The Patrol of the Sun Dance Trail
Part 1 out of 7
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THE PATROL OF THE SUN DANCE TRAIL
by RALPH CONNOR
I THE TRAIL-RUNNER
II HIS COUNTRY'S NEED
III A-FISHING WE WILL GO
IV THE BIG CHIEF
V THE ANCIENT SACRIFICE
VI THE ILLUSIVE COPPERHEAD
VII THE SARCEE CAMP
VIII THE GIRL ON NO. 1
IX THE RIDE UP THE BOW
X RAVEN TO THE RESCUE
XI SMITH'S WORK
XII IN THE SUN DANCE CANYON
XIII IN THE BIG WIGWAM
XIV "GOOD MAN--GOOD SQUAW"
XV THE OUTLAW
XVII TO ARMS!
XVIII AN OUTLAW, BUT A MAN
XIX THE GREAT CHIEF
XX THE LAST PATROL
XXI WHY THE DOCTOR STAYED
THE PATROL OF THE SUN DANCE TRAIL
High up on the hillside in the midst of a rugged group of jack
pines the Union Jack shook out its folds gallantly in the breeze
that swept down the Kicking Horse Pass. That gallant flag marked
the headquarters of Superintendent Strong, of the North West
Mounted Police, whose special duty it was to preserve law and order
along the construction line of the Canadian Pacific Railway
Company, now pushed west some scores of miles.
Along the tote-road, which ran parallel to the steel, a man, dark
of skin, slight but wiry, came running, his hard panting, his
streaming face, his open mouth proclaiming his exhaustion. At a
little trail that led to the left he paused, noted its course
toward the flaunting flag, turned into it, then struggled up the
rocky hillside till he came to the wooden shack, with a deep porch
running round it, and surrounded by a rustic fence which enclosed a
garden whose neatness illustrated a characteristic of the British
soldier. The runner passed in through the gate and up the little
gravel walk and began to ascend the steps.
"Halt!" A quick sharp voice arrested him. "What do you want
here?" From the side of the shack an orderly appeared, neat, trim
and dandified in appearance, from his polished boots to his wide
"Beeg Chief," panted the runner. "Me--see--beeg Chief--queeck."
The orderly looked him over and hesitated.
"What do you want Big Chief for?"
"Me--want--say somet'ing," said the little man, fighting to recover
his breath, "somet'ing beeg--sure beeg." He made a step toward the
"Halt there!" said the orderly sharply. "Keep out, you half-
"See--beeg Chief--queeck," panted the half-breed, for so he was,
with fierce insistence.
The orderly hesitated. A year ago he would have hustled him off
the porch in short order. But these days were anxious days.
Rumors wild and terrifying were running through the trails of the
dark forest. Everywhere were suspicion and unrest. The Indian
tribes throughout the western territories and in the eastern part
of British Columbia, under cover of an unwonted quiet, were in a
state of excitement, and this none knew better than the North West
Mounted Police. With stoical unconcern the Police patroled their
beats, rode in upon the reserves, careless, cheery, but with eyes
vigilant for signs and with ears alert for sounds of the coming
storm. Only the Mounted Police, however, and a few old-timers who
knew the Indians and their half-breed kindred gave a single
moment's thought to the bare possibility of danger. The vast
majority of the Canadian people knew nothing of the tempestuous
gatherings of French half-breed settlers in little hamlets upon the
northern plains along the Saskatchewan. The fiery resolutions
reported now and then in the newspapers reciting the wrongs and
proclaiming the rights of these remote, ignorant, insignificant,
half-tamed pioneers of civilization roused but faint interest in
the minds of the people of Canada. Formal resolutions and
petitions of rights had been regularly sent during the past two
years to Ottawa and there as regularly pigeon-holed above the desks
of deputy ministers. The politicians had a somewhat dim notion
that there was some sort of row on among the "breeds" about Prince
Albert and Battleford, but this concerned them little. The members
of the Opposition found in the resolutions and petitions of rights
useful ammunition for attack upon the Government. In purple
periods the leader arraigned the supineness and the indifference of
the Premier and his Government to "the rights and wrongs of our
fellow-citizens who, amid the hardships of a pioneer civilization,
were laying broad and deep the foundations of Empire." But after
the smoke and noise of the explosion had passed both Opposition and
Government speedily forgot the half-breed and his tempestuous
gatherings in the stores and schoolhouses, at church doors and in
open camps, along the banks of the far away Saskatchewan.
There were a few men, however, that could not forget. An Indian
agent here and there with a sense of responsibility beyond the
pickings of his post, a Hudson Bay factor whose long experience in
handling the affairs of half-breeds and Indians instructed him to
read as from a printed page what to others were meaningless and
incoherent happenings, and above all the officers of the Mounted
Police, whose duty it was to preserve the "pax Britannica" over
some three hundred thousand square miles of Her Majesty's dominions
in this far northwest reach of Empire, these carried night and day
an uneasiness in their minds which found vent from time to time in
reports and telegraphic messages to members of Government and other
officials at headquarters, who slept on, however, undisturbed. But
the word was passed along the line of Police posts over the plains
and far out into British Columbia to watch for signs and to be on
guard. The Police paid little heed to the high-sounding resolutions
of a few angry excitable half-breeds, who, daring though they were
and thoroughly able to give a good account of themselves in any
trouble that might arise, were quite insignificant in number; but
there was another peril, so serious, so terrible, that the oldest
officer on the force spoke of it with face growing grave and with
lowered voice--the peril of an Indian uprising.
All this and more made the trim orderly hesitate. A runner with
news was not to be kicked unceremoniously off the porch in these
days, but to be considered.
"You want to see the Superintendent, eh?"
"Oui, for sure--queeck--run ten mile," replied the half-breed with
"All right," said the orderly, "what's your name?"
"Name? Me, Pinault--Pierre Pinault. Ah, sacr-r-e! Beeg Chief
know me--Pinault." The little man drew himself up.
"All right! Wait!" replied the orderly, and passed into the shack.
He had hardly disappeared when he was back again, obviously shaken
out of his correct military form.
"Go in!" he said sharply. "Get a move on! What are you waiting
The half-breed threw him a sidelong glance of contempt and passed
quickly into the "Beeg Chief's" presence.
Superintendent Strong was a man prompt in decision and prompt in
action, a man of courage, too, unquestioned, and with that bulldog
spirit that sees things through to a finish. To these qualities it
was that he owed his present command, for it was no insignificant
business to keep the peace and to make the law run along the line
of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Kicking Horse Pass
during construction days.
The half-breed had been but a few minutes with the Chief when the
orderly was again startled out of his military decorum by the
bursting open of the Superintendent's door and the sharp rattle of
the Superintendent's orders.
"Send Sergeant Ferry to me at once and have my horse and his
brought round immediately!" The orderly sprang to attention and
"Yes, sir!" he replied, and swiftly departed.
A few minutes' conference with Sergeant Ferry, a few brief commands
to the orderly, and the Superintendent and Sergeant were on their
way down the steep hillside toward the tote-road that led eastward
through the pass. A half-hour's ride brought them to a trail that
led off to the south, into which the Superintendent, followed by
the Sergeant, turned his horse. Not a word was spoken by either
man. It was not the Superintendent's custom to share his plans
with his subordinate officers until it became necessary. "What
you keep behind your teeth," was a favorite maxim with the
Superintendent, "will harm neither yourself nor any other man."
They were on the old Kootenay Trail, for a hundred years and more
the ancient pathway of barter and of war for the Indian tribes that
hunted the western plains and the foothill country and brought
their pelts to the coast by way of the Columbia River. Along the
lower levels the old trail ran, avoiding, with the sure instinct of
a skilled engineer, nature's obstacles, and taking full advantage
of every sloping hillside and every open stretch of woods. Now and
then, however, the trail must needs burrow through a deep thicket
of spruce and jack pine and scramble up a rocky ridge, where the
horses, trained as they were in mountain climbing, had all they
could do to keep their feet.
Ten miles and more they followed the tortuous trail, skirting
mountain peaks and burrowing through underbrush, scrambling up
rocky ridges and sliding down their farther sides, till they came
to a park-like country where from the grassy sward the big Douglas
firs, trimmed clear of lower growth and standing spaced apart,
lifted on red and glistening trunks their lofty crowns of tufted
evergreen far above the lesser trees.
As they approached the open country the Superintendent proceeded
with greater caution, pausing now and then to listen.
"There ought to be a big powwow going on somewhere near," he said
to his Sergeant, "but I can hear nothing. Can you?"
The Sergeant leaned over his horse's ears.
"No, sir, not a sound."
"And yet it can't be far away," growled the Superintendent.
The trail led through the big firs and dipped into a little grassy
valley set round with thickets on every side. Into this open glade
they rode. The Superintendent was plainly disturbed and irritated;
irritated because surprised and puzzled. Where he had expected to
find a big Indian powwow he found only a quiet sunny glade in the
midst of a silent forest. Sergeant Ferry waited behind him in
respectful silence, too wise to offer any observation upon the
situation. Hence in the Superintendent grew a deeper irritation.
