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- Northern Lights, Volume 5. - 2/11 -
Boys, what is he--what--is he? What--is--Sergeant Foyle--boys?"
The roar of the song they all knew came in reply, as Billy Goat waved his arms about like the wild leader of a wild orchestra:
"Sergeant Foyle, oh, he's a knocker from the West, He's a chase-me-Charley, come-and-kiss-me tiger from the zoo; He's a dandy on the pinch, and he's got a double cinch On the gent that's going careless, and he'll soon cinch you: And he'll soon--and he'll soon--cinch you!"
Foyle watched them go, dancing, stumbling, calling back at him, as they moved towards the Prairie Home Hotel:
"And he'll soon-and he'll soon-cinch you!"
His under lip came out, his eyes half-closed, as he watched them. "I've done my last cinch. I've done my last cinch," he murmured.
Then, suddenly, the look in his face changed, the eyes swam as they had done a minute before at the sight of the girl in the room behind. Whatever his trouble was, that face had obscured it in a flash, and the pools of feeling far down in the depths of a lonely nature had been stirred. Recognition, memory, tenderness, desire swam in his face, made generous and kind the hard lines of the strong mouth. In an instant he had swung himself over the window-sill. The girl had drawn away now into a more shaded corner of the room, and she regarded him with a mingled anxiety and eagerness. Was she afraid of something? Did she fear that --she knew not quite what, but it had to do with a long ago.
"It was time you hit out, Nett," she said, half shyly. "You're more patient than you used to be, but you're surer. My, that was a twist you gave him, Nett. Aren't you glad to see me?" she added hastily, and with an effort to hide her agitation.
He reached out and took her hand with a strange shyness, and a self- consciousness which was alien to his nature. The touch of her hand thrilled him. Their eyes met. She dropped hers. Then he gathered him self together. "Glad to see you? Of course, of course, I'm glad. You stunned me, Jo. Why, do you know where you are? You're a thousand miles from home. I can't get it through my head, not really. What brings you here? It's ten years--ten years since I saw you, and you were only fifteen, but a fifteen that was as good as twenty."
He scanned her face closely. "What's that scar on your forehead, Jo? You hadn't that--then."
"I ran up against something," she said evasively, her eyes glittering, "and it left that scar. Does it look so bad?"
"No, you'd never notice it, if you weren't looking close as I am. You see, I knew your face so well ten years ago."
He shook his head with a forced kind of smile. It became him, however, for he smiled rarely; and the smile was like a lantern turned on his face; it gave light and warmth to its quiet strength-or hardness.
"You were always quizzing," she said with an attempt at a laugh--"always trying to find out things. That's why you made them reckon with you out here. You always could see behind things; always would have your own way; always were meant to be a success."
She was beginning to get control of herself again, was trying hard to keep things on the surface. "You were meant to succeed--you had to," she added.
"I've been a failure--a dead failure," he answered slowly. "So they say. So they said. You heard them, Jo."
He jerked his head towards the open window.
"Oh, those drunken fools!" she exclaimed indignantly, and her face hardened. "How I hate drink! It spoils everything."
There was silence for a moment. They were both thinking of the same thing--of the same man. He repeated a question.
"What brings you out here, Jo?" he asked gently. "Dorland," she answered, her face setting into determination and anxiety.
His face became pinched. "Dorl!" he said heavily. "What for, Jo? What do you want with Dorl?"
"When Cynthy died she left her five hundred dollars a year to the baby, and--"
"Yes, yes, I know. Well, Jo?"
"Well, it was all right for five years--Dorland paid it in; but for five years he hasn't paid anything. He's taken it, stolen it from his own child by his own honest wife. I've come to get it--anyway, to stop him from doing it any more. His own child--it puts murder in my heart, Nett! I could kill him."
He nodded grimly. "That's likely. And you've kept, Dorl's child with your own money all these years?"
"I've got four hundred dollars a year, Nett, you know; and I've been dressmaking--they say I've got taste," she added, with a whimsical smile.
Nett nodded his head. "Five years. That's twenty-five hundred dollars he's stolen from his own child. It's eight years old now, isn't it?"
