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Every Man for Himself
by Hopkins Moorhouse
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But Mrs. Thorlakson willed otherwise, bustling about as she spoke.

"My voman—she say vait avile," he explained. "Planty more—nice and hot."

Phil thanked him and smiled across at his companion who was cheering up wonderfully under the benign influence of the stove.

"Yaow, that vill be tventy-five cents—each vun, tventy-five cents. Yaow, that vill be suffeecient."

Having thus dismissed further responsibility in the matter, the foreman got up from the table and spoke to his men, who followed him outdoors to the day's work. Svenson lagged behind to gulp the remainder of his coffee and as his heavy boots clumped noisily across the rough wooden floor he ventured to look again timidly at the very pretty young lady who sat beside the stove. Her friendly nod and smile sent him stumbling clumsily out over the doorstep with reddened face and a huge grin of ecstatic delight.

"Delicious!" she laughed softly.

"Snf! Snf! Well now, you're saying something, Miss Lawson," enthused Kendrick who had been watching the frying-pan with fascination. "I'm as hungry as a bear."

Such an unusual breakfast as that was! Such wonderful home-made bread! Fried potatoes straight from the stove, piping hot and done brown; sizzling pork and eggs that were fresh laid by those hens they could hear clucking outside; buns and molasses; even doughnuts and good-natured looking wedges of pie with the knife-cuts far apart—a wonderful meal of the substantial sort favored by those to whom eating at any hour is a serious business. And they ate it with hunger for condiment, chatting and laughing in their enjoyment.

Mrs. Thorlakson beamed. It was the finest compliment they could have paid her. Afterwards with many duckings of tongue and shakes of the head she bathed the swollen ankle in cold water, put some liniment on it and bound it up. She was an adept in such matters.

During these ministrations Phil strolled down to the water-tank; but, as he half expected, he found the fungus gone from the top of the hollow stump and no sign of the envelope inside. Somebody had been there before them, Podmore probably. He would question Thorlakson about that later. Not that it mattered greatly. The sagacious Hughey was due for a severe jolt when he opened the precious envelope to which he was devoting so much attention.

On returning to the house he found that Miss Lawson very sensibly had retired for much needed sleep. He climbed the hill to the woods behind the log shanty and stretched out luxuriously on a fragrant heap of spruce boughs with the idea of indulging in pleasant retrospection.

The sun was well past its zenith when he awoke and his watch told him that it was nearly three in the afternoon. He rubbed his eyes, knotted his muscles in a satisfying stretch and leaped to his feet with a laugh. He found the girl in equally good spirits, the injured foot encased in a mocassin that belonged to one of the foreman's children. It was not a bad sprain; the pain and swelling had subsided, but it would be well to rest it for two or three days, Mrs. Thorlakson had told her. If they could put up with roughing it, she would be glad for them to stay as long as they liked.

"I've promised to show her a new crochet pattern and knit a pair of pullovers for little Skuli," smiled Cristy. "The poor thing is lonesome and I've half a mind to make a little visit for a few days. Do you know, she hasn't seen a white woman to talk to for six months?"

"You couldn't do a more charitable act, Miss Lawson, and I hope you'll allow the bell-boy to linger within call. I happen to know that Wolverine River down there has some fine trout in it and I confess I'd like awfully to rustle an Indian canoe somewhere and do a little exploring. Isn't this air simply great?"

They had wandered to the edge of the embankment and seated themselves for a sunning. She searched quickly for his expression, but he had turned and was gazing far up the track, his tanned face alight with boyish enthusiasm.

Time never passed so swiftly for Phil Kendrick as it did during the next two days. In the big roomy birch-bark canoe that Svenson had built he went fishing and exploring to his heart's content—with Miss Cristy Lawson. He initiated her into the mysteries of speckled trout and helped her to land triumphantly a three-pounder. She was interested in botany and he climbed all sorts of inaccessible places to pick strange plants for her. On these expeditions they took Mrs. Thorlakson and the children along; there was room for them all in the big canoe and with the men absent all day it was possible for them to make a picnic of it. He even enjoyed the evenings with the men while they smoked their pipes in the doorway through which it was possible to see Cristy, her sleeves tucked above a charming pair of dimpled elbows, helping Mrs. Thorlakson with the dishes.

But on the afternoon of the third day as they sat out at the edge of the clearing on a pile of balsam that he had gathered for her she began to talk of leaving. They would be wondering back there on the paper what had become of her and there was work to be done.

He could not take his eye off the diamond ring on her finger as she spoke. "They" she had said; but it was probably "he" that she thought, and he chucked a stone clean down to the water-tank, surprised that he could throw that far. The injured ankle was no longer an excuse for delaying their departure. So they planned to leave next day, boarding a chance freight and riding down the line to some station where they could catch the Toronto Express.

Several trains passed every day each way. Even as they sat there they heard the familiar rumble somewhere far off among the low hills westward. They listened to the growing noise of its approach. Presently the smoke of the engine became visible and around the curve, far up the track, the train trailed into view, a freight, the cars swinging into line and hiding behind the black front of the locomotive. The engineer was bowling her down towards them full "lickety-belt" with no intention of stopping to take on water—a through freight apparently.

With a deafening roar she swept in, the engineer jogging laxly on his cushions. Kendrick stood up and hollered at him. The salutation was acknowledged with a friendly wave of the hand. The long string of brown and yellow cars followed rattle-de-bang over the switch and rocked away eastward. The roar dropped off abruptly into diminuendo, punctuated by the rattle of a loose truck at the rear of the caboose.

From the cupola a brakeman with a dirty blue bandana knotted about his brown throat, waved to them and shouted something which they could not hear. He held aloft a white stick from which he had peeled the green bark, pointed to it, then cast it back towards them and pointed to it significantly.

"There's a paper of some kind fastened to it," said Phil as he signalled that he understood.

They gazed after the end of the caboose until the fluttering green flags faded out in the swirl of dust that pursued into the distance. Then Kendrick scrambled down to find the message. It was in a sealed envelope, bound around the stick with twine. One glance at the yellow telegram inside sent him back up the embankment towards the girl as fast as he could climb.

"Of all things, Miss Lawson!" he called out. "It's a wire from the Chief. I left a note for him, telling him where we were going, and just read this, sent down from the operator at Indian Creek. What do you make of it?"

She read it aloud, frowning in perplexity:

Philip Kendrick, Toronto, July 27. at Thorlakson Siding, via Indian Creek.

Is Cristy safe? Wire immediately you receive this. McAllister anxious. Send Cristy back but remain there yourself till McCorquodale arrives. Important work for you there. McCorquodale will explain. Jimmy Stiles missing since day you left. Did you take him with you?

WADE.

"I should have sent a wire before this, I guess," admitted Kendrick slowly. "But I thought we'd be back before Wade returned to town. I didn't think to send it to McAllister. He's your—editor, isn't he? I'll get Thorlakson to send one of his men——"

She interrupted him with a gesture of impatience.

"The question is, Mr. Kendrick, what's happened to Jimmy Stiles?"

"Yes, and what's happened to make Wade send McCorquodale up here? What's this important work he's talking about?"

"If Jimmy Stiles has disappeared, it hasn't been of his own free will. I'm sure of that, Mr. Kendrick,—positive!" She looked at him with anxious eyes.

"He was all right the day we had lunch together," mused Phil. "The wire says he's been missing since the day I left the city; so he must have gone that night. You know him a lot better than I do, of course; but from what you told me the other night he got away with fifty thousand dollars once before in pretty slick fashion."

"That suspicion does you no credit, Mr. Kendrick," said Cristy in quick resentment. "Jimmy hasn't absconded. He's been abducted!"

"You have a ready imagination," smiled Phil.

"I know Nickleby," she retorted.

Kendrick shook his head.

"Abduction brings to mind closed cabs and chloroform. Do they pull off stunts like that nowadays—in Toronto? It sounds too melodramatic, Miss Lawson."

"What about that assault in the park by Nickleby's hirelings the other night? You saw that yourself. I don't say Nickleby would dare to harm Jimmy Stiles; he's no fool. But I do think that he's had a hand in Jimmy's disappearance."

"Have you any special reason for thinking that?"

"Yes," she replied after a moment's hesitation. "We—the Recorder—Mr. McAllister has been expecting Nickleby to attempt a clean-up of some kind, preparatory to dropping out of sight completely. His present position with the Interprovincial Loan & Savings—control of the stock and all that—will come to a sudden end as soon as Mr. Bradford, the explorer, returns to civilization. Nickleby won't wait for that, will he? It looks as if he were getting ready to pull out and had found Stiles in his way. Jimmy knows too much."

"Well, speculating about things won't get us a hundred yards from Thorlakson Siding," said Kendrick philosophically. "What's needed is a train."

"There's no telling what may be going on back there while we sit here, twiddling our thumbs." She got up and walked to and fro restlessly. "Oh, if only we'd been able to go on that freight that just passed."

"We? Instructions are that I'm to wait here for McCorquodale and send you back at once. We'll flag the first train going the right way and you ought to get off by to-night. I'd better get busy and write out a reply to the wire. Mr. McAllister is anxious about your safety and it——"'

"Oh, drat McAllister!" cried Cristy impatiently.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Lawson," said Phil, "but please say that again."



CHAPTER XVIII

MCCORQUODALE EXPLAINS

On the heels of the message from President Wade came Detective McCorquodale an hour before sundown. He did not arrive on a train from the east, as expected, but by way of the old Indian trail that wound back for half a mile to Wolverine River, the trail once used by Indian hunters to go north into the game country. Kendrick happened to be lounging on the embankment in front of the section shanty, waiting for Thorlakson and his men to come pumping down the track on the handcar, while Cristy was helping indoors with the dinner. He recognized the detective the moment he saw the familiar chunky figure emerge from the woods and come out onto the track and he went down to meet him on the run.

