Jules of the Great Heart - Lawrence Mott - ebook
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Jordan Lawrence Mott IV, often referred to as Jordan Lawrence Mott III and better known as Lawrence Mott, was an American novelist and writer on the outdoor life. He was the great-grandson ofJordan L. Mott (born 1799), who founded the J. L. Mott Iron Works in New York City. His grandfather was Jordan Lawrence Mott II (10 November 1829 – 26 July 1915), and his father was Jordan Lawrence Mott III (born 13 May 1857) (font: Wikipedia)

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Jules of the Great HeartLawrence Mott

I A TRAGEDY OF THE SNOW

Manou stopped on a snow hill, and looked back over the way he had come; then, steadying himself against the heavy northwest wind, he took off his snow-shoes. The little steel-like particles of crust, eddying about with the force of the gale, stung and bit him, and his six “huskies”[1] crept under the lee of the sledge and huddled together.

1.   Sledge dogs.

He chafed and pounded his aching feet, untying the thongs that bound the moccasins, his face drawn with pain; then he sat down beside the dogs and shoved his feet among their warm furry bodies. They growled and snarled, as if resenting this attempt to take some of their precious heat from them, but he paid no attention. Continually his head turned to the back trail, and he watched eagerly in that direction. Nothing but snowy wastes met his eye, undulating on and on into the distance; not a sound could his ears catch but the crisp rustle-rustle of the frozen snow as it scurried over the ice-bound surface. The cold was metallic in its fierceness; drops of ice clustered under the edges of his fur cap, where sweat had congealed as fast as it appeared, and his breath froze on his lips as it came into contact with the bitter wind. He looked again at the back trail. “Ah-h-h!” he muttered. A black dot was coming over a distant ice ridge; it seemed strangely distorted in the snow-haze, now looming up to the full figure of a man, now dwindling to a dark speck against the whiteness of everything.

He drew on his over-moccasins and fastened his snow-shoes. “Mush! Mush!”[2] he shouted to the dogs, cracking the long whip with pistol-like effect. Away they went, the bone runners of the sledge creaking sharply over the uneven surface as he strode beside it. He did not stop to look back now, but urged his team to top speed with whip and voice: “Musha! Ar-r-rr! Musha!”[3] Obediently the leader swung into an ice ravine. It was down hill, so the man threw himself on the sledge. His weight added to its momentum, and the dogs seemed not to touch the ground as they raced ahead, striving to keep the traces taut. “Musha! Ar-r-ha!” The leader turned sharply to the left, and the man hung far out on the flying sledge to keep it from upsetting. At a steep decline now, he used the braking-stick, as the hind feet of the nearest dogs were rattling on the curved runners, though they were doing their best.

2.   Indian word of command, “Go on.”

3.  Word of command, “Go! Right! Go on!”

Back on the hill where Manou had rested was another man, keenly examining the scratches of the dogs’ nails on the crust. He was tall and gaunt, but with sinuous strength showing in every limb. At his feet were three dogs and a light sledge. He stood up, and, shading his eyes from the sun-glare, looked ahead and saw Manou hurrying onward.

“Ah-h-h!” he growled, “seex dog, hein? Sacré dam’! He t’ink he goin’ get mes skins sauf to de compagnie, an’ dat me, Jules Verbaux, let heem do heet sans bataille? We see! Mush! Allez!” The dogs leaped to their work, and he followed swiftly after, his snow-shoes sliding in long, easy strides.

Jules Verbaux was a “free” trapper in the Hudson Bay Company’s territory. He was a thorn in the factor’s side, as he stole fur from the traps of the Company’s Indians, and they could never catch him to send him over the “long trail.” Manou, a half-breed Indian, had heard of Jules’s cache,[4] where there was a lot of fur, and he had taken his dogs and sneaked off, hoping, for his own profit, to break the cache and get into one of the Company’s posts, where he would be safe to sell the skins.

