Selections From Classic Mountie Fiction
Exerpts from Three Classics...
Their stories live on. Here are story-samples from three of the greatest writers of Mountie Fiction...
from DOWNEY OF THE MOUNTED by James B Hendryx
"I, Cameron Downey, solemnly swear that I will faithfully, diligently, and impartially execute and perform the duties required of me as a member of the Royal North-West Mounted Police Force, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions which I shall receive as such, without fear, favour, or affection of or toward any person. So help me, God."
Gravely and solemnly young Cameron Downey repeated the words that inducted him into the Service. A silence followed, broken by the voice of the Commissioner: "It has given me unusual pleasure to administer this oath. The name of Cameron Downey is no new name to me. For many years I have known your grandfather as one of the best men in the North. Your name appears with credit in Sergeant Costello's report of the capture of the Yorkton bank robbers, some seven years ago. And, in the matter of application, Inspector Costello has referred to you in the highest terms, as have the president of the bank and others of your townspeople. Experience has taught me that native blood in men, and horses, and dogs has a marked advantage over imported blood. There will be times when the demands of duty will call forth every atom of your strength - mental, moral, and physical - and the man who builds tip a reserve of strength, is the man who goes to the top."
Two hours later, spick and span in his new uniform, "Regimental Number 0750, Cameron Downey," as he was entered upon the records, reported for duty in the "awkward squad," the youngest and the proudest recruit of them all.
Thanks to a high order of intelligence, an insatiable ambition to learn, and the fragmentary, but efficient coaching of Sergeant (now Inspector) Costello during the years that had elapsed since the Yorkton incident, young Downey easily outstripped the other recruits, who were satisfied to absorb what they might of police education through the regular channels of drill, lectures, and practice of the regular curriculum.
There was much to learn. Cavalry drill of high order, care of horses and dogs in health and in sickness, carbine and revolver practice, instruction in the duties of constables, in the Criminal Code procedure, the laws of the different Provinces, cooking, first aid, and a thousand and one tricks of the trail and bits of information that make for the efficient policing of a rapidly developing frontier.
Cameron Downey was learning his trade.
Proficiency in the saddle worked him rapidly into Number One Ride, and his scores with carbine and revolver won the appreciation of his superiors. "Likeliest lad in the bunch," observed Inspector Church one day to the Commissioner as the two watched Number One Ride conclude its drill.
"Young Downey. Make a good man if he don't get spoiled. The boys all like him, too, all but --"
"Grandson of old Cameron Downey of Fort Chipewyan. That breed won't spoil. You were saying the men all like him except -?"
"Number 0687, Crossley. Been in the awkward squad longer than any of 'em. No. Crossley don't like him."
"I couldn't say, sir. I'd noticed it when they were in the awkward together - nothing I could lay hold of. just now and then a little sly thing, but, I, noticed. Then, a couple of weeks ago I happened to be passing through the stables just before inspection. Downey was putting a velvet finish on his mount. Shortly afterward, I stood near the stable door, and, inside, I heard someone accuse someone of befouling his horse. The voice was quiet and low - but, the words bit like a steel point drill. Then the other voice, sneering, it was, and thick, gave him the lie, and an obscene name thrown in. There wasn't anything else said, but there were some funny sounds -"
"Funny sounds, Inspector?"
"Yes, sir, that is, they sounded funny to me. Sort of like this," he paused and smote, in rapid staccato, his open palm with his fist - 'and the sounds were sort of mixed with other sounds - like quick breathing, and a heavy grunt or two, and then a sound sort of between a howl and a yelp, and a sound like someone had dropped a sack of oats on the floor. It was inspection time, and I moved on. A little later when they showed up for drill, I noticed a dampish stain on the flank of Downey's mount, and Crossley worried through the drill with one eye swelled shut and sort of turning black."
