Part 2 out of 4
Bastien Lagrange did not seem to relish the prospect,
and his shifty eyes roamed round the walls.
"But the red-coats, how can they come?" he weakly asked.
"Where are they, the soldiers of the Great Mother? Riel
has said that those stories of the cities over seas and
the many red-coats are all lies, and that the Lord will
smite the Police and those that are in the country with
the anthrax that kills the cattle in the spring. Riel
swears to that, for St. Peter appeared to him and told
him so. He said so himself!"
"Bah, idiot!" retorted Pepin, "if it is that Riel is on
such friendly terms with St. Peter, and the Lord is going
to do such wonderful things for him, why does not the
Saint give his messengers enough in advance for them to
pay the poor men who make for them the moccasins they
wear? Why does he suffer them to steal from their own
people? Pshaw, it is the same old tale, the same old game
from all time, from Mahomet to the present down-at-heel!
But courage, _mon cher_ Bastien! I will come and see you
ch-chk, ch-chk!"--he elongated and twisted his neck, at
the same time turning his eyes upwards in a horrible
fashion--"while your feet go so ... so,"--he described
a species of _pas-seul_ with his toes. "Is that not so,
Antoine? Eh?--you beauty, you?" and here he gave the
great bear, that had been gravely sitting on its haunches
watching him like an attendant spirit, a sudden and
To Dorothy's horror the great brute made a quick snap at
him, which, however, only served to intensely amuse Pepin,
for he skilfully evaded it, and, seizing his stick, at
once began to dance up and down. The cunning little black
eyes of the beast watched him apprehensively and
"Aha, Antoine!" he cried. "Git up, you lazy one, and
dance! Houp-la!"--the huge brute stood up on its hind
legs--"Now, then, Bastien, pick up that fiddle and play.
That's it, piff-poum--piff-poum! Houp-la! piff-poum!"
and in another minute the man and the bear were dancing
opposite each other. It was a weird and uncanny sight,
the grotesque dwarf, with his face flushed and his hair
on end, capering about and kicking with his pigmy legs,
and the bear with uncouth waddles waltzing round and
round, its movements every now and again being accelerated
by a judicious dig in the ribs from Pepin's stick.
Bastien Lagrange fiddled away as if for dear life, and
the old dame, her face beaming with pride and admiration,
clapped her hands in time to the music. Every minute or
two she would glance from her son to Dorothy's face to
note what impression such a gallant sight had made.
"Is it not _magnifique?_ Is he not splendid?" she asked
"He is indeed wonderful," replied Dorothy, truthfully
Despite the suggestion of weirdness the goblin-like scene
created in her mind, the grimaces and antics of the
manikin, and the sulkily responsive movements of the
bear, were too absurd for anything. She thought of Rory's
story of how the "b'ar" resented being left out of its
share in Pepin's castor-oil; and was so tickled by the
contrast of their present occupation that, despite herself,
she broke out into a fit of laughter. Fearful of betraying
the reason of it, she began to clap her hands like the
old lady, which action, being attributed by the others
to her undisguised admiration, at once found favour in
their eyes. Dorothy began to imagine she was getting on
"Honey," cried the old lady, raising her voice and stooping
towards the girl, "I like yer face. Barrin' Katie, you're
the only gal I'd like for Pepin. I reckon we'll just stow
you away quietly like, and then afterwards you kin be
But the prospect so alarmed Dorothy that her heart seemed
to stop beating again. At the same moment Pepin showed
signs of fatigue, and the music stopped abruptly. Antoine,
however, in a fit of absent-mindedness, kept on waltzing
around on his own account, until Pepin gave him a crack
over the head and brought him to his senses.
"Come hyar, Pepin," cried the old dame. "Mam'selle is
took wid you. I think she'd make you a good wife, my
Dorothy grew hot and cold at the very thought of it. She
really did not know what these people were capable of.
Pepin approached her with what he evidently intended to
be dignified strides. For the first time he honoured her
with a searching scrutiny. Poor Dorothy felt as if the
black eyes of this self-important dwarf were reading her
inmost thoughts. She became sick with apprehension, and
her eyes fell before his, In another minute the oracle
"No, _ma mere_,
but her nose stops short too soon, and is inclined to be
saucy. Though her ways are sleek like a cotton-tail's,
I see devilry lurking away back in her eyes. Moreover,
her ways are those of a _grande dame_, and not our
ways--she would expect too much of us. She is a good girl
enough, but she will not do. _Voila tout!_" And with a
not unkindly bow the _petit maitre_ turned his attention
to Antoine, who, during the examination, had taken the
opportunity of seizing its master's cudgel and breaking
it into innumerable little bits.
Dorothy breathed again, but, true to the nature of her
sex, she resented the disparaging allusions to her nose
and eyes--even from Pepin. What a conceited little freak
he was, to be sure! And to tell her that she _would not
do!_ At the same time she felt vastly relieved to think
that the dwarf had resolved not to annex her. The only
danger was that he might change his mind. His mother had
taken his decision with praiseworthy resignation, and
tried in a kindly fashion to lighten what she considered
must be the girl's disappointment. Meanwhile Lagrange,
judging by his lugubrious countenance, was evidently
pondering over the pleasant prospect Pepin had predicted
for him. The dwarf himself was engaged in trying to
force the fragments of the stick down Antoine's throat,
and the latter was angrily resenting the liberty.
Dorothy was becoming sleepy, what with the fatigue she
had undergone during the day and the heat of the fire,
when suddenly there came three distinct taps at one of
It was fortunate for Antoine the bear that the taps at
the window came when they did, for Pepin with his great
arms had got it into such an extraordinary position
--doubtless the result of many experiments--that it would
most assuredly have had its digestion ruined by the sticks
which its irate master was administering in small sections.
To facilitate matters, he had drawn its tongue to one
side as a veterinary-surgeon does when he is administering
medicine to an animal. On hearing the taps the dwarf
relinquished his efforts and went to the door. The bear
sat up on its haunches, coughing and making wry faces,
at the same time looking around for moccasins or boots
or something that would enable it to pay its master out
with interest, and not be so difficult to swallow when
it came to the reckoning.
The dwarf went to the door, and, putting one hand on it,
and his head to one side, cried--
"Hello, there! _Qui vive?_ Who are you, and what do you
"All right, Pepin, it's me--Katie."
The door was thrown open, and the half-breed woman entered.
At her heels came a man who was so muffled up as to be
almost unrecognisable. But Dorothy knew him, and the next
moment was in her father's arms. The dwarf hastened to
close the door, but before doing so he gazed out
"You are quite sure no one followed you?" he asked Katie,
on re-entering the room.
"No one suspected," she replied shortly. "Jean Lagrange
has gone to look out for the others. I fear it will go
hard with the shermoganish unless you can do something,
Dorothy had been talking to her father, but heard the
Indian word referring to the Police.
"I wonder if Mr. Pasmore has got through to the Fort,
dad!" she said suddenly.
"I was just about to tell you, my dear, what happened,"
he replied. "I was going quietly along, trying to find
some trace of you, when a couple of breeds came up behind
and took me prisoner. I thought they were going to shoot
me at first, but they concluded to keep me until to-morrow,
when they would bring me before their government. So they
shut me up in a dug-out on the face of a bank, keeping
my capture as quiet as possible for fear of the mob taking
the law into its own hands and spoiling their projected
entertainment. I hadn't been there long before the door
was unbarred and Pasmore came in with Katie here. He told
me to go with her, and, when I had found you, to return
to where we had left the sleighs, and make back for the
ranche by the old trail as quickly as possible. He said
he'd come on later, but that we weren't to trouble about
him. Katie had made it right, it seems, with my jailers,
whom I am inclined to think are old friends of hers."
"But why couldn't he come on, dad, with you?"
There was something about the affair that she could not
"I suppose he thought it would attract less attention to
go separately. I think the others must have got safely
into the Fort. It seems that since they have discovered
that some of the English are trying to get through their
lines they have strengthened the cordon round the Fort,
so that now it is impossible to reach it."
"It's not pleasant, dad, to go back again and leave the
others, is it?"
"It can't be helped, dear. I wish Pasmore would hurry up
and come. He said, however, we were not to wait for him.
That half-breed doesn't look too friendly, does he?"
"Pepin Quesnelle is, so I fancy it doesn't matter about
the other," replied Dorothy.
The rancher turned to the others, who had evidently just
finished a serious argument.
"Pepin," he observed, "I'm glad to find you're not one
of those who forget their old friends."
"Did you ever think I would? Eh? What?" asked the manikin
cynically, with his head on one side.
"I don't suppose I ever thought about the matter in that
way," said Douglas, "but if I'd done so, I'm bound to
say that I should have had some measure of faith in you,
Pepin Quesnelle. You have known me for many years now,
and you know I never say what I do not mean."
"So!... that is so. _Bien!_" remarked Pepin obviously
pleased. "But the question we have had to settle is this.
If we let your daughter go now, how is Bastien here to
account for his prisoner in the morning? He knows that
one day he will have to stand on the little trap-door in
the scaffold floor at Regina, and that he will twirl
round and round so--like to that so"--picking up a hobble
chain and spinning it round with his hand--"while his
eyes will stick out of his head like the eyes of a
flat-fish; but at the same time he does not want to be
shot by order of Riel or Gabriel Dumont to-morrow for
losing a prisoner."
