Part 3 out of 4
The speaker did not repeat the kick, as he took good care
to stand well to one side when the sleeper awoke.
Then the present, with all its lurid horror, crashed down
upon the soul of Pasmore. He was to be shot--yes, but
his heart glowed within him when he thought of Dorothy,
for whom he had made this sacrifice!
He rose to his feet There was a group of dirty, bleary-eyed
breeds and Indians standing within the doorway. One or
two who had known him before looked on sulkily and
silently, for they knew that while he was a man whose
hand was iron and whose will was indomitable in the
carrying out of the law, he had ever a kindly word and
a helping hand for such as needed help. Those who only
knew him by the power he represented in the law, openly
jeered and crowed over this big "shermoganish" whom now
they had fairly in their grasp, and whom they must destroy
if the metis were to own and govern the land. They also,
however, kept well away from him, for had they not heard
how he had taken three bad Indians single-handed on the
Eagle Hills by wounding them in turn, and then driving
them before him, on foot, like sheep, into the Fort?
The sun was shining brightly down on the scene of rapine
and lawlessness, which looked peaceful and fair enough,
in all truth, robed as it was in its snow-white vestments.
Only here and there a heap of black and smouldering ruins
spoke of the horrors of the previous night. From the
scattered houses on the flat, wreaths of smoke were rising
right cheerily into the sharp, clear air. Breeds and
Indians, men, women, and children, were moving about
everywhere, carrying with them, for purposes of display,
their ill-gotten goods. Some of the lounging figures at
the door even had resplendent new sashes, and odd-looking
articles that did duty for them, wound round their waists
and necks. At intervals Pasmore could hear an odd rifle
shot, and he guessed that the Fort must be closely
invested. His first thoughts, however, were for Dorothy
and her father, whom he hoped were now safely back under
the friendly protection of Child-of-Light.
"Sar-jean," said a big half-breed whom he recognised as
one of his guards of the previous night, "will you haf
to eat and drink?"
The fellow did not look such a callous fanatic as some
of the others, and although this promise of breakfast
was not particularly exhilarating, still, Pasmore had a
healthy appetite, and he answered in the affirmative.
The big breed issued some orders, and in a few minutes,
to Pasmore's no little satisfaction, a lad brought a tin
of biscuits, a tin of salmon, a piece of cheese, and a
spoon, all obviously supplied by the Hudson Bay Company
on the previous evening free of charge--and against its
He sat down on the upturned pail once more and enjoyed
the simple fare. It was queer to think that this meal in
all probability would be his last on earth. His
surroundings seemed incongruous and unreal, and his mind
ran in a vein of whimsical speculation. It is strange
to think, but it is a fact, all the same, that certain
temperaments, when face to face with death, allow their
thoughts to take an oddly critical and retrospective view
of things in general. The fear of death does not affect
them, although, at the same time, they are fully conscious
of the momentous issues of their fate.
The crowd gathered around the door of the long building,
and many were the uncouth jests made at the expense of
the prisoner. One or two still half-drunk Indians pushed
their way through and came close up to him, talking
volubly and shaking their fire-arms in his face. But the
big breed let out at them with his great fists, and sent
them away expostulating still more volubly. Pasmore could
easily have settled the matter himself under other
circumstances, but he did not wish to precipitate matters.
The crowd grew in numbers, and very soon he gathered
something in regard to what was on foot.
He was to be taken to a certain little rise on the
outskirts of the village, where the Police had shot a
notorious malcontent and murderer some years before, and
there he was, in his turn, to be executed. This would be
retributive justice! Pasmore recollected with cynical
amusement how some of these very same rebels had lived
for years in dread of their lives from that desperado,
and how at the time nearly the whole population had
expressed their satisfaction and thanks to the Police
for getting rid of the outlaw, who had been killed in
resisting arrest. Now, when it suited their ends, the
latter was a martyr, and he was a malefactor. He wished
they would hurry up and shoot him out of hand, if he was
to be shot He did not know what horrible formality might
not be in store for him before they did that. But how
beautifully the sun was shining! He had hardly thought
that Battleford could be so fair to look upon.
At last he saw several breeds approaching, and one of
them carried with him an axe and a quantity of rope.
And behind the breeds, greeted by lusty acclamations from
the mob, came Louis Riel.
A CLOSE CALL
As the would-be priest and originator of two rebellions
approached Pasmore, the ragged, wild-eyed, clamorous
crowd made way for him. It was ludicrous to note the air
of superiority and braggadocio that this inordinately
vain and ambitious man adopted. The prisoner was standing
surrounded by his now largely augmented guard, who,
forgetful of one another's contiguity, had their many
wonderfully and fearfully made blunderbusses levelled at
him, ready to blow him into little pieces at a moment's
notice if he made the slightest attempt to resist or
escape. Great would have been the slaughter amongst the
metis if this had happened.
"Prisoner," said Riel, with a decided French accent, "you
are a spy." He fixed his dark grey eyes upon Pasmore
angrily, and jerked out what he had to say.
"I fail to see how one who wears the Queen's uniform can
be a spy," said Pasmore, undoing the leather tags of his
long buffalo coat and showing a serge jacket with the
regimental brass button on it.
"Ah, that is enough--one of the Mounted Police! What
are you doing in this camp?"
"It is I who should be asking you that question. What
are _you_ doing under arms? Another rebellion? Be warned
by me, Monsieur Riel, and stop this bloodshed as you
value your immortal soul."
He knew that through the fanatic's religion lay the only
way of reaching him at all.
But the only effect these words had upon Riel was to
further incense the arch rebel.
"Bind him, and search him," he cried.
Pasmore knew that resistance was hopeless, so quietly
submitted. Their mode of tying him was unique. They put
a rope round his waist, leaving his arms free, while the
two ends were held on either side by a couple of men.
His late guard, the big breed, who could not have been
such a bad fellow, discovered his pipe, tobacco, and
matches in one pocket, but withdrew his hand quickly.
"Nozing thar," he declared.
Whether or not he thought the prisoner might soon require
them on his way to the Happy Hunting Grounds is a matter
They took his pocket-knife and keys, and in the inner
pocket of his jacket they found the usual regimental
papers and weekly reports pertaining to the Police
Detachment. These are alike as peas throughout the
Territories, and not of the slightest value or interest,
save to those directly concerned, but to Riel it was a
great find. He spread them out, scanned a few lines here
and there, opened his eyes wide, pursed his lips, and
then, as if it were superfluous pursuing the matter
further, waved his hand in a melodramatic fashion, and
"It is enough! He is of the Police. He has also been
found spying in camp, and the penalty for that is death.
I hear he is one of the men who ran down and shot Heinault,
who was one of the people. Let him be taken to the same
spot and shot also. He took the blood of the metis--let
the metis now take his! Away with him!"
Such a wild yelling, whooping, and brandishing of guns
took place at these words that Pasmore thought there
would be little necessity to take him to the spot where
"Wild Joe" of tender memory slept. When an antiquated
fowling-piece actually did go off, and shot an Indian in
the legs, the uproar was inconceivable. Pasmore thought
of Rory's dogs having a sporting five minutes, and smiled,
despite the gravity of the situation. But order was
restored, and with Riel and two of his so-called "generals"
in the lead, and a straggling crowd of human beings and
dogs following, the prisoner was led slowly towards the
spot fixed for his execution.
Past the piles of smouldering ashes, and tracks strewn,
with all sorts of destroyed merchandise, they went. They
had looted the stores to their hearts' content, and were
now rioting in an excess of what to them was good living;
but where those short-sighted creatures expected to get
fresh supplies from is a question they probably never
once put to themselves.
Silent and powerless in King Frost's embrace lay the
great river. How like beautiful filagree work some of
the pine-boughs looked against the snow banks and the
pale blue sky! How lovely seemed the whole world! Pasmore
was thinking about many things, but most he was thinking
of some one whom he hoped was now making her way over
the snow, and for whose sake he was now here. No, he did
not grudge his life, but it was a strange way to die
after all his hopes--mostly shattered ones; to be led
like a brute beast amongst a crowd of jeering half-breeds
who, only a few days before, were ready to doff their
caps at sight of him; and to be shot dead by them with
such short shrift, and because he had only done his
They were coming to the rise now. How like a gallows that
tall, dead, scraggy pine looked against the pale grey!
How the hound-like mob alongside yelled and jeered! One
of them--he knew him well--he of the evil Mongolian-like
eyes and snaky locks--whom he had spoken a timely word
to a year ago and saved from prison--from some little
distance took the opportunity of throwing a piece of
frozen snow at Pasmore. It struck the policeman behind
the ear, causing him to feel sick and dizzy. He felt the
hot blood trickling down his neck, and he heard one or
two of the pack laughing.
"He will be plenty dead soon," said one. "What does it
But the big breed, with a touch of that humanity which
beats down prejudice and makes us all akin, turned upon
the now unpleasantly demonstrative rabble, and swore at
them roundly. In another moment Pasmore was himself again,
and he could see that gallows-like tree right in front
of him... And what was that hulking brute alongside
saying about skulking shermoganish? Was he going to his
death hearing the uniform he wore insulted by cowardly
brutes without making a resistance of some sort? He knew
he would be shot down instantly if he did, and they would
be glad of an excuse, but that would be only cutting
short the agony. The veins swelled on his forehead, and
he felt his limbs stiffen. He made a sudden movement,
but the big breed caught his arm and whispered in his
ear. It was an Indian saying which meant that until the
Great Spirit Himself called, it was folly to listen to
those who tempted. It was not so much the hope these few
words carried with them, as the spirit in which they were
uttered, that stayed Pasmore's precipitate action. He
knew that no help would come from the invested Fort, but
God at times brought about many wonderful things.