"You mean, young Downey attacked him?" The Commissioner's voice was stern, though possibly his lips trembled ever so slightly at the corners, as his keen eyes searched the Inspector's face. It is also possible that the lid of the Inspector's left eye flickered ever so lightly as he replied: "I couldn't say, sir. I really couldn't say."
A full year's instruction would seem a short time indeed to turn out an officer competent to perform the duties of a constable of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, when one considers that this mere handful of men efficiently police a territory reaching from Hudson Bay to the Alaskan frontier, and from the international boundary to the shores of the Arctic, and beyond; - considers also that the provinces are rapidly being settled by a heterogeneous hodgepodge of aliens, good, bad, and worse; and that the vast northern reach of this territory is thinly peopled by savages, Indian, and Eskimo, who understand no word of the white man's tongue, and have no comprehension of his laws. And yet, a constable, whose duties involve from time to time those of cavalryman, sheriff, attorney, coroner, surgeon, veterinarian, detective, scout, and explorer, is fortunate if he gets six months' instruction before assuming his active duty!
Truly, a marvelous performance, and doubly so when one considers that from the very nature of these duties, the constable is thrown a great deal of the time upon his own initiative, far removed from the advice and counsel of his superiors. Yet, year by year the feat is accomplished. Year by year a squad of capable and efficient young men go into the North to take the place of the squad of capable and efficient old men whose work is behind them. And, year by year the morale, the esprit de corps, remains at the same high level that has marked the force from its inception.
Cameron Downey spent four months at Regina barracks. Then, one autumn day, he returned from his Saturday ride across the golden prairie, to find orders awaiting him to report for duty at Prince Albert.
It was with beating heart and high resolve that, a few hours later, with his neatly packed kit beside him, he settled back in his seat in the car and watched the lights of Regina twinkle and fade in the distance. It was the day he had looked forward to - for years and years. He was a full-fledged policeman, now - the rest had been merely a matter of schooling. The lights of Regina disappeared, and save for the tiny flash from an occasional settler's shanty, the world into which his train was rushing was a mysterious black void. Vaguely, the boy wondered what of life the black void held for him.
His thoughts drifted backward, touching the highlights of his life. It seemed a long, long time ago - that moonlight night beside the old Johnson ford, and the two weeks' camping trip that followed. And, a long time ago, that day when the whole town turned out to pay its last respects to his mother. He was sixteen, then, and never to his dying day will he forget that ride in the carriage with his father and the minister. The first carriage behind the hearse, it was, and a grim and silent ride. He remembered watching the long line of carriages and buggies, and wagons - even a sulky or two, as they slowly turned the corner at the foot of the bill.
Every wheeled vehicle in the town had been pressed into service, for the wife of Angus Downey had been beloved by the entire community. Even old Doug Campbell, the drunken drayman, was there - his superannuated roan pony and skinny white mule, hitched to the lopsided dray, brought up the rear of the long procession. It was Doug whose voice, thick and shaken with animal-like sobs, had broken in on the words of the minister as the body was being lowered into the grave: "God ha' mercy-a gude woman, theer-" and was escorted out of earshot by some of the men, followed by the glares of the scandalized community.
There were no high lights on the next three years, during which he stuck grimly to the store, working like a slave with never a word of commendation or comment from his father. For, after the death of his wife, Angus Downey relapsed into a dour silence that was broken only by the necessary conversationof business. "Stingy with his words as he is with his pennies," some one had said - and spoke truly.
Then came that other day, when he and the minister rode once again to the cemetery in the carriage. The body of Angus Downey was in the hearse ahead, and, following the carriage was one other vehicle - a three-seated spring wagon in which rode the pall-bearers. At the corner, the minister noted that the boy's eyes turned back, as they had turned that other day to watch the long procession. "'Tis cauld an' raw, an' muddy," he observed. "Folks fear the lung fever."
Cammie nodded. He remembered that that other day had been colder and muddier.
