Part 4 out of 4
THE DEPARTURE OF PEPIN
After all, Bastien Lagrange had been more frightened than
hurt by Antoine the bear. When Pepin Quesnelle had
satisfied himself that there were no bones broken, and
that the wound from which the blood flowed was a mere
scratch, he, as usual, became ashamed of his late display
of feeling and concern, and again assumed his old truculent
attitude. He gave the breed time to recover his breath,
then roughly asked him whom he thought he was that he
should make such a noisy and ostentatious entry into his
"It ees me, Pepin, your ver' dear friend, Bastien Lagrange,"
whined the big breed, with an aggrieved look at the dwarf
and an apprehensive one at Antoine.
"What, villain, _coquin_, _I_ your ver' dear friend?
--may the good Lord forbid! But sit up, and let me once
more look upon your ugly face. Idiot, _entrez!_ Sit up,
and take this for to drink." So spoke Pepin as he handed
Bastien a dipper of water.
In all truth the shifty breed had an expression on his
face as he tried to put his torn garments to rights that
savoured not a little of idiocy. He had been for the last
three hours working himself into a mood of unconcern and
even defiance, so that he might be able to repel the
attacks of the outspoken Pepin. But now, at the very
first words this terrible manikin uttered, he felt his
heart sinking down into his boots. Still, he bore news
which he fancied would rather stagger the dwarf.
"And so, _mon ami_--"
"_Tenez vous la_, villain! You will pardon me, but I am
not the friend of a turncoat and traitor! _Dis donc_,
you will bear this in mind. Now what is it you have for
to say? _Bien?_"
"_Parbleu!_ what ees ze matter wit' Antoine?" exclaimed
the breed uneasily. "What for he look at me so? Make him
for to go 'way, Pepin."
Pepin caught up his stick and changed the trend of
Antoine's aggressive thoughts. The big brute slunk to
the far end of the room, sat upon his haunches, and
blinked at the party in a disconcerting fashion. Then
Pepin again turned upon Bastien with such a quick, fierce
movement that the latter started involuntarily.
"Bah! blockhead, pudding-head!" cried Pepin impatiently.
"Antoine has only that fire in his mouth that you will
have in the pit below before two, three days when you
have been hanged by the neck or been shot by the soldiers
of the great Queen. Proceed!"
"Aha! you ver' funny man, Pepin, but do you know that
Poundmaker has been catch what zey call ze convoy--sixteen
wagons wit' ze drivers and ze soldiers belongin' to your
great Queen, and now zey haf no more food and zey perish?
Haf you heard that, _mon_--M'sieur Pepin?"
Pepin had not heard it, but then he had heard some awkward
things about Bastien Lagrange, and he immediately proceeded
to let him know that he was acquainted with them. The
soldiers, with their great guns, were now swarming up
the Saskatchewan, and it was only a matter of a few weeks
before Poundmaker and Big Bear would be suing for mercy.
This and more of a disquieting nature did the dwarf tell
the unstable one, so that by the time he had finished
there was no hesitation in Bastien's mind as to which
side he must once and for all definitely espouse. So he
told of the capture of the Douglas party by Poundmaker
and of the fight at Cut-Knife. Then he called Pepin's
attention to the packet he had dropped, and explained
how it had been entrusted to him.
The manikin examined it in silence. A strange look of
intelligence came into his face. He shot a half-shy,
suspicious glance at the breed, but that gentleman, with
an awe-stricken expression, was watching Antoine, as with
sinister design that intelligent animal was piling up
quite a collection of boots, moccasins, and odds and ends
in a corner preparatory to having a grand revenge for
the trick that had been played upon him. He would chew
up every scrap of that leather and buckskin if he wore
his teeth out in the attempt The old lady, fortunately
for him, had left the room.
Pepin opened the packet, and the sight of that plain
little gold brooch and the bunch of prairie forget-me-nots
moved him strangely. After all, his heart was not adamant
where youth and beauty were concerned--he only realised
the immense gulf that was fixed between a man of his
great parts and graces and the average female.
He abruptly ordered Bastien into the summer kitchen to
look for his mother and get something to eat, and then,
when he realised he had the room to himself, he literally
let himself go. He sprang to his feet, and, waving the
flowers and the brooch over his head, advanced a few
paces into the middle of the room, struck a melodramatic
attitude, and, with one hand pressed to his heart, carried
Dorothy's tokens to his lips.
Then he turned and observed Antoine. This somewhat
absent-minded follower had already begun operations on
his little pile; but he had been so taken aback by the
unwonted jubilation of his master, that he stopped work
to gaze upon him in astonishment, and quite forgot to
remove the half-torn moccasin from his mouth. When he
saw he was caught red-handed, he dropped the spoil as he
had dropped the hot potato, and crouched apprehensively.
His master made a fierce rush at him.
"What ho! Antoine, you pig, you!" he cried; "and so you
would have revenge, you chuckle-pate!" And then he punched
Just at that moment his mother and Bastien re-entered
the room; the former set Lagrange down at a small table
in a far corner with some food before him. The dwarf
lounged towards the fire-place with an assumed air of
indifference and boredom, and, leaning against the
chimney-piece, stroked his black moustache.
"What is it, Pepin, my son?" asked the old lady anxiously.
"Oh, nothing--nothing, my mother; only that they are at
"The shameless wretches!" she exclaimed; "will they never
cease? Who is it this time, Pepin?"
"Only that young Douglas female we have spoke about"--he
tried hard to infuse contempt into his voice--"she wants
me to go to her! Just think of it mother! But she is a
preesonar, and, perhaps, it is also my help she wants.
