he approached the shore of the river opposite Carcajou Point, but as he didn't wish to arrive at night, he camped within shelter of the woods. In the morning he signalled for a boat. They came after him in a dug-out, and he swam his horse across.

A preliminary survey of the place revealed nothing out of the way. The people who called themselves Beaver Indians were in reality the scourings of half the tribes in the country, and it is doubtful if there was an individual of pure red race among them. Physically they were a sad lot, for Nature revenges herself swiftly on the offspring of hybrids. Quaint ethnological differences were exhibited in the same family; one brother would have a French physiognomy, another a Scottish cast of feature, and a third the thick lips and flattened nose of a negro. Their village was no less nondescript than its inhabitants, merely a straggling row of shacks, thrown together anyhow, and roofed with sods, now putting forth a brave growth of weeds. These houses were intended for a winter residence only. In summer they "pitched around." At present they were putting their dug-outs and canoes in order for a migration.

Stonor was received on the beach by Shose (Joseph) Cardinal, a fine, up-standing ancient of better physique than his sons and grandsons. In a community of hairless men he was further distinguished by a straggling grey beard. His wits were beginning to fail, but not yet his cunning. He was extremely anxious to learn the reason for the policeman's coming. For Stonor to tell him would have been to defeat his object; to lie would have been to lower himself in their eyes; so Stonor took refuge in an inscrutability as polite as the old man's own.

Stonor made a house-to-house canvass of the village, inquiring as to the health and well-being of each household, as is the custom of his service, and keeping his eyes open on his own account. He satisfied himself that if there had been whisky there, it was drunk up by now. Some of the men showed the sullen depressed air that follows on a prolonged spree, but all were sober at present.

He was in one of the last houses of the village, when, out of the tail of his eye, he saw a man quietly issue from the house next in order, and, covered by the crowd around the door, make his way back to a house already visited. Stonor, without saying anything, went back to that house and found himself face to face with a young white man, a stranger, who greeted him with an insolent grin.

"Who are you?" demanded the policeman.

"Hooliam."

"You have a white man's name. What is it?"

"Smith"—this with inimitable insolence, and a look around that bid for the applause of the natives.

Stonor's lip curled at the spectacle of a white man's thus lowering himself. "Come outside," he said sternly. "I want to talk to you."

He led the way to a place apart on the river bank, and the other, not daring to defy him openly, followed with a swagger. With a stern glance Stonor kept the tatterdemalion crowd at bay. Stonor coolly surveyed his man in the sunlight and saw that he was not white, as he had supposed, but a quarter or eighth breed. He was an uncommonly good-looking young fellow in the hey-day of his youth, say, twenty-six. With his clear olive skin, straight features and curly dark hair he looked not so much like a breed as a man of one of the darker peoples of the Caucasian race, an Italian or a Greek. There was a falcon-like quality in the poise of his head, in his gaze, but the effect was marred by the consciousness of evil, the irreconcilable look in the fine eyes.

"Bad clear through!" was Stonor's instinctive verdict.

"Where did you come from?" he demanded.

"Up river," was the casual reply. The man's English was as good as Stonor's own.

"Answer me fully."

"From Sah-ko-da-tah prairie, if you know where that is. I came into that country by way of Grande Prairie. I came from Winnipeg."

Stonor didn't believe a word of this, but had no means of confuting the man on the spot. "How long have you been here?" he asked.

"A week or so. I didn't keep track."

"What is your business here?"

"I'm looking for a job."

"Among the Beavers? Why didn't you come to the trading-post?"

"I was coming, but they tell me John Gaviller's a hard man to work fer. Thought I better keep clear of him."

"Gaviller's the only employer of labour hereabouts. If you don't like him you'll have to look elsewhere."

"I can take up land, can't I?"

"Not here. This is treaty land. Plenty of good surveyed homesteads around the post."

"Thanks. I prefer to pick my own location."

"I'll give you your choice. You can either come down to the post where I can keep an eye on your doings, or go back up the river where you came from."

"Do you call this a free country?"

"Never mind that. You're getting off easy. If you'd rather, I'll put you under arrest and carry you down to the post for trial."

"On what charge?"

"Furnishing whisky to the Indians."

"It's a lie!" cried the man, hoping to provoke Stonor into revealing the extent of his information.

But the policeman shrugged, and remained mum.

The other suddenly changed his front. "All right, I'll go if I have to," he said, with a conciliatory air. "To-morrow."

"You'll leave within an hour," said Stonor, consulting his watch. "I'll see you off. Better get your things together."

The man still lingered, and Stonor saw an unspoken question in his eye, a desire to ingratiate himself. Now Stonor, under his stern port as an officer of the law, was intensely curious about the fellow. With his good looks, his impudent assurance, his command of English, he was a notable figure in that remote district. The policeman permitted himself to unbend a little.

"What are you travelling in?" he asked.

"Dug-out." Encouraged by the policeman's altered manner, the self-styled Hooliam went on, with an air of taking Stonor into his confidence: "These niggers here are a funny lot, aren't they? Still believe in magic."

"In what way?"

"Why, they're always talking about a White Medicine Man who lives beside a river off to the north-west. Ernest Imbrie they call him. Do you know him?"

"No."

"He's been to the post, hasn't he?"

"No."

"Well, how did he get into the country?"

"I don't know."

"These people say he works magic."

"Well, if anyone wants to believe that—!"

"What do they say about him down at the post?"

"Plenty of foolishness."

"But what?"

"You don't expect me to repeat foolish gossip, do you?"

"No, but what do you think about him?"

"I don't think."

"They say that Gaviller's lodged a complaint against him, and you're going out there to arrest him as soon as it's fit to travel."

"That's a lie. There's no complaint against the man."

"But you are going out there, aren't you?"

"I can't discuss my movements with you."

"That means you are going. Is it true he sent in a whole bale of silver foxes to the post?"

"Say, what's your interest in this man, anyway?" said Stonor, losing patience.

"Nothing at all," said the breed carelessly. "These Indians are always talking about him. It roused my curiosity, that's all."

"Suppose you satisfy my curiosity about yourself," suggested Stonor meaningly.

The old light of impudent mockery returned to the comely dark face. "Me? Oh, I'm only a no-account hobo," he said. "I'll have to be getting ready now."

And so Stonor's curiosity remained unsatisfied. To have questioned the man further would only have been to lower his dignity. True, he might have arrested him, and forced him to give an account of himself, but the processes of justice are difficult and expensive so far north, and the policemen are instructed not to make arrests except when unavoidable. At the moment it did not occur to Stonor but that the man's questions about Imbrie were actuated by an idle curiosity.

When the hour was up, the entire population of Carcajou Point gathered on the shore to witness Hooliam's departure. Stonor was there, too, of course, standing grimly apart from the rabble. Of what they thought of this summary deportation he could not be sure, but he suspected that if the whisky were all gone, they would not care much one way or the other. Hooliam was throwing his belongings in a dug-out of a different style from that used by the Beavers. It was ornamented with a curved prow and stern, such as Stonor had not before seen.