"Bobby is eight and a half," she answered.
"And his schooling, and his clothing, and everything; and you have to pay for it all?"
"Oh, I don't mind, Nett, it isn't that. Bobby is Cynthy's child; and I love him--love him; but I want him to have his rights. Dorl must give up his hold on that money--or--"
He nodded gravely. "Or you'll set the law on him?"
"It's one thing or the other. Better to do it now when Bobby is young and can't understand."
"Or read the newspapers," he commented thoughtfully.
"I don't think I've a hard heart," she continued, "but I'd like to punish him, if it wasn't that he's your brother, Nett; and if it wasn't for Bobby. Dorland was dreadfully cruel, even to Cynthy."
"How did you know he was up here?" he asked. "From the lawyer that pays over the money. Dorland has had it sent out here to Kowatin this two years. And he sent word to the lawyer a month ago that he wanted it to get here as usual. The letter left the same day as I did, and it got here yesterday with me, I suppose. He'll be after it-perhaps to-day. He wouldn't let it wait long, Dorl wouldn't."
Foyle started. "To-day--to-day--"
There was a gleam in his eyes, a setting of the lips, a line sinking into the forehead between the eyes.
"I've been watching for him all day, and I'll watch till he comes. I'm going to say some things to him that he won't forget. I'm going to get Bobby's money, or have the law do it--unless you think I'm a brute, Nett." She looked at him wistfully.
"That's all right. Don't worry about me, Jo. He's my brother, but I know him--I know him through and through. He's done everything that a man can do and not be hanged. A thief, a drunkard, and a brute--and he killed a man out here," he added hoarsely. "I found it out myself-- myself. It was murder."
Suddenly, as he looked at her, an idea seemed to flash into his mind. He came very near and looked at her closely. Then he reached over and almost touched the scar on her forehead.
"Did he do that, Jo?"
For an instant she was silent and looked down at the floor. Presently she raised her eyes, her face suffused. Once or twice she tried to speak, but failed. At last she gained courage and said:
"After Cynthy's death I kept house for him for a year, taking care of little Bobby. I loved Bobby so--he has Cynthy's eyes. One day Dorland --oh, Nett, of course I oughtn't to have stayed there, I know it now; but I was only sixteen, and what did I understand! And my mother was dead. One day--oh, please, Nett, you can guess. He said something to me. I made him leave the house. Before I could make plans what to do, he came back mad with drink. I went for Bobby, to get out of the house, but he caught hold of me. I struck him in the face, and he threw me against the edge of the open door. It made the scar."
Foyle's face was white. "Why did you never write and tell me that, Jo? You know that I--" He stopped suddenly.
"You had gone out of our lives down there. I didn't know where you were for a long time; and then--then it was all right about Bobby and me, except that Bobby didn't get the money that was his. But now--"
Foyle's voice was hoarse and low. "He made that scar, and he--and you only sixteen--Oh, my God!" Suddenly his face reddened, and he choked with shame and anger. "And he's my brother!" was all that he could say.
"Do you see him up here ever?" she asked pityingly.
"I never saw him till a week ago." A moment, then he added: "The letter wasn't to be sent here in his own name, was it?"
She nodded. "Yes, in his own name, Dorland W. Foyle. Didn't he go by that name when you saw him?"
There was an oppressive silence, in which she saw that something moved him strangely, and then he answered: "No, he was going by the name of Halbeck--Hiram Halbeck."
The girl gasped. Then the whole thing burst upon her. "Hiram Halbeck! Hiram Halbeck, the thief--I read it all in the papers--the thief that you caught, and that got away. And you've left the Mounted Police because of it--oh, Nett!" Her eyes were full of tears, her face was drawn and grey.
He nodded. "I didn't know who he was till I arrested him," he said. "Then, afterward, I thought of his child, and let him get away; and for my poor old mother's sake. She never knew how bad he was even as a boy. But I remember how he used to steal and drink the brandy from her bedside, when she had the fever. She never knew the worst of him. But I let him away in the night, Jo, and I resigned, and they thought
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