And she was a nice girl, was it not so, _ma mere?_"
Between them they came to the conclusion that Pepin must
go with Bastien to where Dorothy was kept a prisoner and
see what could be done. They also wisely decided that it
was no use notifying or trying to lead the Imperial troops
to the spot, for that might only force the Indians to
Later on, when the moon arose, Pepin took Lagrange out
and showed him the British camp with its apparently
countless tents, and its battery of guns. It appeared
to the unstable one as if all the armies of the earth
must be camped on that spot. When the dwarf told him that
there were other camps further up the river, to which
the one before him was as nothing, Bastien fairly trembled
in his moccasins. When a sentry challenged them, the
now thoroughly disillusioned breed begged piteously that
they should return to Pepin's house and set out early on
the following morning for the place where Dorothy was
imprisoned up the Saskatchewan, before that army of
soldiers, who surely swarmed like a colony of ants, was
Pepin knew that the approach of an army would only be
the means of preventing him from finding Dorothy. He
must go to her himself. He would also, for the sake of
the proprieties, take his mother along in a Red River
cart; his mind was quite made up upon that point. If he
did not do so, who could tell that the Douglas female,
with the cunning of her sex, would not lay some awkward
trap for him? The girl had plainly said, "Come to me,"
and he was secretly elated, but his conviction of old
growth, that all women were "after" him, made him cautious.
So next morning, before break of day, the Red River cart
was packed up and at the door. Pepin and his mother got
into it, Antoine was led behind by means of a rope, and
Bastien rode alongside on a sturdy little Indian pony.
It was indeed an _outre_ and extraordinary little procession
that started out.
THE INDIANS' AWAKENING
Little Running Cropped-eared Dog of the Stonies sat
smoking his red clay calumet at the narrow entrance of
the gorge that looked out upon the wooded hillside, the
only means of ingress to the shelf which constituted
Dorothy's prison-house. He was keeping watch and ward
with his good friend "Black Bull Pup," who also sat
smoking opposite him. Their rifles lay alongside; they
had finished a _recherche_ repast of roasted dog, and
were both very sleepy. It was a horrible nuisance having
to keep awake such a warm afternoon. No one was going to
intrude upon their privacy, for they had heard that the
British General, Middleton, was in hot pursuit after
Poundmaker, and it was unlikely that Jumping Frog, who
was over them, would trouble about visiting the sentries.
Little Running Cropped-eared Dog laid down his pipe and
folded his arms.
"Brother," he said to Black Bull Pup, with that easy
assumption of authority which characterised him, "there
is no necessity for us both to be awake. I would woo the
god of pleasant dreams, so oblige me by keeping watch
while my eyelids droop."
Bull Pup, who was a choleric little Indian, and, judging
by his finery, a tip-top swell in Indian upper circles,
looked up with an air of surprise and angry remonstrance.
"Brother," he replied, "the modest expression of your
gracious pleasure is only equalled by the impudence of
the prairie dog who wags his tail in the face of the
hunter before hastening to the privacy of his tepee
underground. You slept all this morning, O Cropped-eared
one! It is my turn now."
But Little Running Dog was renowned among the Stonies
for his wide knowledge of men and things. Moreover, he
loved ease above all, so, by reason of his imperturbability
and honeyed words, he invariably disarmed opposition and
had his own way. On the present occasion he said--
"Black Bull Pup will pardon me; he speaks with his
accustomed truthfulness and fairness of thought I had
for the moment forgotten how, when he took Black Plume
of the Sarcees prisoner, and was leading him back for
the enlivening knife and burning tallow, he watched by
him for four days and four nights without closing an eye,
thus earning for himself the distinction of being called
the 'Sleepless One.' There is no such necessity for his
keeping awake now. Let his dreams waft him in spirit to
the Happy Hunting Grounds. As for me, I am getting an
old man, whose arrow-hand lacks strength to pull back
the string of the bow. It can be but a few short years
before I enter upon the long, last sleep, so it matters
not Sleep, brother."
But Black Bull Pup, as is often the case, was tender of
heart as well as choleric, and hastened to say that his
venerable comrade must take some much-needed rest, so
that within five minutes the ugly Cropped-eared one was
making the sweet hush of the summer noon hideous with
his snores, whilst Black Bull Pup was beginning to wonder
if, after all, he had not been "got at" again by his
Machiavelian friend. It was not a pleasant reflection,
and it really was a very drowsy sort of afternoon. Four
minutes later he was sound asleep himself.
Slowly toiling up the stony, sun-dried bed of the tarn
came Pepin the dwarf, and alongside him, showing unusual
signs of animation--he had scented brother bears--came
Antoine. Behind them walked the unstable breed, Bastien
Lagrange, with a huge pack upon his back. The pack was
heavy and the hill was steep, so that the human beast of
burden perspired and groaned considerably. He also showed
much imagination and ingenuity in the construction of
strange words suitable to the occasion. Pepin's ears had
just been assailed by some extra powerful ones when he
turned to remonstrate.
"Grumbler and discontented one," he said, "have your long
legs grown weak at the knees because you are asked to
carry a few pennyweights on your back?"--the breed was
resting his several hundred pounds pack upon a rock--"Bah!
it is nothing compared to the load of things you will
have to carry and answer for when you have to appear
before the Great Court, when the bolt has been drawn and
you are launched into space through the prison trap-door,
and your toes go jumpety-jumpety-jump. Blockhead!"
"_Parbleu, M'sieur_ Pepin, _mais_ eet ees mooch dead
would be more better than this, I tink it! _Helas!_ how
my heart eet does go for to break! I would for to rest,
Pepin, my ver' dear frient."
"Then rest, weak-kneed one, and be sure afterwards to
come on. It is good I did leave the good mother with the
Croisettes down the river! _Au revoir_, pudding-head!"
Pepin held Antoine by the neck while he surveyed the
slumbering forms of Little Running Crop-eared Dog and
Black Bull Pup.
"_Mais_, they are beautiful children of the tepees," he
murmured. "It would be easy to kill, but that would not
be of the commandments. 'He who lives by the sword shall
perish by the sword.' No; no man's blood shall stain the
hands of Pepin Quesnelle. Ah! now I have it. So!"
If the dwarf drew the line at killing, he was still as
full of mischief as a human being could well be. He had
an impish turn of mind, and hastened to gratify the same.
He took the two rifles and at once proceeded to draw the
charges, then with a smartness and lightness of touch
that was surprising, he possessed himself of their
sheath-knives. He placed Antoine on its haunches between
them, and threatened him with dire vengeance if he moved.
He himself clambered on to a rock over their heads, at
the same time not forgetting to take a few stones in his
pockets. His eyes gleamed and rolled in his head, and
he chuckled in a truly alarming fashion. Then he dropped
a stone on to the pit of Black Bull Pup's stomach, and
the other on to the head of the Crop-eared one. Antoine
watched the proceedings with much interest.
