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Lords of the north

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Title:LordsoftheNorth
Author:A.C.Laut
ReleaseDate:January22,2007[EBook#20418]
Language:English

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LORDS

OFTHE


NORTH
BY


A.C.LAUT
TORONTO
WILLIAMBRIGGS
EnteredaccordingtoActoftheParliamentofCanada,intheyearonethousand
ninehundred,byWILLIAMBRIGGS,attheDepartmentofAgriculture.
TOTHE
PioneersandtheirDescendants
WHOSE
HEROISMWONTHELAND,
THISWORK
ISRESPECTFULLYDEDICATED.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
TheauthordesirestoexpressthankstopioneersandfurtradersoftheWestfor
information, details and anecdotes bearing on the old life, which are herein
embodied; and would also acknowledge the assistance of the history of the
North-WestCompanyandmanuscriptsoftheBourgeois,compiledbySenatorL.
R. Masson; and the value of such early works as those of Dr. George Bryce,
Gunn,Hargraves,Rossandothers.


THETRAPPER'SDEFIANCE.
"The adventurous spirits, who haunted the forest and plain, grew fond of their
wildlifeandaffectedagreatcontemptforcivilization."
Youboxed-up,mewed-upartificials,
Pentinyourpilesofmortarandstone,
Huggingyourfinelyspunjudicials,
Adorningexternals,externalsalone,
Vauntinginpridefulostentation
OftheJuggernautcar,calledCivilization—
WhatknowyeoffreedomandlifeandGod?
Monkeys,thatfollowashowman'sstring,


Knowmoreoffreedomandlessofcare,
Cagebirds,thatflutterfromperchtoring,
Havelessofworryandsurerfare.
Cursingtheburdens,yourselveshavebound,
Inamazeofwants,runningroundandround—
Areyefreemen,ormannikenslaves?
Costlypatches,adorningyourwalls,
Areallofearth'sbeautyyecaretoknow;
Butyestrutaboutinsoul-stifledhalls
Toplaymoth-lifebyacandle-glow—
Whatsoulhasspaceforupwardfling,
Whatmanhoodroomforshoulder-swing,
CoffinedandcrampedfromthevastsofGod?
TheSpiritofLife,Oatrophiedsoul,
Intrappingsofeaseisnotconfined;
ThattouchfromInfiniteWill'neaththeWhole
InNature'stemple,notman's,isshrined!
Fromhovel-shedcomeoutandbestrong!
Beyefree!Beredeemedfromthewrong,
Ofsoul-guilt,IchargeyouassonsofGod!



INTRODUCTION.
I, Rufus Gillespie, trader and clerk for the North-West Company, which ruled
over an empire broader than Europe in the beginning of this century, and with
IndianalliesanditsownriotousBois-Brulés,carriedwarintotheveryheartof
the vast territory claimed by its rivals, the Honorable Hudson's Bay Company,
have briefly related a few stirring events of those boisterous days. Should the
account here set down be questioned, I appeal for confirmation to that
missionary among northern tribes, the famous priest, who is the son of the illfated girl stolen by the wandering Iroquois. Lord Selkirk's narration of lawless
conflict with the Nor'-Westers and the verbal testimony of Red River settlers,
whoarestillliving,willalsosubstantiatewhatIhavestated;thoughallowance
mustbemadefortheviolentpartisanleaningofwitnesses,andfromthat,I—asa
Nor'-Wester—donotclaimtobefree.
Onthechargesandcounter-chargesofcrueltybandiedbetweenwhitemenand
red,Ihavenothingtosay.Rememberinghowwhitesoldiersfromeasterncities
tooktheskinofanativechiefforatrophyofvictory,andrecallingthefiendish
glee of Mandanes over a victim, I can only conclude that neither race may
blamelesslypointthefingerofreproachattheother.
Any variations in detail from actual occurrences as seen by my own eyes are
solelyforthepurposeofscreeninglivingdescendantsofthosewhoselivesare
hereportrayedfrompryingcuriosity;but,intruth,manyexperiencesduringthe
thrilling days of the fur companies were far too harrowing for recital. I would
fainhavetemperedsomeoftheincidentshereinrelatedtosuitthesentimentsof
amilk-and-waterage;butthatcouldbedoneonlyatthecostoftruth.
ThereisnoFrenchstraininmyblood,soIhavenotthatpassionatedevotionto
the wild daring of l'ancien régime, in which many of my rugged companions
underLesBourgeoisdelaCompagnieduNord-Ouestgloried;buthewouldbe
verysluggish,indeed,whocouldnotlookbackwithsomedegreeofenthusiasm
to the days of gentlemen adventurers in no-man's-land, in a word, to the
workings of the great fur trading companies. Theirs were the trappers and
runners, the Coureurs des Bois and Bois-Brulés, who traversed the immense
solitudes of the pathless west; theirs, the brigades of gay voyageurs chanting
hilarious refrains in unison with the rhythmic sweep of paddle blades and


