Part 7 out of 9
"Get out the packers there, Little Thunder. Hurry up! Don't be
all day. Cameron, fall behind with me."
Little Thunder seized the leading line of the first packer, leaped
astride his own pony, and pushed out into the storm. But the rest
of the animals held back and refused to face the blizzard. The
traditions of the cayuse are unheroic in the matter of blizzards
and are all in favor of turning tail to every storm that blows.
But Nighthawk soon overcame their reluctance, whether traditional
or otherwise. With a fury nothing less than demoniacal he fell
upon the animals next him and inspired them with such terror that,
plunging forward, they carried the bunch crowding through the door.
It was no small achievement to turn some twenty shivering, balky,
stubborn cayuses and bronchos out of their shelter and swing them
through the mazes of the old lumber camp into the trail again. But
with Little Thunder breaking the trail and chanting his encouraging
refrain in front and the trader and his demoniac stallion dynamically
bringing up the rear, this achievement was effected without the
straying of a single animal. Raven was in great spirits, singing,
shouting, and occasionally sending Nighthawk open-mouthed in a
fierce charge upon the laggards hustling the long straggling line
onwards through the whirling drifts without pause or falter.
Occasionally he dropped back beside Cameron, who brought up the
rear, bringing a word of encouragement or approval.
"How do they ever keep the trail?" asked Cameron on one of these
"Little Thunder does the trick. He is the greatest tracker in this
country, unless it is his cayuse, which has a nose like a bloodhound
and will keep the trail through three feet of snow. The rest of the
bunch follow. They are afraid to do anything else in a blizzard
So hour after hour, upward along mountainsides, for by this time
they were far into the Rockies, and down again through thick
standing forests in the valleys, across ravines and roaring
torrents which the warm weather of the previous days had released
from the glaciers, and over benches of open country, where the
grass lay buried deep beneath the snow, they pounded along. The
clouds of snow ever whirling about Cameron's head and in front of
his eyes hid the distant landscape and engulfed the head of the
cavalcade before him. Without initiative and without volition, but
in a dreamy haze, he sat his pony to which he entrusted his life
and fortune and waited for the will of his mysterious companion to
About mid-day Nighthawk danced back out of the storm ahead and
dropped in beside Cameron's pony.
"A chinook coming," said Raven. "Getting warmer, don't you
"No, I didn't notice, but now that you call attention to it I do
feel a little more comfortable," replied Cameron.
"Sure thing. Rain in an hour."
"An hour? In six perhaps."
"In less than an hour," replied Raven, "the chinook will be here.
We're riding into it. It blows down through the pass before us and
it will lick up this snow in no time. You'll see the grass all
about you before three hours are passed."
The event proved the truth of Raven's prediction. With incredible
rapidity the temperature continued to rise. In half an hour
Cameron discarded his mitts and unbuttoned his skin-lined jacket.
The wind dropped to a gentle breeze, swinging more and more into
the southwest, and before the hour was gone the sun was shining
fitfully again and the snow had changed into a drizzling rain.
The extraordinary suddenness of these atmospheric changes only
increased the sense of phantasmic unreality with which Cameron had
been struggling during the past thirty-six hours. As the afternoon
wore on the air became sensibly warmer. The moisture rose in
steaming clouds from the mountainsides, the snow ran everywhere in
gurgling rivulets, the rivulets became streams, the streams rivers,
and the mountain torrents which they had easily forded earlier in
the day threatened to sweep them away.
The trader's spirits appeared to rise with the temperature. He was
in high glee. It was as if he had escaped some imminent peril.
"We will make it all right!" he shouted to Little Thunder as they
paused for a few moments in a grassy glade. "Can we make the Forks
Little Thunder's grunt might mean anything, but to the trader it
"On then!" he shouted. "We must make these brutes get a move on.
They'll feed when we camp."
So saying he hurled his horse upon the straggling bunch of ponies
that were eagerly snatching mouthfuls of grass from which the
chinook had already melted the snow. Mercilessly and savagely the
trader, with whip and voice and charging stallion, hustled the
wretched animals into the trail once more. And through the long
afternoon, with unceasing and brutal ferocity, he belabored the
faltering, stumbling, half-starved creatures, till from sheer
exhaustion they were like to fall upon the trail. It was a weary
business and disgusting, but the demon spirit of Nighthawk seemed
to have passed into his master, and with an insistence that knew no
mercy together they battered that wretched bunch up and down the
long slopes till at length the merciful night fell upon the
straggling, stumbling cavalcade and made a rapid pace impossible.
At the head of a long slope Little Thunder came to an abrupt halt,
rode to the rear and grunted something to his chief.
"What?" cried Raven in a startled voice. "Stonies! Where?"
Little Thunder pointed.
"Did they see you?" This insult Little Thunder disdained to
notice. "Good!" replied Raven. "Stay here, Cameron, we will take
a look at them."
In a very few minutes he returned, an eager tone in his voice, an
eager gleam in his eyes.
"Stonies!" he exclaimed. "And a big camp. On their way back from
their winter's trapping. Old Macdougall himself in charge, I
think. Do you know him?"
"I have heard of him," said Cameron, and his tone indicated his
reverence for the aged pioneer Methodist missionary who had
accomplished such marvels during his long years of service with his
Indian flock and had gained such a wonderful control over them.
"Yes, he is all right," replied Raven, answering his tone. "He is
a shrewd old boy, though. Looks mighty close after the trading
end. Well, we will perhaps do a little trade ourselves. But we
won't disturb the old man," he continued, as if to himself. "Come
and take a look at them."
Little Thunder had halted at a spot where the trail forked. One
part led to the right down the long slope of the mountain, the
other to the left, gradually climbing toward the top. The Stonies
had come by the right hand trail and were now camped off the trail
on a little sheltered bench further down the side of the mountain
and surrounded by a scattering group of tall pines. Through the
misty night their camp fires burned cheerily, lighting up their
lodges. Around the fires could be seen groups of men squatted on
the ground and here and there among the lodges the squaws were
busy, evidently preparing the evening meal. At one side of the
camp could be distinguished a number of tethered ponies and near
them others quietly grazing.
But though the camp lay only a few hundred yards away and on a
lower level, not a sound came up from it to Cameron's ears except
the occasional bark of a dog. The Indians are a silent people and
move noiselessly through Nature's solitudes as if in reverence for
her sacred mysteries.
"We won't disturb them," said Raven in a low tone. "We will slip
"They come from Morleyville, don't they?" enquired Cameron.
"Why not visit the camp?" exclaimed Cameron eagerly. "I am sure
Mr. Macdougall would be glad to see us. And why could not I go
back with him? My camp is right on the trail to Morleyville."
Raven stood silent, evidently perplexed.
"Well," he replied hesitatingly, "we shall see later. Meantime
let's get into camp ourselves. And no noise, please." His voice
was low and stern.
Silently, and as swiftly as was consistent with silence, Little
Thunder led his band of pack horses along the upper trail, the
trader and Cameron bringing up the rear with the other ponies. For
about half a mile they proceeded in this direction, then, turning
sharply to the right, they cut across through the straggling woods,
and so came upon the lower trail, beyond the encampment of the
Stonies and well out of sight of it.
"We camp here," said Raven briefly. "But remember, no noise."
"What about visiting their camp?" enquired Cameron.
"There is no immediate hurry."
He spoke a few words to Little Thunder in Indian.
"Little Thunder thinks they may be Blackfeet. We can't be too
careful. Now let's get grub."
Cameron made no reply. The trader's hesitating manner awakened all
his former suspicions. He was firmly convinced the Indians were
Stonies and he resolved that come what might he would make his
escape to their camp.
Without unloading their packs they built their fire upon a large
flat rock and there, crouching about it, for the mists were chilly,
they had their supper.
In undertones Raven and Little Thunder conversed in the Indian
speech. The gay careless air of the trader had given place to one
of keen, purposeful determination. There was evidently serious
business on foot. Immediately after supper Little Thunder vanished
into the mist.
"We may as well make ourselves comfortable," said Raven, pulling a
couple of buffalo skins from a pack and giving one to Cameron.
"Little Thunder is gone to reconnoiter." He threw some sticks upon
the fire. "Better go to sleep," he suggested. "We shall probably
visit the camp in the morning if they should prove to be Stonies."
Cameron made no reply, but, lying down upon his buffalo skin,
pretended to sleep, though with the firm resolve to keep awake.
But he had passed through an exhausting day and before many minutes
had passed he fell into a doze.
From this he awoke with a start, his ears filled with the sound of
singing. Beyond the fire lay Raven upon his face, apparently sound
asleep. The singing came from the direction of the Indian camp.
Noiselessly he rose and stole up the trail to a point from which
the camp was plainly visible. A wonderful scene lay before his
eyes. A great fire burned in the centre of the camp and round the
fire the whole band of Indians was gathered with their squaws in
the background. In the centre of the circle stood a tall man with
a venerable beard, apparently reading. After he had read the sound
of singing once more rose upon the night air.
"Stonies, all right," said Cameron exultantly to himself. "And at
evening prayers, too, by Jove."
