The Gold Hunters
James Oliver Curwood
Part 2 out of 4
"Mak' light more as twent' t'ous'nd candles!" agreed Mukoki. "Heem
"Once upon a time, many ages ago, there was a great chief in this
country," began Wabigoon, "and he had seven beautiful daughters. So
beautiful were they that the Great Spirit himself fell in love with
them, and for the first time in countless moons he appeared upon
earth, and told the chief that if he would give him his seven
daughters he, in turn, would grant the father seven great desires. And
the chief, surrendering his daughters, asked that he might be given a
day without night, and a night without day, and his wish was granted;
and his third and fourth and fifth desires were that the land might
always be filled with fish and game, the forests remain for ever
green, and fire be given to his people. His sixth desire was that a
fuel be given to him which would burn even in water, and the Great
Spirit gave him birch; and his seventh desire was that he might
possess another fuel, which would throw off no smoke, and might bring
comfort and joy to his wigwams--and the poplar sprang up in the
forests. And because of that chief, and his seven beautiful daughters,
all of these things are true even to this day. Isn't it so, Mukoki?"
The old warrior nodded.
"And what became of the Great Spirit and the seven beautiful
daughters?" questioned Rod.
Mukoki rose and left the fire.
"He believes in that as he believes in the sun and the moon," spoke
Wabi softly. "But he knows that you do not, and that all white people
laugh at it. He could tell you many wonderful stories of the creation
of these forests and mountains and the things in them if he would.
But he knows that you would not believe, and would laugh at him
In an instant Rod was upon his feet.
"Mukoki!" he called. "Mukoki!"
The old Indian turned and came back slowly. The white youth met him
half-way, his face flushed, his eyes shining.
"Mukoki," he said gently, gripping the warrior's hand, "Mukoki--I love
your Great Spirit! I love the one who made these glorious forests, and
that glorious moon up there, and the mountains and lakes and rivers!
I Want to know more about him. You must tell me, so that I will know
when he talks about me, in the winds, in the stars, in the forests!
Mukoki was looking at him, his thin lips parted, his grim visage
relaxed, as if he were weighing the truthfulness of the white youth's
"And I will tell you about our Great Spirit, the white man's Great
Spirit," urged Rod. "For we have a Great Spirit, too, Mukoki, and He
did for the white man's world what yours did for you. He created the
earth, the sky and the sea and all the things in them in six days, and
on the seventh He rested. And that seventh day we call Sunday, Mukoki.
And He made our forests for us, as your Great Spirit made them for
you, only instead of giving them for the love of seven beautiful women
He gave them for the love of man. I'll tell you wonderful things about
Him, Mukoki, if you will tell me about yours. Is it a bargain?"
"Mebby--yes," replied the old pathfinder slowly. His face had
softened, and for the second time Rod knew that he had touched the
heartstrings of his red comrade. They returned to the fire, and Wabi
made room for them upon the log beside him. In his hand he held a copy
of the old birch-bark map.
"I've been thinking about this all day," he said, spreading it out so
that the others could see. "Somehow I haven't been able to get the
idea out of my head that--"
"What?" asked Rod.
"Oh, nothing," hastily added Wabi, as if he regretted what he had
said. "It's a mighty curious map, isn't it? I wonder if we'll ever
know its whole story."
"I believe we know it now," declared Rod. "In the first place, we
found it clutched by one of the skeletons, and we know from the knife
wounds in those skeletons, and the weapons near them, that the two
men fought and killed themselves. They fought for this map, for the
precious secret which each wished to possess alone. Now--"
He took the map from Wabi's fingers and held it up between them and
"Isn't the rest of it clear?"
For a few moments the three looked at it in silence.
From the faded outlines of the original it had been drawn with
With a splinter Rod pointed to the top of the map, where were written
the words, "Cabin and head of chasm."
"Could anything be clearer?" he repeated. "Here is the cabin in which
the men killed themselves, and where we found their skeletons, and
here they have marked the chasm in which I shot the silver fox, and
down which we must go to find the gold. According to this we must go
until we come to the third waterfall, and there we will find another
cabin--and the gold."
"It all seems very simple--by the map," agreed Wabi.
Under the crude diagram were a number of lines in writing. They were:
"We, John Ball, Henri Langlois, and Peter Plante, having discovered
gold at this fall, do hereby agree to joint partnership in the same,
and do pledge ourselves to forget our past differences and work in
mutual good will and honesty, so help us God. Signed,
"JOHN BALL, HENRI LANGLOIS, PETER PLANTE."
Through the name of John Ball had been drawn a broad black line which
had almost destroyed the letters, and at the end of this line, in
brackets, was printed a word in French, which for the hundredth time
Wabi translated aloud:
"From the handwriting of the original we know that Ball was a man of
some education," continued Rod. "And there is no doubt but that the
birch-bark sketch was made by him. All of the writing was in one hand,
with the exception of the signatures of Langlois and Plante, and you
could hardly decipher the letters in those signatures if you did not
already know their names. From these lines it is quite certain that
we were right at the cabin when we concluded that the two Frenchmen
killed the Englishman to get him out of the partnership. Isn't that
story clear enough?"
"Yes, as far as you have gone," replied Wabi. "These three men
discovered gold, quarreled, signed this agreement, and then Ball was
murdered. The two Frenchmen, as Mukoki suggested at the cabin, came
out a little later for supplies, and brought the buckskin bag full of
gold with them. They had come as far as the cabin at the head of the
chasm when they quarreled over possession of the map and agreement,
fought, and died. From the old guns and other evidences we found near
them we know that all this happened at least fifty years ago, and
perhaps more. But--"
He paused, whistling softly.
"Where is the third waterfall?"
"I thought we settled that last winter," replied Rod, a little
irritated by his companion's doubt. "If writing goes for anything,
Ball was a man of education, and he drew the map according to some
sort of scale. The second fall is only half as far from the first fall
as the third fall is from the second, which is conclusive evidence of
this. Now Mukoki discovered the first waterfall fifty miles down the
"And we figured from the distances between John Ball's marks on the
birch, that the third fall was about two hundred and fifty miles from
our old camp at the head of the chasm," rejoined Wabigoon. "It looks
"It is reasonable," declared Rod, his face flushed with excitement.
"From the head of the chasm our trail is as plain as day. We can't
Mukoki had been listening in silence, and now joined in the
conversation for the first time.
"Must get to chasm first," he grunted, giving his shoulders a hunch
that suggested a great deal.
Wabi returned the map to his pocket.
"You're right, Muky," he laughed. "We're climbing mountains before we
come to them. It will be tough work getting to the chasm."
"Much water--ver' swift. River run lak twent' t'ous'nd cari-boo!"
"I'll bet the Ombabika is a raging torrent," said Rod.
"And we've got forty miles of it, all upstream," replied Wabi. "Then
we come to the Height of Land. After that the streams run northward,
to Hudson Bay, and when we reach them we'll hold our breath and pray
instead of paddling. Oh, it will be exciting fun rushing down-stream
on the floods!"
"But there is work before us to-morrow--hard work," said Rod. "And I'm
going to bed. Good night!"
Mukoki and Wabigoon soon followed their companion's example, and half
an hour later nothing but the crackling of the fire disturbed the
stillness of the camp. Mukoki was as regular as clockwork in his
rising, and an hour before dawn he was up and preparing breakfast.
When his young comrades aroused themselves they found the ducks they
had shot the preceding day roasting on spits over the fire, and coffee
nearly ready. Rod also noticed that a part of the contents of the
canoe were missing.
"Took load up to river," explained Mukoki in response to the youth's
"Working while we sleep, as usual," exclaimed the disgusted Wabigoon.
"If it keeps on we'll deserve another whipping, Rod!"
Mukoki examined a fat bluebill, roasted to a rich brown, and gave it
to Rod. Another he handed to Wabigoon, and with a third in his own
hands he found a seat for himself upon the ground close to the coffee
"Ah, if this isn't fit for a king!" cried Rod, poising his savory
bluebill on the end of a fork.
Half an hour later the three went to their canoe. Mukoki had already
packed a half of its contents to the river, a quarter of a mile away,
and he now loaded himself with the remainder while the two boys
hoisted the light birch upon their shoulders. As Roderick caught his
first glimpse of the Ombabika in the growing light of day he gave a
cry of astonishment. When he had gone up the stream the preceding
winter it was scarce more than a dozen gun lengths in width. Now it
was a veritable Amazon, its black, ugly waters rolling and twisting
like the slow boiling of a thick liquid over a fire. There was little
rush about it, no frenzied haste, no mountain-like madness in the
advance of the torrent. Rod had expected to see this, and he would not
have been startled by it.
But there was something vastly more appalling in the flood that rolled
slowly before his eyes, with its lazily twisting whirlpools, its
thousand unseen currents, rolling the water here and there--always in
different places--like the gurgling eruptions he had often observed
in a pot of simmering oatmeal. There was something uncanny about
it, something terribly suggestive of giant hands under the surface,
waiting to pull them down. He knew, without questioning, that
there was more deadly power in that creeping flood than in a dozen
boisterous torrents thundering down from the mountains. In it were the
cumulative waters of a score of those torrents, and in its broad, deep
sweep into the big lake the currents and perils of each were combined
into one great threatening force.
The thoughts that were in Rod's mind betrayed themselves as he looked
at his companions. Mukoki was reloading the canoe. Wabi watched the
"She's running pretty strong," said the Indian youth dubiously. "What
do you think of it, Muky?"
"Keep close to shore," replied the old warrior, without stopping his
work. "We mak' heem--safe!"
There was a good deal of consolation in Mukoki's words, for both
youths still bore smarting reminders of his caution and good judgment.
In a short time the canoe was safely launched where a small eddy had
worked into the shore, and the three adventurers dug in their paddles.
Mukoki, who held the important position in the stern, kept the bow of
the birch within half a dozen yards of the bank, and to Rod's mind
they slipped up-stream with amazing speed and ease. Now and then one
of the upheavings of the currents would catch the canoe, and from the
way in which it was pitched either to one side or the other Rod easily
imagined what perils the middle of the stream would have held for
them. Quick action on the part of Mukoki and Wabigoon was always
necessary to counteract the effect of these upheavals, and in the bow
Wabi was constantly on the alert. At no time could they tell when to
expect the attacks of the unseen forces below. Ten feet ahead the
water might be running as smooth as oil, then--a single huge bubble,
as if a great fish had sent up a gasp of air--and in an instant it
would be boiling like a small maelstrom.
