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Chapter V

PINAUD, THE HUNTER


AS Papa Clair rode he kept his head turned to watch the smoke below the bend. Prevost remarked that it "looked like a race with the steamboat, with the mule a winner."

"It's something about me," said Lander uneasily. "Probably about my duel with Phinny."

"Then the boat has something to do with it," said Prevost. "Clair has come hard and fast to beat it out. The A. F. C. may be sending to catch you."

"Can they take me here?" Lander anxiously inquired.

"If they're strong enough. But if they've come to take you it ain't because you fought a duel. Duels are natural as sleep. It's 'cause you wiped out a' A. F. C. man who was a friend of old Hurry-Up Parker. Now we'll know."

The last as Papa Clair's mule came to a staggering halt a hundred yards away. Clair was afoot with the quickness of a cat and running toward the curious group.

"My friend," he called out on beholding Lander. "Holy blue! What has happened to you? You have the bruise, the scratch! Your raiment is torn."

"Nothing, nothing, Papa Clair. What brings you here?" replied Lander.

"Imbecile that I am! Armed men are on the boat to get you. We must ride at once."

"How many? I reckon we can stand them off," spoke up Prevost.

"No, no. There must be no trouble between the A. F. C. and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company—at least, not in Missouri. We must go. You must know nothing about us. And we must ride quick!"

"Then you must have a fresh mule, Etienne Clair," said Prevost.

"A thousand thanks for the same, M'sieu Prevost."

"Simons, rush up two mules," was the sharp order.

The champion did as bid but remonstrated:

"No need o' runnin'. If thar's any trouble along o' that boat I reckon we can smooth it down."

"At Lexington, but not here at St. Charles. Put him on the trail for Lexington, Papa. He can follow the river close enough to see when the boat has passed. He can hold back when he reaches Lexington until sure the steamer has gone and the men with it. If the men stay with us to trap him I'll send some one down the trail to warn him. Now be off. She'll be poking her head round the bend in another minute."

With his mind in a whirl Lander took his rifle, mounted the mule and followed Papa Clair up the river, keeping under cover of a fringe of cottonwoods and willows. The two men covered some five or six miles, exchanging scarcely a word. Then Clair pulled up on the edge of a wooded terrace that gave a view of the river and quietly remarked:

"Now to wait for the steamer to go by. Fumez la pipe. The men on the boat must stick to the boat as they haven't any horses or mules and Prevost won't lend them any."

"What does it all mean?" demanded Lander.

"It was after I left you, my friend. I did not feel to sleep," Papa Clair began, speaking between puffs as his pipe balked a bit. "I walked down to the levee, thinking that perhaps some of your visitors would be waiting to get their satisfy from me. I heard a man say the Golden Queen would start at three o'clock. I found the boat and watched the freight go aboard. Steam was up. They would be leaving soon. Then as I stood behind a pile of barrels armed men passed through the light of the basket-torch. They were not trappers nor traders. I recognized Dillings among them. I knew it meant mischief.

"I stole close to the guards and heard talk. They spoke of you. One said they would be sure to pick you up at St. Charles, that they must get you before you got out of the state. That was enough for me. I went to the Parker house on Pine Street and woke a negro in back and gave him money and your letter; and I told him to give it to m'm'selle early in the morning and to let no one see him. Then I placed my knife at his throat and promised to come back and cut off his head if he failed to do as I told him. He said he would sit up all night to be sure to give it to her early. Then to my room, then a mule, and here are.

"You've come far enough out of your way, Papa. After the boat passes you must start back," said Lander with a sigh in his voice.

"Name of heaven! Go back and leave you to be captured perhaps at Lexington? You slander me!"

"Bridger's men won't let them take me."

"They will have a writing from the court. If Bridger stops them, then the A. F. C. will make it warm for his company, perhaps try to take away his license. No, no! We must not let M'sieu Bridger have trouble over it."

"I'd rather have you with me than a thousand mountain men, but it's my trouble."

"I am here, Etienne Clair. I went to my room and brought this." He held up a long heavy package securely wrapped in buckskin. "I have come to stay. Not only to Lexington, eight days away, but to the mountains. By the grace of God I will see what truth there is in the cooking-springs and caves of war-paint. See these!"

He unwrapped the package and disclosed three long scabbards, one of his dearly beloved knives in each. With the one in his boot he had four. He proceeded to fasten the three blades to his belt, saying as he did so:

"They are all I had to bring. They would have wept had I left them behind. Had I taken one the other three would have been jealous. Ah, they are very sensitive, these little ones of mine. See how bright the blade shines because it goes to the fountain!"

