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The Barrier by Rex Beach

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Many men were in debt to the trader at Flambeau, and many counted
him as a friend. The latter never reasoned why, except that he had
done them favors, and in the North that counts for much. Perhaps
they built likewise upon the fact that he was ever the same to all,
and that, in days of plenty or in times of famine, his store was
open to every man, and all received the same measure. Nor did he
raise his prices when the boats were late. They recalled one bleak
and blustery autumn when the steamer sank at the Lower Ramparts,
taking with her all their winter's food, how he eked out his scanty
stock, dealing to each and every one his portion, month by month.
They remembered well the bitter winter that followed, when the
spectre of famine haunted their cabins, and when for endless periods
they cinched their belts, and cursed and went hungry to sleep,
accepting, day by day, the rations doled out to them by the grim,
gray man at the log store. Some of them had money-belts weighted low
with gold washed from the bars at Forty Mile, and there were others
who had wandered in from the Koyukuk with the first frosts, foot-
sore and dragging, the legs of their skin boots eaten to the ankle,
and the taste of dog meat still in their mouths. Broken and
dispirited, these had fared as well through that desperate winter as
their brothers from up-river, and received pound for pound of musty
flour, strip for strip of rusty bacon, lump for lump of precious
sugar. Moreover, the price of no single thing had risen throughout
the famine.

Some of them, to this day, owed bills at Old Man Gale's, of which
they dared not think; but every fall and every spring they came
again and told of their disappointment, and every time they fared
back into the hills bearing another outfit, for which he rendered no
account, not even when the debts grew year by year, not even to "No
Creek" Lee, the most unlucky of them all, who said that a curse lay
on him so that when a pay-streak heard him coming it got up and
moved away and hid itself.

There were some who had purposely shirked a reckoning, in years
past, but these were few, and their finish had been of a nature to
discourage a similar practice on the part of others, and of a
nature, moreover, to lead good men to care for the trader and for
his methods. He mixed in no man's business, he took and paid his
dues unfalteringly. He spoke in a level voice, and he smiled but
rarely. He gazed at a stranger once and weighed him carefully,
thereafter his eyes sought the distances again, as if in search of
some visitor whom he knew or hoped or feared would come. Therefore,
men judged he had lived as strong men live, and were glad to call
him friend.

This day he stood in the door of his post staring up the sun-lit
river, absorbing the warmth of the Arctic afternoon. The Yukon swept
down around the great bend beneath the high, cut banks and past the
little town, disappearing behind the wooded point below, which
masked the up-coming steamers till one heard the sighing labor of
their stacks before he saw their smoke. It was a muddy, rushing
giant, bearing a burden of sand and silt, so that one might hear it
hiss and grind by stooping at its edge to listen; but the slanting
sun this afternoon made it appear like a boiling flood of molten
gold which issued silently out of a land of mystery and vanished
into a valley of forgetfulness. At least so the trader fancied, and
found himself wishing that it might carry away on its bosom the
heavy trouble which weighed him down, and bring in its place
forgetfulness of all that had gone before. Instead, however, it
seemed to hurry with news of those strange doings "up-river," news
that every down-coming steamboat verified. For years he had known
that some day this thing would happen, that some day this isolation
would be broken, that some day great hordes of men would overrun
this unknown land, bringing with them that which he feared to meet,
that which had made him what he was. And now that the time had come,
he was unprepared.

The sound of shouting caused him to turn his head. Down-stream, a
thousand yards away, men were raising a flag-staff made from the
trunk of a slender fir, from which the bark had been stripped,
heaving on their tackle as they sang in unison. They stood well out
upon the river's bank before a group of well-made houses, the peeled
timbers of which shone yellow in the sun. He noted the symmetrical
arrangement of the buildings, noted the space about them that had
been smoothed for a drill-ground, and from which the stumps had been
removed; noted that the men wore suits of blue; and noted, in
particular, the figure of an officer commanding them.

The lines about the trader's mouth deepened, and his heavy brows

"That means the law," he murmured, half aloud, while in his voice
was no trace of pleasure, nor of that interest which good men are
wont to show at sight of the flag. "The last frontier is gone. The
trail ends here!"

He stood so, meditating sombrely, till the fragment of a song hummed
lightly by a girl fell pleasantly on his ears, whereupon the shadows
vanished from his face, and he turned expectantly, the edges of his
teeth showing beneath his mustache, the corners of his eyes
wrinkling with pleasure.

The sight was good to him, for the girl approaching down the trail
was like some wood sprite, light-footed, slender, and dark, with
twin braids of hair to her waist framing an oval face colored by the
wind and sun. She was very beautiful, and a great fever surged up
through the old man's veins, till he gripped the boards at his side
and bit sharply at the pipe between his teeth.

"The salmon-berries are ripe," she announced, "and the hills back of
the village are pink with them. I took Constantine's squaw with me,
and we picked quarts and quarts. I ate them all!"

Her laughter was like the tinkle of silver bells. Her head, thrown
back as she laughed gayly, displayed a throat rounded and full and
smooth, and tanned to the hue of her wind-beaten cheeks. Every move
of her graceful body was unrestrained and flowing, with a hint of
Indian freedom about it. Beaded and trimmed like a native princess,
her garments manifested an ornature that spoke of savagery, yet they
were neatly cut and held to the pattern of the whites.

"Constantine was drunk again last night, and I had to give him a
talking to when we came back. Oh, but I laid him out! He's
frightened to death of me when I'm angry."

She furrowed her brow in a scowl--the daintiest, most ridiculous
pucker of a brow that ever man saw--and drew her red lips into an
angry pout as she recounted her temperance talk till the trader
broke in, his voice very soft, his gray-blue eyes as tender as those
of a woman:

"It's good to have you home again, Necia. The old sun don't shine as
bright when you're away, and when it rains it seems like the moss
and the grass and the little trees was crying for you. I reckon
everything weeps when you're gone, girl, everything except your old
dad, and sometimes he feels like he'd have to bust out and join the
rest of them."

He seated himself upon the worn spruce-log steps, and the girl
settled beside him and snuggled against his knee.

"I missed you dreadfully, daddy," she said. "It seemed as if those
days at the Mission would never end. Father Barnum and the others
were very kind, and I studied hard, but there wasn't any fun in
things without you."

"I reckon you know as much as a priest, now, don't you?"

"Oh, lots more," she said, gravely. "You see, I am a woman."

He nodded reflectively. "So you are! I keep forgetting that."

Their faces were set towards the west, where the low sun hung over a
ragged range of hills topped with everlasting white. The great
valley, dark with an untrodden wilderness of birch and spruce and
alder, lay on this side, sombre and changeless, like a great, dark-
green mat too large for its resting-place, its edges turned up
towards the line of unmelting snow. Beyond were other ranges thrust
skyward in a magnificent confusion, while still to the farther side
lay the purple valley of the Koyukuk, a valley that called
insistently to restless men, welcoming them in the spring, and
sending them back in the late summer tired and haggard with the
hunger of the North. Each year a tithe remained behind, the toll of
the trackless places, but the rest went back again and again, and
took new brothers with them.

"Did you like the books I sent you with Poleon when he went down to
the coast? I borrowed them from Shakespeare George."

The girl laughed. "Of course I did--that is, all but one of them."

"Which one?"

"I think it was called The Age of Reason, or something like that. I
didn't get a good look at it, for Father Barnum shrieked when he saw
it, then snatched it as if it were afire. He carried it down to the
river with the tongs."

"H'm! Now that I think of it," said the old man, "Shakespeare
grinned when he gave it to me. You see, Poleon ain't much better on
the read than I am, so we never noticed what kind of a book it was."

"When will Poleon get back, do you suppose?"

"Most any day now, unless the Dawson dance-halls are too much for
him. It won't take him long to sell our skins if what I hear is

"What is that?"

"About these Cheechakos. They say there are thousands of tenderfeet
up there, and more coming in every day."

"Oh! If I had only been here in time to go with him!" breathed the
girl. "I never saw a city. It must be just like Seattle, or New

Gale shook his head. "No. There's considerable difference. Some time
I'll take you out to the States, and let you see the world--maybe."
He uttered the last word in an undertone, as if in self-debate, but
the girl was too excited to notice.

"You will take mother, too, and the kiddies, won't you?"

"Of course!"

"Oh! I--I--" The attempt to express what this prospect meant to her
was beyond her girlish rapture, but her parted lips and shining eyes
told the story to Gale. "And Poleon must go, too. We can't go
anywhere without him." The old man smiled down upon her in
reassurance. "I wonder what he'll say when he finds the soldiers
have come. I wonder if he'll like it."

Gale turned his eyes down-stream to the barracks, and noted that the
long flag-staff had at last been erected. Even as he looked he saw a
bundle mounting towards its tip, and then beheld the Stars and
Stripes flutter out in the air, while the men below cheered noisily.
It was some time before he answered.

"Poleon Doret is like the rest of us men up here in the North. We
have taken care of ourselves so far, and I guess we're able to keep
it up without the help of a smooth-faced Yankee kid for guardian."

"Lieutenant Burrell isn't a Yankee," said Necia. "He is a blue-grass
man. He comes from Kentucky."

