"At present he is very loyal, sir,--too loyal almost," said Cameron in a doubtful tone. "Duck Lake sent some of his young men off their heads a bit, and Frog Lake even more. The Sarcees went wild over Frog Lake, you know." "Oh, I don't worry about the Sarcees so much. What of Crowfoot?" "Well, he has managed to hold down his younger Chiefs so far. He made light of the Frog Lake affair, but he was most anxious to get from me the fullest particulars of the Duck Lake fight. He made careful inquiries as to just how many Police were in the fight. I could see that it gave him a shock to learn that the Police had to retire. This was a new experience for him. He was intensely anxious to learn also--though he would not allow himself to appear so--just what the Government was doing." "And what are the last reports from headquarters? You see I have not been kept fully in touch. I know that the Commissioner has gone north to Prince Albert and that General Middleton has taken command of the forces in the West and has gone North with them from Qu'Appelle, but what troops he has I have not heard." "I understand," replied Cameron, "that he has three regiments of infantry from Toronto and three from Winnipeg, with the Winnipeg Field Battery. A regiment from Quebec has arrived and one from Montreal and there are more to follow. The plan of campaign I know nothing about." "Ah, well," replied the Superintendent, "I know something about the plan, I believe. There are three objective points, Prince Albert and Battleford, both of which are now closely besieged, and Edmonton, which is threatened with a great body of rebel Crees and Salteaux under leadership of Little Pine and Big Bear. The Police at these points can hardly be expected to hold out long against the overwhelming numbers that are besieging them, and I expect that relief columns will be immediately dispatched. Now, in regard to this district here, do you know what is being done?" "Well, General Strange has come in from his ranch and has offered his services in raising a local force." "Yes, I was glad to hear that his offer had been accepted and that he has been appointed to lead an expeditionary force from here to Edmonton. He is an experienced officer and I am sure will do us fine service. I hope to see him to-morrow. Now, about the South," continued the Superintendent, "what about Fort Macleod?" "The Superintendent there has offered himself and his whole force for service in the North, but General Middleton, I understand, has asked him to remain where he is and keep guard in this part of the country." "Good! I am glad of that. In my judgment this country holds the key. The Crees I do not fear so much. They are more restless and uncertain, but God help us if the Blackfeet and the Bloods rise! That is why I called for volunteers to-night. We cannot afford to be without a strong force here a single day." "I gathered that you got some volunteers to-night. I hope, sir," said Cameron, "you will have a place for me in your troop?" "My dear fellow, nothing would please me better, I assure you," said the Superintendent cordially. "And as proof of my confidence in you I am going to send you through the South country to recruit men for my troop. I can rely upon your judgment and tact. But as for you, you cannot leave your present beat. The Sun Dance Trail cannot be abandoned for one hour. From it you keep an eye upon the secret movements of all the tribes in this whole region and you can do much to counteract if not to wholly check any hostile movement that may arise. Indeed, you have already done more than any one will ever know to hold this country safe during these last months. And you must stay where you are. Remember, Cameron," added the Superintendent impressively, "your work lies along the Sun Dance Trail. On no account and for no reason must you be persuaded to abandon that post. I shall get into touch with General Strange to-morrow and shall doubtless get something to do, but if possible I should like you to give me a day or two for this recruiting business before you take up again your patrol work along the Sun Dance." "Very well, sir," replied Cameron quietly, trying hard to keep the disappointment out of his voice. "I shall do my best." "That is right," said the Superintendent. "By the way, what are the Piegans doing?" "The Piegans," replied Cameron, "are industriously stealing cattle and horses. I cannot quite make out just how they can manage to get away with them. Eagle Feather is apparently running the thing, but there is someone bigger than Eagle Feather in the game. An additional month or two in the guardroom would have done that gentleman no harm." "Ah, has he been in the guard-room? How did he get there?" "Oh, I pulled him out of the Sun Dance, where I found he had been killing cattle, and the Superintendent at Macleod gave him two months to meditate upon his crimes." Superintendent Strong expressed