Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan.
THE RISING OF THE RED MAN
A Romance of the Louis Riel Rebellion
by JOHN MACKIE
Author of "The Heart of the Prairie," "Tales of the Trenches,"
"The Cannibal Island," "Daring Deeds in Far Off Lands,"
"The Prodigal's Brother," "The Man Who Forgot," etc.
TO E.M. DAVY.
I. IN THE GREAT LONE LAND
II. TIDINGS OF ILL
III. THE STORM BREAKS
IV. HARD PRESSED
V. TO BATTLEFORD
VI. THE GRIM BLOCKADE
VIII. IN THE JUDGMENT HALL
IX. THE DWARF AND THE BEAR
X. THE UNEXPECTED
XI. THE RETREAT
XII. A MYSTERIOUS STAMPEDE
XIV. A THREE-CORNERED GAME
XVI. THE FATE OF SERGEANT PASMORE
XVII. A CLOSE CALL
XVIII. ACROSS THE ICE
XIX. CAPTURED BY POUNDMAKER
XX. THE BATTLE OF CUT-KNIFE
XXI. BACK TO CAPTIVITY
XXII. ANTOINE IN TROUBLE
XXIII. THE DEPARTURE OF PEPIN
xxiv. THE INDIANS' AWAKENING
XXV. A PROPOSAL FROM PEPIN
XXVI. A BOLD BID FOR LIBERTY
XXVII. AN ONLY WAY
XXVIII. THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
The 16th of March, 1885, was a charming day, and Louis
David Riel, fanatic and rebellion-maker, was addressing
a great general meeting of the half-breeds and Indians
near Batoche on the Saskatchewan river in British North
America. There were representatives from nearly every
tribe; Poundmaker and his Stonies, who were always spoiling
for trouble, being particularly well represented. Round
the arch malcontent were a score of other harpies almost
as wicked if less dangerous than himself. Among them were
Gabriel Dumont, Jackson, Maxime, Garnot and Lepine. Riel's
emissaries had been at work for months, and as the time
was now ripe for a rising he had called them together to
decide upon some definite course of action.
The weather was comparatively mild, and the Indians sat
around on the snow that before many days was to disappear
before the sudden spring thaw. Their red, white, and grey
blankets against the dull-hued tepees [Footnote: Wigwams.]
and the white wintry landscape, gave colour and relief
to the scene. Two o'clock in the afternoon and the sun
shone brightly down as he always does in these latitudes.
Riel knew exactly how long it would continue to shine,
for had not the almanac told him and all the world--with
the exception of the ignorant half-breeds and Indians
whom he was addressing--that there was to be an eclipse
that day. The arch rebel knew how strongly dramatic effect
appealed to his audience, so he was prepared to indulge
them to the full in this respect, and turn the matter to
account. Being an educated man there was a good deal of
method in his madness.
The red-bearded, self-constituted prophet of the _metis_
[Footnote: Half-breeds.] stood on a Red River cart and
spun out his pleasant prognostications concerning that
happy coming era in which unlimited food, tobacco and
fire-water would make merry the hearts of all from the
Missouri in the south, to the Kissaskatchewan in the
north, if only they would do as he told them. As for Pere
Andre and his fulminations against him, what did they
want with the Church of Rome!--he, Louis David Riel, was
going to start a church of his own! Yes, St. Peter had
appeared to him in a vision, and told him that the Popes
had been on the wrong tack long enough, and that
he--Riel--was to be the new head of all things spiritual
and temporal. He promised them a good all-round time when
this came about, as it certainly would before long.
He wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and looked
anxiously at the sun. What if, after all, the compilers
of the almanac, or he himself, had made a mistake, and
he had called this his most vital meeting on the wrong
day? The bare idea was too terrible. But, no, his keen
eyes detected a dark line on the outer edge of the great
orb, and he knew that the modern astrologers had not
erred. His grand opportunity had come, and he must seize
it. He stretched out his hands and dramatically asked--
"But O, my people, tell me, how can I make manifest to
you that these things shall be as I say? Shall I beg of
the Manitou, the Great Spirit, to give to you a sign that
He approves of the words his servant speaketh, and that
these things shall come to pass?"
From the great crowd of half-breeds and Indians there
went up a hoarse, guttural cry for confirmation.
Yes, if the Manitou would give a sign then no one in the
land would doubt, and those who were feeble of heart
would take courage.
Riel bowed his head, lifted off his beaver-skin cap,
rolled his eyes about, and by his melodramatic movements
claimed the attention of all. He, however, found, time
to shoot a quick glance at the sun. Those almanac people
were wonderfully accurate, but he must hurry up, for in
another minute the eclipse would begin. In a loud voice
"You have asked for a sign, and it shall be given unto
you; but woe unto those to whom a sign is given and who
shall pay no heed to the same. Their days shall be cut
short in the land, and their bodies shall burn for ever
in the pit of everlasting fire. The Great Spirit will
darken the face of the sun for a token, and a shadow,
that of the finger of the Manitou Himself, shall sweep
The knavish fanatic closed his eyes and raised his face
heavenwards. There was a rapturous look on it, and his
lips moved. He was calling upon the Almighty to give them
the sign which he obligingly indicated. The new head of
the church was already distinguishing himself. As for
the half-breeds and Indians, they sat around with
incredulity and awe alternately showing upon their faces.
It was something new in their experiences for the Manitou
to interest himself personally in their affairs. A great
silence fell upon them; the prophet mumbled inarticulately
and proceeded with his hanky-panky.
Then a great murmur and chorus of "Ough! Ough's!" and
"me-was-sins!" [Footnote: Meaning good or approval.]
arose from the Indians, while many of the half-breeds
crossed themselves. Incredulity changed to belief and
fear, and the simple ones raised their voices in wondering
accents to testify to the potency of the "big medicine"
that was being wrought before their eyes. The hand of
the Manitou was slowly but surely passing over the face
of the sun and darkening it. The shadow of that same hand
was already creeping up from the east. The rapt prophet
never once opened his eyes, but he knew from the great
hoarse roar of voices around him that the almanac had
not erred. And then the clamour subsided, as the face of
the sun was darkened, and the ominous shadow fell like
a chill over them ere passing westward. The Indians
shivered in their blankets and were thrilled by this
gratuitous and wonderful proof of their new leader's
intimacy with the Great Spirit. But what if the Great
Spirit should take it into His head to darken the face
of the light-giver for ever! It was a most alarming
prospect truly. Louis David Riel opened his eyes, glanced
at the sun, and said--
"The Manitou is pleased to remove His hand and to give
us light again."
Then, as it seemed more quickly than it had been darkened,
the blackness was removed from the sun's face, and the
The murmur and the shout that went up from the wondering
throng must have been as music in the ears of the arrant
fraud. He looked down upon the deluded ones with triumph
and a new sense of power.
"The Great Spirit has spoken!" he said with commendable
"Big is the Medicine of Riel!" cried the people. "We
are ready to do his bidding when the time comes."
"The time has come," said Riel.
Never perhaps in the history of impostors from Mahomet
to the Mahdi had an almanac proved so useful.
IN THE GREAT LONE LAND
It was the finest old log house on the banks of the mighty
Saskatchewan river, and the kitchen with its old-fashioned
furniture and ample space was the best room in it. On
the long winter nights when the ice cracked on the river,
when the stars twinkled coldly in the blue, and Nature
slept under the snows, it was the general meeting-place
of the Douglas household.
Henry Douglas, widower and rancher, was perhaps, one of
the best-to-do men between Battleford and Prince Albert.
The number of his cattle and horses ran into four figures,
and no one who knew him begrudged his success. He was an
upright, cheery man, who only aired his opinions round
his own fireside, and these were always charitable. But
to-night he did not speak much; he was gazing thoughtfully
into the flames that sprang in gusty jets from the logs,
dancing fantastically and making strange noises. At length
he lifted his head and looked at that great good-natured
French Canadian giant, Jacques St Arnaud, who sat opposite
him, and said--
"I tell you, Jacques, I don't like it. There's trouble
brewing oh the Saskatchewan, and if the half-breeds get
the Indians to rise, there'll be--" he glanced sideways
at his daughter, and hesitated--"well, considerable
"That's so," said Jacques, also looking at the fair girl
with the strangely dark eyes. "It is all so queer. You
warned the Government two, three months ago, did you not,
that there was likely to be trouble, but still they did
not heed? Is not that so?"
"I did, but I've heard no more about it. And now the
Police are beginning to get uneasy. They're a mighty fine
body of men, but if the half-breeds and Indians get on
the war-path, they'll swamp the lot, and--"
"Shoo!" interrupted the giant, again looking at the girl,
but this time with unmistakable alarm on his face. "Them
Injuns ain't going to eat us. You've been a good friend
to them and to the metis. So!"
Jacques St. Arnaud had been in the rancher's service
since before the latter's child had been born down in
Ontario, some eighteen years ago, and followed him into
the great North-West to help conquer the wilderness and
establish his new home. He had a big heart in a large
body, and his great ambition was to be considered a rather
terrible and knowing fellow, while, as a matter of fact,
he was the most inoffensive of mortals, and as simple in
some ways as a child.
