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The Trail Of The Sun Dogs
by [?]

“Swell, you see,” said Jacques Parfaite, as he gave Whiskey Wine, the leading dog, a cut with the whip and twisted his patois to the uses of narrative, “he has been alone there at the old Fort for a long time. I remember when I first see him. It was in the summer. The world smell sweet if you looked this way or that. If you drew in your breath quick from the top of a hill you felt a great man. Ridley, the chief trader, and myself have come to the Fort on our way to the Mackenzie River. In the yard of the Fort the grass have grown tall, and sprung in the cracks under the doors and windows; the Fort have not been use for a long time. Once there was plenty of buffalo near, and the caribou sometimes; but they were all gone–only a few. The Indians never went that way, only when the seasons were the best. The Company have close the Post; it did not pay. Still, it was pleasant after a long tramp to come to even an empty fort. We know dam’ well there is food buried in the yard or under the floor, and it would be droll to open the place for a day–Lost Man’s Tavern, we called it. Well–“

“Well, what?” said Sir Duke Lawless, who had travelled up to the Barren Grounds for the sake of adventure and game; and, with his old friend, Shon M’Gann, had trusted himself to the excellent care of Jacques Parfaite, the half-breed.

Jacques cocked his head on one side and shook it wisely and mysteriously. “Tres bien, we trailed through the long grass, pried open the shutters and door, and went in. It is cool in the north of an evening, as you know. We build a fire, and soon there is very fine times. Ridley pried up the floor, and we found good things. Holy! but it was a feast. We had a little rum also. As we talk and a great laugh swim round, there come a noise behind us like shuffling feet. We got to our legs quick. Mon Dieu, a strange sight! A man stand looking at us with something in his face that make my fingers cold all at once–a look–well you would think it was carved in stone–it never change. Once I was at Fort Garry; the Church of St. Mary is there. They have a picture in it of the great scoundrel Judas as he went to hang himself. Judas was a fool–what was thirty dollars!–you give me hunder’ to take you to the Barren Grounds. Pah!”

The half-breed chuckled, shook his head sagely, swore half-way through his vocabulary at Whiskey Wine, gratefully received a pipe of tobacco from Shon M’Gann, and continued: “He come in on us slow and still, and push out long thin hands, the fingers bent like claws, towards the pot. He was starving. Yes, it was so; but I nearly laugh. It was spring–a man is a fool to starve in the spring. But he was differen’. There was a cause. The factor give him soup from the pot and a little rum. He was mad for meat, but that would have kill him–yes. He did not look at you like a man.

“When you are starving, you are an animal. But there was something more with this.–He made the flesh creep, he was so thin, and strange, and sulky–eh, is that a word when the face looks dark and never smiles? So. He would not talk. When we ask him where he come from, he points to the north; when we ask him where he is going, he shake his head as he not know. A man is mad not to know where he travel to up here; something comes quick to him unless, and it is not good to die too soon. The trader said, ‘Come with us.’ He shake his head, No. ‘P’r’aps you want to stay here,’ said Ridley loud, showing his teeth all in a minute. He nod. Then the trader laugh thick in his throat and give him more soup. After, he try to make the man talk; but he was stubborn like that dirty Whiskey Wine–ah, sacre bleu!”