"Well, well, well!" was the greeting McCorquodale launched. "He tore the false beard off his chin an' there—stood—Tom! How are you, Kendrick?"

Phil eyed him anxiously as they shook hands.

"Drop out of the clouds, man? I just got the Chief's wire this afternoon. In heaven's name, McCorquodale, what's the meaning of all this?"

"Heaven aint sittin' in on this hand, 'bo," grinned the C.L.S. detective cheerfully. "It's devils I'm trailin'. Hell's broke loose an' spilled 'em all over the map."

"What do you mean? What's happened? Is my aunt——?"

"Oh, y'needn't worry' bout y'r auntie none. She's all hunky-dory. It's those booze birds we're goin' after, you'n'me, see. Chief's orders, kid. An' oh boy! it's goin' to be some party, believe me! Let's sit down here an' I'll wag m' jaw."

Phil lighted his pipe; but it went out again as he listened with breathless interest to McCorquodale's recital. Up to four days ago he had had a very quiet and uneventful time of it at Sparrow Lake with nothing happening which seemed to justify his presence there at all. Then a stranger had put in an appearance and took to watching the Waring cottage—no less a person than this man Weiler who already had aroused McCorquodale's suspicion when the detective had worked as a Brady Agency operative. The German, however, contented himself with reconnoitring the vicinity between trains and asking a few casual questions about the Waring household over at the station. He took the first train back to the city. So did the "Iron Man."

On arrival in the city the detective trailed his man to a cheap little hotel on a back street, to a rear room on the top floor, where a second man appeared to be awaiting him. By climbing out a hall window onto the fire-escape McCorquodale had reached the flat gravelled roof and wormed himself along into a position where he could hear what transpired in the room. He had not listened long before he was satisfied that Weiler had been sent on this spying expedition by the man in the back bedroom and was reporting the result of his investigations; in fact, he was drawing a rough map of Sparrow Lake and marking the location of the Waring cottage when the detective found a small hole in a skylight and looked cautiously down upon the pair. The second "gink" was a big flabby-looking "duck," and when he had descended quietly the detective had no difficulty in finding out that the man was registered at the hotel as John Harrington.

"Rives!" breathed Phil in suppressed excitement.

McCorquodale nodded. By good fortune President Wade had just returned to the city and to him the detective at once reported the full circumstances. The Chief had been greatly interested and after congratulating McCorquodale on his discretion had despatched him back to the hotel with instructions to shadow Weiler no matter where the trail led. It was then that McCorquodale had learned of an expedition that was being planned by the bootlegging gang the railroad was anxious to locate, and got concrete evidence that Weiler was the Eastern agent of the whisky runners. The leader was a notorious character named Red McIvor and this man had arranged to meet Weiler at a rendezvous near Indian Creek.

Cranston and McCorquodale had held a consultation with Wade and it was decided that Cranston would watch things at the Toronto end while McCorquodale was sent out to follow developments at Indian Creek. McCorquodale had told Mr. Wade what Kendrick had suggested to him at Sparrow Lake—that the two of them work together on this bootlegging case, and the railroad president had then mentioned Phil's letter and his whereabouts and told McCorquodale to make for Thorlakson Siding and pass on instructions.

Weiler bought a ticket for North Bay. There he had hung around for a day, apparently waiting for somebody. At last three more fellows had come in on a train. Weiler met them at the station and the whole party took the train west that night, with McCorquodale trailing along. Their destination was Indian Creek and on arrival they unloaded from the express-car a Peterborough canoe, a tent and a lot of supplies. As soon as the train pulled out they got ready for a trip into the woods. Down on the riverbank, a few hundred rods through the bush back of the station, a half-breed guide was waiting for them. He had a big birch-bark canoe and the five of them began to hustle their belongings off the platform.

McCorquodale was forced to keep in the background until they had gone and he was afraid that he would lose them. He questioned the Station Agent closely; but that official could tell him nothing about the strangers except that they said they were part of a geological expedition for the Government, heading towards Port Nelson on James' Bay. McCorquodale pretended to accept this information at face value; but if those "birds" knew anything about any "ology" except boozeology he was prepared to swallow his suspenders, buckles and all. Included in their "supplies" were several cases of liquor; McCorquodale knew a case of liquor when he saw it, no matter if it was wrapped in canvas and covered with misleading labels.

It had taken him a little while to locate a canoe that he could hire together with a camping outfit; but finally he had started on the trail once more. He had overhauled them about fifteen miles back from the railroad where Indian Creek and Wolverine River joined waters. From there he had followed them up stream for a few miles, keeping his distance, till they came to a portage where the entire party disembarked. Instead of making the portage to a point farther up, they had gone into camp at what appeared to be an old lumber camp that had not been in use for a couple of seasons. It looked as if they intended to stay there for a while.

"I know that deserted lumber camp," Phil nodded.

"Well, that's where I comes from just now an' that's where we both makes for as soon's we rustles a bite o' grub," concluded McCorquodale. "I hikes down here special to get you soon's I'm sure them guys is anchored. Say, that there Wolverine's some river, aint it? I got my canoe back here a ways."

"Cork, are you quite sure that this bunch is the gang Wade's after? Supposing they turn out to be a fishing party or something?"

"Fishin' party me neck!" scoffed McCorquodale. "With all them cases o' the real McKay?"

"Fishing is often a thirsty business for more than the fish. Anyway, you don't know for sure that it's booze——"

"Don't, eh? They starts in on it las' night an' some of 'em was lit up like a corner saloon, I tell you. Didn't I see 'em an' didn't I hear 'em? Great snakes! they kep' me awake with their shouts an' singin' las' night fer hours an' I'm campin' a good loud holler away from their hangout at that. I crep' down clost to find out what they was celebratin' an' I hears 'em gabbin', see. The gang aint all there yet. They're waitin' fer the Main Squeeze—this here Red McIvor I was tellin' you about. I hears 'em mention his name, see, an' besides Weiler's there an'——"

"You win," conceded Phil. "Whisky traders, eh? Heading in to peddle the stuff to the Indians and around the camps." He smoked thoughtfully.

"If they keeps on lappin' it up the way they's doin' las' night they aint goin' to do much tradin' in anythin' but headaches. Say, what about this here bundle o' phoney hid in a hollow stump? Wade was tellin' me you's up here lookin' after it. Cranston was wonderin' if Weiler'd got a line on it an' mebbe that had somethin' to do with the gang comin' together in this neighborhood. Did you find it?"

"No, it was gone. I'm pretty certain that Podmore was after it and got here ahead of everybody. Thorlakson hasn't noticed anybody hanging around. It dosn't matter. Did Mr. Wade say anything to you about young Stiles having disappeared? Miss Lawson is greatly worried over the last part of the Chief's message." He passed it across as he spoke.

McCorquodale grinned.

"Leave it to me, 'bo. Jimmy Stiles is the young gaffer I's trailin' that afternoon with that tan satchel from the Alderson Construction Company's office. No, the Chief didn't say anythin' to me 'bout him; but I knows where he is."

"You do?"

"Sure Mike! An' I proceeds to dry them tears the Queen's sheddin' by informin' her that the kid's within a few miles of her right now."

"What? You mean he's——"

"Yep. They got him prisoner back here at the lumber camp. He was one o' the three what Weiler met at North Bay an' it didn't take me long to tumble to the way they was watchin' him close. I slips him a note las' night that friends was near an' to be on the lookout f'r us. We're goin' to rescue the kid, see. He'll be our star witness."

"Well, what next!" gasped the astonished Kendrick. He stared at the detective. "You're not joking? If so, your levity is decidedly ill-timed."

"Yeah," agreed McCorquodale doubtfully. "Uh-hunh. On'y I don't happen to be wavin' no wand an' floatin' horizontal in the air, see. I'm handin' it to you straight up an' down. Stiles is there an' we gotta get him away from those guys. As f'r any jokin'——" He drew out his police automatic and patted it significantly. "This gun cracks ten jokes without stoppin', see, if there's any funny work goin' on."

Phil's surprise at the turn events were taking was only equalled by the excitement with which Cristy Lawson received the news when presently she was called outside and introduced to the C.L.S. detective. She listened eagerly, interjecting a rapid question now and then as if her mind were racing beyond the facts of the recital to a logical solution of the mystery not apparent to the others. She nodded her head once or twice and laughed a little. When McCorquodale had recounted everything that he had observed she was silent for a moment, head bent in thought.

"How soon are you going back to the camp?" she asked at last.

"As soon as Mrs. Thorlakson will give us something to eat," replied Phil.

"Good. I'm ready."

"But—You don't understand," objected Phil. "We can't take you along, Miss Lawson. It wouldn't be——"

"Of course you can. I certainly am going with you."

"Impossible! Your injured foot——"

"Nonsense, it's all right now. I'm going with you," she repeated. "There are reasons why I must go; so please don't argue about it."

"But that's exactly what I intend to do," declared Kendrick decidedly. He shook his head. "There isn't room in the canoe in the first place and besides there's liable to be trouble. Isn't that so, McCorquodale?"

"Mr. Kendrick, as the representative of the Recorder it is absolutely necessary——"

"I'm sorry, Miss Lawson; but I refuse to take the responsibility."

"I'll assume all risk, Mr. Kendrick."

"You would be in our way, to be frank. We'll be bringing Stiles back here with us and you can wait till we come."

Almost tearfully she appealed to the detective to that worthy's evident embarrassment. Cap in hand, he made a profound and formal bow in an attempt to be diplomatic.

"Pardon me, lady, but you're crazy!" he stated politely. "Crazy as a bed-bug! It can't be did!"



CHAPTER XIX

FURTHER STRANGE PROCEEDINGS

The sun was dropping behind the wooded hills and only the golden rim of it peeped above the tree-tops when they set out. Before long the purple dusk came creeping in from the east where clouds were banking in the sky.

Kendrick expected to be back by daylight or at latest by noon next day. As they paddled up stream against a strong current his thoughts were busy with the events of the past few weeks, particularly those of the last four days. He marvelled at their kaleidoscopic nature. It seemed ages ago that he had fought a fist battle with this stalky, good-natured chap whose muscular shoulders were swinging in rhythm with his own; yet it was only a month. Now here they were, miles from civilization, heading into the night-obscured depths of the wilderness on an adventure of unknown hazard.

And this girl with the wonderful eyes and wonderful hair, wonderful wit and vivacity, wonderful—diamond ring on her engagement finger!

"Steady, 'bo, steady!" warned McCorquodale. "Take y'r time. We got a lot o' this to do."

Their eyes were growing accustomed to the semi-darkness of the wooded aisle through which the deep Wolverine River raced with a symphony of water sounds. The stream was easy of navigation all the way to the rapids below Kinogama Falls and it was a case of paddling without pause. Kendrick and Cristy had gone as far as the deserted lumber camp on their first day's jaunt in Svenson's canoe; they had been all over the place, little dreaming that so shortly it was to be occupied by these doubtful characters, or that he was to return to the spot on an errand of such consequence.

Not far from the portage at the foot of the rapids there was an old logging road, if they could but find it in the dark. The last mile could be covered more quickly by this route than by following the tump trail past the rapids, and it would lead them straight to the camp. The moon would not be up until after midnight and the tote road promised a more noiseless approach for the preliminary reconnoitring that was necessary to carry out the detective's plan.

It was McCorquodale's suggestion that they creep down on the camp and, if possible, get Stiles away first. After that they would go after Weiler. If they waited until the four men were asleep or were lucky enough to catch their man far enough away from the others to permit of capturing him without too much commotion, it ought to be feasible to carry him into the woods. There, as the detective put it, they could "frighten the gizzard out of him" and learn the meaning of his trip to Sparrow Lake and what Rives was up to; also they would make him tell what he knew about Nickleby's dealings with Red McIvor. At any rate they ought to be able to learn enough to decide on a definite course of action in rounding up the bootleggers. To McCorquodale it was a gratifying prospect. Lead him to it!

The night was exceptionally still, without a breath of air stirring the forest. In the deep hush that brooded over the wilderness small sounds held sway that ordinarily would have been submerged in the paean of the wind in the firs—the whisper of the Wolverine where it swept, deep and strong; its strident chatter to a fling of gravel at occasional bends in the stream; its sucking snarl over a sunken boulder. The movements and whistlings of owls and bats in the dark, moss-clung corridors on either side were quite distinct; so were the whines and snorts of weasels and other small animals, noisy in the underbrush. And undertoning all other sounds, unceasing, like a hidden menace, rose the drone of insect life—the hm-m-m-m-m-m-m of the muskeg swarms.

After perhaps an hour and a half of hard paddling they reached the little lake which marked the junction of Indian Creek with the Wolverine. Beyond this point the stream narrowed and navigation became more difficult. As the shores began to widen out at the forks Kendrick, whose eyes long since had become focused to the twilight of the stars, saw that McCorquodale had thrown up his hand and was motioning for him to cease paddling. At the same time his ear caught a new sound—a chant of voices rapidly growing louder.

Cautioning silence, McCorquodale swung the nose of the canoe abruptly towards the right bank and they slid noiselessly into the deeper shadows, where the detective caught hold of an overhanging branch and held the canoe stationary. Presently Phil was able to recognize the familiar words of an old voyageur chantey, a paddling song of the French-Canadian rivermen:

"En roulant, ma boule, roulant; En roulant, ma bo-u-le."

With paddles swinging in unison to the rhythm came four men in a large Indian canoe, speeding with the current down the centre of Indian creek. Peering from their concealment, Kendrick and the detective could discern the blacker outlines of the craft and its occupants as it sped forth from the gloom of the forest into the starlit area of the tiny lake. The great canoe was low in the water; for heaped in the centre of it was what was evidently a pile of freight, with two men in front and two behind. The steersman swung the prow around and on they went up the Wolverine without a pause in the sweep of the paddles or the swing of the song:

"Rouli roulant, ma boule, roulant, En roulant, ma boule, roulant, En roulant, ma bo-u-le."

"French half-breeds," guessed Kendrick when the singing modulated in distance, "and they're heading for the lumber camp. What do you make out of that?"

"Looks like this 'Red' party them guys was talkin' about last night had hit camp. I'll lay even money them fellas has been down to the station fer another shipment o' booze," asserted McCorquodale. "We gotta do some careful gumshoein', old man. Them birds is feelin' their oats."

From the junction of the two streams it was only a matter of four or five miles to the foot of the rapids, and after a while they could hear the distant roar of the water. Paddling cautiously now and keeping well within the deeper shadows close to shore, they finally reached the spot where the tote road debouched on the river and without mishap disembarked and hauled the canoe out of sight into the bushes. In following the lumber trail there was the danger that they might meet some of the men from the camp; but after a whispered colloquy they decided it was a risk which had to be run. Since the old tote road had received its last "swamping out" it had accumulated enough underbrush, saplings and fallen limbs in spots to afford emergency concealment of a sort.

They had gone but a short distance into the woods, however, before both of them stopped abruptly and listened to a strange sound which carried to them eerily in the quiet night with all the mystery of the unaccountable. It was like the beat of a distant drum, a hollow tattoo that came and went at regular intervals:

Rumma-tumma-tum-tum . . . tum-tum! RUM-tummaty-tum-tum . . . tum-tum!

"What is that?" said Kendrick in a low voice.

"It's a new one on me," muttered McCorquodale in an awed tone.

"Sounds like an Indian drum. Listen. There it is again."

As they advanced the intermittent drumming increased in volume. Presently above the trees they could see a glow in the sky. The reflection of what seemed to be a huge bonfire grew so strong that they left the logging trail for fear of discovery and stole forward cautiously through the woods.

Rappa-tappa-tap-tap . . . tap-tap! RAP-tappety-tap-tap . . . tap-tap!

A medley of many voices rose in a weird chant which struck across the night like the wall of some stricken victim of the loup garou. It fell away abruptly and the drumming noise renewed.

Turning sharply to the right to get well away from the tote road, Kendrick and his companion crept at last to the edge of the clearing and took refuge in a hollow where a fallen tree hid them completely. From behind this shelter they peered forth upon a strange scene.

In front of the bunk house, cook shanty, stables, sealer's shanty and other low log buildings that once had been a lumber-camp, was an open space, about two acres in extent, lighted up like day by a bonfire at each end. In the centre, alongside a stump, his figure boldly revealed by the firelight, stood a man with dishevelled hair and a stubby growth of black whisker. He wore the corduroys and Strathcona boots of a shantyman; about his waist was a bright red scarf. Inverted upon the stump was an empty wooden box and in each hand he flourished an empty whisky bottle.

Seated upon the ground in a semi-circle were nine of the roughest looking men Phil ever had seen, each with a piece of broken pine box across his knees and a whisky bottle or a short stick in either hand. Some of them were undoubtedly half-breeds, swarthy of skin and very unkempt; some bore the scars of knife wounds on their faces—riff-raff of the cities mixed with the off-scourings of railway and lumber camps. The whole motley crew were in various stages of drunkenness and it was evident that the whisky-traders' song they were singing appealed to them as about the funniest and most musical thing they ever had enjoyed, for each man tried to outdo his neighbor in the vim which he put into his efforts. The leader by the stump had cursed them into realization of the grave importance of pounding the accompaniment in proper unison, and after much practice had got them into some semblance of accord.

"Now fer the last time, fellers!" he shouted, and away they went:

"Rum fer Injuns when they come! Rum fer the beggars when they go! That's the trick, my grizzled lads, To catch the cash and snare the foe!"

Racka-tacka-tack-tack . . . tack-tack! RACK-tackety-tack-tack . . . tack-tack!

"This aint goin' to be no cinch, 'bo," came McCorquodale's serious whisper in Kendrick's ear. "This mob's come in durin' the afternoon. We better get back an' pick up a gang o' our own—some o' them guineas from the railroad. Then we can clean this bunch up in proper shape."

"Wait," muttered Kendrick. "What are they doing now?"

One of the men was digging a hole while two others picked up a small log which they presently up-ended in the hole, tramping the earth about it firmly. The individual who acted as master of ceremonies gazed expectantly towards the bunk house where a heavily built man with sandy hair and whiskers had put in an appearance and was waving his hand.

"There's Red and Weiler!"

"Keep quiet!" commanded Phil.

Corduroys had mounted the stump and was addressing the boisterous crowd. Apparently he was looked upon as something of a wag, for he was interrupted frequently by laughter. His voice carried distinctly.

"Gents an' fel—ler citizens," he began, striking an oratorical attitude, "we now comes to the next num—ber on the program, the which is costin' a lot o' cold coin. Fif—ty thous—and dollars, gents, is what it costs to have the Perfessor put on his little stunt. Fif—ty thous—and dollars! We calls it 'The Double-Cross an' the Get-Away.' The Perfessor has double-crossed our friend an' worthy leader, Red McIvor, an' refuses to say where he has buried the hidden treasure. Instead of fifty thousand good bucks, he hands over a wad o' phoney bills. Instead o' fifty thousand genooine plunks we will now perceed to have fifty thousand dollars' worth o' fun—the Perfessor's treat, gents. He will now demonstrate his get-away. He is an insect an' to the insects he goes from here. He has stung us an' it is now his turn to git stung. I have grea—at pleasure in callin' upon the Perfessor."

As he finished speaking there issued from the log shanty a struggling group. Dragging between them in no gentle fashion a kicking, screaming prisoner, came Red McIvor and the German. They kicked him forward into the arms of the waiting men at the post, to which he was bound quickly from feet to waist. The firelight played upon the prisoner's distorted features as he begged them to let him go. His pleadings were greeted with shouts of laughter.

Kendrick clutched McCorquodale's arm in sudden excitement.

"By the eternal, it's Hughey Podmore!" he gasped in disbelief. "They've caught Podmore with that bogus money on him! That's what he means."

"There's Stiles—the one they're bringin' out now," whispered McCorquodale, pointing to a second prisoner who was being hustled out to witness the performance. His hands were tied behind his back and the man who had him in charge shoved him roughly to a sitting posture and pointed towards the post.

Kendrick's face was tense at he watched. His eyes smouldered with cold fire.



CHAPTER XX

A MAN OF MONEY

McIvor, the leader of the crew, was holding out the envelope taken from the stump and saying something to the first prisoner. They could not catch the words at that distance. Podmore shook his head and renewed his pleadings. The only response to these was an oath and a cruel blow on the mouth from the enraged ruffian, who now issued a sharp command.

Two of his men sprang at the prisoner and in a trice had stripped him to the skin from the waist up. They tore his shirt to ribbons. A jerk of McIvor's hand brought a third man on the run, carrying a tin can. He began to smear the contents over the back and chest and arms of the shrieking prisoner. While the onlookers rocked with drunken laughter Red McIvor peeled bill after bill from the roll of stage money in his hand and plastered them to the prisoner's naked body with resounding slaps.

"Tar an' feathers up to date—spruce gum an' greenbacks!" mumbled the detective. "Hear that feller yell!"

Kendrick's eyes were ablaze. He whipped out his revolver, his teeth clenched.

"McCorquodale, we can't sit here and see him killed in front of our eyes. This thing's gone far enough. I'm going out there——" But the detective grabbed him and with an oath dragged him back.

"Y' gone clean nutty?" he protested furiously. "Wanta get croaked, y' poor fish? Fat chanst y' got with them bohunks armed with rifles! It's six to one!"

"They're scaring the poor devil to death, I tell you. See, they're getting ready to drive him into the bush! Man, don't you understand? The flies! He'll be eaten alive!"

McCorquodale carried his profanity pretty close to the surface at all times, but the wellspring of it that gushed from him as once more he dragged Kendrick off his feet sounded the depths of anxiety and formed a lurid preface to angry argument. Had Kendrick forgotten Stiles? They couldn't hope to save both prisoners at once. Get Stiles first and they could organize a search-party for Podmore afterward.

"The whole mob'll be chasin' off in a minute an' that's the chanst we gotta lay for. Don't go 'n' spoil everythin' just as it's comin' our way. For the love o' Pete, 'bo, stuff moss in your ears an' sit tight!"

Kendrick had himself in hand again immediately. In an open fight with that gang two men hadn't a ghost of a show. As it was, their situation was desperate enough. The best that could be done for Podmore was to let things take their course for the moment. Later——

The detective's prediction was being fulfilled rapidly. The last bill had been stuck in place and the drunken gang had staggered to their feet, jeering and laughing at the grotesque appearance of their victim. They formed in two lines with sticks in their hands in preparation for the moment when the prisoner would be released and forced to run the gauntlet of their blows in his flight to the woods.

Podmore's eyes were rolling in the agony of his terror. A crimson slobber drooled from his swollen lips. As he was cut loose from the cords that bound him to the post and the first stick thumped his back he sprang away with a frenzied yell.

There was but one path left him—straight down between those two lines of hideous leering faces. Beyond he would be free and the woods for him held no terrors to equal the panic of the moment. With arms hugged over his head for protection he made his dash to such good purpose that he leaped by the excited rows of man-baiters with only one or two bad bruises. In their eagerness to achieve a good wallop some of his intoxicated tormentors missed him altogether and succeeded only in swinging themselves off their feet as he passed. Those who thus went sprawling tripped up the others and the scramble enabled him to get a good sprinting lead. Fear sped his feet. He seemed not merely to run; he took wing and flew—a screeching, gibbering madman.

And laughing loudly, yelling, brandishing their clubs, the whole crazy howling mob took after him.

Kendrick gnashed his teeth as he watched and waited. His throat was dry, his fingers twitching with repressed rage. When at last he spoke his voice was hoarse.

"Ready, Cork? There's only one in sight. Come on!"

"Leave'm to me!" growled McCorquodale huskily, grabbing up a stout stick. "You look after Stiles."

They dashed into the open at top speed. The man who had remained behind to guard the second prisoner was still standing in the same spot, holding Stiles by the coat-collar and listening to the receding uproar and the wild screams of Podmore as he fled for his life. Both the man and his prisoner were gazing off towards the tote road down which the stragglers of the chase were just disappearing. McCorquodale was within ten feet of them before the fellow turned. As the detective scooted at him he let out a startled yell which was effectively chopped in the middle by the descending blow.

"Mr. Kendrick!" gasped the white-faced Stiles, his eyes bright.

"Quick, Jimmy!"

He cut the cords that pinioned the other's arms and hustled the speechless youth across the clearing.

"Hi, there! Stop!"

Red McIvor at the door of the shanty had just caught sight of them. He jumped back inside for a rifle.

"Beat it!" yelled McCorquodale. "Under cover!"

The bullets clipped twigs from the trees as the three plunged into the woods.

"This way. Quick! Follow me, you fellows," cried Phil. He jumped a log and struck to the left at a sharp angle. "I know a place where we can stand them off—if we can make it."

They floundered on, barking their shins in the darkness that encompassed them beyond the circle of the bonfires. Behind them McIvor was hallooing to his scattered followers at the top of his lungs and cursing impotently between hollers as he poked about at the edge of the clearing.

The bedlam which had broken loose when Podmore was freed had trailed out to a scatter of noise in the distance. Far away the shrieks of the half-demented man of money still rose above the shouting and cat-calls, but they were growing less frequent and fainter. Podmore was making good time apparently. There was a lot of hallooing going on from one to another, while loud voices and laughter marked the return of stragglers who had dropped out of the chase.

With so many stumbling about in the dark Phil reckoned that the unavoidable snapping of dry sticks in their scramble through the undergrowth would pass unnoticed long enough to enable them to get well away. Once or twice they crouched in silence to allow groups of men to pass them; for Kendrick was now taking a course parallel to the tote road. Every little while he paused to listen for the fresh outbreak that would take place back at the camp as soon as Red McIvor had got enough of his men together to start an organized pursuit. He grinned presently as a chorus of hallooing flung wide upon the night to apprize those farthest away that something had gone wrong and to recall them. By this time, however, the three fugitives were almost within reach of their goal and could afford to slacken pace in favor of stealth.

The temporary refuge for which Phil was heading was a rocky elevation which rose not more than a stonesthrow from the logging road. It marked the end of a spur which jutted out from the ridge than ran toward Kinogama Falls. Some by-gone age of upheaval had thrust skyward a huge pillar of granite and the centuries had gathered about its base a rubble of boulders and earth in which the forest growths had taken root and spread up the slopes. On the top of this hill was a basin-like depression which made a natural rampart for defensive purposes and Phil had remarked as much on the day that he and Cristy Lawson had climbed to it. They had stood looking around at the huge broken slabs of granite and speculating upon the oddness of the formation, while their conversation had taken on an academic flavor as they discussed the nebular and glacial theories. They had discovered at the bottom of a great cleft in the rock, a spring of sparkling water, so cold that it was impossible to drink it without frequent pauses. They had named the place "The Saucer," had eaten their lunch there. He remembered how beautiful she had looked as she talked in carefree animation and he had taken her hand to pilot her among the rocks and—— That was just three days ago!

"Easy now, fellows," cautioned Phil in a whisper. "It's just a short climb, but watch your step. Give me your hand, Cork, and you take hold of Jimmy's. For the life of you don't dislodge any stones. They'd go down with a crash that could be heard a mile on a night like this."

They reached the top without this misfortune, however, and dropped behind the rocks with no little satisfaction.

"Now Jimmy, what's the meaning of all this?" demanded Phil. "Keep your voice down to a whisper. Podmore—what about him? And how in the mischief did these toughs get hold of you?"

It was only by the greatest effort that Stiles pulled himself together. The excitement of seeing friends and of the escape had keyed him to the required effort, but with the tension relaxed he was on the point of collapse. None too strong at any time, the terrible experiences of the past few days had weakened him greatly; he had had little to eat and the strain of the last twenty-four hours had exhausted him. He covered his face with his hands and shook as with an ague.

"Well, never mind, just now, Jimmy," said Phil quickly as he noted this condition with some anxiety. "There's a lot of talking to be done, but it can wait. You lie down and get some rest, old man,——"

"Can it! Can it!" whispered McCorquodale fiercely. He held up his hand and listened.

After the uproar of the past twenty minutes the sudden quiet in the vicinity of the camp was ominous. There was no longer any sound of Podmore or of the chase. But now and then a dry stick snapped and there was a swishing of bushes. The sounds seemed to come from three or four points at once.

"They're searching the woods for us," whispered Phil. "They probably figure we'd make for the river. After everything's quiet, we'll slip away from here and try for the canoe, but not——"

Bang!—Bang!-Bang!

The rifle shots shattered the quiet within a hundred yards of them, down the tote road towards the river. The three fugitives leaped to their feet and strained their ears to interpret the sudden renewal of pandemonium that had broken out all around them. Men were shouting to each other and plunging excitedly towards the sound of the guns. There was a noise of pursuit rapidly approaching along the logging road. Then came a bull-like bellow of rage and a woman's scream.

Kendrick's face went white in sudden comprehension.

"She's followed us!" he groaned. "Stay here, Stiles. Come on, Cork. It's Miss Lawson!"

Trailing profanity like an express locomotive trailing smoke, McCorquodale followed down the hill in long stumbling jumps. Loose stones showered after them and large rocks dislodged and crash-smashed through the bushes. Without an instant's pause Phil went leaping over fallen trees and tearing through the undergrowth like one possessed, swearing at the occasional obstruction over which he tripped in the dark.

He broke through into the tote road just as the girl's fleeing figure loomed dimly in the twilight.

"Here, Cristy!" he shouted. "This way. The Saucer! Make for the Saucer! Are you all right?"

"Yes," she panted. "Oh, Philip,—Svenson—call Svenson!" Neither of them gave thought to the familiar names by which they addressed each other under the stress of the moment.

"Here, Cork. Help her. Hustle back, the both of you."

There was no time to lose. Members of the gang were plunging through the woods towards the spot from several directions. Kendrick sped down the tote road, revolver in hand. Svenson was not hard to locate, for he was bellowing like a bull of Bashan in the middle of the trail, shaking his fist in the air and hurling defiance at a cringing group who were just picking themselves up from the ground where they had been flung by the enraged Swede.

"Come on, Svenson! This is Kendrick. Quick, man," called Phil. "We've got her safe. But there's a million more of them coming through the woods."

They ran for it none too soon. Rifle flashes broke in the dark like fireflies elongated. Bullets were whining past them and thudding into the tree-trunks and plowing up the ground all around them as they dove into the thicket; but it was blind guess work shooting in the dark. They got through unscathed.

At the foot of the hill they overtook McCorquodale and Cristy just as the sharp bark of the detective's automatic sent three pursuers hastily to cover. The big Swede swept the girl over his shoulder as if she had been a sack of meal and started rapidly up the ascent while Kendrick dropped behind a rock and joined McCorquodale in the fusilade with his own weapon.

The firing was bringing the whole gang about their ears and as soon as he had given Svenson time to reach the top Phil ordered the detective to beat a retreat. They tumbled in among their friends, all but winded.

Svenson sat down and wiped away the blood that was trickling down his face from a scalp wound.

"Yum—pin' Yiminy!" he puffed with emphasis. "Vell, by golly!"

"Y've said somethin', Goliath," approved McCorquodale with a grin.



CHAPTER XXI

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Inwardly raging, Kendrick crept about, making anxious inventory of their hurts.

There was little use in voicing his amazement that they had been fired upon with unmistakable intent to do bodily harm—and for such trivial cause. He had not dreamed that any gang of men would dare to carry out such an attack in Northern Ontario in these days of established law and order. These were not pioneer times and a dangerous situation like this in which they found themselves was out of place except in a moving picture. One could look for anything to happen in the photo plays which staged bloody scenes in a corner of a city park, called it "the Canadian wilds" and shot at least one man every thousand feet of film. But here in Northern Ontario, a few miles from the luxurious trans-continental passenger trains de luxe—! Scum and all as these fellows were, they would not dare do this unless they were crazy with liquor.

There was ample proof that they were drunk enough for anything and in the face of the real danger of the situation nothing was to be gained by recriminations. It was through no fault of McIvor or his men that their bullets had not caused serious wounds or several fatalities. Phil was thankful to find that his little party had escaped. Their clothes were badly torn, of course, and all of them bore various scratches and bruises from contact with the forest undergrowth in the dark; but beyond the gash on Svenson's head and another on Phil's shoulder where a bullet had torn through his sleeve, they had escaped for the time being.

He found Cristy Lawson and young Jimmy Stiles in a nook behind the rocks, exchanging confidences with breathless interest. She had lighted a small candle and stuck it up in a recess where its feeble rays were hidden from outside view. She had brought along a canvas haversack into which she had thrust a number of things she had thought might be useful in an emergency, including sewing materials, a bottle of Mrs. Thorlakson's special liniment and a package of sandwiches. The latter she had opened and Stiles had been munching away while she told him all that had taken place since she left Toronto—nearly all, that is. But it was Stiles who was talking when Phil joined them—talking so rapidly and excitedly that he was almost incoherent. At sight of Kendrick he stopped abruptly and when the girl turned, Kendrick noted that she was scarcely less agitated.

"Jimmy has something to say that you should know at once," she explained hurriedly, averting her gaze. She seemed very much upset.

He hastened away to post McCorquodale and Svenson to watch for further demonstrations from the enemy. There was no sign of any intention on the part of Red McIvor's men to assault the impregnable position. The whole gang seemed to have drawn off, for the present at least, and it would be impossible for any of them to creep up the hill without giving ample warning of their approach. So, cautioning both to keep their ears open and to call him at the first sign of further trouble, he slipped back to hear what Stiles had to say.

The story of the bookkeeper's strange experience was so absorbing that it was not long before both his auditors completely forgot their surroundings. The gang of toughs in the camp below were running a consignment of cheap whisky and rum into the north country for distribution among the camps and various unscrupulous traders who would supply it to lumberjacks, trappers, construction gangs and even Indians in due season. This Red McIvor was a notorious character who was known in many an out-of-the-way corner of the North for the boldness of his operations and his defiance of the law.

But is [Transcriber's note: it?] was not just chance that had brought him into this part of the country on his present expedition. It was the money hidden in the stump. McIvor was open for any sideline in dishonesty that gave promise of lucrative returns and his agent, Weiler, had been very busy in Toronto recently. Somebody had tipped J. C. Nickleby as to Podmore's underhand activities—Ferguson, the lawyer, Stiles thought; but was not sure—and Podmore had been watched closely and followed when he started West. Word had been passed to Red McIvor, who had lost no time in getting on the trail of this fifty-thousand-dollar pick-me-up, with the result that he had reached out a hairy arm, twisted his fingers in Mr. Podmore's coat-collar and calmly dispossessed him of the sealed envelope which he had recovered from the stump. The chase which had ended thus had not been prolonged, as the city man had been no match for the experienced woodsman in the latter's own environment.

When McIvor found that all he had for his efforts was a package of worthless stage money he was furious. He at once concluded that Podmore had tricked him and had hidden the real money. He trusted his eastern agent implicitly and neither Podmore's own blank surprise when the envelope was opened or his most desperate protestations could change McIvor's idea of the situation. Knowing the truth of the matter, Stiles had tried to save Podmore from the rough punishment meted out to him at McIvor's camp, but his net return for his efforts was abuse; he dare not reveal too close a connection with the envelope as his own position already was too precarious.

On the night following his luncheon with Kendrick Stiles had gone back to the office to finish some work. He was in the habit of working on the books at night occasionally. He had no sooner let himself in than he became aware of a heated discussion that was going on behind the ground-glass partition which separated Alderson's private office from the general office. One voice was Nickleby's; the other he did not recognize, but from the tenor of the remarks he felt sure that what was going on was of vital interest to his friends. Instead of turning on the light, therefore, he had crept close to the partition.

He soon knew that the man alone with Nickleby in that office was Harrington Rives, late of the penitentiary, and that Rives had known Nickleby in the past. In fact, Rives was calmly advising Nickleby to remember that the police had long memories, and that away down south in the States was a certain institution which would be glad at any time to welcome home a prodigal no matter how often he changed his name. After this remark Nickleby had cooled down very quickly, as if realizing that he was in Rives' power, and it was apparent to the eager youth in the outer office that the pair understood each other thoroughly. Judging by the clinking of glass and a certain recklessness of speech, both were drawing heavily upon Alderson's stock of liquid "office supplies."

Stiles had become so excited over his discovery that for the moment he had forgotten the danger of his own position. Accidentally he knocked his knee against the partition and the first thing he knew Nickleby and Rives came into the outer office on the run. They caught him just as he had reached the door.

When they realized that he had overheard their conversation his life had been in danger for an instant; for Nickleby was in a white-hot passion and would have choked him. But the ex-politician took the situation very coolly and dragged Nickleby loose somewhat roughly. There was no use in getting excited, he had advised calmly; there were other ways of taking care of this young man. Whereupon they had shut him inside the vault while they discussed the matter of his discreet disposal.

It was perhaps half an hour later that a closed cab had driven up the lane at the rear of the building. Two men were inside the vehicle, waiting for him. It was too dark for him to get a good look at them just then. They lost no time in tying a pocket-handkerchief around his ankles and blindfolding him with another. Rives and Nickleby remained behind at the office. Jimmy knew that his two custodians were "tough," if their talk and manner meant anything, and whenever he tried to speak to them they told him to "shut up or we'll knock your block off," following up the threat with sundry kicks and blows.

"There's your melodrama for you, Mr. Kendrick," Cristy could not resist interpolating, "closed cab and all."

They left the city and drove for most of the night along country roads. About dawn they reached their destination and when the bandage was removed Stiles found himself in an empty room that was so dusty and musty he came to the conclusion it was an empty house on some little travelled side road. As soon as it grew light enough to take an inventory of his surroundings Stiles went to the window, but could see nothing except hills, valleys and bushland. Not a single habitation was in sight. He found out later that the place was down near Stockton, somewhere back in Clam Creek Valley, many miles from the city; it was from the Stockton station that they afterwards boarded the train.

Food was brought in to him regularly three or four times by a toothless old woman who refused to talk. They watched him too closely for any attempt at escape, one of his guards remaining in the room all day.

The next night he heard voices and a general stirring about the place and before long he knew that Rives had arrived. He came into the room with the two men who had ridden in the cab and they tried to make Stiles tell what he knew about the missing campaign fund money. It had been a bad half hour that followed; but at last they decided that he really knew nothing about the matter.

Rives had sent the other two out of the room then and had adopted a less truculent manner. He told Stiles that he had no desire to do him any injury and that no harm would befall him if he did exactly as he was told. It was necessary that Jimmy disappear completely for a while, and accordingly they had arranged for him to take a little holiday trip into Northern Ontario with the two "boys" who had ridden with him the night before. If he agreed to go with them and to make no attempt to escape or create a disturbance he would be treated with every consideration. There was no reason, Rives said, why the trip would not prove a genuine holiday jaunt; there would be canoeing, fishing, camping out, plenty to eat and so on and he would be back after a while with a fine coat of tan and, if he behaved himself, money in his pocket.

With his voice dropped suddenly to a strictly confidential tone, Rives had then informed Jimmy that the missing campaign fund money had been located—at a place called Thorlakson, west on the C.L.S. railway, hidden in a certain stump beside a water-tank. Very carefully he led up to the proposal that Stiles should attempt to secure this money without the knowledge of his camp-mates. It was then that Jimmy had learned from Rives about Red McIvor and the logging-camp where the party was to gather; that the station at which they would leave the train was called Indian Creek, and that it was the next station beyond Thorlakson—just a few miles away. Rives said that both Red McIvor and a man named Podmore were after the money and he was afraid that if they secured it they would steal it whereas he, Rives, was anxious to restore it to the rightful owner. If Jimmy would help him to do this, get the money and turn it over to him, he would see that he was suitably rewarded. If Jimmy refused to fall in with the plan outlined, the alternative was a jail sentence; for it had been only with great difficulty that he had persuaded Nickleby to refrain from putting Stiles in jail on a charge of theft.

Jimmy had pretended to be duly impressed and grateful to Rives. He had agreed promptly to the proposal. The situation suddenly had become so ludicrous that he had experienced great difficulty in maintaining the proper solemnity. The opportunity of getting to Thorlakson where he could report his discoveries to Miss Lawson was the thing he most desired.

But he had failed to reckon the possibility that he would be unable to escape. It had seemed to be an easy thing to give his two companions the slip; but when they detrained at Indian Creek he had been inveigled into assisting with the unloading of the canoes, and on his first trip to the creek a short distance from the station, he had found himself forced into the Indian guide's canoe and carried beyond reach of help.

He had planned then to escape after they reached the abandoned logging camp, steal a canoe and come back to the railway line and down to Thorlakson on a handcar or a freight train. But again he had not reckoned on the number of men with whom he would have to deal at the camp. McIvor's party proper consisted only of three men beside himself; but the half-breeds and others who had been invited for a spree began to straggle in till escape became almost impossible. They caught him the first time he tried it and after that he had been guarded more closely. It was plain to him that Nickleby, knowing of this McIvor expedition, had paid McIvor's agent to carry him into the heart of the wilderness with them and to keep him away from civilization.

In the light of this recital of the facts the presence of Jimmy Stiles was no longer an unbelievable coincidence, but a logical outcome. Nickleby, having made a dicker with McIvor's man to recover the money from the stump before Podmore could get it, had attempted to kill two birds with one stone by having McIvor take Stiles with him on his expedition beyond the outposts of civilization. In doing that Nickleby had no means of knowing that he was defeating his own ends by putting Stiles within reach of friends.

The end of the narrative found Kendrick full of eager questions. The definite knowledge that Nickleby had a police record, that Rives knew this and had looked him up on the strength of it, that the two had their heads together—all this boded no good, as Phil saw it. Nathaniel Lawson and Benjamin Wade apparently had been justified in their worst suspicions of Nickleby. Kendrick asked Stiles for further details of the conversation he had overheard between Nickleby and Rives. Had he been able to catch all that was said? Was there any indication that the two were planning further mischief?

"They dropped their voices pretty low once or twice," replied Jimmy with some hesitation, "but I got the most of it." He looked across at Cristy Lawson and cleared his throat in such evident embarrassment that Phil glanced quickly at the girl.

"What is it, Miss Lawson, please? You and Jimmy are keeping something back. Why? Is there something you think I ought not to know?"

She looked up at that and he was surprised at the diffidence reflected in her manner.

"It isn't that it is anything you should not know," she said with an effort to choose her words carefully. "On the contrary, you should know it. But it is never pleasant to be the bearer of—bad news."

"'Nothing is ever so bad that it might not be worse,'" he quoted, endeavoring to cover his anxiety by a smile. "What is it, please?"

"It is about your uncle, Mr. Kendrick." She turned to face him squarely and spoke rapidly. "We have undeniable proof that the Honorable Milton Waring is in collusion with Nickleby—and, incidentally, Rives—and they are planning to misuse the funds of the Interprovincial Loan & Savings Company. They are meeting about midnight on the twenty-seventh at your uncle's house—over on the Island—to close a deal which involves control of Interprovincial stock. Nickleby has agreed to dispose of his holdings and those of his clique at grossly inflated prices and to provide the money for the purchase by a large loan with very inadequate collateral security. In plain language it is a huge steal which may mean, possibly, that the loan company will have to close its doors."



CHAPTER XXII

LOWERING CLOUDS

Phil gazed gravely at the girl's flushed, excited face; then at the pale, serious Jimmy Stiles. He could not smile at this startling statement as an out-and-out absurdity when it was so apparent that both of them were sincere in their belief that it was the truth.

"That is a pretty serious charge you are making, Miss Lawson," he said quietly. "You speak of undeniable proof that my uncle is in collusion with Nickleby. I think we may eliminate Rives as impossible in this connection. As you know, my uncle was the man who put Rives in jail, where he belonged. Just what do you mean by 'undeniable proof'?"

"It is true that Rives was jailed through your uncle's efforts, but that was twelve years ago, Mr. Kendrick. Twelve years is a long time—in office. Political brooms have an unfortunate tendency of late years to lose their splinters very rapidly once they are sure of a place inside the door and it isn't a great while before they no longer sweep clean."

"'Undeniable proof,' I believe you said," persisted Phil.

"Jimmy overheard Nickleby and Rives calmly discussing the meeting with the Honorable Milton Waring, which is to take place on the night of the twenty-seventh, and while he was unable to obtain the full details of the scheme which is being hatched with your uncle's co-operation, he learned enough to show that their plans are pretty near maturity.

"If that were all, I would be inclined to say that Jimmy must have been wool-gathering and have misunderstood what he heard; but, unfortunately it isn't all—not by any matter of means."

She paused and looked up at him bravely.

"Mr. Kendrick, several times in the past few days our conversation has wandered to political topics and once or twice you mentioned with some resentment the personal attacks which are made upon our public men by political opponents in the heat of electioneering. You said it was enough to drive all thought of taking part in the government of the country from the minds of decent citizens. You were pretty severe on the newspapers, the party organs anyway, for some of the things they have ventured to say about your uncle from time to time. I endeavored to change the subject whenever you got going along this line for fear I would say something which would hurt your feelings. I assure you it is not easy for me to do that now. I am a newspaper woman, as you know, and loyalty to my paper demands that I speak plainly. Also the situation in which we find ourselves requires me to give you facts in advance of publication—facts which have been very closely guarded by the Recorder—and I am trusting to your discretion under most difficult circumstances."

"I understand, Miss Lawson. It's scarcely necessary to assure you that your confidence will be respected."

"I told you the other night that my editor had grown suspicious of the Alderson Construction Company and that we had been gathering up evidence for a graft exposure that would shock the country. I regret very much that the Honorable Milton Waring is involved in these charges, along with Blatchford Ferguson and Nickleby. Alderson himself is merely a figurehead of Nickleby's; for, as I told you before, the Alderson concern is ninety per cent. J. C. Nickleby. It was immediately after a secret meeting between these four men that the campaign fund contribution of fifty thousand dollars was made by the Alderson Construction Company. You know what happened to it. Photographs of this money are now in the Recorder's possession.

"But before this meeting took place at all we had run down the proof of a real-estate transaction in connection with the proposed new Deaf and Dumb Institute that was traceable finally to your uncle and Nickleby and Ferguson. The three of them secretly formed a little syndicate. Nickleby advanced the wherewithal to purchase the land, Ferguson bought it up quietly and shrewdly through different agents at half its value, and the Honorable Milt's contribution was to engineer the Government's purchase of the site. In fact, we obtained the proof that it was he who proposed the whole deal to Nickleby in the first place. The site was purchased piecemeal, at sacrifice prices, from individual lot owners for a total of $50,000. Its market value was $100,000. It was sold to the Government for $200,000. The profit of $150,000 was split three ways between your uncle, Ferguson and Nickleby. These are facts, Mr. Kendrick, which have been established beyond question by my editor, Mr. McAllister, by personal investigation."

She paused and looked away from him to escape evidence of the pain which she knew her words were giving him. His face seemed haggard in the feeble flicker of the candle. Stiles had sat silent throughout, poking some dried pine-needles into a little heap with a stick. He continued carefully to poke them together and scatter them again, poke them together and scatter them again.

"You are quite sure—of the proof?"

"I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Kendrick," and he looked up at her sympathetic tones to find tears in her eyes. "There is no mistake. The Recorder has the sworn affidavits to prove its charges in connection with the real-estate deal and Mr. McAllister has shown me photos of the cheques."

Phil sat as if dazed. He could not trust himself to speak. He fought against belief in his uncle's dereliction, but there seemed no loophole of escape from such evidence and he knew that Cristy Lawson could have no object in attempting to deceive him. She was telling him the truth.

This, then, was the sort of thing Ben Wade had had in mind when he said there was nothing to be gained by shutting one's eyes to the fact that many a good man had found the political game as it was played these days too many for him. He knew what McAllister had up his sleeve perhaps. Was it part of the puzzle which the railroad president was trying to piece together? What had Wade done with the stolen money that Cristy had given him? He had had it photographed, for one thing, and turned the photos over to McAllister! He had been helping Cristy in her work! At the same time he had been trying to save Aunt Dolly from—what? The suffering she would undergo under the disgrace of the very exposure which Wade was helping to bring about?

It was a muddle which was hard to penetrate. What a beautiful line of talk Blatch Ferguson had handed him the other day! According to Blatch the Honorable Milton Waring was one of the hardest-working, most conscientious and high-principled men of the day and Blatch had had greater opportunity of knowing that than most, he had said. He could say that, knowing the facts, being one of the principals himself in the graft that was going on!—could say that and follow it up with a homily upon honesty in public life—say it with an exalted look upon his face! How completely a bit of unsuspected truth could alter an entire perspective! How easily he had been fooled when he became too inquisitive!

And his uncle? Had his uncle talked to him that foggy night only for the purpose of fooling him too? "Even one man against a pack of wolves can put up at least some kind of a fight, even though he knows that sooner or later he is doomed to go down." His uncle knew, then, that sooner or later discovery must come? He had talked about having tried to do his duty and wanted his nephew to believe it no matter what happened. But, as Cristy had pointed out, new brooms had time to become worn and inefficient in twelve years of use. His uncle had been talking in the past tense! He had tried to do what he thought was his duty—at first, when he swept into politics, inspired by the victory over the Rives crowd. Twelve years apparently was a long time to expect an inspiration to burn in the face of besetting temptations.

Phil looked up at last, aware that the girl was speaking, tense with eagerness.

"I wanted you to know the truth, Mr. Kendrick," she was saying, "if only that it will help you to understand how serious I consider the news which Jimmy brings—this new deal that is pending, I mean. The Recorder must act at once to stop it. It is better that your uncle face the charges as they now stand than to have this last and blackest mark against him. I hope you agree with me?"

"Decidedly," nodded Kendrick. "What you have told me, Miss Lawson, has—well, kind of knocked the wind out of me. I can scarcely credit it. Even yet, I am hoping against hope that it is not as bad as the evidence seems to indicate. But one thing is certain, there is no use in attempting to do anything but face the music. If my uncle is guilty, he will have to pay the price; there can be no compromise between right and wrong. On the other hand—well, false accusations never yet downed an honest man."

He was entirely unconscious that he was quoting Blatch Ferguson. Impulsively Cristy held out her hand, her eyes glowing.

"I am glad to hear you say that," she said softly. "Somehow, I felt that you would take it—that way."

"There is one thing I cannot force myself to believe," he asserted confidently, "and that is that Uncle Milt would have any dealings with this man, Rives. That seems to discredit——"

"I think perhaps you have misunderstood part of it," interrupted Stiles. "Miss Lawson didn't mean that Rives was mixed up with your uncle. He's in with Nickleby, but I don't think Mr. Waring knows that for a minute. From what Rives and Nickleby said I think they're planning to give the deal away and get Mr. Waring into trouble—after they get away themselves to a safe place, y'understand. The deal's between Nickleby and your uncle, Mr. Kendrick. It was Rives who told Nickleby they'd leave Mr. Waring 'holding the sack.' That was the way he put it. I don't know whether Rives is going to be at this meeting or not; but't aint likely."

"And when did you say this meeting was?—the twenty-seventh?"

"About midnight—that was exactly what Nickleby said."

Phil turned quickly to the girl.

"And do you know what day this is?" he demanded.

"Wednesday—the twenty-seventh," she said calmly.

"Then, to-night—Listen, Miss Lawson. Do I understand that you believe an actual transfer of cash or negotiable securities will take place in connection with this thing—to-night?"

"Unless the date has been changed—yes. Jimmy overheard Nickleby say he had arranged it that way. It is not likely that the date has been changed, once Jimmy was safely out of the way; Nickleby and Rives would be only too keen to get it over with before some hitch occurred."

"Then we're too late!" cried Phil in excitement.

"I do not expect you to help me, Mr. Kendrick, but I do expect that your sense of fair play will prevent you from attempting to detain me."

"Detain you? I don't understand, Miss Lawson. I am ready to help you in every way I can to prevent this thing. I would be anyway, but with these two criminals planning deliberately to get my uncle—why, there's nothing we can do at this late date——"

"There's the telegraph wire. What time is it now?"

"Not quite ten o'clock," answered Phil, glancing at his watch.

"If I could get away from here immediately, I could make it—wire the story to the Recorder with instructions to communicate with the police—to-night, I mean. The paper doesn't go to press until after three-thirty. But there's no time to lose."

"Hey, 'bo!" called McCorquodale sharply. "Here comes the torchlight parade. Get a wiggle on. Looks like they was goin' to set the woods on fire!"

All three sprang to their feet in consternation. For the time being they had forgotten all about the McIvor gang.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE FIGHT

Kendrick joined McCorquodale on the run. It needed but a glance over the rock to observe two members of the gang approaching the base of the hill through the woods, one carrying a flaring pine-knot torch, the other a piece of white canvas tied to a stick. They were coming for a parley.

Phil summoned his little party around him for a hasty council of war. It looked to be as good an opportunity as they were likely to have for attempting to reach the river. Unless somebody had a better suggestion to offer, let Miss Lawson, Svenson and Jimmy slip away, while McCorquodale and he talked to these fellows on the opposite side of the hill.

"We'll jolly them along as well as we can to give the rest of you as much time as possible. How does it strike you, Miss Lawson? Is the ankle bothering you at all?"

The girl was quite sure of herself. The ankle was all right and she could handle the canoe. When she got to the section shanty she would have Thorlakson get out the handcar and run her down to the nearest telegraph operator and that was all there was to it.

"In that case I can be of greater service as a rearguard," said Kendrick. "Svenson's canoe is plenty large enough for the three of you without overcrowding. It's really built for four, isn't it, Svenson?"

"You bet you life Ay ben smart fallar," grinned the big Swede. "Das ben gude yob, y'batcha. Das har canoe, she ride avay vith seven, den take nodder vun. Yaw, das' rite, alrite."

"What about you and Mr. McCorquodale?" asked Cristy.

"Don't worry about us. We'll try to follow you as soon as possible, but on no account are you to wait for us, once you reach the river. We may be—delayed somewhat. If you watch your step and get any kind of an even break on the luck, you'll get through O.K.

"Svenson, listen to me carefully, now. You are to make it your first business to protect Miss Lawson—at any cost. If you are discovered by a sentry, silence him before he makes a noise. If you can't find your own canoe, take any one you see; you'll find ours drawn up in the bushes to the left of the trail, not far from the flat rock. It'll only hold two; so you get Stiles and Miss Lawson afloat, then hump back here. You understand, now? If they haven't touched the big canoe you are to go along with the others; you are to come back only if the canoe is too small to take you also. And if you get into trouble—fight!"

"Ay goin' tew rase hell," grinned Svenson, growling with delight as he swung the big club with which he had armed himself and tapped the hunting knife in his belt. "Don't Ay toll you dat Ay ben gude smart mans? Veil, by golly, das no yoke! Yust vatch may rase hell an' soak dem on da hed!"

"Not unless you can't possibly get away without a fight, remember," warned Phil. "If it comes to a showdown, Miss Lawson,—if you are discovered—you are to slip out of sight into the woods immediately. And that means immediately, please. Don't wait for anything. Stiles and Svenson will hold them back long enough for you to reach a canoe. And for God's sake, get in and away as fast as you can go. You are the one on whom most depends, remember. You must get away without fail, no matter what happens to the rest of us.

"Jimmy, you are to stick with Svenson if there's a fight and help him all you can. In an emergency your help might just turn the whole trick. Get hold of a club as soon as you get down the hill. If we only had some more guns! There's only the two revolvers and Cork and I'll need those to put up a front. We'll join you as fast as possible if you get into trouble. Miss Lawson is an expert canoeist and the river is not difficult; so she'll be all right. Stick with Svenson, Jimmy."

Satisfied that all of them understood their parts, he told them to wait for his signal to creep down the hill, and turned to the side that faced the camp. The two men, carrying the torch and the white flag, had almost reached the foot of the hill by this time and as they showed no indication of halting, Kendrick stopped them with a sharp command.

"That's close enough!" he called in warning. "What do you want?"

"Red sent us over to find out what'n hell you fellas means by grabbin' off one o' our men."

"He's not one of your men," denied Phil.

"You're a liar!" cried the man who was carrying the flag. "He belongs to our party an' we want him back damn quick or we'll come an' take him. What're you holdin' him prisoner fer? You let him go, Mister, an' there won't be no more fuss about it."

"All right. If he wants to go back to the camp, he can go. Wait a minute and I'll ask him."

He made a pretense of doing so.

"Away you go now! Don't step on any loose stones. Good luck, Miss Lawson," was what he whispered.

The girl ran over to him and caught his hand.

"I think it's great of you, Mr. Kendrick," she murmured. "Good-bye, and good luck to you also," and with that she was gone; but he thrilled at the farewell pressure of her fingers.

"Hi, you, up there! We can't wait here all night."

"There seems to be a slight misunderstanding, old man," placated Phil. "He says he prefers to stay here. He says you kept him prisoner over there and didn't give him enough to eat."

