Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Northern Lights
Author: Parker, Gilbert, 1862-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Northern Lights" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: BUT NOW HE HEARD A VOICE ABOVE HIM. IT WAS
HER VOICE See page 353 ]



NORTHERN LIGHTS

BY
GILBERT PARKER

ILLUSTRATED

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMIX



Books by
GILBERT PARKER

Northern Lights. Illustrated      Post 8vo $1.50
The Weavers. Illustrated          Post 8vo 1.50
The Right of Way. Illustrated     Post 8vo 1.50
A Ladder of Swords. Illustrated   Post 8vo 1.50

Pierre and His People.
Mrs. Falchion.
The Trespasser.
The Translation of a Savage.
The Trail of the Sword.
When Valmond Came to Pontiac.
An Adventurer of the North.
The Seats of the Mighty.
The Pomp of the Lavilettes.
The Battle of the Strong.
The Lane that Had No Turning.
Donovan Pasha.
Old Quebec (In collaboration with C. G. Bryan).
Round the Compass in Australia.
A Lover's Diary.
Embers (Private Publication only).

Copyright, 1909, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
All rights reserved.
Published September, 1909.



TO
ISHBEL, COUNTESS OF ABERDEEN
A TRUE FRIEND
OF THE GREAT DOMINION



NOTE

The tales in this book belong to two different epochs in the life of the
Far West. The first five are reminiscent of "border days and deeds"--of
days before the great railway was built which changed a waste into a
fertile field of civilization. The remaining stories cover the period
passed since the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the Pullman Car first
startled the early pioneer, and sent him into the land of the farther
North or drew him into the quiet circle of civic routine and humdrum
occupation.

G. P.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                               PAGE
A Lodge in the Wilderness                1
Once at Red Man's River                 21
The Stroke of the Hour                  38
Buckmaster's Boy                        57
To-Morrow                               72
Qu'appelle                              94
The Stake and the Plumb-Line           118
When the Swallows Homeward Fly         160
George's Wife                          174
Marcile                                196
A Man, a Famine, and a Heathen Boy     216
The Healing Springs and the Pioneers   234
The Little Widow of Jansen             253
Watching The Rise of Orion             272
The Error of the Day                   295
The Whisperer                          314
As Deep as the Sea                     334



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                    PAGE

BUT NOW HE HEARD A VOICE ABOVE HIM. IT WAS
HER VOICE                                   Frontispiece

THE BIRD SHE HEARD IN THE NIGHT WAS
CALLING IN HIS EARS NOW                               14

THE START ON THE NORTH TRAIL                          36

SHE SWAYED AND FELL FAINTING AT THE
FEET OF BA'TISTE                                      56

LITTLE BY LITTLE THEY DREW TO THE EDGE
OF THE ROCK                                           70

"THEY SHOT ME AN' HURT ME"                            74

"PAULINE," HE SAID, FEEBLY, AND
FAINTED IN HER ARMS                                  114

THE OLD MAN SHOOK HIS HEAD. THOUGH
NOT WITH UNDERSTANDING                               166

GEORGE'S WIFE                                        184

THEN HAD HAPPENED THE REAL EVENT OF
HIS LIFE                                             198

THE FAITH HEALER                                     236

"AS PURTY A WOMAN, TOO--AS PURTY AND
AS STRAIGHT BEWHILES"                                256

"IF YOU KILL ME, YOU WILL NEVER GET
AWAY FROM KOWATIN ALIVE"                             312

FOR MINUTES THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED                   332

"OH, ISN'T IT ALL WORTH LIVING?"
SHE SAID                                             342



NORTHERN LIGHTS



A LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS


"Hai-yai, so bright a day, so clear!" said Mitiahwe as she entered the big
lodge and laid upon a wide, low couch, covered with soft skins, the fur of
a grizzly which had fallen to her man's rifle. "_Hai-yai_, I wish it would
last forever--so sweet!" she added, smoothing the fur lingeringly and
showing her teeth in a smile.

"There will come a great storm, Mitiahwe. See, the birds go south so
soon," responded a deep voice from a corner by the doorway.

The young Indian wife turned quickly, and, in a defiant, fantastic
mood--or was it the inward cry against an impending fate, the tragic
future of those who will not see, because to see is to suffer?--she made
some quaint, odd motions of the body which belonged to a mysterious dance
of her tribe, and, with flashing eyes, challenged the comely old woman
seated on a pile of deer-skins.

"It is morning, and the day will last forever," she said, nonchalantly,
but her eyes suddenly took on a far-away look, half apprehensive, half
wondering. The birds were indeed going south very soon, yet had there ever
been so exquisite an autumn as this, had her man ever had so wonderful a
trade, her man with the brown hair, blue eyes, and fair, strong face?

"The birds go south, but the hunters and buffalo still go north," Mitiahwe
urged, searchingly, looking hard at her mother--Oanita, the Swift Wing.

"My dream said that the winter will be dark and lonely, that the ice will
be thick, the snow deep, and that many hearts will be sick because of the
black days and the hunger that sickens the heart," answered Swift Wing.

Mitiahwe looked into Swift Wing's dark eyes, and an anger came upon her.
"The hearts of cowards will freeze," she rejoined, "and to those that will
not see the sun the world will be dark," she added. Then suddenly she
remembered to whom she was speaking, and a flood of feeling ran through
her; for Swift Wing had cherished her like a fledgling in the nest till
her young white man came from "down East." Her heart had leaped up at
sight of him, and she had turned to him from all the young men of her
tribe, waiting in a kind of mist till he, at last, had spoken to her
mother, and then one evening, her shawl over her head, she had come along
to his lodge.

A thousand times as the four years passed by she had thought how good it
was that she had become his wife--the young white man's wife, rather than
the wife of Breaking Rock, son of White Buffalo, the chief, who had four
hundred horses and a face that would have made winter and sour days for
her. Now and then Breaking Rock came and stood before the lodge, a
distance off, and stayed there hour after hour, and once or twice he came
when her man was with her; but nothing could be done, for earth and air
and space were common to them all, and there was no offence in Breaking
Rock gazing at the lodge where Mitiahwe lived. Yet it seemed as though
Breaking Rock was waiting--waiting and hoping. That was the impression
made upon all who saw him, and even old White Buffalo, the chief, shook
his head gloomily when he saw Breaking Rock, his son, staring at the big
lodge which was so full of happiness, and so full also of many luxuries
never before seen at a trading-post on the Koonee River. The father of
Mitiahwe had been chief, but because his three sons had been killed in
battle the chieftainship had come to White Buffalo, who was of the same
blood and family. There were those who said that Mitiahwe should have been
chieftainess; but neither she nor her mother would ever listen to this,
and so White Buffalo and the tribe loved Mitiahwe because of her modesty
and goodness. She was even more to White Buffalo than Breaking Rock, and
he had been glad that Dingan the white man--Long Hand he was called--had
taken Mitiahwe for his woman. Yet behind this gladness of White Buffalo,
and that of Swift Wing, and behind the silent watchfulness of Breaking
Rock, there was a thought which must ever come when a white man mates with
an Indian maid, without priest or preacher, or writing, or book, or bond.

Yet four years had gone; and all the tribe, and all who came and went,
half-breeds, traders, and other tribes, remarked how happy was the white
man with his Indian wife. They never saw anything but light in the eyes of
Mitiahwe, nor did the old women of the tribe who scanned her face as she
came and went, and watched and waited too for what never came--not even
after four years.

Mitiahwe had been so happy that she had not really missed what never came;
though the desire to have something in her arms which was part of them
both had flushed up in her veins at times, and made her restless till her
man had come home again. Then she had forgotten the unseen for the seen,
and was happy that they two were alone together--that was the joy of it
all, so much alone together; for Swift Wing did not live with them, and,
like Breaking Rock, she watched her daughter's life, standing afar off,
since it was the unwritten law of the tribe that the wife's mother must
not cross the path or enter the home of her daughter's husband. But at
last Dingan had broken through this custom, and insisted that Swift Wing
should be with her daughter when he was away from home, as now on this
wonderful autumn morning, when Mitiahwe had been singing to the Sun, to
which she prayed for her man and for everlasting days with him.

She had spoken angrily but now, because her soul sharply resented the
challenge to her happiness which her mother had been making. It was her
own eyes that refused to see the cloud which the sage and bereaved woman
had seen and conveyed in images and figures of speech natural to the
Indian mind.

"_Hai-yai_," she said now, with a strange, touching sigh breathing in the
words, "you are right, my mother, and a dream is a dream; also, if it be
dreamed three times, then is it to be followed, and it is true. You have
lived long, and your dreams are of the Sun and the Spirit." She shook a
little as she laid her hand on a buckskin coat of her man hanging by the
lodge door; then she steadied herself again, and gazed earnestly into her
mother's eyes. "Have all your dreams come true, my mother?" she asked,
with a hungering heart.

"There was the dream that came out of the dark five times, when your
father went against the Crees, and was wounded, and crawled away into the
hills, and all our warriors fled--they were but a handful, and the Crees
like a young forest in number! I went with my dream, and found him after
many days, and it was after that you were born, my youngest and my last.
There was also"--her eyes almost closed, and the needle and thread she
held lay still in her lap--"when two of your brothers were killed in the
drive of the buffalo. Did I not see it all in my dream, and follow after
them to take them to my heart? And when your sister was carried off, was
it not my dream which saw the trail, so that we brought her back again to
die in peace, her eyes seeing the Lodge whither she was going, open to
her, and the Sun, the Father, giving her light and promise--for she had
wounded herself to die that the thief who stole her should leave her to
herself! Behold, my daughter, these dreams have I had, and others; and I
have lived long and have seen the bright day break into storm, and the
herds flee into the far hills where none could follow, and hunger come,
and--"

"_Hai-yo_, see, the birds flying south," said the girl, with a gesture
toward the cloudless sky. "Never since I lived have they gone south so
soon." Again she shuddered slightly, then she spoke slowly: "I also have
dreamed, and I will follow my dream. I dreamed"--she knelt down beside her
mother and rested her hands in her mother's lap--"I dreamed that there was
a wall of hills dark and heavy and far away, and that whenever my eyes
looked at them they burned with tears; and yet I looked and looked, till
my heart was like lead in my breast; and I turned from them to the rivers
and the plains that I loved. But a voice kept calling to me, 'Come, come!
Beyond the hills is a happy land. The trail is hard, and your feet will
bleed, but beyond is the happy land.' And I would not go for the voice
that spoke, and at last there came an old man in my dream and spoke to me
kindly, and said, 'Come with me, and I will show thee the way over the
hills to the Lodge where thou shalt find what thou hast lost!' And I said
to him, 'I have lost nothing'; and I would not go. Twice I dreamed this
dream, and twice the old man came, and three times I dreamed it; and then
I spoke angrily to him, as but now I did to thee; and behold he changed
before my eyes, and I saw that he was now become--" She stopped short, and
buried her face in her hands for a moment, then recovered herself.
"Breaking Rock it was I saw before me, and I cried out and fled. Then I
waked with a cry, but my man was beside me, and his arm was round my neck;
and this dream, is it not a foolish dream, my mother?"

The old woman sat silent, clasping the hands of her daughter firmly, and
looking out of the wide doorway toward the trees that fringed the river;
and presently, as she looked, her face changed and grew pinched all at
once, and Mitiahwe, looking at her, turned a startled face toward the
river also.

"Breaking Rock!" she said, in alarm, and got to her feet quickly.

Breaking Rock stood for a moment looking toward the lodge, then came
slowly forward to them. Never in all the four years had he approached this
lodge of Mitiahwe, who, the daughter of a chief, should have married
himself, the son of a chief! Slowly, but with long, slouching stride,
Breaking Rock came nearer. The two women watched him without speaking.
Instinctively they knew that he brought news, that something had happened;
yet Mitiahwe felt at her belt for what no Indian girl would be without;
and this one was a gift from her man on the anniversary of the day she
first came to his lodge.

Breaking Rock was at the door now, his beady eyes fixed on Mitiahwe's, his
figure jerked to its full height, which made him, even then, two inches
less than Long Hand. He spoke in a loud voice:

"The last boat this year goes down the river to-morrow. Long Hand, your
man, is going to his people. He will not come back. He has had enough of
the Blackfoot woman. You will see him no more." He waved a hand to the
sky. "The birds are going south. A hard winter is coming quick. You will
be alone. Breaking Rock is rich. He has five hundred horses. Your man is
going to his own people. Let him go. He is no man. It is four years, and
still there are but two in your lodge. How!"

He swung on his heel with a chuckle in his throat, for he thought he had
said a good thing, and that in truth he was worth twenty white men. His
quick ear caught a movement behind him, however, and he saw the girl
spring from the lodge-door, something flashing from her belt. But now the
mother's arms were round her, with cries of protest, and Breaking Rock,
with another laugh, slipped away softly toward the river.

"That is good," he muttered. "She will kill him, perhaps, when she goes to
him. She will go, but he will not stay. I have heard."

As he disappeared among the trees, Mitiahwe disengaged herself from her
mother's arms, went slowly back into the lodge, and sat down on the great
couch where for so many moons she had lain with her man beside her.

Her mother watched her closely, though she moved about doing little
things. She was trying to think what she would have done if such a thing
had happened to her, if her man had been going to leave her. She assumed
that Dingan would leave Mitiahwe, for he would hear the voices of his
people calling far away, even as the red man who went East into the great
cities heard the prairies and the mountains and the rivers and his own
people calling, and came back, and put off the clothes of civilization,
and donned his buckskins again, and sat in the Medicine Man's tent, and
heard the spirits speak to him through the mist and smoke of the sacred
fire. When Swift Wing first gave her daughter to the white man she foresaw
the danger now at hand, but this was the tribute of the lower race to the
higher, and--who could tell? White men had left their Indian wives, but
had come back again, and forever renounced the life of their own nations,
and become great chiefs, teaching useful things to their adopted people,
bringing up their children as tribesmen--bringing up their children! There
it was, the thing which called them back, the bright-eyed children, with
the color of the brown prairie in their faces, and their brains so sharp
and strong. But here was no child to call Dingan back, only the eloquent,
brave, sweet face of Mitiahwe..... If he went! Would he go? Was he going?
And now that Mitiahwe had been told that he would go, what would she do?
In her belt was--but, no, that would be worse than all, and she would lose
Mitiahwe, her last child, as she had lost so many others. What would she
herself do if she were in Mitiahwe's place? Ah, she would make him stay
somehow--by truth or by falsehood; by the whispered story in the long
night; by her head upon his knee before the lodge-fire, and her eyes fixed
on his, luring him, as the dream lures the dreamer into the far trail, to
find the Sun's hunting-ground, where the plains are filled with the deer
and the buffalo and the wild horse; by the smell of the cooking-pot and
the favorite spiced drink in the morning; by the child that ran to him
with his bow and arrows and the cry of the hunter--but there was no child;
she had forgotten. She was always recalling her own happy early life with
her man, and the clean-faced papooses that crowded round his knee--one
wife and many children, and the old Harvester of the Years reaping them so
fast, till the children stood up as tall as their father and chief. That
was long ago, and she had had her share--twenty-five years of happiness;
but Mitiahwe had had only four. She looked at Mitiahwe, standing still for
a moment like one rapt, then suddenly she gave a little cry. Something had
come into her mind, some solution of the problem, and she ran and stooped
over the girl and put both hands on her head.

"Mitiahwe, heart's blood of mine," she said, "the birds go south, but they
return. What matter if they go so soon, if they return soon. If the Sun
wills that the winter be dark, and he sends the Coldmaker to close the
rivers and drive the wild ones far from the arrow and the gun, yet he may
be sorry, and send a second summer--has it not been so, and the Coldmaker
has hurried away--away! The birds go south, but they will return,
Mitiahwe."

"I heard a cry in the night while my man slept," Mitiahwe answered,
looking straight before her, "and it was like the cry of a bird--calling,
calling, calling."

"But he did not hear--he was asleep beside Mitiahwe. If he did not wake,
surely it was good-luck. Thy breath upon his face kept him sleeping.
Surely it was good-luck to Mitiahwe that he did not hear."

She was smiling a little now, for she had thought of a thing which would,
perhaps, keep the man here in this lodge in the wilderness; but the time
to speak of it was not yet. She must wait and see.

Suddenly Mitiahwe got to her feet with a spring, and a light in her eyes.
"_Hai-yai!_" she said with plaintive smiling, ran to a corner of the
lodge, and from a leather bag drew forth a horseshoe and looked at it,
murmuring to herself.

The old woman gazed at her wonderingly. "What is it, Mitiahwe?" she
asked.

"It is good-luck. So my man has said. It is the way of his people. It is
put over the door, and if a dream come it is a good dream; and if a bad
thing come, it will not enter; and if the heart prays for a thing hid from
all the world, then it brings good-luck. _Hai-yai!_ I will put it over the
door, and then--" All at once her hand dropped to her side, as though some
terrible thought had come to her, and, sinking to the floor, she rocked
her body backward and forward for a time, sobbing. But presently she got
to her feet again, and, going to the door of the lodge, fastened the
horseshoe above it with a great needle and a string of buckskin.

"O great Sun," she prayed, "have pity on me and save me. I cannot live
alone. I am only a Blackfoot wife; I am not blood of his blood. Give, O
great One, blood of his blood, bone of his bone, soul of his soul, that he
will say, 'This is mine, body of my body,' and he will hear the cry and
will stay. O great Sun, pity me!"

The old woman's heart beat faster as she listened. The same thought was in
the mind of both. If there were but a child, bone of his bone, then
perhaps he would not go; or, if he went, then surely he would return when
he heard his papoose calling in the lodge in the wilderness.

As Mitiahwe turned to her, a strange burning light in her eyes, Swift Wing
said: "It is good. The white man's Medicine for a white man's wife. But if
there were the red man's Medicine too--"

"What is the red man's Medicine?" asked the young wife, as she smoothed
her hair, put a string of bright beads around her neck, and wound a red
sash round her waist.

The old woman shook her head, a curious, half-mystic light in her eyes,
her body drawn up to its full height, as though waiting for something. "It
is an old Medicine. It is of winters ago as many as the hairs of the head.
I have forgotten almost, but it was a great Medicine when there were no
white men in the land. And so it was that to every woman's breast there
hung a papoose, and every woman had her man, and the red men were like
leaves in the forest--but it was a winter of winters ago, and the Medicine
Men have forgotten; and thou hast no child! When Long Hand comes, what
will Mitiahwe say to him?"

Mitiahwe's eyes were determined, her face was set, she flushed deeply,
then the color fled. "What my mother would say, I will say. Shall the
white man's Medicine fail? If I wish it, then it will be so; and I will
say so."

"But if the white man's Medicine fail?" Swift Wing made a gesture toward
the door where the horseshoe hung. "It is Medicine for a white man, will
it be Medicine for an Indian?"

"Am I not a white man's wife?"

"But if there were the Sun Medicine also, the Medicine of the days long
ago?"

"Tell me. If you remember--_Kai!_ but you do remember--I see it in your
face. Tell me, and I will make that Medicine also, my mother."

"To-morrow, if I remember it--I will think, and if I remember it,
to-morrow I will tell you, my heart's blood. Maybe my dream will come to
me and tell me. Then, even after all these years a papoose--"

"But the boat will go at dawn to-morrow, and if he go also--"

"Mitiahwe is young, her body is warm, her eyes are bright, the songs she
sings, her tongue--if these keep him not, and the Voice calls him still to
go, then still Mitiahwe shall whisper, and tell him--"

"_Hai-yo_--hush," said the girl, and trembled a little, and put both hands
on her mother's mouth.

For a moment she stood so, then with an exclamation suddenly turned and
ran through the doorway, and sped toward the river, and into the path
which would take her to the post, where her man traded with the Indians
and had made much money during the past six years, so that he could have
had a thousand horses and ten lodges like that she had just left. The
distance between the lodge and the post was no more than a mile, but
Mitiahwe made a détour, and approached it from behind, where she could not
be seen. Darkness was gathering now, and she could see the glimmer of the
light of lamps through the windows, and as the doors opened and shut. No
one had seen her approach, and she stole through a door which was open at
the rear of the warehousing room, and went quickly to another door leading
into the shop. There was a crack through which she could see, and she
could hear all that was said. As she came she had seen Indians gliding
through the woods with their purchases, and now the shop was clearing
fast, in response to the urging of Dingan and his partner, a Scotch
half-breed. It was evident that Dingan was at once abstracted and
excited.

Presently only two visitors were left--a French half-breed called
Lablache, a swaggering, vicious fellow, and the captain of the steamer
_Ste. Anne_, which was to make its last trip south in the morning--even
now it would have to break its way through the young ice.

Dingan's partner dropped a bar across the door of the shop, and the four
men gathered about the fire. For a time no one spoke. At last the captain
of the _Ste. Anne_ said: "It's a great chance, Dingan. You'll be in
civilization again, and in a rising town of white people--Groise'll be a
city in five years, and you can grow up and grow rich with the place. The
Company asked me to lay it all before you, and Lablache here will buy out
your share of the business, at whatever your partner and you prove it's
worth. You're young; you've got everything before you. You've made a name
out here for being the best trader west of the Great Lakes, and now's your
time. It's none of my affair, of course, but I like to carry through what
I'm set to do, and the Company said, 'You bring Dingan back with you. The
place is waiting for him, and it can't wait longer than the last boat
down.' You're ready to step in when he steps out, ain't you, Lablache?"

Lablache shook back his long hair, and rolled about in his pride. "I give
him cash for his share to-night--some one is behin' me, _sacré_, yes! It
is worth so much, I pay and step in--I take the place over. I take half
the business here, and I work with Dingan's partner. I take your horses,
Dingan, I take your lodge, I take all in your lodge--_everyt'ing_."

His eyes glistened, and a red spot came to each cheek as he leaned
forward. At his last word Dingan, who had been standing abstractedly
listening as it were, swung round on him with a muttered oath, and the
skin of his face appeared to tighten. Watching through the crack of the
door, Mitiahwe saw the look she knew well, though it had never been turned
on her, and her heart beat faster. It was a look that came into Dingan's
face whenever Breaking Rock crossed his path, or when one or two other
names were mentioned in his presence, for they were names of men who had
spoken of Mitiahwe lightly, and had attempted to be jocular about her.

As Mitiahwe looked at him, now unknown to himself, she was conscious of
what that last word of Lablache's meant. _Everyt'ing_ meant herself.
Lablache--who had neither the good qualities of the white man nor the
Indian, but who had the brains of the one and the subtlety of the other,
and whose only virtue was that he was a successful trader, though he
looked like a mere woodsman, with rings in his ears, gayly decorated
buckskin coat and moccasins, and a furtive smile always on his lips!
_Everyt'ing!_ Her blood ran cold at the thought of dropping the
lodge-curtain upon this man and herself alone. For no other man than
Dingan had her blood run faster, and he had made her life blossom. She had
seen in many a half-breed's and in many an Indian's face the look which
was now in that of Lablache, and her fingers gripped softly the thing in
her belt that had flashed out on Breaking Rock such a short while ago. As
she looked, it seemed for a moment as though Dingan would open the door
and throw Lablache out, for in quick reflection his eyes ran from the man
to the wooden bar across the door.

"You'll talk of the shop, and the shop only, Lablache," he said, grimly.
"I'm not huckstering my home, and I'd choose the buyer if I was selling.
My lodge ain't to be bought, nor _anything_ in it--not even the broom to
keep it clean of any half-breeds that'd enter it without leave."

There was malice in the words, but there was greater malice in the tone,
and Lablache, who was bent on getting the business, swallowed his ugly
wrath, and determined that, if he got the business, he would get the lodge
also in due time; for Dingan, if he went, would not take the lodge--or the
woman--with him; and Dingan was not fool enough to stay when he could go
to Groise to a sure fortune.

The captain of the _Ste. Anne_ again spoke. "There's another thing the
Company said, Dingan. You needn't go to Groise, not at once. You can take
a month and visit your folks down East, and lay in a stock of
home-feelings before you settle down at Groise for good. They was fair
when I put it to them that you'd mebbe want to do that. 'You tell Dingan,'
they said, 'that he can have the month glad and grateful, and a free
ticket on the railway back and forth. He can have it at once,' they
said."

Watching, Mitiahwe could see her man's face brighten, and take on a look
of longing at this suggestion; and it seemed to her that the bird she
heard in the night was calling in his ears now. Her eyes went blind for a
moment.

"The game is with you, Dingan. All the cards are in your hands; you'll
never get such another chance again; and you're only thirty," said the
captain.

[Illustration: THE BIRD SHE HEARD IN THE NIGHT WAS CALLING IN HIS
EARS NOW]

"I wish they'd ask me," said Dingan's partner, with a sigh, as he looked
at Lablache. "I want my chance bad, though we've done well here--good
gosh, yes, all through Dingan."

"The winters, they go queeck in Groise," said Lablache. "It is life all
the time, trade all the time, plenty to do and see--and a _bon fortune_ to
make, bagosh!"

"Your old home was in Nova Scotia, wasn't it, Dingan?" asked the captain,
in a low voice. "I kem from Connecticut, and I was East to my village las'
year. It was good, seein' all my old friends again; but I kem back
content, I kem back full of home-feelin's and content. You'll like the
trip, Dingan. It'll do you good."

Dingan drew himself up with a start. "All right. I guess I'll do it. Let's
figure up again," he said to his partner, with a reckless air.

With a smothered cry Mitiahwe turned and fled into the darkness, and back
to the lodge. The lodge was empty. She threw herself upon the great couch
in an agony of despair.

A half-hour went by. Then she rose, and began to prepare supper. Her face
was aflame, her manner was determined, and once or twice her hand went to
her belt, as though to assure herself of something.

Never had the lodge looked so bright and cheerful; never had she prepared
so appetizing a supper; never had the great couch seemed so soft and rich
with furs, so homelike and so inviting after a long day's work. Never had
Mitiahwe seemed so good to look at, so graceful and alert and
refined--suffering does its work even in the wild woods, with "wild
people." Never had the lodge such an air of welcome and peace and home as
to-night; and so Dingan thought as he drew aside the wide curtains of
deerskin and entered.

Mitiahwe was bending over the fire, and appeared not to hear him.
"Mitiahwe," he said, gently. She was singing to herself, to an Indian air,
the words of a song Dingan had taught her:

      "Open the door: cold is the night, and my feet are heavy,
      Heap up the fire, scatter upon it the cones and the scented
       leaves;
      Spread the soft robe on the couch for the chief that
       returns,
      Bring forth the cup of remembrance--"

It was like a low recitative, and it had a plaintive cadence, as of a dove
that mourned.

"Mitiahwe," he said, in a louder voice, but with a break in it, too; for
it all rushed upon him, all that she had been to him--all that had made
the great West glow with life, made the air sweeter, the grass greener,
the trees more companionable and human: who it was that had given the
waste places a voice. Yet--yet, there were his own people in the East,
there was another life waiting for him, there was the life of ambition and
wealth, and, and home--and children.

His eyes were misty as she turned to him with a little cry of surprise,
how much natural and how much assumed--for she had heard him enter--it
would have been hard to say. She was a woman, and therefore the daughter
of pretence even when most real. He caught her by both arms as she shyly
but eagerly came to him. "Good girl, good little girl," he said. He looked
round him. "Well, I've never seen our lodge look nicer than it does
to-night; and the fire, and the pot on the fire, and the smell of the
pine-cones, and the cedar-boughs, and the skins, and--"

"And everything," she said, with a queer little laugh, as she moved away
again to turn the steaks on the fire.

Everything! He started at the word. It was so strange that she should use
it by accident, when but a little while ago he had been ready to choke the
wind out of a man's body for using it concerning herself.

It stunned him for a moment, for the West, and the life apart from the
world of cities, had given him superstition, like that of the Indians,
whose life he had made his own.

Herself!--to leave her here, who had been so much to him? As true as the
sun she worshipped, her eyes had never lingered on another man since she
came to his lodge; and, to her mind, she was as truly sacredly married to
him as though a thousand priests had spoken, or a thousand Medicine Men
had made their incantations. She was his woman and he was her man. As he
chatted to her, telling her of much that he had done that day, and
wondering how he could tell her of _all_ he had done, he kept looking
round the lodge, his eye resting on this or that; and everything had its
own personal history, had become part of their lodge-life, because it had
a use as between him and her, and not a conventional domestic place. Every
skin, every utensil, every pitcher and bowl and pot and curtain had been
with them at one time or another when it became of importance and renowned
in the story of their days and deeds.

How could he break it to her--that he was going to visit his own people,
and that she must be alone with her mother all winter, to await his return
in the spring? His return? As he watched her sitting beside him, helping
him to his favorite dish, the close, companionable trust and gentleness of
her, her exquisite cleanness and grace in his eyes, he asked himself if,
after all, it was not true that he would return in the spring. The years
had passed without his seriously thinking of this inevitable day. He had
put it off and off, content to live each hour as it came and take no real
thought for the future; and yet, behind all was the warning fact that he
must go one day, and that Mitiahwe could not go with him. Her mother must
have known that when she let Mitiahwe come to him. Of course; and, after
all, she would find another mate, a better mate, one of her own people.

But her hand was in his now, and it was small and very warm, and suddenly
he shook with anger at the thought of one like Breaking Rock taking her to
his wigwam; or Lablache--this roused him to an inward fury; and Mitiahwe
saw and guessed the struggle that was going on in him, and she leaned her
head against his shoulder, and once she raised his hand to her lips, and
said, "My chief!"

Then his face cleared again, and she got him his pipe and filled it, and
held a coal to light it; and, as the smoke curled up, and he leaned back
contentedly for the moment, she went to the door, drew open the curtains,
and, stepping outside, raised her eyes to the horseshoe. Then she said
softly to the sky: "O Sun, great Father, have pity on me, for I love him,
and would keep him. And give me bone of his bone, and one to nurse at my
breast that is of him. O Sun, pity me this night, and be near me when I
speak to him, and hear what I say."

"What are you doing out there, Mitiahwe?" Dingan cried; and when she
entered again he beckoned her to him. "What was it you were saying? Who
were you speaking to?" he asked. "I heard your voice."

"I was thanking the Sun for his goodness to me. I was speaking for the
thing that is in my heart, that is life of my life," she added, vaguely.

"Well, I have something to say to you, little girl," he said, with an
effort.

She remained erect before him waiting for the blow--outwardly calm,
inwardly crying out in pain. "Do you think you could stand a little
parting?" he asked, reaching out and touching her shoulder.

"I have been alone before--for five days," she answered, quietly.

"But it must be longer this time."

"How long?" she asked, with eyes fixed on his. "If it is more than a week,
I will go too."

"It is longer than a month," he said.

"Then I will go."

"I am going to see my people," he faltered.

"By the _Ste. Anne_?"

He nodded. "It is the last chance this year; but I will come back--in the
spring."

As he said it he saw her shrink, and his heart smote him. Four years such
as few men ever spent, and all the luck had been with him, and the West
had got into his bones! The quiet, starry nights, the wonderful days, the
hunt, the long journeys, the life free of care, and the warm lodge; and,
here, the great couch--ah, the cheek pressed to his, the lips that
whispered at his ear, the smooth arm round his neck. It all rushed upon
him now. His people! His people in the East, who had thwarted his youth,
vexed and cramped him, saw only evil in his widening desires, and threw
him over when he came out West--the scallywag, they called him, who had
never wronged a man--or a woman? Never--wronged--a--woman? The question
sprang to his lips now. Suddenly he saw it all in a new light. White or
brown or red, this heart and soul and body before him were all his, sacred
to him; he was in very truth her "chief."

Untutored as she was, she read him, felt what was going on in him. She saw
the tears spring to his eyes. Then, coming close to him, she said, softly,
slowly: "I must go with you if you go, because you must be with me
when--Oh, _hai-yai_, my chief, shall we go from here? Here in this lodge
wilt thou be with thine own people--thine own, thou and I--_and thine to
come_." The great passion in her heart made the lie seem very truth.

With a cry he got to his feet, and stood staring at her for a moment,
scarcely comprehending; then suddenly he clasped her in his arms.

"Mitiahwe--Mitiahwe, oh, my little girl!" he cried. "You and me--and our
own--our own people!" Kissing her, he drew her down beside him on the
couch. "Tell me again--is it so at last?" he said, and she whispered in
his ear once more.

In the middle of the night he said to her, "Some day, perhaps, we will go
East--some day, perhaps."

"But now?" she asked, softly.

"Not now--not if I know it," he answered. "I've got my heart nailed to the
door of this lodge."

As he slept she got quietly out, and, going to the door of the lodge,
reached up a hand and touched the horseshoe.

"Be good Medicine to me," she said. Then she prayed. "O Sun, pity me, that
it may be as I have said to him. Oh, pity me, great Father!"

In the days to come Swift Wing said that it was her Medicine--when her
hand was burned to the wrist in the dark ritual she had performed with the
Medicine Man the night that Mitiahwe fought for her man; but Mitiahwe said
it was her Medicine, the horseshoe, which brought one of Dingan's own
people to the lodge--a little girl with Mitiahwe's eyes and form and her
father's face. Truth has many mysteries, and the faith of the woman was
great; and so it was that, to the long end, Mitiahwe kept her man. But
truly she was altogether a woman, and had good-fortune.



ONCE AT RED MAN'S RIVER


"It's got to be settled to-night, Nance, This game is up here, up forever.
The redcoat police from Ottawa are coming, and they'll soon be roostin' in
this post, the Injuns are goin', the buffaloes are most gone, and the fur
trade's dead in these parts. D'ye see?"

The woman did not answer the big, broad-shouldered man bending over her,
but remained looking into the fire with wide, abstracted eyes, and a face
somewhat set.

"You and your brother Bantry's got to go. This store ain't worth a cent
now. The Hudson's Bay Company'll come along with the redcoats, and they'll
set up a nice little Sunday-school business here for what they call
'agricultural settlers.' There'll be a railway, and the Yankees'll send up
their marshals to work with the redcoats on the border, and--"

"And the days of smuggling will be over," put in the girl, in a low voice.
"No more bull-whackers and mule-skinners 'whooping-it up'; no more
Blackfeet and Piegans drinking alcohol and water, and cutting one
anothers' throats. A nice, quiet time coming on the border Abe, eh?"

The man looked at her queerly. She was not prone to sarcasm, she had not
been given to sentimentalism in the past; she had taken the border-life as
it was, had looked it straight between the eyes. She had lived up to it,
or down to it, without any fuss, as good as any man in any phase of the
life, and the only white woman in this whole West country. It was not in
the words, but in the tone, that Abe Hawley found something unusual and
defamatory.

"Why, gol darn it, Nance, what's got into you? You bin a man out West, as
good a pioneer as ever was on the border. But now you don't sound friendly
to what's been the game out here, and to all of us that've been risking
our lives to get a livin'."

"What did I say?" asked the girl, unmoved.

"It ain't what you said, it's the sound o' your voice."

"You don't know my voice, Abe. It ain't always the same. You ain't always
about; you don't always hear it."

He caught her arm suddenly. "No, but I want to hear it always. I want to
be always where you are, Nance. That's what's got to be settled
to-day--to-night."

"Oh, it's got to be settled to-night!" said the girl, meditatively,
kicking nervously at a log on the fire. "It takes two to settle a thing
like that, and there's only one says it's got to be settled. Maybe it
takes more than two--or three--to settle a thing like that." Now she
laughed mirthlessly.

The man started, and his face flushed with anger; then he put a hand on
himself, drew a step back, and watched her.

"_One_ can settle a thing, if there's a dozen in it. You see, Nance, you
and Bantry've got to close out. He's fixing it up to-night over at
Dingan's Drive, and you can't go it alone when you quit this place. Now,
it's this way: you can go West with Bantry, or you can go North with me.
Away North there's buffalo and deer, and game a-plenty, up along the
Saskatchewan, and farther up on the Peace River. It's going to be all
right up there for half a lifetime, and we can have it in our own way yet.
There'll be no smuggling, but there'll be trading, and land to get; and,
mebbe, there'd be no need of smuggling, for we can make it, I know
how--good white whiskey--and we'll still have this free life for our own.
I can't make up my mind to settle down to a clean collar and going to
church on Sundays, and all that. And the West's in your bones, too. You
look like the West--"

The girl's face brightened with pleasure, and she gazed at him steadily.

"You got its beauty and its freshness, and you got its heat and cold--"

She saw the tobacco-juice stain at the corners of his mouth, she became
conscious of the slight odor of spirits in the air, and the light in her
face lowered in intensity.

"You got the ways of the deer in your walk, the song o' the birds in your
voice; and you're going North with me, Nance, for I bin talkin' to you
stiddy four years. It's a long time to wait on the chance, for there's
always _women_ to be got, same as others have done--men like Dingan with
Injun girls, and men like Tobey with half-breeds. But I ain't bin lookin'
that way. I bin lookin' only toward you." He laughed eagerly, and lifted a
tin cup of whiskey standing on a table near. "I'm lookin' toward you now,
Nance. Your health and mine together. It's got to be settled now. You got
to go to the 'Cific Coast with Bantry, or North with me."

The girl jerked a shoulder and frowned a little. He seemed so sure of
himself.

"Or South with Nick Pringle, or East with someone else," she said,
quizzically. "There's always four quarters to the compass, even when Abe
Hawley thinks he owns the world and has a mortgage on eternity. I'm not
going West with Bantry, but there's three other points that's open."

With an oath the man caught her by the shoulders, and swung her round to
face him. He was swelling with anger. "You--Nick Pringle, that trading
cheat, that gambler! After four years, I--"

"Let go my shoulders," she said, quietly. "I'm not your property. Go and
get some Piegan girl to bully. Keep your hands off. I'm not a bronco for
you to bit and bridle. You've got no rights. You--" Suddenly she relented,
seeing the look in his face, and realizing that, after all, it was a
tribute to herself that she could keep him for four years and rouse him to
such fury. "But yes, Abe," she added, "you have some rights. We've been
good friends all these years, and you've been all right out here. You said
some nice things about me just now, and I liked it, even if it was as if
you'd learned it out of a book. I've got no po'try in me; I'm plain
homespun. I'm a sapling, I'm not any prairie-flower, but I like when I
like, and I like a lot when I like. I'm a bit of hickory, I'm not a
prairie-flower--"

"Who said you was a prairie-flower? Did I? Who's talking about
prairie-flowers--"

He stopped suddenly, turned round at the sound of a footstep behind him,
and saw, standing in a doorway leading to another room, a man who was
digging his knuckles into his eyes and stifling a yawn. He was a
refined-looking stripling of not more than twenty-four, not tall, but
well-made, and with an air of breeding, intensified rather than hidden by
his rough clothes.

"Je-rick-ety! How long have I slept?" he said, blinking at the two beside
the fire. "How long?" he added, with a flutter of anxiety in his tone.

"I said I'd wake you," said the girl, coming forward. "You needn't have
worried."

"I don't worry," answered the young man. "I dreamed myself awake, I
suppose. I got dreaming of redcoats and U. S. marshals, and an ambush in
the Barfleur Coulée, and--" He saw a secret, warning gesture from the
girl, and laughed, then turned to Abe and looked him in the face. "Oh, I
know him! Abe Hawley's all O.K.--I've seen him over at Dingan's Drive.
Honor among rogues. We're all in it. How goes it--all right?" he added,
carelessly, to Hawley, and took a step forward, as though to shake hands.
Seeing the forbidding look by which he was met, however, he turned to the
girl again, as Hawley muttered something they could not hear.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"It's nine o'clock," answered the girl, her eyes watching his every
movement, her face alive.

"Then the moon's up almost?"

"It'll be up in an hour."

"Jerickety! Then I've got to get ready." He turned to the other room again
and entered.

"College pup!" said Hawley, under his breath, savagely. "Why didn't you
tell me he was here?"

"Was it any of your business, Abe?" she rejoined, quietly.

"Hiding him away here--"

"Hiding? Who's been hiding him? He's doing what you've done. He's
smuggling--the last lot for the traders over by Dingan's Drive. He'll get
it there by morning. He has as much right here as you. What's got into
you, Abe?"

"What does he know about the business? Why, he's a college man from the
East. I've heard o' him. Ain't got no more sense for this life than a
dicky-bird. White-faced college pup! What's he doing out here? If you're a
friend o' his, you'd better look after him. He's green."

"He's going East again," she said, "and if I don't go West with Bantry, or
South over to Montana with Nick Pringle, _or North_--"

"Nance!" His eyes burned, his lips quivered.

She looked at him and wondered at the power she had over this bully of the
border, who had his own way with most people, and was one of the most
daring fighters, hunters, and smugglers in the country. He was cool, hard,
and well in hand in his daily life, and yet, where she was concerned,
"went all to pieces," as some one else had said about himself to her.

She was not without the wiles and tact of her sex. "You go now, and come
back, Abe," she said, in a soft voice. "Come back in an hour. Come back
then, and I'll tell you which way I'm going from here."

He was all right again. "It's with you, Nance," he said, eagerly. "I bin
waiting four years."

As he closed the door behind him the "college pup" entered the room again.
"Oh, Abe's gone!" he said, excitedly. "I hoped you'd get rid of the old
rip-roarer. I wanted to be alone with you for a while. I don't really need
to start yet. With the full moon I can do it before daylight." Then, with
quick warmth, "Ah, Nancy, Nancy, you're a flower--the flower of all the
prairies," he added, catching her hand and laughing into her eyes.

She flushed, and for a moment seemed almost bewildered. His boldness,
joined to an air of insinuation and understanding, had influenced her
greatly from the first moment they had met, two months ago, as he was
going South on his smuggling enterprise. The easy way in which he had
talked to her, the extraordinary sense he seemed to have of what was going
on in her mind, the confidential meaning in voice and tone and words had,
somehow, opened up a side of her nature hitherto unexplored. She had
talked with him freely then, for it was only when he left her that he said
what he instinctively knew she would remember till they met again. His
quick comments, his indirect but acute questions, his exciting and
alluring reminiscences of the East, his subtle yet seemingly frank
compliments, had only stimulated a new capacity in her, evoked comparisons
of this delicate-looking, fine-faced gentleman with the men of the West by
whom she was surrounded. But later he appeared to stumble into expressions
of admiration for her, as though he was carried off his feet and had been
stunned by her charm. He had done it all like a master. He had not said
that she was beautiful--she knew she was not--but that she was wonderful
and fascinating, and with "something about her" he had never seen in all
his life: like her own prairies, thrilling, inspiring, and adorable. His
first look at her had seemed full of amazement. She had noticed that, and
thought it meant only that he was surprised to find a white girl out here
among smugglers, hunters, squaw-men, and Indians. But he said that the
first look at her had made him feel things, feel life and women different
from ever before; and he had never seen any one like her, nor a face with
so much in it. It was all very brilliantly done.

"You make me want to live," he had said, and she, with no knowledge of the
nuances of language, had taken it literally, and had asked him if it had
been his wish to die; and he had responded to her mistaken interpretation
of his meaning, saying that he had had such sorrow he had not wanted to
live. As he said it his face looked, in truth, overcome by some deep,
inward care; so that there came a sort of feeling she had never had so far
for any man--that he ought to have some one to look after him. This was
the first real stirring of the maternal and protective spirit in her
toward men, though it had shown itself amply enough regarding animals and
birds. He had said he had not wanted to live, and yet he had come out West
in order to try and live, to cure the trouble that had started in his
lungs. The Eastern doctors had told him that the rough, out-door life
would cure him, or nothing would, and he had vanished from the college
walls and the pleasant purlieus of learning and fashion into the wilds. He
had not lied directly to her when he said that he had had deep trouble;
but he had given the impression that he was suffering from wrongs which
had broken his spirit and ruined his health. Wrongs there certainly had
been in his life, by whomever committed.

Two months ago he had left this girl with her mind full of memories of
what he had said to her, and there was something in the sound of the
slight cough following his farewell words which had haunted her ever
since. Her tremendous health and energy, the fire of life burning so
brightly in her, reached out toward this man living on so narrow a margin
of force, with no reserve for any extra strain, with just enough for each
day's use and no more. Four hours before he had come again with his team
of four mules and an Indian youth, having covered forty miles since his
last stage. She was at the door, and saw him coming while he was yet a
long distance off. Some instinct had told her to watch that afternoon, for
she knew of his intended return and of his dangerous enterprise. The
Indians had trailed south and east, the traders had disappeared with them,
her brother Bantry had gone up and over to Dingan's Drive, and, save for a
few loiterers and last hangers-on, she was alone with what must soon be a
deserted post; its walls, its great enclosed yard, and its gun-platforms
(for it had been fortified) left for law and order to enter upon, in the
persons of the red-coated watchmen of the law.

Out of the South, from over the border, bringing the last great smuggled
load of whiskey which was to be handed over at Dingan's Drive, and then
floated on Red Man's River to settlements up North, came the "college
pup," Kelly Lambton, worn out, dazed with fatigue, but smiling too, for a
woman's face was ever a tonic to his blood since he was big enough to move
in life for himself. It needed courage--or recklessness--to run the border
now; for, as Abe Hawley had said, the American marshals were on the
pounce, the red-coated mounted police were coming west from Ottawa, and
word had winged its way along the prairie that these redcoats were only a
few score miles away, and might be at Fort Stay-Awhile at any moment. The
trail to Dingan's Drive lay past it. Through Barfleur Coulée, athwart a
great, open stretch of country, along a wooded belt, and then, suddenly,
over a ridge, Dingan's Drive and Red Man's River would be reached.

The Government had a mind to make an example, if necessary, by killing
some smugglers in conflict, and the United States marshals had been goaded
by vanity and anger at one or two escapes "to have something for their
money," as they said. That, in their language, meant, "to let the red
run," and Kelly Lambton had none too much blood to lose.

He looked very pale and beaten as he held Nance Machell's hands now, and
called her a prairie-flower, as he had done when he left her two months
before. On his arrival, but now he had said little, for he saw that she
was glad to see him, and he was dead for sleep, after thirty-six hours of
ceaseless travel and watching and danger. Now, with the most perilous part
of his journey still before him, and worn physically as he was, his blood
was running faster as he looked into the girl's face, and something in her
abundant force and bounding life drew him to her. Such vitality in a man
like Abe Hawley would have angered him almost, as it did a little time
ago, when Abe was there; but possessed by the girl, it roused in him a
hunger to draw from the well of her perfect health, from the unused vigor
of her being, something for himself. The touch of her hands warmed him. In
the fulness of her life, in the strong eloquence of face and form, he
forgot she was not beautiful. The lightness passed from his words, and his
face became eager.

"Flower, yes, the flower of the life of the West--that's what I mean," he
said. "You are like an army marching. When I look at you, my blood runs
faster. I want to march too. When I hold your hand I feel that life's
worth living--I want to do things."

She drew her hand away rather awkwardly. She had not now that command of
herself which had ever been easy with the men of the West, except,
perhaps, with Abe Hawley when--

But with an attempt, only half-meant, to turn the topic, she said: "You
must be starting if you want to get through to-night. If the redcoats
catch you this side of Barfleur Coulée, or in the Coulée itself, you'll
stand no chance. I heard they was only thirty miles north this afternoon.
Maybe they'll come straight on here to-night, instead of camping. If they
have news of your coming, they might. You can't tell."

"You're right." He caught her hand again. "I've got to be going now. But
Nance--Nance--Nancy, I want to stay here, here with you; or to take you
with me."

She drew back. "What do you mean?" she asked. "Take me with
you--me--where?"

"East--away down East."

Her brain throbbed, her pulses beat so hard. She scarcely knew what to
say, did not know what she said. "Why do you do this kind of thing? Why do
you smuggle?" she asked. "You wasn't brought up to this."

"To get this load of stuff through is life and death to me," he answered.
"I've made six thousand dollars out here. That's enough to start me again
in the East, where I lost everything. But I've got to have six hundred
dollars clear for the travel--railways and things; and I'm having this
last run to get it. Then I've finished with the West, I guess. My health's
better; the lung is closed up, I've only got a little cough now and again,
and I'm off East. I don't want to go alone." He suddenly caught her in his
arms. "I want you--you, to go with me, Nancy--Nance!"

Her brain swam. To leave the West behind, to go East to a new life full of
pleasant things, as this man's wife! Her great heart rose, and suddenly
the mother in her as well as the woman in her was captured by his wooing.
She had never known what it was to be wooed like this.

She was about to answer when there came a sharp knock at the door leading
from the back yard, and Lambton's Indian lad entered. "The soldier--he
come--many. I go over the ridge, I see. They come quick here," he said.

Nance gave a startled cry, and Lambton turned to the other room for his
pistols, overcoat, and cap, when there was the sound of horses' hoofs, the
door suddenly opened, and an officer stepped inside.

"You're wanted for smuggling, Lambton," he said, brusquely. "Don't stir!"
In his hand was a revolver.

"Oh, bosh! Prove it," answered the young man, pale and startled, but cool
in speech and action.

"We'll prove it all right. The stuff is hereabouts."

The girl said something to the officer in the Chinook language. She saw he
did not understand. Then she spoke quickly to Lambton in the same tongue.

"Keep him here a bit," she said. "His men haven't come yet. Your outfit is
well hid. I'll see if I can get away with it before they find it. They'll
follow, and bring you with them, that's sure. So if I have luck and get
through, we'll meet at Dingan's Drive."

Lambton's face brightened. He quickly gave her a few directions in
Chinook, and told her what to do at Dingan's if she got there first. Then
she was gone.

The officer did not understand what Nance had said, but he realized that,
whatever she intended to do, she had an advantage over him. With an
unnecessary courage he had ridden on alone to make his capture, and, as it
proved, without prudence. He had got his man, but he had not got the
smuggled whiskey and alcohol he had come to seize. There was no time to be
lost. The girl had gone before he realized it. What had she said to the
prisoner? He was foolish enough to ask Lambton, and Lambton replied
coolly: "She said she'd get you some supper, but she guessed it would have
to be cold--What's your name? Are you a colonel, or a captain, or only a
principal private?"

"I am Captain MacFee, Lambton. And you'll now bring me where your outfit
is. March!"

The pistol was still in his hand, and he had a determined look in his eye.
Lambton saw it. He was aware of how much power lay in the threatening face
before him, and how eager that power was to make itself felt, and provide
"Examples"; but he took his chances.

"I'll march all right," he answered; "but I'll march to where you tell me.
You can't have it both ways. You can take me, because you've found me, and
you can take my outfit, too, when you've found it; but I'm not doing your
work, not if I know it."

There was a blaze of anger in the eyes of the officer, and it looked for
an instant as though something of the lawlessness of the border was going
to mark the first step of the Law in the Wilderness, but he bethought
himself in time, and said, quietly, yet in a voice which Lambton knew he
must heed:

"Put on your things--quick."

When this was accomplished, and MacFee had secured the smuggler's pistols,
he said again, "March, Lambton!"

Lambton marched through the moonlit night toward the troop of men who had
come to set up the flag of order in the plains and hills, and as he went
his keen ear heard his own mules galloping away down toward the Barfleur
Coulée. His heart thumped in his breast. This girl, this prairie-flower,
was doing this for him, was risking her life, was breaking the law for
him. If she got through, and handed over the whiskey to those who were
waiting for it, and it got bundled into the boats going North before the
redcoats reached Dingan's Drive, it would be as fine a performance as the
West had ever seen; and he would be six hundred dollars to the good. He
listened to the mules galloping, till the sounds had died into the
distance, but he saw now that his captor had heard too, and that the
pursuit would be desperate.

A half-hour later it began, with MacFee at the head and a dozen troopers
pounding behind, weary, hungry, bad-tempered, ready to exact payment for
their hardships and discouragement.

They had not gone a dozen miles when a shouting horseman rode furiously on
them from behind. They turned with carbines cocked, but it was Abe Hawley
who cursed them, flung his fingers in their faces, and rode on harder and
harder. Abe had got the news from one of Nancy's half-breeds, and, with
the devil raging in his heart, had entered on the chase. His spirit was up
against them all: against the Law represented by the troopers camped at
Fort Stay-Awhile, against the troopers and their captain speeding after
Nancy Machell--his Nance, who was risking her life and freedom for the
hated, pale-faced smuggler riding between the troopers; and his spirit was
up against Nance herself.

Nance had said to him, "Come back in an hour," and he had come back to
find her gone. She had broken her word. She had deceived him. She had
thrown the four years of his waiting to the winds, and a savage lust was
in his heart, which would not be appeased till he had done some evil thing
to some one.

The girl and the Indian lad were pounding through the night with ears
strained to listen for hoof-beats coming after, with eyes searching
forward into the trail for swollen creeks and direful obstructions.
Through Barfleur Coulée it was a terrible march, for there was no road,
and again and again they were nearly overturned, while wolves hovered in
their path, ready to reap a midnight harvest. But once in the open again,
with the full moonlight on their trail, the girl's spirits rose. If she
could do this thing for the man who had looked into her eyes as no one had
ever done, what a finish to her days in the West! For they were finished,
finished forever, and she was going--she was going East; not West with
Bantry, nor South with Nick Pringle, nor North with Abe Hawley--ah, Abe
Hawley! He had been a good friend, he had a great heart, he was the best
man of all the Western men she had known; but another man had come from
the East, a man who had roused something in her never felt before, a man
who had said she was wonderful; and he needed some one to take good care
of him, to make him love life again. Abe would have been all right if
Lambton had never come, and she had meant to marry Abe in the end; but it
was different now, and Abe must get over it. Yet she had told Abe to come
back in an hour. He was sure to do it; and, when he had done it, and found
her gone on this errand, what would he do? She knew what he would do. He
would hurt someone. He would follow, too. But at Dingan's Drive, if she
reached it before the troopers and before Abe, and did the thing she had
set out to do; and because no whiskey could be found, Lambton must go
free; and they all stood there together, what would be the end? Abe would
be terrible; but she was going East, not North, and, when the time came
she would face it and put things right somehow.

The night seemed endless to her fixed and anxious eyes and mind, yet dawn
came, and there had fallen no sound of hoof-beats on her ear. The ridge
above Dingan's Drive was reached and covered, but yet there was no sign of
her pursuers. At Red Man's River she delivered her load of contraband to
the traders waiting for it, and saw it loaded into the boats and disappear
beyond the wooded bend above Dingan's.

Then she collapsed into the arms of her brother Bantry, and was carried,
fainting, into Dingan's Lodge.

A half-hour later MacFee and his troopers and Lambton came. MacFee grimly
searched the post and the shore, but he saw by the looks of all that he
had been foiled. He had no proof of anything, and Lambton must go free.

"You've fooled us," he said to Nance, sourly, yet with a kind of
admiration, too. "Through you, they got away with it. But I wouldn't try
it again, if I were you."

"Once is enough," answered the girl, laconically, as Lambton, set free,
caught both her hands in his and whispered in her ear.

MacFee turned to the others. "You'd better drop this kind of thing," he
said. "I mean business." They saw the troopers by the horses, and nodded.

"Well, we was about quit of it anyhow," said Bantry. "We've had all we
want out here."

A loud laugh went up, and it was still ringing when there burst into the
group, out of the trail, Abe Hawley, on foot.

He looked round the group savagely till his eyes rested on Nance and
Lambton. "I'm last in," he said, in a hoarse voice. "My horse broke its
leg cutting across to get here before her--" He waved a hand toward Nance.
"It's best stickin' to old trails, not tryin' new ones." His eyes were
full of hate as he looked at Lambton. "I'm keeping to old trails. I'm for
goin' North, far up, where these two-dollar-a-day and hash-and-clothes
people ain't come yet." He made a contemptuous gesture toward MacFee and
his troopers. "I'm goin' North--" He took a step forward and fixed his
bloodshot eyes on Nance. "I say I'm goin' North. You comin' with me,
Nance?" He took off his cap to her.

He was haggard, his buckskins were torn, his hair was dishevelled, and he
limped a little; but he was a massive and striking figure, and MacFee
watched him closely, for there was that in his eyes which meant trouble.
"You said, 'Come back in an hour,' Nance, and I come back, as I said I
would," he went on. "You didn't stand to your word. I've come to git it.
I'm goin' North, Nance, and I bin waitin' for four years for you to go
with me. Are you comin'?"

His voice was quiet, but it had a choking kind of sound, and it struck
strangely in the ears of all. MacFee came nearer.

"Are you comin' with me, Nance, dear?"

She reached a hand toward Lambton, and he took it, but she did not speak.
Something in Abe's eyes overwhelmed her--something she had never seen
before, and it seemed to stifle speech in her. Lambton spoke instead.

"She's going East with me," he said. "That's settled."

MacFee started. Then he caught Abe's arm. "Wait!" he said, peremptorily.
"Wait one minute."

There was something in his voice which held Abe back for the instant.

[Illustration: THE START ON THE NORTH TRAIL]

"You say she is going East with you," MacFee said sharply to Lambton.
"What for?" He fastened Lambton with his eyes, and Lambton quailed. "Have
you told her you've got a wife--down East? I've got your history, Lambton.
Have you told her that you've got a wife you married when you were at
college--and as good a girl as ever lived?"

It had come with terrible suddenness even to Lambton, and he was too dazed
to make any reply. With a cry of shame and anger, Nancy started back.
Growling with rage and hate, Abe Hawley sprang toward Lambton, but the
master of the troopers stepped between.

No one could tell who moved first, or who first made the suggestion, for
the minds of all were the same, and the general purpose was instantaneous;
but in the fraction of a minute Lambton, under menace, was on his hands
and knees crawling to the riverside. Watchful, but not interfering, the
master of the troopers saw him set adrift in a canoe without a paddle,
while he was pelted with mud from the shore.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The next morning at sunrise Abe Hawley and the girl he had waited for so
long started on the North trail together, MacFee, master of the troopers
and justice of the peace, handing over the marriage lines.



THE STROKE OF THE HOUR


"They won't come to-night--sure."

The girl looked again toward the west, where, here and there, bare poles,
or branches of trees, or slips of underbrush, marked a road made across
the plains through the snow. The sun was going down golden red, folding up
the sky a wide, soft curtain of pink and mauve and deep purple merging
into the fathomless blue, where already the stars were beginning to
quiver. The house stood on the edge of a little forest, which had boldly
asserted itself in the wide flatness. At this point in the west the
prairie merged into an undulating territory, where hill and wood rolled
away from the banks of the Saskatchewan, making another England in beauty.
The forest was a sort of advance-post of that land of beauty.

Yet there was beauty, too, on this prairie, though there was nothing to
the east but snow and the forest so far as eye could see. Nobility and
peace and power brooded over the white world.

As the girl looked, it seemed as though the bosom of the land rose and
fell. She had felt this vibrating life beat beneath the frozen surface.
Now, as she gazed, she smiled sadly to herself, with drooping eyelids
looking out from beneath strong brows.

"I know you--I know you," she said, aloud. "You've got to take your toll.
And when you're lying asleep like that, or pretending to, you reach
up--and kill. And yet you can be kind--ah, but you can be kind and
beautiful! But you must have your toll one way or t'other." She sighed and
paused; then, after a moment, looking along the trail--"I don't expect
they'll come to-night, and mebbe not to-morrow, if--if they stay for
_that_."

Her eyes closed, she shivered a little. Her lips drew tight, and her face
seemed suddenly to get thinner. "But dad wouldn't--no, he couldn't, not
considerin'--" Again she shut her eyes in pain.

Her face was now turned from the western road by which she had expected
her travellers, and toward the east, where already the snow was taking on
a faint bluish tint, a reflection of the sky deepening toward night in
that half-circle of the horizon. Distant and a little bleak and cheerless
the half-circle was looking now.

"No one--not for two weeks," she said, in comment on the eastern trail,
which was so little frequented in winter, and this year had been less
travelled than ever. "It would be nice to have a neighbor," she added, as
she faced the west and the sinking sun again. "I get so lonely--just
minutes I get lonely. But it's them minutes that seem to count more than
all the rest when they come. I expect that's it--we don't live in months
and years, but just in minutes. It doesn't take long for an earthquake to
do its work--it's seconds then.... P'r'aps dad won't even come to-morrow,"
she added, as she laid her hand on the latch. "It never seemed so long
before, not even when he's been away a week." She laughed bitterly. "Even
bad company's better than no company at all. Sure. And Mickey has been
here always when dad's been away past times. Mickey was a fool, but he was
company; and mebbe he'd have been better company if he'd been more of a
scamp and less a fool. I dunno, but I really think he would. Bad company
doesn't put you off so."

There was a scratching at the inside of the door. "My, if I didn't forget
Shako," she said, "and he dying for a run!"

She opened the door quickly, and out jumped a Russian dog of almost full
breed, with big, soft eyes like those of his mistress, and with the air of
the north in every motion--like his mistress also.

"Come, Shako, a run--a run!"

An instant after she was flying off on a path toward the woods, her short
skirts flying and showing limbs as graceful and shapely as those of any
woman of that world of social grace which she had never seen; for she was
a prairie girl through and through, born on the plains and fed on its
scanty fare--scanty as to variety, at least. Backward and forward they
ran, the girl shouting like a child of ten--she was twenty-three--her eyes
flashing, her fine white teeth showing, her hands thrown up in sheer
excess of animal life, her hair blowing about her face--brown, strong
hair, wavy and plentiful.

Fine creature as she was, her finest features were her eyes and her hands.
The eyes might have been found in the most savage places; the hands,
however, only could have come through breeding. She had got them honestly;
for her mother was descended from an old family of the French province.
That was why she had the name of Loisette--and had a touch of distinction.
It was the strain of the patrician in the full blood of the peasant; but
it gave her something which made her what she was--what she had been since
a child, noticeable and besought, sometimes beloved. It was too strong a
nature to compel love often, but it never failed to compel admiration. Not
greatly a creature of words, she had become moody of late; and even now,
alive with light and feeling and animal life, she suddenly stopped her
romp and run, and called the dog to her.

"Heel, Shako!" she said, and made for the door of the little house, which
looked so snug and homelike. She paused before she came to the door, to
watch the smoke curling up from the chimney straight as a column, for
there was not a breath of air stirring. The sun was almost gone, and the
strong bluish light was settling on everything, giving even the green
spruce-trees a curious burnished tone.

_Swish! Thud!_ She faced the woods quickly. It was only a sound that she
had heard how many hundreds of times! It was the snow slipping from some
broad branch of the fir-trees to the ground. Yet she started now.
Something was on her mind, agitating her senses, affecting her
self-control.

"I'll be jumping out of my boots when the fire snaps, or the frost cracks
the ice, next," she said, aloud, contemptuously. "I dunno what's the
matter with me. I feel as if some one was hiding somewhere ready to pop
out on me. I haven't never felt like that before."

She had formed the habit of talking to herself, for it had seemed at
first, as she was left alone when her father went trapping or upon
journeys for the Government, that by-and-by she would start at the sound
of her own voice if she didn't think aloud. So she was given to soliloquy,
defying the old belief that people who talked to themselves were going
mad. She laughed at that. She said that birds sang to themselves and
didn't go mad, and crickets chirruped, and frogs croaked, and owls hooted,
and she would talk and not go crazy either. So she talked to herself and
to Shako when she was alone.

How quiet it was inside when her light supper was eaten--bread and beans
and pea-soup; she had got this from her French mother. Now she sat, her
elbows on her knees, her chin on her hands, looking into the fire. Shako
was at her feet upon the great musk-ox rug, which her father had got on
one of his hunting trips in the Athabasca country years ago. It belonged
as she belonged. It breathed of the life of the north-land, for the
timbers of the hut were hewn cedar; the rough chimney, the seats, and the
shelves on which a few books made a fair show beside the bright tins and
the scanty crockery, were of pine; and the horned heads of deer and wapiti
made pegs for coats and caps, and rests for guns and rifles. It was a
place of comfort; it had an air of well-to-do thrift, even as the girl's
dress, though plain, was made of good, sound stuff, gray, with a touch of
dark red to match the auburn of her hair.

