The final volume of four great books of the adventures of the Mounted Police
In Curwood, the famous ‘Mounties’ had possibly their first and most enthusiastic champion and author of their adventures of fiction and legend. The image of the lone policeman out in the Canadian wilderness enduring every force nature could hurl against him and yet still resolutely and infallibly ‘getting his man’ was never more powerful than in the pages of Curwood’s stories. His inspiration came from a time before ‘The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’, when the force was titled, ‘The North West Mounted Police’ and of course this meant the adventures are set in an earlier era—the Canada of the 19th century—where the untamed land was sparsely populated with untamed men and the tribes of indigenous Indians that might yet be hostile. These men were policemen, trappers, trackers, rangers, part lawman, part soldier—often imagined in their distinctive scarlet uniform—in fact the very stuff which has evoked true adventure in the minds of those aged from 8 to 80!
In this final volume of the special Leonaur four volume collection of Curwood’s stories of the Mounties, readers will discover the full length novel, ‘The Flaming Forest’ accompanied by five shorter pieces of the police in action—‘The Fiddling Man,’ ‘The Match,’ ‘The Yellow-Back,’ ‘The Case of Beauvais’ and ‘The Mouse.’
For a few moments he lay quietly on his face after the fourth shot. His eyes were turned toward the river, and on the far side, a quarter of a mile away, three canoes were moving swiftly up the slow current of the stream. The sunlight flashed on their wet sides. The gleam of dripping paddles was like the flutter of silvery birds’ wings, and across the water came an unintelligible shout in response to the rifle shot. It occurred to David that he might make a trumpet of his hands and shout back, but the distance was too great for his voice to carry its message for help. Besides, now that he had the added protection of the pack, he felt a certain sense of humiliation at the thought of showing the white feather. A few minutes more, if all went well, and he would settle for the man behind the log.<br>
He continued again the slow operation of worming his rifle barrel between the pack and the rock. The near-sighted little sandpiper had discovered him and seemed interested in the operation. It had come a dozen feet nearer, and was perking its head and seesawing on its long legs as it watched with inquisitive inspection the unusual manifestation of life behind the rock. Its twittering note had changed to an occasional sharp and querulous cry. Carrigan wanted to wring its neck. That cry told the other fellow that he was still alive and moving.<br>
It seemed an age before his rifle was through, and every moment he expected another shot. He flattened himself out, Indian fashion, and sighted along the barrel. He was positive that his enemy was watching, yet he could make out nothing that looked like a head anywhere along the log. At one end was a clump of deeper foliage. He was sure he saw a sudden slight movement there, and in the thrill of the moment was tempted to send a bullet into the heart of it. But he saved his cartridge. He felt the mighty importance of certainty. If he fired once—and missed—the advantage of his unsuspected loophole would be gone. It would be transformed into a deadly menace. Even as it was, if his enemy’s next bullet should enter that way—<br>
He felt the discomfort of the thought, and in spite of himself a tremor of apprehension ran up his spine. He felt an even greater desire to wring the neck of the inquisitive little sandpiper. The creature had circled round squarely in front of him and stood there tilting its tail and bobbing its head as if its one insane desire was to look down the length of his rifle barrel. The bird was giving him away. If the other fellow was only half as clever as his marksmanship was good—<br>
Suddenly every nerve in Carrigan’s body tightened. He was positive that he had caught the outline of a human head and shoulders in the foliage. His finger pressed gently against the trigger of his Winchester. Before he breathed again he would have fired. But a shot from the foliage beat him out by the fraction of a second. In that precious time lost, his enemy’s bullet entered the edge of his kit—and came through. He felt the shock of it, and in the infinitesimal space between the physical impact and the mental effect of shock his brain told him the horrible thing had happened. It was his head—his face. It was as if he had plunged them suddenly into hot water, and what was left of his skull was filled with the rushing and roaring of a flood. He staggered up, clutching his face with both hands. The world about him was twisted and black, a dizzily revolving thing—yet his still fighting mental vision pictured clearly for him a monstrous, bulging-eyed sandpiper as big as a house. Then he toppled back on the white sand, his arms flung out limply, his face turned to the ambush wherein his murderer lay.<br>
His body was clear of the rock and the pack, but there came no other shot from the thick clump of balsam. Nor, for a time, was there movement. The wood warbler was cheeping inquiringly at this sudden change in the deportment of his friend behind the shoulder of shale. The sandpiper, a bit startled, had gone back to the edge of the river and was running a race with himself along the wet sand. And the two quarrelsome jays had brought their family squabble to the edge of the timber.<br>
It was their wrangling that roused Carrigan to the fact that he was not dead. It was a thrilling discovery—that and the fact that he made out clearly a patch of sunlight in the sand. He did not move, but opened his eyes wider. He could see the timber. On a straight line with his vision was the thick clump of balsam. And as he looked, the boughs parted and a figure came out. Carrigan drew a deep breath. He found that it did not hurt him. He gripped the fingers of the hand that was under his body, and they closed on the butt of his service automatic. He would win yet, if God gave him life a few minutes longer.<br>
His enemy advanced. As he drew nearer, Carrigan closed his eyes more and more. They must be shut, and he must appear as if dead, when the other came up. Then, when the scoundrel put down his gun, as he naturally would—his chance would be at hand. If a quiver of his eyes betrayed him—<br>
He closed them tight. Dizziness began to creep over him, and the fire in his brain grew hot again. He heard footsteps, and they stopped in the sand close beside him. Then he heard a human voice. It did not speak in words, but gave utterance to a strange and unnatural cry. With a mighty effort Carrigan assembled his last strength. It seemed to him that he brought himself up quickly, but his movement was slow, painful—the effort of a man who might be dying. The automatic hung limply in his hand, its muzzle pointing to the sand. He looked up, trying to swing into action that mighty weight of his weapon. And then from his own lips, even in his utter physical impotence, fell a cry of wonder and amazement.<br>
His enemy stood there in the sunlight, staring down at him with big, dark eyes that were filled with horror. They were not the eyes of a man. David Carrigan, in this most astounding moment of his life, found himself looking up into the face of a woman.