At the grave, the minister preached at length concerning the extreme improbability of a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven. The Downey will, opened the day previous, had, it seems, made no provision for the church. The March wind soughed and swirled among the rattling branches of the cottonwood trees, the voice of the preacher droned on, Cammie, collar upturned and hands deep in pockets, made patterns in the mud with his new rubbers, and the pall-bearers, collars upturned and hands deep in pockets, watched two coyotes caper on a distant skyline. At last, the ordeal was over and the vehicles headed for town, the horses' feet making dismal sucking sounds, and the wheels dropping into chuck holes to rise jerkily, shedding great chunks of mud from their spokes and felloes. It was a dreary ride, during the course of which the minister made several pointed offers to accept a large donation in behalf of his work, while Cameron answered nothing, but stared out across the sodden prairie, his eyes on the Touchwood Hills. He remembered that life had seemed a drab thing as his glance shifted from the hills to the ugly little town with its mud-churned streets and its wooden buildings huddled in the middle of the ugly prairie, beside the parallel rails that narrowed and disappeared in the distance. He hated the town. He didn't want to go back to the store. For three days the door had been locked.
Idly he had turned the key over and over in his pocket. He would like to drop the key into the mud and never, never unlock that door again. He didn't want to go back to the house across the street, where he knew the widow MacFarlane, who had kept house for them since the death of his mother, would be waiting to recount, gasp by gasp, the last illness of his father, his mother, her own two lamented husbands, and a goodly spattering of a defunct progeny. He didn't like Mrs. MacFarlane. He didn't want to hear Mrs. MacFarlane talk - about anything. He would get rid of Mrs. MacFarlane and do his own cooking, and make his own bed, and sweep the floors, and -
Then, the carriage stopped in front of the livery stable, and he stepped out to find Banker Warring waiting for him on the sidewalk. Banker Warring had been one of the pall-bearers, and, as the boy reached his side, the man linked his arm through his and led the way to the bank. It was after hours, and, unlocking the door, he took the boy into his private office. "Take off your coat an' sit down. That raw wind sure does get to a man's bones. Mama wants I should bring you home to supper this evenin', but it's early yet, an' I didn't know but what there'd be some things we could kind of talk over together. Mind you, I don't want to pry into your affairs. It's none of my business, an' I won't get mad if you tell me so. But, the fact is, you're on your own, now, as they say. I know Angus wasn't much of a hand to talk an' maybe you an' him hadn't sort of planned things out - for the future, I mean."
The boy shook his head: "No," he answered. "We hardly ever talked about-anything."
For an hour or more they talked, and then the boy accompanied the banker home to supper. Next morning he opened the store as usual, and, during the next three years, he operated the establishment, first with the aid of one clerk, then two, then three, and in those three years made more money than had his father in the ten years preceding. Then he sold out to Bjone, banked his money with Mr. Warring, and, on his twenty-second birthday, showed up at Regina barracks.
Thus, the sequence of events that had shaped his life arranged itself in the boy's mind as the train roared through the darkness. And, now, he was actually reporting for duty! He took out his manual and began to read. He almost knew it by heart and as his eyes traveled the familiar pages, he heard scraps of conversation from across the aisle where a drummer and a man, evidently a ranchman, were seated together: "- finest outfit of police in the hull world -" "But, he's just a kid -" "Huh - kid, eh! If you know'd 'em like I do, you'd ruther have a hull regiment of soldiers after you than that one kid. They work mostly alone - an one's enough. The worst desperado in the world looks jest the same to 'em as an old lady with a lap full of knittin'. Them boys goes out an' gets their men every time, an' don't you fergit it! I'll tell you, mister, them red coats means somethin'!"
The train stopped, the rancher got off, and with a vast pride in his heart, the boy read on, and on, aware, now and then, of the interested glance of the drummer.
"Constable Pogue Gets His Man" by James B Hendryx
from THE FLAMING FOREST by James Oliver Curwood
An hour ago, under the marvelous canopy of the blue northern sky, David Carrigan, Sergeant in His Most Excellent Majesty's Royal Northwest Mounted Police, had hummed softly to himself, and had thanked God that he was alive.
