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A Man of Two Countries

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Philip Danvers, heading a small party of horsemen, galloped around the corner of a warehouse and pulled up on the levee at Bismarck as the mate of the Far West bellowed, "Let 'er go!" "Hold on!" he shouted, leaping from his mount. "Why in blazes!" The mate's impatience flared luridly as he ordered the gang-plank replaced. His heat ignited the smouldering resentment of the passengers, and they, too, exploded. "We're loaded to the guards now!" yelled one. "Yeh can't come aboard!" threatened another. "Haven't yeh got a full passenger list a'ready, Captain?" demanded a blustering, heavy-set man with beetling eyebrows, as he pushed himself angrily through the crowding men to the deck-rail. "Can't help it if I have, Burroughs," retorted the autocrat of the river-boat. "These troopers are recruits for the North West Mounted Police——" "The hell yeh say!" Philip Danvers noted the unfriendly eye, and realized that this burly fellow dominated even the captain. "Their passage was engaged three months ago," went on the officer. "It's nothing to me," affirmed Burroughs, reddening in his effort to regain his surface amenity. The young trooper, superintending the loading of the horses, resented the manifest unfriendliness toward the English recruits. A dreary rain added discomfort, and the passengers growled at the slow progress hitherto made against the spring floods of the turbulent Missouri and this prolonged delay at Bismarck. As he went up the gang-plank and walked along the deck, bits of conversation came to him. "He looks like an officer," said one, with a jerk of his thumb in his direction. "An officer! Where? D'yeh mean the dark-haired one?" The voice was that of Burroughs again, and as Danvers met his insolent eye an instant antagonism flashed between the roughly dressed frontiersman and the lean-flanked, broad-shouldered English youth. "Hello! 'F there ain't Toe String Joe!" continued Burroughs, recognizing the last to come on board, as the line was cast off and the steamer backed into the stream. "What you doin' here, Joe?" "I met up with these here Britishers when they came in on the train from the East, an' I'm goin' t' enlist," admitted the shambling Joe, his breath confirming his appearance. "Where you been?" "Back to the States to get my outfit. I'm goin' ter start in fer myself up to Fort Macleod. So you've decided to be a damned Britisher, eh?" Burroughs reverted to Joe's statement. "Yeh'll have to take the oath of allegiance fer three years of enlistment. Did yeh know that?" He closed one eye, as if speculating how this might further his own interests. "You'll make a fine police, Joe, you will!" he jeered in conclusion. "You goin' to Fort Macleod?" questioned Joe. "You'll git no trade in Canada!" "Don't yeh ever think it!" returned Burroughs, with a look that Danvers sub-consciously noted. Beyond the crowd he saw a child, held by a man with a scarred face. His involuntary look of amazement changed the pensiveness of her delicate face to animation, and she returned his smile. This unexpected exchange of friendship restored his self-respect and his anger evaporated. He recalled the childhood spent in English lanes with his only sister. He beckoned enticingly, and soon she came near, shy and lovely.