"The Inspector does not tell you," said Superintendent Crawford, "how he stood off that bunch of Sarcees and held them where they were till Cameron was safe with his man over the hill. But it was a very clever bit of work, and, if I may say it, deserves recognition."
"I should like to give you Cameron if it were possible," said the Commissioner, "but this railroad business is one of great difficulty and Superintendent Strong is not the man to ask for assistance unless he is in pretty desperate straits. An unintelligent or reckless man would be worse than useless."
"How would it do," suggested the Superintendent, "to allow Cameron in the meantime to accompany the Inspector? Then later we might send him to Superintendent Strong."
Reporting this arrangement to Cameron a little later, the Inspector enquired:
"How would you like to have a turn in the mountains? You would find Superintendent Strong a fine officer."
"I desire no change in that regard," replied Cameron. "But, curiously enough, I have a letter this very mail that has a bearing upon this matter. Here it is. It is from an old college friend of mine, Dr. Martin."
The Inspector took the letter and read—
"I have got myself used up, too great devotion to scientific research; hence I am accepting an offer from the railroad people for work in the mountains. I leave in a week. Think of it! The muck and the ruck, the execrable grub and worse drink! I shall have to work my passage on hand cars and doubtless by tie pass. My hands will lose all their polish. However, there may be some fun and likely some good practice. I see they are blowing themselves up at a great rate. Then, too, there is the prospective joy of seeing you, of whom quite wonderful tales have floated east to us. I am told you are in direct line for the position of the High Chief Muck-a-muck of the Force. Look me up in Superintendent Strong's division. I believe he is the bulwark of the Empire in my district.
"A letter from the old burgh across the pond tells me your governor is far from well. Awfully sorry to hear it. It is rough on your sister, to whom, when you write, remember your humble servant.
"I am bringing out two nurses with me, both your devotees. Look out for squalls. If you get shot up see that you select a locality where the medical attendance and nursing are 'A 1'."
"It would be awfully good to see the old boy," said Cameron as he took the letter from the Inspector. "He is a decent chap and quite up-to-date in his profession."
"What about the nurses?" enquired the Inspector gravely.
"Oh, I don't know them. Never knew but one. A good bright little soul she was. Saw me through a typhoid trip. Little too clever sometimes," he added, remembering the day when she had taken her fun out of the slow-footed, slow-minded farmer's daughter.
"Well," said the Inspector, "we shall possibly come across them in our round-up. This is rather a big game, a very big game and one worth playing."
A bigger game it turned out than any of the players knew, bigger in its immediate sweep and in its nationwide issues.
For three months they swept the plains, haunting the reservations at unexpected moments. But though they found not a few horses and cattle whose obliterated brands seemed to warrant confiscation, and though there were signs for the instructed eye of evil doings in many an Indian camp, yet there was nothing connected with the larger game upon which the Inspector of Police could lay his hand.
Among the Bloods there were frequent sun-dances where many braves were made and much firewater drunk with consequent blood-letting. Red Crow deprecated these occurrences, but confessed his powerlessness to prevent the flow of either firewater or of blood. A private conversation with the Inspector left with the Chief some food for thought, however, and resulted in the cropping of the mane of White Horse, of whose comings and goings the Inspector was insistently curious.
On the Blackfeet reservation they ran into a great pow-wow of chiefs from far and near, to which old Crowfoot invited the representatives of the Great White Mother with impressive cordiality, an invitation, however, which the Inspector, such was his strenuous hunt for stolen horses, was forced regretfully to decline.
"Too smooth, old boy, too smooth!" was the Inspector's comment as they rode off. "There are doings there without doubt. Did you see the Cree and the Assiniboine?"
"I could not pick them out," said Cameron, "but I saw Louis the Breed."
"Ah, you did! He needs another term at the Police sanatarium."
They looked in upon the Sarcees and were relieved to find them frankly hostile. They had not forgotten the last visit of the Inspector and his friend.
"That's better," remarked the Inspector as they left the reservation. "Neither the hostile Indian nor the noisy Indian is dangerous. When he gets smooth and quiet watch him, like old Crowfoot. Sly old boy he is! But he will wait till he sees which way the cat jumps. He is no leader of lost causes."
At Morleyville they breathed a different atmosphere. They felt themselves to be among friends. The hand of the missionary here was upon the helm of government and the spirit of the missionary was the spirit of the tribe.
"Any trouble?" enquired the Inspector.
"We have a great many visitors these days," said the missionary. "And some of our young men don't like hunger, and the offer of a full feast makes sweet music in their ears."
"No, no, the sun-dances are all past. Our people are no longer pagans."
"Good man!" was the Inspector's comment as they took up the trail again toward the mountains. "And with quite a sufficient amount of the wisdom of the serpent in his guileless heart. We need not watch the Stonies. Here's a spot at least where religion pays. And a mighty good thing for us just now," added the inspector. "These Stonies in the old days were perfect devils for fighting. They are a mountain people and for generations kept the passes against all comers. But Macdougall has changed all that."
Leaving the reservation, they came upon the line of the railway.
"There lies my old trail," said Cameron. "And my last camp was only about two miles west of here."
"It was somewhere here that Raven fell in with you?"
"No, some ten miles off the line, down the old Kootenay trail."
"Aha!" said the Inspector. "It might not be a bad idea to beat up that same old trail. It is quite possible that we might fall in with your old friends."
"It would certainly be a great pleasure," replied Cameron, "to conduct Mr. Raven and his Indian friend over this same trail as they did me some nine months ago."
"We will take a chance on it," said the Inspector. "We lose time going back the other way."
Upon the site of McIvor's survey camp they found camped a large construction gang. Between the lines of tents, for the camp was ordered in streets like a city, they rode till they came to the headquarters of the Police, and enquired for the Superintendent. The Superintendent had gone up the line, the Sergeant informed them, following the larger construction gangs. The Sergeant and two men had some fifty miles of line under patrol, with some ten camps of various kinds on the line and in the woods, and in addition they had the care of that double stream of humanity flowing in and flowing out without ceasing day or night.
As the Inspector stepped inside the Police tent Cameron's attention was arrested by the sign "Hospital" upon a large double-roofed tent set on a wooden floor and guyed with more than ordinary care.
"Wonder if old Martin is anywhere about," he said to himself as he rode across to the open door.
"Is Dr. Martin in?" he enquired of a Chinaman, who appeared from a tent at the rear.
"Doc Matin go 'way 'long tlain."
"When will he come back?" demanded Cameron.
"Donno. See missy woman."
So saying, he disappeared into the tent while Cameron waited.
"You wish to see the doctor? He has gone west. Oh! Why, it—"
Cameron was off his horse, standing with his hat in one hand, the other outstretched toward the speaker.
"Why! it cannot be!—it is—my patient." The little nurse had his hand in both of hers. "Oh, you great big monster soldier! Do you know how fine you look?"
"No," replied Cameron, "but I do know how perfectly fine you look."
"Well, don't devour me. You look dangerous."
"I should truly love one little bite."
"Oh, Mr. Cameron, stop! You terrible man! Right in the open street!" The little nurse's cheeks flamed red as she quickly glanced about her. "What would Dr. Martin say?"
"Dr. Martin!" Cameron laughed. "Besides, I couldn't help it."
"Oh, I am so glad!"
"Thank you," said Cameron.
"I mean I am so glad to see you. They told us you would be coming to join us. And now they are gone. What a pity! They will be so disappointed."
"Who, pray, will be thus blighted?"
"Oh, the doctor I mean, and—and"—here her eyes danced mischievously—"the other nurse, of course. But you will be going west?"
"No, south, to-day, and in a few minutes. Here comes the Inspector. May I present him?"
The little nurse's snapping eyes glowed with pleasure as they ran over the tall figure of the Inspector and rested upon his fine clean-cut face. The Inspector had just made his farewell to the Sergeant preparatory to an immediate departure, but it was a full half hour before they rose from the dainty tea table where the little nurse had made them afternoon tea from her own dainty tea set.
"It makes me think of home," said the Inspector with a sigh as he bent over the little nurse's hand in gratitude. "My first real afternoon tea in ten years."
"Poor man!" said the nurse. "Come again."
