The Yellow Back by James Oliver Curwood
Above God's Lake, where the Bent Arrow runs red as pale blood under
its crust of ice, Reese Beaudin heard of the dog auction that was to
take place at Post Lac Bain three days later. It was in the cabin of
Joe Delesse, a trapper, who lived at Lac Bain during the summer, and
trapped the fox and the lynx sixty miles farther north in this month of
"Diantre, but I tell you it is to be the greatest sale of dogs that
has ever happened at Lac Bain!" said Delesse. "To this Wakao they are
coming from all the four directions. There will be a hundred dogs,
huskies, and malamutes, and Mackenzie hounds, and mongrels from the
south, and I should not wonder if some of the little Eskimo devils were
brought from the north to be sold as breeders. Surely you will not miss
it, my friend?"
"I am going by way of Post Lac Bain," replied Reese Beaudin
But his mind was not on the sale of dogs. From his pipe he puffed
out thick clouds of smoke, and his eyes narrowed until they seemed like
coals peering out of cracks; and he said, in his quiet, soft voice:
"Do you know of a man named Jacques Dupont, m'sieu?"
Joe Delesse tried to peer through the cloud of smoke at Reese
"Yes, I know him. Does he happen to be a friend of yours?"
Reese laughed softly.
"I have heard of him. They say that he is a devil. To the west I was
told that he can whip any man between Hudson's Bay and the Great Bear,
that he is a beast in man-shape, and that he will surely be at the big
sale at Lac Bain."
On his knees the huge hands of Joe Delesse clenched slowly, gripping
in their imaginary clutch a hated thing.
"Oui, I know him," he said. "I know also—Elise—his wife.
He thrust suddenly his two huge knotted hands through the smoke that
drifted between him and the stranger who had sought the shelter of his
cabin that night.
"See—I am a man full-grown, m'sieu—a man—and yet I
am afraid of him! That is how much of a devil and a beast in man-shape
Again Reese Beaudin laughed in his low, soft voice.
"And his wife, mon ami? Is she afraid of him?"
He had stopped smoking. Joe Delesse saw his face. The stranger's
eyes made him look twice and think twice.
"You have known her—sometime?"
"Yes, a long time ago. "We were children together. And I have heard
all has not gone well with her. Is it so?"
"Does it go well when a dove is mated to a vulture, m'sieu?"
"I have also heard that she grew up to be very beautiful," said
Reese Beaudin, "and that Jacques Dupont killed a man for her. If that
"It is not so," interrupted Delesse. "He drove another man
away—no, not a man, but a yellow-livered coward who had no more
fight in him than a porcupine without quills! And yet she says he was
not a coward. She has always said, even to Dupont, that it was the way
le Bon Dieu made him, and that because he was made that way he was
greater than all other men in the North Country. How do I know?
Because, m'sieu, I am Elise Dupont's cousin."
Delesse wondered why Reese Beaudin's eyes were glowing like living
"And yet—again, it is only rumor I have heard—they say
this man, whoever he was, did actually run away, like a dog that had
been whipped and was afraid to return to its kennel."
"Pst!" Joe Delesse flung his great arms wide. "Like that—he
was gone. And no one ever saw him again, or heard of him again. But I
know that she knew—my cousin, Elise. What word it was he left for
her at the last she has always kept in her own heart, mon Dieu, and
what a wonderful thing he had to fight for! You knew the child. But the
woman—non? She was like an angel. Her eyes, when you looked into
them—hat can I say, m'sieu? They made you forget. And I have seen
her hair, unbound, black and glossy as the velvet side of a sable,
covering her to the hips. And two years ago I saw Jacques Dupont's
hands in that hair, and he was dragging her by it—"
Something snapped. It was a muscle in Reese Beaudin's arm. He had
stiffened like iron.
"And you let him do that!"