Rod noticed that each time they were caught near one of these some
unseen power seemed sucking them down, and that at those times the
canoe would settle several inches deeper than when they were in calm
water. The discovery thrilled him, and he wondered what one of the big
eruptions out in mid-stream would do to them if they were caught in
it. Other perils were constantly near them. Floating logs and masses
of brush and other debris swept down with the flood, and Wabi's
warning cries of "right," "left," and "back" came with such frequency
that Rod's arms ached with the mighty efforts which he made with his
paddle in response to them. Again the stream would boil with such fury
ahead of them that Mukoki would put in to shore, and a portage would
be made beyond the danger point. Five times during the day were the
canoe and its contents carried in this manner, so that including all
time lost an average of not more than two miles an hour was made. When
camp was struck late that afternoon, however, Mukoki figured that they
had covered half the distance up the Ombabika.
The following day's progress was even slower. With every mile the
stream became narrower and swifter. The treacherous upheavals caused
by undercurrents no longer harassed the gold seekers, but logs and
debris swept down with greater velocity. Several times the frail canoe
was saved from destruction only by the quick and united action of the
three. They worked now like a well-regulated machine, engineered by
Wabigoon, whose sharp eyes were always on the alert for danger ahead.
This second day was one of thrills and tense anxiety for Rod, and he
was glad when it came to an end. It was early, and the sun was still
two hours high, when they stopped to camp.
Mukoki had chosen an open space, backed by a poplar-covered rocky
ridge, and scarce had the bow of the canoe touched shore when Wabi
gave an excited exclamation, caught up his rifle, and fired three
rapid shots in the direction of a small clump of spruce near the foot
of the mountain.
"Missed, by all that's good and great!" he yelled. "Quick, Mukoki,
shove her in! There's the biggest bear I've seen in all my life!"
"Where?" demanded Rod. "Where is he?"
He dropped his paddle and snatched his own rifle, while Mukoki,
keeping his self-possession, brought the canoe so that Wabi could leap
ashore. Rod followed like a flash, and the two excited youths sped in
the direction of the bear, leaving their companion to care for himself
and the heavily-laden birch. A short, swift run brought them to the
edge of the spruce, and with hearts beating wildly the two scanned the
barren side of the mountain ahead of them. There was no sign of the
"He turned down-stream!" cried Wabi, "We must cut--"
"There he is," whispered Rod sharply.
Just beginning the ascent of the mountain, four or five hundred yards
below them, was the bear. Even at that distance Rod was amazed at the
size of the beast.
"What a monster!" he gasped.
"Blaze away!" urged Wabi. "It's four hundred yards if it's a foot! Aim
for the top of his back and you'll bring him!"
Suiting action to his words he fired the two remaining shots in
his rifle, and as he slipped in fresh cartridges Rod continued the
long-range fusillade. His first and second shots produced no effect.
At his third the running animal paused for a moment and looked down at
them, and the young Hunter seized his opportunity to take a careful
aim. At the report of his gun the bear gave a quick lunge forward,
half-fell among the rocks, and then was off again.
"You hit him!" shouted Wabi, setting off on a dead run between the
spruce and the mountain.
For a few brief moments Rod studied the situation as he reloaded. The
bear was rapidly nearing the summit of the ridge. By, swift running
Wabigoon would have another fair shot before the animal got out of
range. If that shot were a miss they would lose their game. In a flash
he discerned a break in the mountain. If he could make that, and the
bear turned in his direction--
Without further thought he ran toward the break. He heard the sharp
reports of Wabi's rifle behind him, but didn't stop to see the effect
of the fire. If it was another miss--every second counted. The cut in
the mountain was clear. Breathlessly he dashed through it and stopped
on the opposite side, his eyes eagerly scanning the rock-strewn ridge.
He made no attempt to suppress the exclamation of joy that came to
his lips when, fully eight hundred yards away, he discerned the bear
coming down the side of the mountain, and in his direction. Crouching
behind a huge boulder Rod waited. Seven hundred yards, six hundred,
five hundred, and the bear turned, this time striking into the edge
of the plain. The animal was traveling slowly, partly stopping in his
flight now and then, and Rod knew that he was badly wounded. It was
soon evident that the course being taken by the game would bring it no
nearer, and the young hunter leveled his rifle.
Five hundred yards, more than a quarter of a mile!
This was desperate shooting, shooting that sent a strange thrill
through Roderick Drew. The magnificent weapon in his hands was equal
to the task. It would kill easily at that distance. But would he fail?
He was confident that his first shot went high. His second had no
effect. To his third there came the sharp response of a fourth from
the top of the mountain. Wabigoon had reached the summit, and was
firing at six hundred yards!
The bear stopped. With deadly precision Rod now took aim at the
motionless animal. An instant after he had fired a wild shout burst
from his throat, and was answered by Wabigoon's joyful yell from the
mountain. It was a wonderful shot, and the bear was down!
The animal was dead when the triumphant young hunters reached its
side. It was some time before either of them spoke. Panting from their
exertions, both looked down in silence upon the huge beast at their
feet. That he had made a remarkable kill Rod could see by the look of
wonder in his companion's face. They were still mutely regarding
the dead animal when Mukoki came through the break in the ridge and
hurried toward them. His face, too, became filled with amazement when
he saw the bear.
"Big bear!" he exclaimed.
There was a world of meaning in his words, and Rod flushed with
"He weighs five hundred," said Wabi, "and he stands four feet at the
shoulders if an inch."
"Fine rug!" grinned Mukoki.
"Let's see, Rod; he'll make a rug--" Wabi walked critically around
the bear. "He'll make you a rug over eight feet long by about six in
width. I wonder where he is hit?"
A brief examination showed that while the honors of the actual kill
were with Rod, at least one, and perhaps two, of Wabi's shots had
taken effect. The last shot from the white youth's rifle had struck
the bear just below the right ear, causing almost instantaneous death.
On this same side, which had been exposed to Rod's fire, was a body
wound, undoubtedly made by the shot on the mountain side. When the
animal was rolled over by the combined efforts of the three two more
wounds were discovered on the left side, which had mostly been exposed
to Wabigoon's fire. It was while examining these that the sharp-eyed
Mukoki gave a sudden grunt of surprise.
"Heem shot before--long time ago! Old wound--feel bullet!"
Between his fingers he was working the loose hide back of the foreleg.
The scar of an old wound was plainly visible, and both Rod and Wabi
could feel the ball under the skin. There is something that fascinates
the big game hunter in this discovery of an old wound in his quarry,
and especially in the vast solitudes of the North, where hunters are
few and widely scattered. It brings with it a vivid picture of
what happened long ago, the excitement of some other chase, the
well-directed shot, and at last the escape of the game. And so it was
now. The heads of Rod and Wabigoon hung close over Mukoki's shoulders
while the old Indian dug out the bullet with his knife. Another grunt
of surprise fell from the pathfinder's lips as he dropped the pellet
in the palm of his hand.
It was a strange-looking object, smooth, and curiously flattened.
"Ver' soft bullet," said Mukoki. "Never know lead thin, thin out lak
With his knife he peeled off a thin slice of the ball.
He held up the two pieces. In the sun they gleamed a dull, rich
"That bullet made of gold!" he breathed, scarcely above a whisper. "No
yellow lead. That gold, pure gold!"
UP THE OMBABIKA
For a few moments after Mukoki's remarkable discovery the three stood
speechless. Wabigoon stared as if he could not bring himself to
believe the evidence of his eyes. Rod was quivering with the old,
thrilling excitement that had first come to him in the cabin where
they had found the skeletons and the buckskin bag with its precious
nuggets, and Mukoki's face was a study. The thin, long fingers which
held the two pieces of the gold bullet trembled, which was an unusual
symptom in the old pathfinder. It was he who broke the silence, and
his words gave utterance to the question which had rushed into the
heads of the two young hunters.
"Who shoot gold bullets at bear?"
And to this question there was, for the time, absolutely no answer. To
tell who shot that bullet was impossible. But why was it used?
Wabigoon had taken the parts of the yellow ball and was weighing them
in the palm of his hand.
"It weighs an ounce," he declared.
"Twenty dollars' worth of gold!" gasped Rod, as if he lacked breath
to express himself. "Who in the wide world is shooting twenty dollar
bullets at bear?" he cried more excitedly, repeating Mukoki's question
of a minute before.
He, too, weighed the yellow pellets in his hand.
The puzzled look had gone out of Mukoki's face. 'Again the
battle-scarred old warrior wore the stoic mask of his race, which only
now and then is lifted for an instant by some sudden and unexpected
happening. Behind that face, immobile, almost expressionless, worked a
mind alive to every trick and secret of the vast solitudes, and even
before his young comrades had gained the use of their tongues he was,
in his savage imagination, traveling swiftly back over the trail of
the monster bear to the gun that had fired the golden bullet. Wabigoon
understood him, and watched him eagerly.
"What do you think of it, Muky?"
"Man shoot powder and ball gun, not cartridge," replied Mukoki slowly.
"Old gun. Strange; ver' strange!"
"A muzzle loader!" said Wabi.
The Indian nodded.
"Had powder, no lead. Got hungry; used gold."
Eight words had told the story, or at least enough of it to clear away
a part of the cloud of mystery, but the other part still remained.
Who had fired the bullet, _and where had the gold come from?_
"He must have struck it rich," said Wabi "else would he have a chunk
of gold like that?"
"Where that come from--more, much! more," agreed Mukoki shortly.
"Do you suppose--" began Rod. There was a curious thrill in his voice,
and he paused, as if scarce daring to venture the rest of what he had
meant to say. "Do you suppose--somebody has found--our gold?"
Mukoki and Wabigoon stared at him as if he had suddenly exploded a
mine. Then Wabi turned and looked silently at the old Indian. Not
a word was spoken. Silently Rod drew something from his pocket,
carefully wrapped in a bit of cloth.