"Bah!" he continued after a pause, "the metis are
ungrateful dogs, and the Indians, they are mad also. I
would like to take them one by one and wring their
The rancher tried to conceal the concern he felt. His
fifty odd years sat lightly upon him, although his hair
was grey. His daughter had only been back from Ontario
for two years, but in that time she had bulked so largely
in his life that he wondered now how he could ever have
got along without her. She reminded him of that helpmate
and wife who had gone hence a few years after her daughter
was born, and whose name was now a sacred memory. He had
sent the girl down East to those whom he knew would look
after her properly, and there, amid congenial surroundings,
she grew and quickened into a new life. But the spell of
the vast, broad prairie lands was upon her, and the love
for her father was stronger still, so she went, back to
both, and there her mind broadened, and her spirit grew
in harmony with the lessons that an unconventional life
was for ever working out for itself in those great,
unfettered spaces where Nature was in the rough and the
world was still young. She grew and blossomed into a
beautiful womanhood, as blossoms the vigorous wild-flower
of the prairies. When she smiled there was the light and
the glamour of the morning star in her dark hazel eyes,
and when her soul communed with itself, it was as if one
gazed into the shadow of the stream. There was a gleam
of gold in her hair that was in keeping with the freshness
of her nature, and the hue of perfect health was upon
her cheeks. Her eighteen years had brought with them all
the promise of the May. That she had inherited the
adventure-loving spirit of the old pioneers, as well as
the keen appreciation of the humorous side of things,
was obvious from the amount of entertainment she seemed
to find in the company of Old Rory. He was an old-timer
of Irish descent, who had been everywhere from the Red
River in the east to the Fraser in the west, and from
Pah-ogh-kee Lake in the south to the Great Slave Lake in
the north. He had been _voyageur_, trapper, cowboy,
farm-hand in the Great North-West for years, and nothing
came amiss to him. Now he was the hired servant of her
father, doing what was required of him, and that well.
He was spare and wrinkled as an old Indian, and there
was hardly an unscarred inch in his body, having been
charged by buffaloes, clawed by bears and otherwise
resented by wild animals.
"Rory," said the girl after a pause, and the softness of
her voice was something to conjure with, "what do you
think? Are the half-breeds and Indians going to interfere
with us if they do rise?"
"Thar be good Injuns and bad Injuns," said Rory doggedly,"
but more bad nor good. The Injun's a queer animile when
he's on the war-path; he's like Pepin Quesnelle's tame
b'ar at Medicine Hat that one day chawed up Pepin, who
had been like a father to 'im, 'cos he wouldn't go stares
wid a dose of castor-oil he was a-swallerin' for the good
of his health. You see, the b'ar an' Pepin used allus
to go whacks like."
The girl laughed, but still she was uneasy in her mind.
She mechanically watched the tidy half-breed woman and
the elderly Scotchwoman who had been her mother's servant
in the old Ontario days, as the two silently went on, at
the far end of the long room, with the folding and putting
away of linen. Her eyes wandered with an unwonted
wistfulness over the picturesque brown slabs of pine that
constituted the walls, the heavy, rudely-dressed tie-beams
of the roof over which were stacked various trim bundles
of dried herbs, roots and furs, and from which hung
substantial hams of bacon and bear's meat. As she looked
over the heads of the little group on the broad benches
round the fire, she saw the firelight and lamplight glint
cheerfully on the old-fashioned muskets and flintlock
pistols that decorated the walls--relics of the old
romantic days when the two companies of French and English
adventurers traded into Hudson's Bay.
She had an idea. She would ask the sergeant of Mounted
Police in charge of the detachment of four men, whose
little post was within half-a-mile of the homestead, what
he thought of the situation, and he would have to tell
her. Sergeant Pasmore was one of those men of few words
who somehow seemed to know everything. A man of rare
courage she knew him to be, for had he not gained his
promotion by capturing the dangerous renegade Indian,
Thunder-child, single-handed? She knew that Thunderchild
had lately broken prison, and was somewhere in the
neighbourhood waiting to have his revenge upon the
sergeant. Sergeant Pasmore was a man both feared and
respected by all with whom he came in contact. He was
the embodiment of the law; he carried it, in fact, on
the horn of his saddle in the shape of his Winchester
rifle; a man who was supposed to be utterly devoid of
sentiment, but who had been known to perform more than
one kindly action. Her father liked him, and many a time
he had spent a long evening by the rancher's great
As she thought of these things, she was suddenly startled
by three firm knocks at the door. Jacques rose from his
seat, and opening it a few inches, looked out into the
clear moonlight. He paused a moment, then asked--
"Who are you, and what you want?"
"How!" [Footnote: Form of salutation in common use among
the Indians and half-breeds.] responded a strange-voice.
"Aha! Child-of-Light!" exclaimed Jacques.
And into the room strode a splendid specimen of a red
man in all the glory of war paint and feathers.
TIDINGS OF ILL
"Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadow'd livery of the burnished sun."
_Merchant of Venice._
"How! How!" said the rancher, looking up at the tall
Indian. "You are welcome to my fireside, Child-of-Light.
He rose and gave him his hand. With a simple dignity the
fine-looking savage returned his salutation.
"The master is good," he said. "Child-of-Light still
remembers how in that bad winter so many years ago, when
the cotton-tails and rabbits had died from the disease
that takes them in the throat, and the wild animals that
live upon them died also because there was nought to eat,
and how when disease and famine tapped at the buffalo
robe that screens the doorways of the tepees, he who is
the brother of the white man and the red man had compassion
and filled the hungry mouths."
"Ah, well, that's all right, Child-of-Light," lightly
said Douglas, wondering what the chief had come to say.
He understood the red man's ways, and knew he would learn
all in good time.
But the chief would not eat or drink. He would, however,
smoke, and helped himself from the pouch that Douglas
offered. He let his blanket fall from his shoulders, and
underneath there showed a richly-wrought shirt of true
barbaric grandeur. On a groundwork of crimson flannel
was wrought a rare and striking mosaic in beads of blue
and yellow and red. The sun glowed from his breast,
countless showy ermine tails dangled from his shoulders,
his arms and his sides like a gorgeous fringe, and numerous
tiny bells tinkled all over him as he moved. His features
were large and marked, his forehead, high, and his nose
aquiline. His Mongolian set eyes were dark and full of
intellect, his expression a strange mixture of alertness,
conscious power, and dignity. He was a splendid specimen
He filled his pipe leisurely, then spoke as if he hardly
expected that what he had to say would interest his
The half-breeds, led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont,
had risen, he said, and large numbers of the Indians had
joined them. Before twenty-four hours there would hardly
be a farmstead or ranche in Saskatchewan that would not
be pillaged and burnt to the ground. He, Child-of-Light,
had managed to keep his band in check, but there were
thousands of Indians in the country, Crees, Salteaus,
Chippeywans, Blackfoot, Bloods, Piegans, Sarcees, renegade
Siouxs, and Crows who would join the rebels. Colonel
Irvine, of the North-West Mounted Police at Fort Carlton,
had already destroyed all the stores, and, having set
fire to the buildings, was retreating on the main body.
Douglas the rancher had "sat quietly while the chief told
his alarming news. He hardly dared look at his daughter.
"I have been a fool!" he said bitterly. "I have tried to
hide the truth from myself, and now it may be too late.
Of course it's not the stock and place I'm thinking about,
Dorothy, but it's you--I had no right---"
"Oh, hush, dad!" cried the girl, who seemed the least
concerned of any. "I don't believe the rebels will
interfere with us. Besides, have we not our friend,
"The daughter of my brother Douglas is as my own child,"
said the chief simply, "and her life I will put before
mine. But Indians on the war-path are as the We'h-ti-koo,
[Footnote: Indians of unsound mind who become cannibals.]
who are possessed of devils, whose onward rush is as the
waters of the mighty Saskatchewan river when it has forced
the ice jam."
"And so, Child-of-Light, what would you have us do?"
asked Douglas. "Do you think if possible for my daughter
and the women to reach the Fort at Battleford?"
But a sharp tapping at the door stopped the answer of
Rory shot back the bolt and threw open the door. A
fur-clad figure entered; the white frost glistened on
his buffalo-coat and bear-skin cap as if they were tipped
with ermine. He walked without a word into the light and
looked around--an admirable man, truly, about six feet
in height, broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, and without
a spare ounce of flesh--a typical Rider of the Plains,
and a soldier, every inch of him. In the thousands upon
thousands of square miles in which these dauntless military
police have to enforce law and order, the inhabitants
know that never yet has the arm of justice not proved
long enough to bring an offender to book. On one occasion
a policeman disappeared into the wilderness after some
one who was wanted. As in three months he neither came
back, nor was heard of, he was struck off the strength
of the force. But one day, as the men stood on parade in
the barrack square, he came back in rags and on foot,
more like a starved tramp than a soldier. But with him
he brought his prisoner. That was the man, Sergeant
Pasmore, who stood before them.
He inclined his head to Dorothy, and nodded to the men
around the fire, but when he saw Child-of-Light he extended
his left hand.
The Indian looked straight into the sergeant's eyes.
