Chapter Twenty-Two

Later in the morning Dick attempted some remark on the subject of the girl's presence. At once Sam whirled on him with a gust of passion utterly unlike his ordinary deliberate and even habit.

"Shut your damned mouth!" he fairly shouted.

Dick whistled in what he thought was a new enlightenment, and followed literally the other's vigorous advice. Not a syllable did he utter for an hour, by which time the sun had risen. Then he stopped and pointed to a fresh trail converging into that they were following.

The prints of two pairs of snow-shoes joined; those of one returned.

Sam gasped. Dick looked ironical. The interpretation was plain without the need of words. The Chippewa and the girl, although they had started to the southeast, had made a long detour in order again to reach Jingoss. These two pairs of snow-shoe tracks marked where they had considered it safe again to strike into the old trail made by the Chippewa in going and coming. The one track showed where Ah-tek had pushed on to rejoin his friend; the other was that of the girl returning for some reason the night before, perhaps to throw them off the scent.

"Looks as if they'd fooled you, and fooled you good," said Dick, cheerfully.

For a single instant doubt drowned Sam's faith in his own insight and in human nature.

"Dick," said he, quietly, "raise your eyes."

Not five rods farther on the trail the two had camped for the night. Evidently Ah-tek had discovered his detour to have lasted out the day, and, having satisfied himself that his and his friend's enemies were not ahead of him, he had called a halt. The snow had been scraped away, the little fire built, the ground strewn with boughs. So far the indications were plain and to be read at a glance. But upright in the snow were two snow-shoes, and tumbled on the ground was bedding.

Instantly the two men leaped forward. May-may-gwan, her face stolid and expressionless, but her eyes glowing, stood straight and motionless by the dogs. Together they laid hold of the smoothly spread top blanket and swept it aside. Beneath was a jumble of warmer bedding. In it, his fists clenched, his eyes half open in the horrific surprise of a sudden calling, lay the Chippewa stabbed to the heart.