He pulled a knife and held it up to mirror the sun.

Immensely heartened by his friend's presence Lander did not have the courage to insist on the old man's returning. He had been homesick without knowing what was the matter with him. The girl tugged at his heart and kept his thoughts turned to St. Louis. The mountain men were all strangers and exceedingly rough in their ways. He did not fear physical danger, but the fighting and carousing sickened him.

"I ought not to admit it," he mused. "Yet I was feeling very lonesome until you came."

With a rare smile lighting his wrinkled face Papa Clair replied:

"It is very good of m'sieu to allow. Now to business. We brought no supplies. Take your rifle and scout the bottoms. I will see if can find M'sieu Rabbit or Madame Turkey."

They hitched their mules and separated, Papa Clair taking only his knives.

On rejoining each other thirty minutes later Lander held up his empty hands and looked his disgust. Papa Clair held up a turkey he had killed with his knife.

Having eaten and saved what was left of the turkey they resumed their flight. Their back trail concerned them none as they knew the men would not attempt to follow them afoot. They progressed leisurely, thinking to hold back until the boat passed them. As it was impracticable to follow the river closely, owing to the high water, they were continually riding across the bends, making their mileage much less than that of the boat. At times they drew back a considerable distance from the river and could not know whether or not the boat had passed in the meantime.

For two days they advanced to glimpse the broad and muddy stream and as often retreated, or were driven back by natural obstacles, without sighting the Golden Queen. Lander was convinced the boat was ahead of them. Papa Clair, observing the unusual number of snags and drift in the river, and knowing the boat would not attempt to run after dark, shook his head.

On the third day they started late and crossed a deep bend. They approached the river along some low bluffs and were able to draw close to the river. They were out of food and had eaten nothing since the noon before.

As they stood and stared out on the mighty desolation Lander forgot his hunger. It was his first trip up the Missouri. Here was a primitive monster eternally gnawing away at the banks, swallowing acres at a mouthful, writhing back and forth and forever shifting its serpentine course. The implacable waters were dotted thickly with drifting trees, fresh victims to its insatiate hunger, and ancient wreckage discarded in past seasons and now retrieved briefly to serve as a plaything.

Inshore were many deadly snags and sawyers. One of the latter, almost below them, deceived Lander at first into believing it was some aquatic monster. It raised its ragged spear of a trunk under the impulse of the current, then furtively sank from sight. A count of ten and it cautiously appeared, then vanished. Papa Clair smiled and briefly named it.

"Lord! But it does seem as if it knew what it's about," said Lander.

"They are worse than snags," said Papa. "Take one that saws up and down more slowly and a steamer at the bend will see clear water and have time to get above it before it comes up. Then, peste! It rips out the bottom."

Regardless of snags and sawyers the steamboat faced two big problems—food and huge amounts of fuel. It was the need of the latter that nearly led the two fugitives into the hands of the enemy.

From the bluff it was impossible to see the edge of the river at their feet. Thinking to find a turkey or deer they left their mules and slid down the clay banks and came to a thick grove of cottonwoods. They were advancing through this, with never a thought of danger, when a voice profanely bawling out brought them to a halt.

Dropping to the wet ground they crept forward to the edge of the growth and were astounded to behold the Golden Queen moored to a wood-yard. Her boilers were dead and no smoke was issuing from her stacks. The mate was loudly haranguing and abusing the men who, busy as ants, were bringing wood aboard. In tow was Prevost's keelboat with two men aboard. Neither Prevost nor any of the mountain men were with the boat so far as the two comrades could discover. Forward on the steamer was a group of heavily armed men who seemed to have no work to do. Papa Clair glared at them and played with a knife.

"There is Dillings," whispered Lander. "See anything of Prevost on board?"

Papa shook his head, murmuring:

"Sent two of his boatmen with the keelboat. He and the men went with the mules by land. Hah, behold! It is Tilton. Bah! The cowards! He did not dare come to your room that night. They won't risk their hides where they think we have a chance to fight back."

Now the mate called a halt and gave rapid orders. Deserting the wood-yard the men swarmed along the shore and began salvaging huge drift logs.

