She knew the convenient code of his kind. They took to themselves Indian wives, with or without some form of marriage ceremony, and flung them aside when they grew tired of the tie or found it galling. There was another kind of squaw-man, the type represented by her father. He had joined his life to that of Matapi-Koma for better or worse until such time as death should separate them.
In Jessie’s bosom a generous indignation burned. There was a reason why just now Whaley should give his wife much care and affection. She turned her shoulder and began to talk with Fergus and Tom Morse, definitely excluding the gambler from the conversation.
He was not one to be embarrassed by a snub. He held his ground, narrowed eyes watching her with the vigilant patience of the panther he sometimes made her think of. Presently he forced a reentry.
“What’s this I hear about Bully West escaping from jail?”
Fergus answered. “Two-three weeks ago. Killed a guard, they say. He was headin’ west an’ north last word they had of him.”
All of them were thinking the same thing, that the man would reach Faraway if he could, lie hidden till he had rustled an outfit, then strike out with a dog team deeper into the Lone Lands.
“Here’s wishin’ him luck,” his partner said coolly.
“All the luck he deserves,” amended Morse quietly.
“You can’t keep a good man down,” Whaley boasted, looking straight at the other Indian trader. “I wouldn’t wonder but what he’ll pay a few debts when he gets here.”
Tom smiled and offered another suggestion. “If he gets here and has time. He’ll have to hurry.”
His gaze shifted across the room to Beresford, alert, gay, indomitable, and as implacable as fate.
A BUSINESS DEAL
It was thirty below zero. The packed snow crunched under the feet of Morse as he moved down what served Faraway for a main street. The clock in the store registered mid-afternoon, but within a few minutes the sub-Arctic sun would set, night would fall, and aurora lights would glow in the west.
Four false suns were visible around the true one, the whole forming a cross of five orbs. Each of these swam in perpendicular segments of a circle of prismatic colors. Even as the young man looked, the lowest of the cluster lights plunged out of sight. By the time he had reached the McRae house, darkness hung over the white and frozen land.
Jessie opened the door to his knock and led him into the living-room of the family, where also the trapper’s household ate and Fergus slept. It was a rough enough place, with its mud-chinked log walls and its floor of whipsawed lumber. But directly opposite the door was a log-piled hearth that radiated comfort and cheerfulness. Buffalo robes served as rugs and upon the walls had been hung furs of silver fox,