Part 1 out of 5
WILLIAM MACLEOD RAINE
THE BIG-TOWN ROUND UP,
OH, YOU TEX! ETC
CAPTAIN SIR CECIL E. DENNY, BART.
OF THE FIRST THREE HUNDRED RIDERS OF THE PLAINS
WHO CARRIED LAW INTO THE LONE LANDS
AND MADE THE SCARLET AND GOLD
A SYNONYM FOR
JUSTICE, INTEGRITY, AND INDOMITABLE PLUCK
I. IN THE DANGER ZONE
II. THE AMAZON
III. ANGUS McRAE DOES HIS DUTY
IV. THE WOLFERS
V. MORSE JUMPS UP TROUBLE
VI. "SOMETHING ABOUT THESE GUYS"
VII. THE MAN IN THE SCARLET JACKET
VIII. AT SWEET WATER CREEK
IX. TOM MAKES A COLLECTION
X. A CAMP-FIRE TALE
XI. C.N. MORSE TURNS OVER A LEAF
XII. TOM DUCKS TROUBLE
XIII. THE CONSTABLE BORES THROUGH DIFFICULTIES
XIV. SCARLET-COATS IN ACTION
XV. KISSING DAY
XVI. A BUSINESS DEAL
XVII. A BOARD CREAKS
XVIII. A GUN ROARS
XIX. "D' YOU WONDER SHE HATES ME?"
XX. ONISTAH READS SIGN
XXI. ON THE FRONTIER OF DESPAIR
XXII. "MY DAMN PRETTY LI'L' HIGH-STEPPIN' SQUAW"
XXIII. A FORETASTE OF HELL
XXIV. WEST MAKES A DECISION
XXV. FOR THE WEE LAMB LOST
XXVI. A RESCUE
XXVII. APACHE STUFF
XXVIII. "IS A' WELL WI' YOU, LASS?"
XXIX. NOT GOING ALONE
XXX. "M" FOR MORSE
XXXI. THE LONG TRAIL
XXXII. A PICTURE IN A LOCKET
XXXIII. INTO THE LONE LAND
XXXIV. THE MAN-HUNTERS READ SIGN
XXXVI. THE WILD BEAST LEAPS
XXXVII. NEAR THE END OF A LONG CROOKED TRAIL
XXXVIII. OVER A ROTTING TRAIL
XXXIX. A CREE RUNNER BRINGS NEWS
XL. "MALBROUCK S'EN VA-T-EN GUERRE"
XLI. SENSE AND NONSENSE
XLII. THE IMPERATIVE URGE
IN THE DANGER ZONE
She stood on the crown of the hill, silhouetted against a sky-line of
deepest blue. Already the sun was sinking in a crotch of the plains
which rolled to the horizon edge like waves of a great land sea. Its
reflected fires were in her dark, stormy eyes. Its long, slanted rays
were a spotlight for the tall, slim figure, straight as that of a boy.
The girl's gaze was fastened on a wisp of smoke rising lazily from a
hollow of the crumpled hills. That floating film told of a camp-fire
of buffalo chips. There was a little knitted frown of worry on her
forehead, for imagination could fill in details of what the coulee
held: the white canvas tops of prairie schooners, some spans of oxen
grazing near, a group of blatant, profane whiskey-smugglers from
Montana, and in the wagons a cargo of liquor to debauch the Bloods and
Piegans near Fort Whoop-Up.
Sleeping Dawn was a child of impulse. She had all youth's capacity for
passionate indignation and none of the wisdom of age which tempers
the eager desire of the hour. These whiskey-traders were ruining her
people. More than threescore Blackfeet braves had been killed within
the year in drunken brawls among themselves. The plains Indians would
sell their souls for fire-water. When the craze was on them, they
would exchange furs, buffalo robes, ponies, even their wives and
daughters for a bottle of the poison.
In the sunset glow she stood rigid and resentful, one small fist
clenched, the other fast to the barrel of the rifle she carried. The
evils of the trade came close to her. Fergus McRae still carried the
gash from a knife thrust earned in a drunken brawl. It was likely that
to-morrow he would cut the trail of the wagon wheels and again make
a bee-line for liquor and trouble. The swift blaze of revolt found
expression in the stamp of her moccasined foot.
As dusk fell over the plains, Sleeping Dawn moved forward lightly,
swiftly, toward the camp in the hollow of the hills. She had no
definite purpose except to spy the lay-out, to make sure that her
fears were justified. But through the hinterland of her consciousness
rebellious thoughts were racing. These smugglers were wholly outside
the law. It was her right to frustrate them if she could.
Noiselessly she skirted the ridge above the coulee, moving through
the bunch grass with the wary care she had learned as a child in the
lodges of the tribe.
Three men crouched on their heels in the glow of a camp-fire well
up the draw. A fourth sat at a little distance from them riveting a
stirrup leather with two stones. The wagons had been left near the
entrance of the valley pocket some sixty or seventy yards from the
fire. Probably the drivers, after they had unhitched the teams, had
been drawn deeper into the draw to a spot more fully protected from
While darkness gathered, Sleeping Dawn lay in the bunch grass with her
eyes focused on the camp below. Her untaught soul struggled with the
problem that began to shape itself. These men were wolfers, desperate
men engaged in a nefarious business. They paid no duty to the British
Government. She had heard her father say so. Contrary to law, they
brought in their vile stuff and sold it both to breeds and tribesmen.
They had no regard whatever for the terrible injury they did the
natives. Their one intent was to get rich as soon as possible, so they
plied their business openly and defiantly. For the Great Lone Land was
still a wilderness where every man was a law to himself.
The blood of the girl beat fast with the racing pulse of excitement.
A resolution was forming in her mind. She realized the risks and
estimated chances coolly. These men would fire to kill on any skulker
near the camp. They would take no needless hazard of being surprised
by a band of stray Indians. But the night would befriend her. She
believed she could do what she had in mind and easily get away to the
shelter of the hill creases before they could kill or capture her.
A shadowy dog on the outskirt of the camp rose and barked. The girl
waited, motionless, tense, but the men paid little heed to the
warning. The man working at the stirrup leather got to his feet,
indeed, carelessly, rifle in hand, and stared into the gloom; but
presently he turned on his heel and sauntered back to his job of
saddlery. Evidently the hound was used to voicing false alarms
whenever a coyote slipped past or a skunk nosed inquisitively near.
Sleeping Dawn followed the crest of the ridge till it fell away to
the mouth of the coulee. She crept up behind the white-topped wagon
nearest the entrance.
An axe lay against the tongue. She picked it up, glancing at the same
time toward the camp-fire. So far she had quite escaped notice. The
hound lay blinking into the flames, its nose resting on crossed paws.
With her hunting-knife the girl ripped the canvas from the side of the
top. She stood poised, one foot on a spoke, the other on the axle. The
axe-head swung in a half-circle. There was a crash of wood, a swift
jet of spouting liquor. Again the axe swung gleaming above her head. A
third and a fourth time it crashed against the staves.
A man by the camp-fire leaped to his feet with a startled oath.
"What's that?" he demanded sharply.
From the shadows of the wagons a light figure darted. The man snatched
up a rifle and fired. A second time, aimlessly, he sent a bullet into
The silent night was suddenly alive with noises. Shots, shouts, the
barking of the dog, the slap of running feet, all came in a confused
medley to Sleeping Dawn.
She gained a moment's respite from pursuit when the traders stopped
at the wagons to get their bearings. The first of the white-topped
schooners was untouched. The one nearest the entrance to the coulee
held four whiskey-casks with staves crushed in and contents seeping
into the dry ground.
Against one of the wheels a rifle rested. The girl flying in a panic
had forgotten it till too late.
The vandalism of the attack amazed the men. They could have understood
readily enough some shots out of the shadows or a swoop down upon the
camp to stampede and run off the saddle horses. Even a serious attempt
to wipe out the party by a stray band of Blackfeet or Crees was an
undertaking that would need no explaining. But why should any one do
such a foolish, wasteful thing as this, one to so little purpose in
They lost no time in speculation, but plunged into the darkness in
The dog darted into the bunch grass and turned sharply to the right.
One of the men followed it, the others took different directions.
Up a gully the hound ran, nosed the ground in a circle of sniffs, and
dipped down into a dry watercourse. Tom Morse was at heel scarcely a
dozen strides behind.
The yelping of the dog told Morse they were close on their quarry.
Once or twice he thought he made out the vague outline of a flying
figure, but in the night shadows it was lost again almost at once.
They breasted the long slope of a low hill and took the decline
beyond. The young plainsman had the legs and the wind of a Marathon
runner. His was the perfect physical fitness of one who lives a clean,
hard life in the dry air of the high lands. The swiftness and the
endurance of the fugitive told him that he was in the wake of youth
trained to a fine edge.
Unexpectedly, in the deeper darkness of a small ravine below the hill
spur, the hunted turned upon the hunter. Morse caught the gleam of a
knife thrust as he plunged. It was too late to check his dive. A flame
of fire scorched through his forearm. The two went down together,
rolling over and over as they struggled.
