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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(T.C. BRIDGES)

DEAD MAN'S GOLD

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Published by F. Warne & Company, London & New York, 1936

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Illustration

"Dead Man's Gold," F. Warne & Company, London & New York, 1936


Illustration

"Dead Man's Gold," F. Warne & Company, London & New York, 1936


Illustration

"Dead Man's Gold," F. Warne & Company, London & New York, 1936


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Frontispiece.

Illustration

The flood rose faster than ever.


CHAPTER I
THE LAST LAP

WITH terrifying suddenness the motor coughed, gasped, died. The plane shivered, then down went her nose and she was gliding silently through the icy air towards the great firs whose snow-clad tops stretched like spears to receive her.

"Jump, Terry!" ordered the pilot, a tall young fellow of twenty. Terry Latimer, five years younger than his brother, had a parachute strapped on his back, but he shook his head.

"No use, Dave. We're too low. You'll just have to do your best to put her down."

Dave groaned. He knew it was true. The old Harland was only about three hundred feet above the tree tops and, even if they jumped, their parachutes would not have time to expand. There was nothing for it but to volplane at as slight an angle as possible and so lengthen their lives by a few moments. As for landing in the forest, that was hopelessly impossible. And the cruel part of it was that they were within a few miles of the end of their perilous journey. Already they could see the smoke from the chimneys of Circle City rising against the pale blue sky.

Lower the plane swam and lower, towards the tops of the tall trees which seemed to be stretching out to receive her; then at the very last moment there was a sputter, a snap, and with an unsteady roar the ancient engine came back to life and the plane, with her undercarriage almost brushing the tree tops, shot forwards and upwards. David drew a deep breath.

"A close call, Terry."

"Close," repeated Terry. "I feel as if I'd died and come to life again. Dave, if we ever fly this bus again we ought to be arrested as suicides."

"We won't," replied David firmly. "We have enough gold to buy a new one."

"If we can find one," said Terry. "Circle City isn't Vancouver."

"If it comes to that I'll cable down to Vancouver and have one sent up," David answered. "Well, here we are," he added as the snow-clad buildings the little Arctic town showed beneath them and, beyond it, the bay thick with floating ice. He cut out the engine and glided down towards the landing ground. A few moments later the skis touched the snow with a slight hissing sound, the plane glided forward on its toboggan-like runners and came to rest.

"Sufferin' snakes, if it ain't Dave and Terry!" came a great booming voice, and a man who matched the voice came striding up. Mark Cragg had the biggest chest, the deepest voice and the kindest heart in Circle City. He had been a good friend to the two young Latimers since their father's death a year earlier and they were devoted to him. "Wal now, I'm right down glad to see you," he went on. "And I hope as this trip has brought you luck, boys."

"Yes, we hit a bit of luck this time, Mark," David answered. He picked up a buckskin bag from the cockpit and tossed it out. Mark caught it and hefted it in his great hand.

"Great gophers!" he gasped. "That sure feels like luck. About a hundred ounces of it. Hey?"

"Just about," said David quietly. "Come down to the bank with us, Mark. We'll tell you about it on the way. But, first, I must drain the radiator." He and Terry got busy with the plane. There was no hangar and she had to stand out in the open and, though the month was April, the night frosts were still terribly severe. While they worked another man turned up, a lanky slack-jointed fellow with a walrus moustache and a long nose. He stood and watched but said nothing.

"Who's that?" Terry whispered.

"Eddy Crann," rumbled Mark. "Snooper Crann they call him because he's always sticking that long nose of his into things as don't concern him. Don't you let him know where you made this find or the whole town 'll be on the way to-morrow."

"We struck it up in the Cinnabar Hills, Mark," David explained as they walked down into the town. "It's rich but only a pocket. I don't want anything said about it for it's no use starting a rush. I'm not being selfish about it. What I mean is there's only about one claim that's any good and that's ours. I'm going to register it quietly; then Terry and I want to buy another plane and go out and clean up."

Mark nodded. "You got sense, Dave. And I'm mighty glad you've struck it. Good for your mother and sister. But what do you want with another plane? Ain't the old one good enough?"

"If you'd been with us on the trip back you wouldn't ask that. She's worn out. We must have another."

"Then you'll have to send south for it, son. There ain't no planes for sale in Circle City."

They came to the little bank and deposited their gold. Then they went on to the Registrar's Office and registered their claim. Nobody paid any special attention. No one dreamed that a couple of kids like the young Latimers had made a strike.

After that Mark took them to his own place. He ran a general store and did well out of it. He lived behind it and his plump, kindly wife welcomed the boys and set to cooking supper for them. It was delightful to toast themselves before a red-hot stove, and eat hot rolls fresh out of the oven, and steak and fried potatoes, and drink coffee with milk and sugar in it. And then to sleep in a real bed with sheets and blankets.

But before turning in Dave wrote a long letter to his mother in Vancouver and Terry one to his sister, Chris. They told of their find and how they hoped to make a big clean-up during the summer.

"We'll be back with you in October, Mum," Dave wrote, "and with any luck we ought to have six or seven thousand dollars worth of dust. That will be enough to buy the land you know of and give us a start. The old plane is worn out but we have gold with us to buy a new one. It may sound a bit extravagant but, with a plane, we can get to our claims in a couple of hours while on foot it takes weeks. It's awful country. Besides, we can sell the plane when we've done with it, and not lose much over it either."

Next morning Mark had news for the boys. The steamer Yukon City had got in late the previous evening and there was a man named Sutton aboard her, who was agent for the Meteor Plane Co. of Seattle. "He's got a sample plane along, Dave," Mark said. "I reckon it would be just about right for you."

"A Meteor," repeated Dave eagerly. "If I had my pick of all the planes in America it's a Meteor I'd choose. But I'm afraid he'll want an awful lot for it."

"Don't you worry about that, Dave. I got a few hundreds laid by. Glad to lend you and Terry a bit if you needs it."

"You're a brick, Mark. I'll go and see him at once."

"Don't you be too eager, Dave," Mark warned "Sutton's a slick sort of chap."

"I'll bargain all right," said Dave. "Where is he?"

"Down at the Gold Star on the water front. Go along and good luck to you."


CHAPTER II
THE SLICKNESS OF SETH SUTTON

SUTTON seemed quite a pleasant fellow. True, he had rather sharp features and a pair of keen grey-green eyes, but he spoke well and was very civil to Dave.

"My first trip up here," he said. "They told me planes were needed but it doesn't look to me like the sort of country for them. Are there any landing grounds?"

"Plenty," Dave told him. "Ice in winter and lakes and rivers in summer."

"But wheels are not much good. You want skis and floats."

"I have skis all right," said Sutton. "I'll fit 'em at once.

"You're a pilot?" he asked.

"Been flying for two years," said Dave.

"What's your job—furs?"

"Gold mostly." Sutton's eyes shone.

"Gold—found any?"

"My brother and I have a claim," Dave answered.

"Gee, but I'd like to try that game," said Sutton. Dave laughed. "Not much game about it. It's the hardest work in the world and the most chancy.

"You'll make more money selling planes. How much do you want for your Meteor, Mr. Sutton?"

"Four thousand dollars," Sutton answered. Dave's face fell. This was a thousand dollars more than he had expected. It would mean borrowing at least five hundred from Mark and then there was the grub stake and outfit to be thought of. That meant at least another three hundred.

"I'll give you three thousand in gold," he said.

"In gold," repeated Sutton. "You mean you got that much out of your claim?"

"Yes, and we hope to get a bit more." Sutton shook his head.

"Three thousand is cost price out of the works and I've had to freight her all the way up here. Can't be done, mister."

Dave thought a bit.

"I'll have to talk things over with a friend," he said. "Will you give me a couple of hours, Mr. Sutton?"

"I'll do that," Sutton promised and Dave hurried off. Rounding a corner he almost ran into Snooper Crann coming the opposite way.

"Can't you watch where you're going," snapped, the fellow in a voice like a wolf's snarl.

"Sorry," said Dave civilly, but Crann pushed roughly by and hurried on. Dave paid little attention. His mind was too full of the plane to think of anything else. He found Mark in the store and told him what Sutton had said. Mark pursed his lips.

"Dog-gone! Four thousand's a mighty long price. Try and make him split the difference, Dave. I'm good to put up five hundred, but I can't do much more."

"We simply must have a new plane, Dave," said Terry. "It would take a month of Sundays to do that journey afoot, and, if the ice goes out, we can't do it at all."

"I'll see Sutton again," said Dave and started off once more. When he got to the little hotel he met Crann coming out. This gave him a shock for it looked as if Crann, too, was after the plane.

"I can put up thirty-five hundred," Dave said to Sutton. "I'm afraid that's my limit, even with what I can borrow." Sutton gave him a quick look.

"See here, Mr. Latimer, you want a plane to get to this gold claim of yours, I take it?"

"That's it," said Dave.

"And I reckon you haven't told anyone where this place is."

"Of course not. I don't want to start a rush." Sutton nodded.

"I've got a proposal to put up to you. If you'll stake me the claim next to yours you can have the Meteor for three thousand." Dave shook his head.

"That's decent of you, Mr. Sutton, but the trouble is our claim is a pocket. I don't believe there's anything worth having on either side."

"I'll chance that," said Sutton firmly. "I'm crazy to dig some gold and I've a bit of money put by to outfit me."

"But," said Dave, "if you sell me the plane how are you going to get there? It's awful country, big mountains and deep gorges and rivers that rush down like mill races when the thaw comes."

"No need to worry about that. I can get another plane."

Dave thought a little.

"All right," he said at last. "The only crab is about letting you know where to go. You'll understand I can't tell anyone where the place is until my brother and I are ready to start."

"Make a map," said Sutton promptly. "Make a map and write full directions. You can hand it to me before you start. I shan't tell anyone."

Dave nodded.

"If you'll come to the bank I'll pay over the gold at once and you can make out a bill for the plane. I'll fix up the map right away. How long will it take to get the Meteor ready to fly?"

"I can do that to-day," Sutton said.

"Fine! Then we'll be off in the morning and when we get there the first thing my brother and I will do is to stake out your claim. We'll test the ground both sides."

"You reckon I'll get some gold," said Sutton eagerly.

"You'll get some," said Dave, "but I can't say how much. And you can bunk in our shack until you've built one for yourself."

"That's white of you," said Sutton warmly. "Let's go."

The money was paid, Sutton gave the receipt, then hurried off to get the plane out of its case. He had two mechanics from the ship to help him. Dave drew the map and wrote full directions, put these in an envelope and slipped them into his pocket, then he and Terry got busy with their stores.

Cold as it was, the days were fairly long and just before supper Dave and Terry started with a hand truck loaded with goods for the flying ground. Terry was wildly excited and Dave himself felt a real thrill at the idea of flying away over the forest next morning in the new plane. They found Sutton with his two men busy with the Meteor.

"Looks pretty, don't she?" said Sutton, straightening up. Dave and Terry stood and gazed at their new ship. She was painted bright red, and with her spotless planes and gleaming metalwork looked so trig and smart that the hearts of the brothers were too full for words. The contrast between her and the dingy old Harland which stood near by made her beauty even greater.

"You can load her right now, if you've a mind to," Sutton continued. "She's all ready and full of juice. I was just going to start up the engine and see how she runs. You get in, Latimer, and I'll pull her over." Dave climbed into the neat cockpit with its array of gleaming instruments. Sutton pulled over the prop and, in spite of the cold, she soon caught. She spluttered a bit at first but presently the engine began to rev properly and the sound rose to a steady roar while the dry snow swept back under the blast of the exhaust.

"Like to take her up?" Sutton asked presently. "Or I'll fly her if you like, so you can get the hang of the controls."

"I've flown a Meteor," Dave said.

"Then go right ahead," replied the other. "I'll sit behind."

The power of the engine amazed Dave. The plane had not run more than two hundred yards before she was off the ground and she shot away like a bullet towards the pale blue sky. Dave took her up to about two thousand and stunted her a bit.

"You're all right," said Sutton through the phone. "Can't teach you anything. Better set her down again and pack the stuff in before it gets dark." The Meteor floated down like a leaf. Terry was waiting.

"She's fine, Terry," said his brother and that was all, but his thin brown face was glowing. "Bring up the truck. We'll load her at once, and get off first thing in the morning. The stuff will be all right here to-night," he added. "There's one thing about the North. They're the most honest folk alive. No one steals a chap's grub stake." As he spoke he was lifting a sack of flour to stow it in the back of the cockpit.

