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After breakfast next morning, MacGregor delivered an advice to the younger men.

“We shall have nothing for any of you fellows to do for some weeks yet. An accident—one of many, I am sorry to say—in a very important casting has delayed our enterprise. Hunt, fish, shoot. You will find sport of all sorts within easy distance. Here are rods and guns. We can also lend you mounts until your own horses are recovered.”

So the young men betook themselves to the forest and the river-side; shot caribou, moose, wild sheep, or bear; killed abnormal salmon that were stupendous in fact as well as in reminiscence; and, for a time, found their occupations very agreeable. Of course they wondered much, over their pipes of an evening, what the meaning of all the smelting, and casting, and steam-hammering hard by could be. But, being in their several ways somewhat of a philosophic turn, they took the life as they found it, and left their senior, headed by that forceful chief MacGregor, to work out their own mysterious projects’ unquestioned. This pleasant, holiday life was interrupted by a tragic incident.

“I can’t make out that man, Barnett,” Blake said one evening. “He is the strangest type I ever met, so preoccupied and yet so polite; so grave and yet so tolerant of all our little levities. He disappears in the morning a model of cleanliness ; he returns in the evening as sooty as a chimney-sweep. Before he leaves, he is too absent-minded to talk; when he gets back, he seems too tired.”

“I don’t believe he knows our names yet,” Gordon remarked. “He always addresses whoever sits next to him as Mr. ———.’“

Durand and Graves both declared he was charming. The first had already worked him into a three-volume novel, with about the usual want of novelty, which he had commenced, and the second hoped one day to paint him as the prisoner of Chillon, or other equally original figure. Gordon had made no copy of him so far. He had not yet done. anything unusual.

“Then as to MacGregor,” Blake continued, “is he possessed of a devil?”

“He is certainly possessed of a devilish useful man when he has got hold of Sir George Sterling,” Gordon answered. “That man must be worth at least—“ he turned over the leaves of his note-book, but was unable to find the entry.

“Now then, for dinner!” The cheery voice of MacGregor himself broke in. Barnett and the baronet, who were seated in a distant comer, arose and pat away regretfully, certain sheets they had been poring over. The figures which covered Barnett’s sheets must have had many different values, to judge from those curious little marks, accents, and qualifying sub-figures so dear to the mathematician, by which they were adorned, enhanced, or modified. The figures on the baronet’s sheets were nearly as multitudinous, but of signs or qualifications there was only one—that before mentioned-symbol which indicates pounds sterling.

The feast, in the main, was furnished by the spoil of the sportsmen. Additional features had been supplied by a liberal contribution from Sir George’s packages, which were holding out well. Only a distant hum could be heard from the works, once the outer door of the hut was closed. It was the time of day most enjoyed by the tired hunters of the forest, and also by the weary man of science, notwithstanding his grave silence. Indeed, it is a time of day enjoyed by many who have never hunted in a forest, nor fatigued their brains with science. And yet, the indomitable MacGregor waxed duller when he should have naturally increased in brightness.

“I am afraid. Sterling, your appearance here so soon was a mistake,” he said, with unusual solemnity. “It would have been better if you had kept out of the way until we were quite ready. You could have sent us the weekly remittances for wages as at first.”

“A mistake! How so?”

“I don’t like the look of some of these rascally half-breeds. A trusty man of mine tells me that they suspect some of your baggage to consist of good gold coin.”

“What if they do?”

“They would think very little of cutting all our throats for the cash, if we were not so well armed.”

“Then we have nothing to fear.”

“Not from them, perhaps, but the story has got about, and those San Francisco men that we never could get to do anything, are loafing about making speeches on your tremendous wealth, their hard work, poor pay, and so on. A strike would not suit us, now that we are on the eve of success.”

The sporting discussion, which usually went on at the table, by this time had lost interest for the party, and every one listened as Sir George said, somewhat sharply:

“I wish you had let me know how far behind you were, and I should have remained another month in Columbia.”

“It was those disastrous mistakes in the great casting tht delayed us. The whole thing had to be commenced de novo after every failure.”

“They were not mistakes,” Barnett said quietly. “They were accidents, due to the inexperience of the men.”

