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   Chapter 21 MISTER SQUIGG

Connie Morgan in Alaska By James B. Hendryx Characters: 11823

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It was a jovial gathering that crowded the little cabin on the Kandik where the men of the North feasted until far into the night, and told tales, and listened to wondrous adventures in the gold country. But most eagerly they listened to Connie Morgan and Waseche Bill, with their marvellous tales of the Lillimuit-- and Carlson's cans of gold.

"We've a yarn worth the tellin' ourself!" exclaimed the man called Joe-the man who tried to dissuade Waseche Bill and prevent Connie Morgan from venturing into the unknown. "Ye sh'd o' seen 'em come! Flat on his belly a-top the sled-an' the dogs runnin' low an' true! A bunch of us was watchin' the trail f'r Black Jack Demaree an' the Ragged Falls mail: 'Here he comes!' someone yells, an' way down the river we seen a speck-a speck that grow'd until it was a dog team an' a man. Jeerushelam, but he was a-comin'! 'Twornt no time till he was clost enough to see 'twornt Black Jack. A cold day, it was-reg'lar bitin', nippin' cold-with the wind, an' the sweep o' the river. An' here come the team on the high lope, an' a-whippin' along behind 'em, the lightest loaded outfit man ever seen hauled-jest a man, an' a blanket, an' two tomater cans. Flat, he laid-low to the sweep o' the wind, one arm around the cans, an' the other a-holdin' onto the sled f'r all he was worth. The man was O'Brien, yonder; an' up the bank he shot, fair burnin' the snow, whirled amongst us, an' piled the outfit up ag'in' Big Jim's stockade. The nex' we know'd was a yell from Fiddle Face, here:

"'It's McDougall's dogs!' An' before the Irishman c'd get onto his feet, Fiddle Face was a-top him with a hand at his throat. 'Where's the kid?' he howls in O'Brien's ear, 'Where's Sam Morgan's boy?' Fiddle Face's voice ain't no gentle murmur-when he yells. But the rest of us didn't hear it-us that was ontanglin' the dogs. F'r, in the mix-up, the cover had come off one of them tomater cans, an' there on the snow was nuggets o' gold-jest a-layin' there dull an' yaller, in a heap on the top o' the snow." Joe paused, held a sputtering sulphur match to the bowl of his pipe, and, after a few deep puffs, continued: "Ye know how the sight o' raw gold, that-a-way, gets to ye-when ye've put in the best an' the hardest years o' yer life a-grubbin' an' a-gougin' f'r it? Ye know the feelin' that comes all to onct about yer belt line, an' how yer head feels sort o' light, an' yer face burns, an' ye want to holler, an' laugh, an' cry all to onct? Well, that was us, a-standin' there by the stockade-all but Fiddle Face. Him an' O'Brien was a-wallerin' grip-locked in the snow, an' Fiddle Face was a-hollerin' over an' over ag'in: 'Where's that kid? Where's that kid?' an' all the while a-chokin' of O'Brien so's he couldn't answer. Presen'ly we noticed 'em an' drug 'em apart. An' right then every man jack o' us forgot the gold. F'r, on a sudden, we remembered that little kid-the gameness of him-an' how he'd give us the slip an' took off alone into a country we didn't none o' us dast to go to-way long in the fore part o' the winter. We jerked O'Brien to his feet an' hustled him into the hotel, an' by that time he'd got back his wind, an' he was a-tellin', an' a-beggin' us not to lose no time, but to pack a outfit an' hit f'r a little cabin on the Kandik. 'He's there!' he hollers. 'An' his pardner, too! They're starvin'. I've got the gold to pay f'r the grub-take it! Take it all! Only git back to 'em! I know'd we all couldn't make it, travellin' heavy an' slow with the outfit an' a crippled man to boot.'