Her father grunted contemptuously. "I might have known it. Those
rebels are a cultus, lazy lot. A regular male man with any ginger in
him would shed his coat and go to work, instead of wearing his
clothes buttoned up all day. It don't take much 'savvy' to run a
handful of thirteen-dollar-a-month soldiers." Necia stirred a bit
restlessly, and the trader continued: "It ain't man's work, it's--
loafing. If he tries to boss us he'll get QUITE a surprise."

"He won't try to boss you. He has been sent here to build a military
post, and to protect the miners in their own self-government. He
won't take any part in their affairs as long as they are conducted

Being at a loss for an answer to this unexpected defence, the old
man grunted again, with added contempt, while his daughter

"This rush to the upper country has brought in all sorts of people,
good, bad--and worse; and the soldiers have been sent to prevent
trouble, and to hold things steady till the law can be established.
The Canadian Mounted Police are sending all their worst characters
down-river, and our soldiers have been scattered among the American
camps for our protection. I think it's fine."

"Where did you learn all this?"

"Lieutenant Burrell told me," she replied; at which her father
regarded her keenly. She could not see the curious look in his eyes,
nor did she turn when, a moment later, he resumed, in an altered

"I reckon Poleon will bring you something pretty from Dawson, eh?"

"He has never failed to bring me presents, no matter where he came
from. Dear old Poleon!" She smiled tenderly. "Do you remember that
first day when he drifted, singing, into sight around the bend up
yonder? He had paddled his birch-bark from the Chandelar without a
thing to eat; hunger and hardship only made him the happier, and the
closer he drew his belt the louder he sang."

"He was bound for his 'New Country'!"

"Yes. He didn't know where it lay, but the fret for travel was on
him, and so he drifted and sang, as he had drifted and sung from the
foot of Lake Le Barge."

"That was four years ago," mused Gale, "and he never found his 'New
Country,' did he?"

"No. We tied him down and choked it out of him," Necia laughed.
"Dear, funny old Poleon--he loves me like a brother."

The man opened his lips, then closed them, as if on second thought,
and rose to his feet, for, coming towards them up the trail from the
barracks, he beheld a trim, blue-coated figure. He peered at the
approaching officer a moment, set his jaw more firmly, and
disappeared into the store.

"Well, we have raised our flag-staff," said the Lieutenant as he
took a seat below Necia. "It's like getting settled to keep house."

"Are you lazy?" inquired the girl.

"I dare say I am," he admitted. "I've never had time to find out.

"Are you going to boss our people around?" she continued, bent on
her own investigation.

"No. Not as long as they behave. In fact, I hardly know what I am to
do. Maybe you can tell me." His smile was peculiarly frank and
winning. "You see, it's my first command, and my instructions,
although comprehensive, are rather vague. I am supposed to see that
mining rights are observed, to take any criminals who kindly offer
themselves up to be arrested, and to sort of handle things that are
too tough for the miners themselves."

"Why, you are a policeman!" said Necia, at which he made a wry face.

"The Department, in its wisdom, would have me, a tenderfoot, adjust
those things that are too knotty for these men who have spent their
lives along the frontier."

"I don't believe you will be very popular with our people," Necia
announced, meditatively.

"No. I can see that already. I wasn't met with any brass-bands, and
I haven't received any engraved silver from the admiring citizens of
Flambeau. That leaves nothing but the women to like me, and, as you
are the only one in camp, you will have to like me very much to make
up for its shortcomings."

She approved of his unusual drawl; it gave him a kind of
deliberation which every move of his long, lithe body belied and
every glance of his eyes contradicted. Moreover, she liked his
youth, so clean and fresh and strange in this land where old men are
many and the young ones old with hardship and grave with the silence
of the hills. Her life had been spent entirely among men who were
her seniors, and, although she had ruled them like a spoiled queen,
she knew as little of their sex as they did of hers. Unconsciously
the strong young life within her had clamored for companionship, and
it was this that had drawn her to Poleon Doret--who would ever
remain a boy--and it was this that drew her to the young Kentuckian;
this, and something else in him, that the others lacked.

"Now that I think it over," he continued, "I'd rather have you like
me than have the men do so."

"Of course," she nodded. "They do anything I want them to--all but
father, and--"

"It isn't that," he interrupted, quickly. "It is because you ARE the
only woman of the place, because you are such a surprise. To think
that in the heart of this desolation I should find a girl like--like
you, like the girls I know at home."

"Am I like other girls?" she inquired, eagerly. "I have often

"You are, and you are not. You are surprisingly conventional for
these surroundings, and yet unconventionally surprising--for any
place. Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you get here?"

"I am just what you see. I came from the States, and I was carried.
That is all I can remember."

"Then you haven't lived here always?"

"Oh, dear, no! We came here while I was very little, but of late I
have been away at school."

"Some seminary, eh?"

At this she laughed aloud. "Hardly that, either. I've been at the
Mission. Father Barnum has been teaching me for five years. I came
up-river a day ahead of you."

She asked no questions of him in return, for she had already learned
all there was to know the day before from a grizzled corporal in
whom was the hunger to talk. She had learned of a family of Burrells
whose name was known throughout the South, and that Meade Burrell
came from the Frankfort branch, the branch that had raised the
soldiers. His father had fought with Lee, and an uncle was now in
the service at Washington. On the mother's side the strain was
equally militant, but the Meades had sought the sea. The old soldier
had told her much more, of which she understood little; told her of
the young man's sister, who had come all the way from Kentucky to
see her brother off when he sailed from San Francisco; told her of
the Lieutenant's many friends in Washington, and of his family name
and honor. Meade Burrell was undoubtedly a fine young fellow in his
corporal's eyes, and destined to reach great heights, as the other
Burrells had before him. The old soldier, furthermore, had looked at
her keenly and added that the Burrells were known as "divils among
the weemen."

Resting thus on the steps of Old Man Gale's store, the two talked on
till they were disturbed by the sound of shrill voices approaching,
at which the man looked up. Coming down the trail from the town was
a squaw and two children. At sight of Necia the little ones shouted
gleefully and scampered forward, climbing over her like half-grown
puppies. They were boy and girl, both brown as Siwashes, with eyes
like jet beads and hair that was straight and coarse and black. At a
glance Burrell knew them for "breeds," and evidently the darker half
was closer to the surface now, for they choked, gurgled, stuttered,
and coughed in their Indian tongue, while Necia answered them
likewise. At a word from her they turned and saw him, then, abashed
at the strange splendor of his uniform, fell silent, pressing close
to her. The squaw, also, seemed to resent his presence, for, after a
lowering glance, she drew the shawl closer about her head, and,
leaving the trail, slunk out of sight around the corner of the

Burrell looked up at his companion's clear-cut, delicate face, at
the wind-tanned cheeks, against which her long braids lay like the
blue-black locks of an Egyptian maid, then at her warm, dark eyes,
in which was a hint of the golden light of the afternoon sun. He
noted covertly the slender lines of her body and the dainty, firm,
brown hands flung protectingly about the shoulders of her little
friends, who were peering at him owlishly from their shelter.

The bitter revolt that had burned in him at the prospect of a long
exile in this undiscovered spot died out suddenly. What a picture
she made! How fresh and flower-like she looked, and yet the wisdom
of her! He spoke impulsively:

"I am glad you are here, Miss Necia. I was glad the moment I saw
you, and I have been growing gladder ever since, for I never
imagined there would be anybody in this place but men and squaws--
men who hate the law and squaws who slink about--like that." He
nodded in the direction of the Indian woman's disappearance. "Either
that, or, at best, a few 'breeds' like these little fellows."

She looked at him quickly.

"Well! What difference would that make?"

"Ugh! Squaws and half-breeds!" His tone conveyed in full his utter

The tiny hands of the boy and girl slid into her own as she arose. A
curiously startled look lay in her eyes, and an inquiring, plaintive
wrinkle came between her brows.

"I don't believe you understand," she said. "Lieutenant Burrell,
this is my sister, Molly Gale, and this is my little brother John."
Both round-eyed elfs made a ducking courtesy and blinked at the
soldier, who gained his feet awkwardly, a flush rising into his

From the regions at the rear of the store came the voice of an
Indian woman calling:

"Necia! Necia!"

"Coming in a moment!" the girl called back; then, turning to the
young officer, she added, quietly: "Mother needs me now. Good-bye!"



The trader's house sat back of the post, farther up on the hill. It
was a large, sleepy house, sprawling against the sunny side of the
slope, as if it had sought the southern exposure for warmth, and had
dozed off one sultry afternoon and never waked up from its slumber.
It was of great, square-hewn timbers, built in the Russian style,
the under side of each log hollowed to fit snugly over its fellow
underneath, upon which dried moss had previously been spread, till
in effect the foot-thick walls were tongued and grooved and, through
years of seasoning, become so tinder dry that no frosts or heats
could penetrate them. Many architects had worked on it as it grew,
room by room, through the years, and every man had left behind the
mark of his individuality, from Pretty Charlie the pilot, who swung
an axe better than any Indian on the river, to Larsen the ship's
carpenter, who worked with an adze and who starved the summer
following on the Koyukuk. It had stretched a bit year by year, for
the trader's family had been big in the early days when hunters and
miners of both breeds came in to trade, to loaf, and to swap stories
with him. Through the winter days, when the caribou were in the
North and the moose were scarce, whole families of natives came and
camped there, for Alluna, his squaw, drew to her own blood, and they
felt it their due to eat of the bounty of him who ruled them like an
overlord; but when the first goose honked they slipped away until,
by the time the salmon showed, the house was empty again and silent,
save for Alluna and the youngsters. In return these people brought
him many skins and much fresh meat, for which he paid no price, and,
with the fall, his cache was filled with fish of which the bulk were
dried king salmon as long as a grown man's leg and worth a dollar
apiece to any traveller.