"Ah, if I could!"
"But YOU are coming?" said the little nurse to Cameron as he held her hand in farewell. "I heard the doctor say you were coming and we are quite wild with impatience over it."
Cameron looked at the Inspector.
"I had thought of keeping Cameron at Macleod," said the latter. "But now I can hardly have the heart to do so."
"Oh, you needn't look at me so," said the little nurse with a saucy toss of her head. "He wouldn't bother himself about me, but—but—there is another. No, I won't tell him." And she laughed gaily.
Cameron stood mystified.
"Another? There is old Martin of course, but there is no other."
The little nurse laughed, this time scornfully.
"Old Martin indeed! He is making a shameless pretence of ignorance, Inspector Dickson."
"Disgraceful bluff I call it," cried the Inspector.
"Who can it be?" said Cameron. "I really don't know any nurse. Of course it can't be—Mandy—Miss Haley?" He laughed a loud laugh almost of derision as he made the suggestion.
"Ah, he's got it!" cried the nurse, clapping her hands. "As if he ever doubted."
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Cameron. "You don't mean to tell me that Mandy—What is poor Mandy doing here? Cooking?"
"Cooking indeed!" exclaimed the nurse. "Cooking indeed! Just let the men in this camp, from John here," indicating the Chinaman at the rear of the tent, "to the Sergeant yonder, hear you by the faintest tone indicate anything but adoration for Nurse Haley, and you will need the whole Police Force to deliver you from their fury."
"Good Heavens!" said Cameron in an undertone. "A nurse! With those hands!" He shuddered. "I mean, of course—you know—she's awfully good-hearted and all that, but as a nurse you know she is impossible."
The little nurse laughed long and joyously.
"Oh, this is fun! I wish Dr. Martin could hear you. You forget, Sir, that for a year and a half she has had the benefit of my example and tuition."
"Think of that, Cameron!" murmured the Inspector reproachfully. But Cameron only shook his head.
"Good-bye!" he said. "No, I don't think I pine for mountain scenery. Remember me to Martin and to Man—to Nurse Haley."
"Good-bye!" said the little nurse. "I have a good mind to tell them what you said. I may. Just wait, though. Some day you will very humbly beg my pardon for that slight upon my assistant."
"Slight? Believe me, I mean none. I would be an awful cad if I did. But—well, you know as well as I do that, good soul as Mandy is, she is in many ways impossible."
"Do I?" Again the joyous laugh pealed out. "Well, well, come back and see." And waving her hand she stood to watch them down the trail.
"Jolly little girl," said the Inspector, as they turned from the railway tote road down the coulee into the Kootenay trail. "But who is this other?"
"Oh," said Cameron impatiently, "I feel like a beastly cad. She's the daughter of the farmer where I spent a summer in Ontario, a good simple-hearted girl, but awfully—well—crude, you know. And yet—" Cameron's speech faded into silence, for his memory played a trick upon him, and again he was standing in the orchard on that sunny autumn day looking into a pair of wonderful eyes, and, remembering the eyes, he forgot his speech.
"Ah, yes," said the Inspector. "I understand."
"No, you don't," said Cameron almost rudely. "You would have to see her first. By Jove!" He broke into a laugh. "It is a joke with a vengeance," and relapsed into silence that lasted for some miles.
That night they slept in the old lumber camp, and the afternoon of the second day found them skirting the Crow's Nest.
"We've had no luck this trip," growled the Inspector, for now they were facing toward home.
"Listen!" said Cameron, pulling up his horse sharply. Down the pass the faraway beat of a drum was heard. It was the steady throb of the tom-tom rising and falling with rhythmic regularity.
"Sun-dance," said the Inspector, as near to excitement as he generally allowed himself. "Piegans."
"Where?" said Cameron.
"In the sun-dance canyon," answered the Inspector. "I believe in my soul we shall see something now. Must be two miles off. Come on."
Though late in December the ground was still unfrozen and the new-made government trail gave soft footing to their horses. And so without fear of detection they loped briskly along till they began to hear rising above the throb of the tom-tom the weird chant of the Indian sun-dancers.
"They are right down in the canyon," said the Inspector. "I know the spot well. We can see them from the top. This is their most sacred place and there is doubtless something big going on."
They left the main trail and, dismounting, led their horses through the scrubby woods, which were thick enough to give them cover without impeding very materially their progress. Within a hundred yards of the top they tied their horses in the thicket and climbed the slight ascent. Crawling on hands and knees to the lip of the canyon, they looked down upon a scene seldom witnessed by the eyes of white men. The canyon was a long narrow valley, whose rocky sides, covered with underbrush, rose some sixty feet from a little plain about fifty yards wide. The little plain was filled with the Indian encampment. At one end a huge fire blazed. At the other, and some fifty yards away, the lodges were set in a semicircle, reaching from side to side of the canyon, and in front of the lodges were a mass of Indian warriors, squatting on their hunkers, beating time, some with tom-toms, others with their hands, to the weirdly monotonous chant, that rose and fell in response to the gesticulations of one who appeared to be their leader. In the centre of the plain stood a post and round this two circles of dancers leaped and swayed. In the outer circle the men, with clubs and rifles in their hands, recited with pantomimic gestures their glorious deeds in the war or in the chase. The inner circle presented a ghastly and horrid spectacle. It was composed of younger men, naked and painted, some of whom were held to the top of the post by long thongs of buffalo hide attached to skewers thrust through the muscles of the breast or back. Upon these thongs they swayed and threw themselves in frantic attempts to break free. With others the skewers were attached by thongs to buffalo skulls, stones or heavy blocks of wood, which, as they danced and leaped, tore at the bleeding flesh. Round and round the post the naked painted Indians leaped, lurching and swaying from side to side in their desperate efforts to drag themselves free from those tearing skewers, while round them from the dancing circle and from the mass of Indians squatted on the ground rose the weird, maddening, savage chant to the accompaniment of their beating hands and throbbing drums.
"This is a big dance," said the Inspector, subduing his voice to an undertone, though in the din there was little chance of his being heard. "See! many braves have been made already," he added, pointing to a place on one side of the fire where a number of forms could be seen, some lying flat, some rolling upon the earth, but all apparently more or less in a stupor.
Madder and madder grew the drums, higher and higher rose the chant. Now and then an older warrior from the squatting circle would fling his blanket aside and, waving his rifle high in the air, would join with loud cries and wild gesticulations the outer circle of dancers.
"It is a big thing this," said the Inspector again. "No squaws, you see, and all in war paint. They mean business. We must get closer."
Cameron gripped him by the arm.
"Look!" he said, pointing to a group of Indians standing at a little distance beyond the lodges. "Little Thunder and Raven!"
"Yes, by Jove!" said the Inspector. "And White Horse, and Louis the Breed and Rainy Cloud of the Blackfeet. A couple of Sarcee chaps, I see, too, some Piegans and Bloods; the rest are Crees and Assiniboines. The whole bunch are here. Jove, what a killing if we could get them! Let's work nearer. Who is that speaking to them?"
"That's Raven," said Cameron, "and I should like to get my hands on him."
"Steady now," said the Inspector. "We must make no mistake."
They worked along the top of the ravine, crawling through the bushes, till they were immediately over the little group of which Raven was the centre. Raven was still speaking, the half-breed interpreting to the Crees and the Assiniboines, and now and then, as the noise from the chanting, drumming Indians subsided, the policemen could catch a few words. After Raven had finished Little Thunder made reply, apparently in strenuous opposition. Again Raven spoke and again Little Thunder made reply. The dispute waxed warm. Little Thunder's former attitude towards Raven appeared to be entirely changed. The old subservience was gone. The Indian stood now as a Chief among his people and as such was recognized in that company. He spoke with a haughty pride of conscious strength and authority. He was striving to bring Raven to his way of thinking. At length Raven appeared to throw down his ultimatum.
"No!" he cried, and his voice rang up clear through the din. "You are fools! You are like little partridges trying to frighten the hunter. The Great White Mother has soldiers like the leaves of the trees. I know, for I have seen them. Do not listen to this man!" pointing to Little Thunder. "Anger has made him mad. The Police with their big guns will blow you to pieces like this." He seized a bunch of dead leaves, ground them in his hands and puffed the fragments in their faces.