Black Bull Pup sat up and was about to remonstrate angrily
with his comrade for having roused him so unceremoniously,
when the latter also raised himself full of the same
Their eyes fairly started from their heads and they were
nearly paralysed with horror when they beheld a huge bear
sitting within a few feet of them. It must be a very ogre
of a bear when it could sit there so calmly waiting for
them to awake before beginning operations. Pepin, unseen
on the rock above them, fairly doubled himself up with
delight. But they were both Indians who had borne
themselves with credit in former encounters with bears,
so, snatching up their rifles, they both fired at Antoine
at the same moment with a touching and supreme disregard
to the other's proximity. Antoine seemed interested.
There were two flashes in the pan, and two hearts sank
simultaneously. They searched for their knives in vain.
Antoine appeared amused and looked encouragement. It was
a very nightmare to the two warriors. Then, from the rock
over their heads, they heard a deep bass voice of such
volume that it sounded like half-a-dozen ordinary voices
rolled into one.
"_Canaille!_" it cried, "cut-throats! villains!
block-heads! pudding-heads! _mais_ you are nice men to
sleep at your posts; truly, that is so! Shall I make this
bear for to devour you? Eh? What?"
When the two men looked up and beheld the weird form of
Pepin perched on the rock, it nearly finished them. They
had heard of many strange monsters, but here was something
beyond their very wildest imaginings. Of course, this
bear was his attendant evil spirit, and it was a judgment
upon them. The Crop-eared one and the Black Bull Pup
grovelled in an agony of terror. Pepin never had such a
time. What would have happened it is hard to say had
not Bastien Lagrange appeared upon the scene. For Antoine,
imagining that the movements of the Indians were generously
intended as an invitation for him to indulge in frivolity,
at once reared himself on his hind legs preparatory to
dancing all over them. Pepin slid from the rock and called
his absent-minded friend to attention. Bastien came
forward wiping his forehead, declaring that he was all
but dead, and the two worthy savages rose wonderingly to
their feet The unstable breed, who at once took in the
situation, and, as usual, derived a secret pleasure from
observing the abject discomfiture of the Indians, at once
proceeded to explain to them that the strange gentleman
before them, whom they had mistaken for a celebrity from
the ghost world, was no other than the celebrated Pepin
Quesnelle, of whom they must have heard, and that the
bear, whose magnanimity and playfulness they had just
been witnesses of, was his equally distinguished friend
and counsellor. He also explained that, of course, no
one in the land ever questioned Pepin's right to do what
he liked or to go where he chose. There was no doubt
that, in a different sphere of life, Bastien would have
risen to eminence in diplomatic circles. The two warriors
having been handed back their knives, swore by the ghosts
of their illustrious grandfathers and grandmothers, that,
so far at least as they were concerned, the little but
mighty man, with his servant the bear, might go or come
just as he pleased. Pepin and Bastien left the two now
sleepless sentries at their posts, and passed through to
the great wide terrace that overlooked the Saskatchewan,
which, here describing a great half-circle, rushed like
a mill-race between vast gloomy walls of rock.
When they reached the camp in the hollow, Jumping Frog
came forward to meet them. Pepin he had heard of, but
had not seen before. It was quite evident he resented
his presence there. He turned angrily upon the breed,
whose joy at now having come to the end of his journey
received a decided check from the reception he met with
from the head man. Jumping Frog looked at Bastien
scornfully, and asked--
"Brother, did I not send you on a mission? and what is
this thing you have brought back?"
The unstable breed, whose mercurial condition was influenced
by every breath of wind, shook with apprehension, but
Pepin came to the rescue. To be called "a thing" by an
Indian was an insult that cut into the quick of his
nature. He had taken off his slouch hat, and was leaning
forward with his two hands grasping the long stick he
usually carried. Antoine was squatted meditatively on
his haunches alongside him. Pepin now drew himself up;
his face became transfigured with rage; he took a step
or two towards the head man, and shook his stick
"Black-hearted and cross-eyed dog of a Stony!" he fairly
screamed; "by the ghost of the old grey wolf that bore
you, and which now wanders round the tepees of the outcasts
in the land of lost spirits picking up carrion, would
you dare to speak of me thus! I have a mind to take the
maiden whom you now hold as a prisoner away from you,
but the time is not yet ripe. But I swear it, if you
molest her in any way, or speak of me again as you have
done, or interfere with my coming or going, you shall
swing by the neck on a rope, and your body shall be given
to the dogs. Moreover, your spirit shall wander for ever
in the Bad Lands, and the Happy Hunting Grounds shall
know you not."
"Ough! ough!" exclaimed Jumping Frog uneasily; "but you
use big words, little man! Still, there is something
about you that savours of big medicine, and I do not wish
to offend the spirits, so peace with you until this matter
rights itself." He turned to Lagrange. "And you, O one
of seemingly weak purpose, tell me what news of Poundmaker
What Bastien had to tell was not calculated to encourage
Jumping Frog in his high-handed policy. His face fell
considerably, and Pepin, taking advantage of his
preoccupation, walked off with Antoine to find Dorothy.
When the dwarf was looking into one of the tepees, Antoine
created quite a flutter of excitement by looking into
another on his own account When the four Indians who were
solemnly seated therein, handing round the festive pipe,
beheld a huge cinnamon bear standing in the doorway,
evidently eyeing them with a view to annexing the one in
best condition, they bolted indiscriminately through the
sides of the lodge, leaving Antoine in possession. But
when they gathered themselves together outside, they were
confronted by Pepin, whom they took to be some terrible
monster from the ghost world, and the last state of them
was worse than the first Pepin enjoyed their discomfiture
for a brief space, and then explained who he was and why
he came to honour them with his presence. Calling Antoine
off, he left them in a still more dubious and confused
state of mind.
He had wandered almost half-a-mile from the camp on to
the broken edge of the great canyon, where, nearly a
thousand feet below, the ice-cold waters of the mighty
Saskatchewan showed like a blue ribbon shot with white.
Right in front of him was infinite space, and the earth
fell away as if from the roof of the world. It seemed to
Pepin that he had never before so fully realised the
majesty of Nature. Standing on the edge of the nightmarish
abyss, with the Indian girl near her, he saw Dorothy.
