Stored away in his brain was every rule of equity and common law of the great North country. For his knowledge he went back two hundred years. He knew that a law did not die of age, that it must be legislated to death, and out of the moldering past he had dug up every trick and trap of his trade. He had no law-books. His library was in his head, and his facts were marshaled in pile after pile of closely-written, dust-covered papers in his shack. He did not go to court as other lawyers; and there were barristers in Edmonton who blessed him for that.
His shack was his tabernacle of justice. There he sat, hands folded, and gave out his decisions, his advice, his sentences. He sat until other men would have gone mad. From morning until night, moving only for his meals or to get out of heat or storm, he was a fixture on the porch of the Good Old Queen Bess. For hours he would stare at the river, his pale eyes never seeming to blink. For hours he would remain without a move or a word. One constant companion he had, a dog, fat, emotionless, lazy, like his master. Always this dog was sleeping at his feet or dragging himself wearily at his heels when Dirty Fingers elected to make a journey to the little store where he bartered for food and necessities.
It was Father Layonne who came first to see Kent in his cell the morning after Kent’s unsuccessful attempt at flight. An hour later it was Father Layonne who traveled the beaten path to the door of Dirty Fingers’ shack. If a visible emotion of pleasure ever entered into Dirty Fingers’ face, it was when the little missioner came occasionally to see him. It was then that his tongue let itself loose, and until late at night they talked of many things of which other men knew but little. This morning Father Layonne did not come casually, but determinedly on business, and when Dirty Fingers learned what that business was, he shook his head disconsolately, folded his fat arms more tightly over his stomach, and stated the sheer impossibility of his going to see Kent. It was not his custom. People must come to him. And he did not like to walk. It was fully a third of a mile from his shack to barracks, possibly half a mile. And it was mostly upgrade! If Kent could be brought to him—
In his cell Kent waited. It was not difficult for him to hear voices in Kedsty’s office when the door was open, and he knew that the Inspector did not come in until after the missioner had gone on his mission to Dirty Fingers. Usually he was at the barracks an hour or so earlier. Kent made no effort to figure out a reason for Kedsty’s lateness, but he did observe that after his arrival there was more than the usual movement between the office door and the outside of the barracks. Once he was positive that he heard Cardigan’s voice, and then he was equally sure that he heard Mercer’s. He grinned at that. He must be wrong, for Mercer would be in no condition to talk for several days. He was glad that a turn in the hall hid the door of the detachment office from him, and that the three cells were in an alcove, safely out of sight of the curious eyes of visitors. He was also glad that he had no other prisoner for company. His situation was one in which he wanted to be alone. To the plan that was forming itself in his mind, solitude was as vital as the cooperation of Alexander Toppet Fingers.