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   Chapter 22 THE MAN WHO DIDN'T FIT

Connie Morgan in Alaska By James B. Hendryx Characters: 14974

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The return of Connie Morgan and Waseche Bill to Ten Bow, and the events that followed, are told to this day on the trails.

McDougall paused for a chat with Dutch Henry beside the long black dump of the German's claim.

"It's most time for the break-up, Mac," said the owner of the dump. "We'll sluice out big, this spring."

"Yes, mon, we will," agreed McDougall, as his eyes roved to the small snow-covered dump across the creek. "But, it's sore I've hated to see yon claim idle the winter-an' the laddie gaen-an' Waseche Bill-heaven knaws wheer. D'ye mind what the mon fr' Eagle told, how the lad c'd na be stopped, but trailed on after Waseche* *-on to the Lillimuit? They'll na com' back." Dutch Henry nodded.

"Sure, Mac, but whad' ye 'spect from the breed of Sam Morgan? 'Member how he beat us all to these here diggin's, with ondly them three old dogs. I'd give my claim to have 'em safe back. An' I'm sorry you lost your ten-team, too, Mac."

"Losh! Mon! 'Tis na'thing at a'-the dogs! The laddie tuk 'em-an' welcome. Ye sh'd o' seed the luk i' his e'e, the mornin' he com' bustin' into my cabin wi' the news that Waseche was gaen! 'I'll fetch him back,' he says, 'if I have to beat him up'-an' him na bigger'n a pint o' cider. They've gaen to the Lillimuit, Dutch, an' 'taint in reason they'll com' back. But, sometimes, when I think o' the luk i' the laddie's e'e, d'ye knaw, it comes to me that, me'be-" The man's voice trailed into silence as his gaze became fixed upon the moving black specks that appeared far down the Yukon trail. Dutch Henry's gaze followed the big Scotchman's.

"Look, Mac! Look!" he cried excitedly. "Them dogs!" And, almost at the same instant, with a roar like the bellow of a bull, McDougall sprang down the trail between the straggling cabins of Ten Bow, with Dutch Henry pounding along in his wake. Before the two had covered half the length of the camp other men joined them, running and yelling-though they knew not why they ran. Cabins and shafts were deserted and all Ten Bow strung out on the trail to meet the rapidly approaching dog teams. And when they did meet, a half-mile beyond the camp, Connie was rushed from his feet by the wildly yelling crowd and carried triumphantly into Ten Bow upon the broad shoulders of the big men of the North. For, as McDougall had said, word had come down from Eagle, and now, not because he was Sam Morgan's boy, but for his own grit and pluck and courage, Connie Morgan had won his place among the sourdoughs of the silent land.

"Know a man name of Misteh Squigg?" asked Waseche Bill of McDougall, as half a dozen men sat late that night about the stove in the little cabin that had lain deserted all through the winter.

"Yes, I ken the mon-an' na gude o' him, neither, wi' his leetle shifty e'en. I've mistrusted um fr' the time I furst seed um. D'ye ken, laddie, t'was him tried to drive ye fr' yer claim wi' his lawyer's drivvle, whilst Waseche was down to Hesitation?" Connie nodded, and McDougall continued: "I sent him about his business i' jig time, an' na more was he seed i' Ten Bow till a matter o' three or four months agane up he pops wi' a half-breed that's workin' f'r um. He bought Dave Crampton's claim an' has be'n workin' ut since. Why d'ye ask?" For answer Waseche motioned to the Indian who sat upon his blanket spread upon the floor:

"Kobuk, go fetch Pete Mateese. An' don't let Misteh Squigg know yo' fetchin' him." The Indian arose and passed noiselessly out into the night. A quarter of an hour later he returned, closely followed by a huge half-breed with mild, ox-like eyes, who smiled broadly upon the assembly.

"Heem Pete Mateese," grunted the Indian, and sank again to his blanket. Waseche Bill regarded the big, simple-minded half-breed intently, and then flashed the question:

"Wheah is Carlson?" Instantly the smile faded from the man's face and a look of deep sorrow darkened his eyes.

"Lillimuit," he answered, sadly. "On Ignatook he dig for de gol'." The half-breed looked about him upon the faces of the men who wondered what it was all about.

"Go on," encouraged Waseche, "tell more."

"De Ignatook, she don' freeze-she wa'm. De white Injun, she don' go dare-she 'fraid. We go dare, me an' Carlson, she ma pardner, an' she say de gol' ees here. Bimby, de grub git low an' Carlson sen' me for more. Dat two winter ago. I tak' de gol' een one can an' I mak' eet t'rough to Eagle by Tatonduk divide. Den I see Meestaire Squeeg. He say he tak' de gol' an' buy de grub so I not git cheat. Den she los' de gol'. She ver' sorry, an' she say y'u com' work for me, fi' dollaire a day an' grub, an' pret' soon y'u mak' 'nough to go back to y'u pardner. Meestaire Squeeg, she buy my dog-feefty dollaire apiece-four hunder' dollaire-an' she say she keep de money so I no los'-I no git cheat. An' she say de money she hav' eentrees', ten p'cent. So me, I go 'long an' work for heem an' we clean oop good on Turtle Creek. Den we com' Ten Bow an' Meestaire Squeeg, she buy de claim, an' I say I lak de money now, I got 'nough. I tak' de grub to Carlson. But Meestaire Squeeg she say, no, y'u ain't got no money-de eentrees' she eat dat money all oop. She count oop fas', ten p'cent, she say. So I work som' more, but all de tam de eentrees' she eat me oop. Eef eet ain't for de eentrees' I mak' 'nough to tak' de grub to Carlson."

