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

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

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NORTHERN LIGHTS, Complete

By Gilbert Parker



     CONTENTS

     Volume 1.
     A LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS
     ONCE AT RED MAN\x92S RIVER
     THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
     BUCKMASTER\x92S BOY

     Volume 2.
     TO-MORROW
     QU\x92APPELLE
     THE STAKE AND THE PLUMB-LINE

     Volume 3.
     WHEN THE SWALLOWS HOMEWARD FLY
     GEORGE\x92S WIFE
     MARCILE

     Volume 4.
     A MAN, A FAMINE, AND A HEATHEN BOY
     THE HEALING SPRINGS AND THE PIONEERS
     THE LITTLE WIDOW OF JANSEN
     WATCHING THE RISE OF ORION

     Volume 5.
     THE ERROR OF THE DAY
     THE WHISPERER
     AS DEEP AS THE SEA



INTRODUCTION

This book, Northern Lights, belongs to an epoch which is a generation
later than that in which Pierre and His People moved. The conditions
under which Pierre and Shon McGann lived practically ended with the
advent of the railway. From that time forwards, with the rise of towns
and cities accompanied by an amazing growth of emigration, the whole
life lost much of that character of isolation and pathetic loneliness
which marked the days of Pierre. When, in 1905, I visited the Far West
again after many years, and saw the strange new life with its modern
episode, energy, and push, and realised that even the characteristics
which marked the period just before the advent, and just after the
advent, of the railway were disappearing, I determined to write a series
of stories which would catch the fleeting characteristics and hold
something of the old life, so adventurous, vigorous, and individual,
before it passed entirely and was forgotten. Therefore, from 1905 to
1909, I kept drawing upon all those experiences of others, from the
true tales that had been told me, upon the reminiscences of Hudson\x92s
Bay trappers and hunters, for those incidents natural to the West which
imagination could make true. Something of the old atmosphere had gone,
and there was a stir and a murmur in all the West which broke that grim
yet fascinating loneliness of the time of Pierre.

Thus it is that Northern Lights is written in a wholly different style
from that of Pierre and His People, though here and there, as for
instance in A Lodge in the Wilderness, Once at Red Man\x92s River, The
Stroke of the Hour, Qu\x92appelle, and Marcile, the old note sounds, and
something of the poignant mystery, solitude, and big primitive incident
of the earlier stories appears. I believe I did well--at any rate for
myself and my purposes--in writing this book, and thus making the human
narrative of the Far West and North continuous from the time of the
sixties onwards. So have I assured myself of the rightness of my
intention, that I shall publish a novel presently which will carry on
this human narrative of the West into still another stage-that of the
present, when railways are intersecting each other, when mills and
factories are being added to the great grain elevators in the West, and
when hundreds and thousands of people every year are moving across the
plains where, within my own living time, the buffalo ranged in their
millions, and the red men, uncontrolled, set up their tepees.



NOTE

The tales in this book belong to two different epochs in the life of the
Far West. The first five are reminiscent of \x93border days and deeds\x94--of
days before the great railway was built which changed a waste into a
fertile field of civilisation. The remaining stories cover the period
passed since the Royal North-West Mounted Police and the Pullman car
first startled the early pioneer, and sent him into the land of the
farther North, or drew him into the quiet circle of civic routine and
humdrum occupation.

G. P.



A LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS

\x93Hai--Yai, so bright a day, so clear!\x94 said Mitiahwe as she entered the
big lodge and laid upon a wide, low couch, covered with soft skins, the
fur of a grizzly which had fallen to her man\x92s rifle. \x93Hai-yai, I
wish it would last for ever--so sweet!\x94 she added, smoothing the fur
lingeringly, and showing her teeth in a smile.

\x93There will come a great storm, Mitiahwe. See, the birds go south so
soon,\x94 responded a deep voice from a corner by the doorway.

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

\x93It is morning, and the day will last for ever,\x94 she said nonchalantly,
but her eyes suddenly took on a faraway look, half apprehensive, half
wondering. The birds were indeed going south very soon, yet had there
ever been so exquisite an autumn as this, had her man ever had so
wonderful a trade--her man with the brown hair, blue eyes, and fair,
strong face?

\x93The birds go south, but the hunters and buffalo still go north,\x94
 Mitiahwe urged searchingly, looking hard at her mother--Oanita, the
Swift Wing.

\x93My dream said that the winter will be dark and lonely, that the ice
will be thick, the snow deep, and that many hearts will be sick because
of the black days and the hunger that sickens the heart,\x94 answered Swift
Wing.

Mitiahwe looked into Swift Wing\x92s dark eyes, and an anger came upon her.
\x93The hearts of cowards will freeze,\x94 she rejoined, \x93and to those that
will not see the sun the world will be dark,\x94 she added. Then suddenly
she remembered to whom she was speaking, and a flood of feeling ran
through her; for Swift Wing had cherished her like a fledgeling in the
nest till her young white man came from \x93down East.\x94 Her heart had leapt
up at sight of him, and she had turned to him from all the young men of
her tribe, waiting in a kind of mist till he, at last, had spoken to
her mother, and then one evening, her shawl over her head, she had come
along to his lodge.

A thousand times as the four years passed by she had thought how good
it was that she had become his wife--the young white man\x92s wife, rather
than the wife of Breaking Rock, son of White Buffalo, the chief, who
had four hundred horses, and a face that would have made winter and
sour days for her. Now and then Breaking Rock came and stood before the
lodge, a distance off, and stayed there hour after hour, and once or
twice he came when her man was with her; but nothing could be done,
for earth and air and space were common to them all, and there was no
offence in Breaking Rock gazing at the lodge where Mitiahwe lived. Yet
it seemed as though Breaking Rock was waiting--waiting and hoping.
That was the impression made upon all who saw him, and even old White
Buffalo, the chief, shook his head gloomily when he saw Breaking Rock,
his son, staring at the big lodge which was so full of happiness, and
so full also of many luxuries never before seen at a trading post on
the Koonce River. The father of Mitiahwe had been chief, but because his
three sons had been killed in battle the chieftainship had come to White
Buffalo, who was of the same blood and family. There were those who said
that Mitiahwe should have been chieftainess; but neither she nor her
mother would ever listen to this, and so White Buffalo, and the tribe
loved Mitiahwe because of her modesty and goodness. She was even more to
White Buffalo than Breaking Rock, and he had been glad that Dingan the
white man--Long Hand he was called--had taken Mitiahwe for his woman.
Yet behind this gladness of White Buffalo, and that of Swift Wing, and
behind the silent watchfulness of Breaking Rock, there was a thought
which must ever come when a white man mates with an Indian maid, without
priest or preacher, or writing, or book, or bond.

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

Mitiahwe had been so happy that she had not really missed what never
came; though the desire to have something in her arms which was part of
them both had flushed up in her veins at times, and made her restless
till her man had come home again. Then she had forgotten the unseen for
the seen, and was happy that they two were alone together--that was the
joy of it all, so much alone together; for Swift Wing did not live with
them, and, like Breaking Rock, she watched her daughter\x92s life, standing
afar off, since it was the unwritten law of the tribe that the wife\x92s
mother must not cross the path or enter the home of her daughter\x92s
husband. But at last Dingan had broken through this custom, and insisted
that Swift Wing should be with her daughter when he was away from home,
as now on this wonderful autumn morning, when Mitiahwe had been singing
to the Sun, to which she prayed for her man and for everlasting days
with him.

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

\x93Hai-yai,\x94 she said now, with a strange touching sigh breathing in the
words, \x93you are right, my mother, and a dream is a dream; also, if it be
dreamt three times, then is it to be followed, and it is true. You have
lived long, and your dreams are of the Sun and the Spirit.\x94 She shook a
little as she laid her hand on a buckskin coat of her man hanging by the
lodge-door; then she steadied herself again, and gazed earnestly into
her mother\x92s eyes. \x93Have all your dreams come true, my mother?\x94 she
asked with a hungering heart. \x93There was the dream that came out of
the dark five times, when your father went against the Crees, and
was wounded, and crawled away into the hills, and all our warriors
fled--they were but a handful, and the Crees like a young forest in
number! I went with my dream, and found him after many days, and it was
after that you were born, my youngest and my last. There was also\x94--her
eyes almost closed, and the needle and thread she held lay still in her
lap--\x93when two of your brothers were killed in the drive of the buffalo.
Did I not see it all in my dream, and follow after them to take them
to my heart? And when your sister was carried off, was it not my dream
which saw the trail, so that we brought her back again to die in peace,
her eyes seeing the Lodge whither she was going, open to her, and the
Sun, the Father, giving her light and promise--for she had wounded
herself to die that the thief who stole her should leave her to herself.
Behold, my daughter, these dreams have I had, and others; and I have
lived long and have seen the bright day break into storm, and the herds
flee into the far hills where none could follow, and hunger come, and--\x94

\x93Hai-yo, see, the birds flying south,\x94 said the girl with a gesture
towards the cloudless sky. \x93Never since I lived have they gone south so
soon.\x94 Again she shuddered slightly, then she spoke slowly: \x93I also have
dreamed, and I will follow my dream. I dreamed\x94--she knelt down beside
her mother, and rested her hands in her mother\x92s lap--\x93I dreamed that
there was a wall of hills dark and heavy and far away, and that whenever
my eyes looked at them they burned with tears; and yet I looked and
looked, till my heart was like lead in my breast; and I turned from them
to the rivers and the plains that I loved. But a voice kept calling to
me, \x91Come, come! Beyond the hills is a happy land. The trail is hard,
and your feet will bleed, but beyond is the happy land.\x92 And I would
not go for the voice that spoke, and at last there came an old man in my
dream and spoke to me kindly, and said, \x91Come with me, and I will show
thee the way over the hills to the Lodge where thou shalt find what thou
hast lost.\x92 And I said to him, \x91I have lost nothing;\x92 and I would not
go. Twice I dreamed this dream, and twice the old man came, and three
times I dreamed it; and then I spoke angrily to him, as but now I did
to thee; and behold he changed before my eyes, and I saw that he was
now become--\x94 she stopped short, and buried her face in her hands for a
moment, then recovered herself--\x93Breaking Rock it was, I saw before me,
and I cried out and fled. Then I waked with a cry, but my man was beside
me, and his arm was round my neck; and this dream, is it not a foolish
dream, my mother?\x94

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

\x93Breaking Rock!\x94 she said in alarm, and got to her feet quickly.

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

Breaking Rock was at the door now, his beady eyes fixed on Mitiahwe\x92s,
his figure jerked to its full height, which made him, even then, two
inches less than Long Hand. He spoke in a loud voice:

\x93The last boat this year goes down the river tomorrow. Long Hand, your
man, is going to his people. He will not come back. He has had enough of
the Blackfoot woman. You will see him no more.\x94 He waved a hand to the
sky. \x93The birds are going south. A hard winter is coming quick. You will
be alone. Breaking Rock is rich. He has five hundred horses. Your man is
going to his own people. Let him go. He is no man. It is four years, and
still there are but two in your lodge. How!\x94

He swung on his heel with a chuckle in his throat, for he thought he had
said a good thing, and that in truth he was worth twenty white men. His
quick ear caught a movement behind him, however, and he saw the girl
spring from the lodge door, something flashing from her belt. But now
the mother\x92s arms were round her, with cries of protest, and Breaking
Rock, with another laugh, slipped away swiftly toward the river.

\x93That is good,\x94 he muttered. \x93She will kill him perhaps, when she goes
to him. She will go, but he will not stay. I have heard.\x94

As he disappeared among the trees Mitiahwe disengaged herself from her
mother\x92s arms, went slowly back into the lodge, and sat down on the
great couch where, for so many moons, she had lain with her man beside
her.

Her mother watched her closely, though she moved about doing little
things. She was trying to think what she would have done if such a thing
had happened to her, if her man had been going to leave her. She assumed
that Dingan would leave Mitiahwe, for he would hear the voices of his
people calling far away, even as the red man who went East into the
great cities heard the prairies and the mountains and the rivers and
his own people calling, and came back, and put off the clothes of
civilisation, and donned his buckskins again, and sat in the Medicine
Man\x92s tent, and heard the spirits speak to him through the mist and
smoke of the sacred fire. When Swift Wing first gave her daughter to the
white man she foresaw the danger now at hand, but this was the tribute
of the lower race to the higher, and--who could tell! White men had left
their Indian wives, but had come back again, and for ever renounced
the life of their own nations, and become great chiefs, teaching
useful things to their adopted people, bringing up their children as
tribesmen--bringing up their children! There it was, the thing which
called them back, the bright-eyed children with the colour of the brown
prairie in their faces, and their brains so sharp and strong. But here
was no child to call Dingan back, only the eloquent, brave, sweet face
of Mitiahwe.... If he went! Would he go? Was he going? And now that
Mitiahwe had been told that he would go, what would she do? In her belt
was--but, no, that would be worse than all, and she would lose Mitiahwe,
her last child, as she had lost so many others. What would she herself
do if she were in Mitiahwe\x92s place? Ah, she would make him stay
somehow--by truth or by falsehood; by the whispered story in the long
night, by her head upon his knee before the lodge-fire, and her eyes
fixed on his, luring him, as the Dream lures the dreamer into the far
trail, to find the Sun\x92s hunting-ground where the plains are filled
with the deer and the buffalo and the wild horse; by the smell of the
cooking-pot and the favourite spiced drink in the morning; by the child
that ran to him with his bow and arrows and the cry of the hunter--but
there was no child; she had forgotten. She was always recalling her own
happy early life with her man, and the clean-faced papooses that crowded
round his knee--one wife and many children, and the old Harvester of the
Years reaping them so fast, till the children stood up as tall as
their father and chief. That was long ago, and she had had her
share--twenty-five years of happiness; but Mitiahwe had had only four.
She looked at Mitiahwe, standing still for a moment like one rapt, then
suddenly she gave a little cry. Something had come into her mind, some
solution of the problem, and she ran and stooped over the girl and put
both hands on her head.

\x93Mitiahwe, heart\x92s blood of mine,\x94 she said, \x93the birds go south, but
they return. What matter if they go so soon, if they return soon. If the
Sun wills that the winter be dark, and he sends the Coldmaker to close
the rivers and drive the wild ones far from the arrow and the gun,
yet he may be sorry, and send a second summer--has it not been so, and
Coldmaker has hurried away--away! The birds go south, but they will
return, Mitiahwe.\x94

\x93I heard a cry in the night while my man slept,\x94 Mitiahwe answered,
looking straight before her, \x93and it was like the cry of a bird-calling,
calling, calling.\x94

\x93But he did not hear--he was asleep beside Mitiahwe. If he did not wake,
surely it was good luck. Thy breath upon his face kept him sleeping.
Surely it was good luck to Mitiahwe that he did not hear.\x94

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

Suddenly Mitiahwe got to her feet with a spring, and a light in her
eyes. \x93Hai-yai!\x94 she said with plaintive smiling, ran to a corner of the
lodge, and from a leather bag drew forth a horse-shoe and looked at it,
murmuring to herself.

The old woman gazed at her wonderingly. \x93What is it, Mitiahwe?\x94 she
asked.

\x93It is good-luck. So my man has said. It is the way of his people. It is
put over the door, and if a dream come it is a good dream; and if a bad
thing come, it will not enter; and if the heart prays for a thing hid
from all the world, then it brings good-luck. Hai-yai! I will put it
over the door, and then--\x94 All at once her hand dropped to her side, as
though some terrible thought had come to her, and, sinking to the
floor, she rocked her body backward and forward for a time, sobbing.
But presently she got to her feet again, and, going to the door of the
lodge, fastened the horseshoe above it with a great needle and a string
of buckskin.

\x93Oh great Sun,\x94 she prayed, \x93have pity on me and save me! I cannot live
alone. I am only a Blackfoot wife; I am not blood of his blood. Give, O
great one, blood of his blood, bone of his bone, soul of his soul, that
he will say, This is mine, body of my body, and he will hear the cry and
will stay. O great Sun, pity me!\x94 The old woman\x92s heart beat faster as
she listened. The same thought was in the mind of both. If there were
but a child, bone of his bone, then perhaps he would not go; or, if he
went, then surely he would return, when he heard his papoose calling in
the lodge in the wilderness.

As Mitiahwe turned to her, a strange burning light in her eyes, Swift
Wing said: \x93It is good. The white man\x92s Medicine for a white man\x92s wife.
But if there were the red man\x92s Medicine too--\x94

\x93What is the red man\x92s Medicine?\x94 asked the young wife, as she smoothed
her hair, put a string of bright beads around her neck, and wound a red
sash round her waist.

The old woman shook her head, a curious half-mystic light in her eyes,
her body drawn up to its full height, as though waiting for something.
\x93It is an old Medicine. It is of winters ago as many as the hairs of the
head. I have forgotten almost, but it was a great Medicine when there
were no white men in the land. And so it was that to every woman\x92s
breast there hung a papoose, and every woman had her man, and the red
men were like leaves in the forest--but it was a winter of winters ago,
and the Medicine Men have forgotten; and thou hast no child! When Long
Hand comes, what will Mitiahwe say to him?\x94

Mitiahwe\x92s eyes were determined, her face was set, she flushed deeply,
then the colour fled. \x93What my mother would say, I will say. Shall the
white man\x92s Medicine fail? If I wish it, then it will be so: and I will
say so.\x94

\x93But if the white man\x92s Medicine fail?\x94--Swift Wing made a gesture
toward the door where the horse-shoe hung. \x93It is Medicine for a white
man, will it be Medicine for an Indian?\x94

\x93Am I not a white man\x92s wife?\x94

\x93But if there were the Sun Medicine also, the Medicine of the days long
ago?\x94

\x93Tell me. If you remember--Kai! but you do remember--I see it in your
face. Tell me, and I will make that Medicine also, my mother.\x94

\x93To-morrow, if I remember it--I will think, and if I remember it,
to-morrow I will tell you, my heart\x92s blood. Maybe my dream will come to
me and tell me. Then, even after all these years, a papoose--\x94

\x93But the boat will go at dawn to-morrow, and if he go also--\x94

\x93Mitiahwe is young, her body is warm, her eyes are bright, the songs she
sings, her tongue--if these keep him not, and the Voice calls him still
to go, then still Mitiahwe shall whisper, and tell him--\x94

\x93Hai-yo-hush,\x94 said the girl, and trembled a little, and put both hands
on her mother\x92s mouth.

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

Presently only two visitors were left, a French halfbreed call Lablache,
a swaggering, vicious fellow, and the captain of the steamer, Ste. Anne,
which was to make its last trip south in the morning--even now it would
have to break its way through the young ice. Dingan\x92s partner dropped
a bar across the door of the shop, and the four men gathered about the
fire. For a time no one spoke. At last the captain of the Ste. Anne
said: \x93It\x92s a great chance, Dingan. You\x92ll be in civilisation again, and
in a rising town of white people--Groise \x91ll be a city in five years,
and you can grow up and grow rich with the place. The Company asked me
to lay it all before you, and Lablache here will buy out your share of
the business, at whatever your partner and you prove its worth. You\x92re
young; you\x92ve got everything before you. You\x92ve made a name out here for
being the best trader west of the Great Lakes, and now\x92s your time. It\x92s
none of my affair, of course, but I like to carry through what I\x92m set
to do, and the Company said, \x91You bring Dingan back with you. The place
is waiting for him, and it can\x92t wait longer than the last boat down.\x92
You\x92re ready to step in when he steps out, ain\x92t you, Lablache?\x94

Lablache shook back his long hair, and rolled about in his pride. \x93I
give him cash for his share to-night someone is behin\x92 me, share, yes!
It is worth so much, I pay and step in--I take the place over. I take
half the business here, and I work with Dingan\x92s partner. I take your
horses, Dingan, I take you lodge, I take all in your lodge--everyt\x92ing.\x94

His eyes glistened, and a red spot came to each cheek as he leaned
forward. At his last word Dingan, who had been standing abstractedly
listening, as it were, swung round on him with a muttered oath, and the
skin of his face appeared to tighten. Watching through the crack of
the door, Mitiahwe saw the look she knew well, though it had never been
turned on her, and her heart beat faster. It was a look that came into
Dingan\x92s face whenever Breaking Rock crossed his path, or when one or
two other names were mentioned in his presence, for they were names of
men who had spoken of Mitiahwe lightly, and had attempted to be jocular
about her.

As Mitiahwe looked at him, now unknown to himself, she was conscious
of what that last word of Lablache\x92s meant. Everyt\x92ing meant herself.
Lablache--who had neither the good qualities of the white man nor the
Indian, but who had the brains of the one and the subtilty of the other,
and whose only virtue was that he was a successful trader, though he
looked like a mere woodsman, with rings in his ears, gaily decorated
buckskin coat and moccasins, and a furtive smile always on his
lips! Everyt\x92ing!--Her blood ran cold at the thought of dropping the
lodge-curtain upon this man and herself alone. For no other man than
Dingan had her blood run faster, and he had made her life blossom. She
had seen in many a half-breed\x92s and in many an Indian\x92s face the look
which was now in that of Lablache, and her fingers gripped softly the
thing in her belt that had flashed out on Breaking Rock such a short
while ago. As she looked, it seemed for a moment as though Dingan would
open the door and throw Lablache out, for in quick reflection his eyes
ran from the man to the wooden bar across the door.

\x93You\x92ll talk of the shop, and the shop only, Lablache,\x94 Dingan said
grimly. \x93I\x92m not huckstering my home, and I\x92d choose the buyer if I was
selling. My lodge ain\x92t to be bought, nor anything in it--not even
the broom to keep it clean of any half-breeds that\x92d enter it without
leave.\x94

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

The captain of the Ste. Anne again spoke. \x93There\x92s another thing the
Company said, Dingan. You needn\x92t go to Groise, not at once. You can
take a month and visit your folks down East, and lay in a stock of
home-feelings before you settle down at Groise for good. They was
fair when I put it to them that you\x92d mebbe want to do that. \x91You tell
Dingan,\x92 they said, \x91that he can have the month glad and grateful, and a
free ticket on the railway back and forth. He can have it at once,\x92 they
said.\x94

Watching, Mitiahwe could see her man\x92s face brighten, and take on a look
of longing at this suggestion; and it seemed to her that the bird she
heard in the night was calling in his ears now. Her eyes went blind a
moment.

\x93The game is with you, Dingan. All the cards are in your hands; you\x92ll
never get such another chance again; and you\x92re only thirty,\x94 said the
captain.

\x93I wish they\x92d ask me,\x94 said Dingan\x92s partner with a sigh, as he looked
at Lablache. \x93I want my chance bad, though we\x92ve done well here--good
gosh, yes, all through Dingan.\x94

\x93The winters, they go queeck in Groise,\x94 said Lablache. \x93It is life all
the time, trade all the time, plenty to do and see--and a bon fortune to
make, bagosh!\x94

\x93Your old home was in Nove Scotia, wasn\x92t it, Dingan?\x94 asked the captain
in a low voice. \x93I kem from Connecticut, and I was East to my village
las\x92 year. It was good seein\x92 all my old friends again; but I kem back
content, I kem back full of home-feelin\x92s and content. You\x92ll like the
trip, Dingan. It\x92ll do you good.\x94 Dingan drew himself up with a start.
\x93All right. I guess I\x92ll do it. Let\x92s figure up again,\x94 he said to his
partner with a reckless air.

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

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

Never had the lodge looked so bright and cheerful; never had she
prepared so appetising a supper; never had the great couch seemed so
soft and rich with furs, so homelike and so inviting after a long day\x92s
work. Never had Mitiahwe seemed so good to look at, so graceful and
alert and refined--suffering does its work even in the wild woods, with
\x93wild people.\x94 Never had the lodge such an air of welcome and peace
and home as to-night; and so Dingan thought as he drew aside the wide
curtains of deerskin and entered.

Mitiahwe was bending over the fire and appeared not to hear him.
\x93Mitiahwe,\x94 he said gently.

She was singing to herself to an Indian air the words of a song Dingan
had taught her:

  \x93Open the door: cold is the night, and my feet are heavy,
   Heap up the fire, scatter upon it the cones and the scented leaves;
   Spread the soft robe on the couch for the chief that returns,
   Bring forth the cup of remembrance--\x94

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

\x93Mitiahwe,\x94 he said in a louder voice, but with a break in it too; for
it all rushed upon him, all that she had been to him--all that had made
the great West glow with life, made the air sweeter, the grass greener,
the trees more companionable and human: who it was that had given the
waste places a voice. Yet--yet, there were his own people in the East,
there was another life waiting for him, there was the life of ambition
and wealth, and, and home--and children.

His eyes were misty as she turned to him with a little cry of surprise,
how much natural and how much assumed--for she had heard him enter--it
would have been hard to say. She was a woman, and therefore the daughter
of pretence even when most real. He caught her by both arms as she shyly
but eagerly came to him. \x93Good girl, good little girl,\x94 he said. He
looked round him. \x93Well, I\x92ve never seen our lodge look nicer than it
does to-night; and the fire, and the pot on the fire, and the smell of
the pine-cones, and the cedar-boughs, and the skins, and--\x94

\x93And everything,\x94 she said, with a queer little laugh, as she moved
away again to turn the steaks on the fire. Everything! He started at the
word. It was so strange that she should use it by accident, when but a
little while ago he had been ready to choke the wind out of a man\x92s body
for using it concerning herself.

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

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

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

But her hand was in his now, and it was small and very warm, and
suddenly he shook with anger at the thought of one like Breaking Rock
taking her to his wigwam; or Lablache--this roused him to an inward
fury; and Mitiahwe saw and guessed the struggle that was going on in
him, and she leaned her head against his shoulder, and once she raised
his hand to her lips, and said, \x93My chief!\x94

Then his face cleared again, and she got him his pipe and filled it, and
held a coal to light it; and, as the smoke curled up, and he leaned
back contentedly for the moment, she went to the door, drew open the
curtains, and, stepping outside, raised her eyes to the horseshoe. Then
she said softly to the sky: \x93O Sun, great Father, have pity on me, for
I love him, and would keep him. And give me bone of his bone, and one
to nurse at my breast that is of him. O Sun, pity me this night, and be
near me when I speak to him, and hear what I say!\x94

\x93What are you doing out there, Mitiahwe?\x94 Dingan cried; and when she
entered again he beckoned her to him. \x93What was it you were saying? Who
were you speaking to?\x94 he asked. \x93I heard your voice.\x94

\x93I was thanking the Sun for his goodness to me. I was speaking for the
thing that is in my heart, that is life of my life,\x94 she added vaguely.

\x93Well, I have something to say to you, little girl,\x94 he said, with an
effort.

She remained erect before him waiting for the blow--outwardly calm,
inwardly crying out in pain. \x93Do you think you could stand a little
parting?\x94 he asked, reaching out and touching her shoulder.

\x93I have been alone before--for five days,\x94 she answered quietly.

\x93But it must be longer this time.\x94

\x93How long?\x94 she asked, with eyes fixed on his. \x93If it is more than a
week I will go too.\x94

\x93It is longer than a month,\x94 he said. \x93Then I will go.\x94

\x93I am going to see my people,\x94 he faltered.

\x93By the Ste. Anne?\x94

He nodded. \x93It is the last chance this year; but I will come back--in
the spring.\x94

As he said it he saw her shrink, and his heart smote him. Four years
such as few men ever spent, and all the luck had been with him, and the
West had got into his bones! The quiet, starry nights, the wonderful
days, the hunt, the long journeys, the life free of care, and the warm
lodge; and, here, the great couch--ah, the cheek pressed to his, the
lips that whispered at his ear, the smooth arm round his neck. It
all rushed upon him now. His people? His people in the East, who had
thwarted his youth, vexed and cramped him, saw only evil in his widening
desires, and threw him over when he came out West--the scallywag,
they called him, who had never wronged a man or-or a woman!
Never--wronged-a-woman? The question sprang to his lips now. Suddenly
he saw it all in a new light. White or brown or red, this heart and soul
and body before him were all his, sacred to him; he was in very truth
her \x93Chief.\x94

Untutored as she was, she read him, felt what was going on in him. She
saw the tears spring to his eyes. Then, coming close to him she said
softly, slowly: \x93I must go with you if you go, because you must be with
me when--oh, hai-yai, my chief, shall we go from here? Here in this
lodge wilt thou be with thine own people--thine own, thou and I--and
thine to come.\x94 The great passion in her heart made the lie seem very
truth.

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

\x93Mitiahwe--Mitiahwe, oh, my little girl!\x94 he cried. \x93You and me--and our
own--our own people!\x94 Kissing her, he drew her down beside him on the
couch. \x93Tell me again--it is so at last?\x94 he said, and she whispered in
his ear once more.

In the middle of the night he said to her, \x93Some day, perhaps, we will
go East--some day, perhaps.\x94

\x93But now?\x94 she asked softly.

\x93Not now--not if I know it,\x94 he answered. \x93I\x92ve got my heart nailed to
the door of this lodge.\x94

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

\x93Be good Medicine to me,\x94 she said. Then she prayed. \x93O Sun, pity me
that it may be as I have said to him. O pity me, great Father!\x94

In the days to come Swift Wing said that it was her Medicine; when her
hand was burned to the wrist in the dark ritual she had performed
with the Medicine Man the night that Mitiahwe fought for her man--but
Mitiahwe said it was her Medicine, the horse-shoe, which brought one of
Dingan\x92s own people to the lodge, a little girl with Mitiahwe\x92s eyes and
form and her father\x92s face. Truth has many mysteries, and the faith of
the woman was great; and so it was that, to the long end, Mitiahwe kept
her man. But truly she was altogether a woman, and had good fortune.



ONCE AT RED MAN\x92S RIVER

\x93It\x92s got to be settled to-night, Nance. This game is up here, up for
ever. The redcoat police from Ottawa are coming, and they\x92ll soon be
roostin\x92 in this post; the Injuns are goin\x92, the buffaloes are most
gone, and the fur trade\x92s dead in these parts. D\x92ye see?\x94

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

\x93You and your brother Bantry\x92s got to go. This store ain\x92t worth a
cent now. The Hudson\x92s Bay Company\x92ll come along with the redcoats, and
they\x92ll set up a nice little Sunday-school business here for what they
call \x91agricultural settlers.\x92 There\x92ll be a railway, and the Yankees\x92ll
send up their marshals to work with the redcoats on the border, and--\x94

\x93And the days of smuggling will be over,\x94 put in the girl in a low
voice. \x93No more bull-wackers and muleskinners \x91whooping it up\x92; no
more Blackfeet and Piegans drinking alcohol and water, and cutting each
others\x92 throats. A nice quiet time coming on the border, Abe, eh?\x94

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

\x93Why, gol darn it, Nance, what\x92s got into you? You bin a man out West,
as good a pioneer as ever was on the border. But now you don\x92t sound
friendly to what\x92s been the game out here, and to all of us that\x92ve been
risking our lives to get a livin\x92.\x94

\x93What did I say?\x94 asked the girl, unmoved.

\x93It ain\x92t what you said, it\x92s the sound o\x92 your voice.\x94

\x93You don\x92t know my voice, Abe. It ain\x92t always the same. You ain\x92t
always about; you don\x92t always hear it.\x94

He caught her arm suddenly. \x93No, but I want to hear it always. I want
to be always where you are, Nance. That\x92s what\x92s got to be settled
to-day--to-night.\x94

\x93Oh, it\x92s got to be settled to-night!\x94 said the girl meditatively,
kicking nervously at a log on the fire. \x93It takes two to settle a thing
like that, and there\x92s only one says it\x92s got to be settled. Maybe it
takes more than two--or three--to settle a thing like that.\x94 Now she
laughed mirthlessly.

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

\x93One can settle a thing, if there\x92s a dozen in it. You see, Nance,
you and Bantry\x92s got to close out. He\x92s fixing it up to-night over at
Dingan\x92s Drive, and you can\x92t go it alone when you quit this place. Now,
it\x92s this way: you can go West with Bantry, or you can go North with
me. Away North there\x92s buffalo and deer, and game aplenty, up along the
Saskatchewan, and farther up on the Peace River. It\x92s going to be all
right up there for half a lifetime, and we can have it in our own way
yet. There\x92ll be no smuggling, but there\x92ll be trading, and land to get;
and, mebbe, there\x92d be no need of smuggling, for we can make it, I know
how--good white whiskey--and we\x92ll still have this free life for our
own. I can\x92t make up my mind to settle down to a clean collar and going
to church on Sundays, and all that. And the West\x92s in your bones too.
You look like the West--\x94

The girl\x92s face brightened with pleasure, and she gazed at him steadily.

\x93You got its beauty and its freshness, and you got its heat and cold--\x94

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

\x93You got the ways of the deer in your walk, the song o\x92 the birds in
your voice; and you\x92re going North with me, Nance, for I bin talkin\x92
to you stiddy four years. It\x92s a long time to wait on the chance, for
there\x92s always women to be got, same as others have done--men like
Dingan with Injun girls, and men like Tobey with half-breeds. But I
ain\x92t bin lookin\x92 that way. I bin lookin\x92 only towards you.\x94 He laughed
eagerly, and lifted a tin cup of whiskey standing on a table near. \x93I\x92m
lookin\x92 towards you now, Nance. Your health and mine together. It\x92s got
to be settled now. You got to go to the \x91Cific Coast with Bantry, or
North with me.\x94

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

\x93Or South with Nick Pringle, or East with someone else,\x94 she said
quizzically. \x93There\x92s always four quarters to the compass, even when Abe
Hawley thinks he owns the world and has a mortgage on eternity. I\x92m not
going West with Bantry, but there\x92s three other points that\x92s open.\x94

With an oath the man caught her by the shoulders, and swung her round to
face him. He was swelling with anger. \x93You--Nick Pringle, that trading
cheat, that gambler! After four years, I--\x94

\x93Let go my shoulders,\x94 she said quietly. \x93I\x92m not your property. Go and
get some Piegan girl to bully. Keep your hands off. I\x92m not a bronco
for you to bit and bridle. You\x92ve got no rights. You--\x94 Suddenly she
relented, seeing the look in his face, and realising that, after all,
it was a tribute to herself that she could keep him for four years
and rouse him to such fury--\x93but yes, Abe,\x94 she added, \x93you have some
rights. We\x92ve been good friends all these years, and you\x92ve been all
right out here. You said some nice things about me just now, and I
liked it, even if it was as if you learned it out of a book. I\x92ve got
no po\x92try in me; I\x92m plain homespun. I\x92m a sapling, I\x92m not any
prairie-flower, but I like when I like, and I like a lot when I like.
I\x92m a bit of hickory, I\x92m not a prairie-flower--\x94

\x93Who said you was a prairie-flower? Did I? Who\x92s talking about
prairie-flowers--\x94

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

\x93Je-rick-ety! How long have I slept?\x94 he said, blinking at the two
beside the fire. \x93How long?\x94 he added, with a flutter of anxiety in his
tone.

\x93I said I\x92d wake you,\x94 said the girl, coming forwards. \x93You needn\x92t have
worried.\x94

\x93I don\x92t worry,\x94 answered the young man. \x93I dreamed myself awake, I
suppose. I got dreaming of redcoats and U. S. marshals, and an ambush
in the Barfleur Coulee, and--\x94 He saw a secret, warning gesture from the
girl, and laughed, then turned to Abe and looked him in the face. \x93Oh, I
know him! Abe Hawley\x92s all O. K.--I\x92ve seen him over at Dingan\x92s Drive.
Honour among rogues. We\x92re all in it. How goes it--all right?\x94 he added
carelessly to Hawley, and took a step forwards, as though to shake
hands. Seeing the forbidding look by which he was met, however, he
turned to the girl again, as Hawley muttered something they could not
hear.

\x93What time is it?\x94 he asked.

\x93It\x92s nine o\x92clock,\x94 answered the girl, her eyes watching his every
movement, her face alive.

\x93Then the moon\x92s up almost?\x94

\x93It\x92ll be up in an hour.\x94

\x93Jerickety! Then I\x92ve got to get ready.\x94 He turned to the other room
again and entered.

\x93College pup!\x94 said Hawley under his breath savagely. \x93Why didn\x92t you
tell me he was here?\x94

\x93Was it any of your business, Abe?\x94 she rejoined quietly.

\x93Hiding him away here--\x94

\x93Hiding? Who\x92s been hiding him? He\x92s doing what you\x92ve done. He\x92s
smuggling--the last lot for the traders over by Dingan\x92s Drive. He\x92ll
get it there by morning. He has as much right here as you. What\x92s got
into you, Abe?\x94

\x93What does he know about the business? Why, he\x92s a college man from the
East. I\x92ve heard o\x92 him. Ain\x92t got no more sense for this life than a
dicky-bird. White-faced college pup! What\x92s he doing out here? If you\x92re
a friend o\x92 his, you\x92d better look after him. He\x92s green.\x94

\x93He\x92s going East again,\x94 she said, \x93and if I don\x92t go West with Bantry,
or South over to Montana with Nick Pringle, or North--\x94

\x93Nancy--\x94 His eyes burned, his lips quivered.

She looked at him and wondered at the power she had over this bully of
the border, who had his own way with most people, and was one of the
most daring fighters, hunters, and smugglers in the country. He was
cool, hard, and well-in-hand in his daily life, and yet, where she was
concerned, \x93went all to pieces,\x94 as someone else had said about himself
to her.

She was not without the wiles and tact of her sex. \x93You go now, and come
back, Abe,\x94 she said in a soft voice. \x93Come back in an hour. Come back
then, and I\x92ll tell you which way I\x92m going from here.\x94

He was all right again. \x93It\x92s with you, Nancy,\x94 he said eagerly. \x93I bin
waiting four years.\x94

As he closed the door behind him the \x93college pup\x94 entered the room
again. \x93Oh, Abe\x92s gone!\x94 he said excitedly. \x93I hoped you\x92d get rid of
the old rip-roarer. I wanted to be alone with you for a while. I
don\x92t really need to start yet. With the full moon I can do it before
daylight.\x94 Then, with quick warmth, \x93Ah, Nancy, Nancy, you\x92re a
flower--the flower of all the prairies,\x94 he added, catching her hand and
laughing into her eyes.

She flushed, and for a moment seemed almost bewildered. His boldness,
joined to an air of insinuation and understanding, had influenced her
greatly from the first moment they had met two months ago, as he was
going South on his smuggling enterprise. The easy way in which he had
talked to her, the extraordinary sense he seemed to have of what was
going on in her mind, the confidential meaning in voice and tone and
words had, somehow, opened up a side of her nature hitherto unexplored.
She had talked with him freely then, for it was only when he left her
that he said what he instinctively knew she would remember till they
met again. His quick comments, his indirect but acute questions,
his exciting and alluring reminiscences of the East, his subtle yet
seemingly frank compliments, had only stimulated a new capacity in her,
evoked comparisons of this delicate-looking, fine-faced gentleman with
the men of the West by whom she was surrounded. But later he appeared to
stumble into expressions of admiration for her, as though he was carried
off his feet and had been stunned by her charm. He had done it all
like a master. He had not said that she was beautiful--she knew she was
not--but that she was wonderful, and fascinating, and with \x93something
about her\x94 he had never seen in all his life, like her own prairies,
thrilling, inspiring, and adorable. His first look at her had seemed
full of amazement. She had noticed that, and thought it meant only that
he was surprised to find a white girl out here among smugglers, hunters,
squaw-men, and Indians. But he said that the first look at her had made
him feel things-feel life and women different from ever before; and he
had never seen anyone like her, nor a face with so much in it. It was
all very brilliantly done.

\x93You make me want to live,\x94 he had said, and she, with no knowledge of
the nuances of language, had taken it literally, and had asked him if
it had been his wish to die; and he had responded to her mistaken
interpretation of his meaning, saying that he had had such sorrow he had
not wanted to live. As he said it his face looked, in truth, overcome
by some deep inward care; so that there came a sort of feeling she had
never had so far for any man--that he ought to have someone to look
after him. This was the first real stirring of the maternal and
protective spirit in her towards men, though it had shown itself amply
enough regarding animals and birds. He had said he had not wanted to
live, and yet he had come out West in order to try and live, to cure the
trouble that had started in his lungs. The Eastern doctors had told him
that the rough outdoor life would cure him, or nothing would, and he had
vanished from the college walls and the pleasant purlieus of learning
and fashion into the wilds. He had not lied directly to her when he said
that he had had deep trouble; but he had given the impression that he
was suffering from wrongs which had broken his spirit and ruined
his health. Wrongs there certainly had been in his life, by whomever
committed.

Two months ago he had left this girl with her mind full of memories of
what he had said to her, and there was something in the sound of the
slight cough following his farewell words which had haunted her ever
since. Her tremendous health and energy, the fire of life burning so
brightly in her, reached out towards this man living on so narrow a
margin of force, with no reserve for any extra strain, with just enough
for each day\x92s use and no more. Four hours before he had come again with
his team of four mules and an Indian youth, having covered forty miles
since his last stage. She was at the door and saw him coming while he
was yet along distance off. Some instinct had told her to watch that
afternoon, for she knew of his intended return and of his dangerous
enterprise. The Indians had trailed south and east, the traders had
disappeared with them, her brother Bantry had gone up and over to
Dingan\x92s Drive, and, save for a few loiterers and last hangers-on, she
was alone with what must soon be a deserted post; its walls, its great
enclosed yard, and its gun-platforms (for it had been fortified) left
for law and order to enter upon, in the persons of the red-coated
watchmen of the law.

Out of the South, from over the border, bringing the last great smuggled
load of whiskey which was to be handed over at Dingan\x92s Drive, and then
floated on Red Man\x92s River to settlements up North, came the \x93college
pup,\x94 Kelly Lambton, worn out, dazed with fatigue, but smiling too, for
a woman\x92s face was ever a tonic to his blood since he was big enough to
move in life for himself. It needed courage--or recklessness--to run the
border now; for, as Abe Hawley had said, the American marshals were on
the pounce, the red-coated mounted police were coming west from Ottawa,
and word had winged its way along the prairie that these redcoats were
only a few score miles away, and might be at Fort Fair Desire at any
moment. The trail to Dingan\x92s Drive lay past it. Through Barfleur
Coulee, athwart a great open stretch of country, along a wooded belt,
and then, suddenly, over a ridge, Dingan\x92s Drive and Red Man\x92s River
would be reached.