"You remember I kept this little nugget from my share in the buckskin
bag, intending to have a scarf-pin made of it," he explained. "When I
took my course in geology and mineralogy I learned that, if one had
half a dozen specimens of gold, each from a different mine, the
chances were about ten to one that no two of them would be exactly
alike in coloring. Now--"
He exposed the nugget, and made a fresh cut in it with his knife, as
Mukoki had done with the yellow bullet. Then the two gleaming surfaces
One glance was sufficient.
The gold was the same!
Wabi drew back, uttering something under his breath, his eyes gleaming
darkly. Rod's face had suddenly turned a shade whiter, and Mukoki, not
understanding the mysteries of mineralogy, stared at the youth in mute
"Somebody has found our gold!" cried Wabi, almost savagely.
"We are not sure," interrupted Rod. "We know only that the evidence is
very suspicious. The rock formation throughout this country is almost
identically the same, deep trap on top, with slate beneath, and for
that reason it is very possible that gold found right in this locality
would be of exactly the same appearance as gold found two hundred
miles from here. Only--it's suspicious," Rod concluded.
"Man probably dead," consoled Mukoki. "No lead--hungry--shoot bear an'
no git heem. Mebby starve!"
"The poor devil!" exclaimed Wabigoon. "We've been too selfish to give
a thought to that, Rod. Of course he was hungry, or he wouldn't have
used gold for bullets. And he didn't get this bear! By George--"
"I wish he'd got him," said Rod simply.
Somehow Mukoki's words sent a flush into his face. There came to him,
suddenly, a mental picture of that possible tragedy in the wilderness:
the starving man, his last hopeless molding of a golden bullet, the
sight of the monster bear, the shot, and after that the despair and
suffering and slow death of the man who had fired it.
"I wish he'd got it," he repeated. "We have plenty of grub."
Mukoki was already at work skinning the bear, and Rod and Wabigoon
unsheathed their knives and joined him.
"Wound 'bout fi', six month old," said the Indian. "Shot just before
"When there wasn't a berry in the woods for a starving man to eat,"
added Wabi. "Well, here's hoping he found something, Rod."
An hour later the three gold seekers returned to their canoe laden
with the choicest of the bear meat, and the animal's skin, which was
immediately stretched between two trees, high up out of the reach of
depredating animals. Rod gazed at it proudly.
"We'll be sure and get it when we come back, won't we?"
"Sure," replied Wabi.
"It will be safe?"
"As safe as though it were at home."
"Unless somebody comes along and steals it," added Rod.
Wabi was busy unloading certain necessary articles from the canoe, but
he ceased his work to look at Rod.
"Steal!" he cried in astonishment.
Mukoki, too, had heard Rod's remark and was listening.
"Rod," continued Wabigoon quietly, "that is one thing we don't have up
here. Our great big glorious North doesn't know the word thief, except
when it is applied to a Woonga. If a white hunter came along here
to-morrow, and found that hide stretched so low that the animals were
getting at it, he would nail it higher for us. An Indian, if he camped
here, would build his fire so that the sparks wouldn't strike it. Rod,
up here, where we don't know civilization, we're honest!"
"But down in the States," said Rod, "the Indians steal."
The words slipped from him. The next instant he would have given
anything to have been able to recall them. Mukoki had grown a little
more tense in his attitude.
"That's because white men have lived so much among them, white men who
are called civilized," answered the young scion of Wabinosh House, his
eyes growing bright. "White blood makes thieves. Pardon me for saying
it, Rod, but it does, at least among Indians. But our white blood
up here is different from yours. It's the same blood that's in our
Indians, every drop of it honest, loyal to its friends, and it runs
red and strong with the love of this great wilderness. There are
exceptions, of course, as you have seen in the Woongas, who are an
outlaw race. But we are honest, and Mukoki there, if he were dying of
cold, wouldn't steal a skin to save himself. An ordinary Indian might
take it, if he were dying for want of it, but not unless he had a gun
to leave in its place!"
"I didn't mean to say what I did," said Rod. "Oh, I wish I were one
of you! I love this big wilderness, and everything in it, and it's
glorious to hear you say what you do!"
"You are one of us," cried Wabi, gripping his hand.
That evening, after they had finished their supper and the three were
gathered about the fire, Wabigoon said:
"Muky could tell you one reason why the Indians of the North are
honest if he wanted to, Rod. But he won't, so I will. There was once a
tribe in the country of Mukoki's fore-fathers, along the Makoki River,
which empties into the Albany, whose men were great thieves, and who
stole from one another. No man's snare was safe from his neighbor,
fights and killings were of almost daily occurrence, and the chief
of the tribe was the greatest thief of all, and of course escaped
punishment. This chief loved to set his own snares, and one day he was
enraged to find that one of his tribe had been so bold as to set a
snare within a few inches of his own, and in the trail of the same
animal. He determined on meting out a terrible punishment, and waited.
"While he was waiting a rabbit ran into the snare of his rival.
Picking up a stick he approached to kill the game, when suddenly there
seemed to pass a white mist before his eyes, and when he looked again
there was no rabbit, but the most wonderful creature he had ever
beheld in the form of man, and he knew that it was the Great Spirit,
and fell upon his face. And a great voice came to him, as if rolling
from far beyond the most distant mountains, and it told him that the
forests and streams of the red man's heaven were closed to him and his
people, that in the hunting-grounds that came after death there was no
place for thieves.
"'Go to your people,' he said, 'and tell them this. Tell them that
from this day on, moon upon moon, until the end of time, must they
live like brothers, setting their snares side by side without war, to
escape the punishment that hovers over them.'
"And the chief told his people this," finished Wabi, "and from that
hour there was no more thievery in the land. And because the Great
Spirit came in the form he did the rabbit is the good luck animal of
the Crees and Chippewayans of the far North, and wherever the snows
fall deep, men set their traps side by side to this day, and do not
Rod had listened with glowing eyes.
"It's glorious!" he repeated. "It's glorious, if it's true!"
"It is true," said Wabi. "In all this great country between here and
the Barren Lands, where the musk-ox lives, there is not one Indian in
a hundred who would steal another Indian's trap, or the game in it.
It is one of the understood laws of the North that every hunter shall
have his 'trap line,' or 'run,' and it is not courtesy for another
trapper to encroach upon it; but if he should, and he should lay a
trap close beside another's, it would not be wrong, for the law of the
Great Spirit is greater than the law of man. Why, last winter even the
outlaw Woongas made no effort to steal our traps, though they thirsted
for our lives!"
"Mukoki," said Rod, rising, "I want to shake hands with you before I
go to bed. I'm learning--fast. I wish I were half Indian!"
The next morning the journey up the Ombabika was resumed, and a
little more of anxiety was now mingled with the enthusiasm of the
adventurers. For no one of them could relieve himself of the possible
significance of the gold bullet, the fear that their treasure had been
discovered by another. Wabi regained his confidence first.
"I don't believe it!" he exclaimed at last. Without questioning, the
others knew to what he referred. "I don't believe that our gold
has been found. It is in the heart of the wildest country on the
continent, and surely if such a rich find had been made we would have
heard something about it at Wabinosh House or Kenegami, which are the
nearest points of supply."
"Or, if it was found, the discoverer is dead," added Rod.
In the stern, Mukoki nodded and grunted his conviction.
"Dead," he repeated.
The Ombabika had now become narrow and violent. Against its swift
current the canoe made but little headway, and at noon Mukoki
announced that the river journey was at an end. For a few moments Rod
did not recognize where they had landed. Then he gave a sudden cry of
"Why, this is where we had supper that night after our terrible
adventure on the river last winter," he exclaimed.
From far off there came faintly to his ears a low, rumbling thunder.
"Listen! That's the river rushing through the break in the mountain
where we walked the edge of the precipice!"
Wabi shrugged his shoulders at the memory of that fearful night and
its desperate race to escape from the Woonga country.
"We've got to do the same thing again, only this time it will be in
"Long portage," said Mukoki. "Six mile. Carry everything."
"Until we reach the little creek in the plains beyond the mountain,
where you shot the caribou?" asked Rod.
"Yes," replied Wabigoon. "That little creek will now be a pretty husky
stream, and by hard work we can paddle up it until we come within
about eight miles of our old camp at the head of the chasm, where we
found the skeletons and the map."
"And from that point we shall have to carry our canoe and supplies
to the creek in the chasm," finished Rod. "And then--hurrah for the
"Mak' old camp on mountain by night," said Mukoki.
Wabi broke into a happy laugh and thumped Rod on the back.
"Remember the big lynx you shot, Rod, and thought it was a Woonga, and
had us all frightened out of our wits?" he cried.
Rod colored at the memory of his funny adventure, which was thrilling
enough at the time, and began assisting Mukoki in unloading the canoe.
Two hours were taken for dinner and rest, and then the young hunters
shouldered their canoe while Mukoki hurried on ahead of them, weighted
with a half of their supplies. Every step now brought the thunder of
the torrent rushing through the mountain more clearly to their ears,
and they had not progressed more than a mile when they were compelled
to shout to make each other hear. On their right the wall of the
mountain closed in rapidly, and as they stumbled with their burden
over a mass of huge boulders the two boys saw just ahead of them the
narrow trail at the edge of the precipice.
At its beginning they rested their canoe. On one side of them, a dozen
yards away, the face of the mountain rose sheer above them for a
thousand feet; on the other, scarce that distance from where they
stood, was the roaring chasm. And ahead of them the mountain wall and
the edge of the precipice came nearer and nearer, until there was no
more than a six-foot ledge to walk upon. Rod's face turned strangely
white as he realized, for the first time, the terrible chances they
had taken on that black, eventful night of a few months ago; and for a
time Wabi stood silent, his face as hard-set as a rock. Up out of the
chasm there came a deafening thunder of raging waters, like the
hollow explosions of great guns echoing and reechoing in subterranean
"Let's take a look!" shouted Wabi close up to his companion's ear.
He went to the edge of the precipice, and Rod forced himself to
follow, though there was in him a powerful inclination to hug close
to the mountain wall. For half a minute he stood fascinated,
terror-stricken, and yet in those thirty seconds he saw that which
would remain with him for a lifetime. Five hundred feet below him the
over-running floods of spring were caught between the ragged edges of
the two chasm walls, beating themselves in their fury to the whiteness
of milk froth, until it seemed as though the earth itself must tremble
under their mad rush. Now and then through the twisting foam there
shot the black crests of great rocks, as though huge monsters of
some kind were at play, whipping the torrent into greater fury, and
bellowing forth thunderous voices when they rose triumphant for an
instant above the sweep of the flood.