Startled, Morse loosened his grip. He had discovered by the feel of
the flesh he was handling so roughly that it was a woman with whom he
She took advantage of his hesitation to shake free and roll away.
They faced each other on their feet. The man was amazed at the young
Amazon's fury. Her eyes were like live coals, flashing at him hatred
and defiance. Beneath the skin smock she wore, her breath came
raggedly and deeply. Neither of them spoke, but her gaze did not yield
a thousandth part of an inch to his.
The girl darted for the knife she had dropped. Morse was upon her
instantly. She tried to trip him, but when they struck the ground she
He struggled to pin down her arms, but she fought with a barbaric
fury. Her hard little fist beat upon his face a dozen times before he
pegged it down.
Lithe as a panther, her body twisted beneath his. Too late the flash
of white teeth warned him. She bit into his arm with the abandon of a
"You little devil!" he cried between set teeth.
He flung away any scruples he might have had and pinned fast her
flying arms. The slim, muscular body still writhed in vain contortions
till he clamped it fast between knees from which not even an untamed
cayuse could free itself.
She gave up struggling. They glared at each other, panting from their
exertions. Her eyes still flamed defiance, but back of it he read
fear, a horrified and paralyzing terror. To the white traders along
the border a half-breed girl was a squaw, and a squaw was property
just as a horse or a dog was.
For the first time she spoke, and in English. Her voice came
bell-clear and not in the guttural of the tribes.
"Let me up!" It was an imperative, urgent, threatening.
He still held her in the vice, his face close to her flaming eyes.
"You little devil," he said again.
"Let me up!" she repeated wildly. "Let me up, I tell you."
"Like blazes I will. You're through biting and knifing me for one
night." He had tasted no liquor all day, but there was the note of
drunkenness in his voice.
The terror in her grew. "If you don't let me up--"
"You'll do what?" he jeered.
Her furious upheaval took him by surprise. She had unseated him and
was scrambling to her feet before he had her by the shoulders.
The girl ducked her head in an effort to wrench free. She could as
easily have escaped from steel cuffs as from the grip of his brown
"You'd better let me go!" she cried. "You don't know who I am."
"Nor care," he flung back. "You're a nitchie, and you smashed our
kegs. That's enough for me."
"I'm no such thing a nitchie," she denied indignantly.
[Footnote 1: In the vernacular of the Northwest Indians were
The instinct of self-preservation was moving in her. She had played
into the hands of this man and his companions. The traders made their
own laws and set their own standards. The value of a squaw of the
Blackfeet was no more than that of the liquor she had destroyed. It
would be in character for them to keep her as a chattel captured in
"The daughter of a squaw-man then," he said, and there was in his
voice the contempt of the white man for the half-breed.
"I'm Jessie McRae," she said proudly.
Among the Indians she went by her tribal name of Sleeping Dawn, but
always with the whites she used the one her adopted father had given
her. It increased their respect for her. Just now she was in desperate
need of every ounce that would weigh in the scales.
"Daughter of Angus McRae?" he asked, astonished.
"His woman's a Cree?"
"His wife is," the girl corrected.
"What you doin' here?"
"Father's camp is near. He's hunting hides."
"Did he send you to smash our whiskey-barrels?"
"Angus McRae never hides behind a woman," she said, her chin up.
That was true. Morse knew it, though he had never met McRae. His
reputation had gone all over the Northland as a fearless fighting man
honest as daylight and stern as the Day of Judgment. If this girl was
a daughter of the old Scot, not even a whiskey-trader could safely lay
hands on her. For back of Angus was a group of buffalo-hunters related
to him by blood over whom he held half-patriarchal sway.
"Why did you do it?" Morse demanded.
The question struck a spark of spirit from her. "Because you're
ruining my people--destroying them with your fire-water."
He was taken wholly by surprise. "Do you mean you destroyed our
property for that reason?"
She nodded, sullenly.
"But we don't trade with the Crees," he persisted.
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that she was of the
Blackfoot tribe and not of the Crees, but again for reasons of policy
she was less than candid. Till she was safely out of the woods, it was
better this man should not know she was only an adopted daughter of
Angus McRae. She offered another reason, and with a flare of passion
which he was to learn as a characteristic of her.
"You make trouble for my brother Fergus. He shot Akokotos (Many
Horses) in the leg when the fire-water burned in him. He was stabbed
by a Piegan brave who did not know what he was doing. Fergus is good.
He minds his own business. But you steal away his brains. Then he runs
wild. It was _you_, not Fergus, that shot Akokotos. The Great Spirit
knows you whiskey-traders, and not my poor people who destroy each
other, are the real murderers."
Her logic was feminine and personal, from his viewpoint wholly unfair.
Moreover, one of her charges did not happen to be literally true.
"We never sold whiskey to your brother--not our outfit. It was
Jackson's, maybe. Anyhow, nobody made him buy it. He was free to take
it or leave it."
"A wolf doesn't have to eat the poisoned meat in a trap, but it eats
and dies," she retorted swiftly and bitterly.
Adroitly she had put him on the defensive. Her words had the sting of
"We're not talking of wolves."
"No, but of Blackfeet and Bloods and Sarcees," she burst out, again
with that flare of feminine ferocity so out of character in an Indian
woman or the daughter of one. "D'you think I don't know how you
Americans talk? A good Indian is a dead Indian. No wonder we hate you
all. No wonder the tribes fight you to the death."
He had no answer for this. It was true. He had been brought up in a
land of Indian wars and he had accepted without question the common
view that the Sioux, the Crows, and the Cheyennes, with all their
blood brothers, were menaces to civilization. The case for the natives
he had never studied. How great a part broken pledges and callous
injustice had done to drive the tribes to the war-path he did not
know. Few of the actual frontiersmen were aware of the wrongs of the
The young man's hands fell from her arms. Hard-eyed and grim, he
looked her over from head to foot. The short skirt and smock of
buckskin, the moccasins of buffalo hide, all dusty and travel-stained,
told of life in a primitive country under the simplest and hardest
Yet the voice was clear and vibrant, the words well enunciated. She
bloomed like a desert rose, had some quality of vital life that struck
a spark from his imagination.
What manner of girl was she? Not by any possibility would she fit into
the specifications of the cubby-hole his mind had built for Indian
women. The daughters even of the boisbrules had much of the heaviness
and stolidity of their native mothers. Jessie McRae was graceful as a
fawn. Every turn of the dark head, every lift of the hand, expressed
spirit and verve. She must, he thought, have inherited almost wholly
from her father, though in her lissom youth he could find little of
McRae's heavy solidity of mind and body.
"Your brother is of the metis. He's not a tribesman. And he's no
child. He can look out for himself," Morse said at last.
[Footnote 2: The half-breeds were known as "metis." The word means, of
course, mongrel. (W.M.R.)]
His choice of a word was unfortunate. It applied as much to her as to
Fergus. Often it was used contemptuously.
"Yes, and the metis doesn't matter," she cried, with the note of
bitterness that sat so strangely on her hot-blooded, vital youth. "You
can ride over him as though you're lords of the barren lands. You can
ruin him for the money you make, even if he's a subject of the Great
Mother and not of your country. He's only a breed--a mongrel."
He was a man of action. He brushed aside discussion. "We'll be movin'
back to camp."
Instantly her eyes betrayed the fear she would not put into words.
"No--no! I won't go."
His lids narrowed. The outthrust of his lean jaw left no room for
argument. "You'll go where I say."
She knew it would be that way, if he dragged her by the hair of the
head. Because she was in such evil case she tamed her pride to sullen
"Don't take me there! Let me go to father. He'll horsewhip me. I'll
have him do it for you. Isn't that enough? Won't that satisfy you?"
Red spots smoldered like fire in his brown eyes. If he took her back
to the traders' camp, he would have to fight Bully West for her. That
was certain. All sorts of complications would rise. There would be
trouble with McRae. The trade with the Indians of his uncle's firm, of
which he was soon to be a partner, would be wrecked by the Scotchman.
No, he couldn't take her back to the camp in the coulee. There was too
much at stake.
"Suits me. I'll take you up on that. He's to horsewhip you for that
fool trick you played on us and to make good our loss. Where's his
From the distance of a stone-throw a heavy, raucous voice called,
The young man turned to the girl, his lips set in a thin, hard line.
"Bully West. The dog's gone back and is bringin' him here, I reckon.
Like to meet him?"
She knew the reputation of Bully West, notorious as a brawler and
a libertine. Who in all the North did not know of it? Her heart
fluttered a signal of despair.
"I--I can get away yet--up the valley," she said in a whisper, eyes
quick with fear.
He smiled grimly. "You mean _we_ can."
"Hit the trail."
She turned and led the way into the darkness.
ANGUS McRAE DOES HIS DUTY
The harsh shout came to them again, and with it a volley of oaths that
polluted the night.