Neither of them observed him, and he stood still for a
minute to watch them.
As he gazed at the slim, graceful figure of the white
prisoner in her neat but faded black dress, it seemed to
him that he had never realised how beautiful and perfect
a thing was the human form. He had only in a crude way
imagined possibilities in the somewhat squat figures of
the Indian girls. There was a distinction in the poise
of Dorothy's proud shapely head that he had never seen
before in any woman. When she turned and saw him, her
face lighting up with welcome and her hands going out in
front of her, he experienced something that came in the
light of a revelation. He wondered how it was he could
have ever said, "she will not do."
A PROPOSAL FROM PEPIN
Dorothy approached Pepin as if to shake hands, but the
dwarf artfully pretended that there was something the
matter with Antoine's leading-rein, and ignored her. He
had never before realised how really dangerous a despised
female could he.
"Pepin Quesnelle," said Dorothy, "it was asking a great
deal when I sent for you, but I knew you would come. You
saved the life of Sergeant Pasmore when Riel was going
to shoot him, and I want to--"
"Bah, Mam'selle! But it is nonsense you talk like that,
so! The right--that is the thing. What is goodness after
all if one can only be good when there is nothing that
pulls the other way--no temptations, no dangers? It is
good to pray to God, but what good is prayer without the
desire deep down in the heart to do, and the doing? The
good deed--that is the thing. So! As for that Pasmore,
villain that he is--"
"He is a good man. Why do you say such a thing?"
"Bah! he is _coquin_ blockhead, pudding-head; still, I
love him much"--Dorothy visibly relented--"and he is
brave man, and to be brave is not to be afraid of the
devil, and that is much, _nest ce pas?_ But what is it
you want me for to do? The good mother is down at Croisettes
and sends her love--Bah! what a foolish thing it is
that women send!"
"Your mother is a good woman, Pepin, and I am glad to
have her love; as for you--"
"Mam'selle, Mam'selle! Pardon! but I am not loving--you
will please confine your remarks to my mother"--there
was visible alarm in Pepin's face; he did not know what
this forward girl might not be tempted to say--"What I
can do for to serve you, that is the question? I have
hear that your father and Sergeant Pasmore--that
pudding-head--and the others are all right. The thing is
for you to get 'way."
Pepin, who in reality had a sincere regard for Sergeant
Pasmore, had merely spoken of him in an uncomplimentary
fashion because he saw it would annoy Dorothy. He must
use any weapon he could to repel the attacks of the enemy.
As for Dorothy, the delusion that the dwarf was labouring
under was now obvious, and she hardly knew whether to be
amused or annoyed; it was such an absurd situation. She
must hasten to disillusion him.
"I don't think anything very serious can happen to me
here, Pepin. They will be too afraid to harm me, seeing
that they must know the British are so near. It is my
father and the others that I am concerned about And
The girl hesitated. Could she bring herself to speak
about it, and to this dwarf? But she realised that she
must hesitate at nothing when the lives of those who were
dear to her hung in the balance; and she knew that he
was chivalrous. Pepin tilted his head to one side, and,
looking up suspiciously, asked--
"_Bien!_ and this Sergeant Pasmore, have you also designs
on him? Eh? What?"
"Designs! The idea!--but, of course, how can you know?
No, and I will tell you, Pepin Quesnelle, for I believe
you are a good man, and you have been our friend, and we
are in your debt--"
"Bah! Debt! What is that? I am a man, Mam'selle, and beg
you will not talk about debt! Pouf!" He shrugged his
shoulders and spread out his great hands.
"Very well, this Sergeant Pasmore, I love him, and I have
promised to be his wife."
She drew herself up proudly now, and felt that she could
have said so before the whole world.
"_Parbleu!_" exclaimed Pepin, who did not seem to hail
the news with any particular satisfaction. "You are quite
sure it was not any one else you wanted to marry? What?
You are quite sure?"
"Of course, who could there be?"
"Perhaps Mam'selle aspired. But who can tell? After all,
a woman must take whom she can get I dare say that he
will do just as well as another."
Pepin Quesnelle, now that his own safety was assured,
did not seem to value it as he thought he would. After
all, if the girl's nose did "stop short too soon," it
was by no means an unpretty one; its sauciness was
decidedly taking, and if he saw mischief lurking away
back in her eyes, he admitted it was an uncommonly lovable
sort of mischief. Being only human, he now began to wish
for what he had despised.
As for Dorothy, she could have rated Pepin roundly for
his conceit and his sentiments. But it was all too absurd,
and she must bear with him. She continued--
"Pepin Quesnelle, you have a good heart, I know, and you
can understand how it is. If I had not known that you
were not like other men, I would hardly have dared to
ask you to come all this long distance to me. I know what
you do is not for reward, so I am not afraid to ask you.
Will you find out about my father and Mr. Pasmore and
the others, and will you do what you can to save them?
I feel sure there is no man on the Saskatchewan can do
more than you."
Pepin drew himself up to his full height, smiled
complacently, and stroked his black moustache. His dark
eyes twinkled as he turned to gaze encouragingly at
Antoine, who with his tongue out was seated on his hind
quarters, watching him meditatively.
"Mam'selle has spoken the truth. I would be sorry to be
like other men--particularly your Pasmore"--he grinned
impishly as he saw the indignation on Dorothy's face--"but
that is not the thing. Pasmore is all right--in his own
way. He is even, what you might call, goodfellow. But
why is it you should fret for him? He is all right. And
even if anything should happen to him, it is not Pepin
that has the hard heart--he might even console Mam'selle.
He will not exactly promise that, but he may come to it.
Perhaps Mam'selle will remember in the house when the
good mother told how you would like to marry Pepin, and
he said you would not do. Well, Pepin has considered well
since then, and he has thought that if you tried to suit
him, you might"
"It is too great an honour, Pepin. If you expect any one
in this world to be as good and kind to you as your
mother, you will find you have made a great mistake.
Believe me, Pepin Quesnelle. I am a woman, and I know."
"_Bien! Oui_, the mother she is good, ver' good, and I
know there is right in what you say. So! Still, I think
you have improved since we first met, and the mother
likes you, so you need not think too much of that you
are not good enough, and if you should think better of
it--all may yet be well."