"Well, I'll be--!" He paused abruptly. The Superintendent rarely
used profanity. He reserved this form of emphasis for supreme
moments. He was possessed of a dramatic temperament and
appreciated at its full value the effect of a climax. The climax
had not yet arrived, hence his self-control.
"Exactly so," said the Sergeant, determined to be agreeable.
"They don't seem to be here, sir," replied the Sergeant, staring up
into the trees.
"Where?" cried the Superintendent, following the direction of the
Sergeant's eyes. "Do you suppose they're a lot of confounded
"Exactly--that is--no, sir, not at all, sir. But--"
"They were to have been here," said the Superintendent angrily.
"My information was most positive and trustworthy."
"Exactly so, sir," replied the Sergeant. "But they haven't been
here at all!" The Superintendent impatiently glared at the
Sergeant, as if he were somehow responsible for this inexplicable
failure upon the part of the Indians.
"Exactly--that is--no, sir. No sign. Not a sign." The Sergeant
was most emphatic.
"Well, then, where in--where--? The Superintendent felt himself
rapidly approaching an emotional climax and took himself back with
a jerk. "Well," be continued, with obvious self-control, "let's
look about a bit."
With keen and practised eyes they searched the glade, and the
forest round about it, and the trails leading to it.
"Not a sign," said the Superintendent emphatically, "and for the
first time in my experience Pinault is wrong--the very first time.
He was dead sure."
"Pinault--generally right, sir," observed the Sergeant.
"Exactly so. But this time--"
"He's been fooled," declared the Superintendent. "A big sun dance
was planned for this identical spot. They were all to be here,
every tribe represented, the Stonies even had been drawn into it,
some of the young bloods I suppose. And, more than that, the Sioux
from across the line."
"The Sioux, eh?" said the Sergeant. "I didn't know the Sioux were
"Ah, perhaps not, but I have information that the Sioux--in fact--"
here the Superintendent dropped his voice and unconsciously glanced
about him, "the Sioux are very much in this, and old Copperhead
himself is the moving spirit of the whole business."
"Copperhead!" exclaimed the Sergeant in an equally subdued tone.
"Yes, sir, that old devil is taking a hand in the game. My
information was that he was to have been here to-day, and, by the
Lord Harry! if he had been we would have put him where the dogs
wouldn't bite him. The thing is growing serious."
"Serious!" exclaimed the Sergeant in unwonted excitement. "You
just bet--that is exactly so, sir. Why the Sioux must be good for
"A thousand!" exclaimed the Superintendent. "I've the most
positive information that the Sioux could place in the war path two
thousand fighting-men inside of a month. And old Copperhead is at
the bottom of it all. We want that old snake, and we want him
badly." And the Superintendent swung on to his horse and set off
on the return trip.
"Well, sir, we generally get what we want in that way," volunteered
the Sergeant, following his chief.
"We do--in the long run. But in this same old Copperhead we have
the acutest Indian brain in all the western country. Sitting Bull
was a fighter, Copperhead is a schemer."
They rode in silence, the Sergeant busy with a dozen schemes whereby
he might lay old Copperhead by the heels; the Superintendent
planning likewise. But in the Superintendent's plans the Sergeant
had no place. The capture of the great Sioux schemer must be
entrusted to a cooler head than that of the impulsive, daring,
HIS COUNTRY'S NEED
For full five miles they rode in unbroken silence, the Superintendent
going before with head pressed down on his breast and eyes fixed
upon the winding trail. A heavy load lay upon him. True, his
immediate sphere of duty lay along the line of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, but as an officer of Her Majesty's North West Mounted
Police he shared with the other officers of that force the full
responsibility of holding in steadfast loyalty the tribes of Western
Indians. His knowledge of the presence in the country of the
arch-plotter of the powerful and warlike Sioux from across the line
entailed a new burden. Well he knew that his superior officer would
simply expect him to deal with the situation in a satisfactory
manner. But how, was the puzzle. A mere handful of men he had
under his immediate command and these dispersed in ones and twos
along the line of railway, and not one of them fit to cope with the
cunning and daring Sioux.
With startling abruptness he gave utterance to his thoughts.
"We must get him--and quick. Things are moving too rapidly for any
delay. The truth is," he continued, with a deepening impatience in
his voice, "the truth is we are short-handed. We ought to be able
to patrol every trail in this country. That old villain has fooled
us to-day and he'll fool us again. And he has fooled Pinault, the
smartest breed we've got. He's far too clever to be around loose
among our Indians."
Again they rode along in silence, the Superintendent thinking
"I know where he is!" he exclaimed suddenly, pulling up his horse.
"I know where he is--this blessed minute. He's on the Sun Dance
Trail and in the Sun Dance Canyon, and they're having the biggest
kind of a powwow."
"The Sun Dance!" echoed the Sergeant. "By Jove, if only Sergeant
Cameron were on this job! He knows the Sun Dance inside and out,
The Superintendent swung his horse sharply round to face his
"Cameron!" he exclaimed thoughtfully. "Cameron! I believe you're
right. He's the man--the very man. But," he added with sudden
remembrance, "he's left the Force."
"Left the Force, sir. Yes, sir," echoed the Sergeant with a grin.
"He appeared to have a fairly good reason, too."
"Reason!" snorted the Superintendent. "Reason! What in--? What
did he--? Why did he pull off that fool stunt at this particular
time? A kid like him has no business getting married."
"Mighty fine girl, sir," suggested the Sergeant warmly. "Mighty
lucky chap. Not many fellows could resist such a sharp attack as
"Fine girl! Oh, of course, of course--fine girl certainly. Fine
girl. But what's that got to do with it?"
"Well, sir," ventured the Sergeant in a tone of surprise, "a good
deal, sir, I should say. By Jove, sir, I could have--if I could
have pulled it off myself--but of course she was an old flame of
Cameron's and I'd no chance."
"But the Service, sir!" exclaimed the Superintendent with growing
indignation. "The Service! Why! Cameron was right in line for
promotion. He had the making of a most useful officer. And with
this trouble coming on it was--it was--a highly foolish, indeed a
highly reprehensible proceeding, sir." The Superintendent was
rapidly mounting his pet hobby, which was the Force in which he
had the honor to be an officer, the far-famed North West Mounted
Police. For the Service he had sacrificed everything in life,
ease, wealth, home, yes, even wife and family, to a certain extent.
With him the Force was a passion. For it he lived and breathed.
That anyone should desert it for any cause soever was to him an act
unexplainable. He almost reckoned it treason.
But the question was one that touched the Sergeant as well, and
deeply. Hence, though he well knew his Chief's dominant passion,
he ventured an argument.
"A mighty fine girl, sir, something very special. She saw me
through a mountain fever once, and I know--"
"Oh, the deuce take it, Sergeant! The girl is all right. I grant
you all that. But is that any reason why a man should desert the
Force? And now of all times? He's only a kid. So is she. She
can't be twenty-five."
"Twenty-five? Good Lord, no!" exclaimed the shocked Sergeant.
"She isn't a day over twenty. Why, look at her. She's--"
"Oh, tut-tut! If she's twenty it makes it all the worse. Why
couldn't they wait till this fuss was over? Why, sir, when I was
twenty--" The Superintendent paused abruptly.
"Yes, sir?" The Sergeant's manner was respectful and expectant.
"Never mind," said the Superintendent. "Why rush the thing, I
"Well, sir, I did hear that there was a sudden change in Cameron's
home affairs in Scotland, sir. His father died suddenly, I
believe. The estate was sold up and his sister, the only other
child, was left all alone. Cameron felt it necessary to get a home
together--though I don't suppose he needed any excuse. Never saw a
man so hard hit myself."
"Except yourself, Sergeant, eh?" said the Superintendent, relaxing
into a grim smile.
"Oh, well, of course, sir, I'm not going to deny it. But you see,"
continued the Sergeant, his pride being touched, "he had known her
down East--worked on her father's farm--young gentleman--fresh from
college--culture, you know, manner--style and that sort of thing--
rushed her clean off her feet."
"I thought you said it was Cameron who was the one hard hit?"
"So it was, sir. Hadn't seen her for a couple of years or so.
Left her a country lass, uncouth, ignorant--at least so they say."
"Well, her friends--Dr. Martin and the nurse at the hospital. But
I can't believe them, simply impossible. That this girl two years
ago should have been an ignorant, clumsy, uncouth country lass is
impossible. However, Cameron came on her here, transfigured,
glorified so to speak, consequently fell over neck in love, went
quite batty in fact. A secret flame apparently smoldering all
these months suddenly burst into a blaze--a blaze, by Jove!--
regular conflagration. And no wonder, sir, when you look at her,
her face, her form, her style--"
"Oh, come, Sergeant, we'll move on. Let's keep at the business in
hand. The question is what's to do. That old snake Copperhead is
three hundred miles from here on the Sun Dance, plotting hell for
this country, and we want him. As you say, Cameron's our man. I
wonder," continued the Superintendent after a pause, "I wonder if
we could get him."
"I should say certainly not!" replied the Sergeant promptly. "He's
only a few months married, sir."