The Government had a mind to make an example, if necessary, by killing
some smugglers in conflict, and the United States marshals had been
goaded by vanity and anger at one or two escapes \x93to have something for
their money,\x94 as they said. That, in their language, meant, \x93to let the
red run,\x94 and Kelly Lambton had none too much blood to lose.

He looked very pale and beaten as he held Nance Machell\x92s hands now, and
called her a prairie-flower, as he had done when he left her two months
before. On his arrival but now he had said little, for he saw that she
was glad to see him, and he was dead for sleep, after thirty-six hours
of ceaseless travel and watching and danger. Now, with the most perilous
part of his journey still before him, and worn physically as he was,
his blood was running faster as he looked into the girl\x92s face, and
something in her abundant force and bounding life drew him to her. Such
vitality in a man like Abe Hawley would have angered him almost, as it
did a little time ago, when Abe was there; but possessed by the girl, it
roused in him a hunger to draw from the well of her perfect health, from
the unused vigour of her being, something for himself. The touch of her
hands warmed him, in the fulness of her life, in the strong eloquence
of face and form, he forgot she was not beautiful. The lightness passed
from his words, and his face became eager.

\x93Flower, yes, the flower of the life of the West--that\x92s what I mean,\x94
 he said. \x93You are like an army marching. When I look at you, my blood
runs faster. I want to march too. When I hold your hand I feel that
life\x92s worth living--I want to do things.\x94

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

But with an attempt, only half-meant, to turn the topic, she said: \x93You
must be starting if you want to get through to-night. If the redcoats
catch you this side of Barfleur Coulee, or in the Coulee itself,
you\x92ll stand no chance. I heard they was only thirty miles north this
afternoon. Maybe they\x92ll come straight on here to-night, instead of
camping. If they have news of your coming, they might. You can\x92t tell.\x94

\x93You\x92re right.\x94 He caught her hand again. \x93I\x92ve got to be going now. But
Nance--Nance--Nancy, I want to stay here, here with you; or to take you
with me.\x94

She drew back. \x93What do you mean?\x94 she asked. \x93Take me with
you--me--where?\x94

\x93East--away down East.\x94

Her brain throbbed, her pulses beat so hard. She scarcely knew what to
say, did not know what she said. \x93Why do you do this kind of thing? Why
do you smuggle?\x94 she asked. \x93You wasn\x92t brought up to this.\x94

\x93To get this load of stuff through is life and death to me,\x94 he
answered. \x93I\x92ve made six thousand dollars out here. That\x92s enough to
start me again in the East, where I lost everything. But I\x92ve got to
have six hundred dollars clear for the travel--railways and things; and
I\x92m having this last run to get it. Then I\x92ve finished with the West, I
guess. My health\x92s better; the lung is closed up, I\x92ve only got a little
cough now and again; and I\x92m off East. I don\x92t want to go alone.\x94
 He suddenly caught her in his arms. \x93I want you--you, to go with me,
Nancy--Nance!\x94

Her brain swam. To leave the West behind, to go East to a new life
full of pleasant things, as this man\x92s wife! Her great heart rose, and
suddenly the mother in her as well as the woman in her was captured by
his wooing. She had never known what it was to be wooed like this.

She was about to answer, when there came a sharp knock at the door
leading from the backyard, and Lambton\x92s Indian lad entered. \x93The
soldier--he come--many. I go over the ridge; I see. They come quick
here,\x94 he said.

Nance gave a startled cry, and Lambton turned to the other room for his
pistols, overcoat, and cap, when there was the sound of horses\x92 hoofs,
the door suddenly opened, and an officer stepped inside.

\x93You\x92re wanted for smuggling, Lambton,\x94 he said brusquely. \x93Don\x92t stir!\x94
 In his hand was a revolver.

\x93Oh, bosh! Prove it,\x94 answered the young man, pale and startled, but
cool in speech and action. \x93We\x92ll prove it all right. The stuff is
hereabouts.\x94 The girl said something to the officer in the Chinook
language. She saw he did not understand. Then she spoke quickly to
Lambton in the same tongue.

\x93Keep him here a bit,\x94 she said. \x93His men haven\x92t come yet. Your outfit
is well hid. I\x92ll see if I can get away with it before they find it.
They\x92ll follow, and bring you with them, that\x92s sure. So if I have luck
and get through, we\x92ll meet at Dingan\x92s Drive.\x94

Lambton\x92s face brightened. He quickly gave her a few directions in
Chinook, and told her what to do at Dingan\x92s if she got there first.
Then she was gone. The officer did not understand what Nance had said,
but he realised that, whatever she intended to do, she had an advantage
over him. With an unnecessary courage he had ridden on alone to make his
capture, and, as it proved, without prudence. He had got his man, but he
had not got the smuggled whiskey and alcohol he had come to seize. There
was no time to be lost. The girl had gone before he realised it. What
had she said to the prisoner? He was foolish enough to ask Lambton, and
Lambton replied coolly: \x93She said she\x92d get you some supper, but she
guessed it would have to be cold--What\x92s your name? Are you a colonel,
or a captain, or only a principal private?\x94

\x93I am Captain MacFee, Lambton. And you\x92ll now bring me where your outfit
is. March!\x94

The pistol was still in his hand, and he had a determined look in
his eye. Lambton saw it. He was aware of how much power lay in the
threatening face before him, and how eager that power was to make itself
felt, and provide \x93Examples\x94; but he took his chances.

\x93I\x92ll march all right,\x94 he answered, \x93but I\x92ll march to where you tell
me. You can\x92t have it both ways. You can take me, because you\x92ve found
me, and you can take my outfit too when you\x92ve found it; but I\x92m not
doing your work, not if I know it.\x94

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

\x93Put on your things-quick.\x94

When this was accomplished, and MacFee had secured the smuggler\x92s
pistols, he said again, \x93March, Lambton.\x94

Lambton marched through the moonlit night towards the troop of men who
had come to set up the flag of order in the plains and hills, and as he
went his keen ear heard his own mules galloping away down towards
the Barfleur Coulee. His heart thumped in his breast. This girl, this
prairie-flower, was doing this for him, was risking her life, was
breaking the law for him. If she got through, and handed over the
whiskey to those who were waiting for it, and it got bundled into the
boats going North before the redcoats reached Dingan\x92s Drive, it would
be as fine a performance as the West had ever seen; and he would be six
hundred dollars to the good. He listened to the mules galloping, till
the sounds had died into the distance, but he saw now that his captor
had heard too, and that the pursuit would be desperate.

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

They had not gone a dozen miles when a shouting horseman rode furiously
on them from behind. They turned with carbines cocked, but it was Abe
Hawley who cursed them, flung his fingers in their faces, and rode on
harder and harder. Abe had got the news from one of Nancy\x92s half-breeds,
and, with the devil raging in his heart, had entered on the chase.
His spirit was up against them all; against the Law represented by the
troopers camped at Fort Fair Desire, against the troopers and their
captain speeding after Nancy Machell--his Nonce, who was risking her
life and freedom for the hated, pale-faced smuggler riding between the
troopers; and his spirit was up against Nance herself.

Nance had said to him, \x93Come back in an hour,\x94 and he had come back to
find her gone. She had broken her word. She had deceived him. She had
thrown the four years of his waiting to the winds, and a savage lust
was in his heart, which would not be appeased till he had done some evil
thing to someone.

The girl and the Indian lad were pounding through the night with ears
strained to listen for hoof-beats coming after, with eyes searching
forward into the trail for swollen creeks and direful obstructions.
Through Barfleur Coulee it was a terrible march, for there was no road,
and again and again they were nearly overturned, while wolves hovered
in their path, ready to reap a midnight harvest. But once in the open
again, with the full moonlight on their trail, the girl\x92s spirits rose.
If she could do this thing for the man who had looked into her eyes as
no one had ever done, what a finish to her days in the West! For they
were finished, finished for ever, and she was going--she was going East;
not West with Bantry, nor South with Nick Pringle, nor North with Abe
Hawley, ah, Abe Hawley, he had been a good friend, he had a great heart,
he was the best man of all the western men she had known; but another
man had come from the East, a man who had roused something in her never
felt before, a man who had said she was wonderful; and he needed someone
to take good care of him, to make him love life again. Abe would have
been all right if Lambton had never come, and she had meant to marry Abe
in the end; but it was different now, and Abe must get over it. Yet she
had told Abe to come back in an hour. He was sure to do it; and, when
he had done it, and found her gone on this errand, what would he do? She
knew what he would do. He would hurt someone. He would follow too. But
at Dingan\x92s Drive, if she reached it before the troopers and before Abe,
and did the thing she had set out to do; and, because no whiskey could
be found, Lambton must go free; and they all stood there together, what
would be the end? Abe would be terrible; but she was going East, not
North, and when the time came she would face it and put things right
somehow.

The night seemed endless to her fixed and anxious eyes and mind, yet
dawn came, and there had fallen no sound of hoof-beats on her ear. The
ridge above Dingan\x92s Drive was reached and covered, but yet there was
no sign of her pursuers. At Red Man\x92s River she delivered her load of
contraband to the traders waiting for it, and saw it loaded into the
boats and disappear beyond the wooded bend above Dingan\x92s.

Then she collapsed into the arms of her brother Bantry, and was carried,
fainting, into Dingan\x92s Lodge. A half-hour later MacFee and his troopers
and Lambton came. MacFee grimly searched the post and the shore, but
he saw by the looks of all that he had been foiled. He had no proof of
anything, and Lambton must go free.

\x93You\x92ve fooled us,\x94 he said to Nance sourly, yet with a kind of
admiration too. \x93Through you they got away with it. But I wouldn\x92t try
it again, if I were you.\x94

\x93Once is enough,\x94 answered the girl laconically, as Lambton, set free,
caught both her hands in his and whispered in her ear.

MacFee turned to the others. \x93You\x92d better drop this kind of thing,\x94
 he said. \x93I mean business.\x94 They saw the troopers by the horses, and
nodded.

\x93Well, we was about quit of it anyhow,\x94 said Bantry. \x93We\x92ve had all we
want out here.\x94

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

He looked round the group savagely till his eyes rested on Nance and
Lambton. \x93I\x92m last in,\x94 he said in a hoarse voice. \x93My horse broke its
leg cutting across to get here before her--\x94 He waved a hand towards
Nance. \x93It\x92s best stickin\x92 to old trails, not tryin\x92 new ones.\x94 His eyes
were full of hate as he looked at Lambton. \x93I\x92m keeping to old
trails. I\x92m for goin\x92 North, far up, where these two-dollar-a-day and
hash-and-clothes people ain\x92t come yet.\x94 He made a contemptuous gesture
toward MacFee and his troopers. \x93I\x92m goin\x92 North--\x94 He took a step
forward and fixed his bloodshot eyes on Nance. \x93I say I\x92m goin\x92 North.
You comin\x92 with me, Nance?\x94 He took off his cap to her.

He was haggard, his buckskins were torn, his hair was dishevelled, and
he limped a little; but he was a massive and striking figure, and MacFee
watched him closely, for there was that in his eyes which meant trouble.
\x93You said, \x91Come back in an hour,\x92 Nance, and I come back, as I said I
would,\x94 he went on. \x93You didn\x92t stand to your word. I\x92ve come to git it.
I\x92m goin\x92 North, Nance, and I bin waitin\x92 for four years for you to go
with me. Are you comin\x92?\x94

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

\x93Are you comin\x92 with me, Nance, dear?\x94

She reached a hand towards Lambton, and he took it, but she did not
speak. Something in Abe\x92s eyes overwhelmed her--something she had
never seen before, and it seemed to stifle speech in her. Lambton spoke
instead.

\x93She\x92s going East with me,\x94 he said. \x93That\x92s settled.\x94

MacFee started. Then he caught Abe\x92s arm. \x93Wait!\x94 he said peremptorily.
\x93Wait one minute.\x94 There was something in his voice which held Abe back
for the instant.

\x93You say she is going East with you,\x94 MacFee said sharply to Lambton.
\x93What for?\x94 He fastened Lambton with his eyes, and Lambton quailed.
\x93Have you told her you\x92ve got a wife--down East? I\x92ve got your history,
Lambton. Have you told her that you\x92ve got a wife you married when you
were at college--and as good a girl as ever lived?\x94

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

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

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



THE STROBE OF THE HOUR

\x93They won\x92t come to-night--sure.\x94

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

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

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

\x93I know you--I know you,\x94 she said aloud. \x93You\x92ve got to take your toll.
And when you\x92re lying asleep like that, or pretending to, you reach
up-and kill. And yet you can be kind-ah, but you can be kind and
beautiful! But you must have your toll one way or t\x92other.\x94 She sighed
and paused; then, after a moment, looking along the trail--\x93I don\x92t
expect they\x92ll come to-night, and mebbe not to-morrow, if--if they stay
for THAT.\x94

Her eyes closed, she shivered a little. Her lips drew tight, and her
face seemed suddenly to get thinner. \x93But dad wouldn\x92t--no, he couldn\x92t,
not considerin\x92--\x94 Again she shut her eyes in pain.

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

\x93No one--not for two weeks,\x94 she said, in comment on the eastern trail,
which was so little frequented in winter, and this year had been less
travelled than ever. \x93It would be nice to have a neighbour,\x94 she added,
as she faced the west and the sinking sun again. \x93I get so lonely--just
minutes I get lonely. But it\x92s them minutes that seem to count more than
all the rest when they come. I expect that\x92s it--we don\x92t live in months
and years, but just in minutes. It doesn\x92t take long for an earthquake
to do its work--it\x92s seconds then.... P\x92r\x92aps dad won\x92t even come
to-morrow,\x94 she added, as she laid her hand on the latch. \x93It never
seemed so long before, not even when he\x92s been away a week.\x94 She laughed
bitterly. \x93Even bad company\x92s better than no company at all. Sure. And
Mickey has been here always when dad\x92s been away past times. Mickey was
a fool, but he was company; and mebbe he\x92d have been better company if
he\x92d been more of a scamp and less a fool. I dunno, but I really think
he would. Bad company doesn\x92t put you off so.\x94

There was a scratching at the inside of the door. \x93My, if I didn\x92t
forget Shako,\x94 she said, \x93and he dying for a run!\x94

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

\x93Come, Shako, a run--a run!\x94

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

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

\x93Heel, Shako!\x94 she said, and made for the door of the little house,
which looked so snug and home-like. She paused before she came to the
door, to watch the smoke curling up from the chimney straight as a
column, for there was not a breath of air stirring. The sun was almost
gone and the strong bluish light was settling on everything, giving even
the green spruce trees a curious burnished tone.

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

\x93I\x92ll be jumping out of my boots when the fire snaps, or the frost
cracks the ice, next,\x94 she said aloud contemptuously. \x93I dunno what\x92s
the matter with me. I feel as if someone was hiding somewhere ready to
pop out on me. I haven\x92t never felt like that before.\x94

She had formed the habit of talking to herself, for it had seemed at
first, as she was left alone when her father went trapping or upon
journeys for the Government, that by and by she would start at the
sound of her own voice, if she didn\x92t think aloud. So she was given to
soliloquy, defying the old belief that people who talked to themselves
were going mad. She laughed at that. She said that birds sang to
themselves and didn\x92t go mad, and crickets chirruped, and frogs croaked,
and owls hooted, and she would talk and not go crazy either. So she
talked to herself and to Shako when she was alone.

How quiet it was inside when her light supper was eaten, bread and beans
and pea-soup--she had got this from her French mother. Now she sat, her
elbows on her knees, her chin on her hands, looking into the fire. Shako
was at her feet upon the great musk-ox rug, which her father had got on
one of his hunting trips in the Athabasca country years ago. It belonged
as she belonged. It breathed of the life of the north-land, for the
timbers of the hut were hewn cedar; the rough chimney, the seats, and
the shelves on which a few books made a fair show beside the bright tins
and the scanty crockery, were of pine; and the horned heads of deer and
wapiti made pegs for coats and caps, and rests for guns and rifles. It
was a place of comfort; it had an air of well-to-do thrift, even as the
girl\x92s dress, though plain, was made of good sound stuff, grey, with a
touch of dark red to match the auburn of her hair.

A book lay open in her lap, but she had scarcely tried to read it.
She had put it down after a few moments fixed upon it. It had sent her
thoughts off into a world where her life had played a part too big for
books, too deep for the plummet of any save those who had lived through
the storm of life\x92s trials; and life when it is bitter to the young is
bitter with an agony the old never know. At last she spoke to herself.

\x93She knows now. Now she knows what it is, how it feels--your heart like
red-hot coals, and something in your head that\x92s like a turnscrew, and
you want to die and can\x92t, for you\x92ve got to live and suffer.\x94

Again she was quiet, and only the dog\x92s heavy breathing, the snap of the
fire, or the crack of a timber in the deadly frost broke the silence.
Inside it was warm and bright and home-like; outside it was twenty
degrees below zero, and like some vast tomb where life itself was
congealed, and only the white stars, low, twinkling, and quizzical,
lived-a life of sharp corrosion, not of fire.

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

\x93Qui va la? Who is it? Where?\x94 she called, and strained towards the
west. She thought it might be her father or Mickey the hired man, or
both.

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

\x93Qui va la? Who is it?\x94 she asked.

\x93Ba\x92tiste Caron,\x94 was the reply in English, in a faint voice. She was
beside him in an instant.

\x93What has happened? Why are you off the trail?\x94 she said, and supported
him.

\x93My Injun stoled my dogs and run off,\x94 he replied. \x93I run after. Then,
when I am to come to the trail\x94--he paused to find the English word, and
could not--\x93encore to this trail I no can. So. Ah, bon Dieu, it has so
awful!\x94 He swayed and would have fallen, but she caught him, bore him
up. She was so strong, and he was as slight as a girl, though tall.

\x93When was that?\x94 she asked.

\x93Two nights ago,\x94 he answered, and swayed. \x93Wait,\x94 she said, and pulled
a flask from her pocket. \x93Drink this-quick.\x94

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

\x93Eat; then some more brandy after,\x94 she urged. \x93Come on; it\x92s not far.
See, there\x92s the light,\x94 she added cheerily, raising her head towards
the hut.

\x93I saw it just when I have fall down--it safe me. I sit down to
die--like that! But it safe me, that light--so. Ah, bon Dieu, it was so
far, and I want eat so!\x94 Already he had swallowed the biscuit.

\x93When did you eat last?\x94 she asked, as she urged him on.

\x93Two nights--except for one leetla piece of bread--O--O--I fin\x92 it in my
pocket. Grace! I have travel so far. Jesu, I think it ees ten thousan\x92
miles I go. But I mus\x92 go on, I mus\x92 go--O--certainement.\x94

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

\x93But I mus\x92 to get there, an\x92 you-you will to help me, eh?\x94

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

\x93I haf to do it--if I lif. It is to go, go, go, till I get.\x94

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

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

\x93You have safe--ah, you have safe me, and so I will do it yet by help
bon Dieu--yes.\x94

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

\x93What time, if please?\x94 he asked. \x93I t\x92ink nine hour, but no sure.\x94

\x93It is near nine,\x94 she said. She hastily tidied up the table after his
meal, and then came and sat in her chair over against the wall of the
rude fireplace. \x93Nine--dat is good. The moon rise at \x91leven; den I go. I
go on,\x94 he said, \x93if you show me de queeck way.\x94

\x93You go on--how can you go on?\x94 she asked, almost sharply.

\x93Will you not to show me?\x94 he asked. \x93Show you what?\x94 she asked
abruptly.

\x93The queeck way to Askatoon,\x94 he said, as though surprised that she
should ask. \x93They say me if I get here you will tell me queeck way to
Askatoon. Time, he go so fas\x92, an\x92 I have loose a day an\x92 a night, an\x92
I mus\x92 get Askatoon if I lif--I mus\x92 get dere in time. It is all safe to
de stroke of de hour, mais, after, it is--bon Dieu--it is hell then. Who
shall forgif me--no!\x94

\x93The stroke of the hour--the stroke of the hour!\x94 It beat into her
brain. Were they both thinking of the same thing now?

\x93You will show me queeck way. I mus\x92 be Askatoon in two days, or it is
all over,\x94 he almost moaned. \x93Is no man here--I forget dat name, my head
go round like a wheel; but I know dis place, an\x92 de good God He help
me fin\x92 my way to where I call out, bien sur. Dat man\x92s name I have
forget.\x94

\x93My father\x92s name is John Alroyd,\x94 she answered absently, for there were
hammering at her brain the words, \x93The stroke of the hour.\x94

\x93Ah, now I get--yes. An\x92 your name, it is Loisette Alroy\x92--ah, I have it
in my mind now--Loisette. I not forget dat name, I not forget you--no.\x94

\x93Why do you want to go the \x91quick\x92 way to Askatoon?\x94 she asked.

He puffed a moment at his pipe before he answered her. Presently he
said, holding out his pipe, \x93You not like smoke, mebbe?\x94

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

\x93I forget ask you,\x94 he said. \x93Dat journee make me forget. When Injun
Jo, he leave me with the dogs, an\x92 I wake up all alone, an\x92 not know my
way--not like Jo, I think I die, it is so bad, so terrible in my head.
Not\x92ing but snow, not\x92ing. But dere is de sun; it shine. It say to me,
\x91Wake up, Ba\x92tiste; it will be all right bime-bye.\x92 But all time I t\x92ink
I go mad, for I mus\x92 get Askatoon before--dat.\x94

She started. Had she not used the same word in thinking of Askatoon.
\x93That,\x94 she had said.

\x93Why do you want to go the \x91quick\x92 way to Askatoon?\x94 she asked again,
her face pale, her foot beating the floor impatiently.

\x93To save him before dat!\x94 he answered, as though she knew of what he was
speaking and thinking. \x93What is that?\x94 she asked. She knew now, surely,
but she must ask it nevertheless.

\x93Dat hanging--of Haman,\x94 he answered. He nodded to himself. Then he took
to gazing into the fire. His lips moved as though talking to himself,
and the hand that held the pipe lay forgotten on his knee. \x93What have
you to do with Haman?\x94 she asked slowly, her eyes burning.

\x93I want safe him--I mus\x92 give him free.\x94 He tapped his breast. \x93It is
hereto mak\x92 him free.\x94 He still tapped his breast.

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

She thought of the sister, younger than herself, whom Rube Haman had
married and driven to her grave within a year--the sweet Lucy, with
the name of her father\x92s mother. Lucy had been all English in face and
tongue, a flower of the west, driven to darkness by this horse-dealing
brute, who, before he was arrested and tried for murder, was about to
marry Kate Wimper. Kate Wimper had stolen him from Lucy before Lucy\x92s
first and only child was born, the child that could not survive the
warm mother-life withdrawn, and so had gone down the valley whither the
broken-hearted mother had fled. It was Kate Wimper, who, before that,
had waylaid the one man for whom she herself had ever cared, and drawn
him from her side by such attractions as she herself would keep for an
honest wife, if such she ever chanced to be. An honest wife she would
have been had Kate Wimper not crossed the straight path of her life. The
man she had loved was gone to his end also, reckless and hopeless, after
he had thrown away his chance of a lifetime with Loisette Alroyd. There
had been left behind this girl, to whom tragedy had come too young,
who drank humiliation with a heart as proud as ever straightly set its
course through crooked ways.

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

She had been glad when Haman was condemned for murder, for she believed
he had committed it, and ten times hanging could not compensate for that
dear life gone from their sight--Lucy, the pride of her father\x92s heart.
She was glad when Haman was condemned, because of the woman who had
stolen him from Lucy, because of that other man, her lover, gone out of
her own life. The new hardness in her rejoiced that now the woman,
if she had any heart at all, must have it bowed down by this supreme
humiliation and wrung by the ugly tragedy of the hempen rope.

And now this man before her, this man with a boy\x92s face, with the dark
luminous eyes, whom she had saved from the frozen plains, he had that in
his breast which would free Haman, so he had said. A fury had its birth
in her at that moment. Something seemed to seize her brain and master
it, something so big that it held all her faculties in perfect control,
and she felt herself in an atmosphere where all life moved round her
mechanically, she herself the only sentient thing, so much greater
than all she saw, or all that she realised by her subconscious self.
Everything in the world seemed small. How calm it was even with the fury
within!

\x93Tell me,\x94 she said quietly--\x93tell me how you are able to save Haman?\x94

\x93He not kill Wakely. It is my brudder Fadette dat kill and get away.
Haman he is drunk, and everyt\x92ing seem to say Haman he did it, an\x92
everyone know Haman is not friend to Wakely. So the juree say he must be
hanging. But my brudder he go to die with hawful bad cold queeck, an\x92 he
send for the priest an\x92 for me, an\x92 tell all. I go to Governor with the
priest, an\x92 Governor gif me dat writing here.\x94 He tapped his breast,
then took out a wallet and showed the paper to her. \x93It is life of
dat Haman, voici! And so I safe him for my brudder. Dat was a bad boy,
Fadette. He was bad all time since he was a baby, an\x92 I t\x92ink him pretty
lucky to die on his bed, an\x92 get absolve, and go to purgatore. If he not
have luck like dat he go to hell, an\x92 stay there.\x94

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

\x93If I get Askatoon before de time for dat, I be happy in my heart, for
dat brudder off mine he get out of purgatore bime-bye, I t\x92ink.\x94

His eyes were almost shut, but he drew himself together with a great
effort, and added desperately, \x93No sleep. If I sleep it is all smash.
Man say me I can get Askatoon by dat time from here, if I go queeck way
across lak\x92--it is all froze now, dat lak\x92--an\x92 down dat Foxtail Hills.
Is it so, ma\x92m\x92selle?\x94

\x93By the \x91quick\x92 way if you can make it in time,\x94 she said; \x93but it is no
way for the stranger to go. There are always bad spots on the ice--it is
not safe. You could not find your way.\x94

\x93I mus\x92 get dere in time,\x94 he said desperately. \x93You can\x92t do
it--alone,\x94 she said. \x93Do you want to risk all and lose?\x94

He frowned in self-suppression. \x93Long way, I no can get dere in time?\x94
 he asked.

She thought a moment. \x93No; it can\x92t be done by the long way. But there
is another way--a third trail, the trail the Gover\x92ment men made a year
ago when they came to survey. It is a good trail. It is blazed in the
woods and staked on the plains. You cannot miss. But--but there is so
little time.\x94 She looked at the clock on the wall. \x93You cannot leave
here much before sunrise, and--\x94

\x93I will leef when de moon rise, at eleven,\x94 he interjected.

\x93You have had no sleep for two nights, and no food. You can\x92t last it
out,\x94 she said calmly.

The deliberate look on his face deepened to stubbornness.

\x93It is my vow to my brudder--he is in purgatore. An\x92 I mus\x92 do it,\x94 he
rejoined, with an emphasis there was no mistaking. \x93You can show me dat
way?\x94

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

\x93Yes, I get it in my head,\x94 he said. \x93I go dat way, but I wish--I wish
it was dat queeck way. I have no fear, not\x92ing. I go w\x92en dat moon
rise--I go, bien sur.\x94

\x93You must sleep, then, while I get some food for you.\x94 She pointed to a
couch in a corner. \x93I will wake you when the moon rises.\x94

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

\x93You not happy--you not like me here?\x94 he asked simply; then added
quickly, \x93I am not bad man like me brudder--no.\x94

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

\x93No, you are not a bad man,\x94 she said. \x93Men and women are equal on the
plains. You have no fear--I have no fear.\x94

He glanced at the rifles on the walls, then back at her. \x93My mudder, she
was good woman. I am glad she did not lif to know what Fadette do.\x94 His
eyes drank her in for a minute, then he said: \x93I go sleep now, t\x92ank
you--till moontime.\x94

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

Time went on. The night deepened.

        .........................

Loisette sat beside the fire, but her body was half-turned from it
towards the man on the sofa. She was not agitated outwardly, but within
there was that fire which burns up life and hope and all the things that
come between us and great issues. It had burned up everything in her
except one thought, one powerful motive. She had been deeply wronged,
and justice had been about to give \x93an eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth.\x94 But the man lying there had come to sweep away the scaffolding
of justice--he had come for that.

Perhaps he might arrive at Askatoon before the stroke of the hour, but
still he would be too late, for in her pocket now was the Governor\x92s
reprieve. The man had slept soundly. His wallet was still in his breast;
but the reprieve was with her.

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

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

\x93Pardon,\x94 he said; \x93I go forget everyt\x92ing except dat. But I t\x92ink what
you do for me, it is better than all my life. Bien sur, I will come
again, when I get my mind to myself. Ah, but you are beautibul,\x94 he
said, \x93an\x92 you not happy. Well, I come again--yes, a Dieu.\x94

He was gone into the night, with the moon silvering the sky, and the
steely frost eating into the sentient life of this northern world.
Inside the house, with the bearskin blind dropped at the window again,
and the fire blazing high, Loisette sat with the Governor\x92s reprieve in
her hand. Looking at it, she wondered why it had been given to Ba\x92tiste
Caron, and not to a police-officer. Ah yes, it was plain--Ba\x92tiste was
a woodsman and plainsman, and could go far more safely than a constable,
and faster. Ba\x92tiste had reason for going fast, and he would travel
night and day--he was travelling night and day indeed. And now Ba\x92tiste
might get there, but the reprieve would not. He would not be able to
stop the hanging of Haman--the hanging of Rube Haman.

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

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

Even so, he was not innocent of Lucy\x92s misery and death, of the death of
the little one who only opened its eyes to the light for an instant, and
then went into the dark again. But truly she was justified! When Haman
was gone things would go on just the same--and she had been so bitter,
her heart had been pierced as with a knife these past three years. Again
she held out her hand to the fire, but suddenly she gave a little cry
and put her hand to her head. There was Ba\x92tiste!

What was Ba\x92tiste to her? Nothing-nothing at all. She had saved his
life--even if she wronged Ba\x92tiste, her debt would be paid. No, she
would not think of Ba\x92tiste. Yet she did not put the paper in the fire,
but in the pocket of her dress. Then she went to her room, leaving the
door open. The bed was opposite the fire, and, as she lay there--she did
not take off her clothes, she knew not why-she could see the flames. She
closed her eyes, but could not sleep, and more than once when she opened
them she thought she saw Ba\x92tiste sitting there as he had sat hours
before. Why did Ba\x92tiste haunt her so? What was it he had said in his
broken English as he went away?--that he would come back; that she was
\x93beautibul.\x94

All at once as she lay still, her head throbbing, her feet and hands icy
cold, she sat up listening. \x93Ah-again!\x94 she cried. She sprang from her
bed, rushed to the door, and strained her eyes into the silver night.
She called into the icy void, \x93Qui va la? Who goes?\x94

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

She had only heard, in her own brain, the iteration of Ba\x92tiste\x92s
calling. Would he reach Askatoon in time, she wondered, as she shut the
door? Why had she not gone with him and attempted the shorter way the
quick way, he had called it? All at once the truth came back upon her,
stirring her now. It would do no good for Ba\x92tiste to arrive in time.
He might plead to them all and tell the truth about the reprieve, but it
would not avail--Rube Haman would hang. That did not matter--even though
he was innocent; but Ba\x92tiste\x92s brother would be so long in
purgatory. And even that would not matter; but she would hurt
Ba\x92tiste--Ba\x92tiste--Ba\x92tiste. And Ba\x92tiste he would know that she--and
he had called her \x93beautibul,\x94 that she had--

With a cry she suddenly clothed herself for travel. She put some food
and drink in a leather bag and slung them over her shoulder. Then she
dropped on a knee and wrote a note to her father, tears falling from
her eyes. She heaped wood on the fire and moved towards the door. All
at once she turned to the crucifix on the wall which had belonged to her
mother, and, though she had followed her father\x92s Protestant religion,
she kissed the feet of the sacred figure.

\x93Oh, Christ, have mercy on me, and bring me safe to my journey\x92s end-in
time,\x94 she said breathlessly; then she went softly to the door, leaving
the dog behind.

It opened, closed, and the night swallowed her. Like a ghost she sped
the quick way to Askatoon. She was six hours behind Ba\x92tiste, and, going
hard all the time, it was doubtful if she could get there before the
fatal hour.

On the trail Ba\x92tiste had taken there were two huts where he could rest,
and he had carried his blanket slung on his shoulder. The way she went
gave no shelter save the trees and caves which had been used to cache
buffalo meat and hides in old days. But beyond this there was danger in
travelling by night, for the springs beneath the ice of the three lakes
she must, cross made it weak and rotten even in the fiercest weather,
and what would no doubt have been death to Ba\x92tiste would be peril at
least to her. Why had she not gone with him?

\x93He had in his face what was in Lucy\x92s,\x94 she said to herself, as she
sped on. \x93She was fine like him, ready to break her heart for those she
cared for. My, if she had seen him first instead of--\x94

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

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

\x93I will do it--I will do it, Ba\x92tiste!\x94 she called, and laughed aloud
into the sunset. She had battled with herself all the way, and she had
conquered. Right was right, and Rube Haman must not be hung for what he
did not do. Her heart hardened whenever she thought of the woman, but
softened again when she thought of Ba\x92tiste, who had to suffer for the
deed of a brother in \x93purgatore.\x94 Once again the night and its silence
and loneliness followed her, the only living thing near the trail till
long after midnight. After that, as she knew, there were houses here and
there where she might have rested, but she pushed on unceasing.

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

People were already in the streets, and all were tending one way. She
stopped and asked the time. It was within a quarter of an hour of the
time when Haman was to pay another\x92s penalty. She spurred herself on,
and came to the jail blind with fatigue. As she neared the jail she saw
her father and Mickey. In amazement her father hailed her, but she would
not stop. She was admitted to the prison on explaining that she had a
reprieve. Entering a room filled with excited people, she heard a cry.

It came from Ba\x92tiste. He had arrived but ten minutes before, and, in
the Sheriff\x92s presence had discovered his loss. He had appealed in vain.

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

\x93Ah, you haf it! Say you haf it, or it is no use--he mus\x92 hang.
Spik-spik! Ah, my brudder--it is to do him right! Ah, Loisette--bon
Dieu, merci!\x94

For answer she placed the reprieve in the hands of the Sheriff. Then she
swayed and fell fainting at the feet of Ba\x92tiste.

She had come at the stroke of the hour.

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

And that was not the only time he kissed her. He did it again six months
later, at the beginning of the harvest, when she and Ba\x92tiste Caron
started off on the long trail of life together. None but Ba\x92tiste knew
the truth about the loss of the reprieve, and to him she was \x93beautibul\x94
 just the same, and greatly to be desired.



BUCKMASTER\x92S BOY

\x93I bin waitin\x92 for him, an\x92 I\x92ll git him of it takes all winter. I\x92ll
git him--plumb.\x94

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

\x93I bin waitin\x92 a durn while,\x94 the mountain-man added, and got to
his feet slowly, drawing himself out to six and a half feet of burly
manhood. The shoulders were, however, a little stooped, and the head was
thrust forwards with an eager, watchful look--a habit become a physical
characteristic.

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

\x93That hawk\x92s seen him, mebbe,\x94 he said, after a moment. \x93I bet it went
up higher when it got him in its eye. Ef it\x92d only speak and tell me
where he is--ef he\x92s a day, or two days, or ten days north.\x94

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

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

\x93It\x92s seen him, and it stopped to say so. It\x92s seen him, I tell you, an\x92
I\x92ll git him. Ef it\x92s an hour, or a day, or a week, it\x92s all the same.
I\x92m here watchin\x92, waitin\x92 dead on to him, the poison skunk!\x94

The person to whom he had been speaking now rose from the pile of cedar
boughs where he had been sitting, stretched his arms up, then shook
himself into place, as does a dog after sleep. He stood for a minute
looking at the mountaineer with a reflective, yet a furtively sardonic,
look. He was not above five feet nine inches in height, and he was slim
and neat; and though his buckskin coat and breeches were worn and even
frayed in spots, he had an air of some distinction and of concentrated
force. It was a face that men turned to look at twice and shook their
heads in doubt afterwards--a handsome, worn, secretive face, in as
perfect control as the strings of an instrument under the bow of a great
artist. It was the face of a man without purpose in life beyond the
moment--watchful, careful, remorselessly determined, an adventurer\x92s
asset, the dial-plate of a hidden machinery.

Now he took the handsome meerschaum pipe from his mouth, from which he
had been puffing smoke slowly, and said in a cold, yet quiet voice, \x93How
long you been waitin\x92, Buck?\x94

\x93A month. He\x92s overdue near that. He always comes down to winter at Fort
o\x92 Comfort, with his string of half-breeds, an\x92 Injuns, an\x92 the dogs.\x94

\x93No chance to get him at the Fort?\x94

\x93It ain\x92t so certain. They\x92d guess what I was doin\x92 there. It\x92s surer
here. He\x92s got to come down the trail, an\x92 when I spot him by the
Juniper clump\x94--he jerked an arm towards a spot almost a mile farther up
the valley--\x93I kin scoot up the underbrush a bit and git him--plumb.
I could do it from here, sure, but I don\x92t want no mistake. Once only,
jest one shot, that\x92s all I want, Sinnet.\x94

He bit off a small piece of tobacco from a black plug Sinnet offered
him, and chewed it with nervous fierceness, his eyebrows working, as
he looked at the other eagerly. Deadly as his purpose was, and grim and
unvarying as his vigil had been, the loneliness had told on him, and he
had grown hungry for a human face and human companionship. Why Sinnet
had come he had not thought to inquire. Why Sinnet should be going north
instead of south had not occurred to him. He only realised that Sinnet
was not the man he was waiting for with murder in his heart; and all
that mattered to him in life was the coming of his victim down the
trail. He had welcomed Sinnet with a sullen eagerness, and had told him
in short, detached sentences the dark story of a wrong and a waiting
revenge, which brought a slight flush to Sinnet\x92s pale face and awakened
a curious light in his eyes.

\x93Is that your shack--that where you shake down?\x94 Sinnet said, pointing
towards a lean-to in the fir trees to the right.

\x93That\x92s it. I sleep there. It\x92s straight on to the Juniper clump, the
front door is.\x94 He laughed viciously, grimly. \x93Outside or inside, I\x92m on
to the Juniper clump. Walk into the parlour?\x94 he added, and drew open a
rough-made door, so covered with green cedar boughs that it seemed of a
piece with the surrounding underbrush and trees. Indeed, the little but
was so constructed that it could not be distinguished from the woods
even a short distance away.

\x93Can\x92t have a fire, I suppose?\x94 Sinnet asked.

\x93Not daytimes. Smoke \x91d give me away if he suspicioned me,\x94 answered the
mountaineer. \x93I don\x92t take no chances. Never can tell.\x94

\x93Water?\x94 asked Sinnet, as though interested in the surroundings, while
all the time he was eyeing the mountaineer furtively--as it were, prying
to the inner man, or measuring the strength of the outer man. He lighted
a fresh pipe and seated himself on a rough bench beside the table in the
middle of the room, and leaned on his elbows, watching.

The mountaineer laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh to hear. \x93Listen,\x94
 he said. \x93You bin a long time out West. You bin in the mountains a good
while. Listen.\x94

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

\x93There--rock?\x94 he said, and jerked his head towards the sound.

\x93You got good ears,\x94 answered the other, and drew aside a blanket which
hung on the back wall of the room. A wooden trough was disclosed hanging
under a ledge of rock, and water dripped into it softly, slowly.

\x93Almost providential, that rock,\x94 remarked Sinnet. \x93You\x92ve got your well
at your back door. Food--but you can\x92t go far, and keep your eye on
the Bend too,\x94 he nodded towards the door, beyond which lay the
frost-touched valley in the early morning light of autumn.

\x93Plenty of black squirrels and pigeons come here on account of the
springs like this one, and I get \x91em with a bow and arrow. I didn\x92t call
myself Robin Hood and Daniel Boone not for nothin\x92 when I was knee-high
to a grasshopper.\x94 He drew from a rough cupboard some cold game, and
put it on the table, with some scones and a pannikin of water. Then he
brought out a small jug of whiskey and placed it beside his visitor.
They began to eat.

\x93How d\x92ye cook without fire?\x94 asked Sinnet. \x93Fire\x92s all right at nights.
He\x92d never camp \x91twixt here an\x92 Juniper Bend at night. The next camp\x92s
six miles north from here. He\x92d only come down the valley daytimes. I
studied it \x91all out, and it\x92s a dead sure thing. From daylight till dusk
I\x92m on to him. I got the trail in my eye.\x94

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

Sinnet\x92s eyes half closed as he watched the mountaineer, and the long,
scraggy hands and whipcord neck seemed to interest him greatly. He
looked at his own slim brown hands with a half smile, and it was almost
as cruel as the laugh of the other. Yet it had, too, a knowledge and an
understanding which gave it humanity.

\x93You\x92re sure he did it?\x94 Sinnet asked presently, after drinking a very
small portion of liquor, and tossing some water from the pannikin after
it. \x93You\x92re sure Greevy killed your boy, Buck?\x94

\x93My name\x92s Buckmaster, ain\x92t it--Jim Buckmaster? Don\x92t I know my own
name? It\x92s as sure as that. My boy said it was Greevy when he was dying.
He told Bill Ricketts so, and Bill told me afore he went East. Bill
didn\x92t want to tell, but he said it was fair I should know, for my boy
never did nobody any harm--an\x92 Greevy\x92s livin\x92 on. But I\x92ll git him.
Right\x92s right.\x94

\x93Wouldn\x92t it be better for the law to hang him, if you\x92ve got the proof,
Buck? A year or so in jail, an\x92 a long time to think over what\x92s going
round his neck on the scaffold--wouldn\x92t that suit you, if you\x92ve got
the proof?\x94

A rigid, savage look came into Buckmaster\x92s face.

