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´╗┐Title: Flower of the North: A Modern Romance
Author: Curwood, James Oliver, 1878-1927
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 "Flower of the North: A Modern Romance" ***

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FLOWER OF THE NORTH

A MODERN ROMANCE


BY

JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD



AUTHOR OF THE DANGER TRAIL, PHILIP STEELS, ETC.



TO MY COMRADES OF THE GREAT NORTHERN WILDERNESS, THOSE FAITHFUL
COMPANIONS WITH WHOM I HAVE SHARED THE JOYS AND HARDSHIPS OF THE "LONG
SILENT TRAIL," AND ESPECIALLY TO THAT "JEANNE D'ARCAMBAL." WHO WILL
FIND IN HERSELF THE HEROINE OF THIS STORY, THE WRITER GRATEFULLY
DEDICATES THIS VOLUME.

DETROIT. MICHIGAN

JANUARY, 1912



FLOWER OF THE NORTH



I


"Such hair! Such eyes! Such color! Laugh if you will, Whittemore, but I
swear that she was the handsomest girl I've ever laid my eyes upon!"

There was an artist's enthusiasm in Gregson's girlishly sensitive face
as he looked across the table at Whittemore and lighted a cigarette.

"She wouldn't so much as give me a look when I stared," he added. "I
couldn't help it. Gad, I'm going to make a full-page 'cover' of her
to-morrow for Burke's. Burke dotes on pretty women for the cover of his
magazine. Why, demmit, man, what the deuce are you laughing at?"

"Not at this particular case, Tom," apologized Whittemore. "But--I'm
wondering--"

His eyes wandered ruminatively about the rough interior of the little
cabin, lighted by a single oil-lamp hanging from a cross-beam in the
ceiling, and he whistled softly.

"I'm wondering," he went on, "if you'll ever strike a place where you
won't see 'one of the most beautiful things on earth.' The last one was
at Rio Piedras, wasn't it, Tom? A Spanish girl, or was she a Creole? I
believe I've got your letter yet, and I'll read it to you to-morrow. I
wasn't surprised. There are pretty women down in Porto Rico. But I
didn't think you'd have the nerve to discover one up here--in the
wilderness."

"She's got them all beat," retorted the artist, flecking the ash from
the tip of his cigarette.

"Even the Valencia girl, eh?"

There was a chuckling note of pleasure in Philip Whittemore's voice as
he leaned half across the table, his handsome face, bronzed by snow and
wind, illumined in the lamp-glow. Gregson, in strong contrast, with his
round, smooth cheeks, slim hands, and build that was almost womanish,
leaned over his side to meet him. For the twentieth time that evening
the two men shook hands.

"Haven't forgotten Valencia, eh?" chuckled the artist, gloatingly.
"Lord, but I'm glad to see you again, Phil. Seems like a century since
we were out raising the Old Ned together, and yet it's less than three
years since we came back from South America. Valencia! Will we ever
forget it? When Burke handed me his first turn-down a month ago and
said, 'Tom, your work begins to show you want a rest,' I thought of
Valencia, and was so confoundedly homesick for those old days when you
and I pretty nearly started a revolution, and came within an ace of
getting our scalps lifted, that I moped for a week. Gad, do I remember
it? You got out by fighting, and I through a pretty girl."

"And your nerve," chuckled Whittemore, crushing the other's hand. "That
was when I made up my mind you were the nerviest man alive, Greggy. Did
you ever learn what became of Donna Isobel?"

"She appeared twice in Burke's, once as the 'Goddess of the Southern
Republics' and again as 'The Girl of Valencia.' She married that
reprobate of a Carabobo planter, and I believe they're happy."

"It seems to me there were others," continued Whittemore, pondering for
a moment in mock seriousness. "There was one at Rio whom you swore
would make your fortune if you could get her to sit for you, and whose
husband was on the point of putting six inches of steel into you for
telling her so, when I explained that you were young and harmless, and
a little out of your head--"

"With your fist," cried Gregson, joyously. "Gad, but that was a mighty
blow! I can see that knife now. I was just beginning my paternoster
when--chug!--and down he went! And he deserved it. I said nothing
wrong. In my very best Spanish I asked her if she would sit for me, and
why the devil did he take that as an insult? And she was beautiful."

"Of course," agreed Whittemore. "If I remember, she was 'the loveliest
creature you had ever seen.' And after that there were others--a score
of them at least, each lovelier than the one before."

"They make up my life," said Gregson, more seriously than he had yet
spoken. "They're the only thing I can draw and do well. I'd think an
editor was mad if he asked me to do something without a pretty woman in
it. God bless 'em, I hope I'll go on seeing them forever. When I can't
see beauty in woman I want to die."

"And you always want to see it in the superlative degree."

"I insist upon it. If she lacks something, as Donna Isobel wanted
color, I imagine that it is there, and she is perfect! But this one
that I saw to-night is perfect! Now what I want to know is this, Who
the deuce is she!"

--"where can she be found, and will she sit for a 'Burke,' two or three
miscellaneous, and a 'study' for the annual sale," struck in
Whittemore. "Is that it?"

"Exactly. You've a natural ability for hitting the nail on the head,
Phil."

"And Burke told you to take a rest."

Gregson offered his cigarettes.

"Yes, Burke is a good-natured, poetic old soul who has a horror of
spiders, snakes, and sky-scrapers. He said to me: 'Greggy, go and seek
nature in some quiet, secluded place, and forget everything for a
fortnight or two except your clothes and half a dozen cases of beer.'
Rest! Nature! Beer! Think of those cheerful suggestions, Phil, while I
was dreaming of Valencia, of Donna Isobels, and places where Nature
cuts up as though she had been taking champagne all her life. Gad, your
letter came just in time!"

"And I told you little enough in that," said Philip, quickly, rising
and pacing uneasily back and forth across the cabin floor. "I gave you
promise of excitement, and urged you to join me if you could. And why?
Because--"

He turned sharply, and faced Gregson across the table.

"I wanted you to come because the thing that happened down in Valencia,
and that other at Rio, isn't a circumstance to the hell that's going to
cut loose pretty soon up here--and I'm in need of help. Understand?
It's not fun--this time. I'm playing a single hand in what looks like a
losing game. If I ever needed a fighter in my life I need one now.
That's why I sent for you."

Gregson shoved back his chair and rose to his feet. He was a head
shorter than his companion, of almost delicate physique. Yet there was
something in the cold gray-blue of his eyes, a peculiar hardness of his
chin, that compelled one to look at him twice and rendered first
judgment unsafe. His slim fingers closed like steel about Philip's.

"Now you're coming down to business, Phil," he exclaimed. "I've been
waiting with the patience of Job--or of little Bobby Tuckett, if you
remember him, who began courting Minnie Sheldon seven years ago--and
married her the day after I got your letter. I was too busy figuring
out what you hadn't written to go to the wedding. I tried to read
between the lines, and fell down completely. I've been thinking all the
way up from Le Pas, and I'm still at sea. You called. I came. What's
up?"

"It's going to sound a little mad--at first, Greggy," chuckled
Whittemore, lighting his pipe. "It's going to give your esthetic tastes
a jar. Look here!"

He seized Gregson by the arm and led him to the door.

The cold northern sky was brilliant with stars. The cabin, its logs
half smothered in dying masses of verdure which had climbed about it
during the summer, was built on the summit of one of the wind-cropped
ridges which are called mountains in the far north. Into that north
swept infinite wilderness, white and gray where the starlit tops of the
spruce rose up at their feet, black in the distance. From somewhere out
of it there came the low, weeping monotone of surf beating on a shore.
Philip, with one hand on Gregson's shoulder, pointed with the other
into the lonely desolation which they were facing.

"There isn't much between us and the Arctic Ocean, Greggy," he said.
"See that light off there, like a great fire that has half a mind to
die out one minute and flares up the next? Doesn't it remind you of the
night we got away from Carabobo, when Donna Isobel pointed out our way
to us, with the moon coming up over the mountains as a guide? That
isn't the moon. It's the aurora borealis. You can hear the wash of the
Bay down there, and if you're keen you can catch the smell of icebergs.
There's Fort Churchill--a rifle-shot beyond the ridge, asleep. There's
nothing but Hudson's Bay Company's posts, Indian camps, and trappers
between here and civilization, which is four hundred miles down there.
Seems like a quiet and peaceful country, doesn't it? There's something
about it that makes you thrill and wonder if this isn't the biggest
part of the universe after all. Listen! Hear the Indian dogs wailing
down at Churchill! That's the primal voice in this world, the voice of
the wild. Even that beating of the surf is filled with the same thing,
for it's rolling up mystery instead of history. It is telling what man
doesn't know, and in a language which he cannot understand. You're a
beauty scientist, Greggy. This must sink deep."

"It does," said Gregson. "What the deuce are you getting at, Phil?"

"I'm arriving gradually and without undue haste to the point, Greggy.
I'm about to tell you why I induced you to join me up here. I hesitate
at the last word. It seems almost brutal, taking into consideration
your philosophy of beauty, to drop from all this--from that blackness
and mystery out there, from Donna Isobels and pretty eyes, down
to--fish."

"Fish!"

"Yes, fish."

Gregson, lighting a fresh cigarette, held the match so that the tiny
flame lighted up his companion's face for a moment.

"Look here," he expostulated, "you haven't got me up here to
go--fishing?"

"Yes--and no," said Philip. "But even if I have--"

He caught Gregson by the arm again, and there was a tightness in the
grip of his fingers which convinced the other that he was speaking
seriously now.

"Do you remember what started the revolution down in Honduras the
second week after we struck Puerto Barrios, Greggy? It was a girl,
wasn't it?"

"Yes, and she wasn't half pretty at that."

"It was less than a girl," went on Philip. "Scene: the palm plaza at
Ceiba. President Belize is drinking wine with his cousin, the fiancee
of General O'Kelly Bonilla, the half Irish, half Latin-American leader
of his forces, and his warmest friend. At a moment when their corner of
the plaza is empty Belize helps himself to a cousinly kiss. O'Kelly,
unperceived, arrives in time to witness the act. From that moment his
friendship for Belize turns to hatred and jealousy. Within three weeks
he has started a revolution, beats the government forces at Ceiba,
chases Belize from the capital, gets Nicaragua mixed up in the trouble,
and draws three French, two German, and two American war-ships to the
scene. Six weeks after the wine-drinking he is President of the
Republic, en facto. And all of this, Greggy, because of a kiss. Now, if
a kiss can start a revolution, unseat a President, send a government to
smash, what must be the possibilities of a fish?"

"I'm getting interested," said Gregson. "If there's a climax, come to
it, Phil. I admit that there must be enormous possibilities in--a fish.
Go on!"



II


For a moment the two men stood in silence, listening to the sullen beat
of surf beyond the black edge of forest. Then Philip led the way back
into the cabin.

Gregson followed. In the light of the big oil-lamp which hung suspended
from the ceiling he noticed something in Whittemore's face he had not
observed before, a tenseness about the muscles of his mouth, a
restlessness in his eyes, rigidity of jaw, an air of suppressed emotion
which puzzled him. He was keenly observant of details, and knew that
these things had been missing a short time before. The pleasure of
their meeting that afternoon, after a separation of nearly two years,
had dispelled for a time the trouble which he now saw revealing itself
in his companion's face and attitude, and the lightness of Whittemore's
manner in beginning his explanation for inducing him to come into the
north had helped to complete the mask. There occurred to him, for an
instant, a picture which he had once drawn of Whittemore as he had
known him in certain stirring times still fresh in the memory of
each--a picture of the old, cool, irresistible Whittemore, smiling in
the face of danger, laughing outright at perplexities, always ready to
fight with a good-natured word on his lips. He had drawn that picture
for Burke's, and had called it "The Fighter." Burke himself had
criticized it because of the smile. But Gregson knew his man. It was
Whittemore.

There was a change now. He had grown older, surprisingly older. There
were deeper lines about his eyes. His face was thinner. He saw, now,
that Philip's lightness had been but a passing flash of his old
buoyancy, that the old life and sparkle had gone from him. Two years,
he judged, had woven things into Philip's life which he could not
understand, and he wondered if this was why in all that time he had
received no word from his old college chum.

They had seated themselves at opposite sides of the table, and from an
inside pocket Philip produced a small bundle of papers. From these he
drew forth a map, which he smoothed out under his hands.

"Yes, there are possibilities--and more, Greggy," he said. "I didn't
ask you up here to help me fight air and moonshine. And I've promised
you a fight. Have you ever seen a rat in a trap with a blood-thirsty
terrier guarding the little door that is about to be opened? Thrilling
sport for the prisoner, isn't it? But when the rat happens to be
human--"

"I thought it was a fish," protested Gregson, mildly. "Pretty soon
you'll be having it a girl in a trap--or at the end of a fish-line--"

"And if I should?" interrupted Philip, looking steadily at him. "What
if I should say there is a girl--a woman--in this trap--not only one,
but a score, a hundred of them? What then, Greggy?"

"I'd say there was going to be a glorious scrap."

"And so there is, the biggest and most unusual scrap of its kind you
ever heard of, Greggy. It's going to be a queer kind of fight--and
queer fighting. And it's possible--very probable--that you and I will
get lost in the shuffle somewhere. We're two, no more. And we're going
up against forces which would make a dozen South American revolutions
look like thirty cents. More than that, it's likely we'll be in the
wrong locality when certain people rise in a wrath which a Helen of
Troy aroused in another people some centuries ago. See here--"

He turned the map to Gregson, pointing with his finger.

"See that red line? That's the new railroad to Hudson's Bay. It is well
above Le Pas now, and its builders plan to complete it by next spring.
It is the most wonderful piece of railroad building on the American
continent, Greggy--wonderful because it has been neglected so long.
Something like a hundred million people have been asleep to its
enormous value, and they're just waking up now. That road, cutting
across four hundred miles of wilderness, is opening up a country half
as big as the United States, in which more mineral wealth will be dug
during the next fifty years than will ever be taken from Yukon or
Alaska. It is shortening the route from Montreal, Duluth, Chicago, and
the Middle West to Liverpool and other European ports by a thousand
miles. It means the making of a navigable sea out of Hudson's Bay,
cities on its shores, and great steel-foundries close to the Arctic
Circle--where there is coal and iron enough to supply the world for
hundreds of years. That's only a small part of what this road means,
Greggy. Two years ago--you remember I asked you to join me in the
adventure--I came up seeking opportunity. I didn't dream then--"

Whittemore paused, and a flash of his old smile passed over his face.

"I didn't dream that fate had decreed me to stir up what I'm going to
tell you about, Greggy. I followed the line of the proposed railroad,
looking for chances. All Canada was asleep, or too much interested in
its west, and gave me no competition. I was alone west of the surveyed
line; east of it steel-corporation men had optioned mountains of iron
and another interest had a grip on coal-fields. Six months I spent
among the Indians, French, and half-breeds. I lived with them, trapped
and hunted with them, and picked up a little Cree and French. The life
suited me. I became a northerner in heart and soul, if not quite yet in
full experience. Clubs and balls and cities grew to be only memories.
You know how I have always hated that hothouse sort of existence, and
you know that same world of clubs and balls and cities has gripped at
my throat, downing me again and again, as though it returned my
sentiment with interest. Up here I learned to hate it more than ever. I
was completely happy. And then--"

He had refolded the map, and drew another from the bundle of papers. It
was drawn in pencil.

"And then, Greggy," he went on, smoothing out this map where the other
had been, "I struck my chance. It fairly clubbed me into recognizing
it. It came in the middle of the night, and I sat up with a camp-fire
laughing at me through the flap in my tent, stunned by the knockout it
had given me. It seemed, at first, as though a gold-mine had walked up
and laid itself down at my feet, and I wondered how there could be so
many silly fools in this world of ours. Take a look at that map,
Greggy. What do you see?"

Gregson had listened like one under a spell. It was one of his careless
boasts that situations could not faze him, that he was immune to
outward betrayals of sensation. This seeming indifference--his
light-toned attitude in the face of most serious affairs would have
made a failure of him in many things. But his tense interest did not
hide itself now. A cigarette remained unlighted between his fingers.
His eyes never took themselves for an instant from his companion's
face. Something that Whittemore had not yet said thrilled him. He
looked at the map.

"There's not much to see," he said, "but lakes and rivers."

"You're right," exclaimed Philip, jumping suddenly from his chair and
beginning to walk back and forth across the cabin. "Lakes and
rivers--hundreds of them--thousands of them! Greggy, there are more
than three thousand lakes between here and civilization and within
forty miles of the new railroad. And nine out of ten of those lakes are
so full of fish that the bears along 'em smell fishy. Whitefish,
Gregson--whitefish and trout. There is a fresh-water area represented
on that map three times as large as the whole of the five Great Lakes,
and yet the Canadians and the government have never wakened up to what
it means. There's a fish supply in this northland large enough to feed
the world, and that little rim of lakes that I've mapped out along the
edge of the coming railroad represents a money value of millions. That
was the idea that came to me in the middle of the night, and then I
thought--if I could get a corner on a few of these lakes, secure
fishing privileges before the road came--"

"You'd be a millionaire," said Gregson.

"Not only that," replied Philip, pausing for a moment in his restless
pacing. "I didn't think of money, at first; at least, it was a
secondary consideration after that night beside the camp-fire. I saw
how this big vacant north could be made to strike a mighty blow at
those interests which make a profession of cornering meatstuffs on the
other side, how it could be made to fight the fight of the people by
sending down an unlimited supply of fish that could be sold at a profit
in New York, Boston, or Chicago for a half of what the trust demands.
My scheme wasn't aroused entirely by philanthropy, mind you. I saw in
it a chance to get back at the very people who brought about my
father's ruin, and who kept pounding him after he was in a corner until
he broke down and died. They killed him. They robbed me a few years
later. They made me hate what I was once, a moving, joyous part
of--life down there. I went from the north, first to Ottawa, then to
Toronto and Winnipeg. After that I went to Brokaw, my father's old
partner, with the scheme. I've told you of Brokaw--one of the deepest,
shrewdest old fighters in the Middle West. It was only a year after my
father's death that he was on his feet again, as strong as ever. Brokaw
drew in two or three others as strong as himself, and we went after the
privileges. It was a fight from the beginning. Hardly were our plans
made public before we were met by powerful opposition. A combination of
Canadian capital quickly organized and petitioned for the same
privileges. Old Brokaw knew what it meant. It was the hand of the
trust--disguised under a veneer of Canadian promoters. They called us
'aliens'--American 'money-grabbers' robbing Canadians of what justly
belonged to them. They aroused two-thirds of the press against us, and
yet--"

The lines in Whittemore's face softened. He chuckled as he pulled out
his pipe and began filling it.

"They had to go some to beat the old man, Greggy. I don't know just how
Brokaw pulled the thing off, but I do know that when we won out three
members of parliament and half a dozen other politicians were honorary
members of our organization, and that it cost Brokaw a hundred thousand
dollars! Our opponents had raised such a howl, calling upon the
patriotism of the country and pointing out that the people of the north
would resent this invasion of foreigners, that we succeeded in getting
only a provisional license, subject to withdrawal by the government at
any time conditions seemed to warrant it. I saw in this no blow to my
scheme, for I was certain that we could carry the thing along on such a
square basis that within a year the whole country would be in sympathy
with us. I expressed my views with enthusiasm at our final meeting,
when the seven of us met to complete our plans. Brokaw and the other
five were to direct matters in the south; I was to have full command of
affairs in the north. A month later I was at work. Over here"--he
leaned over Gregson's shoulder and placed a forefinger on the map--"I
established our headquarters, with MacDougall, a Scotch engineer, to
help me. Within six months we had a hundred and fifty men at Blind
Indian Lake, fifty canoemen bringing in supplies, and another gang
putting in stations over a stretch of more than a hundred miles of lake
country. Everything was working smoothly, better than I had expected.
At Blind Indian Lake we had a shipyard, two warehouses, ice-houses, a
company store, and a population of three hundred, and had nearly
completed a ten-mile roadbed for narrow-gauge steel, which would
connect us with the main line when it came up to us. I was completely
lost in my work. At times I almost forgot Brokaw and the others. I was
particularly careful of the funds sent up to me, and had accomplished
my work at a cost of a little under a hundred thousand. At the end of
the six months, when I was about to make a visit into the south, one of
our warehouses and ten thousand dollars' worth of supplies went up in
smoke. It was our first misfortune, and it was a big one. It was about
the first matter that I brought up after I had shaken hands with
Brokaw."

Philip's face was set and white as he stood in the middle of the room
looking at Gregson.

"And what do you think was his reply, Greggy? He looked at me for a
moment, a peculiar twitching around the corners of his mouth, and then
said, 'Don't allow a trivial matter like that to worry you, Philip.
Why--we've already cleaned up a million on this little fish deal!'"

Gregson sat up with a jerk.

"A million! Great Scott--"

"Yes, a million, Greggy," said Philip, softly, with his old fighting
smile. "There was a hundred thousand dollars to my credit in a First
National Bank. Pleasant surprise, eh?"

Gregson had dropped his cigarette. His slim hands gripped the edges of
the table. He made no reply as he waited for Whittemore to continue.



III


For a full minute Philip paced back and forth without speaking. Then he
stopped, and faced Gregson, who was staring at him.

"A million, Greggy," he repeated, in the same soft voice. "A hundred
thousand dollars to my credit--in a First National Bank! While I was up
here hustling to get affairs on a working basis, eager to show the
government and the people what we could do and would do, triumphing in
our victory over the trust, and figuring each day on my scheme of
making this big, rich north deal a staggering blow to those accursed
combinations down there, they were at work, too. While I was dreaming
and doing these things, Brokaw and the others had formed the Great
Northern Fish and Development Company, had incorporated it under the
laws of New Jersey, and had already sold over a million dollars' worth
of stock! The thing was in full swing when I reached headquarters. I
had authorized Brokaw to act for me, and I found that I was
vice-president of one of the biggest legalized robbery combinations of
recent years. More money had been spent in advertising than in
development work. Hundreds of thousands of copies of my letters from
the north, filled to the brim with the enthusiasm I had felt for my
work and projects, had been sent out broadcast, luring buyers of stock.
In one of these letters I had said that if a half of the lakes I had
mapped out were fished the north could be made to produce a million
tons of fish a year. Two hundred thousand copies of this letter were
sent out, but Brokaw and his associates had omitted the words, 'If a
half of the lakes mapped out were fished.' It would take fifteen
thousand men, a thousand refrigerator cars, and a capital of five
million to bring this about. I was stunned by the enormity of their
fraud, and yet when I threatened to bring the whole thing to smash
Brokaw only laughed and pointed out that not a single caution had been
omitted. In all of the advertising it was frankly stated that our
license was provisional, subject to withdrawal if the company did not
keep within laws. That very frankness was an advertisement. It was
something different. It struck home where it was meant to strike--among
small and unfledged investors. It roped them in by thousands. The
shares were ten dollars each, and non-assessable. Five out of six
orders were from one to five shares; ninety-nine out of every hundred
were not above ten shares. It was damnable. The very people for whom I
wanted the north to fight had been humbugged to the tune of a million
and a quarter dollars. Within a year Brokaw and the others had floated
a scheme which was worse than any trust, for the trusts pay back a part
of their steals in dividends. And _I_ was responsible! Do you realize
that, Greggy? It was I who started the project. It was my reports from
the north which chiefly induced people to buy. And this company--a
company of robbers licensed under the law--I am its founder and its
vice-president!"

Philip dropped back into his chair. The face that he turned to Gregson
was damp with perspiration, though the room was chilly.

"You stayed in," said Gregson.

"I had to. There wasn't a loophole left open to me. There wasn't a
single point at which I could bring attack against Brokaw and the
others. They were six veritable Bismarcks of deviltry and shrewdness.
They hadn't over-stepped the law. They had sold a million and a quarter
of stock on a hundred-thousand-dollar investment, but Brokaw only
laughed when I raged at this. 'Why, Philip,' he said, 'we value our
license alone at over a million!' And there was no law which could
prevent them from placing that value upon it, or more. There was one
thing that I could do--and only one. I could resign, decline to accept
my stock and the hundred thousand, and publicly announce why I had
broken off my connections with the company. I was about to do this when
cooler judgment prevailed. It occurred to me that there would have to
be an accounting. The company might sell a million and a quarter of
stock--but in the end there would have to be an accounting. If I was
out of the game it would be easily made. If I was in--well, do you see,
Greggy? There was still a chance of making the company win out as a
legitimate enterprise, even though it began under the black flag of
piratical finance and fraud. Brokaw and the others were astonished at
the stand I took. It was like throwing a big, ripe plum into the fire
Brokaw was the first to hedge. He came over to my side in a private
interview which we had, and for the first time I convinced him
completely of the tremendous possibilities before us. To my surprise he
began to show actual enthusiasm in my favor. We figured out how the
company, if properly developed, could be made to pay a dividend of
fifty cents a share on the stock issued within two years. This, I
thought, would be at least a partial return of the original steal.
Brokaw worked the thing through in his own way. He was authorized to
vote for one of the directors, who was in Europe, and he won over two
of the others. As a consequence we voted all of the money in the
treasury, nearly six hundred thousand dollars, and the remainder of the
stock that was on the market, for development purposes. Brokaw then
made the proposition that the company buy up any interest that wished
to withdraw. The two M. P.'s and a professional promoter from Toronto
immediately sold out at fifty thousand each. With their original
hundred thousand these three retired with an aggregate steal of nearly
half a million. Pretty good work for yours truly, eh, Greggy! Good
Heaven, think of it! I started out to strike a blow, to launch a
gigantic project for the people, and this was what I had hatched!
Robbery, bribery, fraud--"

He paused, his hands clenched until the blue veins stood out on them
like whipcords.

"And--"

Gregson spoke, uneasily.

"And what?"

Philip's fingers relaxed their grip on the table.

"If that had been all, I wouldn't have called you up here," he
continued. "I've taken a long time in coming down to the real hell of
the affair, because I wanted you to understand the situation from the
beginning. After I left Brokaw I came north again. I possessed all the
funds necessary to make an honest working organization out of the
Northern Fish and Development Company. I hired two hundred additional
men, added twenty new fishing-stations, began a second road-bed to the
main line, and started a huge dam at Blind Indian Lake. We had thirty
horses, driven up through the wilderness from Le Pas, and twenty teams
on the way. There didn't appear to be an important obstacle in the path
of our success, and I had recovered most of my old enthusiasm when
Brokaw sprung a new mine under my feet.

"He had written a long letter almost immediately after I left him,
which had been delayed at several places. In it he told me that he had
discovered a plot to wreck our enterprise, that some powerful force was
about to be pitted against us in the very country we were holding. I
could see that Brokaw was tremendously worked up when he wrote the
letter, and that for once he felt himself outwitted by a rival faction,
and realized to the full a danger which it took me some time to
comprehend. He had discovered absolute evidence, he said, that the
bunch of trust capitalists whom he had beaten were about to attack us
in another way. Their forces were already moving into the north
country. Their object was to stir up the country against us, to bring
about that condition of unrest and antagonism between the people of the
north and ourselves which would compel the government to take away our
license. Remember, this license was only provisional. It was, in fact,
left to the people of the north to decide whether we should remain
among them or not. If they turned against us there would be only one
thing for the government to do.

"At first Brokaw's letter caused me no very great uneasiness. I knew
the people up here. I knew that the Indian, the Breed, the Frenchman,
and the White of this God's country were as invulnerable to bribery as
Brokaw himself is to the pangs of conscience. I loved them. I had faith
in them. I knew them to possess an honor which is not known down there,
where we have a church on every four corners, and where the Word of God
is preached day and night on the open streets. I felt myself warming
with indignation as I replied to Brokaw, resenting his insinuations as
to the crimes which a 'half-savage' people might be induced to commit
for a little whisky and a little money. And then--"

Whittemore wiped his face. The lines settled deeper about his mouth.

"Greggy, a week after I received this letter two warehouses were burned
on the same night at Blind Indian Lake. They were three hundred yards
apart. There is absolutely no doubt that it was incendiarism."

He waited in silence, but Gregson still sat watching him in silence.

"That was the beginning--three months ago. Since then some mysterious
force has been fighting us at every step. A week after the warehouses
burned, a dredge and boat-building yard, which we had constructed at
considerable expense at the mouth of the Gray Beaver, was destroyed by
fire. A little later a 'premature' explosion of dynamite cost us ten
thousand dollars and two weeks' labor of fifty men. I organized a
special guard service, composed of fifty of my best men, but it seemed
to do no good. Since then we have lost three miles of road-bed,
destroyed by a washout. A terrific charge of dynamite had been used to
let down upon us the water of a lake which was situated at the top of a
ridge near our right of way. Whoever our enemies are, they seem to know
our most secret movements, and attack us whenever we leave a vulnerable
point open. The most surprising part of the whole affair is this: in
spite of my own efforts to keep our losses quiet the rumor has spread
for hundreds of miles around us, even reaching Churchill, that the
northerners have declared war against our enterprise and are determined
to drive us out. Two-thirds of my men believe this. MacDougall, my
engineer, believes it. Between my working forces and the Indians,
French, and half-breeds about us there has slowly developed a feeling
of suspicion and resentment. It is growing--every day, every hour. If
it continues it can result in but two things--ruin for ourselves,
triumph for those who are getting at us in this dastardly manner. If
something is not done very soon--within a month--perhaps less--the
country will run with the blood of vengeance from Churchill to the
Barrens. If what I expect to happen does happen there will be no
government road built to the Bay, the new buildings at Churchill will
turn gray with disuse, the treasures of the north will remain
undisturbed, the country itself will slip back a hundred years. The
forest people will be filled with hatred and suspicion so long as the
story of great wrong travels down from father to son. And this wrong,
this crime--"

Philip's face was white, cold, almost passionless in the grim hardness
that had settled in it. He unfolded a long typewritten letter, and
handed it to Gregson.

"That letter is the final word," he explained. "It will tell you what I
have not told you. In some way it was mixed in my mail and I did not
discover the error until I had opened it. It is from the headquarters
of our enemies, addressed to the man who is in charge of their plot up
here."

"He waited, scarce breathing, while Gregson bent over the typewritten
pages. He noted the slow tightening of the other's fingers as he turned
from the first sheet to the second; he watched Gregson's face, the slow
ebbing of color, the gray white that followed it, the stiffening of his
arms and shoulders as he finished. Then Gregson looked up.

"Good God!" he breathed.

For a full half-minute the two men gazed at each other across the
table, without speaking.



IV


Philip broke the silence.

"Now--you understand."

"It is impossible!" gasped Gregson. "I cannot believe this! It--it
might have happened a thousand--two thousand years ago--but not now. My
God, man!" he cried, more excitedly. "You do not mean to tell me that
you believe this will be done?"

"Yes," replied Philip.

"It is impossible!" exclaimed Gregson again, crushing the letter in his
hand. "A man doesn't live--a combination doesn't exist--that would
start such a hell loose as this--in this way!"

Philip smiled grimly.

"The man does live, and the combination does exist," he said, slowly.
"Greggy, I have known of men, and of combinations who have spent
millions, who have sacrificed everything of honor and truth, who have
driven thousands of men, women, and children to starvation--and
worse--to achieve a victory in high finance. I have known of men and
combinations who have broken almost every law of man and God in the
fight for money and power. And so have you! You have associated with
some of these men. You have laughed and talked with them, smoked with
them, and have dined at their tables. You spent a week at Selden's
summer borne, and it was Selden who cornered wheat three years ago and
raised the price of bread two cents a loaf. It was Selden who brought
about the bread riots in New York, Chicago, and a score of other
cities, who swung wide the prison doors for thousands, whose millions
were gained at a cost of misery, crime, and even death. And Selden is
only one out of thousands who live to-day, watching for their
opportunities, giving no heed to those who may fall under the
juggernaut of their capital. This isn't the age of petty
discrimination, Greggy. It's the age of the almighty dollar, and of the
fight for it. And there's no chivalry, no quarter shown in this fight.
Men of Selden's stamp don't stop at women and children. The
scrubwoman's dollar is just as big as yours or mine, and if a scheme
could be promoted whereby every scrubwoman in America could be safely
robbed of a dollar you'd find thousands of men down there in our cities
ready to go into it to-morrow. And to such men as these what is the
sacrifice of a few women up here?"

Gregson dropped the letter, crumpled and twisted, upon the table.

"I wonder--if I understand," he said, looking into Philip's white face.
"There has undoubtedly been previous correspondence, and this letter
contains the final word. It shows that your enemies have already
succeeded in working up the forest people against you, and have filled
them with suspicion. Their last blow is to be--"

He stopped, and Philip nodded at the horrified question in his eyes.

"Greggy, up here there is one law which reigns above all other law.
When I was in Prince Albert a year ago I was sitting on the veranda of
the little old Windsor Hotel. About me were a dozen wild men of the
north, who had come down for a day or two to the edge of civilization.
Most of those men had not been out of the forests for a year. Two of
them were from the Barrens, and this was their first glimpse of
civilized life in five years. As we sat there a woman came up the
street. She turned in at the hotel. About me there was a sudden
lowering of voices, a shuffling of feet. As she passed, every one of
those twelve rose from their seats and stood with bowed heads and their
caps in their hands until she had gone. I was the only one who remained
sitting! That, Greggy, is the one great law of life up here, the
worship of woman because she is woman. A man may steal, he may kill,
but he must not break this law. If he steals or kills, the mounted
police may bring the offender to justice; but if he breaks this other
law there is but one punishment, and that is the punishment of the
people. That is what this letter purposes to do--to break this law in
order that its penalty may fall upon us. And if they succeed, God help
us!"

It was Gregson who jumped to his feet now. He took half a dozen nervous
steps, paused, lighted a cigarette, and looked down into Philip's
upturned face.

"I understand now where the fight is coming in," he said. "If this
thing goes through, these people will rise and wipe you off the map.
They'll lay it to you and your men, of course. And I fancy it won't be
a job half done if they feel about it as I'd feel. But," he demanded,
sharply, "why don't you put the affair into the hands of the proper
authorities--the police or the government? You've got--By George, you
must have the name of the man to whom that letter was addressed!"

Philip handed him a soiled white envelope, of the kind in which
official documents are usually mailed.

"That's the man."

Gregson gave a low whistle.

"Lord--Fitzhugh--Lee!" he read, slowly, as though scarce believing his
eyes. "Great Scott! A British peer!"

The cynical smile on Philip's lips cut his words short.

"Perhaps," he said. "But if there is a British lord up here he isn't
very well known, Greggy. No one knows of him. No one has heard a rumor
of him. That is why we can't go to the police or the government. They'd
give small credence to what we've got to show. This letter wouldn't
count the weight of a feather without further evidence, and a lot of
it. Besides, we haven't time to go to the government. It is too far
away and too slow. And as for the police--I know of three in this
territory, and there are fifteen thousand square miles of mountains and
plains and forest in their 'beat.' It's up to you and me to find this
Lord Fitzhugh. If we can do that we will be in a position to put a
kibosh on this plot in a hurry. If we fail to run him down--"

"What then?"

"We'll have to watch our chances. I've told you all that I know, and
you're on an even working basis with me. At first I thought that I
understood the object of those who are planning to ruin us in this
cowardly manner. But I don't now. If they ruin us they also destroy the
chances of any other company that may be scheming to usurp our place.
For that reason I--"

"There must still be other factors in the game," said Gregson, as
Philip hesitated.

"There are. I want you to work out your own suspicions, Greggy, and
then we'll compare notes. Lord Fitzhugh is the key to the whole
situation. No matter who is at the bottom of this plot, Lord Fitzhugh
is the man at the working end of it. We don't care so much about the
writer of this letter as the one to whom it was written. It is evident
that he had planned to be at Churchill, for the letter is addressed to
him here. But he hasn't shown up. He has never been here, so far as I
can discover."

"I'd give a year's growth for a copy of the BRITISH PEERAGE or a WHO'S
WHO," mused Gregson, flecking the ashes from his cigarette. "Who the
deuce can this Lord Fitzhugh be? What sort of an Englishman would mix
up in a dirty job of this kind? You might imagine him to be one of the
men behind the guns, like Brokaw. But, by George, he's working the
dirty end of it himself, according to that letter!"

"You're beginning to use your head already, Greggy," said Philip, a
little more cheerfully. "I've asked myself that question a hundred
times during the last three days, and I'm more at sea than ever. If it
had been plain Tom Brown or Bill Jones, the name would not have
suggested anything beyond what you have read in the letter. That's the
question: Why should a Lord Fitzhugh Lee be mixed up in this affair?"

The two men looked at each other keenly for a few moments in silence.

"It suggests--" began Gregson.

"What?"

"That there may be a bigger scheme behind this affair than we imagine.
In fact, it suggests to me that the northerners are being stirred up
against you and your men for some other and more powerful reason than
to make you get out of the country and compel the government to
withdraw your license. So help me God, I believe there's more behind
it!"

"So do I," said Philip, quietly.

"Have you any suspicions of what might be the more powerful motive?"

"None. I know that British capital is heavily interested in mineral
lands east of the surveyed line. But there is none at Churchill. All
operations have been carried on from Montreal and Toronto."

"Have you written to Brokaw about this letter?"

"You are the first to whom I have revealed its contents," said Philip.
"I have neglected to tell you that Brokaw is so worked up over the
affair that he is joining me in the north. The Hudson's Bay Company's
ship, which comes over twice a year, touches at Halifax, and if Brokaw
followed out his intentions he took passage there. The ship should be
in within a week or ten days. And, by the way"--Philip stood up and
thrust his hands deep in his pockets as he spoke, half smiling at
Gregson--"it gives me pleasure to hand you a bit of cheerful
information along with that," he added. "Miss Brokaw is coming with
him. She is very beautiful."

Gregson held a lighted match until it burnt his finger-tips.

"The deuce you say! I've heard--"

"Yes, you have heard of her beauty, no doubt. I am not a special
enthusiast in your line, Greggy, but I will confirm your opinion of
Miss Brokaw. You will say that she is the most beautiful girl you have
ever seen, and you will want to make heads of her for BURKE'S. I
suppose you wonder why she is coming up here? So do I."

There was a look of perplexity in Philip's eyes which Gregson might
have noticed if he had not gone to the door to look out into the night.

"What makes the stars so big and bright up in this country, Phil?" he
asked.

"Because of the clearness of the atmosphere through which you are
looking," replied Philip, wondering what was passing through the
other's mind. "This air--compared with ours--is just like a piece of
glass that has been cleaned of a year's accumulation of dirt."

Gregson whistled softly for a few moments. Then he said, without
turning:

"She's got to go some if she beats the girl I saw this evening, Phil."
He turned at Philip's silence, and laughed. "I beg your pardon, old
man, I didn't mean to speak of her as if she were a horse. I mean Miss
Brokaw."

"And I don't particularly like the idea of betting on the merits of a
pretty girl," replied Philip, "but I'll break the rule for once, and
wager you the best hat in New York that she does beat her."

"Done!" said Gregson. "A little gentle excitement of this sort will
relieve the tension of the other thing, Phil. I've heard enough of
business for to-night. I'm going to finish a sketch that I have begun
of her before I forget the fine points. Any objection?"

"None at all," said Philip. "Meanwhile I'll go out to breathe a spell."

He put on his coat and took down his cap from a peg in the wall.
Gregson had seated himself under the lamp and was sharpening a pencil.
As Philip went to go out Gregson drew an envelope from his pocket and
tossed it on the table.

"If you should happen to see any one that looks like--her," he said,
nodding toward the envelope, "kindly put in a word for me, will you? I
did that in a hurry. It's not half flattering."

Philip laughed as he picked up the envelope.

"The most beau--" he began.

He caught himself with a jerk. Gregson, looking up from his
pencil-sharpening, saw the smile leave his lips and a quick flush leap
into his bronzed cheeks. He stared at the face on the envelope for a
half a minute, then gazed speechlessly at Gregson.

It was Gregson who laughed, softly and without suspicion.

"How does your wager look now?" he taunted.

"She--is--beautiful," murmured Philip, dropping the envelope and
turning to the door, "Don't wait for me, Greggy. Go to bed."

He heard Gregson laugh behind him, and he wondered, as he went out,
what Gregson would say if he told him that he had drawn on the back of
the old envelope the beautiful face of Eileen Brokaw!



V


A dozen steps beyond the door Philip paused in the shadow of a dense
spruce, half persuaded to return. From where he stood he could see
Gregson bending over the table, already at work on the picture. He
confessed that the sketch had startled him. He knew that it had sent
the hot blood rushing to his face, and that only through a fortunate
circumstance had Gregson ascribed its effect upon him to something that
was wide of the truth. Miss Brokaw was a thousand or more miles away.
At this moment she was somewhere in the North Atlantic, if their ship
had left Halifax. She had never been in the north. More than that, he
knew that Gregson had never seen Miss Brokaw, and had heard of her only
through himself and the society columns of the newspapers. How could he
explain his possession of the sketch?