Sleeping Dawn quickened her pace. The character of Bully West was
sufficiently advertised in that single outburst. She conceived him
bloated, wolfish, malignant, a man whose mind traveled through filthy
green swamps breeding fever and disease. Hard though this young man
was, in spite of her hatred of him, of her doubt as to what lay behind
those inscrutable, reddish-brown eyes of his, she would a hundred
times rather take chances with him than with Bully West. He was at
least a youth. There was always the possibility that he might not yet
have escaped entirely from the tenderness of boyhood.
Morse followed her silently with long, tireless, strides. The girl
continued to puzzle him. Even her manner of walking expressed
personality. There was none of the flat-footed Indian shuffle about
her gait. She moved lightly, springily, as one does who finds in it
the joy of calling upon abundant strength.
She was half Scotch, of course. That helped to explain her. The words
of an old song hummed themselves through his mind.
"Yestreen I met a winsome lass, a bonny lass was she,
As ever climbed the mountain-side, or tripped aboon the lea;
She wore nae gold, nae jewels bright, nor silk nor satin rare,
But just the plaidie that a queen might well be proud to wear."
Jessie McRae wore nothing half so picturesque as the tartan. Her
clothes were dingy and dust-stained. But they could not eclipse the
divine, dusky youth of her. She was slender, as a panther is, and her
movements had more than a suggestion of the same sinuous grace.
Of the absurdity of such thoughts he was quite aware. She was a
good-looking breed. Let it go at that. In story-books there were
Indian princesses, but in real life there were only squaws.
Not till they were out of the danger zone did he speak. "Where's your
She pointed toward the northwest. "You don't need to be afraid. He'll
pay you for the damage I did."
He looked at her in the steady, appraising way she was to learn as a
peculiarity of his.
"I'm not afraid," he drawled. "I'll get my pay--and you'll get yours."
Color flamed into her dusky face. When she spoke there was the throb
of contemptuous anger in her voice. "It's a great thing to be a man."
"Like to crawfish, would you?"
She swung on him, eyes blazing. "No. I don't ask any favors of a
She spat the word at him as though it were a missile. The term was one
of scorn, used only in speaking of the worst of the whiskey-traders.
He took it coolly, his strong white teeth flashing in a derisive
"Then this wolfer won't offer any, Miss McRae."
It was the last word that passed between them till they reached the
buffalo-hunter's camp. If he felt any compunctions, she read nothing
of the kind in his brown face and the steady stride carrying her
straight to punishment. She wondered if he knew how mercilessly
twenty-year-old Fergus had been thrashed after his drunken spree among
the Indians, how sternly Angus dispensed justice in the clan over
which he ruled. Did he think she was an ordinary squaw, one to be
whipped as a matter of discipline by her owner?
They climbed a hill and looked down on a camp of many fires in the
"Is it you, lass?" a voice called.
Out of the shadows thrown by the tents a big bearded man came to meet
them. He stood six feet in his woolen socks. His chest was deep and
his shoulders tremendously broad. Few in the Lone Lands had the
physical strength of Angus McRae.
His big hand caught the girl by the shoulder with a grip that was
half a caress. He had been a little anxious about her and this found
expression in a reproach.
"You shouldna go out by your lane for so lang after dark, Jess. Weel
you ken that."
"I know, Father."
The blue eyes beneath the grizzled brows of the hunter turned upon
Morse. They asked what he was doing with his daughter at that time and
The Montana trader answered the unspoken question, an edge of irony in
his voice. "I found Miss McRae wanderin' around, so I brought her home
where she would be safe and well taken care of."
There was something about this Angus did not understand. At night in
the Lone Lands, among a thousand hill pockets and shoestring draws,
it would be only a millionth chance that would bring a man and woman
together unexpectedly. He pushed home questions, for he was not one to
slough any of the responsibilities that belonged to him as father of
A fat and waistless Indian woman appeared in the tent flap as the
three approached the light. She gave a grunt of surprise and pointed
first at Morse and then at the girl.
The trader's hands were covered with blood, his shirt-sleeve soaked in
it. Stains of it were spattered over the girl's clothes and face.
The Scotchman looked at them, and his clean-shaven upper lip grew
straight, his whole face stern. "What'll be the meanin' o' this?" he
Morse turned to the girl, fastened his eyes on her steadily, and
"Nae lees. I'll hae the truth," Angus added harshly.
"I did it--with my hunting-knife," the daughter said, looking straight
at her father.
"What's that? Are ye talkin' havers, lass?"
"It's the truth, Father."
The Scotchman swung on the trader with a swift question, at the end of
it a threat. "Why would she do that? Why? If you said one word to my
"No, Father. You don't understand. I found a camp of whiskey-traders,
and I stole up and smashed four-five kegs. I meant to slip away, but
this man caught me. When he rushed at me I was afraid--so I slashed at
him with my knife. We fought."
"You fought," her father repeated.
"He didn't know I was a girl--not at first."
The buffalo-hunter passed that point. "You went to this trader's camp
and ruined his goods?"
The slim girl faced her judge steadily with eyes full of apprehension.
"Fergus," she said in a low voice, "and my people."
"What aboot them?"
"These traders break the law. They sell liquor to Fergus and to--"
"Gin that's true, is it your business to ram-stam in an' destroy ither
folks' property? Did I bring you up i' the fear o' the Lord to slash
at men wi' your dirk an' fight wi' them like a wild limmer? I've been
ower-easy wi' you. Weel, I'll do my painfu' duty the nicht, lass." The
Scotchman's eyes were as hard and as inexorable as those of a hanging
"Yes," the girl answered in a small voice. "That's why he brought me
home instead of taking me to his own camp. You're to whip me."
Angus McRae was not used to having the law and the judgment taken out
of his own hands. He frowned at the young man beneath heavy grizzled
eyebrows drawn sternly together. "An' who are you to tell me how to
govern my ain hoose?" he demanded.
"My name's Morse--Tom Morse, Fort Benton, Montana, when my hat's
hangin' up. I took up your girl's proposition, that if I didn't head
in at our camp, but brought her here, you were to whip her and pay me
damages for what she'd done. Me, I didn't propose it. She did."
"You gave him your word on that, Jess?" her father asked.
"Yes." She dragged out, reluctantly, after a moment: "With a
"Then that's the way it'll be. The McRaes don't cry back on a
bargain," the dour old buffalo-hunter said. "But first we'll look at
this young man's arm. Get water and clean rags, Jess."
Morse flushed beneath the dark tan of his cheeks. "My arm's all right.
It'll keep till I get back to camp."
"No such thing, my lad. We'll tie it up here and now. If my lass cut
your arm, she'll bandage the wound."
"She'll not. I'm runnin' this arm."
McRae slammed a heavy fist down into the palm of his hand. "I'll be
showin' you aboot that, mannie."
"Hell, what's the use o' jawin'? I'm goin' to wait, I tell you."
"Don't curse in my camp, Mr. Morse, or whatever your name is." The
Scotchman's blue eyes flashed. "It's a thing I do not permeet. Nor do
I let beardless lads tell me what they will or won't do here. Your
wound will be washed and tied up if I have to order you hogtied first.
So mak the best o' that."
Morse measured eyes with him a moment, then gave way with a sardonic
laugh. McRae had a full share of the obstinacy of his race.
"All right. I'm to be done good to whether I like it or not. Go to
it." The trader pulled back the sleeve of his shirt and stretched out
a muscular, blood-stained arm. An ugly flesh wound stretched halfway
from elbow to wrist.
Jessie brought a basin, water, a towel, and clean rags. By the light
of a lantern in the hands of her father, she washed and tied up the
wound. Her lips trembled. Strange little rivers of fire ran through
her veins when her finger-tips touched his flesh. Once, when she
lifted her eyes, they met his. He read in them a concentrated passion
Not even when she had tied the last knot in the bandage did any of
them speak. She carried away the towel and the basin while McRae hung
the lantern to a nail in the tent pole and brought from inside a
silver-mounted riding-whip. It was one he had bought as a present for
his daughter last time he had been at Fort Benton.
The girl came back and stood before him. A pulse beat fast in her
brown throat. The eyes betrayed the dread of her soul, but they met
without flinching those of the buffalo-hunter.
The Indian woman at the tent entrance made no motion to interfere. The
lord of her life had spoken. So it would be.
With a strained little laugh Morse took a step forward. "I reckon I'll
not stand out for my pound of flesh, Mr. McRae. Settle the damages for
the lost liquor and I'll call it quits."
The upper lip of the Scotchman was a straight line of resolution. "I'm
not thrashing the lass to please you, but because it's in the bond and
because she's earned it. Stand back, sir."
The whip swung up and down. The girl gasped and shivered. A flame of
fiery pain ran through her body to the toes. She set her teeth to bite
back a scream. Before the agony had passed, the whip was winding round
her slender body again like a red-hot snake. It fell with implacable
Her pride and courage collapsed. She sank to her knees with a wild
burst of wailing and entreaties. At last McRae stopped.
Except for the irregular sobbing breaths of the girl there was
silence. The Indian woman crouched beside the tortured young thing and
rocked the dark head, held close against her bosom, while she crooned
a lullaby in the native tongue.
McRae, white to the lips, turned upon his unwelcome guest. "You're nae
doot wearyin' to tak the road, man. Bring your boss the morn an' I'll
mak a settlement."