He remembered hearing McIvor tell how the Stonies never went on a
hunting expedition without their hymn books and never closed a day
without their evening worship. The voices were high-pitched and
thin, but from that distance they floated up soft and sweet. He
could clearly distinguish the music of the old Methodist hymn, the
words of which were quite familiar to him:
"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood.
Lose all their guilty stains."
Over and over again, with strange wild cadences of their own
invention, the worshippers wailed forth the refrain,
"Lose all their guilty stains."
Then, all kneeling, they went to prayer. Over all, the misty moon
struggling through the broken clouds cast a pale and ghostly light.
It was, to Cameron with his old-world religious conventions and
traditions, a weirdly fascinating but intensely impressive scene.
Afar beyond the valley, appeared in dim outline the great
mountains, with their heads thrust up into the sky. Nearer at
their bases gathered the pines, at first in solid gloomy masses,
then, as they approached, in straggling groups, and at last singly,
like tall sentinels on guard. On the grassy glade, surrounded by
the sentinel pines, the circle of dusky worshippers, kneeling about
their camp fire, lifted their faces heavenward and their hearts
God-ward in prayer, and as upon those dusky faces the firelight
fell in fitful gleams, so upon their hearts, dark with the
superstitions of a hundred generations, there fell the gleams of
the torch held high by the hands of their dauntless ambassador of
the blessed Gospel of the Grace of God.
With mingled feelings of reverence and of pity Cameron stood gazing
down upon this scene, resolved more than ever to attach himself to
this camp whose days closed with evening prayer.
"Impressive scene!" said a mocking voice in his ear.
Cameron started. A sudden feeling of repulsion seized him.
"Yes," he said gravely, "an impressive scene, in my eyes at least,
and I should not wonder if in the eyes of God as well."
"Who knows?" said Raven gruffly, as they both turned back to the
THE DULL RED STAIN
The minutes passed slowly. The scene in the camp of the Stonies
that he had just witnessed drove all sleep from Cameron. He was
firmly resolved that at the first opportunity he would make his
break for liberty; for he was now fully aware that though not
confessedly he was none the less really a prisoner.
As he lay intently thinking, forming and discarding plans of
escape, two Indians, followed by Little Thunder, walked quietly
within the circle of the firelight and with a nod and a grunt
towards Raven sat down by the fire. Raven passed his tobacco bag,
which, without a word, they accepted; and, filling their pipes,
they gravely began to smoke.
"White Cloud," grunted Little Thunder, waving his hand to the first
Indian. "Big Chief. Him," pointing to the second Indian, "White
"My brothers had good hunting this year," said Raven.
The Indians grunted for reply.
"Your packs are heavy?"
Another grunt made answer.
"We have much goods," continued Raven. "But the time is short.
Come and see."
Raven led them out into the dark towards the pack horse, Little
Thunder remaining by the fire. From the darkness Cameron could
hear Raven's voice in low tones and the Indians' guttural replies
mingled with unusual laughter.
When they returned the change in their appearance was plainly
visible. Their eyes were gleaming with an unnatural excitement,
their grave and dignified demeanour had given place to an eager,
almost childish excitement. Cameron did not need the whiff that
came to him from their breath to explain the cause of this sudden
change. The signs were to him only too familiar.
"My brothers will need to hurry," said Raven. "We move when the
moon is high."
"Good!" replied White Cloud. "Go, quick." He waved his hand
toward the dark. "Come." He brought it back again. "Heap quick."
Without further word they vanished, silent as the shadows that
swallowed them up.
"Now, then, Cameron, we have big business on foot. Up and give us
a hand. Little Thunder, take the bunch down the trail a couple of
miles and come back."
Selecting one of the pack ponies, he tied it to a pine tree and the
others he hurried off with Little Thunder down the trail.
"Going to do some trading, are you?" enquired Cameron.
"Yes, if the price is right, though I'm not too keen," replied
Raven, throwing himself down beside the fire.
"What are you after? Furs?"
"Yes, furs mostly. Anything they have to offer."
"What do you give in exchange?"
Raven threw him a sharp glance, but Cameron's face was turned
toward the fire.
"Oh, various articles. Wearing apparel, tobacco, finery. Molasses
too. They are very fond of molasses."
"Molasses?" echoed Cameron, with a touch of scorn. "It was not
molasses they had to-night. Why did you give them whiskey?" he
Raven started. His eyes narrowed to two piercing points.
"Why? That's my business, my friend. I keep a flask to treat my
guests occasionally. Have you any objection?"
"It is against the law, I understand, and mighty bad for the
"Against the law?" echoed Raven in childlike surprise. "You don't
"So the Mounted Police declare," said Cameron, turning his eyes
upon Raven's face.
"The Mounted Police!" exclaimed Raven, pouring forth a flood of
oaths. "That! for the Mounted Police!" he said, snapping his
"But," replied Cameron, "I understood you very especially to object
to the operations of the whiskey runners?"
"Whiskey runners? Who's speaking of whiskey runners? I'm talking
of the approved method of treating our friends in this country, and
if the police should interfere between me and my friends they would
be carrying things a little too far. But all the same," he
continued, hastily checking himself, "the police are all right.
They put down a lot of lawlessness in this country. But I may as
well say to you here, Mr. Cameron," he continued, "that there are
certain things it is best not to see, or, having seen, to speedily
forget." As he spoke these words his eyes narrowed again to two
grey points that seemed to bore right through to Cameron's brain.
"This man is a very devil," thought Cameron to himself. "I was a
fool not to see it before." But to the trader he said, "There are
some things I would rather not see and some things I cannot
Before another hour had passed the Stonies reappeared, this time on
ponies. The trader made no move to meet them. He sat quietly
smoking by the fire. Silently the Indians approached the fire and
threw down a pack of furs.
"Huh!" said White Cloud. "Good! Ver good!" He opened his pack
and spread out upon the rock with impressive deliberation its
contents. And good they were, even to Cameron's uncultured eye.
Wolf skins and bear, cinnamon and black, beaver, fox, and mink, as
well as some magnificent specimens of mountain goat and sheep.
"Good! Good! Big--fine--heap good!" White Cloud continued to
exclaim as he displayed his collection.
Raven turned them over carelessly, feeling the furs, examining and
weighing the pelts. Then going to the pack horse he returned and
spread out upon the rock beside the furs the goods which he
proposed to offer in exchange. And a pitiful display it was, gaudy
calicoes and flimsy flannels, the brilliance of whose colour was
only equalled by the shoddiness of the material, cheap domestic
blankets, half wool half cotton, prepared especially for the Indian
trade. These, with beads and buttons, trinkets, whole strings of
brass rings, rolls of tobacco, bags of shot and powder, pot metal
knives, and other articles, all bearing the stamp of glittering
fraud, constituted his stock for barter. The Indians made
strenuous efforts to maintain an air of dignified indifference, but
the glitter in their eyes betrayed their eagerness. White Cloud
picked up a goat skin, heavy with its deep silky fur and with its
rich splendour covered over the glittering mass of Raven's cheap
and tawdry stuff.
"Good trade," said White Cloud. "Him," pointing to the skin,
"and," turning it back, "him," laying his hand upon the goods
Raven smiled carelessly, pulled out a flask from his pocket, took a
drink and passed it to the others. Desperately struggling to
suppress his eagerness and to maintain his dignified bearing, White
Cloud seized the flask and, drinking long and deep, passed it to
"Have a drink, Cameron," said Raven, as he received his flask
"No!" said Cameron shortly. "And I would suggest to your friends
that they complete the trade before they drink much more."
"My friend here says this is no good," said Raven to the Indians,
tapping the flask with his finger. "He says no more drink."
White Cloud shot a keen enquiring glance at Cameron, but he made no
reply other than to stretch out his hand for Raven's flask again.
Before many minutes the efficacy of Raven's methods of barter began
to be apparent. The Indians lost their grave and dignified
demeanour. They became curious, eager, garrulous, and demonstrative.
With childish glee they began examining more closely Raven's supply
of goods, trying on the rings, draping themselves in the gaudy
calicoes and flannels. At length Raven rolled up his articles of
barter and set them upon one side.
"How much?" he said.
White Cloud selected the goat skin, laid upon it some half dozen
beaver and mink, and a couple of foxes, and rolling them up in a
pile laid them beside Raven's bundle.
The trader smiled and shook his head. "No good. No good." So
saying he took from his pack another flask and laid it upon his
Instantly the Indian increased his pile by a bear skin, a grey
wolf, and a mountain goat. Then, without waiting for Raven's
words, he reached for the flask.
"No, not yet," said Raven quietly, laying his hand down upon the
The Indian with gleaming eyes threw on the pile some additional
"Good!" said Raven, surrendering the flask. Swiftly the Indian
caught it up and, seizing the cork in his teeth, bit it off close
to the neck of the flask. Snatching his knife from his pocket with
almost frantic energy, he proceeded to dig out the imbedded cork.
"Here," said Raven, taking the flask from him. "Let me have it."
From his pocket he took a knife containing a corkscrew and with
this he drew the cork and handed the flask back to the Indian.
With shameless, bestial haste the Indian placed the bottle to his
lips and after a long pull passed it to his waiting brother.
At this point Raven rose as if to close the negotiations and took
out his own flask for a final drink, but found it empty.