He had blessed McVane, superintendent of "N" Division at Athabasca Landing, for detailing him to the mission on which he was bent. He was glad that he was traveling alone, and in the deep forest, and that for many weeks his adventure would carry him deeper and deeper into his beloved north. Making his noonday tea over a fire at the edge of the river, with the green forest crowding like an inundation on three sides of him, he had come to the conclusion--for the hundredth time, perhaps--that it was a nice thing to be alone in the world, for he was on what his comrades at the Landing called a "bad assignment."
"If anything happens to me," Carrigan had said to McVane, "there isn't anybody in particular to notify. I lost out in the matter of family a long time ago." He was not a man who talked much about himself, even to the superintendent of "N" Division, yet there were a thousand who loved Dave Carrigan, and many who placed their confidences in him. Superintendent Me Vane had one story which he might have told, but he kept it to himself, instinctively sensing the sacredness of it.
Even Carrigan did not know that the one thing which never passed his lips was known to McVane. Of that, too, he had been thinking an hour ago. It was the thing which, first of all, had driven him into the north. And though it had twisted and disrupted the earth under his feet for a time, it had brought its compensation. For he had come to love the north with a passionate devotion.
It was, in a way, his God. It seemed to him that the time had never been when he had lived any other life than this under the open skies. He was thirty-seven now. A bit of a philosopher, as philosophy comes to one in a sun-cleaned and unpolluted air, A good-humored brother of humanity, even when he put manacles on other men's wrists; graying a little over the temples--and a lover of life. Above all else he was that. A lover of life. A worshiper at the shrine of God's Country.
So he sat, that hour ago, deep in the wilderness eighty miles north of Athabasca Landing, congratulating himself on the present conditions of his existence. A hundred and eighty miles farther on was Fort McMurray, and another two hundred beyond that was Chipewyan, and still beyond that the Mackenzie and its fifteen- hundred-mile trail to the northern sea. He was glad there was no end to this world of his.
He was glad there were few people in it. But these people he loved. That hour ago he had looked out on the river as two York boats had forged up against the stream, craft like the long, slim galleys of old, brought over through the Churchill and Clearwater countries from Hudson's Bay. There were eight rowers in each boat. They were singing. Their voices rolled between the walls of the forests. Their naked arms and shoulders glistened in the sun. They rowed like Vikings, and to him they were symbols of the freedom of the world.
He had watched them until they were gone up-stream, but it was a long time before the chanting of their voices had died away. And then he had risen from beside his tiny fire, and had stretched himself until his muscles cracked. It was good to feel the blood running red and strong in one's veins at the age of thirty-seven.
For Carrigan felt the thrill of these days when strong men were coming out of the north -- days when the glory of June hung over the land, when out of the deep wilderness threaded by the Three Rivers came romance and courage and red-blooded men and women of an almost forgotten people to laugh and sing and barter for a time with the outpost guardians of a younger and more progressive world. It was north of Fifty-Four, and the waters of a continent flowed toward the Arctic Sea.
Yet soon would the strawberries be crushing red underfoot; the forest road was in bloom, scarlet fire-flowers reddened the trail, wild hyacinths and golden-freckled violets played hide- and-seek with the forget-me-nots in the meadows, and the sky was a great splash of velvety blue. It was the north triumphant--at the edge of civilization; the north triumphant, and yet paying its tribute.
For at the other end were waiting the royal Upper Ten Thousand and the smart Four Hundred with all the beau monde behind them, coveting and demanding that tribute to their sex--the silken furs of a far country, the life's blood and labor of a land infinitely beyond the pale of drawing-rooms and the whims of fashion.
