Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.
A MAN OF TWO COUNTRIES
A MAN of TWO COUNTRIES
BY ALICE HARRIMAN
Author of SONGS O' THE SOUND, CHAPERONING ADRIENNE THROUGH THE YELLOWSTONE, SONGS O' THE OLYMPICS, etc.
Chapter Headings by C. M. DOWLING
1910 THE ALICE HARRIMAN COMPANY NEW YORK & SEATTLE
COPYRIGHT 1910, BY THE ALICE HARRIMAN COMPANY All rights reserved
PRINTED BY THE PREMIER PRESS NEW YORK U. S. A.
TO THE READER
Prior to the days of the cowboy and the range, the settler and irrigation, the State and the Province, an ebb and flow of Indians, traders, trappers, wolfers, buffalo-hunters, whiskey smugglers, missionaries, prospectors, United States soldiery and newly organized North West Mounted Police crossed and recrossed the international boundary between the American Northwest and what was then known as the "Whoop Up Country." This heterogeneous flotsam and jetsam held some of the material from which Montana evolved its later statehood.
To one who came to know and to love the region after the surging tide had exterminated the buffalo and worse than exterminated the Indian,—to one who appreciates the limitless possibilities of the splendid Commonwealth of Montana on the one side and the great Province of Alberta on the other of that invisible line which now draws together instead of separating men of a common tongue, this period seems tremendously interesting. The "local color" has, perhaps, not been squeezed from too many tubes. Types stand out; never individuals.
As types, therefore, the characters of this book weave their story as the shuttle of time, filled with the woof of hidden purpose and open deed, runs through the warp of their friendships and enmities.
And with the less attractive strands the shifting harness of place and circumstance enmeshes a thread of Love's gold.
BOOK I. THE RIVER
BOOK II. THE PRAIRIE
BOOK III. THE STATE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Twisting the Lion's Tail 15
II. The Girl on the Fontenelle 30
I. Under the Union Jack 47
II. Hate 58
III. The Hot Blood of Youth 72
IV. The Return to Fort Benton 88
I. Visitors from Helena 107
II. Charlie Blair's Sister 125
III. A Man of Two Countries 141
IV. The State Republican Convention 155
V. Despair 165
VI. Il Trovatore 180
VII. Debauching a Legislature 196
VIII. Danvers' Discouragement 211
IX. A Frontier Knock 219
X. Wheels Within Wheels 226
XI. The Chinese Legend 241
XII. Recognition 251
XIII. The Lobbyist 257
XIV. The Keystone 268
XV. An Unpremeditated Speech 281
XVI. The Election 291
"I beheld the westward marches Of the ... nations, Restless, struggling, toiling, striving." —Longfellow
Twisting the Lion's Tail
Philip Danvers, heading a small party of horsemen, galloped around the corner of a warehouse and pulled up on the levee at Bismarck as the mate of the Far West bellowed, "Let 'er go!"
"Hold on!" he shouted, leaping from his mount.
"Why in blazes!" The mate's impatience flared luridly as he ordered the gang-plank replaced. His heat ignited the smouldering resentment of the passengers, and they, too, exploded.
"We're loaded to the guards now!" yelled one.
"Yeh can't come aboard!" threatened another.
"Haven't yeh got a full passenger list a'ready, Captain?" demanded a blustering, heavy-set man with beetling eyebrows, as he pushed himself angrily through the crowding men to the deck-rail.
"Can't help it if I have, Burroughs," retorted the autocrat of the river-boat. "These troopers are recruits for the North West Mounted Police——"
"The hell yeh say!"
Philip Danvers noted the unfriendly eye, and realized that this burly fellow dominated even the captain.
"Their passage was engaged three months ago," went on the officer.
"It's nothing to me," affirmed Burroughs, reddening in his effort to regain his surface amenity.
The young trooper, superintending the loading of the horses, resented the manifest unfriendliness toward the English recruits. A dreary rain added discomfort, and the passengers growled at the slow progress hitherto made against the spring floods of the turbulent Missouri and this prolonged delay at Bismarck.
As he went up the gang-plank and walked along the deck, bits of conversation came to him.
"He looks like an officer," said one, with a jerk of his thumb in his direction.
"An officer! Where? D'yeh mean the dark-haired one?" The voice was that of Burroughs again, and as Danvers met his insolent eye an instant antagonism flashed between the roughly dressed frontiersman and the lean-flanked, broad-shouldered English youth.
"Hello! 'F there ain't Toe String Joe!" continued Burroughs, recognizing the last to come on board, as the line was cast off and the steamer backed into the stream. "What you doin' here, Joe?"
"I met up with these here Britishers when they came in on the train from the East, an' I'm goin' t' enlist," admitted the shambling Joe, his breath confirming his appearance. "Where you been?"
"Back to the States to get my outfit. I'm goin' ter start in fer myself up to Fort Macleod. So you've decided to be a damned Britisher, eh?" Burroughs reverted to Joe's statement. "Yeh'll have to take the oath of allegiance fer three years of enlistment. Did yeh know that?" He closed one eye, as if speculating how this might further his own interests. "You'll make a fine police, Joe, you will!" he jeered in conclusion.
"You goin' to Fort Macleod?" questioned Joe. "You'll git no trade in Canada!"
"Don't yeh ever think it!" returned Burroughs, with a look that Danvers sub-consciously noted.
Beyond the crowd he saw a child, held by a man with a scarred face. His involuntary look of amazement changed the pensiveness of her delicate face to animation, and she returned his smile. This unexpected exchange of friendship restored his self-respect and his anger evaporated. He recalled the childhood spent in English lanes with his only sister. He beckoned enticingly, and soon she came near, shy and lovely.
"What's your name, little girl?"
"That's a pretty name," said the young trooper. "Are you going to Fort Benton with your papa?"
"No. Papa's dead—and—mamma. That's my brother," indicating the man who had held her. "He came to get me. His name is Charlie."
"Dear little girl!" thought Philip Danvers, as the child ran to brotherly arms.
"Howdy!" Charlie gave unconventional greeting as he took a bench near by.
"I've been getting acquainted with your sister," explained the Englishman.
"Glad of it. Winnie's afraid of most o' the men, an' there aren't more'n three white women up the river. I've had to bring her back with me, and I don't know much about children. But there's one good old lady at Benton," the frontiersman proceeded, cheerfully. "She'll look after her. You see, I'm away most of the time. I'm a freighter between the head of navigation and the Whoop Up Country—Fort Macleod."
"I got the contract to haul the supplies for the North West Mounted Police this spring. I'll be in Fort Macleod 'most as soon as you, I reckon. What is it, Winnie?" he questioned, as the child drew shrinking closer to him.
"I don't like that man," asserted Winifred, as Robert Burroughs passed.
"You mustn't say that, Winnie," reproved Charlie. "Burroughs"—addressing Philip—"Sweet Oil Bob, we call him, is goin' to start a new tradin' post at Macleod. He's clerked at Fort Benton till he knows more about the profits of an Injun tradin' post than any man on the river! Yeh'll likely see quite a little o' him. Most of the Canadian traders 'd rather he stayed this side o' the line."
"Surely there are other American traders in this Whoop Up Country, as you call it."
"Not so many—no. But Sweet Oil Bob is shrewd, an' the Canadians are afraid he'll get the biggest share o' the Injun trade. You know how it is."
Before Danvers could answer, his attention was caught by:
"The ambition of my life is to sit on the supreme bench of some State," spoken by a fair-haired young man as he passed with a taller, older one. "Montana will be a State, some day," the would-be judge went on, eagerly boyish.
"Hello, Doc," called Charlie, as he sighted the elder pedestrian. "Stop a minute."
Before the invitation was accepted the physician gave impetus to the other's desire.
"Hope your hopes, Latimer. Honorable and honest endeavor will reach the most exalted position." Then he put out his hand to the child, who clasped it affectionately.
"Well, Charlie," he smiled genially at the English lad as well as on his former river travelers. "How goes it?"
"All right," returned Charlie, amiably. "So Latimer wants to dabble in territorial politics, eh?"
"I didn't say so," flushed the embryonic lawyer. "I said I'd like to be a judge on the supreme bench, some day. I'm going to settle in Montana, and——"
"What do you think about politics?" suddenly quizzed Charlie, turning to Danvers.
"I'd not risk losing your friendship," smiled Philip, "by stating what an Englishman's opinion of American politics are."
"Better not," laughed the doctor, with a keen glance of appraisal.
"I'll admit they're rotten," Latimer hastened to add. "But I'd love to play the game. No political affiliations should bias my decision."
"Bet you'll be glad to get home, Doc." Charlie changed the subject, so foreign to his out-of-door interests. "You can't keep the doctor away from Fort Benton," he explained to the two strangers. "He thinks she's got a big future, don't you, Doc?"
"To be sure! To be sure!" corroborated the physician, as his arm went around the little girl. "Fort Benton will be a second St. Louis! Mark my words, Latimer." He turned to his companion, whose charm of manner appealed unconsciously to the reserved Danvers.
"I hope your predictions may prove correct, since I am to set up a law office there," replied Latimer. "And you?" He turned to include Philip Danvers in a smile which the lonely Englishman never forgot.
"He an' I 's for Fort Macleod," explained Scar Faced Charlie, before Philip could speak. These ready frontiersmen had a way of taking the words out of his mouth.
"He's for the Mounted Police, yeh know, an' I'm freightin' in the supplies. An' what d'yeh think, Doc? Toe String Joe says he's goin' to enlist when we get to Fort Benton. Burroughs won't mind havin' him in the Force."
"Isn't it unusual for Canadian troopers to come through the United States?" inquired Arthur Latimer.
This time it was the doctor who answered the question directed toward the silent Danvers.