“Well, I know you were not to blame, Barnett, but it amounts to the same thing. In any case, there is more unpleasant news.”


“Yes, more. The half-breeds are tampering with a party of Blackfeet Indiana who strayed up here after Kiel’s rebellion. I had better tell you at once—they mean to attack the camp to-night.”

MacGregor spoke in the coolest voice, but every man except himself and Bamett leaped to his feet.

“Attack the camp!”

“So I said.”

“And you sit there———“

“Don’t trouble yourselves, gentlemen. Our good friend here” (nodding towards Barnett) “has arranged for them.’

The crack of a rifle-shot rang out close to the hut, and in the distance a faint whoop could be heard.

The men again sprang up, but MacGregor said peremptorily, “ Don’t move; just keep out of the line of the window when I open the iron shutter.”

Barnett arose and touched a button in the wall. The light went out, and MacGregor drew aside the metal shutter. Outside all was in darkness. Another snap of a rifle, evidently only a signal, and Barnett pressed another spring.

For fully half a mile on every side the woods flashed into brilliant light. Here, there, from tree to tree, the glare of electric lamps burst forth, and with their appearance a yell of fear went up from fifty crouching Indian braves. The attack was over before it had commenced. The children of the forest thought the day of Judgment was at hand, and with cries of terror they prostrated themselves before the wizard to whom they ascribed its advent.

MacGregor, surrounded by his friends, all well armed, went out and accepted their submission.

It was none too soon, for, hurrying from the works at the sound of the first rifle-shot, the discontented half-breeds came on at a run. Armed with hammers, sledges, bars of iron, and the like, they rushed up, anxious to join in the loot. These in turn were followed by the better-class smiths and artificers, who were careless how the fight went, and were interested only to side with the victors. The situation was still critical, for although the party in front of the hut were well supplied with quick-firing rifles and revolvers, the odds against them in numbers were terribly great. Fortunately the sight of the Indian warriors on their knees knocked the fighting spirit out of the half-breeds. They slowed down in their advance, halted and huddled up foolishly, then began to give ground and scramble back.

But the Indian chief knew the secret of the electric light, or rather he knew by repute the grave white man whose fame had already travelled far as a mighty conjurer. He

cursed his own people very sincerely for their timidity, and when the sullen smiths were retiring, and his own pardoned braves were slinking off, cowed and humiliated, he stole unperceived behind the Englishmen. Feeling sure that he had only to kill the white medicine-man to secure a general victory, he crept up silently, snake-like, to within a couple of yards of his conqueror. In the glare of the electric light, two eyeballs gleamed savagely; a knife flashed whitely as it plunged down with a terrible swoop, and Barnett fell forward on the grass.

Had it not been for MacGregor’s quick hand and iron grip, the forest foundry would have been silent next day. As. it was, the scientist had got an ugly wound. The Indian was down in a second with MacGregor’s knee on his chest, and his giant fingers on his throat. The sulky half-breeds began to straggle back again towards the hut, muttering sullenly. The cowed Indians shook off something of their terror, and grouped themselves in an angry, menacing crowd. The stolid smiths looked on. Thus nearly two hundred savage cut-throats were seething round the hut ready at a word, had any dared to give it, to spring upon their quarry. Two of the weaker side were already hors de combat, one wounded badly, one holding down his enemy. In front of these two, the five other men lined out silently, rifle in hand, cartridge pouches open—ready.

“Good men and true,” MacGregor said hoarsely. “But one of you cover this hound with your rifle until I see to Barnett. He is bleeding terribly. Let the rest stand ready to commence firing the moment those curs advance an inch.”

The nearest of the five riflemen stepped, back and placed the muzzle of his weapon to the Indian’s head. The others kept their ground.

Barnett’s stab was staunched roughly. While tying it up MacGregor was heard to press the wounded man for exact instructions on some point or plan.

“Try every other way first, MacGregor,” Barnett urged in a weak voice. “It is too terrible.”

“Nonsense! What is one man’s life to a hundred. Don’t you see that a fight to the death is certain unless we can disperse them? Do you think they will stand there looking at us harmlessly all night?”