"Where did you get that boat?" he asked.

"I didn't steal it," answered Hooliam impudently. "Traded my horse for it and some grub at Fort Cardigan."

Cardigan was a Company post on the Spirit a hundred miles or so above the Crossing. Stonor saw that Hooliam was well provided with blankets, grub, ammunition, etc., and that it was not Company goods.

When Hooliam was ready to embark, he addressed the crowd in an Indian tongue which strongly resembled Beaver, which Stonor spoke, but had different inflections. Freely translated, his words were:

"I go, men. The moose-berry (i. e., red-coat) wills it. I don't like moose-berries. Little juice and much stone. To eat moose-berries draws a man's mouth up like a tobacco-bag when the string is pulled."

They laughed, with deprecatory side-glances at the policeman. They were not aware that he spoke their tongue. Stonor had no intention of letting them know it, and kept an inscrutable face. They pushed off the dug-out, and Hooliam, with a derisive wave of the hand, headed up river. All remained on the shore, and Stonor, seeing that they expected something more of Hooliam, remained also.

He had gone about a third of a mile when Stonor saw him bring the dug-out around and ground her on the beach. He made no move to get out, but a woman appeared from out of the shrubbery and got in. She was too far away for Stonor to distinguish anything of her features; her figure looked matronly.

"Who is that?" he asked sharply.

Several voices answered. "Hooliam's woman. Hooliam got old woman for his woman"—with scornful laughter. Now that Hooliam was gone, they were prepared to curry favour with the policeman.

Stonor was careful not to show the uneasiness he felt. This was his first intimation that Hooliam had a companion. He considered following him in another dug-out, but finally decided against it. The fact that he had taken the woman aboard in plain sight smacked merely of bravado. A long experience of the red race had taught Stonor that they love to shroud their movements in mystery from the whites, and that in their most mysterious acts there is not necessarily any significance.

Hooliam, with a wave of his paddle, resumed his journey, and presently disappeared around a bend. Stonor turned on his heel and left the beach, followed by the people. They awaited his next move somewhat apprehensively, displaying an anxiety to please which suggested bad consciences. Stonor, however, contented himself with offering some private admonitions to Shose Cardinal, who seemed to take them in good part. He then prepared to return to the post. The people speeded his departure with relieved faces.

That night Stonor camped on the prairie half-way home. As he lay wooing sleep under the stars, his horse cropping companionably near by, a new thought caused him to sit up suddenly in his blankets.

"He mentioned the name Ernest Imbrie. The Indians never call him anything but the White Medicine Man. And even if they had picked up the name Imbrie at the post, they never speak of a man by his Christian name. If they had heard the name Ernest I doubt if they could pronounce it. Sounds as if he knew the name beforehand. Queer if there should be any connection there. I wish I hadn't let him go so easily.—Oh, well, it's too late to worry about it now. The steamboat will get to the Crossing before he does. I'll drop a line to Lambert to keep an eye on him."



CHAPTER III

THE UNEXPECTED VISITOR

At Fort Enterprise a busy time followed. The big steamboat ("big" of course only for lack of anything bigger than a launch to compare with) had to be put in the water and outfitted, and the season's catch of fur inventoried, baled and put aboard. By Victoria Day all was ready. They took the day off to celebrate with games and oratory (chiefly for the benefit of the helpless natives) followed by a big bonfire and dance at Simon Grampierre's up the river.

Next morning the steamboat departed up-stream, taking Captain Stinson, Mathews, and most of the native employees of the post in her crew. Doc Giddings and Stonor watched her go, each with a little pain at the breast; she was bound towards the great busy world, world of infinite delight, of white women, lights, music, laughter and delicate feasting; in short, to them the world of romance. They envied the very bales of fur aboard that were bound for the world's great market-places. On the other hand, John Gaviller watched the steamboat go with high satisfaction. To him she represented Profit. He never knew homesickness, because he was at home. For him the world revolved around Fort Enterprise. As for Gordon Strange, the remaining member of the quartette who watched her go, no one ever really knew what he thought.

The days that followed were the dullest in the whole year. The natives had departed for their summer camps, and there was no one left around the post but the few breed farmers. To Stonor, who was twenty-seven years old, these days were filled with a strange unrest; for the coming of summer with its universal blossoming was answered by a surge in his own youthful blood—and he had no safety-valve. A healthy instinct urged him to a ceaseless activity; he made a garden behind his quarters; he built a canoe (none of your clumsy dug-outs, but a well-turned Peterboro' model sheathed with bass-wood); he broke the colts of the year. Each day he tired himself out and knew no satisfaction in his work, and each morning he faced the shining world with a kind of groan. Just now he had not even Tole Grampierre to talk to, for Tole, following the universal law, was sitting up with Berta Thomas.

The steamboat's itinerary took her first to Spirit River Crossing, the point of departure for "outside" where she discharged her fur and took on supplies for the posts further up-stream. Proceeding up to Cardigan and Fort Cheever, she got their fur and brought it back to the Crossing. Then, putting on supplies for Fort Enterprise, she hustled down home with the current. It took her twelve days to mount the stream and six to return. Gaviller was immensely proud of the fact that she was the only thing in the North that ran on a pre-arranged schedule. He even sent out a timetable to the city for the benefit of intending tourists. She was due back at Enterprise on June 15th.

When the morning of that day broke a delightful excitement filled the breasts of those left at the post. As in most Company establishments, on the most prominent point of the river-bank stood a tall flagstaff, with a little brass cannon at its foot. The flag was run up and the cannon loaded, and every five minutes during the day some one would be running out to gaze up the river. Only Gaviller affected to be calm.

"You're wasting your time," he would say. "Stinson tied up at Tar Island last night. If he comes right down he'll be here at three forty-five; and if he has to land at Carcajou for wood it will be near supper-time."

The coming of the steamboat always held the potentialities of a dramatic surprise, for they had no telegraph to warn them of whom or what she was bringing. This year they expected quite a crowd. In addition to their regular visitors, Duncan Seton, the Company inspector, and Bishop Trudeau on his rounds, the government was sending in a party of surveyors to lay off homesteads across the river, and Mr. Pringle, the Episcopal missionary, was returning to resume his duties. An added spice of anticipation was lent by the fact that the latter was expected to bring his sister to keep house for him. There had been no white woman at Fort Enterprise since the death of Mrs. Gaviller many years before. But, as Miss Pringle was known to be forty years old, the excitement on her account was not undue. Her mark would be Gaviller, the younger men said, affecting not to notice the trader's annoyance.

Gaviller had put a big boat's whistle on his darling Spirit River, and the mellow boom of it brought them on a run out of the store before she hove in sight around the islands in front of Grampierre's. Gaviller had his binoculars. He could no longer keep up his pretence of calmness.

"Three twenty-eight!" he cried, excitedly. "Didn't I tell you! Who says we can't keep time up here! She'll run her plank ashore at three forty-five to the dot!"