"Yees, they will shoot--shoot me mooch dead!" observed
"So we have think," continued the dwarf, "that he should
disappear also; that he go with you. I will tell them
to-morrow that the girl here she was sit by the fire and
she go up the chimney like as smoke or a speerit, so,
and that Bastien he follow, and when I have go out I see
them both going up to the sky. They will believe, and
Bastien perhaps, if he keep away with you, or go hide
somewhere else, he may live yet to get drown, or get
shot, or be keel by a bear, and not die by the rope. You
"Where ees ze sleighs?" asked the breed, taking time by
They told him and he rose with alacrity.
"Zen come on quick, right now," he said.
Douglas was pressing some gold into the old dame's hand,
but Pepin saw it.
"Ah, non!" he said. "There are bad Engleesh and there
are good Engleesh, and there are bad French, but there
are also good French. The girl is a good girl, but if
Pepin cannot marry her he will at least not take her
The old dame as usual, seconded him.
"That is right, Pepin," she said, "I cannot take the
monies. Go, my child; you cannot help that my son will
not have you for a wife. Some day, perhaps, you may find
a hoosband who will console you. Adieu!"
Dorothy had again put on her fur coat, and, bidding the
good old lady an affectionate farewell, and also thanking
Pepin, they prepared to set out again for the deserted
homestead in the bluffs.
"You will send the sergeant on at once if he comes here,
won't you, Pepin?" said Douglas to the dwarf. "Perhaps
it is as well to take his advice and get back as quickly
"Come now," remarked Pepin, "you must go. If you wait
you may be caught Bastien will lead you safely there.
He opened the door and looked out Antoine moved to the
door with a moccasin in his mouth. Dorothy said good-bye
to Katie, who would have gone with her, only Pepin would
not allow it. As Dorothy passed the latter he was evidently
apprehensive lest she might be anxious to bid him a
demonstrative farewell, for he merely bowed with exaggerated
dignity and would not meet her eyes.
"There are lots of other men nearly as good as myself,
my dear," he whispered by way of consolation.
By this time the last of the frenzied mob was looking
for somewhere to lay its sore and weary head, so the open
spaces were comparatively clear of rebels. In a couple
of hours another dawn would break over that vast land of
frozen rivers and virgin snows to witness scenes of
bloodshed and pillage, the news of which would flash
throughout the civilised world, causing surprise and
horror, but which it would be powerless to prevent. By
this time the stores which had burned so brilliantly on
the previous night were dully glowing heaps of ashes.
The tom-toms had ceased their hollow-sounding monotones
so suggestive of disorder and rapine, and the wild yelpings
of the fiend-like crew had given place to the desultory
howling of some coyotes and timber-wolves that had ventured
right up to the outskirts of the village, attracted by
the late congenial uproar. They were now keeping it up
on their own account. Farther away to the east, in the
mysterious greyness of the dreary scene, lay the Fort,
while in the ribbed, sandy wastes around, and in the
clumps of timber, the cordon of rebels watched and waited.
As the fugitives looked back at the edge of the bluffs
to catch one last glimpse of a scene that was to leave
its mark on Canadian history, a rocket shot high into
the heavens, leaving behind it a trail of glowing sparks
and exploding with a hollow boom, shedding blood-red
balls of fire all around, which speedily changed to a
dazzling whiteness as they fell. It was a signal of
distress from the beleaguered Fort to any relieving column
which might be on its way. Then away to the north, as if
to remind man of his littleness, the Aurora borealis
sprang into life. A great arc or fan-like glory radiated
from the throne of the great Ice-king, its living shafts
of pearly, silvery and rosy light flashing with bewildering
effect over one half of the great dome of the heavens,
flooding that vast snow-clad land with a vision of
colouring and beauty that brought home to one the
words--"How marvellous are Thy works." No wonder that
even the Indians should look beyond the narrow explanation
of natural phenomena and call such a soul-stirring sight
_the dance of the Spirits!_
But there was no time to lose, for should they be taken
now their lives would surely pay for their rashness. They
threaded their way among the wooded bluffs, avoiding the
homesteads, and once they nearly ran into a rebel outpost
standing under the trees near which two trails met. They
made a detour, and at last, on crossing over a low ridge,
they came upon the deserted homestead where they had left
the sleighs, horses and dogs.
Everything seemed quiet as they silently approached, and
Bastien seemed considerably astonished when he caught
sight of the signs of occupation by the enemy. He,
however, felt considerably relieved, for Pepin's pleasant
prognostications were weighing somewhat heavily upon his
mind. As for Dorothy, she felt strangely disappointed
when she found that Sergeant Pasmore had not put in an
appearance, for somehow she realised that there was
something mysterious in his having stayed behind. They
were passing an open shed when suddenly a not unfamiliar
voice hailed them.
"The top av the mornin' t'ye," it said, "an' shure an'
I thought I'd be here as soon as you."
It was Rory, who, after many adventures in dodging about
the village, and seeing Jacques and the two women servants
safely past the lax cordon of rebels, without taking
advantage of the situation to take refuge in the Fort
himself, had come back to his beloved dogs with a
presentiment that something had gone wrong with the
others, and that his services might be required. He was
Bastien nearly jumped out of his blanket suit with terror
when he heard this strange voice. He had seized poor
Dorothy with reckless temerity on the previous night when
he was surrounded by his own people, but now that he had
to deal with a white man he was not quite so brave. But
Douglas speedily reassured him, and he busied himself in
hitching up a team.
The rancher and Rory speedily compared notes.
"It will be light in another hour," said Douglas, not a
little impatiently, "and I can't make out why Pasmore
doesn't come on, unless he's got into trouble. As you
tell me, and as he would know himself, it would be useless
trying to get to the Fort. I don't like the idea of going
on ahead, as he told me to be sure and do, while he may
be in need of help."
"It's mortal queer," observed Rory, "that he didn't come
on wid you." He turned and addressed Bastien, who, having
hitched up two teams, seemed in a great hurry to be off.
"Eh, mister, an' what may you be sayin' to it?"
"I tink eet ees time to be what you call depart," was
the reply. "Eet ees mooch dead ze metis will shoot us if
zey come now."
He glanced apprehensively around.
"It's the other man who came with Katie to the place
where they had me prisoner, and who remained behind,"
explained Douglas. "He told me he'd come on."
The half-breed looked surprisedly and incredulously at
the rancher. Dorothy had now joined the group, and was
listening to what was being said.
"_Mon Dieu!_" exclaimed Bastien, "but ees eet possible
that you not know! Katie she haf told all to me. Ze man
you declare of he will no more come back. Ze man who made
of you a preesonar, have to show one on ze morrow, but
eet matter not vich, and dey arrange to show _ze ozer
man!_ He take your place; he mooch good fellow, and zey
shoot him mooch dead to-morrow!"
And all at once the truth--the self-sacrifice that Pasmore
had so quietly carried out--flashed upon them. It was a
Douglas understood now why it was the sergeant had told
him to hurry on, and not wait.
There was a dead silence for about thirty seconds after
the half-breed had revealed the truth regarding Pasmore's
non-appearance. Douglas wondered why he had not suspected
the real state of affairs before. Of course, Pasmore
knew that his guards had only consented to the exchange
on condition that he was handed over to the bloodthirsty
crew on the morrow!
As for Dorothy, she realised at last how she had been
trying to keep the truth from herself. She thought of
how she had almost resented the fact of Pasmore having
more than once faced death in order to secure the safety
of her father and herself, although the man was modesty
itself and made it appear as if it were only a matter of
duty. True, she had thanked him in words, but her heart
upbraided her when she thought of how commonplace and
conventional those words must have sounded, no matter
what she might have felt She knew now that Katie must
have found and spoken to him, and that her father's
liberty probably meant his--Pasmore's--death. How noble
was the man! How true the words--"Greater love hath-no
man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
It was Douglas who first broke the silence; he spoke like
a man who was determined on a certain line of action,
and whose resolve nothing should shake.
"I feel that what this fellow tells us is true, Dorothy,"
he said; "but it is utterly impossible that I can have
it so. Pasmore is a young man with all his life before
him, and I have no right to expect a sacrifice like this.
I am going back--back this very moment, and you must go
on with Rory. Pasmore can follow up. You must go on to
Child-of-Light, who will take you safely to some of the
settlers near Fort Pitt. As soon as the soldiers get here
they will crush this rebellion at once. After all, I
don't believe they will harm me. As for Pasmore, if they
discover that he is one of the Police, he is a dead man.
The girl caught him by both hands, and kissed him.
"You are right, father, you are only doing what is right,"
she said, "but I am coming with you. I could not possibly
think of going on alone. We will return together. You
will go on and take Pasmore's place--it will be all one
to his guards so long as they produce a prisoner--and he
can make good his escape. Lagrange here, who had charge
of me before, can imprison me along with you, and the
chances are they will be content to keep us as prisoners.
It will also save Lagrange from getting into trouble
"Ah! that ees mooch good," broke in the breed, who had
caught the drift of the last proposal. "_Oui_, that ees
good, and then they will not shoot me mooch dead."
Old Rory gave a grunt and eyed the hulking fellow
disgustedly. "It's nary a fut ye'll be goin' back now,
an' I'm tellin' yees, so it's makin' what moind ye have
aisy, sez Oi."
