“Jes’ a li’l’ matter of business,” he added by way of explanation.
The constable guessed at his business. The man wanted to let his boss know what had taken place and to give him a chance to rescue him if he would. Beresford’s duty was to find out who was back of this liquor running. It would be worth while knowing what man Barney wanted to talk with. He could afford to take a chance on the rescue.
“Righto,” he agreed. “You may put that barrel down now.”
Barney laid it down, end up. With one sharp drive of the rifle butt the officer broke in the top of the keg, He kicked the barrel over with his foot.
This was the moment Morse chose for putting in an appearance.
“Hello! What’s doin’?” he asked casually.
Beresford, cool and quiet, looked straight at him. “I’ll ask you that.”
“Kinda expensive to irrigate the prairie that way, ain’t it?”
“Doesn’t cost me anything. How about you?”
Morse laughed at the question fired back at him so promptly. This young man was very much on the job. “Not a bean,” the Montanan said.
“Good. Then you’ll enjoy the little show I’m putting on—five thousand dollars’ worth of liquor spilt all at one time.”
“Holy Moses! Where is this blind tiger you’re raidin’?”
“Down in the gully. Lucky you happened along just by chance. You’ll be able to carry the good news to Whoop-Up and adjacent points.”
“You’re not really aimin’ to spill all that whiskey.”
“That’s my intention. Any objections?” The scarlet-coated officer spoke softly, without any edge to his voice. But Tom began to understand why the clerk at the trading-post had called the Mounted Police go-getters. This smooth-shaven lad, so easy and carefree of manner, had a gleam in his eye that meant business. His very gentleness was ominous.
Tom Morse reflected swiftly. His uncle’s firm had taken a chance of this very finale when it had sent a convoy of liquor into forbidden territory. Better to lose the stock than to be barred by the Canadian Government from trading with the Indians at all. This officer was not one to be bribed or bullied. He would go through with the thing he had started.
“Why, no! How could I have any objections?” Morse said.
He shot a swift, slant look at Barney, a look that told the Irishman to say nothing and know nothing, and that he would be protected against the law.
“Glad you haven’t,” Constable Beresford replied cheerfully—so very cheerfully in fact that Morse suspected he would not have been much daunted if objections had been mentioned. “Perhaps you’ll help me with my little job, then.”
The trader grinned. He might as well go the limit with the bluff he was playing. “Sure. I’ll help you make a fourth o’ July outa the kegs. Lead me to ’em.”
“You don’t know where they are, of course?”