Infomotions, Inc.The Golden Snare / Curwood, James Oliver, 1879-1927



Author: Curwood, James Oliver, 1879-1927
Title: The Golden Snare
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): bram; celie; philip; bram johnson; blake; wolves; cabin; pierre breault's; golden snare; bram johnson's; snow
Contributor(s): Cannan, Gilbert, 1884-1955 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 56,167 words (really short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 73 (easy)
Identifier: etext4515
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Title: The Golden Snare

Author: James Oliver Curwood

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THE GOLDEN SNARE

BY JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD

AUTHOR OF KAZAN, THE DANGER TRAIL, THE COURAGE OF MARGE O'DOONE,
THE GRIZZLY KING, ETC.





THE GOLDEN SNARE





CHAPTER I




Bram Johnson was an unusual man, even for the northland. He was,
above all other things, a creature of environment--and necessity,
and of that something else which made of him at times a man with a
soul, and at others a brute with the heart of a devil. In this
story of Bram, and the girl, and the other man, Bram himself
should not be blamed too much. He was pathetic, and yet he was
terrible. It is doubtful if he really had what is generally
regarded as a soul. If he did, it was hidden--hidden to the
forests and the wild things that had made him.

Bram's story started long before he was born, at least three
generations before. That was before the Johnsons had gone north of
Sixty. But they were wandering, and steadily upward. If one puts a
canoe in the Lower Athabasca and travels northward to the Great
Slave and thence up the Mackenzie to the Arctic he will note a
number of remarkable ethnological changes. The racial
characteristics of the world he is entering change swiftly. The
thin-faced Chippewa with his alert movements and high-bowed canoe
turns into the slower moving Cree, with his broader cheeks, his
more slanting eyes, and his racier birchbark. And even the Cree
changes as he lives farther north; each new tribe is a little
different from its southernmost neighbor, until at last the Cree
looks like a Jap, and the Chippewyan takes his place. And the
Chippewyan takes up the story of life where the Cree left off.
Nearer the Arctic his canoe becomes a skin kaiak, his face is
still broader, Ms eyes like a Chinaman's, and writers of human
history call him Eskimo.

The Johnsons, once they started, did not stop at any particular
point. There was probably only one Johnson in the beginning of
that hundred year story which was to have its finality in Bram.
But there were more in time. The Johnson blood mixed itself first
with the Chippewa, and then with the Cree--and the Cree-Chippewa
Johnson blood, when at last it reached the Eskimo, had in it also
a strain of Chippewyan. It is curious how the name itself lived.
Johnson! One entered a tepee or a cabin expecting to find there a
white man, and was startled when he discovered the truth.

Bram, after nearly a century of this intermixing of bloods, was a
throwback--a white man, so far as his skin and his hair and his
eyes went. In other physical ways he held to the type of his half-
strain Eskimo mother, except in size. He was six feet, and a giant
in strength. His face was broad, his cheek-bones high, his lips
thick, his nose flat. And he was WHITE. That was the shocking
thing about it all. Even his hair was a reddish blonde, wild and
coarse and ragged like a lion's mane, and his eyes were sometimes
of a curious blue, and at others--when he was angered--green like
a cat's at night-time.

No man knew Bram for a friend. He was a mystery. He never remained
at a post longer than was necessary to exchange his furs for
supplies, and it might be months or even years before he returned
to that particular post again. He was ceaselessly wandering. More
or less the Royal Northwest Mounted Police kept track of him, and
in many reports of faraway patrols filed at Headquarters there are
the laconic words, "We saw Bram and his wolves traveling
northward" or "Bram and his wolves passed us"--always Bram AND HIS
WOLVES. For two years the Police lost track of him. That was when
Bram was buried in the heart of the Sulphur Country east of the
Great Bear. After that the Police kept an even closer watch on
him, waiting, and expecting something to happen. And then--the
something came. Bram killed a man. He did it so neatly and so
easily, breaking him as he might have broken a stick, that he was
well off in flight before it was discovered that his victim was
dead. The next tragedy followed quickly--a fortnight later, when
Corporal Lee and a private from the Fort Churchill barracks closed
in on him out on the edge of the Barren. Bram didn't fire a shot.
They could hear his great, strange laugh when they were still a
quarter of a mile away from him. Bram merely set loose his wolves.
By a miracle Corporal Lee lived to drag himself to a half-breed's
cabin, where he died a little later, and the half-breed brought
the story to Fort Churchill.

After this, Bram disappeared from the eyes of the world. What he
lived in those four or five years that followed would well be
worth his pardon if his experiences could be made to appear
between the covers of a book. Bram--AND HIS WOLVES! Think of it.
Alone. In all that time without a voice to talk to him. Not once
appearing at a post for food. A loup-garou. An animal-man. A
companion of wolves. By the end of the third year there was not a
drop of dog-blood in his pack. It was wolf, all wolf. From whelps
he brought the wolves up, until he had twenty in his pack. They
were monsters, for the under-grown ones he killed. Perhaps he
would have given them freedom in place of death, but these wolf-
beasts of Bram's would not accept freedom. In him they recognized
instinctively the super-beast, and they were his slaves. And Bram,
monstrous and half animal himself, loved them. To him they were
brother, sister, wife--all creation. He slept with them, and ate
with them, and starved with them when food was scarce. They were
comradeship and protection. When Bram wanted meat, and there was
meat in the country, he would set his wolf-horde on the trail of a
caribou or a moose, and if they drove half a dozen miles ahead of
Bram himself there would always be plenty of meat left on the
bones when he arrived. Four years of that! The Police would not
believe it. They laughed at the occasional rumors that drifted in
from the far places; rumors that Bram had been seen, and that his
great voice had been heard rising above the howl of his pack on
still winter nights, and that half-breeds and Indians had come
upon his trails, here and there--at widely divergent places. It
was the French half-breed superstition of the chasse-galere that
chiefly made them disbelieve, and the chasse-galere is a thing not
to be laughed at in the northland. It is composed of creatures who
have sold their souls to the devil for the power of navigating the
air, and there were those who swore with their hands on the
crucifix of the Virgin that they had with their own eyes seen Bram
and his wolves pursuing the shadowy forms of great beasts through
the skies.

So the Police believed that Bram was dead; and Bram, meanwhile,
keeping himself from all human eyes, was becoming more and more
each day like the wolves who were his brothers. But the white
blood in a man dies hard, and always there flickered in the heart
of Bram's huge chest a great yearning. It must at times have been
worse than death--that yearning to hear a human voice, to have a
human creature to speak to, though never had he loved man or
woman. Which brings us at last to the final tremendous climax in
Bram's life--to the girl, and the other man.





CHAPTER II




The other man was Raine--Philip Raine.

To-night he sat in Pierre Breault's cabin, with Pierre at the
opposite side of the table between them, and the cabin's sheet
iron stove blazing red just beyond. It was a terrible night
outside. Pierre, the fox hunter, had built his shack at the end of
a long slim forefinger of scrub spruce that reached out into the
Barren, and to-night the wind was wailing and moaning over the
open spaces in a way that made Raine shiver. Close to the east was
Hudson's Bay--so close that a few moments before when Raine had
opened the cabin door there came to him the low, never-ceasing
thunder of the under-currents fighting their way down through the
Roes Welcome from the Arctic Ocean, broken now and then by a
growling roar as the giant forces sent a crack, like a great
knife, through one of the frozen mountains. Westward from Pierre's
cabin there stretched the lifeless Barren, illimitable and void,
without rock or bush, and overhung at day by a sky that always
made Raine think of a terrible picture he had once seen of Dore's
"Inferno"--a low, thick sky, like purple and blue granite, always
threatening to pitch itself down in terrific avalanches. And at
night, when the white foxes yapped, and the wind moaned--

"As I have hope of paradise I swear that I saw him--alive,
M'sieu," Pierre was saying again over the table.

Raine, of the Fort Churchill patrol of the Royal Northwest Mounted
Police, no longer smiled in disbelief. He knew that Pierre Breault
was a brave man, or he would not have perched himself alone out in
the heart of the Barren to catch the white foxes; and he was not
superstitious, like most of his kind, or the sobbing cries and
strife of the everlasting night-winds would have driven him away.

"I swear it!" repeated Pierre.

Something that was almost eagerness was burning now in Philip's
face. He leaned over the table, his hands gripping tightly. He was
thirty-five; almost slim as Pierre himself, with eyes as steely
blue as Pierre's were black. There was a time, away back, when he
wore a dress suit as no other man in the big western city where he
lived; now the sleeves of his caribou skin coat were frayed and
torn, his hands were knotted, in his face were the lines of storm
and wind.

"It is impossible," he said. "Bram Johnson is dead!"

"He is alive, M'sieu."

In Pierre's voice there was a strange tremble.

"If I had only HEARD, if I had not SEEN, you might disbelieve,
M'sieu," he cried, his eyes glowing with a dark fire. "Yes, I
heard the cry of the pack first, and I went to the door, and
opened it, and stood there listening and looking out into the
night. UGH! they went near. I could hear the hoofs of the caribou.
And then I heard a great cry, a voice that rose above the howl of
the wolves like the voice of ten men, and I knew that Bram Johnson
was on the trail of meat. MON DIEU--yes--he is alive. And that is
not all. No. No. That is not all--"

His fingers were twitching. For the third or fourth time in the
last three-quarters of an hour Raine saw him fighting back a
strange excitement. His own incredulity was gone. He was beginning
to believe Pierre.

"And after that--you saw him?"

"Yes. I would not do again what I did then for all the foxes
between the Athabasca and the Bay, M'sieu. It must have been--I
don't know what. It dragged me out into the night. I followed. I
found the trail of the wolves, and I found the snowshoe tracks of
a man. Oui. I still followed. I came close to the kill, with the
wind in my face, and I could hear the snapping of jaws and the
rending of flesh--yes--yes--AND A MAN'S TERRIBLE LAUGH! If the
wind had shifted--if that pack of devils' souls had caught the
smell of me--tonnerre de dieu!" He shuddered, and the knuckles of
his fingers snapped as he clenched and unclenched his hands. "But
I stayed there, M'sieu, half buried in a snow dune. They went on
after a long time. It was so dark I could not see them. I went to
the kill then, and--yes, he had carried away the two hind quarters
of the caribou. It was a bull, too, and heavy. I followed--clean
across that strip of Barren down to the timber, and it was there
that Bram built himself the fire. I could see him then, and I
swear by the Blessed Virgin that it was Bram! Long ago, before he
killed the man, he came twice to my cabin--and he had not
changed. And around him, in the fire-glow, the wolves huddled. It
was then that I came to my reason. I could see him fondling them.
I could see their gleaming fangs. Yes, I could HEAR their bodies,
and he was talking to them and laughing with them through his
great beard--and I turned and fled back to the cabin, running so
swiftly that even the wolves would have had trouble in catching
me. And that--that--WAS NOT ALL!"

Again his fingers were clenching and unclenching as he stared at
Raine.

"You believe me, M'sieu?"

Philip nodded.

"It seems impossible. And yet--you could not have been dreaming,
Pierre."

Breault drew a deep breath of satisfaction, and half rose to his
feet.

"And you will believe me if I tell you the rest?"

"Yes."

Swiftly Pierre went to his bunk and returned with the caribou skin
pouch in which he carried his flint and steel and fire material
for the trail.

"The next day I went back, M'sieu," he said, seating himself again
opposite Philip. "Bram and his wolves were gone. He had slept in a
shelter of spruce boughs. And--and--par les mille cornes du diable
if he had even brushed the snow out! His great moccasin tracks
were all about among the tracks of the wolves, and they were big
as the spoor of a monster bear. I searched everywhere for
something that he might have left, and I found--at last--a rabbit
snare."

Pierre Breault's eyes, and not his words--and the curious twisting
and interlocking of his long slim fingers about the caribou-skin
bag in his hand stirred Philip with the thrill of a tense and
mysterious anticipation, and as he waited, uttering no word,
Pierre's fingers opened the sack, and he said:

"A rabbit snare, M'sieu, which had dropped from his pocket into
the snow--"

In another moment he had given it into Philip's hands. The oil
lamp was hung straight above them. Its light flooded the table
between them, and from Philip's lips, as he stared at the snare,
there broke a gasp of amazement. Pierre had expected that cry. He
had at first been disbelieved; now his face burned with triumph.
It seemed, for a space, as if Philip had ceased breathing. He
stared--stared--while the light from above him scintillated on the
thing he held. It was a snare. There could be no doubt of that. It
was almost a yard in length, with the curious Chippewyan loop at
one end and the double-knot at the other.

The amazing thing about it was that it was made of a woman's
golden hair.





CHAPTER III




The process of mental induction occasionally does not pause to
reason its way, but leaps to an immediate and startling finality,
which, by reason of its very suddenness, is for a space like the
shock of a sudden blow. After that one gasp of amazement Philip
made no sound. He spoke no word to Pierre. In a sudden lull of the
wind sweeping over the cabin the ticking of his watch was like the
beating of a tiny drum. Then, slowly, his eyes rose from the
silken thread in his fingers and met Pierre's. Each knew what the
other was thinking. If the hair had been black. If it had been
brown. Even had it been of the coarse red of the blond Eskimo of
the upper Mackenzie! But it was gold--shimmering gold.

Still without speaking, Philip drew a knife from his pocket and
cut the shining thread above the second knot, and worked at the
finely wrought weaving of the silken filaments until a tress of
hair, crinkled and waving, lay on the table before them. If he had
possessed a doubt, it was gone now. He could not remember where he
had ever seen just that colored gold in a woman's hair. Probably
he had, at one time or another. It was not red gold. It possessed
no coppery shades and lights as it rippled there in the lamp glow.
It was flaxen, and like spun silk--so fine that, as he looked at
it, he marveled at the patience that had woven it into a snare.
Again he looked at Pierre. The same question was in their eyes.

"It must be--that Bram has a woman with him," said Pierre.

"It must be," said Philip. "Or--"

That final word, its voiceless significance, the inflection which
Philip gave to it as he gazed at Pierre, stood for the one
tremendous question which, for a space, possessed the mind of
each. Pierre shrugged his shoulders. He could not answer it. And
as he shrugged his shoulders he shivered, and at a sudden blast of
the wind against the cabin door he turned quickly, as though he
thought the blow might have been struck by a human hand.

"Diable!" he cried, recovering himself, his white teeth flashing a
smile at Philip. "It has made me nervous--what I saw there in the
light of the campfire, M'sieu. Bram, and his wolves, and THAT!"

He nodded at the shimmering strands.

"You have never seen hair the color of this, Pierre?"

"Non. In all my life--not once."

"And yet you have seen white women at Fort Churchill, at York
Factory, at Lac la Biche, at Cumberland House, and Norway House,
and at Fort Albany?"

"Ah-h-h, and at many other places, M'sieu. At God's Lake, at Lac
Seul, and over on the Mackenzie--and never have I seen hair on a
woman like that."

"And Bram has never been out of the northland, never farther south
than Fort Chippewyan that we know of," said Philip. "It makes one
shiver, eh, Pierre? It makes one think of--WHAT? Can't you answer?
Isn't it in your mind?"

French and Cree were mixed half and half in Pierre's blood. The
pupils of his eyes dilated as he met Philip's steady gaze.

"It makes one think," he replied uneasily, "of the chasse-galere
and the loup-garou, and--and--almost makes one believe. I am not
superstitious, M'sieu--non--non--I am not superstitious," he cried
still more uneasily. "But many strange things are told about Bram
and his wolves;--that he has sold his soul to the devil, and can
travel through the air, and that he can change himself into the
form of a wolf at will. There are those who have heard him singing
the Chanson de Voyageur to the howling of his wolves away up in
the sky. I have seen them, and talked with them, and over on the
McLeod I saw a whole tribe making incantation because they had
seen Bram and his wolves building themselves a conjuror's house in
the heart of a thunder-cloud. So--is it strange that he should
snare rabbits with, a woman's hair?"

"And change black into the color of the sun?" added Philip,
falling purposely into the other's humor.

"If the rest is true--"

Pierre did not finish. He caught himself, swallowing hard, as
though a lump had risen in his throat, and for a moment or two
Philip saw him fighting with himself, struggling with the age-old
superstitions which had flared up for an instant like a powder-
flash. His jaws tightened, and he threw back his head.

"But those stories are NOT true, M'sieu," he added in a repressed
voice. "That is why I showed you the snare. Bram Johnson is not
dead. He is alive. And there is a woman with him, or--"

"Or--"

The same thought was in their eyes again. And again neither gave
voice to it. Carefully Philip was gathering up the strands of
hair, winding them about his forefinger, and placing them
afterward in a leather wallet which he took from his pocket. Then,
quite casually, he loaded his pipe and lighted it. He went to the
door, opened it, and for a few moments stood listening to the
screech of the wind over the Barren. Pierre, still seated at the
table, watched him attentively. Philip's mind was made up when he
closed the door and faced the half-breed again.

"It is three hundred miles from here to Fort Churchill," he said.
"Half way, at the lower end of Jesuche Lake, MacVeigh and his
patrol have made their headquarters. If I go after Bram, Pierre, I
must first make certain of getting a message to MacVeigh, and he
will see that it gets to Fort Churchill. Can you leave your foxes
and poison-baits and your deadfalls long enough for that?"

A moment Pierre hesitated.

Then he said:

"I will take the message."

Until late that night Philip sat up writing his report. He had
started out to run down a band of Indian thieves. More important
business had crossed his trail, and he explained the whole matter
to Superintendent Fitzgerald, commanding "M" Division at Fort
Churchill. He told Pierre Breault's story as he had heard it. He
gave his reasons for believing it, and that Bram Johnson, three
times a murderer, was alive. He asked that another man be sent
after the Indians, and explained, as nearly as he could, the
direction he would take in his pursuit of Bram.

When the report was finished and sealed he had omitted just one
thing.

Not a word had he written about the rabbit snare woven from a
woman's hair.





CHAPTER IV




The next morning the tail of the storm was still sweeping bitterly
over the edge of the Barren, but Philip set out, with Pierre
Breault as his guide, for the place where the half-breed had seen
Bram Johnson and his wolves in camp. Three days had passed since
that exciting night, and when they arrived at the spot where Bram
had slept the spruce shelter was half buried in a windrow of the
hard, shot like snow that the blizzard had rolled in off the open
spaces.

From this point Pierre marked off accurately the direction Bram
had taken the morning after the hunt, and Philip drew the point of
his compass to the now invisible trail. Almost instantly he drew
his conclusion.

"Bram is keeping to the scrub timber along the edge of the
Barren," he said to Pierre. "That is where I shall follow. You
might add that much to what I have written to MacVeigh. But about
the snare, Pierre Breault, say not a word. Do you understand? If
he is a loup-garou man, and weaves golden hairs out of the winds--"

"I will say nothing, M'sieu," shuddered Pierre.

They shook hands, and parted in silence. Philip set his face to
the west, and a few moments later, looking back, he could no
longer see Pierre. For an hour after that he was oppressed by the
feeling that he was voluntarily taking a desperate chance. For
reasons which he had arrived at during the night he had left his
dogs and sledge with Pierre, and was traveling light. In his
forty-pound pack, fitted snugly to his shoulders, were a three
pound silk service-tent that was impervious to the fiercest wind,
and an equal weight of cooking utensils. The rest of his burden,
outside of his rifle, his Colt's revolver and his ammunition, was
made up of rations, so much of which was scientifically compressed
into dehydrated and powder form that he carried on his back, in a
matter of thirty pounds, food sufficient for a month if he
provided his meat on the trail. The chief article in this
provision was fifteen pounds of flour; four dozen eggs he carried
in one pound of egg powder; twenty-eight pounds of potatoes in
four pounds of the dehydrated article; four pounds of onions in a
quarter of a pound of the concentration, and so on through the
list.

He laughed a little grimly as he thought of this concentrated
efficiency in the pack on his shoulders. In a curious sort of way
it reminded him of other days, and he wondered what some of his
old-time friends would say if he could, by some magic endowment,
assemble them here for a feast on the trail. He wondered
especially what Mignon Davenport would say--and do. P-f-f-f! He
could see the blue-blooded horror in her aristocratic face! That
wind from over the Barren would curdle the life in her veins. She
would shrivel up and die. He considered himself a fairly good
judge in the matter, for once upon a time he thought that he was
going to marry her. Strange why he should think of her now, he
told himself; but for all that he could not get rid of her for a
time. And thinking of her, his mind traveled back into the old
days, even as he followed over the hidden trail of Bram.
Undoubtedly a great many of his old friends had forgotten him.
Five years was a long time, and friendship in the set to which he
belonged was not famous for its longevity. Nor love, for that
matter. Mignon had convinced him of that. He grimaced, and in the
teeth of the wind he chuckled. Fate was a playful old chap. It was
a good joke he had played on him--first a bit of pneumonia, then a
set of bad lungs afflicted with that "galloping" something-or-other
that hollows one's cheeks and takes the blood out of one's
veins. It was then that the horror had grown larger and larger
each day in Mignon's big baby-blue eyes, until she came out with
childish frankness and said that it was terribly embarrassing to
have one's friends know that one was engaged to a consumptive.

Philip laughed as he thought of that. The laugh came so suddenly
and so explosively that Bram could have heard it a hundred yards
away, even with the wind blowing as it was. A consumptive! Philip
doubled up his arm until the hard muscles in it snapped. He drew
in a deep lungful of air, and forced it out again with a sound
like steam escaping from a valve. The NORTH had done that for him;
the north with its wonderful forests, its vast skies, its rivers,
and its lakes, and its deep snows--the north that makes a man out
of the husk of a man if given half a chance. He loved it. And
because he loved it, and the adventure of it, he had joined the
Police two years ago. Some day he would go back, just for the fun
of it; meet his old friends in his old clubs, and shock baby-eyed
Mignon to death with his good health.

He dropped these meditations as he thought of the mysterious man
he was following. During the course of his two years in the
Service he had picked up a great many odds and ends in the history
of Bram's life, and in the lives of the Johnsons who had preceded
him. He had never told any one how deeply interested he was. He
had, at times, made efforts to discuss the quality of Bram's
intelligence, but always he had failed to make others see and
understand his point of view. By the Indians and half-breeds of
the country in which he had lived, Bram was regarded as a monster
of the first order possessed of the conjuring powers of the devil
himself. By the police he was earnestly desired as the most
dangerous murderer at large in all the north, and the lucky man
who captured him, dead or alive, was sure of a sergeantcy.
Ambition and hope had run high in many valiant hearts until it was
generally conceded that Bram was dead.

Philip was not thinking of the sergeantcy as he kept steadily
along the edge of the Barren. His service would shortly be up, and
he had other plans for the future. From the moment his fingers had
touched the golden strand of hair he had been filled with a new
and curious emotion. It possessed him even more strongly to-day
than it had last night. He had not given voice to that emotion, or
to the thoughts it had roused, even to Pierre. Perhaps he was
ridiculous. But he possessed imagination, and along with that a
great deal of sympathy for animals--and some human beings. He had,
for the time, ceased to be the cool and calculating man-hunter
intent on the possession of another's life. He knew that his duty
was to get Bram and take him back to headquarters, and he also
knew that he would perform his duty when the opportunity came--
unless he had guessed correctly the significance of the golden
snare.

And had he guessed correctly? There was a tremendous doubt in his
mind, and yet he was strangely thrilled. He tried to argue that
there were many ways in which Bram might have secured the golden
hairs that had gone into the making of his snare; and that the
snare itself might long have been carried as a charm against the
evils of disease and the devil by the strange creature whose mind
and life were undoubtedly directed to a large extent by
superstition. In that event it was quite logical that Bram had
come into possession of his golden talisman years ago.

In spite of himself, Philip could not believe that this was so. At
noon, when he built a small fire to make tea and warm his bannock,
he took the golden tress from his wallet and examined it even more
closely than last night. It might have come from a woman's head
only yesterday, so bright and shimmery was it in the pale light of
the midday sun. He was amazed at the length and fineness of it,
and the splendid texture of each hair. Possibly there were half a
hundred hairs, each of an equal and unbroken length.

He ate his dinner, and went on. Three days of storm had covered
utterly every trace of the trail made by Bram and his wolves. He
was convinced, however, that Bram would travel in the scrub timber
close to the Barren. He had already made up his mind that this
Barren--the Great Barren of the unmapped north--was the great snow
sea in which Bram had so long found safety from the law. Beaching
five hundred miles east and west, and almost from the Sixtieth
degree to the Arctic Ocean, its un-peopled and treeless wastes
formed a tramping ground for him as safe as the broad Pacific to
the pirates of old. He could not repress a shivering exclamation
as his mind dwelt on this world of Bram's. It was worse than the
edge of the Arctic, where one might at least have the Eskimo for
company.

He realized the difficulty of his own quest. His one chance lay in
fair weather, and the discovery of an old trail made by Bram and
his pack. An old trail would lead to fresher ones. Also he was
determined to stick to the edge of the scrub timber, for if the
Barren was Bram's retreat he would sooner or later strike a trail
--unless Bram had gone straight out into the vast white plain
shortly after he had made his camp in the forest near Pierre
Breault's cabin. In that event it might be weeks before Bram would
return to the scrub timber again.

That night the last of the blizzard that had raged for days
exhausted itself. For a week clear weather followed. It was
intensely cold, but no snow fell. In that week Philip traveled a
hundred and twenty miles westward.

It was on the eighth night, as he sat near his fire in a thick
clump of dwarf spruce, that the thing happened which Pierre
Breault, with a fatalism born of superstition, knew would come to
pass. And it is curious that on this night, and in the very hour
of the strange happening, Philip had with infinite care and a
great deal of trouble rewoven the fifty hairs back into the form
of the golden snare.





CHAPTER V




The night was so bright that the spruce trees cast vivid shadows
on the snow. Overhead there were a billion stars in a sky as dear
as an open sea, and the Great Dipper shone like a constellation of
tiny suns. The world did not need a moon. At a distance of three
hundred yards Philip could have seen a caribou if it had passed.
He sat close to his fire, with the heat of it reflected from the
blackened face of a huge rock, finishing the snare which had taken
him an hour to weave. For a long time he had been conscious of the
curious, hissing monotone of the Aurora, the "music of the skies,"
reaching out through the space of the earth with a purring sound
that was at times like the purr of a cat and at others like the
faint hum of a bee. Absorbed in his work he did not, for a time,
hear the other sound. Not until he had finished, and was placing
the golden snare in his wallet, did the one sound individualize
and separate itself from the other.

He straightened himself suddenly, and listened. Then he jumped to
his feet and ran through fifty feet of low scrub to the edge of
the white plain.

It was coming from off there, a great distance away. Perhaps a
mile. It might be two. The howling of wolves!

It was not a new or unusual sound to him. He had listened to it
many times during the last two years. But never had it thrilled
him as it did now, and he felt the blood leap in sudden swiftness
through his body as the sound bore straight in his direction. In a
flash he remembered all that Pierre Breault had said. Bram and his
pack hunted like that. And it was Bram who was coming. He knew it.

He ran back to his tent and in what remained of the heat of the
fire he warmed for a few moments the breech of his rifle. Then he
smothered the fire by kicking snow over it. Returning to the edge
of the plain, he posted himself near the largest spruce he could
find, up which it would be possible for him to climb a dozen feet
or so if necessity drove him to it. And this necessity bore down
upon him like the wind. The pack, whether guided by man or beast,
was driving straight at him, and it was less than a quarter of a
mile away when Philip drew himself up in the spruce. His breath
came quick, and his heart was thumping like a drum, for as he
climbed up the slender refuge that was scarcely larger in diameter
than his arm he remembered the time when he had hung up a thousand
pounds of moose meat on cedars as thick as his leg, and the wolves
had come the next night and gnawed them through as if they had
been paper. From his unsteady perch ten feet off the ground he
stared out into the starlit Barren.

Then came the other sound. It was the swift chug, chug, chug of
galloping feet--of hoofs breaking through the crust of the snow. A
shape loomed up, and Philip knew it was a caribou running for its
life. He drew an easier breath as he saw that the animal was
fleeing parallel with the projecting finger of scrub in which he
had made his camp, and that it would strike the timber a good mile
below him. And now, with a still deeper thrill, he noted the
silence of the pursuing wolves. It meant but one thing. They were
so close on the heels of their prey that they no longer made a
sound. Scarcely had the caribou disappeared when Philip saw the
first of them--gray, swiftly moving shapes, spread out fan-like as
they closed in on two sides for attack, so close that he could
hear the patter of their feet and the blood-curdling whines that
came from between their gaping jaws. There were at least twenty of
them, perhaps thirty, and they were gone with the swiftness of
shadows driven by a gale.

From his uncomfortable position Philip lowered himself to the snow
again. With its three or four hundred yard lead he figured that
the caribou would almost reach the timber a mile away before the
end came. Concealed in the shadow of the spruce, he waited. He
made no effort to analyze the confidence with which he watched for
Bram. When he at last heard the curious ZIP--ZIP--ZIP of snowshoes
approaching his blood ran no faster than it had in the preceding
minutes of his expectation, so sure had he been that the man he
was after would soon loom up out of the starlight. In the brief
interval after the passing of the wolves he had made up his mind
what he would do. Fate had played a trump card into his hand. From
the first he had figured that strategy would have much to do in
the taking of Bram, who would be practically unassailable when
surrounded by the savage horde which, at a word from him, had
proved themselves ready to tear his enemies into pieces. Now, with
the wolves gorging themselves, his plan was to cut Bram off and
make him, a prisoner.

From his knees he rose slowly to his feet, still hidden in the
shadow of the spruce. His rifle he discarded. In his un-mittened
hand he held his revolver. With staring eyes he looked for Bram
out where the wolves had passed. And then, all at once, came the
shock. It was tremendous. The trickery of sound on the Barren had
played an unexpected prank with his senses, and while he strained
his eyes to pierce the hazy starlight of the plain far out, Bram
himself loomed up suddenly along the edge of the bush not twenty
paces away.