"There she is!" they cried, as she poked her nose around the islands.

"Good old tub!"

"By God! she's a pretty sight—white as a swan!"

"And floats like one!"

"Some class to that craft, sir!"

Meanwhile Gaviller was nervously focussing his binoculars. "By Golly! there's a big crowd on deck!" he cried. "Must be ten or twelve beside the crew!"

"Can you see the petticoat?" asked Doc Giddings. "Gee! I hope she can cook!"

"Wait a minute! Yes—there she is!—Hello! By God, boys, there's two of them!"

"Two!"

"Go on, you're stringing us!"

"The other must be a breed."

"No, sir, she's got a white woman's hat on, a stylish hat. And now I can see her white face!"

"John, for the lova Mike let me look!"

But the trader held him off obdurately. "I believe she's young. She's a little woman beside the other. I believe she's good-looking! All the men are crowding around her."

Stonor's heart set up an unaccountable beating. "Ah, it'll be the wife of one of the surveyors," he said, with the instinct of guarding against a disappointment.

"No, sir! If her husband was aboard the other men wouldn't be crowding around like that."

"No single woman under forty would dare venture up here. She'd be mobbed."

"Might be a pleasant sort of experience for her."

Doc Giddings had at last secured possession of the glasses. "She is good-looking!" he cried. "Glory be, she's a peach! I can see her smile!"

The boat was soon close enough for the binoculars to be dispensed with. To Stonor the whole picture was blurred, save for the one slender, fragile figure clad in the well-considered dress of a lady, perfect in detail. Of her features he was aware at first only of a beaming, wistful smile that plucked at his heartstrings with a strange sharpness. Even at that distance she gave out something that changed him for ever, and he knew it. He gazed, entirely self-forgetful, with rapt eyes and parted lips that would have caused the other men to shout with laughter—had they not been gazing, too. The man who dwells in a world full of charming women never knows what they may mean to a man. Let him be exiled, and he'll find out. In that moment the smouldering uneasiness which had made Stonor a burden to himself of late burst into flame, and he knew what was the matter. He beheld his desire.

As the steamboat swept by below them, Stonor automatically dipped the flag, and Gaviller touched off the old muzzle-loader, which vented a magnificent roar for its size. The whistle replied. The Spirit River waltzed gracefully around in the stream, and, coming back against the current, pushed her nose softly into the mud of the strand. They ran down to meet her. Hawsers were passed ashore and made fast, and the plank run out.

Gaviller and the others went aboard, and first greetings were exchanged on the forward deck of the steamboat. Stonor, afflicted with a sudden diffidence, hung in the background. He wished to approach her by degrees. Meanwhile he was taking her in. He scarcely dared look at her directly, but his gaze thirstily drank in her outlying details, so to speak. Her small, well-shod feet were marvellous to him; likewise her exquisite silken ankles. He observed that she walked with stiff, short, delicate steps, like a high-bred filly. He was enchanted with the slight, graceful gesticulation of her gloved hand. When he finally brought himself to look at her eyes he was not disappointed; deep blue were they, steady, benignant, and of a heart-disquieting wistfulness. Other items, by the way, were a little straight nose, absurd and lovable, and lips fresh and bright as a child's. All the men were standing about her with deferential bared heads, and the finest thing (in Stonor's mind) was that she displayed no self-consciousness in this trying situation; none of the cooings, the gurglings, the flirtatious flutterings that bring the sex into disrepute. Her back was as straight as a plucky boy's and her chin up like the same.

When Stonor saw that his turn was approaching to be introduced, he was seized outright with panic. He slipped inside the vessel and made his way back to where the engineer was wiping his rods. He greeted Mathews with a solicitude that surprised the dour Scotchman. He stood there making conversation until he heard everybody in the bow go ashore. Afterwards he was seized with fresh panic upon realizing that delaying the inevitable introduction could not but have the effect of singling him out and making him more conspicuous when it came about.

John Gaviller carried Miss Pringle and the charming unknown up to the clap-boarded villa until the humble shack attached to the English mission could be made fit to receive them. Stonor went for a long walk to cool his fevered blood. He was thoroughly disgusted with himself. By his timidity, not to use a stronger word, he had lost precious hours; indeed, now that he had missed his first opportunity, he might be overlooked altogether. The other men would not be likely to help him out at all. A cold chill struck to his breast at the thought. He resolved to march right up to the guns of her eyes on his return. But he made a score of conflicting resolutions in the course of his walk. Meanwhile he didn't yet know whether she were Miss or Mrs., or what was her errand at Fort Enterprise. True, he could have gone back and asked any of the men who came on the boat, but nothing in the world could have induced him to speak of her to anyone just then.

When he got back, it was to find the post in a fever of preparation. John Gaviller had asked every white man to his house to dinner to meet the ladies. It was to be a real "outside" dinner party, and there was a sudden, frantic demand for collars, cravats and presentable foot-wear. Nobody at the post had a dress-suit but Gaviller himself.

Of them all only Stonor had no sartorial problems; his new uniform and his Strathcona boots polished according to regulations were all he had and all he needed. He surveyed the finished product in his little mirror with strong dissatisfaction. "Ornery-looking cuss," he thought. But a man is no judge of his own looks. A disinterested observer might have given a different verdict. A young man less well favoured by nature would have gazed at Stonor's long-limbed ease with helpless envy. He had that rare type of figure that never becomes encumbered with fat. The grace of youth and the strength of maturity met there. He would make a pattern colonel if he lived. Under the simple lines of his uniform one apprehended the ripple and play of unclogged muscles. If all men were like Stonor the tailor's task would be a sinecure.

As to his face, mention has already been made of the sober gaze lightened by a suggestion of sly mirthfulness. In a company where sprightliness was the great desideratum, Stonor, no doubt, would have been considered slow. Men with strong reserves are necessarily a little slow in coming into action; they are apt, too, as a decent cover for their feelings, to affect more slowness than they feel. A woman can rarely look at that kind of man without feeling a secret desire to rouse him; there is so clearly something to rouse. It was Stonor's hair which had given rise to the quaint name the native maidens had applied to him, the "Gold-piece." It was not yellow hair, as we call it, but a shiny light brown, and under the savage attack of his brushes the shine was accentuated.

The guests were received in the drawing-room of Enterprise House, which was rarely opened nowadays. It had a charming air of slightly old-fashioned gentility, just as its dead mistress had left it, and the rough Northerners came in with an abashed air. John Gaviller, resplendent in the dress-suit, stood by the piano, with the little lady on one hand and the large lady on the other, and one after another the men marched up and made their obeisances. The actual introduction proved to be not so terrible an ordeal as Stonor had feared—or perhaps it is more proper to say, that it was so terrible he was numbed and felt nothing. It was all over in a minute. "Miss Starling!" the name rang through his consciousness like the sound of silver bells.