4.   Hiding-place where the trappers keep their furs.

Jules came up on a drift and saw Manou going, going. “Ah, diable,” he muttered; “he goin’ win avec seex dog! Vat you t’ink me do? Jules, Ah have vone leet’ plan; dat miserab’ he not know exactement la place; Ah goin’ fool heem! Musha! ai-i-i-ii!” His voice trailed off in a nasal whine, and the dogs whirled about to the right and raced on.

Manou was so far ahead that he thought it safe to stop again; he put his dogs under the shelter of an ice clump while he climbed up on it. He could not find his pursuer on the back trail, and he chuckled for a moment. “Toi, Verbaux! Manou goin’ show to toi ’Ow to mush.” Then he caught sight of Jules working off to the right. “Qu’est ça?” he muttered, and after fumbling about in his pockets he brought out a soiled and crumpled piece of paper. “Nor’ouest to ze hol’ trail, den directement nor’ to ligne two, den sud’est; cache marrke, cross hon piece of wood. V’y for he go dat chemin?” he asked himself, and looked again.

Sure enough, Jules was now far off to the right, and going on fast. “Zat dam’ femme! She no tell to Manou correctement! Ah go now cut heem hoff zis chemin.” He slid and tumbled down the clump. “Mush! ai-i-i-i!” and away he went in the direction calculated to bring him across the other’s trail. As he travelled he pulled out an old pistol and examined the cartridges carefully. “Ah feex dat Verbaux, den le facteur he mak’ me vone big gif’—mabbe five dollaires—eef Ah breeng hees head cut hoff to la poste!”

Meanwhile Jules passed over snow-barrens with tireless speed. Regularly his snow-shoes clicked as he lifted them, and unceasingly he plied the lash. “Allez—allez! Ho-o-o-p!” He shook his fist at the other when he saw that Manou had fallen into the trap and was trying to head him off. “Viens, scélérat! Ah goin’ lead you in la territoire du diable!” He shouted aloud. The sound of his voice was whisked away even as his lips moved; he shook his fist again. “You know, garçon, zat Jules he have no gun; mais he have somme t’ing for you, Manou!” And he felt for the knife that rested in his belt. “Now, Ah go fas’ et leeve ze beeg trail. You come, Manou, hein? You come!” And he darted on at even greater speed.

An hour later Manou came to Verbaux’s trail. “C’est bien ça. Ah go fas’ now; an’ to-night, v’en he stop, Ah get heem.” He caressed the pistol. “Mush! mush!” he screamed to the dogs, and twined the lash about their heads. “Musha!”

Manou had forgotten his aching feet, forgotten his direction, forgotten everything but the lust of gain and his hatred of the man he was now pursuing.

On and on he went, cursing the dogs, and lashing them till the blood oozed through their fur. Over ridges and across drifts, down gullies and through ice ravines, following Jules’s broad trail, like a bloodhound he flew, now and again getting a glimpse of his man ahead. Sometimes Jules slowed up and breathed his dogs, and Manou’s eyes would snap when he saw him so close at hand; again Jules would put on an extra burst of speed, and Manou would curse horribly as he appreciated that the distance between them had increased.

The arctic day began to wane; the sun was pale and orange-coloured as it sank toward the snow-bound horizon. Jules sped on through the long twilight; finally he stopped. “Now, Ah goin’ feenesh you, diable! Ah, Jules Verbaux, goin’ do eet!”

He took off the dogs’ harness and lashed the biggest of the team firmly about the body with the broad back-thongs; this done, he fastened the light sledge strongly on his back, and then slung the wriggling, snarling animal between the runners; he took off his snow-shoes and hung them over his shoulder, and then pounded the remaining two dogs into a semblance of docility and picked one up under each arm. “Viens donc, Manou! Ah see you to-mor’, mabbe.” Shod only in his light moccasins, he turned to the left and disappeared like a shadow, leaving not the slightest track on the hard crust.

Manou came to the end of Jules’s trail; it was almost dark, but he got down on his hands and knees, and, with his face close to the snow, searched for the continuation of it. Finally he stood up.

“Night—dam’!—she protec’ you, Jules Verbaux; but to-mor’ Ah fin’ ze track, an’ den Ah come!” And he cursed again.