\x93I ain\x92t lettin\x92 no judge and jury do my business. I\x92m for certain sure,
not for p\x92r\x92aps! An\x92 I want to do it myself. Clint was only twenty. Like
boys we was together. I was eighteen when I married, an\x92 he come
when she went--jest a year--jest a year. An\x92 ever since then we lived
together, him an\x92 me, an\x92 shot together, an\x92 trapped together, an\x92 went
gold-washin\x92 together on the Cariboo, an\x92 eat out of the same dish, an\x92
slept under the same blanket, and jawed together nights--ever since he
was five, when old Mother Lablache had got him into pants, an\x92 he was
fit to take the trail.\x94

The old man stopped a minute, his whipcord neck swelling, his lips
twitching. He brought a fist down on the table with a bang. \x93The
biggest little rip he was, as full of fun as a squirrel, an\x92 never a
smile-o-jest his eyes dancin\x92, an\x92 more sense than a judge. He laid hold
o\x92 me, that cub did--it was like his mother and himself together; an\x92
the years flowin\x92 in an\x92 peterin\x92 out, an\x92 him gettin\x92 older, an\x92 always
jest the same. Always on rock-bottom, always bright as a dollar, an\x92 we
livin\x92 at Black Nose Lake, layin\x92 up cash agin\x92 the time we was to go
South, an\x92 set up a house along the railway, an\x92 him to git married. I
was for his gittin\x92 married same as me, when we had enough cash. I use
to think of that when he was ten, and when he was eighteen I spoke to
him about it; but he wouldn\x92t listen--jest laughed at me. You remember
how Clint used to laugh sort of low and teasin\x92 like--you remember that
laugh o\x92 Clint\x92s, don\x92t you?\x94

Sinnet\x92s face was towards the valley and Juniper Bend, but he slowly
turned his head and looked at Buckmaster strangely out of his half-shut
eyes. He took the pipe from his mouth slowly.

\x93I can hear it now,\x94 he answered slowly. \x93I hear it often, Buck.\x94

The old man gripped his arm so suddenly that Sinnet was startled,--in so
far as anything could startle anyone who had lived a life of chance and
danger and accident, and his face grew a shade paler; but he did not
move, and Buckmaster\x92s hand tightened convulsively.

\x93You liked him, an\x92 he liked you; he first learnt poker off you, Sinnet.
He thought you was a tough, but he didn\x92t mind that no more than I did.
It ain\x92t for us to say what we\x92re goin\x92 to be, not always. Things in
life git stronger than we are. You was a tough, but who\x92s goin\x92 to judge
you! I ain\x92t; for Clint took to you, Sinnet, an\x92 he never went wrong
in his thinkin\x92. God! he was wife an\x92 child to me--an\x92 he\x92s
dead--dead--dead.\x94

The man\x92s grief was a painful thing to see. His hands gripped the table,
while his body shook with sobs, though his eyes gave forth no tears.
It was an inward convulsion, which gave his face the look of unrelieved
tragedy and suffering--Laocoon struggling with the serpents of sorrow
and hatred which were strangling him.

\x93Dead an\x92 gone,\x94 he repeated, as he swayed to and fro, and the table
quivered in his grasp. Presently, however, as though arrested by a
thought, he peered out of the doorway towards Juniper Bend. \x93That hawk
seen him--it seen him. He\x92s comin\x92, I know it, an\x92 I\x92ll git him--plumb.\x94
 He had the mystery and imagination of the mountain-dweller.

The rifle lay against the wall behind him, and he turned and touched
it almost caressingly. \x93I ain\x92t let go like this since he was killed,
Sinnet. It don\x92t do. I got to keep myself stiddy to do the trick when
the minute comes. At first I usen\x92t to sleep at nights, thinkin\x92 of
Clint, an\x92 missin\x92 him, an\x92 I got shaky and no good. So I put a cinch
on myself, an\x92 got to sleepin\x92 again--from the full dusk to dawn, for
Greevy wouldn\x92t take the trail at night. I\x92ve kept stiddy.\x94 He held out
his hand as though to show that it was firm and steady, but it trembled
with the emotion which had conquered him. He saw it, and shook his head
angrily.

\x93It was seein\x92 you, Sinnet. It burst me. I ain\x92t seen no one to speak to
in a month, an\x92 with you sittin\x92 there, it was like Clint an\x92 me cuttin\x92
and comin\x92 again off the loaf an\x92 the knuckle-bone of ven\x92son.\x94

Sinnet ran a long finger slowly across his lips, and seemed meditating
what he should say to the mountaineer. At length he spoke, looking into
Buckmaster\x92s face. \x93What was the story Ricketts told you? What did your
boy tell Ricketts? I\x92ve heard, too, about it, and that\x92s why I asked
you if you had proofs that Greevy killed Clint. Of course, Clint should
know, and if he told Ricketts, that\x92s pretty straight; but I\x92d like
to know if what I heard tallies with what Ricketts heard from Clint.
P\x92r\x92aps it\x92d ease your mind a bit to tell it. I\x92ll watch the Bend--don\x92t
you trouble about that. You can\x92t do these two things at one time. I\x92ll
watch for Greevy; you give me Clint\x92s story to Ricketts. I guess you
know I\x92m feelin\x92 for you, an\x92 if I was in your place I\x92d shoot the man
that killed Clint, if it took ten years. I\x92d have his heart\x92s blood--all
of it. Whether Greevy was in the right or in the wrong, I\x92d have
him--plumb.\x94

Buckmaster was moved. He gave a fierce exclamation and made a gesture of
cruelty. \x93Clint right or wrong? There ain\x92t no question of that. My boy
wasn\x92t the kind to be in the wrong. What did he ever do but what was
right? If Clint was in the wrong I\x92d kill Greevy jest the same, for
Greevy robbed him of all the years that was before him--only a sapling
he was, an\x92 all his growin\x92 to do, all his branches to widen an\x92 his
roots to spread. But that don\x92t enter in it, his bein\x92 in the wrong.
It was a quarrel, and Clint never did Greevy any harm. It was a quarrel
over cards, an\x92 Greevy was drunk, an\x92 followed Clint out into the
prairie in the night and shot him like a coyote. Clint hadn\x92t no chance,
an\x92 he jest lay there on the ground till morning, when Ricketts and
Steve Joicey found him. An\x92 Clint told Ricketts who it was.\x94

\x93Why didn\x92t Ricketts tell it right out at once?\x94 asked Sinnet.

\x93Greevy was his own cousin--it was in the family, an\x92 he kept thinkin\x92
of Greevy\x92s gal, Em\x92ly. Her--what\x92ll it matter to her! She\x92ll get
married, an she\x92ll forgit. I know her, a gal that\x92s got no deep feelin\x92
like Clint had for me. But because of her Ricketts didn\x92t speak for a
year. Then he couldn\x92t stand it any longer, an\x92 he told me--seein\x92 how I
suffered, an\x92 everybody hidin\x92 their suspicions from me, an\x92 me up here
out o\x92 the way, an\x92 no account. That was the feelin\x92 among \x91em--what was
the good of making things worse! They wasn\x92t thinkin\x92 of the boy or of
Jim Buckmaster, his father. They was thinkin\x92 of Greevy\x92s gal--to save
her trouble.\x94

Sinnet\x92s face was turned towards Juniper Bend, and the eyes were
fixed, as it were, on a still more distant object--a dark, brooding,
inscrutable look.

\x93Was that all Ricketts told you, Buck?\x94 The voice was very quiet, but it
had a suggestive note.

\x93That\x92s all Clint told Bill before he died. That was enough.\x94

There was a moment\x92s pause, and then, puffing out long clouds of smoke,
and in a tone of curious detachment, as though he were telling of
something that he saw now in the far distance, or as a spectator of a
battle from a far vantage-point might report to a blind man standing
near, Sinnet said:

\x93P\x92r\x92aps Ricketts didn\x92t know the whole story; p\x92r\x92aps Clint didn\x92t know
it all to tell him; p\x92r\x92aps Clint didn\x92t remember it all. P\x92r\x92aps he
didn\x92t remember anything except that he and Greevy quarrelled, and that
Greevy and he shot at each other in the prairie. He\x92d only be thinking
of the thing that mattered most to him--that his life was over, an\x92 that
a man had put a bullet in him, an\x92--\x94

Buckmaster tried to interrupt him, but he waved a hand impatiently, and
continued: \x93As I say, maybe he didn\x92t remember everything; he had
been drinkin\x92 a bit himself, Clint had. He wasn\x92t used to liquor, and
couldn\x92t stand much. Greevy was drunk, too, and gone off his head with
rage. He always gets drunk when he first comes South to spend the winter
with his girl Em\x92ly.\x94 He paused a moment, then went on a little more
quickly. \x93Greevy was proud of her--couldn\x92t even bear her being crossed
in any way; and she has a quick temper, and if she quarrelled with
anybody Greevy quarrelled too.\x94

\x93I don\x92t want to know anything about her,\x94 broke in Buckmaster roughly.
\x93She isn\x92t in this thing. I\x92m goin\x92 to git Greevy. I bin waitin\x92 for
him, an\x92 I\x92ll git him.\x94

\x93You\x92re going to kill the man that killed your boy, if you can, Buck;
but I\x92m telling my story in my own way. You told Ricketts\x92s story; I\x92ll
tell what I\x92ve heard. And before you kill Greevy you ought to know all
there is that anybody else knows--or suspicions about it.\x94

\x93I know enough. Greevy done it, an\x92 I\x92m here.\x94 With no apparent
coherence and relevancy Sinnet continued, but his voice was not so
even as before. \x93Em\x92ly was a girl that wasn\x92t twice alike. She was
changeable. First it was one, then it was another, and she didn\x92t seem
to be able to fix her mind. But that didn\x92t prevent her leadin\x92 men on.
She wasn\x92t changeable, though, about her father. She was to him what
your boy was to you. There she was like you, ready to give everything up
for her father.\x94

\x93I tell y\x92 I don\x92t want to hear about her,\x94 said Buckmaster, getting to
his feet and setting his jaws. \x93You needn\x92t talk to me about her.
She\x92ll git over it. I\x92ll never git over what Greevy done to me or to
Clint--jest twenty, jest twenty! I got my work to do.\x94

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

The morning was sparkling with life--the life and vigour which a touch
of frost gives to the autumn world in a country where the blood tingles
to the dry, sweet sting of the air. Beautiful, and spacious, and
buoyant, and lonely, the valley and the mountains seemed waiting, like a
new-born world, to be peopled by man. It was as though all had been made
ready for him--the birds whistling and singing in the trees, the whisk
of the squirrels leaping from bough to bough, the peremptory sound of
the woodpecker\x92s beak against the bole of a tree, the rustle of the
leaves as a wood-hen ran past--a waiting, virgin world.

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

As Buckmaster\x92s figure darkened the doorway Sinnet seemed to waken as
from a dream, and he got swiftly to his feet.

\x93Wait--you wait, Buck. You\x92ve got to hear all. You haven\x92t heard my
story yet. Wait, I tell you.\x94 His voice was so sharp and insistent, so
changed, that Buckmaster turned from the doorway and came back into the
room.

\x93What\x92s the use of my hearin\x92? You want me not to kill Greevy, because
of that gal. What\x92s she to me?\x94

\x93Nothing to you, Buck, but Clint was everything to her.\x94

The mountaineer stood like one petrified.

\x93What\x92s that--what\x92s that you say? It\x92s a damn lie!\x94

\x93It wasn\x92t cards--the quarrel, not the real quarrel. Greevy found Clint
kissing her. Greevy wanted her to marry Gatineau, the lumber-king. That
was the quarrel.\x94

A snarl was on the face of Buckmaster. \x93Then she\x92ll not be sorry when
I git him. It took Clint from her as well as from me.\x94 He turned to
the door again. \x93But, wait, Buck, wait one minute and hear--\x94 He was
interrupted by a low, exultant growl, and he saw Buckmaster\x92s rifle
clutched as a hunter, stooping, clutches his gun to fire on his prey.

\x93Quick, the spy-glass!\x94 he flung back at Sinnet. \x93It\x92s him--but I\x92ll
make sure.\x94

Sinnet caught the telescope from the nails where it hung, and looked out
towards Juniper Bend. \x93It\x92s Greevy--and his girl, and the half-breeds,\x94
 he said, with a note in his voice that almost seemed agitation, and yet
few had ever seen Sinnet agitated. \x93Em\x92ly must have gone up the trail in
the night.\x94

\x93It\x92s my turn now,\x94 the mountaineer said hoarsely, and, stooping, slid
away quickly into the undergrowth. Sinnet followed, keeping near him,
neither speaking. For a half mile they hastened on, and now and then
Buckmaster drew aside the bushes, and looked up the valley, to keep
Greevy and his bois brulees in his eye. Just so had he and his son and
Sinnet stalked the wapiti and the red deer along these mountains; but
this was a man that Buckmaster was stalking now, with none of the joy
of the sport which had been his since a lad; only the malice of the
avenger. The lust of a mountain feud was on him; he was pursuing the
price of blood.

At last Buckmaster stopped at a ledge of rock just above the trail.
Greevy would pass below, within three hundred yards of his rifle. He
turned to Sinnet with cold and savage eyes. \x93You go back,\x94 he said.
\x93It\x92s my business. I don\x92t want you to see. You don\x92t want to see, then
you won\x92t know, and you won\x92t need to lie. You said that the man that
killed Clint ought to die. He\x92s going to die, but it\x92s none o\x92 your
business. I want to be alone. In a minute he\x92ll be where I kin git
him--plumb. You go, Sinnet-right off. It\x92s my business.\x94

There was a strange, desperate look in Sinnet\x92s face; it was as hard as
stone, but his eyes had a light of battle in them.

\x93It\x92s my business right enough, Buck,\x94 he said, \x93and you\x92re not going to
kill Greevy. That girl of his has lost her lover, your boy. It\x92s broke
her heart almost, and there\x92s no use making her an orphan too. She can\x92t
stand it. She\x92s had enough. You leave her father alone--you hear me, let
up!\x94 He stepped between Buckmaster and the ledge of rock from which the
mountaineer was to take aim.

There was a terrible look in Buckmaster\x92s face. He raised his
single-barrelled rifle, as though he would shoot Sinnet; but, at the
moment, he remembered that a shot would warn Greevy, and that he might
not have time to reload. He laid his rifle against a tree swiftly.

\x93Git away from here,\x94 he said, with a strange rattle in his throat. \x93Git
away quick; he\x92ll be down past here in a minute.\x94

Sinnet pulled himself together as he saw Buckmaster snatch at a great
clasp-knife in his belt. He jumped and caught Buckmaster\x92s wrist in a
grip like a vice.

\x93Greevy didn\x92t kill him, Buck,\x94 he said. But the mountaineer was gone
mad, and did not grasp the meaning of the words. He twined his left arm
round the neck of Sinnet, and the struggle began, he fighting to free
Sinnet\x92s hand from his wrist, to break Sinnet\x92s neck. He did not realise
what he was doing. He only knew that this man stood between him and the
murderer of his boy, and all the ancient forces of barbarism were alive
in him. Little by little they drew to the edge of the rock, from which
there was a sheer drop of two hundred feet. Sinnet fought like a panther
for safety, but no sane man\x92s strength could withstand the demoniacal
energy that bent and crushed him. Sinnet felt his strength giving. Then
he said in a hoarse whisper, \x93Greevy didn\x92t kill him. I killed him,
and--\x94

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

Buckmaster got to his feet and looked at his victim for an instant,
dazed and wild; then he sprang for his gun. As he did so the words that
Sinnet had said as they struggled rang in his ears, \x93Greevy didn\x92t kill
him; I killed him!\x94

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

Sinnet was speaking. He went and stooped over him. \x93Em\x92ly threw me over
for Clint,\x94 the voice said huskily, \x93and I followed to have it out with
Clint. So did Greevy, but Greevy was drunk. I saw them meet. I was hid.
I saw that Clint would kill Greevy, and I fired. I was off my head--I\x92d
never cared for any woman before, and Greevy was her father. Clint was
off his head too. He had called me names that day--a cardsharp, and a
liar, and a thief, and a skunk, he called me, and I hated him just then.
Greevy fired twice wide. He didn\x92t know but what he killed Clint, but he
didn\x92t. I did. So I tried to stop you, Buck--\x94

Life was going fast, and speech failed him; but he opened his eyes again
and whispered, \x93I didn\x92t want to die, Buck. I am only thirty-five, and
it\x92s too soon; but it had to be. Don\x92t look that way, Buck. You got the
man that killed him--plumb. But Em\x92ly didn\x92t play fair with me--made a
fool of me, the only time in my life I ever cared for a woman. You leave
Greevy alone, Buck, and tell Em\x92ly for me I wouldn\x92t let you kill her
father.\x94

\x93You--Sinnet--you, you done it! Why, he\x92d have fought for you. You--done
it--to him--to Clint!\x94 Now that the blood-feud had been satisfied, a
great change came over the mountaineer. He had done his work, and the
thirst for vengeance was gone. Greevy he had hated, but this man had
been with him in many a winter\x92s hunt. His brain could hardly grasp the
tragedy--it had all been too sudden.

Suddenly he stooped down. \x93Sinnet,\x94 he said, \x93ef there was a woman in
it, that makes all the difference. Sinnet, of--\x94

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

\x93When there\x92s a woman in it--!\x94 he said, in a voice of helplessness
and misery, and watched Em\x92ly till she disappeared from view. Then he
turned, and, lifting up in his arms the man he had killed, carried him
into the deeper woods.



TO-MORROW

\x93My, nothing\x92s the matter with the world to-day! It\x92s so good it almost
hurts.\x94

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

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

\x93To-morrow!\x94 she said, nodding at it. \x93You won\x92t be seen, I suppose, but
I\x92ll know you\x92re nice enough for a queen--and that\x92s enough to know.\x94

She blushed a little, as though someone had heard her words and was
looking at her, then she carefully laid the petticoat over the back of
a chair. \x93No queen\x92s got one whiter, if I do say it,\x94 she continued,
tossing her head.

In that, at any rate, she was right, for the water of the mountain
springs was pure, the air was clear, and the sun was clarifying; and
little ornamented or frilled as it was, the petticoat was exquisitely
soft and delicate. It would have appealed to more eyes than a woman\x92s.

\x93To-morrow!\x94 She nodded at it again and turned again to the bright world
outside. With arms raised and hands resting against the timbers of the
doorway, she stood dreaming. A flock of pigeons passed with a whir not
far away, and skirted the woods making down the valley. She watched
their flight abstractedly, yet with a subconscious sense of pleasure.
Life--they were Life, eager, buoyant, belonging to this wild region,
where still the heart could feel so much at home, where the great world
was missed so little.

Suddenly, as she gazed, a shot rang out down the valley, and two of the
pigeons came tumbling to the ground, a stray feather floating after.
With a startled exclamation she took a step forward. Her brain became
confused and disturbed. She had looked out on Eden, and it had been
ravaged before her eyes. She had been thinking of to-morrow, and this
vast prospect of beauty and serenity had been part of the pageant
in which it moved. Not the valley alone had been marauded, but that
\x93To-morrow,\x94 and all it meant to her.

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

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

\x93You\x92re Jenny Long, ain\x92t you?\x94 he asked. \x93I beg pardon for sneakin\x92 in
like this, but they\x92re after me, some ranchers and a constable--one o\x92
the Riders of the Plains. I\x92ve been tryin\x92 to make this house all day.
You\x92re Jenny Long, ain\x92t you?\x94

She had plenty of courage, and, after the first instant of shock, she
had herself in hand. She had quickly observed his condition, had marked
the candour of the eye and the decision and character of the face, and
doubt of him found no place in her mind. She had the keen observation
of the dweller in lonely places, where every traveller has the
potentialities of a foe, while the door of hospitality is opened to him
after the custom of the wilds. Year in, year out, since she was a
little girl and came to live here with her Uncle Sanger when her father
died--her mother had gone before she could speak--travellers had halted
at this door, going North or coming South, had had bite and sup, and
bed, may be, and had passed on, most of them never to be seen again.
More than that, too, there had been moments of peril, such as when,
alone, she had faced two wood-thieves with a revolver, as they
were taking her mountain-pony with them, and herself had made them
\x93hands-up,\x94 and had marched them into a prospector\x92s camp five miles
away.

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

\x93Yes, I\x92m Jenny Long,\x94 she answered. \x93What have you done? What are they
after you for?\x94

\x93Oh! to-morrow,\x94 he answered, \x93to-morrow I got to git to Bindon. It\x92s
life or death. I come from prospecting two hundred miles up North. I
done it in two days and a half. My horse dropped dead--I\x92m near
dead myself. I tried to borrow another horse up at Clancey\x92s, and at
Scotton\x92s Drive, but they didn\x92t know me, and they bounced me. So I
borrowed a horse off Weigall\x92s paddock, to make for here--to you.
I didn\x92t mean to keep that horse. Hell, I\x92m no horse-stealer! But I
couldn\x92t explain to them, except that I had to git to Bindon to save a
man\x92s life. If people laugh in your face, it\x92s no use explainin\x92. I took
a roan from Weigall\x92s, and they got after me. \x91Bout six miles up they
shot at me an\x92 hurt me.\x94

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

She started forward. \x93Are you hurt bad? Can I bind it up or wash it for
you? I\x92ve got plenty of hot water here, and it\x92s bad letting a wound get
stale.\x94

He shook his head. \x93I washed the hole clean in the creek below. I
doubled on them. I had to go down past your place here, and then work
back to be rid of them. But there\x92s no telling when they\x92ll drop on to
the game, and come back for me. My only chance was to git to you. Even
if I had a horse, I couldn\x92t make Bindon in time. It\x92s two days round
the gorge by trail. A horse is no use now--I lost too much time since
last night. I can\x92t git to Bindon to-morrow in time, if I ride the
trail.\x94

\x93The river?\x94 she asked abruptly.

\x93It\x92s the only way. It cuts off fifty mile. That\x92s why I come to you.\x94

She frowned a little, her face became troubled, and her glance fell
on his arm nervously. \x93What\x92ve I got to do with it?\x94 she asked almost
sharply.

\x93Even if this was all right,\x94--he touched the wounded arm--\x93I couldn\x92t
take the rapids in a canoe. I don\x92t know them, an\x92 it would be sure
death. That\x92s not the worst, for there\x92s a man at Bindon would lose his
life--p\x92r\x92aps twenty men--I dunno; but one man sure. To-morrow, it\x92s go
or stay with him. He was good--Lord, but he was good!--to my little
gal years back. She\x92d only been married to me a year when he saved her,
riskin\x92 his own life. No one else had the pluck. My little gal, only
twenty she was, an\x92 pretty as a picture, an\x92 me fifty miles away when
the fire broke out in the hotel where she was. He\x92d have gone down to
hell for a friend, an\x92 he saved my little gal. I had her for five years
after that. That\x92s why I got to git to Bindon to-morrow. If I don\x92t, I
don\x92t want to see to-morrow. I got to go down the river to-night.\x94

She knew what he was going to ask her. She knew he was thinking what
all the North knew, that she was the first person to take the Dog Nose
Rapids in a canoe, down the great river scarce a stone\x92s-throw from her
door; and that she had done it in safety many times. Not in all the
West and North were there a half-dozen people who could take a canoe
to Bindon, and they were not here. She knew that he meant to ask her to
paddle him down the swift stream with its murderous rocks, to Bindon.
She glanced at the white petticoat on the chair, and her lips tightened.
To-morrow-tomorrow was as much to her here as it would be to this man
before her, or the man he would save at Bindon. \x93What do you want?\x94 she
asked, hardening her heart. \x93Can\x92t you see? I want you to hide me here
till tonight. There\x92s a full moon, an\x92 it would be as plain goin\x92 as by
day. They told me about you up North, and I said to myself, \x91If I git to
Jenny Long, an\x92 tell her about my friend at Bindon, an\x92 my little gal,
she\x92ll take me down to Bindon in time.\x92 My little gal would have paid
her own debt if she\x92d ever had the chance. She didn\x92t--she\x92s lying up on
Mazy Mountain. But one woman\x92ll do a lot for the sake of another woman.
Say, you\x92ll do it, won\x92t you? If I don\x92t git there by to-morrow noon,
it\x92s no good.\x94

She would not answer. He was asking more than he knew. Why should she be
sacrificed? Was it her duty to pay the \x93little gal\x92s debt,\x94 to save the
man at Bindon? To-morrow was to be the great day in her own life. The
one man in all the world was coming to marry her to-morrow. After four
years\x92 waiting, after a bitter quarrel in which both had been to blame,
he was coming from the mining town of Selby to marry her to-morrow.

\x93What will happen? Why will your friend lose his life if you don\x92t get
to Bindon?\x94

\x93By noon to-morrow, by twelve o\x92clock noon; that\x92s the plot; that\x92s what
they\x92ve schemed. Three days ago, I heard. I got a man free from trouble
North--he was no good, but I thought he ought to have another chance,
and I got him free. He told me of what was to be done at Bindon. There\x92d
been a strike in the mine, an\x92 my friend had took it in hand with
knuckle-dusters on. He isn\x92t the kind to fell a tree with a jack-knife.
Then three of the strikers that had been turned away--they was the
ringleaders--they laid a plan that\x92d make the devil sick. They\x92ve put a
machine in the mine, an\x92 timed it, an\x92 it\x92ll go off when my friend comes
out of the mine at noon to-morrow.\x94

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

\x93Without a second\x92s warning,\x94 he urged, \x93to go like that, the man that
was so good to my little gal, an\x92 me with a chance to save him, an\x92
others too, p\x92r\x92aps. You won\x92t let it be. Say, I\x92m pinnin\x92 my faith to
you. I\x92m--\x94

Suddenly he swayed. She caught him, held him, and lowered him gently in
a chair. Presently he opened his eyes. \x93It\x92s want o\x92 food, I suppose,\x94
 he said. \x93If you\x92ve got a bit of bread and meat--I must keep up.\x94

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

\x93Quick-in here!\x94 she said, and, opening a door, pushed him inside.
\x93Lie down on my bed, and I\x92ll bring you vittles as quick as I can,\x94 she
added. Then she shut the door, turned to the ironing-board, and took up
the iron, as the figure of a man darkened the doorway.

\x93Hello, Jinny, fixin\x92 up for to-morrow?\x94 the man said, stepping inside,
with a rifle under his arm and some pigeons in his hand.

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

\x93Been celebrating the pigeons?\x94 she asked drily, jerking her head
towards the two birds, which she had seen drop from her Eden skies a
short time before.

\x93I only had one swig of whiskey, honest Injun!\x94 he answered. \x93I s\x92pose I
might have waited till to-morrow, but I was dead-beat. I got a bear over
by the Tenmile Reach, and I was tired. I ain\x92t so young as I used to be,
and, anyhow, what\x92s the good! What\x92s ahead of me? You\x92re going to git
married to-morrow after all these years we bin together, and you\x92re
going down to Selby from the mountains, where I won\x92t see you, not once
in a blue moon. Only that old trollop, Mother Massy, to look after me.\x94

\x93Come down to Selby and live there. You\x92ll be welcome by Jake and me.\x94

He stood his gun in the corner and, swinging the pigeons in his hand,
said: \x93Me live out of the mountains? Don\x92t you know better than that?
I couldn\x92t breathe; and I wouldn\x92t want to breathe. I\x92ve got my shack
here, I got my fur business, and they\x92re still fond of whiskey up
North!\x94 He chuckled to himself, as he thought of the illicit still
farther up the mountain behind them. \x93I make enough to live on, and I\x92ve
put a few dollars by, though I won\x92t have so many after to-morrow, after
I\x92ve given you a little pile, Jinny.\x94

\x93P\x92r\x92aps there won\x92t be any to-morrow, as you expect,\x94 she said slowly.

The old man started. \x93What, you and Jake ain\x92t quarrelled again? You
ain\x92t broke it off at the last moment, same as before? You ain\x92t had a
letter from Jake?\x94 He looked at the white petticoat on the chairback,
and shook his head in bewilderment.

\x93I\x92ve had no letter,\x94 she answered. \x93I\x92ve had no letter from Selby for
a month. It was all settled then, and there was no good writing, when
he was coming to-morrow with the minister and the licence. Who do you
think\x92d be postman from Selby here? It must have cost him ten dollars to
send the last letter.\x94

\x93Then what\x92s the matter? I don\x92t understand,\x94 the old man urged
querulously. He did not want her to marry and leave him, but he wanted
no more troubles; he did not relish being asked awkward questions by
every mountaineer he met, as to why Jenny Long didn\x92t marry Jake Lawson.

\x93There\x92s only one way that I can be married tomorrow,\x94 she said at
last, \x93and that\x92s by you taking a man down the Dog Nose Rapids to Bindon
to-night.\x94

He dropped the pigeons on the floor, dumbfounded. \x93What in--\x94

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

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

\x93There\x92s a plate of vittles ready for you in there,\x94 she said. \x93I\x92ll
tell you as you eat.\x94

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

\x93No one\x92ll ever look after me as you\x92ve done, Jinny,\x94 he said, as he
lifted the cloth and saw the palatable dish ready for him. Then he
remembered again about to-morrow and the Dog Nose Rapids.

\x93What\x92s it all about, Jinny? What\x92s that about my canoeing a man down to
Bindon?\x94

\x93Eat, uncle,\x94 she said more softly than she had yet spoken, for his
words about her care of him had brought a moisture to her eyes. \x93I\x92ll be
back in a minute and tell you all about it.\x94

\x93Well, it\x92s about took away my appetite,\x94 he said. \x93I feel a kind of
sinking.\x94 He took from his pocket a bottle, poured some of its contents
into a tin cup, and drank it off.

\x93No, I suppose you couldn\x92t take a man down to Bindon,\x94 she said, as she
saw his hand trembling on the cup. Then she turned and entered the other
room again. Going to the cupboard, she hastily heaped a plate with
food, and, taking a dipper of water from a pail near by, she entered her
bedroom hastily and placed what she had brought on a small table, as her
visitor rose slowly from the bed.

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

\x93I can\x92t tell you anything yet,\x94 she said. \x93Who was it come?\x94 he asked.

\x93My uncle--I\x92m going to tell him.\x94

\x93The men after me may git here any minute,\x94 he urged anxiously.

\x93They\x92d not be coming into my room,\x94 she answered, flushing slightly.

\x93Can\x92t you hide me down by the river till we start?\x94 he asked, his eyes
eagerly searching her face. He was assuming that she would take him down
the river: but she gave no sign.

\x93I\x92ve got to see if he\x92ll take you first,\x94 she answered.

\x93He--your uncle, Tom Sanger? He drinks, I\x92ve heard. He\x92d never git to
Bindon.\x94

She did not reply directly to his words. \x93I\x92ll come back and tell you.
There\x92s a place you could hide by the river where no one could ever find
you,\x94 she said, and left the room.

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

\x93Who you got in that room, Jinny? What man you got in that room? I
heard a man\x92s voice. Is it because o\x92 him that you bin talkin\x92 about no
weddin\x92 to-morrow? Is it one o\x92 the others come back, puttin\x92 you off
Jake again?\x94

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

\x93You eat, and I\x92ll tell you all about it, Uncle Tom,\x94 she said, and,
seating herself at the table also, she told him the story of the man who
must go to Bindon.

When she had finished, the old man blinked at her for a minute without
speaking, then he said slowly: \x93I heard something \x91bout trouble down at
Bindon yisterday from a Hudson\x92s Bay man goin\x92 North, but I didn\x92t take
it in. You\x92ve got a lot o\x92 sense, Jinny, an\x92 if you think he\x92s tellin\x92
the truth, why, it goes; but it\x92s as big a mixup as a lariat in a
steer\x92s horns. You\x92ve got to hide him sure, whoever he is, for I
wouldn\x92t hand an Eskimo over, if I\x92d taken him in my home once; we\x92re
mountain people. A man ought to be hung for horse-stealin\x92, but this was
different. He was doing it to save a man\x92s life, an\x92 that man at Bindon
was good to his little gal, an\x92 she\x92s dead.\x94

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

\x93I know how he felt,\x94 he continued. \x93When Betsy died--we was only four
years married--I could have crawled into a knot-hole an\x92 died there. You
got to save him, Jinny, but\x94--he came suddenly to his feet--\x93he ain\x92t
safe here. They might come any minute, if they\x92ve got back on his trail.
I\x92ll take him up the gorge. You know where.\x94

\x93You sit still, Uncle Tom,\x94 she rejoined. \x93Leave him where he is a
minute. There\x92s things must be settled first. They ain\x92t going to look
for him in my bedroom, be they?\x94

The old man chuckled. \x93I\x92d like to see \x91em at it. You got a temper,
Jinny; and you got a pistol too, eh?\x94 He chuckled again. \x93As good a shot
as any in the mountains. I can see you darin\x92 \x91em to come on. But what
if Jake come, and he found a man in your bedroom\x94--he wiped the tears of
laughter from his eyes--\x93why, Jinny--!\x94

He stopped short, for there was anger in her face. \x93I don\x92t want to hear
any more of that. I do what I want to do,\x94 she snapped out.

\x93Well, well, you always done what you wanted; but we got to git him up
the hills, till it\x92s sure they\x92re out o\x92 the mountains and gone back.
It\x92ll be days, mebbe.\x94

\x93Uncle Tom, you\x92ve took too much to drink,\x94 she answered. \x93You don\x92t
remember he\x92s got to be at Bindon by to-morrow noon. He\x92s got to save
his friend by then.\x94

\x93Pshaw! Who\x92s going to take him down the river to-night? You\x92re goin\x92
to be married to-morrow. If you like, you can give him the canoe. It\x92ll
never come back, nor him neither!\x94

\x93You\x92ve been down with me,\x94 she responded suggestively. \x93And you went
down once by yourself.\x94

He shook his head. \x93I ain\x92t been so well this summer. My sight ain\x92t
what it was. I can\x92t stand the racket as I once could. \x91Pears to me I\x92m
gettin\x92 old. No, I couldn\x92t take them rapids, Jinny, not for one frozen
minute.\x94

She looked at him with trouble in her eyes, and her face lost some of
its colour. She was fighting back the inevitable, even as its shadow
fell upon her. \x93You wouldn\x92t want a man to die, if you could save him,
Uncle Tom--blown up, sent to Kingdom Come without any warning at all;
and perhaps he\x92s got them that love him--and the world so beautiful.\x94

\x93Well, it ain\x92t nice dyin\x92 in the summer, when it\x92s all sun, and there\x92s
plenty everywhere; but there\x92s no one to go down the river with him.
What\x92s his name?\x94

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

\x93His name\x92s Dingley. I\x92m going down the river with him--down to Bindon.\x94

The old man\x92s mouth opened in blank amazement. His eyes blinked
helplessly.

\x93What you talkin\x92 about, Jinny! Jake\x92s comin\x92 up with the minister, an\x92
you\x92re goin\x92 to be married at noon to-morrow.\x94

\x93I\x92m takin\x92 him\x94--she jerked her head towards the room where Dingley
was--\x93down Dog Nose Rapids to-night. He\x92s risked his life for his
friend, thinkin\x92 of her that\x92s dead an\x92 gone, and a man\x92s life is a
man\x92s life. If it was Jake\x92s life in danger, what\x92d I think of a woman
that could save him, and didn\x92t?\x94

\x93Onct you broke off with Jake Lawson--the day before you was to be
married; an\x92 it\x92s took years to make up an\x92 agree again to be spliced.
If Jake comes here to-morrow, and you ain\x92t here, what do you think
he\x92ll do? The neighbours are comin\x92 for fifty miles round, two is comin\x92
up a hundred miles, an\x92 you can\x92t--Jinny, you can\x92t do it. I bin sick
of answerin\x92 questions all these years \x91bout you and Jake, an\x92 I ain\x92t
goin\x92 through it again. I\x92ve told more lies than there\x92s straws in a
tick.\x94

She flamed out. \x93Then take him down the river yourself--a man to do a
man\x92s work. Are you afeard to take the risk?\x94

He held out his hands slowly and looked at them. They shook a little.
\x93Yes, Jinny,\x94 he said sadly, \x93I\x92m afeard. I ain\x92t what I was. I made a
mistake, Jinny. I\x92ve took too much whiskey. I\x92m older than I ought to
be. I oughtn\x92t never to have had a whiskey-still, an\x92 I wouldn\x92t have
drunk so much. I got money--money for you, Jinny, for you an\x92 Jake, but
I\x92ve lost what I\x92ll never git back. I\x92m afeard to go down the river with
him. I\x92d go smash in the Dog Nose Rapids. I got no nerve. I can\x92t hunt
the grizzly any more, nor the puma, Jinny. I got to keep to common
shootin\x92, now and henceforth, amen! No, I\x92d go smash in Dog Nose
Rapids.\x94

She caught his hands impulsively. \x93Don\x92t you fret, Uncle Tom. You\x92ve
bin a good uncle to me, and you\x92ve bin a good friend, and you ain\x92t the
first that\x92s found whiskey too much for him. You ain\x92t got an enemy in
the mountains. Why, I\x92ve got two or three--\x94

\x93Shucks! Women--only women whose beaux left \x91em to follow after you.
That\x92s nothing, an\x92 they\x92ll be your friends fast enough after you\x92re
married tomorrow.\x94

\x93I ain\x92t going to be married to-morrow. I\x92m going down to Bindon
to-night. If Jake\x92s mad, then it\x92s all over, and there\x92ll be more
trouble among the women up here.\x94

By this time they had entered the other room. The old man saw the white
petticoat on the chair. \x93No woman in the mountains ever had a petticoat
like that, Jinny. It\x92d make a dress, it\x92s that pretty an\x92 neat. Golly,
I\x92d like to see it on you, with the blue skirt over, and just hitched up
a little.\x94

\x93Oh, shut up--shut up!\x94 she said in sudden anger, and caught up the
petticoat as though she would put it away; but presently she laid it
down again and smoothed it with quick, nervous fingers. \x93Can\x92t you talk
sense and leave my clothes alone? If Jake comes, and I\x92m not here, and
he wants to make a fuss, and spoil everything, and won\x92t wait, you give
him this petticoat. You put it in his arms. I bet you\x92ll have the laugh
on him. He\x92s got a temper.\x94

\x93So\x92ve you, Jinny, dear, so\x92ve you,\x94 said the old man, laughing. \x93You\x92re
goin\x92 to have your own way, same as ever--same as ever.\x94


II

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

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

It was Jenny Long and the man who must get to Bindon. They had waited
till nine o\x92clock, when the moon was high and full, to venture forth.
Then Dingley had dropped from her bedroom window, had joined her under
the trees, and they had sped away, while the man\x92s hunters, who had
come suddenly, and before Jenny could get him away into the woods,
were carousing inside. These had tracked their man back to Tom Sanger\x92s
house, and at first they were incredulous that Jenny and her uncle had
not seen him. They had prepared to search the house, and one had laid
his finger on the latch of her bedroom door; but she had flared out with
such anger that, mindful of the supper she had already begun to prepare
for them, they had desisted, and the whiskey-jug which the old man
brought out distracted their attention.

One of their number, known as the Man from Clancey\x92s, had, however, been
outside when Dingley had dropped from the window, and had seen him from
a distance. He had not given the alarm, but had followed, to make the
capture by himself. But Jenny had heard the stir of life behind them,
and had made a sharp detour, so that they had reached the shore and were
out in mid-stream before their tracker got to the river. Then he called
to them to return, but Jenny only bent a little lower and paddled on,
guiding the canoe towards the safe channel through the first small
rapids leading to the great Dog Nose Rapids.

A rifle-shot rang out, and a bullet \x93pinged\x94 over the water and
splintered the side of the canoe where Dingley sat. He looked calmly
back, and saw the rifle raised again, but did not stir, in spite of
Jenny\x92s warning to lie down.

\x93He\x92ll not fire on you so long as he can draw a bead on me,\x94 he said
quietly.

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

\x93If he hits me, you go straight on to Bindon,\x94 he continued. \x93Never mind
about me. Go to the Snowdrop Mine. Get there by twelve o\x92clock, and warn
them. Don\x92t stop a second for me--\x94

Suddenly three shots rang out in succession--Tom Sanger\x92s house had
emptied itself on the bank of the river--and Dingley gave a sharp
exclamation.

\x93They\x92ve hit me, but it\x92s the same arm as before,\x94 he growled. \x93They got
no right to fire at me. It\x92s not the law. Don\x92t stop,\x94 he added quickly,
as he saw her half turn round.

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

\x93Who you firin\x92 at?\x94 he shouted. \x93That\x92s my niece, Jinny Long, an\x92 you
let that boat alone. This ain\x92t the land o\x92 lynch law. Dingley ain\x92t
escaped from gaol. You got no right to fire at him.\x94

\x93No one ever went down Dog Nose Rapids at night,\x94 said the Man from
Clancey\x92s, whose shot had got Dingley\x92s arm. \x93There ain\x92t a chance of
them doing it. No one\x92s ever done it.\x94

The two were in the roaring rapids now, and the canoe was jumping
through the foam like a racehorse. The keen eyes on the bank watched
the canoe till it was lost in the half-gloom below the first rapids, and
then they went slowly back to Tom Sanger\x92s house.

\x93So there\x92ll be no wedding to-morrow,\x94 said the Man from Clancey\x92s.

\x93Funerals, more likely,\x94 drawled another.

\x93Jinny Long\x92s in that canoe, an\x92 she ginerally does what she wants to,\x94
 said Tom Sanger sagely.

\x93Well, we done our best, and now I hope they\x92ll get to Bindon,\x94 said
another.

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


III

It was as the Man from Clancey\x92s had said, no one had ever gone down Dog
Nose Rapids in the nighttime, and probably no one but Jenny Long would
have ventured it. Dingley had had no idea what a perilous task had been
set his rescuer. It was only when the angry roar of the great rapids
floated up-stream to them, increasing in volume till they could see the
terror of tumbling waters just below, and the canoe shot forward like a
snake through the swift, smooth current which would sweep them into the
vast caldron, that he realised the terrible hazard of the enterprise.

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

Not a sound escaped either. The man kept his eyes fixed on the woman;
the woman scanned the dreadful pathway with eyes deep-set and burning,
resolute, vigilant, and yet defiant too, as though she had been trapped
into this track of danger, and was fighting without great hope, but
with the temerity and nonchalance of despair. Her arms were bare to the
shoulder almost, and her face was again and again drenched; but second
succeeded second, minute followed minute in a struggle which might well
turn a man\x92s hair grey, and now, at last-how many hours was it since
they had been cast into this den of roaring waters!--at last, suddenly,
over a large fall, and here smooth waters again, smooth and untroubled,
and strong and deep. Then, and only then, did a word escape either;
but the man had passed through torture and unavailing regret, for he
realised that he had had no right to bring this girl into such a fight.
It was not her friend who was in danger at Bindon. Her life had been
risked without due warrant. \x93I didn\x92t know, or I wouldn\x92t have asked
it,\x94 he said in a low voice. \x93Lord, but you are a wonder--to take that
hurdle for no one that belonged to you, and to do it as you\x92ve done it.
This country will rise to you.\x94 He looked back on the raging rapids far
behind, and he shuddered. \x93It was a close call, and no mistake. We must
have been within a foot of down-you-go fifty times. But it\x92s all right
now, if we can last it out and git there.\x94 Again he glanced back,
then turned to the girl. \x93It makes me pretty sick to look at it,\x94 he
continued. \x93I bin through a lot, but that\x92s as sharp practice as I
want.\x94

\x93Come here and let me bind up your arm,\x94 she answered. \x93They hit
you--the sneaks! Are you bleeding much?\x94

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

\x93I guess it\x92s as good as a man could do it,\x94 she said at last.