He drew a step or two nearer to the open door, and stopped again. If he
returned to question Gregson it would draw him perilously near to
explanations which he did not care to make, to the one secret which he
wished to guard from his friend's knowledge. After all, the picture was
only a resemblance. It could be nothing but a resemblance, even though
it was so striking and unusual that it had thrown him off his guard at
first. When he returned later and looked at it again he would no doubt
be able to see his error.

He walked on through the spruce shadows and up a narrow trail that led
to the bald knob of the ridge, feeling his way with his right hand
before him when the denseness of the forest shut out the light of the
stars and the moon, until at last he stood out strong and clear under
the glow of the skies, with the world sweeping out in black and gray
mystery around him. To the north was the Bay, reaching away like a vast
black plain. Half a mile distant two or three lights were burning over
Fort Churchill, red eyes peering up out of the deep pool of darkness;
to the south and west there swept the gray, starlit distances which lay
between him and civilization.

He leaned against a great rock, resting his elbows in a carpet of moss,
and his eyes turned into the mystery of those distances. The sea of
spruce-tops that rose out of the ragged valley at his feet whispered
softly in the night wind; from out of their depths trembled the low
hoot of an owl; over the vaster desolation beyond hovered a weird and
unbroken silence. More than once the spirit of this world had come to
him in the night and had roused him from his slumber to sit alone out
under the stars, imagining all that it might tell him if he could read
the voice of it in the whispering of the trees, if he could but
understand it as he longed to understand it, and could find in it the
peace which he knew that it all but held for him. The spirit of it had
never been nearer to him than to-night. He felt it close to him, so
near that it seemed like the warm, vibrant touch of a presence at his
side, something which had come to him in a voiceless loneliness as
great as his own, watching and listening with him beside the rock. It
seemed nearer to him since he had seen and talked with Gregson. It was
much nearer to him since a few minutes ago, when he had looked upon
what he had first thought to be the face of Eileen Brokaw.

And this was the world--the spirit--that had changed him. He wondered
if Gregson had seen the change which he tried so hard to conceal. He
wondered if Miss Brokaw would see it when she came, and if her soft,
gray eyes would read to the bottom of him as they had fathomed him once
before upon a time which seemed years and years ago. Thoughts like
these troubled him. Twice that day he had found stealing over him a
feeling that was almost physical pain, and yet he knew that this pain
was but the gnawing of a great loneliness in his heart. In these
moments he had been sorry that he had brought Gregson back into his
life. And with Gregson he was bringing back Eileen Brokaw. He was more
than sorry for that. The thought of it made him grow warm and
uncomfortable, though the night air from off the Bay was filled with
the chill tang of the northern icebergs. Again his thoughts brought him
face to face with the old pictures, the old life. With them came
haunting memories of a Philip Whittemore who had once lived, and who
had died; and with these ghosts of the past there surged upon him the
loneliness which seemed to crush and stifle him. Like one in a dream he
was swept back. Over the black spruce at his feet, far into the gray,
misty distances beyond, over forests and mountains and the vast, grim
silences his vision reached out until he saw life as it had begun for
him, and as he had lived it for a time. It had opened fair. It had
given promise. It had filled him with hope and ambition. And then it
had changed.

Unconsciously he clenched his hands as he thought of what had followed,
of the black days of ruin, of death, of the dissolution of all that he
had hoped and dreamed for. He had fought, because he was born a
fighter. He had risen again and again, only to find misfortune still at
his face. At first he had laughed, and had called it bad luck. But the
bad luck had followed him, dogging him with a persistence which
developed in him a new perspective of things. He dropped away from his
clubs. He began to measure men and women as he had not measured them
before, and there grew in him slowly a revulsion for what those
measurements revealed. The spirit that was growing in him called out
for bigger things, for the wild freedom which he had tasted for a time
with Gregson--for a life which was not warped by the gilded amenities
of the crowded ballroom to-night, by the frenzied dollar-fight
to-morrow. No one could understand that change in him. He could find no
spirit in sympathy with him, no chord in another breast that he could
reach out and touch and thrill with understanding. Once he had
hoped--and tried--

A deep breath, almost a sigh, fell from his lips as he thought of that
last night, at the Brokaw ball. He heard again the laughter and chatter
of men and women, the soft rustle of skirts--and then the break, the
silence, as the low, sweet music of his favorite waltz began, while he
stood screened behind a bank of palms looking down into the clear gray
eyes of Eileen Brokaw. He saw himself as he had stood then, leaning
over her slim white shoulders, intoxicated by her beauty, his face pale
with the fear of what he was about to say; and he saw the girl, with
her beautiful head thrown a little back, so that her golden hair almost
touched his lips, waiting for him to speak. For months he had fought
against the fascination of her beauty. Again and again he had almost
surrendered to it, only to pull himself back in time. He had seen this
girl, as pure-looking as an angel, strike deeply at the hearts of other
men; he had heard her laugh and talk lightly of the wounds she had
made. Behind the eyes which gazed up at him, dear and sweet as pools of
sunlit water, he knew there lay the consuming passion for power, for
admiration, for the froth-like pleasures of the life that was swirling
about them. Sincerity was but their mask. He knew that the beautiful
gray eyes lied to him when he saw in them all that he held glorious in
womanhood.

He laughed softly to himself as the picture grew in his mind, and he
saw Ransom come blundering in through the palms, mopping his red face
and chattering inane things to little Miss Meesen. Ransom was always
blundering. This time his blunder saved Philip. The passionate words
died on his lips; and when Ransom and Miss Meesen turned about in a
giggling flutter, he spoke no words of love, but opened up his heart to
this girl whom he would have loved if she had been like her eyes. It
was his last hope--that she would understand him, see with him the
emptiness of his life, sympathize with him.

And she had laughed at him!

She had risen to her feet; there had come for an instant a flash like
that of fire in her eyes; her voice trembled a little when she spoke.
There was resentment in the poise of her white shoulders as Ransom's
voice came to them in a loud laugh from behind the palms; her red lips
showed disdain and anger. She hated Ransom for breaking in; she
despised Philip for allowing the interruption to tear away her triumph.
Her own betrayal of herself was like tonic to Philip. He laughed
joyously when he was alone out in the cool night air. Ransom never knew
why Philip hunted him out and shook his fat hand so warmly at parting.

Philip again felt himself in the fever of that night as he turned from
the rock and began picking his way down the side of the ridge toward
the Bay. He found himself wondering what had become of good-natured,
dense-headed Ransom, who had all he could do to spend his father's
allowance. From Ransom his thoughts turned to little Harry Dell,
Roscoe, big Dan Philips, and three or four others who had sacrificed
their hearts at Miss Brokaw's feet. He grimaced as he thought of young
Dell, who had worshiped the ground she walked on, and who had gone
straight to the devil when she threw him over. He wondered, too, where
Roscoe was. He knew that Roscoe would have won out if it had not been
for the financial crash which took his brokerage firm off its feet and
left him a pauper. He had heard that Roscoe had gone up into British
Columbia to recuperate his fortune in Douglas fir. As for big Dan--

Philip stumbled over a rock, and rose with a bruised knee. The shock
brought him back to realities, and a few moments later he stood upon
the narrow boulder-strewn beach, rubbing his knee and calling himself a
fool for allowing the old thoughts to stir him up. Out there,
somewhere, Brokaw and his daughter were coming. That Miss Brokaw was
with her father was a circumstance which was of no importance to him.
At least he told himself so, and set his face toward Churchill.

To-night the stars and the moon seemed to be more than usually
brilliant. About him the great masses of rock, the tumbling surf, the
edge of the forest, and the Bay itself were illumined as if by the
light of a softly radiant day. He looked at his watch and found that it
was past midnight. He had been up since dawn, and yet he felt no touch
of fatigue, no need of sleep. He took off his cap and walked bareheaded
in the mellow light, his moccasined feet falling lightly, his eyes
alert to all that this wonderful night world might hold for him. Ahead
of him rose a giant mass of rock, worn smooth and slippery by the water
dashed against it in the crashing storms of countless centuries, and
this he climbed, panting when he reached the top. His eyes turned to
where he saw Fort Churchill sleeping along the edge of the Bay.

In that same spot, a great pool of night-glow between two
forest-crowned ridges, it had lain for hundreds of years. He passed the
ancient landing-place of rocks, built a hundred and fifty years ago for
the first ships that came over the strange sea; he stood upon the
tumbled foundations of the Fort, that was still older, and saw the
starlight glinting on one of the brass cannon that lay where it had
fallen amid the debris, untouched and unmoved since the days,
ages-gone, when it had last thundered its welcome or its defiance
through the solitudes; he walked slowly along the shore where the sea
had lashed wearily for many a year, to reach the wilderness dead, and
where now, triumphant, the frothing surf bared gun-case coffins and
tumbled the bones of men down into its sullen depths. And such men! Men
who had lived and died when the world was unborn in a half of its
knowledge and science, when red blood was the great capital, strong
hearts the winners of life. And there were women, too, women who had
come with these men, and died with them, in the opening-up of a new
world. It was such men as these, and such women as these, that Philip
loved, and he walked with bared head and swiftly beating heart over the
unmarked jungle of the dead.

And then he came to other things, the first low log buildings of
Churchill, to the silence of sleeping life. New buildings loomed
up--working quarters of men who were grubbing for dollars, the new
wharves, the skeletons of elevators, sullen, windowless warehouses, the
office-buildings of men who were already fighting and quarreling and
gripping at one another's throats in the struggle for supremacy, for
the biggest and ripest plums in this new land of opportunity. The
dollar-fight had begun, and the things that already marked its presence
loomed monstrous and grotesque to Philip, as if jeering at the
forgotten efforts of those whom the sea was washing away. And suddenly
it struck Philip that the sea, working ceaselessly, digging away at its
dead, was not the enemy of the nameless creatures in the gun-case
coffins, but that it was a friend, stanch through centuries, rescuing
them now from the desecration that was to come; and for a moment he was
resistless to the spirit that moved him about and made him face that
sea with something that was almost a prayer in his heart.

As he turned he saw that a light had appeared in one of the low log
buildings which contained the two offices of the Keewatin Mines and
Lands Company. The light, and the bulky shadow of old Pearce, which
appeared for a moment on one of the drawn curtains, aroused Philip to
other thoughts. Since his arrival at Churchill he had made the
acquaintance of Pearce, and it struck him now that just such a man as
this might be Lord Fitzhugh Lee. The Keewatin Mines and Lands Company
had no mines and few lands, and yet Pearce had told him that they were
doing a hustling business down south, selling stock on mineral claims
that couldn't be worked for years. After all, was he any better than
Pearce?

The old bitterness rose in him. He was no better than Pearce, no better
than this Lord Fitzhugh himself, and it was fate--fate and people, that
had made him so. He walked swiftly now, following close along the shore
in the hard stretch kept bare by the tides, until he came to the red
coals of half a dozen Indian fires on the edge of the forest beyond the
company's buildings. A dog scented him and howled. He heard a guttural
voice break in a word of command from one of the tepees, and there was
silence again.

He turned to the right, burying himself deeper and deeper into the
great silence of the north, his quick steps keeping pace with the
thoughts that were passing through his brain. Fate, bad luck,
circumstance--they had been against him. He had told himself this a
hundred times, had laughed at them with the confidence of one who knew
that some day he would rise above these things in triumph. And yet what
were these elements of fortune, as he had called them, but people? A
feeling of personal resentment began to oppress him. People had downed
him, and not circumstance and bad luck. Men and women had made a
failure of him, and not fate. For the first time it occurred to him
that the very men and women whom Brokaw and his associates had duped,
whom Pearce was duping, would play the game in the same way if they had
the opportunity. What if he had played on the winning side, if he had
enlisted his fighting energies with men like Brokaw and Pearce, fought
for money and power in place of this other thing, which seemed to count
so little? Other men would have given much to have been in his favor
with Eileen Brokaw. He might have been in the front of this other
fight, the winning fight, the possessor of fortune, a beautiful woman--

He stopped suddenly. It seemed to him that he had heard a voice. He had
climbed from out of the shadow of the forest until he stood now on a
gray cliff of rock that reached out into the Bay, like the point of a
great knife guarding Churchill. A block of sandstone rose in his path,
and he passed quietly around it. In another instant he had flattened
himself against it.

A dozen feet away, full in the moonlight, three figures sat on the edge
of the cliff, as motionless as though hewn out of rock. Instinctively
Philip's hand slipped to his revolver holster, but he drew it back when
he saw that one of the three figures was that of a woman. Beside her
crouched a huge wolf-dog; on the other side of the dog sat a man. The
man was resting in the attitude of an Indian, with his elbows on his
knees, his chin in the palms of his hands, gazing steadily and silently
out over the Bay toward Churchill.

It was his companion that held Philip motionless against the face of
the rock. She, too, was leaning forward, gazing in that same steady,
silent way toward Churchill. She was bareheaded. Her hair fell loose
over her shoulders and streamed down her back until it piled itself
upon the rock, shining dark and lustrous in the light of the moon.
Philip knew that she was not an Indian.

Suddenly the girl sat erect, and then sprang to her feet, partly facing
him, the breeze rippling her hair about her face and shoulders, her
eyes turned to the vast gray depths of the world beyond the forests.
For an instant she turned so that the light of the moon fell full upon
her, and in that moment Philip thought that her eyes had searched him
out in the shadow of the rock and were looking straight into his own.
Never had he seen such a beautiful face among the forest people. He had
dreamed of such faces beside camp-fires, in the deep loneliness of long
nights in the forests, when he had awakened to bring before him visions
of what Eileen Brokaw might have been to him if he had found her one of
these people. He drew himself closer to the rock. The girl turned again
to the edge of the cliff, her slender form silhouetted against the
starlit sky. She leaned over the dog, and he heard her voice, soft and
caressing, but he could not understand her words. The man lifted his
head, and he recognized the swarthy, clear-cut features of a French
half-breed. He moved away as quietly as he had come.

The girl's voice stopped him.

"And that is Churchill, Pierre--the Churchill you have told me of,
where the ships come in?"

"Yes, that is Churchill, Jeanne."

For a moment there was silence. Then, clear and low, with a wild,
sobbing note in her voice that thrilled Philip, the girl cried:

"And I hate it, Pierre. I hate it--hate it--hate it!"

Philip stepped out boldly from the rock.

"And I hate it, too," he said.



VI


Scarce had he spoken when he would have given much to have recalled his
words, wrung from his lips by that sobbing note of loneliness, of
defiance, of half pain in the girl's voice. It was the same note, the
same spirit crying out against his world that he had listened to in the
moaning of the surf as it labored to carry away the dead, and in the
wind that sighed in the spruce-tops below the mountain, only now it was
the spirit speaking through a human voice. Every fiber in his body
vibrated in response to it, and he stood with bared head, filled with a
wild desire to make these people understand, and yet startled at the
effect which his appearance had produced.

The girl faced him, her eyes shining with sudden fear. Quicker than her
own was the movement of the half-breed. In a flash he was upon his
feet, his dark face tense with action, his right hand gripping at
something in his belt as he bent toward the figure in the center of the
rock. His posture was that of an animal ready to spring. Close beside
him gleamed the white fangs of the wolf-dog. The girl leaned over and
twisted her fingers in the tawny hair that bristled on the dog's neck.
Philip heard her speak, but she did not move her eyes from his face. It
was the tableau of a moment, tense, breathless. The only thing that
moved was the shimmer of steel. Philip caught the gleam of it under the
half-breed's hand.

"Don't do that, M'sieur," he said, pointing at the other's belt. "I am
sorry that I disturbed you. Sometimes I come up here--alone--to smoke
my pipe and listen to the sea down there. I heard you say that you hate
Churchill, and I hate it. That is why I spoke."

He turned to the girl.

"I am sorry. I beg your pardon."

He looked at her with new wonderment. She had tossed back her loose
hair, and stood tall and straight in the moonlight, her dark eyes
gazing at him now calmly and without affright. She was dressed in rich
yellow buckskin, as soft as chamois. Her throat was bare. A deep collar
of lace fell over her shoulders. One hand, raised to her breast,
revealed a wide gauntlet cuff of red or purple plush, of a fashion two
centuries old. Her lips were parted, and he saw the faintest gleam of
her white teeth, the quick rising and falling of her bosom. He had
spoken directly to her, yet she gave no sign of having heard him.

"You startled us, that is all, M'sieur," said Pierre, quietly. His
English was excellent, and as he spoke he bowed low to Philip. "It is I
whom you must pardon, M'sieur--for betraying so much caution."

Philip held out his hand.

"My name is Whittemore--Philip Whittemore," he said. "I'm staying at
Churchill until the ship comes in and--and I hope you'll let me sit
here on the rock."

For an instant Pierre's fingers gripped his hand, and he bowed low
again like a courtier. Philip saw that he, too, wore the same big,
old-fashioned cuffs, and that it was not a knife that hung at his belt,
but a short rapier.

"And I am Pierre--Pierre Couchee," he said. "And this--is my
sister--Jeanne. We do not belong to Fort Churchill, but come from Fort
o' God. Good night, M'sieur!"

The girl had taken a step back, and now she swept him a courtesy so low
that her fallen hair streamed over her shoulders. She spoke no word,
but passed quickly with Pierre up the rock, and while Philip stood
stunned and speechless they disappeared swiftly into the white gloom of
the night.

Mutely he gazed after them. For a long time he stood staring beyond the
rocks, marveling at the strangeness of this thing that had happened. An
hour before he had stood with bared head over the ancient dead at
Churchill, and now, on the rock, he had seen the resurrection of what
he had dreamed those dead to be in life. He had never seen people like
Pierre and Jeanne. Their strange dress, the rapier at Pierre's side,
his courtly bow, the low, graceful courtesy that the girl had made him,
all carried him back to the days of the old pictures that hung in the
factor's room at Churchill, when high-blooded gallants came into the
wilderness with their swords at their sides, wearing the favors of
court ladies next their hearts. Pierre, standing there on the rock,
with his hand on his rapier, might have been Grosellier himself, the
prince's favorite, and Jeanne--

Something white on the rock near where the girl had been sitting caught
Philip's eyes. In a moment he held in his fingers a small handkerchief
and a broad ribbon of finely knit lace. In her haste to get away she
had forgotten these things. He was about to run to the crest of the
cliff and call loudly for Pierre Couchee when he held the handkerchief
and the lace close to his face and the delicate perfume of heliotrope
stopped him. There was something familiar about it, something that held
him wondering and mystified, until he knew that he had lost the
opportunity to recall Pierre and his companion. He looked at the
handkerchief more, closely. It was a dainty fabric, so soft that it
gave barely the sensation of touch when he crushed it in the palm of
his hand. For a few moments he was puzzled to account for the filmy
strip of lace. Then the truth came to him. Jeanne had used it to bind
her hair!

He laughed softly, joyously, as he wound the bit of fabric about his
fingers and retraced his steps toward Churchill. Again and again he
pressed the tiny handkerchief to his face, breathing of its sweetness;
and the action suddenly stirred his memory to the solution of its
mystery. It was this same sweetness that had come to him on the night
that he had looked down into the beautiful face of Eileen Brokaw at the
Brokaw ball. He remembered now that Eileen Brokaw loved heliotrope, and
that she always wore a purple heliotrope at her white throat or in the
gold of her hair. For a moment it struck him as singular that so many
things had happened this day to remind him of Brokaw's daughter. The
thought hastened his steps. He was anxious to look at the picture
again, to convince himself that he had been mistaken. Gregson was
asleep when he re-entered the cabin. The light was burning low, and
Philip turned up the wick. On the table was the picture as Gregson had
left it. This time there was no doubt. He had drawn the face of Eileen
Brokaw. In a spirit of jest he had written under it, "The Wife of Lord
Fitzhugh."

In spite of their absurdity the words affected Philip curiously. Was it
possible that Miss Brokaw had reached Fort Churchill in some other way
than by ship? And, if not, was it possible that in this remote corner
of the earth there was another woman who resembled her so closely?
Philip took a step toward Gregson, half determined to awaken him. And
yet, on second thought, he knew that Gregson could not explain. Even if
the artist had learned of his affair with Miss Brokaw and had secured a
picture of her in some way, he would not presume to go this far. He was
convinced that Gregson had drawn the picture of a face that he had seen
that day. Again he read the words at the bottom of the sketch, and once
more he experienced their curious effect upon him--an effect which it
was impossible for him to analyze even in his own mind.

He replaced the picture upon the table and drew the handkerchief and
bit of lace from his pocket. In the light of the lamp he saw that both
were as unusual as had been the picturesque dress of the girl and her
companion. Even to his inexperienced eyes and touch they gave evidence
of a richness that puzzled him, of a fashion that he had never seen.
They were of exquisite workmanship. The lace was of a delicate ivory
color, faintly tinted with yellow. The handkerchief was in the shape of
a heart, and in one corner of it, so finely wrought that he could
barely make out the silken letters, was the word "Camille."

The scent of heliotrope rose more strongly in the closed room, and from
the handkerchief Philip's eyes turned to the face of Eileen Brokaw
looking at him from out of Gregson's sketch. It was a curious
coincidence. He reached over and placed the picture face down. Then he
loaded his pipe, and sat smoking, his vision traveling beyond the
table, beyond the closed door to the lonely black rock where he had
come upon Jeanne and Pierre. Clouds of smoke rose about him, and he
half closed his eyes. He saw the girl again, as she stood there; he saw
the moonlight shining in her hair, the dark, startled beauty of her
eyes as she turned upon him; he heard again the low sobbing note in her
voice as she cried out her hatred against Churchill. He forgot Eileen
Brokaw now, forgot in these moments all that he and Gregson had talked
of that day. His schemes, his fears, his feverish eagerness to begin
the fight against his enemies died away in thoughts of the beautiful
girl who had come into his life this night. It seemed to him now that
he had known her for a long time, that she had been a part of him
always, and that it was her spirit that he had been groping and
searching for, and could never find. For the space of those few moments
on the cliff she had driven out the emptiness and the loneliness from
his heart, and there filled him a wild desire to make her understand,
to talk with her, to stand shoulder to shoulder with Pierre out there
in the night, a comrade.

Suddenly his fingers closed tightly over the handkerchief. He turned
and looked steadily at Gregson. His friend was sleeping, with his face
to the wall.

Would not Pierre return to the rock in search of these articles which
his sister had left behind? The thought set his blood tingling. He
would go back--and wait for Pierre. But if Pierre did not return--until
to-morrow?

He laughed softly to himself as he drew paper toward him and picked up
the pencil which Gregson had used. For many minutes he wrote steadily.
When he had done, he folded what he had written and tied it in the
handkerchief. The strip of lace with which Jeanne had bound her hair he
folded gently and placed in his breast pocket. There was a guilty flush
in his face as he stole silently to the door. What would Gregson say if
he knew that he--Phil Whittemore, the man whom he had once idealized as
"The Fighter," and whom he believed to be proof against all love of
woman--was doing this thing? He opened and closed the door softly.

At least he would send his message to these strange people of the
wilderness. They would know that he was not a part of that Churchill
which they hated, that in his heart he had ceased to be a thing of its
breed. He apologized again for his sudden appearance on the rock, but
the apology was only an excuse for other things which he wrote, in
which for a few brief moments he bared himself to those whom he knew
would understand, and asked that their acquaintance might be continued.
He felt that there was something almost boyish in what he was doing;
and yet, as he hurried over the ridge and down into Churchill again, he
was thrilled as no other adventure had ever thrilled him before. As he
approached the cliff he began to fear that the half-breed would not
return for the things which Jeanne had left, or that he had already
re-visited the rock. The latter thought urged him on until he was half
running. The crest of the cliff was bare when he reached it. He looked
at his watch. He had been gone an hour.

Where the moonlight seemed to fall brightest he dropped the
handkerchief, and then slipped back into the rocky trail that led to
the edge of the Bay. He had scarcely reached the strip of level beach
that lay between him and Churchill when from far behind him there came
the long howl of a dog. It was the wolf-dog. He knew it by the slow,
dismal rising of the cry and the infinite sadness with which it as
slowly died away until lost in the whisperings of the forest and the
gentle wash of the sea. Pierre was returning. He was coming back
through the forest. Perhaps Jeanne would be with him.

For the third time Philip climbed back to the great moonlit rock at the
top of the cliff. Eagerly he faced the north, whence the wailing cry of
the wolf-dog had come. Then he turned to the spot where he had dropped
the handkerchief, and his heart gave a sudden jump.

There was nothing on the rock. The handkerchief was gone!



VII


Philip stood undecided, his ears strained to catch the slightest sound.
Ten minutes had not elapsed since he had dropped the handkerchief.
Pierre could not have gone far among the rocks. It was possible that he
was concealed somewhere near him now. Softly he called his name.

"Pierre--ho, Pierre Couchee!"

There was no answer, and in the next breath he was sorry that he had
called. He went silently down the trail. He had come to the edge of
Churchill when once more he heard the howl of the dog far back in the
forest. He stopped to locate as nearly as he could the point whence the
sound came, for he was certain now that the dog had not returned with
Pierre, but had remained with Jeanne, and was howling from their camp.

Gregson was awake and sitting on the edge of his bunk when Philip
entered the cabin.

"Where the deuce have you been?" he demanded. "I was just trying to
make up my mind to go out and hunt for you. Stolen--lost--or something
like that?"

"I've been thinking," said Philip, truthfully.

"So have I," said Gregson. "Ever since you came back, wrote that
letter, and went out again--"

"You were asleep," corrected Philip. "I looked at you."

"Perhaps I was--when you looked. But I have a hazy recollection of you
sitting there at the table, writing like a fiend. Anyway, I've been
thinking ever since you went out of the door, and--I'd like to read
that Lord Fitzhugh letter again."

Philip handed him the letter. He was quite sure from his friend's
manner of speaking that he had seen nothing of the handkerchief and the
lace.

Gregson seized the paper lazily, yawned, and slipped it under the
blanket which he had doubled up for a pillow.

"Do you mind if I keep it for a few days. Phil?" he asked.

"Not in the least, if you'll tell me why you want it," said Philip.

"I will--when I discover a reason myself," replied his friend, coolly,
stretching himself out again in the bunk. "Remember when I dreamed that
Carabobo planter was sticking a knife into you, Phil?--and the next day
he tried it? Well, I've had a funny dream, I want to sleep on this
letter. I may want to sleep on it for a week. Better turn in if you
expect to get a wink between now and morning."

For half an hour after he had undressed and extinguished the light
Philip lay awake reviewing the incidents of his night's adventure. He
was certain that his letter was in the hands of Pierre and Jeanne, but
he was not so sure that they would respond to it. He half expected that
they would not, and yet he felt a deep sense of satisfaction in what he
had done. If he met them again he would not be quite a stranger. And
that he would meet them he was not only confident, but determined. If
they did not appear in Fort Churchill he would hunt out their camp.

He found himself asking a dozen questions, none of which he could
answer. Who was this girl who had come like a queen from out of the
wilderness, and this man who bore with him the manner of a courtier?
Was it possible, after all, that they were of the forests? And where
was Fort o' God? He had never heard of it before, and as he thought of
Jeanne's strange, rich dress, of the heliotrope-scented handkerchief,
of the old-fashioned rapier at Pierre's side, and of the exquisite
grace with which the girl had left him he wondered if such a place as
this Fort o' God must be could exist in the heart of the desolate
northland. Pierre had said that they had come from Fort o' God. But
were they a part of it?

He fell asleep, the resolution formed in his mind to investigate as
soon as he found the opportunity. There would surely be those at
Churchill who would know these people; if not, they would know of Fort
o' God.

Philip found Gregson awake and dressed when he rolled out of his bunk a
few hours later. Gregson had breakfast ready.

"You're a good one to have company," growled the artist. "When you go
out mooning again please take me along, will you? Chuck your head in
that pail of water and let's eat. I'm starved."

Philip noticed that his companion had tacked the sketch against one of
the logs above the table.

"Pretty good for imagination, Greggy," he said, nodding. "Burke will
jump at that if you do it in colors."

"Burke won't get it," replied Gregson, soberly, seating himself at the
table. "It won't be for sale."

"Why?"

Gregson waited until Philip had seated himself before he answered.

"Look here, old man--get ready to laugh. Split your sides, if you want
to. But it's God's truth that the girl I saw yesterday is the only girl
I've ever seen that I'd be willing to die for!"

"To be sure," agreed Philip. "I understand."

Gregson stared at him in surprise. "Why don't you laugh?" he asked.

"It is not a laughing matter," said Philip. "I say that I understand.
And I do."

Gregson looked from Philip's face to the picture.

"Does it--does it hit you that way, Phil?"

"She is very beautiful."

"She is more than that," declared Gregson, warmly. "If I ever looked
into an angel's face it was yesterday, Phil. For just a moment I met
her eyes--"

"And they were--"

"Wonderful!"

"I mean--the color," said Philip, engaging himself with the food.

"They were blue or gray. It is the first time I ever looked into a
woman's eyes without being sure of the color of them. It was her hair,
Phil--not this tinsel sort of gold that makes you wonder if it's real,
but the kind you dream about. You may think me a loon, but I'm going to
find out who she is and where she is as soon as I have done with this
breakfast."

"And Lord Fitzhugh?"

A shadow passed over Gregson's face. For a few moments he ate in
silence. Then he said:

"That's what kept me awake after you had gone--thinking of Lord
Fitzhugh and this girl. See here, Phil. She isn't one of the kind up
here. There was breeding and blood in every inch of her, and what I am
wondering is if these two could be associated in any way. I don't want
it to be so. But--it's possible. Beautiful young women like her don't
come, traveling up to this knob-end of the earth alone, do they?"

Philip did not pursue the subject. A quarter of an hour later the two
young men left the cabin, crossed the ridge, and walked together down
into Churchill. Gregson went to the Company's store, while Philip
entered the building occupied by Pearce. Pearce was at his desk. He
looked up with tired, puffy eyes, and his fat hands lay limply before
him. Philip knew that he had not been to bed. His oily face strove to
put on an appearance of animation and business as Philip entered.

Philip produced a couple of cigars and took a chair opposite him.

"You look bushed, Pearce," he began. "Business must be rushing. I saw a
light in your window after midnight, and I came within an ace of
calling. Thought you wouldn't like to be interrupted, so I put off my
business until this morning."

"Insomnia," said Pearce, huskily. "I can't sleep. Suppose you saw me at
work through the window?" There was almost an eager haste in his
question.

"Saw nothing but the light," replied Philip, carelessly. "You know this
country pretty well, don't you, Pearce?"

"Been 'squatting' on prospects for eight years, waiting for this damned
railroad," said Pearce, interlacing his thick fingers. "I guess I know
it!"

"Then you can undoubtedly tell me the location of Fort o' God?"

"Fort o' What?"

"Fort o' God."

Pearce looked blank.

"It's a new one on me," he said, finally. "Never heard of it." He rose
from his chair and went over to a big map hanging against the wall.
Studiously he went over it with the point of his stubby forefinger.
"This is the latest from the government," he continued, with his back
to Philip, "but it ain't here. There's a God's Lake down south of
Nelson House, but that's the only thing with a God about it north of
fifty-three."

"It's not so far south as that," said Philip, rising.

Pearce's little eyes were fixed on him shrewdly.

"Never heard of it," he repeated. "What sort of a place is it, a post--"

"I have no idea," replied Philip. "I came for information more out of
curiosity than anything else. Perhaps I misunderstood the name. I'm
much obliged."

He left Pearce in his chair and went directly to the factor's quarters.
Bludsoe, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company in the far north,
could give him no more information than had Pearce. He had never heard
of Fort o' God. He could not remember the name of Couchee. During the
next two hours Philip talked with French, Indian, and half-breed
trappers, and questioned the mail runner, who had come in that morning
from the south. No one could tell him of Fort o' God.

Had Pierre lied to him? His face flushed with anger as this thought
came to him. In the next breath he assured himself that Pierre was not
a man who would lie. He had measured him as a man who would fight, and
not one who would lie. Besides, he had voluntarily given the
information that he and Jeanne were from Fort o' God. There had been no
excuse for falsehood.

He purposely directed his movements so that he would not come into
contact with Gregson, little dreaming that his artist friend was
working under the same formula. He lunched with the factor, and a
little later went boldly back to the cliff where he had met Jeanne and
Pierre the preceding night. Although he had now come to expect no
response to what he had written, he carefully examined the rocks about
him. Then he set out through the forest in the direction from which had
come the howling of the wolf-dog.

He searched until late in the afternoon, but found no signs of a recent
camp. For several miles he followed the main trail that led northward
from Fort Churchill. He crossed three times through the country between
this trail and the edge of the Bay, searching for smoke from the top of
every ridge that he climbed, listening for any sound that might give
him a clue. He visited the shack of an old half-breed deep in the
forest beyond the cliff, but its aged tenant could give him no
information. He had not seen Pierre and Jeanne, nor had he heard the
howling of their dog.

Tired and disappointed, Philip returned to Churchill. He went directly
to his cabin and found Gregson waiting for him. There was a curious
look in the artist's face as he gazed questioningly at his friend. His
immaculate appearance was gone. He looked like one who had passed
through an uncomfortable hour or two. Perspiration had dried in dirty
streaks on his face, and his hands were buried dejectedly in his
trousers pockets. He rose to his feet and stood before his companion.

"Look at me, Phil--take a good long look," he urged.

Philip stared.

"Am I awake?" demanded the artist. "Do I look like a man in his right
senses? Eh, tell me!"

He turned and pointed to the sketch hanging against the wall.

"Did I see that girl, or didn't I?" he went on, not waiting for Philip
to answer. "Did I dream of seeing her? Eh? By thunder, Phil--" He
whirled upon his companion, a glow of excitement taking the place of
the fatigue in his eyes. "I couldn't find her to-day. I've hunted in
every shack and brush heap in and around Churchill. I've hunted until
I'm so tired I can hardly stand up. And the devil of it is, I can find
no one else who got more than a glimpse of her, and then they did not
see her as I did. She had nothing on her head when I saw her, but I
remember now that something like a heavy veil fell about her shoulders,
and that she was lifting it when she passed. Anyway, no one saw her
like--that." He pointed to the sketch. "And she's gone--gone as
completely as though she came in a flying-machine and went away in one.
She's gone--unless--"

"What?"

"Unless she is in concealment right here in Churchill. She's gone--or
hiding."

"You have reason to suspect that she would be hiding," said Philip,
concealing the effect of the other's words upon him.

Gregson was uneasy. He lighted a cigarette, puffed at it once or twice,
and tossed it through the open door. Suddenly he reached in his coat
pocket and pulled out an envelope.

"Deuce take it, if I know whether I have or not!" he cried. "But--look
here, Phil. I saw the mail come in to-day, and I walked up as bold as
you please and asked if there was anything for Lord Fitzhugh. I showed
the other letter, and said I was Fitzhugh's agent. It went. And I
got--this!"

Philip snatched at the letter which Gregson held out to him. His
fingers trembled as he unfolded the single sheet of paper which he drew
forth. Across it was written a single line:

Don't lose an hour. Strike now.

There was nothing more, except a large ink blot under the words. The
envelope was addressed in the same hand as the one he had previously
received. The men stared into each other's face.

"It's singular, that's all," pursued Gregson. "Those words are
important. The writer expects that they will reach Lord Fitzhugh
immediately, and as soon as he gets them you can look for war. Isn't
that their significance? I repeat that it is singular this girl should
come here so mysteriously, and disappear still more so, just at this
psychological moment; and it is still more puzzling when you take into
consideration the fact that two hours before the runner came in from
the south another person inquired for Lord Fitzhugh's mail!"

Philip started.

"And they told you this?"

"Yes. It was a man who asked--a stranger. He gave no name and left no
word. Now, if it should happen to be the man who was with the girl when
I saw her--and we can find him--we've as good as got this Lord
Fitzhugh. If we don't find him--and mighty soon--it's up to us to start
for your camps and put them into fighting shape. See the point?"

"But we've got the letter," said Philip. "Fitzhugh won't receive the
final word, and that will delay whatever plot he has ready to spring."

"My dear Phil," said Gregson, softly. "I always said that you were the
fighter and I the diplomat, yours the brawn and mine the brain. Don't
you see what this means? I'll gamble my right hand that these very
words have been sent to Lord Fitzhugh at two or three different points,
so that they would be sure of reaching him. I'm just as positive that
he has already received a copy of the letter which we have. Mark my
words, it's catch Lord Fitzhugh within the next few days--or fight!"

Philip sat down, breathing heavily.

"I'll send word to MacDougall," he said. "But I--I must wait for the
ship!"

"Why not leave word for Brokaw and join MacDougall?"

"Because when the ship comes in I believe that a large part of this
mystery will be cleared up," replied Philip. "It is necessary that I
remain here. That will give us a few days in which to make a further
search for these people."

Gregson did not urge the point, but replaced the second letter in his
pocket with the first. During the evening he remained at the cabin.
Philip returned to Churchill. For an hour he sat among the ruins of the
old fort, striving to bring some sort of order out of the chaos of
events that had occurred during the past few days. He was almost
convinced that he ought to reveal all that he knew to Gregson, and yet
several reasons kept him from doing so. If Miss Brokaw was on the
London ship when it arrived at Churchill, there would be no necessity
of disclosing that part of his own history which he was keeping secret
within himself. If Eileen was not on the ship her absence would be
sufficient proof to him that she was in or near Churchill, and in this
event he knew that it would be impossible for him to keep from
associating with her movements not only those of Lord Fitzhugh, but
also those of Jeanne and Pierre and of Brokaw himself. He could see but
two things to do at present, wait and watch. If Miss Brokaw was not
with her father, he would take Gregson fully into his confidence.

The next morning he despatched a messenger with a letter for
MacDougall, at Blind Indian Lake, warning him to be on his guard and to
prepare the long line of sub-stations for possible attack. All this day
Gregson remained in the cabin.

"It won't do for me to make myself too evident," he explained. "I've
called for Lord Fitzhugh's mail, and I'd better lie as low as possible
until the corn begins to pop."

Philip again searched the forests to the north and west with the hope
of finding some trace of Pierre and Jeanne. The forest people were
beginning to come into Churchill from all directions to be present at
the big event of the year--the arrival of the London ship--and Philip
made inquiries on every trail. No one had seen those whom he described.
The fourth and fifth days passed without any developments. So far as he
could discover there was no Fort o' God, no Jeanne and Pierre Couchee.
He was completely baffled. The sixth day he spent in the cabin with
Gregson. On the morning of the seventh there came from far out over the
Bay the hollow booming of a cannon.

It was the signal which for two hundred years the ships from over the
sea had given to the people of Churchill.

By the time the two young men had finished their breakfasts and climbed
to the top of the ridge overlooking the Bay, the vessel had dropped
anchor half a mile off shore, where she rode safe from the rocks at low
tide. Along the shore below them, where Churchill lay, the forest
people were gathered in silent, waiting groups. Philip pointed to the
factor's big York boat, already two-thirds of the way to the ship.

"We should have gone with Bludsoe," he said. "Brokaw will think this a
shabby reception on our part, and Miss Brokaw won't be half flattered.
We'll go down and get a good position on the pier."

Fifteen minutes later they were thrusting themselves through the crowd
of men, women, children, and dogs congregated at the foot of the long
stone pier alongside which the ship would lie for two or three hours at
each high tide. Philip stopped among a number of Crees and half-breeds,
and laid a detaining hand upon Gregson's arm.

"This is near enough, if you don't want to make yourself conspicuous,"
he said.

The York boat was returning. Philip pulled a cigar from his pocket and
lighted it. He felt his heart throbbing excitedly as the boat drew
nearer. He looked at Gregson. The artist was taking short, quick puffs
on his cigarette, and Philip wondered at the evident eagerness with
which he was watching the approaching craft.

Until the boat ran close up under the pier its sail hid the occupants.
While the canvas still fluttered in the light wind Bludsoe sprang from
the bow out upon the rocks with a rope. Three or four of his men
followed. With a rattle of blocks and rings the sheet dropped like a
huge white curtain, and Philip took a step forward, scarce restraining
the exclamation that forced itself to his lips at the picture which it
revealed. Standing on the broad rail, her slender form poised for the
quick upward step, one hand extended to Bludsoe, was Eileen Brokaw! In
another instant she was upon the pier, facing the strange people before
her, while her father clambered out of the boat behind. There was a
smile of expectancy on her lips as she scanned the dark, silent faces
of the forest people. Philip knew that she was looking for him. His
pulse quickened. He turned for a moment to see the effect of the girl's
appearance upon Gregson.

The artist's two hands had gripped his arm. They closed now until his
fingers were like cords of steel. His face was white, his lips set into
thin lines. For a breath he stood thus, while Miss Brokaw's scrutiny
traveled nearer to them. Then, suddenly, he released his hold and
darted back among the half-breeds and Indians, his face turning to
Philip's in one quick, warning appeal.

He was not a moment too soon, for scarce had he gone when Miss Brokaw
caught sight of Philip's tall form at the foot of the pier. Philip did
not see the signal which she gave him. He was staring at the line of
faces ahead of him. Two people had worked their way through that line,
and suddenly every muscle in his body became tense with excitement and
joy. They were Pierre and Jeanne!