His dogs were nearly finished; they stood with drooping heads and half-closed eyes before the sledge, their hollow sides working like bellows as they panted hoarsely. Manou kicked and dragged them into a semicircle, then he turned the sledge sidewise for a windbreak, and pulling out a blanket, curled up among the tired brutes. He was too frenzied by disappointment to eat anything, nor did he give the dogs any food. The sleep of utter exhaustion soon stopped his mutterings, and the huskies lay inert about him.

The stars twinkled and blinked in the dark-blue heavens; the wind had died away; everything was still. Manou slept, and the dogs did not move. The stars suddenly seemed to lose their lustre; a little breeze sprang up, eddied about, and sank again. Another came—this time a stronger one; it ruffled the bushy tails of the huskies; it stirred the fur on the blanket; then it, too, sank. The stars seemed to recede into the farthest heavens, grow dim there, and disappear. The breeze grew into a steady wind, the snow particles rustled again on the crust, and still neither the man nor the dogs moved.

The wind strengthened into a strong blow, and the particles began to huddle about the sleeping forms, covering them with a thin white sheet. One of the huskies lifted its head, sniffed a moment, and then whined—a long-drawn whine. Manou slept on. The blow increased to a gale, droning over the sharp ice-edges on the hills; the drift came fast and thick, threatening to cover man and dogs completely. Another husky awoke, sprang to its feet, and howled dismally; Manou stirred, cursed the brute, and went to sleep again. The gale grew into the awful Northern hurricane; it shrieked through the ravines, and hissed away among the sharp peaks; it grew wilder and stronger, and, dragging the fur blanket from the sleeping man, drew it to itself and carried it over the snow hills out of sight. The dogs were huddled in a solid mass, yelping and howling. Manou felt the cold and heard the raging of the wind. “Dieu! la tempête du Nord!” he cried in terror, and groped for the blanket; and, when he could not find it, began to sob and to scream curses at God and the storm.

He rose to his feet; the wind upset him; he rose again, and again the gale threw him. Then he started on his hands and knees to find the blanket. He crawled up the slope of the hill near by, thinking that it would have lodged on the side, but it was not there. He crawled farther on to the top. Here the wind was doubly strong; it seemed to shriek: “I got the blanket out of the valley! I have you here!” It buffeted and beat him along ahead of it, turning him over and over, Manou fighting and cursing all the way. He could not get back to the dogs; he dug his fingers into the crust until the blood ran and their ends were split. In vain! Inch by inch, foot by foot, yard by yard, the wind pushed and hurtled him along. The frightful cold ate into his heart, his liver, the nerve-centres of his spine; he gave up fighting, and the wind rolled his body to a little precipice. He fell over its edge, down, down, until, with a soft thud, he struck a deep drift, and sank in. The white mass closed over his body like water, and filled his nose and his ears, choking him into insensibility.

Overhead the storm raged on for hours, until finally it sank as gradually as it had come, the gale dying to a strong blow, the strong blow into a steady wind, the steady wind into a breeze, and the breeze into little drafts that also died away. The sun rose from the snow-haze, and marvelled not; it was used to these things—used to going down at night, and, on rising the next morning, to seeing the barrens changed, a hill here where it was flat yesterday, a ravine there where yesterday stood a hill.

About noon a figure appeared in the distance; it grew, and as it approached the tall, gaunt form of Jules Verbaux was recognisable. He came directly, unerringly to the spot where he had broken his trail the night before, and he laughed as he looked on the changes that had been wrought.

“Ma foi, garçon! La tempête du Nord she get you, hein?”

He prodded about in the drifts with his sledge-stick, and struck something hard; he dug in, and found Manou’s sledge. He prodded farther, and found the bodies of the dogs buried deep.

“Seex chiens, poor beas’! Mais Manou, Ah vondaire v’ere ees he?”

He searched round, and dug in several places, but with no success. “Ah, b’en, he ees feenesh. Ah no have to faire dis!” and he drew out the long knife that glittered in the sunlight. He pried the bone runners from the other’s sledge, and fastened them to his own, on top of the load of fur it now carried, where yesterday it had been empty.

“Mush! Allez! Mush!” and the dogs scampered on.