following unknown streams until they had explored from St. Lawrence to
MacKenzieRiver;andtheirs,themerryladsofthenorth,blazingatrackthrough
thewildernessandleavingfromAtlantictoPacificlonelystockadedfurposts—
footprintsforthe pioneers' guidance.Thewhitewashed palisades ofmanylittle
settlements on the rivers and lakes of the far north are poor relics of the fur
companies'ancientgrandeur.ThatbroaddomainstretchingfromHudsonBayto
the Pacific Ocean, reclaimed from savagery for civilization, is the best
monumenttotheunheraldedforerunnersofempire.
RUFUSGILLESPIE.
WINNIPEG—ONETIMEFORTGARRY
FORMERLYREDRIVERSETTLEMENT,
19thJune,18—

Transcriber'snote:Minortyposhavebeencorrected.


CONTENTS
PAGE
CHAPTERI.
WhereinaLadseesMakersofHistory
CHAPTERII.
AStrongManisBowed
CHAPTERIII.
NoviceandExpert
CHAPTERIV.
LaunchedIntotheUnknown
CHAPTERV.
Civilization'sVeneerRubsOff
CHAPTERVI.
AGirdleofAgatesRecalled
CHAPTERVII.
TheLordsoftheNorthinCouncil
CHAPTERVIII.
TheLittleStatueAnimate
CHAPTERIX.
DecoratingaBitofStatuary
CHAPTERX.
MoreStudiesinStatuary
CHAPTERXI.
AShufflingofAllegiance
CHAPTERXII.
HowaYouthBecameaKing
CHAPTERXIII.
TheBuffaloHunt
CHAPTERXIV.
InSlipperyPlaces

9
23
38
55
70
92
99
118
131
144
163
181
200
220


CHAPTERXV.
TheGoodWhiteFather
234
CHAPTERXVI.
LeGrandDiableSendsBackourMessenger 246
CHAPTERXVII.
ThePriceofBlood
253
CHAPTERXVIII.
LaplanteandIRenewAcquaintance
266
CHAPTERXIX.
WhereinLouisIntrigues
281
CHAPTERXX.
PlotsandCounter-Plots
297
CHAPTERXXI.
LouisPaysMeBack
313
CHAPTERXXII.
ADayofReckoning
327
CHAPTERXXIII.
TheIroquoisPlayshisLastCard
341
CHAPTERXXIV.
FortDouglasChangesMasters
350
CHAPTERXXV.
HisLordshiptotheRescue
368
CHAPTERXXVI.
FatherHollandandIintheToils
378
CHAPTERXXVII.
UnderOneRoof
389
CHAPTERXXVIII.
TheLastofLouis'Adventures
409
CHAPTERXXIX.
ThePriestJourneystoaFarCountry
433


LORDSOFTHENORTH


CHAPTERI
WHEREINALADSEESMAKERSOFHISTORY
"HasanyoneseenEricHamilton?"Iasked.
For an hour, or more, I had been lounging about the sitting-room of a club in
QuebecCity,waitingformyfriend,whohadpromisedtojoinmeatdinnerthat
night. I threw aside a news-sheet, which I had exhausted down to minutest
advertisements,stretchedmyselfandstrolledacrosstoagroupofoldfur-traders,
retired partners of the North-West Company, who were engaged in heated
discussionwithsomeofficersfromtheCitadel.
"HasanyoneseenEricHamilton?"Irepeated,indifferenttothemeritsoftheir
dispute.
"That's the tenth time you've asked that question," said my Uncle Jack
MacKenzie, looking up sharply, "the tenth time, Sir, by actual count," and he
puckeredhisbrowsattheinterruption,justasheusedtowhenIwasalittlelad
onhiskneeandchancedtobreakintooneofhishuntingstorieswithaquestion
atthewrongplace.
"Hangit,"drawledColonelAdderly,asquattymanwithanover-fedlookonhis
bulging, red cheeks, "hang it, you don't expect Hamilton? The baby must be
teething,"andheaddedmorechaffattheexpenseofmyfriend,whohadbeen
thesubjectofgood-naturedbanteramongclubmembersfordevotiontohisfirstborn.
IsawAdderly'sobjectwasmoretogetawayfromthetraders'argumentsthanto
answerme;andIreturnedtheinsolentchallengeofhisunconcealedyawninthe
facesoftheeldermenbydrawingachairuptothecompanyofMcTavishesand
Frobishers and McGillivrays and MacKenzies and other retired veterans of the
northcountry.
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," said I, "what were you saying to Colonel
Adderly?"
"Talkofyourmilitaryconquests,Sir,"myunclecontinued,"Why,Sir,ourmen