"Aha!" he exclaimed, turning the empty flask upside down. At once
the Indian passed him his flask. Raven, however, waved him aside
and, going to his pack, drew out a tin oil can which would contain
about a gallon. From this with great deliberation he filled his
"Huh!" exclaimed the Indian, pointing to the can. "How much?"
Raven shook his head. "No sell. For me," he answered, tapping
himself on the breast.
"How much?" said the Indian fiercely.
Still Raven declined to sell.
Swiftly the Indian gathered up the remaining half of his pack of
furs and, throwing them savagely at Raven's feet, seized the can.
Still Raven refused to let it go.
At this point the soft padding of a loping pony was heard coming up
the trail and in a few minutes Little Thunder silently took his
place in the circle about the fire. Cameron's heart sank within
him, for now it seemed as if his chance of escape had slipped from
Raven spoke a few rapid words to Little Thunder, who entered into
conversation with the Stonies. At length White Cloud drew from his
coat a black fox skin. In spite of himself Raven uttered a slight
exclamation. It was indeed a superb pelt. With savage hate in
every line of his face and in every movement of his body, the
Indian flung the skin upon the pile of furs and without a "By your
leave" seized the can and passed it to his brother.
At this point Raven, with a sudden display of reckless generosity,
placed his own flask upon the Indian's pile of goods.
"Ask them if they want molasses," said Raven to Little Thunder.
"No," grunted the Indian contemptuously, preparing to depart.
"Ask them, Little Thunder."
Immediately as Little Thunder began to speak the contemptuous
attitude of the Stonies gave place to one of keen interest and
desire. After some further talk Little Thunder went to the pack-
pony, returned bearing a small keg and set it on the rock beside
Raven's pile of furs. Hastily the Stonies consulted together,
White Cloud apparently reluctant, the brother recklessly eager to
close the deal. Finally with a gesture White Cloud put an end to
the conversation, stepped out hastily into the dark and returned
leading his pony into the light. Cutting asunder the lashings
with his knife, he released a bundle of furs and threw it down at
"Same ting. Good!" he said.
But Raven would not look at the bundle and proceeded to pack up the
spoils of his barter. Earnestly the Stonies appealed to Little
Thunder, but in vain. Angrily they remonstrated, but still without
result. At length Little Thunder pointed to the pony and without
hesitation White Cloud placed the bridle rein in his hands.
Cameron could contain himself no longer. Suddenly rising from his
place he strode to the side of the Indians and cried, "Don't do it!
Don't be such fools! This no good," he said, kicking the keg.
"What would Mr. Macdougall say? Come! I go with you. Take back
He stepped forward to seize the second pack. Swiftly Little
Thunder leaped before him, knife in hand, and crouched to spring.
The Stonies had no doubt as to his meaning. Their hearts were
filled with black rage against the unscrupulous trader, but their
insane thirst for the "fire-water" swept from their minds every
other consideration but that of determination to gratify this mad
lust. Unconsciously they ranged themselves beside Cameron, their
hands going to their belts. Quietly Raven spoke a few rapid words
to Little Thunder, who, slowly putting up his knife, made a brief
but vigourous harangue to the Stonies, the result of which was seen
in the doubtful glances which they cast upon Cameron from time to
"Come on!" cried Cameron again, laying his hand upon the nearest
Indian. "Let's go to your camp. Take your furs. He is a thief, a
robber, a bad man. All that," sweeping his hand towards Raven's
goods, "no good. This," kicking the keg, "bad. Kill you."
These words they could not entirely understand, but his gestures
were sufficiently eloquent and significant. There was an ugly
gleam in Raven's eyes and an ugly curl to his thin lips, but he
"Come," he said, waving his hand toward the furs, "take them away.
Tell them we don't want to trade, Little Thunder." He pulled out
his flask, slowly took a drink, and passed it to Little Thunder,
who greedily followed his example. "Tell them we don't want to
trade at all," insisted Raven.
Little Thunder volubly explained the trader's wishes.
"Good-bye," said Raven, offering his hand to White Cloud. "Good
friends," he added, once more passing him his flask.
"Don't!" said Cameron, laying his hand again upon the Indian's arm.
For a single instant White Cloud paused.
"Huh!" grunted Little Thunder in contempt. "Big chief scared."
Quickly the Stony shook off Cameron's hand, seized the flask and,
putting it to his lips, drained it dry.
"Come," said Cameron to the other Stony. "Come with me."
Raven uttered a warning word to Little Thunder. The Indians stood
for some moments uncertain, their heads bowed upon their breasts.
Then White Cloud, throwing back his head and looking Cameron full
in the face, said--"Good man. Good man. Me no go."
"Then I go alone," cried Cameron, springing off into the darkness.
As he turned his foot caught the pile of wood brought for the fire.
He tripped and stumbled almost to the ground. Before he could
recover himself Little Thunder, swift as a wildcat, leaped upon his
back with his ever-ready knife in his upraised hand, but before he
could strike, Cameron had turned himself and throwing the Indian
off had struggled to his feet.
"Hold there!" cried Raven with a terrible oath, flinging himself
upon the struggling pair.
A moment or two the Stonies hesitated, then they too seized Cameron
and between them all they bore him fighting to the ground.
"Keep back! Keep back!" cried Raven in a terrible voice to Little
Thunder, who, knife in hand, was dancing round, seeking an
opportunity to strike. "Will you lie still, or shall I knock your
head in?" said Raven to Cameron through his clenched teeth, with
one hand on his throat and the other poising a revolver over his
head. Cameron gave up the struggle.
"Speak and quick!" cried Raven, his face working with passion, his
voice thick and husky, his breath coming in quick gasps from the
fury that possessed him.
"All right," said Cameron. "Let me up. You have beaten me this
Raven sprang to his feet.
"Let him up!" he said. "Now, then, Cameron, give me your word you
won't try to escape."
"No, I will not! I'll see you hanged first," said Cameron.
Raven deliberately drew his pistol and said slowly:
"I have saved your life twice already, but the time is past for any
more trifling. Now you've got to take it."
At this Little Thunder spoke a word, pointing toward the camp of
the Stonies. Raven hesitated, then with an oath he strode toward
Cameron and thrusting his pistol in his face said in tones of cold
and concentrated rage:
"Listen to me, you fool! Your life is hanging by a hair trigger
that goes off with a feather touch. I give you one more chance.
Move hand or foot and the bullet in this gun will pass neatly
through your eye. So help me God Almighty!"
He spoke to Little Thunder, still keeping Cameron covered with his
gun. The Indian slipped quietly behind Cameron and swiftly threw a
line over his shoulders and, drawing it tight, bound his arms to
his side. Again and again he repeated this operation till Cameron
stood swathed in the coils of the rope like a mummy, inwardly
raging, not so much at his captor, but at himself and his stupid
bungling of his break for liberty. His helpless and absurd
appearance seemed to restore Raven's good humour.
"Now, then," he said, turning to the Stonies and resuming his
careless air, "we will finish our little business. Sit down, Mr.
Cameron," he continued, with a pleasant smile. "It may be less
dignified, but it is much more comfortable."
Once more he took out his flask and passed it round, forgetting to
take it back from his Indian visitors, who continued to drink from
it in turn.
"Listen," he said. "I give you all you see here for your furs and
a pony to pack them. That is my last word. Quick, yes or no?
Tell them no more trifling, Little Thunder. The moon is high. We
start in ten minutes."
There was no further haggling. The Indians seemed to recognise
that the time for that was past. After a brief consultation they
grunted their acceptance and proceeded to pack up their goods, but
with no good will. More vividly than any in the company they
realised the immensity of the fraud that was being perpetrated upon
them. They were being robbed of their whole winter's kill and that
of some of their friends as well, but they were helpless in the
grip of their mad passion for the trader's fire-water. Disgusted
with themselves and filled with black rage against the man who had
so pitilessly stripped them bare of the profits of a year's toil
and privation, how gladly would they have put their knives into his
back, but they knew his sort by only too bitter experience and they
knew that at his hands they need expect no pity.
"Here," cried Raven, observing their black looks. "A present for
my brothers." He handed them each a roll of tobacco. "And a
present for their squaws," adding a scarlet blanket apiece to their
Without a word of thanks they took the gifts and, loading their
stuff upon their remaining pony, disappeared down the trail.
"Now, Little Thunder, let's get out of this, for once their old man
finds out he will be hot foot on our trail."
With furious haste they fell to their packing. Cameron stood
aghast at the amazing swiftness and dexterity with which the packs
were roped and loaded. When all was complete the trader turned to
Cameron in gay good humour.
"Now, Mr. Cameron, will you go passenger or freight?" Cameron made
no reply. "In other words, shall we pack you on your pony or will
you ride like a gentleman, giving me your word not to attempt to
escape? Time presses, so answer quick! Give me twenty-four hours.
Give me your word for twenty-four hours, after which you can go
when you like."
"I agree," said Cameron shortly.
"Cut him loose, Little Thunder." Little Thunder hesitated.
"Quick, you fool! Cut him loose. I know a gentleman when I see
him. He is tied tighter than with ropes."
"It is a great pity," he continued, addressing Cameron in a
pleasant conversational tone as they rode down the trail together,
"that you should have made an ass of yourself for those brutes.