"The first companies marched overland from Winnipeg two years ago, when the North West Mounted Police was organized, and a tough time they had. They were six months making it, what with hostile Indians and one thing and another, and at last they got lost in an awful snowstorm (winter set in early that year), and they nearly died of cold and starvation—most of their horses did. An Indian brought word to one of the trading posts. Remember that rescue, Charlie?" He turned for corroboration to the freighter, but continued, without waiting for an answer that was quite unnecessary to prod the reminiscent doctor.
"Fort Macleod is only two hundred miles north of Fort Benton," he concluded, "and I understand the recruits will hereafter be taken into the Whoop Up Country by way of the Missouri."
The blue eyes of the lawyer instinctively sought the dark ones of the young trooper in a bond of subtle feeling at this recital of pioneer life. It was all in the future for them.
"We came from Ottawa by rail to Bismarck," explained Danvers at the unspoken question, "and brought our horses."
"They are a civil force under military discipline," added the doctor to Latimer's questioning eyes.
As they talked, the steamboat came to a series of rapids, and Danvers and Latimer went to the prow to watch the warping of the boat over the obstruction. Burroughs stood near, and took no pains to lower his voice as he remarked to the mate: "Jes' watch my smoke. I'm goin' to twist the lion's tail."
"Meanin' the feller with the black hair?" The mate looked critically at Danvers. "Better leave him alone, Burroughs," he advised. "Yeh've been achin' to git at him ever since yeh set eyes on him. What's eatin' yeh?"
"Yeh talk too much with yer mouth," flung back Burroughs, as he moved toward the Englishman. "Ever been up the river before?" he demanded of Danvers.
"No." Philip barely glanced away from the lusty roustabouts working the donkey engines.
"Are yeh a 'non-com' or a commissioned officer?"
The young recruit turned stiffly, surprised at the persistence.
"Neither," he answered, laconically, returning to the survey of the swearing, sweating crew. Several bystanders laughed, and the mate remarked:
"You'll git nothin' outer that pilgrim that's enlightenin', Bob. He's too clost mouthed."
"Some say 'neether' an' some say 'nayther,' but 'nyther' is right," sneered Burroughs, "fer the Prince o' Wales says 'nyther.'"
Danvers, disdaining to notice the cheap wit, watched the brilliant sunshine struggling through the lessening rain as it danced from eddy to sand-bar, from rapids to half-submerged snags. The boiling river whitened as the steamboat labored to deeper water above the rapids. The islands, flushed with the fresh growth of a Northern spring, and the newly formed shore-line where the capricious Missouri had recently undermined a stretch of bank, gave character to the scene, as did the delicately virent leaves of swirling willow, quaking aspens and cottonwoods loosened from their place on shore to float in midstream.
A party of yelling Crees attracted their attention, and the stranger's indifference gave a combative twist to Burroughs' remark:
"Them's Canadian Injuns."
Something in his tone made the men draw nearer. Was it a sneer? A slur on all things English? A challenge to resent the statement, and resenting, to show one's mettle? Frontiersmen on the upper Missouri fought at a word in the early seventies. No need for cause. Men had been shot for less animus than Burroughs displayed.
"A fight?" asked Scar Faced Charlie, drawn from the cabin.
"No; a prayer-meeting," Toe String Joe gave facetious answer.
"Run back to our stateroom, Winnie," said Charlie, as he glanced at Burroughs' face. "What's the matter?" he inquired as she obeyed.
"Search me." Joe still acted as fourth dimension. "Bob and Danvers seem to hate each other on sight."
Burroughs moved nearer the quiet trooper.
"The Mounted Police think they're goin' to stop whiskey sellin' to the Injuns," he began. "But they can't. I know——" A meaning wink at his friends implied disloyalty even in the Force.
The baited youth faced the trader, his countenance darkening. But his hand unclasped as he started for the cabin with Latimer. Why notice this loud talk? Why debase himself by fighting this unknown bully? His bearing voiced his thoughts. The expectant crowd looked noncommittally at the tall smokestacks, at the snags. Burroughs laughed noisily.
"'The widdy at Windsor' 's got another pretty!" he taunted. Hate flared suddenly from his deep-set eyes; he could not have analyzed its cause. "Jes' cut loose from home an' mammy," he continued, intemperately. "Perhaps he's the queen's latest favorite, boys. We all know what women are!"
What was it? A crash of thunder? A living bolt of fire? Something threw the intervening men violently to the deck. The stripling who had accepted the traditional shilling brushed the crowd aside and knocked down the slanderer of all women—and of his queen!
"Take that back!" Philip breathed, not shouted, as one less angry might have done. "You will not? You shall!"
Burroughs sprang to his feet instantly and returned the blow valiantly. He did not draw his Colt's as frontiersmen were prone to do, for he thought that a knock-down fight would show that a man must not stand too much on dignity on the upper Missouri. Besides, the lad was English, therefore to be punished.
At once the trifling affair widened into a promiscuous scrimmage of recruits against civilians. In the excitement Winifred, frightened at the uproar, came searching for her brother, just as Danvers again delivered a blow that sent Burroughs reeling against the deck railing. It was not strong enough to withstand the collision and the aggressor in the fight barely kept his balance as the wood broke. But Winifred, pushed forward by the struggling men, clutched at the air and dropped into the whirling yellow river far below.
"My God!" groaned Charlie, springing after her. But his leap was preceded by that of Philip Danvers.
The alarm was given; the engines reversed. As the roustabouts jumped to lower the boats the men pressed forward, but the mate beat them back and got the crew to work.
Nowhere could the soft curls be seen. Charlie, nearly drawn into the revolving paddles, was taken into the boat. Presently the watchers saw Winifred's little red dress caught on an uprooted sapling. Tree and child were in the center of the current. While so much debris stayed near the shore or drifted on the shallow sand-bars, this one tree with its human freight hurried on.
"Save her! Save her!" sobbed Scar Faced Charlie, kept by force from jumping again into the stream. "Let me go!" he roared.
"No, Charlie," said the mate firmly. "We're goin' to pick up yer sister an' Danvers. No need fer yeh to risk yer life again. That English lad is goin' to turn the trick."
Philip swam on, strongly, while vociferous ejaculations reached him.
"That feller's got sand!" he heard Joe say, as he dexterously avoided a whirlpool and dodged a snag.
"He's a fool!"
"He'll drown, an' the girl, too!"
"It's caught—he'll overtake her!"
A devilfish-like snag held tree and burden. With a burst of speed Philip swam alongside. Winifred? Thank God! Still alive, although unconscious; face white, eyes closed. As he grasped her, her eyes opened.
* * * * *
After the excitement, the shouts and the cursings, the crashing of wood and the fighting, quiet reigned on the Far West.
Robert Burroughs, sitting in the long northern twilight, rubbed his sore muscles while Scar Faced Charlie and the doctor paced the deck.
"Danvers did a big thing. He saved my sister's life. I'll never forget it. If the time ever comes I'll do as much for him," declared Charlie.
"Perhaps you may," mused the doctor. "We can never tell what the future holds. Perhaps you'll not save his life, but life isn't everything. He may ask you to do something that you won't want to do."
The grating of the steamer on a sand-bar interrupted him.
Brought into high relief by the rising moon, the lead-man stationed forward called:
"Four feet scant—four feet—by the lead five n' a half! No bottom!" Then came:
"Three—t-h-r-e-e—f-e-e-t—scant!" Again the boat scraped the sand.
As the pilot shouted down the tube to the engineers to pile on more steam Charlie reverted to the rescue.
"Danvers looked pretty well used up when he was brought aboard. But darned if he yipped. He was all for lookin' after Winnie."
"I like the lad," nodded the doctor approvingly. "He has the gift of silence. Shakespeare says: 'Give thy thoughts no tongue.'"
In their next turn they saw Burroughs.
"It'll never do for you to locate at Macleod, Bob, 'f you're goin' to aggravate every recruit you don't happen to like," suggested Charlie, with the privilege of friendship.
"I was a fool!" Burroughs confessed. "But somehow that youngster——"
"You an' he'll always be like two bull buffalo in a herd," said Charlie, wisely.
"I'll do him yet," snarled Burroughs, as he rose to go to the cabin.
The Girl on the Fontenelle
The passengers on the Far West rose early. Danvers stood watching the slow sun uplift from the gently undulating prairie. He threw back his head, his lungs expanded as though he could not get enough of the air. He did not know why, but he suddenly felt himself a part of the country—felt that this great, open country was his. The banks of the Missouri were not high and he had an unobstructed view of the vast, grassy sea rolling uncounted miles away to where the sky came down to the edge of the world.
The song of the meadow lark, sweet and incessant as it balanced on a rosin-weed, of the lark bunting and lark finch, poured forth melodiously; twittering blue-birds looked into the air and back to their perch atop the dead cottonwood as they gathered luckless insects; the brown thrush, which sings the night through in the bright starlight, rivaled the robin and grosbeak as Philip gazed over the blue-skyed, green-grassed land. The blue-green of the ocean had not so fascinated as the mysticism of this broad view. He was glad to be alive, and anxious to be in the riot of life on the plains, where trappers, traders and soldiers moved in the strenuous game of making a new world.
His abounding vitality had recouped itself after the strain of yesterday and he forgot its unpleasantness in the glorious morning; yet at the sight of Burroughs coming from his cabin, the sunlight dulled and involuntarily he felt himself grow tense.
"I didn't mean a damn thing," began Burroughs awkwardly.
"That's all right," broke in Philip, as uncomfortable as the other.
Just then the doctor, with Joe and Charlie, came on the upper deck.
"What 'd I tell you, Charlie?" triumphantly asked the physician, as he saw the trader and trooper shaking hands.
"What 'd you tell us?" repeated the man with the scarred face, in doubt, as Burroughs moved away and Danvers turned toward the prow of the boat staring, with eyes that saw not, into the western unknown.
