From the sloping side of a hummock her foot slipped and she slid into the icy bog to her knees. Within a few minutes duffles and leggings were frozen and she was suffering at each step.
Out of the muskeg they came into the woods. A flake of snow fell on Jessie’s cheek and chilled her blood. For she knew that if it came on to snow before Onistah took the trail or even before he reached the place to which West was taking her, the chances of a rescue would be very much diminished. A storm would wipe out the tracks they had made.
“Swing back o’ the rock and into the brush,” West growled. Then, as she took the narrow trail through the brush that had grown up among half a dozen small down trees, he barked a question: “Whadjasay yore Injun name was?”
“My name is Jessie McRae,” she answered with a flash of angry pride. “You know who I am—the daughter of Angus McRae. And if you do me any harm, he’ll hunt you down and kill you like a wolf.”
He caught her by the arm and whirled the girl round. His big yellow canines snapped like tusks and he snarled at her through clenched jaws. “Did you hear yore master’s voice? I said, what was yore squaw name?”
She almost shrieked from the pain of his fingers’ savage clutch into her flesh. The courage died out of her arteries.
“Sleeping Dawn they called me.”
“Too long,” he pronounced. “I’ll call you Dawn.” The sight of her terror of him, the foretaste of the triumph he was to enjoy, restored him for a moment to a brutal good-humor. “An’ when I yell ‘Dawn’ at you o’ mornin’s, it’ll be for you to hump yoreself an’ git up to build the fires and rustle breakfast. I’ll treat you fine if you behave, but if you git sulky, you’ll taste the dog-whip. I’m boss. You’ll have a heluva time if you don’t come runnin’ when I snap my fingers. Un’erstand?”
She broke down in a wailing appeal to whatever good there was in him. “Let me go back to Father! I know you’ve broke prison. If you’re good to me, he’ll help you escape. You know he has friends everywhere. They’ll hide you from the red-coats. He’ll give you an outfit to get away—money—anything you want. Oh, let me go, and—and—”
He grinned, and the sight of his evil mirth told her she had failed.
“Didn’t I tell you I’d git you right some day? Didn’t I promise Angus McRae I’d pay him back aplenty for kickin’ me outa his hide camp? Ain’t you the lil’ hell-cat that busted my whiskey-kegs, that ran to the red-coat spy an’ told him where the cache was, that shot me up when I set out to dry-gulch him, as you might say? Where do you figure you got a license to expect Bully West to listen to Sunday-school pap about being good to you? You’re my squaw, an’ lucky at that you got a real two-fisted man. Hell’s hinges! What’s eatin’ you?”
“Never!” she cried. “It’s true what I told you once. I’d rather die. Oh, if you’ve got a spark of manhood in you, don’t make me kill myself. I’m just a girl. If I ever did you wrong, I’m sorry. I’ll make it right. My father—”