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The Lake Of The Great Slave
by [?]

When Tybalt the tale-gatherer asked why it was so called, Pierre said: “Because of the Great Slave;” and then paused.

Tybalt did not hurry Pierre, knowing his whims. If he wished to tell, he would in his own time; if not, nothing could draw it from him. It was nearly an hour before Pierre, eased off from the puzzle he was solving with bits of paper and obliged Tybalt. He began as if they had been speaking the moment before:

“They have said it is legend, but I know better. I have seen the records of the Company, and it is all there. I was at Fort O’Glory once, and in a box two hundred years old the factor and I found it. There were other papers, and some of them had large red seals, and a name scrawled along the end of the page.”

Pierre shook his head, as if in contented musing. He was a born story-teller. Tybalt was aching with interest, for he scented a thing of note.

“How did any of those papers, signed with a scrawl, begin?” he asked.

“‘To our dearly-beloved,’ or something like that,” answered Pierre. “There were letters also. Two of them were full of harsh words, and these were signed with the scrawl.”

“What was that scrawl?” asked Tybalt.

Pierre stooped to the sand, and wrote two words with his finger. “Like that,” he answered.

Tybalt looked intently for an instant, and then drew a long breath. “Charles Rex,” he said, hardly above his breath.

Pierre gave him a suggestive sidelong glance. “That name was droll, eh?”

Tybalt’s blood was tingling with the joy of discovery. “It is a great name,” he said shortly.

“The Slave was great–the Indians said so at the last.”

“But that was not the name of the Slave?”

“Mais non. Who said so! Charles Rex–like that! was the man who wrote the letters.”

“To the Great Slave?”

Pierre made a gesture of impatience. “Very sure.”

“Where are those letters now?”

“With the Governor of the Company.” Tybalt cut the tobacco for his pipe savagely. “You’d have liked one of those papers?” asked Pierre provokingly.

“I’d give five hundred dollars for one,” broke out Tybalt.

Pierre lifted his eyebrows. “T’sh, what’s the good of five hundred dollars up here? What would you do with a letter like that?”

Tybalt laughed with a touch of irony, for Pierre was clearly “rubbing it in.”

“Perhaps for a book?” gently asked Pierre.

“Yes, if you like.”

“It is a pity. But there is a way.”

“How?”

“Put me in the book. Then–“

“How does that touch the case?”

Pierre shrugged a shoulder gently, for he thought Tybalt was unusually obtuse. Tybalt thought so himself before the episode ended.

“Go on,” he said, with clouded brow, but interested eye. Then, as if with sudden thought: “To whom were the letters addressed, Pierre?”

“Wait!” was the reply. “One letter said: ‘Good cousin, We are evermore glad to have thee and thy most excelling mistress near us. So, fail us not at our cheerful doings, yonder at Highgate.’ Another–a year after–said: ‘Cousin, for the sweetening of our mind, get thee gone into some distant corner of our pasturage–the farthest doth please us most. We would not have thee on foreign ground, for we bear no ill-will to our brother princes, and yet we would not have thee near our garden of good loyal souls, for thou hast a rebel heart and a tongue of divers tunes. Thou lovest not the good old song of duty to thy prince. Obeying us, thy lady shall keep thine estates untouched; failing obedience, thou wilt make more than thy prince unhappy. Fare thee well.’ That was the way of two letters,” said Pierre.

“How do you remember so?”

Pierre shrugged a shoulder again. “It is easy with things like that.”

“But word for word?”

“I learned it word for word.”

“Now for the story of the Lake–if you won’t tell me the name of the man.”

“The name afterwards-perhaps. Well, he came to that farthest corner of the pasturage, to the Hudson’s Bay country, two hundred years ago. What do you think? Was he so sick of all, that he would go so far he could never get back? Maybe those ‘cheerful doings’ at Highgate, eh? And the lady–who can tell?”