As they led him up the rough, conical mound he breathed
a prayer for Divine aid. It would be nothing short of a
miracle now if in a few minutes he were not dead. They
faced him about and tied him to the tree; and now he
looked down upon the upturned faces of the wild-eyed,
Riel stepped forward with the papers in his hand.
"Prisoner," he said, "you have been caught red-handed,
and the metis will it that you must die. Is it not so?"
He turned to the crowd. "On the spot where he now stands
he spilt the blood of the metis. What say you?"
There was a hoarse yell of assent from the followers of
Riel turned to one of his generals, who cried to some
one in the crowd. It was the next of kin to Heinault,
who had been shot on that very spot, and in very truth
he looked a fit representative of the man who had perished
for his crimes. He was indeed an ill-looking scoundrel.
There was a gratified grin upon his evil face. He knew
Pasmore of old, and Pasmore had very good reason to know
him. Their eyes met.
"Now you will nevare, nevare threaten me one, two, three
times again," he cried.
Pasmore looked into the cruel, eager face of the breed,
and he knew that no hope lay there. Then he caught the
gleam of snow on the crest of the opposite ridge--it was
scintillating as if set with diamonds. How beautiful
was that bit of blue seen through the pillar-like stems
of the pines!
Pasmore's thoughts were now elsewhere than with his
executioners, when unexpectedly there came an interruption.
There was a hurried scattering of the crowd at the foot
of the mound, and Pepin Quesnelle, leading his bear,
appeared upon the scene. That his short legs had been
sorely tried in reaching the spot there could be little
doubt, for his face was very red, and it was evident he
had wrought himself into something very nearly approaching
Riel, who had at first turned round with an angry
exclamation on his lips, seemed somewhat startled when
he saw the weird figures before him, for he, too, like
the breeds and Indians, was not without a species of
superstitious dread of the manikin and his strange
attendant. The executioner glared at the intruder angrily.
"Wait, you just wait one bit--_coquin_, rascal, fool!"
gasped Pepin, pulling up within a few yards of him, and
shaking his stick. "You will not kill that man, I say
you will not! I know you, Leon Heinault; it is because
this man will stop you from doing as your vile cousin
did that you want to shoot him." He turned to Riel. "Tell
him to put down that gun!"
But Riel had the dignity of his position to maintain
before the crowd, and although he would not meet the
black, bead-like eyes of the dwarf, with no little bluster,
"This man is a spy, and he must die. He is of the hated
English, and it is the will of the Lord that His people,
the metis, inherit the land."
"And I say, Louis Riel, that it is the will of the Lord
that this man shall not die!" reiterated the dwarf,
emphasising his words with a flourish of his stick.
Then an uncanny thing happened that to this day the metis
speak about with bated breath, and the Indians are afraid
to mention at all. Heinault, who during the wrangle had
concluded that his quarry was about to slip through his
hands, took the opportunity of raising his gun to the
shoulder. But ere he could pull the trigger there was
the whistle of a bullet, and he fell dead in the snow.
Then, somewhere from the wooded bluffs--for the echoes
deceived one--there came the distant ring of a rifle.
The perspiration was standing in beads on Pasmore's
forehead, for he would have been more than human had not
the strain of the terrible ordeal told upon him. From
a dogged abandonment to his fate, a ray of hope lit up
the darkness that seemed to have closed over him. It
filtered through his being, but he feared to let it grow,
knowing the bitterness of hope's extinction. But the blue
through the pines seemed more beautiful, and the snow on
the crest of the ridge scintillated more cheerily.
As the would-be executioner fell, something like a moan
of consternation ran through the crowd. The dwarf was
the only one who seemed to take the tragedy as a matter
of course. He was quick to seize the opportunity.
"It is as the Lord has willed," he said simply, pointing
to the body.
But Riel, visibly taken aback by this sudden _contretemps_,
knew only too well that his cause and influence would be
imperilled if he allowed this manikin, of whom his people
stood so much in awe, to get the better of him; and he
was too quick-witted not to know exactly what to do. He
turned to his officers, and immediately a number of breeds
started out to scour the bluffs. Then he called upon five
breeds and Indians by name to step forward, and to see
that their rifles were charged. Pepin waited quietly
until his arrangements were completed, and then, looking
round upon the crowd with his dark eyes, and finally
fixing them upon the arch rebel, he spoke with such
strength and earnestness that his hearers stood breathless
and spellbound. The file of men which had been drawn up
to act as executioners, and the condemned man himself,
hung upon his words. It was significant that, after the
fatal shot had been fired, no one seemed to be apprehensive
of a second.
"Louis Riel," he began, "you are one bigger fool than I
did take you for!"
Riel started forward angrily, and was about to speak when
the dwarf stopped him with a motion of his hand.
"You are a fool because you cannot see where you are
going," he continued.
"Can't I, Mr. Hop-o'-my-thumb?" broke out the rebel in
a white heat, shouldering his rifle.
But the dwarf raised his stick warningly, and catching
Riel's shifty gaze, held it as if by some spell until
the rifle barrel sunk lower inch by inch.
"If you do, Louis Riel, if you do, the Lord will give
you short shrift!" he said. "Now, I will tell you what
I see, and to you it ought to be plain, for you have been
in Montreal and Quebec, and know much more than is known
to the metis. I see--and it will come to pass long before
the ice that is in one great mass in this river is carried
down and melts in the big lakes, whose waters drain into
the Bay of Hudson--I see the soldiers of the great Queen
swarming all over the land in numbers like the gophers
on the prairie. They have wrested from you Battleford,
Prince Albert, and Batoche. I see a battlefield, and the
soldiers of the Queen have the great guns--as big as Red
River carts--that shoot high into the air as flies the
kite, and rain down bullets and jagged iron like unto
the hailstorms that sweep the land in summer time. I see
the bodies of the metis lying dead upon the ground as
thick as the sheaves of wheat upon the harvest-field.
Many I see that crawl away into the woods to die, like
to the timber-wolves when they have eaten of the poison.
I see the metis scattered and homeless. I see you, Louis
Riel, who have misled them, skulking alone in the woods
like a hunted coyote, without rest night and day, with
nothing to eat, and with no moccasins to your feet. But
the red-coats will catch you, for there is no trail too
long or too broken for the Riders of the Plains to follow.
And, above all, and take heed, Louis Riel, I see the
great beams of the gallows-tree looming up blackly against
the grey of a weary dawn; and that will be your portion
if you shoot this man. Put him in prison if you will,
and keep him as a hostage; but if you spill innocent
blood wantonly, as the Lord liveth, you shall swing in
mid-air. And now I have spoken, and you have all seen
how the hand of the Lord directed the bullet that laid
that thing low. Remember this--there are more bullets!"
The dwarf paused, and there was a death-like stillness.
Riel stood motionless, glaring into space, as if he still
saw that picture of the gallows. While as for Pasmore,
his heart was thumping against his ribs, for the spark
of Hope within him had burst into flame, and he saw how
beautiful was the blue between the columns of the pines.
ACROSS THE ICE
Pepin Quesnelle's weird speech had worked upon the
superstitious natures of the rebel leader and his followers
alike, for they unbound Pasmore from the tree and hurried
him away to a tenantless log hut, the big breed and two
others staying to guard him. Riel, with some of his
followers, started off on sleighs to Prince Albert, to
direct operations there, while the remainder stayed behind
to further harass the beleaguered garrison. Pasmore was
now glad that he had not offered a resistance that must
have proved futile when his life hung in the balance. He
offered up a silent prayer of thanksgiving for his
deliverance so far, and he mused over the strange little
being with a deformed body, to whom God had given powers
to see more clearly than his fellows.
The big breed was remarkably attentive to his wants,
but strangely silent When night arrived, Pasmore was
placed in a little room which had a window much too small
for a man's body to pass through, and left to himself.
He could hear his guards talking in the only room that
led to it. Pasmore had slept during the afternoon, and
when he awoke late in the evening he was imbued with but
one idea, and that was to escape. The fickle natures of
the half-breeds might change at any moment.
It was close on midnight, and there was not a sound in
the other room. Pasmore had, by standing on the rude
couch, begun operations on the roof with a long thatching
needle he had found on the wall-plate, when the door
silently opened and a flood of light streamed in. He
turned, and there stood the big breed silently watching.
Pasmore stared at him apprehensively, but the big breed
merely placed one finger on his lips to enjoin silence,
and beckoned him to descend. Wondering, Pasmore did so.
His gaoler took him by the arm, and stealthily they
entered the other room, their moccasined feet making no
noise. There, on the floor, lay the other two guards,
fast asleep. The big breed opened the door and they passed
out. Pasmore's brain almost refused to grasp the situation.
Was his gaoler going to assist him to escape?
But so it was. There was no one about. Every one seemed
to be asleep after the orgie on the previous night. At
last they reached a large empty shed on the outskirts of
the village, and there his guide suddenly left him without
a word. Pasmore was about to pass out, and make good his
escape, when suddenly he was hailed by a voice that he
"Aha! villain, _coquin!_" it said, "and so you are here!
_Bien!_ This is a good day's work; is it not so?"