It was at this moment that a thick rug was flung over his head and a pair of arms that each seemed a yard long caught him round the body. Almost before he knew what was happening he was jerked over backwards and at the same time a heavy weight dropped crushingly on his chest. He struggled furiously but was quite helpless, for his arms were held by the rug. He could only kick. He tried to shout but the rug smothered him.

"Lie still or you'll get hurt," came a snarling voice that was vaguely familiar. Sharp knees dug into his chest, squeezing the breath from his lungs. And with the thick rug over his head, he could get no more air. His body jerked convulsively, queer colours danced before his eyes, then all went black and he went down into the depths of unconsciousness.

"Dave! Dave!" Terry's voice was the first thing he heard as he struggled back to life. The rug was gone but his arms were lashed tightly to his body. He felt sore all over and his chest ached so that breathing was difficult.

"W-what's happened?" he asked vaguely.

"The brutes!" Terry's voice was hoarse with anger. "They've stolen the Meteor. They've gone off with it. And I'll bet they've stolen your map, too."

"Who—who did it?" Dave asked thickly. He was still half dazed.

"Sutton—Sutton and Snooper Crann."


CHAPTER III
HUNGRY VALLEY

IT was lucky for the Latimer boys that Mark came to look for them. If he hadn't they would both have frozen to death in the cruel frost that bound the North that evening. Snooper Crann had tied them so tightly that they were both quite helpless. It took the big man a moment only to slash the cords that held them and help them to their feet.

"What come?" he demanded. "I watched you a-trying out the plane, but when I seed her go up the second time I got kind of puzzled."

"They've stolen her," said Dave with bitter briefness.

"Stole her!" Mark's voice was a roar. "Sufferin' snakes! Who stole her?"

"Seth Sutton and Eddy Crann."

"And you let 'em!"

"It wasn't Dave's fault," said Terry sharply. "He was lifting a bag of flour into the plane and Crann, who must have been hiding in the shed there, slipped up behind and chucked an old bearskin over his head. Sutton had me the same time. They'd got it all planned out," he ended savagely. Mark was as angry as the boys.

"Did they get your map, Dave?"

Dave thrust his hand into his breast pocket.

"Yes," he said with the calmness of despair. Mark stared up at the darkening sky but of course the Meteor was long out of sight.

"Kin they land in the dark?" he asked.

"It won't be dark," Dave said. "There's a moon. And the landing's easy."

Mark groaned.

"Then they've got your claim and they'll pick it clean and clear off some place over the border with the gold."

Dave merely nodded. He seemed half dazed. Terry went up to his brother.

"You're not going to sit down under this, Dave. You're not going to let those thieves get away with it. They've got our gold and our plane and they'll have our claim, too, if we don't stop them."

"How can we stop them?" Dave asked dully.

"Go after them. We've still got the old Harland." Dave's eyes widened.

"I thought you said that, if we flew her again, we ought to be arrested as suicides."

"Who cares what I said? She'll fly. We'll patch her up somehow. Dave, I'd rather die a dozen times than let those miserable thieves ruin us." Terry's eyes were shining. His voice rang with a deadly determination. Something in his mood infected Dave. His jaw tightened and his whole face became older, harder.

"You're right," he said curtly. "We'll do it." Mark gave a roar.

"That's the way to talk, lad. And I'll back you with my last dollar. I'll get one o' them mechanics to give you a hand in the morning and I'll fix you another grub stake. Gosh, I wish I could go along. I reckon Snooper 'ud think a grizzly had grabbed him afore I was done with him. Now you come right along back to supper."

Mark was as good as his word. He got the same two mechanics who had set up the Meteor and whom Sutton had paid and got rid of before the test flight. They shook their heads over the poor old Harland.

"I wouldn't fly her for a farm," the elder said candidly. All the same they worked hard on her and, when they had finished, both agreed she might last out another ten or twelve hours' flying. By midday they had finished, and they bundled the stores aboard. The last package was a small one of dynamite for work on the claim.

"You got to take this?" Mark asked doubtfully.

"Must have it, Mark. We always take some with us," Dave told him. "It doesn't make much difference," he added with a shrug. "Make the end a bit quicker, if we do bust up. That's all." They were just starting when Mark handed Terry a large old-fashioned pistol.

"Carries an ounce of small shot," he told Terry. "Won't kill anyone but it might come in useful to scare 'em." He paused, then went on.

"Good luck to you, sons. If them skunks comes back this way I'll attend to them." The roar of the engine drowned his words and the old plane began to skim forward across the snow. She rose at last and climbed doggedly upwards. Dave was taking no chances. He would fly as high as he dared so that, if the ancient engine failed again, there might be some chance of reaching a possible landing. The last thing Terry saw as he looked back was Mark waving a large red handkerchief. Then he drew back out of the freezing gale and crouched behind his windscreen.

The mechanics had done their work well; there was no break or falter in the steady roar of the exhaust. As they drove high above the frozen forest Terry was wondering what would happen when they reached their claim. What could two boys do against two men, both desperate, both armed? There was no law out there in the forest. It was the spoils to the strongest. He wondered if he had not better talk to Dave, try to make some plan. He was on the point of speaking, then checked himself. Dave had to handle the plane. It wasn't fair to distract his attention. He must wait until they got there—if they ever did get there.

Dave was still gaining height. Ahead rose the long ridge of Moose Mountain, a desolate mass of granite beyond which lay that tremendous gorge, the Hungry Valley. There was gold, it was said, in the Skookum Creek which ran through the bottom of this rift but the cliffs on either side were so terrifically high and steep that it was impossible to descend them, even with ropes. The story was that, many years ago, a man called Bill Stopford, better known as Skookum Bill, had taken the chance of running down the flooded creek in a canoe and had managed to reach the bottom of the gorge in safety. He had been seen busy digging by a trapper from the heights above and had held up a heavy bag signalling that he was getting plenty of dust. That was the last ever seen of him alive or dead. Some said he had been killed by a bear, some that he had starved to death, but Mark's opinion was that he had tried to get out through the lower rapids and been wrecked and drowned in the attempt.

The air was bumpy over the great ridge and the old plane tossed like a ship in a storm. Terry looked down and shivered a little. If anything happened here they had, as Mark would have said, about as much chance as a celluloid cat in a furnace. They crossed the ridge and the Hungry Valley opened beneath them. Accustomed as he was to the towering mountains and the deep canyons of this wild country, this place was on so terrific a scale it made Terry catch his breath. From the summit of the almost perpendicular cliffs to the frozen creek at the bottom was a sheer drop of more than half a mile.

The pale sun, now almost at the zenith, flung its rays into the depths of the chasm and suddenly Terry caught sight of something at the bottom—something lying on the thin thread of white which was the frozen river and, beside it, two dots that danced and waved.

"Dave! Dave! Look!" he shouted. "Look down! A plane on the ice. It's the Meteor."

Dave checked the speed of the old plane and sent her round in a curve. He glanced downwards over the rim of the cockpit.

"The Meteor," he repeated hoarsely. "You're right, Terry. What luck! What incredible luck!"


CHAPTER IV
THE SECOND STEAL

"THEY'RE trapped," he continued exultingly. "They'll never get out to worry us again."

"But you can't leave them, Dave," Terry answered. "They'll starve."

"Starve? They've plenty of grub in the plane."

"But that won't last, and they can't get out."

"Let 'em stay. Do them good. They'll have time to think of how they robbed and swindled us."

Terry drew a long breath.

"Dave, you can't do it," he said firmly. "I know they're a couple of blackguards but they don't deserve death and that's what you're sentencing them to."

Dave grew angry.

"What do you want to do. Go down there and wreck this plane and stay and starve with them?"

As he spoke he was circling over the gorge and the two men below were still waving wildly.

"No need to wreck the plane. We can land on the ice."

"And suppose we do—what then?" Dave retorted harshly.

"You take them up, one at a time. You can dump them on the creek ice below the gorge and they can walk back to Circle City. They can do it in three days."

"And the odds are I'll bust up the old bus in doing it," snapped Dave. "And then I suppose we, too, shall have to walk the rest of the way."

"I don't believe you'll smash her up and, even if you did, I'd sooner walk from here to Vancouver than go on, feeling that I'd left two men to die."

Terry's firmness had its effect. It was an odd thing that, although Terry was so much younger than his brother, he had by far the stronger character. Dave was a fine pilot, and, for his age, a good man of business, but Terry was boss when it came to a pinch.

"All right." Dave's voice was sulky. "If you insist I suppose we must try it. But if we come to smash don't blame me."

"I won't," Terry answered quietly, then Dave cut out the engine and began to plane down into the depths. The air was bad and Dave had his work cut out to keep his old machine on anything like an even keel. The top of the rift was perhaps a mile wide but at the bottom the width was not two hundred yards, of which fifty were occupied by the frozen stream. As they got near it the ice which, from above, had looked smooth as a floor, was seen to be fearfully rough. They could plainly see the hummock on which the Meteor had come to grief. There was no room to turn and Dave was forced to switch on and fly some distance down the creek. He couldn't go far, for, only a little way further down, the valley narrowed to a gorge less than thirty yards in width.

"I'll have to chance it," he muttered. Terry saw his face whiten as he spoke and he himself held his breath, fully expecting a crash. The skis touched the surface, the plane bumped horribly and for an ugly instant the brothers thought she would nose over. Both sighed with relief as she came to rest. Dave climbed out and looked round.

"And I've got to do this twice more," he said grimly. "No, three times, for I'll have to come back to fetch you, Terry." Terry said nothing for it was only now that he realized the desperate nature of this rescue. "They're coming," Dave went on. "Better have your pistol ready."

Sutton was hurrying towards them, followed more slowly by Crann. The boys turned and faced them and Dave's face was grim. Sutton did not hesitate. He came straight up to Dave.

"Latimer," he said, "is it any use saying I'm ashamed of myself?"

"Not a bit," returned Dave sharply. Sutton flushed.

"I deserve that," he said. "It was a dirty trick I played you and now you're returning good for evil. I know you and your brother risked your plane and your lives to get down here. Will she take us out again?"

"That remains to be seen," replied Dave in the same dry tone. "One of her skis is bent and I'll have to straighten it before she'll take off. Is the Meteor smashed?"

"Her engine's all right but her undercarriage is bust to blazes."

"What possessed you to come down here?" demanded Dave.

"Crann said there was gold here—left by a chap he calls Skookum Bill. The ice looked all right from above. It wasn't till I got too far to turn back that I saw how rough it was."

"That's where the gold is," said Dave drily, pointing to the river. "Let's have a look at the Meteor." He and Terry walked towards it. Sutton walked on his other side and Crann tagged along behind. Dave was not going to speak to Crann. He was certain it was Crann who had put Sutton up to stealing the Meteor.

One look at the Meteor was enough. She could never fly again until she had new skis. And that was a workshop job. They went back to the old Harland. One of the runners was badly bent but that could be put right. Dave, Sutton and Terry set to work at once. Sutton told Crann to go and cook a meal.

The job took longer than they had reckoned and when it was finished it was within an hour of sunset. Dave spoke aside to Terry.

"I might take one up before dark but not more. What about it?"

"Wait till morning," Terry said.

"It means spending the night with these two fellows."

"It won't pay them to try anything," Terry answered. "They depend on you to fly them out."

Dave nodded.

"All right. But I'm not camping with them. We'll sleep by our plane."

Sutton shrugged his shoulders when he heard their decision.

"I reckon I can't blame you," he said very quietly and went back to his camp by the wrecked Meteor.

It was not nearly so cold down here in this valley as it had been at Circle City. For one thing it was out of the wind, for another there were warm springs. There was one quite close to the spot where the Latimers' plane lay and the vapour from it hung like a cloud in the still air. There was plenty of brushwood and the boys cooked a good supper, then got into their sleeping bags.

"I'm not taking any chances," Dave said. "We'll watch and sleep turn and turn about. I'll take the first watch and rouse you in four hours' time."

"Right you are," Terry answered. But he made up his mind that, after Dave called him, he would watch for the whole of the rest of the night. Dave would need all the sleep he could get before the ordeal of the morning. Terry could not help shivering when he thought of the awful risk of three separate ascents from this gorge and two descents on to the fearfully rough ice. It would be bad enough with the Meteor. With the poor old rickety Harland the chances were all against Dave.

But it was foolish to anticipate trouble. Terry had seen enough of the rough side of life to have learned that lesson. He resolutely put all such thoughts out of his head and, tired with the hard work of the day, closed his eyes and was soon asleep.

What woke him was a deep roaring sound. An aeroplane engine. He opened his eyes and, to his utter amazement, it was daylight. He tried to spring up, only to discover that he could not move. He was tied with two ropes, one round his arms and body, the other fastening his ankles. From where he lay he could see the Harland on the ice immediately in front of him. A man was in the pilot's seat and it was not Dave. It was Seth Sutton. Another man was in the act of removing the chocks from under her wheels. That was Crann.