A book lay open in her lap, but she had scarcely tried to read it. She had
put it down after a few moments fixed upon it. It had sent her thoughts
off into a world where her life had played a part too big for books, too
deep for the plummet of any save those who had lived through the storm of
life's trials; and life when it is bitter to the young is bitter with an
agony the old never know. At last she spoke to herself.

"She knows now! Now she knows what it is, how it feels--your heart like
red-hot coals, and something in your head that's like a turnscrew, and you
want to die and can't, for you've got to live and suffer!"

Again she was quiet, and only the dog's heavy breathing, the snap of the
fire, or the crack of a timber in the deadly frost broke the silence.
Inside it was warm and bright and homelike; outside it was twenty degrees
below zero, and like some vast tomb where life itself was congealed, and
only the white stars, low, twinkling, and quizzical, lived--a life of
sharp corrosion, not of fire.

Suddenly she raised her head and listened. The dog did the same. None but
those whose lives are lived in lonely places can be so acute, so sensitive
to sound. It was a feeling delicate and intense, the whole nature getting
the vibration. You could have heard nothing, had you been there; none but
one who was of the wide spaces could have done so. But the dog and the
woman felt, and both strained toward the window. Again they heard, and
started to their feet. It was far, far away, and still you could not have
heard; but now they heard clearly--a cry in the night, a cry of pain and
despair. The girl ran to the window and pulled aside the bearskin curtain
which had completely shut out the light. Then she stirred the fire, threw
a log upon it, snuffed the candles, hastily put on her moccasins, fur
coat, wool cap, and gloves, and went to the door quickly, the dog at her
heels. Opening it, she stepped out into the night.

"_Qui va là?_ Who is it? Where?" she called, and strained toward the west.
She thought it might be her father or Mickey the hired man, or both.

The answer came from the east, out of the homeless, neighborless, empty
east--a cry, louder now. There were only stars, and the night was dark,
though not deep dark. She sped along the prairie road as fast as she
could, once or twice stopping to call aloud. In answer to her calls the
voice sounded nearer and nearer. Now suddenly she left the trail and bore
away northward. At last the voice was very near. Presently a figure
appeared ahead, staggering toward her.

"_Qui va là?_ Who is it?" she asked.

"Ba'tiste Caron," was the reply in English, in a faint voice. She was
beside him in an instant.

"What has happened? Why are you off the trail?" she said, and supported
him.

"My Injun stoled my dogs and run off," he replied. "I run after. Then,
when I am to come to the trail"--he paused to find the English word, and
could not--"_encore_ to this trail I no can. So. Ah, _bon Dieu_, it has so
awful!" He swayed and would have fallen, but she caught him, bore him up.
She was so strong, and he was as slight as a girl, though tall.

"When was that?" she asked.

"Two nights ago," he answered, and swayed.

"Wait," she said, and pulled a flask from her pocket. "Drink
this--quick!"

He raised it to his lips, but her hand was still on it, and she only let
him take a little. Then she drew it away, though she had almost to use
force, he was so eager for it. Now she took a biscuit from her pocket.

"Eat; then some more brandy, after," she urged. "Come on; it's not far.
See, there's the light," she added, cheerily, raising her head toward the
hut.

"I saw it just when I have fall down--it safe me. I sit down to die--like
that! But it safe me, that light--so. Ah, _bon Dieu_, it was so far, and I
want eat so!"

Already he had swallowed the biscuit.

"When did you eat last?" she asked, as she urged him on.

"Two nights--except for one leetla piece of bread--I fin' it in my pocket.
_Grâce!_ I have travel so far. _Jésu_, I think it ees ten thousan' miles,
I go. But I mus' go on, I mus' go--_certainement_."

The light came nearer and nearer. His footsteps quickened, though he
staggered now and then, and went like a horse that has run its race, but
is driven upon its course again, going heavily with mouth open and head
thrown forward and down.

"But I mus' to get there, an' you--you will to help me, eh?"

Again he swayed, but her strong arm held him up. As they ran on, in a kind
of dog-trot, her hand firm upon his arm--he seemed not to notice it--she
became conscious, though it was half dark, of what sort of man she had
saved. He was about her own age, perhaps a year or two older, with little,
if any, hair upon his face, save a slight mustache. His eyes, deep sunken
as they were, she made out were black, and the face, though drawn and
famished, had a handsome look. Presently she gave him another sip of
brandy, and he quickened his steps, speaking to himself the while.

"I haf to do it--if I lif. It is to go, go, go, till I get."

Now they came to the hut where the firelight flickered on the window-pane;
the door was flung open, and, as he stumbled on the threshold, she helped
him into the warm room. She almost pushed him over to the fire.

Divested of his outer coat, muffler, cap, and leggings, he sat on a bench
before the fire, his eyes wandering from the girl to the flames, and his
hands clasping and unclasping between his knees. His eyes dilating with
hunger, he watched her preparations for his supper; and when at last--and
she had been but a moment--it was placed before him, his head swam, and he
turned faint with the stress of his longing. He would have swallowed a
basin of pea-soup at a draught, but she stopped him, holding the basin
till she thought he might venture again. Then came cold beans, and some
meat which she toasted at the fire and laid upon his plate. They had not
spoken since first entering the house, when tears had shone in his eyes,
and he had said:

"You have safe--ah, you have safe me, and so I will do it yet by help _bon
Dieu_--yes."

The meal was done at last, and he sat with a great dish of tea beside him,
and his pipe alight.

"What time, if please?" he asked. "I t'ink nine hour, but no sure."

"It is near nine," she said. She hastily tidied up the table after his
meal, and then came and sat in her chair over against the wall of the rude
fireplace.

"Nine--dat is good. The moon rise at 'leven; den I go. I go on," he said,
"if you show me de queeck way."

"You go on--how can you go on?" she asked, almost sharply.

"Will you not to show me?" he asked.

"Show you what?" she asked, abruptly.

"The queeck way to Askatoon," he said, as though surprised that she should
ask. "They say me if I get here you will tell me queeck way to Askatoon.
Time, he go so fas', an' I have loose a day an' a night, an' I mus' get
Askatoon if I lif--I mus' get dere in time. It is all safe to de stroke of
de hour, _mais_, after, it is--_bon Dieu_!--it is hell then. Who shall
forgif me--no!"

"The stroke of the hour--the stroke of the hour!" It beat into her brain.
Were they both thinking of the same thing now?

"You will show me queeck way. I mus' be Askatoon in two days, or it is all
over," he almost moaned. "Is no man here--I forget dat name, my head go
round like a wheel; but I know dis place, an' de good God, He help me fin'
my way to where I call out, _bien sûr_. Dat man's name I have forget."

"My father's name is John Alroyd," she answered, absently, for there were
hammering at her brain the words, "_The stroke of the hour._"

"Ah, now I get--yes. An' your name, it is Loisette Alroy--ah, I have it in
my mind now--Loisette. I not forget dat name, I not forget you--no."

"Why do you want to go the 'quick' way to Askatoon?" she asked.

He puffed a moment at his pipe before he answered her. Presently he said,
holding out his pipe, "You not like smoke, mebbe?"

She shook her head in negation, making an impatient gesture.

"I forget ask you," he said. "Dat journee make me forget. When Injun Jo,
he leave me with the dogs, an' I wake up all alone, an' not know my
way--not like Jo, I think I die, it is so bad, so _terrible_ in my head.
Not'ing but snow, not'ing. But dere is de sun; it shine. It say to me,
'Wake up, Ba'tiste; it will be all right bime-bye.' But all time I t'ink I
go mad, for I mus' get Askatoon before--_dat_."

She started. Had she not used the same word in thinking of Askatoon.
"_That_," she had said.

"Why do you want to go the 'quick' way to Askatoon?" she asked again, her
face pale, her foot beating the floor impatiently.

"To save him before _dat_!" he answered, as though she knew of what he was
speaking and thinking.

"What is _that_?" she asked. She knew now, surely, but she must ask it
nevertheless.

"Dat hanging--of Haman," he answered. He nodded to himself. Then he took
to gazing into the fire. His lips moved as though talking to himself, and
the hand that held the pipe lay forgotten on his knee.

"What have you to do with Haman?" she asked, slowly, her eyes burning.

"I want safe him--I mus' give him free." He tapped his breast. "It is here
to mak' him free." He still tapped his breast.

For a moment she stood frozen still, her face thin and drawn and white;
then suddenly the blood rushed back into her face, and a red storm raged
in her eyes.

She thought of the sister, younger than herself, whom Rube Haman had
married and driven to her grave within a year--the sweet Lucy, with the
name of her father's mother. Lucy had been all English in face and tongue,
a flower of the west, driven to darkness by this horse-dealing brute, who,
before he was arrested and tried for murder, was about to marry Kate
Wimper. Kate Wimper had stolen him from Lucy before Lucy's first and only
child was born, the child that could not survive the warm mother-life
withdrawn, and so had gone down the valley whither the broken-hearted
mother had fled. It was Kate Wimper, who, before that, had waylaid the one
man for whom she herself had ever cared, and drawn him from her side by
such attractions as she herself would keep for an honest wife, if such she
ever chanced to be. An honest wife she would have been had Kate Wimper not
crossed the straight path of her life. The man she had loved was gone to
his end also, reckless and hopeless, after he had thrown away his chance
of a lifetime with Loisette Alroyd. There had been left behind this girl,
to whom tragedy had come too young, who drank humiliation with a heart as
proud as ever straightly set its course through crooked ways.

It had hurt her, twisted her nature a little, given a fountain of
bitterness to her soul, which welled up and flooded her life sometimes. It
had given her face no sourness, but it put a shadow into her eyes.

She had been glad when Haman was condemned for murder, for she believed he
had committed it, and ten times hanging could not compensate for that dear
life gone from their sight--Lucy, the pride of her father's heart. She was
glad when Haman was condemned, because of the woman who had stolen him
from Lucy, because of that other man, her lover, gone out of her own life.
The new hardness in her rejoiced that now the woman, if she had any heart
at all, must have it bowed down by this supreme humiliation and wrung by
the ugly tragedy of the hempen rope.

And now this man before her, this man with a boy's face, with the dark,
luminous eyes, whom she had saved from the frozen plains, he had that in
his breast which would free Haman, so he had said. A fury had its birth in
her at that moment. Something seemed to seize her brain and master it,
something so big that it held all her faculties in perfect control, and
she felt herself in an atmosphere where all life moved round her
mechanically, she herself the only sentient thing, so much greater than
all she saw, or all that she realized by her subconscious self. Everything
in the world seemed small. How calm it was even with the fury within!

"Tell me," she said, quietly--"tell me how you are able to save Haman?"

"He not kill Wakely. It is my brudder Fadette dat kill and get away. Haman
he is drunk, and everyt'ing seem to say Haman he did it, an' every one
know Haman is not friend to Wakely. So the juree say he must be hanging.
But my brudder he go to die with hawful bad cold queeck, an' he send for
the priest an' for me, an' tell all. I go to Governor with the priest, an'
Governor gif me dat writing here." He tapped his breast, then took out a
wallet and showed the paper to her. "It is life of dat Haman, _voici_! And
so I safe him for my brudder. Dat was a bad boy, Fadette. He was bad all
time since he was a baby, an' I t'ink him pretty lucky to die on his bed,
an' get absolve, and go to purgatore. If he not have luck like dat he go
to hell, an' stay there."

He sighed, and put the wallet back in his breast carefully, his eyes half
shut with weariness, his handsome face drawn and thin, his limbs lax with
fatigue.

"If I get Askatoon before de time for _dat_, I be happy in my heart, for
dat brudder off mine he get out of purgatore bime-bye, I t'ink."

His eyes were almost shut, but he drew himself together with a great
effort, and added desperately: "No sleep. If I sleep it is all smash. Man
say me I can get Askatoon by dat time from here, if I go queeck way across
lak'--it is all froze now, dat lak'--an' down dat Foxtail Hills. Is it so,
ma'm'selle?"

"By the 'quick' way if you can make it in time," she said; "but it is no
way for the stranger to go. There are always bad spots on the ice--it is
not safe. You could not find your way."

"I mus' get dere in time," he said, desperately.

"You can't do it--alone," she said. "Do you want to risk all and lose?"

He frowned in self-suppression. "Long way, I no can get dere in time?" he
asked.

She thought a moment. "No; it can't be done by the long way. But there is
another way--a third trail, the trail the Gover'ment men made a year ago
when they came to survey. It is a good trail. It is blazed in the woods
and staked on the plains. You cannot miss. But--but there is so little
time." She looked at the clock on the wall. "You cannot leave here much
before sunrise, and--"

"I will leef when de moon rise, at eleven," he interjected.

"You have had no sleep for two nights, and no food. You can't last it
out," she said, calmly.

The deliberate look on his face deepened to stubbornness.

"It is my vow to my brudder--he is in purgatore. An' I mus' do it," he
rejoined, with an emphasis there was no mistaking. "You can show me dat
way?"

She went to a drawer and took out a piece of paper. Then, with a point of
blackened stick, as he watched her and listened, she swiftly drew his
route for him.

"Yes, I get it in my head," he said. "I go dat way, but I wish--I wish it
was dat queeck way. I have no fear, not'ing. I go w'en dat moon rise--I
go, _bien sûr._"

"You must sleep, then, while I get some food for you." She pointed to a
couch in a corner. "I will wake you when the moon rises."

For the first time he seemed to realize her, for a moment to leave the
thing which consumed him, and put his mind upon her.

"You not happy--you not like me here?" he asked, simply; then added,
quickly, "I am not bad man like me brudder--no."

Her eyes rested on him for a moment as though realizing him, while some
thought was working in her mind behind.

"No, you are not a bad man," she said. "Men and women are equal on the
plains. You have no fear--I have no fear."

He glanced at the rifles on the walls, then back at her. "My mudder, she
was good woman. I am glad she did not lif to know what Fadette do." His
eyes drank her in for a minute, then he said: "I go sleep now, t'ank
you--till moontime."

In a moment his deep breathing filled the room, the only sound save for
the fire within and the frost outside.

Time went on. The night deepened.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Loisette sat beside the fire, but her body was half-turned from it toward
the man on the sofa. She was not agitated outwardly, but within there was
that fire which burns up life and hope and all the things that come
between us and great issues. It had burned up everything in her except one
thought, one powerful motive. She had been deeply wronged, and justice had
been about to give "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But the
man lying there had come to sweep away the scaffolding of justice--he had
come for that.

Perhaps he might arrive at Askatoon before the stroke of the hour, but
still he would be too late, for in her pocket now was the Governor's
reprieve. The man had slept soundly. His wallet was still in his breast;
but the reprieve was with her.

If he left without discovering his loss, and got well on his way, and
discovered it then, it would be too late. If he returned--she only saw one
step before her, she would wait for that, and deal with it when it came.
She was thinking of Lucy, of her own lover ruined and gone. She was calm
in her madness.

At the first light of the moon she roused him. She had put food into his
fur-coat pocket, and after he had drunk a bowl of hot pea-soup, while she
told him his course again, she opened the door, and he passed out into the
night. He started forward without a word, but came back again and caught
her hand.

"_Pardon_," he said; "I go forget everyt'ing except _dat_. But I t'ink
what you do for me, it is better than all my life. _Bien sûr_, I will come
again, when I get my mind to myself. Ah, but you are beautibul," he said,
"an' you not happy. Well, I come again--yes, _à Dieu._"

He was gone into the night, with the moon silvering the sky, and the
steely frost eating into the sentient life of this northern world. Inside
the house, with the bearskin blind dropped at the window again, and the
fire blazing high, Loisette sat with the Governor's reprieve in her hand.
Looking at it, she wondered why it had been given to Ba'tiste Caron and
not to a police-officer. Ah yes, it was plain--Ba'tiste was a woodsman and
plainsman, and could go far more safely than a constable, and faster.
Ba'tiste had reason for going fast, and he would travel night and day--he
was travelling night and day indeed. And now Ba'tiste might get there, but
the reprieve would not. He would not be able to stop the hanging of
Haman--the hanging of Rube Haman.

A change came over her. Her eyes blazed, her breast heaved now. She had
been so quiet, so cold and still. But life seemed moving in her once
again. The woman, Kate Wimper, who had helped to send two people to their
graves, would now drink the dregs of shame, if she was capable of
shame--would be robbed of her happiness, if so be she loved Rube Haman.

She stood up, as though to put the paper in the fire, but paused suddenly
at one thought--_Rube Haman was innocent of murder._

Even so, he was not innocent of Lucy's misery and death, or the death of
the little one who only opened its eyes to the light for an instant, and
then went into the dark again. But truly she was justified! When Haman was
gone things would go on just the same--and she had been so bitter, her
heart had been pierced as with a knife these past three years. Again she
held out her hand to the fire, but suddenly she gave a little cry and put
her hand to her head. There was Ba'tiste!

What was Ba'tiste to her? Nothing--nothing at all. She had saved his
life--even if she wronged Ba'tiste, her debt would be paid. No, she would
not think of Ba'tiste. Yet she did not put the paper in the fire, but in
the pocket of her dress. Then she went to her room, leaving the door open.
The bed was opposite the fire, and, as she lay there--she did not take off
her clothes, she knew not why--she could see the flames. She closed her
eyes but could not sleep, and more than once when she opened them she
thought she saw Ba'tiste sitting there as he had sat hours before. Why did
Ba'tiste haunt her so? What was it he had said in his broken English as he
went away?--that he would come back; that she was "beautibul."

All at once as she lay still, her head throbbing, her feet and hands icy
cold, she sat up listening.

"Ah--again!" she cried. She sprang from her bed, rushed to the door, and
strained her eyes into the silver night. She called into the icy void,
"_Qui va là?_ Who goes?"

She leaned forward, her hand at her ear, but no sound came in reply. Once
more she called, but nothing answered. The night was all light and frost
and silence.

She had only heard, in her own brain, the iteration of Ba'tiste's calling.
Would he reach Askatoon in time? she wondered, as she shut the door. Why
had she not gone with him and attempted the shorter way--the quick way, he
had called it? All at once the truth came back upon her, stirring her now.
It would do no good for Ba'tiste to arrive in time. He might plead to them
all and tell the truth about the reprieve, but it would not avail--Rube
Haman would hang. That did not matter--even though he was innocent; but
Ba'tiste's brother would be so long in purgatory. And even that would not
matter; but she would hurt Ba'tiste--Ba'tiste--Ba'tiste! And Ba'tiste he
would know that she--and he had called her "beautibul"--that she had--

With a cry she suddenly clothed herself for travel. She put some food and
drink in a leather bag and slung them over her shoulder. Then she dropped
on a knee and wrote a note to her father, tears falling from her eyes. She
heaped wood on the fire and moved toward the door. All at once she turned
to the crucifix on the wall which had belonged to her mother, and, though
she had followed her father's Protestant religion, she kissed the feet of
the sacred figure.

"Oh, Christ, have mercy on me, and bring me safe to my journey's end--in
time," she said, breathlessly; then she went softly to the door, leaving
the dog behind.

It opened, closed, and the night swallowed her. Like a ghost she sped the
quick way to Askatoon. She was six hours behind Ba'tiste, and, going hard
all the time, it was doubtful if she could get there before the fatal
hour.

On the trail Ba'tiste had taken there were two huts where he could rest,
and he had carried his blanket slung on his shoulder. The way she went
gave no shelter save the trees and caves which had been used to _câche_
buffalo meat and hides in old days. But beyond this there was danger in
travelling by night, for the springs beneath the ice of the three lakes
she must cross made it weak and rotten even in the fiercest weather, and
what would no doubt have been death to Ba'tiste would be peril at least to
her. Why had she not gone with him?

"He had in his face what was in Lucy's," she said to herself, as she sped
on. "She was fine like him, ready to break her heart for those she cared
for. My, if she had seen him first instead of--"

She stopped short, for the ice gave way to her foot, and she only sprang
back in time to save herself. But she trotted on, mile after mile, the
dog-trot of the Indian, head bent forward, toeing in, breathing steadily
but sharply.

The morning came, noon, then a fall of snow and a keen wind, and despair
in her heart; but she had passed the danger-spots, and now, if the storm
did not overwhelm her, she might get to Askatoon in time. In the midst of
the storm she came to one of the caves of which she had known. Here was
wood for a fire, and here she ate, and in weariness unspeakable fell
asleep. When she waked it was near sundown, the storm had ceased, and, as
on the night before, the sky was stained with color and drowned in
splendor.

"I will do it--I will do it, Ba'tiste!" she called, and laughed aloud into
the sunset. She had battled with herself all the way, and she had
conquered. Right was right, and Rube Haman must not be hung for what he
did not do. Her heart hardened whenever she thought of the woman, but
softened again when she thought of Ba'tiste, who had to suffer for the
deed of a brother in "purgatore." Once again the night and its silence and
loneliness followed her, the only living thing near the trail till long
after midnight. After that, as she knew, there were houses here and there
where she might have rested, but she pushed on unceasing.

At daybreak she fell in with a settler going to Askatoon with his dogs.
Seeing how exhausted she was, he made her ride a few miles upon his
sledge; then she sped on ahead again till she came to the borders of
Askatoon.

People were already in the streets, and all were tending one way. She
stopped and asked the time. It was within a quarter of an hour of the time
when Haman was to pay another's penalty. She spurred herself on, and came
to the jail blind with fatigue. As she neared the jail she saw her father
and Mickey. In amazement her father hailed her, but she would not stop.
She was admitted to the prison on explaining that she had a reprieve.
Entering a room filled with excited people, she heard a cry.

It came from Ba'tiste. He had arrived but ten minutes before, and, in the
Sheriff's presence, had discovered his loss. He had appealed in vain.

But now, as he saw the girl, he gave a shout of joy which pierced the
hearts of all.

"Ah, you haf it! Say you haf it, or it is no use--he mus' hang.
Spik--spik! Ah, my brudder--it is to do him right! Ah, Loisette--_bon
Dieu, merci!_"

For answer she placed the reprieve in the hands of the Sheriff. Then she
swayed and fell fainting at the feet of Ba'tiste.

She had come at the stroke of the hour.

When she left for her home again the Sheriff kissed her.

And that was not the only time he kissed her. He did it again six months
later, at the beginning of the harvest, when she and Ba'tiste Caron
started off on the long trail of life together. None but Ba'tiste knew the
truth about the loss of the reprieve, and to him she was "beautibul" just
the same, and greatly to be desired.

[Illustration: SHE SWAYED AND FELL FAINTING AT THE FEET OF BA'TISTE]



BUCKMASTER'S BOY


"I bin waitin' for him, an' I'll git him ef it takes all winter. I'll get
him--plumb."

The speaker smoothed the barrel of his rifle with mittened hand, which
had, however, a trigger-finger free. With black eyebrows twitching over
sunken gray eyes, he looked doggedly down the frosty valley from the ledge
of high rock where he sat. The face was rough and weather-beaten, with the
deep tan got in the open life of a land of much sun and little cloud, and
he had a beard which, untrimmed and growing wild, made him look ten years
older than he was.

"I bin waitin' a durn while," the mountain-man added, and got to his feet
slowly, drawing himself out to six and a half feet of burly manhood. The
shoulders were, however, a little stooped, and the head was thrust forward
with an eager, watchful look--a habit become a physical characteristic.

Presently he caught sight of a hawk sailing southward along the peaks of
the white icebound mountains above, on which the sun shone with such sharp
insistence, making sky and mountain of a piece in deep purity and serene
stillness.

"That hawk's seen him, mebbe," he said, after a moment. "I bet it went up
higher when it got him in its eye. Ef it'd only speak and tell me where he
is--ef he's a day, or two days, or ten days north."

Suddenly his eyes blazed and his mouth opened in superstitious amazement,
for the hawk stopped almost directly overhead at a great height, and swept
round in a circle many times, waveringly, uncertainly. At last it resumed
its flight southward, sliding down the mountains like a winged star.

The mountaineer watched it with a dazed expression for a moment longer,
then both hands clutched the rifle and half swung it to position
involuntarily.

"It's seen him, and it stopped to say so. It's seen him, I tell you, an'
I'll git him. Ef it's an hour, or a day, or a week, it's all the same. I'm
here watchin', waitin' dead on to him, the poison skunk!"

The person to whom he had been speaking now rose from the pile of cedar
boughs where he had been sitting, stretched his arms up, then shook
himself into place, as does a dog after sleep. He stood for a minute
looking at the mountaineer with a reflective yet a furtively sardonic
look. He was not above five feet nine inches in height, and he was slim
and neat; and though his buckskin coat and breeches were worn and even
frayed in spots, he had an air of some distinction and of concentrated
force. It was a face that men turned to look at twice and shook their
heads in doubt afterward--a handsome, worn, secretive face, in as perfect
control as the strings of an instrument under the bow of a great artist.
It was the face of a man without purpose in life beyond the
moment--watchful, careful, remorselessly determined, an adventurer's
asset, the dial-plate of a hidden machinery.

Now he took the handsome meerschaum pipe from his mouth, from which he had
been puffing smoke slowly, and said in a cold, yet quiet voice, "How long
you been waitin', Buck?"

"A month. He's overdue near that. He always comes down to winter at Fort
o' Comfort, with his string of half-breeds, an' Injuns, an' the dogs."

"No chance to get him at the Fort?"

"It ain't so certain. They'd guess what I was doin' there. It's surer
here. He's got to come down the trail, an' when I spot him by the Juniper
clump"--he jerked an arm toward a spot almost a mile farther up the
valley--"I kin scoot up the underbrush a bit and git him--plumb. I could
do it from here, sure, but I don't want no mistake. Once only, jest one
shot, that's all I want, Sinnet."

He bit off a small piece of tobacco from a black plug Sinnet offered him,
and chewed it with nervous fierceness, his eyebrows working, as he looked
at the other eagerly. Deadly as his purpose was, and grim and unvarying as
his vigil had been, the loneliness had told on him, and he had grown
hungry for a human face and human companionship. Why Sinnet had come he
had not thought to inquire. Why Sinnet should be going north instead of
south had not occurred to him. He only realized that Sinnet was not the
man he was waiting for with murder in his heart; and all that mattered to
him in life was the coming of his victim down the trail. He had welcomed
Sinnet with a sullen eagerness, and had told him in short, detached
sentences the dark story of a wrong and a waiting revenge, which brought a
slight flush to Sinnet's pale face and awakened a curious light in his
eyes.

"Is that your shack--that where you shake down?" Sinnet said, pointing
toward a lean-to in the fir-trees to trees to the right.

"That's it. I sleep there. It's straight on to the Juniper clump, the
front door is." He laughed viciously, grimly. "Outside or inside, I'm on
to the Juniper clump. Walk into the parlor?" he added, and drew open a
rough-made door, so covered with green cedar boughs that it seemed of a
piece with the surrounding underbrush and trees. Indeed, the little hut
was so constructed that it could not be distinguished from the woods even
a short distance away.

"Can't have a fire, I suppose?" Sinnet asked.

"Not daytimes. Smoke 'd give me away if he suspicioned me," answered the
mountaineer. "I don't take no chances. Never can tell."

"Water?" asked Sinnet, as though interested in the surroundings, while all
the time he was eying the mountaineer furtively--as it were, prying to the
inner man, or measuring the strength of the outer man. He lighted a fresh
pipe and seated himself on a rough bench beside the table in the middle of
the room, and leaned on his elbows, watching.

The mountaineer laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh to hear. "Listen," he
said. "You bin a long time out West. You bin in the mountains a good
while. Listen."

There was silence. Sinnet listened intently. He heard the faint drip,
drip, drip of water, and looked steadily at the back wall of the room.

"There--rock?" he said, and jerked his head toward the sound.

"You got good ears," answered the other, and drew aside a blanket which
hung on the back wall of the room. A wooden trough was disclosed hanging
under a ledge of rock, and water dripped into it softly, slowly.

"Almost providential, that rock," remarked Sinnet. "You've got your well
at your back door. Food--but you can't go far, and keep your eye on the
Bend too," he nodded toward the door, beyond which lay the frost-touched
valley in the early morning light of autumn.

"Plenty of black squirrels and pigeons come here on account of the springs
like this one, and I get 'em with a bow and arrow. I didn't call myself
Robin Hood and Daniel Boone not for nothin' when I was knee-high to a
grasshopper." He drew from a rough cupboard some cold game, and put it on
the table, with some scones and a pannikin of water. Then he brought out a
small jug of whiskey and placed it beside his visitor. They began to eat.

"How d'ye cook without fire?" asked Sinnet.

"Fire's all right at nights. He'd never camp 'twixt here an' Juniper Bend
at night. The next camp's six miles north from here. He'd only come down
the valley daytimes. I studied it all out, and it's a dead sure thing.
From daylight till dusk I'm on to him--I got the trail in my eye."

He showed his teeth like a wild dog, as his look swept the valley. There
was something almost revolting in his concentrated ferocity.

Sinnet's eyes half closed as he watched the mountaineer, and the long,
scraggy hands and whipcord neck seemed to interest him greatly. He looked
at his own slim, brown hands with a half smile, and it was almost as cruel
as the laugh of the other. Yet it had, too, a knowledge and an
understanding which gave it humanity.

"You're sure he did it?" Sinnet asked, presently, after drinking a very
small portion of liquor, and tossing some water from the pannikin after
it. "You're sure Greevy killed your boy, Buck?"

"My name's Buckmaster, ain't it--Jim Buckmaster? Don't I know my own name?
It's as sure as that. My boy said it was Greevy when he was dying. He told
Bill Ricketts so, and Bill told me afore he went East. Bill didn't want to
tell, but he said it was fair I should know, for my boy never did nobody
any harm--an' Greevy's livin' on! But I'll git him. Right's right."

"Wouldn't it be better for the law to hang him if you've got the proof,
Buck? A year or so in jail, an' a long time to think over what's going
round his neck on the scaffold--wouldn't that suit you, if you've got the
proof?"

A rigid, savage look came into Buckmaster's face.

"I ain't lettin' no judge and jury do my business. I'm for certain sure,
not for _p'r'aps_! An' I want to do it myself. Clint was only twenty. Like
boys we was together. I was eighteen when I married, an' he come when
_she_ went--jest a year--jest a year. An' ever since then we lived
together, him an' me, an' shot together, an' trapped together, an' went
gold-washin' together on the Cariboo, an' eat out of the same dish, an'
slept under the same blanket, and jawed together nights--ever since he was
five, when old Mother Lablache had got him into pants, an' he was fit to
take the trail."

The old man stopped a minute, his whipcord neck swelling, his lips
twitching. He brought a fist down on the table with a bang. "The biggest
little rip he was, as full of fun as a squirrel, an' never a smile--jest
his eyes dancin', an' more sense than a judge. He laid hold o' me, that
cub did--it was like his mother and himself together; an' the years
flowin' in an' peterin' out, an' him gettin' older, an' always jest the
same. Always on rock-bottom, always bright as a dollar, an' we livin' at
Black Nose Lake, layin' up cash agin' the time we was to go South, an' set
up a house along the railway, an' him to git married. I was for his
gittin' married same as me, when we had enough cash. I use to think of
that when he was ten, and when he was eighteen I spoke to him about it;
but he wouldn't listen--jest laughed at me. You remember how Clint used to
laugh, sort of low and teasin' like--you remember that laugh o' Clint's,
don't you?"

Sinnet's face was toward the valley and Juniper Bend, but he slowly turned
his head and looked at Buckmaster strangely out of his half-shut eyes. He
took the pipe from his mouth slowly.

"I can hear it now," he answered, slowly. "I hear it often, Buck."

The old man gripped his arm so suddenly that Sinnet was startled--in so
far as anything could startle any one who had lived a life of chance and
danger and accident--and his face grew a shade paler; but he did not move,
and Buckmaster's hand tightened convulsively.

"You liked him, an' he liked you; he first learnt poker off you, Sinnet.
He thought you was a tough, but he didn't mind that no more than I did. It
ain't for us to say what we're goin' to be, not always. Things in life git
stronger than we are. You was a tough, but who's goin' to judge you? I
ain't; for Clint took to you, Sinnet, an' he never went wrong in his
thinkin'. God! he was wife an' child to me--an' he's dead--dead--dead!"

The man's grief was a painful thing to see. His hands gripped the table,
while his body shook with sobs, though his eyes gave forth no tears. It
was an inward convulsion, which gave his face the look of unrelieved
tragedy and suffering--Laocoon struggling with the serpents of sorrow and
hatred which were strangling him.

"Dead an' gone," he repeated, as he swayed to and fro, and the table
quivered in his grasp. Presently, however, as though arrested by a
thought, he peered out of the doorway toward Juniper Bend. "That hawk seen
him--it seen him. He's comin', I know it, an' I'll git him--plumb." He had
the mystery and imagination of the mountain-dweller.

The rifle lay against the wall behind him, and he turned and touched it
almost caressingly. "I ain't let go like this since he was killed, Sinnet.
It don't do. I got to keep myself stiddy to do the trick when the minute
comes. At first I usen't to sleep at nights, thinkin' of Clint, an'
missin' him, an' I got shaky and no good. So I put a cinch on myself, an'
got to sleepin' again--from the full dusk to dawn, for Greevy wouldn't
take the trail at night. I've kept stiddy." He held out his hand as though
to show that it was firm and steady, but it trembled with the emotion
which had conquered him. He saw it, and shook his head angrily.

"It was seein' you, Sinnet. It burst me. I ain't seen no one to speak to
in a month, an' with you sittin' there, it was like Clint an' me cuttin'
and comin' again off the loaf an' the knuckle-bone of ven'son."

Sinnet ran a long finger slowly across his lips, and seemed meditating
what he should say to the mountaineer. At length he spoke, looking into
Buckmaster's face: "What was the story Ricketts told you? What did your
boy tell Ricketts? I've heard, too, about it, and that's why I asked you
if you had proofs that Greevy killed Clint. Of course, Clint should know,
and if he told Ricketts, that's pretty straight; but I'd like to know if
what I heard tallies with what Ricketts heard from Clint. P'r'aps it'd
ease your mind a bit to tell it. I'll watch the Bend--don't you trouble
about that. You can't do these two things at one time. I'll watch for
Greevy; you give me Clint's story to Ricketts. I guess you know I'm
feelin' for you, an' if I was in your place I'd shoot the man that killed
Clint, if it took ten years. I'd have his heart's blood--all of it.
Whether Greevy was in the right or in the wrong, I'd have him--_plumb_."

Buckmaster was moved. He gave a fierce exclamation and made a gesture of
cruelty. "Clint right or wrong? There ain't no question of that. My boy
wasn't the kind to be in the wrong. What did he ever do but what was
right? If Clint was in the wrong I'd kill Greevy jest the same, for Greevy
robbed him of all the years that was before him--only a sapling he was,
an' all his growin' to do, all his branches to widen an' his roots to
spread. But that don't enter in it, his bein' in the wrong. It was a
quarrel, and Clint never did Greevy any harm. It was a quarrel over cards,
an' Greevy was drunk, an' followed Clint out into the prairie in the night
and shot him like a coyote. Clint hadn't no chance, an' he jest lay there
on the ground till morning, when Ricketts and Steve Joicey found him. An'
Clint told Ricketts who it was."

"Why didn't Ricketts tell it right out at once?" asked Sinnet.

"Greevy was his own cousin--it was in the family, an' he kept thinkin' of
Greevy's gal, Em'ly. Her--what'll it matter to her? She'll get married, an
she'll forgit. I know her, a gal that's got no deep feelin' like Clint had
for me. But because of her Ricketts didn't speak for a year. Then he
couldn't stand it any longer, an' he told me--seein' how I suffered, an'
everybody hidin' their suspicions from me, an' me up here out o' the way,
an' no account. That was the feelin' among 'em: What was the good of
making things worse? They wasn't thinkin' of the boy or of Jim Buckmaster,
his father. They was thinkin' of Greevy's gal--to save her trouble."

Sinnet's face was turned toward Juniper Bend, and the eyes were fixed, as
it were, on a still more distant object--a dark, brooding, inscrutable
look.

"Was that all Ricketts told you, Buck?" The voice was very quiet, but it
had a suggestive note.

"That's all Clint told Bill before he died. That was enough."

There was a moment's pause, and then, puffing out long clouds of smoke,
and in a tone of curious detachment, as though he were telling something
that he saw now in the far distance, or as a spectator of a battle from a
far vantage-point might report to a blind man standing near, Sinnet said:

"P'r'aps Ricketts didn't know the whole story; p'r'aps Clint didn't know
it all to tell him; p'r'aps Clint didn't remember it all. P'r'aps he
didn't remember anything except that he and Greevy quarrelled, and that
Greevy and he shot at each other in the prairie. He'd only be thinking of
the thing that mattered most to him--that his life was over, an' that a
man had put a bullet in him, an'--"

Buckmaster tried to interrupt him, but he waved a hand impatiently, and
continued: "As I say, maybe he didn't remember everything; he had been
drinkin' a bit himself, Clint had. He wasn't used to liquor, and couldn't
stand much. Greevy was drunk, too, and gone off his head with rage. He
always gets drunk when he first comes south to spend the winter with his
girl Em'ly." He paused a moment, then went on a little more quickly.
"Greevy was proud of her--couldn't even bear her being crossed in any way;
and she has a quick temper, and if she quarrelled with anybody Greevy
quarrelled too."

"I don't want to know anything about her," broke in Buckmaster, roughly.
"She isn't in this thing. I'm goin' to get Greevy. I bin waitin' for him,
an' I'll git him."

"You're going to kill the man that killed your boy, if you can, Buck; but
I'm telling my story in my own way. You told Rickett's story; I'll tell
what I've heard. And before you kill Greevy you ought to know all there is
that anybody else knows--or suspicions about it."

"I know enough. Greevy done it, an' I'm here."

With no apparent coherence and relevancy Sinnet continued, but his voice
was not so even as before. "Em'ly was a girl that wasn't twice alike. She
was changeable. First it was one, then it was another, and she didn't seem
to be able to fix her mind. But that didn't prevent her leadin' men on.
She wasn't changeable, though, about her father. She was to him what your
boy was to you. There she was like you, ready to give everything up for
her father."

"I tell y' I don't want to hear about her," said Buckmaster, getting to
his feet and setting his jaws. "You needn't talk to me about her. She'll
git over it. I'll never git over what Greevy done to me or to Clint--jest
twenty, jest twenty! I got my work to do."

He took his gun from the wall, slung it into the hollow of his arm, and
turned to look up the valley through the open doorway.

The morning was sparkling with life--the life and vigor which a touch of
frost gives to the autumn world in a country where the blood tingles to
the dry, sweet sting of the air. Beautiful, and spacious, and buoyant, and
lonely, the valley and the mountains seemed waiting, like a new-born
world, to be peopled by man. It was as though all had been made ready for
him--the birds whistling and singing in the trees, the whisk of the
squirrels leaping from bough to bough, the peremptory sound of the
woodpecker's beak against the bole of a tree, the rustle of the leaves as
a wood-hen ran past--a waiting, virgin world.

Its beauty and its wonderful dignity had no appeal to Buckmaster. His eyes
and mind were fixed on a deed which would stain the virgin wild with the
ancient crime that sent the first marauder on human life into the
wilderness.

As Buckmaster's figure darkened the doorway Sinnet seemed to waken as from
a dream, and he got swiftly to his feet. "Wait--you wait, Buck. You've got
to hear all. You haven't heard my story yet. Wait, I tell you."

His voice was so sharp and insistent, so changed, that Buckmaster turned
from the doorway and came back into the room.

"What's the use of my hearin'? You want me not to kill Greevy, because of
that gal. What's she to me?"

"Nothing to you, Buck, but Clint was everything to her."

The mountaineer stood like one petrified.

"What's that--what's that you say? It's a damn lie!"

"It wasn't cards--the quarrel, not the real quarrel. Greevy found Clint
kissing her. Greevy wanted her to marry Gatineau, the lumber-king. That
was the quarrel."

A snarl was on the face of Buckmaster. "Then she'll not be sorry when I
git him. It took Clint from her as well as from me." He turned to the door
again.

"But, wait, Buck, wait one minute and hear--"

He was interrupted by a low, exultant growl, and he saw Buckmaster's rifle
clutched as a hunter, stooping, clutches his gun to fire on his prey.

"Quick, the spy-glass!" he flung back at Sinnet. "It's him, but I'll make
sure."

Sinnet caught the telescope from the nails where it hung, and looked out
toward Juniper Bend. "It's Greevy--and his girl, and the half-breeds," he
said, with a note in his voice that almost seemed agitation, and yet few
had ever seen Sinnet agitated. "Em'ly must have gone up the trail in the
night."

"It's my turn now," the mountaineer said, hoarsely, and, stooping, slid
away quickly into the undergrowth.

Sinnet followed, keeping near him, neither speaking. For a half mile they
hastened on, and now and then Buckmaster drew aside the bushes, and looked
up the valley, to keep Greevy and his _bois brûlées_ in his eye. Just so
had he and his son and Sinnet stalked the wapiti and the red deer along
these mountains; but this was a man that Buckmaster was stalking now, with
none of the joy of the sport which had been his since a lad; only the
malice of the avenger. The lust of a mountain feud was on him; he was
pursuing the price of blood.

At last Buckmaster stopped at a ledge of rock just above the trail. Greevy
would pass below, within three hundred yards of his rifle. He turned to
Sinnet with cold and savage eyes. "You go back," he said. "It's my
business. I don't want you to see. You don't want to see, then you won't
know, and you won't need to lie. You said that the man that killed Clint
ought to die. He's going to die, but it's none o' your business. I want to
be alone. In a minute he'll be where I kin git him--plumb. You go,
Sinnet--right off. It's my business."

There was a strange, desperate look in Sinnet's face; it was as hard as
stone, but his eyes had a light of battle in them.

"It's my business right enough, Buck," he said, "and you're not going to
kill Greevy. That girl of his has lost her lover, your boy. It's broke her
heart almost, and there's no use making her an orphan too. She can't stand
it. She's had enough. You leave her father alone--you hear me, let up!" He
stepped between Buckmaster and the ledge of rock from which the
mountaineer was to take aim.

There was a terrible look in Buckmaster's face. He raised his
single-barrelled rifle, as though he would shoot Sinnet; but, at the
moment, he remembered that a shot would warn Greevy, and that he might not
have time to reload. He laid his rifle against a tree swiftly.

"Git away from here," he said, with a strange rattle in his throat. "Git
away quick; he'll be down past here in a minute."

Sinnet pulled himself together as he saw Buckmaster snatch at a great
clasp-knife in his belt. He jumped and caught Buckmaster's wrist in a grip
like a vise.

"Greevy didn't kill him, Buck," he said. But the mountaineer was gone mad,
and did not grasp the meaning of the words. He twined his left arm round
the neck of Sinnet, and the struggle began, he fighting to free Sinnet's
hand from his wrist, to break Sinnet's neck. He did not realize what he
was doing. He only knew that this man stood between him and the murderer
of his boy, and all the ancient forces of barbarism were alive in him.
Little by little they drew to the edge of the rock, from which there was a
sheer drop of two hundred feet. Sinnet fought like a panther for safety,
but no sane man's strength could withstand the demoniacal energy that bent
and crushed him. Sinnet felt his strength giving. Then he said, in a
hoarse whisper: "Greevy didn't kill him. I killed him, and--"

At that moment he was borne to the ground with a hand on his throat, and
an instant after the knife went home.

Buckmaster got to his feet and looked at his victim for an instant, dazed
and wild; then he sprang for his gun. As he did so the words that Sinnet
had said as they struggled rang in his ears, "_Greevy didn't kill him; I
killed him_!"

He gave a low cry and turned back toward Sinnet, who lay in a pool of
blood.

Sinnet was speaking. He went and stooped over him.

[Illustration: LITTLE BY LITTLE THEY DREW TO THE EDGE OF THE ROCK]

"Em'ly threw me over for Clint," the voice said, huskily, "and I followed
to have it out with Clint. So did Greevy, but Greevy was drunk. I saw them
meet. I was hid. I saw that Clint would kill Greevy, and I fired. I was
off my head--I'd never cared for any woman before, and Greevy was her
father. Clint was off his head too. He had called me names that day--a
cardsharp, and a liar, and a thief, and a skunk, he called me, and I hated
him just then. Greevy fired twice--wide. He didn't know but what he killed
Clint, but he didn't. I did. So I tried to stop you, Buck--"

Life was going fast, and speech failed him; but he opened his eyes again
and whispered: "I didn't want to die, Buck. I am only thirty-five, and
it's too soon; but it had to be. Don't look that way, Buck. You got the
man that killed him--plumb. But Em'ly didn't play fair with me--made a
fool of me, the only time in my life I ever cared for a woman. You leave
Greevy alone, Buck, and tell Em'ly for me I wouldn't let you kill her
father."

"You--Sinnet--you, you done it! Why, he'd have fought for you. You--done
it--to him--to Clint!"

Now that the blood-feud had been satisfied, a great change came over the
mountaineer. He had done his work, and the thirst for vengeance was gone.
Greevy he had hated, but this man had been with him in many a winter's
hunt. His brain could hardly grasp the tragedy--it had all been too
sudden.

Suddenly he stooped down. "Sinnet," he said, "ef there was a woman in it,
that makes all the difference. Sinnet, ef--"

But Sinnet was gone upon a long trail that led into an illimitable
wilderness. With a moan the old man ran to the ledge of rock. Greevy and
his girl were below.

"When there's a woman in it--!" he said, in a voice of helplessness and
misery, and watched her till she disappeared from view. Then he turned,
and, lifting up in his arms the man he had killed, carried him into the
deeper woods.



TO-MORROW


I

"My, nothing's the matter with the world to-day! It's so good it almost
hurts."

She raised her head from the white petticoat she was ironing, and gazed
out of the doorway and down the valley with a warm light in her eyes and a
glowing face. The snow-tipped mountains far above and away, the
fir-covered, cedar-ranged foothills, and, lower down, the wonderful maple
and ash woods, with their hundred autumn tints, all merging to one soft,
red tone, the roar of the stream tumbling down the ravine from the
heights, the air that braced the nerves like wine--it all seemed to be
part of her, the passion of life corresponding to the passion of living in
her.

After watching the scene dreamily for a moment, she turned and laid the
iron she had been using upon the hot stove near. Taking up another, she
touched it with a moistened finger to test the heat, and, leaning above
the table again, passed it over the linen for a few moments, smiling at
something that was in her mind. Presently she held the petticoat up,
turned it round, then hung it in front of her, eying it with critical
pleasure.

"_To-morrow!_" she said, nodding at it. "You won't be seen, I suppose, but
_I'll_ know you're nice enough for a queen--and that's enough to know."
She blushed a little, as though some one had heard her words and was
looking at her, then she carefully laid the petticoat over the back of a
chair. "No queen's got one whiter, if I do say it," she continued, tossing
her head.

In that, at any rate, she was right, for the water of the mountain springs
was pure, the air was clear, and the sun was clarifying; and little
ornamented or frilled as it was, the petticoat was exquisitely soft and
delicate. It would have appealed to more eyes than a woman's.

"To-morrow!" She nodded at it again and turned again to the bright world
outside. With arms raised and hands resting against the timbers of the
doorway, she stood dreaming. A flock of pigeons passed with a whir not far
away, and skirted the woods making down the valley. She watched their
flight abstractedly, yet with a subconscious sense of pleasure. Life--they
were Life, eager, buoyant, belonging to this wild region, where still the
heart could feel so much at home, where the great world was missed so
little.

Suddenly, as she gazed, a shot rang out down the valley, and two of the
pigeons came tumbling to the ground, a stray feather floating after. With
a startled exclamation she took a step forward. Her brain became confused
and disturbed. She had looked out on Eden, and it had been ravaged before
her eyes. She had been thinking of to-morrow, and this vast prospect of
beauty and serenity had been part of the pageant in which it moved. Not
the valley alone had been marauded, but that "To-morrow," and all it meant
to her.

Instantly the valley had become clouded over for her, its glory and its
grace despoiled. She turned back to the room where the white petticoat lay
upon the chair, but stopped with a little cry of alarm.

A man was standing in the centre of the room. He had entered stealthily by
the back door, and had waited for her to turn round. He was haggard and
travel-stained, and there was a feverish light in his eyes. His fingers
trembled as they adjusted his belt, which seemed too large for him.
Mechanically he buckled it tighter.

"You're Jenny Long, ain't you?" he asked. "I beg pardon for sneakin' in
like this, but they're after me, some ranchers and a constable--one o' the
Riders of the Plains. I've been tryin' to make this house all day. You're
Jenny Long, ain't you?"

She had plenty of courage, and, after the first instant of shock, she had
herself in hand. She had quickly observed his condition, had marked the
candor of the eye and the decision and character of the face, and doubt of
him found no place in her mind. She had the keen observation of the
dweller in lonely places, where every traveller has the potentialities of
a foe, while the door of hospitality is opened to him after the custom of
the wilds. Year in, year out, since she was a little girl and came to live
here with her Uncle Sanger when her father died--her mother had gone
before she could speak--travellers had halted at this door, going North or
coming South, had had bite and sup, and bed, maybe, and had passed on,
most of them never to be seen again. More than that, too, there had been
moments of peril, such as when, alone, she had faced two wood-thieves with
a revolver, as they were taking her mountain-pony with them, and herself
had made them "hands-up," and had marched them into a prospector's camp
five miles away.

She had no doubt about the man before her. Whatever he had done, it was
nothing dirty or mean--of that she was sure.

"Yes, I'm Jenny Long," she answered. "What have you done? What are they
after you for?"

[Illustration: "THEY SHOT ME AN' HURT ME"]

"Oh! to-morrow," he answered--"to-morrow I got to git to Bindon. It's life
or death. I come from prospecting two hundred miles up North. I done it in
two days and a half. My horse dropped dead--I'm near dead myself. I tried
to borrow another horse up at Clancey's, and at Scotton's Drive, but they
didn't know me, and they bounced me. So I borrowed a horse off Weigall's
paddock, to make for here--to you. I didn't mean to keep that horse. Hell,
I'm no horse-stealer! But I couldn't explain to them, except that I had to
git to Bindon to save a man's life. If people laugh in your face, it's no
use explainin'. I took a roan from Weigall's, and they got after me. 'Bout
six miles up they shot at me an' hurt me."

She saw that one arm hung limp at his side and that his wrist was wound
with a red bandana.

She started forward. "Are you hurt bad? Can I bind it up or wash it for
you? I've got plenty of hot water here, and it's bad letting a wound get
stale."

He shook his head. "I washed the hole clean in the creek below. I doubled
on them. I had to go down past your place here, and then work back to be
rid of them. But there's no telling when they'll drop onto the game, and
come back for me. My only chance was to git to you. Even if I had a horse,
I couldn't make Bindon in time. It's two days round the gorge by trail. A
horse is no use now--I lost too much time since last night. I can't git to
Bindon to-morrow in time, if I ride the trail."

"The river?" she asked, abruptly.

"It's the only way. It cuts off fifty mile. That's why I come to you."

She frowned a little, her face became troubled, and her glance fell on his
arm nervously. "What've I got to do with it?" she asked, almost sharply.

"Even if this was all right"--he touched the wounded arm--"I couldn't take
the rapids in a canoe. I don't know them, an' it would be sure death.
That's not the worst, for there's a man at Bindon would lose his
life--p'r'aps twenty men--I dunno; but one man sure. To-morrow, it's go or
stay with him. He was good--Lord, but he was good!--to my little gal years
back. She'd only been married to me a year when he saved her, riskin' his
own life. No one else had the pluck. My little gal, only twenty she was,
an' pretty as a picture, an' me fifty miles away when the fire broke out
in the hotel where she was. He'd have gone down to hell for a friend, an'
he saved my little gal. I had her for five years after that. That's why I
got to git to Bindon to-morrow. If I don't, I don't want to see to-morrow.
I got to go down the river to-night."

She knew what he was going to ask her. She knew he was thinking what all
the North knew, that she was the first person to take the Dog Nose Rapids
in a canoe, down the great river scarce a stone's-throw from her door; and
that she had done it in safety many times. Not in all the West and North
were there a half dozen people who could take a canoe to Bindon, and they
were not here. She knew that he meant to ask her to paddle him down the
swift stream, with its murderous rocks, to Bindon. She glanced at the
white petticoat on the chair, and her lips tightened. To-morrow--to-morrow
was as much to her here as it would be to this man before her, or the man
he would save at Bindon.

"What do you want?" she asked, hardening her heart.

"Can't you see? I want you to hide me here till to-night. There's a full
moon, an' it would be as plain goin' as by day. They told me about you up
North, and I said to myself, 'If I git to Jenny Long, an' tell her about
my friend at Bindon, an' my little gal, she'll take me down to Bindon in
time.' My little gal would have paid her own debt if she'd ever had the
chance. She didn't--she's lying up on Mazy Mountain. But one woman'll do a
lot for the sake of another woman. Say, you'll do it, won't you? If I
don't git there by to-morrow noon, it's no good."

She would not answer. He was asking more than he knew. Why should she be
sacrificed? Was it her duty to pay the "little gal's debt," to save the
man at Bindon? To-morrow was to be the great day in her own life. The one
man in all the world was coming to marry her to-morrow. After four years'
waiting, after a bitter quarrel in which both had been to blame, he was
coming from the mining town of Selby to marry her to-morrow.

"What will happen? Why will your friend lose his life if you don't get to
Bindon?"

"By noon to-morrow, by twelve o'clock noon; that's the plot; that's what
they've schemed. Three days ago, I heard. I got a man free from trouble
North--he was no good, but I thought he ought to have another chance, and
I got him free. He told me of what was to be done at Bindon. There'd been
a strike in the mine, an' my friend had took it in hand with
knuckle-dusters on. He isn't the kind to fell a tree with a jack-knife.
Then three of the strikers that had been turned away--they was the
ringleaders--they laid a plan that'd make the devil sick. They've put a
machine in the mine, an' timed it, an' it'll go off when my friend comes
out of the mine at noon to-morrow."

Her face was pale now, and her eyes had a look of pain and horror. Her
man--him that she was to marry--was the head of a mine also at Selby,
forty miles beyond Bindon, and the horrible plot came home to her with
piercing significance.

"Without a second's warning," he urged, "to go like that, the man that was
so good to my little gal, an' me with a chance to save him, an' others
too, p'r'aps. You won't let it be. Say, I'm pinnin' my faith to you.
I'm--"

Suddenly he swayed. She caught him, held him, and lowered him gently in a
chair. Presently he opened his eyes. "It's want o' food, I suppose," he
said. "If you've got a bit of bread and meat--I must keep up."

She went to a cupboard, but suddenly turned toward him again. Her ears had
caught a sound outside in the underbrush. He had heard also, and he half
staggered to his feet.

"Quick--in here!" she said, and, opening a door, pushed him inside. "Lie
down on my bed, and I'll bring you vittles as quick as I can," she added.
Then she shut the door, turned to the ironing-board, and took up the iron,
as the figure of a man darkened the doorway.

"Hello, Jinny, fixin' up for to-morrow?" the man said, stepping inside,
with a rifle under his arm and some pigeons in his hand.

She nodded and gave him an impatient, scrutinizing glance. His face had a
fatuous kind of smile.

"Been celebrating the pigeons?" she asked, dryly, jerking her head toward
the two birds, which she had seen drop from her Eden skies a short time
before.

"I only had one swig of whiskey, honest Injun!" he answered. "I s'pose I
might have waited till to-morrow, but I was dead-beat. I got a bear over
by the Ten-mile Reach, and I was tired. I ain't so young as I used to be,
and, anyhow, what's the good? What's ahead of me? You're going to git
married to-morrow after all these years we bin together, and you're going
down to Selby from the mountains, where I won't see you, not once in a
blue moon. Only that old trollop, Mother Massy, to look after me."

"Come down to Selby and live there. You'll be welcome by Jake and me."

He stood his gun in the corner and, swinging the pigeons in his hand,
said: "Me live out of the mountains! Don't you know better than that? I
couldn't breathe, and I wouldn't want to breathe. I've got my shack here,
I got my fur business, and they're still fond of whiskey up North!" He
chuckled to himself, as he thought of the illicit still farther up the
mountain behind them. "I make enough to live on, and I've put a few
dollars by, though I won't have so many after to-morrow, after I've given
you a little pile, Jinny."

"P'r'aps there won't be any _to-morrow_, as you expect," she said,
slowly.

The old man started. "What! you and Jake ain't quarrelled again? You ain't
broke it off at the last moment, same as before? You ain't had a letter
from Jake?" He looked at the white petticoat on the chair-back, and shook
his head in bewilderment.

"I've had no letter," she answered. "I've had no letter from Selby for a
month. It was all settled then, and there was no good writing, when he was
coming to-morrow with the minister and the license. Who do you think'd be
postman from Selby here? It must have cost him ten dollars to send the
last letter."

"Then what's the matter? I don't understand," the old man urged,
querulously. He did not want her to marry and leave him, but he wanted no
more troubles; he did not relish being asked awkward questions by every
mountaineer he met as to why Jenny Long didn't marry Jake Lawson.

"There's only one way that I can be married to-morrow," she said, at last,
"and that's by you taking a man down the Dog Nose Rapids to Bindon
to-night."

He dropped the pigeons on the floor, dumfounded. "What in--"

He stopped short, in sheer incapacity to go further. Jenny had not always
been easy to understand, but she was wholly incomprehensible now.

She picked up the pigeons and was about to speak, but she glanced at the
bedroom door, where her exhausted visitor had stretched himself on her
bed, and beckoned her uncle to another room.

"There's a plate of vittles ready for you in there," she said. "I'll tell
you as you eat."

He followed her into the little living-room adorned by the trophies of his
earlier achievements with gun and rifle, and sat down at the table, where
some food lay covered by a clean white cloth.

"No one'll ever look after me as you've done, Jinny," he said, as he
lifted the cloth and saw the palatable dish ready for him. Then he
remembered again about to-morrow and the Dog Nose Rapids.

"What's it all about, Jinny? What's that about my canoeing a man down to
Bindon?"

"Eat, uncle," she said, more softly than she had yet spoken, for his words
about her care of him had brought a moisture to her eyes. "I'll be back in
a minute and tell you all about it."

"Well, it's about took away my appetite," he said. "I feel a kind of
sinking." He took from his pocket a bottle, poured some of its contents
into a tin cup, and drank it off.

"No, I suppose you couldn't take a man down to Bindon," she said, as she
saw his hand trembling on the cup. Then she turned and entered the other
room again. Going to the cupboard, she hastily heaped a plate with food,
and, taking a dipper of water from a pail near by, she entered her bedroom
hastily and placed what she had brought on a small table, as her visitor
rose slowly from the bed.

He was about to speak, but she made a protesting gesture.

"I can't tell you anything yet," she said.

"Who was it come?" he asked.

"My uncle--I'm going to tell him."

"The men after me may git here any minute," he urged, anxiously.

"They'd not be coming into my room," she answered, flushing slightly.

"Can't you hide me down by the river till we start?" he asked, his eyes
eagerly searching her face. He was assuming that she would take him down
the river; but she gave no sign.

"I've got to see if he'll take you first?" she answered.

"He--your uncle, Tom Sanger? He drinks, I've heard. He'd never git to
Bindon."

She did not reply directly to his words. "I'll come back and tell you.
There's a place you could hide by the river where no one could ever find
you," she said, and left the room.

As she stepped out, she saw the old man standing in the doorway of the
other room. His face was petrified with amazement.

"Who you got in that room, Jinny? What man you got in that room? I heard a
man's voice. Is it because o' him that you bin talkin' about no weddin'
to-morrow? Is it one o' the others come back, puttin' you off Jake
again?"

Her eyes flashed fire at his first words, and her breast heaved with
anger, but suddenly she became composed again and motioned him to a
chair.

"You eat, and I'll tell you all about it, Uncle Tom," she said, and,
seating herself at the table also, she told him the story of the man who
must go to Bindon.

When she had finished, the old man blinked at her for a minute without
speaking, then he said, slowly: "I heard something 'bout trouble down at
Bindon yisterday from a Hudson's Bay man goin' North, but I didn't take it
in. You've got a lot o' sense, Jinny, an' if you think he's tellin' the
truth, why, it goes; but it's as big a mixup as a lariat in a steer's
horns. You've got to hide him sure, whoever he is, for I wouldn't hand an
Eskimo over, if I'd taken him in my home once; we're mountain people. A
man ought to be hung for horse-stealin', but this was different. He was
doing it to save a man's life, an' that man at Bindon was good to his
little gal, an' she's dead."

He moved his head from side to side with the air of a sentimental
philosopher. He had all the vanity of a man who had been a success in a
small, shrewd, culpable way--had he not evaded the law for thirty years
with his whiskey-still?

"I know how he felt," he continued. "When Betsy died--we was only four
years married--I could have crawled into a knot-hole an' died there. You
got to save him, Jinny, but"--he came suddenly to his feet--"he ain't safe
here. They might come any minute, if they've got back on his trail. I'll
take him up the gorge. You know where."

"You sit still, Uncle Tom," she rejoined. "Leave him where he is a minute.
There's things must be settled first. They ain't going to look for him in
my bedroom, be they?"

The old man chuckled. "I'd like to see 'em at it. You got a temper, Jinny;
and you got a pistol, too, eh?" He chuckled again. "As good a shot as any
in the mountains. I can see you darin' 'em to come on. But what if Jake
come, and he found a man in your bedroom"--he wiped the tears of laughter
from his eyes--"why, Jinny--"

He stopped short, for there was anger in her face. "I don't want to hear
any more of that. I do what I want to do," she snapped out.

"Well, well, you always done what you wanted; but we got to git him up the
hills, till it's sure they're out o' the mountains and gone back. It'll be
days, mebbe."

"Uncle Tom, you've took too much to drink," she answered. "You don't
remember he's got to be at Bindon by to-morrow noon. He's got to save his
friend by then."

"Pshaw! Who's going to take him down the river to-night? You're goin' to
be married to-morrow. If you like, you can give him the canoe. It'll never
come back, nor him neither!"

"You've been down with me," she responded, suggestively. "And you went
down once by yourself."

He shook his head. "I ain't been so well this summer. My sight ain't what
it was. I can't stand the racket as I once could. 'Pears to me I'm gettin'
old. No, I couldn't take them rapids, Jinny, not for one frozen minute."

She looked at him with trouble in her eyes, and her face lost some of its
color. She was fighting back the inevitable, even as its shadow fell upon
her. "You wouldn't want a man to die, if you could save him, Uncle
Tom--blown up, sent to Kingdom Come without any warning at all; and
perhaps he's got them that love him--and the world so beautiful."

"Well, it ain't nice dyin' in the summer, when it's all sun, and there's
plenty everywhere; but there's no one to go down the river with him.
What's his name?"

Her struggle was over. She had urged him, but in very truth she was urging
herself all the time, bringing herself to the axe of sacrifice.

"His name's Dingley. I'm going down the river with him--down to Bindon."

The old man's mouth opened in blank amazement. His eyes blinked
helplessly.

"What you talkin' about, Jinny? Jake's comin' up with the minister, an'
you're goin' to be married at noon to-morrow."

"I'm takin' him"--she jerked her head toward the room where Dingley
was--"down Dog Nose Rapids to-night. He's risked his life for his friend,
thinkin' of her that's dead an' gone, and a man's life is a man's life. If
it was Jake's life in danger, what 'd I think of a woman that could save
him, and didn't?"