"Wood's just been cut. It's too green," whispered Papa Clair. "The logs burn best. They've been laying up here for hours. If they had had a fire going the smoke would have warned us. As it is we are lucky not to fall into their hands. Wood-yards are easy to get at here; but up-country the Indians hide near them and rush the men sent ashore. More than one scalp has been taken that way."

Lander pressed Clair's arm, but the old man had seen and already was working back into the grove. The cause of his alarm was a tall, rangy figure in fringed buckskin and carrying a long rifle.

"Hunter for the boat," murmured Clair. "The crew are easy to fool, but if he should come back in here he would see our trail. We must go back to the mules at once."

They lost no time in ascending the bluffs, the man in buckskin looming in their inner vision as a possible nemesis.

"He'll go ashore about midnight," continued Papa Clair as they found their mules and moved back a bit. "The steamer will start with the first light and pick up what he kills and hangs in trees along the shore. Steam has made women of the river travelers. But behold, I remember when corn, coffee, pork and beans were good enough for any man three times a day. That was before steam came to the Missouri. And yes, back of those days when bear was easier to get than pork we used bear meat. It wasn't so many years ago that every one used bear oil for lard. Many the long dugout I've seen come down the river with the center bin filled with oil and covered with a skin. Yes, and honey, too. Holy blue! But so many bee trees in the Missouri bottoms in those days. Fill the cargo-box full and off to town. M'sieu Boone's boys brought in much honey. No barrels, no casks then. And bear oil would go through a skin bag like water through a broken kettle. Ah, it makes me remember we are hungry, my friend. The tall hunter gives me a thought."

He led his mule farther back from the river, Lander following, impatient to learn if his thought tended to serve the food problem. Clair halted and gravely said:

"It is robbery I would lead you into. But what would you have when hungry and the belt set in an extra notch? One must eat when one starves even if one pays the shot to the devil for dining. May the tall hunter have much luck!" And he crossed himself devoutly.

Lander understood and with boyish zest was eager to play Papa Clair's game of larceny. They retired a quarter of a mile and were lucky enough to stumble upon a turkey which they dressed and broiled over dry twigs.

By the time they had eaten, long pennons of black smoke streamed high above the top of the wooded bluffs and they knew the boat was once more fighting its way against the current. They stalked it until it tied up for the night, then pressed on ahead a mile and secured their mules well back from the shore.

With the first streak of light they were scouting along the grove and were soon rewarded by the crack of a rifle.

"He's bagged something!" exulted Lander.

"May God be good to him in his hunting!" piously muttered Papa Clair. "The devil sent this high water to drown out the game. Turkey does not fill me. I want red meat."

Maneuvering down to the bank Clair struck the hunter's trail and followed it until they came to a small deer hung up in a tree where it could be plainly discovered from the boat. A volume of smoke down-stream tarnishing the glory of the morning sun marked the coming of the Golden Queen. The two adventurers now heard the hunter's rifle speak again some distance ahead.

The deer was removed from the tree, carried back into the woods and butchered. Loaded with the meat they scrambled up the slope and located their mules. They struck due north for several miles before daring to halt and make camp.

Hastily broiling some steaks they satisfied their enormous appetites and rode west, swinging down toward the river as the sun touched the horizon. They were at the neck of a bend, and cutting across this they beheld the Golden Queen working inshore through the many snags.

The voices of the crew and passengers could be plainly heard. Papa Clair pointed out a man on the upper deck and informed:

"It is his work to watch for the game the hunter hangs up on the bank. The hunter has had poor luck, making his kills far apart. When game is plenty he will be back on board by ten o'clock in the morning with the rest of the day for sleep and playing the gentleman. He can not be asked to do any work of any kind. Once I was hunter for a keelboat. But that was far different."

Now the lookout cupped his mouth and bawled out, "Ducks on th' starboard bow!"

Clair chuckled softly and whispered:

"The tall hunter will be very angry when he goes aboard and does not find the deer. The lookout man will be blamed and that will make him angry. Now we can go back. There is a big bend for us to cut across to-morrow."

That night they ate as only a borderer can eat after being half-starved for days. Lander was amazed at the portions of meat he devoured. At dawn they were on their way, keeping wide of the river until Papa Clair decided they were near the bend, when they bore south again. Papa Clair should have sensed the possibility of others choosing to walk across the bend, even as he and Lander were doing. Apparently he did not give the matter a thought, and Lander was too green to the country to think of it.

The two fared pleasantly, having eaten heartily, with Papa in a boy's mood and regaling his companion with many stories of the upper country. It was seldom he mentioned those periods of his life spent on the lower Mississippi, in and around New Orleans.