“Manou!”—and he shook his fist at the four quarters of the horizon,—“you took my wife, you vant steal my skins, and now le diable he have you! Je suis content!”

And he followed on after the sledge with the same old easy stride.

II AN UNRECOVERED TRAIL

Jules Verbaux was taking the fur from his traps, on what he called ligne quatre;[5] he was very cheerful, as le bon Dieu had seen to it that marten, sable, mink, and fox were plentifully scattered along his line. He had no dogs with him on this trip, but drew the toboggan-sled, which was already well laden with skins, by a thong over his shoulder.

5.   Line 4.

“Dat fine!” he chuckled, and his eyes danced, as he saw a fine gray fox in one of the traps. It was a beautiful thing, this gray fox; the long sleek fur had a sheen of silver as the light trickled through the spruce branches and flickered over it, and its brush was full and thick. “Dat fine!” he said again. He went on down the traps, rebaiting here, resetting there, and often adding to the pile on the sled.

This line finished, he looked up at the sun. “Mi-jou’![6] Ah have taime to go ligne two,” he thought, and struck off due west through the forest. Verbaux was a shrewd, careful man; he knew well that the Company would give much to get him in their power, and he knew, too, that the Company’s Indians hated him because he stole the fur from their traps; therefore he advanced quietly through the woods, threading his way with care among windfalls and spruce tangles, his gray eyes continually watching on every side, even behind him.

6.   Midday.

Suddenly he stopped and listened; dead trees crackled from the intense frost and chunks of snow dropped from the branches with a gentle sw-i-i-sh through the air and a little plup when they struck the crust; beyond these natural sounds, he heard nothing. Jules still listened, and his nostrils dilated and contracted as he inhaled great breaths of air. “Smok’, by gar! not ver’ far!” He threw off the draw-thong, unbound his snow-shoes, and crept off in moccasins through the tree trunks; and was gone like a shadow in a moment.

Half a mile from where Jules first smelled smoke were five men—all Indians—and they were squatting about a little fire, drinking bitter, coal-black tea. “Ce Verbaux,” one of them was saying, “voleur! He don’ tak’ skeens f’om mes trap’ las’ weeek! Ah tol’ le facteur; he ees ver’ beeg angree. He say to me lak’ dis: he say, ‘Tritou, you keel dis Verbaux, een Ah geeve to you cinq, oui, dix dollaires, an’ som’ fine blankeets!’ ‘Ah goin’ keel Verbaux, M’sieu’ le Facteur,’ Ah say to heem. ‘Bon!’ he say den.”

“Toi, Tritou?” another trapper laughed. “You keel Verbaux? Ha! ha! da’ ’s fonnee! ’Ow you goin’ do heet, hein? tell to me dat!”

Tritou drew himself up as far as his squatty figure would allow. “Ah goin’ track heem, an’ v’en he no expec’ Ah goin’ keel heem avec gun—so!” And, to demonstrate what he would do, he threw the rifle that lay beside him to his shoulder, and snapped the hammer. The others laughed, and the sound of the gruff voices echoed dully among the trees.

“Bah, Tritou! You t’ink you goin’ snik on dat Verbaux? C’est impossible! Ah try t’ree, four, cinq taimes, mais he vatch h’all taime, lak’ de beavaire.”

They were all silent, trying to think of some way of killing Verbaux. “V’ere ees he maintenant?” asked an Indian who had hitherto not spoken. Tritou answered: “Ah see hees track near dose lignes two et t’ree las’ weeek; dat vas v’en Manou he go for to fin’ Verbaux hees cache. Manou he no yet comme back, no yet!”

There was an ominous shaking of fur-covered heads, and Tritou added in a whisper, “An’ Ah don’ t’ink Manou hee goin’ comme back.”

Silence fell on the men again as the possibility of Manou’s end was made so apparent.

“Allons!” suggested a trapper nicknamed Le Grand because of his great stature. “But vee svear to feenesh dat Verbaux, hein?”

“Bon!” agreed the rest. Tritou looked up from his work of adjusting his dog-collars. “You mans, you so svear, but me, Tritou, keel heem!” he said.