"He might," mused the Superintendent, "if it were properly put to
him. It would be a great thing for the Service. He's the man. By
the Lord Harry, he's the only man! In short," with a resounding
whack upon his thigh, "he has got to come. The situation is too
serious for trifling."
"Trifling?" said the Sergeant to himself in undertone.
"We'll go for him. We'll send for him." The Superintendent turned
and glanced at his companion.
"Not me, sir, I hope. You can quite see, sir, I'd be a mighty poor
advocate. Couldn't face those blue eyes, sir. They make me grow
quite weak. Chills and fever--in short, temporary delirium."
"Oh, well, Sergeant," replied the Superintendent, "if it's as bad
"You don't know her, sir. Those eyes! They can burn in blue flame
or melt in--"
"Oh, yes, yes, I've no doubt." The Superintendent's voice had a
touch of pity, if not contempt. "We won't expose you, Sergeant.
But all the same we'll make a try for Cameron." His voice grew
stern. His lips drew to a line. "And we'll get him."
The Sergeant's horse took a sudden plunge forward.
"Here, you beast!" he cried, with a fierce oath. "Come back here!
What's the matter with you?" He threw the animal back on his
haunches with a savage jerk, a most unaccustomed thing with the
"Yes," pursued the Superintendent, "the situation demands it.
Cameron's the man. It's his old stamping-ground. He knows every
twist of its trails. And he's a wonder, a genius for handling just
such a business as this."
The Sergeant made no reply. He was apparently having some trouble
with his horse.
"Of course," continued the Superintendent, with a glance at his
Sergeant's face, "it's hard on her, but--" dismissing that feature
of the case lightly--"in a situation like this everything must give
way. The latest news is exceedingly grave. The trouble along the
Saskatchewan looks to me exceedingly serious. These half-breeds
there have real grievances. I know them well, excitable, turbulent
in their spirits, uncontrollable, but easily handled if decently
treated. They've sent their petitions again and again to Ottawa,
and here are these Members of Parliament making fool speeches, and
the Government pooh-poohing the whole movement, and meantime Riel
orating and organizing."
"Riel? Who's he?" inquired the Sergeant.
"Riel? You don't know Riel? That's what comes of being an island-
bred Britisher. You people know nothing outside your own little
two by four patch on the world's map. Haven't you heard of Riel?"
"Oh, yes, by the way, I've heard about the Johnny. Mixed up in
something before in this country, wasn't he?"
"Well, rather! The rebel leader of 1870. Cost us some considerable
trouble, too. There's bound to be mischief where that hair-brained
four-flusher gets a crowd to listen to him. For egoist though he
is, he possesses a wonderful power over the half-breeds. He knows
how to work. And somehow, too, they're suspicious of all Canadians,
as they call the new settlers from the East, ready to believe
anything they're told, and with plenty of courage to risk a row."
"What's the row about, anyway?" inquired the Sergeant. "I could
never quite get it."
"Oh, there are many causes. These half-breeds are squatters, many
of them. They have introduced the same system of survey on the
Saskatchewan as their ancestors had on the St. Lawrence, and later
on the Red, the system of 'Strip Farms.' That is, farms with
narrow fronts upon the river and extending back from a mile to four
miles, a poor arrangement for farming but mighty fine for social
purposes. I tell you, it takes the loneliness and isolation out of
pioneer life. I've lived among them, and the strip-farm survey
possesses distinct social advantages. You have two rows of houses
a few rods apart, and between them the river, affording an ice
roadway in the winter and a waterway in the summer. And to see a
flotilla of canoes full of young people, with fiddles and
concertinas going, paddle down the river on their way to a
neighbor's house for a dance, is something to remember. For my
part I don't wonder that these people resent the action of the
Government in introducing a completely new survey without saying
'by your leave.' There are troubles, too, about their land
"How many of these half-breeds are there anyway?"
"Well, only a few hundreds I should say. But it isn't the half-
breeds we fear. The mischief of it is they have been sending
runners all through this country to their red-skin friends and
relatives, holding out all sorts of promises, the restoration of
their hunting grounds to the Indians, the establishing of an empire
of the North, from which the white race shall be excluded. I've
heard them. Just enough truth and sense in the whole mad scheme to
appeal to the Indian mind. The older men, the chiefs, are quiet so
far, but the young braves are getting out of hand. You see they
have no longer their ancient excitement of war and the chase. Life
has grown monotonous, to the young men especially, on the reserves.
They are chafing under control, and the prospect of a fight appeals
to them. In every tribe sun dances are being held, braves are
being made, and from across the other side weapons are being
introduced. And now that this old snake Copperhead has crossed the
line the thing takes an ugly look. He's undeniably brainy, a
fearless fighter, an extraordinary organizer, has great influence
with his own people and is greatly respected among our tribes. If
an Indian war should break out with Copperhead running it--well--!
That's why it's important to get this old devil. And it must be
done quietly. Any movement in force on our part would set the
prairie on fire. The thing has got to be done by one or two men.
That's why we must have Cameron."
In spite of his indignation the Sergeant was impressed. Never had
he heard his Chief discourse at such length, and never had he heard
his Chief use the word "danger." It began to dawn upon his mind
that possibly it might not be such a crime as he had at first
considered it to lure Cameron away from his newly made home and his
newly wedded wife to do this bit of service for his country in an
hour of serious if not desperate need.
A-FISHING WE WILL GO
But Sergeant Cameron was done with the Service for ever. An
accumulating current of events had swept him from his place in the
Force, as an unheeding traveler crossing a mountain torrent is
swept from his feet by a raging freshet. The sudden blazing of his
smoldering love into a consuming flame for the clumsy country girl,
for whom two years ago he had cherished a pitying affection, threw
up upon the horizon of his life and into startling clearness a new
and absorbing objective. In one brief quarter of an hour his life
had gathered itself into a single purpose; a purpose, to wit, to
make a home to which he might bring this girl he had come to love
with such swift and fierce intensity, to make a home for her where
she could be his own, and for ever. All the vehement passion of
his Highland nature was concentrated upon the accomplishing of this
purpose. That he should ever have come to love Mandy Haley, the
overworked slattern on her father's Ontario farm, while a thing of
wonder, was not the chief wonder to him. His wonder now was that
he should ever have been so besottedly dull of wit and so stupidly
unseeing as to allow the unlovely exterior of the girl to hide the
radiant soul within. That in two brief years she had transformed
herself into a woman of such perfectly balanced efficiency in her
profession as nurse, and a creature of such fascinating comeliness,
was only another proof of his own insensate egotism, and another
proof, too, of those rare powers that slumbered in the girl's soul
unknown to herself and to her world. Small wonder that with her
unfolding Cameron's whole world should become new.
Hard upon this experience the unexpected news of his father's death
and of the consequent winding up of the tangled affairs of the
estate threw upon Cameron the responsibility of caring for his
young sister, now left alone in the Homeland, except for distant
kindred of whom they had but slight knowledge.
A home was immediately and imperatively necessary, and hence he
must at once, as a preliminary, be married. Cameron fortunately
remembered that young Fraser, whom he had known in his Fort Macleod
days, was dead keen to get rid of the "Big Horn Ranch." This ranch
lay nestling cozily among the foothills and in sight of the
towering peaks of the Rockies, and was so well watered with little
lakes and streams that when his eyes fell upon it Cameron was
conscious of a sharp pang of homesickness, so suggestive was it of
the beloved Glen Cuagh Oir of his own Homeland. There would be a
thousand pounds or more left from his father's estate. Everybody
said it was a safe, indeed a most profitable investment.
A week's leave of absence sufficed for Cameron to close the deal
with Fraser, a reckless and gallant young Highlander, whose
chivalrous soul, kindling at Cameron's romantic story, prompted a
generous reduction in the price of the ranch and its outfit
complete. Hence when Mandy's shrewd and experienced head had
scanned the contract and cast up the inventory of steers and
horses, with pigs and poultry thrown in, and had found nothing
amiss with the deal--indeed it was rather better than she had
hoped--there was no holding of Cameron any longer. Married he
would be and without delay.
The only drag in the proceedings had come from the Superintendent,
who, on getting wind of Cameron's purpose, had thought, by promptly
promoting him from Corporal to Sergeant, to tie him more tightly to
the Service and hold him, if only for a few months, "till this
trouble should blow over." But Cameron knew of no trouble. The
trouble was only in the Superintendent's mind, or indeed was only a
shrewd scheme to hold Cameron to his duty. A rancher he would be,
and a famous rancher's wife Mandy would make. And as for his
sister Moira, had she not highly specialized in pigs and poultry on
the old home farm at the Cuagh Oir? There was no stopping the
resistless rush of his passionate purpose. Everything combined to
urge him on. Even his college mate and one time football comrade
of the old Edinburgh days, the wise, cool-headed Dr. Martin, now in
charge of the Canadian Pacific Railway Hospital, as also the little
nurse who, through those momentous months of Mandy's transforming,
had been to her guide, philosopher and friend, both had agreed that
there was no good reason for delay. True, Cameron had no means of
getting inside the doctor's mind and therefore had no knowledge of
the vision that came nightly to torment him in his dreams and the
memory that came daily to haunt his waking hours; a vision and a
memory of a trim little figure in a blue serge gown, of eyes brown,
now sunny with laughing light, now soft with unshed tears, of hair
that got itself into a most bewildering perplexity of waves and
curls, of lips curving deliciously, of a voice with a wonderfully
soft Highland accent; the vision and memory of Moira, Cameron's
sister, as she had appeared to him in the Glen Cuagh Oir at her
father's door. Had Cameron known of this tormenting vision and
this haunting memory he might have questioned the perfect sincerity
of his friend's counsel. But Dr. Martin kept his secret well and
none shared with him his visions and his dreams.