\x93As good as any doctor,\x94 he rejoined.

\x93I wasn\x92t talking of your arm,\x94 she said.

\x93\x91Course not. Excuse me. You was talkin\x92 of them rapids, and I\x92ve got to
say there ain\x92t a man that could have done it and come through like you.
I guess the man that marries you\x92ll get more than his share of luck.\x94

\x93I want none of that,\x94 she said sharply, and picked up her paddle again,
her eyes flashing anger.

He took a pistol from his pocket and offered it to her. \x93I didn\x92t mean
any harm by what I said. Take this if you think I won\x92t know how to
behave myself,\x94 he urged.

She flung up her head a little. \x93I knew what I was doing before I
started,\x94 she said. \x93Put it away. How far is it, and can we do it in
time?\x94

\x93If you can hold out, we can do it; but it means going all night and all
morning; and it ain\x92t dawn yet, by a long shot.\x94

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

Eight, nine, ten, eleven o\x92clock came, and then they saw signs of
settlement. Houses appeared here and there upon the banks, and now and
then a horseman watched them from the shore, but they could not pause.
Bindon--Bindon--Bindon--the Snowdrop Mine at Bindon, and a death-dealing
machine timed to do its deadly work, were before the eyes of the two
voyageurs.

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

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

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

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

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

\x93No, it wasn\x92t me, it wasn\x92t me that done it; it was a girl. Here she
is--Jenny Long! You got to thank her, Jake.\x94

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

\x93Jake--it was my Jake!\x94 she faltered. The mine-boss caught her in his
arms. \x93You, Jenny! It\x92s you that\x92s saved me!\x94

Suddenly there was a rumble as of thunder, and a cloud of dust and stone
rose from the Snowdrop Mine. The mine-boss tightened his arm round the
girl\x92s waist. \x93That\x92s what I missed, through him and you, Jenny,\x94 he
said.

\x93What was you doing here, and not at Selby, Jake?\x94 she asked.

\x93They sent for me-to stop the trouble here.\x94

\x93But what about our wedding to-day?\x94 she asked with a frown.

\x93A man went from here with a letter to you three days ago,\x94 he said,
\x93asking you to come down here and be married. I suppose he got drunk,
or had an accident, and didn\x92t reach you. It had to be. I was needed
here--couldn\x92t tell what would happen.\x94

\x93It has happened out all right,\x94 said Dingley, \x93and this\x92ll be the end
of it. You got them miners solid now. The strikers\x92ll eat humble pie
after to-day.\x94

\x93We\x92ll be married to-day, just the same,\x94 the mine-boss said, as he gave
some brandy to the girl.

But the girl shook her head. She was thinking of a white petticoat in a
little house in the mountains. \x93I\x92m not going to be married to-day,\x94 she
said decisively.

\x93Well, to-morrow,\x94 said the mine-boss.

But the girl shook her head again. \x93To-day is tomorrow,\x94 she answered.
\x93You can wait, Jake. I\x92m going back home to be married.\x94



QU\x92APPELLE

(Who calls?)

\x93But I\x92m white; I\x92m not an Indian. My father was a white man. I\x92ve been
brought up as a white girl. I\x92ve had a white girl\x92s schooling.\x94

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

\x93I am a Blackfoot woman. I lived on the Muskwat River among the braves
for thirty years. I have killed buffalo. I have seen battles. Men, too,
I have killed when they came to steal our horses and crept in on our
lodges in the night-the Crees! I am a Blackfoot. You are the daughter
of a Blackfoot woman. No medicine can cure that. Sit down. You have no
sense. You are not white. They will not have you. Sit down.\x94

The girl\x92s handsome face flushed; she threw up her hands in an agony of
protest. A dreadful anger was in her panting breast, but she could not
speak. She seemed to choke with excess of feeling. For an instant she
stood still, trembling with agitation, then she sat down suddenly on
a great couch covered with soft deerskins and buffalo robes. There was
deep in her the habit of obedience to this sombre but striking woman.
She had been ruled firmly, almost oppressively, and she had not yet
revolted. Seated on the couch, she gazed out of the window at the flying
snow, her brain too much on fire for thought, passion beating like a
pulse in all her lithe and graceful young body, which had known the
storms of life and time for only twenty years.

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

There had been three years of bitter, almost half-sullen, struggle,
lightened by one sweet friendship with a girl whose face she had since
drawn in a hundred different poses on stray pieces of paper, on the
walls of the big, well-lighted attic to which she retreated for hours
every day, when she was not abroad on the prairies, riding the Indian
pony that her uncle the Piegan Chief, Ice Breaker, had given her years
before. Three years of struggle, and then her father had died, and the
refuge for her vexed, defiant heart was gone. While he lived she could
affirm the rights of a white man\x92s daughter, the rights of the daughter
of a pioneer who had helped to make the West; and her pride in him had
given a glow to her cheek and a spring to her step which drew every eye.
In the chief street of Portage la Drome men would stop their trafficking
and women nudge each other when she passed, and wherever she went she
stirred interest, excited admiration, or aroused prejudice--but the
prejudice did not matter so long as her father, Joel Renton, lived.
Whatever his faults, and they were many--sometimes he drank too much,
and swore a great deal, and bullied and stormed--she blinked at them
all, for he was of the conquering race, a white man who had slept in
white sheets and eaten off white tablecloths, and used a knife and fork,
since he was born; and the women of his people had had soft petticoats
and fine stockings, and silk gowns for festal days, and feathered
hats of velvet, and shoes of polished leather, always and always, back
through many generations. She had held her head high, for she was of his
women, of the women of his people, with all their rights and all their
claims. She had held it high till that stormy day--just such a day
as this, with the surf of snow breaking against the house--when they
carried him in out of the wild turmoil and snow, laying him on the couch
where she now sat, and her head fell on his lifeless breast, and she
cried out to him in vain to come back to her.

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

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

\x93You have no sense. You are not white. They will not have you. Sit
down--\x94

The words had fallen on her ears with a cold, deadly smother. There came
a chill upon her which stilled the wild pulses in her, which suddenly
robbed the eyes of their brightness and gave a drawn look to the face.

\x93You are not white. They will not have you, Pauline.\x94 The Indian mother
repeated the words after a moment, her eyes grown still more gloomy;
for in her, too, there was a dark tide of passion moving. In all the
outlived years this girl had ever turned to the white father rather than
to her, and she had been left more and more alone. Her man had been
kind to her, and she had been a faithful wife, but she had resented the
natural instinct of her half-breed child, almost white herself and with
the feelings and ways of the whites, to turn always to her father, as
though to a superior guide, to a higher influence and authority. Was
not she herself the descendant of Blackfoot and Piegan chiefs through
generations of rulers and warriors? Was there not Piegan and Blackfoot
blood in the girl\x92s veins? Must only the white man\x92s blood be reckoned
when they made up their daily account and balanced the books of their
lives, credit and debtor,--misunderstanding and kind act, neglect
and tenderness, reproof and praise, gentleness and impulse, anger and
caress,--to be set down in the everlasting record? Why must the Indian
always give way--Indian habits, Indian desires, the Indian way of doing
things, the Indian point of view, Indian food, Indian medicine? Was it
all bad, and only that which belonged to white life good?

\x93Look at your face in the glass, Pauline,\x94 she added at last. \x93You are
good-looking, but it isn\x92t the good looks of the whites. The lodge of
a chieftainess is the place for you. There you would have praise and
honour; among the whites you are only a half-breed. What is the good?
Let us go back to the life out there beyond the Muskwat River--up
beyond. There is hunting still, a little, and the world is quiet, and
nothing troubles. Only the wild dog barks at night, or the wolf sniffs
at the door and all day there is singing. Somewhere out beyond the
Muskwat the feasts go on, and the old men build the great fires, and
tell tales, and call the wind out of the north, and make the thunder
speak; and the young men ride to the hunt or go out to battle, and build
lodges for the daughters of the tribe; and each man has his woman, and
each woman has in her breast the honour of the tribe, and the little
ones fill the lodge with laughter. Like a pocket of deerskin is every
house, warm and small and full of good things. Hai-yai, what is this
life to that! There you will be head and chief of all, for there is
money enough for a thousand horses; and your father was a white man, and
these are the days when the white man rules. Like clouds before the sun
are the races of men, and one race rises and another falls. Here you
are not first, but last; and the child of the white father and mother,
though they be as the dirt that flies from a horse\x92s heels, it is before
you. Your mother is a Blackfoot.\x94

As the woman spoke slowly and with many pauses, the girl\x92s mood changed,
and there came into her eyes a strange, dark look deeper than anger.
She listened with a sudden patience which stilled the agitation in
her breast and gave a little touch of rigidity to her figure. Her eyes
withdrew from the wild storm without and gravely settled on her mother\x92s
face, and with the Indian woman\x92s last words understanding pierced,
but did not dispel, the sombre and ominous look in her eyes. There was
silence for a moment, and then she spoke almost as evenly as her mother
had done.

\x93I will tell you everything. You are my mother, and I love you; but
you will not see the truth. When my father took you from the lodges and
brought you here, it was the end of the Indian life. It was for you to
go on with him, but you would not go. I was young, but I saw, and I said
that in all things I would go with him. I did not know that it would be
hard, but at school, at the very first, I began to understand. There was
only one, a French girl--I loved her--a girl who said to me, \x91You are
as white as I am, as anyone, and your heart is the same, and you are
beautiful.\x92 Yes, Manette said I was beautiful.\x94

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

\x93And her brother, Julien,--he was older,--when he came to visit Manette,
he spoke to me as though I was all white, and was good to me. I have
never forgotten, never. It was five years ago, but I remember him. He
was tall and strong, and as good as Manette--as good as Manette. I loved
Manette, but she suffered for me, for I was not like the others, and my
ways were different--then. I had lived up there on the Warais among the
lodges, and I had not seen things--only from my father, and he did so
much in an Indian way. So I was sick at heart, and sometimes I wanted to
die; and once--But there was Manette, and she would laugh and sing, and
we would play together, and I would speak French and she would speak
English, and I learned from her to forget the Indian ways. What were
they to me? I had loved them when I was of them, but I came on to a
better life. The Indian life is to the white life as the parfleche pouch
to--to this.\x94 She laid her hand upon a purse of delicate silver mesh
hanging at her waist. \x93When your eyes are opened you must go on, you
cannot stop. There is no going back. When you have read of all there
is in the white man\x92s world, when you have seen, then there is no
returning. You may end it all, if you wish, in the snow, in the river,
but there is no returning. The lodge of a chief--ah, if my father had
heard you say that--!\x94

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

\x93The lodge of a chief!\x94 the girl continued in a low, bitter voice. \x93What
is the lodge of a chief? A smoky fire, a pot, a bed of skins, aih-yi! If
the lodges of the Indians were millions, and I could be head of all,
and rule the land, yet would I rather be a white girl in the hut of her
white man, struggling for daily bread among the people who sweep the
buffalo out, but open up the land with the plough, and make a thousand
live where one lived before. It is peace you want, my mother, peace and
solitude, in which the soul goes to sleep. Your days of hope are over,
and you want to drowse by the fire. I want to see the white men\x92s cities
grow, and the armies coming over the hill with the ploughs and the
reapers and the mowers, and the wheels and the belts and engines of the
great factories, and the white woman\x92s life spreading everywhere; for I
am a white man\x92s daughter. I can\x92t be both Indian and white. I will not
be like the sun when the shadow cuts across it and the land grows dark.
I will not be half-breed. I will be white or I will be Indian; and I
will be white, white only. My heart is white, my tongue is white, I
think, I feel, as white people think and feel. What they wish, I wish;
as they live, I live; as white women dress, I dress.\x94

She involuntarily drew up the dark red skirt she wore, showing a white
petticoat and a pair of fine stockings on an ankle as shapely as she had
ever seen among all the white women she knew. She drew herself up
with pride, and her body had a grace and ease which the white woman\x92s
convention had not cramped.

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

\x93I will not stay here,\x94 said the Indian mother with sullen stubbornness.
\x93I will go back beyond the Warais. My life is my own life, and I will do
what I like with it.\x94

The girl started, but became composed again on the instant. \x93Is your
life all your own, mother?\x94 she asked. \x93I did not come into the world
of my own will. If I had I would have come all white or all Indian. I am
your daughter, and I am here, good or bad--is your life all your own?\x94

\x93You can marry and stay here, when I go. You are twenty. I had my man,
your father, when I was seventeen. You can marry. There are men. You
have money. They will marry you--and forget the rest.\x94

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

\x93John Alloway,\x94 said the Indian woman in a voice of welcome, and with
a brightening eye, for it would seem as though he came in answer to her
words of a few moments before. With a mother\x92s instinct she had divined
at once the reason for the visit, though no warning thought crossed the
mind of the girl, who placed a chair for their visitor with a heartiness
which was real--was not this the white man she had saved from death in
the snow a year ago? Her heart was soft towards the life she had kept
in the world. She smiled at him, all the anger gone from her eyes, and
there was almost a touch of tender anxiety in her voice as she said
\x93What brought you out in this blizzard? It wasn\x92t safe. It doesn\x92t seem
possible you got here from the Portage.\x94

The huge ranchman and auctioneer laughed cheerily. \x93Once lost, twice get
there,\x94 he exclaimed, with a quizzical toss of the head, thinking he had
said a good thing. \x93It\x92s a year ago to the very day that I was lost out
back\x94--he jerked a thumb over his shoulder--\x93and you picked me up and
brought me in; and what was I to do but come out on the anniversary and
say thank you? I\x92d fixed up all year to come to you, and I wasn\x92t to be
stopped, \x91cause it was like the day we first met, old Coldmaker hitting
the world with his whips of frost, and shaking his ragged blankets of
snow over the wild west.\x94

\x93Just such a day,\x94 said the Indian woman after a pause. Pauline remained
silent, placing a little bottle of cordial before their visitor, with
which he presently regaled himself, raising his glass with an air.

\x93Many happy returns to us both!\x94 he said, and threw the liquor down his
throat, smacked his lips, and drew his hand down his great moustache and
beard like some vast animal washing its face with its paw. Smiling
and yet not at ease, he looked at the two women and nodded his head
encouragingly, but whether the encouragement was for himself or for them
he could not have told.

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

\x93But if you will keep coming in such wild storms, there will not be many
anniversaries.\x94 Laughing, she poured out another glass of liquor for
him.

\x93Well, now, p\x92r\x92aps you\x92re right, and so the only thing to do is not to
keep coming, but to stay--stay right where you are.\x94

The Indian woman could not see her daughter\x92s face, which was turned to
the fire, but she herself smiled at John Alloway, and nodded her head
approvingly. Here was the cure for her own trouble and loneliness.
Pauline and she, who lived in different worlds, and yet were tied to
each other by circumstances they could not control, would each work
out her own destiny after her own nature, since John Alloway had come
a-wooing. She would go back on the Warais, and Pauline would remain at
the Portage, a white woman with her white man. She would go back to the
smoky fires in the huddled lodges; to the venison stew and the snake
dance; to the feasts of the Medicine Men, and the long sleeps in the
summer days, and the winter\x92s tales, and be at rest among her own
people; and Pauline would have revenge of the wife of the prancing
Reeve, and perhaps the people would forget who her mother was.

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

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

\x93How old are you?\x94 she asked suddenly.

He stirred in his seat nervously. \x93Why, fifty, about,\x94 he answered with
confusion.

\x93Then you\x92ll be wise not to go looking for anniversaries in blizzards,
when they\x92re few at the best,\x94 she said with a gentle and dangerous
smile.

\x93Fifty-why, I\x92m as young as most men of thirty,\x94 he responded with
an uncertain laugh. \x93I\x92d have come here to-day if it had been snowing
pitchforks and chain-lightning. I made up my mind I would. You saved my
life, that\x92s dead sure; and I\x92d be down among the moles if it wasn\x92t
for you and that Piegan pony of yours. Piegan ponies are wonders in a
storm-seem to know their way by instinct. You, too--why, I bin on
the plains all my life, and was no better than a baby that day; but
you--why, you had Piegan in you, why, yes--\x94

He stopped short for a moment, checked by the look in her face, then
went blindly on: \x93And you\x92ve got Blackfoot in you, too; and you just
felt your way through the tornado and over the blind prairie like a bird
reaching for the hills. It was as easy to you as picking out a moverick
in a bunch of steers to me. But I never could make out what you was
doing on the prairie that terrible day. I\x92ve thought of it a hundred
times. What was you doing, if it ain\x92t cheek to ask?\x94

\x93I was trying to lose a life,\x94 she answered quietly, her eyes dwelling
on his face, yet not seeing him; for it all came back on her, the agony
which had driven her out into the tempest to be lost evermore.

He laughed. \x93Well, now, that\x92s good,\x94 he said; \x93that\x92s what they call
speaking sarcastic. You was out to save, and not to lose, a life; that
was proved to the satisfaction of the court.\x94 He paused and chuckled
to himself, thinking he had been witty, and continued: \x93And I was that
court, and my judgment was that the debt of that life you saved had to
be paid to you within one calendar year, with interest at the usual per
cent for mortgages on good security. That was my judgment, and there\x92s
no appeal from it. I am the great Justinian in this case.\x94

\x93Did you ever save anybody\x92s life?\x94 she asked, putting the bottle of
cordial away, as he filled his glass for the third time.

\x93Twice certain, and once dividin\x92 the honours,\x94 he answered, pleased at
the question.

\x93And did you expect to get any pay, with or without interest?\x94 she
added.

\x93Me? I never thought of it again. But yes--by gol, I did! One case was
funny, as funny can be. It was Ricky Wharton over on the Muskwat River.
I saved his life right enough, and he came to me a year after and said,
You saved my life, now what are you going to do with it? I\x92m stony
broke. I owe a hundred dollars, and I wouldn\x92t be owing it if you hadn\x92t
saved my life. When you saved it I was five hunderd to the good, and
I\x92d have left that much behind me. Now I\x92m on the rocks, because you
insisted on saving my life; and you just got to take care of me.\x92 I
\x91insisted!\x92 Well, that knocked me silly, and I took him on--blame me, if
I didn\x92t keep Ricky a whole year, till he went north looking for gold.
Get pay--why, I paid! Saving life has its responsibilities, little gal.\x94

\x93You can\x92t save life without running some risk yourself, not as a rule,
can you?\x94 she said, shrinking from his familiarity.

\x93Not as a rule,\x94 he replied. \x93You took on a bit of risk with me, you and
your Piegan pony.\x94

\x93Oh, I was young,\x94 she responded, leaning over the table, and drawing
faces on a piece of paper before her. \x93I could take more risks, I was
only nineteen!\x94

\x93I don\x92t catch on,\x94 he rejoined. \x93If it\x92s sixteen or--\x94

\x93Or fifty,\x94 she interposed.

\x93What difference does it make? If you\x92re done for, it\x92s the same at
nineteen as fifty, and vicey-versey.\x94

\x93No, it\x92s not the same,\x94 she answered. \x93You leave so much more that you
want to keep, when you go at fifty.\x94

\x93Well, I dunno. I never thought of that.\x94

\x93There\x92s all that has belonged to you. You\x92ve been married, and have
children, haven\x92t you?\x94

He started, frowned, then straightened himself. \x93I got one girl--she\x92s
east with her grandmother,\x94 he said jerkily.

\x93That\x92s what I said; there\x92s more to leave behind at fifty,\x94 she
replied, a red spot on each cheek. She was not looking at him, but at
the face of a man on the paper before her--a young man with abundant
hair, a strong chin, and big, eloquent eyes; and all around his face she
had drawn the face of a girl many times, and beneath the faces of both
she was writing Manette and Julien.

The water was getting too deep for John Alloway.

He floundered towards the shore. \x93I\x92m no good at words,\x94 he said--\x93no
good at argyment; but I\x92ve got a gift for stories--round the fire of a
night, with a pipe and a tin basin of tea; so I\x92m not going to try and
match you. You\x92ve had a good education down at Winnipeg. Took every
prize, they say, and led the school, though there was plenty of fuss
because they let you do it, and let you stay there, being half-Indian.
You never heard what was going on outside, I s\x92pose. It didn\x92t matter,
for you won out. Blamed foolishness, trying to draw the line between red
and white that way. Of course, it\x92s the women always, always the women,
striking out for all-white or nothing. Down there at Portage they\x92ve
treated you mean, mean as dirt. The Reeve\x92s wife--well, we\x92ll fix that
up all right. I guess John Alloway ain\x92t to be bluffed. He knows too
much and they all know he knows enough. When John Alloway, 32 Main
Street, with a ranch on the Katanay, says, \x91We\x92re coming--Mr. and Mrs.
John Alloway is coming,\x92 they\x92ll get out their cards visite, I guess.\x94

Pauline\x92s head bent lower, and she seemed laboriously etching lines into
the faces before her--Manette and Julien, Julien and Manette; and there
came into her eyes the youth and light and gaiety of the days when
Julien came of an afternoon and the riverside rang with laughter; the
dearest, lightest days she had ever spent.

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

\x93I seen enough of the way some of them women treated you,\x94 he continued,
\x93and I sez to myself, Her turn next. There\x92s a way out, I sez, and John
Alloway pays his debts. When the anniversary comes round I\x92ll put things
right, I sez to myself. She saved my life, and she shall have the rest
of it, if she\x92ll take it, and will give a receipt in full, and open
a new account in the name of John and Pauline Alloway. Catch it?
See--Pauline?\x94

Slowly she got to her feet. There was a look in her eyes such as
had been in her mother\x92s a little while before, but a hundred times
intensified: a look that belonged to the flood and flow of generations
of Indian life, yet controlled in her by the order and understanding of
centuries of white men\x92s lives, the pervasive, dominating power of race.

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

\x93You want to pay a debt you think you owe,\x94 she said, in a strange,
lustreless voice, turning to him at last. \x93Well, you have paid it. You
have given me a book to read which I will keep always. And I give you a
receipt in full for your debt.\x94

\x93I don\x92t know about any book,\x94 he answered dazedly. \x93I want to marry you
right away.\x94

\x93I am sorry, but it is not necessary,\x94 she replied suggestively. Her
face was very pale now.

\x93But I want to. It ain\x92t a debt. That was only a way of putting it. I
want to make you my wife. I got some position, and I can make the West
sit up, and look at you and be glad.\x94

Suddenly her anger flared out, low and vivid and fierce, but her words
were slow and measured. \x93There is no reason why I should marry you--not
one. You offer me marriage as a prince might give a penny to a beggar.
If my mother were not an Indian woman, you would not have taken it all
as a matter of course. But my father was a white man, and I am a white
man\x92s daughter, and I would rather marry an Indian, who would think me
the best thing there was in the light of the sun, than marry you. Had I
been pure white you would not have been so sure, you would have asked,
not offered. I am not obliged to you. You ought to go to no woman as
you came to me. See, the storm has stopped. You will be quite safe going
back now. The snow will be deep, perhaps, but it is not far.\x94

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

\x93Say, I ain\x92t done it right, mebbe, but I meant well, and I\x92d be good to
you and proud of you, and I\x92d love you better than anything I ever saw,\x94
 he said shamefacedly, but eagerly and honestly too.

\x93Ah, you should have said those last words first,\x94 she answered.

\x93I say them now.\x94

\x93They come too late; but they would have been too late in any case,\x94 she
added. \x93Still, I am glad you said them.\x94

She opened the door for him.

\x93I made a mistake,\x94 he urged humbly. \x93I understand better now. I never
had any schoolin\x92.\x94

\x93Oh, it isn\x92t that,\x94 she answered gently. \x93Goodbye.\x94

Suddenly he turned. \x93You\x92re right--it couldn\x92t ever be,\x94 he said.
\x93You\x92re--you\x92re great. And I owe you my life still.\x94

He stepped out into the biting air.

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

Presently the door opened and her mother looked in eagerly. At what she
saw her face darkened and hardened for an instant, but then the girl\x92s
utter abandonment of grief and agony convinced and conquered her.
Some glimmer of the true understanding of the problem which Pauline
represented got into her heart, and drove the sullen selfishness from
her face and eyes and mind. She came over heavily and, sinking upon her
knees, swept an arm around the girl\x92s shoulder. She realised what had
happened, and probably this was the first time in her life that she had
ever come by instinct to a revelation of her daughter\x92s mind, or of the
faithful meaning of incidents of their lives.

\x93You said no to John Alloway,\x94 she murmured. Defiance and protest spoke
in the swift gesture of the girl\x92s hands. \x93You think because he was
white that I\x92d drop into his arms! No--no--no!\x94

\x93You did right, little one.\x94

The sobs suddenly stopped, and the girl seemed to listen with all her
body. There was something in her Indian mother\x92s voice she had never
heard before--at least, not since she was a little child, and swung in a
deer-skin hammock in a tamarac tree by Renton\x92s Lodge, where the chiefs
met, and the West paused to rest on its onward march. Something of the
accents of the voice that crooned to her then was in the woman\x92s tones
now.

\x93He offered it like a lump of sugar to a bird--I know. He didn\x92t know
that you have great blood--yes, but it is true. My man\x92s grandfather, he
was of the blood of the kings of England. My man had the proof. And for
a thousand years my people have been chiefs. There is no blood in all
the West like yours. My heart was heavy, and dark thoughts came to me,
because my man is gone, and the life is not my life, and I am only an
Indian woman from the Warais, and my heart goes out there always now.
But some great Medicine has been poured into my heart. As I stood at the
door and saw you lying there, I called to the Sun. \x91O great Spirit,\x92 I
said, \x91help me to understand; for this girl is bone of my bone and flesh
of my flesh, and Evil has come between us!\x92 And the Sun Spirit poured
the Medicine into my spirit, and there is no cloud between us now. It
has passed away, and I see. Little white one, the white life is the only
life, and I will live it with you till a white man comes and gives you
a white man\x92s home. But not John Alloway--shall the crow nest with the
oriole?\x94

As the woman spoke with slow, measured voice, full of the cadences of
a heart revealing itself, the girl\x92s breath at first seemed to stop, so
still she lay; then, as the true understanding of the words came to her,
she panted with excitement, her breast heaved, and the blood flushed
her face. When the slow voice ceased, and the room became still, she lay
quiet for a moment, letting the new thing find secure lodgment in her
thought; then, suddenly, she raised herself and threw her arms round her
mother in a passion of affection.

\x93Lalika! O mother Lalika!\x94 she said tenderly, and kissed her again
and again. Not since she was a little girl, long before they left the
Warais, had she called her mother by her Indian name, which her father
had humorously taught her to do in those far-off happy days by the
beautiful, singing river and the exquisite woods, when, with a bow and
arrow, she had ranged a young Diana who slew only with love.

\x93Lalika, mother Lalika, it is like the old, old times,\x94 she added
softly. \x93Ah, it does not matter now, for you understand!\x94

\x93I do not understand altogether,\x94 murmured the Indian woman gently. \x93I
am not white, and there is a different way of thinking; but I will hold
your hand, and we will live the white life together.\x94

Cheek to cheek they saw the darkness come, and, afterwards, the silver
moon steal up over a frozen world, in which the air bit like steel and
braced the heart like wine. Then, at last, before it was nine o\x92clock,
after her custom, the Indian woman went to bed, leaving her daughter
brooding peacefully by the fire.

For a long time Pauline sat with hands clasped in her lap, her gaze on
the tossing flames, in her heart and mind a new feeling of strength and
purpose. The way before her was not clear, she saw no further than this
day, and all that it had brought; yet she was as one that has crossed
a direful flood and finds herself on a strange shore in an unknown
country, with the twilight about her, yet with so much of danger passed
that there was only the thought of the moment\x92s safety round her, the
camp-fire to be lit, and the bed to be made under the friendly trees and
stars.

For a half-hour she sat so, and then, suddenly, she raised her head
listening, leaning towards the window, through which the moonlight
streamed. She heard her name called without, distinct and
strange--\x93Pauline! Pauline!\x94

Starting up, she ran to the door and opened it. All was silent and
cruelly cold. Nothing but the wide plain of snow and the steely air. But
as she stood intently listening, the red glow from the fire behind her,
again came the cry--\x93Pauline!\x94 not far away. Her heart beat hard, and
she raised her head and called--why was it she should call out in a
language not her own? \x93Qu\x92appelle? Qu\x92appelle?\x94

And once again on the still night air came the trembling
appeal--\x93Pauline!\x94

\x93Qu\x92appelle? Qu\x92appelle?\x94 she cried, then, with a gasping murmur of
understanding and recognition she ran forwards in the frozen night
towards the sound of the voice. The same intuitive sense which had made
her call out in French, without thought or reason, had revealed to her
who it was that called; or was it that even in the one word uttered
there was the note of a voice always remembered since those days with
Manette at Winnipeg?

Not far away from the house, on the way to Portage la Drome, but a
little distance from the road, was a crevasse, and towards this she
sped, for once before an accident had happened there. Again the voice
called as she sped--\x93Pauline!\x94 and she cried out that she was coming.
Presently she stood above the declivity, and peered over. Almost
immediately below her, a few feet down, was a man lying in the snow. He
had strayed from the obliterated road, and had fallen down the crevasse,
twisting his foot cruelly. Unable to walk he had crawled several hundred
yards in the snow, but his strength had given out, and then he had
called to the house, on whose dark windows flickered the flames of the
fire, the name of the girl he had come so far to see. With a cry of
joy and pain at once she recognised him now. It was as her heart had
said--it was Julien, Manette\x92s brother. In a moment she was beside him,
her arm around his shoulder.

\x93Pauline!\x94 he said feebly, and fainted in her arms. An instant later
she was speeding to the house, and, rousing her mother and two of the
stablemen, she snatched a flask of brandy from a cupboard and hastened
back.

An hour later Julien Labrosse lay in the great sitting-room beside the
fire, his foot and ankle bandaged, and at ease, his face alight with all
that had brought him there. And once again the Indian mother with a sure
instinct knew why he had come, and saw that now her girl would have a
white woman\x92s home, and, for her man, one of the race like her father\x92s
race, white and conquering.

\x93I\x92m sorry to give trouble,\x94 Julien said, laughing--he had a trick
of laughing lightly; \x93but I\x92ll be able to get back to the Portage
to-morrow.\x94

To this the Indian mother said, however: \x93To please yourself is a great
thing, but to please others is better; and so you will stay here till
you can walk back to the Portage, M\x92sieu\x92 Julien.\x94

\x93Well, I\x92ve never been so comfortable,\x94 he said--\x93never so--happy. If
you don\x92t mind the trouble!\x94 The Indian woman nodded pleasantly, and
found an excuse to leave the room. But before she went she contrived
to place near his elbow one of the scraps of paper on which Pauline had
drawn his face, with that of Manette. It brought a light of hope and
happiness into his eyes, and he thrust the paper under the fur robes of
the couch.

\x93What are you doing with your life?\x94 Pauline asked him, as his eyes
sought hers a few moments later.

\x93Oh, I have a big piece of work before me,\x94 he answered eagerly, \x93a
great chance--to build a bridge over the St. Lawrence, and I\x92m only
thirty! I\x92ve got my start. Then, I\x92ve made over the old Seigneury my
father left me, and I\x92m going to live in it. It will be a fine place,
when I\x92ve done with it--comfortable and big, with old oak timbers and
walls, and deep fireplaces, and carvings done in the time of Louis
Quinze, and dark red velvet curtains for the drawingroom, and skins and
furs. Yes, I must have skins and furs like these here.\x94 He smoothed the
skins with his hand.

\x93Manette, she will live with you?\x94 Pauline asked. \x93Oh no, her husband
wouldn\x92t like that. You see, Manette is to be married. She told me to
tell you all about it.\x94

He told her all there was to tell of Manette\x92s courtship, and added that
the wedding would take place in the spring.

\x93Manette wanted it when the leaves first flourish and the birds come
back,\x94 he said gaily; \x93and so she\x92s not going to live with me at the
Seigneury, you see. No, there it is, as fine a house, good enough for a
prince, and I shall be there alone, unless--\x94

His eyes met hers, and he caught the light that was in them, before the
eyelids drooped over them and she turned her head to the fire. \x93But the
spring is two months off yet,\x94 he added.

\x93The spring?\x94 she asked, puzzled, yet half afraid to speak.

\x93Yes, I\x92m going into my new house when Manette goes into her new
house--in the spring. And I won\x92t go alone if--\x94

He caught her eyes again, but she rose hurriedly and said: \x93You must
sleep now. Good-night.\x94 She held out her hand.

\x93Well, I\x92ll tell you the rest to-morrow-to-morrow night when it\x92s quiet
like this, and the stars shine,\x94 he answered. \x93I\x92m going to have a home
of my own like this--ah, bien sur, Pauline.\x94

That night the old Indian mother prayed to the Sun. \x93O great Spirit,\x94
 she said, \x93I give thanks for the Medicine poured into my heart. Be good
to my white child when she goes with her man to the white man\x92s home far
away. O great Spirit, when I return to the lodges of my people, be kind
to me, for I shall be lonely; I shall not have my child; I shall not
hear my white man\x92s voice. Give me good Medicine, O Sun and great
Father, till my dream tells me that my man comes from over the hills for
me once more.\x94



THE STAKE AND THE PLUMB-LINE

She went against all good judgment in marrying him; she cut herself off
from her own people, from the life in which she had been an alluring and
beautiful figure. Washington had never had two such seasons as those in
which she moved; for the diplomatic circle who had had \x93the run of the
world\x94 knew her value, and were not content without her. She might
have made a brilliant match with one ambassador thirty years older than
herself--she was but twenty-two; and there were at least six attaches
and secretaries of legation who entered upon a tournament for her heart
and hand; but she was not for them. All her fine faculties of tact and
fairness, of harmless strategy, and her gifts of wit and unexpected
humour were needed to keep her cavaliers constant and hopeful to the
last; but she never faltered, and she did not fail. The faces of old men
brightened when they saw her, and one or two ancient figures who, for
years, had been seldom seen at social functions now came when they knew
she was to be present. There were, of course, a few women who said she
would coquette with any male from nine to ninety; but no man ever said
so; and there was none, from first to last, but smiled with pleasure
at even the mention of her name, so had her vivacity, intelligence, and
fine sympathy conquered them. She was a social artist by instinct. In
their hearts they all recognised how fair and impartial she was; and she
drew out of every man the best that was in him. The few women who did
not like her said that she chattered; but the truth was she made other
people talk by swift suggestion or delicate interrogation.

After the blow fell, Freddy Hartzman put the matter succinctly, and told
the truth faithfully, when he said, \x93The first time I met her, I told
her all I\x92d ever done that could be told, and all I wanted to do;
including a resolve to carry her off to some desert place and set up
a Kingdom of Two. I don\x92t know how she did it. I was like a tap, and
poured myself out; and when it was all over, I thought she was the best
talker I\x92d ever heard. But yet she\x92d done nothing except look at me
and listen, and put in a question here and there, that was like a baby
asking to see your watch. Oh, she was a lily-flower, was Sally Seabrook,
and I\x92ve never been sorry I told her all my little story! It did me
good. Poor darling--it makes me sick sometimes when I think of it. Yet
she\x92ll win out all right--a hundred to one she\x92ll win out. She was a
star.\x94

Freddy Hartzman was in an embassy of repute; he knew the chancelleries
and salons of many nations, and was looked upon as one of the ablest and
shrewdest men in the diplomatic service. He had written one of the
best books on international law in existence, he talked English like a
native, he had published a volume of delightful verse, and had
omitted to publish several others, including a tiny volume which Sally
Seabrook\x92s charms had inspired him to write. His view of her was shared
by most men who knew the world, and especially by the elderly men who
had a real knowledge of human nature, among whom was a certain important
member of the United States executive called John Appleton. When the end
of all things at Washington came for Sally, these two men united to bear
her up, that her feet should not stumble upon the stony path of the hard
journey she had undertaken.

Appleton was not a man of much speech, but his words had weight; for he
was not only a minister; he came of an old family which had ruled
the social destinies of a state, and had alternately controlled and
disturbed its politics. On the day of the sensation, in the fiery cloud
of which Sally disappeared, Appleton delivered himself of his mind in
the matter at a reception given by the President.

\x93She will come back--and we will all take her back, be glad to have her
back,\x94 he said. \x93She has the grip of a lever which can lift the eternal
hills with the right pressure. Leave her alone--leave her alone. This is
a democratic country, and she\x92ll prove democracy a success before she\x92s
done.\x94

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

\x93There is no position you cannot occupy,\x94 he said. \x93You have the perfect
gift in private life, and you have a public gift. You have a genius for
ruling. Say, my dear, don\x92t wreck it all. I know you are not for me, but
there are better men in the country than I am. Hartzman will be a great
man one day--he wants you. Young Tilden wants you; he has millions, and
he will never disgrace them or you, the power which they can command,
and the power which you have. And there are others. Your people have
told you they will turn you off; the world will say things--will
rend you. There is nothing so popular for the moment as the fall of a
favourite. But that\x92s nothing--it\x92s nothing at all compared with the
danger to yourself. I didn\x92t sleep last night thinking of it. Yet I\x92m
glad you wrote me; it gave me time to think, and I can tell you the
truth as I see it. Haven\x92t you thought that he will drag you down,
down, down, wear out your soul, break and sicken your life, destroy your
beauty--you are beautiful, my dear, beyond what the world sees, even.
Give it up--ah, give it up, and don\x92t break our hearts! There are too
many people loving you for you to sacrifice them--and yourself, too....
You\x92ve had such a good time!\x94

\x93It\x92s been like a dream,\x94 she interrupted, in a faraway voice, \x93like a
dream, these two years.\x94

\x93And it\x92s been such a good dream,\x94 he urged; \x93and you will only go to a
bad one, from which you will never wake. The thing has fastened on him;
he will never give it up. And penniless, too--his father has cast him
off. My girl, it\x92s impossible. Listen to me. There\x92s no one on earth
that would do more for you than I would--no one.\x94

\x93Dear, dear friend!\x94 she cried with a sudden impulse, and caught his
hand in hers and kissed it before he could draw it back. \x93You are so
true, and you think you are right. But, but\x94--her eyes took on a
deep, steady, far-away look--\x93but I will save him; and we shall not be
penniless in the end. Meanwhile I have seven hundred dollars a year of
my own. No one can touch that. Nothing can change me now--and I have
promised.\x94

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

The step she took was to marry Jim Templeton, the drunken, cast-off son
of a millionaire senator from Kentucky, who controlled railways, and
owned a bank, and had so resented his son\x92s inebriate habits that for
five years he had never permitted Jim\x92s name to be mentioned in his
presence. Jim had had twenty thousand dollars left him by his mother,
and a small income of three hundred dollars from an investment which had
been made for him when a little boy. And this had carried him on; for,
drunken as he was, he had sense enough to eke out the money, limiting
himself to three thousand dollars a year. He had four thousand dollars
left, and his tiny income of three hundred, when he went to Sally
Seabrook, after having been sober for a month, and begged her to marry
him.

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

When Sally was fifteen and he twenty-two, he had fallen in love with
her and she with him; and nothing had broken the early romance. He had
captured her young imagination, and had fastened his image on her heart.
Her people, seeing the drift of things, had sent her to a school on
the Hudson, and the two did not meet for some time. Then came a stolen
interview, and a fastening of the rivets of attraction--for Jim had
gifts of a wonderful kind. He knew his Horace and Anacreon and Heine
and Lamartine and Dante in the originals, and a hundred others; he was
a speaker of power and grace; and he had a clear, strong head for
business. He was also a lawyer, and was junior attorney to his father\x92s
great business. It was because he had the real business gift, not
because he had a brilliant and scholarly mind, that his father had taken
him into his concerns, and was the more unforgiving when he gave way to
temptation. Otherwise, he would have pensioned Jim off, and dismissed
him from his mind as a useless, insignificant person; for Horace,
Anacreon, and philosophy and history were to him the recreations of the
feeble-minded. He had set his heart on Jim, and what Jim could do and
would do by and by in the vast financial concerns he controlled, when
he was ready to slip out and down; but Jim had disappointed him beyond
calculation.

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

In one of his sober intervals he had met Sally Seabrook in the street.
It was the first time in four years, for he had avoided her, and though
she had written to him once or twice, he had never answered her--shame
was in his heart. Yet all the time the old song was in Sally\x92s ears.
Jim Templeton had touched her in some distant and intimate corner of her
nature where none other had reached; and in all her gay life, when men
had told their tale of admiration in their own way, her mind had gone
back to Jim, and what he had said under the magnolia trees; and his
voice had drowned all others. She was not blind to what he had become,
but a deep belief possessed her that she, of all the world, could save
him. She knew how futile it would look to the world, how wild a dream
it looked even to her own heart, how perilous it was; but, play upon
the surface of things as she had done so much and so often in her brief
career, she was seized of convictions having origin, as it might seem,
in something beyond herself.

So when she and Jim met in the street, the old true thing rushed upon
them both, and for a moment they stood still and looked at each other.
As they might look who say farewell forever, so did each dwell upon the
other\x92s face. That was the beginning of the new epoch. A few days more,
and Jim came to her and said that she alone could save him; and she
meant him to say it, had led him to the saying, for the same conviction
was burned deep in her own soul. She knew the awful risk she was taking,
that the step must mean social ostracism, and that her own people would
be no kinder to her than society; but she gasped a prayer, smiled at Jim
as though all were well, laid her plans, made him promise her one thing
on his knees, and took the plunge.

Her people did as she expected. She was threatened with banishment from
heart and home--with disinheritance; but she pursued her course; and the
only person who stood with her and Jim at the altar was John Appleton,
who would not be denied, and who had such a half-hour with Jim before
the ceremony as neither of them forgot in the years that the locust ate
thereafter. And, standing at the altar, Jim\x92s eyes were still wet, with
new resolves in his heart and a being at his side meant for the best man
in the world. As he knelt beside her, awaiting the benediction, a sudden
sense of the enormity of this act came upon him, and for her sake he
would have drawn back then, had it not been too late. He realised that
it was a crime to put this young, beautiful life in peril; that his own
life was a poor, contemptible thing, and that he had been possessed of
the egotism of the selfish and the young.