"Didn't I tell you that Bob would do the right thing?" asked the charitable surgeon impatiently, unconscious that he had voiced no such sentiment.
The three looked at the river and at the long lances of light streaming from the East, then at the English youth, abstracted, aloof.
"Perhaps yeh did," assented Joe, easily. "But I know one thing. It'll stick in Bob's crop that he craw-fished——." A nod indicated his meaning. "Somehow Danvers strikes me as a stuck-up Britisher."
"A man shouldn't be damned for his look or his manner," exploded the doctor, although he recognized the truth of the criticism. "He's young and self-conscious. A year or two in the Whoop Up Country will season him and be the making of him."
"He'll not always stay in the Whoop Up Country," Charlie said, presciently. "I wish I could do something for him," he added. "He'll make his mark—somehow—somewhere."
"Prophesying, eh?" smiled the doctor. "All right; we'll see."
The light-draft, flat-bottomed Far West made slow progress. The dead and broken snags, the "sawyers" of river parlance, fast in the sand-bars, seemed waiting to impale the steamboat. The lead-man called unceasingly from his position. One bluff yielded to another, a flat succeeded to a grove where wild roses burst into riotous bloom, and over all lay the enchantment of the gay, palpitant, young summer.
The journey was monotonous until, with a bend of the river, they sighted another steamer, the Fontenelle, stuck fast on Spread Eagle Bar—the worst bar of the Missouri. Among the passengers at the rail Philip Danvers saw—could it be? a woman—a white woman, young and beautiful. What could be her mission in that far country which seemed so vast to the young Englishman that each day's journey put years of civilization behind him?
The girl on the Fontenelle was evidently enjoying the situation, and Danvers discovered at once that she was holding court on her own boat as well as commanding tribute from the Far West. The men about him stared eagerly at the slender, imperious figure, while Burroughs procured a glass from the mate and feasted his eyes.
"I'm goin' to see her at closer range," he declared, and soon had persuaded the captain to let him have a rowboat.
Philip and Latimer, by this time good friends, watched the trader go on board and disappear into the cabin.
"The nerve of that man amazes me!" declared Latimer. "What can he be thinking of?"
"Of the girl, and the first chance at Fort Benton!" answered the doctor, who joined the two in time to catch the remark. "If you'd known Bob Burroughs as long as I have at Fort Benton, you wouldn't be surprised at anything. He's determined to win, wherever you put him, and he'll make money easy enough."
"But his eagerness and offensiveness——" began Danvers.
"It isn't so much ignorance," explained the doctor, always ready to give credit wherever due. "He can talk English well enough when he thinks there is any occasion. He's one of the self-made sort, you know. But he doesn't estimate men correctly—puts them all a little too low—and that's where he's going to lose the game."
When Burroughs came back he was met with a fusillade of questions.
"Who is she, Bob?"
"Major Thornhill's daughter, Eva Thornhill."
"Didn't know he had a daughter," quoth Joe. "He never tol' me——"
This created a laugh, as Joe meant it should.
"The major hasn't been so social since he was stationed at Fort Benton, as to tell us his family affairs," reminded Charlie.
"Bob's thinkin' o' that girl," surmised the mate, openly, as Burroughs looked longingly toward the Fontenelle.
The boats, obstructed by the bar, were delayed the better part of two days, and came to feel quite neighborly. The enamoured Burroughs made another call, but he came back with a grievance.
"She wanted to know who the fellow was with the complexion like a girl's. I told her that if she meant Danvers," here he turned toward the object of his comment, "that he was nothin' but a private in the Canadian North West Mounted Police. She wasn't interested then," maliciously.
"Army girls don't look at anything under a lieutenant, you bet!" seconded Toe String Joe. "She probably won't even take any notice of me!"
"She'd heard, through the captain, about the 'hero' who saved Charlie's sister, and she wanted to know all about it," sneered Burroughs.
"Did you tell her how the railin' happened to break?" insinuated Charlie.
Philip Danvers remembered the fling. However, what did it matter what Miss Thornhill thought of him or his position? He would probably never meet her. Yet as the Far West followed the Fontenelle up the river, he watched the girl's face turned, seemingly, toward him; and as the first steamer disappeared around a bend, the alluring eyes seemed like will-o'-the-wisps drawing him on. As he turned, other eyes, soft and affectionate, were upraised to his, and a child's hand crept into his with mute sympathy.
And thus by following the endless turn and twist of the erratic Missouri; warping over rapids and sticking on sand-bars; running by banks undermined by the flood; shaving here a shore and hugging there a bar; after the tie-ups to clean the boilers, or to get wood, or to wait for the high winds to abate; after perils by water and danger from roving Indians, the Far West swung around the last curve of the river and behold—Fort Benton. The passengers cheered; the crowds on the levees answered, while fluttering flags blossomed from boat and adobe fort and trading posts as wild roses blossom in spring.
"Whew!" whistled the doctor, wiping his forehead as he joined Philip and Latimer on the prow of the steamer. "It's warm. Here we are, at last. I wish," turning to Danvers, "that you were going to stay here. Latimer and I will miss you."
"Indeed we shall!" echoed the young lawyer. "Here we've just gotten to be friends and you must leave us. But you must write, old boy, and if I don't make a success of the law business at Fort Benton, I'll run up to Fort Macleod and make you a visit, while I look over the situation."
The Americanism of the phrase "law business" struck oddly on British ears, as lacking in dignity. Philip thought of "doctor business," "artist business," and wondered if Americans spoke thus of all professions. Latimer changed the subject.
"Is this all there is to Fort Benton?" with a wave of his hand.
"Sure," answered the doctor, offended, "what did you expect—a St. Louis?"
"N-o," hesitated the lawyer, divided between a desire to gird at the doctor, or to soothe his civic pride. "But I'll confess I expected a town somewhat larger, for the port of entry of the territory of Montana."
"Thirty years from now Fort Benton will be a second St. Louis," affirmed the doctor, oracularly. "The river traffic will be enormous by that time."
The physician's faith in the ultimate settlement of the Northwest and Fort Benton's consequent growth was shared, Danvers knew, by many another enthusiast; but as he looked back, mentally, over the lonely, wind-swept miles through which the Missouri flowed, uninhabited save by a few adventurers, trappers and Indians, the prediction seemed preposterous.
"So the town looks small to you, eh?" asked the doctor, returning to Latimer's comment. "But let me tell you, Fort Benton does the business! Our boats bring in the year's supply for the mining camps, for the Indian agencies, for the military posts and for the Canadian Mounted Police. No other town in the West has its future."
The three were silent for a time. The little town was very attractive, nestling in the bend of the Missouri and protected by the bluffs in their springtime tints.
Several stern-wheelers, many mackinaws, and smaller boats lay along the water front.
The Fontenelle, first to arrive, was discharging her cargo. Danvers, boy-like, took a certain pride in knowing that even the Canadians, through the establishment of the North West Mounted Police and their immediate needs, were adding to the prosperity of this Northwestern center. Much sectional talk among the passengers had strengthened his opinion that Americans were unfair and unjust to their brothers of a common language, though when it came to business, he noticed that the loudest talkers were the most anxious to secure Canadian trade.
The longer Philip looked at Fort Benton the more he was attracted. Decisions about places are as intuitive as convictions about people. One place is liked, another disliked, and no logical reason can be given for either. Fort Benton, that blue and golden day, touched his heart so deeply that the sentiment never left him. Others might see only a raw, rough frontier trading post; but for the trooper, the glamour of the West was mingled with the faint, curling smoke dissolving into the clear atmosphere. He had been right in his strong impulse to cross the seas! Never had he been more sure.
By this time the steamer had cautiously nosed its way to its moorings and tied up to a snubbing post. An officer from Fort Macleod came on board to look after his recruits, and in the bustle of landing Philip saw Scar Faced Charlie and little Winifred but a moment. Soon the doctor and Latimer disappeared around the end of a long warehouse on their way to the hotel, after a promise to look him up on the morrow.
The captain was ordering his men, and presently Burroughs sauntered near.
"Well, here we are! I wonder 'f I'll see Miss Thornhill again?" As Danvers made no reply. Burroughs smiled heavily. "I'll see yeh agin. Likely I'll pull m' freight soon after you do and we'll meet at Macleod."
* * * * *
"G'bow thar! ye cussed, Texas horned toad! Haw, thar! ye bull-headed son of a gun, pull ahead! Whoa! Haw! Ye long-horned, mackerel-back cross between a shanghai rooster an' a mud-hen, I'll skin ye alive in about a minute!" The pop of a bull-whip followed like a pistol shot.
These vibrating adjurations, rending the balmy Sunday air, would have amazed and shocked the citizens of a more cultured community, but served in Fort Benton merely to start Scar Faced Charlie's bull-team, loaded almost beyond hauling.
Charlie's shouts, delivered in the vernacular which he avoided when his small kin was near, waked Philip Danvers, and soon he was outside the walls of the 'dobe fort which Major Thornhill had courteously placed at the service of the Canadian officer and his recruits. He called to the driver and fell into step beside the bull-team heading for the western bluffs, while the bull-whacker told him that little Winifred was being cared for by "a real nice old lady."
As he returned to town, after a pleasant good-by, he turned more than once to note the slow, swinging plod of the bulls. Finally he walked more briskly, and, finding the doctor and Latimer, they sought the levees, where the bustle and hustle of the frontier town were most apparent. Early as it was, the river-front was thronged with river-men, American and English soldiers; traders, busy, preoccupied and alert; clerks, examining and checking off goods; bull-whackers and mule-skinners; wolfers and trappers, half-breeds and Indians, gamblers and squaws—all constantly shifting and reforming into kaleidoscopic groups and jovial comradeship.