The half-breed and Little Thunder were beside themselves with rage. Long and loud they harangued the group about them. Only a little of their meaning could the Inspector gather, but enough to let him know that they were looking down upon a group of conspirators and that plans for a widespread rebellion were being laid before them.
Through the harangues of Little Thunder and Louis the half-breed Raven stood calmly regarding them, his hands on his hips. He knew well, as did the men watching from above, that all that stood between him and death were those same two hands and the revolvers in his belt, whose butts were snugly nosing up to his fingers. Little Thunder had too often seen those fingers close and do their deadly work while an eyelid might wink to venture any hasty move.
"Is that all?" said Raven at last.
Little Thunder made one final appeal, working himself up into a fine frenzy of passion. Then Raven made reply.
"Listen to me!" he said. "It is all folly, mad folly! And besides," and here his voice rang out like a trumpet, "I am for the Queen, God bless her!" His figure straightened up, his hands dropped on the butts of his guns.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Cameron. "Isn't that great?"
"Very fine, indeed," said the Inspector softly. Both men's guns were lined upon the conspirators.
Then the half-breed spoke, shrugging his shoulders in contempt.
"Let heem go. Bah! No good." He spat upon the ground.
Raven stood as he was for a few moments, smiling.
"Good-bye, all," he said. "Bon jour, Louis. Let no man move! Let no man move! I never need to shoot at a man twice. Little Thunder knows. And don't follow!" he added. "I shall be waiting behind the rocks."
He slowly backed away from the group, turned in behind a sheltering rock, then swiftly began to climb the rocky sides of the canyon. The moment he was out of sight Little Thunder dodged in behind the ledges, found his rifle, and, making a wide detour, began to climb the side of the ravine at an angle which would cut off Raven's retreat. All this took place in full view of the two watchers above.
"Let's get that devil," said the Inspector. But Cameron was already gone. Swiftly along the lip of the canyon Cameron ran and worked his way down the side till he stood just over the sloping ledge upon which the Indian was crouched and waiting. Along this lodge came the unconscious Raven, softly whistling to himself his favourite air,
"Three cheers for the red, white and blue."
There was no way of warning him. Three steps more and he would be within range. The Inspector raised his gun and drew a bead upon the crouching Indian.
"Wait!" whispered Cameron. "Don't shoot. It will bring them all down on us." Gathering himself together as he spoke, he vaulted clear over the edge of the rock and dropped fair upon the shoulders of the Indian below, knocking the breath completely out of him and bearing him flat to the rock. Like a flash Cameron's hand was on the Indian's throat so that he could make no outcry. A moment later Raven came in view. Swifter than light his guns were before his face and levelled at Cameron.
"Don't shoot!" said the Inspector quietly from above. "I have you covered."
Perilous as the situation was, Cameron was conscious only of the humourous side of it and burst into a laugh.
"Come here, Raven," he said, "and help me to tie up this fellow." Slowly Raven moved forward.
"Why, by all the gods! If it isn't our long-lost friend, Cameron," he said softly, putting up his guns. "All right, old man," he added, nodding up at the Inspector. "Now, what's all this? What? Little Thunder? So! Then I fancy I owe my life to you, Cameron."
Cameron pointed to Little Thunder's gun. Raven stood looking down upon the Indian, who was recovering his wind and his senses. His face suddenly darkened.
"You treacherous dog! Well, we are now nearly quits. Once you saved my life, now you would have taken it."
Meantime Cameron had handcuffed Little Thunder.
"Up!" he said, prodding him with his revolver. "And not a sound!"
Keeping within cover of the bushes, they scrambled up the ravine side. As they reached the top the Indian with a mighty wrench tore himself from Cameron's grip and plunged into the thicket. Before he had taken a second step, however, the Inspector was upon him like a tiger and bore him to the ground.
"Will you go quietly," said the Inspector, "or must we knock you on the head?" He raised his pistol over the Indian as he spoke.
"I go," grunted the Indian solemnly.
"Come, then," said the Inspector, "we'll give you one chance more. Where's your friend?" he added, looking about him. But Raven was gone.
"I am just as glad," said Cameron, remembering Raven's declaration of allegiance a few moments before. "He wasn't too bad a chap after all. We have this devil anyhow."
"Quick, now," said the Inspector. "We have not a moment to lose. This is an important capture. How the deuce we are to get him to the Fort I don't know."
Through the bushes they hurried their prisoner, threatening him with their guns. When they came to their horses they were amazed to find Little Thunder's pony beside their own and on the Inspector's saddle a slip of paper upon which in the fading light they found inscribed "One good turn deserves another. With Mr. Raven's compliments."
"By Jove, he's a trump!" said the Inspector. "I'd like to get him, but all the same—"
And so they rode off to the Fort.
The railway construction had reached the Beaver, and from Laggan westward the construction gangs were strewn along the line in straggling camps, straggling because, though the tents of the railway men were set in orderly precision, the crowds of camp-followers spread themselves hither and thither in disorderly confusion around the outskirts of the camp.
To Cameron, who for a month had been attached to Superintendent Strong's division, the life was full of movement and colour. The two constables and Sergeant Ferry found the duty of keeping order among the navvies, but more especially among the outlaw herd that lay in wait to fling themselves upon their monthly pay like wolves upon a kill, sufficiently arduous to fill to repletion the hours of the day and often of the night.
The hospital tent where the little nurse reigned supreme became to Cameron and to the Sergeant as well a place of refuge and relief. Nurse Haley was in charge further down the line.
The post had just come in and with it a letter for Constable Cameron. It was from Inspector Dickson.
"You will be interested to know," it ran, "that when I returned from Stand Off two days ago I found that Little Thunder, who had been waiting here for his hanging next month, had escaped. How, was a mystery to everybody; but when I learned that a stranger had been at the Fort and had called upon the Superintendent with a tale of horse-stealing, had asked to see Little Thunder and identified him as undoubtedly the thief, and had left that same day riding a particularly fine black broncho, I made a guess that we had been honoured by a visit from your friend Raven. That guess was confirmed as correct by a little note which I found waiting me from this same gentleman explaining Little Thunder's absence as being due to Raven's unwillingness to see a man go to the gallows who had once saved his life, but conveying the assurance that the Indian was leaving the country for good and would trouble us no more. The Superintendent, who seems to have been captured by your friend's charm of manner, does not appear to be unduly worried and holds the opinion that we are well rid of Little Thunder. But I venture to hold a different opinion, namely, that we shall yet hear from that Indian brave before the winter is over.
"Things are quiet on the reservations—altogether too quiet. The Indians are so exceptionally well behaved that there is no excuse for arresting any suspects, so White Horse, Rainy Cloud, those Piegan chaps, and the rest of them are allowed to wander about at will. The country is full of Indian and half-breed runners and nightly pow-wows are the vogue everywhere. Old Crowfoot, I am convinced, is playing a deep game and is simply waiting the fitting moment to strike.
"How is the little nurse? Present my duty to her and to that other nurse over whom hangs so deep a mystery."
Cameron folded up his letter and imparted some of the news to the Sergeant.
"That old Crowfoot is a deep one, sure enough," said Sergeant Ferry. "It takes our Chief here to bring him to time. Superintendent Strong has the distinction of being the only man that ever tamed old Crowfoot. Have you never heard of it? No? Well, of course, we don't talk about these things. I was there though, and for cold iron nerve I never saw anything like it. It was a bad half-breed," continued Sergeant Ferry, who, when he found a congenial and safe companion, loved to spin a yarn—"a bad half-breed who had been arrested away down the line, jumped off the train and got away to the Blackfeet. The Commissioner happened to be in Calgary and asked the Superintendent himself to see about the capture of this desperado. So with a couple of us mounted and another driving a buckboard we made for Chief Crowfoot's encampment. It was a black night and raining a steady drizzle. We lay on the edge of the camp for a couple of hours in the rain and then at early dawn we rode in. It took the Superintendent about two minutes to locate Crowfoot's tent, and, leaving us outside, he walked straight in. There was our man, as large as life, in the place of honour beside old Crowfoot. The interpreter, who was scared to death, afterwards told me all about it.