"Dave!" yelled Terry. "Dave!" He writhed round and there was Dave, eyes open and fixed on the plane. The expression of dazed horror on his face made him look as if he was struggling in the grip of a nightmare.

"Dave!" he cried again. "They're stealing our plane." Even as he spoke Crann swung in behind Sutton, the plane skated forward. Cleverly handled by Sutton, she took the air and rose steadily, driving northwards up the great rift, flying faster and faster towards the heights above.


CHAPTER V
THE SKY DARKENS

DAVE'S face was white as paper. He was muttering, but what he said Terry could not catch. Badly frightened, Terry fought desperately to free himself. The ropes were not so tight as those that had fastened him at Circle City. He felt them loosen a little. It occurred to him that Sutton had had just enough decency left in him not to sentence his victims to death by starvation.

He felt one strand give. A moment later his arms were free. Then he snatched his knife from his belt, slashed the cords that bound his ankles, and was busy cutting Dave loose.

"Dave," he said again. "What's the matter? Did they hurt you?"

"They—they've got the plane," was all that Dave could say. He seemed to be stupefied. For the moment Terry forgot the plane and everything else in his fear for his brother. Had these scoundrels drugged or poisoned him?

"Never mind the plane, Dave. Tell me what's wrong."

"Wrong!" repeated Dave in a voice that made Terry's heart ache. "Don't you understand? I slept on duty. It's my fault. It's all my fault."

Terry drew back a little. He thought hard. It was plain to him that it was no use talking to Dave in his present condition. He went to the fire. There were hot embers under the ashes. He put on fresh sticks, blew them into a flame and put on the kettle. While it heated he sliced bacon and laid it in the frying pan. As it frizzled he broke in biscuits and fried them in the fat. When the kettle boiled he flung in half a handful of tea, boiled it up, and poured out a mugful which he mixed with condensed milk. He gave it to Dave.

"Drink it at once," he ordered.

Dave obeyed mechanically but Terry, watching keenly, saw that the hot, strong stuff brought back a little colour into his brother's face.

"Does your head feel queer, Dave?" he asked.

"It—it aches," Dave answered.

"So does mine. Dave, do you suppose they chloroformed us or anything like that?"

Dave shook his head.

"We could smell chloroform."

"But I slept just like you. I didn't wake while they were tying me up. And my head's all muzzy." He looked round again in puzzled fashion and noticed the vapour from the warm spring hanging mist-like in the quiet air. "Dave," he said sharply, "could it be that spring? Could there be gas from it?"

Dave's eyes widened. He seemed to be coming alive again.

"It might be. Yes, it's possible. Carbonic acid or something of that sort. Heavy gas that spreads along the ground."

"That's it, Dave," exclaimed Terry. "I don't get a headache for nothing and you had one, too. So you see it wasn't your fault. You needn't blame yourself a bit."

A look of relief spread across Dave's face.

"You're a brick, Terry. I could never have forgiven myself if it had been my fault." Then his face fell again. "But that doesn't help us," he went on. "We're stranded just like poor Bill was. We can never get out of this, alive."

Terry refused to be discouraged.

"You can't tell that, Dave. The rapids may be frozen so we can get out one end or the other. And we have stores. The Meteor is still there with all the stuff in her. Sutton and Crann loaded it all up before they left Circle City. There's grub there for weeks besides what we've got here in our camp. Eat up your breakfast, then we'll explore."

Terry's enthusiasm was catching and Dave pulled himself together. The hot tea cleared their heads and the food helped. When they had finished and cleaned up they started up valley towards the Meteor. Her cargo was almost untouched. Evidently Sutton had been well aware that the old Harland would not carry more than was in her. There was flour, bacon, tea and sugar to last two people for three months if they were careful. Meat of course the boys had killed for themselves in the Cinnabars. It remained to be seen whether there was any game in this valley.

"Better go up to the top first," Terry said. "Don't you think so, Dave?" Dave nodded and they tramped off. The ground on either side was a mass of snow-covered rocks, but keeping to the ice they found good walking. The gigantic cliffs towering on either side gave them an unpleasant feeling of being in prison. It was very certain that no man alive could climb those terrible walls; it was equally certain that they could expect no help from outside. And the thought that Sutton and Crann were flying straight to their claim did not help matters.

"Could you believe two men could be such brutes?" Dave burst out.

"It is a bit hard," Terry agreed. "I believe Crann planned it all. Mark said he was a bad hat."

Dave's fists tightened.

"If I ever get my hands on him," he muttered.

Terry said nothing. He only hoped the two would never meet for Crann's strength was twice Dave's.

"It's clouding up," Dave said presently. "There'll be a big snow, Terry, then the thaw will come."

"Then we'd better hurry," Terry answered.

It was a long way up to the head of the valley. There they found a gorge similar to that at the bottom, terribly steep, terribly narrow. On either side the cliffs went up like the walls of a skyscraper. There was nothing but a mere crack of grey sky visible overhead. The ice at the bottom was fearfully rough, piled in huge hummocks over which they had to climb very carefully. A gurgling sound reached them like water being poured out of a giant bottle, and suddenly they were on the edge of a great hole in the ice at the bottom of which clear green water curled in a slow whirlpool. The gap stretched from one side of the creek to the other and there was no way of crossing it.

"I was afraid of this," said Dave. "And the odds are it will be the same way down below."

"We've got to see," Terry answered. He was desperately disappointed but would not say so for fear of discouraging Dave. Dave was still in a very upset and jumpy state. "Let's go back to camp," he added, "get some dinner and then try the lower gorge."

Dave shrugged.

"Just as you like, but I tell you it won't be any good. We're done, Terry."

Terry pulled up short.

"We're not done, Dave. We've hardly begun yet. Even if we can't get out over the ice we still have the Meteor. We might manage to mend her. And if we can't do that we can build a boat out of her and run the lower rapids. I'm thinking of Mum and Chris. I'm not giving up till I'm dead." Dave stiffened a little under his brother's words. For a moment he looked angry but then he quieted down.

"You're right, Terry. We'll carry on," was all he said.

They went back to the Meteor and Dave looked her over once more. He shook his head.

"We'll never do anything with her, Terry. We'd need a forge and tools."

"Then hadn't we better get the stuff out of her?" Terry said. "If the thaw did come suddenly we might have a job to save it."

"We'll get some of it out and camp here, Terry. We're not going to risk that sleep gas from the spring. But we'll have to look slippy for, if I'm not badly mistaken, the snow is coming before long."

"There's shelter under that big slab of rock," Terry said, pointing. "And we'll need shelter if the snow does come." He picked up a sack of flour as he spoke and carried it back to the cliff. A great flat rock projecting from the face made a sort of pent house roof, and left space below to store the things from the Meteor and for the two boys to sleep. They got them all in, the last package being the dynamite which they stowed in a crevice out of harm's way. Then they sat down and ate some cold food. The sky was still darkening.

Dave got up.

"We'd best have a look at the lower end, Terry. We haven't too much time."

Terry nodded and they started.


CHAPTER VI
PRISONERS FOR LIFE

THE lower gorge seemed more promising, for the upper part was all ice. Ice piled up in great hummocks in the wildest confusion, and it took the brothers all they knew to climb it without breaking their legs or their necks. Then as they got further down an ominous roar was heard. With great difficulty they worked their way around a curve and their worst fears were justified. Beneath them was a fall about twelve feet deep, where the river gushed in a great spout from under its covering of ice, to fall into a deep pool beneath. Spray rising from this fall had frozen on the cliffs on either side, turning them into sheets of glare ice.

It was an obstacle which no one could cross. There was no way of getting over or round or through it, and as he stood on the ice rim above the pool and looked down Terry felt as if his heart had gone down into the pit of his stomach.

"Told you so," said Dave briefly. "We're properly boxed, Terry."

Terry refused to let Dave see how scared he was.

"There's only one thing for it. We must build a boat," he said stoutly. "We can do it by using the cockpit of the Meteor."

"How do you propose to get down this fall?" Dave asked.

"There won't be any fall when the river's in flood. Just a steep rapid. We'll do it, Dave," he declared fiercely.

Dave looked up at the darkening sky.

"Here's the snow," he said. "We'd better get back to camp."

Sure enough, the air was full of small flakes, myriads of them. It was going to be thick, and without a moment's delay the boys turned and made back for the top of the gorge. Before they were half-way the snow was like a fog and it was nearly dark. It was a desperate job scrambling over those jagged masses of ice, the edges of which were already hidden by the thick coating of new snow. Both had falls but luckily escaped with nothing worse than bruises, but they were thankful when at last they got clear of the gorge and reached the more level ice above. Before they reached their camp they were so covered with snow they looked like walking snowmen and were only too glad of the cover afforded by the projecting slab. High above they could hear the howl of a gale but down in these great depths there was little wind.

All the big snowstorms of the North come in autumn or spring and sometimes the one that heralds the break-up of the ice and the end of winter is the heaviest of all. All that night it snowed. Before they turned in the boys piled up a great bank of snow to protect them, and when morning came found themselves completely shut in by a vast drift. And still it snowed and did not stop for eighteen hours. By that time the Meteor was almost buried and the soft snow was waist deep on the level. They dug a path down to the waterhole they had cut in the creek ice but that was all they could do. Dave was desperately uneasy.

"The temperature's gone up a lot," he said. "The break might come any time now."

"It's hardly due for a week yet," Terry answered.

"You can't count on that. I wouldn't wonder if it came in forty-eight hours," Dave told him.

"Then to-morrow we must get the plane off the ice," Terry said.

Dave nodded.

"We will. If we lost her we should be completely finished. There's no wood down here fit to build a raft let alone a canoe."

They turned in early. There was nothing else to do. Terry went to sleep and dreamed that he was driving a dog team but that the dogs would keep fighting and he couldn't stop them. He woke with their howling in his ears and a sense of something wrong. Something was very wrong for the night was full of the sound of rushing water. He scrambled up and looked out, and what he saw terrified him.

"Dave, it's the break," he shouted. "Get up. We've got to save the plane." Dave sprang up and pulled on his boots. It was almost pitch dark but there was just enough light to see that the white expanse which had covered the whole valley door overnight was broken by a broad streak of darkness. It was water rushing down furiously. They plunged out. It was raining in torrents and the temperature had risen above freezing point.

Terry had a flashlight and its white beam showed the plane lying where they had left her. But already the water was all round her and rising every minute. He dashed forward knee deep into the icy cold flood. Dave caught hold of him and pulled him back.

"Steady! If you go down into that you're done for."

"The ice is still firm under the water," Terry panted. "It's one of the tributaries has started to run, not the creek itself." He was wildly excited. This time it was Dave who kept his head.

"Wait, Terry. I've got a rope. I'll put it round you and hold it. Then see if you can tie it to the plane." With the rope fast round his waist, Terry made a second attempt. He was up to his waist before he reached the Meteor and it was all he could do to stand in the fierce rush of the torrent. The cold was cruel. Yet he stuck to it and managed to climb into the plane's cockpit. He made the rope fast round her prop, then clinging to it struggled back to the bank. Then he and Dave got a purchase round a rock and started pulling.

Slowly the Meteor came round and with desperate effort they managed to get her over the edge of the ice, with her front part up on the rocks. That was all they could do. The slope was too steep to get her further. They doubled the rope and made it fast to a big boulder, then soaking and half frozen, gained their shelter and set to making a fire. As soon as they got it going they peeled off their wet things and, as they had no change, wrapped themselves in blankets and hung their soaked clothes to dry. By this time dawn was breaking and all the time the thunder of the flood grew louder and the water kept creeping up. It rose so fast they could see it cover stone after stone. In all their years in the north the brothers had never seen a flood rise so swiftly. Its roar, echoing to and fro between the lofty cliffs on either side, was almost deafening. The kettle was boiling. Terry made the tea, but Dave was standing up watching the river.

"There's a fearful strain on that rope, Terry," he said. "And the water's coming up like mad, I don't believe it will hold much longer."

"We've done all we can do," Terry answered. "Come and drink your tea." Dave took his tea and swallowed it. It was all Terry could do to get him to sit down long enough to eat his breakfast. The rain had stopped now and the sky had cleared. No sunlight penetrated these depths but the stronger light showed the creek a full hundred yards wide and one mass of yellow foam and thundering waves. It was a tremendous and terrifying sight.