There are men whose wits are quick as light, and whose muscles have
been so tempered and hardened by years of exercise that they are
like those of a wild animal. Of such was John Gale; but with all his
intelligence he was very slow at reading, hence he chose to spend
his evenings with his pipe and his thoughts, rather than with a
book, as lonesome men are supposed to do. He did with little sleep,
and many nights he sat alone till Alluna and Necia would be awakened
by his heavy step as he went to his bed. That he was a man who could
really think, and that his thoughts were engrossing, no one doubted
who saw him sitting enthralled at such a time, for he neither
rocked, nor talked, nor moved a muscle hour after hour, and only his
eyes were alive. To-night the spell was on him again, and he sat
bulked up in his chair, rocklike and immovable.

From the open door of the next room he could hear Necia and the
little ones. She had made them ready for bed, and was telling them
the tale of the snow-bird's spot.

"So when all the other birds had failed," he heard her say, "the
little snowbird asked for a chance to try. He flew and flew, and
just before he came to the edge of the world where the two Old Women
lived he pulled out all of his feathers. When he came to them he

"'I am very cold. May I warm myself at your fire?'"

"They saw how little and naked he was, and how he shivered, so they
did not throw sticks at him, but allowed him to creep close. He
watched his chance, and when they were not looking he picked up a
red-hot coal in his beak and flew back home with it as fast as ever
he could--and that is how fire came to the Indian people."

"Of course the coal was hot, and it burned his throat till a drop of
blood came through, so ever since that day the snowbird has had a
red spot on his throat."

The two children spoke out in their mother's tongue, clamoring for
the story of the Good Beaver who saved the hunter's life, and she
began, this time in the language of the Yukon people, while Gale
listened to the low music of her voice, muffled and broken by the
log partition.

His squaw came in, her arrival unannounced except by the scuff of
her moccasins, and seated herself against the wall. She did not use
a chair, of which there were several, but crouched upon a bear-skin,
her knees beneath her chin, her toes a trifle drawn together. She
sat thus for a long time, while Necia continued her stories and put
the little ones to bed. Soon the girl came to say good-night.

John Gale had never kissed his daughter, and, as it was not a custom
of her mother's race, she never missed the caresses. On rare
occasions the old man romped with the little ones and took them in
his arms and acted as other fathers act, but he had never done these
things with her. When she had gone he spoke without moving.

"She'll never marry Poleon Doret."

"Why?" inquired Alluna.

"He ain't her kind."

"Poleon is a good man."

"None better. But she'll marry some--some white man."

"Poleon is white," the squaw declared.

"He is and he ain't. I mean she'll marry an 'outside' man. He ain't
good enough, and--well, he ain't her kind." Alluna's grunt of
indignation was a sufficient answer to this, but he resumed, jerking
his head in the direction of the barracks. "She's been talking a lot
with this--this soldier."

"Him good man, too, I guess," said the wife.

"The hell he is!" cried the trader, fiercely. "He don't mean any
good to her."

"Him got a woman, eh?" said the other.

"No, no! I reckon he's single all right, but you don't understand.
He's different from us people. He's--he's--" Gale paused, at a loss
for words to convey his meaning. "Well, he ain't the kind that would
marry a half-breed."

Alluna pondered this cryptic remark unsuccessfully, and was still
seeking its solution when her lord continued:

"If she really got to loving him it would be bad for all of us."

Evidently Alluna read some hidden meaning back of these words, for
she spoke quickly, but in her own tongue now, as she was accustomed
to do when excited or alarmed.

"Then this thing must cease at once. The risk is too great. Better
that you kill him before it is too late."'

"Hardly that," said the trader.

"Think of the little ones and of me," the squaw insisted, and,
encouraged by his silence, continued: "Why not? Soon the nights will
grow dark. The river runs swiftly, and it never gives up its dead. I
can do it if you dare not. No one would suspect me."

Gale rose and laid his big hand firmly on her shoulder.

"Don't talk like that. There has been too much blood let already.
We'll allow things to run along a bit as they are. There's time
enough to worry."

He rose, but instead of going to his room he strode out of the house
and walked northward up the trail, passing through the town and out
of sight. Alluna sat huddled up in the doorway, her shawl drawn
close about her head, and waited for him until the late sun--which
at this time of year revolves in a great circle overhead--dipped
down below the distant mountains for the midnight hour, then rolled
slanting out again a few points farther north, to begin its long
journey anew; but he did not return. At last she crept stiffly in-
doors, like an old and weary woman, the look of fright still staring
in her eyes.

About nine o'clock the next morning a faint and long-drawn cry came
from the farthest limits of the little camp. An instant later it was
echoed closer, and then a dog began to howl. Before its voice had
died away another took it up sadly, and within three breaths, from
tip and down the half-mile of scanty water-front, came the cry of
"Steam-bo-o-a-t!" Cabin doors opened and men came out, glanced up
the stream and echoed the call, while from sleepy nooks and sun-
warmed roofs wolf-dogs arose, yawning and stretching. Those who had
slept late dressed as they hurried towards the landing-place,
joining in the plaint, till men and malamutes united in the shrill,
slow cry.

Down-stream came the faint-sighing whoof-whoof of a steamer, and
then out from behind the bend she burst, running on the swift spring
current with the speed of a deer. She blew hoarsely before the tardy
ones had reached the bank, and when abreast of the town her bell
clanged, the patter of her great wheel ceased, she reversed her
engines and swung gracefully till her bow was up against the
current, then ploughed back, inching in slowly until, with much
shouting and the sound of many gongs, she slid her nose quietly into
the bank beneath the trading-post and was made fast. Her cabin-deck
was lined with passengers, most of whom were bound for the
"outside," although still clad in mackinaw and overalls. They all
gazed silently at the hundred men of Flambeau, who stared back at
them till the gang-plank was placed, when they came ashore to
stretch their legs. One of them, however, made sufficient noise to
make up for the silence of the others. Before the steamer had
grounded he appeared among the Siwash deck-hands, his head and
shoulders towering above them, his white teeth gleaming from a face
as dark as theirs, shouting to his friends ashore and pantomiming
his delight to the two Gale children who had come with Alluna to
welcome him.

"Who's dose beeg, tall people w'at stan' 'longside of you, Miz
Gale?" he called to her; then, shading his eyes elaborately, he
cried, in a great voice: "Wall! wal! I b'lieve dat's M'sieu Jean an'
Mam'selle Mollee. Ba Gar! Dey get so beeg w'ile I'm gone I don' know
dem no more!"

The youthful Gales wriggled at this delicious flattery and dug their
tiny moccasined toes into the sand. Molly courtesied nervously and
continuously as she clung to her mother, and the boy showed a gap
where two front teeth had been and was now filled by a very pink

"Wen you goin' stop grow, anyhow, you two, eh?" continued the
Frenchman, and then, in a tone of sadness: "If I t'ink you ack lak'
dis, I don' buy all dese present. Dese t'ing ain' no good for ole
folks. I guess I'll t'row dem away." He made as if to heave a bundle
that he carried into the river, whereupon the children shrieked at
him so shrilly that he laughed long and incontinently at the success
of his sally.

Lieutenant Burrell had come with the others, for the arrival of a
steamboat called for the presence of every soul in camp, and, spying
Necia in the outskirts of the crowd, he took his place beside her.
He felt constrained, after what had happened on the previous
evening, but she seemed to have forgotten the episode, and greeted
him with her usual frankness. Even had she remembered it, there was
nothing he could say in explanation or in apology. He had lain awake
for hours thinking of her, and had fallen asleep with her still in
his mind, for the revelation of her blood had come as a shock to
him, the full force of which he could not appreciate until he had
given himself time to think of it calmly.

He had sprung from a race of Slave-holders, from a land where birth
and breed are more than any other thing, where a drop of impure
blood effects an ineradicable stain; therefore the thought of
this girl's ignoble parentage was so repugnant to him that the more
he pondered it the more pitiful it seemed, the more monstrous. Lying
awake and thinking of her in the stillness of his quarters, it had
seemed a very unfortunate and a very terrible thing. During his
morning duties the vision of her had been fresh before him again,
and his constant contemplation of the matter had wrought a change in
his attitude towards the girl, of which he was uncomfortably
conscious and which he was glad to see she did not perceive.

"There are some of the lucky men from El Dorado Creek," she informed
him, pointing out certain people on the deck. "They are going out to
the States to get something to eat. They say that nothing like those
mines have ever been heard of in the world. I wish father had gone
up last year when the news came."

"Why didn't he?" asked the Lieutenant. "Surely he must have been
among the first to learn of it."

"Yes. 'Stick' George sent him word a year ago last fall, when he
made the first discovery, but for some reason father wouldn't go."

The men were pouring off the boat now, and through the crowd came
the tall Frenchman, bearing in the hollow of each arm a child who
clasped a bundle to its breast. His eyes grew brighter at sight of
Necia, and he broke into a flood of patois; they fairly bombarded
each other with quick questions and fragmentary answers till she
remembered her companion, who had fallen back a pace and was
studying the newcomer, whereupon she turned.