But the thing was done, and a new life was begun. Before they were
launched upon it, however, before society had fully grasped the
sensation, or they had left upon their journey to northern Canada, where
Sally intended they should work out their problem and make their home,
far and free from all old associations, a curious thing happened. Jim\x92s
father sent an urgent message to Sally to come to him. When she came, he
told her she was mad, and asked her why she had thrown her life away.

\x93Why have you done it?\x94 he said. \x93You--you knew all about him; you might
have married the best man in the country. You could rule a kingdom; you
have beauty and power, and make people do what you want: and you\x92ve got
a sot.\x94

\x93He is your son,\x94 she answered quietly.

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

\x93He was my son--when he was a man,\x94 he retorted grimly.

\x93He is the son of the woman you once loved,\x94 she answered.

The old man turned his head away.

\x93What would she have said to what you did to Jim?\x94 He drew himself
around sharply. Her dagger had gone home, but he would not let her know
it.

\x93Leave her out of the question--she was a saint,\x94 he said roughly.

\x93She cannot be left out; nor can you. He got his temperament naturally;
he inherited his weakness from your grandfather, from her father. Do you
think you are in no way responsible?\x94

He was silent for a moment, but then said stubbornly: \x93Why--why have you
done it? What\x92s between him and me can\x92t be helped; we are father and
son; but you--you had no call, no responsibility.\x94

\x93I love Jim. I always loved him, ever since I can remember, as you did.
I see my way ahead. I will not desert him. No one cares what happens to
him, no one but me. Your love wouldn\x92t stand the test; mine will.\x94

\x93Your folks have disinherited you,--you have almost nothing, and I will
not change my mind. What do you see ahead of you?\x94

\x93Jim--only Jim--and God.\x94

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

Suddenly the old man brought his fist down on the table with a bang.
\x93It\x92s a crime--oh, it\x92s a crime, to risk your life so! You ought to have
been locked up. I\x92d have done it.\x94

\x93Listen to me,\x94 she rejoined quietly. \x93I know the risk. But do you think
that I could have lived my life out, feeling that I might have saved
Jim, and didn\x92t try? You talk of beauty and power and ruling--you say
what others have said to me. Which is the greater thing, to get what
pleases one, or to work for something which is more to one than all else
in the world? To save one life, one intellect, one great man--oh, he
has the making of a great man in him!--to save a soul, would not life be
well lost, would not love be well spent in doing it?\x94

\x93Love\x92s labour lost,\x94 said the old man slowly, cynically, but not
without emotion.

\x93I have ambition,\x94 she continued. \x93No girl was ever more ambitious, but
my ambition is to make the most and best of myself. Place?--Jim and I
will hold it yet. Power?--it shall be as it must be; but Jim and I will
work for it to fulfil ourselves. For me--ah, if I can save him--and
I mean to do so--do you think that I would not then have my heaven on
earth? You want money--money--money, power, and to rule; and these
are to you the best things in the world. I make my choice differently,
though I would have these other things if I could; and I hope I shall.
But Jim first--Jim first, your son, Jim--my husband, Jim.\x94

The old man got to his feet slowly. She had him at bay. \x93But you are
great,\x94 he said, \x93great! It is an awful stake--awful. Yet if you win,
you\x92ll have what money can\x92t buy. And listen to me. We\x92ll make the stake
bigger. It will give it point, too, in another way. If you keep Jim
sober for four years from the day of your marriage, on the last day
of that four years I\x92ll put in your hands for you and him, or for your
child--if you have one--five millions of dollars. I am a man of my word.
While Jim drinks I won\x92t take him back; he\x92s disinherited. I\x92ll give him
nothing now or hereafter. Save him for four years,--if he can do that he
will do all, and there\x92s five millions as sure as the sun\x92s in heaven.
Amen and amen.\x94

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

\x93Aren\x92t you going to kiss me?\x94 she said, looking at him whimsically.

He was disconcerted. She did not wait, but reached up and kissed him
on the cheek. \x93Good-by,\x94 she said with a smile. \x93We\x92ll win the stake.
Good-by.\x94

An instant, and she was gone. He shut the door, then turned and looked
in a mirror on the wall. Abstractedly he touched the cheek she had
kissed. Suddenly a change passed over his face. He dropped in a chair,
and his fist struck the table as he said: \x93By God, she may do it, she
may do it! But it\x92s life and death--it\x92s life and death.\x94

Society had its sensation, and then the veil dropped. For a long time
none looked behind it except Jim\x92s father. He had too much at stake not
to have his telescope upon them. A detective followed them to keep Jim\x92s
record. But this they did not know.


II

From the day they left Washington Jim put his life and his fate in his
wife\x92s hands. He meant to follow her judgment, and, self-willed and
strong in intellect as he was, he said that she should have a fair
chance of fulfilling her purpose. There had been many pour parlers as
to what Jim should do. There was farming. She set that aside, because
it meant capital, and it also meant monotony and loneliness; and capital
was limited, and monotony and loneliness were bad for Jim, deadening an
active brain which must not be deprived of stimulants--stimulants of a
different sort, however, from those which had heretofore mastered it.
There was the law. But Jim would have to become a citizen of Canada,
change his flag, and where they meant to go--to the outskirts--there
would be few opportunities for the law; and with not enough to do there
would be danger. Railway construction? That seemed good in many ways,
but Jim had not the professional knowledge necessary; his railway
experience with his father had only been financial. Above all else he
must have responsibility, discipline, and strict order in his life.

\x93Something that will be good for my natural vanity, and knock the
nonsense out of me,\x94 Jim agreed, as they drew farther and farther away
from Washington and the past, and nearer and nearer to the Far North and
their future. Never did two more honest souls put their hands in each
other\x92s, and set forth upon the thorniest path to a goal which was their
hearts\x92 desire. Since they had become one, there had come into Sally\x92s
face that illumination which belongs only to souls possessed of an idea
greater than themselves, outside themselves--saints, patriots; faces
which have been washed in the salt tears dropped for others\x92 sorrows,
and lighted by the fire of self-sacrifice. Sally Seabrook, the
high-spirited, the radiant, the sweetly wilful, the provoking, to
concentrate herself upon this narrow theme--to reconquer the lost
paradise of one vexed mortal soul!

What did Jim\x92s life mean?--It was only one in the millions coming and
going, and every man must work out his own salvation. Why should she
cramp her soul to this one issue, when the same soul could spend itself
upon the greater motives and in the larger circle? A wide world of
influence had opened up before her; position, power, adulation, could
all have been hers, as John Appleton and Jim\x92s father had said. She
might have moved in well-trodden ways, through gardens of pleasure,
lived a life where all would be made easy, where she would be shielded
at every turn, and her beauty would be flattered by luxury into a
constant glow. She was not so primitive, so unintellectual, as not to
have thought of this, else her decision would have had less importance;
she would have been no more than an infatuated emotional woman with a
touch of second class drama in her nature. She had thought of it all,
and she had made her choice. The easier course was the course for meaner
souls, and she had not one vein of thin blood nor a small idea in her
whole nature. She had a heart and mind for great issues. She believed
that Jim had a great brain, and would and could accomplish great things.
She knew that he had in him the strain of hereditary instinct--his
mother\x92s father had ended a brief life in a drunken duel on the
Mississippi, and Jim\x92s boyhood had never had discipline or direction,
or any strenuous order. He might never acquire order, and the power that
order and habit and the daily iteration of necessary thoughts and acts
bring; but the prospect did not appal her. She had taken the risk with
her eyes wide open; had set her own life and happiness in the hazard.
But Jim must be saved, must be what his talents, his genius, entitled
him to be. And the long game must have the long thought.

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

His face fell for a moment when she made the suggestion, but it cleared
presently, and he said with a dry laugh: \x93Well, I guess they must make
me a sergeant pretty quick. I\x92m a colonel in the Kentucky Carbineers!\x94

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

It happened as Jim said; he was made a sergeant at once--Sally managed
that; for, when it came to the point, and she saw the conditions in
which the privates lived, and realised that Jim must be one of them and
clean out the stables, and groom his horse and the officers\x92 horses,
and fetch and carry, her heart failed her, and she thought that she
was making her remedy needlessly heroical. So she went to see the
Commissioner, who was on a tour of scrutiny on their arrival at the
post, and, as better men than he had done in more knowing circles,
he fell under her spell. If she had asked for a lieutenancy, he would
probably have corrupted some member of Parliament into securing it for
Jim.

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

In time it was found that the troop never had a better disciplinarian
than Jim. He knew when to shut his eyes, and when to keep them open. To
non-essentials he kept his eyes shut; to essentials he kept them very
wide open. There were some men of good birth from England and elsewhere
among them, and these mostly understood him first. But they all
understood Sally from the beginning, and after a little they were glad
enough to be permitted to come, on occasion, to the five-roomed little
house near the barracks, and hear her talk, then answer her questions,
and, as men had done at Washington, open out their hearts to her. They
noticed, however, that while she made them barley-water, and all kinds
of soft drinks from citric acid, sarsaparilla and the like, and had one
special drink of her own invention, which she called cream-nectar, no
spirits were to be had. They also noticed that Jim never drank a drop
of liquor, and by and by, one way or another, they got a glimmer of the
real truth, before it became known who he really was or anything of his
story. And the interest in the two, and in Jim\x92s reformation, spread
through the country, while Jim gained reputation as the smartest man in
the force.

They were on the outskirts of civilisation; as Jim used to say, \x93One
step ahead of the procession.\x94 Jim\x92s duty was to guard the columns of
settlement and progress, and to see that every man got his own rights
and not more than his rights; that justice should be the plumb-line of
march and settlement. His principle was embodied in certain words which
he quoted once to Sally from the prophet Amos: \x93And the Lord said unto
me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline.\x94

On the day that Jim became a lieutenant his family increased by one. It
was a girl, and they called her Nancy, after Jim\x92s mother. It was the
anniversary of their marriage, and, so far, Jim had won, with what
fightings and strugglings and wrestlings of the spirit only Sally and
himself knew. And she knew as well as he, and always saw the storm
coming before it broke--a restlessness, then a moodiness, then a hungry,
eager, helpless look, and afterwards an agony of longing, a feverish
desire to break away and get the thrilling thing which would still the
demon within him.

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

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

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

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


III

\x93PLEASE, I want to go, too, Jim.\x94

Jim swung round and caught the child up in his arms. \x93Say, how dare you
call your father Jim--eh, tell me that?\x94

\x93It\x92s what mummy calls you--it\x92s pretty.\x94

\x93I don\x92t call her \x91mummy\x92 because you do, and you mustn\x92t call me Jim
because she does--do you hear?\x94 The whimsical face lowered a little,
then the rare and beautiful dark blue eyes raised slowly, shaded by the
long lashes, and the voice said demurely, \x93Yes--Jim.\x94

\x93Nancy--Nancy,\x94 said a voice from the corner in reproof, mingled with
suppressed laughter. \x93Nancy, you musn\x92t be saucy. You must say \x91father\x92
to--\x94

\x93Yes, mummy. I\x92ll say father to--Jim.\x94

\x93You imp--you imp of delight,\x94 said Jim, as he strained the dainty
little lass to his breast, while she appeared interested in a wave of
his black hair, which she curled around her finger.

Sally came forwards with the little parcel of sandwiches she had been
preparing, and put them in the saddle-bags lying on a chair at the
door, in readiness for the journey Jim was about to make. Her eyes were
glistening, and her face had a heightened colour. The three years
which had passed since she married had touched her not at all to her
disadvantage, rather to her profit. She looked not an hour older;
motherhood had only added to her charm, lending it a delightful gravity.
The prairie life had given a shining quality to her handsomeness, an air
of depth and firmness, an exquisite health and clearness to the colour
in her cheeks. Her step was as light as Nancy\x92s, elastic and buoyant--a
gliding motion which gave a sinuous grace to the movements of her
body. There had also come into her eyes a vigilance such as deaf people
possess, a sensitive observation imparting a deeper intelligence to the
face.

Here was the only change by which you could guess the story of her life.
Her eyes were like the ears of an anxious mother who can never sleep
till every child is abed; whose sense is quick to hear the faintest
footstep without or within; and who, as years go on, and her children
grow older and older, must still lie awake hearkening for the late
footstep on the stair. In Sally\x92s eyes was the story of the past three
years: of love and temptation and struggle, of watchfulness and yearning
and anxiety, of determination and an inviolable hope. Her eyes had a
deeper look than that in Jim\x92s. Now, as she gazed at him, the maternal
spirit rose up from the great well of protectiveness in her and engulfed
both husband and child. There was always something of the maternal in
her eyes when she looked at Jim. He did not see it--he saw only the
wonderful blue, and the humour which had helped him over such difficult
places these past three years. In steadying and strengthening Jim\x92s
will, in developing him from his Southern indolence into Northern
industry and sense of responsibility, John Appleton\x92s warnings had
rung in Sally\x92s ears, and Freddy Hartzman\x92s forceful and high-minded
personality had passed before her eyes with an appeal powerful and
stimulating; but always she came to the same upland of serene faith and
white-hearted resolve; and Jim became dearer and dearer.

The baby had done much to brace her faith in the future and comfort her
anxious present. The child had intelligence of a rare order. She would
lie by the half-hour on the floor, turning over the leaves of a book
without pictures, and, before she could speak, would read from the pages
in a language all her own. She made a fairy world for herself, peopled
by characters to whom she gave names, to whom she assigned curious
attributes and qualities. They were as real to her as though flesh and
blood, and she was never lonely, and never cried; and she had buried
herself in her father\x92s heart. She had drawn to her the roughest men in
the troop, and for old Sewell, the grim sergeant, she had a specially
warm place.

\x93You can love me if you like,\x94 she had said to him at the very start,
with the egotism of childhood; but made haste to add, \x93because I love
you, Gri-Gri.\x94 She called him Gri-Gri from the first, but they knew only
long afterwards that \x93gri-gri\x94 meant \x93grey-grey,\x94 to signify that she
called him after his grizzled hairs.

What she had been in the life-history of Sally and Jim they both knew.
Jim regarded her with an almost superstitious feeling. Sally was his
strength, his support, his inspiration, his bulwark of defence; Nancy
was the charm he wore about his neck--his mascot, he called her. Once,
when she was ill, he had suffered as he had never done before in his
life. He could not sleep nor eat, and went about his duties like one
in a dream. When his struggles against his enemy were fiercest, he
kept saying over her name to himself, as though she could help him. Yet
always it was Sally\x92s hand he held in the darkest hours, in his brutal
moments; for in this fight between appetite and will there are moments
when only the animal seems to exist, and the soul disappears in the
glare and gloom of the primal emotions. Nancy he called his \x93lucky
sixpence,\x94 but he called Sally his \x93guinea-girl.\x94

From first to last his whimsicality never deserted him. In his worst
hours, some innate optimism and humour held him steady in his fight. It
was not depression that possessed him at the worst, but the violence of
an appetite most like a raging pain which men may endure with a smile
upon their lips. He carried in his face the story of a conflict, the
aftermath of bitter experience; and through all there pulsed the glow
of experience. He had grown handsomer, and the graceful decision of his
figure, the deliberate certainty of every action, heightened the force
of a singular personality. As in the eyes of Sally, in his eyes was a
long reflective look which told of things overcome, and yet of dangers
present. His lips smiled often, but the eyes said: \x93I have lived, I have
seen, I have suffered, and I must suffer more. I have loved, I have been
loved under the shadow of the sword. Happiness I have had, and golden
hours, but not peace--never peace. My soul has need of peace.\x94

In the greater, deeper experience of their lives, the more material side
of existence had grown less and less to them. Their home was a model
of simple comfort and some luxury, though Jim had insisted that Sally\x92s
income should not be spent, except upon the child, and should be saved
for the child, their home being kept on his pay and on the tiny income
left by his mother. With the help of an Indian girl, and a half-breed
for outdoor work and fires and gardening, Sally had cared for the house
herself. Ingenious and tasteful, with a gift for cooking and an educated
hand, she had made her little home as pretty as their few possessions
would permit. Refinement covered all, and three or four-score books were
like so many friends to comfort her when Jim was away; like kind and
genial neighbours when he was at home. From Browning she had written
down in her long sliding handwriting, and hung up beneath Jim\x92s
looking-glass, the heartening and inspiring words:

     \x93One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward,
        Never doubted clouds would break,
     Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
     Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
        Sleep to wake.\x94

They had lived above the sordid, and there was something in the nature
of Jim\x92s life to help them to it. He belonged to a small handful of men
who had control over an empire, with an individual responsibility and
influence not contained in the scope of their commissions. It was a
matter of moral force and character, and of uniform, symbolical only of
the great power behind; of the long arm of the State; of the insistence
of the law, which did not rely upon force alone, but on the certainty of
its administration. In such conditions the smallest brain was bound to
expand, to take on qualities of judgment and temperateness which
would never be developed in ordinary circumstances. In the case of
Jim Templeton, who needed no stimulant to his intellect, but rather a
steadying quality, a sense of proportion, the daily routine, the command
of men, the diverse nature of his duties, half civil, half military,
the personal appeals made on all sides by the people of the country for
advice, for help, for settlement of disputes, for information which
his well-instructed mind could give--all these modified the romantic
brilliance of his intellect, made it and himself more human.

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

In all that he had changed a great deal. His heart was still the heart
of a boy, but his intellect had sobered, softened, ripened--even in this
secluded and seemingly unimportant life; as Sally had said and hoped it
would. Sally\x92s conviction had been right. But the triumph was not yet
achieved. She knew it. On occasion the tones of his voice told her, the
look that came into his eyes proclaimed it to her, his feverishness and
restlessness made it certain. How many a night had she thrown her arm
over his shoulder, and sought his hand and held it while in the dark
silence, wide-eyed, dry-lipped, and with a throat like fire he had held
himself back from falling. There was liquor in the house--the fight
would not have been a fight without it. She had determined that he
should see his enemy and meet him in the plains and face him down; and
he was never many feet away from his possible disaster. Yet for long
over three years all had gone well. There was another year. Would he
last out the course?

At first the thought of the great stake for which she was playing in
terms of currency, with the head of Jim\x92s father on every note, was much
with her. The amazing nature of the offer of five millions of dollars
stimulated her imagination, roused her; gold coins are counters in the
game of success, signs and tokens. Money alone could not have lured her;
but rather what it represented--power, width of action, freedom to help
when the heart prompted, machinery for carrying out large plans, ability
to surround with advantage those whom we love. So, at first, while
yet the memories of Washington were much with her, the appeal of the
millions was strong. The gallant nature of the contest and the great
stake braced her; she felt the blood quicken in her pulse.

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

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

She had never repented having married Jim; but twice in those three
years she had broken down and wept as though her heart would break.
There were times when Jim\x92s nerves were shaken in his struggle against
the unseen foe, and he had spoken to her querulously, almost sharply.
Yet in her tears there was no reproach for him, rather for herself--the
fear that she might lose her influence over him, that she could not
keep him close to her heart, that he might drift away from her in the
commonplaces and monotony of work and domestic life. Everything so
depended on her being to him not only the one woman for whom he cared,
but the woman without whom he could care for nothing else.

\x93Oh, my God, give me his love,\x94 she had prayed. \x93Let me keep it yet a
little while. For his sake, not for my own, let me have the power to
hold his love. Make my mind always quiet, and let me blow neither hot
nor cold. Help me to keep my temper sweet and cheerful, so that he will
find the room empty where I am not, and his footsteps will quicken when
he comes to the door. Not for my sake, dear God, but for his, or my
heart will break--it will break unless Thou dost help me to hold him. O
Lord, keep me from tears; make my face happy that I may be goodly to his
eyes, and forgive the selfishness of a poor woman who has little, and
would keep her little and cherish it, for Christ\x92s sake.\x94

Twice had she poured out her heart so, in the agony of her fear that
she should lose favour in Jim\x92s sight--she did not know how alluring she
was, in spite of the constant proofs offered her. She had had her will
with all who came her way, from governor to Indian brave. Once, in a
journey they had made far north, soon after they came, she had stayed
at a Hudson\x92s Bay Company\x92s post for some days, while there came news
of restlessness among the Indians, because of lack of food, and Jim had
gone farther north to steady the tribes, leaving her with the factor and
his wife and a halfbreed servant.

While she and the factor\x92s wife were alone in the yard of the post one
day, an Indian--chief, Arrowhead, in warpaint and feathers, entered
suddenly, brandishing a long knife. He had been drinking, and there was
danger in his black eyes. With a sudden inspiration she came forward
quickly, nodded and smiled to him, and then pointed to a grindstone
standing in the corner of the yard. As she did so, she saw Indians
crowding into the gate armed with knives, guns, bows, and arrows. She
beckoned to Arrowhead, and he followed her to the grindstone. She
poured some water on the wheel and began to turn it, nodding at the now
impassive Indian to begin. Presently he nodded also, and put his knife
on the stone. She kept turning steadily, singing to herself the while,
as with anxiety she saw the Indians drawing closer and closer in from
the gate. Faster and faster she turned, and at last the Indian lifted
his knife from the stone. She reached out her hand with simulated
interest, felt the edge with her thumb, the Indian looking darkly at her
the while. Presently, after feeling the edge himself, he bent over the
stone again, and she went on turning the wheel still singing softly. At
last he stopped again and felt the edge. With a smile which showed her
fine white teeth, she said, \x93Is that for me?\x94 making a significant sign
across her throat at the same time.

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

\x93I go hunt Yellow Hawk to-night,\x94 he said. \x93I go fight; I like marry you
when I come back. How!\x94 he said and turned away towards the gate.

Some of his braves held back, the blackness of death in their looks.
He saw. \x93My knife is sharp,\x94 he said. \x93The woman is brave. She shall
live--go and fight Yellow Hawk, or starve and die.\x94

Divining their misery, their hunger, and the savage thought that had
come to them, Sally had whispered to the factor\x92s wife to bring food,
and the woman now came running out with two baskets full, and returned
for more. Sally ran forward among the Indians and put the food into
their hands. With grunts of satisfaction they seized what she gave, and
thrust it into their mouths, squatting on the ground. Arrowhead looked
on stern and immobile, but when at last she and the factor\x92s wife sat
down before the braves with confidence and an air of friendliness, he
sat down also; yet, famished as he was, he would not touch the food. At
last Sally, realising his proud defiance of hunger, offered him a little
lump of pemmican and a biscuit, and with a grunt he took it from her
hands and ate it. Then, at his command a fire was lit, the pipe of peace
was brought out, and Sally and the factor\x92s wife touched their lips to
it, and passed it on.

So was a new treaty of peace and loyalty made with Arrowhead and
his tribe by a woman without fear, whose life had seemed not worth a
minute\x92s purchase; and, as the sun went down, Arrowhead and his men went
forth to make war upon Yellow Hawk beside the Nettigon River. In this
wise had her influence spread in the land.

        .......................

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

\x93Oh, Jim,\x94 she said playfully, \x93you are getting muscles like steel. You
hadn\x92t these when you were colonel of the Kentucky Carbineers!\x94

\x93I guess I need them now,\x94 he said, smiling, and with the child still in
his arms drew her to a window looking northward. As far as the eye could
see, nothing but snow, like a blanket spread over the land. Here and
there in the wide expanse a tree silhouetted against the sky, a tracery
of eccentric beauty, and off in the far distance a solitary horseman
riding towards the postriding hard.

\x93It was root, hog, or die with me, Sally,\x94 he continued, \x93and I rooted
... I wonder--that fellow on the horse--I have a feeling about him. See,
he\x92s been riding hard and long-you can tell by the way the horse drops
his legs. He sags a bit himself.... But isn\x92t it beautiful, all that out
there--the real quintessence of life.\x94

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

\x93You had a big thought when you brought me here, guinea-girl,\x94 he added
presently. \x93We are going to win out here\x94--he set the child down--\x93you
and I and this lucky sixpence.\x94 He took up his short fur coat. \x93Yes,
we\x92ll win, honey.\x94 Then, with a brooding look in his face, he added:

       \x93\x91The end comes as came the beginning,
        And shadows fail into the past;
        And the goal, is it not worth the winning,
        If it brings us but home at the last?

       \x93\x91While far through the pain of waste places
        We tread, \x91tis a blossoming rod
        That drives us to grace from disgraces,
        From the fens to the gardens of God!\x92\x94

He paused reflectively. \x93It\x92s strange that this life up here makes you
feel that you must live a bigger life still, that this is only the wide
porch to the great labour-house--it makes you want to do things. Well,
we\x92ve got to win the stake first,\x94 he added with a laugh.

\x93The stake is a big one, Jim--bigger than you think.\x94

\x93You and her and me--me that was in the gutter.\x94

\x93What is the gutter, dadsie?\x94 asked Nancy.

\x93The gutter--the gutter is where the dish-water goes, midget,\x94 he
answered with a dry laugh.

\x93Oh, I don\x92t think you\x92d like to be in the gutter,\x94 Nancy said solemnly.

\x93You have to get used to it first, miss,\x94 answered Jim. Suddenly Sally
laid both hands on Jim\x92s shoulders and looked him in the eyes. \x93You must
win the stake Jim. Think--now!\x94

She laid a hand on the head of the child. He did not know that he was
playing for a certain five millions, perhaps fifty millions, of dollars.
She had never told him of his father\x92s offer. He was fighting only for
salvation, for those he loved, for freedom. As they stood there,
the conviction had come upon her that they had come to the last
battle-field, that this journey which Jim now must take would decide
all, would give them perfect peace or lifelong pain. The shadow of
battle was over them, but he had no foreboding, no premonition; he had
never been so full of spirits and life.

To her adjuration Jim replied by burying his face in her golden hair,
and he whispered: \x93Say, I\x92ve done near four years, my girl. I think I\x92m
all right now--I think. This last six months, it\x92s been easy--pretty
fairly easy.\x94

\x93Four months more, only four months more--God be good to us!\x94 she said
with a little gasp.

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

\x93I saw a woman get an awful fall once,\x94 Jim said suddenly. \x93Her bones
were broken in twelve places, and there wasn\x92t a spot on her body
without injury. They set and fixed up every broken bone except one. It
was split down. They didn\x92t dare perform the operation; she couldn\x92t
stand it. There was a limit to pain, and she had reached the boundary.
Two years went by, and she got better every way, but inside her leg
those broken pieces of bone were rubbing against each other. She tried
to avoid the inevitable operation, but nature said, \x91You must do it, or
die in the end.\x92 She yielded. Then came the long preparations for the
operation. Her heart shrank, her mind got tortured. She\x92d suffered
too much. She pulled herself together, and said, \x91I must conquer this
shrinking body of mine, by my will. How shall I do it?\x92 Something within
her said, \x91Think and do for others. Forget yourself.\x92 And so, as they
got her ready for her torture, she visited hospitals, agonised cripple
as she was, and smiled and talked to the sick and broken, telling them
of her own miseries endured and dangers faced, of the boundary of human
suffering almost passed; and so she got her courage for her own trial.
And she came out all right in the end. Well, that\x92s the way I\x92ve felt
sometimes. But I\x92m ready for my operation now whenever it comes, and
it\x92s coming, I know. Let it come when it must.\x94 He smiled. There came
a knock at the door, and presently Sewell entered. \x93The Commissioner
wishes you to come over, sir,\x94 he said.

\x93I was just coming, Sewell. Is all ready for the start?\x94

\x93Everything\x92s ready, sir, but there\x92s to be a change of orders.
Something\x92s happened--a bad job up in the Cree country, I think.\x94

A few minutes later Jim was in the Commissioner\x92s office. The murder of
a Hudson\x92s Bay Company\x92s man had been committed in the Cree country.
The stranger whom Jim and Sally had seen riding across the plains
had brought the news for thirty miles, word of the murder having been
carried from point to point. The Commissioner was uncertain what to do,
as the Crees were restless through want of food and the absence of game,
and a force sent to capture Arrowhead, the chief who had committed the
murder, might precipitate trouble. Jim solved the problem by offering to
go alone and bring the chief into the post. It was two hundred miles to
the Cree encampment, and the journey had its double dangers.

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


IV

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

For hours the struggle for the murderer went on, a struggle of mind over
inferior mind and matter. Arrowhead was a chief whose will had never
been crossed by his own people, and to master that will by a superior
will, to hold back the destructive force which, to the ignorant minds
of the braves, was only a natural force of defence, meant a task needing
more than authority behind it. For the very fear of that authority put
in motion was an incentive to present resistance to stave off the day
of trouble. The faces that surrounded Jim were thin with hunger, and
the murder that had been committed by the chief had, as its origin, the
foolish replies of the Hudson\x92s Bay Company\x92s man to their demand for
supplies. Arrowhead had killed him with his own hand.

But Jim Templeton was of a different calibre. Although he had not been
told it, he realised that, indirectly, hunger was the cause of the crime
and might easily become the cause of another; for their tempers were
sharper even than their appetites. Upon this he played; upon this he
made an exhortation to the chief. He assumed that Arrowhead had become
violent, because of his people\x92s straits, that Arrowhead\x92s heart yearned
for his people and would make sacrifice for them. Now, if Arrowhead came
quietly, he would see that supplies of food were sent at once, and that
arrangements were made to meet the misery of their situation. Therefore,
if Arrowhead came freely, he would have so much in his favour before his
judges; if he would not come quietly, then he must be brought by force;
and if they raised a hand to prevent it, then destruction would fall
upon all--all save the women and children. The law must be obeyed. They
might try to resist the law through him, but, if violence was shown, he
would first kill Arrowhead, and then destruction would descend like
a wind out of the north, darkness would swallow them, and their bones
would cover the plains.

As he ended his words a young brave sprang forwards with hatchet raised.
Jim\x92s revolver slipped down into his palm from his sleeve, and a bullet
caught the brave in the lifted arm. The hatchet dropped to the ground.

Then Jim\x92s eyes blazed, and he turned a look of anger on the chief, his
face pale and hard, as he said: \x93The stream rises above the banks; come
with me, chief, or all will drown. I am master, and I speak. Ye are
hungry because ye are idle. Ye call the world yours, yet ye will not
stoop to gather from the earth the fruits of the earth. Ye sit idle
in the summer, and women and children die round you when winter comes.
Because the game is gone, ye say. Must the world stand still because a
handful of Crees need a hunting-ground? Must the makers of cities and
the wonders of the earth, who fill the land with plenty--must they stand
far off, because the Crees and their chief would wander over millions of
acres, for each man a million, when by a hundred, ay, by ten, each white
man would live in plenty, and make the land rejoice. See. Here is the
truth. When the Great Spirit draws the game away so that the hunting is
poor, ye sit down and fill your hearts with murder, and in the blackness
of your thoughts kill my brother. Idle and shiftless and evil ye are,
while the earth cries out to give you of its plenty, a great harvest
from a little seed, if ye will but dig and plant, and plough and sow and
reap, and lend your backs to toil. Now hear and heed. The end is come.

\x93For this once ye shall be fed--by the blood of my heart, ye shall
be fed! And another year ye shall labour, and get the fruits of your
labour, and not stand waiting, as it were, till a fish shall pass the
spear, or a stag water at your door, that ye may slay and eat. The end
is come, ye idle men. O chief, harken! One of your braves would have
slain me, even as you slew my brother--he one, and you a thousand. Speak
to your people as I have spoken, and then come and answer for the deed
done by your hand. And this I say that right shall be done between men
and men. Speak.\x94

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

\x93The white man speaks truth, and I will go,\x94 he said. \x93I shall return,\x94
 he continued, \x93if it be written so upon the leaves of the Tree of Life;
and if it be not so written, I shall fade like a mist, and the tepees
will know me not again. The days of my youth are spent, and my step no
longer springs from the ground. I shuffle among the grass and the fallen
leaves, and my eyes scarce know the stag from the doe. The white man is
master--if he wills it we shall die, if he wills it we shall live. And
this was ever so. It is in the tale of our people. One tribe ruled, and
the others were their slaves. If it is written on the leaves of the Tree
of Life that the white man rule us for ever, then it shall be so. I have
spoken. Now, behold I go.\x94

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

A hundred miles of sun and fair weather, sleeping at night in the open
in a trench dug in the snow, no fear in the thoughts of Jim, nor evil in
the heart of the heathen man. There had been moments of watchfulness, of
uncertainty, on Jim\x92s part, the first few hours of the first night after
they left the Cree reservation; but the conviction speedily came to Jim
that all was well; for the chief slept soundly from the moment he lay
down in his blankets between the dogs. Then Jim went to sleep as in his
own bed, and, waking, found Arrowhead lighting a fire from a little load
of sticks from the sledges. And between murderer and captor there sprang
up the companionship of the open road which brings all men to a certain
land of faith and understanding, unless they are perverted and vile.
There was no vileness in Arrowhead. There were no handcuffs on his
hands, no sign of captivity; they two ate out of the same dish, drank
from the same basin, broke from the same bread. The crime of Arrowhead,
the gallows waiting for him, seemed very far away. They were only two
silent travellers, sharing the same hardship, helping to give material
comfort to each other--in the inevitable democracy of those far places,
where small things are not great nor great things small; where into
men\x92s hearts comes the knowledge of the things that matter; where, from
the wide, starry sky, from the august loneliness, and the soul of the
life which has brooded there for untold generations, God teaches the
values of this world and the next.

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

In the awful struggle between man and nature that followed, the captive
became the leader. The craft of the plains, the inherent instinct, the
feeling which was more than eyesight became the only hope. One whole
day to cover ten miles--an endless path of agony, in which Jim went down
again and again, but came up blinded by snow and drift, and cut as with
lashes by the angry wind. At the end of the ten miles was a Hudson\x92s Bay
Company\x92s post and safety; and through ten hours had the two struggled
towards it, going off at tangents, circling on their own tracks; but the
Indian, by an instinct as sure as the needle to the pole, getting
the direction to the post again, in the moments of direst peril and
uncertainty. To Jim the world became a sea of maddening forces which
buffeted him; a whirlpool of fire in which his brain was tortured, his
mind was shrivelled up; a vast army rending itself, each man against
the other. It was a purgatory of music, broken by discords; and then at
last--how sweet it all was, after the eternity of misery--\x93Church bells
and voices low,\x94 and Sally singing to him, Nancy\x92s voice calling! Then,
nothing but sleep--sleep, a sinking down millions of miles in an ether
of drowsiness which thrilled him; and after--no more.

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

How Arrowhead found the post in the mad storm he could never have told.
Yet he found it, with Jim unconscious on the sledge and with limbs
frozen, all the dogs gone but two, the leathers over the Indian\x92s
shoulders as he fell against the gate of the post with a shrill cry that
roused the factor and his people within, together with Sergeant Sewell,
who had been sent out from headquarters to await Jim\x92s arrival there. It
was Sewell\x92s hand which first felt Jim\x92s heart and pulse, and found that
there was still life left, even before it could be done by the doctor
from headquarters, who had come to visit a sick man at the post.

For hours they worked with snow upon the frozen limbs to bring back life
and consciousness. Consciousness came at last with half delirium, half
understanding; as emerging from the passing sleep of anaesthetics, the
eye sees things and dimly registers them, before the brain has set them
in any relation to life or comprehension.

But Jim was roused at last, and the doctor presently held to his lips
a glass of brandy. Then from infinite distance Jim\x92s understanding
returned; the mind emerged, but not wholly, from the chaos in which it
was travelling. His eyes stood out in eagerness.

\x93Brandy! brandy!\x94 he said hungrily.

With an oath Sewell snatched the glass from the doctor\x92s hand, put it
on the table, then stooped to Jim\x92s ear and said hoarsely:
\x93Remember--Nancy. For God\x92s sake, sir, don\x92t drink.\x94

Jim\x92s head fell back, the fierce light went out of his eyes, the face
became greyer and sharper. \x93Sally--Nancy--Nancy,\x94 he whispered, and his
fingers clutched vaguely at the quilt.

\x93He must have brandy or he will die. The system is pumped out. He must
be revived,\x94 said the doctor. He reached again for the glass of spirits.

Jim understood now. He was on the borderland between life and death; his
feet were at the brink. \x93No--not--brandy, no!\x94 he moaned. \x93Sally-Sally,
kiss me,\x94 he said faintly, from the middle world in which he was.

\x93Quick, the broth!\x94 said Sewell to the factor, who had been preparing
it. \x93Quick, while there\x92s a chance.\x94 He stooped and called into Jim\x92s
ear: \x93For the love of God, wake up, sir. They\x92re coming--they\x92re both
coming--Nancy\x92s coming. They\x92ll soon be here.\x94 What matter that he lied,
a life was at stake.

Jim\x92s eyes opened again. The doctor was standing with the brandy in
his hand. Half madly Jim reached out. \x93I must live until they come,\x94
 he cried; \x93the brandy--give it me! Give it--ah, no, no, I must not!\x94 he
added, gasping, his lips trembling, his hands shaking.

Sewell held the broth to his lips. He drank a little, yet his face
became greyer and greyer; a bluish tinge spread about his mouth.

\x93Have you nothing else, sir?\x94 asked Sewell in despair. The doctor put
down the brandy, went quickly to his medicine-case, dropped into a glass
some liquid from a phial, came over again, and poured a little between
the lips; then a little more, as Jim\x92s eyes opened again; and at last
every drop in the glass trickled down the sinewy throat.

Presently as they watched him the doctor said: \x93It will not do. He must
have brandy. It has life-food in it.\x94

Jim understood the words. He knew that if he drank the brandy the
chances against his future were terrible. He had made his vow, and he
must keep it. Yet the thirst was on him; his enemy had him by the throat
again, was dragging him down. Though his body was so cold, his throat
was on fire. But in the extremity of his strength his mind fought
on--fought on, growing weaker every moment. He was having his last
fight. They watched him with an aching anxiety, and there was anger in
the doctor\x92s face. He had no patience with these forces arrayed against
him.

At last the doctor whispered to Sewell: \x93It\x92s no use; he must have the
brandy, or he can\x92t live an hour.\x94

Sewell weakened; the tears fell down his rough, hard cheeks. \x93It\x92ll ruin
him-it\x92s ruin or death.\x94

\x93Trust a little more in God, and in the man\x92s strength. Let us give him
the chance. Force it down his throat--he\x92s not responsible,\x94 said the
physician, to whom saving life was more than all else.

Suddenly there appeared at the bedside Arrowhead, gaunt and weak, his
face swollen, the skin of it broken by the whips of storm.

\x93He is my brother,\x94 he said, and, stooping, laid both hands, which he
had held before the fire for a long time, on Jim\x92s heart. \x93Take his
feet, his hands, his, legs, and his head in your hands,\x94 he said to them
all. \x93Life is in us; we will give him life.\x94

He knelt down and kept both hands on Jim\x92s heart, while the others, even
the doctor, awed by his act, did as they were bidden. \x93Shut your eyes.
Let your life go into him. Think of him, and him alone. Now!\x94 said
Arrowhead in a strange voice.

He murmured, and continued murmuring, his body drawing closer and closer
to Jim\x92s body, while in the deep silence, broken only by the chanting
of his low monotonous voice, the others pressed Jim\x92s hands and head and
feet and legs--six men under the command of a heathen murderer.

The minutes passed. The colour came back to Jim\x92s face, the skin of his
hands filled up, they ceased twitching, his pulse got stronger, his eyes
opened with a new light in them.

\x93I\x92m living, anyhow,\x94 he said at last with a faint smile. \x93I\x92m
hungry--broth, please.\x94

The fight was won, and Arrowhead, the pagan murderer, drew over to the
fire and crouched down beside it, his back to the bed, impassive and
still. They brought him a bowl of broth and bread, which he drank
slowly, and placed the empty bowl between his knees. He sat there
through the night, though they tried to make him lie down.

As the light came in at the windows, Sewell touched him on the shoulder,
and said: \x93He is sleeping now.\x94

\x93I hear my brother breathe,\x94 answered Arrowhead. \x93He will live.\x94

All night he had listened, and had heard Jim\x92s breath as only a man who
has lived in waste places can hear. \x93He will live. What I take with one
hand I give with the other.\x94

He had taken the life of the factor; he had given Jim his life. And when
he was tried three months later for murder, some one else said this for
him, and the hearts of all, judge and jury, were so moved they knew not
what to do.

But Arrowhead was never sentenced, for, at the end of the first day\x92s
trial, he lay down to sleep and never waked again. He was found the next
morning still and cold, and there was clasped in his hands a little doll
which Nancy had given him on one of her many visits to the prison during
her father\x92s long illness. They found a piece of paper in his belt with
these words in the Cree language: \x93With my hands on his heart at the
post I gave him the life that was in me, saving but a little until now.
Arrowhead, the chief, goes to find life again by the well at the root of
the tree. How!\x94


V

On the evening of the day that Arrowhead made his journey to \x93the well
at the root of the tree\x94 a stranger knocked at the door of Captain
Templeton\x92s cottage; then, without awaiting admittance, entered.

Jim was sitting with Nancy on his knee, her head against his shoulder,
Sally at his side, her face alight with some inner joy. Before the knock
came to the door Jim had just said, \x93Why do your eyes shine so, Sally?
What\x92s in your mind?\x94 She had been about to answer, to say to him what
had been swelling her heart with pride, though she had not meant to
tell him what he had forgotten--not till midnight. But the figure that
entered the room, a big man with deep-set eyes, a man of power who had
carried everything before him in the battle of life, answered for her.

\x93You have won the stake, Jim,\x94 he said in a hoarse voice. \x93You and she
have won the stake, and I\x92ve brought it--brought it.\x94

Before they could speak he placed in Sally\x92s hands bonds for five
million dollars.

\x93Jim--Jim, my son!\x94 he burst out. Then, suddenly, he sank into a chair
and, putting his head in his hands, sobbed aloud.

\x93My God, but I\x92m proud of you--speak to me, Jim. You\x92ve broken me up.\x94
 He was ashamed of his tears, but he could not wipe them away.

\x93Father, dear old man!\x94 said Jim, and put his hands on the broad
shoulders.

Sally knelt down beside him, took both the great hands from the
tear-stained face, and laid them against her cheek. But presently she
put Nancy on his knees.

\x93I don\x92t like you to cry,\x94 the child said softly; \x93but to-day I cried
too, \x91cause my Indian man is dead.\x94

The old man could not speak, but he put his cheek down to hers. After
a minute, \x93Oh, but she\x92s worth ten times that!\x94 he said as Sally came
close to him with the bundle he had thrust into her hands.