An hour passed and though the stout rope hummed under the strain, it held. But the waves now washed quite over the hull of the plane. The water had reached the boulder to which they had tied her. Suddenly from far up the valley came a roar which drowned the voice of the flood and, watching with fascinated eyes, the boys saw great floes of ice rise to the surface and come racing down.

"The creek's broken," gasped Dave, in a voice which shook a little.

He was right. The ice of the creek itself had gone all in a moment and was coming down in crashing, thundering masses. The great floes cracked like broken glass as the flood flung them together. They caught on the rocks at the rim, and piled up in glittering masses. A cake six feet thick came swinging down upon the Meteor. It struck her like a battering ram. With a loud twang the rope parted, the plane moved outwards, then was picked up bodily and went flying down stream. One wing lifted like that of a dying insect, then—then it was gone.

"Our last hope," groaned Dave in despair. "We're prisoners for life. Not that our life will be a very long one," he added with fierce bitterness.


CHAPTER VII
CREEPING DEATH

TERRY said nothing. For once he could find no words of comfort. With the plane gone their last hope was gone, for there were no trees in the valley and no driftwood from which even a raft might be made. He and Dave crouched together in their shelter, gazing out at the ever rising flood and listening to the roar and thunder of the ice blocks as they crashed downwards. And while they watched, the water rose and rose. Dave spoke at last.

"If it comes much higher it will drown us out," he said dully. Terry realized that Dave was right. The flood was already within a couple of feet of the floor of their refuge and, on the far side of the valley, it was actually lapping the cliff walls. It was still rising. He got up.

"We must shift our stuff on to the top of the slab," he said.

"What's the good," asked Dave. "It's only prolonging the agony." But that was too much for Terry.

"Don't be foolish!" he said sharply. "We're not throwing up the sponge. Mark might come to look for us."

"And what could he do?" retorted Dave. "If he brought all the rope in Circle City he couldn't reach us."

"I'm not throwing in my hand yet," said Terry doggedly as he set to work to lift the stores on to the great slab of rock overhead. Dave said no more, but helped him.

It had stopped raining. That was one small blessing. But the flood rose faster than ever, and they had hardly got their stuff to safety before the water began to lap over the floor of their cave, and they were forced to climb to the slab. Very soon the whole floor of the valley was covered and was turned into one great lake of foaming snow water. Dave looked at the cliff behind them. It was sheer as a wall.

"It's still rising," he said grimly.

"And I know why," Terry answered. "The ice has piled up in the mouth of the lower gorge and made a dam. But the weight of the flood will break that pretty soon and then she'll go down with a rush." Dave only grunted. He was in the very depths of despair. Terry felt as bad but he would not show it. One of them had to keep his end up.

Still the water rose. By midday it was within a foot of their perch. They sat, chilled and miserable, watching it and wondering how long it would be before it swept over the ledge. Even if it did not carry them away it would ruin their stores and then they would speedily starve for, so far, they had seen no life of any sort in the valley. Hungry Valley was its name and that seemed to be its nature.

They did not think of food, they did not talk but sat, wrapped in their blankets, watching the steady advance of the water. It was almost still now, a huge brimming lake in which ice floes floated quietly. The only sound was the distant roar of the flood pouring in at the upper end.

The water lapped the rim of the ledge.

"Another half hour," said Dave. "Pity Mum and Chris will never know what happened to us."

"Don't!" cried Terry sharply and Dave's face changed.

"Sorry, old man, but it's them I'm thinking of, not us."

"I know," Terry answered in a choked voice. The words were hardly out of his mouth before a roar like a thunder clap nearly deafened them. Terry gave a yell.

"The dam's gone. We're safe. Look! It's going down already."

It was like pulling the plug out of a bath. Huge whirlpools showed on the surface of the lake and the water fell so fast that, within half an hour, the floor of their cave showed again. Rock after rock leaped into sight and, before the afternoon was half gone, the river was back to a width of less than a hundred yards. They got their stuff down into the cave and managed to light a fire to dry it out. By evening their clothes were dry and they were sitting over a good supper.

"This flood ought to have brought down some driftwood, Dave?" Terry said as he dished out the bacon.

"It might," Dave agreed, "but we shall have to wait a week before we can find it. This flood will take that long to run down." They sat and talked a while. Dave was a little more cheerful but both the brothers had to fight against the horrible feeling of being in a prison from which there was no escape.

Just before dawn they were both roused by a roar as loud as that when the ice dam had gone out. The echoes went crashing and bumping up and down the cliffs.

Dave sat up.

"Not another flood," he muttered.

"A snow slide," Terry answered. "It's peeling off the cliffs." When light came and they turned out, the first thing that Terry noticed was that the creek had dropped to summer level. He took the kettle down to fill it and had barely done so before the water came up again in a wave that almost washed him off his feet. It would have done so if he had not jumped back pretty nimbly. A fresh flood was rushing down.

This puzzled him for a minute, but only for a minute. Then he realized what had happened. The snow slide they had heard an hour earlier had dropped in the gorge above and formed a small dam which had temporarily blocked the stream. Now this had gone out, hence the second flood. He picked up his kettle and turned back up the slope. Then he stopped short and stood, gazing up the valley with an oddly fixed expression on his keen young face.

"The snow," he said under his breath. "A chance!" Suddenly he turned and ran towards the cave.

"Dave!" he shouted. "Dave!" Dave looked out.

"What's the matter now?" he snapped.

"I've an idea—an idea for getting out. Listen!"


CHAPTER VIII
SNOW-SLIDE

"THE dynamite," Terry explained breathlessly. "See the snow up on that big slope. Only a very little of it fell yet that was enough to dam the river or nearly. Suppose we could get it all down in one great slide, why it would half fill the valley." He stopped, breathless with excitement.

"And what then?" demanded Dave.

"Can't you see? It will stop the river altogether. The bed will be dry."

"Not that big pool," said Dave.

"Who cares about one pool? We can swim that. Dave, it's a chance."

Dave bit his lip.

"It is a chance," he answered slowly, "but a slim chance, for we can't tell whether the few sticks of dynamite we have are enough to start a big slide, and even if they do, whether the dam will hold the water long enough for us to get out. It's two miles good from the top to the bottom of the valley. We might just get into the lower gorge as the dam burst." Terry's jaw set hard.

"We might, but we won't," he answered fiercely. "We've got fuse to burn for at least ten minutes. That'll give us a half-way start. Come! Let's get to it before the snow slides any more." Dave did not move and Terry saw that his forehead was knitted in a frown. He was thinking hard.

"Wait!" Dave said. "We mustn't be in too big a hurry. Remember we can't get back to Circle City without food for three days and we can't carry much if we have to run for it—as we shall. The first thing is to put up two small packs and leave them ready to pick up as we come back by the camp."

"You're right. I hadn't thought of that." Terry began packing on the instant but again Dave checked him.

"Breakfast first and a good feed. We'll need all our strength if this crazy plan comes off." Again Terry had to allow that Dave was right and, though he hated losing the time, he helped to cook and eat a good meal. Then they made up the two packs, took the dynamite and fuse and went up the valley. The sun was out, the temperature was rising fast and already the snow was beginning to slide. Great black cracks could be seen opening in the white surface and now and then there was a tremendous thud and a few tons would come thumping down off the heights. Terry was in a fever lest the snow on the big slope should begin to slide. But it did not and presently he and Dave were busy at the bottom. They found a crevice into which they pushed the dynamite. Their mining experience had taught them how to handle explosives and they put the sticks of dynamite just where they would do most good. They cut the fuse and in a few minutes all was ready. Dave looked up at the vast slope of white, steeper than a house roof which went up for the better part of a thousand feet.

"This is all the dynamite we have, Terry. If it doesn't work we're done."

"Don't croak. It's going to work," Terry answered fiercely.

Dave shrugged.

"Well, here goes," he said as he touched a match to the end of the fuse. The fuse caught at once and began to hiss, throwing out tiny sparks, yet Dave waited to be quite sure it was burning properly, then he and Terry took to their heels and fled down the valley. It was terrible going all through the wet snow and impossible to travel fast. They were nothing like a mile from the top when the dull boom of the explosion reached their ears. They turned in time to see a spout of stones and snow fly out from the bottom of the cliff, then they waited in breathless anxiety.

"It's going," Terry panted.

"No, only a small part of it. See, the snow field has cracked only about a hundred feet up the slope."

"Even that might do it," breathed Terry as the slide began.

"Not enough," Dave said. Tons of wet snow tumbled down into the river, but the strong stream seized it and swept it away. Terry could have wept with disappointment. Suddenly from high up came a queer creaking sound which grew to a dull roar.

"She's going!" Terry's voice was a scream. "She's going—right from the top." It was a terrific sight. The jar had started the whole snow field and thousands of tons came thundering down. Before their eyes the whole gorge was filled to a height of at least fifty feet with a packed mass of snow.

"Run!" yelled Terry and was off like a hare, At the cave they snatched up their bundles and raced for the lower gorge. Over that rugged slope covered with loose boulders the two boys raced like hares.

"It's worked—it's worked," cried Terry as they reached the narrow mouth. He was right. The water was no longer flowing but for all that it was still deep in the pools and the rocks were huge and formidable. Driven by the knowledge that this was their one hope for life, they scrambled furiously over the boulders and waded waist deep through icy pools until they reached the fall above the great beach pool. There was no water going over the lip of the fall but plenty down below. And there was no way past, for the cliff on either side was sheer wall.

"Here goes," cried Terry, and sliding over he dropped into the deep pool. He went right in over his head and the icy cold nearly paralyzed him. Then down came Dave. Half a dozen strokes landed them on the far side but still the rocks were terrible and both knew that, at any moment, the dam might give way and send the mighty flood roaring down upon them. The worst of it was they could not know how long the gorge was. It might run for miles for all they could tell.

They struggled round a curve and Terry gave a triumphant shout.

"There's the end, Dave."

"A mile or near it," said Dave curtly. "A good half hour's journey." As he spoke he was clambering between a mass of boulders, each as big as a horse box car. Polished smooth by floods, they were terrible things to cross. Together, the two slid knee deep into the remains of a pool and there Terry pulled up short and pointed.

"A canoe, Dave." Sure enough, wedged firmly into a crack between the wall of the gorge and a huge rock some six feet up was the remains of something which must once have been a canoe.

"Stopford's," breathed Terry. "Skookum Bill's." He plunged across towards it. Dave caught at his arm.

"No. Leave it," he cried. "Every second counts."

But Terry had reached the canoe and was pulling himself up alongside it. Only about half was left and that, oddly enough, the stern. It was plain what had happened. Skookum had lost control and been flung over the fall into this pool. The canoe had spun round, been jammed stern first into the crack and the bow broken off by the force of the water. And there the remains had stuck through all these years.

"Come on," cried Dave angrily. "Come on, you idiot!"

"You're forgetting the gold," Terry retorted.

"The gold!" snapped Dave. "Are you crazy?"

"Crazy," repeated Terry and, in spite of his anger at the delay, Dave pulled up short, struck by something queer in his brother's voice. "Crazy, Dave. I'd have been crazy if I hadn't stopped. Catch!" He dropped something into Dave's hands. It was a buckskin bag black with age, hard as stone, about twice the size of a cricket ball. Dave's jaw dropped, he stood as if paralyzed.

"The gold!" he muttered hoarsely. "The gold."

"It's gold all right, but only one bag. There must be more. Help me to find it. It'll be just below here."

"No." Dave's voice was emphatic. "There's no time. The dam can't last much longer. It may go any moment and even gold won't buy our lives if the dam breaks. Come, Terry."

Terry was obstinate.

"The dam won't break. Our luck's in," he said sharply.

Dave dropped the poke of dust into his pack.

"You'll come this minute, Terry," he said and there was a quality in his voice which Terry had never heard before.

"As bad as that?" he asked.

"So bad I doubt now if we'll get out alive," Dave told him. Terry cast one regretful glance at the pool below.

"All right," he said and started.

Every moment their ears were straining for the roar which would mean the breaking of the snow dam, but it did not come.

"How long will the water take to get here after she breaks?" Terry panted as they struggled down a steep slide.

"Eight or ten minutes," Dave answered, and almost as he spoke there was a sound like distant thunder, so deep and heavy that the still air trembled.

"The dam has broken," Dave said quietly. "We're done." Terry's jaw set hard.

"Not yet," he declared. "We'll make it."

They raced forward, taking the most appalling risks, and every moment the roar grew louder. They were still nearly a quarter of a mile from the mouth of the gorge, and their hearts were like lead. They knew now they could never do it.

It was Terry who saw it first.