"Pepin Quesnelle!" cried Pasmore, going towards him. "No
words can thank you for what you have done for me this
"And who wants your thanks?" asked the dwarf,
good-naturedly. "Come, the shake of a hand belonging to
an honest man is thanks enough for me. Put it thar, as
the Yanks say."
And Pasmore felt, as he obeyed, that, despite his
extraordinary foibles, Pepin Quesnelle was a man whom he
could respect, and to whom he owed a debt of gratitude
that he could never repay.
"Now, that is all right," observed Pepin, "and you will
come with me. Some friends of Katie's have found a friend
of yours to-day in the woods, and I will take you to
But Pepin would tell him no more; his short legs, indeed,
required all his energies. But after winding in and out
of the bluffs for an hour or more, Pasmore found out who
the friend was. Coming suddenly upon a couple of hay-stacks
in a hollow of the bluffs, the dwarf put his fingers to
his lips and whistled in a peculiar fashion. In another
moment a dark figure emerged from the shadow.
"Top av the marnin' t'ye," it said.
"Rory, by all that's wonderful!" exclaimed Pasmore as
they wrung each other's hands.
"That's me," said Rory. "Now, here's a sleigh. I fancy
it was wance Dumont's, or some other gint's, but I'm
thinkin' it's ours now. It's bruk the heart av me thet
I couldn't bring them dogs along. If we have luck we'll
be back at the ranche before noon to-morrer. Jest ketch
hould av this rifle, and I'll drive."
In the clear moonlight Pasmore could see a team standing
on an old trail not fifteen yards away.
"But just let me say good-bye first to Pepin," said
But Pepin Quesnelle had vanished mysteriously into the
"Rory," asked Pasmore a little later, when the team of
spirited horses was bowling merrily along the by-trail,
"was it you who fired that shot to-day and saved my life?"
"Young man," said Rory, solemnly, "hev yer got sich a
thing about yer as a match--me poipe's gone out?"
And Pasmore knew that, so far as Rory was concerned, the
subject was closed.
Next day about noon the two were to the north of the
valley, where lay the ranche. On rounding a bluff they
came unexpectedly upon three Indians in sleighs, who had
evidently just cut the trail.
"Child-of-Light!" they cried, recognising the foremost.
A wave of apprehension swept over Pasmore when he saw
the inscrutable expression on the face of the friendly
chief. Was it well with the rancher and his daughter?
"Ough, ough!" ejaculated Child-of-Light, wonderingly, as
he caught sight of Pasmore. He pulled up, jumped out of
his sleigh, and shook hands cordially. "Child-of-Light's
heart lightens again to see you, brother," he said. "His
heart was heavy because he thought Poundmaker must have
"Child-of-Light is ever a friend," rejoined Pasmore.
"But what of Douglas and the others?"
Then Child-of-Light told him how on the previous morning
Douglas and his daughter had reached the ranche. But as
Poundmaker's men were hovering in great strength in the
neighbourhood, he, Child-of-Light, had deemed it advisable
that they should take fresh horses and proceed in an
easterly direction towards Fort Pitt, and then in a
northerly, until they came to that secluded valley of
which he had previously told them. They had done this,
and gone on with hardly a pause.
In the meantime Child-of-Light had sent some of his braves
to run off the rancher's herd of horses to a remote part
of the country, where they would be safe from the enemy,
while he and one or two others remained behind to cover
his retreat. But alarming news had just been brought him
by a runner. Big Bear had perpetrated a terrible massacre
at Frog Lake, near Fort Pitt. Ten persons had been shot
in the church, and two brave priests, Fathers Farfand
and Marchand, had been beaten to death. If Douglas and
the others kept on they must run right into their hands.
It was to catch them up, if possible, and fetch them back
before they crossed the Saskatchewan, that Child-of-Light
was on his way now. Better to fall into the hands of
Poundmaker and his braves, who probably now realised that
they had gone too far, than into those of Big Bear, who
was a fiend. Of course, he, Pasmore, would come with
"But are there no fresh horses for us, Child-of-Light?"
asked Pasmore. "If the others have got a good start and
fresh horses, can we catch them up?"
"I have said I have sent all the horses of Douglas away
for safe keeping. We must overtake them with what we
have. The Great Spirit is good, and may do much for us."
"Then let us push on, Child-of-Light, for it will be a
grievous thing if evil befall our friends now."
For three days they travelled in a north-easterly direction,
but the sun had gained power, and spring had come with
a rush, as it does in that part of the world. The first
chinook wind that came from the west, through the passes
of the Rockies from warm southern seas, would render
travelling impossible--their sleighs would be useless.
The great danger was that Douglas and the others would
have passed over the Saskatchewan, and the ice breaking
up behind them would have cut off their retreat.
In those three days the party was tortured with alternative
hopes and fears. Now it was a horse breaking through the
softening crust of snow and coming down, and then it
would be one playing out altogether. If in another day
those in front were not overtaken, it was pretty certain
they must run into Big Bear's band, and that would mean
wholesale massacre. In order to catch them up they walked
most of the night, leading their horses along the trail.
On the fourth day they sighted the broad Saskatchewan,
now with many blue trickling streams of water upon its
surface and cracking ominously. They scanned the opposite
shore in the neighbourhood of the trail anxiously.
"Look, brother," cried Child-of-Light, "they are camped
on the opposite bank, and away over yonder, coming down
the plateau, are Indians who must belong to Big Bear's
band. But the river is not safe now to cross. I can hear
it breaking up and coming down at the speed of a young
broncho away up the reaches. Before the sun sets this
river will be as the Great Falls in the spring, when the
wind is from the west."
It was as the keen-eyed and keen-eared Red man said.
There were the rancher and his party camped on the other
side, in all innocence of the Indians who, unseen, were
stringing over the plateau. There was no time to be lost.
"You give me your jumper, Child-of-Light, and your
pony--they are the best," Pasmore cried. "I shall be back
with the others before long. In the meantime, look to
The others would fain have accompanied him, but Pasmore
knew that would only be aggravating the danger. Without
a moment's delay he jumped into the light box of wood
and urged the sure-footed pony across the now groaning
and creaking ice. And now there broke upon his ears what
before only the Indian had heard. It was the coming down
of the river in flood, miles away. It sounded like the
roar of a distant Niagara. Here and there his pony was
up to the fetlocks in water, and the ice heaved beneath
him. Every now and again there was a mighty crackle,
resembling the breaking of a thunderbolt, that sent his
heart into his mouth. He feared then that the end had
come and he would be too late. With rein and voice he
urged the sure-footed pony across the ice. Would he never
reach the opposite bank? But once there, would it be
possible for the party to recross? Surely it would be as
much as their lives were worth to try.
Long before Pasmore had reached the landing, Douglas and
the others had seen him. It was no time for greetings,
and, indeed, their meeting was one too deep for words.
They merely wrung each other's hands, and something
suspiciously like moisture stood in the rancher's eyes.
As for Dorothy, she could not utter a word, but there
was something in her look that quickened Pasmore's
heart-beats even then.
"You must be quick," cried Pasmore. "Big Bear will be
down upon you in ten minutes. Look! There they are now.
There is yet time to cross."
And as he spoke there came a roar like thunder, travelling
from the higher reaches of the river towards them; it
passed them and was lost in the lower reaches. It was
the "back" of the ice being broken--the preliminary to
the grand chaos that was to come. The Indians had seen
them now, and were coming at a gallop not a mile away.
Douglas, Jacques, and Bastien ran and hitched up the
horses into the sleighs.
"You are not afraid to tackle it, are you?" asked Pasmore,
as he looked into the girl's face.
"I'd tackle it now if it were moving down in pieces no
bigger than door-mats," she answered smilingly.
"Then will you tackle it with me?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "Jump in, and I'll follow. Your sleigh
is empty, and father's is full of all sorts of things
--it's too heavy as it is. Here they come! Dad, I'm going
with Mr. Pasmore," she cried; and the sleighs raced
abreast of one another down the slope.
"Spread out there," cried Pasmore, "and don't bunch
He did not finish the sentence, for just at that moment
there came a _ping_ from the shore they had just left,
and a bullet sent up a jet of water into the air alongside
of them. There was another great rending sound from the
ice that struck terror into their hearts. Their horses
quivered with excitement as they darted forward. There
was a roar in their ears that sounded as if they were
close to a battery of artillery in action. _Ping, ping,
ping!_ and the bullets came whizzing over their heads or
skidding on the ice alongside. It was a lucky thing for
them that the Indians were too keen in the pursuit to
take proper aim. Separating, so as to minimise the danger,
each team dashed forward on its own account.
"Stay with it, broncho! Stick to it, my son!" yelled
In the pauses of the thundering and rending there cut
clearly into the now mild air the clattering of the
horses' hoofs, the hum of the steel-shod runners, and
the _ping, ping_ of the rifles. It was a race for life
with a vengeance, with death ahead and alongside, and
with death at their heels. A gap in the ice, or a stumble,
and it would surely be all up with them.
"Go it, my game little broncho!" and with rein and voice
Pasmore urged the brave "steed onwards.
"Hello! there goes the breed's pony!" cried Pasmore.
A bullet had struck Bastien's horse behind the ear and
brought it down all of a heap upon the ice. There was
an ear-splitting crack just at that moment which added
to the terror of the situation. But the rancher pulled
his horse up by a supreme effort, and Bastien, deserting
his sleigh, leapt in beside him. Then on again.
Pasmore's pony was now somewhat behind the others, when
suddenly there was a mighty roar, and a great crevasse
opened up in front of them. It took all the strength that
Pasmore possessed to pull up on the brink.