his satisfaction. "But now he is at his old habits again," continued Cameron. "But his is not the brain planning these raids. They are cleverly done and are getting serious. For instance, I must have lost a score or two of steers within the last three months." "A score or two?" exclaimed the Superintendent. "What are they doing with them all?" "That is what I find difficult to explain. Either they are running them across the border--though the American Police know nothing of it--or they are making pemmican." "Pemmican? Aha! that looks serious," said the Superintendent gravely. "Yes, indeed," said Cameron. "It makes me think that some one bigger than Eagle Feather is at the bottom of all this cattle- running. Sometimes I have thought that perhaps that chap Raven has a hand in it." "Raven?" exclaimed the Superintendent. "He has brain enough and nerve in plenty for any dare-devil exploit." "But," continued Cameron in a hesitating voice, "I cannot bring myself to lay this upon him." "Why not?" inquired the Superintendent sharply. "He is a cool hand and desperate. I know his work fairly well. He is a first-class villain." "Yes, I know he is all that, and yet--well--in this rebellion, sir, I believe he is with us and against them." In proof of this Cameron proceeded to relate the story of Raven's visit to the Big Horn Ranch. "So you see," he concluded, "he would not care to work in connection with the Piegans just now." "I don't know about that--I don't know about that," replied the Superintendent. "Of course he would not work against us directly, but he might work for himself in this crisis. It would furnish him with a good opportunity, you see. It would give him plenty of cover." "Yes, that is true, but still--I somehow cannot help liking the chap." "Liking the chap?" echoed the Superintendent. "He is a cold- blooded villain and cattle-thief, a murderer, as you know. If ever I get my hand on him in this rumpus-- Why, he's an outlaw pure and simple! I have no use for that kind of man at all. I should like to hang him!" The Superintendent was indignant at the suggestion that any but the severest measures should be meted out to a man of Raven's type. It was the instinct and training of the Police officer responsible for the enforcement of law and order in the land moving within him. "But," continued the Superintendent, "let us get back to our plans. There must be a strong force raised in this district immediately. We have the kind of men best suited for the work all about us in this ranching country, and I know that if you ride south throughout the ranges you can bring me back fifty men, and there would be no finer anywhere." "I shall do what I can, sir," replied Cameron, "but I am not sure about the fifty men." Long they talked over the plans, till it was far past midnight, when Cameron took his leave and returned to his hotel. He put up his own horse, looking after his feeding and bedding. "You have some work to do, Ginger, for your Queen and country to-morrow, and you must be fit," he said as he finished rubbing the horse down. And Ginger had work to do, but not that planned for him by his master, as it turned out. At the door of the Royal Hotel, Cameron found waiting him in the shadow a tall slim Indian youth. "Hello!" said Cameron. "Who are you and what do you want?" As the youth stepped into the light there came to Cameron a dim suggestion of something familiar about the lad, not so much in his face as in his figure and bearing. "Who are you?" said Cameron again somewhat impatiently. The young man pulled up his trouser leg and showed a scarred ankle. "Ah! Now I get you. You are the young Piegan?" "Not" said the youth, throwing back his head with a haughty movement. "No Piegan." "Ah, no, of course. Onawata's son, eh?" The lad grunted. "What do you want?" inquired Cameron. The young man stood silent, evidently finding speech difficult. "Eagle Feather," at length he said, "Little Thunder--plenty Piegan-- run much cattle." He made a sweeping motion with his arm to indicate the extent of the cattle raid proposed. "They do, eh? Come in, my boy." The boy shook his head and drew back. He shared with all wild things the fear of inclosed places. "Are you hungry?" The boy nodded his head. "Come with me." Together they walked down the street and came to a restaurant. "Come in and eat. It is all right," said Cameron, offering his hand. The Indian took the offered hand, laid it upon his heart, then for a full five seconds with his fierce black eye he searched Cameron's face. Satisfied, he motioned Cameron to enter and followed close on his heel. Never before had the lad been within four walls. "Eat," said Cameron when the ordered meal was placed before them. The lad was obviously ravenous and needed no further urging. "How long since you left the reserve?" inquired Cameron. The youth held up three fingers. "Good going," said Cameron, letting his eye run down the