Bah! What odds? Old Macdougall or some one else would get their
stuff sooner or later. Why not I? Come, cheer up. You are jolly
well out of it, for, God knows, you may live to look death in the
face many a time, but never while you live will you be so near
touching the old sport as you were a few minutes ago. Why I have
interfered to save you these three times blessed if I know! Many a
man's bones have been picked by the coyotes in these hills for a
fraction of the provocation you have given me, not to speak of
Little Thunder, who is properly thirsting for your blood. But take
advice from me," here he leaned over towards Cameron and touched
him on the shoulder, while his voice took a sterner tone, "don't
venture on any further liberties with him."
Suddenly Cameron's rage blazed forth.
"Now perhaps you will listen to me," he said in a voice thrilling
with passion. "First of all, keep your hands off me. As for your
comrade and partner in crime, I fear him no more than I would a dog
and like a dog I shall treat him if he dares to attack me again.
As for you, you are a coward and a cad. You have me at a
disadvantage. But put down your guns and fight me on equal terms,
and I will make you beg for your life!"
There was a gleam of amused admiration in Raven's eyes.
"By Jove! It would be a pretty fight, I do believe, and one I
should greatly enjoy. At present, however, time is pressing and
therefore that pleasure we must postpone. Meantime I promise you
that when it comes it will be on equal terms."
"I ask no more," said Cameron.
There was no further conversation, for Raven appeared intent on
putting as large a space as possible between himself and the camp
of the Stonies. The discovery of the fraud he knew would be
inevitable and he knew, too, that George Macdougall was not the man
to allow his flock to be fleeced with impunity.
So before the grey light of morning began to steal over the
mountaintops Raven, with his bunch of ponies and his loot, was many
miles forward on his journey. But the endurance even of bronchos
and cayuses has its limit, and their desperate condition from
hunger and fatigue rendered food and rest imperative.
The sun was fully up when Raven ordered a halt, and in a sunny
valley, deep with grass, unsaddling the wearied animals, he turned
them loose to feed and rest. Apparently careless of danger and
highly contented with their night's achievement, he and his Indian
partner abandoned themselves to sleep. Cameron, too, though his
indignation and chagrin prevented sleep for a time, was finally
forced to yield to the genial influences of the warm sun and the
languid airs of the spring day, and, firmly resolving to keep
awake, he fell into dreamless slumber.
The sun was riding high noon when he was awakened by a hand upon
his arm. It was Raven.
"Hush!" he said. "Not a word. Mount and quick!"
Looking about Cameron observed that the pack horses were ready
loaded and Raven standing by his broncho ready to mount. Little
Thunder was nowhere to be seen.
"What's up?" said Cameron.
For answer Raven pointed up the long sloping trail down which they
had come. There three horsemen could be seen riding hard, but
still distant more than half a mile.
"Saw them three miles away, luckily enough," said Raven.
"Where's Little Thunder?" enquired Cameron.
"Oh, rounding up the bunch," answered Raven carelessly, waving his
hand toward the valley. "Those men are coming some," he added,
swinging into his saddle.
As he spoke a rifle shot shattered the stillness of the valley.
The first of the riders threw up his hands, clutched wildly at the
vacant air and pitched headlong out of the saddle. "Good God!
What's that?" gasped Cameron. The other two wheeled in their
course. Before they could turn a second shot rang out and another
of the riders fell upon his horse's neck, clung there for a moment,
then gently slid to the ground. The third, throwing himself over
the side of his pony, rode back for dear life.
A third and a fourth shot were heard, but the fleeing rider escaped
"What does that mean?" again asked Cameron, weak and sick with
"Mount!" yelled Raven with a terrible oath and flourishing a
revolver in his hand. "Mount quick!" His face was pale, his eyes
burned with a fierce glare, while his voice rang with the blast of
"Lead those pack horses down that trail!" he yelled, thrusting the
line into Cameron's hand. "Quick, I tell you!"
"Crack-crack!" Twice a bullet sang savagely past Cameron's ears.
"Quicker!" shouted Raven, circling round the bunch of ponies with
wild cries and oaths like a man gone mad. Again and again the
revolver spat wickedly and here and there a pony plunged recklessly
forward, nicked in the ear by one of those venomous singing
pellets. Helpless to defend himself and expecting every moment to
feel the sting of a bullet somewhere in his body, Cameron hurried
his pony with all his might down the trail, dragging the pack
animals after him. In huddled confusion the terrified brutes
followed after him in a mad rush, for hard upon their rear, like a
beast devil-possessed, Nighthawk pressed, biting, kicking,
squealing, to the accompaniment of his rider's oaths and yells and
pistol shots. Down the long sloping trail to the very end of the
valley the mad rush continued. There the ascent checked the fury
of the speed and forced a quieter pace. But through the afternoon
there was no weakening of the pressure from the rear till the
evening shadows and the frequent falling of the worn-out beasts
forced a slackening of the pace and finally a halt.
Sick with horror and loathing, Cameron dismounted and unsaddled his
broncho. He had hardly finished this operation when Little Thunder
rode up upon a strange pony, leading a beautiful white broncho
behind. Cameron could not repress an exclamation of disgust as the
Indian drew near him.
"Beautiful beast that," said Raven carelessly, pointing to the
Cameron turned his eyes upon the pony and stood transfixed with
"My God!" he exclaimed. "Look at that!" Across the beautiful
white shoulders and reaching down clear to the fetlock there ran a
broad stain, dull red and horrible. Then through his teeth, hard
clenched together, these words came forth: "Some day, by God's
help, I shall wipe out that stain."
The trader shrugged his shoulders carelessly, but made no reply.
The horror of the day followed Cameron through the night and awoke
with him next morning. Every time his eyes found the Indian his
teeth came together in a grinding rage as he repeated his vow,
"Some day I shall bring you to justice. So help me God!"
Against Raven somehow he could not maintain the same heat of rage.
That he was a party to the murder of the Stonies there was little
reason to doubt, but as all next day they lay in the sunny glade
resting the ponies, or went loping easily along the winding trails
making ever towards the Southwest, the trader's cheerful face, his
endless tales, and his invincible good humour stole from Cameron's
heart, in spite of his firm resolve, the fierceness of his wrath.
But the resolve was none the less resolute that one day he would
bring this man to justice.
As they journeyed on, the woods became more open and the trees
larger. Mid-day found them resting by a little lake, from which
a stream flowed into the upper reaches of the Columbia River.
"We shall make the Crow's Nest trail by to-morrow night," said
Raven, "where we shall part; not to your very great sorrow, I
The evening before Cameron would have said, "No, but to my great
joy," and it vexed him that he could not bring himself to say so
to-day with any great show of sincerity. There was a charm about
this man that he could not resist.
"And yet," continued Raven, allowing his eyes to rest dreamily upon
the lake, "in other circumstances I might have found in you an
excellent friend, and a most rare and valuable find that is."
"That it is!" agreed Cameron, thinking of his old football captain,
"but one cannot make friends with a--"
"It is an ugly word, I know," said Raven. "But, after all, what is
a bunch of furs more or less to those Indians?"
"Furs?" exclaimed Cameron in horror. "What are the lives of these
"Oh," replied Raven carelessly, "these Indians are always getting
killed one way or another. It is all in the day's work with them.
They pick each other off without query or qualm. Besides, Little
Thunder has a grudge of very old standing against the Stonies,
whom he heartily despises, and he doubtless enjoys considerable
satisfaction from the thought that he has partially paid it. It
will be his turn next, like as not, for they won't let this thing
sleep. Or perhaps mine!" he added after a pause. "The man is
doubtless on the trail at this present minute who will finally get
"Then why expose yourself to such a fate?" said Cameron. "Surely
in this country a man can live an honest life and prosper."
"Honest life? I doubt it! What is an honest life? Does any
Indian trader lead an honest life? Do the Hudson Bay traders, or
I. G. Baker's people, or any of them do the honest thing by the
Indian they trade with? In the long run it is a question of the
police. What escapes the police is honest. The crime, after all,
is in getting caught."
"Oh, that is too old!" said Cameron. "You know you are talking
"Quite right! It is rot," assented Raven. "The whole business is
rot. 'Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher.' Oh, I know the
Book, you see. I was not born a--a--an outlaw." The grey-brown
eyes had in them a wistful look. "Bah!" he exclaimed, springing to
his feet and shaking himself. "The sight of your Edinburgh face
and the sound of your Edinburgh speech and your old country ways
and manners have got on my recollection works, and I believe that
accounts for you being alive to-day, old man."
He whistled to his horse. Nighthawk came trotting and whinneying
"I have one friend in the world, old boy," he said, throwing his
arm over the black, glossy neck and searching his pocket for a
biscuit. "And even you," he added bitterly, "I fear do not love me
Saddling his horse, he mounted and calling Little Thunder to him
"Take the bunch on as far as the Big Canyon and wait there for me.
I am going back a bit. It is better to be sure than sorry.
Cameron, your best route lies with us. Your twenty-four hours'
parole is already up. To-morrow, perhaps to-night, I shall put you
on the Macleod trail. You are a free man, but don't try to make
any breaks when I am gone. My friend here is extremely prompt with
his weapons. Farewell! Get a move on, Little Thunder! Cameron
will bring up the rear."