The men disentangled their huskies with sundry kicks and curses, and the party left the resting-place.

Jules came out on the little clearing, a smile of satisfaction on his swarthy face; the Indians’ voices had just faded away, and the forest was still. He carefully gathered the embers of the dying fire, and blew gently on the little flame that appeared; then he dropped bits of dry wood on it, and tenderly nursed the feeble blaze. From a pocket he drew a tin pannikin, filled it with snow, and set it on the fire; next he produced a stubby, blackened pipe, and lighted it with a flaming twig. He puffed and puffed; then an ugly glitter came to the gray eyes as he thought. “Sacré-é! Dey goin’ keel Jules, hein? Keel me, Jules Verbaux!” he went on, thumping himself on the chest, as though to emphasise the fact that he indeed was the person intended.

At that moment the pannikin shook, and almost upset, as the burning sticks settled to red-hot embers under it. “C’est bon, ça! Dat good signe,” he said as he noted that the pannikin did not upset, but hung on one side, the curling flames licking the surface of the now boiling water. “Dey goin’ try, dey goin’ comme near, mais dey no goin’ have success!” Jules was superstitious, as are all of his kind, and he felt relieved at the sign of the pannikin. Having put some tea in the water, he withdrew the receptacle from the fire, seeming not to feel its heat on his bare fingers. Then he cut some chunks from a piece of caribou-meat, which he got out of his fur tote-bag.[7] As he munched the tough provender and sipped the strong tea, his eyes were fixed on the smouldering fire in a thoughtful stare; of a sudden he laughed, not loudly, but heartily nevertheless, as proved by the shaking of his big shoulders. “Le bon Dieu merci, Ah play vone treek sur Tritou, Le Grand, an’ dose mans to-night!” The frugal meal finished, he tucked away his pipe, slung the bag over his shoulder, and departed by the way he had come, still chuckling.

7.   Bag for carrying food, usually made of caribou or bear-skin.

Moose-birds and Canada jays fluttered down near the cooling ashes, and squawked angrily because they could not find any food. An owl, attracted by the smell of the fire, lit noisily, because of his day-blindness, in a spruce overhead. “Whoo-o-o-a-aa!” His harsh note frightened the jays, and they flew off, scolding and shrieking. The owl sat there a few minutes, turning his head slowly from side to side; then he spread his great wings and sailed away.

About five miles from this place, Tritou, Le Grand, and the others were going steadily on. The crust was softer than it had been in the morning, and it was necessary for one man to break trail for the dogs and sledges; this the group did by turns. They sang and told stories as they plodded through the wet snow. “Tell, Le Grand,” asked Tritou, “you know Verbaux v’ere he leeve?” “Oh, he ees all place,” the other answered; “somme taime vone place, somme taime long vay h’off, là-bas!” and he waved his hand to the southward. In two hours’ time they came out on a big barren. The crust was hard and swept snow-clear by the wind. The five got on the sledges, and shouts of “Mush! Mush!” sounded loudly to the whistling of whips. Away they flew in a mad race for the woods just visible in the far distance.

Not long after they had gone Jules reached the edge of the barren, and saw the sledges scurrying across: clouds of snow-dust hid them at times; at others they appeared sharp and clear against the white. He quickly gathered a pile of dead, dry limbs; on top of them he threw armfuls of spruce boughs, which he deftly cut from trees near by; then he looked for the sledges again: they were at the forest line now, and he laughed as he scraped a match on his skin trousers and held it under the heap. It flickered, died down, then caught and blazed up merrily; in a few seconds a broad column of smoke was ascending to the tree-tops and being whirled away from them by the strong wind. Jules watched the fire for a moment, dropped a few marten-pelts near it, chuckled again, and went off into the forest behind him, shuffling his snow-shoes as he went.

