Chapter XV. Dave's Unwelcome Visitor
 

For several weeks after that nothing more was seen or heard of Jean Bevoir and his party. More than once James Morris questioned the frontiersmen and Indians in a roundabout manner, asking if they had met any strangers, but the replies were largely in the negative. White Buffalo had once run across a small band of Shawanoes, who had said they would later on come to the post to trade, but that was all.

"Perhaps, after all, Bevoir thought best to move away from this district," said Dave to his parent.

"No, the rascal is not to be gotten rid of so readily," was the answer. "Even if he does not build a post, he will loiter around in the shade until he gets the chance to do me some injury."

There was now a promise of snow in the air, and a few days later the ground was covered to the depth of an inch or more. This made tracking game good, and without delay the frontiersmen and Indians set off to see what they might bring in. As a consequence Dave and Mr. Morris were left at the post alone.

"I am glad the snow held off so long," said James Morris. "Henry and Barringford must be home by this time--or else close to it."

"If no accidents befell them," said the son.

With the men and Indians away, it was rather lonely around the post for Dave. But there was plenty to do, and the youth kept himself well employed from sunrise to sunset. Occasionally he went fishing in the river with fair success. The log house was made as comfortable as possible, and both worked hard over the stable, that the horses might not suffer when the winter set in in earnest.

Extra timbers had been cut at the top of the hill, back of the trading-post, and when another fall of snow came, James Morris decided to slide these down to where he wanted them.

"If you need me, just call or fire a gun," he said, one morning, and then set off up the hill, taking a team of the strongest horses with him.

After his father was gone Dave took a walk around the post, cleaned some fish he expected to fry for dinner, and looked after the remaining horses. Not a soul appeared to be in sight, and for a little while he felt very lonely indeed. But soon he broke into a cheery whistle, which served to raise his spirits.

"We'll be busy enough as soon as the hunters and trappers begin to bring in their game," he thought. "I hope we do a good business and make some money. Being a soldier didn't pay very handsomely,--and this war has cost father a neat penny."

Returning to the log house from the barn, he was surprised to find the main door wide open. He felt certain that he had closed it on coming away.

"Father, are you there?" he called out, striding forward.

There was no answer, but a second later came a crashing of glass, and looking into the main room of the post he saw Jacques Valette sprawled out on a puncheon bench, with a jug of liquor in his arms and a broken tumbler lying on the floor before him.

"What do you want here?" demanded Dave indignantly.

For the moment Jacques Valette did not answer, but glared at the youth in an uncertain fashion,

"Why do you ask me questions?" he queried in French, and with several hiccoughs.

"Let that liquor alone," went on Dave, now realizing that the French hunter and trapper was more than half intoxicated. "Let it alone, I say!" And he tried to force the jug from Valette's grasp. "Want a drink!" shouted the man, holding tight. "Want a drink! Get me--me some more glass, boy!"

"I will not. Let the jug alone," and now Dave got it in his possession and put it on a high shelf, out of the Frenchman's reach.

With a frightful imprecation in his native tongue Jacques Valette staggered to his feet. He made a clutch for Dave's right ear, but the youth eluded him. Then, in turning, he went sprawling over the puncheon bench, and his head struck the floor, while his feet stuck up in the air.

It was a comical sight, but Dave did not laugh. He realized that he had an ugly customer with whom to deal. He well knew how utterly lawless some of these wild hunters and trappers were when half full of liquor, and knew that they would do almost anything to get more drink with which to finish their debauch. Running to the doorway, he called loudly for his father.

"Stop your noise!" shouted Jacques Valette. "Stop, or I make big trouble!" And he shook his fist at Dave. He was on his feet once more, swaying unsteadily from side to side.

"I want you to go," answered Dave. "Go, do you hear?"

"Give me the jug and I go."

[Illustration: "Let go!" cried Dave. "Let go, I say!"]

"Not a drop. You have had too much already."

"Only haf one glass. Give the jug, like good fellow."

So speaking, Valette lurched over to the shelf and started to bring down the jug once more. But ere he could do so, Dave had him by the arm and was hauling him backward.