So there had been only the Superintendent to oppose.
Hence, because no really valid objection could be offered, the
marriage was made. And with much shrieking of engines--it seemed
as if all the engines with their crews within a hundred miles had
gathered to the celebration--with loud thunder of exploding
torpedoes, with tumultuous cheering of the construction gangs
hauled thither on gravel trains, with congratulations of railroad
officials and of the doctor, with the tearful smiles of the little
nurse, and with grudging but finally hearty good wishes of the
Superintendent, they had ridden off down the Kootenay Trail for
their honeymoon, on their way to the Big Horn Ranch some hundreds
of miles across the mountains.
There on the Big Horn Ranch through the long summer days together
they rode the ranges after the cattle, cooking their food in the
open and camping under the stars where night found them, care-free
and deeply happy, drinking long full draughts of that mingled wine
of life into which health and youth and love and God's sweet sun
and air poured their rare vintage. The world was far away and
Summer deepened into autumn, the fall round-up was approaching, and
there came a September day of such limpid light and such nippy
sprightly air as to suggest to Mandy nothing less than a holiday.
"Let's strike!" she cried to her husband, as she looked out toward
the rolling hills and the overtopping peaks shining clear in the
early morning light. "Let's strike and go a-fishing."
Her husband let his eyes wander over the full curves of her strong
and supple body and rest upon the face, brown and wholesome, lit
with her deep blue eyes and crowned with the red-gold masses of her
hair, and exclaimed:
"You need a holiday, Mandy. I can see it in the drooping lines of
your figure, and in the paling of your cheeks. In short," moving
toward her, "you need some one to care for you."
"Not just at this moment, young man," she cried, darting round the
table. "But, come, what do you say to a day's fishing away up the
"The Little Horn?"
"Yes, you know the little creek running into the Big Horn away up
the gulch where we went one day in the spring. You said there were
"Yes, but why 'Little Horn,' pray? And who calls it so? I suppose
you know that the Big Horn gets its name from the Big Horn, the
mountain sheep that once roamed the rocks yonder, and in that sense
there's no Little Horn."
"Well, 'Little Horn' I call it," said his wife, "and shall. And if
the big stream is the Big Horn, surely the little stream should be
the Little Horn. But what about the fishing? Is it a go?"
"Well, rather! Get the grub, as your Canadian speech hath it."
"My Canadian speech!" echoed his wife scornfully. "You're just as
much Canadian as I am."
"And I shall get the ponies. Half an hour will do for me."
"And less for me," cried Mandy, dancing off to her work.
And she was right. For, clever housekeeper that she was, she stood
with her hamper packed and the fishing tackle ready long before her
husband appeared with the ponies.
The trail led steadily upward through winding valleys, but for the
most part along the Big Horn, till as it neared a scraggy pine-wood
it bore sharply to the left, and, clambering round an immense
shoulder of rock, it emerged upon a long and comparatively level
ridge of land that rolled in gentle undulations down into a wide
park-like valley set out with clumps of birch and poplar, with here
and there the shimmer of a lake showing between the yellow and
brown of the leaves.
"Oh, what a picture!" cried Mandy, reining up her pony. "What a
ranch that would make, Allan! Who owns it? Why did we never come
this way before?"
"Piegan Reserve," said her husband briefly.
"How beautiful! How did they get this particular bit?"
"They gave up a lot for it," said Cameron drily.
"But think, such a lovely bit of country for a few Indians! How
many are there?"
"Some hundreds. Five hundred or so. And a tricky bunch they are.
They're over-fond of cattle to be really desirable neighbors."
"Well, I think it rather a pity!"
"Look yonder!" cried her husband, sweeping his arm toward the
eastern horizon. From the height on which they stood a wonderful
panorama of hill and valley, river, lake and plain lay spread out
before them. "All that and for nine hundred miles beyond that line
these Indians and their kin gave up to us under persuasion. There
was something due them, eh? Let's move on."
For a mile or more the trail ran along the high plateau skirting
the Piegan Reserve, where it branched sharply to the right.
"You see that trail?" pointing to the branch that led to the left
and downward into the valley. "That is one of the oldest and most
famous of all Indian trails. It strikes down through the Crow's
Nest Pass and beyond the pass joins the ancient Sun Dance Trail.
That's my old beat. And weird things are a-doing along that same
old Sun Dance Trail this blessed minute or I miss my guess. I
venture to say that this old trail has often been marked with blood
from end to end in the fierce old days."
"Let's go," said Mandy, with a shudder, and, turning her pony to
the right, she took the trail that led them down from the plateau,
plunged into a valley, wound among rocks and thickets of pine till
it reached a tumbling mountain torrent of gray-blue water, fed from
glaciers high up between the great peaks beyond.
"My Little Horn!" cried Mandy with delight.
Down by its rushing water they scrambled till they came to a sunny
glade where the little fretful torrent pitched itself headlong into
a deep shady pool, whence, as if rested in those quiet deeps, it
issued at first with gentle murmuring till, out of earshot of the
pool, it broke again into turbulent raging, brawling its way to the
Big Horn below.
Mandy could hardly wait for the unloading and tethering of the
"Now," she cried, when all was ready, "for my very first fish. How
shall I fling this hook and where?"
"Try a cast yonder, just beside that overhanging willow. Don't
splash! Try again--drop it lightly. That's better. Don't tell me
you've never cast a fly before."
"Never in my life."
"Let it float down a bit. Now back. Hold it up and let it dance
there. I'll just have a pipe."
But next moment Cameron's pipe was forgotten. With a shout he
sprang to his wife's side.
"By Jove, you've got him!"
"No! No! Leave me alone! Just tell me what to do. Go away!
Don't touch me! Oh-h-h! He's gone!"
"Not a bit. Reel him up--reel him up a little."
"Oh, I can't reel the thing! Oh! Oh-h-h! Is he gone?"
"Hold up. Don't haul him too quickly--keep him playing. Wait till
I get the net." He rushed for the landing net.
"Oh, he's gone! He's gone! Oh, I'm so mad!" She stamped savagely
on the grass. "He was a monster."
"They always are," said her husband gravely. "The fellows that get
off, I mean."
"Now you're just laughing at me, and I won't have it! I could just
sit down and cry! My very first fish!"
"Never mind, Mandy, we'll get him or just as good a one again."
"Never! He'll never bite again. He isn't such a fool."
"Well, they do. They're just like the rest of us. They keep
nibbling till they get caught; else there would be no fun in
fishing or in-- Now try another throw--same place--a little
farther down. Ah! That was a fine cast. Once more. No, no, not
that way. Flip it lightly and if you ever get a bite hold your rod
so. See? Press the end against your body so that you can reel
your fish in. And don't hurry these big fellows. You lose them
and you lose your fun."
"I don't want the fun," cried Mandy, "but I do want that fish and
I'm going to get him."
"By Jove, I believe you just will!" The young man's dark eyes
flashed an admiring glance over the strong, supple, swaying figure
of the girl at his side, whose every move, as she cast her fly,
seemed specially designed to reveal some new combination of the
graceful curves of her well-knit body.
"Keep flicking there. You'll get him. He's just sulking. If he
only knew, he'd hurry up."
"Who was fishing for him."
"Oh! Oh! I've got him." The girl was dancing excitedly along the
bank. "No! Oh, what a wretch! He's gone. Now if I get him you
tell me what to do, but don't touch me."
"All you have to do is to hold him steady at the first. Keep your
line fairly tight. If he begins to plunge, give him line. If he
slacks, reel in. Keep him nice and steady, just like a horse on
"Oh, why didn't you tell me before? I know exactly what that
means--just like a colt, eh? I can handle a colt."
"Exactly! Now try lower down--let your fly float down a bit--
Again there was a wild shriek from the girl.
"Oh, I've got him sure! Now get the net."
"Don't jump about so! Steady now--steady--that's better. Fine!
Fine work! Let him go a bit--no, check--wind him up. Look out!
Not too quick! Fine! Oh! Look out! Get him away from that jam!
Reel him up! Quick! Now play him! Let me help you."
"Don't you dare touch this rod, Allan Cameron, or there'll be
"Quite right--pardon me--quite right. Steady! You'll get him
sure. And he's a beauty, a perfect Rainbow beauty."
"Keep quiet, now," admonished Mandy. "Don't shout so. Tell me
quietly what to do."