But Dorothy assured him that, seeing she had given her
word to Pasmore, and, moreover, seeing she loved him, it
would be a mistake to change her mind upon the subject.
This, however, was not exactly clear to Pepin, who could
not understand how any woman could be foolish enough to
stand in her own light when he, the great Pepin, who had
been so long the catch of the Saskatchewan, had graciously
signified his intention to accept her homage. Perhaps
she was one of those coy creatures who must have something
more than mere conventionalism put into an offer of
marriage, so under the circumstances it might be as well
for him to go through with the matter to the bitter end.
"Mam'selle," he said, "the honour Pepin does you is
stupendous; he is prepared to accept you--to make the
great sacrifice. He lays his heart at your feet--he
means you have laid your heart at his feet, and he stoops
"You'd better do nothing of the kind, Pepin Quesnelle.
It's all a mistake!--You utterly misunderstand--"
But Dorothy could say no more, for, despite her alarm,
the situation was too ludicrous for words. What further
complications might have arisen, it is difficult to say,
had not just then the astute Antoine come to the conclusion
that his master was developing some peculiar form of
madness and wanted a little brotherly attention. He
therefore came noiselessly behind him and with a show of
absent-mindedness poked his snout between his legs.
In another moment Pepin had landed on his back on top of
his four-footed friend, wherefrom he rolled helplessly
to earth. Dorothy ran forward to help him up, but the
dwarf could not see her proffered hand now--it was
Antoine he had to do business with. He was already creeping
on all-fours towards the interrupter. Dorothy's heart
was in her mouth when Pepin, with an unexpected movement,
threw his arms round the bear's neck and proceeded to
force its jaws apart with his powerful hands. He had no
twigs or old boots handy, but he meant to try the teeth
in its inside by administering earth or young rocks or
anything of a nature that could not exactly be called
nourishing. To add to the confusion, the Indian girl
fearful that something terrible was about to happen, at
once began to indulge in a weird uproar.
What would have happened it is difficult to say had not
their attention been suddenly claimed by a couple of
shots which rang out from the direction of the gorge.
Pepin released his hold on Antoine, and that resourceful
creature took the opportunity of revenging himself by
picking up his master's hat and trotting off with it in
his mouth. He meant to put it where Pepin intended to
put the little rocks.
A BOLD BID FOR LIBERTY
It was midnight, and Poundmaker's prisoners, Douglas,
Pasmore, Jacques, and Rory, were lying in their tepee
under the charge of their armed guards. They knew the
latter were asleep, and in answer to some proposition
that Rory had just whispered to Jacques, the latter said--
"So, that is so. Keel him not, but to make that he cry
not. The knife to the throat, not to cut, but to silence,
that is the thing."
"S-sh! or by the powers it's your throat the knife'll be
at. Now, you to the man at your feet, and I'll to the
man beyant... Ow, slape, ye gory babes!"
If the wind had not been whistling round the tepees just
then, causing some of the loosely-laced hides to flap
spasmodically, it is extremely unlikely that either of
the two men would have ventured even to whisper. But the
tepee was dark, and Rory had managed to tell his
fellow-prisoners that, if they wanted to put their
much-discussed scheme of overcoming their guards and
making their escape into execution, now was their time.
They might never have such another chance. Rory, by reason
of his experience of such matters in the past, had insisted
on leading off with the work. He had also intimated his
intention of securing the arms of some of the other
Indians after their guards had been overpowered.
Rory rolled over on his right side and looked at the
Indians. He could only see two dark, prostrate forms
outlined blackly against the grey of the doorway. Luckily
the moon was rising, and that would somewhat assist their
One of the Indians turned over and drew a long, throaty
breath. He had indeed been asleep, and perhaps he was
going to awake. The thought of the contingency was too
much for the backwoodsman. He crawled forward as stealthily
as a panther, and next moment one sinewy hand was on the
Indian's throat, the other was across the mouth, and a
knee was planted on his chest Simultaneously Jacques was
on top of the other Indian; Pasmore and Douglas jumped
to their feet. In less time than it takes to write it,
the hands of the Indians were secured behind their backs,
gags were placed upon their mouths, their fire-arms and
knives were secured, and the latter were flashed before
their eyes. They were told that if they remained still
no harm would come to them, but if they showed the
slightest intention of alarming the camp their earthly
careers would be speedily closed. Neither of them being
prepared to die, they lay still, like sensible redskins.
Then Rory left the tepee and in two minutes more returned
with two rifles, which he had managed to purloin in some
Pasmore took the lead, then came Rory, and immediately
after him Douglas and Jacques.
It was a miserable mongrel of an Indian dog that
precipitated matters. They came full upon it as it stood
close to a Red River cart, with cocked ears and tail in
air. The inopportune brute threw up its sharp snout and
gave tongue to a series of weird, discordant yelps after
the manner of dogs which are half coyotes.
"Come on!" cried Pasmore, "we've got to run for it now.
Let's make a bee-line straight up the valley!"
With rifles at the ready they rushed between the tepees.
It was run for it now with a vengeance. Next moment the
startled Indians came pouring out of their lodges. Red
spurts of fire flashed out in all directions, and the
deafening roar of antiquated weapons made night hideous.
Luckily for the escaping party they had cleared the
encampment, so the result was that the Indians, imagining
that they were being attacked by the Blackfeet or the
British, at once began to blaze away indiscriminately.
The results were disastrous to small groups of their own
people who were foolish enough to leave their doorways.
It would have been music in the ears of the fleeing ones
had not three or four shots whizzed perilously close to
their heads, thus somewhat interfering with their
appreciation of the _contretemps_.
But their detection was inevitable. Before they had gone
two hundred yards a score of angry redskins were at their
heels. It seemed a futile race, for the Indians numbered
some hundreds, and it was a moral certainty it could be
only a question of time before they were run down. They
knew that under the circumstances there would be no
prisoners taken. It was not long before the pace began
to tell on them.
"I'm afraid I'm played out," gasped Douglas, "go on, my
friends, for I can't go any farther. I'll be able to keep
them back for a few minutes while you make your way up
the valley. Now then, good-bye, and get on!"
