If he did fail He shuddered, even as he ran, as he thought of the fate that awaited Minnetaki. A few hours before he had been one of the happiest youths in the world. Wabi's lovely little sister, he had believed, was safe at Kenegami House; he had bade adieu to his friends at the Post; every minute after that had taken him nearer to that far city in the South, to his mother, and home.
"To-morrow, if you are stronger, we're going to take you on to Kenegami House," the girl said to him. "Then you can tell me all about your adventures during the winter. Wabi has told me just enough about your battles with the Indians and about the old skeletons and the lost gold-mine to set me wild. Oh, I wish you would take me with you on your hunt for gold!"
"Minnetaki, you're a brick you certainly are a brick!" As soon as Wabi was made acquainted with the cause of Roderick's excitement he also joined in the other's wild rejoicing, and their antics startled half the house of Kenegami. Mukoki shared their joy, and Wabi hugged and kissed his sister until her pretty face was like a wild rose. "Hurrah!" shouted Wabi for the twentieth time.
It is in the heart of the wildest country on the continent, and surely if such a rich find had been made we would have heard something about it at Wabinosh House or Kenegami, which are the nearest points of supply." "Or, if it was found, the discoverer is dead," added Rod. "Yes." In the stern, Mukoki nodded and grunted his conviction. "Dead," he repeated.
You told us that you followed the sledge tracks, and that after a time the party had been met by others on snow-shoes, and that among the imprints in the snow was one that made you think of Minnetaki. When we reached the Post we learned that Minnetaki and two sledges had gone to Kenegami House and at once concluded that those snow-shoe trails were made by Kenegami people sent out to meet her.
"He told me that the dogs would go on to Kenegami House, and that if pursuers followed us they would follow the sledge trail and never give a thought to the bear tracks." Mukoki chuckled deep down in his throat. "He no fool Rod," he said. "Nobody fool Rod!" "Especially when he's on Minnetaki's trail," laughed Wabi happily.
You see the Indians were more hostile than ever, and they thought I would be safer at Kenegami House. How I do wish they'd let me go! I'd love to hunt bears, and wolves, and moose, and help you find the gold. Please coax him hard, Roderick!" And that very day, when he was strong enough to sit up, Rod did plead with his half-Indian comrade that Minnetaki might be allowed to accompany them.
"I must go home first, even if I have to arrange for a special sledge at Kenegami House to take me down to civilization." But even while he was stoutly declaring what it was his intention to do, fate was stealthily at work weaving another of her webs of destiny for Roderick Drew, and his friends' anxious eyes saw the first signs of it when they bade him good night.
For fever had laid its hand on the white youth, the fever that foreshadows death unless a surgeon is near, the fever of a wound going bad. Even Mukoki, graduated by Nature, taught by half a century's battle with life in this great desolation of the North, knew that his own powers were now of no avail. So Roderick was bundled in blankets, and the race for life to Kenegami House was begun.