Philip choked back the cry on his lips, and in that moment Bram
stopped short, standing full in the starlight, his great lungs
taking in and expelling air with a gasping sound as he listened
for his wolves. He was a giant of a man. A monster, Philip
thought. It is probable that the elusive glow of the night added
to his size as he stood there. About his shoulders fell a mass of
unkempt hair that looked like seaweed. His beard was short and
thick, and for a flash Philip saw the starlight in his eyes--eyes
that were shining like the eyes of a cat. In that same moment he
saw the face. It was a terrible, questing face--the face of a
creature that was hunting, and yet hunted; of a creature half
animal and half man. So long as he lived he knew that he would
never forget it; the wild savagery of it, the questing fire that
was in the eyes, the loneliness of it there in the night, set
apart from all mankind; and with the face he would never forget
that other thing that came to him audibly--the throbbing, gasping
heartbeat of the man's body.

In this moment Philip knew that the time to act was at hand. His
fingers gripped tighter about the butt of his revolver as he
stepped forward out of the shadow.

Bram would have seen him then, but in that same instant he had
flung back his head and from his throat there went forth a cry
such as Philip had never heard from man or beast before. It began
deep in Bram's cavernous chest, like the rolling of a great drum,
and ended in a wailing shriek that must have carried for miles
over the open plain--the call of the master to his pack, of the
man-beast to his brothers. It may be that even before the cry was
finished some super-instinct had warned Bram Johnson of a danger
which he had not seen. The cry was cut short. It ended in a
hissing gasp, as steam is cut off by a valve. Before Philip's
startled senses had adjusted themselves to action Bram was off,
and as his huge strides carried him swiftly through the starlight
the cry that had been on his lips was replaced by the strange, mad
laugh that Pierre Breault had described with a shiver of fear.

Without moving, Philip called after him:

"Bram--Bram Johnson--stop! In the name of the King--"

It was the old formula, the words that carried with them the
majesty and power of Law throughout the northland. Bram heard
them. But he did not stop. He sped on more swiftly, and again
Philip called his name.

"Bram--Bram Johnson--"

The laugh came back again. It was weird and chuckling, as though
Bram was laughing at him.

In the starlight Philip flung up his revolver. He did not aim to
hit. Twice he fired over Bram's head and shoulders, so close that
the fugitive must have heard the whine of the bullets.

"Bram--Bram Johnson!" he shouted a third time.

His pistol arm relaxed and dropped to his side, and he stood
staring after the great figure that was now no more than a shadow
in the gloom. And then it was swallowed up entirely. Once more he
was alone under the stars, encompassed by a world of nothingness.
He felt, all at once, that he had been a very great fool. He had
played his part like a child; even his voice had trembled as he
called out Bram's name. And Bram--even Bram--had laughed at him.

Very soon he would pay the price of his stupidity--of his slowness
to act. It was thought of that which quickened his pulse as he
stared out into the white space into which Bram had gone. Before
the night was over Bram would return, and with him would come the
wolves.

With a shudder Philip thought of Corporal Lee as he turned back
through the scrub to the big rock where he had made his camp.

The picture that flashed into his mind of the fate of the two men
from Churchill added to the painful realization of his own
immediate peril--a danger brought upon himself by an almost
inconceivable stupidity. Philip was no more than the average human
with good red blood in his veins. A certain amount of personal
hazard held a fascination for him, but he had also the very great
human desire to hold a fairly decent hand in any game of chance he
entered. It was the oppressive conviction that he had no chance
now that stunned him. For a few minutes he stood over the spot
where his fire had been, a film of steam rising into his face,
trying to adjust his mind to some sort of logical action. He was
not afraid of Bram. He would quite cheerfully have gone out and
fought open-handedly for his man, even though he had seen that
Bram was a giant. This, much he told himself, as he fingered the
breech of his rifle, and listened.

But it was not Bram who would fight. The wolves would come. He
probably would not see Bram again. He would hear only his laugh,
or his great voice urging on his pack, as Corporal Lee and the
other man had heard it.

That Bram would not return for vengeance never for a moment
entered his analysis of the situation. By firing after his man
Philip had too clearly disclosed his identity and his business;
and Bram, fighting for his own existence, would be a fool not to
rid himself of an immediate and dangerous enemy.

And then, for the first time since he had returned from the edge
of the Barren, Philip saw the man again as he had seen him
standing under the white glow of the stars. And it struck him, all
at once, that Bram had been unarmed. Comprehension of this fact,
slow as it had been, worked a swift and sudden hope in him, and
his eyes took in quickly the larger trees about him. From a tree
he could fight the pack and kill them one by one. He had a rifle
and a revolver, and plenty of ammunition. The advantage would lay
all with him. But if he was treed, and Bram happened to have a
rifle--

He put on the heavy coat he had thrown off near the fire, filled
his pockets with loose ammunition, and hunted for the tree he
wanted. He found it a hundred yards from his camp. It was a
gnarled and wind-blown spruce six inches in diameter, standing in
an open. In this open Philip knew that he could play havoc with
the pack. On the other hand, if Bram possessed a rifle, the gamble
was against him. Perched in the tree, silhouetted against the
stars that made the night like day, he would be an easy victim.
Bram could pick him off without showing himself. But it was his
one chance, and he took it.





CHAPTER VI




An hour later Philip looked at his watch. It was close to
midnight. In that hour his nerves had been keyed to a tension that
was almost at the breaking point. Not a sound came from off the
Barren or from out of the scrub timber that did not hold a mental
and physical shock for him. He believed that Bram and his pack
would come up quietly; that he would not hear the man's footsteps
or the soft pads of his beasts until they were very near. Twice a
great snow owl fluttered over his head. A third time it pounced
down upon a white hare back in the shrub, and for an instant
Philip thought the time had come. The little white foxes, curious
as children, startled him most. Half a dozen times they sent
through him the sharp thrill of anticipation, and twice they made
him climb his tree.

After that hour the reaction came, and with the steadying of his
nerves and the quieter pulse of his blood Philip began to ask
himself if he was going to escape the ordeal which a short time
before he had accepted as a certainty. Was it possible that his
shots had frightened Bram? He could not believe that. Cowardice
was the last thing he would associate with the strange man he had
seen in the starlight. Vividly he saw Bram's face again. And now,
after the almost unbearable strain he had been under, a mysterious
SOMETHING that had been in that face impinged itself upon him
above all other things. Wild and savage as the face had been, he
had seen in it the unutterable pathos of a creature without hope.
In that moment, even as caution held him listening for the
approach of danger, he no longer felt the quickening thrill of man
on the hunt for man. He could not have explained the change in
himself--the swift reaction of thought and emotion that filled him
with a mastering sympathy for Bram Johnson.

He waited, and less and less grew his fear of the wolves. Even
more clearly he saw Bram as the time passed; the hunted look in
the man's eyes, even as he hunted--the loneliness of him as he had
stood listening for a sound from the only friends he had--the
padded beasts ahead. In spite of Bram's shrieking cry to his pack,
and the strangeness of the laugh that had floated back out of the
white night after the shots, Philip was convinced that he was not
mad. He had heard of men whom loneliness had killed. He had known
one--Pelletier, up at Point Fullerton, on the Arctic. He could
repeat by heart the diary Pelletier had left scribbled on his
cabin door. It was worse than madness. To Pelletier death had come
at last as a friend. And Bram had been like that--dead to human
comradeship for years. And yet--

Under it all, in Philip's mind, ran the thought of the woman's
hair. In Pierre Breault's cabin he had not given voice to the
suspicion that had flashed upon him. He had kept it to himself,
and Pierre, afraid to speak because of the horror of it, had
remained as silent as he. The thought oppressed him now. He knew
that human hair retained its life and its gloss indefinitely, and
that Bram might have had the golden snare for years. It was quite
reasonable to suppose that he had bartered for it with some white
man in the years before he had become an outlaw, and that some
curious fancy or superstition had inspired him in its possession.
But Philip had ceased to be influenced by reason alone. Sharply
opposed to reason was that consciousness within him which told him
that the hair had been freshly cut from a woman's head. He had no
argument with which to drive home the logic of this belief even
with himself, and yet he found it impossible not to accept that
belief fully and unequivocally. There was, or HAD been, a woman
with Bram--and as he thought of the length and beauty and rare
texture of the silken strand in his pocket he could not repress a
shudder at the possibilities the situation involved. Bram--and a
woman! And a woman with hair like that!

He left his tree after a time. For another hour he paced slowly
back and forth at the edge of the Barren, his senses still keyed
to the highest point of caution. Then he rebuilt his fire, pausing
every few moments in the operation to listen for a suspicious
sound. It was very cold. He noticed, after a little, that the
weird sound of the lights over the Pole had become only a ghostly
whisper. The stars were growing dimmer, and he watched them as
they seemed slowly to recede farther and farther away from the
world of which he was a part. This dying out of the stars always
interested him. It was one of the miracles of the northern world
that lay just under the long Arctic night which, a few hundred
miles beyond the Barren, was now at its meridian. It seemed to him
as though ten thousand invisible hands were sweeping under the
heavens extinguishing the lights first in ones and twos and then
in whole constellations. It preceded by perhaps half an hour the
utter and chaotic blackness that comes before the northern dawn,
and it was this darkness that Philip dreaded as he waited beside
his fire.

In the impenetrable gloom of that hour Bram might come. It was
possible that he had been waiting for that darkness. Philip looked
at his watch. It was four o'clock. Once more he went to his tree,
and waited. In another quarter of an hour he could not see the
tree beside which he stood. And Bram did not come. With the
beginning of the gray dawn Philip rebuilt his fire for the third
time and prepared to cook his breakfast. He felt the need of
coffee--strong coffee--and he boiled himself a double ration. At
seven o'clock he was ready to take up the trail.

He believed now that some mysterious and potent force had
restrained Bram Johnson from taking advantage of the splendid
opportunity of that night to rid himself of an enemy. As he made
his way through the scrub timber along the edge of the Barren it
was with the feeling that he no longer desired Bram as a prisoner.
A thing more interesting than Bram had entered into the adventure.
It was the golden snare. Not with Bram himself, but only at the
end of Bram's trail, would he find what the golden snare stood
for. There he would discover the mystery and the tragedy of it, if
it meant anything at all. He appreciated the extreme hazard of
following Bram to his long hidden retreat. The man he might outwit
in pursuit and overcome in fair fight, if it came to a fight, but
against the pack he was fighting tremendous odds.

What this odds meant had not fully gripped him until he came
cautiously out of the timber half an hour later and saw what was
left of the caribou the pack had killed. The bull had fallen
within fifty yards of the edge of the scrub. For a radius of
twenty feet about it the snow was beaten hard by the footprints of
beasts, and this arena was stained red with blood and scattered
thickly with bits of flesh, broken bones and patches of hide.
Philip could see where Bram had come in on the run, and where he
had kicked off his snowshoes. After that his great moccasin tracks
mingled with those of the wolves. Bram had evidently come in time
to save the hind quarters, which had been dragged to a spot well
out of the red ring of slaughter. After that the stars must have
looked down upon an amazing scene. The hungry horde had left
scarcely more than the disemboweled offal. Where Bram had dragged
his meat there was a small circle worn by moccasin tracks, and
here, too, were small bits of flesh, scattered about--the
discarded remnants of Bram's own feast.

The snow told as clearly as a printed page what had happened after
that. Its story amazed Philip. From somewhere Bram had produced a
sledge, and on this sledge he had loaded what remained of the
caribou meat. From the marks in the snow Philip saw that it had
been of the low ootapanask type, but that it was longer and
broader than any sledge he had ever seen. He did not have to guess
at what had happened. Everything was too clear for that. Far back
on the Barren Bram had loosed his pack at sight of the caribou,
and the pursuit and kill had followed. After that, when beasts and
man had gorged themselves, they had returned through the night for
the sledge. Bram had made a wide detour so that he would not again
pass near the finger of scrub timber that concealed his enemy, and
with a curious quickening of the blood in his veins Philip
observed how closely the pack hung at his heels. The man was
master--absolutely. Later they had returned with the sledge, Bram
had loaded his meat, and with his pack had struck out straight
north over the Barren. Every wolf was in harness, and Bram rode on
the sledge.

Philip drew a deep breath. He was learning new things about Bram
Johnson. First he assured himself that Bram was not afraid, and
that his disappearance could not be called a flight. If fear of
capture had possessed him he would not have returned for his meat.
Suddenly he recalled Pierre Breault's story of how Bram had
carried off the haunches of a bull upon his shoulders as easily as
a child might have carried a toy gun, and he wondered why Bram--
instead of returning for the meat this night--had not carried the
meat to his sledge. It would have saved time and distance. He was
beginning to give Bram credit for a deeply mysterious strategy.
There was some definite reason why he had not made an attack with
his wolves that night. There was a reason for the wide detour
around the point of timber, and there was a still more
inexplicable reason why he had come back with his sledge for the
meat, instead of carrying his meat to the sledge. The caribou
haunch had not weighed more than sixty or seventy pounds, which
was scarcely half a burden for Bram's powerful shoulders.

In the edge of the timber, where he could secure wood for his
fire, Philip began to prepare. He cooked food for six days. Three
days he would follow Bram out into that unmapped and treeless
space--the Great Barren. Beyond that it would be impossible to go
without dogs or sledge. Three days out, and three days back--and
even at that he would be playing a thrilling game with death. In
the heart of the Barren a menace greater than Bram and his wolves
would be impending. It was storm.

His heart sank a little as he set out straight north, marking the
direction by the point of his compass. It was a gray and sunless
day. Beyond him for a distance the Barren was a white plain, and
this plain seemed always to be merging not very far ahead into the
purple haze of the sky. At the end of an hour he was in the center
of a vast amphitheater which was filled with the gloom and the
stillness of death. Behind him the thin fringe of the forest had
disappeared. The rim of the sky was like a leaden thing, widening
only as he advanced. Under that sky, and imprisoned within its
circular walls, he knew that men had gone mad; he felt already the
crushing oppression of an appalling loneliness, and for another
hour he fought an almost irresistible desire to turn back. Not a
rock or a shrub rose to break the monotony, and over his head--so
low that at times it seemed as though he might have flung a stone
up to them--dark clouds rolled sullenly from out of the north and
east.

Half a dozen times in those first two hours he looked at his
compass. Not once in that time did Bram diverge from his steady
course into the north. In the gray gloom, without a stone or a
tree to mark his way, his sense of orientation was directing him
as infallibly as the sensitive needle of the instrument which
Philip carried.

It was in the third hour, seven or eight miles from the scene of
slaughter, that Philip came upon the first stopping place of the
sledge. The wolves had not broken their traveling rank, and for
this reason he guessed that Bram had paused only long enough to
put on his snowshoes. After this Philip could measure quite
accurately the speed of the outlaw and his pack. Bram's snow-shoe
strides were from twelve to sixteen inches longer than his own,
and there was little doubt that Bram was traveling six miles to
his four.

It was one o'clock when Philip stopped to eat his dinner. He
figured that he was fifteen miles from the timber-line. As he ate
there pressed upon him more and more persistently the feeling that
he had entered upon an adventure which was leading toward
inevitable disaster for him. For the first time the significance
of Bram's supply of meat, secured by the outlaw at the last moment
before starting out into the Barren, appeared to him with a
clearness that filled him with uneasiness. It meant that Bram
required three or four days' rations for himself and his pack in
crossing this sea of desolation that reached in places to the
Arctic. In that time, if necessity was driving him, he could cover
a hundred and fifty miles, while Philip could make less than a
hundred.

Until three o'clock in the afternoon he followed steadily over
Bram's trail. He would have pursued for another hour if a huge and
dome-shaped snowdrift had not risen in his path. In the big drift
he decided to make his house for the night. It was an easy matter
--a trick learned of the Eskimo. With his belt-ax he broke through
the thick crust of the drift, using care that the "door" he thus
opened into it was only large enough for the entrance of his body.
Using a snowshoe as a shovel he then began digging out the soft
interior of the drift, burrowing a two foot tunnel until he was
well back from the door, where he made himself a chamber large
enough for his sleeping-bag. The task employed him less than an
hour, and when his bed was made, and he stood in front of the door
to his igloo, his spirits began to return. The assurance that he
had a home at his back in which neither cold nor storm could reach
him inspirited him with an optimism which he had not felt at any
time during the day.

From the timber he had borne a precious bundle of finely split
kindlings of pitch-filled spruce, and with a handful of these he
built himself a tiny fire over which, on a longer stick brought
for the purpose, he suspended his tea pail, packed with snow. The
crackling of the flames set him whistling. Darkness was falling
swiftly about him. By the time his tea was ready and he had warmed
his cold bannock and bacon the gloom was like a black curtain that
he might have slit with a knife. Not a star was visible in the
sky. Twenty feet on either side of him he could not see the
surface of the snow. Now and then he added a bit of his kindling
to the dying embers, and in the glow of the last stick he smoked
his pipe, and as he smoked he drew from his wallet the golden
snare. Coiled in the hollow of his hand and catching the red light
of the pitch-laden fagot it shone with the rich luster of rare
metal. Not until the pitch was burning itself out in a final
sputter of flame did Philip replace it in the wallet.

With the going of the fire an utter and chaotic blackness shut him
in. Feeling his way he crawled through the door of his tunnel,
over the inside of which he had fastened as a flap his silk
service tent. Then he stretched himself out in his sleeping-bag.
It was surprisingly comfortable. Since he had left Breault's cabin
he had not enjoyed such a bed. And last night he had not slept at
all. He fell into deep sleep. The hours and the night passed over
him. He did not hear the wailing of the wind that came with the
dawn. When day followed dawn there were other sounds which he did
not hear. His inner consciousness, the guardian of his sleep,
cried for him to arouse himself. It pounded like a little hand in
his brain, and at last he began to move restlessly, and twist in
his sleeping-bag. His eyes shot open suddenly. The light of day
filled his tunnel. He looked toward the "door" which he had
covered with his tent.

The tent was gone.

In its place was framed a huge shaggy head, and Philip found
himself staring straight into the eyes of Bram Johnson.





CHAPTER VII




Philip was not unaccustomed to the occasional mental and physical
shock which is an inevitable accompaniment of the business of Law
in the northland. But never had he felt quite the same stir in his
blood as now--when he found himself looking down the short tunnel
into the face of the man he was hunting.

There come now and then moments in which a curious understanding
is impinged upon one without loss of time in reason and surmise--
and this was one of those moments for Philip. His first thought as
he saw the great wild face in the door of his tunnel was that Bram
had been looking at him for some time--while he was asleep; and
that if the desire to kill had been in the outlaw's breast he
might have achieved his purpose with very little trouble. Equally
swift was his observance of the fact that the tent with which he
had covered the aperture was gone, and that his rifle, with the
weight of which he had held the tent in place, had disappeared.
Bram had secured possession of them before he had roused himself.

It was not the loss of these things, or entirely Bram's sudden and
unexpected appearance, that sent through him the odd thrill, which
he experienced. It was Bram's face, his eyes, the tense and
mysterious earnestness that was in his gaze. It was not the
watchfulness of a victor looking at his victim. In it there was no
sign of hatred or of exultation. There was not even unfriendliness
there. Rather it was the study of one filled with doubt and
uneasiness, and confronted by a question which he could not
answer. There was not a line of the face which Philip could not
see now--its high cheek-bones, its wide cheeks, the low forehead,
the flat nose, the thick lips. Only the eyes kept it from being a
terrible face. Straight down through the generations Bram must
have inherited those eyes from some woman of the past. They were
strange things in that wild and hunted creature's face--gray eyes,
large, beautiful. With the face taken away they would have been
wonderful.

For a full minute not a sound passed between the two men. Philip's
hand had slipped to the butt of his revolver, but he had no
intention of using it. Then he found his voice. It seemed the most
natural thing in the world that he should say what he did.

"Hello, Bram!"

"Boo-joo, m'sieu!"

Only Bram's thick lips moved. His voice was low and guttural.
Almost instantly his head disappeared from the opening.

Philip dug himself quickly from his sleeping-bag. Through the
aperture there came to him now another sound, the yearning whine
of beasts. He could not hear Bram. In spite of the confidence
which his first look at Bram had given him he felt a sudden shiver
run up his spine as he faced the end of the tunnel on his hands
and knees, his revolver in his hand. What a rat in a trap he would
be if Bram loosed his wolves! What sport for the pack--and perhaps
for the master himself! He could kill two or three--and that would
be all. They would be in on him like a whirlwind, diving through
his snow walls as easily as a swimmer might cut through water. Had
he twice made a fool of himself? Should he have winged Bram
Johnson, three times a murderer, in place of offering him a
greeting?

He began crawling toward the opening, and again he heard the snarl
and whine of the beasts. The sound seemed some distance away. He
reached the end of the tunnel and peered out through the "door" he
had made in the crust.

From his position he could see nothing--nothing but the endless
sweep of the Barren and his old trail leading up to the snow dune.
The muzzle of his revolver was at the aperture when he heard
Bram's voice.

"M'sieu--ze revolv'--ze knife--or I mus' keel yon. Ze wolve plent'
hungr'--"

Bram was standing just outside of his line of vision. He had not
spoken loudly or threateningly, but Philip felt in the words a
cold and unexcited deadliness of purpose against which he knew
that it would be madness for him to fight. Bram had more than the
bad man's ordinary drop on him. In his wolves he possessed not
only an advantage but a certainty. If Philip had doubted this, as
he waited for another moment with the muzzle of his revolver close
to the opening, his uncertainty was swept away by the appearance
thirty feet in front of his tunnel of three of Bram's wolves. They
were giants of their kind, and as the three faced his refuge he
could see the snarling gleam of their long fangs. A fourth and a
fifth joined them, and after that they came within his vision in
twos and threes until a score of them were huddled straight in
front of him. They were restless and whining, and the snap of
their jaws was like the clicking of castanets. He caught the glare
of twenty pairs of eyes fastened on his retreat and involuntarily
he shrank back that they might not see him. He knew that it was
Bram who was holding them back, and yet he had heard no word, no
command. Even as he stared a long snakelike shadow uncurled itself
swiftly in the air and the twenty foot lash of Bram's caribou-gut
whip cracked viciously over the heads of the pack. At the warning
of the whip the horde of beasts scattered, and Bram's voice came
again.

"M'sieu--ze revolv'--ze knife--or I loose ze wolve--"

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when Philip's revolver
flew through the opening and dropped in the snow.

"There it is, old man," announced Philip. "And here comes the
knife."

His sheath-knife followed the revolver.

"Shall I throw out my bed?" he asked.

He was making a tremendous effort to appear cheerful. But he could
not forget that last night he had shot at Bram, and that it was
not at all unreasonable to suppose that Bram might knock his
brains out when he stuck his head out of the hole. The fact that
Bram made no answer to his question about the bed did not add to
his assurance. He repeated the question, louder than before, and
still there was no answer. In the face of his perplexity he could
not repress a grim chuckle as he rolled up his blankets. What a
report he would have for the Department--if he lived to make it!
On paper there would be a good deal of comedy about it--this
burrowing oneself up like a hibernating woodchuck, and then being
invited out to breakfast by a man with a club and a pack of brutes
with fangs that had gleamed at him like ivory stilettos. He had
guessed at the club, and a moment later as he thrust his sleeping-
bag out through the opening he saw that it was quite obviously a
correct one. Bram was possessing himself of the revolver and the
knife. In the same hand he held his whip and a club.

Seizing the opportunity, Philip followed his bed quickly, and when
Bram faced him he was standing on his feet outside the drift.

"Morning, Bram!"

His greeting was drowned in a chorus of fierce snarls that made
his blood curdle even as he tried to hide from Bram any visible
betrayal of the fact that every nerve up and down his spine was
pricking him. like a pin. From Bram's throat there shot forth at
the pack a sudden sharp clack of Eskimo, and with it the long whip
snapped in their faces again.

Then he looked steadily at his prisoner. For the first time Philip
saw the look which he dreaded darkening his face. A greenish fire
burned in the strange eyes. The thick lips were set tightly, the
flat nose seemed flatter, and with a shiver Philip noticed Bram's
huge, naked hand gripping his club until the cords stood out like
babiche thongs under the skin. In that moment he was ready to
kill. A wrong word, a wrong act, and Philip knew that the end was
inevitable.

In the same thick guttural voice which he used in his half-breed
patois he demanded,

"Why you shoot--las' night!"

"Because I wanted to talk with you, Bram," replied Philip calmly.
"I didn't shoot to hit you. I fired over your head."

"You want--talk," said Bram, speaking as if each word cost him a
certain amount of effort. "Why--talk?"

"I wanted to ask you why it was that you killed a man down in the
God's Lake country."

The words were out before Philip could stop them. A growl rose in
Bram's chest. It was like the growl of a beast. The greenish fire
in his eyes grew brighter.

"Ze poleece," he said. "KA, ze poleece--like kam from Churchill
an' ze wolve keel!"

Philip's hand was fumbling in his pocket. The wolves were behind
him and he dared not turn to look. It was their ominous silence
that filled him with dread. They were waiting--watching--their
animal instinct telling them that the command for which they
yearned was already trembling on the thick lips of their master.
The revolver and the knife dropped from Bram's hand. He held only
the whip and the club.

Philip drew forth the wallet.

"You lost something--when you camped that night near Pierre
Breault's cabin," he said, and his own voice seemed strange and
thick to him. "I've followed you--to give it back. I could have
killed you if I had wanted to--when I fired over your head. But I
wanted to stop you. I wanted to give you--this."

He held out to Bram the golden snare.





CHAPTER VIII




It must have been fully half a minute that Bram stood like a
living creature turned suddenly into dead stone. His eyes had left
Philip's face and were fixed on the woven tress of shining hair.
For the first time his thick lips had fallen agape. He did not
seem to breathe. At the end of the thirty seconds his hand
unclenched from about the whip and the club and they fell into the
snow. Slowly, his eyes still fixed on the snare as if it held for
him an overpowering fascination, he advanced a step, and then
another, until he reached out and took from Philip the thing which
he held. He uttered no word. But from his eyes there disappeared
the greenish fire. The lines in his heavy face softened and his
thick lips lost some of their cruelty as he held up the snare
before his eyes so that the light played on its sheen of gold. It
was then that Philip saw that which must have meant a smile in
Bram's face.

Still this strange man made no spoken sound as he coiled the
silken thread around one of his great fingers and then placed it
somewhere inside his coat. He seemed, all at once, utterly
oblivious of Philip's presence. He picked up the revolver, gazed
heavily at it for a moment, and with a grunt which must have
reflected his mental decision hurled it far out over the plain.
Instantly the wolves were after it in a mad rush. The knife
followed the revolver; and after that, as coolly as though
breaking firewood, the giant went to Philip's rifle, braced it
across his knee, and with a single effort snapped the stock off
close to the barrel.

"The devil!" growled Philip.

He felt a surge of anger rise in him, and for an instant the
inclination to fling himself at Bram in the defense of his
property. If he had been helpless a few minutes before, he was
utterly so now. In the same breath it flashed upon him that Bram's
activity in the destruction of his weapons meant that his life was
spared, at least for the present. Otherwise Bram would not be
taking these precautions.

The futility of speech kept his own lips closed. At last Bram
looked at him, and pointed to his snowshoes where he had placed
them last night against the snow dune. His invitation for Philip
to prepare himself for travel was accompanied by nothing more than
a grunt.

The wolves were returning, sneaking in watchfully and alert. Bram
greeted them with the snap of his whip, and when Philip was ready
motioned him to lead the way into the north. Half a dozen paces
behind Philip followed Bram, and twice that distance behind the
outlaw came the pack. Now that his senses were readjusting
themselves and his pulse beating more evenly Philip began to take
stock of the situation. It was, first of all, quite evident that
Bram had not accepted him as a traveling companion, but as a
prisoner; and he was equally convinced that the golden snare had
at the last moment served in some mysterious way to save his life.

It was not long before he saw how Bram had out-generaled him. Two
miles beyond the big drift they came upon the outlaw's huge
sledge, from which Bram and his wolves had made a wide circle in
order to stalk him from behind. The fact puzzled him. Evidently
Bram had expected his unknown enemy to pursue him, and had
employed his strategy accordingly. Why, then, had he not attacked
him the night of the caribou kill?

He watched Bram as he got the pack into harness. The wolves obeyed
him like dogs. He could perceive among them a strange comradeship,
even an affection, for the man-monster who was their master. Bram
spoke to them entirely in Eskimo--and the sound of it was like the
rapid CLACK--CLACK--CLACK of dry bones striking together. It was
weirdly different from the thick and guttural tones Bram used in
speaking Chippewyan and the half-breed patois.

Again Philip made an effort to induce Bram to break his oppressive
silence. With a suggestive gesture and a hunch of his shoulders he
nodded toward the pack, just as they were about to start.

"If you thought I tried to kill you night before last why didn't
you set your wolves after me, Bram--as you did those other two
over on the Barren north of Kasba Lake? Why did you wait until
this morning? And where--WHERE in God's name are we going?"

Bram stretched out an arm.

"There!"

It was the one question he answered, and he pointed straight as
the needle of a compass into the north. And then, as if his crude
sense of humor had been touched by the other thing Philip had
asked, he burst into a laugh. It made one shudder to see laughter
in a face like Bram's. It transformed his countenance from mere
ugliness into one of the leering gargoyles carven under the
cornices of ancient buildings. It was this laugh, heard almost at
Bram's elbow, that made Philip suddenly grip hard at a new
understanding--the laugh and the look in Bram's eyes. It set him
throbbing, and filled him all at once with the desire to seize his
companion by his great shoulders and shake speech from his thick
lips. In that moment, even before the laughter had gone from
Bram's face, he thought again of Pelletier. Pelletier must have
been like this--in those terrible days when he scribbled the
random thoughts of a half-mad man on his cabin door.

Bram was not yet mad. And yet he was fighting the thing that had
killed Pelletier. Loneliness. The fate forced upon him by the law
because he had killed a man.

His face was again heavy and unemotional when with a gesture he
made Philip understand that he was to ride on the sledge. Bram
himself went to the head of the pack. At the sharp clack of his
Eskimo the wolves strained in their traces. Another moment and
they were off, with Bram in the lead.

Philip was amazed at the pace set by the master of the pack. With
head and shoulders hunched low he set off in huge swinging strides
that kept the team on a steady trot behind him. They must have
traveled eight miles an hour. For a few minutes Philip could not
keep his eyes from Bram and the gray backs of the wolves. They
fascinated him, and at the same time the sight of them--straining
on ahead of him into a voiceless and empty world--filled him with
a strange and overwhelming compassion. He saw in them the
brotherhood of man and beast. It was splendid. It was epic. And to
this the Law had driven them!