Carrigan had thought of these things that hour ago, as he sat at the edge of the first of the Three Rivers, the great Athabasca. From down the other two, the Slave and the Mackenzie, the fur fleets of the unmapped country had been toiling since the first breakups of ice. Steadily, week after week, the north had been emptying itself of its picturesque tide of life and voice, of muscle and brawn, of laughter and song--and wealth.
Through, long months of deep winter, in ten thousand shacks and tepees and cabins, the story of this June had been written as fate had written it each winter for a hundred years or more. A story of the triumph of the fittest. A story of tears, of happiness here and there, of hunger and plenty, of new life and quick death; a story of strong men and strong women, living in the faith of their forefathers, with the best blood of old England and France still surviving in their veins.
Through those same months of winter, the great captains of trade in the city of Edmonton had been preparing for the coming of the river brigades. The hundred and fifty miles of trail between that last city outpost of civilization and Athabasca Landing, the door that opened into the North, were packed hard by team and dog-sledge and packer bringing up the freight that for another year was to last the forest people of the Three River country--a domain reaching from the Landing to the Arctic Ocean.
In competition fought the drivers of Revillon Brothers and Hudson's Bay, of free trader and independent adventurer. Freight that grew more precious with each mile it advanced must reach the beginning of the waterway. It started with the early snows.
The tide was at full by midwinter. In temperature that nipped men's lungs it did not cease. There was no let-up in the whip-hands of the masters of trade at Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, and London across the sea.
It was not a work of philanthropy.
These men cared not whether Jean and Jacqueline and Pierre and Marie were well-fed or hungry,
whether they lived or died, so far as humanity was concerned. But Paris, Vienna, London, and the great capitals of the earth must have their furs--and unless that freight went north, there would
be no velvety offerings for the white shoulders of the world. Christmas windows two years hence would be bare.
A feminine wail of grief would rise to the skies. For woman must have her furs,
and in return for those furs Jean and Jacqueline and Pierre and Marie must have their freight. So the pendulum swung, as it had swung for a century or two, touching, on the one side, luxury, warmth, wealth, and beauty; on the other, cold and hardship, deep snows and open skies--with that precious freight the thing between.
And now, in this year before rail and steamboat, the glory of early summer was at hand, and the wilderness people were coming up to meet the freight. The Three Rivers--the Athabasca, the Slave,
and the Mackenzie, all joining in one great two-thousand-mile waterway to the northern sea--were athrill with the wild impulse and beat of life as the forest people lived it. The Great Father had sent in his treaty money, and Cree song and Chipewyan chant joined the age-old melodies of French and half-breed.
Countless canoes drove past the slower and mightier scow brigades; huge York boats with two rows of oars heaved up and down like the ancient galleys of Rome; tightly woven cribs of timber, and giant rafts made tip of many cribs were ready for their long drift into a timberless country.
On this two-thousand-mile waterway a world had gathered. It was the Nile of the northland, and each post and
gathering place along its length was turned into a metropolis, half savage, archaic, splendid with the strength of red blood, clear eyes, and souls that read the word of God in wind and tree.
And up and down this mighty waterway of wilderness trade ran the whispering spirit of song, like the voice of a mighty god heard under the stars and in the winds.
But it was an hour ago that David Carrigan had vividly pictured these things to himself close to the big river, and many things may happen in the sixty minutes that follow any given minute in a man's life. That hour ago his one great purpose had been to bring in Black Roger Audemard, alive or dead--Black Roger, the forest fiend who had destroyed half a dozen lives in a blind passion of vengeance nearly fifteen years ago.
For ten of those fifteen years it had been thought that Black Roger was dead. But mysterious rumors had lately come out of the North. He was alive. People had seen him. Fact followed rumor. His existence became certainty. The Law took up once more his hazardous trail, and David Carrigan was the messenger it sent.
"Bring him back, alive or dead," were Superintendent McVane's last words.