have transformed a wilderness into an empire. They have blazed a path from
Labrador on the Atlantic to that rock on the Pacific, where my esteemed
kinsman, Sir Alexander MacKenzie, left his inscription of discovery. Mark my
words,Sir,thedaywillcomewhenthenamesofDavidThompsonandSimon
Fraser and Sir Alexander MacKenzie will rank higher in English annals than
Braddock'sand——"
"Egad!"laughedtheofficer,amusedatmyuncle,whohadbeenaleadingspirit
intheNorth-WestCompanyandwhoseenthusiasmknewnobounds,"Egad!You
gentlemen adventurers wouldn't need to have accomplished much to eclipse
Braddock."Andhepausedwithaquestioningsupercilioussmile."SirAlexander
wasafirstcousinofyours,washenot?"
Myuncleflushedhotly.Thatslightingreferencetogentlemenadventurers,with
justaperceptibleemphasisoftheadventurers,wasnottohistaste.
"Pardonme,Sir,"saidhestiffly,"youforgetthatbythetermsoftheircharter,the
Ancient and Honorable Hudson's Bay Company have the privilege of being
known as gentlemen adventurers. And by the Lord, Sir, 'tis a gentleman
adventurerandnothingelse,thatstock-jobbingscoundrelofaSelkirkhasproved
himself!Andhe,sir,wasneitherNor'-Wester,norCanadian,butanEnglishman,
likethecommanderoftheCitadel."Myunclepuffedouttheselastwordsinthe
nature of a defiance to the English officer, whose cheeks took on a deeper
purplishshade;buthereturnedthechargegood-humoredlyenough.
"Nonsense,MacKenzie,mygoodfriend,"laughedhepatronizingly,"iftheRight
Honorable,theEarlofSelkirk,weresuchanadventurer,whythedeucedidthe
Beaver Club down at Montreal receive him with open mouths and open arms
and——"
"Andopenhearts,Sir,youmaysay,"interruptedmyUncleMacKenzie."AndI'd
thankyounotto'good-friend'me,"headdedtartly.
Now, the Beaver Club was an organization at Nor'-Westers renowned for its
hospitality.Foundedin1785,originallycomposedofbutnineteenmembersand
afterwardsextendedonlytomenwhohadservedinthePaysd'EnHaut,itsoon
acquired a reputation for entertaining in regal style. Why the vertebrae of
colonial gentlemen should sometimes lose the independent, upright rigidity of
self-respectoncontactwitholdworldnobility,Iknownot.Butinstantly,Colonel
Adderly'sreferencetoLordSelkirkandtheBeaverClubcalledupthepictureof
a banquet in Montreal, when I was a lad of seven, or thereabouts. I had been


trickedoutinsomeHighlandcostumeespeciallypleasingtotheEarl—cap,kilts,
dirkandall—andwastakenbymyUncleJackMacKenzietotheBeaverClub.
Here, in a room, that glittered with lights, was a table steaming with things,
which caught and held my boyish eyes; and all about were crowds of guests,
gentlemen,whohadbeeninvitedinthequaintlanguageoftheclub,"Todiscuss
the merits of bear, beaver and venison." The great Sir Alexander MacKenzie,
withhistitlefreshfromtheking,andhisfeatofexploringtherivernowknown
by his name and pushing through the mountain fastnesses to the Pacific on all
men's lips—was to my Uncle Jack's right. Simon Fraser and David Thompson
andotherfamousexplorers,whowereheroestomyimagination,weretheretoo.
In these men and what they said of their wonderful voyages I was far more
interestedthanintheyoung,keen-facedmanwithatie,thatcameupinrufflesto
hisears, and with an imperial decoration on his breast, which told me he was
LordSelkirk.
Irememberwhenthehugesalversandplatterswereclearedaway,Iwasplaced
onthetabletoexecutethesworddance.Imusthaveacquittedmyselfwithsome
credit; for the gentlemen set up a prodigious clapping, though I recall nothing
butasnappingofmyfingers,awaveofmycapandawhirloflightsandfaces
aroundmydizzyhead.Thenmyuncletookmebetweenhisknees,promisingto
letmesituptotheendifIweregood,andmorewinewaspassed.
"That'senoughforyou,youyoungcub,"saysmykinsman,promptlyinverting
thewine-glassbeforeme.
"OUncleMacKenzie,"saidIwithawryface,"doyoumeasureyourownwine
so?"
Whereat,thenobleEarlshouted,"Bravo!here'sforyou,Mr.MacKenzie."
And all the gentlemen set up a laugh and my uncle smiled and called to the
butler,"Here,Johnson,toddyforone,glassofhotwater,pure,forother."
ButwhenJohnsonbroughtbacktheglasses,IobservedUncleMacKenziekept
thetoddy."There,myboy,there'sAdam'saleforyou,"saidhe,andintotheglass
ofhotwaterhepoppedapeppermintlozenge.
"Fie!"laughedSirAlexandertomyuncle'sright,"Fietocheatthelittleman!"
"His is the best wine of the cellar," vowed His Lordship; and I drank my
peppermintwithasmuchgustoandself-importanceasanymanofthem.