Morse knew he was dismissed. He turned and walked into the darkness
beyond the camp-fires. Unnoticed, he waited there in a hollow and
listened. For along time there came to him the soft sound of weeping,
and afterward the murmur of voices. He knew that the fat and shapeless
squaw was pouring mother love from her own heart to the bleeding one
of the girl.
Somehow that brought him comfort. He had a queer feeling that he had
been a party to some horrible outrage. Yet all that had taken place
was the whipping of an Indian girl. He tried to laugh away the weak
sympathy in his heart.
But the truth was that inside he was a wild river of woe for her.
When Tom Morse reached camp he found Bully West stamping about in a
heady rage. The fellow was a giant of a man, almost muscle-bound in
his huge solidity. His shoulders were rounded with the heavy pack of
knotted sinews they carried. His legs were bowed from much riding. It
was his boast that he could bend a silver dollar double in the palm of
his hand. Men had seen him twist the tail rod of a wagon into a knot.
Sober, he was a sulky, domineering brute with the instincts of a
bully. In liquor, the least difference of opinion became for him a
cause of quarrel.
Most men gave him a wide berth, and for the sake of peace accepted
sneers and insults that made the blood boil.
"Where you been all this time?" he growled.
"Ploughin' around over the plains."
"Didn't you hear me callin'?"
"D'you call? I've been quite a ways from camp. Bumped into Angus
McRae's buffalo-hunting outfit. He wants to see us to-morrow."
"Something about to-night's business. Seems he knows who did it.
Offers to settle for what we lost."
Bully West stopped in his stride, feet straddled, head thrust forward.
"Like I say. We're to call on him to-morrow for a settlement, you 'n'
"Did McRae bust our barrels?"
"He knows something about it. Didn't have time to talk long with him.
I hustled right back to tell you."
"He can come here if he wants to see me," West announced.
This called for no answer and Tom gave it none. He moved across to the
spot where the oxen were picketed and made sure the pins were still
fast. Presently he rolled his blanket round him and looked up into a
sky all stars. Usually he dropped asleep as soon as his head touched
the seat of the saddle he used as a pillow. But to-night he lay awake
for hours. He could not get out of his mind the girl he had met and
taken to punishment. A dozen pictures of her rose before him, all of
them mental snapshots snatched from his experience of the night. Now
he was struggling to hold her down, his knees clamped to her writhing,
muscular torso. Again he held her by the strong, velvet-smooth arms
while her eyes blazed fury and defiance at him. Or her stinging words
pelted him as she breasted the hill slopes with supple ease. Most
vivid of all were the ones at her father's camp, especially those when
she was under the torture of the whip.
No wonder she hated him for what he had done to her.
He shook himself into a more comfortable position and began to count
stars.... Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven.... What was the use
of stressing the affair, anyhow? She was only a half-breed. In
ten years she would be fat, shapeless, dirty, and repellent. Her
conversation would be reduced to grunts. The glance he had had at her
mother was illuminating.
Where was he?... One hundred eleven, twelve, thirteen.... Women had
not obtruded much into his life. He had lived in the wind and the sun
of the outdoors, much of the time in the saddle. Lawless he was,
but there was a clean strain in his blood. He had always felt an
indifferent contempt for a squaw-man. An American declassed himself
when he went in for that sort of thing, even if he legalized the
union by some form of marriage. In spite of her magnificent physical
inheritance of health and vitality, in spite of the quick and
passionate spirit that informed her, she would be the product of her
environment and ancestry, held close to barbarism all her life. The
man who mated with her would be dragged down to her level.
Two hundred three, four, five.... How game she had been! She had
played it out like a thoroughbred, even to telling her father that he
was to use the horsewhip in punishing her. He had never before seen a
creature so splendid or so spirited. Squaw or no squaw, he took off
his hat to her.
The sun had climbed the hilltop when Morse wakened.
"Come an' get it!" Barney the cook was yelling at him.
Bully West had changed his mind about not going to the
"You 'n' Brad'll stay here, Barney, while me 'n' Tom are gone," he
gave orders. "And you'll keep a sharp lookout for raiders. If any one
shows up that you're dubious of, plug him and ask questions afterward.
"I hear ye," replied Barney, a small cock-eyed man with a malevolent
grin. "An' we'll do just that, boss."
Long before the traders reached it, the camp of the buffalo-hunters
advertised its presence by the stench of decaying animal matter.
Hundreds of hides were pegged to the ground. Men and women, squatting
on their heels, scraped bits of fat from the drying skins. Already a
train of fifty Red River carts stood ready for the homeward start,
loaded with robes tied down by means of rawhide strips to stand the
jolting across the plains. Not far away other women were making
pemmican of fried buffalo meat and fat, pounded together and packed
with hot grease in skin bags. This food was a staple winter diet and
had too a market value for trade to the Hudson's Bay Company, which
shipped thousands of sacks yearly to its northern posts on the Peace
and the Mackenzie Rivers.
[Footnote 3: The Red River cart was a primitive two-wheeled affair,
made entirely of wood, without nails or metal tires. It was usually
drawn by an ox. (W.M.R.)]
The children and the sound of their laughter gave the camp a domestic
touch. Some of the brown, half-naked youngsters, their skins
glistening in the warm sun, were at work doing odd jobs. Others, too
young to fetch and carry, played with a litter of puppies or with a
wolf cub that had been caught and tamed.
The whole bustling scene was characteristic of time and place. A score
of such outfits, each with its Red River carts and its oxen, its dogs,
its women and children, traveled to the plains each spring to hunt
the bison. They killed thousands upon thousands of them, for it took
several animals to make a sack of pemmican weighing one hundred fifty
pounds. The waste was enormous, since only the choicest cuts of meat
Already the buffalo were diminishing in numbers. Vast hordes still
roamed the plains. They could be killed by scores and hundreds. But
the end was near. It had been several years since Colonel Dodge
reported that he had halted his party of railroad builders two days
to let a herd of over half a million bison pass. Such a sight was no
longer possible. The pressure of the hunters had divided the game into
the northern and the southern herds. Within four or five years the
slaughter was to be so great that only a few groups of buffalo would
The significance of this extermination lay largely in its application
to the Indians. The plains tribes were fed and clothed and armed and
housed by means of the buffalo. Even the canoes of the lake Indians
were made from buffalo skins. The failure of the supply reduced the
natives from warriors to beggars.
McRae came forward to meet the traders, the sleeves of his shirt
rolled to the elbows of his muscular brown arms. He stroked a great
red beard and nodded gruffly. It was not in his dour honest nature to
pretend that he was glad to see them when he was not.
"Well, I'm here," growled West, interlarding a few oaths as a
necessary corollary of his speech. "What's it all about, McRae? What
do you know about the smashing of our barrels?"
"I'll settle any reasonable damage," the hunter said.
Bully West frowned. He spread his legs deliberately, folded his arms,
and spat tobacco juice upon a clean hide drying in the sun. "Hold yore
hawsses a minute. The damage'll be enough. Don't you worry about that.
But first off, I aim to know who raided our camp. Then I reckon I'll
whop him till he's wore to a frazzle."
Under heavy, grizzled brows McRae looked long at him. Both were
outstanding figures by reason of personality and physique. One was a
constructive force, the other destructive. There was a suggestion of
the gorilla in West's long arms matted with hair, in the muscles of
back and shoulders so gnarled and knotted that they gave him almost
a deformed appearance. Big and broad though he was, the Scot was the
smaller. But power harnessed and controlled expressed itself in every
motion of the body. Moreover, the blue eyes that looked straight and
hard out of the ruddy face told of coordination between mind and
Angus McRae was that rare product, an honest, outspoken man. He sought
to do justice to all with whom he had dealings. Part of West's demand
was fair, he reflected. The trader had a right to know all the facts
in the case. But the old Hudson's Bay trapper had a great reluctance
to tell them. His instinct to protect Jessie was strong.
"I've saved ye the trouble, Mr. West. The guilty yin was o' my ain
family. Your young man will tell ye I've done a' the horsewhippin'
The big trail boss looked blackly at his helper. He would settle with
Morse at the proper time. Now he had other business on hand.
"Come clean, McRae. Who was it? There'll be nothin' doin' till I know
that," he growled.
West glared at him, for once astonished out of profanity.
"My daughter Jessie."
"Goddlemighty, d'ja mean to tell me a girl did it?" He threw back his
head in a roar of Homeric laughter. "Ever hear the beat of that? A
damn li'l' Injun squaw playin' her tricks on Bully West! If she was
mine I'd tickle her back for it."
The eyes in the Scotchman's granite face flashed. "Man, can you never
say twa-three words withoot profanity? This is a God-fearin' camp.
There's nae place here for those who tak His name in vain."
"Smashed 'em with her own hands--is that what you mean? I'll give it
to her that she's a plucky li'l' devil, even if she is a nitchie."
McRae reproved him stiffly. "You'll please to remember that you're
talking of my daughter, Mr. West. I'll allow no such language aboot
her. You're here to settle a business matter. What do ye put the
They agreed on a price, to be paid in hides delivered at Whoop-Up.