Face to face Stonor saw her but dimly through the mist of too much feeling. She treated him exactly the same as the others, that is to say, she was kind, smiling, interested, and personally inscrutable. Stonor was glad that there was another man pressing close at his heels, for he felt that he could stand no more just then. He was passed on to Miss Pringle. Of this lady it need only be said that she was a large-size clergyman's sister, a good soul, pious and kindly. She has little to do with this tale.

In Stonor's eyes she proved to have a great merit, for she was disposed to talk exclusively about Miss Starling. Stonor's ears were long for that. From her talk he gathered three main facts: (a) that Miss Starling's given name was Clare (enchanting syllable!); (b) that the two ladies had become acquainted for the first time on the way into the country; (c) that Miss Starling was going back with the steamboat. "Of course!" thought Stonor, with his heart sinking slowly like a water-logged branch.

"Isn't she plucky!" said Miss Pringle enthusiastically.

"She looks it," said Stonor, with a sidelong glance at the object of her encomium.

"To make this trip, I mean, all by herself."

"Is it just to see the country?" asked Stonor diffidently.

"Oh, don't you know? She's on the staff of the Winnipeg News-Herald, and is writing up the trip for her paper."

Stonor instantly made up his mind to spend his next leave in Winnipeg. His relief was due in October.

John Gaviller could do things in good style when he was moved to it. The table was gay with silver under candle-light. Down the centre were placed great bowls of painter's brush, the rose of the prairies. And with the smiling ladies to grace the head of the board, it was like a glimpse of a fairer world to the men of the North. Miss Pringle was on Gaviller's right, Miss Starling on his left. Stonor was about half-way down the table, and fortunately on the side opposite the younger lady, where he could gaze his fill.

She was wearing a pink evening dress trimmed with silver, that to Stonor's unaccustomed eyes seemed like gossamer and moonshine. He was entranced by her throat and by the appealing loveliness of her thin arms. "How could I ever have thought a fat woman beautiful!" he asked himself. She talked with her arms and her delightfully restless shoulders. Stonor had heard somewhere that this was a sign of a warm heart. For the first time he had a view of her hair; it was dark and warm and plentiful, and most cunningly arranged.

Stonor was totally unaware of what he was eating. From others, later, he learned of the triumph of the kitchen—and all at three hours' notice. Fortunately for him, everybody down the table was hanging on the talk at the head, so that no efforts in that direction were required of him. He was free to listen and dream.

"Somewhere in the world there is a man who will be privileged some day to sit across the table from her at every meal! Not in a crowd like this, but at their own table in their own house. Probably quite an ordinary fellow, too, certainly not worthy of his luck. With her eyes for him alone, and her lovely white arms!—While other men are batching it alone. Things are not evenly divided in this world, for sure! If that man went to hell afterwards it wouldn't any more than square things."

In answer to a question he heard her say: "Oh, don't ask me about Winnipeg! All cities are so ordinary and usual! I want to hear about your country. Tell me stories about the fascinating silent places."

"Well, as it happens," said Gaviller, speaking slowly to give his words a proper effect, "we have a first-class mystery on hand just at present."

"Oh, tell me all about it!" she said, as he meant her to.

"A fellow, a white man, has appeared from nowhere at all, and set himself up beside the Swan River, an unexplored stream away to the north-west of here. There he is, and no one knows how he got there. We've never laid eyes on him, but the Indians bring us marvellous tales of his 'strong medicine,' meaning magic, you know. They say he first appeared from under the great falls of the Swan River. They describe him as a sort of embodiment of the voice of the Falls, but we suspect there is a more natural explanation, because he sends into the post for the food of common humans, and gets a bundle of magazines and papers by every mail. They come addressed to Doctor Ernest Imbrie. Our poor Doc here is as jealous as a cat of his reputation as a healer!"

Gaviller was rewarded with a general laugh, in which her silvery tones were heard.

"Oh, tell me more about him!" she cried.

Of all the men who were watching her there was not one who observed any change in her face. Afterwards they remembered this with wonder. Yet there was something in her voice, her manner, the way she kept her chin up perhaps, that caused each man to think as her essential quality:

"She's game!"

The whole story of Imbrie as they knew it was told, with all the embroidery that had been unconsciously added during the past months.



CHAPTER IV

MORE ABOUT CLARE

Determined to make the most of their rare feminine visitation at Fort Enterprise, on the following day the fellows got up a chicken hunt on the river bottom east of the post, to be followed by an al fresco supper at which broiled chicken was to be the piece de resistance. The ladies didn't shoot any prairie chicken, but they stimulated the hunters with their presence, and afterwards condescended to partake of the delicate flesh.

Stonor, though he was largely instrumental in getting the thing up, and though he worked like a Trojan to make the affair go, still kept himself personally in the background. He consorted with Captain Stinson and Mathews, middle-aged individuals who were considered out of the running. It was not so much shyness now, as an instinct of self-preservation. "She'll be gone in a week," he told himself. "You mustn't let this thing get too strong a hold on you, or life here after she has gone will be hellish. You've got to put her out of your mind, my son—or just keep her as a lovely dream not to be taken in earnest. Hardly likely, after seeing the world, that she'd look twice at a sergeant of police!"

In his innocence Stonor adopted the best possible way of attracting her attention to himself. More than once, when he was not looking, her eyes sought him out curiously. In answer to her questions of the other men it appeared that it was Stonor who had sent the natives out in advance to drive the game past them: it was Stonor who surprised them with a cloth already spread under a poplar tree: it was Stonor who cooked the birds so deliciously. She was neither vain nor silly, but at the same time in a company where every man lay down at her feet, so to speak, and begged her to tread on him, it could not but seem peculiar to her that the best-looking man of them all should so studiously avoid her.

Next day they all crossed the river and rode up to Simon Grampierre's place, where the half-breeds repeated the Victoria Day games for the amusement of the visitors. (These days are still talked of at Fort Enterprise.) Stonor was finally induced to give an exhibition of high-school riding as taught to the police recruits, and thereby threw all the other events in the shade. But their plaudits overwhelmed him. He disappeared and was seen no more that day.

Sunday followed. Mr. Pringle and his sister had got the little church in order, and services were held there for the first time in many months. The mission was half a mile east of the Company buildings, and after church they walked home beside the fields of sprouting grain, in a comfortable Sabbath peace that was much the same at Enterprise as elsewhere in the world.

The procession travelled in the following order: First, four surveyors marching with their heads over their shoulders, at imminent risk of an undignified stumble in the trail; next, Clare Starling, flanked on one side by Gaviller, on the other by Doc Giddings, with two more surveyors on the outlying wings, peering forward to get a glimpse of her; then Captain Stinson, Mathews, and Sergeant Stonor in a line, talking about the state of the crops, and making believe to pay no attention to what was going on ahead; lastly, Mr. Pringle and his sister hurrying to catch up.