Everywhere he encountered the covert hostility toward the English, but it was not until late in the afternoon that it became openly manifest.
"Hi there!" a staggering man hiccoughed as he turned to follow Philip and his American friends.
"Go slow, so's folks c'n take yeh in. I'm goin' to kick yeh off'n the face of the earth," he continued, prodding uncertainly at Danvers. "Stop, I tell yeh! Why do I want yeh to walk slow? 'Cos (hic) I want to wipe the road up with yer English hide. Yeh think yeh're all ri', but yeh ain't. Yeh look's if yeh owned the town, an' yeh're walk's convincin', yeh——"
"That's Wild Cat Bill," said the kindly man of drugs, seeking to remove the sting whose effect Danvers only partially succeeded in concealing, as they outdistanced the drunken man. "He's ostensibly a wolfer, a man who kills wolves by scattering poisoned buffalo meat on the prairies in winter, you know," he interjected, "and then makes his rounds later to gather up the dead wolves which have feasted not wisely, but too well. He's a great friend of Sweet Oil Bob's."
Before Danvers had time to speak they passed Burroughs in close conversation with Toe String Joe.
"Those three! Bob and Joe and Bill!" snorted the doctor contemptuously. "You'll likely see considerable of Bob's friends if he goes to Macleod. He might be 'most anything he liked—he's clever enough, but unscrupulous. He's crafty enough to get the most of his work done by his confreres. He can speak English as well as I can, but he thinks bad grammar will give him a stand-in with the frontiersmen. And it's easy for a man to live on a lower level. He'll be sorry some day to find himself out of practice, when the right girl comes along."
"Here he comes—he's behind us," warned Latimer.
As Burroughs passed them he threw a glance of triumph that was unexplainable until a corner turned brought to view Major Thornhill, also walking abroad, accompanied by his daughter. Burroughs, smooth, ingratiating, joined them as if by appointment.
After Philip retired that night the monotone of the soldiers' talk merged into confused and indistinct recollections of his first Sunday at Fort Benton. Eva Thornhill's scornful yet inviting face seemed drawing him through deep waters, to be replaced by the face of the child Winifred, terror-stricken as when she was in the river. Then came the memory of the even-song at home, threading its sweetly haunting way through the wild shouts of a frontier town that continued joyously its night of revelry, until, at last, he fell asleep.
"On Darden plain The fresh and yet unbruised Greeks do pitch Their brave pavilions." —Troilus and Cressida
Under the Union Jack
The arrival of the troopers at Fort Macleod, after the long journey on horseback over the prairie, was a relief to Philip Danvers, and the weeks that followed were full of interest. Nevertheless, he felt a loneliness which was all the greater when he remembered his new-found friends at Fort Benton. The two hundred miles that separated him from the doctor and Arthur Latimer might have been two thousand for all he saw of them, and save for an occasional letter from the hopeful Southerner he had little that could be called companionship. Among all the troopers and traders there were none that appealed to Danvers, and had it not been for the devotion of O'Dwyer he would have been alone indeed.
This gay Irish trooper had come out the year previous, and when the recruits arrived from Fort Benton had been the first to welcome them, "from the owld counthry." There was nothing in common between the silent Englishman and this son of Erin, but from the night when Danvers had discovered him, some miles from the Fort, deserted by his two convivial companions, and had assisted him to the barracks, O'Dwyer had been his loyal subject and devoted slave.
Now, after three months, his zeal had not abated, and while Danvers lay stretched on the bank of the wide slough, O'Dwyer could be seen, not far distant, sunning himself like a contented dog at his master's feet.
Long the English lad lay looking over the infinite reaches of tranquil prairie, domed with a cloudless September sky.
This island in Old Man's River had become the little world in which he lived. To the right was the Fort—a square stockade of cottonwood logs, enclosing the low, mud-roofed officers' quarters, the barracks, the quartermaster's stores, and the stables. To the left, and separated from the fort by a gully, straggled the village of Fort Macleod. Conspicuous, with its new board front, loomed the trading post of Robert Burroughs. These beginnings of civilization seemed out of place in the splendid, supreme calm of nature. Against the space and stillness it appeared crude and impertinent.
Across the river he saw the Indian lodges, and heard the distant hallo from rollicking comrades, swimming on the opposite side of the island. The troopers, the traders and the 'breeds were as dependent upon one another as if they were a colony upon an island in mid-ocean. He did not care to be with these men, but he desired comradeship. How could he overcome his natural reserve, make friends, yet not sacrifice his individuality and family traditions? He recalled his father's haughty: "Associate with your own kind, or walk the path alone." But he was too young to find joy in aloofness. The facility of speech, the adaptive moulding to another's mood was not in him!
"I'll have to be myself," he concluded. "I never cared before for men's good-will; but Arthur Latimer's camaraderie has made me see things differently."
O'Dwyer slept peacefully in the late afternoon, and Danvers envied him the contentment of his simple nature. He drew a package of letters from his red tunic and fingered them idly as he read the addresses. He selected the last from Arthur Latimer and read again the already familiar lines:
I am coming to the Whoop Up Country with Scar Faced Charlie. He leaves again for Fort Macleod in about a week. The doctor says that office work is bad for me and that I ought to get out in the open for a year or two. Really I am curious to see you in your giddy uniform, and shall enjoy a visit, though if I could get work I might stay permanently.
How is Burroughs progressing? Is he selling beads and tea to the Indians at a thousand per cent. profit, or selling them whisky on the Q. T. at fifty thousand per cent. profit? How are you and he hitting it off?
I saw Miss Thornhill last week, but, between you and me, poor devils of lawyers are not what my lady wants.
As Danvers folded the letter and replaced it, he felt a thrill of gladness at the thought of the meeting. There would be some one to share his joy in the sunsets and the prairie distances.
Then the future swept toward him; he wondered if this companionship with his friend would be all that he should ever know. The intangible, divine understanding that others knew—the possibility of an appreciation that would be sweet, came vaguely into his awakening heart. He took a newspaper clipping from his notebook and read:
There is an interesting old Chinese legend which relates how an angel sits with a long pole which he dips into the Sea of Love and lifts a drop of shining water. With an expert motion he turns one-half of this drop to the right, the other half to the left, where each is immediately transformed into a soul, a male and a female; and these souls go seeking each other forever.
The angel is so constantly occupied that he keeps no track of the souls that he separates, and they must depend on their own intuition to recognize each other.
The golden haze of the setting sun was not more glorious than the dreams that came of a loved one ever near, of a son to perpetuate his name; but the trumpet's brazen call sounding retreat, and its echoing reverberations, made Danvers spring to his feet, romance and sentiment laid aside. The present satisfied. Soldiering was good.
O'Dwyer sat up rubbing his eyes, with an exclamation of surprise at the late hour.
As they ran through the big, open gate with its guard-room and sentry, they saw Burroughs moving toward the lodges near the timber on the eastern side of the island, while Toe String Joe, leaving his crony, came to the fort.
"Sweet Oil Bob's a favorite in the lodges all roight," remarked O'Dwyer. "There'll be trouble if he don't let Scar Faced Charlie's squaw alone."
"Pine Coulee?" questioned Danvers.
"The same!" said O'Dwyer, and with a salute prompted by affection and not military compulsion he left Danvers at the barracks.
The arrival of Arthur Latimer with Scar Faced Charlie, making his second trip since Danvers came to Macleod, unexpectedly settled most of the problems baffling the silent and lonely Danvers. Charlie's freighting outfit pulled into Macleod when the troops were drilling, and Philip, though attentive to the commands of his superior, looked across the gully and watched the gate-framed picture of the arrival of supplies. The lurching wagons, the bulls, the men and dogs, loomed large as their slow movements brought them into the one street of Fort Macleod. Though there were two outfits, Danvers instantly recognized Scar Faced Charlie, and saw Latimer run across the dry gully. He warmed with delight as the troops swept along in their evolutions, for he knew his friend was watching, and he smiled a welcome as Arthur's cap rose high in happy salute.
After the parade Philip joined Latimer. The clasp of their hands told more than the conventional greetings. They leaned on the rail fence of the reservation and Latimer looked round eagerly. "I like it up here!" he cried.
"Better than Fort Benton?" questioned Danvers hopefully.
"You are here, Phil," came the quick answer from the Southerner, with his old, appealing charm of voice and smile.
Night fell as they surveyed the scene. The freighters had built camp-fires and the flare lighted the scene weirdly as they walked toward Burroughs' trading-post. Latimer greeted all as comrades, even the officers in mufti, and Danvers, seeing the responsive smiles, realized how a sunny nature receives what it sheds.
"Whose outfit came in with Charlie's?" inquired Danvers, as they neared the store.
"The mule teams? Oh, that was McDevitt—an odd character, from all I hear; Charlie gave me his version on the way up."
Danvers waited for the narrator to continue.
"He is what they call a missionary-trader—though evidently there is little difference in the varieties in this country. He's supposed, however, to be an example to the Indians, and to furnish them with material supplies, as well as spiritual food."
As they entered Burroughs' store, the trader met them cordially.
"Glad to see yeh, Latimer," he said, grasping the outstretched hands. "I 'spose yeh've seen that pretty Miss Thornhill every day since we left Fort Benton," he went on. "That's a girl for yeh!"
Danvers felt his face change. He had not yet ventured to broach Miss Thornhill's name. This loud mention of her in the rough crowd was unbearable.
Latimer made a vague reply. He sympathized with Danvers' involuntary stiffening.
"Well, glad to see yeh!" repeated Burroughs, after more questions and answers. "Make yerself to home. Guess yer glad to see yer friend," he said, turning to Danvers. "Yeh ain't seemed to take up with any of us fellers," and he passed on to other arrivals.