"Do as you like. You can handle him. Just watch and wait--feel
him all the time. Ah-h-h! For Heaven's sake don't let him into
that jam! There he goes up stream! That's better! Good!"
"Don't get so excited! Don't yell so!" again admonished Mandy.
"Tell me quietly."
"Quietly? Who's yelling, I'd like to know? Who's excited? I
won't say another word. I'll get the landing-net ready for the
"Don't leave me! Tell me just what to do. He's getting tired, I
"Watch him close. Wind him up a bit. Get all the line in you can.
Steady! Let go! Let go! Let him run! Now wind him again. Wait,
hold him so, just a moment--a little nearer! Hurrah! Hurrah!
I've got him and he's a beauty--a perfectly typical Rainbow trout."
"Oh, you beauty!" cried Mandy, down on her knees beside the trout
that lay flapping on the grass. "What a shame! Oh, what a shame!
Oh, put him in again, Allan, I don't want him. Poor dear, what a
"But we must weigh him, you see," remonstrated her husband. "And
we need him for tea, you know. He really doesn't feel it much.
There are lots more. Try another cast. I'll attend to this chap."
"I feel just like a murderer," said Mandy. "But isn't it glorious?
Well, I'll just try one more. Aren't you going to get your rod out
"Well, rather! What a pool, all unspoiled, all unfished!"
"Does no one fish up here?"
"Yes, the Police come at times from the Fort. And Wyckham, our
neighbor. And old man Thatcher, a born angler, though he says it's
not sport, but murder."
"Why not sport?"
"Why? Old Thatcher said to me one day, 'Them fish would climb a
tree to get at your hook. That ain't no sport.'"
But sport, and noble sport, they found it through the long
afternoon, so that, when through the scraggy pines the sun began to
show red in the western sky, a score or more lusty, glittering,
speckled Rainbow trout lay on the grass beside the shady pool.
Tired with their sport, they lay upon the grassy sward, luxuriating
in the warm sun.
"Now, Allan," cried Mandy, "I'll make tea ready if you get some
wood for the fire. You ought to be thankful I taught you how to
use the ax. Do you remember?"
"Thankful? Well, I should say. Do YOU remember that day, Mandy?"
"Remember!" cried the girl, with horror in her tone. "Oh, don't
speak of it. It's too awful to think of."
"Ugh!" she shuddered, "I can't bear to think of it. I wish you
"What? How can you ask? That awful, horrid, uncouth, sloppy
girl." Again Mandy shuddered. "Those hands, big, coarse, red,
"Yes," cried Allan savagely, "the badge of slavery for a whole
household of folk too ignorant to know the price that was being
paid for the service rendered them."
"And the hair," continued Mandy relentlessly, "uncombed, filthy,
horrid. And the dress, and--"
"Stop it!" cried Allan peremptorily.
"No, let me go on. The stupid face, the ignorant mind, the uncouth
speech, the vulgar manners. Oh, I loathe the picture, and I wonder
you can ever bear to look at her again. And, oh, I wish you could
"Forget!" The young man's lean, swarthy face seemed to light up
with the deep glowing fires in his dark eyes. His voice grew
vibrant. "Forget! Never while I live. Do you know what _I_
"Ah, spare me!" moaned his wife, putting her hands over his mouth.
"Do you know what _I_ remember?" he repeated, pulling her hands
away and holding them fast. "A girl with hands, face, hair, form,
dress, manners damned to coarseness by a cruel environment? That?
No! No! To-day as I look back I remember only two blue eyes,
deep, deep as wells, soft, blue, and wonderfully kind. And I
remember all through those days--and hard days they were to a green
young fool fresh from the Old Country trying to keep pace with your
farm-bred demon-worker Perkins--I remember all through those days a
girl that never was too tired with her own unending toil to think
of others, and especially to help out with many a kindness a home-
sick, hand-sore, foot-sore stranger who hardly knew a buck-saw from
a turnip hoe, and was equally strange to the uses of both, a girl
that feared no shame nor harm in showing her kindness. That's what
I remember. A girl that made life bearable to a young fool, too
proud to recognize his own limitations, too blind to see the gifts
the gods were flinging at him. Oh, what a fool I was with my silly
pride of family, of superior education and breeding, and with no
eye for the pure gold of as true and loyal a soul as ever offered
itself in daily unmurmuring sacrifice for others, and without a
thought of sacrifice. Fool and dolt! A self-sufficient prig!
That's what I remember."
The girl tore her hands away from him.
"Ah, Allan, my boy," she cried with a shrill and scornful laugh
that broke at the end, "how foolishly you talk! And yet I love to
hear you talk so. I love to hear you. But, oh, let me tell you
what else I remember of those days!"
"No, no, I will not listen. It's all nonsense."
"Nonsense! Ah, Allan! Let me tell you this once." She put her
hands upon his shoulders and looked steadily into his eyes. "Let
me tell you. I've never told you once during these six happy
months--oh, how happy, I fear to think how happy, too much joy, too
deep, too wonderful, I'm afraid sometimes--but let me tell you what
I see, looking back into those old days--how far away they seem
already and not yet three years past--I see a lad so strange, so
unlike all I had known, a gallant lad, a very knight for grace and
gentleness, strong and patient and brave, not afraid--ah, that
caught me--nothing could make him afraid, not Perkins, the brutal
bully, not big Mack himself. And this young lad, beating them all
in the things men love to do, running, the hammer--and--and
fighting too!--Oh, laddie, laddie, how often did I hold my hands
over my heart for fear it would burst for pride in you! How often
did I check back my tears for very joy of loving you! How often
did I find myself sick with the agony of fear that you should go
away from me forever! And then you went away, oh, so kindly, so
kindly pitiful, your pity stabbing my heart with every throb. Why
do I tell you this to-day? Let me go through it. But it was this
very pity stabbing me that awoke in me the resolve that one day you
would not need to pity me. And then, then I fled from the farm and
all its dreadful surroundings. And the nurse and Dr. Martin, oh
how good they were! And all of them helped me. They taught me.
They scolded me. They were never tired telling me. And with that
flame burning in my soul all that outer, horrid, awful husk seemed
to disappear and I escaped, I became all new."
"You became yourself, yourself, your glorious, splendid, beautiful
self!" shouted Allan, throwing his arms around her. "And then I
found you again. Thank God, I found you! And found you for keeps,
mine forever. Think of that!"
"Forever." Mandy shuddered again. "Oh, Allan, I'm somehow afraid.
This joy is too great."
"Yes, forever," said Allan again, but more quietly, "for love will
Together they sat upon the grass, needing no words to speak the joy
that filled their souls to overflowing. Suddenly Mandy sprang to
"Now, let me go, for within an hour we must be away. Oh, what a
day we've had, Allan, one of the very best days in all my life!
You know I've never been able to talk of the past to you, but to-
day somehow I could not rest till I had gone through with it all."
"Yes, it's been a great day," said Allan, "a wonderful day, a day
we shall always remember." Then after a silence, "Now for a fire
and supper. You're right. In an hour we must be gone, for we are
a long way from home. But, think of it, Mandy, we're going HOME.
I can't quite get used to that!"
And in an hour, riding close as lovers ride, they took the trail to
their home ten miles away.
THE BIG CHIEF
When on the return journey they arrived upon the plateau skirting
the Piegan Reserve the sun's rays were falling in shafts of
slanting light upon the rounded hilltops before them and touching
with purple the great peaks behind them. The valleys were full of
shadows, deep and blue. The broad plains that opened here and
there between the rounded hills were still bathed in the mellow
light of the westering sun.
"We will keep out a bit from the Reserve," said Cameron, taking a
trail that led off to the left. "These Piegans are none too
friendly. I've had to deal with them a few times about my straying
steers in a way which they are inclined to resent. This half-breed
business is making them all restless and a good deal too
"There's not any real danger, is there?" inquired his wife. "The
Police can handle them quite well, can't they?"
"If you were a silly hysterical girl, Mandy, I would say 'no
danger' of course. But the signs are ominous. I don't fear
anything immediately, but any moment a change may come and then we
shall need to act quickly."
"We shall ride to the Fort, I can tell you, without waiting to take
our stuff with us. I take no chances now."
"Meaning my wife, that's all. I never thought to fear an Indian,
but, by Jove! since I've got you, Mandy, they make me nervous."
"But these Piegans are such--"
"The Piegans are Indians, plain Indians, deprived of the privilege
of war by our North West Mounted Police regulations and of the
excitement of the chase by our ever approaching civilization, and
the younger bloods would undoubtedly welcome a 'bit of a divarshun,'
as your friend Mike would say. At present the Indians are simply
watching and waiting."
"News. To see which way the cat jumps. Then-- Steady, Ginger!
What the deuce! Whoa, I say! Hold hard, Mandy."
"What's the matter with them?"
"There's something in the bushes yonder. Coyote, probably.
There came from a thick clump of poplars a low, moaning cry.
"What's that?" cried Mandy. "It sounds like a man."
"Stay where you are. I'll ride in."
In a few moments she heard his voice calling.
"Come along! Hurry up!"