"What has happened?" he asked. "Ough! Ough! I see; you
have met Thunderchild?"
The sergeant nodded.
"Yes," he said, with apparent unconcern, "Thunderchild
managed to put a bullet through my arm. You may give me
a hand off with my coat, Jacques. Luckily, the wound's
not bad enough to prevent my firing a gun."
When they removed his overcoat they found that the sleeve
of the tunic had been cut away, and that his arm had been
roughly bandaged. The girl was gazing at it in a peculiarly
"I beg your pardon, Miss Douglas," he said, hastily
turning away from her. "I had forgotten it looked like
that, but fortunately the look is the worst part of it.
It's only a flesh wound."
The girl had stepped forward to help him, as if resenting
the imputation that the sight of blood frightened her,
but Jacques had anticipated what was required. She wanted
to bring him something to eat and drink, but he thanked
her and declined. He had weightier matters on hand.
"Mr. Douglas," he said, quietly, "I've told my men to
move over here. You may require their services in the
course of the next twenty-four hours. What I apprehended
and told you about some time ago has occurred."
"Pasmore," said the rancher, earnestly, "is there any
immediate danger? If there is, my daughter and the women
had better go into Battleford right now."
"You cannot go now--you must wait till to-morrow morning,"
was the reply. "It's no use taking your household goods
into the Fort--there's no room there. Your best plan is
to leave things just as they are, and trust to the rebels
being engaged elsewhere. I believe your warriors,
Child-of-Light, are in the wood in the deep coulee just
above where the two creeks meet?"
"That is right, brother," said the Indian, "but what
about Thunderchild, the turncoat?"
And then Pasmore told them how he had gone to Thunderchild's
camp that day to arrest the outlaw, and warn his braves
against joining the rebels, and how he had been shot
through the arm, and only escaped with his life. He had
come straight on to warn them. In the meantime he would
advise the women to make preparations for an early start
on the morrow. Food and clothing would have to be taken,
as they might be away for weeks.
Then, while Dorothy Douglas and her two women-servants
were already making preparations for a move, a brief
council of war was held. Child-of-Light, when asked,
advised that the Mounted Police and those present should
next day escort the women into Fort Battleford, while he
and his braves ran off the rancher's fine herd of horses,
so as to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy.
Pasmore said that this was exactly the right thing to
do. He also intimated that there was a party of half-breeds,
the Racettes and the St. Croixs, coming by trail at that
very moment from Battleford to plunder and pillage; they
would probably arrive before many hours. He had, however,
taken the precaution of stationing men on the look-out
on the neighbouring ridges.
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed Jacques, springing to his feet.
"It is the neck of that St. Croix I will want to wring.
It is two, three years ago now he say he will wring mine;
but very good care he will take to keep away. Ah, well,
we shall see, my friend, we shall see!"
Child-of-Light stole out to his men in the coulee, and
Jacques and Rory went to the stables and out-houses to
make certain preparations so that they might be able to
start at any moment. The windows were boarded up, so that
if the half-breeds came no signs of life might be observed
in the house. Douglas saw that certain loopholes in the
walls commanding the lines of approach, which he himself
had made by way of precaution when danger from the Indians
had threatened in the old days, were reopened and plugged
in case of emergency.
As for the sergeant, he had not slept for three days,
and was too utterly tired out to be of any assistance.
He had done what he could, and had now to await
developments. The fire was good, and he had dropped, at
the rancher's request, into a comfortable high-backed
chair in a corner, where he fell asleep.
THE STORM BREAKS
Midnight, and the rancher had left the house to assist
Rory and Jacques with the sleighs, which had to be packed
with certain necessaries such as tea, coffee, sugar,
bread and flour, frozen meat, pemmican, culinary articles,
snow-shoes, and ammunition.
Dorothy, having made all the preparations she could, had
re-entered the kitchen. The first thing that drew her
attention was the sleeping figure of the sergeant in the
chair. She was filled with self-reproach. Why had she
forgotten all about this wounded, tired-out man? Why did
she always seem to be holding him at arm's-length when
there was, surely, no earthly reason why she should do
so? His manner had always been perfectly courteous to
her, and even deferential. He had done her father many
acts of kindness, without as much as referring to them,
and still, with a spice of perversity, she had always
shrunk from appearing to notice him. She shrewdly suspected
that his present life was not the sort of one he had been
accustomed to, that, in fact, he belonged by birth and
upbringing to a state of things very different from hers.
He looked wretchedly uncomfortable and, doubtless, as
his limbs seemed cramped, they were cold. She would find
a rug to throw over him.
She picked up one, and, with a strange shyness that she
had never experienced before, placed it carefully over
him. If he awoke she would die with terror--now that he
was asleep and did not know that she was looking after
his comfort, she experienced a strange, undefinable
pleasure in so doing. It was quite a new feeling--something
that filled her with a vague wonder.
And then he suddenly opened his eyes, and looked at her
for a few moments without stirring.
"Thank you," he said simply, and closed his eyes again.
She could have cried with vexation. If he had been profuse
in his thanks she would have had an opportunity of cutting
him short with some commonplace comment.
"Hadn't you better lie on the couch, Mr. Pasmore?" she
said. "You don't look as if you fitted that chair, and
it makes you snore so."
She had hardly thought herself capable of such perfidy,
but she did not want him to think that she could be
altogether blind to his faults. He sat bolt upright in
an instant, and stammered out an apology.
But she cut it short. She resented the idea that he should
imagine she took sufficient interest in him to be put
out by a trifle.
At that very moment there rang out a rifle shot from the
ridge just above the wood hard by. It was followed by
another at a greater distance.
"There!" said the girl, with a finger pressed against
her lower lip, and a look as if of relief on her face.
"Now you will have some work to do. They have come sooner
than you expected."
He scanned her face for a moment as if to note how this
quick call to grim tragedy affected her. A man of courage
himself, he instantly read there possibilities of a very
high order and exceptional nerve. There was nothing
neurotic about her. Whatever the wayward imaginings of
her heart might be, she was a fresh, wholesome and healthy
daughter of the prairie, one whose nerves were in accord
with her mind and body, one for whom there were no physical
or imaginary bogeys.
"It won't frighten you, will it, if we have to turn this
kitchen into a sort of shooting gallery?" he asked.
She smiled at the very familiarity with which he handled
"It will be unpleasant," she replied simply, "but you
know I'm accustomed to rifles."
"You don't seem to realise what a rising means amongst
savages," he continued. "You must never lose your head,
whatever happens, and you must never trust any one outside
your own family circle. You must never let yourself fall
into their hands; you understand me?"
"I understand," she said, facing him unflinchingly, "and
I have my rifle in case of emergencies."
"You are stronger than I thought," he said thankfully,
looking at her for the first time with unmistakable
The rancher entered the room. He had always been noted
for his coolness in time of danger. He looked quickly at
his daughter, and was wonderfully relieved to see her
take the situation so quietly. He kissed her, and said--
"Now, my dear, you'd better get into the other room till
this affair is over. There's no need to be alarmed."
How he wished he could have believed what he said!'
"I'm not frightened, dad, a little bit, and I'm going to
stay right with" you and load the guns."
"Lower the lamp," cried Pasmore, suddenly.
In another minute each man was glancing along the barrel
of his rifle out into the clear moonlight. They faced
the entrance to the valley up which came the enemy. It
was a dimly-defined half-circle, with a deep-blue,
star-studded background. A fringe of trees ran up it,
bordering the frozen creek alongside the trail. Stealthily
stealing up, they could see a number of dark figures.
Every now and again, from the heights above on either
hand, they could see a little jet of fire spurt, and hear
the crack of a Winchester as the Mounted Police on the
look-out tried to pick off members of the attacking body
from their inaccessible point of vantage. But the
half-breeds and Indians contented themselves with firing
an odd shot in order to warn them off. They would deal
with them later. In the meantime they came nearer.
"Ah, St. Croix, old friend! It is my neck you will want
to wring, is it? Eh, bien!" And Jacques chuckled audibly.
"Now, hold hard, and wait until I give you the word,"
said Pasmore, quietly.
The rebels, of whom there might be some thirty or forty,
now came out into the open and approached the house until
they were abreast of the out-buildings. In the clear
moonlight they could be seen distinctly, clad in their
great buffalo coats, with collars up over their ears,
and bearskin and beaver-caps pulled well down.
At a signal from their leader they raised their rifles
to send a preparatory volley through the windows.
"_Now then!_" thundered Pasmore.
Four rifles cracked like one, and three rebels dropped
where they stood, while a fourth, clapping his hands to
the lower part of his body, spun round and round, stamping
his feet, reviling the comrades who had brought him there,
and blaspheming wildly, while the blood spurted out
between his fingers. At the same moment, several bullets
embedded themselves in the thick window shutters and in
the walls. One only found its way through the dried mud
between the logs, and this smashed a bowl that stood on
the dresser within two feet of Dorothy's head. She merely
glanced at it casually, and picking up the basket of
cartridges, prepared to hand them round. With fingers
keen and warming to their work, the defenders emptied
the contents of their magazines into the astonished
half-breeds and Indians. It was more than the latter had
bargained for. They made for an open shed that stood hard
by, leaving their dead and wounded in the snow.