West turned and went straddling to the place where he and Morse had
left their horses. On the way he came face to face with a girl, a
lithe, dusky young creature, Indian brown, the tan of a hundred
summer suns and winds painted on the oval of her lifted chin. She was
carrying a package of sacks to the place where the pemmican was being
West's eyes narrowed. They traveled up and down her slender body. They
gloated on her.
After one scornful glance which swept over and ignored Morse, the girl
looked angrily at the man barring her way. Slowly the blood burned
into her cheeks. For there was that in the trader's smoldering eyes
that would have insulted any modest maiden.
"You Jessie McRae?" he demanded, struck of a sudden with an idea.
"You smashed my whiskey-barrels?"
"My father has told you. If he says so, isn't that enough?"
He slapped an immense hand on his thigh, hugely diverted. "You damn
li'l' high-steppin' filly! Why? What in hell 'd I ever do to you?"
Angus McRae strode forward, eyes blazing. He had married a Cree woman,
had paid for her to her father seven ponies, a yard of tobacco, and a
bottle of whiskey. His own two-fisted sons were metis. The Indian in
them showed more plainly than the Celt. Their father accepted the fact
without resentment. But there was in his heart a queer feeling about
the little lass he had adopted. Her light, springing step, the lift of
the throat and the fearlessness of the eye, the instinct in her for
cleanliness of mind and body, carried him back forty years to the land
of heather, to a memory of the laird's daughter whom he had worshiped
with the hopeless adoration of a red-headed gillie. It had been the
one romance of his life, and somehow it had reincarnated itself in
his love for the half-breed girl. To him it seemed a contradiction of
nature that Jessie should be related to the flat-footed squaws who
were slaves to their lords. He could not reconcile his heart to the
knowledge that she was of mixed blood. She was too fine, too dainty,
of too free and imperious a spirit.
"Your horses are up the hill, Mr. West," he said pointedly.
It is doubtful whether the trader heard. He could not keep his
desirous eyes from the girl.
"Is she a half or a quarter-breed?" he asked McRae.
"That'll be her business and mine, sir. Will you please tak the road?"
The hunter spoke quietly, restraining himself from an outbreak. But
his voice carried an edge.
"By Gad, she's some clipper," West said, aloud to himself, just as
though the girl had not been present.
"Will you leave my daughter oot o' your talk, man?" warned the
"What's ailin' you?" West's sulky, insolent eyes turned on the
buffalo-hunter. "A nitchie's a nitchie. Me, I talk straight. But I aim
to be reasonable too. I don't like a woman less because she's got the
devil in her. Bully West knows how to tame 'em so they'll eat outa his
hand. I've took a fancy to yore girl. Tha's right, McRae."
"You may go to the tent, Jessie," the girl's father told her. He was
holding his temper in leash with difficulty.
"Wait a mo." The big trader held out his arm to bar the way. "Don't
push on yore reins, McRae. I'm makin' you a proposition. Me, I'm
lookin' for a wife, an' this here breed girl of yours suits me. Give
her to me an' I'll call the whole thing square. Couldn't say fairer
than that, could I?"
The rugged hunter looked at the big malformed border ruffian with
repulsion. "Man, you gi'e me a scunner," he said. "Have done wi' this
foolishness an' be gone. The lass is no' for you or the like o' you."
"Hell's hinges, you ain't standin' there tellin' me that a Cree breed
is too good for Bully West, are you?" roared the big whiskey-runner.
"A hundred times too good for you. I'd rather see the lass dead in
her coffin than have her life ruined by you," McRae answered in dead
"You don't get me right, Mac," answered the smuggler, swallowing his
rage. "I know yore religious notions. We'll stand up before a sky
pilot and have this done right. I aim to treat this girl handsome."
Jessie had turned away at her father's command. Now she turned swiftly
upon the trader, eyes flashing. "I'd rather Father would drive a
knife in my heart than let me be married to a wolfer!" she cried
His eyes, untrammeled by decency, narrowed to feast on the brown
immature beauty of her youth.
"Tha' so?" he jeered. "Well, the time's comin' when you'll go down on
yore pretty knees an' beg me not to leave you. It'll be me 'n' you one
o' these days. Make up yore mind to that."
"Never! Never! I'd die first!" she exploded.
Bully West showed his broken, tobacco-stained teeth in a mirthless
grin. "We'll see about that, dearie."
"March, lass. Your mother'll be needin' you," McRae said sharply.
The girl looked at West, then at Morse. From the scorn of that glance
she might have been a queen and they the riffraff of the land. She
walked to the tent. Not once did she look back.
"You've had your answer both from her and me. Let that be an end o'
it," McRae said with finality.
The trader's anger ripped out in a crackle of obscene oaths. They
garnished the questions that he snarled. "Wha's the matter with me?
Why ain't I good enough for yore half-breed litter?"
It was a spark to gunpowder. The oaths, the insult, the whole
degrading episode, combined to drive McRae out of the self-restraint
he had imposed on himself. He took one step forward. With a wide sweep
of the clenched fist he buffeted the smuggler on the ear. Taken by
surprise, West went spinning against the wheel of a cart.
The man's head sank between his shoulders and thrust forward. A sound
that might have come from an infuriated grizzly rumbled from the hairy
throat. His hand reached for a revolver.
Morse leaped like a crouched cat. Both hands caught at West's arm. The
old hunter was scarcely an instant behind him. His fingers closed on
the wrist just above the weapon.
"Hands off," he ordered Morse. "This is no' your quarrel."
The youngster's eyes met the blazing blue ones of the Scot. His
fingers loosened their hold. He stepped back.
The two big men strained. One fought with every ounce of power in him
to twist the arm from him till the cords and sinews strained; the
other to prevent this and to free the wrist. It was a test of sheer
Each labored, breathing deep, his whole energy centered on cooerdinated
effort of every muscle. They struggled in silence except for the
snarling grunts of the whiskey-runner.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the wrist began to turn from
McRae. Sweat beads gathered on West's face. He fought furiously to
hold his own. But the arm turned inexorably.
The trader groaned. As the cords tightened and shoots of torturing
pain ran up the arm, the huge body of the man writhed. The revolver
fell from his paralyzed fingers. His wobbling knees sagged and
McRae's fingers loosened as the man slid down and caught the bull-like
throat. His grip tightened. West fought savagely to break it. He could
as soon have freed himself from the clamp of a vice.
The Scotchman shook him till he was black in the face, then flung him
"Get oot, ye yellow wolf!" he roared. "Or fegs! I'll break every bone
in your hulkin' body. Oot o' my camp, the pair o' you!"
West, strangling, gasped for air, as does a catfish on the bank. He
leaned on the cart wheel until he was able to stand. The help of Morse
he brushed aside with a sputtered oath. His eyes never left the man
who had beaten him. He snarled hike a whipped wolf. The hunter's
metaphor had been an apt one. The horrible lust to kill was stamped on
his distorted, grinning face, but for the present the will alone was
McRae's foot was on the revolver. His son Fergus, a swarthy,
good-looking youngster, had come up and was standing quietly behind
his father. Other hunters were converging toward their chief.
The Indian trader swore a furious oath of vengeance. Morse tried to
lead him away.
"Some day I'll get yore squaw girl right, McRae, an' then God help
her," he threatened.
The bully lurched straddling away.
Morse, a sardonic grin on his lean face, followed him over the hill.
MORSE JUMPS UP TROUBLE
"Threw me down, didn't you?" snarled West out of the corner of his
mouth. "Knew all the time she did it an' never let on to me. A hell of
a way to treat a friend."
Tom Morse said nothing. He made mental reservations about the word
friend, but did not care to express them. His somber eyes watched the
big man jerk the spade bit cruelly and rowel the bronco when it went
into the air. It was a pleasure to West to torture an animal when no
human was handy, though he preferred women and even men as victims.
"Whad he mean when he said you could tell me how he'd settled with
her?" he growled.
"He whipped her last night when I took her back to camp."
"Took her back to camp, did you? Why didn't you bring her to me? Who's
in charge of this outfit, anyhow, young fellow, me lad?"
"McRae's too big a man for us to buck. Too influential with the
half-breeds. I figured it was safer to get her right home to him." The
voice of the younger man was mild and conciliatory.
"_You_ figured!" West's profanity polluted the clear, crisp morning
air. "I got to have a run in with you right soon. I can see that.
Think because you're C.N. Morse's nephew, you can slip yore funny
business over on me. I'll show you."
The reddish light glinted for a moment in the eyes of Morse, but he
said nothing. Young though he was, he had a capacity for silence. West
was not sensitive to atmospheres, but he felt the force of this young
man. It was not really in his mind to quarrel with him. For one thing
he would soon be a partner in the firm of C.N. Morse & Company, of
Fort Benton, one of the biggest trading outfits in the country. West
could not afford to break with the Morse interests.
With their diminished cargo the traders pushed north. Their
destination was Whoop-Up, at the junction of the Belly and the St.