A young Indian lad of about seventeen, ghastly under his copper
skin and faint from loss of blood, lay with his ankle held in a
powerful wolf-trap, a bloody knife at his side. With a cry Mandy
was off her horse and beside him, the instincts of the trained
nurse rousing her to action.
"Good Heavens! What a mess!" cried Cameron, looking helplessly
upon the bloody and mangled leg.
"Get a pail of water and get a fire going, Allan," she cried.
"Well, first this trap ought to be taken off, I should say."
"Quite right," she cried. "Hurry!"
Taking his ax from their camp outfit, he cut down a sapling, and,
using it as a lever, soon released the foot.
"How did all this mangling come?" said Mandy, gazing at the limb,
the flesh and skin of which were hanging in shreds about the ankle.
"Cutting it off, weren't you?" said Allan.
The Indian nodded.
Mandy lifted the foot up.
"Broken, I should say."
The Indian uttered not a sound.
"Run," she continued. "Bring a pail of water and get a fire
Allan was soon back with the pail of water.
"Me--water," moaned the Indian, pointing to the pail. Allan held
it to his lips and he drank long and deep. In a short time the
fire was blazing and the tea pail slung over it.
"If I only had my kit here!" said Mandy. "This torn flesh and skin
ought to be all cut away."
"Oh, I say, Mandy, you can't do that. We'll get the Police
doctor!" said Allan in a tone of horrified disgust.
But Mandy was feeling the edge of the Indian's knife.
"Sharp enough," she said to herself. "These ragged edges are just
reeking with poison. Can you stand it if I cut these bits off?"
she said to the Indian.
"Huh!" he replied with a grunt of contempt. "No hurt."
"Mandy, you can't do this! It makes me sick to see you," said her
The Indian glanced with scorn at him, caught the knife out of
Mandy's hand, took up a flap of lacerated flesh and cut it clean
Mandy took the knife from him, and, after boiling it for a few
minutes, proceeded to cut away the ragged, mangled flesh and skin.
The Indian never winced. He lay with eyes closed, and so pallid
was his face and so perfectly motionless his limbs that he might
have been dead. With deft hands she cleansed the wounds.
"Now, Allan, you must help me. We must have splints for this
"How would birch-bark do?" he suggested.
"No, it's too flimsy."
"The heavy inner rind is fairly stiff." He ran to a tree and
hacked off a piece.
"Yes, that will do splendidly. Get some about so long."
Half an hour's work, and the wounded limb lay cleansed, bandaged,
packed in soft moss and bound in splints.
"That's great, Mandy!" exclaimed her husband. "Even to my
untutored eyes that looks like an artistic bit of work. You're a
"Huh!" grunted the Indian. "Good!" His piercing black eyes were
lifted suddenly to her face with such a look of gratitude as is
seen in the eyes of dumb brutes or of men deprived of speech.
"Good!" echoed Allan. "You're just right, my boy. I couldn't have
done it, I assure you."
"Huh!" grunted the Indian in eloquent contempt. "No good,"
pointing to the man. "Good," pointing to the woman. "Me--no--
forget." He lifted himself upon his elbow, and, pointing to the
sun like a red eye glaring in upon them through a vista of woods
and hills," said, "Look--He see--me no forget."
There was something truly Hebraic in the exultant solemnity of his
tone and gesture.
"By Jove! He won't either, I truly believe," said Allan. "You've
made a friend for life, Mandy. Now, what's next? We can't carry
this chap. It's three miles to their camp. We can't leave him
here. There are wolves all around and the brutes always attack
The Indian solved the problem.
"Huh!" he grunted contemptuously. He took up his long hunting-
knife. "Wolf--this!" He drove the knife to the hilt into the
"You go--my fadder come. T'ree Indian," holding up three fingers.
"All right! Good!" He sank back upon the ground exhausted.
"Come on then, Mandy, we shall have to hurry."
"No, you go. I'll wait."
"I won't have that. It will be dark soon and I can't leave you
here alone with--"
"Nonsense! This poor boy is faint with hunger and pain. I'll feed
him while you're gone. Get me afresh pail of water and I can do
"Well," replied her husband dubiously, "I'll get you some wood
"Come, now," replied Mandy impatiently, "who taught you to cut
wood? I can get my own wood. The main thing is to get away and
get back. This boy needs shelter. How long have you been here?"
she inquired of the Indian.
The boy opened his eyes and swung his arm twice from east to west,
indicating the whole sweep of the sky.
"You must be starving. Want to eat?"
"Hurry, then, Allan, with the water. By the time this lad has been
fed you will be back."
It was not long before Allan was back with the water.
"Now, then," he said to the Indian, "where's your camp?"
The Indian with his knife drew a line upon the ground. "River," he
said. Another line parallel, "Trail." Then, tracing a branching
line from the latter, turning sharply to the right, "Big Hill," he
indicated. "Down--down." Then, running the line a little farther,
"I know the spot," cried Allan. "Well, I'm off. Are you quite
sure, Mandy, you don't mind?"
"Run off with you and get back soon. Go--good-by! Oh! Stop, you
foolish boy! Aren't you ashamed of yourself before--?"
Cameron laughed in happy derision.
"Ashamed? No, nor before his whole tribe." He swung himself on
his pony and was off down the trail at a gallop.
"You' man?" inquired the Indian lad.
"Yes," she said, "my man," pride ringing in her voice.
"Huh! Him Big Chief?"
"Oh, no! Yes." She corrected herself hastily. "Big Chief.
Ranch, you know--Big Horn Ranch."
"Huh!" He closed his eyes and sank back again upon the ground.
"You're faint with hunger, poor boy," said Mandy. She hastily cut
a large slice of bread, buttered it, laid upon it some bacon and
handed it to him.
"Here, take this in the meantime," she said. "I'll have your tea
in a jiffy."
The boy took the bread, and, faint though he was with hunger,
sternly repressing all sign of haste, he ate it with grave
In a few minutes more the tea was ready and Mandy brought him a
"Good!" he said, drinking it slowly.
"Another?" she smiled.
"Good!" he replied, drinking the second cup more rapidly.
"Now, we'll have some fish," cried Mandy cheerily, "and then you'll
be fit for your journey home."
In twenty minutes more she brought him a frying pan in which two
large beautiful trout lay, browned in butter. Mandy caught the
wolf-like look in his eyes as they fell upon the food. She cut
several thick slices of bread, laid them in the pan with the fish
and turned her back upon him. The Indian seized the bread, and,
noting that he was unobserved, tore it apart like a dog and ate
ravenously, the fish likewise, ripping the flesh off the bones and
devouring it like some wild beast.
"There, now," she said, when he had finished, "you've had enough to
keep you going. Indeed, you have had all that's good for you. We
don't want any fever, so that will do."
Her gestures, if not her words, he understood, and again as he
watched her there gleamed in his eyes that dumb animal look of
"Huh!" he grunted, slapping himself on the chest and arms. "Good!
Me strong! Me sleep." He lay back upon the ground and in half a
dozen breaths was dead asleep, leaving Mandy to her lonely watch in
the gathering gloom of the falling night.
The silence of the woods deepened into a stillness so profound that
a dead leaf, fluttering from its twig and rustling to the ground,
made her start in quick apprehension.
"What a fool I am!" she muttered angrily. She rose to pile wood
upon the fire. At her first movement the Indian was broad awake
and half on his knees with his knife gleaming in his hand. As his
eyes fell upon the girl at the fire, with a grunt, half of pain and
half of contempt, he sank back again upon the ground and was fast
asleep before the fire was mended, leaving Mandy once more to her
"I wish he would come," she muttered, peering into the darkening
woods about her. A long and distant howl seemed to reply to her
It was answered by a series of short, sharp yelps nearer at hand.
"Coyote," she said disdainfully, for she had learned to despise the
cowardly prairie wolf.
But again that long distant howl. In spite of herself she
shuddered. That was no coyote, but a gray timber wolf.
"I wish Allan would come," she said again, thinking of wakening the
Indian. But her nurse's instincts forbade her breaking his heavy
"Poor boy, he needs the rest! I'll wait a while longer."
She took her ax and went bravely at some dead wood lying near,
cutting it for the fire. The Indian never made a sound. He lay
dead in sleep. She piled the wood on the fire till the flames
leaped high, shining ruddily upon the golden and yellow leaves of
the surrounding trees.
But again that long-drawn howl, and quite near, pierced the silence
like the thrust of a spear. Before she was aware Mandy was on her
feet, determined to waken the sleeping Indian, but she had no more
than taken a single step toward him when he was awake and listening
keenly. A soft padding upon the dead leaves could be heard like
the gentle falling of raindrops. The Indian rolled over on his
side, swept away some dead leaves and moss, and drew toward him a
fine Winchester rifle.
"Huh! Wolf," he said, with quiet unconcern. "Here," he continued,
pointing to a rock beside him. Mandy took the place indicated. As
she seated herself he put up his hand with a sharp hiss. Again the
pattering feet could be heard. Suddenly the Indian leaned forward,
gazing intently into the gloom beyond the rim of the firelight,
then with a swift gliding movement he threw his rifle up and fired.
There was a sharp yelp, followed by a gurgling snarl. His shot was
answered by a loud shout.
