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   Chapter 2 No.2

The Golden Snare By James Oliver Curwood Characters: 6137

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The process of mental induction occasionally does not pause to reason its way, but leaps to an immediate and startling finality, which, by reason of its very suddenness, is for a space like the shock of a sudden blow. After that one gasp of amazement Philip made no sound. He spoke no word to Pierre. In a sudden lull of the wind sweeping over the cabin the ticking of his watch was like the beating of a tiny drum. Then, slowly, his eyes rose from the silken thread in his fingers and met Pierre's. Each knew what the other was thinking. If the hair had been black. If it had been brown. Even had it been of the coarse red of the blond Eskimo of the upper Mackenzie! But it was gold-shimmering gold.

Still without speaking, Philip drew a knife from his pocket and cut the shining thread above the second knot, and worked at the finely wrought weaving of the silken filaments until a tress of hair, crinkled and waving, lay on the table before them. If he had possessed a doubt, it was gone now. He could not remember where he had ever seen just that colored gold in a woman's hair. Probably he had, at one time or another. It was not red gold. It possessed no coppery shades and lights as it rippled there in the lamp glow. It was flaxen, and like spun silk-so fine that, as he looked at it, he marveled at the patience that had woven it into a snare. Again he looked at Pierre. The same question was in their eyes.

"It must be-that Bram has a woman with him," said Pierre.

"It must be," said Philip. "Or-"

That final word, its voiceless significance, the inflection which Philip gave to it as he gazed at Pierre, stood for the one tremendous question which, for a space, possessed the mind of each. Pierre shrugged his shoulders. He could not answer it. And as he shrugged his shoulders he shivered, and at a sudden blast of the wind against the cabin door he turned quickly, as though he thought the blow might have been struck by a human hand.

"Diable!" he cried, recovering himself, his white teeth flashing a smile at Philip. "It has made me nervous-what I saw there in the light of the campfire, M'sieu. Bram, and his wolves, and THAT!"

He nodded at the shimmering strands.

"You have never seen hair the color of this, Pierre?"

"Non. In all my life-not once."

"And yet you have seen white women at Fort Churchill, at York Factory, at Lac la Biche, at Cumberland House, and Norway House, and at Fort Albany?"

"Ah-h-h, and at many other places, M'sieu. At God's Lake, at Lac Seul, and over on the Mackenzie-and never have I seen hair on a woman like that."

"And Bram has never been out of the northland, never farther south than Fort Chippewyan that we know of," said Philip. "It makes one shiver, eh, Pierre? It makes one think of-WHAT? Can't you answer? Isn't it in your mind?"

French and Cree were mixed half and half in Pierre's blood. The pupils of his eyes dilated as he met Philip's steady gaze.

"It makes one think," he replied uneasily, "of the chasse-galere and the loup-garou, and-and-almost makes one believe. I

am not superstitious, M'sieu-non-non-I am not superstitious," he cried still more uneasily. "But many strange things are told about Bram and his wolves;-that he has sold his soul to the devil, and can travel through the air, and that he can change himself into the form of a wolf at will. There are those who have heard him singing the Chanson de Voyageur to the howling of his wolves away up in the sky. I have seen them, and talked with them, and over on the McLeod I saw a whole tribe making incantation because they had seen Bram and his wolves building themselves a conjuror's house in the heart of a thunder-cloud. So-is it strange that he should snare rabbits with, a woman's hair?"

"And change black into the color of the sun?" added Philip, falling purposely into the other's humor.

"If the rest is true-"

Pierre did not finish. He caught himself, swallowing hard, as though a lump had risen in his throat, and for a moment or two Philip saw him fighting with himself, struggling with the age-old superstitions which had flared up for an instant like a powder-flash. His jaws tightened, and he threw back his head.

"But those stories are NOT true, M'sieu," he added in a repressed voice. "That is why I showed you the snare. Bram Johnson is not dead. He is alive. And there is a woman with him, or-"

"Or-"

The same thought was in their eyes again. And again neither gave voice to it. Carefully Philip was gathering up the strands of hair, winding them about his forefinger, and placing them afterward in a leather wallet which he took from his pocket. Then, quite casually, he loaded his pipe and lighted it. He went to the door, opened it, and for a few moments stood listening to the screech of the wind over the Barren. Pierre, still seated at the table, watched him attentively. Philip's mind was made up when he closed the door and faced the half-breed again.

"It is three hundred miles from here to Fort Churchill," he said. "Half way, at the lower end of Jesuche Lake, MacVeigh and his patrol have made their headquarters. If I go after Bram, Pierre, I must first make certain of getting a message to MacVeigh, and he will see that it gets to Fort Churchill. Can you leave your foxes and poison-baits and your deadfalls long enough for that?"

A moment Pierre hesitated.

Then he said:

"I will take the message."

Until late that night Philip sat up writing his report. He had started out to run down a band of Indian thieves. More important business had crossed his trail, and he explained the whole matter to Superintendent Fitzgerald, commanding "M" Division at Fort Churchill. He told Pierre Breault's story as he had heard it. He gave his reasons for believing it, and that Bram Johnson, three times a murderer, was alive. He asked that another man be sent after the Indians, and explained, as nearly as he could, the direction he would take in his pursuit of Bram.

When the report was finished and sealed he had omitted just one thing.

Not a word had he written about the rabbit snare woven from a woman's hair.

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