Mary's Rivers. This fort had become a rendezvous for all the traders
within hundreds of miles, a point of supply for many small posts
scattered along the rivers of the North.
Twelve oxen were hitched to each three-wagon load. Four teams had left
Fort Benton together, but two of them had turned east toward Wood
Mountain before the party was out of the Assiniboine country. West had
pushed across Lonesome Prairie to the Sweet Grass Hills and from there
over the line into Canada.
Under the best of conditions West was no pleasant traveling companion.
Now he was in a state of continual sullen ill-temper. For the first
time in his life he had been publicly worsted. Practically he had
been kicked out of the buffalo camp, just as though he were a drunken
half-breed and not one whose barroom brawls were sagas of the
His vanity was notorious, and it had been flagrantly outraged. He
would never be satisfied until he had found a way to get his revenge.
More than once his simmering anger leaped out at the young fellow who
had been a witness of his defeat. In the main he kept his rage sulkily
repressed. If Tom Morse wanted to tell of the affair with McRae, he
could lessen the big man's prestige. West did not want that.
The outfit crossed the Milk River, skirted Pakoghkee Lake, and swung
westward in the direction of the Porcupine Hills. Barney had been a
trapper in the country and knew where the best grass was to be found.
In many places the feed was scant. It had been cropped close by the
great herds of buffalo roaming the plains. Most of the lakes were
polluted by the bison, so that whenever possible their guide found
camps by running water. The teams moved along the Belly River through
the sand hills.
Tom Morse was a crack shot and did the hunting for the party. The
evening before the train reached Whoop-Up, he walked out from camp to
try for an antelope, since they were short of fresh meat. He climbed a
small butte overlooking the stream. His keen eyes swept the panorama
and came to rest on a sight he had never before seen and would never
A large herd of buffalo had come down to the river crossing. They were
swimming the stream against a strong current, their bodies low in the
water and so closely packed that he could almost have stepped from one
shaggy head to another. Not fifty yards from him they scrambled ashore
and went lumbering into the hazy dusk. Something had frightened them
and they were on a stampede. Even the river had not stopped their
flight. The earth shook with their tread as they found their stride.
That wild flight into the gathering darkness was symbolic, Morse
fancied. The vast herds were vanishing never to return. Were they
galloping into the Happy Hunting Ground the Indians prayed for? What
would come of their flight? When the plains knew them no more, how
would the Sioux and the Blackfeet and the Piegans live? Would the
Lonesome Lands become even more desolate than they were now?
"I wonder," he murmured aloud.
It is certain that he could have had no vision of the empire soon to
be built out of the desert by himself and men of his stamp. Not even
dimly could he have conceived a picture of the endless wheat-fields
that would stretch across the plains, of the farmers who would pour
into the North by hundreds of thousands, of the cities which would
rise in the sand hills as a monument to man's restless push of
progress and his indomitable hope. No living man's imagination had yet
dreamed of the transformation of this _terra incognita_ into one of
the world's great granaries.
The smoke of the traders' camp-fire was curling up and drifting away
into thin veils of film before the sun showed over the horizon hills.
The bull-teams had taken up their steady forward push while the quails
were still flying to and from their morning water-holes.
"Whoop-Up by noon," Barney predicted.
"Yes, by noon," Tom Morse agreed. "In time for a real sure-enough
dinner with potatoes and beans and green stuff."
"Y' bet yore boots, an' honest to gosh gravy," added Brad Stearns,
a thin and wrinkled little man whose leathery face and bright eyes
defied the encroachment of time. He was bald, except for a fringe of
grayish hair above the temples and a few long locks carefully disposed
over his shiny crown. But nobody could have looked at him and called
They were to be disappointed.
The teams struck the dusty road that terminated at the fort and
were plodding along it to the crackling accompaniment of the long
"Soon now," Morse shouted to Stearns.
The little man nodded. "Mebbe they'll have green corn on the cob.
Betcha the price of the dinner they do."
"You've made a bet, dad."
Stearns halted the leaders. "What's that? Listen."
The sound of shots drifted to them punctuated by faint, far yells. The
shots did not come in a fusillade. They were intermittent, died down,
popped out again, yielded to whoops in distant crescendo.
"Injuns," said Stearns. "On the peck, looks like. Crees and Blackfeet,
maybe, but you never can tell. Better throw off the trail and dig in."
West had ridden up. He nodded. "Till we know where we're at. Get busy,
They drew up the wagons in a semicircle, end to end, the oxen bunched
inside, partially protected by a small cottonwood grove in the rear.
This done, West gave further orders. "We gotta find out what's doin'.
Chances are it's nothin' but a coupla bunches of braves with a cargo
of redeye aboard, Tom, you an' Brad scout out an' take a look-see.
Don't be too venturesome. Soon's you find out what the rumpus is,
hot-foot it back and report, y' understand." The big wolfer snapped
out directions curtly. There was no more competent wagon boss in the
border-land than he.
Stearns and Morse rode toward the fort. They deflected from the road
and followed the river-bank to take advantage of such shrubbery as
grew there. They moved slowly and cautiously, for in the Indian
country one took no unnecessary chances. From the top of a small rise,
shielded by a clump of willows, the two looked down on a field of
battle already decided. Bullets and arrows were still flying, but the
defiant, triumphant war-whoops of a band of painted warriors slowly
moving toward them showed that the day was won and lost. A smaller
group of Indians was retreating toward the swamp on the left-hand side
of the road. Two or three dead braves lay in the grassy swale between
"I done guessed it, first crack," Brad said. "Crees and Blackfeet.
They sure enough do mix it whenever they get together. The Crees
ce'tainly got the jump on 'em this time."
It was an old story. From the northern woods the Crees had come
down to trade at the fort. They had met a band of Blackfeet who had
traveled up from the plains for the same purpose. Filled with bad
liquor, the hereditary enemies had as usual adjourned to the ground
outside for a settlement while the traders at the fort had locked the
gates and watched the battle from the loopholes of the stockade.
"Reckon we better blow back to camp," suggested the old plainsman.
"Mr. Cree may be feelin' his oats heap much. White man look all same
Blackfeet to him like as not."
"Look." Morse pointed to a dip in the swale.
An Indian was limping through the brush, taking advantage of such
cover as he could find. He was wounded. His leg dragged and he moved
"He'll be a good Injun mighty soon," Stearns said, rubbing his bald
head as it shone in the sun. "Not a chance in the world for him.
They'll git him soon as they reach the coulee. See. They're stoppin'
to collect that other fellow's scalp."
At a glance Morse had seen the situation. This was none of his affair.
It was tacitly understood that the traders should not interfere in
the intertribal quarrels of the natives. But old Brad's words, "good
Injun," had carried him back to a picture of a brown, slim girl
flashing indignation because Americans treated her race as though only
dead Indians were good ones. He could never tell afterward what was
the rational spring of his impulse.
At the touch of the rein laid flat against its neck, the cow-pony he
rode laid back its ears, turned like a streak of light, and leaped to
a hand gallop. It swept down the slope and along the draw, gathering
speed with every jump.
The rider let out a "Hi-yi-yi" to attract the attention of the wounded
brave. Simultaneously the limping fugitive and the Crees caught sight
of the flying horseman who had obtruded himself into the fire zone.
An arrow whistled past Morse. He saw a bullet throw up a spurt of dirt
beneath the belly of his horse. The Crees were close to their quarry.
They closed in with a run. Tom knew it would be a near thing. He
slackened speed slightly and freed a foot from the stirrup, stiffening
it to carry weight.
The wounded Indian crouched, began to run parallel with the horse, and
leaped at exactly the right instant. His hand caught the sleeve of his
rescuer at the same time that the flat of his foot dropped upon the
white man's boot. A moment, and his leg had swung across the rump of
the pony and he had settled to the animal's back.
So close was it that a running Cree snatched at the bronco's tail and
was jerked from his feet before he could release his hold.
As the cow-pony went plunging up the slope, Morse saw Brad Stearns
silhouetted against the sky-line at the summit. His hat was gone and
his bald head was shining in the sun. He was pumping bullets from his
rifle at the Crees surging up the hill after his companion.
Stearns swung his horse and jumped it to a lope. Side by side with
Morse he went over the brow in a shower of arrows and slugs.
"Holy mackerel, boy! What's eatin' you?" he yelled. "Ain't you got any
sense a-tall? Don't you know better 'n to jump up trouble thataway?"
"We're all right now," the younger man said. "They can't catch us."
The Crees were on foot and would be out of range by the time they
reached the hilltop.
"Hmp! They'll come to our camp an' raise Cain. Why not? What business
we got monkeyin' with their scalping sociables? It ain't neighborly."
"West won't like it," admitted Morse.
"He'll throw a cat fit. What do you aim to do with yore friend
Mighty-Nigh-Lose-His-Scalp? If I know Bully--and you can bet a silver
fox fur ag'in' a yard o' tobacco that I do--he won't give no glad hand
to him. Not none."
Morse did not know what he meant to do with him. He had let an impulse
carry him to quixotic action. Already he was half-sorry for it, but he
was obstinate enough to go through now he had started.
