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The God of His Fathers and Other Stories

The Great Interrogation
To say the least, Mrs. Sayther's career in Dawson was meteoric. She arrived in the spring,
with dog sleds and French-Canadian voyageurs, blazed gloriously for a brief month, and
departed up the river as soon as it was free of ice. Now womanless Dawson never quite
understood this hurried departure, and the local Four Hundred felt aggrieved and lonely
till the Nome strike was made and old sensations gave way to new. For it had delighted in
Mrs. Sayther, and received her wide-armed. She was pretty, charming, and, moreover, a
widow. And because of this she at once had at heel any number of Eldorado Kings,
officials, and adventuring younger sons, whose ears were yearning for the frou-frou of a
woman's skirts.
The mining engineers revered the memory of her husband, the late Colonel Sayther,
while the syndicate and promoter representatives spoke awesomely of his deals and
manipulations; for he was known down in the States as a great mining man, and as even a
greater one in London. Why his widow, of all women, should have come into the
country, was the great interrogation. But they were a practical breed, the men of the
Northland, with a wholesome disregard for theories and a firm grip on facts. And to not a
few of them Karen Sayther was a most essential fact. That she did not regard the matter
in this light, is evidenced by the neatness and celerity with which refusal and proposal
tallied off during her four weeks' stay. And with her vanished the fact, and only the
interrogation remained.
To the solution, Chance vouchsafed one clew. Her last victim, Jack Coughran, having
fruitlessly laid at her feet both his heart and a five-hundred-foot creek claim on Bonanza,
celebrated the misfortune by walking all of a night with the gods. In the midwatch of this
night he happened to rub shoulders with Pierre Fontaine, none other than head man of
Karen Sayther's voyageurs. This rubbing of shoulders led to recognition and drinks, and
ultimately involved both men in a common muddle of inebriety.
"Heh?" Pierre Fontaine later on gurgled thickly. "Vot for Madame Sayther mak visitation
to thees country? More better you spik wit her. I know no t'ing 'tall, only all de tam her
ask one man's name. 'Pierre,' her spik wit me; 'Pierre, you moos' find thees mans, and I
gif you mooch--one thousand dollar you find thees mans.' Thees mans? Ah, oui. Thees
man's name--vot you call-- Daveed Payne. Oui, m'sieu, Daveed Payne. All de tam her
spik das name. And all de tam I look rount vaire mooch, work lak hell, but no can find
das dam mans, and no get one thousand dollar 'tall. By dam!
"Heh? Ah, oui. One tam dose mens vot come from Circle City, dose mens know thees
mans. Him Birch Creek, dey spik. And madame? Her say 'Bon!' and look happy lak
anyt'ing. And her spik wit me. 'Pierre,' her spik, 'harness de dogs. We go queek. We find
thees mans I gif you one thousand dollar more.' And I say, 'Oui, queek! Allons, madame!'
 
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