"We must get out and jump over this somehow," Pasmore
cried to Dorothy. "It's neck or nothing."
So they sprang out of the sleigh, unhitched the plucky
pony, and prepared to cross the deadly-looking fissure.
CAPTURED BY POUNDMAKER
The first thing that Pasmore did was to urge the pony to
leap the crevasse on its own account; after a very little
coaxing the intelligent animal gathered itself together,
and jumped clear of certain death. It then rushed on with
"Now, give me your hand, and we'll see if we can't find
an easier place to cross," said Pasmore to Dorothy.
"It's lucky we've got on moccasins instead, of boots, is
it not?" she said. She seemed to have dropped that old
tone of reserve as completely as she might a cloak from
She gave him her hand, and they ran up the river alongside
the jagged rent. Two or three bullets whizzed past them
perilously near their heads.
"Why, there's Child-of-Light and Rory!" she cried. "I
suppose they've come to keep back the Indians."'
It was indeed the case. The sight of the advancing Indians
had been too much, for them, and they had come out on
the ice so as to check the foe. Their fire was steadier
than the enemy's, for it did undoubted execution.
Soon Pasmore and Dorothy came to a place that seemed
comparatively narrow, and here they essayed to cross.
The other side seemed a terribly difficult spot on which
to land, and the clear, blue water that ran between looked
deadly cold. Once in there and it would be a hundred
chances to one against getting out.
"I'll jump across first," said Pasmore, "so as to be
ready to catch you on the other side."
He jumped it with little effort, although he fell on the
other side, and then it was Dorothy's turn.
There was a flush on her cheeks and her eyes were strangely
bright as she put one foot on the sharp corner of the
rent, fixed her eyes on him, and sprang. It was a
dangerous and difficult jump for a woman to take, but he
caught her in his strong arms just as she tottered on
the brink, in the act of falling backwards, and drew her
"Well done!" he cried, "another time I wish you'd come
to me like that!"
"Let us run," she said, ignoring his remark, but without
show of resentment. "Here is Jacques waiting for us with
And then a tragic thing occurred. The mighty waters of
the Saskatchewan had been gathering force beneath the
ice, and, pressing the great flooring upwards, at length
gained such irresistible power that the whole ice-field
shivered, and was broken up into gigantic slabs, until
it resembled a vast mosaic. The horse attached to Jacques'
sleigh was shot into a great rent, from which it was
impossible to extricate it. They dared not stay a moment
longer if they wished to escape with their lives.
Then far five minutes they held their lives in their
hands, but they proceeded cautiously and surely, jumping
from berg to berg, the man encouraging the woman to fresh
endeavour, until at last they gained the southern bank.
Had they slipped or overbalanced themselves it would have
been good-bye to this world. Pasmore and Douglas had to
assist Dorothy up the steep banks, so great had been the
strain and so great was the reaction. Nor was it to be
wondered at, for it would have tried the nerves of most
men. They turned when they had reached a point of vantage
and looked around. An awe-inspiring but magnificent sight
met their gaze.
Coming down the river like a great tidal wave they could
see a chaotic front of blue water and glistening bergs
advancing swiftly and surely. At its approach the huge
slabs of ice in the river were forced upwards, and shivered
into all manner of fanciful shapes. It was the dammed-up
current of the mighty river which at length had forced
the barrier of ice, and carried all in front of it, as
the mortar carries the shell. There was one continuous,
deafening roar, punctuated with a series of violent
explosions as huge blocks of ice were shivered and shot
into the air by that Titanic force. Nothing on earth
could live in that wild maelstrom. It was one vast,
pulsating, churning mass, and as the sun caught its
irregular, crystal-like crest, a lawn-like mist, that
glowed with every colour of the rainbow, hovered over
it. It was indeed a wondrously beautiful, but awe-inspiring
But the most terrible feature of the scene was the human
life that was about to be sacrificed in that fierce flood.
The murderous members of Big Bear's band who had followed
them up, led away against their better judgment by the
sight of their human prey, had advanced farther over the
ice than they imagined, so that, when checked by the
deliberate and careful shooting of Rory and Child-of-Light,
they remained where they were instead of either rushing
on or beating a precipitate retreat. Thus thirty of them
realised that they were caught as in a trap. They saw
the towering bulk of that pitiless wave coming swiftly
towards them, and then they ran, panic-stricken, some
this way and some that. They ran as only men run when
fleeing for their lives.
"It is too horrible!" cried the girl, turning away from
the gruesomeness of the spectacle.
The Indians had flung their rifles from them and were
scattering in all directions over the ice, but that
gleaming wave, that Juggernaut of grinding bergs, was
swifter than they, and bore down upon them at the speed
of a racehorse. It shot them into the air like so many
playthings, caught them up again, and bore them away in
its ravenous maw like the insatiable Moloch that it was.
In another minute there was neither sign nor trace of
And now the party drew together to compare notes, and to
deliberate upon their future movements. Whatever was
said by Douglas to Pasmore about the sacrifice he had
made on his behalf none of the party knew, for the rancher
did not speak about it again, nor did the Police sergeant
ever refer to it.
What they were going to do now was the matter that gave
them most concern. They could not go on, and to go back
meant running into Poundmaker's marauding hordes. They
came to the conclusion that the best thing they could do
was to camp where they were. They therefore drove the
sleighs over to a sunny, wooded slope that was now clear
of snow, and pitched Dorothy's tent in lee of the
cotton-wood trees. The air was wonderfully mild, a soft
chinook wind was blowing, and the snow was disappearing
from the high ground as if by magic.
For three days they stayed in that sheltered spot, and
enjoyed a much-needed rest; and perhaps it was the
pleasantest three days that Pasmore had spent for many
a long year.
"Don't you think we're understanding each other better
than we used to do?" he asked of Dorothy one day.
"You don't insist on having quite so much of your own
way," she replied stooping to pick up something. He,
however, saw the smile upon her face.
On the fourth day Child-of-Light had ascended the rise
behind the camp to look around before going back to his
people, and to reconnoitre in the neighbourhood of the
ranche, when, to his no little dismay, he saw a
far-stretching column of Indians coming towards them
across the plain. He cried to those in the camp to arm
themselves. In a few minutes more he was joined by Douglas,
Pasmore, and the others. To their consternation they saw
that they were gradually being hemmed in by a
crescent-shaped body of warriors, who must have numbered
at least several hundred.
"It is Poundmaker's band," said Child-of-Light. "They
have been with the wolves worrying the sheep, and have
grown tired of that and are anxious to hide. But they
cannot cross the Kissaskatchewan for many days yet, so
they will turn and go back to their holes in the Eagle
Hills. The chances are they may be afraid to kill us,
but they will certainly make us prisoners. Shall we fight
them, my brothers, and then all journey together to the
Happy Hunting Grounds beyond the blood-red sunsets?"
But there was Dorothy to be thought of, and they knew
that Poundmaker, though he might possibly put them to
death, would not practise any of those atrocities ascribed
to Big Bear. As the odds were a hundred to one against
them, and they would all inevitably be shot down, it
would be folly to resist, seeing that there was a chance
of eventually escaping with their lives. Discretion was
always the better part of valour, and in this case it
would be criminal to forget the fact.
They laid down their arms, and Pasmore himself went
forward to meet them on foot, waving a branch over his
head. This, amongst the Indians on the North American
continent, is equivalent to a flag of truce.
In five minutes more they were surrounded, marshalled in
a body, and marched into the presence of Poundmaker
himself. The chief sat on a rise that was clear of snow,
surrounded by his warriors. All the fire-arms the party
had possessed were taken from them. Douglas had slipped
his arm through his daughter's, and, no matter what the
girl may have felt, she certainly betrayed no fear. It
was Child-of-Light who first addressed Poundmaker. He
stood in front of the others, and said--
"Poundmaker, it is not for mercy, but for your protection
that we sue. If you have gone upon the war-path with the
metis against the white people, let not those who are
innocent of wrong suffer for those whose unwise doings
may have stirred you up to the giving of battle after
your own fashion. Thus will it be that the warriors of
the Great White Queen, who will surely swarm over all
this land in numbers as the white moths ere the roses on
the prairie are in bloom, when they hear from our lips
that you have been mindful of us, will be mindful of you.
Douglas and his daughter you know; they have ever been
the friends of the Red man. You remember the evil days
when there was nought to eat in the land, how they shared
all they had with us, and called us brothers and sisters?
Ill would it become Poundmaker and his Stonies to forget
that. As for the others, they but serve their masters as
these your braves serve you, and is that a crime?
"As for myself, Poundmaker, I have not gone on the
war-path, because I believe this man, Louis Riel, to be
one who hearkens to a false Manitou. For him no friendly
knife or bullet awaits, but the gallows-tree, by which
no good Indian can ever hope to pass to the Happy Hunting
"If it is that one of us must suffer to show that you
have the power of life and death over us, let it be me.
I am ready, O Poundmaker! Do with me as you will, but
spare these who have done no wrong. This is the only
thing that I ask of you, and I ask it because of those
days when we were as brothers, riding side by side after
the buffalo together, and fighting the Sarcees and the
Sioux. You have told me of old that you believed in the
Manitou--show your belief now. I have spoken, O chief!"
It has been the fashion with those who have seen only
one or two contaminated specimens of the Red man to sneer
at that phrase, "the noble savage." This they do out of
the fullness of their ignorance. Child-of-Light was
indeed a noble savage, and looked it, every inch of him,
as he drew himself up to his full height and gazed
fearlessly into the face of his enemy.