In a great rage at being thus thwarted, Jacques Valette began to struggle with the youth. He was a powerful fellow, and for several minutes it looked as if he would get the better of Dave. His hold was a good one, and soon he threw the youth to the floor and held him there.

"Let go!" cried Dave. "Let go, I say!" and did his best to wrench himself free.

It was in the midst of this struggle that James Morris rushed in, having heard Dave's loud cry for assistance. He took in the situation at a glance, and bending down, struck Valette on the side of the head.

"You brute, let my son go!"

Bewildered by the blow, the half-intoxicated Frenchman fell back and Dave staggered to his feet, panting for breath. Valette had caught him by the throat, and the marks of his fingers were still visible.

"What does this mean?" demanded Mr. Morris, after a pause, in which the youth did his best to get back his breath.

In a few words Dave explained. While he was talking, Jacques Valette managed to rise to his feet. If he had been angry before, he was doubly so now. He felt for his pistol, but, luckily, the weapon was gone.

"Ha! you take my pistol," he cried. "Gif it back to me."

"I haven't your pistol," said Dave. "You didn't have one."

"I did. I want it back," growled Jacques Valette.

"You'll get no pistol here," put in James Morris. "You have no right to come to my post and raise a disturbance, and attack my son."

"I want some rum. I pay," returned the Frenchman. "I haf English money--plenty, too!"

With a leer, he put one hand into his outer garment and felt around in a pocket. Then he felt in his other pockets.

"Ha! the money, it is gone!" he cried. "You take my money too! This is the coup de grace truly But, a l'Anglaise!"

"It is not after the English fashion," put in Dave, who understood the French fairly well. "We are honest people here, and, as my father says, you have no right to come here and raise a quarrel."

"The money--all gone!" muttered Jacques Valette. The loss appeared to sober him for a moment. "Fifteen pounds, ten shillings--all gone!"

"Do you mean to say you had fifteen pounds and ten shillings?" questioned James Morris.

The French hunter and trapper nodded. "Oui! oui!"

"And you haven't it now?"

Jacques Valette shrugged his shoulders. "Not a shilling! All is gone! You haf it!" And he shook his hand in Dave's face.

"Don't dare to accuse my son of theft!" exclaimed James Morris angrily. "He has nothing of yours."

A perfect war of words followed. Jacques Valette insisted that, on coming to the post, he had had a pistol and the money mentioned. As they were now gone he felt certain that Dave had taken them. He could not or would not tell where he had been previous to his journey to James Morris' place.

"You lost them before you came here, that is certain," said James Morris. "I want no more from you. Get out!" And he forced the Frenchman to leave. Jacques Valette walked away slowly, muttering all sorts of imprecations in French under his breath.

"He'll try to make us trouble for this," observed Dave, after the unwelcome visitor had gone.

"I have no doubt but that you are right, son." answered James Morris. "Let us hunt around and see if he dropped his pistol and money anywhere in this vicinity."

A thorough hunt was made, but nothing was found which looked as if it might belong to the Frenchman. Half an hour later it began to snow once more, and soon the tracks made by Jacques Valette were covered up.

"After this I am going to keep the gates barred when we are alone," said James Morris. "I'll hang the horn outside, so anybody who wants to get in can blow." And this was done.

Getting the timbers down the hillside proved no light task, and often Dave went out to aid his father, for they could easily hear the horn at the gate from a great distance. They had also to get in extra firewood for the winter, which promised now to be unusually severe.

It was almost Christmas time before the hunters and trappers who had gone out began to come in with their furs. Among the first to arrive were Lukins and Sanderson, who had managed to bring down a large variety of animals, including two large bears, the pelts of which were worth considerable. These trappers were followed by Jadwin, who had not fared so well, having lost some of his game in the river, and then came White Buffalo and his men, who had been more successful than any of the others. In those days the post became a bustling place, and it really looked as if James Morris' venture would prove a money-making one. He gave fair value for all that was brought to him, and whites and Indians declared themselves well satisfied with their dealings.