"Oh, I forgot my manners. Lieutenant Burrell, this is Napoleon
Doret--our Poleon!" she added, with proud emphasis.

Doret checked his volubility and stared at the soldier, whom he
appeared to see for the first time. The little brown people in his
arms stared likewise, and it seemed to Burrell that a certain
distrust was in each of the three pairs of eyes, only in those of
the man there was no shyness. Instead, the Canadian looked him over
gravely from head to heel, seeming to note each point of the
unfamiliar attire; then he inquired, without removing his glance:

"Were'bouts you live, eh?"

"I live at the post yonder," said the Lieutenant.

"Wat biznesse you work at?"

"I am a soldier."

"Wat for you come 'ere? Dere's nobody fightin' roun' dis place."

"The Lieutenant has been stationed here, foolish," said Necia. "Come
up to the store quick and tell me what it's like at Dawson." With a
farewell nod to Burrell, she went off with Doret, whose speech was
immediately released again.

In spite of the man's unfriendliness, Burrell watched him with
admiration. There were no heels to his tufted fur boots, and yet he
stood a good six feet two, as straight as a pine sapling, and it
needed no second glance to tell of what metal he was made. His
spirit showed in his whole body, in the set of his head, and, above
all, in his dark, warm face, which glowed with eagerness when he
talked, and that was ever--when he was not singing.

"I never see so many people since I lef Quebec," he was saying.
"She's jus' lak' beeg city--mus' be t'ree, four t'ousan' people.
Every day some more dey come, an' all night dey dance an' sing an'
drink w'iskee. Ba gosh, dat's fine place!"

"Are there lots of white women?" asked the girl.

"Yes, two, t'ree hondred. Mos' of dem is work in dance-halls. Dere's
one fine gal I see, name' Marie Bourgette. I tell you 'bout her by-

"Oh, Poleon, you're in love!" cried Necia.

"No, siree!" he denied. "Dere's none of dem gal look half so purty
lak' you." He would have said more, but spying the trader at the
entrance of the store, he went to him, straightway launching into
the details of their commercial enterprise, which, happily, had been
most successful. Before they could finish, the crowd from the boat
began to drift in, some of them buying drinks at the bar and others
making purchases of tobacco and so forth, but for the main part
merely idling about curiously.

Among the merchandise of the Post there were for sale a scanty
assortment of fire-arms, cheap shot-guns, and a Winchester or two,
displayed in a rack behind the counter in a manner to attract the
eye of such native hunters as might need them, and with the rest
hung a pair of Colt's revolvers. One of the new arrivals, who had
separated from the others at the front, now called to Gale:

"Are those Colts for sale? Mine was stolen the other day." Evidently
he was accustomed to Yukon prices, for he showed no surprise at the
figure the trader named, but took the guns and tested each of them,
whereupon the old man knew that here was no "Cheechako," as
tenderfeet are known in the North, although the man's garb had
deceived him at first glance. The stranger balanced the weapons, one
in either hand, then he did the "double roll" neatly, following
which he executed a move that Gale had not witnessed for many years.
He extended one of the guns, butt foremost, as if surrendering it,
the action being free and open, save for the fact that his
forefinger was crooked and thrust through the trigger-guard; then,
with the slightest jerk of the wrist, the gun spun about, the handle
jumped into his palm, and instantly there was a click as his thumb
flipped the hammer. It was the old "road-agent spin," which Gale as
a boy had practised hours at a time; but that this man was in
earnest he showed by glancing upward sharply when the trader

"This one hangs all right," he said; "give me a box of cartridges."

He emptied his gold-sack in payment for the gun and ammunition, then
remarked: "That pretty nearly cleans me. If I had the price I'd
take them both."

Gale wondered what need induced this fellow to spend his last few
dollars on a fire-arm, but he said nothing until the man had
loosened the bottom buttons of his vest and slipped the weapon
inside the band of his trousers, concealing its handle beneath the
edge of his waistcoat. Then he inquired:

"Bound for the outside?"

"No. I'm locating here."

The trader darted a quick glance at him. He did not like this man.

"There ain't much doing in this camp; it's a pretty poor place," he
said, guardedly.

"I'll put in with you, from its looks," agreed the other. "It's got
too many soldiers to be worth a damn." He snarled this bitterly,
with a peculiar leering lift of his lip, as if his words tasted

"Most of the boys are going up-river," said Gale.

"Well, those hills look as if they had gold in them," said the
stranger, pointing vaguely. "I'm going to prospect."

Gale knew instinctively that the fellow was lying, for his hands
were not those of a miner; but there was nothing to be said. His
judgment was verified, however, when Poleon drew him aside later and

"You know dat feller?"


"He's bad man."

"How do you know?"

"She's leave Dawson damn queeck. Dose Mounted Police t'row 'im on de
boat jus' before we lef." Then he told a story that he had heard.
The man, it seemed, had left Skagway between two suns, upon the
disruption of Soapy Smith's band of desperadoes, and had made for
the interior, but had been intercepted at the Pass by two members of
the Citizens' Committee who came upon him suddenly. Pretending to
yield, he had executed some unexpected coup as he delivered his gun,
for both men fell, shot through the body. No one knew just what it
was he did, nor cared to question him overmuch. The next heard of
him was at Lake Bennett, over the line, where the Mounted Police
recognized him and sent him on. They marked him well, however, and
passed him on from post to post as they had driven others whose
records were known; but he had lost himself in the confusion at
Dawson for a few weeks, until the scarlet-coated riders searched him
out, disarmed him, and forced him sullenly aboard this steamer. The
offscourings of the Canadian frontier were drifting back into their
native country to settle.

Old Man Gale cared little for this, for he had spent his life among
such men, but as he watched the fellow a scheme outlined itself in
his head. Evidently the man dared not go farther down the river, for
there was nothing save Indian camps and a Mission or two this side
of St. Michael's, and at that point there was a court and many
soldiers, where one was liable to meet the penalty of past misdeeds,
hence he was probably resolved to stop here, and, judging by his
record, he was a man of settled convictions. Continued persecution
is wont to stir certain natures to such reckless desperation that
interference is dangerous, and Gale, recalling his sullen look and
ill-concealed contempt for the soldiers, put the stranger down as a
man of this type. Furthermore, he had been impressed by the fellow's
remarkable dexterity of wrist.

The trader stepped to the door, and, seeing Burrell on the deck of
the steamer, went down towards him. It was a long chance, but the
stakes were big and worth the risk. He had thought much during the
night previous--in fact, for many hours--and the morning had found
him still undecided, wherefore he took this course.

"Necia tells me that you aim to keep law and order here," he began,
abruptly, having drawn the young man aside.

"Those are my instructions," said Burrell, "but they are so vague--"

"Well! This camp is bigger than it was an hour ago, and it 'ain't
improved any in the growth. Yonder goes the new citizen." He pointed
to the stranger, who had returned to the steamer for his baggage and
was descending the gang-plank beneath them, a valise in each hand.
"He's a thief and a murderer, and we don't want him here. Now, it's
up to you."

"I don't understand," said the Lieutenant, whereupon the trader told
him Doret's tale. "You and your men were sent here to keep things
peaceable," he concluded, "and I reckon when a man is too tough for
the Canuck police he is tough enough for you to tackle. There ain't
a lock and key in the camp, and we ain't had a killing or a stealing
in ten years. We'd like to keep it that way."

"Well--you see--I know nothing of that shooting affray, so I doubt
if my authority would permit me to interfere," the soldier mused,
half to himself.

"I allowed you were to use your own judgment," said the elder man.

"So I am, I suppose. There is one chance, Mr. Gale. If you'll back
me up I'll send him on down to St. Michael's. That is the most I can

The Lieutenant outlined his plan, and as he went on the trader
nodded approval.

The young man gazed back at him so squarely, his eyes were so
pleasant and friendly, his whole person breathed such straight-up
honesty and freshness, that shame arose in the old man, and he had
hard shift to keep his glance from wavering. Without forethought he
answered, impulsively:

"He's desperate and he's dangerous. I sold him a '45' just now." He
was about to tell him where the man wore it, and to add a word
concerning his dexterity with the gun, when the very fearless
deliberation of the youth deterred him. On second thought, Gale
yielded to an impulse to wait and see how Meade Burrell would act
under fire. If the soldier emerged scathless, it would give him a
line on his character; if he did not--well, that would be even
better. The sight of his blue and brass awoke in the elder man dread
and cowardice, emotions he had never experienced before. Anyhow, he
owed it to himself, to Necia, and to the others to find out what
kind of man this soldier was.

The crowd was coming back to the steamer, which had discharged her
few bundles of freight, and there was no one inside the log post as
they entered except Doret and the stranger, who had deposited his
baggage at the rear and was talking with the Frenchman at the bar.
At sight of the Lieutenant he became silent, and turned carelessly,
although with a distrustful stare. Burrell wasted no time.

"Are you going to locate here?" he began.


"I notice you go skeleton-rigged," the soldier continued, indicating
the man's baggage. "Pretty small outfit for a miner, isn't it?"

"It's plenty for me."

"Have you enough money to buy your season's grub?"

"I guess that's my business."

"Pardon me, it is my business also."

"What is this--a hold-up?" The man laughed harshly, at the same time
swinging around till he faced his questioner. Gale noted that his
right hand now hung directly over the spot where his suspenders
buttoned on the right side. The trader moved aside and took up a
position at some distance.

