The bully glared at him. “You try that, C.N. Jus’ try it once. There’ll be a sudden death in the Morse family if you do. Mebbe two. Me, I’d gun you both for a copper cent. Don’t fool yourself a minute.”
“Kinda foolish talk, West. Don’t buy you anything. Guess you better go home an’ cool off, hadn’t you? I’ll have your time made up to-day, unless you want your check right now.”
The broken teeth of the desperado clicked as his jaw clamped. He looked from the smiling, steady-eyed trader to the brown-faced youth who watched the scene with such cool, alert attention. He fought with a wild, furious impulse in himself to go through with his threat, to clean up and head out into the wilds. But some saving sense of prudence held his hand. C.N. Morse was too big game for him.
“To hell with the check,” he snarled, and swinging on his heel jingled out of the office.
The nephew spoke first. “You got rid of him on purpose.”
“Looked that way to you, did it?” the uncle asked in his usual indirect way.
“Guess you’d say it was because he won’t fit into the new policy of the firm. Guess you’d say he’d always be gettin’ us into trouble with his overbearin’ and crooked ways.”
“That’s true. He would.”
“Maybe it would be a good idee to watch him mighty close. They say he’s a bad hombre. Might be unlucky for any one he got the drop on.”
Tom knew he was being warned. “I’ll look out for him,” he promised.
The older man changed the subject smilingly. “Here’s where C.N. Morse & Company turns over a leaf, son. No more business gambles. Legitimate trade only. That the idee you’re figurin’ on makin’ me live up to?”
“Suits me if it does you,” Tom answered cheerfully, “But where do I come in? What’s my job in the firm? You’ll notice I haven’t said ‘Thanks’ yet.”
“You?” C.N. gave him a sly, dry smile. “Oh, all you have to do is to handle our business north of the line—buy, sell, trade, build up friendly relations with the Indians and trappers, keep friendly with the police, and a few little things like that.”
“Won’t have a thing to do, will I?”
TOM DUCKS TROUBLE
To Tom Morse, sitting within the railed space that served for an office in the company store at Faraway, came a light-stepping youth in trim boots, scarlet jacket, and forage cap set at a jaunty angle.
“’Lo, Uncle Sam,” he said, saluting gayly.
“’Lo, Johnnie Canuck. Where you been for a year and heaven knows how many months?”
“Up Peace River, after Pierre Poulette, fellow who killed Buckskin Jerry.”
Tom took in Beresford’s lean body, a gauntness of the boyish face, hollows under the eyes that had not been there when first they had met. There had come to him whispers of the long trek into the frozen Lone Lands made by the officer and his Indian guide. He could guess the dark and dismal winter spent by the two alone, without books, without the comforts of life, far from any other human being. It must have been an experience to try the soul. But it had not shaken the Canadian’s blithe joy in living.