All this Rod saw in less than a breath, and he drew back, shivering
in every fiber of his body. But Wabigoon did not move. For several
minutes the Indian youth stood looking down upon the wonderful force
at play below him, his body as motionless as though hewn out of stone,
the wild blood in his veins leaping in response to the tumult and
thunder of the magnificent spectacle deep down in the chasm. When he
turned to Rod his lips made no sound, but his eyes glowed with that
half-slumbering fire which came only when the red blood of the
princess mother gained ascendency, and the wild in him called out
greeting to the savage in nature. It is not music, or fine talk, or
artificial wonders that waken a thrill deep down in the Indian soul,
it is the great mountain, the vast plain, the roaring cataract! And so
it was with Wabigoon.
They went on, now, with the canoe upon their shoulders, and hugging
close to the mountain wall. Slowly, avoiding every stone and stick
that might cause one of them to stumble, they passed along the
perilously narrow ledge, and did not rest again until they had come
in safety to the broader trail leading up the mountain. An hour later
Mukoki met them on his return for the remainder of their supplies.
Shortly after this they reached the small plateau where they had
camped during the previous winter, and lowered their canoe close to
the old balsam shelter.
Everything was as they had left it. Neither snow nor storm had
destroyed their lodging of boughs. There were the charred remains of
their fire, the bones of the huge lynx which Roderick had thought was
an attacking Woonga, and had killed; and beside the shelter was a
stake driven into the ground, the stake to which they had fastened
their faithful comrade of many an adventure, the tame wolf.
To this stake went Wabigoon, speaking no word. He sat down close
beside it, with his arm resting upon it, and when he looked up at Rod
there was an expression in his face which spoke more than words.
"Poor old Wolf!"
Rod turned and walked to the edge of the plateau, something hot and
uncomfortable filling his eyes. Below him, as far as he could see,
there stretched the vast, mysterious wilderness that reached to Hudson
Bay. And somewhere out there in that limitless space was Wolf.
As he looked, the hot film clouding his vision, he thought of the old
tragedy in Mukoki's life, and of how Wolf had helped him to avenge
himself. In his imagination he went back to that terrible day many,
many years ago, when Mukoki, happy in the strength of his youth, found
his young wife and child dead upon the trail, killed by wolves; he
thought of the story that Wabi had told him of the madness that came
to the young warrior, of how year after year he followed the trail of
wolves, wreaking his vengeance on their breed. And last he thought
of Wolf--how Mukoki and Wabigoon had found the whelp in one of their
traps; how they tamed him, grew to love him, and taught him to decoy
other wolves to their riffes. Wolf had been their comrade of a few
months before; fearless, faithful, until at last, escaping from the
final murderous assault of the Woongas, he had fled into the forests,
while his human friends fought their way back to civilization.
Where was Wolf now?
Unconsciously Rod questioned himself aloud, and from close behind him
"With the hunt-pack, Rod. He's forgotten us; gone back to the wild."
"Gone back to the wild, yes," said Rod; "but forgotten us, no!"
Wabi made no reply.
THE MYSTERIOUS SHOT
For many minutes the two stood silently gazing into the North. At
their feet spread the broad plain where Mukoki had killed the caribou
while they watched him from the plateau; beyond that were the dense
stretches of forest, broken here and there by other plains and
meadows, and a dozen lakes glistened in the red tints of the setting
sun. When Rod first looked upon that country a few months before it
was a world of ice and snow, a cold, dazzling panorama of white that
reached from where he stood to the Pole. Now it was wakening under
the first magic touch of spring. Far away the two young gold hunters
caught a glimmer of the stream which they were to follow up to the
chasm. Last winter it had been a tiny creek; now it was swollen to the
size of a river.
Suddenly, as they looked, two dark objects came slowly out into an
opening a mile away. At that distance they appeared hardly larger
than dogs, and Rod, whose mind was still filled with thoughts of
Wolf, exclaimed "Wolves!"
In the same breath he caught himself, and added:
"A cow and her calf," said Wabi.
"How do you know?" asked Rod.
"There; watch them now!" cried Wabi, catching his companion by the
arm. "The mother is ahead, and even from here I can see that she is
pacing. A moose never trots or gallops, like a deer, but paces, using
both feet on a side at the same time. Notice how the calf jumps about.
An old moose would never do that."
"But both animals look to be about the same size," replied Rod, still
"It's a two-year-old calf; almost as big as its mother. In fact, it's
not really a calf, because it is too old; but so long as young moose
stick to their mothers we call them calves up here. I've known them to
remain together for three years."
"They're coming this way!" whispered the white youth.
The moose had turned, heading for the base of the mountain upon which
they stood. Wabi drew his companion behind a big rock, from which both
could look down without being seen.
"Be quiet!" he warned. "They're coming to feed on the sprouting poplar
along the mountain side. Just been over to the creek to get a drink.
We may have some fun!"
He wet a finger in his mouth and held it above his head, the forest
pathfinder's infallible method of telling how the wind blows. No
matter how slight the movement of the air may be, one side of the
finger dries first, in an instant, and is warm, while the side that
remains damp is cold, and in the lee, that side toward which the wind
"The wind is wrong, dead wrong," said Wabi. "It's blowing straight
toward them. Unless we are so high that our scent goes above them they
won't come much nearer."
Another minute and Rod nudged Wabigoon.
"They're within range!"
"Yes, but we won't shoot. We don't need meat."
As the young Indian spoke the cow brought herself to a dead stop so
suddenly that Wabi gave a delighted grunt.
"Great!" he whispered. "She's caught a whiff of us, a quarter of a
mile away. See how she holds her head, her great ears chucked forward
to hear, her nose half to the sky! She knows there's danger on this
He did not finish. Like a flash the cow had darted ahead of her calf,
seeming to shoulder it back, and in another moment the two were racing
swiftly into the North, the mother this time in the rear instead of
"I love moose," said Wabi, his eyes glowing. "Do you notice that I
never shoot them, Rod?"
"By George, so you don't! I never thought of it. What is the reason?"
"There are a good many reasons. Of course I have shot them, when in
very great need of meat; but it's an unpleasant job for me. You call
the lion the king of beasts. Well, he isn't. The moose is monarch of
them all. You saw how the mother moose acted. She led her calf when
approaching, because if there should be danger she wanted to meet it
first; and when she found danger she drove her calf ahead of her in
retreat, so that if harm came to either of them it would come to her.
Isn't that the human mother instinct? And the bull is glorious! In the
mating season he will face a dozen men in defense of his cow. If she
falls first he will stand between her body and the hunters' rifles,
pawing the earth, his eyes glaring defiance, until he is riddled with
bullets. Once I saw a wounded cow, and as she staggered away the big
bull that was with her hugged her close behind, never for a moment
leaving her exposed to the fire, but unflinchingly taking every bullet
in his own body. So beautiful was his courage that you would not have
known he was wounded until he fell dead in his tracks, literally cut
to pieces. It was that sight that made me swear never to kill another
moose--unless I had to."
Rod was silent. The mother and the calf had disappeared when he turned
"I'm glad you told me that, Wabi," he said. "You are teaching me new
things about this big wilderness every day. I've shot one moose. I
won't shoot another unless we need him."
They went back to their old camp, and by the time Mukoki returned with
his second load everything was in shape for the night, and a supper of
delicious bear steaks, coffee and "hot-stone biscuits," as Rod called
their baked combination of flour, water and salt, was soon ready.
After their meal the three sat for a long time near the fire, for
there was still a slight chill in the night air, and talked
mostly about Wolf and his adventures. Rod, in his distant home in
civilization had read and heard much that was false about wild
animals, was confident that Wolf would find they had returned into the
wilderness and would join them again, and to corroborate his belief
he narrated several stories of similar happenings. Wabigoon listened
courteously to him, which is the way of the Indian. Then he said:
"Such stories as those are false, Rod. When I spent my year at school
with you I read dozens of stories about wild animals, and very few of
them were true. All sorts of people write about the wilderness, and
yet not one out of a hundred of those same people have ever been in
the real wilderness. And it is wonderful what some of them make wild
Rod straightened himself with a jerk.
"I have been here only a few months, Wabi, and yet I have seen more
wonderful things about animals than I have ever read in print," he
"Of course you have," agreed his companion. "And there is just the
point I want to make clear. Wild animals are the most wonderful
creatures in existence, and if some of their actual habits and
adventures were told they would be laughed at down where you came
from. Where your writers make their mistake is in bringing them into
too close association with human beings, and making them half human.
Wolf remained with us because he knew no better. We caught him when he
was a whelp, and as he grew older both Mukoki and I could see that at
times he was filled with a wild longing to join his people. We knew
that it was coming. He will never return to us."
Mukoki made a soft sound deep down in his throat, and Rod turned
suddenly toward him.
"You believe that, Mukoki?"
"But animals think, don't they?" persisted Rod, to whom the discussion
was of absorbing interest. "They reason, they remember!"
"They do all of that," replied Wabi, "and more. I have read certain
so-called natural history stories which ridiculed the idea of wild
animals possessing mental abilities, and which ascribed pretty nearly
all their actions to instinct. Such stories are as wrong as those
which give wild animals human endowments. Animals do think. Don't you
suppose that mother moose was thinking when she stopped out there in
the plain? Wasn't she turning the situation over in her mind, if you
want to speak of it as that, and mentally figuring just where the
danger lay, and in which direction she ought to take flight? And
besides reason wild animals have instinct. One proof of this is their
sixth sense; the sense of--of--what do you call it?"
"Orientation?" assisted Rod.
"Yes; that's it. Orientation. A bear, for instance, doesn't carry
a compass with him, as some nature writers would like to have you
believe, and yet he can go from this mountain to a den a hundred miles
away as straight as a bird can fly. That's instinct."
"Then Wolf--" mused Rod slowly.
"Is with the hunt pack," finished the young Indian.
Mukoki spoke softly, as though to himself.