It was not long before McDevitt entered, having come, evidently, to provoke a quarrel with Burroughs. While argument waxed hot between the rival traders over the respective shipping points for furs and the tariff on buffalo robes, Danvers and Latimer looked around the long building lined with cotton sheeting not yet stained or grimed. Blankets, beads, bright cloth, guns, bright ribbons, scalping-knives, shot, powder and flints (the Indians had not seen many matches), stood out against the light background. The bizarre effect was heightened by the garb of the men. Suits of buckskin, gay sashes, blankets and buffalo robes decked traders, scouts or Indians, as the case might be, while the trooper costume—red tunics, tiny forage caps, and blue trousers with yellow stripes—accentuated the riot of color. A few bales of furs, of little value, were on the high counters. In the warehouse in the rear, however, hanging from unhewn beams or piled in heaps, were buffalo robes and skins of all the fur-bearing animals, awaiting shipment to Fort Benton.
The babel of tongues grew louder. Burroughs' quick temper suffered from McDevitt's repeated assertion that Americans were ruining the fur trade by paying the Indians more than the Canadian traders.
"I'm losing money right along," McDevitt affirmed.
"Th' hell yeh are!" sneered Burroughs. "Yeh preach an' then rob; rob an' preach. I pay a fair price an' don't invite the Injuns to git religion in the same breath that I offer 'em a drink o' smuggled whiskey."
"You! You—talking! You sell more whiskey than any other trader in the Whoop Up Country, right here under the noses of the Police!"
"Prove it!" taunted Burroughs provokingly. "'F the Police ever suspect me an' make a search, they'll not fin' me holdin' a prayer-meetin', same's they did you not so very long ago. Le'me see—how much was yer fine, anyway?" with a laugh.
"Is that so? Think yeh're smart, don' yeh?" snarled McDevitt, furious. "Look here, Bob Burroughs, come out an' we'll settle this right here an' now! No? Well, let me tell yeh this! Yeh'll be sorry yeh said that. Bygones is bygones, an' I don't want that fine throwed up in my face again!"
"Did yeh say just the exact amount of the fine?" repeated Burroughs, disdaining to fight either in or out of his trading-post.
McDevitt's voice shook with vehemence as he strode from the crowded room.
"I'll have something to throw up to you, Bob Burroughs, some o' these days. I'm like a Injun, I furgive 'n furgit, but I'm campin' on yer trail! Yeh won't be so smilin' then—le'me tell yeh!"
"An' the fine?" once more insisted Burroughs, as McDevitt vanished, amid a roar of laughter at the American's persistence.
The moon was rising when Danvers wended his way to the barracks an hour later, Arthur walking to the reservation fence with him.
"I wish we could prove where the Indians and 'breeds get their whiskey," said Danvers.
"Haven't you any idea?"
"Suspicion is not certainty," dryly.
"It's a queer world," thought Latimer aloud.
"But we're 'pioneers of a glorious future,'" quoted Danvers, lightly. "It will all come out right." He longed to hear of Eva Thornhill, hesitated, then inquired: "Was Miss Thornhill at Fort Benton when you left?"
"Yes. She asked several times about you." Danvers took off his cap. So she remembered him. "But she asked for Bob, too." The cap went on. "We'll all make a try for her heart, old man," laughed Latimer. "By the way," he added, as they paused before separating for the night, "that wasn't a bad looking squaw I saw just as we left Bob's. What is her name?"
"The one to our right, as we struck the trail? That was Pine Coulee. She's Scar Faced Charlie's squaw, but Burroughs is trying to get her away from him. However, one of her own tribe, Me-Casto, or Red Crow, will steal her some of these days. He hates the white men because they take the likely squaws."
"Whew!" whistled the visitor.
A day or two after Christmas, O'Dwyer, a lonely sentinel on his midnight beat, strode with measured step, alert, on duty. Outside the town, Robert Burroughs skulked toward the lodge, while Me-Casto followed covertly.
An hour afterward O'Dwyer heard moccasined feet approaching the stockade gate. Challenging quickly, his "Halt, who goes there?" was answered by Me-Casto. As that Indian had done some scouting for the Police, the postern gate was unlocked, after some delay, and Me-Casto admitted to the Colonel's presence.
When Me-Casto left the fort, Danvers, lying deep in sleep, with others of his troop, felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"Don't speak," whispered the orderly sergeant, who roused them. "Get up and dress for special duty. Report at stables at once, armed."
The men knew what was before them. They had been so roused before, when it was expedient to have some party leave the fort with secrecy, and it was not long before the chill water of the ford splashed them as they rode away from the sleeping town and garrison.
Almost before the sound of carefully led horses had died away, Toe String Joe was dressing, and soon was making his way through a secret opening in the stockade where he had sawed off a log near the ground and hung it with wooden pins to each adjoining post in such a manner that it would easily swing.
As he lay on his cot of woven willows, he had watched, with narrowed eyelids, his comrades leave the troop room. Now he must report to his chief. The fort was soon behind him. Arriving at Burroughs' store, he passed to the rear and tapped on the small pane of glass doing duty as a window. He tapped again, again; then turned, cursing, to find Burroughs at his elbow.
"What's up?" Burroughs interrupted Joe's blasphemy.
"A party went out from the fort."
"M-m-m! Who was at the fort before you turned in?"
"Who was ordered out?"
Joe told him. "Danvers was one," he concluded.
"Always that black-haired Englishman! I hate him!"
"What yeh goin' to do? Ain't them goods comin' this week? Somebody's blabbed. Me-Casto's been watchin' yeh mighty clost, lately. Perhaps it was him."
"Perhaps," concurred the trader, looking at the disloyal trooper thoughtfully. "We kin only hope fer the best. Wild Cat Bill is bringin' it in, an' Scar Faced Charlie is drivin'. 'F they git a chance to cache the stuff they will. Maybe," he concluded hopefully, "the detachment won't run across 'em, an' they'll fool the Police, with their little pill boxes stuck on three hairs."
Meantime the mounted detail, with Me-Casto as scout, galloped past the lodge fires of the outlying Indians and pressed their way through a falling sleet with not a sound but the muffled thud of the horses' hoofs and the moan of the wind.
The stars dimmed; the east lightened. In the early morning the troopers came to a small trading-post, where they saw a group of men awaiting their arrival.
"I thought it was you, Danvers, the minute I piped yeh off!" Wild Cat Bill stepped forward as he spoke, and shook hands with the young trooper as cordially as if they were old friends. Bill breathed as though he had been running, but went on immediately:
"We've come up here to see what the chances were fer wolfin' this winter. Here's Charlie, yeh see. What yeh out fer? Horse thieves?"
Philip did not answer, as the officer in charge, singularly lacking in perspicacity, took it upon himself.
"We are looking for smugglers," he frowned. "You haven't seen any loaded outfits headed this way from Fort Benton, have you?"
"Nope!" Bill promptly answered. "We've been here two days, and nobody passed here—has they, Charlie?" The freighter confirmed Bill's assertion and the troopers were then ordered to stable their horses for an hour.
"How is your sister, Charlie?" Danvers asked at his earliest opportunity. He was sorry to see the freighter, feeling something was amiss.
"She's in the East, at boarding-school," answered Charlie. "I couldn't do by her as I should," he went on. "Fort Benton's no place to bring up Winnie."
"Remember me to her when you write," said Danvers, walking his horse away as Charlie passed inside the trading-post.
"What are yeh thinkin'?" whispered one of the detail in the dark of the stables as the horses were being fed.
"Not much of anything," Danvers whispered back.
"Yes, yeh are. Yeh know they's cached whiskey somewhere around."
Coming from the stables, Danvers passed the conspicuously empty wagons belonging to the Americans. He noticed that the pile of refuse near by was not covered with snow, although the stables had not been cleaned. Walking nearer, he detected a strong odor of whiskey rising from the wagon boxes. He remembered the sweat on the men's foreheads. Getting a stable fork he struck sharply into the compost. Something clinked. A quick throwing of the litter uncovered a case, such as was commonly used to convey liquor.
As it was his duty, Danvers walked to the captain and saluted.
"I've found a cache of whiskey, sir," he answered, respectfully.
The captain investigated. Then he opened the door of the shack and surprised the Americans eating breakfast.
When placed under arrest, they seemed stunned, submitting without demur.
"I bet Danvers found that cache!" muttered Bill. "He's too foxy fer me!"
On the return trip to Fort Macleod, Me-Casto began to fear that the men would attempt to prove that the whiskey was not Burroughs'. He knew what he had heard in the lodges; but what would his word be, as against these defiant men? He pondered for many miles, then thought of another way to bring disgrace on Burroughs. He would yet have Pine Coulee, himself! Riding close to the wagon where the morose Charlie sat, Me-Casto craftily engaged in conversation.
"Kitzi-nan-nappi-ekki?" (your whiskey?) he asked. The Blackfeet would make no effort to learn English, although they understood a little; but most white men had a fair knowledge of the Indian dialects.
"No," answered Charlie.
"Whose?" was the next question in Blackfoot.
"I don't know."
"You'll get six months in the guard-room if they get you."
"I s'pose so," was the reluctant admission. The prospect was not pleasing.
"Then Burroughs have Pine Coulee all time!"
"What'd you mean?" thundered Charlie, effectually interested.
"Burroughs give Pine Coulee a new dress—new beads—new blanket," was the candid reply.
The teamster was stricken dumb. He made no comment on the gossip, but when it came his turn to be examined before Colonel Macleod, he swore that Burroughs was the owner of the seized liquor and that he had been employed to drive these men North. In every way he could, he offset the perjured testimony of Bill, who posed as the victim of circumstantial evidence.
