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At Point O’ Bugles
by [?]

“John York, John York, where art thou gone, John York?”

“What’s that, Pierre?” said Sir Duke Lawless, starting to his feet and peering round.

“Hush!” was Pierre’s reply. “Wait for the rest…. There!”

“King of my heart, king of my heart, I am out on the trail of thy bugles.”

Sir Duke was about to speak, but Pierre lifted a hand in warning, and then through the still night there came the long cry of a bugle, rising, falling, strangely clear, echoing and echoing again, and dying away. A moment, and the call was repeated, with the same effect, and again a third time; then all was still, save for the flight of birds roused from the desire of night, and the long breath of some animal in the woods sinking back to sleep.

Their camp was pitched on the south shore of Hudson’s Bay, many leagues to the west of Rupert House, not far from the Moose River. Looking north was the wide expanse of the bay, dotted with sterile islands here and there; to the east were the barren steppes of Labrador, and all round them the calm, incisive air of a late September, when winter begins to shake out his frosty curtains and hang them on the cornice of the north, despite the high protests of the sun. The two adventurers had come together after years of separation, and Sir Duke had urged Pierre to fare away with him to Hudson’s Bay, which he had never seen, although he had shares in the great Company, left him by his uncle the admiral.

They were camped in a hollow, to the right a clump of hardy trees, with no great deal of foliage, but some stoutness; to the left a long finger of land running out into the water like a wedge, the most eastern point of the western shore of Hudson’s Bay. It was high and bold, and, somehow, had a fine dignity and beauty. From it a path led away north to a great log-fort called King’s House.

Lawless saw Pierre half rise and turn his head, listening. Presently he, too, heard the sound-the soft crash of crisp grass under the feet. He raised himself to a sitting posture and waited.

Presently a tall figure came out of the dusk into the light of their fire, and a long arm waved a greeting at them. Both Lawless and Pierre rose to their feet. The stranger was dressed in buckskin, he carried a rifle, and around his shoulder was a strong yellow cord, from which hung a bugle.

“How!” he said, with a nod, and drew near the fire, stretching out his hands to the blaze.

“How!” said Lawless and Pierre.

After a moment Lawless drew from his blanket a flask of brandy, and without a word handed it over the fire. The fingers of the two men met in the flicker of flames, a sort of bond by fire, and the stranger raised the flask.

“Chin-chin,” he said, and drank, breathing a long sigh of satisfaction afterwards as he handed it back; but it was Pierre that took it, and again fingers touched in the bond of fire. Pierre passed the flask to Lawless, who lifted it.

“Chin-chin,” he said, drank, and gave the flask to Pierre again, who did as did the others, and said “Chin-chin” also.

By that salutation of the east, given in the far north, Lawless knew that he had met one who had lighted fires where men are many and close to the mile as holes in a sieve.

They all sat down, and tobacco went round, the stranger offering his, while the two others, with true hospitality, accepted.

“We heard you over there–it was you?” said Lawless, nodding towards Point o’ Bugles, and glancing at the bugle the other carried.

“Yes, it was I,” was the reply. “Someone always does it twice a year: on the 25th September and the 25th March. I’ve done it now without a break for ten years, until it has got to be a sort of religion with me, and the whole thing’s as real as if King George and John York were talking. As I tramp to the point or swing away back, in summer barefooted, in winter on my snowshoes, to myself I seem to be John York on the trail of the king’s bugles. I’ve thought so much about the whole thing, I’ve read so many of John York’s letters–and how many times one of the King’s!–that now I scarcely know which is the bare story, and which the bit’s I’ve dreamed as I’ve tramped over the plains or sat in the quiet at King’s House, spelling out little by little the man’s life, from the cues I found in his journal, in the Company’s papers, and in that one letter of the King’s.”