"The ledge," he yelled and pointed up to the left, to a ledge a yard or so wide and some thirty feet overhead. "There's a way up." A minute of wild scrambling, then, just as the head of the flood wave came crashing round the bend behind them, they gained it and stood panting but safe. Only just safe, for the tremendous volume of water filled the gorge to within a couple of feet of where they stood and the solid rock quivered with the awful impact.

The ledge ran the whole way to the lower end of the canyon and a few minutes later they had seen the last of that dreadful gorge and were busy building a fire to dry their soaking clothes.

Terry looked down at the thundering torrent beneath, which filled the gorge with its clamour.

"You were right, Dave. If we'd waited another minute we wouldn't have got out alive." Dave nodded and taking the little bag of dust out of his pack balanced it on his palm.

"About forty ounces," he said. "Not enough to do much good."

"Enough to buy us a grub stake, Dave."

Dave shrugged.

"Enough to pay our passage home," he answered.

Terry's eyes widened.

"You mean you'd go home and confess yourself licked?" His tone was so scornful that Dave bit his lip.

"What else can we do? Those two thieves will have cleaned our pocket long before we can reach it. It isn't as if we could get another plane. And it doesn't seem much use starting off to make a fresh find. We can't leave Mum and Chris for a whole year more." Terry took the gold poke from his brother, laid it on a rock and pulled out a knife.

"What are you going to do?" Dave asked.

"Divide the dust fifty-fifty," Terry answered.

"What for?"

"So you'll have enough to go home and I to buy my grub stake."

"You mean you're going prospecting again?"

"I'm going to our claim on the Cinnabars. I'm going to have the gold that belongs to us or bust myself trying for it."

Dave frowned.

"You haven't a chance. Look how deep the snow is. Long before we can get there they will have cleaned the pocket and cleared out."

"They may never have got there," Terry retorted. "You know yourself that Sutton barely got the old Harland up out of the valley. The odds are they crashed before they reached our claim. And even if they did get there," he went on, "Sutton is a cheechako—an absolute greenhorn. He won't know how to dig or wash the dirt or anything. Snooper would have to do it all. I tell you it would take them weeks to clean up." Dave looked thoughtful but did not speak. Terry, facing him, continued. "Anyhow, I'm not chucking it, Dave. I'd rather die than let those swine steal us blind. And there's another thing. We owe Mark money. Are we sneaking away without paying it?"

Dave bit his lip.

"It's madness," he growled. "Supposing we do go. Supposing we are lucky enough to catch them before they have got the gold and quit—what happens then? A fat chance you and I would have against Snooper Crann! A fellow like that wouldn't think twice of shooting us and chucking our bodies down some pit, and no one would be the wiser."

"I'll admit all that, Dave," Terry said, "but there's one thing you've forgotten. Snooper and Sutton are both sure that we're boxed in Hungry Valley. The last thing they'd be expecting would be for us or anyone to come after them. They won't be keeping any sort of guard and we'd certainly be able to surprise them." Terry's eyes were bright, his face shone with excitement and Dave realized that nothing he could say would alter the boy's mind. Being a sensible chap and, moreover, really fond of his brother, he decided to make the best of it.

"All right, Terry," he said, "you win. To-morrow we'll push back to Circle City and talk things over with Mark."

"Hadn't we better start now?" Terry suggested. But Dave was firm.

"We've done enough to-day and this is a good camping place. Let's feed and get a long sleep. We shall travel all the better to-morrow."

Terry having won his point could afford to be generous. He agreed, so they made camp and after treating themselves to a thoroughly good meal they took the long night which both of them needed. They were off at dawn and, five days later, were safe back at Circle City.


CHAPTER IX
MYSTERY SHOTS

"I RECKONED as how I'd knowed every sort of wickedness in the North," said Mark Cragg in his great booming voice. "But this here beats anything I ever seed or heard of. Arter you two lads had risked your lives going to their help, then to steal your plane and leave you to starve, why—why it beats all." His great knotted fists were clenched and the gleam in his blue eyes made them look like cold steel. He swung round and stared at Terry and Dave.

"So you're going arter 'em. Boys, I've a mind to come, too."

"No, Mark," said Terry. "You have to stay here and tend to your business. Anyway, you've done enough for us already."

Mark scowled.

"Talk sense. I ain't done nothing. And it worries me to think o' you two lads going arter a couple o' black-hearted scoundrels like them gold thieves. I'm going to see you're properly fitted for this job and there's another thing I kin do. I'll lend you my Injun and his dogs to help carry your stuff. That'll make things a bit easier for ye. Now come into the store and let's see what we can pack. It's lucky I got a good lot o' jerked deer's meat. It don't weigh much but it's mighty nourishing."

Mark fairly ransacked his place to find the best of everything for the boys, and early next morning all was ready for the start. Mark's last present was a gun with plenty of ammunition and some buckshot cartridges.

"And don't hesitate to use it," he growled. "Get Crann if you can. Without him Sutton ain't much shakes."

In one way luck was with the boys. Frost had come back and the half melted snow had turned into glare ice. The sun had power at midday and Mark told them to take a rest from twelve till about four, then, when the frost came back, to push on as long as there was any light.

"Get the drop on Snooper Crann," bellowed Mark as the little party set out. "No one ain't going to blame you if you kills him." And those were the last words they heard from their big friend as they plunged into the woods.

It was a long trip, afoot. They had to go right round the head of Hungry Valley. They couldn't help thinking of the wrecked Meteor and longing for it. Afoot, it took them a full day to cover what a plane could do in ten minutes.

For three days all went well, then the frost broke and was followed by a storm of soft snow. They had to camp and wait. The snow cleared, then turned to rain. Within another forty-eight hours the snow was all gone and it was out of the question for sledges to travel. There was nothing for it but to send the Indian and the dogs back and push on afoot.

The ground was in a dreadful state. With the frost coming out it was sticky mud and every creek ran bank full. Some days they did not cover more than five miles. They grew gaunt and silent. Dave felt that the whole business was crazy but he did not say so. He knew that no argument would have the slightest effect on Terry. Terry's whole mind was set on coming up with Crann and Sutton and recovering the gold.

It took them thirteen days to reach the head of Hungry Valley and then they had to fell a tree to make a bridge across the creek. By this time the weather was better but the ground was still a morass of mud in which they often sank knee-deep. By night they were usually so done that they had hardly energy left to make camp or cook supper. Then they would roll in their blankets and sleep like the dead.

All this delay made heavy inroads upon their stock of food and at last they were forced to stop and make a two day camp in order to kill some meat. They killed a caribou, cut the meat into strips and smoke-dried it over a fire, then started again heavily loaded.

It was five weeks from the day they had escaped from the flood before they sighted the snow-clad peaks of the Cinnabars towering white against the eastern sky, and even after that they had another week of scrambling up and down precipices before they at last came out above the valley where they had found their gold.

They reached the rim rock above it just as night was falling and there was no light left in the deep hollow below to see whether anyone was there. For a long time the brothers lay flat on the ridge, peering downwards. Dave spoke.

"No light, Terry. Either they never got here or they've been and gone."

"I don't suppose they ever got here," Terry said. "Better go back a bit and camp. We can't do anything till daylight."

They dropped back down the ridge, found a hollow where they lit a small fire, there they cooked supper, cut fir branches for a bed and lay down. Anxious as they were, they were too tired to lie awake and presently both slept. The sun was not up when Terry woke. He rubbed his eyes, sat up, slipped on his boots and, with a glance at Dave who was still asleep, went softly up the steep slope. The sky was red above the eastern heights but down in the valley below mist still hung. Terry lay flat on the ridge and waited.

Up at this height it was cold, for a chill breeze came down from the snow peaks. Terry shivered slightly yet hardly noticed the discomfort, so keen was he on getting a sight of the valley. At last a golden circle lifted above the opposite hills and at the same time the mists beneath began to clear. Presently Terry was able to see the roof of the cabin which he and Dave had built the summer before. The vapour clouds moved by a light breeze broke and Terry drew a quick breath.

"The plane," he muttered.

"It's the plane all right," came Dave's voice from behind him—"the old Harland. So they got here after all. The question is whether they're here still."

"There's no smoke," Terry said. "I wish I had a pair of glasses."

"It's all right. We shall soon be able to see," Dave answered. "What about breakfast while we wait?"

"You get it, Dave. I'll wait here and watch. I'll call you if I see anything."

Dave nodded and went back to the camp. Terry lay still on the ridge. The sun was up now and the mist quickly vanishing. Still there was no sign of life about the cabin, no smoke from its chimney. The place seemed utterly deserted. Between its hills the valley sloped towards the south. The upper part had few trees but a mile away were thick woods and in the far distance an irregular streak of blue, which Terry knew to be the upper waters of the Rogue River. Everything was intensely still.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a faint pop, yet faint as it was Terry grew tense. Then came a second.

"Breakfast's ready." It was Dave's voice again. Terry held up a hand and Dave stole up and lay beside him. "What's up?" he whispered.

"Two shots. Rifle, I think, or a pistol."

"From below?"

"From the woods out there by the river. A long way off. I only just heard them."

"That means they're out after meat."

"What—at this hour! You wouldn't catch Snooper starting out before dawn, especially in the fog."

Dave looked puzzled.

"You're right. But all the same it must be them. There couldn't be anyone else up here."

"There might be. Remember those Indians we saw last summer?"

"I'd forgotten. Yes, it might be Indians, though it's pretty early in the season for them to be up on this high ground." He stared at the cabin. "There's no one there, anyhow."

"They're not there," Terry agreed. "We'll have a mouthful of grub, pack up and go down."

Breakfast took but five minutes and within another five the two were making their way down into the valley. They took no chances and crept down along a gully which brought them out close behind the cabin. Terry crawled up and listened. There was not a sound; he peered through the window, then beckoned to his brother.

"The birds have flown," he said.

Dave looking in at the window scowled.

"And see the state the place is in!" he growled.

"Never mind that, Dave," said Terry. "Let's search."

Searching did no good. There was not a thing left in the place but the rough furniture and a lot of empty tins. The whole place was filthy. Terry went out and began looking round.

"Here are their tracks, Dave," he exclaimed suddenly. "Quite fresh, too." Dave came out and examined the footprints. There were the marks of Snooper's big boots and of Sutton's smaller ones beside them. By their depth it was plain both men had been heavily loaded.

"They're absolutely fresh," Dave agreed. "It's my belief they left within the last twenty-four hours. Remember, there was rain the night before last, but these prints have been made since then."

Terry nodded, then glanced across at the plane.

"But why did they go afoot?" he asked. "The plane looks all right." Dave strode over to the plane and Terry followed. One glance was enough.

"One skid's broken, Terry," Dave said. "Besides, a plane with skids is no good once the snow's gone."

"I might have thought of that," Terry grunted. "Best thing we can do is to trail them. But we'll have to be careful. It's on the cards that one of them fired the shot I heard."

"It's on the cards but it doesn't seem likely," Dave answered. "They must surely have got further than that if they started yesterday. All right. Let's go."

The ground was soft and there was no great difficulty in following the trail which led due south towards the river. Within two hours from the time of starting the brothers had reached the top of a steep bank which ran down to the broad swift stream. There was a puzzled frown on Terry's face as he stared at the water.

"They can't have crossed, Dave. It's too deep to wade and too swift to swim."

"Then they've gone down. It's exactly what they would do for they'd be scared to come back to Circle City."

"You mean they built a raft?" said Terry. "That's my idea."

Terry shook his head.

"Madness! They wouldn't get a mile. It's all rapids. Snooper must know that as well as we."

"Let's go down and see," Dave suggested. "The tracks lead straight to the water."

They went. Terry led the way. He walked slowly, looking about in all directions.

Suddenly a shot rang out, there was the thud of a bullet and Terry toppled over into a thick bush.


CHAPTER X
TWO BULLETS

"TERRY!" Dave's voice was agonized as he dropped beside his brother. He put his arms round Terry to lift him. Imagine his surprise when Terry's arms went round his neck and pulled him down.

"Lie still, you idiot!" Terry growled.

"W-what do you mean?" gasped Dave.

"I mean the blighter will get you, too, if you don't keep down."

"Never mind about me. Where did he hit you?"

"Nowhere."

"But I heard the bullet," Dave answered.

"I expect you did. I only hope it hasn't bust the kettle. That's what it hit. It knocked me off my balance, but I'm not hurt, so don't worry your silly old head."

Dave drew a long breath.

"I was scared, Terry."

"So was I. But it's the other fellow who's going to get the real scare. Wait till I get my pistol. It's the scatter gun Mark gave me and it's loaded with duck shot. Now lie low and wait till the fellow shows up. I hope it's Snooper," he added vengefully.