The commandant-magistrate was puzzled. Me-Casto had testified that he had heard Burroughs in one of the lodges, arranging for the caching of expected whiskey, in one of the cut banks of the river. The teamster corroborated the Indian. Wild Cat Bill and Burroughs swore that neither owned the confiscated liquor. Colonel Macleod knew nothing of Charlie or Bill; but he considered the standing of Burroughs, also the unreliability of most Indians' testimony, and finally acquitted Burroughs unconditionally, while declaring Bill and Charlie guilty of smuggling, and he sentenced them accordingly. Burroughs promptly furnished the money for the payment of Bill's fine, and Latimer, believing Charlie's tale, loaned him money to escape the guard-room.
* * * * *
Great was the rejoicing in Burroughs' post that night. Long after midnight Bill waited for a moment with his chief.
"I done the best I could, Bob," he said dejectedly, when they were at last alone. "'F Phil Danvers hadn't been along I'd 'a' made it."
"I'll get even with him," growled Burroughs.
"The Police mos' caught us red-handed," explained Bill. "We hadn't more'n got the pitchforks back in the stable when they rode up."
"Say no more about it, Bill," suggested Bob. The smuggler looked comforted.
"Danvers is all right," mused Bill, while his friend prepared a drink.
"Is that so?" queried Bob with unpleasant emphasis.
"You're as cocky as a rooster," expostulated the other. "Phil Danvers has swore to do his duty—an' he does it. The most of us is on the make up here, an' the Police've got their traitors, as you know. Danvers is sort of unusual, that's all."
"He ain't my style!" was the retort.
"No," was the dry comment, "I shouldn't presume he was." But the sarcasm was lost on his hearer.
"What was eatin' Scar Faced Charlie, anyway?"
"He's squiffy." Bill had heard the conversation between Me-Casto and Charlie on the trail, but was in no mind to retail it.
"I'm goin' out," said Burroughs, presently, and at this broad hint Bill rose.
"I'm in yer debt," he began awkwardly.
"That's all right." The trader knew and Bill knew that the paid fine was another cord to bind him. "An' now we'll make a pile o' money 'f we're careful. Joe's inside the fort an' you an' me are outside, an' the Injuns are always dry—see? This deal's goin' to be pretty hard on me, what with the government confiscatin' all them nine hundred gallons of whiskey; but we've got more comin', an' we'll have to mix it a little thinner, that's all."
Burroughs went toward the Indian lodges and soon discovered Charlie also sneaking thither.
No superfluous words were spoken. "What'd yeh do it fer?" The angry trader whirled, the teamster facing him.
"You let Pine Coulee alone!" mumbled Charlie, far gone in liquor.
"That's it, eh?" commented the enlightened Burroughs, turning away contemptuously. "Like hell I will!"
Not long after Arthur Latimer answered a recent letter from the doctor in Fort Benton. He gave a vivid account of recent events and of a dinner that had been given at the military post on Christmas day to which he had been invited.
"After the dinner," he continued, "the boys sang for an hour or more. They have good voices, and it was worth a long journey to hear them sing 'The Wearing of the Green.'
"Colonel Macleod seemed to enjoy the music immensely, and (I don't see how he happened to think of it) he called Danvers up and asked him if he knew anything from 'Il Trovatore.' Phil saluted and said that he had heard it in London. Thereupon the colonel asked him if he could sing any of the airs. Phil hesitated, but the commanding officer's request is tantamount to a command, and after a moment he began the 'Miserere.' The men were still as death. Probably they had never heard it before. You, of course, remember that superb tenor solo—the haunting misery, the despair! And what do you think? When he got to the duet I took Leonora's part. Phil gave a little start, but kept on singing, and we carried the duet through. My! but the men nearly tore us to shreds. O'Dwyer fairly lifted Phil off his feet, at this triumph of his hero, for he has taken a great liking to our silent Englishman. The colonel thanked us with delightful appreciation and soon after went out—more quiet than ever. I reckon he was homesick. We all were—a bit. Sweethearts and wives seemed very far away that night.
"You speak of Scar Faced Charlie's avowed intention of abandoning his freighting. He'll probably never come up here again. He recently sent me some cash I'd loaned him, and he intimated as much. Before he left here he returned his squaw, Pine Coulee, to her father; then Burroughs bought her for a bunch of ponies.
"Me-Casto couldn't compete—poor devil. He, like all Indians, had gambled away his small stock of ponies early in the fall—as Burroughs well knew."
"Come on, Arthur," called Danvers, cheerily, as he stuck his head into the room. "There's a dance on at Bob's trading-post."
"All right." Latimer hurriedly put away his writing and soon they ran along the trail to the rendezvous.
"Look, there is Me-Casto!" exclaimed Philip.
"Skulking in the shadows back of Bob's place."
"Bob better look out," said Arthur, as they pushed open the store door. "Me-Casto is not here for any good."
The candle-lighted room was well filled with traders, troopers, trappers and squaws. No buck ever participated in a white man's dance, but several stood by the door and looked on. Every one was in high spirits, and when the fiddler, a French 'breed, struck up, stamping his moccasined feet to keep time, each man secured a squaw and took his place. A brazen-lunged 'breed shouted, "Alleman' lef'! Swing yer partners!" and the couples swung giddily around.
Danvers joined in with right good-will. Occasionally he danced; more often he sat on the long trade counter and kept time to the emphatic music by beating his spurs heavily against the boards behind his feet. Latimer and O'Dwyer danced joyously; but Burroughs, apparently uneasy, as the evening wore on, kept a watchful eye on the outer door. Philip noticed, too, that Pine Coulee was less phlegmatic than usual, although she danced faithfully at the command of her lord and master.
Presently Me-Casto came in and stood by the door. With blanket muffling the lower part of his face, he looked piercingly at Pine Coulee—at Robert Burroughs. The trader caught Me-Casto's eye, and, ostentatiously clasping Pine Coulee's hand as he swung her in the dance, he smiled full in the Blackfoot's face, purposely flaunting his ownership of the squaw. Me-Casto turned and left the room.
"'On wid the dance, let j'y be unconfined!'" yelled O'Dwyer, as he combined an Irish jig and a Red River reel. He had not noticed Me-Casto, but Latimer and Danvers exchanged glances. Just then Pine Coulee looked wistfully toward the opening door. Burroughs, ever watchful, caught a glimpse of Me-Casto as his lips gave an almost imperceptible signal to Pine Coulee. The trader's anger was quick; his discretion slight. He struck the girl flat on the cheek.
"Take that!" he said savagely. "I'll teach yeh to hanker after that lousy buck!"
The words and the blow were simultaneous. So was the leap of the indignant Danvers.
"You coward!" he cried, "to strike a woman!" He took the trader by the nape of the neck and shook him soundly.
Before Burroughs could close with the trooper there came three rifle shots. Each time a singing bullet whizzed by a dodging form. Only one of the shots took effect. Pine Coulee sank to the floor, blood flowing from her bosom.
Screams, oaths and shouts mingled as Danvers raised the squaw. Latimer assisted him in placing her on a counter, while Burroughs, certain of the would-be murderer, ran outside for the assailant, the crowd following. A head pushed past the half-opened side door.
"Didn't I kill Burroughs?" The question was in Blackfoot.
"You shot Pine Coulee!" replied Danvers, sternly. In an instant renewed shouting indicated that the men had tracked the Indian. A moment later the sound of fleeing hoofs told that Me-Casto had made a get-away. The trot of other horses followed, but soon the eternal silence of the prairie reigned alone.
By the time Burroughs returned to the store Pine Coulee had revived.
As the trader was dragging the squaw to his near-by house, he paused on the threshold.
"Phil Danvers," he said, moistening his dry lips as his rage increased, "as true as they's a God above I'll pay yeh back for interferin' to-night. I've hated yeh from the first time I set eyes on yeh! 'F I live I'll make yeh feel what hate'll do! Yeh're too good fer the Whoop Up Country, an' I've got a long score to settle with yeh! 'F ever white women come to this country an' yeh git a sweetheart I'll do my best to separate yeh! 'F yeh've got a sister I'll have her! I'll—I'll—God! But I hate yeh!"
The Hot Blood of Youth
The spring warmed into summer, the summer melted into autumn. Autumn, in turn, chilled into the white world of winter. All thoughts of the little girl on the Far West had slipped from the mind of Danvers, and even the memory of Miss Thornhill became faint—obliterated by the strenuous life of the service. Promotion came in his third year of service as a reward for intelligence and efficiency. Danvers was offered and accepted a commission. He felt that life was good. Fears and homesickness had long since disappeared; the longings for other and more congenial, refined and feminine associates came but seldom; still, the desire for the understanding of one alone, for a loved wife and a son to bear his name was not dead—it was simply dormant in that womanless land.
"The doctor will be here next week," announced Arthur Latimer, who had been bookkeeper in one of the trading-posts ever since he had come to Macleod, soon after Danvers was made a second lieutenant. "Colonel Macleod, I hear, has invited quite a party to visit him from Fort Benton."
"Yes. I heard from the doctor, too." Philip smiled at thought of his friend's surprise at his new rank.
It was not long before the visitors arrived, and, greatly to Danvers' surprise, Miss Thornhill, accompanied by her father, the major, was among them.
The first white woman that he had seen for three years! He had never before realized how dainty a lady is in comparison with her sisters of the lodges. They may be kin in the world relationship, but, oh! the difference one from the other. The squaws, standing stolidly by, were intolerable. As Eva walked consciously past with Colonel Macleod, attended by the staff officers, she gave no sign of recognition other than a heightened color and lowered eye-lashes; but Philip felt that she recognized him. Before the girl reached the barracks Mr. Burroughs entered the stockade. With the assurance of a favored acquaintance, he advanced and pressed the hand of Miss Thornhill.