Thenfollowedtoasts,suchalistoftoastsasonlymeninuredtotestsofstrength
couldtake.IronicaltoaststotheNorth-WestPassage,whosemythSirAlexander
had dispelled; toasts to the discoverer of the MacKenzie River, which brought
storms of applause that shook the house; toasts to "our distinguished guest,"
whosesuaveresponsedisarmedallsuspicion;toaststothe"Northernwinterers,"
poordevils,whowereservingthecausebyundergoingalife-longtermofArctic
exile; toasts to "the merry lads of the north," who only served in the ranks
withoutattainingtothehonorofpartnership;toastsenough,inallconscience,to
drownthememoryofeverymanpresent.ThankstomyUncleJackMacKenzie,
all my toasts were taken in peppermint, and the picture in my mind of that
banquetisasclearto-dayasitwaswhenIsatatthetable.WhatwouldInotgive
tobebackattheBeaverClub,livingitalloveragainandhearingSirAlexander
MacKenzie with his flashing hero-eyes and quick, passionate gestures,
recounting that wonderful voyage of his with a sulky crew into a region of
hostiles; telling of those long interminable winters of Arctic night, when the
greatexplorersoundedthedepthsofutterdespairinserviceforthecompanyand
knew not whether he faced madness or starvation; and thrilling the whole
assembly with a description of his first glimpse of the Pacific! Perhaps it was
whatI heard that night—who can tell—that drew me to the wild life of after
years.ButIwastooyoung,then,torecognizefullythegreatnessofthosemen.
Indeed, my country was then and is yet too young; for if their greatness be
recognized,itisforgottenandunhonored.
I think I must have fallen asleep on my uncle's knee; for I next remember
sleepilylookingaboutandnoticingthatmanyofthegentlemenhadsliddownin
theirchairsandwithclosedeyeswerebreathingheavily.Othershadslippedto
thefloorandweresoundasleep.ThisshockedmeandIwasatoncewideawake.
Myunclewassittingveryerectandhisarmaroundmywaisthadthetightgrasp
thatusuallyprecededsomesharprebuke.Ilookedupandfoundhisfacegrown
suddenlysohardandstern,Iwasallaffrightlestmysleepinghadoffendedhim.
His eyes were fastened on Lord Selkirk with a piercing, angry gaze. His
Lordshipwasnotnodding,notabitofit.Howbrilliantheseemedtomychildish
fancy! He was leaning forward, questioning those Nor'-Westers, who had
receivedhimwithopenarms,andopenhearts.Andthewinehadmountedtothe
head of the good Nor'-Westers and they were now also receiving the strange
noblemanwithopenmouths,pouringouttohimafullaccountoftheirprofits,
the extent of the vast, unknown game preserve, and how their methods so far
surpassedthoseoftheHudson'sBay,theirrival'sstockhadfalleninvaluefrom
250to50percent.