"Onct you broke off with Jake Lawson--the day before you was to be
married; an' it's took years to make up an' agree again to be spliced. If
Jake comes here to-morrow, and you ain't here, what do you think he'll do?
The neighbors are comin' for fifty miles round, two is comin' up a hundred
miles, and you can't--Jinny, you can't do it. I bin sick of answerin'
questions all these years 'bout you and Jake, an' I ain't goin' through it
again. I've told more lies than there's straws in a tick."

She flamed out. "Then take him down the river yourself--a man to do a
man's work. Are you afeard to take the risk?"

He held out his hands slowly and looked at them. They shook a little.
"Yes, Jinny," he said, sadly, "I'm afeard. I ain't what I was. I made a
mistake, Jinny. I've took too much whiskey. I'm older than I ought to be.
I oughtn't never to have had a whiskey-still, an' I wouldn't have drunk so
much. I got money--money for you, Jinny, for you an' Jake, but I've lost
what I'll never git back. I'm afeard to go down the river with him. I'd go
smash in the Dog Nose Rapids. I got no nerve. I can't hunt the grizzly any
more, nor the puma, Jinny. I got to keep to common shootin', now and
henceforth, amen! No, I'd go smash in Dog Nose Rapids."

She caught his hands impulsively. "Don't you fret, Uncle Tom. You've bin a
good uncle to me, and you've bin a good friend, and you ain't the first
that's found whiskey too much for him. You ain't got an enemy in the
mountains. Why, I've got two or three--"

"Shucks! Women--only women whose beaux left 'em to follow after you.
That's nothing, an' they'll be your friends fast enough after you're
married to-morrow."

"I ain't going to be married to-morrow. I'm going down to Bindon to-night.
If Jake's mad, then it's all over, and there'll be more trouble among the
women up here."

By this time they had entered the other room. The old man saw the white
petticoat on the chair. "No woman in the mountains ever had a petticoat
like that, Jinny. It'd make a dress, it's that pretty an' neat. Golly! I'd
like to see it on you, with the blue skirt over, and just hitched up a
little."

"Oh, shut up--shut up!" she said, in sudden anger, and caught up the
petticoat as though she would put it away; but presently she laid it down
again and smoothed it with quick, nervous fingers. "Can't you talk sense
and leave my clothes alone? If Jake comes, and I'm not here, and he wants
to make a fuss, and spoil everything, and won't wait, you give him this
petticoat. You put it in his arms. I bet you'll have the laugh on him.
He's got a temper."

"So've you, Jinny, dear, so've you," said the old man, laughing. "You're
goin' to have your own way, same as ever--same as ever."

II

A moon of exquisite whiteness silvering the world, making shadows on the
water as though it were sunlight and the daytime, giving a spectral look
to the endless array of poplar trees on the banks, glittering on the foam
of the rapids. The spangling stars made the arch of the sky like some
gorgeous chancel in a cathedral as vast as life and time. Like the day
which was ended, in which the mountain-girl had found a taste of Eden, it
seemed too sacred for mortal strife. Now and again there came the note of
a night-bird, the croak of a frog from the shore; but the serene stillness
and beauty of the primeval North was over all.

For two hours after sunset it had all been silent and brooding, and then
two figures appeared on the bank of the great river. A canoe was softly
and hastily pushed out from its hidden shelter under the overhanging bank,
and was noiselessly paddled out to mid-stream, dropping down the current
meanwhile.

It was Jenny Long and the man who must get to Bindon. They had waited till
nine o'clock, when the moon was high and full, to venture forth. Then
Dingley had dropped from her bedroom window, had joined her under the
trees, and they had sped away, while the man's hunters, who had come
suddenly, and before Jenny could get him away into the woods, were
carousing inside. These had tracked their man back to Tom Sanger's house,
and at first they were incredulous that Jenny and her uncle had not seen
him. They had prepared to search the house, and one had laid his finger on
the latch of her bedroom door; but she had flared out with such anger
that, mindful of the supper she had already begun to prepare for them,
they had desisted, and the whiskey-jug which the old man brought out
distracted their attention.

One of their number, known as the Man from Clancey's had, however, been
outside when Dingley had dropped from the window, and had seen him from a
distance. He had not given the alarm, but had followed, to make the
capture by himself. But Jenny had heard the stir of life behind them, and
had made a sharp détour, so that they had reached the shore and were out
in mid-stream before their tracker got to the river. Then he called to
them to return, but Jenny only bent a little lower and paddled on, guiding
the canoe toward the safe-channel through the first small rapids leading
to the great Dog Nose Rapids.

A rifle-shot rang out, and a bullet "pinged" over the water and splintered
the side of the canoe where Dingley sat. He looked calmly back, and saw
the rifle raised again, but did not stir, in spite of Jenny's warning to
lie down.

"He'll not fire on you so long as he can draw a bead on me," he said,
quietly.

Again a shot rang out, and the bullet sang past his head.

"If he hits me, you go straight on to Bindon," he continued. "Never mind
about me. Go to the Snowdrop Mine. Get there by twelve o'clock, and warn
them. Don't stop a second for me--"

Suddenly three shots rang out in succession--Tom Sanger's house had
emptied itself on the bank of the river--and Dingley gave a sharp
exclamation.

"They've hit me, but it's the same arm as before," he growled. "They got
no right to fire at me. It's not the law. Don't stop," he added, quickly,
as he saw her half turn round.

Now there were loud voices on the shore. Old Tom Sanger was threatening to
shoot the first man that fired again, and he would have kept his word.

"Who you firin' at?" he shouted. "That's my niece, Jinny Long, an' you let
that boat alone. This ain't the land o' lynch law. Dingley ain't escaped
from gaol. You got no right to fire at him."

"No one ever went down Dog Nose Rapids at night," said the Man from
Clancey's, whose shot had got Dingley's arm. "There ain't a chance of them
doing it. No one's ever done it."

The two were in the roaring rapids now, and the canoe was jumping through
the foam like a race-horse. The keen eyes on the bank watched the canoe
till it was lost in the half-gloom below the first rapids, and then they
went slowly back to Tom Sanger's house.

"So there'll be no wedding to-morrow," said the Man from Clancey's.

"Funerals, more likely," drawled another.

"Jinny Long's in that canoe, an' she ginerally does what she wants to,"
said Tom Sanger, sagely.

"Well, we done our best, and now I hope they'll get to Bindon," said
another.

Sanger passed the jug to him freely. Then they sat down and talked of the
people who had been drowned in Dog Nose Rapids, and of the last wedding in
the mountains.

III

It was as the Man from Clancey's had said, no one had ever gone down Dog
Nose Rapids in the night-time, and probably no one but Jenny Long would
have ventured it. Dingley had had no idea what a perilous task had been
set his rescuer. It was only when the angry roar of the great rapids
floated up-stream to them, increasing in volume till they could see the
terror of tumbling waters just below, and the canoe shot forward like a
snake through the swift, smooth current which would sweep them into the
vast caldron, that he realized the terrible hazard of the enterprise.

The moon was directly overhead when they drew upon the race of rocks and
fighting water and foam. On either side only the shadowed shore, forsaken
by the races which had hunted and roamed and ravaged here--not a light,
nor any sign of life, or the friendliness of human presence to make their
isolation less complete, their danger, as it were, shared by
fellow-mortals. Bright as the moon was, it was not bright enough for
perfect pilotage. Never in the history of white men had these rapids been
ridden at night-time. As they sped down the flume of the deep,
irresistible current, and were launched into the trouble of rocks and
water, Jenny realized how great their peril was, and how different the
track of the waters looked at night-time from daytime. Outlines seemed
merged, rocks did not look the same, whirlpools had a different vortex,
islands of stone had a new configuration. As they sped on, lurching,
jumping, piercing a broken wall of wave and spray like a torpedo, shooting
an almost sheer fall, she came to rely on a sense of intuition rather than
memory, for night had transformed the waters.

Not a sound escaped either. The man kept his eyes fixed on the woman; the
woman scanned the dreadful pathway with eyes deep-set and burning,
resolute, vigilant, and yet defiant, too, as though she had been trapped
into this track of danger, and was fighting without great hope, but with
the temerity and nonchalance of despair. Her arms were bare to the
shoulder almost, and her face was again and again drenched, but second
succeeded second, minute followed minute in a struggle which might well
turn a man's hair gray, and now, at last--how many hours was it since they
had been cast into this den of roaring waters?--at last, suddenly, over a
large fall, and here smooth waters again, smooth and untroubled, and
strong and deep. Then, and only then, did a word escape either; but the
man had passed through torture and unavailing regret, for he realized that
he had had no right to bring this girl into such a fight. It was not _her_
friend who was in danger at Bindon. Her life had been risked without due
warrant. "I didn't know, or I wouldn't have asked it," he said, in a low
voice. "Lord, but you are a wonder--to take that hurdle for no one that
belonged to you, and to do it as you've done it. This country will rise to
you." He looked back on the raging rapids far behind, and he shuddered.
"It was a close call, and no mistake. We must have been within a foot of
down-you-go fifty times. But it's all right now, if we can last it out and
git there." Again he glanced back, then turned to the girl. "It makes me
pretty sick to look at it," he continued. "I bin through a lot, but that's
as sharp practice as I want."

"Come here and let me bind up your arm," she answered. "They hit you--the
sneaks! Are you bleeding much?"

He came near her carefully, as she got the big canoe out of the current
into quieter water. She whipped the scarf from about her neck, and with
his knife ripped up the seam of his sleeve. Her face was alive with the
joy of conflict and elated with triumph. Her eyes were shining. She bathed
the wound--the bullet had passed clean through the fleshy part of the
arm--and then carefully tied the scarf round it over her handkerchief.

"I guess it's as good as a man could do it," she said, at last.

"As good as any doctor," he rejoined.

"I wasn't talking of your arm," she said.

"Course not. Excuse me. You was talkin' of them rapids, and I've got to
say there ain't a man that could have done it and come through like you. I
guess the man that marries you'll get more than his share of luck."

"I want none of that," she said, sharply, and picked up her paddle again,
her eyes flashing anger.

He took a pistol from his pocket and offered it to her. "I didn't mean any
harm by what I said. Take this if you think I won't know how to behave
myself," he urged.

She flung up her head a little. "I knew what I was doing before I
started," she said. "Put it away. How far is it, and can we do it in
time?"

"If you can hold out, we can do it; but it means going all night and all
morning; and it ain't dawn yet, by a long shot."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Dawn came at last, and the mist of early morning, and the imperious and
dispelling sun; and with mouthfuls of food as they drifted on, the two
fixed their eyes on the horizon beyond which lay Bindon. And now it seemed
to the girl as though this race to save a life, or many lives, was the one
thing in existence. _To-morrow_ was to-day, and the white petticoat was
lying in the little house in the mountains, and her wedding was an
interminable distance off, so had this adventure drawn her into its risks
and toils and haggard exhaustion.

Eight, nine, ten, eleven o'clock came, and then they saw signs of
settlement. Houses appeared here and there upon the banks, and now and
then a horseman watched them from the shore, but they could not pause.
Bindon--Bindon--Bindon--the Snowdrop Mine at Bindon, and a death-dealing
machine timed to do its deadly work, were before the eyes of the two
_voyageurs_.

Half-past eleven, and the town of Bindon was just beyond them. A quarter
to twelve, and they had run their canoe into the bank beyond which were
the smokestacks and chimneys of the mine. Bindon was peacefully pursuing
its way, though here and there were little groups of strikers who had not
resumed work.

Dingley and the girl scrambled up the bank. Trembling with fatigue, they
hastened on. The man drew ahead of her, for she had paddled for fifteen
hours, practically without ceasing, and the ground seemed to rise up at
her. But she would not let him stop.

He hurried on, reached the mine, and entered, shouting the name of his
friend. It was seven minutes to twelve.

A moment later, a half-dozen men came rushing from that portion of the
mine where Dingley had been told the machine was placed, and at their head
was Lawson, the man he had come to save.

The girl hastened on to meet them, but she grew faint and leaned against a
tree, scarce conscious. She was roused by voices.

"No, it wasn't me, it wasn't me that done it; it was a girl. Here she
is--Jenny Long! You got to thank her, Jake."

Jake! Jake! The girl awakened to full understanding now. Jake--what Jake?
She looked, then stumbled forward with a cry.

"Jake--it was my Jake!" she faltered.

The mine-boss caught her in his arms.

"You, Jenny! It's you that's saved me!"

Suddenly there was a rumble as of thunder, and a cloud of dust and stone
rose from the Snowdrop Mine.

The mine-boss tightened his arm round the girl's waist. "That's what I
missed, through him and you, Jenny," he said.

"What was you doing here, and not at Selby, Jake?" she asked.

"They sent for me--to stop the trouble here."

"But what about our wedding to-day?" she asked, with a frown.

"A man went from here with a letter to you three days ago," he said,
"asking you to come down here and be married. I suppose he got drunk, or
had an accident, and didn't reach you. It had to be. I was needed
here--couldn't tell what would happen."

"It has happened out all right," said Dingley, "and this'll be the end of
it. You got them miners solid now. The strikers'll eat humble pie after
to-day."

"We'll be married to-day, just the same," the mine-boss said, as he gave
some brandy to the girl.

But the girl shook her head. She was thinking of a white petticoat in a
little house in the mountains.

"I'm not going to be married to-day," she said, decisively.

"Well, to-morrow," said the mine-boss.

But the girl shook her head again. "To-day is to-morrow," she answered.
"You can wait, Jake. I'm going back home to be married."



QU'APPELLE


(_Who calls?_)

"But I'm white; I'm not an Indian. My father was a white man. I've been
brought up as a white girl. I've had a white girl's schooling."

Her eyes flashed as she sprang to her feet and walked up and down the room
for a moment, then stood still, facing her mother--a dark-faced,
pock-marked woman, with heavy, somnolent eyes--and waited for her to
speak. The reply came slowly and sullenly:

"I am a Blackfoot woman. I lived on the Muskwat River among the braves for
thirty years. I have killed buffalo. I have seen battles. Men, too, I have
killed when they came to steal our horses and crept in on our lodges in
the night--the Crees! I am a Blackfoot. You are the daughter of a
Blackfoot woman. No medicine can cure that. Sit down. You have no sense.
You are not white. They will not have you. Sit down."

The girl's handsome face flushed; she threw up her hands in an agony of
protest. A dreadful anger was in her panting breast, but she could not
speak. She seemed to choke with excess of feeling. For an instant she
stood still, trembling with agitation, then she sat down suddenly on a
great couch covered with soft deer-skins and buffalo robes. There was deep
in her the habit of obedience to this sombre but striking woman. She had
been ruled firmly, almost oppressively, and she had not yet revolted.
Seated on the couch, she gazed out of the window at the flying snow, her
brain too much on fire for thought, passion beating like a pulse in all
her lithe and graceful young body, which had known the storms of life and
time for only twenty years.

The wind shrieked and the snow swept past in clouds of blinding drift,
completely hiding from sight the town below them, whose civilization had
built itself many habitations and was making roads and streets on the
green-brown plain, where herds of buffalo had stamped and streamed and
thundered not long ago. The town was a mile and a half away, and these two
were alone in a great circle of storm, one of them battling against a
tempest which might yet overtake her, against which she had set her face
ever since she could remember; though it had only come to violence since
her father died two years before--a careless, strong, wilful white man,
who had lived the Indian life for many years, but had been swallowed at
last by the great wave of civilization streaming westward and northward,
wiping out the game and the Indian, and overwhelming the rough, fighting,
hunting, pioneer life. Joel Renton had made money, by good luck chiefly,
having held land here and there which he had got for nothing, and had then
almost forgotten about it, and, when reminded of it, still held on to it
with that defiant stubbornness which often possesses improvident and
careless natures. He had never had any real business instinct, and to
swagger a little over the land he held and to treat offers of purchase
with contempt was the loud assertion of a capacity he did not possess. So
it was that stubborn vanity, beneath which was his angry protest against
the prejudice felt by the new people of the West for the white pioneer who
married an Indian and lived the Indian life--so it was that this gave him
competence and a comfortable home after the old trader had been driven out
by the railway and the shopkeeper. With the first land he sold he sent his
daughter away to school in a town farther east and south, where she had
been brought in touch with a life that at once cramped and attracted her;
where, too, she had felt the first chill of racial ostracism, and had
proudly fought it to the end, her weapons being talent, industry, and a
hot, defiant ambition.

There had been three years of bitter, almost half-sullen, struggle,
lightened by one sweet friendship with a girl whose face she had since
drawn in a hundred different poses on stray pieces of paper, on the walls
of the big, well-lighted attic to which she retreated for hours every day,
when she was not abroad on the prairies, riding the Indian pony that her
uncle the Piegan Chief, Ice Breaker, had given her years before. Three
years of struggle, and then her father had died, and the refuge for her
vexed, defiant heart was gone. While he lived she could affirm the rights
of a white man's daughter, the rights of the daughter of a pioneer who had
helped to make the West; and her pride in him had given a glow to her
cheek and a spring to her step which drew every eye. In the chief street
of Portage la Drôme men would stop their trafficking and women nudge one
another when she passed, and wherever she went she stirred interest,
excited admiration, or aroused prejudice--but the prejudice did not matter
so long as her father, Joel Renton, lived. Whatever his faults, and they
were many--sometimes he drank too much, and swore a great deal, and
bullied and stormed--she blinked at them all, for he was of the conquering
race, a white man who had slept in white sheets and eaten off white
tablecloths, and used a knife and fork, since he was born; and the women
of his people had had soft petticoats and fine stockings, and silk gowns
for festal days, and feathered hats of velvet, and shoes of polished
leather, always and always, back through many generations. She had held
her head high, for she was of his women, of the women of his people, with
all their rights and all their claims. She had held it high till that
stormy day--just such a day as this, with the surf of snow breaking
against the house--when they carried him in out of the wild turmoil and
snow, laying him on the couch where she now sat, and her head fell on his
lifeless breast, and she cried out to him in vain to come back to her.

Before the world her head was still held high, but in the attic-room, and
out on the prairies far away, where only the coyote or the prairie hen
saw, her head drooped, and her eyes grew heavy with pain and sombre
protest. Once in an agony of loneliness, and cruelly hurt by a conspicuous
slight put upon her at the Portage by the wife of the Reeve of the town,
who had daughters twain of pure white blood got from behind the bar of a
saloon in Winnipeg, she had thrown open her window at night, with the
frost below zero, and stood in her thin nightdress, craving the death
which she hoped the cold would give her soon. It had not availed, however,
and once again she had ridden out in a blizzard to die, but had come upon
a man lost in the snow, and her own misery had passed from her, and her
heart, full of the blood of plainsmen, had done for another what it would
not do for itself. The Indian in her had, with strange, sure instinct,
found its way to Portage la Drôme, the man, with both hands and one foot
frozen, on her pony, she walking at his side, only conscious that she had
saved one, not two lives that day.

Here was another such day, here again was the storm in her heart which had
driven her into the plains that other time, and here again was that
tempest of white death outside.

_"You have no sense. You are not white. They will not have you. Sit
down_--" The words had fallen on her ears with a cold, deadly smother.
There came a chill upon her which stilled the wild pulses in her, which
suddenly robbed the eyes of their brightness and gave a drawn look to the
face.

"You are not white. They will not have you, Pauline." The Indian mother
repeated the words after a moment, her eyes grown still more gloomy; for
in her, too, there was a dark tide of passion moving. In all the outlived
years this girl had ever turned to the white father rather than to her,
and she had been left more and more alone. Her man had been kind to her,
and she had been a faithful wife, but she had resented the natural
instinct of her half-breed child, almost white herself and with the
feelings and ways of the whites, to turn always to her father, as though
to a superior guide, to a higher influence and authority. Was not she
herself the descendant of Blackfoot and Piegan chiefs through generations
of rulers and warriors? Was there not Piegan and Blackfoot blood in the
girl's veins? Must only the white man's blood be reckoned when they made
up their daily account and balanced the books of their lives, credit and
debtor--misunderstanding and kind act, neglect and tenderness, reproof and
praise, gentleness and impulse, anger and caress--to be set down in the
everlasting record? Why must the Indian always give way--Indian habits,
Indian desires, the Indian way of doing things, the Indian point of view,
Indian food, Indian medicine? Was it all bad, and only that which belonged
to white life good?

"Look at your face in the glass, Pauline," she added, at last. "You are
good-looking, but it isn't the good looks of the whites. The lodge of a
chieftainess is the place for you. There you would have praise and honor;
among the whites you are only a half-breed. What is the good? Let us go
back to the life out there beyond the Muskwat River--up beyond. There is
hunting still, a little, and the world is quiet, and nothing troubles.
Only the wild dog barks at night, or the wolf sniffs at the door, and all
day there is singing. Somewhere out beyond the Muskwat the feasts go on,
and the old men build the great fires, and tell tales, and call the wind
out of the north, and make the thunder speak; and the young men ride to
the hunt or go out to battle, and build lodges for the daughters of the
tribe; and each man has his woman, and each woman has in her breast the
honor of the tribe, and the little ones fill the lodge with laughter. Like
a pocket of deerskin is every house, warm and small and full of good
things. _Hai-yai_, what is this life to that! There you will be head and
chief of all, for there is money enough for a thousand horses; and your
father was a white man, and these are the days when the white man rules.
Like clouds before the sun are the races of men, and one race rises and
another falls. Here you are not first, but last; and the child of the
white father and mother, though they be as the dirt that flies from a
horse's heels, it is before you. Your mother is a Blackfoot."

As the woman spoke slowly and with many pauses, the girl's mood changed,
and there came into her eyes a strange, dark look deeper than anger. She
listened with a sudden patience which stilled the agitation in her breast
and gave a little touch of rigidity to her figure. Her eyes withdrew from
the wild storm without and gravely settled on her mother's face, and with
the Indian woman's last words understanding pierced, but did not dispel,
the sombre and ominous look in her eyes.

There was silence for a moment, and then she spoke almost as evenly as her
mother had done.

"I will tell you everything. You are my mother, and I love you; but you
will not see the truth. When my father took you from the lodges and
brought you here, it was the end of the Indian life. It was for you to go
on with him, but you would not go. I was young, but I saw, and I said that
in all things I would go with him. I did not know that it would be hard,
but at school, at the very first, I began to understand. There was only
one, a French girl--I loved her--a girl who said to me, 'You are as white
as I am, as any one, and your heart is the same, and you are beautiful.'
Yes, Manette said I was beautiful."

She paused a moment, a misty, far-away look came into her eyes, her
fingers clasped and unclasped, and she added:

"And her brother, Julien--he was older--when he came to visit Manette he
spoke to me as though I was all white, and was good to me. I have never
forgotten, never. It was five years ago, but I remember him. He was tall
and strong, and as good as Manette--as good as Manette. I loved Manette,
but she suffered for me, for I was not like the others, and my ways were
different--then. I had lived up there on the Warais among the lodges, and
I had not seen things--only from my father, and he did so much in an
Indian way. So I was sick at heart, and sometimes I wanted to die; and
once--But there was Manette, and she would laugh and sing, and we would
play together, and I would speak French and she would speak English, and I
learned from her to forget the Indian ways. What were they to me? I had
loved them when I was of them, but I came on to a better life. The Indian
life is to the white life as the parfleche pouch to--to this." She laid
her hand upon a purse of delicate silver mesh hanging at her waist. "When
your eyes are opened you must go on, you cannot stop. There is no going
back. When you have read of all there is in the white man's world, when
you have seen, then there is no returning. You may end it all, if you
wish, in the snow, in the river, but there is no returning. The lodge of a
chief--ah, if my father had heard you say that--!"

The Indian woman shifted heavily in her chair, then shrank away from the
look fixed on her. Once or twice she made as if she would speak, but sank
down in the great chair, helpless and dismayed.

"The lodge of a chief!" the girl continued, in a low, bitter voice. "What
is the lodge of a chief? A smoky fire, a pot, a bed of skins--_aih-yi_! If
the lodges of the Indians were millions, and I could be head of all, and
rule the land, yet would I rather be a white girl in the hut of her white
man, struggling for daily bread among the people who sweep the buffalo
out, but open up the land with the plough, and make a thousand live where
one lived before. It is peace you want, my mother, peace and solitude, in
which the soul goes to sleep. Your days of hope are over, and you want to
drowse by the fire. I want to see the white man's cities grow, and the
armies coming over the hill with the ploughs and the reapers and the
mowers, and the wheels and the belts and engines of the great factories,
and the white woman's life spreading everywhere; for I am a white man's
daughter. I can't be both Indian and white. I will not be like the sun
when the shadow cuts across it and the land grows dark. I will not be
half-breed. I will be white or I will be Indian; and I will be white,
white only. My heart is white, my tongue is white, I think, I feel, as
white people think and feel. What they wish, I wish; as they live, I live;
as white women dress, I dress."

She involuntarily drew up the dark-red skirt she wore, showing a white
petticoat and a pair of fine stockings on an ankle as shapely as she had
ever seen among all the white women she knew. She drew herself up with
pride, and her body had a grace and ease which the white woman's
convention had not cramped.

Yet, with all her protests, no one would have thought her English. She
might have been Spanish, or Italian, or Roumanian, or Slav, though nothing
of her Indian blood showed in purely Indian characteristics, and something
sparkled in her, gave a radiance to her face and figure which the storm
and struggle in her did not smother. The white women of Portage la Drôme
were too blind, too prejudiced, to see all that she really was, and
admiring white men could do little, for Pauline would have nothing to do
with them till the women met her absolutely as an equal; and from the
other half-breeds, who intermarried with one another and were content to
take a lower place than the pure whites, she held aloof, save when any of
them was ill or in trouble. Then she recognized the claim of race, and
came to their doors with pity and soft impulses to help them. French and
Scotch and English half-breeds, as they were, they understood how she was
making a fight for all who were half-Indian, half-white, and watched her
with a furtive devotion, acknowledging her superior place, and proud of
it.

"I will not stay here," said the Indian mother, with sullen stubbornness.
"I will go back beyond the Warais. My life is my own life, and I will do
what I like with it."

The girl started, but became composed again on the instant. "Is your life
all your own, mother?" she asked. "I did not come into the world of my own
will. If I had I would have come all white or all Indian. I am your
daughter, and I am here, good or bad--is your life all your own?"

"You can marry and stay here, when I go. You are twenty. I had my man,
your father, when I was seventeen. You can marry. There are men. You have
money. They will marry you--and forget the rest."

With a cry of rage and misery the girl sprang to her feet and started
forward, but stopped suddenly at sound of a hasty knocking and a voice
asking admittance. An instant later, a huge, bearded, broad-shouldered man
stepped inside, shaking himself free of the snow, laughing half-sheepishly
as he did so, and laying his fur cap and gloves with exaggerated care on
the wide window-sill.

"John Alloway," said the Indian woman, in a voice of welcome and with a
brightening eye, for it would seem as though he came in answer to her
words of a few moments before. With a mother's instinct she had divined at
once the reason for the visit, though no warning thought crossed the mind
of the girl, who placed a chair for their visitor with a heartiness which
was real--was not this the white man she had saved from death in the snow
a year ago? Her heart was soft toward the life she had kept in the world.
She smiled at him, all the anger gone from her eyes, and there was almost
a touch of tender anxiety in her voice as she said:

"What brought you out in this blizzard? It wasn't safe. It doesn't seem
possible you got here from the Portage."

The huge ranchman and auctioneer laughed cheerily. "Once lost, twice get
there," he exclaimed, with a quizzical toss of the head, thinking he had
said a good thing. "It's a year ago to the very day that I was lost out
back"--he jerked a thumb over his shoulder--"and you picked me up and
brought me in; and what was I to do but come out on the anniversary and
say thank you? I'd fixed up all year to come to you, and I wasn't to be
stopped, 'cause it was like the day we first met, old Coldmaker hitting
the world with his whips of frost, and shaking his ragged blankets of snow
over the wild West."

"Just such a day," said the Indian woman, after a pause. Pauline remained
silent, placing a little bottle of cordial before their visitor, with
which he presently regaled himself, raising his glass with an air.

"Many happy returns to us both!" he said, and threw the liqueur down his
throat, smacked his lips, and drew his hand down his great mustache and
beard, like some vast animal washing its face with its paw. Smiling, and
yet not at ease, he looked at the two women and nodded his head
encouragingly, but whether the encouragement was for himself or for them
he could not have told.

His last words, however, had altered the situation. The girl had caught at
a suggestion in them which startled her. This rough, white plainsman was
come to make love to her, and to say--what? He was at once awkward and
confident, afraid of her, of her refinement, grace, beauty, and education,
and yet confident in the advantage of his position, a white man bending to
a half-breed girl. He was not conscious of the condescension and majesty
of his demeanor, but it was there, and his untutored words and ways must
make it all too apparent to the girl. The revelation of the moment made
her at once triumphant and humiliated. This white man had come to make
love to her, that was apparent; but that he, ungrammatical, crude, and
rough, should think he had but to put out his hand, and she in whom every
subtle emotion and influence had delicate response, whose words and ways
were as far removed from his as day from night, would fly to him, brought
the flush of indignation to her cheek. She responded to his toast with a
pleasant nod, however, and said:

"But if you will keep coming in such wild storms, there will not be many
anniversaries." Laughing, she poured out another glass of liqueur for
him.

"Well, now, p'r'aps you're right, and so the only thing to do is not to
keep coming, but to stay--stay right where _you_ are."

The Indian woman could not see her daughter's face, which was turned to
the fire, but she herself smiled at John Alloway, and nodded her head
approvingly. Here was the cure for her own trouble and loneliness. Pauline
and she, who lived in different worlds, and yet were tied to each other by
circumstances they could not control, would each work out her own destiny
after her own nature, since John Alloway had come a-wooing. She would go
back on the Warais, and Pauline would remain at the Portage, a white woman
with her white man. She would go back to the smoky fires in the huddled
lodges; to the venison stew and the snake dance; to the feasts of the
medicine-men, and the long sleeps in the summer days, and the winter's
tales, and be at rest among her own people; and Pauline would have revenge
of the wife of the prancing Reeve, and perhaps the people would forget who
her mother was.

With these thoughts flying through her sluggish mind, she rose and moved
heavily from the room, with a parting look of encouragement at Alloway, as
though to say, a man that is bold is surest.

With her back to the man, Pauline watched her mother leave the room, saw
the look she gave Alloway. When the door was closed she turned and looked
Alloway in the eyes.

"How old are you?" she asked, suddenly.

He stirred in his seat nervously. "Why, fifty, about," he answered, with
confusion.

"Then you'll be wise not to go looking for anniversaries in blizzards,
when they're few at the best," she said, with a gentle and dangerous
smile.

"Fifty--why, I'm as young as most men of thirty," he responded, with an
uncertain laugh. "I'd have come here to-day if it had been snowing
pitchforks and chain-lightning. I made up my mind I would. You saved my
life, that's dead sure; and I'd be down among the moles if it wasn't for
you and that Piegan pony of yours. Piegan ponies are wonders in a
storm--seem to know their way by instinct. You, too--why, I bin on the
plains all my life, and was no better than a baby that day; but you--why,
you had Piegan in you--why, yes--"

He stopped short for a moment, checked by the look in her face, then went
blindly on: "And you've got Blackfoot in you, too; and you just felt your
way through the tornado and over the blind prairie like a bird reaching
for the hills. It was as easy to you as picking out a maverick in a bunch
of steers to me. But I never could make out what you was doing on the
prairie that terrible day. I've thought of it a hundred times. What was
you doing, if it ain't cheek to ask?"

"I was trying to lose a life," she answered, quietly, her eyes dwelling on
his face, yet not seeing him; for it all came back on her, the agony which
had driven her out into the tempest to be lost evermore.

He laughed. "Well now, that's good," he said; "that's what they call
speaking sarcastic. You was out to save, and not to lose, a life; that was
proved to the satisfaction of the court." He paused and chuckled to
himself, thinking he had been witty, and continued: "And I was that court,
and my judgment was that the debt of that life you saved had to be paid to
you within one calendar year, with interest at the usual per cent. for
mortgages on good security. That was my judgment, and there's no appeal
from it. I am the great Justinian in this case!"

"Did you ever save anybody's life?" she asked, putting the bottle of
cordial away, as he filled his glass for the third time.

"Twice certain, and once divided the honors," he answered, pleased at the
question.

"And did you expect to get any pay, with or without interest?" she added.

"Me! I never thought of it again. But yes--by gol, I did! One case was
funny, as funny can be. It was Ricky Wharton over on the Muskwat River. I
saved his life right enough, and he came to me a year after and said, 'You
saved my life, now what are you going to do with it? I'm stony broke. I
owe a hundred dollars, and I wouldn't be owing it if you hadn't saved my
life. When you saved it I was five hundred to the good, and I'd have left
that much behind me. Now I'm on the rocks, because you insisted on saving
my life; and you just got to take care of me.' I 'insisted'! Well, that
knocked me silly, and I took him on--blame me, if I didn't keep Ricky a
whole year, till he went north looking for gold. Get pay?--why, I _paid_!
Saving life has its responsibilities, little gal."

"You can't save life without running some risk yourself, not as a rule,
can you?" she said, shrinking from his familiarity.

"Not as a rule," he replied. "You took on a bit of risk with me, you and
your Piegan pony."

"Oh, I was young," she responded, leaning over the table and drawing faces
on a piece of paper before her. "I could take more risks, I was only
nineteen!"

"I don't catch on," he rejoined. "If it's sixteen or--"

"Or fifty," she interposed.

"What difference does it make? If you're done for, it's the same at
nineteen as fifty, and _vicey-versey_."

"No, it's not the same," she answered. "You leave so much more that you
want to keep, when you go at fifty."

"Well, I dunno. I never thought of that."

"There's all that has belonged to you. You've been married, and have
children, haven't you?"

He started, frowned, then straightened himself. "I got one girl--she's
East with her grandmother," he said, jerkily.

"That's what I said; there's more to leave behind at fifty," she replied,
a red spot on each cheek. She was not looking at him, but at the face of a
man on the paper before her--a young man with abundant hair, a strong
chin, and big, eloquent eyes; and all around his face she had drawn the
face of a girl many times, and beneath the faces of both she was writing
_Manette and Julien_.

The water was getting too deep for John Alloway. He floundered toward the
shore. "I'm no good at words," he said--"no good at argyment; but I've got
a gift for stories--round the fire of a night, with a pipe and tin basin
of tea; so I'm not going to try and match you. You've had a good education
down at Winnipeg. Took every prize, they say, and led the school, though
there was plenty of fuss because they let you do it, and let you stay
there, being half-Indian. You never heard what was going on outside, I
s'pose. It didn't matter, for you won out. Blamed foolishness, trying to
draw the line between red and white that way. Of course, it's the women
always, always the women, striking out for all-white or nothing. Down
there at Portage they've treated you mean, mean as dirt. The Reeve's
wife--well, we'll fix that up all right. I guess John Alloway ain't to be
bluffed. He knows too much, and they all know he knows enough. When John
Alloway, 32 Main Street, with a ranch on the Katanay, says, 'We're coming,
Mr. and Mrs. John Alloway is coming,' they'll get out their cards
_visite_, I guess."

Pauline's head bent lower, and she seemed laboriously etching lines into
the faces before her--Manette and Julien, Julien and Manette; and there
came into her eyes the youth and light and gayety of the days when Julien
came of an afternoon and the riverside rang with laughter--the dearest,
lightest days she had ever spent.

The man of fifty went on, seeing nothing but a girl over whom he was
presently going to throw the lasso of his affection and take her home with
him, yielding and glad, a white man and his half-breed girl--but such a
half-breed!

"I seen enough of the way some of them women treated you," he continued,
"and I sez to myself, Her turn next. There's a way out, I sez, and John
Alloway pays his debts. When the anniversary comes round I'll put things
right, I sez to myself. She saved my life, and she shall have the rest of
it, if she'll take it, and will give a receipt in full, and open a new
account in the name of John and Pauline Alloway. Catch it? See--Pauline?"

Slowly she got to her feet. There was a look in her eyes such as had been
in her mother's a little while before, but a hundred times intensified, a
look that belonged to the flood and flow of generations of Indian life,
yet controlled in her by the order and understanding of centuries of white
men's lives, the pervasive, dominating power of race.

For an instant she kept her eyes toward the window. The storm had suddenly
ceased, and a glimmer of sunset light was breaking over the distant wastes
of snow.

"You want to pay a debt you think you owe," she said, in a strange,
lustreless voice, turning to him at last. "Well, you have paid it. You
have given me a book to read which I will keep always. And I give you a
receipt in full for your debt."

"I don't know about any book," he answered, dazedly. "I want to marry you
right away."

"I am sorry, but it is not necessary," she replied, suggestively. Her face
was very pale now.

"But I want to. It ain't a debt. That was only a way of putting it. I want
to make you my wife. I got some position, and I can make the West sit up
and look at you and be glad."

Suddenly her anger flared out, low and vivid and fierce, but her words
were slow and measured. "There is no reason why I should marry you--not
one. You offer me marriage as a prince might give a penny to a beggar. If
my mother were not an Indian woman, you would not have taken it all as a
matter of course. But my father was a white man, and I am a white man's
daughter, and I would rather marry an Indian, who would think me the best
thing there was in the light of the sun, than marry you. Had I been pure
white you would not have been so sure; you would have asked, not offered.
I am not obliged to you. You ought to go to no woman as you came to me.
See, the storm has stopped. You will be quite safe going back now. The
snow will be deep, perhaps, but it is not far."

She went to the window, got his cap and gloves, and handed them to him. He
took them, dumbfounded and overcome.

"Say, I ain't done it right, mebbe, but I meant well, and I'd be good to
you and proud of you, and I'd love you better than anything I ever saw,"
he said, shamefacedly, but eagerly and honestly, too.

"Ah, you should have said those last words first," she answered.

"I say them now."

"They come too late; but they would have been too late in any case," she
added. "Still, I am glad you said them."

She opened the door for him.

"I made a mistake," he urged, humbly. "I understand better now. I never
had any schoolin'."

"Oh, it isn't that," she answered, gently. "Good-bye."

Suddenly he turned. "You're right--it couldn't ever be," he said.
"You're--you're great. And I owe you my life still!"

He stepped out into the biting air.

For a moment Pauline stood motionless in the middle of the room, her gaze
fixed upon the door which had just closed; then, with a wild gesture of
misery and despair, she threw herself upon the couch in a passionate
outburst of weeping. Sobs shook her from head to foot, and her hands,
clenched above her head, twitched convulsively.

Presently the door opened and her mother looked in eagerly. At what she
saw her face darkened and hardened for an instant, but then the girl's
utter abandonment of grief and agony convinced and conquered her. Some
glimmer of the true understanding of the problem which Pauline represented
got into her heart and drove the sullen selfishness from her face and eyes
and mind. She came over heavily and, sinking upon her knees, swept an arm
around the girl's shoulder. She realized what had happened, and probably
this was the first time in her life that she had ever come by instinct to
a revelation of her daughter's mind or of the faithful meaning of
incidents of their lives.

"You said no to John Alloway," she murmured.

Defiance and protest spoke in the swift gesture of the girl's hands. "You
think because he was white that I'd drop into his arms! No--no--no!"

"You did right, little one."

The sobs suddenly stopped, and the girl seemed to listen with all her
body. There was something in her Indian mother's voice she had never heard
before--at least, not since she was a little child and swung in a deerskin
hammock in a tamarac-tree by Renton's Lodge, where the chiefs met and the
West paused to rest on its onward march. Something of the accents of the
voice that crooned to her then was in the woman's tones now.

"He offered it like a lump of sugar to a bird--I know. He didn't know that
you have great blood--yes, but it is true. My man's grandfather, he was of
the blood of the kings of England. My man had the proof. And for a
thousand years my people have been chiefs. There is no blood in all the
West like yours. My heart was heavy, and dark thoughts came to me, because
my man is gone, and the life is not my life, and I am only an Indian woman
from the Warais, and my heart goes out there always now. But some great
Medicine has been poured into my heart. As I stood at the door and saw you
lying there, I called to the Sun. 'O great Spirit,' I said, 'help me to
understand, for this girl is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, and
Evil has come between us!' And the Sun Spirit poured the Medicine into my
spirit, and there is no cloud between us now. It has passed away, and I
see. Little white one, the white life is the only life, and I will live it
with you till a white man comes and gives you a white man's home. But not
John Alloway. Shall the crow nest with the oriole?"

As the woman spoke with slow, measured voice full of the cadences of a
heart revealing itself, the girl's breath at first seemed to stop, so
still she lay; then, as the true understanding of the words came to her,
she panted with excitement, her breast heaved, and the blood flushed her
face. When the slow voice ceased, and the room became still, she lay quiet
for a moment, letting the new thing find secure lodgment in her thought;
then, suddenly, she raised herself and threw her arms round her mother in
a passion of affection.

"Lalika! O mother Lalika!" she said, tenderly, and kissed her again and
again. Not since she was a little girl, long before they left the Warais,
had she called her mother by her Indian name, which her father had
humorously taught her to do in those far-off happy days by the beautiful,
singing river and the exquisite woods, when, with a bow and arrow, she had
ranged, a young Diana who slew only with love.

"Lalika, mother Lalika, it is like the old, old times," she added, softly.
"Ah, it does not matter now, for you understand!"

"I do not understand altogether," murmured the Indian woman, gently. "I am
not white, and there is a different way of thinking; but I will hold your
hand, and we will live the white life together."

Cheek to cheek they saw the darkness come, and afterwards the silver moon
steal up over a frozen world, in which the air bit like steel and braced
the heart like wine. Then, at last, before it was nine o'clock, after her
custom, the Indian woman went to bed, leaving her daughter brooding
peacefully by the fire.

For a long time Pauline sat with hands clasped in her lap, her gaze on the
tossing flames, in her heart and mind a new feeling of strength and
purpose. The way before her was not clear, she saw no further than this
day, and all that it had brought; yet she was as one that has crossed a
direful flood and finds herself on a strange shore in an unknown country,
with the twilight about her, yet with so much of danger passed that there
was only the thought of the moment's safety round her, the camp-fire to be
lit, and the bed to be made under the friendly trees and stars.

For a half-hour she sat so, and then, suddenly, she raised her head
listening, leaning toward the window, through which the moonlight
streamed. She heard her name called without, distinct and
strange--"_Pauline! Pauline!_"

Starting up, she ran to the door and opened it. All was silent and cruelly
cold. Nothing but the wide plain of snow and the steely air. But as she
stood intently listening, the red glow from the fire behind her, again
came the cry--"Pauline!"--not far away. Her heart beat hard, and she
raised her head and called--why was it she should call out in a language
not her own?--"_Qu'appelle? Qu'appelle?_"

And once again on the still night air came the trembling appeal,
"Pauline!"

"_Qu'appelle? Qu'appelle_?" she cried; then, with a gasping murmur of
understanding and recognition she ran forward in the frozen night toward
the sound of the voice. The same intuitive sense which had made her call
out in French, without thought or reason, had revealed to her who it was
that called; or was it that even in the one word uttered there was the
note of a voice always remembered since those days with Manette at
Winnipeg?

Not far away from the house, on the way to Portage la Drôme, but a little
distance from the road, was a crevasse, and toward this she sped, for once
before an accident had happened there. Again the voice called as she
sped--"Pauline!"--and she cried out that she was coming. Presently she
stood above the declivity, and peered over. Almost immediately below her,
a few feet down, was a man lying in the snow. He had strayed from the
obliterated road, and had fallen down the crevasse, twisting his foot
cruelly. Unable to walk, he had crawled several hundred yards in the snow,
but his strength had given out, and then he had called to the house, on
whose dark windows flickered the flames of the fire, the name of the girl
he had come so far to see.

[Illustration: "PAULINE," HE SAID, FEEBLY, AND FAINTED IN HER ARMS]

With a cry of joy and pain at once she recognized him now. It was as her
heart had said--it was Julien, Manette's brother. In a moment she was
beside him, her arm around his shoulder.

"Pauline!" he said, feebly, and fainted in her arms. An instant later she
was speeding to the house, and, rousing her mother and two of the
stablemen, she snatched a flask of brandy from a cupboard and hastened
back.

An hour later Julien Labrosse lay in the great sitting-room beside the
fire, his foot and ankle bandaged, and at ease, his face alight with all
that had brought him there. And once again the Indian mother with a sure
instinct knew why he had come, and saw that now her girl would have a
white man's home, and, for her man, one of the race like her father's
race, white and conquering.

"I'm sorry to give trouble," Julien said, laughing--he had a trick of
laughing lightly; "but I'll be able to get back to the Portage
to-morrow."

To this the Indian mother said, however: "To please yourself is a great
thing, but to please others is better; and so you will stay here till you
can walk back to the Portage, M'sieu' Julien."

"Well, I've never been so comfortable," he said--"never so happy. If you
don't mind the trouble!"

The Indian woman nodded pleasantly, and found an excuse to leave the room.
But before she went she contrived to place near his elbow one of the
scraps of paper on which Pauline had drawn his face, with that of Manette.
It brought a light of hope and happiness into his eyes, and he thrust the
paper under the fur robes of the couch.

"What are you doing with your life?" Pauline asked him, as his eyes sought
hers a few moments later.

"Oh, I have a big piece of work before me," he answered eagerly, "a great
chance--to build a bridge over the St. Lawrence, and I'm only thirty! I've
got my start. Then, I've made over the old Seigneury my father left me,
and I'm going to live in it. It will be a fine place, when I've done with
it, comfortable and big, with old oak timbers and walls, and deep
fireplaces, and carvings done in the time of Louis Quinze, and dark-red
velvet curtains for the drawing-room, and skins and furs. Yes, I must have
skins and furs like these here." He smoothed the skins with his hand.

"Manette, she will live with you?" Pauline asked.

"Oh no, her husband wouldn't like that. You see, Manette is to be married.
She told me to tell you all about it."

He told her all that was to tell of Manette's courtship, and added that
the wedding would take place in the spring.

"Manette wanted it when the leaves first flourish and the birds come
back," he said, gayly; "and so she's not going to live with me at the
Seigneury, you see. No, there it is, as fine a house, good enough for a
prince, and I shall be there alone, unless--"

His eyes met hers, and he caught the light that was in them before the
eyelids drooped over them and she turned her head to the fire. "But the
spring is two months off yet," he added.

"The spring?" she asked, puzzled, yet half afraid to speak.

"Yes, I'm going into my new house when Manette goes into her new house--in
the spring. And I won't go alone if--"

He caught her eyes again, but she rose hurriedly and said: "You must sleep
now. Good-night." She held out her hand.

"Well, I'll tell you the rest to-morrow--to-morrow night, when it's quiet
like this, and the stars shine," he answered. "I'm going to have a home of
my own like this--ah, _bien sûr_, Pauline."

That night the old Indian mother prayed to the Sun. "O great Spirit," she
said, "I give thanks for the Medicine poured into my heart. Be good to my
white child when she goes with her man to the white man's home far away. O
great Spirit, when I return to the lodges of my people, be kind to me, for
I shall be lonely; I shall not have my child; I shall not hear my white
man's voice. Give me good Medicine, O Sun and great Father, till my dream
tells me that my man comes from over the hills for me once more."



THE STAKE AND THE PLUMB-LINE


She went against all good judgment in marrying him; she cut herself off
from her own people, from the life in which she had been an alluring and
beautiful figure. Washington had never had two such seasons as those in
which she moved; for the diplomatic circle who had had "the run of the
world" knew her value, and were not content without her. She might have
made a brilliant match with one ambassador thirty years older than
herself--she was but twenty-two; and there were at least six attachés and
secretaries of legation who entered upon a tournament for her heart and
hand; but she was not for them. All her fine faculties of tact and
fairness, of harmless strategy, and her gifts of wit and unexpected humor
were needed to keep her cavaliers constant and hopeful to the last; but
she never faltered, and she did not fail. The faces of old men brightened
when they saw her, and one or two ancient figures who, for years, had been
seldom seen at social functions now came when they knew she was to be
present. There were, of course, a few women who said she would coquette
with any male from nine to ninety; but no man ever said so; and there was
none, from first to last, but smiled with pleasure at even the mention of
her name, so had her vivacity, intelligence, and fine sympathy conquered
them. She was a social artist by instinct. In their hearts they all
recognized how fair and impartial she was; and she drew out of every man
the best that was in him. The few women who did not like her said that she
chattered; but the truth was she made other people talk by swift
suggestion or delicate interrogation.

After the blow fell, Freddy Hartzman put the matter succinctly, and told
the truth faithfully, when he said: "The first time I met her, I told her
all I'd ever done that could be told, and all I wanted to do; including a
resolve to carry her off to some desert place and set up a Kingdom of Two.
I don't know how she did it. I was like a tap, and poured myself out; and
when it was all over I thought she was the best talker I'd ever heard. But
yet she'd done nothing except look at me and listen, and put in a question
here and there, that was like a baby asking to see your watch. Oh, she was
a lily-flower, was Sally Seabrook, and I've never been sorry I told her
all my little story! It did me good. Poor darling--it makes me sick
sometimes when I think of it. Yet she'll win out all right--a hundred to
one she'll win out. She was a star."

Freddy Hartzman was in an embassy of repute; he knew the chancelleries and
salons of many nations, and was looked upon as one of the ablest and
shrewdest men in the diplomatic service. He had written one of the best
books on international law in existence, he talked English like a native,
he had published a volume of delightful verse, and had omitted to publish
several others, including a tiny volume which Sally Seabrook's charms had
inspired him to write. His view of her was shared by most men who knew the
world, and especially by the elderly men who had a real knowledge of human
nature, among whom was a certain important member of the United States
executive called John Appleton. When the end of all things at Washington
came for Sally, these two men united to bear her up, that her feet should
not stumble upon the stony path of the hard journey she had undertaken.
Appleton was not a man of much speech; but his words had weight; for he
was not only a minister; he came of an old family which had ruled the
social destinies of a state, and had alternately controlled and disturbed
its politics. On the day of the sensation, in the fiery cloud of which
Sally disappeared, Appleton delivered himself of his mind in the matter at
a reception given by the President.

"She will come back--and we will all take her back, be glad to have her
back," he said. "She has the grip of a lever which can lift the eternal
hills with the right pressure. Leave her alone--leave her alone. This is a
democratic country, and she'll prove democracy a success before she's
done."

The world knew that John Appleton had offered her marriage, and he had
never hidden the fact. What they did not know was that she had told him
what she meant to do before she did it. He had spoken to her plainly,
bluntly, then with a voice that was blurred and a little broken, urging
her against the course toward which she was set; but it had not availed;
and, realizing that he had come upon a powerful will underneath the sunny
and so human surface, he had ceased to protest, to bear down upon her mind
with his own iron force. When he realized that all his reasoning was
wasted, that all worldly argument was vain, he made one last attempt, a
forlorn hope, as though to put upon record what he believed to be the
truth.

"There is no position you cannot occupy," he said. "You have the perfect
gift in private life, and you have a public gift. You have a genius for
ruling. Say, my dear, don't wreck it all. I know you are not for me, but
there are better men in the country than I am. Hartzman will be a great
man one day--he wants you. Young Tilden wants you; he has millions, and he
will never disgrace them or you, the power which they can command, and the
power which you have. And there are others. Your people have told you they
will turn you off; the world will say things--will rend you. There is
nothing so popular for the moment as the fall of a favorite. But that's
nothing--it's nothing at all compared with the danger to yourself. I
didn't sleep last night thinking of it. Yet I'm glad you wrote me; it gave
me time to think, and I can tell you the truth as I see it. Haven't you
thought that he will drag you down, down, down, wear out your soul, break
and sicken your life, destroy your beauty--you are beautiful, my dear,
beyond what the world sees, even. Give it up--ah, give it up, and don't
break our hearts! There are too many people loving you for you to
sacrifice them--and yourself, too.... You've had such a good time!"

"It's been like a dream," she interrupted, in a far-away voice--"like a
dream, these two years."

"And it's been such a good dream," he urged; "and you will only go to a
bad one, from which you will never wake. The thing has fastened on him; he
will never give it up. And penniless, too--his father has cast him off. My
girl, it's impossible. Listen to me. There's no one on earth that would do
more for you than I would--no one."

"Dear, dear friend!" she cried, with a sudden impulse, and caught his hand
in hers and kissed it before he could draw it back. "You are so true, and
you think you are right. But, but"--her eyes took on a deep, steady,
far-away look--"but I will save him; and we shall not be penniless in the
end. Meanwhile I have seven hundred dollars a year of my own. No one can
touch that. Nothing can change me now--and I have promised."

When he saw her fixed determination, he made no further protest, but asked
that he might help her, be with her the next day, when she was to take a
step which the wise world would say must lead to sorrow and a miserable
end.

The step she took was to marry Jim Templeton, the drunken, cast-off son of
a millionaire senator from Kentucky, who controlled railways and owned a
bank, and had so resented his son's inebriate habits that for five years
he had never permitted Jim's name to be mentioned in his presence. Jim had
had twenty thousand dollars left him by his mother, and a small income of
three hundred dollars from an investment which had been made for him when
a little boy. And this had carried him on; for, drunken as he was, he had
sense enough to eke out the money, limiting himself to three thousand
dollars a year. He had four thousand dollars left, and his tiny income of
three hundred, when he went to Sally Seabrook, after having been sober for
a month, and begged her to marry him.

Before dissipation had made him look ten years older than he was, there
had been no handsomer man in all America. Even yet he had a remarkable
face: long, delicate, with dark-brown eyes, as fair a forehead as man
could wish, and black, waving hair, streaked with gray--gray, though he
was but twenty-nine years of age.

When Sally was fifteen and he twenty-two, he had fallen in love with her
and she with him; and nothing had broken the early romance. He had
captured her young imagination, and had fastened his image on her heart.
Her people, seeing the drift of things, had sent her to a school on the
Hudson, and the two did not meet for some time. Then came a stolen
interview, and a fastening of the rivets of attraction--for Jim had gifts
of a wonderful kind. He knew his Horace and Anacreon and Heine and
Lamartine and Dante in the originals, and a hundred others; he was a
speaker of power and grace; and he had a clear, strong head for business.
He was also a lawyer, and was junior attorney to his father's great
business. It was because he had the real business gift, not because he had
a brilliant and scholarly mind, that his father had taken him into his
concerns, and was the more unforgiving when he gave way to temptation.
Otherwise, he would have pensioned Jim off, and dismissed him from his
mind as a useless, insignificant person; for Horace, Anacreon, and
philosophy and history were to him the recreations of the feeble-minded.
He had set his heart on Jim, and what Jim could do and would do by-and-by
in the vast financial concerns he controlled, when he was ready to slip
out and down; but Jim had disappointed him beyond calculation.

In the early days of their association Jim had left his post and taken to
drink at critical moments in their operations. At first, high words had
been spoken, then there came the strife of two dissimilar natures, and
both were headstrong, and each proud and unrelenting in his own way. Then,
at last, had come the separation, irrevocable and painful; and Jim had
flung out into the world, a drunkard, who, sober for a fortnight, or a
month, or three months, would afterward go off on a spree, in which he
quoted Sappho and Horace in taverns, and sang bacchanalian songs with a
voice meant for the stage--a heritage from an ancestor who had sung upon
the English stage a hundred years before. Even in his cups, even after his
darling vice had submerged him, Jim Templeton was a man marked out from
his fellows, distinguished and very handsome. Society, however, had ceased
to recognize him for a long time, and he did not seek it. For two or three
years he practised law now and then. He took cases, preferably criminal
cases, for which very often he got no pay; but that, too, ceased at last.
Now, in his quiet, sober intervals he read omnivorously, and worked out
problems in physics for which he had a taste, until the old appetite
surged over him again. Then his spirits rose, and he was the old brilliant
talker, the joyous galliard until, in due time, he became silently and
lethargically drunk.

In one of his sober intervals he had met Sally Seabrook in the street. It
was the first time in four years, for he had avoided her, and though she
had written to him once or twice, he had never answered her--shame was in
his heart. Yet all the time the old song was in Sally's ears. Jim
Templeton had touched her in some distant and intimate corner of her
nature where none other had reached; and in all her gay life, when men had
told their tale of admiration in their own way, her mind had gone back to
Jim, and what he had said under the magnolia-trees; and his voice had
drowned all others. She was not blind to what he had become, but a deep
belief possessed her that she, of all the world, could save him. She knew
how futile it would look to the world, how wild a dream it looked even to
her own heart, how perilous it was; but, play upon the surface of things
as she had done so much and so often in her brief career, she was seized
of convictions having origin, as it might seem, in something beyond
herself.

So when she and Jim met in the street, the old, true thing rushed upon
them both, and for a moment they stood still and looked at each other. As
they might look who say farewell forever, so did each dwell upon the
other's face. That was the beginning of the new epoch. A few days more,
and Jim came to her and said that she alone could save him; and she meant
him to say it, had led him to the saying, for the same conviction was
burned deep in her own soul. She knew the awful risk she was taking, that
the step must mean social ostracism, and that her own people would be no
kinder to her than society; but she gasped a prayer, smiled at Jim as
though all were well, laid her plans, made him promise her one thing on
his knees, and took the plunge.

Her people did as she expected. She was threatened with banishment from
heart and home--with disinheritance; but she pursued her course; and the
only person who stood with her and Jim at the altar was John Appleton, who
would not be denied, and who had such a half-hour with Jim before the
ceremony as neither of them forgot in the years that the locust ate
thereafter. And, standing at the altar, Jim's eyes were still wet, with
new resolves in his heart and a being at his side meant for the best man
in the world. As he knelt beside her, awaiting the benediction, a sudden
sense of the enormity of this act came upon him, and for her sake he would
have drawn back then, had it not been too late. He realized that it was a
crime to put this young, beautiful life in peril; that his own life was a
poor, contemptible thing, and that he had been possessed of the egotism of
the selfish and the young.

But the thing was done, and a new life was begun. Before they were
launched upon it, however, before society had fully grasped the sensation,
or they had left upon their journey to northern Canada, where Sally
intended they should work out their problem and make their home, far and
free from all old associations, a curious thing happened. Jim's father
sent an urgent message to Sally to come to him. When she came, he told her
she was mad, and asked her why she had thrown her life away.

"Why have you done it?" he said. "You--you knew all about him; you might
have married the best man in the country. You could rule a kingdom; you
have beauty and power, and make people do what you want; and you've got a
sot."

"He is your son," she answered, quietly.

She looked so beautiful and so fine as she stood there, fearless and
challenging before him, that he was moved. But he would not show it.

"He was my son--when he was a man," he retorted grimly.

"He is the son of the woman you once loved," she answered.

The old man turned his head away.

"What would she have said to what you did to Jim?"

He drew himself around sharply. Her dagger had gone home, but he would not
let her know it.

"Leave her out of the question--she was a saint," he said, roughly.

"She cannot be left out; nor can you. He got his temperament naturally; he
inherited his weakness. From your grandfather, from her father. Do you
think you are in no way responsible?"

He was silent for a moment, but then said, stubbornly: "Why--why have you
done it? What's between him and me can't be helped; we are father and son;
but you--you had no call, no responsibility."

"I love Jim. I always loved him, ever since I can remember, as you did. I
see my way ahead. I will not desert him. No one cares what happens to him,
no one but me. Your love wouldn't stand the test; mine will."

"Your folks have disinherited you--you have almost nothing, and I will not
change my mind. What do you see ahead of you?"

"Jim--only Jim--and God."

Her eyes were shining, her hands were clasped together at her side in the
tenseness of her feeling, her indomitable spirit spoke in her face.

Suddenly the old man brought his fist down on the table with a bang. "It's
a crime--oh, it's a crime, to risk your life so! You ought to have been
locked up. I'd have done it."

"Listen to me," she rejoined, quietly. "I know the risk. But do you think
that I could have lived my life out, feeling that I might have saved Jim
and didn't try? You talk of beauty and power and ruling--you say what
others have said to me. Which is the greater thing, to get what pleases
one, or to work for something which is more to one than all else in the
world? To save one life, one intellect, one great man--oh, he has the
making of a great man in him!--to save a soul, would not life be well
lost, would not love be well spent, in doing it?"

"Love's labor lost," said the old man, slowly, cynically, but not without
emotion.

"I have ambition," she continued. "No girl was ever more ambitious, but my
ambition is to make the most and best of myself. Place?--Jim and I will
hold it yet. Power?--it shall be as it must be; but Jim and I will work
for it to fulfil ourselves. For me--ah, if I can save him--and I mean to
do so!--do you think that I would not then have my heaven on earth? You
want money--money--money, power, and to rule; and these are to you the
best things in the world. I make my choice differently, though I would
have these other things if I could; and I hope I shall. But Jim first--Jim
first, your son, Jim--my husband, Jim!"

The old man got to his feet slowly. She had him at bay. "But you are
great," he said, "great! It is an awful stake--awful! Yet, if you win,
you'll have what money can't buy. And listen to me. We'll make the stake
bigger. It will give it point, too, in another way. If you keep Jim sober
for four years from the day of your marriage, on the last day of that four
years I'll put in your hands for you and him, or for your child--if you
have one--five millions of dollars. I am a man of my word. While Jim
drinks I won't take him back; he's disinherited. I'll give him nothing now
or hereafter. Save him for four years--if he can do that he will do
all--and there's five millions as sure as the sun's in heaven. Amen and
amen."

He opened the door. There was a strange, soft light in her eyes as she
came to go.

"Aren't you going to kiss me?" she said, looking at him whimsically.

He was disconcerted. She did not wait, but reached up and kissed him on
the cheek. "Good-bye," she said, with a smile. "We'll win the stake.
Good-bye."

An instant and she was gone. He shut the door, then turned and looked in a
mirror on the wall. Abstractedly he touched the cheek she had kissed.
Suddenly a change passed over his face. He dropped in a chair, and his
fist struck the table as he said: "By God, she may do it, she may do it!
But it's life and death--it's life and death."

Society had its sensation, and then the veil dropped. For a long time none
looked behind it except Jim's father. He had too much at stake not to have
his telescope upon them. A detective followed them to keep Jim's record.
But this they did not know.

II

From the day they left Washington Jim put his life and his fate in his
wife's hands. He meant to follow her judgment, and, self-willed and strong
in intellect as he was, he said that she should have a fair chance of
fulfilling her purpose. There had been many _pour parlers_ as to what Jim
should do. There was farming. She set that aside, because it meant
capital, and it also meant monotony and loneliness; and capital was
limited, and monotony and loneliness were bad for Jim, deadening an active
brain which must not be deprived of stimulants--stimulants of a different
sort, however, from those which had heretofore mastered it. There was the
law. But Jim would have to become a citizen of Canada, change his flag,
and where they meant to go--to the outskirts--there would be few
opportunities for the law; and with not enough to _do_ there would be
danger. Railway construction? That seemed good in many ways, but Jim had
not the professional knowledge necessary; his railway experience with his
father had only been financial. Above all else he must have
responsibility, discipline, and strict order in his life.

"Something that will be good for my natural vanity, and knock the nonsense
out of me," Jim agreed, as they drew farther and farther away from
Washington and the past, and nearer and nearer to the Far North and their
future. Never did two more honest souls put their hands in each other's,
and set forth upon the thorniest path to a goal which was their heart's
desire. Since they had become one, there had come into Sally's face that
illumination which belongs only to souls possessed of an idea greater than
themselves, outside themselves--saints, patriots; faces which have been
washed in the salt tears dropped for others' sorrows and lighted by the
fire of self-sacrifice. Sally Seabrook, the high-spirited, the radiant,
the sweetly wilful, the provoking, to concentrate herself upon this narrow
theme--to reconquer the lost paradise of one vexed mortal soul!