His eyes began to take in the sledge then. On it was a roll of
bear skins--Bram's blankets. One was the skin of a polar bear.
Near these skins were the haunches of caribou meat, and so close
to him that he might have reached out and touched it was Bram's
club. At the side of the club lay a rifle. It was of the old
breech-loading, single-shot type, and Philip wondered why Bram had
destroyed his own modern weapon instead of keeping it in place of
this ancient Company relic. It also made him think of night before
last, when he had chosen for his refuge a tree out in the
starlight.

The club, even more than the rifle, bore marks of use. It was of
birch, and three feet in length. Where Bram's hand gripped it the
wood was worn as smooth and dark as mahogany. In many places the
striking end of the club was dented as though it had suffered the
impact of tremendous blows, and it was discolored by suggestive
stains. There was no sign of cooking utensils and no evidence of
any other food but the caribou flesh. On the rear of the sledge
was a huge bundle of pitch-soaked spruce tied with babiche, and
out of this stuck the crude handle of an ax.

Of these things the gun and the white bear skin impressed Philip
most. He had only to lean forward a little to reach the rifle, and
the thought that he could scarcely miss the broad back of the man
ahead of him struck him all at once with a sort of mental shock.
Bram had evidently forgotten the weapon, or was utterly confident
in the protection of the pack. Or--had he faith in his prisoner?
It was this last question that Philip would liked to have answered
in the affirmative. He had no desire to harm Bram. He had even a
less desire to escape him. He had forgotten, so far as his
personal intentions were concerned, that he was an agent of the
Law--under oath to bring in to Divisional Headquarters Bram's body
dead or alive. Since night before last Bram had ceased to be a
criminal for him. He was like Pelletier, and through him he was
entering upon a strange adventure which held for him already the
thrill and suspense of an anticipation which he had never
experienced in the game of man-hunting.

Had the golden snare been taken from the equation--had he not felt
the thrill of it in his fingers and looked upon the warm fires of
it as it lay unbound on Pierre Breault's table, his present
relation with Bram Johnson he would have considered as a purely
physical condition, and he might then have accepted the presence
of the rifle there within his reach as a direct invitation from
Providence.

As it was, he knew that the master of the wolves was speeding
swiftly to the source of the golden snare. From the moment he had
seen the strange transformation it had worked in Bram that belief
within him had become positive. And now, as his eyes turned from
the inspection of the sledge to Bram and his wolves, he wondered
where the trail was taking him. Was it possible that Bram was
striking straight north for Coronation Gulf and the Eskimo? He had
noted that the polar bear skin was only slightly worn--that it had
not long been taken from the back of the animal that had worn it.
He recalled what he could remember of his geography. Their course,
if continued in the direction Bram was now heading, would take
them east of the Great Slave and the Great Bear, and they would
hit the Arctic somewhere between Melville Sound and the Coppermine
River. It was a good five hundred miles to the Eskimo settlements
there. Bram and his wolves could make it in ten days, possibly in
eight.

If his guess was correct, and Coronation Gulf was Bram's goal, he
had found at least one possible explanation for the tress of
golden hair.

The girl or woman to whom it had belonged had come into the north
aboard a whaling ship. Probably she was the daughter or the wife
of the master. The ship had been lost in the ice--she had been
saved by the Eskimo--and she was among them now, with other white
men. Philip pictured it all vividly. It was unpleasant--horrible.
The theory of other white men being with her he was conscious of
forcing upon himself to offset the more reasonable supposition
that, as in the case of the golden snare, she belonged to Bram. He
tried to free himself of that thought, but it clung to him with a
tenaciousness that oppressed him with a grim and ugly foreboding.
What a monstrous fate for a woman! He shivered. For a few moments
every instinct in his body fought to assure him that such a thing
could not happen. And yet he knew that it COULD happen. A woman up
there--with Bram! A woman with hair like spun gold--and that giant
half-mad enormity of a man!

He clenched his hands at the picture his excited brain was
painting for him. He wanted to jump from the sledge, overtake
Bram, and demand the truth from him. He was calm enough to realize
the absurdity of such action. Upon his own strategy depended now
whatever answer he might make to the message chance had sent to
him through the golden snare.

For an hour he marked Bram's course by his compass. It was
straight north. Then Bram changed the manner of his progress by
riding in a standing position behind Philip. With his long whip he
urged on the pack until they were galloping over the frozen level
of the plain at a speed that must have exceeded ten miles an hour.
A dozen times Philip made efforts at conversation. Not a word did
he get from Bram in reply. Again and again the outlaw shouted to
his wolves in Eskimo; he cracked his whip, he flung his great arms
over his head, and twice there rolled out of his chest deep peals
of strange laughter. They had been traveling more than two hours
when he gave voice to a sudden command that stopped the pack, and
at a second command--a staccato of shrill Eskimo accompanied by
the lash of his whip--the panting wolves sank upon their bellies
in the snow.

Philip jumped from the sledge, and Bram went immediately to the
gun. He did not touch it, but dropped on his knees and examined it
closely. Then he rose to his feet and looked at Philip, and there
was no sign of madness in his heavy face as he said,

"You no touch ze gun, m'sieu. Why you no shoot when I am there--at
head of pack?"

The calmness and directness with which Bram put the question after
his long and unaccountable silence surprised Philip.

"For the same reason you didn't kill me when I was asleep, I
guess," he said. Suddenly he reached out and caught Bram's arm.
"Why the devil don't you come across!" he demanded. "Why don't you
talk? I'm not after you--now. The Police think you are dead, and I
don't believe I'd tip them off even if I had a chance. Why not be
human? Where are we going? And what in thunder--"

He did not finish. To his amazement Bram flung back his head,
opened his great mouth, and laughed. It was not a taunting laugh.
There was no humor in it. The thing seemed beyond the control of
even Bram himself, and Philip stood like one paralyzed as his
companion turned quickly to the sledge and returned in a moment
with the gun. Under Philip's eyes he opened the breech. The
chamber was empty. Bram had placed in his way a temptation--to
test him!

There was saneness in that stratagem--and yet as Philip looked at
the man now his last doubt was gone. Bram Johnson was hovering on
the borderland of madness.

Replacing the gun on the sledge, Bram began hacking off chunks of
the caribou flesh with a big knife. Evidently he had decided that
it was time for himself and his pack to breakfast. To each of the
wolves he gave a portion, after which he seated himself on the
sledge and began devouring a slice of the raw meat. He had left
the blade of his knife buried in the carcass--an invitation for
Philip to help himself. Philip seated himself near Bram and opened
his pack. Purposely he began placing his food between them, so
that the other might help himself if he so desired. Bram's jaws
ceased their crunching. For a moment Philip did not look up. When
he did he was startled. Bram's eyes were blazing with a red fire.
He was staring at the cooked food. Never had Philip seen such a
look in a human face before.

He reached out and seized a chunk of bannock, and was about to
bite into it when with the snarl of a wild beast Bram dropped his
meat and was at him. Before Philip could raise an arm in defense
his enemy had him by the throat. Back over the sledge they went.
Philip scarcely knew how it happened--but in another moment the
giant had hurled him clean over his head and he struck the frozen
plain with a shock that stunned him. When he staggered to his
feet, expecting a final assault that would end him, Bram was
kneeling beside his pack. A mumbling and incoherent jargon of
sound issued from his thick lips as he took stock of Philip's
supplies. Of Philip himself he seemed now utterly oblivious. Still
mumbling, he dragged the pile of bear skins from the sledge,
unrolled them, and revealed a worn and tattered dunnage bag. At
first Philip thought this bag was empty. Then Bram drew from it a
few small packages, some of them done up in paper and others in
bark. Only one of these did Philip recognize--a half pound package
of tea such as the Hudson's Bay Company offers in barter at its
stores. Into the dunnage bag Bram now put Philip's supplies, even
to the last crumb of bannock, and then returned the articles he
had taken out, after which he rolled the bag up in the bear skins
and replaced the skins on the sledge.

After that, still mumbling, and still paying no attention to
Philip, he reseated himself on the edge of the sledge and finished
his breakfast of raw meat.

"The poor devil!" mumbled Philip.

The words were out of his mouth before he realized that he had
spoken them. He was still a little dazed by the shock of Bram's
assault, but it was impossible for him to bear malice or thought
of vengeance. In Bram's face, as he had covetously piled up the
different articles of food, he had seen the terrible glare of
starvation--and yet he had not eaten a mouthful. He had stored the
food away, and Philip knew it was as much as his life was worth to
contend its ownership.

Again Bram seemed to be unconscious of his presence, but when
Philip went to the meat and began carving himself off a slice the
wolf-man's eyes shot in his direction just once. Purposely he
stood in front of Bram as he ate the raw steak, feigning a greater
relish than he actually enjoyed in consuming his uncooked meal.
Bram did not wait for him to finish. No sooner had he swallowed
the last of his own breakfast than he was on his feet giving sharp
commands to the pack. Instantly the wolves were alert in their
traces. Philip took his former position on the sledge, with Bram
behind him.

Never in all the years afterward did he forget that day. As the
hours passed it seemed to him that neither man nor beast could
very long stand the strain endured by Bram and his wolves. At
times Bram rode on the sledge for short distances, but for the
most part he was running behind, or at the head of the pack. For
the pack there was no rest. Hour after hour it surged steadily
onward over the endless plain, and whenever the wolves sagged for
a moment in their traces Brain's whip snapped over their gray
backs and his voice rang out in fierce exhortation. So hard was
the frozen crust of the Barren that snowshoes were no longer
necessary, and half a dozen times Philip left the sledge and ran
with the wolf-man and his pack until he was winded. Twice he ran
shoulder to shoulder with Bram.

It was in the middle of the afternoon that his compass told him
they were no longer traveling north--but almost due west. Every
quarter of an hour after that he looked at his compass. And always
the course was west.

He was convinced that some unusual excitement was urging Bram on,
and he was equally certain this excitement had taken possession of
him from the moment he had found the food in his pack. Again and
again he heard the strange giant mumbling incoherently to himself,
but not once did Bram utter a word that he could understand.

The gray world about them was darkening when at last they stopped.

And now, strangely as before, Bram seemed for a few moments to
turn into a sane man.

He pointed to the bundle of fuel, and as casually as though he had
been conversing with him all the day he said to Philip:

"A fire, m'sieu."

The wolves had dropped in their traces, their great shaggy heads
stretched out between their paws in utter exhaustion, and Bram
went slowly down the line speaking to each one in turn. After that
he fell again into his stolid silence. From the bear skins he
produced a kettle, filled it with snow, and hung it over the pile
of fagots to which Philip was touching a match. Philip's tea pail
he employed in the same way.

"How far have we come, Bram?" Philip asked.

"Fift' mile, m'sieu," answered Bram without hesitation.

"And how much farther have we to go?"

Bram grunted. His face became more stolid. In his hand he was
holding the big knife with which he cut the caribou meat. He was
staring at it. From the knife he looked at Philip.

"I keel ze man at God's Lake because he steal ze knife--an' call
me lie. I keel heem--lak that!"--and he snatched up a stick and
broke it into two pieces.

His weird laugh followed the words. He went to the meat and began
carving off chunks for the pack, and for a long time after that
one would have thought that he was dumb. Philip made greater
effort than ever to rouse him into speech. He laughed, and
whistled, and once tried the experiment of singing a snatch of the
Caribou Song which he knew that Bram must have heard many times
before. As he roasted his steak over the fire he talked about the
Barren, and the great herd of caribou he had seen farther east; he
asked Bram questions about the weather, the wolves, and the
country farther north and west. More than once he was certain that
Bram was listening intently, but nothing more than an occasional
grunt was his response.

For an hour after they had finished their supper they continued to
melt snow for drinking water for themselves and the wolves. Night
shut them in, and in the glow of the fire Bram scooped a hollow in
the snow for a bed, and tilted the big sledge over it as a roof.
Philip made himself as comfortable as he could with his sleeping
bag, using his tent as an additional protection. The fire went
out. Bram's heavy breathing told Philip that the wolf-man was soon
asleep. It was a long time before he felt a drowsiness creeping
over himself.

Later he was awakened by a heavy grasp on his arm, and roused
himself to hear Bram's voice close over him.

"Get up, m'sieu."

It was so dark he could not see Bram when he got on his feet, but
he could hear him a moment later among the wolves, and knew that
he was making ready to travel. When his sleeping-bag and tent were
on the sledge he struck a match and looked at his watch. It was
less than a quarter of an hour after midnight.

For two hours Bram led his pack straight into the west. The night
cleared after that, and as the stars grew brighter and more
numerous in the sky the plain was lighted up on all sides of them,
as on the night when Philip had first seen Bram. By lighting an
occasional match Philip continued to keep a record of direction
and time. It was three o'clock, and they were still traveling
west, when to his surprise they struck a small patch of timber.
The clump of stunted and wind-snarled spruce covered no more than
half an acre, but it was conclusive evidence they were again
approaching a timber-line.

From the patch of spruce Bram struck due north, and for another
hour their trail was over the white Barren. Soon after this they
came to a fringe of scattered timber which grew steadily heavier
and deeper as they entered into it. They must have penetrated
eight or ten miles into the forest before the dawn came. And in
that dawn, gray and gloomy, they came suddenly upon a cabin.

Philip's heart gave a jump. Here, at last, would the mystery of
the golden snare be solved. This was his first thought. But as
they drew nearer, and stopped at the threshold of the door, he
felt sweep over him an utter disappointment. There was no life
here. No smoke came from the chimney and the door was almost
buried in a huge drift of snow. His thoughts were cut short by the
crack of Bram's whip. The wolves swept onward and Bram's insane
laugh sent a weird and shuddering echo through the forest.

From the time they left behind them the lifeless and snow-
smothered cabin Philip lost account of time and direction. He
believed that Bram was nearing the end of his trail. The wolves
were dead tired. The wolf-man himself was lagging, and since
midnight had ridden more frequently on the sledge. Still he drove
on, and Philip searched with increasing eagerness the trail ahead
of them.

It was eight o'clock--two hours after they had passed the cabin--
when they came to the edge of a clearing in the center of which
was a second cabin. Here at a glance Philip saw there was life. A
thin spiral of smoke was rising from the chimney. He could see
only the roof of the log structure, for it was entirely shut in by
a circular stockade of saplings six feet high.

Twenty paces from where Bram stopped his team was the gate of the
stockade. Bram went to it, thrust his arm through a hole even with
his shoulders, and a moment later the gate swung inward. For
perhaps a space of twenty seconds he looked steadily at Philip,
and for the first time Philip observed the remarkable change that
had come into his face. It was no longer a face of almost brutish
impassiveness. There was a strange glow in his eyes. His thick
lips were parted as if on the point of speech, and he was
breathing with a quickness which did not come of physical
exertion. Philip did not move or speak. Behind him he heard the
restless whine of the wolves. He kept his eyes on Bram, and as he
saw the look of joy and anticipation deepening in the wolf-man's
face the appalling thought of what it meant sickened him. He
clenched his hands. Bram did not see the act. He was looking again
toward the cabin and at the spiral of smoke rising out of the
chimney.

Then he faced Philip, and said,

"M'sieu, you go to ze cabin."

He held the gate open, and Philip entered. He paused to make
certain of Bram's intention. The wolf-man swept an arm about the
enclosure.

"In ze pit I loose ze wolve, m'sieu."

Philip understood. The stockade enclosure was Bram's wolf-pit, and
Bram meant that he should reach the cabin before he gave the pack
the freedom of the corral. He tried to conceal the excitement in
his face as he turned toward the cabin. From the gate to the door
ran a path worn by many footprints, and his heart beat faster as
he noted the smallness of the moccasin tracks. Even then his mind
fought against the possibility of the thing. Probably it was an
Indian woman who lived with Bram, or an Eskimo girl he had brought
down from the north.

He made no sound as he approached the door. He did not knock, but
opened it and entered, as Bram had invited him to do.

From the gate Bram watched the cabin door as it closed behind him,
and then he threw back his head and such a laugh of triumph came
from his lips that even the tired beasts behind him pricked up
their ears and listened.

And Philip, in that same moment, had solved the mystery of the
golden snare.





CHAPTER IX




Philip had entered Bram Johnson's cabin from the west. Out of the
east the pale fire of the winter sun seemed to concentrate itself
on the one window of Bram's habitation, and flooded the opposite
partition. In this partition there was a doorway, and in the
doorway stood a girl.

She was standing full in the light that came through the window
when Philip saw her. His first impression was that she was clouded
in the same wonderful hair that had gone into the making of the
golden snare. It billowed over her arms and breast to her hips,
aflame with the living fires of the reflected sun. His second
impression was that his entrance had interrupted her while she was
dressing and that she was benumbed with astonishment as she stared
at him. He caught the white gleam of her bare shoulders under her
hair. And then, with a shock, he saw what was in her face.

It turned his blood cold. It was the look of a soul that had been
tortured. Agony and doubt burned in the eyes that were looking at
him. He had never seen such eyes. They were like violet amethysts.
Her face was dead white. It was beautiful. And she was young. She
was not over twenty, it flashed upon him--but she had gone through
a hell.

"Don't let me alarm you," he said, speaking gently. "I am Philip
Raine of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police."

It did not surprise him that she made no answer. As plainly as if
she had spoken it he had in those few swift moments read the story
in her face. His heart choked him as he waited for her lips to
move. It was a mystery to him afterward why he accepted the
situation so utterly as he stood there. He had no question to ask,
and there was no doubt in his mind. He knew that he would kill
Bram Johnson when the moment arrived.

The girl had not seemed to breathe, but now she drew in her breath
in a great gasp. He could see the sudden throb of her breast under
her hair, but the frightened light did not leave her eyes even
when he repeated the words he had spoken. Suddenly she ran to the
window, and Philip saw the grip of her hands at the sill as she
looked out. Through the gate Bram was driving his wolves. When she
faced him again, her eyes had in them the look of a creature
threatened by a whip. It amazed and startled him. As he advanced a
step she cringed back from him. It struck him then that her face
was like the face of an angel--filled with a mad horror. She
reached out her bare arms to hold him back, and a strange pleading
cry came from her lips.

The cry stopped him like a shot. He knew that she had spoken to
him. And yet he had not understood! He tore open his coat and the
sunlight fell on his bronze insignia of the Service. Its effect on
her amazed him even more than had her sudden fear of him. It
occurred to him suddenly that with a two weeks' ragged growth of
beard on his face he must look something like a beast himself. She
had feared him, as she feared Bram, until she saw the badge.

"I am Philip Raine, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police," he
repeated again. "I have come up here especially to help you, if
you need help. I could have got Bram farther back, but there was a
reason why I didn't want him until I found his cabin. That reason
was you. Why are you here with a madman and a murderer?"

She was watching him intently. Her eyes were on his lips, and into
her face--white a few moments before--had risen swiftly a flush of
color. He saw the dread die out of her eyes in a new and dazzling
excitement. Outside they could hear Bram. The girl turned again
and looked through the window. Then she began talking, swiftly and
eagerly, in a language that was as strange to Philip as the
mystery of her presence in Bram Johnson's cabin. She knew that he
could not understand, and suddenly she came up close to him and
put a finger to his lips, and then to her own, and shook her head.
He could fairly feel the throb of her excitement. The astounding
truth held him dumb. She was trying to make him comprehend
something--in a language which he had never heard before in all
his life. He stared at her--like an idiot he told himself
afterward.

And then the shuffle of Bram's heavy feet sounded just outside the
door. Instantly the old light leapt into the girl's eyes. Before
the door could open she had darted into the room from which she
had first appeared, her hair floating about her in a golden cloud
as she ran.

The door opened, and Bram entered. At his heels, beyond the
threshold, Philip caught a glimpse of the pack glaring hungrily
into the cabin. Bram was burdened under the load he had brought
from the sledge. He dropped it to the floor, and without looking
at Philip his eyes fastened themselves on the door to the inner
room.

They stood there for a full minute, Bram as if hypnotized by the
door, and Philip with his eyes on Bram. Neither moved, and neither
made a sound. A curtain had dropped over the entrance to the inner
room, and beyond that they could hear the girl moving about. A
dozen emotions were fighting in Philip. If he had possessed a
weapon he would have ended the matter with Bram then, for the
light that was burning like a strange flame in the wolf-man's eyes
convinced him that he had guessed the truth. Bare-handed he was no
match for the giant madman. For the first time he let his glance
travel cautiously about the room. Near the stove was a pile of
firewood. A stick of this would do--when the opportunity came.

And then, in a way that made him almost cry out, every nerve in
his body was startled. The girl appeared in the doorway, a smile
on her lips and her eyes shining radiantly--straight at Bram! She
partly held out her arms, and began talking. She seemed utterly
oblivious of Philip's presence. Not a word that she uttered could
he understand. It was not Cree or Chippewyan or Eskimo. It was not
French or German or any tongue that he had ever heard. Her voice
was pure and soft. It trembled a little, and she was breathing
quickly. But the look in her face that had at first horrified him
was no longer there. She had braided her hair and had coiled the
shining strands on the crown of her head, and the coloring in her
face was like that of a rare painting. In these astounding moments
he knew that such color and such hair did not go with any race
that had ever bred in the northland. From her face, even as her
lips spoke, he looked at Bram. The wolf-man was transfigured. His
strange eyes were shining, his heavy face was filled with a dog-
like joy, and his thick lips moved as if he was repeating to
himself what the girl was saying.

Was it possible that he understood her? Was the strange language
in which she was speaking common between them! At first Philip
thought that it must be so--and all the horrors of the situation
that he had built up for himself fell about him in confusing
disorder. The girl, as she stood there now, seemed glad that Bram
had returned; and with a heart choking him with its suspense he
waited for Bram to speak, and act.

When the girl ceased speaking the wolf-man's response came in a
guttural cry that was like a paean of triumph. He dropped on his
knees beside the dunnage bag and mumbling thickly as he worked he
began emptying its contents upon the floor.

Philip looked at the girl. She was looking at him now. Her hands
were clutched at her breast, and in her face and attitude there
was a wordless entreaty for him to understand. The truth came to
him like a flash. For some reason she had forced herself to appear
that way to the wolf-man. She had forced herself to smile, forced
the look of gladness into her face, and the words from her lips.
And now she was trying to tell him what it meant, and pointing to
Bram as he knelt with his huge head and shoulders bent over the
dunnage bag on the floor she exclaimed in a low, tense voice:

"Tossi--tossi--han er tossi!"

It was useless. He could not understand, and it was impossible for
him to hide the bewilderment in his face. All at once an
inspiration came to him. Bram's back was toward him, and he
pointed to the sticks of firewood. His pantomime was clear. Should
he knock the wolf-man's brains out as he knelt there?

He could see that his question sent a thrill of alarm through her.
She shook her head. Her lips formed strange words, and looking
again at Bram she repeated, "Tossi--tossi--han er tossi!" She
clasped her hands suddenly to her head then. Her slim fingers
buried themselves in the thick braids of her hair. Her eyes
dilated--and suddenly understanding flashed upon him. She was
telling him what he already knew--that Bram Johnson was mad, and
he repeated after her the "Tossi-tossi," tapping his forehead
suggestively, and nodding at Bram. Yes, that was it. He could see
it in the quick intake of her breath and the sudden expression of
relief that swept over her face. She had been afraid he would
attack the wolf-man. And now she was glad that he understood he
was not to harm him.

If the situation had seemed fairly clear to him a few minutes
before it had become more deeply mysterious than ever now. Even as
the wolf-man rose from his knees, still mumbling to himself in
incoherent exultation, the great and unanswerable question pounded
in Philip's brain: "Who was this girl, and what was she to Bram
Johnson--the crazed outlaw whom she feared and yet whom she did
not wish him to harm?"

And then he saw her staring at the things which Bram had sorted
out on the floor. In her eyes was hunger. It was a living,
palpitant part of her now as she stared at the things which Bram
had taken from the dunnage bag--as surely as Bram's madness was a
part of him. As Philip watched her he knew that slowly the curtain
was rising on the tragedy of the golden snare. In a way the look
that he saw in her face shocked him more than anything that he had
seen in Bram's. It was as if, in fact, a curtain had lifted before
his eyes revealing to him an unbelievable truth, and something of
the hell through which she had gone. She was hungry--FOR SOMETHING
THAT WAS NOT FLESH! Swiftly the thought flashed upon him why the
wolf-man had traveled so far to the south, and why he had attacked
him for possession of his food supply. It was that he might bring
these things to the girl. He knew that it was sex-pride that
restrained the impulse that was pounding in every vein of her
body. She wanted to fling herself down on her knees beside that
pile of stuff--but she remembered HIM! Her eyes met his, and the
shame of her confession swept in a crimson flood into her face.
The feminine instinct told her that she had betrayed herself--like
an animal, and that he must have seen in her for a moment
something that was almost like Bram's own madness.





CHAPTER X




Until he felt the warm thrill of the girl's arm under his hand
Philip did not realize the hazard he had taken. He turned suddenly
to confront Bram. He would not have known then that the wolf-man
was mad, and impulsively he reached out a hand.

"Bram, she's starving," he cried. "I know now why you wanted that
stuff! But why didn't you tell me! Why don't you talk, and let me
know who she is, and why she is here, and what you want me to do?"

He waited, and Bram stared at him without a sound.

"I tell you I'm a friend," he went on. "I--"

He got no farther than that, for suddenly the cabin was filled
with the madness of Bram's laugh. It was more terrible than out on
the open Barren, or in the forest, and he felt the shudder of the
girl at his side. Her face was close to his shoulder, and looking
down he saw that it was white as death, but that even then she was
trying to smile at Bram. And Bram continued to laugh--and as he
laughed, his eyes blazing a greenish fire, he turned to the stove
and began putting fuel into the fire. It was horrible. Bram's
laugh--the girl's dead white face, AND HER SMILE! He no longer
asked himself who she was, and why she was there. He was
overwhelmed by the one appalling fact that she WAS here, and that
the stricken soul crying out to him from the depths of those eyes
that were like wonderful blue amethysts told him that Bram had
made her pay the price. His muscles hardened as he looked at the
huge form bending over the stove. It was a splendid opportunity. A
single leap and he would be at the outlaw's throat. With that
advantage, in open combat, the struggle would at least be equal.

The girl must have guessed what was in his mind, for suddenly her
fingers were clutching at his arm and she was pulling him away
from the wolf-man, speaking to him in the language which he could
not understand. And then Bram turned from the stove, picked up a
pail, and without looking at them left the cabin. They could hear
his laugh as he joined the wolves.

Again Philip's conclusions toppled down about him like a thing
made of blocks. During the next few moments he knew that the girl
was telling him that Bram had not harmed her. She seemed almost
hysterically anxious to make him understand this, and at last,
seizing him by the hand, she drew him into the room beyond the
curtained door. Her meaning was quite as plain as words. She was
showing him what Bram had done for her. He had made her this
separate room by running a partition across the cabin, and in
addition to this he had built a small lean-to outside the main
wall entered through a narrow door made of saplings that were
still green. He noticed that the partition was also made of fresh
timber. Except for the bunk built against the wall, a crude chair,
a sapling table and half a dozen bear skins that carpeted the
floor the room was empty. A few garments hung on the wall--a hood
made of fur, a thick mackinaw coat belted at the waist with a red
scarf, and something done up in a small bundle.

"I guess--I begin to get your meaning," he said, looking straight
into her shining blue eyes. "You want to impress on me that I'm
not to wring Bram Johnson's neck when his back is turned, or at
any other time, and you want me to believe that he hasn't done you
any harm. And yet you're afraid to the bottom of your soul. I know
it. A little while ago your face was as white as chalk, and now--
now--it's the prettiest face I've ever seen. Now, see here, little
girl--"

It gave him a pleasant thrill to see the glow in her eyes and the
eager poise of her slim, beautiful body as she listened to him.

"I'm licked," he went on, smiling frankly at her. "At least for
the present. Maybe I've gone loony, like Bram, and don't realize
it yet. I set out for a couple of Indians, and find a madman; and
at the madman's cabin I find YOU, looking at first as though you
were facing straight up against the door of-of-well, seeing that
you can't understand I might as well say it--OF HELL! Now, if you
weren't afraid of Bram, and if he hasn't hurt you, why did you
look like that? I'm stumped. I repeat it--dead stumped. I'd give a
million dollars if I could make Bram talk. I saw what was in his
eyes. YOU saw it--and that pretty pink went out of your face so
quick it seemed as though your heart must have stopped beating.
And yet you're trying to tell me he hasn't harmed you. My God--I
wish I could believe it!"

In her face he saw the reflection of the change that must have
come suddenly into his own.

"You're a good fifteen hundred miles from any other human being
with hair and eyes and color like yours," he continued, as though
in speaking his thoughts aloud to her some ray of light might
throw itself on the situation. "If you had something black about
you. But you haven't. You're all gold--pink and white and gold. If
Bram has another fit of talking he may tell me you came from the
moon--that a chasse-galere crew brought you down out of space to
keep house for him. Great Scott, can't you give me some sort of an
idea of who you are and where you same from?"

He paused for an answer--and she smiled at him. There was
something pathetically sweet in that smile. It brought a queer
lump into his throat, and for a space he forgot Bram.

"You don't understand a cussed word of it, do you?" he said,
taking her hand in both his own and holding it closely for a
moment. "Not a word. But we're getting the drift of things--
slowly. I know you've been here quite a while, and that morning,
noon and night since the chasse-galere brought you down from the
moon you've had nothing to put your little teeth into but meat.
Probably without salt, too. I saw how you wanted to throw yourself
down on that pile of stuff on the floor. Let's have breakfast!"

He led her into the outer room, and eagerly she set to work
helping him gather the things from the floor. He felt that an
overwhelming load had been lifted from his heart, and he continued
to tell her about it while he hurried the preparation of the
breakfast for which he knew she was hungering. He did not look at
her too closely. All at once it had dawned upon him that her
situation must be tremendously more embarrassing than his own. He
felt, too, the tingle of a new excitement in his veins. It was a
pleasurable sensation, something which he did not pause to analyze
just at present. Only he knew that it was because she had told him
as plainly as she could that Bram had not harmed her.

