RAYMOND CHAPELLE, once known as Three-Ace Artie, and now, if the cardcase in his pocket could be relied upon for veracity, as one Henri Mentone—though the cardcase revealed neither when nor where that metamorphosis had taken place, nor yet again the nature of Monsieur Henri Mentone's pursuits in life—was engaged in the rather futile occupation of staring out through the car window into a black and objectless night. He was not, however, deeply concerned with the night, for at times he shifted his gaze around the smoking compartment, which he had to himself, and smiled cynically. The winter of the Yukon had changed to the springtime of lower French Canada—it was a far cry from Ton-Nugget Camp, from Dawson and the Pacific, to the little village of St. Marleau on the banks of the St. Lawrence, where the river in its miles of breadth was merging with the Atlantic Ocean!

St. Marleau! That was where Canuck John had lived, where the old folks were now—if they were still alive. The cynical smile deepened. The only friend he had was—a dead man! The idea rather pleased him, as it had pleased him ever since he had started for the East. Perhaps there was a certain sentimentality connected with what he was about to do, but not the sickly, fool sentimentality that he had been weak enough to be guilty of with the Kid in Ton-Nugget Camp! He was through with that! Here, if it was sentiment at all, it was a sentiment that appealed to his sporting instincts. Canuck John had put it up to him—and died. It was a sort of trust; and the only man who trusted him was—a dead man. He couldn't throw a dead man down!

He laughed softly, drumming with his carefully manicured fingers on the window pane. Besides, there was too much gossip circulating between the Pacific Coast and Alaska to make it profitable for a gambler who had been kicked out of the Yukon for malpractice to linger in that locality—even if he had shaved off his beard! The fingers, from the window pane, felt in a sort of grimly ruminative way over the smooth, clean-shaven face. So, as well East as anywhere, providing always that he gave Montreal a wide berth—which he had!

Canuck John, of course, had not meant to impose any greater trust than the mere writing of a letter. But, like Murdock Shaw and the rest of Ton-Nugget Camp, he, Raymond, did not know Canuck John's name. If Canuck John had ever told him, and he had a hazy recollection that the other once had done so, he had completely forgotten it. Of St. Marleau, however, Canuck John had spoken scores of times. That made a letter still possible, of course—to the postmaster of St. Marleau. But it was many years since Canuck John had left there; Canuck John could not write himself and therefore his people would have had no knowledge of his whereabouts, and to write the postmaster that a man known as Canuck John had died in Ton-Nugget Camp was, to say the least of it, open to confusing possibilities in view of the fact that in those many and intervening years Canuck John was not likely to have been the only one who had left his native village to seek a wider field. And since he, Raymond, was coming East in any event, he was rather glad than otherwise that for the moment he had a definite objective in view.

Anyway, Canuck John had been a good sort—and that was all there was to it! And, meanwhile, this filled in, as it were, a hiatus in his own career, for he had not quite made up his mind exactly in what direction, or against whom specifically, he could pit his wits in future—to the best advantage to himself. One thing only was certain, henceforth he would be hampered by no maudlin consideration of ethics, such, for instance, as had enabled him to state truthfully to the Kid that he had never stacked a card in his life. To the winds with all that! He had had his lesson! Fish to his net, hereafter, would be all that came his way! If every man's hand was against him, his own would not remain palsied! For the moment he was in funds, flush, and well provided for; and for the moment it was St. Marleau and his dead friend's sorry legacy—to those who might be dead themselves! That remained to be seen! After that, as far as he was concerned, it was sauve qui peut, and—

Monsieur Henri Mentone looked up—and, with no effort to conceal his displeasure, Monsieur Henri Mentone scowled. A young priest had entered the smoking compartment, and was now in the act of settling himself on the opposite seat.

“Good evening,” nodded the other pleasantly. “I think we have been travelling companions since Quebec.” He produced a cigar, lighted it, and smiled. “It is not a very pleasant night, is it? There appears to be a very high wind.”

Raymond Chapelle rattled a newspaper out of his pocket, rattled it open brusquely—and retired behind it.

“It appears to be windy!” he growled uninvitingly.