"'I want this man,' said the Superintendent, hardly waiting to say good-day to the old Chief.
"Crowfoot was right up and ready for a fight. The Superintendent, without ever letting go the half-breed's shoulder, set out the case. Meantime the Indians had gathered in hundreds about the tent outside, all armed, and wild for blood, you bet. I could hear the Superintendent making his statement. All at once he stopped and out he came with his man by the collar, old Crowfoot after him in a fury, but afraid to give the signal of attack. The Indians were keen to get at us, but the old Chief had his men in hand all right.
"'Don't think you will not get justice,' said the Superintendent. 'You come yourself and see. Here's a pass for you on the railroad and for any three of your men. But let me warn you that if one hair of my men is touched, it will be a bad day for you, Crowfoot, and for your band.'
"He bundled his man into the buckboard and sent him off. The Superintendent and I waited on horseback in parley with old Crowfoot till the buckboard was over the hill. Such a half hour I never expect to see again. I felt like a man standing over an open keg of gunpowder with a lighted match. Any moment a spark might fall, and then good-bye. And it is this same nerve of his that holds down these camps along this line. Here we are with twenty-five men from Laggan to Beaver keeping order among twenty-five hundred railroad navvies, not a bad lot, and twenty-five hundred others, the scum, the very devil's scum from across the line, and not a murder all these months. Whiskey, of course, but all under cover. I tell you, he's put the fear of death on all that tinhorn bunch that hang around these camps."
"There doesn't seem to be much trouble just now," remarked Cameron.
"Trouble? There may be the biggest kind of trouble any day. Some of these contractors are slow in their pay. They expect men to wait a month or two. That makes them mad and the tinhorn bunch keep stirring up trouble. Might be a strike any time, and then look out. But our Chief will be ready for them. He won't stand any nonsense, you bet."
At this point in the Sergeant's rambling yarn the door was flung open and a man called breathlessly, "Man killed!"
"How is that?" cried the Sergeant, springing to buckle on his belt.
"An accident—car ran away—down the dump."
"They are altogether too flip with those cars," growled the Sergeant. "Come on!"
They ran down the road and toward the railroad dump where they saw a crowd of men. The Sergeant, followed by Cameron, pushed his way through and found a number of navvies frantically tearing at a pile of jagged blocks of rock under which could be seen a human body. It took only a few minutes to remove the rocks and to discover lying there a young man, a mere lad, from whose mangled and bleeding body the life appeared to have fled.
As they stood about him, a huge giant of a man came tearing his way through the crowd, pushing men to right and left.
"Let me see him," he cried, dropping on his knees. "Oh Jack, lad, they have done for you this time."
As he spoke the boy opened his eyes, looked upon the face of his friend, smiled and lay still. Then the Sergeant took command.
"Is the doctor back, does anyone know?"
"No, he's up the line yet. He is coming in on number seven."
"Well, we must get this man to the hospital. Here, you," he said, touching a man on the arm, "run and tell the nurse we are bringing a wounded man."
They improvised a stretcher and laid the mangled form upon it the blood streaming from wounds in his legs and trickling from his pallid lips.
"Here, two men are better than four. Cameron, you take the head, and you," pointing to Jack's friend, "take his feet. Steady now! I'll just go before. This is a ghastly sight."
At the door of the hospital tent the little nurse met them, pale, but ready for service.
"Oh, my poor boy!" she cried, as she saw the white face. "This way, Sergeant," she added, passing into a smaller tent at one side of the hospital. "Oh, Mr. Cameron, is that you? I am glad you are here."
"Has Nurse Haley come?" enquired the Sergeant.
"Yes, she came in last night, thank goodness. Here, on this table, Sergeant. Oh I wish the doctor were here! Now we must lift him on to this stretcher. Ah, here's Nurse Haley," she added in a relieved voice, and before Cameron was aware, a girl in a nurse's uniform stood by him and appeared quietly to take command.
"Here Sergeant," she said, "two men take his feet." She put her arms under the boy's shoulder and gently and with apparent ease, assisted by the others, lifted him to the table. "A little further—there. Now you are easier, aren't you?" she said, smiling down into the lad's face. Her voice was low and soft and full toned.
"Yes, thank you," said the boy, biting back his groans and with a pitiful attempt at a smile.
"You're fine now, Jack. You'll soon be fixed up now," said his friend.
"Yes Pete, I'm all right, I know."
"Oh, I wish the doctor were here!" groaned the little nurse.
"What about a hypo?" enquired Nurse Haley quietly.
"Yes, yes, give him one."
Cameron's eyes followed the firm, swift-moving fingers as they deftly gave the hypodermic.
"Now we must get this bleeding stopped," she said.
"Get them all out, Sergeant, please," said the little nurse. "One or two will do to help us. You stay, Mr. Cameron."
At the mention of his name Nurse Haley, who had been busy preparing bandages, dropped them, turned, and for the first time looked Cameron in the face.
"Is it you?" she said softly, and gave him her hand, and, as more than once before, Cameron found himself suddenly forgetting all the world. He was looking into her eyes, blue, deep, wonderful.
It was only for a single moment that his eyes held hers, but to him it seemed as if he had been in some far away land. Without a single word of greeting he allowed her to withdraw her hand. Wonder, and something he could not understand, held him dumb.
For the next half hour he obeyed orders, moving as in a dream, assisting the nurses in their work; and in a dream he went away to his own quarters and thence out and over the dump and along the tote road that led through the straggling shacks and across the river into the forest beyond. But of neither river nor forest was he aware. Before his eyes there floated an illusive vision of masses of fluffy golden hair above a face of radiant purity, of deft fingers moving in swift and sure precision as they wound the white rolls of bandages round bloody and broken flesh, of two round capable arms whose lines suggested strength and beauty, of a firm knit, pliant body that moved with easy sinuous grace, of eyes—but ever at the eyes he paused, forgetting all else, till, recalling himself, he began again, striving to catch and hold that radiant, bewildering, illusive vision. That was a sufficiently maddening process, but to relate that vision of radiant efficient strength and grace to the one he carried of the farmer's daughter with her dun-coloured straggling hair, her muddy complexion, her stupid face, her clumsy, grimy hands and heavy feet, her sloppy figure, was quite impossible. After long and strenuous attempts he gave up the struggle.
"Mandy!" he exclaimed aloud to the forest trees. "That Mandy! What's gone wrong with my eyes, or am I clean off my head? I will go back," he said with sudden resolution, "and take another look."
Straight back he walked to the hospital, but at the door he paused. Why was he there? He had no excuse to offer and without excuse he felt he could not enter. He was acting like a fool. He turned away and once more sought his quarters, disgusted with himself that he should be disturbed by the thought of Mandy Haley or that it should cause him a moment's embarrassment to walk into her presence with or without excuse, determinedly he set himself to regain his one-time attitude of mind toward the girl. With little difficulty he recalled his sense of superiority, his kindly pity, his desire to protect her crude simplicity from those who might do her harm. With a vision of that Mandy before him, the drudge of the farm, the butt of Perkins' jokes, the object of pity for the neighbourhood, he could readily summon up all the feelings he had at one time considered it the correct and rather fine thing to cherish for her. But for this young nurse, so thoroughly furnished and fit, and so obviously able to care for herself, these feelings would not come. Indeed, it made him squirm to remember how in his farewell in the orchard he had held her hand in gentle pity for her foolish and all too evident infatuation for his exalted and superior self. His groan of self-disgust he hastily merged into a cough, for the Sergeant had his eyes upon him. Indeed, the Sergeant did not help his state of mind, for he persisted in executing a continuous fugue of ecstatic praise of Nurse Haley in various keys and tempos, her pluck, her cleverness, her skill, her patience, her jolly laugh, her voice, her eyes. To her eyes the Sergeant ever kept harking back as to the main motif of his fugue, till Cameron would have dearly loved to chuck him and his fugue out of doors.
He was saved from deeds of desperate violence by a voice at the door.
"Letta fo' Mis Camelon!"
"Hello, Cameron!" exclaimed the Sergeant, handing him the note. "You're in luck." There was no mistaking the jealousy in the Sergeant's voice.