What did Jim's life mean? It was only one in the millions coming and
going, and every man must work out his own salvation. Why should she cramp
her soul to this one issue, when the same soul could spend itself upon the
greater motives and in the larger circle? A wide world of influence had
opened up before her; position, power, adulation, could all have been
hers, as John Appleton and Jim's father had said. She might have moved in
well-trodden ways, through gardens of pleasure, lived a life where all
would be made easy, where she would be shielded at every turn, and her
beauty would be flattered by luxury into a constant glow. She was not so
primitive, so unintellectual, as not to have thought of this, else her
decision would have had less importance; she would have been no more than
an infatuated, emotional woman with a touch of second-class drama in her
nature. She had thought of it all, and she had made her choice. The easier
course was the course for meaner souls, and she had not one vein of thin
blood nor a small idea in her whole nature. She had a heart and mind for
great issues. She believed that Jim had a great brain, and would and could
accomplish great things. She knew that he had in him the strain of
hereditary instinct--his mother's father had ended a brief life in a
drunken duel on the Mississippi, and Jim's boyhood had never had
discipline or direction, or any strenuous order. He might never acquire
order, and the power that order and habit and the daily iteration of
necessary thoughts and acts bring; but the prospect did not appal her. She
had taken the risk with her eyes wide open; had set her own life and
happiness in the hazard. But Jim must be saved, must be what his talents,
his genius, entitled him to be. And the long game must have the long
thought.

So, as they drew into the great Saskatchewan Valley, her hand in his, and
hope in his eyes, and such a look of confidence and pride in her as
brought back his old, strong beauty of face and smoothed the careworn
lines of self-indulgence, she gave him his course: as a private he must
join the North-West Mounted Police, the red-coated riders of the plains,
and work his way up through every stage of responsibility, beginning at
the foot of the ladder of humbleness and self-control. She believed that
he would agree with her proposal; but her hands clasped his a little more
firmly and solicitously--there was a faint, womanly fear at her heart--as
she asked him if he would do it. The life meant more than occasional
separation; it meant that there would be periods when she would not be
with him; and there was great danger in that; but she knew that the risks
must be taken, and he must not be wholly reliant on her presence for his
moral strength.

His face fell for a moment when she made the suggestion, but it cleared
presently, and he said, with a dry laugh: "Well, I guess they must make me
a sergeant pretty quick. I'm a colonel in the Kentucky Carbineers!"

She laughed, too; then a moment afterward, womanlike, wondered if she was
right, and was a little frightened. But that was only because she was not
self-opinionated, and was anxious, more anxious than any woman in all the
North.

It happened as Jim said; he was made a sergeant at once--Sally managed
that; for, when it came to the point, she saw the conditions in which the
privates lived, and realized that Jim must be one of them, and clean out
the stables, and groom his horse and the officers' horses, and fetch and
carry, her heart failed her, and she thought that she was making her
remedy needlessly heroical. So, she went to see the commissioner, who was
on a tour of scrutiny on their arrival at the post, and, as better men
than he had done in more knowing circles, he fell under her spell. If she
had asked for a lieutenancy, he would probably have corrupted some member
of Parliament into securing it for Jim.

But Jim was made a sergeant, and the commissioner and the captain of the
troop kept their eyes on him. So did other members of the troop who did
not quite know their man, and attempted, figuratively, to pinch him here
and there. They found that his actions were greater than his words, and
both were in perfect harmony in the end, though his words often seemed
pointless to their minds, until they understood that they had conveyed
truths through a medium more like a heliograph than a telephone. By-and-by
they began to understand his heliographing, and, when they did that, they
began to swear by him, not at him.

In time it was found that the troop never had a better disciplinarian than
Jim. He knew when to shut his eyes, and when to keep them open. To
non-essentials he kept his eyes shut; to essentials he kept them very wide
open. There were some men of good birth from England and elsewhere among
them, and these mostly understood him first. But they all understood Sally
from the beginning, and after a little they were glad enough to be
permitted to come, on occasion, to the five-roomed little house near the
barracks, and hear her talk, then answer her questions, and, as men had
done at Washington, open out their hearts to her. They noticed, however,
that while she made them barley-water, and all kinds of soft drinks from
citric acid, sarsaparilla, and the like, and had one special drink of her
own invention, which she called cream-nectar, no spirits were to be had.
They also noticed that Jim never drank a drop of liquor, and by-and-by,
one way or another, they got a glimmer of the real truth, before it became
known who he really was or anything of his story. And the interest in the
two, and in Jim's reformation, spread through the country, while Jim
gained reputation as the smartest man in the force.

They were on the outskirts of civilization--as Jim used to say, "One step
ahead of the procession." Jim's duty was to guard the columns of
settlement and progress, and to see that every man got his own rights and
not more than his rights; that justice should be the plumb-line of march
and settlement. His principle was embodied in certain words which he
quoted once to Sally from the prophet Amos--"_And the Lord said unto me,
Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumb-line_."

On the day that Jim became a lieutenant his family increased by one. It
was a girl, and they called her Nancy, after Jim's mother. It was the
anniversary of their marriage, and, so far, Jim had won, with what
fightings and strugglings and wrestlings of the spirit only Sally and
himself knew. And she knew as well as he, and always saw the storm coming
before it broke--a restlessness, then a moodiness, then a hungry, eager,
helpless look, and afterward an agony of longing, a feverish desire to
break away and get the thrilling thing which would still the demon within
him.

There had been moments when his doom seemed certain--he knew and she knew
that if he once got drunk again he would fall never to rise. On one
occasion, after a hard, long, hungry ride, he was half-mad with desire,
but even as he seized the flask that was offered to him by his only enemy,
the captain of B Troop, at the next station eastward, there came a sudden
call to duty, two hundred Indians having gone upon the war-path. It saved
him, it broke the spell. He had to mount and away, with the antidote and
stimulant of responsibility driving him on.

Another occasion was equally perilous to his safety. They had been idle
for days in a hot week in summer, waiting for orders to return from the
rail-head where they had gone to quell a riot, and where drink and
hilarity were common. Suddenly--more suddenly than it had ever come, the
demon of his thirst had Jim by the throat. Sergeant Sewell, of the
gray-stubble head, who loved him more than his sour heart had loved
anybody in all his life, was holding himself ready for the physical
assault he must make upon his superior officer if he raised a glass to his
lips, when salvation came once again. An accident had occurred far down on
the railway line, and the operator of the telegraph-office had that very
day been stricken down with pleurisy and pneumonia. In despair the manager
had sent to Jim, eagerly hoping that he might help them, for the Riders of
the Plains were a sort of court of appeal for every trouble in the Far
North.

Instantly Jim was in the saddle with his troop. Out of curiosity he had
learned telegraphy when a boy, as he had learned many things, and, arrived
at the scene of the accident, he sent messages and received them--by
sound, not on paper as did the official operator, to the amazement and
pride of the troop. Then, between caring for the injured in the accident,
against the coming of the relief train, and nursing the sick operator
through the dark moments of his dangerous illness, he passed a crisis of
his own disease triumphantly; but not the last crisis.

So the first and so the second and third years passed in safety.

III

"Please, I want to go, too, Jim."

Jim swung round and caught the child up in his arms.

"Say, how dare you call your father _Jim_--eh, tell me that?"

"It's what mummy calls you--it's pretty."

"I don't call her 'mummy' because you do, and you mustn't call me _Jim_
because she does--do you hear?"

The whimsical face lowered a little, then the rare and beautiful dark blue
eyes raised slowly, shaded by the long lashes, and the voice said,
demurely, "Yes--Jim."

"Nancy--Nancy," said a voice from the corner in reproof, mingled with
suppressed laughter. "Nancy, you mustn't be saucy. You must say 'father'
to--"

"Yes, mummy. I'll say father to--Jim."

"You imp--you imp of delight," said Jim, as he strained the dainty little
lass to his breast, while she appeared interested in a wave of his black
hair, which she curled around her finger.

Sally came forward with the little parcel of sandwiches she had been
preparing, and put them in the saddlebags lying on a chair at the door, in
readiness for the journey Jim was about to make. Her eyes were glistening,
and her face had a heightened color. The three years which had passed
since she married had touched her not at all to her disadvantage, rather
to her profit. She looked not an hour older; motherhood had only added to
her charm, lending it a delightful gravity. The prairie life had given a
shining quality to her handsomeness, an air of depth and firmness, an
exquisite health and clearness to the color in her cheeks. Her step was as
light as Nancy's, elastic and buoyant--a gliding motion which gave a
sinuous grace to the movements of her body. There had also come into her
eyes a vigilance such as deaf people possess, a sensitive observation
imparting a deeper intelligence to the face.

Here was the only chance by which you could guess the story of her life.
Her eyes were like the ears of an anxious mother who can never sleep till
every child is abed; whose sense is quick to hear the faintest footstep
without or within; and who, as years go on, and her children grow older
and older, must still lie awake hearkening for the late footstep on the
stair. In Sally's eyes was the story of the past three years: of love and
temptation and struggle, of watchfulness and yearning and anxiety, of
determination and an inviolable hope. Her eyes had a deeper look than that
in Jim's. Now, as she gazed at him, the maternal spirit rose up from the
great well of protectiveness in her and engulfed both husband and child.
There was always something of the maternal in her eyes when she looked at
Jim. He did not see it--he saw only the wonderful blue, and the humor
which had helped him over such difficult places these past three years. In
steadying and strengthening Jim's will, in developing him from his
Southern indolence into Northern industry and sense of responsibility,
John Appleton's warnings had rung in Sally's ears, and Freddy Hartzman's
forceful and high-minded personality had passed before her eyes with an
appeal powerful and stimulating; but always she came to the same upland of
serene faith and white-hearted resolve; and Jim became dearer and dearer.

The baby had done much to brace her faith in the future and comfort her
anxious present. The child had intelligence of a rare order. She would lie
by the half-hour on the floor, turning over the leaves of a book without
pictures, and, before she could speak, would read from the pages in a
language all her own. She made a fairy world for herself, peopled by
characters to whom she gave names, to whom she assigned curious attributes
and qualities. They were as real to her as though flesh and blood, and she
was never lonely, and never cried; and she had buried herself in her
father's heart. She had drawn to her the roughest men in the troop, and
for old Sewell, the grim sergeant, she had a specially warm place.

"You can love me if you like," she had said to him at the very start, with
the egotism of childhood; but made haste to add, "because I love you,
Gri-Gri." She called him Gri-Gri from the first, but they knew only long
afterward that "gri-gri" meant "gray-gray," to signify that she called him
after his grizzled hairs.

What she had been in the life-history of Sally and Jim they both knew. Jim
regarded her with an almost superstitious feeling. Sally was his strength,
his support, his inspiration, his bulwark of defence; Nancy was the charm
he wore about his neck--his mascot, he called her. Once, when she was ill,
he had suffered as he had never done before in his life. He could not
sleep nor eat, and went about his duties like one in a dream. When his
struggles against his enemy were fiercest, he kept saying over her name to
himself, as though she could help him. Yet always it was Sally's hand he
held in the darkest hours, in his brutal moments; for in this fight
between appetite and will there are moments when only the animal seems to
exist, and the soul disappears in the glare and gloom of the primal
emotions. Nancy he called his "lucky sixpence," but he called Sally his
"guinea-girl."

From first to last his whimsicality never deserted him. In his worst
hours, some innate optimism and humor held him steady in his fight. It was
not depression that possessed him at the worst, but the violence of an
appetite most like a raging pain which men may endure with a smile upon
their lips. He carried in his face the story of a conflict, the aftermath
of bitter experience; and through all there pulsed the glow of experience.
He had grown handsomer, and the graceful decision of his figure, the
deliberate certainty of every action, heightened the force of a singular
personality. As in the eyes of Sally, in his eyes was a long, reflective
look which told of things overcome, and yet of dangers present. His lips
smiled often, but the eyes said: "I have lived, I have seen, I have
suffered, and I must suffer more. I have loved, I have been loved under
the shadow of the sword. Happiness I have had, and golden hours, but not
peace--never peace. My soul has need of peace."

In the greater, deeper experience of their lives, the more material side
of existence had grown less and less to them. Their home was a model of
simple comfort and some luxury, though Jim had insisted that Sally's
income should not be spent, except upon the child, and should be saved for
the child, their home being kept on his pay and on the tiny income left by
his mother. With the help of an Indian girl, and a half-breed for out-door
work and fires and gardening, Sally had cared for the house herself.
Ingenious and tasteful, with a gift for cooking and an educated hand, she
had made her little home as pretty as their few possessions would permit.
Refinement covered all, and three or four score books were like so many
friends to comfort her when Jim was away; like kind and genial neighbors
when he was at home. From Browning she had written down in her long,
sliding handwriting, and hung up beneath Jim's looking-glass, the
heartening and inspiring words:

         "One who never turned his back, but marched breast
           forward,
             Never doubted clouds would break,
         Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would
           triumph,
         Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
           Sleep to wake."

They had lived above the sordid, and there was something in the nature of
Jim's life to help them to it. He belonged to a small handful of men who
had control over an empire, with an individual responsibility and
influence not contained in the scope of their commissions. It was a matter
of moral force and character, and of uniform, symbolical only of the great
power behind; of the long arm of the State; of the insistence of the law,
which did not rely upon force alone, but on the certainty of its
administration. In such conditions the smallest brain was bound to expand,
to take on qualities of judgment and temperateness which would never be
developed in ordinary circumstances. In the case of Jim Templeton, who
needed no stimulant to his intellect, but rather a steadying quality, a
sense of proportion, the daily routine, the command of men, the diverse
nature of his duties, half civil, half military, the personal appeals made
on all sides by the people of the country for advice, for help, for
settlement of disputes, for information which his well-instructed mind
could give--all these modified the romantic brilliance of his intellect,
made it and himself more human.

It had not come to him all at once. His intellect at first stood in his
way. His love of paradox, his deep observation, his insight--all made him
inherently satirical, though not cruelly so; but satire had become pure
whimsicality at last; and he came to see that, on the whole, the world was
imperfect, but also, on the whole, was moving toward perfection rather
than imperfection. He grew to realize that what seemed so often weakness
in men was tendency and idiosyncrasy rather than evil. And in the end he
thought better of himself as he came to think better of all others. For he
had thought less of all the world because he had thought so little of
himself. He had overestimated his own faults, had made them into crimes in
his own eyes, and, observing things in others of similar import, had
become almost a cynic in intellect, while in heart he had remained a boy.

In all that he had changed a great deal. His heart was still the heart of
a boy, but his intellect had sobered, softened, ripened--even in this
secluded and seemingly unimportant life; as Sally had said and hoped it
would. Sally's conviction had been right. But the triumph was not yet
achieved. She knew it. On occasion the tones of his voice told her, the
look that came into his eyes proclaimed it to her, his feverishness and
restlessness made it certain. How many a night had she thrown her arm over
his shoulder, and sought his hand and held it while in the dark silence,
wide-eyed, dry-lipped, and with a throat like fire he had held himself
back from falling. There was liquor in the house--the fight would not have
been a fight without it. She had determined that he should see his enemy
and meet him in the plains and face him down; and he was never many feet
away from his possible disaster. Yet for long over three years all had
gone well. There was another year. Would he last out the course?

At first the thought of the great stake for which she was playing in terms
of currency, with the head of Jim's father on every note, was much with
her. The amazing nature of the offer of five millions of dollars
stimulated her imagination, roused her; gold coins are counters in the
game of success, signs and tokens. Money alone could not have lured her;
but rather what it represented--power, width of action, freedom to help
when the heart prompted, machinery for carrying out large plans, ability
to surround with advantage those whom we love. So, at first, while yet the
memories of Washington were much with her, the appeal of the millions was
strong. The gallant nature of the contest and the great stake braced her;
she felt the blood quicken in her pulse.

But, all through, the other thing really mastered her: the fixed idea that
Jim must be saved. As it deepened, the other life that she had lived
became like the sports in which we shared when children, full of vivacious
memory, shining with impulse and the stir of life, but not to be
repeated--days and deeds outgrown. So the light of one idea shone in her
face. Yet she was intensely human too; and if her eyes had not been set on
the greater glory, the other thought might have vulgarized her mind, made
her end and goal sordid--the descent of a nature rather than its
ascension.

When Nancy came, the lesser idea, the stake, took on a new importance, for
now it seemed to her that it was her duty to secure for the child its
rightful heritage. Then Jim, too, appeared in a new light, as one who
could never fulfil himself unless working through the natural channels of
his birth, inheritance, and upbringing. Jim, drunken and unreliable, with
broken will and fighting to find himself--the waste places were for him,
until he was the master of his will and emotions. Once, however, secure in
ability to control himself, with cleansed brain and purpose defined, the
widest field would be still be too narrow for his talents--and the five,
yes, the fifty millions of his father must be his.

She had never repented having married Jim; but twice in those three years
she had broken down and wept as though her heart would break. There were
times when Jim's nerves were shaken in his struggle against the unseen
foe, and he had spoken to her querulously, almost sharply. Yet in her
tears there was no reproach for him, rather for herself--the fear that she
might lose her influence over him, that she could not keep him close to
her heart, that he might drift away from her in the commonplaces and
monotony of work and domestic life. Everything so depended on her being to
him not only the one woman for whom he cared, but the woman without whom
he could care for nothing else.

"O, my God, give me his love," she had prayed. "Let me keep it yet a
little while. For his sake, not for my own, let me have the power to hold
his love. Make my mind always quiet, and let me blow neither hot nor cold.
Help me to keep my temper sweet and cheerful, so that he will find the
room empty where I am not, and his footsteps will quicken when he comes to
the door. Not for my sake, dear God, but for his, or my heart will
break--it will break unless Thou dost help me to hold him. O Lord, keep me
from tears; make my face happy that I may be goodly to his eyes, and
forgive the selfishness of a poor woman who has little, and would keep her
little and cherish it, for Christ's sake."

Twice had she poured out her heart so, in the agony of her fear that she
should lose favor in Jim's sight--she did not know how alluring she was,
in spite of the constant proofs offered her. She had had her will with all
who came her way, from Governor to Indian brave. Once, in a journey they
had made far north, soon after they came, she had stayed at a Hudson Bay
Company's post for some days, while there came news of restlessness among
the Indians, because of lack of food, and Jim had gone farther north to
steady the tribes, leaving her with the factor and his wife and a
half-breed servant.

While she and the factor's wife were alone in the yard of the post one
day, an Indian chief, Arrowhead, in war-paint and feathers, entered
suddenly, brandishing a long knife. He had been drinking, and there was
danger in his black eyes. With a sudden inspiration she came forward
quickly, nodded and smiled to him, and then pointed to a grindstone
standing in the corner of the yard. As she did so, she saw Indians
crowding into the gate armed with knives, guns, bows, and arrows. She
beckoned to Arrowhead, and he followed her to the grindstone. She poured
some water on the wheel and began to turn it, nodding at the now impassive
Indian to begin. Presently he nodded also, and put his knife on the stone.
She kept turning steadily, singing to herself the while, as with anxiety
she saw the Indians drawing closer and closer in from the gate. Faster and
faster she turned, and at last the Indian lifted his knife from the stone.
She reached out her hand with simulated interest, felt the edge with her
thumb, the Indian looking darkly at her the while. Presently, after
feeling the edge himself, he bent over the stone again, and she went on
turning the wheel, still singing softly. At last he stopped again and felt
the edge. With a smile which showed her fine, white teeth, she said, "Is
that for me?" making a significant sign across her throat at the same
time.

The old Indian looked at her grimly, then slowly shook his head in
negation.

"I go hunt Yellow Hawk to-night," he said. "I go fight; I like marry you
when I come back. _How_!" he said, and turned away toward the gate.

Some of his braves held back, the blackness of death in their looks. He
saw. "My knife is sharp," he said. "The woman is brave. She shall live--go
and fight Yellow Hawk, or starve and die."

Divining their misery, their hunger, and the savage thought that had come
to them, Sally had whispered to the factor's wife to bring food, and the
woman now came running out with two baskets full, and returned for more.
Sally ran forward among the Indians and put the food into their hands.
With grunts of satisfaction they seized what she gave, and thrust it into
their mouths, squatting on the ground. Arrowhead looked on stern and
immobile, but when at last she and the factor's wife sat down before the
braves with confidence and an air of friendliness, he sat down also; yet,
famished as he was, he would not touch the food. At last Sally, realizing
his proud defiance of hunger, offered him a little lump of pemmican and a
biscuit, and with a grunt he took it from her hands and ate it. Then, at
his command, a fire was lit, the pipe of peace was brought out, and Sally
and the factor's wife touched their lips to it, and passed it on.

So was a new treaty of peace and loyalty made with Arrowhead and his tribe
by a woman without fear, whose life had seemed not worth a minute's
purchase; and, as the sun went down, Arrowhead and his men went forth to
make war upon Yellow Hawk beside the Nettigon River. In this wise had her
influence spread in the land.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Standing now with the child in his arms and his wife looking at him with a
shining moisture of the eyes, Jim laughed outright. There came upon him a
sudden sense of power, of aggressive force--the will to do. Sally
understood, and came and laughingly grasped his arm.

"Oh, Jim," she said, playfully, "you are getting muscles like steel. You
hadn't these when you were colonel of the Kentucky Carbineers!"

"I guess I need them now," he said, smiling, and with the child still in
his arms drew her to a window looking northward. As far as the eye could
see, nothing but snow, like a blanket spread over the land. Here and there
in the wide expanse a tree silhouetted against the sky, a tracery of
eccentric beauty, and off in the far distance a solitary horseman riding
toward the post--riding hard.

"It was root, hog, or die with me, Sally," he continued, "and I rooted....
I wonder--that fellow on the horse--I have a feeling about him. See, he's
been riding hard and long--you can tell by the way the horse drops his
legs. He sags a bit himself.... But isn't it beautiful, all that out
there--the real quintessence of life."

The air was full of delicate particles of frost on which the sun sparkled,
and though there was neither bird nor insect, nor animal, nor stir of
leaf, nor swaying branch or waving grass, life palpitated in the air,
energy sang its song in the footstep that crunched the frosty ground, that
broke the crusted snow; it was in the delicate wind that stirred the flag
by the barracks away to the left; hope smiled in the wide prospect over
which the thrilling, bracing air trembled. Sally had chosen right.

"You had a big thought when you brought me here, guinea-girl," he added,
presently. "We are going to win out here"--he set the child down--"you and
I and this lucky sixpence." He took up his short fur coat. "Yes, we'll
win, honey." Then, with a brooding look in his face, he added:

               "'The end comes as came the beginning,
                 And shadows fail into the past;
               And the goal, is it not worth the winning,
                 If it brings us but home at the last?
               While far through the pain of waste places
                 We tread, 'tis a blossoming rod
               That drives us to grace from disgraces,
                 From the fens to the gardens of God!'"

He paused reflectively. "It's strange that this life up here makes you
feel that you must live a bigger life still, that this is only the wide
porch to the great labor-house--it makes you want to do things. Well,
we've got to win the stake first," he added, with a laugh.

"The stake is a big one, Jim--bigger than you think."

"You and her and me--me that was in the gutter."

"What is the gutter, dadsie?" asked Nancy.

"The gutter--the gutter is where the dish-water goes, midget," he
answered, with a dry laugh.

"Oh, I don't think you'd like to be in the gutter," Nancy said, solemnly.

"You have to get used to it first, miss," answered Jim. Suddenly Sally
laid both hands on Jim's shoulders and looked him in the eyes. "You must
win the stake, Jim. Think--now!"

She laid a hand on the head of the child. He did not know that he was
playing for a certain five millions, perhaps fifty millions, of dollars.
She had never told him of his father's offer. He was fighting only for
salvation, for those he loved, for freedom. As they stood there, the
conviction had come upon her that they had come to the last battle-field,
that this journey which Jim now must take would decide all, would give
them perfect peace or lifelong pain. The shadow of battle was over them,
but he had no foreboding, no premonition; he had never been so full of
spirits and life.

To her adjuration Jim replied by burying his face in her golden hair, and
he whispered: "Say, I've done near four years, my girl. I think I'm all
right now--I think. This last six months, it's been easy--pretty fairly
easy."

"Four months more, only four months more--God be good to us!" she said,
with a little gasp.

If he held out for four months more, the first great stage in their
life-journey would be passed, the stake won.

"I saw a woman get an awful fall once," Jim said, suddenly. "Her bones
were broken in twelve places, and there wasn't a spot on her body without
injury. They set and fixed up every broken bone except one. It was split
down. They didn't dare perform the operation; she couldn't stand it. There
was a limit to pain, and she had reached the boundary. Two years went by,
and she got better every way, but inside her leg those broken pieces of
bone were rubbing against each other. She tried to avoid the inevitable
operation, but Nature said, 'You must do it, or die in the end.' She
yielded. Then came the long preparations for the operation. Her heart
shrank, her mind got tortured. She'd suffered too much. She pulled herself
together, and said, 'I must conquer this shrinking body of mine by my
will. How shall I do it?' Something within her said, 'Think and do for
others. Forget yourself.' And so, as they got her ready for her torture,
she visited hospitals, agonized cripple as she was, and smiled and talked
to the sick and broken, telling them of her own miseries endured and
dangers faced, of the boundary of human suffering almost passed; and so
she got her courage for her own trial. And she came out all right in the
end. Well, that's the way I've felt sometimes. But I'm ready for my
operation now whenever it comes, and it's coming, I know. Let it come when
it must." He smiled.

There came a knock at the door, and presently Sewell entered. "The
Commissioner wishes you to come over, sir," he said.

"I was just coming, Sewell. Is all ready for the start?"

"Everything's ready, sir, but there's to be a change of orders.
Something's happened--a bad job up in the Cree country, I think."

A few minutes later Jim was in the Commissioner's office. The murder of a
Hudson's Bay Company's man had been committed in the Cree country. The
stranger whom Jim and Sally had seen riding across the plains had brought
the news for thirty miles, word of the murder having been carried from
point to point. The Commissioner was uncertain what to do, as the Crees
were restless through want of food and the absence of game, and a force
sent to capture Arrowhead, the chief who had committed the murder, might
precipitate trouble. Jim solved the problem by offering to go alone and
bring the chief into the post. It was two hundred miles to the Cree
encampment, and the journey had its double dangers.

Another officer was sent on the expedition for which Jim had been
preparing, and he made ready to go upon his lonely duty. His wife did not
know till three days after he had gone what the nature of his mission
was.

IV

Jim made his journey in good weather with his faithful dogs alone, and
came into the camp of the Crees armed with only a revolver. If he had gone
with ten men, there would have been an instant mêlée, in which he would
have lost his life. This is what the chief had expected, had prepared for;
but Jim was more formidable alone, with power far behind him which could
come with force and destroy the tribe, if resistance was offered, than
with fifty men. His tongue had a gift of terse and picturesque speech,
powerful with a people who had the gift of imagination. With five hundred
men ready to turn him loose in the plains without dogs or food, he carried
himself with a watchful coolness and complacent determination which got
home to their minds with great force.

For hours the struggle for the murderer went on, a struggle of mind over
inferior mind and matter.

Arrowhead was a chief whose will had never been crossed by his own people,
and to master that will by a superior will, to hold back the destructive
force which, to the ignorant minds of the braves, was only a natural force
of defence, meant a task needing more than authority behind it. For the
very fear of that authority put in motion was an incentive to present
resistance--to stave off the day of trouble. The faces that surrounded Jim
were thin with hunger, and the murder that had been committed by the chief
had, as its origin, the foolish replies of the Hudson's Bay Company's man
to their demand for supplies. Arrowhead had killed him with his own hand.

But Jim Templeton was of a different calibre. Although he had not been
told it, he realized that, indirectly, hunger was the cause of the crime
and might easily become the cause of another; for their tempers were
sharper even than their appetites. Upon this he played; upon this he made
an exhortation to the chief. He assumed that Arrowhead had become violent
because of his people's straits, that Arrowhead's heart yearned for his
people and would make sacrifice for them. Now, if Arrowhead came quietly,
he would see that supplies of food were sent at once, and that
arrangements were made to meet the misery of their situation. Therefore,
if Arrowhead came freely, he would have so much in his favor before his
judges; if he would not come quietly, then he must be brought by force;
and if they raised a hand to prevent it, then destruction would fall upon
all--all save the women and children. The law must be obeyed. They might
try to resist the law through him, but, if violence was shown, he would
first kill Arrowhead, and then destruction would descend like a wind out
of the north, darkness would swallow them, and their bones would cover the
plains.

As he ended his words a young brave sprang forward with hatchet raised.
Jim's revolver slipped down into his palm from his sleeve, and a bullet
caught the brave in the lifted arm. The hatchet dropped to the ground.

Then Jim's eyes blazed, and he turned a look of anger on the chief, his
face pale and hard, as he said: "The stream rises above the banks; come
with me, chief, or all will drown. I am master, and I speak. Ye are hungry
because ye are idle. Ye call the world yours, yet ye will not stoop to
gather from the earth the fruits of the earth. Ye sit idle in the summer,
and women and children die round you when winter comes. Because the game
is gone, ye say. Must the world stand still because a handful of Crees
need a hunting-ground? Must the makers of cities and the wonders of the
earth, who fill the land with plenty--must they stand far off, because the
Crees and their chief would wander over a million acres, for each man a
million, when by a hundred--ay, by ten--each white man would live in
plenty and make the land rejoice? See! Here is the truth. When the Great
Spirit draws the game away so that the hunting is poor, ye sit down and
fill your hearts with murder, and in the blackness of your thoughts kill
my brother. Idle and shiftless and evil ye are, while the earth cries out
to give you of its plenty, a great harvest from a little seed, if ye will
but dig and plant, and plough and sow and reap, and lend your backs to
toil. Now hear and heed. The end is come. For this once ye shall be
fed--by the blood of my heart, ye shall be fed! And another year ye shall
labor, and get the fruits of your labor, and not stand waiting, as it
were, till a fish shall pass the spear or a stag water at your door, that
ye may slay and eat. The end is come, ye idle men. O chief, hearken! One
of your braves would have slain me, even as you slew my brother--he one,
and you a thousand. Speak to your people as I have spoken, and then come
and answer for the deed done by your hand. And this I say that right shall
be done between men and men. Speak."

Jim had made his great effort, and not without avail. Arrowhead rose
slowly, the cloud gone out of his face, and spoke to his people, bidding
them wait in peace until food came, and appointing his son chief in his
stead until his return.

"The white man speaks truth, and I will go," he said. "I shall return," he
continued, "if it be written so upon the leaves of the Tree of Life; and
if it be not so written, I shall fade like a mist, and the tepees will
know me not again. The days of my youth are spent, and my step no longer
springs from the ground. I shuffle among the grass and the fallen leaves,
and my eyes scarce know the stag from the doe. The white man is master--if
he wills it we shall die; if he wills it we shall live. And this was ever
so. It is in the tale of our people. One tribe ruled, and the others were
their slaves. If it is written on the leaves of the Tree of Life that the
white man rule us forever, then it shall be so, I have spoken. Now,
behold, I go."

Jim had conquered, and together they sped away with the dogs through the
sweet-smelling spruce woods where every branch carried a cloth of white,
and the only sound heard was the swish of a blanket of snow as it fell to
the ground from the wide webs of green, or a twig snapped under the load
it bore. Peace brooded in the silent and comforting forest, and Jim and
Arrowhead, the Indian ever ahead, swung along, mile after mile, on their
snow-shoes, emerging at last upon the wide, white prairie.

                   *       *       *       *       *

A hundred miles of sun and fair weather, sleeping at night in the open in
a trench dug in the snow, no fear in the thoughts of Jim, nor evil in the
heart of the heathen man. There had been moments of watchfulness, of
uncertainty, on Jim's part, the first few hours of the first night after
they left the Cree reservation; but the conviction speedily came to Jim
that all was well; for the chief slept soundly from the moment he lay down
in his blankets between the dogs. Then Jim went to sleep as in his own
bed, and, waking, found Arrowhead lighting a fire from a little load of
sticks from the sledges. And between murderer and captor there sprang up
the companionship of the open road which brings all men to a certain land
of faith and understanding, unless they are perverted and vile. There was
no vileness in Arrowhead. There were no handcuffs on his hands, no sign of
captivity; they two ate out of the same dish, drank from the same basin,
broke from the same bread. The crime of Arrowhead, the gallows waiting for
him, seemed very far away. They were only two silent travellers, sharing
the same hardship, helping to give material comfort to each other--in the
inevitable democracy of those far places, where small things are not great
nor great things small; where into men's hearts comes the knowledge of the
things that matter; where, from the wide, starry sky, from the august
loneliness, and the soul of the life which has brooded there for untold
generations, God teaches the values of this world and the next.

One hundred miles of sun and fair weather, and then fifty miles of bitter,
aching cold, with nights of peril from the increasing chill, so that Jim
dared not sleep lest he should never wake again, but die benumbed and
exhausted! Yet Arrowhead slept through all. Day after day so, and then ten
miles of storm such as come only to the vast barrens of the northlands;
and woe to the traveller upon whom the icy wind and the blinding snow
descended! Woe came upon Jim Templeton and Arrowhead, the heathen.

In the awful struggle between man and nature that followed, the captive
became the leader. The craft of the plains, the inherent instinct, the
feeling which was more than eyesight became the only hope. One whole day
to cover ten miles--an endless path of agony, in which Jim went down again
and again, but came up blinded by snow and drift, and cut as with lashes
by the angry wind. At the end of the ten miles was a Hudson Bay Company's
post and safety; and through ten hours had the two struggled toward it,
going off at tangents, circling on their own tracks; but the Indian, by an
instinct as sure as the needle to the pole, getting the direction to the
post again, in the moments of direst peril and uncertainty. To Jim the
world became a sea of maddening forces which buffeted him; a whirlpool of
fire in which his brain was tortured, his mind was shrivelled up; a vast
army rending itself, each man against the other. It was a purgatory of
music, broken by discords; and then at last--how sweet it all was, after
the eternity of misery!--"Church bells and voices low," and Sally singing
to him, Nancy's voice calling! Then, nothing but sleep--sleep, a sinking
down millions of miles in an ether of drowsiness which thrilled him; and
after--no more.

None who has suffered up to the limit of what the human body and soul may
bear can remember the history of those distracted moments when the
struggle became one between the forces in nature and the forces in man,
between agonized body and smothered mind, yet with the divine intelligence
of the created being directing, even though subconsciously, the fight.

How Arrowhead found the post in the mad storm he could never have told.
Yet he found it, with Jim unconscious on the sledge and with limbs frozen,
all the dogs gone but two, the leathers over the Indian's shoulders as he
fell against the gate of the post with a shrill cry that roused the factor
and his people within, together with Sergeant Sewell, who had been sent
out from headquarters to await Jim's arrival there. It was Sewell's hand
which first felt Jim's heart and pulse, and found that there was still
life left, even before it could be done by the doctor from headquarters,
who had come to visit a sick man at the post.

For hours they worked with snow upon the frozen limbs to bring back life
and consciousness. Consciousness came at last with half delirium, half
understanding; as, emerging from the passing sleep of anæsthetics, the eye
sees things and dimly registers them before the brain has set them in any
relation to life or comprehension.

But Jim was roused at last, and the doctor presently held to his lips a
glass of brandy. Then from infinite distance Jim's understanding returned;
the mind emerged, but not wholly, from the chaos in which it was
travelling. His eyes stood out in eagerness.

"Brandy! brandy!" he said, hungrily.

With an oath Sewell snatched the glass from the doctor's hand, put it on
the table, then stooped to Jim's ear and said, hoarsely: "Remember--Nancy.
For God's sake, sir, don't drink!"

Jim's head fell back, the fierce light went out of his eyes, the face
became grayer and sharper. "Sally--Nancy--Nancy," he whispered, and his
fingers clutched vaguely at the quilt.

"He must have brandy or he will die. The system is pumped out. He must be
revived," said the doctor. He reached again for the glass of spirits.

Jim understood now. He was on the borderland between life and death, his
feet were at the brink. "No--not--brandy, no!" he moaned. "Sally--Sally,
kiss me," he said, faintly, from the middle world in which he was.

"Quick, the broth!" said Sewell to the factor, who had been preparing it.
"Quick, while there's a chance." He stooped and called into Jim's ear:
"For the love of God, wake up, sir. They're coming--they're both
coming--Nancy's coming. They'll soon be here." What matter that he
lied?--a life was at stake.

Jim's eyes opened again. The doctor was standing with the brandy in his
hand. Half madly Jim reached out. "I must live until they come," he cried;
"the brandy--ah, give it! Give it--ah, no, no, I must not," he added,
gasping, his lips trembling, his hands shaking.

Sewell held the broth to his lips. He drank a little, yet his face became
grayer and grayer; a bluish tinge spread about his mouth.

"Have you nothing else, sir?" asked Sewell, in despair.

The doctor put down the brandy, went quickly to his medicine-case, dropped
into a glass some liquid from a phial, came over again, and poured a
little between the lips; then a little more, as Jim's eyes opened again;
and at last every drop in the glass trickled down the sinewy throat.

Presently as they watched him the doctor said: "It will not do. He must
have brandy. It has life--food--in it."

Jim understood the words. He knew that if he drank the brandy the chances
against his future were terrible. He had made his vow, and he must keep
it. Yet the thirst was on him; his enemy had him by the throat again, was
dragging him down. Though his body was so cold, his throat was on fire.
But in the extremity of his strength his mind fought on--fought on,
growing weaker every moment. He was having his last fight. They watched
him with an aching anxiety, and there was anger in the doctor's face. He
had no patience with these forces arrayed against him.

At last the doctor whispered to Sewell, "It's no use; he must have the
brandy, or he can't live an hour."

Sewell weakened; the tears fell down his rough, hard cheeks. "It'll ruin
him--it's ruin or death."

"Trust a little more in God and in the man's strength. Let us give him the
chance. Force it down his throat--he's not responsible," said the
physician, to whom saving life was more than all else.

Suddenly there appeared at the bedside Arrowhead, gaunt and weak, his face
swollen, the skin of it broken by the whips of storm.

"He is my brother," he said, and, stooping, laid both hands, which he had
held before the fire for a long time, on Jim's heart. "Take his feet, his
hands, his legs, and his head in your hands," he said to them all. "Life
is in us; we will give him life."

He knelt down and kept both hands on Jim's heart, while the others, even
the doctor, awed by his act, did as they were bidden. "Shut your eyes. Let
your life go into him. Think of him, and him alone. Now!" said Arrowhead,
in a strange voice.

He murmured, and continued murmuring, his body drawing closer and closer
to Jim's body, while in the deep silence, broken only by the chanting of
his low, monotonous voice, the others pressed Jim's hands and head and
feet and legs--six men under the command of a heathen murderer.

The minutes passed. The color came back to Jim's face, the skin of his
hands filled up, they ceased twitching, his pulse got stronger, his eyes
opened with a new light in them.

"I'm living, anyhow," he said, at last, with a faint smile. "I'm
hungry--broth, please."

The fight was won, and Arrowhead, the pagan murderer, drew over to the
fire and crouched down beside it, his back to the bed, impassive and
still. They brought him a bowl of broth and bread, which he drank slowly,
and placed the empty bowl between his knees. He sat there through the
night, though they tried to make him lie down.

As the light came in at the windows, Sewell touched him on the shoulder
and said, "He is sleeping now."

"I hear my brother breathe," answered Arrowhead. "He will live."

All night he had listened, and had heard Jim's breath as only a man who
has lived in waste places can hear. "He will live. What I take with one
hand I give with the other."

He had taken the life of the factor; he had given Jim his life. And when
he was tried three months later for murder, some one else said this for
him, and the hearts of all, judge and jury, were so moved they knew not
what to do.

But Arrowhead was never sentenced, for, at the end of the first day's
trial, he lay down to sleep and never waked again. He was found the next
morning still and cold, and there was clasped in his hands a little doll
which Nancy had given him on one of her many visits to the prison during
her father's long illness. They found a piece of paper in his belt with
these words in the Cree language: "With my hands on his heart at the post
I gave him the life that was in me, saving but a little until now.
Arrowhead, the chief, goes to find life again by the well at the root of
the tree. _How!_"

V

On the evening of the day that Arrowhead made his journey to "the well at
the root of the tree" a stranger knocked at the door of Captain
Templeton's cottage; then, without awaiting admittance, entered.

Jim was sitting with Nancy on his knee, her head against his shoulder,
Sally at his side, her face alight with some inner joy. Before the knock
came to the door Jim had just said, "Why do your eyes shine so, Sally?
What's in your mind?" She had been about to answer, to say to him what had
been swelling her heart with pride, though she had not meant to tell him
what he had forgotten--not till midnight. But the figure that entered the
room, a big man with deep-set eyes, a man of power who had carried
everything before him in the battle of life, answered for her.

"You have won the stake, Jim," he said, in a hoarse voice. "You and she
have won the stake, and I've brought it--brought it."

Before they could speak he placed in Sally's hands bonds for five million
dollars.

"Jim--Jim, my son!" he burst out. Then, suddenly, he sank into a chair
and, putting his head in his hands, sobbed aloud.

"My God, but I'm proud of you--speak to me, Jim. You've broken me up." He
was ashamed of his tears, but he could not wipe them away.

"Father, dear old man!" said Jim, and put his hands on the broad
shoulders.

Sally knelt down beside him, took both the great hands from the
tear-stained face, and laid them against her cheek. But presently she put
Nancy on his knees.

"I don't like you to cry," the child said, softly; "but to-day I cried
too, 'cause my Indian man is dead."

The old man could not speak, but he put his cheek down to hers. After a
minute, "Oh, but she's worth ten times that!" he said, as Sally came close
to him with the bundle he had thrust into her hands.

"What is it?" said Jim.

"It's five million dollars--for Nancy," she said.

"Five--million--what--?"

"The stake, Jim," said Sally. "If you did not drink for four years--never
touched a drop--we were to have five million dollars."

"You never told him, then--you never told him that?" asked the old man.

"I wanted him to win without it," she said. "If he won, he would be the
stronger; if he lost, it would not be so hard for him to bear."

The old man drew her down and kissed her cheek. He chuckled, though the
tears were still in his eyes.

"You are a wonder--the tenth wonder of the world!" he blurted.

Jim stood staring at the bundle in Nancy's hands. "Five millions--five
million dollars!" he kept saying to himself.

"I said Nancy's worth ten times that, Jim." The old man caught his hand
and pressed it. "But it was a damned near thing, I tell you," he added.
"They tried to break me and my railways and my bank. I had to fight the
combination, and there was one day when I hadn't that five million dollars
there, nor five. Jim, they tried to break the old man! And if they'd
broken me, they'd have made me out a scoundrel to her--to this wife of
yours who risked everything for both of us--for both of us, Jim; for she'd
given up the world to save you, and she was playing like a soul in hell
for heaven. If they'd broken me, I'd never have lifted my head again. When
things were at their worst I played to save that five millions--her stake
and mine; I played for that. I fought for it as a man fights his way out
of a burning house. And I won--I won. And it was by fighting for that five
millions I saved fifty--fifty millions, son. They didn't break the old
man, Jim. They didn't break him--not much."

"There are giants in the world still," said Jim, his own eyes full. He
knew now his father and himself, and he knew the meaning of all the bitter
and misspent life of the old days. He and his father were on a level of
understanding at last.

"Are you a giant?" asked Nancy, peering up into her grandfather's eyes.

The old man laughed, then sighed. "Perhaps I was once, more or less, my
dear," saying to her what he meant for the other two--"perhaps I was; but
I've finished. I'm through. I've had my last fight."

He looked at his son. "I pass the game on to you, Jim. You can do it. I
knew you could do it as the reports came in this year. I've had a
detective up here for four years. I had to do it. It was the devil in me.
You've got to carry on the game, Jim; I'm done. I'll stay home and potter
about. I want to go back to Kentucky, and build up the old place, and take
care of it a bit--your mother always loved it. I'd like to have it as it
was when she was there long ago. But I'll be ready to help you when I'm
wanted, understand."

"You want me to run things--your colossal schemes? You think--?"

"I don't think. I'm old enough to know,"



WHEN THE SWALLOWS HOMEWARD FLY


The arrogant Sun had stalked away into the evening, trailing behind him
banners of gold and crimson, and a swift twilight was streaming over the
land. As the sun passed, the eyes of two men on a high hill followed it,
and the look of one was like a light in a window to a lost traveller. It
had in it the sense of home and the tale of a journey done. Such a journey
this man had made as few have ever attempted and fewer accomplished. To
the farthermost regions of snow and ice, where the shoulder of a continent
juts out into the northwestern arctic seas, he had travelled on foot and
alone, save for his dogs, and for Indian guides who now and then
shepherded him from point to point. The vast ice-hummocks had been his
housing; pemmican, the raw flesh of fish, and even the fat and oil of
seals had been his food. Ever and ever through long months the everlasting
white glitter of the snow and ice, ever and ever the cold stars, the
cloudless sky, the moon at full, or swung like a white sickle in the sky
to warn him that his life must be mown like grass. At night to sleep in a
bag of fur and wool, by day the steely wind, or the air shaking with a
filmy powder of frost; while the illimitably distant sun made the tiny
flakes sparkle like silver--a _poudre_ day, when the face and hands are
most like to be frozen, and all so still and white and passionless, yet
aching with energy. Hundreds upon hundreds of miles that endless trail
went winding to the farthest Northwest. No human being had ever trod its
lengths before, though Indians or a stray Hudson's Bay Company man had
made journeys over part of it during the years that have passed since
Prince Rupert sent his adventurers to dot that northern land with posts
and forts and trace fine arteries of civilization through the wastes.

Where this man had gone none other had been of white men from the western
lands, though from across the wide Pacific, from the Eastern world,
adventurers and exiles had once visited what is now known as the Yukon
Valley. So this man, browsing in the library of his grandfather, an
Eastern scholar, had come to know; and for love of adventure, and because
of the tale of a valley of gold and treasure to be had, and because he had
been ruined by bad investments, he had made a journey like none ever
essayed before. And on his way up to those regions, where the veil before
the face of God is very thin and fine, and men's hearts glow within them,
where there was no oasis save the unguessed deposit of a great human dream
that his soul could feel, the face of a girl had haunted him. Her
voice--so sweet a voice that it rang like muffled silver in his ears,
till, in the everlasting theatre of the pole, the stars seemed to repeat
it through millions of echoing hills, growing softer and softer as the
frost hushed it to his ears--had said to him late and early, "You must
come back with the swallows." Then she had sung a song which had been like
a fire in his heart, not alone because of the words of it, but because of
the soul in her voice, and it had lain like a coverlet on his heart to
keep it warm:

           "Adieu! The sun goes awearily down,
           The mist creeps up o'er the sleepy town,
           The white sail bends to the shuddering mere,
           And the reapers have reaped and the night is here.

           "Adieu! And the years are a broken song,
           The right grows weak in the strife with wrong,
           The lilies of love have a crimson stain,
           And the old days never will come again.

           "Adieu! Where the mountains afar are dim
           'Neath the tremulous tread of the seraphim,
           Shall not our querulous hearts prevail,
           That have prayed for the peace of the Holy Grail?

           "Adieu! Sometime shall the veil between
           The things that are and that might have been
           Be folded back for our eyes to see,
           And the meaning of all shall be clear to me."

It had been but an acquaintance of five days while he fitted out for his
expedition, but in this brief time it had sunk deep into his mind that
life was now a thing to cherish, and that he must indeed come back; though
he had left England caring little if, in the peril and danger of his
quest, he ever returned. He had been indifferent to his fate till he came
to the Valley of the Saskatchewan, to the town lying at the foot of the
maple hill beside the great northern stream, and saw the girl whose life
was knit with the far North, whose mother's heart was buried in the great
wastes where Sir John Franklin's expedition was lost; for her husband had
been one of the ill-fated if not unhappy band of lovers of that
civilization for which they had risked all and lost all save immortality.
Hither the two had come after he had been cast away on the icy plains,
and, as the settlement had crept north, had gone north with it, always on
the outer edge of house and field, ever stepping northward. Here, with
small income but high hearts and quiet souls, they had lived and labored.

And when this newcomer from the old land set his face northward to an
unknown destination, the two women had prayed as the mother did in the old
days when the daughter was but a babe at her knee, and it was not yet
certain that Franklin and his men had been cast away forever. Something in
him--his great height, his strength of body, his clear, meditative eyes,
his brave laugh--reminded her of him, her husband, who, like Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, had said that it mattered little where men did their duty, since
God was always near to take or leave as it was His will. When Bickersteth
went, it was as though one they had known all their lives had passed; and
the woman knew also that a new thought had been sown in her daughter's
mind, a new door opened in her heart.

And he had returned. He was now looking down into the valley where the
village lay. Far, far over, two days' march away, he could see the cluster
of houses, and the glow of the sun on the tin spire of the little mission
church where he had heard the girl and her mother sing, till the hearts of
all were swept by feeling and ravished by the desire for "the peace of the
Holy Grail." The village was, in truth, but a day's march away from him,
but he was not alone, and the journey could not be hastened. Beside him,
his eyes also upon the sunset and the village, was a man in a costume
half-trapper, half-Indian, with bushy gray beard and massive frame, and a
distant, sorrowful look, like that of one whose soul was tuned to past
suffering. As he sat, his head sunk on his breast, his elbow resting on a
stump of pine--the token of a progressive civilization--his chin upon his
hand, he looked like the figure of Moses made immortal by Michael Angelo.
But his strength was not like that of the man beside him, who was thirty
years younger. When he walked, it was as one who had no destination, who
had no haven toward which to travel, who journeyed as one to whom the
world is a wilderness, and one tent or one hut is the same as another, and
none is home.

Like two ships meeting hull to hull on the wide seas, where a few miles of
water will hide them from each other, whose ports are thousands of miles
apart, whose courses are not the same, they two had met, the elder man,
sick and worn and near to death, in the poor hospitality of an Indian's
tepee. John Bickersteth had nursed the old man back to strength, and had
brought him southward with him--a silent companion, who spoke in
monosyllables, who had no conversation at all of the past and little of
the present, but who was a woodsman and an arctic traveller of the most
expert kind, who knew by instinct where the best places for shelter and
for sleeping might be found, who never complained, and was wonderful with
the dogs. Close as their association was, Bickersteth had felt concerning
the other that his real self was in some other sphere or place toward
which his mind was always turning, as though to bring it back.

Again and again had Bickersteth tried to get the old man to speak about
the past, but he had been met by a dumb sort of look, a straining to
understand. Once or twice the old man had taken his hands in both of his
own and gazed with painful eagerness into his face, as though trying to
remember or to comprehend something that eluded him. Upon these occasions
the old man's eyes dropped tears in an apathetic quiet, which tortured
Bickersteth beyond bearing. Just such a look he had seen in the eyes of a
favorite dog when he had performed an operation on it to save its life--a
reproachful, non-comprehending, loving gaze.

Bickersteth understood a little of the Chinook language, which is familiar
to most Indian tribes, and he had learned that the Indians knew nothing
exact concerning the old man; but rumors had passed from tribe to tribe
that this white man had lived forever in the farthest North among the
arctic tribes, and that he passed from people to people, disappearing into
the untenanted wilderness, but reappearing again among stranger tribes,
never resting, and as one always seeking what he could not find.

One thing had helped this old man in all his travels and sojourning. He
had, as it seemed to the native people, a gift of the hands; for when they
were sick a few moments' manipulation of his huge, quiet fingers
vanquished pain. A few herbs he gave in tincture, and these also were
praised; but it was a legend that when he was persuaded to lay on his
hands and close his eyes, and with his fingers to "search for the pain and
find it, and kill it," he always prevailed. They believed that, though his
body was on earth, his soul was with Manitou, and that it was his soul
which came into him again, and gave the Great Spirit's healing to the
fingers. This had been the man's safety through how many years--or how
many generations--they did not know; for legends regarding the pilgrim had
grown and were fostered by the medicine-men, who, by giving him great age
and supernatural power, could, with more self-respect, apologize for their
own incapacity.

So the years--how many it was impossible to tell, since he did not know or
would not say--had gone on; and now, after ceaseless wandering, his face
was turned toward that civilization out of which he had come so long
ago--or was it so long ago?--one generation, or two, or ten? It seemed to
Bickersteth at times as though it were ten, so strange, so unworldly was
his companion. At first he thought that the man remembered more than he
would appear to acknowledge, but he found that after a day or two
everything that happened as they journeyed was also forgotten.

It was only visible things, or sounds, that appeared to open the doors of
memory of the most recent happenings. These happenings, if not varied,
were of critical moment, since, passing down from the land of unchanging
ice and snow, they had come into March and April storms and the perils of
the rapids and the swollen floods of May. Now, in June, two years and a
month since Bickersteth had gone into the wilds, they looked down upon the
goal of one at least--of the younger man who had triumphed in his quest up
in these wilds abandoned centuries ago.

With the joyous thought in his heart that he had discovered anew one of
the greatest gold-fields of the world, that a journey unparalleled had
been accomplished, he turned toward his ancient companion, and a feeling
of pity and human love enlarged within him. He, John Bickersteth, was
going into a world again where--as he believed--a happy fate awaited him;
but what of this old man? He had brought him out of the wilds, out of the
unknown--was he only taking him into the unknown again? Were there
friends, any friends anywhere in the world, waiting for him? He called
himself by no name, he said he had no name. Whence came he? Of whom?
Whither was he wending now? Bickersteth had thought of the problem often,
and he had no answer for it save that he must be taken care of, if not by
others, then by himself; for the old man had saved him from drowning; had
also saved him from an awful death on a March day when he fell into a
great hole and was knocked insensible in the drifting snow; had saved him
from brooding on himself--the beginning of madness--by compelling him to
think for another. And sometimes, as he looked at the old man, his
imagination had caught the spirit of the legend of the Indians, and he had
cried out, "O soul, come back and give him memory--give him back his
memory, Manitou the mighty!"

[Illustration: THE OLD MAN SHOOK HIS HEAD. THOUGH NOT WITH UNDERSTANDING]

Looking on the old man now, an impulse seized him. "Dear old man," he
said, speaking as one speaks to a child that cannot understand, "you shall
never want while I have a penny, or have head or hands to work. But is
there no one that you care for or that cares for you, that you remember,
or that remembers you?"

The old man shook his head, though not with understanding, and he laid a
hand on the young man's shoulder, and whispered:

"Once it was always snow, but now it is green, the land. I have seen it--I
have seen it once." His shaggy eyebrows gathered over, his eyes searched,
searched the face of John Bickersteth. "Once, so long ago--I cannot
think," he added, helplessly.

"Dear old man," Bickersteth said, gently, knowing he would not wholly
comprehend, "I am going to ask her--Alice--to marry me, and if she does,
she will help look after you, too. Neither of us would have been here
without the other, dear old man, and we shall not be separated. Whoever
you are, you are a gentleman, and you might have been my father or
hers--or hers."

He stopped suddenly. A thought had flashed through his mind, a thought
which stunned him, which passed like some powerful current through his
veins, shocked him, then gave him a palpitating life. It was a wild
thought, but yet why not?--why not? There was the chance, the faint,
far-off chance. He caught the old man by the shoulders and looked him in
the eyes, scanned his features, pushed back the hair from the rugged
forehead.

"Dear old man," he said, his voice shaking, "do you know what I'm
thinking? I'm thinking that you may be of those who went out to the Arctic
Sea with Sir John Franklin--with Sir John Franklin, you understand. Did
you know Sir John Franklin?--is it true, dear old boy?--is it true? Are
you one that has lived to tell the tale? Did you know Sir John
Franklin?--is it--tell me, is it true?"

He let go the old man's shoulders, for over the face of the other there
had passed a change. It was strained and tense. The hands were
outstretched, the eyes were staring straight into the west and the coming
night.

"It is--it is--that's it!" cried Bickersteth. "That's it--oh, love o' God,
that's it! Sir John Franklin--Sir John Franklin, and all the brave lads
that died up there! You remember the ship--the Arctic Sea--the ice-fields,
and Franklin--you remember him? Dear old man, say you remember Franklin?"

The thing had seized him. Conviction was upon him, and he watched the
other's anguished face with anguish and excitement in his own. But--but it
might be, it might be her father--the eyes, the forehead are like hers;
the hands, the long hands, the pointed fingers. "Dear old man, did you
have a wife and child, and were they both called Alice--do you remember?
Franklin!--Alice! Do you remember?"

The old man got slowly to his feet, his arms outstretched, the look in his
face changing, understanding, struggling for its place, memory fighting
for its own, the soul contending for its mastery.

"Franklin--Alice--the snow," he said, confusedly, and sank down.

"God have mercy!" cried Bickersteth, as he caught the swaying body and
laid it upon the ground. "He was there--almost."

He settled the old man against the great pine stump and chafed his hands.
"Man, dear man, if you belong to her--if you do, can't you see what it
will mean to me? She can't say no to me then. But if it's true, you'll
belong to England and to all the world, too, and you'll have fame
everlasting. I'll have gold for her and for you, and for your Alice, too,
dear old man. Wake up now and remember if you are Dyke Allingham, who went
with Franklin to the silent seas of the Pole. If it's you, really you,
what wonder you lost your memory! You saw them all die, Franklin and all,
die there in the snow, with all the white world round them. If you were
there, what a travel you have had, what strange things you have seen!
Where the world is loneliest, God lives most. If you get close to the
heart of things, it's no marvel you forgot what you were, or where you
came from; because it didn't matter; you knew that you were only one of
thousands of millions who have come and gone, that make up the soul of
things, that make the pulses of the universe beat. That's it, dear old
man. The universe would die, if it weren't for the souls that leave this
world and fill it with life. Wake up! Wake up, Allingham, and tell us
where you've been, and what you've seen."

He did not labor in vain. Slowly consciousness came back, and the gray
eyes opened wide, the lips smiled faintly under the bushy beard; but
Bickersteth saw that the look in the face was much the same as it had been
before. The struggle had been too great, the fight for the other lost self
had exhausted him, mind and body, and only a deep obliquity and a great
weariness filled the countenance. He had come back to the verge, he had
almost again discovered himself; but the opening door had shut fast
suddenly, and he was back again in the night, the incompanionable night of
forgetfulness.

Bickersteth saw that the travail and strife had drained life and energy,
and that he must not press the mind and vitality of this exile of time and
the unknown too far. He felt that when the next test came the old man
would either break completely, and sink down into another and everlasting
forgetfulness, or tear away forever the veil between himself and his past,
and emerge into a long-lost life. His strength must be shepherded, and he
must be kept quiet and undisturbed until they came to the town yonder in
the valley, over which the night was slowly settling down. There two women
waited, the two Alices, from both of whom had gone lovers into the North.
The daughter was living over again in her young love the pangs of suspense
through which her mother had passed. Two years since Bickersteth had gone,
and not a sign!

Yet, if the girl had looked from her bedroom window, this Friday night,
she would have seen on the far hill a sign; for there burned a fire beside
which sat two travellers who had come from the uttermost limits of snow.
But as the fire burned--a beacon to her heart if she had but known it--she
went to her bed, the words of a song she had sung at choir-practice with
tears in her voice and in her heart ringing in her ears. A concert was to
be held after the service on the coming Sunday night, at which there was
to be a collection for funds to build another mission-house a hundred
miles farther north, and she had been practising music she was to sing.
Her mother had been an amateur singer of great power, and she was renewing
her mother's gift in a voice behind which lay a hidden sorrow. As she
cried herself to sleep the words of the song which had moved her kept
ringing in her ears and echoing in her heart:

                    "When the swallows homeward fly,
                    And the roses' bloom is o'er--"

But her mother, looking out into the night, saw on the far hill the fire,
burning like a star, where she had never seen a fire set before, and a
hope shot into her heart for her daughter--a hope that had flamed up and
died down so often during the past year. Yet she had fanned with
heartening words every such glimmer of hope when it came, and now she went
to bed saying, "Perhaps he will come to-morrow." In her mind, too, rang
the words of the song which had ravished her ears that night, the song she
had sung the night before her own husband, Dyke Allingham, had gone with
Franklin to the Polar seas:

                   "When the swallows homeward fly--"

As she and her daughter entered the little church on the Sunday evening,
two men came over the prairie slowly toward the town, and both raised
their heads to the sound of the church-bell calling to prayer. In the eyes
of the younger man there was a look which has come to many in this world
returning from hard enterprise and great dangers, to the familiar streets,
the friendly faces of men of their kin and clan--to the lights of home.

The face of the older man, however, had another look. It was such a
look as is seldom seen in the faces of men, for it showed the struggle
of a soul to regain its identity. The words which the old man had
uttered in response to Bickersteth's appeal before he fainted
away--"Franklin--Alice--the snow"--had showed that he was on the verge;
the bells of the church pealing in the summer air brought him near it once
again. How many years had gone since he had heard church-bells?
Bickersteth, gazing at him in eager scrutiny, wondered if, after all, he
might be mistaken about him. But no, this man had never been born and
bred in the Far North. His was a type which belonged to the civilization
from which he himself had come. There would soon be the test of it all.
Yet he shuddered, too, to think what might happen if it was all true,
and discovery or reunion should shake to the centre the very life of
the two long-parted ones.

He saw the look of perplexed pain and joy at once in the face of the old
man, but he said nothing, and he was almost glad when the bell stopped.
The old man turned to him.

"What is it?" he said. "I remember--" but he stopped suddenly, shaking his
head.

An hour later, cleared of the dust of travel, the two walked slowly toward
the church from the little tavern where they were lodged. The service was
now over, but the concert had begun. The church was full, and there were
people in the porch; but these made way for the two strangers; and, as
Bickersteth was recognized by two or three present, place was found for
them. Inside, the old man stared round him in a confused and troubled way,
but his motions were quiet and abstracted, and he looked like some old
viking, his workaday life done, come to pray ere he went hence forever.
They had entered in a pause in the concert, but now two ladies came
forward to the chancel steps, and one with her hands clasped before her,
began to sing:

                   "When the swallows homeward fly,
                     And the roses' bloom is o'er,
                   And the nightingale's sweet song
                     In the woods is heard no more--"

It was Alice--Alice the daughter--and presently the mother, the other
Alice, joined in the refrain. At sight of them Bickersteth's eyes had
filled, not with tears, but with a cloud of feeling, so that he went
blind. There she was, the girl he loved. Her voice was ringing in his
ears. In his own joy for one instant he had forgotten the old man beside
him and the great test that was now upon him. He turned quickly, however,
as the old man got to his feet. For an instant the lost exile of the North
stood as though transfixed. The blood slowly drained from his face, and in
his eyes was an agony of struggle and desire. For a moment an awful
confusion had the mastery, and then suddenly a clear light broke into his
eyes, his face flushed healthily and shone, his arms went up, and there
rang in his ears the words:

                    "Then I think, with bitter pain,
                    Shall we ever meet again
                    When the swallows homeward fly?"

"Alice!--Alice!" he called, and tottered forward up the aisle, followed by
John Bickersteth.

"Alice, I have come back!" he cried again.



GEORGE'S WIFE


"She's come, and she can go back. No one asked her, no one wants her, and
she's got no rights here. She thinks she'll come it over me, but she'll
get nothing, and there's no place for her here."

The old, gray-bearded man, gnarled and angular, with overhanging brows and
a harsh face, made this little speech of malice and unfriendliness,
looking out on the snow-covered prairie through the window. Far in the
distance were a sleigh and horses like a spot in the snow, growing larger
from minute to minute.

It was a day of days. Overhead the sun was pouring out a flood of light
and warmth, and, though it was bitterly cold, life was beating hard in the
bosom of the West. Men walked lightly, breathed quickly, and their eyes
were bright with the brightness of vitality and content. Even the old man
at the window of this lonely house, in a great, lonely stretch of country,
with the cedar hills behind it, had a living force which defied his
seventy-odd years, though the light in his face was hard and his voice was
harder still. Under the shelter of the foothills, cold as the day was, his
cattle were feeding in the open, scratching away the thin layer of snow
and browsing on the tender grass underneath. An arctic world in
appearance, it had an abounding life which made it friendly and
generous--the harshness belonged to the surface. So, perhaps, it was with
the old man who watched the sleigh in the distance coming nearer, but that
in his nature on which any one could feed was not so easily reached as the
fresh young grass under the protecting snow.

