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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Golden Snare - Chapter 11
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The Golden Snare - Chapter 11 Post by :Ndoki Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :3659

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The Golden Snare - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

Scarcely had the door closed when Celie Armin ran to Philip and pulled him to the table. In the tense half hour of Bram's watchfulness she had eaten her own breakfast as if nothing unusual had happened; now she insisted on adding potatoes and bannock to Philip's fish, and turned him a cup of coffee.

"Bless your heart, you don't want to see me beat out of a breakfast, do you?" he smiled up at her, feeling all at once an immense desire to pull her head down to him and kiss her. "But you don't understand the situation, little girl. Now I've been eating this confounded bannock"--he picked up a chunk of it to demonstrate his point--"morning, noon and night until the sight of it makes me almost cry for one of mother's green cucumber pickles. I'm tired of it. Bram's fish is a treat. And this coffee, seeing that you have turned it in that way--"

She sat opposite him while he ate, and he had the chance of observing her closely while his meal progressed. It struck him that she was growing prettier each time that he looked at her, and he was more positive than ever that she was a stranger in the northland. Again he told himself that she was not more than twenty. Mentally he even went so far as to weigh her and would have gambled that she would not have tipped a scale five pounds one way or the other from a hundred and twenty. Some time he might have seen the kind of violet-blue that was in her eyes, but he could not remember it. She was lost--utterly lost at this far-end of the earth. She was no more a part of it than a crepe de chine ball dress or a bit of rose china. And there she was, sitting opposite him, a bewitching mystery for him to solve. And she WANTED to be solved! He could see it in her eyes, and in the little beating throb at her throat. She was fighting, with him, to find a way; a way to tell him who she was, and why she was here, and what he must do for her.

Suddenly he thought of the golden snare. That, after all, he believed to be the real key to the mystery. He rose quickly from the table and drew the girl to the window. At the far end of the corral they could see Bram tossing chunks of meat to the horde of beasts that surrounded him. In a moment or two he had the satisfaction of seeing that his companion understood that he was directing her attention to the wolf-man and not the pack. Then he began unbraiding her hair. His fingers thrilled at the silken touch of it. He felt his face flushing hot under his beard, and he knew that her eyes were on him wonderingly. A small strand he divided into three parts and began weaving into a silken thread only a little larger than the wolf-man's snare. From, the woven tress he pointed to Bram and in an instant her face lighted up with understanding.

She answered him in pantomime. Either she or Bram had cut the tress from her head that had gone into the making of the golden snare. And not only one tress, but several. There had been a number of golden snares. She bowed her head and showed him where strands as large as her little finger had been clipped in several places.

Philip almost groaned. She was telling him nothing new, except that there had been many snares instead of one.

He was on the point of speech when the look in her face held him silent. Her eyes glowed with a sudden excitement--a wild inspiration. She held out her hands until they nearly touched his breast.

"Philip Raine--Amerika!" she cried.

Then, pressing her hands to her own breast, she added eagerly:

"Celie Armin--Danmark!"

"Denmark!" exclaimed Philip. "Is that it, little girl? You're from Denmark? Denmark!"

She nodded.

"Kobenhavn--Danmark!"

"Copenhagen, Denmark," he translated for himself. "Great Scott, Celie--we're TALKING! Celie Armin, from Copenhagen, Denmark! But how in Heaven's name did you get HERE?" He pointed to the floor under their feet and embraced the four walls of the cabin in a wide gesture of his arms. "How did you get HERE?"

Her next words thrilled him.

"Kobenhavn--Muskvas--St. Petersburg--Rusland--Sibirien--Amerika."

"Copenhagen--Muskvas, whatever that is--St. Petersburg--Russia-- Siberia--America," he repeated, staring at her incredulously. "Celie, if you love me, be reasonable! Do you expect me to believe that you came all the way from Denmark to this God-forsaken madman's cabin in the heart of the Canada Barrens by way of Russia and Siberia? YOU! I can't believe it. There's a mistake somewhere. Here--"

He thought of his pocket atlas, supplied by the department as a part of his service kit, and remembered that in the back of it was a small map of the world. In half a minute he had secured it and was holding the map under her eyes. Her little forefinger touched Copenhagen. Leaning over her shoulder, he felt her hair crumpling against his breast. He felt an insane desire to bury his face in it and hug her up close in his arms--for a single moment the question of whether she came from Copenhagen or the moon was irrelevant and of little consequence. He, at least, had found her. He was digging her out of chaos, and he was filled with the joyous exultation of a triumphant discoverer--almost the thrill of ownership. He held his breath as he watched the little forefinger telling him its story on the map.

From Copenhagen it went to Moscow--which must have been Muskvas, and from there it trailed slowly to St. Petersburg and thence straight across Russia and Siberia to Bering Sea.

"Skunnert," she said softly, and her finger came across to the green patch on the map which was Alaska.

It hesitated there. Evidently it was a question in her own mind where she had gone after that. At least she could not tell him on the map. And now, seeing that he was understanding her, she was becoming visibly excited. She pulled him to the window and pointed to the wolves. Alaska--and after that dogs and sledge. He nodded. He was jubilant. She was Celie Armin, of Copenhagen, Denmark, and had come to Alaska by way of Russia and Siberia--and after that had traveled by dog-train. But WHY had she come, and what had happened to make her the companion or prisoner of Bram Johnson? He knew she was trying to tell him. With her back to the window she talked to him again, gesturing with her hands, and almost sobbing under the stress of the emotion that possessed her. His elation turned swiftly to the old dread as he watched the change in her face. Apprehension--a grim certainty--gripped hold of him. Something terrible had happened to her--a thing that had racked her soul and that filled her eyes with the blaze of a strange terror as she struggled to make him understand. And then she broke down, and with a sobbing cry covered her face with her hands.

