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- The Silver Horde - 1/65 -


THE SILVER HORDE

BY REX BEACH

Author of "The Auction Block" "The Spoilers" "The Iron Trail" etc.

BOOKS BY REX BEACH

TOO FAT TO FIGHT THE WINDS OF CHANCE LAUGHING BILL HYDE RAINBOW'S END THE CRIMSON GARDENIA AND OTHER TALES OF ADVENTURE HEART OF THE SUNSET THE AUCTION BLOCK THE IRON TRAIL THE NET THE NE'ER-DO-WELL THE SPOILERS THE BARRIER THE SILVER HORDE GOING SOME

CONTENTS

I. WHEREIN A SPIRITLESS MAN AND A ROGUE APPEAR II. IN WHICH THEY BREAK BREAD WITH A LONELY WOMAN III. IN WHICH CHERRY MALOTTE DISPLAYS A TEMPER IV. IN WHICH SHE GIVES HEART TO A HOPELESS MAN V. IN WHICH A COMPACT IS FORMED VI. WHEREIN BOREAS TAKES A HAND VII. AND NEPTUNE TAKES ANOTHER VIII. WHEREIN BOYD ADMITS HIS FAILURE IX. AND IS GRANTED A YEAR OF GRACE X. IN WHICH BIG GEORGE MEETS HIS ENEMY XI. WHEREIN BOYD EMERSON IS TWICE AMAZED XII. IN WHICH MISS WAYLAND IS OF TWO MINDS XIII. IN WHICH CHERRY MALOTTE BECOMES SUSPICIOUS XIV. IN WHICH THEY RECOGNIZE THE ENEMY XV. THE DOORS OF THE VAULT SWING SHUT XVI. WILLIS MARSH COMES OUT FROM COVER XVII. A NEW ENEMY APPEARS XVIII. WILLIS MARSH SPRINGS A TRAP XIX. IN WHICH A MUTINY IS THREATENED XX. WHEREIN "FINGERLESS" FRASER RETURNS XXI. A HAND IN THE DARK XXII. THE SILVER HORDE XXIII. IN WHICH MORE PLANS ARE LAID XXIV. WHEREIN "THE GRANDE DAME" ARRIVES, LADEN WITH DISAPPOINTMENTS XXV. THE CHASE XXVI. IN WHICH A SCORE IS SETTLED XXVII. AND A DREAM COMES TRUE

ILLUSTRATIONS

THE GIRL STOOD BAREHEADED UNDER THE WINTRY SKY OUT ACROSS THE LONESOME WASTE THEY JOURNEYED MILDRED CEASED PLAYING AND SWUNG ABOUT--"WHAT DO YOU MEAN?"

[Illustration: THE GIRL STOOD BAREHEADED UNDER THE WINTRY SKY]

THE SILVER HORDE

CHAPTER I

WHEREIN A SPIRITLESS MAN AND A ROGUE APPEAR

The trail to Kalvik leads down from the northward mountains over the tundra which flanks the tide flats, then creeps out upon the salt ice of the river and across to the village. It boasts no travel in summer, but by winter an occasional toil-worn traveller may be seen issuing forth from the Great Country beyond, bound for the open water; while once in thirty days the mail-team whirls out of the forest to the south, pauses one night to leave word of the world, and then is swallowed up in the silent hills. Kalvik, to be sure, is not much of a place, being hidden away from the main-travelled routes to the interior and wholly unknown except to those interested in the fisheries.

A Greek church, a Russian school with a cassocked priest presiding, and, about a hundred houses, beside the cannery buildings, make up the village. At first glance these canneries might convey the impression of a considerable city, for there are ten plants, in all, scattered along several miles of the river-bank; but in winter they stand empty and still, their great roofs drummed upon by the fierce Arctic storms, their high stacks pointing skyward like long, frozen fingers black with frost. There are the natives, of course, but they do not count, concealed as they are in burrows. No one knows their number, not even the priest who gathers toll from them.

Early one December afternoon there entered upon this trail from the timberless hills far away to the northward a weary team of six dogs, driven by two men. It had been snowing since dawn, and the dim sled-tracks were hidden beneath a six-inch fluff which rendered progress difficult and called the whip into cruel service. A gray smother sifted down sluggishly, shutting out hill and horizon, blending sky and landscape into a blurred monotone, playing strange pranks with the eye that grew tired trying to pierce it.

The travellers had been plodding sullenly, hour after hour, dispirited by the weight of the storm, which bore them down like some impalpable, resistless burden. There was no reality in earth, air, or sky. Their vision was rested by no spot of color save themselves, apparently swimming through an endless, formless atmosphere of gray.

"Fingerless" Fraser broke trail, but to Boyd Emerson, who drove, he seemed to be a sort of dancing doll, bobbing and swaying grotesquely, as if suspended by invisible wires. At times, it seemed to the driver's whimsical fancy as if each of them trod a measure in the centre of a colorless universe, something after the fashion of goldfish floating in a globe.

Fraser pulled up without warning and instantly the dogs stopped, straightway beginning to soothe their trail-worn pads and to strip the ice-pellets from between their toes. But the "wheelers" were too tired to make the effort, so Emerson went forward and performed the task for them, while Fraser floundered back and sank to a sitting posture on the sled.

"Whew!" he exclaimed, "this is sure tough. If I don't see a tree or something with enough color to bust this monotony I'll go dotty."

"Another day like this and we'd both be snow-blind," observed Emerson grimly, as he bent to his task. "But it can't be far to the river now."

"This fall has covered the trail till I have to feel it out with my feet," grumbled Fraser. "When I step off to one side I go in up to my hips. It's like walking a plank a foot deep in feathers, and I feel like I was a mile above the earth in a heavy fog." After a moment he continued: "Speaking of feathers, how'd you like to have a fried chicken _a la_ Maryland?"

"Shut up!" said the man at the dogs, crossly.

"Well, it don't do any harm to think about it," growled Fraser, good- naturedly. He felt out a pipe from his pocket and endeavored unsuccessfully to blow through it, then complained:

"The damn thing is froze. It seems like a man can't practice no vices whatever in this country. I'm glad I'm getting out of it."

"So am I," agreed the younger man. Having completed his task, he came back to the sled and seated himself beside the other.

"As I was saying a mile back yonder," Fraser resumed, "whatever made you snatch me away from them blue-coated minions of the law, I don't know. You says it's for company, to be sure, but we visit with one another about like two deef-mutes. Why did you do it, Bo?"

"Well, you talk enough for both of us."

"Yes, but that ain't no reason why you should lay yourself liable to the 'square-toes.' You ain't the kind to take a chance just because you're lonesome."

"I picked you up because of your moth-eaten morals, I dare say. I was tired of myself, and you interested me. Besides," Emerson added, reflectively, "I have no particular cause to love the law, either."

"That's how I sized it," said Fraser, wagging his head with animation, "I knew you'd had some kind of a run-in. What was it? This is low down, see, and confidential, as between two crooks. I'll never snitch."

"Hold on there! I'm not a crook. I'm not sufficiently ingenious to be a member of your honorable profession."

"Well, I guess my profession is as honorable as most. I've tried all of them, and they're all alike. It's simply a question of how the other fellow will separate easiest." He stopped and tightened his snow-shoe thong, then rising, gazed curiously at the listless countenance of his travelling companion, feeling anew the curiosity that had fretted him for


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