The more information they gave, the more His Lordship plied them with
questions.
"I must say," whispered Uncle Jack to Sir Alexander MacKenzie, "if any
Hudson's Bay man asked such pointed questions on North-West business, I'd
givemyselfthepleasureofejectinghimfromthisroom."
Then,IknewhisangerwasagainstLordSelkirkandnotagainstmeforsleeping.
"Nonsense," retorted Sir Alexander, who had cut active connection with the
Nor'-Westers some years before, "there's no ground for suspicion." But he
seemeduneasyattheturnthingshadtaken.
"Has your Lordship some colonization scheme that you ask such pointed
questions?" demanded my uncle, addressing the Earl. The nobleman turned
quickly to him and said something about the Highlanders and Prince Edward's
Island, which I did not understand. The rest of that evening fades from my
thoughts;forIwascarriedhomeinMr.JackMacKenzie'sarms.
And all these things happened some ten or twelve years before that wordy
sword-play between this same uncle of mine and the English colonel from the
Citadel.
"We erred, Sir, through too great hospitality," my uncle was saying to the
colonel."HowcouldweknowthatSelkirkwouldpurchasecontrollinginterestin
Hudson'sBay stock?Howcould weknowhe'dsecurealandgrantinthevery
heartofourdomain?"
"I don't object to his land, nor to his colonists, nor to his dower of ponies and
muskets and bayonets to every mother's son of them," broke in another of the
retired traders, "but I do object to his drilling those same colonists, to his
importingafieldbatteryandbringingoutthatlittleramofaMcDonellfromthe
Army to egg the settlers on! It's bad enough to pillage our fort; but this
proclamation to expel Nor'-Westers from what is claimed as Hudson's Bay
Territory——"
"Just listen to this," cries my uncle pulling out a copy of the obnoxious
proclamation and reading aloud an order for the expulsion of all rivals to the
Hudson'sBayCompanyfromthenorthernterritory.
"WherecanHamiltonbe?"saidI,losinginterestinthetraders'quarrelassoonas
theywentintodetails.


"Homewithhiswifie,"half sneeredtheofficer inanaggingway,thatirritated
me,thoughtheremarkwas,doubtless,true."Homewithhiswifie,"herepeated
inasing-song,payingnoattentiontotheelucidationofasubjecthehadraised.
"Goodoldman,Hamilton,butsincemarriage,utterlygonetothebad!"
"To the what?" I queried, taking him up short. This officer, with the pudding
cheeksandpatronizinginsolence,hadaprovokingtrickofalwayskeepingjust
insidetheboundsofwhatonemightresent."Tothewhat,didyousayHamilton
hadgone?"
"Tothedomestics,"sayshelaughing,thentotheothers,asifhehadlistenedto
every word of the explanations, "and if His Little Excellency, Governor
MacDonell, by the grace of Lord Selkirk, ruler over gentlemen adventurers in
no-man's-land,expelsthegoodNor'-Westersfromnowheretosomewhereelse,
whatdothegoodNor'-WestersintenddoingtotheLittleTyrant?"
"CharlestheFirsthim,"respondsawagoftheclub.
"Where'syourCromwell?"laughsthecolonel.
"OurCromwell'saCameron,temperofaLucifer,oathsbeforeaction,"answers
thewag.
"Tuts!"exclaimsUncleJacktestily."We'llsettleHisLordship'slittlemartinetof
theplains.Warrantforhisarrest!Fetchhimout!"
"Warrant43rdKingGeorgeIII.willdoit,"addedoneofthepartnerswhohad
lookedthematterup.
"43rd King George III. doesn't give jurisdiction for trial in Lower Canada, if
offensebecommittedelsewhere,"interjectsalawyerwithshowofimportance.
"ADanielcometojudgment,"laughsthecolonel,winkingasmyuncle'swrath
rose.
"Pah!"saysMr.JackMacKenzieindisgust,stampingonthefloorwithbothfeet.
"You lawyers needn't think you'll have your pickings when fur companies
quarrel.We'llshiphimout,that'sall.Neitherofthecompanieswantstoadvertise
itsprofits—"
"Oritsmethods—ahem!"interjectsthecolonel.
"Anditsprivatebusiness,"addsmyuncle,lookingdaggersatAdderly,"bygoing