"My orders are to see that all new-comers either have an outfit or
are able to buy one," said Burrell. "Those that are not equipped
properly are to be sent down-river to St. Michael's, where there is
plenty of everything and where they will be taken care of by the
government. Mr. Gale has only sufficient provisions to winter the
men already in this district."

"I can take care of myself," said the man, angrily, "whether I'm
broke or not, and I don't want any of your interference." He shot a
quick glance at Poleon Doret, but the Frenchman's face was like
wood, and his hand still held the neck of the whiskey bottle he had
set out for the stranger before the others entered. Gale leaned
against the opposite counter, his countenance inert but for the
eyes, which were fixed upon the Lieutenant.

"Come," said the officer, peremptorily, "I have heard all about you,
and you are not the kind of citizen we want here, but if you have
enough money for an outfit I can't send you away. If you haven't--"

"I'm broke," said the man, but at the note in his voice Poleon
Doret's muscles tightened, and Burrell, who also read a sinister
message in the tone, slid his heavy service revolver from its
holster beneath his coat.

He had never done this thing before, and it galled him. He had never
drawn a weapon on a man, and this playing at policeman became
suddenly most repugnant, stirring in him the uncomfortable feeling
that he was doing a mean thing, and not only a mean thing, but one
of which he ought to be heartily ashamed. He felt decidedly
amateurish, especially when he saw that the man apparently intended
no resistance and made no move. However, he was in for it now, and
must end as he had begun.

"Give me your gun," he said; "I'll unload it and give it back to you
at the gang-plank."

"All right, you've got the upper hand," said the man through lips
that had gone white. Drawing his weapon from beneath his vest, he
presented it to the officer, butt foremost, hammer underneath. The
cylinder reposed naturally in the palm of his hand, and the tip of
his forefinger was thrust through the trigger-guard.

Burrell lowered the barrel of his revolver and put out his left hand
for the other's weapon. Suddenly the man's wrist jerked, the soldier
saw a blue flicker of sunlight on the steel as it whirled, saw the
arm of Poleon Doret fling itself across the bar with the speed of a
striking serpent, heard a smash of breaking glass, felt the shock of
a concussion, and the spatter of some liquid in his face. Then he
saw the man's revolver on the floor half-way across the room, saw
fragments of glass with it, and saw the fellow step backward,
snatching at the fingers of his right hand. A smell of powder-smoke
and rank whiskey was in the air.

There are times when a man's hand will act more swiftly than his
tongue. Napoleon Doret had seen the manner of the stranger's
surrender of his gun, and, realizing too late what it meant, had
acted. At the very instant of the fellow's treachery, Doret struck
with his bottle just in time to knock the weapon from his hand, but
not in time to prevent its discharge. The bullet was lodged in the
wall a foot from where Gale stood. As the stranger staggered back,
the Frenchman vaulted the bar, but, though swift as a cat, the
soldier, who had also leaped, was before him. Aiming a sweeping
downward blow with his Colt, Burrell clipped the Skagway man just
above the ear, and he reeled; then as he fell the officer struck
wickedly again at his opponent's skull, but Doret seized him by the

"Ba Gar, don't kill 'im twice!"

Burrell wrenched his arm free and turned on Doret a face that
remained long in the Frenchman's memory, a face suffused with fury
and convulsed like that of a sprinter at the finish of a race. The
two men stared at each other over the fallen figure for a brief
moment, until the soldier gained mastery of himself and sheathed his
weapon, when Poleon smiled.

"I spoil' a quart of good w'iskee on you. Dat's wort' five dollar."

The Lieutenant wiped the liquor from his face.

"Quick work, Doret," he said. "I owe you one."

Gale's face was hidden as he bent over the prostrate man, fingering
a long and ragged cut which laid the fellow's scalp open from back
of the ear to the temple, but he mumbled something unintelligible.

"Is he hurt badly?"

"No, you chipped him too low," said the trader. "I told you he was

"He's goin' have nice birt'-mark, anyhow," said Doret, going back of
the bar for some water. They revived the man, then bound up his
injury hastily, and as the steamer cast off they led him to the bank
and passed his grip-sacks to a roustabout. He said no word as he
walked unsteadily up the plank, but turned and stared malignantly at
them from the deck; then, as the craft swung outward into the
stream, he grinned through the trickle of blood that stole down from
beneath his wide hat, if the convulsive grimace he made could be
termed a grin, and cried:

"I'd like to introduce myself, for I'm coming back to winter with
you, Lieutenant! My name is Runnion." And until the steamer was
hidden behind the bend below they saw him standing there gazing back
at them fixedly.

As Burrell left the two men at the store, he gave his hand frankly
to the French-Canadian, and said, while his cheeks flushed:

"I want to thank you for saving me from my own awkwardness."

Doret became even more embarrassed than the Lieutenant at this show
of gratitude, and grunted churlishly. But when the young man had
gone he turned to Gale, who had watched them silently, and said:

"He's nice young feller, ole man. Sapre! Wen he's mad his eye got so
red lak' my ondershirt."

But the trader made no reply.



When the steamer had gone Napoleon Doret went to look for Necia, and
found her playing with the younger Gales, who revelled in the gifts
he had brought. Never had there been such a surprise. Never had
there been such gorgeous presents for little folks. This was a land
in which there were no toys, a country too young for babes; and any
one whose youth had been like that of other children would have seen
a pathos in the joy of these two. Poleon had been hard put to it to
find anything suitable for his little friends, for although there
was all manner of merchandise coming into Dawson, none of it was
designed for tiny people, not even clothes.

It was evident that he had pleased them, for when he appeared they
ran at his legs like twin cubs, incoherent and noisy, the pleasure
within them too turbulent for expression. They had never played with
a toy that Poleon had not built for them, nor worn a garment that
Alluna had not made. This, then, was a day of revelations, for the
first thing they beheld upon opening their packs was a pair of
rubber boots for each. They were ladies' knee-boots, the smallest
size in stock, but the Gales entered them bodily, so to speak,
moccasins and all, clear to their hips, like the waders that duck-
hunters use. When they ran they fell down and out of them, but their
pride remained upright and serene, for were not these like the boots
that Poleon wore, and not of Indian make, with foolish beads on
them? Next, the youthful heir had found a straw hat of strange and
wondrous fashion, with a brim like a board and a band of blue, which
Poleon had bought from a college man who had retained this emblem of
his past to the final moment. Like the boots, it was much too large
for little John, and hard to master, but it made a brave display, as
did a red cravat, which covered his front like a baseball catcher's
harness. Molly had also two sets of side-combs, gorgeously
ornamented with glass diamonds, and a silver-handled tooth-brush,
with which she scrubbed the lame puppy. This puppy had three legs
and the mange, and he was her particular pride.

There were certain other things, the use of which they did not
understand, like queer-smelling, soft, yellow balls which Necia said
were oranges and good to eat, although the skins were leathery and
very bitter, nor were they nearly so pleasant to the nose as the
toilet soap, which Necia would not allow them even to taste. Then
there was a box of chocolate candies such as the superintendent at
St. Michael's sent them every spring, and an atomizer, which Necia
had filled with Florida Water. This worked on the puppy even better
than the tooth-brush.

The elder girl laughed gladly as Poleon entered, though her eyes
were wet with the pity of it.

"You seem to bring sunshine wherever you go," she said. "They have
never had things to play with like other children, and it makes me
cry to watch them."

"Ho, ho!" he chuckled, "dis ain'no time for cryin'. Ba gosh! I guess
you don' have so much present w'en you was li'l' gal you'se'f, w'at?
Mebbe you t'ink I forget you. Wal, I didn't."

He began to undo the fastenings of a parcel he carried in his arms,
for Napoleon Doret had brought other things from Dawson besides his
gifts to the children. Necia snatched at the package.

"Don't you dare open it! Why, that's half the fun." She was a child
herself now, her face flushed and her hands a-tremble. Taking the
package to the table, she hurriedly untied the knots while he stood
watching her, his teeth showing white against his dark face, and his
eyes half shut as if dazzled by the sight of her.

"Oh, why didn't you tie more knots in it?" she breathed as she undid
the last, and then, opening the wrappings slowly, she gasped in
astonishment. She shook it out gently, reverently--a clinging black
lace gown of Paris make. Next she opened a box and took from it a
picture hat, with long jet plumes, which she stroked and pressed
fondly against her face. There were other garments also--a silken
petticoat, silk stockings, and a pair of high-heeled shoes to match,
with certain other delicate and dainty things which she modestly
forbore to inspect before the Frenchman, who said no word, but only
gazed at her, and for whom she had no eyes as yet. Finally she laid
her presents aside, and, turning to him, said, in a hushed, awe-
stricken voice:

"It's all there, everything complete! Oh, Poleon--you dear, dear
Poleon!" She took his two big hands by the thumbs, as had been her
custom ever since she was a child, and looked up at him, her eyes
wet with emotion. But she could not keep away from the dress for
long, and returned to feast her eyes upon it, the two children
standing beside her, sprouting out of their rubber boots, with eyes
and mouths round and protruding.

"You lak' it, eh?" pressed Poleon, hungry for more demonstrative

"Oh-h," she sighed, "can't you SEE? Where on earth did you get it?"
Then suddenly realizing its value, she cried, "Why, it must have
cost a fortune!" A quick reproach leaped into her face, but he only
laughed again.