"She'll get nothing out of me," he repeated, as the others in the room
behind him made no remark, and his eyes ranged gloatingly over the cattle
under the foothills and the buildings which he had gathered together to
proclaim his substantial greatness in the West. "Not a _sou markee_!" he
added, clinking some coins in his pocket. "She's got no rights."

"Cassy's got as much right here as any of us, Abel, and she's coming to
say it, I guess."

The voice which spoke was unlike a Western voice. It was deep and full and
slow, with an organ-like quality. It was in good-keeping with the tall,
spare body and large, fine, rugged face of the woman to whom it belonged.
She sat in a rocking-chair, but did not rock, her fingers busy with the
knitting-needles, her feet planted squarely on the home-made hassock at
her feet.

The old man waited for a minute in a painful silence, then he turned
slowly round, and, with tight-pressed lips, looked at the woman in the
rocking-chair. If it had been any one else who had "talked back" at him,
he would have made quick work of them, for he was of that class of tyrant
who pride themselves on being self-made, and have an undue respect for
their own judgment and importance. But the woman who had ventured to
challenge his cold-blooded remarks about his dead son's wife, now
hastening over the snow to the house her husband had left under a cloud
eight years before, had no fear of him, and, maybe, no deep regard for
him. He respected her, as did all who knew her--a very reticent,
thoughtful, busy being, who had been like a well of comfort to so many
that had drunk and passed on out of her life, out of time and time's
experiences. Seventy-nine years saw her still upstanding, strong, full of
work, and fuller of life's knowledge. It was she who had sent the horses
and sleigh for Cassy when the old man, having read the letter that Cassy
had written him, said that she could "freeze at the station" for all of
him. Aunt Kate had said nothing then, but, when the time came, by her
orders the sleigh and horses were at the station; and the old man had made
no direct protest, for she was the one person he had never dominated nor
bullied. If she had only talked, he would have worn her down, for he was
fond of talking, and it was said by those who were cynical and incredulous
about him that he had gone to prayer-meetings, had been a local preacher,
only to hear his own voice. Probably, if there had been any politics in
the West in his day, he would have been a politician, though it would have
been too costly for his taste, and religion was very cheap; it enabled him
to refuse to join in many forms of expenditure, on the ground that he "did
not hold by such things."

In Aunt Kate, the sister of his wife, dead so many years ago, he had found
a spirit stronger than his own. He valued her; he had said more than once,
to those who he thought would never repeat it to her, that she was a
"great woman"; but self-interest was the mainspring of his appreciation.
Since she had come again to his house--she had lived with him once before
for two years when his wife was slowly dying--it had been a different
place. Housekeeping had cost less than before, yet the cooking was better,
the place was beautifully clean, and discipline without rigidity reigned
everywhere. One by one the old woman's boys and girls had died--four of
them--and she was now alone, with not a single grandchild left to cheer
her; and the life out here with Abel Baragar had been unrelieved by much
that was heartening to a woman; for Black Andy, Abel's son, was not an
inspiring figure, though even his moroseness gave way under her influence.
So it was that when Cassy's letter came her breast seemed to grow warmer
and swell with longing to see the wife of her nephew, who had such a bad
reputation in Abel's eyes, and to see George's little boy, who was coming,
too. After all, whatever Cassy was, she was the mother of Abel's son's
son; and Aunt Kate was too old and wise to be frightened by tales told of
Cassy or any one else. So, having had her own way so far regarding Cassy's
coming, she looked Abel calmly in the eyes, over the gold-rimmed
spectacles which were her dearest possession--almost the only thing of
value she had. She was not afraid of Abel's anger, and he knew it; but his
eldest son, Black Andy, was present, and he must make a show of being
master of the situation.

"Aunt Kate," he said, "I didn't make a fuss about you sending the horses
and sleigh for her, because women do fool things sometimes. I suppose
curiosity got the best of you. Anyhow, mebbe it's right Cassy should find
out, once for all, how things stand, and that they haven't altered since
she took George away, and ruined his life, and sent him to his grave.
That's why I didn't order Mick back when I saw him going out with the
team."

"Cassy Mavor," interjected a third voice from a corner behind the great
stove--"Cassy Mavor, of the variety-dance-and-song, and a talk with the
gallery between!"

Aunt Kate looked over at Black Andy, and stopped knitting, for there was
that in the tone of the sullen ranchman which stirred in her a sudden
anger, and anger was a rare and uncomfortable sensation to her. A flush
crept slowly over her face, then it died away, and she said quietly to
Black Andy--for she had ever prayed to be master of the demon of temper
down deep in her, and she was praying now--

"She earnt her living by singing and dancing, and she's brought up
George's boy by it, and singing and dancing isn't a crime. David danced
before the Lord. I danced myself when I was a young girl, and before I
joined the church. 'Twas about the only pleasure I ever had; 'bout the
only one I like to remember. There's no difference to me 'twixt making
your feet handy and clever and full of music, and playing with your
fingers on the piano or on a melodeon at a meeting. As for singing, it's
God's gift; and many a time I wisht I had it. I'd have sung the blackness
out of your face and heart, Andy." She leaned back again and began to knit
very fast. "I'd like to hear Cassy sing, and see her dance, too."

Black Andy chuckled coarsely. "I often heard her sing and saw her dance
down at Lumley's before she took George away East. You wouldn't have
guessed she had consumption. She knocked the boys over down to Lumley's.
The first night at Lumley's done for George."

Black Andy's face showed no lightening of its gloom as he spoke, but there
was a firing-up of the black eyes, and the woman with the knitting felt
that--for whatever reason--he was purposely irritating his father.

"The devil was in her heels and in her tongue," Andy continued. "With her
big mouth, red hair, and little eyes she'd have made anybody laugh. I
laughed."

"You laughed!" snapped out his father, with a sneer.

Black Andy's eyes half closed with a morose look, then he went on: "Yes, I
laughed at Cassy. While she was out here at Lumley's getting cured,
accordin' to the doctor's orders, things seemed to get a move on in the
West. But it didn't suit professing Christians like you, dad." He jerked
his head toward the old man and drew the spittoon near with his feet.

"The West hasn't been any worse off since she left," snarled the old man.

"Well, she took George with her," grimly retorted Black Andy.

Abel Baragar's heart had been warmer toward his dead son George than to
any one else in the world. George had been as fair of face and hair as
Andrew was dark, as cheerful and amusing as Andrew was gloomy and
dispiriting, as agile and dexterous of mind and body as his brother was
slow and angular, as emotional and warm-hearted as the other was
phlegmatic and sour--or so it seemed to the father and to nearly all
others.

In those old days they had not been very well off. The railway was not
completed, and the West had not begun "to move." The old man had bought
and sold land and cattle and horses, always living on a narrow margin of
safety, but in the hope that one day the choice bits of land he was
shepherding here and there would take a leap up in value; and his judgment
had been right. His prosperity had all come since George went away with
Cassy Mavor. His anger at George had been the more acute, because the
thing happened at a time when his affairs were on the edge of a precipice.
He had won through it, but only by the merest shave, and it had all left
him with a bad spot in his heart, in spite of his "having religion."
Whenever he remembered George he instinctively thought of those black days
when a Land and Cattle Syndicate was crowding him over the edge into the
chasm of failure, and came so near doing it. A few thousand dollars less
to put up here and there, and he would have been ruined; his blood became
hotter whenever he thought of it. He had had to fight the worst of it
through alone, for George, who had been useful as a kind of buyer and
seller, who was ever all things to all men, and ready with quip and jest,
and not a little uncertain as to truth--to which the old man shut his eyes
when there was a "deal" on--had, in the end, been of no use at all, and
had seemed to go to pieces just when he was most needed. His father had
put it all down to Cassy Mavor, who had unsettled things since she had
come to Lumley's, and, being a man of very few ideas, he cherished those
he had with an exaggerated care. Prosperity had not softened him; it had
given him an arrogance unduly emphasized by a reputation for rigid virtue
and honesty. The indirect attack which Andrew now made on George's memory
roused him to anger, as much because it seemed to challenge his own
judgment as cast a slight on the name of the boy whom he had cast off, yet
who had a firmer hold on his heart than any human being ever had. It had
only been pride which had prevented him from making it up with George
before it was too late; but, all the more, he was set against the woman
who "kicked up her heels for a living"; and, all the more, he resented
Black Andy, who, in his own grim way, had managed to remain a partner with
him in their present prosperity, and had done so little for it.

"George helped to make what you've got," he said, darkly, now. "The West
missed George. The West said, 'There was a good man ruined by a woman.'
The West'd never think anything or anybody missed you, 'cept yourself.
When you went North, it never missed you; when you come back, its jaw
fell. You wasn't fit to black George's boots."

Black Andy's mouth took on a bitter sort of smile, and his eyes drooped
furtively as he struck the damper of the stove heavily with his foot; then
he replied, slowly:

"Well, that's all right; but if I wasn't fit to black his boots, it ain't
my fault. I git my nature honest, as he did. We wasn't any cross-breeds, I
s'pose. We got the strain direct, and we was all right on her side."

He jerked his head toward Aunt Kate, whose face was growing pale. She
interposed now.

"Can't you leave the dead alone?" she asked, in a voice ringing a little.
"Can't you let them rest? Ain't it enough to quarrel about the living?
Cassy'll be here soon," she added, peering out of the window, "and if I
was you I'd try and not make her sorry she ever married a Baragar. It
ain't a feeling that'd make a sick woman live long."

Aunt Kate did not strike often, but when she did she struck hard. Abel
Baragar staggered a little under this blow, for, at the moment, it seemed
to him that he saw his dead wife's face looking at him from the chair
where her sister now sat. Down in his ill-furnished heart, where there had
been little which was companionable, there was a shadowed corner. Sophy
Baragar had been such a true-hearted, brave-souled woman, and he had been
so impatient and exacting with her, till the beautiful face, which had
been reproduced in George, had lost its color and its fire, had become
careworn and sweet with that sweetness which goes early out of the world.
In all her days the vanished wife had never hinted at as much as Aunt Kate
suggested now, and Abel Baragar shut his eyes against the thing which he
was seeing. He was not all hard, after all.

Aunt Kate turned to Black Andy now.

"Mebbe Cassy ain't for long," she said. "Mebbe she's come out for what she
came out for before. It seems to me it's that, or she wouldn't have come;
because she's young yet, and she's fond of her boy, and she'd not want to
bury herself alive out here with us. Mebbe her lungs is bad again."

"Then she's sure to get another husband out here," said the old man,
recovering himself. "She got one before easy, on the same ticket." With
something of malice he looked over at Black Andy.

"If she can sing and dance as she done nine years ago, I shouldn't
wonder," answered Black Andy, smoothly. These two men knew each other;
they had said hard things to each other for many a year, yet they lived on
together unshaken by each other's moods and bitternesses.

"I'm getting old--I'm seventy-nine--and I ain't for long," urged Aunt
Kate, looking Abel in the eyes. "Some day soon I'll be stepping out and
away. Then things'll go to sixes and sevens, as they did after Sophy died.
Some one ought to be here that's got a right to be here, not a hired
woman."

Suddenly the old man raged out:

"Her--off the stage to look after this! Her, that's kicked up her heels
for a living! It's--no, she's no good. She's common. She's come, and she
can go. I ain't having sweepings from the streets living here as if they
had rights."

Aunt Kate set her lips.

"Sweepings! You've got to take that back, Abel. It's not Christian. You've
got to take that back."

"He'll take it back all right before we've done, I guess," remarked Black
Andy. "He'll take a lot back."

"Truth's truth, and I'll stand by it, and--"

The old man stopped, for there came to them now, clearly, the sound of
sleigh-bells. They all stood still for an instant, silent and attentive,
then Aunt Kate moved toward the door.

"Cassy's come," she said. "Cassy and George's boy've come."

Another instant and the door was opened on the beautiful, white, sparkling
world, and the low sleigh, with its great, warm, buffalo robes, in which
the small figures of a woman and a child were almost lost, stopped at the
door. Two whimsical but tired eyes looked over a rim of fur at the old
woman in the doorway, then Cassy's voice rang out:

"Hello! that's Aunt Kate, I know! Well, here we are, and here's my boy.
Jump, George!"

A moment later and the gaunt old woman folded both mother and son in her
arms and drew them into the room. The door was shut, and they all faced
one another.

The old man and Black Andy did not move, but stood staring at the trim
figure in black, with the plain face, large mouth, and tousled red hair,
and the dreamy-eyed, handsome little boy beside her.

Black Andy stood behind the stove, looking over at the new-comers with
quizzical, almost furtive eyes, and his father remained for a moment with
mouth open, gazing at his dead son's wife and child, as though not quite
comprehending the scene. The sight of the boy had brought back, in some
strange, embarrassing way, a vision of thirty years before, when George
was a little boy in buckskin pants and jacket, and was beginning to ride
the prairie with him. This boy was like George, yet not like him. The face
was George's, the sensuous, luxurious mouth; but the eyes were not those
of a Baragar, nor yet those of Aunt Kate's family; and they were not
wholly like the mother's. They were full and brimming, while hers were
small and whimsical; yet they had her quick, humorous flashes and her
quaintness.

"Have I changed so much? Have you forgotten me?" Cassy asked, looking the
old man in the eyes. "You look as strong as a bull." She held out her hand
to him and laughed.

"Hope I see you well," said Abel Baragar, mechanically, as he took the
hand and shook it awkwardly.

"Oh, I'm all right," answered the nonchalant little woman, undoing her
jacket. "Shake hands with your grandfather, George. That's right--don't
talk too much," she added, with a half-nervous little laugh, as the old
man, with a kind of fixed smile, and the child shook hands in silence.

Presently she saw Black Andy behind the stove. "Well, Andy, have you been
here ever since?" she asked, and, as he came forward, she suddenly caught
him by both arms, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him. "Last time I saw you,
you were behind the stove at Lumley's. Nothing's ever too warm for you,"
she added. "You'd be shivering on the equator. You were always hugging the
stove at Lumley's."

"Things were pretty warm there, too, Cassy," he said, with a sidelong look
at his father.

She saw the look, her face flushed with sudden temper, then her eyes fell
on her boy, now lost in the arms of Aunt Kate, and she curbed herself.

"There were plenty of things doing at Lumley's in those days," she said,
brusquely. "We were all young and fresh then," she added, and then
something seemed to catch her voice, and she coughed a little--a hard,
dry, feverish cough. "Are the Lumleys all right? Are they still there, at
the Forks?" she asked, after the little paroxysm of coughing.

"Cleaned out--all scattered. We own the Lumleys' place now," replied Black
Andy, with another sidelong glance at his father, who, as he put some more
wood on the fire and opened the damper of the stove wider, grimly watched
and listened.

"Jim, and Lance, and Jerry, and Abner?" she asked, almost abstractedly.

"Jim's dead--shot by a U. S. marshal by mistake for a smuggler," answered
Black Andy, suggestively. "Lance is up on the Yukon, busted; Jerry is one
of our hands on the place; and Abner is in jail."

"Abner--in jail!" she exclaimed, in a dazed way. "What did he do? Abner
always seemed so straight."

[Illustration: GEORGE'S WIFE]

"Oh, he sloped with a thousand dollars of the railway people's money. They
caught him, and he got seven years."

"He was married, wasn't he?" she asked, in a low voice.

"Yes, to Phenie Tyson. There's no children, so she's all right, and
divorce is cheap over in the States, where she is now."

"Phenie Tyson didn't marry Abner because he was a saint, but because he
was a man, I suppose," she replied, gravely. "And the old folks?"

"Both dead. What Abner done sent the old man to his grave. But Abner's
mother died a year before."

"What Abner done killed his father," said Abel Baragar, with dry emphasis.
"Phenie Tyson was extravagant--wanted this and that, and nothin' was too
good for her. Abner spoilt his life gettin' her what she wanted; and it
broke old Ezra Lumley's heart."

George's wife looked at him for a moment with her eyes screwed up, and
then she laughed softly. "My, it's curious how some folks go up and some
go down! It must be lonely for Phenie waiting all these years for Abner to
get free.... I had the happiest time in my life at Lumley's. I was getting
better of my--cold. While I was there I got lots of strength stored up, to
last me many a year when I needed it; and, then, George and I were married
at Lumley's!"

Aunt Kate came slowly over with the boy and laid a hand on Cassy's
shoulder, for there was an undercurrent to the conversation which boded no
good. The very first words uttered had plunged Abel Baragar and his son's
wife into the midst of the difficulty which she had hoped might, after
all, be avoided.

"Come, and I'll show you your room, Cassy," she said. "It faces south, and
you'll get the sun all day. It's like a sun-parlor. We're going to have
supper in a couple of hours, and you must rest some first. Is the house
warm enough for you?"

The little, garish woman did not reply directly, but shook back her red
hair and caught her boy to her breast and kissed him; then she said, in
that staccato manner which had given her words on the stage such point and
emphasis: "Oh, this house is a'most too warm for me, Aunt Kate!"

Then she moved toward the door with the grave, kindly old woman, her son's
hand in her own.

"You can see the Lumleys' place from your window, Cassy," said Black Andy,
grimly. "We got a mortgage on it, and foreclosed it, and it's ours now;
and Jerry Lumley's stock-riding for us. Anyhow, he's better off than
Abner, or Abner's wife."

Cassy turned at the door and faced him. Instinctively she caught at some
latent conflict with old Abel Baragar in what Black Andy had said, and her
face softened, for it suddenly flashed into her mind that he was not
against her.

"I'm glad to be back West," she said. "It meant a lot to me when I was at
Lumley's." She coughed a little again, but turned to the door with a
laugh.

"How long have you come to stay here--out West?" asked the old man,
furtively.

"Oh, there's plenty of time to think of that!" she answered, brusquely,
and she heard Black Andy laugh derisively as the door closed behind her.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In a blaze of joy the sun swept down behind the southern hills, and the
windows of Lumley's house at the Forks, catching the oblique rays,
glittered and shone like flaming silver. Nothing of life showed, save the
cattle here and there, creeping away to the shelter of the foothills for
the night. The white, placid snow made a coverlet as wide as the vision of
the eye, save where spruce and cedar trees gave a touch of warmth and
refuge here and there. A wonderful, buoyant peace seemed to rest upon the
wide, silent expanse. The birds of song were gone South over the hills,
and the living wild things of the prairies had stolen into
winter-quarters. Yet, as Cassy Mavor looked out upon the exquisite beauty
of the scene, upon the splendid outspanning of the sun along the hills,
the deep plangent blue of the sky and the thrilling light, she saw a world
in agony and she heard the moans of the afflicted. The sun shone bright on
the windows of Lumley's house, but she could hear the crying of Abner's
wife, and of old Ezra and Eliza Lumley, when their children were stricken
or shamed; when Abel Baragar drew tighter and tighter the chains of the
mortgage, which at last made them tenants in the house once their own.
Only eight years ago, and all this had happened. And what had not happened
to her, too, in those eight years!

With George--reckless, useless, loving, lying George--she had left
Lumley's with her sickness cured, as it seemed, after a long year in the
West, and had begun life again. What sort of life had it been? "Kicking up
her heels on the stage," as Abel Baragar had said; but, somehow, not as it
was before she went West to give her perforated lung to the healing air of
the plains, and to live out-doors with the men--a man's life. Then she had
never put a curb on her tongue, or greatly on her actions, except that,
though a hundred men quarrelled openly, or in their own minds, about her,
no one had ever had any _right_ to quarrel about her. With a tongue which
made men gasp with laughter, with as comic a gift as ever woman had, and
as equally comic a face, she had been a good-natured little tyrant in her
way. She had given a kiss here and there, and had taken one, but always
there had been before her mind the picture of a careworn woman who
struggled to bring up her three children honestly, and without the help of
charity, and, with a sigh of content and weariness, had died as Cassy made
her first hit on the stage and her name became a household word. And
Cassy, garish, gay, freckled, witty, and whimsical, had never forgotten
those days when her mother prayed and worked her heart out to do her duty
by her children. Cassy Mavor had made her following, had won her place,
was the idol of "the gallery"; and yet she was "of the people," as she had
always been, until her first sickness came, and she had gone out to
Lumley's, out along the foothills of the Rockies.

What had made her fall in love with George Baragar? She could not have
told, if she had been asked. He was wayward, given to drink at times,
given also to card-playing and racing; but he had a way with him which few
women could resist and that made men his friends; and he had a sense of
humor akin to her own. In any case, one day she let him catch her up in
his arms, and there was the end of it. But no, not the end, after all. It
was only the beginning of real life for her. All that had gone before
seemed but playing on the threshold, though it had meant hard, bitter
hard, work, and temptation, and patience, and endurance of many kinds. And
now George was gone forever. But George's little boy lay there on the bed
in a soft sleep, with all his life before him.

She turned from the warm window and the buoyant, inspiring scene to the
bed. Stooping over, she kissed the sleeping boy with an abrupt eagerness,
and made a little awkward, hungry gesture of love over him, and her face
flushed hot with the passion of motherhood in her.

"All I've got now," she murmured. "Nothing else left--nothing else at
all."

She heard the door open behind her, and she turned round. Aunt Kate was
entering with a bowl in her hands.

"I heard you moving about, and I've brought you something hot to drink,"
she said.

"That's real good of you, Aunt Kate," was the cheerful reply. "But it's
near supper-time, and I don't need it."

"It's boneset tea--for your cold," answered Aunt Kate, gently, and put it
on the high dressing-table made of a wooden box and covered with muslin.
"For your cold, Cassy," she repeated.

The little woman stood still a moment gazing at the steaming bowl, lines
growing suddenly around her mouth, then she looked at Aunt Kate
quizzically. "Is my cold bad--so bad that I need boneset?" she asked, in a
queer, constrained voice.

"It's comforting, is boneset tea, even when there's no cold, 'specially
when the whiskey's good, and the boneset and camomile has steeped some
days."

"Have you been steeping them some days?" Cassy asked, softly, eagerly.

Aunt Kate nodded, then tried to explain.

"It's always good to be prepared, and I didn't know but what the cold you
used to have might be come back," she said. "But I'm glad if it ain't--if
that cough of yours is only one of the measly little hacks people get in
the East, where it's so damp."

Cassy was at the window again, looking out at the dying radiance of the
sun. Her voice seemed hollow and strange and rather rough, as she said, in
reply:

"It's a real cold, deep down, the same as I had nine years ago, Aunt Kate;
and it's come to stay, I guess. That's why I came back West. But I
couldn't have gone to Lumley's again, even if they were at the Forks now,
for I'm too poor. I'm a back-number now. I had to give up singing and
dancing a year ago, after George died. So I don't earn my living any more,
and I had to come to George's father, with George's boy."

Aunt Kate had a shrewd mind, and was tactful, too. She did not understand
why Cassy, who had earned so much money all these years, should be so poor
now, unless it was that she hadn't saved--that she and George hadn't
saved. But, looking at the face before her, and the child on the bed, she
was convinced that the woman was a good woman; that, singer and dancer as
she was, there was no reason why any home should be closed to her, or any
heart should shut its doors before her. She guessed a reason for this
poverty of Cassy Mavor, but it only made her lay a hand on the little
woman's shoulders and look into her eyes.

"Cassy," she said, gently, "you was right to come here. There's trials
before you, but for the boy's sake you must bear them. Sophy, George's
mother, had to bear them, and Abel was fond of her, too, in his way. He's
stored up a lot of things to say, and he'll say them; but you'll keep the
boy in your mind, and be patient, won't you, Cassy? You got rights here,
and it's comfortable, and there's plenty, and the air will cure your lung
as it did before. It did all right before, didn't it?" She handed the bowl
of boneset tea. "Take it; it'll do you good, Cassy," she added.

Cassy said nothing in reply. She looked at the bed where her boy lay, she
looked at the angular face of the woman, with its brooding motherliness,
at the soft, gray hair, and, with a little gasp of feeling, she raised the
bowl to her lips and drank freely. Then, putting it down, she said:

"He doesn't mean to have us, Aunt Kate, but I'll try and keep my temper
down. Did he ever laugh in his life?"

"He laughs sometimes--kind o' laughs."

"I'll make him laugh real, if I can," Cassy rejoined. "I've made a lot of
people laugh in my time."

The old woman leaned suddenly over, and drew the red, ridiculous head to
her shoulder with a gasp of affection, and her eyes were full of tears.

"Cassy," she exclaimed, "Cassy, you make me cry!" and then she turned and
hurried from the room.

Three hours later the problem was solved in the big sitting-room where
Cassy had first been received with her boy. Aunt Kate sat with her feet on
a hassock, rocking gently and watching and listening. Black Andy was
behind the great stove with his chair tilted back, carving the bowl of a
pipe; the old man sat rigid by the table, looking straight before him and
smacking his lips now and then as he was wont to do at meeting; while
Cassy, with her chin in her hands and elbows on her knees, gazed into the
fire and waited for the storm to break.

Her little flashes of humor at dinner had not brightened things, and she
had had an insane desire to turn cartwheels round the room, so implacable
and highly strained was the attitude of the master of the house, so
unctuous was the grace and the thanksgiving before and after the meal.
Abel Baragar had stored up his anger and his righteous antipathy for
years, and this was the first chance he had had of visiting his
displeasure on the woman who had "ruined" George, and who had now come to
get "rights," which he was determined she should not have. He had steeled
himself against seeing any good in her whatever. Self-will, self-pride,
and self-righteousness were big in him, and so the supper had ended in
silence, and with a little attack of coughing on the part of Cassy, which
made her angry at herself. Then the boy had been put to bed, and she had
come back to await the expected outburst. She could feel it in the air,
and while her blood tingled in a desire to fight this tyrant to the bitter
end, she thought of her boy and his future, and she calmed the tumult in
her veins.

She did not have to wait very long. The querulous voice of the old man
broke the silence.

"When be you goin' back East? What time did you fix for goin'?" he asked.

She raised her head and looked at him squarely. "I didn't fix any time for
going East again," she replied. "I came out West this time to stay."

"I thought you was on the stage," was the rejoinder.

"I've left the stage. My voice went when I got a bad cold again, and I
couldn't stand the draughts of the theatre, and so I couldn't dance,
either. I'm finished with the stage. I've come out here for good and
all."

"Where did you think of livin' out here?"

"I'd like to have gone to Lumley's, but that's not possible, is it?
Anyway, I couldn't afford it now. So I thought I'd stay here, if there was
room for me."

"You want to board here?"

"I didn't put it to myself that way. I thought perhaps you'd be glad to
have me. I'm handy. I can cook, I can sew, and I'm quite cheerful and
kind. Then there's George--little George. I thought you'd like to have
your grandson here with you."

"I've lived without him--or his father--for eight years, an' I could bear
it awhile yet, mebbe."

There was a half-choking sound from the old woman in the rocking-chair,
but she did not speak, though her knitting dropped into her lap.

"But if you knew us better, perhaps you'd like us better," rejoined Cassy,
gently. "We're both pretty easy to get on with, and we see the bright side
of things. He has a wonderful disposition, has George."

"I ain't goin' to like you any better," said the old man, getting to his
feet. "I ain't goin' to give you any rights here. I've thought it out, and
my mind's made up. You can't come it over me. You ruined my boy's life and
sent him to his grave. He'd have lived to be an old man out here; but you
spoiled him. You trapped him into marrying you, with your kicking and your
comic songs, and your tricks of the stage, and you parted us--parted him
and me forever."

"That was your fault. George wanted to make it up."

"With you!" The old man's voice rose shrilly, the bitterness and passion
of years was shooting high in the narrow confines of his mind. The geyser
of his prejudice and antipathy was furiously alive. "To come back with you
that ruined him and broke up my family, and made my life like bitter
aloes! No! And if I wouldn't have him with you, do you think I'll have you
without him? By the God of Israel, no!"

Black Andy was now standing up behind the stove intently watching, his
face grim and sombre; Aunt Kate sat with both hands gripping the arms of
the rocker.

Cassy got slowly to her feet. "I've been as straight a woman as your
mother or your wife ever was," she said, "and all the world knows it. I'm
poor--and I might have been rich. I was true to myself before I married
George, and I was true to George after, and all I earned he shared; and
I've got little left. The mining stock I bought with what I saved went
smash, and I'm poor as I was when I started to work for myself. I can work
awhile yet; but I wanted to see if I could fit in out here and get well
again, and have my boy fixed in the house of his grandfather. That's the
way I'm placed, and that's how I came. But give a dog a bad name--ah, you
shame your dead boy in thinking bad of me! I didn't ruin him. I didn't
kill him. He never came to any bad through me. I helped him; he was happy.
Why, I--" She stopped suddenly, putting a hand to her mouth. "Go on, say
what you want to say, and let's understand once for all," she added, with
a sudden sharpness.

Abel Baragar drew himself up. "Well, I say this. I'll give you three
thousand dollars, and you can go somewhere else to live. I'll keep the boy
here. That's what I've fixed in my mind to do. You can go, and the boy
stays. I ain't goin' to live with you that spoiled George's life."

The eyes of the woman dilated, she trembled with a sudden rush of anger,
then stood still, staring in front of her without a word. Black Andy
stepped from behind the stove.

"You are going to stay here, Cassy," he said, "here where you have rights
as good as any, and better than any, if it comes to that." He turned to
his father. "You thought a lot of George," he added. "He was the apple of
your eye. He had a soft tongue, and most people liked him; but George was
foolish--I've known it all these years. George was pretty foolish. He
gambled, he bet at races, he speculated--wild. You didn't know it. He took
ten thousand dollars of your money, got from the Wonegosh farm he sold for
you. He--"

Cassy Mavor started forward with a cry, but Black Andy waved her down.

"No, I'm going to tell it. George lost your ten thousand dollars, dad,
gambling, racing, speculating. He told her--Cassy--two days after they was
married, and she took the money she earned on the stage and give it to him
to pay you back on the quiet through the bank. You never knew, but that's
the kind of boy your son George was, and that's the kind of wife he had.
George told me all about it when I went East six years ago."

He came over to Cassy and stood beside her. "I'm standing by George's
wife," he said, taking her hand, while she shut her eyes in her
misery--had she not hid her husband's wrong-doing all these years?--"I'm
standing by her. If it hadn't been for that ten thousand dollars she paid
back for George, you'd have been swamped, when the Syndicate got after
you, and we wouldn't have had Lumley's place, nor this, nor anything. I
guess she's got rights here, dad, as good as any."

The old man sank slowly into a chair. "George--George stole from me--stole
money from me!" he whispered. His face was white. His pride and vainglory
were broken. He was a haggard, shaken figure. His self-righteousness was
levelled in the dust.

With sudden impulse Cassy stole over to him and took his hand and held it
tight.

"Don't! Don't feel so bad!" she said. "He was weak and wild then. But he
was all right afterward. He was happy with me."

"I've owed Cassy this for a good many years, dad," said Black Andy, "and
it had to be paid. She's got better stuff in her than any Baragar."

                   *       *       *       *       *

An hour later the old man said to Cassy at the door of her room: "You got
to stay here and git well. It's yours, the same as the rest of us--what's
here."

Then he went down-stairs and sat with Aunt Kate by the fire.

"I guess she's a good woman," he said, at last. "I didn't use her right."

"You've been lucky with your women-folk," Aunt Kate answered, quietly.

"Yes, I've been lucky," he answered. "I dunno if I deserve it. Mebbe not.
Do you think she'll git well?"

"It's a healing air out here," Aunt Kate answered, and listened to the
wood of the house snapping in the sharp frost.



MARCILE


That the day was beautiful, that the harvest of the West had been a great
one, that the salmon-fishing had been larger than ever before, that gold
had been found in the Yukon, made no difference to Jacques Grassette, for
he was in the condemned cell of Bindon Jail, living out those days which
pass so swiftly between the verdict of the jury and the last slow walk
with the Sheriff.

He sat with his back to the stone wall, his hands on his knees, looking
straight before him. All that met his physical gaze was another stone
wall, but with his mind's eye he was looking beyond it into spaces far
away. His mind was seeing a little house with dormer-windows, and a steep
roof on which the snow could not lodge in winter-time; with a narrow stoop
in front where one could rest of an evening, the day's work done; the
stone-and-earth oven near by in the open, where the bread for a family of
twenty was baked; the wooden plough tipped against the fence, to wait the
"fall" cultivation; the big iron cooler in which the sap from the
maple-trees was boiled, in the days when the snow thawed and spring opened
the heart of the wood; the flash of the sickle and the scythe hard by; the
fields of the little, narrow farm running back from the St. Lawrence like
a riband; and, out on the wide stream, the great rafts with their riverine
population floating down to Michelin's mill-yards.

For hours he had sat like this, unmoving, his gnarled red hands clamping
each leg as though to hold him steady while he gazed; and he saw himself
as a little lad, barefooted, doing chores, running after the shaggy,
troublesome pony which would let him catch it when no one else could, and,
with only a halter on, galloping wildly back to the farm-yard, to be
hitched up in the cariole which had once belonged to the old Seigneur. He
saw himself as a young man back from "the States," where he had been
working in the mills, regarded austerely by little Father Roche, who had
given him his first Communion--for, down in Massachusetts he had learned
to wear his curly hair plastered down on his forehead, smoke bad cigars,
and drink "old Bourbon," to bet and to gamble, and be a figure at
horse-races.

Then he saw himself, his money all gone, but the luck still with him, at
Mass on the Sunday before going to the backwoods lumber-camp for the
winter, as boss of a hundred men. He had a way with him, and he had
brains, had Jacques Grassette, and he could manage men, as Michelin the
lumber-king himself had found in a great river-row and strike, when
bloodshed seemed certain. Even now the ghost of a smile played at his lips
as he recalled the surprise of the old _habitants_ and of Father Roche
when he was chosen for this responsible post; for to run a great
lumber-camp well, hundreds of miles from civilisation, where there is no
visible law, no restraints of ordinary organized life, and where men, for
seven months together, never saw a woman or a child, and ate pork and
beans, and drank white whiskey, was a task of administration as difficult
as managing a small republic new-created out of violent elements of
society. But Michelin was right, and the old Seigneur, Sir Henri
Robitaille, who was a judge of men, knew he was right, as did also
Hennepin the school-master, whose despair Jacques had been, for he never
worked at his lessons as a boy, and yet he absorbed Latin and mathematics
by some sure but unexplainable process. "Ah, if you would but work,
Jacques, you _vaurien_, I would make a great man of you," Hennepin had
said to him more than once; but this had made no impression on Jacques. It
was more to the point that the ground-hogs and black squirrels and pigeons
were plentiful in Casanac Woods.

And so he thought as he stood at the door of the Church of St. Francis on
that day before going "out back" to the lumber-camp. He had reached the
summit of greatness--to command men. That was more than wealth or
learning, and as he spoke to the old Seigneur going in to Mass, he still
thought so, for the Seigneur's big house and the servants and the great
gardens had no charm for him. The horses--that was another thing; but
there would be plenty of horses in the lumber-camp; and, on the whole, he
felt himself rather superior to the old Seigneur, who now was
Lieutenant-Governor of the province in which lay Bindon Jail.

At the door of the Church of St. Francis he had stretched himself up with
good-natured pride, for he was by nature gregarious and friendly, but with
a temper quick and strong, and even savage when roused; though Michelin
the lumber-king did not know that when he engaged him as boss, having seen
him only at the one critical time when his superior brain and will saw its
chance to command and had no personal interest in the strife. He had been
a miracle of coolness then, and his six-foot-two of pride and muscle was
taking natural tribute at the door of the Church of St. Francis, where he
waited till nearly every one had entered, and Father Roche's voice could
be heard in the Mass.

[Illustration: THEN HAD HAPPENED THE REAL EVENT OF HIS LIFE]

Then had happened the real event of his life: a black-eyed, rose-cheeked
girl went by with her mother, hurrying in to Mass. As she passed him their
eyes met, and his blood leaped in his veins. He had never seen her before,
and, in a sense, he had never seen any woman before. He had danced with
many a one, and kissed a few in the old days among the flax-beaters, at
the harvesting, in the gayeties of a wedding, and also down in
Massachusetts. That, however, was a different thing, which he forgot an
hour after; but this was the beginning of the world for him; for he knew
now, of a sudden, what life was, what home meant, why "old folks" slaved
for their children, and mothers wept when girls married or sons went away
from home to bigger things; why in there, in at Mass, so many were praying
for all the people and thinking only of one. All in a moment it came--and
stayed; and he spoke to her, to Marcile, that very night, and he spoke
also to her father, Valloir the farrier, the next morning by lamplight,
before he started for the woods. He would not be gainsaid, nor take no for
an answer, nor accept, as a reason for refusal, that she was only sixteen,
and that he did not know her, for she had been away with a childless aunt
since she was three. That she had fourteen brothers and sisters who had to
be fed and cared for did not seem to weigh with the farrier. That was an
affair of _le bon Dieu_, and enough would be provided for them all as
heretofore--one could make little difference; and though Jacques was a
very good match, considering his prospects and his favor with the
lumber-king, Valloir had a kind of fear of him, and could not easily
promise his beloved Marcile, the flower of his flock, to a man of whom the
priest so strongly disapproved. But it was a new sort of Jacques Grassette
who, that morning, spoke to him with the simplicity and eagerness of a
child; and the suddenly conceived gift of a pony stallion, which every man
in the parish envied Jacques, won Valloir over; and Jacques went "away
back" with the first timid kiss of Marcile Valloir burning on his cheek.
"Well, bagosh, you are a wonder!" said Jacques' father, when he told him
the news, and saw Jacques jump into the cariole and drive away.

Here in prison, this, too, Jacques saw--this scene; and then the wedding
in the spring, and the tour through the parishes for days together, lads
and lasses journeying with them; and afterward the new home with a bigger
stoop than any other in the village, with some old, gnarled
crab-apple-trees and lilac bushes, and four years of happiness, and a
little child that died; and all the time Jacques rising in the esteem of
Michelin the lumber-king, and sent on inspections, and to organize camps;
for weeks, sometimes for months, away from the house behind the lilac
bushes--and then the end of it all, sudden and crushing and unredeemable.

Jacques came back one night and found the house empty. Marcile had gone to
try her luck with another man.

That was the end of the upward career of Jacques Grassette. He went out
upon a savage hunt which brought him no quarry, for the man and the woman
had disappeared as completely as though they had been swallowed by the
sea. And here, at last, he was waiting for the day when he must settle a
bill for a human life taken in passion and rage.

His big frame seemed out of place in the small cell, and the watcher
sitting near him, to whom he had not addressed a word nor replied to a
question since the watching began, seemed an insignificant factor in the
scene. Never had a prisoner been more self-contained, or rejected more
completely all those ministrations of humanity which relieve the horrible
isolation of the condemned cell. Grassette's isolation was complete. He
lived in a dream, did what little there was to do in a dark abstraction,
and sat hour after hour, as he was sitting now, piercing, with a brain at
once benumbed to all outer things and afire with inward things, those
realms of memory which are infinite in a life of forty years.

"_Sacré!_" he muttered at last, and a shiver seemed to pass through him
from head to foot; then an ugly and evil oath fell from his lips, which
made his watcher shrink back appalled, for he also was a Catholic, and had
been chosen of purpose, in the hope that he might have an influence on
this revolted soul. It had, however, been of no use, and Grassette had
refused the advances and ministrations of the little good priest, Father
Laflamme, who had come from the coast of purpose to give him the offices
of the Church. Silent, obdurate, sullen, he had looked the priest straight
in the face, and had said, in broken English, "_Non_, I pay my bill. _Nom
de diable!_ I will say my own Mass, light my own candle, go my own way. I
have too much."

Now, as he sat glooming, after his outbreak of oaths, there came a
rattling noise at the door, the grinding of a key in the lock, the
shooting of bolts, and a face appeared at the little wicket in the door.
Then the door opened, and the Sheriff stepped inside, accompanied by a
white-haired, stately old man. At sight of this second figure--the Sheriff
had come often before, and would come for one more doleful walk with
him--Grassette started. His face, which had never whitened in all the
dismal and terrorizing doings of the capture and the trial and sentence,
though it had flushed with rage more than once, now turned a little pale,
for it seemed as if this old man had stepped out of the visions which had
just passed before his eyes.

"His Honor, the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Henri Robitaille, has come to
speak with you.... Stand up!" the Sheriff added, sharply, as Grassette
kept his seat.

Grassette's face flushed with anger, for the prison had not broken his
spirit; then he got up slowly. "I not stand up for you," he growled at the
Sheriff; "I stand up for him." He jerked his head toward Sir Henri
Robitaille. This grand Seigneur, with Michelin had believed in him in
those far-off days which he had just been seeing over again, and all his
boyhood and young manhood was rushing back on him. But now it was the
Governor who turned pale, seeing who the criminal was.

"Jacques Grassette!" he cried, in consternation and emotion, for under
another name the murderer had been tried and sentenced, nor had his
identity been established--the case was so clear, the defence had been
perfunctory, and Quebec was very far away!

"M'sieu'!" was the respectful response, and Grassette's fingers twitched.

"It was my sister's son you killed, Grassette," said the Governor, in a
low, strained voice.

"_Nom de Dieu_!" said Grassette, hoarsely.

"I did not know, Grassette," the Governor went on--"I did not know it was
you."

"Why did you come, m'sieu'?"

"Call him 'your Honor,'" said the Sheriff, sharply.

Grassette's face hardened, and his look, turned upon the Sheriff, was
savage and forbidding. "I will speak as it please me. Who are you? What do
I care? To hang me--that is your business; but, for the rest, you spik to
me differen'! Who are you? Your father kep' a tavern for thieves, _vous
savez bien_!" It was true that the Sheriff's father had had no savory
reputation in the West.

The Governor turned his head away in pain and trouble, for the man's rage
was not a thing to see--and they both came from the little parish of St.
Francis, and had passed many an hour together.

"Never mind, Grassette," he said, gently. "Call me what you will. You've
got no feeling against me; and I can say with truth that I don't want your
life for the life you took."

Grassette's breast heaved. "He put me out of my work, the man I kill. He
pass the word against me, he hunt me out of the mountains, he call--_tête
de diable_! he call me a name so bad. Everything swim in my head, and I
kill him."

The Governor made a protesting gesture. "I understand. I am glad his
mother was dead. But do you not think how sudden it was? Now here, in the
thick of life, then, out there, beyond this world in the dark--in
purgatory."

The brave old man had accomplished what every one else, priest, lawyer,
Sheriff, and watcher, had failed to do: he had shaken Grassette out of his
blank isolation and obdurate unrepentance, had touched some chord of
recognizable humanity.

"It is done--_bien_, I pay for it," responded Grassette, setting his jaw.
"It is two deaths for me. Waiting and remembering, and then with the
Sheriff there the other--so quick, and all."

The Governor looked at him for some moments without speaking. The Sheriff
intervened again officiously.

"His Honor has come to say something important to you," he remarked,
oracularly.

"Hold you--does he need a Sheriff to tell him when to spik?" was
Grassette's surly comment. Then he turned to the Governor. "Let us speak
in French," he said, in _patois_. "This rope-twister will not understan'.
He is no good--I spit at him!"

The Governor nodded, and, despite the Sheriff's protest, they spoke in
French, Grassette with his eyes intently fixed on the other, eagerly
listening.

"I have come," said the Governor, "to say to you, Grassette, that you
still have a chance of life."

He paused, and Grassette's face took on a look of bewilderment and vague
anxiety. A chance of life--what did it mean?

"Reprieve?" he asked, in a hoarse voice.

The Governor shook his head. "Not yet; but there is a chance. Something
has happened. A man's life is in danger, or it may be he is dead; but more
likely he is alive. You took a life; perhaps you can save one now.
Keeley's Gulch, the mine there!"

"They have found it--gold?" asked Grassette, his eyes staring. He was
forgetting for a moment where and what he was.

"He went to find it, the man whose life is in danger. He had heard from a
trapper who had been a miner once. While he was there a landslip came, and
the opening to the mine was closed up."

"There were two ways in. Which one did he take?" cried Grassette.

"The only one he could take, the only one he or any one else knew. You
know the other way in--you only, they say."

"I found it--the easier, quick way in; a year ago I found it."

"Was it near the other entrance?"

Grassette shook his head. "A mile away."

"If the man is alive--and we think he is--you are the only person that can
save him. I have telegraphed the Government. They do not promise, but they
will reprieve, and save your life if you find the man."

"Alive or dead?"

"Alive or dead, for the act would be the same. I have an order to take you
to the Gulch, if you will go; and I am sure that you will have your life
if you do it. I will promise--ah, yes, Grassette, but it shall be so!
Public opinion will demand it. You will do it?"

"To go free--_altogether_?"

"Well, but if your life is saved, Grassette?"

The dark face flushed, then grew almost repulsive again in its
sullenness.

"Life--and this, in prison, shut in year after year! To do always what
some one else wills, to be a slave to a warder! To have men like that over
me that have been a boss of men--wasn't it that drove me to kill?--to be
treated like dirt! And to go on with this, while outside there is free
life, and to go where you will at your own price--no! What do I care for
life? What is it to me! To live like this--ah, I would break my head
against these stone walls, I would choke myself with my own hands! If I
stayed here, I would kill again--I would kill--kill!"

"Then to go free altogether--that would be the wish of all the world, if
you save this man's life, if it can be saved. Will you not take the
chance? We all have to die some time or other, Grassette, some sooner,
some later; and when you go, will you not want to take to God in your
hands a life saved for a life taken? Have you forgotten God, Grassette? We
used to remember Him in the Church of St. Francis down there at home."

There was a moment's silence, in which Grassette's head was thrust
forward, his eyes staring into space. The old Seigneur had touched a
vulnerable corner in his nature.

Presently he said in a low voice: "To be free altogether!... What is his
name? Who is he?"

"His name is Bignold," the Governor answered. He turned to the Sheriff
inquiringly. "That is it, is it not?" he asked, in English, again.

"James Tarran Bignold," answered the Sheriff.

The effect of these words upon Grassette was remarkable. His body appeared
to stiffen, his face became rigid, he stared at the Governor blankly,
appalled; the color left his face, and his mouth opened with a curious and
revolting grimace. The others drew back, startled, and watched him.

"_Sang de Dieu_!" he murmured at last, with a sudden gesture of misery and
rage.

Then the Governor understood: he remembered that the name just given by
the Sheriff and himself was the name of the Englishman who had carried off
Grassette's wife years ago. He stepped forward and was about to speak, but
changed his mind. He would leave it all to Grassette; he would not let the
Sheriff know the truth, unless Grassette himself disclosed the situation.
He looked at Grassette with a look of poignant pity and interest combined.
In his own placid life he had never had any tragic happening, his blood
had run coolly, his days had been blessed by an urbane fate; such scenes
as this were but a spectacle to him; there was no answering chord of human
suffering in his own breast to make him realize what Grassette was
undergoing now; but he had read widely, he had been an acute observer of
the world and its happenings, and he had a natural human sympathy which
had made many a man and woman eternally grateful to him.

What would Grassette do? It was a problem which had no precedent, and the
solution would be a revelation of the human mind and heart. What would the
man do?

"Well, what is all this, Grassette?" asked the Sheriff, brusquely. His
official and officious intervention, behind which was the tyranny of the
little man, given a power which he was incapable of wielding wisely, would
have roused Grassette to a savage reply a half-hour before, but now it was
met by a contemptuous wave of the hand, and Grassette kept his eyes fixed
on the Governor.

"James Tarran Bignold!" Grassette said, harshly, with eyes that searched
the Governor's face; but they found no answering look there. The Governor,
then, did not remember that tragedy of his home and hearth, and the man
who had made of him an Ishmael. Still, Bignold had been almost a stranger
in the parish, and it was not curious if the Governor had forgotten.

"Bignold!" he repeated, but the Governor gave no response.

"Yes, Bignold is his name, Grassette," said the Sheriff. "You took a life,
and now, if you save one, that'll balance things. As the Governor says,
there'll be a reprieve anyhow. It's pretty near _the day_, and this isn't
a bad world to kick in, so long as you kick with one leg on the ground,
and--"

The Governor hastily intervened upon the Sheriff's brutal remarks. "There
is no time to be lost, Grassette. He has been ten days in the mine."

Grassette's was not a slow brain. For a man of such physical and bodily
bulk, he had more talents than are generally given. If his brain had been
slower, his hand also would have been slower to strike. But his
intelligence had been surcharged with hate these many years, and since the
day he had been deserted it had ceased to control his actions--a
passionate and reckless wilfulness had governed it. But now, after the
first shock and stupefaction, it seemed to go back to where it was before
Marcile went from him, gather up the force and intelligence it had then,
and come forward again to this supreme moment, with all that life's harsh
experiences had done for it, with the education that misery and misdoing
give. Revolutions are often the work of instants, not years, and the
crucial test and problem by which Grassette was now faced had lifted him
into a new atmosphere, with a new capacity alive in him. A moment ago his
eyes had been bloodshot and swimming with hatred and passion; now they
grew, almost suddenly, hard and lurking and quiet, with a strange,
penetrating force and inquiry in them.

"Bignold--where does he come from?--What is he?" he asked the Sheriff.

"He is an Englishman; he's only been out here a few months. He's been
shooting and prospecting; but he's a better shooter than a prospector.
He's a stranger; that's why all the folks out here want to save him if
it's possible. It's pretty hard dying in a strange land far away from all
that's yours. Maybe he's got a wife waiting for him over there."

"_Nom de Dieu_!" said Grassette, with suppressed malice, under his
breath.

"Maybe there's a wife waiting for him, and there's her to think of. The
West's hospitable, and this thing has taken hold of it; the West wants to
save this stranger, and it's waiting for you, Grassette, to do its work
for it, you being the only man that can do it, the only one that knows the
other secret way into Keeley's Gulch. Speak right out, Grassette. It's
your chance for life. Speak out quick."

The last three words were uttered in the old slave-driving tone, though
the earlier part of the speech had been delivered oracularly, and had
brought again to Grassette's eyes the reddish, sullen look which had made
them, a little while before, like those of some wounded, angered animal at
bay; but it vanished slowly, and there was silence for a moment. The
Sheriff's words had left no vestige of doubt in Grassette's mind. This
Bignold was the man who had taken Marcile away, first to the English
province, then into the States, where he had lost track of them, then over
to England. Marcile--where was Marcile now?

In Keeley's Gulch was the man who could tell him, the man who had ruined
his home and his life. Dead or alive, he was in Keeley's Gulch, the man
who knew where Marcile was; and if he knew where Marcile was, and if she
was alive, and he was outside these prison walls, what would he do to her?
And if he was outside these prison walls, and in the Gulch, and the man
was there alive before him, what would he do?

Outside these prison walls--to be out there in the sun, where life would
be easier to give up, if it had to be given up! An hour ago he had been
drifting on a sea of apathy, and had had his fill of life. An hour ago he
had had but one desire, and that was to die fighting, and he had even
pictured to himself a struggle in this narrow cell where he would compel
them to kill him, and so in any case let him escape the rope. Now he was
suddenly brought face to face with the great central issue of his life,
and the end, whatever that end might be, could not be the same in meaning,
though it might be the same concretely. If he elected to let things be,
then Bignold would die out there in the Gulch, starved, anguished, and
alone. If he went, he could save his own life by saving Bignold, if
Bignold was alive; or he could go--and not save Bignold's life or his own!
What would he do?

The Governor watched him with a face controlled to quietness, but with an
anxiety which made him pale in spite of himself.

"What will you do, Grassette?" he said, at last, in a low voice and with a
step forward to him. "Will you not help to clear your conscience by doing
this thing? You don't want to try and spite the world by not doing it. You
can make a lot of your life yet, if you are set free. Give yourself and
give the world a chance. You haven't used it right. Try again."

Grassette imagined that the Governor did not remember who Bignold was, and
that this was an appeal against his despair, and against revenging himself
on the community which had applauded his sentence. If he went to the
Gulch, no one would know or could suspect the true situation, every one
would be unprepared for that moment when Bignold and he would face each
other--and all that would happen then.

Where was Marcile? Only Bignold knew. Alive or dead? Only Bignold knew.

"_Bien_, I will do it, m'sieu'," he said to the Governor. "I am to go
alone--eh?"

The Sheriff shook his head. "No; two warders will go with you--and
myself."

A strange look passed over Grassette's face. He seemed to hesitate for a
moment, then he said again: "_Bon_, I will go."

"Then there is, of course, the doctor," said the Sheriff.

"_Bon_!" said Grassette. "What time is it?"

"Twelve o'clock," answered the Sheriff, and made a motion to the warder to
open the door of the cell.

"By sundown!" Grassette said, and he turned with a determined gesture to
leave the cell.

At the gate of the prison a fresh, sweet air caught his face.
Involuntarily he drew in a great draught of it, and his eyes seemed to
gaze out, almost wonderingly, over the grass and the trees to the
boundless horizon. Then he became aware of the shouts of the crowd--shouts
of welcome. This same crowd had greeted him with shouts of execration when
he had left the court-house after his sentence. He stood still for a
moment and looked at them, as it were only half comprehending that they
were cheering him now, and that voices were saying, "Bravo, Grassette!
Save him, and we'll save you."

Cheer upon cheer, but he took no notice. He walked like one in a dream--a
long, strong step. He turned neither to left nor right, not even when the
friendly voice of one who had worked with him bade him "Cheer up and do
the trick." He was busy working out a problem which no one but himself
could solve. He was only half conscious of his surroundings; he was moving
in a kind of detached world of his own, where the warders and the Sheriff
and those who followed were almost abstract and unreal figures. He was
living with a past which had been everlastingly distant, and had now
become a vivid and buffeting present. He returned no answers to the
questions addressed to him, and would not talk, save when for a little
while they dismounted from their horses and sat under the shade of a great
ash-tree for a few moments and snatched a mouthful of luncheon. Then he
spoke a little and asked some questions, but lapsed into a moody silence
afterward. His life and nature were being passed through a fiery crucible.
In all the years that had gone he had had an ungovernable desire to kill
both Bignold and Marcile if he ever met them--a primitive, savage desire
to blot them out of life and being. His fingers had ached for Marcile's
neck, that neck in which he had lain his face so often in the transient,
unforgettable days of their happiness. If she was alive now!--if she was
still alive!

Her story was hidden there in Keeley's Gulch with Bignold, and he was
galloping hard to reach his foe. As he went, by some strange alchemy of
human experience, by that new birth of his brain, the world seemed
different from what it had ever been before, at least since the day when
he had found an empty home and a shamed hearthstone. He got a new feeling
toward it, and life appealed to him as a thing that might have been so
well worth living! But since that was not to be, then he would see what he
could do to get compensation for all that he had lost, to take toll for
the thing that had spoiled him, and given him a savage nature and a raging
temper, which had driven him at last to kill a man who, in no real sense,
had injured him.

Mile after mile they journeyed, a troop of interested people coming after;
the sun and the clear, sweet air, the waving grass, the occasional
clearings where settlers had driven in the tent-pegs of home; the forest
now and then swallowing them, the mountains rising above them like a blank
wall, and then suddenly opening out before them; and the rustle and
scamper of squirrels and coyotes; and over their heads the whistle of
birds, the slow beat of wings of great wild-fowl. The tender sap of youth
was in this glowing and alert new world, and, by sudden contrast with the
prison walls which he had just left behind, the earth seemed recreated,
unfamiliar, compelling, and companionable. Strange that in all the years
that had been since he had gone back to his abandoned home to find Marcile
gone, the world had had no beauty, no lure for him. In the splendor of it
all he had only raged and stormed, hating his fellow-man, waiting, however
hopelessly, for the day when he should see Marcile and the man who had
taken her from him. And yet now, under the degradation of his crime and
its penalty, and the unmanning influence of being the helpless victim of
the iron power of the law, rigid, ugly, and demoralizing--now with the
solution of his life's great problem here before him in the hills, with
the man for whom he had waited so long caverned in the earth but a
hand-reach away, as it were, his wrongs had taken a new manifestation in
him, and the thing that kept crying out in him every moment was, Where is
Marcile?

It was four o'clock when they reached the pass which only Grassette knew,
the secret way into the Gulch. There was two hours' walking through the
thick, primeval woods, where few had ever been, except the ancient tribes
which had once lorded it here; then came a sudden drop into the earth, a
short travel through a dim cave, and afterward a sheer wall of stone
enclosing a ravine where the rocks on either side nearly met overhead.

Here Grassette gave the signal to shout aloud, and the voice of the
Sheriff called out: "Hello, Bignold! Hello! Hello, Bignold! Are you
there?--Hello!" His voice rang out clear and piercing, and then came a
silence--a long, anxious silence. Again the voice rang out: "Hello!
Hello-o-o! Bignold! Bigno-o-ld!"

They strained their ears. Grassette was flat on the ground, his ear to the
earth. Suddenly he got to his feet, his face set, his eyes glittering.

"He is there beyon'--I hear him," he said, pointing farther down the
Gulch. "Water--he is near it."

"We heard nothing," said the Sheriff--"not a sound."

"I hear ver' good. He is alive. I hear him--so," responded Grassette; and
his face had a strange, fixed look which the others interpreted to be
agitation at the thought that he had saved his own life by finding
Bignold--and alive; which would put his own salvation beyond doubt.

He broke away from them and hurried down the Gulch. The others followed
hard after, the Sheriff and the warders close behind; but he outstripped
them.

Suddenly he stopped and stood still, looking at something on the ground.
They saw him lean forward and his hands stretched out with a fierce
gesture. It was the attitude of a wild animal ready to spring.

They were beside him in an instant, and saw at his feet Bignold worn to a
skeleton, with eyes starting from his head and fixed on Grassette in agony
and stark fear.

The Sheriff stooped to lift Bignold up, but Grassette waved them back with
a fierce gesture, standing over the dying man.

"He spoil my home. He break me--I have my bill to settle here," he said,
in a voice hoarse and harsh. "It is so? It is so--eh? Spik!" he said to
Bignold.

"Yes," came feebly from the shrivelled lips. "Water! Water!" the wretched
man gasped. "I'm dying!"

A sudden change came over Grassette. "Water--queeck!" he said.

The Sheriff stooped and held a hatful of water to Bignold's lips, while
another poured brandy from a flask into the water.

Grassette watched them eagerly. When the dying man had swallowed a little
of the spirit and water, Grassette leaned over him again, and the others
drew away. They realized that these two men had an account to settle, and
there was no need for Grassette to take revenge, for Bignold was going
fast.

"You stan' far back," said Grassette, and they fell away.

Then he stooped down to the sunken, ashen face, over which death was fast
drawing its veil.

"Marcile--where is Marcile?" he asked.

The dying man's lips opened. "God forgive me--God save my soul!" he
whispered. He was not concerned for Grassette now.

"Queeck--queeck, where is Marcile?" Grassette said, sharply. "Come back,
Bignold. Listen--where is Marcile?"

He strained to hear the answer. Bignold was going, but his eyes opened
again, however, for this call seemed to pierce to his soul as it struggled
to be free.

"Ten years--since--I saw her," he whispered. "Good girl--Marcile. She
loves you, but she--is afraid." He tried to say something more, but his
tongue refused its office.

"Where is she?--spik!" commanded Grassette, in a tone of pleading and
agony now.

Once more the flying spirit came back. A hand made a motion toward his
pocket, then lay still.

Grassette felt hastily in the dead man's pocket, drew forth a letter, and
with half-blinded eyes read the few lines it contained. It was dated from
a hospital in New York, and was signed, "Nurse Marcile."

With a groan of relief Grassette stood staring at the dead man. When the
others came to him again, his lips were moving, but they did not hear what
he was saying. They took up the body and moved away with it up the
ravine.

"It's all right, Grassette. You'll be a free man," said the Sheriff.

Grassette did not answer. He was thinking how long it would take him to
get to Marcile, when he was free.

He had a true vision of beginning life again with Marcile.



A MAN, A FAMINE, AND A HEATHEN BOY


I

Athabasca in the Far North is the scene of this story--Athabasca, one of
the most beautiful countries in the world in summer, but a cold, bare land
in winter. Yet even in winter it is not so bleak and bitter as the
districts southwest of it, for the Chinook winds steal through from the
Pacific and temper the fierceness of the frozen Rockies. Yet forty and
fifty degrees below zero is cold, after all, and July strawberries in this
wild Northland are hardly compensation for seven months of ice and snow,
no matter how clear and blue the sky, how sweet the sun during its short
journey in the day. Some days, too, the sun may not be seen even when
there is no storm, because of the fine, white, powdered frost in the air.

A day like this is called a _poudre_ day; and woe to the man who tempts it
unthinkingly, because the light makes the delicate mist of frost shine
like silver. For that powder bites the skin white in short order, and
sometimes reckless men lose ears or noses or hands under its sharp caress.
But when it really storms in that Far North, then neither man nor beast
should be abroad--not even the Eskimo dogs; though times and seasons can
scarcely be chosen when travelling in Athabasca, for a storm comes
unawares. Upon the plains you will see a cloud arising, not in the sky,
but from the ground--a billowy surf of drifting snow; then another white
billow from the sky will sweep down and meet it, and you are caught
between.

He who went to Athabasca to live a generation ago had to ask himself if
the long winter, spent chiefly indoors, with, maybe, a little trading with
the Indians, meagre sport, and scant sun, savages and half-breeds the only
companions, and out of all touch with the outside world, letters coming
but once a year; with frozen fish and meat, always the same, as the staple
items in a primitive fare; with danger from starvation and marauding
tribes; with endless monotony, in which men sometimes go mad--he had to
ask himself if these were to be cheerfully endured because, in the short
summer, the air is heavenly, the rivers and lakes are full of fish, the
flotilla of canoes of the fur-hunters is pouring down, and all is gayety
and pleasant turmoil; because there is good shooting in the autumn, and
the smell of the land is like a garden, and hardy fruits and flowers are
at hand.

That is a question which was asked William Rufus Holly once upon a time.

William Rufus Holly, often called "Averdoopoy," sometimes "Sleeping
Beauty," always Billy Rufus, had had a good education. He had been to
high-school and to college, and he had taken one or two prizes _en route_
to graduation; but no fame travelled with him, save that he was the
laziest man of any college year for a decade. He loved his little
porringer, which is to say that he ate a good deal; and he loved to read
books, which is not to say that he loved study; he hated getting out of
bed, and he was constantly gated for morning chapel. More than once he had
sweetly gone to sleep over his examination papers. This is not to say that
he failed at his examinations--on the contrary, he always succeeded; but
he only did enough to pass and no more; and he did not wish to do more
than pass. His going to sleep at examinations was evidence that he was
either indifferent or self-indulgent, and it certainly showed that he was
without nervousness. He invariably roused himself, or his professor roused
him, a half-hour before the papers should be handed in, and, as it were,
by a mathematical calculation he had always done just enough to prevent
him being plucked.

He slept at lectures, he slept in hall, he slept as he waited his turn to
go to the wicket in a cricket match, and he invariably went to sleep
afterward. He even did so on the day he had made the biggest score in the
biggest game ever played between his college and the pick of the country;
but he first gorged himself with cake and tea. The day he took his degree
he had to be dragged from a huge grandfather's chair and forced along in
his ragged gown--"ten holes and twelve tatters"--to the function in the
convocation-hall. He looked so fat and shiny, so balmy and sleepy, when he
took his degree and was handed his prize for a poem on Sir John Franklin,
that the public laughed, and the college men in the gallery began
singing--

                   "Bye O, my baby,
                   Father will come to you soo-oon!"