He added some further words in the Indian tongue, his voice taking
a stern tone. Little Thunder grunted a surly and unwilling
acquiescence, and, waving his hand to Cameron, the trader wheeled
his horse up the trail.
In spite of himself Cameron could not forbear a feeling of pity and
admiration as he watched the lithe, upright figure swaying up the
trail, his every movement in unison with that of the beautiful
demon he bestrode. But with all his pity and admiration he was
none the less resolved that he would do what in him lay to bring
these two to justice.
"This ugly devil at least shall swing!" he said to himself as he
turned his eyes upon Little Thunder getting his pack ponies out
upon the trail. This accomplished, the Indian, pointing onward,
"You go in front--me back."
"Not much!" cried Cameron. "You heard the orders from your chief.
You go in front. I bring up the rear. I do not know the trail."
"Huh! Trail good," grunted Little Thunder, the red-rimmed eyes
gleaming malevolently. "You go front--me back." He waved his hand
impatiently toward the trail. Following the direction of his hand,
Cameron's eyes fell upon the stock of his own rifle protruding from
a pack upon one of the ponies. For a moment the protruding stock
held his eyes fascinated.
"Huh!" said the Indian, noting Cameron's glance, and slipping off
his pony. In an instant both men were racing for the pack and
approaching each other at a sharp angle. Arrived at striking
distance, the Indian leaped at Cameron, with his knife, as was his
wont, ready to strike.
The appearance of the Indian springing at him seemed to set some of
the grey matter in Cameron's brain moving along old tracks. Like a
flash he dropped to his knees in an old football tackle, caught the
Indian by the legs and tossed him high over his shoulders, then,
springing to his feet, he jerked the rifle free from the pack and
stood waiting for Little Thunder's attack.
But the Indian lay without sound or motion. Cameron used his
opportunity to look for his cartridge belt, which, after a few
minutes' anxious search, he discovered in the pack. He buckled the
belt about him, made sure his Winchester held a shell, and stood
That he should be waiting thus with the deliberate purpose of
shooting down a fellow human being filled him with a sense of
unreality. But the events of the last forty-eight hours had
created an entirely new environment, and with extraordinary
facility his mind had adjusted itself to this environment, and
though two days before he would have shrunk in horror from the
possibility of taking a human life, he knew as he stood there that
at the first sign of attack he should shoot the Indian down like a
Slowly Little Thunder raised himself to a sitting posture and
looked about in dazed surprise. As his mind regained its normal
condition there deepened in his eyes a look of cunning hatred.
With difficulty he rose to his feet and stood facing Cameron.
Cameron waited quietly, watching his every move.
"You go in front!" at length commanded Cameron. "And no nonsense,
mind you," he added, tapping his rifle, "or I shoot quick."
The Indian might not have understood all Cameron's words, but he
was in no doubt as to his meaning. It was characteristic of his
race that he should know when he was beaten and stoically accept
defeat for the time being. Without further word or look he led off
his pack ponies, while Cameron took his place at the rear.
But progress was slow. Little Thunder was either incapable of
rapid motion or sullenly indifferent to any necessity for it.
Besides, there was no demoniacal dynamic forcing the beasts on from
the rear. They had not been more than three hours on the trail
when Cameron heard behind him the thundering of hoofs. Glancing
over his shoulder, he saw coming down upon him Raven, riding as if
pursued by a thousand demons. The condition of his horse showed
that the race had been long and hard; his black satin skin was
dripping as if he had come through a river, his eyes were bloodshot
and starting from his head, his mouth was wide open and from it in
large clots the foam had fallen upon his neck and chest.
Past Cameron and down upon Little Thunder Raven rushed like a
whirlwind, yelling with wild oaths the while,
"Get on! Get on! What are you loafing about here for?"
A few vehement directions to the Indian and he came thundering back
"What have you been doing?" he cried with an oath. "Why are you
not miles on? Get on! Move! Move!! Move!!!" At every yell he
hurled his frenzied broncho upon the ponies which brought up the
rear, and in a few minutes had the whole cavalcade madly careering
down the sloping trail. Wilder and wilder grew the pace. Turning
a sharp corner round a jutting rock a pack pony stumbled and went
crashing fifty feet to the rock below. "On! On!" yelled Raven,
emptying his gun into the struggling animal as he passed. More and
more difficult became the road until at length it was impossible to
keep up the pace.
"We cannot make it! We cannot make it!" muttered Raven with bitter
oaths. "Oh, the cursed fools! Another two miles would do it!"
At length they came to a spot where the trail touched a level
"Halt!" yelled the trader, as he galloped to the head of the
column. A few minutes he spent in rapid and fierce consultation
with Little Thunder and then came raging back. "We are going to
get this bunch down into the valley there," he shouted, pointing to
the thick timber at the bottom. "I do not expect your help, but I
ask you to remain where you are for the present. And let me assure
you this is no moment for trifling."
With extraordinary skill and rapidity Little Thunder managed to
lead first the pack ponies and then the others, one by one, at
intervals, off the trail as they went onward, taking infinite pains
to cover their tracks at the various points of departure. While
this was being done the trader stood shouting directions and giving
assistance with a fury of energy that seemed to communicate itself
to the very beasts. But the work was one of great difficulty and
took many minutes to accomplish.
"Half an hour more, just half an hour! Fifteen minutes!" he kept
muttering. "Just a short fifteen minutes and all would be well."
As the last pony disappeared into the woods Raven turned to Cameron
and with a smile said quietly,
"There, that's done. Now you are free. Here we part. This is
your trail. It will take you to Macleod. I am sorry, however,
that owing to a change in circumstances for which I am not
responsible I must ask you for that rifle." With the swiftness of
a flash of light he whipped his gun into Cameron's face. "Don't
move!" he said, still smiling. "This gun of mine never fails.
Quick, don't look round. Yes, those hoof beats are our friends the
police. Quick! It is your life or mine. I'd hate to kill you,
Cameron. I give you one chance more."
There was no help for it, and Cameron, with his heart filled with
futile fury, surrendered his rifle.
"Now ride in front of me a little way. They have just seen us, but
they don't know that we are aware of their presence. Ride! Ride!
A little faster!" Nighthawk rushed upon Cameron's lagging pony.
"There, that's better."
A shout fell upon their ears.
"Go right along!" said Raven quietly. "Only a few minutes longer,
then we part. I have greatly enjoyed your company."
"Aha!" said Raven, glancing round. "It is, I verily believe it is
my old friend Sergeant Crisp. Only two of them, by Jove! If we
had only known we need not have hurried."
Another shout, followed by a bullet that sang over their heads.
"Ah, this is interesting--too interesting by half! Well, here goes
for you, sergeant!" He wheeled as he spoke. Turning swiftly in
his saddle, Cameron saw him raise his rifle.
"Hold up, you devil!" he shouted, throwing his pony across the
black broncho's track.
The rifle rang out, the police horse staggered, swayed, and pitched
to the earth, bringing his rider down with him.
"Ah, Cameron, that was awkward of you," said Raven gently.
"However, it is perhaps as well. Goodbye, old man. Tell the
sergeant not to follow. Trails hereabout are dangerous and good
police sergeants are scarce. Again farewell." He swung his
broncho off the trail and, waving his hand, with a smile,
disappeared into the thick underbrush.
"Hold up your hands!" shouted the police officer, who had struggled
upright and was now swaying on his feet and covering Cameron with
"Hurry! Hurry!" cried Cameron, springing from his pony and waving
his hands wildly in the air. "Come on. You'll get him yet."
"Stand where you are and hold up your hands!" cried the sergeant.
Cameron obeyed, shouting meanwhile wrathfully, "Oh, come on, you
bally fool! You are losing him. Come on, I tell you!"
"Keep your hands up or I shoot!" cried the sergeant sternly.
"All right," said Cameron, holding his hands high, "but for God's
sake hurry up!" He ran towards the sergeant as he spoke, with his
hands still above his head.
"Halt!" shouted the sergeant, as Cameron came near. "Constable
Burke, arrest that man!"
"Oh, come, get it over," cried Cameron in a fury of passion.
"Arrest me, of course, but if you want to catch that chap you'll
have to hurry. He cannot be far away."
"Ah, indeed, my man," said the sergeant pleasantly. "He is not far
"No, he's a murderer and a thief and you can catch him if you
"Ah! Very good, very good! Constable Burke, tie this man up to
your saddle and we'll take a look round. How many might there be
in your gang?" enquired the sergeant. "Tell the truth now. It
will be the better for you."
"One," said Cameron impatiently. "A chap calling himself Raven."
"Raven, eh?" exclaimed Sergeant Crisp with a new interest. "Raven,
"Yes, and an Indian. Little Thunder he called him."
"Little Thunder! Jove, what a find!" exclaimed the sergeant.
"Yes," continued Cameron eagerly. "Raven is just ahead in the
woods there alone and the Indian is further back with a bunch of
ponies down in the river bottom."
"Oh, indeed! Very interesting! And so Raven is all alone in the
scrub there, waiting doubtless to give himself up," said sergeant
Crisp with fine sarcasm. "Well, we are not yet on to your game,
young man, but we will not just play up to that lead yet a while."