\x93What is it?\x94 said Jim.

\x93It\x92s five million dollars--for Nancy,\x94 she said. \x93Five-million--what?\x94

\x93The stake, Jim,\x94 said Sally. \x93If you did not drink for four
years--never touched a drop--we were to have five million dollars.\x94

\x93You never told him, then--you never told him that?\x94 asked the old man.

\x93I wanted him to win without it,\x94 she said. \x93If he won, he would be the
stronger; if he lost, it would not be so hard for him to bear.\x94

The old man drew her down and kissed her cheek. He chuckled, though the
tears were still in his eyes. \x93You are a wonder--the tenth wonder of the
world!\x94 he declared.

Jim stood staring at the bundle in Nancy\x92s hands. \x93Five millions--five
million dollars!\x94--he kept saying to himself.

\x93I said Nancy\x92s worth ten times that, Jim.\x94 The old man caught his hand
and pressed it. \x93But it was a damned near thing, I tell you,\x94 he added.
\x93They tried to break me and my railways and my bank. I had to fight
the combination, and there was one day when I hadn\x92t that five million
dollars there, nor five. Jim, they tried to break the old man. And if
they\x92d broken me, they\x92d have made me out a scoundrel to her--to this
wife of yours who risked everything for both of us, for both of us, Jim;
for she\x92d given up the world to save you, and she was playing like a
soul in Hell for Heaven. If they\x92d broken me, I\x92d never have lifted my
head again. When things were at their worst I played to save that five
millions,--her stake and mine,--I played for that. I fought for it as a
man fights his way out of a burning house. And I won--I won. And it was
by fighting for that five millions I saved fifty--fifty millions, son.
They didn\x92t break the old man, Jim. They didn\x92t break him--not much.\x94

\x93There are giants in the world still,\x94 said Jim, his own eyes full.
He knew now his father and himself, and he knew the meaning of all the
bitter and misspent life of the old days. He and his father were on a
level of understanding at last.

\x93Are you a giant?\x94 asked Nancy, peering up into her grandfather\x92s eyes.

The old man laughed, then sighed. \x93Perhaps I was once, more or less, my
dear--\x94 saying to her what he meant for the other two. \x93Perhaps I was;
but I\x92ve finished. I\x92m through. I\x92ve had my last fight.\x94

He looked at his son. \x93I pass the game on to you, Jim. You can do it.
I knew you could do it as the reports came in this year. I\x92ve had a
detective up here for four years. I had to do it. It was the devil in
me.

\x93You\x92ve got to carry on the game, Jim; I\x92m done. I\x92ll stay home and
potter about. I want to go back to Kentucky, and build up the old place,
and take care of it a bit-your mother always loved it. I\x92d like to have
it as it was when she was there long ago. But I\x92ll be ready to help you
when I\x92m wanted, understand.\x94

\x93You want me to run things--your colossal schemes? You think--?\x94

\x93I don\x92t think. I\x92m old enough to know.\x94



WHEN THE SWALLOWS HOMEWARD FLY

The arrogant sun had stalked away into the evening, trailing behind him
banners of gold and crimson, and a swift twilight was streaming over the
land. As the sun passed, the eyes of two men on a high hill followed it,
and the look of one was like a light in a window to a lost traveller.
It had in it the sense of home and the tale of a journey done. Such
a journey this man had made as few have ever attempted, and fewer
accomplished. To the farthermost regions of snow and ice, where the
shoulder of a continent juts out into the northwestern Arctic seas,
he had travelled on foot and alone, save for his dogs, and for Indian
guides, who now and then shepherded him from point to point. The vast
ice-hummocks had been his housing, pemmican, the raw flesh of fish, and
even the fat and oil of seals had been his food. Ever and ever through
long months the everlasting white glitter of the snow and ice, ever and
ever the cold stars, the cloudless sky, the moon at full, or swung like
a white sickle in the sky to warn him that his life must be mown like
grass. At night to sleep in a bag of fur and wool, by day the steely
wind, or the air shaking with a filmy powder of frost; while the
illimitably distant sun made the tiny flakes sparkle like silver--a
poudre day, when the face and hands are most like to be frozen, and all
so still and white and passionless, yet aching with energy. Hundreds
upon hundreds of miles that endless trail went winding to the farthest
North-west. No human being had ever trod its lengths before, though
Indians or a stray Hudson\x92s Bay Company man had made journeys over part
of it during the years that have passed since Prince Rupert sent his
adventurers to dot that northern land with posts and forts, and trace
fine arteries of civilisation through the wastes.

Where this man had gone none other had been of white men from the
Western lands, though from across the wide Pacific, from the Eastern
world, adventurers and exiles had once visited what is now known as the
Yukon Valley. So this man, browsing in the library of his grandfather,
an Eastern scholar, had come to know; and for love of adventure, and
because of the tale of a valley of gold and treasure to be had, and
because he had been ruined by bad investments, he had made a journey
like none ever essayed before. And on his way up to those regions, where
the veil before the face of God is very thin and fine, and men\x92s hearts
glow within them, where there was no oasis save the unguessed deposit
of a great human dream that his soul could feel, the face of a girl
had haunted him. Her voice--so sweet a voice that it rang like muffled
silver in his ears, till, in the everlasting theatre of the Pole, the
stars seemed to repeat it through millions of echoing hills, growing
softer and softer as the frost hushed it to his ears-had said to him
late and early, \x93You must come back with the swallows.\x94 Then she had
sung a song which had been like a fire in his heart, not alone because
of the words of it, but because of the soul in her voice, and it had
lain like a coverlet on his heart to keep it warm:

       \x93Adieu! The sun goes awearily down,
        The mist creeps up o\x92er the sleepy town,
        The white sail bends to the shuddering mere,
        And the reapers have reaped and the night is here.

        Adieu! And the years are a broken song,
        The right grows weak in the strife with wrong,
        The lilies of love have a crimson stain,
        And the old days never will come again.

        Adieu! Where the mountains afar are dim
        \x91Neath the tremulous tread of the seraphim,
        Shall not our querulous hearts prevail,
        That have prayed for the peace of the Holy Grail.

        Adieu! Sometime shall the veil between
        The things that are and that might have been
        Be folded back for our eyes to see,
        And the meaning of all shall be clear to me.\x94

It had been but an acquaintance of five days while he fitted out for his
expedition, but in this brief time it had sunk deep into his mind that
life was now a thing to cherish, and that he must indeed come back;
though he had left England caring little if, in the peril and danger of
his quest, he ever returned. He had been indifferent to his fate till he
came to the Valley of the Saskatchewan, to the town lying at the foot of
the maple hill beside the great northern stream, and saw the girl whose
life was knit with the far north, whose mother\x92s heart was buried in
the great wastes where Sir John Franklin\x92s expedition was lost; for her
husband had been one of the ill-fated if not unhappy band of lovers
of that civilisation for which they had risked all and lost all save
immortality. Hither the two had come after he had been cast away on the
icy plains, and as the settlement had crept north, had gone north
with it, always on the outer edge of house and field, ever stepping
northward. Here, with small income but high hearts and quiet souls, they
had lived and laboured. And when this newcomer from the old land set his
face northward to an unknown destination, the two women had prayed as
the mother did in the old days when the daughter was but a babe at her
knee, and it was not yet certain that Franklin and his men had been cast
away for ever. Something in him, his great height, his strength of body,
his clear, meditative eyes, his brave laugh, reminded her of him--her
husband--who, like Sir Humphrey Gilbert, had said that it mattered
little where men did their duty, since God was always near to take or
leave as it was His will. When Bickersteth went, it was as though one
they had known all their lives had passed; and the woman knew also that
a new thought had been sown in her daughter\x92s mind, a new door opened in
her heart.

And he had returned. He was now looking down into the valley where
the village lay. Far, far over, two days\x92 march away, he could see
the cluster of houses, and the glow of the sun on the tin spire of the
little Mission Church where he had heard the girl and her mother sing,
till the hearts of all were swept by feeling and ravished by the desire
for \x93the peace of the Holy Grail.\x94 The village was, in truth, but a
day\x92s march away from him, but he was not alone, and the journey could
not be hastened. Beside him, his eyes also upon the sunset and the
village, was a man in a costume half-trapper, half-Indian, with bushy
grey beard and massive frame, and a distant, sorrowful look, like that
of one whose soul was tuned to past suffering. As he sat, his head sunk
on his breast, his elbow resting on a stump of pine--the token of a
progressive civilisation--his chin upon his hand, he looked like the
figure of Moses made immortal by Michael Angelo. But his strength was
not like that of the man beside him, who was thirty years younger.
When he walked, it was as one who had no destination, who had no haven
towards which to travel, who journeyed as one to whom the world is a
wilderness, and one tent or one hut is the same as another, and none is
home.

Like two ships meeting hull to hull on the wide seas, where a few miles
of water will hide them from each other, whose ports are thousands of
miles apart, whose courses are not the same, they two had met, the elder
man, sick and worn, and near to death, in the poor hospitality of
an Indian\x92s tepee. John Bickersteth had nursed the old man back to
strength, and had brought him southward with him--a silent companion,
who spoke in monosyllables, who had no conversation at all of the
past, and little of the present; but who was a woodsman and an Arctic
traveller of the most expert kind; who knew by instinct where the
best places for shelter and for sleeping might be found; who never
complained, and was wonderful with the dogs. Close as their association
was, Bickersteth had felt concerning the other that his real self was in
some other sphere or place towards which his mind was always turning, as
though to bring it back.

Again and again had Bickersteth tried to get the old man to speak about
the past, but he had been met by a dumb sort of look, a straining to
understand. Once or twice the old man had taken his hands in both of his
own, and gazed with painful eagerness into his face, as though trying
to remember or to comprehend something that eluded him. Upon these
occasions the old man\x92s eyes dropped tears in an apathetic quiet, which
tortured Bickersteth beyond bearing. Just such a look he had seen in the
eyes of a favourite dog when he had performed an operation on it to save
its life--a reproachful, non-comprehending, loving gaze.

Bickersteth understood a little of the Chinook language, which is
familiar to most Indian tribes, and he had learned that the Indians knew
nothing exact concerning the old man; but rumours had passed from tribe
to tribe that this white man had lived for ever in the farthest north
among the Arctic tribes, and that he passed from people to people,
disappearing into the untenanted wilderness, but reappearing again among
stranger tribes, never resting, and as one always seeking what he could
not find.

One thing had helped this old man in all his travels and sojourning. He
had, as it seemed to the native people, a gift of the hands; for when
they were sick, a few moments\x92 manipulation of his huge, quiet fingers
vanquished pain. A few herbs he gave in tincture, and these also were
praised; but it was a legend that when he was persuaded to lay on his
hands and close his eyes, and with his fingers to \x93search for the pain
and find it, and kill it,\x94 he always prevailed. They believed that
though his body was on earth his soul was with Manitou, and that it was
his soul which came into him again, and gave the Great Spirit\x92s
healing to the fingers. This had been the man\x92s safety through how many
years--or how many generations--they did not know; for legends regarding
the pilgrim had grown and were fostered by the medicine men who,
by giving him great age and supernatural power, could, with more
self-respect, apologise for their own incapacity.

So the years--how many it was impossible to tell, since he did not know
or would not say--had gone on; and now, after ceaseless wandering, his
face was turned towards that civilisation out of which he had come so
long ago--or was it so long ago--one generation, or two, or ten? It
seemed to Bickersteth at times as though it were ten, so strange, so
unworldly was his companion. At first he thought that the man remembered
more than he would appear to acknowledge, but he found that after a day
or two everything that happened as they journeyed was also forgotten.

It was only visible things, or sounds, that appeared to open the doors
of memory of the most recent happenings. These happenings, if not
varied, were of critical moment, since, passing down from the land of
unchanging ice and snow, they had come into March and April storms, and
the perils of the rapids and the swollen floods of May. Now, in June,
two years and a month since Bickersteth had gone into the wilds, they
looked down upon the goal of one at least--of the younger man who had
triumphed in his quest up in these wilds abandoned centuries ago.

With the joyous thought in his heart, that he had discovered anew one of
the greatest gold-fields of the world, that a journey unparalleled
had been accomplished, he turned towards his ancient companion, and
a feeling of pity and human love enlarged within him. He, John
Bickersteth, was going into a world again, where--as he believed--a
happy fate awaited him; but what of this old man? He had brought him
out of the wilds, out of the unknown--was he only taking him into the
unknown again? Were there friends, any friends anywhere in the world
waiting for him? He called himself by no name, he said he had no name.
Whence came he? Of whom? Whither was he wending now? Bickersteth had
thought of the problem often, and he had no answer for it save that he
must be taken care of, if not by others, then by himself; for the old
man had saved him from drowning; had also saved him from an awful death
on a March day when he fell into a great hole and was knocked insensible
in the drifting snow; had saved him from brooding on himself--the
beginning of madness--by compelling him to think for another. And
sometimes, as he had looked at the old man, his imagination had caught
the spirit of the legend of the Indians, and he had cried out, \x93O soul,
come back and give him memory--give him back his memory, Manitou the
mighty!\x94

Looking on the old man now, an impulse seized him. \x93Dear old man,\x94 he
said, speaking as one speaks to a child that cannot understand, \x93you
shall never want, while I have a penny, or have head or hands to work.
But is there no one that you care for or that cares for you, that you
remember, or that remembers you?\x94

The old man shook his head though not with understanding, and he laid a
hand on the young man\x92s shoulder, and whispered:

\x93Once it was always snow, but now it is green, the land. I have seen
it--I have seen it once.\x94 His shaggy eyebrows gathered over, his eyes
searched, searched the face of John Bickersteth. \x93Once, so long ago--I
cannot think,\x94 he added helplessly.

\x93Dear old man,\x94 Bickersteth said gently, knowing he would not wholly
comprehend, \x93I am going to ask her--Alice--to marry me, and if she does,
she will help look after you, too. Neither of us would have been here
without the other, dear old man, and we shall not be separated. Whoever
you are, you are a gentleman, and you might have been my father or
hers--or hers.\x94

He stopped suddenly. A thought had flashed through his mind, a thought
which stunned him, which passed like some powerful current through his
veins, shocked him, then gave him a palpitating life. It was a wild
thought, but yet why not--why not? There was the chance, the faint,
far-off chance. He caught the old man by the shoulders, and looked him
in the eyes, scanned his features, pushed back the hair from the rugged
forehead.

\x93Dear old man,\x94 he said, his voice shaking, \x93do you know what I\x92m
thinking? I\x92m thinking that you may be of those who went out to
the Arctic Sea with Sir John Franklin--with Sir John Franklin, you
understand. Did you know Sir John Franklin--is it true, dear old boy, is
it true? Are you one that has lived to tell the tale? Did you know Sir
John Franklin--is it--tell me, is it true?\x94

He let go the old man\x92s shoulders, for over the face of the other
there had passed a change. It was strained and tense. The hands were
outstretched, the eyes were staring straight into the west and the
coming night.

\x93It is--it is--that\x92s it!\x94 cried Bickersteth. \x93That\x92s it--love o\x92 God,
that\x92s it! Sir John Franklin--Sir John Franklin, and all the brave
lads that died up there! You remember the ship--the Arctic Sea--the
ice-fields, and Franklin--you remember him? Dear old man, say you
remember Franklin?\x94

The thing had seized him. Conviction was upon him, and he watched the
other\x92s anguished face with anguish and excitement in his own. But--but
it might be, it might be her father--the eyes, the forehead are like
hers; the hands, the long hands, the pointed fingers. \x93Come, tell me,
did you have a wife and child, and were they both called Alice--do you
remember? Franklin--Alice! Do you remember?\x94

The other got slowly to his feet, his arms outstretched, the look in his
face changing, understanding struggling for its place, memory fighting
for its own, the soul contending for its mastery.

\x93Franklin--Alice--the snow,\x94 he said confusedly, and sank down.

\x93God have mercy!\x94 cried Bickersteth, as he caught the swaying body, and
laid it upon the ground. \x93He was there--almost.\x94

He settled the old man against the great pine stump and chafed his
hands. \x93Man, dear man, if you belong to her--if you do, can\x92t you see
what it will mean to me? She can\x92t say no to me then. But if it\x92s true,
you\x92ll belong to England and to all the world, too, and you\x92ll have fame
everlasting. I\x92ll have gold for her and for you, and for your Alice,
too, poor old boy. Wake up now and remember if you are Luke Allingham
who went with Franklin to the silent seas of the Pole. If it\x92s you,
really you, what wonder you lost your memory! You saw them all die,
Franklin and all, die there in the snow, with all the white world round
them. If you were there, what a travel you have had, what strange things
you have seen! Where the world is loneliest, God lives most. If you get
close to the heart of things, it\x92s no marvel you forgot what you were,
or where you came from; because it didn\x92t matter; you knew that you were
only one of thousands of millions who have come and gone, that make up
the soul of things, that make the pulses of the universe beat. That\x92s
it, dear old man. The universe would die, if it weren\x92t for the
souls that leave this world and fill it with life. Wake up! Wake up,
Allingham, and tell us where you\x92ve been and what you\x92ve seen.\x94

He did not labour in vain. Slowly consciousness came back, and the grey
eyes opened wide, the lips smiled faintly under the bushy beard; but
Bickersteth saw that the look in the face was much the same as it had
been before. The struggle had been too great, the fight for the other
lost self had exhausted him, mind and body, and only a deep obliquity
and a great weariness filled the countenance. He had come back to the
verge, he had almost again discovered himself; but the opening door
had shut fast suddenly, and he was back again in the night, the
incompanionable night of forgetfulness.

Bickersteth saw that the travail and strife had drained life and energy,
and that he must not press the mind and vitality of this exile of time
and the unknown too far. He felt that when the next test came the
old man would either break completely, and sink down into another and
everlasting forgetfulness, or tear away forever the veil between himself
and his past, and emerge into a long-lost life. His strength must be
shepherded, and he must be kept quiet and undisturbed until they came to
the town yonder in the valley, over which the night was slowly settling
down. There two women waited, the two Alices, from both of whom had gone
lovers into the North. The daughter was living over again in her young
love the pangs of suspense through which her mother had passed. Two
years since Bickersteth had gone, and not a sign!

Yet, if the girl had looked from her bedroom window, this Friday night,
she would have seen on the far hill a sign; for there burned a fire
beside which sat two travellers who had come from the uttermost limits
of snow. But as the fire burned--a beacon to her heart if she had but
known it--she went to her bed, the words of a song she had sung at
choir--practice with tears in her voice and in her heart ringing in her
ears. A concert was to be held after the service on the coming Sunday
night, at which there was to be a collection for funds to build another
mission-house a hundred miles farther North, and she had been practising
music she was to sing. Her mother had been an amateur singer of great
power, and she was renewing her mother\x92s gift in a voice behind which
lay a hidden sorrow. As she cried herself to sleep the words of the song
which had moved her kept ringing in her ears and echoing in her heart:

       \x93When the swallows homeward fly,
        And the roses\x92 bloom is o\x92er--\x94

But her mother, looking out into the night, saw on the far hill the
fire, burning like a star, where she had never seen a fire set before,
and a hope shot into her heart for her daughter--a hope that had flamed
up and died down so often during the past year. Yet she had fanned with
heartening words every such glimmer of hope when it came, and now she
went to bed saying, \x93Perhaps he will come to-morrow.\x94 In her mind, too,
rang the words of the song which had ravished her ears that night, the
song she had sung the night before her own husband, Luke Allingham, had
gone with Franklin to the Polar seas:

\x93When the swallows homeward fly--\x94

As she and her daughter entered the little church on the Sunday evening,
two men came over the prairie slowly towards the town, and both raised
their heads to the sound of the church-bell calling to prayer. In the
eyes of the younger man there was a look which has come to many in this
world returning from hard enterprise and great dangers, to the familiar
streets, the friendly faces of men of their kin and clan-to the lights
of home.

The face of the older man, however, had another look.

It was such a look as is seldom seen in the faces of men, for it showed
the struggle of a soul to regain its identity. The words which the old
man had uttered in response to Bickersteth\x92s appeal before he fainted
away, \x93Franklin--Alice--the snow,\x94 had showed that he was on the verge;
the bells of the church pealing in the summer air brought him near it
once again. How many years had gone since he had heard church-bells?
Bickersteth, gazing at him in eager scrutiny, wondered if, after all,
he might be mistaken about him. But no, this man had never been born and
bred in the far North. His was a type which belonged to the civilisation
from which he himself had come. There would soon be the test of it all.
Yet he shuddered, too, to think what might happen if it was all true,
and discovery or reunion should shake to the centre the very life of the
two long-parted ones.

He saw the look of perplexed pain and joy at once in the face of the old
man, but he said nothing, and he was almost glad when the bell stopped.
The old man turned to him.

\x93What is it?\x94 he asked. \x93I remember--\x94 but he stopped suddenly, shaking
his head.

An hour later, cleared of the dust of travel, the two walked slowly
towards the church from the little tavern where they were lodged. The
service was now over, but the concert had begun. The church was full,
and there were people in the porch; but these made way for the two
strangers; and, as Bickersteth was recognised by two or three present,
place was found for them. Inside, the old man stared round him in a
confused and troubled way, but his motions were quiet and abstracted and
he looked like some old viking, his workaday life done, come to pray ere
he went hence forever. They had entered in a pause in the concert, but
now two ladies came forward to the chancel steps, and one with her hands
clasped before her, began to sing:

       \x93When the swallows homeward fly,
        And the roses\x92 bloom is o\x92er,
        And the nightingale\x92s sweet song
        In the woods is heard no more--\x94

It was Alice--Alice the daughter--and presently the mother, the other
Alice, joined in the refrain. At sight of them Bickersteth\x92s eyes had
filled, not with tears, but with a cloud of feeling, so that he went
blind. There she was, the girl he loved. Her voice was ringing in his
ears. In his own joy for one instant he had forgotten the old man
beside him, and the great test that was now upon him. He turned quickly,
however, as the old man got to his feet. For an instant the lost exile
of the North stood as though transfixed. The blood slowly drained from
his face, and in his eyes was an agony of struggle and desire. For a
moment an awful confusion had the mastery, and then suddenly a clear
light broke into his eyes, his face flushed healthily and shone, his
arms went up, and there rang in his ears the words:

       \x93Then I think with bitter pain,
        Shall we ever meet again?
        When the swallows homeward fly--\x94

\x93Alice--Alice!\x94 he called, and tottered forward up the aisle, followed
by John Bickersteth.

\x93Alice, I have come back!\x94 he cried again.



GEORGE\x92S WIFE

\x93She\x92s come, and she can go back. No one asked her, no one wants her,
and she\x92s got no rights here. She thinks she\x92ll come it over me, but
she\x92ll get nothing, and there\x92s no place for her here.\x94

The old, grey-bearded man, gnarled and angular, with overhanging brows
and a harsh face, made this little speech of malice and unfriendliness,
looking out on the snow-covered prairie through the window. Far in
the distance were a sleigh and horses like a spot in the snow, growing
larger from minute to minute.

It was a day of days. Overhead, the sun was pouring out a flood of light
and warmth, and though it was bitterly cold, life was beating hard in
the bosom of the West. Men walked lightly, breathed quickly, and their
eyes were bright with the brightness of vitality and content. Even the
old man at the window of this lonely house, in a great lonely stretch of
country, with the cedar hills behind it, had a living force which defied
his seventy odd years, though the light in his face was hard and his
voice was harder still. Under the shelter of the foothills, cold as the
day was, his cattle were feeding in the open, scratching away the thin
layer of snow, and browsing on the tender grass underneath. An arctic
world in appearance, it had an abounding life which made it friendly
and generous--the harshness belonged to the surface. So, perhaps, it was
with the old man who watched the sleigh in the distance coming nearer,
but that in his nature on which any one could feed was not so easily
reached as the fresh young grass under the protecting snow.

\x93She\x92ll get nothing out of me,\x94 he repeated, as the others in the room
behind him made no remark, and his eyes ranged gloatingly over the
cattle under the foothills and the buildings which he had gathered
together to proclaim his substantial greatness in the West. \x93Not a sous
markee,\x94 he added, clinking some coins in his pocket. \x93She\x92s got no
rights.\x94

\x93Cassy\x92s got as much right here as any of us, Abel, and she\x92s coming to
say it, I guess.\x94

The voice which spoke was unlike a Western voice. It was deep and full
and slow, with an organ-like quality. It was in good keeping with the
tall, spare body and large, fine rugged face of the woman to whom it
belonged. She sat in a rocking-chair, but did not rock, her fingers busy
with the knitting-needles, her feet planted squarely on the home-made
hassock at her feet.

The old man waited for a minute in a painful silence, then he turned
slowly round, and, with tight-pressed lips, looked at the woman in the
rocking-chair. If it had been anyone else who had \x93talked back\x94 at
him, he would have made quick work of them, for he was of that class
of tyrant who pride themselves on being self-made, and have an undue
respect for their own judgment and importance. But the woman who had
ventured to challenge his cold-blooded remarks about his dead son\x92s
wife, now hastening over the snow to the house her husband had left
under a cloud eight years before, had no fear of him, and, maybe, no
deep regard for him. He respected her, as did all who knew her--a very
reticent, thoughtful, busy being, who had been like a well of comfort
to so many that had drunk and passed on out of her life, out of time and
time\x92s experiences. Seventy-nine years saw her still upstanding, strong,
full of work, and fuller of life\x92s knowledge. It was she who had sent
the horses and sleigh for \x93Gassy,\x94 when the old man, having read the
letter that Cassy had written him, said that she could \x93freeze at the
station\x94 for all of him. Aunt Kate had said nothing then, but, when the
time came, by her orders the sleigh and horses were at the station; and
the old man had made no direct protest, for she was the one person he
had never dominated nor bullied. If she had only talked, he would have
worn her down, for he was fond of talking, and it was said by those
who were cynical and incredulous about him that he had gone to
prayer-meetings, had been a local preacher, only to hear his own voice.
Probably if there had been any politics in the West in his day, he would
have been a politician, though it would have been too costly for his
taste, and religion was very cheap; it enabled him to refuse to join in
many forms of expenditure, on the ground that he \x93did not hold by such
things.\x94

In Aunt Kate, the sister of his wife, dead so many years ago, he had
found a spirit stronger than his own. He valued her; he had said more
than once, to those who he thought would never repeat it to her, that
she was a \x93great woman\x94; but self-interest was the mainspring of his
appreciation. Since she had come again to his house--she had lived with
him once before for two years when his wife was slowly dying--it had
been a different place. Housekeeping had cost less than before, yet
the cooking was better, the place was beautifully clean, and discipline
without rigidity reigned everywhere. One by one the old woman\x92s boys and
girls had died--four of them--and she was now alone, with not a single
grandchild left to cheer her; and the life out here with Abel Baragar
had been unrelieved by much that was heartening to a woman; for
Black Andy, Abel\x92s son, was not an inspiring figure, though even his
moroseness gave way under her influence. So it was that when Cassy\x92s
letter came, her breast seemed to grow warmer, and swell with longing
to see the wife of her nephew, who had such a bad reputation in Abel\x92s
eyes, and to see George\x92s little boy, who was coming too. After all,
whatever Cassy was, she was the mother of Abel\x92s son\x92s son; and Aunt
Kate was too old and wise to be frightened by tales told of Cassy or any
one else. So, having had her own way so far regarding Cassy\x92s coming,
she looked Abel calmly in the eyes, over the gold-rimmed spectacles
which were her dearest possession--almost the only thing of value she
had. She was not afraid of Abel\x92s anger, and he knew it; but his eldest
son, Black Andy, was present, and he must make a show of being master of
the situation.

\x93Aunt Kate,\x94 he said, \x93I didn\x92t make a fuss about you sending the horses
and sleigh for her, because women do fool things sometimes. I suppose
curiosity got the best of you. Anyhow, mebbe it\x92s right Cassy should
find out, once for all, how things stand, and that they haven\x92t altered
since she took George away, and ruined his life, and sent him to his
grave. That\x92s why I didn\x92t order Mick back when I saw him going out with
the team.\x94

\x93Cassy Mavor,\x94 interjected a third voice from a corner behind the great
stove--\x93Cassy Mavor, of the variety-dance-and-song, and a talk with the
gallery between!\x94

Aunt Kate looked over at Black Andy, and stopped knitting, for there was
that in the tone of the sullen ranchman which stirred in her a sudden
anger, and anger was a rare and uncomfortable sensation to her. A flush
crept slowly over her face, then it died away, and she said quietly to
Black Andy--for she had ever prayed to be master of the demon of temper
down deep in her, and she was praying now:

\x93She earnt her living by singing and dancing, and she\x92s brought up
George\x92s boy by it, and singing and dancing isn\x92t a crime. David danced
before the Lord. I danced myself when I was a young girl, and before I
joined the church. \x91Twas about the only pleasure I ever had; \x91bout the
only one I like to remember. There\x92s no difference to me \x91twixt making
your feet handy and clever and full of music, and playing with your
fingers on the piano or on a melodeon at a meeting. As for singing,
it\x92s God\x92s gift; and many a time I wisht I had it. I\x92d have sung the
blackness out of your face and heart, Andy.\x94 She leaned back again and
began to knit very fast. \x93I\x92d like to hear Cassy sing, and see her dance
too.\x94

Black Andy chuckled coarsely, \x93I often heard her sing and saw her dance
down at Lumley\x92s before she took George away East. You wouldn\x92t have
guessed she had consumption. She knocked the boys over down to Lumley\x92s.
The first night at Lumley\x92s done for George.\x94

Black Andy\x92s face showed no lightening of its gloom as he spoke, but
there was a firing up of the black eyes, and the woman with the knitting
felt that--for whatever reason--he was purposely irritating his father.

\x93The devil was in her heels and in her tongue,\x94 Andy continued. \x93With
her big mouth, red hair, and little eyes, she\x92d have made anybody laugh.
I laughed.\x94

\x93You laughed!\x94 snapped out his father with a sneer.

Black Andy\x92s eyes half closed with a morose look, then he went on. \x93Yes,
I laughed at Cassy. While she was out here at Lumley\x92s getting cured,
accordin\x92 to the doctor\x92s orders, things seemed to get a move on in the
West. But it didn\x92t suit professing Christians like you, dad.\x94 He jerked
his head towards the old man and drew the spittoon near with his feet.

\x93The West hasn\x92t been any worse off since she left,\x94 snarled the old
man.

\x93Well, she took George with her,\x94 grimly retorted Black Andy.

Abel Baragar\x92s heart had been warmer towards his dead son George than to
any one else in the world. George had been as fair of face and hair
as Andrew was dark; as cheerful and amusing as Andrew was gloomy and
dispiriting; as agile and dexterous of mind and body as his brother
was slow and angular; as emotional and warm-hearted as the other was
phlegmatic and sour--or so it seemed to the father and to nearly all
others.

In those old days they had not been very well off. The railway was not
completed, and the West had not begun \x93to move.\x94 The old man had bought
and sold land and cattle and horses, always living on a narrow margin
of safety, but in the hope that one day the choice bits of land he
was shepherding here and there would take a leap up in value; and his
judgment had been right. His prosperity had all come since George went
away with Cassy Mavor. His anger at George had been the more acute,
because the thing happened at a time when his affairs were on the edge
of a precipice. He had won through it, but only by the merest shave,
and it had all left him with a bad spot in his heart, in spite of his
\x93having religion.\x94 Whenever he remembered George, he instinctively
thought of those black days when a Land and Cattle Syndicate was
crowding him over the edge into the chasm of failure, and came so near
doing it. A few thousand dollars less to put up here and there, and he
would have been ruined; his blood became hotter whenever he thought of
it. He had had to fight the worst of it through alone, for George, who
had been useful as a kind of buyer and seller, who was ever all things
to all men, and ready with quip and jest, and not a little uncertain
as to truth--to which the old man shut his eyes when there was a \x93deal\x94
 on--had, in the end, been of no use at all, and had seemed to go to
pieces just when he was most needed. His father had put it all down to
Cassy Mavor, who had unsettled things since she had come to Lumley\x92s,
and being a man of very few ideas, he cherished those he had with an
exaggerated care. Prosperity had not softened him; it had given him
an arrogance unduly emphasised by a reputation for rigid virtue and
honesty. The indirect attack which Andrew now made on George\x92s memory
roused him to anger, as much because it seemed to challenge his own
judgment as cast a slight on the name of the boy whom he had cast off,
yet who had a firmer hold on his heart than any human being ever had.
It had only been pride which had prevented him from making it up with
George before it was too late; but, all the more, he was set against
the woman who \x93kicked up her heels for a living\x94; and, all the more, he
resented Black Andy, who, in his own grim way, had managed to remain a
partner with him in their present prosperity, and had done so little for
it.

\x93George helped to make what you\x92ve got, Andy,\x94 he said darkly now. \x93The
West missed George. The West said, \x91There was a good man ruined by a
woman.\x92 The West\x92d never think anything or anybody missed you, \x91cept
yourself. When you went North, it never missed you; when you come back,
its jaw fell. You wasn\x92t fit to black George\x92s boots.\x94

Black Andy\x92s mouth took on a bitter sort of smile, and his eyes drooped
furtively, as he struck the damper of the stove heavily with his foot,
then he replied slowly:

\x93Well, that\x92s all right; but if I wasn\x92t fit to black his boots,
it ain\x92t my fault. I git my nature honest, as he did. We wasn\x92t any
cross-breeds, I s\x92pose. We got the strain direct, and we was all right
on her side.\x94 He jerked his head towards Aunt Kate, whose face was
growing pale. She interposed now.

\x93Can\x92t you leave the dead alone?\x94 she asked in a voice ringing a little.
\x93Can\x92t you let them rest? Ain\x92t it enough to quarrel about the living?
Cassy\x92ll be here soon,\x94 she added, peering out of the window, \x93and if I
was you, I\x92d try and not make her sorry she ever married a Baragar. It
ain\x92t a feeling that\x92d make a sick woman live long.\x94

Aunt Kate did not strike often, but when she did, she struck hard.
Abel Baragar staggered a little under this blow, for, at the moment, it
seemed to him that he saw his dead wife\x92s face looking at him from the
chair where her sister now sat. Down in his ill-furnished heart, where
there had been little which was companionable, there was a shadowed
corner. Sophy Baragar had been such a true-hearted, brave-souled woman,
and he had been so impatient and exacting with her, till the beautiful
face, which had been reproduced in George, had lost its colour and its
fire, had become careworn and sweet with that sweetness which goes early
out of the world. In all her days the vanished wife had never hinted
at as much as Aunt Kate suggested now, and Abel Baragar shut his eyes
against the thing which he was seeing. He was not all hard, after all.

Aunt Kate turned to Black Andy now.

\x93Mebbe Cassy ain\x92t for long,\x94 she said. \x93Mebbe she\x92s come out for what
she came out for before. It seems to me it\x92s that, or she wouldn\x92t have
come; because she\x92s young yet, and she\x92s fond of her boy, and she\x92d
not want to bury herself alive out here with us. Mebbe her lungs is bad
again.\x94

\x93Then she\x92s sure to get another husband out here,\x94 said the old man,
recovering himself. \x93She got one before easy, on the same ticket.\x94 With
something of malice he looked over at Black Andy.

\x93If she can sing and dance as she done nine years ago, I shouldn\x92t
wonder,\x94 answered Black Andy smoothly. These two men knew each other;
they had said hard things to each other for many a year, yet they lived
on together unshaken by each other\x92s moods and bitternesses.

\x93I\x92m getting old,--I\x92m seventy-nine,--and I ain\x92t for long,\x94 urged Aunt
Kate, looking Abel in the eyes. \x93Some day soon I\x92ll be stepping out and
away. Then things\x92ll go to sixes and sevens, as they did after Sophy
died. Some one ought to be here that\x92s got a right to be here, not a
hired woman.\x94

Suddenly the old man raged out.

\x93Her--off the stage, to look after this! Her, that\x92s kicked up her heels
for a living! It\x92s--no, she\x92s no good. She\x92s common. She\x92s come, and she
can go. I ain\x92t having sweepings from the streets living here as if they
had rights.\x94

Aunt Kate set her lips.

\x93Sweepings! You\x92ve got to take that back, Abel. It\x92s not Christian.
You\x92ve got to take that back.\x94

\x93He\x92ll take it back all right before we\x92ve done, I guess,\x94 remarked
Black Andy. \x93He\x92ll take a lot back.\x94

\x93Truth\x92s truth, and I\x92ll stand by it, and--\x94

The old man stopped, for there came to them now, clearly, the sound of
sleigh bells. They all stood still for an instant, silent and attentive,
then Aunt Kate moved towards the door.

\x93Cassy\x92s come,\x94 she said. \x93Cassy and George\x92s boy\x92ve come.\x94

Another instant and the door was opened on the beautiful, white,
sparkling world, and the low sleigh, with its great warm buffalo robes,
in which the small figures of a woman and a child were almost lost,
stopped at the door. Two whimsical but tired eyes looked over a rim of
fur at the old woman in the doorway, then Cassy\x92s voice rang out.

\x93Hello, that\x92s Aunt Kate, I know! Well, here we are, and here\x92s my boy.
Jump, George!\x94

A moment later, and the gaunt old woman folded both mother and son in
her arms and drew them into the room. The door was shut, and they all
faced each other.

The old man and Black Andy did not move, but stood staring at the trim
figure in black, with the plain face, large mouth, and tousled red hair,
and the dreamy-eyed, handsome little boy beside her.

Black Andy stood behind the stove, looking over at the new-comers with
quizzical, almost furtive eyes, and his father remained for a moment
with mouth open, gazing at his dead son\x92s wife and child, as though not
quite comprehending the scene. The sight of the boy had brought back,
in some strange, embarrassing way, a vision of thirty years before, when
George was a little boy in buckskin pants and jacket, and was beginning
to ride the prairie with him. This boy was like George, yet not like
him. The face was George\x92s, the sensuous, luxurious mouth; but the eyes
were not those of a Baragar, nor yet those of Aunt Kate\x92s family; and
they were not wholly like the mother\x92s. They were full and brimming,
while hers were small and whimsical; yet they had her quick, humourous
flashes and her quaintness.

\x93Have I changed so much? Have you forgotten me?\x94 Cassy asked, looking
the old man in the eyes. \x93You look as strong as a bull.\x94 She held out
her hand to him and laughed.

\x93Hope I see you well,\x94 said Abel Baragar mechanically, as he took the
hand and shook it awkwardly.

\x93Oh, I\x92m all right,\x94 answered the nonchalant little woman, undoing her
jacket. \x93Shake hands with your grandfather, George. That\x92s right--don\x92t
talk too much,\x94 she added, with a half-nervous little laugh, as the old
man, with a kind of fixed smile, and the child shook hands in silence.

Presently she saw Black Andy behind the stove. \x93Well, Andy, have you
been here ever since?\x94 she asked, and, as he came forward, she suddenly
caught him by both arms, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him. \x93Last time I
saw you, you were behind the stove at Lumley\x92s. Nothing\x92s ever too warm
for you,\x94 she added. \x93You\x92d be shivering on the Equator. You were always
hugging the stove at Lumley\x92s.\x94

\x93Things was pretty warm there, too, Cassy,\x94 he said, with a sidelong
look at his father.

She saw the look, her face flashed with sudden temper, then her eyes
fell on her boy, now lost in the arms of Aunt Kate, and she curbed
herself.

\x93There were plenty of things doing at Lumley\x92s in those days,\x94 she
said brusquely. \x93We were all young and fresh then,\x94 she added, and then
something seemed to catch her voice, and she coughed a little--a hard,
dry, feverish cough. \x93Are the Lumleys all right? Are they still there,
at the Forks?\x94 she asked, after the little paroxysm of coughing.

\x93Cleaned out--all scattered. We own the Lumleys\x92 place now,\x94 replied
Black Andy, with another sidelong glance at his father, who, as he put
some more wood on the fire and opened the damper of the stove wider,
grimly watched and listened.

\x93Jim, and Lance, and Jerry, and Abner?\x94 she asked almost abstractedly.

\x93Jim\x92s dead-shot by a U. S. marshal by mistake for a smuggler,\x94 answered
Black Andy suggestively. \x93Lance is up on the Yukon, busted; Jerry is one
of our hands on the place; and Abner is in jail.\x94

\x93Abner-in jail!\x94 she exclaimed in a dazed way. \x93What did he do? Abner
always seemed so straight.\x94

\x93Oh, he sloped with a thousand dollars of the railway people\x92s money.
They caught him, and he got seven years.\x94

\x93He was married, wasn\x92t he?\x94 she asked in a low voice. \x93Yes, to Phenie
Tyson. There\x92s no children, so she\x92s all right, and divorce is cheap
over in the States, where she is now.\x94

\x93Phenie Tyson didn\x92t marry Abner because he was a saint, but because he
was a man, I suppose,\x94 she replied gravely. \x93And the old folks?\x94

\x93Both dead. What Abner done sent the old man to his grave. But Abner\x92s
mother died a year before.\x94

\x93What Abner done killed his father,\x94 said Abel Baragar with dry
emphasis. \x93Phenie Tyson was extravagant-wanted this and that, and
nothin\x92 was too good for her. Abner spoilt his life gettin\x92 her what she
wanted; and it broke old Ezra Lumley\x92s heart.\x94

George\x92s wife looked at him for a moment with her eyes screwed up, and
then she laughed softly. \x93My, it\x92s curious how some folks go up and some
go down! It must be lonely for Phenie waiting all these years for Abner
to get free.... I had the happiest time in my life at Lumley\x92s. I was
getting better of my-cold. While I was there I got lots of strength
stored up, to last me many a year when I needed it; and, then, George
and I were married at Lumley\x92s....\x94

Aunt Kate came slowly over with the boy, and laid a hand on Cassy\x92s
shoulder, for there was an undercurrent to the conversation which boded
no good. The very first words uttered had plunged Abel Baragar and his
son\x92s wife into the midst of the difficulty which she had hoped might,
after all, be avoided.

\x93Come, and I\x92ll show you your room, Cassy,\x94 she said. \x93It faces south,
and you\x92ll get the sun all day. It\x92s like a sun-parlour. We\x92re going to
have supper in a couple of hours, and you must rest some first. Is the
house warm enough for you?\x94

The little, garish woman did not reply directly, but shook back her red
hair and caught her boy to her breast and kissed him; then she said in
that staccato manner which had given her words on the stage such point
and emphasis, \x93Oh, this house is a\x92most too warm for me, Aunt Kate!\x94

Then she moved towards the door with the grave, kindly old woman, her
son\x92s hand in her own.