He seemed not to care, but yawned in his hand as he put his prize book
under his arm through one of the holes in his gown, and in two minutes was
back in his room, and in another five was fast asleep.

It was the general opinion that William Rufus Holly, fat, yellow-haired,
and twenty-four years old, was doomed to failure in life, in spite of the
fact that he had a little income of a thousand dollars a year and had made
a century in an important game of cricket. Great, therefore, was the
surprise of the college, and afterward of the Province, when, at the
farewell dinner of the graduates, Sleeping Beauty announced, between his
little open-eyed naps, that he was going Far North as a missionary.

At first it was thought he was joking, but when at last, in his calm and
dreamy look, they saw he meant what he said, they arose and carried him
round the room on a chair, making impromptu songs as they travelled. They
toasted Billy Rufus again and again, some of them laughing till they cried
at the thought of Averdoopoy going to the Arctic regions. But an uneasy
seriousness fell upon these "beautiful, bountiful, brilliant boys," as
Holly called them later, when in a simple, honest, but indolent speech he
said he had applied for ordination.

Six months later William Rufus Holly, a deacon in holy orders, journeyed
to Athabasca in the Far North.

On his long journey there was plenty of time to think. He was embarked on
a career which must forever keep him in the wilds; for very seldom indeed
does a missionary of the North ever return to the crowded cities or take a
permanent part in civilized life.

What the loneliness of it would be he began to feel, as for hours and
hours he saw no human being on the plains; in the thrilling stillness of
the night; in fierce storms in the woods, when his half-breed guides bent
their heads to meet the wind and rain, and did not speak for hours; in the
long, adventurous journey on the river by the day, in the cry of the
plaintive loon at night; in the scant food for every meal. Yet what the
pleasure would be he felt in the joyous air, the exquisite sunshine, the
flocks of wild-fowl flying north, _honking_ on their course; in the song
of the half-breeds as they ran the rapids. Of course, he did not think
these things quite as they are written here--all at once and all together;
but in little pieces from time to time, feeling them rather than saying
them to himself.

At least he did understand how serious a thing it was, his going as a
missionary into the Far North. Why did he do it? Was it a whim, or the
excited imagination of youth, or that prompting which the young often have
to make the world better? Or was it a fine spirit of adventure with a good
heart behind it? Perhaps it was a little of all these; but there was also
something more, and it was to his credit.

Lazy as William Rufus Holly had been at school and college, he had still
thought a good deal, even when he seemed only sleeping; perhaps he thought
more because he slept so much, because he studied little and read a great
deal. He always knew what everybody thought--that he would never do
anything but play cricket till he got too heavy to run, and then would
sink into a slothful, fat, and useless middle and old age; that his life
would be a failure. And he knew that they were right; that if he stayed
where he could live an easy life, a fat and easy life he would lead; that
in a few years he would be good for nothing except to eat and sleep--no
more. One day, waking suddenly from a bad dream of himself so fat as to be
drawn about on a dray by monstrous fat oxen with rings through their
noses, led by monkeys, he began to wonder what he should do--the hardest
thing to do; for only the hardest life could possibly save him from
failure, and, in spite of all, he really did want to make something of his
life. He had been reading the story of Sir John Franklin's Arctic
expedition, and all at once it came home to him that the only thing for
him to do was to go to the Far North and stay there, coming back about
once every ten years to tell the people in the cities what was being done
in the wilds. Then there came the inspiration to write his poem on Sir
John Franklin, and he had done so, winning the college prize for poetry.
But no one had seen any change in him in those months; and, indeed, there
had been little or no change, for he had an equable and practical, though
imaginative, disposition, despite his avoirdupois, and his new purpose did
not stir him yet from his comfortable sloth.

And in all the journey west and north he had not been stirred greatly from
his ease of body, for the journey was not much harder than playing cricket
every day, and there were only the thrill of the beautiful air, the new
people, and the new scenes to rouse him. As yet there was no great
responsibility. He scarcely realized what his life must be until one
particular day.

Then Sleeping Beauty waked wide up, and from that day lost the name. Till
then he had looked and borne himself like any other traveller,
unrecognized as a parson or "mikonaree." He had not had prayers in camp
_en route_, he had not preached, he had held no meetings. He was as yet
William Rufus Holly, the cricketer, the laziest dreamer of a college
decade. His religion was simple and practical; he had never had any morbid
ideas; he had lived a healthy, natural, and honorable life, until he went
for a mikonaree, and, if he had no cant, he had not a clear idea of how
many-sided, how responsible, his life must be--until that one particular
day.

This is what happened then.

From Fort O'Call, an abandoned post of the Hudson's Bay Company on the
Peace River, nearly the whole tribe of the Athabasca Indians in
possession of the post now had come up the river, with their chief,
Knife-in-the-Wind, to meet the mikonaree. Factors of the Hudson's Bay
Company, _coureurs de bois_, and _voyageurs_ had come among them at
times, and once the renowned Father Lacombe, the Jesuit priest, had
stayed with them three months; but never to this day had they seen a
Protestant mikonaree, though once a factor, noted for his furious temper,
his powers of running, and his generosity, had preached to them. These
men, however, were both over fifty years old. The Athabascas did not
hunger for the Christian religion, but a courier from Edmonton had
brought them word that a mikonaree was coming to their country to stay,
and they put off their stoical manner and allowed themselves the luxury of
curiosity. That was why even the squaws and papooses came up the river
with the braves, all wondering if the stranger had brought gifts with
him, all eager for their shares; for it had been said by the courier of
the tribe that "Oshondonto," their name for the newcomer, was bringing
mysterious loads of well-wrapped bales and skins. Upon a point below the
first rapids of the Little Manitou they waited with their camp-fires
burning and their pipe of peace.

When the canoes bearing Oshondonto and his _voyageurs_ shot the rapids to
the song of the river,

              "En roulant, ma boule roulant,[[y:italic]]
              En roulant, ma boule!"[[y:italic]]

with the shrill voices of the boatmen rising to meet the cry of the
startled water-fowl, the Athabascas crowded to the high banks. They
grunted "How!" in greeting, as the foremost canoe made for the shore.

But if surprise could have changed the countenances of Indians, these
Athabascas would not have known one another when the missionary stepped
out upon the shore. They had looked to see a gray-bearded man like the
chief factor who quarrelled and prayed; but they found instead a
round-faced, clean-shaven youth, with big, good-natured eyes, yellow hair,
and a roundness of body like that of a month-old bear's cub. They expected
to find a man who, like the factor, could speak their language, and they
found a cherub sort of youth who talked only English, French, and
Chinook--that common language of the North--and a few words of their own
language which he had learned on the way.

Besides, Oshondonto was so absent-minded at the moment, so absorbed in
admiration of the garish scene before him, that he addressed the chief in
French, of which Knife-in-the-Wind knew but one word, _câche_, which all
the North knows.

But presently William Rufus Holly recovered himself, and in stumbling
Chinook made himself understood. Opening a bale, he brought out beads and
tobacco and some bright red flannel, and two hundred Indians sat round him
and grunted "How!" and received his gifts with little comment. Then the
pipe of peace went round, and Oshondonto smoked it becomingly.

But he saw that the Indians despised him for his youth, his fatness, his
yellow hair as soft as a girl's, his cherub face, browned though it was by
the sun and weather.

As he handed the pipe to Knife-in-the-Wind, an Indian called Silver
Tassel, with a cruel face, said, grimly:

"Why does Oshondonto travel to us?"

William Rufus Holly's eyes steadied on those of the Indian as he replied
in Chinook: "To teach the way to Manitou the Mighty, to tell the
Athabascas of the Great Chief who died to save the world."

"The story is told in many ways; which is right? There was the factor,
Word of Thunder. There is the song they sing at Edmonton--I have heard."

"The Great Chief is the same Chief," answered the missionary. "If you tell
of Fort O'Call, and Knife-in-the-Wind tells of Fort O'Call, he and you
will speak different words, and one will put in one thing and one will
leave out another; men's tongues are different. But Fort O'Call is the
same, and the Great Chief is the same."

"It was a long time ago," said Knife-in-the-Wind, sourly, "many thousand
moon, as the pebbles in the river, the years."

"It is the same world, and it is the same Chief, and it was to save us,"
answered William Rufus Holly, smiling, yet with a fluttering heart, for
the first test of his life had come.

In anger Knife-in-the-Wind thrust an arrow into the ground and said:

"How can the white man who died thousands of moons ago in a far country
save the red man of to-day?"

"A strong man should bear so weak a tale," broke in Silver Tassel,
ruthlessly. "Are we children, that the Great Chief sends a child as
messenger?"

For a moment Billy Rufus did not know how to reply, and in the pause
Knife-in-the-Wind broke in two pieces the arrow he had thrust in the
ground in token of displeasure.

Suddenly, as Oshondonto was about to speak, Silver Tassel sprang to his
feet, seized in his arms a lad of twelve who was standing near, and,
running to the bank, dropped him into the swift current.

"If Oshondonto be not a child, let him save the lad," said Silver Tassel,
standing on the brink.

Instantly William Rufus Holly was on his feet. His coat was off before
Silver Tassel's words were out of his mouth, and, crying, "In the name of
the Great White Chief!" he jumped into the rushing current. "In the name
of your Manitou, come on, Silver Tassel!" he called up from the water, and
struck out for the lad.

Not pausing an instant, Silver Tassel sprang into the flood, into the
whirling eddies and dangerous current below the first rapids and above the
second.

II

Then came the struggle for Wingo of the Cree tribe, a waif among the
Athabascas, whose father had been slain as they travelled, by a wandering
tribe of Blackfeet. Never was there a braver rivalry, although the odds
were with the Indian--in lightness, in brutal strength. With the
mikonaree, however, were skill, and that sort of strength which the world
calls "moral," the strength of a good and desperate purpose. Oshondonto
knew that on the issue of this shameless business--this cruel sport of
Silver Tassel--would depend his future on the Peace River. As he shot
forward with strong strokes in the whirling torrent after the helpless
lad, who, only able to keep himself afloat, was being swept down toward
the rapids below, he glanced up to the bank along which the Athabascas
were running. He saw the garish colors of their dresses; he saw the
ignorant medicine-man, with his mysterious bag, making incantations, he
saw the _tepee_ of the chief, with its barbarous pennant above; he saw the
idle, naked children tearing at the entrails of a calf; and he realized
that this was a deadly tournament between civilization and barbarism.

Silver Tassel was gaining on him; they were both overhauling the boy; it
was now to see which should reach Wingo first, which should take him to
shore. That is, if both were not carried under before they reached him;
that is, if, having reached him, they and he would ever get to shore; for,
lower down, before it reached the rapids, the current ran horribly smooth
and strong, and here and there were jagged rocks just beneath the
surface.

Still Silver Tassel gained on him, as they both gained on the boy.
Oshondonto swam strong and hard, but he swam with his eyes on the struggle
for the shore also; he was not putting forth his utmost strength, for he
knew it would be bitterly needed, perhaps to save his own life by a last
effort.

Silver Tassel passed him when they were about fifty feet from the boy.
Shooting by on his side, with a long stroke and a plunge of his body like
a projectile, the dark face with the long, black hair plastering it turned
toward his own, in fierce triumph Silver Tassel cried "How!" in derision.

Billy Rufus set his teeth and lay down to his work like a sportsman. His
face had lost its roses, and it was set and determined, but there was no
look of fear upon it, nor did his heart sink when a cry of triumph went up
from the crowd on the banks. The white man knew by old experience in the
cricket-field and in many a boat-race that it is well not to halloo till
you are out of the woods. His mettle was up, he was not the Reverend
William Rufus Holly, missionary, but Billy Rufus, the champion cricketer,
the sportsman playing a long game.

Silver Tassel reached the boy, who was bruised and bleeding and at his
last gasp, and, throwing an arm round him, struck out for the shore. The
current was very strong, and he battled fiercely as Billy Rufus, not far
above, moved down toward them at an angle. For a few yards Silver Tassel
was going strong, then his pace slackened, he seemed to sink lower in the
water, and his stroke became splashing and irregular. Suddenly he struck a
rock, which bruised him badly, and, swerving from his course, he lost his
stroke and let go the boy.

By this time the mikonaree had swept beyond them, and he caught the boy by
his long hair as he was being swept below. Striking out for the shore, he
swam with bold, strong strokes, his judgment guiding him well past rocks
beneath the surface. Ten feet from shore he heard a cry of alarm from
above. It concerned Silver Tassel, he knew, but he could not look round
yet.

In another moment the boy was dragged up the bank by strong hands, and
Billy Rufus swung round in the water toward Silver Tassel, who, in his
confused energy, had struck another rock, and, exhausted now, was being
swept toward the rapids. Silver Tassel's shoulder scarcely showed--his
strength was gone. In a flash Billy Rufus saw there was but one thing to
do. He must run the rapids with Silver Tassel--there was no other way. It
would be a fight through the jaws of death; but no Indian's eyes had a
better sense for river-life than William Rufus Holly's.

How he reached Silver Tassel, and drew the Indian's arm over his own
shoulder; how they drove down into the boiling flood; how Billy Rufus' fat
body was battered and torn and ran red with blood from twenty flesh
wounds; but how by luck beyond the telling he brought Silver Tassel
through safely into the quiet water a quarter of a mile below the rapids,
and was hauled out, both more dead than alive, is a tale still told by the
Athabascas around their camp-fire. The rapids are known to-day as the
Mikonaree Rapids.

The end of this beginning of the young man's career was that Silver Tassel
gave him the word of eternal friendship, Knife-in-the-Wind took him into
the tribe, and the boy Wingo became his very own, to share his home and
his travels, no longer a waif among the Athabascas.

After three days' feasting, at the end of which the missionary held his
first service and preached his first sermon, to the accompaniment of
grunts of satisfaction from the whole tribe of Athabascas, William Rufus
Holly began his work in the Far North.

The journey to Fort O'Call was a procession of triumph, for, as it was
summer, there was plenty of food, the missionary had been a success, and
he had distributed many gifts of beads and flannel.

All went well for many moons, although converts were uncertain and
baptisms few, and the work was hard and the loneliness at times terrible.
But at last came dark days.

One summer and autumn there had been poor fishing and shooting, the
_câches_ of meat were fewer on the plains, and almost nothing had come up
to Fort O'Call from Edmonton, far below. The yearly supplies for the
missionary, paid for out of his private income--the bacon, beans, tea,
coffee, and flour--had been raided by a band of hostile Indians, and he
viewed with deep concern the progress of the severe winter. Although three
years of hard, frugal life had made his muscles like iron, they had only
mellowed his temper, increased his flesh, and rounded his face; nor did he
look an hour older than on the day when he had won Wingo for his willing
slave and devoted friend.

He never resented the frequent ingratitude of the Indians; he said little
when they quarrelled over the small comforts his little income brought
them yearly from the South. He had been doctor, lawyer, judge among them,
although he interfered little in the larger disputes, and was forced to
shut his eyes to intertribal enmities. He had no deep faith that he could
quite civilize them; he knew that their conversion was only on the
surface, and he fell back on his personal influence with them. By this he
could check even the excesses of the worst man in the tribe, his old
enemy, Silver Tassel of the bad heart, who yet was ready always to give a
tooth for a tooth, and accepted the fact that he owed Oshondonto his
life.

When famine crawled across the plains to the doors of the settlement and
housed itself at Fort O'Call, Silver Tassel acted badly, however, and
sowed fault-finding among the thoughtless of the tribe.

"What manner of Great Spirit is it who lets the food of his chief
Oshondonto fall into the hands of the Blackfeet?" he said. "Oshondonto
says the Great Spirit hears. What has the Great Spirit to say? Let
Oshondonto ask."

Again, when they were all hungrier, he went among them with complaining
words. "If the white man's Great Spirit can do all things, let him give
Oshondonto and the Athabascas food."

The missionary did not know of Silver Tassel's foolish words, but he saw
the downcast face of Knife-in-the-Wind, the sullen looks of the people;
and he unpacked the box he had reserved jealously for the darkest days
that might come. For meal after meal he divided these delicacies among
them--morsels of biscuit, and tinned meats, and dried fruits. But his eyes
meanwhile were turned again and again to the storm raging without, as it
had raged for this the longest week he had ever spent. If it would but
slacken, a boat could go out to the nets set in the lake near by some days
before, when the sun of spring had melted the ice. From the hour the nets
had been set the storm had raged. On the day when the last morsel of meat
and biscuit had been given away the storm had not abated, and he saw with
misgiving the gloomy, stolid faces of the Indians round him. One man, two
children, and three women had died in a fortnight. He dreaded to think
what might happen, his heart ached at the looks of gaunt suffering in the
faces of all; he saw, for the first time, how black and bitter
Knife-in-the-Wind looked as Silver Tassel whispered to him.

With the color all gone from his cheeks, he left the post and made his way
to the edge of the lake where his canoe was kept. Making it ready for the
launch, he came back to the fort. Assembling the Indians, who had watched
his movements closely, he told them that he was going through the storm to
the nets on the lake, and asked for a volunteer to go with him.

No one replied. He pleaded--for the sake of the women and children.

Then Knife-in-the-Wind spoke. "Oshondonto will die if he goes. It is a
fool's journey--does the wolverine walk into an empty trap?"

Billy Rufus spoke passionately now. His genial spirit fled; he reproached
them.

Silver Tassel spoke up loudly: "Let Oshondonto's Great Spirit carry him to
the nets alone, and back again with fish for the heathen the Great Chief
died to save."

"You have a wicked heart, Silver Tassel. You know well that one man can't
handle the boat and the nets also. Is there no one of you--?"

A figure shot forward from a corner. "I will go with Oshondonto," came the
voice of Wingo, the waif of the Crees.

The eye of the mikonaree flashed round in contempt on the tribe. Then
suddenly it softened, and he said to the lad, "We will go together,
Wingo."

Taking the boy by the hand, he ran with him through the rough wind to the
shore, launched the canoe on the tossing lake, and paddled away through
the tempest.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The bitter winds of an angry spring, the sleet and wet snow of a belated
winter, the floating blocks of ice crushing against the side of the boat,
the black water swishing over man and boy, the harsh, inclement world near
and far.... The passage made at last to the nets; the brave Wingo
steadying the canoe--a skilful hand sufficing where the strength of a
Samson would not have availed; the nets half full, and the breaking cry of
joy from the lips of the waif--a cry that pierced the storm and brought
back an answering cry from the crowd of Indians on the far shore.... The
quarter-hour of danger in the tossing canoe; the nets too heavy to be
dragged, and fastened to the thwarts instead; the canoe going shoreward
jerkily, a cork on the waves with an anchor behind; heavier seas and winds
roaring down on them as they slowly near the shore; and at last, in one
awful moment, the canoe upset, and the man and the boy in the water....
Then both clinging to the upturned canoe as it is driven near and nearer
shore.... The boy washed off once, twice, and the man with his arm round
clinging--clinging, as the shrieking storm answers to the calling of the
Athabascas on the shore, and drives craft and fish and man and boy down
upon the banks; no savage bold enough to plunge in to their rescue.... At
last a rope thrown, a drowning man's wrists wound round it, his teeth set
in it--and now, at last, a man and a heathen boy, both insensible, being
carried to the mikonaree's hut and laid upon two beds, one on either side
of the small room, as the red sun goes slowly down.... The two still
bodies on bearskins in the hut, and a hundred superstitious Indians flying
from the face of death.... The two alone in the light of the flickering
fire; the many gone to feast on fish, the price of lives.

But the price was not yet paid, for the man waked from
insensibility--waked to see himself with the body of the boy beside him
in the red light of the fires.

For a moment his heart stopped beating, he turned sick and faint. Deserted
by those for whom he risked his life!... How long had he lain there? What
time was it? When was it that he had fought his way to the nets and back
again--hours, maybe? And the dead boy there, Wingo, who had risked his
life, also dead--how long? His heart leaped--ah, not hours, only minutes,
maybe. It was sundown as unconsciousness came on him--Indians would not
stay with the dead after sundown. Maybe it was only ten minutes--five
minutes--one minute ago since they left him!...

His watch! Shaking fingers drew it out, wild eyes scanned it. It was not
stopped. Then it could have only been minutes ago. Trembling to his feet,
he staggered over to Wingo, he felt the body, he held a mirror to the
lips. Yes, surely there was light moisture on the glass.

Then began another fight with death--William Rufus Holly struggling to
bring to life again Wingo, the waif of of the Crees.

The blood came back to his own heart with a rush as the mad desire to save
this life came on him. He talked to the dumb face, he prayed in a kind of
delirium, as he moved the arms up and down, as he tilted the body, as he
rubbed, chafed, and strove. He forgot he was a missionary, he almost
cursed himself. "For them--for cowards, I risked his life, the brave lad
with no home! Oh, God! give him back to me!" he sobbed. "What right had I
to risk his life for theirs? I should have shot the first man that refused
to go.... Wingo, speak! Wake up! Come back!"

The sweat poured from him in his desperation and weakness. He said to
himself that he had put this young life into the hazard without cause. Had
he, then, saved the lad from the rapids and Silver Tassel's brutality only
to have him drag fish out of the jaws of death for Silver Tassel's meal?

It seemed to him that he had been working for hours, though it was in fact
only a short time, when the eyes of the lad slowly opened and closed
again, and he began to breathe spasmodically. A cry of joy came from the
lips of the missionary, and he worked harder still. At last the eyes
opened wide, stayed open, saw the figure bent over him, and the lips
whispered, "Oshondonto--my master!" as a cup of brandy was held to his
lips.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Billy Rufus the cricketer had won the game, and somehow the Reverend
William Rufus Holly the missionary never repented the strong language he
used against the Athabascas as he was bringing Wingo back to life, though
it was not what is called "strictly canonical."

He had conquered the Athabascas forever. Even Silver Tassel acknowledged
his power, and he as industriously spread abroad the report that the
mikonaree had raised Wingo from the dead, as he had sown dissension during
the famine. But the result was that the missionary had power in the land,
and the belief in him was so great that, when Knife-in-the-Wind died, the
tribe came to him to raise their chief from the dead. They never quite
believed that he could not--not even Silver Tassel, who now rules the
Athabascas and is ruled in turn by William Rufus Holly: which is a very
good thing for the Athabascas.



THE HEALING SPRINGS AND THE PIONEERS


He came out of the mysterious South one summer day, driving before him a
few sheep, a cow, and a long-eared mule which carried his tent and other
necessaries, and camped outside the town on a knoll, at the base of which
was a thicket of close shrub. During the first day no one in Jansen
thought anything of it, for it was a land of pilgrimage, and hundreds came
and went on their journeys in search of free homesteads and good water and
pasturage. But when, after three days, he was still there, Nicolle
Terasse, who had little to do and an insatiable curiosity, went out to see
him. He found a new sensation for Jansen. This is what he said when he
came back:

"You want know 'bout him, _bagosh_! Dat is somet'ing to see, dat
man--Ingles is his name. Sooch hair--mooch long an' brown, and a leetla
beard not so brown, an' a leather sole onto his feet, and a gray coat to
his ankles--_oui_, so like dat. An' his voice--_voilà_, it is like water
in a cave. He is a great man--I dunno not; but he spik at me like dis, 'Is
dere sick, and cripple, and stay-in-bed people here dat can't get up?' he
say. An' I say, 'Not plenty, but some--_bagosh_! Dere is dat Miss Greet,
an' ole Ma'am Drouchy, an' dat young Pete Hayes--an' so on.' 'Well, if
they have faith I will heal them,' he spik at me. 'From de Healing Springs
dey shall rise to walk,' he say. _Bagosh_, you not t'ink dat true? Den you
go see."

So Jansen turned out to see, and besides the man they found a curious
thing. At the foot of the knoll, in a space which he had cleared, was a
hot spring that bubbled and rose and sank, and drained away into the
thirsty ground. Luck had been with Ingles the Faith Healer. Whether he
knew of the existence of this spring, or whether he chanced upon it, he
did not say; but while he held Jansen in the palm of his hand, in the
feverish days that followed, there were many who attached mysterious
significance to it, who claimed for it supernatural origin. In any case,
the one man who had known of the existence of this spring was far away
from Jansen, and he did not return till a day of reckoning came for the
Faith Healer.

Meanwhile, Jansen made pilgrimage to the Springs of Healing, and at
unexpected times Ingles suddenly appeared in the town, and stood at street
corners; and in his "Patmian voice," as Flood Rawley the lawyer called it,
warned the people to flee their sins, and, purifying their hearts, learn
to cure all ills of mind and body, the weaknesses of the sinful flesh and
the "ancient evil" in their souls, by faith that saves.

"'_Is not the life more than meat?_'" he asked them. "And if,
peradventure, there be those among you who have true belief in hearts all
purged of evil, and yet are maimed, or sick of body, come to me, and I
will lay my hands upon you, and I will heal you." Thus he cried.

There were those so wrought upon by his strange eloquence and spiritual
passion, so hypnotized by his physical and mental exaltation, that they
rose up from the hand-laying and the prayer eased of their ailments.
Others he called upon to lie in the hot spring at the foot of the hill for
varying periods, before the laying-on of hands, and these also, crippled
or rigid with troubles of the bone, announced that they were healed.

People flocked from other towns, and though, to some who had been cured,
their pains and sickness returned, there were a few who bore perfect
evidence to his teaching and healing, and followed him, "converted and
consecrated," as though he were a new Messiah. In this corner of the West
was such a revival as none could remember--not even those who had been to
camp-meetings in the East in their youth, and had seen the Spirit descend
upon hundreds and draw them to the anxious seat.

Then came the great sensation--the Faith Healer converted Laura Sloly.
Upon which Jansen drew its breath painfully; for, while it was willing to
bend to the inspiration of the moment, and to be swept on a tide of
excitement into that enchanted field called Imagination, it wanted to
preserve its institutions--and Laura Sloly had come to be an institution.
Jansen had always plumed itself, and smiled, when she passed; and even now
the most sentimentally religious of them inwardly anticipated the time
when the town would return to its normal condition; and that condition
would not be normal if there were any change in Laura Sloly. It mattered
little whether most people were changed or not, because one state of their
minds could not be less or more interesting than another; but a change in
Laura Sloly could not be for the better.

Her father had come to the West in the early days, and had prospered by
degrees until a town grew up beside his ranch; and though he did not
acquire as much permanent wealth from this golden chance as might have
been expected, and lost much he did make by speculation, still he had his
rich ranch left, and it and he and Laura were part of the history of
Jansen. Laura had been born at Jansen before even it had a name. Next to
her father she was the oldest inhabitant, and she had a prestige which was
given to no one else.

[Illustration: THE FAITH HEALER]

Everything had conspired to make her a figure of moment and interest. She
was handsome in almost a mannish sort of way, being of such height and
straightness, and her brown eyes had a depth and fire in which more than a
few men had drowned themselves. Also, once she had saved a settlement by
riding ahead of a marauding Indian band to warn their intended victims,
and had averted another tragedy of pioneer life. Pioneers proudly told
strangers to Jansen of the girl of thirteen who rode a hundred and twenty
miles without food, and sank inside the palisade of the Hudson Bay
Company's fort, as the gates closed upon the settlers taking refuge, the
victim of brain fever at last. _Cerebro-spinal meningitis_, the doctor
from Winnipeg called it, and the memory of that time when men and women
would not sleep till her crisis was past was still fresh on the tongues of
all.

Then she had married at seventeen, and, within a year, had lost both her
husband and her baby, a child bereaved of her Playmates--for her husband
had been but twenty years old and was younger far than she in everything.
And since then, twelve years before, she had seen generations of lovers
pass into the land they thought delectable; and their children flocked to
her, hung about her, were carried off by her to the ranch, and kept for
days, against the laughing protests of their parents. Flood Rawley called
her the Pied Piper of Jansen, and, indeed, she had a voice that fluted and
piped, and yet had so whimsical a note that the hardest faces softened at
the sound of it; and she did not keep its best notes for the few. She was
impartial, almost impersonal; no woman was her enemy, and every man was
her friend--and nothing more. She had never had an accepted lover since
the day her Playmates left her. Every man except one had given up hope
that he might win her; and though he had been gone from Jansen for two
years, and had loved her since the days before the Playmates came and
went, he never gave up hope, and was now to return and say again what he
had mutely said for years--what she understood, and he knew she
understood.

Tim Denton had been a wild sort in his brief day. He was a rough diamond,
but he was a diamond, and was typical of the West--its heart, its courage,
its freedom, and its force; capable of exquisite gentleness strenuous to
exaggeration, with a very primitive religion, and the only religion Tim
knew was that of human nature. Jansen did not think Tim good enough--not
within a comet shot--for Laura Sloly; but they thought him better than any
one else.

But now Laura was a convert to the prophet of the Healing Springs, and
those people who still retained their heads in the eddy of religious
emotion were in despair. They dreaded to meet Laura; they kept away from
the "protracted meetings," but were eager to hear about her and what she
said and did. What they heard allayed their worst fears. She still smiled,
and seemed as cheerful as before, they heard, and she neither spoke nor
prayed in public, but she led the singing always. Now the anxious and the
sceptical and the reactionary ventured out to see and hear; and seeing and
hearing gave them a satisfaction they hardly dared express. She was more
handsome than ever, and if her eyes glistened with a light they had never
seen before, and awed them, her lips still smiled, and the old laugh came
when she spoke to them. Their awe increased. This was "getting religion"
with a difference.

But presently they received a shock. A whisper grew that Laura was in love
with the Faith Healer. Some woman's instinct drove straight to the centre
of a disconcerting possibility, and in consternation she told her husband;
and Jansen husbands had a freemasonry of gossip. An hour, and all Jansen
knew, or thought they knew; and the "saved" rejoiced; and the rest of the
population, represented by Nicolle Terasse at one end and Flood Rawley at
the other, flew to arms. No vigilance committee was ever more determined
and secret and organized than the unconverted civic patriots who were
determined to restore Jansen to its old-time condition. They pointed out
cold-bloodedly that the Faith Healer had failed three times where he had
succeeded once; and that, admitting the successes, there was no proof that
his religion was their cause. There were such things as hypnotism and
magnetism and will-power, and abnormal mental stimulus on the part of the
healed--to say nothing of the Healing Springs.

Carefully laying their plans, they quietly spread the rumor that Ingles
had promised to restore to health old Mary Jewell, who had been bedridden
ten years, and had sent word and prayed to have him lay his hands upon
her--Catholic though she was. The Faith Healer, face to face with this
supreme and definite test, would have retreated from it but for Laura
Sloly. She expected him to do it, believed that he could, said that he
would, herself arranged the day and the hour, and sang so much exaltation
into him that at last a spurious power seemed to possess him. He felt that
there had entered into him something that could be depended on, not the
mere flow of natural magnetism fed by an out-door life and a temperament
of great emotional force and chance and suggestion--and other things. If,
at first, he had influenced Laura, some ill-controlled, latent idealism in
him, working on a latent poetry and spirituality in her, somehow bringing
her into nearer touch with her lost Playmates than she had been in the
long years that had passed; she, in turn, had made his unrationalized
brain reel; had caught him up into a higher air, on no wings of his own;
had added another lover to her company of lovers--and the first impostor
she had ever had. She who had known only honest men as friends, in one
blind moment lost her perspicuous sense; her instinct seemed asleep. She
believed in the man and in his healing. Was there anything more than
that?

The day of the great test came, hot, brilliant, vivid. The air was of a
delicate sharpness, and, as it came toward evening, the glamour of an
August when the reapers reap was upon Jansen; and its people gathered
round the house of Mary Jewell to await the miracle of faith. Apart from
the emotional many who sang hymns and spiritual songs were a few
determined men, bent on doing justice to Jansen though the heavens might
fall. Whether or no Laura Sloly was in love with the Faith Healer, Jansen
must look to its own honor--and hers. In any case, this peripatetic saint
at Sloly's Ranch--the idea was intolerable; women must be saved in spite
of themselves.

Laura was now in the house by the side of the bedridden Mary Jewell,
waiting, confident, smiling, as she held the wasted hand on the coverlet.
With her was a minister of the Baptist persuasion, who was swimming with
the tide, and who approved of the Faith Healer's immersions in the hot
Healing Springs; also a medical student who had pretended belief in
Ingles, and two women weeping with unnecessary remorse for human failings
of no dire kind. The windows were open, and those outside could see.
Presently, in a lull of the singing, there was a stir in the crowd, and
then sudden loud greetings--

"My, if it ain't Tim Denton! Jerusalem! You back, Tim!"

These and other phrases caught the ear of Laura Sloly in the sick-room. A
strange look flashed across her face, and the depth of her eyes was
troubled for a moment, as to the face of the old comes a tremor at the
note of some long-forgotten song. Then she steadied herself and waited,
catching bits of the loud talk which still floated toward her from
without.

"What's up? Some one getting married--or a legacy, or a saw-off? Why, what
a lot of Sunday-go-to-meeting folks _to_ be sure!" Tim laughed loudly.

After which the quick tongue of Nicolle Terasse: "You want know? _Tiens_,
be quiet; here he come. He cure you body and soul, ver' queeck--yes."

The crowd swayed and parted, and slowly, bare head uplifted, face looking
to neither right nor left, the Faith Healer made his way to the door of
the little house. The crowd hushed. Some were awed, some were
overpoweringly interested, some were cruelly patient. Nicolle Terasse and
others were whispering loudly to Tim Denton. That was the only sound,
until the Healer got to the door. Then, on the steps, he turned to the
multitude.

"Peace be to you all, and upon this house," he said, and stepped through
the doorway.

Tim Denton, who had been staring at the face of the Healer, stood for an
instant like one with all his senses arrested. Then he gasped and
exclaimed, "Well, I'm eternally--!" and broke off with a low laugh, which
was at first mirthful, and then became ominous and hard.

"Oh, magnificent!--magnificent!--jerickety!" he said into the sky above
him.

His friends who were not "saved" closed in on him to find the meaning of
his words, but he pulled himself together, looked blankly at them, and
asked them questions. They told him so much more than he cared to hear
that his face flushed a deep red--the bronze of it most like the color of
Laura Sloly's hair; then he turned pale. Men saw that he was roused beyond
any feeling in themselves.

"'Sh!" he said. "Let's see what he can do." With the many who were
silently praying, as they had been bidden to do, the invincible ones
leaned forward, watching the little room where healing--or tragedy--was
afoot. As in a picture, framed by the window, they saw the kneeling
figures, the Healer standing with outstretched arms. They heard his voice,
sonorous and appealing, then commanding--and yet Mary Jewell did not rise
from her bed and walk. Again, and yet again, the voice rang out, and still
the woman lay motionless. Then he laid his hands upon her, and again he
commanded her to rise.

There was a faint movement, a desperate struggle to obey, but Nature and
Time and Disease had their way.

Yet again there was the call. An agony stirred the bed. Then another great
Healer came between and mercifully dealt the sufferer a blow--Death has a
gentle hand sometimes. Mary Jewell was bedridden still--and forever.

Like a wind from the mountains the chill knowledge of death wailed through
the window and over the heads of the crowd. All the figures were upright
now in the little room. Then those outside saw Laura Sloly lean over and
close the sightless eyes. This done, she came to the door and opened it,
and motioned for the Healer to leave. He hesitated, hearing the harsh
murmur from the outskirts of the crowd. Once again she motioned, and he
came. With a face deadly pale she surveyed the people before her silently
for a moment, her eyes all huge and staring. Presently she turned to
Ingles and spoke to him quickly in a low voice; then, descending the
steps, passed out through the lane made for her by the crowd, he following
with shaking limbs and bowed head.

Warning words had passed among the few invincible ones who waited where
the Healer must pass into the open, and there was absolute stillness as
Laura advanced. Their work was to come--quiet and swift and sure; but not
yet.

Only one face Laura saw as she led the way to the moment's safety--Tim
Denton's; and it was as stricken as her own. She passed, then turned and
looked at him again. He understood; she wanted him.

He waited till she sprang into her wagon, after the Healer had mounted his
mule and ridden away with ever-quickening pace into the prairie. Then he
turned to the set, fierce men beside him.

"Leave him alone," he said--"leave him to me. I know him. You hear? Ain't
I no rights? I tell you I knew him--South. You leave him to me."

They nodded, and he sprang into his saddle and rode away. They watched the
figure of the Healer growing smaller in the dusty distance.

"Tim'll go to her," one said, "and perhaps they'll let the snake get off.
Hadn't we best make sure?"

"Perhaps you'd better let him vamoose," said Flood Rawley, anxiously.
"Jansen is a law-abiding place."

The reply was decisive. Jansen had its honor to keep. It was the home of
the Pioneers--Laura Sloly was a Pioneer.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Tim Denton was a Pioneer, with all the comradeship which lay in the word,
and he was that sort of lover who has seen one woman and can never see
another--not the product of the most modern civilization. Before Laura had
had Playmates he had given all he had to give; he had waited and hoped
ever since; and when the ruthless gossips had said to him before Mary
Jewell's house that she was in love with the Faith Healer, nothing changed
in him. For the man--for Ingles--Tim belonged to a primitive breed, and
love was not in his heart. As he rode out to Sloly's Ranch, he ground his
teeth in rage. But Laura had called him to her, and--

"Well, what you say goes, Laura," he muttered at the end of a long hour of
human passion and its repression. "If he's to go scot-free, then he's got
to go; but the boys yonder'll drop on me if he gets away. Can't you see
what a swab he is, Laura?"

The brown eyes of the girl looked at him gently. The struggle between them
was over; she had had her way--to save the preacher, impostor though he
was; and now she felt, as she had never felt before in the same fashion,
that this man was a man of men.

"Tim, you do not understand," she urged. "You say he was a landsharp in
the South, and that he had to leave--"

"He had to vamoose, or take tar and feathers."

"But he had to leave. And he came here preaching and healing; and he is a
hypocrite and a fraud--I know that now, my eyes are opened. He didn't do
what he said he could do, and it killed Mary Jewell--the shock; and there
were other things he said he could do, and didn't do them. Perhaps he is
all bad, as you say--I don't think so. But he did some good things, and
through him I've felt as I've never felt before about God and life, and
about Walt and the baby--as though I'll see them again, sure. I've never
felt that before. It was all as if they were lost in the hills, and no
trail home, or out to where they are. Like as not God was working in him
all the time, Tim; and he failed because he counted too much on the little
he had, and made up for what he hadn't by what he pretended."

"He can pretend to himself, or God Almighty, or that lot down there"--he
jerked a finger toward the town--"but to you, a girl, and a Pioneer--"

A flash of humor shot into her eyes at his last words, then they filled
with tears, through which the smile shone. To pretend to "a Pioneer"--the
splendid vanity and egotism of the West!

"He didn't pretend to me, Tim. People don't usually have to _pretend_ to
like me."

"You know what I'm driving at."

"Oh yes, I know. And whatever he is, you've said that you will save him.
I'm straight, you know that. Somehow, what I felt from his
preaching--well, everything got sort of mixed up with him, and he was--was
different. It was like the long dream of Walt and the baby, and he a part
of it. I don't know what I felt, or what I might have felt for him. I'm a
woman--I can't understand. But I know what I feel now. I never want to see
him again on earth--or in heaven. It needn't be necessary even in heaven;
but what happened between God and me through him stays, Tim; and so you
must help him get away safe. It's in your hands--you say they left it to
you."

"I don't trust that too much."

Suddenly he pointed out of the window toward the town. "See, I'm right;
there they are, a dozen of 'em mounted. They're off, to run him down."

Her face paled; she glanced toward the Hill of Healing. "He's got an
hour's start," she said; "he'll get into the mountains and be safe."

"If they don't catch him 'fore that."

"Or if you don't get to him first," she said, with nervous insistence.

He turned to her with a hard look; then, as he met her soft, fearless,
beautiful eyes, his own grew gentle.

"It takes a lot of doing. Yet I'll do it for you, Laura," he said. "But
it's hard on the Pioneers."

Once more her humor flashed, and it seemed to him that "getting religion"
was not so depressing after all--wouldn't be, anyhow, when this nasty job
was over.

"The Pioneers will get over it, Tim," she rejoined. "They've swallowed a
lot in their time. Heaven's gate will have to be pretty wide to let in a
real Pioneer," she added. "He takes up so much room--ah, Timothy Denton!"
she added, with an outburst of whimsical merriment.

"It hasn't spoiled you--being converted--has it?" he said, and gave a
quick little laugh, which somehow did more for his ancient cause with her
than all he had ever said or done. Then he stepped outside and swung into
his saddle.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It had been a hard and anxious ride, but Tim had won, and was keeping his
promise. The night had fallen before he got to the mountains, which he and
the Pioneers had seen the Faith Healer enter. They had had four miles'
start of Tim, and had ridden fiercely, and they entered the gulch into
which the refugee had disappeared still two miles ahead.

The invincibles had seen Tim coming, but they had determined to make a
sure thing of it, and would themselves do what was necessary with the
impostor, and take no chances. So they pressed their horses, and he saw
them swallowed by the trees as darkness gathered. Changing his course, he
entered the familiar hills, which he knew better than any Pioneer of
Jansen, and rode a diagonal course over the trail they would take. But
night fell suddenly, and there was nothing to do but to wait till morning.
There was comfort in this--the others must also wait, and the refugee
could not go far. In any case, he must make for settlement or perish,
since he had left behind his sheep and his cow.

It fell out better than Tim hoped. The Pioneers were as good hunters as
was he, their instinct was as sure, their scouts and trackers were many,
and he was but one. They found the Faith Healer by a little stream, eating
bread and honey, and, like an ancient woodlander, drinking from a
horn--relic of his rank imposture. He made no resistance. They tried him,
formally if perfunctorily; he admitted his imposture, and begged for his
life. Then they stripped him naked, tied a bit of canvas round his waist,
fastened him to a tree, and were about to complete his punishment when Tim
Denton burst upon them.

Whether the rage Tim showed was all real or not; whether his accusations
of bad faith came from so deeply wounded a spirit as he would have them
believe, he was not likely to tell; but he claimed the prisoner as his
own, and declined to say what he meant to do. When, however, they saw the
abject terror of the Faith Healer as he begged not to be left alone with
Tim--for they had not meant death, and Ingles thought he read death in
Tim's ferocious eyes--they laughed cynically, and left it to Tim to uphold
the honor of Jansen and the Pioneers.

As they disappeared, the last thing they saw was Tim with his back to
them, his hands on his hips, and a knife clasped in his fingers.

"He'll lift his scalp and make a monk of him," chuckled the oldest and
hardest of them.

"Dat Tim will cut his heart out, I t'ink--_bagosh_!" said Nicolle Terasse,
and took a drink of white whiskey.

For a long time Tim stood looking at the other, until no sound came from
the woods whither the Pioneers had gone. Then at last, slowly and with no
roughness, as the terror-stricken impostor shrank and withered, he cut the
cords.

"Dress yourself," he said, shortly, and sat down beside the stream, and
washed his face and hands as though to cleanse them from contamination. He
appeared to take no notice of the other, though his ears keenly noted
every movement.

The impostor dressed nervously, yet slowly; he scarce comprehended
anything, except that he was not in immediate danger. When he had
finished, he stood looking at Tim, who was still seated on a log plunged
in meditation.

It seemed hours before Tim turned round, and now his face was quiet, if
set and determined. He walked slowly over, and stood looking at his victim
for some time without speaking. The other's eyes dropped, and a grayness
stole over his features. This steely calm was even more frightening than
the ferocity which had previously been in his captor's face. At length the
tense silence was broken:

"Wasn't the old game good enough? Was it played out? Why did you take to
this? Why did you do it, Scranton?"

The voice quavered a little in reply: "I don't know. Something sort of
pushed me into it."

"How did you come to start it?"

There was a long silence, then the husky reply came:

"I got a sickener last time--"

"Yes, I remember, at Waywing."

"I got into the desert, and had hard times--awful for a while. I hadn't
enough to eat, and I didn't know whether I'd die by hunger or fever or
Indians--or snakes."

"Oh, you were seeing snakes!" said Tim, grimly.

"Not the kind you mean; I hadn't anything to drink--"

"No, you never did drink, I remember--just was crooked, and slopped over
women. Well, about the snakes?"

"I caught them to eat, and they were poison-snakes often. And I wasn't
quick at first to get them safe by the neck--they're quick, too."

Tim laughed inwardly. "Getting your food by the sweat of your brow--and a
snake in it, same as Adam! Well, was it in the desert you got your taste
for honey, too, same as John the Baptist--that was his name, if I
recomember?" He looked at the tin of honey on the ground.

"Not in the desert, but when I got to the grass-country."

"How long were you in the desert?"

"Close to a year."

Tim's eyes opened wider. He saw that the man was speaking the truth.

"Got to thinking in the desert, and sort of willing things to come to
pass, and mooning along, you and the sky and the vultures and the hot
hills and the snakes and the flowers--eh?"

"There weren't any flowers till I got to the grass-country."

"Oh, cuss me, if you ain't simple for your kind! I know all about that.
And when you got to the grass-country you just picked up the honey and the
flowers, and a calf and a lamb and a mule here and there, 'without money
and without price,' and walked on--that it?"

The other shrank before the steel in the voice, and nodded his head.

"But you kept thinking in the grass-country of what you'd felt and said
and done--and willed, in the desert, I suppose?"

Again the other nodded.

"It seemed to you in the desert as if you'd saved your own life a hundred
times, as if you'd just willed food and drink and safety to come; as if
Providence had been at your elbow?"

"It was like a dream, and it stayed with me. I had to think in the desert
things I'd never thought before," was the half-abstracted answer.

"You _felt_ good in the desert?"

The other hung his head in shame.

"Makes you seem pretty small, doesn't it? You didn't stay long enough, I
guess, to get what you were feeling for; you started in on the new racket
too soon. You never got really possessed that you was a sinner. I expect
that's it."

The other made no reply.

"Well, I don't know much about such things. I was loose brought up; but
I've a friend"--Laura was before his eyes--"that says religion's all
right, and long ago as I can remember my mother used to pray three times a
day--with grace at meals, too. I know there's a lot in it for them that
need it; and there seems to be a lot of folks needing it, if I'm to judge
by folks down there at Jansen, 'specially when there's the laying-on of
hands and the Healing Springs. Oh, that was a pigsty game, Scranton, that
about God giving you the Healing Springs, like Moses and the rock! Why, I
discovered them springs myself two years ago, before I went South, and I
guess God wasn't helping me any--not after I've kept out of His way as I
have. But, anyhow, religion's real; that's my sense of it; and you can get
it, I bet, if you try. I've seen it got. A friend of mine got it--got it
under your preaching; not from you; but you was the accident that brought
it about, I expect. It's funny--it's merakilous, but it's so. Kneel down!"
he added, with peremptory suddenness. "Kneel, Scranton!"

In fear the other knelt.

"You're going to get religion now--here. You're going to pray for what you
didn't get--and almost got--in the desert. You're going to ask forgiveness
for all your damn tricks, and pray like a fanning-mill for the Spirit to
come down. You ain't a scoundrel at heart--a friend of mine says so.
You're a weak vessel--cracked, perhaps. You've got to be saved, and start
right over again--and 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow!'
Pray--pray, Scranton, and tell the whole truth, and get it--get religion.
Pray like blazes. You go on, and pray out loud. Remember the desert, and
Mary Jewell, and your mother--did you have a mother, Scranton?--say, did
you have a mother, lad?"

Tim's voice suddenly lowered before the last word, for the Faith Healer
had broken down in a torrent of tears.

"Oh, my mother--O God!" he groaned.

"Say, that's right--that's right--go on," said the other and drew back a
little, and sat down on a log.

The man on his knees was convulsed with misery. Denton, the world,
disappeared. He prayed in agony.

Presently Tim moved uneasily, then got up and walked about; and at last,
with a strange, awed look, when an hour was past, he stole back into the
shadow of the trees while still the wounded soul poured out its misery and
repentance.

Time moved on. A curious shyness possessed Tim now, a thing which he had
never felt in his life. He moved about self-consciously, awkwardly, until
at last there was a sudden silence over by the brook.

Tim looked, and saw the face of the kneeling man cleared and quiet and
shining. He hesitated, then stepped out, and came over.

"Have you got it?" he asked, quietly. "It's noon now."

"May God help me to redeem my past," answered the other, in a new voice.

"You've got it--sure?" Tim's voice was meditative.

"God has spoken to me," was the simple answer.

"I've got a friend'll be glad to hear that," he said; and once more, in
imagination, he saw Laura Sloly standing at the door of her home, with a
light in her eyes he had never seen before.

"You'll want some money for your journey?" Tim asked.

"I want nothing but to go away--far away," was the low reply.

"Well, you've lived in the desert--I guess you can live in the
grass-country," came the dry response, "Good-bye--and good-luck,
Scranton."

Tim turned to go, moved on a few steps, then looked back.

"Don't be afraid--they'll not follow," he said. "I'll fix it for you all
right."

But the man appeared not to hear; he was still on his knees.

Tim faced the woods once more.

He was about to mount his horse when he heard a step behind him. He turned
sharply--and faced Laura.

"I couldn't rest. I came out this morning. I've seen everything," she
said.

"You didn't trust me," he said, heavily.

"I never did anything else," she answered.

He gazed half-fearfully into her eyes. "Well?" he asked. "I've done my
best, as I said I would."

"Tim," she said, and slipped a hand in his, "would you mind the
religion--if you had me?"



THE LITTLE WIDOW OF JANSEN


Her advent to Jansen was propitious. Smallpox in its most virulent form
had broken out in the French-Canadian portion of the town, and, coming
with some professional nurses from the East, herself an amateur, to attend
the sufferers, she worked with such skill and devotion that the official
thanks of the Corporation were offered her, together with a tiny gold
watch, the gift of grateful citizens. But she still remained on at Jansen,
saying always, however, that she was "going East in the spring."

Five years had passed, and still she had not gone East, but remained
perched in the rooms she had first taken, over the Imperial Bank, while
the town grew up swiftly round her. And even when the young bank manager
married, and wished to take over the rooms, she sent him to the
right-about from his own premises in her gay, masterful way. The young
manager behaved well in the circumstances, because he had asked her to
marry him, and she had dismissed him with a warning against challenging
his own happiness--that was the way she had put it. Perhaps he was galled
the less because others had striven for the same prize, and had been
thrust back, with an almost tender misgiving as to their sense of
self-preservation and sanity. Some of them were eligible enough, and all
were of some position in the West. Yet she smiled them firmly away, to the
wonder of Jansen, and to its satisfaction, for was it not a tribute to all
that she would distinguish no particular unit by her permanent favor? But
for one so sprightly and almost frivolous in manner at times, the
self-denial seemed incongruous. She was unconventional enough to sit on
the sidewalk with a half-dozen children round her blowing bubbles, or to
romp in any garden, or in the street, playing Puss-in-the-ring; yet this
only made her more popular. Jansen's admiration was at its highest,
however, when she rode in the annual steeplechase with the best horsemen
of the province. She had the gift of doing as well as of being.

"'Tis the light heart she has, and slippin' in and out of things like a
hummin'-bird, no easier to ketch and no longer to stay," said Finden, the
rich Irish landbroker, suggestively to Father Bourassa, the huge
French-Canadian priest who had worked with her through all the dark weeks
of the smallpox epidemic, and who knew what lay beneath the outer gayety.
She had been buoyant of spirit beside the beds of the sick, and her words
were full of raillery and humor, yet there was ever a gentle note behind
all; and the priest had seen her eyes shining with tears as she bent over
some stricken sufferer bound upon an interminable journey.

"Bedad! as bright a little spark as ever struck off the steel," added
Finden to the priest, with a sidelong, inquisitive look, "but a heart no
bigger than a marrowfat pea--selfishness, all self. Keepin' herself for
herself when there's many a good man needin' her. Mother o' Moses, how
many! From Terry O'Ryan, brother of a peer, at Latouche, to Bernard Bapty,
son of a millionaire, at Vancouver, there's a string o' them. All pride
and self; and as fair a lot they've been as ever entered for the Marriage
Cup. Now isn't that so, father?"

Finden's brogue did not come from a plebeian origin. It was part of his
commercial equipment, an asset of his boyhood spent among the peasants on
the family estate in Galway.

Father Bourassa fanned himself with the black broadbrim hat he wore, and
looked benignly but quizzically on the wiry, sharp-faced Irishman.

"You t'ink her heart is leetla. But perhaps it is your mind is not so
big enough to see--_hien_?" The priest laughed noiselessly, showing
white teeth. "Was it so selfish in Madame to refuse the name of
Finden--_n'est-ce pas_?"

Finden flushed, then burst into a laugh. "I'd almost forgotten I was one
of them--the first almost. Blessed be he that expects nothing, for he'll
get it sure. It was my duty, and I did it. Was she to feel that Jansen did
not price her high? Bedad, father, I rose betimes and did it, before anny
man should say he set me the lead. Before the carpet in the parlor was
down, and with the bare boards soundin' to my words, I offered her the
name of Finden."

"And so--the first of the long line! _Bien_, it is an honor." The priest
paused a moment, looked at Finden with a curious reflective look, and then
said, "And so you t'ink there is no one; that she will say yes not at
all--no?"

They were sitting on Father Bourassa's verandah, on the outskirts of the
town, above the great river, along which had travelled millions of bygone
people, fighting, roaming, hunting, trapping; and they could hear it
rushing past, see the swirling eddies, the impetuous currents, the
occasional rafts moving majestically down the stream. They were facing the
wild North, while civilization was hacking and hewing and ploughing its
way to newer and newer cities, in an empire ever spreading to the Pole.

Finden's glance loitered on this scene before he replied. At length,
screwing up one eye, and with a suggestive smile, he answered: "Sure, it's
all a matter of time, to the selfishest woman. 'Tis not the same with
women as with men; you see, they don't get younger--that's a point.
But"--he gave a meaning glance at the priest--"but perhaps she's not going
to wait for that, after all. And there he rides, a fine figure of a man,
too, if I have to say it!"

"M'sieu' Varley?" the priest responded, and watched a galloping horseman
to whom Finden had pointed till he rounded a corner of a little wood.

"Varley, the great London surgeon, sure! Say, father, it's a hundred to
one she'd take him if--"

There was a curious look in Father Bourassa's face, a cloud in his eyes.
He sighed. "London, it is ver' far away," he remarked, obliquely.

"What's to that? If she is with the right man, near or far is nothing."

"So far--from home," said the priest, reflectively, but his eyes furtively
watched the other's face.

"But home's where man and wife are."

The priest now looked him straight in the eyes. "Then, as you say, she
will not marry M'sieu' Varley--_hein_?"

The humor died out of Finden's face. His eyes met the priest's eyes
steadily. "Did I say that? Then my tongue wasn't making a fool of me,
after all. How did you guess I knew--everything, father?"

"A priest knows many t'ings--so."

There was a moment of gloom, then the Irishman brightened. He came
straight to the heart of the mystery around which they had been
manoeuvring. "Have you seen her husband--Meydon--this year? It isn't his
usual time to come yet."

Father Bourassa's eyes drew those of his friend into the light of a new
understanding and revelation. They understood and trusted each other.

[Illustration: "AS PURTY A WOMAN, TOO--AS PURTY AND AS STRAIGHT BEWHILES"]

"_Hélas!_ He is there in the hospital," he answered, and nodded toward a
building not far away, which had been part of an old Hudson Bay Company's
fort. It had been hastily adapted as a hospital for the smallpox victims.

"Oh, it's Meydon, is it, that bad case I heard of to-day?"

The priest nodded again and pointed. "_Voilà_, Madame Meydon, she is
coming. She has seen him--her hoosban'."

Finden's eyes followed the gesture. The little widow of Jansen was coming
from the hospital, walking slowly toward the river.

"As purty a woman, too--as purty and as straight bewhiles. What is the
matter with him--with Meydon?" Finden asked, after a moment.

"An accident in the woods--so. He arrive, it is las' night, from Great
Slave Lake."

Finden sighed. "Ten years ago he was a man to look at twice--before he did
_It_ and got away. Now his own mother wouldn't know him--bad 'cess to him!
I knew him from the cradle almost. I spotted him here by a knife-cut I
gave him in the hand when we were lads together. A divil of a timper
always both of us had, but the good-nature was with me, and I didn't drink
and gamble and carry a pistol. It's ten years since he did the killing,
down in Quebec, and I don't suppose the police will get him now. He's been
counted dead. I recognized him here the night after I asked her how she
liked the name of Finden. She doesn't know that I ever knew him. And he
didn't recognize me--twenty-five years since we met before! It would be
better if he went under the sod. Is he pretty sick, father?"

"He will die unless the surgeon's knife it cure him before twenty-four
hours, and--"

"And Doctor Brydon is sick, and Doctor Hadley away at Winnipeg, and this
is two hundred miles from nowhere! It looks as if the police'll never get
him, eh?"

"You have not tell any one--never?"

Finden laughed. "Though I'm not a priest, I can lock myself up as tight as
anny. There's no tongue that's so tied, when tying's needed, as the one
that babbles most bewhiles. Babbling covers a lot of secrets."

"So you t'ink it better Meydon should die, as Hadley is away and Brydon is
sick--_hein_?"

"Oh, I think--"

Finden stopped short, for a horse's hoofs sounded on the turf beside the
house, and presently Varley, the great London surgeon, rounded the corner
and stopped his horse in front of the veranda.

He lifted his hat to the priest. "I hear there's a bad case at the
hospital," he said.

"It is ver' dangerous," answered Father Bourassa; "but, _voilà_, come in!
There is something cool to drink. Ah, yes, he is ver' bad, that man from
the Great Slave Lake."

Inside the house, with the cooling drinks, Varley pressed his questions,
and presently, much interested, told at some length of singular cases
which had passed through his hands--one a man with his neck broken, who
had lived for six months afterward.

"Broken as a man's neck is broken by hanging--dislocation, really--the
disjointing of the _medulla oblongata_, if you don't mind technicalities,"
he said. "But I kept him living just the same. Time enough for him to
repent in and get ready to go. A most interesting case. He was a criminal,
too, and wanted to die; but you have to keep life going if you can, to the
last inch of resistance."

The priest looked thoughtfully out of the window; Finden's eyes were
screwed up in a questioning way, but neither made any response to Varley's
remarks. There was a long minute's silence. They were all three roused by
hearing a light footstep on the veranda.

Father Bourassa put down his glass and hastened into the hallway. Finden
caught a glimpse of a woman's figure, and, without a word, passed abruptly
from the dining-room, where they were, into the priest's study, leaving
Varley alone. Varley turned to look after him, stared, and shrugged his
shoulders.

"The manners of the West," he said, good-humoredly, and turned again to
the hallway, from whence came the sound of the priest's voice. Presently
there was another voice--a woman's. He flushed slightly and involuntarily
straightened himself.

"Valerie," he murmured.

An instant afterward she entered the room with the priest. She was dressed
in a severely simple suit of gray, which set off to advantage her slim,
graceful figure. There seemed no reason why she should have been called
the little widow of Jansen, for she was not small, but she was very finely
and delicately made, and the name had been but an expression of Jansen's
paternal feeling for her. She had always had a good deal of fresh color,
but to-day she seemed pale, though her eyes had a strange disturbing
light. It was not that they brightened on seeing this man before her; they
had been brighter, burningly bright, when she left the hospital, where,
since it had been built, she had been the one visitor of authority--Jansen
had given her that honor. She had a gift of smiling, and she smiled now,
but it came from grace of mind rather than from humor. As Finden had said,
"She was forever acting, and never doin' any harm by it."

Certainly she was doing no harm by it now; nevertheless, it was acting.
Could it be otherwise, with what was behind her life--a husband who had
ruined her youth, had committed homicide, had escaped capture, but who had
not subsequently died, as the world believed he had done, so
circumstantial was the evidence. He was not man enough to make the
accepted belief in his death a fact. What could she do but act, since the
day she got a letter from the Far North, which took her out to Jansen,
nominally to nurse those stricken with smallpox under Father Bourassa's
care, actually to be where her wretched husband could come to her once a
year, as he had asked with an impossible selfishness?

Each year she had seen him for an hour or less, giving him money, speaking
to him over a gulf so wide that it seemed sometimes as though her voice
could not be heard across it; each year opening a grave to look at the
embalmed face of one who had long since died in shame, which only brought
back the cruellest of all memories, that which one would give one's best
years to forget. With a fortitude beyond description she had faced it,
gently, quietly, but firmly faced it--firmly, because she had to be firm
in keeping him within those bounds the invasion of which would have killed
her. And after the first struggle with his unchangeable brutality it had
been easier: for into his degenerate brain there had come a faint
understanding of the real situation and of her. He had kept his side of
the gulf, but gloating on this touch between the old luxurious, indulgent
life, with its refined vices, and this present coarse, hard life, where
pleasures were few and gross. The free Northern life of toil and hardship
had not refined him. He greedily hung over this treasure, which was not
for his spending, yet was his own--as though in a bank he had hoards of
money which he might not withdraw.

So the years had gone on, with their recurrent dreaded anniversaries,
carrying misery almost too great to be borne by this woman mated to the
loathed phantom of a sad, dead life; and when this black day of each year
was over, for a few days afterwards she went nowhere, was seen by none.
Yet, when she did appear again, it was with her old laughing manner, her
cheerful and teasing words, her quick response to the emotions of others.

So it had gone till Varley had come to follow the open-air life for four
months, after a heavy illness due to blood-poisoning got in his surgical
work in London. She had been able to live her life without too great a
struggle till he came. Other men had flattered her vanity, had given her a
sense of power, had made her understand her possibilities, but nothing
more--nothing of what Varley brought with him. And before three months had
gone, she knew that no man had ever interested her as Varley had done. Ten
years before, she would not have appreciated or understood him, this
intellectual, clean-shaven, rigidly abstemious man, whose pleasures
belonged to the fishing-rod and the gun and the horse, and who had come to
be so great a friend of him who had been her best friend--Father Bourassa.
Father Bourassa had come to know the truth--not from her, for she had ever
been a Protestant, but from her husband, who, Catholic by birth and a
renegade from all religion, had had a moment of spurious emotion, when he
went and confessed to Father Bourassa and got absolution, pleading for the
priest's care of his wife. Afterward Father Bourassa made up his mind that
the confession had a purpose behind it other than repentance, and he
deeply resented the use to which he thought he was being put--a kind of
spy upon the beautiful woman whom Jansen loved, and who, in spite of any
outward flippancy, was above reproach.

In vital things the instinct becomes abnormally acute, and, one day, when
the priest looked at her commiseratingly, she had divined what moved him.
However it was, she drove him into a corner with a question to which he
dare not answer yes, but to which he might not answer no, and did not; and
she realized that he knew the truth, and she was the better for his
knowing, though her secret was no longer a secret. She was not aware that
Finden also knew. Then Varley came, bringing a new joy and interest in her
life, and a new suffering also, for she realized that if she were free,
and Varley asked her to marry him, she would consent.

But when he did ask her, she said no with a pang that cut her heart in
two. He had stayed his four months, and it was now six months, and he
was going at last--to-morrow. He had stayed to give her time to learn to
say yes, and to take her back with him to London; and she knew that he
would speak again to-day, and that she must say no again; but she had
kept him from saying the words till now. And the man who had ruined
her life and had poisoned her true spirit was come back broken and
battered. He was hanging between life and death; and now--for he was
going to-morrow--Varley would speak again.

The half-hour she had just spent in the hospital with Meydon had tried her
cruelly. She had left the building in a vortex of conflicting emotions,
with the call of duty and of honor ringing through a thousand other voices
of temptation and desire, the inner pleadings for a little happiness while
yet she was young. After she married Meydon, there had only been a few
short weeks of joy before her black disillusion came, and she had realized
how bitter must be her martyrdom.