He turned to the rancher and there was grim determination
in his eyes.
"An' as for you goin' back now, shure an' it's a gossoon
ye'll be takin' me for if ye think I'll be lettin' yees.
It's ten chances to wan them jokers'll have changed their
sentymints by the time ye git thar, and will hould on to
the sarjint as well as to you. It's mesilf as is goin'
back if ye juist tell me where the show is, for I knows
the whole caboodle, an' if I can't git him out o' that
before another hour, then Rory's not the name av me. You
But he never finished the sentence, for at that very
moment two or three shots rang out on the still night.
They came from the neighbourhood of the town.
"Summat's up," exclaimed Rory. "Let's investigate."
The three men seized their rifles and ran up the ridge
that overlooked the bend of the trail They peered into
the grey moonlit night in the direction of the township.
At first they could see nothing, but a desultory shot or
two rang out, and it seemed to them that they were nearer
than before. At last, round a bend in the trail, they
caught sight of a dark figure running towards them.
"It must be one of the Police or Pasmore," said the
At last they saw this man's pursuers. There were only
three of them, and one stopped at the turn, the other
two keeping on. Now and again one of them would stop,
kneel on the snow, and take aim at the flying figure.
But moonlight is terribly deceptive, and invariably makes
one fire high; moreover, when one's nerves are on the
jump, shooting is largely chance work.
"'Pears to me," remarked Rory, "thet this 'ere ain't what
you'd 'xactly call a square game. Thet joker in the lead
is gettin' well nigh played out, an' them two coves
a-follerin' are gettin' the bulge on 'im. Shure an' I'm
thinkin' they're friends av yourn, Lagrange, but they
wants stoppin'. What d'ye say?"
"_Oui, oui_--oh, yiss, stob 'em! If they see me ze--what
you call it--ze game is oop. Yiss, they friends--shoot
'em mooch dead."
The tender-hearted Lagrange was a very Napoleon in the
advocating of extreme measures when the inviolability of
his own skin was concerned.
"It's a bloodthirsty baste ye are wid yer own kith an'
kin," exclaimed Rory, disgustedly; "but I'm thinkin' the
less shootin' the better unless we wants to hev the whole
pack after us. No, we'll juist let thet joker in the lead
git past, an' then well pounce on thim two Johnnies before
they can draw a bead, an' take 'em prisoners."
No sooner said than done. They ran down the shoulder of
the ridge, and, just where the trail rounded it, hid
themselves in the shadow of a great pine. In a few minutes
more a huge figure came puffing and blowing round the
bend. They could see he had no rifle. The moonlight was
shining full on his face, and they recognised Jacques.
He did not see them, so they allowed him to pass on. In
another minute his two pursuers also rounded the bend.
One of them was just in the act of stopping to fire when
Douglas and Rory rushed out.
"Hands up!" they shouted.
One of them let his rifle drop, and jerked his hands into
the air at the first sound of the strange voices. But
the other hesitated and wheeled, at the same moment
bringing his rifle to his shoulder.
But Douglas and Rory had sprung on him simultaneously.
His rifle was struck to one side, and he received a rap
on the head that caused him to sit down on the snow
feeling sick and dizzy, and wondering vaguely what had
On hearing the commotion behind him, Jacques also stopped,
and turned. He came up just in time to secure the better
of the two rifles. The gentleman who had sat down against
his own inclination on the snow, was hauled on one side,
and while Douglas, Jacques and Lagrange stood over the
prisoners, Rory again ascended the ridge to find out
whether or not any more of the enemy were following.
In a few words Jacques told Douglas his adventures since
he had left them on the previous night He and the women
had reached the British lines in safety, and shortly
afterwards the Police also arrived. The Fort, however,
was most uncomfortable. There were about six hundred men,
women, and children all huddled together in the insufficient
barrack buildings. After waiting for a few hours, Jacques
began to wonder what was delaying the others, and to
think that something must have gone wrong. He was not
the sort to remain inactive if he knew his services might
be required, so he evaded the sentries and stole out of
the Fort again to find his missing friends. Luck had so
far favoured him, and he had wished many of the rebels
good-night without arousing any suspicion as to his
identity, when unexpectedly he stumbled against a picquet.
It had doubtless got about that there were spies and
strangers in the town, for when they challenged him his
response was not considered satisfactory, and they ordered
him to lay down his rifle and put up his hands. He made
off instead, and, by dodging and ducking, managed to
escape the bullets they sent after him. He had lost his
rifle by stumbling in the snow, but he was fleet of foot,
and soon managed to get ahead of his pursuers. He knew
where there was a rifle if only he could reach the sleighs.
He had hardly expected such good fortune as to fall in
with his party again, having feared that they had been
captured by the rebels. He advised Douglas to get back
to the ranche by a little-used circuitous trail, as now
it was pretty certain that the whole township was aroused,
and the rebels would be out scouring the countryside for
them in another hour or less. The only consolation that
lay in the situation to Jacques was that he would now
have an opportunity of seeking out and finally settling
his little difference with his _bete noire_, Leopold St.
Rory came down from the ridge and reported that it would
now be madness to attempt to carry out their programme
of going back, as the entire settlement was aroused, and
there was evidently some little fight going on amongst
the rebels themselves. Douglas, he said, could not return
to Pasmore's guards and offer to exchange himself, trusting
to their friendship for Katie, for every one now would
see them; they might only precipitate Pasmore's fate,
and probably get shot themselves. They must get back to
It was certainly a distressing thing to have to do after
all they had gone through, but the worst part of the
whole affair was the thought of having to return leaving
the man who had risked his life for them at the mercy of
But it was folly on the face of it to go back to Battleford.
Still Douglas hesitated.
"It's too much to expect one to do to leave him," he
said, "but I'm afraid we're too late to do anything else."
As for Dorothy, she looked sick of it all, to say the
least of it.
"It's too terrible, dad; too terrible for words, and I
hardly thanked him for what he had done!"
"Nonsense, Dorothy! He knew we were people who didn't go
about wearing our hearts upon our sleeves. Besides, the
chances are that Pepin or Katie will stand him in good
stead yet. Besides, they may take it into their heads to
hold him as a hostage."
"Pardon, _mon ami_," said Jacques. "I think it is this
of two ways. Either we go as Rory here says, or we stop
and go back. As for myself, it matters not which--see"--he
showed some ominous scars on his wrists--"that was
Big-bear's lot long time ago when they had me at the
stake, and I was not afraid then. But I think it is well
to go, for if Pasmore is not dead, then we live again to
fight, and we kill that idiot St. Croix and one or two
more. _Bien!_ Is not that so?"
"Thet's the whole affair in a nutshell," said Rory. "Now
the question is, what we're going to do wid them beauties?
It would hardly do to leave 'em here, an' as for Lagrange,
he knows that them in Battleford won't be too friendly
disposed to him now, so 'e'd better come, too."
"That's it," said the rancher, "we'll make these two
breeds drive in front of us with the spare sleighs--they
can't leave the trail the way the snow is--and anyhow
we've got arms and they haven't, so I fancy they'll keep
quiet. When we get some distance away we may send them
back as hostages for Pasmore. Let us get ready."
The horses were speedily got into the sleighs, and in a
few minutes the procession was formed. As for Rory, he
had some little trouble in starting, for his dogs, in
their joy at seeing him, gave expression to it in their
own peculiar way. A big Muskymote knocked down a little
Corbeau and straightway began to worry it, while a Chocolat
did the same with a diminutive _tete-noire._
The order was given to pull out, and away they went again
in the early dawn. Rory had not gone far in his light
dog-sleigh before he pulled alongside the rancher.
"I say, boss," he said, "I ain't juist agoin' wid you
yet awhile. I know iviry hole an' corner of them bluffs,
an' I'm juist makin' for a quiet place I knows of, close
by, where I'll be able to find out about Pasmore, and
p'rhaps help him. As for you, keep right on to
Child-o'-Light. I'll foller in a day or so if I kin, but
don't you trouble about Rory. I'se know my way about,
an' I'll be all right, you bet."
A MYSTERIOUS STAMPEDE
Before Douglas could make any demur, Rory had switched
off on to another trail and was driving quickly away.
"Rory is as wide awake as a fox," said Douglas to his
daughter. "He's off at full speed now, and I don't suppose
he'd turn for me anyhow, if I did overtake him."
"Let him go, father," said the girl. "Rory would have
been dead long ago if there had been any killing him.
Besides, he may really be of some use to Mr. Pasmore--one
never can tell. Do you know, dad, I've got an idea that
somehow Mr. Pasmore is going to come out of this all
right I can't tell you why I think so, but somehow I feel
as if he were."
The rancher's gaze seemed concentrated on the tiny
iridescent and diamond-like crystals floating in the air.
There was a very sober expression on his face. He only
wished he could have been honestly of the same opinion.
The sun came out strong, and it was quite evident that
Jack Frost had not many more days to reign. Already he
was losing that iron-like grip he had so long maintained
over the face of Nature. The horses were actually steaming,
and the steel runners glided smoothly over the snow, much
more easily, indeed, than they would have done if the
frost had been more intense, as those accustomed to
sleighing very well know.
