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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Golden Snare By James Oliver Curwood Characters: 10721

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"Kogmollocks-the blackest-hearted little devils alive when it comes to trading wives and fighting," said Philip, a little ashamed of the suddenness with which he had jumped back from the window. "Excuse my abruptness, dear. But I'd recognize that death-thing on the other side of the earth. I've seen them throw it like an arrow for a hundred yards-and I have a notion they're watching that window!"

At sight of the dead wolf and the protruding javelin Celie's face had gone as white as ash. Snatching up one of the pictures from the table, she thrust it into Philip's hand. It was one of the fighting pictures.

"So it's YOU?" he said, smiling at her and trying to keep the tremble of excitement out of his voice. "It's you they want, eh? And they must want you bad. I've never heard of those little devils coming within a hundred miles of this far south. They MUST want you bad. Now-I wonder WHY?" His voice was calm again. It thrilled him to see how utterly she was judging the situation by the movement of his lips and the sound of his voice. With him unafraid she would be unafraid. He judged that quickly. Her eyes bared her faith in him, and suddenly he reached out and took her face between his two hands, and laughed softly, while each instant he feared the smash of a javelin through the window. "I like to see that look in your eyes," he went on. "And I'm almost glad you can't understand me, for I couldn't lie to you worth a cent. I understand those pictures now-and I think we're in a hell of a fix. The Eskimos have followed you and Bram down from the north, and I'm laying a wager with myself that Bram won't return from the caribou hunt. If they were Nunatalmutes or any other tribe I wouldn't be so sure. But they're Kogmollocks. They're worse than the little brown head-hunters of the Philippines when it comes to ambush, and if Bram hasn't got a spear through him this minute I'll never guess again!" He withdrew his hands from her face, still smiling at her as he talked. The color was returning into her face. Suddenly she made a movement as if to approach the window. He detained her, and in the same moment there came a fierce and snarling outcry from the wolves in the corral. Making Celie understand that she was to remain where he almost forcibly placed her near the table, Philip went again to the window. The pack had gathered close to the gate and two or three of the wolves were leaping excitedly against the sapling bars of their prison. Between the cabin and the gate a second body lay in the snow. Philip's mind leapt to a swift conclusion. The Eskimos had ambushed Bram, and they believed that only the girl was in the cabin. Intuitively he guessed how the superstitious little brown men of the north feared the madman's wolves. One by one they were picking them off with their javelins from outside the corral.

As he looked a head and pair of shoulders rose suddenly above the top of the sapling barrier, an arm shot out and he caught the swift gleam of a javelin as it buried itself in the thick of the pack. In a flash the head and shoulders of the javelin-thrower had disappeared, and in that same moment Philip heard a low cry behind him. Celie had returned to the window. She had seen what he had seen, and her breath came suddenly in a swift and sobbing excitement. In amazement he saw that she was no longer pale. A vivid flush had gathered in each of her cheeks and her eyes blazed with a dark fire. One of her hands caught his arm and her fingers pinched his flesh. He stared dumbly for a moment at the strange transformation in her. He almost believed that she wanted to fight-that she was ready to rush out shoulder to shoulder with him against their enemies. Scarcely had the cry fallen from her lips when she turned and ran swiftly into her room. It seemed to Philip that she was not gone ten seconds. When she returned she thrust into his hand a revolver.

It was a toy affair. The weight and size of the weapon told him that before he broke it and looked at the caliber. It was a "stocking" gun as they called those things in the service, fully loaded with .22 caliber shots and good for a possible partridge at fifteen or twenty paces. Under other conditions it would have furnished him with considerable amusement. But the present was not yesterday or the day before. It was a moment of grim necessity-and the tiny weapon gave him the satisfaction of knowing that he was not entirely helpless against the javelins. It would shoot as far as the stockade, and it might topple a man over if he hit him just right. Anyway, it would make a noise.

A noise! The grin that had come into his face died out suddenly as he looked at Celie. He wondered if to her had come the thought that now flashed upon him-if it was that thought that had made her place the revolver in his hand. The blaze of excitement in her wonderful eyes almost told him that it was. With Bram gone, the Eskimos believed she was alone and at their mercy as soon as the wolves were out of the way. Two or three shots from the revolver-and Philip's appearance in the corral-would shake their confidence. It would at least warn them that Celie was not alone, and that her protector was armed. For that reason Philip thanked the Lord that a "stocking" gun had a bark like the explosion of a toy cannon even if its bite was like that of

an insect.