When she left the hospital, she seemed moving in a dream, as one
intoxicated by some elixir might move unheeding among event and accident
and vexing life and roaring multitudes. And all the while the river
flowing through the endless prairies, high-banked, ennobled by living
woods, lipped with green, kept surging in her ears, inviting her, alluring
her--alluring her with a force too deep and powerful for weak human nature
to bear for long. It would ease her pain, it said; it would still the
tumult and the storm; it would solve her problem, it would give her peace.
But as she moved along the river-bank among the trees, she met the little
niece of the priest, who lived in his house, singing, as though she was
born but to sing, a song which Finden had written and Father Bourassa had
set to music. Did not the distant West know Father Bourassa's gift, and
did not Protestants attend Mass to hear him play the organ afterward? The
fresh, clear voice of the child rang through the trees, stealing the
stricken heart away from the lure of the river:

"Will you come back home, where the young larks are singin'?
The door is open wide, and the bells of Lynn are ringin';
      There's a little lake I know,
      And a boat you used to row
To the shore beyond that's quiet--will you come back home?

"Will you come back, darlin'? Never heed the pain and blightin',
Never trouble that you're wounded, that you bear the scars of fightin';
      Here's the luck o' Heaven to you,
      Here's the hand of love will brew you
The cup of peace--ah, darlin', will you come back home?"

She stood listening for a few moments, and, under the spell of the fresh,
young voice, the homely, heart-searching words, and the intimate sweetness
of the woods, the despairing apathy lifted slowly away. She started
forward again with a new understanding, her footsteps quickened. She would
go to Father Bourassa. He would understand. She would tell him all. He
would help her to do what now she knew she must do, ask Leonard Varley to
save her husband's life--Leonard Varley to save her husband's life!

When she stepped upon the veranda of the priest's house, she did not know
that Varley was inside. She had no time to think. She was ushered into the
room where he was, with the confusing fact of his presence fresh upon her.
She had had but a word or two with the priest, but enough for him to know
what she meant to do, and that it must be done at once.

Varley advanced to meet her. She shuddered inwardly to think what a
difference there was between the fallen creature she had left behind in
the hospital and this tall, dark, self-contained man, whose name was
familiar in the surgeries of Europe, who had climbed from being the son of
a clockmaker to his present distinguished place.

"Have you come for absolution, also?" he asked, with a smile; "or is it to
get a bill of excommunication against your only enemy--there couldn't be
more than one?"

Cheerful as his words were, he was shrewdly observing her, for her
paleness and the strange light in her eyes gave him a sense of anxiety. He
wondered what trouble was on her.

"Excommunication?" he repeated.

The unintended truth went home. She winced, even as she responded with
that quaint note in her voice which gave humor to her speech. "Yes,
excommunication," she replied; "but why an enemy? Do we not need to
excommunicate our friends sometimes?"

"That is a hard saying," he answered, soberly.

Tears sprang to her eyes, but she mastered herself, and brought the crisis
abruptly.

"I want you to save a man's life," she said, with her eyes looking
straight into his. "Will you do it?"

His face grew grave and eager. "I want you to save a man's happiness," he
answered. "Will you do it?"

"That man yonder will die unless your skill saves him," she urged.

"This man here will go away unhappy and alone, unless your heart befriends
him," he replied, coming closer to her. "At sunrise to-morrow he goes." He
tried to take her hand.

"Oh, please, please," she pleaded, with a quick, protesting gesture.
"Sunrise is far off, but the man's fate is near, and you must save him.
You only can do so, for Doctor Hadley is away, and Doctor Brydon is sick,
and in any case Doctor Brydon dare not attempt the operation alone. It is
too critical and difficult, he says."

"So I have heard," he answered, with a new note in his voice, his
professional instinct roused in spite of himself. "Who is this man? What
interests you in him?"

"To how many unknown people have you given your skill for nothing--your
skill and all your experience to utter strangers, no matter how low or
poor! Is it not so? Well, I cannot give to strangers what you have given
to so many, but I can help in my own way."

"You want me to see the man at once?"

"If you will."

"What is his name? I know of his accident and the circumstances."

She hesitated for an instant, then said, "He is called Draper--a trapper
and a woodsman."

"But I was going away to-morrow at sunrise. All my arrangements are made,"
he urged, his eyes holding hers, his passion swimming in his eyes again.

"But you will not see a man die, if you can save him?" she pleaded, unable
now to meet his look, its mastery and its depth.

Her heart had almost leaped with joy at the suggestion that he could not
stay; but as suddenly self-reproach and shame filled her mind, and she had
challenged him so. But yet, what right had she to sacrifice this man she
loved to the perverted criminal who had spoiled her youth and taken away
from her every dear illusion of her life and heart? By every right of
justice and humanity she was no more the wife of Henry Meydon than if she
had never seen him. He had forfeited every claim upon her, dragged in the
mire her unspotted life--unspotted, for in all temptation, in her
defenceless position, she had kept the whole commandment; she had, while
at the mercy of her own temperament, fought her way through all, with a
weeping heart and laughing lips. Had she not longed for a little home with
a great love, and a strong, true man? Ah, it had been lonely, bitterly
lonely! Yet she had remained true to the scoundrel, from whom she could
not free herself without putting him in the grasp of the law to atone for
his crime. She was punished for his crimes; she was denied the exercise of
her womanhood in order to shield him. Still she remembered that once she
had loved him, those years ago, when he first won her heart from those so
much better than he, who loved her so much more honestly; and this memory
had helped her in a way. She had tried to be true to it, that dead, lost
thing, of which this man who came once a year to see her, and now, lying
with his life at stake in the hospital, was the repellent ghost.

"Ah, you will not see him die?" she urged.

"It seems to move you greatly what happens to this man," he said, his
determined dark eyes searching hers, for she baffled him. If she could
feel so much for a "casual," why not a little more feeling for him?
Suddenly, as he drew her eyes to him again, there came the conviction that
they were full of feeling for him. They were sending a message, an
appealing, passionate message, which told him more than he had ever heard
from her or seen in her face before. Yes, she was his! Without a word
spoken she had told him so. What, then, held her back? But women were a
race by themselves, and he knew that he must wait till she chose to have
him know what she had unintentionally conveyed but now.

"Yes, I am moved," she continued, slowly. "Who can tell what this man
might do with his life if it is saved! Don't you think of that? It isn't
the importance of a life that's at stake; it's the importance of living;
and we do not live alone, do we?"

His mind was made up. "I will not, cannot promise anything till I have
seen him. But I will go and see him, and I'll send you word later what I
can do or not do. Will that satisfy you? If I cannot do it, I will come to
say good-bye."

Her face was set with suppressed feeling. She held out her hand to him
impulsively, and was about to speak, but suddenly caught the hand away
again from his thrilling grasp and, turning hurriedly, left the room. In
the hall she met Father Bourassa.

"Go with him to the hospital," she whispered, and disappeared through the
doorway.

Immediately after she had gone, a man came driving hard to bring Father
Bourassa to visit a dying Catholic in the prairie, and it was Finden who
accompanied Varley to the hospital, waited for him till his examination of
the "casual" was concluded, and met him outside.

"Can it be done?" he asked of Varley. "I'll take word to Father
Bourassa."

"It can be done--it will be done," answered Varley, absently. "I do not
understand the man. He has been in a different sphere of life. He tried to
hide it, but the speech--occasionally! I wonder."

"You wonder if he's worth saving?"

Varley shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "No; that's not what I meant."

Finden smiled to himself. "Is it a difficult case?" he asked.

"Critical and delicate; but it has been my specialty."

"One of the local doctors couldn't do it, I suppose?"

"They would be foolish to try."

"And you are going away at sunrise to-morrow?"

"Who told you that?" Varley's voice was abrupt, impatient.

"I heard you say so--everybody knows it.... That's a bad man yonder,
Varley." He jerked his thumb toward the hospital. "A terrible bad man,
he's been. A gentleman once, and fell down--fell down hard. He's done more
harm than most men. He's broken a woman's heart and spoiled her life, and,
if he lives, there's no chance for her, none at all. He killed a man, and
the law wants him; and she can't free herself without ruining him; and she
can't marry the man she loves because of that villain yonder, crying for
his life to be saved. By Josh and by Joan, but it's a shame, a dirty
shame, it is!"

Suddenly Varley turned and gripped his arm with fingers of steel.

"His name--his real name?"

"His name's Meydon--and a dirty shame it is, Varley."

Varley was white. He had been leading his horse and talking to Finden. He
mounted quickly now, and was about to ride away, but stopped short again.
"Who knows--who knows the truth?" he asked.

"Father Bourassa and me--no others," he answered. "I knew Meydon thirty
years ago."

There was a moment's hesitation, then Varley said, hoarsely, "Tell
me--tell me all."

When all was told, he turned his horse toward the wide waste of the
prairie, and galloped away. Finden watched him till he was lost to view
beyond the bluff.

"Now, a man like that, you can't guess what he'll do," he said,
reflectively. "He's a high-stepper, and there's no telling what
foolishness will get hold of him. It'd be safer if he got lost on the
prairie for twenty-four hours. He said that Meydon's only got twenty-four
hours, if the trick isn't done! Well--"

He took a penny from his pocket. "I'll toss for it. Heads he does it, and
tails he doesn't."

He tossed. It came down heads. "Well, there's one more fool in the world
than I thought," he said, philosophically, as though he had settled the
question; as though the man riding away into the prairie with a dark
problem to be solved had told the penny what he meant to do.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Meydon, Father Bourassa, and Finden stood in the little waiting-room
of the hospital at Jansen, one at each window, and watched the wild
thunderstorm which had broken over the prairie. The white heliographs of
the elements flashed their warnings across the black sky, and the roaring
artillery of the thunder came after, making the circle of prairie and tree
and stream a theatre of anger and conflict. The streets of Jansen were
washed with flood, and the green and gold things of garden and field and
harvest crumbled beneath the sheets of rain.

The faces at the window of the little room of the hospital, however, were
but half-conscious of the storm; it seemed only an accompaniment of their
thoughts, to typify the elements of tragedy surrounding them.

For Varley there had been but one thing to do. A life might be saved, and
it was his duty to save it. He had ridden back from the prairie as the sun
was setting the night before, and had made all arrangements at the
hospital, giving orders that Meydon should have no food whatever till the
operation was performed the next afternoon, and nothing to drink except a
little brandy-and-water.

The operation was performed successfully, and Varley had issued from the
operating-room with the look of a man who had gone through an ordeal which
had taxed his nerve to the utmost, to find Valerie Meydon waiting, with a
piteous, dazed look in her eyes. But this look passed when she heard him
say, "All right!"

The words brought a sense of relief, for if he had failed, it would have
seemed almost unbearable in the circumstances--the cup of trembling must
be drunk to the dregs.

Few words had passed between them, and he had gone, while she remained
behind with Father Bourassa, till the patient should wake from the sleep
into which he had fallen when Varley left.

But within two hours they sent for Varley again, for Meydon was in evident
danger. Varley had come, and had now been with the patient for some time.

At last the door opened and Varley came in quickly. He beckoned to Mrs.
Meydon and to Father Bourassa. "He wishes to speak with you," he said to
her. "There is little time."

Her eyes scarcely saw him, as she left the room and passed to where Meydon
lay nerveless, but with wide-open eyes, waiting for her. The eyes closed,
however, before she reached the bed. Presently they opened again, but the
lids remained fixed. He did not hear what she said.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In the little waiting-room, Finden said to Varley, "What happened?"

"Food was absolutely forbidden, but he got it from another patient early
this morning while the nurse was out for a moment. It has killed him."

"'Twas the least he could do, but no credit's due him. It was to be. I'm
not envying Father Bourassa nor her there with him."

Varley made no reply. He was watching the receding storm with eyes which
told nothing.

Finden spoke once more, but Varley did not hear him. Presently the door
opened and Father Bourassa entered. He made a gesture of the hand to
signify that all was over.

Outside, the sun was breaking through the clouds upon the Western prairie,
and there floated through the evening air the sound of a child's voice
singing beneath the trees that fringed the river:

"Will you come back, darlin'? Never heed the pain and blightin',
Never trouble that you're wounded, that you bear the scars of fightin';
      Here's the luck o' Heaven to you,
      Here's the hand of love will brew you
The cup of peace--ah, darlin', will you come back home?"



WATCHING THE RISE OF ORION


"In all the wide border his steed was the best," and the name and fame of
Terence O'Ryan were known from Strathcona to Qu'appelle. He had ambition
of several kinds, and he had the virtue of not caring who knew of it. He
had no guile, and little money; but never a day's work was too hard for
him, and he took bad luck, when it came, with a jerk of the shoulder and a
good-natured surprise on his clean-shaven face that suited well his wide
gray eyes and large, luxurious mouth. He had an estate, half ranch, half
farm, with a French-Canadian manager named Vigon, an old prospector who
viewed every foot of land in the world with the eye of the discoverer.
Gold, coal, iron, oil, he searched for them everywhere, making sure that
sooner or later he would find them. Once Vigon had found coal. That was
when he worked for a man called Constantine Jopp, and had given him great
profit; but he, the discoverer, had been put off with a horse and a
hundred dollars. He was now as devoted to Terence O'Ryan as he had been
faithful to Constantine Jopp, whom he cursed waking and sleeping.

In his time O'Ryan had speculated, and lost; he had floated a coal-mine,
and "been had"; he had run for the local legislature, had been elected,
and then unseated for bribery committed by an agent; he had run races at
Regina, and won--he had won for three years in succession; and this had
kept him going and restored his finances when they were at their worst. He
was, in truth, the best rider in the country, and, so far, was the owner
also of the best three-year-old that the West had produced. He achieved
popularity without effort. The West laughed at his enterprises and loved
him; he was at once a public moral and a hero. It was a legend of the West
that his forebears had been kings in Ireland like Brian Boroihme. He did
not contradict this; he never contradicted anything. His challenge to all
fun and satire and misrepresentation was, "What'll be the differ a hundred
years from now!"

He did not use this phrase, however, toward one experience--the advent of
Miss Molly Mackinder, the heiress, and the challenge that reverberated
through the West after her arrival. Philosophy deserted him then; he fell
back on the primary emotions of mankind.

A month after Miss Mackinder's arrival at La Touche a dramatic performance
was given at the old fort, in which the officers of the Mounted Police
took part, together with many civilians who fancied themselves. By that
time the district had realized that Terry O'Ryan had surrendered to what
they called "the laying on of hands" by Molly Mackinder. It was not
certain, however, that the surrender was complete, because O'Ryan had been
wounded before, and yet had not been taken captive altogether. His
complete surrender seemed now more certain to the public because the lady
had a fortune of two hundred thousand dollars, and that amount of money
would be useful to an ambitious man in the growing West. It would, as Gow
Johnson said, "Let him sit back and view the landscape o'er before he puts
his ploughshare in the mud."

There was an out-door scene in the play produced by the impetuous
amateurs, and dialogue had been interpolated by three "imps of fame" at
the suggestion of Constantine Jopp, one of the three, who bore malice
toward O'Ryan, though this his colleagues did not know distinctly. The
scene was a camp-fire--a starlit night, a colloquy between the three, upon
which the hero of the drama, played by Terry O'Ryan, should break, after
having, unknown to them, but in sight of the audience, overheard their
kind intentions toward himself.

The night came. When the curtain rose for the third act there was exposed
a star-sown sky, in which the galaxy of Orion was shown with distinctness,
each star sharply twinkling from the electric power behind--a pretty
scene, evoking great applause. O'Ryan had never seen this back
curtain--they had taken care that he should not--and, standing in the
wings awaiting his cue, he was unprepared for the laughter of the
audience, first low and uncertain, then growing, then insistent, and now a
peal of ungovernable mirth, as one by one they understood the significance
of the stars of Orion on the back curtain.

O'Ryan got his cue, and came on to an outburst of applause which shook the
walls. La Touche rose at him, among them Miss Molly Mackinder in the front
row with the notables.

He did not see the back curtain, or Orion blazing in the ultramarine blue.
According to the stage directions, he was to steal along the trees at the
wings, and listen to the talk of the men at the fire plotting against him,
who were presently to pretend good comradeship to his face. It was a
vigorous melodrama, with some touches of true Western feeling. After
listening for a moment, O'Ryan was to creep up the stage again toward the
back curtain, giving a cue for his appearance.

When the hilarious applause at his entrance had somewhat subsided, the
three took up their parable, but it was not the parable of the play. They
used dialogue not in the original. It had a significance which the
audience were not slow to appreciate, and went far to turn _The Sunburst
Trail_ at this point into a comedy-farce. When this new dialogue began,
O'Ryan could scarcely trust his ears or realize what was happening.

"Ah, look," said Dicky Fergus at the fire, "as fine a night as I ever saw
in the West! The sky's a picture. You could almost hand the stars down,
they're so near."

"What's that clump together on the right--what are they called in
astronomy?" asked Constantine Jopp, with a leer.

"Orion is the name--a beauty, ain't it?" answered Fergus.

"I've been watching Orion rise," said the third--Holden was his name.
"Many's the time I've watched Orion rising. Orion's the star for me. Say,
he wipes 'em all out--right out. Watch him rising now."

By a manipulation of the lights Orion moved up the back curtain slowly and
blazed with light nearer the zenith. And La Touche had more than the worth
of its money in this opening to the third act of the play. O'Ryan was a
favorite, at whom La Touche loved to jeer, and the parable of the stars
convulsed them.

At the first words O'Ryan put a hand on himself and tried to grasp the
meaning of it all, but his entrance and the subsequent applause had
confused him. Presently, however, he turned to the back curtain, as Orion
moved slowly up the heavens, and found the key to the situation. He
gasped. Then he listened to the dialogue, which had nothing to do with
"_The Sunburst Trail_."

"What did Orion do, and why does he rise? Has he got to rise? Why was the
gent called Orion in them far-off days?" asked Holden.

"He did some hunting in his time--with a club," Fergus replied. "He kept
making hits, he did. Orion was a spoiler. When he took the field there was
no room for the rest of the race. Why does he rise? Because it is a habit.
They could always get a rise out of Orion. The Athens _Eirenicon_ said
that yeast might fail to rise, but touch the button and Orion would rise
like a bird."

At that instant the galaxy jerked up the back curtain again, and, when the
audience could control itself, Constantine Jopp, grinning meanly, asked:

"Why does he wear the girdle?"

"It is not a girdle--it is a belt," was Dicky Fergus' reply. "The gods
gave it to him because he was a favorite. There was a lady called
Artemis--she was the last of them. But he went visiting with Eos, another
lady of previous acquaintance, down at a place called Ortygia, and Artemis
shot him dead with a shaft Apollo had given her; but she didn't marry
Apollo neither. She laid Orion out on the sky, with his glittering belt
around him. And Orion keeps on rising."

"Will he ever stop rising?" asked Holden.

Followed for the conspirators a disconcerting moment; for, when the
laughter had subsided, a lazy voice came from the back of the hall, "He'll
stop long enough to play with Apollo a little, I guess."

It was Gow Johnson who had spoken, and no man knew Terry O'Ryan better, or
could gauge more truly the course he would take. He had been in many an
enterprise, many a brush with O'Ryan, and his friendship would bear any
strain.

O'Ryan recovered himself from the moment he saw the back curtain, and he
did not find any fun in the thing. It took a hold on him out of all
proportion to its importance. He realized that he had come to the parting
of the ways in his life. It suddenly came upon him that something had been
lacking in him in the past, and that his want of success in many things
had not been wholly due to bad luck. He had been eager, enterprising, a
genius almost at seeing good things; and yet others had reaped where he
had sown. He had believed too much in his fellow-man. For the first time
in his life he resented the friendly, almost affectionate satire of his
many friends. It was amusing, it was delightful; but down beneath it all
there was a little touch of ridicule. He had more brains than any of them,
and he had known it in a way; he had led them sometimes, too, as on raids
against cattle-stealers, and in a brush with half-breeds and Indians; as
when he stood for the legislature; but he felt now for the first time that
he had not made the most of himself, that there was something hurting to
self-respect in this prank played upon him. When he came to that point his
resentment went higher. He thought of Molly Mackinder, and he heard all
too acutely the vague veiled references to her in their satire. By the
time Gow Johnson spoke he had mastered himself, however, and had made up
his mind. He stood still for a moment.

"Now, please, my cue," he said, quietly and satirically from the trees
near the wings.

He was smiling, but Gow Johnson's prognostication was right; and ere long
the audience realized that he was right. There was standing before them
not the Terry O'Ryan they had known, but another. He threw himself fully
into his part--a young rancher made deputy-sheriff, who by the occasional
exercise of his duty had incurred the hatred of a small floating
population that lived by fraud, violence, and cattle-stealing. The
conspiracy was to raid his cattle, to lure him to pursuit, to ambush him,
and kill him. Terry now played the part with a naturalness and force which
soon lifted the play away from the farcical element introduced into it by
those who had interpolated the gibes at himself. They had gone a step too
far.

"He's going large," said Gow Johnson, as the act drew near its close and
the climax neared where O'Ryan was to enter upon a physical struggle with
his assailants. "His blood's up. There'll be hell to pay."

To Gow Johnson the play had instantly become real, and O'Ryan an injured
man at bay, the victim of the act--not of the fictitious characters of the
play, but of the three men, Fergus, Holden, and Constantine Jopp, who had
planned the discomfiture of O'Ryan; and he felt that the victim's
resentment would fall heaviest on Constantine Jopp, the bully, an old
schoolmate of Terry's.

Jopp was older than O'Ryan by three years, which in men is little, but in
boys, at a certain time of life, is much. It means, generally, weight and
height, an advantage in a scrimmage. Constantine Jopp had been the plague
and tyrant of O'Ryan's boyhood. He was now a big, leering fellow, with
much money of his own, got chiefly from the coal discovered on his place
by Vigon, the half-breed French-Canadian. He had a sense of dark and
malicious humor, a long, horse-like face, with little, beady eyes, and a
huge frame.

Again and again had Terry fought him as a boy at school, and often he had
been badly whipped, but he had never refused the challenge of an insult
when he was twelve and Jopp fifteen. The climax to their enmity at school
had come one day when Terry was seized with a cramp while bathing, and
after having gone down twice was rescued by Jopp, who dragged him out by
the hair of the head. He had been restored to consciousness on the bank
and carried to his home, where he lay ill for days. During the course of
the slight fever which followed the accident his hair was cut close to his
head. Impetuous always, his first thought was to go and thank Constantine
Jopp for having saved his life. As soon as he was able he went forth to
find his rescuer, and met him suddenly on turning a corner of the street.
Before he could stammer out the gratitude that was in his heart, Jopp,
eying him with a sneering smile, said, drawlingly:

"If you'd had your hair cut like that I couldn't have got you out, could
I? Holy, what a sight! Next time I'll take you by the scruff, putty
face--bah!"

That was enough for Terry. He had swallowed the insult, stuttered his
thanks to the jeering laugh of the lank bully, and had gone home and cried
in shame and rage.

It was the one real shadow in his life. Ill-luck and good luck had been
taken with an equable mind; but the fact that he must, while he lived, own
the supreme debt of his life to a boy and afterward to a man whom he hated
by instinct was a constant cloud on him. Jopp owned him. For some years
they did not meet, and then at last they again were thrown together in the
West, when Jopp settled at La Touche. It was gall and wormwood to Terry,
but he steeled himself to be friendly, although the man was as great a
bully as the boy, as offensive in mind and character; but withal acute and
able in his way, and with a reputation for commercial sharpness which
would be called by another name in a different civilization. They met
constantly, and O'Ryan always put a hand on himself, and forced himself to
be friendly. Once when Jopp became desperately ill there had been--though
he fought it down, and condemned himself in every term of reproach--a
sense of relief in the thought that perhaps his ancient debt would now be
cancelled. It had gone on so long. And Constantine Jopp had never lost an
opportunity of vexing him, of turturing him, of giving veiled thrusts,
which he knew O'Ryan could not resent. It was the constant pin-prick of a
mean soul, who had an advantage of which he could never be
dispossessed--unless the ledger was balanced in some inscrutable way.

Apparently bent on amusement only, and hiding his hatred from his
colleagues, Jopp had been the instigator and begetter of the huge joke of
the play; but it was the brains of Dick Fergus which had carried it out,
written the dialogue, and planned the electric appliances of the back
curtain--for he was an engineer and electrician. Neither he nor Holden had
known the old antipathy of Terry and Constantine Jopp. There was only one
man who knew the whole truth, and that was Gow Johnson, to whom Terry had
once told all. At the last moment Fergus had interpolated certain points
in the dialogue which were not even included at rehearsal. These referred
to Apollo. He had a shrewd notion that Jopp had an idea of marrying Molly
Mackinder if he could, cousins though they were; and he was also aware
that Jopp, knowing Molly's liking for Terry, had tried to poison her mind
against him, through suggestive gossip about a little widow at Jansen,
thirty miles away. He had in so far succeeded that, on the very day of the
performance, Molly had declined to be driven home from the race-course by
Terry, despite the fact that Terry had won the chief race and owned the
only dog-cart in the West.

As the day went on, Fergus realized, as had Gow Johnson, that Jopp had
raised a demon. The air was electric. The play was drawing near to its
climax--an attempt to capture the deputy-sheriff, tie him to a tree, and
leave him bound and gagged alone in the waste. There was a glitter in
Terry's eyes, belying the lips which smiled in keeping with the character
he presented. A look of harshness was stamped on his face, and the
outlines of the temples were as sharp as the chin was set and the voice
slow and penetrating.

Molly Mackinder's eyes were riveted on him. She sat very still, her hands
clasped in her lap, watching his every move. Instinct told her that Terry
was holding himself in; that some latent fierceness and iron force in him
had emerged into life; and that he meant to have revenge on Constantine
Jopp one way or another, and that soon; for she had heard the rumor flying
through the hall that her cousin was the cause of the practical joke just
played. From hints she had had from Constantine that very day she knew
that the rumor was the truth; and she recalled now with shrinking dislike
the grimace accompanying the suggestion. She had not resented it then,
being herself angry with Terry because of the little widow at Jansen.

Presently the silence in the hall became acute; the senses of the audience
were strained to the utmost. The acting before them was more realistic
than anything they had ever seen, or were ever likely to see again in La
Touche. All three conspirators, Fergus, Holden, and Jopp, realized that
O'Ryan's acting had behind it an animal anger which transformed him. When
he looked into their eyes it was with a steely directness harder and
fiercer than was observed by the audience. Once there was an occasion for
O'Ryan to catch Fergus by the arm, and Fergus winced from the grip. When
standing in the wings with Terry he ventured to apologize playfully for
the joke, but Terry made no answer; and once again he had whispered
good-naturedly as they stood together on the stage; but the reply had been
a low, scornful laugh. Fergus realized that a critical moment was at hand.
The play provided for some dialogue between Jopp and Terry, and he
observed with anxiety that Terry now interpolated certain phrases meant to
warn Constantine, and to excite him to anger also.

The moment came upon them sooner than the text of the play warranted.
O'Ryan deliberately left out several sentences, and gave a later cue, and
the struggle for his capture was precipitated. Terry meant to make the
struggle real. So thrilling had been the scene that to an extent the
audience was prepared for what followed; but they did not grasp the full
reality--that the play was now only a vehicle for a personal issue of a
desperate character. No one had ever seen O'Ryan angry; and now that the
demon of rage was on him, directed by a will suddenly grown to its full
height, they saw not only a powerful character in a powerful melodrama,
but a man of wild force. When the three desperadoes closed in on O'Ryan,
and, with a blow from the shoulder which was not a pretence, he sent
Holden into a far corner gasping for breath and moaning with pain, the
audience broke out into wild cheering. It was superb acting, they thought.
As most of them had never seen the play, they were not surprised when
Holden did not again join the attack on the deputy-sheriff. Those who did
know the drama--among them Molly Mackinder--became dismayed, then
anxious.

Fergus and Jopp knew well from the blow O'Ryan had given that, unless they
could drag him down, the end must be disaster to some one. They were
struggling with him for personal safety now. The play was forgotten,
though mechanically O'Ryan and Fergus repeated the exclamations and the
few phrases belonging to the part. Jopp was silent, fighting with a malice
which belongs to only half-breed, or half-bred, natures; and from far back
in his own nature the distant Indian strain in him was working in savage
hatred. The two were desperately hanging onto O'Ryan like pumas on a
grizzly, when suddenly, with a twist he had learned from Ogami the Jap on
the Smoky River, the slim Fergus was slung backward to the ground with the
tendons of his arm strained and the arm itself useless for further work.
There remained now Constantine Jopp, heavier and more powerful than
O'Ryan.

For O'Ryan the theatre, the people, disappeared. He was a boy again on the
village-green, with the bully before him who had tortured his young days.
He forgot the old debt to the foe who saved his life; he forgot everything
except that once again, as of old, Constantine Jopp was fighting him, with
long, strong arms trying to bring him to the ground. Jopp's superior
height gave him an advantage in a close grip; the strength of his
gorilla-like arms was difficult to withstand. Both were forgetful of the
world, and the two other injured men, silent and awed, were watching the
fight, in which one of them, at least, was powerless to take part.

The audience was breathless. Most now saw the grim reality of the scene
before them; and when at last O'Ryan's powerful right hand got a grip upon
the throat of Jopp, and they saw the grip tighten, tighten, and Jopp's
face go from red to purple, a hundred people gasped. Excited men made as
though to move toward the stage; but the majority still believed that it
all belonged to the play, and shouted, "Sit down!"

Suddenly the voice of Gow Johnson was heard: "Don't kill him--let go,
boy!"

The voice rang out with sharp anxiety, and pierced the fog of passion and
rage in which O'Ryan was moving. He realized what he was doing, the real
sense of it came upon him. Suddenly he let go the lank throat of his
enemy, and, by a supreme effort, flung him across the stage, where Jopp
lay resting on his hands, his bleared eyes looking at Terry with the fear
and horror still in them which had come with that tightening grip on his
throat.

Silence fell suddenly on the theatre. The audience was standing. A woman
sobbed somewhere in a far corner, but the rest were dismayed and
speechless. A few steps before them all was Molly Mackinder, white and
frightened, but in her eyes was a look of understanding as she gazed at
Terry. Breathing hard, Terry stood still in the middle of the stage, the
red fog not yet gone out of his eyes, his hands clasped at his side,
vaguely realizing the audience again. Behind him was the back curtain, in
which the lights of Orion twinkled aggressively. The three men who had
attacked him were still where he had thrown them.

The silence was intense, the strain oppressive. But now a drawling voice
came from the back of the hall.

"Are you watching the rise of Orion?" it said. It was the voice of Gow
Johnson.

The strain was broken; the audience dissolved in laughter; but it was not
hilarious; it was the nervous laughter of relief, touched off by a native
humor always present in the dweller of the prairie.

"I beg your pardon," said Terry, quietly and abstractedly, to the
audience.

And the scene-shifter bethought himself and let down the curtain.

The fourth act was not played that night. The people had had more than the
worth of their money. In a few moments the stage was crowded with people
from the audience, but both Jopp and O'Ryan had disappeared.

Among the visitors to the stage was Molly Mackinder. There was a meaning
smile upon her face as she said to Dicky Fergus:

"It was quite wonderful, wasn't it--like a scene out of the classics--the
gladiators or something?"

Fergus gave a wary smile as he answered: "Yes. I felt like saying '_Ave,
Cæsar, ave!_' and I watched to see Artemis drop her handkerchief."

"She dropped it, but you were too busy to pick it up. It would have been a
useful sling for your arm," she added, with thoughtful malice. "It seemed
so real--you all acted so well, so appropriately. And how you keep it up!"
she added, as he cringed when some one knocked against his elbow, hurting
the injured tendons.

Fergus looked at her meditatively before he answered. "Oh, I think we'll
likely keep it up for some time," he rejoined, ironically.

"Then the play isn't finished?" she added. "There is another act? Yes, I
thought there was; the programme said four."

"Oh yes, there's another act," he answered, "but it isn't to be played
now; and I'm not in it."

"No, I suppose you are not in it. You really weren't in the last act. Who
will be in it?"

Fergus suddenly laughed outright as he looked at Holden expostulating
intently to a crowd of people round him. "Well, honor bright, I don't
think there'll be anybody in it except little Conny Jopp and gentle Terry
O'Ryan; and Conny mayn't be in it very long. But he'll be in it for a
while, I guess. You see, the curtain came down in the middle of a
situation, not at the end of it. The curtain has to rise again."

"Perhaps Orion will rise again--you think so?" She laughed in satire; for
Dicky Fergus had made love to her during the last three months with
unsuppressed activity, and she knew him in his sentimental moments; which
is fatal. It is fatal if, in a duet, one breathes fire and the other
frost.

"If you want my opinion," he said, in a lower voice, as they moved toward
the door, while people tried to listen to them--"if you want it straight,
I think Orion has risen--right up where shines the evening star--Oh, say,
now," he broke off, "haven't you had enough fun out of me? I tell you, it
was touch and go. He nearly broke my arm--would have done it, if I hadn't
gone limp to him; and your cousin Conny Jopp, little Conny Jopp, was as
near Kingdom Come as a man wants at his age. I saw an elephant go _must_
once in India, and it was as like O'Ryan as putty is to dough. It isn't
all over, either, for O'Ryan will forget and forgive, and Jopp won't. He's
your cousin, but he's a sulker. If he has to sit up nights to do it, he'll
try to get back on O'Ryan. He'll sit up nights, but he'll do it, if he
can. And, whatever it is, it won't be pretty."

Outside the door they met Gow Johnson, excitement in his eyes. He heard
Fergus' last words.

"He'll see Orion rising if he sits up nights," Gow Johnson said. "The game
is with Terry--at last."

Then he called to the dispersing, gossiping crowd: "Hold on--hold on, you
people! I've got news for you. Folks, this is O'Ryan's night. It's his in
the starry firmament. Look at him shine!" he cried, stretching out his arm
toward the heavens, where the glittering galaxy hung near the zenith.
"Terry O'Ryan--our O'Ryan--he's struck oil--on his ranch it's been struck.
Old Vigon found it. Terry's got his own at last. O'Ryan's in it--in it
alone. Now, let's hear the prairie-whisper!" he shouted, in a great,
raucous voice. "Let's hear the prairie-whisper! What is it?"

The crowd responded in a hoarse shout for O'Ryan and his fortune. Even the
women shouted--all except Molly Mackinder. She was wondering if O'Ryan
risen would be the same to her as O'Ryan rising. She got into her carriage
with a sigh, though she said to the few friends with her:

"If it's true, it's splendid. He deserves it, too. Oh, I'm glad--I'm so
glad!" She laughed; but the laugh was a little hysterical.

She was both glad and sorry. Yet as she drove home over the prairie she
was silent. Far off in the east was a bright light. It was a bonfire built
on O'Ryan's ranch, near where he had struck oil--struck it rich. The light
grew and grew, and the prairie was alive with people hurrying toward it.
La Touche should have had the news hours earlier, but the half-breed
French-Canadian, Vigon, who had made the discovery, and had started for La
Touche with the news, went suddenly off his head with excitement, and had
ridden away into the prairie fiercely shouting his joy to an invisible
world. The news had been brought in later by a farm-hand.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Terry O'Ryan had really struck oil, and his ranch was a scene of decent
revelry, of which Gow Johnson was master. But the central figure of it
all, the man who had, in truth, risen like a star, had become to La Touche
all at once its notoriety as well as its favorite, its great man as well
as its friend, he was nowhere to be found. He had been seen riding full
speed into the prairie toward the Kourmash Wood, and the starlit night had
swallowed him. Constantine Jopp had also disappeared; but at first no one
gave that thought or consideration.

As the night went on, however, a feeling began to stir which it is not
good to rouse in frontier lands. It is sure to exhibit itself in forms
more objective than are found in great populations where methods of
punishment are various, and even when deadly are often refined. But
society in new places has only limited resources, and is thrown back on
primary ways and means. La Touche was no exception, and the keener
spirits, to whom O'Ryan had ever been "a white man," and who so rejoiced
in his good-luck now that they drank his health a hundred times in his own
whiskey and cider, were simmering with desire for a public reproval of
Constantine Jopp's conduct. Though it was pointed out to them by the
astute Gow Johnson that Fergus and Holden had participated in the colossal
joke of the play, they had learned indirectly also the whole truth
concerning the past of the two men. They realized that Fergus and Holden
had been duped by Jopp into the escapade. Their primitive sense of justice
exonerated the humorists and arraigned the one malicious man. As the night
wore on they decided on the punishment to be meted out by La Touche to the
man who had not "acted on the square."

Gow Johnson saw, too late, that he had roused a spirit as hard to appease
as the demon roused in O'Ryan earlier in the evening. He would have
enjoyed the _battue_ of punishment under ordinary circumstances; but he
knew that Miss Molly Mackinder would be humiliated and indignant at the
half-savage penalty they meant to exact. He had determined that O'Ryan
should marry her; and this might be an obstruction in the path. It was
true that O'Ryan now would be a rich man--one of the richest in the West,
unless all signs failed; but, meanwhile, a union of fortunes would only be
an added benefit. Besides, he had seen that O'Ryan was in earnest, and
what O'Ryan wanted he himself wanted even more strongly. He was not
concerned greatly for O'Ryan's absence. He guessed that Terry had ridden
away into the night to work off the dark spirit that was on him, to have
it out with himself. Gow Johnson was a philosopher. He was twenty years
older than O'Ryan, and he had studied his friend as a pious monk his
missal.

He was right in his judgment. When Terry left the theatre he was like one
in a dream, every nerve in his body at tension, his head aflame, his
pulses throbbing. For miles he rode away into the waste along the northern
trail, ever away from La Touche and his own home. He did not know of the
great good-fortune that had come to him; and if, in this hour, he had
known, he would not have cared. As he rode on and on remorse drew him into
its grasp. Shame seized him that he had let passion be his master, that he
had lost his self-control, had taken a revenge out of all proportion to
the injury and insult to himself. It did not ease his mind that he knew
Constantine Jopp had done the thing out of meanness and malice; for he was
alive to-night in the light of the stars, with the sweet, crisp air
blowing in his face, because of an act of courage on the part of his
school-days' foe. He remembered now that, when he was drowning, he had
clung to Jopp with frenzied arms and had endangered the bully's life also.
The long torture of owing this debt to so mean a soul was on him still,
was rooted in him; but suddenly, in the silent, searching night, some
spirit whispered in his ear that this was the price which he must pay for
his life saved to the world, a compromise with the Inexorable Thing. On
the verge of oblivion and the end, he had been snatched back by relenting
Fate, which requires something for something given when laws are overriden
and doom defeated. Yes, the price he was meant to pay was gratitude to one
of shrivelled soul and innate antipathy; and he had not been man enough to
see the trial through to the end! With a little increased strain put upon
his vanity and pride, he had run amuck. Like some heathen gladiator, he
had ravaged in the ring. He had gone down into the basements of human life
and there made a cockpit for his animal rage, till, in the contest, brain
and intellect had been saturated by the fumes and sweat of fleshly fury.

How quiet the night was, how soothing to the fevered mind and body, how
the cool air laved the heated head and flushed the lungs of the rheum of
passion! He rode on and on, farther and farther away from home, his back
upon the scenes where his daily deeds were done. It was long past midnight
before he turned his horse's head again homeward.

Buried in his thoughts, now calm and determined, with a new life grown up
in him, a new strength different from the mastering force which gave him a
strength in the theatre like one in a delirium, he noticed nothing. He was
only conscious of the omniscient night and its warm, penetrating
friendliness; as, in a great trouble, when no words can be spoken, a cool,
kind palm steals into the trembling hand of misery and stills it, gives it
strength and life and an even pulse. He was now master in the house of his
soul, and had no fear or doubt as to the future or as to his course.

His first duty was to go to Constantine Jopp and speak his regret like a
man. And after that it would be his duty to carry a double debt his life
long for the life saved, for the wrong done. He owed an apology to La
Touche, and he was scarcely aware that the native gentlemanliness in him
had said through his fever of passion over the footlights, "I beg your
pardon." In his heart he felt that he had offered a mean affront to every
person present, to the town where his interests lay, where his heart lay.

Where his heart lay--Molly Mackinder! He knew now that vanity had
something to do, if not all to do, with his violent acts, and though there
suddenly shot through his mind, as he rode back, a savage thrill at the
remembrance of how he had handled the three, it was only a passing
emotion. He was bent on putting himself right with Jopp and with La
Touche. With the former his way was clear; he did not yet see his way as
to La Touche. How would he be able to make the _amende honorable_ to La
Touche?

By-and-by he became somewhat less absorbed and enveloped by the comforting
night. He saw the glimmer of red light afar, and vaguely wondered what it
was. It was in the direction of O'Ryan's Ranch, but he thought nothing of
it, because it burned steadily. It was probably a fire lighted by settlers
trailing to the farther North. While the night wore on he rode as slowly
back to the town as he had galloped from it like a centaur with a
captive.

Again and again Molly Mackinder's face came before him, but he resolutely
shut it out of his thoughts. He felt that he had no right to think of her
until he had "done the right thing" by Jopp and by La Touche. Yet the look
in her face as the curtain came down, it was not that of one indifferent
to him or to what he did. He neared the town half-way between midnight and
morning. Almost unconsciously avoiding the main streets, he rode a
roundabout way toward the little house where Constantine Jopp lived. He
could hear loud noises in the streets, singing, and hoarse shouts. Then
silence came, then shouts, and silence again. It was all quiet as he rode
up to Jopp's house, standing on the outskirts of the town. There was a
bright light in the window of a room.

Jopp, then, was still up. He would not wait till to-morrow. He would do
the right thing now. He would put things straight with his foe before he
slept; he would do it at any sacrifice to his pride. He had conquered his
pride.

He dismounted, threw the bridle over a post, and, going into the garden,
knocked gently at the door. There was no response. He knocked again, and
listened intently. Now he heard a sound--like a smothered cry or groan. He
opened the door quickly and entered. It was dark. In another room beyond
was a light. From it came the same sound he had heard before, but louder;
also there was a shuffling footstep. Springing forward to the half-open
door, he pushed it wide, and met the terror-stricken eyes of Constantine
Jopp--the same look that he had seen at the theatre when his hands were on
Jopp's throat, but more ghastly.

Jopp was bound to a chair by a lasso. Both arms were fastened to the
chair-arm, and beneath them, on the floor, were bowls into which blood
dropped from his punctured wrists.

He had hardly taken it all in--the work of an instant--when he saw
crouched in a corner, madness in his eyes, his half-breed Vigon. He
grasped the situation in a flash. Vigon had gone mad, had lain in wait in
Jopp's house, and, when the man he hated had seated himself in the chair,
had lassoed him, bound him, and was slowly bleeding him to death.

He had no time to think. Before he could act Vigon was upon him also,
frenzy in his eyes, a knife clutched in his hand. Reason had fled, and he
only saw in O'Ryan the frustrator of his revenge. He had watched the drip,
drip from his victim's wrists with a dreadful joy.

They were man and man, but O'Ryan found in this grisly contest a vaster
trial of strength than in the fight upon the stage a few hours ago. The
first lunge that Vigon made struck him on the tip of the shoulder and drew
blood; but he caught the hand holding the knife in an iron grasp, while
the half-breed, with superhuman strength, tried in vain for the long,
brown throat of the man for whom he had struck oil. As they struggled and
twisted, the eyes of the victim in the chair watched them with agonized
emotions. For him it was life or death. He could not cry out--his mouth
was gagged; but to O'Ryan his groans were like a distant echo of his own
hoarse gasps as he fought his desperate fight. Terry was as one in an
awful dream battling with vague, impersonal powers which slowly strangled
his life, yet held him back in torture from the final surrender.

For minutes they struggled. At last O'Ryan's strength came to a point of
breaking, for Vigon was a powerful man, and to this was added a madman's
energy. He felt that the end was coming. But all at once, through the
groans of the victim in the chair, Terry became conscious of noises
outside--such noises as he had heard before he entered the house, only
nearer and louder. At the same time he heard a horse's hoofs, then a knock
at the door, and a voice calling, "Jopp! Jopp!"

He made a last desperate struggle, and shouted hoarsely.

An instant later there were footsteps in the room, followed by a cry of
fright and amazement.

It was Gow Johnson. He had come to warn Constantine Jopp that a crowd were
come to tar and feather him, and to get him away on his own horse.

Now he sprang to the front door, called to the approaching crowd for help,
then ran back to help O'Ryan. A moment later a dozen men had Vigon secure,
and had released Constantine Jopp, now almost dead from loss of blood.

As they took the gag from his mouth and tied their handkerchiefs round his
bleeding wrists, Jopp sobbed aloud. His eyes were fixed on Terry O'Ryan.
Terry met the look, and grasped the limp hand lying on the chair-arm.

"I'm sorry, O'Ryan, I'm sorry for all I've done to you," Jopp sobbed. "I
was a sneak, but I want to own it. I want to be square now. You can tar
and feather me, if you like. I deserve it." He looked at the others. "I
deserve it," he repeated.

"That's what the boys had thought would be appropriate," said Gow Johnson,
with a dry chuckle, and the crowd looked at one another and winked. The
wink was kindly, however. "To own up and take your gruel!" was the easiest
way to touch the men of the prairie.

A half-hour later the roisterers, who had meant to carry Constantine Jopp
on a rail, carried Terry O'Ryan on their shoulders through the town,
against his will. As they passed the house where Miss Mackinder lived,
some one shouted:

"Are you watching the rise of Orion?"

Many a time thereafter Terry O'Ryan and Molly Mackinder looked at the
galaxy in the evening sky with laughter and with pride. It had played its
part with Fate against Constantine Jopp and the little widow at Jansen. It
had never shone so brightly as on the night when Vigon struck oil on
O'Ryan's ranch. But Vigon had no memory of that. Such is the irony of
life.



THE ERROR OF THE DAY


  The "Error of the Day" may be defined as the "The difference between
  the distance or range which must be put upon the sights in order to
  hit the target and the actual distance from the gun to the
  target."--_Admiralty Note._

  A great naval gun never fires twice alike. It varies from day to day,
  and expert allowance has to be made in sighting every time it is
  fired. Variations in atmosphere, condition of ammunition, and the
  wear of the gun are the contributory causes to the ever-varying
  "Error of the Day."

"Say, ain't he pretty?"

"A Jim-dandy--oh, my!"

"What's his price in the open market?"

"Thirty millions--I think not."

Then was heard the voice of Billy Goat--his name was William Goatry----

              "Out in the cold world, out in the street,
              Nothing to wear and nothing to eat,
              Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam,
              Child of misfortune, I'm driven from home."

A loud laugh followed, for Billy Goat was a popular person at Kowatin, in
the Saskatchewan country. He had an inimitable drollery, heightened by a
cast in his eye, a very large mouth, and a round, good-humored face; also
he had a hand and arm like iron, and was altogether a great man on a
"spree."

There had been a two days' spree at Kowatin, for no other reason than that
there had been great excitement over the capture and subsequent escape of
a prairie-rover who had robbed the contractor's money-chest at the
rail-head on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Forty miles from Kowatin he
had been caught by, and escaped from, the tall, brown-eyed man with the
hard-bitten face who leaned against the open window of the tavern, looking
indifferently at the jeering crowd before him. For a police officer, he
was not unpopular with them, but he had been a failure for once, and, as
Billy Goat had said, "It tickled us to death to see a rider of the plains
off his trolley--on the cold, cold ground, same as you and me."

They did not undervalue him. If he had been less a man than he was, they
would not have taken the trouble to cover him with their drunken ribaldry.
He had scored off them in the past in just such sprees as this, when he
had the power to do so, and used the power good-naturedly and quietly--but
used it.

Then he was Sergeant Foyle, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, on duty
in a district as large as the United Kingdom. And he had no greater
admirer than Billy Goat, who now reviled him. Not without cause, in a way,
for he had reviled himself to this extent that, when the prairie-rover,
Halbeck, escaped on the way to Prince Albert, after six months' hunt for
him and a final capture in the Kowatin district, Foyle resigned the Force
before the Commissioner could reproach him or call him to account. Usually
so exact, so certain of his target, some care had not been taken, he had
miscalculated, and there had been the Error of the Day. Whatever it was,
it had seemed to him fatal; and he had turned his face from the
barrack-yard.

Then he had made his way to the Happy Land Hotel at Kowatin, to begin life
as "a free and independent gent on the loose," as Billy Goat had said. To
resign had seemed extreme; because, though the Commissioner was vexed at
Halbeck's escape, Foyle was the best non-commissioned officer in the
Force. He had frightened horse-thieves and bogus land-agents and
speculators out of the country; had fearlessly tracked down a criminal or
a band of criminals when the odds were heavy against him. He carried on
his cheek the scars of two bullets, and there was one white lock in his
brown hair where an arrow had torn the scalp away as, alone, he drove into
the Post a score of Indians, fresh from raiding the cattle of an immigrant
trailing north.

Now he was out of work, or so it seemed; he had stepped down from his
scarlet-coated dignity, from the place of guardian and guide to
civilization, into the idleness of a tavern stoop.

As the little group swayed round him, and Billy Goat started another song,
Foyle roused himself as though to move away--he was waiting for the
mail-stage to take him south--

           "Oh, father, dear father, come home with me now,
             The clock in the steeple strikes one;
           You said you were coming right home from the shop
             As soon as your day's work was done.
                 Come home--come home--"

The song arrested him, and he leaned back against the window again. A
curious look came into his eyes, a look that had nothing to do with the
acts of the people before him. It was searching into a scene beyond this
bright sunlight and the far green-brown grass, and the little oasis of
trees in the distance marking a homestead, and the dust of the
wagon-wheels out on the trail beyond the grain-elevator--beyond the blue
horizon's rim, quivering in the heat, and into regions where this crisp,
clear, life-giving, life-saving air never blew.

           "You said you were coming right home from the shop
             As soon as your day's work was done.
                 Come home--come home--"

He remembered when he had first heard this song in a play called _Ten
Nights in a Bar-Room_, many years before, and how it had wrenched his
heart and soul, and covered him with a sudden cloud of shame and anger.
For his father had been a drunkard, and his brother had grown up a
drunkard, that brother whom he had not seen for ten years until--until--

He shuddered, closed his eyes, as though to shut out something that the
mind saw. He had had a rough life, he had become inured to the seamy side
of things--there was a seamy side even in this clean, free, wide land; and
he had no sentimentality; though something seemed to hurt and shame him
now.

                 "As soon as your day's work was done.
                       Come home--come home--"

The crowd was uproarious. The exhilaration had become a kind of delirium.
Men were losing their heads; there was an element of irresponsibility in
the new outbreak likely to breed some violent act, which every man of them
would lament when sober again.

Nettlewood Foyle watched the dust rising from the wheels of the stage,
which had passed the elevator and was nearing the Prairie Home Hotel, far
down the street. He would soon leave behind him this noisy ribaldry of
which he was the centre. He tossed his cheroot away. Suddenly he heard a
low voice behind him.

"Why don't you hit out, sergeant?" it said.

He started almost violently, and turned round. Then his face flushed, his
eyes blurred with feeling and deep surprise, and his lips parted in a
whispered exclamation and greeting.

A girl's face from the shade of the sitting-room was looking out at him,
half smiling, but with heightened color and a suppressed agitation. The
girl was not more than twenty-five, graceful, supple, and strong. Her chin
was dimpled; across her right temple was a slight scar. She had eyes of a
wonderful deep blue; they seemed to swim with light. As Foyle gazed at her
for a moment dumfounded, with a quizzical suggestion and smiling still a
little more, she said:

"You used to be a little quicker, Nett." The voice appeared to attempt
unconcern; but it quivered from a force of feeling underneath. It was so
long since she had seen him.

He was about to reply, but, at the instant, a reveller pushed him with a
foot behind the knees so that they were sprung forward. The crowd
laughed--all save Billy Goat, who knew his man.

Like lightning, and with cold fury in his eyes, Foyle caught the tall
cattleman by the forearm, and, with a swift, dexterous twist, had the
fellow in his power.

"Down--down to your knees, you skunk!" he said, in a low, fierce voice.

The knees of the big man bent--Foyle had not taken lessons of Ogami, the
Jap, for nothing--they bent, and the cattleman squealed, so intense was
the pain. It was break or bend; and he bent--to the ground and lay there.
Foyle stood over him for a moment, a hard light in his eyes, and then, as
if bethinking himself, he looked at the other roisterers and said:

"There's a limit, and he reached it. Your mouths are your own, and you can
blow off to suit your fancy, but if any one thinks I'm a tame coyote to be
poked with a stick--!" He broke off, stooped over, and helped the man
before him to his feet. The arm had been strained, and the big fellow
nursed it.

"Hell, but you're a twister!" the cattleman said, with a grimace of pain.

Billy Goat was a gentleman, after his kind, and he liked Sergeant Foyle
with a great liking. He turned to the crowd and spoke.

"Say, boys, this mine's worked out. Let's leave the Happy Land to Foyle.
Boys, what is he--what--is--he? What--is--Sergeant Foyle--boys?"

The roar of the song they all knew came in reply, as Billy Goat waved his
arms about like the wild leader of a wild orchestra:

    "Sergeant Foyle, oh, he's a knocker from the West,
      He's a chase-me-Charley, come-and-kiss-me tiger from the zoo;
    He's a dandy on the pinch, and he's got a double cinch
      On the gent that's going careless, and he'll soon cinch you:
      And he'll soon--and he'll soon--cinch you!"

Foyle watched them go, dancing, stumbling, calling back at him, as they
moved toward the Prairie Home Hotel:

              "And he'll soon--and he'll soon--cinch you!"

His under-lip came out, his eyes half closed, as he watched them. "I've
done my last cinch. I've done my last cinch," he murmured.

Then, suddenly, the look in his face changed, the eyes swam as they had
done a minute before at the sight of the girl in the room behind. Whatever
his trouble was, that face had obscured it in a flash, and the pools of
feeling far down in the depths of a lonely nature had been stirred.
Recognition, memory, tenderness, desire swam in his face, made generous
and kind the hard lines of the strong mouth. In an instant he had swung
himself over the window-sill. The girl had drawn away now into a more
shaded corner of the room, and she regarded him with a mingled anxiety and
eagerness. Was she afraid of something? Did she fear that--she knew not
quite what, but it had to do with a long ago?

"It was time you hit out, Nett," she said, half shyly. "You're more
patient than you used to be, but you're surer. My, that was a twist you
gave him, Nett. Aren't you glad to see me?" she added, hastily and with an
effort to hide her agitation.

He reached out and took her hand with a strange shyness and a
self-consciousness which was alien to his nature. The touch of her hand
thrilled him. Their eyes met. She dropped hers. Then he gathered himself
together. "Glad to see you? Of course, of course, I'm glad. You stunned
me, Jo. Why, do you know where you are? You're a thousand miles from home.
I can't get it through my head, not really. What brings you here? It's ten
years--ten years since I saw you, and you were only fifteen, but a fifteen
that was as good as twenty."

He scanned her face closely. "What's that scar on your forehead, Jo? You
hadn't that--then."

"I ran up against something," she said, evasively, her eyes glittering,
"and it left that scar. Does it look so bad?"

"No, you'd never notice it, if you weren't looking close as I am. You see,
I knew your face so well ten years ago."

He shook his head with a forced kind of smile. It became him, however, for
he smiled rarely; and the smile was like a lantern turned on his face; it
gave light and warmth to its quiet strength--or hardness.

"You were always quizzing," she said, with an attempt at a laugh--"always
trying to find things out. That's why you made them reckon with you out
here. You always could see behind things; always would have your own way;
always were meant to be a success."

She was beginning to get control of herself again, was trying hard to keep
things on the surface. "You were meant to succeed--you had to," she
added.

"I've been a failure--a dead failure," he answered, slowly. "So they say.
So they said. You heard them, Jo."

He jerked his head toward the open window.

"Oh, those drunken fools!" she exclaimed, indignantly, and her face
hardened. "How I hate drink! It spoils everything."

There was silence for a moment. They were both thinking of the same
thing--_of the same man_. He repeated a question.

"What brings you out here, Jo?" he asked, gently.

"Dorland," she answered, her face setting into determination and anxiety.

His face became pinched. "Dorl!" he said, heavily. "What for, Jo? What do
you want with Dorl?"

"When Cynthy died she left her five hundred dollars a year to the baby,
and--"

"Yes, yes, I know. Well, Jo?"

"Well, it was all right for five years--Dorland paid it in; but for five
years he hasn't paid anything. He's taken it, stolen it from his own child
by his own honest wife. I've come to get it--anyway, to stop him from
doing it any more. His own child--it puts murder in my heart, Nett! I
could kill him."

He nodded grimly. "That's likely. And you've kept Dorl's child with your
own money all these years?"

"I've got four hundred dollars a year, Nett, you know; and I've been
dressmaking--they say I've got taste," she added, with a whimsical smile.

Nett nodded his head. "Five years. That's twenty-five hundred dollars he's
stolen from his own child. It's eight years old now, isn't it?"

"Bobby is eight and a half," she answered.

"And his schooling, and his clothing, and everything; and you have to pay
for it all?"

"Oh, I don't mind, Nett; it isn't that. Bobby is Cynthy's child, and I
love him--love him; but I want him to have his rights. Dorl must give up
his hold on that money--or--"

He nodded gravely. "Or you'll set the law on him?"

"It's one thing or the other. Better to do it now when Bobby is young and
can't understand."

"Or read the newspapers," he commented, thoughtfully.

"I don't think I've a hard heart," she continued, "but I'd like to punish
him, if it wasn't that he's your brother, Nett, and if it wasn't for
Bobby. Dorland was dreadfully cruel, even to Cynthy."

"How did you know he was up here?" he asked.

"From the lawyer that pays over the money. Dorland has had it sent out
here to Kowatin this two years. And he sent word to the lawyer a month ago
that he wanted it to get here as usual. The letter left the same day as I
did, and it got here yesterday with me, I suppose. He'll be after
it--perhaps to-day. He wouldn't let it wait long, Dorl wouldn't."

Foyle started. "To-day--to-day--"

There was a gleam in his eyes, a setting of the lips, a line sinking into
the forehead between the eyes.

"I've been watching for him all day, and I'll watch till he comes. I'm
going to say some things to him that he won't forget. I'm going to get
Bobby's money, or have the law to do it--unless you think I'm a brute,
Nett." She looked at him wistfully.

"That's all right. Don't worry about me, Jo. He's my brother, but I know
him--I know him through and through. He's done everything that a man can
do and not be hanged. A thief, a drunkard, and a brute--and he killed a
man out here," he added, hoarsely. "I found it out myself--myself. It was
murder."

Suddenly, as he looked at her, an idea seemed to flash into his mind. He
came very near and looked at her closely. Then he reached over and almost
touched the scar on her forehead.

"Did he do that, Jo?"

For an instant she was silent and looked down at the floor. Presently she
raised her eyes, her face suffused. Once or twice she tried to speak, but
failed. At last she gained courage, and said:

"After Cynthy's death I kept house for him for a year, taking care of
little Bobby. I loved Bobby so--he has Cynthy's eyes. One day Dorland--oh,
Nett, of course I oughtn't to have stayed there--I know it now; but I was
only sixteen, and what did I understand! And my mother was dead. One
day--oh, please, Nett, you can guess. He said something to me. I made him
leave the house. Before I could make plans what to do, he came back mad
with drink. I went for Bobby, to get out of the house, but he caught hold
of me. I struck him in the face, and he threw me against the edge of the
open door. It made the scar."

Foyle's face was white. "Why did you never write and tell me that, Jo? You
know that I--" He stopped suddenly.

"You had gone out of our lives down there. I didn't know where you were
for a long time; and then--then it was all right about Bobby and me,
except that Bobby didn't get the money that was his. But now--"

Foyle's voice was hoarse and low. "He made that scar, and he--and you only
sixteen--Oh, my God!"

Suddenly his face reddened, and he choked with shame and anger. "And he's
my brother!" was all that he could say.

"Do you see him up here ever?" she asked, pityingly.

"I never saw him till a week ago." A moment, then he added, "The letter
wasn't to be sent here in his own name, was it?"

She nodded. "Yes, in his own name, Dorland W. Foyle. Didn't he go by that
name when you saw him?"

There was an oppressive silence, in which she saw that something moved him
strangely, and then he answered, "No, he was going by the name of
Halbeck--Hiram Halbeck."

The girl gasped. Then the whole thing burst upon her. "Hiram Halbeck!
Hiram Halbeck, the thief--I read it all in the papers--the thief that you
caught, and that got away. And you've left the Mounted Police because of
it--oh, Nett!" Her eyes were full of tears, her face was drawn and gray.

He nodded. "I didn't know who he was till I arrested him," he said. "Then,
afterward, I thought of his child, and let him get away; and for my poor
old mother's sake. She never knew how bad he was, even as a boy. But I
remember how he used to steal and drink the brandy from her bedside, when
she had the fever. She never knew the worst of him. But I let him away in
the night, Jo, and I resigned, and they thought that Halbeck had beaten
me, had escaped. Of course I couldn't stay in the Force, having done that.
But, by the heaven above us, if I had him here now I'd do the thing--do
it, so help me God!"

"Why should you ruin your life for him?" she said, with an outburst of
indignation. All that was in her heart welled up in her eyes at the
thought of what Foyle was. "You must not do it. You shall not do it. _He_
must pay for his wickedness, not you. It would be a sin. You and what
becomes of you mean so much." Suddenly, with a flash of purpose, she
added, "He will come for that letter, Nett. He would run any kind of risk
to get a dollar. He will come here for that letter--perhaps to-day."

He shook his head moodily, oppressed by the trouble that was on him. "He's
not likely to venture here, after what's happened."

"You don't know him as well as I do, Nett. He is so vain he'd do it, just
to show that he could. He'd probably come in the evening. Does any one
know him here? So many people pass through Kowatin every day. Has any one
seen him?"

"Only Billy Goatry," he answered, working his way to a solution of the
dark problem. "Only Billy Goatry knows him. The fellow that led the
singing--that was Goatry."

"There he is now," he added, as Billy Goat passed the window.

She came and laid a hand on his arm. "We've got to settle things with
him," she said. "If Dorl comes, Nett--"

There was silence for a moment, then he caught her hand in his and held
it. "If he comes, leave him to me, Jo. You will leave him to me?" he
added, anxiously.

"Yes," she answered. "You'll do what's right--by Bobby?"

"And by Dorl, too," he replied, strangely.

There were loud footsteps without.

"It's Goatry," said Foyle. "You stay here. I'll tell him everything. He's
all right; he's a true friend. He'll not interfere."

The handle of the door turned slowly. "You keep watch on the post-office,
Jo," he added.

Goatry came round the opening door with a grin.

"Hope I don't intrude," he said, stealing a half-leering look at the girl.
As soon as he saw her face, however, he straightened himself up and took
on different manners. He had not been so intoxicated as he had made out,
and he seemed only "mellow" as he stood before them, with his corrugated
face and queer, quaint look, the eye with the cast in it blinking faster
than the other.

"It's all right, Goatry," said Foyle. "This lady is one of my family from
the East."

"Goin' on by stage?" Goatry said, vaguely, as they shook hands.

She did not reply, for she was looking down the street, and presently she
started as she gazed. She laid a hand suddenly on Foyle's arm.

"See--he's come," she said, in a whisper, and as though not realizing
Goatry's presence. "He's come."

Goatry looked, as well as Foyle. "Halbeck--the devil!" he said.

Foyle turned to him. "Stand by, Goatry. I want you to keep a shut mouth.
I've work to do."

Goatry held out his hand. "I'm with you. If you get him this time, clamp
him, clamp him like a tooth in a harrow."