And now, thinking of that parting injunction, Carrigan grinned, even as the sweat of death dampened his face in the heat of the afternoon sun. For at the end of those sixty minutes that had passed since his midday pot of tea, the grimly, atrociously unexpected had happened, like a thunderbolt out of the azure of the sky.
from SPIRIT-OF-IRON by Harwood Steele
Hopeful Pass lay gripped in the first big cold of the Northern winter.
Every lake, creek and river in Black Elk was frozen over. The miners had deserted their claims for town or retired into their shacks till spring. Travellers in the Pass might be counted on one hand. The human tide, like the watery tide, had succumed to the wintery clutch.
And yet the Mounted Police Post was as active as in the days of the Rush. Half the men were tramping up and down in the snow. Outside their big fur coats they wore their bandoliers, belts and revolvers, and each man carried his carbine, while young Inspector Gemmell, similarly equiped, was sitting on an open box of ammunition.
They were going to fight? They were -- if necessary.
Gemmell had been advised by headquarters that an attempt might soon be made by the thugs of Prospect to rush the Mounted Police post on Hopeful Pass and gain admittance to the gold-fields. He was to avert this attempt by "taking such steps as he deemed advisable" -- (Let the boy run his own show!) and Gemmell, who included Hopeful Pass in his jurisdiction, had instantly taken long steps -- in Hopeful Pass direction, since it was better that he should be on the scene of action himself.
To resist the advance, Gemmell had erected a barrier covering the approach to the post and had maintained a perpetual look-out in the pass a mile or two ahead. This look-out was on duty now.
From the town of Prospect that morning had come word of an advance. Gemmell had thereupon turned out half his men, leaving the rest in comfort in the tent.
Gemmell also had a Maxim machine-gun in the tent. But, as the machine-gun was water-cooled, it was liable to freeze up if left too long in the open.
If the thugs came up, Gemmell planned to emulate the Spartans of Thermopylae.
The Pass must be held to the last.
He meant to hold it.
Meanwhile, he wished the thugs would "get it over," as he was sure his nose was freezing.
Gemmell's scouts suddenly appeared over the skyline a hundred yards away.
"Gang of two hundred, heavily armed, just come into sight, sir," the scouts reported on arrival.
"All right," said Gemmell. Then, to the men in the tent, "Turn out, you fellows!"
The fellows turned out.
Gemmell mounted the Maxim in a conspicuous position, pointing down the Pass. He stationed his reserve behind the barrier. The remainder of the men, six all told, he drew up in a line, across the pass.
Then, in the mist of descending flakes, they waited.
"If you'll pardon me, sir," -- Sergeant Kellett tactfully placed his superior knowledge and experience at his C. O.'s disposal -- "I'd parley with them first."
"Yes, Sergeant," said Gemmell.
He wished his moustache was bigger.
An hour passed.
"Are you sure they're coming?" Gemmell asked the scouts.
A sudden roar, borne on the wind, supplied the answer and a crowd of men surged over the crest below.
All alone, Gemmell advanced to meet the crowd on the boundary-line, a stone's throw in front.
Two hundred? -- a low estimate. There were at least three hundred in the crowd -- ruffians all, and well armed, the dregs of Prospect, the toughest town on earth. Gemmell looked for Greasy Jones or his gang but saw none of them.
The crowd yelled with mingled passion and triumph when it saw Gemmell. He slung his carbine easily over his shoulder and unbuttoned the holster of his revolver. On the boundary-line he met the mob, face to face.
"Out of the way!" roared the crowd -- and halted.
"Sorry, but this is the boundary," replied Gemmell coolly. He was forced to raise his voice. "Behind me is Canadian territory. You can't pass!"
These remarks produced a storm of hoots, laughs and jeers. The crowd began to advance again, intending to sweep Gemmell aside.
On the very edge of Canadian territory the crowd halted again, checked by their leader, a desperate-looking villain, who waved significantly toward the line of Police.
"Well, what have you got to say?"
Turning, when the mob had halted and had fallen into silence, the leader challenged Gemmell.
