THE MAN IN THE SCARLET JACKET
Morse ambled out at a road gait to take his turn at guard duty. He was following the principle that the longest way round is the shortest road to a given place. The reason for this was to ward off any suspicion that might have arisen if the watchers had always come and gone by the same trail. Therefore they started for any point of the compass, swung round in a wide detour, and in course of time arrived at the cache.
There wasn’t any hurry anyhow. Each day had twenty-four hours, and a fellow lived just as long if he didn’t break his neck galloping along with his tail up like a hill steer on a stampede.
To-day Morse dropped in toward the cache from due west. His eyes were open, even if the warmth of the midday sun did make him sleepy. Something he saw made him slip from the saddle, lead his horse into a draw, and move forward very carefully through the bunch grass.
What he had seen was a man crouched behind some brush, looking down into the little gorge where the whiskey cache was—a man in leather boots, tight riding-breeches, scarlet jacket, and jaunty forage cap. It needed no second glance to tell Tom Morse that the police had run down the place where they had hidden their cargo.
From out of the little canon a man appeared. He was carrying a keg of whiskey. The man was Barney. West had no doubt sent word to him that he would shortly bring a buyer with him to the rendezvous.
The man in the scarlet jacket rose and stepped out into the open. He was a few feet from Barney. In his belt there was a revolver, but he did not draw it.
Barney stopped and stared at him, his mouth open, eyes bulging. “Where in Heligoland you come from?” he asked.
“From Sarnia, Ontario,” the red-coat answered. “Glad to meet you, friend. I’ve been looking for you several days.”
“For me!” said Barney blankly.
“For you—and for that keg of forty-rod you’re carrying. No, don’t drop it. We can talk more comfortably while both your hands are busy.” The constable stepped forward and picked from the ground a rifle. “I’ve been lying in the brush two hours waiting for you to get separated from this. Didn’t want you making any mistakes in your excitement.”
“Mistakes!” repeated Barney.
“Yes. You’re under arrest, you know, for whiskey-smuggling.”
“You’re one of these here border police.” Barney used the rising inflection in making his statement.
“Constable Winthrop Beresford, North-West Mounted, at your service,” replied the officer jauntily. He was a trim, well-set-up youth, quick of step and crisp of speech.
“What you gonna do with me?”
“Take you to Fort Macleod.”
It was perhaps because his eyes were set at not quite the right angles and because they were so small and wolfish that Barney usually aroused distrust. He suggested now, with an ingratiating whine in his voice, that he would like to see a man at Whoop-Up first.