Danvers turned away. So new a mood assailed him that he went outside the stockade and prowled along the outer wall, not waiting to do more than greet the doctor. How he longed for a touch of that dainty hand, for a word from Eva—from any young woman of his own race! All the manhood, all the heart-hunger of the isolated years, surged within him. He smiled rather piteously. He had not realized that he was starving for the sight of fair skin, sunny hair and slender hands; for a bonny white face—white—white! That was it! A white face, a womanly face! He hardly noticed the muttered "How" of Pine Coulee as she passed, her young babe slung over her back. But he returned her salutation, and after they passed each other he recalled a look on her usually expressionless face that he had never seen there before.
"Here, Phil! Wait for us!" Latimer was calling, and Danvers soon forgot his perturbation in the pleasure of the doctor's presence and congratulations, as he came up with Arthur.
"Got so you can talk, eh?" asked the doctor, noting how the young men vied in their efforts to entertain him. "I told the colonel that I was coming up here to see you, fully as much as him—good friends as we are. You are good to look at, both of you."
"Arthur always could talk," smiled Danvers, "and I can—with my friends."
"How is Burroughs getting along?" asked the doctor, as the trader passed them, too absorbed, apparently, in the recollection of his meeting with Miss Thornhill to note either them or Pine Coulee, who followed him.
"Remarkably well, from a financial standpoint. His living with a squaw makes him popular with the Indians, and the colonel swears by him—thinks he's perfect."
"And the trade in whiskey?"
Latimer shrugged his shoulders expressively.
"That's Bob's squaw," said Arthur, after an awkward pause. "She's as proud as a peacock of that papoose. She rather lords it over her former associates of the lodges."
The doctor whistled. He knew Pine Coulee's story, but had not heard of the child. "Bob will want to marry some day," was his sole comment. "Has Me-Casto ever been caught?"
"No. When he does turn up, Robert Burroughs may look out for trouble."
"Why did Toe String Joe leave the Force?" asked the doctor presently. "He has been in Fort Benton for some little time."
"Drummed out of the service. But he wouldn't tell who supplied him with the whiskey. What is he doing now?"
"Joe is mining. He declares he will be a millionaire."
"He'll be a millionaire when Danvers turns American and runs for office," scoffed Latimer, remembering Joe's shiftless disposition and making the most improbable comparison that he could think of.
"He will never be one, then," said Philip, quietly. "I cannot think of anything that would make me break my allegiance to England. I am going to stay in the service—I like it! And as for American politics!... You know what I think of them." He smiled affectionately to atone for the words.
The glimpses that the troopers and younger officers caught of Eva Thornhill in the following week were few. Nevertheless a gust of love-madness swept through the ranks, from the officer commanding to the newest recruit. Nor were the townsmen behind in their attempts to win a part of the girl's time and thoughts—if not herself. Burroughs easily led in favor, and Lieutenant Danvers effaced himself. So rigidly did he do so that it was not long before Miss Thornhill found the flavor of rue in her Canadian visit. The smart lieutenant had made no advances, had sought no introduction. Eva demanded the homage of all, accustomed as she was to the frontier life where women were too rare to be neglected. No chaperon was thought of in the freedom of the frontier, and, indeed, none was needed among the innately chivalrous Westerners. This little world of Macleod revolved around her—all but the silent, unobtrusive Danvers, whose acquaintance seemed the more desirable in direct ratio to his aloofness. Eva resolved to win him, and Arthur Latimer was artfully sounded for the cause of his friend's indifference. The Southerner, already playing at love with the fair-haired belle, and at no pains to conceal it, readily undertook to find out.
"Why don't you meet Miss Thornhill?" he asked.
"I am very busy these days," interrupted the lieutenant, giving his excuse hastily. Not even to his friend could he disclose how he was drawn toward the only white representative of her sex at Macleod.
"But she wants to know you. She wants to meet you," insisted the loyal Arthur, who had sung Danvers' praises industriously and unselfishly.
"Why, Arthur!" Philip cried, gaily, to cover the tremor in his voice that would not be subdued when he learned that this haughty maid had thought of him. "If you are as much in love with Miss Thornhill as you pretend to be, you want to speak for yourself. But she evidently prefers Bob Burroughs, and I, for one, think I'll keep out of temptation." He slapped the ardent Southerner affectionately on the back. "No chance for either of us, old man! Don't talk of me to her! She will think us asses—amiable idiots!"
"I know there's no chance for me," replied Latimer, aggrieved. "What have I to offer a wife—I'm poor as the proverbial church mouse."
"Anyway, leave me out of your conversations."
"I'll see that you do not meet her!" returned the Missourian, in mock alarm. Then they laughed light-heartedly. "I know whom she'd choose—if she had the opportunity. Burroughs wouldn't stand a show, nor I either."
"There she is now." Danvers nodded toward the ford, where he had seen, for several moments, the trader and Eva riding easily.
"Bob's got his nerve! How about Pine Coulee and the child?" exploded Latimer.
"S-sh!" warned Philip, seeing a movement of the bullberry bushes near them.
As the young men looked toward the riders, whose mounts were close together and walking slowly, a dark face, with passionate eyes gleaming, pushed cautiously out from the sheltering branches, and Pine Coulee also watched the unconscious maid and the trader.
* * * * *
When Colonel Macleod, wishing to impress his American visitors, ordered the troops under his command to go through their cavalry exercises, Miss Thornhill sat on a glossy mare beside him, while troopers passed at a walk or trot, and wondered why she had found it so difficult to meet Lieutenant Danvers. As the lines of superb and faultlessly groomed men and horses swept past on the last mad gallop she forgot her brooding and clapped her hands enthusiastically.
"Oh, Colonel Macleod! That was splendid! Make them go on, and on!" she cried.
"Why, of course, if you wish," assented the gallant Macleod, forgetting that the rise of ground directly in front of him had the river on its farther slope.
"Phat's the colonel thinkin' of?" growled O'Dwyer, as no halt sounded.
"He's not thinkin' at all!" responded the man next in alignment, sourly. "A man can't think when a slip of a girl's near by."
"He's forgot the river!" groaned the fleshy Irishman, dreading the certain plunge.
Into the stream they dashed, many of the men over their heads, for there was no turning back.
As the horses balked, Lieutenant Danvers' stallion threshed viciously, hitting O'Dwyer, and then ceased to swim.
O'Dwyer groaned, "Me a-r-rm!"
It was over in an instant. Those on shore assisted Danvers and the Irishman to land. O'Dwyer was left in Philip's care, while the rest of the men rode back, as the review must not be interrupted.
Eva saw the break in the ranks.
"Lieutenant Danvers has dropped out," she exclaimed, and straightway bit her lip.
"Philip?" hastily asked the Fort Benton doctor, on a horse near by. "Then there has been an accident!"
The sergeant-major rode up to report, but the impulsive Eva did not wait for details. She touched her mare and was after the doctor.
"I'm so sorry!" cried the girl, as she met Danvers and O'Dwyer returning. "It's all my fault that you are wet—and hurt! Which one is hurt?" She turned provocative eyes to the dripping lieutenant.
"O'Dwyer has a sprained elbow," answered Philip, his heart dancing at her solicitude. "It was through my carelessness."
"Don't ye be belavin' a wor-rd he says, miss!" burst out O'Dwyer. "That is (beggin' yer pardon fer spakin' to the loikes of yez, an' me a private!), don't ye belave 'tis his fault. He kep' me from drownin', that's what he did!"
O'Dwyer had noted his idol's preoccupation since Miss Thornhill's advent, the self-imposed aloofness, and had drawn his own shrewd conclusions. He determined, here and now, to do Danvers a good turn, despite the frown on the doctor's face and Philip's frantic signaling. "Lieutenant Danvers is the finest feller God ever made!" he blurted, regardless.
"Oh, keep still! Keep still!" cried the exasperated Englishman. This misplaced loquacity!
Eva reached out suddenly, frankly.
"I think it's time we knew each other," she said, sweetly, and their hands met.
That touch! Never had the unsophisticated youth felt such a touch! A thrill of exquisite life went from her hand to his; from his hand to his feet and the vibrations went tingling back to the girl. For the first time Philip looked full into the blue eyes of Eva Thornhill.
"You're a fool, O'Dwyer!" Danvers heard the doctor remark, as they proceeded toward the fort. The humbled trooper, hitching his arm in the improvised sling which Philip had made, groaned doleful assent. Too late he remembered the barrack-room decision that Miss Thornhill was after every scalp in the Whoop Up Country.
And Eva Thornhill? Her opportunity had come, and she had taken it as a gift from the gods. Suddenly she knew that Philip was merged in her personality, and she reveled in the bloom of quickly grown, fully developed passion. By the time the lieutenant assisted her from her mare at the colonel's headquarters she was ready to think that there was nothing to keep them apart. So quickly, hotly, does young blood run!
Her answer to the question that was ready to slip from his tongue—what would it be? As Danvers lifted the flushing girl from her mount, her eyes gave promise beneath their long-lashed veiling that the answer would not be "no."
It was not many days before Major Thornhill took his daughter to task for her neglect of Mr. Burroughs.
"Don't you let go of Burroughs," he counseled, with brutal sordidness. "These young lawyers and lieutenants haven't a cent, so far as I can find out. Burroughs has money and will have more. Remember that an army officer never has anything to leave to his mourners."
Eva shrugged her shoulders; but her training showed her the wisdom of her father's advice, and she bestowed more favor on the trader than he had received for several days. However, she decided that one more ride with the lieutenant she must have, and so impetuous was Philip that she allowed him to say more than she intended he should. His wooing was eager, headlong.
As they drew near the town on their return from their long ride, the girl saw a squaw peering from the bushes beside the trail.
"Who is that squaw?" she asked, petulantly. "It seems to me that I never go out but she is near me!"
"Oh—er——" he stammered, losing, for a moment, his self-possession as he recognized Burroughs' property. He knew that the trader had pledged his intimates to secrecy as to his relations with Pine Coulee while Miss Thornhill was a visitor at Macleod, and he, while not pledged, would be the last one to bring her in any way to Eva's notice. "Oh," he began again, "she's a Blackfoot."