They got rid of their packs and Dave loaded his gun. Sheltered by the bush, they waited in silence, but minutes passed and nothing happened.

"What's come of him?" Terry whispered. "He wasn't very far off."

"The shot came from that clump of tamarack down by the river," Dave answered. "See here, Terry. You lie still and I'll go out by the back of this bush and creep down that gully. If I keep my head down I can reach the river bank without being spotted and then I ought to be able to see the fellow." Terry hesitated, but he knew Dave was a first-class woodsman and could move silently as any Indian; there did not seem to be much risk.

"All right," he agreed. "Then if he comes out he'll be between two fires. And, Dave—don't hesitate to shoot. Remember what Mark said. If we can knock out Snooper, Seth Sutton doesn't count."

"I'll shoot," agreed Dave and went off. There wasn't a sound as he slid into the gully and, strain his ears as he might, Terry did not even hear a twig crack as his brother passed down the trough-like depression. Dave vanished into the belt of bush which grew beside the stream and Terry could see him no more.

Terry's eyes were fixed on the clump of stunted trees from which the bullet had come but there was not the slightest sign of life and Terry was puzzled. Snooper was foxy, no doubt, but somehow Terry couldn't see him lying doggo all this time. It was now nearly twenty minutes since the shot. Terry grew very restless yet for Dave's sake he dared not move. He wondered where Dave was. Although he himself was on higher ground he had not seen a sign of his brother since he reached the river. Quite suddenly Dave's voice rang out.

"Don't shoot. I have you covered." Terry gasped. Dave's voice came from the edge of the tamaracks but how he had got there only he himself knew. Then Terry got a fresh and worse shock.

"Who are you?" came another voice and one which Terry had certainly never heard before. It had an English ring.

"Latimer is my name—Dave Latimer."

"Good Lord, and I thought it was that big hooligan again. I'm frightfully sorry for shooting at you. Did I hit you?"

"You nearly got my brother," Dave answered curtly. Terry saw him stand up, then heard his voice again, "You can come on down, Terry."

Terry fairly shot down the hill. He reached the tamaracks to find Dave standing over a man who lay propped against a fallen tree. The latter was evidently English, a man of about thirty, wearing breeches and heavy boots with a dark blue flannel shirt and an old tweed coat. His clean-shaven face was pale and drawn and he had a blood-stained bandage round his head and had two round his left leg.

"This is Captain Walford, Terry," Dave said. "He's been up on Great Bear Lake all winter and came back this way prospecting. Last night, when he and his Indian were camping here, Crann and Sutton sneaked up on them. They shot Captain Walford and left him for dead, took his Indian and his canoe and went off down the river."

Terry went rather white. It was a sign that he was intensely angry.

"How badly are you hurt, Captain Walford?" he asked.

"I've a bullet through the calf of the left leg. What knocked me out was one that grazed my forehead. They thought they'd finished me and left me. When I came round they were gone and so was my canoe with my Indian, Amook. I've no doubt they took him to handle the canoe. They didn't either of them look like white-water men."

"They aren't," said Terry briefly. "Crann may have handled a canoe but I doubt it. Sutton knows nothing about the North, and has probably never handled a paddle."

"Why are you after them?" Walford asked, and Terry in a few words explained the situation.

"They seem something rather choice in the way of blackguards," said Walford dryly. "The sooner you two get on their trail the better."

"But we have no canoe," said Dave blankly.

"Don't let that worry you. My second canoe is at my camp on the lake and that's barely seven miles from here."

Terry's face lit up.

"Another canoe. Fine!"

"But what about you?" he asked. "We can't leave you here," he added.

"You can and you will. I'm not dangerously hurt. Now listen. Leave me food for a day, then go back up the river to the lake. You'll find my cabin just beyond the second point on the north side. The canoe is slung under cover. There's a fair amount of grub there, too, for I mean to go back next winter. Take the canoe, load up enough stuff to last me for a week and take all you want for yourselves. Oh, and bring me a waterproof sheet and some blankets, also a small tent you'll find rolled in the storeroom. Then come back here as quickly as you can."

Terry nodded, then frowned.

"We can do all that, Captain Walford and be back before dark. But even that delay gives Crann and Sutton a whole day's start. It doesn't look to me as if we should have a dog's chance of catching them."

"You can," said Walford. "That's where Amook comes in. Amook's not a fighting man but he has plenty of brains. I'll lay anything that he'll hang up his new masters for all he's worth. He'll make them portage every twopenny-halfpenny rapid. You'll catch them all right. The trouble will be to handle them when you do catch them. That fellow Crann is all brute."

"We know that," said Dave quietly. "At Circle City we were told to shoot. Now that the fellow has tried to murder you we shan't hesitate to do so."

Walford nodded.

"I hope you won't. But shooting's too good for him. If I'm not much mistaken he's the man who murdered Rioux, the breed up at Long Lake, two years ago and stole his furs. He ought to be hanged."

"We'll do our best," Dave promised. "Now what about that leg of yours. Can I dress it before we go? We have iodine."

"Thanks. They stole all my stores. You might bring me some disinfectant and bandages from the cabin."

Both Dave and Terry knew a bit about first aid; their mother had seen to that. Dave found that the wound was clean. The bullet had gone right through. It had made a nasty hole and it was going to be some days before Walford could walk. He washed, disinfected it and bandaged it carefully, and while he did so Terry got some firewood and piled it handy. He also fetched the packs and laid things ready within Walford's reach so that he could feed himself without moving.

"That's fine," said Walford gratefully. "Don't waste any more time over me but get to the lake. I shall expect you some time before dark. You can leave your packs here. I'll look after them, but you'd better take your gun in case of possible trouble."

Without their packs the two found the going comparatively easy and they made the seven miles to the lake by midday. They had no difficulty in finding the cabin or the canoe, but it took them some time to choose the necessary stores and pack them. The canoe was an Indian birch bark, rather small but in good condition. When they had finished loading, Dave looked it over carefully.

"It won't carry more than two," he said doubtfully.

"That's all it's meant to carry," Terry answered.

"My notion had been to take Walford. I hate leaving him alone in the woods."

"There's nothing to hurt him," Terry said.

"I don't think he can come to any harm. We'll cook some grub for him and there are biscuits here and tinned stuff. In any case we couldn't take him with us. There are bound to be some rapids we'll have to portage, and it'll be days before he can walk."

Dave nodded.

"I suppose you're right. We'd better shove on. Are you sure we have everything?"

"I can't think of anything else. Yes, let's be moving. The sooner the better for it's coming on to blow."

It was blowing pretty hard already and the lake was a mass of whitecaps. It was lucky for the Latimers that both were good watermen or they would never have made the mile run to the river without getting swamped. They breathed more freely when they reached the outlet but there one danger was exchanged for another for the shallow stream ran swiftly among sharp-edged rocks, and they knew that one touch would be enough to rip open the frail fabric of the canoe and sink it.

They escaped the rocks and just before dusk reached the tamaracks, where they found Walford lying back under his tree, dozing. He woke as they came up.

"Got everything?" was his first question.

"Everything," Dave answered as he dropped a pack to the ground. "How are you?"

"Good as can be expected. No fever, which is a blessing." He looked at the canoe. "Man, I wish I could go with you."

"I wish you could," Dave said gravely. "We hate the idea of leaving you here, alone."

"It's not that I'm thinking of," retorted the other. "It's catching that cold-blooded murderer. He never gave me a chance. He simply bush-whacked me."

"Don't worry. We'll get him," Dave said. Then he and Terry got busy. They had to put up the tent, cut firewood and arrange the stores so that Walford could get at them without moving. All this had to be done before dark and supper cooked as well.

The last gleam of light had passed as they finished. The tent was ready with Walford's sleeping-bag in it, the stores were all under cover, and the light of the fire threw a red glare on the dark branches overhead.

"You fellows know your job," Walford said. "I'm beginning to believe you will get those two swine."

Terry's lips tightened.

"We'll have a darn good try anyhow. Now let's feed and turn in. We want to get away at dawn." While they ate Dave questioned Walford about the river. Neither he nor Dave knew it but Walford had come up it.

"There are plenty of rapids," Walford said, "but only two where you will definitely have to portage. The first is about twenty miles below. The Place of Bears, the Indians call it. There's a shallow fall at the top and beyond that half a mile of absolute Hades. The other is a good way further down. I don't know whether it has a name but I'd call it the Deathtrap. The whole river—and it's big down there—is penned in a gorge not more than fifty feet wide with a curve half-way down. There's a whirlpool there. The Indians run it, I'm told, but I wouldn't risk it for all the gold in the North. After that it's plain sailing—that is, nothing bad enough for portage. Here, give me a bit of paper and I'll sketch it for you." He did so and the boys studied the sketch carefully.

"What's this down here?" Terry asked.

"Old McKee's trading post. McKee is one of the best and if you can reach him you'll be in clover. I'll give you a note to him and he will send a couple of his chaps up to fetch me. If you get Amook out, alive, he'll come with them."


CHAPTER XI
HALF A MILE OF HORROR

THE pale stars were fading from the greying sky, and the light on the river was still dim, when Dave and Terry took leave of Captain Walford.

"Can't tell how grateful I am to you chaps," said Walford. "If you hadn't come along and fixed me up I was due to starve."

"Boot's on the other foot," Terry said gruffly—gruffly because he had already come to like this quiet-mannered, straight-forward man, and hated leaving him. "We were done without your canoe and your stores. We'd just have had to tramp back to Circle City."

"Nice of you to put it that way, but you're doing the work and taking the chances. I wish you all the luck in the world. Above all things I hope you'll get your gold."

"It's Crann we have to get," said Terry grimly. "Good-bye, sir. Take care of yourself." They both shook hands with the Captain and a minute later were in the canoe and driving down stream.

Neither spoke. Dave was thinking of the brave man they had left behind, wounded and alone in the wilderness; Terry's thoughts were on the job before them. The men they were trailing were a full day ahead of them and, with the swift stream behind them, should be at least thirty miles away. If they were good river men "white-water" men they call them in the North—there wouldn't be a dog's chance of overhauling them. But they were not, and if, as Captain Walford had said, they were depending on Amook, it was quite likely they had not covered fifteen, let alone thirty miles. Dave's voice broke in on Terry's musings.

"Rapid, Terry. Look out!" A dull roar broke on their ears and, as they swept around a bend, they saw a couple of hundred yards of white water in front. To a stranger to these rivers this rapid would have looked utterly terrifying and he would not have believed that any sort of craft could live in the welter of foam. But all Terry said was:

"Keep her straight," and next moment the bow of the canoe dipped and she went flying down the long slope.

Swift as it was, the stream ran straight and there were no dangerous rocks. The wind whistled past with the speed of their flight, and now and then spray dashed over them, but all they had to do was to hold their light craft straight and that they did easily. Within less than half a minute they shot safely into the deep, still stretch below.

"Wonder if they portaged that," said Dave. With a quick twist of his paddle Terry turned the bow to the bank.

"Just as well see," he remarked. "It won't take two minutes." Dave caught a tree root and balanced the canoe while Terry stepped out and walked quickly up the bank. When he came back he was smiling.

"They portaged all right. Found their footmarks, all three. Walford was right and Amook is on the job."

"That's good," said Dave with satisfaction. "I'll bet they took an hour over it and we took about thirty seconds. I'm feeling happier, old son."

"Me, too. But after all, why should they hurry? The last thing they'd think of is anyone chasing them."

Dave nodded.

"What we have to look out for now is that we don't run on to them too suddenly," he said.

"Too early to worry about that," Terry answered as he dipped his paddle.

That morning they ran two more rapids and reckoned that they had already picked up three to four hours on Snooper and Seth. They stopped on a sandy beach at midday, ate some cold food and rested for half an hour. However keen they were to catch up with the thieves, they knew the truth of the old saying about hurrying slowly. It is pure foolishness to carry on without food or rest. Then, when trouble comes, you are too done to cope with it.

The sun was quite hot when they started again. Spring was coming with the magical swiftness of the North. Trees were already turning green and in the quiet stretches big trout rose, snapping at the flies on the surface. About two they reached and ran a fourth rapid and Dave shipped his paddle while he glanced at Walford's sketch.

"One more rapid, then we come to the big one," he said.

"The Place of Bears?"

"That's it. Means a portage."

They paddled onwards, passing the mouth of a large tributary stream. Filled with melted snow from the mountains, this river was running in flood and its waters doubled the volume of the Rogue. In a way this made travelling safer for the rocks were covered. At the same time they had to keep a very sharp watch so as to avoid the knife-like edges of crags just under the surface.

