Back to God's Country and Other Stories
Sergeant Brokaw was hatchet-faced, with shifting pale blue eyes that had a glint of
cruelty in them. He was tall, and thin, and lithe as a cat. He belonged to the Royal
Northwest Mounted Police, and was one of the best men on the trail that had ever gone
into the North. His business was man hunting. Ten years of seeking after human prey had
given to him many of the characteristics of a fox. For six of those ten years he had
represented law north of fifty-three. Now he had come to the end of his last hunt, close up
to the Arctic Circle. For one hundred and eighty-seven days he had been following a
man. The hunt had begun in midsummer, and it was now midwinter. Billy Loring, who
was wanted for murder, had been a hard man to find. But he was caught at last, and
Brokaw was keenly exultant. It was his greatest achievement. It would mean a great deal
for him down at headquarters.
In the rough and dimly lighted cabin his man sat opposite him, on a bench, his manacled
hands crossed over his knees. He was a younger man than Brokaw--thirty, or a little
better. His hair was long, reddish, and untrimmed. A stubble of reddish beard covered his
face. His eyes, too, were blue--of the deep, honest blue that one remembers, and most
frequently trusts. He did not look like a criminal. There was something almost boyish in
his face, a little hollowed by long privation. He was the sort of man that other men liked.
Even Brokaw, who had a heart like flint in the face of crime, had melted a little.
"Ugh!" he shivered. "Listen to that beastly wind! It means three days of storm." Outside a
gale was blowing straight down from the Arctic. They could hear the steady moaning of
it in the spruce tops over the cabin, and now and then there came one of those raging
blasts that filled the night with strange shrieking sounds. Volleys of fine, hard snow beat
against the one window with a rattle like shot. In the cabin it was comfortable. It was
Billy's cabin. He had built it deep in a swamp, where there were lynx and fisher cat to
trap, and where he had thought that no one could find him. The sheet-iron stove was
glowing hot. An oil lamp hung from the ceiling. Billy was sitting so that the glow of this
fell in his face. It scintillated on the rings of steel about his wrists. Brokaw was a cautious
man, as well as a clever one, and he took no chances.
"I like storms--when you're inside, an' close to a stove," replied Billy. "Makes me feel
sort of--safe." He smiled a little grimly. Even at that it was not an unpleasant smile.
Brokaw's snow-reddened eyes gazed at the other.
"There's something in that," he said. "This storm will give you at least three days more of
"Won't you drop that?" asked the prisoner, turning his face a little, so that it was shaded
from the light.