Bulldog Carney by W.A. Fraser
I'VE thought it over many ways and I'm going to tell this story as
it happened, for I believe the reader will feel he is getting a true
picture of things as they were but will not be again. A little padding
up of the love interest, a little spilling of blood, would, perhaps,
make it stronger technically, but would it lessen his faith that the
curious thing happened? It's beyond me to know—I write it as it
To begin at the beginning, Cameron was peeved. He was rather a
diffident chap, never merging harmoniously into the western atmosphere;
what saved him from rude knocks was the fact that he was lean of
speech. He stood on the board sidewalk in front of the Alberta Hotel
and gazed dejectedly across a trench of black mud that represented the
main street. He hated the sight of squalid, ramshackle Edmonton, but
still more did he dislike the turmoil that was within the hotel.
A lean-faced man, with small piercing gray eyes, had ridden his
buckskin cayuse into the bar and was buying. Nagel's furtrading men,
topping off their spree in town before the long trip to Great Slave
Lake, were enthusiastically, vociferously naming their tipple. A
freighter, Billy the Piper, was playing the "Arkansaw Traveller" on a
When the gray-eyed man on the buckskin pushed his way into the bar,
the whistle had almost clattered to the floor from the piper's hand;
then he gasped, so low that no one heard him, "By cripes! Bulldog
Carney!" There was apprehension trembling in his hushed voice. Well he
knew that if he had clarioned the name something would have happened
Billy the Piper. A quick furtive look darting over the faces of his
companions told him that no one else had recognized the horseman.
Outside, Cameron, irritated by the rasping tin whistle groaned, "My
God! a land of bums!" Three days he had waited to pick up a man to
replace a member of his gang down at Fort Victor who had taken a sudden
chill through intercepting a plug of cold lead.
Diagonally across the lane of ooze two men waded and clambered to
the board sidewalk just beside Cameron to stamp the muck from their
boots. One of the two, Cayuse Gray, spoke:
"This feller'll pull his freight with you, boss, if terms is right;
he's a hell of a worker."
Half turning, Cameron's Scotch eyes took keen cognizance of the
"feller": a shudder twitched his shoulders. He had never seen a more
wolfish face set atop a man's neck. It was a sinister face; not the
thin, vulpine sneak visage of a thief, but lowering; black sullen eyes
peered boldly up from under shaggy brows that almost met a mop of black
hair, the forehead was so low. It was a hungry face, as if its owner
had a standing account against the world. But Cameron wanted a strong
worker, and his business instinct found strength and endurance in that
heavy-shouldered frame, and strong, wide-set legs.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Jack Wolf," the man answered.
The questioner shivered; it was as if the speaker had named the
thought that was in his mind.
Cayuse Gray tongued a chew of tobacco into his cheek, spat, and
added, "Jack the Wolf is what he gets most oftenest."
"From damn broncho-headed fools," Wolf retorted angrily.
At that instant a strangling Salvation Army band tramped around the
corner into Jasper Avenue, and, forming a circle, cut loose with brass
and tambourine. As the wail from the instruments went up the men in the
bar, led by Billy the Piper, swarmed out.
A half-breed roared out a profane parody on the Salvation
"There are flies on you, and there're flies on me,
But there ain't no flies on Je-e-e-sus."
This crude humor appealed to the men who had issued from the bar;
they shouted in delight.
A girl who had started forward with her tambourine to collect stood
aghast at the profanity, her blue eyes wide in horror.
The breed broke into a drunken laugh: "That's damn fine new songs
for de Army bums, Miss," he jeered.
The buckskin cayuse, whose mouse-colored muzzle had been sticking
through the door, now pushed to the sidewalk, and his rider, stooping
his lithe figure, took the right ear of the breed in lean bony fingers
with a grip that suggested he was squeezing a lemon. "You dirty swine!"
he snarled; "you're insulting the two greatest things on
earth—God and a woman. Apologize, you hound!"
Probably the breed would have capitulated readily, but his
river-mates' ears were not in a death grip, and they were bellicose
with bad liquor. There was an angry yell of defiance; events moved with
alacrity. Profanity, the passionate profanity of anger, smote the air;
a beer bottle hurtled through the open door, missed its mark,—the
man on the buckskin,—but, end on, found a bull's-eye between the
Wolf's shoulder blades, and that gentleman dove parabolically into the
black mud of Jasper Avenue.
A silence smote the Salvation Army band. Like the Arab it folded its
instruments and stole away.
A Mounted Policeman, attracted by the clamour, reined his horse to
the sidewalk to quiet with a few words of admonition this bar-room row.
He slipped from the saddle; but at the second step forward he checked
as the thin face of the horseman turned and the steel-gray eyes met his
own. "Get down off that cayuse, Bulldog Carney,—I want you!" he
commanded in sharp clicking tones.
Happenings followed this. There was the bark of a 6-gun, a flash,
the Policeman's horse jerked his head spasmodically, a little jet of
red spurted from his forehead, and he collapsed, his knees burrowing
into the black mud and as the buckskin cleared the sidewalk in a leap,
the half-breed, two steel-like fingers in his shirt band, was swung
behind the rider.
With a spring like a panther the policeman reached his fallen horse,
but as he swung his gun from its holster he held it poised silent; to
shoot was to kill the breed.
Fifty yards down the street Carney dumped his burden into a deep
puddle, and with a ringing cry of defiance sped away. Half-a-dozen guns
were out and barking vainly after the escaping man.
Carney cut down the bush-road that wound its sinuous way to the
river flat, some two hundred feet below the town level. The ferry,
swinging from the steel hawser, that stretched across the river, was
snuggling the bank.
"Some luck," the rider of the buckskin chuckled. To the ferryman he
said in a crisp voice: "Cut her out; I'm in a hurry!"
The ferryman grinned. "For one passenger, eh? Might you happen to be
the Gov'nor General, by any chanct?"
Carney's handy gun held its ominous eye on the boatman, and its
owner answered, "I happen to be a man in a hell of a hurry. If you want
to travel with me get busy."
The thin lips of the speaker had puckered till they resembled a slit
in a dried orange. The small gray eyes were barely discernible between
the half-closed lids; there was something devilish compelling in that
lean parchment face; it told of demoniac concentration in the brain
The ferryman knew. With a pole he swung the stern of the flat barge
down stream, the iron pulleys on the cable whined a screeching protest,
the hawsers creaked, the swift current wedged against the tangented
side of the ferry, and swiftly Bulldog Carney and his buckskin were
shot across the muddy old Saskatchewan.
On the other side he handed the boatman a five-dollar bill, and with
a grim smile said: "Take a little stroll with me to the top of the
hill; there's some drunken bums across there whose company I don't
At the top of the south bank Carney mounted his buckskin and Melted
away into the poplar-covered landscape; stepped out of the story for
the time being.
Back at the Alberta the general assembly was rearranging itself. The
Mounted Policeman, now set afoot by the death of his horse, had hurried
down to the barracks to report; possibly to follow up Carney's trail
with a new mount.
The half-breed had come back from the puddle a thing of black ooze
Jack the Wolf, having dug the mud from his eyes, and ears, and neck
band, was in the hotel making terms with Cameron for the summer's work
at Fort Victor.
Billy the Piper was revealing intimate history of Bulldog Carney.
From said narrative it appeared that Bulldog was as humorous a bandit
as ever slit a throat. Billy had freighted whisky for Carney when that
gentleman was king of the booze runners.
"Why didn't you spill the beans, Billy?" Nagel queried; "there's a
thousand on Carney's head all the time. We'd 've tied him horn and hoof
and cropped the dough."