"That is evasion, pure and simple!" retorted his companion. "She wants either to speak to me—or to kill me, I've not decided which. Wait here! I am going to speak to her!"
"You are probably the first white woman she ever saw," Philip tried vainly to make a satisfactory explanation; but, to his consternation, Eva was gone.
Pine Coulee stood motionless as the fair-haired girl drew rein beside her. Never had she shown her Indian blood more clearly than in the stolid awaiting of her rival. Danvers drew nearer, fearing results.
"Do you speak English?" Pine Coulee was asked. "I think that you want to speak to me. What is it? What can I do for you?" The look of dejection on the dark face touched even Miss Thornhill.
"What a big baby!" was Eva's next effort to gain good-will.
She was sure that the squaw could, at least, understand English; and the gleam of motherhood, kindling at her praise, confirmed her belief.
"What is the baby's name?"
Silence prolonged. Eva turned away, impatient that her advances should be met so churlishly. Then, swift, malignant, Pine Coulee spoke:
"Him name Robert Burroughs! Robert Burroughs!" The words came with startling distinctness.
Eva's surprise was great. She shuddered uncontrollably.
Pine Coulee understood the incredulity in the girl's eyes, and rushed on, bitterly, in broken English:
"Yes. Robert Burroughs! Ask him!" pointing to Danvers with her lips, as Indians will. "Burroughs mine! You not have him! You take this man! You have everything—Pine Coulee have nothing but Bob and his baby! You sha'n't have him! No! No!" The squaw, crazed with jealousy, started towards Burroughs' house, but turned back with real dignity. "I hate you! Why you come to steal my man?"
Then she abruptly took her bitter way along the trail till—Burroughs blocked her. He gave her one look and rode forward.
"Your father sent me to look for you, Miss Thornhill," he began, as he drew rein. He resolved to carry the matter off boldly, if Eva referred to the Indian woman. "If you like, we will ride back together," he added, nodding to Danvers.
"No, no, no!" cried Eva, hysterically. "I'm afraid of—of that—squaw!" She pointed to Pine Coulee, who had followed Burroughs like a blighting shadow.
"Git out of here!" Burroughs emphasized his command to the squaw with a vicious kick. Not realizing how much the words would reveal, he added: "I tol' yeh ter stay in the house!"
"I'll care for Miss Thornhill, Burroughs," interrupted Danvers. "Let us pass, please! Take Pine Coulee back and leave decent white women to others."
"To you?" sneered the trader, with suddenly loosened rage at maid and man.
"Yes, to me!" proudly answered Philip, drawing closer to Eva's mount. The girl was scarlet with rage.
"Oh, it's that way, is it?" snarled Bob. "You told Miss Thornhill—that's plain to be seen!"
"He did not tell!" Eva slipped from her lover's protection and reined her horse toward Burroughs. "Lieutenant Danvers tried to shield you. She—she——" Eva looked at Pine Coulee, nursing her bruised forehead (for Burroughs had kicked to hurt) and changed her words. "The lieutenant never—he never intimated—such—a—horrid—thing. Of course you will understand that I no longer care for your acquaintance!" The reaction came and she begged: "Oh, Lieutenant Danvers, take me to father!"
"Oh, you don't, eh?" sneered the trader. "There are many years ahead of us both, and the time may come when you will want my help! And you," turning to Danvers, "I'll get even with you! If I can't win Eva Thornhill, you never shall, mark my words! I'll——"
"You dare to threaten—us? Get out of our way!"
With a touch Danvers quickly started both his horse and Miss Thornhill's. After a brief interval he slowed the pace.
"And now, darling, you must let me care for you always," urged Philip, after he had restored Eva to some semblance of calm. "Let me speak to your father to-night!" He talked on, encouraged by the girl's silent yielding and the long kiss he laid on her willing lips. She was told of his prospects, both in the army and in England, where his father and sister lived. He told her of his lovely American mother, who had died so young. He had enlisted, he said, for sheer love of a military life.
"Father wanted to buy a commission for me, but I knew I could get one—without money!" was the modest close.
The afternoon together ended by Philip's putting his mother's engagement ring on Eva's hand for their plighted troth. She looked at it a moment.
"I cannot wear this now," she said. "If we are engaged, I want it to be kept secret until next spring. Don't you see, dear," she rubbed her face caressingly on Philip's impatient hand, "that it will be better so? Father will be furious when he knows that I've given Mr. Burroughs his conge, and you'll come into your fortune when you are twenty-one next June. Father'll never consent until then. He'll make me miserable all winter!"
The Return to Fort Benton
That autumn visit of Eva Thornhill glowed in Danvers' heart like the riotous colors in the gray landscape that precedes the frost of winter; for winter was coming, her visit was over, and Eva and her father were to leave for Fort Benton on the morrow. Danvers inwardly chafed under the secrecy imposed upon their engagement, and yet it would have been hard for him to have spoken of his love for Eva, even to the sympathetic Latimer.
But he longed to see more of her, to drink his fill of her beauty and fix her image in his memory that he might not famish in his loneliness during the dreary winter months when they should be separated.
Though it was hard to evade her father, Eva Thornhill granted her lover a last interview. His reserve, now softened by his love, fascinated the girl, and the element of secrecy lent a romantic touch that did not lessen her enjoyment of the situation. Yet it was a relief to return to Fort Benton, where she could think it all over and avoid her father's anger at a possible discovery.
"You will write to me?" said Danvers eagerly, as he held her hands, in parting. "There are few mails in the winter, but some one will be coming up." He looked imploringly into her eyes, as she hesitated.
"Of course I'll answer your letters—Philip," she spoke the name deliberately, as though enjoying her right to the familiarity of its use. "And when shall I hear from you?"
"Always; whenever you will close your eyes and listen! It may be weeks before a freighter makes the trip; but without a written message you will know that I am thinking of you, loving you! Remember it, Eva!"
His arm drew her close, and the girl caught his ardor as she returned his good-bye kiss.
"I will, dear; oh, I will!" She clung to him and for a moment caught the glory of his vision. Real tears dimmed her eyes as her lover tenderly released her, and the man was satisfied.
That night Latimer had a long talk with his friend.
"You see, old man, I may as well go now, when the doctor and the Thornhills are returning to Fort Benton. It may be weeks before I have another chance."
Latimer, too! The thought sent a chill to the heart of the lieutenant, now doubly sensitive to the love of this only friend! He had long known that Latimer would return to his law practice in Fort Benton, but the time had never been set for his going.
"The years of outdoor life," continued Latimer, "have made a new man of me!" patting his chest, not yet so broad as Danvers'. "And if I am ever to go back to the law I must get about it before I forget all I ever knew." He gave his arguments with a half apology as if to soften the sharpness of his decision, which to his loyal heart seemed like a desertion of his friend.
Danvers was silent. He saw, more clearly than his companion, that the doctor's visit, the presence of Major Thornhill and his daughter, and the association with those of his own class, had roused in the Southerner a longing for the old life of civic usefulness, had drawn him back to his office, to his books and civilized associations.
"And if I get away to-morrow," went on Latimer, "I must pack up my few belongings in the morning, and shall not have time for much of a good-bye—you will understand, Phil?"
"Yes, indeed!" said Danvers, realizing that he had been too long silent. "Write to me when you can, Arthur. You know what the winters are up in this country."
They smoked in silence for an hour or more—that strange communion that men find gives greater sympathy than any speech. Then Danvers wrung the hand of his friend, and set out for the barracks.
Many sober faces clustered around Eva when she said good-bye next morning, but Burroughs' was not among them. He had said nothing of his humiliation, but had avoided meeting Miss Thornhill again. Her father was greatly dissatisfied; he thought that Eva's reception of the attention of other men had offended the trader, and he did not spare his blame for such a condition of things. Eva maintained her equanimity, feeling that she had done well to preserve the secret of her engagement, and to win Philip's pledge to silence.
Two months later Robert Burroughs sold out his trading-post, and he, too, prepared to return to the States. When he told Pine Coulee that she was to return to her father's lodge with the boy, he was, for the first time, afraid of the woman. All her savage blood surged in protest; his offers to support their child were spurned. He was glad when the squaw was sullenly silent in the lodges of her tribe, and he determined never to come again to Macleod—to leave the past behind him. That was his dominant thought as he started out for Fort Benton, accompanied by his familiar, Wild Cat Bill.
Their life at Fort Macleod had been in many ways one of jeopardy. He had run incredible risks of exposure and ruin, but he had won, through sheer audacity and bravado. He smiled covertly as he recalled the fact that he, the greatest whiskey smuggler in the Whoop Up Country, was also the privileged friend of an unsuspecting, honorable, upright officer—Colonel Macleod. Even his hardened conscience pricked as he thought how he had deceived one who, with somewhat more of acumen, and somewhat less of belief in men, would have been most severe on his wrong-doing.
But that was over. To turn to less reprehensible and underhand ways would be easy, he was sure. Or, if he found that the old ways of accomplishing his purpose were more profitable, he would exercise them on bigger projects in Montana. He had made a fortune in the Whoop Up Country. Now he intended to increase it in the development of Montana's resources. He proposed to marry and rear a family, as became a prosperous and respected citizen.
Dreams of statehood were beginning to waken into hope of reality among the sturdy men who dwelt in the territory, and during this journey south Burroughs confided to Bill his ambition to sit in the United States Senate. Fortune had favored him so far. All that was necessary to further his ambitions was to be as shrewd and cautious as he had been hitherto, and all things should be his—with Bill's help. Bill listened—that was his role for the time being. But he thought well of the plans, and said so before his chief referred to quite another subject—Pine Coulee and the boy. Here Bill found no words.