Cautiously he took another look at Bram's wolves. The last javelin had transfixed another of their number and the animal was dragging itself toward the center of the corral. The remaining seven were a dozen yards on the other side of the gate now, leaping and snarling at the stockade, and he knew that the next attack would come from there. He sprang to the door. Celie was only a step behind him as he ran out, and was close at his side when he peered around the end of the cabin.

"They must not see you," he made her understand. "It won't do any good and when they see another man they may possibly get the idea in their heads that you're not here. There can't be many of them or they'd make quicker work of the wolves. I should say not more than-"

"Se! Se!"

The warning came in a low cry from Celie's lips. A dark head was appearing slowly above the top of the stockade, and Philip darted suddenly out into the open. The Eskimo did not see him, and Philip waited until he was on the point of hurling his javelin before he made a sound. Then he gave a roar that almost split his throat. In the same instant he began firing. The crack of his pistol and the ferocious outcry he made sent the Eskimo off the stockade like a ball hit by a club. The pack, maddened by their inability to reach their enemies, turned like a flash. Warned by one experience, Philip hustled Celie into the cabin. They were scarcely over the threshold when the wolves were at the door.

"We're sure up against a nice bunch," he laughed, standing for a moment with his arm still about Celie's waist. "A regular hell of a bunch, little girl! Now if those wolves only had sense enough to know that we're a little brother and sister to Bram, we'd be able to put up a fight that would be some circus. Did you see that fellow topple off the fence? Don't believe I hit him. At least I hope I didn't. If they ever find out the size of this pea-shooter's sting they'll sit up there like a row of crows and laugh at us. But-what a bully NOISE it made!"

He was blissfully unmindful of danger as he held her in the crook of his arm, looking straight into her lovely face as he talked. It was a moment of splendid hypocrisy. He knew that in her excitement and the tremendous effort she was making to understand something of what he was saying that she was unconscious of his embrace. That, and the joyous thrill of the situation, sent the hot blood into his face.

"I'm dangerously near to going the limit," he told her, speaking with a seriousness that would impress her. "I'd fight twenty of those little devils single-handed to know just how you'd take it, and I'd fight another dozen to know who that fellow is in the picture. I'm tempted right now to hug you up close, and kiss you, and let you know how I feel. I'd like to do that-before-anything happens. But would you understand? That's it-would you understand that I love every inch of you from the ground up or would you think I was just beast? That's what I'm afraid of. But I'd like to let you know before I have to put up the big fight for you. And it's coming-if they've got Bram. They'll break down the gate to-night, or burn it, and with the wolves out of the way they'll rush the cabin. And then-"

Slowly he drew his arm from her, and something of the reaction of his thoughts must have betrayed itself in the look that came into his face.

"I guess I've already pulled off a rotten deal on the other fellow," he said, turning to the window. "That is, if you belong to him. And if you didn't why would you stand there with your arms about his neck and he hugging you up like that!"

A few minutes before he had crumpled the picture in his hand and dropped it on the floor. He picked it up now and mechanically smoothed it out as he made his observation, through the window. The pack had returned to the stockade. By the aimless manner in which they had scattered he concluded that for the time at least their mysterious enemies had drawn away from the corral.

Celie had not moved. She was watching him earnestly. It seemed to him, as he went to her with the picture, that a new and anxious questioning had come into her eyes. It was as if she had discovered something in him which she had not observed before, something which she was trying to analyze even as he approached her. He felt for the first time a sense of embarrassment. Was it possible that she had comprehended some word or thought of what he had expressed to her? He could not believe it And yet, a woman's intuition-

He held out the picture. Celie took it and for a space looked at it steadily without raising her eyes to meet his. When she did look at him the blue in her eyes was so wonderful and deep and the soul that looked out of them was so clear to his own vision that the shame of that moment's hypocrisy when he had stood with his arm about her submerged him completely. If she had not understood him she at least HAD GUESSED.

"Min fader," she said quietly, with the tip of her little forefinger on the man in the picture. "Min fader."

For a moment he thought she had spoken in English.

"Your-your father?" he cried.

She nodded.

"Oo-ee-min fader!"

"Thank the Lord," gasped Philip. And then he suddenly added, "Celie, have you any more cartridges for this pop-gun? I feel like licking the world!"

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