In vain Cameron raged and pleaded and stormed and swore, telling
his story in incoherent snatches, to the intense amusement of
Sergeant Crisp and his companion. At length Cameron desisted,
swallowing his rage as best he could.
"Now then, we shall move on. The pass is not more than an hour
away. We will put this young man in safe keeping and return for
Mr. Raven and his interesting friend." For a moment he stood
looking down upon his horse. "Poor old chap!" he said. "We have
gone many a mile together on Her Majesty's errands. If I have done
my duty as faithfully as you have done yours I need not fear my
record. Take his saddle and bridle off, Burke. We've got one of
the gang. Some day we shall come up with Mr. Raven himself."
"Yes," said Cameron with passionate bitterness. "And that might be
to-day if you had only listened to me. Why, man," he shouted with
reviving rage, "we three could take him even yet!"
"Ah!" said Sergeant Crisp, "so we could."
"You had him in your hands to-day," said Cameron, "but like a fool
you let him go. But some day, so help me God, I shall bring these
murderers to justice."
"Ah!" said Sergeant Crisp again. "Good! Very good indeed! Now,
my man, march!"
A DAY IN THE MACLEOD BARRACKS
"What's this, Sergeant Crisp?" The Commissioner, a tall, slight,
and soldier-like man, keen-eyed and brisk of speech, rapped out his
words like a man intent on business.
"One of a whiskey gang, Sir. Dick Raven's, I suspect."
"And the charge?"
"Whiskey trading, theft, and murder."
The Commissioner's face grew grave.
"Murder? Where did you find him?"
"Kootenay trail, Sir. Got wind of him at Calgary, followed up the
clue past Morleyville, then along the Kootenay trail. A blizzard
came on and we feared we had lost them. We fell in with a band of
Stony Indians, found that the band had been robbed and two of their
"Two murdered?" The Commissioner's voice was stern.
"Yes, Sir. Shot down in cold blood. We have the testimony of an
eye witness. We followed the trail and came upon two of them. My
horse was shot. One of them escaped; this man we captured."
The Commissioner sat pondering. Then with disconcerting swiftness
he turned upon the prisoner.
"I was working in McIvor's survey camp near Morleyville. I went
out shooting, lost my way in a blizzard, was captured by a man who
called himself Raven--"
"Wait!" said the Commissioner sharply. "Bring me that file!"
The orderly brought a file from which the Commissioner selected a
letter. His keen eyes rapidly scanned the contents and then ran
over the prisoner from head to foot. Thereupon, without a moment's
hesitation, he said curtly:
"Release the prisoner!"
"But, Sir--" began Sergeant Crisp, with an expression of utter
bewilderment and disgust upon his face.
"Release the prisoner!" repeated the Commissioner sharply. "Mr.
Cameron, I deeply regret this mistake. Under the circumstances it
could hardly have been avoided. You were in bad company, you see.
I am greatly pleased that my men have been of service to you. We
shall continue to do all we can for you. In the meantime I am very
pleased to have the pleasure of meeting you." He passed the letter
to Sergeant Crisp. "I have information about you from Morleyville,
you see. Now tell us all about it."
It took Cameron some moments to recover his wits, so dumbfounded
was he at the sudden change in his condition.
"Well, Sir," he began, "I hardly know what to say."
"Sit down, sit down, Mr. Cameron. Take your time," said the
Commissioner. "We are somewhat hurried these days, but you must
have had some trying experiences."
Then Cameron proceeded with his tale. The Commissioner listened
with keen attention, now and then arresting him with a question or
a comment. When Cameron came to tell of the murder of the Stonies
his voice shook with passion.
"We will get that Indian some day," said the Commissioner, "never
fear. What is his name?"
"Little Thunder, Raven called him. And I would like to take a hand
in that too, Sir," said Cameron eagerly.
"You would, eh?" said the Commissioner with a sharp look at him.
"Well, we'll see. Little Thunder," he repeated to himself. "Bring
that Record Book!"
The orderly laid a large canvas-covered book before him.
"Little Thunder, eh?" he repeated, turning the leaves of the book.
"Oh, yes, I thought so! Blood Indian--formerly Chief--supplanted
by Red Crow--got into trouble with whiskey traders. Yes, I
remember. He is at his old tricks. This time, however, he has
gone too far. We will get him. Go on, Mr. Cameron!"
When Cameron had concluded his story the Commissioner said to the
"Send me Inspector Dickson!"
In a few moments Inspector Dickson appeared, a tall, slight man,
with a gentle face and kindly blue eyes.
"Inspector Dickson, how are we for men? Can you spare two or three
to round up a gang of whiskey traders and to run down a murderer?
We are on the track of Raven's bunch, I believe."
"We are very short-handed at present, Sir. This half-breed trouble
in the north is keeping our Indians all very restless. We must
keep in touch with them."
"Yes, yes, I know. By the way, how are the Bloods just now?"
"They are better, Sir, but the Blackfeet are restless and uneasy.
There are a lot of runners from the east among them."
"How is old Crowfoot behaving?"
"Crowfoot himself is apparently all right so far, but of course no
man can tell what Crowfoot is thinking."
"That's right enough," replied the Commissioner.
"By the way, Sir, it was Crowfoot's son that got into that trouble
last night with that Macleod man. The old Chief is in town, too,
in fact is outside just now and quite worked up over the arrest."
"Well, we will settle this Crowfoot business in a few minutes.
Now, about this Raven gang. You cannot go yourself with a couple
of men? He is an exceedingly clever rascal."
The Inspector enumerated the cases immediately pressing.
"Well then, at the earliest possible moment we must get after this
gang. Keep this in mind, Inspector Dickson. That Indian I
consider an extremely dangerous man. He is sure to be mixed up
with this half-breed trouble. He has very considerable influence
with a large section of the Bloods. I shouldn't be surprised if we
should find him on their reserve before very long. Now then, bring
in young Crowfoot!"
The Inspector saluted and retired, followed by Sergeant Crisp,
whose face had not yet regained its normal expression.
"Mr. Cameron," said the Commissioner, "if you care to remain with
me for the morning I shall be glad to have you. The administration
of justice by the police may prove interesting to you. Later on we
shall discuss your return to your camp."
Cameron expressed his delight at being permitted to remain in the
court room, not only that he might observe the police methods of
administering justice, but especially that he might see something
of the great Blackfeet Chief, Crowfoot, of whom he had heard much
since his arrival in the West.
In a few minutes Inspector Dickson returned, followed by a
constable leading a young Indian, handcuffed. With these entered
Jerry, the famous half-breed interpreter, and last of all the
father of the prisoner, old Crowfoot, tall, straight, stately. One
swift searching glance the old Chief flung round the room, and
then, acknowledging the Commissioner's salute with a slight wave
of the hand and a grunt, and declining the seat offered him, he
stood back against the wall and there viewed the proceedings with
an air of haughty defiance.
The Commissioner lost no time in preliminaries. The charge was
read and explained to the prisoner. The constable made his
statement. The young Indian had got into an altercation with a
citizen of Macleod, and on being hard pressed had pulled the pistol
which was laid upon the desk. There was no defense. The
interpreter, however, explained, after conversation with the
prisoner, that drink was the cause. At this point the old Chief's
face swiftly changed. Defiance gave place to disgust, grief, and
The Commissioner, after carefully eliciting all the facts, gave the
prisoner an opportunity to make a statement. This being declined,
the Commissioner proceeded gravely to point out the serious nature
of the offense, to emphasize the sacredness of human life and
declare the determination of the government to protect all Her
Majesty's subjects, no matter what their race or the colour of
their skin. He then went on to point out the serious danger which
the young man had so narrowly escaped.
"Why, man," exclaimed the Commissioner, "you might have committed
Here the young fellow said something to the interpreter. There was
a flicker of a smile on the half-breed's face.
"He say dat pistol he no good. He can't shoot. He not loaded."
The Commissioner's face never changed a line. He gravely turned
the pistol over in his hand, and truly enough the rusty weapon
appeared to be quite innocuous except to the shooter.
"This is an extremely dangerous weapon. Why, it might have killed
yourself--if it had been loaded. We cannot allow this sort of
thing. However, since it was not loaded we shall make the sentence
light. I sentence you to one month's confinement."
The interpreter explained the sentence to the young Indian, who
received the explanation without the movement of a muscle or the
flicker of an eyelid. The constable touched him on the shoulder
and said, "Come!"
Before he could move old Crowfoot with two strides stood before the
constable, and waving him aside with a gesture of indescribable
dignity, took his son in his arms and kissed him on either cheek.
Then, stepping back, he addressed him in a voice grave, solemn, and
vibrant with emotion. Jerry interpreted to the Court.
"I have observed the big Chief. This is good medicine. It is good
that wrong should suffer. All good men are against wickedness. My
son, you have done foolishly. You have darkened my eyes. You have
covered my face before my people. They will ask--where is your
son? My voice will be silent. My face will be covered with shame.
I shall be like a dog kicked from the lodge. My son, I told you to
go only to the store. I warned you against bad men and bad places.