"Call this a bend," he scoffed. "Wait till you go round the Great Bend, thirty miles by boat and only a mile and a half across by land. Before the steamboat it was hard for river men. Last year when Jedediah Smith took some Rocky Mountain Fur men with loaded wagons to the Rockies by way of the Platte and Sweetwater he showed what one could do by land travel. M'sieu Bridger says he could have taken the wagons over the mountains by South Pass with no trouble."

"Wish I'd gone with that outfit. I'd know something about the mountains by this time," lamented Lander.

"It's not too late to learn if the A. F. C. don't get you before you get started," Papa comforted. "All their posts can be reached by water and they have no love for land travel. When M'sieu Ashley plunged into the mountains and set his men to trapping instead of using the Indians he made the A. F. C. open its eyes and grow very angry. The A. F. C. has more influence among the Indians than the government's Indian Department. There's no law beyond Fort Leavenworth except what you make and enforce yourself. To build posts in opposition is sorry business for the independent trader. He is undersold and discouraged and tricked in a hundred ways. The Indians do not believe the new man can last for more than a season and so they stick to the A. F. C."

"Stick so long as the liquor holds out," laughed Lander. "Fort Union was always sending word by express that they must have liquor."

"Ah, but those A. F. C. Such men! When it came hard to smuggle liquor they built a big distillery inside the fort. They got corn from the Mandans and the Minnetarees and turned out all they needed. There was Pinaud who killed Blair at Cabanne's Post. Both were hunters for the post. Behold, it was cold-blooded murder. Pinaud is taken to St. Louis and put on trial for his life. Every one on the river knew he would be hung. Every one said: 'Eh? A rascal. May the devil take him!' And he was acquitted! No witnesses came down the river to tell the truth against him. The A. F. C. was willing he should be hung, but to place a noose around his neck would show the company was violating the law by selling liquor at its posts. So Pinaud, the murderer, is free and back up on the river somewhere, believing he can kill any one and not be punished. I have often wished I could have him within good throwing distance."

A rifle barked behind them and Lander's mule bolted. The shot hardly sounded before Papa Clair was off his mule and crouching behind some wild rose bushes.

"Get down! Get down! Do you want to see the mountains, my friend?" he softly called out.

Lander fell off his mule and crawled behind a walnut tree, his animal trotting away to find its mate in Clair's hiding-place. And this was the danger Clair should have anticipated when he started to travel across the bend.

Clair beckoned for Lander to crawl to him. As Lander obeyed he instructed:

"Take the mules and lead them back from the river. Name of a pig! Why did I forget there were others who were hungry to walk on the land!"

"If there is to be any fighting—" Lander began.

"Non! non! I must see how many of the murderers are behind us. It may be it is some straggler."

Securing the mules Lander bent half double and slowly worked them back from the bend. Papa pulled his ragged hat firmly over his white hair and began scouting his back trail. Moving with exquisite cunning he reached the spot where he believed the assassin must have stood in firing the shot. He circled about this point, moving with the ease of a shadow. He heard nothing to arouse his suspicions, but when half-way round the circle he came upon signs which told him one man had recently passed there. Now a faint "hulloo came down the wind, indicating the shot had been heard.

Taking the unknown's trail Clair followed it. He believed that some of those who had gone ahead would be returning soon to investigate the shot.

He trailed the would-be slayer across the circle and into his own trail. To his trained eye it was obvious the man ahead was no woodsman, for his signs were many and exhibited much awkwardness.

Coming to some bull-berry bushes which stood twelve feet high and were thick with thorns Papa noted a thread caught on a thorn. He examined it carefully and pronounced it to be homespun. The man had crowded too close to the ticklish cover. Why? Clair crept around the bushes and to his horror caught a glimpse of Lander making up the bush-grown slope. He vanished almost as soon as seen, but there were other open spots ahead of him.

With a click of the teeth that denoted dismay Papa Clair shifted his gaze to the foreground, desperately seeking the snake before he could strike. He swept his eyes in a semicircle and repeated before he made out the homespun-clad figure blending in with the bare, dull branches of the bush growth. The man was kneeling and his long rifle was bearing on the slope. As Papa Clair raised his rifle Lander came into view. The assassin steadied his gun, but Clair's was the only shot fired. Lander turned and stared down into the lowlands.