"And if he HAD I guess you'd have let me smash his brains out when
he was bending over the stove, wouldn't you?" he said, stirring
the mess of desiccated potato he was warming in one of his kit-
pans. He looked up to see her eyes shining at him, and her lips
parted. She was delightfully pretty. He knew that every nerve in
her body was straining to understand him. Her braid had slipped
over her shoulder. It was as thick as his wrist, and partly
undone. He had never dreamed that a woman's hair could hold such
soft warm fires of velvety gold. Suddenly he straightened himself
and tapped his chest, an inspiring thought leaping into his head.

"I am Philip Raine," he said. "Philip Raine--Philip Raine--Philip
Raine--"

He repeated the name over and over again, pointing each time to
himself. Instantly light flashed into her face. It was as if all
at once they had broken through the barrier that had separated
them. She repeated his name, slowly, clearly, smiling at him, and
then with both hands at her breast, she said:

"Celie Armin."

He wanted to jump over the stove and shake hands with her, but the
potatoes were sizzling. Celie Armin! He repeated the name as he
stirred the potatoes, and each time he spoke it she nodded. It was
decidedly a French name--but half a minute's experiment with a
few simple sentences of Pierre Breault's language convinced him
that the girl understood no word of it.

Then he said again:

"Celie!"

Almost in the same breath she answered:

"Philip!"

Sounds outside the cabin announced the return of Bram. Following
the snarl and whine of the pack came heavy footsteps, and the
wolf-man entered. Philip did not turn his head toward the door. He
did not look at first to see what effect Bram's return had on
Celie Armin. He went on casually with his work. He even began to
whistle; and then, after a final stir or two at the potatoes, he
pointed to the pail in which the coffee was bubbling, and said:

"Turn the coffee, Celie. We're ready!"

He caught a glimpse of her face then. The excitement and color had
partly died out of it. She took the pail of coffee and went with
it to the table.

Then Philip faced Bram.

The wolf-man was standing with his back to the door. He had not
moved since entering, and he was staring at the scene before him
in a dull, stupid sort of way. In one hand he carried a pail
filled with water; in the other a frozen fish.

"Too late with the fish, Bram," said Philip. "We couldn't make the
little lady wait. Besides, I think you've fed her on fish and meat
until she is just about ready to die. Come to breakfast!"

He loaded a tin plate with hot potatoes, bannock-bread and rice
that he had cooked before setting out on the Barren, and placed it
before the girl. A second plate he prepared for Bram, and a third
for himself. Bram had not moved. He still held the pail and the
fish in his hands. Suddenly he lowered both to the floor with a
growl that seemed to come from the bottom of his great chest, and
came to the table. With one huge hand he seized Philip's arm. It
was not a man's grip. There was apparently no effort in it, and
yet it was a vise-like clutch that threatened to snap the bone.
And all the time Bram's eyes were on the girl. He drew Philip
back, released the terrible grip on his arm, and shoved the two
extra plates of food to the girl. Then he faced Philip.

"We eat ze meat, m'sieu!"

Quietly and sanely he uttered the words. In his eyes and face
there was no trace of madness. And then, even as Philip stared,
the change came. The giant flung back his head and his wild, mad
laugh rocked the cabin. Out in the corral the snarl and cry of the
wolves gave a savage response to it.

It took a tremendous effort for Philip to keep a grip on himself.
In that momentary flash of sanity Bram had shown a chivalry which
must have struck deep home in the heart of the girl. There was a
sort of triumph in her eyes when he looked at her. She knew now
that he must understand fully what she had been trying to tell
him. Bram, in his madness, had been good to her. Philip did not
hesitate in the impulse of the moment. He caught Bram's hand and
shook it. And Bram, his laugh dying away in a mumbling sound,
seemed not to notice it. As Philip began preparing the fish the
wolf-man took up a position against the farther wall, squatted
Indian-fashion on his heels. He did not take his eyes from the
girl until she had finished, and Philip brought him a half of the
fried fish. He might as well have offered the fish to a wooden
sphinx. Bram rose to his feet, mumbling softly, and taking what
was left of one of the two caribou quarters he again left the
cabin.

His mad laugh and the snarling outcry of the wolves came to them a
moment later.





CHAPTER XI




Scarcely had the door closed when Celie Armin ran to Philip and
pulled him to the table. In the tense half hour of Bram's
watchfulness she had eaten her own breakfast as if nothing unusual
had happened; now she insisted on adding potatoes and bannock to
Philip's fish, and turned him a cup of coffee.

"Bless your heart, you don't want to see me beat out of a
breakfast, do you?" he smiled up at her, feeling all at once an
immense desire to pull her head down to him and kiss her. "But you
don't understand the situation, little girl. Now I've been eating
this confounded bannock"--he picked up a chunk of it to
demonstrate his point--"morning, noon and night until the sight of
it makes me almost cry for one of mother's green cucumber pickles.
I'm tired of it. Bram's fish is a treat. And this coffee, seeing
that you have turned it in that way--"

She sat opposite him while he ate, and he had the chance of
observing her closely while his meal progressed. It struck him
that she was growing prettier each time that he looked at her, and
he was more positive than ever that she was a stranger in the
northland. Again he told himself that she was not more than
twenty. Mentally he even went so far as to weigh her and would
have gambled that she would not have tipped a scale five pounds
one way or the other from a hundred and twenty. Some time he might
have seen the kind of violet-blue that was in her eyes, but he
could not remember it. She was lost--utterly lost at this far-end
of the earth. She was no more a part of it than a crepe de chine
ball dress or a bit of rose china. And there she was, sitting
opposite him, a bewitching mystery for him to solve. And she
WANTED to be solved! He could see it in her eyes, and in the
little beating throb at her throat. She was fighting, with him, to
find a way; a way to tell him who she was, and why she was here,
and what he must do for her.

Suddenly he thought of the golden snare. That, after all, he
believed to be the real key to the mystery. He rose quickly from
the table and drew the girl to the window. At the far end of the
corral they could see Bram tossing chunks of meat to the horde of
beasts that surrounded him. In a moment or two he had the
satisfaction of seeing that his companion understood that he was
directing her attention to the wolf-man and not the pack. Then he
began unbraiding her hair. His fingers thrilled at the silken
touch of it. He felt his face flushing hot under his beard, and he
knew that her eyes were on him wonderingly. A small strand he
divided into three parts and began weaving into a silken thread
only a little larger than the wolf-man's snare. From, the woven
tress he pointed to Bram and in an instant her face lighted up
with understanding.

She answered him in pantomime. Either she or Bram had cut the
tress from her head that had gone into the making of the golden
snare. And not only one tress, but several. There had been a
number of golden snares. She bowed her head and showed him where
strands as large as her little finger had been clipped in several
places.

Philip almost groaned. She was telling him nothing new, except
that there had been many snares instead of one.

He was on the point of speech when the look in her face held him
silent. Her eyes glowed with a sudden excitement--a wild
inspiration. She held out her hands until they nearly touched his
breast.

"Philip Raine--Amerika!" she cried.

Then, pressing her hands to her own breast, she added eagerly:

"Celie Armin--Danmark!"

"Denmark!" exclaimed Philip. "Is that it, little girl? You're from
Denmark? Denmark!"

She nodded.

"Kobenhavn--Danmark!"

"Copenhagen, Denmark," he translated for himself. "Great Scott,
Celie--we're TALKING! Celie Armin, from Copenhagen, Denmark! But
how in Heaven's name did you get HERE?" He pointed to the floor
under their feet and embraced the four walls of the cabin in a
wide gesture of his arms. "How did you get HERE?"

Her next words thrilled him.

"Kobenhavn--Muskvas--St. Petersburg--Rusland--Sibirien--Amerika."

"Copenhagen--Muskvas, whatever that is--St. Petersburg--Russia--
Siberia--America," he repeated, staring at her incredulously.
"Celie, if you love me, be reasonable! Do you expect me to believe
that you came all the way from Denmark to this God-forsaken
madman's cabin in the heart of the Canada Barrens by way of Russia
and Siberia? YOU! I can't believe it. There's a mistake somewhere.
Here--"

He thought of his pocket atlas, supplied by the department as a
part of his service kit, and remembered that in the back of it was
a small map of the world. In half a minute he had secured it and
was holding the map under her eyes. Her little forefinger touched
Copenhagen. Leaning over her shoulder, he felt her hair crumpling
against his breast. He felt an insane desire to bury his face in
it and hug her up close in his arms--for a single moment the
question of whether she came from Copenhagen or the moon was
irrelevant and of little consequence. He, at least, had found her.
He was digging her out of chaos, and he was filled with the joyous
exultation of a triumphant discoverer--almost the thrill of
ownership. He held his breath as he watched the little forefinger
telling him its story on the map.

From Copenhagen it went to Moscow--which must have been Muskvas,
and from there it trailed slowly to St. Petersburg and thence
straight across Russia and Siberia to Bering Sea.

"Skunnert," she said softly, and her finger came across to the
green patch on the map which was Alaska.

It hesitated there. Evidently it was a question in her own mind
where she had gone after that. At least she could not tell him on
the map. And now, seeing that he was understanding her, she was
becoming visibly excited. She pulled him to the window and pointed
to the wolves. Alaska--and after that dogs and sledge. He nodded.
He was jubilant. She was Celie Armin, of Copenhagen, Denmark, and
had come to Alaska by way of Russia and Siberia--and after that
had traveled by dog-train. But WHY had she come, and what had
happened to make her the companion or prisoner of Bram Johnson? He
knew she was trying to tell him. With her back to the window she
talked to him again, gesturing with her hands, and almost sobbing
under the stress of the emotion that possessed her. His elation
turned swiftly to the old dread as he watched the change in her
face. Apprehension--a grim certainty--gripped hold of him.
Something terrible had happened to her--a thing that had racked
her soul and that filled her eyes with the blaze of a strange
terror as she struggled to make him understand. And then she broke
down, and with a sobbing cry covered her face with her hands.

Out in the corral Philip heard Bram Johnson's laugh. It was a
mockery--a challenge. In an instant every drop of blood in his
body answered it in a surge of blind rage. He sprang to the stove,
snatched up a length of firewood, and in another moment was at the
door. As he opened it and ran out he heard Celie's wild appeal for
him to stop. It was almost a scream. Before he had taken a dozen
steps from the cabin he realized what the warning meant. The pack
had seen him and from the end of the corral came rushing at him in
a thick mass.

This time Bram Johnson's voice did not stop them. He saw Philip,
and from the doorway Celie looked upon the scene while the blood
froze in her veins. She screamed--and in the same breath came the
wolf-man's laugh. Philip heard both as he swung the stick of
firewood over his head and sent it hurling toward the pack. The
chance accuracy of the throw gave him an instant's time in which
to turn and make a dash for the cabin. It was Celie who slammed
the door shut as he sprang through. Swift as a flash she shot the
bolt, and there came the lunge of heavy bodies outside. They could
hear the snapping of jaws and the snarling whine of the beasts.
Philip had never seen a face whiter than the girl's had gone. She
covered it with her hands, and he could see her trembling. A bit
of a sob broke hysterically from her lips.

He knew of what she was thinking--the horrible thing she was
hiding from her eyes. It was plain enough to him now. Twenty
seconds more and they would have had him. And then--

He drew in a deep breath and gently uncovered her face. Her hands
shivered in his. And then a great throb of joy repaid him for his
venture into the jaws of death as he saw the way in which her
beautiful eyes were looking at him.

"Celie--my little mystery girl--I've discovered something," he
cried huskily, holding her hands so tightly that it must have hurt
her. "I'm almost glad you can't understand me, for I wouldn't
blame you for being afraid of a man who told you he loved you an
hour or two after he first saw you. I love you. I've never wanted
anything in all my life as I want you. And I must be careful and
not let you know it, mustn't I? If I did you'd think I was some
kind of an animal-brute--like Bram. Wouldn't you?"

Bram's voice came in a sharp rattle of Eskimo outside. Philip
could hear the snarling rebellion of the wolves as they slunk away
from the cabin, and he drew Celie back from the door. Suddenly she
freed her hands, ran to the door and slipped back the wooden bolt
as the wolf-man's hand fumbled at the latch. In a moment she was
back at his side. When Bram entered every muscle in Philip's body
was prepared for action. He was amazed at the wolf-man's
unconcern. He was mumbling and chuckling to himself, as if amused
at what he had seen. Celie's little fingers dug into Philip's arm
and he saw in her eyes a tense, staring look that had not been
there before. It was as if in Bram's face and his queer mumbling
she had recognized something which was not apparent to him.
Suddenly she left him and hurried into her room. During the few
moments she was gone Bram did not look once at Philip. His
mumbling was incessant. Perhaps a minute passed before the girl
reappeared.

She went straight to Bram and before the wolf-man's eyes held a
long, shining tress of hair!

Instantly the mumbling in Bram's throat ceased and he thrust out
slowly a huge misshapen hand toward the golden strand. Philip felt
his nerves stretching to the breaking point. With Bram the girl's
hair was a fetich. A look of strange exultation crept over the
giant's heavy features as his fingers clutched the golden
offering. It almost drew a cry of warning from Philip. He saw the
girl smiling in the face of a deadly peril--a danger of which she
was apparently unconscious. Her hair still fell loose about her in
a thick and shimmering glory. And BRAM'S EYES WERE ON IT AS HE
TOOK THE TRESS FROM HER FINGERS! Was it conceivable that this mad-
man did not comprehend his power! Had the thought not yet burned
its way into his thick brain that a treasure many times greater
than, that which she had doled out to him lay within the reach of
his brute hands at any time he cared to reach out for it? And was
it possible that the girl did not guess her danger as she stood
there?

What she could see of his face must have been as pale as her own
when she looked at him. She smiled, and nodded at Bram. The giant
was turning slowly toward the window, and after a moment or two in
which they could hear him mumbling softly he sat down cross-legged
against the wall, divided the tress into three silken threads and
began weaving them into a snare. The color was returning to
Celie's face when Philip looked at her again. She told him with a
gesture of her head and hands that she was going into her room for
a time. He didn't blame her. The excitement had been rather
unusual.

After she had gone he dug his shaving outfit out of his kit-bag.
It included a mirror and the reflection he saw in this mirror
fairly shocked him. No wonder the girl had been frightened at his
first appearance. It took him half an hour to shave his face
clean, and all that time Bram paid no attention to him but went on
steadily at his task of weaving the golden snare. Celie did not
reappear until the wolf-man had finished and was leaving the
cabin. The first thing she noticed was the change in Philip's
face. He saw the pleasure in her eyes and felt himself blushing.

From the window they watched Bram. He had called his wolves and
was going with them to the gate. He carried his snowshoes and his
long whip. He went through the gate first and one by one let his
beasts out until ten of the twenty had followed him. The gate was
closed then.

Celie turned to the table and Philip saw that she had brought from
her room a pencil and a bit of paper. In a moment she held the
paper out to him, a light of triumph in her face. At last they had
found a way to talk. On the paper was a crude sketch of a caribou
head. It meant that Bram had gone hunting.

And in going Bram had left a half of his blood-thirsty pack in
the corral. There was no longer a doubt in Philip's mind. They
were not the chance guests of this madman. They were prisoners.





CHAPTER XII




For a few minutes after the wolf-man and his hunters had gone from
the corral Philip did not move from the window. He almost forgot
that the girl was standing behind him. At no time since Pierre
Breault had revealed the golden snare had the situation been more
of an enigma to him than now. Was Bram Johnson actually mad--or
was he playing a colossal sham? The question had unleashed itself
in his brain with a suddenness that had startled him. Out of the
past a voice came to him distinctly, and it said, "A madman never
forgets!" It was the voice of a great alienist, a good friend of
his, with whom he had discussed the sanity of a man whose crime
had shocked the country. He knew that the words were true. Once
possessed by an idea the madman will not forget it. It becomes an
obsession with him--a part of his existence. In his warped brain a
suspicion never dies. A fear will smolder everlastingly. A hatred
lives steadily on.

If Bram Johnson was mad would he play the game as he was playing
it now! He had almost killed Philip for possession of the food,
that the girl might have the last crumb of it. Now, without a sign
of the madman's caution, he had left it all within his reach
again. A dozen times the flaming suspicion in his eyes had been
replaced by a calm and stupid indifference. Was the suspicion real
and the stupidity a clever dissimulation? And if dissimulation--
why?

He was positive now that Bram had not harmed the girl in the way
he had dreaded. Physical desire had played no part in the wolf-
man's possession of her. Celie had made him understand that;--and
yet in Bram's eyes he had caught a look now and then that was like
the dumb worship of a beast. Only once had that look been anything
different--and that was when Celie had given him a tress of her
hair. Even the suspicion roused in him then was gone now, for if
passion and desire were smoldering in the wolf-man's breast he
would not have brought a possible rival to the cabin, nor would he
have left them alone together.

His mind worked swiftly as he stared unseeing out into the corral.
He would no longer play the part of a pawn. Thus far Bram had held
the whip hand. Now he would take it from him no matter what
mysterious protestation the girl might make! The wolf-man had
given him a dozen opportunities to deliver the blow that would
make him a prisoner. He would not miss the next.

He faced Celie with the gleam of this determination in his eyes.
She had been watching him intently and he believed that she had
guessed a part of his thoughts. His first business was to take
advantage of Brain's absence to search the cabin. He tried to make
Celie understand what his intentions were as he began.

"You may have done this yourself," he told her. "No doubt you
have. There probably isn't a corner you haven't looked into. But I
have a hunch I may find something you missed--something
interesting."

She followed him closely. He began at each wall and went over it
carefully, looking for possible hiding places. Then he examined
the floor for a loose sapling. At the end of half an hour his
discoveries amounted to nothing. He gave an exclamation of
satisfaction when under an old blanket in a dusty corner he found
a Colt army revolver. But it was empty, and he found no
cartridges. At last there was nothing left to search but the wolf-
man's bunk. At the bottom of this he found what gave him his first
real thrill--three of the silken snares made from Celie Armin's
hair.

"We won't touch them," he said after a moment, replacing the bear
skin that had covered them. "It's good etiquette up here not to
disturb another man's cache and that's Bram's. I can't imagine any
one but a madman doing that. And yet--"

He looked suddenly at Celie.

"Do you suppose he was afraid of YOU?" he asked her. "Is that why
he doesn't leave even the butcher-knife in this shack? Was he
afraid you might shoot him in his sleep if he left the temptation
in your way?"

A commotion among the wolves drew him to the window. Two of the
beasts were fighting. While his back was turned Celie entered her
room and returned a moment or two later with a handful of loose
bits of paper. The pack held Philip's attention. He wondered what
chance he would have in an encounter with the beasts which Bram
had left behind as a guard. Even if he killed Bram or made him a
prisoner he would still have that horde of murderous brutes to
deal with. If he could in some way induce the wolf-man to bring
his rifle into the cabin the matter would be easy. With Bram out
of the way he could shoot the wolves one by one from the window.
Without a weapon their situation would be hopeless. The pack--with
the exception of one huge, gaunt beast directly under the window--
had swung around the end of the cabin out of his vision. The
remaining wolf in spite of the excitement of battle was gnawing
hungrily at a bone. Philip could hear the savage grind of its
powerful jaws, and all at once the thought of how they might work
out their salvation flashed upon him. They could starve the
wolves! It would take a week, perhaps ten days, but with Bram out
of the way and the pack helplessly imprisoned within the corral it
could be done. His first impulse now was to impress on Celie the
necessity of taking physical action against Bram.

The sound of his own name turned him from the window with a sudden
thrill.

If the last few minutes had inspired an eagerness for action in
his own mind he saw at a glance that something equally exciting
had possessed Celie Armin. Spread out on the table were the bits
of paper she had brought from her room, and, pointing to them, she
again called him by name. That she was laboring under a new and
unusual emotion impressed him immediately. He could see that she
was fighting to restrain an impulse to pour out in words what
would have been meaningless to him, and that she was telling him
the bits of paper were to take the place of voice. For one swift
moment as he advanced to the table the papers meant less to him
than the fact that she had twice spoken his name. Her soft lips
seemed to whisper it again as she pointed, and the look in her
eyes and the poise of her body recalled to him vividly the picture
of her as he had first seen her in the cabin. He looked at the
bits of paper. There were fifteen or twenty pieces, and on each
was sketched a picture.

He heard a low catch in Celie's breath as he bent over them, and
his own pulse quickened. A glance was sufficient to show him that
with the pictures Celie was trying to tell him what he wanted to
know. They told her own story--who she was, why she was at Bram
Johnson's cabin, and how she had come. This, at least, was the
first thought that impressed him. He observed then that the bits
of paper were soiled and worn as though they had been handled a
great deal. He made no effort to restrain the exclamation that
followed this discovery.

"You drew these pictures for Bram," he scanning them more
carefully. "That settles one thing. Bram doesn't know much more
about you than, I do. Ships, and dogs, and men--and fighting--a
lot of fighting--and--"

His eyes stopped at one of the pictures and his heart gave a
sudden excited thump. He picked up the bit of paper which had
evidently been part of a small sack. Slowly he turned to the girl
and met her eyes. She was trembling in her eagerness for him to
understand.

"That is YOU," he said, tapping the central figure in the sketch,
and nodding at her. "You--with your hair down, and fighting a
bunch of men who look as though they were about to beat your
brains out with clubs! Now--what in God's name does it mean? And
here's a ship up in the corner. That evidently came first. You
landed from that ship, didn't you? From the ship--the ship--the
ship--"

"Skunnert!" she cried softly, touching the ship with her finger.
"Skunnert--Sibirien!"

"Schooner-Siberia," translated Philip. "It sounds mightily like
that, Celie. Look here--" He opened his pocket atlas again at the
map of the world. "Where did you start from, and where did you
come ashore? If we can get at the beginning of the thing--"

She had bent her head over the crook of his arm, so that in her
eager scrutiny of the map his lips for a moment or two touched the
velvety softness of her hair. Again he felt the exquisite thrill
of her touch, the throb of her body against him, the desire to
take her in his arms and hold her there. And then she drew back a
little, and her finger was once more tracing out its story on the
map. The ship had started from the mouth of the Lena River, in
Siberia, and had followed the coast to the blue space that marked
the ocean above Alaska. And there the little finger paused, and
with a hopeless gesture Celie intimated that was all she knew.
From somewhere out of that blue patch the ship had touched the
American shore. One after another she took up from the table the
pieces of paper that carried on the picture-story from that point.
It was, of course, a broken and disjointed story. But as it
progressed every drop of blood in Philip's body was stirred by the
thrill and mystery of it. Celie Armin had traveled from Denmark
through Russia to the Lena River in Siberia, and from there a ship
had brought her to the coast of North America. There had been a
lot of fighting, the significance of which he could only guess at;
and now, at the end, the girl drew for Philip another sketch in
which a giant and a horde of beasts appeared. It was a picture of
Bram and his wolves, and at last Philip understood why she did not
want him to harm the wolf-man. Bram had saved her from the fate
which the pictures only partly portrayed for him. He had brought
her far south to his hidden stronghold, and for some reason which
the pictures failed to disclose was keeping her a prisoner there.

Beyond these things Celie Armin was still a mystery.

Why had she gone to Siberia? What had brought her to the barren
Arctic coast of America? Who were the mysterious enemies from whom
Bram the madman had saved her? And who--who--

He looked again at one of the pictures which he had partly
crumpled in his hand. On it were sketched two people. One was a
figure with her hair streaming down--Celie herself. The other was
a man. The girl had pictured herself close in the embrace of this
man's arms. Her own arms encircled the man's neck. From the
picture Philip had looked at Celie, and the look he had seen in
her eyes and face filled his heart with a leaden chill. It was
more than hope that had flared up in his breast since he had
entered Brara Johnson's cabin. And now that hope went suddenly
out, and with its extinguishment he was oppressed by a deep and
gloomy foreboding.

He went slowly to the window and looked out.

The next moment Celie was startled by the sudden sharp cry that
burst from his lips. Swiftly she ran to his side. He had dropped
the paper. His hands were gripping the edge of the sill, and he
was staring like one who could not believe his own eyes.

"Good God--look! Look at that!"

They had heard no sound outside the cabin during the last few
minutes. Yet under their eyes, stretched out in the soiled and
trampled snow, lay the wolf that a short time before had been
gnawing a bone. The animal was stark dead. Not a muscle of its
body moved. Its lips were drawn back, its jaws agape, and under
the head was a growing smear of blood. It was not these things--
not the fact but the INSTRUMENT of death that held Philip's eyes.
The huge wolf had been completely transfixed by a spear.

Instantly Philip recognized it--the long, slender, javelin-like
narwhal harpoon used by only one people in the world, the
murderous little black-visaged Kogmollocks of Coronation Gulf and
Wollaston Land.

He sprang suddenly back from the window, dragging Celie with him.





CHAPTER XIII




"Kogmollocks--the blackest-hearted little devils alive when it
comes to trading wives and fighting," said Philip, a little
ashamed of the suddenness with which he had jumped back from the
window. "Excuse my abruptness, dear. But I'd recognize that death-
thing on the other side of the earth. I've seen them throw it like
an arrow for a hundred yards--and I have a notion they're watching
that window!"

At sight of the dead wolf and the protruding javelin Celie's face
had gone as white as ash. Snatching up one of the pictures from
the table, she thrust it into Philip's hand. It was one of the
fighting pictures.

"So it's YOU?" he said, smiling at her and trying to keep the
tremble of excitement out of his voice. "It's you they want, eh?
And they must want you bad. I've never heard of those little
devils coming within a hundred miles of this far south. They MUST
want you bad. Now--I wonder WHY?" His voice was calm again. It
thrilled him to see how utterly she was judging the situation by
the movement of his lips and the sound of his voice. With him
unafraid she would be unafraid. He judged that quickly. Her eyes
bared her faith in him, and suddenly he reached out and took her
face between his two hands, and laughed softly, while each instant
he feared the smash of a javelin through the window. "I like to
see that look in your eyes," he went on. "And I'm almost glad you
can't understand me, for I couldn't lie to you worth a cent. I
understand those pictures now--and I think we're in a hell of a
fix. The Eskimos have followed you and Bram down from the north,
and I'm laying a wager with myself that Bram won't return from the
caribou hunt. If they were Nunatalmutes or any other tribe I
wouldn't be so sure. But they're Kogmollocks. They're worse than
the little brown head-hunters of the Philippines when it comes to
ambush, and if Bram hasn't got a spear through him this minute
I'll never guess again!" He withdrew his hands from her face,
still smiling at her as he talked. The color was returning into
her face. Suddenly she made a movement as if to approach the
window. He detained her, and in the same moment there came a
fierce and snarling outcry from the wolves in the corral. Making
Celie understand that she was to remain where he almost forcibly
placed her near the table, Philip went again to the window. The
pack had gathered close to the gate and two or three of the wolves
were leaping excitedly against the sapling bars of their prison.
Between the cabin and the gate a second body lay in the snow.
Philip's mind leapt to a swift conclusion. The Eskimos had
ambushed Bram, and they believed that only the girl was in the
cabin. Intuitively he guessed how the superstitious little brown
men of the north feared the madman's wolves. One by one they were
picking them off with their javelins from outside the corral.

As he looked a head and pair of shoulders rose suddenly above the
top of the sapling barrier, an arm shot out and he caught the
swift gleam of a javelin as it buried itself in the thick of the
pack. In a flash the head and shoulders of the javelin-thrower had
disappeared, and in that same moment Philip heard a low cry behind
him. Celie had returned to the window. She had seen what he had
seen, and her breath came suddenly in a swift and sobbing
excitement. In amazement he saw that she was no longer pale. A
vivid flush had gathered in each of her cheeks and her eyes blazed
with a dark fire. One of her hands caught his arm and her fingers
pinched his flesh. He stared dumbly for a moment at the strange
transformation in her. He almost believed that she wanted to
fight--that she was ready to rush out shoulder to shoulder with
him against their enemies. Scarcely had the cry fallen from her
lips when she turned and ran swiftly into her room. It seemed to
Philip that she was not gone ten seconds. When she returned she
thrust into his hand a revolver.

It was a toy affair. The weight and size of the weapon told him
that before he broke it and looked at the caliber. It was a
"stocking" gun as they called those things in the service, fully
loaded with .22 caliber shots and good for a possible partridge at
fifteen or twenty paces. Under other conditions it would have
furnished him with considerable amusement. But the present was not
yesterday or the day before. It was a moment of grim necessity--
and the tiny weapon gave him the satisfaction of knowing that he
was not entirely helpless against the javelins. It would shoot as
far as the stockade, and it might topple a man over if he hit him
just right. Anyway, it would make a noise.

A noise! The grin that had come into his face died out suddenly as
he looked at Celie. He wondered if to her had come the thought
that now flashed upon him--if it was that thought that had made
her place the revolver in his hand. The blaze of excitement in her
wonderful eyes almost told him that it was. With Bram gone, the
Eskimos believed she was alone and at their mercy as soon as the
wolves were out of the way. Two or three shots from the revolver--
and Philip's appearance in the corral--would shake their
confidence. It would at least warn them that Celie was not alone,
and that her protector was armed. For that reason Philip thanked
the Lord that a "stocking" gun had a bark like the explosion of a
toy cannon even if its bite was like that of an insect.

Cautiously he took another look at Bram's wolves. The last javelin
had transfixed another of their number and the animal was dragging
itself toward the center of the corral. The remaining seven were a
dozen yards on the other side of the gate now, leaping and
snarling at the stockade, and he knew that the next attack would
come from there. He sprang to the door. Celie was only a step
behind him as he ran out, and was close at his side when he peered
around the end of the cabin.

"They must not see you," he made her understand. "It won't do any
good and when they see another man they may possibly get the idea
in their heads that you're not here. There can't be many of them
or they'd make quicker work of the wolves. I should say not more
than--"

"Se! Se!"

The warning came in a low cry from Celie's lips. A dark head was
appearing slowly above the top of the stockade, and Philip darted
suddenly out into the open. The Eskimo did not see him, and Philip
waited until he was on the point of hurling his javelin before he
made a sound. Then he gave a roar that almost split his throat. In
the same instant he began firing. The crack of his pistol and the
ferocious outcry he made sent the Eskimo off the stockade like a
ball hit by a club. The pack, maddened by their inability to reach
their enemies, turned like a flash. Warned by one experience,
Philip hustled Celie into the cabin. They were scarcely over the
threshold when the wolves were at the door.

