“Hullo,” he returned, and seated himself by the man’s side, lazily stretching himself in enjoyment of the reflected heat.
“You is come off Kettle Portage, eh,” said Achille, “I t’ink so. You is come trade dose fur? Eet is bad beez-ness, dis Conjur’ House. Ole’ man he no lak’ dat you trade dose fur. He’s very hard, dat ole man.”
“Yes,” replied the stranger, “he has got to be, I suppose. This is the country of la Longue Traverse.”
“I beleef you,” responded Achille, cheerfully; “w’at you call heem your nam’?”
“Me Achille—Achille Picard. I capitaine of dose dogs on dat winter brigade.”
“It is a hard post. The winter travel is pretty tough.”
“I beleef you.”
“Better to take la Longue Traverse in summer, eh?”
“La Longue Traverse—hees not mattaire w’en yo tak heem.”
“Right you are. Have there been men sent out since you came here?”
“Ba oui. Wan, two, t’ree. I don’ remember. I t’ink Jo Bagneau. Nobodee he don’ know, but dat ole man an’ hees coureurs du bois. He ees wan ver’ great man. Nobodee is know w’at he will do.”
“I’m due to hit that trail myself, I suppose,” said Ned Trent.
“I have t’ink so,” acknowledged Achille, still with a tone of most engaging cheerfulness.
“Shall I be sent out at once, do you think?”
“I don’ know. Sometam’ dat ole man ver’ queek. Sometam’ he ver’ slow. One day Injun mak’ heem ver’ mad; he let heem go, and shot dat Injun right off. Noder tam he get mad on one voyageur, but he don’ keel heem queek; he bring heem here, mak’ heem stay in dose warm room, feed heem dose plaintee grub. Purty soon dose voyageur is get fat, is go sof’; he no good for dose trail. Ole man he mak’ heem go ver’ far off, mos’ to Whale Reever. Eet is plaintee cole. Dat voyageur, he freeze to hees inside. Dey tell me he feex heem like dat.”
“Achille, you haven’t anything against me—do you want me to die?”
The half-breed flashed his white teeth.
“Ba non,” he replied, carelessly. “For w’at I want dat you die? I t’ink you bus’ up bad; vous avez la mauvaise fortune.”
“Listen. I have nothing with me; but out at the front I am very rich. I will give you a hundred dollars, if you will help me to get away.”
“I can’ do eet,” smiled Picard.
“Ole man he fin’ dat out. He is wan devil, dat ole man. I lak firs’-rate help you; I lak’ dat hundred dollar. On Ojibway countree dey make hees nam’ Wagosh—dat mean fox. He know everything.”
“I’ll make it two hundred—three hundred—five hundred.”
“Wat you wan’ me do?” hesitated Achille Picard at the last figure.
“Get me a rifle and some cartridges.”
The half-breed rolled a cigarette, lighted it, and inhaled a deep breath.