He caught his breath at what happened then. He saw Jeanne falter for a
moment. He noticed that she was now dressed like the others about her,
and that Pierre, who stood at her shoulder, was no longer the fine
gentleman of the rock. The half-breed bent over her, as if whispering
to her, and then Jeanne ran out from those about her to Eileen, her
beautiful face flushed with joy and welcome as she reached out her arms
to the other woman. Philip saw a sudden startled look leap into Miss
Brokaw's face, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. She stared at
the forest girl, drew herself haughtily erect, and, with a word which
he could not hear, turned to Bludsoe and her father. For an instant
Jeanne stood as if some one had struck her a blow. Then, slowly, she
turned. The flush was gone from her face. Her beautiful mouth was
quivering, and Philip fancied that he could hear the low sobbing of her
breath. With a cry in which he uttered no name, but which was meant for
her, he sprang forward into the clear space of the pier. She saw him,
and darted back among her people. He would have followed, but Miss
Brokaw was coming to him now, her hand held out to him, and a step
behind were Brokaw and the factor.

"Philip!" she cried.

He spoke no word as he crushed her hand. The hot grip of his fingers,
the deep flush in his face, was interpreted by her as a welcome which
it did not require speech to strengthen. He shook hands with Brokaw,
and as the three followed after the factor his eyes sought vainly for
Pierre and Jeanne.

They were gone, and he felt suddenly a thrill of repugnance at the
gentle pressure of Eileen Brokaw's hand upon his arm.



VIII


Philip did not see the hundred staring eyes that followed in wonderment
the tall, beautiful girl who walked at his side. He knew that Miss
Brokaw was talking and laughing, and that he was nodding his head and
answering her, while his brain raged for an idea that would give him an
excuse for leaving her to follow Jeanne and Pierre. The facts that
Gregson had left him so strangely, that Eileen had come with her
father, and that, instead of clearing up the mystery in which they were
so deeply involved, the arrival of the London ship had even more
hopelessly entangled them, were forgotten for the moment in the desire
to intercept Jeanne and Pierre before they could leave Churchill. Miss
Brokaw herself unconsciously gave him the opportunity for which he was
seeking.

"You don't look very happy, Philip," she exclaimed, in a chiding voice,
meant only for his ears. "I thought--perhaps--my coming would make you
glad."

Philip caught eagerly at the half question in her voice.

"I feared you would notice it," he said, quickly. "I was afraid you
would think me indifferent because I did not go out to meet you in the
boat, and because I stood hidden at the end of the pier when you
landed. But I was looking for a man. I have been hunting for him for a
long time. And I saw his face just as we came through the crowd. That
is why I am--am rattled," he laughed. "Will you excuse me if I go back?
Can you find some excuse for the others? I will return in a few
minutes, and then you will not say that I am unhappy."

Miss Brokaw drew her hand from his arm.

"Surely I will excuse you," she cried. "Hurry, or you may lose him. I
would like to go with you if it is going to be exciting."

Philip turned to Brokaw and the factor, who were close behind them.

"I am compelled to leave you here," he explained. "I have excused
myself to Miss Brokaw, and will rejoin you almost immediately."

He lost no time in hurrying back to the shore of the Bay. As he had
expected, Jeanne and her companion were no longer in sight. There was
only one direction in which they could have disappeared so quickly, and
this was toward the cliff. Once hidden by the fringe of forest, he
hastened his steps until he was almost running. He had reached the base
of the huge mass of rock that rose up from the sea, when down the
narrow trail that led to the cliff there came a figure to meet him. It
was an Indian boy, and he advanced to question him. If Jeanne and
Pierre had passed that way the boy must surely have seen them.

Before he had spoken the lad ran toward him, holding out something in
his hand. The question on Philip's lips changed to an exclamation of
joy when he recognized the handkerchief which he had dropped upon the
rock a few nights before, or one so near like it that he could not have
told them apart. It was tied into a knot, and he felt the crumpling of
paper under the pressure of his fingers. He almost tore the bit of lace
and linen in his eagerness to rescue the paper, which a moment later he
held in his fingers. Three short lines, written in a fine,
old-fashioned hand, were all that it held for him. But they were
sufficient to set his heart, beating wildly.


Will Monsieur come to the top of the rock to-night, some time between
the hours of nine and ten.


There was no signature to the note, but Philip knew that only Jeanne
could have written it, for the letters were almost of microscopic
smallness, as delicate as the bit of lace in which they had been
delivered, and of a quaintness of style which added still more to the
bewildering mystery which already surrounded these people. He read the
lines half a dozen times, and then turned to find that the Indian boy
was slipping sway through the rocks.

"Here--you," he commanded, in English. "Come back!"

The boy's white teeth gleamed in a laugh as he waved his hand and
leaped farther away. From Philip his eyes shifted in a quick, searching
glance to the top of the cliff. In a flash Philip followed its
direction. He understood the meaning of the look. From the cliff Jeanne
and Pierre had seen his approach, and their meeting with the Indian boy
had made it possible for them to intercept him in this manner. They
were probably looking down upon him now, and in the gladness of the
moment Philip laughed up at the bare rocks and waved his cap above his
head as a signal of his acceptance of the strange invitation he had
received.

Vaguely he wondered why they had set the meeting for that night, when
in three or four minutes he could have joined them up there in broad
day. But the central tangle of the mystery that had grown up about him
during the past few days was too perplexing to embroider with such a
minor detail as this, and he turned back toward Churchill with the
feeling that everything was working in his favor. During the next few
hours he would clear up the tangle, and in addition to that he would
meet Jeanne and Pierre. It was the thought of Jeanne, and not of the
surprises which he was about to explain, that stirred his blood as he
hurried back to the Fort.

It was his intention to return to Eileen and her father. But he changed
this. He would first hunt up Gregson and begin his work there. He knew
that the artist would be expecting him, and he went directly to the
cabin, escaping notice by following along the fringe of the forest.

Gregson was pacing back and forth across the cabin floor when Philip
arrived. His steps were quick and excited. His hands were thrust deep
in his trousers pockets. The butts of innumerable half-smoked
cigarettes lay scattered under his feet. He ceased his restless
movement upon his companion's interruption, and for a moment or two
gazed at Philip in blank silence.

"Well," he said, at last, "have you got anything to say?"

"Nothing," said Philip. "It's beyond me, Greggy. For Heaven's sake give
me an explanation!"

There was nothing womanish in the hard lines of Gregson's face now. He
spoke with the suggestion of a sneer.

"You knew--all the time," he said, coldly. "You knew that Miss Brokaw
and the girl whom I drew were one and the same person. What was the
object of your little sensation?"

Philip ignored his question. He stepped quickly up to Gregson and
seized him by the arm.

"It is impossible!" he cried, in a low voice. "They cannot be the same
person. That ship out there has not touched land since she left
Halifax. Until she hove in sight off Churchill she hasn't been within
two hundred miles of a coast this side of Hudson's Strait. Miss Brokaw
is as new to this country as you. It is beyond all reason to suppose
anything else."

"Nevertheless," said Gregson, quietly, "it was Miss Brokaw whom I saw
the other day, and that is Miss Brokaw's picture."

He pointed to the sketch, and freed his arm to light another cigarette.
There was a peculiar tone of finality in his voice which warned Philip
that no amount of logic or arguing on his part would change his
friend's belief. Gregson looked at him over his lighted match.

"It was Miss Brokaw," he said again. "Perhaps it is within reason to
suppose that she came to Churchill in a balloon, dropped into town for
luncheon, and departed in a balloon, descending by some miraculous
chance aboard the ship that was bringing her father. However it may
have happened, she was in Churchill a few days ago. On that hypothesis
I am going to work, and as a consequence I am going to ask you for the
indefinite loan of the Lord Fitzhugh letter. Will you give me your word
to say nothing of that letter--for a few days?"

"It is almost necessary to show it to Brokaw," hesitated Philip.

"Almost--but not quite," Gregson caught him up. "Brokaw knows the
seriousness of the situation without that letter. See here, Phil--you
go out and fight, and let me handle this end of the business. Don't
reveal me to the Brokaws. I don't want to meet--her--yet, though God
knows if it wasn't for my confounded friendship for you I'd go over
there with you this minute. She was even more beautiful than when I saw
her--before."

"Then there is a difference," laughed Philip, meaningly.

"Not a difference, but a little better view," corrected the artist.

"Now, if we could only find the other girl, what a mess you'd be in,
Greggy! By George, but this is beginning to have its humorous as well
as its tragic side. I'd give a thousand dollars to have this other
golden-haired beauty appear upon the scene!"

"I'll give a thousand if you produce her," retorted Gregson.

"Good!" laughed Philip, holding out a hand. "I'll report again this
afternoon or to-night."

Inwardly he felt himself in no humorous mood as he retraced his steps
to Churchill. He had thought to begin his work of clearing up the
puzzling situation with Gregson, and Gregson had failed him completely
by his persistence in the belief that Miss Brokaw was the girl whose
face he had seen more than a week before. Was it possible, after all,
that the ship had touched at some point up the coast? The supposition
was preposterous. Yet before rejoining the Brokaws he sought out the
captain and found that the company's vessel had come directly from
Halifax without a change or stop in her regular course. The word of the
company's captain cleared up his doubts in one direction; it mystified
him more than ever in another. He was convinced that Gregson had not
seen Miss Brokaw until that morning. But who was Eileen's double? Where
was she at this moment? What peculiar combination of circumstance had
drawn them both to Churchill at this particularly significant time? It
was impossible for him not to associate the girl whom Gregson had
encountered, and who so closely resembled Eileen, with Lord Fitzhugh
and the plot against his company. And it struck him with a certain
feeling of dread that, if his suspicions were true, Jeanne and Pierre
must also be mixed up in the affair. For had not Jeanne, in her error,
greeted Eileen as though she were a dear friend?

He went directly to the factor's house, and knocked at the door opening
into the rooms occupied by Brokaw and his daughter. Brokaw admitted
him, and at Philip's searching glance about the room he nodded toward a
closed inner door and said:

"Eileen is resting. It's been a hard trip on her, Phil, and she hasn't
slept for two consecutive nights since we left Halifax."

Philip's keen glance told him that Brokaw himself had not slept much.
The promoter's eyes were heavy, with little puffy bags under them. But
otherwise he betrayed no signs of unrest or lack of rest. He motioned
Philip to a chair close to a huge fireplace in which a pile of birch
was leaping into flame, offered him a cigar, and plunged immediately
into business.

"It's hell, Philip," he said, in a hard, quiet voice, as though he were
restraining an outburst of passion with effort. "In another three
months we'd have been on a working basis, earning dividends. I've even
gone to the point of making contracts that show us five hundred per
cent, profit. And now--this!"

He dashed his half-burned cigar into the fire, and viciously bit the
end from another.

Philip was lighting his own, and there was a moment's silence, broken
sharply by the financier.

"Are your men prepared to fight?"

"If it's necessary," replied Philip. "We can at least depend upon a
part of them, especially the men at Blind Indian Lake. But--this
fighting--Why do you think it will come to that? If there is fighting
we are ruined."

"If the people rise against us in a body--yes, we are ruined. That is
what we must not permit. It is our one chance. I have done everything
in my power to beat this movement against us down south, and have
failed. Our enemies are completely masked. They have won popular
sentiment through the newspapers. Their next move is to strike directly
at us. Whatever is to happen will happen soon. The plan is to attack
us, to destroy our property, and the movement is to be advertised as a
retaliation for heinous outrages perpetrated by our men. It is possible
that the attack will not be by northerners alone, but by men brought in
for the purpose. The result will be the same--if it succeeds. The
attack is planned to be a surprise. Our one chance is to meet it, to
completely frustrate it--to strike an overwhelming blow, and to capture
enough of our assailants to give us the evidence we must have."

Brokaw was excited. He emphasized his words with angry sweeps of his
arms. He clenched his fists, and his face grew red. He was not like the
old, shrewd, indomitable Brokaw, completely master of himself, never
revealing himself beyond the unruffled veil of his self-possession, and
Philip was surprised. He had expected that Brokaw's wily brain would
bring with it half a dozen schemes for the quiet undoing of their
enemies. And now here was Brokaw, the man who always hedged himself in
with legal breast-works--who never revealed himself to the shot of his
enemies--enlisting himself for a fight in the open! Philip had told
Gregson that there would be a fight. He was firmly convinced that there
would be a fight. But he had never believed that Brokaw would come to
join in it. He leaned toward the financier, his face flushed a little
by the warmth of the fire and by the knowledge that Brokaw was
relinquishing the situation entirely into his hands. If it came to
fighting, he would win. He was confident of himself there. But--

"What will be the result if we win?" he asked.

"If we secure those who will give the evidence we need--evidence that
the movement against us is a plot to destroy our company, the
government will stand by us," replied Brokaw. "I have sounded the
situation there. I have filed a formal declaration to the effect that
such a movement is on foot, and have received a promise that the
commissioner of police will investigate the matter. But before that
happens our enemies will strike. There is no time for red tape or
investigations. We must achieve our own salvation. And to achieve that
we must fight."

"And if we lose?"

Brokaw lifted his hands and shoulders with a significant gesture.

"The moral effect will be tremendous," he said. "It will be shown that
the entire north is inimical to our company, and the government will
withdraw our option. We will be ruined. Our stockholders will lose
every cent invested."

In moments of mental energy Philip was restless. He rose from his chair
now and moved softly back and forth across the carpeted floor of the
big room, shrouded in tobacco smoke. Should he break his word to
Gregson and tell Brokaw of Lord Fitzhugh? But, on second thought, what
good would come of it? Brokaw was already aware of the seriousness of
the situation. In some one of his unaccountable ways he had learned
that their enemies were to strike almost immediately, and his own
revelation of the Fitzhugh letters would but strengthen this evidence.
He would keep his faith with Gregson for the promised day or two. For
an hour the two men were alone in the room. At the end of that time
their plans were settled. The next morning Philip would leave for Blind
Indian Lake and prepare for war. Brokaw would follow two or three days
later.

A heavy weight seemed lifted from Philip's shoulders when he left
Brokaw. After months of worry and weeks of physical inaction he saw his
way clear for the first time. And for the first time, too, something
seemed to have come into his life that filled him with a strange
exhilaration, and made him forgetful of the gloom that had settled over
him during these last months. That night he would see Jeanne. His body
thrilled at the thought, until for a time he forgot that he would also
see and talk with Eileen. A few days before he had told Gregson that it
would be suicidal to fight the northerners; now he was eager for
action, eager to begin and end the affair--to win or lose. If he had
stopped to analyze the change in himself he would have found that the
beautiful girl whom he had first seen on the moonlit rock was at the
bottom of it. And yet Jeanne was a northerner, one of those against
whom his actions must be directed. But he had confidence in himself,
confidence in what that night would bring forth. He was like one freed
from a bondage that had oppressed him for a long time, and the fact
that he might be compelled to fight Jeanne's own people did not destroy
his hopefulness, the new joy and excitement that he had found in life.
As he hurried back to his cabin he told himself that both Jeanne and
Pierre had read what he had sent to them in the handkerchief; their
response was a proof that they understood him, and deep down a voice
kept telling him that if it came to fighting they three, Pierre,
Jeanne, and himself, would rise or fall together. A few hours had
transformed him into Gregson's old appreciation of the fighting man.
Long and tedious months of diplomacy, of political intrigue, of bribery
and dishonest financiering, in which he had played but the part of a
helpless machine, were gone. Now he held the whip-hand; Brokaw had
acknowledged his own surrender. He was to fight--a clean, fair fight on
his part, and his blood leaped in every vein like marshaling armies.
That nights on the rock, he would reveal himself frankly to Pierre and
Jeanne. He would tell them of the plot to disrupt the company, and of
the work ahead of him. And after that--

He thrust open the door of his cabin, eager to enlist Gregson in his
enthusiasm. The artist was not in. Philip noticed that the
cartridge-belt and the revolver which usually hung over Gregson's bunk
were gone. He never entered the cabin without looking at the sketch of
Eileen Brokaw. Something about it seemed to fascinate him, to challenge
his presence. Now it was missing from the wall.

He threw off his coat and hat, filled his pipe, and began gathering up
his few possessions, ready for packing. It was noon before he was
through, and Gregson had not returned. He boiled himself some coffee
and sat down to wait. At five o'clock he was to eat supper with the
Brokaws and the factor; Eileen, through her father, had asked him to
join her an hour or two earlier in the big room. He waited until four,
and then left a brief note for Gregson upon the table.

It was growing dusk in the forest. From the top of the ridge Philip
caught the last red glow of the sun, sinking far to the south and west.
A faint radiance of it still swept over his head and mingled with the
thickening gray gloom of the northern sea. Across the dip in the Bay
the huge, white-capped cliff seemed to loom nearer and more gigantic in
the whimsical light. For a few moments a red bar shot across it, and as
the golden fire faded and died away Philip could not but think it was
like a torch beckoning to him. A few hours more, and where that light
had been he would see Jeanne. And now, down there, Eileen was waiting
for him.

His pulse quickened as he passed beyond the ancient fort, over the
burial-place of the dead, and into Churchill. He met no one at the
factor's, and the door leading into Miss Brokaw's room was partly ajar.
A great fire was burning in the fireplace, and he saw Eileen seated in
the rich glow of it, smiling at him as he entered. He closed the door,
and when he turned she had risen and was holding out her hands to him.
She had dressed for him, almost as on that night of the Brokaw ball. In
the flashing play of the fire her exquisite arms and shoulders shone
with dazzling beauty; her eyes laughed at him; her hair rippled in a
golden flood. Faintly there came to him, filling the room slowly,
tingling his nerves, the sweet scent of heliotrope--the perfume that
had filled his nostrils on that other night, a long time ago, the sweet
scent that had come to him in the handkerchief dropped on the rock, the
breath of the bit of lace that had bound Jeanne's hair!

Eileen moved toward him. "Philip," she said, "now are you glad to see
me?"



IX


Her voice broke the spell that had held him for a moment.

"I am glad to see you," he cried, quickly, seizing both her hands.
"Only I haven't quite yet awakened from my dream. It seems too
wonderful, almost unreal. Are you the old Eileen who used to shudder
when I told you of a bit of jungle and wild beasts, and who laughed at
me because I loved to sleep out-of-doors and tramp mountains, instead
of decently behaving myself at home? I demand an explanation. It must
be a wonderful change--"

"There has been a change," she interrupted him. "Sit down,
Philip--there!" She nestled herself on a stool, close to his feet, and
looked up at him, her hands clasped under her chin, radiantly lovely.
"You told me once that girls like me simply fluttered over the top of
life like butterflies; that we couldn't understand life, or live it,
until somewhere--at some time--we came into touch with nature. Do you
remember? I was consumed with rage then--at your frankness, at what I
considered your impertinence. I couldn't get what you said out of my
mind. And I'm trying it."

"And you like it?" He put the question almost eagerly.

"Yes." She was looking at him steadily, her beautiful gray eyes meeting
his own in a silence that stirred him deeply. He had never seen her
more beautiful. Was it the firelight on her face, the crimson leapings
of the flames, that gave her skin a richer hue? Was it the mingling of
fire and shadow that darkened her cheeks? An impulse made him utter the
words which passed through his mind.

"You have already tried it," he said. "I can see the effects of it in
your face. It would take weeks in the forests to do that."

The gray eyes faltered; the flush deepened.

"Yes, I have tried it. I spent a half of the summer at our cottage on
the lake."

"But it is not tan," he persisted, thrilled for a moment by the
discoveries he was making. "It is the wind; it is the open; it is the
smoke of camp-fires; it is the elixir of balsam and cedar and pine.
That is what I see in your face--unless it is the fire."

"It is the fire, partly," she said. "And the rest is the wind and the
open of the seas we have come across, and the sting of icebergs. Ugh:
my face feels like nettles!"

She rubbed her cheeks with her two hands, and then held up one hand to
Philip.

"Look," she said. "It's as rough as sand-paper. Isn't that a change? I
didn't even wear gloves on the ship. I'm an enthusiast. I'm going down
there with you, and I'm going to fight. Now have you got anything to
say against me, Mr. Philip?"

There was a lightness in her words, and yet not in her voice. In her
manner was an uneasiness, mingled with an almost childish eagerness for
him to answer, which Philip could not understand. He fancied that once
or twice he had caught the faintest sign of a break in her voice.

"You really mean to hazard this adventure?" he cried, softly, in his
astonishment. "You, whom wild horses couldn't drag into the wilderness,
as you once told me!"

"Yes," she affirmed, drawing her stool back out of the increasing heat
of the fire. Her face was almost entirely in shadow now, and she did
not look at Philip. "I am beginning to--to love adventure," she went
on, in an even voice. "It was an adventure coming up. And when we
landed down there something curious happened. Did you see a girl who
thought that she knew me--"

She stopped, and a sudden flash of the fire lit up her eyes, fixed on
him intently from between her shielding hands.

"I saw her run out and speak to you," said Philip, his heart beating at
double-quick. He leaned over so that he was looking squarely into Miss
Brokaw's face.

"Did you know her?" she asked.

"I have seen her only twice--once before she spoke to you."

"If I meet her again I shall apologize," said Eileen. "It was her
mistake, and she startled me. When she ran out to me like that, and
held out her hands I--I thought of beggars."

"Beggars!" almost shouted Philip. "A beggar!" He caught himself with a
laugh, and to cover his sudden emotion turned to lay a fresh piece of
birch on the fire. "We don't have beggars up here."

The door opened behind them and Brokaw entered. Philip's face was red
when he greeted him. For half an hour after that he cursed himself for
not being as clever as Gregson. He knew that there was a change in
Eileen Brokaw, a change which nature had not worked alone, as she
wished him to believe. Then, and at supper, he tried to fathom her. At
times he detected the metallic ring of what was unreal and make-believe
in what she said; at other times she seemed stirred by emotions which
added immeasurably to the sweetness and truthfulness of her voice. She
was nervous. He found her eyes frequently seeking her father's face,
and more than once they were filled with a mysterious questioning, as
if within Brokaw's brain there lurked hidden things which were new to
her, and which she was struggling to understand. She no longer held the
old fascination for Philip, and yet he conceded that she was more
beautiful than ever. Until to-night he had never seen the shadow of
sadness in her eyes; he had never seen them darken as they darkened
now, when she listened with almost feverish interest to the words which
passed between himself and Brokaw. He was certain that it was not a
whim that had brought her into the north. It was impossible for him to
believe that he had piqued at her vanity until she had leaped into
action, as she had suggested to him while they were sitting before the
fire. Could it be that she had accompanied her father because
he--Philip Whittemore--was in the north?

The thought drew a slow flush into his face, and his uneasiness
increased when he knew that she was looking at him. He was glad when it
came time for cigars, and Eileen excused herself. He opened the door
for her, and told her that he probably would not see her again until
morning, as he had an important engagement for the evening. She gave
him her hand, and for a moment he felt the clinging of her fingers
about his own.

"Good night," she whispered.

"Good night."

She drew her hand half away, and then, suddenly, raised her eyes
straight to his own. They were calm, quiet, beautiful, and yet there
came a quick little catch in her throat as she leaned so close to him
that she touched his breast, and said:

"It will be best--best for everything--everybody--if you can influence
father to stay at Fort Churchill."

She did not wait for him to reply, but hurried toward her room. For a
moment Philip stared after her in amazement. Then he took a step as if
to follow her, to call her back. The impulse left him as quickly as it
came, and he rejoined Brokaw and the factor.

He looked at his watch. It was seven o'clock. At half-past seven he
shook hands with the two men, lighted a fresh cigar, and passed out
into the night. It was early for his meeting with Pierre and Jeanne,
but he went down to the shore and walked slowly in the direction of the
cliff. He was still an hour early when he arrived at the great rock,
and sat down, with his face turned to the sea.

It was a white, radiant night, such as he had seen in the tropics. Only
here, in the north, his vision reached to greater distances. Churchill
lay lifeless in its pool of light; the ship hung like a black
silhouette in the distance, with a cloud of jet-black smoke rising
straight up from its funnels, and spreading out high up against the
sky, a huge, ebon monster that cast its shadow for half a mile over the
Bay. The shadow held Philip's eyes. Now it was like a gigantic face,
now like a monster beast--now it reached out in the form of a great
threatening hand, as though somewhere in the mystery of the north it
sought a spirit-victim as potent as itself.

Then the spell of it was broken. From the end of the shadow, which
reached almost to the base of the cliff on which Philip sat, there came
a sound. It was a clear, metallic sound that left the vibration of
steel in the air, and Philip leaned over the edge of the rock. Below
him the shadow was broken into a pool of rippling starlight. He heard
the faint dip of paddles, and suddenly a canoe shot from the shadow out
into the clear light of the moon and stars.

It was a large canoe. In it he could make out four figures. Three of
them were paddling; the fourth sat motionless in the bow. They passed
under him swiftly, guiding their canoe so that it was soon hidden in
the shelter of the cliff. By the faint reflections cast by the
disturbed water, Philip saw that the occupants of the canoe had made an
effort to conceal themselves by following the course of the dense
shadow. Only the chance sound had led him to observe them.

Under ordinary circumstances the passing of a strange canoe at night
would have had no significance for him. But at the present time it
troubled him. The manner of its approach through the shadow, the
strange quiet of its occupants, the stealth with which they had shot
the canoe under the cliff, were all unusual. Could the incident have
anything to do with Jeanne and Pierre?

He waited until he heard the tiny bell in his watch tinkle the
half-hour, and then he set out slowly over the moonlit rocks to the
north. Jeanne and Pierre would surely come from that direction. It was
impossible to miss them. He walked without sound in his moccasins,
keeping close to the edge of the cliff so that he could look out over
the Bay. Two or three hundred yards beyond the big rock the sea-wall
swung in sharply, disclosing the open water, like a still, silvery
sheet, for a mile or more. Philip scanned it for the canoe, but as far
as he could see there was not a shadow.

For a quarter of a mile he walked over the rocks, then returned. It was
nine o'clock. The moment had arrived for the appearance of Jeanne and
Pierre. He resumed his patrol of the cliff, and with each moment his
nervousness increased. What if Jeanne failed him? What if she did not
come to the rock? The mere thought made his heart sink with a sudden
painful throb. Until now the fear that Jeanne might disappoint him,
that she might not keep the tryst, had not entered his head. His faith
in this girl, whom he had seen but twice, was supreme.

A second and a third time he patrolled the quarter mile of cliff. Again
his watch tinkled the half-hour, and he knew that the last minutes of
the appointed time had come.

The third and last time he went beyond the quarter-mile limit,
searching in the white distances beyond. A low wind was rising from the
Bay; it rustled in the spruce and balsam tops of the forest that
reached up to the barren whiteness of the rock plateau on which he
stood; under him he heard, growing more and more distinct, the moaning
wash of the swelling tide. A moment of despair possessed him, and he
felt that he had lost.

Suddenly the wind brought to him a different sound--a shout far down
the cliff, a second cry, and then the scream of a woman, deadened by
the wash of the sea and the increasing sweep of the wind among the
trees.

He stood for a moment powerless, listening. The wind lulled, and the
woman's cry now came to him again--a voice that was filled with terror
rising in a wild appeal for help. With an answering shout he ran like a
swift-footed animal along the cliff. It was Jeanne who was calling! Who
else but Jeanne would be out there in the gray night--Jeanne and
Pierre? He listened as he ran, but there came no other sound. At last
he stopped, and drew in a great breath, to send out a shout that would
reach their ears.

Above the fierce beating of his heart, the throbbing intake of his
breath, he heard sounds which were not of the wind or the sea. He ran
on, and suddenly the cliff dropped from under his feet, and he found
himself on the edge of a great rift in the wall of rock, looking across
upon a strange scene. In the brilliant moonlight, with his back against
a rock, stood Pierre, his glistening rapier in his hand, his thin,
lithe body bent for the attack of three men who faced him. It was but a
moment's tableau. The men rushed in. Muffled cries, blows, a single
clash of steel, and Pierre's voice rose above the sound of conflict.
"For the love of God, give me help, M'sieur!" He had seen Philip rush
up to the edge of the break in the cliff, and as he fought he cried out
again.

"Shoot, M'sieur! In a moment it will be too late!"

Philip had drawn his heavy revolver. He watched for an opportunity. The
men were fighting now so that Pierre had been forced between his
assailants and the breach in the wall. There was no chance to fire
without hitting him.

"Run, Pierre!" shouted Philip. "Run--"

He fired once, over the heads of the fighters, and as Pierre suddenly
darted to one side in obedience to his command there came for the first
time a shot from the other side. The bullet whistled close to his ears.
A second shot, and Pierre fell down like one dead among the rocks.
Again Philip fired--a third and a fourth time, and one of the three who
were disappearing in the white gloom stumbled over a rock, and fell as
Pierre had fallen. His companions stopped, picked him up, and staggered
on with him. Philip's last shot missed, and before he could reload they
were lost among the upheaved masses of the cliff.

"Pierre!" he called. "Ho! Pierre Couchee!"

There was no answer from the other side.

He ran along the edge of the break, and in the direction of the forest
he found a place where he could descend. In his haste he fell; his
hands were scratched, blood flowed from a cut in his forehead when he
dragged himself up to the face of the cliff again. He tried to shout
when he saw a figure drag itself up from among the rocks, but his
almost superhuman exertions had left him voiceless. His wind whistled
from between his parted lips when he came to Pierre.

Pierre was supporting himself against a rock. His face was streaming
with blood. In his hand he held what remained of the rapier, which had
broken off close to the hilt. His eyes were blazing like a madman's,
and his face was twisted with an agony that sent a thrill of horror
through Philip.

"My hurt is nothing--nothing-M'sieur!" he gasped, understanding the
look in Philip's face. "It is Jeanne! They have gone--gone with
Jeanne!" The rapier slipped from his hand and he slid weakly down
against the rock. Philip dropped upon his knees, and with his
handkerchief began wiping the blood from the half-breed's face. For a
few moments Pierre's head hung limp against his shoulder.

"What is it, Pierre?" he urged. "Tell me--quick! They have gone with
Jeanne!"

Pierre's body grew rigid. With one great effort he seemed to marshal
all of his strength, and straightened himself.

"Listen, M'sieur," he said, speaking calmly. "They set upon us as we
were going to meet you at the rock. There were four. One of them is
dead--back there. The others--with Jeanne--have gone in the canoe. It
is death--worse than death--for her--"

His body writhed. In a passion he strove to rise to his feet. Then with
a groan he sank back, and for a moment Philip thought he was dying.

"I will go, Pierre," he cried. "I will bring her back. I swear it."

Pierre's hand detained him as he went to rise.

"You swear--"

"Yes."

"At the next break--there is a canoe. They have gone for the
Churchill--"

Pierre's voice was growing weaker. In a spasm of sudden fear at the
dizziness which was turning the night black for him he clutched at
Philip's arm.

"If you save her, M'sieur, do not bring her back," he whispered,
hoarsely. "Take her to Fort o' God. Lose not an hour--not a minute.
Trust no one. Hide yourselves. Fight--kill--but take her to Fort o'
God! You will do this--M'sieur--you promise--"

He fell back limp. Philip lowered him gently, holding his head so that
he could look into the staring eyes that were still open and
understanding.

"I will go, Pierre," he said. "I will take her to Fort o' God. And
you--"

A shadow was creeping over Pierre's eyes. He was still fighting to
understand, fighting to hold for another breath or two the
consciousness that was fast slipping from him.

"Listen," cried Philip, striving to rouse him. "You will not die. The
bullet grazed your head, and the wound has already stopped bleeding.
To-morrow you must go to Churchill and hunt up a man named Gregson--the
man I was with when you and Jeanne came to see the ship. Tell him that
an important thing has happened, and that he must tell the others I
have gone to the camps. He will understand. Tell him--tell him--"

He struggled to find some final word for Gregson. Pierre still looked
at him, his eyes half closed now.

Philip bent close down.

"Tell him," he said, "that I am on the trail of Lord Fitzhugh!"

Scarcely had he uttered the name when Pierre's closing eyes shot open.
A groaning cry burst from his lips, and, as if that name had aroused
the last spark of life and strength within him into action, he wrenched
himself from Philip's arms, striving to speak. A trickle of fresh blood
ran over his face. Incoherent sounds rattled in his throat, and then,
overcome by his effort, he dropped back unconscious. Philip wound his
handkerchief about the wounded man's head and straightened out his
limbs. Then he rose to his feet and reloaded his revolver. His hands
were steady now. His brain was clear; the enervating thrill of
excitement had gone from his body. Only his heart beat like a racing
engine.

He turned and ran in the direction which Pierre's assailants had taken,
his head lowered, his revolver held in front of him, on a level with
his breast. He had not gone a hundred yards when something stopped him.
In his path, with its face turned straight up to the moonlit sky, lay
the body of a man. For an instant Philip bent over it. The broken blade
of Pierre's rapier glistened under the man's throat. One lifeless hand
clutched at it, as though in the last moment of life he had tried to
draw it forth. The face was distorted, the eyes were still open, the
lips parted. Death had come with terrible suddenness.

Philip bent lower, and stared into the face of the dead man. Where had
he seen that face before?

Suddenly he remembered. He drew back, and a cold sweat seemed to break
out all at once over his face and body. This man who lay with the
broken blade of Pierre Couchee's rapier in his breast had come ashore
from the London ship that day in company with Eileen and her father!

For a space he was overwhelmed by the discovery. Everything that had
happened--the scene upon the rock when he first met Jeanne, the arrival
of the ship, the moment's tableau on the pier when Jeanne and Eileen
stood face to face--rushed upon him now as he gazed down into the
staring eyes at his feet. What did it all mean? Why had Lord Fitzhugh's
name been sufficient to drag the half-breed back from the brink of
unconsciousness? What significance was there in this strange
combination of circumstances that persisted in drawing Pierre and
Jeanne into the plot that threatened himself? Had there been truth,
after all, in those last words that he impressed upon the fainting
senses of Pierre Couchee's message to Gregson?

He waited to answer none of the questions that leaped through his
brain. To-morrow some one would find Pierre, or Pierre would crawl down
into Churchill. And then there would be the dead man to account for. He
shuddered as he returned his revolver into his holster and braced his
limbs. It was an unpleasant task, but he knew that it must be done--to
save Pierre. He lifted the body clear of the rocks, and bending under
its weight carried it to the edge of the cliff. Far below sounded the
wash of the sea. He shoved his burden over the edge, and listened.
After a moment there came a dull splash.

Then he hastened on, as Pierre had guided him.



X


Soon Philip slackened his pace, and looked anxiously ahead of him. From
where he stood the cliff sloped down to a white strip of beach that
reached out into the night as far as he could see, hemmed close in by
the black gloom of the forest. Half-way down the slope the moonlight
was cut by a dark streak, and he found this to be the second break. He
had no difficulty in descending. Its sides were smooth, as though worn
by water. At the bottom white, dry sand slipped under his feet. He made
his way between the walls, and darkness shut him in. The trail grew
rougher. Near the shore he stumbled blindly among huge rocks and piles
of crumbling slate, wondering why Jeanne and Pierre had come this way
when they might have taken a smoother road. Close to the stony beach,
where the light was a little better, he made out the canoe which Pierre
had drawn into the shadows.

Not until he had dragged it into the moonlight at the edge of the water
did he see that it was equipped as if for a long journey. Close to the
stern was a bulging pack, with a rifle strapped across it. Two or three
smaller caribou-skin bags lay in the center of the canoe. In the bow
was a thick nest of bearskin, and he knew that this was for Jeanne.

Cautiously Philip launched himself, and with silent sweeps of the
paddle that made scarcely the sound of a ripple in the water set out in
the direction of Churchill. Jeanne's captors had a considerable start
of him, but he felt confident of his ability to overtake them shortly
if Pierre had spoken with truth when he said that they would head for
the Churchill River. He had observed the caution with which Pierre's
assailants had approached the cliff, and he was sure that they would
double that caution in their return, especially as their attack had
been interrupted at the last moment. For this reason he paddled without
great haste, keeping well within the concealment of the precipitous
shore, with his ears and eyes keenly alive to discover a sign of those
who were ahead of him.

Opposite the rock where Pierre and Jeanne were to have met him he
stopped and stood up in the canoe. The wind had dispelled the smoke
shadow. Between him and the distant ship lay an unclouded sea.
Two-thirds of the distance to the vessel he made out the larger canoe,
rising and falling with the smooth undulations of the tide. He sank
upon his knees again and unstrapped Pierre's rifle. There was a
cartridge in the chamber. He made sure that the magazine was loaded,
and resumed his paddling.

His mind worked rapidly. Within half an hour, if he desired, he could
overtake the other canoe. And what then? There were three to one, if it
came to a fight--and how could he rescue Jeanne without a fight? His
blood was pounding eagerly, almost with pleasure at the promise of what
was ahead of him, and he laughed softly to himself as he thought of the
odds.

The ship loomed nearer; the canoe vanished behind it. A brief stop, a
dozen words of explanation, and Philip knew that he could secure
assistance from the vessel. After all, would that not be the wisest
course for him to pursue? For a moment he hesitated, and paddled more
slowly. If others joined with him in the rescue of Jeanne what excuse
could he offer for not bringing her back to Churchill? What would
happen if he returned with her? Why had Pierre roused himself from
something that was almost death to entreat him to take Jeanne to Fort
o' God?

At the thought of Fort o' God a new strength leaped into his arms and
body, urging him on to cope with the situation single-handed. If he
rescued Jeanne alone, and went on with her as he had promised Pierre,
many things that were puzzling him would be explained. It occurred to
him again that Jeanne and Pierre might be the key to the mysterious
plot that promised to crash out the life of the enterprise he had
founded in the north. He found reasons for this belief. Why had Lord
Fitzhugh's name had such a startling effect upon Pierre? Why was one of
his assailants a man fresh from the London ship that had borne Eileen
Brokaw and her father as passengers? He felt that Jeanne could explain
these things, as well as her brother. She could explain the strange
scene on the pier, when for a moment she had stood crushed and startled
before Eileen. She could clear up the mystery of Gregson's sketch, for
if there were two Eileen Brokaws, Jeanne would know. With these
arguments he convinced himself that he should go on alone. Yet, behind
them there was another and more powerful motive. He confessed to
himself that he would willingly accept double the chances against him
to achieve Jeanne's rescue without assistance and to accompany her to
Fort o' God. The thought of their being together, of the girl's
companionship--perhaps for days--thrilled him with exquisite
anticipation. An hour or so ago he had been satisfied in the assurance
that he would see her for a few minutes on the cliff. Since then fate
had played his way. Jeanne was his own, to save, to defend, to carry on
to Fort o' God.

Not for a moment did he hesitate at the danger ahead of him, and yet
his pursuit was filled with caution. Gregson, the diplomat, would have
seen the necessity of halting at the ship for help; Philip was
confident in himself. He knew that he would have at least three against
him, for he was satisfied that the man whom he had wounded on the cliff
was still in fighting trim. There might be others whom he had not taken
into account.

He passed so close under the stern of the ship that his canoe scraped
against her side. For a few minutes the vessel had obstructed his view,
but now he saw again, a quarter of a mile distant, the craft which he
was pursuing. Jeanne's captors were heading straight for the river, and
as the canoe was now partly broadside to him he could easily make out
the figures in her, but not distinctly enough to make sure of their
number. He shoved out boldly into the moonlight, and, instead of
following in his former course, he turned at a sharp angle in the
direction of the shore. If the others saw him, which was probable, they
would think that he was making a landing from the ship. Once he was in
the deep fringe of shadow along the shore he could redouble his
exertions and draw nearer to them without being observed.

No sooner had he readied the sheltering gloom than he bent to his
paddle and the light birch-bark fairly hissed through the water. Not
until he found himself abreast of the pursued did it occur to him that
he could beat them out to the mouth of the Churchill and lie in wait
for them. Every stroke of his paddle widened the distant between him
and the larger canoe. Fifteen minutes later he reached the edge of the
huge delta of wild rice and reeds through which the sluggish volume of
the river emptied into the Bay. The chances were that the approaching
canoe would take the nearest channel into the main stream, and Philip
concealed himself so that it would have to pass within twenty yards of
him.

From his ambuscade he looked out upon the approaching canoe. He was
puzzled by the slowness of its progress. At times it seemed to stand
still, and he could distinguish no movement at all among its occupants.
At first he thought they were undecided as to which course to pursue,
but a few minutes more sufficed to show that this was not the reason
for their desultory advance. The canoe was headed for the first
channel. The solution came when a low but clear whistle signaled over
the water. Almost instantly there came a responsive whistle from up the
channel.

Philip drew a quick breath, and a new sensation brought his teeth
together in sudden perplexity. It looked as though he had a bigger
fight before him than he had anticipated.

At the signal from up-stream he heard the quick dip of paddles, and the
canoe cut swiftly toward him. He drew back the hammer of Pierre's rule,
and cleared a little space through the reeds and grass so that his view
into the channel was unobstructed. Three or four well-directed shots, a
quick dash out into the stream, and he would possess Jeanne. This was
his first thought. It was followed by others, rapid as lightning, that
restrained his eagerness. The night-glow was treacherous to shoot by.
What if he should miss, or hit Jeanne--or in the sudden commotion and
destruction of his shots the canoe should be overturned? A single
error, the slightest mishap to himself, would mean the annihilation of
his hopes. Even if he succeeded in directing his shots with accuracy,
both himself and Jeanne would almost immediately be under fire from
those above.