Joe Delesse shrugged his shoulders. It was a shrug of hopelessness,
"For the third time I interfered, and for the third time Jacques
Dupont beat me until I was nearer dead than alive. And since then I
have made it none of my business. It was, after all, the fault of the
man who ran away. You see, m'sieu, it was like this: Dupont was mad for
her, and this man who ran away—the Yellow-back—wanted her,
and Elise loved the Yellow-back. This Yellow-back was twenty-three or
four, and he read books, and played a fiddle and drew strange
pictures—and was weak in the heart when it came to a fight. But
Elise loved him. She loved him for those very things that made him a
fool and a weakling, m'sieu, the books and the fiddle and the pictures;
and she stood up with the courage for them both. And she would have
married him, too, and would have fought for him with a club if it had
come to that, when the thing happened that made him run away. It was at
the midsummer carnival, when all the trappers and their wives and
children were at Lac Bain. And Dupont followed the Yellow-back about
like a dog. He taunted him, he insulted him, he got down on his knees
and offered to fight him without getting on his feet; and there, before
the very eyes of Elise, he washed the Yellow-back's face in the grease
of one of the roasted caribou! And the Yellow-back was a man! Yes, a
grown man! And it was then that Jacques Dupont shouted out his
challenge to all that crowd. He would fight the Yellow-back. He would
fight him with his right arm tied behind his back! And before Elise and
the Yellow-back, and all that crowd, friends tied his arm so that it
was like a piece of wood behind him, and it was his right arm, his
fighting arm, the better half of him that was gone. And even then the
Yellow-back was as white as the paper he drew pictures on. Ventre saint
gris, but then was his chance to have killed Jacques Dupont! Half a man
could have done it. Did he, m'sieu? No, he did not. With his one arm
and his one hand Jacques Dupont whipped that Yellow-back, and he would
have killed him if Elise had not rushed in to sav e the Yellow-back's
purple face from going dead black. And that night the Yellow-back slunk
away. Shame? Yes. From that night he was ashamed to show his face ever
again at Lac Bain. And no one knows where he went. No one—except
Elise. And her secret is in her own breast."
"And after that?" questioned Reese Beaudin, in a voice that was
scarcely above a whisper.
"I cannot understand," said Joe Delesse. "It was strange, m'sieu,
very strange. I know that Elise, even after that coward ran away, still
loved him. And yet—well, something happened. I overheard a
terrible quarrel one day between Jan Thiebout, father of Elise, and
Jacques Dupont. After that Thiebout was very much afraid of Dupont. I
have my own suspicion. Now that Thiebout is dead it is not wrong for me
to say what it is. I think Thiebout killed the halfbreed Bedore who was
found dead on his trap-line five years ago. There was a feud between
them. And Dupont, discovering Thiebout's secret—well, you can
understand how easy it would be after that, m'sieu. Thiebout's winter
trapping was in that Burntwood country, fifty miles from neighbor to
neighbor, and very soon after Bedore's death Jacques Dupont became
Thiebout's partner. I know that Elise was forced to marry him. That was
four years ago. The next year old Thiebout died, and in all that time
not once has Elise been to Post Lac Bain!"
"Like the Yellow-back—she never returned," breathed Reese
"Never. And now—it is strange—"
"What is strange, Joe Delesse?"
"That for the first time in all these years she is going to Lac
Bain—to the dog sale."
Reese Beaudin's face was again hidden in the smoke of his pipe.
Through it his voice came.
"It is a cold night, M'sieu Delesse. Hear the wind howl!"
"Yes, it is cold—so cold the foxes will not run. My traps and
poison-baits will need no tending tomorrow."
"Unless you dig them out of the drifts."
"I will stay in the cabin."
"What! You are not going to Lac Bain!"
"I doubt it."
"Even though Elise, your cousin, is to be there?"
"I have no stomach for it, m'sieu. Nor would you were you in my
boots, and did you know why he is going. Par les mille cornes d'u
diable, I cannot whip him but I can kill him—and if I
went—and the thing happens which I guess is going to
"Qui? Surely you will tell me—"
"Yes, I will tell you. Jacques Dupont knows that Elise has never
stopped loving the Yellow-back. I do not believe she has ever tried to
hide it from him. Why should she? And there is a rumor, m'sieu, that
the Yellow-back will be at the Lac Bain dog sale."
Reese Beaudin rose slowly to his feet, and yawned in that
"And if the Yellow-back should turn the tables, Joe Delesse, think
of what a fine thing you will miss," he said.
Joe Delesse also rose, with a contemptuous laugh.
"That fiddler, that picture-drawer, that book-reader—Pouff!
You are tired, m'sieu, that is your bunk."
Reese Beaudin held out a hand. The bulk of the two stood out in the
lamp-glow, and Joe Delesse was so much the bigger man that his hand was
half again the size of Reese Beaudin's. They gripped. And then a
strange look went over the face of Joe Delesse. A cry came from out of
his beard. His mouth grew twisted. His knees doubled slowly under him,
and in the space of ten seconds his huge bulk was kneeling on the
floor, while Reese Beaudin looked at him, smiling.