Half-way home Miss Starling, a propos of nothing, suddenly stopped and turned her head. "Sergeant Stonor," she said. He stepped to her side. Since she clearly showed in her manner that she intended holding converse with the policeman, there was nothing for Gaviller et al. to do but proceed, which they did with none too good a grace. This left Stonor and the girl walking together in the middle of the procession. Stinson and Mathews, who were supposed to be out of it anyway, winked at each other portentously.

"I wanted to ask you about that horse you rode yesterday, a beautiful animal. What do you call him?"

"Miles Aroon," said Stonor, like a wooden man. He dreaded that she meant to go on and enlarge on his riding tricks. In his modesty he now regarded that he had made an awful ass of himself the day before. But she stuck to horse-flesh.

"He's a beauty! Would he let me ride him?"

"Oh, yes! He has no bad tricks. I broke him myself. But of course he knows nothing of side-saddles."

"I ride astride."

"I believe we're all going for a twilight ride to-night. I'll bring him for you."

As a result of this Stonor's praiseworthy resolutions to keep out of harm's way were much weakened. Indeed, late that night in his little room in quarters he gave himself up to the most outrageous dreams of a possible future happiness. Stonor was quite unversed in the ways of modern ladies; all his information on the subject had been gleaned from romances, which, as everybody knows, are always behind the times in such matters, and it is possible that he banked too much on the simple fact of her singling him out on the walk home.

There was a great obstacle in his way; the force sets its face against matrimony during the term of service. Stonor in his single-mindedness never thought that there were other careers. "I shall have to get a commission," he thought. "An inspectorship is little enough to offer her. But what an ornament she'd be to a post! And she'd love the life; she loves horses. But Lord! it's difficult nowadays, with nothing going on. If an Indian war would only break out!"—He was quite ready to sacrifice the unfortunate red race.

On Monday night he was again bidden to dine at Enterprise House. As Gaviller since the day before had been no more than decently polite, Stonor ventured to hope that the invitation might have been instigated by her. At any rate he was placed by her side this time, where he sat a little dizzy with happiness, and totally oblivious to food. At the same time it should be understood that the young lady had no veiled glances or hidden meanings for him alone; she treated him, as she did all the others, to perfect candour.

After dinner they had music in the drawing-room. The piano was grotesquely out of tune, but what cared they for that? She touched it and their souls were drawn out of their bodies. Probably the performer suffered, but she played on with a smile. They listened entranced until darkness fell, and when it is dark at Enterprise in June it is high time to go to bed.

They all accompanied Stonor to the door. The long-drawn summer dusk of the North is an ever fresh wonder to newcomers. At sight of the exquisite half-light and the stars an exclamation of pleasure broke from Clare.

"Much too fine a night to go to bed!" she cried. "Sergeant Stonor, take me out to the bench beside the flagstaff for a few minutes."

As they sat down she said: "Don't you want to smoke?"

"Don't feel the need of it," he said. His voice was husky with feeling. Would a man want to smoke in Paradise?

By glancing down and sideways he could take her in as far up as her neck without appearing to stare rudely. She was sitting with her feet crossed and her hands in her lap like a well-bred little girl. When he dared glance at her eyes he saw that there was no consciousness of him there. They were regarding something very far away. In the dusk the wistfulness which hid behind a smile in daylight looked forth fully and broodingly.

Yet when she spoke the matter was ordinary enough. "All the men here tell me about the mysterious stranger who lives on the Swan River. They can't keep away from the subject. And the funny part of it is, they all seem to be angry at him. Yet they know nothing of him. Why is that?"

"It means nothing," said Stonor, smiling. "You see, all the men pride themselves on knowing every little thing that happens in the country. It's all they have to talk about. In a way the whole country is like a village. Well, it's only because this man has succeeded in defying their curiosity that they're sore. It's a joke!"

"They tell me that you stand up for him," she said, with a peculiar warmth in her voice.

"Oh, just to make the argument interesting," said Stonor lightly.

"Is that all?" she said, chilled.

"No, to tell the truth, I was attracted to the man from the first," he said more honestly. "By what the Indians said about his healing the sick and so on. And they said he was young. I have no friend of my own age up here—I mean no real friend. So I thought—well, I would like to know him."

"I like that," she said simply.

There was a silence.

"Why don't you—sometime—go to him?" she said, with what seemed almost like a breathless air.

"I am going," said Stonor simply. "I received permission in the last mail. The government wants me to look over the Kakisa Indians to see if they are ready for a treaty. The policy is to leave the Indians alone as long as they are able to maintain themselves under natural conditions. But as soon as they need help the government takes charge; limits them to a reservation; pays an annuity, furnishes medical attention, and so on. This is called taking treaty. The Kakisas are one of the last wild tribes left."

She seemed scarcely to hear him. "When are you going?" she asked with the same air of breathlessness.

"As soon as the steamboat goes back."

"How far is it to Swan River?"

"Something under a hundred and fifty miles. Three days' hard riding or four days' easy."

"And how far down to the great falls?"

"Accounts differ. From the known features of the map I should say about two hundred miles. They say the river's as crooked as a ram's horn."

There was another silence. She was busy with her own thoughts, and Stonor was content not to talk if he might look at her.

With her next speech she seemed to strike off at a tangent. She spoke with a lightness that appeared to conceal a hint of pain. "They say the mounted police are the guides, philosophers and friends of the people up North. They say you have to do everything, from feeding babies to reading the burial service."

"I'm afraid there's a good bit of romancing about the police," said Stonor modestly.

"But they do make good friends, don't they?" she insisted.

"I hope so."

She gave him the full of her deep, starry eyes. It was not an intoxicating glance, but one that moved him to the depths. "Will you be my friend?" she asked simply.

Poor Stonor! With too great a need for speech, speech itself was foundered. No words ever coined seemed strong enough to carry the weight of his desire to assure her. He could only look at her, imploring her to believe in him. In the end only two little words came; to him wretchedly inadequate; but it is doubtful if they could have been bettered.

"Try me!"

His look satisfied her. She lowered her eyes. The height of emotion was too great to be maintained. She cast round in her mind for something to let them down. "How far to the north the sunset glow is now."

Stonor understood. He answered in the same tone: "At this season it doesn't fade out all night. The sun is such a little way below the rim there, that the light just travels around the northern horizon, and becomes the dawn in a little while."

For a while they talked of indifferent matters.

By and by she said casually: "When you go out to Swan River, take me with you."

He thought she was joking. "I say, that would be a lark!"

She laughed a little nervously.

He tried to keep it up, though his heart set up a furious beating at the bare idea of such a trip. "Can you bake bannock?"

"I can make good biscuits."

"What would we do for a chaperon?"

"Nobody has chaperons nowadays."

"You don't know what a moral community this is!"

"I meant it," she said suddenly, in a tone there was no mistaking.

All his jokes deserted him, and left him trembling a little. Indeed he was scandalized, too, being less advanced, probably, in his ideas than she. "It's—it's impossible!" he stammered at last.

"Why?" she asked calmly.

