It was the girl’s turn to laugh. A rippling, light-hearted laugh—the laughter of courage and youth. The barrier that had suddenly loomed between herself and this man of the North vanished in a breath. He had shown her her work, had pointed out to her a foeman worthy of her steel. She darted a swift glance toward Lapierre who sat staring into the fire. Would not this man prove an invaluable ally in her war of deliverance?
“Do not trouble yourself about the expense,” she smiled. “I have money—’oodles of it,’ as we used to say in school—millions, if I need them! And I’m going to fight this Brute MacNair until I drive him out of the North! And you? Will you help me to rid the country of this scourge and free the people from his tyranny? Together we could work wonders. For your heart is with the Indians, as mine is.”
Again the girl glanced into the man’s face and saw that the deep-set black eyes fairly glittered with enthusiasm and eagerness—an eagerness and enthusiasm that a keener observer than Chloe Elliston might have noticed, sprang into being suspiciously coincident with her mention of the millions. Lapierre did not answer at once, but deftly rolled a cigarette. The end of the cigarette glowed brightly as he filled his lungs and blew a plume of grey smoke into the air.
“Allow me a little time to think. For this is a move of importance, and to be undertaken not lightly. It is no easy task you have set yourself. It is possible you will not win—highly probable, in fact, for——”
“But I shall win! I am right—and upon my winning depends the future of a people! Think it over until tomorrow, if you will, but—” She paused abruptly, and her soft, hazel eyes peered searchingly into the depths of the restless black ones. “Your sympathies are with the Indians, aren’t they?”
Lapierre tossed the half-smoked cigarette onto the ground. “Can you doubt it?” The man’s eyes were not gleaming now, and into their depths had crept a look of ineffable sadness.
“They are my people,” he said softly. “Miss Elliston, I am an Indian!”
CHLOE SECURES AN ALLY
A shout from the bank heralded the appearance of the first scow, which was closely followed by the two others. When they had landed, Lapierre issued a few terse orders, and the scowmen leaped to his bidding. The overturned scow was righted and loaded, and the remains of the demolished whiskey-kegs burned. Lapierre himself assisted the three women to their places, and as Chloe seated herself near the bow, he smiled into her eyes.
“Vermilion was a good riverman, but so am I. Do you think you can trust your new pilot?”
Somehow, the words seemed to imply more than the mere steering of a scow. Chloe flushed slightly, hesitated a moment, and then returned the man’s smile frankly.