tocourt."
Thentheyallrosetogotothedining-room;andasIsteppedouttohavealook
down the street for Hamilton, I heard Colonel Adderly's last fling—"Pretty
rascals,yougentlemenadventurersare,soshyandcoyaboutlawcourts."
Itwasadarknight,withafewlonelystarsinmid-heaven,asicklemooncutting
the horizon cloud-rim and a noisy March wind that boded snow from The
Labrador,orsleetfromtheGulf.
WhenEricHamiltonlefttheHudson'sBayCompany'sserviceatYorkFactory
onHudsonBayandcametoliveinQuebec,IwasbutastudentatLaval.Itwas
atmyUncleMacKenzie'sthatImetthetall,dark,sinewy,taciturnman,whose
influencewastoplaysuchastrangepartinmylife;andwhenthesetwotalked
oftheiradventuresinthefar,lonelandofthenorth,Icouldnomoreconcealmy
awe-struckadmirationthanagirlcouldonfirstdiscoveringherowncharmsina
looking-glass. I think he must have noticed my boyish reverence, for once he
condescended to ask about the velvet cap and green sash and long blue coat
which made up the Laval costume, and in a moment I was talking to him as
volublyasifheweretheboyandI,thegreatHudson'sBaytrader.
"Itmakesmefeelquitelikeaboyagain,"hehadsaidonresumingconversation
withMr.MacKenzie."ByJove!Sir,IcanhardlyrealizeIwentintothatcountry
aladoffifteen,likeyournephew,andhereIam,outofit,anoldman."
"Pah,Ericman,"saysmyuncle,"you'llbefindingawifeoneofthesedaysand
renewingyouryouth."
"Uncle,"IbrokeoutwhentheHudson'sBaymanhadgonehome,"howoldis
Mr.Hamilton?"
"Fifteenyearsolderthanyouare,boy,andIprayHeavenyoumayhavehalfas
much of the man in you at thirty as he has," returns my uncle mentally
measuring me with that stern eye of his. At that information, my heart gave a
curious, jubilant thud. Henceforth, I no longer looked upon Mr. Hamilton with
thesameawethatachoirboyentertainsforabishop.Somethingofcomradeship
sprang up between us, and before that year had passed we were as boon
companionsasmanandboycouldbe.ButHamiltonpresentlyspoileditallby
fulfillingmyuncle'spredictionandfindingawife,abeautiful,fair-haired,frail
slip of a girl, near enough the twenties to patronize me and too much of the
youngladytofindpleasureinanawkwardlad.Thatmeantanendtoourrides


andwalksandsailsdowntheSt.Lawrenceandlongeveningtalks;butItookmy
revengebyassumingtheairsofamanofforty,atwhichHamiltonquizzedme
notalittleandhiswife,Miriam,laughed.WhenIsurprisedthemallbyjumping
suddenly from boyhood to manhood—"like a tadpole into a mosquito," as my
UncleJackfacetiouslyremarked.Meanwhile,asonandheircametomyfriend's
homeandIhadtobethankfulforahumblethirdplace.
AndsoitcamethatIwaswaitingforEric'sarrivalattheQuebecClubthatnight,
peeringfromtheporchforsightofhimandcalculatinghowlongitwouldtake
to ride from the Chateau Bigot above Charlesbourg, where he was staying.
Steppingoutside,Iwassurprisedtoseetheformofahorsebeneaththelantern
of the arched gateway; and my surprise increased on nearer inspection. As I
walked up, the creature gave a whinny and I recognized Hamilton's horse,
lathered with sweat, unblanketed and shivering. The possibility of an accident
hardlysuggesteditselfbeforeIobservedthebridle-reinhadbeenslungoverthe
hitching-postandheardstepshurryingtothesidedooroftheclub-house.
"Isthatyou,Eric?"Icalled.
Therewasnoanswer;soIledthehorsetothestableboyandhurriedbacktosee
ifHamiltonwereinside.Thesittingroomwasdeserted;butEric'swell-known,
tallfigurewasenteringthedining-room.Andacuriousfigurehepresentedtothe
questioninglooksoftheclubmen.Inonehandwashisridingwhip,intheother,
his gloves. He wore the buckskin coat of a trapper and in the belt were two
pistols.Onesleevewastornfromwristtoelbowandhisbootswerescratchedas
if they had been combed by an iron rake. His broad-brimmed hat was still on,
sloucheddownoverhiseyeslikethatofascout.
"Gad! Hamilton," exclaimed Uncle Jack MacKenzie, who was facing Eric as I
cameupbehind,"haveyoubeeninaraceorafight?"andhegavehimthelook
ofsuspiciononemightgiveanintoxicatedman.
"Is it a cold night?" asked the colonel punctiliously, gazing hard at the stillstrappedhat.
NotawordcamefromHamilton.
"How's the cold in your head?" continued Adderly, pompously trying to stare
Hamilton'shatoff.
"Here I am, old man! What's kept you?" and I rushed forward but quickly


checked myself; for Hamilton turned slowly towards me and instead of erect
bearing,clearglance,firmmouth,Isawaheadthatwasbowed,eyesthatburned
likefire,andparched,parted,wordlesslips.
Ifthecolonelhadnotbeenstuffinghimselfliketheturkeyguzzlerthathewas,
hewouldhaveseensomethingunspeakablyterriblewrittenonHamilton'ssilent
face.
"Didthelittlewifielethimoffforanight'splay?"sneeredAdderly.
Barelywerethewordsout,whenHamilton'steethclenchedbehindtheopenlips,
givinghimanugly,furiousexpression,strangetohisface.Hetookaquickstride
towardstheofficer,raisedhiswhipandbroughtitdownwiththefullstrengthof
hisshoulderinonecuttingblowacrossthebaggy,purplishcheeksoftheinsolent
speaker.