"We're sure up against a nice bunch," he laughed, standing for a
moment with his arm still about Celie's waist. "A regular hell of
a bunch, little girl! Now if those wolves only had sense enough to
know that we're a little brother and sister to Bram, we'd be able
to put up a fight that would be some circus. Did you see that
fellow topple off the fence? Don't believe I hit him. At least I
hope I didn't. If they ever find out the size of this pea-
shooter's sting they'll sit up there like a row of crows and laugh
at us. But--what a bully NOISE it made!"

He was blissfully unmindful of danger as he held her in the crook
of his arm, looking straight into her lovely face as he talked. It
was a moment of splendid hypocrisy. He knew that in her excitement
and the tremendous effort she was making to understand something
of what he was saying that she was unconscious of his embrace.
That, and the joyous thrill of the situation, sent the hot blood
into his face.

"I'm dangerously near to going the limit," he told her, speaking
with a seriousness that would impress her. "I'd fight twenty of
those little devils single-handed to know just how you'd take it,
and I'd fight another dozen to know who that fellow is in the
picture. I'm tempted right now to hug you up close, and kiss you,
and let you know how I feel. I'd like to do that--before--
anything happens. But would you understand? That's it--would you
understand that I love every inch of you from the ground up or
would you think I was just beast? That's what I'm afraid of. But
I'd like to let you know before I have to put up the big fight for
you. And it's coming--if they've got Bram. They'll break down the
gate to-night, or burn it, and with the wolves out of the way
they'll rush the cabin. And then--"

Slowly he drew his arm from her, and something of the reaction of
his thoughts must have betrayed itself in the look that came into
his face.

"I guess I've already pulled off a rotten deal on the other
fellow," he said, turning to the window. "That is, if you belong
to him. And if you didn't why would you stand there with your arms
about his neck and he hugging you up like that!"

A few minutes before he had crumpled the picture in his hand and
dropped it on the floor. He picked it up now and mechanically
smoothed it out as he made his observation, through the window.
The pack had returned to the stockade. By the aimless manner in
which they had scattered he concluded that for the time at least
their mysterious enemies had drawn away from the corral.

Celie had not moved. She was watching him earnestly. It seemed to
him, as he went to her with the picture, that a new and anxious
questioning had come into her eyes. It was as if she had
discovered something in him which she had not observed before,
something which she was trying to analyze even as he approached
her. He felt for the first time a sense of embarrassment. Was it
possible that she had comprehended some word or thought of what he
had expressed to her? He could not believe it And yet, a woman's
intuition--

He held out the picture. Celie took it and for a space looked at
it steadily without raising her eyes to meet his. When she did
look at him the blue in her eyes was so wonderful and deep and the
soul that looked out of them was so clear to his own vision that
the shame of that moment's hypocrisy when he had stood with his
arm about her submerged him completely. If she had not understood
him she at least HAD GUESSED.

"Min fader," she said quietly, with the tip of her little
forefinger on the man in the picture. "Min fader."

For a moment he thought she had spoken in English.

"Your--your father?" he cried.

She nodded.

"Oo-ee-min fader!"

"Thank the Lord," gasped Philip. And then he suddenly added,
"Celie, have you any more cartridges for this pop-gun? I feel like
licking the world!"





CHAPTER XIV




He tried to hide his jubilation as he talked of more cartridges.
He forgot Bram, and the Eskimos waiting outside the corral, and
the apparent hopelessness of their situation. HER FATHER! He
wanted to shout, or dance around the cabin with Celie in his arms.
But the change that he had seen come over her made him understand
that he must keep hold of himself. He dreaded to see another light
come into those glorious blue eyes that had looked at him with
such a strange and questioning earnestness a few moments before--
the fire of suspicion, perhaps even of fear if he went too far. He
realized that he had betrayed his joy when she had said that the
man in the picture was her father. She could not have missed that.
And he was not sorry. For him. there was an unspeakable thrill in
the thought that to a woman, no matter under what sun she is born,
there is at least one emotion whose understanding needs no words
of speech. And as he had talked to her, sublimely confident that
she could not understand him, she had read the betrayal in his
face. He was sure of it. And so he talked about cartridges. He
talked, he told himself afterwards, like an excited imbecile.

There were no more cartridges. Celie made him understand that. All
they possessed were the four that remained in the revolver. As a
matter of fact this discovery did not disturb him greatly. At
close quarters he would prefer a good club to the pop-gun. Such a
club, in the event of a rush attack by the Eskimos, was an
important necessity, and he began looking about the cabin to see
what he could lay his hands on. He thought of the sapling cross-
pieces in Bram's bunk against the wall and tore one out. It was
four feet in length and as big around as his fist at one end while
at the other it tapered down so that he could grip it easily with
his hands.

"Now we're ready for them," he said, testing the poise and swing
of the club as he stood in the center of the room. "Unless they
burn us out they'll never get through that door. I'm promising you
that--s'elp me God I am, Celie!"

As she looked at him a flush burned in her cheeks. He was eager to
fight--it seemed to her that he was almost hoping for the attack
at the door. It made her splendidly unafraid, and suddenly she
laughed softly--a nervous, unexpected little laugh which she could
not hold back, and he turned quickly to catch the warm glow in her
eyes. Something went up into his throat as she stood there looking
at him like that. He had never seen any one quite so beautiful. He
dropped his club, and held out his hand.

"Let's shake, Celie," he said. "I'm mighty glad you understand--
we're pals."

Unhesitatingly she gave him her hand, and in spite of the fact
that death lurked outside they smiled into each other's eyes.
After that she went into her room. For half an hour Philip did not
see her again.

During that half hour he measured up the situation more calmly. He
realized that the exigency was tremendously serious, and that
until now he had not viewed it with the dispassionate coolness
that characterized the service of the uniform he wore. Celie was
accountable for that. He confessed the fact to himself, not
without a certain pleasurable satisfaction. He had allowed her
presence, and his thoughts of her, to fill the adventure
completely for him, and as a result they were now facing an
appalling danger. If he had followed his own judgment, and had
made Bram Johnson a prisoner, as he should have done in his line
of duty, matters would have stood differently.

For several minutes after Celie had disappeared into her room he
studied the actions of the wolves in the corral. A short time
before he had considered a method of ridding himself of Bram's
watchful beasts. Now he regarded them as the one greatest
protection they possessed. There were seven left. He was confident
they would give warning the moment the Eskimos approached the
stockade again. But would their enemies return? The fact that only
one man had attacked the wolves at a time was almost convincing
evidence that they were very few in number--perhaps only a
scouting party of three or four. Otherwise, if they had come in
force, they would have made short work of the pack. The thought
became a positive conviction as he looked through the window. Bram
had fallen a victim to a single javelin, and the scouting party of
Kogmollocks had attempted to complete their triumph by carrying
Celie back with them to the main body. Foiled in this attempt, and
with the knowledge that a new and armed enemy opposed them, they
were possibly already on their way for re-enforcements.

If this were so there could be but one hope--and that was an
immediate escape from the cabin. And between the cabin door and
the freedom of the forest were Bram's seven wolves!

A feeling of disgust, almost of anger, swept over him as he drew
Celie's little revolver from his pocket and held it in the palm of
his hand. There were four cartridges left. But what would they
avail against that horde of beasts! They would stop them no more
than so many pin-pricks. And what even would the club avail?
Against two or three he might put up a fight. But against seven--

He cursed Bram under his breath. It was curious that in that same
instant the thought flashed upon him that the wolf-man might not
have fallen a victim to the Eskimos. Was it not possible that the
spying Kogmollocks had seen him go away on the hunt, and had taken
advantage of the opportunity to attack the cabin? They had
evidently thought their task would be an easy one. What Philip saw
through the window set his pulse beating quickly with the belief
that this last conjecture was the true one. The world outside was
turning dark. The sky was growing thick and low. In half an hour a
storm would break. The Eskimos had foreseen that storm. They knew
that the trail taken in their flight, after they had possessed
themselves of the girl, would very soon be hidden from the eyes of
Bram and the keen scent of his wolves. So they had taken the
chance--the chance to make Celie their prisoner before Bram
returned.

And why, Philip asked himself, did these savage little barbarians
of the north want HER? The fighting she had pictured for him had
not startled him. For a long time the Kogmollocks had been making
trouble. In the last year they had killed a dozen white men along
the upper coast, including two American explorers and a
missionary. Three patrols had been sent to Coronation Gulf and
Bathurst Inlet since August. With the first of those patrols,
headed by Olaf Anderson, the Swede, he had come within an ace of
going himself. A rumor had come down to Churchill just before he
left for the Barrens that Olaf's party of five men had been wiped
out. It was not difficult to understand why the Eskimos had
attacked Celie Armin's father and those who had come ashore with
him from the ship. It was merely a question of lust for white
men's blood and white men's plunder, and strangers in their
country would naturally be regarded as easy victims. The
mysterious and inexplicable part of the affair was their pursuit
of the girl. In this pursuit the Kogmollocks had come far beyond
the southernmost boundary of their hunting grounds. Philip was
sufficiently acquainted with the Eskimos to know that in their
veins ran very little of the red-blooded passion of the white man.
Matehood was more of a necessity imposed by nature than a joy in
their existence, and it was impossible for him to believe that
even Celie Armin's beauty had roused the desire for possession
among them.

His attention turned to the gathering of the storm. The amazing
swiftness with which the gray day was turning into the dark gloom
of night fascinated him and he almost called to Celie that she
might look upon the phenomenon with him. It was piling in from the
vast Barrens to the north and east and for a time it was
accompanied by a stillness that was oppressive. He could no longer
distinguish a movement in the tops of the cedars and banskian pine
beyond the corral. In the corral itself he caught now and then the
shadowy, flitting movement of the wolves. He did not hear Celie
when she came out of her room. So intently was he straining his
eyes to penetrate the thickening pall of gloom that he was
unconscious of her presence until she stood close at his side.
There was something in the awesome darkening of the world that
brought them closer in that moment, and without speaking Philip
found her hand and held it in his own. They heard then a low
whispering sound--a sound that came creeping up out of the end of
the world like a living thing; a whisper so vast that, after a
little, it seemed to fill the universe, growing louder and louder
until it was no longer a whisper but a moaning, shrieking wail. It
was appalling as the first blast of it swept over the cabin. No
other place in the world is there storm like the storm that sweeps
over the Great Barren; no other place in the world where storm is
filled with such a moaning, shrieking tumult of VOICE. It was not
new to Philip. He had heard it when it seemed to him that ten
thousand little children were crying under the rolling and
twisting onrush of the clouds; he had heard it when it seemed to
him the darkness was filled with an army of laughing, shrieking
madmen--storm out of which rose piercing human shrieks and the
sobbing grief of women's voices. It had driven people mad. Through
the long dark night of winter, when for five months they caught no
glimpse of the sun, even the little brown Eskimos went keskwao and
destroyed themselves because of the madness that was in that
storm.

And now it swept over the cabin, and in Celie's throat there rose
a little sob. So swiftly had darkness gathered that Philip could
no longer see her, except where her face made a pale shadow in the
gloom, but he could feel the tremble of her body against him. Was
it only this morning that he had first seen her, he asked himself?
Was it not a long, long time ago, and had she not in that time
become, flesh and soul, a part of him? He put out his arms. Warm
and trembling and unresisting in that thick gloom she lay within
them. His soul rose in a wild ecstasy and rode on the wings of the
storm. Closer he held her against his breast, and he said:

"Nothing can hurt you, dear. Nothing--nothing--"

It was a simple and meaningless thing to say--that, and only
that. And yet he repeated it over and over again, holding her
closer and closer until her heart was throbbing against his own.
"Nothing can hurt you. Nothing--nothing--"

He bent his head. Her face was turned up to him, and suddenly he
was thrilled by the warm sweet touch of her lips. He kissed her.
She did not strain away from him. He felt--in that darkness--the
wild fire in her face.

"Nothing can hurt you, nothing--nothing--" he cried almost
sobbingly in his happiness.

Suddenly there came a blast of the storm that rocked the cabin
like the butt of a battering-ram, and in that same moment there
came from just outside the window a shrieking cry such as Philip
had never heard in all his life before. And following the cry
there rose above the tumult of the storm the howling of Bram
Johnson's wolves.





CHAPTER XV




For a space Philip thought that the cry must have come from Bram
Johnson himself--that the wolf-man had returned in the pit of the
storm. Against his breast Celie had apparently ceased to breathe.
Both listened for a repetition of the sound, or for a signal at
the barred door. It was strange that in that moment the wind
should die down until they could hear the throbbing of their own
hearts. Celie's was pounding like a little hammer, and all at once
he pressed his face down against hers and laughed with sudden and
joyous understanding.

"It was only the wind, dear," he said. "I never heard anything
like it before--never! It even fooled the wolves. Bless your dear
little heart how it frightened you! And it was enough, too. Shall
we light some of Bram's candles?"

He held her hand as he groped his way to where he had seen Bram's
supply of bear-dips. She held two of the candles while he lighted
them and their yellow flare illumined her face while his own was
still in shadow. What he saw in its soft glow and the shine of her
eyes made him almost take her in his arms again, candles and all.
And then she turned with them and went to the table. He continued
to light candles until the sputtering glow of half a dozen of them
filled the room. It was a wretched wastefulness, but it was also a
moment in which he felt himself fighting to get hold of himself
properly. And he felt also the desire to be prodigal about
something. When he had lighted his sixth candle, and then faced
Celie, she was standing near the table looking at him so quietly
and so calmly and with such a wonderful faith in her eyes that he
thanked God devoutly he had kissed her only once--just that once!
It was a thrilling thought to know that SHE knew he loved her.
There was no doubt of it now. And the thought of what he might
have done in that darkness and in the moment of her helplessness
sickened him. He could look her straight in the eyes now--
unashamed and glad. And she was unashamed, even if a little
flushed at what had happened. The same thought was in their minds
--and he knew that she was not sorry. Her eyes and the quivering
tremble of a smile on her lips told him that. She had braided her
hair in that interval when she had gone to her room, and the braid
had fallen over her breast and lay there shimmering softly in the
candle-glow. He wanted to take her in his arms again. He wanted to
kiss her on the mouth and eyes. But instead of that he took the
silken braid gently in his two hands and crushed it against his
lips.

"I love you," he cried softly. "I love you."

He stood for a moment or two with his head bowed, the thrill of
her hair against his face. It was as if he was receiving some kind
of a wonderful benediction. And then in a voice that trembled a
little she spoke to him. Before he could see fully what was in her
eyes she turned suddenly to the wall, took down his coat, and hung
it over the window. When he saw her face again it was gloriously
flushed. She pointed to the candles.

"No danger of that," he said, comprehending her. "They won't throw
any javelins in this storm. Listen!"

It was the wolves again. In a moment their cry was drowned in a
crash of the storm that smote the cabin like a huge hand. Again it
was wailing over them in a wild orgy of almost human tumult. He
could see its swift effect on Celie in spite of her splendid
courage. It was not like the surge of mere wind or the roll of
thunder. Again he was inspired by thought of his pocket atlas, and
opened it at the large insert map of Canada.

"I'll show you why the wind does that," he explained to her,
drawing her to the table and. spreading out the map. "See, here is
the cabin." He made a little black dot with her pencil, and
turning to the four walls of Bram's stronghold made her understand
what it meant. "And there's the big Barren," he went on, tracing
it out with the pencil-point. "Up here, you see, is the Arctic
Ocean, and away over there the Roes Welcome and Hudson's Bay.
That's where the storm starts, and when it gets out on the Barren,
without a tree or a rock to break its way for five hundred miles--
"

He told of the twisting air-currents there and how the storm-
clouds sometimes swept so low that they almost smothered one. For
a few moments he did not look at Celie or he would have seen
something in her face which could not have been because of what he
was telling her, and which she could at best only partly
understand. She had fixed her eyes on the little black dot. THAT
was the cabin. For the first time the map told her where she was,
and possibly how she had arrived there. Straight down to that dot
from the blue space of the ocean far to the north the map-makers
had trailed the course of the Coppermine River. Celie gave an
excited little cry and caught Philip's arm, stopping him short in
his explanation of the human wailings in the storm. Then she
placed a forefinger on the river.

"There--there it is!" she told him, as plainly as though her voice
was speaking to him in his own language. "We came down that river.
The Skunnert landed us THERE," and she pointed to the mouth of the
Coppermine where it emptied into Coronation Gulf. "And then we
came down, down, down--"

He repeated the name of the river.

"THE COPPERMINE."

She nodded, her breath breaking a little in an increasing
excitement. She seized the pencil and two-thirds of the distance
down the Coppermine made a cross. It was wonderful, he thought,
how easily she made him understand. In a low, eager voice she was
telling him that where she had put the cross the treacherous
Kogmollocks had first attacked them. She described with the pencil
their flight away from the river, and after that their return--and
a second fight. It was then Bram Johnson had come into the scene.
And back there, at the point from which the wolf-man had fled with
her, was her FATHER. That was the chief thing she was striving to
drive home in his comprehension of the situation. Her FATHER! And
she believed he was alive, for it was an excitement instead of
hopelessness or grief that possessed her as she talked to him. It
gave him a sort of shock. He wanted to tell her, with his arms
about her, that it was impossible, and that it was his duty to
make her realize the truth. Her father was dead now, even if she
had last seen him alive. The little brown men had got him, and had
undoubtedly hacked him into small pieces, as was their custom when
inspired by war-madness. It was inconceivable to think of him as
still being alive even if there had been armed friends with him.
There was Olaf Anderson and his five men, for instance. Fighters
every one of them. And now they were dead. What chance could this
other man have?

Her joy when she saw that he understood her added to the
uncertainty which was beginning to grip him in spite of all that
the day had meant for him. Her faith in him, since that thrilling
moment in the darkness, was more than ever like that of a child.
She was unafraid of Bram now. She was unafraid of the wolves and
the storm and the mysterious pursuers from out of the north. Into
his keeping she had placed herself utterly, and while this
knowledge filled him with a great happiness he was now disturbed
by the fact that, if they escaped from the cabin and the Eskimos,
she believed he would return with her down the Coppermine in an
effort to find her father. He had already made the plans for their
escape and they were sufficiently hazardous. Their one chance was
to strike south across the thin arm of the Barren for Pierre
Breault's cabin. To go in the opposite direction--farther north
without dogs or sledge--would be deliberate suicide.

Several times during the afternoon he tried to bring himself to
the point of urging on her the naked truth--that her father was
dead. There was no doubt of that--not the slightest. But each time
he fell a little short. Her confidence in the belief that her
father was alive, and that he was where she had marked the cross
on the map, puzzled him. Was it conceivable, he asked himself,
that the Eskimos had some reason for NOT killing Paul Armin, and
that Celie was aware of the fact? If so he failed to discover it.
Again and again he made Celie understand that he wanted to know
why the Eskimos wanted HER, and each time she answered him with a
hopeless little gesture, signifying that she did not know. He did
learn that there were two other white men with Paul Armin.

Only by looking at his watch did he know when the night closed in.
It was seven o'clock when he led Celie to her room and urged her
to go to bed. An hour later, listening at her door, he believed
that she was asleep. He had waited for that, and quietly he
prepared for the hazardous undertaking he had set for himself. He
put on his cap and coat and seized the club he had taken from
Bram's bed. Then very cautiously he opened the outer door. A
moment later he stood outside, the door closed behind him, with
the storm pounding in his face.

Fifty yards away he could not have heard the shout of a man. And
yet he listened, gripping his club hard, every nerve in his body
strained to a snapping tension. Somewhere within that small circle
of the corral were Bram Johnson's wolves, and as he hesitated with
his back to the door he prayed that there would come no lull in
the storm during the next few minutes. It was possible that he
might evade them with the crash and thunder of the gale about him.
They could not see him, or hear him, or even smell him in that
tumult of wind unless on his way to the gate he ran into them. In
that moment he would have given a year of life to have known where
they were. Still listening, still fighting to hear some sound of
them in the shriek of the storm, he took his first step out into
the pit of darkness. He did not run, but went as cautiously as
though the night was a dead calm, the club half poised in his
hands. He had measured the distance and the direction of the gate
and when at last he touched the saplings of the stockade he knew
that he could not be far off in his reckoning. Ten paces to the
right he found the gate and his heart gave a sudden jump of
relief. Half a minute more and it was open. He propped it securely
against the beat of the storm with the club he had taken from Bram
Johnson's bed.

Then he turned back to the cabin, with the little revolver
clutched in his hand, and his face was strained and haggard when
he found the door and returned again into the glow of the candle-
light. In the center of the room, her face as white as his own,
stood Celie. A great fear must have gripped her, for she stood
there in her sleeping gown with her hands clutched at her breast,
her eyes staring at him in speechless questioning. He explained by
opening the door a bit and pantomiming to the gate outside the
cabin.

"The wolves will be gone in the morning," he said, a ring of
triumph in his voice. "I have opened the gate. There is nothing in
our way now."

She understood. Her eyes were a glory to look into then. Her
fingers unclenched at her breast, she gave a short, quick breath
and a little cry--and her arms almost reached out to him. He was
afraid of himself as he went to her and led her again to the door
of her room. And there for a moment they paused, and she looked up
into his face. Her hand crept from his and went softly to his
shoulder. She said something to him, almost in a whisper, and he
could no longer fight against the pride and the joy and the faith
he saw in her eyes. He bent down, slowly so that she might draw
away from him if she desired, and kissed her upturned lips. And
then, with a strange little cry that was like the soft note of a
bird, she turned from him and disappeared into the darkness of her
room.

A great deal of that night's storm passed over his head unheard
after that. It was late when he went to bed. He crowded Bram's
long box-stove with wood before he extinguished the last candle.

And for an hour after that he lay awake, thinking of Celie and of
the great happiness that had come into his life all in one day.
During that hour he made the plans of a lifetime. Then he, too,
fell into sleep--a restless, uneasy slumber filled with many
visions. For a time there had come a lull in the gale, but now it
broke over the cabin in increased fury. A hand seemed slapping at
the window, threatening to break it, and a volley of wind and snow
shot suddenly down the chimney, forcing open the stove door, so
that a shaft of ruddy light cut like a red knife through the dense
gloom of the cabin. In varying ways the sounds played a part in
Philip's dreams. In all those dreams, and segments of dreams, the
girl was present. It was strange that in all of them she should be
his wife. And it was strange that the big woods and the deep snows
played no part in them. He was back home. And Celie was with him.
Once they went for wildflowers and were caught in a thunderstorm,
and ran to an old and disused barn in the center of a field for
shelter. He could feel Celie trembling against him, and he was
stroking her hair as the thunder crashed over them and the
lightning filled her eyes with fear. After that there came to him
a vision of early autumn nights when they went corn-roasting, with
other young people. He had always been afflicted with a slight
nasal trouble, and smoke irritated him. It set him sneezing, and
kept him dodging about the fire, and Celie was laughing as the
smoke persisted in following him about, like a young scamp of a
boy bent on tormenting him. The smoke was unusually persistent on
this particular night, until at last the laughter went out of the
girl's face, and she ran into his arms and covered his eyes with
her soft hands. Restlessly he tossed in his bunk, and buried his
face in the blanket that answered for a pillow. The smoke reached
him; even there, and he sneezed chokingly. In that instant Celie's
face disappeared. He sneezed again--and awoke.

In that moment his dazed senses adjusted themselves. The cabin was
full of smoke. It partly blinded him, but through it he could see
tongues of fire shooting toward the ceiling. He heard then the
crackling of burning pitch--a dull and consuming roar, and with a
stifled cry he leaped from his bunk and stood on his feet. Dazed
by the smoke and flame, he saw that there was not the hundredth
part of a second to lose. Shouting Celie's name he ran to her
door, where the fire was already beginning to shut him out. His
first cry had awakened her and she was facing the lurid glow of
the flame as he rushed in. Almost before she could comprehend what
was happening he had wrapped one of the heavy bear skins about her
and had swept her into his arms. With her face crushed against his
breast he lowered his head and dashed back into the fiery
holocaust of the outer room. The cabin, with its pitch-filled
logs, was like a box made of tinder, and a score of men could not
have beat out the fire that was raging now. The wind beating from
the west had kept it from reaching the door opening into the
corral, but the pitch was hissing and smoking at the threshold as
Philip plunged through the blinding pall and fumbled for the
latch.

Not ten seconds too soon did he stagger with his burden out into
the night. As the wind drove in through the open door the flames
seemed to burst in a sudden explosion and the cabin was a seething
snarl of flame. It burst through the window and out of the chimney
and Philip's path to the open gate was illumined by a fiery glow.
Not until he had passed beyond the stockade to the edge of the
forest did he stop and look back. Over their heads the wind wailed
and moaned in the spruce tops, but even above that sound came the
roar of the fire. Against his breast Philip heard a sobbing cry,
and suddenly he held the girl closer, and crushed his face down
against hers, fighting to keep back the horror that was gripping
at his heart. Even as he felt her arms creeping up out of the
bearskin and clinging about his neck he felt upon him like a
weight of lead the hopelessness of a despair as black as the night
itself. The cabin was now a pillar of flame, and in it was
everything that had made life possible for them. Food, shelter,
clothing--all were gone. In this moment he did not think of
himself, but of the girl he held in his arms, and he strained her
closer and kissed her lips and her eyes and her tumbled hair there
in the storm-swept darkness, telling her what he knew was now a
lie--that she was safe, that nothing could harm her. Against him
he felt the tremble and throb of her soft body, and it was this
that filled him with the horror of the thing--the terror of the
thought that her one garment was a bearskin. He had felt, a moment
before, the chill touch of a naked little foot.

And yet he kept saying, with his face against hers:

"It's all right, little sweetheart. We'll come out all right--we
sure will!"





CHAPTER XVI




His first impulse, after those few appalling seconds following
their escape from the fire, was to save something from the cabin.
Still talking to Celie he dropped on his knees and tucked her up
warmly in the bearskin, with her back to a tree. He thanked God
that it was a big skin and that it enveloped her completely.
Leaving her there he ran back through the gate. He no longer
feared the wolves. If they had not already escaped into the forest
he knew they would not attack him in that hot glare of the one
thing above all others they feared--fire. For a space thought of
the Eskimos, and the probability of the fire bringing them from
wherever they had sought shelter from the storm, was secondary to
the alarming necessity which faced him. Because of his
restlessness and his desire to be ready for any emergency he had
not undressed when he threw himself on his bunk that night, but he
was without a coat or cap. And Celie! He cried out aloud in his
anguish when he stopped just outside the deadline of the furnace
of flame that was once the cabin, and standing there with clenched
hands he cursed himself for the carelessness that had brought her
face to face with a peril deadlier than the menace of the Eskimos
or Bram Johnson's wolves. He alone was responsible. His
indiscretion in overfilling the stove had caused the fire, and in
that other moment--when he might have snatched up more than the
bearskin--his mind had failed to act.

In the short space he stood there helplessly in the red heat of
the fire the desperateness of the situation seared itself like the
hot flame itself in his brain. As prisoners in Bram's cabin,
guarded by the wolves and attacked by the Eskimos, they still had
shelter, food, clothing--a chance to live, at least the chance to
fight. And now--

He put a hand to his bare head and faced the direction of the
storm. With the dying away of the wind snow had begun to fall, and
with this snow he knew there would come a rising temperature. It
was probably twenty degrees below zero, and unless the wind went
down completely his ears would freeze in an hour or two. Then he
thought of the thick German socks he wore. One of them would do
for a cap. His mind worked swiftly after that. There was, after
all, a tremendous thrill in the thought of fighting the odds
against him, and in the thought of the girl waiting for him in the
bearskin, her life depending upon him utterly now. Without him she
could not move from the tree where he had left her unless her
naked feet buried themselves in the snow. If something happened to
him--she would die. Her helplessness filled him suddenly with a
wild exultation, the joy of absolute possession that leapt for an
instant or two above his fears. She was something more--now--than
the woman he loved. She was a little child, to be carried in his
arms, to be sheltered from the wind and the cold until the last
drop of blood had ceased to flow in his veins. His was the mighty
privilege now to mother her until the end came for them both--or
some miracle saved them. The last barrier was gone from between
them. That he had met her only yesterday was an unimportant
incident now. The world had changed, life had changed, a long time
had passed. She belonged to him as utterly as the stars belonged
to the skies. In his arms she would find life--or death.

He was braced for the fight. His mind, riding over its first
fears, began to shape itself for action even as he turned back
toward the edge of the forest. Until then he had not thought of
the other cabin--the cabin which Bram and he had passed on their
way in from the Barren. His heart rose up suddenly in his throat
and he wanted to shout. That cabin was their salvation! It was not
more than eight or ten miles away, and he was positive that he
could find it.

He ran swiftly through the increasing circle of light made by the
burning logs. If the Eskimos had not gone far some one of them
would surely see the red glow of the fire, and discovery now meant
death. In the edge of the trees, where the shadows were deep, he
paused and looked back. His hand fumbled where the left-pocket of
his coat would have been, and as he listened to the crackling of
the flames and stared into the heart of the red glow there smote
him with sudden and sickening force a realization of their
deadliest peril. In that twisting inferno of burning pitch was his
coat, and in the left-hand pocket of that coat WERE HIS MATCHES!

Fire! Out there in the open a seething, twisting mass of it,
taunting him with its power, mocking him as pitiless as the mirage
mocks a thirst-crazed creature of the desert. In an hour or two it
would be gone. He might keep up its embers for a time--until the
Eskimos, or starvation, or still greater storm put an end to it.
The effort, in any event, would be futile in the end. Their one
chance lay in finding the other cabin, and reaching it quickly.
When it came to the point of absolute necessity he could at least
try to make fire as he had seen an Indian make it once, though at
the time he had regarded the achievement as a miracle born of
unnumbered generations of practice.