Your ears were closed, you were wiser than your father. Now we
both must suffer, you here shut up from the light of the sky, I in
my darkened lodge. But," he continued, turning swiftly upon the
Commissioner, "I ask my father why these bad men who sell whiskey
to the poor Indian are not shut up with my son. My son is young.
He is like the hare in the woods. He falls easily into the trap.
Why are not these bad men removed?" The old Chief's face trembled
with indignant appeal.
"They shall be!" said the Commissioner, smiting the desk with his
fist. "This very day!"
"It is good!" continued the old Chief with great dignity. Then,
turning again to his son, he said, and his voice was full of grave
"Now, go to your punishment. The hours will be none too long if
they bring you wisdom." Again he kissed his son on both cheeks
and, without a look at any other, stalked haughtily from the room.
"Inspector Dickson," sharply commanded the Commissioner, "find out
the man that sold that whiskey and arrest him at once!"
Cameron was profoundly impressed with the whole scene. He began
to realise as never before the tremendous responsibilities that
lay upon those charged with the administration of justice in this
country. He began to understand, too, the secret of the
extraordinary hold that the Police had upon the Indian tribes and
how it came that so small a force could maintain the "Pax
Britannica" over three hundred thousand square miles of unsettled
country, the home of hundreds of wild adventurers and of thousands
of savage Indians, utterly strange to any rule or law except that
of their own sweet will.
"This police business is a big affair," he ventured to say to the
Commissioner when the court room was cleared. "You practically run
"Well," said the Commissioner modestly, "we do something to keep
the country from going to the devil. We see that every man gets a
"It is great work!" exclaimed Cameron.
"Yes, I suppose it is," replied the Commissioner. "We don't talk
about it, of course. Indeed, we don't think of it. But," he
continued, "that blue book there could tell a story that would make
the old Empire not too ashamed of the men who 'ride the line' and
patrol the ranges in this far outpost." He opened the big canvas-
bound book as he spoke and turned the pages over. "Look at that
for a page," he said, and Cameron glanced over the entries. What a
tale they told!
"Yes," said the Commissioner, "that saved a settler's wife and
child--a prairie fire. The house was lost, but the constable
pulled them out and got rather badly burned in the business."
Cameron's finger ran down the page.
"Sick man transported to Post."
"That," commented the Superintendent, "was a journey of over two
hundred miles by dog sleighs in winter. Saved the man's life."
And so the record ran. "Cattle thieves arrested." "Whiskey
smugglers captured." "Stolen horses recovered." "Insane man
brought to Post."
"That was rather a tough case," said the Commissioner. "Meant a
journey of some eight hundred miles with a man, a powerful man too,
"How many of your men on that journey?" enquired Cameron.
"Oh, just one. The fellow got away twice, but was recaptured and
finally landed. Got better too. But the constable was all broken
up for weeks afterwards."
"Man, that was great!" exclaimed Cameron. "What a pity it should
not be known."
"Oh," said the Commissioner lightly, "it's all in the day's duty."
The words thrilled Cameron to the heart. "All in the day's duty!"
The sheer heroism of it, the dauntless facing of Nature's grimmest
terrors, the steady patience, the uncalculated sacrifice, the
thought of all that lay behind these simple words held him silent
for many minutes as he kept turning over the leaves.
As he sat thus turning the leaves and allowing his eye to fall upon
those simple but eloquent entries, a loud and strident voice was
"Waal, I tell yuh, I want to see him right naow. I ain't come two
hundred miles for nawthin'. I mean business, I do."
The orderly's voice was heard in reply.
"I ain't got no time to wait. I want to see yer Chief of Police
Again the orderly's voice could be distinguished.
"In court, is he? Waal, you hurry up and tell him J. B. Cadwaller
of Lone Pine, Montana, an American citizen, wants to see him right
The orderly came in and saluted.
"A man to see you, Sir," he said. "An American."
"Horse-stealing case, Sir."
"Show him in!"
In a moment the orderly returned, followed by, not one, but three
"Good-day, Jedge! My name's J. B. Cadwaller, Lone Pine, Montana.
"Take your hat off in the court!" said the orderly sharply.
Mr. Cadwaller slowly surveyed the orderly with an expression of
interested curiosity in his eyes, removing his hat as he did so.
"Say, you're pretty swift, ain't yuh? You might give a feller a
show to git in his interductions," said Mr. Cadwaller. "I was jes
goin' to interdooce to you, Jedge, these gentlemen from my own
State, District Attorney Hiram S. Sligh and Mr. Rufus Raimes,
The Commissioner duly acknowledged the introduction, standing to
receive the strangers with due courtesy.
"Now, Jedge, I want to see yer Chief of Police. I've got a case
"I have the honor to be the Commissioner. What can I do for you?"
"Waal, Jedge, we don't want to waste no time, neither yours nor
ours. The fact is some of yer blank blank Indians have been
rustlin' hosses from us fer some time back. We don't mind a cayuse
now and then, but when it comes to a hull bunch of vallable hosses
there's where we kick and we ain't goin' to stand fer it. And we
want them hosses re-stored. And what's more, we want them blank
blank copper snakes strung up."
"How many horses have you lost?"
"How many? Jeerupiter! Thirty or forty fer all I know, they've
been rustlin' 'em for a year back."
"Why didn't you report before?"
"Why we thought we'd git 'em ourselves, and if we had we wouldn't
'a troubled yuh--and I guess they wouldn't 'a troubled us much
longer. But they are so slick--so blank slick!"
"Mr. Cadwaller, we don't allow any profanity in this court room,"
said the Commissioner in a quiet voice.
"Eh? Who's givin' yuh profanity? I don't mean no profanity. I'm
talkin' about them blank blank--"
"Stop, Mr. Cadwaller!" said the Commissioner. "We must end this
interview if you cannot make your statements without profanity.
This is Her Majesty's court of Justice and we cannot tolerate any
"Waal, I'll be--!"
"Pardon me, Mr. Commissioner," said Mr. Hiram S. Sligh, interrupting
his friend and client. "Perhaps I may make a statement. We've
lost some twenty or thirty horses."
"Thirty-one" interjected Mr. Raimes quietly.
"Thirty-one!" burst in Mr. Cadwaller indignantly. "That's only one
"And," continued Mr. Sligh, "we have traced them right up to the
Blood reserve. More than that, Mr. Raimes has seen the horses in
the possession of the Indians and we want your assistance in
recovering our property."
"Yes, by gum!" exclaimed Mr. Cadwaller. "And we want them--eh--
eh--consarned redskin thieves strung up."
"You say you have seen the stolen horses on the Blood reserve, Mr.
Raimes?" enquired the Commissioner.
Mr. Raimes, who was industriously chewing a quid of tobacco,
ejected, with a fine sense of propriety and with great skill and
accuracy, a stream of tobacco juice out of the door before he
"I seen 'em."
"When did you lose your horses?"
Mr. Raimes considered the matter for some moments, chewing
energetically the while, then, having delivered himself with the
same delicacy and skill as before of his surplus tobacco juice,
made laconic reply:
"Seventeen, no, eighteen days ago."
"Did you follow the trail immediately yourselves?"
"No, Jim Eberts."
"Foreman," said Mr. Raimes, who seemed to regard conversation in
the light of an interference with the more important business in
which he was industriously engaged.
"But you saw the horses yourself on the Blood reserve?"
"Followed up and seen 'em."
"How long since you saw them there, Mr. Raimes?"
"You are quite sure about the horses?"
"Call Inspector Dickson!" ordered the Commissioner.
Inspector Dickson appeared and saluted.
"We have information that a party of Blood Indians have stolen a
band of horses from these gentlemen from Montana and that these
horses are now on the Blood reserve. Take a couple of men and
investigate, and if you find the horses bring them back."
"Couple of men!" ejaculated Mr. Cadwaller breathlessly. "A couple
of hundred, you mean, General!"
"Why, to sur--raound them--there--Indians." The regulations of the
court room considerably hampered Mr. Cadwaller's fluency of speech.
"It is not necessary at all, Mr. Cadwaller. Besides, we have only
some eighty men all told at this post. Our whole force in the
territories is less than five hundred men."
"Five hundred men! You mean for this State, General--Alberta?"
"No, Sir. For all Western Canada. All west of Manitoba."
"How much territory do you cover?" enquired the astonished Mr.
"We regularly patrol some three hundred thousand square miles,
besides taking an occasional expedition into the far north."
"And how many Indians?"
"About the same number as you have, I imagine, in Montana and
Dakota. In Alberta, about nine thousand."
"And less than five hundred police! Say, General, I take off my
hat. Ten thousand Indians! By the holy poker! And five hundred
police! How in Cain do you keep down the devils?"
"We don't try to keep them down. We try to take care of them."
"Guess you've hit it," said Mr. Raimes, dexterously squirting out
of the door.
"Jeerupiter! Say, General, some day they'll massacree yuh sure!"
said Mr. Cadwaller, a note of anxiety in his voice.
"Oh, no, they are a very good lot on the whole."
"Good! We've got a lot of good Indians too, but they're all under
graound. Five hundred men! Jeerupiter! Say, Sligh, how many
soldiers does Uncle Sam have on this job?"
"Well, I can't say altogether, but in Montana and Dakota I happen
to know we have about four thousand regulars."
