Before Basil Dreaulond, the Hudson's Bay Company's courier, had won half the mile-long Nisgowan portage, the familiar noise of men toiling in pack-harness reached his ears. He stopped automatically and trained his hearing in mechanical analysis of the sound. This power had grown within him with every successive year of his wilderness life, and at once he was aware that a party of considerable size was packing across the boulder-strewn strip of woodland separating Kinistina Creek from Lac Du Longe. The knowledge gave a wonderful quickness to the courier's rigid, listening figure. Swinging the canoe from his bulky shoulders, he hid it swiftly in the tamarack thicket which skirted the blazed passage. The tump-line was as suddenly slipped from his sweating forehead, and the pack-sack vanished likewise. Then Dreaulond himself disappeared with a spring into the green growth like a grouse seeking tangled cover. From the place of concealment sounded a metallic clink as he made ready his weapons against the chance of discovery. The voyageur was doubtful whether the advancing men were from any of the Hudson's Bay forts. They might well belong to some of the Northwest Fur Company's posts. If this were the case, Basil knew it would not be conducive to his own safety or, what was more important, to the welfare of the dispatches he carried to encounter single-handed a body of Nor'westers. He made for his convenience a peep-hole among the pungent boughs and scrutinized the axe-hewn path where one had to stagger knee-deep among flinty rock fragments, spear-like stumps, and a chaotic jumble of logs. Stooping to their burdens of canoes, dunnage, and arms, they came, thick-set giants with the knotted muscle, the clear vision, and the healthy skin that the strenuous northland life bestows. While they approached slowly, footing arduously, almost painfully, every step of the trying way and guarding against slips which meant fractures or six-month bruises, Dreaulond caught mingling gleams of color about their attire. As these bright glints took on definition and were resolved into sashes and leggings of red and blue, the hiding courier made out the dress of his own Company's men. The cover, now no longer necessary, was brushed aside for a better view. In the lead he recognized the square shoulders and mighty breadth of Bruce Dunvegan from Oxford House, a man of superior education and chief trader to Malcolm Macleod, the Factor.