"Huh!" said the lad with quiet satisfaction, holding up one finger,
"One wolf. Big Chief come."
At the shout Mandy had sprung to her feet, answering with a loud
glad halloo. Immediately, as if in response to her call, an Indian
swung his pony into the firelight, slipped off and stood looking
about him. Straight, tall and sinewy, he stood, with something
noble in his face and bearing.
"He looks like a gentleman," was the thought that leaped into
Mandy's mind. A swift glance he swept round the circle of the
light. Mandy thought she had never seen so piercing an eye.
The Indian lad uttered a low moaning sound. With a single leap the
man was at his side, holding him in his arms and kissing him on
both cheeks, with eager guttural speech. A few words from the lad
and the Indian was on his feet again, his eyes gleaming, but his
face immobile as a death mask.
"My boy," he said, pointing to the lad. "My boy--my papoose." His
voice grew soft and tender.
Before Mandy could reply there was another shout and Allan,
followed by four Indians, burst into the light. With a glad cry
Mandy rushed into his arms and clung to him.
"Hello! What's up? Everything all right?" cried Allan. "I was a
deuce of a time, I know. Took the wrong trail. You weren't
frightened, eh? What? What's happened?" His voice grew anxious,
then stern. "Anything wrong? Did he--? Did anyone--?"
"No, no, Allan!" cried his wife, still clinging to him. "It was
only a wolf and I was a little frightened."
"A wolf!" echoed her husband aghast.
The Indian lad spoke a few words and pointed to the dark. The
Indians glided into the woods and in a few minutes one of them
returned, dragging by the leg a big, gray timber wolf. The lad's
bullet had gone home.
"And did this brute attack you?" cried Allan in alarm.
"No, no. I heard him howling a long way off, and then--then--he
came nearer, and--then--I could hear his feet pattering." Cameron
drew her close to him. "And then he saw him right in the dark.
Wasn't it wonderful?"
"In the dark?" said Allan, turning to the lad. "How did you do
"Huh!" grunted the lad in a tone of indifference. "See him eyes."
Already the Indians were preparing a stretcher out of blankets and
two saplings. Here Mandy came to their help, directing their
efforts so that with the least hurt to the boy he was lifted to his
As they were departing the father came close to Mandy, and, holding
out his hand, said in fairly good English:
"You--good to my boy. You save him--to-day. All alone maybe he
die. You give him food--drink. Sometime--perhaps soon--me pay
"Oh," cried Mandy, "I want no pay."
"No money--no!" cried the Indian, with scorn in his voice. "Me
save you perhaps--sometime. Save you--save you, man. Me Big
Chief." He drew himself up his full height. "Much Indian follow
me." He shook hands with Mandy again, then with her husband.
"Big Piegan Chief?" inquired her husband.
"Piegan!" said the Indian with hearty contempt. "Me no Piegan--me
Big Chief. Me--" He paused abruptly, turned on his heel and,
flinging himself on to his pony, disappeared in the shadows.
"He's jolly well pleased with himself, isn't he?" said Cameron.
"He's splendid," cried Mandy enthusiastically. "Why, he's just
like one of Cooper's Indians. He's certainly like none of the rest
I've seen about here."
"That's true enough," replied her husband. "He's no Piegan. Who
is he, I wonder? I don't remember seeing him. He thinks no end of
himself, at any rate."
"And looks as if he had a right to."
"Right you are! Well, let's away. You must be dog tired and used
"Never a bit," cried Mandy. "I'm fresh as a daisy. What a
wonderful ending to a wonderful day!"
They extinguished the fire carefully and made their way out to the
But the end of this wonderful day had not yet come.
THE ANCIENT SACRIFICE
The moon was riding high in the cloudless blue of the heavens,
tricked out with faintly shining stars, when they rode into the
"corral" that surrounded the ranch stable. A horse stood tethered
at the gate.
"Hello, a visitor!" cried Cameron. "A Police horse!" his eyes
falling upon the shining accouterments.
"A Policeman!" echoed Mandy, a sudden foreboding at her heart.
"What can he want?"
"Me, likely," replied her husband with a laugh, "though I can't
think for which of my crimes it is. It's Inspector Dickson, by his
horse. You know him, Mandy, my very best friend."
"What does he want, Allan?" said Mandy, anxiety in her voice.
"Want? Any one of a thousand things. You run in and see while I
put up the ponies."
"I don't like it," said Mandy, walking with him toward the stable.
"Do you know, I feel there is something--I have felt all day a kind
of dread that--"
"Nonsense, Mandy! You're not that style of girl. Run away into
But still Mandy waited beside him.
"We've had a great day, Allan," she said again. "Many great days,
and this, one of the best. Whatever comes nothing can take those
happy days from us." She put her arms about his neck and drew him
toward her. "I don't know why, Allan, I know it's foolish, but I'm
afraid," she whispered, "I'm afraid."
"Now, Mandy," said her husband, with his arms round about her,
"don't say you're going to get like other girls, hysterical and
that sort of thing. You are just over-tired. We've had a big day,
but an exhausting day, an exciting day. What with that Piegan and
the wolf business and all, you are done right up. So am I and--by
Jove! That reminds me, I am dead famished."
No better word could he have spoken.
"You poor boy," she cried. "I'll have supper ready by the time you
come in. I am silly, but now it's all over. I shall go in and
face the Inspector and dare him to arrest you, no matter what you
"That's more like the thing! That's more like my girl. I shall be
with you in a very few minutes. He can't take us both, can he?
Run in and smile at him."
Mandy found the Inspector in the cozy ranch kitchen, calmly smoking
his pipe, and deep in the London Graphic. As she touched the latch
he sprang to his feet and saluted in his best style.
"Never heard you ride up, Mrs. Cameron, I assure you. You must
think me rather cool to sit tight here and ignore your coming."
"I am very glad to see you, Inspector Dickson, and Allan will be
delighted. He is putting up your horse. You will of course stay
the night with us."
"Oh, that's awfully kind, but I really can't, you know. I shall
tell Cameron." He took his hat from the peg.
"We should be delighted if you could stay with us. We see very few
people and you have not been very neighborly, now confess."
"I have not been, and to my sorrow and loss. If any man had told
me that I should have been just five weeks to a day within a few
hours' ride of my friend Cameron, not to speak of his charming
wife, without visiting him, well I should have--well, no matter--to
my joy I am here to-night. But I can't stay this trip. We are
rather hard worked just now, to tell the truth."
"Hard worked?" she asked.
"Yes. Patrol work rather heavy. But I must stop Cameron in his
hospitable design," he added, as he passed out of the door.
It was a full half hour before the men returned, to find supper
spread and Mandy waiting. It was a large and cheerful apartment
that did both for kitchen and living room. The sides were made of
logs hewn smooth, plastered and whitewashed. The oak joists and
planking above were stained brown. At one end of the kitchen two
doors led to as many rooms, at the other a large stone fireplace,
with a great slab for mantelpiece. On this slab stood bits of
china bric-a-brac, and what not, relics abandoned by the gallant
and chivalrous Fraser for the bride and her house furnishing. The
prints, too, upon the wall, hunting scenes of the old land, sea-
scenes, moorland and wild cattle, with many useful and ornamental
bits of furniture, had all been handed over with true Highland
generosity by the outgoing owner.
In the fireplace, for the night had a touch of frost in it, a log
fire blazed and sparked, lending to the whole scene an altogether
delightful air of comfort.
"I say, this does look jolly!" cried the Inspector as he entered.
"Cameron, you lucky dog, do you really imagine you know how jolly
well off you are, coddled thus in the lap of comfort and surrounded
with all the enervating luxuries of an effete and forgotten
civilization? Come now, own up, you are beginning to take this
thing as a matter of course."
But Cameron stood with his back to the light, busying himself with
his fishing tackle and fish, and ignoring the Inspector's cheerful
chatter. And thus he remained without a word while the Inspector
talked on in a voluble flow of small talk quite unusual with him.
Throughout the supper Cameron remained silent, rallying
spasmodically with gay banter to the Inspector's chatter, or
answering at random, but always falling silent again, and altogether
was so unlike himself that Mandy fell to wondering, then became
watchful, then anxious. At length the Inspector himself fell
silent, as if perceiving the uselessness of further pretense.
"What is it, Allan?" said Mandy quietly, when silence had fallen
upon them all. "You might as well let me know."
"Tell her, for God's sake," said her husband to the Inspector.
"What is it?" inquired Mandy.
The Inspector handed her a letter.
"From Superintendent Strong to my Chief," he said.
She took it and as she read her face went now white with fear, now
red with indignation. At length she flung the letter down.
"What a man he is to be sure!" she cried scornfully. "And what
nonsense is this he writes. With all his men and officers he must
come for my husband! What is HE doing? And all the others? It's
just his own stupid stubbornness. He always did object to our
The Inspector was silent. Cameron was silent too. His boyish
face, for he was but a lad, seemed to have grown old in those few
minutes. The Inspector wore an ashamed look, as if detected in a
"And because he is not clever enough to catch this man they must
come for my husband to do it for them. He is not a Policeman. He
has nothing to do with the Force."