He dropped back again behind the screen of reeds. The canoe drew
nearer. A moment more and it was almost abreast of him, and his heart
pounded like a swiftly beating hammer when he saw Jeanne in the stern.
She was leaning back as though unconscious. He could see nothing of her
face, but as the canoe passed within ten yards of his hiding-place he
saw the dark glow of her disheveled hair, which fell thickly over the
object against which she was resting. It was but a moment's view, and
they were gone. He had not looked at the three men in the canoe. His
whole being was centered upon Jeanne. He had seen no sign of life--no
movement in her body, not the flutter of a hand, and all his fears
leaped like brands of burning fire into his brain. He thought of the
inhuman plot which Lord Fitzhugh's letter had revealed; in the same
breath Pierre Couchee's words rang in his ears--"It is death--worse
than death--for her--"

Was Jeanne the first victim of that diabolical scheme to awaken the
wrath of the northland? In the madness which possessed him now Philip
shoved out his canoe while there was still danger of discovery.
Fortunately none of the pursued glanced back, and a turn in the channel
soon hid them from view. Philip had recovered his self-possession by
the time he reached the turn. He assured himself that Jeanne was
unharmed as yet, and that when he saw her she had probably fainted from
excitement and terror. Her fate still lay before her, somewhere in the
deep and undisturbed forests up the Churchill. His one hope was to
remain undiscovered and to rescue her at the last moment when she was
taken ashore by her captors.

He followed, close up against the reeds, never trusting himself out of
the shadows. After a little he heard voices, and a second canoe
appeared. There was a short pause, and the two canoes continued side by
side up the channel. A quarter of an hour brought both the pursuers and
the pursued into the main stream, which lay in black gloom between
forest walls that cut out all light but the shimmer of the stars.

No longer could Philip see those ahead of him, but he guided himself by
occasional voices and the dip of paddles. At times, when the stream
narrowed and the forest walls gave him deeper shelter, he drew
perilously near with the hope of overhearing what was said, but he
caught only an occasional word or two. He listened in vain for Jeanne's
voice. Once he heard her name spoken, and it was followed by a low
laugh from some one in the canoe that had waited at the mouth of the
Churchill. A dozen times during the first half-hour after they entered
the main stream Philip heard this same laughing voice.

After a time there fell a silence upon those ahead. No sound rose above
the steady dip of paddles, and the speed of the two canoes increased.
Suddenly, from far up the river, there came a voice, faintly at first,
but growing steadily louder, singing one of the wild half-breed songs
of the forest. The voice broke the silence of those in the canoes. They
ceased paddling, and Philip stopped. He heard low words, and after a
few moments the paddling was resumed, and the canoes turned in toward
the shore. Philip followed their movement, dropping fifty yards farther
down the stream, and thrust big birch-bark alongside a thick balsam
that had fallen into the river.

The singing voice approached rapidly. Five minutes later a long company
canoe floated down out of the gloom. It passed so near that Philip
could see the picturesque figure in the stern paddling and singing. In
the bow kneeled an Indian working in stoic silence. Between them, in
the body of the canoe, sat two men whom he knew at a glance were white
men. The strangers and their craft slipped by with the quickness of a
shadow.

Again Philip heard movements above him, and once more he took up the
pursuit. He wondered why Jeanne had not called for help when the
company canoe passed. If she was not hurt or unconscious, her captors
had been forced to hold a handkerchief or a brutal hand over her mouth,
perhaps at her throat! His blood grew hot with rage at the thought.

For three-quarters of an hour longer the swift paddling up-stream
continued without interruption. Then the river widened into a small
lake, and Philip was compelled to hold back until the two canoes, which
he could see clearly now, had passed over the exposed area.

By the time he dared to follow, Jeanne's captors were a quarter of a
mile ahead of him. He no longer heard their paddles when he entered the
stream at the upper end of the lake, and he bent to his work with
greater energy and less caution. Five minutes--ten minutes passed, and
he saw nothing, heard nothing. His strokes grew more powerful and the
canoe shot through the water with the swift cleavage of a knife. A
perspiration began to gather on his face, and a sudden chilling fear
entered him. Another five minutes and he stopped. The river swept out
ahead of him, broad and clear, for a quarter of a mile. There was no
sign of the canoes!

For a few moments he remained motionless, drifting back with the slow
current of the stream, stunned by the thought that he had allowed
Jeanne's captors to escape him. Had they heard him and dropped in to
shore to let him pass? He swung his canoe about and headed down-stream.
In that case he could not miss them, if he used caution. But if they
had turned into some creek hidden in the gloom--were even now picking
their way through a secret channel that led back from the river--

A groan burst from his lips as he thought of Jeanne. In that half mile
of river he could surely find where the canoes had gone, but it might
be too late. He went down in mid-stream, searching the shadows of both
shores. His heart sank like lead when he came to the lake. There was
but one thing to do now, and he ran his canoe close along the
right-hand shore, looking for an opening. His progress was slow. A
dozen times he entangled himself in masses of reeds and rice, or thrust
himself under over-hanging tree-tops and vines to investigate the
deeper gloom beyond. He had returned two-thirds of the distance to the
straight-water where he had given up the pursuit when the bow of his
canoe ran upon a smooth, sandy bar that shelved out thirty or forty
feet from the shore. Scarcely had he felt the grate of sand when with a
powerful shove he sent his canoe back, and almost in the same instant
Pierre's rifle leveled menacingly shoreward. Drawn up high and dry on
the sand-bar were the two canoes.

For a space Philip expected that his appearance would be the signal for
some movement ashore; but as he drifted slowly away, his rifle still
leveled, he was filled more and more with the belief that he had not
been discovered. He allowed himself to drift until he knew that he was
hidden in the shadows, and then quietly worked himself in to shore.
Making no sound, he pulled himself up the bank and crept among the
trees toward the bar. There was no one guarding the canoes. He heard no
sound of voice, no crackling of brush or movement of reeds. For a full
minute he crouched and listened. Then he crept nearer and found where
both reeds and brush were trampled down into a path that led away from
the river.

His heart gave a bound of joy, and he darted along the path, holding
his rifle ready for instant use. The trail wound through the tall grass
of a dry swamp meadow and, two hundred yards beyond the river, plunged
into a forest. He had barely entered this when he saw the glow of a
fire. It was only a short distance ahead, hidden in a deep hollow that
completely concealed its existence from the keenest eyes that might
pass along the river. Stealing cautiously to the crest of the little
knoll between him and the light, Philip found himself within fifty feet
of a camp.

A big canvas tent was the first thing to come within his vision. The
fire was built against this face of a rock in front of this, and over
the fire hovered a man dragging out beds of coals with a forked stick.
Almost at the same moment a second man appeared from the tent, bearing
two huge skillets in one hand and a big pot in the other. At a glance
Philip knew that they were preparing to cook a meal, and that it was
for many instead of two. Wildly he searched the firelit spaces and the
shadows for a sign of Jeanne. He saw nothing. She was not in the camp.
The five or six men who had fled up the river with her were not there.
His fingers dug deep in the earth under him at the discovery, and once
more appalling fears overwhelmed him. Perhaps she had already met her
fate a little deeper in the forest.

He crept over the edge of the knoll and worked himself down through the
low bush on the opposite side, which would bring him within a dozen
feet of the man over the fire. There he would have them at his mercy,
and at the point of his revolver would compel them to tell him where
Jeanne had been taken. The advantage was all in his favor. It would not
be difficult to make them prisoners and leave them secured while he
followed after their companions.

He was intent only upon his plan, and did not take his eyes from the
men over the fire. He came to the end of the bush, and crouched with
head and shoulders exposed, his revolver in his hand. Suddenly a sound
close to the tent startled him. It was a low cough. The men over the
fire made no movement to look behind them, but Philip turned.

In the shadow of a tree, which had concealed her until now, sat Jeanne.
She was tense and straight. Her white face was turned to him. Her
beautiful eyes glowed like stars. Her lips were parted; he could see
her quick, excited breathing. She saw him! She knew him! He could see
the joy of hope in her face and that she was crushing back an impulse
to cry out to him, even as he was restraining his own mad desire to
shout out his defiance and joy. And there in the firelight, his face
illumined, and oblivious for the moment of the presence of the two men,
Philip straightened himself and held out his arms with a glad smile to
Jeanne.

Hardly had he turned to the men, ready to spring out upon them, when
there came a terrific interruption. There was a sudden crash in the
brush behind him, a menacing snarl, and a huge wolfish brute launched
itself at his throat. The swift instinct of self-preservation turned
the weapon intended for the men over the fire upon this unexpected
assailant. The snarling fangs of the husky were gleaming in his face
and the animal's body was against the muzzle of his revolver when
Philip fired. Though he escaped the fangs, he could not ward off the
impact of the dog's body, and in another moment he was sprawling upon
his back in the light of the camp. Before Philip could recover himself
Jeanne's startled guards were upon him. Flung back, he still possessed
his pistol, and pulled the trigger blindly. The report was muffled and
sickening. At the same moment a heavy blow fell upon his head, and a
furious weight crushed him back to the ground. He dropped his revolver.
His brain reeled; his muscles relaxed. He felt his assailant's fingers
at his throat, and their menace brought back every ounce of fighting
strength in his body. For a moment he lay still, his eyes closed, the
warm blood flowing over his face. He had worked this game once before,
years ago. He even thought of that time now, as he lay upon his back.
It had worked then, and it worked now. The choking fingers at his
throat loosened; the weight lifted itself a little from his chest. The
lone guard thought that he was unconscious, and Jeanne, who had
staggered to her feet, thought that he was dead.

It was her cry, terrible, filled with agony and despair, that urged him
into action an instant too soon. His foe was still partly on his guard,
rising with a caution born of more than one wilderness episode, when
with a quick movement Philip closed with him. Locked in a deadly grip,
they rolled upon the ground; and, with a feeling of despair which had
never entered into his soul before, the terrible truth came to Philip
that the old strength was gone from his arms and that with each added
exertion he was growing weaker. For a moment he saw Jeanne. She stood
almost above them, her hands clutched at her breast. And as he looked,
she suddenly turned and ran to the fire. An instant more and she was
back, a red-hot brand in her hand. Philip saw it flash close to his
eyes, felt the heat of it; and then a scream, animal-like in its
ferocity and pain, burst from the lips of his antagonist. The man
reeled backward, clutching at his thick neck, where Jeanne had thrust
the burning stick. Philip rose to his knees. His fist shot out like
lightning against the other's jaw, and the second guard fell back in a
limp heap.

Even as the blow fell, a loud shout came from close back in the forest,
followed by the crashing of many feet tearing through the underbrush.



XI


Philip and Jeanne stood face to face in the firelight.

"Quick!" he cried. "We must hurry!"

He bent over to pick up his revolver from the ground. His movement was
followed by a low sob of pain. Jeanne was swaying as though about to
faint. She fell in a crumpled heap before he could reach her side.

"You are hurt!" he exclaimed. "Jeanne! Jeanne!"

He was upon his knees beside her, crying out her name, half holding her
in his arms.

"No, no! I am not hurt--much," she replied, trying to recover herself.
"It is my ankle. I sprained it--on the cliff. Now--"

She became heavier against his arm. Her eyes were limpid with pain.

Rising, Philip caught her in his arms. The crashing of brush was within
pistol-shot distance of them, but in that moment he felt no fear. Life
leaped back into his veins. He wanted to shout back his defiance as he
ran with Jeanne along the path to the river. He could feel her pulsing
against him. His lips were in her hair. Her heart was beating wildly
against his own. One of her arms was about his shoulder, her hand
against his neck. Life, love, the joy of possession swept through him
in burning floods, and it seemed in these first moments of his contact
with Jeanne, in the first sound of her voice speaking to him, that the
passionate language of his soul must escape through his lips. For this
moment he had risked his life, had taken a hundred chances; he had
anticipated, and yet he had not dreamed beyond a hundredth part of what
it would mean for him. He looked down into the white face of the girl
as he ran. Her beautiful eyes were open to him. Her lips were parted;
her cheek lay against his breast. He did not realize how close he was
holding her until, at last, he stopped where he had hidden the canoe.
Then he felt her beating and throbbing against him, as he had felt the
quivering life of a frightened bird imprisoned in his hands. She drew a
deep breath when he opened his arms, and lifted her head. Her loose
hair swept over his breast and hands.

He spoke no word as he placed her in the canoe. Not a whisper passed
between them as the canoe sped swiftly from the shore. A hundred yards
down the stream Philip headed straight across the river and plunged
into the shadows along the opposite bank.

Jeanne was close to him. He could hear her breathing. Suddenly he felt
the touch of her hand.

"M'sieur, I must ask--about Pierre!"

There was the thrill of fear in the low words. She leaned back, her
face a pale shadow in the deep gloom; and Philip bent over until he
felt her breath, and the sweetness of her hair filled his nostrils.
Quickly he whispered what had happened. He told her that Pierre was
hurt, but not badly, and that he had promised to take her on to Fort o'
God.

"It is up the Churchill?" he questioned.

"Yes," she whispered.

They heard voices now, and almost opposite them they saw shadowy
figures running out to the canoes upon the sand-bar.

"They will think that we are escaping toward Churchill," said Philip,
gloatingly. "It is the nearest refuge. See--"

One of the canoes was launched, and shot swiftly down the river. A
moment later the second followed. The dip of paddles died away, and
Philip laughed softly and joyously.

"They will hunt for us from now until morning between here and the Bay.
And then they will look for you again in Churchill."

Philip was conscious, almost without seeing, that Jeanne had bowed her
head in her arms and that she was giving way now to the terrific strain
which she had been under. Not until he heard a low sob, which she
strove hard to choke back in her throat, did he dare to lean over again
and touch her. Whatever was throbbing in his heart, he knew that he
must hide it now.

"You read the letter?" he asked, softly.

"Yes, M'sieur."

"Then you know--that you are safe with me!"

There was pride and strength, the ring of triumph in his voice. It was
the voice of a man thrilled by his own strength, by the warmth of a
great love, by the knowledge that he was the protector of a creature
dearer to him than all else on earth. The truth of it set Jeanne
quivering. She reached out until in the darkness her two hands found
one of Philip's, and for a moment she held his paddle motionless in
midair.

"Thank you, M'sieur," she whispered. "I trust you, as I would trust
Pierre."

All the words that women had ever spoken to him were as nothing to
those few that fell softly from Jeanne's lips; in the clinging pressure
of her fingers as she uttered them were the concentrated joys of all
that he had dreamed of in the touch of women. He knelt silent,
motionless, until her hands left his own.

"I am to take you to Fort o' God," he said, fighting to keep the
tremble of joy out of his voice. "And you--you must guide me."

"It is far up the Churchill," she replied, understanding the question
he intended. "It is two hundred miles from the Bay."

He put his strength into his paddle for ten minutes, and then ran the
canoe into shore fully half a mile above the sand-bar. He stepped out
into water up to his knees.

"We must risk a little time here to attend to your injured ankle," he
explained. "Then you can arrange yourself comfortably among these robes
in the bow. Shall I carry you?"

"You can--help," said Jeanne. She gave him her hand and made an effort
to rise. Instantly she sank back with a sob of pain.

It was strange that her pain should fill him with a wonderful joy. He
knew that she was suffering, that she could not walk or stand alone.
And yet, back at the camp, she had risen in her torture and had come to
his rescue. She could not bear her own weight now, but then she had run
to him and had fought for him. The knowledge that she had done this,
and for him, filled him with an exquisite sensation.

"I must carry you," he said, speaking to her with the calm decision
that he might have voiced to a little child. His tone reassured her,
and she made no remonstrance when he lifted her in his arms. For a
brief moment she lay against him again, and when he lowered her upon
the bank his hand accidentally touched the soft warmth of her face.

"My specialty is sprains," he said, speaking a little lightly to raise
her spirits for the instant's ordeal through which she must pass. "I
have doctored half a dozen during the last three months. You must take
off your moccasin and your stocking, and I will make a bandage."

He drew a big handkerchief from his pocket and dipped it in the water.
Then he searched along the shore for a dozen paces, until he found an
Indian willow. With his knife he scraped off a handful of bark, soaked
it in water, crushed it between his hands, and returned to her.
Jeanne's little foot lay naked in the starlight.

"It will hurt just a moment," he said, gently. "But it is the only
cure. To-morrow it will be strong enough for you to stand upon. Can you
bear a little hurt?"

He knelt before her and looked up, scarce daring to touch her foot
before she spoke.

"I may cry," she said.

Her voice fluttered, but it gave him permission. He folded the wet
handkerchief in the form of a bandage, with the willow bark spread over
it. Then, very gently, he seized her foot in one hand and her ankle in
the other.

"It will hurt just a little," he soothed. "Only a moment."

His fingers tightened. He put into them the whole strength of his grip,
pulling downward on the foot and upward on the ankle until, with a low
cry, Jeanne flung her hands over his.

"There, it is done," he laughed, nervously. He wrapped the bandage
around so tightly that Jeanne could not move her foot, and tied it with
strips of cloth. Then he turned to the canoe while she drew on her
stocking and moccasin.

He was trembling. A maddening joy pounded in his brain. Jeanne's voice
came to him sweetly, with a shyness in it that made him feel like a
boy. He was glad that the night concealed his face. He would have given
worlds to have seen Jeanne's.

"I am ready," she said.

He carried her to the bow of the canoe and fixed her among the robes,
arranging a place for her head so that she might sleep if she wished.
For the first time the light was so that he could see her plainly as
she nestled back in the place made for her. Their eyes met for a moment.

"You must sleep," he urged. "I shall paddle all night."

"You are sure that Pierre is not badly hurt?" she asked, tremulously.
"You--you would not--keep the truth from me?"

"He was not more than stunned," assured Philip. "It is impossible that
his wound should prove serious. Only there was no time to lose, and I
came without him. He will follow us soon."

He took his position in the stern, and Jeanne lay back among the
bearskins. For a long time after that Philip paddled in silence. He had
hoped that Jeanne would give him an opportunity to continue their
conversation, in spite of his advice to her to secure what rest she
could. But there came no promise from the bow of the canoe. After half
an hour he guessed that Jeanne had taken him at his word, and was
asleep.

It was disappointing, and yet there came a pleasurable throb with his
disappointment. Jeanne trusted him. She was sleeping under his
protection as sweetly as a child. Fear of her enemies no longer kept
her awake or filled her with terror. This night, under these stars,
with the wilderness all about them, she had given herself into his
keeping. His cheeks burned. He dipped his paddle noiselessly, so that
he might not interrupt her slumber. Each moment added to the fullness
of his joy, and he wished that he might only see her face, hidden in
the darkness of her hair and the bear-robes.

The silence no longer seemed a silence to him. It was filled with the
beating of his heart, the singing of his love, a gentle sigh now and
then that came like a deeper breath between Jeanne's sweet lips. It was
a silence that pulsated with a voiceless and intoxicating life for him,
and he was happy. In these moments, when even their voices were
stilled, Jeanne belonged to him, and to him alone. He could feel the
warmth of her presence. He felt still the thrill of her breast against
his own, the touch of her hair upon his lips, the gentle clinging of
her arms. The spirit of her moved, and sat awake, and talked with him,
just as the old spirit of his dreams had communed with him a thousand
times in his loneliness. Dreams were at an end. Now had come reality.

He looked up into the sky. The moon had dropped below the southwestern
forests, and there were only the stars above him, filling a gray-blue
vault in which there was not even the lingering mist of a cloud. It was
a beautifully clear night, and he wondered how the light fell so that
it did not reveal Jeanne in her nest. The thought that came to him then
set his heart tingling and made his face radiant. Even the stars were
guarding Jeanne, and refused to disclose the mystery of her slumber. He
laughed within himself. His being throbbed, and suddenly a voice seemed
to cry softly, trembling in its joy:

"Jeanne! Jeanne! My beloved Jeanne!"

With horror Philip caught himself too late. He had spoken the words
aloud. For an instant reality had transformed itself into the old
dream, and his dream-spirit had called to its mate for the first time
in words. Appalled at what he had said, Philip bent over and listened.
He heard Jeanne's breathing. It was deeper than before. She was surely
asleep!

He straightened himself and resumed his paddling. He was glad now that
he had spoken. Jeanne seemed nearer to him after those words.

Before this night he never realized how beautiful the wilderness was,
how complete it could be. It had offered him visions of new life, but
these visions had never quite shut out the memories of old pain. He
watched and listened. The water rippled behind his canoe; it trickled
in a soothing cadence after each dip of his paddle; he heard the gentle
murmur of it among the reeds and grasses, and now and then the gurgling
laughter of it, like the faintest tinkling of dainty bells. He had
never understood it before; he had never joined in its happiness. The
night sounds came to him with a different meaning, filled him with
different sensations. As he slipped quietly around a bend in the river
he heard a splashing ahead of him, and knew that a moose was feeding,
belly-deep, in the water. At other times the sound would have set his
fingers itching for a rifle, but now it was a part of the music of the
night. Later he heard the crashing of a heavy body along the shore and
in the distance the lonely howl of a wolf. He listened to the sounds
with a quiet pleasure instead of creeping thrills which they once sent
through him. Every sound spoke of Jeanne--of Jeanne and her world, into
which each stroke of his paddle carried them a little deeper.

And yet the truth could not but come to him that Jeanne was but a
stranger. She was a creature of mystery, as she lay there asleep in the
bow of the canoe; he loved her, and yet he did not know her. He
confessed to himself, as the night lengthened, that he would be glad
when morning came. Jeanne would clear up a half of his perplexities
then, perhaps all of them. He would at least learn more about herself
and the reason for the attack at Fort Churchill.

He paddled for another hour, and then looked at his watch by the light
of a match. It was three o'clock.

Jeanne had not moved, but as the match burned out between his fingers
she startled him by speaking.

"Is it nearly morning, M'sieur?"

"An hour until dawn," said Philip. "You have been sleeping a long
time--" Her name was on his lips, but he found it a little more
difficult to speak now. And yet there was a gentleness in Jeanne's
"M'SIEUR" which encouraged him. "Are you getting hungry?" he asked.

"Pierre and my father always ask me that when THEY are starving,"
replied Jeanne, sitting erect in her nest so that Philip saw her face
and the shimmer of her hair. "There is everything to eat in the pack,
M'sieur Philip, even to a bottle of olives."

"Good!" cried Philip, delighted, "But won't you please cut out that
'm'sieur?' My greatest weakness is a desire to be called by my first
name. Will you?"

"If it pleases you," said Jeanne. "There is everything there to eat,
and I will make you a cup of coffee, M'sieur--"

"What?"

"Philip."

There was a ripple of laughter in the girl's voice. Philip fairly
trembled.

"You were prepared for this journey," he said. "You were going to leave
after you saw me on the rock. I have been wondering why--why you took
enough interest in me--"

He knew that he was blundering, and in the darkness his face turned
red. Jeanne's tact was delightful.

"We were curious about you," she said, with bewitching candor. "Pierre
is the most inquisitive creature in the world, and I wanted to thank
you for returning my handkerchief. I'm sorry you didn't find a bit of
lace which I lost at the same time!"

"I did!" exclaimed Philip.

He bit his tongue, and cursed himself at this fresh break. Jeanne was
silent. After a moment she said:

"Shall I make you some coffee?"

"Will you be able to do it? Your foot--"

"I had forgotten that," she said. "It doesn't hurt any more. But I can
show you how."

Her unaffected ingenuousness, the sweetness of her voice, the
simplicity and ease of her manner delighted Philip, and at the same
time filled him with amazement. He had never met a forest girl like
Jeanne. Her beauty, her queen-like bearing, when she had stood with
Pierre on the rock, had puzzled him and filled him with admiration. But
now her voice, the music of her words, her quickness of perception
added tenfold to those impressions. It might have been Miss Brokaw who
was sitting there in the bow talking to him, only Jeanne's voice was
sweeter than Miss Brokaw's; and even in the lightest of the words she
had spoken there was a tone of sincerity and truth. It flashed upon
Philip that Jeanne might have stepped from a convent school, where
gentle voices had taught her and language was formed in the ripe
fullness of music. In a moment he believed that something like this had
happened.

"We will go ashore," he said, searching for an open space. "This must
be tedious to you, if you are not accustomed to it."

"Accustomed to it, M'sieur--Philip!" exclaimed Jeanne, catching
herself. "I was born here!"

"In the wilderness?"

"At Fort o' God."

"You have not always lived there?"

For a brief space Jeanne was silent.

"Yes, always, M'sieur. I am eighteen years old, and this is the first
time that I have ever seen what you people call civilization. It is my
first visit to Fort Churchill. It is the first time I have ever been
away from Fort o' God."

Jeanne's voice was low and subdued. It rang with truth. In it there was
something that was almost tragedy. For a breath or two Philip's heart
seemed to stop its beating, and he leaned far over, looking straight
and questioningly into the beautiful face that met his own. In that
moment the world had opened and engulfed him in a wonder which at first
his mind could not comprehend.



XII


The canoe ran among the reeds, with its bow to the shore. Philip's
astonishment still held him motionless.

"A little while ago you asked me if I would tell you anything
but--but--the truth," he stammered, trying to find words to express
himself, "and this--"

"Is the truth," interrupted Jeanne, a little coolly. "Why should I tell
you an untruth, M'sieur?"

Philip had asked himself that same question shortly after their first
meeting on the cliff. And now in the girl's question there was sounded
a warning for him to be more discreet.

"I did not mean that," he cried, quickly. "Please forgive me. Only--it
is so wonderful, so almost IMPOSSIBLE to believe. Do you know what I
thought of for three-quarters of the night after I left you and Pierre
on the rock? It was of years--centuries ago. I put you and Pierre back
there. It seemed as though you had come to me from out of another
world, that you had strayed from the chivalry and beauty of some royal
court, that a queen's painter might have known and made a picture of
you, as I saw you there, but that to me you were only the vision of a
dream. And now you say that you have always lived here!"

He saw Jeanne's eyes glowing. She had lifted herself from among the
bearskins and was leaning toward him. Her face was quivering with
emotion; her whole being seemed concentrated on his words.

"M'sieur--Philip--did we seem--like that?" she asked, tremulously.

"Yes, or I would not have written the letter," replied Philip. He
leaned forward over the pack, and his face was close to Jeanne's. "I
had just passed over the place where men and women of a century or two
ago were buried, and when I saw you and Pierre I thought of them; of
Mademoiselle D'Arcon, who left a prince to follow her lover to a grave
back there at Churchill, and I wondered if Grosellier--"

"Grosellier!" cried the girl.

She was breathing quickly, excitedly. Suddenly she drew back with a
little, nervous laugh.

"I am glad you thought of us like THAT," she added. "It was Grosellier,
le grand chevalier, who first lived at Fort o' God!"

Philip could no longer restrain himself. He forgot that the canoe was
lying motionless among the reeds and that they were to go ashore. In a
voice that trembled with his eagerness to be understood, to win her
confidence, he told her fully of what had happened that night on the
cliff. He repeated Pierre's instructions to him, described his terrible
fear for her, and in it all withheld but one thing--the name of Lord
Fitzhugh Lee. Jeanne listened to him without a word. She sat as erect
as one of the slender reeds among which the canoe was hidden. Her dark
eyes never left his face. They seemed to have grown darker when he
finished.

"May the great God reward you for what you have done," she said, in a
low voice, quivering with a suppressed passion. "You are brave, M'sieur
Philip--as brave as I have dreamed of men being."

Philip's heart throbbed with delight, and yet he said quickly:

"It isn't THAT. I have done nothing--nothing more than Pierre would
have done for me. But don't you understand? If there is to be a reward
for the little I have given--I could ask for nothing greater than your
confidence and Pierre's. There are reasons, and perhaps if I told you
those you would understand."

"I do understand, without further explanation," answered Jeanne, in the
same low, strained voice. "You fought for Pierre on the cliff, and you
have saved--me. We owe you everything, even our lives. I understand,
M'sieur Philip," she said, more softly, leaning still nearer to him;
"but I can tell you nothing."

"You prefer to leave that to Pierre," he said a little hurt. "I beg
your pardon."

"No, no! I don't mean that!" she cried, quickly. "You misunderstand me.
I mean that you know as much of this whole affair as I do, that you
know what I know, and perhaps more."

The emotion which she had suppressed burst forth now in a choking sob.
She recovered herself in an instant, her eyes still upon Philip.

"It was only a whim of mine that took us to Churchill," she went on,
before he could find words to say. "It is Pierre's secret why we lived
in our own camp and went down into Churchill but once--when the ship
came in. I do not know the reason for the attack. I can only guess--"

"And your guess--"

Jeanne drew back. For a moment she did not speak. Then she said,
without a note of harshness in her voice, but with the finality of a
queen:

"Father may tell you that when we reach Fort o' God!"

And then she suddenly leaned toward him again and held out both her
hands.

"If you only could know how I thank you!" she exclaimed, impulsively.

For a moment Philip held her hands. He felt them trembling. In Jeanne's
eyes he saw the glisten of tears.

"Circumstances have come about so strangely," he said, his heart
palpitating at the warm pressure of her fingers, "that I half believed
you and Pierre could help me in--in an affair of my own. I would give a
great deal to find a certain person, and after the attack on the cliff,
and what Pierre said, I thought--"

He hesitated, and Jeanne gently drew her hands from him.

"I thought that you might know him," he finished. "His name is Lord
Fitzhugh Lee."

Jeanne gave no sign that she had heard the name before. The question in
her eyes remained unchanged.

"We have never heard of him at Fort o' God," she said.

Philip shoved the canoe more firmly upon the shore and stepped over the
side.

"This Fort o' God must be a wonderful place," he said, as he bent over
to help her. "You have aroused something in me I never thought I
possessed before--a tremendous curiosity."

"It is a wonderful place, M'sieur Philip," replied the girl, holding up
her hands to him. "But why should you guess it?"

"Because of you," laughed Philip. "I am half convinced that you take a
wicked delight in bewildering me."

He found Jeanne a comfortable spot on the bank, brought her one of the
bearskins, and began collecting a pile of dry reeds and wood.

"I am sure of it," he went on. He struck a match, and the reeds flared
into flame, lighting up his face.

Jeanne gave a startled cry.

"You are hurt!" she exclaimed. "Your face is red with blood."

Philip jumped back.

"I had forgotten that. I'll wash my face."

He waded into the edge of the water and began scrubbing himself. When
he returned, Jeanne looked at him closely. The fire illumined her pale
face. She had gathered her beautiful hair in a thick braid, which fell
over her shoulder. She appeared lovelier to him now than when he had
first seen her in the night-glow on the cliff. She was dressed the
same. He observed that the filmy bit of lace about her slender throat
was torn, and that one side of her short buckskin skirt was covered
with half-dried splashes of mud. His blood rose at these signs of the
rough treatment of those who had attacked her. It reached fever-heat
when, coming nearer, he saw a livid bruise on her forehead close up
under her hair.

"They struck you?" he demanded.

He stood with his hands clenched. She smiled up at him.

"It was my fault," she explained. "I'm afraid I gave them a good deal
of trouble on the cliff."

She laughed outright at the fierceness in Philip's face, and so sweet
was the sound of it to him that his hands relaxed and he laughed with
her.

"So help me, you're a brick!" he cried.

"There are pots and kettles and coffee and things to eat in the pack,
M'sieur Philip," reminded Jeanne, softly, as he still remained staring
down upon her.

Philip turned to the canoe, with a laugh that was like a boy's. He
threw the pack at Jeanne's feet and unstrapped it. Together they sorted
out the things they wanted, and Philip cut crotched sticks on which he
suspended two pots of water over the fire. He found himself whistling
as he gathered an armful of wood along the shore. When he came back
Jeanne had opened a bottle of olives and was nibbling at one, while she
held out another to him on the end of a fork.

"I love olives," she said. "Won't you have one?"

He accepted the thing, and ate it joyously, though he hated olives.

"Where did you acquire the taste?" he asked. "I thought it took a
course at college to make one like 'em."

"I've been to college," answered Jeanne, quietly. There was a glow in
her cheeks now, a swift flash of tantalizing fun in her eyes, as she
fished after another olive. "I have been a student--a TENERIS ANNIS,"
she added, and he stood stupefied.

"That's Latin!" he gasped.

"Oui, M'sieur. Wollen Sie noch eine Olive haben?"

Laughter rippled in her throat. She held out another olive to him, her
face aglow. Firelight danced in her hair, flooding its darker shadows
with lights of red and gold.

"I was sure of it," he exclaimed, convinced. "That's post-graduate
Latin and senior German, or I'm as mad as a March hare! Where--where
did you go to school?"

"At Fort o' God. Quick, M'sieur Philip, the water is boiling over!"

Philip sprang to the fire. Jeanne handed him coffee, and set out cold
meat and bread. For the first time that night he pulled out his pipe
and filled it with tobacco.

"You don't mind if I smoke, do you, Miss Jeanne?" he groaned. "Under
some circumstances tobacco is the only thing that will hold me up. Do
you know that you are shaking my confidence in you?"

"I have told you nothing but the truth," retorted Jeanne, innocently.
She was still busying herself over the pack, but Philip caught the
slightest gleam of her laughing teeth.

"You are making fun of me," he remonstrated. "Tell me--where is this
Fort o' God, and what is it?"

"It is far up the Churchill, M'sieur Philip. It is a log chateau, built
hundreds and hundreds of years ago, I guess. My father, Pierre, and I,
with one other, live there alone among the savages. I have never been
so far away from home before."

"I suppose," said Philip, "that the savages up your way converse in
Latin, Greek, and German--"

"Latin, FRENCH, and German," corrected Jeanne. "We haven't added a
Greek course yet."

"I know of a girl," mused Philip, as though speaking to himself, "who
spent five years in a girls' college, and she can talk nothing but
light English. Her name is Eileen Brokaw."

Jeanne looked up, but only to point to the coffee.

"It is done," she advised, "unless you like it bitter."



XIII


Philip knew that Jeanne was watching him as he lifted the coffee from
the fire and placed the pot on the ground to cool. His mind was in a
hopeless tangle--a riot of things he would like to say, throbbing with
a hundred questions he would like to ask, one after another. And yet
Jeanne seemed bewitchingly unconscious of his uneasiness. Not one of
his references to names and events so vital to himself had in any way
produced a change in her. Was she, after all, innocent of all knowledge
in the things he wished to know? Was it possible that she was entirely
ignorant as to the identity of the men who had attacked Pierre and
herself on the cliff? Was it true that she did not know Eileen Brokaw,
that she had never heard of Lord Fitzhugh Lee, and that she had always
lived among the wild people of the north? By what miracle performed
here in the heart of a savage world could this girl talk to him in
German and Latin? Was she making fun of him? He turned to look at her
and found her dark, clear eyes upon him. She smiled at him in a tired
little way, and he saw nothing but sweetness and truth in her face. In
an instant every suspicion was swept away. He felt like a criminal for
having doubted her; and for a moment he was on the point of confessing
to her what had been in his thoughts. He restrained himself, and went
to the river to wash the pot-black from his hands. Jeanne was a mystery
to him, a mystery that delighted him and filled him each moment with a
deeper love. He saw the life and freedom of the forests in her every
movement--in the gesture of her hands, the bird-like poise of her
pretty head, the lithe grace of her slender body. She breathed the
forests. It glowed in her eyes, in the rich red of her lips, and
revealed its beauty and strength in the unconfined wealth of her
gold-brown hair. In a dozen ways he could see her primitiveness, her
kinship to the wilderness. She had told him the truth. Her eyes smiled
truth at him as he came up the bank. No other woman's eyes had ever
looked at him like hers; none had he seen so beautiful. And yet in them
he saw nothing that she would not have expressed in
words--companionship, trust, thankfulness that he was there to care for
her. Such eyes as those belonged only to the wilderness, brimming with
the flawless beauty of an undefiled nature. He had seen them, but not
so beautiful, in Cree women. He thought of Eileen Brokaw's eyes as he
looked at Jeanne's. They were very beautiful, but they were DIFFERENT.
Jeanne's could not lie.

On a white napkin Jeanne had spread out cold meat, bread, pickles, and
cheese, and Philip brought her the coffee. He noticed that she was
resting a little of her weight upon her injured ankle.

"Better?" he asked, indicating the bandaged ankle with a nod of his
head.

"Much," replied Jeanne, as tersely. "I'm going to try standing upon it
in a few minutes. But not now. I'm starved."

She gave him his coffee and began eating with a relish that made him
want to sit back and watch her. Instead, he joined her; and they ate
like two hungry children. It was when she turned him out a second cup
of coffee that Philip noticed her hand tremble a little.

"If Pierre was here we would be quite happy, M'sieur Philip," she said,
uneasily. "I can't understand why he asked you to run away with me to
Fort o' God. If he is not badly hurt, as you have told me, why do we
not hide and wait for him? He would overtake us to-morrow."

"There--there was no time to talk over plans," answered Philip,
inwardly embarrassed for a moment by the unexpectedness of Jeanne's
question. A vision of Pierre, bleeding and unconscious on the cliff,
leaped into his mind, and the thought that he had lied to Jeanne and
must still make her believe what was half false sickened him. There
was, after all, a chance that Pierre would never again come up the
Churchill. "Perhaps Pierre thought we would be hotly pursued," he went
on, seeing no escape from the demand in the girl's eyes. "In that event
it would be best for me to get you to Fort o' God as quickly as
possible. You must remember that Pierre was thinking of you. He can
care for himself. It may take him two or three days to get back the
strength of--of his arm," he finished, blindly.

"He was wounded in the arm?"

"And on the head," said Philip. "It was only a scalp wound,
however--nothing at all, except that it dazed him a little at the time."

Jeanne pointed to the reflection of the fire on the river.

"If we should be pursued?" she suggested.

"There is no danger," assured Philip, though he had left the flap of
his revolver holster unbuttoned. "They will search for us between their
camp and Churchill."

"Citius venit periculum cum contemnitur," remonstrated Jeanne, half
smiling.

She was pale, but Philip saw that she was making a tremendous effort to
appear brave and cheerful.

"Perhaps you are right," laughed Philip, "but I swear that I don't know
what you mean. I suppose you picked that lingo up among the Indians."

He caught the faintest gleam of Jeanne's white teeth again as she bent
her head.

"I have a tutor at home," she explained, softly. "You shall meet him
when we reach Fort o' God. He is the most wonderful man in the world."

Her words sent a strange chill through Philip. They were filled with an
exquisite tenderness, a pride that sent her eyes back to his, glowing.
The questions that he had meant to ask died and faded away. He thought
of her words of a few minutes before, when he had asked about Fort o'
God. She had said, "My father, Pierre, and I, WITH ONE OTHER, live
there alone." The OTHER was the tutor, the man who had come from
civilization to teach this beautiful girl those things which had amazed
him, and this man was THE MOST WONDERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD. He had no
excuse for the feelings which were aroused in him. Only he knew, as he
rose to his feet, that a part of his old burden seemed suddenly to have
returned to his shoulders, and the old loneliness was beating at the
door of his heart. He rearranged the pack in silence, and the strength
and joy of life were gone from his arms when he helped Jeanne back to
her place among the bear-skins. He did not notice that her eyes were
watching him curiously, or that her lips trembled once or twice, as if
about to speak words which never came. Jeanne, as well as he, seemed to
have discovered something which neither dared to reveal in that last
five minutes on the shore.

"There is one thing that I must know," said Philip, when they were
about to start, "and that is where to find Fort o' God? Is it on the
Churchill?"

"It is on the Little Churchill, M'sieur, near Waskiaowaka Lake."

Darkness concealed the effect of her words upon Philip. For a moment he
stared like one struck dumb. He stifled the exclamation that rose to
his lips. He felt himself trembling. He knew that if he spoke his voice
would betray him.

NEAR WASKIAOWAKA LAKE! And Waskiaowaka was within thirty miles of his
own camp on the Blind Indian! If a bomb had burst under his feet he
could not have been more amazed than at this information, given to him
in Jeanne's quiet voice. Fort o' God--within thirty miles of the scene
where very soon he was to fight the great battle of his life! He dug
his paddle into the water and sent the canoe hissing up the river. His
blood pounded like that of a racehorse on the home-stretch. Of all the
things that had happened, of all he had learned, this was the most
significant. Every thought ran like a separate powder-flash to a single
idea, to one great, overpowering question. Were Fort o' God and its
people the key to the plot against himself and his company? Was it the
rendezvous of those who were striving to work his ruin? Doubt,
suspicion, almost belief came to him in those few moments, in spite of
himself.