"Oh, hang it!" said Cameron as he read the note.
"Who?" enquired the Sergeant eagerly.
"Me. I say, you go in my place."
The Sergeant swore at him frankly and earnestly.
"All right John," said Cameron rather ungraciously.
"You come?" enquired the Chinaman.
"Yes, I'll come."
"All lite!" said John, turning away with his message.
"Confound the thing!" growled Cameron.
"Oh come, you needn't put up any bluff with me, you know," said the Sergeant.
But Cameron made no reply. He felt he was not ready for the interview before him. He was distinctly conscious of a feeling of nervous embarrassment, which to a man of experience is disconcerting and annoying. He could not make up his mind as to the attitude which it would be wise and proper for him to assume toward—ah—Nurse Haley. Why not resume relations at the point at which they were broken off in the orchard that September afternoon a year and a half ago? Why not? Mandy was apparently greatly changed, greatly improved. Well, he was delighted at the improvement, and he would frankly let her see his pleasure and approval. There was no need for embarrassment. Pshaw! Embarrassment? He felt none.
And yet as he stood at the door of the nurses' tent he was disquieted to find himself nervously wondering what in thunder he should talk about. As it turned out there was no cause for nervousness on this score. The little nurse and the doctor—Nurse Haley being on duty—kept the stream of talk rippling and sparkling in an unbroken flow. Whenever a pause did occur they began afresh with Cameron and his achievements, of which they strove to make him talk. But they ever returned to their own work among the sick and wounded of the camps, and as often as they touched this theme the pivot of their talk became Nurse Haley, till Cameron began to suspect design and became wrathful. They were talking at him and were taking a rise out of him. He would show them their error. He at once became brilliant.
In the midst of his scintillation he abruptly paused and sat listening. Through the tent walls came the sound of singing, low-toned, rich, penetrating. He had no need to ask about that voice. In silence they looked at him and at each other.
"We're going home, no more to roam, No more to sin and sorrow, No more to wear the brow of care, We're going home to-morrow.
"We're going home; we're going home; We're going home to-morrow."
Softer and softer grew the music. At last the voice fell silent. Then Nurse Haley appeared, radiant, fresh, and sweet as a clover field with the morning dew upon it, but with a light as of another world upon her face.
With the spell of her voice, of her eyes, of her radiant face upon him, Cameron's scintillation faded and snuffed out. He felt like a boy at his first party and enraged at himself for so feeling. How bright she was, how pure her face under the brown gold hair, how dainty the bloom upon her cheek, and that voice of hers, and the firm lithe body with curving lines of budding womanhood, grace in every curve and movement! The Mandy of old faded from his mind. Have I seen you before? And where? And how long ago? And what's happening to me? With these questions he vexed his soul while he strove to keep track of the conversation between the three.
A call from the other tent summoned Nurse Haley.
"Let me go instead," cried the little nurse eagerly. But, light-footed as a deer, Mandy was already gone.
When the tent flap had fallen behind her Cameron pushed back his plate, leaned forward upon the table and, looking the little nurse full in the face, said:
"Now, it's no use carrying this on. What have you done to her?" And the little nurse laughed her brightest and most joyous laugh.
"What has she done to us, you mean."
"No. Come now, take pity on a fellow. I left her—well—you know what. And now—how has this been accomplished?"
"Soul, my boy," said the doctor emphatically, "and the hairdresser and—"
But Cameron ignored him.
"Can you tell me?" he said to the nurse.
"Well, as a nurse, is she quite impossible?"
"Oh, spare me," pleaded Cameron. "I acknowledge my sin and my folly is before me. But tell me, how was this miracle wrought?"
"What do you mean exactly? Specify."
"Oh, hang it! Well, beginning at the top, there's her hair."
"Then, her complexion—her grace of form—her style—her manner. Oh, confound it! Her hands—everything."
"Well," said the little nurse with deliberation, "let's begin at the top. Her hair? A hairdresser explains that. Her complexion? A little treatment, massage, with some help from the doctor. Her hands? Again treatment and release from brutalising work. Her figure? Well, you know, that depends, though we don't acknowledge it always, to a certain extent on—well—things—and how you put them on."
"Nurse," said the doctor gravely, "you're all off. The transformation is from within and is explained, as I have said, by one word—soul. The soul has been set free, has been allowed to break through. That is all. Why, my dear fellow," continued the doctor with rising enthusiasm, "when that girl came to us we were in despair; and for three months she kept us there, pursuing us, hounding us with questions. Never saw anything like it. One telling was enough though. Her eyes were everywhere, her ears open to every hint, but it was her soul, like a bird imprisoned and beating for the open air. The explanation is, as I have said just now, soul—intense, flaming, unquenchable soul—and, I must say it, the dressmaker, the hairdresser, and the rest directed by our young friend here," pointing to the little nurse. "Why, she had us all on the job. We all became devotees of the Haley Cult."
"No," said the nurse, "it was herself."
"Isn't that what I have been telling you?" said the doctor impatiently. "Soul—soul—soul! A soul somehow on fire."
And with that Cameron had to be content.
Yes, a soul it was, at one time dormant and enwrapped within its coarse integument. Now, touched into life by some divine fire, it had through its own subtle power transformed that coarse integument into its own pure gold. What was that fire? What divine touch had kindled it? And, more important still, was that fire still aglow, or, having done its work, had it for lack of food flickered and died out? With these questions Cameron vexed himself for many days, nor found an answer.
Jack Green did not die. Every morning for a fortnight Constable Cameron felt it to be his duty to make enquiry—the Sergeant, it may be added—performing the same duty with equal diligence in the afternoon, and every day the balance, which trembled evenly for some time between hope and fear, continued to dip more and more decidedly toward the former.
"He's going to live, I believe," said Dr. Martin one day. "And he owes it to the nurse." The doctor's devotion to and admiration for Nurse Haley began to appear to Cameron unnecessarily pronounced. "She simply would not let him go!" continued the doctor. "She nursed him, sang to him her old 'Come all ye' songs and Methodist hymns, she spun him barnyard yarns and orchard idyls, and always 'continued in our next,' till the chap simply couldn't croak for wanting to hear the next."
At times Cameron caught through the tent walls snatches of those songs and yarns and idyls, at times he caught momentary glimpses of the bright young girl who was pouring the vigour of her life into the lad fighting for his own, but these snatches and glimpses only exasperated him. There was no opportunity for any lengthened and undisturbed converse, for on the one hand the hospital service was exacting beyond the strength of doctor and nurses, and on the other there was serious trouble for Superintendent Strong and his men in the camps along the line, for a general strike had been declared in all the camps and no one knew at what minute it might flare up into a fierce riot.
It was indeed exasperating to Cameron. The relations between himself and Nurse Haley were unsatisfactory, entirely unsatisfactory. It was clearly his duty—indeed he owed it to her and to himself—to arrive at some understanding, to establish their relations upon a proper and reasonable basis. He was at very considerable pains to make it clear, not only to the Sergeant, but to the cheerful little nurse and to the doctor as well, that as her oldest friend in the country it was incumbent upon him to exercise a sort of kindly protectorate over Nurse Haley. In this it is to be feared he was only partially successful. The Sergeant was obviously and gloomily incredulous of the purity of his motives, the little nurse arched her eyebrows and smiled in a most annoying manner, while the doctor pendulated between good-humoured tolerance and mild sarcasm. It added not a little to Cameron's mental disquiet that he was quite unable to understand himself; indeed, through these days he was engaged in conducting a bit of psychological research, with his own mind as laboratory and his mental phenomena as the materia for his investigation. It was a most difficult and delicate study and one demanding both leisure and calm—and Cameron had neither. The brief minutes he could snatch from Her Majesty's service were necessarily given to his friends in the hospital and as to the philosophic calm necessary to research work, a glimpse through the door of Nurse Haley's golden head bending over a sick man's cot, a snatch of song in the deep mellow tones of her voice, a touch of her strong firm hand, a quiet steady look from her deep, deep eyes—any one of these was sufficient to scatter all his philosophic determinings to the winds and leave his soul a chaos of confused emotions.