"Last winter the snow came, and now it is water. Two moons past, Wolf,
heem tame. Now wild. The Great Spirit say that is right, I guess so."
"He means that it is nature," said Wabi.
For an hour after the others had wrapped themselves in their blankets
Rod sat alone beside the fire, listening, and thinking. And after that
he went to the edge of the plateau, and watched the great spring moon
as it floated slowly over the vast, still wilderness. How wonderful
these solitudes were, how little the teeming millions of civilization
knew about them! Somehow, in those moments, as he watched the
shivering Northern Lights playing far beyond the farthest footstep of
man, there came to Roderick Drew the thought that God must be nearer
to earth here than anywhere else in the world. For the first time his
soul was filled with something that was almost love for the red man's
Great Spirit. And why not? For was not that Great Spirit his own God?
Sad, lonely, silent, mysterious, a whole world lay before him, a world
that was the Indian Bible, that contained for the red man of the North
the teachings and the voice of the Creator of all things. A wind had
risen and was whispering over the plains; he heard the hushed voices
of the quivering poplar boughs, and there came from far below him the
soft, chuckling, mating hoot of an owl. Gradually his eyes closed,
and he leaned more heavily upon the rock against which he had seated
himself. After that he dreamed of what he had looked upon, while
the fire at the camp died away, and Mukoki and Wabigoon slumbered,
oblivious of his absence.
Of how long he slept Rod had no idea. He was suddenly brought back
into wakefulness by a sound that startled him to the marrow of his
bones, a terrible scream close to his ears. He sat bolt upright,
quaking in every limb. For a moment he tried to cry out, but his
tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. What had happened? Was it Wabi,
A dozen paces away was a huge rock and as he looked he saw something
move upon it, a long, lithe object that shone a silvery white in the
moonlight, and he knew that it was a lynx. Stealthily Rod reached for
his rifle, which had slipped between his knees, and as he did so the
lynx sent forth another of its blood-curdling screams. Even now the
white youth shivered at the sound, so much like the terrible cry of
some person in dying agony. He leveled his gun. There was a flash in
the moonlight, a sharp report, and a shout from the direction of the
camp. In another moment Rod was upon his feet, and sorry that he had
shot. It flashed upon him that he might have watched the lynx, one of
the night pirates of all this strange wilderness, and that its pelt,
at this season, would be worthless. He went to the rock cautiously.
The lynx was not there. He walked around it, holding his rifle in
readiness for attack. The lynx was gone. He had made a clean miss!
Both Mukoki and Wabigoon met him on the opposite side of the rock.
"'Nother heap big Woonga," grinned the old pathfinder remembering
Rod's former adventure on this same plateau. "Kill?"
"Missed!" said Rod shortly. "What a scream that was! Ugh!"
This time he went to bed with the others, and slept until early dawn.
The morning was one of those rare gifts of budding spring, warm and
redolent with the sweetness of new life, and its beauty acted as a
tonic on the three adventurers. Their fears of the day before were
gone, and with song and whistle and cheery voice they began the
descent of the mountain. Mukoki went on ahead of Rod and Wabigoon with
his pack, and the two boys had not made more than two of the six miles
in the portage across the plain when he met them again, returning for
his second load. By noon the canoe and its contents were safely at
the creek, and the gold hunters halted until after dinner. The little
stream across which Rod had easily leaped without wetting his feet a
few weeks before had swollen into a fair-sized river, and in places
its searching waters had formed tiny lakes. Unlike the Ombabika,
sweeping down from its mountain heights, there was but little current
here, a fact that immensely pleased Mukoki and his companions.
"We near mak' cabin to-night," said the old Indian. "I take load
During the two hours' paddle up-stream Mukoki spoke but little, and as
they approached nearer to their last winter's thrilling fight with the
Woongas, in which they had so nearly lost their lives, he ceased even
to respond by nod or grunt to the conversation of his companions. Once
Wabigoon spoke again of Wolf, and for an instant the old Indian, who
was in the bow, half turned to them, and for two strokes his paddle
rested in mid air. From the stern Wabi reached forward and poked Rod,
and the white youth understood. Next to Minnetaki and Wabigoon, and
perhaps himself, he knew that the faithful pathfinder loved Wolf best,
and that; he was filled with a little of that savage madness which
came to him now and then when he dwelt on the terrible tragedy that
had entered his life many years before. When the hunters reached the
end of their canoe journey up the stream Mukoki silently shouldered
his pack and set out over the plain. He spoke no word, made no sign.
"It would be useless," said Wabigoon, as Rod made a movement as if to
follow and stop their comrade. "No persuasion could turn Mukoki now.
He wants to reach the old camp to-night, where Wolf disappeared. He
won't be back until morning."
And Mukoki went on, never for an instant turning his face, until his
companions lost sight of him. But once out of their vision his, manner
took on a strange and sudden change. He lowered the head strap of his
pack over his breast, so that he might clutch at it with one hand, and
move his head freely. His eyes glowed with the dull fire of wakening
excitement; his steps were quick, and yet cautious, every movement in
his advance was one of listening and watchful expectancy. A person
watching the old warrior would have said that he was keenly on the
alert for game, or danger. And yet the safety of his rifle was locked,
a fresh trail of bear aroused no new interest in him, and when he
heard a crashing in the brush on his right, where a buck had got wind
of him, he gave but a single glance in its direction. He was not
seeking game. Nor were his fears aroused by suspicion of possible
danger. Wherever the ground was soft and moist he traveled slowly,
with his eyes on the earth, and at one of these spots he came to a
sudden pause. Before him were the clearly defined imprints of a wolf's
With a low cry Mukoki threw off his pack and fell upon his knees. His
eyes burned fiercely now. There was something of madness in the way in
which he groveled in the soft earth, creeping from one footprint to
the next ahead of it, and stopping always where the right forefoot
had left its track. It was that foot which had held Wolf a captive in
Mukoki's trap, and he had lost two toes. None was missing here, and
the old pathfinder rose to his feet again, disappointment shadowing
the twitching expectancy in his face.
Five times that afternoon Mukoki fell on his knees beside the trails
of wolves, and five times the light of hope went out for a moment in
his eyes. It was sunset when he climbed the mountain ridge to the
little lake hidden away in the dip; only a last pale glow tinted the
sky behind the forests when he set down his pack close to the charred
remains of the old cabin. For many minutes he rested, his gaze fixed
on those blackened reminders of their thrilling battle for life the
winter before. His wild blood leaped again at the thought of the
strife, of the desperate race that he and Roderick had run over the
mountain to the burning cabin, and of their rescue of Wabigoon.
Suddenly his eyes caught the white gleam of something half a hundred
paces away, and he rose and walked toward it, grunting and chuckling
in half-savage pleasure. The Woongas had not returned to bury their
dead, and the bones beside which he stopped were those of the outlaw
whom Wabigoon had killed, picked clean by the small animals of the
Mukoki returned to his pack and sat down As darkness fell about him he
made no effort to build a fire. He had brought food, but did not eat
it. More dense grew the shadows in the forest, thicker the gloom that
hung over the mountains. Still he sat, silent, listening. To him,
softly and timidly at first, came the sounds of the night: the
chuckling notes of birds that awakened when the earth masked itself
in darkness, the hoot of an owl, the faint wailing echo of a far-away
lynx cry, the plunge of a mink in the lake. And now the wind began
whispering in the balsams, singing gently its age-old song of
loneliness, of desolation, of mystery, and Mukoki straightened himself
and looked to where the red glow of the moon was rising above the
mountain. After a little he rose to his feet, took his rifle,
and climbed to the summit of the ridge, with a thousand miles of
wilderness sweeping between him and the Arctic sea somewhere out there
in that wilderness--was Wolf!
The moon rose higher. It disclosed the old Indian, as rigid as a rock,
with his back to a white, barkless tree in which the sap had run dry a
generation before. As he stood there he heard a sound, and turned his
face toward it, a sound that came from a mass of tumbled boulders,
like the falling of a small rock upon a larger one. And as he looked
there came from the darkness of the boulders a flash of fire and the
explosion of a gun, and as Mukoki crumpled down in his tracks there
followed a cry so terrible, so unhuman, so blood-curdling that, as
he fell, an answering cry of horror burst from the lips of the old
warrior. He lay like dead, though he was not touched. Instinct more
than reason had impelled him to fall at the sound of the mysterious
shot. Cautiously he wormed his rifle to his shoulder. But there came
no movement from the rocks.
Then, from half-way down the mountain, there came again that terrible
cry, and Mukoki knew that no animal in all these wilds could make it,
but that it was human, and yet more savage than anything that had ever
brought terror into his soul. Trembling, he crouched to the earth, a
nameless fear chilling the blood in his veins. And the cry came again,
and yet again, always farther and farther away, now at the foot of
the mountain, now upon the plain, now floating away toward the chasm,
echoing and reechoing between the mountain ridges, startling the
creatures of the night into silence, and wresting deep sobbing breaths
from out of Mukoki's soul. And the old warrior moved not a muscle
until far away, miles and miles, it seemed, there died the last echo
of it, and only the whispering winds rustled over the mountain top.
THE CRY IN THE CHASM
If Mukoki had been a white man he would have analyzed in some way the
meaning of those strange cries. But the wild and its savage things
formed his world; and his world, until this night, had never known
human or beast that could make the terrible sounds he had heard. So
for an hour he crouched where he had fallen, still trembling with
that nameless fear, and trying hard to form a solution of what had
happened. Slowly he recovered himself. For many years he had mingled
with white people at the Post and reason now battled with the
superstitions of his race.
He had been fired at. He had heard the whistling song of the ball over
his head, and had heard it strike the tree behind him. For a time
those rocks toward which he stared like fascinated beast had concealed
a man. But what kind of man! He remembered the ancient battle-cries
of his tribe, and of the enemies of his tribe, but none was like the
cries that had followed the shot. He heard them still; they rang in
his ears, and sent shivering chills up his back. And the more he tried
to reason the greater that nameless fear grew in him, until he slunk
like an animal down the side of the mountain, through the dip, and out
again upon the plain. And with that same nameless fear always close
behind him, urging him on with its terrors, he sped back over the
trail that he had followed that day, nor for an instant did he stop to
rest until he came to the camp-fire of Rod and Wabigoon.