"What ho! Johnnie Crapaud, you pig!" cried Rory, withdrawing
his rifle from the loophole, and applying his mouth to
it instead. "It's the Red River jig I've bin dyin' to
tache ye for many a long day."
At the same moment Jacques caught sight of his old _bete
noire_, Leopold St. Croix the elder, and, not to be
outdone by his friend Rory in the exchange of seasonable
civilities with the enemy--although, when he came to
think of it afterwards, he might as well have shot his
man--he was applying his mouth to, his loophole to shout
something in the same vein when the quick-eyed Leopold
fired a shot at the spot from which the gun-barrel had
just been withdrawn. So lucky or good was his aim that
he struck the mud in the immediate neighbourhood of the
hole, and sent the _debris_ flying into the
French-Canadian's mouth. Jacques spent the rest of his
time when in the house watching for a long-haired half-breed
with a red sash round his waist, who answered to the name
of St. Croix the elder.
_Ping, ping, ping, zip--phut--cr-runck!_ and the bullets
played a very devil's tattoo upon the walls and windows.
The enemy were still five to one, and if they could only
succeed in rushing in and breaking down the doors, victory
would be in their hands. But to do that meant death to
Another half-hour, and the firing still continued, though
in a more desultory fashion. It was a strange waiting
game, and a grim one, that was being played. The defenders
had shifted their positions to guard against surprise.
Douglas had in vain begged his daughter to leave the room
and join the women in an inner apartment, but she had
pleaded so hard with him that he allowed her to remain.
As for the sergeant, he was outwardly, at least, his old
self. He was silent and watchful, showing neither concern
nor elation. He moved from one position to another, and
never pulled the trigger of his Winchester without making
sure of something. With the help of Douglas he had pulled
on his fur coat again, as the fire was going out, and he
was beginning to feel the cold in his wound.
"I can't make out why Child-of-Light hasn't come up with
his men," he said at length, "but, anyhow, he is sure to
He paused, listening. Then all in the room heard the
_chip-chop_ of an axe as it steadily cut its way through
a post of considerable size. The rebels were evidently
busy. Suddenly the sound stopped.
"They're preparing for a rush," observed Rory. "What
I'm surprisit at is ther riskin' their ugly carcases as
"Sargain Pasmore--Sargean?" cried some-one from the shed.
"Aha! he has recognised your voice," said Jacques. "He
is as the fox, that St. Croix."
"Well, what is it?" shouted the sergeant.
What the half-breed had to say rather took the sergeant
aback. It was to the effect that unless they surrendered
within a few minutes, they would all most assuredly be
Then for the first time that night Sergeant Pasmore
betrayed in his voice any feeling that may have animated
"Go home, Leopold St. Croix," he cried, "go home, and
those with you before it is too late! Go on to the Fort
and ask pardon from those in authority, and it may yet
be well with you; For as soon as the red-coated soldiers
of the Great Queen come--and, take my word for it, they
are in number more than the fishes in the Great Lake--you
will be shot like a coyote on the prairie, or hanged by
the neck, like a bad Indian, on the gallows-tree. That
is our answer, Leopold St Croix; you know me of old, and
you also know how I have always kept my word."
There was a dead silence for a minute or two, and whilst
it lasted one could hear the embers of the dying fire
fall into ashes. On a shelf, an eight-day clock ticked
ominously; the girl stood with one hand upon her father's
shoulder, motionless and impassive, like some beautiful
statue. There was no trace of fear of any impending
tragedy to mar the proud serenity of her face. At length
the sound of voices came to them from outside. It grew
in volume and rose like the angry murmur of the sea.
Pasmore was looking through a crack when the noise of
the chopping began again. In another minute there was a
crash of falling timber.
The sergeant turned to the girl.
"Miss Douglas," he said, "will you kindly go into the
other room for a minute! They have cut down one of the
large posts in the shed and are going to make a
battering-ram of it so as to smash in the door. Come
this way, all of you. Two on either side. That is right.
Fire into them as they charge!"
The half-breeds and Indians, keen and determined as they
were to effect an entrance to the house at any costs,
were not without considerable foresight and strategy.
But their feint failed, and when they did make a rush
with their ram two or three of them were picked off. The
survivors dropped the ram, and made a dash across the
open for the stable.
Pasmore telling the others to remain at their loopholes,
went to a room at the end of the long passage, Dorothy
The rebels must have applied a match to some of the
inflammable matter, for in another instant the growing,
hissing roar of fire was audible.
"It will spread to the house in a few minutes more,"
remarked the sergeant, quietly, "and I'm afraid that will
be the end of it."
But he had already seized an axe and was opening the
"Shut the door after me and go to your father," he
exclaimed. "I'll cut down the slabs that connect it with
the house. Child-of-Light may come up yet. Good-bye--in
case of accidents."
She caught him by the arm and looked into his face.
"You can't do that--you must _not_ do that! You are sure
to be shot down."
"And I may be shot if I don't." Forcibly, but with what
gentleness the action permitted, he disengaged her firm
"You can't use an axe with that arm," she pleaded, all
her old reserve vanishing.
"I can at a pinch," he replied. "It is good of you to
trouble about me."
He slipped out and pulled the door behind him. The look
he had seen in her eyes had come as a revelation and
given him courage.
She stood for a moment speechless and motionless, with
a strained, set expression on her face. It was old Rory
who aroused her to the gravity of the situation. He came
running along the passage.
"Come hyar, honey, and into the cellar wid ye," he cried.
"There's more of the inimy comin' along the trail, but
there's still a chanct. Nivir say die, sez I."
As if roused from some horrible dream her feverish energy
and readiness of resource returned to her.
"Come into the next room," she cried to Rory; "we can
see the oil-house from the window. He is out there pulling
down the stockade and we can keep them back from him.
Like one possessed she made for the first door on the
left of the passage.
Along the trail came the new lot of half-breeds and
Indians to the assistance of their fellows, or, perhaps
it would be more correct to say, to see to it that they
did not miss their full share of the plunder. Roused to
fresh efforts by the sight of the others, those on the
spot fairly riddled the doors and windows of the house.
The bullets were whizzing into the kitchen in every
direction, splintering the furniture and sending the
plaster flying from the walls until the room was filled
with a fine, blinding, choking dust. It was impossible
to hold out much longer. The final rush was sure to come
in a very few minutes--and all would be over.
Pasmore had cut off the house from the burning shed by
hewing down the connecting wall, while Dorothy Douglas
and Rory, by firing from a side window, had kept the
enemy from approaching; After what seemed an age, Pasmore
There was a pause in the firing, then a hoarse murmur of
excited voices came from the sheds. It rose like a sudden
storm on the Lake of the Winds. There was a wild volley
and a rush of feet. A dark body smashed in the casement
and tried to follow it, but Rory's long knife gleamed in
the air, and the intruder fell back in his death agony.
Rory seldom wasted powder and shot at close quarters.
The sergeant looked at the girl strangely.
"Come with me to your father," he said hoarsely.
"Is it the end?" she asked.
"I fear it is," he replied; "but we'll fight to the
He opened the door and led the way out.
"I must go to the others," he continued. "Rory can guard
this end of the house. Will you come with me?"
"Yes, and remember your promise--I am not afraid."
"I am," he admitted, "but not of them."
They reached the kitchen, but he would not let her enter.
"Stay where you are for a moment," he commanded firmly.
He found Douglas and Jacques still holding the doorway,
though the door itself, and the table which had been
placed against it, were badly wrecked. A breed had actually
forced his body through a great rent when they had rushed,
but Jacques had tapped him over the head with the stock
of his rifle and cracked it as he would have done an
egg-shell. The lifeless body still filled the gap.
"Bravo, gentlemen," cried the sergeant, "we shall exact
our price. If we can only stand them off a little longer--"
The words died on his lips as a rattle of musketry awoke
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the surrounding ridges.
It grew in volume until it seemed all around them. Several
bullets struck the house that did not come from those
immediately attacking. A series of wild whoops could be
heard from among the pines on the hillside, and they came
nearer and nearer.
"It's Child-of-Light and his Crees!" cried Pasmore. "He
saw the new lot approaching and waited until they fell
into the trap. Now he has surrounded them."
"Thank God!" cried the rancher, and never had he breathed
a more sincere thanksgiving.
The breeds and Indians made back for the out-buildings;
then, realising that sooner or later these must prove
untenable, they scurried for the pine wood on the hillside.
But now Child-of-Light and his braves were on the ridges
and a desperate running fight ensued. Not more than a
dozen of the enemy managed to get safely away. For hours
afterwards they held their own from the vantage of the
rocks and pines.
When those in the house realised that all immediate danger
was over, they took the change of situations
characteristically. The rancher went quietly to find his
daughter. She showed no signs of any reaction, although
perhaps she had a hard struggle to conquer her feelings.
Jacques wanted to sally out and seek for Leopold St.
Croix, so that they might settle once and for all their
little differences, but Sergeant Pasmore vetoed this.
