He pointed to their horses who were playfully rearing and biting at each other in equine sport. “Look at old Parson and Fox tryin’ to warm themselves? Bloomin’ fine example we’ve set ’em. Well! allons! mon camarade, let’s up and beat it.”
A deed accursed! Strokes have
been struck before
By the assassin’s hand, whereof men doubt
If more of horror or disgrace they bore;
But this foul crime, like Cain’s, stands darkly out.
Hastily dressing, the two policemen mounted and took the trail once more. Side by side as they rode along, in each man’s heart was an estimate of the other vastly different from that with which they started out that memorable morning.
Yorke, his spirits now fully recovered, became quite companionably communicative, relating picturesque, racy stories of India, the Yukon, and other countries he had known. George, in receptive mood, listened in silent appreciation to one of the most fascinating raconteurs he had ever met in his young life. Incidentally he felt relieved as he noted his comrade now tactfully avoiding morbid egotism—dwelling but lightly upon the milestones that marked his chequered career.
The bodily stiffness and soreness, consequent upon their recent bout, was now well-nigh forgotten, though occasionally they laughingly rallied each other as the sharp air stung their bruised faces. They were just surmounting the summit of a long, steep grade in the trail.
Said Redmond dubiously: “See here; look! I’m darned if I like getting the freedom of the City of Cow Run sportin’ such a pretty mug as this! How many more miles to this giddy burg, old thing?”
Yorke grinned unfeelingly. “Hard on nine miles to go yet. We’re about half way. Isch ga bibble! . . . open your ditty-box and sing! you blooming whip-poor-will.”
“A werry heart goes all the way,
But a sad one tires in a mile a’;
The old lilt died on his lips. With a startled oath he reined in sharply and, shielding his eyes from the sun-glare, remained staring straight in front of him. They had just topped the crest of the rise. The eastward slope showed a low-lying, undulating stretch of snow-bound country, sparsely dotted with clumps of poplar and alder growth, through which the trail wound snake-like into the fainter distance. Southwards, below the rolling, shelving benches, lay the river, a steaming black line, twisting interminably between frosty, bush-fringed banks.
No less startled than his companion, Redmond pulled up also and stared with him. Not far distant on the trail ahead of them they beheld a dark, ominous-looking mass, vividly conspicuous against the snow. Suddenly the object moved and resolved itself unmistakably into a horse struggling to rise. For an instant they saw the head and the fore-part of the body lift, and then flop prone again. Close against it lay another dark object.