"Dif'rent here," the Piper growled; "I've saw a man flick his gun
and pot at Carney when Bulldog told him to throw up his hands, and all
that cuss did was laugh and thrown his own gun up coverin' the other
broncho; but it was enough—the other guy's hands went up too
quick. If I'd set the pack on him, havin' so to speak no just cause,
well, Nagel, you'd been lookin' round for another freighter. He's the
queerest cuss I ever stacked up agen. It kinder seems as if jokes is
his religion; an' when he's out to play he's plumb hostile. Don't
monkey none with his game, is my advice to you fellers."
Nagel stepped to the door, thrust his swarthy face though it, and,
seeing that the policeman had gone, came back to the bar and said:
"Boys, the drinks is on me cause I see a man, a real man."
He poured whisky into a glass and waited with it held high till the
others had done likewise; then he said in a voice that vibrated with
"Here's to Bulldog Carney! Gad, I love a man! When that damn trooper
calls him, what does he do? You or me would 've quit cold or plugged
Mister Khaki-jacket—we'd had to. Not so Bulldog. He thinks with
his nut, and both hands, and both feet; I don't need to tell you boys
what happened; you see it, and it were done pretty. Here's to Bulldog
Carney!" Nagel held his hand out to the Piper: "Shake, Billy. If you'd
give that cuss away I'd 've kicked you into kingdom come, knowin' him
as I do now."
. . . . .
The population of Fort Victor, drawing the color line, was four
people: the Hudson's Bay Factor, a missionary minister and his wife,
and a school teacher, Lucy Black. Half-breeds and Indians came and
went, constituting a floating population; Cameron and his men were
Lucy Black was lathy of construction, several years past her
girlhood, and not an animated girl. She was a professional religionist.
If there were seeming voids in her life they were filled with this
dominating passion of moral reclamation; if she worked without
enthusiasm she made up for it in insistent persistence. It was as if a
diluted strain of the old Inquisition had percolated down through the
blood of centuries and found a subdued existence in this pale-haired,
When Cameron brought Jack the Wolf to Fort Victor it was evident to
the little teacher that he was morally an Augean stable: a man who
wandered in mental darkness; his soul was dying for want of spiritual
On the seventy-mile ride in the Red River buckboard from Edmonton to
Fort Victor the morose wolf had punctuated every remark with virile
oaths, their original angularity suggesting that his meditative moments
were spent in coining appropriate expressions for his perfervid view of
life. Twice Cameron's blood had surged hot as the Wolf, at some
trifling perversity of the horses, had struck viciously.
Perhaps it was the very soullessness of the Wolf that roused the
religious fanaticism of the little school teacher; or perhaps it was
that strange contrariness in nature that causes the widely divergent to
lean eachotherward. At any rate a miracle grew in Fort Victor. Jack the
Wolf and the little teacher strolled together in the evening as the
great sun swept down over the rolling prairie to the west; and
sometimes the full-faced moon, topping the poplar bluffs to the east,
found Jack slouching at Lucy's feet while she, sitting on a camp stool,
talked Bible to him.
At first Cameron rubbed his eyes as if his Scotch vision had somehow
gone agley; but, gradually, whatever incongruity had manifested at
first died away.
As a worker Wolf was wonderful; his thirst for toil was like his
thirst for moral betterment—insatiable. The missionary in a chat
with Cameron explained it very succinctly: "Wolf, like many other
Westerners, had never had a chance to know the difference between right
and wrong; but the One who missed not the sparrow's fall had led him to
the port of salvation, Fort Victor—Glory to God! The poor
fellow's very wickedness was but the result of neglect. Lucy was the
worker in the Lord's vineyard who had been chosen to lead this man into
a better life.
It did seem very simple, very all right. Tough characters were
always being saved all over the world—regenerated, metamorphosed,
and who was Jack the Wolf that he should be excluded from
At any rate Cameron's survey gang, vitalized by the abnormal energy
of Wolf, became a high-powered machine.
The half-breeds, when couraged by bad liquor, shed their religion
and became barbaric, vulgarly vicious. The missionary had always waited
until this condition had passed, then remonstrance and a gift of bacon
with, perhaps, a bag of flour, had brought repentance. This method Jack
the Wolf declared was all wrong; the breeds were like traindogs, he
affirmed, and should be taught respect for God's agents in a proper
muscular manner. So the first time three French half-breeds,
enthusiastically drunk, invaded the little log schoolhouse and declared
school was out, sending the teacher home with tears of shame in her
blue eyes, Jack reestablished the dignity of the church by generously
walloping the three backsliders.
It is wonderful how the solitude of waste places will blossom the
most ordinary woman into a flower of delight to the masculine eye; and
the lean, anaemic, scrawny-haired school teacher had held as admirers
all of Cameron's gang, and one Sergeant Heath of the Mounted Police
whom she had known in the Klondike, and who had lately come to
Edmonton. With her negative nature she had appreciated them pretty much
equally; but when the business of salvaging this prairie derelict came
to hand the others were practically ignored.
For two months Fort Victor was thus; the Wolf always the willing
worker and well on the way, seemingly, to redemption.
Cameron's foreman, Bill Slade, a much-whiskered, wise old man, was
the only one of little faith. Once he said to Cameron: "I don't like it
none too much; it takes no end of worry to make a silk purse out of a
sow's ear; Jack has blossomed too quick; he's a booze fighter, and that
kind always laps up mental stimulants to keep the blue devils
"You're doing the lad an injustice, I think," Cameron said. "I was
prejudiced myself at first."
Slade pulled a heavy hand three times down his big beard, spat a
shaft of tobacco juice, took his hat off, straightened out a couple of
dents in it, and put it back on his head:
"You best stick to that prejudice feeling, Boss—first guesses
about a feller most gener'ly pans out pretty fair. And I'd keep an eye
kinder skinned if you have any fuss with Jack; I see him look at you
once or twice when you corrected his way of doin' things."
"'Tain't no laughin' matter, Boss. When a feller's been used to
cussin' like hell he can't keep healthy bottlin' it up. And all that
dirtiness that's in the Wolf 'll bust out some day same's you touched a
match to a tin of powder; he'll throw back."
"There's nobody to worry about except the little school teacher,"
Cameron said meditatively.
This time it was Slade who chuckled. "The schoolmam's as safe as
houses. She ain't got a pint of red blood in 'em blue veins of hers,
'tain't nothin' but vinegar. Jack's just tryin' to sober up on her
religion, that's all; it kind of makes him forget horse stealin' an'
such while he makes a stake workin' here."
Then one morning Jack had passed into perihelion.
Cameron took his double-barreled shot gun, meaning to pick up some
prairie chicken while he was out looking over his men's work. As he
passed the shack where his men bunked he noticed the door open. This
was careless, for train dogs were always prowling about for just such a
chance for loot. He stepped through the door and took a peep into the
other room. There sat the Wolf at a pine table playing solitaire.
"What's the matter?" the Scotchman asked.
"I've quit," the Wolf answered surlily.
"Quit?" Cameron queried. "The gang can't carry on without a chain
"I don't care a damn. It don't make no dif'rence to me. I'm sick of
that tough bunch—swearin' and cussin', and tellin' smutty stories
all day; a man can't keep decent in that outfit."
"Ma God!" Startled by this, Cameron harked back to his most
"You needn't swear 'bout it, Boss; you yourself ain't never give me
no square deal; you've treated me like a breed."
This palpable lie fired Cameron's Scotch blood; also the malignant
look that Slade had seen was now in the wolfish eyes. It was a murder
look, enhanced by the hypocritical attitude Jack had taken.
"You're a scoundrel!" Cameron blurted; "I wouldn't keep you on the
work. The sooner Fort Victor is shut of you the better for all hands,
especially the women folks. You're a scoundrel."
