With a low, choking sob, the girl fled toward the little square of light that glowed from the window of her cabin.
ON SNARE LAKE
When Bob MacNair left Chloe Elliston’s camp, he swung around by the way of Mackay Lake, a detour that required two weeks’ time and added immeasurably to the discomfort of the journey. Day by day, upon lake, river, and portage, Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack wondered much at his silence and the unwonted hardness of his features.
These two Indians knew MacNair. For ten years, day and night, they had stood at his beck and call; had followed him through all the vast wilderness that lies between the railways and the frozen sea. They had slept with him, had feasted and starved with him, at his shoulder faced death in a hundred guises, and they loved him as men love their God. They had followed him during the lean years when, contrary to the wishes of his father, the stern-eyed factor at Fort Norman, he had refused the offers of the company and devoted his time, winter and summer, to the exploration of rivers and lakes, rock ridges and mountains, and the tundra that lay between, in search of the lost copper mines of the Indians; the mines that lured Hearne into the North in 1771, and which Hearne forgot in the discovery of a fur empire so vast as to stagger belief.
But, as the canoe forged northward, Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack held their peace, and when they arrived at the fort, MacNair growled an order, and sought his cabin beside the wall of the stockade.
A half hour later, when the Indians had gathered in response to the hurried word of Old Elk and Wee Johnnie Tamarack, MacNair stepped from his cabin and addressed them in their own language, or rather in the jargon—the compromise language of the North—by means of which the minds of white men and Indians meet on common ground. He warned them against Pierre Lapierre, the kultus breed of whom most of them already knew, and he told them of the girl and her school at the mouth of the Yellow Knife. And then, in no uncertain terms, he commanded them to have nothing whatever to do with the school, nor with Lapierre. Whereupon, Sotenah, a leader among the young men, arose, and after a long and flowery harangue in which he lauded and extolled the wisdom of MacNair and the benefits and advantages that accrued to the Indians by reason of his patronage, vociferously counselled a summary descent upon the fort of the Mesahchee Kloochman.
The proclamation was received with loud acclaim, and it was with no little difficulty that MacNair succeeded in quieting the turbulence and restoring order. After which he rebuked Sotenah severely and laid threat upon the Indians that if so much as a hair of the white kloochman was harmed he would kill, with his own hand, the man who wrought the harm.
As for Pierre Lapierre and his band, they must be crushed and driven out of the land of the lakes and the rivers, but the time was not yet. He, MacNair, would tell them when to strike, and only if Lapierre’s Indians were found prowling about the vicinity of Snare Lake were they to be molested.