He looked at Jeanne. The gray dawn was breaking, and now light followed
swiftly and dissolved the last mist. In the chill of early morning,
when with the approach of the sun a cold, uncomfortable sweat rises
heavily from the earth and water, Jeanne had drawn one of the bearskins
closely about her. Her head was bare. Her hair, glistening with damp,
clung in heavy masses about her face. There was a bewitching
childishness about her, a pathetic appeal to him in the forlorn little
picture she made--so helpless, and yet so confident in him. Every
energy in him leaped up in defiance of the revolution which for a few
moments had stirred within him. And Jeanne, as though she had read the
working of his mind, looked straight at him and smiled, with a little
purring note in her throat that took the place of a thousand words. It
was such a smile, and yet not one of love, which puts the strength of
ten men in one man's arms; and Philip laughed back at her, every chord
in his body responding in joyous vibration to the delicate note that
had come with it. No matter what events might find their birth at Fort
o' God, Jeanne was innocent of all knowledge of plot or wrong-doing.
Once for all Philip convinced himself of this.

The thought that came to him, as he looked at Jeanne, found voice
through his lips.

"Do you know," he said, "if I never saw you again I would always have
three pictures of you in my memory. I would never forget how you looked
when I first saw you on the cliff--or as I see you now, wrapped in your
bearskins. Only--I would think of you--as you smiled."

"And the third picture?" questioned Jeanne, little guessing what was in
his mind. "Would that be at the fire, when I burned the bad man's
neck--or--or when--"

She stopped herself, and pouted her mouth in sudden vexation, while a
flush which Philip could easily see rose in her cheeks.

"When I doctored your foot?" he finished, rather unchivalrously,
chuckling in his delight at her pretty discomfiture. "No, that wouldn't
be the third, Miss Jeanne. The other scene which I shall never forget
was that on the stone pier at Churchill, when you met a beautiful girl
who was coming off the ship."

The blood leaped to Jeanne's face. Her soft lips tightened. A sudden
movement, and the bearskin slipped from her shoulders, leaving her
leaning a little forward, her eyes blazing. A dozen words had
transformed her from the child he had fancied her to a woman quivering
with some powerful emotion, her beautiful head proud and erect, her
nostrils dilating with the quickness of her breath.

"That was a mistake," she said. There was no sign of passion in her
voice. It trembled a little, but that was all. "It was a mistake,
M'sieur Philip. I thought that I knew her, and--and I was wrong.
You--you must not remember THAT!"

"I am no better than a wild beast," groaned Philip, hating himself.
"I'm the biggest idiot in the world when it comes to saying the wrong
thing, I never miss a chance. I didn't mean to say anything--that would
hurt--"

"You haven't," interrupted the girl, quickly, seeing the distress in
his face. "You haven't said a thing that's wrong. Only I don't want you
to remember THAT picture. I want you to think of me as--as--I burned
the bad man's neck."

She was laughing now, though her breast was rising and falling a little
excitedly and the deep color was still in her cheeks.

"Will you?" she entreated.

"Until I die," he exclaimed.

She was fumbling under the luggage, and dragged forth a second paddle.

"I've had an easy time with you, M'sieur Philip," she said, turning so
that she was kneeling with her back to him. "Pierre makes me work.
Always I kneel here, in the bow, and paddle. I am ashamed of myself.
You have worked all night."

"And I feel as fresh as though I had slept for a week," declared
Philip, his eyes devouring the slim figure a paddle's length in front
of him.

For an hour they continued up the river, with scarcely a word between
them to break the silence. Their paddles rose and fell with a rhythmic
motion; the water rippled like low music under their canoe; the spell
of the silent shores, of voiceless beauty, of the wilderness awakening
into day appealed to them both and held them quiet. The sun broke
faintly through the drawn mists behind. Its first rays lighted up
Jeanne's rumpled hair, so that her heavy braid, partly undone and
falling upon the luggage behind her, shone in rich and changing colors
that fascinated Philip. He had thought that Jeanne's hair was very
dark, but he saw now that it was filled with the rare life of a Titian
head, running from red to gold and dark brown, with changing shadows
and flashes of light. It was beautiful. And Jeanne, as he looked at
her, he thought to be the most beautiful thing on earth. The movement
of her arms, the graceful, sinuous twists of her slender body as she
put her strength upon the paddle, the poise of her head, the piquant
tilt to her chin whenever she turned so that he caught a half profile
of her flushed, eager face all filled his cup of admiration to
overflowing. And he found himself wondering, suddenly, how this girl
could be a sister to Pierre Couchee. He saw in her no sign of French or
half-breed blood. Her hair was fine and soft, and waved about her ears
and where it fell loose upon the back. The color in her cheeks was as
delicate as the tints of the bakneesh flower. She had rolled up her
broad cuffs to give her greater freedom in paddling, and her arms shone
white and firm, glistening with the wet drip of the paddle. He was
marveling at her relationship to Pierre when she looked back at him,
her face aglow with exercise and the spice of the morning, and he saw
the sunlight as blue as the sky above him in her eyes. If he had not
known, he would have sworn that there was not a drop of Pierre's blood
in her veins.

"We are coming to the first rapids, M'sieur Philip," she announced. "It
is just beyond that ugly mountain of rock ahead of us, and we will have
a quarter-mile portage. It is filled with great stones and so swift
that Pierre and I nearly wrecked ourselves coming down."

It was the most that had been said since the beginning of that
wonderful hour that had come before the first gleam of sunrise, and
Philip, laying his paddle athwart the canoe, stretched himself and
yawned, as though he had just awakened.

"Poor boy," said Jeanne; and it struck him that her words were
strangely like those which Eileen might have spoken had she been there,
only an artless comradeship replaced what would have been Miss Brokaw's
tone of intimacy. She added, with genuine sympathy in her face and
voice: "You must be exhausted, M'sieur Philip. If you were Pierre I
should insist upon going ashore for a number of hours. Pierre obeys me
when we are together. He calls me his captain. Won't you let me command
you?"

"If you will let me call you--my captain," replied Philip. "Only there
is one thing--one reservation. We must go on. Command me in everything
else, but we must go on--for a time. To-night I will sleep. I will
sleep like the dead. So, My Captain," he laughed, "may I have your
permission to work to-day?"

Jeanne was turning the bow shoreward. Her back was turned to him again.

"You have no pity on me," she pouted. "Pierre would be good to me, and
we would fish all day in that pretty pool over there. I'll bet it's
full of trout."

Her words, her manner of speaking them, was a new revelation to Philip.
She was delightful. He laughed, and his voice rang out in the clear
morning like a school-boy's. Jeanne pretended that she saw nothing to
laugh at, and no sooner had the canoe touched shore than she sprang
lightly out, not waiting for his assistance. With a laughing cry, she
stumbled and fell. Philip was at her side in an instant.

"You shouldn't have done that," he objected. "I am your doctor, and I
insist that your foot is not well."

"But it is!" cried Jeanne, and he saw that there was laughter instead
of pain in her eyes. "It's the bandage. My right foot feels like that
of a Chinese debutante. Ugh! I'm going to undo it."

"You've been to China, too," mused Philip, half to himself.

"I know that it's filled with yellow girls, and that they squeeze their
feet like this," said Jeanne, unlacing her moccasin. "My tutor and I
have just finished a delightful trip along the Great Wall. We'd go to
Peking, in an automobile, if I wasn't afraid."

Philip's groan was audible. He went to the canoe, and Jeanne's red lips
curled in a merriment which it was hard for her too suppress. Philip
did not see. When he had unloaded the canoe and turned, Jeanne was
walking slowly back and forth, limping a little.

"It's all right," she said, answering the question on his lips. "I
don't feel any pain at all, but my foot's asleep. Won't you please
unstrap the small pack? I'm going to make my toilet while you are gone
with the canoe."

Half an hour later Philip unshouldered the canoe at the upper end of
the rapids. His own toilet articles were back in the cabin with
Gregson, but he took a wash in the river and combed his hair with his
fingers. When he returned, there was a transformation in Jeanne. Her
beautiful hair was done up in shining coils. She had changed her
bedraggled skirt for another of soft, yellow buckskin. At her throat
she wore a fluffy mass of crimson stuff which seemed to reflect a
richer rose-flush in her cheeks. A curious thought came to Philip as he
looked at her. Like a flash the memory of a certain night came to
him--when it had taken Miss Brokaw and her maid two hours to make a
toilet for a ball. And Jeanne, in the heart of a wilderness, had made
herself more beautiful than Eileen. He imagined, as she stood before
him, a little embarrassed by the admiration in his eyes, the sensation
Jeanne would create in a ballroom at home. And then he laughed--laughed
joyously at thoughts which he could not reveal to Jeanne, and which
she, by some quick intuition, knew that she should not ask him to
express.

Twice again Philip made the portage, accompanied the second time by
Jeanne, who insisted on carrying a small pack and two paddles. In spite
of his determination and splendid physique, Philip began to feel the
effects of the tremendous strain which he had been under for so long.
He counted back and found that he had slept but six hours in the last
forty-eight. There was a warning ache in his shoulders and a gnawing
pain in the bones of his forearms. But he knew that he had not yet made
sufficient headway up the Churchill. It would not be difficult for him
to make a camp far enough back in the bush to avoid discovery; but, at
the same time, if he and Jeanne were pursued, the stop would give their
enemies a chance to get ahead of them. This danger he wished to escape.

He flattered himself that Jeanne saw no signs of his weakening. He did
not know that Jeanne put more and more effort into her paddle, until
her arms and body ached, because she saw the truth.

The Churchill narrowed and its current became swifter as they
progressed. Five portages were made between sunrise and eleven o'clock.
They ate dinner at the fifth, and rested for two hours. Then the
journey was resumed. It was three o'clock when Jeanne dropped her
paddle and turned to Philip. There were deep lines in his face. He
smiled, but there was more of haggard misery than cheer in the smile.
There was an unnatural flush in his cheeks, and he began to feel a
burning pain where the blow had fallen upon his head before. For a full
half-minute Jeanne looked at him without speaking. "Philip," she
said--and it was the first time she had spoken his name in this way, "I
insist upon going ashore immediately. If you do not land--now--in that
opening ahead, I shall jump out, and you can go on alone."

"As you say--my Captain Jeanne," surrendered Philip, a little dizzily.

Jeanne guided the canoe to the shore, and was the first to spring out,
while Philip steadied the light craft with his paddle. She pointed to
the luggage.

"We will want the tent--everything," she said, "because we are going to
camp here until to-morrow."

Once on shore, Philip's dizziness left him. He pulled the canoe high up
on the bank, and then Jeanne and he set off, side by side, to explore
the high, wooded ground back from the river. They followed a well-worn
moose trail, and two or three hundred yards from the stream came upon a
small opening cluttered by great rocks and surrounded by clumps of
birch, spruce, and banskian pine. The moose trail crossed this rough
open space; and, following it to the opposite side, Philip and Jeanne
came upon a clear, rippling little stream, scarcely two yards in width,
hidden in places under thick caribou moss and jungles of seedling
pines. It was an ideal camping spot, and Jeanne gave a little cry of
delight when they found the cold water of the creek.

Philip then returned to the river, concealed the canoe, covered up all
traces of their landing, and began to carry the camping outfit back to
the open. The small silk tent for Jeanne's use he set up in a little
grassy corner of the clearing, and built their fire a dozen paces from
it. With a sort of thrilling pleasure he began cutting balsam boughs
for Jeanne's bed. He cut armful after armful, and it was growing dusk
in the forest by the time he was done. In the glow and the heat of the
fire Jeanne's cheeks were as pink as an apple. She had turned a big
flat rock into a table, and as she busied herself about this she burst
suddenly into a soft ripple of song; then, remembering that it was not
Pierre who was near her, she stopped. Philip, with his last armful of
bedding, was directly behind her, and he laughed happily at her over
the green mass of balsam when she turned and saw him looking at her.

"You like this?" he asked.

"It is glorious!" cried Jeanne, her eyes flashing. She seemed to grow
taller before him, and stood with her head thrown back, lips parted,
gazing upon the wilderness about her. "It is glorious!" she repeated,
breathing deeply. "There is nothing in the whole world that could make
me give this up, M'sieur Philip. I was born in it. I want to die in it.
Only--"

Her face clouded for a moment as her eyes rested upon his.

"Your civilization is coming north to spoil it all," she added, and
turned to the rock table.

Philip dropped his load.

"Supper is ready," she said, and the cloud had passed.

It was Jeanne's first reference to his own people, to the invasion of
civilization into the north, and there recurred to Philip the words in
which she had cried out her hatred against Churchill. But Jeanne did
not betray herself again. She was quiet while they were eating, and
Philip saw that she was very tired. When they had finished, they sat
for a few minutes watching the lowering flames of the fire. Darkness
had gathered about them. Their faces and the rock were illumined more
and more faintly as the embers died down. A silence fell upon them. In
the banskians close behind them an owl hooted softly, a cautious,
drumming note, as though the night-bird possessed still a fear of the
newly dead day. The brush gave out sound--voices infinitesimally small,
strange quiverings, rustlings that might have been made by wind, by
breath, by shadows, almost. Overhead the tips of the spruce and tall
pines whispered among themselves, as they never commune by day. Spirits
seemed to move among them, sending down to Jeanne's and Philip's
listening ears a restful, sleepy murmur. Farther back there sounded a
deep sniff, where a moose, traveling the well-worn trail, stopped in
sudden fear and wonder at the strange man-scent which came to its
nostrils. And still farther, from some little lake nameless and
undiscovered in the black depths of the forest to the south, a great
northern loon sent out its cowardly cry of defiance to all night
things, and then plunged deep under water, as though frightened into
the depths by its own mad jargon. The fire died lower. Philip moved a
little nearer to the girl, whose breathing he could hear.

"Jeanne," he said, softly, fighting to keep himself from touching her
hand, "I know what you mean--I understand. Two years ago I gave up
civilization for this. I am glad that I wrote to you as I did, for now
you will believe me and know that I understand. I love this world up
here as you love it. I am never going back again."

Jeanne was silent.

"But there is one thing, at least one--which I cannot understand in
you," he went on, nerving himself for what might come a moment later.
"You are of this world--you hate civilization--and yet you have brought
a man into the north to teach you its ways. I mean this man who you say
is the most wonderful man in the world."

He waited, trembling. It seemed an eternity before Jeanne answered. And
then she said:

"He is my father, M'sieur Philip."

Philip could not speak. Darkness hid him from Jeanne. She did not see
that which leaped into his face, and that for a moment he was on the
point of flinging himself at her feet.

"You spoke of yourself, of Pierre, of your father, and of one other at
Fort o' God," said Philip. "I thought that he--the other--was your
tutor."

"No, it is Pierre's sister," replied Jeanne.

"Your sister! You have a sister?"

He could hear Jeanne catch her breath.

"Listen, M'sieur,'" she said, after a moment. "I must tell you a little
about Pierre, a story of something that happened a long, long time ago.
It was in the middle of a terrible winter, and Pierre was then a boy.
One day he was out hunting and he came upon a trail--the trail of a
woman who had dragged herself through the snow in her moccasined feet.
It was far out upon a barren, where there was no life, and he followed.
He found her, M'sieur, and she was dead. She had died from cold and
starvation. An hour sooner he might have saved her, for, wrapped up
close against her breast, he found a little child--a baby girl, and she
was alive. He brought her to Fort o' God, M'sieur--to a noble man who
lived there almost alone; and there, through all these years, she has
lived and grown up. And no one knows who her mother was, or who her
father was, and so it happens that Pierre, who found her, is her
brother, and the man who has loved her and cared for her is her father."

"And she is the other at Fort o' God--Pierre's sister," said Philip.

Jeanne rose from the rock and moved toward the tent, glimmering
indistinctly in the night. Her voice came back chokingly.

"No, M'sieur. Pierre's real sister is at Fort o' God. I am the one whom
he found out on the barren."

To the night sounds there was added a heart-broken sob, and Jeanne
disappeared in the tent.



XIV


Philip sat where Jeanne had left him. He was powerless to move or to
say a word that might have recalled her. Her own grief, quivering in
that one piteous sob, overwhelmed him. It held him mute and listening,
with the hope that each instant the tent-flap might open and Jeanne
reappear. And yet if she came he had no words to say. Unwittingly he
had probed deep into one of those wounds that never heal, and he
realized that to ask forgiveness would be but another blunder. He
almost groaned as he thought of what he had done. In his desire to
understand, to know more about Jeanne, he had driven her into a corner.
What he had forced from her he might have learned a little later from
Pierre or from the father at Fort o' God. He thought that Jeanne must
despise him now, for he had taken advantage of her helplessness and his
own position. He had saved her from her enemies; and in return she had
opened her heart, naked and bleeding, to his eyes. What she had told
him was not a voluntary confidence; it was a confession wrung from her
by the rack of his questionings--the confession that she was a
waif-child, that Pierre was not her brother, and that the man at Fort
o' God was not her father. He had gone to the very depths of that which
was sacred to herself and those whom she loved.

He rose and stirred the fire, and stray ends of birch leaped into
flame, lighting his pale face. He wanted to go to the tent, kneel there
where Jeanne could hear him, and tell her that it was all a mistake.
Yet he knew that this could not be, neither the next day nor the next,
for to plead extenuation for himself would be to reveal his love. Two
or three times he had been on the point of revealing that love. Only
now, after what had happened, did it occur to him that to disclose his
heart to Jeanne would be the greatest crime he could commit. She was
alone with him in the heart of a wilderness, dependent upon him, upon
his honor. He shivered when he thought how narrow had been his escape,
how short a time he had known her, and how in that brief spell he had
given himself up to an almost insane hope. To him Jeanne was not a
stranger. She was the embodiment, in flesh and blood, of the spirit
which had been his companion for so long. He loved her more than ever
now, for Jeanne the lost child of the snows was more the earthly
revelation of his beloved spirit than Jeanne the sister of Pierre.
But--what was he to Jeanne?

He left the fire and went to the pile of balsam which he had spread out
between two rocks for his bed. He lay down and pulled Pierre's blanket
over him, but his fatigue and his desire for sleep seemed to have left
him, and it was a long time before slumber finally drove from him the
thought of what he had done. After that he did not move. He heard none
of the sounds of the night. A little owl, the devil-witch, screamed
horribly overhead and awakened Jeanne, who sat up for a few moments in
her balsam bed, white-faced and shivering. But Philip slept. Long
afterward something warm awakened him, and he opened his eyes, thinking
that it was the glow of the fire in his face. It was the sun. He heard
a sound which brought him quickly into consciousness of day. It was
Jeanne singing softly over beyond the rocks.

He had dreaded the coming of morning, when he would have to face
Jeanne. His guilt hung heavily upon him. But the sound of her voice,
low and sweet, filled with the carroling happiness of a bird, brought a
glad smile to his lips. After all, Jeanne had understood him. She had
forgiven him, if she had not forgotten.

For the first time he noticed the height of the sun, and he sat bolt
upright. Jeanne saw his head and shoulders pop over the top of the
rocks, and she laughed at him from their stone table.

"I've been keeping breakfast for over an hour, M'sieur Philip," she
cried. "Hurry down to the creek and wash yourself, or I shall eat all
alone!"

Philip rose stupidly and looked at his watch.

"Eight o'clock!" he gasped. "We should have been ten miles on the way
by this time!"

Jeanne was still laughing at him. Like sunlight she dispelled his gloom
of the night before. A glance around the camp showed him that she must
have been awake for at least two hours. The packs were filled and
strapped. The silken tent was down and folded. She had gathered wood,
built the fire, and cooked breakfast while he slept. And now she stood
a dozen paces from him, blushing a little at his amazed stare, waiting
for him.

"It's deuced good of you, Miss Jeanne!" he exclaimed. "I don't deserve
such kindness from you."

"Oh!" said Jeanne, and that was all. She bent over the fire, and Philip
went to the creek.

He was determined now to maintain a more certain hold upon himself. As
he doused his face in the cold water his resolutions formed themselves.
For the next few days he would forget everything but the one fact that
Jeanne was in his care; he would not hurt her again or compel her
confidence.

It was after nine o'clock before they were upon the river. They paddled
without a rest until twelve. After lunch Philip confiscated Jeanne's
paddle and made her sit facing him in the canoe.

The afternoon passed like a dream to Philip, He did not refer again to
Fort o' God or the people there; he did not speak again of Eileen
Brokaw, of Lord Fitzhugh, or of Pierre. He talked of himself and of
those things which had once been his life. He told of his mother and
his father, who had died, and of the little sister, whom he had
worshiped, but who had gone with the others. He bared his loneliness to
her as he would have told them to the sister, had she lived; and
Jeanne's soft blue eyes were filled with tenderness and sympathy. And
then he talked of Gregson's world. Within himself he called it no
longer his own.

It was Jeanne who questioned now. She asked about cities and great
people, about books and WOMEN. Her knowledge amazed Philip. She might
have visited the Louvre. One would have guessed that she had walked in
the streets of Paris, Berlin, and London. She spoke of Johnson, of
Dickens, and of Balzac as though they had died but yesterday. She was
like one who had been everywhere and yet saw everything through a veil
that bewildered her. In her simplicity she unfolded herself to Philip,
leaf by leaf, petal by petal, like the morning apios that surrenders
its mysteries to the sun. She knew the world which he had come from,
its people, its cities, its greatness; and yet her knowledge was like
that of the blind. She knew, but she had never seen; and in her
wistfulness to see as HE could see there was a sweetness and a pathos
which made every fiber in his body sing with a quiet and thrilling joy.
He knew, now, that the man who was at Fort o' God must, indeed, be the
most wonderful man in the world. For out of a child of the snows, of
the forest, of a savage desolation, he had made Jeanne. And Jeanne was
glorious!

The afternoon passed, and they made thirty miles before they camped for
the night. They traveled the next day, and the one that followed. On
the afternoon of the fourth they were approaching Big Thunder Rapids,
close to the influx of the Little Churchill, sixty miles from Fort o'
God.

These days, too, passed for Philip with joyous swiftness; swiftly
because they were too short for him. His life, now, was Jeanne. Each
day she became a more vital part of him. She crept into his soul until
there was no longer left room for any other thought than of her. And
yet his happiness was tampered by a thing which, if not grief,
depressed and saddened him at times. Two days more and they would be at
Fort o' God, and there Jeanne would be no longer his own, as she was
now. Even the wilderness has its conventionality, and at Fort o' God
their comradeship would end. A day of rest, two at the most, and he
would leave for the camp on Blind Indian Lake. As the time drew nearer
when they would be but friends and no longer comrades, Philip could not
always hide the signs of gloom which weighed upon him. He revealed
nothing in words; but now and then Jeanne had caught him when the fears
at his heart betrayed themselves in his face. Jeanne became happier as
their journey approached its end. She was alive every moment, joyous,
expectant, looking ahead to Fort o' God; and this in itself was a
bitterness to Philip, though he knew that he was a fool for allowing it
to be so. He reasoned, with dull, masculine wit, that if Jeanne cared
for him at all she would not be so anxious for their comradeship to
end. But these moods, when they came, passed quickly. And on this
afternoon of the fourth day they passed away entirely, for in an
instant there came a solution to it all. They had known each other but
four days, yet that brief time had encompassed what might not have been
in as many years. Life, smooth, uneventful, develops friendship slowly;
an hour of the unusual may lay bare a soul. Philip thought of Eileen
Brokaw, whose heart was still a closed mystery to him; who was a
stranger, in spite of the years he had known her. In four days he had
known Jeanne a lifetime; in those four days Jeanne had learned more of
him than Eileen Brokaw could ever know. So he arrived at the resolution
which made him, too, look eagerly ahead to the end of the journey. At
Fort o' God he would tell Jeanne of his love.

Jeanne was looking at him when the determination came. She saw the
gloom pass, a flush mount into his face; and when he saw her eyes upon
him he laughed, without knowing why.

"If it is so funny," she said, "please tell me."

It was a temptation, but he resisted it.

"It is a secret," he said, "which I shall keep until we reach Fort o'
God."

Jeanne turned her face up-stream to listen. A dozen times she had done
this during the last half-hour, and Philip had listened with her. At
first they had heard a distant murmur, rising as they advanced, like an
autumn wind that grows stronger each moment in the tree-tops. The
murmur was steady now, without the variations of a wind. It was the
distant roaring of the rocks and rushing floods of Big Thunder Rapids.
It grew steadily from a murmur to a moan, from a moan to rumbling
thunder. The current became so swift that Philip was compelled to use
all his strength to force the canoe ahead. A few moments later he
turned into shore.

From where they landed, a worn trail led up to one of the precipitous
walls of rock and shut in the Big Thunder Rapids. Everything about them
was rock. The trail was over rock, worn smooth by the countless feet of
centuries--clawed feet, naked feet, moccasined feet, the feet of white
men. It was the Great Portage, for animal as well as man. Philip went
up with the pack, and Jeanne followed behind him. The thunder
increased. It roared in their ears until they could no longer hear
their own voices. Directly above the rapids the trail was narrow,
scarcely eight feet in width, shut in on the land side by a mountain
wall, on the other by the precipice. Philip looked behind, and saw
Jeanne hugging close to the wall. Her face was white, her eyes shone
with terror and awe. He spoke to her, but she saw only the movement of
his lips. Then he put down his pack and went close to the edge of the
precipice.

Sixty feet below him was the Big Thunder, a chaos of lashing foam, of
slippery, black-capped rocks bobbing and grimacing amid the rushing
torrents like monsters playing at hide-and-seek. Now one rose high, as
though thrust up out of chaos by giant hands; then it sank back, and
milk-white foam swirled softly over the place where it had been. There
seemed to be life in the chaos--a grim, terrible life whose voice was a
thunder that never died. For a few moments Philip stood fascinated by
the scene below him. Then he felt a touch upon his arm. It was Jeanne.
She stood beside him quivering, dead-white, Almost daring to take the
final step. Philip caught her hands firmly in his own, and Jeanne
looked over. Then she darted back and hovered, shuddering, near the
wall.

The portage was a short one, scarce two hundred yards in length, and at
the upper end was a small green meadow in which river voyagers camped.
It still lacked two hours of dusk when Philip carried over the last of
the luggage.

"We will not camp here," he said to Jeanne pointing to the remains of
numerous fires and remembering Pierre's exhortation. "It is too public,
as you might say. Besides, that noise makes me deaf."

Jeanne shuddered.

"Let us hurry," she said. "I'm--I'm afraid of THAT!"

Philip carried the canoe down to the river, and Jeanne followed with
the bearskins. The current was soft and sluggish, with tiny maelstroms
gurgling up here and there, like air-bubbles in boiling syrup. He only
half launched the canoe, and Jeanne remained while he went for another
load. The dip, kept green by the water of a spring, was a pistol-shot
from the river. Philip looked back from the crest and saw Jeanne
leaning over the canoe. Then he descended into the meadow, whistling.
He had reached the packs when to his ears there seemed to come a sound
that rose faintly above the roar of the water in the chasm. He
straightened himself and listened.

"Philip! Philip!"

The cry came twice--his own name, piercing, agonizing, rising above the
thunder of the floods. He heard no more, but raced up the slope of the
dip. From the crest he stared down to where Jeanne had been. She was
gone. The canoe was gone. A terrible fear swept upon him, and for an
instant he turned faint. Jeanne's cry came to him again.

"Philip! Philip!"

Like a madman he dashed up the rocky trail to the chasm, calling to
Jeanne, shrieking to her, telling her that he was coming. He reached
the edge of the precipice and looked down. Below him was the canoe and
Jeanne. She was fighting futilely against the resistless flood; he saw
her paddle wrenched suddenly from her hands, and as it went swirling
beyond her reach she cried out his name again. Philip shouted, and the
girl's white face was turned up to him. Fifty yards ahead of her were
the first of the rocks. In another minute, even less, Jeanne would be
dashed to pieces before his eyes. Thoughts, swifter than light, flashed
through his mind. He could do nothing for her, for it seemed impossible
that any living creature could exist amid the maelstroms and rocks
ahead. And yet she was calling to him. She was reaching up her arms to
him. She had faith in him, even in the face of death.

"Philip! Philip!"

There was no M'SIEUR to that cry now, only a moaning, sobbing prayer
filled with his name.

"I'm coming, Jeanne!" he shouted. "I'm coming! Hold fast to the canoe!"

He ran ahead, stripping off his coat. A little below the first rocks a
stunted banskian grew out of an earthy fissure in the cliff, with its
lower branches dipping within a dozen feet of the stream. He climbed
out on this with the quickness of a squirrel, and hung to a limb with
both hands, ready to drop alongside the canoe. There was one chance,
and only one, of saving Jeanne. It was a chance out of a thousand--ten
thousand. If he could drop at the right moment, seize the stern of the
canoe, and make a rudder of himself, he could keep the craft from
turning broadside and might possibly guide it between the rocks below.
This one hope was destroyed as quickly as it was born. The canoe
crashed against the first rock. A smother of foam rose about it and he
saw Jeanne suddenly engulfed and lost. Then she reappeared, almost
under him, and he launched himself downward, clutching at her dress
with his hands. By a supreme effort he caught her around the waist with
his left arm, so that his right was free.

Ahead of them was a boiling sea of white, even more terrible than when
they had looked down upon it from above. The rocks were hidden by mist
and foam; their roar was deafening. Between Philip and the awful
maelstrom of death there was a quieter space of water, black, sullen,
and swift--the power itself, rushing on to whip itself into ribbons
among the taunting rocks that barred its way to the sea. In that space
Philip looked at Jeanne. Her face was against his breast. Her eyes met
his own, and In that last moment, face to face with death, love leaped
above all fear. They were about to die, and Jeanne would die in his
arms. She was his now--forever. His hold tightened. Her face came
nearer. He wanted to shout, to let her know what he had meant to say at
Fort o' God. But his voice would have been like a whisper in a
hurricane. Could Jeanne understand? The wall of foam was almost in
their faces. Suddenly he bent down, crushed his face to hers, and
kissed her again and again. Then, as the maelstrom engulfed them, he
swung his own body to take the brunt of the shock.

He no longer reasoned beyond one thing. He must keep his body between
Jeanne and the rocks. He would be crushed, beaten to pieces, made
unrecognizable, but Jeanne would be only drowned. He fought to keep
himself half under her, with his head and shoulders in advance. When he
felt the floods sucking him under, he thrust her upward. He fought, and
did not know what happened. Only there was the crashing of a thousand
cannon in his ears, and he seemed to live through an eternity. They
thundered about him, against him, ahead of him, and then more and more
behind. He felt no pain, no shock. It was the SOUND that he seemed to
be fighting; in the buffeting of his body against the rocks there was
the painlessness of a knife-thrust delivered amid the roar of battle.
And the sound receded. It was thundering in retreat, and a curious
thought came to him. Providence had delivered him through the
maelstrom. He had not struck the rocks. He was saved. And in his arms
he held Jeanne.

It was day when he began the fight, broad day. And now it was night. He
felt earth, under his feet, and he knew that he had brought Jeanne
ashore. He heard her voice speaking his name; and he was so glad that
he laughed and sobbed like a babbling idiot. It was dark, and he was
tired. He sank down, and he could feel Jeanne's arms striving to hold
him up, and he could still hear her voice. But nothing could keep him
from sleeping. And during that sleep he had visions. Now it was day,
and he saw Jeanne's face over him; again it was night, and he heard
only the roaring of the flood. Again he heard voices, Jeanne's voice
and a man's, and he wondered who the man could be. It was a strange
sleep filled with strange dreams. But at last the dreams seemed to go.
He lost himself. He awoke, and the night had turned into day. He was in
a tent, and the sun was gleaming on the outside. It had been a curious
dream, and he sat up astonished.

There was a man sitting beside him. It was Pierre.

"Thank God, M'sieur!" he heard. "We have been waiting for this. You are
saved!"

"Pierre!" he gasped.

Memory returned to him. He was awake. He felt weak, but he knew that
what he saw was not the vision of a dream.

"I came the day after you went through the rapids," explained Pierre,
seeing his amazement. "You saved Jeanne. She was not hurt. But you were
badly bruised, M'sieur, and you have been in a fever."

"Jeanne--was not--hurt?"

"No. She cared for you until I came. She is sleeping now."

"I have not been this way--very long, have I, Pierre?"

"I came yesterday," said Pierre. He bent over Philip, and added: "You
must remain quiet for a little longer, M'sieur. I have brought you a
letter from M'sieur Gregson, and when you read that I will have some
broth made for you."

Philip took the letter and opened it as Pierre went quietly out of the
tent. Gregson had written him but a few lines. He wrote:


MY DEAR PHIL,--I hope you'll forgive me. But I'm tired of this mess. I
was never cut out for the woods, and so I'm going to dismiss myself,
leaving all best wishes behind for you. Go in and fight. You're a devil
for fighting, and will surely win. I'll only be in the way. So I'm
going back with the ship, which leaves in three or four days. Was going
to tell you this on the night you disappeared. Am sorry I couldn't
shake hands with you before I left. Write and let me know how things
come out. As ever,

TOM.


Stunned, Philip dropped the letter. He lifted his eyes, and a strange
cry burst from his lips. Nothing that Gregson had written could have
wrung that cry from him. It was Jeanne. She stood in the open door of
the tent. But it was not the Jeanne he had known. A terrible grief was
written in her face. Her lips were bloodless, her eyes lusterless; deep
suffering seemed to have put hollows in her cheeks. In a moment she had
fallen upon her knees beside him and clasped one of his hands in both
of her own.

"I am so glad," she whispered, chokingly.

For an instant she pressed his hands to her face.

"I am so glad--"

She rose to her feet, swaying slightly. She turned to the door, and
Philip could hear her sobbing as she left him.



XV


Not until the silken flap of the tent had fallen behind Jeanne did
power of movement and speech return to Philip. He called her name and
straggled to a sitting posture. Then he staggered to his feet. He could
scarcely stand. Shooting pains passed like flashes of electricity
through his body. His right arm was numb and stiff, and he found that
it was thickly bandaged. His head ached, his legs could hardly support
him. He went to raise his left hand to his head, but stopped it in
front of him, while a slow smile of understanding crept over his face.
It was swollen and covered with livid bruises. He wondered if his body
looked that way, and sank down exhausted upon his balsam bed. A minute
later Pierre returned with a cup of broth in his hand.

Philip looked at him with less feverish eyes now. There was an
unaccountable change in the half-breed's appearance, as there had been
in Jeanne's. His face seemed thinner. There was a deep gloom in his
eyes, a dejected droop to his shoulders. Philip accepted the broth, and
drank it slowly, without speaking. He felt strengthened. Then he looked
steadily at Pierre. The old pride had fallen from Pierre like a mask.
His eyes dropped under Philip's gaze.

Philip held up a hand.

"Pierre!"

The half-breed grasped it and waited. His lips tightened.

"What is the matter?" demanded Philip. "What has happened to Jeanne?
You say she was not hurt--"

"By the rocks, M'sieur," interrupted Pierre, quickly, kneeling beside
Philip. "Listen. It is best that I tell you. You are a man, you will
understand, without being told all. From Churchill I brought news which
it was necessary for me to tell Jeanne. It was terrible news, and she
is distressed under its weight. Your honor will not allow you to
inquire further, M'sieur. I can tell you no more than this--that it is
a grief which belongs to but one person on earth--herself. I ask you to
help me. Be blind to her unhappiness, M'sieur. Believe that it is the
distress of the peril through which she has passed. A little later I
will tell you all, and you will understand. But it is impossible now. I
confide this much in you--I ask you this--because--"

Pierre's eyes were half closed, and he looked as though unseeing over
Philip's head.

"I ask you this," he repeated, softly, "because I have guessed--that
you love her."

A cry of joy burst from Philip's lips.

"I do, Pierre--I do--I do--"

"I have guessed it," said Pierre. "You will help me--to save her!"

"Until death!"

"Then you will go with us to Fort o' God, and from there you will go at
once to your camp on Blind Indian Lake."

Philip felt the sweat breaking out over his face. He was still weak.
His voice was unnatural, and trembled.

"You know--" he gasped.

"Yes, I know, M'sieur," replied Pierre. "I know that you are in charge
there, and Jeanne knows. We knew who you were before we appointed to
meet you on the cliff. You must return to your men."

Philip was silent. For the moment every hope was crushed within him.

He looked at Pierre. The half-breed's eyes were glowing, his haggard
cheeks were flushed.

"And this is necessary?"

"It is absolutely necessary, M'sieur."

"Then I will go. But first, Pierre, I must know a little more. I cannot
go entirely blind. Do they fear my men--at Fort o' God?"

"No, M'sieur."

"One more question, Pierre. Who is Lord Fitzhugh Lee?"

For an instant Pierre's eyes widened. They grew black, and burned with
a strange, threatening fire. He rose slowly to his feet, and placed
both hands upon Philip's shoulders. For a full minute the two men
stared into each other's face. Then Pierre spoke. His voice was soft
and low, scarcely above a murmur, but it was filled with something that
struck a chill to Philip's heart.

"I would kill you before I would answer that question, M'sieur," he
said. "No other person has ever done for Jeanne and I what you have
done. We owe you more than we can ever repay. Yet if you insist upon an
answer to that question you make of me an enemy; if you breathe that
name to Jeanne, you turn her away from you forever."

Without another word he left the tent.

For many minutes Philip sat motionless where Pierre had left him. The
earth seemed suddenly to have dropped from under his feet, leaving him
in an illimitable chaos of mind. Gregson had deserted him, with almost
no word of explanation, and he would have staked his life upon
Gregson's loyalty. Under other circumstances his unaccountable action
would have been a serious blow. But now it was overshadowed by the
mysterious change that had come over Jeanne. A few hours before she had
been happy, laughing and singing as they drew nearer to Fort o' God;
each hour had added to the brightness of her eyes, the gladness in her
voice. The change had come with Pierre, and at the bottom of it all was
Lord Fitzhugh Lee. Pierre had warned him not to mention Lord Fitzhugh's
name to Jeanne, and yet only a short time before he had spoken the name
boldly before Jeanne, and she had betrayed no sign of recognition or of
fear. More than that, she had assured him that she had never heard the
name before, that it was not known at Fort o' God.

Philip bowed his head in his hands, and his fingers clutched in his
hair. What did it all mean? He went back to the scene on the cliff,
when Pierre had roused himself at the sound of the name; he thought of
all that had happened since Gregson had come to Churchill, and the
result was a delirium of thought that made his temples throb. He was
sure--now--of but few things. He loved Jeanne--loved her more than he
had ever dreamed that he could love a woman, and he believed that it
would be impossible for her to tell him a falsehood. He was confident
that she had never heard of Lord Fitzhugh until Pierre overtook them in
their flight from Churchill. He could see but one thing to do, and that
was to follow Pierre's advice, accepting his promise that in the end
everything would come out right. He had faith in Pierre.

He rose to his feet and went to the tent-flap. An embarrassing thought
came to him, and he stopped, a flush of feverish color suddenly
mounting into his pale cheeks. He had kissed Jeanne in the chasm, when
death thundered in their faces. He had kissed her again and again, and
in those kisses he had declared his love. He was glad, and yet sorry;
the knowledge that she must know of his love filled him with happiness,
and yet with it there was the feeling that it would place a distance
between him and Jeanne.

Jeanne was the first to see him when he came out of the tent. She was
sitting beside a small balsam shelter, and Pierre was busy over a fire,
with his back turned to them. For a moment the two looked at each other
in silence, and then Jeanne came toward him, holding out one of her
hands. He saw that she was making a strong effort to appear natural,
but there was something in his own face that made her attempt a poor
one. The hand that she gave him trembled. Her lips quivered. For the
first time her eyes failed to meet his own in their limpid frankness.

"Pierre has told you what happened," she said. "It was a miracle, and I
owe you my life. I have had my punishment for being so careless." She
tried to laugh at him now, and drew her hand away. "I wasn't beaten
against the rocks, like you, but--"

"It was terrible," interrupted Philip, remembering Pierre's words, and
eager to put her at ease. "You have stood up under it beautifully. I am
afraid of after effects. You must not collapse under the strain now."

Pierre heard his last words and a smile flashed over his dark face as
he encountered Philip's glance.

"It is true, M'sieur," he said. "I know of no other woman who would
have stood up under such a thing as Jeanne has done. MON DIEU, when I
found a part of the canoe wreckage far below I thought that both of you
were dead!"

Philip began to feel that he had foolishly overestimated his strength.
There was a weakness in his limbs that surprised him, and a sudden
chill replaced the fever in his blood. Jeanne placed her hand upon his
arm and thrust him gently toward the tent.

"You must not exert yourself," she said, watching the pallor in his
face. "You must be quiet, until after dinner."

He obeyed the pressure of her hand. Pierre followed into the tent, and
for a moment he was compelled to lean heavily upon the half-breed.

"It is the reaction, M'sieur," said Pierre. "You are weak after the
fever. If you could sleep--"

"I can," murmured Philip, dizzily, dropping upon his balsam. "But,
Pierre--"

"Yes, M'sieur."

"I have something--to say to you--no questions--"

"Not now, M'sieur."

Philip heard the rustling of the flap, and Pierre was gone. He felt
more comfortable lying down. Dizziness and nausea left him, and he
slept. It was the deep, refreshing sleep that always follows the
awakening from fever. When he awoke he felt like his old self, and went
outside. Pierre was alone; a blanket was drawn across the front of the
balsam shelter, and the half-breed nodded toward it in response to
Philip's inquiring glance.