Out in the corral Philip heard Bram Johnson's laugh. It was a mockery--a challenge. In an instant every drop of blood in his body answered it in a surge of blind rage. He sprang to the stove, snatched up a length of firewood, and in another moment was at the door. As he opened it and ran out he heard Celie's wild appeal for him to stop. It was almost a scream. Before he had taken a dozen steps from the cabin he realized what the warning meant. The pack had seen him and from the end of the corral came rushing at him in a thick mass.

This time Bram Johnson's voice did not stop them. He saw Philip, and from the doorway Celie looked upon the scene while the blood froze in her veins. She screamed--and in the same breath came the wolf-man's laugh. Philip heard both as he swung the stick of firewood over his head and sent it hurling toward the pack. The chance accuracy of the throw gave him an instant's time in which to turn and make a dash for the cabin. It was Celie who slammed the door shut as he sprang through. Swift as a flash she shot the bolt, and there came the lunge of heavy bodies outside. They could hear the snapping of jaws and the snarling whine of the beasts. Philip had never seen a face whiter than the girl's had gone. She covered it with her hands, and he could see her trembling. A bit of a sob broke hysterically from her lips.

He knew of what she was thinking--the horrible thing she was hiding from her eyes. It was plain enough to him now. Twenty seconds more and they would have had him. And then--

He drew in a deep breath and gently uncovered her face. Her hands shivered in his. And then a great throb of joy repaid him for his venture into the jaws of death as he saw the way in which her beautiful eyes were looking at him.

"Celie--my little mystery girl--I've discovered something," he cried huskily, holding her hands so tightly that it must have hurt her. "I'm almost glad you can't understand me, for I wouldn't blame you for being afraid of a man who told you he loved you an hour or two after he first saw you. I love you. I've never wanted anything in all my life as I want you. And I must be careful and not let you know it, mustn't I? If I did you'd think I was some kind of an animal-brute--like Bram. Wouldn't you?"

Bram's voice came in a sharp rattle of Eskimo outside. Philip could hear the snarling rebellion of the wolves as they slunk away from the cabin, and he drew Celie back from the door. Suddenly she freed her hands, ran to the door and slipped back the wooden bolt as the wolf-man's hand fumbled at the latch. In a moment she was back at his side. When Bram entered every muscle in Philip's body was prepared for action. He was amazed at the wolf-man's unconcern. He was mumbling and chuckling to himself, as if amused at what he had seen. Celie's little fingers dug into Philip's arm and he saw in her eyes a tense, staring look that had not been there before. It was as if in Bram's face and his queer mumbling she had recognized something which was not apparent to him. Suddenly she left him and hurried into her room. During the few moments she was gone Bram did not look once at Philip. His mumbling was incessant. Perhaps a minute passed before the girl reappeared.

She went straight to Bram and before the wolf-man's eyes held a long, shining tress of hair!

Instantly the mumbling in Bram's throat ceased and he thrust out slowly a huge misshapen hand toward the golden strand. Philip felt his nerves stretching to the breaking point. With Bram the girl's hair was a fetich. A look of strange exultation crept over the giant's heavy features as his fingers clutched the golden offering. It almost drew a cry of warning from Philip. He saw the girl smiling in the face of a deadly peril--a danger of which she was apparently unconscious. Her hair still fell loose about her in a thick and shimmering glory. And BRAM'S EYES WERE ON IT AS HE TOOK THE TRESS FROM HER FINGERS! Was it conceivable that this mad- man did not comprehend his power! Had the thought not yet burned its way into his thick brain that a treasure many times greater than, that which she had doled out to him lay within the reach of his brute hands at any time he cared to reach out for it? And was it possible that the girl did not guess her danger as she stood there?

What she could see of his face must have been as pale as her own when she looked at him. She smiled, and nodded at Bram. The giant was turning slowly toward the window, and after a moment or two in which they could hear him mumbling softly he sat down cross-legged against the wall, divided the tress into three silken threads and began weaving them into a snare. The color was returning to Celie's face when Philip looked at her again. She told him with a gesture of her head and hands that she was going into her room for a time. He didn't blame her. The excitement had been rather unusual.

After she had gone he dug his shaving outfit out of his kit-bag. It included a mirror and the reflection he saw in this mirror fairly shocked him. No wonder the girl had been frightened at his first appearance. It took him half an hour to shave his face clean, and all that time Bram paid no attention to him but went on steadily at his task of weaving the golden snare. Celie did not reappear until the wolf-man had finished and was leaving the cabin. The first thing she noticed was the change in Philip's face. He saw the pleasure in her eyes and felt himself blushing.

From the window they watched Bram. He had called his wolves and was going with them to the gate. He carried his snowshoes and his long whip. He went through the gate first and one by one let his beasts out until ten of the twenty had followed him. The gate was closed then.

Celie turned to the table and Philip saw that she had brought from her room a pencil and a bit of paper. In a moment she held the paper out to him, a light of triumph in her face. At last they had found a way to talk. On the paper was a crude sketch of a caribou head. It meant that Bram had gone hunting.

And in going Bram had left a half of his blood-thirsty pack in the corral. There was no longer a doubt in Philip's mind. They were not the chance guests of this madman. They were prisoners.

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