The river banks steepened, the current quickened, from the distance came a hoarse roaring sound. They could not see the rapid because of a bend in the river.

"A bit noisy," Terry said.

His brother nodded.

"Must be all right according to the map," he answered. "Keep her well out from the bank."

The roar increased and Terry wondered a little. Yet, so far, Walford's map had been absolutely right. The canoe driving down midstream flashed around the bend and for a moment Terry was stricken dumb. Right ahead and only fifty yards away was a fall and over it the whole river plunged into a maelstrom of snowy foam which stretched for a good half mile.

"It's the Place of Bears," Terry gasped. "The bank. We've got to make the bank."

"It's too late," Dave shouted back. "Too late!" And a chill shiver ran up Terry's spine as he realized that Dave was right.

"She'll never live," he muttered under his breath but all the same his grip tightened on his paddle as the swooping water drew the canoe towards the rim of the fall.

"Paddle!" he roared, his voice ringing high above the thunder of the rapid.

He paddled, Dave paddled and the light craft shot like an arrow straight for the falls. The canoe's bow tipped sickeningly and, like a toboggan on frozen snow, shot down the thundering water slope.

It was the flood that saved the canoe from instant disaster—that and the shallowness of the drop. Because of these two things the river did not fall perpendicularly but slanted out over the ledge. Not that the two Latimers had time to consider these matters. All they knew was amazement when, after a dive through icy cold water, they found the canoe still afloat and fairly flying down the long straight flume.

Actually the rapids were worse than the fall itself for they were studded with rocks which flung up the water into great surges and fountains. They were one great death-trap half a mile long. Rocks hurtled up black, ominous, dripping, and in each case the brothers had but a fraction of a second to decide how to avoid them. Just one touch from any one of them and the canoe would be a torn rag and they themselves buried deep under the rushing white shroud.

The sound of the tortured waters was terrible. It was one tremendous, never-ending roar, deafening and confusing.

Working like two machines yet in perfect unison, straining every muscle almost to breaking point, they kept the canoe in the centre of the main stream. The speed at which they travelled was terrific, then, almost before they knew it, the pace slackened and the river devil flung them out into deeper, calmer water at the foot of the Place of Bears.

Hardly able to believe their luck, the two rested, panting, their hearts pounding, quite unable to speak. Terry was the first to recover.

"We've saved a lot of time, anyhow," he said hoarsely.

"B-but how did it happen?" Dave asked in a bewildered tone. "How did we miss a rapid?"

"Easy enough," Terry told him. "It just wasn't there."

"What do you mean?"

"What I said. The water was low when Walford came up and there was a rapid just below the mouth of that tributary. With the flood coming down as it is, that rapid was swamped so that we never spotted it."

"That's about the size of it," Dave agreed gravely, then as he looked back, "it doesn't seem possible," he added.

"Stop looking at the rapid and look at that big rock," said Terry pointing. Dave's eyes widened.

"Ashes of a fire. That's where they spent the night."

"Sure thing," said Terry. "And it isn't two yet. We might catch them before night if there are a few more rapids."

They didn't catch them that night, though they kept going till dark but, when they camped under some thick spruce at the head of a small rapid, they felt sure they were within four or five miles of them.

"We'll be up with them by midday to-morrow, with any luck," Terry said.

"We'll be up with them," Dave agreed. "The question now is what we do when we spot them." Terry had his answer ready.

"We hang back and follow them and wait till we see them camp. Then we land and wait until they're asleep after which we slip up and jump them. You hold the gun on them while I tie them up."

Dave laughed.

"You have it all cut and dried. It may not be as easy as it sounds. All the same, it's as good a plan as any and I'm game to try it."

They ate a big supper, rolled in their blankets and were asleep at once. They were far too tired to waste time in thinking things out or worrying. The dawn was still chilly when they roused out, boiled their coffee, fried their bacon, then packed up their stuff and set off. The rapid just below their camp was a small one but they had already ascertained that Snooper and Sutton had portaged. This was a thing that no one who knew anything of river work would have done, for there were no rocks and even a boy could have made a safe passage. Five miles further and they ran another and a rather longer rapid. Terry pointed to the banks which were high and rocky.

"I'll bet it took 'em all of two hours to portage this one," he said. "Strikes me we'd better go slow. They can't be far off."

Dave nodded.

"Not so much slow, but cautious," he amended. "We'll keep close in to the bank at the curves."

Another rapid roared hoarsely ahead of them and here of course they had to keep in midstream. It was not a bad rapid and quite short. They had almost reached the end when utterly unexpected disaster fell upon them. A sharp point of rock, completely hidden beneath the surface, slit the canoe like paper and next instant they were both struggling in the bitterly cold water.


CHAPTER XII
TERRY TAKES COMMAND

THEY were at the tail of the rapid and both could swim like fish. They scrambled ashore, dripping, half-frozen, having lost every single thing except the contents of their pockets. Their gun and pistol were gone and all their food. They had not even an axe, the most important of all possessions in the wilderness.

As they dragged themselves up on the rocks, shivering, the brothers eyed one another in silence. Terry rose to his feet and mechanically began to take off his clothes and wring them out. Dave, too, got up and stood staring at the river. But nothing showed except the two paddles which were spinning in an eddy under the far bank.

At last Terry spoke.

"How far is it to McKee's?"

Dave took the soaked map from his pocket.

"All of fifty miles," he answered.

Terry frowned.

"Can't do it afoot without grub," he said slowly. "Wonder if we could build a raft."

"We've no axe," Dave said dully. He was still in a half-dazed state.

"We've got to try," Terry answered grimly. "It's that or starve. Wring out your things. Then we'll start looking for driftwood."

"There isn't even driftwood," was Dave's reply. "The flood has swept it all away."

At the end of an hour they had four small lengths of very rotten wood and Terry had broken the blade of his knife. Even Terry felt utterly discouraged, yet he would not give up. He knew that a raft was their only chance of survival. This was the worst time of year for such an accident to happen. In the autumn there would have been berries and they could have snared rabbits. Now there were no berries, and no rabbits. What was almost worse, the nights were still bitterly cold and they had no blankets, no protection against the frost. They could never make fifty miles afoot without food or shelter.

The two bending over their task, trying vainly to fasten the lengths together with vines, did not hear the sound of steps behind them until they were quite close. Then they looked up to see two men carrying a canoe bottom up and a third, an Indian, bent under an enormous load of stores.

The two men who carried the canoe were Snooper Crann and Seth Sutton, the third was no doubt Walford's Indian, Amook. It was plain of course, how they came there. Snooper and his companions had been making a portage and, having been forced to go some way back into the woods owing to the rough ground, had not seen the Latimers pass them.

For a moment Snooper was struck dumb with surprise but very rapidly his pig-like eyes took in the identity of the castaways and he realized exactly what had happened. He swiftly dropped his end of the canoe, and stepped forward.

"I'll be dog-gone if it ain't our young friends," he said with an evil grin. "And arter us, I make no doubt. Looks like you had a little accident," he went on sarcastically.

Instead of answering Terry sprang. It was madness. No one knew that better than himself, but he was desperate. Such an attack was the last thing Snooper had expected. His right hand flew to his hip pocket but, before he could draw his pistol, Terry was on him and the sheer force of his rush sent the big brute staggering. He tripped over the canoe and went down with a crash.

Dave came bounding to his brother's help. That was where he blundered, for Seth Sutton pulled his pistol and fired straight at Dave. Either Dave was moving too fast or Sutton's aim was bad for the bullet, instead of driving through Dave's body, merely grazed his ribs, yet the force of it spun him round and before Dave could recover Sutton was on him and had hit him over the head with the barrel, knocking him out.

Terry was on top of Crann. If he had had any sort of weapon he could have stunned the fellow. As it was, all he could do was to try to throttle him. A plucky effort but a useless one. Snooper drove up his right elbow, catching Terry under the chin. Terry clung like a bulldog but Crann was nearly double his weight and more than twice as strong. Crann forced him back then smacked his left fist against the boy's jaw. Terry went limp, rolled sideways and lay insensible.

Snooper got up. His thick cheeks were livid with rage. He took a step back and pulled his pistol. Seth Sutton interposed.

"No you don't," he said firmly. "I ain't going to hang—especially for a kid like that."

Crann swung and glared at him.

"Going to take him with you?" he sneered.

"No. Leave them here. You know darn well they'll never get out, alive." Crann looked round at the high rocky banks and the roaring river. Suddenly he gave a yell.

"Where's that—something—Injun?"

"Why, he's gone," said Seth staring stupidly at the pack which now lay on the ground just as Amook had dropped it.

"Look after these kids. I'll fetch him," roared Crann and, gun in hand, he charged away into the bush. Amook had had all of two minutes' start and Snooper had exactly as much chance of catching him as a blind pug dog would have of catching a greyhound. Crann came back a quarter of an hour later, dripping with sweat and in the sort of temper which would compare with that of a grizzly robbed of her cubs. He strode up to Terry who by this time had recovered his senses and lay against a rock with his feet and hands tied. Dave, similarly triced up, lay beside him.

"This is your fault," said Snooper in a terrible voice. "I'll teach you, you dirty dog. I'll shoot your brother first and you next. I'll shoot you both in the stomach and leave you to die."

"Then you'll die yourself, and perhaps not so quickly," Terry drawled.

For a moment sheer surprise left Crann dumb. When he recovered his breath his language was enough to blast the trees and make the river boil. Every moment Terry thought he was going to start shooting, but Terry had got beyond being scared and kept his eyes fixed so steadily on the raging brute's face that in the end Crann calmed down enough to ask him what the something he meant.

"Just what I said. You'll starve or at best drown. The rapids below are a sight worse than any you've seen yet. How do you think you're going to get past them without the Indian? You'll be portaging the whole time or else you'll get into a bad place and drown."

Apparently this point of view had not yet occurred to Snooper Crann. Sutton struck in: "The kid's right, Crann. We don't know the durn river. And I ain't taking chances in that rotten little canoe."

Terry, watching Crann's face, felt a surge of relief. Sutton was right and Crann, as well as he, was scared of the flooded river. Crann glared a moment at Sutton then turned to Terry.

"I suppose you think you know the river better'n me."

"I don't think. I'm sure. You're no white-water man. First bit of rock you come to you'll rip the bottom out of the canoe and you'll drown. If you don't drown you'll starve on the bank. And if you don't stay on the bank you'll get lost in the bush and starve, anyhow." He paused, then went on. "So go ahead and shoot. My brother and I are the only ones that can get you out of here. Shoot us and kill yourselves."

"I told you," said Sutton.

Crann considered a moment, then he grinned wickedly.

"All right. No reason why you shouldn't be useful." He pocketed his gun, took out a knife and cut Terry loose.

"Get going," he ordered.

"You'll have to loose my brother, too," Terry said.

Snooper shook his bull head.

"We ain't going to have four in that there canoe."

"All right. Then go ahead and shoot," said Terry calmly.

Snooper bit his lip. Fury almost mastered him but again Sutton intervened.

"Two are better than one. Take 'em both, Crann."

"The canoe won't hold 'em," Crann snarled.

"Shows what a lot you know about canoes," said Terry. "There's room for six at a pinch."

Snooper gave in. He released Dave.

"Now get her into the water and load her," he shouted. "And be quick about it or you'll hear from me."

Terry went to work and Dave with him. They lifted the canoe into the river and packed her carefully. The only thing they did not pack was a small but heavy bag which Crann himself carried. No need to tell Terry that this was the dust robbed from their own claim.

"You're a wonder," Dave managed to whisper.

"I haven't started yet," was the unexpected answer. They couldn't say more for Snooper's great body towered above them and all the time he had the pistol in his hand. Even when he got in he still held his gun. He and Sutton made themselves comfortable amidships. Dave took the bow paddle and Terry the stern. There was plenty of room. The canoe was not a birch bark, but a beautiful Peterborough which must have cost a lot of money.

"Now," said Snooper to Terry. "You'll paddle till I tell you to quit, and just one word out of you—" he made a significant gesture with his gun.

Terry smiled.

"You try it and see what happens," he answered quietly. "You may shoot me but I'll upset the canoe before I die, or, if I don't Dave will."

"You can bet on that Crann," said Dave.

Crann began swearing again.

"Talk all you like," said Terry. "That don't hurt anybody. Only shows what a foul mouth you've got. Listen and get this straight. You need Dave and me. That's why you didn't kill us. Try any of your dirty games and we'll see whether you can swim or not."

"Swim! I can swim as well as you," blustered Crann, but Terry, staring straight into the man's shifty eyes, smiled.

"I think you're a liar, Crann." He deliberately rocked the canoe.