He heard the glad note of welcome in Celie's throat when he
returned to her. She spoke his name. It seemed to him that there
was no note of fear in her voice, but just gladness that he had
come back to her in that pit of darkness. He bent down and tucked
her snugly in the big bear-skin before he took her up in his arms
again. He held her so that her face was snuggled close against his
neck, and he kissed her soft mouth again, and whispered to her as
he began picking his way through the forest. His voice,
whispering, made her understand that they must make no sound. She
was tightly imprisoned in the skin, but all at once he felt one of
her hands work its way out of the warmth of it and lay against his
cheek. It did not move away from his face. Out of her soul and
body there passed through that contact of her hand the confession
that made him equal to fighting the world. For many minutes after
that neither of them spoke. The moan of the wind was growing less
and less in the treetops, and once Philip saw a pale break where
the clouds had split asunder in the sky. The storm was at an end--
and it was almost dawn. In a quarter of an hour the shot like snow
of the blizzard had changed to big soft flakes that dropped
straight out of the clouds in a white deluge. By the time day came
their trail would be completely hidden from the eyes of the
Eskimos. Because of that Philip traveled as swiftly as the
darkness and the roughness of the forest would allow him. As
nearly as he could judge he kept due east. For a considerable time
he did not feel the weight of the precious burden in his arms. He
believed that they were at least half a mile from the burned cabin
before he paused to rest. Even then he spoke to Celie in a low
voice. He had stopped where the trunk of a fallen tree lay as high
as his waist, and on this he seated the girl, holding her there in
the crook of his arm. With his other hand he fumbled to see if the
bearskin protected her fully, and in the investigation his hand
came in contact again with one of her bare feet. Celie gave a
little jump. Then she laughed, and he made sure that the foot was
snug and warm before he went on.

Twice in the nest half mile he stopped. The third time, a full
mile from the cabin, was in a dense growth of spruce through the
tops of which snow and wind did not penetrate. Here he made a nest
of spruce-boughs for Celie, and they waited for the day. In the
black interval that precedes Arctic dawn they listened for sounds
that might come to them. Just once came the wailing howl of one of
Bram's wolves, and twice Philip fancied that he heard the distant
cry of a human voice. The second time Celie's fingers tightened
about his own to tell him that she, too, had heard.

A little later, leaving Celie alone, Philip went back to the edge
of the spruce thicket and examined closely their trail where it
had crossed a bit of open. It was not half an hour old, yet the
deluge of snow had almost obliterated the signs of their passing.
His one hope was that the snowfall would continue for another
hour. By that time there would not be a visible track of man or
beast, except in the heart of the thickets. But he knew that he
was not dealing with white men or Indians now. The Eskimos were
night-trackers and night-hunters. For five months out of every
twelve their existence depended upon their ability to stalk and
kill in darkness. If they had returned to the burning cabin it was
possible, even probable, that they were close on their heels now.

For a second time he found himself a stout club. He waited,
listening, and straining his eyes to penetrate the thick gloom;
and then, as his own heart-beats came to him audibly, he felt
creeping over him a slow and irresistible foreboding--a
premonition of something impending, of a great danger close at
hand. His muscles grew tense, and he clutched the club, ready for
action.





CHAPTER XVII




It seemed to Philip, as he stood with the club ready in his hand,
that the world had ceased to breathe in its anticipation of the
thing for which he was waiting--and listening. The wind had
dropped dead. There was not a rustle in the tree-tops, not a sound
to break the stillness. The silence, so close after storm, was an
Arctic phenomenon which did not astonish him, and yet the effect
of it was almost painfully gripping. Minor sounds began to impress
themselves on his senses--the soft murmur of the falling snow, his
own breath, the pounding of his heart. He tried to throw off the
strange feeling that oppressed him, but it was impossible. Out
there in the darkness he would have sworn that there were eyes and
ears strained as his own were strained. And the darkness was
lifting. Shadows began to disentangle themselves from the gray
chaos. Trees and bushes took form, and over his head the last
heavy windrows of clouds shouldered their way out of the sky.

Still, as the twilight of dawn took the place of night, he did not
move, except to draw himself a little closer into the shelter of
the scrub spruce behind which he had hidden himself. He wondered
if Celie would be frightened at his absence. But he could not
compel himself to go on--or back. SOMETHING WAS COMING! He was as
positive of it as he was of the fact that night was giving place
to day. Yet he could see nothing--hear nothing. It was light
enough now for him to see movement fifty yards away, and he kept
his eyes fastened on the little open across which their trail had
come. If Olaf Anderson the Swede had been there he might have told
him of another night like this, and another vigil. For Olaf had
learned that the Eskimos, like the wolves, trail two by two and
four by four, and that--again like the wolves--they pursue not ON
the trail but with the trail between them.

But it was the trail that Philip watched; and as he kept his
vigil--that inexplicable mental undercurrent telling him that his
enemies were coming--his mind went back sharply to the girl a
hundred yards behind him. The acuteness of the situation sent
question after question rushing through his mind, even as he
gripped his club, For her he was about to fight. For her he was
ready to kill, and not afraid to die. He loved her. And yet--she
was a mystery. He had held her in his arms, had felt her heart
beating against his breast, had kissed her lips and her eyes and
her hair, and her response had been to place herself utterly
within the shelter of his arms. She had given herself to him and
he was possessed of the strength of one about to fight for his
own. And with that strength the questions pounded again in his
head. Who was she? And for what reason were mysterious enemies
coming after her through the gray dawn?

In that moment he heard a sound. His heart stood suddenly still.
He held his breath. It was a sound almost indistinguishable from
the whisper of the air and the trees and yet it smote upon his
senses like the detonation of a thunder-clap. It was more of a
PRESENCE than a sound. The trail was clear. He could see to the
far side of the open now, and there was no movement. He turned his
head--slowly and without movement of his body, and in that instant
a gasp rose to his lips, and died there. Scarcely a dozen paces
from him stood a poised and hooded figure, a squat, fire-eyed
apparition that looked more like monster than man in that first
glance. Something acted within him that was swifter than reason--a
sub-conscious instinct that works for self-preservation like the
flash of powder in a pan. It was this sub-conscious self that
received the first photographic impression--the strange poise of
the hooded creature, the uplifted arm, the cold, streaky gleam of
something in the dawn-light, and in response to that impression
Philip's physical self crumpled down in the snow as a javelin
hissed through the space where his head and shoulders had been.

So infinitesimal was the space of time between the throwing of the
javelin and Philip's movement that the Eskimo believed he had
transfixed his victim. A scream of triumph rose in his throat. It
was the Kogmollock sakootwow--the blood-cry, a single shriek that
split the air for a mile. It died in another sort of cry. From
where he had dropped Philip was up like a shot. His club swung
through the air and before the amazed hooded creature could dart
either to one side or the other it had fallen with crushing force.
That one blow must have smashed his shoulder to a pulp. As the
body lurched downward another blow caught the hooded head squarely
and the beginning of a second cry ended in a sickening grunt. The
force of the blow carried Philip half off his feet, and before he
could recover himself two other figures had rushed upon him from
out of the gloom. Their cries as they came at him were like the
cries of beasts. Philip had no time to use his club. From his
unbalanced position he flung himself upward and at the nearest of
his enemies, saving himself from the upraised javelin by
clinching. His fist shot out and caught the Eskimo squarely in the
mouth. He struck again--and the javelin dropped from the
Kogmollock's hand. In that moment, every vein in his body pounding
with the rage and excitement of battle, Philip let out a yell. The
end of it was stifled by a pair of furry arms. His head snapped
back--and he was down.

A thrill of horror shot through him. It was the one unconquerable
fighting trick of the Eskimos--that neck hold. Caught from behind
there was no escape from it. It was the age-old sasaki-wechikun,
or sacrifice-hold, an inheritance that came down from father to
son--the Arctic jiu-jitsu by which one Kogmollock holds the victim
helpless while a second cuts out his heart. Flat on his back, with
his head and shoulders bent under him, Philip lay still for a
single instant. He heard the shrill command of the Eskimo over
him--an exhortation for the other to hurry up with the knife. And
then, even as he heard a grunting reply, his hand came in contact
with the pocket which held Celie's little revolver. He drew it
quickly, cocked it under his back, and twisting his arm until the
elbow-joint cracked, he fired. It was a chance shot. The powder-
flash burned the murderous, thick-lipped face in the sealskin
hood. There was no cry, no sound that Philip heard. But the arms
relaxed about his neck. He rolled over and sprang to his feet.
Three or four paces from him was the Eskimo he had struck,
crawling toward him on his hands and knees, still dazed by the
blows he had received. In the snow Philip saw his club. He picked
it up and replaced the revolver in his pocket. A single blow as
the groggy Eskimo staggered to his feet and the fight was over.

It had taken perhaps three or four minutes--no longer than that.
His enemies lay in three dark and motionless heaps in the snow.
Fate had played a strong hand with him. Almost by a miracle he had
escaped and at least two of the Eskimos were dead.

He was still watchful, still guarding against a further attack,
and suddenly he whirled to face a figure that brought from him a
cry of astonishment and alarm. It was Celie. She was standing ten
paces from him, and in the wild terror that had brought her to him
she had left the bearskin behind. Her naked feet were buried in
the snow. Her arms, partly bared, were reaching out to him in the
gray Arctic dawn, and then wildly and moaningly there came to him--

"Philip--Philip--"

He sprang to her, a choking cry on his own lips. This, after all,
was the last proof--when she had thought that their enemies were
killing him SHE HAD COME TO HIM. He was sobbing her name like a
boy as he ran back with her in his arms. Almost fiercely he
wrapped the bearskin about her again, and then crushed her so
closely in his arms that he could hear her gasping faintly for
breath. In that wild and glorious moment he listened. A cold and
leaden day was breaking over the world and as they listened their
hearts throbbing against each other, the same sound came to them
both.

It was the sakootwow--the savage, shrieking blood-cry of the
Kogmollocks, a scream that demanded an answer of the three hooded
creatures who, a few minutes before, had attacked Philip in the
edge of the open. The cry came from perhaps a mile away. And then,
faintly, it was answered far to the west. For a moment Philip
pressed his face down to Celie's. In his heart was a prayer, for
he knew that the fight had only begun.





CHAPTER XVIII




That the Eskimos both to the east and the west were more than
likely to come their way, converging toward the central cry that
was now silent, Philip was sure. In the brief interval in which he
had to act he determined to make use of his fallen enemies. This
he impressed on Celie's alert mind before he ran back to the scene
of the fight. He made no more than a swift observation of the
field in these first moments--did not even look for weapons. His
thought was entirely of Celie. The smallest of the three forms on
the snow was the Kogmollock he had struck down with his club. He
dropped on his knees and took off first the sealskin bashlyk, or
hood. Then he began stripping the dead man of his other garments.
From the fur coat to the caribou-skin moccasins they were
comparatively new. With them in his arms he hurried back to the
girl.

It was not a time for fine distinctions. The clothes were a
godsend, though they had come from a dead man's back, and an
Eskimo's at that. Celie's eyes shone with joy. It amazed him more
than ever to see how unafraid she was in this hour of great
danger. She was busy with the clothes almost before his back was
turned.

He returned to the Eskimos. The three were dead. It made him
shudder--one with a tiny bullet hole squarely between the eyes,
and the others crushed by the blows of the club. His hand fondled
Celie's little revolver--the pea-shooter he had laughed at. After
all it had saved his life. And the club--

He did not examine too closely there. From the man he had struck
with his naked fist he outfitted himself with a hood and temiak,
or coat. In the temiak there were no pockets, but at the waist of
each of the dead men a narwhal skin pouch which answered for all
pockets. He tossed the three pouches in a little heap on the snow
before he searched for weapons. He found two knives and half a
dozen of the murderous little javelins. One of the knives was
still clutched in the hand of the Eskimo who was creeping up to
disembowel him when Celie's revolver saved him. He took this knife
because it was longer and sharper than the other.

On his knees he began to examine the contents of the three
pouches. In each was the inevitable roll of babiche, or caribou-
skin cord, and a second and smaller waterproof narwhal bag in
which were the Kogmollock fire materials. There was no food. This
fact was evident proof that the Eskimos were in camp somewhere in
the vicinity. He had finished his investigation of the pouches
when, looking up from his kneeling posture, he saw Celie
approaching.

In spite of the grimness of the situation he could not repress a
smile as he rose to greet her. At fifty paces, even with her face
toward him, one would easily make the error of mistaking her for
an Eskimo, as the sealskin bashlyk was so large that it almost
entirely concealed her face except when one was very close to her.
Philip's first assistance was to roll back the front of the hood.
Then he pulled her thick braid out from under the coat and loosed
the shining glory of her hair until it enveloped her in a
wonderful shimmering mantle. Their enemies could not mistake her
for a man NOW, even at a hundred yards. If they ran into an
ambuscade she would at least be saved from the javelins.

Celie scarcely realized what he was doing. She was staring at the
dead men--silent proof of the deadly menace that had threatened
them and of the terrific fight Philip must have made. A strange
note rose in her throat, and turning toward him suddenly she flung
herself into his arms. Her own arms encircled his neck, and for a
space she lay shudderingly against his breast, as if sobbing. How
many times he kissed her in those moments Philip could not have
told. It must have been a great many. He knew only that her arms
were clinging tighter and tighter about his neck, and that she was
whispering his name, and that his hands were buried in her soft
hair. He forgot time, forgot the possible cost of precious seconds
lost. It was a small thing that recalled him to his senses. From
out of a spruce top a handful of snow fell on his shoulder. It
startled him like the touch of a strange hand, and in another
moment he was explaining swiftly to Celie that there were other
enemies near and that they must lose no time in flight.

He fastened one of the pouches at his waist, picked up his club,
and--on second thought--one of the Kogmollock javelins. He had no
very definite idea of how he might use the latter weapon, as it
was too slender to be of much avail as a spear at close quarters.
At a dozen paces he might possibly throw it with some degree of
accuracy. In a Kogmollock's hand it was a deadly weapon at a
hundred paces. With the determination to be at his side when the
next fight came Celie possessed herself of a second javelin. With
her hand in his Philip set out then due north through the forest.

It was in that direction he knew the cabin must lay. After
striking the edge of the timber after crossing the Barren Bram
Johnson had turned almost directly south, and as he remembered the
last lap of the journey Philip was confident that not more than
eight or ten miles had separated the two cabins. He regretted now
his carelessness in not watching Brain's trail more closely in
that last hour or two. His chief hope of finding the cabin was in
the discovery of some landmark at the edge of the Barren. He
recalled distinctly where they had turned into the forest, and in
less than half an hour after that they had come upon the first
cabin.

Their immediate necessity was not so much the finding of the cabin
as escape from the Eskimos. Within half an hour, perhaps even
less, he believed that other eyes would know of the fight at the
edge of the open. It was inevitable. If the Kogmollocks on either
side of them struck the trail before it reached the open they
would very soon run upon the dead, and if they came upon
footprints in the snow this side of the open they would back-trail
swiftly to learn the source and meaning of the cry of triumph that
had not repeated itself. Celie's little feet, clad in moccasins
twice too big for her, dragged in the snow in a way that would
leave no doubt in the Eskimo mind. As Philip saw the situation
there was one chance for them, and only one. They could not escape
by means of strategy. They could not hide from their pursuers.
Hope depended entirely upon the number of their enemies. If there
were only three or four of them left they would not attack in the
open. In that event he must watch for ambuscade, and dread the
night. He looked down at Celie, buried in her furry coat and hood
and plodding along courageously at his side with her hand in his.
This was not a time in which to question him, and she was obeying
his guidance with the faith of a child. It was tremendous, he
thought--the most wonderful moment that had ever entered into his
life. It is this dependence, this sublime faith and confidence in
him of the woman he loves that gives to a man the strength of a
giant in the face of a great crisis and makes him put up a tiger's
fight for her. For such a woman a man must win. And then Philip
noticed how tightly Celie's other hand was gripping the javelin
with which she had armed herself. She was ready to fight, too. The
thrill of it all made him laugh, and her eyes shot up to him
suddenly, filled with a moment's wonder that he should be laughing
now. She must have understood, for the big hood hid her face again
almost instantly, and her fingers tightened the smallest bit about
his.

For a matter of a quarter of an hour they traveled as swiftly as
Celie could walk. Philip was confident that the Eskimo whose cries
they had heard would strike directly for the point whence the
first cry had come, and it was his purpose to cover as much
distance as possible in the first few minutes that their enemies
might be behind them. It was easier to watch the back trail than
to guard against ambuscades ahead. Twice in that time he stopped
where they would be unseen and looked back, and in advancing he
picked out the thinnest timber and evaded whatever might have
afforded a hiding place to a javelin-thrower. They had progressed
another half mile when suddenly they came upon a snowshoe trail in
the snow.

It had crossed at right angles to their own course, and as Philip
bent over it a sudden lump rose into his throat. The other Eskimos
had not worn snowshoes. That in itself had not surprised him, for
the snow was hard and easily traveled in moccasins. The fact that
amazed him now was that the trail under his eyes had not been made
by Eskimo usamuks. The tracks were long and narrow. The web
imprint in the snow was not that of the broad narwhal strip, but
the finer mesh of babiche. It was possible that an Eskimo was
wearing them, but they were A WHITE MAN'S SHOES!

And then he made another discovery. For a dozen paces he followed
in the trail, allowing six inches with each step he took as the
snowshoe handicap. Even at that he could not easily cover the
tracks. The man who had made them had taken a longer snowshoe
stride than his own by at least nine inches. He could no longer
keep the excitement of his discovery from Celie.

"The Eskimo never lived who could make that track," he exclaimed.
"They can travel fast enough but they're a bunch of runts when it
comes to leg-swing. It's a white man--or Bram!"

The announcement of the wolf-man's name and Philip's gesture
toward the trail drew a quick little cry of understanding from
Celie. In a flash she had darted to the snowshoe tracks and was
examining them with eager intensity. Then she looked up and shook
her head. It wasn't Bram! She pointed to the tail of the shoe and
catching up a twig broke it under Philip's eyes. He remembered
now. The end of Bram's shoes was snubbed short off. There was no
evidence of that defect in the snow. It was not Bram who had
passed that way.

For a space he stood undecided. He knew that Celie was watching
him--that she was trying to learn something of the tremendous
significance of that moment from his face. The same unseen force
that had compelled him to wait and watch for his foes a short time
before seemed urging him now to follow the strange snowshoe trail.
Enemy or friend the maker of those tracks would at least be armed.
The thought of what a rifle and a few cartridges would mean to him
and Celie now brought a low cry of decision from him. He turned
quickly to Celie.

"He's going east--and we ought to go north to find the cabin," he
told her, pointing to the trail. "But we'll follow him. I want his
rifle. I want it more than anything else in this world, now that
I've got you. We'll follow--"

If there had been a shadow of hesitation in his mind it was ended
in that moment. From behind them there came a strange hooting cry.
It was not a yell such as they had heard before. It was a booming
far-reaching note that had in it the intonation of a drum--a sound
that made one shiver because of its very strangeness. And then,
from farther west, it came--

"Hoom--Hoom--Ho-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m--"

In the next half minute it seemed to Philip that the cry was
answered from half a dozen different quarters. Then again it came
from directly behind them.

Celie uttered a little gasp as she clung to his hand again. She
understood as well as he. One of the Eskimos had discovered the
dead and their foes were gathering in behind them.





CHAPTER XIX




Before the last of the cries had died away Philip flung far to one
side of the trail the javelin he carried, and followed it up with
Celie's, impressing on her that every ounce of additional weight
meant a handicap for them now. After the javelins went his club.

"It's going to be the biggest race I've ever run," he smiled at
her. "And we've got to win. If we don't--"

Celie's eyes were aglow as she looked at him, He was splendidly
calm. There was no longer a trace of excitement in his face, and
he was smiling at her even as he picked her up suddenly in his
arms. The movement was so unexpected that she gave a little gasp.
Then she found herself borne swiftly over the trail. For a
distance of a hundred yards Philip ran with her before he placed
her on her feet again. In no better way could he have impressed on
her that they were partners in a race against death and that every
energy must be expended in that race. Scarcely had her feet
touched the snow than she was running at his side, her hand
clasped in his. Barely a second was lost.

With the swift directness of the trained man-hunter Philip had
measured his chances of winning. The Eskimos, first of all, would
gather about their dead. After one or two formalities they would
join in a chattering council, all of which meant precious time for
them. The pursuit would be more or less cautious because of the
bullet hole in the Kogmollock's forehead.

If it had been possible for Celie to ask him just what he expected
to gain by following the strange snowshoe trail he would have had
difficulty in answering. It was, like his single shot with Celie's
little revolver, a chance gamble against big odds. A number of
possibilities had suggested themselves to him. It even occurred to
him that the man who was hurrying toward the east might be a
member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Of one thing,
however, he was confident. The maker of the tracks would not be
armed with javelins. He would have a rifle. Friend or foe, he was
after that rifle. The trick was to catch sight of him at the
earliest possible moment.

How much of a lead the stranger had was a matter at which he could
guess with considerable accuracy. The freshness of the trail was
only slightly dimmed by snow, which was ample proof that it had
been made at the very tail-end of the storm. He believed that it
was not more than an hour old.

For a good two hundred yards Philip set a dog-trot pace for
Celie, who ran courageously at his side. At the end of that
distance he stopped. Celie was panting for breath. Her hood had
slipped back and her face was flushed like a wildflower by her
exertion. Her eyes shone like stars, and her lips were parted a
little. She was temptingly lovely, but again Philip lost not a
second of unnecessary time. He picked her up in his arms again and
continued the race. By using every ounce of his own strength and
endurance in this way he figured that their progress would be at
least a third faster than the Eskimos would follow. The important
question was how long he could keep up the pace.

Against his breast Celie was beginning to understand his scheme as
plainly as if he had explained it to her in words. At the end of
the fourth hundred yards she let him know that she was ready to
run another lap. He carried her on fifty yards more before he
placed her on her feet. In this way they had gone three-quarters
of a mile when the trail turned abruptly from its easterly course
to a point of the compass due north. So sharp was the turn that
Philip paused to investigate the sudden change in direction. The
stranger had evidently stood for several minutes at this point,
which was close to the blasted stub of a dead spruce. In the snow
Philip observed for the first time a number of dark brown spots.

"Here is where he took a new bearing--and a chew of tobacco," said
Philip, more to himself than to Celie. "And there's no snow in his
tracks. By George, I don't believe he's got more than half an
hour's start of us this minute!"

It was his turn to carry Celie again, and in spite of her protest
that she was still good for another run he resumed their pursuit
of the stranger with her in his arms. By her quick breathing and
the bit of tenseness that had gathered about her mouth he knew
that the exertion she had already been put to was having its
effect on her. For her little feet and slender body the big
moccasins and cumbersome fur garments she wore were a burden in
themselves, even at a walk. He found that by holding her higher in
his arms, with her own arms encircling his shoulders, it was
easier to run with her at the pace he had set for himself. And
when he held her in this way her hair covered his breast and
shoulders so that now and then his face was smothered in the
velvety sweetness of it. The caress of it and the thrill of her
arms about him spurred him on. Once he made three hundred yards.
But he was gulping for breath when he stopped. That time Celie
compelled him to let her run a little farther, and when they
paused she was swaying on her feet, and panting. He carried her
only a hundred and fifty yards in the interval after that. Both
realized what it meant. The pace was telling on them. The strain
of it was in Celie's eyes. The flower-like flush of her first
exertion was gone from her face. It was pale and a little haggard,
and in Philip's face she saw the beginning of the things which she
did not realize was betraying itself so plainly in her own. She
put her hands up to his cheeks, and smiled. It was tremendous--
that moment;--her courage, her splendid pride in him, her manner
of telling him that she was not afraid as her little hands lay
against his face. For the first time he gave way to his desire to
hold her close to him, and kiss the sweet mouth she held up to his
as her head nestled on his breast.

After a moment or two he looked at his watch. Since striking the
strange trail they had traveled forty minutes. In that tine they
had covered at least three miles, and were a good four miles from
the scene of the fight. It was a big start. The Eskimos were
undoubtedly a half that distance behind them, and the stranger
whom they were following could not be far ahead.

They went on at a walk. For the third time they came to a point in
the trail where the stranger had stopped to make observations. It
was apparent to Philip that the man he was after was not quite
sure of himself. Yet he did not hesitate in the course due north.

For half an hour they continued in that direction. Not for an
instant now did Philip allow; his caution to lag. Eyes and ears
were alert for sound or movement either behind or ahead of them,
and more and more frequently he turned to scan the back trail.
They were at least five miles from the edge of the open where the
fight had occurred when they came to the foot of a ridge, and
Philip's heart gave a sudden thump of hope. He remembered that
ridge. It was a curiously formed "hog-back"--like a great windrow
of snow piled up and frozen. Probably it was miles in length.
Somewhere he and Bram had crossed it soon after passing the first
cabin. He had not tried to tell Celie of this cabin. Time had been
too precious. But now, in the short interval of rest he allowed
themselves, he drew a picture of it in the snow and made her
understand that it was somewhere close to the ridge and that it
looked as though the stranger was making for it. He half carried
Celie up the ridge after that. She could not hide from him that
her feet were dragging even at a walk. Exhaustion showed in her
face, and once when she tried to speak to him her voice broke in a
little gasping sob. On the far side of the ridge he took her in
his arms and carried her again.

"It can't be much farther," he encouraged her. "We've got to
overtake him pretty soon, dear. Mighty soon." Her hand pressed
gently against his cheek, and he swallowed a thickness that in
spite of his effort gathered in his throat. During that last half
hour a different look had come into her eyes. It was there now as
she lay limply with her head on his breast--a look of unutterable
tenderness, and of something else. It was that which brought the
thickness into his throat. It was not fear. It was the soft glow
of a great love--and of understanding. She knew that even he was
almost at the end of his fight. His endurance was giving out. One
of two things must happen very soon. She continued to stroke his
cheek gently until he placed her on her feet again, and then she
held one of his hands close to her breast as they looked behind
them, and listened. He could feel the soft throbbing of her heart.
If he needed greater courage then it was given to him.

They went on. And then, so suddenly that it brought a stifled cry
from the girl's lips, they came upon the cabin. It was not a
hundred yards from them when they first saw it. It was no longer
abandoned. A thin spiral of smoke was rising from the chimney.
There was no sign of life other than that.

For half a minute Philip stared at it. Here, at last, was the
final hope. Life or death, all that the world might hold for him
and the girl at his side, was in that cabin. Gently he drew her so
that she would be unseen. And then, still looking at the cabin, he
drew off his coat and dropped it in the snow. It was the
preparation of a man about to fight. The look of it was in his
face and the stiffening of his muscles, and when he turned to his
little companion she was as white as the snow under her feet.

"We're in time," he breathed. "You--you stay here."

She understood. Her hands clutched at him as he left her. A gulp
rose in her throat. She wanted to call out. She wanted to hold him
back--or go with him. Yet she obeyed. She stood with a heart that
choked her and watched him go. For she knew, after all, that it
was the thing to do. Sobbingly she breathed his name. It was a
prayer. For she knew what would happen in the cabin.





CHAPTER XX




Philip came up behind the windowless end of the cabin. He noticed
in passing with Bram that on the opposite side was a trap-window
of saplings, and toward this he moved swiftly but with caution. It
was still closed when he came where he could see. But with his ear
close to the chinks he heard a sound--the movement of some one
inside. For an instant he looked over his shoulder. Celia was
standing where he had left her. He could almost feel the terrible
suspense that was in her eyes as she watched him.

He moved around toward the door. There was in him an intense
desire to have it over with quickly. His pulse quickened as the
thought grew in him that the maker of the strange snowshoe trail
might be a friend after all. But how was he to discover that fact?
He had decided to take no chances in the matter. Ten seconds of
misplaced faith in the stranger might prove fatal. Once he held a
gun in his hands he would be in a position to wait for
introductions and explanations. But until then, with their Eskimo
enemies close at their heels--

His mind did not finish that final argument. The end of it smashed
upon him in another way. The door came within his vision. As it
swung inward he could not at first see whether it was open or
closed. Leaning against the logs close to the door was a pair of
long snowshoes and a bundle of javelins. A sickening
disappointment swept over him as he stared at the javelins. A
giant Eskimo and not a white man had made the trail they had
followed. Their race against time had brought them straight to the
rendezvous of their foes--and there would be no guns. In that
moment when all the hopes he had built up seemed slipping away
from under him he could see no other possible significance in the
presence of the javelins. Then, for an instant, he held his breath
and sniffed the air like a dog getting the wind. The cabin door
was open. And out through that door came the mingling aroma of
coffee and tobacco! An Eskimo might have tobacco, or even tea. But
coffee--never!

Every drop of blood in his body pounded like tiny beating fists as
he crossed silently and swiftly the short space between the corner
of the cabin and the open door. For perhaps half a dozen seconds
he closed his eyes to give his snow-strained vision an even
chance with the man in the cabin. Then he looked in.

It was a small cabin. It was possibly not more than ten feet
square inside, and at the far end of it was a fireplace from which
rose the chimney through the roof. At first Philip saw nothing
except the dim outlines of things. It was a moment or two before
he made out the figure of a man stooping over the fire. He stepped
over the threshold, making no sound. The occupant of the cabin
straightened himself slowly, lifting with, extreme care a pot of
coffee from the embers. A glance at his broad back and his giant
stature told Philip that he was not an Eskimo. He turned. Even
then for an infinitesimal space he did not see Philip as he stood
fronting the door with the light in his face. It was a white man's
face--a face almost hidden in a thick growth of beard and a tangle
of hair that fell to the shoulders. Another instant and he had
seen the intruder and stood like one turned suddenly into stone.

Philip had leveled Celie's little revolver.

"I am Philip Raine of His Majesty's service, the Royal Mounted,"
he said. "Throw, up your hands!"

The moment's tableau was one of rigid amazement on one side, of
waiting tenseness on the other. Philip believed that the shadow of
his body concealed the size of the tiny revolver in his hand.
Anyway it would be effective at that distance, and he expected to
see the mysterious stranger's hands go over his head the moment he
recovered from the shock that had apparently gone with the
command. What did happen he expected least of all. The arm holding
the pot of steaming coffee shot out and the boiling deluge hissed
straight at Philip's face. He ducked to escape it, and fired.
Before he could throw back the hammer of the little single-action
weapon for a second shot the stranger was at him. The force of the
attack sent them both crashing back against the wall of the cabin,
and in the few moments that followed Philip blessed the
providential forethought that had made him throw off his fur coat
and strip for action. His antagonist was not an ordinary man. A
growl like that of a beast rose in his throat as they went to the
floor, and in that death-grip Philip thought of Bram.