There was other work to do, he said. It was no use
remaining at the ranche; the women must go into the fort
at Battleford--if, indeed, it were possible to get
through to it. As for Rory, he had gone to the stables
and seen to the horses and the dogs that were to pull
the sleighs; these latter, by the way, were a remarkable
lot, and comprised as many varieties as there are different
breeds of pigeons. There were Chocolats, Muskymotes,
Cariboos, Brandies, Whiskies, Corbeaus, and a few others.
During the fight they had kept wonderfully quiet, but
now they seemed to know that it was over, and began,
after the playful manner of their kind, to indulge in a
spirited battle on their own account. Rory snatched up
a whip with the object of seeing fair play.
An hour later and a strange scene that kitchen presented,
with its wounded, smoke-stained men, Its shattered doors
and windows, and splintered tables and dresser. The four
Mounted Policemen had come down from the ridges where
they had so harassed the enemy and were now receiving
steaming pannikins of coffee.
Child-of-Light had just come in, and told how to the
north Big Bear and his Stonies were lurking somewhere,
not to speak of Thunderchild and one or two others, so
it would be as well to try Battleford first. His braves
at that moment were pursuing the fleeing breeds and
Indians, but he had ordered them to return soon in order
that they might remove the dead and wounded from the
ranche, and then see after the stock belonging to their
brother Douglas. It had been as Sergeant Pasmore had
said--they had seen the fresh enemy coming up and delayed
their attack until they could surround them.
But grey-eyed morn had come at last; the sleighs were
packed and brought round to the door. It was time to make
It was quite a little procession of jumpers and sledges
that set out from the rancher's that morning after the
fight. First went the police, each man on his little
box-like jumper with its steel-shod runners drawn by a
hardy half-bred broncho. Next came Rory in a dog-sled
cariole, with his several pugnacious canine friends made
fast by moose-skin collars. They would have tried the
patience of Job. They fought with each other on the
slightest pretext from sheer love of fighting, and knew
not the rules of Queensberry. If one of them happened to
get down in one of their periodical little outbreaks,
the others promptly abandoned their more equal contests
to pile on to that unfortunate one.
The rancher and Dorothy came next in a comfortable sleigh,
with large buffalo robes all around them to keep out the
cold. Then came the two women servants in a light wagon-box
set on runners, and driven by Jacques. A Mounted Policeman
in a jumper formed the rear-guard at a distance of about
half-a-mile. The wagons were well stocked with all
necessaries for camping out.
It was a typical North-West morning, cold, bracing and
clear. The dry air stimulated one, and the winter sun
shone cheerfully down upon the great white land of virgin
There was a sense of utter solitude, of an immensity of
space. There was no sound save the soft, even swish of
the runners over the snow, and the regular muffled pounding
of the horses' hoofs.
Within the next hour so buoyant were Dorothy's spirits,
and so light-hearted and genuine her outlook on things
in general, that Douglas began to wonder if the events
of the previous evening were not, after all, the imaginings
of some horrible nightmare.
On, on, over the plains of frozen snow. The sun was so
strong now that Douglas was obliged to put great goggles
over his eyes, and Dorothy pulled a dark veil down over
hers, for fear of snow-blindness. They had left the flat
prairie behind, and were now in the bluff country which
was simply heights and hollows lightly timbered with
birch, poplar and saskatoon bushes, with beautiful meadows
and small lakes or "sloughs" scattered about everywhere.
They passed many pretty homesteads nestling cosily in
sheltered nooks; but no smoke rose from their chimneys;
they all seemed to have been deserted in a hurry. Their
occupants had doubtless fled into Battleford. What if
they had been too late to reach that haven of refuge!
At noon the travellers stopped in a little wooded valley
for dinner. It was more like a picnic party than that of
refugees fleeing for their lives. The Scotswoman actually
made a dish of pancakes for the troopers, because she
said there was one of them who reminded her of her own
son, whom she had not seen for many a long day. The
sincere thanks of the hungry ones were more than recompense
for the worthy dame.
They all sat down on buffalo robes spread on the snow,
and Dorothy was immensely taken with the gentlemanly,
unobtrusive way in which the troopers waited upon the
women of the party. But they were all mostly younger sons
of younger sons, and public school men, so after all it
was not to be wondered at. The high standard of honour
and duty, and the courage that was a religion animating
the force--the North-West Mounted Police--was easily
accounted for. She began to understand how it was that
some men preferred such a life to that of the mere quest
Every one seemed in the best of spirits. Wounds were not
mentioned, so it went without saying that these, owing
to the healthy bodies of their owners, were giving no
trouble. The only interruption of a non-harmonic nature
was when a burly Muskymote dog of Rory's team took it
into its head that a little _tete-noire_ dog had received
a portion of frozen fish from its master out of all
proportion to its inconsiderable size, so, as soon as
Rory's back was turned, showed its disapproval of such
favouritism by knocking the favoured one down, and trying
to bite off the tips of its ears. As the other dogs, with
their peculiar new Queensberry instincts, at once piled
on to the one that was getting the worst of it, Rory had
to put down the chicken leg he was enjoying to arbitrate
with his whip in the usual way. He gave the jealous
Muskymote an extra smack or two for its ill-timed behaviour
as he thought of that chicken leg.
To Dorothy's no little surprise she found Pasmore unusually
communicative. Despite his seeming austerity, he possessed
a keen vein of humour of a dry, pungent order that was
eminently entertaining. To-day he gave vent to it, and
she found herself laughing and talking to him in a way
that, twenty-four hours before she would not have deemed
Dinner over, the horses were watered--they had now cooled
down--the culinary articles were stowed away, pipes lit,
and preparations made for a fresh start. It would be
necessary to move with extreme caution, as they were not
more than twelve miles from Battleford, and the enemy
were pretty sure to have their scouts out.
On again through the still air, and between the winding
avenues of birch, poplar and saskatoon bushes. Nothing
to be heard save the occasional call of the grouse in
the bracken, and the monotonous chafing of the harness.
At dusk they arrived within a mile or two of the little
town, and halted.
A fire was lit in a deserted farmhouse, and a good drink
of hot tea put fresh life into them. There was trying
and dangerous work to be done that night; they would
require to be well prepared.
An hour later, when the moon began to show over the
tree-tops, the entire party moved out silently by a
little-used by-path towards Battleford. A couple of
troopers went on some considerable distance in front,
and one on either flank, with strict instructions to
create no alarm if possible in meeting with an enemy,
but to at once warn the main body.
And now on the still air came a weird, monotonous sound,
rising and falling, as does that of the far-off rapids,
borne on the fitful breath of the Chinook winds. _Tap,
tap, tap_, it went, _tum, tum, tum_, in ever-recurring
monotones. As they stopped to listen to it, the girl
realised its nature only too well. It was the tuck of
the Indian drum, and the Indian was on the war-path. As
they walked on they could hear it more plainly, and soon
the sound of whooping, yelling human voices, and the
occasional discharge of fire-arms, fell upon their
"They've bruk into the stores, an' are paintin' the town
red," explained Rory. "Guess they're hevin' a high ole
And now they could see a red glare tingeing the heavens
above the tree-tops. They ascended a hill to the right,
and looking down on the valley of the Saskatchewan, a
truly magnificent but terrifying sight met their gaze.
THE GRIM BLOCKADE
The great chief Poundmaker and his Stonies had broken
loose, and, after looting the Hudson Bay and other stores
in Battleford, were indulging in a wild orgie. Some of
the buildings were already burning, and the Indians, mad
with blood and fire-water, were dancing wildly around
the spouting flames that lit up that pine and snow-clad
winter scene for miles?
Some of the warriors, more particularly round the burning
buildings, had donned uncanny masks that took the shape
of buffalo and moose heads, with shaggy manes, horns and
antlers, and, horror of horrors, some of them, silhouetted
blackly against the fierce glare, showed themselves to
be possessed of tails that made them look like capering
_Pom, pom, pom_, went the hollow-sounding drums. Round
and round danced the wildly-gesticulating imp-like crowds.
They yelped and howled like dogs. They brandished
tomahawks and spears, all the time working themselves
into a frenzy. It more resembled an orgie of fiends than
of human beings.
"It is horrible," exclaimed Dorothy, shivering, despite
her resolve to face bravely whatever might come.
Within half-a-mile of the burning township, looming up
dimly over there among the trees, was the new village of
Battleford, and further back still, hardly discernible,
lay the Fort. Within several hundred yards of the latter,
under cover of hastily-improvised trenches of bluff and
scrub, was a cordon of half-breeds and Indians, by no
means too strong and not too well posted, for one of the
Police had already managed to elude the careless and
relaxed watch, and join the besieged ones. Under the
circumstances it was impossible for the defenders to make
a sortie, as this would leave the bulk of the refugees
unprotected. All they could do was to hold their position
and wait patiently until help came from Prince Albert
and the south.
What the rancher's party had to do was plain, _i.e._
separate, and endeavour, in ones and twos, to pass the
rebel lines and enter the Fort. Fortunately they could
all speak the curious patois of English, French, and Cree
that the enemy used, and therefore they had no need to
be at a loss. Moreover, with beaver-skin caps, and long
fur coats down to their heels, with the addition of a
sash round their waists, they were in no way different
from hundreds of others. Dorothy noticed that even the
Police had adopted means to conceal their identities so
far as appearances went.