"Wan night I gamble in beeg saloon. Yes, sir! I gamble good dat
night, too. For w'ile I play roulette, den I dance, den I play some
more, an' by-an'-by I see a new dance gal. She's Franche gal, from
Montreal. Dat's de one I tol' you 'bout. Ba Gar! She's swell dress',
too. She's name' Marie Bourgette."

"Oh, I've heard about her," said Necia. "She owns a claim on Bonanza

"Sure, she's frien's wit' Charlie McCormack, dat riche feller, but I
don' know it dis tam', so I ask her for dance wit' me. Den we drink
a bottle of champagne--twenty dollar."

"'Mamselle,' I say, 'how much you charge for sell me dat dress?'"

"'For w'y shall I sell im,' she say; 'I don' wear 'im before till
to-night, an' I don' get no more dress lak' dis for t'ousan'

Necia exclaimed excitedly.

'"For w'y you sell 'im?' I say. 'Biccause I'll tak' 'im down to
Flambeau for Necia Gale, w'at never had no dress lak' dat in all her
life.' Wal, sir, dat Marie Bourgette, she's hear of you before, an'
your dad, too--mos' all dose Cheechakos know 'bout Old Man Gale--so
she say:

"'Wat lookin' kind of gal is dis Necia?' An' I tell her all 'bout
you. Wen I'm t'rough she say:'"

"'But maybe your little frien' is more bigger as I am. Maybe de
dress won't fit.'"

"'Ha! You don' know me, mamselle,' I say. 'I can guess de weight of
a caribou to five poun'. She'll be same size la'kin' one inch 'roun'
de wais'.'"

"'Poleon Doret,' she say, 'you ain' no Franchemans to talk lak'dat.
Look here! I can sell dis dress for t'ousan' dollar to-night, or I
can trade 'im for gol'-mine on El Dorado Creek to some dose Swede
w'at want to catch a gal, but I'm goin' sell 'im to you for t'ree
hondred dollar, jus' w'at I pay for 'im. You wait here till I come

"'No, no, Mamselle Marie, I'll go 'long, too, for so you don' change
your min',' I say; an' I stan' outside her door till she pass me de
whole dam' works."

"' Don' forget de little shoes,' I say--an' dat's how it come!"

"And you paid three hundred dollars for it!" Necia said, aghast. The
Canadian shrugged.

"Only for de good heart of Marie Bourgette I pay wan t'ousan'," said
he. "I mak' seven hondred dollar clean profit!"

"It was very nice of both of you, but--I can't wear it. I've never
seen a dress like it, except in pictures, and I couldn't--" She saw
his face fall, and said, impulsively:

"I'll wear it once, anyhow, Poleon, just for you. Go away quick,
now, and let me put it on."

"Dat's good," he nodded, as he moved away. "I bet you mak' dose
dance-hall women look lak' sucker."

No man may understand the girl's feelings as she set about clothing
herself in her first fine dress. Time and again she had studied
pictures from the "outside" showing women arrayed in the newest
styles, and had closed her eyes to fancy herself dressed in like
manner. She had always had an instinctive feeling that some day she
would leave the North and see the wonderful world of which men spoke
so much, and mingle with the fine ladies of her picture-books, but
she never dreamed to possess an evening-gown while she lived in
Alaska. And now, even while she recognized the grotesqueness of the
situation, she burned to wear it and see herself in the garb of
other women. So, with the morning sun streaming brightly into her
room, lighting up the moss-chinked walls, the rough barbarism of fur
and head and trophy, she donned the beautiful garments.

Poleon's eye had been amazingly correct, for it fitted her neatly,
save at the waist, which was even more than an inch too large,
notwithstanding the fact that she had never worn such a corset as
the well-formed Marie Bourgette was accustomed to.

She pondered long and hesitated modestly when she saw its low cut,
which exposed her neck and shoulders in a totally unaccustomed
manner, for it struck her as amazingly indecent until she scurried
through her magazines again and saw that its construction, as
compared with others, was most conservative. Even so she shrank at
sight of herself below the line of sunburn, for she was ringed about
like a blue-winged teal, the demarcation being more pronounced
because of the natural whiteness of her skin. The year previous
Doret had brought her from the coast a Spanish shawl, which a salt-
water sailor had sold him, and which had lain folded away ever
since. She brought it forth now and arranged it about her shoulders,
but in spite of this covering the fair flesh beneath peeped through
its wide interstices most brazenly. She had never paid marked
attention to the fairness of her skin till now, and all at once this
difference between herself and her little brother and sister struck
her. She had been a mother to them ever since they came, and had
often laughed when she saw how brown their little bodies were,
rejoicing in blushing quietude at her own whiteness, but to-day she
neither laughed nor felt any joy, rather a dim wonder. She sat down,
dress and all, in the thick softness of a great brown bear-skin and
thought it over.

How odd it was, now that she considered it, that she needed no aid
with these alien garments, that she knew instinctively their every
feature, that there was no intricacy to cause her more than an
instant's trouble. This knowledge must be a piece with the intuitive
wit that had been the wonder of Father Barnum and had enabled her to
absorb his teachings as fast as he gave them forth.

She was interrupted in her reverie by the passing of a shadow across
her window and the stamp of a man's feet on the planks at the door.
Of course, it was Poleon, who had come back to see her; so she rose
hastily, gave one quick glance at the mirror above her washstand,
choosing the side that distorted her image the least, and, hearing
him still stamping, perfunctorily called:

"Come in! I'll be right out."

She kicked the train into place behind her, looped the shawl
carelessly about her in a way to veil her modesty effectively, and,
with an expectant smile at his extravagance of admiration, swept out
into the big room, very self-conscious and very pleasing to the eye.
She crossed proudly to the reading-table to give him a fair view of
her splendor, and was into the middle of the room before she looked
up. Taken aback, she uttered a little strangled cry and made a quick
movement of retreat, only to check herself and stand with her chin
high in the air, while wave after wave of color swept over her face.

"Great lovely dove!" ejaculated Burrell, fervently, staring at her.

"Oh, I--I thought you were Poleon. He--" In spite of herself she
glanced towards her room as if to flee; she writhed at the utter
absurdity of her appearance, and knew the Lieutenant must be
laughing at her. But flight would only make it worse, so she stood
as she was, having drawn back as far as she could, till the table
checked her. Burrell, however, was not laughing, nor smiling even,
for his embarrassment rivalled hers.

"I was looking for your father," he said, wondering if this glorious
thing could be the quaint half-breed girl of yesterday. There was
nothing of the native about her now, for her lithe young figure was
drawn up to its height, and her head, upon which the long, black
braids were coiled, was tipped back in a haughty poise. She had
flung her hands out to grasp the table edge behind her, forgetful of
her shawl, which drooped traitorously and showed such rounded lines
as her ordinary dress scarce hinted at. This was no Indian maid, the
soldier vowed; no blood but the purest could pulse in such veins, no
spirit save the highest could flash in such eyes as these. A jealous
rancor irked him at the thought of this beauty intended for the
Frenchman's eyes.

"Can't you show yourself to me as well as to Poleon?" he said.

"Certainly not!" she declared. "He bought this dress for me, and I
put it on to please him." Now she was herself again, for some note
in the Lieutenant's voice gave her dominance over him. "After he
sees it I will take it off, and--"

"Don't--don't take it off--ever," said Burrell. "I thought you were
beautiful before, because of your quaintness and simplicity, but
now--" his chest swelled--"why, this is a breath from home. You're
like my sister and the girls back in Kentucky, only more wonderful."

"Am I?" she cried, eagerly. "Am I like other girls? Do I really look
as if I'd always worn clothes like these?"

"Born to them," said he.

A smile broke over her grave face, assuming a hundred different
shades of pleasure and making a child of her on the instant; all her
reserve and hauteur vanished. Her warmth and unaffected frankness
suffused him, as she stood out, turning to show the beauties of her
gown, her brown hands fluttering tremulously as she talked.

"It's my first party-dress, you know, and I'm as proud of it as
Molly is of her rubber boots. It's too big in here and too small
right there; that girl must have had a bad chest; but otherwise it
fits me as if it had been made for me, doesn't it? And the shoes!
Aren't they the dearest things? See." She held her skirts back,
showing her two feet side by side, her dainty ankles slim and
shapely in their silk.

"They won't shed water," he said.

"I know; and look at the heels. I couldn't walk a mile to save my

"And they will come off if they get wet."

"But they make me very tall."

"They don't wear as well as moccasins." Both laughed delightedly
till he broke in, impulsively:

"Oh, girl, don't you know how beautiful you are?"

"Of course I do!" she cried, imitating his change of voice; then
added, naively, "That's why I hate to take it off."

"Where did you learn to wear things like that?" he questioned.
"Where did you get that--well--that air?"

"It seems to me I've always known. There's nothing strange about it.
The buttons and the hooks and the eyes are all where they belong.
It's instinct, I suppose, from father's side--"

"Probably. I dare say I should understand the mechanism of a dress-
suit, even if I'd never seen one," said the man, amused, yet
impressed by her argument.

"I've always had visions of women dressed in this kind of clothing,
white women--never natives--not dressed like this exactly, but in
dainty, soft things, not at all like the ones I wear. I seem to have
a memory, although it's hardly that, either--it's more like a dream-
-as if I were somebody else. Father says it is from reading too

"A memory of what?"

