“Oh!” she giggled hysterically “he—he must have seen your red coat!” another spasm of merriment, “it was as good as a pantomime,” she murmured.
Evincing a keen interest in his soldierly vocation, for awhile she subjected him to an exacting and minute inquisition anent the duties and life of a Mounted Policeman. In this agreeable fashion the time passed rapidly and it was with a feeling of regret that he heard the brakeman announce his destination and rose to take leave of his pleasant companion. The children insisted on bidding their late chum a cuddling, osculatory farewell—Alice tearfully holding up the snuffling Porkey for his share. The train drew up at the Davidsburg platform, there came a chorus of “Good-byes” and a few minutes later George was left alone with his kit-bags on the deserted platform.
St. Agnes’ Eve. Ah! bitter
chill it was.
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limped, trembling, through the frozen grass;
And drowsy was the flock in woolly fold.
ST. AGNES’ EVE
Edmond did not have to wait long. Sounding faint and far off came the silvery ring of sleigh-bells, gradually swelling in volume until, with a measured crunch! crunch! of hoofs on packed snow, a smart Police cutter, drawn by a splendid bay team, swung around a bend of the trail and pulled up at the platform. Redmond regarded with a little awe the huge, bear-like, uniformed figure of the teamster, whom he identified at once from barrack gossip.
“Sergeant Slavin?” he enquired respectfully, eyeing the bronzed, clean-shaven face, half hidden by fur cap and turned-up collar.
“Meself, lad!” came a rich soft brogue, “I was afther gettin’ a wire from th’ O.C., tellin’ me he was thransfering me another man. Yer name’s Ridmond, ain’t it?—–Whoa, now! T an’ B!—lively wid thim kit-bags, son!—team’s pretty fresh an’ will not shtand.”
They swung off at a spanking trot. George surveyed the white-washed cattle-corrals and few scattered shacks which seemed to comprise the hamlet of Davidsburg.
“Not a very big place, Sergeant?” he remarked, “how far’s the detachment from here?”
“On’y ’bout a mile” grunted the individual, squirting a stream of tobacco-juice to leeward, “up on the high ground beyant. Nay! ’tis just a jumpin’ off place an’ shippin’ point for th’ ranches hereabouts. Business is mostly done at Cow Run—East. Ye passed ut, comin’. Great doin’s there—whin th’ cowpunchers blow in. Some burg!”
“Sure looked it!” Redmond agreed absently, thinking of the casual glimpse he had got of the dreary main street.
They were climbing a slight grade. The sun-glare on the snow was intense; the cutter’s steel runners no longer screeched, and the team’s hoofs began to clog up with soft snow.