Philip ate lightly of the food which Pierre had ready for him. When he
had finished he leaned close to him, and said:

"You have warned me to ask no questions, and I am going to ask none.
But you have not forbidden me to tell you things which I know. I am
going to talk to you about Lord Fitzhugh Lee."

Pierre's dark eyes flashed.

"M'sieur--"

"Listen!" demanded Philip. "I seek your confidence no further. But I
shall tell you what I know of Lord Fitzhugh Lee, if it makes us fight.
Do you understand? I insist upon this because you have as good as told
me that this man is your enemy, and that he is at the bottom of
Jeanne's trouble. He is also my enemy. And after I have told you
why--you may change your determination to keep me a stranger to your
trouble. If not--well, you can hold your tongue then as well as now."

Quickly, without moving his eyes from Pierre's face, Philip told his
own story of Lord Fitzhugh Lee. And as he continued a strange change
came over the half-breed. When he came to the letters revealing the
plot to turn the northerners against his company a low cry escaped
Pierre's lips. His eyes seemed starting from his head. Drops of sweat
burst out upon his face. His fingers worked convulsively, something
rose in his throat and choked him. When Philip had done he buried his
face in his hands. For a few moments he remained thus, and then
suddenly looked up. Livid spots burned in his cheeks, and he fairly
hissed at Philip.

"M'sieur, if this is not the truth--if this is a lie--"

He stopped. Something in Philip's eyes told him to go no further. He
was fearless, and he saw more than fearlessness in Philip's face. Such
men believe, when they come together.

"It is the truth," said Philip.

With a low, strained laugh Pierre held out his hand as a pledge of his
faith.

"I believe in you, M'sieur," he said, and it seemed an effort for him
to speak. "Do you know what I would have thought, if you had told this
to Jeanne before I came?"

"No."

"I would have thought, M'sieur, that she threw herself purposely into
the death of the Big Thunder rocks."

"My God, you mean--"

"That is all, M'sieur. I can say no more. Ah, there is Jeanne!" he
cried, more loudly. "Now we will take down the tent, and go."

Jeanne stood a dozen steps behind them when Philip turned. She greeted
him with a smile, and hastened to assist Pierre in gathering up the
things about the camp. Philip was not blind to her efforts to evade
him. He could see that it was a relief to her when they were at last in
Pierre's canoe, and headed up the river. They traveled till late in the
evening, and set up Jeanne's tent by starlight. The journey was
continued at dawn. Late the following afternoon the Little Churchill
swept through a low, woodless country, called the White Fox Barren. It
was a narrow barren and across it lay the forest and the ridge
mountains. Behind these mountains and the forest the sun was setting.
Above all else there rose out of the gathering gloom of evening a
single ridge, a towering mass of rock which caught the last glow of the
sun, and blazed like a signal-fire.

The canoe stopped. Jeanne and Pierre both gazed toward the great rock.

Then Jeanne, who was in the bow, turned her face to Philip, and the
glow of the rock itself suffused her cheeks as she pointed over the
barren.

"M'sieur Philip," she said, "there is Fort o' God!"



XVI


There was a low tremble in Jeanne's voice. The canoe swung broadside to
the slow current, and Philip looked in astonishment at the change in
Pierre. The tired half-breed had uncovered his head, and knelt with his
face turned to that last crimson glow in the sky, like one in prayer.
But his eyes were open, there was a smile on his lips, and he was
breathing quickly. Pride and joy came where there had been the lines of
grief and exhaustion. His shoulders were thrown back, his head erect,
and the fire of the distant rock reflected itself in his eyes. From him
Philip turned, so that he could look into Jeanne's face. The girl, too,
had changed. Again these two were the Pierre and Jeanne whom he had
seen that first night on the moonlit cliff. Pierre seemed no longer the
half-breed, but the prince of the rapier and broad cuffs; and Jeanne,
smiling proudly at Philip, made him an exquisite little courtesy from
her cramped seat in the bow, and said:

"M'sieur Philip, welcome to Fort o' God!"

"Thank you," he said, and stared toward the sun-capped rock.

He could see nothing but the rock, the black forests, and the desolate
barren stretching between. Fort o' God, unless it was the rock itself,
was still a mystery hidden in the gathering gloom. The canoe began
moving slowly onward, and Jeanne turned so that her eyes searched the
stream ahead. A thick wall of stunted forest shut out the barren from
their view; the stream grew narrower, and on the opposite side a barren
ridge, threatening them with torn and upheaved masses of rock, flung
the heavy shadows of evening down upon them. No one spoke. Philip could
hear Pierre breathing behind him: something in the intense quiet--in
the awesome effect which their approach to Fort o' God had upon these
two--sent strange little thrills shooting through his body. He
listened, and heard nothing, not even the howl of a dog. The stillness
was oppressive, and the darkness thickened about them. For half an hour
they continued, and then Pierre headed the canoe into a narrow creek,
thrusting it through a thick growth of wild rice and reeds.

Balsam and cedar and swamp hazel shut them in. Overhead the tall cedars
interlaced, and hid the pale light of the sky. Philip could just make
out Jeanne ahead of him.

And then, suddenly, there came a wonderful change. They shot out of the
darkness, as if from a tunnel, but so quietly that one a dozen feet
away could not have heard the ripple of Pierre's paddle. Almost in
their faces rose a huge black bulk, and in that blackness three or four
yellow lights gleamed like mellow stars. The canoe touched noiselessly
upon sand. Pierre sprang out, still without sound. Jeanne followed,
with a whispered word. Philip was last.

Pierre pulled the canoe up, and Jeanne came to Philip. She held out her
two hands. Her face shone white in the gloom, and there was a look in
her beautiful eyes, as she stood for a moment almost touching him, that
set his heart jumping. She let her hands lie in his while she spoke.

"We have not even alarmed the dogs, M'sieur Philip," she whispered. "Is
not that splendid? I am going to surprise father, and you will go with
Pierre. I will see you a little later, and--"

She rose on tiptoe, and her face was dangerously close to his own.

"And you are very, very welcome to Fort o' God, M'sieur."

She slipped away into the darkness, and Pierre stood beside Philip. His
white teeth were gleaming strangely, and he said in a soft voice:

"M'sieur, that is the first time that I have ever heard those words
spoken at Fort o' God. We welcome no man here who has your blood and
your civilization in his veins. You are greater than a king!"

With a sudden exclamation Philip turned upon Pierre.

"And that is the reason for Jeanne's surprise?" he said. "She wishes to
pave a way for me. I begin to understand!"

"It is true that you might not have received that welcome which you are
certain to receive now from the master of Fort o' God," replied Pierre,
frankly. "So we will go in quietly, and make no disturbance, while your
way is being paved, as you call it."

He walked ahead, with Philip following so closely that he could have
touched him. He made out more distinctly now the lines of the huge
black edifice from which the lights shone. It was a massive structure
of logs, two stories high, a half of it almost completely hidden in the
impenetrable shadow of a great wall of rock. Philip's eyes traveled up
this wall, and he was convinced that he stood under the rock upon whose
towering crest he had seen the last reflection of the evening sun.
About him there were no signs of life or of other habitation. Pierre
moved swiftly. They passed under a small lighted window that was a foot
above Philip's head, and turned around the corner of the building. Here
all was blackness.

Pierre went straight to a door, and uttered at low word of satisfaction
when he found that it was not barred. He opened it, and reached out a
guiding hand to Philip's arm. Philip entered, and the door closed
softly behind him. He felt the flow of warm air in his face, and his
moccasined feet trod upon something soft and velvety. Faintly, as
though coming from a great distance, he heard a voice singing. It was a
woman's voice, but he knew that it was not Jeanne's.

In spite of himself his heart was beating excitedly. The mystery of
Fort o' God was about him, warm and subtle, like a strange spirit,
sending through him the thrill of anticipation, a hundred fancies,
little fears. Pierre advanced, still guiding him; then he stopped, and
chuckled softly in the darkness. The distant voice had stopped singing,
and there came in place of it the loud barking of a dog, an
unintelligible sound of a voice, and then quiet. Jeanne had sprung her
surprise.

Pierre led the way to another room.

"This is to be your room, M'sieur," he explained. "Make yourself
comfortable. I have no doubt that the master of Fort o' God will wish
to see you very soon."

He struck a match as he spoke, and lighted a lamp. A moment more and he
was gone.

Philip looked about him. He was in a room fully twenty feet square,
furnished in a manner that drew from him an audible gasp of
astonishment. At one end of the room was a massive mahogany bed,
screened by heavy curtains which were looped back by silken cords. Near
the bed was an old-fashioned mahogany dresser, with a diamond-shaped
mirror, and in front of it a straight-backed chair adorned with the
grotesque carving of an ancient and long-dead fashion. About him,
everywhere, were the evidences of luxury and of age. The big lamp,
which gave a brilliant light, was of hammered brass; the base of its
square pedestal was partly hidden in the rumples of a heavy damask
spread which covered the table on which it rested. The table itself was
old, spindle-legged, glowing with the mellow luster endowed by many
passing generations--a relic of the days when the originator of its
fashion became the favorite of a capricious and beautiful queen. Soft
rugs were upon the floor; from the walls, papered and hung with odd
bits of tapestry, strange faces looked down upon Philip from out of
heavy gilded frames; faces grim, pale, shadowed; men with plaited
ruffles and curls; women with powdered hair, who gazed down upon him
haughtily, as if they wondered at his intrusion.

One picture was turned with its face to the wall.

Philip sank into a huge arm-chair, cushioned with velvet, and dropped
his cap upon the floor. And this was Fort o' God! He scarcely breathed.
He was back two centuries, and he stared, as if each moment he expected
some manifestation of life in what he saw. He had dreamed his dream
over the dead at Churchill; here it was reality--almost; it lacked but
a breath, a movement, a flutter of life in the dead faces that looked
down upon him. He gazed up at them again, and laughed a little
nervously. Then he fixed his eyes on the opposite wall. One of the
pictures was moving. The thought in his brain had given birth to the
movement he had imagined. It was a woman's face in the picture, young
and beautiful, and it nodded to him, one moment radiant with light, the
next caught in shadows that cast over it a gloom. He jumped from his
chair and went so that he stood directly under it.

A current of warm air shot up into his face from the floor. It was this
air that was causing movement in the picture, and he looked down. What
he discovered broke the spell he was under. About him were the relics
of age, of a life long dead. Rubens might have sat in that room, and
mourned over his handiwork, lost in a wilderness. The stingy Louis
might have recognized in the spindle-legged table a bit of his
predecessor's extravagance, which he had sold for the good of the
exchequer of France; a Gobelin might have reclaimed one of the woven
landscapes on the wall, a Grosellier himself have issued from behind
the curtained bed. Philip himself, in that environment, was the
stranger. It was the current of warm air which brought him back from
the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Under his feet was a furnace!

Even the master of Fort o' God, stern and forbidding as Philip began to
imagine him, might have laughed at the look which came into his face.
Grosellier, the cavalier, had he appeared, Philip would have accepted
with the same confidence that he had accepted Jeanne and Pierre. But--a
furnace! He thrust his hands deep in his pockets, a trick which was
always the last convincing evidence of his perplexity, and walked
slowly around the room. There were two books on the table. One, bound
in faded red vellum, was a Greek Anthology, the other Drummond's Ascent
of Man. There were other books on a quaintly carved shelf, under the
picture which had been turned to the wall. He ran over the titles.
There were a number of French novels, Ely's Socialism, Sir Thomas
More's Utopia, St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia, and a dozen other
volumes; there were Balzac and Hugo, and Dante's Divine Comedy. Amid
this array, like a black sheep lost among the angels, was a finger-worn
and faded little volume bearing the name Camille. Something about this
one book, so strangely out of place in its present company, aroused
Philip's curiosity. It bore the name, too, which he had found worked in
the corner of Jeanne's handkerchief. In a way, the presence of this
book gave him a sort of shock, and he took it in his hands, and opened
the cover. Under his fingers were pages yellow and frayed with age, and
in an ancient type, once black, the title, The Meaning of God. In a
large masculine hand some one had written under this title the
accompanying words; "A black skin often contains a white soul; a
woman's beauty, hell."

Philip replaced the book with a feeling of awe. Something in those
words, brutal in their truth--something in the strange whim that had
placed a pearl of purity within the faded and worn mask of the
condemned, seemed to speak to him of a tragedy that might be a key to
the mystery of Fort o' God. From the books he looked up at the picture
which had been turned to the wall. The temptation to see what was
hidden overcame him, and he turned the frame over. Then he stepped back
with a low cry of pleasure.

From out of the proscribed canvas there smiled down upon him a face of
bewildering beauty. It was the face of a young woman, a stranger among
its companions, because it was of the present. Philip stepped to one
side, so that the light from the lamp shone from behind him, and he
wondered if the picture had been condemned to hang with its face to the
wall because it typified the existent rather than the past. He looked
more closely, and drew back step by step, until he was in the proper
focus to bring out every expression in the lovely face. In the picture
he saw each moment a greater resemblance to Jeanne. The eyes, the hair,
the sweetness of the mouth, the smile, brought to him a vision of
Jeanne herself. The woman in the picture was older than Jeanne, and his
first thought was that it must be a sister, or her mother. It came to
him in the next breath that this would be impossible, for Jeanne had
been found by Pierre in the deep snows, on her dead mother's breast.
And this was a painting of life, of youth, of beauty, and not of death
and starvation.

He returned the forbidden picture to the position in which he had found
it against the wall, half ashamed of the act and thoughts into which
his curiosity had led him. And yet, after all, it was not curiosity. He
told himself that as he washed himself and groomed his disheveled
clothes.

An hour had passed when he heard a low tap at the door, and Pierre came
in. In that time the half-breed had undergone a transformation. He was
dressed in an exquisite coat of yellow buckskin, with the same
old-fashioned cuffs he had worn when Philip first saw him, trousers of
the same material, buckled below the knees, and boot-moccasins with
flaring tops. He wore a new rapier at his waist, and his glossy black
hair was brushed smoothly back, and fell loose upon his shoulders. It
was the courtier, and not Pierre the half-breed, who bowed to Philip.

"M'sieur, are you ready?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Philip.

"Then we will go to M'sieur d'Arcambal, the master of Fort o' God."

They passed out into the hall, which was faintly illumined now, so that
Philip caught glimpses of deep shadows and massive doors as he followed
behind Pierre. They turned into a second hall, at the end of which was
an open door through which came a flood of light. At this door Pierre
stopped, and with a bow allowed his companion to pass in ahead of him.
The next moment Philip stood in a room twice as large as the one he had
left. It was brilliantly lighted by three or four lamps; he had only an
instant's vision of numberless shelves loaded with books, of walls
covered with pictures, of a ponderous table in front of him, and then
he heard a voice.

A man stepped out from beside the door, and he stood face to face with
the master of Fort o' God.



XVII


He was an old man. Beard and hair were white. He was as tall as Philip;
his shoulders were broader; his chest massive; and as he stood under
the light of one of the hanging lamps, his face shining with a pale
glow, one hand upon his breast, the other extended, it seemed to Philip
that all of the greatness and past glory of Fort o' God, whatever they
may have been, were personified in the man he beheld. He was dressed in
soft buckskin, like Pierre. His hair and beard grew in wild disorder,
and from under shaggy eyebrows there burned a pair of deep-set eyes of
the color of blue steel. He was a man to inspire awe; old, and yet
young; white-haired, gray-faced, and yet a giant. One might have
expected from between his bearded lips a voice as thrilling as his
appearance; a rumbling voice, deep-chested, sonorous--and it would have
caused no surprise. It was the voice that surprised Philip more than
the man. It was low, and trembling with an agitation which even
strength and pride could not control.

"Philip Whittemore, I am Henry d'Arcambal. May God bless you for what
you have done!"

A hand of iron gripped his own. And then, before Philip had found words
to say, the master of Fort o' God suddenly placed his arms about his
shoulders and embraced him. Their shoulders touched. Their faces were
close. The two men who loved Jeanne d'Arcambal above all else on earth
gazed for a silent moment into each other's eyes.

"They have told me," said D'Arcambal, softly. "You have brought my
Jeanne home through death. Accept a father's blessing, and with
it--this!"

He stepped back, and swept his arms about the great room.

"Everything--everything--would have gone with her," he said. "If you
had let her die, I should have died. My God, what peril she was in! In
saving her you saved me. So you are welcome here, as a son. For the
first time since my Jeanne was a babe Fort o' God offers itself to a
man who is a stranger and its hospitality is yours so long as its walls
hang together. And as they have done this for upward of two hundred
years, M'sieur Philip, we may conclude that our friendship is to be
without end."

He clasped Philip's hands again, and two tears coursed down his gray
cheeks. It was difficult for Philip to restrain the joy his words
produced, which, coming from the lips of Jeanne's father, lifted him
suddenly into a paradise of hope. For many reasons he had come to
expect a none too warm reception at Fort o' God; he had looked ahead to
the place with a grim sort of fear, scarcely definable; and here
Jeanne's father was opening his arms to him. Pierre was unapproachable;
Jeanne herself was a mystery, filling him alternately with hope and
despair; D'Arcambal had accepted him as a son. He could find no words
adequate to his emotion; none that could describe his own happiness,
unless it was in a bold avowal of his love for the girl he had saved.
And this his good sense told him not to make, at the present moment.

"Any man would have done as much for your daughter," he said at last,
"and I am happy that I was the fortunate one to render her assistance."

"You are wrong," said D'Arcambal, taking him by the arm. "You are one
out of a thousand. It takes a MAN to go through the Big Thunder and
come out at the other end alive. I know of only one other who has done
that in the last twenty years, and that other is Henry d'Arcambal
himself. We three, you, Jeanne, and I, have alone triumphed over those
monsters of death. All others have died. It seems like a strange
pointing of the hand of God."

Philip trembled.

"We three!" he exclaimed.

"We three," said the old man, "and for that reason you are a part of
Fort o' God."

He led Philip deeper into the great room, and Philip saw that almost
all the space along the walls of the huge room was occupied by shelves
upon shelves of books, masses of papers, piles of magazines
shoulder-high, scores of maps and paintings. The massive table was
covered with books; there were piles on smaller tables; chairs, and the
floor itself, covered with the skins of a score of wild beasts, were
littered with them. At the far end of the room he saw deeper and darker
shelves, where gleamed faintly in the lamplight row upon row of vials
and bottles and strange instruments of steel and glass. A scientist in
the wilderness--a student exiled in a desolation! These were the
thoughts that leaped into his mind, and he knew that in this room
Jeanne had been created; that here, between these centuries-old walls,
amid an environment of strange silence, of whispering age, her visions
of the world had come. Here, separated from all her kind, God, Nature,
and a father had made her of their handiwork.

The old man pointed Philip to a chair near the large table, and sat
down close to him. At his feet was a stool covered with silvery
lynx-skin, and D'Arcambal looked at this, his strong, grim face
relaxing into a gentle smile of happiness.

"There is where Jeanne sits--at my feet," he said. "It has been her
place for many years. When she is not there I am lost. Life ceases.
This room has been our world. To-night you are in Fort o' God;
to-morrow you will see D'Arcambal House. You have heard of that,
perhaps, but never of Fort o' God. That belongs to Jeanne and me, to
Pierre--and you. Fort o' God is the heart, the soul, the life's blood
of D'Arcambal House. It is this room and two or three others.
D'Arcambal House is our barrier. When strangers come, they see
D'Arcambal House; plain rooms, of rough wood; quarters such as you have
seen at posts and stations; the mask which gives no hint of what is
hidden within. It is there that we live to the world; it is here that
we live to ourselves. Jeanne has my permission to tell you whatever she
wishes, a little later. But I am curious, and being an old man must be
humored first. I am still trembling. You must tell me what happened to
Jeanne."

For an hour they talked, and Philip went over one by one the events as
they had occurred since the fight on the cliff, omitting only such
things as he thought that Jeanne and Pierre might wish to keep secret
to themselves. At the end of that hour he was certain that D'Arcambal
was unaware of the dark cloud that had suddenly come into Jeanne's
life. The old man's brow was knitted with deep lines, and his powerful
jaws were set hard, as Philip told of the ambush, of the wounding of
Pierre, and the flight of his assailants with his daughter. It was to
get money, the old man thought. The half-breed had suggested that, and
Jeanne herself had given it as her opinion. Why else should they have
been attacked at Churchill? Such things had occurred before, he told
Philip. The little daughter of the factor at Nelson House had been
stolen, and held for ransom. With a hundred questions he wrung from
Philip every detail of the second fight and of the struggle for life in
the rapids. He betrayed no physical excitement, even in those moments
of Philip's description when Jeanne hung between life and death; but in
his eyes there was the glow of red-hot fires. At last there came to
interrupt them the low, musical tinkling of a bell under the table.

D'Arcambal's face lighted up suddenly.

"Ah, I had forgotten," he exclaimed. "Pardon me, Philip. Dinner has
been awaiting us this last half-hour; and besides--"

He reached out and touched a tiny button, which Philip had not observed
before.

"I am selfish."

He had hardly ceased speaking when footsteps sounded in the hall, and
in spite of every resolution he had made to guard himself against any
betrayal of the emotions burning in his breast, Philip sprang to his
feet. Jeanne had come in under the glow of the lamps and stood now a
dozen feet from him, a vision so exquisitely lovely that he saw nothing
of those who entered behind her, nor heard D'Arcambal's low, happy
laugh at his side. It seemed to him for a moment as if there had
suddenly appeared before him the face of the picture that was turned
against the wall, only more beautiful now, radiant with the glow of
living flesh and blood. But there was something even more startling
than this resemblance. In this moment Jeanne was the fulfilment of his
dream; she had come to him from out of another world. She was dressed
in an old-fashioned gown of pure white, a fabric so delicate that it
seemed to float about her slender form, responsive to every breath she
drew. Her white shoulders revealed themselves above masses of filmy
lace that fell upon her bosom; her slender arms, girlish rather than
womanly in their beauty, were bare. Her hair was bound up in shining
coils about her head, with a single flower nestling amid a little
cluster of curls that fell upon her neck. After his first movement,
Philip recovered himself by a strong effort. He bowed low to conceal
the flush in his face. Jeanne swept him a little courtesy, and then ran
past him, with the eagerness of any modern child, into the outstretched
arms of her father.

Laughter and joy rumbled in the beard of the master of Fort o' God as
he looked over Jeanne's head at Philip.

"And this is what you have saved for me," he said.

Then he looked beyond, and for the first time Philip realized there
were others in the room. One was Pierre; the other a pretty, dark-faced
girl, with hair that glistened like a raven's wing in the lamp-glow.

Jeanne left her father's arms and gave her hand to Philip.

"M'sieur Philip, this is my sister, Mademoiselle Couchee," she cried.

Pierre's sister gave Philip her hand, and behind them D'Arcambal
laughed softly in his beard again, and said:

"To-morrow, in D'Arcambal House, you may call her Otille, Philip. But
to-night we are in Fort o' God. Oh, Jeanne, Jeanne, what a witch you
are!"

"An angel!" breathed Philip, but no one heard him.

"And this witch," added the old man, "you are to take in to supper,
M'sieur Philip. To night I suppose that I must call you m'sieur, but
to-morrow, when I have on my leather leggings and my skin cap, I will
call you Phil, or Tom, Dick, or Harry, just as I please. This is the
first time, sir, that my Jeanne has ever gone in to dinner on another
arm than mine or Pierre's. And so I may be a little jealous. Proceed."

As Jeanne's hand rested in his arm, and they went into the hall, Philip
could not restrain himself from whispering:

"I am glad--of that."

"And the dress, M'sieur Philip!" exclaimed D'Arcambal behind them, in
the voice of a happy boy. "It is an honor to escort that, to say
nothing of the silly girl that's in it. That dress, sir, belonged to a
beautiful lady who was called Camille, and who died over a century ago."

"Father, please do be good!" protested Jeanne. "Remember!"

"Ah, so I will," said her father. "I had forgotten that you were to
tell M'sieur Philip these things."

They entered another room illuminated by a single huge lamp suspended
above a table spread with silver and fine linen. The room was as great
a surprise as the other two had been. It contained no chairs. What
Philip mentally designated as benches, with deep cushion seats of
greenish leather, were arranged about the table. These same curious
seats furnished other parts of the room. From the pictures on the walls
to the ancient helmet and cuirass that stood up like a legless sentinel
in one corner, this room, like the others, breathed of extreme age.
Over a big open fireplace, in which half a dozen birch logs were
burning, hung a number of old-fashioned weapons; a flintlock, a pair of
obsolete French dueling pistols, a short rapier similar to that which
Pierre wore, and two long swords. Philip noticed that about each of the
dueling pistols was tied a bow of ribbon, dull and faded, as though the
passing of generations had robbed them of beauty and color, to be
replaced by the somberness of age.

During the meal Philip could not but observe that Jeanne was laboring
under some mysterious strain. Her cheeks were brilliantly flushed, and
her eyes were filled with a lustrous brightness that he had never seen
in them before. Their beauty was almost feverish. Several times he
caught a strange little tremor of her white shoulders, as though a
sudden chill had passed through her. He discovered, too, that Pierre
was observing these things, and that there was something forced in the
half-breed's cheerfulness. But D'Arcambal and Otille seemed completely
oblivious of any change. Their happiness overflowed. Philip thought of
his last supper at Churchill, with Eileen Brokaw and her father. Miss
Brokaw had acted strangely then, and had struggled to hide some secret
grief or excitement, as Jeanne was struggling now.

He was glad when the meal was finished, and the master of Fort o' God
rose from his seat. At D'Arcambal's movement his eyes caught Jeanne's,
and then he saw that Pierre was looking sharply at him.

"Jeanne owes you an apology--and an explanation, M'sieur Philip," said
D'Arcambal, resting a hand upon Jeanne's head. "We are going to retire,
and she will initiate you into the fold of Fort o' God."

Pierre and Otille followed him from the room. For the first time in an
hour Jeanne laughed frankly at Philip.

"There isn't much to explain, M'sieur Philip," she said, rising from
her seat. "You know pretty nearly all there is to know about Fort o'
God now. Only I am sure that I did not appear to value your confidence
very much--a little while ago. It must have seemed ungrateful in me,
indeed, to have told you so little about myself and my home, after what
you did for Pierre and me. But I have father's permission now. It is
the second time that he has ever given it to me."

"And I don't want to hear," exclaimed Philip, bluntly. "I have been
more or less of a brute, Miss Jeanne. I know enough about Fort o' God.
It is a glorious place. You owe me nothing, and for that reason--"

"But I insist," interrupted the girl. "Do you mean to say that you do
not care to listen, when this is the second time in my life that I have
had the opportunity of talking about my home? And the first--didn't
give me any pleasure. This will."

A shadow came into Jeanne's eyes. She motioned him to a seat beside her
in front of the fire. Her nearness, the touch of her dress, the sweet
perfume of her presence, thrilled him. He felt that the moment was near
when the whole world as he knew it was to slip away from him, leaving
him in a paradise, or a chaos of despair. Jeanne looked up at the
dueling pistols. The firelight trembled in the soft folds of lace over
her bosom; it glistened in her hair, and lighted her face with a gentle
glow.

"There isn't much to explain," she said again, in a voice so low that
it was hardly more than a whisper. "But what little there is I want you
to know, so that when you go away you will understand. More than two
hundred years ago a band of gentlemen adventurers were sent over into
this country by Prince Rupert to form the Hudson's Bay Company. That is
history, and you know more of it, probably, than I. One of these men
was Le Chevalier Grosellier. One summer he came up the Churchill, and
stopped at the great rock on which we saw the sun setting to-night, and
which was called the Sun Rock by the Indians. He was struck by the
beauty of the place, and when he went back to France it was with the
plan of returning to build himself a chateau in the wilderness. Two or
three years later he did this, and called the place Fort o' God. For
more than a century, M'sieur, Fort o' God was a place of revel and
pleasure in the heart of this desolation. Early in the nineteenth
century it passed into the hands of a man by the name of D'Arcy, and it
is said that at one time it housed twenty gentlemen and as many ladies
of France for one whole season. Its history is obscure, and mostly
lost. But for a long time after D'Arcy came it was a place of
adventure, of pleasure, and of mystery, very little of which remains
to-day. Those are his pistols above the fire. He was killed by one of
them out there beside the big rock, in a quarrel with one of his guests
over a woman. We think--here--from letters that we have found, that her
name was Camille. There is a chest in my room filled with linen that
bears her name. This dress came from that chest. I have to be careful
of them, as they tear very easily. After D'Arcy the place was almost
forgotten and remained so until nearly forty years ago when my father
came into possession of it. That, M'sieur, is the very simple story of
Fort o' God. Its old name is forgotten. It lives only with us. Others
know it as D'Arcambal House."

"Yes, I have heard of that," said Philip.

He waited for Jeanne, and saw that her fingers were nervously twisting
a bit of ribbon in her lap.

"Of course, that is uninteresting," she continued. "You can almost
guess the rest. We have lived here--alone. Not one of us has ever felt
the desire to leave this little world of ours. It is curious--you may
scarcely believe what I say--but it is true that we look out upon your
big world and laugh at it and dislike it. I guess--that I have been
taught to hate it--since I can remember."

There was a little tremble in Jeanne's voice, an instant's quivering of
her chin. Philip looked from her face into the fire, and stared hard,
choking back words which were ready to burst from his lips. In place of
them he said, with a touch of bitterness in his voice:

"And I have grown to hate my world, Jeanne. It has compelled me to hate
it. That is why I spoke to you that night on the cliff at Churchill."

"I have sometimes thought that I have been very wrong," said the girl.
"I have never seen this other world. I know nothing of it, except as I
have been taught. I have no right to hate it, and yet I do. I have
never wanted to see it. I have never cared to know the people who lived
in it. I wish that I could understand, but I cannot; except that father
has made for us, for Pierre and Otille and me, this little world at
Fort o' God, and has taught us to fear the other. I know that there is
no other man in the whole world like my father, and that what he has
done must be best. It is his pride that we bring your world to our
doors, but that we never go to it; he says that we know more about that
world than the people who live there, which of course cannot be so. And
so we have grown up amid the old memories, the pictures, and the dead
romances of Fort o' God. We have taken pleasure in living as we do--in
making for ourselves our own little social codes, our childish
aristocracy, our make-believe world. It is the spirit of Fort o' God
that lives with us, and makes us content; the shadow-faces of men and
women who once filled these rooms with life and pleasure, and whose
memory seems to have passed into our keeping alone. I know them all;
many of their names, all of their faces. I have a daguerreotype of
Camille Poitiers, and she must have been very beautiful. There are the
tiniest slippers in the world in her chest, and ribbons like those
which are tied about the pistols. There is a painting of D'Arcy in your
room. It is the picture next to the one that has its face turned to the
wall."

She rose to her feet, and Philip stood beside her. There was a mist in
her eyes as she held out her hand to him.

"I--I--would like to have you--see that picture," she whispered.

Philip could not speak. He held the hand Jeanne had given him as they
passed through the long, dimly lighted halls. At the open door to his
room they stopped, and he could feel Jeanne trembling.

"You will tell me--the truth?" she begged, like a child. "You will tell
me what you think--of the picture?"

"Yes."

She went in ahead of him and turned the frame so that the face in the
picture smiled down upon them in all of its luring loveliness. There
was something pathetic in the girl's attitude now. She stood under the
picture, facing Philip, and there was a tense eagerness in her eyes, a
light that was almost supplication, a crying out of her soul to him in
a breathless moment that seemed hovering between pain and joy. It was
Jeanne, an older Jeanne, that looked from out of the picture, smiling,
inviting admiration, bewildering hi her beauty; it was Jeanne, the
child, waiting for him in flesh and blood to speak, her eyes big and
dark, her breath coming quickly, her hands buried in the deep lace on
her bosom. A low word came to Philip's lips, and then he laughed
softly. It was a laugh, almost under his breath, which sweeps up now
and then from a soul in a joy--an emotion--which is unutterable in
words. But to Jeanne it was different. Her dark eyes grew hurt and
wounded, two great tears ran down her paling cheeks, and suddenly she
buried her face in her hands and with a sobbing cry turned from him,
with her head bowed under the smiling face above.

"And you--you hate it, too!" she sobbed. "They all hate
it--Pierre--father--all--all hate it. It must--it must be bad. They
hate her--every one--but me. And--I love her so!"

Her slender form shook with sobs. For a moment Philip stood like one
struck dumb. Then he sprang to her and caught her close in his arms.

"Jeanne--Jeanne--listen," he cried. "To-night I looked at that picture
before I went to see your father, and I loved it because it is like
you. Jeanne, my darling, I love you--I love you--"

She was panting against his breast. He covered her face with kisses.
Her sweet lips were not turned from him, and there filled her eyes a
sudden light that made him almost sob in his happiness.

"I love you, I love you," he repeated, again and again, and he could
find no other words than those.

For an instant her arms clung about his shoulders, and then, suddenly,
they strained against him, and she tore herself free, and, with a cry
so pathetic that it seemed as though her heart had broken in that
moment, she fled from him, and out of the room.



XVIII


Philip stood where Jeanne had left him, his arms half reaching out to
the vacant door through which she had fled, his lips parted as if to
call her name, and yet motionless, dumb. A moment before he was
intoxicated by a joy that was almost madness. He had held Jeanne in his
arms; he had looked into her eyes, filled with surrender under his
caresses and his avowal of love. For a moment he had possessed her, and
now he was alone. The cry that had wrung itself from her lips, breaking
in upon his happiness like a blow, still rang in his ears, and there
was something in the exquisite pain of it that left him in torment.
Heart and soul, every drop of blood in him, had leaped in the joy of
that glorious moment, when Jeanne's eyes and sweet lips had accepted
his love, and her arms had clung about his shoulders. Now these things
had been struck dead within him. He felt again the fierce pressure of
Jeanne's arms as she had thrust him away, he saw the fright and torture
that had leaped into her eyes as she sprang from him, as though his
touch had suddenly become a sacrilege. He lowered his arms slowly, and
went to the hall. It was empty. He heard no sound, and closed the door.

It was so still that he could hear the excited throbbing of his own
heart. He looked at the picture again, and a strange fancy impressed
him with the idea that it was no longer smiling at him, but that its
eyes were turned to the door through which Jeanne had disappeared. He
moved his position, and the illusion was gone. It was Jeanne looking
down upon him again, an older and happier Jeanne than the one whom he
loved. For the first time he examined it closely. In one corner of the
canvas he found the artist's name, Bourret, and after it the date,
1888. Could it be the picture of Jeanne's mother? He told himself that
it was impossible, for Jeanne's mother had been found dead in the snow,
five years later than the date of the canvas, and Pierre, the
half-breed, had buried her somewhere out on the barren, so that she was
a mystery to all but him. Even the master of Fort o' God, to whom he
had brought the child, had never seen the woman upon whose cold breast
Pierre had found the little Jeanne.

With nervous hands he replaced the picture with its face to the wall,
and began to pace up and down the room, wondering if D'Arcambal would
send for him. He had hope of seeing Jeanne again that night. He felt
sure that she had gone to her room, and that even D'Arcambal might not
know that he was alone. In that event he had a long night ahead of him,
filled with hours of sleeplessness and torment. He waited for
three-quarters of an hour, and then the idea came to him that he might
discover some plausible excuse for seeking out his host. He was about
to act upon this mental suggestion when he heard a low rustling in the
hall, followed by a distinct and yet timid knock. It was not a man's
knock, and filled with the hope that Jeanne had returned, Philip
hastened to the door and opened it.

He heard soft footsteps retreating rapidly down the hall, but the
lights were out, and he could see nothing. Something had fallen at his
feet, and he bent down to pick it up. The object was a small, square
envelope; and re-entering his room he saw his own name written across
it in Jeanne's delicate hand. His heart beat with hope as he opened the
note. What he read brought a gray pallor into his face:

MONSIEUR PHILIP,--If you cannot forget what I have done, please at
least try to forgive me. No woman in the world could value your love
more than I, for circumstances have proven to me the strength and honor
of the man who gives it. And yet it is as impossible for me to accept
it as it would be for me to give up Fort o' God, my father, or my life,
though I cannot tell you why. And this, I know, you will not ask. After
what has happened to-night it will be impossible for me to see you
again, and I must ask you, as one who values your friendship among the
highest things in my life, to leave Fort o' God. No one must know what
has passed between us. You will go--in the morning. And with you there
will always be my prayers.

JEANNE.

The paper dropped from between Philip's fingers and fell to the floor.
Three or four times in his life Philip had received blows that had made
him sick--physical blows. He felt now as though one of these blows had
descended upon him, turning things black before his eyes. He staggered
to the big chair and dropped into it, staring at the bit of white paper
on the floor. If one had spoken to him he would not have heard.
Gregson, in these moments, might have laughed a little nervously,
smoked innumerable cigarettes, and laid plans for a continuance of the
battle to-morrow. But Philip was a fighter of men, and not of women. He
had declared his love, he had laid open his soul to Jeanne, and to a
heart like his own, simple in its language, boundless in its sincerity,
this was all that could be done. Jeanne's refusal of his love was the
end--for him. He accepted his fate without argument. In an instant he
would have fought ten men--a hundred, naked-handed, if such a fight
would have given him a chance of winning Jeanne; he would have died,
laughing, happy, if it had been in a struggle for her. But Jeanne
herself had dealt him the blow.

For a long time he sat motionless in the chair facing the picture on
the wall. Then he rose to his feet, picked up the note, and went to one
of the little square windows that looked out into the night. The moon
had risen, and the sky was full of stars. He knew that he was looking
into the north, for the pale shimmer of the aurora was in his face. He
saw the black edge of the spruce forest; the barren stretched out, pale
and ghostly, into the night shadows.

He made an effort to open the window, but it was wedged tightly in its
heavy sill. He crossed the room, opened the door, and went silently
down the hall to the door through which Pierre had led him a few hours
before. It was not locked, and he passed out into the night. The fresh
air was like a tonic, and he walked swiftly out into the moonlit
spaces, until he found himself in the deep shadow of the Sun Rock that
towered like a sentinel giant above his head. He made his way around
its huge base, and then stopped, close to where they had landed in the
canoe. There was another canoe drawn up beside Pierre's, and two
figures stood out clear in the moonlight.

One of these was a man, the other a woman, and as Philip stopped,
wondering at the scene, the man advanced to the woman and caught her in
his embrace. He heard a voice, low and expostulating, which sounded
like Otille's, and in spite of his own misery Philip smiled at this
other love which had found its way to Fort o' God. He turned back
softly, leaving the lovers as he had found them; but he had scarce
taken half a dozen steps when he heard other steps, and saw that the
girl had left her companion and was hurrying toward him. He drew back
close into the shadow of the rock to avoid possible discovery, and the
girl passed through the moonlight almost within arm's reach of him. At
that moment his heart ceased to beat. He choked back the groaning cry
that rose to his lips. It was not Otille who passed him. It was Jeanne.

In another moment she was gone. The man had shoved his canoe into the
narrow stream, and was already lost in the gloom. Then, and not until
then, did the cry of torture fall from Philip. And as if in echo to it
he heard the sobbing break of another voice, and stepping out into the
moonlight he stood face to face with Pierre Couchee.

It was Pierre who spoke first.

"I am sorry, M'sieur," he whispered, hoarsely. "I know that it has
broken your heart. And mine, too, is crushed."

Something in the half-breed's face, in the choking utterance of his
voice, struck Philip as new and strange. He had seen the eyes of dying
animals filled with the wild pain that glowed in Pierre's, and suddenly
he reached out and gripped the other's hand, and they stood staring
into each other's face. In that look, the cold grip of their hands, the
strife in their eyes, the bare truth revealed itself.

"And you, too--you love her, Pierre," said Philip.

"Yes, I love her, M'sieur," replied Pierre, softly. "I love her, not as
a brother, but as a man whose heart is broken."

"Now--I understand," said Philip.

He dropped Pierre's hand, and his voice was cold and lifeless.

"I received a note--from her, asking me to leave Fort o' God in the
morning," he went on, looking from Pierre out beyond the rock into the
white barren. "I will go to-night."

"It is best," said Pierre.

"I have left nothing in Fort o' God, so there is no need of even
returning to my room," continued Philip. "Jeanne will understand, but
you must tell her father that a messenger came suddenly from Blind
Indian Lake, and that I thought it best to leave without awakening him.
Will you guide me for a part of the distance, Pierre?"

"I will go with you the whole way, M'sieur. It is only twenty miles,
ten by canoe, ten by land."

They said no more, but both went to the canoe, and were quickly lost in
the gloom into which the other canoe had disappeared a few minutes
ahead of them. They saw nothing of this canoe, and when they came to
the Churchill Pierre headed the birch-bark down-stream. For two hours
not a word passed between them. At the end of that time the half-breed
turned in to shore.

"We take the trail here, M'sieur," he explained.