More than once in watching the wolf-man he had planned how he
would pit himself against the giant if it came to a fight, and how
he would evade the close arm-to-arm grapple that would mean defeat
for him. And this man was Bram's equal in size and strength. He
realized with the swift judgment of the trained boxer that open
fighting and the evasion of the other's crushing brute strength
was his one hope. On his knees he flung himself backward, and
struck out. The blow caught his antagonist squarely in the face
before he had succeeded in getting a firm clinch, and as he bent
backward under the force of the blow Philip exerted every ounce of
his strength, broke the other's hold, and sprang to his feet.

He felt like uttering a shout of triumph. Never had the thrill of
mastery and of confidence surged through him more hotly than it
did now. On his feet in open fighting he had the agility of a cat.
The stranger was scarcely on his feet before he was at him with a
straight shoulder blow that landed on the giant's jaw with
crushing force. It would have put an ordinary man down in a limp
heap. The other's weight saved him. A second blow sent him reeling
against the log wall like a sack of grain. And then in the half-
gloom of the cabin Philip missed. He put all his effort in that
third blow and as his clenched fist shot over the other's shoulder
he was carried off his balance and found himself again in the
clutch of his enemy's arms. This time a huge hand found his
throat. The other he blocked with his left arm, while with his
right he drove in short-arm jabs against neck and jaw. Their
ineffectiveness amazed him. His guard-arm was broken upward, and
to escape the certain result of two hands gripping at his throat
he took a sudden foot-lock on his adversary, flung all his weight
forward, and again they went to the floor of the cabin.

Neither caught a glimpse of the girl standing wide-eyed and
terrified in the door. They rolled almost to her feet. Full in the
light she saw the battered, bleeding face of the strange giant,
and Philip's fist striking it again and again. Then she saw the
giant's two hands, and why he was suffering that punishment. They
were at Philip's throat--huge hairy hands stained with his own
blood. A cry rose to her lips and the blue in her eyes darkened
with the fighting fire of her ancestors. She darted across the
room to the fire. In an instant she was back with a stick of wood
in her hands. Philip saw her then--her streaming hair and white
face above them, and the club fell. The hands at his throat
relaxed. He swayed to his feet and with dazed eyes and a weird
sort of laugh opened his arms. Celie ran into them. He felt her
sobbing and panting against him. Then, looking down, he saw that
for the present the man who had made the strange snowshoe trail
was as good as dead.

The air he was taking into his half strangled lungs cleared his
head and he drew away from Celie to begin the search of the room.
His eyes were more accustomed to the gloom, and suddenly he gave a
cry of exultation. Against the end of the mud and stone fireplace
stood a rifle and over the muzzle of this hung a belt and holster.
In the holster was a revolver. In his excitement and joy his
breath was almost a sob as he snatched it from the holster and
broke it in the light of the door. It was a big Colt Forty-five--
and loaded to the brim. He showed it to Celie, and thrust her to
the door.

"Watch!" he cried, sweeping his arm to the open. "Just two minutes
more. That's all I want--two minutes--and then--"

He was counting the cartridges in the belt as he fastened it about
his waist. There were at least forty, two-thirds of them soft-
nosed rifle. The caliber was .303 and the gun was a Savage. It was
modern up to the minute, and as he threw down the lever enough to
let him glimpse inside the breech he caught the glisten of
cartridges ready for action. He wanted nothing more. The cabin
might have held his weight in gold and he would not have turned
toward it.

With the rifle in his hands he ran past Celie out into the day.
For the moment the excitement pounding in his body had got beyond
his power of control. His brain was running riot with the joyous
knowledge of the might that lay in his hands now and he felt an
overmastering desire to shout his triumph in the face of their
enemies.

"Come on, you devils! Come on, come on," he cried. And then,
powerless to restrain what was in him, he let out a yell.

From the door Celie was staring at him. A few moments before her
face had been dead white. Now a blaze of color was surging back
into her cheeks and lips and her eyes shone with the glory of one
who was looking on more than triumph. From her own heart welled up
a cry, a revelation of that wonderful thing throbbing in her
breast which must have reached Philip's ears had there not in that
same instant come another sound to startle them both into
listening silence.

It was not far distant. And it was unmistakably an answer to
Philip's challenge.





CHAPTER XXI




As they listened the cry came again. This time Philip caught in it
a note that he had not detected before. It was not a challenge but
the long-drawn ma-too-ee of an Eskimo who answers the inquiring
hail of a comrade.

"He thinks it is the man in the cabin," exclaimed Philip, turning
to survey the fringe of forest through which their trail had come.
"If the others don't warn him there's going to be one less Eskimo
on earth in less than three minutes!"

Another sound had drawn Celie back to the door. "When she looked
in the man she had stunned with the club was moving. Her call
brought Philip, and placing her in the open door to keep watch he
set swiftly to work to make sure of their prisoner. With the
babiche thong he had taken from his enemies he bound him hand and
foot. A shaft of light fell full on the giant's face and naked
chest where it had been laid bare in the struggle and Philip was
about to rise when a purplish patch, of tattooing caught his eyes.
He made out first the crude picture of a shark with huge gaping
jaws struggling under the weight of a ship's anchor, and then,
directly under this pigment colored tatu, the almost invisible
letters of a name. He made them out one by one--B-l-a-k-e. Before
the surname was the letter G.

"Blake," he repeated, rising to his feet. "GEORGE Blake--a sailor
--and a white man!"

Blake, returning to consciousness, mumbled incoherently. In the
same instant Celie cried out excitedly at the door.

"Oo-ee, Philip--Philip! Se det! Se! Se!"

She drew back with, a sudden movement and pointed out the door.
Concealing himself as much as possible from outside observation
Philip peered forth. Not more than a hundred and fifty yards away
a dog team was approaching. There were eight dogs and instantly he
recognized them as the small fox-faced Eskimo breed from the
coast. They were dragging a heavily laden sledge and behind them
came the driver, a furred and hooded figure squat of stature and
with a voice that came now in the sharp clacking commands that
Philip had heard in the company of Bram Johnson. From the floor
came a groan, and for an instant Philip turned to find Blake's
bloodshot eyes wide open and staring at him. The giant's bleeding
lips were gathered in a snarl and he was straining at the babiche
thongs that bound him. In that same moment Philip caught a glimpse
of Celie. She, too, was staring--and at Blake. Her lips were
parted, her eyes were big with amazement and as she looked she
clutched her hands convulsively at her breast and uttered a low,
strange cry. For the first time she saw Blake's face with the
light full upon it. At the sound of her cry Blake's eyes went to
her, and for the space of a second the imprisoned beast on the
floor and the girl looking down on him made up a tableau that held
Philip spellbound. Between them was recognition--an amazed and
stone like horror on the girl's part, a sudden and growing glare
of bestial exultation in the eyes of the man.

Suddenly there came the Eskimo's voice and the yapping of dogs. It
was the first Blake had heard. He swung his head toward the door
with a great gasp and the babiche cut like whipcord under the
strain of his muscles. Swift as a flash Philip thrust the muzzle
of the big Colt against his prisoner's head.

"Make a sound and you're a dead man, Blake!" he warned. "We need
that team, and if you so much as whisper during the next ten
seconds I'll scatter your brains over the floor!"

They could hear the cold creak of the sledge-runners now, and a
moment later the patter of many feet outside the door. In a single
leap Philip was at the door. Another and he was outside, and an
amazed Eskimo was looking into the round black eye of his
revolver. It required no common language to make him understand
what was required of him. He backed into the cabin with the
revolver within two feet of his breast. Celie had caught up the
rifle and was standing guard over Blake as though fearful that he
might snap his bonds. Philip laughed joyously when he saw how
quickly she understood that she was to level the rifle at the
Kogmollock's breast and hold it there until he had made him a
prisoner. She was wonderful. She was panting in her excitement.
From the floor Blake had noticed that her little white finger was
pressing gently against the trigger of the rifle. It had made him
shudder. It made the Eskimo cringe a bit now as Philip tied his
hands behind him. And Philip saw it, and his heart thumped. Celie
was gloriously careless.

It was over inside of two minutes, and with an audible sigh of
relief she lowered her rifle. Then she leaned it against the wall
and ran to Blake. She was tremendously excited as she pointed down
into the bloodstained face and tried to explain to Philip the
reason for that strange and thrilling recognition he had seen
between them. From her he looked at Blake. The look in the
prisoner's face sent a cold shiver through him. There was no fear
in it. It was filled with a deep and undisguised exultation. Then
Blake looked at Philip, and laughed outright.

"Can't understand her, eh?" he chuckled. "Well, neither can I. But
I know what she's trying to tell you. Damned funny, ain't it?"

It was impossible for him to keep his eyes from shifting to the
door. There was expectancy in that glance. Then his glance shot
almost fiercely at Philip.

"So you're Philip Raine, of the R. N. M. P., eh? Well, you've got
me guessed out. My name is Blake, but the G don't stand for
George. If you'll cut the cord off'n my legs so I can stand up or
sit down I'll tell you something. I can't do very much damage with
my hands hitched the way they are, and I can't talk layin' down
cause of my Adam's apple chokin' me."

Philip seized the rifle and placed it again in Celie's hands,
stationing her once more at the door.

"Watch--and listen," he said.

He cut the thongs that bound his prisoner's ankles and Blake
struggled to his feet. When he fronted Philip the big Colt was
covering his heart.

"Now--talk!" commanded Philip. "I'm going to give you half a
minute to begin telling me what I want to know, Blake. You've
brought the Eskimos down. There's no doubt of that. What do you
want of this girl, and what have you done with her people?"

He had never looked into the eyes of a cooler man than Blake,
whose blood-stained lips curled in a sneering smile even as he
finished.

"I ain't built to be frightened," he said, taking his time about
it. "I know your little games an' I've throwed a good many bluffs
of my own in my time. You're lyin' when you say you'll shoot, an'
you know you are. I may talk and I may not. Before I make up my
mind I'm going to give you a bit of brotherly advice. Take that
team out there and hit across the Barren--ALONE. Understand?
ALONE. Leave the girl here. It's your one chance of missing what
happened to--"

He grinned and shrugged his huge shoulders.

"You mean Anderson--Olaf Anderson--and the others up at Bathurst
Inlet?" questioned Philip chokingly.

Blake nodded.

Philip wondered if the other could hear the pounding of his heart.
He had discovered in this moment what the Department had been
trying to learn for two years. It was this man--Blake--who was
the mysterious white leader of the Kogmollocks, and responsible
for the growing criminal record of the natives along Coronation
Gulf. And he had just confessed himself the murderer of Olaf
Anderson! His finger trembled for an instant against the trigger
of his revolver. Then, staring into Blake's face, he slowly
lowered the weapon until it hung at his side. Blake's eyes gleamed
as he saw what he thought was his triumph.

"IT'S your one chance," he urged. "And there ain't no time to
lose."

Philip had judged his man, and now he prayed for the precious
minutes in which to play out his game. The Kogmollocks who had
taken up their trail could not be far from the cabin now.

"Maybe you're right, Blake," he said hesitatingly. "I think, after
her experience with Bram Johnson that she is about willing to
return to her father. Where is he?"

Blake made no effort to disguise his eagerness. In the droop of
Philip's shoulder, the laxness of the hand that held the revolver
and the change in his voice Blake saw in his captor an apparent
desire to get out of the mess he was in. A glimpse of Celie's
frightened face turned for an instant from the door gave weight to
his conviction.

"He's down the Coppermine--about a hundred miles. So, Bram
Johnson--"

His eyes were a sudden blaze of fire.

"Took care of her until your little rats waylaid him on the trail
and murdered him," interrupted Philip. "See here, Blake. You be
square with me and I'll be square with you. I haven't been able to
understand a word of her lingo and I'm curious to know a thing or
two before I go. Tell me who she is, and why you haven't killed
her father, and what you're going to do with her and I won't waste
another minute."

Blake leaned forward until Philip felt the heat of his breath.

"What do I WANT of her?" he demanded slowly. "Why, if you'd been
five years without sight of a white woman, an' then you woke up
one morning to meet an angel like HER on the trail two thousand
miles up in nowhere what would you want of her? I was stunned,
plumb stunned, or I'd had her then. And after that, if it hadn't
been for that devil with his wolves--"

"Bram ran away with her just as you were about to get her into
your hands," supplied Philip, fighting to save time. "She didn't
even know that you wanted her, Blake, so far as I can find out.
It's all a mystery to her. I don't believe she's guessed the truth
even now. How the devil did you do it? Playing the friend stunt,
eh! And keeping yourself in the background while your Kogmollocks
did the work? Was that it?"

Blake nodded. His face was darkening as he looked at Philip and
the light in his eyes was changing to a deep and steady glare. In
that moment Philip had failed to keep the exultation out of his
voice. It shone in his face. And Blake saw it. A throaty sound
rose out of his thick chest and his lips parted in a snarl as
there surged through him a realization that he had been tricked.

In that interval Philip spoke.

"If I never sent up a real prayer to God before I'm sending it
now, Blake," he said. "I'm thanking Him that you didn't have time
to harm Celie Armin, an' I'm thanking Him that Bram Johnson had a
soul in his body in spite of his warped brain and his misshapen
carcass. And now I'm going to keep my word. I'm not going to lose
another minute. Come!"

"You--you mean--"

"No, you haven't guessed it. We're not going over the Barren.
We're going back to that cabin on the Coppermine, and you're going
with us. And listen to this, Blake--listen hard! There may be
fighting. If there is I want you to sort of harden yourself to the
fact that the first shot fired is going straight through your
gizzard. Do I make myself clear? I'll shoot you deader than a salt
mackerel the instant one of your little murderers shows up on the
trail. So tell this owl-faced heathen here to spread the glad
tidings when his brothers come in--and spread it good. Quick about
it! I'm not bluffing now."





CHAPTER XXII




In Philip's eyes Blake saw his match now. And more. For three-
quarters of a minute he talked swiftly to the Eskimo. Philip knew
that he was giving the Kogmollock definite instructions as to the
manner in which his rescue must be accomplished. But he knew also
that Blake would emphasize the fact that it must not be in open
attack, no matter how numerous his followers might be.

He hurried Blake through the door to the sledge and team. The
sledge was heavily laden with the meat of a fresh caribou kill and
from the quantity of flesh he dragged off into the snow Philip
surmised that the cabin would very soon be the rendezvous of a
small army of Eskimo. There was probably a thousand pounds of it,
Retaining only a single quarter of this he made Celie comfortable
and turned his attention to Blake. With babiche cord he re-secured
his prisoner with the "manacle-hitch," which gave him free play of
one hand and arm--his left. Then he secured the Eskimo's whip and
gave it to Blake.

"Now--drive!" he commanded. "Straight for the Coppermine, and by
the shortest cut. This is as much your race as mine now, Blake.
The moment I see a sign of anything wrong you're a dead man!"

"And you--are a fool!" gritted Blake. "Good God, what a fool!"

"Drive--and shut up!"

Blake snapped his whip and gave a short, angry command in Eskimo.
The dogs sprang from their bellies to their feet and at another
command were off over the trail. From the door of the cabin the
Eskimo's little eyes shone with a watery eagerness as he watched
them go. Celie caught a last glimpse of him as she looked back and
her hands gripped more firmly the rifle which lay across her lap.
Philip had given her the rifle and it had piled upon her a mighty
responsibility. He had meant that she should use it if the
emergency called for action, and that she was to especially watch
Blake. Her eyes did not leave the outlaw's broad back as he ran on
a dozen paces ahead of the dogs. She was ready for him if he tried
to escape, and she would surely fire. Running close to her side
Philip observed the tight grip of her hands on the weapon, and saw
one little thumb pinched up against the safety ready for instant
action. He laughed, and for a moment she looked up at him,
flushing suddenly when she saw the adoration in his face.

"Blake's right--I'm a fool," he cried down at her in a low voice
that thrilled with his worship of her. "I'm a fool for risking
you, sweetheart. By going the other way I'd have you forever. They
wouldn't follow far into the south, if at all. Mebby you don't
realize what we're doing by hitting back to that father of yours.
Do you?"

She smiled.

"And mebby when we get there we'll find him dead," he added. "Dead
or alive, everything is up to Blake now and you must help me watch
him."

He pantomimed this caution by pointing to Blake and the rifle.
Then he dropped behind. Over the length of sledge and team he was
thirty paces from Blake. At that distance he could drop him with a
single shot from the Colt.

They were following the trail already made by the meat-laden
sledge, and the direction was northwest. It was evident that Blake
was heading at least in the right direction and Philip believed
that it would be but a short time before they would strike the
Coppermine. Once on the frozen surface of the big stream that
flowed into the Arctic and their immediate peril of an ambuscade
would be over. Blake was surely aware of that. If he had in mind a
plan for escaping it must of necessity take form before they
reached the river.

"Where the forest thinned out and the edge of the Barren crept in
Philip ran at Celie's side, but when the timber thickened and
possible hiding places for their enemies appeared in the trail
ahead he was always close to Blake, with the big Colt held openly
in his hand. At these times Celie watched the back trail. From her
vantage on the sledge her alert eyes took in every bush and
thicket to right and left of them, and when Philip was near or
behind her she was looking at least a rifle-shot ahead of Blake.
For three-quarters of an hour they had followed the single sledge
trail when Blake suddenly gave a command that stopped the dogs.
They had reached a crest which overlooked a narrow finger of the
treeless Barren on the far side of which, possibly a third of a
mile distant, was a dark fringe of spruce timber. Blake pointed
toward this timber. Out of it was rising a dark column of resinous
smoke.

"It's up to you," he said coolly to Philip. "Our trail crosses
through that timber--and you see the smoke. I imagine there are
about twenty of Upi's men there feeding on caribou. The herd was
close beyond when they made the kill. Now if we go on they're most
likely to see us, or their dogs get wind of us--and Upi is a
bloodthirsty old cutthroat. I don't want that bullet through my
gizzard, so I'm tellin' you."

Far back in Blake's eyes there lurked a gleam which Philip did not
like. Blake was not a man easily frightened, and yet he had given
what appeared to be fair warning to his enemy.

He came a step nearer, and said in a lower voice:

"Raine, that's just ONE of Upi's crowds. If you go on to the cabin
we're heading for there'll be two hundred fighting men after you
before the day is over, and they'll get you whether you kill me or
not. You've still got the chance I gave you back there. Take it--
if you ain't tired of life. Give me the girl--an' you hit out
across the Barren with the team."

"We're going on," replied Philip, meeting the other's gaze
steadily. "You know your little murderers, Blake. If any one can
get past them without being seen it's you. And you've got to do
it. I'll kill you if you don't. The Eskimos may get us after that,
but they won't harm HER in your way. Understand? We're going the
limit in this game. And I figure you're putting up the biggest
stake. I've got a funny sort of feeling that you're going to cash
in before we reach the cabin."

For barely an instant the mysterious gleam far back in Blake's
eyes died out. There was the hard, low note in Philip's voice
which carried conviction and Blake knew he was ready to play the
hand which he held. With a grunt and a shrug of his shoulders he
stirred up the dogs with a crack of his whip and struck out at
their head due west. During the next half hour Philip's eyes and
ears were ceaselessly on the alert. He traveled close to Blake,
with the big Colt in his hand, watching every hummock and bit of
cover as they came to it. He also watched Blake and in the end was
convinced that in the back of the outlaw's head was a sinister
scheme in which he had the utmost confidence in spite of his
threats and the fact that they had successfully got around Upi's
camp. Once or twice when their eyes happened to meet he caught in
Blake's face a contemptuous coolness, almost a sneering exultation
which the other could not quite conceal. It filled him with a
scarcely definable uneasiness. He was positive that Blake realized
he would carry out his threat at the least sign of treachery or
the appearance of an enemy, and yet he could not free himself from
the uncomfortable oppression that was beginning to take hold of
him. He concealed it from Blake. He tried to fight it out of
himself. Yet it persisted. It was something which seemed to hover
in the air about him--the FEEL of a danger which he could not see.

And then Blake suddenly pointed ahead over an open plain and said:

"There is the Coppermine."





CHAPTER XXIII




A cry from Celie turned his gaze from the broad white trail of ice
that was the Coppermine, and as he looked she pointed eagerly
toward a huge pinnacle of rock that rose like an oddly placed
cenotaph out of the unbroken surface of the plain.

Blake grunted out a laugh in his beard and his eyes lit up with an
unpleasant fire as they rested on her flushed face.

"She's tellin' you that Bram Johnson brought her this way," he
chuckled. "Bram was a fool--like you!"

He seemed not to expect a reply from Philip, but urged the dogs
down the slope into the plain. Fifteen minutes later they were on
the surface of the river.

Philip drew a deep breath of relief, and he found that same relief
in Celie's face when he dropped back to her side. As far as they
could see ahead of them there was no forest. The Coppermine itself
seemed to be swallowed up in the vast white emptiness of the
Barren. There could be no surprise attack here, even at night. And
yet there was something in Blake's face which kept alive within
him the strange premonition of a near and unseen danger. Again and
again he tried to shake off the feeling. He argued with himself
against the unreasonableness of the thing that had begun to
oppress him. Blake was in his power. It was impossible for him to
escape, and the outlaw's life depended utterly upon his success in
getting them safely to the cabin. It was not conceivable to
suppose that Blake would sacrifice his life merely that they might
fall into the hands of the Eskimos. And yet--

He watched Blake--watched him more and more closely as they buried
themselves deeper in that unending chaos of the north. And Blake,
it seemed to him, was conscious of that increasing watchfulness.
He increased his speed. Now and then Philip heard a curious
chuckling sound smothered in his beard, and after an hour's travel
on the snow-covered ice of the river he could no longer dull his
vision to the fact that the farther they progressed into the open
country, the more confident Blake was becoming. He did not
question him. He realized the futility of attempting to force his
prisoner into conversation. In that respect it was Blake who held
the whip hand. He could lie or tell the truth, according to the
humor of his desire. Blake must have guessed this thought in
Philip's mind. They were traveling side by side when he suddenly
laughed. There was an unmistakable irony in his voice when he
said:

"It's funny, Raine, that I should like you, ain't it? A man who's
mauled you, an' threatened to kill you! I guess it's because I'm
so cussed sorry for you. You're heading straight for the gates of
hell, an' they're open--wide open."

"And you?"

This time Blake's laugh was harsher.

"I don't count--now," he said. "Since you've made up your mind not
to trade me the girl for your life I've sort of dropped out of the
game. I guess you're thinking I can hold Upi's tribe back. Well, I
can't--not when you're getting this far up in their country. If we
split the difference, and you gave me HER, Upi would meet me half
way. God, but you've spoiled a nice dream!"

"A dream?"

Blake uttered a command to the dogs.

"Yes--more'n that. I've got an igloo up there even finer than
Upi's--all built of whalebone and ships' timbers. Think of HER in
that, Raine--with ME! That's the dream you smashed!"

"And her father--and the others--"

This time there was a ferocious undercurrent in Blake's guttural
laugh, as though Philip had by accident reminded him of something
that both amused and enraged him.

"Don't you know how these Kogmollock heathen look on a father-in-
law?" he asked. "He's sort of walkin' delegate over the whole
bloomin' family. A god with two legs. The OTHERS? Why, we killed
them. But Upi and his heathen wouldn't see anything happen to the
old man when they found I was going to take the girl. That's why
he's alive up there in the cabin now. Lord, what a mess you're
heading into, Raine! And I'm wondering, after you kill me, and
they kill you, WHO'LL HAVE THE GIRL? There's a half-breed in the
tribe an' she'll probably go to him. The heathen themselves don't
give a flip for women, you know. So it's certain to be the half-
breed."

He surged on ahead, cracking his whip, and crying out to the dogs.
Philip believed that in those few moments he had spoken much that
was truth. He had, without hesitation and of his own volition,
confessed the murder of the companions of Celie's father, and he
had explained in a reasonable way why Armin himself had been
spared. These facts alone increased his apprehension. Unless Blake
was utterly confident of the final outcome he would not so openly
expose himself. He was even more on his guard after this.

For several hours after his brief fit of talking Blake made no
effort to resume the conversation nor any desire to answer Philip
when the latter spoke to him. A number of times it struck Philip
that he was going the pace that would tire out both man and beast
before night. He knew that in Blake's shaggy head there was a
brain keenly and dangerously alive, and he noted the extreme
effort he was making to cover distance with a satisfaction that
was not unmixed of suspicion. By three o'clock in the afternoon
they were thirty-five miles from the cabin in which Blake had
become a prisoner. All that distance they had traveled through a
treeless barren without a sign of life. It was between three and
four when they began to strike timber once more, and Philip asked
himself if it had been Blake's scheme to reach this timber before
dusk. In places the spruce and banskian pine thickened until they
formed dark walls of forest and whenever they approached these
patches Philip commanded Blake to take the middle of the river.
The width of the stream was a comforting protection. It was seldom
less than two hundred yards from shore to shore and frequently
twice that distance. From the possible ambuscades they passed only
a rifle could be used effectively, and whenever there appeared to
be the possibility of that danger Philip traveled close to Blake,
with the revolver in his hand. The crack of a rifle even if the
bullet should find its way home, meant Blake's life. Of that fact
the outlaw could no longer have a doubt.

For an hour before the gray dusk of Arctic night began to gather
about them Philip began to feel the effect of their strenuous
pace. Hours of cramped inactivity on the sledge had brought into
Celie's face lines of exhaustion. Since middle-afternoon the dogs
had dragged at times in their traces. Now they were dead-tired.
Blake, and Blake alone, seemed tireless. It was six o'clock when
they entered a country that was mostly plain, with a thin fringe
of timber along the shores. They had raced for nine hours, and had
traveled fifty miles. It was here, in a wide reach of river, that
Philip gave the command to halt.

His first caution was to secure Blake hand and foot, with his back
resting against a frozen snow-hummock a dozen paces from the
sledge. The outlaw accepted the situation with an indifference
which seemed to Philip more forced than philosophical. After that,
while Celie was walking back and forth to produce a warmer
circulation in her numbed body, he hurried to the scrub timber
that grew along the shore and returned with a small armful of dry
wood. The fire he built was small, and concealed as much as
possible by the sledge. Ten minutes sufficed to cook the meat for
their supper. Then he stamped out the fire, fed the dogs, and made
a comfortable nest of bear skins for himself and Celie, facing
Blake. The night had thickened until he could make out only dimly
the form of the outlaw against the snow-hummock. His revolver lay
ready at his side.

In that darkness he drew Celie close up into his arms. Her head
lay on his breast. He buried his lips in the smothering sweetness
of her hair, and her arms crept gently about his neck. Even then
he did not take his eyes from Blake, nor for an instant did he
cease to listen for other sounds than the deep breathing of the
exhausted dogs. It was only a little while before the stars began
to fill the sky. The gloom lifted slowly, and out of darkness rose
the white world in a cold, shimmering glory. In that starlight he
could see the glisten of Celie's hair as it covered them like a
golden veil, and once or twice through the space that separated
them he caught the flash of a strange fire in the outlaw's eyes.
Both shores were visible. He could have seen the approach of a man
two hundred yards away.

After a little he observed that Blake's head was drooping upon his
chest, and that his breathing had become deeper. His prisoner, he
believed, was asleep. And Celie, nestling on his breast, was soon
in slumber. He alone was awake,--and watching. The dogs, flat on
their bellies, were dead to the world. For an hour he kept his
vigil. In that time he could not see that Blake moved. He heard
nothing suspicious. And the night grew steadily brighter with the
white glow of the stars. He held the revolver in his hand now. The
starlight played on it in a steely glitter that could not fail to
catch Blake's eyes should he awake.

And then Philip found himself fighting--fighting desperately to
keep awake. Again and again his eyes closed, and he forced them
open with an effort. He had planned that they would rest for two
or three hours. The two hours were gone when for the twentieth
time his eyes shot open, and he looked at Blake. The outlaw had
not moved. His head hung still lower on his breast, and again--
slowly--irresistibly--exhaustion closed Philip's eyes. Even then
Philip was conscious of fighting against the overmastering desire
to sleep. It seemed to him that he was struggling for hours, and
all that time his subconsciousness was crying out for him to
awake, struggling to rouse him to the nearness of a great danger.
It succeeded at last. His eyes opened, and he stared in a dazed
and half blinded tray toward Blake. His first sensation was one of
vast relief that he had awakened. The stars were brighter. The
night was still. And there, a dozen paces from him was the snow-
hummock.

But Blake--Blake--

His heart leapt into his throat.

BLAKE WAS GONE!





CHAPTER XXIV




The shock of the discovery that Blake had escaped brought Philip
half to his knees before he thought of Celie. In an instant the
girl was awake. His arm had tightened almost fiercely about her.
She caught the gleam of his revolver, and in another moment she
saw the empty space where their prisoner had been. Swiftly
Philip's eyes traveled over the moonlit spaces about them. Blake
had utterly disappeared. Then he saw the rifle, and breathed
easier. For some reason the outlaw had not taken that, and it was
a moment or two before the significance of the fact broke upon
him. Blake must have escaped just as he was making that last
tremendous fight to rouse himself. He had had no more than time to
slink away into the shadows of the night, and had not paused to
hazard a chance of securing the weapon that lay on the snow close
to Celie. He had evidently believed that Philip was only half
asleep, and in the moonlight he must have seen the gleam of the
big revolver leveled over his captor's knee.

Leaving Celie huddled in her furs, Philip rose to his feet and
slowly approached the snow hummock against which he had left his
prisoner. The girl heard the startled exclamation that fell from
his lips when he saw what had happened. Blake had not escaped
alone. Running straight out from behind the hummock was a furrow
in the snow like the trail made by an otter. He had seen such
furrows before, where Eskimos had wormed their way foot by foot
within striking distance of dozing seals. Assistance had come to
Blake in that manner, and he could see where--on their hands and
knees--two men instead of one had stolen back through the
moonlight.