Halbeck had stopped his horse at the post-office door. Dismounting, he
looked quickly round, then drew the reins over the horse's head, letting
them trail, as is the custom of the West.

A few swift words passed between Goatry and Foyle.

"I'll do this myself, Jo," he whispered to the girl presently. "Go into
another room. I'll bring him here."

                   *       *       *       *       *

In another minute Goatry was leading the horse away from the post-office,
while Foyle stood waiting quietly at the door. The departing footsteps of
the horse brought Halbeck swiftly to the doorway, with a letter in his
hand.

"Hi, there, you damned sucker!" he called after Goatry, and then saw Foyle
waiting.

"What the hell--!" he said, fiercely, his hand on something in his
hip-pocket.

"Keep quiet, Dorl. I want to have a little talk with you. Take your hand
away from that gun--take it away!" he added, with a meaning not to be
misunderstood.

Halbeck knew that one shout would have the town on him, and he did not
know what card his brother was going to play. He let his arm drop to his
side. "What's your game? What do you want?" he asked, surlily.

"Come over to the Happy Land Hotel," Foyle answered, and in the light of
what was in his mind his words had a grim irony.

With a snarl Halbeck stepped out. Goatry, who had handed the horse over to
the hostler, watched them coming.

"Why did I never notice the likeness before?" Goatry said to himself.
"But, gosh! what a difference in the men. Foyle's going to double cinch
him this time, I guess."

He followed them inside the hall of the Happy Land. When they stepped into
the sitting-room, he stood at the door waiting. The hotel was entirely
empty, the roisterers at the Prairie Home having drawn off the idlers and
spectators. The barman was nodding behind the bar, the proprietor was
moving about in the backyard inspecting a horse. There was a cheerful
warmth everywhere; the air was like an elixir; the pungent smell of a
pine-tree at the door gave a kind of medicament to the indrawn breath. And
to Billy Goat, who sometimes sang in the choir of a church not a hundred
miles away--for the people agreed to forget his occasional sprees--there
came, he knew not why, the words of a hymn he had sung only the preceding
Sunday:

                "As pants the hart for cooling streams,
                  When heated in the chase--"

The words kept ringing in his ears as he listened to the conversation
inside the room--the partition was thin, the door thinner, and he heard
much. Foyle had asked him not to intervene, but only to stand by and await
the issue of this final conference. He meant, however, to take a hand in
if he thought he was needed, and he kept his ear glued to the door. If he
thought Foyle needed him--his fingers were on the handle of the door.

"Now, hurry up! What do you want with me?" asked Halbeck of his brother.

"Take your time," said ex-Sergeant Foyle, as he drew the blind
three-quarters down, so that they could not be seen from the street.

"I'm in a hurry, I tell you. I've got my plans. I'm going South. I've only
just time to catch the Canadian Pacific three days from now, riding
hard."

"You're not going South, Dorl."

"Where am I going, then?" was the sneering reply.

"Not farther than the Happy Land."

"What the devil's all this? You don't mean you're trying to arrest me
again, after letting me go?"

"You don't need to ask. You're my prisoner. You're my prisoner," he said,
in a louder voice--"_until you free yourself_."

"I'll do that damn quick, then," said the other, his hand flying to his
hip.

"Sit down," was the sharp rejoinder, and a pistol was in his face before
he could draw his own weapon.

"Put your gun on the table," Foyle said, quietly. Halbeck did so. There
was no other way.

Foyle drew it over to himself. His brother made a motion to rise.

"Sit still, Dorl," came the warning voice.

White with rage, the freebooter sat still, his dissipated face and heavy
angry lips, looking like a debauched and villanous caricature of his
brother before him.

"Yes, I suppose you'd have potted me, Dorl," said the ex-sergeant. "You'd
have thought no more of doing that than you did of killing Linley, the
ranchman; than you did of trying to ruin Jo Byndon, your wife's sister,
when she was sixteen years old, when she was caring for your child--giving
her life for the child you brought into the world."

"What in the name of hell--it's a lie!"

"Don't bluster. I know the truth."

"Who told you--the truth?"

"She did--to-day--an hour ago."

"She here--out here?" There was a new, cowed note in the voice.

"She is in the next room."

"What did she come here for?"

"To make you do right by your own child. I wonder what a jury of decent
men would think about a man who robbed his child for five years, and let
that child be fed and clothed and cared for by the girl he tried to
destroy, the girl he taught what sin there was in the world."

"She put you up to this. She was always in love with you, and you know
it."

There was a dangerous look in Foyle's eyes, and his jaw set hard. "There
would be no shame in a decent woman caring for me, even if it was true. I
haven't put myself outside the boundary as you have. You're my brother,
but you're the worst scoundrel in the country--the worst unhanged. Put on
the table there the letter in your pocket. It holds five hundred dollars
belonging to your child. There's twenty-five hundred dollars more to be
accounted for."

The other hesitated, then with an oath threw the letter on the table.
"I'll pay the rest as soon as I can, if you'll stop this damned
tomfoolery," he said, sullenly, for he saw that he was in a hole.

"You'll pay it, I suppose, out of what you stole from the C. P. R.
contractor's chest. No, I don't think that will do."

"You want me to go to prison, then?"

"I think not. The truth would come out at the trial--the whole truth--the
murder and all. There's your child, Bobby. You've done him enough wrong
already. Do you want him--but it doesn't matter whether you do or not--do
you want him to carry through life the fact that his father was a
jail-bird and a murderer, just as Jo Byndon carries the scar you made when
you threw her against the door?"

"What do you want with me, then?" The man sank slowly and heavily back
into the chair.

"There is a way--have you never thought of it? When you threatened others
as you did me, and life seemed such a little thing in others--can't you
think?"

Bewildered, the man looked around helplessly. In the silence which
followed Foyle's words his brain was struggling to see a way out. Foyle's
further words seemed to come from a great distance.

"It's not too late to do the decent thing. You'll never repent of all
you've done; you'll never do different."

The old, reckless, irresponsible spirit revived in the man; he had both
courage and bravado; he was not hopeless yet of finding an escape from the
net. He would not beg, he would struggle.

"I've lived as I meant to, and I'm not going to snivel or repent now. It's
all a rotten business, anyhow," he rejoined.

With a sudden resolution the ex-sergeant put his own pistol in his pocket,
then pushed Halbeck's pistol over toward him on the table. Halbeck's eyes
lighted eagerly, grew red with excitement, then a change passed over them.
They now settled on the pistol, and stayed.

He heard Foyle's voice. "It's with you to do what you ought to do. Of
course you can kill me. My pistol's in my pocket. But I don't think you
will. You've murdered one man. You won't load your soul up with another.
Besides, if you kill me, you will never get away from Kowatin alive. But
it's with you--take your choice. It's me or you."

Halbeck's fingers crept out and found the pistol.

"Do your duty, Dorl," said the ex-sergeant, as he turned his back on his
brother.

The door of the room opened, and Goatry stepped inside softly. He had work
to do, if need be, and his face showed it. Halbeck did not see him.

There was a demon in Halbeck's eyes, as his brother stood, his back
turned, taking his chances. A large mirror hung on the wall opposite
Halbeck. Goatry was watching Halbeck's face in the glass, and saw the
danger. He measured his distance.

All at once Halbeck caught Goatry's face in the mirror. The dark devilry
faded out of his eyes. His lips moved in a whispered oath. Every way was
blocked.

With a sudden wild resolution he raised the pistol to his head. It
cracked, and he fell back heavily in the chair. There was a red trickle at
the temple.

He had chosen the best way out.

"He had the pluck," said Goatry, as Foyle swung round with a face of
misery.

A moment afterward came a rush of people. Goatry kept them back.

"Sergeant Foyle arrested Halbeck, and Halbeck's shot himself," Goatry
explained to them.

A white-faced girl with a scar on her temple made her way into the room.

[Illustration: "IF YOU KILL ME, YOU WILL NEVER GET AWAY
FROM KOWATIN ALIVE"]

"Come away--come away, Jo," said the voice of the man she loved; and he
did not let her see the lifeless figure in the chair.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Three days later the plains swallowed them, as they made their way with
Billy Goatry to the headquarters of the Riders of the Plains, where
Sergeant Foyle was asked to reconsider his resignation: which he did.



THE WHISPERER


  "And thou shalt be brought down and shalt speak out of the ground,
  and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be
  as of one that hath a familiar spirit out of the ground, and thy
  speech shall whisper out of the dust."

The harvest was all in, and, as far as eye could observe, nothing remained
of the golden sea of wheat which had covered the wide prairie save the
yellow stubble, the bed of an ocean of wealth which had been gathered.
Here the yellow level was broken by a dark patch of fallow land, there by
a covert of trees also tinged with yellow, or deepening to crimson and
mauve--the harbinger of autumn. The sun had not the insistent and
intensive strength of more southerly climes; it was buoyant, confident,
and heartening, and it shone in a turquoise vault which covered and
endeared the wide, even world beneath. Now and then a flock of wild ducks
whirred past, making for the marshes or the innumerable lakes that
vitalized the expanse, or buzzards hunched heavily along, frightened from
some far resort by eager sportsmen.

That was above; but beneath, on a level with the unlifted eye, were houses
here and there, looking in the vastness like dolls' habitations. Many of
the houses stood blank and staring in the expanse, but some had trees, and
others little oases of green. Everywhere prosperity, everywhere the
strings of life pulled taut, signs that energy had been straining on the
leash.

Yet there was one spot where it seemed that deadness made encampment. It
could not be seen in the sweep of the eye, you must have travelled and
looked vigilantly to find it; but it was there--a lake shimmering in the
eager sun, washing against a reedy shore, a little river running into the
reedy lake at one end and out at the other, a small, dilapidated house
half hid in a wood that stretched for half a mile or so upon a rising
ground. In front of the house, not far from the lake, a man was lying
asleep upon the ground, a rough felt hat drawn over his eyes.

Like the house, the man seemed dilapidated also: a slovenly, ill-dressed,
demoralized figure he looked, even with his face covered. He seemed in a
deep sleep. Wild ducks settled on the lake not far from him with a swish
and flutter; a coyote ran past, veering as it saw the recumbent figure; a
prairie hen rustled by with a shrill cluck, but he seemed oblivious to
all. If asleep, he was evidently dreaming, for now and then he started, or
his body twitched and a muttering came from beneath the hat.

The battered house, the absence of barn or stable or garden, or any token
of thrift or energy, marked the man as an excrescence in this theatre of
hope and fruitful toil. It all belonged to some degenerate land, some
exhausted civilization, not to this field of vigor where life rang like
silver.

So the man lay for hour upon hour. He slept as though he had been upon a
long journey in which the body was worn to helplessness. Or was it that
sleep of the worn-out spirit which, tortured by remembrance and remorse,
at last sinks into the depths where the conscious vexes the unconscious--a
little of fire, a little of ice, and now and then the turn of the screw?

The day marched nobly on toward evening, growing out of its blue and
silver into a pervasive golden gleam; the bare, grayish houses on the
prairie were transformed into miniature palaces of light. Presently a girl
came out of the woods behind, looking at the neglected house with a
half-pitying curiosity. She carried in one hand a fishing-rod which had
been telescoped till it was no bigger than a cane; in the other she
carried a small fishing-basket. Her father's shooting and fishing camp was
a few miles away by a lake of greater size than this which she approached.
She had tired of the gay company in camp, brought up for sport from beyond
the American border where she also belonged, and she had come to explore
the river running into this reedy lake. She turned from the house and came
nearer to the lake, shaking her head, as though compassionating the poor
folk who lived there. She was beautiful. Her hair was brown, going to
tawny, but in this soft light which enwrapped her she was in a sort of
topaz flame. As she came on, suddenly she stopped as though transfixed.
She saw the man--and saw also a tragedy afoot.

The man stirred violently in his sleep, cried out, and started up. As he
did so, a snake, disturbed in its travel past him, suddenly raised itself
in anger. Startled out of sleep by some inner torture, the man heard the
sinister rattle he knew so well, and gazed paralyzed.

The girl had been but a few feet away when she first saw the man and his
angry foe. An instant, then, with the instinct of the woods and the
plains, and the courage that has habitation everywhere, dropping her
basket she sprang forward noiselessly. The short, telescoped fishing-rod
she carried swung round her head and completed its next half-circle at the
head of the reptile, even as it was about to strike. The blow was sure,
and with half-severed head the snake fell dead upon the ground beside the
man.

He was like one who has been projected from one world to another, dazed,
stricken, fearful. Presently the look of agonized dismay gave way to such
an expression of relief as might come upon the face of a reprieved victim
about to be given to the fire or to the knife that flays. The place of
dreams from which he had emerged was like hell, and this was some world of
peace that he had not known these many years. Always one had been at his
elbow--"a familiar spirit out of the ground"--whispering in his ear. He
had been down in the abysses of life.

He glanced again at the girl, and realized what she had done: she had
saved his life. Whether it had been worth saving was another question; but
he had been near to the brink, had looked in, and the animal in him had
shrunk back from the precipice in a confused agony of fear. He staggered
to his feet.

"Where do you come from?" he said, pulling his coat closer to hide the
ragged waistcoat underneath, and adjusting his worn and dirty hat--in his
youth he had been vain and ambitious, and good-looking also.

He asked his question in no impertinent tone, but in the low voice of one
who "shall whisper out of the dust." He had not yet recovered from the
first impression of his awakening, that the world in which he now stood
was not a real world.

She understood, and half in pity and half in conquered repugnance said:

"I come from a camp beyond"--she indicated the direction by a gesture. "I
had been fishing"--she took up the basket--"and chanced on you--then." She
glanced at the snake significantly.

"You killed it in the nick of time," he said, in a voice that still spoke
of the ground, but with a note of half-shamed gratitude. "I want to thank
you," he added. "You were brave. It would have turned on you if you had
missed. I know them. I've killed five." He spoke very slowly, huskily.

"Well, you are safe--that is the chief thing," she rejoined, making as
though to depart. But presently she turned back. "Why are you so
dreadfully poor--and everything?" she asked, gently.

His eye wandered over the lake and back again before he answered her, in a
dull, heavy tone, "I've had bad luck, and, when you get down, there are
plenty to kick you farther."

"You weren't always poor as you are now--I mean long ago, when you were
young."

"I'm not so old," he rejoined, sluggishly--"only thirty-four."

She could not suppress her astonishment. She looked at the hair already
gray, the hard, pinched face, the lustreless eyes.

"Yet it must seem long to you," she said, with meaning.

Now he laughed--a laugh sodden and mirthless. He was thinking of his
boyhood. Everything, save one or two spots all fire or all darkness, was
dim in his debilitated mind.

"Too far to go back," he said, with a gleam of the intelligence which had
been strong in him once.

She caught the gleam. She had wisdom beyond her years. It was the greater
because her mother was dead, and she had had so much wealth to dispense,
for her father was rich beyond counting, and she controlled his household
and helped to regulate his charities. She saw that he was not of the
laboring classes, that he had known better days; his speech, if abrupt and
cheerless, was grammatical.

"If you cannot go back, you can go forward," she said, firmly. "Why should
you be the only man in this beautiful land who lives like this, who is
idle when there is so much to do, who sleeps in the daytime when there is
so much time to sleep at night?"

A faint flush came on the grayish, colorless face. "I don't sleep at
night," he returned, moodily.

"Why don't you sleep?" she asked.

He did not answer, but stirred the body of the snake with his foot. The
tail moved; he stamped upon the head with almost frenzied violence, out of
keeping with his sluggishness.

She turned away, yet looked back once more--she felt tragedy around her.
"It is never too late to mend," she said, and moved on, but stopped, for a
young man came running from the woods toward her.

"I've had a hunt--such a hunt for you!" the young man said, eagerly, then
stopped short when he saw to whom she had been talking. A look of disgust
came upon his face as he drew her away, his hand on her arm.

"In Heaven's name, why did you talk to that man?" he said. "You ought not
to have trusted yourself near him."

"What has he done?" she asked. "Is he so bad?"

"I've heard about him. I inquired the other day. He was once in a better
position as a ranchman--ten years ago; but he came into some money one
day, and he changed at once. He never had a good character; even before he
got his money he used to gamble, and was getting a bad name. Afterward he
began drinking, and he took to gambling harder than ever. Presently his
money all went and he had to work; but his bad habits had fastened on him,
and now he lives from hand to mouth, sometimes working for a month,
sometimes idle for months. There's something sinister about him, there's
some mystery; for poverty, or drink even--and he doesn't drink much
now--couldn't make him what he is. He doesn't seek company, and he walks
sometimes endless miles talking to himself, going as hard as he can. How
did you come to speak to him, Grace?"

She told him all, with a curious abstraction in her voice, for she was
thinking of the man from a standpoint which her companion could not
realize. She was also trying to verify something in her memory. Ten years
ago, so her lover had just said, the poor wretch behind them had been a
different man; and there had shot into her mind the face of a ranchman she
had seen with her father, the railway king, one evening when his "special"
had stopped at a railway station on his tour through Montana--ten years
ago. Why did the face of the ranchman which had fixed itself on her memory
then, because he had come on the evening of her birthday and had spoiled
it for her, having taken her father away from her for an hour--why did his
face come to her now? What had it to do with the face of this outcast she
had just left?

"What is his name?" she asked at last.

"Roger Lygon," he answered.

"Roger Lygon," she repeated, mechanically. Something in the man chained
her thought--his face that moment when her hand saved him and the awful
fear left him and a glimmer of light came into his eyes.

But her lover beside her broke into song. He was happy with her.
Everything was before him, her beauty, her wealth, herself. He could not
dwell upon dismal things; his voice rang out on the sharp, sweet, evening
air:

     "Oh, where did you get them, the bonny, bonny roses
       That blossom in your cheeks, and the morning in your eyes?'
     'I got them on the North Trail, the road that never closes,
       That widens to the seven gold gates of paradise.'
     'Oh, come, let us camp in the North Trail together,
       With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.'"

Left alone, the man by the reedy lake stood watching them until they were
out of view. The song came back to him, echoing across the waters:

          "'Oh, come, let us camp on the North Trail together,
            With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.'"

The sunset glow, the girl's presence, had given him a moment's illusion,
had absorbed him for a moment, acting on his deadened nature like a
narcotic at once soothing and stimulating. As some wild animal in a
forgotten land, coming upon ruins of a vast civilization, towers, temples
and palaces, in the golden glow of an Eastern evening, stands abashed and
vaguely wondering, having neither reason to understand nor feeling to
enjoy, yet is arrested and abashed, so he stood. He had lived the last
three years so much alone, had been cut off so completely from his
kind--had lived so much alone. Yet to-night, at last, he would not be
alone.

Some one was coming to-night, some one whom he had not seen for a long
time. Letters had passed, the object of the visit had been defined, and he
had spent the intervening days since the last letter had arrived, now
agitated, now apathetic and sullen, now struggling with some invisible
being that kept whispering in his ear, saying to him: "It was the price of
fire and blood and shame. You did it--you--you--you! You are down, and you
will never get up. You can only go lower still--fire and blood and
shame!"

Criminal as he was, he had never become hardened, he had only become
degraded. Crime was not his vocation. He had no gift for it; still, the
crime he had committed had never been discovered--the crime that he did
with others. There were himself and Dupont and another. Dupont was coming
to-night--Dupont, who had profited by the crime, and had not spent his
profits, but had built upon them to further profit; for Dupont was
avaricious and prudent, and a born criminal. Dupont had never had any
compunctions or remorse, had never lost a night's sleep because of what
they two had done, instigated thereto by the other, who had paid them so
well for the dark thing.

The other was Henderley, the financier. He was worse perhaps than Dupont,
for he was in a different sphere of life, was rich beyond counting, and
had been early nurtured in quiet Christian surroundings. The spirit of
ambition, rivalry, and the methods of a degenerate and cruel finance had
seized him, mastered him; so that, under the cloak of power--as a toreador
hides the blade under the red cloth before his enemy the _toro_--he held a
sword of capital which did cruel and vicious things, at last becoming
criminal also. Henderley had incited and paid; the others, Dupont and
Lygon, had acted and received. Henderley had had no remorse, none at any
rate that weighed upon him, for he had got used to ruining rivals and
seeing strong men go down, and those who had fought him come to beg or
borrow of him in the end. He had seen more than one commit suicide, and
those they loved go down and farther down, and he had helped these up a
little, but not near enough to put them near his own plane again; and he
could not see--it never occurred to him--that he had done any evil to
them. Dupont thought upon his crimes now and then, and his heart hardened,
for he had no moral feeling; Henderley did not think at all. It was left
to the man of the reedy lake to pay the penalty of apprehension, to suffer
the effects of crime upon a nature not naturally criminal.

Again and again, how many hundreds of times, had Roger Lygon seen in his
sleep--had even seen awake, so did hallucination possess him--the new
cattle trail he had fired for scores of miles. The fire had destroyed the
grass over millions of acres, two houses had been burned and three people
had lost their lives; all to satisfy the savage desire of one man, to
destroy the chance of a cattle trade over a great section of country for
the railway which was to compete with his own--an act which, in the end,
was futile, failed of its purpose. Dupont and Lygon had been paid their
price, and had disappeared and been forgotten--they were but pawns in his
game--and there was no proof against Henderley. Henderley had forgotten.
Lygon wished to forget, but Dupont remembered, and meant now to reap fresh
profit by the remembrance.

Dupont was coming to-night, and the hatchet of crime was to be dug up
again. So it had been planned.

As the shadows fell, Lygon roused himself from his trance with a shiver.
It was not cold, but in him there was a nervous agitation, making him cold
from head to foot; his body seemed as impoverished as his mind. Looking
with heavy-lidded eyes across the prairie, he saw in the distance the
barracks of the Riders of the Plains and the jail near by, and his
shuddering ceased. There was where he belonged, within four stone walls;
yet here he was free to go where he willed, to live as he willed, with no
eye upon him. With no eye upon him? There was no eye, but there was the
Whisperer whom he could never drive away. Morning and night he heard the
words: "You--you--you! Fire and blood and shame!" He had snatched sleep
when he could find it, after long, long hours of tramping over the plains,
ostensibly to shoot wild fowl, but in truth to bring on a great bodily
fatigue--and sleep. His sleep only came then in the first watches of the
night. As the night wore on the Whisperer began again, as the cloud of
weariness lifted a little from him and the senses were released from the
heavy sedative of unnatural exertion.

The dusk deepened. The moon slowly rose. He cooked his scanty meal and
took a deep draught from a horn of whiskey from beneath a board in the
flooring. He had not the courage to face Dupont without it, nor yet to
forget what he must forget if he was to do the work Dupont came to
arrange--he must forget the girl who had saved his life and the influence
of those strange moments in which she had spoken down to him, in the abyss
where he had been lying.

He sat in the doorway, a fire gleaming behind him; he drank in the good
air as though his lungs were thirsty for it, and saw the silver glitter of
the moon upon the water. Not a breath of wind stirred, and the shining
path the moon made upon the reedy lake fascinated his eye. Everything was
so still except that whisper, louder in his ear than it had ever been
before.

Suddenly, upon the silver path upon the lake there shot a silent canoe,
with a figure as silently paddling toward him. He gazed for a moment
dismayed, and then got to his feet with a jerk.

"Dupont," he said, mechanically.

The canoe swished among the reeds and rushes, scraped on the shore, and a
tall, burly figure sprang from it and stood still, looking at the house.

"_Qui reste là_--Lygon?" he asked.

"Dupont," was the nervous, hesitating reply.

Dupont came forward quickly. "_Ah_, _ben_, here we are again--so," he
grunted, cheerily.

Entering the house, they sat before the fire, holding their hands to the
warmth from force of habit, though the night was not cold.

"_Ben_, you will do it to-night--then?" Dupont said. "_Sacré_, it is
time!"

"Do what?" rejoined the other, heavily.

An angry light leaped into Dupont's eyes. "You not unnerstan' my
letters--bah! You know it all right, so queeck."

The other remained silent, staring into the fire with wide, searching
eyes.

Dupont put a hand on him. "You ketch my idee queeck. We mus' have more
money from that Henderley--certainlee. It is ten years, and he t'ink it is
all right. He t'ink we come no more becos' he give five t'ousand dollars
to us each. That was to do the t'ing, to fire the country. Now we want
another ten t'ousan' to us each, to forget we do it for him--_hein_?"

Still there was no reply. Dupont went on, watching the other furtively,
for he did not like this silence. But he would not resent it till he was
sure there was good cause.

"It comes to suit us. He is over there at the Old Man Lak', where you can
get at him easy, not like in the city where he lif'. Over in the States,
he laugh mebbe, becos' he is at home, an' can buy off the law. But
here--it is Canadaw, an' they not care eef he have hunder' meellion
dollar. He know that--sure. Eef you say you not care a dam to go to jail,
so you can put him there, too, becos' you have not'ing, an' so dam seeck
of everyt'ing, he will t'ink ten t'ousan' dollar same as one cent to Nic
Dupont--_ben sûr_!"

Lygon nodded his head, still holding his hands to the blaze. With ten
thousand dollars he could get away into--into another world somewhere,
some world where he could forget, as he forgot for a moment this afternoon
when the girl said to him, "It is never too late to mend."

Now, as he thought of her, he pulled his coat together and arranged the
rough scarf at his neck involuntarily. Ten thousand dollars--but ten
thousand dollars by blackmail, hush-money, the reward of fire and blood
and shame! Was it to go on? Was he to commit a new crime?

He stirred, as though to shake off the net that he felt twisting round
him, in the hands of the robust and powerful Dupont, on whom crime sat so
lightly, who had flourished while he, Lygon, had gone lower and lower. Ten
years ago he had been the better man, had taken the lead, was the master,
Dupont the obedient confederate, the tool. Now, Dupont, once the rough
river-driver, grown prosperous in a large way for him--who might yet be
mayor of his town in Quebec--he held the rod of rule. Lygon was conscious
that the fifty dollars sent him every New Year for five years by Dupont
had been sent with a purpose, and that he was now Dupont's tool.
Debilitated, demoralized, how could he, even if he wished, struggle
against this powerful confederate, as powerful in will as in body? Yet if
he had his own way he would not go to Henderley. He had lived with a
"familiar spirit" so long, he feared the issue of this next excursion into
the fens of crime.

Dupont was on his feet now. "He will be here only three days more--I haf
find it so. To-night it mus' be done. As we go I will tell you what to
say. I will wait at the Forks, an' we will come back togedder. His check
will do. Eef he gif at all, the check is all right. He will not stop it.
Eef he have the money, it is better--_sacré_--yes. Eef he not gif--well, I
will tell you, there is the other railway man he try to hurt, how would he
like--But I will tell you on the river. _Maint'nant_--queeck, we go."

Without a word Lygon took down another coat and put it on. Doing so he
concealed a weapon quickly, as Dupont stooped to pick a coal for his pipe
from the blaze. Lygon had no fixed purpose in taking a weapon with him; it
was only a vague instinct of caution that moved him.

In the canoe on the river, in an almost speechless apathy, he heard
Dupont's voice giving him instructions.

Henderley, the financier, had just finished his game of whist and
dismissed his friends--it was equivalent to dismissal, rough yet genial as
he seemed to be, so did immense wealth and its accompanying power affect
his relations with those about him. In everything he was "considered." He
was in good-humor, for he had won all the evening, and with a smile he
rubbed his hands among the notes--three thousand dollars it was. It was
like a man with a pocketful of money chuckling over a coin he had found in
the street. Presently he heard a rustle of the inner tent-curtain and
swung round. He faced the man from the reedy lake.

Instinctively he glanced round for a weapon, mechanically his hands firmly
grasped the chair in front of him. He had been in danger of his life many
times, and he had no fear. He had been threatened with assassination more
than once, and he had got used to the idea of danger; life to him was only
a game.

He kept his nerve; he did not call out; he looked his visitor in the
eyes.

"What are you doing here? Who are you?" he said.

"Don't you know me?" answered Lygon, gazing intently at him.

Face to face with the man who had tempted him to crime, Lygon had a new
sense of boldness, a sudden feeling of reprisal, a rushing desire to put
the screw upon him. At sight of this millionaire with the pile of notes
before him there vanished the sickening hesitation of the afternoon, of
the journey with Dupont. The look of the robust, healthy financier was
like acid in a wound; it maddened him.

"You will know me better soon," Lygon added, his head twitching with
excitement.

Henderley recognized him now. He gripped the armchair spasmodically, but
presently regained a complete composure. He knew the game that was forward
here, and he also thought that if once he yielded to blackmail there would
never be an end to it. He made no pretence, but came straight to the
point.

"You can do nothing; there is no proof," he said, with firm assurance.

"There is Dupont," answered Lygon, doggedly.

"Who is Dupont?"

"The French Canadian who helped me--I divided with him."

"You said the man who helped you died. You wrote that to me. I suppose you
are lying now."

Henderley coolly straightened the notes on the table, smoothing out the
wrinkles, arranging them according to their denominations with an
apparently interested eye; yet he was vigilantly watching the outcast
before him. To yield to blackmail would be fatal; not to yield to it--he
could not see his way. He had long ago forgotten the fire and blood and
shame. No Whisperer reminded him of that black page in the history of his
life; he had been immune of conscience. He could not understand this man
before him. It was as bad a case of human degradation as ever he had
seen--he remembered the stalwart, if dissipated, ranchman who had acted on
his instigation. He knew now that he had made a foolish blunder then, that
the scheme had been one of his failures; but he had never looked on it as
with eyes reproving crime. As a hundred thoughts tending toward the
solution of the problem by which he was faced flashed through his mind,
and he rejected them all, he repeated mechanically the phrase "I suppose
you are lying now."

"Dupont is here--not a mile away," was the reply. "He will give proof. He
would go to jail or to the gallows to put you there, if you do not pay. He
is a devil--Dupont."

Still the great man could not see his way out. He must temporize for a
little longer, for rashness might bring scandal or noise; and near by was
his daughter, the apple of his eye.

"What do you want? How much did you figure you could get out of me, if I
let you bleed me?" he asked, sneeringly and coolly. "Come now, how much?"

Lygon, in whom a blind hatred of the man still raged, was about to reply,
when he heard a voice calling, "Daddy, Daddy!"

Suddenly the red, half-insane light died down in Lygon's eyes. He saw the
snake upon the ground by the reedy lake, the girl standing over it--the
girl with the tawny hair. This was her voice.

Henderley had made a step toward a curtain opening into another room of
the great tent, but before he could reach it the curtain was pushed back
and the girl entered with a smile.

"May I come in?" she said; then stood still, astonished, seeing Lygon.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Oh--you!"

All at once a look came into her face which stirred it as a flying insect
stirs the water of a pool. On the instant she remembered that she had seen
the man before.

It was ten years ago in Montana, on the night of her birthday. Her father
had been called away to talk with this man, and she had seen him from the
steps of the "special." It was only the caricature of the once strong,
erect ranchman that she saw; but there was no mistake, she recognized him
now.

Lygon, dumfounded, looked from her to her father, and he saw now in
Henderley's eyes a fear that was not to be misunderstood.

Here was where Henderley could be smitten, could be brought to his knees.
It was the vulnerable part of him. Lygon could see that he was stunned.
The great financier was in his power. He looked back again to the girl,
and her face was full of trouble.

A sharp suspicion was in her heart that somehow or other her father was
responsible for this man's degradation and ruin. She looked Lygon in the
eyes.

"Did you want to see me?" she asked.

She scarcely knew why she said it; but she was sensible of trouble, maybe
of tragedy, somewhere; and she had a vague dread of she knew not what,
for, hide it, avoid it, as she had done so often, there was in her heart
an unhappy doubt concerning her father.

A great change had come over Lygon. Her presence had altered him. He was
again where she had left him in the afternoon.

He heard her say to her father: "This was the man I told you of--at the
reedy lake. Did you come to see me?" she repeated.

"I did not know you were here," he answered. "I came"--he was conscious of
Henderley's staring eyes fixed upon his helplessly--"I came to ask your
father if he would not buy my shack. There is good shooting at the lake;
the ducks come plenty, sometimes. I want to get away, to start again
somewhere. I've been a failure. I want to get away, right away south. If
he would buy it, I could start again. I've had no luck."

He had invented it on the moment, but the girl understood better than
Lygon or Henderley could have dreamed. She had seen the change pass over
Lygon.

Henderley had a hand on himself again, and the startled look went out of
his eyes.

"What do you want for your shack and the lake?" he asked, with restored
confidence. The fellow no doubt was grateful that his daughter had saved
his life, he thought.

"Five hundred dollars," answered Lygon, quickly.

Henderley would have handed over all that lay on the table before him,
but he thought it better not to do so. "I'll buy it," he said. "You seem
to have been hit hard. Here is the money. Bring me the deed
to-morrow--to-morrow."

"I'll not take the money till I give you the deed," said Lygon. "It will
do to-morrow. It's doing me a good turn. I'll get away and start again
somewhere. I've done no good up here. Thank you, sir--thank you."

Before they realized it, the tent-curtain rose and fell, and he was gone
into the night.

The trouble was still deep in the girl's eyes as she kissed her father,
and he, with an overdone cheerfulness, wished her a good-night.

The man of iron had been changed into a man of straw once at least in his
lifetime.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Lygon found Dupont at the Forks.

"_Eh_, _ben_, it is all right--yes?" Dupont asked, eagerly, as Lygon
joined him.

"Yes, it is all right," answered Lygon.

With an exulting laugh and an obscene oath, Dupont pushed out the canoe,
and they got away into the moonlight. No word was spoken for some
distance, but Dupont kept giving grunts of satisfaction.

"You got the ten t'ousan' each--in cash or check, eh? The check or the
money--_hein_?"

"I've got nothing," answered Lygon.

Dupont dropped his paddle with a curse.

"You got not'ing! You said eet was all right!" he growled.

"It is all right. I got nothing. I asked for nothing. I have had enough. I
have finished."

With a roar of rage Dupont sprang on him, and caught him by the throat as
the canoe swayed and dipped. He was blind with fury.

Lygon tried with one hand for his knife, and got it, but the pressure on
his throat was growing terrible.

For minutes the struggle continued, for Lygon was fighting with the
desperation of one who makes his last awful onset against fate and doom.

Dupont also had his knife at work. At last it drank blood, but as he got
it home he suddenly reeled blindly, lost his balance, and lurched into the
water with a groan.

Lygon, weapon in hand and bleeding freely, waited for him to rise and make
for the canoe again.

Ten, twenty, fifty seconds passed. Dupont did not rise. A minute went by,
and still there was no stir, no sign. Dupont would never rise again. In
his wild rage he had burst a blood-vessel on the brain.

Lygon bound up his reeking wound as best he could. He did it calmly,
whispering to himself the while.

"I must do it. I must get there if I can. I will not be afraid to die
then," he muttered to himself.

Presently he grasped an oar and paddled feebly.

A slight wind had risen, and, as he turned the boat in to face the Forks
again, it helped to carry the canoe to the landing-place.

Lygon dragged himself out. He did not try to draw the canoe up, but began
this journey of a mile back to the tent he had left so recently. First,
step by step, leaning against trees, drawing himself forward, a journey as
long to his determined mind as from youth to age. Would it never end? It
seemed a terrible climbing-up the sides of a cliff, and, as he struggled
fainting on, all sorts of sounds were in his ears, but he realized that
the Whisperer was no longer there. The sounds he heard did not torture,
they helped his stumbling feet. They were like the murmur of waters, like
the sounds of the forest and soft, booming bells. But the bells were only
the beatings of his heart--so loud, so swift.

[Illustration: FOR MINUTES THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED]

He was on his knees now, crawling on--on--on. At last there came a light,
suddenly bursting on him from a tent he was so near. Then he called, and
called again, and fell forward on his face. But now he heard a voice above
him. It was _her_ voice. He had blindly struggled on to die near her, near
where she was, she was so pitiful and good.

He had accomplished his journey, and her voice was speaking above him.
There were other voices, but it was only hers that he heard.

"God help him--oh, God help him!" she was saying.

He drew a long, quiet breath. "I will sleep now," he said, clearly.

He would hear the Whisperer no more.



AS DEEP AS THE SEA


"What can I do, Dan? I'm broke, too. My last dollar went to pay my last
debt to-day. I've nothing but what I stand in. I've got prospects, but I
can't discount prospects at the banks." The speaker laughed bitterly.
"I've reaped and I'm sowing, the same as you, Dan."

The other made a nervous motion of protest. "No; not the same as me,
Flood--not the same. It's sink or swim with me, and if you can't help
me--oh, I'd take my gruel without whining, if it wasn't for Di! It's that
that knocks me over. It's the shame to her. Oh, what a cursed ass and
fool--and thief, I've been!"

"Thief?--thief?"

Flood Rawley dropped the flaming match with which he was about to light a
cheroot, and stood staring, his dark-blue eyes growing wider, his worn,
handsome face becoming drawn, as swift conviction mastered him. He felt
that the black words which had fallen from his friend's lips--from the
lips of Diana Welldon's brother--were the truth. He looked at the plump
face, the full, amiable eyes, now misty with fright, at the characterless
hand nervously feeling the golden mustache, at the well-fed, inert body;
and he knew that, whatever the trouble or the peril, Dan Welldon could not
surmount it alone.

"What is it?" Rawley asked, rather sharply, his fingers running through
his slightly grizzled black hair, but not excitedly, for he wanted no
scenes; and if this thing could hurt Di Welldon, and action was necessary,
he must remain cool. What she was to do, Heaven and he only knew; what she
had done for him, perhaps neither understood fully as yet. "What is
it--quick?" he added, and his words were like a sharp grip upon Dan
Welldon's shoulder. "Racing?--cards?"

Dan nodded. "Yes, over at Askatoon; five hundred on Jibway, the
favorite--he fell at the last fence; five hundred at poker with Nick
Fison; and a thousand in land speculation at Edmonton, on margin.
Everything went wrong."

"And so you put your hand in the railway company's money-chest?"

"It seemed such a dead certainty--Jibway; and the Edmonton corner-blocks,
too. I'd had luck with Nick before; but--well, there it is, Flood."

"They know--the railway people--Shaughnessy knows?"

"Yes, the president knows. He's at Calgary now. They telegraphed him, and
he wired to give me till midnight to pay up or go to jail. They're
watching me now. I can't stir. There's no escape, and there's no one I can
ask for help but you. That's why I've come, Flood."

"Lord, what a fool! Couldn't you see what the end would be if your
plunging didn't come off? You--you oughtn't to bet, or speculate, or play
cards, you're not clever enough. You've got blind rashness, and so you
think you're bold. And Di--oh, you idiot! And on a salary of a thousand
dollars a year!"

"I suppose Di would help me; but I couldn't explain." The weak face
puckered, a lifeless kind of tear gathered in the ox-like eyes.

"Yes, she probably would help you. She'd probably give you all she's saved
to go to Europe with and study, saved from her pictures sold at twenty per
cent. of their value; and she'd mortgage the little income she's got to
keep her brother out of jail. Of course she would, and of course you ought
to be ashamed of yourself for thinking of it." Rawley lighted his cigar
and smoked fiercely.

"It would be better for her than my going to jail," stubbornly replied the
other. "But I don't want to tell her, or to ask her for money. That's why
I've come to you. You needn't be so hard, Flood; you've not been a saint;
and Di knows it."

Rawley took the cheroot from his mouth, threw back his head, and laughed
mirthlessly, ironically. Then suddenly he stopped and looked round the
room till his eyes rested on a portrait-drawing which hung on the wall
opposite the window, through which the sun poured. It was the face of a
girl with beautiful bronzed hair, and full, fine, beautifully modelled
face, with brown eyes deep and brooding, which seemed to have time and
space behind them--not before them. The lips were delicate and full, and
had the look suggesting a smile which the inward thought has stayed. It
was like one of the Titian women--like a Titian that hangs on the wall of
the Gallery at Munich. The head and neck, the whole personality, had an
air of distinction and destiny. The drawing had been done by a wandering
duchess who had seen the girl sketching in the foothills when on a visit
to that "Wild West" which has such power to refine and inspire minds not
superior to Nature. Its replica was carried to a castle in Scotland. It
had been the gift of Diana Welldon on a certain day not long ago, when
Flood Rawley had made a pledge to her, which was as vital to him and to
his future as two thousand dollars were vital to Dan Welldon now.

"You've not been a saint, and Di knows it," repeated the weak brother of a
girl whose fame belonged to the West; whose name was a signal for cheerful
looks; whose buoyant humor and impartial friendliness gained her
innumerable friends; and whose talent, understood by few, gave her a
certain protection, lifting her a little away from the outwardly crude and
provincial life around her.

When Rawley spoke, it was with quiet deliberation, and even gentleness. "I
haven't been a saint, and she knows it, as you say, Dan; but the law is on
my side as yet, it isn't on yours. There's the difference."

"You used to gamble yourself; you were pretty tough, and you oughtn't to
walk up my back with hobnailed boots."

"Yes, I gambled, Dan, and I drank, and I raised a dust out here. My record
was writ pretty big. But I didn't lay my hands on the ark of the social
covenant, whose inscription is, _Thou shalt not steal_; and that's why I'm
poor but proud, and no one's watching for me round the corner, same as
you."

Welldon's half-defiant petulance disappeared. "What's done can't be
undone." Then, with a sudden burst of anguish, "Oh, get me out of this
somehow!"

"How? I've got no money. By speaking to your sister?"

The other was silent.

"Shall I do it?" Rawley peered anxiously into the other's face, and he
knew that there was no real security against the shameful trouble being
laid bare to her.

"I want a chance to start straight again."

The voice was fluttered, almost whining; it carried no conviction; but the
words had in them a reminder of words that Rawley himself had said to
Diana Welldon but a few months ago, and a new spirit stirred in him. He
stepped forward and, gripping Dan's shoulder with a hand of steel, said,
fiercely:

"No, Dan. I'd rather take you to her in your coffin. She's never known
you, never seen what most of us have seen, that all you have--or nearly
all--is your lovely looks and what they call a kind heart. There's only
you two in your family, and she's got to live with you--awhile, anyhow.
She couldn't stand this business. She mustn't stand it. She's had enough
to put up with in me; but at the worst she could pass me by on the other
side, and there would be an end. It would have been said that Flood Rawley
had got his deserts. It's different with you." His voice changed,
softened. "Dan, I made a pledge to her that I'd never play cards again for
money while I lived, and it wasn't a thing to take on without some
cogitation. But I cogitated, and took it on, and started life over
again--me! Began practising law again--barrister, solicitor, notary
public--at forty. And at last I've got my chance in a big case against the
Canadian Pacific. It'll make me or break me, Dan.... There, I wanted you
to see where I stand with Di; and now I want you to promise me that you'll
not leave these rooms till I see you again. I'll get you clear; I'll save
you, Dan."

"Flood! Oh, my God, Flood!" The voice was broken.

"You've got to stay here, and you're to remember not to get the funk, even
if I don't come before midnight. I'll be here then, if I'm alive. If you
don't keep your word--but, there, you will." Both hands gripped the
graceful shoulders of the miscreant like a vise.

"So help me, Flood," was the frightened, whispered reply. "I'll make it up
to you somehow, some day. I'll pay you back."

Rawley caught up his cap from the table.

"Steady!--steady! Don't go at a fence till you're sure of your seat, Dan,"
he said. Then, with a long look at the portrait on the wall and an
exclamation which the other did not hear, he left the room with a set,
determined face.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Who told you? What brought you, Flood?" the girl asked, her chin in her
long, white hands, her head turned from the easel to him, a book in her
lap, the sun breaking through the leaves upon her hat, touching the Titian
hair with splendor.

"Fate brought me, and didn't tell me," he answered, with a whimsical quirk
of the mouth and his trouble lurking behind the sea-deep eyes.

"Wouldn't you have come if you knew I was here?" she urged, archly.

"Not for two thousand dollars," he answered, the look of trouble deepening
in his eyes, but his lips were smiling. He had a quaint sense of humor,
and at his last gasp would have noted the ridiculous thing. And surely it
was a droll malignity of Fate to bring him here to her whom, in this
moment of all moments in his life, he wished far away. Fate meant to try
him to the uttermost. This hurdle of trial was high, indeed.

"Two thousand dollars--nothing less?" she inquired, gayly. "You are too
specific for a real lover."

"Fate fixed the amount," he added, dryly.

"Fate--you talk so much of Fate," she replied, gravely, and her eyes
looked into the distance. "You make me think of it, too, and I don't want
to do so. I don't want to feel helpless, to be the child of Accident and
Destiny."

"Oh, you get the same thing in the 'fore-ordination' that old Minister
M'Gregor preaches every Sunday. 'Be elect or be damned,' he says to us
all. Names aren't important; but, anyhow, it was Fate that led me here."

"Are you sure it wasn't me?" she asked, softly. "Are you sure I wasn't
calling you, and you had to come?"

"Well, it was _en route_, anyhow; and you are always calling, if I must
tell you," he laughed. Suddenly he became grave. "I hear you call me in
the night sometimes, and I start up and say 'Yes, Di!' out of my sleep.
It's a queer hallucination. I've got you on the brain, certainly."

"It seems to vex you--certainly," she said, opening the book that lay in
her lap, "and your eyes trouble me to-day. They've got a look that used to
be in them, Flood, before--before you promised; and another look I don't
understand and don't like. I suppose it's always so. The real business of
life is trying to understand each other."

"You have wonderful thoughts for one that's had so little chance," he
said. "That's because you're a genius, I suppose. Teaching can't give that
sort of thing--the insight."

"What is the matter, Flood?" she asked, suddenly, again, her breast
heaving, her delicate, rounded fingers interlacing. "I heard a man say
once that you were 'as deep as the sea.' He did not mean it kindly, but I
do. You are in trouble, and I want to share it if I can. Where were you
going when you came across me here?"

"To see old Busby, the quack-doctor up there," he answered, nodding toward
a shrubbed and wooded hillock behind them.

"Old Busby!" she rejoined, in amazement. "What do you want with him--not
medicine of that old quack, that dreadful man?"

"He cures people sometimes. A good many out here owe him more than they'll
ever pay him."

"Is he as rich an old miser as they say?"

"He doesn't look rich, does he?" was the enigmatical answer.

"Does any one know his real history? He didn't come from nowhere. He must
have had friends once. Some one must once have cared for him, though he
seems such a monster now."

"Yet he cures people sometimes," he rejoined, abstractedly. "Probably
there's some good underneath. I'm going to try and see."

"What is it? What is your business with him? Won't you tell me? Is it so
secret?"

"I want him to help me in a case I've got in hand. A client of mine is in
trouble--you mustn't ask about it; and he can help, I think--I think so."
He got to his feet. "I must be going, Di," he added. Suddenly a flush
swept over his face, and he reached out and took both her hands. "Oh, you
are a million times too good for me!" he said. "But if all goes well, I'll
do my best to make you forget it."

"Wait--wait one moment," she answered. "Before you go I want you to hear
what I've been reading over and over to myself just now. It is from a book
I got from Quebec, called _When Time Shall Pass_. It is a story of two
like you and me. The man is writing to the woman, and it has things that
you have said to me--in a different way."

"No, I don't talk like a book, but I know a star in a dark night when I
see it," he answered, with a catch in his throat.

"Hush!" she said, catching his hand in hers as she read, while all around
them the sounds of summer--the distant clack of a reaper, the crack of a
whip, the locusts droning, the whir of a young partridge, the squeak of a
chipmunk--were tuned to the harmony of the moment and her voice:

  "'Night and the sombre silence, oh, my love, and one star shining!
  First, warm, velvety sleep, and then this quick, quiet waking to your
  voice which seems to call me. Is it--_is_ it you that calls? Do you
  sometimes, even in your dreams, speak to me? Far beneath
  unconsciousness is there the summons of your spirit to me?... I like
  to think so. I like to think that this thing which has come to us is
  deeper, greater than we are. Sometimes day and night there flash
  before my eyes--my mind's eyes--pictures of you and me in places
  unfamiliar, landscapes never before seen, activities uncomprehended
  and unknown, bright, alluring glimpses of some second being, some
  possible, maybe never-to-be-realized future, alas! Yet these
  swift-moving shutters of the soul, or imagination, _or_ reality--who
  shall say which?--give me a joy never before felt in life. If I am
  not a better man for this love of mine for you, I am _more_ than I
  was, and shall be more than I am. Much of my life in the past was
  mean and small, so much that I have said and done has been
  unworthy--my love for you is too sharp a light for my gross
  imperfections of the past! Come what will, be what must, I stake my
  life, my heart, my soul on you--that beautiful, beloved face; those
  deep eyes in which my being is drowned; those lucid, perfect hands
  that have bound me to the mast of your destiny. I cannot go back, I
  must go forward: now I must keep on loving you or be shipwrecked. I
  did not know that this was in me, this tide of love, this current of
  devotion. Destiny plays me beyond my ken, beyond my dreams. "_O
  Cithoeron!_" Turn from me now--or never, O my love! Loose me from the
  mast, and let the storm and wave wash me out into the sea of your
  forgetfulness now--or never!... But keep me, keep me, if your love is
  great enough, if I bring you any light or joy; for I am yours to my
  uttermost note of life.'"

"He knew!--he knew!" Rawley said, catching her wrists in his hands and
drawing her to him. "If I could write, that's what I should have said to
you, beautiful and beloved. How mean and small and ugly my life was till
you made me over! I was a bad lot."

"So much hung on one little promise," she said, and drew closer to him.
"You were never bad," she added; then, with an arm sweeping the universe,
"Oh, isn't it all good, and isn't it all worth living?"

[Illustration: "OH, ISN'T IT ALL WORTH LIVING?" SHE SAID]

His face lost its glow. Over in the town her brother faced a ruined life,
and the girl beside him a dark humiliation and a shame which would poison
her life hereafter, unless--his look turned to the little house where the
quack-doctor lived. He loosed her hands.

"Now for Caliban," he said.

"I shall be Ariel and follow you--in my heart," she said. "Be sure and
make him tell you the story of his life," she added, with a laugh, as his
lips swept the hair behind her ears.

As he moved swiftly away, watching his long strides, she said, proudly,
"As deep as the sea."

After a moment she added: "And he was once a gambler, until, until"
she--glanced at the open book, then with sweet mockery looked at her
hands--"until 'those lucid, perfect hands bound me to the mast of your
destiny.' O vain Diana! But they are rather beautiful," she added, softly,
"and I am rather happy." There was something like a gay little chuckle in
her throat.

"O vain Diana!" she repeated.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Rawley entered the door of the hut on the hill without ceremony. There was
no need for courtesy, and the work he had come to do could be easier done
without it.

Old Busby was crouched over a table, his mouth lapping milk from a full
bowl on the table. He scarcely raised his head when Rawley
entered--through the open door he had seen his visitor coming. He sipped
on, his straggling beard dripping. There was silence for a time.

"What do you want?" he growled at last.

"Finish your swill, and then we can talk," said Rawley, carelessly. He
took a chair near the door, lighted a cheroot and smoked, watching the old
man, as he tipped the great bowl toward his face, as though it were some
wild animal feeding. The clothes were patched and worn, the coat-front was
spattered with stains of all kinds, the hair and beard were unkempt and
long, giving him what would have been the look of a mangy lion but that
the face had the expression of some beast less honorable. The eyes,
however, were malignantly intelligent; the hands, ill-cared for, were
long, well-shaped, and capable, but of a hateful yellow color like the
face. And through all was a sense of power, dark and almost mediæval.
Secret, evilly wise, and inhuman, he looked a being apart, whom men might
seek for help in dark purposes.

"What do you want--medicine?" he muttered at last, wiping his beard and
mouth with the palm of his hand, and the palm on his knees.

Rawley looked at the ominous-looking bottles on the shelves above the old
man's head, at the forceps, knives, and other surgical instruments on the
walls--they at least were bright and clean--and, taking the cheroot slowly
from his mouth, he said:

"Shin-plasters are what I want. A friend of mine has caught his leg in a
trap."

The old man gave an evil chuckle at the joke, for a "shin-plaster" was a
money-note worth a quarter of a dollar.

"I've got some," he growled in reply, "but they cost twenty-five cents
each. You can have them for your friend at the price."

"I want eight thousand of them from you. He's hurt pretty bad," was the
dogged, dry answer.

The shaggy eyebrows of the quack drew together, and the eyes peered out
sharply through half-closed lids. "There's plenty of wanting and not much
getting in this world," he rejoined, with a leer of contempt, and spat on
the floor, while yet the furtive watchfulness of the eyes indicated a mind
ill at ease.

Smoke came in placid puffs from the cheroot--Rawley was smoking very hard,
but with a judicial meditation, as it seemed.

"Yes, but if you want a thing so bad that, to get it, you'll face the
devil or the Beast of Revelations, it's likely to come to you."

"You call me a beast?" The reddish-brown face grew black like that of a
Bedouin in his rage.

"I said the Beast of Revelations--don't you know the Scriptures?"

"I know that a fool is to be answered according to his folly," was the
hoarse reply, and the great head wagged to and fro in its smarting rage.

"Well, I'm doing my best; and perhaps when the folly is all out we'll come
to the revelations of the Beast."

There was a silence, in which the gross impostor shifted heavily in his
seat, while a hand twitched across the mouth and then caught at the breast
of the threadbare black coat abstractedly.

Rawley leaned forward, one elbow on a knee, the cheroot in his fingers. He
spoke almost confidentially, as to some ignorant and misguided savage--as
he had talked to Indian chiefs in his time when searching for the truth
regarding some crime.

"I've had a lot of revelations in my time. A lawyer and a doctor always
do. And though there are folks who say I'm no lawyer, as there are those
who say with greater truth that you're no doctor, speaking technically,
we've both had 'revelations.' You've seen a lot that's seamy, and so have
I. You're pretty seamy yourself. In fact, you're as bad a man as ever
saved lives--and lost them. You've had a long tether, and you've swung on
it--swung wide. But you've had a lot of luck that you haven't swung high,
too."

He paused and flicked away the ash from his cheroot, while the figure
before him swayed animal-like from side to side, muttering.

"You've got brains, a great lot of brains of a kind--however you came by
them," Rawley continued; "and you've kept a lot of people in the West from
passing in their checks before their time. You've rooked 'em, chiselled
'em out of a lot of cash, too. There was old Lamson--fifteen hundred for
the goitre on his neck; and Mrs. Gilligan for the cancer--two thousand,
wasn't it? 'Tincture of Lebanon Leaves' you called the medicine, didn't
you? You must have made fifty thousand or so in the last ten years."

"What I've made I'll keep," was the guttural answer, and the talon-like
fingers clawed the table.

"You've made people pay high for curing them, saving them sometimes; but
you haven't paid me high for saving you in the courts; and there's one
case that you haven't paid me for at all. That was when the patient
died--and you didn't."

The face of the old man became mottled with a sudden fear, but he jerked
it forward once or twice with an effort at self-control. Presently he
steadied to the ordeal of suspense, while he kept saying to himself, "What
does he know--what--which?"

"Malpractice resulting in death--that was poor Jimmy Tearle; and something
else resulting in death--that was the switchman's wife. And the law is
hard in the West where a woman's in the case--quick and hard. Yes, you've
swung wide on your tether; look out that you don't swing high, old man."

"You can prove nothing; it's bluff!" came the reply in a tone of malice
and of fear.

"You forget. I was your lawyer in Jimmy Tearle's case, and a letter's been
found written by the switchman's wife to her husband. It reached me the
night he was killed by the avalanche. It was handed over to me by the
post-office, as the lawyer acting for the relatives. I've read it. I've
got it. It gives you away."

"I wasn't alone." Fear had now disappeared, and the old man was fighting.

"No, you weren't alone; and if the switchman and the switchman's wife
weren't dead and out of it all, and if the other man that didn't matter
any more than you wasn't alive and hadn't a family that does matter, I
wouldn't be asking you peaceably for two thousand dollars as my fee for
getting you off two cases that might have sent you to prison for twenty
years, or, maybe, hung you to the nearest tree."

The heavy body pulled itself together, the hands clinched. "Blackmail--you
think I'll stand it?"

"Yes, I think you will. I want two thousand dollars to help a friend in a
hole, and I mean to have it, if you think your neck's worth it."

Teeth, wonderfully white, showed through the shaggy beard. "If I had to go
to prison--or swing, as you say--do you think I'd go with my mouth shut?
I'd not pay up alone. The West would crack--holy Heaven, I know enough to
make it sick. Go on and see! I've got the West in my hand." He opened and
shut his fingers with a grimace of cruelty which shook Rawley in spite of
himself.

Rawley had trusted to the inspiration of the moment; he had had no clearly
defined plan; he had believed that he could frighten the old man, and by
force of will bend him to his purposes. It had all been more difficult
than he had expected. He kept cool, imperturbable, and determined,
however. He knew that what the old quack said was true--the West might
shake with scandal concerning a few who, no doubt, in remorse and secret
fear, had more than paid the penalty of their offences. But he thought of
Di Welldon and of her criminal brother, and every nerve, every faculty,
was screwed to its utmost limit of endurance and capacity.

Suddenly the old man gave a new turn to the event. He got up and,
rummaging in an old box, drew out a dice-box. Rattling the dice, he threw
them out on the table before him, a strange, excited look crossing his
face.

"Play for it," he said, in a harsh, croaking voice. "Play for the two
thousand. Win it, if you can. You want it bad. I want to keep it bad. It's
nice to have; it makes a man feel warm--money does. I'd sleep in
ten-dollar bills, I'd have my clothes made of them, if I could; I'd have
my house papered with them; I'd eat 'em. Oh, I know, I know about you--and
her--Diana Welldon! You've sworn off gambling, and you've kept your pledge
for near a year. Well, it's twenty years since I gambled--twenty years. I
gambled with these then." He shook the dice in the box. "I gambled
everything I had away--more than two thousand dollars--more than two
thousand dollars." He laughed a raw, mirthless laugh. "Well, you're the
greatest gambler in the West. So was I--in the East. It pulverized me at
last, when I'd nothing left--and drink, drink, drink. I gave up both one
night and came out West. I started doctoring here. I've got money, plenty
of money--medicine, mines, land got it for me. I've been lucky. Now you
come to bluff me--me! You don't know old Busby." He spat on the floor.
"I'm not to be bluffed. I know too much. Before they could lynch me I'd
talk. But to play you, the greatest gambler in the West, for two thousand
dollars--yes, I'd like the sting of it again. Twos, fours,
double-sixes--the gentleman's game!" He rattled the dice and threw them
with a flourish out on the table, his evil face lighting up. "Come! You
can't have something for nothing!" he growled.

As he spoke, a change came over Rawley's face. It lost its cool
imperturbability, it grew paler, the veins on the fine forehead stood out,
a new, flaring light came into the eyes. The old gambler's spirit was
alive. But even as it rose, sweeping him into that area of fiery
abstraction where every nerve is strung to a fine tension and the
surrounding world disappears, he saw the face of Diana Welldon, he
remembered her words to him not an hour before, and the issue of the
conflict, other considerations apart, was without doubt. But there was her
brother and his certain fate if the two thousand dollars were not paid in
by midnight. He was desperate. It was in reality for Diana's sake. He
approached the table, and his old calm returned.

"I have no money to play with," he said, quietly.

With a gasp of satisfaction, the old man fumbled in the inside of his coat
and drew out layers of ten, fifty, and hundred dollar bills. It was lined
with them. He passed a pile over to Rawley--two thousand dollars. He
placed a similar pile before himself.

As Rawley laid his hand on the bills, the thought rushed through his mind,
"You have it--keep it!" but he put it away from him. With a gentleman he
might have done it, with this man before him it was impossible. He must
take his chances; and it was the only chance in which he had hope now,
unless he appealed for humanity's sake, for the girl's sake, and told the
real truth. It might avail. Well, that would be the last resort.

"For small stakes?" said the grimy quack, in a gloating voice.

Rawley nodded, and then added: "We stop at eleven o'clock, unless I've
lost or won all before that."

"And stake what's left on the last throw?"

"Yes."

There was silence for a moment, in which Rawley seemed to grow older, and
a set look came to his mouth--a broken pledge, no matter what the cause,
brings heavy penalties to the honest mind. He shut his eyes for an
instant, and, when he opened them, he saw that his fellow-gambler was
watching him with an enigmatical and furtive smile. Did this Caliban have
some understanding of what was at stake in his heart and soul?

"Play!" Rawley said, sharply, and was himself again.

For hour after hour there was scarce a sound, save the rattle of the dice
and an occasional exclamation from the old man as he threw a double-six.
As dusk fell, the door had been shut and a lighted lantern was hung over
their heads.

Fortune had fluctuated. Once the old man's pile had diminished to two
notes, then the luck had changed and his pile grew larger; then fell
again; but, as the hands of the clock on the wall above the blue medicine
bottles reached a quarter to eleven, it increased steadily throw after
throw.

Now the player's fever was in Rawley's eyes. His face was deadly pale, but
his hand threw steadily, calmly, almost negligently, as it might seem. All
at once, at eight minutes to eleven, the luck turned in his favor, and his
pile mounted again. Time after time he dropped double-sixes. It was almost
uncanny. He seemed to see the dice in the box, and his hand threw them out
with the precision of a machine. Long afterward he had this vivid illusion
that he could see the dice in the box. As the clock was about to strike
eleven he had before him three thousand eight hundred dollars. It was his
throw.

"Two hundred," he said, in a whisper, and threw. He won.

With a gasp of relief, he got to his feet, the money in his hand. He
stepped backward from the table, then staggered, and a faintness passed
over him. He had sat so long without moving that his legs bent under him.
There was a pail of water with a dipper in it on a bench. He caught up a
dipperful of water, drank it empty, and let it fall in the pail again with
a clatter.

"Dan," he said, abstractedly--"Dan, you're all safe now."

Then he seemed to wake, as from a dream, and looked at the man at the
table. Busby was leaning on it with both hands, and staring at Rawley like
some animal jaded and beaten from pursuit. Rawley walked back to the table
and laid down two thousand dollars.

"I only wanted two thousand," he said, and put the other two thousand in
his pocket.

The evil eyes gloated, the long fingers clutched the pile and swept it
into a great inside pocket. Then the shaggy head bent forward.

"You said it was for Dan," he said--"Dan Welldon?"

Rawley hesitated. "What is that to you?" he replied, at last.

With a sudden impulse the old impostor lurched round, opened a box, drew
out a roll, and threw it on the table.

"It's got to be known sometime," he said, "and you'll be my lawyer when
I'm put into the ground--you're clever. They call me a quack.
Malpractice--bah! There's my diploma--James Clifton Welldon. Right enough,
isn't it?"

Rawley was petrified. He knew the forgotten story of James Clifton
Welldon, the specialist, turned gambler, who had almost ruined his own
brother--the father of Dan and Diana--at cards and dice, and had then
ruined himself and disappeared. Here, where his brother had died, he had
come years ago and practised medicine as a quack.

"Oh, there's plenty of proof, if it's wanted!" he said. "I've got it
here." He tapped the box behind him. "Why did I do it? Because it's my
way. And you're going to marry my niece, and'll have it all some day. But
not till I've finished with it--not unless you win it from me at dice or
cards.... But no"--something human came into the old, degenerate face--"no
more gambling for the man that's to marry Diana. There's a wonder and a
beauty!" He chuckled to himself. "She'll be rich when I've done with it.
You're a lucky man--ay, you're lucky."

Rawley was about to tell the old man what the two thousand dollars was
for, but a fresh wave of repugnance passed over him, and, hastily drinking
another dipperful of water, he opened the door. He looked back. The old
man was crouching forward, lapping milk from the great bowl, his beard
dripping. In disgust he swung round again. The fresh, clear air caught his
face.

With a gasp of relief he stepped out into the night, closing the door
behind him.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Northern Lights" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home