Small wonder, then, that twenty times a day he cursed the luck that had transferred him from the comparatively peaceful environment of the Police Post at Fort Macleod to the maddening whirl of conflicting desires and duties attendant upon the Service in the railroad construction camps. A letter from his friend Inspector Dickson accentuated the contrast.
"Great doings, my boy," wrote the Inspector, evidently under the spell of overmastering excitement. "We have Little Thunder again in the toils, this time to stay, and we owe this capture to your friend Raven. A week ago Mr. Raven coolly walked into the Fort and asked for the Superintendent. I was down at stables at the time. As he was coming out I ran into him and immediately shouted 'Hands up!'
"'Ah, Mr. Inspector,' said my gentleman, as cool as ice, 'delighted to see you again.'
"'Stand where you are!' I said, and knowing my man and determined to take no chances, I ordered two constables to arrest him. At this the Superintendent appeared.
"'Ah, Inspector,' he said, 'there is evidently some mistake here.'
"'There is no mistake, Superintendent,' I replied. 'I know this man. He is wanted on a serious charge.'
"'Kindly step this way, Mr. Raven,' said the Superintendent, 'and you, Inspector. I have something of importance to say to you.'
"And, by Jove, it was important. Little Thunder had broken his pledge to Raven to quit the rebellion business and had perfected a plan for a simultaneous rising of Blackfeet, Bloods, Piegans, and Sarcees next month. Raven had stumbled upon this and had deliberately put himself in the power of the Police to bring this information. 'I am not quite prepared,' he said, 'to hand over this country to a lot of bally half-breeds and bloody savages.' Together the Superintendent and he had perfected a plan for the capture of the heads of the conspiracy.
"'As to that little matter of which you were thinking, Inspector Dickson,' said my Chief, 'I think if you remember, we have no definite charge laid against Mr. Raven, who has given us, by the way, very valuable information upon which we must immediately act. We are also to have Mr. Raven's assistance.'
"Well, we had a glorious hunt, and by Jove, that man Raven is a wonder. He brought us right to the bunch, walked in on them, cool and quiet, pulled two guns and held them till we all got in place. There will be no rebellion among these tribes this year, I am confident."
And though it does not appear in the records it is none the less true that to the influence of Missionary Macdougall among the Stonies and to the vigilance of the North West Mounted Police was it due that during the Rebellion of '85 Canada was spared the unspeakable horrors of an Indian war.
It was this letter that deepened the shadow upon Cameron's face and sharpened the edge on his voice as he looked in upon his hospital friends one bright winter morning.
"You are quite unbearable!" said the little nurse after she had listened to his grumbling for a few minutes. "And you are spoiling us all."
"Spoiling you all?"
"Yes, especially me, and—Nurse Haley."
"Yes. You are disturbing her peace of mind."
"Disturbing her? Me?"
A certain satisfaction crept into Cameron's voice. Nothing is so calculated to restore the poise of the male mind as a consciousness of power to disturb the equilibrium of one of the imperious sex.
"And you must not do it!" continued the little nurse. "She has far too much to bear now."
"And haven't I been just telling you that?" said Cameron savagely. "She never gets off. Night and day she is on the job. I tell you, I won't—it should not be allowed." Cameron was conscious of a fine glow of fraternal interest in this young girl. "For instance, a day like this! Look at these white mountains, and that glorious sky, and this wonderful air, and not a breath of wind! What a day for a walk! It would do her—it would do you all a world of good."
"Wait!" cried the little nurse, who had been on duty all night. "I'll tell her what you say."
Apparently it took some telling, for it was a full precious quarter of an hour before they appeared again.
"There, now, you see the effect of your authority. She would not budge for me, but—well—there she is! Look at her!"
There was no need for this injunction. Cameron's eyes were already fastened upon her. And she was worth any man's while to look at in her tramping costume of toque and blanket coat. Tall, she looked, beside the little nurse, lithe and strong, her close-fitting Hudson Bay blanket coat revealing the swelling lines of her budding womanhood. The dainty white toque perched upon the masses of gold-brown hair accentuated the girlish freshness of her face. At the nurse's words she turned her eyes upon Cameron and upon her face, pale with long night watches, a faint red appeared. But her eyes were quiet and steady and kind; too quiet and too kind for Cameron, who was looking for other signals. There was no sign of disturbance in that face.
"Come on!" he said impatiently. "We have only one hour."
"Oh, what a glorious day!" cried Nurse Haley, drawing a deep breath and striding out like a man to keep pace with Cameron. "And how good of you to spare me the time!"
"I have been trying to get you alone for the last two weeks," said Cameron.
"Yes, for a month! I wanted to talk to you."
"To talk with me? About what?"
"About—well—about everything—about yourself."
"Yes. I don't understand you. You have changed so tremendously."
"Oh," exclaimed the girl, "I am so glad you have noticed that! Have I changed much?"
"Much? I should say so! I find myself wondering if you are the Mandy I used to know at all."
"Oh," she exclaimed, "I am so glad! You see, I needed to change so much."
"But how has it happened?" exclaimed Cameron. "It is a miracle to me."
"How a miracle?"
For a few moments they walked on in silence, the tote road leading them into the forest. After a time the nurse said softly,
"It was you who began it."
"Yes, you—and then the nurse. Oh, I can never repay her! The day that you left—that was a dreadful day. The world was all black. I could not have lived, I think, many days like that. I had to go into town and I couldn't help going to her. Oh, how good she was to me that day! how good! She understood, she understood at once. She made me come for a week to her, and then for altogether. That was the beginning; then I began to see how foolish I had been."
"Yes, wildly foolish! I was like a mad thing, but I did not know then, and I could not help it."
"Oh, everything! But the nurse showed me—she showed me—"
"Showed me how to take care of myself—to take care of my body—of my dress—of my hair. Oh, I remember well," she said with a bright little laugh, "I remember that hair-dresser. Then the doctor came and gave me books and made me read and study—and then I began to see. Oh, it was like a fire—a burning fire within me. And the doctor was good to me, so very patient, till I began to love my profession; to love it at first for myself, and then for others. How good they all were to me those days!—the nurses in the hospital, the doctors, the students—everyone seemed to be kind; but above them all my own nurse here and my own doctor."
In hurried eager speech she poured forth her heart as if anxious to finish her tale—her voice, her eyes, her face all eloquent of the intense emotion that filled her soul.
"It is wonderful!" said Cameron.
"Yes," she replied, "wonderful indeed! And I wanted to see you and have you see me," she continued, still hurrying her speech, "for I could not bear that you should remember me as I was those dreadful days; and I am so glad that you—you—are pleased!" The appeal in her voice and in her eyes roused in Cameron an overwhelming tide of passion.
"Pleased!" he cried. "Pleased! Great Heavens, Mandy! You are wonderful! Don't you know that?"
"No," she said thoughtfully; "but," she drew a long breath, "I like to hear you say it. That is all I want. You see I owe it all to you." The face she turned to him so innocently happy might have been a child's.
"Mandy," cried Cameron, stopping short in his walk, "you—I—!" That frank childlike look in her eyes checked his hot words. But there was no need for words; his eyes spoke for his faltering lips. A look of fear leaped to her eyes, a flow of red blood to her cheeks; then she stood, white, trembling and silent.
"I am tired, I think," she said after a moment's silence, "we will go back."
"Yes, you are tired," said Cameron angrily. "You are tired to death. Mandy, you need some one to take care of you. I wish you would let me." They were now walking back toward the town.
"They are all good to me; they are all kind to me." Her voice was quiet and steady. She had gained control of herself again. "Why, even John the Chinaman," she added with a laugh, "spoils me. Oh, no harm can come to me—I have no fear!"
"But," said Cameron, "I—I want to take care of you, Mandy. I want the right to take care of you, always."
"I know, I know," she said kindly. "You are so good; you were always so good; but I need no one."
Cameron glanced at the lithe, strong, upright figure striding along beside him with easy grace; and the truth came to him in swift and painful revelation.
"You are right," he said as if to himself. "You need no one, and you don't need me."
"But," she cried eagerly, "it was good of you all the same."
"Good!" he said impatiently. "Good! Nonsense! I tell you, Mandy, I want you, I want you. Do you understand? I want to marry you."