There was a great silence all round them, and when on
the open prairie, where the dim horizon line and the cold
grey sky became one, they could almost have imagined that
they were passing over the face of some dead planet
whirling in space. Only occasionally, where the country
was broken and a few stunted bushes were to be met with,
a flock of twittering snow-birds were taking time by the
forelock, and rejoicing that the period of dried fruits
and short commons was drawing to a close.
And now Dorothy saw that her father was struggling with
sleep. It was not to be wondered at, for it was the third
day since he had closed an eye. Without a word she took
the reins from his hands, and in a few minutes more had
the satisfaction of seeing him slumbering peacefully with
his head upon his breast. The high sides of the sleigh
kept him in position. When he awoke he found it was about
eleven o'clock, and that once more they were in the wooded
"You have let me sleep too long, Dorothy," he said. "It's
time we called a halt for breakfast Besides, we must send
those breeds back."
He whistled to Jacques, who called to Bastien, and in
another minute or two the sleighs were pulled up. The
prisoners were then provided with food, and told that
they were at liberty to depart By making a certain cut
across country they could easily reach the township before
One would have naturally expected that the two moccasined
gentry would have been only too glad to do as they were
told; but they were truculent, surly fellows, both, and
had been fretting all morning over the simple way in
which they had been trapped, and so were inclined to make
themselves disagreeable. Bastien Lagrange, who had always
known them as two particularly tricky, unreliable customers,
had preserved a discreet silence during the long drive,
despite their endeavours to drag some information out of
him. From what they knew of Douglas they felt in no way
apprehensive of their personal safety, so, after the
manner of mean men, they determined to take advantage of
his magnanimity to work out their revenge. Of Jacques,
however, they stood in awe. They knew that if it were
not for the presence of the rancher and his daughter that
gentleman would very soon make short work of them. The
cunning wretches knew exactly how far they could go with
They began by grumbling at having been forced to accompany
their captors so far, and asked for the fire-arms that
had been taken from them. One of them even supplemented
this modest request by pointing out that they were
destitute of ammunition. Jacques could stand their
impudence no longer, so, taking the speaker by the
shoulders, he gave him an unexpected and gratuitous start
along the trail. The two stayed no longer to argue, but
kept on their way, muttering ugly threats against their
late captors. In a few minutes more they had disappeared
round a turn of the trail.
The party proceeded on its way again. After going a few
hundred yards they branched on to a side trail, which
led into hilly and wooded country. Passing through a
dense avenue of pines in a deep, narrow valley, they came
to a few log huts nestling in the shadow of a high cliff.
There was a corral [Footnote: Corral = yard.] hard by
with a stack of hay at one end. They approached it
cautiously. Having satisfied themselves that the huts
concealed no lurking foes, it was resolved that they
should unhitch, give the horses a rest, and continue
their journey a couple of hours later.
Jacques put one of his great shoulders to the door of
the most habitable-looking log hut and burst it open.
Dorothy entered with him. The place had evidently belonged
to half-breeds. It was scrupulously clean, and in the
fairly commodious kitchen, with its open fire-place at
one end, they found a supply of fuel ready to their hand.
Whilst Jacques assisted the rancher and Lagrange in
foddering the horses, Dorothy busied herself with
preparations for a meal.
It was pleasant to be engaged with familiar objects and
duties after passing through all sorts of horrors, and
Dorothy entered cheerfully on her self-imposed tasks.
She quickly lit a fire, and then went out with a large
pitcher to the inevitable well found on all Canadian
homesteads. She had to draw the water up in the bucket
some forty or fifty feet, but she was no weakling, and
soon accomplished that. To fill and swing the camp-kettle
across the cheery fire was the work of a minute or two.
She then got the provisions out of the sleighs, and before
the three men returned from looking after the horses she
had laid out a meal on the well-kept deal table, which
she had Covered with an oilcloth. The tea had been made
by this time, and the four steaming pannikins filled with
the dark, amber-hued nectar looked truly tempting. The
rude benches were drawn close to the table, and the room
assumed anything but a deserted appearance.
It would have been quite a festive repast only that the
thought of Sergeant Pasmore's probable fate would obtrude
itself. Certainly they could not count upon the security
of their own lives for one single moment. It was just as
likely as not that a party of rebels might drive up as
they sat there and either shoot them down or call upon
them to surrender. Dorothy, despite her endeavours to
banish all thoughts of the situation from her mind, could
not free herself from the atmosphere of tragedy and
mystery that shrouded the fate of the captured one. Her
reason told her it was ten chances to one that the rebels
would promptly shoot him as a dangerous enemy. Still, an
uncanny something that she could not define would not
allow her to believe that he was dead: rather was she
inclined to think that he was that very moment alive,
but in imminent peril of his life and thinking of her.
So strongly at times did this strange fancy move her that
once she fully believed she heard him call her by name.
She put down the pannikin of tea from her lips untasted,
and with difficulty suppressed an almost irresistible
impulse to cry out. But there was no sound to be heard
outside save the dull thud of some snow falling from the
They had just finished their meal when suddenly a terrible
din was heard outside. It seemed to come from the horse
corral. There was a thundering of hoofs, a few equine
snorts of fear, a straining and creaking of timber, a
loud crash, and then the drumming of a wild stampede.
The men sprang to their feet and grasped their rifles.
"The horses!" cried Douglas; "some one has stampeded
them! We must get them back at any cost."
"Don't go out that way," remonstrated Dorothy, as they
made for the door. "You don't know who may be waiting
for you there. There is a back door leading out from the
next room, but you'd better look out carefully through
the window first."
The wisdom of the girl's advice was so obvious that they
at once proceeded to put it into execution.
The back windows commanded a view of the horse corral,
and they could see that one side of it had been borne
down by the rush of horses. But what had frightened them
was a mystery. There was nothing whatever of a hostile
mature to be seen. They could detect no lurking foe
among the pines, and when they passed outside, and went
round the scattered huts, there was nothing to account
for the disastrous panic.
"_Parbleu!_" exclaimed Jacques, looking around perplexedly.
"I think it must have been their own shadows of which
they were afraid. Do you not think that is so, m'sieur?"
"It looks like it," said Douglas; but we must get those
horses or the rebels will get _us_ to-morrow; they can
hardly overtake us before then. If I remember rightly,
there's a snake-fence across the trail, about half-a-mile
or so up the valley, which may stop them. Now, if you,
Jacques, go to the right, and you, Lagrange, to the left,
while I take the trail--I'm not quite so young and nimble
as you two--I dare say we'll not be long before we have
them back. But I'd nearly forgotten about you, Dorothy.
It won't do to--"
"Nonsense, dad! I'll be perfectly safe here. The sooner
you get the horses back, the sooner we will be able to
consider ourselves safe."
This view of the case seemed to commend itself to Bastien,
for without further ado he strode away to the left among
"I'm afraid there's nothing else for it," said Douglas.
"I think you'd better go inside again, Dorothy, and wait
till we return."
"And in the meantime I'll pack the sleighs," observed
the girl. "Leave me a gun, and I'll be all right"
The rancher leant his gun against the window sill, and
then departed hastily.
The deserted huts seemed very lonely indeed when they
had gone, but Dorothy was a healthy, prairie-bred girl,
and not given to torturing herself with vain imaginings.
She went indoors, and, for the next few minutes busied
herself in cleaning up and stowing away the dinner things.
This done, she resolved to go outside, for a wonderful
change had come about in the weather. It was only too
obvious that a new Spring had been born, and already its
mild, quickening breath was weakening the grip of King
Dorothy walked over towards the pines. She could detect
a resinous, aromatic odour in the air. Here and there
a pile of snow on the flat boughs would lose its grip on
the roughened surface and slip to earth with a hollow
thud. She skirted the outhouses, and then made for the
long, low-roofed hut again. She was passing a large pile
of cord-wood which she noted was built in the form of a
square, when, happening to look into it, she saw something
that for the moment caused her heart to stop beating and
paralysed her with fear. It was a great gaunt cinnamon
bear, which, seated on its haunches, was watching her
with a look of comical surprise upon its preternaturally
shrewd, human-like face.
Dorothy's heart was thumping like a steam-engine. Fear,
indeed, seemed to give her wings, for she gathered up
her skirts and ran towards the house as she had never
run in her life.
But the bear had just an hour or so before risen from
his long winter's sleep, influenced, doubtless, by those
"blind motions of the earth that showed the year had
turned"; feeling uncommonly empty, and therefore uncommonly
hungry, he had left his cave in the hillside lower down
the valley to saunter upwards in search of a meal. The
horses had unfortunately scented him before he was aware
of their proximity, and, with that lively terror which
all animals evince in the neighbourhood of bears, had
broken madly away, to Bruin's great chagrin. If he had
not been half asleep, and therefore stupid, he would have
crawled upon them from the lee side, and been on the
back, or at the throat, of one before they could have
divined his presence. The noise of the men's voices had
startled him, and he had gone into the wood heap to
collect his thoughts and map out a new plan of campaign.
The voices had ceased, but there was a nice, fresh-looking
girl, who had walked right into his very arms, as it
were. It was not likely he was going to turn up his nose
at her. On the contrary, he would embrace the
opportunity--and the young lady.