"Big Jim Sontag goes out an' scoops up the gold where it laid forgot-an' then he comes back into the room an' walks straight over to where O'Brien was a-standin': 'We'll go!' says Jim, 'an' you'll go, too! An', if there's a cabin, like you say, an' they're there, why you can't spend no gold in Eagle!' Jim steps closter-so clost that his nose stops within two inches of O'Brien's, an' his eyes a-borin' clean through to the back of O'Brien's head: 'But if they ain't there,' he says, low an' quiet like, 'then you don't spend no gold in Eagle, neither-see?' An' then Jim turns to us: 'Who'll go 'long?' he hollers. 'That there boy is Sam Morgan's boy-we all know'd Sam Morgan!' We sure did-an' we like to tore Jim's roof off a-signifyin'. Then, we slung our outfits together an' hit the trail. An' now, boys," Joe rose to his feet and crossed to the bunk where the Irishman sat between Connie and Waseche Bill, "it's up to us to signify onct more." And, for the first time in his life, O'Brien, whose lot in the world had always been an obscure and a lowly one, came to know something of what it meant to have earned the regard of men!

The journey down the Kandik was uneventful, and four days later the reinforced outfit camped at the junction of the lesser river with the mighty Yukon. Late that night the men of the North sat about the camp fire and their talk was of rich strikes, and stampedes, and the unsung deeds of men.

Connie Morgan listened with bated breath to tales of his father. Waseche Bill learned from the lips of the men of Eagle of the boy's escape from the hotel, and of his dash for the Lillimuit that ended, so far as the men who followed were concerned, at the foot of the snow-piled Tatonduk divide. And the men of Eagle learned of the Lillimuit, and the white Indians, and of the death of Carlson, and lastly, of the Ignatook, the steaming creek with its floor of gold.

"An' we-all ah goin' back theah, sometime," concluded Waseche. "Me an' the kid, heah, an' O'Brien, if he'll go-" To their surprise, O'Brien leaped to his feet:

"Ye c'n count me in!" he cried. "Foive days agone no power on earth c'd av dhrug me back into that land av th' cheerless cowld. But, now, 'tis dif'runt, an' if th' sun shoines war-rum enough f'r th' loikes av ye-an' th' b'y, here-phy, ut shoines war-rum enough f'r Pathrick O'Brien-av ut river s

hoines at all."

"That's what I call a man!" yelled Fiddle Face, and subsided instantly, for Waseche Bill was speaking.

"As I was goin' on to say: with us will be some of the boys from Ten Bow-McDougall, an' Dutch Henery, an' Dick Colton, an' Scotty McCollough, an' Black Jack Demaree from Ragged Falls, an'-well, how about it, boys? The gold is theah, an' me an' the kid, we aim to let ouh frien's in on this heah strike. We'll sho' be proud to have yo'-all jine us." With a loud cheer, the men accepted Waseche's invitation-they had seen O'Brien's gold.

"Jes' keep it undeh yo' hats till the time comes," cautioned Waseche. "We-all will slip yo'-all the wehd, an' we don't want no tinhawns, noah chechakos, noah pikehs along, 'cause the Ignatook stampede is goin' to be a stampede of tillicums!"

In the morning the partners, accompanied by O'Brien, said good-bye to the men of Eagle and headed down the great river for the mouth of the Ten Bow. On the third day, only a short distance above the place where the Ten Bow trail swerved from the Yukon between two high bluffs, they came upon the camp of an Indian. The red man was travelling light. He had just come out of the hills, and with him were Waseche Bill's dogs-the malamutes whose sudden stampede had led the lost wayfarers through the narrow pass to the crest of the Kandik divide, and-Alaska!

"Wheah'd yo' get them dawgs?" asked Waseche, pointing to the malamutes. The Indian waved his arm in the direction of the hills, and Waseche nodded:

"Them's my dawgs-nika komooks."

The Indian scowled and shook his head.

"Dem Pete Mateese dog," he grunted surlily.

"Pete Mateese!" cried Connie. "Do you know Pete Mateese? Who is he? Where is he? We want to find him."

The Indian glowered sullenly.

"W'at y'u wan' Pete Mateese?" he asked.

"We want to find him. We've got good news for him. He's rich-plenty gold." At the words the Indian laughed-not a mirthful laugh, but a sneering, sardonic laugh of unbelief.

"White man beeg liar-all. Pete Mateese, she Injun-breed. White man no tell Injun 'bout gol'. Me'be so white man steal Injun gol'."

With Irish impetuosity, O'Brien leaped forward.