Clair raced to the silent figure, gave it one glance, and then tore up the rise to Lander.

"Hat of the devil!" panted the old man, seizing the mules and fairly dragging the surprised young man into the bushes.

"Are they coming?" gasped Lander.

"If not it is not because m'sieu has not invited them," groaned Papa. "You ride in the sunlight, in open places, where all the world can see you. At night you should carry a flaming torch in each hand and sing. Then you would throw the assassins off the trail. Messieurs, the murderers, must be puzzled to know where you are."

"I must be very green," Lander sheepishly confessed. "I didn't think I could be seen. Who fired the shot?"

"I, Etienne Clair. Dillings was stalking you as he would a blind bull."

"Of course you—" faltered Lander.

"I always do. Had I had time I should have used the knife. Come—the others will be hurrying here like turkey-buzzards after meat."

They turned north almost at right angles with the river and had barely lost themselves in a region of scrub when a hoarse howl at the neck of the bend advertised the discovery of Dillings' body. The two mules left an open trail, and Papa Clair dismounted and scouted ahead. Soon he whistled and Lander joined him on a stretch of stony ground that ran east and west. Clair mounted and took time to breathe deeply.

"They are not woodsmen, my friend. They are but tavern loungers. Yet behold, a man without eyes could follow our trail. So it is very good we reached this rough strip. We will follow it west and strike into the bull-berry bushes."

"Thanks to you we got out of that mess nicely," shivered Lander.

"Not yet out of it. They know we are here. They heard Dillings shoot. They know he wouldn't fire unless he saw something to shoot at. They heard my shot. They find him dead. We have lost a move. Now we will hold back and be sure the boat has gone on ahead even if we arrive at Lexington after the outfit has started."

"And be hunted by Tilton's gang all the way to Lexington." reminded Lander. "They'll quit the boat and chase us afoot."

"Bah! they are nothing. If only——"

"Go on," urged Lander.

"If only they do not send the tall hunter after us," mused Clair. "He is used to following trails and reading signs. When he hears of Dillings' death he will know we took the deer. He will not get his satisfy till he bags us. But God wills."

They traveled hard as long as a shred of light remained, purposing to add as much distance as possible after darkness should blot out their trail from the hunter's knowing eyes. Then they would keep to cover until satisfied the Golden Queen was far up the river. They knew the boat would not wait for any scheme of vengeance to be worked out. Lander surmised his old friend was apprehensive. He was sure of it when the old man insisted they build no fire but eat what meat they already had cooked.

"Tall and thin. Thin as a buffalo cow in early spring," he mumbled as he tore at his food. Then to Lander: "You saw the hunter. How did he walk?"

"I didn't notice, beyond his trick of swinging his right leg sideways a bit. Maybe he didn't, but that's the way it looked."

"Good! You will make a mountain man yet—if you live. It all came to me a few minutes ago. I saw it and did not think about it till now. Now something inside of my head gave me a jerk and said for me to remember how he swung his leg. There could be no other."

"Meaning the hunter?" puzzled Lander.

"Pinaud, the hunter. The man who murdered Blair, and who would have been hung if the A. F. C. had not been trading whisky to the Indians. He's as deadly as a rattlesnake, a killer by nature. He is very worthy of one's best attention. It is to be regretted we must take the mules along."

Lander found his appetite diminishing. Pinaud, the hunter, was a vastly different proposition from Tilton and his blundering roughs. Lander suggested they stand watch but Papa shook his head, reminding that even a Pinaud could not follow a trail through the darkness.

"Then he must have sleep. In the morning he will seek us. The boat can not wait for him to hunt us and the boat must have fresh meat. He will try to add us to his bag as he goes along."

They were not disturbed that night, and they entered upon the sixth day of their journey with considerable confidence. The mules were a nuisance, but it was out of the question to consider leaving them behind when Bridger depended upon them for the overland trip. They avoided the sky-line when in the open and toward midday saw smoke above the trees. Something had delayed the boat, and instead of being behind they were ahead of it.

"We will wait for it to pass," mumbled Papa. "I will find some dry stuff which will not smoke and we will risk a fire. You shall broil some meat while I look about."

Lander stuck some green willow wands into the ground so that the meat-laden tips inclined over the small, smokeless blaze, and then settled himself to wait for Papa Clair's return. He sensed no danger as he sat there, hands resting on his knees. Pinaud, the hunter, was the last person in his thoughts for the excellent reason that Miss Susette was there, a vision that excluded all else. Then Pinaud, the hunter, suddenly stood before him, a savage grin on his thin, dark face as he pointed his rifle and kicked Lander's gun to one side.