He plumped down behind a rock, and waited for the advancing
Pasmore caught him by the arm and dragged him to his
feet. The others had stopped also. It was not likely they
were going to allow their friend and master to sacrifice
himself in such a fashion.
"Let's make up this ravine, sir," cried Pasmore. "Come,
give me your arm; we may be able to fool them yet. There's
lots of big rocks lying about that will be good cover.
There's no man going to be left behind this trip."
High walls of clay rose up on either side, so that at
least the Indians could not outflank them. At first the
latter, thinking that the troublesome escapers were
effectually cornered, essayed an injudicious rush in upon
them, but the result was a volley that dropped three and
made the remainder seek convenient rocks. Taking what
cover they could the white men retired up the narrow
valley. It was becoming lighter now, and they could
distinctly see the skulking, shadowy forms of the redskins
as they stole from rock to rock. Suddenly they made a
discovery that filled them with consternation. They had
come to the end of the valley and were literally in a
_cul-de-sac!_ They were indeed caught like rats in a
"I'm afraid we're cornered," exclaimed Douglas, "but
we've got some powder and shot left yet."
"Yes," remarked Pasmore, "we'll keep them off as long as
we can. I can't understand why the troops are not following
those fellows up. There's no getting out of this, I
fear,"--he looked at the crescent of unscalable cliff--"but
I don't believe in throwing up the sponge. I've always
found that when things seemed at their worst they were
just on the mend."
He did not say that there was a very powerful incentive
in his heart just then that in itself was more than
sufficient to make him cling to life. It was the thought
Half-an-hour more and the Indians had crawled up to within
fifty yards, and might rush in upon them at any moment,
and then all would be over. As yet, thanks to their
excellent cover, none of the little party had been wounded,
though the redskins had suffered severely. There were
few words spoken now; only four determined men waited
courageously for the end. And then something happened
that paled their cheeks, causing them to look at one
another with startled, questioning eyes. There was a
growing fusillade of rifle fire over their heads and the
sound of British cheers!
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Douglas. "It's the troops at last
They've come up overnight to attack the camp, and they
haven't come a minute too soon."
"So, that is so," said Jacques, as he took deliberate
aim at his late enemies, who, realising the situation,
were scuttling in confusion down the ravine. "_Mais_, it
is the long road that knows not the turn."
But as for Pasmore, as on one occasion when he had been
snatched from the Valley of the Shadow, and realised how
beautiful was the blue between the columns of the pines,
he now saw the sweet face of a woman smiling on him
through the mists of the uncertain future.
AN ONLY WAY
When Antoine the bear so far forgot himself as to interfere
in his master's affairs, he, as usual, had occasion for
after regret--Pepin saw to that.
The Indians seized their rifles and ran up the slope to
the narrow slit in the cliff that led to their eyrie,
and which on the other side looked out upon the
far-stretching prairie. Pepin, calling Antoine all the
unpleasant names he could think of, told him to follow,
and waddled uphill after the redskins as fast as his late
exertions and his short legs would allow him. The Indians
did not attempt to interfere with his movements. Once
there, he immediately saw the reason of the interruption.
Hurriedly retiring down the hill were three or four men,
but whether whites or breeds it was difficult to determine.
He rather thought he recognised one burly form, and
determined to make sure of the fact that very night. He
thought, however, it was quite excusable for any small
party to retire. Twenty men could have been picked off
by one before they got half-way up. It was as well for
the strangers that the Indians had opened fire so soon,
otherwise some of them might have been left behind.
That night Pepin disappeared without saying a word to
any one. The strange thing was that none of the Indians
saw him go. Two days passed and there was no sign or
trace of him. On the afternoon of the third day, when
the two Indians on guard at the entrance of the Pass were
busily engaged in quarrelling over some sort of rodent,
nearly as large as a rat, Pepin suddenly rose up before
them as if from the earth. They flattened themselves
against the sides of the cliff in order to allow him and
Antoine to continue their royal progress.
Pepin sought out Dorothy. She was at her usual place on
the edge of the precipice that looked down upon the deep,
divided channels of the great river. She turned on
hearing the deep breathing of Pepin and the shambling of
Antoine as they passed over some loose gravel behind her.
She rose to her feet with a little cry of welcome. There
was something in the dwarfs face that spoke of a settled
purpose and hope. Their late awkward meeting was quite
There was a by no means unkindly look on the dwarfs face
as he seated himself beside Dorothy, and told her how he
had slipped out of the Indian camp unobserved three nights
before, and how, going back to Croisettes down the river,
where he had left his mother, he had fallen in with her
friends, who had been rescued by British troops from
Poundmaker's clutches and sent to stay there out of harm's
way while the soldiers pursued the scattered and flying
Indians. Pepin having told them that Dorothy was for the
time being safe, though in Jumping Frog's hands, they of
course wanted to start out at once to rescue her, but
that was promptly negatived by Pepin. Such an attempt
might only precipitate her fate. It had come to his ears
that Poundmaker's scattered band was at that very moment
making back to the strange hiding-place in the cliff,
and that as it would be impossible for them--Douglas and
party--to force the position, they must get Dorothy away
by strategy. He had been to that wild place years before.
There was a steep footpath at the extreme western end,
close to the cliff, which led directly down to the water's
edge. If a canoe could be brought overland on the other
side of the river to that spot, and hidden there, it
would be possible for him and Dorothy to get into it and
escape. They could drift down with the current and land
just above Croisettes. They would, however, have to take
care to get into the proper channel, as one of them was
a certain death-trap. It led through a horrible narrow
canyon, which for some considerable distance was nothing
more than a subterraneous passage. There were rapids in
it, through which nothing could hope to pass in safety.
To be brief, the canoe had been taken to the desired
spot, but Pepin had been enjoined not to resort to it
unless things became desperate. Jacques and Rory had gone
off in search of the British troops, while Douglas and
Pasmore remained where they were in case they would be
Dorothy was jubilant over the scheme and would have
started off at once, could she have got her own way, but
Pepin told her she must retire as usual to her tepee,
where he would come for her if necessity arose.
