Daylight softly dimmed the yellow lamplight of the room. The girl arose, and, after a hurried glance at the sleeping Ripley, bathed her eyes in cold water and passed into the kitchen, where Big Lena was busy in the preparation of breakfast.
“Send LeFroy to me at once!” she ordered, and five minutes later, when the man stood before her, she ordered him to summon all of MacNair’s Indians.
The man shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other as he faced her upon the tiny veranda. “MacNair Injuns,” he answered, “dem gon’ las’ night. Dem gon’ ‘long wit’ MacNair. Heem gon’ for hunt Pierre Lapierre!”
LAPIERRE PAYS A VISIT
Up on Snare Lake the men to whom Lapierre had passed the word had taken possession of MacNair’s burned and abandoned fort, and there the leader had joined them after stopping at Fort McMurray to tip off to Ripley and Craig the bit of evidence that he hoped would clinch the case against MacNair. More men joined the Snare Lake stampede—flat-faced breeds from the lower Mackenzie, evil-visaged rivermen from the country of the Athabasca and the Slave, and the renegade white men who were Lapierre’s underlings.
By dog-train and on foot they came, dragging their outfits behind them, and in the eyes of each was the gleam of the greed of gold. The few cabins which had escaped the conflagration had been pre-empted by the first-comers, while the later arrivals pitched their tents and shelter tarps close against the logs of the unburned portion of MacNair’s stockade.
At the time of Lapierre’s arrival the colony had assumed the aspect of a typical gold camp. The drifted snow had been removed from MacNair’s diggings, and the night-fires that thawed out the gravel glared red and illuminated the clearing with a ruddy glow in which the dumps loomed black and ugly, like unclean wens upon the white surface of the trampled snow.
Lapierre, a master of organization, saw almost at the moment of his arrival that the gold-camp system of two-man partnerships could be vastly improved upon. Therefore, he formed the men into shifts: eight hours in the gravel and tending the fires, eight hours chopping cord-wood and digging in the ruins of MacNair’s storehouse for the remains of unburned grub, and eight hours’ rest. Always night and day, the seemingly tireless leader moved about the camp encouraging, cursing, bullying, urging; forcing the utmost atom of man-power into the channels of greatest efficiency. For well the quarter-breed knew that his tenure of the Snare Lake diggings was a tenure wholly by sufferance of circumstances—over which he, Lapierre, had no control.