"Stop that!" yelled Crann and Terry laughed outright.

"Now I know you are lying," he answered.

Crann ground his teeth.

"Another crack out of you and I'll shoot," he swore.

Terry realized that it was possible to go a step too far. He decided to let the other stew in his own juice a bit. He paddled steadily.

Presently they came to another rapid, a very small and harmless one. Terry pretended to be frightened. He frowned and clenched his teeth as he stared at the rough water ahead.

"Hold her to it, Dave," he called to his brother.

"Here! You ain't going to run this!" yelled Snooper.

"Too late to turn now. Current too strong," Terry said and with a powerful drive sent the canoe into the swift water.

Crann was scared stiff. His big hands clenched the sides of the canoe and he sat absolutely rigid. Terry was careful that a wave top should break over the canoe, wetting Crann thoroughly. He jerked on the paddle, making the canoe lurch. All the time he was watching the stark fear on Crann's face. In spite of his aching jaw, in spite of the danger of his present position, Terry was almost enjoying himself.

Mile after mile they drove down the river and all the time Terry watched Crann and Sutton and realized their terror. Actually Crann was the worst scared of the two. He was a bully on land but a water-funk of the worst type.

Terry would have given a lot for a word with Dave. Terry had a plan in his head. He wanted to run the big rapid of which Walford had spoken. He believed that, if they did this, Crann would be so frightened as to be absolutely paralyzed. Terry's idea was to grab his pistol and, armed with that, he would be top dog. Of course it would be a big risk but, with the water as high as it was, he believed it could be done. But he badly wanted Dave to agree and, for another thing, he didn't quite know whether they could reach the place while the light was still good.

By the sun it was now past midday and Terry was beginning to feel hungry. But he did not want to go ashore. There Snooper would have a chance to get his pluck back. On the other hand, if he and Dave did not get a rest, if they paddled all day without food, they certainly would not be fit to tackle the Big Rapid.

Terry's problem solved itself. They came to a place where there had been a big fall of bank. Not only the bank but half a dozen large trees had toppled over. There was no room for the canoe to pass.

"We'll have to portage," Terry called to Dave. They swung the canoe and drove to the bank. Crann got out stiffly, carrying the gold.

"Get to it," he ordered. "You boys lift her round, then come back for the packs. You're going to earn your passage," he said harshly. Terry made no reply. He and Dave carried the canoe around the break, then went back for the packs. This gave Terry his chance and he swiftly unfolded his plan.

"I'm game," said Dave briefly. "The rapid isn't more than fifteen miles from here. With this stream we should reach it in a couple of hours. And if we go under," he added, "we take Crann with us. That's one comfort."

"I'm going to have some grub first," Terry said. "We'll need it. When we get back with this stuff you start a fire." Dave nodded and the moment they got back to the lower end of the obstacle he began collecting wood. Terry opened the grub pack.

"What do you think you're doing?" growled Crann.

"Getting dinner," Terry answered calmly. "If you want us to paddle you've got to feed us."

Crann's face went black but Sutton cut in.

"If you ain't hungry I am. And I'm plumb sick of cooking. Make these kids fix a proper feed."

Crann grumbled to himself but, when the bacon and beans and coffee were ready, he was glad enough to eat them. The food even seemed to soften him a little.

"How fur is it down this river?" he demanded.

"About a hundred miles," Terry told him.

"Where do it run?"

"Into the Yukon."

An expression of relief showed in Snooper's face and Terry exulted because it was plain the man knew nothing of McKee's place.

"Ought ter do it in two days," Crann said.

"To-day and two more," Terry agreed.

"All right," said Crann. "You take us down to the big river and we'll turn you loose and maybe give you a bit of grub to carry on."

"Thanks," said Terry with a sarcasm that made Crann scowl. Yet he noticed that Crann said nothing, made no threat. The man had come to realize how completely he depended on the two boys to get him out of the wilderness.

Refreshed by a good feed, the two brothers made the slim Peterborough fairly hum. With the strong stream behind them they were at times travelling as fast as a horse could trot. At this rate they would reach the big rapid within less than two hours.


CHAPTER XIII
RIDING THE RIDGE

TERRY knew well the risk they were going to run. Though he had never seen this particular rapid, yet he had seen the White Horse rapid on the upper Yukon, where the whole great river howls through a gorge less than fifty yards wide.

He knew the odds were against them but he did not hesitate. If they portaged there would be no chance of reaching McKee's. Crann would see to that. And when they reached the big river Crann would either turn them adrift without a crust or—more likely—shoot them both so as to be sure there were no witnesses against him.

Although Crann had not mentioned Walford, Terry was certain the man believed he had killed him and that Terry and Dave knew he had killed him. Crann was not going to risk his thick neck in the noose—not if he could get out of it by wiping out a couple of witnesses.

Besides, there was the gold. Terry needed that gold badly, or rather his mother and Chris needed it. What actually worried him more than anything else was the knowledge that, if they did come to grief, the bag of dust would go to the bottom and be lost for ever.

Since dinner they had met no rapids but there was plenty of rough water with curling eddies and ugly looking rocks which thrust their black heads above the flood. No real danger, but Crann was not happy. Terry could see that, and hoped intensely that the real rapid would finish him.

Presently he began to hear a dull roar in the distance, but the river itself was so noisy that apparently Crann did not notice. When he did, when he began to yell to be put ashore, it was too late. The canoe was travelling between straight up and down walls of rock.

"It's a bad place," Crann was shouting. "Get to the shore. We're going to portage."

"Can't do it," Terry answered curtly. "No place to land. Sit tight. We'll be all right."

"If we ain't I'll finish you—if it's the last thing I do," threatened Crann.

Terry laughed.

"No you won't, Crann. You'll be too busy, swimming."

Next moment the canoe shot round a curve and the sight before him was simply appalling. The river leaped like wild white horses, flinging up manes of snowy spray, while beyond, the gorge narrowed and the whole river shot down a rock flume which did not seem to be fifty feet wide. And that was not the worst, for in the distance, through the veil of spray, Terry could see a sharp bend against which the whole force of the flood impinged until it seemed as if it was trying to climb the smooth black barrier of rock which faced it.

To add to the horror of the scene was the sound. It was one continual, hoarse thunder, never altering or changing. The most awe-inspiring sound Terry had ever heard. It came to him that no craft ever made by man could live through that appalling place and he felt a moment of bitter regret that he had brought Dave into such peril. But that did not last, for next instant the canoe had struck the first great surge.

She rose like a duck, dipped and rose again. All around her was a welter of seething waters and flying spray. But there were no rocks, or if there were any they were too deeply covered to be visible. Terry had not a second to look at Crann. Every atom of mind and muscle power were given to keeping the canoe straight. The slightest swerve and over she would go. Spray soaked him but he did not feel it. In spite of the danger there was something terribly exhilarating in this mad dash.

Up and down, up and down, then like magic the air cleared and the canoe was running with train-like speed along the crest of a ridge of water. So narrow was the channel, so steep the slope that the centre of the river was humped up above the edges. The water was dead black, streaked with thin lines of white. The cliffs towered a hundred feet or more overhead.

"Keep her in the middle," Terry yelled to Dave and saw Dave's head nod slightly in response. That, as both knew, was their one chance of salvation. So long as they could ride the top of the ridge all was well, but once off it the canoe would be flung down the slope and shattered against the rock wall.

But the bend—that was what Terry feared. It looked all odds that the canoe would be flung against the cliff face and smashed like an eggshell. And on the other side, as they flashed towards the angle, Terry saw a vast black whirlpool spinning to the right of the bend. A ghastly pit of black water ringed with streaks of snowy white.

Truly they were between the devil and the deep sea and the one chance of life was that they might succeed in taking the turn on the top of the ridge. Failure meant instant death.

These thoughts flashed through Terry's mind like a quick motion film. There was no time to plan, even if that had been any use. Both he and Dave acted on instinct gained by past experience. The speed was simply terrific and in a matter of seconds the canoe was at the bend. His paddle bent as Terry dug in with all his force. Dave in the bow was stroking with all his strength. The canoe spun like a racing car taking a sharp turn and, like a car, she seemed to skid an instant and almost stand still. Then her bow was pointed due east. Terry had a momentary glimpse of the giant whirlpool, then they were past and racing down the last stretch. At the end of the slide the river humped itself into a huge wave.

"Paddle!" yelled Terry once more and up she sailed on to the crest to drop with a sickening swoop into much wider and calm water. As the two boys, exhausted, leaned on their paddles, the canoe floated in a bit of still water between a big rock and the bank.

"We've done it!" Terry could not help the triumphant shout. For the moment he had forgotten Crann, forgotten everything except that he and Dave had brought the canoe in safety through a place that even the hardest, toughest white-water man would not have risked.

During the whole time of the run Crann had been crouching in the bottom of the boat with his hands over his face. Now suddenly he raised himself. His cheeks were purple, his eyes bloodshot; he looked awful.

"You did it on purpose," he shouted in a high, cracked voice and at the same moment pulled his pistol. It was Dave who saved Terry's life. He was looking round and saw the man's hand fly to his hip pocket. Without the slightest hesitation he raised his paddle and struck Crann heavily on the head.

The pistol exploded but the shot went wide, Crann fell over sideways and, though Dave threw his weight the other way, it was too late. The canoe tipped over and next instant they were all in the water.

Terry and Dave instinctively struck out for the bank which was only a dozen yards away. As they scrambled out they saw Sutton sinking. Crann had managed to grasp a rock which rose high and dry and was climbing on to it. He was safe but Sutton was drowning.

"Hang the fellow!" growled Dave and went in again. Sutton grabbed at him but Dave got behind him and pushed him. Terry pulled him out and he dropped like a log. The canoe was floating upside down not far out. Dave pointed to it and he and Terry dashed in and caught it just before it got into swift water. They also managed to rescue the paddles.

"We'll get to McKee's, anyhow," said Terry. "And, Dave, thanks awfully." Dave grinned.

"It worked, though not quite the way you expected. Crann's lost his gun so he's helpless. What about Sutton?"

"Tie him up. But I say, Dave, the gold. That's at the bottom."

Dave looked at the river.

"It's hardly six feet deep. I'll get it. You light a fire." Dave flung off his clothes and dived. He was a fine swimmer but the water was ice cold. Indeed it was melted snow. He came up.

"I got bottom. About seven feet. Going to try again."

This time he was under so long he frightened Terry but, when he came up, he had something in his hand.

"Got it!" he shouted hoarsely. "And doesn't it weigh!" He hurried to the fire which Terry had lit with matches from his corked bottle. Terry rubbed him down with a bunch of dried grass. Suddenly a hoarse shout startled them.

"I'm freezing. Say, fetch me to shore."

In their delight at recovering the gold and the canoe they had for the moment quite forgotten Crann. Terry looked at him perched on the rock.

"Then freeze," he said heartlessly, and went on with his job.

"You can't leave me out here. I'll die," Crann whined.

"Don't worry. You'll live to be hanged," was all the comfort he got from Terry.

As soon as their clothes were dry they threw Sutton into the canoe and started away, Crann howling threats and entreaties after them as they sped downstream. Two miles below they saw McKee's comfortably built trading-post on the left bank and McKee himself, a short, thick-set, grey-bearded Scot, came down to meet them. When he heard they were friends of Captain Walford he could not do too much for them.

"Come right in," he bade them. "I'll send a canoe to fetch yon Crann, and two of my chaps shall go to pick up the Captain. But we'll no need to worry about him, for Amook will be there quicker than we can. Now come in and have your suppers and don't be worrying about anything."

It was delightful to lounge in deep comfortable chairs before a blazing log fire in the low-ceilinged living-room; it was better still to sit down to a meal of grilled caribou steaks, real potatoes, fresh-made scones, home-made butter and delicious rowan jam. The boys had just finished their meal when the men returned with Crann. McKee went out to give orders as to his prison. When he came back his deep-set eyes were gleaming.

"Lads, ye are in luck," he said.

"I know that," replied Terry with a laugh, as he laid down his coffee cup and held up his bag of gold.

"Aye, but more luck then ye are thinking. Do ye know who yon Crann is?"

"All sorts of a brute," Terry said.

"Aye, he's no Crann at all. Ed Ketchel's his name. Noo do ye ken?"

"Big Ed Ketchel!" Dave exclaimed.

"Aye, him who killed the mail runner up by Raspberry Creek, the same that robbed the bank at Moose City. There's rewards oot for him running to six thousand dollars and ye will get it all."

Terry turned to his brother.

"You needn't have dived for that gold after all, Dave."

"Talk sense," retorted Dave. "We'll need it all when we get back to Vancouver."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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