For a long moment their glances held, while the atmosphere of the little room became surcharged with the terrible portent of this silent battle of eyes. Harriet Penny gasped audibly; and as Chloe stared from one to the other of the white, tense faces before her, her brain seemed suddenly to numb, and the breath came short and quick between her parted lips to the rapid heaving of her bosom. The Louchoux girl’s eyes seemed fairly to blaze with hate. The fingers of her hand dug into the wooden back of her chair until the knuckles whitened. She leaned far forward and, pointing directly into the face of the man, opened her lips to speak. It was then Lapierre’s gaze wavered, for in that moment he realized that for him the game was lost.
With a half-smothered curse he leaped to his feet, overturning his chair, which banged sharply upon the plank floor. He glanced wildly about the little room as if seeking means of escape, and his eyes encountered the form of Big Lena, who stood stolidly in the doorway, blocking the exit. In a flash he noted the huge, bared forearm; noted, too, that one thick hand gripped tightly the helve of a chopping ax, with which she toyed lightly as if it were a little thing, while the thumb of her other hand played smoothly, but with a certain terrible significance, along the keen edge of its blade. Lapierre’s glance flashed to her face and encountered the fishlike stare of the china-blue eyes, as he had encountered it once before. The eyes, as before, were expressionless upon their surface, but deep down—far into their depths—Lapierre caught a cold gleam of mockery. And then the Louchoux girl was speaking, and he turned upon her with a snarl.
CHLOE WRITES A LETTER
When Bob MacNair, exasperated beyond all patience by Chloe Elliston’s foolish accusation, stamped angrily from the cottage, after depositing the wounded Ripley upon the bed, he proceeded at once to the barracks, where he sought out Wee Johnnie Tamarack, who informed him that Lapierre was up on Snare Lake, at the head of a band of men who had already succeeded in dotting the snow of the barren grounds with the black dumps of many shafts. Whereupon he ordered Wee Johnnie Tamarack to assemble the Indians at once at the storehouse.
No sooner had the old Indian departed upon his mission than the door of the barracks was pushed violently open and Big Lena entered, dragging by the arm the thoroughly cowed figure of LeFroy. At sight of the man who, under Lapierre’s orders, had wrought the destruction of his post at Snare Lake, MacNair leaped forward with a snarl of anger. But before he could reach the trembling man the form of Big Lena interposed, and MacNair found himself swamped by a jargon of broken English that taxed to the utmost his power of comprehension.
“Ju yoost vait vun meenit. Ay tal ju som’ting gude. Dis damn LeFroy, he bane bad man. He vork by Lapierre, and he tak’ de vhiskey to jour Injuns, but he don’t vork no more by Lapierre; he vork by me. Ay goin’ to marry him, and ju bet Ay keep him gude, or Ay bust de stove chunk ’crost his head. He vork by Mees Chloe now, and he lak ju gif him chance to show he ain’t no bad man no more.”