He glanced at the remainder of his cigar. It was a very good cigar, and he did not care to sacrifice it by giving the other all the elbow room that the entire smoking compartment of the car afforded—as he, otherwise, would not have hesitated an instant to do! If his soul had nurtured any one especial hatred in its late period of bitter and blasphemous fury, it was a hatred of religion and all connected with it. He detested the sight of a priest. It always made him think of that night in Ton-Nugget Camp when memories had got the better of him. A priest of God! He hated them all. And he made no distinction as between creeds. They were all alike. They were Murdock Shaws! And he, if his father had had his way, would now be wearing a soutane, and dangling a crucifix from his neck, and sporting one of those damnable round hats like the man in front of him!

“Do you know this country at all?” inquired the priest.

“I do not,” Raymond answered curtly from behind his paper.

The other did not appear to notice the rebuff.

“No more do I,” he said engagingly. “I have never been below Quebec before, and I am afraid, unfortunately, that I am about to suffer for my ignorance. I am going to St. Marleau.”

Raymond lowered his paper, and for the first time gave the other more than a casual glance. He found his vis-à-vis to be dark-eyed, of rather pleasant features—this he admitted grudgingly—and a young man of, he judged, about his own age.

“What is the matter with St. Marleau?” Personal interest prompted him to ask the question; nothing could prompt him to infuse even a hint of affability into his tones.

The priest shrugged his shoulders, and smiled whimsically.

“The matter with St. Marleau is that it is on the bank of the river, and that the station is three miles away. I have been talking to the conductor. I did not know that before.”

Raymond had not known it before either. The information did not please him. He had taken it as a matter of course that the railroad would set him down at the village itself.

“Well?” he prompted sourly.

“It was what caused me to take a particular interest in the weather”—the priest waved his cigar philosophically. “I shall have to walk, I presume. I am not expected until to-morrow, and the conductor tells me there is nothing but a small station where we stop.”

Raymond would have to walk too.

“It is unfortunate!” he observed sarcastically. “I should have thought that you would have provided against any such contingencies by making inquiries before you started.”

“That is true,” admitted the priest simply. “I am entirely to blame, and I must not complain. I was pleasurably over-excited perhaps. It is my first charge, you see. The curé of St. Marleau, Father Allard, went away yesterday for a vacation—for the summer—his first in many years—he is quite an old man”—the young priest was waxing garrulous, and was no longer interesting. Raymond peered out of the car window with a new and personal concern in the weather. There was no rain, but the howl of the wind was distinctly audible over the roar of the train.

“I was to have arrived to-morrow, as I said”—the priest was rattling on—“but having my preparations all completed to-day and nothing to detain me, I—well, as you see, I am here.”

Raymond was picturing realistically, and none too happily, a three-mile walk on a stormy night over a black, rutted country road. The prospect was not a soothing one.

“Monsieur is perhaps a commercial traveller?” ventured the young curé amiably, by way of continuing the conversation.

Raymond folded his paper deliberately, and replaced it in his pocket. There was a quick, twisted smile on his lips, but for the first time his voice was cordiality itself.

“Oh, no,” he said. “On the contrary, I make my living precisely as does Monsieur le Curé, except perhaps that I have not always the same certainty of success.”

“Ah!” The young priest leaned forward interestingly. “Then you——”

“Yes,” said Raymond, and now a snarl crept into his voice. “I let some one else toil for the money—while I hold out the hat!” He rose abruptly, and flung his cigar viciously in the general direction of the cuspidor. “I am a parasite on my fellow men, monsieur—a gambler,” he said evenly, and walked to the door.

Over his shoulder he caught the amazement on the young priest's face, then the quick, deep flush of indignation—and then the corridor shut him off from the other, and he chuckled savagely to himself.

He passed on into the main body of the car, took his bag from the rack over the seat that he had occupied, and went on into the next car in the rear. The priest, he had noticed, had previously been occupying the same car as himself. He wanted no more of the other! And as for making a companion of him on the walk from the station to St. Marleau, he would sooner have walked with the devil! As a matter of fact, he was prepared to admit he would not have been wholly averse to the devil's company. But a priest of God! The cynical smile was back on his lips. They were all alike—he despised them all. But he nevertheless confessed to a certain commiseration; he was sorry for God—the devil was much less poorly served!

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