When he realized the situation, Bully West exploded in language
sulphurous. He announced his determination to turn the wounded man
over to the Crees as soon as they arrived.
"No," said Morse quietly.
"I won't stand for that. They'd murder him."
"That any o' my business--or yours?"
"I'm makin' it mine."
The eyes of the two men crossed, as rapiers do, feeling out the
strength back of them. The wounded Indian, tall and slender, stood
straight as an arrow, his gaze now on one, now on the other. His face
was immobile and expressionless. It betrayed no sign of the emotions
"Show yore cards, Morse," said West. "What's yore play? I'm goin' to
tell the Crees to take him if they want him. You'll go it alone if you
go to foggin' with a six-shooter."
The young man turned to the Indian he had rescued. He waved a hand
toward the horse from which they had just dismounted. "Up!" he
The Indian youth caught the point instantly. Without using the
stirrups he vaulted to the saddle, light as a mountain lion. His bare
heels dug into the sides of the animal, which was off as though shot
out of a gun.
Horse and rider skirted the cottonwoods and disappeared in a
"SOMETHING ABOUT THESE GUYS"
West glared at Morse, his heavy chin outthrust, his bowed legs wide
apart. "You've done run on the rope long enough with me, young feller.
Here's where you take a fall hard."
The younger man said nothing. He watched, warily. Was it to be a
gun-play? Or did the big bully mean to manhandle him? Probably the
latter. West was vain of his reputation as a two-fisted fighter.
"I'm gonna beat you up, then turn you over to the Crees," the
infuriated man announced.
"You can't do that, West. He's a white man same as you," protested
"This yore put-in, Brad?" West, beside himself with rage, swung on the
little man and straddled forward a step or two threateningly.
"You done said it," answered the old-timer, falling back. "An' don't
you come closter. I'm liable to get scared, an' you'd ought not to
forget I'm as big as you behind a six-shooter."
"Here they come--like a swarm o' bees!" yelled Barney.
The traders forgot, for the moment, their quarrel in the need of
common action. West snatched up a rifle and dropped a bullet in front
of the nearest Indian. The warning brought the Crees up short. They
held a long consultation and one of them came forward making the peace
In pigeon English he expressed their demands.
"He's gone--lit right out--stole one of our broncs. You can search the
camp if you've a mind to," West replied.
The envoy reported. There was another long pow-wow.
Brad, chewing tobacco complacently behind a wagon wheel, commented
aloud. "Can't make up their minds whether to come on an' massacree us
or not. They got a right healthy fear of our guns. Don't blame 'em a
Some of the Crees were armed with bows and arrows, others with rifles.
But the trade guns sold the Indians of the Northern tribes were of the
[Footnote 4: These flintlock muskets were inaccurate. They would not
carry far. Their owners were in constant danger of having fingers or a
hand blown off in explosions. The price paid for these cheap firearms
was based on the length of them. The butt was put on the floor and
the gun held upright. Skins laid flat were piled beside it till they
reached the muzzle. The trader exchanged the rifle for the furs.
The whites, to the contrary, were armed with the latest repeating
Winchesters. In a fight with them the natives were at a terrible
The Crees realized this. A delegation of two came forward to search
the camp. West pointed out the tracks of the horse upon which their
tribal enemy had ridden away.
They grunted, "Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!"
Overbearing though he was, West was an embryonic diplomat. He filled
a water-bucket with whiskey and handed it, with a tin cup, to the
wrinkled old brave nearest him.
"For our friends the Crees," he said. "Tell your chief my young
man didn't understand. He thought he was rescuing a Cree from the
"Ugh! Ugh!" The Indians shuffled away with their booty.
There was more talk, but the guttural protests died away before the
temptation of the liquor. The braves drank, flung a few shots in
bravado toward the wagons, and presently took themselves off.
The traders did not renew their quarrel. West's reasons for not
antagonizing the Morse family were still powerful as ever. He subdued
his desire to punish the young man and sullenly gave orders to hitch
up the teams.
It was mid-afternoon when the oxen jogged into Whoop-Up. The post was
a stockade fort, built in a square about two hundred yards long, of
cottonwood logs dovetailed together. The buildings on each side of
the plaza faced inward. Loopholes had been cut in the bastions as a
protection against Indians.
In the big stores was a large supply of blankets, beads, provisions,
rifles, and clothing. The adjacent rooms were half-empty now, but in
the spring they would be packed to the eaves with thousands of buffalo
robes and furs brought in from outlying settlements by hunters. Later
these would be hauled to Fort Benton and from there sent down the
Missouri to St. Louis and other points.
Morse, looking round, missed a familiar feature.
"Where's the liquor?" he asked.
"S-sh!" warned the clerk with whom he was talking. "Haven't you heard?
There's a bunch of police come into the country from Winnipeg. The
lid's on tight." His far eye drooped to the cheek in a wise wink. "If
you've brought in whiskey, you'd better get it out of the fort and
"That's up to West. I wouldn't advise any police to monkey with a
cargo of his."
"You don't say." The clerk's voice was heavy with sarcasm. "Well, I'll
just make a li'l' bet with you. If the North-West Mounted start to
arrest Bully West or to empty his liquor-kegs, they'll go right
through with the job. They're go-getters, these red-coats are."
"Red-coats? Not soldiers, are they?"
"Well, they are and they ain't. They're drilled an' in companies. But
they can arrest any one they've a mind to, and their officers can try
and sentence folks. They don't play no favorites either. Soon as they
hear of this mix-up between the Crees and the Blackfeet they'll be
right over askin' whyfors, and if they find who gave 'em the booze
some one will be up to the neck in trouble and squawkin' for help."
West had been talking in whispers with Reddy Madden, the owner of the
place. He stepped to the door.
"Don't onhook, Brad. We're travelin' some more first," he called to
The oxen plodded out of the stockade and swung to the left. A guide
rode beside West and Morse. He was Harvey Gosse, a whiskey-runner
known to both of them. The man was a long, loose-limbed fellow with a
shrewd eye and the full, drooping lower lip of irresolution. It had
been a year since either of the Fort Benton men had been in the
country. Gosse told them of the change that was taking place in it.
"Business ain't what it was, an' that ain't but half of it," the lank
rider complained regretfully. "It ain't ever gonna be any more. These
here red-coats are plumb ruinin' trade. Squint at a buck cross-eyed,
whisper rum to him, an' one o' these guys jumps a-straddle o' yore
neck right away."
"How many of these--what is it you call 'em, Mounted Police?--well,
how many of 'em are there in the country?" asked West.
"Not so many. I reckon a hundred or so, far as I've heard tell."
West snorted scornfully. "And you're lettin' this handful of
tenderfeet buffalo you! Hell's hinges! Ain't none of you got any
Gosse dragged slowly a brown hand across an unshaven chin. "I reckon
you wouldn't call 'em tenderfeet if you met up with 'em, Bully.
There's something about these guys--I dunno what it is exactly--but
there's sure something that tells a fellow not to prod 'em overly
"Quick on the shoot?" the big trader wanted to know.
"No, it ain't that. They don't hardly ever draw a gun. They jest walk
in kinda quiet an' easy, an' tell you it'll be thisaway. And tha's the
way it is every crack outa the box."
"Hmp!" West exuded boastful incredulity. "I reckon they haven't bumped
into any one man-size yet."
The lank whiskey-runner guided the train, by winding draws, into the
hills back of the post. Above a small gulch, at the head of it, the
teams were stopped and unloaded. The barrels were rolled downhill into
the underbrush where they lay cached out of sight. From here they
would be distributed as needed.
"You boys'll take turn an' turn about watching till I've sold the
cargo," West announced. "Arrange that among yoreselves. Tom, I'll let
you fix up how you'll spell each other. Only thing is, one of you has
to be here all the time, y' understand."
Morse took the first watch and was followed by Stearns, who in turn
gave place to Barney. The days grew to a week. Sometimes West appeared
with a buyer in a cart or leading a pack-horse. Then the cached
fire-water would be diminished by a keg or two.
It was a lazy, sleepy life. There was no need for a close guard.
Nobody knew where the whiskey was except themselves and a few
tight-mouthed traders. Morse discovered in himself an inordinate
capacity for sleep. He would throw himself down on the warm, sundried
grass and fall into a doze almost instantly. When the rays of the sun
grew too hot, it was easy to roll over into the shade of the draw.
He could lie for hours on his back after he wakened and watch
cloud-skeins elongate and float away, thinking of nothing or letting
thoughts happen in sheer idle content.
He had never had a girl, to use the word current among his fellows.
His scheme of life would, he supposed, include women by and by, but
hitherto he had dwelt in a man's world, in a universe of space and
sunshine and blowing wind, under primitive conditions that made for
tough muscles and a clean mind trained to meet frontier emergencies.
But now, to his disgust, he found slipping into his reveries pictures
of a slim, dark girl, arrow-straight, with eyes that held for him only
scorn and loathing. The odd thing about it was that when his brain was
busy with her a strange exultant excitement tingled through his veins.
One day a queer thing happened. He had never heard of psychic
phenomena or telepathy, but he opened his eyes from a day-dream of her
to see Jessie McRae looking down at him.