One hour before dawn and a hundred horrible, pealing
echoes rang out from the mouth of the Pass. The British
had attacked without considering what results might follow
their precipitancy. In point of fact, Bastien Lagrange,
the unstable breed, alarmed by Pepin's unpleasant
prognostications, had developed a sudden fit of loyalty
to the British, and gone off ostensibly to carry a message
to Poundmaker, while in reality he went to search for
the former in order that he might lead them to Dorothy's
prison. Hence the present attack.
Dorothy heard the firing and rose quietly from her couch
of skins. For five minutes she waited in a condition of
painful uncertainty as to the true state of affairs. Then
some one lifted aside the flap of the doorway and Pepin
entered with Antoine close at his heels. He was evidently
"Mam'selle, Mam'selle," he cried, "you must come with me
now. I have hear that Jumping Frog say something to two
of his cut-throats of redskins! Come quickly!"
Without any interruption the dwarf and the girl headed
down the gulley that sloped westward. It was terribly
rough travelling, and, but for following an old and
tortuous path, it would hardly have been possible to
steer clear of the rocks and undergrowth. Suddenly the
gully stopped abruptly on the brink of the terrace,
looking down which brought a thrill of terror to Dorothy's
heart. It was as if a great water-spout had burst on the
hillside and washed out for itself an almost precipitous
channel. A wan dawn-light was creeping on apace, and
Dorothy could see that it was at least six hundred feet
to the bottom of this appalling chute. Pepin muttered
something to himself as he regarded it.
"Have we to go down there?" Dorothy asked, with white
"So, that is so!" observed Pepin soberly. "If we go back
there is the death that is of hell. If we go on, there
is the death we know or the life which means your father
or your Pasmore for you, and the good mother and the home
for me. There is the canoe at the foot of this hill, and
those we have spoken of down the river at Croisettes. It
is for you to make up your mind and choose."
"Come, Pepin, let us go down," she cried.
THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
The dwarf seized her hand, and, stepping over the brink,
they began their perilous descent. They lay on their
sides, feet downwards, and at once the loose sand and
fine pebbles began to move with their bodies. Down the
long slope they slid at a terrific pace that fairly took
their breath away. To Dorothy it was as if she were
falling from an immense height. The earth rushed past
her, and for one horrible moment she feared she was losing
her senses. It was a nightmare in which she was tumbling
headlong from some dizzy cliff, knowing that she would
be dashed to pieces at its foot.
"Courage, my dear."
It was Pepin's voice that brought her to her senses.
She felt the grasp of his strong hand upon her arm. Soon
she became conscious that their rocket-like flight was
somewhat checked, and noted the reason. Pepin who lay
on his back, had got his long stick wedged under his
arms, and, with the weight of his body practically upon
it, made it serve as a drag on their progress. Dorothy
felt as if her clothes must be brushed from her body.
She hardly dared look down to see how much of the fearful
journey there was yet to accomplish. Suddenly the sand
and gravel became of a heavier nature. Their pace slackened;
Pepin threw all his weight on to the stick, and they
pulled up. Dorothy saw that they were now about half-way
down--they must have dropped about three hundred feet in
a matter of seconds. Then something that to Dorothy seemed
to presage the end of all things happened. There was a
roar as of thunder over their heads. Looking up as they
still lay prone they beheld a terrifying spectacle. A
huge rock was bounding down upon them from the heights
above. It gathered force as it came, rising high in the
air in a series of wild leaps. _Debris_ and dust marked
its path. It set other stones in motion, and the noise
was as if a 15-pounder and a Vicker's Maxim gun were
playing a duet. For the moment a species of panic seized
Dorothy, but Pepin retained his presence of mind.
"Bah!" he exclaimed. "It is that cut-throat and blockhead,
Jumping Frog, who has been throw down that stone! But
what need to worry! Either it will squeeze us like to
the jelly-fish or the flat-fish, or it will jump over
our heads and do no harm--"
He pressed her to earth with one strong hand as the great
rock struck the ground a few feet short of them and
bounded over their heads. A warm, sulphurous odour came
from the place of concussion. An avalanche of small
stones rattled all around them. It was a narrow escape
truly, and the very thought of it almost turned Dorothy
sick. She saw the rock ricochet down the steep slope and
plunge with a mighty splash into the blue waters far
How they got to the bottom Dorothy was never able to
determine. She only knew that when she got there her
boots were torn to pieces, and any respectable dealer in
rags would hardly have demeaned himself by bidding for
her clothes. Pepin was a curious sight, for his garments
looked like so many tattered signals of distress.
The two found themselves in a great gloomy canyon with
frowning sides and a broad, leaden-hued river surging at
But the canoe, where was it? Had it been sunk by the rock
from above? If so, they had absolutely no hope of escape.
But Pepin's sharp eyes saw it riding securely in a little
bay under a jutting rock. Dorothy and he hurried down to
it. There was a narrow strip of sand, and the water was
shallow just there. The painter was wound round a sharp
rock, and they pulled the canoe to them. Just at that
moment a shower of rocks and _debris_ passed within a
few feet of them and plunged into the water, throwing up
a snow-white geyser.
"Jump in, my dear," cried Pepin, "we will escape them
yet, and that fool of a Jumping Frog will swing at the
end of a long rope or die like a coyote with a bullet
through his stupid head."
Dorothy got in, and Pepin rolled in bodily after her.
He seized the paddle, seated himself near the bow, and
dipped his blade into the eddying flood. "Now then,
Mam'selle, have the big heart of courage and the good
God will help. One, two!"
The canoe shot out into the stream. Like a child's paper
boat or a withered leaf it was caught up and whirled
away. There was a look of exultation on the dwarfs face;
his dark eyes flashed with excitement.
"Courage, my dear!" he cried again. "Move not, and do
not be afraid. Think of the good father and the sweetheart
who will meet you at the Croisettes lower down. Think of
them, dear heart, the father and the lover!"
Dorothy did think, and breathed a prayer that God would
nerve the arm of Pepin and give them both faith and
But the river was in flood, and the current rushed like
a mill-race. Dorothy fairly held her breath as the canoe
rode over the surging waters. The river seemed to narrow,
and great black walls of rock wet with spray and streaked
with patches of orange and green closed in upon them.