"Oh, don't say that!" she cried, stopping short, her voice disturbed, but kindly, gentle and strong. "Don't say that," she repeated, "for, of course, that is impossible."
"Impossible!" he exclaimed angrily.
"Yes," she said, her voice still quiet and steady, "quite impossible. But I love you for saying it, oh—," she suddenly caught her breath. "Oh, I love you for saying it." Then pointing up the road she cried, "Look! Some one for you, I am sure." A horseman was galloping swiftly towards them.
"Oh hang it all!" said Cameron. "What the deuce does he want now?"
"We must talk this out again, Mandy," he said.
"No, no!" she cried, "never again. Please don't, ever again; I could not bear it. But I shall always remember, and—I am so glad." As she spoke, her hands, with her old motion, went to her heart.
"Oh the deuce take it!" said Cameron as the Sergeant flung his horse back on his heels at their side. "What does he want?"
"Constable Cameron," said the Sergeant in a voice of sharp command, "there's a row on. Constable Scott has been very badly handled in trying to make an arrest. You are to report at once for duty."
"All right, Sir," said Cameron, "I shall return immediately."
The Sergeant wheeled and was gone.
"You must go!" cried Mandy, quick fear springing into her eyes.
"Yes," said Cameron, "at once. Come, I shall take you home."
"No, never mind me!" she cried. "Go! Go! I can take care of myself. I shall follow." Her voice rang out strong and clear; she was herself once more.
"You are the right sort, Mandy," cried Cameron, taking her hand. "Good bye!"
"Good bye!" she replied, her face suddenly pale and her lips beginning to quiver. "I shall always remember—I—shall—always be glad for—what you said today."
Cameron stood looking at her for a moment somewhat uncertainly, then,
"Good bye!" he said abruptly, and, turning, went at the double towards his quarters.
The strikers had indeed broken loose, supported by the ruffianly horde of camp followers who were egging them on to violence and destruction of property. At present they were wild with triumph over the fact that they had rescued one of their leaders, big Joe Coyle, from Constable Scott. It was an exceedingly dangerous situation, for the riot might easily spread from camp to camp. Bruised and bloody, Constable Scott reported to Superintendent Strong lying upon his sick bed.
"Sergeant," said the Superintendent, "take Constables Cameron and Scott, arrest that man at once and bring him here!"
In the village they found between eight hundred and a thousand men, many of them crazed with bad whiskey, some armed with knives and some with guns, and all ready for blood. Big Joe Coyle they found in the saloon. Pushing his way through, the Sergeant seized his man by the collar.
"Come along, I want you!" he said, dragging him to the open door.
"Shut that there door, Hep!" drawled a man with a goatee and a moustache dyed glossy black.
"All right, Bill!" shouted the man called Hep, springing to the door; but before he could make it Cameron had him by the collar.
"Hold on, Hep!" he said, "not so fast."
For answer Hep struck hard at him and the crowd of men threw themselves at Cameron and between him and the door. Constable Scott, who also had his hand upon the prisoner, drew his revolver and looked towards the Sergeant who was struggling in the grasp of three or four ruffians.
"No!" shouted the Sergeant above the uproar. "Don't shoot—we have no orders! Let him go!"
"Go on!" he said savagely, giving his prisoner a final shake. "We will come back for you."
There was a loud chorus of derisive cheers. The crowd opened and allowed the Sergeant and constables to pass out. Taking his place at the saloon door with Constable Scott, the Sergeant sent Cameron to report and ask for further orders.
"Ask if we have orders to shoot," said the Sergeant.
Cameron found the Superintendent hardly able to lift his head and made his report.
"The saloon is filled with men who oppose the arrest, Sir. What are your orders?"
"My orders are, Bring that man here, and at once!"
"Have we instructions to shoot?"
"Shoot!" cried the Superintendent, lifting himself on his elbow. "Bring that man if you have to shoot every man in the saloon!"
"Very well, Sir, we will bring him," said Cameron, departing on a run.
At the door of the saloon he found the Sergeant and Constable white hot under the jeers and taunts of the half drunken gang gathered about them.
"What are the orders, Constable Cameron?" enquired the Sergeant in a loud voice.
"The orders are, Shoot every man in the saloon if necessary!" shouted Cameron.
"Revolvers!" commanded the Sergeant. "Constable Cameron, hold the door! Constable Scott, follow me!"
At the door stood the man named Hep, evidently keeping guard.
"Want in?" he said with a grin.
For answer, Cameron gripped his collar, with one fierce jerk lifted him clear out of the door to the platform, and then, putting his body into it, heaved him with a mighty swing far into the crowd below, bringing two or three men to the ground with the impact of his body.
"Come here, man!" cried Cameron again, seizing a second man who stood near the door and flinging him clear off the platform after the unlucky Hep.
Speedily the crowd about the door gave back, and before they were aware the Sergeant and Constable Scott appeared with big Joe Coyle between them.
"Take him!" said the Sergeant to Cameron.
Cameron seized him by the collar.
"Come here!" he said, and, clearing the platform in a spring, he brought his prisoner in a heap with him. "Get up!" he roared at him, jerking him to his feet as if he had been a child.
"Let him go!" shouted the man with the goatee, named Bill, rushing up.
"Take that, then," said Cameron, giving him a swift half-arm jab on the jaw, "and I'll come back for you again," he added, as the man fell back into the arms of his friends.
"Forward!" said the Sergeant, falling in with Constable Scott behind Cameron and facing the crowd with drawn revolvers. The swift fierceness of the attack seemed to paralyse the senses of the crowd.
"Come on, boys!" yelled the goatee man, bloody and savage with Cameron's blow. "Don't let the blank blank blank rattle you like a lot of blank blank chickens. Come on!"
At once rose a roar from eight hundred throats like nothing human in its sound, and the crowd began to press close upon the Police. But the revolvers had an ugly appearance to those in front looking into their little black throats.
"Aw, come on!" yelled a man half drunk, running with a lurch upon the Sergeant.
"Crack!" went the Sergeant's revolver, and the man dropped with a bullet through his shoulder.
"Next man," shouted the Sergeant, "I shall kill!"
The crowd gave back and gathered round the wounded man. A stream lay in the path of the Police, crossed by a little bridge.
"Hurry!" said the Sergeant, "let's make the bridge before they come again." But before they could make the bridge the crowd had recovered from their momentary panic and, with wild oaths and yells and brandishing knives and guns, came on with a rush, led by goatee Bill.
Already the prisoner was half way across the bridge, the Sergeant and the constable guarding the entrance, when above the din was heard a roar as of some animal enraged. Looking beyond the Police the crowd beheld a fearsome sight. It was the Superintendent himself, hatless, and with uniform in disarray, a sword in one hand, a revolver in the other. Across the bridge he came like a tornado and, standing at the entrance, roared,
"Listen to me, you dogs! The first man who sets foot on this bridge I shall shoot dead, so help me God!"
His towering form, his ferocious appearance and his well-known reputation for utter fearlessness made the crowd pause and, before they could make up their minds to attack that resolute little company headed by their dread commander, the prisoner was safe over the bridge and well up the hill toward the guard room. Half way up the hill the Superintendent met Cameron returning from the disposition of his prisoner.
"There's another man down there, Sir, needs looking after," he said.
"Better let them cool off, Cameron," said the Superintendent.
"I promised I'd go for him, Sir," said Cameron, his face all ablaze for battle.
"Then go for him," said the Superintendent. "Let a couple of you go along—but I am done—just now."
"We will see you up the hill, Sir," said the Sergeant.
"Come on, Scott!" said Cameron, setting off for the village once more.
The crowd had returned from the bridge and the leaders had already sought their favourite resort, the saloon. Straight to the door marched Cameron, followed by Scott. Close to the counter stood goatee Bill, loudly orating, and violently urging the breaking in of the guard room and the release of the prisoner.
"In my country," he yelled, "we'd have that feller out in about six minutes in spite of all the blank blank Police in this blank country. THEY ain't no good. They're scairt to death."