Usually an Indian hides his fears; he conceals them as a white man
does his sins. But to-night Mukoki's experience had passed beyond the
knowledge of his race, and he told of what had happened, trembling
still, cringing when a great white rabbit darted close to the fire.
Rod and Wabi listened to him in mute astonishment.
"Could it have been a Woonga?" asked Wabi.
"No Woonga," replied the old warrior quickly, shaking his head.
"Woonga no mak' noise lak that!"
He drew away from the fire, wrapped himself in a blanket, and crept
into the shelter that Rod and Wabigoon had built. The two boys looked
at each other in silence.
"Muky has certainly had some most extraordinary adventure," said Wabi
at last. "I have never seen him like this before. It is easy to guess
the meaning of the shot. Some of the Woongas may still be in the
country, and one of them saw Mukoki, and fired at him. But the scream!
What do you make of that?"
"Do you suppose," whispered Rod, speaking close to his companion's
ear, "that Mukoki's imagination helped him out to-night?" He paused
for a moment as he saw the look of disapproval in Wabigoon's eyes,
and then went on. "I don't mean to hint that he stretched his story
purposely. He was standing on the mountain top. Suddenly there came a
flash of fire, the report of a rifle, and a bullet zipped close to his
head. And at that same instant, or a moment later--well, you remember
the scream of the lynx!"
"You believe that it might have been a lynx, startled by the shot, and
sent screaming across the plain?"
"Impossible. At the sound of that shot a lynx would have remained as
still as death!"
"Still there are always exceptions," persisted the white youth.
"Not in the case of lynx," declared Wabigoon. "No animal made those
cries. Mukoki is as fearless as a lion. The cry of a lynx would have
stirred his blood with pleasure instead of fear. Whatever the sounds
were they turned Mukoki's blood into water. They made him a coward,
and he ran, ran, mind you! until he got back to us! Is that like
Mukoki? I tell you the cries--"
"Were something very unusual," finished Wabigoon quietly, rising to
his feet "Perhaps we will find out more to-morrow. As it is, I believe
we had better stand guard in camp to-night. I will go to bed now and
you can awaken me after a while."
Wabigoon's words and the strangeness of his manner put Rod ill at
ease, despite his arguments of a few moments before, and no sooner did
he find himself alone beside the fire than he began to be filled with
an unpleasant premonition of lurking danger. For a time he sat very
still, trying to peer into the shadows beyond the fire and listening
to the sounds that came to him from out of the night. As he watched
and listened his brain worked ceaselessly, conjuring picture after
picture of what that danger might be, and at last he drew out of the
firelight and concealed himself in the deep gloom of the bush. From
here he could see the camp, and at the same time was safe from a
possible rifle shot.
The night passed with tedious slowness, and he was glad when, a little
after midnight, Wabi came out to relieve him. At dawn he was in turn
awakened by the young Indian. Mukoki was already up and had prepared
his pack. Apparently he had regained his old spirits, but both Rod and
Wabigoon could see that behind them the fear of the preceding night
still haunted him. That morning he did not set off ahead of the two
boys with his pack but walked beside them, stopping to rest when they
lowered their canoe, his eyes never ceasing their sharp scrutiny of
the plain and distant ridges. Once when Mukoki mounted a big rock to
look about him, Wabi whispered,
"I tell you it's strange, Rod--mighty strange!"
An hour later the old warrior halted and threw off his load. The three
had approached within a quarter of a mile of the dip in the mountain.
"Leave canoe here," he said. "Go lak fox to old camp. Mebbe see!"
He took the lead now, followed closely by the boys. The safety of the
old pathfinder's rifle was down, and following his example Rod and
Wabigoon held their own guns in readiness for instant fire. As they
neared the summit of the ridge on which Mukoki's life had been
attempted the suspense of the two young hunters became almost
painfully acute. Mukoki's actions not only astonished them, but
set their blood tingling with his own strange fear. Many times had
Wabigoon seen his faithful comrade in moments of deadly peril but
never, even when the Woongas were close upon their trail, had he known
him to take them as seriously as he did the ascent of this mountain.
Every few steps Mukoki paused, listening and watchful. Not the
smallest twig broke under his moccasined feet; the movement of the
smallest bird, the trembling of a bush, the scurry of a rabbit halted
him, rigid, his rifle half to shoulder. And Rod and Wabigoon soon
become filled with this same panic-stricken fear. What terrible dread
was it that filled Mukoki's soul? Had he seen something of which he
had not told them? Did he think something which he had not revealed?
Foot by foot the three came to the top of the ridge. There Mukoki
straightened himself, and stood erect. There were no signs of a living
creature about them. Down in the dip nestled the little lake, gleaming
in the midday sun. They could make out the debris of the burned cabin
in which they had passed their hunting season, and close to this was
the pack which Mukoki had dropped there the night before. No one had
molested it. Wabi's face relaxed. Rod, breathing easier, laughed
softly. What had there been to fear? He glanced questioningly at
"There rocks, there tree," said the old warrior, in answer to Rod's
glance, "down there went scream!" He pointed far out across the plain.
Wabi had gone to the tree.
"See here, Rod!" he cried. "By George, this was a close shave!" He
pointed to a tiny hole freshly made in the smooth white surface of the
tree as the others came up. "There--stand there, Mukoki, back to the
tree, as you said you were when the shot was fired. Great Caesar, that
fellow had a dead line on your head--two inches high! No wonder it
made you think the scream of a lynx was something else!"
"No lynx," said Mukoki, his face darkening.
"Shame on you, Muky!" laughed Wabigoon. "Don't get angry. I won't say
it again if it makes you mad."
Rod had drawn his hunting-knife and was prodding the point of it in
the bullet hole.
"I can feel the ball," he said. "It's not in more than an inch."
"That's curious," exclaimed Wabigoon, coming close beside him. "It
ought to be half-way through the tree at least! Eh, Muky? I don't
believe it would have hurt--"
He stopped. Rod had turned with a sudden excited cry. He held out his
knife, tip upward, and pointed to it with the index finger of his free
hand. Wabi's eyes fell on the tip of the blade. Mukoki stared. For a
full half minute the three stood in speechless amazement. Clinging to
the knife tip was a tiny fleck of yellow, gleaming lustrously in the
sun as Rod slowly turned the handle of his weapon.
The words fell from Wabi's lips very slowly, and so low that they were
scarce above a whisper. Mukoki seemed to have ceased breathing. Rod's
eyes met the old warrior's.
"What does it mean?"
Wabi had pulled his knife and was digging into the tree. A few deep
cuts and the golden bullet lay exposed to view.
"What does it mean?" repeated the white youth.
Again he addressed his question to Mukoki.
"Man who shoot bear--heem no dead," replied the old pathfinder. "Same
gun, same gold, same--"
A strange gleam came for an instant into Mukoki's eyes, and without
finishing he turned and pointed across the narrow plain that lay
between them and the mysterious chasm which they were to follow in
their search for treasure.
"Cry went there!" he said shortly.
"To the chasm!" said Wabi.
"To the chasm!" repeated Rod.
Impelled by the same thought the three adventurers went toward the
rocks from which the shot had been fired. Surely they would discover
some sign there, or lower down upon the plain, where the melting snows
had softened the earth. Mukoki led in the search, and foot by foot
they examined the spot where the mysterious marksman must have stood
when he sent his golden bullet so close to the Indian's head.
But not a trace of his presence had he left behind. Working abreast,
the three began the descent of the ridge. Hardly had they covered a
third of the distance to the plain when Wabi, who was trailing between
Rod and the old Indian, called out that he had made a discovery.
Mukoki had already reached him when Rod came up, and the two were
gazing silently at something fluttering from a bush.
"Lynx hair!" cried Rod. "A lynx has been this way!" He could not
entirely conceal the triumph in his voice. He had been right in his
conjecture of the night before, the cry that had frightened Mukoki had
been made by a lynx!
"Yes, a lynx has been this way, a lynx four feet high," said Wabigoon
quietly, and the touch of raillery in his voice assured Rod that he
had still other lessons to learn in the life of this big wilderness.
"Lynx don't grow that big, Rod!"
"Then it's--" Rod feared to go on.
"Lynx fur. That's just what it is. Whoever fired at Mukoki last night
was dressed in skins! Now, can you tell us what that means?"
Without waiting for an answer Wabigoon resumed his search. But the
mountain side gave no further evidence. Not a footprint was found upon
the plain. If the mysterious person who had fired the golden bullet
had leaped from the mountain top into space he could have left no
fewer traces behind him. At the end of an hour Rod and his companions
returned to the canoe, carried their loads to the pack in the dip,
and prepared dinner. Their suspense and fear, and specially Mukoki's
dread, were in a large measure gone. But at the same time they were
more hopelessly mystified than ever. That there was danger ahead of
them, that the menace of golden bullets was actual and thrilling, all
three were well agreed, but the sunlight of day and a little sound
reasoning had dispelled their half superstitious terrors of the
previous night and they began to face the new situation with their
"We can't let this delay us," said Wabi, as they ate their dinner. "By
night we ought to be in our old camp at the head of the chasm, where
we held the Woongas at bay last winter. The sooner we get out of the
way of these golden bullets the better it will be for us!"
Mukoki shrugged his shoulders.
"Gold bullet follow, I guess so," he grunted, "Cry went there--to
"I don't believe this fellow, whoever he is, will hang to our trail,"
continued Wabi, giving Rod a suggestive look. A few moments later he
found an opportunity to whisper, "We've got to get that cry out of
Muky's head, Rod, or we'll never find our gold!"
When Mukoki had gone to arrange his pack the young Indian spoke
earnestly to his companion.
"Muky isn't afraid of bullets, either gold or lead; he isn't afraid of
any danger on earth. But that cry haunts him. He is trying not to
let us know, yet it haunts him just the same. Do you know what he is
thinking? No? Well, I do! He is superstitious, like the rest of his
race, and the two gold bullets, the terrible cries, and the fact that
we found no tracks upon the plain are all carrying him toward one
conclusion, that the strange thing that fired at him is--"
Wabigoon paused and wiped his face, and it was easy for Rod to see
that he was suppressing some unusual excitement.
"What does he think it is?"