The big men and the one small boy in the little cabin listened intently to the half-breed's simply told tale. When he finished Waseche Bill cleared his throat and glanced from one to the other of the silent listeners.

"Between them walked a little, rat-faced man. The man was Mr. Squigg."

"Boys," he said, "Carlson is dead. He died alone-way out yondeh in the Lillimuit. He died huntin' fo' Pete Mateese, his pahdneh that didn't come back. Befo' he died he found the gold he know'd was theah. We seen the gold, an' it's cached theah yet, jest wheah he done left it. Carlson was a man. If Pete Mateese had went back, he'd of be'n livin' now. An' Pete Mateese would of went back if he'd of be'n let alone." He ceased speaking and, without a word, Big McDougall and Dick Colton rose from their chairs and passed out into the night. The little clock ticked monotonously while the others waited. Presently the two returned, and between them walked a little, rat-faced man. The man was Mr. Squigg, and as he entered, his slit-like eyes blinked rapidly in the lamp-light, and shot nervous, venomous glances upon the faces of the occupants of the cabin. At sight of Pete Mateese his face flushed, then paled, and his thin lips curled backward from his teeth.

"What you doin' here?" he rasped.

"He was sent fo', Misteh Squigg, same as yo' was," drawled Waseche Bill.

"This is an outrage!" squeaked the man. "Who are you? And what right have you got to bring folks here against their will?"

"Who, me? Oh, I'm Waseche Bill. I jest wanted fo' to meet up with yo'-that's all. Yo' name fits yo' like a new glove, don't it, Misteh Squigg? An', Misteh Squigg, this heah's my pahdneh, Connie Mo'gan. I jest heahd how yo' tried fo' to beat him out of this heah claim, back when he beat out the stampede."

"He's a minor, an' he can't hold no claim," whimpered the man; "I'm a lawyer, an' I know. But that was a long while ago. I'll let that pass."

"Sho' now, Misteh Squigg," Waseche drawled, "it's good of yo' to let that pass. We was feared yo' mout of laid it up against yo'self. But theah's anotheh li'l

matteh we-all would like to cleah up befo' the evenin's oveh. Yo' rec'lect I'm the pahty that bought them dawgs off yo' in Eagle-but we'll come to that lateh. This heah Pete Mateese, now, the's sev'el li'l items we-all want the straight of. Fust off, wheah's the can of gold Pete Mateese give yo' to buy grub with in Eagle?"

"It's none of your business!" shrilled the man. "Besides, it's a lie! I didn't see no gold. Let me out of here! You ain't got no right to hold me."

"Ain't we? Well, Misteh Squigg, yo' might's well know yo' ah undeh arrest, an' we-all aim to give yo' a faih an' speedy trial."

"You can't arrest me!" squealed the man.

"But, we done it-didn't we? If yo' don't b'lieve it, jest yo' try to walk out that do'."

"You ain't got no authority! It ain't accordin' to law!"

"This heah ain't exactly a co'te of law-it's a co'te of justice. They's quite a con'sid'ble dif'ence-mostly," answered Waseche, and turning to Connie, he said.

"Jest get out yo' pen, kid, an' set down the figgehs so we c'n get things faih an' squah. One can of gold, nine thousand dollahs. Now, them dawgs-they was eight dawgs at fifty dollahs a head, that's fo' hund'ed dollahs mo'."

"I object!" piped Mr. Squigg, "I'm a lawyer, an' I know--"

"Yo' mout be a lawyeh, Misteh Squigg, but yo' ain't in no shape to 'bject-not none serious. Now, them wages owin' to Pete Mateese, neah's we c'n calc'late, it's fo'teen months at five dollahs a day. Figgeh it up, kid, an' set it down." Connie busied himself over his paper.

"That comes to twenty-one hundred dollars," he announced.

"It ain't true! I didn't agree to pay him! You can't prove it! I deny everything!"

"Yo' ain't b'lieved," calmly drawled Waseche. "How much yo got down altogetheh, son?"

"Eleven thousand five hundred dollars."

"Now, theah's this heah int'rest. Ten peh cent, wornt it, Misteh Squigg?" But Mr. Squigg only growled.

"Twelve thousand six hundred and fifty, all told," computed Connie. Waseche turned to the infuriated Mr. Squigg.

"That's what's owin' to Pete Mateese. C'n yo' pay it-now?"

"No, I can't! An' I never will! Yo' can't enforce no such high-handed proceedin's! It ain't accordin' to law!"