Jack sprang to his feet; his hand went back to a hip pocket; but his
blazing wolfish eyes were looking into the muzzle of the double-barrel
gun that Cameron had swung straight from his hip, both fingers on the
"Put your hands flat on the table, you blackguard," Cameron
commanded. "If I weren't a married man I'd blow the top of your head
off; you're no good on earth; you'd be better dead, but my wife would
worry because I did the deed."
The Wolf's empty hand had come forward and was placed, palm
downward, on the table.
"Now, you hound, you're just a bluffer. I'll show you what I think
of you. I'm going to turn my back, walk out, and send a breed up to
Fort Saskatchewan for a policeman to gather you in."
Cameron dropped the muzzle of his gun, turned on his heel and
"Come back and settle with me," the Wolf demanded.
"I'll settle with you in jail, you blackguard!" Cameron threw over
his shoulder, stalking on.
Plodding along, not without nervous twitchings of apprehension, the
Scotchman heard behind him the voice of the Wolf saying. "Don't do
that, Mr. Cameron; I flew off the handle and so did you, but I didn't
Cameron, ignoring the Wolf's plea, went along to his shack and wrote
a note, the ugly visage of the Wolf hovering at the open door. He was
humbled, beaten. Gun-play in Montana, where the Wolf had left a bad
record, was one thing, but with a cordon of Mounted Police between him
and the border it was a different matter; also he was wanted for a more
serious crime than a threat to shoot, and once in the toils this might
crop up. So he pleaded. But Cameron was obdurate; the Wolf had no right
to stick up his work and quit at a moment's notice.
Then Jack had an inspiration. He brought Lucy Black. Like woman of
all time her faith having been given she stood pat, a flush rouging her
bleached cheeks as, earnest in her mission, she pleaded for the
"wayward boy," as she euphemistically designated this coyote. Cameron
was to let him go to lead the better life; thrown into the pen of the
police barracks, among bad characters, he would become contaminated.
The police had always persecuted her Jack.
Cameron mentally exclaimed again, "Ma God!" as he saw tears in the
neutral blue-tinted eyes. Indeed it was time that the Wolf sought a new
runway. He had a curious Scotch reverence for women, and was almost
reconciled to the loss of a man over the breaking up of this
Jack was paid the wages due; but at his request for a horse to take
him back to Edmonton the Scotchman laughed. "I'm not making presents of
horses to-day," he said; "and I'll take good care that nobody else here
is shy a horse when you go, Jack. You'll take the hoof express it's
good enough for you."
So the Wolf tramped out of Fort Victor with a pack slung over his
shoulder; and the next day Sergeant Heath swung into town looking very
debonaire in his khaki, sitting atop the bright blood-bay police
He hunted up Cameron, saying: "You've a man here that I
want—Jack Wolf. They've found his prospecting partner dead up on
the Smoky River, with a bullet hole in the back of his head. We want
Jack at Edmonton to explain."
The Sergeant stared helplessly at the Scotchman.
A light dawned upon Cameron. "Did you, by any chance, send word that
you were coming?" he asked.
"I'll be back, mister," and Heath darted from the shack, swung to
his saddle, and galloped toward the little log school house.
Cameron waited. In half an hour the Sergeant was back, a troubled
look in his face.
"I'll tell you," he said dejectedly, "women are hell; they ought to
be interned when there's business on."
"The little school teacher?"
"The little fool!"
"You trusted her and wrote you were coming, eh?"
"Then, my friend, I'm afraid you were the foolish one."
"How was I to know that rustler had been 'making bad
medicine'—had put the evil eye on Lucy? Gad, man, she's plumb
locoed; she stuck up for him; spun me the most glimmering
tale—she's got a dime novel skinned four ways of the pack.
According to her the police stood in with Bulldog Carney on a train
holdup, and made this poor innocent lamb the goat. They persecuted him,
and he had to flee. Now he's given his heart to God, and has gone away
to buy a ranch and send for Lucy, where the two of them are to live
happy ever after."
"Ma God!" the Scotchman cried with vehemence.
"That bean-headed affair in calico gave him five hundred she's
pinched up against her chest for years."
Cameron gasped and stared blankly; even his reverent exclamatory
standby seemed inadequate.
"What time yesterday did the Wolf pull out?" the Sergeant asked.
"About three o'clock."
"He'll rustle a cayuse the first chance he gets, but if he stays
afoot he'll hit Edmonton to-night, seventy miles."
"To catch the morning train for Calgary," Cameron suggested.
"You don't know the Wolf, Boss; he's got his namesake of the forest
skinned to death when it comes to covering up his trail—no train
for him now that he knows I'm on his track; he'll just touch
civilization for grub till he makes the border for Montana. I've got to
get him. If you'll stake me to a fill-up of bacon and a chew of oats
for the horse I'll eat and pull out."
In an hour Sergeant Heath shook hands with Cameron saying: "If
you'll just not say a word about how that cuss got the message I'll be
much obliged. It would break me if it dribbled to headquarters."
Then he rode down the ribbon of roadway that wound to the river bed,
forded the old Saskatchewan that was at its summer depth, mounted the
south bank and disappeared.
. . . . .
When Jack the Wolf left Fort Victor he headed straight for a little
log shack, across the river, where Descoign, a French half-breed,
lived. The family was away berry picking, and Jack twisted a rope into
an Indian bridle and borrowed a cayuse from the log corral. The cayuse
was some devil, and that evening, thirty miles south, he chewed loose
the rope hobble on his two front feet, and left the Wolf afoot.
Luck set in against Jack just there, for he found no more borrowable
horses till he came to where the trail forked ten miles short of Fort
Saskatchewan. To the right, running southwest, lay the well beaten
trail that passed through Fort Saskatchewan to cross the river and on
to Edmonton. The trail that switched to the left, running southeast,
was the old, now rarely-used one that stretched away hundreds of miles
The Wolf was a veritable Indian in his slow cunning; a gambler where
money was the stake, but where his freedom, perhaps his life, was
involved he could wait, and wait, and play the game more than safe. The
Winnipeg trail would be deserted—Jack knew that; a man could
travel it the round of the clock and meet nobody, most like. Seventy
miles beyond he could leave it, and heading due west, strike the
Calgary railroad and board a train at some small station. No notice
would be taken of him, for trappers, prospectors, men from distant
ranches, morose, untalkative men, were always drifting toward the
rails, coming up out of the silent solitudes of the wastes,
unquestioned and unquestioning.
The Wolf knew that he would be followed; he knew that Sergeant Heath
would pull out on his trail and follow relentlessly, seeking the glory
of capturing his man single-handed. That was the esprit de corps of
these riders of the prairies, and Heath was, par excellence, large in
A sinister sneer lifted the upper lip of the trailing man until his
strong teeth glistened like veritable wolf fangs. He had full
confidence in his ability to outguess Sergeant Heath or any other
He had stopped at the fork of the trail long enough to light his
pipe, looking down the Fort Saskatchewan-Edmonton road thinking. He
knew the old Winnipeg trail ran approximately ten or twelve miles east
of the railroad south for a hundred miles or more; where it crossed a
trail running into Red Deer, half-way between Edmonton and Calgary, it
was about ten miles east of that town.
He swung his blanket pack to his back and stepped blithely along the
Edmonton chocolate-colored highway muttering: "You red-coated snobs,
you're waiting for Jack. A nice baited trap. And behind, herding me in,
my brave Sergeant. Well, I'm coming."
