Shivering and hungry and fighting with
sleep, Cameron stamped up and down his cave, making now and then
excursions into the storm to replenish his fire. On sharpened sticks
slices of venison were cooking for his supper. Outside the storm raged
with greater violence than ever and into the cave the bitter cold
penetrated, effectually neutralizing the warmth of the little fire, for
the wood was hard to get and a larger fire he could not afford.
He looked at his watch and was amazed to
find it only five o'clock. How long could he maintain this fight? His
heart sank at the prospect of the long night before him. He sat down
upon the rock close beside his cooking venison and in a few moments was
He awoke with a start and found that the
fire had crept along a jutting branch and had reached his fingers. He
sprang to his feet. The fire lay in smouldering embers, for the sticks
were mere brushwood. A terrible fear seized him. His life depended upon
the maintaining of this fire. Carefully he assembled the embers and
nursed them into bright flame. At all costs he must keep awake. A
further excursion into the woods for fuel thoroughly roused him from his
sleep. Soon his fire was blazing brightly again.
Consulting his watch, he found that he
must have slept half an hour. He determined that in order to keep
himself awake and to provide against the growing cold he would lay in a
stock of firewood, and so he began a systematic search for fallen trees
that he might drag to his shelter.
As he was setting forth upon his search he
became aware of a new sound mingling with the roaring of the storm about
him, a soft, pounding, rhythmic sound. With every nerve strained he
listened. It was like the beating of hoofs. He ran out into the storm
and, holding his hands to his ears, bent forward to listen. Faintly over
the roaring of the blizzard, and rising and falling with it, there came
the sound of singing.
"Am I mad?" he said to himself, beating
his head with his hands. He rushed into the cave, threw upon the fire
all the brushwood he had gathered, until it sprang up into a great
glare, lighting up the cave and its surroundings. Then he rushed forth
once more to the turn of the rock. The singing could now be plainly
"Three cheers for the red, white—Get on
there, you variously coloured and multitudinously cursed brutes!—Three
cheers for the red—Hie there, look out, Little Thunder! They are off to
"Hello!" yelled Cameron at the top of his
voice. "Hello, there!"
"Whoa!" yelled a voice sharply. The sound
of hoof beats ceased and only the roaring of the blizzard could be
"Hello!" cried Cameron again. "Who are
you?" But only the gale answered him.
Again and again he called, but no voice
replied. Once more he rushed into the cave, seized his rifle and fired a
shot into the air.
"Crack-crack," two bullets spat against
the rock over his head.
"Hold on there, you fool!" yelled Cameron,
dodging back behind the rock. "What are you shooting at? Hello there!"
Still there was no reply.
Long he waited till, desperate with
anxiety lest his unknown visitors should abandon him, he ran forward
once more beyond the ledge of the rock, shouting, "Hello! Hello! Don't
shoot! I'm coming out to you."
At the turn of the rocky ledge he paused,
concentrating his powers to catch some sound other than the dull boom
and hiss of the blizzard. Suddenly at his side something moved.
"Put up your hands, quick!"
A dark shape, with arm thrust straight
before it, loomed through the drift of snow.
"Oh, I say—" began Cameron.
"Quick!" said the voice, with a terrible
oath, "or I drop you where you stand."
"All right!" said Cameron, lifting up his
hands with his rifle high above his head. "But hurry up! I can't stand
this long. I am nearly frozen as it is."
The man came forward, still covering him
with his pistol. He ran his free hand over Cameron's person.
"How many of you?" he asked, in a voice
sharp and crisp.
"I am all alone. But hurry up! I am about
"Lead on to your fire!" said the stranger.
"But if you want to live, no monkey work. I've got you lined."
Cameron led the way to the fire. The
stranger threw a swift glance around the cave, then, with eyes still
holding Cameron, he whistled shrilly on his fingers. Almost immediately,
it seemed to Cameron, there came into the light another man who proved
to be an Indian, short, heavily built, with a face hideously ugly and
rendered more repulsive by the small, red-rimmed, blood-shot eyes that
seemed to Cameron to peer like gimlets into his very soul.
At a word of command the Indian possessed
himself of Cameron's rifle and stood at the entrance.
"Now," said the stranger, "talk quick. Who
are you? How did you come here? Quick and to the point."
"I am a surveyor," said Cameron briefly.
"McIvor's gang. I was left at camp to cook, saw a deer, wounded it,
followed it up, lost my way, the storm caught me, but, thank God, I
found this cave, and with my last match lit the fire. I was trying to
cook my venison when I heard you coming."
The grey-brown eyes of the stranger never
left Cameron's face while he was speaking.
"You're a liar!" he said with cold
insolence when Cameron had finished his tale. "You look to me like a
blank blank horse thief or whiskey trader."
Faint as he was with cold and hunger, the
deliberate insolence of the man stirred Cameron to sudden rage. The
blood flooded his pale face.
"You coward!" he cried in a choking voice,
gathering himself to spring at the man's throat.
But the stranger only laughed and,
stepping backward, spoke a word to the Indian behind him. Before he
could move Cameron found himself covered by the rifle with the malignant
eye of the Indian behind it.