A chorus of "Ough! ough!" was heard from every side,
showing that not only had Child-of-Light himself
considerable personal influence, but that the fairness
of his speech had gone home.
Then the wily Poundmaker spoke. He was an imposing figure
with his great head-dress of eagles' feathers, and clad
in a suit of red flannel on which was wrought a rich
mosaic of coloured beadwork. White ermine tails dangled
from his shoulders, arms, and breast. He was in reality
cruel and vindictive, but his cunning and worldly wisdom
made him a master in expediency. He had intelligence
above the average, but lacked the good qualities of such
as the loyal Crowfoot, the Chief of the Blackfoot nation,
who also had the benefit of Pere Lacombe, that great
missionary's, sound counsel.
"Child-of-Light has spoken fairly," he said, "but it
remains to be shown how much of what he has said is true,
and how much like the ghost-waters that deceive the
traveller in autumn, in places where nought but the
sage-bush grows, and the ground is parched and dry.
Douglas and the others must come with us. We shall return
to the strong lodges in the Eagle Hills and await what
time may bring. If the warriors of the Great Queen come
to the land and molest us, then shall you all be put to
death. But if they come and stay their hand, then we
shall let you return to your own homes. As for the white
maiden, the daughter of Douglas, nothing that belongs to
her shall be touched, and she shall have a squaw to wait
upon her. I have spoken."
He was a far-seeing redskin, and meditated grim reprisals
when the time was ripe.
In a few days, when the snow had completely gone, they
started back to the Eagle Hills. It was heavy travelling,
and the men had to walk, but the Indians got a light Red
River cart for Dorothy, and in this, attended by a squaw,
she made the greater part of the journey. Their goods
were not interfered with, for the Indians had a plethora
of loot from the Battleford stores. But still the
uncertainty of their ultimate fate was ever hanging over
them. They knew that if Poundmaker thought the British
were not coming, or that they were not strong enough to
vanquish him, he was capable of any devilry.
They passed into the wild, broken country of the Eagle
Hills, the "Bad Lands," as they were called, and there,
in a great grassy hollow surrounded by precipices, gullies,
and terraces of wonderfully-coloured clays, they camped.
It was now the end of April, and the prisoners were
beginning to get uneasy. Had anything happened to the
British, or had they been left to their fate? The situation
was more critical than they cared to admit But one day
all was bustle in the camp, and the warriors stood to
The British column had moved out from Battleford, and
was advancing to give battle to Poundmaker.
The critical moment had come.
THE BATTLE OF CUT-KNIFE
When the Indians discovered that bright May morning that
a British column had unexpectedly moved right up to their
position, there was a scene approaching confusion for a
few minutes. But they had studied the ground for days
and knew every inch of it, so that each individual had
his allotted post, and needed no orders to go there.
Luckily for the prisoners, however, Poundmaker had not
time to put into operation the elaborate plans he had
contemplated. Moreover, the chief saw, to his no little
consternation, that, as Child-of-Light had said, the
soldiers of the White Queen were in numbers beyond anything
he had expected. He therefore hurried the prisoners up
a narrow terrace to a high headland from which it would
be impossible to escape, and where a couple of Indians
could effectually take charge of them. The latter followed
close at their heels with loaded rifles. To the no little
satisfaction of Pasmore and the others, the headland, or
bluff, which must have been some two hundred feet high,
commanded a splendid view of the operations. The British
were approaching right across a species of scarred
amphitheatre, while the Indians, and such half-breeds as
had recently fled from Battleford on the approach of the
British and joined them, occupied the deep ravines and
wildly irregular country in their immediate neighbourhood.
They were protected by the rocks from rifle and shell-fire;
the only danger would be in the event of a shrapnel
bursting over them.
Dorothy's face was lit up with animation as she watched
the stirring spectacle. The sight of British troops, with
the promise of speedy release after weeks of continuous
danger and apprehension, was surely something to gladden
the heart. And now they were about to witness that
grandest, if most terrible, of all sights, a great battle.
"Look," Dorothy was saying to Pasmore, who crouched beside
her amongst the rocks, "there come the Police--"
"Down all," cried Pasmore.
He had seen a flash and a puff of smoke from one of the
guns. There was a dead silence for the space of a few
moments, and then a screech and a peculiar whirring sound,
as a shell hurried through the air over their heads.
Following this there was a loud report and a puff of
smoke high in the air; a few moments later and there came
a pattering all round as a shower of iron descended. It
was indeed a marvel that none of the party were hit. The
two Indians who guarded them were evidently considerably
astonished, and skipped nimbly behind convenient rocks.
"It will be more lively than pleasant directly if they
keep on like that," remarked Pasmore. "Look, there are
the Queen's Own extending on the crest of the gully to
protect the left flank, and there are the Canadian Infantry
and Ottawa Sharpshooters on the right. I don't know who
those chaps are protecting the rear, but--"
His words were drowned in the furious fusillade that
broke out everywhere as if at a given signal. There was
one continuous roar and rattle from the battery of
artillery, and from the Gatling guns, as they opened
fire, and a sharp, steady crackle from the skirmishers
in the firing line and from the gullies and ridges in
which the Indians had taken up their position. Everywhere
one could see the lurid flashes and the smoke wreaths
"What a glorious sight!" exclaimed the girl, her eyes
sparkling and her face glowing. "If I were a man I'd give
anything to be there--I'd like to be there as it is."
"You're very much there as it is," remarked Pasmore,
soberly. "If you expose yourself as you're doing, something
is bound to hit you. There's not much fun or glory in
being killed by a stray bullet. Move just a little this
way--there's room enough for us both--and you'll be able
to see just as well with a great deal less danger."
She smiled, and a slight flush dyed her cheeks, but it
was significant to note that she obeyed him unhesitatingly.
A month ago she would have remained where she was.
And now the battle had begun in grim earnest. The Indians,
dreading the destructiveness of the guns and the Gatlings,
had made up their minds to capture them. As if by a
preconcerted signal a large number of them leapt from
their cover, and with wild, piercing whoops and war-cries,
made a rush on the battery. Some of them were on horseback,
and actually had their steeds smeared with dun-coloured
clay so as to resemble the background and the rocks. It
was indeed exceedingly difficult to distinguish them.
Those on foot ran in a zigzag fashion, holding their
blankets in front, so as to spoil the aim of the rifle-men.
"They will capture the guns," cried Dorothy, trembling
with excitement, "look, they are nearly up to them now!"
Indeed, for the moment it seemed extremely likely, for
the Indians rushed in such a way that those on the flanks
were unable to render the gunners or the Mounted Police
any assistance. If Poundmaker succeeded in capturing the
guns, the flankers would soon be cut to pieces. It was
a moment of the keenest anxiety for the prisoners, not
only for the safety of the brave Canadian troops, but
also because they realised that if Poundmaker prevailed
their lives were not worth a moment's purchase.
"Well done, Herchmer!" cried Pasmore. "See how he is
handling the Police!"
And in all truth the coolness and steadiness of the Police
were admirable. They lay flat on their faces while the
guns delivered a telling broadside over them on the
approaching foe that mowed them down, and sent them
staggering backwards. Then, with a wild cheer, the troopers
rose, and, like one man, charged the wavering mass of
redskins, firing a volley and fixing their bayonets. The
sight of the cold steel was too much for the Indians,
who turned and fled. The guns were saved.
But those precipitous gullies were filled with plucky
savages, and not a few half-breeds, who, while they could
effectively pick off and check the advance of the British,
were themselves screened from the enemy's fire. For two
hours and more the fight went on with little gain on
either side. The day was hot, and it must have been
terribly trying work for those in the open. The guns
contented themselves with sending an odd shell into likely
places, but owing to the nature of the ground, which
presented a wall-like front, their practice was only
Suddenly the girl caught Pasmore by the wrist "Look over
there," she cried. "Do you see that body of Indians going
down that gully? They are going to attack the column in
the rear, and our people don't know it. Is there no way
of letting them know?"
"There is," cried Pasmore, "and it's worth trying. Our
fellows are not more than a thousand yards away now, and
I can signal to them. It's just possible they may see
me. Give me that stick, Rory. Jacques, I saw you with
your towel an hour or so ago. Have you still got it?"
In a few seconds he had fastened the towel to the stick
and was about to crawl out on to the other side of the
ledge in full view of the British, who had been steadily
"Do take care," cried Dorothy, "if any of the Indians
should see you--"
"They won't be looking this way," he said, adding, "There's
sure to be a signaller with Otter or Herchmer. They'll
think it a queer thing to get a message from the enemy's
lines"--he laughed light-heartedly at the idea. "Now, do
keep out of sight, for there's just a chance of a bullet
or two being sent in this direction."
Fortune favoured Pasmore when a shell came screeching
over their heads just at that moment, for the two guards,
who might otherwise have seen him, both dodged behind
rocks. When they looked again in the direction of their
prisoners they did not know that one of them was apprising
the British leader of the fact that a body of the enemy
was at that moment skirting his right flank in cover of
an old watercourse, so as to attack his rear.
When the British signaller wonderingly read the message,
and repeated it to the Colonel, the latter, before giving
his troops any definite order, inquired of the sender of
the message as to his identity, and Pasmore signalled in
reply. Then the order was given to fix bayonets and charge
the enemy in the watercourse. Silently and swiftly the
regular Canadian Infantry bore down on it. Completely
taken by surprise, and at a disadvantage, the redskins
were completely routed.