\x93You can see the Lumleys\x92 place from your window, Cassy,\x94 said Black
Andy grimly. \x93We got a mortgage on it, and foreclosed it, and it\x92s ours
now; and Jerry Lumley\x92s stock-riding for us. Anyhow, he\x92s better off
than Abner, or Abner\x92s wife.\x94

Cassy turned at the door and faced him. Instinctively she caught at some
latent conflict with old Abel Baragar in what Black Andy had said, and
her face softened, for it suddenly flashed into her mind that he was not
against her.

\x93I\x92m glad to be back West,\x94 she said. \x93It meant a lot to me when I was
at Lumley\x92s.\x94 She coughed a little again, but turned to the door with a
laugh.

\x93How long have you come to stay here--out West?\x94 asked the old man
furtively.

\x93Why, there\x92s plenty of time to think of that!\x94 she answered brusquely,
and she heard Black Andy laugh derisively as the door closed behind her.

In a blaze of joy the sun swept down behind the southern hills, and
the windows of Lumley\x92s house at the Forks, catching the oblique rays,
glittered and shone like flaming silver. Nothing of life showed, save
the cattle here and there, creeping away to the shelter of the foothills
for the night. The white, placid snow made a coverlet as wide as the
vision of the eye, save where spruce and cedar trees gave a touch of
warmth and refuge here and there. A wonderful, buoyant peace seemed to
rest upon the wide, silent expanse. The birds of song were gone South
over the hills, and the living wild things of the prairies had stolen
into winter quarters. Yet, as Cassy Mavor looked out upon the exquisite
beauty of the scene, upon the splendid outspanning of the sun along the
hills, the deep plangent blue of the sky and the thrilling light, she
saw a world in agony and she heard the moans of the afflicted. The sun
shone bright on the windows of Lumley\x92s house, but she could hear the
crying of Abner\x92s wife, and of old Ezra and Eliza Lumley, when their
children were stricken or shamed; when Abel Baragar drew tighter and
tighter the chains of the mortgage, which at last made them tenants
in the house once their own. Only eight years ago, and all this had
happened. And what had not happened to her, too, in those eight years!

With George--reckless, useless, loving, lying George--she had left
Lumley\x92s with her sickness cured, as it seemed, after a long year in the
West, and had begun life again. What sort of life had it been? \x93Kicking
up her heels on the stage,\x94 as Abel Baragar had said; but, somehow,
not as it was before she went West to give her perforated lung to the
healing air of the plains, and to live outdoors with the men--a man\x92s
life. Then she had never put a curb on her tongue, or greatly on her
actions, except that, though a hundred men quarrelled openly, or in
their own minds, about her, no one had ever had any right to quarrel
about her. With a tongue which made men gasp with laughter, with as
comic a gift as ever woman had, and as equally comic a face, she had
been a good-natured little tyrant in her way. She had given a kiss here
and there, and had taken one, but always there had been before her mind
the picture of a careworn woman who struggled to bring up her three
children honestly, and without the help of charity, and, with a sigh of
content and weariness, had died as Cassy made her first hit on the stage
and her name became a household word. And Cassy, garish, gay, freckled,
witty and whimsical, had never forgotten those days when her mother
prayed and worked her heart out to do her duty by her children. Cassy
Mavor had made her following, had won her place, was the idol of \x93the
gallery\x94; and yet she was \x93of the people,\x94 as she had always been, until
her first sickness came, and she had gone out to Lumley\x92s, out along the
foothills of the Rockies.

What had made her fall in love with George Baragar?

She could not have told, if she had been asked. He was wayward, given to
drink at times, given also to card-playing and racing; but he had a way
with him which few women could resist and which made men his friends;
and he had a sense of humour akin to her own. In any case, one day she
let him catch her up in his arms, and there was the end of it. But no,
not the end, after all. It was only the beginning of real life for her.
All that had gone before seemed but playing on the threshold, though
it had meant hard, bitter hard work, and temptation, and patience, and
endurance of many kinds. And now George was gone for ever. But George\x92s
little boy lay there on the bed in a soft sleep, with all his life
before him.

She turned from the warm window and the buoyant, inspiring scene to
the bed. Stooping over, she kissed the sleeping boy with an abrupt
eagerness, and made a little awkward, hungry gesture of love over him,
and her face flushed hot with the passion of motherhood in her.

\x93All I\x92ve got now,\x94 she murmured. \x93Nothing else left--nothing else at
all.\x94

She heard the door open behind her, and she turned round. Aunt Kate was
entering with a bowl in her hands.

\x93I heard you moving about, and I\x92ve brought you something hot to drink,\x94
 she said.

\x93That\x92s real good of you, Aunt Kate,\x94 was the cheerful reply. \x93But it\x92s
near supper-time, and I don\x92t need it.\x94

\x93It\x92s boneset tea--for your cold,\x94 answered Aunt Kate gently, and put it
on the high dressing-table made of a wooden box and covered with muslin.
\x93For your cold, Cassy,\x94 she repeated.

The little woman stood still a moment gazing at the steaming bowl,
lines growing suddenly around her mouth, then she looked at Aunt Kate
quizzically. \x93Is my cold bad--so bad that I need boneset?\x94 she asked in
a queer, constrained voice.

\x93It\x92s comforting, is boneset tea, even when there\x92s no cold, \x91specially
when the whiskey\x92s good, and the boneset and camomile has steeped some
days.\x94

\x93Have you been steeping them some days?\x94 Cassy asked softly, eagerly.

Aunt Kate nodded, then tried to explain.

\x93It\x92s always good to be prepared, and I didn\x92t know but what the cold
you used to have might be come back,\x94 she said. \x93But I\x92m glad if it
ain\x92t, if that cough of yours is only one of the measly little hacks
people get in the East, where it\x92s so damp.\x94

Cassy was at the window again, looking out at the dying radiance of the
sun. Her voice seemed hollow and strange and rather rough, as she said
in reply:

\x93It\x92s a real cold, deep down, the same as I had nine years ago, Aunt
Kate; and it\x92s come to stay, I guess. That\x92s why I came back West. But
I couldn\x92t have gone to Lumley\x92s again, even if they were at the Forks
now, for I\x92m too poor. I\x92m a back-number now. I had to give up singing
and dancing a year ago, after George died. So I don\x92t earn my living any
more, and I had to come to George\x92s father with George\x92s boy.\x94

Aunt Kate had a shrewd mind, and it was tactful, too. She did not
understand why Cassy, who had earned so much money all these years,
should be so poor now, unless it was that she hadn\x92t saved--that she and
George hadn\x92t saved. But, looking at the face before her, and the child
on the bed, she was convinced that the woman was a good woman, that,
singer and dancer as she was, there was no reason why any home should
be closed to her, or any heart should shut its doors before her. She
guessed a reason for this poverty of Cassy Mavor, but it only made her
lay a hand on the little woman\x92s shoulders and look into her eyes.

\x93Cassy,\x94 she said gently, \x93you was right to come here. There\x92s trials
before you, but for the boy\x92s sake you must bear them. Sophy, George\x92s
mother, had to bear them, and Abel was fond of her, too, in his way.
He\x92s stored up a lot of things to say, and he\x92ll say them; but you\x92ll
keep the boy in your mind, and be patient, won\x92t you, Cassy? You got
rights here, and it\x92s comfortable, and there\x92s plenty, and the air will
cure your lung as it did before. It did all right before, didn\x92t it?\x94
 She handed the bowl of boneset tea. \x93Take it; it\x92ll do you good, Cassy,\x94
 she added.

Cassy said nothing in reply. She looked at the bed where her boy
lay, she looked at the angular face of the woman, with its brooding
motherliness, at the soft, grey hair, and, with a little gasp of
feeling, she raised the bowl to her lips and drank freely. Then, putting
it down, she said:

\x93He doesn\x92t mean to have us, Aunt Kate, but I\x92ll try and keep my temper
down. Did he ever laugh in his life?\x94

\x93He laughs sometimes--kind o\x92 laughs.\x94

\x93I\x92ll make him laugh real, if I can,\x94 Cassy rejoined. \x93I\x92ve made a lot
of people laugh in my time.\x94

The old woman leaned suddenly over, and drew the red, ridiculous head to
her shoulder with a gasp of affection, and her eyes were full of tears.

\x93Cassy,\x94 she exclaimed, \x93Cassy, you make me cry.\x94 Then she turned and
hurried from the room.

Three hours later the problem was solved in the big sitting-room where
Cassy had first been received with her boy. Aunt Kate sat with her feet
on a hassock, rocking gently and watching and listening. Black Andy was
behind the great stove with his chair tilted back, carving the bowl of
a pipe; the old man sat rigid by the table, looking straight before him
and smacking his lips now and then as he was won\x92t to do at meeting;
while Cassy, with her chin in her hands and elbows on her knees, gazed
into the fire and waited for the storm to break.

Her little flashes of humour at dinner had not brightened things, and
she had had an insane desire to turn cart-wheels round the room, so
implacable and highly strained was the attitude of the master of the
house, so unctuous was the grace and the thanksgiving before and
after the meal. Abel Baragar had stored up his anger and his righteous
antipathy for years, and this was the first chance he had had of
visiting his displeasure on the woman who had \x93ruined\x94 George, and who
had now come to get \x93rights,\x94 which he was determined she should not
have. He had steeled himself against seeing any good in her whatever.
Self-will, self-pride, and self-righteousness were big in him, and so
the supper had ended in silence, and with a little attack of coughing
on the part of Cassy, which made her angry at herself. Then the boy had
been put to bed, and she had come back to await the expected outburst.
She could feel it in the air, and while her blood tingled in a desire
to fight this tyrant to the bitter end, she thought of her boy and his
future, and she calmed the tumult in her veins.

She did not have to wait very long. The querulous voice of the old man
broke the silence.

\x93When be you goin\x92 back East? What time did you fix for goin\x92?\x94 he
asked.

She raised her head and looked at him squarely. \x93I didn\x92t fix any time
for going East again,\x94 she replied. \x93I came out West this time to stay.\x94

\x93I thought you was on the stage,\x94 was the rejoinder.

\x93I\x92ve left the stage. My voice went when I got a bad cold again, and
I couldn\x92t stand the draughts of the theatre, and so I couldn\x92t dance,
either. I\x92m finished with the stage. I\x92ve come out here for good and
all.

\x93Where did you think of livin\x92 out here?\x94

\x93I\x92d like to have gone to Lumley\x92s, but that\x92s not possible, is it?
Anyway, I couldn\x92t afford it now. So I thought I\x92d stay here, if there
was room for me.\x94

\x93You want to board here?\x94

\x93I didn\x92t put it to myself that way. I thought perhaps you\x92d be glad to
have me. I\x92m handy. I can cook, I can sew, and I\x92m quite cheerful and
kind. Then there\x92s George--little George. I thought you\x92d like to have
your grandson here with you.\x94

\x93I\x92ve lived without him--or his father--for eight years, an\x92 I could
bear it a while yet, mebbe.\x94

There was a half-choking sound from the old woman in the rocking-chair,
but she did not speak, though her knitting dropped into her lap.

\x93But if you knew us better, perhaps you\x92d like us better,\x94 rejoined
Cassy gently. \x93We\x92re both pretty easy to get on with, and we see the
bright side of things. He has a wonderful disposition, has George.\x94

\x93I ain\x92t goin\x92 to like you any better,\x94 said the old man, getting to his
feet. \x93I ain\x92t goin\x92 to give you any rights here. I\x92ve thought it out,
and my mind\x92s made up. You can\x92t come it over me. You ruined my boy\x92s
life and sent him to his grave. He\x92d have lived to be an old man out
here; but you spoiled him. You trapped him into marrying you, with your
kicking and your comic songs, and your tricks of the stage, and you
parted us--parted him and me for ever.\x94

\x93That was your fault. George wanted to make it up.\x94

\x93With you!\x94 The old man\x92s voice rose shrilly, the bitterness and passion
of years was shooting high in the narrow confines of his mind. The
geyser of his prejudice and antipathy was furiously alive. \x93To come back
with you that ruined him and broke up my family, and made my life like
bitter aloes! No! And if I wouldn\x92t have him with you, do you think I\x92ll
have you without him? By the God of Israel, no!\x94

Black Andy was now standing up behind the stove intently watching, his
face grim and sombre; Aunt Kate sat with both hands gripping the arms of
the rocker.

Cassy got slowly to her feet. \x93I\x92ve been as straight a woman as your
mother or your wife ever was,\x94 she said, \x93and all the world knows it.
I\x92m poor--and I might have been rich. I was true to myself before I
married George, and I was true to George after, and all I earned he
shared; and I\x92ve got little left. The mining stock I bought with what
I saved went smash, and I\x92m poor as I was when I started to work for
myself. I can work awhile yet, but I wanted to see if I could fit in
out here, and get well again, and have my boy fixed in the house of his
grandfather. That\x92s the way I\x92m placed, and that\x92s how I came. But give
a dog a bad name--ah, you shame your dead boy in thinking bad of me! I
didn\x92t ruin him. I didn\x92t kill him. He never came to any bad through me.
I helped him; he was happy. Why, I--\x94 She stopped suddenly, putting
a hand to her mouth. \x93Go on, say what you want to say, and let\x92s
understand once for all,\x94 she added with a sudden sharpness.

Abel Baragar drew himself up. \x93Well, I say this. I\x92ll give you three
thousand dollars, and you can go somewhere else to live. I\x92ll keep the
boy here. That\x92s what I\x92ve fixed in my mind to do. You can go, and the
boy stays. I ain\x92t goin\x92 to live with you that spoiled George\x92s life.\x94

The eyes of the woman dilated, she trembled with a sudden rush of anger,
then stood still, staring in front of her without a word. Black Andy
stepped from behind the stove.

\x93You are going to stay here, Cassy,\x94 he said; \x93here where you have
rights as good as any, and better than any, if it comes to that.\x94 He
turned to his father. \x93You thought a lot of George,\x94 he added. \x93He was
the apple of your eye. He had a soft tongue, and most people liked him;
but George was foolish--I\x92ve known it all these years. George was pretty
foolish. He gambled, he bet at races, he speculated--wild. You didn\x92t
know it. He took ten thousand dollars of your money, got from the
Wonegosh farm he sold for you. He--\x94

Cassy Mavor started forwards with a cry, but Black Andy waved her down.

\x93No, I\x92m going to tell it. George lost your ten thousand dollars, dad,
gambling, racing, speculating. He told her--Cassy-two days after they
was married, and she took the money she earned on the stage, and give
it to him to pay you back on the quiet through the bank. You never knew,
but that\x92s the kind of boy your son George was, and that\x92s the kind of
wife he had. George told me all about it when I was East six years ago.\x94

He came over to Cassy and stood beside her. \x93I\x92m standing by George\x92s
wife,\x94 he said, taking her hand, while she shut her eyes in her
misery--had she not hid her husband\x92s wrong-doing all these years? \x93I\x92m
standing by her. If it hadn\x92t been for that ten thousand dollars she
paid back for George, you\x92d have been swamped when the Syndicate got
after you, and we wouldn\x92t have had Lumley\x92s place, nor this, nor
anything. I guess she\x92s got rights here, dad, as good as any.\x94

The old man sank slowly into a chair. \x93George--George stole from
me--stole money from me!\x94 he whispered. His face was white. His
pride and vainglory were broken. He was a haggard, shaken figure. His
self-righteousness was levelled in the dust.

With sudden impulse, Cassy stole over to him, and took his hand and held
it tight.

\x93Don\x92t! Don\x92t feel so bad!\x94 she said. \x93He was weak and wild then. But he
was all right afterwards. He was happy with me.\x94

\x93I\x92ve owed Cassy this for a good many years, dad,\x94 said Black Andy, \x93and
it had to be paid. She\x92s got better stuff in her than any Baragar.\x94

        .........................

An hour later, the old man said to Cassy at the door of her room: \x93You
got to stay here and git well. It\x92s yours, the same as the rest of
us--what\x92s here.\x94

Then he went downstairs and sat with Aunt Kate by the fire.

\x93I guess she\x92s a good woman,\x94 he said at last. \x93I didn\x92t use her right.\x94

\x93You\x92ve been lucky with your women-folk,\x94 Aunt Kate answered quietly.

\x93Yes, I\x92ve been lucky,\x94 he answered. \x93I dunno if I deserve it. Mebbe
not. Do you think she\x92ll git well?\x94

\x93It\x92s a healing air out here,\x94 Aunt Kate answered, and listened to the
wood of the house snapping in the sharp frost.



MARCILE

That the day was beautiful, that the harvest of the West had been a
great one, that the salmon-fishing had been larger than ever before,
that gold had been found in the Yukon, made no difference to Jacques
Grassette, for he was in the condemned cell of Bindon Jail, living out
those days which pass so swiftly between the verdict of the jury and the
last slow walk with the Sheriff.

He sat with his back to the stone wall, his hands on his knees, looking
straight before him. All that met his physical gaze was another stone
wall, but with his mind\x92s eye he was looking beyond it into spaces far
away. His mind was seeing a little house with dormer windows, and a
steep roof on which the snow could not lodge in winter-time; with a
narrow stoop in front where one could rest of an evening, the day\x92s work
done; the stone-and-earth oven near by in the open, where the bread
for a family of twenty was baked; the wooden plough tipped against the
fence, to wait the \x93fall\x94 cultivation; the big iron cooler in which the
sap from the maple trees was boiled, in the days when the snow thawed
and spring opened the heart of the wood; the flash of the sickle and the
scythe hard by; the fields of the little narrow farm running back from
the St. Lawrence like a riband; and, out on the wide stream, the
great rafts with their riverine population floating down to Michelin\x92s
mill-yards.

For hours he had sat like this, unmoving, his gnarled red hands clamping
each leg as though to hold him steady while he gazed; and he saw himself
as a little lad, barefooted, doing chores, running after the shaggy,
troublesome pony which would let him catch it when no one else could,
and, with only a halter on, galloping wildly back to the farmyard, to be
hitched up in the carriole which had once belonged to the old Seigneur.
He saw himself as a young man, back from \x93the States\x94 where he had been
working in the mills, regarded austerely by little Father Roche, who had
given him his first Communion--for, down in Massachusetts he had learned
to wear his curly hair plastered down on his forehead, smoke bad cigars,
and drink \x93old Bourbon,\x94 to bet and to gamble, and be a figure at
horse-races.

Then he saw himself, his money all gone, but the luck still with him,
at Mass on the Sunday before going to the backwoods lumber-camp for
the winter, as boss of a hundred men. He had a way with him, and he had
brains, had Jacques Grassette, and he could manage men, as Michelin
the lumber-king himself had found in a great river-row and strike, when
bloodshed seemed certain. Even now the ghost of a smile played at his
lips, as he recalled the surprise of the old habitants and of Father
Roche when he was chosen for this responsible post; for to run a great
lumber-camp well, hundreds of miles from civilisation, where there is
no visible law, no restraints of ordinary organised life, and where men,
for seven months together, never saw a woman or a child, and ate pork
and beans, and drank white whisky, was a task of administration as
difficult as managing a small republic new-created out of violent
elements of society. But Michelin was right, and the old Seigneur, Sir
Henri Robitaille, who was a judge of men, knew he was right, as did also
Hennepin the schoolmaster, whose despair Jacques had been, for he
never worked at his lessons as a boy, and yet he absorbed Latin and
mathematics by some sure but unexplainable process. \x93Ah! if you would
but work, Jacques, you vaurien, I would make a great man of you,\x94
 Hennepin had said to him more than once; but this had made no impression
on Jacques. It was more to the point that the ground-hogs and black
squirrels and pigeons were plentiful in Casanac Woods.

And so he thought as he stood at the door of the Church of St. Francis
on that day before going \x93out back\x94 to the lumber-camp. He had reached
the summit of greatness--to command men. That was more than wealth or
learning, and as he spoke to the old Seigneur going in to Mass, he still
thought so, for the Seigneur\x92s big house and the servants and the great
gardens had no charm for him. The horses--that was another thing; but
there would be plenty of horses in the lumber-camp; and, on the whole,
he felt himself rather superior to the old Seigneur, who now was
Lieutenant-Governor of the province in which lay Bindon Jail.

At the door of the Church of St. Francis he had stretched himself up
with good-natured pride, for he was by nature gregarious and friendly,
but with a temper quick and strong, and even savage when roused; though
Michelin the lumber-king did not know that when he engaged him as boss,
having seen him only at the one critical time, when his superior brain
and will saw its chance to command, and had no personal interest in the
strife. He had been a miracle of coolness then, and his six-foot-two of
pride and muscle was taking natural tribute at the door of the Church
of St. Francis, where he waited till nearly everyone had entered, and
Father Roche\x92s voice could be heard in the Mass.

Then had happened the real event of his life: a blackeyed, rose-checked
girl went by with her mother, hurrying in to Mass. As she passed him
their eyes met, and his blood leapt in his veins. He had never seen
her before, and, in a sense, he had never seen any woman before. He
had danced with many a one, and kissed a few in the old days among the
flax-beaters, at the harvesting, in the gaieties of a wedding, and also
down in Massachusetts. That, however, was a different thing, which he
forgot an hour after; but this was the beginning of the world for him;
for he knew now, of a sudden, what life was, what home meant, why \x93old
folks\x94 slaved for their children, and mothers wept when girls married or
sons went away from home to bigger things; why in there, in at Mass, so
many were praying for all the people, and thinking only of one. All in
a moment it came--and stayed; and he spoke to her, to Marcile, that very
night, and he spoke also to her father, Valloir the farrier, the next
morning by lamplight, before he started for the woods. He would not
be gainsaid, nor take no for an answer, nor accept, as a reason for
refusal, that she was only sixteen, and that he did not know her, for
she had been away with a childless aunt since she was three. That she
had fourteen brothers and sisters who had to be fed and cared for did
not seem to weigh with the farrier. That was an affair of le bon Dieu,
and enough would be provided for them all as heretofore--one could make
little difference; and though Jacques was a very good match, considering
his prospects and his favour with the lumber-king, Valloir had a kind
of fear of him, and could not easily promise his beloved Marcile,
the flower of his flock, to a man of whom the priest so strongly
disapproved. But it was a new sort of Jacques Grassette who, that
morning, spoke to him with the simplicity and eagerness of a child; and
the suddenly conceived gift of a pony stallion, which every man in the
parish envied Jacques, won Valloir over; and Jacques went \x93away back\x94
 with the first timid kiss of Marcile Valloir burning on his cheek.

\x93Well, bagosh, you are a wonder!\x94 said Jacques\x92 father, when he told him
the news, and saw Jacques jump into the carriole and drive away.

Here in prison, this, too, Jacques saw--this scene; and then the wedding
in the spring, and the tour through the parishes for days together,
lads and lasses journeying with them; and afterwards the new home with
a bigger stoop than any other in the village, with some old gnarled
crab-apple trees and lilac bushes, and four years of happiness, and a
little child that died; and all the time Jacques rising in the esteem
of Michelin the lumber-king, and sent on inspections, and to organise
camps; for weeks, sometimes for months, away from the house behind
the lilac bushes--and then the end of it all, sudden and crushing and
unredeemable.

Jacques came back one night and found the house empty. Marcile had gone
to try her luck with another man.

That was the end of the upward career of Jacques Grassette. He went
out upon a savage hunt which brought him no quarry, for the man and the
woman had disappeared as completely as though they had been swallowed
by the sea. And here, at last, he was waiting for the day when he must
settle a bill for a human life taken in passion and rage.

His big frame seemed out of place in the small cell, and the watcher
sitting near him, to whom he had not addressed a word nor replied to a
question since the watching began, seemed an insignificant factor in the
scene. Never had a prisoner been more self-contained, or rejected
more completely all those ministrations of humanity which relieve the
horrible isolation of the condemned cell. Grassette\x92s isolation was
complete. He lived in a dream, did what little there was to do in a dark
abstraction, and sat hour after hour, as he was sitting now, piercing,
with a brain at once benumbed to all outer things and afire with inward
things, those realms of memory which are infinite in a life of forty
years.

\x93Sacre!\x94 he muttered at last, and a shiver seemed to pass through him
from head to foot; then an ugly and evil oath fell from his lips, which
made his watcher shrink back appalled, for he also was a Catholic, and
had been chosen of purpose, in the hope that he might have an influence
on this revolted soul. It had, however, been of no use, and Grassette
had refused the advances and ministrations of the little good priest,
Father Laflamme, who had come from the coast of purpose to give him
the offices of the Church. Silent, obdurate, sullen, he had looked the
priest straight in the face and had said in broken English, \x93Non, I pay
my bill. Nom de diable, I will say my own Mass, light my own candle, go
my own way. I have too much.\x94

Now, as he sat glooming, after his outbreak of oaths, there came a
rattling noise at the door, the grinding of a key in the lock, the
shooting of bolts, and a face appeared at the little wicket in the door.
Then the door opened and the Sheriff stepped inside, accompanied by
a white-haired, stately old man. At sight of this second figure--the
Sheriff had come often before, and would come for one more doleful walk
with him--Grassette started. His face, which had never whitened in
all the dismal and terrorising doings of the capture and the trial and
sentence, though it had flushed with rage more than once, now turned
a little pale, for it seemed as if this old man had stepped out of the
visions which had just passed before his eyes.

\x93His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Henri Robitaille, has come to
speak with you.... Stand up,\x94 the Sheriff added sharply, as Grassette
kept his seat.

Grassette\x92s face flushed with anger, for the prison had not broken his
spirits; then he got up slowly. \x93I not stand up for you,\x94 he growled at
the Sheriff; \x93I stand up for him.\x94 He jerked his head towards Sir Henri
Robitaille. This grand Seigneur, with Michelin, had believed in him in
those far-off days which he had just been seeing over again, and all his
boyhood and young manhood was rushing back on him. But now it was the
Governor who turned pale, seeing who the criminal was.

\x93Jacques Grassette!\x94 he cried in consternation and emotion, for under
another name the murderer had been tried and sentenced, nor had his
identity been established--the case was so clear, the defence had been
perfunctory, and Quebec was very far away.

\x93M\x92sieu\x92!\x94 was the respectful response, and Grassette\x92s fingers
twitched.

\x93It was my sister\x92s son you killed, Grassette,\x94 said the Governor in a
low, strained voice.

\x93Nom de Dieu!\x94 said Grassette hoarsely.

\x93I did not know, Grassette,\x94 the Governor went on \x93I did not know it was
you.\x94

\x93Why did you come, m\x92sieu\x92?\x94

\x93Call him \x91your Honour,\x94\x92 said the Sheriff sharply. Grassette\x92s
face hardened, and his look turned upon the Sheriff was savage and
forbidding. \x93I will speak as it please me. Who are you? What do I care?
To hang me--that is your business; but, for the rest, you spik to me
differen\x92. Who are you? Your father kep\x92 a tavern for thieves, vous
savez bien!\x94 It was true that the Sheriff\x92s father had had no savoury
reputation in the West.

The Governor turned his head away in pain and trouble, for the man\x92s
rage was not a thing to see--and they both came from the little parish
of St. Francis, and had passed many an hour together.

\x93Never mind, Grassette,\x94 he said gently. \x93Call me what you will. You\x92ve
got no feeling against me; and I can say with truth that I don\x92t want
your life for the life you took.\x94

Grassette\x92s breast heaved. \x93He put me out of my work, the man I kill. He
pass the word against me, he hunt me out of the mountains, he call--tete
de diable! he call me a name so bad. Everything swim in my head, and I
kill him.\x94

The Governor made a protesting gesture. \x93I understand. I am glad his
mother was dead. But do you not think how sudden it was? Now here, in
the thick of life, then, out there, beyond this world in the darkin
purgatory.\x94

The brave old man had accomplished what everyone else, priest, lawyer,
Sheriff and watcher, had failed to do: he had shaken Grassette out of
his blank isolation and obdurate unrepentance, had touched some chord of
recognisable humanity.

\x93It is done--well, I pay for it,\x94 responded Grassette, setting his jaw.
\x93It is two deaths for me. Waiting and remembering, and then with the
Sheriff there the other--so quick, and all.\x94

The Governor looked at him for some moments without speaking. The
Sheriff intervened again officiously.

\x93His Honour has come to say something important to you,\x94 he remarked
oracularly.

\x93Hold you--does he need a Sheriff to tell him when to spik?\x94 was
Grassette\x92s surly comment. Then he turned to the Governor. \x93Let us speak
in French,\x94 he said in patois. \x93This rope-twister will not understan\x92.
He is no good--I spit at him.\x94

The Governor nodded, and, despite the Sheriff\x92s protest, they spoke in
French, Grassette with his eyes intently fixed on the other, eagerly
listening.

\x93I have come,\x94 said the Governor, \x93to say to you, Grassette, that you
have still a chance of life.\x94

He paused, and Grassette\x92s face took on a look of bewilderment and vague
anxiety. A chance of life--what did it mean?

\x93Reprieve?\x94 he asked in a hoarse voice.

The Governor shook his head. \x93Not yet; but there is a chance. Something
has happened. A man\x92s life is in danger, or it may be he is dead; but
more likely he is alive. You took a life; perhaps you can save one now.
Keeley\x92s Gulch--the mine there.\x94

\x93They have found it--gold?\x94 asked Grassette, his eyes staring. He was
forgetting for a moment where and what he was.

\x93He went to find it, the man whose life is in danger. He had heard from
a trapper who had been a miner once. While he was there, a landslip
came, and the opening to the mine was closed up--\x94

\x93There were two ways in. Which one did he take?\x94 cried Grassette.

\x93The only one he could take, the only one he or anyone else knew. You
know the other way in--you only, they say.\x94

\x93I found it--the easier, quick way in; a year ago I found it.\x94

\x93Was it near the other entrance?\x94 Grassette shook his head. \x93A mile
away.\x94

\x93If the man is alive--and we think he is--you are the only person that
can save him. I have telegraphed the Government. They do not promise,
but they will reprieve, and save your life, if you find the man.\x94

\x93Alive or dead?\x94

\x93Alive or dead, for the act would be the same. I have an order to take
you to the Gulch, if you will go; and I am sure that you will have your
life, if you do it. I will promise--ah yes, Grassette, but it shall be
so! Public opinion will demand it. You will do it?\x94

\x93To go free--altogether?\x94

\x93Well, but if your life is saved, Grassette?\x94

The dark face flushed, then grew almost repulsive again in its
sullenness.

\x93Life--and this, in prison, shut in year after year. To do always what
some one else wills, to be a slave to a warder. To have men like
that over me that have been a boss of men--wasn\x92t it that drove me to
kill?--to be treated like dirt. And to go on with this, while outside
there is free life, and to go where you will at your own price-no! What
do I care for life! What is it to me! To live like this--ah, I would
break my head against these stone walls, I would choke myself with my
own hands! If I stayed here, I would kill again, I would kill--kill.\x94

\x93Then to go free altogether--that would be the wish of all the world,
if you save this man\x92s life, if it can be saved. Will you not take the
chance? We all have to die some time or other, Grassette, some sooner,
some later; and when you go, will you not want to take to God in your
hands a life saved for a life taken? Have you forgotten God, Grassette?
We used to remember Him in the Church of St. Francis down there at
home.\x94

There was a moment\x92s silence, in which Grassette\x92s head was thrust
forwards, his eyes staring into space. The old Seigneur had touched a
vulnerable corner in his nature.

Presently he said in a low voice: \x93To be free altogether.... What is his
name? Who is he?\x94

\x93His name is Bignold,\x94 the Governor answered. He turned to the Sheriff
inquiringly. \x93That is it, is it not?\x94 he asked in English again.

\x93James Tarran Bignold,\x94 answered the Sheriff.

The effect of these words upon Grassette was remarkable. His body
appeared to stiffen, his face became rigid, he stared at the Governor
blankly, appalled, the colour left his face, and his mouth opened with
a curious and revolting grimace. The others drew back, startled, and
watched him.

\x93Sang de Dieu!\x94 he murmured at last, with a sudden gesture of misery and
rage.

Then the Governor understood: he remembered that the name just given by
the Sheriff and himself was the name of the Englishman who had carried
off Grassette\x92s wife years ago. He stepped forwards and was about to
speak, but changed his mind. He would leave it all to Grassette; he
would not let the Sheriff know the truth, unless Grassette himself
disclosed the situation. He looked at Grassette with a look of poignant
pity and interest combined. In his own placid life he had never had any
tragic happening, his blood had run coolly, his days had been blessed by
an urbane fate; such scenes as this were but a spectacle to him; there
was no answering chord of human suffering in his own breast, to make him
realise what Grassette was undergoing now; but he had read widely, he
had been an acute observer of the world and its happenings, and he had
a natural human sympathy which had made many a man and woman eternally
grateful to him.

What would Grassette do? It was a problem which had no precedent, and
the solution would be a revelation of the human mind and heart. What
would the man do?

\x93Well, what is all this, Grassette?\x94 asked the Sheriff brusquely. His
official and officious intervention, behind which was the tyranny of
the little man, given a power which he was incapable of wielding wisely,
would have roused Grassette to a savage reply a half-hour before, but
now it was met by a contemptuous wave of the hand, and Grassette kept
his eyes fixed on the Governor.

\x93James Tarran Bignold!\x94 Grassette said harshly, with eyes that searched
the Governor\x92s face; but they found no answering look there. The
Governor, then, did not remember that tragedy of his home and hearth,
and the man who had made of him an Ishmael. Still, Bignold had been
almost a stranger in the parish, and it was not curious if the Governor
had forgotten.

\x93Bignold!\x94 he repeated, but the Governor gave no response.

\x93Yes, Bignold is his name, Grassette,\x94 said the Sheriff. \x93You took a
life, and now, if you save one, that\x92ll balance things. As the Governor
says, there\x92ll be a reprieve anyhow. It\x92s pretty near the day, and this
isn\x92t a bad world to kick in, so long as you kick with one leg on the
ground, and--\x94

The Governor hastily intervened upon the Sheriff\x92s brutal remarks.
\x93There is no time to be lost, Grassette. He has been ten days in the
mine.\x94

Grassette\x92s was not a slow brain. For a man of such physical and bodily
bulk, he had more talents than are generally given. If his brain had
been slower, his hand also would have been slower to strike. But his
intelligence had been surcharged with hate these many years, and since
the day he had been deserted, it had ceased to control his actions--a
passionate and reckless wilfulness had governed it. But now, after
the first shock and stupefaction, it seemed to go back to where it was
before Marcile went from him, gather up the force and intelligence it
had then, and come forwards again to this supreme moment, with all that
life\x92s harsh experiences had done for it, with the education that misery
and misdoing give. Revolutions are often the work of instants, not
years, and the crucial test and problem by which Grassette was now faced
had lifted him into a new atmosphere, with a new capacity alive in him.
A moment ago his eyes had been bloodshot and swimming with hatred and
passion; now they grew, almost suddenly, hard and lurking and quiet,
with a strange, penetrating force and inquiry in them.

\x93Bignold--where does he come from? What is he?\x94 he asked the Sheriff.

\x93He is an Englishman; he\x92s only been out here a few months. He\x92s been
shooting and prospecting; but he\x92s a better shooter than prospector.
He\x92s a stranger; that\x92s why all the folks out here want to save him if
it\x92s possible. It\x92s pretty hard dying in a strange land far away from
all that\x92s yours. Maybe he\x92s got a wife waiting for him over there.\x94

\x93Nom de Dieu!\x94 said Grassette with suppressed malice, under his breath.

\x93Maybe there\x92s a wife waiting for him, and there\x92s her to think of. The
West\x92s hospitable, and this thing has taken hold of it; the West wants
to save this stranger, and it\x92s waiting for you, Grassette, to do its
work for it, you being the only man that can do it, the only one
that knows the other secret way into Keeley\x92s Gulch. Speak right out,
Grassette. It\x92s your chance for life. Speak out quick.\x94

The last three words were uttered in the old slave-driving tone, though
the earlier part of the speech had been delivered oracularly, and had
brought again to Grassette\x92s eyes the reddish, sullen look which had
made them, a little while before, like those of some wounded, angered
animal at bay; but it vanished slowly, and there was silence for a
moment. The Sheriff\x92s words had left no vestige of doubt in Grassette\x92s
mind. This Bignold was the man who had taken Marcile away, first to the
English province, then into the States, where he had lost track of them,
then over to England. Marcile--where was Marcile now?

In Keeley\x92s Gulch was the man who could tell him, the man who had ruined
his home and his life. Dead or alive, he was in Keeley\x92s Gulch, the man
who knew where Marcile was; and if he knew where Marcile was, and if she
was alive, and he was outside these prison walls, what would he do to
her? And if he was outside these prison walls, and in the Gulch, and the
man was there alive before him, what would he do?

Outside these prison walls-to be out there in the sun, where life would
be easier to give up, if it had to be given up! An hour ago he had been
drifting on a sea of apathy, and had had his fill of life. An hour ago
he had had but one desire, and that was to die fighting, and he had even
pictured to himself a struggle in this narrow cell where he would compel
them to kill him, and so in any case let him escape the rope. Now he was
suddenly brought face to face with the great central issue of his
life, and the end, whatever that end might be, could not be the same in
meaning, though it might be the same concretely. If he elected to let
things be, then Bignold would die out there in the Gulch, starved,
anguished, and alone. If he went, he could save his own life by saving
Bignold, if Bignold was alive; or he could go--and not save Bignold\x92s
life or his own! What would he do?

The Governor watched him with a face controlled to quietness, but with
an anxiety which made him pale in spite of himself.

\x93What will you do, Grassette?\x94 he said at last in a low voice, and with
a step forwards to him. \x93Will you not help to clear your conscience by
doing this thing? You don\x92t want to try and spite the world by not
doing it. You can make a lot of your life yet, if you are set free. Give
yourself, and give the world a chance. You haven\x92t used it right. Try
again.\x94

Grassette imagined that the Governor did not remember who Bignold was,
and that this was an appeal against his despair, and against revenging
himself on the community which had applauded his sentence. If he went
to the Gulch, no one would know or could suspect the true situation,
everyone would be unprepared for that moment when Bignold and he would
face each other--and all that would happen then.

Where was Marcile? Only Bignold knew. Alive or dead? Only Bignold knew.

\x93Bien, I will do it, m\x92sieu\x92,\x94 he said to the Governor. \x93I am to go
alone--eh?\x94

The Sheriff shook his head. \x93No, two warders will go with you--and
myself.\x94

A strange look passed over Grassette\x92s face. He seemed to hesitate for a
moment, then he said again: \x93Bon, I will go.\x94

\x93Then there is, of course, the doctor,\x94 said the Sheriff.

\x93Bon,\x94 said Grassette. \x93What time is it?\x94 \x93Twelve o\x92clock,\x94 answered the
Sheriff, and made a motion to the warder to open the door of the cell.

\x93By sundown!\x94 Grassette said, and he turned with a determined gesture to
leave the cell.

At the gate of the prison, a fresh, sweet air caught his face.
Involuntarily he drew in a great draught of it, and his eyes seemed
to gaze out, almost wonderingly, over the grass and the trees to
the boundless horizon. Then he became aware of the shouts of the
crowd--shouts of welcome. This same crowd had greeted him with shouts of
execration when he had left the Court House after his sentence. He
stood still for a moment and looked at them, as it were only half
comprehending that they were cheering him now, and that voices were
saying, \x93Bravo, Grassette! Save him, and we\x92ll save you.\x94

Cheer upon cheer, but he took no notice. He walked like one in a dream,
a long, strong step. He turned neither to left nor right, not even when
the friendly voice of one who had worked with him bade him: \x93Cheer up,
and do the trick.\x94 He was busy working out a problem which no one but
himself could solve. He was only half conscious of his surroundings; he
was moving in a kind of detached world of his own, where the warders
and the Sheriff and those who followed were almost abstract and unreal
figures. He was living with a past which had been everlasting distant,
and had now become a vivid and buffeting present. He returned no answers
to the questions addressed to him, and would not talk, save when for a
little while they dismounted from their horses, and sat under the
shade of a great ash-tree for a few moments, and snatched a mouthful of
luncheon. Then he spoke a little and asked some questions, but lapsed
into a moody silence afterwards. His life and nature were being passed
through a fiery crucible. In all the years that had gone, he had had
an ungovernable desire to kill both Bignold and Marcile if he ever met
them, a primitive, savage desire to blot them out of life and being. His
fingers had ached for Marcile\x92s neck, that neck in which he had lain his
face so often in the transient, unforgettable days of their happiness.
If she was alive now--if she was still alive! Her story was hidden there
in Keeley\x92s Gulch with Bignold, and he was galloping hard to reach his
foe. As he went, by some strange alchemy of human experience, by that
new birth of his brain, the world seemed different from what it had ever
been before, at least since the day when he had found an empty home and
a shamed hearthstone. He got a new feeling toward it, and life appealed
to him as a thing that might have been so well worth living. But
since that was not to be, then he would see what he could do to get
compensation for all that he had lost, to take toll for the thing that
had spoiled him, and given him a savage nature and a raging temper,
which had driven him at last to kill a man who, in no real sense, had
injured him.

Mile after mile they journeyed, a troop of interested people coming
after, the sun and the clear sweet air, the waving grass, the occasional
clearings where settlers had driven in the tent-pegs of home, the forest
now and then swallowing them, the mountains rising above them like a
blank wall, and then suddenly opening out before them; and the rustle
and scamper of squirrels and coyotes; and over their heads the whistle
of birds, the slow beat of wings of great wild-fowl. The tender sap of
youth was in this glowing and alert new world, and, by sudden contrast
with the prison walls which he had just left behind, the earth seemed
recreated, unfamiliar, compelling and companionable. Strange that in all
the years that had been since he had gone back to his abandoned home to
find Marcile gone, the world had had no beauty, no lure for him. In
the splendour of it all, he had only raged and stormed, hating his
fellowman, waiting, however hopelessly, for the day when he should see
Marcile and the man who had taken her from him. And yet now, under the
degradation of his crime and its penalty, and the unmanning influence of
being the helpless victim of the iron power of the law, rigid, ugly and
demoralising--now with the solution of his life\x92s great problem here
before him in the hills, with the man for whom he had waited so long
caverned in the earth, but a hand-reach away, as it were, his wrongs had
taken a new manifestation in him, and the thing that kept crying out in
him every moment was, Where is Marcile?