"My orders," shouted Gemmell, in return, "are to halt you at the boundary. I have a big force of men. And a Maxim gun, that could clean up this pass in half a minute. Now, I don't want trouble. I want you fellows to have some sense and go home."
The leader of the mob placed himself in front of Gemmell, feet wide apart, hands on hips, and looked him up and down. "Say, kid," he demanded, "who th' hell d'you think you are? Who told you to stop us law-abidin' citizens?"
"Her Majesty the Queen!" said Gemmell.
"Whoop!" shouted the man; and the crowd jeered.
"What the hell right has Her Majesty got in Black Elk, anyhow?" went on the leader. "The Black Elk miners is the boys to run that country. An' they want us in. An' we're goin' in! See?"
He thrust his lowering face to within an inch of the Inspector's.
"Get your men an' your pop-gun out o' the way!" the thug continued. "An' no one'll be hurt! Out o' the way, you --"
And he put out his hand to thrust Gemmell aside.
"Hard words!" smiled the Inspector.
Then he flicked the man across the mouth.
A shriek of anger rose from the crowd. The leader, his face crimson, whipped out a revolver and pointed it at Gemmell.
"Out o' th' way!" he roared.
"We're on Canadian soil. You've broken the law!"
With that, the Inspector dashed the thug's weapon aside and closed with him.
Sergeant Kellett, waiting with the line behind him, saw the officer struggling furiously, in a turmoil in the snow, the mob closing. Instantly, he doubled his men forward. A row of levelled carbines came suddenly to Gemmell's rescue.
"Stand back, you!" ordered Kellett hotly. "Or I'll open fire!"
A roaring mass, the toughs swayed to and fro before that slender barrier. Between them, as on common ground, Gemmell and his antagonist rolled and struggled.
Sergeant Kellett whipped out his handcuffs, watching his chance to plunge into the fight.
But out of the scurry of snow came Gemmell at that instant -- smiling and on top! His face was lacerated, the tough kicking and clawing like a mad dog. Gemmell had pitched the revolver out of reach in the first struggle.
"Leave him, Sergeant," he ordered. "He's my meat!"
Then -- click! -- pulling a pair of handcuffs from his own pocket -- the arrest was a fact accomplished.
To get back with their prisoner to the Post was the work of a moment. The crowd, now lacking determined leadership, wavered. The arrest left them dazed.
The machine-gun crew and the men at the barrier nodded.
The Inspector hailed the crowd.
"Get out!" he shouted. "Do you hear? The first man moving this way will mean the end of the lot of you! Remember my Maxim!"
Then both sides waited, facing each other, in intense silence.
This was the crisis. Which was it to be -- a fight or a retreat?
"Don't fire, sir, till they're right on us!" whispered Sergeant Kellett. "Never do, sir. Never do!"
The mob gathered itself together, yelling. The Police maintained their ominous silence. Motionless, they faced the mob -- twelve men against three hundred. The flag above them blew gloriously in the breeze.
Suddenly the toughs charged.
Gemmell's face was marble, under dried streaks of blood. This, surely, was the end.
Some members of the advancing crowd opened fire. Bullets whistled around the standing Mounted Police.
Gemmell shouted, "Machine-gun, ready there!"
The mob had forgotten the machine-gun. Every man had heard that firm cry, "Machine-gun, ready there!" and the answer, "Ready!" Now they remembered. Quick as lightning, a mental picture flashed through them... a picture of the Pass, blocked with their bodies, dominated by a devil of brass and steel.
And the rush -- melted away. Melted away!
The Mounted Police were left with their prisoner. The crowd went sullenly pouring back to Prospect in defeat.
Gemmell drew a deep breath. The tense line relaxed.
It was hard to believe the mob had given way, not on account of the levelled carbines but simply and solely on the account of the mere threat of the Maxim.
For the Maxim had been frozen up for the past twenty minutes.
"Bluffed 'em, by the Lord Harry!" said Gemmell.
Harwood Steele & Friends