“Then listen. Stoop down, MacGregor, for I am very weak and it pains me to speak.”

MacGregor stooped down and listened carefully, saying as he arose: “Set your mind at rest, Barnett, I tell you it is necessary.” Then in the hard masterful voice he sometimes used: “I have decided that it shall be done.”

Meanwhile the two sides were standing ready—one terrible in numbers, the other in weapons—each waiting for the other to begin.

“Gentlemen,” MacGregor said, coming forward to the line of riflemen, and speaking very low; “ this Indian must die, or we. They will attack us in five minutes if they are not dispersed. Our lives hang by a hair. I put it to your votes, and choose quickly. I myself say that the man has justly forfeited his life. What say you?”

“We say the same,” solemnly answered all.

“The rest is then simple,” MacGregor said, and immediately ran to where the Indian lay, covered by Gordon’s rifle. Patting the muzzle of his revolver to the chieftain’s head, he ordered him to march. Together, the two passed out on the open square in front of the hut.

“Stand there,” MacGregor said fiercely, and the Indian felt his moccasined feet slip on some smooth substance. He obeyed sullenly.

Then MacGregor roared in his great voice: “Now then, gather round—you here—you there,” and he assigned stations to the Indians, the half-breeds, and the smiths. The crowds sulkily took up their places as directed, but an ominous growl was gathering strength amongst them.

MacGregor then called out by name the man whom he had known to be stirring up the half-breeds. The fellow hesitated, but seeing the apparent fairness of the proposed meeting of generals half-way between each army, he finally yielded, and slouched over to where the captive and his gaoler stood in the centre of the open space. In the light of the powerful lamps the scene was as clear as day. The lowering faces of the encircling mob, and the five high-strung but firm white faces of the men who waited for the attack were almost ghastly in its glare.

“Better ground your arms, gentlemen. You will not need them, I think,” MacGregor said, as he advanced to meet the leader of the revolt. When a yard or two only separated them, he said suddenly :

“Here, you fellow, hand that to your friend, or I will shoot you where you stand.”

The sooty ruffian was taken by surprise. He mechanically accepted a heavy plug of bright metal which MacGregor handed to him, and went over to where the Indian stood, with an air of reckless bravado.

Henry Barnett, weak as he was, raised himself from the ground, and turned his back on the scene. MacGregor sternly faced it out.

The Indian took the metal bar with the same sullen indifference he had shown in everything since his capture. His hand closed on the bar and instantaneously his frame drew up rigid. For a second or two he stood stiff and deathlike, and no man spoke. Then before the eyes of the horror-stricken crowd, the man’s body sank down into a shapeless mass of pulp.

MacGregor tapped the half-breed on the shoulder, pointed significantly to the hideous heap, and said: “Begone, and take your people with you.” To a foreman smith who had secretly wished to side with the owners—only their party was so inconveniently small—he said;

“Bring a couple of men and bury that mess. It is quite harmless now. The connection is off.”

No second order was necessary in either case. Utterly cowed by the horrible spectacle of the Indian’s fate, the malcontents scattered like frightened sheep. MacGregor’s victory was complete.

When the party were once more seated in their comfortable quarters and Barnett’s wound had been properly dressed, Sir George Sterling said: “I think we owe you our lives to-night, MacGregor.”

“I believe you do,” MacGregor assented. “Barnett can devise things which certainly pass the understanding of any man I ever met except himself, but there are times when a man of action is useful too.”

“You have proved it,” Sir George said warmly, and then lie asked a question that was uppermost in the minds of all.

“Will you tell us, MacGregor, what you did to that poor devil of a savage?”


“I mean what dreadful influence or agent did you bring to bear upon him?”

“The plate on which he stood was connected with the machine which my learned friend constructed when we first heard of the intended attack. This was done in the merciful hope, that, if driven to do it, we might, by one man’s terrible fate, save many lives—especially our own. We were right in this, as you have seen.”

“But the agent employed?”

“I cannot tell you. Barnett tried to explain its nature but I really could not follow him. I can tell yon, however, its effect on the Indian standing on the plate when he took hold of the metal bar.”

“And that was?”

“It almost wholly destroyed the attraction of cohesion in the man’s body.”

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