He could not give the real reason, of course. "To take the trail, you! To ride all day and sleep on the hard ground! And the river trip, an unknown river with Heaven knows what rapids and other difficulties! A fragile little thing like you!"

Opposition stimulated her. "What you call my fragility is more apparent than real," she said with spirit. "As a matter of fact I have more endurance than most big women. I have less to carry. I am accustomed to living and travelling in the open. I can ride all day—or walk if need be."

"It's impossible!" he repeated. It was the policeman who spoke. The man's blood was leaping, and his imagination painting the most alluring pictures. How often on his lonely journeys had he not dreamed of the wild delights of such companionship!

"What is your real reason?" she asked.

"Well, how could you go—with me, you know?" he said, blushing into the dusk.

"I'm not afraid," she answered instantly. "Anyway, that's my look-out, isn't it?"

"No," he said, "I have to think of it. The responsibility would be mine." Here the man broke through—"Oh, I talk like a prig!" he cried. "But don't you see, I'm not up here on my own. I can't do what I would like. A policeman has got to be proper, hasn't he?"

She smiled at his naivete. "But if I have business out there?"

This sounded heartless to Stonor. It was the first and last time that he ventured to criticize her. "Oh," he objected, "I don't know what reasons the poor fellow has for burying himself—they must be good reasons, for it's no joke to live alone! It doesn't seem quite fair, does it, to dig him out and write him up in the papers?"

"Oh, what must you think of me!" she murmured in a quick, hurt tone.

He saw that he had made a mistake. "I—I beg your pardon," he stammered contritely. "I thought that was what you meant by business."

"I'm not a reporter," she said.

"But they told me——"

"Yes, I know, I lied. I'm not apologizing for that. It was necessary to lie to protect myself from vulgar curiosity."

He looked his question.

She was not quite ready to answer it yet. "Suppose I had the best of reasons for going," she said, hurriedly, "a reason that Mrs. Grundy would approve of; it would be your duty as a policeman, wouldn't it, to help me?"

"Yes—but——?"

She turned imploring eyes on him, and unconsciously clasped her hands. "I'm sure you're generous and steadfast," she said quickly. "I can trust you, can't I, not to give me away? The gossip, the curious stares—it would be more than I could bear! Promise me, whatever you may think of it all, to respect my secret."

"I promise," he said a little stiffly. It hurt him that he was required to protest his good faith. "The first thing we learn in the force is to keep our mouths shut."

"Ah, now you're offended with me because I made you promise!"

"It doesn't matter. It's over now. What is your reason for wanting to go out to Swan River?"

She answered low: "I am Ernest Imbrie's wife."

"Oh!" said Stonor in a flat tone. A sick disappointment filled him—yet in the back of his mind he had expected something of the kind. An inner voice whispered to him: "Not for you! It was too much to hope for!"

Presently she went on: "I injured him cruelly. That's why he buried himself so far away."

Stonor turned horror-stricken eyes on her.

"Oh, not that," she said proudly and indifferently. "The injury I did him was to his spirit; that is worse." Stonor turned hot for his momentary suspicion.

"I can repair it by going to him," she went on. "I must go to him. I can never know peace until I have tried to make up to him a little of what I have made him suffer."

She paused to give Stonor a chance to speak—but he was dumb.

Naturally she misunderstood. "Isn't that enough?" she cried painfully. "I have told you the essential truth. Must I go into particulars? I can't bear to speak of these things!"

"No! No!" he said, horrified. "It's not that. I don't want to hear any more."

"Then you'll help me?"

"I will take you to him."

She began to cry in a pitiful shaken way.

"Ah, don't!" murmured Stonor. "I can't stand seeing you."

"It's—just from relief," she whispered.... "I've been under a strain.... I think I should have gone out of my mind—if I had been prevented from expiating the wrong I did.... I wish I could tell you—he's the bravest man in the world, I think—and the most unhappy!... And I heaped unhappiness on his head!"

This was hard for Stonor to listen to, but it was so obviously a relief to her to speak, that he made no attempt to stop her.

She soon quieted down. "I shan't try to thank you," she said. "I'll show you."

Stonor foresaw that the proposed journey would be attended with difficulties.

"Would it be possible," she asked meekly, "for you to plan to leave a day in advance of the steamboat, and say nothing about taking me?"

"You mean for us to leave the post secretly?" he said, a little aghast.

"When the truth came out it would be all right," she urged. "And it would save me from becoming the object of general talk and commiseration here. Why, if Mr. Gaviller knew in advance, he'd probably insist on sending a regular expedition."

"Perhaps he would."

"And they'd all try to dissuade me. I'd have to talk them over one by one—I haven't the strength of mind left for that. They'd say I ought to wait here and send for him——"

"Well, wouldn't that be better?"

"No! No! Not the same thing at all. I doubt if he'd come. And what would I be doing here—waiting—without news. I couldn't endure it. I must go to him."

Stonor thought hard. Youth was pulling him one way, and his sense of responsibility the other. Moreover, this kind of case was not provided for in regulations. Finally he said:

"Couldn't you announce your intention of remaining over for one trip of the steamboat? Miss Pringle would be glad to have you, I'm sure."

"I could do that. But you're not going to delay the start?"

"We can leave the day after the boat goes, as planned. But if we were missed before the boat left she'd carry out some great scandalous tale that we might never be able to correct. For if scandal gets a big enough start you can never overtake it."

"You are right, of course. I never thought of that."

"Then I see no objection to leaving the post secretly, provided you are willing to tell one reliable person in advance—say Pringle or his sister, of our intention. You see we must leave someone behind us to still the storm of gossip that will be let loose."

"You think of everything!"



CHAPTER V

THE FIRST STAGE

For two days Stonor went about his preparations with an air of dogged determination. It seemed to him that all the light had gone out of his life, and hope was dead. He told himself that the proposed trip could not be otherwise than the stiffest kind of an ordeal to a man in his position, an ordeal calling for well-nigh superhuman self-control. How gladly would he have given it up, had he not given his word.

And then on the third day his spirits unaccountably began to rise. As a matter of fact youthful spirits must seek their natural level no less surely than water, but Stonor was angry with himself, accusing himself of lightheadedness, inconstancy and what not. His spirits continued to rise just the same. There was a delight in providing everything possible for her comfort. The mere thought of going away with her, under any circumstances whatsoever, made his heart sing.

John Gaviller was astonished by the size and variety of his requisition for supplies. Besides the customary rations Stonor included all the luxuries the store afforded: viz., tinned fish, vegetables and fruit; condensed milk, marmalade and cocoa. And in quantities double what he would ordinarily have taken.

"Getting luxurious in your old age, aren't you?" said the trader.

"Oh, I'm tired of an unrelieved diet of bannock and beans," said Stonor, with a carelessness so apparent, they ought to have been warned; but of course they never dreamed of anything so preposterous as the truth.