At this point Cameron walked in upon him and laid a compelling grip upon his collar. Instantly Bill reached for his gun, but Cameron, swiftly shifting his grip to his arm, wrenched him sharply about and struck him one blow on the ear. As if held by a hinge, the head fell over on one side and the man slithered to the floor.
"Out of the way!" shouted Cameron, dragging his man with him, but just as he reached the door a heavy glass came singing through the air and caught him on the head. For a moment he staggered, caught hold of the lintel and held himself steady.
"Here, Scott," he cried, "put the bracelets on him."
With revolver drawn Constable Scott sprang to his side.
"Come out!" he said to the goatee man, slipping the handcuffs over his wrists, while Cameron, still clinging to the lintel, was fighting back the faintness that was overpowering him. Seeing his plight, Hep sprang toward him, eager for revenge, but Cameron covering him with his gun held him in check and, with a supreme effort getting command of himself, again stepped towards Hep.
"Now, then," he said between his clenched teeth, "will you come?" So terrible were his voice and look that Hep's courage wilted.
"I'll come, Colonel, I'll come," he said quickly.
"Come then," said Cameron, reaching for him and bringing him forward with a savage jerk.
In three minutes from the time the attack was made both men, thoroughly subdued and handcuffed, were marched off in charge of the constables.
"Hurry, Scott," said Cameron in a low voice to his comrade. "I am nearly in."
With all possible speed they hustled their prisoners along over the bridge and up the hill. At the hospital door, as they passed, Dr. Martin appeared.
"Hello, Cameron!" he cried. "Got him, eh? Great Caesar, man, what's up?" he added as Cameron, turning his head, revealed a face and neck bathed in blood. "You are white as a ghost."
"Get me a drink, old chap. I am nearly in," said Cameron in a faint voice.
"Come into my tent here," said the doctor.
"Got to see these prisoners safe first," said Cameron, swaying on his feet.
"Come in, you idiot!" cried the doctor.
"Go in, Cameron," said Constable Scott. "I'll take care of 'em all right," he added, drawing his gun.
"No," said Cameron, still with his hand on goatee Bill's collar. "I'll see them safe first," saying which he swayed drunkenly about and, but for Bill's support, would have fallen.
"Go on!" said Bill good-naturedly. "Don't mind me. I'm good now."
"Come!" said the doctor, supporting him into the tent.
"Forward!" commanded Constable Scott, and marched his prisoners before him up the hill.
The wound on Cameron's head was a ghastly affair, full six inches long, and went to the bone.
"Rather ugly," said the doctor, feeling round the wound. "Nurse!" he called. "Nurse!" The little nurse came running in. "Some water and a sponge!"
There was a cry behind her—low, long, pitiful.
"Oh, what is this?" With a swift movement Nurse Haley was beside the doctor's bed. Cameron, who had been lying with his eyes closed and was ghastly white from loss of blood, opened his eyes and smiled up into the face above him.
"I feel fine—now," he said and closed his eyes again.
"Let me do that," said Nurse Haley with a kind of jealous fierceness, taking the sponge and basin from the little nurse.
Examination revealed nothing more serious, however, than a deep scalp wound and a slight concussion.
"He will be fit enough in a couple of days," said the doctor when the wound was dressed.
Then, pale and haggard as if with long watching, Nurse Haley went to her room there to fight out her lonely fight while Cameron slept.
The day passed in quiet, the little nurse on guard, and the doctor looking in every half hour upon his patient. As evening fell Cameron woke and demanded Nurse Haley. The doctor felt his pulse.
"Send her in!" he said and left the tent.
The rays of the sun setting far down the Pass shone through the walls and filled the tent with a soft radiance. Into this radiance she came, her face pale as of one who has come through conflict, and serene as of one who has conquered, pale and strong and alight, not with the radiance of the setting sun, but with light of a soul that has made the ancient sacrifice of self-effacing love.
"You want me?" she said, her voice low and sweet, but for all her brave serenity tremulous.
"Yes," said Cameron, holding out his arms. "I want you; I want YOU, Mandy."
"Oh," cried the girl, while her hands fluttered to her heart, "don't ask me to go through it again. I am so weak." She stood like a frightened bird poised for flight.
"Come," he said, "I want you."
"You want me? You said you wanted to take care of me," she breathed.
"I was a fool, Mandy; a conceited fool! Now I know what I want—I want—just YOU. Come." Again he lifted his arms.
"Oh, it cannot be," she breathed as if to herself. "Are you sure—sure? I could not bear it if you were not sure."
"Come, dear love," he cried, "with all my heart and soul and body I want you—I want only YOU."
For a single moment longer she stood, her soul searching his through her wonderful eyes. Then with a little sigh she sank into his arms.
"Oh, my darling," she whispered, wreathing her strong young arms around his neck and laying her cheek close to his, "my darling, I thought I had given you up, but how could I have done it?"
At the hospital door the doctor was on guard. A massive figure loomed in the doorway.
"Hello, Superintendent Strong, what on earth are you doing out of bed?"
"Where is he?" said the Superintendent abruptly.
"CORPORAL Cameron? Constable Cameron is—"
"Corporal Cameron, I said. I have just had Constable Scott's report and felt I must see him at once."
"Come in, Superintendent! Sit down! I shall enquire if he is resting. Nurse! Nurse! Enquire if Corporal Cameron can be seen."
The little nurse tip-toed into the doctor's tent, lifted the curtain, took one glance and drew swiftly back. This is what her eyes looked upon. A girl's form kneeling by the bed, golden hair mingling with black upon the pillow, two strong arms holding her close and hers wreathed in answering embrace.
"Mr. Cameron I am afraid," she reported, "cannot be seen. He is—I think—he is—engaged."
"Ah!" said the doctor.
"Well," said the Superintendent, "just tell Corporal Cameron for me that I am particularly well pleased with his bearing to-day, and that I hope he will be very soon fit for duty."
"Certainly, Superintendent. Now let me help you up the hill."
"Never mind, here's the Sergeant. Good evening! Very fine thing! Very fine thing indeed! I see rapid promotion in his profession for that young man."
"Inspector, eh?" said the doctor.
"Yes, Sir, I should without hesitation recommend him and should be only too pleased to have him as Inspector in my command."
It was not, however, as Inspector that Corporal Cameron served under the gallant Superintendent, but in another equally honourable capacity did they ride away together one bright April morning a few weeks later, on duty for their Queen and country. But that is another story.
"That message ought to be delivered, nurse," said the doctor thoughtfully.
"But not at once," replied the nurse.
"It is important," urged the doctor.
"Yes, but—there are other things."
"Ah! Other things?"
"Yes, equally—pressing," said the nurse with an undeniably joyous laugh. The doctor looked at her a moment.
"Ah, nurse," he said in a shocked tone, "how often have I deprecated your tendency to—"
"I don't care one bit!" laughed the nurse saucily.
"The message ought to be delivered," insisted the doctor firmly as he moved toward the tent door.
"Well, deliver it then. But wait!" The little nurse ran in before him and called "Nu-u-u-r-s-e Ha-l-ey!"
"All right!" called Cameron from the inside. "Come in!"
"Go on then," said the little nurse to the doctor, "you wanted to."
"A message from the Superintendent," said the doctor, lifting the curtain and passing in.
"Don't move, Mandy," said Cameron. "Never mind him."
"No, don't, I beg," said the doctor, ignoring what he saw. "A message, an urgent message for—Corporal Cameron!"
"CORPORAL Cameron?" echoed Nurse Haley.
"He distinctly said and repeated it—Corporal Cameron. And the Corporal is to report for duty as speedily as possible."
"He can't go," said Mandy, standing up very straight with a light in her eyes that the doctor had not seen since that tragic night nearly two years before.
"Can't, eh?" said the doctor. "But the Superintendent says Corporal Cameron is—"
"Corporal Cameron can't go!"
"Yes, I forbid it."
"The Corporal is—?"
"Yes," she said proudly, "the Corporal is mine."
"Then," said the doctor emphatically, "of all the lucky chaps it has been my fortune to meet, by all the gods the luckiest of them is this same Corporal Cameron!"
And Cameron, drawing down to him again the girl standing so straight and proud beside him, looked up at his friend and said:
"Yes, old chap, the luckiest man in all the world is that same Corporal Cameron."