lines of the Indian's lithe figure. "Smoke?" inquired Cameron when the meal was finished. The lad's eye gleamed, but he shook his head. "No pipe, eh?" said Cameron. "Come, we will mend that. Here, John," he said to the Chinese waiter, "bring me a pipe. There," said Cameron, passing the Indian the pipe after filling it, "smoke away." After another swift and searching look the lad took the pipe from Cameron's hand and with solemn gravity began to smoke. It was to him far more than a mere luxurious addendum to his meal. It was a solemn ceremonial sealing a compact of amity between them. "Now, tell me," said Cameron, when the smoke had gone on for some time. Slowly and with painful difficulty the youth told his story in terse, brief sentences. "T'ree day," he began, holding up three fingers, "me hear Eagle Feather--many Piegans--talk--talk--talk. Go fight--keel--keel-- keel all white man, squaw, papoose." "When?" inquired Cameron, keeping his face steady. "Come Cree runner--soon." "You mean they are waiting for a runner from the North?" inquired Cameron. "If the Crees win the fight then the Piegans will rise? Is that it?" The Indian nodded. "Come Cree Indian--then Piegan fight." "They will not rise until the runner comes, eh?" "No." Cameron breathed more easily. "Is that all?" he inquired carelessly. "This day Eagle Feather run much cattle--beeg--beeg run." The young man again swept the room with his arm. "Bah! Eagle Feather is no good. He is an old squaw," said Cameron. "Huh!" agreed the Indian quickly. "Little Thunder go too." "Little Thunder, eh?" said Cameron, controlling his voice with an effort. The lad nodded, his piercing eye upon Cameron's face. For some minutes Cameron smoked quietly. "And Onawata?" With startling suddenness he shot out the question. Not a line of the Indian's face moved. He ignored the question, smoking steadily and looking before him. "Ah, it is a strange way for Onawata to repay the white man's kindness to his son," said Cameron. The contemptuous voice pierced the Indian's armor of impassivity. Cameron caught the swift quiver in the face that told that his stab had reached the quick. There is nothing in the Indian's catalogue of crimes so base as the sin of ingratitude. "Onawata beeg Chief--beeg Chief," at length the boy said proudly. "He do beeg--beeg t'ing." "Yes, he steals my cattle," said Cameron with stinging scorn. "No!" replied the Indian sharply. "Little Thunder--Eagle Feather steal cattle--Onawata no steal." "I am glad to hear it, then," said Cameron. "This is a big run of cattle, eh?" "Yes--beeg--beeg run." Again the Indian's arm swept the room. "What will they do with all those cattle?" inquired Cameron. But again the Indian ignored his question and remained silently smoking. "Why does the son of Onawata come to me?" inquired Cameron. A soft and subtle change transformed the boy's face. He pulled up his trouser leg and, pointing to the scarred ankle, said: "You' squaw good--me two leg--me come tell you take squaw 'way far-- no keel. Take cattle 'way--no steal." He rose suddenly to his feet. "Me go now," he said, and passed out. "Hold on!" cried Cameron, following him out to the door. "Where are you going to sleep to-night?" The boy waved his hand toward the hills surrounding the little town. "Here," said Cameron, emptying his tobacco pouch into the boy's hand. "I will tell my squaw that Onawata's son is not ungrateful, that he remembered her kindness and has paid it back to me." For the first time a smile broke on the grave face of the Indian. He took Cameron's hand, laid it upon his own heart, and then on Cameron's. "You' squaw good--good--much good." He appeared to struggle to find other words, but failing, and with a smile still lingering upon his handsome face, he turned abruptly away and glided silent as a shadow into the starlit night. Cameron watched him out of sight. "Not a bad sort," he said to himself as he walked toward the hotel. "Pretty tough thing for him to come here and give away his dad's scheme like that--and I bet you he is keen on it himself too." CHAPTER XVIII AN OUTLAW, BUT A MAN The news brought by the Indian lad changed for Cameron all his plans. This cattle-raid was evidently a part of and preparation for the bigger thing, a general uprising and war of extermination on the part of the Indians. From his recent visit to the reserves he was convinced that the loyalty of even the great Chiefs was becoming somewhat brittle and would not bear any sudden strain put upon it. A successful raid of cattle such as was being proposed escaping the notice of the Police, or in the teeth of the Police, would have a disastrous effect upon the prestige of the whole Force, already shaken by the Duck Lake reverse. The effect of that skirmish was beyond belief. The victory of the half-breeds was exaggerated in the wildest degree. He must act and act quickly.
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