“Arrête! Stop!” screamed Tritou. He was behind the others; they were fast nearing the timber, and paid no attention to his cries, thinking that he wanted to steal up on them and win; for the speed of their respective dog-teams was a matter of personal pride to the trappers, and the winner of such a race as this was to be envied. Seeing that he could not stop the rest, Tritou threw a shell into the barrel of his rifle and fired. The success of this ruse was immediately apparent; with shouts of “Bash! Bash-a-a!” and vigorous applications of their braking-sticks, the four others brought their sledges to a standstill. Cartridges were expensive at the post,—fifty marten skins per box,—and even one was never fired uselessly. “Vat ees mattaire?” growled Le Grand. Tritou waited till all were gathered together, so as to give greater import to his news. “Look dere!” he said, pointing over the black trail as he spoke. “Verbaux! au nom du diable!” said the others, together and separately, as they saw the wisps of smoke flying with the wind. Well they knew that this was their private trapping territory, and that no man, not even their own brothers, would dare violate it, except one, and that man was—Verbaux!

“Vite! Queeck! Queeck!” said Le Grand, as he dumped the food-bags and blankets from his sledge in a heap. “Ve goin’ catch heem! He vone beeg fool to mak’ so smoke!”

The others grasped his idea, and hastily piled their sledge-loads next to his on the snow. “Allons!” said Tritou. The dogs were whirled back on to the barren, and whips were used furiously as they got under way. “Musha! Musha-a-a-hei-i!” the men yelled, and the dogs laid themselves flat to the crust in their burst of speed. As the five sledges approached the smoke they slowed up. “You’ gun prêt?” muttered Le Grand to Tritou. The latter looked at his rifle, and nodded. They advanced carefully, checking the dogs with hoarse commands. “V’y for h’afraid?” said Tritou. “Five to vone, an’ heem no gun!” They came to the fire, and saw the pelts. “Hees track vite!” whispered Le Grand; he felt sure of their man now. “Dees eet!” answered Tritou, as with sharp eyes he found the snow-shoe tracks leading down into the forest. “Comme, den!” he called, and started his dogs on a jog-trot, watching the indentations in the snow as he proceeded.

“Dix dollaires et des fine blankeet,” he thought to himself, and looked at his rifle again, holding it in the hollow of his arm.

They travelled on thus in single file for half an hour, Tritou always in the lead, spying out the snow-shoe marks as he went. Suddenly he stopped; the tracks had ended!

“Ah, diable sacré-é! Ees he birrrd, den?” he asked the others.

They fastened the dogs together, and spread out fanwise to look for the lost trail. Two hours they hunted, but in vain.

“Maledictions dam’!” said Tritou again. “He ees gone! Attend toi, Verbaux: ze h’end of dis affaire she not comme encore; some taime ve veel see dat!” and he cursed fiercely.

The five went to the sledges, and in silence started back across the barren.

Meanwhile Jules tramped on into the woods; when he thought that he had gone far enough for his purpose, he took off his snow-shoes, slung them on his back, and swung himself up into a tree; for two hundred yards he worked his way on the branches of the spruce grove; the trees clustered thickly together in the little valley, and he had no trouble in gaining the hill on the far side.

Once there, he put on the snow-shoes again and started for the barren at high speed; the crust was hard on the hill, and it held him up perfectly.

When he got to the open, he saw the flying sledges making for his fire, which was some distance above him. He laughed. “Ver’ beeg fool, vous touts! Jules goin’ show you vone lessone!” He gathered in his belt one hole, tightened the woollen muffler about his throat, made sure that the snow-shoe thongs were well fast, and started across the barren. The sledges were a mile away, in a diagonal direction, and nearing the smoke. He smiled, “Ah go hout on l’ouvert, pass you clos’, tout près! You h’all too much beeg dam’ fool for to see,” and hurried on across. When the Indians were almost abreast of him, he lay flat on his stomach, and the wind covered him instantly with the drift particles; he lay there until the Indians had passed, then he got up and went on. In an hour he reached the other side, and soon found the sledge tracks, and saw where they had turned back on perceiving his smoke. His eyes gleamed with delight as he saw the blankets and food the Indians had left in their hurry.

“Ah t’ink an’ ’ope dat you do lak’ dees; maintenant Verbaux he goin’ show vat he do.”