Where there was a matrix of black mud he took care to leave a
footprint; where there was dust he walked in it, in one or the other of
the ever persisting two furrow-like paths that had been worn through
the strong prairie turf by the hammering hoofs of two horses abreast,
and grinding wheels of wagon and buckboard. For two miles he followed
the trail till he sighted a shack with a man chopping in the front
yard. Here the Wolf went in and begged some matches and a drink of
milk; incidentally he asked how far it was to Edmonton. Then he went
back to the trail—still toward Edmonton. The Wolf had plenty of
matches, and he didn't need the milk, but the man would tell Sergeant
Heath when he came along of the one he had seen heading for
For a quarter of a mile Jack walked on the turf beside the road,
twice putting down a foot in the dust to make a print; then he walked
on the road for a short distance and again took to the turf. He saw a
rig coming from behind, and popped into a cover of poplar bushes until
it had passed. Then he went back to the road and left prints of his
feet in the black soft dust, that would indicate that he had climbed
into a waggon here from behind. This accomplished he turned east across
the prairie, reaching the old Winnipeg trail, a mile away; then he
At noon he came to a little lake and ate his bacon raw, not risking
the smoke of a fire; then on in that tireless Indian plod—toes
in, and head hung forward, that is so easy on the working
joints—hour after hour; it was not a walk, it was more like the
dog-trot of a cayuse, easy springing short steps, always on the balls
of his wide strong feet.
At five he ate again, then on. He travelled till midnight, the
shadowy gloom having blurred his path at ten o'clock. Then he slept in
a thick clump of saskatoon bushes.
At three it was daylight, and screened as he was and thirsting for
his drink of hot tea, he built a small fire and brewed the inspiring
beverage. On forked sticks he broiled some bacon; then on again.
All day he travelled. In the afternoon elation began to creep into
his veins; he was well past Edmonton now. At night he would take the
dipper on his right hand and cut across the prairie straight west; by
morning he would reach steel; the train leaving Edmonton would come
along about ten, and he would be in Calgary that night. Then he could
go east, or west, or south to the Montana border by rail. Heath would
go on to Edmonton; the police would spend two or three days searching
all the shacks and Indian and half-breed camps, and they would watch
the daily outgoing train.
There was one chance that they might wire Calgary to look out for
him; but there was no course open without some risk of capture; he was
up against that possibility. It was a gamble, and he was playing his
hand the best he knew how. Even approaching Calgary he would swing from
the train on some grade, and work his way into town at night to a shack
where Montana Dick lived. Dick would know what was doing.
Toward evening the trail gradually swung to the east skirting muskeg
country. At first the Wolf took little notice of the angle of detour;
he was thankful he followed a trail, for trails never led one into
impassable country; the muskeg would run out and the trail swing west
again. But for two hours he plugged along, quickening his pace, for he
realized now that he was covering miles which had to be made up when he
swung west again.
Perhaps it was the depressing continuance of the desolate muskeg
through which the shadowy figures of startled hares darted that cast
the tiring man into foreboding. Into his furtive mind crept a suspicion
that he was being trailed. So insidiously had this dread birthed that
at first it was simply worry, a feeling as if the tremendous void of
the prairie was closing in on him, that now and then a white boulder
ahead was a crouching wolf. He shivered, shook his wide shoulders and
cursed. It was that he was tiring, perhaps.
Then suddenly the thing took form, mental form—something was
on his trail. This primitive creature was like an Indian—gifted
with the sixth sense that knows when somebody is coming though he may
be a day's march away; the mental wireless that animals possess. He
tried to laugh it off; to dissipate the unrest with blasphemy; but it
The prairie was like a huge platter, everything stood out against
the luminous evening sky like the sails of a ship at sea. If it were
Heath trailing, and that man saw him, he would never reach the
railroad. His footprints lay along the trail, for it was hard going on
the heavily-grassed turf. To cut across the muskeg that stretched for
miles would trap him. In the morning light the Sergeant would discover
that his tracks had disappeared, and would know just where he had gone.
Being mounted the Sergeant would soon make up for the few hours of
darkness would reach the railway and wire down the line.
The Wolf plodded on for half a mile, then he left the trail where
the ground was rolling, cut east for five hundred yards, and circled
back. On the top of a cut-bank that was fringed with wolf willow he
crouched to watch. The sun had slipped through purple clouds, and
dropping below them into a sea of greenish-yellow space, had bathed in
blood the whole mass of tesselated vapour; suddenly outlined against
this glorious background a horse and man silhouetted, the stiff erect
seat in the saddle, the docked tail of the horse, square cut at the
hocks, told the watcher that it was a policeman.
When the rider had passed the Wolf trailed him, keeping east of the
road where his visibility was low against the darkening side of the
vast dome. Half a mile beyond where the Wolf had turned, the Sergeant
stopped, dismounted, and, leading the horse, with head low hung
searched the trail for the tracks that had now disappeared. Approaching
night, creeping first over the prairie, had blurred it into a gigantic
rug of sombre hue. The trail was like a softened stripe; footprints
might be there, merged into the pattern till they were
A small oval lake showed in the edge of the muskeg beside the trail,
its sides festooned by strong-growing blue-joint, wild oats, wolf
willow, saskatoon bushes, and silver-leafed poplar. Ducks, startled
from their nests, floating nests built of interwoven rush leaves and
grass, rose in circling flights, uttering plaintive rebukes. Three
giant sandhill cranes flopped their sail-like wings, folded their long
spindle shanks straight out behind, and soared away like kites.
Crouched back beside the trail the Wolf watched and waited. He knew
what the Sergeant would do; having lost the trail of his quarry he
would camp there, beside good water, tether his horse to the picket-pin
by the hackamore rope, eat, and sleep till daylight, which would come
about three o'clock; then he would cast about for the Wolf's tracks,
gallop along the southern trail, and when he did not pick them up would
surmise that Jack had cut across the muskeg land; then he would round
the southern end of the swamp and head for the railway.
"I must get him," the Wolf muttered mercilessly; "gentle him if I
can, if not—get him."
He saw the Sergeant unsaddle his horse, picket him, and eat a cold
meal; this rather than beacon his presence by a glimmering fire.
The Wolf, belly to earth, wormed closer, slithering over the
gillardias, crunching their yellow blooms beneath his evil body, his
revolver held between his strong teeth as his grimy paws felt the
ground for twigs that might crack.
If the Sergeant would unbuckle his revolver belt, and perhaps go
down to the water for a drink, or even to the horse that was at the far
end of the picket line, his nose buried deep in the succulent wild-pea
vine, then the Wolf would rush his man, and the Sergeant, disarmed,
would throw up his hands.
The Wolf did not want on his head the death of a Mounted Policeman,
for then the "Redcoats" would trail him to all corners of the earth.
All his life there would be someone on his trail. It was too big a
price. Even if the murder thought had been paramount, in that dim light
the first shot meant not overmuch.
So Jack waited. Once the horse threw up his head, cocked his ears
fretfully, and stood like a bronze statue; then he blew a breath of
discontent through his spread nostrils, and again buried his muzzle in
the pea vine and sweet-grass.
Heath had seen this movement of the horse and ceased cutting at the
plug of tobacco with which he was filling his pipe; he stood up, and
searched with his eyes the mysterious gloomed prairie.
The Wolf, flat to earth, scarce breathed.
The Sergeant snuffed out the match hidden in his cupped hands over
the bowl, put the pipe in his pocket, and, revolver in hand, walked in
a narrow circle; slowly, stealthily, stopping every few feet to listen;
not daring to go too far lest the man he was after might be hidden
somewhere and cut out his horse. He passed within ten feet of where the
Wolf lay, just a gray mound against the gray turf.
The Sergeant went back to his blanket and with his saddle for a
pillow lay down, the tiny glow of his pipe showing the Wolf that he
smoked. He had not removed his pistol belt.