Stonor had two horses of his own. He engaged three more from Simon Grampierre, horses that he knew, and from Tole Grampierre purchased a fine rabbit-skin robe for Clare's bed on the trail. Tole, who had secretly hoped to be taken on this expedition, was much disappointed when no invitation was forthcoming. Stonor arranged with Tole to ride to meet him with additional supplies on the date when he might expect to be returning. Tole was to leave Enterprise on July 12th.

From Father Goussard Stonor borrowed a mosquito tent on the plea that his own was torn. He smuggled a folding camp-cot into his outfit. Clare fortunately had brought suitable clothes for the most part. How well Stonor was to know that little suit cut like a boy's with Norfolk jacket and divided skirt! What additional articles she needed Miss Pringle bought at the store for a mythical destitute Indian boy. They had soon found it necessary to take Miss Pringle into their confidence. She went about charged with the secret like a soda-water-bottle with the cork wired down.

Beside Gordon Strange, the only person around the post who could speak the Kakisa tongue was a woman, Mary Moosa, herself a Kakisa who had married a Cree. Her husband was a deck-hand on the steamboat. Stonor had already engaged Mary Moosa to take this trip with him as interpreter, and Mary, who had her own notions of propriety, had stipulated that her oldest boy be taken along. Mary herself promised to be a godsend on the trip; for she was just the comfortable dependable soul to look after Clare, but the boy now became a problem, for the dug-out that Stonor designed to use on the Swan River would only carry three persons comfortably, with the necessary outfit. Yet Stonor could not speak to Mary in advance about leaving the boy at home.

Such was Stonor's assiduity that everything was ready for the start two days ahead of time—an unheard-of thing up North. Everybody at the post gave up a morning to seeing the steamboat off. She carried with her a report from Stonor to his inspector, telling of the proposed trip. Clare was among those who waved to her from the shore. No surprise had been occasioned by the announcement of her decision to remain over a trip. Gaviller was already planning further entertainments. She had by this time moved down to the Mission with the Pringles.

On the afternoon of that day Stonor transported his goods and swam his horses across the river, to be ready for the start from the other side. Mary Moosa and her son met him there, and camped beside the outfit for the night. Stonor returned to Enterprise House for dinner. He had tried to get out of it, knowing that the fact of this dinner would rankle in the trader's breast afterwards, but Gaviller had insisted on giving him a send-off. It was not a happy affair, for three of the guests were wretchedly nervous. They could not help but see in their mind's eye Gaviller's expression of indignant astonishment when the news should be brought him next day.

Gaviller further insisted on taking everybody down to the shore to see Stonor off, thus obliging the trooper to make an extra trip across the river and back in order to maintain the fiction. Stonor slept in his own camp for an hour, and then rowed down-stream and across, to land in front of the Mission.

It is never perfectly dark at this season, and already day was beginning to break. Stonor climbed the bank, and showed himself at the top, knowing that they would be on the watch from within. The little grey log mission-house crouched in its neglected garden behind a fence of broken palings. But a touch of regeneration was already visible in Miss Pringle's geranium slips in the windows, and her bits of white curtain.

The door was silently opened, and the two women kissed in the entry. Stonor was never to forget that picture in the still grey light. Clare, clad in the little Norfolk suit and the boy's stout boots and hat, crossed the yard with the little mincing steps so characteristic of her, and therefore so charming to the man who waited. Her face was pale, her eyes bright. Miss Pringle stood in the doorway, massive and tearful, a hand pressed to her mouth.

Stonor's breast received a surprising wrench. "It's like an elopement!" he thought. "Ah, if she were coming to me!"

She smiled at him without speaking, and handed over her bag. Stonor closed the gate softly, and they made their way down the bank, and got in the boat.

It was a good, stiff pull back against the current. They spoke little. Clare studied his grim face with some concern.

"Regrets?" she asked.

He rested on his oars for a moment and his face softened. He smiled at her frankly—and ruefully. "No regrets," he said, "but a certain amount of anxiety."

His glance conveyed a good deal more than that—in spite of him. "I love you with all my heart. Of course I clearly understand that you have nothing for me. I am prepared to see this thing through, no matter what the end means to me.—But be merciful!" All this was in his look. Whether she got it or not, no man could have told. She looked away and dabbled her hand in the water.

Mary Moosa was a self-respecting squaw who lived in a house with tables and chairs and went to church and washed her children with soap. In her plain black cotton dress, the skirt cut very full to allow her to ride astride, her new moccasins and her black straw hat she made a figure of matronly tidiness if not of beauty. She was cooking when they arrived. Her inward astonishment, at beholding Stonor returning with the white girl who had created such a sensation at the post, can be guessed; but, true to her traditions, she betrayed nothing of it to the whites. After a single glance in their direction her gaze returned to the frying-pan.

It was Stonor who was put out of countenance, "Miss Starling is going with us," he said, with a heavy scowl.

Mary made no comment on the situation, but continued gravely frying the flap-jacks to a delicate golden shade. Her son, aged about fourteen, who had less command over his countenance, stood in the background staring, with open eyes and mouth. It was a trying moment for Stonor and Clare. They discussed the prospects of a good day for the journey in rather strained voices.

However, it proved that Mary's silence had neither an unfriendly nor a censorious intention. She merely required time to get her breath, so to speak. She transferred the flap-jacks from the pan to a plate, and, putting them in the ashes to keep hot, arose and came to Clare with extended hand.

"How," she said, as she had been taught was manners to all.

Clare took her hand with a right good will.

It suddenly occurred to Mary that there was now no occasion for the boy to accompany them. Mary was a woman of few words. "You go home," she said calmly.

The boy broke into a howl of grief, proving that the delights of the road are much the same to boys, red or white.

"Poor little fellow!" said Clare.

"Too young for travel," said Mary, impassively. "More trouble than help."

Clare wished to intercede for him with Stonor, but the trooper shook his head.

"No room in the dug-out," he said.

Toma Moosa departed along the shore with his arm over his eyes.

Mary was as good as a man on a trip. While Stonor and Clare ate she packed the horses, and Stonor had only to throw the hitch and draw it taut. Clare watched this operation with interest.

"They swell up just like babies when you're putting their bands on," she remarked.

They were on the move shortly after sunrise, that is to say half-past three. As they rode away over the flat, each took a last look at the buildings of the post across the river, gilded by the horizontal rays, each wondering privately what fortune had in store for them before they should see the spot again.

They passed the last little shack and the last patch of grain before anybody was astir. When they rode out into the open country everybody's spirits rose. There is nothing like taking the trail to lift up the heart—and on a June morning in the north! Troubles, heart-aches and anxieties were left behind with the houses. Even Mary Moosa beamed in her inscrutable way.

Stonor experienced a fresh access of confidence, and proceeded to deceive himself all over again. "I'm cured!" he thought. "There's nothing to mope about. She's my friend. Anything else is out of the question, and I will not think of it again. We'll just be good pals like two fellows. You can be a pal with the right kind of girl, and she is that.—But better than any fellow, she's so damn good to look at!"