CHAPTERII
ASTRONGMANISBOWED
Thewholethingwassounexpectedthatforonemomentnotamanintheroom
drew breath. Then the colonel sprang up with the bellow of an enraged bull,
overturning the table in his rush, and a dozen club members were pulling him
backfromEric.
"EricHamilton,areyoumad?"Icried."Whatdoyoumean?"
But Hamilton stood motionless as if he saw none of us. Except that his breath
was labored, he wore precisely the same strange, distracted air he had on
enteringtheclub.
"Holdback!"Iimplored;forAdderlywasstrikingrightandlefttogetfreefrom
themen."Holdback!There'samistake!Something'swrong!"
"Reptile!"roaredthecolonel."Cowardlyreptile,youshallpayforthis!"
"There'samistake,"Ishouted,abovetheclamorofexclamations.
"Glad the mistake landed where it did, all the same," whispered Uncle Jack
MacKenzieinmyear,"butgethimoutofthis.Drunk—orascandal,"saysmy
uncle,whoalwaysexpressedhimselfinexplosiveswhenexcited."Sideroom—
here—leadhimin—drunk—byJove—drunk!"
"Never,"Ireturnedpassionately.IknewbothHamiltonandhiswifetoowellto
tolerateeitherinsinuation.Butweledhimlikeadazedbeingintoasideoffice,
whereMr.JackMacKenziepromptlyturnedthekeyandtookupaposturewith
hisbackagainstthedoor.
"Now,Sir,"hebrokeoutsternly,"ifit'sneitherdrink,norascandal——"There,
hestopped;forHamilton,utterlyunconsciousofus,moved,ratherthanwalked,
automaticallyacrosstheroom.Throwinghishatdown,hebowedhisheadover
botharmsabovethemantel-piece.
MyuncleandIlookedfromthesilentmantoeachother.Raisinghisbrowsin
question,Mr.JackMacKenzietouchedhisforeheadandwhisperedacrosstome


—"Mad?"
Atthat,thoughthewordwasspokenbarelyaboveabreath,Ericturnedslowly
round and faced us with blood-shot, gleaming eyes. He made as though he
would speak, sank into the armchair before the grate and pressed both hands
againsthisforehead.
"Mad,"herepeatedinavoicelowasamoan,framinghiswordsslowlyandwith
greateffort."ByJove,men,youshouldknowmebetterthantomouthsuchrot
underyourbreath.To-night,I'dsellmysoul,sellmysoultobemad,reallymad,
toknowthatallIthinkhashappened,hadn'thappenedatall—"andhisspeech
wasbrokenbyasharpintakeofbreath.
"Out with it,man, forthe Lord'ssake," shoutedmyuncle,nowconvincedthat
Eric was not drunk and jumping to conclusions—as he was wont to do when
excited—regardingapossiblescandal.
"Outwithit,man!We'llstandbyyou!Hasthatblastedred-facedturkey——"
"Pray, spare your histrionics, for the present," Eric cut in with the icy selfpossession bred by a lifetime's danger, dispelling my uncle's second suspicion
withaquietscornthatrevealednothing.
"Whatthe——"beganmykinsman,"whatdidyoustrikehimfor?"
"DidIstrikesomebody?"askedHamiltonabsently.
Againmyuncleflashedaquestioninglookatme,butthistimehisfaceshowed
hisconvictionsoplainlynowordwasneeded.
"DidIstrikesomebody?Wishyou'dapologize——"
"Apologize!"thunderedmyuncle."I'lldonothingofthekind.Servedhimright.
'Twasaprettyway,aprettyway,indeed,tospeakofanyman'swife——"But
the word "wife" had not been uttered before Eric threw out his hands in an
imploringgesture.
"Don't!"hecriedoutsharplyinthesufferingtoneofamanundertheoperating
knife."Don't!Itallcomesback!Itistrue!Itistrue!Ican'tgetawayfromit!Itis
nonightmare.MyGod,men,howcanItellyou?There'snowayofsayingit!It
isimpossible—preposterous—somemonstrousjoke—it'squiteimpossibleItell
you—itcouldn'thavehappened—suchthingsdon'thappen—couldn'thappen—


