West broke into violent, impotent cursing. “You’re there, you damned wood Cree! Think I don’t know? Think I can’t see you? Well, I can. Plain as you can see me. You come here an’ get me, or I’ll skin you alive like I done last week. Hear me?”
The voice rose to a scream. It betrayed terror—the horrible deadly fear of being left alone to perish in the icy wastes of the North.
Beresford crept close and waved a hand in front of the big man’s eyes. West did not know it. He babbled vain and foolish threats at his guide.
The convict had gone blind—snow-blind, and Stomak-o-sox had left him alone to make a push for his own life while there was still time.
West grinned up at the officer, his yellow canines showing like tusks. His matted face was an unlovely sight. In it stark, naked fear struggled with craftiness and cruelty.
“Good you came back—good for you. I ain’t blind. I been foolin’ you all along. Wanted, to try you out. Now we’ll mush. Straight for the big lake. North by west like we been going. Un’erstand, Stomak-o-sox? I’ll not beat yore head off this time, but if you ever try any monkey tricks with Bully West again—” He let the threat die out in a sound of grinding teeth.
Beresford spoke. His voice was gentle. Vile though this murderer was, there was something pitiable in his condition. One cannot see a Colossus of strength and energy stricken to helplessness without some sense of compassion.
“It’s not Stomak-o-sox. We’re two of the North-West Mounted. You’re under arrest for breaking prison and for killing Tim Kelly.”
The information stunned West. He stared up out of sightless eyes. So far as he had known, no member of the Mounted was within five hundred miles of him. Yet the law had stretched out its long arm to snatch him back from this Arctic waste after he had traveled nearly fifteen hundred miles. It was incredible that there could exist such a police force on earth.
“Got me, did you?” he growled. He added the boast that he could not keep back. “Well, you’d never ‘a’ got me if I hadn’t gone blind—never in this world. There ain’t any two of yore damned spies could land Bully West when he’s at himself.”
He broke into a string of curses. “No, our grub’s runnin’ low. That wood Cree slipped away with all we had. Wish I’d killed him last week when I skinned him with the dog-whip.”
“How long have you been blind?”
“It’s been comin’ on two-three days. This damned burnin’ glare from the snow. Yesterday they give out completely. I tied myself by a line to the Injun. Knew I couldn’t trust him. After all I done for him too.”
“Did you know he was traveling south with you—had been since yesterday afternoon?”
“No, was he?” Again West fell into his natural speech of invective. “When I meet up with him, I’ll sure enough fill him full o’ slugs,” he concluded savagely.