There was little now that Dane could do. He did not fancy the idea of leaving the bodies lying there uncovered, so going outside he cut and carried in a large armful of spruce boughs. These he spread carefully over the bodies.
“It is more than your own gang would do,” he mused. “You were contemptible men, I know, but not as bad, perhaps, as those villains who left you here. They must be checked and paid back in double coin for all their devilish work, and I want to be on hand when payment is being made.”
Having closed the cabin door, Dane stepped into his snow-shoes, slung his pack over his shoulders, and started forth after the slashers. He carried his gun in his hand that he might be ready for any emergency. It was not hard to follow the trail, and the travelling much easier than when out upon the river. Although he moved rapidly forward, he was keenly alert to every sight and sound. How far the rebels would go without camping he had no idea. He knew that at times they travelled all night and slept by day. If they intended to do so now it would be necessary for him to exert every effort in order to overtake them. He was well aware that as a rule they did not travel fast, being too indolent and lazy, so in this lay his only hope of outstripping the villains.
His course lay through the heart of a large forest, straight overland, and north of where the Loyalists were encamped on the A-jem-sek. Up hill and down he sped, pausing not for an instant, with powerful swinging strides that would have tested even Pete’s great endurance. That he had been travelling since early morning, with the exception of his brief stay at the cabin, seemed to make no difference to him. Davidson had made no mistake in choosing such a man as his chief ranger.
Hour after hour he sped onward through the silent, sombre forest. The wind increased in violence, and the trees swayed and creaked as the tempest tore through their branches. The storm was not far off, and might burst at any minute.
Reaching at length the summit of a hill, he paused to eat some of the cold meat and a piece of the bread Old Mammy had given him that morning. He was about to continue his journey when the report of a gun rang through the forest. The sound issued from valley below, reminding him that the slashers must be quite near. Cautiously now he moved down the hill, peering keenly ahead, not knowing what to expect next. In a few minutes a glimmer of light filtered among the trees, showing that the rebels were camped by a little brook which ran through the valley. As he slowly advanced, the light became brighter, until presently a blazing camp-fire burst upon his eyes. Around this the slashers were ringed, jabbering and quarrelling in an excited manner. What they were saying Dane could not tell, but as