Read CHAPTER VII of The Rising of the Red Man A Romance of the Louis Riel Rebellion, free online book, by John Mackie, on ReadCentral.com.

DETECTED

For the moment a horrible sickening fear took possession of Dorothy when she found herself thrust into such a very prominent position. It was quite bad enough to have to pass through that scene of pillage and riot, but to pose as the partner of an excitable half-breed in the execution of the Red River jig was more than the girl had bargained for. The fantastic shuffling and capering of the long-legged metis were wonderful to behold. The tassel of his long red tuque dangled and bobbed behind him like the pigtail of a Chinaman trying to imitate a dancing Dervish. His flushed face, long snaky black locks, and flashing eyes all spoke of the wild fever in his blood and his Gallic origin. Still, the girl noted he was not what might be termed an ill-looking fellow; he did not look bad-natured, nor was he in drink. He was merely an excited irresponsible.

The barbaric, musical rhyme on the cat-gut took a fresh lease of life; the delighted spectators clapped their hands in time, and supplemented the music with the regulation dog-like yelps. The Red River jig consists of two persons of opposite sex standing facing each other, each possessed with the laudable ambition of dancing his or her partner down. As may readily be imagined, it is a dance necessitating considerable powers of endurance. When one of the dancers sinks exhausted and vanquished, another steps into the breach. When Dorothy had made her appearance, a slim and by no means bad-looking half-breed girl had been unwillingly obliged to drop out of the dance. The bright eyes of the new arrival had caught Pierre La Chene’s fancy, and, after the manner of his kind, he had made haste to secure her as a partner. Pierre was a philanderer and an inconstant swain. The dark eyes of Katie the Belle flushed with anger as she saw this strange girl take her place. She noticed with jealous eyes the elegant fur coat which the other wore, the dainty silk-sewn moccasins, the natty beaver cap, and felt that she, herself a leader of fashion among her people, had yet much to learn.

Dorothy stood stock still for a moment while her partner and the spectators shouted to her to begin. A wrinkled old dame remarked, in the flowery language of her people, that, as the figure of the girl was slender as the willow, and her feet small and light as those of the wood spirits that return to the land in the spring, surely she could out-dance Pierre La Chene, who had already out-worn the light-footed Jeanette and the beautiful Katie. Pierre shouted to his partner to make a start. Surely now she must be discovered and undone!

Then something that, when one comes to think of it, was not strange, happened Dorothy rose to the occasion. She had danced the very same fantasia many a time out of sheer exuberance of spirits, and the love of dancing itself. She must dance and gain the sympathy of that rough crowd, in the event of her identity being discovered. There was nothing so terrible about this particular group after all. They were merely dancing while the others were going in for riot and pillage. There was something so incongruous and ludicrous in the whole affair that the odd, wayward, fun-loving spirit of the girl, of late held in abeyance, asserted itself, and she forgot all else save the fact that she must do her best to dance her partner down.

Her feet caught the rhythm of the “Arkansaw Traveller” that stirring, foot-catching melody without beginning or ending and in another minute Dorothy was dancing opposite the delighted and capering half-breed, and almost enjoying it. With hands on hips, with head thrown back, and with feet tremulous with motion, she kept time to the music. She was a good dancer, and realised what is meant by the poetry of motion. The fiddler played fairly well, and Pierre La Chene, if somewhat pronounced in his movements, was at least a picturesque figure, whose soul was in the dance. So amusing, were his antics that the girl laughed heartily, despite the danger of her position.

It was evident that Pierre was vastly taken with his partner. He rolled his eyes about in a languishing and alarming fashion; he twisted and wriggled like a contortionist, and occasionally varied the lightning-like shuffle of his own feet by kicking a good deal higher than his own head. He called upon his partner to “stay with it” in almost inarticulate gasps. “Whoop her up!” he yelled. “Git thar, Jean! Bravo, ma belle! Whoo-sh!”

It was a very nightmare of grotesqueness to Dorothy. The moonlight night, the black houses and pines looming up against the snowy landscape, the red glare in the immediate foreground caused by the burning buildings, the gesticulating figure of her half-breed partner, the excited, picturesque onlookers, the vagaries of the fiddler and the never-ceasing sound of the Indian drum, all tinged with an air of unreality and a sense of the danger that menaced, made up a situation that could not easily be eclipsed. And she was dancing and trying to make herself believe she was enjoying it, opposite a crazy half-breed rebel! She recognised him now as the dandy Pierre, the admiration of the fair sex in his own particular world on the Saskatchewan. If only any of her people could see her now, what would they think of her?

But was this wild dance to go on for ever? Already she was becoming warm in her fur coat, despite the lowness of the temperature. There was a limit to her powers of endurance, albeit she was stronger than the average girl. The onlookers, charmed with the grace of this unknown dancer, were noisy in their applause. She must feign fatigue and drop out, letting some one else take her place.

With an inclination of her head to her partner she did so, but he, doubtless captivated by the dark, laughing eyes he saw gazing at him above the deep fur collar, did not care to continue the dance with some one whose eyes might not be so bewitching, and dropped out also. The half-breed girl, his former partner, who up till now had contented herself by gazing sulkily from lowering brows upon this strange rival, was at last stirred by still deeper feeling. She came close up to Dorothy, and gazed searchingly into her face. At the same moment they recognised each other, for often had Dorothy admired the full, wildflower beauty, the delicate olive skin, and the dark, soulful eyes of this part descendant of a noble Gallic race and a barbaric people, and spoken kindly to her. The half-savage Katie had looked upon her white sister as a superior being from another world, and had almost made up her mind that she loved her, but she loved Pierre La Chene in a different way, and when that sort of love comes into one’s life, all else has to give place to it With a quick movement she drew down Dorothy’s fur collar, exposing her face.

Voila!” she cried; “one of the enemy the daughter of Douglas!

It was as if the rebels had suddenly detected an embodied spirit that had worked evil in their midst, for the music stopped, and the excited crew rushed upon her. But Pierre La Chene kept them back. Those proud, defiant eyes had exercised a singular charm over him, and when he saw her face he almost felt ready to fight the whole crowd almost ready, for, like a good many other lady-killers, Pierre had a very tender regard for his own personal safety. Still, he cried

Preñez garde tek caar! Ma foi, but she can dance it! Let us tek her to Louis Riel. He is at the chapel. We may learn much.”

With her keen instincts, Katie saw the ruse.

“She has the evil eye, and has bewitched Pierre!” she cried, and made as if to lead her old lover away.

But Pierre’s response was to thrust her violently from him. Katie would have fallen but that Dorothy caught her.

“Oh, Katie, poor Katie!” was all she said.

And then the half-breed girl realised the evil she had wrought, and shrunk from the kindly arms of the sister she had betrayed.

“To Riel with her! to Riel with her!” was the cry of the fickle malcontents, and, with a yelling following at her heels, Dorothy was led away.