Sergeant Pasmore did not take long to make his plans. He
did not ask for any advice now, but gave his orders
promptly and explicitly. It would be better that they
should all endeavour to pass through the enemy at the
same time, so that in the event of an alarm being given,
some of them at least might be able to push on into the
Mrs. Macgregor and the half-breed woman were sent away
round by the right flank under the charge of Jacques,
who was to go ahead and try to pilot them into the Fort
in safety. The Police were to move round on the left
As for Douglas and his daughter, they were to go down
separately to the foot of the ridge, walk leisurely
through the scattered houses, evading as much as possible
the straggling groups of rebels, and make towards a
certain point where a series of old buffalo-wallows would
to a great extent prevent their being seen. He warned
Douglas against keeping too near his daughter. He, being
so well-known, would be easily recognised, and their
being close together might lead to the capture of both.
Douglas at first demurred, but presently saw the force
of this advice. It was a hard thing to be separated from
Dorothy, but he realised that otherwise he might only
compromise her safety, so he kissed her and went in the
direction the sergeant pointed out. Pasmore and his
charge were now left quite alone. There was a dead
silence for some moments.
"I think we'd better go," he said, at length. "Now, do
you feel as if you could keep your nerve? So much depends
"I'm going to rise to the occasion," she answered smilingly,
and with a look of determination on her face. "Let us
"One moment--you mustn't show quite so much of your
face--it isn't exactly an everyday one. Let me fix you
up a little bit first."
She looked at him laughingly as he pressed her beaver-cap
well down over her smooth white forehead until it hid
her dark, arched eyebrows. He turned up her deep fur
collar, and buttoned it in front until only her pretty
hazel eyes and straight white nose were to be seen. Then
he regarded her with critical gravity.
"I wish I could hide those eyes of yours," he said, with
whimsical seriousness. "You mustn't let any young Johnny
Crapaud or Indian see them any more than you can help."
They descended the bluff and walked silently together
for some little distance through the thicket of birch
and saskatoon bushes. They were now close to the garden
of the first straggling house, and they could see dark
figures moving about everywhere. He pointed out to her
the way she would have to take.
"Now, au revoir," he said, "and good luck to you."
They shook hands, and she wished him an equal luck. "You
have been very good to us," she added, "and I hope you
will believe that we are grateful."
He took off his cap to her, and they went on their separate
Now that the girl had gone so far that there was no
turning back, she rose to the occasion as she said she
would. She faced the ghastly sights with much of her
father's old spirit.
She put her hands in her large side pockets and lounged
leisurely past the gable end of a house. A half-breed
woman, carrying a large armful of loot, met her on the
side-walk. In the moonlight the girl caught the glint of
the bold, black, almond-shaped eyes and the flushed face.
The woman was breathing hard, and her two arms encircled
the great bundle. She shot a quick glance at Dorothy.
She was more Indian than white.
Only that the rebels that night did not see with their
normal eyesight, the girl realised that she would have
been detected and undone.
Two drunken Indians came walking unsteadily towards her,
talking excitedly. Though quaking inwardly, she kept
straight on her way, imitating a man's gait as much as
she could, for with those long buffalo coats that reach
to the ground, it was impossible to tell a man from a
woman save by the walk. The moccasins made the difference
even less. But the Indians passed her, and she breathed
more freely. Several people crossed and recrossed her
path, but beyond a half-curious look of inquiry, they
did not trouble about her. She passed a store in flames,
and saw a number of breeds and Indians yelling and whooping
and encouraging an intoxicated metis to dash into it at
the imminent risk of his life to fetch out some article
of inconsiderable value as a proof of his prowess. As
she passed on she heard a dull thud; and, looking back,
realised by the vast shaft of sparks which rose into the
air that the roof had fallen in. Jean Ba'tiste had played
with Death once too often.
Sick with horror, the girl hurried on. A few hundred
yards more, and she would be clear of that awesome Bedlam.
She had to pass between some, huts, one of which she
could see was in flames. Hard by she could hear the
sound of a fiddle, and the excited whoops of dancers.
The Red River jig was evidently in full blast. She turned
the corner of a corral and came full on it. Several people
were standing apart round a bare spot of ground. A
capering half-breed, with great red stockings reaching
above his knees, with blanket suit, long crimson sash,
and red tuque on his head, was capering about like a
madman. His partner had just retired exhausted. He caught
sight of Dorothy, and peered into her face.
"My faith!" he exclaimed; "but we shall dance like
He made a grotesque bow, and seizing her by the arm,
pulled her into the clear space facing him.
For the moment a horrible sickening fear took possession
of Dorothy when she found herself thrust into such a very
prominent position. It was quite bad enough to have to
pass through that scene of pillage and riot, but to pose
as the partner of an excitable half-breed in the execution
of the Red River jig was more than the girl had bargained
for. The fantastic shuffling and capering of the long-legged
metis were wonderful to behold. The tassel of his long
red tuque dangled and bobbed behind him like the pigtail
of a Chinaman trying to imitate a dancing Dervish. His
flushed face, long snaky black locks, and flashing eyes
all spoke of the wild fever in his blood and his Gallic
origin. Still, the girl noted he was not what might be
termed an ill-looking fellow; he did not look bad-natured,
nor was he in drink. He was merely an excited
The barbaric, musical rhyme on the cat-gut took a fresh
lease of life; the delighted spectators clapped their
hands in time, and supplemented the music with the
regulation dog-like yelps. The Red River jig consists of
two persons of opposite sex standing facing each other,
each possessed with the laudable ambition of dancing his
or her partner down. As may readily be imagined, it is
a dance necessitating considerable powers of endurance.
When one of the dancers sinks exhausted and vanquished,
another steps into the breach. When Dorothy had made her
appearance, a slim and by no means bad-looking half-breed
girl had been unwillingly obliged to drop out of the
dance. The bright eyes of the new arrival had caught
Pierre La Chene's fancy, and, after the manner of his
kind, he had made haste to secure her as a partner. Pierre
was a philanderer and an inconstant swain. The dark eyes
of Katie the Belle flushed with anger as she saw this
strange girl take her place. She noticed with jealous
eyes the elegant fur coat which the other wore, the dainty
silk-sewn moccasins, the natty beaver cap, and felt that
she, herself a leader of fashion among her people, had
yet much to learn.
Dorothy stood stock still for a moment while her partner
and the spectators shouted to her to begin. A wrinkled
old dame remarked, in the flowery language of her people,
that, as the figure of the girl was slender as the willow,
and her feet small and light as those of the wood spirits
that return to the land in the spring, surely she could
out-dance Pierre La Chene, who had already out-worn the
light-footed Jeanette and the beautiful Katie. Pierre
shouted to his partner to make a start. Surely now she
must be discovered and undone!
Then something that, when one comes to think of it, was
not strange, happened--Dorothy rose to the occasion. She
had danced the very same fantasia many a time out of
sheer exuberance of spirits, and the love of dancing
itself. She must dance and gain the sympathy of that
rough crowd, in the event of her identity being discovered.
There was nothing so terrible about this particular group
after all. They were merely dancing while the others were
going in for riot and pillage. There was something so
incongruous and ludicrous in the whole affair that the
odd, wayward, fun-loving spirit of the girl, of late held
in abeyance, asserted itself, and she forgot all else
save the fact that she must do her best to dance her
Her feet caught the rhythm of the "Arkansaw Traveller"
--that stirring, foot-catching melody without beginning
or ending--and in another minute Dorothy was dancing
opposite the delighted and capering half-breed, and almost
enjoying it. With hands on hips, with head thrown back,
and with feet tremulous with motion, she kept time to
the music. She was a good dancer, and realised what is
meant by the poetry of motion. The fiddler played fairly
well, and Pierre La Chene, if somewhat pronounced in his
movements, was at least a picturesque figure, whose soul
was in the dance. So amusing, were his antics that the
girl laughed heartily, despite the danger of her position.
It was evident that Pierre was vastly taken with his
partner. He rolled his eyes about in a languishing and
alarming fashion; he twisted and wriggled like a
contortionist, and occasionally varied the lightning-like
shuffle of his own feet by kicking a good deal higher
than his own head. He called upon his partner to "stay
with it" in almost inarticulate gasps. "Whoop her up!"
he yelled. "Git thar, Jean! Bravo, ma belle! Whoo-sh!"
It was a very nightmare of grotesqueness to Dorothy. The
moonlight night, the black houses and pines looming up
against the snowy landscape, the red glare in the immediate
foreground caused by the burning buildings, the
gesticulating figure of her half-breed partner, the
excited, picturesque onlookers, the vagaries of the
fiddler and the never-ceasing sound of the Indian drum,
all tinged with an air of unreality and a sense of the
danger that menaced, made up a situation that could not
easily be eclipsed. And she was dancing and trying to
make herself believe she was enjoying it, opposite a
crazy half-breed rebel! She recognised him now as the
dandy Pierre, the admiration of the fair sex in his own
particular world on the Saskatchewan. If only any of her
people could see her now, what would they think of her?