He must, indeed, have still been half asleep, for he had
given Dorothy time to make a start, and there was no
questioning the fact that she could run. Bruin gathered
himself together and made after her. Now, to look at a
bear running, one would not imagine he was going at any
great rate; his long, lumbering strides seem laboured,
to say the least of it, but in reality he covers the
ground so quickly that it takes a very fast horse indeed
to keep pace with him.
Before Dorothy had got half-way to the hut, she knew she
was being closely pursued. She could hear the hungry
brute behind her breathing hard. At length she reached
the hut, but the door was shut. She threw herself against
it and wrenched at the handle, which must have been put
on upside down to suit some whim of the owners, for it
would not turn. The bear was close upon her, so with a
sob of despair she passed on round the house. Next moment
she found herself confronted with a log wall and in a
species of _cul-de-sac_. Oh! the horror of that moment!
But there was a barrel lying on its side against the wall
of the hut Afterwards she marvelled how she could have
done it, but she sprang on to it, and, gripping the bare
poles that constituted the eaves of the shanty, leapt
upwards. Her breast rested on the low sod roof; another
effort and she was on it. The barrel was pushed from her
on springing, and, rolling out of harm's way, she realised
that for her it had been a record jump. The vital question
now was, could the bear follow?
She raised herself on hands and knees among the soft,
wet snow, and looked down apprehensively at the enemy.
What she saw would at any other time have made her laugh
heartily, but the situation was still too serious to be
mirthful. There, a few paces from the hut, seated on his
haunches and looking up at her with a look of angry
remonstrance on his old-fashioned face, was Bruin. His
mouth was open, his under jaw was drooping with palpable
disappointment, and his small dark eyes were gleaming
with an evil purpose. That he had used up all his
superfluous fat in his long winter's sleep was obvious,
judging by his lanky, slab-like sides. His long hair
looked very bedraggled and dirty. He certainly seemed
remarkably hungry, even for a bear. There was no gainsaying
the fact that he was wide awake now.
Dorothy rose to her feet and glanced quickly around.
Particularly she looked up the trail in the direction
taken by her father and the others, but the dark, close
pines, and a bluff prevented her from seeing any distance.
She could hear nothing save the twittering of some
snow-birds, and the deep breathing of Bruin, who seemed
sadly out of condition. The steep sides of the valley
and the dark woods close up all around and shut in that
desolate little homestead. There was no hiding the truth
from herself; she was very much alone, unless the bear
could be regarded as company. Bruin had her all to himself,
so much so, indeed, that he appeared to be taking matters
leisurely. He had the afternoon ahead of him, and, after
all, it was only a girl with whom he had to deal. As he
watched her there was even an apologetic expression upon
his face, as if he were half ashamed to be engaged in
such an ungentlemanly occupation and hoped it would be
understood that he was only acting thus in obedience to
the imperative demands of an empty stomach.
Dorothy wondered why the bear did not at once begin to
clamber up after her. As a matter of fact, bears are not
much good at negotiating high jumps, particularly when
their joints have been stiffening during the greater part
of the winter. But they have a truly remarkable
intelligence, and this particular one was thinking the
matter over in quite a business-like way.
Dorothy caught sight of a long sapling projecting from
the eaves. It was really a species of rafter on which
the sod roof rested. She cautiously lent over, and,
grasping it with her two bands, managed with some
considerable exercise of force to detach it. It was about
six feet long and nearly as thick as her arm, making a
Bruin regarded her movements disapprovingly, and resolved
to begin operations. The barrel which had helped the girl
to gain the roof was naturally the first thing that
attracted him. With a mocking twinkle in his dark eyes,
he slouched towards it. He was in no hurry, for, being
an intelligent bear, he appreciated the pleasures of
anticipation. He placed his two fore feet on it, and
then, with a quick motion, jerked his cumbersome hind
quarters up after him.
But the bear had never seen a circus, and his education,
so far as barrels were concerned, had been neglected.
The results were therefore disastrous. The barrel rolled
backwards while Bruin took a header forward. Never in
the days of his cubhood had he effected such a perfect
somersault In fact, if it had been an intentional
performance he could not have done it in better style.
It was such an unexpected and spontaneous feat that his
thoughts went wandering again, and he looked at the barrel
in a puzzled and aggrieved sort of way, as if he half
suspected it of having played him some sort of practical
In spite of the peril of her situation Dorothy could not
restrain a peal of laughter. A town-bred girl would
doubtless have been still shaking with terror, but this
was a lass o' the prairie, accustomed to danger. Besides,
she saw now that to reach her would cost the bear more
skill and agility than he appeared to possess.
The barrel, being in a species of hollow, rolled back
and rocked itself into its former position.
The bear walked round it, sniffing and inspecting it in
quite a professional manner. Then, not without a certain
amount of side--also quite professional--he prepared to
have another try.
He sprang more carefully this time, but he did it so as
to put the momentum the other way. The result was that
he rocked wildly backwards and forwards for about a
minute, and managed to stay on the barrel as a novice
might on a plunging horse, until the inevitable collapse
came. The barrel took a wilder lurch forward than it had
yet done, and Bruin dived backwards this time. He came
down with such a thud, and in such an awkward position,
that Dorothy made sure his neck was broken. To tell the
truth, Bruin thought so himself. He actually had not the
moral courage to move for a few moments, lest he should,
indeed, find this to be the case. Even when he did move,
he was not too sure of it, and looked the very sickest
But a bear's head and neck are about the toughest things
going in anatomy, so after Bruin had carefully moved his
about for a little to make sure that nothing serious was
the matter, he again turned his attention to the girl.
His stock of patience was by this time nearly exhausted,
and he glared up at her in a peculiarly spiteful fashion.
Then, suddenly seized by a violent fit of energy, he
leapt upon the barrel again with the determination to
show this girl what he really could do when put to it
But, owing to the previous hard usage the barrel had
received, some of the staves had started, the result was
that it collapsed in a most thorough manner.
In addition to the surprise and shock sustained by the
bear, his limbs got inextricably mixed up with the iron
hoops, and he looked for all the world as if he were
performing some juggling feat with them. One hoop had
somehow got round his neck and right fore leg at the same
time, while another had lodged on his hind quarters. He
fairly lost his temper and spun round and round, snapping
viciously at his encumbrances. The girl laughed as she
had not laughed for many a long day. To see the dignified
animal make such an exhibition of himself over a trifle
of this sort was too ludicrous. But at last he managed
to get rid of the hoops, stood erect on his hind legs,
and then waddled clumsily towards the hut.
Dorothy was not a little alarmed now, for his huge forepaws
were on a level with the eaves, while his blunt, black
snout was quite several inches above the sod roof. What
if he could manage to spring on to it after all! He opened
his mouth, and she could see his cruel yellow jagged
teeth and the grey-ribbed roof of his mouth. He moved
his head about and seemed preparing for a spring. Dorothy
raised the stout pole high above her head with both hands,
and, with all the strength that was in her supple frame,
brought it down crash upon the brute's head.
Bruin must assuredly have seen stars, and thought that
a small pine tree had fallen on him, for he dropped on
all-fours again with his ideas considerably mixed--so
mixed, indeed, that he had not even the sense to go round
to the other side of the house, where there was a huge
snowdrift by which he might possibly have reached the
roof. But, being a persevering bear, and having a tolerably
thick head, not to speak of a pressing appetite, he again
reared himself against the log wall with the intention
of scrambling up. On each occasion that he did this,
however, the girl brought the influence of the pole to
bear upon him, causing him to change his mind. Dorothy
began to wonder if it were possible that a blacksmith's
anvil could be as hard as a bear's skull.
But at last Bruin grew as tired of the futile game as
Dorothy of whacking at him with the pole, and, disgusted
with his luck and with himself, withdrew to the
neighbourhood of the corral fence, either to wait until
the girl came down, or to think out a new plan of campaign.
As for Dorothy, she seated herself as best she could on
an old tin that had once contained biscuits, and which,
with various other useless articles, littered the roof.
She was quite comfortable, and the sun was warm--in fact,
almost too much so. She was conscious, indeed, that her
moccasins were damp. In future she would wear leather
boots with goloshes over them during the day, and only
put on moccasins when it became cold in the evening. She
knew that in a few days the snow would have disappeared
as if by magic, and that a thousand green living things
would be rushing up from the brown, steaming earth, and
broidering with the promise of a still fuller beauty the
But what was delaying her father and the others? Surely,
if the fence and slip-rails were across the trail where
they said they were, the rush of the horses must have
been checked, and they would be on their way back now.
But she could neither see nor hear anything of their
approach. It was stupid to be sitting up there on the
roof of a house with nothing save a bear--fortunately at
a respectable distance--for company, but perhaps under
the circumstances she ought to be very thankful for having
been able to reach such a haven at all. Besides, the day
was remarkably pleasant--almost summer-like--although
there was slush under-foot. Everywhere she could hear
the snow falling in great patches from the trees and the
rocks. The bare patches of earth were beginning to steam,
and lawn-like vapours were lazily sagging upwards among
the pines as the sun kissed the cold cheek of the snow
Dorothy's head rested on her hands, and she began to feel
drowsy. The twittering of the snow-birds sounded like
the faint tinkling silver sleigh-bells far away; the bear
loomed up before her, assuming gigantic proportions, his
features at the same time taking a human semblance that
somehow reminded her of the face of Pepin Quesnelle, then
changing to that of some one whose identity she could
not exactly recall. Stranger still, the weird face was
making horrible grimaces and calling to her; her eyes
closed, her head dropped, and she lurched forward suddenly;
she had been indulging in a day dream and had nearly
fallen asleep. But surely there was some one calling,
for a voice was still ringing in her ears.