The Wolf lying there commenced to think grimly how easy it would be
to kill the policeman as he slept; to wiggle, snake-like to within a
few feet and then the shot. But killing was a losing game, the
blundering trick of a man who easily lost control; the absolutely last
resort when a man was cornered beyond escape and saw a long term at
Stony Mountain ahead of him, or the gallows. The Wolf would wait till
all the advantage was with him. Besides, the horse was like a
watch-dog. The Wolf was down wind from them now, but if he moved enough
to rouse the horse, or the wind shifted—no, he would wait. In the
morning the Sergeant, less wary in the daylight, might give him his
Fortunately it was late in the summer and that terrible pest, the
mosquito, had run his course.
The Wolf slipped back a few yards deeper into the scrub, and, tired,
slept. He knew that at the first wash of gray in the eastern sky the
ducks would wake him. He slept like an animal, scarce slipping from
consciousness; a stamp of the horse's hoof on the sounding turf
bringing him wide awake. Once a gopher raced across his legs, and he
all but sprang to his feet thinking the Sergeant had grappled with him.
Again a great horned owl at a twist of Jack's head as he dreamed,
swooped silently and struck, thinking it a hare.
Brought out of his sleep by the myriad noises of the waterfowl the
Wolf knew that night was past, and the dice of chance were about to be
thrown. He crept back to where the Sergeant was in full view, the
horse, his sides ballooned by the great feed of sweet-pea vine, lay at
rest, his muzzle on the earth, his drooped ears showing that he
Waked by the harsh cry of a loon that swept by rending the air with
his death-like scream, the Sergeant sat bolt upright and rubbed his
eyes sleepily. He rose, stretched his arms above his head, and stood
for a minute looking off toward the eastern sky that was now taking on
a rose tint. The horse, with a little snort, canted to his feet and
sniffed toward the water; the Sergeant pulled the picket-pin and led
him to the lake for a drink.
Hungrily the Wolf looked at the carbine that lay across the saddle,
but the Sergeant watered his horse without passing behind the bushes.
It was a chance; but still the Wolf waited, thinking, "I want an ace in
the hole when I play this hand."
Sergeant Heath slipped the picket-pin back into the turf, saddled
his horse, and stood mentally debating something. Evidently the
something had to do with Jack's whereabouts, for Heath next climbed a
short distance up a poplar, and with his field glasses scanned the
surrounding prairie. This seemed to satisfy him; he dropped back to
earth, gathered some dry poplar branches and built a little fire;
hanging by a forked stick he drove in the ground his copper tea pail
half full of water.
Then the thing the Wolf had half expectantly waited for happened.
The Sergeant took off his revolver belt, his khaki coat, rolled up the
sleeves of his gray flannel shirt, turned down its collar, took a piece
of soap and a towel from the roll of his blanket and went to the water
to wash away the black dust of the prairie trail that was thick and
heavy on his face and in his hair. Eyes and ears full of suds,
splashing and blowing water, the noise of the Wolf's rapid creep to the
fire was unheard.
When the Sergeant, leisurely drying his face on the towel, stood up
and turned about he was looking into the yawning maw of his own heavy
police revolver, and the Wolf was saying: "Come here beside the fire
and strip to the buff—I want them duds. There won't nothin'
happen you unless you get hostile, then you'll get yours too damn
quick. Just do as you're told and don't make no fool play; I'm in a
Of course the Sergeant, not being an imbecile, obeyed.
"Now get up in that tree and stay there while I dress," the Wolf
ordered. In three minutes he was arrayed in the habiliments of Sergeant
Heath; then he said, "Come down and put on my shirt."
In the pocket of the khaki coat that the Wolf now wore were a pair
of steel handcuffs; he tossed them to the man in the shirt commanding,
"Click these on."
"I say," the Sergeant expostulated, "can't I have the pants and the
coat and your boots?"
The Wolf sneered: "Dif'rent here my bounder; I got to make a
get-away. I'll tell you what I'll do—I'll give you your choice of
three ways: I'll stake you to the clothes, bind and gag you; or I'll
rip one of these 44 plugs through you; or I'll let you run foot loose
with a shirt on your back; I reckon you won't go far on this wire grass
in bare feet."
"I don't walk on my pants."
"That's just what you would do; the pants and coat would cut up into
about four pairs of moccasins; they'd be as good as duffel cloth."
"That's your look-out. You'd lie awake nights worrying about where
Jack Wolf would get a dinner—I guess not. I ought to shoot you.
The damn police are nothin' but a lot of dirty dogs anyway. Get busy
and cook grub for two—bacon and tea while I sit here holdin' this
gun on you."
The Sergeant was a grotesque figure cooking with the manacles on his
wrists, and clad only in a shirt.
When they had eaten the Wolf bridled the horse, curled up the picket
line and tied it to the saddle horn, rolled the blanket and with the
carbine strapped it to the saddle, also his own blanket.
"I'm goin' to grubstake you," he said, "leave you rations for three
days; that's more than you'd do for me. I'll turn your horse loose near
steel, I ain't horse stealin', myself—I'm only borrowin'."
When he was ready to mount a thought struck the Wolf. It could
hardly be pity for the forlorn condition of Heath; it must have been
cunning—a play against the off chance of the Sergeant being
picked up by somebody that day. He said:
"You fellers in the force pull a gag that you keep your word, don't
"We try to."
"I'll give you another chance, then. I don't want to see nobody put
in a hole when there ain't no call for it. If you give me your word, on
the honor of a Mounted Policeman, swear it, that you'll give me four
days' start before you squeal I'll stake you to the clothes and boots;
then you can get out in two days and be none the worse."
"I'll see you in hell first. A Mounted Policeman doesn't compromise
with a horse thief—with a skunk who steals a working girl's
"You'll keep palaverin' till I blow the top of your head off," the
Wolf snarled. "You'll look sweet trampin' in to some town in about a
week askin' somebody to file off the handcuffs Jack the Wolf snapped on
you, won't you?"
"I won't get any place in a week with these handcuffs on," the
Sergeant objected; "even if a pack of coyotes tackled me I couldn't
The Wolf pondered this. If he could get away without it he didn't
want the death of a man on his hands—there was nothing in it. So
he unlocked the handcuffs, dangled them in his fingers debatingly, and
then threw them far out into the bushes, saying, with a leer: "I might
get stuck up by somebody, and if they clamped these on to me it would
make a get-away harder."
"Give me some matches," pleaded the Sergeant.
With this request the Wolf complied saying, "I don't want to do
nothin' mean unless it helps me out of a hole."
Then Jack swung to the saddle and continued on the trail. For four
miles he rode, wondering at the persistence of the muskeg. But now he
had a horse and twenty-four hours ahead before train time; he should
Another four miles, and to the south he could see a line of low
rolling hills that meant the end of the swamps. Even where he rode the
prairie rose and fell, the trail dipping into hollows, on its rise to
sweep over higher land. Perhaps some of these ridges ran right through
the muskegs; but there was no hurry.
Suddenly as the Wolf breasted an upland he saw a man leisurely
cinching a saddle on a buckskin horse.
"Hell!" the Wolf growled as he swung his mount; "that's the buckskin
that I see at the Alberta; that's Bulldog; I don't want no mix-up with
He clattered down to the hollow he had left, and raced for the
hiding screen of the bushed muskeg. He was almost certain Carney had
not seen him, for the other had given no sign; he would wait in the
cover until Carney had gone; perhaps he could keep right on across the
bad lands, for his horse, as yet, sunk but hoof deep. He drew rein in
thick cover and waited.
Suddenly the horse threw up his head, curved his neck backward,
cocked his ears and whinnied. The Wolf could hear a splashing, sucking
sound of hoofs back on the tell-tale trail he had left.