It was a lovely park-like country with graceful, white-stemmed poplars standing about on the sward, and dark spruces in the hollows. The grass was starred with flowers. When Nature sets out to make a park her style has a charming abandon that no landscape-gardener can ever hope to capture. After they mounted the low bench the country rolled shallowly, flat in the prospect, with a single, long, low eminence, blue athwart the horizon ahead.

"That's the divide between the Spirit and the Swan," said Stonor. "We'll cross it to-morrow. From here it looks like quite a mountain, but the ascent is so gradual we won't know we're over it until we see the water flowing the other way."

Clare rode Miles Aroon, Stonor's sorrel gelding, and Stonor rode the other police horse, a fine dark bay. These two animals fretted a good deal at the necessity of accommodating their pace to the humble pack animals. These latter had a stolid inscrutable look like their native masters. One in particular looked so respectable and matter-of-fact that Clare promptly christened her Lizzie.

Lizzie proved to be a horse of a strong, bourgeois character. If her pack was not adjusted exactly to her liking, she calmly sat on her haunches in the trail until it was fixed. Furthermore, she insisted on bringing up the rear of the cavalcade. If she was put in the middle, she simply fell out until the others had passed. In her chosen place she proceeded to fall asleep, with her head hanging ever lower and feet dragging, while the others went on. Stonor, who knew the horse, let her have her way. There was no danger of losing her. When she awoke and found herself alone, she would come tearing down the trail, screaming for her beloved companions.

Stonor rode at the head of his little company with a leg athwart his saddle, so he could hold converse with Clare behind.

Pointing to the trail stretching ahead of them like an endless brown ribbon over prairie and through bush, he said: "I suppose trails are the oldest things in America. Once thoroughly made they can never be effaced—except by the plough. You see, they never can run quite straight, though the country may be as flat as your hand, but the width never varies; three and a half hands."

Travelling with horses is not all picnicking. Three times a day they have to be unpacked and turned out to graze, and three times caught and packed again; this in addition to the regular camp routine of pitching tents, rustling wood, cooking, etc. Clare announced her intention of taking over the cooking, but she found that baking biscuits over an open fire in a drizzle of rain, offered a new set of problems to the civilized cook, and Mary had to come to her rescue.

During this, their first spell by the trail, Stonor was highly amused to watch Clare's way with Mary. She simply ignored Mary's discouraging red-skin stolidity, and assumed that they were sisters under their skins. She pretended that it was necessary for them to take sides against Stonor in order to keep the man in his place. It was not long before Mary was grinning broadly. Finally at some low-voiced sally of Clare's she laughed outright. Stonor had never heard her laugh before. Thereafter she was Clare's. Realizing that the wonderful white girl really wished to make friends, Mary offered her a doglike devotion that never faltered throughout the difficult days that followed.

They slept throughout the middle part of the day, and later, the sky clearing, they rode until near sun-down in order to make a good water-hole that Mary knew of. When they had supped and made all snug for the night, Stonor let fall the piece of information that Mary was well known as a teller of tales at the Post. Clare gave her no peace then till she consented to tell a story. They sat in a row behind Stonor's little mosquito-bar, for the insects were abroad, with the fire burning before them, and Mary began.

"I tell you now how the people got the first medicine-pipe. This story is about Thunder. Thunder is everywhere. He roar in the mountains, he shout far out on the prairie. He strike the high rocks and they fall. He hit a tree and split it like with a big axe. He strike people and they die. He is bad. He like to strike down the tall things that stand. He is ver' powerful. He is the most strong one. Sometimes he steals women.

"Long tam ago, almost in the beginning, a man and his wife sit in their lodge when Thunder come and strike them. The man was not killed. At first he is lak dead, but bam-bye he rise up again and look around him. His wife not there. He say: 'Oh well, she gone to get wood or water,' and he sit awhile. But when the sun had gone under, he go out and ask the people where she go. Nobody see her. He look all over camp, but not find her. Then he know Thunder steal her, and he go out alone on the hills and mak' sorrow.

"When morning come he get up and go far away, and he ask all the animals he meet where Thunder live. They laugh and not tell him. Wolf say: 'W'at you think! We want go look for the one we fear? He is our danger. From others we can run away. From him there is no running. He strike and there we lie! Turn back! Go home! Do not look for the place of the feared one.'

"But the man travel on. Travel very far. Now he come to a lodge, a funny lodge, all made of stone. Here live the raven chief. The man go in.

"Raven chief say: 'Welcome, friend. Sit down. Sit down.' And food was put before him.

"When he finish eating, Raven say: 'Why you come here?'

"Man say: 'Thunder steal my wife away. I want find his place so I get her back.'

"Raven say: 'I think you be too scare to go in the lodge of that feared one. It is close by here. His lodge is made of stone like this, and hanging up inside are eyes—all the eyes of those he kill or steal away. He take out their eyes and hang them in his lodge. Now, will you enter?'

"Man say: 'No. I am afraid. What man could look on such things of fear and live?'

"Raven say: 'No common man can. There is only one old Thunder fears. There is only one he cannot kill. It is I, the Raven. Now I will give you medicine and he can't harm you. You go enter there, and look among those eyes for your wife's eyes, and if you find them, tell that Thunder why you come, and make him give them to you. Here now is a raven's wing. You point it to him, and he jomp back quick. But if that is not strong enough, take this. It is an arrow, and the stick is made of elk-horn. Take it, I say, and shoot it through his lodge.'

"Man say: 'Why make a fool of me? My heart is sad. I am crying.' And he cover up his head with his blanket and cry.

"Raven say: 'Wah! You do not believe me! Come out, come out, and I make you believe!' When they stand outside Raven ask: 'Is the home of your people far?'

"Man say: 'Very far!'

"'How many days' journey?'

"Man say: 'My heart is sad. I not count the days. The berries grow and get ripe since I leave my lodge.'

"Raven say: 'Can you see your camp from here?'

"Man think that is foolish question and say nothing.

"Then the Raven rub some medicine on his eyes and say: 'Look!' The man look and see his own camp. It was close. He see the people. He see the smoke rising from the lodges. And at that wonderful thing the man believe in the Raven's medicine.

"Then Raven say: 'Now take the wing and the arrow and go get your wife.'

"So the man take those things and go to Thunder's lodge. He go in and sit down by the door. Thunder sit inside and look at him with eyes of lightning. But the man look up and see those many pairs of eyes hanging up. And the eyes of his wife look at him, and he know them among all those others.

"Thunder ask in a voice that shake the ground: 'Why you come here?'

"Man say: 'I looking for my wife that you steal from me. There hang her eyes!'

"Thunder say: 'No man can enter my lodge and live!' He get up to strike him. But the man point the raven's wing at him, and Thunder fall back on his bed and shiver. But soon he is better, and get up again. Then the man put the elk-horn arrow to his bow, and shoot it through the lodge of rock. Right through that lodge of rock it make a crooked hole and let the sunlight in.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse