The Shagganappi

by Emily Pauline Johnson



The King’s Coin


CHAPTER I.

    BECAUSE the doctor had forbidden Jack Cornwall to read a single line except by daylight, the boy was spending a series of most miserable evenings. No books, no stories, no studies, for a severe cold had left him with an inflammation of the eyes; and, just as he was careering with all sorts of honors through the high school, he was ordered by the great oculist to drop everything, leave school, and—“loaf.”
    Young Cornwall hated “loafing.” His brain and body loved activity. He would far sooner have taken a sound flogging than all the idle hours that had been forced on him to endure. To-night, particularly, time hung very heavy on his hands. He sat for a full hour, his eyes shaded from the lamp, his hands locked round his knee, doing nothing, and finding it most difficult. His father read the newspaper, his mother mended stockings, his little brother pored frowningly over his algebra. Presently Jack’s nerves seemed to break. He sprang up impetuously, then, controlling himself, sat down again, and said: “Oh, it is brutal, this sitting around! I don’t believe I can stand it much longer. I wish I were out in the wilds, or on the sea, or somewhere where I could work with my hands, if I mustn’t use my eyes.”
    His mother looked up, saying, sympathetically, that it was hard. His father put down the paper, looked at him quizzically for a moment, then, extracting a letter from his pocket, and laying it on the table, said: [Page 40]
    “John, did you ever know that your father was a stupid old numskull? Here’s news that I have had for three days, and I never thought of you in connection with it. Here’s the chance of your life—the very thing you want—a letter from your Uncle Matt. He’s going up North, to the end of civilization. Started at his old business of fur-trading again. He says here”—and Mr. Cornwall referred to the letter, reading—“‘But there’s something else taking me north besides otter and mink skins. I’ll tell it to you when I return, but just now the secret must be mine alone. I only wish I had some decent chap to go with me; but in this chasing-for-the-dollar age, no one seems to be able to leave their miserable little shops for mere adventures into the wilds. I suppose I’ll have to hunt up some strapping boy as a partner, but the trouble is to get one who is strong enough to work and starve, alternately; one who will sleep in the open, live on rabbits and beans, let his clothes dry on him when they get wet, and who will keep his mouth shut and his ears open. They aren’t making young men like that now, I’m afraid.”
    “Yes, they are, father! Yes, they are!” cried Jack, springing to his feet, his eyes gleaming with excitement. “Do you think Uncle Matt will take me?”
    His father measured him carefully with a very keen eye. “You certainly have great shoulders, my son. Why, I never really noticed them before. You’re built like an ox! How old are you?”
    “Seventeen next month, and I’m not only built like an ox, I’m as strong as one, and—I think I can keep my mouth shut and my ears open.”
    “Yes, you can do that if you are your mother’s son,” said his father, glancing slyly at his mother. Then they all laughed, for Mrs. Cornwall was renowned among her relatives as a silent little woman, who heard everything but who repeated nothing. [Page 41]
    That night a telegram was sent to Uncle Matt, and, late the following day, came the reply:
    “Sure! Will take Jack gladly. Expect me Saturday. Be ready to start Tuesday. MATT.”
    When Matt Larson arrived he was not at all what Jack expected he would be. In the first place, he was not like one’s uncle. Jack had forgotten that his mother had frequently told him that her little brother Matt was only six years old when she was married, and had acted “page” at the wedding. So to-day Matt, who was only twenty-five, looked more like a big brother than an uncle. His eyes, however, were as shrewd as those of a man of forty, and already a fine dusting of gray hairs swept away from each temple. His skin was swarthy from many winds and suns, his nose determined, and his mouth as kind and sweet as Jack’s own mother’s, but his hands and shoulders were what spoke of his pioneer life. There was something about those strong, clean fingers, those upright shoulders, that made Jack love him at sight.
    Matt Larson never dressed like anyone else. Years of exploring the wilds had got him so accustomed to heavy boots and leather knee gaiters, that he never seemed to be able to discard them when he touched town life, which, truth to tell, was as seldom as possible. His suit of heavy, rough tweeds, blue flannel shirt and flowing black silk handkerchief for a tie, never seemed to leave his back, and no one recollected having ever seen him wear a hat. A small, checked cloth cap, flung on the very back of his head, was his only head covering, rain or shine.
    “No, don’t call me ‘uncle,’” he laughed as Jack greeted him with the respect the relationship demanded. “You and I are just going to be pals. All hands up north call me Larry—I suppose it’s short for Larson—so it’s Larry to you, isn’t it, old man?”
    “Yes, Larry,” replied Jack, with all his heart warming to this extraordinarily handsome, genial relative, “and I think we will be pals, all right,” he continued. [Page 42]
    “No, ‘think’ about it; it’s a dead sure fact!” asserted Matt Larson, gripping Jack’s hand with those splendid, sturdy fingers of his. Then, turning abruptly to his dunnage bags, gun cases, and the general duffle of the “up-northerner,” he extracted therefrom a most suspiciously-shaped russet leather case, and handing it to Jack, said: “That’s yours, boy, never to be used except in emergency, but always to be kept in the pink of condition, ready for instant action.”
    Jack’s poor, weak eyes fairly danced; it was a beautiful new revolver.
    “But, unc—I mean, Larry—why do we take revolvers on a fur-trading expedition?” he asked.
    Matt Larson shot a swift glance at him, answering quietly, “There are other things up north besides furs.”
    “Do you mean desperadoes?” questioned Jack.
    “Well,” hesitated his uncle, “perhaps I do; perhaps I mean other things, too.” And that was all Jack could get him to say on the subject. But the boy was very proud of his “gun,” and a little curious as to just why his uncle had given it to him, so that night, when they were alone a moment, he said: “Larry, that shooter is—bully! It’s great to have it. I’d rather have it at my hip than be in a position sometime to wish I had it.”
    “I was there once, and not so very long ago, my boy,” said Matt Larson, with a quick frown. Then, half to himself, “But the man in the mackinaw* will never catch me unarmed again.”
    “The man in the mackinaw, eh?” echoed Jack, lifting his eyebrows meaningly.
    “Oh, ho, youngster! You’re the boy for me!” grinned his uncle. “You’re sharp! You’ve caught on, all right. Yes; he’s the man you’ve got to keep your eyes in the back of your head to watch for. He’s a bad lot. He may [Page 43] bother us. Now, are you afraid to tackle the wilderness, since you know there is menace—perhaps danger?”
    “I’m not afraid of anything with you, Matt Larson,” said the boy, gravely, looking the other directly in the eyes.
    “But suppose we should get separated, by some unlucky chance, what then?” asked the man.
    “I don’t think I would be afraid—I shall not be afraid, even then,” Jack answered.
    “That’s the way to talk! Now I know you are game,” said Larson, seizing the boy by the shoulders and peering into his eyes. Then they shook hands silently, but it was an unspoken pledge nevertheless.
    “The man in the mackinaw,” repeated Jack, slowly, as their hands gripped. Then his eyes narrowed down to little slits of light. “I think, Larry, I should know him by instinct.”
    “You’re a wolf on two legs, boy!” replied Larry, with delight. “You have the intuition of the wiser animals. Why have I never really known you before? Why have I not had you?”
    “You’ve got me now, anyway, and you are going to keep me, Larry,” said the boy. Then they said good-night with a bond of manly friendship between them that was destined to last throughout their lives.


                          *              *              *              *              *              *

    They left the luxurious sleeping-car of the great Canadian Pacific Railway, at a little settlement on the north shore of Lake Superior. There were but three buildings in the place, all of logs: the railway station, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trading post, and “French” Pierre’s “bunk and eating-house.” The northern forest closed in on all sides, and the little settlement in all amounted to nothing more than a clearing.
    The instant they stepped from the car, Matt Larson’s eyes swept the platform, alighting with a pleased expression on the figure of a wiry, alert-looking boy of perhaps [Page 44] eighteen, who stepped forward silently, quickly, and laid his hand in Larson’s, outstretched to greet him. The boy was Indian through and through, with a fine, thin, copper-colored face, and eyes of very rare beauty. The instant Jack Cornwall saw those eyes, he knew that they could see almost unseeable things. But Matt Larson was introducing them. “Fox-Foot,” he said, turning to the Indian, “here is Jack, my own sister’s son. He has my confidence. He will know all that I know. You may trust him with everything. Jack, old man, this Chippewa boy, Fox-Foot, is my friend and our guide. His canoe is ours for weeks ahead. He knows what I know. You may trust him with everything. Shake hands.”
    But the two boys were already shaking hands, friends at once because of their friendship with Matt Larson. Then came the packing of duffle and dunnage bags into the narrow bark canoe beached on the river bank, fifty yards away. A last look at the outfit, to see if there were sufficient matches and other prime necessities, then they were off—off on that strange quest Jack knew so little of. His alert senses had long ago grasped the fact that furs alone were not taking them north, that something unspoken of was the real cause of this expedition; but he was content to wait until the time came when he should be told. His handsome young uncle knelt at the bow thwart, the silent Chippewa boy at the stern. The canoe shot forth like a slender arrow, and the wilderness closed in about them. Just as they rounded the bend of the river which was to shut the settlement from sight, Matt Larson turned his head several times quickly, looking behind them with something of the lightening movement and sharp rapidity of a wild animal. It struck Jack as an odd action, betraying suspicion—suspicion perhaps that they might be followed. That night wisdom came to him. The day had been a heavy one, paddling upstream against a cruel current; and, after they had pitched camp for the night at the foot of an exquisite cascade of water called the [Page 45] Red Rock Falls, and eaten a tremendous supper, Jack strolled to the water’s margin to see that the canoe was properly beached high and safe. On the opposite side of the river a slim shadow slipped along—a canoe that contained a single man, who wore a rough coat of indefinite grayish plaid. Jack crept noiselessly up the river bank. “Larry, Fox-Foot,” he said in a hoarse, low whisper, “look, look across the river! A canoe, with a man in it—a man in a mackinaw!”

II

    MATT LARSON sprang to his feet, spitting out a strange foreign word that boded no good to the intruder. His hand leaped to his revolver instantly. Then he swung around to look at Fox-Foot, but the boy had disappeared for a moment. The two stood silent, then Jack’s quick eye caught sight of the Chippewa many yards distant crawling on his belly like a snake, in and out among the blueberry bushes upstream. “Foxy’s gone for all night; we’ll never see him until daylight. He’ll watch that canoe like a lynx. He’s worth his weight in gold,” murmured Matt Larson. Then he added, addressing Jack, “I thought I brought you out here because your eyes were gone smash! Why, boy, you have an eye like a vulture, to make out that canoe and that coat in this twilight.”
    Jack fairly beamed with pride at this praise. “Larry,” he said, “I believe I saw that canoe as much with my brain as with my eyes; besides, my eyes don’t hurt unless I strain them.”
    “Your eyes are bully; we’ll take care of them, and of you, too, Jack. You are—yes, invaluable. Well, somebody has got to sleep to-night to be fit to work up-stream to-morrow, so, Jack, you and I shall be the somebodies, for Foxy will never close an eye to-night. We’re safe as [Page 46] a church with that boy a-watch. You must paddle all to-morrow, son, while Foxy sleeps amidships.”
    “I guess I’m good for it. Feel that forearm,” answered Jack.
    Larry ran his fingers down the tense muscles, then up to the manly shoulder-blades. “Why, boy, you are built like an ox!” he exclaimed.
    “Just father’s expression!” smiled Jack.
    “Well, to bed and sleep now! If you hear any creeping noise in the night it will be Foxy. He’ll never let another living soul near us while we sleep,” said Larry, as he prepared for his blanket bed.
    “What are you thinking of, boy?” he added, curiously.
    “I am wondering if by any chance I could possibly be right,” replied Jack. “Tell me, Larry, did that man out there, the man in the mackinaw, have anything to do with causing those gray hairs above your ears—did he?”
    “You certainly have the intuition of an animal,” was the reply. “Jack, I love you, old pal; you’re white and sharp and clean right through! Yes, he ‘powder-puffed’ my hair. I’ll tell you about it some day. Not to-night. You must sleep to-night, and remember, ‘all’s well’ as long as Foxy’s at the helm.”
    “The man wouldn’t shoot Fox-Foot, wouldn’t kill him, would he, Larry?” came Jack’s anxious voice.
    “Shoot him! Shoot Foxy!” Then Matt Larson laughed gleefully into his blankets. “Why, Jack, no man living could ever get a bead on Foxy in this wilderness. No man could ever find him or see him, though he were lying right at the man’s own feet. I think too much of Foxy to expose him to danger. But the best of it is, you can’t put your eye, or your ear, or your fingers on that boy. You can’t even smell him. He’s the color of the underbrush, silent as midnight, quick as lightning. You can’t detect the difference between the smell of his clothes and of his skin and burning brushwood, or deer-hide. He can sidle up to the most timid wild thing. Oh! don’t [Page 47] you worry, son! Go to sleep; our Fox-foot is his own man, nobody else’s.”
    “All right, Larry, but I’m here, if anyone wants me,” yawned Jack.
    And Matt Larson knew in his heart of hearts that Jack Cornwall spoke truly—that he was there to stand by his uncle and Fox-Foot should he be called upon to do so.
    Dawn was breaking as they awoke—simultaneously to a slight crackling sound outside. Larry’s head burrowed out of the tent.
    “Foxy cooking breakfast,” was his cool remark. Then,“Jingo! He’s got a fish—a regular crackerjack! It’s as long as my arm! Ha! there’s a breakfast for you!” But Jack was already up and out.
    “Fine luck I have! Big fish!” smiled Fox-Foot, as fresh and alert as if he had had a night in blankets instead of hours of watchfulness. Already half of the freshwater beauty was sizzling in the frying-pan, the Indian lifting and turning it with a long pointed stick. Matt Larson got busy coffee-making. “We’ll pit these two odors one against the other,” he remarked; “though I am bound to admit that the only time a frying fish does really smell good and appetizing is when it has been dead about twenty minutes, and is cooking over a camp-fire.” Then quickly, in a low, tense voice: “Where is he, Foxy? Where did you leave him?”
    The Indian went on turning the fish, indicating with his head the direction across the river.
    “He’s over there, asleep.”
    “He may wake at any moment; we must get away at once,” hurried Larry.
    “No,” said Fox-Foot, with indifference, “he won’t wake. There is a flower grows here, small seeds; I creep close, put it in his teapot. He not see me. He boil tea, he drink it; he wake—maybe sundown to-night.”
    Larry and Jack looked at each other. Then with one accord they burst into laughter. [Page 48]
    “Flower seeds! Where did you learn of these seeds, boy?” asked Larry.
    “My mother teach me when I’m small. She said only use when pain is great, or,” he hesitated, then, with a sly, half humorous look, “or when your enemy is great.”
    “Beats all, doesn’t it, Jack?” said Larry. “Foxy, you’re a wonder! Did you do anything else to him?”
    “No, just to his canoe,” replied the boy. “I wore a hole through the bottom with rocks; he’ll think he did it himself. Takes time mend that canoe; we be far up the river by then—far beyond the forks; he not know which headwater we take.”
    Matt Larson laid his hand on the straight, jet-black hair. “Bless you, my boy!” he said comically, but his undertone held intense relief, which did not escape Jack’s ears.
    The fish and coffee were ready now, and all three waded into that breakfast with fine relish.
    Then came the arduous portage around Red Rock Falls, a difficult task which occupied more than an hour. Then away upstream once more, this time Jack paddling bow, with young Fox-Foot, lying on a blanket amidships, wrapped in a well-earned sleep. But once during the entire morning the Indian stirred; he did not seem to awake as other boys do, but more like a rabbit. His eyes opened without drowsiness; he shot to his knees, sweeping the river bank with a glance like the boring of a gimlet. Larry, looking at him, knew that nothing—nothing, bird, beast or man—could escape that penetrating scrutiny. Then, without comment, the boy curled down among his blankets again and slept.
    They did not stop for “grub” at midday—just opened a can of pork and beans, finished up the cold fried fish, and drank from the clear blue waters of the river. Then on once more upstream, which now began to broaden into placid lakelets, thereby lessening the current and giving them a chance to make more rapid headway. At four [Page 49] o’clock they reached the forks of the stream—one flowed towards them from the north, the other from the west.
    “Which way?” asked Larson, rousing the Chippewa. The boy got up immediately and took the stern paddle, steering the western course. They had paddled something over two miles up that arm when Fox-Foot beached the canoe, built a fire, spilled out the remainder of the pork and beans, threw the tin can on the bank, then marshaled his crew aboard again, and deliberately steered over the course they had already come.
    “We lose two miles good work,” he explained. “We build decoy fire, we leave tin can, he come; he think we go that way, but we go north.” Back to the forks and up the northern branch they pulled, both Larry and Jack not only willing to have done four miles of seemingly unnecessary paddling, but loud in their praise and appreciation of the Indian’s shrewd tactics. At supper time Fox-Foot would allow no fire to be built, no landing to be made, no trace of their passing to be left. They ate canned meat and marmalade, drank again of the stream and pushed on, until just at dusk they reached the edge of a long, still lake, with shores of granite and dense fir forest. “Larry and Jack, you sleep in canoe to-night; no camp. Lake ten miles long; no current; I paddle—me,” said the Indian, and nothing that Larry could urge would alter the boy’s edict.
    “Jack, you must wonder what all these precautions are for, yet you never ask,” said Larry.
    “Because I know,” returned the boy. “We are trying to escape the man in the mackinaw. He is following you. He is your enemy.”
    “Yes, boy, and to-night you shall know why,” replied Larry. “You have taken so much for granted, you have never asked a single question; now you shall know what Foxy and I are after.”
    “You said you were after furs,” Jack smiled.
    “Yes, but not furs alone, my son,” said the man. Then [Page 50] leaning meaningly towards the boy he half whispered, “I am after the king’s coin—gold! My boy, nuggets and nuggets of gold, that I prospected for myself up in these wilds two years ago, found pockets of it in the rocks, cached it, away, as I thought, from all human eyes, awaiting the time I could safely bring it to ‘the front.’ I knew of but one being in all the North that I could trust with my secret. That being is Fox-Foot. One night I confided it to him, showing him the map I had made of the lakes and streams of the north country, and the spot where the gold was cached. We were, as I thought, alone in Fox-Foot’s log house. That is, alone in speaking English, for his people don’t understand a single word that is not Chippewa. We were poring over the map I had made, when something made me look behind me. Against the small hole in the logs that served as a window was a man’s head and shoulders—a white man—and he wore a gray mackinaw. Foxy and I were on our feet at once, but the man crashed through the woods and was gone. But he had heard my story, had seen I had a map, and—well, he wants my gold! That is all.”

CHAPTER III.

    “AND THE gray hair above your eyes, Larry?” asked Jack, in an awed voice.
    “That came the time I mentioned when I gave you your revolver, and you remarked you would hate to be in a position where you might wish you had one. I told you I had been there myself. It was last August, on a lonely trail far east of here. I had lain down during the intense heat of the day to sleep, only to wake to see his peering eyes, to feel that my feet were tied together, my hands caught in his vise-like clutch, bound together. Then I was dragged to a tree and lashed [Page 51] to it by yards of leather strapping, and all the time looking into the barrel of his revolver. He searched every stitch of clothing I had on, but he did not find the map. I was not armed, was perfectly helpless, and he left me lashed to that tree, naked all but my trousers and socks. I was there forty hours. The black flies came in swarms, the mosquitoes in thousands, and the second night timber wolves barked in the distance. Towards morning they came nearer, nearer. The agony from the insects made me desperate, but it was the yapping of those wolves that drove me crazy. I chewed through the leather straps binding my shoulder, chewed the shoulder with it, boy, and broke loose, with the blood running from every fly-bite, my eyes blinded with their poison, my throat cracked with thirst. I staggered to the river to drink, drink, drink, to lie in its cool waters, then to drink again, again, again.”
    Jack’s face blanched, his hands turned stiff with cold, at the horror of the tale.
    “When I could really see with my eyes,” continued Larry, “I discovered, while looking into the still river, that this powder had puffed itself above my ears.”
    “And the map?” questioned Jack.
    “Oh, the map? Well, he didn’t get that,” answered Larry, in something of his natural voice. “You see, I had once an accident, breaking through the ice on the lake. The map got wet and was almost destroyed, so I copied it out on cotton with marking ink, and sewed it inside the lining of my coat, and it did not crackle, as the paper map would have done had he passed his hands over it. Why, he never suspected it was there.”
    Jack drew a great breath of relief. “I wouldn’t care if he did get it, Larry, so long as he left you alive.”
    “Oh, he’s too cowardly to kill a man outright; don’t be afraid of that. But he’s after the King’s coin, all right,” was the reply.
    “And he don’t get King’s Coin, not while I live—me,” [Page 52] said the low voice of Fox-Foot, as, with squared shoulders and set teeth, he gripped his paddle firmly and started up the long stretch of Ten-Mile Lake.

*         *         *         *         *         *

    All that night Larry and Jack slept in the canoe, while the Chippewa boy paddled noiselessly, mile after mile. Above them the loons laughed, and herons called, and in the dense forest ashore foxes barked and owls hooted. A beautiful bow of light arched itself in the north, its long, silvery fingers stretching and darting up to the sky’s zenith. But the Indian paddled on. Those wild sounds and scenes were his birthright, and he knew no fear of them.
    At daylight he beached the canoe so motionlessly the sleepers never stirred, and he wakened them only when he had the coffee made and a huge pan of delicious bacon fried above the coals. Both of the paleface friends arose, yawned, stretched, stripped and plunged into the lake, to swim about for a few moments, and then to jump into their shirts and sweaters, and fall upon the coffee and bacon with fine relish.
    “I believe,” said Jack, devouring his third helping, “that my eyes are better. They don’t ache or smart in the least to-day.”
    “Eye bad?” asked Fox-Foot.
    Jack explained.
    “I cure, me, if you like. Root good for bad eye grows here, north,” said the Chippewa.
    “Better let him try,” urged Larry. “He knows all these things. His flower seeds have evidently put the kibosh on the man in the mackinaw.”
    “I get root, you try. No harm,” said the Indian. “You scairt put in your eye, then just smell it, and tie round your head.”
    “I’ll try it, by all means,” asserted Jack. [Page 53]
    So, at noon, while Larry and Jack cooked the dinner, Fox-Foot penetrated the woods, returning with some crooked little brown roots, which he bound about Jack’s forehead and made him inhale. They exuded a peculiar sweetish odor, that seemed to wash the eyeball like water, and when the afternoon was half spent, Jack remarked that his eyelids had ceased to smart.
    “One week, maybe, be all right,” answered the Indian. And his words proved correct. Daily he gathered fresh roots, treating Jack’s eyes as skillfully as the oldest medicine man of his tribe could have done, until the poor red rims faded white, and the bloodshot eyeballs grew clear and bluish. Jack was beside himself with gratitude and delight, his one regret being that there was no possible way of mailing a letter to his parents telling them the good news. This week was one of work, sometimes toil. Often they encountered rapids over which they must portage. Once it was a whole mile through brush and rock and deep, soft mosses, but still they struggled on, until one evening, as they pitched camp and lighted their fire, Fox-Foot said coolly:
    “You know this place, Larry?”
    “No,” was the answer, “never saw it before.”
    “The reason you say that,” said the Indian, “is ’cause you come and go over that bluff behind us. Lake Nameless just twenty yards ’cross the bluff.”
    “What!” yelled Larry.
    “I bring you in other side. Bluff separate this river and Lake Nameless. There is your cache,” laughed Fox-Foot, throwing a pebble and striking a point of red rock ten yards away.
    Larry and Jack fairly stumbled over their own feet to get there. Every mark that Matt Larson had left to identify the hiding-place of his treasure still remained undisturbed. The round white-pebble placed near the shelving rock, the three-cornered flint, the fine, tiny gray bits of stone set like a bird’s eggs in a nest of lichen, the [Page 54] two standing pines with a third fallen, storm-wrecked, at their roots—every landmark was there, intact.
    Larry almost flew for the pick, and began to hack away at loose rocks, swing the pick above shoulder as a woodsman swings an axe. Two feet below the surface, the pick caught in a web of cloth. In another minute Larry lifted out an old woolen jersey undershirt, that had been fastened up bag-wise. He snatched his knife, ripped open the sleeves, and the setting son shot over a huge heap of yellow richness, quarts and quarts of heavy golden nuggets—the King’s Coin. Larry sat down limply, wiping the oozing drops from his forehead. The two boys stood gazing at the treasure as if fascinated. Then Jack moistened his lips with his tongue, drew the back of his hand across his blinking eyes, moistened his lips again, but no words seemed to come to him. It was Fox-Foot who spoke first. Touching one splendid nugget almost contemptuously with the toe of his moccasin, he sneered: “It is the curse of the paleface, this gold. ’Most every white man he sell the soul within his body for gold, gold, but not so Larry. I know him. He prize this thing because it is the reward of pluck, of work, of great patience, of what white men call ‘grit.’”
    “Thank you, Foxy,” said Larry, rising and extending his fine hand, which grasped the Indian’s with a warm, true grip. “You mean that—mean it with all your loyal young redskin heart. Yes, boys, I hope it is for the love of pluck, the pride of ‘grit,’ that I value this thing. I hope it is not greed, not avarice, not—”
    “Never!” interrupted Jack’s ringing voice. “Never any greed of gold in you, Larry. You best and bulliest of menalive , but I am glad the gold is yours! You deserve every ounce of it,” and Jack was clinging to his handsome young uncle’s other hand with a heartiness that rang as true as the nuggets lying at his feet. Presently he stooped to lift one. Its rugged yellow bulk reflected the dying sun. It was a goodly thing to look [Page 55] at, rare, precious, beautiful. Then he dropped it among its fellows, his fingers curled into his palms. Unconsciously his hands moulded themselves into fists, and each fist rested with a peculiar bulldog movement above each sturdy hip. His eyes met Larry’s.
    “We’ll have a tough fight for it,” he said, meaningly, “but that gold is going to get past the man in the mackinaw.”
    “It certainly will, if you’re going to act as you look now,” laughed Larry. “Why, boy, you look as if you would stop at nothing to outwit our unpleasant follower.”
    “I shall stop at very little,” said Jack doggedly. “Your gold will get to the front, Larry, if I have full fling in the matter.”
    “Fling away, son,” was the reply. “Only always remember: don’t use your revolver unless he is killing you.”
    “Or killing you or Fox-Foot,” supplemented the boy.
    “Same thing,” said Larry. “We are all one in this matter, but I don’t want you to be sorry in after years that you pulled a gun too quickly, that is all.”
    “No gun,” joined Fox-Foot, slyly. “You leave that man to me. I fix him.”
    “I guess that’s right,” answered Larry. “Foxy’s the boy to trip up Mr. Mackinaw in his nice little race for what does not belong to him. Now, boys, for supper, but we’ll tuck away these pretty little playthings first.”
    The nuggets were divided into two stout canvas sacks, which were never to leave the lynx eyes of these three adventurers. They were to eat off those sacks, sleep on them, sit on them, think of them, dream of them, work for them, swim for them, fight for them. That was the vow that these three sturdy souls and manly hearts made one to another, before they sat down to bacon and beans, in the vast wilderness of the North, that glorious summer night.
    “Downy pillow, this!” growled Larry, as he folded [Page 56] his sweater over a gold sack to get at least a semblance of softness for his ear to burrow into.
    “Never mind, Larry, you can swap it for a good slice of ‘down’ when we get to the front,” said Jack from the depths of his blankets. “It strikes me that it will be the cause of your sleeping on ‘down’ for the rest of your life.”
    “I shall never sleep or rest for long, son, nor do I want a downy life, but there is a difference between rose leaves and these bulky nuggets prodding a fellow in the neck.”
    “You sleep on blankets, I sleep on the wampum,” said Fox-Foot, extracting with his slim brown fingers the “pillow” from beneath Larry’s tired head.
    “All right, Foxy,” murmured the man, sleepily. “The gold only goes to itself when it goes to you. You’re gold right through and through. Good-night.”
    “Good-night,” came Jack’s voice.
    “How,” answered the Chippewa, after the quaint custom of the tribe.

CHAPTER IV.

    AND all night long they slept the hours peacefully away, the strong, athletic, well-knit, muscular white boy, the slender, agile, adroit Indian side by side, their firm young cheeks pillowed on thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of yellow gold.
    With the first hint of dawn, Fox-Foot was astir. Before he left the tent, however, he cautiously placed his sack under Larry’s blanket, and within the turn of that gentleman’s elbow. Once more good luck attended his efforts with rod and line, and he got a dozen trout in almost as many minutes. Larry’s nose usually awakened him when it sniffed early cooking, so now he rolled over [Page 57] to pummel Jack, then up to sing and whistle through his morning toilet like a schoolboy. Breakfast over, they struck camp, Fox-Foot taking command in packing the canoe, giving most rigid instructions as to saving the sacks should there be an upset. Larry took one long, last look at the wild surroundings. The dense pine forest, the forbidding rocks, the silver upper reaches of the river where his fought-for treasure had lain hidden for two years from all human eyes, unknown to any living man save himself. Then the canoe swung into midstream for the return voyage, its narrow little bow facing the south at last.
    For many days the taut little craft danced merrily, homeward bound. For many nights the three voyageurs camped, slept, and dreamed, with only the laughing loons, the calling herons, the plaintive owls, and distant fox bark to sweep across their slumbers. But as the days went on, the Indian boy grew more wary; his glance seemed keener, his ears forever on the alert; he appeared like a lithe, silent watchdog, holding itself ready to spring, and snap, and bury its fine white teeth in the throat of an enemy to its household. His paddle dipped noiselessly, his head turned rapidly, his eye narrowed dangerously. Larry and Jack saw it all, but they said nothing, only relieved the Chippewa of all the work they possibly could, so that, should necessity demand that Fox-Foot must lose rest and food, he would be well fortified for every tax placed on him. Jack took to cooking the meals, as a wild duck takes to the water, insisting that Fox-Foot rest after paddling, and the Indian accepting it all without comment, and sleeping at a moment’s notice—seemingly storing it up against future needs. But the evening came when the laughing river gurgled into Lake Nameless, and that night they camped below its frowning shores on a narrow strip of beach, where the driftwood of many years and many storms had stranded, seemingly forever. All three had rolled into [Page 58] blankets, with sleep hovering above and about them, when, noiselessly as the dawn, Fox-Foot slipped from his bed like an eel, dipped under the tent, and was gone.
    “Larry,” whispered Jack, fearfully.
    “Yes, boy?” came the reply.
    “Did you see that?”
    “Yes, boy.”
    “But—Larry, oh, it’s horrible! I hate myself for saying it—but, oh, Larry, he’s taken a sack with him. I saw it.”
    “Yes, boy.”
    “Listen! Oh, Larry, s-s-h—“
    Matt Larson turned on his back, every nerve strung to snapping pitch. Two whispering voices assailed his ears. The horror of them seemed to grip his heart and stop its very beating. Fox-Foot was speaking.
    “You’s not a good man. I hate you. You’s bad all over, but I have to trust you. You got me cornered. Here’s the gold, same’s I promised. You take half. I take half. You hide it. Bime-by when I get them out of this, I come back, then we divide it. But you sure hide it now, hide it. Good. GOOD.”
    Then came the reply in English, good English. There was only one voice in all the world that had that hissing, snaky sound, and Larry knew it to his cost. It was the voice of the man in the mackinaw, and it was hissing:
    “Bet your life I’ll hide it, Fox-Foot, and you’re a good, decent Indian boy. You shall have half, sure, but get both of those dogs out of here. Get ’em away, right off.”
    “I scairt,” replied the Indian, “I clean scairt. When he finds out, maybe he kill me. I got no knife, no gun—nothing. I scairt.”
    “Here, take my revolver,” replied the man. “And I tell you, Fox-Foot, if they kick up, you put a bullet clean through them, both of them.”
    “Sure. Give me it,” said the Indian in a soft, oily voice. Then, “Now, now, I feel safer with that inside my shirt.” [Page 59]
    Matt Larson’s face was white as a sheet. He did not care a dollar for his lost gold, but for this Indian boy to fail him—oh, it was heartbreaking! He buried his face in his hands. “Oh, Foxy!” he almost sobbed. “Foxy, my little Chippewa friend, I have tried so hard to treat you square—and—Foxy, you’ve failed me! You’ve failed me.” And big, burly Jack Cornwall’s tear-wet face was lying against Larry’s hand, and poor, big, burly Jack Cornwall’s voice was catching in his throat as he said:
    “Oh, Fox-Foot! Fox-Foot! I’d rather have died than heard this—this from you!”
    Then came a hurried good-bye between the two creatures outside, and Fox-Foot slipped back into the tent, slipped back noiselessly, snakily as an eel in its own slime.
    For a full hour Larry and Jack lay there in the dark, hand gripping hand. One sack of gold had gone, stolen by their trusted friend, who lay near them, a loaded revolver inside his shirt, and a threat on his lips—a threat to kill them both.
    At the end of the hour the Indian arose, struck a match, lighted a bit of candle, and taking the revolver from his shirt, examined it closely. Through narrowed lids Larry could see by even that faint light that it was fully loaded.
    With a sweet, almost motherly movement, Matt Larson curled his arm around the boy at his side. They at least would face death together. But the Indian was crawling slowly, silently up towards them, closer, closer. At last the slim, brown fingers touched Larry’s shoulder, and the soft Chippewa voice whispered:
    “Larry, Jack, wake! See, see, the great thing I got. I got his revolver. He never harm us now.”
    Larry sat bolt upright.
    “What do you mean, Foxy? What do you mean, I say? What have you done with my gold?” [Page 60]
    “Gold? Your gold?” exclaimed the Indian boy in surprise. “Your gold? Why, she’s all here”; and flinging back his cover blanket he displayed a gorgeous sight. There, in a thick, deep layer, piled on his under blanket, lay every single, blessed nugget belonging to the one sack he had slept on.
    “But,” stammered Larry, his eyes popping out of his head in amazement, “but, Foxy, I heard you bargain with him, I heard you give him the sack of gold.”
    “No,” replied the Indian, smiling; “heard me give him the sack, the sack filled with stones and pebbles, not with gold. But I’ve got his gun, got it here, here in my shirt. He is now unarmed. He can’t shoot you now!
    Matt Larson held out his arms. “Oh, Foxy, Foxy, forgive me, forgive me! For the moment I mistrusted you, I doubted you, my boy.”
    “I love you just the same as ever; no difference if you did suspect, I no change,” said the Indian, as Larry's splendid arms closed about his lithe young shoulders.
    Then Jack Cornwall’s voice found utterance. “Fox-Foot! Oh, Fox-Foot!” was all he could say, but the Indian boy laid his slim finger across Jack’s honest, boyish lips, saying:
    “I know. Indian he always know. I love you just same as if you never doubt.”
    And Jack knew that Fox-Foot spoke the truth.
    “But we must go, go at once,” continued the Chippewa. “He maybe come back, if he find I cheat him. I bad fellow—me. Long ago, before you come on train, I think maybe he follow us, maybe steal your gold, so I find him, I speak to him with two tongues, one false tongue, one straight tongue. I bargain with him to come to Lake Nameless. I meet him here. We divide your gold, he and I. All the time I make bargain with him I have plan in my heart, just trick to get all his revolver from him, so he can’t shoot you, Larry. I know he shoot you if I don’t get that gun from him. So—I do all this [Page 61] to-night. I play my trick on him. We save our gold, we save our lives, maybe. So—you understand now? I bad fellow, me, but I am only bad to bad man like him. You understand now? You?”
    “Understand?” cried Larry, leaping to his feet. “Understand? Why, Foxy, you’re a prince! You’re a king! You’re the best boy that ever drew the breath of life. You are—”
    “Don’t stop now to tell me what I am,” laughed Fox-Foot. “It is enough that I am your friend, Jack’s friend, and the man may be back with his sack of pebbles.” Here the Indian sat down in a fit of irresistible laughter. Then, controlling himself, he continued, “We must be away inside ten minutes—quick!”
    The other two had long ago grasped the entire situation, and in a twinkling camp was struck, and they were heading for the far shore, Larry paddling bow, the Indian astern, and both working for dear life.
    Before daybreak they had reached the outlet of the lake, and, wearied as they were with excitement, haste and continuous paddling, Larry still urged that they proceed. But the Indian would not listen to it. Larry and Jack must sleep, he insisted, or none of them would be fit to face the man should he follow, which he undoubtedly would, as soon as he discovered the trick which had been played on him. So the two palefaces once more rolled in their blankets, not waiting to pitch the tent, and the Indian crouched forward near the water’s edge to watch, watch, watch, with sleepless, peering eyes, that nothing, living or dead, could hope to escape. [Page 62]

CHAPTER V.

    JACK found sleep impossible. “I feel myself such a cad,” he began to Larry, “such a sneak to ever have doubted our Fox-Foot; but oh, Larry, things did look so against him.”
    “They certainly did, son,” assented Matt Larson, “and I feel just as caddish as you do—more so, in fact, for I should have known, and you were not expected to. From now on, Jack, let’s you and I make it a life rule, no matter how much things look against any chap, not to believe it of him, but just believe the best and noblest of everybody.”
    “My hand on it!” came Jack’s reply, and once more those two fell fast asleep, palm to palm, but with a vastly different emotion from the one they had felt a few hours before.
    “He will try once more,” said Fox-Foot, as they swallowed a hurried breakfast. “He not quite give up yet. At the head of that first big rapid—you know where we portaged over Red Rock Falls—there’s short cut through woods to Lake Nameless. Maybe he catch us there. We there about to-morrow noon. But he can’t shoot; his gun here.” And the boy tapped his shirt with an air of confidence.
    “Yes, thanks to your stratagem, you young schemer,” said Larry. “What do you think, Jack? Are you equal to a good tussle with his mackinaw nibs?”
    “I’m not only equal, but aching to get at him,” responded the boy, with spirit. “I’d give him enough to battle against.”
    But the man in the mackinaw had to battle against a far more formidable enemy than this little crew of three venturesome stalwarts.
    For the next twenty-four hours things went on much as usual, then came the sweeping bend in the river, and [Page 63] the roar of the distant falls. This meant to put ashore and to portage the canoe, duffle, guns and gold bags around to the foot of the falls, for no canoe could possibly live through such a cataract, and there was no record, even among the Indians, of anyone ever having “run” it. All the morning Jack had paddled bow, and worked like a nailer, so the other two lifted the canoe to their shoulders, scrambling up the steep, rocky shores, and leaving Jack to bear the lighter burdens of blankets, tin kettles and one gold-sack.
    Following their prearranged plan, Jack left the sack beside the water where he could keep a constant eye on it, while he made several trips up the heights, leaving his various packs on the summit only to return for more. Last of all he shouldered the heavy gold sack, stumbling among the rocks under its weight. As he reached the shore heights he noticed his comrades had already been swallowed up in the woods, canoe and all, but he could hear their voices and their feet crunching through the underbrush.
    “Hi, boys, you’re doing well!” he called gaily after them, when suddenly a dark circle seemed to wheel about his head, drop over his shoulders, then grip him around the arms. Instantly he felt the rope tighten. Someone had thrown a noose—lassoed him as they lasso cattle on the prairies. In another second he was thrown flat on his back, the gold sack was jerked from his fingers by the concussion, and a dark, evil face was leaning above his own. The man in the mackinaw had caught him at last!
    Oddly enough in that tense moment he seemed to hear his father’s voice saying to him, “Why, boy, you’re built like an ox!” The memory was like a match to timber. He flung his hard young legs about the man’s ankles, bringing him down like a dead weight upon his own body. With the wind half crushed out of him, he struggled and rolled to protect his revolver. A dozen times the man snatched, plunged and parried to secure it, and as many [Page 64] times Jack rolled on top of it, keeping it securely in his hip pocket. Not a word was spoken, not a sound uttered. Only those two, the evil, avaricious, brutal man, and the fair, weak-eyed, brave boy, battling, rolling, lunging, each for the mastery. Then something caused the rope to give, the knot slipped, and with a mighty effort Jack wrenched one arm loose, felt for his revolver, drew it, and fired, once, twice, not at his enemy, but straight into the air.
    “No, you don’t!” snarled the man, reaching for Jack’s gun with one hand, and his throat with the other. But with the agility of a cat the boy had thrown the gun directly behind him, where it fell clear of the bank and splashed into the river. The sound fell on Jack’s ears like a death knell. He had not thought they were so near the brink. One more struggle and they would both be over. Then his breath left him, squeezed out by the demon hand clutching at his throat.
    But those two shots had told their story. With almost stunning horror Larry and Fox-Foot heard them.
    “He’s got him! He’s got Jack!” gasped the Indian, dropping the canoe, and turning with the fleetness of a deer, he disappeared up the portage. Spitting out the strange foreign word he only used in extreme moments, Larry followed hard on his heels.
    “He’s got him down! He’s choking him!” drifted back the Indian’s voice, shaking with dismay and rage. Then both would-be rescuers stood stock still, awed by the sight before them. Jack had once again clutched his sturdy legs about the man’s knees, twisting him so that the iron fingers relaxed from their grip at the boy’s throat. The man was now clutching the gold sack, but with a springy, rapid turn Jack wrenched it free. The two rolled over and over, for a short, sharp struggle, and Larry and the Indian appeared only in time to see the two shoot over the bank. Nothing remained in sight but a single hand clinging to a cedar root that projected from [Page 65] the rocks. It was the work of an instant to reach the hand—Jack’s hand, fortunately—to lift him from his perilous position, while all but breathless he gasped, “Save him! save him! He’s in the river! He’ll go over the falls!”
    Then their horrified eyes discovered the man, by this time far out in midstream, drifting more surely, more rapidly every second, towards the rapids.
    “Here, take this rope! Save him!” cried the boy, wrenching from his poor bruised sides the very rope his enemy had secured him with.
    Larry snatched it, crashing down the shore in the vain hope of reaching the drifting body. The canoe was up in the woods where they had dropped it at the sound of Jack’s gunshots. He could not begin to get near enough with that twenty-foot rope. There was but one hope left—a huge overhanging pine tree a little above the falls—perhaps he could help the struggling man from its branches. But before he could even reach the tree, let alone crawl out above the river, the dark, drifting mass, with its struggling arms and white face, had already been sucked far past its furthest branches. Beside Jack, whose straining eyes watched for the inevitable end, stood Fox-Foot, his arms folded tightly across his chest, his gaze riveted on the drifting speck. Then both boys shuddered, for the swirling speck seemed suddenly to stand erect, then plunged feet foremost over the brink.
    Larry returned very slowly, his legs lagging heavily at every step. All day they searched in the river far below the falls, but not a trace could be found of the man in the mackinaw.
    “Is there a particle of chance that the poor fellow could escape death?” asked Larry of Fox-Foot that night, when, wearied and thoroughly played out, they pitched their camp for the last night in the forest.
    “Yes; one chance in fifty. My father he knows two men escape long time ago.” [Page 66]
    “It strikes me,” said Larry, grimly, “that if there is a ghost of a chance he’ll get it.”
    “I hope so,” declared Jack, fervently. “My neck will be purple from his claws for some time yet, but, oh! I hope he escaped.”
    “Yes,” echoed Larry, solemnly, “it would be miserable to think that I had secured this gold at the price of a man’s life, no matter how degraded that man may be. No, I would not want the gold at that price.”
    So with this shadow surrounding them, their last day in the wilds was very quiet, and, when at last they paddled into the little settlement, it was with a sigh of both regret and relief that Matt Larson lifted his gold sacks from the canoe.
    The Hudson’s Bay trader greeted them cordially. “Got any furs for me, Larry?” was the first thing he asked.
    Then Matt Larson threw back his head and laughed heartily for the first time in days. He had forgotten all about that old tale that he was going north for “furs.” So now he related all his story, showing his gold to the bluff, old, honest trader.
    “You’re lucky to get it to the front,” said that person. “There’s been one of our notorious Northern ‘bad men’ up in the bush for weeks. If you’d come across him now, you would never have got those nuggets here safely. But you’re all right from now on. He drifted in here to-day and took the noon train west.”
    All three adventurers sprang to their feet.
    “What!” yelled Larry. “Came here to-day! What did he look like?”
    “Looked more like mincemeat than any human being I ever saw,” replied the trader. “Tall, dark, evil-looking man. Wore a mackinaw, was wringing wet to the skin, had one arm in a sling made of a wild grapevine, face slit up in ribbons as if he’d been fighting bears, limped as if he had stringhalt. Said he was going to the hospital at Port Arthur.” [Page 67]
    Larry’s reply was an odd one. He turned abruptly to Fox-Foot. “Boy,” he said, “you’re coming East with us to-night. Right now! Don’t say ‘no,’ for I tell you you’re coming. After the tricks you played on that villain your life would not be worth the smallest nugget in those sacks if you stayed here. We’ll come back after a time, but you are coming with me, now!
    Jack Cornwall found he could not speak a word, but just held out both hands to the Chippewa. And that night as the three sat together in the cozy sleeper, while the train thundered its way eastward, Jack wondered why he was so wonderfully happy. Was it because he had proved himself a man on this strange, wild journey? Was it because of those heavy sacks beside him, filled with the King’s Coin, which Larry declared he was to share? He could hardly define the reason, until, glancing up suddenly, he found himself looking into a pair of dark eyes of very rare beauty. Then he knew that this strangely happy feeling came from the simple fact that there were to be no “good-byes,” that Fox-Foot was still beside him. [Page 68]




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A mackinaw is a short, rough coat of material much like a gray horse blanket. It is worn by most lumberjacks, explorers, miners and woodsmen in the regions north of the great Canadian lakes. [back]