With a curse he drove his spurs into the horse's flanks, and the
startled animal sprang from the cutting rowels, the ooze throwing up in
A dozen yards and the horse stumbled, almost coming to his knees; he
recovered at the lash of Jack's quirt, and struggled on; now going half
the depth of his cannon bones in the yielding muck, he was floundering
like a drunken man; in ten feet his legs went to the knees.
Quirt and spur drove him a few feet; then he lurched heavily, and
with a writhing struggle against the sucking sands stood trembling;
from his spread mouth came a scream of terror—he knew.
And now the Wolf knew. With terrifying dread he remembered—he
had ridden into the "Lakes of the Shifting Sands." This was the country
they were in and he had forgotten. The sweat of fear stood out on the
low forehead; all the tales that he had heard of men who had
disappeared from off the face of the earth, swallowed up in these
quicksands, came back to him with numbing force. To spring from the
horse meant but two or three wallowing strides and then to be sucked
down in the claiming quicksands.
The horse's belly was against the black muck. The Wolf had drawn his
feet up; he gave a cry for help. A voice answered, and twisting his
head about he saw, twenty yards away, Carney on the buckskin. About the
man's thin lips a smile hovered. He sneered:
"You're up against it, Mister Policeman; what name'll I turn in back
Jack knew that it was Carney, and that Carney might know Heath by
sight, so he lied:
"I'm Sergeant Phillips; for God's sake help me out."
Bulldog sneered. "Why should I—God doesn't love a sneaking
The Wolf pleaded, for his horse was gradually sinking; his struggles
now stilled for the beast knew that he was doomed.
"All right," Carney said suddenly. "One condition—never mind,
I'll save you first—there isn't too much time. Now break your
gun, empty the cartridges out and drop it back into the holster," he
commanded. "Unsling your picket line, fasten it under your armpits, and
if I can get my cow-rope to you tie the two together."
He slipped from the saddle and led the horse as far out as he dared,
seemingly having found firmer ground a little to one side. Then taking
his cowrope, he worked his way still farther out, placing his feet on
the tufted grass that stuck up in little mounds through the treacherous
ooze. Then calling, "Look out!" he swung the rope. The Wolf caught it
at the first throw and tied his own to it. Carney worked his way back,
looped the rope over the horn, swung to the saddle, and calling, "Flop
over on your belly—look out!" he started his horse, veritably
towing the Wolf to safe ground.
The rope slacked; the Wolf, though half smothered with muck, drew
his revolver and tried to slip two cartridges into the cylinder.
A sharp voice cried, "Stop that, you swine!" and raising his eyes he
was gazing into Carney's gun. "Come up here on the dry ground," the
latter commanded. "Stand there, unbuckle your belt and let it drop. Now
take ten paces straight ahead." Carney salvaged the weapon and belt of
"Build a fire, quick!" he next ordered, leaning casually against his
horse, one hand resting on the butt of his revolver.
He tossed a couple of dry matches to the Wolf when the latter had
built a little mound of dry poplar twigs and birch bark.
When the fire was going Carney said: "Peel your coat and dry it;
stand close to the fire so your pants dry too—I want that
The Wolf was startled. Was retribution so hot on his trail? Was
Carney about to set him afoot just as he had set afoot Sergeant Heath?
His two hundred dollars and Lucy Black's five hundred were in the
pocket of that coat also. As he took it off he turned it upside down,
hoping for a chance to slip the parcel of money to the ground unnoticed
of his captor.
"Throw the jacket here," Carney commanded; "seems to be papers in
When the coat had been tossed to him, Carney sat down on a fallen
tree, took from it two packets—one of papers, and another wrapped
in strong paper. He opened the papers, reading them with one eye while
with the other he watched the man by the fire. Presently he sneered:
"Say, you're some liar—even for a government hound; your name's
not Phillips, it's Heath. You're the waster who fooled the little girl
at Golden. You're the bounder who came down from the Klondike to gather
Bulldog Carney in; you shot off your mouth all along the line that you
were going to take him singlehanded. You bet a man in Edmonton a
hundred you'd tie him hoof and horn. Well, you lose, for I'm going to
rope you first, see? Turn you over to the Government tied up like a bag
of spuds; that's just what I'm going to do, Sergeant Liar. I'm going to
break you for the sake of that little girl at Golden, for she was my
friend and I'm Bulldog Carney. Soon as that suit is dried a bit you'll
strip and pass it over; then you'll get into my togs and I'm going to
turn you over to the police as Bulldog Carney. D'you get me, kid?"
Carney chuckled. "That'll break you, won't it, Mister Sergeant Heath?
You can't stay in the Force a joke; you'll never live it down if you
live to be a thousand—you've boasted too much."
The Wolf had remained silent—waiting. He had an advantage if
his captor did not know him. Now he was frightened; to be turned in at
Edmonton by Carney was as bad as being taken by Sergeant Heath.
"You can't pull that stuff, Carney," he objected; "the minute I tell
them who I am and who you are they'll grab you too quick. They'll know
me; perhaps some of them'll know you."
A sneering "Ha!" came from between the thin lips of the man on the
log. "Not where we're going they won't, Sergeant. I know a little place
over on the rail"—and he jerked his thumb toward the
west—"where there's two policemen that don't know much of
anything; they've never seen either of us. You ain't been at Edmonton
more'n a couple of months since you came from the Klondike. But they do
know that Bulldog Carney is wanted at Calgary and that there's a
thousand dollars to the man that brings him in."
At this the Wolf pricked his ears; he saw light—a flood of it.
If this thing went through, and he was sent on to Calgary as Bulldog
Carney, he would be turned loose at once as not being the man. The
police at Calgary had cause to know just what Carney looked like for he
had been in their clutches and escaped.
But Jack must bluff—appear to be the angry Sergeant. So he
said: "They'll know me at Calgary, and you'll get hell for this."
Now Carney laughed out joyously. "I don't give a damn if they do.
Can't you get it through your wooden police head that I just want this
little pleasantry driven home so that you're the goat of that nanny
band, the Mounted Police; then you'll send in your papers and go back
to the farm?"
As Carney talked he had opened the paper packet. Now he gave a crisp
"Hello! what have we here?" as a sheaf of bills appeared.
The Wolf had been watching for Carney's eyes to leave him for five
seconds. One hand rested in his trousers pocket. He drew it out and
dropped a knife, treading it into the sand and ashes.
"Seven hundred," Bulldog continued. "Rather a tidy sum for a
policeman to be toting. Is this police money?"
The Wolf hesitated; it was a delicate situation. Jack wanted that
money but a slip might ruin his escape. If Bulldog suspected that Jack
was not a policeman he would jump to the conclusion that he had killed
the owner of the horse and clothes. Also Carney would not believe that
a policeman on duty wandered about with seven hundred in his pocket; if
Jack claimed it all Carney would say he lied and keep it as Government
"Five hundred is Government money I was bringin' in from a post, and
two hundred is my own," he answered.
"I'll keep the Government money," Bulldog said crisply; "the
Government robbed me of my ranch—said I had no title. And I'll
keep yours, too; it's coming to you."
"If luck strings with you, Carney, and you get away with this dirty
trick, what you say'll make good—I'll have to quit the Force; an'
I want to get home down east. Give me a chance; let me have my own two
"I think you're lying—a man in the Force doesn't get two
hundred ahead, not honest. But I'll toss you whether I give you one
hundred or two," Carney said, taking a half dollar from his pocket.
"Call!" and he spun it in the air.
"Heads!" the Wolf cried.
The coin fell tails up. "Here's your hundred," and Bulldog passed
the bills to their owner.
"I see here," he continued, "your order to arrest Bulldog Carney.