"Has Jacques Dupont a greater grip than that, Joe Delesse?" he asked
in a voice that was so soft it was almost a woman's.
"Mon Dieu!" gasped Delesse. He staggered to his feet, clutching his
crushed hand. "M'sieu—"
Reese Beaudin put his hands to the other's shoulders, smiling,
"I will apologize, I will explain, mon ami," he said. "But first,
you must tell me the name of that Yellow-back who ran away years ago.
Do you remember it?"
"Oui, but what has that to do with my crushed hand? The
Yellow-back's name was Reese Beaudin—"
"And I am Reese Beaudin," laughed the other gently.
On that day—the day of Wakoa, the dog sale—seven fat
caribou were roasting on great spits at Post Lac Bain, and under them
were seven fires burning red and hot of seasoned birch, and around the
seven fires were seven groups of men who slowly turned the roasting
It was the Big Day of the mid-winter festival, and Post Lac Bain,
with a population of twenty in times of quiet, was a seething
wilderness metropolis of two hundred excited souls and twice as many
dogs. From all directions they had come, from north and south and east
and west; from near and from far, from the Barrens, from the swamps,
from the farther forests, from river and lake and hidden trail—a
few white men, mostly French; half-breeds and 'breeds, Chippewans, and
Crees, and here and there a strange, dark-visaged little interloper
from the north with his strain of Eskimo blood. Foregathered were all
the breeds and creeds and fashions of the wilderness.
Over all this, pervading the air like an incense, stirring the
desire of man and beast, floated the aroma of the roasting caribou. The
feast-hour was at hand. With cries that rose above the last words of a
wild song the seven groups of men rushed to seven pairs of props and
tore them away. The great carcasses swayed in mid-air, bent slowly over
their spits, and then crashed into the snow fifteen feet from the fire.
About each carcass five men with razor-sharp knives ripped off hunks of
the roasted flesh and passed them into eager hands of the hungry
multitude. First came the women and children, and last the men.
On this there peered forth from a window in the factor's house the
darkly bearded, smiling face of Reese Beaudin.
"I have seen him three times, wandering about in the crowd, seeking
someone," he said. "Bien, he shall find that someone very soon!"
In the face of McDougall, the factor, was a strange look. For he had
listened to a strange story, and there was still something of shock and
amazement and disbelief in his eyes.
"Reese Beaudin, it is hard for me to believe."
"And yet you shall find that it is true," smiled Reese.
"He will kill you. He is a monster—a giant!"
"I shall die hard," replied Reese.
He turned from the window again, and took from the table a violin
wrapped in buckskin, and softly he played one of their old love songs.
It was not much more than a whisper, and yet it was filled with a
joyous exultation. He laid the violin down when he was finished, and
laughed, and filled his pipe, and lighted it.
"It is good for a man's soul to know that a woman loves him, and has
been true," he said. "Mon pere, will you tell me again what she said?
It is strength for me—and I must soon be going."
McDougall repeated, as if under a strain from which he could not
"She came to me late last night, unknown to Dupont. She had received
your message, and knew you were coming. And I tell you again that I saw
something in her eyes which makes me afraid! She told me, then, that
her father killed Bedore in a quarrel, and that she married Dupont to
save him from the law—and kneeling there, with her hand on the
cross at her breast, she swore that each day of her life she has let
Dupont know that she hates him, and that she loves you, and that some
day Reese Beaudin would return to avenge her. Yes, she told him
that—I know it by what I saw in her eyes. With that cross
clutched in her fingers she swore that she had suffered torture and
shame, and that never a word of it had she whispered to a living soul,
that she might turn the passion of Jacques Dupont's black heart into a
great hatred. And today—Jacques Dupont will kill you!"
"I shall die hard," Reese repeated again.
He tucked the violin in its buckskin covering under his arm. From
the table he took his cap and placed it on his head.
In a last effort McDougall sprang from his chair and caught the
"Reese Beaudin—you are going to your death! As factor of Lac
Bain—agent of justice under power of the Police—I forbid
"So-o-o-o," spoke Reese Beaudin gently. "Mon pere—"
He unbuttoned his coat, which had remained buttoned. Under the coat
was a heavy shirt; and the shirt he opened, smiling into the factor's
eyes, and McDougall's face froze, and the breath was cut short on his
"That!" he gasped.
