The trader groaned. As the cords tightened and shoots of torturing pain ran up the arm, the huge body of the man writhed. The revolver fell from his paralyzed fingers. His wobbling knees sagged and collapsed.
McRae’s fingers loosened as the man slid down and caught the bull-like throat. His grip tightened. West fought savagely to break it. He could as soon have freed himself from the clamp of a vice.
The Scotchman shook him till he was black in the face, then flung him reeling away.
“Get oot, ye yellow wolf!” he roared. “Or fegs! I’ll break every bone in your hulkin’ body. Oot o’ my camp, the pair o’ you!”
West, strangling, gasped for air, as does a catfish on the bank. He leaned on the cart wheel until he was able to stand. The help of Morse he brushed aside with a sputtered oath. His eyes never left the man who had beaten him. He snarled hike a whipped wolf. The hunter’s metaphor had been an apt one. The horrible lust to kill was stamped on his distorted, grinning face, but for the present the will alone was not enough.
McRae’s foot was on the revolver. His son Fergus, a swarthy, good-looking youngster, had come up and was standing quietly behind his father. Other hunters were converging toward their chief.
The Indian trader swore a furious oath of vengeance. Morse tried to lead him away.
“Some day I’ll get yore squaw girl right, McRae, an’ then God help her,” he threatened.
The bully lurched straddling away.
Morse, a sardonic grin on his lean face, followed him over the hill.
MORSE JUMPS UP TROUBLE
“Threw me down, didn’t you?” snarled West out of the corner of his mouth. “Knew all the time she did it an’ never let on to me. A hell of a way to treat a friend.”
Tom Morse said nothing. He made mental reservations about the word friend, but did not care to express them. His somber eyes watched the big man jerk the spade bit cruelly and rowel the bronco when it went into the air. It was a pleasure to West to torture an animal when no human was handy, though he preferred women and even men as victims.
“Whad he mean when he said you could tell me how he’d settled with her?” he growled.
“He whipped her last night when I took her back to camp.”
“Took her back to camp, did you? Why didn’t you bring her to me? Who’s in charge of this outfit, anyhow, young fellow, me lad?”
“McRae’s too big a man for us to buck. Too influential with the half-breeds. I figured it was safer to get her right home to him.” The voice of the younger man was mild and conciliatory.
“You figured!” West’s profanity polluted the clear, crisp morning air. “I got to have a run in with you right soon. I can see that. Think because you’re C.N. Morse’s nephew, you can slip yore funny business over on me. I’ll show you.”