She pulled herself together and tried to collect her
senses. The bear assumed his natural proportions, and
Dorothy realised that she was still seated on the roof
of the log hut And then a harsh voice--the voice of her
dream--broke in with unpleasant distinctness upon her
drowsily-tranquil state of mind.
"Hi, you zere?" it said. "What for you not hear? Come
down quick, I zay."
Dorothy turned, and, glancing down on the other side of
the hut, saw the two objectionable rebels whom her father
had released nearly a couple of hours before. There was
an ugly grin upon their faces, and the one who had
addressed her held in his hands the gun which Douglas
had placed against the wall so that it might be handy
for his daughter in any emergency.
A THREE-CORNERED GAME
It was now a case of being between the devil and the deep
sea with a vengeance, and Dorothy, as she surveyed the
two vindictive rebels on one side and the hungry bear on
the other, was almost at a loss to determine which enemy
was the more to be dreaded. Upon the whole she thought
she would have the better chance of fair play with the
bear. If the latter succeeded in clambering on the roof,
at a pinch she could get down the wide chimney, a feat
which it was not likely the bear would care to emulate.
True, it would be a sooty and disagreeable experiment,
not to speak of the likelihood of being scorched on
reaching the fire-place, but then she could at once heap
more fuel on the fire, which would make it impossible
for Bruin to descend, and barricade herself in until the
It was fortunate that the girl's presence of mind did
not desert her. Her policy was to temporise and keep the
foe waiting until the others returned with the horses.
Moreover, she noticed that Bruin sat on his haunches,
listening, with his head to one side, as if this new
interruption were no affair of his.
A brilliant idea occurred to her, and already she almost
began to look upon Bruin as an ally. As yet the half-breeds
were unaware of the bear's proximity.
The girl, without rising, picked up the pole and placed
it across her knees.
"What is the matter with you?" she asked the taller of
the two rebels. "Don't you want to return to Battleford?"
"Eet is too late how, and we want you," explained the
first villain. "Come down queeck. Eet is no time we have
to waste. Eef we have to fetch you eet will be ver' bad
"Dear me!" remarked Dorothy, outwardly keeping cool, but
not without serious misgivings. "I can't think what you
can want with me. But, as you're so anxious, I'll come
down--in a few minutes--when my father and the others
"Ze horses they in big snowdreeft stuck and ze man cannot
leaf. Come down now--we want you!"
It was obvious to Dorothy that the two rebels, in taking
a circuitous route to the hut, had come upon the horses
stuck fast in a snowdrift, and that her father and Jacques
and Bastien were busily engaged in trying to extricate
them. Knowing that the girl must have been left alone
with the fire-arms, the two rebels had hurried back to
secure them, with wild, half-formed ideas of revenge
stirring their primitive natures.
Dorothy's policy was to keep cool, in order not to
precipitate any action on their part.
"Co-om," said the taller one, whose villainous appearance
was not lessened by a cast in his right eye, "we want
you to gif us to eat. Co-om down."
"Goodness! have you eaten all we gave you already? You
must have wonderful appetites, to be sure. If you look
in the sleigh--"
"Pshaw! co-om you down and get. What for you sit all
alone up there? Eet is not good to sit zere, and you will
"Oh, don't trouble about me, thanks. I'm all right; I
don't catch cold easily--"
What the cross-eyed one ejaculated at this point will
not bear repetition. He actually so far forgot himself
as to threaten Dorothy with bodily violence if she did
not at once obey him. But as the girl only remained
seated, with apparent unconcern, upon the biscuit tin,
and gazed mildly into his face, it became evident to the
big rebel that he was only wasting words in thus addressing
her. He prepared to ascend the snow bank, jump thence on
to the roof, and fetch her down by force.
Dorothy, like Sister Ann of Bluebeard fame, gazed anxiously
around and listened with all the intensity born of her
desperate state; but there was nothing to be seen or
heard. Only Bruin had risen again and was coming slowly
towards the hut. A bright scheme suggested itself to the
girl; but she would wait until the cross-eyed one discovered
how utterly rotten and soft the snow-bank had become
before putting it into practice. She must gain all the
time she could.
The rebel managed to reach the top of the drift, which
was nearly on a level with the roof of the hut, without
sinking more than an inch or two into the snow; but when
he braced himself preparatory to springing across the
intervening wind-cleared space, the crust gave and down
he went nearly up to the waist. The more he struggled,
the deeper he sank. His flow of language was so persistent
and abusive that even Bruin, on the other side of the
hut, stood still to listen and wonder. It was as much as
Dorothy could do to keep from laughing heartily at the
fellow's discomfiture, but she restrained herself, as
such a course might only drive him to some unpleasant
and desperate measure. She, however, thought it a pity
that only one of them should be struggling in the drift.
She must drive the other into it also. She therefore rose
and called to the second villain, on whose evil face
there was an unmistakable grin. Like Bastien, and most
of his kind, he had no objections to seeing his own
friends suffer so long as he himself came by no harm.
"Ho, you there!" she cried in apparent indignation. "Don't
you see your friend in the drift? Why don't you give him
a hand out? Are you afraid?"
But the second villain was too old a bird to be caught
with chaff, and replied by putting his mitted hand to
one side of his nose, at the same time closing his right
eye. He bore eloquent testimony to the universality of
the great sign language.
"You are a coward!" she exclaimed, disgusted with the
man, and at the failure of her little scheme.
"A nice comrade, you! I wonder you ever had the spirit
This was too much for the rogue's equanimity, and he
launched into such a torrent of abuse that the girl was
obliged to put her fingers in her ears. He, however,
went to the trouble of crawling over the snowdrift and
picking up the gun which his worthy mate had dropped when
he broke through the crust By this time the first villain
had managed to extricate himself, and had moved into the
clear space opposite the front door of the hut The eyes
of the two were now fairly glowing with rage, and they
prepared to storm the position. One of them was in the
act of giving a back to the other when. Dorothy appeared
on the scene with the sapling.
"Don't be silly," she cried. "If you do anything of that
sort I shall use the pole. Go round to the back; there's
a barrel there, and if you can set it up on end against
the wall, I'll come down quietly."
They looked up at her; they did not quite understand all
she said, but the girl's face seemed so innocent and
unconcerned that they strode round the hut, still keeping
their evil eyes upon Dorothy and her weapon of defence.
It must be confessed that Dorothy had some qualms of
conscience in thus introducing them to Bruin, but her
own life was perhaps at stake, and they had brought the
introduction on themselves. Still, they had a gun, and
there were two of them, so it would be a case of a fair
field and no favour.
Bruin heard them coming and stood on his hind legs to
greet them. Next moment the three were face to face. It
would have been difficult to imagine a more undignified
encounter. The big breed's legs seemed to collapse under
him; the other, who carried the gun, and was therefore
the more self-possessed of the couple, brought it sharply
to his shoulder and fired.
Bruin dropped on his knees, but speedily rose again, for
a bear, unless hit in a vital place, is one of the most
difficult animals to kill; and in this case the bullet
had merely glanced off one of his massive shoulder-blades.
Being ignorant of the resources of a magazine rifle, the
half-breed dropped it, and ran towards a deserted outhouse
close to the horse corral.
Thoroughly infuriated now by the bullet-wound, the bear
made after him. As he could not annihilate the two men
at once, he confined his efforts with praiseworthy
singleness of purpose to the man who had fired the shot.
It was lucky for the fugitive that bullet had somewhat
lamed the great brute, otherwise it would not have needed
to run far before overtaking him.
It was an exciting chase. The breed reached the hut, but,
as there was neither open door nor window, he was obliged
to scuttle round and round it, after the manner of a
small boy pursued by a big one. Sometimes the bear, with
almost human intelligence, would stop short and face the
other way, when the breed would all but run into him,
and then the route would be reversed. On the Countenance
of the hunted one was a look of mortal terror; his eyes
fairly started from his head, and his face streamed with
perspiration. It seemed like a judgment upon him for
breaking his word to the rancher and interfering with
the girl, when he might now have been well on his way to
While this was going on, the cross-eyed ruffian endeavoured
to clamber on to the roof of the hut by jumping up and
catching the projecting sapling as Dorothy had done, but
the girl stopped him in this by tapping his knuckles with
"Pick up and hand me that gun," she said, pointing to
it. "When you have done so, I will allow you to come up."
The cross-eyed one looked sadly astonished, but as he
did not know the moment when the bear might give up
chasing his worthy comrade to give him a turn, he did as
he was bid. The rifle would be of no use to the girl,
anyhow, and, besides, her father and the others must have
heard the shot and would be on their way back to see what
the matter was. It would therefore be as well to comply
with her request and try to explain that their seemingly
ungrateful conduct had only been the outcome of their
innate playfulness. If they had erred it was in carrying
a joke a trifle too far.
As soon as Dorothy found herself in possession of the
rifle she knew that she was safe. She even laid the pole
flat on the roof, allowing one end of it to project a
foot or so beyond it so as to aid the cross-eyed one in
his unwonted gymnastic feat. In a few moments the
discomfited villain stood on the roof in front of her.