He went on ahead, walking swiftly, and now and then when Philip caught
a glimpse of his face he saw in it a despair as great as his own. The
trail led along the backbone of a huge ridge, and then twisted down
into a broad plain; and across this they traveled, one after the other,
two moving, silent shadows in a desolation that seemed without end.
Beyond the plain there rose another ridge, and half an hour after they
had struck the top of it Pierre halted, and pointed off into the
ghostly world of light and shadow that lay at their feet.

"Your camp is on the other side of this plain, M'sieur," he said. "Do
you recognize the country?"

"I have hunted along this ridge," replied Philip. "It is only three
miles from here, and I will strike a beaten trail half a mile out
yonder. A thousand thanks, Pierre."

He held out his hand.

"Good-by, M'sieur."

"Good-by, Pierre."

Their voices trembled. Their hands gripped hard. A choking lump rose in
Philip's throat, and Pierre turned away. He disappeared slowly in the
gray gloom, and Philip went down the side of the mountain. From the
plain below he looked back. For an instant he saw Pierre drawn like a
silhouette against the sky.

"Good-by, Pierre," he shouted.

"Good-by, M'sieur," came back faintly.

Light and silence dropped about them.



XIX


To be alone, even after the painful parting with Pierre, was in one way
a relief to Philip, for with the disappearance of the lonely half-breed
over the mountain there had gone from him the last physical association
that bound him to Jeanne and her people. With Pierre at his side,
Jeanne was still with him; but now that Pierre was gone there came a
change in him--one of those unaccountable transmutations of the mind
which make the passing of yesterdays more like a short dream than a
long and full reality. He walked slowly over the plain, and, when he
came to the trail beaten by the hoofs of his own teams he followed it
mechanically. In his measurement of things now, it seemed only a few
hours since he had traveled over this trail on his way to Fort
Churchill; it might, have been that morning, or the morning before. The
weeks of his absence had passed with marvelous swiftness, now that he
looked back upon them. They seemed short and trivial. And yet he knew
that in those weeks he had lived more of his life than he had ever
lived before, or would ever live again. For a brief spell life had
been, filled with joy and hope--a promise of happiness which a single
moment in the shadow of the Sun Rock had destroyed forever. He had seen
Jeanne in another man's arms; he had read the confirmation of his fears
in Pierre's grief-distorted face, in the strange tremble of his voice,
in the words that he had spoken. He was sorry for Pierre. He would have
been glad if that other man had been the lovable half-breed; if Jeanne,
in the poetry of life and love, had given herself to the one who had
saved the spark of life in her chilled little body years and years ago.
And yet in his own grief he unconsciously rejoiced that it was a man
like Pierre who suffered with him.

This thought of Pierre strengthened him, and he walked faster, and
breathed more deeply of the clear night air. He had lost in the fight
for Jeanne as he had lost in many other fights; but, after all, there
was another and bigger fight ahead of him, which he would begin
to-morrow. Thoughts of his men, of his camps, and of this struggle
through which he must pass to achieve success raised him above his
depression, and stirred his blood with a growing exhilaration. And
Jeanne--was she hopelessly lost to him? He dared to ask himself the
question half an hour after he had separated from Pierre, and his mind
flew back to the portrait-room where he had told Jeanne of his love,
and where for a moment he had seen in her eyes and face the sweet
surrender that had given him a glimpse of his paradise. But what did
the sudden change mean? And after that--the scene in the starlight?

A quickening of his pulse was the answer to these questions. Jeanne had
told him there were only two men at Fort o' God, Pierre and her father.
Then who could be this third? A lover, whom she met clandestinely? He
shivered, and began loading his pipe as he walked. He was certain that
the master of Fort o' God did not know of the tryst beyond the rock,
and he was equally certain that the girl was unaware of Pierre's
knowledge of the meeting. Pierre had remained hidden, like himself, and
he had given Philip to understand that it was not the first time he had
looked upon the meetings of Jeanne and the man they had seen from the
shadow of the rock. And yet, in spite of all evidence, he could not
lose faith in Jeanne.

Suddenly he saw something ahead of him which changed for a moment the
uncomfortable trend of his thoughts. It was a pale streak, rising above
the level of the trail, and stretching diagonally across the plain to
the east. With an exclamation of surprise Philip hastened his steps,
and a moment later stood among the fresh workings of his men. When he
had left for Churchill this streak, which was the last stretch of
road-bed between them and the surveyed line of the Hudson's Bay
Railway, had ended two miles to the south and west. In a little over a
month MacDougall had pushed it on the trail, and well across it in the
direction of Gray Beaver Lake. In that time he had accomplished a work
which Philip had not thought possible to achieve that autumn. He had
figured that the heavy snows of winter would cut them off at the trail.
And MacDougall was beyond the trail, with three weeks to spare!

Something rose up in his blood, warming him with an elation which sent
him walking swiftly toward the end of the road-bed. A quarter of a mile
out on the plain he came to the working end. About him were scattered
half a dozen big scoop shovels and piles of working tools. The embers
of a huge log fire still glowed where dinner had been cooked for the
men. Philip stood for a few moments, looking off into the distance.
Another mile and a half out there was the Gray Beaver, and from the
Gray Beaver there lay the unbroken waterway to the point of their
conjunction with the railway coming up from the south. A sudden idea
occurred to Philip. If MacDougall had built two and a quarter miles of
road-bed in five weeks they could surely complete this other mile and a
half before winter stopped them. In that event, they would have fifteen
miles of road, linking seven lakes, which would give them a splendid
winter trail for men, teams, and dogs to the Gray Beaver. And from the
Gray Beaver they would have smooth ice for twenty miles, to the new
road. He had not planned to begin fishing operations until spring, but
he could see no reason now why they should not commence that winter,
setting their nets through the ice. At Lobstick Creek, where the new
road would reach them sometime in April or May, they could freeze their
fish and keep them in storage. Five hundred tons in stock, and perhaps
a thousand, would not be a bad beginning. It would mean from forty to
eighty thousand dollars, a half of which could be paid out in dividends.

He turned back, whistling softly. There was new life in him, burning
for action. He was eager to see MacDougall, and he hoped that Brokaw
would not be long in reaching Blind Indian Lake. Before he reached the
trail he was planning the accommodation stations, where men and animals
could find shelter. There would be one on the shore of the Gray Beaver,
and from there he would build them at regular intervals of five miles
on the ice.

He had come to the trail, and was about to turn in the direction of the
camp, when he saw a shadowy figure making its way slowly across the
plain which he had traversed half an hour before. The manner in which
this person was following in his footsteps, apparently with extreme
caution, caused Philip to move quickly behind the embankment of the
road-bed. Two or three minutes later a man crossed into view. Philip
could not see his face distinctly, but by the tired droop of the
stranger's shoulders and his shuffling walk he guessed that what he had
first taken for caution was in reality the tedious progress of a man
nearing exhaustion. He wondered how he had missed him in his own
journey over the trail from the ridge mountains, for he had made twice
the progress of the stranger, and must surely have passed him somewhere
within the last mile or so. The fact that the man had come from the
direction of Fort o' God, that he was exhausted, and that he had
evidently concealed himself a little way back to avoid discovery, led
Philip to cut out diagonally across the plain so that he could follow
him and keep him in sight without being observed. Twice in the next
mile the nocturnal traveler stopped to rest, but no sooner had he
reached the first scattered shacks of the camp than he quickened his
steps, darting quickly among the shadows, and then stopped at last
before the door of a small log cabin within a pistol-shot of Philip's
own headquarters. The cabin was newly built, and Philip gave a low
whistle of surprise as he noted its location. He had, to a certain
degree, isolated his own camp home, building it a couple of hundred
yards back from the shore of the lake, where most of the other cabins
were erected. This new cabin was still a hundred yards farther back,
half hidden in a growth of spruce. He heard the click of a key in a
lock and the opening and closing of a door. A moment later a light
flared dimly against a curtained window.

Philip hurried across the open to the cabin occupied by himself and
MacDougall, the engineer. He tried the door, but it was barred. Then he
knocked loudly, and continued knocking until a light appeared within.
He heard the Scotchman's voice, close to the door.

"Who's there?" it demanded.

"None of your business!" retorted Philip, falling into the error of a
joke at the welcome sound of MacDougall's voice. "Open up!"

A bar slipped within. The door opened slowly. Philip thrust himself
against it and entered. In the pale light of the lamp he was confronted
by the red face of MacDougall, and a pair of little eyes that gleamed
menacingly. And on a line with MacDougall's face was an ugly-looking
revolver.

Philip stopped with a sudden uncomfortable thrill. MacDougall lowered
his gun.

"Lord preserve us, but that's the time you almost drew a perforation!"
he exclaimed. "It isn't safe to cut-up in these diggings any more--not
with Sandy MacDougall!"

He held out a hand with a relieved laugh, and the two men shook in a
grip that made their fingers ache.

"Is this the way you welcome all of your friends, Mac?"

MacDougall shrugged his shoulders and laid his gun on a table in the
center of the room.

"Can't say that I've got a friend left in camp," he said, with a
curious grimace. "What in thunder do you mean, Phil? I've tried to
reason something out of it, but I can't!"

Philip was hanging up his cap and coat on one of a number of wooden
pegs driven into the long wall. He turned quickly.

"Reason something out of what?" he said.

"Your instructions from Churchill," replied MacDougall, picking up a
big, black-bowled pipe from the table.

Philip sat down with a restful sigh, crossed his legs, loaded his pipe,
and lighted it.

"Thought I made myself lucid enough, even for a Scotchman, Sandy," he
said. "I learned at Churchill that the big fight is going to be pulled
off mighty soon. It's about time for the fireworks. So I told you to
put the sub-camps in fighting shape, and arm every responsible man in
this camp. There's going to be a whole lot of gun-work before you're
many days older. Great Scott, man, don't you understand NOW? What's the
matter?"

MacDougall was staring at him as if struck dumb.

"You told me--to arm--the camps?" he gasped.

"Yes, I sent you full instructions two weeks ago."

"MacDougall tapped his forehead suspiciously with a stubby forefinger.

"You're mad--or trying to pull off a poor brand of joke!" he exclaimed.
"If you're dreaming, come out of it. Look here, Phil," he cried, a
little heatedly, "I've been having a hell of a time since you left the
camp, and I want to talk seriously."

It was Philip who stared now. He fairly thrust himself upon the
engineer.

"Do you mean to say you didn't get my letter telling you to put the
camps in fighting shape?"

"No, I didn't get it," said MacDougall. "But I got the other."

"There was no other!"

MacDougall jumped to his feet, darted to his bunk, and came back a
moment later with a letter. He thrust it almost fiercely into Philip's
hands. A sweat broke out upon his face as he saw its effect upon his
companion. Philip's face was deadly pale when he looked up from the
letter.

"My God! you haven't done this?" he gasped.

"What else could I do?" demanded MacDougall. "It's down there in black
and white, isn't it? It charges me to outfit six prospecting parties of
ten men each, arm every man with a rifle and revolver, victual them for
two months, and send them to the points named there. That letter came
ten days ago, and the last party, under Tom Billinger, has been gone a
week. You told me to send your very best men, and I have. It has fairly
stripped the camp of the men we depended upon, and there are hardly
enough guns left to kill meat with."

"I didn't write this letter," said Philip, looking hard at MacDougall.
"The signature is a fraud. The letter which I sent to you, revealing my
discoveries at Churchill, has been intercepted and replaced by this. Do
you know what it means?"

MacDougall was speechless. His square jaw was set like an iron clamp,
his heavy hands doubled into knots on his knees.

"It means--fight," continued Philip. "To-night--to-morrow--at any
moment now. I can't guess why the blow hasn't fallen before this."

He quickly related to MacDougall the chief facts he had gathered at
Fort Churchill. When he had finished, the young Scotchman reached over
to the table, seized his revolver, and held the butt end of it out to
Philip.

"Pump me full of lead--for God's sake, do, Phil," he pleaded.

Philip laughed, and gripped his hand.

"Not while I need a few fighters like yourself, Sandy," he objected.
"We're on to the game in time. By to-morrow morning we'll be prepared
for the war. We haven't an hour--perhaps not a minute--to lose. How
many men can you get hold of to-night whom we can depend upon to fight?"

"Ten or a dozen, no more. The road gang that we were expecting up from
the Grand Trunk Pacific came three days after you started for
Churchill--twenty-eight of 'em. They're a tough-looking outfit, but
devilish good workers. I believe you could HIRE that gang to do
anything. They won't take a word from me. It's all up to Thorpe, the
foreman who brought 'em up, and they won't obey an order unless it
comes through him. Thorpe could get them to fight, but they haven't
anything to fight with, except a few knives. I've got eight guns left,
and I can scrape up eight men who'll handle them for the glory of it.
Thorpe's gang would be mighty handy in close quarters, if it came to
that."

MacDougall moved restlessly, and ran a hand through his tawny hair.

"I almost wish we hadn't invited that bunch up here," he added. "They
look to me like a lot of dollar thugs, but they work like horses. Never
saw such men with the shovel and pick. And fight? They've cleaned up on
a half of the men in camp. If we can get Thorpe--"

"We'll see him to-night," interrupted Philip. "Or to be correct, this
morning. It's one o'clock. How long will it take to round up our best
men?"

"Half an hour," said MacDougall, promptly, jumping to his feet. "There
are Roberts, Henshaw, Tom Cassidy, Lecault, the Frenchman, and the two
St. Pierre brothers. They're all crack gun-men. Give 'em each an
automatic and they're worth twenty ordinary men."

A few moments later MacDougall extinguished the light, and the two men
left the cabin. Philip drew his companion's attention to the dimly
lighted window of the cabin to which he had followed the stranger a
short time before.

"That's Thorpe's," said the young engineer. "I haven't seen him since
morning. Guess he must be up."

"We'll sound him first," said Philip, starting off.

At MacDougall's knock there was a moment's silence inside, then heavy
footsteps, and the door was flung open. Sandy entered, followed by
Philip. Thorpe stepped back. He was of medium height, yet so
athletically built that he gave the impression of being two inches
taller than he actually was. He was smooth-shaven, and his hair and
eyes were black. His whole appearance was that of a person infinitely
superior to what Philip had expected to find in the gang-foreman. His
first words, and the manner in which they were spoken, added to this
impression.

"Good evening, gentlemen."

"Good morning," replied MacDougall, nodding toward Philip. "This is Mr.
Whittemore, Thorpe. We saw your light, and thought you wouldn't mind a
call."

Philip and Thorpe shook hands.

"Just in time to have a cup of coffee," invited Thorpe, pleasantly,
motioning toward a steaming pot on the stove. "I just got in from a
long hike out over the new road-bed. Been looking the ground over along
the north shore of the Gray Beaver, and was so interested that I didn't
start for home until dark. Won't you draw up, gentlemen? There are
mighty few who can beat me at making coffee."

MacDougall had noted a sudden change in Philip's face, and as Thorpe
hastened to lift the over-boiling pot from the stove he saw his chief
make a quick movement toward a small table, and pick up an object which
looked like a bit of cloth. In an instant Philip had hidden it in the
palm of his hand. A flush leaped into his cheeks. A strange fire burned
in his eyes when Thorpe turned.

"I'm afraid we can't accept your hospitality," he said. "I'm tired, and
want to get to bed. In passing, however, I couldn't refrain from
dropping in to compliment you on the remarkable work your men are doing
out on the plain. It's splendid."

"They're good men," said Thorpe, quietly. "Pretty wild, but good
workers."

He followed them to the door. Outside, Philip's voice trembled when he
spoke to MacDougall.

"You go for the others, and bring them to the office, Sandy," he said.
"I said nothing to Thorpe because I have no confidence in liars, and
Thorpe is a liar. He was not out to the Gray Beaver to-day; for I saw
him when he came in--from the opposite direction. He is a liar, and he
will bear watching. Mind that, Sandy. Keep your eyes on this man
Thorpe. And keep your eyes on his gang. Hustle the others over to the
office as soon as you can."

They separated, and Philip returned to the cabin which they had left a
few minutes before. He relighted the lamp, and with a sharp gasp in his
breath held out before his eyes the object which he had taken from
Thorpe's table. He knew now why Thorpe had come from over the mountains
that night, why he was exhausted, and why he had lied. He clasped his
head between his hands, scarcely believing the evidence of his eyes. A
deeper breath, almost a moan, fell from his twisted lips. For he had
discovered that Thorpe, the gang-foreman, was Jeanne's lover. In his
hand he held the dainty handkerchief, embroidered in blue, which he had
seen in Jeanne's possession earlier that evening--crumpled and
discolored, still damp with her tears!



XX


For many minutes Philip did not move, or look from the bit of damp
fabric which he held between his fingers. His heart was chilled. He
felt sick. Each moment added to the emotion which was growing in him,
an emotion which was a composite of disgust and of anguish.
Jeanne--Thorpe! An eternity of difference seemed to lie between those
two--Jeanne, with her tender beauty, her sweet life, her idyllic
dreams, and Thorpe, the gang-driver! In his own soul he had made a
shrine for Jeanne, and from his knees he had looked up at her, filled
with the knowledge of his own unworthiness. He had worshiped her, as
Dante might have worshiped Beatrice. To him she was the culmination of
all that was sweet and lovable in woman, transcendently above him. And
from this love, this worship of his, she had gone that very night to
Thorpe, the gang-man. He shivered. Going to the stove he thrust in a
handful of paper, dropped the handkerchief in with it, and set the
whole on fire.

A few moments later the door opened and MacDougall came in. He was
followed by the two swarthy-faced St. Pierres, the camp huntsmen.
Philip shook hands with them, and they passed after the engineer
through a narrow door leading into a room which was known as the camp
office, Cassidy, Henshaw, and the others followed within the next ten
minutes. There was not a man among them whose eyes faltered when Philip
put up his proposition to them. As briefly as possible he told them a
part of what he had previously revealed to MacDougall, and frankly
conceded that the preservation of property and life in the camp
depended almost entirely upon them.

"You're not the sort of men to demand pay in a pinch like this," he
finished, "and that's just the reason I've confidence enough in you to
ask for your support. There are fifty men in camp whom we could hire to
fight, but I don't want hired fighters. I don't want men who will run
at the crack of a few rifles, but men who are willing to die with their
boots on. I won't offer you money for this, because I know you too
well. But from this hour on you're going to be a part of the Great
Northern Fish and Development Company, and as soon as the certificates
can be signed I'm going to turn over a hundred shares of stock to each
of you. Remember that this isn't pay. It's simply a selfish scheme of
mine to make you a part of the company. There are eight of us. Give us
each an automatic and I'll wager that there isn't a combination in this
neck of the woods strong enough to do us up."

In the pale light of the two oil-lamps the men's faces glowed with
enthusiasm. Cassidy was the first to grip Philip's hand in a pledge of
fealty.

"When hell freezes over, we're licked," he said. "Where's me automatic?"

MacDougall brought in the guns and ammunition.

"In the morning we will begin the erection of a new building close to
this one," said Philip. "There is no reason for the building, but that
will give me an excuse for keeping you men together on one job, within
fifty feet of your guns, which we can keep in this room. Only four men
need work at a shift, and I'll put Cassidy in charge of the operations,
if that is satisfactory to the others. We'll have a couple of new bunks
put in here so that four men can stay with MacDougall and me every
night. The other four, who are not on the working shift, can hunt not
far from the camp, and keep their eyes peeled. Does that look good?"

"Can't be beat," said Henshaw, throwing open the breech of his gun.
"Shall we load?"

"Yes."

The room became ominous with the metallic click of loaded cartridge
clips and the hard snap of released chambers.

Five minutes later Philip stood alone with MacDougall. The loaded
rifles, each with a filled cartridge belt hanging over the muzzle, were
arranged in a row along one of the walls.

"I'll stake everything I've got on those men," he exclaimed. "Mac, did
it ever strike you that when you want REAL men you ought to come north
for them? Every one of those fellows is a northerner, except Cassidy,
and he's a fighter by birth. They'll die before they go back on their
word."

MacDougall rubbed his hands and laughed softly.

"What next, Phil?"

"We must send the swiftest man you've got in camp after Billinger, and
get word to the other parties you sent out as quickly as we can.
They'll probably get in too late. Billinger may arrive in time."

"He's been gone a week. It's doubtful if we can get him back within
three," said MacDougall. "I'll send St. Pierre's cousin, that young
Crow Feather, after him as soon as he can get a pack ready. You'd
better go to bed, Phil. You look like a dead man."

Philip was not sure that he could sleep, notwithstanding the physical
strain he had been under during the past twenty-four hours. He was
filled with a nervous desire for continued action. Only action kept him
from thinking of Jeanne and Thorpe. After MacDougall had gone to stir
up young Crow Feather he undressed and stretched out in his bunk,
hoping that the Scotchman would soon return. Not until he closed his
eyes did he realize how tired he was. MacDougall came in an hour later,
and Philip was asleep. It was nine o'clock when he awoke. He went to
the cook's shanty, ate a hot breakfast of griddle-cakes and bacon,
drank a pint of strong coffee, and hunted up MacDougall. Sandy was just
coming from Thorpe's house.

"He's a queer guinea, that Thorpe," said the engineer, after their
first greeting. "He doesn't pretend to do a pound's work. Notice his
hands when you see him again, Phil. They look as though he had been
drumming a piano all his life. But love o' mighty, how he does make the
OTHERS work. You want to go over and see his gang throw dirt."

"That's where I'm going," said Philip. "Is Thorpe at home?"

"Just leaving. There he is now!"

At MacDougall's whistle Thorpe turned and waited for Philip.

"Goin' over?" he asked, pleasantly, when Philip came up.

"Yes. I want to see how your men work without a leader," replied
Philip. He paused for a moment to light his pipe, and pointed to a
group of men down on the lake shore. "See that gang?" he asked.
"They're building a scow. Take away their foreman and they wouldn't be
worth their grub. They're men we brought up from Winnipeg."

Thorpe was rolling a cigarette. Under his arm he held a pair of light
gloves.

"Mine are different," he laughed, quietly.

"I know that," rejoined Philip, watching the skill of his long white
fingers. "That's why I want to see them in action, when you're away."

"My policy is to know to a cubic foot what a certain number of men are
capable of doing in a certain time," explained Thorpe, as they walked
toward the plain. "My next move is to secure the men who will achieve
the result, whether I am present or not. That done, my work is done.
Simple, isn't it?"

There was something likable about Thorpe. Even in his present mood
Philip could not but concede that. He was surprised in Thorpe, in more
ways than one. His voice was low, and filled with a certain
companionable quality that gave one confidence in him immediately. He
was apparently a man of education and of some little culture, in spite
of his vocation, which usually possesses a vocabulary of its own as
hard as rock. But Philip's greatest surprise came when he regarded
Thorpe's personal appearance. He judged that he was past forty, perhaps
forty-five, and the thought made him shudder inwardly. He was
twice--almost three times--as old as Jeanne. And yet there was about
him something irresistibly attractive, a fascination which had its
influence upon Philip himself. His nails dug into tie flesh of his
hands when he thought of this man--and Jeanne.

Thorpe's gang was hard at work when they came to the end of the
rock-bed. Scarcely a man seemed to take notice when he appeared. There
was one exception, a wiry, red-faced little man who raised a hand to
his cap when he saw the foreman.

"That's the sub-foreman," explained Thorpe. "He answers to me." The
little man had given a signal, and Thorpe added, "Excuse me for a
moment. He's got something on his mind."

He drew a few steps aside, and Philip walked along the line of
laboring-men. He grinned and nodded to them, one after another.
MacDougall was right. They were the toughest lot of men he had ever
seen in one gang.

Loud voices turned him about, and he saw that Thorpe and the
sub-foreman had approached a huge, heavy-shouldered man, with whom they
seemed to be in serious altercation. Two or three of the workmen had
drawn near, and Thorpe's voice rang out clear and vibrant.

"You'll do that, Blake, or you'll shoulder your kit back home. And what
goes with you goes with your clique. I know your kind, and you can't
worry me. Take that pick and dig--or hike. There's no two ways about
it."

Philip could not hear what the big man said, but suddenly Thorpe's fist
shot out and struck him fairly on the jaw. In another instant Thorpe
had jumped back, and was facing half a dozen angry, threatening men. He
had drawn a revolver, and his white teeth gleamed in a cool and
menacing smile.

"Think it over, boys," he said, quietly. "And if you're not satisfied
come in and draw your pay this noon. We'll furnish you with outfits and
plenty of grub if you don't like the work up here. I don't care to hold
men like you to your contracts."

He came to meet Philip, as though nothing unusual had happened.

"That will delay the completion of our work for a week at least," he
said, as he thrust his revolver into a holster hidden under his coat.
"I've been expecting trouble with Blake and four or five of his pals
for some time. I'm glad it's over. Blake threatens a strike unless I
give him a sub-foremanship and increase the men's wages from six to ten
dollars a day. Think of it. A strike--up here! It would be the
beginning of history, wouldn't it?"

He laughed softly, and Philip laughed from sheer admiration of the
man's courage.

"You think they'll go?" he asked, anxiously.

"I'm sure of it," replied Thorpe. "It's the best thing that can happen."

An hour later Philip was back in camp. He did not see Thorpe again
until after dinner, and then the gang-foreman hunted him up. His face
wore a worried look.

"It's a little worse than I expected," he said. "Blake and eight others
came in for their pay and outfits this noon. I didn't think that more
than three or four would have the nerve to quit."

"I'll furnish you with men to take their places," said Philip.

"There's the hitch," replied Thorpe, rolling a cigarette. "I want my
men to work by themselves. Put half a dozen of your amateur road-men
among them and it will mean twenty per cent. less work done, and
perhaps trouble. They're a tough lot. I concede that. I've thought of a
way to offset the loss of Blake and the others. We can set a gang of
your men at work over at Gray Beaver Lake, and they can build up to
meet us."

Philip saw MacDougall soon after his short talk with Thorpe. The
engineer did not disguise his pleasure at the turn which affairs had
taken.

"I'm glad they're going," he declared. "If there's to be trouble I'll
feel easier with that bunch out of camp. I'd give my next month's
salary if Thorpe would take his whole outfit back where they came from.
They're doing business with the road-bed all right, but I don't like
the idea of having 'em around when there are throats to be cut, one
side or t'other."

Philip did not see Thorpe again that day. He selected his men for the
Gray Beaver work, and in the afternoon despatched a messenger over the
Fort Churchill route to meet Brokaw. He was confident that Brokaw and
his daughter would show up during the next few days, but at the same
time he instructed the messenger to go to Churchill if he should not
meet them on the way. Other men he sent to recall the prospecting
parties outfitted by MacDougall. Early in the evening the St. Pierres,
Lecault, and Henshaw joined him for a few minutes in the office. During
the day the four had done scout work five miles on all sides of the
camp. Lecault had shot a moose three miles to the south, and had hung
up the meat. One of the St. Pierres saw Blake and his gang on the way
to the Churchill. Beyond these two incidents they brought in no news. A
little later MacDougall brought in two other men whom he could trust,
and armed them with muzzle-loaders. They were the two last guns in the
camp.

With ten men constantly prepared for attack, Philip began to feel that
he had the situation well in hand. It would be practically impossible
for his enemies to surprise the camp, and after their first day's scout
duty the men on the trail would always be within sound of rifle-shots,
even if they did not discover the advance of an attacking force in time
to beat them to camp. In the event of one making such a discovery he
was to signal the others by a series of shots, such as one might fire
at a running moose.

Philip found it almost impossible to fight back his thoughts of Jeanne.
During the two or three days that followed the departure of Blake he
did not allow himself an hour's rest from early dawn until late at
night. Each night he went to bed exhausted, with the hope that sleep
would bury his grief. The struggle wore upon him, and the faithful
MacDougall began to note the change in his comrade's face. The fourth
day Thorpe disappeared and did not show up again until the following
morning. Every hour of his absence was like the stab of a knife in
Philip's heart, for he knew that the gang-foreman had gone to see
Jeanne. Three days later the visit was repeated, and that night
MacDougall found Philip in a fever.

"You're overdoing," he told him. "You're not in bed five hours out of
the twenty-four. Cut it out, or you'll be in the hospital instead of in
the fighting line when the big show comes to town."

Days of mental agony and of physical pain followed. Neither Philip nor
MacDougall could understand the mysterious lack of developments. They
had expected attack before this, and yet ceaseless scout work brought
in no evidence of an approaching crisis. Neither could they understand
the growing disaffection among Thorpe's men. The numerical strength of
the gang dwindled from nineteen down to fifteen, from fifteen to
twelve. At last Thorpe voluntarily asked Philip to cut his salary in
two, because he could not hold his men. On that same day the little
sub-foreman and two others left him, leaving only nine men at work. The
delay in Brokaw's arrival was another puzzle to Philip. Two weeks
passed, and in that time Thorpe left camp three times. On the fifteenth
day the Fort Churchill messenger returned. He was astounded when he
found that Brokaw was not in camp, and brought amazing news. Brokaw and
his daughter had departed from Fort Churchill two days after Pierre had
followed Jeanne and Philip. They had gone in two canoes, up the
Churchill. He had seen no signs of them anywhere along the route.

No sooner had he received the news than Philip sent the messenger after
MacDougall. The Scotchman's red face stared at him blankly when he told
him what had happened.

"That's their first move in the real fight," said Philip, with a hard
ring in his voice. "They've got Brokaw. Keep your men close from this
hour on, Sandy. Hereafter let five of them sleep in our bunks during
the day, and keep them awake during the night."

Five days passed without a sign of an enemy.

About eight o'clock on the night of the sixth MacDougall came into the
office, where Philip was alone. The young Scotchman's usually florid
face was white. He dropped a curse as he grasped the back of a chair
with both hands. It was the third or fourth time that Philip had heard
MacDougall swear.

"Damn that Thorpe!" he cried, in a low voice.

"What's up?" asked Philip, his muscles tightening.

MacDougall viciously beat the ash from the bowl of his pipe.

"I didn't want to worry you about Thorpe, so I've kept quiet about some
things," he growled. "Thorpe brought up a load of whisky with him. I
knew it was against the law you've set down for this camp, but I
figured you were having trouble enough without getting you into a
mix-up with him, so I didn't say anything. But this other--is damnable!
Twice he's had a woman sneak in to visit him. She's there again
to-night!"

A choking, gripping sensation rose in Philip's throat. MacDougall was
not looking, and did not see the convulsive twitching of the other's
face, or the terrible light that shot for an instant into his eyes.

"A woman--Mac--"

"A YOUNG woman," said MacDougall, with emphasis. "I don't know who she
is, but I do know that she hasn't a right there or she wouldn't sneak
in like a thief. I'm going to be blunt--damned blunt. I think she's one
of the other men's wives. There are half a dozen in camp."

"Haven't you ever looked--to see if you could recognize her?"

"Haven't had the chance," said MacDougall. "She's been wrapped up both
times, and as it was none of my business I didn't lay in wait. But
now--it's up to you!"

Philip rose slowly. He felt cold. He put on his coat and cap, and
buckled on his revolver. His face was deadly white when he turned to
MacDougall.

"She is over there to-night?"

"Sneaked in not half an hour ago, I saw her come out of the edge of the
spruce."

"From the trail that leads out over the plain?"

"Yes."

Philip walked to the door.

"I'm going over to call on Thorpe," he said, quietly. "I may not be
back for some time, Sandy."

In the deep shadows outside he stood gazing at the light in Thorpe's
cabin. Then he walked slowly toward the spruce. He did not go to the
door, but leaned with his back against the building, near one of the
windows. The first shuddering sickness had gone from him. His temples
throbbed. At the sound of a voice inside which was Thorpe's the chill
in his blood turned to fire. The terrible fear that had fallen upon him
at MacDougall's words held him motionless, and his brain worked upon
but one idea--one determination. If it was Jeanne who came in this way,
he would kill Thorpe. If it was another woman, he would give Thorpe
that night to get out of the country. He waited. He heard the
gang-man's voice frequently, once in a loud, half-mocking laugh. Twice
he heard a lower voice--a woman's. For an hour he watched. He walked
back and forth in the gloom of the spruce, and waited another hour.
Then the light went out, and he slipped back to the corner of the cabin.

After a moment the door opened, and a hooded figure came out, and
walked rapidly toward the trail that buried itself amid the spruce.
Philip ran around the cabin and followed. There was a little open
beyond the first fringe of spruce, and in this he ran up silently from
behind and overtook the one he was pursuing. As his hand fell upon her
arm the woman turned upon him with a frightened cry. Philip's hand
dropped. He took a step back.

"My God! Jeanne--it is you!"

His voice was husky, like a choking man's. For an instant Jeanne's
white, terrified face met his own. And then, without a word to him, she
fled swiftly down the trail.

Philip made no effort to follow. For two or three minutes he stood like
a man turned suddenly into hewn rock, staring with unseeing eyes into
the gloom where Jeanne had disappeared. Then he walked back to the edge
of the spruce. There he drew his revolver, and cocked it. The starlight
revealed a madness in his face as he approached Thorpe's cabin. He was
smiling, but it was such a smile as presages death; a smile as
implacable as fate itself.



XXI


As Philip approached the cabin he saw a figure stealing away through
the gloom. His first thought was that he had returned a minute too late
to wreak his vengeance upon the gang-foreman in his own home, and he
quickened his steps in pursuit. The man ahead of him was cutting direct
for the camp supply-house, which was the nightly rendezvous of those
who wished to play cards or exchange camp gossip. The supply-house,
aglow with light, was not more than two hundred yards from Thorpe's,
and Philip saw that if he dealt out the justice he contemplated he had
not a moment to lose. He began to run, so quickly that he approached
within a dozen paces of the man he was pursuing without being heard. It
was not until then that he made a discovery which stopped him. The man
ahead was not Thorpe. Suddenly, looking beyond him, he saw a second
figure pass slowly through the lighted door of the supply-house. Even
at that distance he recognized the gang-foreman. He thrust his revolver
under his coat and fell a little farther behind the man he had mistaken
for Thorpe so that when the latter passed within the small circle of
light that came from the supply-house windows he was fifty instead of a
dozen paces away. Something in the other's manner, something strangely
and potently familiar in his slim, lithe form, in the quick,
half-running movement of his body, drew a sharp breath from Philip. He
was on the point of calling a name, but it died on his lips. A moment
more and the man passed through the door. Philip was certain that it
was Pierre Couchee who had followed Thorpe.

He was filled with a sudden fear as he ran toward the store. He had
scarcely crossed the threshold when a glance showed him Thorpe leaning
upon a narrow counter, and Pierre close beside him. He saw that the
half-breed was speaking, and Thorpe drew himself erect. Then, as quick
as a flash, two things happened. Thorpe's hand went to his belt,
Pierre's sent a lightning gleam of steel back over his shoulder. The
terrible drive of the knife and the explosion of Thorpe's revolver came
in the same instant. Thorpe crumpled back over the counter, clutching
at his breast. Pierre turned about, staggering, and saw Philip. His
eyes lighted up, and with a moaning cry he stretched out his arms as
Philip sprang to him. Above the sudden tumult of men's feet and excited
voices he gasped out Jeanne's name. Half a dozen men had crowded about
them. Through the ring burst MacDougall, a revolver in his hand. Pierce
had become a dead weight in Philip's arms.

"Help me over to the cabin with him, Mac," he said. He looked around
among the men. It struck him as curious, even then, that he saw none of
Thorpe's gang. "Is Thorpe done for?" he asked.

"He's dead," replied some one.

With an effort Pierre opened his eyes.

"Dead!" he breathed, and in that one word there was a tremble of joy
and triumph.

"Take Thorpe over to his cabin," commanded Philip, as he and MacDougall
lifted Pierre between them. "I will answer for this man."

They could hear Pierre's sobbing breath as they hurried across the
open. They laid him on Philip's bunk and Pierre opened his eyes again.
He looked at Philip.

"M'sieur," he whispered, "tell me--quick--if I must die!"

MacDougall had studied medicine and surgery before engineering, and
took the place of camp physician. Philip drew back while he ripped open
the half-breed's garments and bared his breast. Then he darted to his
bunk for the satchel in which he kept his bandages and medicines,
throwing off his coat as he went. Philip bent over Pierre. Blood was
oozing slowly from the wounded man's right breast. Over his heart
Philip noticed a blood-stained locket, fastened by a babiche string
about his neck.

Pierre's hands groped eagerly for Philip's.

"M'sieur--you will tell me--if I must die?" he pleaded. "There are
things you must know--about Jeanne--if I go. It will not hurt. I am not
afraid. You will tell me--"

"Yes," said Philip.

He could scarcely speak, and while MacDougall was at work stood so that
Pierre could not see his face. There was a sobbing note in Pierre's
breath, and he knew what it meant. He had heard that same sound more
than once when he had shot moose and caribou through the lungs. Five
minutes later MacDougall straightened himself. He had done all that he
could. Philip followed him to the back part of the room. Almost without
sound his lips framed the words, "Will he die?"

"Yes," said MacDougall. "There is no hope. He may last until morning."

Philip took a stool and sat down beside Pierre. There was no fear in
the wounded man's face. His eyes were clear. His voice was a little
stronger.

"I will die, M'sieur," he said, calmly.

"I am afraid so, Pierre."

Pierre's damp fingers closed about his own. His eyes shone softly, and
he smiled.

"It is best," he said, "and I am glad. I feel quite well. I will live
for some time?"

"Perhaps for a few hours, Pierre."

"God is good to me," breathed Pierre, devoutly. "I thank Him. Are we
alone?"

"Do you wish to be alone?"

"Yes."

Philip motioned to MacDougall, who went into the little office room.

"I will die," whispered Pierre, softly, as though he were achieving a
triumph. "And everything would die with me, M'sieur, if I did not know
that you love Jeanne, and that you will care for her when I am gone.
M'sieur, I have told you that I love her. I have worshiped her, next to
my God. I die happy, knowing that I am dying for her. If I had lived I
would have suffered, for I love alone. She does not dream that my love
is different from hers, for I have never told her. It would have given
her pain. And you will never let her know. As Our Dear Lady is my
witness, M'sieur, she has loved but one man, and that man is you."

Pierre gave a great breath. A warm flood seemed suddenly to engulf
Philip. Did he hear right? Could he believe? He fell upon his knees
beside Pierre and brushed his dark hair back from his face.

"Yes, I love her," he said, softly. "But I did not know that she loved
me."

"It is not strange," said Pierre, looking straight into his eyes. "But
you will understand--now--M'sieur. I seem to have strength, and I will
tell you all--from the beginning. Perhaps I have done wrong. You will
know--soon. You remember Jeanne told you the story of the baby--of the
woman frozen in the snow. That was the beginning of the long fight--for
me. This--what I am about to tell you--will be sacred to you, M'sieur?"

"As my life," said Philip.

Pierre was silent for a few moments. He seemed to be gathering his
thoughts, so that he could tell in few words the tragedy of years. Two
brilliant spots burned in his cheeks, and the hand which Philip held
was hot.

"Years ago--twenty, almost--there came a man to Fort o' God," he began.
"He was very young, and from the south. D'Arcambal was then
middle-aged, but his wife was young and beautiful. Jeanne says that you
saw her picture--against the wall. D'Arcambal worshiped her. She was
his life. You understand what happened. The man from the south--the
young wife--they went away together."

Pierre coughed. A bit of blood reddened his lips. Philip wiped it away
gently with his handkerchief, hiding the stain from Pierre's eyes.

"Yes," he said, "I understand."

"It broke D'Arcambal's heart," resumed Pierre. "He destroyed everything
that had belonged to the woman. He turned her picture to the wall. His
love turned slowly to hate. It was two years later that I came over the
barrens one night and found Jeanne and her dead mother. The woman,
M'sieur--Jeanne's mother--was D'Arcambal's wife. She was returning to
Fort o' God, and God's justice overtook her almost at its doors. I
carried little Jeanne to my Indian mother, and then made ready to carry
the woman to her husband. It was then that a terrible thought came to
me. Jeanne was not D'Arcambal's daughter. She was a part of the man who
had stolen his wife. I worshiped the little Jeanne even then, and for
her sake my mother and I swore secrecy, and buried the woman. Then we
took the babe to Fort o' God as a stranger. We saved her. We saved
D'Arcambal. No one ever knew."

Pierre stopped for breath.

"Was it best?"

"It was glorious," said Philip, trembling.

"It would have come out right--in the end--if the father had not
returned," said Pierre. "I must hurry, M'sieur, for it hurts me now to
talk. He came first a year ago, and revealed himself to Jeanne. He told
her everything. D'Arcambal was rich; Jeanne and I both had money. He
threatened--we bought him off. We fought to keep the terrible thing
from D'Arcambal. Our money sent him away for a time. Then he returned.
It was news of him I brought up the river to Jeanne--from Churchill. I
offered to kill him--but Jeanne would not listen to that. But the Great
God willed that I should. I killed him to-night--over there!"

A great joy surged above the grief in Philip's heart. He could not
speak, but pressed Pierre's hand harder, and looked into his glistening
eyes.

Pierre's next words broke his silence, and wrung a low cry from his
lips.

"M'sieur, this man Thorpe--Jeanne's father--is the man whom you know as
Lord Fitzhugh Lee."