"It's too vague and tantalizing to tell what it is, except that I
should be called Merridy."

"Merridy? Why that?"

"I'll show you. See." She slipped her hand inside the shawl and drew
from her breast a thin gold chain on which was strung a band ring.
"It was grandmother's--that's where I got the fancy for the name of
Merridy, I suppose."

"May I look?"

"Of course. But I daren't take it off. I haven't had it off my neck
since I was a baby." She held it out for him to examine, and,
although it brought his head close to hers, there was no trace of
coquetry in the invitation. He read the inscription, "From Dan to
Merridy," but had no realization of what it meant, for he glimpsed
the milk-white flesh almost at his lips, and felt her breath
stirring his hair, while the delicate scent of her person seemed to
loose every strong emotion in him. She was so dainty and yet so
virile, so innocent and yet so wise, so cold and yet so pulsating.

"It is very pretty," he said, inanely.

At the look in his eyes as he raised his head her own widened, and
she withdrew from him imperceptibly, dismissing him with a mere

"I wish you would send Poleon here. It's time he saw his present."

As Burrell walked out into the air he shut his jaws grimly and
muttered: "Hold tight, young man. She's not your kind--she's not
your kind."

Inside the store he found Doret and the trader in conversation with
a man he had not met before, a ragged nondescript whose overalls
were blue and faded and patched, particularly on the front of the
legs above the knees, where a shovel-handle wears hardest; whose
coat was of yellow mackinaw, the sleeves worn thin below the elbows,
where they had rubbed against his legs in his work. As the soldier
entered, the man turned on him a small, shrewd, weather-beaten face
with one eye, while he went on talking to Gale.

"It ain't nothin' to git excited over, but it's wuth follerin'. If I
wasn't so cussed unlucky I'd know there was a pay streak som'ere
close by."

"Your luck is bound to change, Lee," said the trader, who helped him
to roll up a pack of provisions.

"Mebbe so. Who's the dressmaker?" He jerked his bushy head towards
Burrell, who had stopped at the front door with Poleon to examine
some yellow grains in a folded paper.

"He's the boss soldier."

"Purty, ain't he?"

"If you ain't good he'll get you," said Gale, a trifle cynically, at
which Lee chuckled.

"I reckon there's several of us in camp that ain't been a whole lot
too good," said he. "Has he tried to git anybody yet?"

"No, but he's liable to. What would happen if he did? Suppose, for
instance, he went after you--or me?"

The one-eyed man snorted derisively. "It ain't wuth considerin'!"

"Why not?" insisted Gale, guardedly. "Maybe I've got a record--you
don't know."

"If you have, don't tell me nothin' about it," hastily observed Lee.
"I'm a God-fearin' citizen myself, leanin' ever towards peace and
quietudes, but what's past is dead and gone, and I'd hate to see a
lispin' child like that blue-and-yeller party try to reezureck it."

"He's got the American army to back him up--at least five of them."

"Five agin a hundred. He aims to overawe us, don't he?" snickered
the unregenerate Lee, but his wrinkles changed and deepened as he
leaned across the counter confidentially.

"You say the word, John, and I'll take some feller along to help me,
and we'll transfer this military post. There's plenty that would
like the job if you give the wink."

"Pshaw! I'm just supposing," said the trader. "As long as they play
around and drill and toot that horn, and don't bother anybody, I
allow they're not in the way."

"All right! It's up to you. However, if I happen to leap down on
this pay streak before it sees me comin', I'm goin' to put my
friends in first and foremost, and shut out these dressmakers
complete. So long!" He thrust his arms beneath the legs of a new
pair of blue overalls that formed his pack-straps, wriggled the
burden comfortably into place between his shoulders, and slouched
out past Doret, to whom he nodded, ignoring the "dressmaker."

Having given Necia's message to Poleon, the Lieutenant took up his
business with the trader. It concerned the purchase of certain
supplies that had been omitted from the military outfit, and when
this was concluded he referred to the encounter of that morning.

"I don't want you to think I bungle everything in that manner," he
said, "for I don't. I want to work with you, and I want to be
friends with you."

"I'm willing," said Gale.

"Nobody dislikes playing policeman more than I do, but it's a part
of my duty, and I'll have to do it," continued the young man.

"I reckon you simply aim to keep peace, eh? You ain't lookin' for
nobody in particular?"

"Of course not--outside of certain notorious criminals who have
escaped justice and worked north."

"Then there is a few that you want, eh?"

"Yes, certain old-timers. The officers at every post have
descriptions of a few such, and if they show up we will take them in
and hold them till courts are established."

"If you've got their names and descriptions, mebbe I could help
you," said the trader, carelessly.

"Thank you, I'll bring up the list and we'll go over it together.
You must have been here a good while."

"About ten years."

"Then Miss Necia was born out in the States?"

Gale shot a startled glance at the soldier before he answered in the
affirmative, but Burrell was studying a pattern of sunlight on the
floor and did not observe him. A moment later he inquired,

"Is this your first marriage, Mr. Gale?" When the other did not
answer, he looked up and quickly added:

"I beg your pardon, sir. What led me to ask was Miss Necia--she is
so--well--she is such a remarkable girl."

Gale's face had undergone a change, but he answered, quietly:

"I 'ain't never been married."


"When I took Alluna it wasn't the style, and neither one of us has
thought much about it since."

"Oh, I see," exclaimed Burrell, hurriedly. "I'll bring that list
with me the first time I think about it," and, nodding amiably, he
sauntered out. But his mind was in a whirl, and even after he had
reached his quarters he found himself repeating:

"The other was bad enough. Poor little girl! Poor little girl!"

Gale likewise left the store and went into his house, the odd look
still strong in his eyes, to find Necia posing in her new regalia
for Poleon's benefit. At sight of her he fell into a strange and
unexpected humor, and to their amazement commanded her roughly to
take the things off. His voice and manner were harsh and at utter
variance with any mood he had ever displayed before; nor would he
explain his unreasoning fury, but strode out again, leaving her in
tears and the Frenchman staring.



During the weeks that followed Meade Burrell saw much of Necia. At
first he had leaned on the excuse that he wanted to study the
curious freak of heredity she presented; but that wore out quickly,
and he let himself drift, content with the pleasure of her company
and happy in the music of her laughter. Her quick wit and keen humor
delighted him, and the mystery of her dark eyes seemed to hold the
poetry and beauty of all the red races that lay behind her on the
maternal side. At times he thought of her as he had seen her that
morning in the dance-girl's dress, and remembered the purity of neck
and breast it had displayed, but he attributed that to the same
prank of heritage that had endowed her with other traits alien to
her mother's race.

He had experienced a profound sense of pity for her upon learning
her father's relation to Alluna, but this also largely vanished when
he found that the girl was entirely oblivious to its significance.
He had tried her in many subtle ways, and found that she regarded
the matter innocently, as customary, and therefore in the light of
an accepted convention; nor did she seem to see anything in her
blood or station to render her inferior to other women. She
questioned him tirelessly about his sister, and he was glad of this,
for it placed no constraint between them. So that, as he explored
her many quaint beliefs and pagan superstitions, the delight of
being with her grew, and he ceased to reason whither it might lead

As for her, each day brought a keener delight. She unfolded before
the Kentuckian like some beautiful woodland flower, and through
innumerable, unnoticed familiarities took him into her innermost
confidence, sharing with him those girlish hopes and beliefs and
aspirations she had never voiced till now.

A month of this went by, and then Runnion returned. He came on an
up-going steamer which panted in for a rest from its thousand-mile
climb, and for breath to continue its fight against the never-tiring
sweep of waters. The manner of his coming was bold, for he stood
fairly upon the ship's deck, staring at the growing picture of the
town, as he had watched it recede a month before, and his smile was
evil now, as it had been then. With him was a stranger. When the
boat was at rest Runnion sauntered down the gang-plank and up to the
Lieutenant, who stood above the landing-place, and who noted that
the scar, close up against his hat-band, was scarce healed. He
accosted the officer with an insolent assurance.

"Well, I'm back again, you see, and I'm back to stay."

"Very well, Runnion; did you bring an outfit with you?" The young
man addressed him civilly, although he felt that the fellow's
presence was a menace and would lead to trouble.

"Yes, and I'm pretty fat besides." He shook a well-laden gold-sack
at the officer. "I reckon I can rustle thirteen dollars a month most
anywhere, if I'm left alone."

"What do you want in this place, anyhow?" demanded Burrell,

"None of your damned business," the man answered, grinning.

"Be sure it isn't," retorted the Lieutenant, "because it would
please me right down to the ground if it were. I'd like to get you."

"I'm glad we understand each other," Runnion said, and turned to
oversee the unloading of his freight, falling into conversation with
the stranger, who had been surveying the town without leaving the
boat. Evidently this man had a voice in Runnion's affairs, for he
not only gave him instructions, but bossed the crew who handled his
merchandise, and Meade Burrell concluded that he must be some
incoming tenderfoot who had grub-staked the desperado to prospect in
the hills back of Flambeau. As the two came up past him he saw that
he was mistaken--this man was no more of a tenderfoot than Runnion;
on the contrary, he had the bearing of one to whom new countries are
old, who had trod the edge of things all his life. There was a hint
of the meat-eating animal about him; his nose was keen and hawk-
like, his walk and movements those of the predatory beast, and as he
passed by, Burrell observed that his eyes were of a peculiar cruelty
that went well with his thin lips. He was older by far than Runnion,
but, while the latter was mean-visaged and swaggering, the
stranger's manner was noticeable for its repression.