Jules gathered the lot of stuff in one heap; piled wood over and about it; then he lighted a match, sheltered it from the little draft that eddied among the trees, and touched the mass. The match-flame grew and strengthened; it took hold of twigs, and then reached for the bigger branches; at last it spread over all. The smell of burning wool and meat mingled with the aroma of pine and hemlock limbs. Jules took off his snow-shoes once more, and glided away to the southward, leaving no trace, not a sign on the glare-crust at the edge of the timber.

When almost out of sight he stopped and shouted back, as though there were some one to hear him:

“You goin’ keel Verbaux, hein? Bien! You go t’ree, four day hongree, to arriver la poste!” He laughed loudly, and hurried away into the forest.

III JULES OF THE GREAT HEART

“Bon jou’, Verbaux!”

A hoarse voice spoke at the door of the little bark hut. Jules opened his eyes, and looked into the muzzle of a rifle in the hands of an Indian trapper.

“Ah-ha, mon gar! Ah track you t’ree day in la forêt, an’ you aire prisonnier to me, Le Grand. Stan’ h’up, an’ comme à moi.”

Jules thought quickly, and realised that the slightest deviation from orders would mean instant death; he got up slowly and walked over to his captor, who watched him like an animal.

“C’est ça; hol’ hout you’ han’s!”

Jules did so, but held them low in front of him; Le Grand, keeping the rifle cocked and pointed in one hand, drew a thong with a noose in it from his belt with the other hand, and threw it over Jules’s wrists; then he stooped forward to draw the noose tight. Quick as a flash, Jules’s right knee flew up and struck the other’s face with tremendous force. The rifle dropped to the Indian’s feet, and he staggered; Jules was on him in an instant, hitting him a fearful blow with his fist. Le Grand groaned and fell limply. Hurriedly Jules bound the fallen man’s wrists and ankles; then a knife gleamed in his hand.

“Maintenant, Le Grand, you go far ’way.” He lifted the blade, but hesitated, and his arm dropped without having accomplished its purpose. “Non, pas encore. Ah vant talk vone leet’ veet’ heem.”

He went outside and gathered some snow; this he rubbed vigorously on the Indian’s face and neck; when it had melted he got more and repeated the operation. Finally Le Grand moved and looked up.

“Ah, b’en, Verbaux,” he said; “Ah should keel you v’en Ah had ze chance, onlee le facteur he vant you ver’ bad. He say feefty dollaires to man who breeng Verbaux to ze post alive; so Ah track you many day, fin’ you haslip, et maintenant you keel me, hein?”

Jules played with his knife a few minutes before he answered; then he said: “You got vone leet’ girrrl, n’est-ce pas, Le Grand?”

The Indian’s face twitched slightly, and Jules went on: “Vat she do v’en her faddaire ees dead?”

“Ah don’ know,” answered Le Grand.

“You got vone leet’ garçon, eh, Le Grand? Vat he do eef his faddaire ees dead?”

“Ah don’ know,” answered the other again.

Then Jules spoke fiercely: “Ah tell to you vat zey do, dose deux leet’ vones. V’en le facteur he fin’ hout you no comme back, he sen’ dose enfants een la forêt, Le Grand; he vant no des petits een ze post, v’en no vone dere for to geeve zem to h’eat; an’ den ze wolfs, Le Grand, zey aire hongree, maintenant, dese taimes, Le Grand.”

“Da’ ’s true,” answered the Indian, his voice quivering with emotion, though his face showed no sign. Silence fell on the two men.

At last Jules said: “Le Grand, you know vat Ah ’m goin’ to do à toi?”

“Keel, je suppose,” was the answer.

“Non, Le Grand; not zis taime. A geeve you to your leet’ vones. Ah had a papoose vonce; den dat Manou he stol’ ma femme, an’ de leet’ girrrl she die.” His voice broke, and he knelt hurriedly and cut the lashings on the ankles and wrists.

“Stan’ hup, Le Grand; voici ton fusil.” He handed the Indian the rifle. “Maintenant go! Partez! an’ rememb’ Jules Verbaux.”

He stood aside from the hut entrance as he finished speaking. The Indian stared at him as in a trance.