"Aw, he's full o' hooch!" cried the spokesman with a loud guffaw. "He'll be gittin' a heluva lot less grub where he is. Say, are you guys goin' to be good sports or aincha? Red told me to invite the bunch over to camp fer a snort. C'm on over an' hev a drink on us an' cut out the shenanigans."

"Now, that sounds pretty decent of you," approved Phil. "Wait till I see what the rest say."

He ducked down again to find McCorquodale crossing from the opposite side of "The Saucer," where he had been keeping eyes and ears open for a surprise attack in case the white flag was but a treacherous ruse.

"Everythin' jake so far, 'bo," whispered he with elation. "They's down to level ground 'thout a peep—slick as a whistle."

"Good," breathed Phil. He climbed again into view. "Listen, boys. My friends say to thank you for the invite, but they aren't thirsty. Did you know that we had a spring of cold water up here?"

The fellow grew angry.

"If youse don't come youse'll be damn sorry, Mister. You've plugged a couple o' our fellas pretty bad an' y'aint goin' to git away with nothin' like that."

"Why, what will you do?"

"We'll damn soon show you, Mister. We've got you surrounded right now." Phil's heart sank; he had been hoping that the sound of an accordeon and singing at the camp meant that most of them were over there. "If we can't do no better, we'll starve youse out in a couple o' days."

"You can't do that," scoffed Phil. "We've got water right here and a big package of concentrated food tablets that will keep us going for weeks. Besides, let me tell you something you don't know. The rest of our Government survey party is due to join us here to-morrow morning, and I'd advise the whole bunch of you to clear out by sunrise or you'll regret it. You're breaking the law, firing at us the way you have."

"Yah! that bluff don't go, Mister."

"We have the law on our side," retorted Kendrick, "and we'll shoot to kill in self defense if you don't leave us strictly alone. We've got——"

He never finished that sentence; for rifle shots and hallooing off towards the river apprized the two anxious defenders of "The Saucer" that the worst had happened. Kendrick crossed to the opposite side in two bounds and found McCorquodale already on top of the rocks, reaching down for his leader's hand.

"We're in for it, old man," said Phil coolly. "Make straight for the trail. We've got to beat them to it."

McCorquodale only swore as he tightened his belt and for the second time they went down the hill in long jumps that sent loose stones crashing through the brushwood. Once on the level they ran for the sounds of trouble as fast as they could make headway through impeding undergrowth. They broke through at last into the tote road and ran at top speed down a straight stretch of it that was like a long aisle between the flanking trunks of spruce and hemlock. There was a sharp turn in the trail at the end of this aisle and judging by the glow of a fire that someone had lighted and the shouts of men in combat, it was just around the turn that the issue was being fought.

"Left, Cork—into the bush!" panted Phil as he heard a shout behind them.

They cut straight through for the bonfire, against the glow of which the tree-trunks began to stand out black. As they approached, Kendrick threw out his arm to stop the detective, and they dropped to the ground and crawled the remaining distance on hands and knees.

Against the firelight towered the black bulk of the giant Swede in the centre of a wild hand-to-hand fight against five of McIvor's men. They were attacking him from all sides at once, and if any of them had been armed with rifles they had thrown these aside in favor of knives and clubs. The fighting was too close for the use of firearms. A sixth man had got it on "da hed" before they had succeeded in knocking the club out of the Swede's hands; he lay, sprawled and still, near the edge of the woods. The sheath in which the sectionman had carried his hunting-knife swung empty as if the knife had been plucked out by one of his assailants; for he was defending himself only with feet and bare hands.

But it was all Svenson needed. He was putting up the fight of his life. It was a beautiful demonstration of Scandinavian defense methods—one man unarmed against five with knives and clubs! His huge arms were working like flails. His powerful, supple body bent and heaved this way and that with powerful sweeps as he met the incessant attack. As fast as they came at him he sent them hurling off their balance.

He seemed to have a defense for every kind of attack. As Kendrick and McCorquodale first got sight of him three of the gang were rushing him simultaneously. He knicked the knife spinning from one man's hand with his heavy hob-nailed boot, grabbed the fellow by the waist and tossed him backward over his head, grabbed a second one and whirled him across his hip clean into the bushes; number three he laid out with a knee in the stomach and an uppercut that must have broken his jaw. All this like lightning. Svenson was indeed proving himself "gude smart mans," and that was, in very truth, "no yoke." Svenson was making good his promise "tew rase hell."

"Oh boy! Oh boy!" McCorquodale kept muttering to himself, pausing an instant in amazed admiration.

One glance assured Kendrick that the girl was nowhere in sight. Evidently Cristy was carrying out instructions to the letter.

Stiles! Where was Stiles? Jimmy had "stuck," but he had gone under early. He lay prone in the foreground, his face ghastly with a smear of blood across the cheek. The fellow who had done it was still standing there, looking down at the inanimate form.

Distant shouts and the noise of reinforcements approaching through the timber announced the gravity of the situation. In another moment the whole crowd would be upon them.

"I eats this guy up, 'bo," whispered McCorquodale, pointing to Stiles' victor with his thumb, "'n'en I helps Swedie, see. You grabs Jimmy on your back an' beats it fer the canoes. The girl's away already an' Swedie an' me'll join you in a jiff an' the whole bunch of us vamooses, see. You grabs Stiles——"

Kendrick silenced him with a look and together they leaped into the fray. Phil knocked out the man standing beside Stiles with one blow on the head from the butt of his revolver. Shouting encouragement, McCorquodale went to the hard pressed Svenson's assistance—Iron Man McCorquodale, former near middleweight champion—and the light of battle was in his eye.

A man ran out of the bush, his yellow teeth bared in a snarl of rage. He wore a bandage across his forehead and came at Kendrick, levelling his rifle. Just as he pulled the trigger he tripped on a root and pitched full length into the open, the gun exploding harmlessly into the ground. Phil had him by the throat in an instant.

"Kom on! Kom on, by Yiminy!" bellowed Svenson exultantly as he shook his tawny head and blew the blood from his mouth. "Yust took a look at may! Ay ben give you nodder bellyful, y'batcha!" He ducked low to avoid the vicious sweep of a heavy stick, grabbed the assailant by the ankles and swung him around his head as if the man had weighed but twenty pounds. Only two were left facing him now and they fell back before this terrible antagonist, swearing impotently.

McCorquodale had met a new arrival on the scene with a fierce uppercut that felled him like an ox and was slowly pressing a second arrival back into the bush with right and left swings to the face that landed so swift and sure that the fellow literally was blinded by the blows. It was Weiler, and the detective growled as he fought.

The tide of battle gradually was turning. So many of the enemy were down and out that it was beginning to look as if Kendrick and his friends would win through to the river if they could but keep up the terrific pace for a few minutes longer. This, however, was reckoning without the sudden reversion of the odds against them by the arrival of Red McIvor and two more men from the camp. They came running into sight around the turn in the tote road and McIvor was cursing like a wild man as he bore down on the struggle.

If the others had neglected the advantage which fire-arms gave them, not so Red McIvor. Within fifty paces he stopped short, dropped to his knee and deliberately raised his rifle.

"You —— —— fools!" he yelled. "Clear away from them!"

He was aiming at the big Swede; but as Phil finished choking the halfbreed who had attacked him and sprang to his feet, McIvor swung his rifle.

Kendrick dropped in his tracks.

McCorquodale turned quickly at sound of the shot, just in time to see his leader go down. He fired from the hip and at the bark of his automatic Red McIvor pitched over sideways.

For a moment the two men beside him stood gazing down, awe-stricken and dismayed. Then they turned and ran as hard as they could go, back up the logging trail. It was the signal for the retreat of every member of the gang who could slip out of sight into the woods; but not before Svenson had gathered together every weapon they possessed.

With an oath McCorquodale started towards Kendrick; but he stopped when he saw Phil sitting up, grinning at him cheerfully. At the first move of McIvor's rifle in his direction he had thrown himself flat, disconcerting the man's aim.

The detective's bullet, however, had found its mark. Red McIvor lay sprawled grotesquely where he fell. A moment later McCorquodale looked up from his examination.

"Y' can't kill this bird with no thirty-two," he grinned. "He'll be around after a bit, cussin' a blue streak. The bullet bumped him on the bean an' glanced off like it was solid ivory. I slips the bracelets on him, see, an' we takes him along with us. I miss my guess if he aint wanted bad in 'bout every place he's been."

It was an odd procession which filed out on the riverbank twenty minutes later. First came Svenson, carrying across his great shoulder the still unconscious form of the bootlegger. Behind him walked Jimmy Stiles, supported by Kendrick. McCorquodale brought up the rear, loaded down with confiscated rifles.

They found Svenson's big canoe unharmed. The small canoe was gone from its place in the bushes beside the flat rock. In the soft earth at the water's edge they discovered a spare paddle stuck upright and to it was tied a bit of cambric, her handkerchief.

Phil struck a match and examined it carefully, making out a dim "O.K." which she had marked on it with a lead-pencil.

He heaved a breath of relief and smiled as he wrapped it carefully about a dollar bill and tucked it away in his card-case.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE RACE BEGINS

It was just a few minutes past eleven o'clock when Cristy Lawson climbed to the railroad track out of breath and hurried towards the section shanty. She had made good time in the canoe with the swift current of the Wolverine in her favor, and she was elated at her progress. The remaining stage of the journey should not present much difficulty, once she had persuaded Thorlakson of the urgency of her mission.

The place was in darkness and she tapped loudly on the window-pane of Mrs. Thorlakson's bedroom. After a little while she heard the woman stir and call out. Cristy shouted in to her and with many strange Icelandic expressions of astonishment Mrs. Thorlakson came to the door and let her in.

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