Lander had no time to betray the surprise he felt. He curiously wondered why the man did not shoot.

"Where is your mate?" softly asked Pinaud, rolling his eyes to search the surrounding cover.

Then Lander surmised his life would be spared so long as the shot would serve to bring Papa Clair to the scene. This hope was shattered as Pinaud's prowling eyes took in the rifle he had kicked aside. Provided with an extra gun, the very thing he had refrained from doing—discharging his rifle—became the strategic thing to do. He could kill Lander, then wait behind a bush for Clair to come up and catch the bullet from the second weapon. As Clair might return at any moment he must either shoot or retreat at once.

"Where is your mate?" he repeated.

"Looking for you."

"You mean he knows who I am?"

"Pinaud, the hunter. We saw you on the boat several days ago. We've seen you every day since."

Pinaud frowned and darted his sharp gaze from side to side.

"You found a deer. One I shot for the boat. You took it," he ominously accused.

Lander nodded toward the broiling venison.

"Who is the other man?" hissed Pinaud.

"Papa Clair, of New Orleans and St. Louis."

Had a rattlesnake sounded his warning between the hunter's moccasins the effect could not have been more pronounced. He leaped to one side and snatched his gaze from Lander long enough to reconnoiter in every direction, while he tilted his head and with his supernormal hearing sought to catch some sound of Clair returning.

"Curse him," he softly whispered. "Wanted me hung in St. Louis for killing a dog. But they didn't dare hang Pinaud, the hunter."

Lander held his lazy position, his hands clasping his knees, his right hand over the haft of the knife inside the bootleg, his attention concentrated on the man who had come to kill him.

"How far was he going?" snarled Pinaud, again betraying uneasiness.

"To the boat."

"You lie! I'm going to shoot you."

"Go ahead. Clair will get you before you can reload."

"I'll have your gun for him."

"You'll need to load it first."

Pinaud stirred the long piece with his foot but did not dare to risk any examination. Suddenly he began smiling.

"It's a good joke on me," he explained. "I've hunted and shot game so long I forgot I do not have to use my rifle on you." And he grinned ferociously as he observed Lander's empty belt. "Death without any noise. Then I camp by your body and shoot old Clair, the meddler, when he comes back. Yes, that is very good. Strange game I'll hang up for the boat to take off. And a good price I'll get from Hurry-Up Parker."

He approached, walking on his toes and crouching ready for a spring. Lander, as if hypnotized by fear, did not stir. When within ten feet of Lander the hunter snatched out his long butcher-knife, dropped his rifle and sprang on his victim. He was in mid-air when Lander's right hand flashed out Papa Clair's gift knife.

Pinaud's moccasins struck the ground only for him to leap back to recover his discarded rifle. Lander jumped after him and gave him no time to snatch up the weapon. To add to the drama of the scene a low whistle sounded near by. Lander answered it. Now Pinaud knew the trap he had set had caught himself unless he could make his escape with the next sixty seconds. He commenced desperate knife play, but his heart wilted as he found his blade turned aside with a precision and firmness he had never encountered before.

The whistle was repeated. With a yelp of dismay Pinaud kicked at Lander's knee and thrust. There was a slither of steel against steel as the two blades crossed and locked, a cunning twist, and Pinaud fell to the ground, stabbed through the heart.

It was thus that Papa Clair found them. Pinaud's face was composed and serene. Lander's visage was wild and staring, and he caught his breath hysterically as he glared at the dead man. He was partly aroused by Papa Clair's cheery words:

"You've made it much simpler, my friend. We can now ride to Lexington without any fears of being overtaken by surprise. But there is one job we must first bother to do." And he moved toward the dead man.

"I can't touch it!" shuddered Lander.

"My mule and I haven't any such nice feelings," chuckled the old man. "Don't feel put out because you wouldn't let a low-down murderer add you to his list of victims. His death is much to your credit."

Despite his frail physique he lifted the dead man and threw him across the mule and turned away.

"Wait," hoarsely cried Lander. "If you want to hide it, why not leave it here—under rocks? We must shift our camp anyway."

"Hide it!" exclaimed Papa Clair. "What foolishness. I'm going to hitch it to a tree so the look-out on the boat can see it and call out, 'Dead man on the starboard bow.'"