He coughed violently, and with sudden fear Philip lifted his head so
that it rested against his shoulder. After a moment he lowered it
again. His face was as white as Pierre's after that sudden fit of
coughing.

"I talked with him--alone--on the afternoon of the fight on the rock,"
continued Pierre, huskily. "He was hiding in the woods near Churchill,
and left for Fort o' God on that same day. I did not tell Jeanne--until
after what happened, and I came up with you on the river. Thorpe was
waiting for us at Fort o' God. It was he whom Jeanne saw that night
beside the rock, but I could not tell you the truth--then. He came
often after that--two, three times a week. He tortured Jeanne. My God!
he taunted her, M'sieur, and made her let him kiss her, because he was
her father. We gave him money--all that we could get; we promised him
more, if he would leave--five thousand dollars--in three years. He
agreed to go--after he had finished his work here. And that
work--M'sieur--was to destroy you. He told Jeanne, because it made her
fear him more. He compelled her to come to his cabin. He thought she
was his slave, that she would do anything to be free of him. He told
her of his plot--how he had fooled you in the sham fight with one of
his men--how those men were going to attack you a little later, and how
he had intercepted your letter from Churchill and sent in its place the
other letter which made your camp defenseless. He was not afraid of
her. She was in his power, and he laughed at her horror, and tortured
her as a cat will a bird. But Jeanne--"

A spasm of pain shot over Pierre's face. Fresh blood dyed his lips, and
a shiver ran through his body.

"My God!--water--something--M'sieur," he gasped. "I must go on!"

Philip raised him again in his arms. He saw MacDougall's head appear
through the door.

"You will rest easier this way, Pierre," he said.

After a few moments Pierre spoke in a gasping whisper.

"You must understand. I must be quick," he said. "We could not warn you
of what Jeanne had discovered. That would have revealed her father.
D'Arcambal would have known--every one. Thorpe plans to dress his
men--like Indians. They are to attack your camp to-morrow night. Ten
days ago we went to the camp of old Sachigo, the Cree, who loves Jeanne
as his own daughter. It was Jeanne's idea--to save you. Jeanne told him
of Thorpe's plot to destroy you, and to lay the blame on Sachigo's
people. Sachigo is out there--in the mountains--hiding with thirty of
his tribe. Two days ago Jeanne learned where her father's men were
hiding. We had planned everything. To-morrow night--when they move to
attack--we were to start a signal-fire on the big rock mountain at the
end of the lake. Sachigo starts at the signal, and lays in ambush for
the others in the ravine between the two mountains. None of Thorpe's
men will come out alive. Sachigo and his people will destroy them, and
none will ever know how it happened, for the Crees keep their secrets.
But now--it is too late--for me. When it happens--I will be gone. The
signal-pile is built--birch-bark--at the very top of the rock. Jeanne
will wait for me out on the plain--and I will not come. You must fire
the signal, M'sieur--as soon as it is dark. None will ever know.
Jeanne's father is dead. You will keep the secret--of her
mother--always--"

"Forever," said Philip.

MacDougall came into the room, He brought a glass, partly filled with a
colored liquid, and placed it to Pierre's lips. Pierre swallowed with
an effort, and with a significant hunch of his shoulders for Philip's
eyes alone the engineer returned to the little room.

"Mon Dieu, how it burns!" said Pierre, as if to himself. "May I lie
down again, M'sieur?"

Philip lowered him gently. He made no effort to speak in these moments.
Pierre's eyes were dark and luminous as they sought his own. The
draught he had taken gave him a passing strength.

"I saw Thorpe again this afternoon," he said, more calmly. "D'Arcambal
thought I had taken Jeanne to visit a trapper's wife down the
Churchill. I saw Thorpe--alone. He had been drinking. He laughed at me,
and said that Jeanne and I were fools--that he would not leave as he
had said he would--but that he would remain--always. I told Jeanne, and
asked her again to let me kill him. But she said no--and I had taken my
oath to her. Jeanne saw him again to-night. I was near the cabin, and
saw you. I told him I would kill him if he did not go. He laughed
again, and struck me. When I came to my feet he was half across the
open; I followed. I forgot my oath. Rage filled my heart. You know what
happened. You will tell Jeanne--so that she will understand--"

"Can we not send for her?" asked Philip. "She must be near."

"No, M'sieur," he replied, softly. "It would only give her great pain
to see me--like this. She was to meet me to-night--at twelve
o'clock--on the trail where the road-bed crosses. You will meet her in
my place. When she understands all that has happened you may bring her
here, if she wishes to come. Then--to-morrow night--you will go
together to fire the signal."

"But Thorpe is dead," said Philip. "Will they attack without him?"

"There is another, besides him," said Pierre. "That is one secret which
Thorpe has kept from Jeanne--who the other is--the one who is paying to
have you destroyed. Yes--they will attack."

Philip bent low over Pierre.

"I have known of this plot for a long time, Pierre," he said, tensely.
"I know that this Thorpe, who for some reason has passed as Lord
Fitzhugh Lee, is but the agent of a more powerful force behind him.
Have you told me all, Pierre? Do you know nothing more?"

"Nothing, M'sieur."

"Was it Thorpe who attacked you on the cliff at Churchill?"

"No, I am sure that it was not he. If the attack had not failed--it
would have meant loss--for him. I have laid it to the ruffians who
wanted to kill me--and secure Jeanne. You understand--"

"Yes, but I do not believe that was the motive for the attack, Pierre,"
said Philip. "Did Thorpe go to see any one in Churchill?"

"I don't know. He was concealing himself in the forest."

A convulsive shudder ran through Pierre's body. He gave a low cry of
pain, and his hand clutched at the babiche cord which held the locket
about his neck.

"M'sieur," he whispered, quickly, "this locket--was on the little
Jeanne--when I found her in the snow. I kept it because it bears the
woman's initials. I am foolish, M'sieur. I am weak. But I would like to
have it buried with me--under the old tree--where Jeanne's mother lies.
And if you could, M'sieur--if you only could--place something of
Jeanne's in my hand--I would rest easier."

Philip bowed his head in silence, while his eyes grew blinding hot.
Pierre pressed his hand.

"She loves you--as I love her," he whispered, so low that Philip could
scarcely hear. "You will love her--always. If you do not--the Great God
will let the curse of Pierre Couchee fall upon you!"

Choking back the great sobs that rose in his breast, Philip sank upon
his knees beside Pierre, and buried his face in his arms like a
heartbroken boy. For several moments there was a silence, punctuated by
the rasping breath of the wounded man. Suddenly this sound ceased, and
Philip felt a cold fear leap through him. He listened, neither
breathing nor lifting his head. In that interval of pulseless quiet a
terrible cry came from Pierre's lips, and when Philip looked up the
dying half-breed had struggled to a sitting posture, blood staining his
lips again, his eyes blazing, his white face damp with the clammy touch
of death, and was staring through the cabin window. It was the window
that looked out over the lake, toward the rock mountain half a mile
away. Philip turned, horrified and wondering. Through the window he saw
a glow in the sky--the glow of a fire, leaping up in a crimson flood
from the top of the mountain!

Again that terrible, moaning cry fell from Pierre's lips, and he
reached out his arms toward the signal that was blazing forth its
warning in the night.

"Jeanne--Jeanne--" he sobbed. "My Jeanne--"

He swayed, and fell back. His words came in choking gasps.

"The signal!" he struggled, fighting to make Philip understand him.
"Jeanne--saw--Thorpe--to-night. He--must--changed--plans.
Attack--to-night. Jeanne--Jeanne--my Jeanne--has lighted--the
signal--fire!"

A tremor ran through his body, and he lay still. MacDougall ran across
from the half-open door, and put his head to Pierre's breast.

"Is he dead?" asked Philip.

"Not yet."

"Will he become conscious again?"

"Possibly."

Philip gripped MacDougall by the arm.

"The attack is to be made to-night, Mac," he exclaimed. "Warn the men.
Have them ready. But you--YOU, MacDougall, attend to this man, AND KEEP
HIM ALIVE!"

Without another word he ran to the door and out into the night. The
signal-fire was leaping to the sky. It lighted up the black cap of the
mountain, and sent a thousand aurora fires flashing across the lake.
And Philip, as he ran swiftly through the camp toward the narrow trail
that led to that mountain-top, repeated over and over again the dying
words of Pierre--

"Jeanne--my Jeanne--my Jeanne--"



XXII


News of the double tragedy had swept through the camp, and there was a
crowd in front of the supply-house. Philip passed close to Thorpe's
house to avoid discovery, ran a hundred yards up the trail over which
Jeanne had fled a short time before, and then cut straight across
through the thin timber for the head of the lake. He felt no effort in
his running. Low bush whipped him in the face and left no sting. He was
not conscious that he was panting for breath when he came out in the
black shadow of the mountain. This night in itself had been a creation
for him, for out of grief and pain it had lifted him into a new life,
and into a happiness that seemed to fill him with the strength and the
endurance of five men. Jeanne loved him! The wonderful truth cried
itself out in his soul at every step he took, and he murmured it aloud
to himself, over and over again, as he ran.

The glow of the signal-fire lighted up the sky above him, and he
climbed up, higher and higher, scrambling swiftly from rock to rock,
until he saw the tips of the flames licking up into the sky. He had
come up the steepest and shortest side of the ridge, and when he
reached the top he lay upon his face for a moment, his breath almost
gone.

The fire was built against a huge dead pine, and the pine was blazing a
hundred feet in the air. He could feel its heat. The monster torch
illumined the barren cap of the rock from edge to edge, and he looked
about him for Jeanne. For a moment he did not see her, and her name
rose to his lips, to be stilled in the same breath by what he saw
beyond the burning pine. Through the blaze of the heat and fire fie
beheld Jeanne, standing close to the edge of the mountain, gazing into
the south and west. He called her name. Jeanne turned toward him with a
startled cry, and Philip was at her side. The girl's face was white and
strained. Her lips were twisted in pain at sight of him. She spoke no
word, but a strange sound rose in her throat, a welling-up of the
sudden despair which the fire-light revealed in her eyes. For one
moment they stood apart, and Philip tried to speak. And then, suddenly,
he reached out and drew her quickly into his arms--so quickly that
there was no time for her to escape, so closely that her sweet face lay
imprisoned upon his breast, as he had held it once before, under the
picture at Fort o' God. He felt her straining to free herself; he saw
the fear in her eyes, and he tried to speak calmly, while his heart
throbbed with the passion of love which he wished to pour into her ears.

"Listen, Jeanne," he said. "Pierre has sent me to you. He has told me
everything--everything, my sweetheart. There is nothing to keep from me
now. I know. I understand. And I love you--love you--love you--my own
sweet Jeanne!"

She trembled at his words. He felt her shuddering in his arms, and her
eyes gazed at him wonderingly, filled with a strange and incredulous
look, while her lips quivered and remained speechless. He drew her
nearer, until his face was against her own, and the warmth of her lips,
her eyes, and her hair entered into him, and near stifled his heart
with joy.

"He has told me everything, my little Jeanne," he said again, in a
whisper that rose just above the crackling of the pine. "Everything. He
told me because he knew that I loved you, and because--"

The words choked in his throat. At this hesitation Jeanne drew her head
back, and, with her hands pressing against his breast, looked into his
face. There were in her eyes the same struggling emotions, but with
them now there came also a sweet faltering, a piteous appeal to him, a
faith that rose above her terrors, and the tremble of her lips was like
that of a crying child. He drew her face back, and kissed the quivering
lips, and suddenly he felt the strain against him give way, and
Jeanne's head sobbed upon his breast. In that moment, looking where the
roaring pine sent its pinnacles of flame leaping up into the night, a
word of thanks, of prayer, rose mutely to his lips, and he held Jeanne
more closely, and whispered over and over again in his happiness,
"Jeanne--Jeanne--my sweetheart Jeanne."

Jeanne's sobs grew less and less, and Philip strengthened himself to
tell her the terrible news of Pierre. He knew that in the selfishness
of his own joy he had already wasted precious minutes, and very gently
he took Jeanne's wet face between his two hands and turned it a little
toward his own.

"Pierre has told me everything, Jeanne," he repeated. "Everything--from
the day he found you many years ago to the day your father returned to
torture you." He spoke calmly, even as he felt her shiver in pain
against him. "To-night there was a little trouble down in the camp,
dear. Pierre is wounded, and wants you to come to him.
Thorpe--is--dead."

For an instant Philip was frightened at what happened. Jeanne's breath
ceased. There seemed to be not a quiver of life in her body, and she
lay in his arms as if dead. And then, suddenly, there came from her a
terrible cry, and she wrenched herself free, and stood a step from him,
her face as white as death.

"He--is--dead--"

"Yes, he is dead."

"And Pierre--Pierre killed him?"

Philip held out his arms, but Jeanne did not seem to see them. She saw
the answer in his face.

"And--Pierre--is--hurt--" she went on, never taking her wide, luminous
eyes from his face.

Before he answered Philip took her trembling hands in his own, as
though he would lighten the blow by the warmth and touch of his great
love.

"Yes, he is hurt, Jeanne," he said. "We must hurry, for I am afraid
there is no time to lose."

"He is--dying?"

"I fear so, Jeanne."

He turned before the look that came into her face, and led her about
the circle of fire to the side of the mountain that sloped down into
the plain. Suddenly Jeanne stopped for an instant. Her fingers
tightened about his. Her face was turned back into the endless
desolation of night and forest that lay to the south and west. Far
out--a mile--two miles--an answering fire was breaking the black
curtain that hid all things beyond them. Jeanne lifted her face to him.
Grief and love, pain and joy, shone in her eyes.

"They are there!" she said, chokingly. "It is Sachigo, and they are
coming--coming--coming--"

Once again before they began the descent of the mountain Philip drew
her close in his arms, and kissed her. And this time there was the
sweet surrender to him of all things in the tenderness of Jeanne's
lips. Silent in their grief, and yet communing in sympathy and love in
the firm clasp of their hands, they came down the mountain, through the
thin spruce forest, and to the lighted cabin where Pierre lay dying.
MacDougall was in the room when they entered, and rose softly,
tiptoeing into the little office. Philip led Jeanne to Pierre's side,
and as he bent over him, and spoke softly, the half-breed opened his
eyes. He saw Jeanne. Into his fading eyes there came a wonderful light.
His lips moved, and his hands strove to lift themselves above the
crumpled blanket. Jeanne dropped upon her knees beside him, and as she
clasped his chilled hands to her breast a glorious understanding
lighted up her face; and then she took Pierre's face between her hands,
and bowed her own close down to it, so that the two were hidden under
the beauteous halo of her hair. Philip gripped at his throat to hold
back a sob. A terrible stillness came into the room, and he dared not
move. It seemed a long time before Jeanne lifted her head, slowly,
tenderly, as if fearing to awaken a sleeping child. She turned to him,
and he read the truth in her face before she had spoken. Her voice was
low and calm, filled with the sweetness and tenderness and strength
that come only to a woman in the final moment of a great sorrow.

"Leave us, Philip," she said. "Pierre is dead."



XXIII


For a moment Philip bowed his head, and then he turned and went
noiselessly from the room, without speaking. As he closed the door
softly behind him he looked back, and from her attitude beside Pierre
he knew that Jeanne was whispering a prayer. A vision flashed before
him, so quick that it had come like a ray of light--a vision of another
hour, years and years ago, when Pierre had knelt beside HER, and when
he had lifted up his wild, half-thought prayer out in the death-chill
of the snowy barrens. And this was his reward, to have Jeanne kneel
beside him as the soul which had loved her so faithfully took its
flight.

Philip could not see when he turned his face to the light of the
office. For the first time the grief which he had choked back escaped
in a gasping break in his voice, and he wiped his eyes with his
pocket-handkerchief. He knew that MacDougall was looking upon his
weakness, but he did not at first see that there was another person in
the room besides the engineer. This second person rose to meet him,
while MacDougall remained in his seat, and as he came out into the
clearer light of the room Philip could scarce believe his eyes.

It was Gregson!

"I am sorry that I came in just at this time, Phil," he greeted, in a
low voice.

Philip stared, still incredulous. He had never seen Gregson as he
looked now. The artist advanced no farther. He did not hold out his
hand. There was none of the joy of meeting in his face. His eyes
shifted to the door that led into the death-chamber, and they were
filled with the gloom of a condemned man. With a low word Philip held
out his hand to meet his old comrade's. Gregson drew back.

"No--not now," he said. "Wait--until you have heard me."

Something in his cold, passionless voice stopped Philip. He saw Gregson
glance toward MacDougall, and understood what he meant. Going to the
engineer, he placed a hand on his shoulder, and spoke so that only he
could hear.

"She is in there, Mac--with Pierre. She wanted to be alone with him for
a few minutes. Will you wait for her--outside--at the door, and take
her over to Cassidy's wife? Tell her that I will come to her in a
little while."

He followed MacDougall to the door, speaking to him in a low voice, and
then turned to Gregson. The artist had seated himself at one side of
the small office table, and Philip sat down opposite him, holding out
his hand to him again.

"What is the matter, Greggy?"

"This is not a time for long explanations," said the artist, still
holding back his hand. "They can come later, Phil. But
to-night--now--you must understand why I cannot shake hands with you.
We have been friends for a good many years. In a few minutes we will be
enemies--or you will be mine. One thing, before I go on, I must ask of
you. I demand it. Whatever passes between us during the next ten
minutes, say no word against Eileen Brokaw. I will say what you might
say--that for a time her soul wandered, and was almost lost. But it has
come back to her, strong and pure. I love her. Some strange fate has
ordained that she should love me, worthless as I am. She is to be my
wife."

Philip's hand was still across the table.

"Greggy--Greggy--God bless you!" he cried, softly. "I know what it is
to love, and to be loved. Why should I be your enemy because Eileen
Brokaw's heart has turned to gold, and she has given it to you? Greggy,
shake!"

"Wait," said Gregson, huskily. "Phil, you are breaking my heart.
Listen. You got my note? But I did not desert you so abominably. I made
a discovery that last night of yours in Churchill. I went to Eileen
Brokaw, and to-morrow--some time--if you care I will tell you of all
that happened. First you must know this. I have found the 'power' that
is fighting you down below. I have found the man who is behind the plot
to ruin your company, the man who is responsible for Thorpe's crimes,
the man who is responsible--for--that--in--there."

He leaned across the table and pointed to the closed door.

"And that man--"

For a moment he seemed to choke.

"Is Brokaw, the father of my affianced wife!"

"Good God!" cried Philip. "Gregson, are you mad?"

"I was almost mad, when I first made the discovery," said Gregson, as
cold as ice. "But I am sane now. His scheme was to have the government
annul your provisional license. Thorpe and his men were to destroy this
camp, and kill you. The money on hand from stock, over six hundred
thousand dollars, would have gone into Brokaw's pockets. There is no
need of further detail--now--for you can understand. He knew Thorpe,
and secured him as his agent. It was merely a whim of Thorpe's to take
the name of Lord Fitzhugh instead of something less conspicuous. Three
months before Brokaw came to Churchill he wished to get detailed
instructions to Thorpe which he dared not trust to a wilderness mail
service. He could find no messenger whom he dared trust. So he sent
Eileen. She was at Fort o' God for a week. Then she came to Churchill,
where we saw her. The scheme was that Brokaw should bribe the ship's
captain to run close into Blind Eskimo Point, at night, and signal to
Thorpe and Eileen, who would be waiting. It worked, and Eileen and
Thorpe came on with the ship. At the landing--you remember--Eileen was
met by the girl from Fort o' God. In order not to betray herself to you
she refused to recognize her. Later she told her father, and Thorpe and
Brokaw saw in it an opportunity to strike a first blow. Brokaw had
brought two men whom he could trust, and Thorpe had four or five others
at Churchill. The attack on the cliff followed, the object being to
kill the man, but take the girl unharmed, A messenger was to take the
news of what happened to Fort o' God, and lay the crime to men who had
run up to Churchill from your camp. Chance favored you that night, and
you spoiled their plan. Chance favored me, and I found Eileen. It is
useless for me to go into detail as to what happened after that, except
to say this--that Eileen knew nothing of the proposed attack, that she
was ignorant of the heinousness of the plot against you, and that she
was almost as much a tool of her father as you. Phil--"

For the first time there came a pleading light into Gregson's eyes as
he leaned across the table.

"Phil, if it wasn't for Eileen I would not be here. I thought that she
would kill herself when I told her as much of the story as I knew. She
told me what she had done; she confessed for her father. In that hour
of her agony I could not keep back my love. We plotted. I forged a
letter, and made it possible to accompany Brokaw and Eileen up the
Churchill. It was not my purpose to join you, and so Eileen professed
to be taken ill. We camped, back from the river, and I sent our two
Indians back to Churchill, for Eileen and I wished to be alone with
Brokaw in the terrible hour that was coming. That is all. Everything is
revealed. I have come to you as quickly as I could, to find that Thorpe
is dead. In my own selfishness I would have shielded Brokaw, arguing
that he could pay Thorpe, and work honorably henceforth. You would
never have known. It is Eileen who makes this confession, not I. Phil,
her last words to me were these: 'You love me. Then you will tell him
all this. Only after this, if he shows us a mercy which we do not
deserve, can I be your wife.'

"There is only one other thing to add. I have shown Brokaw a ray of
hope. He will hand over to you all his rights in the company and the
six hundred thousand in the treasury. He will sign over to you, as
repurchase money for whatever stock you wish to call in, practically
his whole fortune--five hundred thousand. He will disappear, completely
and forever. Eileen and I will hunt out our own little corner in a new
world, and you will never hear of us again. This is what we have
planned to do, if you show us mercy."

Philip had not spoken during Gregson's terrible recital. He sat like
one turned to stone. Rage, wonder, and horror burned so fiercely in his
heart that they consumed all evidence of emotion. And to arouse him now
there came an interruption that sent the blood flushing back into his
face--a low knock at the closed door, a slow lifting of the latch, the
appearance of Jeanne. Through her tears she saw only the man she loved,
and sobbing aloud now, like a child, she stretched out her arms to him;
and when he sprang to her and caught her to his breast, she whispered
his name again and again, and stroked his face with her hands. Love,
overpowering, breathing of heaven, was in her touch, and as she lifted
her face to him of her own sweet will now, entreating him to kiss her
and to comfort her for what she had lost, he saw Gregson moving with
bowed head, like a stricken thing, toward the outer door. In that
moment the things that had been in his heart melted away, and raising a
hand above his head, he called, softly:

"Tom Gregson, my old chum, if you have found a love like this, thank
your God. My own love I would lose if I destroyed yours. Go back to
Eileen. Tell Brokaw that I accept his offers. And when you come back in
a few days, bring Eileen. My Jeanne will love her."

And Jeanne, looking from Philip's face, saw Gregson, for the first
time, as he passed through the door.



XXIV


Both Philip and Jeanne were silent for some moments after Gregson had
gone; their only movement was the gentle stroking of Philip's hand over
the girl's soft hair. Their hearts were full, too full for speech. And
yet he knew that upon his strength depended everything now. The
revelations of Gregson, which virtually ended the fight against him
personally, were but trivial in his thoughts compared with the ordeal
which was ahead of Jeanne. Both Pierre and her father were dead, and,
with the exception of Jeanne, no one but he knew of the secret that had
died with them. He could feel against him the throbbing of the storm
that was passing in the girl's heart, and in answer to it he said
nothing in words, but held her to him with a gentleness that lifted her
face, quiet and beautiful, so that her eyes looked steadily and
questioningly into his own.

"You love me," she said, simply, and yet with a calmness that sent a
curious thrill through him.

"Beyond all else in the world," he replied.

She still looked at him, without speaking, as though through his eyes
she was searching to the bottom of his soul.

"And you know," she whispered, after a moment.

He drew her so close she could not move, and crushed his face down
against her own.

"Jeanne--Jeanne--everything is as it should be," he said. "I am glad
that you were found out in the snows. I am glad that the woman in the
picture was your mother. I would have nothing different than it is, for
if things were different you would not be the Jeanne that I know, and I
would not love you so. You have suffered, sweetheart. And I, too, have
had my share of sorrow. God has brought us together, and all is right
in the end. Jeanne--my sweet Jeanne--"

Gregson had left the outer door slightly ajar. A gust of wind opened it
wider. Through it there came now a sound that interrupted the words on
Philip's lips, and sent a sudden quiver through Jeanne. In an instant
both recognized the sound. It was the firing of rifles, the shots
coming to them faintly from far beyond the mountain at the end of the
lake. Moved by the same impulse, they ran to the door, hand in hand.

"It is Sachigo!" panted Jeanne. She could hardly speak. She seemed to
struggle to get breath, "I had forgotten. They are fighting--"

MacDougall strode up from his post beside the door, where he had been
waiting for the appearance of Jeanne.

"Firing--off there," he said. "What does it mean?"

"We must wait and see," replied Philip. "Send two of your men to
investigate, Mac. I will rejoin you after I have taken Miss d'Arcambal
over to Cassidy's wife."

He moved away quickly with Jeanne. On a sudden rise of the wind from
the south the firing came to them more distinctly. Then it died away,
and ended in three or four intermittent shots. For the space of a dozen
seconds a strange stillness followed, and then over the mountain top,
where there was still a faint glow in the sky, there came the low,
quavering, triumphal cry of the Crees: a cry born of the forest itself,
mournful even in its joy, only half human--almost like a far-away burst
of tongue from a wolf pack on the hunt trail. And after that there was
an unbroken silence.

"It is over," breathed Philip.

He felt Jeanne's fingers tighten about his own.

"No one will ever know," he continued. "Even MacDougall will not guess
what has happened out there--to-night."

He stopped a dozen paces from Cassidy's cabin. The windows were aglow,
and they could hear the laughter and play of Cassidy's two children
within. Gently he drew Jeanne to him.

"You will stay here to-night, dear," he said. "To-morrow we will go to
Fort o' God."

"You must take me home to-night," whispered Jeanne, looking up into his
face. "I must go, Philip. Send some one with me, and you can come--in
the morning--with Pierre--"

She put her hand to his face again, in the sweet touch that told more
of her love than a thousand words.

"You understand, dear," she went on, seeing the anxiety in his eyes. "I
have the strength--to-night. I must return to father, and he will know
everything--when you come to Fort o' God."

"I will send MacDougall with you," said Philip, after a moment. "And
then I will follow--"

"With Pierre."

"Yes, with Pierre."

For a brief space longer they stood outside of Cassidy's cabin, and
then Philip, lifting her face, said gently:

"Will you kiss me, dear? It is the first time."

He bent down, and Jeanne's lips reached his own.

"No, it is not the first time," she confessed, in a whisper. "Not since
that day--when I thought you were dying--after we came through the
rapids--"

Five minutes later Philip returned to MacDougall. Roberts, Henshaw,
Cassidy, and Lecault were with the engineer.

"I've sent the St. Pierres to find out about the firing," he said.
"Look at the crowd over at the store. Every one heard it, and they've
seen the fire on the mountain. They think the Indians have cornered a
moose or two and are shooting them by the blaze."

"They're probably right," said Philip. "I want a word with you, Mac."

He walked a little aside with the engineer, leaving the others in a
group, and in a low voice told him as much as he cared to reveal about
the identity of Thorpe and Gregson's mission in camp. Then he spoke of
Jeanne.

"I believe that the death of Thorpe practically ends all danger to us,"
he concluded. "I'm going to offer you a pleasanter job than fighting,
Mac. It is imperative that Miss d'Arcambal should return to D'Arcambal
House before morning, and I want you to take her, if you will. I'm
choosing the best man I've got because--well, because she's going to be
my wife, Mac. I'm the happiest man on earth to-night!"

MacDougall did not show surprise.

"Guessed it," he said, shortly, thrusting out a hand and grinning
broadly into Philip's face "Couldn't help from seeing, Phil. And the
firing, and Thorpe, and that half-breed in there--"

Understanding was slowly illuminating his face.

"You'll know all about them a little later, Mac," said Philip softly.
"To-night we must investigate nothing--very far. Miss d'Arcambal must
be taken home immediately. Will you go?"

"With pleasure."

"She can ride one of the horses as far as the Little Churchill,"
continued Philip. "And there she will show you a canoe. I will follow
in the morning with the body of Pierre, the half-breed."

A quarter of an hour later MacDougall and Jeanne set out over the river
trail, leaving Philip standing behind, watching them until they were
hidden in the night. It was fully an hour later before the St. Pierres
returned. Philip was uneasy until the two dark-faced hunters came into
the little office and leaned their rifles against the wall. He had
feared that Sachigo might have left some trace of his ambush behind.
But the St. Pierres had discovered nothing, and could give only one
reason for the burning pine on the summit of the mountain. They agreed
that Indians had fired it to frighten moose from a thick cover to the
south and west, and that their hunt had been a failure.

It was midnight before Philip relaxed his caution, which he maintained
until then in spite of his belief that Thorpe's men, under Blake, had
met a quick finish at the hands of Sachigo and his ambushed braves. His
men left for their cabins, with the exception of Cassidy, whom he asked
to spend the remainder of the night in one of the office bunks. Alone
he went in to prepare Pierre for his last journey to Fort o' God.

A lamp was burning low beside the bunk in which Pierre lay. Philip
approached and turned the wick higher, and then he gazed in wonder upon
the transfiguration in the half-breed's face. Pierre had died with a
smile on his lips; and with a curious thickening in his throat Philip
thought that those lips, even in death, were craved in the act of
whispering Jeanne's name. It seemed to him, as he stood in silence for
many moments, that Pierre was not dead, but that he was sleeping a
quiet, unbreathing sleep, in which there came to him visions of the
great love for which he had offered up his life and his soul. Jeanne's
hands, in his last moments, had stilled all pain. Peace slumbered in
the pale shadows of his closed eyes. The Great God of his faith had
come to him in his hour of greatest need on earth, and he had passed
away into the Valley of Silent Men on the sweet breath of Jeanne's
prayers. The girl had crossed his hands upon his breast. She had
brushed back his long hair. Philip knew that she had imprinted a kiss
upon the silent lips before the soul had fled, and in the warmth and
knowledge of that kiss Pierre had died happy.

And Philip, brokenly, said aloud:

"God bless you, Pierre, old man!"

He lifted the cold hands back, and gently drew the covers which had
hidden the telltale stains of death from Jeanne's eyes. He turned down
Pierre's shirt, and in the lamp-glow there glistened the golden locket.
For the first time he noticed it closely. It was half as large as the
palm of his hand, and very thin, and he saw that it was bent and
twisted. A shudder ran through him when he understood what had
happened. The bullet that had killed Pierre had first struck the
locket, and had burst it partly open. He took it in his hand. And then
he saw that through the broken side there protruded the end of a bit of
paper. For a brief space the discovery made him almost forget the
presence of death. Pierre had never opened the locket, because it was
of the old-fashioned kind that locked with a key, and the key was gone.
And the locket had been about Jeanne's neck when he found her out in
the snows! Was it possible that this bit of paper had something to do
with the girl he loved?

Carefully, so that it would not tear, he drew it forth. There was
writing on the paper, as he had expected, and he read it, bent low
beside the lamp. The date was nearly eighteen years old. The lines were
faint. The words were these:

MY HUSBAND,--God can never undo what I have done. I have dragged myself
back, repentant, loving you more than I have ever loved you in my life,
to leave our little girl with you. She is your daughter, and mine. She
was born on the eighth day of September, the seventh month after I left
Fort o' God, She is yours, and so I bring her back to you, with the
prayer that she will help to fill the true and noble heart that I have
broken. I cannot ask your forgiveness, for I do not deserve it. I
cannot let you see me, for I should kill myself at your feet. I have
lived this long only for the baby. I will leave her where you cannot
fail to find her, and by the time you have read this I will have
answered for my sin--my madness, if you can have charity regard it so.
And if God is kind I will hover about you always, and you will know
that in death the old sweetheart, and the mother, has found what she
could never again hope for in life.

YOUR WIFE.

Philip rose slowly erect and gazed down into the still, tranquil face
of Pierre, the half-breed.

"Why didn't you open it?" he whispered. "Why didn't you open it? My
God, what it would have saved--"

For a full minute he looked down at Pierre, as though he expected that
the white lips would move and answer him. And then he thought of Jeanne
hurrying to Fort o' God, and of the terrible things which she was to
reveal to her father that night. She was D'Arcambal's own daughter.
What pain--what agony of father and child he might have saved if he had
examined the locket a little sooner! He looked at his watch and found
that Jeanne had been gone three hours. It would be impossible to
overtake MacDougall and the girl unless something had occurred to delay
them somewhere along the trail. He hurried back into the little room,
where he had left Cassidy. In a few words he explained that it was
necessary for him to follow Jeanne and the engineer to D'Arcambal House
without a moment's delay, and he directed Cassidy to take charge of
camp affairs, and to send Pierre's body with a suitable escort the next
day.

"It isn't necessary for me to tell you what to do," he finished, "You
understand."

Cassidy nodded. Six months before he had buried his youngest child
under a big spruce back of his cabin.

Philip hastened to the stables, and, choosing one of the lighter
animals, was soon galloping over the trail toward the Little Churchill.
In his face there blew a cold wind from Hudson's Bay, and now and then
he felt the sting of fine particles in his eyes. They were the presage
of storm. A shifting of the wind a little to the east and south, and
the fine particles would thicken, and turn into snow. By morning the
world would be white. He came into the forests beyond the plain, and in
the spruce and the cedar tops the wind was half a gale, filling the
night with wailing and moaning sounds that sent strange shivers through
him as he thought of Pierre in the cabin. In such a way, he imagined,
had the north wind swept across the cold barrens on the night that
Pierre had found the woman and the babe; and now it seemed, in his
fancies, as though above and about him the great hand that had guided
the half-breed then was bringing back the old night, as if Pierre, in
dying, had wished it so. For the wind changed. The fine particles
thickened, and changed to snow. And then there was no longer the
wailing and the moaning in the tree-tops, but the soft murmur of a
white deluge that smothered him in a strange gloom and hid the trail.
There were two canoes concealed at the end of the trail on the Little
Churchill, and Philip chose the smallest. He followed swiftly after
MacDougall and Jeanne. He could no longer see either side of the
stream, and he was filled with a fear that he might pass the little
creek that led to Fort o' God. He timed himself by his watch, and when
he had paddled for two hours he ran in close to the west shore,
traveling so slowly that he did not progress a mile in half an hour.
And then suddenly, from close ahead, there rose through the snow-gloom
the dismal howl of a dog, which told him that he was near to Fort o'
God. He found the black opening that marked the entrance to the creek,
and when he ran upon the sand-bar a hundred yards beyond he saw lights
burning in the great room where he had first seen D'Arcambal. He went
now where Pierre had led him that night, and found the door unlocked.
He entered silently, and passed down the dark hall until, on the left,
he saw a glow of light that came from the big room. Something in the
silence that was ahead of him made his own approach without sound, and
softly he entered through the door.

In the great chair sat the master of Fort o' God, his gray head bent;
at his feet knelt Jeanne, and so close were they that D'Arcambal's face
was hidden in Jeanne's shining, disheveled hair. No sooner had Philip
entered the room than his presence seemed to arouse the older man. He
lifted his head slowly, looking toward the door, and when he saw who
stood there he raised one of his arms from about the girl and held it
out to Philip.

"My son!" he said.

In a moment Philip was upon his knees beside Jeanne, and one of
D'Arcambal's heavy hands fell upon his shoulder in a touch that told
him he had come too late to keep back any part of the terrible story
which Jeanne had bared to him. The girl did not speak when she saw him
beside her. It was as if she had expected him to come, and her hand
found his and nestled in it, as cold as ice.

"I have hurried from the camp," he said. "I tried to overtake Jeanne.
About Pierre's neck I found a locket, and in the locket--was this--"

He looked into D'Arcambal's haggard face as he gave him the
blood-stained note, and he knew that in the moment that was to come the
master of Fort o' God and his daughter should be alone.

"I will wait in the portrait-room," he said, in a low voice, and as he
rose to his feet he pressed Jeanne's hand to his lips.

The old room was as he had left it weeks before. The picture of
Jeanne's mother still hung with its face to the wall. There was the
same elusive movement of the portrait over the volume of warm air that
rose from the floor. In this room he seemed to breathe again the
presence of a warm spirit of life, as he had felt it on the first
night--a spirit that seemed to him to be a part of Jeanne herself, and
he thought of the last words of the wife and mother--of her promise to
remain always near those whom she loved, to regain after death the
companionship which she could never hope for in life. And then there
came to him a thought of the vast and wonderful mystery of death, and
he wondered if it was her spirit that had been with him more than one
lonely night, when his camp-fire was low; if it was her presence that
had filled him with transcendent dreams of hope and love, coming to him
that night beside the rock at Churchill, and leading him at last to
Jeanne, for whom she had given up her life. He heard again the rising
of the wind outside and the beating of the storm against the window,
and he went softly to see if his vision could penetrate into the white,
twisting gloom beyond the glass. For many minutes he stood, seeing
nothing. And then he heard a sound, and turned to see Jeanne and her
father standing in the door. Glory was in the face of the master of
Fort o' God. He seemed not to see Philip--he seemed to see nothing but
the picture that was turned against the wall. He strode across the
room, his great shoulders straightened, his shaggy head erect, and with
the pride of one revealing first to human eyes the masterpiece of his
soul and life he turned the picture so that the radiant face of the
wife and mother looked down upon him. And was it fancy that for a
fleeting moment the smile left the beautiful lips, and a light, soft
and luminous, pleading for love and forgiveness, filled the eyes of
Jeanne's mother? Philip trembled. Jeanne came across to him silently,
and crept into his arms. And then, slowly, the master of Fort o' God
turned toward them and stretched out both of his great arms.

"My children!" he said.



XXV


All that night the storm came out of the north and east. Hours after
Jeanne and her father had left him Philip went quietly from his room,
passed down the hall, and opened the outer door. He could hear the gale
whistling over the top of the great rock, and moaning in the spruce and
cedar forest, and he closed the door after him, and buried himself in
the darkness and wind. He bowed his head to the stinging snow, which
came like blasts of steeled shot, and hurried into the shelter of the
Sun Rock, and stood there after that listening to the wildness of the
storm and the strange whistling of the wind cutting itself to pieces
far over his head. Since man had first beheld that rock such storms as
this had come and gone for countless generations. Two hundred years and
more had passed since Grosellier first looked out upon a wondrous world
from its summit. And yet this storm--to-night--whistling and moaning
about him, filling all space with its grief, its triumph, and its
madness, seemed to be for him--and for him alone. His heart answered to
it. His soul trembled to the marvelous meaning of it. To-night this
storm was his own. He was a part of a world which he would never leave.
Here, beside the great Sun Rock of the Crees, he had found home, life,
happiness, his God. Here, henceforth through all time, he would live
with his beloved Jeanne, dreaming no dreams that went beyond the peace
of the mountains and the forests. He lifted his face to where the storm
swept above him, and for an instant he fancied that high up on the
ragged edge of the rock there might have stood Pierre, with his great,
gaping, hungry heart, filled with pain and yearning, staring off into
the face of the Almighty. And he fancied, too, that beside him there
hovered the wife and mother. And then he looked to Fort o' God. The
lights were out. Quiet, if not sleep, had fallen upon all life within.
And it seemed to Philip, as he went back again through the storm, that
in the moaning tumult of the night there was music instead of sadness.

He did not sleep until nearly morning. And when he awoke he found that
the storm had passed, and that over a world of spotless white there had
risen a brilliant sun. He looked out from his window, and saw the top
of the Sun Rock glistening in a golden fire, and where the forest trees
had twisted and moaned there were now unending canopies of snow, so
that it seemed as though the storm, in passing, had left behind only
light, and beauty, and happiness for all living things.

Trembling with the joy of this, Philip went to his door, and from the
door down the hall, and where the light of the sun blazed through a
window near to the great room where he expected to find the master of
Fort o' God, there stood Jeanne. And as she heard him coming, and
turned toward him, all the glory and beauty of the wondrous day was in
her face and hair. Like an angel she stood waiting for him, pale and
yet flushing a little, her eyes shining and yearning for him, her soul
in the tremble of the single word on her sweet lips.

"Philip--"

"Jeanne--"

No more--and yet against each other their hearts told what it was
futile for their lips to attempt. They looked out through the window.
Beyond that window, as far as the vision could reach, swept the
barrens, over which Pierre had brought the little Jeanne. Something
sobbing rose in the girl's throat. She lifted her eyes, swimming with
love and tears, to Philip, and from his breast she reached up both
hands gently to his face.

"They will bring Pierre--to-day---" she whispered.

"Yes--to-day."

"We will bury him out yonder," she said, stroking his face, and he knew
that she meant out in the barren, where the mother lay.

He bowed his face close down against hers to hide the woman's weakness
that was bringing a misty film into his eyes.

"You love me," she whispered. "You love me--love me--and you will never
take me away, but will stay with me always. You will stay
here--dear--in my beautiful world--we two--alone--"

"For ever and for ever," he murmured.

They heard a step, firm and vibrant with the strength of a new life,
and they knew that it was the master of Fort o' God.

"Always--we two--forever," whispered Philip again.



THE END





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