"Hold on, Little Thunder, drop it!" said
the stranger with a slight laugh.
Reluctantly the rifle came down.
"All right, Mr. Surveyor," said the
stranger with a good-natured laugh. "Pardon my abruptness. I was merely
testing you. One cannot be too careful in these parts nowadays when the
woods are full of horse thieves and whiskey runners. Oh, come on," he
continued, glancing at Cameron's face, "I apologise. So you're lost, eh?
Hungry too? Well, so am I, and though I was not going to feed just yet
we may as well grub together. Bring the cattle into shelter here," he
said to Little Thunder. "They will stand right enough. And get busy with
The Indian grunted a remonstrance.
"Oh, that's all right," replied the
stranger. "Hand it over." He took Cameron's rifle from the Indian and
set it in the corner. "Now get a move on! We have no time to waste."
So saying he hurried out himself into the
storm. In a few minutes Cameron could hear the blows of an axe, and soon
the stranger appeared with a load of dry wood with which he built up a
blazing fire. He was followed shortly by the Indian, who from a sack
drew out bacon, hardtack, and tea, and, with cooking utensils produced
from another sack, speedily prepared supper.
"Pile in," said the stranger to Cameron,
passing him the pan in which the bacon and venison had been fried. "Pass
the tea, Little Thunder. No time to waste. We've got to hustle."
Cameron was only too eager to obey these
orders, and in the generous warmth of the big fire and under the
stimulus of the boiling tea his strength and nerve began to come back to
For some minutes he was too intent on
satisfying his ravenous hunger to indulge in conversation with his host,
but as his hunger became appeased he began to give his attention to the
man who had so mysteriously blown in upon him out of the blizzard. There
was something fascinating about the lean, clean-cut face with its firm
lines about the mouth and chin and its deep set brown-grey eyes that
glittered like steel or shone like limpid pools of light according to
the mood of the man. They were extraordinary eyes. Cameron remembered
them like dagger points behind the pistol and then like kindly lights in
a dark window when he had smiled. Just now as he sat eating with eager
haste the eyes were staring forward into the fire out of deep sockets,
with a far-away, reminiscent, kindly look in them. The lumberman's heavy
skin-lined jacket and the overalls tucked into boots could not hide the
athletic lines of the lithe muscular figure. Cameron looked at his hands
with their long, sinewy fingers. "The hands of a gentleman," thought he.
"What is his history? And where does he come from?"
"London's my home," said the stranger,
answering Cameron's mental queries. "Name, Raven—Richard Colebrooke
Raven—Dick for short; rancher, horse and cattle trader; East Kootenay;
at present running in a stock of goods and horses; and caught like
yourself in this beastly blizzard."
"My name's Cameron, and I'm from Edinburgh
a year ago," replied Cameron briefly.
"Edinburgh? Knew it ten years ago. Quiet
old town, quaint folk. Never know what they are thinking about you."
Cameron smiled. How well he remembered the
calm, detached, critical but uncurious gaze with which the dwellers of
the modern Athens were wont to regard mere outsiders.
"I know," he said. "I came from the North
The stranger had apparently forgotten him
and was gazing steadily into the fire. Suddenly, with extraordinary
energy, he sprang from the ground where he had been sitting.
"Now," he cried, "en avant!"
"Where to?" asked Cameron, rising to his
"East Kootenay, all the way, and hustle's
"Not me," said Cameron. "I must get back
to my camp. If you will kindly leave me some grub and some matches I
shall be all right and very much obliged. McIvor will be searching for
"Ha!" burst forth the stranger in vehement
expletive. "Searching for you, heh?" He stood for a few moments in deep
thought, then spoke to the Indian a few words in his own language. That
individual, with a fierce glance towards Cameron, grunted a gruff reply.
"No, no," said Raven, also glancing at
Cameron. Again the Indian spoke, this time with insistent fierceness.
"No! no! you cold-blooded devil," replied the trader. "No! But," he
added with emphasis, "we will take him with us. Pack! Here, bring in
coat, mitts, socks, Little Thunder. And move quick, do you hear?" His
voice rang out in imperious command.
Little Thunder, growling though he might,
no longer delayed, but dived into the storm and in a few moments
returned bearing a bag from which he drew the articles of clothing
"But I am not going with you," said
Cameron firmly. "I cannot desert my chief this way. It would give him no
end of trouble. Leave me some matches and, if you can spare it, a little
grub, and I shall do finely."
"Get these things on," replied Raven, "and
quit talking. Don't be a fool! we simply can't leave you behind. If you
only knew the alternative, you'd—"
Cameron glanced at the Indian. The eager
fierce look on that hideous face startled him.
"We will send you back all safe in a few
days," continued the trader with a smile. "Come, don't delay! March is
"I won't go!" said Cameron resolutely.
"I'll stay where I am."
"All right, you fool!" replied Raven with
a savage oath. "Take your medicine then."
He nodded to the Indian. With a swift
gleam of joy in his red-rimmed eyes the Indian reached swiftly for
"No, too much noise," said Raven, coolly
finishing the packing.