Reese Beaudin nodded.
Then he opened the door and went out.
Joe Delesse had been watching the factor's house, and he worked his
way slowly along the edge of the feasters so that he might casually
come into the path of Reese Beaudin. And there was one other man who
also had watched, and who came in the same direction. He was a
stranger, tall, closely hooded, his mustached face an Indian bronze. No
one had ever seen him at Lac Bain before, yet in the excitement of the
carnival the fact passed without conjecture or significance. And from
the cabin of Henri Paquette another pair of eyes saw Reese Beaudin, and
Mother Paquette heard a sob that in itself was a prayer.
In and out among the devourers of caribou-flesh, scanning the groups
and the ones and the twos and the threes, passed Jacques Dupont, and
with him walked his friend, one-eyed Layonne. Layonne was a big man,
but Dupont was taller by half a head. The brutishness of his face was
hidden under a coarse red beard; but the devil in him glowered from his
deep-set, inhuman eyes; it walked in his gait, in the hulk of his great
shoulders, in the gorilla-like slouch of his hips. His huge hands hung
partly clenched at his sides. His breath was heavy with whisky that
Layonne himself had smuggled in, and in his heart was black murder.
"He has not come!" he cried for the twentieth time. "He has not
He moved on, and Reese Beaudin—ten feet away—turned and
smiled at Joe Delesse with triumph in his eyes. He moved nearer.
"Did I not tell you he would not find in me that narrow-shouldered,
smooth-faced stripling of five years ago?" he asked. "N'est-ce pas,
The face of Joe Delesse was heavy with a somber fear.
"His fist is like a wood-sledge, m'sieu."
"So it was years ago."
"His forearm is as big as the calf of your leg."
"Oui, friend Delesse, it is the forearm of a giant."
"He is half again your weight."
"Or more, friend Delesse."
"He will kill you! As the great God lives, he will kill you!"
"I shall die hard," repeated Reese Beaudin for the third time that
Joe Delesse turned slowly, doggedly. His voice rumbled.
"The sale is about to begin, m'sieu. See!"
A man had mounted the log platform raised to the height of a man's
shoulders at the far end of the clearing. It was Henri Paquette, master
of the day's ceremonies, and appointed auctioneer of the great wakao. A
man of many tongues was Paquette. To his lips he raised a great
megaphone of birchbark, and sonorously his call rang out—in
French, in Cree, in Chippewan, and the packed throng about the
caribou-fires heaved like a living billow, and to a man and a woman and
a child it moved toward the appointed place.
"The time has come," said Reese Beaudin. "And all Lac Bain shall
Behind them—watching, always watching—followed the
bronze-faced stranger in his close-drawn hood.
For an hour the men of Lac Bain gathered close-wedged about the log
platform on which stood Henri Paquette and his Indian helper. Behind
the men were the women and children, and through the cordon there ran a
babiche-roped pathway along which the dogs were brought.
The platform was twenty feet square, with the floor side of the logs
hewn flat, and there was no lack of space for the gesticulation and
wild pantomime of Paquette. In one hand he held a notebook, and in the
other a pencil. In the notebook the sales of twenty dogs were already
tabulated, and the prices paid.
Anxiously, Reese Beaudin was waiting. Each time that a new dog came
up he looked at Joe Delesse, but, as yet Joe had failed to give the
On the platform the Indian was holding two malamutes in leash now
and Paquette was crying, in a well simulated fit of great fury:
"What, you cheap kimootisks, will you let this pair of malamutes go
for seven mink and a cross fox. Are you men? Are you poverty-stricken?
Are you blind? A breed dog and a male giant for seven mink and a cross
fox? Non, I will buy them myself first, and kill them, and use their
flesh for dog-feed, and their hides for fools' caps! I will—"
"Twelve mink and a Number Two Cross," came a voice out of the
"Twelve mink and a Number One," shouted another.
"A little better—a little better!" wailed Paquette. "You are
waking up, but slowly—mon Dieu, so slowly! Twelve mink
A voice rose in Cree:
Paquette gave a triumphant yell.
"The Indian beats you! The Indian from Little Neck Lake—an
Indian beats the white man! He offers twenty beaver—prime skins!