Celie came to his side now, gripping the rifle in her hands. Her
eyes were wide and filled with frightened inquiry as she looked
from the tell-tale trails in the snow into Philip's face. He was
glad that she could not question him in words. He slipped the Colt
into its holster and took the rifle from her hands. In the
emergency which he anticipated the rifle would be more effective.
That something would happen very soon he was positive. If one
Eskimo had succeeded in getting ahead of his comrades to Blake's
relief others of Upi's tribe must be close behind. And yet he
wondered, as he thought of this, why Blake and the Kogmollock had
not killed him instead of running away. The truth he told frankly
to Celie, thankful that she could not understand.

"It was the gun," he said. "They thought I had only closed my
eyes, and wasn't asleep. If something hadn't kept that gun leveled
over my knee--" He tried to smile, knowing that with every second
the end might come for them from out of the gray mist of moonlight
and shadow that shrouded the shore. "It was a one-man job,
sneaking out like that, and there's sure a bunch of them coming up
fast to take a hand in the game. It's up to us to hit the high
spots, my dear--an' you might pray God to give us time for a
start."

If he had hoped to keep from her the full horror of their
situation, he knew, as he placed her on the sledge, that he had
failed. Her eyes told him that. Intuitively she had guessed at the
heart of the thing, and suddenly her arms reached up about his
neck as he bent over her and against his breast he heard the
sobbing cry that she was trying hard to choke back. Under the
cloud of her hair her warm, parted lips lay for a thrilling moment
against his own, and then he sprang to the dogs.

They had already roused themselves and at his command began
sullenly to drag their lame and exhausted bodies into trace
formation. As the sledge began to move he sent the long lash of
the driving whip curling viciously over the backs of the pack and
the pace increased. Straight ahead of them ran the white trail of
the Coppermine, and they were soon following this with the
eagerness of a team on the homeward stretch. As Philip ran behind
he made a fumbling inventory of the loose rifle cartridges in the
pocket of his coat, and under his breath prayed to God that the
day would come before the Eskimos closed in. Only one thing did he
see ahead of him now--a last tremendous fight for Celie, and he
wanted the light of dawn to give him accuracy. He had thirty
cartridges, and it was possible that he could put up a successful
running fight until they reached Armin's cabin. After that fate
would decide. He was already hatching a scheme in his brain. If he
failed to get Blake early in the fight which he anticipated he
would show the white flag, demand a parley with the outlaw under
pretense of surrendering Celie, and shoot him dead the moment they
stood face to face. With Blake out of the way there might be
another way of dealing with Upi and his Kogmollocks. It was Blake
who wanted Celie. In Upi's eyes there were other things more
precious than a woman. The thought revived in him a new thrill of
hope. It recalled to him the incident of Father Breault and the
white woman nurse who, farther west, had been held for ransom by
the Nanamalutes three years ago. Not a hair of the woman's head
had been harmed in nine months of captivity. Olaf Anderson had
told him the whole story. There had been no white man there--only
the Eskimos, and with the Eskimos he believed that he could deal
now if he succeeded in killing Blake. Back at the cabin he could
easily have settled the matter, and he felt like cursing himself
for his shortsightedness.

In spite of the fact that he had missed his main chance he began
now to see more than hope in a situation that five minutes before
had been one of appalling gloom. If he could keep ahead of his
enemies until daybreak he had a ninety percent chance of getting
Blake. At some spot where he could keep the Kogmollocks at bay and
scatter death among them if they attacked he would barricade
himself and Celie behind the sledge and call out his acceptance of
Blake's proposition to give up Celie as the price of his own
safety. He would demand an interview with Blake, and it was then
that his opportunity would come.

But ahead of him were the leaden hours of the gray night! Out of
that ghostly mist of pale moonlight through which the dogs were
traveling like sinuous shadows Upi and his tribe could close in on
him silently and swiftly, unseen until they were within striking
distance. In that event all would be lost. He urged the dogs on,
calling them by the names which he had heard Blake use, and
occasionally he sent the long lash of his whip curling over their
backs. The surface of the Coppermine was smooth and hard. Now and
then they came to stretches of glare ice and at these intervals
Philip rode behind Celie, staring back into the white mystery of
the night out of which they had come. It was so still that the
click, dick, click of the dogs' claws sounded like the swift beat
of tiny castanets on the ice. He could hear the panting breath of
the beasts. The whalebone runners of the sledge creaked with the
shrill protest of steel traveling over frozen snow. Beyond these
sounds there were no others, with, the exception of his own breath
and the beating of his own heart. Mile after mile of the
Coppermine dropped behind them. The last tree and the last fringe
of bushes disappeared, and to the east, the north, and the west
there was no break in the vast emptiness of the great Arctic
plain. Ever afterward the memory of that night seemed like a
grotesque and horrible dream to him. Looking back, he could
remember how the moon sank out of the sky and utter darkness
closed them in and how through that darkness he urged on the tired
dogs, tugging with them at the lead-trace, and stopping now and
then in his own exhaustion to put his arms about Celie and repeat
over and over again that everything was all right.

After an eternity the dawn came. What there was to be of day
followed swiftly, like the Arctic night. The shadows faded away,
the shores loomed up and the illimitable sweep of the plain lifted
itself into vision as if from out of a great sea of receding fog.
In the quarter hour's phenomenon between the last of darkness and
wide day Philip stood straining his eyes southward over the white
path of the Coppermine. It was Celie, huddled close at his side,
who turned her eyes first from the trail their enemies would
follow. She faced the north, and the cry that came from her lips
brought Philip about like a shot. His first sensation was one of
amazement that they had not yet passed beyond the last line of
timber. Not more than a third of a mile distant the river ran into
a dark strip of forest that reached in from the western plain like
a great finger. Then he saw what Celie had seen. Close up against
the timber a spiral of smoke was rising into the air. He made out
in another moment the form of a cabin, and the look in Celie's
staring face told him the rest. She was sobbing breathless words
which he could not understand, but he knew that they had won their
race, and that it was Armin's place. And Armin was not dead. He
was alive, as Blake had said--and it was about breakfast time. He
had held up under the tremendous strain of the night until now--
and now he was filled with an uncontrollable desire to laugh. The
curious thing about it was that in spite of this desire no sound
came from his throat. He continued to stare until Celie turned to
him and swayed into his arms. In the moment of their triumph her
strength was utterly gone. And then the thing happened which
brought the life back into him again with a shock. From far up the
black finger of timber where it bellied over the horizon of the
plain there floated down to them a chorus of sound. It was a human
sound--the yapping, wolfish cry of an Eskimo horde closing in on
man or beast. They had heard that same cry close on the heels of
the fight in the clearing. Now it was made by many voices instead
of two or three. It was accompanied almost instantly by the clear,
sharp report of a rifle, and a moment later the single shot was
followed by a scattering fusillade. After that there was silence.

Quickly Philip bundled Celie on the sledge and drove the dogs
ahead, his eyes on a wide opening in the timber three or four
hundred yards above the river. Five minutes later the sledge drew
up in front of the cabin. In that time they heard no further
outcry or sound of gunfire, and from the cabin itself there came
no sign of life, unless the smoke meant life. Scarcely had the
sledge stopped before Celie was on her feet and running to the
door. It was locked, and she beat against it excitedly with her
little fists, calling a strange name. Standing close behind her,
Philip heard a shuffling movement beyond the log walls, the
scraping of a bar, and a man's voice so deep that it had in it the
booming note of a drum. To it Celie replied with almost a shriek.
The door swung inward, and Philip saw a man's arms open and Celie
run into them. He was an old man. His hair and beard were white.
This much Philip observed before he turned with a sudden, thrill
toward the open in the forest. Only he had heard the cry that had
come from that direction, and now, looking back, he saw a figure
running swiftly over the plain toward the cabin. Instantly he knew
that it was a white man. With his revolver in his hand he advanced
to meet him and in a brief space they stood face to face.

The stranger was a giant of a man. His long, reddish hair fell to
his shoulders. He was bare-headed, and panting as if hard run, and
his face was streaming with blood. His eyes seemed to bulge out of
their sockets as he stared at Philip. And Philip, almost dropping
his revolver in his amazement, gasped incredulously:

"My God, is it you--Olaf Anderson!"





CHAPTER XXV




Following that first wild stare of uncertainty and disbelief in
the big Swede's eyes came a look of sudden and joyous recognition.
He was clutching at Philip's hand like a drowning man before he
made an effort to speak, still with his eyes on the other's face
as if he was not quite sure they had not betrayed him. Then he
grinned. There was only one man in the world who could grin like
Olaf Anderson. In spite of blood and swollen features it
transformed him. Men loved the red-headed Swede because of that
grin. Not a man in the service who knew him but swore that Olaf
would die with the grin on his face, because the tighter the hole
he was in the more surely would the grin be there. It was the grin
that answered Philip's question.

"Just in time--to the dot," said Olaf, still pumping Philip's
hand, and grinning hard. "All dead but me--Calkins, Harris, and
that little Dutchman, O'Flynn, Cold and stiff, Phil, every one of
them. I knew an investigating patrol would be coming up pretty
soon. Been looking for it every day. How many men you got?"

He looked beyond Philip to the cabin and the sledge. The grin
slowly went out of his face, and Philip heard the sudden catch in
his breath. A swift glance revealed the amazing truth to Olaf. He
dropped Philip's hand and stepped back, taking him in suddenly
from head to foot.

"Alone!"

"Yes, alone," nodded Philip. "With the exception of Celie Armin. I
brought her back to her father. A fellow named Blake is back there
a little way with Upi's tribe. We beat them out, but I'm figuring
it won't be long before they show up."

The grin was fixed in Olaf's face again.

"Lord bless us, but it's funny," he grunted. "They're coming on
the next train, so to speak, and right over in that neck of woods
is the other half of Upi's tribe chasing their short legs off to
get me. And the comical part of it is you're ALONE!" His eyes were
fixed suddenly on the revolver. "Ammunition?" he demanded eagerly.
"And--grub?"

"Thirty or forty rounds of rifle, a dozen Colt, and plenty of
meat--"

"Then into the cabin, and the dogs with us," almost shouted the
Swede.

From the edge of the forest came the report of a rifle and over
their heads went the humming drone of a bullet.

They were back at the cabin in a dozen seconds, tugging at the
dogs. It cost an effort to get them through the door, with the
sledge after them. Half a dozen shots came from the forest. A
bullet spattered against the log wall, found a crevice, and
something metallic jingled inside. As Olaf swung the door shut and
dropped the wooden bar in place Philip turned for a moment toward
Celie. She went to him, her eyes shining in the semi-gloom of the
cabin, and put her arms up about his shoulders. The Swede, looking
on, stood transfixed, and the white-bearded Armin stared
incredulously. On her tip-toes Celie kissed Philip, and then
turning with her arms still about him said something to the older
man that brought an audible gasp from Olaf. In another moment she
had slipped away from Philip and back to her father. The Swede was
flattening his face against a two inch crevice between the logs
when Philip went to his side.

"What did she say, Olaf?" he entreated.

"That she's going to marry you if we ever get out of this hell of
a fix we're in," grunted Olaf. "Pretty lucky dog, I say, if it's
true. Imagine Celie Armin marrying a dub like you! But it will
never happen. If you don't believe it fill your eyes with that out
there!"

Philip glued his eyes to the long crevice between the logs and
found the forest and the little finger of plain between straight
in his vision. The edge of the timber was alive with men. There
must have been half a hundred of them, and they were making no
effort to conceal themselves. For the first time Olaf began to
give him an understanding of the situation.

"This is the fortieth day we've held them off," he said, in the
quick-cut, business-like voice he might have used in rendering a
report to a superior. "Eighty cartridges to begin with and a
month's ration of grub for two. All but the three last cartridges
went day before yesterday. Yesterday everything quiet. On the edge
of starvation this morning when I went out on scout duty and to
take a chance at game. Surprised a couple of them carrying meat
and had a tall fight. Others hove into action and I had to use two
of my cartridges. One left--and they're showing themselves because
they know we don't dare to use ammunition at long range. My
caliber is thirty-five. What's yours?"

"The same," replied Philip quickly, his blood beginning to thrill
with the anticipation of battle. "I'll give you half. I'm on duty
from Fort Churchill, off on a tangent of my own." He did not take
his eyes from the slit in the wall as he told Anderson in a
hundred words what had happened since his meeting with Bram
Johnson. "And with forty cartridges we'll give 'em a taste of
hell," he added.

He caught his breath, and the last word half choked itself from
his lips. He knew that Anderson was staring as hard as he. Up from
the river and over the level sweep of plain between it and the
timber came a sledge, followed by a second, a third, and a fourth.
In the trail behind the sledges trotted a score and a half of fur-
clad figures.

"It's Blake!" exclaimed Philip.

Anderson drew himself away from the wall. In his eyes burned a
curious greenish flame, and his face was set with the hardness of
iron. In that iron was molded indistinctly the terrible smile with
which he always went into battle or fronted "his man." Slowly he
turned, pointing a long arm at each of the four walls of the
cabin.

"That's the lay of the fight," he said, making his words short and
to the point. "They can come at us on all sides, and so I've made
a six-foot gun-crevice in each wall. We can't count on Armin for
anything but the use of a club if it comes to close quarters. The
walls are built of saplings and they've got guns out there that
get through. Outside of that we've got one big advantage. The
little devils are superstitious about fighting at night, and even
Blake can't force them into it. Blake is the man I was after when
I ran across Armin and his people. GAD!"

There was an unpleasant snap in his voice as he peered through the
gun-hole again. Philip looked across the room to Celie and her
father as he divided the cartridges. They were both listening, yet
he knew they did not understand what he and Olaf were saying. He
dropped a half of the cartridges into the right hand pocket of the
Swede's service coat, and advanced then toward Armin with both his
hands held out in greeting. Even in that tense moment he saw the
sudden flash of pleasure in Celie's eyes. Her lips trembled, and
she spoke softly and swiftly to her father, looking at Philip.
Armin advanced a step, and their hands met. At first Philip had
taken him for an old man. Hair and beard were white, his shoulders
were bent, his hands were long and thin. But his eyes, sunken deep
in their sockets, had not aged with the rest of him. They were
filled with the piercing scrutiny of a hawk's as they looked into
his own, measuring him in that moment so far as man can measure
man. Then he spoke, and it was the light in Celie's eyes, her
parted lips, and the flush that came swiftly into her face that
gave him an understanding of what Armin was saying.

From the end of the cabin Olaf's voice broke in. With it came the
metallic working of his rifle as he filled the chamber with
cartridges. He spoke first to Celie and Armin in their own
language, then to Philip.

"It's a pretty safe gamble we'd better get ready for them," he
said. "They'll soon begin. Did you split even on the cartridges?"

"Seventeen apiece."

Philip examined his rifle, and looked through the gun-crevice
toward the forest. He heard Olaf tugging at the dogs as he tied
them to the bunk posts; he heard Armin say something in a strained
voice, and the Swede's unintelligible reply, followed by a quick,
low-voiced interrogation from Celie. In the same moment his heart
gave a sudden jump. In the fringe of the forest he saw a long,
thin line of moving figures--ADVANCING. He did not call out a
warning instantly. For a space in which he might have taken a long
breath or two his eyes and brain were centered on the moving
figures and the significance of their drawn-out formation. Like a
camera-flash his eyes ran over the battleground. Half way between
the cabin and that fringe of forest four hundred yards away was a
"hogback" in the snow, running a curving parallel with the plain.
It formed scarcely more than a three or four foot rise in the
surface, and he had given it no special significance until now.
His lips formed words as the thrill of understanding leapt upon
him.

"They're moving!" he called to Olaf. "They're going to make a rush
for the little ridge between us and the timber. Good God,
Anderson, there's an army of them!"

"Not more'n a hundred," replied the Swede calmly, taking his place
at the gun-crevice. "Take it easy, Phil. This will be good target
practice. We've got to make an eighty percent kill as they come
across the open. This is mighty comfortable compared with the
trick they turned on us when they got Calkins, Harris and O'Flynn.
I got away in the night."

The moving line had paused just within the last straggling growth
of trees, as if inviting the fire of the defenders.

Olaf grunted as he looked along the barrel of his rifle.

"Strategy," he mumbled. "They know we're shy of ammunition."

In the moments of tense waiting Philip found his first opportunity
to question the man at his side. First, he said:

"I guess mebby you. understand, Olaf. We've gone through a hell
together, and I love her. If we get out of this she's going to be
my wife. She's promised me that, and yet I swear to Heaven I don't
know more than a dozen words of her language. What has happened?
Who is she? Why was she with Bram Johnson? You know their
language, and have been with them--"

"They're taking final orders," interrupted Olaf, as if he had not
heard. "There's something more on foot than a rush to the ridge.
It's Blake's scheming. See those little groups forming? They're
going to bring battering-rams, and make a second rush from the
ridge." He drew in a deep breath, and without a change in the even
tone of his voice, went on: "Calkins, Harris and O'Flynn went down
in a good fight. Tell you about that later. Hit seven days' west,
and run on the camp of Armin, his girl, and two white men--
Russians--guided by two Kogmollocks from Coronation Gulf. You can
guess some of the rest. The little devils had Blake and his gang
about us two days after I struck them. Bram Johnson and his wolves
came along then--from nowhere--going nowhere. The Kogmollocks
think Bram is a great Devil, and that each of his wolves is a
Devil. If it hadn't been for that they would have murdered us in a
hurry, and Blake would have taken the girl. They were queered by
the way Bram would squat on his haunches, and stare at her. The
second day I saw him mumbling over something, and looked sharp. He
had one of Celie's long hairs, and when he saw me he snarled like
an animal, as though he feared I would take it from him. I knew
what was coming. I knew Blake was only waiting for Bram to get
away from his Kogmollocks--so I told Celie to give Bram a strand
of her hair. She did--with her own hands, and from that minute
the madman watched her like a dog. I tried to talk with him, but
couldn't. I didn't seem to be able to make him understand. And
then--"

The Swede cut himself short.

"They're moving, Phil! Take the men with the battering rams--and
let them get half way before you fire! ... You see, Bram and his
wolves had to have meat. Blake attacked while he was gone.
Russians killed--Armin and I cornered, fighting for the girl
behind us, when Bram came back like a burst of thunder. He didn't
fight. He grabbed the girl, and was off with her like the wind
with his wolf-team. Armin and I got into this cabin, and here--
forty days and nights--"

His voice stopped ominously. A fraction of a second later it was
followed by the roar of his rifle, and at the first shot one of
Blake's Kogmollocks crumpled up with a grunt half way between the
snow-ridge and the forest.





CHAPTER XXVI




The Eskimos were advancing at a trot now over the open space.
Philip was amazed at their number. There were at least a hundred,
and his heart choked with a feeling of despair even as he pulled
the trigger for his first shot. He had seen the effect of Olaf's
shot, and following the Swede's instructions aimed for his man in
the nearest group behind the main line. He did not instantly see
the result, as a puff of smoke shut out his vision, but a moment
later, aiming again, he saw a dark blotch left in the snow. From
his end of the crevice Olaf had seen the man go down, and he
grunted his approbation. There were five of the groups bearing
tree trunks for battering-rams, and on one of these Philip
concentrated the six shots in his rifle. Four of the tree-bearers
went down, and the two that were left dropped their burden and
joined those ahead of them. Until Philip stepped back to reload
his gun he had not noticed Celie. She was close at his side,
peering through the gun-hole at the tragedy out on the plain. Once
before he had been astounded by the look in her face when they had
been confronted by great danger, and as his fingers worked swiftly
in refilling the magazine of his rifle he saw it there again. It
was not fear, even now. It was a more wonderful thing than that.
Her wide-open eyes glowed with a strange, dark luster; in the
center of each of her cheeks was a vivid spot of color, and her
lips were parted slightly, so that he caught the faintest gleam of
her teeth. Wonderful as a fragile flower she stood there with her
eyes upon him, her splendid courage and her faith in him flaming
within her like a fire.

And then he heard Anderson's voice:

"They're behind the ridge. We got eight of them."

In half a dozen places Philip had seen where bullets had bored the
way through the cabin, and leaning his gun against the wall, he
sprang to Celie and almost carried her behind the bunk that was
built against the logs.

"You must stay here," he cried. "Do you understand! HERE!"

She nodded, and smiled. It was a wonderful smile--a flash of
tenderness telling him that she knew what he was saying, and that
she would obey him. She made no effort to detain him with her
hands, but in that moment--if life had been the forfeit--Philip
would have stolen the precious time in which to take her in his
arms. For a space he held her close to him, his lips crushed to
hers, and faced the wall again with the throb of her soft breast
still beating against his heart. He noticed Armin standing near
the door, his hand resting on a huge club which, in turn, rested
on the floor. Calmly he was waiting for the final rush. Olaf was
peering through the gun-hole again. And then came what he had
expected--a rattle of fire from the snow-ridge. The PIT-PIT-PIT of
bullets rained against the cabin in a dull tattoo. Through the
door came a bullet, sending a splinter close to Armin's face.
Almost in the same instant a second followed it, and a third came
through the crevice so close to Philip that he felt the hissing
breath of it in his face. One of the dogs emitted a wailing howl
and flopped among its comrades in uncanny convulsions.

Olaf staggered back, and faced Philip. There was no trace of the
fighting grin in his face now. It was set like an iron mask.

"GET DOWN!" he shouted. "Do you hear, GET DOWN!" He dropped on his
knees, crying out the warning to Armin in the other's language.
"They've got enough guns to make a sieve of this kennel if their
ammunition holds out--and the lower logs are heaviest. Flatten
yourself out until they stop firing, with your feet toward 'em,
like this," and he stretched himself out on the floor, parallel
with the direction of fire.

In place of following the Swede's example Philip ran to Celie.
Half way a bullet almost got him, flipping the collar of his
shirt. He dropped beside her and gathered her up completely in his
arms, with his own body between her and the fire. A moment later
he thanked God for the protection of the bunk. He heard the
ripping of a bullet through the saplings and caught distinctly the
thud of it as the spent lead dropped to the floor. Celie's head
was close on his breast, her eyes were on his face, her soft lips
so near he could feel their breath. He kissed her, unbelieving
even then that the end was near for her. It was monstrous--
impossible. Lead was finding its way into the cabin like
raindrops. He heard the Swede's voice again, crying thickly from
the floor:

"Hug below the lower log. You've got eight inches. If you rise
above that they'll get you." He repeated the warning to Armin.

As if to emphasize his words there came a howl of agony from
another of the dogs.

Still closer Philip held the girl to him. Her hands had crept
convulsively to his neck. He crushed his face down against hers,
and waited. It came to him suddenly that Blake must be reckoning
on this very protection which he was giving Celie. He was gambling
on the chance that while the male defenders of the cabin would be
wounded or killed Celie would be sheltered until the last moment
from their fire. If that was so, the firing would soon cease until
Blake learned results.

Scarcely had he made this guess when the fusillade ended. Instead
of rifle-fire there came a sudden strange howl of voices and Olaf
sprang to his feet. Philip had risen, when the Swede's voice came
to him in a choking cry. Prepared for the rush he had expected,
Olaf was making an observation through the gun-crevice. Suddenly,
without turning his head, he yelled back at them:

"Good God--it's Bram--Bram Johnson!"

Even Celie realized the thrilling import of the Swede's excited
words. BRAM JOHNSON! She was only a step behind Philip when he
reached the wall. With him she looked out. Out of that finger of
forest they were coming--Bram and his wolves! The pack was free,
spreading out fan-shape, coming like the wind! Behind them was
Bram--a wild and monstrous figure against the whiteness of the
plain, bearing in his hand a giant club. His yell came to them. It
rose above all other sound, like the cry of a great beast. The
wolves came faster, and then--

The truth fell upon those in the cabin with a suddenness that
stopped the beating of their hearts.

Bram Johnson and his wolves were attacking the Eskimos!

From the thrilling spectacle of the giant mad-man charging over
the plain behind his ravenous beasts Philip shifted his amazed
gaze to the Eskimos. They were no longer concealing themselves.
Palsied by a strange terror, they were staring at the onrushing
horde and the shrieking wolf-man. In those first appalling moments
of horror and stupefaction not a gun was raised or a shot fired.
Then there rose from the ranks of the Kogmollocks a strange and
terrible cry, and in another moment the plain between the forest
and the snow-ridge was alive with fleeing creatures in whose heavy
brains surged the monstrous thought that they were attacked not by
man and beast, but by devils. And in that same moment it seemed
that Bram Johnson and his wolves were among them. From man to man
the beasts leapt, driven on by the shrieking voice of their
master; and now Philip saw the giant mad-man overtake one after
another of the running figures, and saw the crushing force of his
club as it fell. Celie swayed back from the wall and stood with
her hands to her face. The Swede sprang past her, flung back the
bar to the door, and opened it. Philip was a step behind him. Prom
the front of the cabin they began firing, and man after man
crumpled down under their shots. If Bram and his wolves sensed the
shooting in the ferocity of their blood-lust they paid no more
attention to it than to the cries for mercy that rose chokingly
out of the throats of their enemies. In another sixty seconds the
visible part of it was over. The last of the Kogmollocks
disappeared into the edge of the forest. After them went the wolf-
man and his pack.

Philip faced his companion. His gun was hot--and empty. The old
grin was in Olaf's face. In spite of it he shuddered.

"We won't follow," he said. "Bram and his wolves will attend to
the trimmings, and he'll come back when the job is finished.
Meanwhile we'll get a little start for home, eh? I'm tired of this
cabin. Forty days and nights--UGH! it was HELL. Have you a spare
pipeful of tobacco, Phil? If you have--let's see, where did I
leave off in that story about Princess Celie and the Duke of
Rugni?"

"The--the--WHAT?"

"Your tobaeco, Phil!"

In a dazed fashion Philip handed his tobacco pouch to the Swede.

"You said--Princess Celie--the Duke of Rugni--"

Olaf nodded as he stuffed his pipe bowl.

"That's it. Armin is the Duke of Rugni, whatever Rugni is. He was
chased off to Siberia a good many years ago, when Celie was a kid,
that somebody else could get hold of the Dukedom. Understand?
Millions in it, I suppose. He says some of Rasputin's old friends
were behind it, and that for a long time he was kept in the
dungeons of the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, with the Neva
River running over his head. The friends he had, most of them in
exile or chased out of the country, thought he was dead, and some
of these friends were caring for Celie. Just after Rasputin was
killed, and before the Revolution broke out, they learned Armin
was alive and dying by inches somewhere up on the Siberian coast.
Celie's mother was Danish--died almost before Celie could
remember; but some of her relatives and a bunch of Russian exiles
in London framed up a scheme to get Armin back, chartered a ship,
sailed with Celie on board, and--"

Olaf paused to light his pipe.

"And they found the Duke," he added. "They escaped with him before
they learned of the Revolution, or Armin could have gone home with
the rest of the Siberian exiles and claimed his rights. For a lot
of reasons they put him aboard an American whaler, and the whaler
missed its plans by getting stuck in the ice for the winter up in
Coronation Gulf. After that they started out with dogs and sledge
and guides. There's a lot more, but that's the meat of it, Phil.
I'm going to leave it to you to learn Celie's language and get the
details first-hand from her. But she's a right enough princess,
old man. And her Dad's a duke. It's up to you to Americanize 'em.
Eh, what's that?"

Celie had come from the cabin and was standing at Philip's side,
looking up into his face, and the light which Olaf saw unhidden in
her eyes made him laugh softly:

"And you've got the job half done, Phil. The Duke may go back and
raise the devil with the people who put him in cold storage, but
Lady Celie is going to like America. Yessir, she's going to like
it better'n any other place on the face of the earth!"

It was late that afternoon, traveling slowly southward over the
trail of the Coppermine, when they heard far behind them the
wailing cry of Bram Johnson's wolves. The sound came only once,
like the swelling surge of a sudden sweep of wind, yet when they
camped at the beginning of darkness Philip was confident the
madman and his pack were close behind them. Utter exhaustion
blotted out the hours for Celie and himself, while Olaf, buried in
two heavy Eskimo coats he had foraged from the field of battle,
sat on guard through the night. Twice in the stillness of his long
vigil he heard strange cries. Once it was the cry of a beast. The
second time it was that of a man.

The second day, with dogs refreshed, they traveled faster, and it
was this night that they camped in the edge of timber and built a
huge fire. It was such a fire as illumined the space about them
for fifty paces or more, and it was into this light that Bram
Johnson stalked, so suddenly and so noiselessly that a sharp
little cry sprang from Celie's lips, and Olaf and Philip and the
Duke of Rugni stared in wide-eyed amazement. In his right hand the
wolf-man bore a strange object. It was an Eskimo coat, tied into
the form of a bag, and in the bottom of this improvision was a
lump half the size of a water pail. Bram seemed oblivious of all
presence but that of Celie. His eyes were on her alone as he
advanced and with a weird sound in his throat deposited the bundle
at her feet. In another moment he was gone. The Swede rose slowly
from where he was sitting, and speaking casually to Celie, took
the wolf-man's gift up in his hands. Philip observed the strange
look in his face as he turned his back to Celie in the firelight
and opened the bag sufficiently to get a look inside. Then he
walked out into the darkness, and a moment later returned without
the bundle, and with a laugh apologized to Celie for his action.

"No need of telling her what it was," he said to Philip then. "I
explained that it was foul meat Bram had brought in as a present.
As a matter of fact it was Blake's head. You know the Kogmollocks
have a pretty habit of pleasing a friend by presenting him with
the head of a dead enemy. Nice little package for her to have
opened, eh?"

After all, there are some very strange happenings in life, and the
adventurers of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police come upon their
share. The case of Bram Johnson, the mad wolf-man of the Upper
Country, happened to be one of them, and filed away in the
archives of the Department is a big envelope filled with official
and personal documents, signed and sworn to by various people.
There is, for instance, the brief and straightforward deposition
of Corporal Olaf Anderson, of the Fort Churchill Division, and
there is the longer and more detailed testimony of Mr. and Mrs.
Philip Raine and the Duke of Rugni; and attached to these
depositions is a copy of an official decision pardoning Bram
Johnson and making of him a ward of the great Dominion instead of
a criminal. He is no longer hunted. "Let Bram Johnson alone" is
the word that had gone forth to the man-hunters of the Service. It
is a wise and human judgment. Bram's country is big and wild. And
he and his wolves still hunt there under the light of the moon and
the stars.

THE END


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Golden Snare
by James Oliver Curwood


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