"I'm not sure, not quite sure, yet," went on the Indian youth. "But
listen! It is a legend in Mukoki's tribe, and always has been, that
once in every so many generations they are visited by a terrible
warrior sent by the Great Spirit who takes sacrifice of them, a
sacrifice of human life, because of a great wrong that was once done
by their people. And this warrior, though invisible, has a voice that
makes the mountains quake and the rivers stand still with fear, and
in his great bow he shoots shafts that are made of gold! Do you
understand? Last night I heard Mukoki talking about it in his sleep.
Either we must hear this cry, and find out more about it, or hurry to
a place where it won't be heard again. Golden bullets and cries and
Mukoki's superstitions are going to be worse than Woongas if we don't
"But the whole thing is as plain as day!" declared Rod in
astonishment. "A man shot at the bear, and the same man shot at
Mukoki, and he fired gold each time. Surely--"
"It's not the man part of it," interrupted the other. "It's the cry.
There, Mukoki has his pack ready. Let's start for the chasm at once!"
This time the boys had a heavier burden than usual, for in the canoe
they placed one of the two loads carried by Mukoki, and consequently
their progress toward the chasm was much slower than that across the
plain. It was late in the afternoon when they reached the break that
led into the chasm, and as they cautiously made the descent now Rod
thought of the thrilling pursuit of the Woonga horde, and how a few
weeks before they had discovered this break just in time for Wabi and
him to save their lives, and that of the wounded Mukoki. It was with a
feeling almost of awe that the three adventurers penetrated deeper and
deeper into the silent gloom of this mystery-filled gulch between the
mountains, and when they reached the bottom they set their loads down
without speaking, their eyes roving over the black walls of rock,
their hearts throbbing a little faster with excitement.
For here, at this break in the mountain, began the romantic trail
drawn by men long dead, the trail that led to a treasure of gold.
As the three sat in silence, the gloom in the chasm thickened. The sun
had passed beyond the southwestern forests, and through the narrow
rift between the mountain walls there fell but the ebbing light of
day, dissolving itself into the shadows of dusk as it struggled weakly
in the cavernous depths. For a few minutes this swift fading of day
into night gripped the adventurers in its spell. What did the lonely
solitudes of that chasm hold for them? Where would they lead them? To
Rod's mind there came a picture of the silver fox and a thought of
his dream, when for a few miles he had explored the mysteries of this
strange, sunless world shut in by rock walls. Again he saw the dancing
skeletons, heard the rattle of their bones, and watched the wonderful
dream-battle that had led him to the birch-bark map. Wabigoon, his
eyes gleaming in the gathering darkness, thought of their flight from
the outlaw savages, and Mukoki--
The white youth had turned a little to look at the old warrior. Mukoki
sat as rigid as a pillar of stone an arm's reach from him. Head erect,
arms tense, his eyes gleaming strangely, he stared straight out into
the gloom between the chasm walls. Rod shivered. He knew, knew without
questioning, that Mukoki was thinking of the cry!
And at that instant there floated up from the black chaos ahead a
sound, a sound low and weird, like the moaning of a winter's wind
through the pine tops, swelling, advancing, until it ended in a
shriek--a shriek that echoed and reechoed between the chasm walls,
dying away in a wail that froze the blood of the three who sat and
WABI MAKES A STRANGE DISCOVERY
Mukoki broke the silence which followed the terrible cry. With a
choking sound, as if some unseen hand were clutching at his throat, he
slipped from the rock upon which he was sitting and crouched behind
it, his rifle gleaming faintly as he leveled it down the chasm. There
came the warning click of Wabigoon's gun, and the young Indian hunched
himself forward until he was no more than an indistinct shadow in the
fast-deepening gloom of night. Only Rod still sat erect. For a moment
his heart seemed to stand still. Then something leaped into his brain
and spread like fire through his veins, calling him to his feet,
trembling with the knowledge of what that cry had told him! It was not
a lesson from the wilderness that Roderick Drew was learning now. As
fast as the mind could travel he had gone far back into the strife and
misery and madness of civilization, and there he found the language
of that fearful cry floating up the chasm. He had heard it once,
twice--yes, again and again, and the memory of it had burned deep down
into his soul. He turned to his companions, trying to speak, but the
horror that had first filled Mukoki now fastened itself on him, and
his tongue was lifeless.
Wabi's fingers dug into his arm like the claws of a bear.
"A madman!" repeated Rod, trying to speak more calmly. "The man who
shot the bear and fired at Mukoki and who uses gold bullets in his gun
is mad--raving mad! I have heard those screams before--in the Eloise
insane asylum, near Detroit. He's--"
The words were frozen on his lips. Again the cry echoed up the
chasm. It was nearer this time, and with a sobbing, terrified sound,
something that Wabi had never heard fall from Mukoki's lips before,
the old warrior clung to Roderick's arm. Darkness hid the terror in
his face, but the white boy could feel it in the grip of his hands.
"Mad, raving mad!" he cried. Suddenly he gripped Mukoki fiercely by
the shoulders, and as Wabigoon crouched forward, ready to fire at the
first movement in the gloom, he thrust the butt of his rifle in his
back. "Don't shoot!" he commanded. "Mukoki, don't be a fool! That's
a man back there, a man who has suffered and starved, starved, mind
you!--until he's mad, stark mad! It would be worse than murder to kill
He stopped, and Mukoki drew back a step, breathing deeply.
"Heem--starve--no eat--gone bad dog?" he questioned softly. In an
instant Wabi was at his side.
"That's it, Muky--he's gone bad dog, just like that husky of ours who
went bad because he swallowed a fish bone. White men sometimes go bad
dog when they are thirsty and starving!"
"Our Great Spirit tells us that we must never harm them," added Rod.
"We put them in big houses, larger than all of the houses at the Post
together, and feed them and clothe them and care for them all their
lives. Are you afraid of a bad dog, Muky, or of a man who has gone bad
"Bad dog bite deep--mebby so we kill heem!"
"But we don't kill them until we have to," persisted the quick-witted
Wabigoon, who saw the way in which Rod's efforts were being directed.
"Didn't we save our husky by taking the fish bone out of his throat?
We must save this bad dog, because he is a white man, like Rod. He
thinks all men are his enemies, just as a bad dog thinks all other
dogs are his enemies. So we must be careful and not give him a chance
to shoot us but we mustn't harm him!"
"It will be best if we don't let him know we are in the chasm," said
Rod, still speaking for Mukoki's benefit. "He's probably going out on
the plain, and must climb up this break in, the mountain. Let's move
our stuff a little out of his path."
As the two boys went to the canoe their hands touched. Wabi was
startled by the coldness of his friend's fingers.
"We've fixed Mukoki," he whispered. "He won't shoot. But--"
"We may have to," replied Rod. "That will be up to you and me, Wabi.
We must use judgment, and unless it's a case of life or death--"
"Ugh!" shuddered the young Indian.
"If he doesn't discover our presence to-night we will get out of his
way to-morrow," continued Rod. "No fire--no talking. We must be as
still as death!"
For some time after their outfit was concealed among the rocks
Wabigoon sat with his mouth close to the old pathfinder's ear. Then he
returned to Rod.
"Muky understands. He has never seen or heard of a madman, and it is
hard for him to comprehend. But he knows--now, and understands what he
"What is it?"
"I thought I heard a sound!" breathed Rod. "Did you hear it?"
The two listened. There was an awesome silence in the chasm now,
broken only by the distant murmur of running water, a strange,
chilling stillness in which the young hunters could hear the excited
beating of their own hearts. To Roderick the minutes passed like so
many hours. His ears were keyed to the highest tension of expectancy,
his eyes stared into the gloom beyond them until they ached with
his efforts to see. At every instant he expected to hear again that
terrible scream, this time very near, and he prepared himself to meet
it. But the seconds passed, and then the minutes, and still there came
no quick running of mad footsteps, no repetition of the cry. Had the
madman turned the other way? Was he plunging deeper into the blackness
of this mysterious world of his between the mountains?
"I guess I was mistaken," he whispered softly to Wabigoon. "Shall we
get out our blankets?"
"We might as well make ourselves comfortable," replied the young
Indian. "You sit here, and listen while I undo the pack."
He went noiselessly to Mukoki, who was leaning against the pack, and
Rod could hear them fumbling at the straps on the bundle. After a
little Wabi returned and the two boys spread out their blankets beside
the rock upon which they had been sitting. But there was no thought of
sleep in the mind of either, though both were dead tired from their
long day's work. They sat closer together, shoulder touching shoulder,
and unknown to his companion Roderick drew his revolver, cocked it
silently and placed it where he could feel the cold touch of its steel
between his fingers. He knew that he was the only one of the three who
fully realized the horror of their situation.
Mukoki's mind, simple in its reasoning of things that did not belong
to the wilderness, had accepted the assurances and explanations of
Rod and Wabigoon. Wabi, half-bred in the wild, felt alarm only in the
sense of physical peril. It was different with the white youth. What
is there in civilization that sends the chill of terror to one's heart
more quickly than the presence of a human being who has gone mad? And
this madman was at large! At that very instant he might be listening
to their breathing and their whispered words half a dozen feet away;
any moment might see the blackness take form and the terrible thing
hurl itself at their throats. Rod, unlike Wabigoon, knew that the
powers of this strange creature of the chasm were greater than their
own, that it could travel with the swiftness and silence of an animal
through the darkness, that perhaps it could smell them and feel their
presence as it passed on its way to the plain. He was anxious now to
hear the cry again. What was the meaning of this silence? Was the
madman already conscious of their presence? Was he creeping upon them
at that moment, as still as the black shadows that shut in their
vision? His mind was working in such vivid imaginings that he was
startled when Wabi prodded him gently in the side.
"Look over there--across the chasm," he whispered. "See that glow on
the mountain wall?"
"The moon!" replied Rod.
"Yes. I've been watching it, and it's creeping down and down. The
moon is going to swing across this break in the mountains. In fifteen
minutes we shall be able to see."
"It won't swing across so much as it will come up in line with us,"
replied Rod. "Watch how that light is lengthening! We shall be able to
see for several hours."
He started to rise to his feet but fell back with an astonished cry.
