Morse spoke, looking steadily at him in his quiet way. “I’m servin’ notice, West, that you’re to let that girl alone.”
There was a sound in the big whiskey-runner’s throat like that of an infuriated wild animal. He glared at Morse, a torrent of abuse struggling for utterance. All that he could say was, “You damned traitor.”
The eyes of the younger man did not waver. “It goes. I’ll see you’re shot like a wolf if you harm her.”
The wounded smuggler’s fury outleaped prudence. In a surge of momentary insanity he saw red. The barrel of his revolver rose swiftly. A bullet sang past Morse’s ear. Before he could fire again, Harvey Gosse had flung himself on the man and wrested the weapon from his hand.
Hard-eyed and motionless, Morse looked down at the madman without saying a word. It was Beresford who said ironically, “Talking about those who keep faith.”
“You hadn’t oughta of done that, Bully,” Gosse expostulated. “We’d done agreed this feud was off for to-night.”
“Get your horses and clear out of here,” the constable ordered. “If this man’s able to fight he’s able to travel. You can make camp farther down the creek.”
A few minutes later the clatter of horse-hoofs died away. Beresford was alone with his prisoners and his guests.
Those who were still among the big rocks came forward to the camp-fire. Jessie arrived before the others. She had crept to the camp on the heels of Beresford and Morse, driven by her great anxiety to find out how badly West was hurt.
From the shadows of a buffalo wallow she had seen and heard what had taken place.
One glance of troubled curiosity she flashed at Morse. What sort of man was this quiet, brown-faced American who smuggled whiskey in to ruin the tribes, who could ruthlessly hold a girl to a bargain that included horsewhipping for her, who for some reason of his own fought beside the man taking him to imprisonment, and who had flung defiance at the terrible Bully West on her behalf? She hated him. She always would. But with her dislike of him ran another feeling now, born of the knowledge of new angles in him.
He was hard as nails, but he would do to ride the river with.
A CAMP-FIRE TALE
Another surprise was waiting for Jessie. As soon as Onistah came into the circle of light, he walked straight to the whiskey-smuggler.
“You save my life from Crees. Thanks,” he said in English.
Onistah offered his hand.
The white man took it. He was embarrassed. “Oh, well, I kinda took a hand.”
The Indian was not through. “Onistah never forget. He pay some day.”
Tom waved this aside. “How’s the leg? Seems to be all right now.”
Swiftly Jessie turned to the Indian and asked him a question in the native tongue. He answered. They exchanged another sentence or two.