But an ambush was being prepared for the British of which
they did not dream. At a certain point the redskins fell
back, but in a hollow of the broken country through which
the British would in all probability pass to follow up
their supposed advantage, were two or three hundred
warriors mounted and awaiting their opportunity. If only
the British could bring their artillery to bear upon that
spot, and drop a few shells amongst them, great would be
Pasmore rose to his feet again from behind the rock where
he had crouched, for one or two bullets, either by design
or accident, had come very near him indeed. Quickly the
towel at the end of the stick waved the message to the
officer in command. Just as he was going to supplement
it, a bullet passed clean through his impromptu flag and
grazed his serge. He went on with his message as if
nothing had happened. But the moment he had finished,
and was still standing erect to catch the glint of the
British signaller's flag, a voice hailed him. It was
"Mr. Pasmore," she cried, "if you have done, why don't
you take cover? The Indians have seen you, and you'll be
shot in another minute."
"For goodness' sake, get down!" he cried, as he turned
round and saw that the girl, unseen by the others, had
come towards him, and was also exposed to the enemy's
She looked him steadily in the eyes, but did not move,
although the bullets were beginning to whistle in grim
earnest all around them.
"Not unless you do," she said. "Oh, why don't you take
Immediately he resumed his crouching attitude by her
side, and then he turned to her, and there was an unwonted
light in his eyes.
"Did you really care as much as that?" he asked.
"You are the stupidest man I know," she replied, looking
away. "Do you think I'd have stood there if I didn't!"
There was a great joy in his heart as he took her hand.
"If we get out of this alive, will you say that again?"
"That you are the stupidest man I know?" she queried,
with that perversity inseparable from the daughters of
Eve from all time.
"No--that you care for me?"
And at this she looked into his eyes with a simple
earnestness, and said, "Yes."
What more they might have said was cut short by the
furious outburst of firing from the guns, which dropped
shell after shell into the projected ambuscade.
And now the British were forcing the natural stronghold
of the Indians in many places, and their guards looked
as if they were undecided what to do with their prisoners.
"If we don't collar those chaps," said Douglas, "they'll
be wanting to account for us before they go off on their
own. They look dangerous. Stand by me, Jacques, and we'll
crawl up behind them when the next shell comes. They're
too busily engaged below to pay much attention to us
The words were hardly out of his mouth before their ears
caught the eerie sound of a shrapnel shell coming towards
them. The two Indians got down on their faces behind a
rock. The next moment, regardless of consequences, the
rancher was on the top of one and Jacques had secured
the other. To take their rifles, and tie their hands and
feet with belts, was short work, and then Rory told them
that if they remained quiet all would be well with them.
They were sensible redskins, and did as they were bid.
And now it was time for the prisoners to again make their
presence known to the British, for should the Indians
and breeds succeed in holding the gully beneath them
against the invading force, it was tolerably certain they
would discover how Pasmore and his companions had
overpowered their guards, and swift vengeance was sure
to follow. As they looked down the precipitous sides of
the ravine they could see that only four men--two breeds
and two Indians held the narrow pass. These men, while
they themselves were comparatively safe, could easily
hold a large number of troops at bay.
"_Mon Dieu!_ it ees ze metis, and it ees _mon ami_,
Leopold St Croix, I can see," exclaimed Lagrange, as he
peered anxiously over the brink. "Ah! I tink it ees one
leetle rock will keel him mooch dead."
He did not wait for any one to express assent, but began
at once to assist the British with dire effect. Lagrange
never did things by halves. When he realised that he was
compromised with the enemy, he at once started in to
annihilate his old friends with the utmost cheerfulness.
No sooner had Jacques heard that Leopold St. Croix was
below than he rushed down the terrace, rifle in hand, to
have it out with him. There was no holding him back; he
was regardless of consequences.
The others remained where they were. With one rifle they
could command the terrace until the troops came to their
relief. Lagrange continued to roll down rocks, to the
great discomfiture of the holders of the pass, who kept
dodging about from one side to the other in imminent fear
of their lives. When one Indian was effectually quieted
by a huge boulder that Lagrange had sent down on the top
of him, the others saw that it was impossible to remain
there any longer, so incontinently fled. Leopold St.
Croix, being somewhat stout, was left behind in the
headlong flight that ensued.
When Jacques reached the bottom of the terrace, he found
that the Indians had left the coast clear for him. He
was rounding the bluff amongst the rocks when he met his
old enemy face to face.
"Ha! _coquin!_" cried Jacques; "and so, _mon ami_, I have
found you! _Bien!_ Now we shall fight, like that, so!"
And putting his rifle to his shoulder, he sent a bullet
through Leopold St. Croix's badger-skin cap. St. Croix
returned the compliment by shaving a lock of hair off
Jacques' right temple. Both men got behind rocks, and
for three minutes they carried on a spirited duel. At
length, after both had had several narrow shaves of
annihilation, Jacques succeeded in sending a bullet
through St. Croix's shoulder, and that settled the matter.
The prisoners had now descended the terrace, and were
every moment expecting to find themselves once more face
to face with British troops, when something occurred
which is always occurring when a civilised force, with
its time-honoured precedent, is dealing with a savage
race that acts on its own initiative--the unexpected
happened--the inevitable slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.
The British, thinking that their work was over, left
their cover and rushed towards the various inlets in a
careless, disorganised fashion. Quick as thought the
rebels seized their opportunity. They rallied and poured
in a withering fire upon the scattered troops. The
unprotected guns were rushed by a mere handful of Indians
who had been hiding in the watercourse, and the retreat
was sounded to protect them. At the same moment Poundmaker
found himself with one of his head men, who bore the
picturesque name of Young-Man-Who-Jumps-Like-a-Frog, and
these two, with a strong following at their heels, appeared
round the corner of a bluff. A few seconds later Jacques
was seized from behind, and the other prisoners were once
more secured. It all happened so suddenly that there was
no time to escape or make any resistance.
BACK TO CAPTIVITY
It was as well for the prisoners that Poundmaker was not
aware of the fact that they had overpowered their guard
and had been in the act of escaping when he came round
the corner. It is only probable to suppose that he was
surprised to find them all alive and unscathed by the
shell-fire, and that he imagined some natural mishap had
occurred to the escort during the progress of the fight
Lucky it was for that same escort that it was the British
troops, and not Poundmaker's men, who afterwards found
them bound hand and foot, for it is safe to say that in
the latter case they would never have had an opportunity
of being surprised again. They would have dangled by
their heels from the bough of some tree while a slow fire
underneath saved them the necessity of ever after requiring
to braid their raven locks.
In point of fact, Poundmaker was in rather a good humour
than otherwise, for the British were now withdrawing to
take up a position on the open prairie, where they knew
the Red men and metis would not attack them. True, the
rebels had suffered severely, but so had the Government
troops. Before the British could make another attack, he
would be off into the wild, inaccessible fastnesses of
the Eagle Hills, where they would have to catch him who
could. He had sense enough to know that the British must
catch him in the long run, but he would have a high old
time till then. Civilisation was a very tame affair, and
a rebellion was a heaven-sent opportunity for resuscitating
a picturesque past with lots of loot and scalps thrown
in. His meditated revenge on the prisoners would keep--there
was nothing like having a card up one's sleeve.
He straightway broke up the party. With a certain rude
sense of the fitness of things, he put Douglas and Pasmore
together. He assured the former that the same young squaw
who had been in attendance on his daughter would continue
to wait upon her in the future. His lieutenant,
"Young-Man-Who-Jumps-Like-a-Frog," a very promising young
man indeed, would be responsible to him for her safety.
If anything happened to her, or she escaped, then Young-Man,
etc., would no longer have eyes to see how he jumped.
It would have been madness for the party to have made
any serious attempt to resist arrest, for they were simply
covered by the muzzles of fire-arms. Still, Pasmore sent
two Indians reeling backwards with two right and left
blows, which made them look so stupid that Poundmaker
was secretly amused, and therefore stopped the pulling
of the trigger of the blunderbuss that an Indian placed
close to the police sergeant's head in order to effect
a thorough and equal distribution of his brains. The grim
and politic chief, who was not without a sense of humour,
ordered that a rope be tied round the waist of the wild
cat--as he was pleased to term Pasmore--and that to the
two braves who had been so stupid as to allow him to
punch their heads, should be allotted the task of leading
him about like a bear. He hinted that if Pasmore
occasionally amused himself by testing the powers of
resistance of their skulls with his hammer-like fists,
no difficulties would be thrown in his way by the others.
Douglas had begged to be allowed to accompany his daughter,
but Poundmaker said that was impossible, and assured him
that no harm would come to her. Dorothy went over to
her father and said good-bye, and then they were forced
apart. To Pasmore she said--
"You need not fear for me. I feel sure that, now they
know the strength of the British, they will take care of
us so as to save themselves. It is madness for you to
resist. If you wish to help me, go quietly with them."
"Yes, you are right," he said. "But it is so hard. Still,
I feel that we shall pull through yet. Good-bye!"
He was too much a man of action and of thought to be
prodigal of words. And she knew that a facility in making
pretty speeches is in nine cases out of ten merely the
refuge of those who desire to conceal indifference or
shallowness of heart.
In another minute the men were hurried away. An Indian
pony with a saddle was brought for Dorothy, and she was
told to mount. The young squaw who had her in charge,
and who was called "The Star that Falls by Night," mounted
another pony and took over a leading-rein from Dorothy's.