"Say, figger that out, will yuh?" continued Mr. Cadwaller.
"Allowed four times the territory, about the same number of Indians
and about one-eighth the number of police. Say, General, I take
off my hat again. Put it there! You Canucks have got the trick
"Easier to care for 'em than kill 'em, I guess," said Mr. Raimes
"But, say, General," continued Mr. Cadwaller, "you ain't goin' to
send for them hosses with no three men?"
"I'm afraid we cannot spare any more."
"Jeerupiter, General!" exclaimed Mr. Cadwaller. "I'll wait outside
the reserve till this picnic's over. Say, General, let's have
twenty-five men at least."
"What do you say, Inspector Dickson? Will two men be sufficient?"
"We'll try, Sir," replied the Inspector.
"How soon can you be ready?"
"In a quarter of an hour."
"Jeerupiter!" muttered Mr. Cadwaller to himself, as he followed the
Inspector out of the room.
"I say, Commissioner, will you let me in on this thing?" said
"Do you mean that you want to join the force?" enquired the
Commissioner, letting his eye run approvingly up and down Cameron's
"There is McIvor, Sir--" began Cameron.
"Oh, I could fix that all right," replied the Commissioner. "We
want men, and we want men like you. We have no vacancy among the
officers, but you could enlist as a constable and there is always
opportunity to advance."
"It is a great service!" exclaimed Cameron. "I'd like awfully to
"Very well," said the Commissioner promptly, "we will take you.
You are physically sound, wind, limb, eye-sight, and so forth?"
"As far as I know, perfectly fit," replied Cameron.
Once more Inspector Dickson was summoned.
"Inspector Dickson, Mr. Cameron wishes to join the force. We will
have his application taken and filled in later, and we will waive
examination for the present. Will you administer the oath?"
"Cameron, stand up!" commanded the Inspector sharply.
With a little thrill at his heart Cameron stood up, took the Bible
in his hand and repeated after the Inspector the words of the oath,
"I, Allan Cameron, solemnly swear that I will faithfully, diligently,
and impartially execute and perform the duties required of me as a
member of the North West Mounted Police Force, and will well and
truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions which I
shall receive as such, without fear, favour, or affection of or
toward any person. So help me, God."
"Now then, Cameron, I congratulate you upon your new profession.
The Inspector will see about your outfit and later you will receive
instructions as to your duties. Meantime, take him along with you,
Inspector, and get those horses."
It was a somewhat irregular mode of procedure, but men were sorely
needed at the Macleod post and the Commissioner had an eye that
took in not only the lines of a man's figure but the qualities of
"That chap will make good, or I am greatly mistaken," he said to
the Inspector as Cameron went off with the orderly to select his
"Well set up chap," said the Inspector. "We'll try him out to-
"Come now, don't kill him. Remember, other men have something else
in them besides whalebone and steel, if you have not."
In half an hour the Inspector, Sergeant Crisp and Cameron, with the
three American citizens, were on their way to the Blood reserve.
Cameron had been given a horse from the stable.
All afternoon and late into the evening they rode, then camped and
were early upon the trail the following morning. Cameron was half
dead with the fatigue from his experiences of the past week, but he
would have died rather than have hinted at weariness. He was not a
little comforted to notice that Sergeant Crisp, too, was showing
signs of distress, while District Attorney Sligh was evidently in
the last stages of exhaustion. Even the steel and whalebone
combination that constituted the frame of the Inspector appeared to
show some slight signs of wear; but all feeling of weariness
vanished when the Inspector, who was in the lead, halted at the
edge of a wide sweeping valley and, pointing far ahead, said, "The
Blood reserve. Their camp lies just beyond that bluff."
"Say, Inspector, hold up!" cried Mr. Cadwaller as the Inspector set
off again. "Ain't yuh goin' to sneak up on 'em like?"
"Sneak up on them? No, of course not," said the Inspector curtly.
"We shall ride right in."
"Say, Raimes," said Mr. Cadwaller, "a hole would be a blame nice
thing to find just now."
"Do you think there will be any trouble?" enquired Mr. Hiram Sligh
of Sergeant Crisp.
"Trouble? Perhaps so," replied Crisp, as if to him it were a
matter of perfect indifference.
"We'll never git them hosses," said Raimes. "But we've got to stay
with the chief, I guess."
And so they followed Inspector Dickson down into the valley, where
in the distance could be seen a number of horses and cattle
grazing. They had not ridden far along the valley bottom when Mr.
Cadwaller spurred up upon the Inspector and called out excitedly,
"I say, Inspector, them's our hosses right there. Say, let's run
"Can you pick them out?" enquired the Inspector, turning in his
"Every last one!" said Raimes.
"Very well, cut them out and get them into a bunch," said the
Inspector. "I see there are some Indians herding them apparently.
Pay no attention to them, but go right along with your work."
"There's one of 'em off to give tongue!" cried Mr. Cadwaller
excitedly. "Bring him down, Inspector! Bring him down! Quick!
Here, let me have your rifle!" Hurriedly he snatched at the
"Stop!" cried the Inspector in sharp command. "Now, attention! We
are on a somewhat delicate business. A mistake might bring
disaster. I am in command of this party and I must have absolute
and prompt obedience. Mr. Cadwaller, it will be at your peril that
you make any such move again. Let no man draw a gun until ordered
by me! Now, then, cut out those horses and bunch them together!"
"Jeerupiter! He's a hull brigade himself," said Mr. Cadwaller in
an undertone, dropping back beside Mr. Sligh. "Waal, here goes for
But though both Mr. Cadwaller and Mr. Raimes, as well as Sergeant
Crisp and the Inspector, were expert cattle men, it took some
little time and very considerable manoeuvering to get the stolen
horses bunched together and separated from the rest of the animals
grazing in the valley, and by the time this was accomplished Indian
riders had appeared on every side, gradually closing in upon the
party. It was clearly impossible to drive off the bunch through
that gradually narrowing cordon of mounted Indians without trouble.
"Now, what's to be done?" said Mr. Cadwaller, nervously addressing
"Forward!" cried the Inspector in a loud voice. "Towards the
corral ahead there!"
This movement nonplussed the Indians and in silence they fell in
behind the party who, going before, finally succeeded in driving
the bunch of horses into the corral.
"Sergeant Crisp, you and Constable Cameron remain here on guard. I
shall go and find the Chief. Here," he continued, addressing a
young Indian brave who had ridden up quite close to the gate of the
corral, "lead me to your Chief, Red Crow!"
The absence alike of all hesitation or fear, and of all bluster in
his tone and bearing, apparently impressed the young brave, for he
wheeled his pony and set off immediately at a gallop, followed by
the Inspector at a more moderate pace.
Quickly the Indians gathered about the corral and the group at its
gate. With every passing minute their numbers increased, and as
their numbers increased so did the violence of their demonstration
The three Americans were placed next the corral, Sergeant Crisp and
Cameron being between them and the excited Indians. Cameron had
seen Indians before about the trading posts. A shy, suspicious,
and subdued lot of creatures they had seemed to him. But these
were men of another breed, with their lean, lithe, muscular
figures, their clean, copper skins, their wild fierce eyes, their
haughty bearing. Those others were poor beggars seeking permission
to exist; these were men, proud, fearless, and free.
"Jove, what a team one could pick out of the bunch!" said Cameron
to himself, as his eye fell upon the clean bare limbs and observed
their graceful motions. But to the Americans they were a hateful
and fearsome sight. Indians with them were never anything but a
menace to be held in check, or a nuisance to be got rid of.
Louder and louder grew the yells and wilder the gesticulations as
the savages worked themselves up into a fury. Suddenly, through
the yelling, careering, gesticulating crowd of Indians a young
brave came tearing at full gallop and, thrusting his pony close up
to the Sergeant's, stuck his face into the officer's and uttered a
terrific war whoop. Not a line of the Sergeant's face nor a muscle
of his body moved except that the near spur slightly touched his
horse's flank and the fingers tightened almost imperceptibly upon
the bridle rein. Like a flash of light the Sergeant's horse
wheeled and with a fierce squeal let fly two wicked heels hard upon
the pony's ribs. In sheer terror and surprise the little beast
bolted, throwing his rider over his neck and finally to the ground.
Immediately a shout of jeering laughter rose from the crowd, who
greatly enjoyed their comrade's discomfiture. Except that the
Sergeant's face wore a look of pleased surprise, he simply
maintained his attitude of calm indifference. No other Indian,
however, appeared ready to repeat the performance of the young
At length the Inspector appeared, followed by the Chief, Red Crow.
"Tell your people to go away!" said the Inspector as they reached
the corral. "They are making too much noise."
Red Crow addressed his braves at some length.
"Open the corral," ordered the Inspector, "and get those horses out
on the trail."
For a few moments there was silence. Then, as the Indians perceived
the purpose of the police, on every side there rose wild yells of
protest and from every side a rush was made toward the corral. But
Sergeant Crisp kept his horse on the move in a series of kicks and
plunges that had the effect of keeping clear a wide circle about the
"Touch your horse with the spur and hold him up tight," he said
quietly to Cameron.
Cameron did so and at once his horse became seemingly as unmanageable
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