And still the Inspector sat silent, as if convicted of both crime
At length Cameron spoke.
"It is quite impossible, Inspector. I can't do it. You quite see
how impossible it is."
"Most certainly you can't," eagerly agreed the Inspector. "I knew
from the first it was a piece of--sheer absurdity--in fact brutal
inhumanity. I told the Commissioner so."
"It isn't as if I was really needed, you know. The Superintendent's
idea is, as you say, quite absurd."
The Inspector gravely nodded.
"You don't think for a moment," continued Cameron, "there is any
need--any real need I mean--for me to--" Cameron's voice died
The Inspector hesitated and cleared his throat. "Well--of course,
we are desperately short-handed, you know. Every man is overworked.
Every reserve has to be closely patroled. Every trail ought to be
watched. Runners are coming in every day. We ought to have a
thousand men instead of five hundred, this very minute. Of course
one can never tell. The chances are this will all blow over."
"Certainly," said Cameron. "We've heard these rumors for the past
"Of course," agreed the Inspector cheerfully.
"But if it does not," asked Mandy, suddenly facing the Inspector,
"If it does not?"
"If it does not?" she insisted.
The Inspector appeared to turn the matter over in his mind.
"Well," he said slowly and thoughtfully, "if it does not there will
be a deuce of an ugly time."
"What do you mean?"
The Inspector shrugged his shoulders. But Mandy waited, her eyes
fixed on his face demanding answer.
"Well, there are some hundreds of settlers and their families
scattered over this country, and we can hardly protect them all.
But," he added cheerfully, as if dismissing the subject, "we have a
trick of worrying through."
Mandy shuddered. One phrase in the Superintendent's letter to the
Commissioner which she had just read kept hammering upon her brain,
"Cameron is the man and the only man for the job."
They turned the talk to other things, but the subject would not be
dismissed. Like the ghost at the feast it kept ever returning.
The Inspector retailed the most recent rumors, and together he and
his host weighed their worth. The Inspector disclosed the
Commissioner's plans as far as he knew them. These, too, were
discussed with approval or condemnation. The consequences of an
Indian uprising were hinted at, but quickly dropped. The
probabilities of such an uprising were touched upon and pronounced
But somehow to the woman listening as in a maze this pronouncement
and all the reassuring talk rang hollow. She sat staring at the
Inspector with eyes that saw him not. What she did see was a
picture out of an old book of Indian war days which she had read
when a child, a smoking cabin, with mangled forms of women and
children lying in the blackened embers. By degrees, slow, painful,
but relentlessly progressive, certain impressions, at first vague
and passionately resisted, were wrought into convictions in her
soul. First, the Inspector, in spite of his light talk, was
undeniably anxious, and in this anxiety her husband shared. Then,
the Force was clearly inadequate to the duty required of it. At
this her indignation burned. Why should it be that a Government
should ask of brave men what they must know to be impossible? Hard
upon this conviction came the words of the Superintendent, "Cameron
is the man and the only man for the job." Finally, the Inspector
was apologizing for her husband. It roused a hot resentment in her
to hear him. That thing she could not and would not bear. Never
should it be said that her husband had needed a friend to apologize
As these convictions grew in clearness she found herself brought
suddenly and sharply to face the issue. With a swift contraction
of the heart she realized that she must send her husband on this
perilous duty. Ah! Could she do it? It was as if a cold hand
were steadily squeezing drop by drop the life-blood from her heart.
In contrast, and as if with one flash of light, the long happy days
of the last six months passed before her mind. How could she give
him up? Her breathing came in short gasps, her lips became dry,
her eyes fixed and staring. She was fighting for what was dearer
to her than life. Suddenly she flung her hands to her face and
"What is it, Mandy?" cried her husband, starting from his place.
His words seemed to recall her. The agonizing agitation passed
from her and a great quiet fell upon her soul. The struggle was
done. She had made the ancient sacrifice demanded of women since
ever the first man went forth to war. It remained only to complete
with fitting ritual this ancient sacrifice. She rose from her seat
and faced her husband.
"Allan," she said, and her voice was of indescribable sweetness,
"you must go."
Her husband took her in his arms without a word, then brokenly he
"My girl! My own brave girl! I knew you must send me."
"Yes," she replied, gazing into his face with a wan smile, "I knew
it too, because I knew you would expect me to."
The Inspector had risen from his chair at her first cry and was
standing with bent head, as if in the presence of a scene too
sacred to witness. Then he came to her, and, with old time and
courtly grace of the fine gentleman he was, he took her hand and
raised it to his lips.
"Dear lady," he said, "for such as you brave men would gladly give
"Give their lives!" cried Mandy. "I would much rather they would
save them. But," she added, her voice taking a practical tone,
"sit down and let us talk. Now what's the work and what's the
The men glanced at each other in silent admiration of this woman
who, without moan or murmur, could surrender her heart's dearest
treasure for her country's good. This was a spirit of their own
They sat down before the fire and discussed the business before
them. But as they discussed ever and again Mandy would find her
mind wandering back over the past happy days. Ever and again a
word would recall her, but only for a brief moment and soon she was
far away again.
A phrase of the Inspector, however, arrested and held her.
"He's really a fine looking Indian, in short a kind of aristocrat
among the Indians," he was saying.
"An aristocrat?" she exclaimed, remembering her own word about the
Indian Chief they had met that very evening. "Why, that is like
our Chief, Allan."
"By Jove! You're right!" exclaimed her husband. "What's your man
like, again? Describe him, Inspector."
The Inspector described him in detail.
"The very man we saw to-night!" cried Mandy, and gave her
description of the "Big Chief."
When she had finished the Inspector sat looking into the fire.
"Among the Piegans, too," he mused. "That fits in. There was a
big powwow the other day in the Sun Dance Canyon. The Piegans' is
the nearest reserve, and a lot of them were there. The
Superintendent says he is somewhere along the Sun Dance."
"Inspector," said Allan, with sudden determination, "we will drop
in on the Piegans to-morrow morning by sun-up."
Mandy started. This pace was more rapid than she had expected,
but, having made the sacrifice, there was with her no word of
The Inspector pondered the suggestion.
"Well," he said, "it would do no harm to reconnoiter at any rate.
But we can't afford to make any false move, and we can't afford to
"Fail!" said Cameron quietly. "We won't fail. We'll get him."
And the lines in his face reminded his wife of how he looked that
night three years before when he cowed the great bully Perkins into
submission at her father's door.
Long they sat and planned. As the Inspector said, there must be no
failure; hence the plan must provide for every possible contingency.
By far the keenest of the three in mental activity was Mandy. By a
curious psychological process the Indian Chief, who an hour before
had awakened in her admiration and a certain romantic interest, had
in a single moment become an object of loathing, almost of hatred.
That he should be in this land planning for her people, for innocent
and defenseless women and children, the horrors of massacre filled
her with a fierce anger. But a deeper analysis would doubtless have
revealed a personal element in her anger and loathing. The Indian
had become the enemy for whose capture and for whose destruction her
husband was now enlisted. Deep down in her quiet, strong,
self-controlled nature there burned a passion in which mingled the
primitive animal instincts of the female, mate for mate, and mother
for offspring. Already her mind had leaped forward to the moment
when this cunning, powerful plotter would be at death-grips with her
husband and she not there to help. With intensity of purpose and
relentlessness of determination she focused the powers of her
forceful and practical mind upon the problem engaging their thought.
With mind whetted to its keenest she listened to the men as they
made and unmade their plans. In ordinary circumstances the
procedure of arrest would have been extremely simple. The
Inspector and Cameron would have ridden into the Piegan camp, and,
demanding their man, would have quietly and without even a show of
violence carried him off. It would have been like things they had
each of them done single-handed within the past year.
"When once we make a start, you see, Mrs. Cameron, we never turn
back. We could not afford to," said the Inspector. There was no
suspicion of boasting in the Inspector's voice. He was simply
enunciating the traditional code of the Police. "And if we should
hesitate with this man or fail to land him every Indian in these
territories would have it within a week and our prestige would
receive a shock. We dare not exhibit any sign of nerves. On the
other hand we dare not make any movement in force. In short,
anything unusual must be avoided."
"I quite see," replied Mandy with keen appreciation of the delicacy
of the situation.
"So that I fancy the simpler the plan the better. Cameron will
ride into the Piegan camp inquiring about his cattle, as,
fortunately for the present situation, he has cause enough to in
quite an ordinary way. I drop in on my regular patrol looking up a
cattle-thief in quite the ordinary way. Seeing this strange chief,
I arrest him on suspicion. Cameron backs me up. The thing is
done. Luckily Trotting Wolf, who is the Head Chief now of the
Piegans, has a fairly thorough respect for the Police, and unless
things have gone much farther in his band than I think he will not
resist. He is, after all, rather harmless."
"I don't like your plan at all, Inspector," said Mandy promptly.
"The moment you suggest arrest that moment the younger men will be
up. They are just back from a big brave-making powwow, you say.
They are all worked up, and keen for a chance to prove that they
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