Poundmaker, after giving a few instructions, rode off to
direct operations and to see that his sharpshooters were
posted in such a way that it would be impossible for the
British to advance until his main body had made good
their retreat into the more inaccessible country. Of
course, it was only a matter of time before they would
be starved out of those hills, but much might occur before
The middle-aged brave who was handicapped with a name
that suggested froggy agility, proudly took his place at
the head of the little cavalcade, and a few minutes later
they were threading their way through deep, narrow gullies,
crossing from the head of one little creek on to the
source of another, and choosing such places generally
that the first shower of rain would gather there and wash
out their tracks. When they passed the main camp, Dorothy
saw that the lodges had been pulled down, and were being
packed on _travois_, [Footnote: Two crossed poles with
cross pieces trailing from the back of a pony.] preparatory
to a forced march. She noted that the sleighs had been
abandoned, as, of course, there were no wheels there to
take the place of the runners. Her own slender belongings
were secured on the back of a pack-horse, and the squaw
saw to it that she had her full complement of provisions
and camp paraphernalia such as suited the importance of
Poor Dorothy! There would, however, be no more tea or
sugar, or other things she had been accustomed to, for
many a long day, but, after all, that was of no particular
moment There was pure water in the streams, and there
would soon be any amount of luscious wild berries in the
woods, and plants by the loamy banks of creeks that made
delicious salads and spinaches, and they would bring such
a measure of health with them that she would experience
what the spoilt children of fortune, and the dwellers in
cities, can know little about--the mere physical joy of
being alive--the glorious pulsing of the human machine.
They kept steadily on their way till dusk, and then halted
for a brief space. The party was a small one now, only
some half-dozen braves and a few squaws. Dorothy wandered
with her jailer, whom she had for shortness called the
Falling Star, to a little rise, and looked down upon the
great desolate, purpling land in which evidently Nature
had been amusing herself. There were huge, pillar-like
rocks streaked with every colour of the rainbow, from
pale pink and crimson to slate-blue. There were yawning
canyons, on the scarped sides of which Nature had been
fashioning all manner of grotesqueries--gargoyles and
griffins, suggestions of many-spired cathedrals, the
profile of a face which was that of an angel, and of
another which was so weirdly and horribly ugly--suggesting
as it did all that was evil and sinister--that one shivered
and looked away. All these showed themselves like
phantasmagoria, and startled one with a suggestion of
intelligent design. But it was not with the face of the
cliff alone that Nature had trifled.
The gigantic boulders of coloured clays, strewn about
all higgledy-piggledy, resolved themselves into uncouth
antediluvian monsters, with faces so suggestive of
something human and malign that they were more like the
weird imaginings of some evil dream than inanimate things
of clay. And over all brooded the mysterious dusk and
the silence--the silence as of death that had been from
the beginning, and which haunted one like a living
presence. Only perhaps now and again there was a peculiar
and clearly-defined, trumpet-toned sound caused by the
outstretched wing of a great hawk as it swooped down to
seize its prey. It was the very embodiment of desolation.
It might well have been some dead lunar landscape in
which for aeons no living thing had stirred.
But Dorothy had other things to think of. Her position
was now seemingly more perilous than before. It was so
hard to think that they had all been so near deliverance,
and, in fact, had given themselves over entirely to hope,
and then had been so ruthlessly disappointed.
But there had been compensations. Putting on one side
the shedding of blood, for which nothing could compensate,
there was that new interest which had sprung into glorious
life within her, and had become part of her being--her
love for the man who had more than once put himself in
the power of the enemy so that she and her father might
be saved. Yes, that was something very wonderful and
When the moon got up the party was reformed, and they
started out again. In the pale moonlight the freaks of
Nature's handiwork were more fantastic than ever, and
here and there tall, strangely-fashioned boulders of clay
took on the semblance of threatening, half-human monsters
meditating an attack.
Dorothy had noticed by the stars that the party had
changed its direction. They were now heading due north.
With the exception of one short halt they travelled all
through the night, and in the early grey dawn of the
morning came out upon a great plain of drifting sand that
looked for all the world like an old ocean bed stretching
on and on interminably. It was the dangerous shifting
sands, which the Indians generally avoided, as it contained
spots where, it was said, both man and horse disappeared
if they dared to put foot on it. But Poundmaker's lieutenant
was not without some measure of skill and daring, and
piloted them between the troughs of the waste with unerring
When the sun gained power in the heavens and a light
breeze sprang up, a strange thing took place. The face
of the wave-like heights and hollows began to move. The
tiny grains of sand were everywhere in motion, and actually
gave out a peculiar singing sound, somewhat resembling
the noise of grain when it falls from the spout of a
winnowing machine into a sack. It was as if the sand were
on the boil. There was no stopping now unless they wanted
to be swallowed up in the quicksand. Dorothy noticed that
the squaws, and even the braves, looked not a little
anxious. But their leader kept steadily on. The sand
was hard enough and offered sufficient resistance to the
broad hoof of a horse, but if one stood still for a minute
or so, it began gradually to silt up and bury it. It was
a horrible place. When at noon that devil's slough resolved
itself into a comparatively narrow strip, and Dorothy
saw that they could easily have left it, she began to
understand their reason for keeping on such dangerous
ground--_they did not wish to leave any tracks behind
them_. In all truth there was absolutely nothing to show
that they had ever been in that part of the country. At
last they came to what looked like a high hill with a
wall-like cliff surmounting it. They stepped on to the
firm clayey soil where the sage-bush waved, and had their
midday meal. As soon as that had been disposed of, they
resumed their journey.
They now went on foot, and steadily climbed the steep
hillside by the bed of an old watercourse. Dorothy
wondered what was behind the sharply-cut outline of the
cliffs, for it gave the impression that nothing lay beyond
save infinite space. They entered a narrow ravine, and
then suddenly it was as if they had reached the jumping-off
place of the world, for they passed, as it were, into
another land. Immediately beneath them lay a broken
shelf of ground shaped like a horseshoe, the sides of
which were sheer cliffs, the gloomy base of which, many
hundred feet below, were swept by the coldly gleaming,
blue waters of the mighty Saskatchewan. Beyond that,
drowsing in a pale blue haze, lay the broad valley, and
beyond that again the vast purpling panorama of rolling
prairie and black pinewoods until earth and sky were
merged in indistinctness and became one. It resembled a
perch on the side of the world, a huge eyrie with cliffs
above and cliffs below, with apparently only that little
passage, the old creek bed, by which one might get there.
Dorothy realised that people might pass and repass at
the foot of the hill on the other side and never dream
there was such a place behind it. Still less would they
imagine that there was a narrow cleft by which one could
get through. Moreover, a couple of Indians stationed at
the narrow track could easily keep two hundred foe-men
at bay. Dorothy realised that she was now as effectually
a prisoner as if she had been hidden away in an impregnable
The party descended a gentle slope, and there, in a
saucer-shaped piece of low-lying ground fringed with
saskatoon and choke-cherry trees, they pitched their
For the first three days Dorothy was almost inclined to
give way to the depression of spirits which her surroundings
and the enforced inaction naturally encouraged. Though
the Red folk were not actually unkind to her, still,
their ways were not such as commended themselves to a
well-brought-up white girl. Fortunately, the Falling Star
was well disposed to her, and did all she could to make
Dorothy feel her captivity as little as possible. The
two would sit together in a shady place on the edge of
the great cliff for hours, gazing out upon the magnificent
prospect that outspread itself far beneath them, and the
Indian girl, to try and woo the spirit of her white sister
from communing too much within itself, would tell her many
of the quaint, beautiful legends of the Indian Long Ago.
On the third day, just as Dorothy was beginning to wonder
if it were not possible to steal out of the wigwam one
night when Falling Star slept soundly, and, by evading
the sentries--who might also chance to be asleep--make
her way out through the narrow pass and so back to freedom,
there was an arrival in camp that exceedingly astonished
her. She was sitting some little distance back from the
edge of the great cliff with Falling Star near at hand,
when some one behind her spoke.
"Ah, Mam'selle," said the voice, "it ees ze good
how-do-you-do I will be wish you."
Dorothy turned, and to her surprise Bastien Lagrange
stood before her.
Despite the jauntiness of his speech, and the evident
desire he evinced to appear perfectly at his ease, Dorothy
at once detected an under-current of shame-facedness and
apprehension in Bastien's manner. His presence urged that
he was no longer a prisoner with Poundmaker's band. What
did it portend?
In her eagerness to learn something of her father, Pasmore,
and the others, Dorothy sprang to her feet and ran towards
Lagrange. But that gentleman gave her such a significant
look of warning that she stopped short. He glanced
meaningly at the Indian woman, Falling Star. Dorothy
understood, and a presentiment that she was about to be
disappointed in the feeble-hearted half-breed took
possession of her.
"You can speak, Bastien," Dorothy said. "Falling Star
will not understand a word. I can see you have come with
a message to Jumping Frog, but first, tell me--what about
my father and the others?"
"_Helas_, I know not!" said Bastien, feeling vastly
relieved that it had not been a more awkward question.
"They haf go 'way South branch of Saskatchewan. They all
right. I tink Poundmaker mooch 'fraid keel them. They--"
"But how is it you are here? Have you joined the enemy
It had come at last, and Bastien, shrugging his high
shoulders, spread his hands out deprecatingly.