And beaver are wanted in Paris now. They're wanted in London. Beaver
and gold—they are the same! But they are the price of one dog
alone. Shall they both go at that? Shall the Indian have them for
twenty beaver—twenty beaver that may be taken from a single house
in a day—while it has taken these malamutes two and a half years
to grow? I say, you cheap kimootisks—"
And then an amazing thing happened. It was like a bomb falling in
that crowded throng of wondering and amazed forest people.
It was the closely hooded stranger who spoke.
"I will give a hundred dollars cash," he said.
A look of annoyance crossed Reese Beaudin's face.
He was close to the bronze-faced stranger, and edged nearer.
"Let the Indian have them," he said in a low voice. "It is Meewe. I
knew him years ago. He has carried me on his back. He taught me first
to draw pictures."
"But they are powerful dogs," objected the stranger. "My team needs
The Cree had risen higher out of the crowd. One arm rose above his
head. He was an Indian who had seen fifty years of the forests, and his
face was the face of an Egyptian.
"Nesi-tu-now Nesoo-sap umisk!" he proclaimed.
Henri Paquette hopped excitedly, and faced the stranger.
"Twenty-two beaver," he challenged. "Twenty-two—"
"Let Meewe have them," replied the hooded stranger.
Three minutes later a single dog was pulled up on the log platform.
He was a magnificent beast, and a rumble of approval ran through the
The face of Joe Delesse was gray. He wet his lips. Reese Beaudin,
watching him, knew that the time had come. And Joe Delesse, seeing no
way of escape, whispered:
"It is her dog, m'sieu. It is Parka—and Dupont sells him today
to show her that he is master."
Already Paquette was advertising the virtues of Parka when Reese
Beaudin, in a single leap, mounted the log platform, and stood beside
"Wait!" he cried.
There fell a silence, and Reese said, loud enough for all to
"M'sieu Paquette, I ask the privilege of examining this dog that I
want to buy."
At last he straightened, and all who faced him saw the smiling sneer
on his lips.
"Who is it that offers this worthless cur for sale?" Lac Bain heard
him say. "P-s-s-st—it is a woman's dog! It is not worth bidding
"You lie!" Dupont's voice rose in a savage roar. His huge shoulders
bulked over those about him. He crowded to the edge of the platform.
"He is a woman's dog," repeated Reese Beaudin without excitement,
yet so clearly that every ear heard. "He is a woman's pet, and M'sieu
Dupont most surely does lie if he denies it!"
So far as memory went back no man at Lac Bain that day had ever
heard another man give Jacques Dupont the lie. A thrill swept those who
heard and understood. There was a great silence, in that silence men
near him heard the choking rage in Dupont's great chest. He was staring
up—straight up into the smiling face of Reese Beaudin; and in
that moment he saw beyond the glossy black beard, and amazement and
unbelief held him still. In the next, Reese Beaudin had the violin in
his hands. He flung off the buckskin, and in a flash the instrument was
at his shoulder.
"See! I will play, and the woman's pet shall sing!"
And once more, after five years, Lac Bain listened to the magic of
Reese Beaudin's violin. And it was Elise's old love song that he
played. He played it, smiling down into the eyes of a monster whose
face was turning from red to black; yet he did not play it to the end,
nor a quarter of it, for suddenly a voice shouted:
"It is Reese Beaudin—come back!"
Joe Delesse, paralyzed, speechless, could have sworn it was the
hooded stranger who shouted; and then he remembered, and flung up his
great arms, and bellowed:
"Oui—by the Saints, it is Reese Beaudin—Reese Beaudin
Suddenly as it had begun the playing ceased, and Henri Paquette
found himself with the violin in his hands. Reese Beaudin turned,
facing them all, the wintry sun glowing in his beard, his eyes smiling,
his head high—unfraid now, more fearless than any other man that
had ever set foot in Lac Bain. And McDougall, with his arm touching
Elise's hair, felt the wild and throbbing pulse of her body. This
day—this hour—this minute in which she stood still,
inbreathing—had confirmed her belief in Reese Beaudin. As she had
dreamed, so had he risen. First of all the men in the world he stood
there now, just as he had been first in the days when she had loved his
dreams, his music, and his pictures. To her he was the old god, more
splendid,—for he had risen above fear, and he was facing Dupont
now with that strange quiet smile on his lips. And then, all at once,
her soul broke its fetters, and over the women's heads she reached out
her arms, and all there heard her voice in its triumph, its joy, its
"Reese! Reese—my sakeakun!"
