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God’s Garrison
by [?]

Twenty years ago there was trouble at Fort o’ God. “Out of this place we get betwixt the suns,” said Gyng the Factor. “No help that falls abaft tomorrow could save us. Food dwindles, and ammunition’s nearly gone, and they’ll have the cold steel in our scalp-locks if we stay. We’ll creep along the Devil’s Causeway, then through the Red Horn Woods, and so across the plains to Rupert House. Whip in the dogs, Baptiste, and be ready all of you at midnight.”

“And Grah the Idiot–what of him”? asked Pretty Pierre.

“He’ll have to take his chance. If he can travel with us, so much the better for him”; and the Factor shrugged his shoulders.

“If not, so much the worse, eh”? returned Pretty Pierre.

“Work the sum out to suit yourself. We’ve got our necks to save. God’ll have to help the Idiot if we can’t.”

“You hear, Grah Hamon, Idiot,” said Pierre an hour afterwards, “we’re going to leave Fort o’ God and make for Rupert House. You’ve a dragging leg, you’re gone in the savvy, you have to balance yourself with your hands as you waddle along, and you slobber when you talk; but you’ve got to cut away with us quick across the Beaver Plains, and Christ’ll have to help you if we can’t. That’s what the Factor says, and that’s how the case stands, Idiot–‘bien?'”

“Grah want pipe–bubble–bubble–wind blow,” muttered the daft one.

Pretty Pierre bent over and said slowly: “If you stay here, Grah, the Indian get your scalp; if you go, the snow is deep and the frost is like a badger’s tooth, and you can’t be carried.”

“Oh, Oh!–my mother dead–poor Annie–by God, Grah want pipe–poor Grah sleep in snow-bubble, bubble–Oh, Oh!–the long wind, fly away.”

Pretty Pierre watched the great head of the Idiot as it swung heavily on his shoulders, and then said: “‘Mais,’ like that, so!” and turned away.

When the party were about to sally forth on their perilous path to safety, Gyng stood and cried angrily: “Well, why hasn’t some one bundled up that moth-eaten Caliban? Curse it all, must I do everything myself?”

“But you see,” said Pierre, “the Caliban stays at Fort o’ God.”

“You’ve got a Christian heart in you, so help me, Heaven!” replied the other. “No, sir, we give him a chance,–and his Maker too for that matter, to show what He’s willing to do for His misfits.”

Pretty Pierre rejoined, “Well, I have thought. The game is all against Grah if he go; but there are two who stay at Fort o’ God.”

And that is how, when the Factor and his half-breeds and trappers stole away in silence towards the Devil’s Causeway, Pierre and the Idiot remained behind. And that is why the flag of the H. B. C. still flew above Fort o’ God in the New Year’s sun just twenty years ago to-day.

The Hudson’s Bay Company had never done a worse day’s work than when they promoted Gyng to be chief factor. He loathed the heathen and he showed his loathing. He had a heart harder than iron, a speech that bruised worse than the hoof of an angry moose. And when at last he drove away a band of wandering Sioux, foodless, from the stores, siege and ambush took the place of prayer, and a nasty portion fell to Fort o’ God. For the Indians found a great cache of buffalo meat, and, having sent the women and children south with the old men, gave constant and biting assurances to Gyng that the heathen hath his hour, even though he be a dog which is refused those scraps from the white man’s table which give life in the hour of need. Besides all else, there was in the Fort the thing which the gods made last to humble the pride of men–there was rum.

And the morning after Gyng and his men had departed, because it was a day when frost was master of the sun, and men grew wild for action, since to stand still was to face indignant Death, they, who camped without, prepared to make a sally upon the wooden gates. Pierre saw their intent, and hid in the ground some pemmican and all the scanty rum. Then he looked at his powder and shot, and saw that there was little left. If he spent it on the besiegers, how should they fare for beast and fowl in hungry days? And for his rifle he had but a brace of bullets. He rolled these in his hand, looking upon them with a grim smile. And the Idiot, seeing, rose and sidled towards him, and said: “Poor Grah want pipe–bubble–bubble.” Then a light of childish cunning came into his eyes, and he touched the bullets blunderingly, and continued: “Plenty, plenty b’longs Grah–give poor Grah pipe–plenty, plenty, give you these.”