"It's accordin' to Ten Bow, though," answered Waseche, shortly. "An' seein' yo ain' got the cash oah the dust, we-all'll jest trouble yo' to make oveh yo' claim to Pete Mateese. An' bein' yo' only give ten thousan' fo' it, yo' c'n give yo' note fo' the balance. Give him the pen, son."

"I won't do it! This is an outrage!" whined the man.

"Sho', now, Misteh Squigg, co'se yo'll do it." Waseche Bill turned to the others. "We-all will give Misteh Squigg five minutes to think it oveh. Then some of yo' boys jest amble out an' tell it around camp-the story of Carlson, the man that died 'cause his pahdneh couldn't go back. The boys'll be right int'rested, 'cause a lot of 'em know'd Carlson, an' they liked him. Mos' likely they'll call a meetin' an'--"

"Gi' me the pen! Gi' me the pen!" shrieked Mr. Squigg, whose face had gone pasty white. And the men saw that the hand that held the pen trembled violently.

"Now, Misteh Squigg," announced Waseche, when the other had finished, "yo' git! An' if yo' know what's good fo' yo', yo'll keep on gittin'! Alaska don't need such men as yo'. Yo' don't fit! This heah's a big country, Misteh Squigg. It's broad, an' long, an' clean. An' the men that live in it ah rough men, but theah heahts is as big as the country. An' they ah men that stand fo'-squah with each otheh, an' with the wo'ld. In Alaska a man c'n count on faih play, an' it don't make no dif'ence if his hide is white, oah red, oah yallah, oah black. 'Cause he ain't measu'ed acco'din' to colah noah heft, noah by the gold in his poke, neitheh. It's what a man does that counts. The li'l eveh-day acts an' deeds that shows wheah his heaht is-an' what's in him. An', now, Misteh Squigg, yondeh's the do'. An' beyond, the trail stretches away-an' fah away. Eveh mile yo' put between yo'self an Ten Bow is a friend of yo'n. Me'be somewheahs theah's a place li'l enough fo' a man with a heaht as small, an' hahd, an' black as a double B shot. If they is, an' yo' c'n find it, yo'll be home. But don't stop to hunt fo' it in Alaska-it ain't heah." As Waseche Bill finished, the door opened and, without a word, Mr. Squigg slunk into the star-lit night-the softly radiant night that brushed caressingly the white snows of Aurora Land.

"Squigg slunk into the star-lit night."

Late the men of Ten Bow talked about the little stove. At last, when they arose to go, Big McDougall stepped close to Connie's side.

"Laddie," he said, "wad ye do a favour f'r an auld mon-jest the ain time?"

"What!" exclaimed the boy, and his eyes shone, "do a favour for you! For the man that lent me the best dog-team in all Alaska! Why, if it hadn't been for your dogs, Mac, I could never have found Waseche. Just name it, and you'll see!"

"Weel spoken, lad! Spoken like a mon!" The Scot's eyes twinkled. "An' I'll hold ye to yer word. The favour is this: that ye'll accept the ten-team o' malamutes that's carried ye so far acrost unmapped miles, as a present fr' an auld mon whose heart thinks more o' ye than his rough auld tongue c'n tell." The boy stared speechless at the big, smiling man. And when, at length, he found his voice, the words choked in his throat:

"But-you said-it was a favour, Mac-I--"

"Wheest, laddie, an' a favour it is. For McDougall's growin' auld f'r the trails. Theer's gude years ahead o' yon dogs, but I've na mind to gi' 'em the wark they need to keep 'em in fettle. An' dogs is oncommon like men-'gin they loaf aboot the streets o' town a spell they get lazy an' no 'count. But, wi' yersel' to put 'em ower the trail noo an' again, they'll be a team o' pleasure an' profit to ye. F'r they're braw dogs altogether an' t'would be shamefu' they should dwindle to the common herd o' scavage dogs."

And so, Connie, gracefully as he could in his confusion, granted McDougall's favour. But in doing so the small boy could not foresee-nor could any man in the cabin foresee-the chain of adventures into which the possession of the ten-team would lead him. For, had he not owned the ten-team, he would not have happened, just at the right moment, upon Big Dan McKeever, sergeant of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, at a time when the sergeant, with white, set face, battled against odds of a thousand to one, while fifty men looked helplessly out across the mile-wide field of heaving, crashing river ice when the spring break-up hit the mighty Yukon. And, if Sergeant McKeever-but all that has no part in this story.

In the little cabin on Ten Bow the hour was late, and the bearded men had arisen to go. As each passed through the door to seek his own cabin, he gripped hard the hand of Pete Mateese, and O'Brien, and Waseche Bill-and both hands of Connie Morgan-the boy who was a tillicum.

As they wended their way homeward in the midnight the little stars winked and glittered radiantly upon these big men of the North. While far away on the long bleak trail, the same little stars gleamed cold and hard upon a swiftly moving black speck where, with white face and terror-gripped heart, Mr. Squigg added friendly miles to the distance that separated Ten Bow from The Man Who Didn't Fit.

Transcriber's Notes:

Maintained original spelling and punctuation of the dialect.

Obvious printer errors have been corrected.

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