"Take thot back, ye rid shpalpeen!" he cried, shaking a huge fist under the Indian's nose. "Av ye say wan more wor-rd ag'in' th' b'y, Oi'll choke th' gizzard out av ye befoor ye say ut!"

Waseche Bill held up a restraining hand.

"Take it easy, O'Brien, don't le's nobody huht anybody. Le's get the straight of this heah. Primary an' fo'most, we-all want to find out if Pete Mateese pulled out on Carlson, oah, did he aim to go back." At the mention of Carlson's name the Indian turned quickly toward Waseche.

"Y'u know Carlson?" he asked. Waseche Bill nodded.

"Yeh, I did know him."

"Wher' Carlson?"

"Dead." As Waseche pronounced the word the Indian shook his head sadly.

"Carlson good white man. All good white man dead. Sam Morgan, she dead, too."

"Sam Morgan!" exclaimed Connie. "What do you know of Sam Morgan?"

"Sam Morgan good to Injun. Me-mos' die, once-fi', seex winter 'go, in de beeg snow. Sam Morgan com' 'long. Hav' one small piece bacon-one small lump suet-eighteen mile-Hesitation. Me-I got no grub. Fi', seex day I ain' got no grub. Seek lak leetle baby. Sam Morgan, she mak' me eat-sam' lak heem. Den she peek me oop an' car' me-all night-all day. Nex' night, me'be so we no mak'. See de light in leetle cabin, an' den we com' Hesitation. Bot' of us, we pret' near die. An' Sam Morgan, she laugh." The old Indian paused and regarded the boy curiously: "Y'u know Sam Morgan?" he asked. The boy's eyes were very bright, and he cleared his throat huskily.

"Sam Morgan was my father," he said, in a low, unsteady tone. The Indian stalked to the boy and, pausing directly before him, lifted the small chin and gazed long and searchingly into the upturned grey eyes.

"Uh-huh," he grunted, "y'u Sam Morgan boy. Me hear 'bout y'u in Ten Bow."

"Where is Pete Mateese?" persisted Connie. The Indian no longer hesitated.

"Pete Mateese, she Ten Bow. Work hard for de money to buy grub an' tak' back to Carlson-way back, pas' de divide, in de lan' of Niju Tah-de lan' of de bad man, dead. But, she don' git no money. Meestaire Squeeg, she cheat Pete Mateese."

"Who is Misteh Squigg?" asked Waseche Bill.

"Meestaire Squeeg she leetle man. Got de nose lak de fox, an' de bad eye lak' de snake. All tam he mak' Pete Mateese work ver' mooch. Tell heem, he mak' plent' money. But she no giv' heem no money-always Pete Mateese got it comin'-she got to wait. Som' day Meestaire Squeeg she pull out-den Pete Mateese got nut'in."

"Yo' say he's a li'l slit-eyed runt-rat-faced-with a squeaky voice?" Waseche mimicked Mr. Squigg's tone. The Indian nodded emphatically, and for a long time Waseche was silent-thinking.

"An' yo' say these heah is Pete Mateese's dawgs?" Again the Indian nodded, and Waseche Bill's eyes narrowed: "An' yo' say they ah in Ten Bow-Pete Mateese an' this heah Misteh Squigg?"

"Ten Bow," repeated the Indian. "Meestaire Squeeg, she tak' de gol' an' buy de claim." Waseche Bill turned to the others:

"Come on, we'll hit the trail!" And then, to the Indian, "Yo' come, too, an' fetch them dawgs." Connie noticed that his big partner's voice was very low, and once, turning quickly, he surprised the cold, hard gleam in the grey eyes.

"He must be the same man that tried to make me give up my claim, the time I beat out the Ten Bow stampede," confided the boy, as he mushed beside Waseche's sled.

"Oh, he did-did he?" asked the man, in the same low, hard tone. "We'll jest count that in, too."

"What do you mean? Do you know Mr. Squigg?"

"No. But I will," drawled Waseche. "Yo' see, kid, he's the man I bought them dawgs off of last fall in Eagle. Come along, now, le's mush. I'm gettin' plumb anxious to meet up with this heah Misteh Squigg."

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