Impelled by an irresistible desire to learn something about the man,
the Lieutenant loitered after Runnion and his companion, and entered
the store in time to see the latter greet "No Creek" Lee, the
prospector, who had come into town for more food. Both men spoke
with quiet restraint.

"Nine years since I saw you, Stark," said the miner. "Where you

"The diggings," replied Stark, as Lee addressed the stranger.

"Mining now?"

"No, same old thing, but I'm grub-staking a few men, as usual. One
of them stays here. I may open a house in Dawson if the camp is as
good as they say it is."

"This here's a good place for you."

Stark laughed noiselessly and without mirth. "Fine! There must be a
hundred people living here."

"Never mind, you take it from me," said the miner, positively, "and
get in now on the quiet. There's something doing." His one sharp eye
detected the Lieutenant close by, so he drew his friend aside and
began talking to him earnestly and with such evident effect as to
alter Stark's plans on the moment; for when Runnion entered the
store shortly Stark spoke to him quickly, following which they both
hurried back to the steamer and saw to the unloading of much
additional freight and baggage. From the volume and variety of this
merchandise, it was evident that Mr. Stark would in no wise be a
burden to the community.

Burrell was not sufficiently versed in the ways of mining-camps to
know exactly what this abrupt change of policy meant, but that there
was something in the air he knew from the mysterious manner of "No
Creek" Lee and from the suppressed excitement of Doret and the
trader. His curiosity got the better of him finally, and he fell
into talk with Lee, inquiring about the stranger by way of an

"That's Ben Stark. I knew him back in the Cassiar country," said

"Is he a mining man?"

"Well, summat. He's made and lost a bank-roll that a greyhound
couldn't leap over in the mining business, but it ain't his reg'lar
graft. He run one of the biggest places in the Northwest for years."

"Saloon, eh?"

"Saloon and variety house--seven bartenders, that's all. He's the
feller that killed the gold-commissioner. Of course, that put him on
the hike again."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, he had a record as long as a sick man's drug bill before he
went into that country, and when he put the commissioner away them
Canadian officials went after him like they was killin' snakes, and
it cost him all he had made to get clear. If it had happened across
the line, the coroner's jury would have freed him, 'cause the
commissioner was drunk and started the row; but it happened right in
Stark's saloon, and you know Canucks is stronger than vitriol for
law and order. Not bein' his first offence, it went hard with him."

"He looks like a killer," said Burrell.

"Yes, but he ain't the common kind. He always lets the other man
begin, and therefore he ain't never done time."

"Come, now," argued the Lieutenant, "if it were the other man who
invariably shot first, Stark would have been killed long ago."

"I don't care what WOULD have happened, it 'AIN'T happened, and he's
got notches on his gun till it looks like a cub bear had chawed it.
If you was a Western man you'd know what they say about him."

'The bullet 'ain't been run to kill him.' That's the sayin'. You
needn't grin, there's many a better man than you believes it."

"Who is it that the bullet hasn't been run to kill?" said the
trader's deep voice behind them. He had finished with his duties,
and now sauntered forward.

"Ben Stark," said Lee, turning. "You know him, John?"

"No, I never saw him, but I know who he is--used to hear of him in
the Coeur d'Alenes."

"That's him I was talking to," said the miner. "He's an old friend
of mine, and he's going to locate here."

Burrell thought he saw Lee wink at the trader, but he was not sure,
for at that moment the man of whom they were speaking re-entered.
Lee introduced him, and the three men shook hands. While the soldier
fell into easy conversation with the new-comer, Gale gazed at him
narrowly, studying him as he studied all men who came as strangers.
As he was doing so Alluna entered, followed by Johnny and Molly. She
had come for sugar, and asked for it in her native tongue. Upon her
exit Stark broke off talking to the Lieutenant and turned to the

"Your squaw, Mr. Gale?"

The old man nodded.

"Pah-Ute, eh?"

"Yes. Why, do you savvy the talk?"

"Some. I lived in California once."

"Where?" The question came like a shot.

"Oh, here and there; I followed the Mother Lode for a spell."

"I don't recall the name," said the trader, after a bit.

"Possibly. Where were you located?"

"I never lit on any one place long enough to call it home."

It seemed to Burrell that both men were sparring cautiously in an
indirect, impersonal manner.

"Those your kids, too, eh?" Stark continued.

"Yes, and I got another one besides--older. A girl."

"She's a 'pip,' too," said "No Creek" Lee, fervently. "She's plumb

"All of them half-breeds?" questioned Stark.

"Sure." The trader's answer was short, and when the other showed no
intention of pressing the subject further he sauntered away; but no
sooner was he out of hearing than Stark said: "Humph! They're all



"This one ain't," Lee declared. "He's different; ain't he,

"He certainly is," agreed Burrell. This was the first criticism he
had heard of Necia's father, and although Stark volunteered no
argument, it was plain that his opinion remained unaffected.

The old man went through the store at the rear and straightway
sought Alluna. Speaking to her with unwonted severity in the Pah-Ute
language, he said:

"I have told you never to use your native tongue before strangers.
That man in the store understands."

"I only asked for sugar to cook the berries with," she replied.

"True, but another time you might say more, therefore the less you
speak it the better. He is the kind who sees much and talks little.
Address me in Siwash or in English unless we are alone."

"I do not like that man," said the woman. "His eyes are bad, like a
fish eagle's, and he has no heart."

Suddenly she dropped her work and came close up to him. "Can he be
the one?"

"I don't know. Stark is not the name, but he might have changed it;
he had reasons enough."

"Who is this man Stark?"

"I don't know that, either. I used to hear of him when I was in
British Columbia."

"But surely you must know if he is the same--she must have told you
how he looked--others must have told you--"

Gale shook his head. "Very little. I could not ask her, and others
knew him so well they never doubted that I had seen him; but this
much I do know, he was dark--"

"This man is dark--"

"--and his spirit was like that of a mad horse--"

"This man's temper is black--"

"--and his eyes were cruel."

"This man has evil eyes."

"He lacked five years of my age," said the trader.

"This man is forty years old. It must be he," said the squaw.

Even Necia would have marvelled had she heard this revelation of her
father's age, for his hair and brows were grizzled, and his face had
the look of a man of sixty, while only those who knew him well, like
Doret, were aware of his great strength and the endurance that
belied his appearance.

"We will send Necia down to the Mission to-night, and let Father
Barnum keep her there till this man goes," said the squaw, after
some deliberation.

"No, she must stay here," Gale replied, with decision. "The man has
come here to live, so it won't do any good to send her away, and,
after all, what is to be will be. But she must never be seen in that
dance-girl's dress again, at least, not till I learn more about this
Stark. It makes no difference whether this one is the man or not; he
will come and I shall know him. For a year I have felt that the time
was growing short, and now I know it."

"No, no!" Alluna cried; "we have no strangers here. No white men
except the soldiers and this one have come in a year. This is but a
little trading-post."

"It was yesterday, but it isn't to-day. Lee has made a strike--like
the one George Carmack made on the Klondike. He came to tell me and
Poleon, and we are going back with him to-night, but you must say
nothing or it will start a stampede."

"Other men will come--a great many of them?" interrogated Alluna,
fearfully, ignoring utterly the momentous news.

"Yes. Flambeau will be another Dawson if this find is what Lee
thinks it is. I stayed away from the Upper Country because I knew
crowds of men would come from the States, and I feared that he might
be among them; but it's no use hiding any longer, there's no other
place for us to go. If Lee has got a mine, I'll have the one next to
it, for we will be the first ones on the ground. What happens after
that won't matter much, you four will be provided for. We are to
leave in an hour, one at a time, to avoid comment."

"But why did this man stop here?" insisted the woman. "Why did he
not stay on the steamboat and go to Dawson?"

"He's a friend of Lee's. He is going with us." Then he added, almost
in a whisper, "Before we return I shall know."

Alluna seized his arm. "Promise to come back, John! Promise that you
will come back even if this should be the man."

"I promise. Don't worry, little woman; I'm not ready for a reckoning

He gave her certain instructions about the store, charging her in
particular to observe the utmost secrecy regarding the strike, else
she might precipitate a premature excitement which would go far
towards ruining his and Poleon's chances. All of which she noted;
then, as he turned away, she laid her hand on his arm and said:

"If you do not know him he will not know you. Is it not so?"


"Then the rest is easy--"

But he only shook his head doubtfully and answered, "Perhaps--I am
not sure," and went inside, where he made up a light pack of bacon,
flour and tea, a pail or two, a coffee-pot and a frying-pan, which
he rolled inside a robe of rabbit-skin and bound about in turn with
a light tarpaulin. It did not weigh thirty pounds in all. Selecting
a new pair of water-boots, he stuffed dry grass inside them, oiled
up his six-shooter, then slipped out the back way, and in five
minutes was hidden in the thickets. Half an hour later, having
completed a detour of the town, he struck the trail to the interior,
where he found Poleon Doret, equipped in a similar manner, resting
beside a stream, singing the songs of his people.

When Burrell returned to his quarters he tried to mitigate the
feeling of lonesomeness that oppressed him by tackling his neglected

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