Over the heads of all the forest people she called him beloved! Like
the fang of an adder the word stung Dupont's brain. And like fire
touched to powder, swiftly as lightning illumines the sky, the glory of
it blazed in Reese Beaudin's face. And all that were there heard him
"I am Reese Beaudin. I am the Yellow-back. I have returned to meet a
man you all know—Jacques Dupont. He is a monkey-man—a
whipper of boys, a stealer of women, a cheat, a coward, a thing so foul
the crows will not touch him when he dies—"
There was a roar. It was not the roar of a man, but of a
beast—and Jacques Dupont was on the platform!
Quick as Dupont's movement had been it was no swifter than that of
the closely-hooded stranger. He was as tall as Dupont, and about him
there was an air of authority and command.
"Wait," he said, and placed a hand on Dupont's heaving chest. His
smile was cold as ice. Never had Dupont seen eyes so like the pale blue
"M'sieu Dupont, you are about to avenge a great insult. It must be
done fairly. If you have weapons, throw them away. I will search
this—this Reese Beaudin, as he calls himself! And if there is to
be a fight, let it be a good one. Strip yourself to that great garment
you have on, friend Dupont. See, our friend—this Reese
Beaudin—is already stripping!"
He was unbuttoning the giant's heavy Hudson's Bay coat. He pulled it
off, and drew Dupont's knife from its sheath. Paquette, like a stunned
cat that had recovered its ninth life, was scrambling from the
platform. The Indian was already gone. And Reese Beaudin had tossed his
coat to Joe Delesse, and with it his cap. His heavy shirt was closely
buttoned; and not only was it buttoned, Delesse observed, but also was
it carefully pinned. And even now, facing that monster who would soon
be at him, Reese Beaudin was smiling.
For a moment the closely hooded stranger stood between them, and
Jacques Dupont crouched himself for his vengeance. Never to the people
of Lac Bain had he looked more terrible. He was the gorilla-fighter,
the beast fighter, the fighter who fights as the wolf, the bear and the
cat—crushing out life, breaking bones, twisting, snapping,
inundating and destroying with his great weight and his monstrous
strength. He was a hundred pounds heavier than Reese Beaudin. On his
stooping shoulders he could carry a tree. With his giant hands he could
snap a two-inch sapling. With one hand alone he had set a bear-trap.
And with that mighty strength he fought as the cave-man fought. It was
his boast there was no trick of the Chippewan, the Cree, the Eskimo or
the forest man that he did not know. And yet Reese Beaudin stood
calmly, waiting for him, and smiling!
In another moment the hooded stranger was gone, and there was none
"A long time I have waited for this, m'sieu," said Reese, for
Dupont's ears alone. "Five years is a long time. And my Elise still
Still more like a gorilla Jacques Dupont crept upon him. His face
was twisted by a rage to which he could no longer give voice. Hatred
and jealousy robbed his eyes of the last spark of the thing that was
human. His great hands were hooked, like an eagle's talons. His lips
were drawn back, like a beast's. Through his red beard yellow fangs
And Reese Beaudin no longer smiled. He laughed!
"Until I went away and met real men, I never knew what a pig of a
man you were, M'sieu Dupont," he taunted amiably, as though speaking in
jest to a friend. "You remind me of an aged and over-fat porcupine with
his big paunch and crooked arms. What horror must it have been for my
Elise to have lived in sight of such a beast as you!"
With a bellow Dupont was at him. And swifter than eyes had ever seen
man move at Lac Bain before, Reese Beaudin was out of his way, and
behind him; and then, as the giant caught himself at the edge of the
platform, and turned, he received a blow that sounded like the
broadside of a paddle striking water. Reese Beaudin had struck him with
the flat of his unclenched hand!
A murmur of incredulity rose out of the crowd. To the forest man
such a blow was the deadliest of insults. It was calling him an
Iskwao—a woman—a weakling—a thing too contemptible to
harden one's fist against. But the murmur died in an instant. For Reese
Beaudin, making as if to step back, shot suddenly
forward—straight through the giant's crooked arms—and it
was his fist this time that landed squarely between the eyes of Dupont.
The monster's head went back, his great body wavered, and then suddenly
he plunged backward off the platform and fell with a crash to the
A yell went up from the hooded stranger. Joe Delesse split his
throat. The crowd drowned Reese Beaudin's voice. But above it all rose
a woman's voice shrieking forth a name.