Well, you've made good, haven't you. And here's another for Jack the
Wolf; you missed him, didn't you? Where's he—what's he done
lately? He played me a dirty trick once; tipped off the police as to
where they'd get me. I never saw him, but if you could stake me to a
sight of the Wolf I'd give you this six hundred. He's the real hound
that I've got a low down grudge against. What's his
description—what does he look like?"
"He's a tall slim chap—looks like a breed, 'cause he's got
nigger blood in him," the Wolf lied.
"I'll get him some day," Carney said; "and now them duds are about
The Wolf stripped, gray shirt and all.
"Now step back fifteen paces while I make my toilet," Carney
commanded, toying with his 6-gun in the way of emphasis.
In two minutes he was transformed into Sergeant Heath of the
N.W.M.P., revolver belt and all. He threw his own clothes to the Wolf,
and lighted his pipe.
When Jack had dressed Carney said: "I saved your life, so I don't
want you to make me throw it away again. I don't want a muss when I
turn you over to the police in the morning. There ain't much chance
they'd listen to you if you put up a holler that you were Sergeant
Heath—they'd laugh at you, but if they did make a break at me
there's be shooting, and you'd sure be plumb in line of a careless
bullet—see? I'm going to stay close to you till you're on that
Of course that was just what the Wolf wanted; to go down the line as
Bulldog Carney, handcuffed to a policeman, would be like a passport for
Jack the Wolf. Nobody would even speak to him—the policeman would
see to that.
"You're dead set on putting this crazy thing through, are you?" he
"You bet I am—I'd rather work this racket than go to my own
"Well, so's you won't think your damn threat to shoot keeps me mum,
I'll just tell you that if you get that far with it I ain't going to
give myself away. You've called the turn, Carney; I'd be a joke even if
I only got as far as the first barracks a prisoner. If I go in as
Bulldog Carney I won't come out as Sergeant Heath—I'll disappear
as Mister Somebody. I'm sick of the Force anyway. They'll never know
what happened toSergeant Heath from me—I couldn't stand the
guying. But if I ever stack up against you, Carney, I'll kill you for
it." This last was pure bluff—for fear Carney's suspicions might
be aroused by the other's ready compliance.
Carney scowled; then he laughed, sneering: "I've heard women talk
like that in the dance halls. You cook some bacon and tea at that
fire—then we'll pull out."
As the Wolf knelt beside the fire to blow the embers into a blaze he
found a chance to slip the knife he had buried into his pocket.
When they had eaten they took the trail, heading south to pass the
lower end of the great muskegs. Carney rode the buckskin, and the Wolf
strode along in front, his mind possessed of elation at the prospect of
being helped out of the country, and depression over the loss of his
money. Curiously the loss of his own one hundred seemed a greater
enormity than that of the school teacher's five hundred. That money had
been easily come by, but he had toiled a month for the hundred. What
right had Carney to steal his labor—to rob a workman. As they
plugged along mile after mile, a fierce determination to get the money
back took possession of Jack. If he could get it he could get the
horse. He would fix Bulldog some way so that the latter would not stop
him. He must have the clothes, too. The khaki suit obsessed him; it was
a red flag to his hot mind.
They spelled and ate in the early evening; and when they started for
another hour's tramp Carney tied his cow-rope tightly about the Wolf's
waist, saying: "If you'd tried to cut out in these gloomy hills I'd be
peeved. Just keep that line taut in front of the buckskin and there
won't be no argument."
In an hour Carney called a halt, saying: "We'll camp by this bit of
water, and hit the trail in the early morning. We ain't more than ten
miles from steel, and we'll make some place before train time."
Carney had both the police picket line and his own. He drove a
picket in the ground, looped the line that was about the Wolf's waist
over it, and said.
"I don't want to be suspicious of a mate jumping me in the dark, so
I'll sleep across this line and you'll keep to the other end of it; if
you so much as wink at it I guess I'll wake. I've got a bad conscience
and sleep light. We'll build a fire and you'll keep to the other side
of it same's we were neighbors in a city and didn't know each
Twice, as they ate, Carney caught a sullen, vicious look in Jack's
eyes. It was as clearly a murder look as he had ever seen; and more
than once he had faced eyes that thirsted for his life. He wondered at
the psychology of it; it was not like his idea of Sergeant Heath. From
what he had been told of that policeman he had fancied him a vain,
swaggering chap who had had his ego fattened by the three stripes on
his arm. He determined to take a few extra precautions, for he did not
wish to lie awake.
"We'll turn in," he said when they had eaten; "I'll hobble you,
same's a shy cayuse, for fear you'd walk in your sleep, Sergeant."
He bound the Wolf's ankles, and tied his wrists behind his back,
saying, as he knotted the rope, "What the devil did you do with your
handcuffs—thought you johnnies always had a pair in your
"They were in the saddle holster and went down with my horse," the
Carney's nerves were of steel, his brain worked with exquisite
precision. When it told him there was nothing to fear, that his
precautions had made all things safe, his mind rested, untortured by
jerky nerves; so in five minutes he slept.
The Wolf mastered his weariness and lay awake, waiting to carry out
the something that had been in his mind. Six hundred dollars was a
stake to play for; also clad once again in the police suit, with the
buckskin to carry him to the railroad, he could get away; money was
always a good thing to bribe his way through. Never once had he put his
hand in the pocket where lay the knife he had secreted at the time he
had changed clothes with Carney, as he trailed hour after hour in front
of the buckskin. He knew that Carney was just the cool-nerved man that
would sleep—not lie awake through fear over nothing.
In the way of test he shuffled his feet and drew from the half-dried
grass a rasping sound. It partly disturbed the sleeper; he changed the
steady rhythm of his breathing; he even drew a heavy-sighing breath;
had he been lying awake watching the Wolf he would have stilled his
breathing to listen.
The Wolf waited until the rhythmic breaths of the sleeper told that
he had lapsed again into the deeper sleep. Slowly, silently the Wolf
worked his hands to the side pocket, drew out the knife and cut the
cords that bound his wrists. It took time, for he worked with caution.
Then he waited. The buckskin, his nose deep in the grass, blew the
pollen of the flowered carpet from his nostrils.
Carney stirred and raised his head. The buckskin blew through his
nostrils again, ending with a luxurious sigh of content; then was heard
the clip-clip of his strong teeth scything the grass. Carney,
recognizing what had waked him, turned over and slept again.
Ten minutes, and the Wolf, drawing up his feet slowly, silently,
sawed through the rope on his ankles. Then with spread fingers he
searched the grass for a stone the size of a goose egg, beside which he
had purposely lain down. When his fingers touched it he unknotted the
handkerchief that had been part of Carney's make-up and which was now
about his neck, and in one corner tied the stone, fastening the other
end about his wrist. Now he had a slung shot that with one blow would
render the other man helpless.
Then he commenced his crawl.
A pale, watery, three-quarter moon had climbed listlessly up the
eastern sky changing the sombre prairie into a vast spirit land,
draping With ghostly garments bush and shrub.
Purposely Carney had tethered the buckskin down wind from where he
and the Wolf lay. Jack had not read anything out of this action, but
Carney knew the sensitive wariness of his horse, the scent of the
stranger in his nostrils would keep him restless, and any unusual move
on the part of the prisoner would agitate the buckskin. Also he had
only pretended to drive the picket pin at some distance away; in the
dark he had trailed it back and worked it into the loose soil at his
very feet. This was more a move of habitual care than a belief that the
bound man could work his way, creeping and rolling, to the picket-pin,
pull it, and get away with the horse.