toher—ofallwomen!Butshe'sgone—she'sgone——"
"See here, Hamilton," cried my uncle, utterly beside himself with excitement,
"arewetounderstandyouaretalkingofyourwife,or—orsomeotherwoman?"
"Seehere,Hamilton,"Ireiterated,quiteheedlessofthebrutalityofourquestions
and with a thousand wild suspicions flashing into my mind. "Is it your wife,
Miriam,andyourboy?"
Butheheardneitherofus.
"Theywerethere—theywavedtomefromthegardenattheedgeofthewoods
asIenteredtheforest.Onlythismorning,bothwavingtomeasIrodeaway—
and when I returned from the city at noon, they were gone! I looked to the
windowasIcameback.ThecurtainmovedandIthoughtmyboywashiding,
butitwasonlythewind.We'vesearchedeverynookfromcellartoattic.Histoys
werelitteredaboutandIfanciedIheardhisvoiceeverywhere,butno!No—no
—andwe'vebeenhuntinghouseandgardenforhours——"
"And the forest?" questioned Uncle Jack, the trapper instinct of former days
suddenlyre-awakening.
"The forest is waist-deep with snow! Besides we beat through the bush
everywhere, and there wasn't a track, nor broken twig, where they could have
passed."Histornclothesboreevidencetothethoroughnessofthatsearch.
"Nonsense," my uncle burst out, beginning to bluster. "They've been driven to
townwithoutleavingword!"
"NosleighwasatChateauBigotthismorning,"returnedHamilton.
"Buttheroad,Eric?"Iquestioned,recallinghowtheoldmanor-housestoodwell
back in the center of a cleared plateau in the forest. "Couldn't they have gone
downtheroadtothoseIndianencampments?"
"Theroadisimpassableforsleighs,letalonewalking,andtheirwinterwrapsare
allinthehouse.ForHeaven'ssake,men,suggestsomething!Don'tmaddenme
withtheseuselessquestions!"
ButinspiteofEric'sentreatymyexcitablekinsmansubjectedthefrenziedman
tosuchafireofquestionsasmighthavesublimatedpre-natalknowledge.AndI
stoodbacklisteningandpiecedthedistracted,brokenanswersintosomesortof


coherency till the whole tragic scene at the Chateau on that spring day of the
year1815,becameineffaceablystampedonmymemory.
Causeless, with neither warning nor the slightest premonition of danger, the
greatest curse which can befall a man came upon my friend Eric Hamilton.
Howeverfondahusbandmaybe,therearethingsworseforhiswifethandeath
whichhemaywelldread,anditwasoneofthesetragedieswhichalmostdrove
poorHamiltonoutofhisreasonandchangedthewholecourseofmyownlife.
In broad daylight, his young wife and infant son disappeared as suddenly and
completelyasifblottedoutofexistence.
That morning, Eric light-heartedly kissed wife and child good-by and waved
themafarewellthatwastobethelast.Herodedownthewindingforestpathto
Quebec and they stood where the Chateau garden merged into the forest of
Charlesbourg Mountain. At noon, when he returned, for him there existed
neither wife nor child. For any trace of them that could be found, both might
have been supernaturally spirited away. The great house, that had re-echoed to
theboy'sprattle,wasdeathlystill;andneitherwife,norchild,answeredhiscall.
The nurse was summoned. She was positive Madame was amusing the boy
acrossthehall,andreassuringlybustledofftofindmotherandsoninthenext
room,andthenext,andyetthenext;todiscovereachinsuccessionempty.
Alarm spread to the Chateau servants. The simple habitant maids were
questioned,buttheironlyresponsewaswhite-faced,blankamazement.
Madamenotreturned!
Madamenotback!
MonDieu!Whathadhappened?Andallthesuperstitionofhillsideloreaddedto
thefearoneachanxiousface.ShortlyafterMonsieurwenttothecity,Madame
had taken her little son out as usual for a morning airing, and had been seen
walkingupanddownthepathstrackedthroughthegardensnow.HadMonsieur
examinedtheclearingbetweenthehouseandtheforest?Monsieurcouldseefor
himself the snow was too deep and crusty among the trees for Madame to go
twenty paces into the woods. Besides, foot-marks could be traced from the
gardentothebush.Heneednotfearwildanimals.Theywererecedingintothe
mountains as spring advanced. Let him take another look about the open; and
Hamiltontoreout-doors,followedbythewholehousehold;butfromtheChateau
inthecenterofthegladetotheencirclingborderofsnow-ladenevergreensthere
wasnotraceofwifeorchild.


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