Dorothy lowered the lever of the Winchester so that he
could see it and pumped another cartridge into the barrel.
The half-breed realised the extent of his folly, but saw
it was too late to do anything.
"Now stand over in that far corner," said the girl to
him, "or I will shoot you."
But the cross-eyed one was humility itself, and protested
that he could not for all the gold in the bed of the
Saskatchewan have lifted a finger to do the dear young
Mam'selle any harm. In his abject deference he was even
more nauseous than in his brazen brutality. He did as he
was bid all the same, and the two turned their attention
to the unlucky man who was having such a lively time with
Bruin. Dorothy, however, did not forget to keep a sharp
eye on the man near her.
Had there not been such tragic possibilities in the temper
and strength of the bear, the situation might have been
eminently entertaining. The position of the two principals
in the absorbing game of life and death was not an uncommon
one. Bruin stood upright at one corner of the hut and
the half-breed stood at another: each was watching the
other intently as a cat and mouse might be expected to
do. The man's mitted hands rested against the angle of
the wall and his legs straddled out on either side so as
to be ready to start off in any direction at a moment's
notice. Whenever the bear made a move the half-breed
slightly lowered his body and dug his feet more securely
into the soft snow. They resembled two boys watching each
other in a game of French and English. After standing
still for a minute or two and regaining their wind, they
would start off to their positions at two other corners.
Sometimes the bear would be unseen by the man, and this
state of affairs was generally a very puzzling and
unsatisfactory one for the latter, as he never knew from
which direction Bruin might not come charging down upon
When the two spectators on the roof turned their attention
to the two actors, the latter were in the watching
attitude, but almost immediately the game of "tag" began
again. The pursued one was evidently in considerable
distress; his face matched the colour of his knitted
crimson tuque, at the end of which a long blue tassel
dangled in a fantastic fashion. His whole attitude was
that of one suffering from extreme physical and nervous
tension. Dorothy's first impulse was to try and shoot
the bear, but owing to the distance and its movements
she realised that this would be a matter of considerable
difficulty. Besides, unless the bear-hunted rogue were
fool enough to leave the friendly vantage of the hut, it
was obvious that he would be quite able to evade the
enemy until such time as her father and the others came.
This would serve the useful purpose of keeping him out
of mischief and rendering him a source of innocent
entertainment to his friend, for it must be admitted that
the latter, now that he was safe, or considered himself
so, adopted the undignified, not to say unchristian-like,
attitude of openly expressing a sporting interest in the
But the fugitive had grown tired of the trying device of
dodging the bear round four corners, and, thinking that
if he could only get to the horse corral and squeeze
between the posts, he could, by keeping it between himself
and Bruin, gain the hut at the far end and mount on to
the roof. He determined to put his scheme to the test.
So, when for a moment he lost sight of Bruin behind the
other corner, he made a frantic bolt for the fence. But
his enemy happened to be making a dash round that side
of the house from which Leon reckoned he had no right to
make, one, and the result was that in another instant
the beast was close at his heels. It was an exciting
moment, and Dorothy, despite the fact that the hunted
one was a dangerous enemy, could not restrain a cry of
horror when she saw his imminent peril. She would have
shot at the bear if she could, but just at that moment
it happened to be going too fast for her.
As for the cross-eyed one, it was indeed a treat to see
Leon, who had laughed at him when he sank into the
snowdrift, flying for his life with a look of ghastly
terror on his face. It was a case of retributive justice
with a vengeance. His sporting tendencies were again in
the ascendant, and he clapped his hands and yelled with
The hunted half-breed managed to reach and squeeze through
the fence ahead of the bear, but the latter, to Leon's
dismay, succeeded in getting through after him, lifting
up the heavy rails with his strong snout and great back
as if they were so many pieces of cane. Then for the next
three minutes Leon only managed to save himself by a very
creditable acrobatic performance, which consisted of
passing from one side of the fence to the other after
the manner of a harlequin. He had lost his tuque, and
the bear had spared time to rend it to shreds with its
great jaws and one quick wrench of its forepaws. His
stout blue coat was ripped right down the back, and
altogether he was in a sorry plight.
The cross-eyed one had never witnessed anything so funny
in all his life, and fairly danced about on the roof in
his glee. There was every chance that Leon would be clawed
up past all recognition in the next few minutes, so he
shouted encouragement to Bruin for all he was worth.
Then to the girl's horror she saw the hunted half-breed
stumble in the snow, and the bear grab him by his short
blue coat just as he was wriggling under the fence.
Dorothy did not hesitate to act promptly now. If she
did not instantly put a bullet into the bear the man
would be torn to pieces before her eyes, and that would
be too horrible. True, she might just possibly kill the
man by firing, but better that than he should be killed
by Bruin. Fortunately she was accustomed to fire-arms,
and was a fairly good shot, so, putting the rifle to her
shoulder, she took aim and drew the trigger.
It was a good shot, for the bullet penetrated a little
behind the left shoulder, in the neighbourhood of the
heart, and the bear, releasing his grip upon Leon, lurched
forward and lay still, while the breed crawled, in a very
dishevelled condition, into the horse corral.
Dorothy was congratulating herself upon her success, and
was in the act of heaving a sigh of relief, when suddenly
the rifle, which for the moment she held loosely in her
right hand, was snatched from her grasp. At the same
moment an arm was thrust round her throat, and she was
thrown roughly on the snow.
For a minute or two Dorothy struggled to free herself
from her burly captor, but it was the struggle of the
gazelle with the tiger, and the tiger prevailed. He
laughed brutally, and put his knee upon her chest.
Even then she managed to slide her hand down to her side,
where, after the manner of most people in that land, she
carried a sheath-knife. This she succeeded in drawing,
but the half-breed saw the gleam of the steel and caught
her wrist with his vice-like fingers.
"Ho, Leon!" he yelled; "coom quick, and bring ze rope!"
It was a wonderful change that had come over the cross-eyed
one. A few minutes before and he had been an abject
coward; now he was the blustering bully and villain, with
his worst passions roused, and ready to take any risks
to gratify his thirst for revenge.
As for Dorothy, she saw the futility of struggling, and
lay still. What could have happened to her father and
Jacques that they did not come up? Surely they must be
near at hand. Was God going to allow these men, whose
lives she and her father had spared, to prevail? She did
not doubt that they meant to put her cruelly to death.
She breathed a prayer for Divine aid, and had a strange
presentiment that she was to be helped in some mysterious
In a minute or two Leon was also upon the roof. In his
hand he held some strips of undressed buck-skin and a
jack-knife. He seemed to have forgotten all about his
late peril in the paramount question of how they were to
revenge themselves upon the girl who a short time before
had outwitted them. The cross-eyed one hated her because
she had rapped him over the knuckles and given him a bad
five minutes when she had possession of the gun. Leon
was furious because she had brought about his introduction
to Bruin so cleverly, and given him beyond doubt the
worst ten minutes he ever had in his life. Like most
gentlemen of their stamp, they quite lost sight of the
fact that they themselves had been the aggressors, and
that, had it not been for the girl's goodness of heart,
they would in all probability have both been killed.
Perhaps the strangest feature of the situation to Dorothy
was that Leon did not seem to resent his worthy mate's
late secession from the path of loyalty, or, to put it
more plainly, his cold-bloodedness in laying him the odds
in favour of the bear. Probably they knew each other so
well and were so accustomed to be kicked when down that
Leon took the affair as a matter of course. Dorothy
rightly concluded, however, that this seeming indifference
was merely the outcome of the cunning half-breed nature,
which never forgot an insult and never repaid it until
the handle end of the whip was assured.
The first thing that the two villains proceeded to do
was to tie Dorothy's hands, not too closely, however,
behind her back. It was useless to attempt resistance,
as they were both powerful men, and they would only have
dealt with her more roughly had she done so. Then the
cross-eyed one proposed that they should take her into
the empty hut and tie her up. If they succeeded in getting
another rifle, as they expected they would, they could
wait inside and shoot the rancher and Jacques as they
unsuspiciously approached with the horses. Bastien Lagrange
could then be easily disposed of. It would be necessary
to put something in the girl's mouth--Leon suggested his
old woollen head-gear which the bear had chewed up--until
her friends were ambushed, as otherwise she might give
the alarm. Afterwards they could dispose of her at their
sweet leisure. This and more they discussed with such
candour and unreserve that had only the occasion and
necessity been different, the greatest credit would have
been reflected on them.
"Oh, you fiends!" cried the girl as the horror of the
situation dawned upon her. "Would you murder the men in
cold blood who spared your lives when they had every
right to take them? You cowards! Why don't you shoot
me? Do you think I am afraid of being shot?"
It was all like some horrible nightmare to her just then.
Brief time seemed such an eternity that she longed for
it to come to an end. She felt like one who, dreaming,
knows she dreams and struggles to awake.
The cross-eyed one was evidently delighted to see that
he had at length aroused this hitherto wonderfully
self-possessed girl to such a display of emotion; she
looked ever so much handsomer now that she was angry.
His watery, awry eyes gleamed, and his thick underlip
drooped complacently. He would see if she had as much
grit as she laid claim to. It was all in the day's sport;
but he would have to hurry up.