But was this wild dance to go on for ever? Already she
was becoming warm in her fur coat, despite the lowness
of the temperature. There was a limit to her powers of
endurance, albeit she was stronger than the average girl.
The onlookers, charmed with the grace of this unknown
dancer, were noisy in their applause. She must feign
fatigue and drop out, letting some one else take her
With an inclination of her head to her partner she did
so, but he, doubtless captivated by the dark, laughing
eyes he saw gazing at him above the deep fur collar, did
not care to continue the dance with some one whose eyes
might not be so bewitching, and dropped out also. The
half-breed girl, his former partner, who up till now had
contented herself by gazing sulkily from lowering brows
upon this strange rival, was at last stirred by still
deeper feeling. She came close up to Dorothy, and gazed
searchingly into her face. At the same moment they
recognised each other, for often had Dorothy admired the
full, wildflower beauty, the delicate olive skin, and
the dark, soulful eyes of this part descendant of a noble
Gallic race and a barbaric people, and spoken kindly to
her. The half-savage Katie had looked upon her white
sister as a superior being from another world, and had
almost made up her mind that she loved her, but she loved
Pierre La Chene in a different way, and when that sort
of love comes into one's life, all else has to give place
to it With a quick movement she drew down Dorothy's fur
collar, exposing her face.
"_Voila!_" she cried; "_one of the enemy--the daughter
It was as if the rebels had suddenly detected an embodied
spirit that had worked evil in their midst, for the music
stopped, and the excited crew rushed upon her. But Pierre
La Chene kept them back. Those proud, defiant eyes had
exercised a singular charm over him, and when he saw her
face he almost felt ready to fight the whole crowd--almost
ready, for, like a good many other lady-killers, Pierre
had a very tender regard for his own personal safety.
Still, he cried--
"_Prenez garde_--tek caar! _Ma foi_, but she can dance
it! Let us tek her to Louis Riel. He is at the chapel.
We may learn much."
With her keen instincts, Katie saw the ruse.
"She has the evil eye, and has bewitched Pierre!" she
cried, and made as if to lead her old lover away.
But Pierre's response was to thrust her violently from
him. Katie would have fallen but that Dorothy caught her.
"Oh, Katie, poor Katie!" was all she said.
And then the half-breed girl realised the evil she had
wrought, and shrunk from the kindly arms of the sister
she had betrayed.
"To Riel with her!--to Riel with her!" was the cry of
the fickle malcontents, and, with a yelling following at
her heels, Dorothy was led away.
IN THE JUDGMENT HALL
Now that Dorothy knew the worst was about to happen, she,
strangely enough, felt more self-possessed than she had
done before. These rebels might kill her, or not, just
as the mood swayed them, but she would let them see that
the daughter of a white man was not afraid.
In that short walk to the chapel she reviewed her position.
She hoped that by this time the others had managed to
reach the Fort. If they had, then she could face with
comparative equanimity what might happen to herself. Her
only fear was what her father, in his distress on hearing
of her capture, might do.
Fortunately it was not far to the chapel which Riel had
converted into his headquarters. Indeed, he was only
paying a hurried visit there to exhort the faithful and
long-suffering metis and Indians to prompt and decisive
action. He intended to go off again in a few hours to
Prince Albert to direct the siege against that town. Only
those who had witnessed the wantonness and the capture
of the "white witch" followed. Most of the rebels were
too busy improving the shining hour of unlimited loot.
A half-breed on one side and an Indian on the other, each
with a dirty mitt on Dorothy's shoulder, led her to the
Judgment Hall of the dusky prophet, Louis David Riel,
"stickit priest," and now malcontent and political agitator
by profession. This worthy gentleman had already cost
the Government a rebellion, but why he should have been
allowed to run to a second is one of those seeming
mysteries that can only be accounted for by the too
clement policy of a British Government.
Dorothy and her captors entered the small porch of the
chapel and passed into the sacred edifice. For one like
Riel, who had been educated for the priesthood in Lower
Canada, it was a strange use to put such a place to. The
scene when they entered almost defies description. It
was crowded with breeds and Indians armed to the teeth
with all manner of antiquated weapons. Most of them wore
blue copotes and kept on their unplucked beaver caps or
long red tuques. Haranguing them close to the altar was
the great Riel himself, the terror of the Saskatchewan.
He did not look the dangerous, religious fanatic that he
was in reality. He was about five feet seven in height,
with red hair and beard. His face was pale and flabby,
and his dark grey eyes, set close together, glowed when
he spoke and were very restless. His nose was slightly
aquiline, his neck long, and his lips thick. His voice,
though low and gentle in ordinary conversation, was loud
and abrupt now that he was excited.
He was so carried away by the exuberance of his own
eloquence when Dorothy and her captors entered, that he
still kept on in a state of rapt ecstasy. His semi-mystical
oration was a weird jumble of religion and lawlessness,
devout exhortation, riot, plunder, prayer, and pillage.
He extolled the virtues of the murderous Poundmaker and
Big Bear. He said that Mistawasis and Chicastafasin, the
chiefs, and some others, were feeble of heart and
backsliders, for they had left their reserves to escape
being drawn into the trouble. Crowfoot, head chief of
the Blackfoot nation, was protesting his loyalty to the
Lieutenant-Governor, and his squaws would one day stone
him to death as a judgment. Fort Pitt, Battleford and
Prince Albert must shortly capitulate to them, and then
the squaws would receive the white women of those places
as their private prisoners to do with as their sweet
wills suggested. Already many of the accursed whites had
been slaughtered, as at Duck Lake, for instance, but many
more had yet to die. They must be utterly exterminated,
so that the elect might possess the land undisturbed.
At this point he caught sight of the newcomers. At a
sign from him they approached.
"Ha!" he said, with an unctuous accent in his voice, and
rubbing his hands like a miserable old Fagin, "Truly the
Lord is delivering them into our hands. What are you,
But beyond her name Dorothy would at first tell him
nothing. Her captors briefly stated the little they knew
concerning her presence in the town. The self-constituted
dictator tried bombast, threats and flattery to gain
information from her, but they were of no avail. His
authority being thus disputed by a woman, and his absurd
self-esteem ruffled, he gave way to a torrent of abuse,
but Dorothy was as if she heard it not. It was only when
Riel was about to give instructions to his "General,"
Gabriel Dumont, and more of the members of his staff and
"government" to instantly cause a search to be made in
the camp for those who might have been with the girl,
that she said he might do so if he chose, but it would
be useless, as her friends must have entered the Fort an
"Hear to her, hear to this shameless woman!" cried the
fanatical and self-constituted saviour of the metis,
gesticulating and trying, as he always did, to work upon
the easily-roused feelings of his semi-savage following.
"She convicts herself out of her own mouth; she must
suffer. She is young and fair to look upon, but she is
the daughter of Douglas, the great friend of the English,
and therefore evil of heart. Moreover, she defies me,
even me, to whom St Peter himself appeared in the Church
of St. James at Washington, Columbia! Take her hence and
keep her as a prisoner until we decide what fate shall
be hers. In the days of the old prophets the dogs licked
the blood of a woman from the stones--of a woman who
deserved better than she."
With a wave of his hand the arch rebel, who was yet to
pay the penalty of his inordinate vanity and scheming
with his life, dismissed the prisoner and her captors.
He instructed an Irish renegade and member of his cabinet,
called Nolin, to see to it that the prisoner was kept
under close arrest until her fate was decided upon--which
would probably be before morning. Nolin told some of
Katie's relatives to take charge of Dorothy. He himself,
to tell the truth, did not particularly care what became
of her one way or the other. Already this gentleman was
trying to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare.
Dorothy looked around the improvised court-house in the
vague hope of finding some one whom she might have known
in the days of peace, and whose intervention would count
for something. But alas! the vision of dark, cruel and
uncompromising faces that met her gaze, gave her no hope.
They had all been wrought up to such a high pitch of
excitement that murder itself was but an item in their
programme. Her heart sank within her, but still her mind
was active. She was not one of the sort who submit tamely
to what appears to be the inevitable. She came of a
fighting stock--of a race that had struggled much, and
Katie's male kinsman, the huge half-breed and the officious
redskin, again seized Dorothy and hurried her away,
followed by the curious, straggling mob. Arrived, at
length, at a long, low log-house on the outskirts of the
town, they hammered on the closed door for admittance.
THE DWARF AND THE BEAR
Dorothy noticed that there was a light in the windows of
this house, and wondered how it was that the occupants
seemed to be quietly staying at home while evidently all
the half-breed inhabitants of the town were making a
night of it. She also noticed that when her guides had
knocked they drew somewhat back from the doorway, and
that the motley crowd which had been pressing close behind
followed their example. They also ceased their noisy talk
and laughter while they waited for the door to be opened.
Only Katie, the flouted belle who had been following them
up, did not seem to possess the same diffidence as the
others, but stood with one hand on the door, listening.
Dorothy became strangely curious as to the inmates of
this isolated house.
A strange shuffling and peculiar deep breathing were
heard in the passage; a bolt was withdrawn, Katie drew
quickly back, and next moment the door was thrown open.