"_Helas_, Mam'selle! What was there for to do? I say I
Eenglish, and they go for to shoot me mooch dead. I say
'Vive Riel!' and they say, 'Zat ees all right, Bastien
Lagrange, you mooch good man.' I tell them that I nevare
lof ze Eenglish, that your father and shermoganish peleece
she was took me pressonar, and I was not able to get
'way, and that I plenty hate the Eenglish, oh! yees, and
haf keel as many as three, four, fife, plenty times. So
they say, 'Bully for you, pardner! and you can go tell
Man-Who-Jumps-Like-a-Frog to sit down here more long and
ozer tings.' _Comprenez?_"
The peculiar and delicate line of policy the unstable
breed was pursuing was obvious. Lagrange was one of those
who wanted to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
simply because he did not particularly care for either,
and it was incumbent upon him that he should do one or
the other. When the proper time came he certainly wanted
to be with the side that got the best of it, and he had
a shrewd suspicion that that would be the English. He
was delightfully immune from any moral prejudice in the
matter, and already a brilliant scheme was developing in
his plastic brain that promised both safety and
entertainment. He, however, resolved to do whatever lay
in his power to assist this charming young lady and her
"Bastien," observed the girl, after a pause, "you'd better
take good care what you do. Take my word for it that all
the rebels, both half-breeds and Indians, who have done
wrong will have to answer for it. I do not ask you what
message you carry to the Indians here, but it is unlikely
that you will stay with us. Now, I know that Battleford
is not so very far away; will you go and tell Pepin
Quesnelle to come to me? The Indians are all afraid of him,
so he will suffer no harm. See, give him this from me."
She turned and plucked a little bunch of blue flowers
that grew close at hand, which in the Indian language
signify "Come to me." Then she produced a little brooch
which she had worn at her throat that night she had met
the dwarf, and wrapping both In a small piece of silk,
gave them to the half-breed.
ANTOINE IN TROUBLE
Four nights later Pepin Quesnelle and his mother were
having their supper in the large common sitting-room,
which also did duty as kitchen and workshop. The tidy,
silver-haired old dame had set out a place for Pepin at
the well-scrubbed table, but the _petit maitre_, much to
her regret, would not sit down at it as was his wont He
insisted on having his supper placed on the long, low
bench, covered with tools and harness, at which he was
working. He had a Government job on hand, and knew that
if he sat down to the table in state, there would be much
good time wasted in useless formality. His mother therefore
brought some bread and a large steaming plate of some
kind of stew, and placed them within reach of his long
"Pepin," she said, with a hint of fond remonstrance, "it
is not like you to eat so. If any one should happen to
come and catch you, my sweet one, eating like a common
Indian, what would they think? Take care, apple of my
eye, it is ver' hot!"
She hastily put down the steaming bowl, from which a
savoury steam ascended, and Antoine the bear, who was
sitting on his haunches in evident meditation behind the
bench, deliberately looked in another direction. What
mattered the master's dinner to a bear of his high-class
"Thank you, my mother," said Pepin, without lifting his
eyes, and sewing away with both hands as if for dear
life. "What you say is true, ver' true, but the General
he will want this harness, and the troops go to-morrow
to catch Poundmaker. And, after all, what matters it
where I sit--am I not Pepin Quesnelle?"
Antoine, still looking vacantly in another direction,
moved meditatively nearer the steaming dish. Why had they
not given him his supper? He had been out for quite a
long walk that day, his appetite was excellent.
"Mother," said Pepin again, "that young female Douglas,
who was here some time ago, I wonder where she may be
now? Since then I have been many times think that, after
all, she was, what the soldier-officers call it, not
"Ah, Pepin!" and the old lady sighed, "she was a sweet
child, and some day might even have done as wife for you.
But you are so particular, my son. Of course, I do not
mean to say she was good enough for you, but at least
she was more better than those other women who would try
and steal you from me. _Mon Dieu_, how they do conspire!"
"So, that is so," commented Pepin resignedly, but at the
same time not without a hint of satisfaction in his voice;
"they _will_ do it, you know, mother. Bah! if the
shameless females only knew how Pepin Quesnelle sees
through their little ways, how they would be
confounded--astonished, and go hide themselves for the
shame of it! But this girl, that is the thing, she was
nice girl, I think, and if perhaps she had the airs of
a _grande dame_ and would expect much--well, after all,
there was myself to set against that Eh? What? Don't you
think that is so, my mother?"
"Yes, Pepin, yes, of course that is so, my sweet one,
and what more could any woman want? And that girl, I
think, she was took wid you, for I see her two, three
times look at you so out of the corners of the eyes."
While this conversation was proceeding, Antoine had more
than once glanced at his master without turning his head.
The plate of stew was now within easy reach of his short
grizzled snout, and really it looked as if it had been
put there on purpose for him to help himself.
When Pepin happened to look round, he thought his mother,
in a fit of absent-mindedness, must have put down an
empty plate--it was so clean, so beautifully clean. But
when he looked at Antoine, who was now sitting quite out
of reach of the plate, and observed the Sunday-school
expression on the bear's old-fashioned face, he understood
matters. He knew Antoine of old.
"Mother," he said, in his natural voice and quite quietly,
"my dear mother, don't let the old beast know that you
suspect anything. Take up that plate, and don't look at
him, or he will find out we have discovered all. What
have you got left in the pot, my mother?"
"Two pigeons, my sweet one, but--"
"That will do, mother. Do not excite yourself. Your
Pepin will be avenged. The b'ar shall have the lot, _ma
foi!_ the whole lot, and he will wish that he had waited
until his betters were finished. Take down the mustard
tin, and the pepper-pot, and yes, those little red peppers
that make the mouth as the heat of the pit below, and
put them all in the insides of one pigeon. Do you hear
me, my mother dear? Now, do not let him see you do it,
for his sense is as that of the Evil One himself, and he
would not eat that pigeon."
"Oh, my poor wronged one, and to think that that--"
"Hush hush, my mother! Can you not do as I have told you?
Pick up the plate quietly. _Bien_, that is right! Now,
do not look at him, but fill the pigeon up. So ... that
is so, mother dear. O, Antoine, you sweet, infernal b'ar,
but I will make you wish as how the whole Saskatchewan
were running down your crater of a throat in two, three
minutes more. But there will be no Saskatchewan--_non_,
not one leetle drop of water to cool your thieving tongue!"
And despite the lively state of affairs he predicted for
his four-footed friend, he never once looked at it, but
kept tinkering at the harness as if nothing particular
were exciting him.
The good old lady was filled with concern for Antoine,
for whom, as sharing the companionship of her well-beloved,
she had quite a friendly regard. Still, had not the
traitorous animal robbed her darling--her Pepin--of his
supper? It was a hard, a very hard thing to do, but he
must be taught a lesson. With many misgivings she stuffed
the cavernous fowl with the fiery condiments.
"Now, mother dear, just wipe it clean so that the fire
and brimstone does not show on the outside, and pour over
it some gravy. That is right, _ma mere_. I will reward
you--later. Now, just place it on the bench and take away
the other plate. Do not let the cunning malefactor think
you notice him at all. He will think it is the second
He turned his head sharply and looked at the bear with
one of his quick, bird-like movements, just at the same
moment as the bear looked at him. But there was nothing
on the artless Antoine's face but mild, sentimental
"Ha! he is cunning!" muttered Pepin. "Do you remember,
my mother, how--_Mon Dieu!_ he's got it!"
That was very apparent. Antoine had nipped up the fowl,
and with one or two silent crunches was in the act of
swallowing it. So pressed was he for time that at first
he did not detect the fiery horrors he was swallowing.
But in a minute or two he realised that something unlooked
for had occurred, that there was a young volcano in his
mouth that had to be quenched at any cost So he sprang
to his feet and rushed at a bucket of water that stood
in a corner of the room, and went so hastily that he
knocked the bucket over and then fell on it. The burning
pain inside him made him snap and growl and fall to
worrying the unfortunate bucket.
As for Pepin, he evinced the liveliest joy. He threw the
harness from him, leapt from the bench, and seizing his
long stick, danced out on the floor in front of the bear.
The good old dame stood with clasped hands in a far corner
of the room, looking with considerable apprehension upon
this fresh domestic development.
"Aha, Antoine, _mon enfant!_" cried the dwarf, "and so
my supper you will steal, will you? And how you like it,
_mon ami?_ Now, for to digest it, a dance, that is good.
So--get up, get up and dance, my sweet innocence! Houp-la!"
But just at that moment there came a knock at the door.
It was pushed open, and the unstable breed, Bastien
Lagrange, entered. Antoine, beside himself with internal
discomfort and rage, eyed the intruder with a fiery,
ominous light in his eyes. Here surely was a heaven-sent
opportunity for letting off steam. Before his master
could prevent him he had rushed open-mouthed at Lagrange
and thrown him upon his back. Quicker than it takes to
write it, he had ripped the clothing from his body with
his great claws and was at his victim's throat. The dwarf,
with a strange, hoarse cry, threw himself upon the bear.
With his powerful arms and huge hands he caught it by
the throat, and compressed the windpipe, until the
astonished animal loosed its hold and opened its mouth
to gasp for breath. Then, bracing himself, Pepin threw
it backwards with as much seeming ease as when, on one
occasion, he had strangled a young cinnamon in the woods.
Bastien Lagrange lay back with the blood oozing from his
mouth, the whites of his eyes turned upwards. He tried
to speak, but the words came indistinctly from his lips.
He put one hand to his breast, and a small packet fell
to the ground.
"From the daughter of Douglas," he gasped. And then he