For a third time there came the mad hunter's scream, this time far
above and beyond them, floating down from the distance of the moon-lit
"He passed us!" exclaimed Wabi. "He passed us--and we didn't hear
him!" He leaped to his feet and his voice rose excitedly until it rang
in a hundred echoes between the chasm walls. "He passed us, and we
didn't hear him!"
Mukoki's voice came strangely from out of the gloom.
"No man do that! No man--no man--"
"Hush!" commanded Rod. "Now is our time, boys! Quick, get everything
to the creek. He's half a mile out on the plain and we can get away
before he comes back. I'd rather risk a few rocks than another one of
his golden bullets!"
"So had I!" cried Wabi.
As if their lives depended on their exertions the three set to work.
Mukoki staggered ahead over the rocks with his burden while the boys
followed with the light canoe and the remaining pack. Their previous
experiences in the chasm had taught them where to approach the stream,
and ten minutes later they were at its side. Without a moment's
hesitation Mukoki dropped his pack and plunged in. The edge of the
moon was just appearing over the southern mountain wall and by its
light Rod and Wabigoon could see that the water of the creek was
rushing with great swiftness as high as the old warrior's knees.
"No ver' deep," said the Indian. "Rocks--"
"I followed this creek for half a dozen miles and its bottom is as
smooth as a floor!" interrupted Rod. "There's no danger of rocks for
He made no effort now to suppress the pleasure which he felt at the
escape from their unpleasant situation. Mukoki steadied the canoe as
it was placed in the water, and was the last to climb into it, taking
his usual position in the stern where he could use to best advantage
the powerful sweeps of his paddle. In an instant the swift current
of the little stream caught the birch bark and carried it along with
remarkable speed. After several futile strokes of his paddle Wabi
settled back upon his heels.
"It's all up to you, Muky," he called softly. "I can't do a thing from
the bow. The current is too swift. All you can do is to keep her nose
The light of the moon was now filling the chasm and the adventurers
could see distinctly for a hundred yards or more ahead of them. Each
minute seemed to add to the swiftness and size of the stream, and by
the use of his paddle Wabi found that it was constantly deepening,
until he could no longer touch bottom. Rod's eyes were ceaselessly on
the alert for familiar signs along the shore. He was sure that he
knew when they passed the spot where he killed the silver fox, and
he called Wabi's attention to it. Then the rocks sped past with
increasing swiftness, and as the moon rose higher the three could see
where the overflowing torrent sent out little streams that twisted
and dashed themselves into leaping foam in the wildness of the chasm
beyond the main channel. These increased in number and size as the
journey continued, until Mukoki began to feel the influence of their
currents and called on Wabi and Rod for assistance. Suddenly Rod gave
a muffled shout as they shot past a mass of huge boulders on their
"That's where I camped the night I dreamed of the skeletons!" he
cried. "I don't know what the stream is like from here on. Be
Wabi gave a terrific lunge with his paddle and the cone of a black
rock hissed past half a canoe length away.
"It's as black as a dungeon ahead, and I can hear rocks!" he shouted.
"Bring her in if you can, Muky, bring her in!"
There came the sudden sharp crack of snapping wood and a low
exclamation of alarm fell from Mukoki. His paddle had broken at the
shaft. In a flash Rod realized what had happened and passed back his
own, but that moment's loss of time proved almost fatal. Freed of its
guiding hand the birch bark swung broadside to the current, and at the
same time Wabi's voice rose in a shrill cry of warning.
"It's not rocks, it's a whirlpool!" he yelled. "The other shore, swing
her out, swing her out!"
He dug his own paddle deep down into the racing current and from
behind Mukoki exerted his most powerful efforts, but it was too late!
A hundred feet ahead the stream tore between two huge rocks as big as
houses, and just beyond these Rod caught a glimpse of frothing water
churning itself milk-white in the moonlight. But it was only a
glimpse. With a velocity that was startling the canoe shot between
the rocks, and as a choking sea of spray leaped into their faces
Wabigoon's voice came back again in a loud command for the others to
hang to the gunwales of their frail craft. For an instant, in which
his thoughts seemed to have left him, a roaring din filled Rod's ears;
a white, churning mist hid everything but his own arms and clutching
hands, and then the birch bark darted with the sudden impetus of a
freshly-shot arrow around the jagged edge of the boulder--and he could
Here was the whirlpool! More than once Wabi had told him of these
treacherous traps, made by the mountain streams, and of the almost
certain death that awaited the unlucky canoe man drawn into their
smothering embrace. There was no angry raging of the flood here; at
first it seemed to Rod that they were floating almost without motion
upon a black, lazy sea that made neither sound nor riffle. Scarce half
a dozen canoe lengths away he saw the white center of the maelstrom,
and there came to his ears above the dash of the stream between the
two great rocks a faint hissing sound that curdled the blood in his
veins, the hissing of the treacherous undertow that would soon drag
them to their death! In the passing of a thought there flashed into
the white youth's mind a story that Mukoki had told him of an Indian
who had been lost in one of these whirlpools of the spring floods, and
whose body had been tossed and pitched about in its center for more
than a week. For the first time the power of speech came to him.
"Shall we jump?" he shouted.
"Hang to the canoe."
Wabi fairly shrieked the words, and yet as he spoke he drew himself
half erect, as if about to leap into the flood. The momentum gathered
in its swift rush between the rocks had carried their frail craft
almost to the outer edge of the deadly trap, and as this momentum
ceased and the canoe yielded to the sucking forces of the maelstrom
the young Indian shrieked out his warning again.
"Hang to the canoe!"
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when he stood erect and
launched himself like an animal into the black depths toward shore.
With a terrified cry Rod rose to his knees. In another instant he
would have plunged recklessly after Wabi, but Mukoki's voice sounding
behind him, snarling in its fierceness, stopped him.
"Hang to canoe!"
There came a jerk. The bow of the canoe swung inward and the stern
whirled so quickly that Rod, half kneeling, nearly lost his balance.
In that instant he turned his face and saw the old warrior standing,
as Wabigoon had done before him, and as Mukoki leaped there came for a
third time that warning cry:
"Hang to canoe!"
And Rod hung. He knew that for some reason those commands were meant
for him, and him alone; he knew that the desperate plunges of his
comrades were not inspired by cowardice or fear, but not until the
birch bark ground upon the shore and he tumbled out in safety did he
fully comprehend what had happened. Holding the rope with which they
tied their canoe, Wabigoon had taken a desperate chance. His quick
mind had leaped like a flash of powder to their last hope, and at the
crucial moment, just as the momentum of the birch bark gave way to the
whirling forces of the pool, he had jumped a good seven feet toward
shore, and had found bottom! Another twelve inches of water under him
and all would have been lost.
Wabigoon stood panting and dripping wet, and in the moonlight his face
was as white as the tub-like spot of foam out in the center of the
"That's what you call going to kingdomcome and getting out again!" he
gasped. "Muky, that was the closest shave we've ever had! It has your
avalanche beaten to a frazzle!"
Mukoki was dragging the canoe upon the pebbly shore, and still
overcome by the suddenness of all that had happened Rod went to his
The adventurers now discovered themselves in a most interesting
situation. The night had indeed been one of curious and thrilling
happenings for them, and here was a pretty climax to it all! They had
escaped the mad hunter by running into the almost fatal grip of the
whirlpool, and now they had escaped the perils of that seething
death-trap by plunging into a tiny rock-bound prison which seemed
destined to hold them for all time, or at least until the floods of
spring subsided. Straight above them, and shutting them in entirely,
rose precipitous rock walls. On the only open side was the deadly
Even Mukoki as he glanced about him was struck by the humor of their
situation, and chuckled softly.
Wabi stood with his hands deep in his soaked pockets, facing the
moonlit walls. Then he turned to Rod, and grinned; then he faced the
whirlpool, and after that his eyes swept the space of sky above them.
The situation was funny, at first; but when he looked at the white
youth again the smile had died out of his face.
"Wouldn't that madman have fun if he found us now!" he whispered.
Mukoki was traveling slowly around the rock walls. The space in which
they were confined was not more than fifty feet in diameter, and there
was not even a crack by means of which a squirrel might have found
exit. The prison was perfect. The old pathfinder came back and sat
down with a grunt.
"We might as well have supper and a good sleep," suggested Rod,
who was hungry. "Surely we need fear no attack from beast or man
At least there was this consolation, and the gold hunters ate a
hearty meal of cold bear meat and prepared for slumber. The night
was unusually warm, and both Mukoki and Wabigoon hung out their wet
clothes to dry while they slept in their blankets. Rod did not open
his eyes again until Wabi awakened him in the morning. Both Indians
were dressed and it was evident that they had been up for some time.
When Rod went to the water to wash himself he was surprised to find
all of their supplies repacked in the canoe, as though their journey
was about to be resumed immediately after breakfast, and when he
returned to where Mukoki and Wabigoon had placed their food on a
flat stone in the center of what he had regarded as their prison, he
observed that both of his companions were in an unusually cheerful
frame of mind.
"Looks as though you expected to get out of here pretty soon," he
said, nodding toward the canoe.
"So we do!" responded Wabi. "We're going to take a swim through the
He laughed at the incredulity in Rod's face.
"That is, we're going to navigate along the edge of it," he amended.
"Muky and I have tied together every bit of rope and strap in our
outfit, even to our gun-slings, and we've got a piece about eighty
feet long. We'll show you how to use it after breakfast."
It took but a few minutes to dispose of the rather unappetizing repast
of cold bear meat, biscuits and water. Wabi then led the way to the
extreme edge of the great rock which formed the eastern wall of their
prison, waded in the water to his knees, and directed Rod's gaze to a
point of land jutting out into the stream about sixty feet beyond the
"If we can reach that," explained Wabi, "we can portage around the
rest of the whirlpool to the main channel. The water is very deep
along the edge of this rock, but the undertow doesn't seem to have any
great force. I believe that we can make it. The experiment won't be a
dangerous one at any rate."
The canoe was now dragged to the edge of the rock and launched, Mukoki
taking his place in the stern while Wabigoon placed Rod a little ahead
of the midship rib.
"You must paddle on your left side, every minute and as fast as you
can," advised the young Indian. "I am to remain behind, holding one
end of this rope, so that if you are drawn toward the maelstrom I can
pull you back. Understand?"
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