A flood of light streamed out, and two weird and startling
figures were outlined sharply against it. Instinctively
Dorothy shrank backwards with a sense of wonder and fear.
Standing on its hind legs in the doorway was a bear, and
by its side a dwarf with an immense head covered with a
great crop of hair, and with long arms and a broad chest
which indicated great strength.
"Whur-r! What you want here and at this hour of night,
you cut-throats, you?" asked the outspoken manikin in a
voice of sufficient volume to have equipped half-a-dozen
"A sweetheart for you, Pepin. A sweetheart, _mon ami_"
answered the big breed, in a conciliatory voice.
Dorothy nearly sank to the ground in horror when she
heard this rude jest.
"Bah!" cried the manikin, "it is another female you will
want to foist off upon me, is it? Eh? What? But no,
_coquin_, Pepin has not been the catch of the Saskatchewan
all these years without learning wisdom. Who is she--a
prisoner? Eh? Is not that so?"
"That is so, Pepin, she is preesonar, and Riel has ordered
her to be detained here. Your house is the only quiet
one in the town this night, and that is why we came. Tell
Antoine to be so good as to stand back."
Antoine was the bear, which still stood swaying gently
from one side to the other with a comical expression of
inquiry and gravity on its old-fashioned face.
Pepin surveyed the mob with no friendly scrutiny.
"What you want here, you _canaille, sans-culottes?_" he
demanded. And then in no complimentary terms he bade them
The crowd, however, still lingered, with that spirit of
curiosity peculiar to most crowds; so the dwarf brought
them to their senses. Suddenly poking Antoine in the
ribs, he brought him down on all fours, and then, brushing
past Dorothy and her captors, and still leading the bear,
he charged the mob with surprising agility, scattering
it right and left. It was evident that they stood in
wholesome dread of Pepin and his methods. Then, coming
back with the bear, he put one hand on his heart, and
with a bow of grotesque gallantry, bade Dorothy enter
the house. The Indian he promptly sent about his business
with a sudden blow over the chest that would probably
have injured a white man's bones. The red man looked
for a moment as if he meditated reprisals, but Pepin
merely blinked at the cudgel, and Man-of-might, with a
disgusted "Ough! ough!" changed his mind and incontinently
fled. Dorothy's captor, Pierre La Chene, and Katie, alone
entered the dwarf's abode.
It suddenly occurred to Dorothy that this was the Pepin
Quesnelle of whom and of whose tame bear Rory was wont
to tell tales. Dorothy noticed that Katie had a brief
whispered conference with the truculent Pepin before
entering. The result of it was somewhat unexpected; the
half-breed girl took Dorothy by the arm and led her into
a low room, which was scrupulously clean, at the end of
the passage. There was no one in it. Katie seemed strangely
nervous as she shut the door, and the girl wondered what
was about to happen. Then the half-breed turned suddenly
and looked into her eyes, at the same time placing one
hand upon her wrist.
"Listen," she said, "I thought I loved you, but you have
made me mad--so mad this night! Now tell me true--_verite
sans peur_--you shall--you must tell me--do you love
If it had not been for the tragic light in the poor girl's
eyes, Dorothy would have laughed in her face at the bare
idea. As it was, she answered in such an emphatic way
that Katie had no more doubts on that point. Then Dorothy
asked the latter to send Pierre to her and to be herself
present at the interview.
Katie at first demurred. She was afraid that the interview
might prove too much for the susceptible frail one. But
she brought him in, and when Dorothy had spoken a few
words to him, the fickle swain was only too anxious to
make it up with his real love. This satisfactory part
of the programme completed, Katie packed him off into
the next room, and then, with the emotional and
demonstrative nature of her people, literally grovelled
in the dust before Dorothy. She stooped and kissed her
moccasined feet, and called on the girl to forgive her
for her treacherous conduct But Dorothy raised her from
the ground and comforted her as best she could. To her
she was as a child, although perhaps her passion was a
revelation that as yet she but imperfectly comprehended.
But Katie was to prove the sincerity of her regret in a
"Where are your friends?" she asked. "Tell me
everything--yes, you can trust me. By the Blessed Virgin,
I swear I will serve you faithfully!" She raised her
great dark tear-stained eyes to Dorothy's.
The girl instinctively felt that Katie was to be trusted.
The only question was, could she count upon her discretion?
She felt that she could do that also; she knew that in
a matter of intrigue the dusky metis have no equals. The
chances were that the others had reached the Fort; if
so, no more harm could be done. Briefly she told Katie
about those who had started out with her to steal through
the rebel lines to the English garrison.
"If Jacques and the women went in the direction you say,"
said Katie, "the chances are they have got to the Fort.
It matters not about the Police and Rory--they can look
after themselves. I doubt, however, if your father and
the sergeant have got through. You will stay in this
house while I go and see. I have many friends among our
people; the hearts of some of them not being entirely
with Riel, they will help me. I shall take Pierre. Pepin
and his mother you need not fear--they are not of the
rebels; they have lived too long at Medicine Hat with
And then she went on briefly to explain how Pepin was a
man renowned for his great wisdom and his cunning, as
well as for the bodily strength which had once enabled
him to strangle a bear. Still, his one great weakness
was conceit of his personal appearance, and his belief
that every woman was making a dead set at him. He also
prided himself upon his manners, which were either absurdly
elaborate or rough to a startling degree, as the mood
seized him, and as Dorothy had seen for herself. His
mother, whom she would see in the next room, was rather
an amiable old soul, whose one providentially overpowering
delusion was that Pepin was all that he considered himself
to be. She regarded most young unengaged women with
suspicion, as she fancied they looked upon her son with
matrimonial designs. Katie knew that the old lady was
at heart a match-maker, but, with the exception of herself,
who, however, was engaged, she had found no one good or
beautiful enough to aspire to an alliance with the
Dorothy felt vastly relieved at hearing all this. Then
Katie took her by the hand, and, telling her to be of
good courage, as she had nothing to fear led her into
the next room.
"A good daughter for you, mother," she said smilingly to
the dame who sat by the fire.
The old white-haired woman, who was refreshingly clean
and tidy, turned her dark eyes sharply upon the new
arrival. Whether it was that Dorothy was prepossessed in
her favour and showed it, and that the old lady took it
as a personal compliment, or that the physical beauty of
the girl appealed to her, is immaterial; but the fact
remained that she in her turn was favourably impressed.
She motioned to a seat beside herself.
"Sit hyar, honey," she said. "I will put the kettle on
the fire and give you to eat and drink."
But the girl smilingly thanked her, and said that she
had not long since finished supper. In no way loth to do
so, she then went and sat down next the old dame, who
regarded her with considerable curiosity and undisguised
favour. Katie, seeing that she could safely leave her
charge there, spoke a few words in a strange patois of
Cree and French to Pepin, and, calling Pierre, left the
Dorothy glanced in wonder round the common sitting-room
of this singular family. It was a picturesque interior,
decorated with all kinds of odds and ends. There were
curios in the way of Indian war weapons, scalping knives,
gorgeously beaded moccasins and tobacco pouches, barbaric
plumed head-dresses, stuffed birds and rattlesnakes,
butterflies, strings of birds' eggs, and grinning and
truly hideous Indian masks for use in devil and give-away
dances. At the far end of the room was a rude cobbler's
bench and all the paraphernalia of one who works in boots,
moccasins, and harness. Thus was betrayed the calling
of Pepin Quesnelle.
But it was the man himself, with his extraordinary
personality, who fascinated Dorothy. He was standing with
his hands behind his back and his legs apart, talking to
the sulky, uncompromising half-breed who had brought her
there. He was not more than three feet in height, and he
seemed all head and body. His arms were abnormally long
and muscular. He had a dark shock head of hair, and his
little black moustache was carefully waxed. His forehead
was low and broad, and his aquiline nose, like his
jet-black, almond-shaped eyes, betrayed an Indian ancestor.
His face betokened intelligence, conceit, and a keen
sense of sardonic humour; still, there was nothing in it
positively forbidding. To those whom he took a fancy to,
he was doubtless loyal and kind, albeit his temperament
was of a fiery and volatile nature. In this he showed
the Gallic side of his origin. It was very evident that,
despite his inconsiderable size, his hulking and sulky
neighbour stood in considerable awe of him.
"Pshaw! Idiot! Pudding-head!" he was saying. "But it is
like to as many Muskymote dogs you are--let one get down
and all the others attack him. What, I ask, did your
Riel do for you in '70? Did he not show the soles of the
moccasins he had not paid for as soon as he heard that
the red-coats were close to Fort Garry, and make for the
States? Bah, you fools, and he will do so again--if he
gets the chance! But he will not, mark my words, Bastien
Lagrange; this time the red-coats will catch him, and he
and you--yes, you, you chuckle-head--will hang all in a
row at the end of long ropes in the square at Regina
until you are dead, dead, dead! Think of it, Lagrange,
what a great big ugly bloated corpse you'll make hanging
by the neck after your toes have stopped twitching,
twitching, and your face is a beautiful blue. Eh? _Bien!_
is not that so, blockhead?"
And the dwarf grinned and chuckled in such a bloodthirsty
and anticipating fashion that the girl shuddered.