He seized the Winchester, and, holding it in front of
him, jerked down the lever as he had seen Dorothy do, so
as to eject the old and put a fresh cartridge into the
breech. But the old cartridge, in springing out, flew up
and hit him such a smart rap between the eyes that Leon
at once seized his little opportunity and laughed
"Good shot, Lucien!" he cried. "Encore, _mon ami!_"
Lucien's eyes were watering and smarting, and he felt
quite like shooting his sympathetic friend on the spot,
but he kept his wrath bravely under, and resolved to show
Leon in a very practical fashion how he could shoot on
the first auspicious occasion. Yes, such a blessed
opportunity would be worth waiting and suffering for.
And now they prepared to remove Dorothy from the roof,
and take her inside the hut. Leon was to descend first,
and then Lucien was to make her jump into the snowdrift,
where she would stick, and Leon would be waiting for her.
Poor Dorothy knew that if help did not come speedily she
would be undone. She prayed for Divine aid. She could
not believe that God would look down from Heaven and see
these fiends prevail. God's ways, she was aware, were
sometimes inscrutable, and seemed to fall short of justice,
but she knew that sooner or later they invariably worked
out retributive justice more terrible than man's. This
was to be made plain to her sooner than she imagined,
and unexpectedly, as God's ways occasionally are.
Leon descended, and his comrade, with an evil light in
his eyes and an oath on his lips, came towards Dorothy
to force her to jump on to the snowdrift; but villain
number two stopped him.
"Ze gun, Lucien," he said, "hand me ze gun first time."
The half-breed grasped the Winchester by the barrel and
handed it down to his comrade, but as he did so he was
unaware of the fact that the lever, in pumping up a fresh
cartridge, had also put the weapon on full cock. Leon,
in grasping it, did so clumsily, and inadvertently touched
the trigger. In an instant the death-fire spurted from
the muzzle, and Lucien fell forward with a bullet through
Not always slow are the ways of Him Who said, "Vengeance
The girl sank back in horror at the sight. To see a man
sent to his account red-handed is a terrible thing.
The fatal shot was still ringing in her ears when another
sound broke in upon the reverberating air. It was the
muffled drumming of hoofs and the hurried exclamations
of voices which she recognised. It was her father and
the others returning with the horses. She staggered to
her feet again as best she could, for her hands, being
tied behind her back, made rising a difficult matter.
She must have presented a strange sight to the party,
bound as she was, and with her long hair streaming behind
her. She heard her father's cry of apprehension, and the
next moment she caught sight of the remaining rebel
scuttling like a startled iguana towards the dense
plantation, where it would have been quite possible for
him to have eluded pursuit. But before he reached it
there was a sharp ping. He threw up his hands and fell
dead on his face. Douglas had made sure of him.
"It's all right, dad, and I'm not hurt," said the girl
reassuringly, as her father ran towards her with a look
of anguish on his face. "You just came in the nick of
time; they were going to ambush you. Don't let the horses
go too near the corral, as they will be stampeded again.
A dead bear is lying there."
In a few minutes she had told her father what had occurred,
and he had explained the delay. It had been as the two
rebels had said. The horses had gone off the trail into
a deep snowdrift, and it had required a great deal of
hard work to get them out. They had not heard the shot
which Dorothy had fired at the bear, for the very sufficient
reason that two bluffs intervened, and the fairly strong
chinook wind carried away all sound. They had not thought
there was any reason to be apprehensive about her, but
they had worked toilsomely to get back. Bastien had proved
a pleasant surprise in this respect--he had, doubtless,
by no means incorrect views regarding Riel's powers of
pursuit and revenge. That the two rebels should have come
back, and that a bear--a sure harbinger of spring--should
have made itself so intrusive were contingencies the
party could hardly have foreseen. As it was, Dorothy,
save for the fright, was little the worse for the rough
handling she had received, so they resolved to proceed
on their way in about an hour's time, when certain
necessary duties had been fulfilled.
Before the ruddy sun began to go down behind the
pine-crested bluffs and far-stretching sea of white-robed
prairie in a fairy cloudland of crimson and gold and
keenest blue, the horses were hitched up into the sleighs,
and the fugitives were bowling merrily up the valley so
as to strike the main trail before nightfall.
THE FATE OF SERGEANT PASMORE
When Sergeant Pasmore was left in the dug-out, or, to
explain more fully, the hut built into the side of a
hill, he sat down in the semi-darkness and calmly reviewed
the situation. It was plain enough.
He was a prisoner, and would be shot within twelve hours;
but Douglas and Dorothy were probably now safe, and well
on their way to friends. This, at least, was a comforting
He heard the talking of the breeds at the door; then he
saw it open, and one looked in upon him with his rifle
resting upon his chest. These were two of the sober crowd.
There was no getting away from them. The leaders of the
rebels probably by this time knew they had a prisoner,
and if he were not forthcoming when they were asked to
produce him, the lives of his gaolers would more than
likely pay the penalty. True, for Katie's sake they had
made an exchange, but that did not matter--no one would
know. Yes, they were ready to shoot him like a dog if he
made the slightest attempt to escape.
And she, Dorothy--well, he didn't mind dying for her.
Within the last twenty-four hours he had realised how
fully she had come into his life. And he had striven
against it, but it was written in the book. He could not
altogether understand her. At one moment she would be
kind and sympathetic, and then, when he unbent and tried
to come a step nearer to her, she seemed to freeze and
keep him at arm's length. And he thought he had known
women once upon a time, in the palmy days across the
seas. He wondered what she would think on finding out
the truth about her father's release.
It was cold sitting on an upturned pail with his moccasins
resting on the frozen clay, and breathing an atmosphere
which was like that of a sepulchre. He wished the dawn
would break, even although it meant a resumption of that
awful riot and bloodshed.
Yes, they would certainly shoot him when they discovered
that he was one of the hated red-coats who represented
the might and majesty of Great Britain. Why they should
now hate the Mounted Police, who had indeed always been
their best friends, was one of those problems that can
only be explained by the innate perversity of what men
call human nature.
He was becoming drowsy, but he heard a strange scraping
on the low roof over his head, and that kept him awake
for some little time speculating as to whether or not it
could be a bear. It seemed a silly speculation, but then,
in wild regions, inconvenient prisoners have often been
quietly disposed of through roofs and windows during
their sleep. As he did not intend to be taken unawares
like that, he groped around and found the neck yoke of
a bullock. It would do to fell a man with, anyhow.
He could hear the voices of his two guards at the door
only indistinctly, for, as has been said, it was a long,
narrow room. He wished it were a little lighter so that
he might see what he was doing. When the thing on the
roof once broke through, he would be in the shadow, while
it would be against the light That would give him the
At length the unseen intruder reached the straw that
covered the thin poles laid one alongside the other. The
straw was scraped aside, and then against the dark grey
sky Pasmore could see an uncertain shape, but whether
man or beast he could not make out To push aside the pole
would be an easy matter. He held his breath, and gripped
the neck yoke.
"Hist!" and the figure was evidently trying to attract
Pasmore thought it as well to wait until he was surer of
his visitor. A Mounted Policeman knew better than to give
himself away so simply.
"His-st, Sar-jean! Katie and Pepin she was send," said
the voice again.
It flashed through Pasmore's brain that here now was the
explanation of this strange visit. The half-breed (and
it was Pierre La Chene himself) had been sent by his
sweetheart to effect his rescue. It was, of course, absurd
to suppose that Pierre was undertaking this hazardous
and philanthropical job on his own account. What else
save love could work such wonders?
"Sar-jean, Sar-jean, you ready now?" asked Pierre,
impatiently, preparing to pull up the poles.
But Pasmore hesitated. Was he not imperilling the safety
of Douglas and his daughter by following so soon after
them? For, should they not have got quite clear of the
settlement, the hue and cry would be raised and scouts
would be sent out all around to cut off their retreat.
He thought of Dorothy. No, he could not in his sober
senses risk such a thing.
But just at that moment, somewhere over in the village,
there was a wild outbreak of noise, the sound of
rifle-firing being predominant.
The straw was quickly pushed back over the poles and some
_debris_ and snow scooped over that At the same moment
the door was thrown open and his two guards entered; but
they came no farther than the doorway. One of them struck
a light, and immediately lit some hemp-like substance he
carried in his hand. It flared up instantly, illuminating
the long barn from end to end.
"Hilloa! you thar?" cried one of them.
But it was unnecessary to have asked such a question,
for the light disclosed the form of the sergeant re-seated
on the upturned pail, with his head resting on his hands.
He appeared to be asleep.
Evidently satisfied with their scrutiny his guards again
turned towards the door to find out, if possible, the
reason of the firing. The whole settlement would be
aroused in a few minutes if it went on, or at least those
would who had not entered so fully as the others into
the orgie. What could it be? It was in reality Jacques
making good his escape, but Pasmore was not to know that.
To the sergeant the uncertainty was painful. Could the
rancher and his daughter have been delayed until they
had been detected by some vigilant rebels? The idea was
terrible. But he noted that the grey wintry dawn was fast
creeping over the snow-bound earth, and he concluded that
the fugitives must have got through some considerable
The firing ceased, and at last the thoroughly tired-out
man laid himself down on some old sacking, and fell fast
It was broad daylight when he was awakened by a kick from
a moccasined foot.
"Ho, thar!" cried some one. "Git up and be shot!"