A swift flash of a knife in the firelight,
and the Indian hurled himself upon the unsuspecting Cameron. But quick
as was the attack Cameron was quicker. Gripping the Indian's uplifted
wrist with his left hand, he brought his right with terrific force upon
the point of his assailant's chin. The Indian spun round like a top and
pitched out into the dark.
"Neatly done!" cried the trader with a
great oath and a laugh. "Hold on, Little Thunder!" he continued, as the
Indian reappeared, knife in hand, "He'll come now. Quiet, you beast!
Ah-h-h! Would you?" He seized by the throat and wrist the Indian, who,
frothing with rage and snarling like a wild animal, was struggling to
reach Cameron again. "Down, you dog! Do you hear me?"
With a twist of his arms he brought the
Indian to his knees and held him as he might a child. Quite suddenly the
Indian grew still.
"Good!" said Raven. "Now, no more of this.
Without a further word or glance at
Cameron, Little Thunder gathered up the stuff and vanished.
"Now," continued the trader, "you perhaps
see that it would be wise for you to come along without further delay."
"All right," said Cameron, trembling with
indignant rage, "but remember, you'll pay for this."
The trader smiled kindly upon him.
"Better get these things on," he said,
pointing to the articles of clothing upon the cave floor. "The blizzard
is gathering force and we have still some hours to ride. But," he
continued, stepping close to Cameron and looking him in the eyes, "there
must be no more nonsense. You can see my man is somewhat short in
temper; and indeed mine is rather brittle at times."
For a single instant a smile curled the
firm lips and half closed the steely eyes of the speaker, and, noting
the smile and the steely gleam in the grey-brown eyes, Cameron hastily
decided that he would no longer resist.
Warmed and fed and protected against the
blizzard, but with his heart full of indignant wrath, Cameron found
himself riding on a wretched cayuse before the trader whose horse could
but dimly be seen through the storm, but which from his antics appeared
to be possessed of a thousand demons.
"Steady, Nighthawk, old boy! We'll get 'em
moving after a bit," said his master, soothing the kicking beast. "Aha,
that was just a shade violent," he remonstrated, as the horse with a
scream rushed open mouthed at a blundering pony and sent him scuttling
forward in wild terror after the bunch already disappearing down the
trail, following Little Thunder upon his broncho.
The blizzard was now in their back and,
though its force was thereby greatly lessened, the black night was still
thick with whirling snow and the cold grew more intense every moment.
Cameron could hardly see his pony's ears, but, loping easily along the
levels, scrambling wildly up the hills, and slithering recklessly down
the slopes, the little brute followed without pause the cavalcade in
front. How they kept the trail Cameron could not imagine, but, with the
instinct of their breed, the ponies never faltered. Far before in the
black blinding storm could be heard the voice of Little Thunder, rising
and falling in a kind of singing chant, a chant which Cameron was
afterwards to know right well.
Hai! Hai!! Hai!!!
Kai-yai, hai-yah! Hai! Hai!! Hai!!!"
Behind him came the trader, riding easily
his demon-spirited broncho, and singing in full baritone the patriotic
ode dear to Britishers the world over:
"Three cheers for
the red, white and blue!
Three cheers for the red, white and blue!
The army and navy for ever,
Three cheers for the red, white and blue!"
As Cameron went pounding along through the
howling blizzard, half asleep upon his loping, scrambling, slithering
pony, with the "Kai-yai, hai-yah" of Little Thunder wailing down the
storm from before him and the martial notes of the trader behind him
demanding cheers for Her Majesty's naval and military forces, he seemed
to himself to be in the grip of some ghastly nightmare which, try as he
might, he was unable to shake off.
The ghastly unreality of the nightmare was
dispelled by the sudden halt of the bunch of ponies in front.
"All off!" cried the trader, riding
forward upon his broncho, which, apparently quite untired by the long
night ride, danced forward through the bunch gaily biting and slashing
as he went. "All off! Get them into the 'bunk-house' there, Little
Thunder. Come along, Mr. Cameron, we have reached our camp. Take off the
bridle and blanket and let your pony go."
Cameron did as he was told, and guided by
the sound of the trader's voice made his way to a low log building which
turned out to be the deserted "grub-house" of an old lumber camp.
"Come along," cried the trader heartily.
"Welcome to Fifty Mile Camp. Its accommodation is somewhat limited, but
we can at least offer you a bunk, grub, and fire, and these on a night
like this are not to be despised." He fumbled around in the dark for a
few moments and found and lit a candle stuck in an empty bottle.
"There," he cried in a tone of genial hospitality and with a kindly
smile, "get a fire on here and make yourself at home. Nighthawk demands
my attention for the present. Don't look so glum, old boy," he added,
slapping Cameron gaily on the back. "The worst is over." So saying, he
disappeared into the blizzard, singing at the top of his voice in the
cheeriest possible tones:
"The army and
navy for ever,
Three cheers for the red, white and
and leaving Cameron sorely perplexed as to
what manner of man this might be; who one moment could smile with all
the malevolence of a fiend and again could welcome him with all the
generous and genial hospitality he might show to a loved and long-lost