And then Jacques Dupont was on the platform again. In the moments
that followed one could almost hear his neighbor's heart beat. Nearer
and still nearer to each other drew the two men. And now Dupont
crouched still more, and Joe Delesse held his breath. He noticed that
Reese Beaudin was standing almost on the tips of his toes—that
each instant he seemed prepared, like a runner, for sudden flight. Five
feet—four—and Dupont leapt in, his huge arms swinging like
the limb of a tree, and his weight following with crushing force behind
his blow. For an instant it seemed as though Reese Beaudin had stood to
meet that fatal rush, but in that same instant—so swiftly that
only the hooded stranger knew what had happened—he was out of the
way, and his left arm seemed to shoot downward, and then up, and then
his right straight out, and then again his left arm downward, and
up—and it was the third blow, all swift as lightning, that
brought a yell from the hooded stranger. For though none but the
stranger had seen it, Jacques Dupont's head snapped back—and all
saw the fourth blow that sent him reeling like a man struck by a
There was no sound now. A mental and a vocal paralysis seized upon
the inhabitants of Lac Bain. Never had they seen fighting like this
fighting of Reese Beaudin. Until now had they lived to see the science
of the sawdust ring pitted against the brute force of Brobdingnagian,
of Antaeus and Goliath. For Reese Beaudin's fighting was a fighting
without tricks that they could see. He used his fists, and his fists
alone. He was like a dancing man. And suddenly, in the midst of the
miracle, they saw Jacques Dupont go down. And the second miracle was
that Reese Beaudin did not leap on him when he had fallen. He stood
back a little, balancing himself in that queer fashion on the balls and
toes of his feet. But no sooner was Dupont up than Reese Beaudin was in
again, with the swiftness of a cat, and they could hear the blows, like
solid shots, and Dupont's arms waved like tree-tops, and a second time
he was off the platform.
He was staggering when he rose. The blood ran in streams from his
mouth and nose. His beard dripped with it. His yellow teeth were caved
This time he did not leap upon the platform—he clambered back
to it, and the hooded stranger gave him a lift which a few minutes
before Dupont would have resented as an insult.
"Ah, it has come," said the stranger to Delesse.
"He is the best close-in fighter in all—"
He did not finish.
"I could kill you now—kill you with a single blow," said Reese
Beaudin in a moment when the giant stood swaying. "But there is a
greater punishment in store for you, and so I shall let you live!"
And now Reese Beaudin was facing that part of the crowd where the
woman he loved was standing. He was breathing deeply. But he was not
winded. His eyes were black as night, his hair wind-blown. He looked
straight over the heads between him and she whom Dupont had stolen from
Reese Beaudin raised his arms, and where there had been a murmur of
voices there was now silence.
For the first time the stranger threw back his hood. He was
unbuttoning his heavy coat.
And Joe Delesse, looking up, saw that Reese Beaudin was making a
mighty effort to quiet a strange excitement within his breast. And then
there was a rending of cloth and of buttons and of pins as in one swift
movement he tore the shirt from his own breast—exposing to the
eyes of Lac Bain blood-red in the glow of the winter sun, the crimson
badge of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police!
And above the gasp that swept the multitude, above the strange cry
of the woman, his voice rose:
"I am Reese Beaudin, the Yellow-back. I am Reese Beaudin, who ran
away. I am Reese Beaudin,—Sergeant in His Majesty's Royal
Northwest Mounted Police, and in the name of the law I arrest Jacques
Dupont for the murder of Francois Bedore, who was killed on his
trap-line five years ago! Fitzgerald—"
The hooded stranger leaped upon the platform. His heavy coat fell
off. Tall and grim he stood in the scarlet jacket of the Police. Steel
clinked in his hands. And Jacques Dupont, terror in his heart, was
trying to see as he groped to his knees. The steel snapped over his
And then he heard a voice close over him. It was the voice of Reese
"And this is your final punishment, Jacques Dupont—to be
hanged by the neck until you are dead. For Bedore was not dead when
Elise's father left him after their fight on the trap-line. It was you
who saw the fight, and finished the killing, and laid the crime on
Elise's father. Mukoki, the Indian, saw you. It is my day, Dupont, and
I have waited long—"
The rest Dupont did not hear. For up from the crowd there went a
mighty roar. And through it a woman was making her way with outreaching
arms—and behind her followed the factor of Lac Bain.