They came to a bend where the water roared and boiled
angrily, its surface being broken with great blue
silver-crested furrows. Suddenly Pepin uttered a strange,
hoarse cry. There had been an immense landslide, and the
entire channel had been altered. Right in their path lay
a broad whirlpool. Pepin paddled for dear life, while
the perspiration stood out in beads upon his forehead.
His face was set and there was a strained look in his
eyes. Dorothy clasped her hands, praying aloud, but
uttering no word of fear.
"Courage, courage," Pepin cried. "The good Lord will not
The muscles stood out like knots on his great arms. His
body inclined forward and his paddle flashed and dipped
with lightning, unerring strokes.
The canoe leapt out of the water, and then shot out of
that swirling, awful ring into the headlong stream again.
"Houp-la, Hooray!" cried Pepin. "Thanks be to the good
God! Courage, _mon ami!_"
And then the words died on his lips, and Dorothy perceived
a sickly grey overspread his face as he stared ahead.
She looked and saw a great mass of rock right in the
centre of the stream, as if a portion of the cliff had
fallen into it, dividing the passage. Pepin, who had
somewhat relaxed his efforts, now began to ply his paddle
again with redoubled vigour. His hair stood on end, the
veins swelled on his forehead, and his body was hunched
forward in a grotesque fashion. Once he turned and,
looking swiftly over his shoulder, cried something to
Dorothy. But the thundering of the waters was now so
great that his voice was drowned. The canoe was heading
straight for the rock, as an arrow speeds from the bow.
Dorothy closed her eyes and prayed. There was a lurch,
the canoe heeled over until the water poured in, she
opened her eyes and clung to the sides for dear life,
and then it shot past the menacing death, just missing
it by a hand's breadth.
But what was the matter with the river? It had contracted
until it was not more than twenty yards in width. It
flowed between smooth slimy walls of rock, the vasty
heights of which shut out the light of coming day. There
was no roaring now, only the rapid, deep, tremulous flow
of the sea-green waters. Dorothy looked upwards, but
all she could see was the black, pitiless cliffs, and a
narrow ribbon of sky. Pepin had ceased to ply his paddle,
and was gazing fixedly down stream. A presentiment that
something was wrong took possession of Dorothy. When the
dwarf turned round, and she saw the look of pity for her
upon his face, she knew he had something ghastly to tell.
His expression was not that of fear; it was that of one
who, seeing death ahead, is not afraid for himself, but
is strangely apprehensive about breaking the news to
another. And all the time the thin ribbon of sky was
The girl looked at the dwarf keenly.
"Pepin Quesnelle," she said, "you have been a good, dear
friend to me, and now you have lost your life in trying
to save mine--"
"Pardon, Mam'selle, my dear, what is it you know? You
say we go for to meet the death. How you know that, eh?
Despite the tragedy of the situation, and the great pity
for her that filled his heart, he would not have been
Pepin had he not posed as the _petit maitre_ in this the
hour of the shadow.
She pointed to the great black archway looming up ahead
under which their canoe must shoot in another minute. It
was the dread subterranean passage, which meant for them
the end of all things. It was a tragic ending to all her
hopes and dreams, the trials and the triumphs of her
young life. It was, indeed, bitter to think that just
when love, the crowning experience of womanhood, had come
to her, its sweetness should have been untasted. Even
the lover's kiss--that seal upon the compact of souls--had
been denied her. Her fate had been a hard one, but Dorothy
was no fair-weather Christian. Was it not a great triumph
that in the dark end she should have bowed to the higher
will, and been strong? And her love, if it had experienced
no earthly close, might it not live again in the mysterious
Hereafter? She thanked God for the comfort of the thought.
She had been face to face with death before, but now here
surely was the end. She would be brave and true to all
that was best and truest in her, and she felt that somehow
those who were left behind must know.
The dwarf faced her, and his hands were clasped as in
prayer. His face was transfigured. There was no fear
there--only a look of trust in a higher power, and of
"Pepin," cried Dorothy, "you have been a good, dear friend
to me, and I want to thank you before--"
"Bah !" interrupted the dwarf. "What foolishness is it
you will talk about thanks! But, my dear, I will say this
to you now, although you are a woman, there is no one in
this wide world--save, of course, the good mother--that
I would more gladly have laid down my life to serve than
you! I am sure your Pasmore would forgive me if he heard
that Good-bye, my dear child, and if it is the Lord's
will that together we go to knock at the gates of the
great Beyond, then I will thank Heaven that I have been
sent in such good company. Now, let us thank the good
God that He has put the love of Him in our hearts."
And then the darkness swallowed them up.
Back from the land of dreams and shadows--back from the
Valley of the Shadow and the realms of unconsciousness.
Dorothy opened her eyes. At first she could see nothing.
Then there fell upon her view the shadowy form of a human
figure bending over her, and a slimy roof of rock that
seemed to rush past at racehorse speed. It seemed to grow
lighter. The canoe swayed; she heard the rush of water;
then there was darkness again.
It was the splash of cold water on her face from a little
wave that dashed over the side of the canoe that roused
her. She opened her eyes. In the bow she could see Pepin
kneeling; his hands were clasped before him; his deep
voice ran above the surge of the current, and she knew
that he was praying aloud.
The roof over her head seemed to recede. It grew higher.
Pepin turned and seized the paddle. He dipped it into
the water and headed the canoe into the centre of the
"Mam'selle, my dear," he cried, "the good God has heard
our prayer. He has guided us through. Have heart of
courage, and all will be well."
Dorothy raised herself on to her hands and knees. It was
as if she had been dead and had come to life again. The
stream opened out. Suddenly there came a break in the
"Courage, _mon ami!_" cried Pepin, and he was just in
time to turn them from a rock that threatened destruction.
Then all at once they shot out into the great isle-studded
bosom of the broad river, and the sweet sunshine of the
Half-an-hour later, and the canoe was gliding past the
banks where the ash and the wolf-willow grew, and the
great cliffs were left behind. They knew that they were
safe, and in their hearts was thanksgiving. Suddenly
"Ah, Mam'selle, you Douglas female, look--don't you see
it? There it is--Croisettes, and look--look, there is
the good mother, and your father, and there your Pasmore,
your pudding-head, Pasmore! Look, they run. Do not you
But Dorothy could not see, for her eyes were full of