At the Wolf's first move the buckskin threw up his head, and, with
ears cocked forward, studied the shifting blurred shadow. Perhaps it
was the scent of his master's clothes which the Wolf wore that agitated
his mind, that cast him to wondering whether his master was moving
about; or, perhaps as animals instinctively have a nervous dread of a
vicious man he distrusted the stranger; perhaps, in the dim uncertain
light, his prairie dread came back to him and he thought it a wolf that
had crept into camp. He took a step forward; then another, shaking his
head irritably. A vibration trembled along the picket line that now lay
across Carney's foot and he stirred restlessly.
The Wolf flattened himself to earth and snored. Five minutes he
waited, cursing softly the restless horse. Then again he moved, so
slowly that even the watchful animal scarce detected it.
He was debating two plans: a swift rush and a swing of his slung
shot, or the silent approach. The former meant inevitably the death of
one or the other—the crushed skull of Carney, or, if the latter
were by any chance awake, a bullet through the Wolf. He could feel his
heart pounding against the turf as he scraped along, inch by inch. A
bare ten feet, and he could put his hand on the butt of Carney's gun
and snatch it from the holster; if he missed, then the slung shot.
The horse, roused, was growing more restless, more inquisitive.
Sometimes he took an impatient snap at the grass with his teeth; but
only to throw his head up again, take a step forward, shake his head,
and exhale a whistling breath.
Now the Wolf had squirmed his body five feet forward. Another yard
and he could reach the pistol; and there was no sign that Carney had
wakened—just the steady breathing of a sleeping man.
The Wolf lay perfectly still for ten seconds, for the buckskin
seemingly had quieted; he was standing, his head low hung, as if he
slept on his feet. Carney's face was toward the creeping man and was in
shadow. Another yard and now slowly the Wolf gathered his legs under
him till he rested like a sprinter ready for a spring; his left hand
crept forward toward the pistol stock that was within reach; the
stone-laden handkerchief was twisted about the two first fingers of his
Yes, Carney slept.
As the Wolf's finger tips slid along the pistol butt the wrist was
seized in fingers of steel, he was twisted almost face to earth, and
the butt of Carney's own gun, in the latter's right hand, clipped him
over the eye and he slipped into dreamland. When he came to workmen
were riveting a boiler in the top of his head; somebody with an augur
was boring a hole in his forehead; he had been asleep for ages and had
wakened in a strange land. He sat up groggily and stared vacantly at a
man who sat beside a camp fire smoking a pipe. Over the camp fire a
copper kettle hung and a scent of broiling bacon came to his nostrils.
The man beside the fire took the pipe from his mouth and said: "I hoped
I had cracked your skull, you swine. Where did you pick up that thug
trick of a stone in the handkerchief? As you are troubled with insomnia
we'll hit the trail again."
With the picket line around his waist once more Jack trudged ahead
of the buckskin, in the night gloom the shadowy cavalcade cutting a
strange, weird figure as though a boat were being towed across sleeping
The Wolf, groggy from the blow that had almost cracked his skull,
was wobbly on his legs—his feet were heavy as though he wore a
diver's leaden boots. As he waded through a patch of wild rose the
briars clung to his legs, and, half dazed he cried out, thinking he
struggled in the shifting sands.
"Shut up!" The words clipped from the thin lips of the rider
They dipped into a hollow and the played-out man went half to his
knees in the morass. A few lurching steps and overstrained nature
broke; he collapsed like a jointed doll—he toppled head first
into the mire and lay there.
The buckskin plunged forward in the treacherous going, and the bag
of a man was skidded to firm ground by the picket line, where he sat
wiping the mud from his face, and looking very all in.
Carney slipped to the ground and stood beside his captive. "You're
soft, my bucko—I knew Sergeant Heath had a yellow streak," he
sneered; "boasters generally have. I guess we'll rest till daylight.
I've a way of hobbling a bad man that'll hold you this time, I
He drove the picket-pin of the rope that tethered the buckskin, and
ten feet away he drove the other picket pin. He made the Wolf lie on
his side and fastened him by a wrist to each peg so that one arm was
behind and one in front.
Carney chuckled as he surveyed the spread-eagle man: "You'll find
some trouble getting out of that, my bucko; you can't get your hands
together and you can't get your teeth at either rope. Now I will have a
The Wolf was in a state of half coma; even untethered he probably
would have slept like a log; and Carney was tired; he, too, slumbered,
the soft stealing gray of the early morning not bringing him back out
of the valley of rest till a glint of sunlight throwing over the
prairie grass touched his eyes, and the warmth gradually pushed the
He rose, built a fire, and finding water made a pot of tea. Then he
saddled the buckskin, and untethered the Wolf, saying: "We'll eat a
bite and pull out."
The rest and sleep had refreshed the Wolf, and he plodded on in
front of the buckskin feeling that though his money was gone his
chances of escape were good.
At eight o'clock the square forms of log shacks leaning groggily
against a sloping hill came into view; it was Hobbema; and, swinging a
little to the left, in an hour they were close to the Post.
Carney knew where the police shack lay, and skirting the town he
drew up in front of a log shack, an iron-barred window at the end
proclaiming it was the Barracks. He slipped from the saddle, dropped
the rein over his horse's head, and said quietly to the Wolf: "Knock on
the door, open it, and step inside," the muzzle of his gun emphasizing
He followed close at the Wolf's heels, standing in the open door as
the latter entered. He had expected to see perhaps one, not more than
two constables, but at a little square table three men in khaki sat
"Good morning, gentlemen," Carney said cheerily; "I've brought you a
prisoner, Bulldog Carney."
The one who sat at table with his back to the door turned his head
at this; then he sprang to his feet, peered into the prisoner's face
"Bulldog nothing, Sergeant; you've bagged the Wolf.
The speaker thrust his face almost into the Wolf's. "Where's my
uniform—where's my horse? I've got you now—set me afoot to
starve, would you, you damn thief—you murderer! Where's the five
hundred dollars you stole from the little teacher at Fort Victor?"
He was trembling with passion; words flew from his lips like bullets
from a gatling—it was a torrent.
But fast as the accusation had come, into Carney's quick mind
flashed the truth—the speaker was Sergeant Heath. The game was
up. Still it was amusing. What a devilish droll blunder he had made.
His hands crept quietly to his two guns, the police gun in the belt and
his own beneath the khaki coat.
Also the Wolf knew his game was up. His blood surged hot at the
thought that Carney's meddling had trapped him. He was caught, but the
author of his evil luck should not escape.
"That's Bulldog Carney!" he cried fiercely; "don't let him get
Startled, the two constables at the table sprang to their feet.
A sharp, crisp voice said: "The first man that reaches for a gun
drops." They were covered by two guns held in the steady hands of the
man whose small gray eyes watched from out narrowed lids.
"I'll make you a present of the Wolf," Carney said quietly; "I
thought I had Sergeant Heath. I could almost forgive this man, if he
weren't such a skunk, for doing the job for me. Now I want you chaps to
pass, one by one, into the pen," and he nodded toward a heavy wooden
door that led from the room they were in to the other room that had
been fitted up as a cell. "I see your carbines and gunbelts on the
rack—you really should have been properly in uniform by this
time; I'll dump them out on the prairie somewhere, and you'll find them
in the course of a day or so. Step in, boys, and you go first,
When the four men had passed through the door Carney dropped the
heavy wooden bar into place, turned the key in the padlock, gathered up
the fire arms, mounted the buckskin, and rode into the west.
A week later the little school teacher at Fort Victor received
through the mail a packet that contained five hundred dollars, and this
DEAR MISS BLACK:—
I am sending you the five hundred dollars that you bet on a bad man. No
woman can afford to bet on even a good man. Stick to the kids, for I've
heard they love you. If those Indians hadn't picked up Sergeant Heath
and got him to Hobbema before I got away with your money I wouldn't
have known, and you'd have lost out.