She was on an Indian cayuse, round-bellied and rough. Very erect she
sat, and on her face was the exact expression of scornful hatred he
had seen in his vision of her.
He jumped to his feet. "You--here!"
A hot color flooded her face with anger to the roots of the hair.
Without a word, without another glance at him, she laid the bridle
rein to the pony's neck and swung away.
Unprotesting, he let her go. The situation had jumped at him too
unexpectedly for him to know how to meet it. He stood, motionless, the
red light in his eyes burning like distant camp-fires in the night.
For the first time in his life he had been given the cut direct by a
Yet she wasn't a woman after all. She was a maid, with that passionate
sense of tragedy which comes only to the very young.
It was in his mind to slap a saddle on his bronco and ride after her.
But why? Could he by sheer dominance of will change her opinion of
him? She had grounded it on good and sufficient reasons. He was
associated in her mind with the greatest humiliation of her life, with
the stinging lash that had cut into her young pride and her buoyant
courage as cruelly as it had into her smooth, satiny flesh. Was it
likely she would listen to any regrets, any explanations? Her hatred
of him was not a matter for argument. It was burnt into her soul as
with a red-hot brand. He could not talk away what he had done or the
thing that he was.
She had come upon him by chance while he was asleep. He guessed that
Angus McRae's party had reached Whoop-Up and had stopped to buy
supplies and perhaps to sell hides and pemmican. The girl had probably
ridden out from the stockade to the open prairie because she loved to
ride. The rest needed no conjecture. In that lone land of vast spaces
travelers always exchanged greetings. She had discovered him lying
in the grass. He might be sick or wounded or dead. The custom of the
country would bring her straight across the swales toward him to find
out whether he needed help.
Then she had seen who he was--and had ridden away.
A sardonic smile of self-mockery stamped for a moment on his brown
boyish face the weariness of the years.
THE MAN IN THE SCARLET JACKET
Morse ambled out at a road gait to take his turn at guard duty. He was
following the principle that the longest way round is the shortest
road to a given place. The reason for this was to ward off any
suspicion that might have arisen if the watchers had always come and
gone by the same trail. Therefore they started for any point of the
compass, swung round in a wide detour, and in course of time arrived
at the cache.
There wasn't any hurry anyhow. Each day had twenty-four hours, and a
fellow lived just as long if he didn't break his neck galloping along
with his tail up like a hill steer on a stampede.
To-day Morse dropped in toward the cache from due west. His eyes
were open, even if the warmth of the midday sun did make him sleepy.
Something he saw made him slip from the saddle, lead his horse into a
draw, and move forward very carefully through the bunch grass.
What he had seen was a man crouched behind some brush, looking down
into the little gorge where the whiskey cache was--a man in leather
boots, tight riding-breeches, scarlet jacket, and jaunty forage cap.
It needed no second glance to tell Tom Morse that the police had run
down the place where they had hidden their cargo.
From out of the little canon a man appeared. He was carrying a keg of
whiskey. The man was Barney. West had no doubt sent word to him that
he would shortly bring a buyer with him to the rendezvous.
The man in the scarlet jacket rose and stepped out into the open. He
was a few feet from Barney. In his belt there was a revolver, but he
did not draw it.
Barney stopped and stared at him, his mouth open, eyes bulging. "Where
in Heligoland you come from?" he asked.
"From Sarnia, Ontario," the red-coat answered. "Glad to meet you,
friend. I've been looking for you several days."
"For me!" said Barney blankly.
"For you--and for that keg of forty-rod you're carrying. No, don't
drop it. We can talk more comfortably while both your hands are busy."
The constable stepped forward and picked from the ground a rifle.
"I've been lying in the brush two hours waiting for you to get
separated from this. Didn't want you making any mistakes in your
"Mistakes!" repeated Barney.
"Yes. You're under arrest, you know, for whiskey-smuggling."
"You're one of these here border police." Barney used the rising
inflection in making his statement.
"Constable Winthrop Beresford, North-West Mounted, at your service,"
replied the officer jauntily. He was a trim, well-set-up youth, quick
of step and crisp of speech.
"What you gonna do with me?"
"Take you to Fort Macleod."
It was perhaps because his eyes were set at not quite the right angles
and because they were so small and wolfish that Barney usually aroused
distrust. He suggested now, with an ingratiating whine in his voice,
that he would like to see a man at Whoop-Up first.
"Jes' a li'l' matter of business," he added by way of explanation.
The constable guessed at his business. The man wanted to let his boss
know what had taken place and to give him a chance to rescue him if he
would. Beresford's duty was to find out who was back of this liquor
running. It would be worth while knowing what man Barney wanted to
talk with. He could afford to take a chance on the rescue.
"Righto," he agreed. "You may put that barrel down now."
Barney laid it down, end up. With one sharp drive of the rifle butt
the officer broke in the top of the keg, He kicked the barrel over
with his foot.
This was the moment Morse chose for putting in an appearance.
"Hello! What's doin'?" he asked casually.
Beresford, cool and quiet, looked straight at him. "I'll ask _you_
"Kinda expensive to irrigate the prairie that way, ain't it?"
"Doesn't cost me anything. How about you?"
Morse laughed at the question fired back at him so promptly. This
young man was very much on the job. "Not a bean," the Montanan said.
"Good. Then you'll enjoy the little show I'm putting on--five thousand
dollars' worth of liquor spilt all at one time."
"Holy Moses! Where is this blind tiger you're raidin'?"
"Down in the gully. Lucky you happened along just by chance. You'll be
able to carry the good news to Whoop-Up and adjacent points."
"You're not really aimin' to spill all that whiskey."
"That's my intention. Any objections?" The scarlet-coated officer
spoke softly, without any edge to his voice. But Tom began to
understand why the clerk at the trading-post had called the Mounted
Police go-getters. This smooth-shaven lad, so easy and carefree
of manner, had a gleam in his eye that meant business. His very
gentleness was ominous.
Tom Morse reflected swiftly. His uncle's firm had taken a chance of
this very finale when it had sent a convoy of liquor into forbidden
territory. Better to lose the stock than to be barred by the Canadian
Government from trading with the Indians at all. This officer was not
one to be bribed or bullied. He would go through with the thing he had
"Why, no! How could I have any objections?" Morse said.
He shot a swift, slant look at Barney, a look that told the Irishman
to say nothing and know nothing, and that he would be protected
against the law.
"Glad you haven't," Constable Beresford replied cheerfully--so very
cheerfully in fact that Morse suspected he would not have been much
daunted if objections had been mentioned. "Perhaps you'll help me with
my little job, then."
The trader grinned. He might as well go the limit with the bluff he
was playing. "Sure. I'll help you make a fourth o' July outa the kegs.
Lead me to 'em."
"You don't know where they are, of course?"
"In the gully, you said," Morse replied innocently
"So I did. Righto. Down you go, then." The constable turned to Barney.
"You next, friend."
A well-defined trail led down the steep side of the gulch. It ended in
a thick growth of willow saplings. Underneath the roof of this foliage
were more than a score of whiskey-casks.
After ten minutes with the rifle butt there was nothing to show for
the cache but broken barrels and a trough of wet sand where the liquor
had run down the bed of the dry gully.
It was time, Morse thought, to play his own small part in the
"After you, gentlemen," Beresford said, stepping aside to let them
take the trail up.
Morse too moved back to let Barney pass. The eyes of the two men met
for a fraction of a second. Tom's lips framed silently one word. In
that time a message was given and received.
The young man followed Barney, the constable at his heels. Morse
stumbled, slipped to all fours, and slid back. He flung out his arms
to steady himself and careened back against the constable. His flying
hands caught at the scarlet coat. His bent head and shoulders thrust
Beresford back and down.
Barney started to run.
The officer struggled to hold his footing against the awkward incubus,
to throw the man off so that he could pursue Barney. His efforts were
vain. Morse, evidently trying to regain his equilibrium, plunged
wildly at him and sent him ploughing into the willows. The Montanan
landed heavily on top, pinned him down, and smothered him.
The scarlet coat was a center of barrel hoops, bushes, staves, and
wildly jerking arms and legs.
Morse made heroic efforts to untangle himself from the clutter. Once
or twice he extricated himself almost, only to lose his balance on the
slippery bushes and come skating down again on the officer just as he
was trying to rise.
It was a scene for a moving-picture comedy, if the screen had been a
feature of that day.
When at last the two men emerged from the gulch, Barney was nowhere to
be seen. With him had vanished the mount of Beresford.
The constable laughed nonchalantly. He had just lost a prisoner, which
was against the unwritten law of the Force, but he had gained another
in his place. It would not be long till he had Barney too.
"Pretty work," he said appreciatively. "You couldn't have done it
better if you'd done it on purpose, could you?"
"Done what?" asked Morse, with bland naivete.
"Made a pillow and a bed of me, skated on me, bowled me over like a
"I ce'tainly was awkward. Couldn't get my footin' at all, seemed like.
Why, where's Barney?" Apparently the trader had just made a discovery.