It was four o\x92clock when they reached the pass which only Grassette
knew, the secret way into the Gulch. There was two hours\x92 walking
through the thick, primeval woods, where few had ever been, except the
ancient tribes which had once lorded it here; then came a sudden drop
into the earth, a short travel through a dim cave, and afterward a sheer
wall of stone enclosing a ravine where the rocks on either side nearly
met overhead.

Here Grassette gave the signal to shout aloud, and the voice of the
Sheriff called out: \x93Hello, Bignold!

\x93Hello! Hello, Bignold! Are you there?--Hello!\x94 His voice rang out clear
and piercing, and then came a silence-a long, anxious silence. Again the
voice rang out: \x93Hello! Hello-o-o! Bignold! Bigno-o-ld!\x94

They strained their ears. Grassette was flat on the ground, his ear
to the earth. Suddenly he got to his feet, his face set, his eyes
glittering.

\x93He is there beyon\x92--I hear him,\x94 he said, pointing farther down the
Gulch. \x93Water--he is near it.\x94

\x93We heard nothing,\x94 said the Sheriff, \x93not a sound.\x94 \x93I hear ver\x92 good.
He is alive. I hear him--so,\x94 responded Grassette; and his face had a
strange, fixed look which the others interpreted to be agitation at the
thought that he had saved his own life by finding Bignold--and alive;
which would put his own salvation beyond doubt.

He broke away from them and hurried down the Gulch. The others followed
hard after, the Sheriff and the warders close behind; but he outstripped
them.

Suddenly he stopped and stood still, looking at something on the ground.
They saw him lean forwards and his hands stretch out with a fierce
gesture. It was the attitude of a wild animal ready to spring.

They were beside him in an instant, and saw at his feet Bignold worn to
a skeleton, with eyes starting from his head, and fixed on Grassette in
agony and stark fear.

The Sheriff stooped to lift Bignold up, but Grassette waved them back
with a fierce gesture, standing over the dying man.

\x93He spoil my home. He break me--I have my bill to settle here,\x94 he said
in a voice hoarse and harsh. \x93It is so? It is so--eh? Spik!\x94 he said to
Bignold.

\x93Yes,\x94 came feebly from the shrivelled lips. \x93Water! Water!\x94 the
wretched man gasped. \x93I\x92m dying!\x94

A sudden change came over Grassette. \x93Water--queeck!\x94 he said.

The Sheriff stooped and held a hatful of water to Bignold\x92s lips, while
another poured brandy from a flask into the water.

Grassette watched them eagerly. When the dying man had swallowed a
little of the spirit and water, Grassette leaned over him again, and
the others drew away. They realised that these two men had an account to
settle, and there was no need for Grassette to take revenge, for Bignold
was going fast.

\x93You stan\x92 far back,\x94 said Grassette, and they fell away.

Then he stooped down to the sunken, ashen face, over which death was
fast drawing its veil. \x93Marcile--where is Marcile?\x94 he asked.

The dying man\x92s lips opened. \x93God forgive me--God save my soul!\x94 he
whispered. He was not concerned for Grassette now.

\x93Queeck-queeck, where is Marcile?\x94 Grassette said sharply. \x93Come back,
Bignold. Listen--where is Marcile?\x94

He strained to hear the answer. Bignold was going, but his eyes opened
again, however, for this call seemed to pierce to his soul as it
struggled to be free.

\x93Ten years--since--I saw her,\x94 he whispered. \x93Good girl--Marcile. She
loves you, but she--is afraid.\x94 He tried to say something more, but his
tongue refused its office.

\x93Where is she-spik!\x94 commanded Grassette in a tone of pleading and agony
now.

Once more the flying spirit came back. A hand made a motion towards his
pocket, then lay still.

Grassette felt hastily in the dead man\x92s pocket, drew forth a letter,
and with half-blinded eyes read the few lines it contained. It was dated
from a hospital in New York, and was signed: \x93Nurse Marcile.\x94

With a moan of relief Grassette stood staring at the dead man. When the
others came to him again, his lips were moving, but they did not hear
what he was saying. They took up the body and moved away with it up the
ravine.

\x93It\x92s all right, Grassette. You\x92ll be a freeman,\x94 said the Sheriff.

Grassette did not answer. He was thinking how long it would take him to
get to Marcile, when he was free.

He had a true vision of beginning life again with Marcile.



A MAN, A FAMINE, AND A HEATHEN BOY

Athabasca in the Far North is the scene of this story--Athabasca, one
of the most beautiful countries in the world in summer, but a cold, bare
land in winter. Yet even in winter it is not so bleak and bitter as the
districts south-west of it, for the Chinook winds steal through from the
Pacific and temper the fierceness of the frozen Rockies. Yet forty and
fifty degrees below zero is cold after all, and July strawberries in
this wild North land are hardly compensation for seven months of ice and
snow, no matter how clear and blue the sky, how sweet the sun during its
short journey in the day. Some days, too, the sun may not be seen even
when there is no storm, because of the fine, white, powdered frost in
the air.

A day like this is called a poudre day; and woe to the man who tempts it
unthinkingly, because the light makes the delicate mist of frost shine
like silver. For that powder bites the skin white in short order, and
sometimes reckless men lose ears, or noses, or hands under its sharp
caress. But when it really storms in that Far North, then neither man
nor beast should be abroad--not even the Eskimo dogs; though times and
seasons can scarcely be chosen when travelling in Athabasca, for a storm
comes unawares. Upon the plains you will see a cloud arising, not in the
sky, but from the ground--a billowy surf of drifting snow; then another
white billow from the sky will sweep down and meet it, and you are
caught between.

He who went to Athabasca to live a generation ago had to ask himself if
the long winter, spent chiefly indoors, with, maybe, a little trading
with the Indians, meagre sport, and scant sun, savages and half-breeds
the only companions, and out of all touch with the outside world,
letters coming but once a year; with frozen fish and meat, always
the same, as the staple items in a primitive fare; with danger from
starvation and marauding tribes; with endless monotony, in which men
sometimes go mad--he had to ask himself if these were to be cheerfully
endured because, in the short summer, the air is heavenly, the rivers
and lakes are full of fish, the flotilla of canoes of the fur-hunters is
pouring down, and all is gaiety and pleasant turmoil; because there is
good shooting in the autumn, and the smell of the land is like a garden,
and hardy fruits and flowers are at hand.

That is a question which was asked William Rufus Holly once upon a time.

William Rufus Holly, often called \x93Averdoopoy,\x94 sometimes \x93Sleeping
Beauty,\x94 always Billy Rufus, had had a good education. He had been to
high school and to college, and he had taken one or two prizes en route
to graduation; but no fame travelled with him, save that he was the
laziest man of any college year for a decade. He loved his little
porringer, which is to say that he ate a good deal; and he loved to read
books, which is not to say that he loved study; he hated getting out of
bed, and he was constantly gated for morning chapel. More than once he
had sweetly gone to sleep over his examination papers. This is not
to say that he failed at his examinations--on the contrary, he always
succeeded; but he only did enough to pass and no more; and he did
not wish to do more than pass. His going to sleep at examinations
was evidence that he was either indifferent or self-indulgent, and it
certainly showed that he was without nervousness. He invariably roused
himself, or his professor roused him, a half-hour before the papers
should be handed in, and, as it were by a mathematical calculation, he
had always done just enough to prevent him being plucked.

He slept at lectures, he slept in hall, he slept as he waited his turn
to go to the wicket in a cricket match, and he invariably went to sleep
afterwards. He even did so on the day he had made the biggest score,
in the biggest game ever played between his college and the pick of the
country; but he first gorged himself with cake and tea. The day he took
his degree he had to be dragged from a huge grandfather\x92s chair, and
forced along in his ragged gown--\x93ten holes and twelve tatters\x94--to the
function in the convocation hall. He looked so fat and shiny, so balmy
and sleepy when he took his degree and was handed his prize for a poem
on Sir John Franklin, that the public laughed, and the college men in
the gallery began singing:

          \x93Bye O, my baby,
          Father will come to you soo-oon!\x94

He seemed not to care, but yawned in his hand as he put his prize book
under his arm through one of the holes in his gown, and in two minutes
was back in his room, and in another five was fast asleep.

It was the general opinion that William Rufus Holly, fat, yellow-haired,
and twenty-four years old, was doomed to failure in life, in spite of
the fact that he had a little income of a thousand dollars a year, and
had made a century in an important game of cricket. Great, therefore,
was the surprise of the college, and afterward of the Province, when, at
the farewell dinner of the graduates, Sleeping Beauty announced, between
his little open-eyed naps, that he was going Far North as a missionary.

At first it was thought he was joking, but when at last, in his calm and
dreamy look, they saw he meant what he said, they rose and carried him
round the room on a chair, making impromptu songs as they travelled.
They toasted Billy Rufus again and again, some of them laughing till
they cried at the thought of Averdoopoy going to the Arctic regions. But
an uneasy seriousness fell upon these \x93beautiful, bountiful, brilliant
boys,\x94 as Holly called them later, when in a simple, honest, but
indolent speech he said he had applied for ordination.

Six months later William Rufus Holly, a deacon in holy orders, journeyed
to Athabasca in the Far North. On his long journey there was plenty of
time to think. He was embarked on a career which must for ever keep him
in the wilds; for very seldom indeed does a missionary of the North ever
return to the crowded cities or take a permanent part in civilised life.

What the loneliness of it would be he began to feel, as for hours and
hours he saw no human being on the plains; in the thrilling stillness
of the night; in fierce storms in the woods, when his half-breed guides
bent their heads to meet the wind and rain, and did not speak for hours;
in the long, adventurous journey on the river by day, in the cry of the
plaintive loon at night; in the scant food for every meal. Yet what the
pleasure would be he felt in the joyous air, the exquisite sunshine, the
flocks of wild-fowl flying North, honking on their course; in the song
of the half-breeds as they ran the rapids. Of course, he did not
think these things quite as they are written here--all at once and all
together; but in little pieces from time to time, feeling them rather
than saying them to himself.

At least he did understand how serious a thing it was, his going as a
missionary into the Far North. Why did he do it? Was it a whim, or the
excited imagination of youth, or that prompting which the young often
have to make the world better? Or was it a fine spirit of adventure with
a good heart behind it? Perhaps it was a little of all these; but there
was also something more, and it was to his credit.

Lazy as William Rufus Holly had been at school and college, he had
still thought a good deal, even when he seemed only sleeping; perhaps
he thought more because he slept so much, because he studied little and
read a great deal. He always knew what everybody thought--that he would
never do anything but play cricket till he got too heavy to run, and
then would sink into a slothful, fat, and useless middle and old age;
that his life would be a failure. And he knew that they were right; that
if he stayed where he could live an easy life, a fat and easy life he
would lead; that in a few years he would be good for nothing except to
eat and sleep--no more. One day, waking suddenly from a bad dream of
himself so fat as to be drawn about on a dray by monstrous fat oxen with
rings through their noses, led by monkeys, he began to wonder what he
should do--the hardest thing to do; for only the hardest life could
possibly save him from failure, and, in spite of all, he really did want
to make something of his life. He had been reading the story of Sir John
Franklin\x92s Arctic expedition, and all at once it came home to him that
the only thing for him to do was to go to the Far North and stay there,
coming back about once every ten years to tell the people in the cities
what was being done in the wilds. Then there came the inspiration to
write his poem on Sir John Franklin, and he had done so, winning the
college prize for poetry. But no one had seen any change in him in those
months; and, indeed, there had been little or no change, for he had
an equable and practical, though imaginative, disposition, despite
his avoirdupois, and his new purpose did not stir him yet from his
comfortable sloth.

And in all the journey West and North he had not been stirred greatly
from his ease of body, for the journey was not much harder than playing
cricket every day, and there were only the thrill of the beautiful air,
the new people, and the new scenes to rouse him. As yet there was no
great responsibility. He scarcely realised what his life must be, until
one particular day. Then Sleeping Beauty waked wide up, and from that
day lost the name. Till then he had looked and borne himself like any
other traveller, unrecognised as a parson or \x93mikonaree.\x94 He had not had
prayers in camp en route, he had not preached, he had held no meetings.
He was as yet William Rufus Holly, the cricketer, the laziest dreamer
of a college decade. His religion was simple and practical; he had never
had any morbid ideas; he had lived a healthy, natural, and honourable
life, until he went for a mikonaree, and if he had no cant, he had not
a clear idea of how many-sided, how responsible, his life must be--until
that one particular day. This is what happened then.

From Fort O\x92Call, an abandoned post of the Hudson\x92s Bay Company on
the Peace River, nearly the whole tribe of the Athabasca Indians in
possession of the post now had come up the river, with their chief,
Knife-in-the-Wind, to meet the mikonaree. Factors of the Hudson\x92s Bay
Company, coureurs de bois, and voyageurs had come among them at times,
and once the renowned Father Lacombe, the Jesuit priest, had stayed
with them three months; but never to this day had they seen a Protestant
mikonaree, though once a factor, noted for his furious temper, his
powers of running, and his generosity, had preached to them. These men,
however, were both over fifty years old. The Athabascas did not hunger
for the Christian religion, but a courier from Edmonton had brought them
word that a mikonaree was coming to their country to stay, and they put
off their stoical manner and allowed themselves the luxury of curiosity.
That was why even the squaws and papooses came up the river with the
braves, all wondering if the stranger had brought gifts with him, all
eager for their shares; for it had been said by the courier of the tribe
that \x93Oshondonto,\x94 their name for the newcomer, was bringing mysterious
loads of well-wrapped bales and skins. Upon a point below the first
rapids of the Little Manitou they waited with their camp-fires burning
and their pipe of peace.

When the canoes bearing Oshondonto and his voyageurs shot the rapids to
the song of the river,

          \x93En roulant, ma boule roulant,
          En roulant, ma boule!\x94

with the shrill voices of the boatmen rising to meet the cry of the
startled water-fowl, the Athabascas crowded to the high banks. They
grunted \x93How!\x94 in greeting, as the foremost canoe made for the shore.

But if surprise could have changed the countenances of Indians, these
Athabascas would not have known one another when the missionary stepped
out upon the shore. They had looked to see a grey-bearded man like
the chief factor who quarrelled and prayed; but they found instead a
round-faced, clean-shaven youth, with big, good-natured eyes, yellow
hair, and a roundness of body like that of a month-old bear\x92s cub. They
expected to find a man who, like the factor, could speak their language,
and they found a cherub sort of youth who talked only English, French,
and Chinook--that common language of the North--and a few words of their
own language which he had learned on the way.

Besides, Oshondonto was so absent-minded at the moment, so absorbed in
admiration of the garish scene before him, that he addressed the chief
in French, of which Knife-in-the-Wind knew but the one word cache, which
all the North knows.

But presently William Rufus Holly recovered himself, and in stumbling
Chinook made himself understood. Opening a bale, he brought out beads
and tobacco and some bright red flannel, and two hundred Indians sat
round him and grunted \x93How!\x94 and received his gifts with little comment.
Then the pipe of peace went round, and Oshondonto smoked it becomingly.

But he saw that the Indians despised him for his youth, his fatness, his
yellow hair as soft as a girl\x92s, his cherub face, browned though it was
by the sun and weather.

As he handed the pipe to Knife-in-the-Wind, an Indian called Silver
Tassel, with a cruel face, said grimly:

\x93Why does Oshondonto travel to us?\x94

William Rufus Holly\x92s eyes steadied on those of the Indian as he
replied in Chinook: \x93To teach the way to Manitou the Mighty, to tell the
Athabascas of the Great Chief who died to save the world.\x94

\x93The story is told in many ways; which is right? There was the factor,
Word of Thunder. There is the song they sing at Edmonton--I have heard.\x94

\x93The Great Chief is the same Chief,\x94 answered the missionary. \x93If you
tell of Fort O\x92Call, and Knife-in-the-Wind tells of Fort O\x92Call, he and
you will speak different words, and one will put in one thing and one
will leave out another; men\x92s tongues are different. But Fort O\x92Call is
the-same, and the Great Chief is the same.\x94

\x93It was a long time ago,\x94 said Knife-in-the-Wind sourly, \x93many thousand
moons, as the pebbles in the river, the years.\x94

\x93It is the same world, and it is the same Chief, and it was to save us,\x94
 answered William Rufus Holly, smiling, yet with a fluttering heart, for
the first test of his life had come.

In anger Knife-in-the-Wind thrust an arrow into the ground and said:

\x93How can the white man who died thousands of moons ago in a far country
save the red man to-day?\x94

\x93A strong man should bear so weak a tale,\x94 broke in Silver Tassel
ruthlessly. \x93Are we children that the Great Chief sends a child as
messenger?\x94

For a moment Billy Rufus did not know how to reply, and in the pause
Knife-in-the-Wind broke in two pieces the arrow he had thrust in the
ground in token of displeasure.

Suddenly, as Oshondonto was about to speak, Silver Tassel sprang to
his feet, seized in his arms a lad of twelve who was standing near, and
running to the bank, dropped him into the swift current.

\x93If Oshondonto be not a child, let him save the lad,\x94 said Silver
Tassel, standing on the brink.

Instantly William Rufus Holly was on his feet. His coat was off before
Silver Tassel\x92s words were out of his mouth, and crying, \x93In the name of
the Great White Chief!\x94 he jumped into the rushing current. \x93In the name
of your Manitou, come on, Silver Tassel!\x94 he called up from the water,
and struck out for the lad.

Not pausing an instant, Silver Tassel sprang into the flood, into the
whirling eddies and dangerous current below the first rapids and above
the second.

Then came the struggle for Wingo of the Cree tribe, a waif among
the Athabascas, whose father had been slain as they travelled, by a
wandering tribe of Blackfeet. Never was there a braver rivalry, although
the odds were with the Indian-in lightness, in brutal strength. With
the mikonaree, however, were skill, and that sort of strength which
the world calls \x93moral,\x94 the strength of a good and desperate purpose.
Oshondonto knew that on the issue of this shameless business--this cruel
sport of Silver Tassel--would depend his future on the Peace River. As
he shot forward with strong strokes in the whirling torrent after the
helpless lad, who, only able to keep himself afloat, was being swept
down towards the rapids below, he glanced up to the bank along which the
Athabascas were running. He saw the garish colours of their dresses;
he saw the ignorant medicine man, with his mysterious bag, making
incantations; he saw the tepee of the chief, with its barbarous pennant
above; he saw the idle, naked children tearing at the entrails of
a calf; and he realised that this was a deadly tournament between
civilisation and barbarism.

Silver Tassel was gaining on him, they were both overhauling the boy; it
was now to see which should reach Wingo first, which should take him to
shore. That is, if both were not carried under before they reached him;
that is, if, having reached him, they and he would ever get to shore;
for, lower down, before it reached the rapids, the current ran horribly
smooth and strong, and here and there were jagged rocks just beneath the
surface.

Still Silver Tassel gained on him, as they both gained on the boy.
Oshondonto swam strong and hard, but he swam with his eye on the
struggle for the shore also; he was not putting forth his utmost
strength, for he knew it would be bitterly needed, perhaps to save his
own life by a last effort.

Silver Tassel passed him when they were about fifty feet from the boy.
Shooting by on his side, with a long stroke and the plunge of his body
like a projectile, the dark face with the long black hair plastering it
turned towards his own, in fierce triumph Silver Tassel cried \x93How!\x94 in
derision.

Billy Rufus set his teeth and lay down to his work like a sportsman. His
face had lost its roses, and it was set and determined, but there was no
look of fear upon it, nor did his heart sink when a cry of triumph went
up from the crowd on the banks. The white man knew by old experience in
the cricket-field and in many a boat-race that it is well not to
halloo till you are out of the woods. His mettle was up, he was not the
Reverend William Rufus Holly, missionary, but Billy Rufus, the champion
cricketer, the sportsman playing a long game.

Silver Tassel reached the boy, who was bruised and bleeding and at his
last gasp, and throwing an arm round him, struck out for the shore. The
current was very strong, and he battled fiercely as Billy Rufus, not far
above, moved down toward them at an angle. For a few yards Silver Tassel
was going strong, then his pace slackened, he seemed to sink lower in
the water, and his stroke became splashing and irregular. Suddenly he
struck a rock, which bruised him badly, and, swerving from his course,
he lost his stroke and let go the boy.

By this time the mikonaree had swept beyond them, and he caught the
boy by his long hair as he was being swept below. Striking out for the
shore, he swam with bold, strong strokes, his judgment guiding him well
past rocks beneath the surface. Ten feet from shore he heard a cry of
alarm from above. It concerned Silver Tassel, he knew, but he could not
look round yet.

In another moment the boy was dragged up the bank by strong hands, and
Billy Rufus swung round in the water towards Silver Tassel, who, in his
confused energy, had struck another rock, and, exhausted now, was being
swept towards the rapids. Silver Tassel\x92s shoulder scarcely showed, his
strength was gone. In a flash Billy Rufus saw there was but one thing to
do. He must run the rapids with Silver Tassel-there was no other way. It
would be a fight through the jaws of death; but no Indian\x92s eyes had a
better sense for river-life than William Rufus Holly\x92s.

How he reached Silver Tassel, and drew the Indian\x92s arm over his own
shoulder; how they drove down into the boiling flood; how Billy Rufus\x92s
fat body was battered and torn and ran red with blood from twenty flesh
wounds; but how by luck beyond the telling he brought Silver Tassel
through safely into the quiet water a quarter of a mile below the
rapids, and was hauled out, both more dead than alive, is a tale still
told by the Athabascas around their camp-fire. The rapids are known
to-day as the Mikonaree Rapids.

The end of this beginning of the young man\x92s career was that Silver
Tassel gave him the word of eternal friendship, Knife-in-the-Wind took
him into the tribe, and the boy Wingo became his very own, to share his
home, and his travels, no longer a waif among the Athabascas.

After three days\x92 feasting, at the end of which the missionary held his
first service and preached his first sermon, to the accompaniment of
grunts of satisfaction from the whole tribe of Athabascas, William Rufus
Holly began his work in the Far North.

The journey to Fort O\x92Call was a procession of triumph, for, as it was
summer, there was plenty of food, the missionary had been a success, and
he had distributed many gifts of beads and flannel.

All went well for many moons, although converts were uncertain and
baptisms few, and the work was hard and the loneliness at times
terrible. But at last came dark days.

One summer and autumn there had been poor fishing and shooting, the
caches of meat were fewer on the plains, and almost nothing had come
up to Fort O\x92Call from Edmonton, far below. The yearly supplies for the
missionary, paid for out of his private income--the bacon, beans, tea,
coffee and flour--had been raided by a band of hostile Indians, and he
viewed with deep concern the progress of the severe winter. Although
three years of hard, frugal life had made his muscles like iron, they
had only mellowed his temper, increased his flesh and rounded his face;
nor did he look an hour older than on the day when he had won Wingo for
his willing slave and devoted friend.

He never resented the frequent ingratitude of the Indians; he said
little when they quarrelled over the small comforts his little income
brought them yearly from the South. He had been doctor, lawyer, judge
among them, although he interfered little in the larger disputes, and
was forced to shut his eyes to intertribal enmities. He had no deep
faith that he could quite civilise them; he knew that their conversion
was only on the surface, and he fell back on his personal influence with
them. By this he could check even the excesses of the worst man in the
tribe, his old enemy, Silver Tassel of the bad heart, who yet was ready
always to give a tooth for a tooth, and accepted the fact that he owed
Oshondonto his life.

When famine crawled across the plains to the doors of the settlement and
housed itself at Fort O\x92Call, Silver Tassel acted badly, however, and
sowed fault-finding among the thoughtless of the tribe.

\x93What manner of Great Spirit is it who lets the food of his chief
Oshondonto fall into the hands of the Blackfeet?\x94 he said. \x93Oshondonto
says the Great Spirit hears. What has the Great Spirit to say? Let
Oshondonto ask.\x94

Again, when they all were hungrier, he went among them with complaining
words. \x93If the white man\x92s Great Spirit can do all things, let him give
Oshondonto and the Athabascas food.\x94

The missionary did not know of Silver Tassel\x92s foolish words, but he saw
the downcast face of Knife-in-the-Wind, the sullen looks of the people;
and he unpacked the box he had reserved jealously for the darkest days
that might come. For meal after meal he divided these delicacies among
them--morsels of biscuit, and tinned meats, and dried fruits. But his
eyes meanwhile were turned again and again to the storm raging without,
as it had raged for this the longest week he had ever spent. If it would
but slacken, a boat could go out to the nets set in the lake near by
some days before, when the sun of spring had melted the ice. From the
hour the nets had been set the storm had raged. On the day when the last
morsel of meat and biscuit had been given away the storm had not abated,
and he saw with misgiving the gloomy, stolid faces of the Indians round
him. One man, two children, and three women had died in a fortnight.
He dreaded to think what might happen, his heart ached at the looks of
gaunt suffering in the faces of all; he saw, for the first time, how
black and bitter Knife-in-the-Wind looked as Silver Tassel whispered to
him.

With the colour all gone from his cheeks, he left the post and made his
way to the edge of the lake where his canoe was kept. Making it ready
for the launch, he came back to the Fort. Assembling the Indians,
who had watched his movements closely, he told them that he was going
through the storm to the nets on the lake, and asked for a volunteer to
go with him.

No one replied. He pleaded-for the sake of the women and children.

Then Knife-in-the-Wind spoke. \x93Oshondonto will die if he goes. It is a
fool\x92s journey--does the wolverine walk into an empty trap?\x94

Billy Rufus spoke passionately now. His genial spirit fled; he
reproached them.

Silver Tassel spoke up loudly. \x93Let Oshondonto\x92s Great Spirit carry him
to the nets alone, and back again with fish for the heathen the Great
Chief died to save.\x94

\x93You have a wicked heart, Silver Tassel. You know well that one man
can\x92t handle the boat and the nets also. Is there no one of you--?\x94

A figure shot forwards from a corner. \x93I will go with Oshondonto,\x94 came
the voice of Wingo, the waif of the Crees.

The eye of the mikonaree flashed round in contempt on the tribe. Then
suddenly it softened, and he said to the lad: \x93We will go together,
Wingo.\x94

Taking the boy by the hand, he ran with him through the rough wind to
the shore, launched the canoe on the tossing lake, and paddled away
through the tempest.

The bitter winds of an angry spring, the sleet and wet snow of a belated
winter, the floating blocks of ice crushing against the side of the
boat, the black water swishing over man and boy, the harsh, inclement
world near and far.... The passage made at last to the nets; the brave
Wingo steadying the canoe--a skilful hand sufficing where the strength
of a Samson would not have availed; the nets half full, and the breaking
cry of joy from the lips of the waif-a cry that pierced the storm and
brought back an answering cry from the crowd of Indians on the far
shore... The quarter-hour of danger in the tossing canoe; the nets too
heavy to be dragged, and fastened to the thwarts instead; the canoe
going shoreward jerkily, a cork on the waves with an anchor behind;
heavier seas and winds roaring down on them as they slowly near the
shore; and at last, in one awful moment, the canoe upset, and the man
and the boy in the water. ... Then both clinging to the upturned canoe
as it is driven nearer and nearer shore.... The boy washed off once,
twice, and the man with his arm round clinging-clinging, as the
shrieking storm answers to the calling of the Athabascas on the shore,
and drives craft and fish and man and boy down upon the banks; no savage
bold enough to plunge in to their rescue. ... At last a rope thrown, a
drowning man\x92s wrists wound round it, his teeth set in it--and now, at
last, a man and a heathen boy, both insensible, being carried to the
mikonaree\x92s but and laid upon two beds, one on either side of the small
room, as the red sun goes slowly down. ... The two still bodies on
bearskins in the hut, and a hundred superstitious Indians flying from
the face of death.... The two alone in the light of the flickering fire;
the many gone to feast on fish, the price of lives.

But the price was not yet paid, for the man waked from
insensibility--waked to see himself with the body of the boy beside him
in the red light of the fires.

For a moment his heart stopped beating, he turned sick and faint.
Deserted by those for whom he risked his life!... How long had he lain
there? What time was it? When was it that he had fought his way to the
nets and back again-hours maybe? And the dead boy there, Wingo, who had
risked his life, also dead--how long? His heart leaped--ah! not
hours, only minutes maybe. It was sundown as unconsciousness came on
him--Indians would not stay with the dead after sundown. Maybe it was
only ten minutes-five minutes--one minute ago since they left him!...

His watch! Shaking fingers drew it out, wild eyes scanned it. It was
not stopped. Then it could have only been minutes ago. Trembling to his
feet, he staggered over to Wingo, he felt the body, he held a mirror to
the lips. Yes, surely there was light moisture on the glass.

Then began another fight with death--William Rufus Holly struggling to
bring to life again Wingo, the waif of the Crees.

The blood came back to his own heart with a rush as the mad desire to
save this life came on him. He talked to the dumb face, he prayed in
a kind of delirium, as he moved the arms up and down, as he tilted the
body, as he rubbed, chafed and strove. He forgot he was a missionary,
he almost cursed himself. \x93For them--for cowards, I risked his life, the
brave lad with no home. Oh, God! give him back to me!\x94 he sobbed. \x93What
right had I to risk his life for theirs? I should have shot the first
man that refused to go.... Wingo, speak! Wake up! Come back!\x94

The sweat poured from him in his desperation and weakness. He said to
himself that he had put this young life into the hazard without
cause. Had he, then, saved the lad from the rapids and Silver Tassel\x92s
brutality only to have him drag fish out of the jaws of death for Silver
Tassel\x92s meal?

It seemed to him that he had been working for hours, though it was
in fact only a short time, when the eyes of the lad slowly opened and
closed again, and he began to breathe spasmodically. A cry of joy came
from the lips of the missionary, and he worked harder still. At last
the eyes opened wide, stayed open, saw the figure bent over him, and the
lips whispered, \x93Oshondonto--my master,\x94 as a cup of brandy was held to
his lips.

He had conquered the Athabascas for ever. Even Silver Tassel
acknowledged his power, and he as industriously spread abroad the
report that the mikonaree had raised Wingo from the dead, as he had sown
dissension during the famine. But the result was that the missionary
had power in the land, and the belief in him was so great, that, when
Knife-in-the-Wind died, the tribe came to ask him to raise their chief
from the dead. They never quite believed that he could not--not even
Silver Tassel, who now rules the Athabascas and is ruled by William
Rufus Holly: which is a very good thing for the Athabascas.

Billy Rufus the cricketer had won the game, and somehow the Reverend
William Rufus Holly the missionary never repented the strong language
he used against the Athabascas, as he was bringing Wingo back to life,
though it was not what is called \x93strictly canonical.\x94



THE HEALING SPRINGS AND THE PIONEERS

He came out of the mysterious South one summer day, driving before him a
few sheep, a cow, and a long-eared mule which carried his tent and other
necessaries, and camped outside the town on a knoll, at the base of
which was a thicket of close shrub. During the first day no one in
Jansen thought anything of it, for it was a land of pilgrimage, and
hundreds came and went on their journeys in search of free homesteads
and good water and pasturage. But when, after three days, he was
still there, Nicolle Terasse, who had little to do, and an insatiable
curiosity, went out to see him. He found a new sensation for Jansen.
This is what he said when he came back:

\x93You want know \x91bout him, bagosh! Dat is somet\x92ing to see, dat
man--Ingles is his name. Sooch hair--mooch long an\x92 brown, and a leetla
beard not so brown, an\x92 a leather sole onto his feet, and a grey coat to
his ankles--yes, so like dat. An\x92 his voice--voila, it is like water in
a cave. He is a great man--I dunno not; but he spik at me like dis, \x91Is
dere sick, and cripple, and stay in-bed people here dat can\x92t get up?\x92
he say. An\x92 I say, \x91Not plenty, but some-bagosh! Dere is dat Miss Greet,
an\x92 ole Ma\x92am Drouchy, an\x92 dat young Pete Hayes--an\x92 so on.\x92 \x91Well,
if they have faith I will heal them,\x92 he spik at me. \x91From de Healing
Springs dey shall rise to walk,\x92 he say. Bagosh, you not t\x92ink dat true?
Den you go see.\x94

So Jansen turned out to see, and besides the man they found a curious
thing. At the foot of the knoll, in a space which he had cleared, was
a hot spring that bubbled and rose and sank, and drained away into the
thirsty ground. Luck had been with Ingles the Faith Healer. Whether he
knew of the existence of this spring, or whether he chanced upon it, he
did not say; but while he held Jansen in the palm of his hand, in the
feverish days that followed, there were many who attached mysterious
significance to it, who claimed for it supernatural origin. In any case,
the one man who had known of the existence of this spring was far away
from Jansen, and he did not return till a day of reckoning came for the
Faith Healer.

Meanwhile Jansen made pilgrimage to the Springs of Healing, and at
unexpected times Ingles suddenly appeared in the town, and stood at
street corners; and in his \x93Patmian voice,\x94 as Flood Rawley the lawyer
called it, warned the people to flee their sins, and purifying their
hearts, learn to cure all ills of mind and body, the weaknesses of the
sinful flesh and the \x93ancient evil\x94 in their souls, by faith that saves.

\x93\x91Is not the life more than meat\x92\x94 he asked them. \x93And if, peradventure,
there be those among you who have true belief in hearts all purged of
evil, and yet are maimed, or sick of body, come to me, and I will lay my
hands upon you, and I will heal you.\x94 Thus he cried.

There were those so wrought upon by his strange eloquence and spiritual
passion, so hypnotised by his physical and mental exaltation, that they
rose up from the hand-laying and the prayer eased of their ailments.
Others he called upon to lie in the hot spring at the foot of the hill
for varying periods, before the laying on of hands, and these also,
crippled, or rigid with troubles\x92 of the bone, announced that they were
healed.

People flocked from other towns, and though, to some who had been cured,
their pains and sickness returned, there were a few who bore perfect
evidence to his teaching and healing, and followed him, \x93converted and
consecrated,\x94 as though he were a new Messiah. In this corner of the
West was such a revival as none could remember--not even those who
had been to camp meetings in the East in their youth, and had seen the
Spirit descend upon hundreds and draw them to the anxious seat.

Then came the great sensation--the Faith Healer converted Laura Sloly.
Upon which Jansen drew its breath painfully; for, while it was willing
to bend to the inspiration of the moment, and to be swept on a tide of
excitement into that enchanted field called Imagination, it wanted
to preserve its institutions--and Laura Sloly had come to be an
institution. Jansen had always plumed itself, and smiled, when she
passed; and even now the most sentimentally religious of them inwardly
anticipated the time when the town would return to its normal condition;
and that condition would not be normal if there were any change in
Laura Sloly. It mattered little whether most people were changed or not
because one state of their minds could not be less or more interesting
than another; but a change in Laura. Sloly could not be for the better.

Her father had come to the West in the early days, and had prospered
by degrees until a town grew up beside his ranch; and though he did not
acquire as much permanent wealth from this golden chance as might have
been expected, and lost much he did make by speculation, still he had
his rich ranch left, and it, and he, and Laura were part of the history
of Jansen. Laura had been born at Jansen before even it had a name.
Next to her father she was the oldest inhabitant, and she had a prestige
which was given to no one else.

Everything had conspired to make her a figure of moment and interest.
She was handsome in almost a mannish sort of way, being of such height
and straightness, and her brown eyes had a depth and fire in which
more than a few men had drowned themselves. Also, once she had saved
a settlement by riding ahead of a marauding Indian band to warn their
intended victims, and had averted another tragedy of pioneer life.
Pioneers proudly told strangers to Jansen of the girl of thirteen
who rode a hundred and twenty miles without food, and sank inside the
palisade of the Hudson\x92s Bay Company\x92s fort, as the gates closed
upon the settlers taking refuge, the victim of brain fever at last.
Cerebrospinal meningitis, the doctor from Winnipeg called it, and the
memory of that time when men and women would not sleep till her crisis
was past, was still fresh on the tongues of all.

Then she had married at seventeen, and, within a year, had lost both her
husband and her baby, a child bereaved of her Playmates--for her
husband had been but twenty years old and was younger far than she
in everything. And since then, twelve years before, she had seen
generations of lovers pass into the land they thought delectable; and
their children flocked to her, hung about her, were carried off by her
to the ranch, and kept for days, against the laughing protests of their
parents. Flood Rawley called her the Pied Piper of Jansen, and indeed
she had a voice that fluted and piped, and yet had so whimsical a note,
that the hardest faces softened at the sound of it; and she did not keep
its best notes for the few. She was impartial, almost impersonal; no
woman was her enemy, and every man was her friend--and nothing more. She
had never had an accepted lover since the day her Playmates left her.
Every man except one had given up hope that he might win her; and though
he had been gone from Jansen for two years, and had loved her since the
days before the Playmates came and went, he never gave up hope, and was
now to return and say again what he had mutely said for years--what she
understood, and he knew she understood.

Tim Denton had been a wild sort in his brief day. He was a rough
diamond, but he was a diamond, and was typical of the West--its
heart, its courage, its freedom, and its force; capable of exquisite
gentleness, strenuous to exaggeration, with a very primitive religion;
and the only religion Tim knew was that of human nature. Jansen did not
think Tim good enough--not within a comet shot--for Laura Sloly; but
they thought him better than any one else.

But now Laura was a convert to the prophet of the Healing Springs,
and those people who still retain their heads in the eddy of religious
emotion were in despair. They dreaded to meet Laura; they kept away from
the \x93protracted meetings,\x94 but were eager to hear about her and what
she said and did. What they heard allayed their worst fears. She still
smiled, and seemed as cheerful as before, they heard, and she neither
spoke nor prayed in public, but she led the singing always. Now the
anxious and the sceptical and the reactionary ventured out to see and
hear; and seeing and hearing gave them a satisfaction they hardly dared
express. She was more handsome than ever, and if her eyes glistened
with a light they had never seen before, and awed them, her lips
still smiled, and the old laugh came when she spoke to them. Their awe
increased. This was \x93getting religion\x94 with a difference.

But presently they received a shock. A whisper grew that Laura was in
love with the Faith Healer. Some woman\x92s instinct drove straight to the
centre of a disconcerting possibility, and in consternation she told her
husband; and Jansen husbands had a freemasonry of gossip. An hour, and
all Jansen knew, or thought they knew; and the \x93saved\x94 rejoiced; and the
rest of the population, represented by Nicolle Terasse at one end and
Flood Rawley at the other, flew to arms. No vigilance committee was
ever more determined and secret and organised than the unconverted
civic patriots, who were determined to restore Jansen to its old-time
condition. They pointed out cold-bloodedly that the Faith Healer had
failed three times where he had succeeded once; and that, admitting the
successes, there was no proof that his religion was their cause. There
were such things as hypnotism and magnetism and will-power, and abnormal
mental stimulus on the part of the healed--to say nothing of the Healing
Springs.

Carefully laying their plans, they quietly spread the rumour that
Ingles had promised to restore to health old Mary Jewell, who had been
bedridden ten years, and had sent word and prayed to have him lay his
hands upon her--Catholic though she was. The Faith Healer, face to face
with this supreme and definite test, would have retreated from it but
for Laura Sloly. She expected him to do it, believed that he could, said
that he would, herself arranged the day and the hour, and sang so much
exaltation into him, that at last a spurious power seemed to possess
him. He felt that there had entered into him something that could be
depended on, not the mere flow of natural magnetism fed by an outdoor
life and a temperament of great emotional force, and chance, and
suggestion--and other things. If, at first, he had influenced Laura,
some ill-controlled, latent idealism in him, working on a latent poetry
and spirituality in her, somehow bringing her into nearer touch with her
lost Playmates than she had been in the long years that had passed; she,
in turn, had made his unrationalised brain reel; had caught him up into
a higher air, on no wings of his own; had added another lover to her
company of lovers--and the first impostor she had ever had. She who
had known only honest men as friends, in one blind moment lost her
perspicuous sense; her instinct seemed asleep. She believed in the man
and in his healing. Was there anything more than that?

The day of the great test came, hot, brilliant, vivid. The air was of
a delicate sharpness, and, as it came toward evening, the glamour of an
August when the reapers reap was upon Jansen; and its people gathered
round the house of Mary Jewell to await the miracle of faith. Apart
from the emotional many who sang hymns and spiritual songs were a few
determined men, bent on doing justice to Jansen though the heavens
might fall. Whether or no Laura Sloly was in love with the Faith
Healer, Jansen must look to its own honour--and hers. In any case, this
peripatetic saint at Sloly\x92s Ranch--the idea was intolerable; women must
be saved in spite of themselves.

Laura was now in the house by the side of the bedridden Mary Jewell,
waiting, confident, smiling, as she held the wasted hand on the
coverlet. With her was a minister of the Baptist persuasion, who
was swimming with the tide, and who approved of the Faith Healer\x92s
immersions in the hot Healing Springs; also a medical student who had
pretended belief in Ingles, and two women weeping with unnecessary
remorse for human failings of no dire kind. The windows were open, and
those outside could see. Presently, in a lull of the singing, there was
a stir in the crowd, and then, sudden loud greetings:

\x93My, if it ain\x92t Tim Denton! Jerusalem! You back, Tim!\x94

These and other phrases caught the ear of Laura Sloly in the sick-room.
A strange look flashed across her face, and the depth of her eyes was
troubled for a moment, as to the face of the old comes a tremor at the
note of some long-forgotten song. Then she steadied herself and waited,
catching bits of the loud talk which still floated towards her from
without.

\x93What\x92s up? Some one getting married--or a legacy, or a saw-off? Why,
what a lot of Sunday-go-to-meeting folks to be sure!\x94 Tim laughed
loudly.

After which the quick tongue of Nicolle Terasse: \x93You want know? Tiens,
be quiet; here he come. He cure you body and soul, ver\x92 queeck--yes.\x94

The crowd swayed and parted, and slowly, bare head uplifted, face
looking to neither right nor left, the Faith Healer made his way to the
door of the little house. The crowd hushed. Some were awed, some were
overpoweringly interested, some were cruelly patient. Nicolle Terasse
and others were whispering loudly to Tim Denton. That was the only
sound, until the Healer got to the door. Then, on the steps, he turned
to the multitude.

\x93Peace be to you all, and upon this house,\x94 he said and stepped through
the doorway.

Tim Denton, who had been staring at the face of the Healer, stood for
an instant like one with all his senses arrested. Then he gasped, and
exclaimed, \x93Well, I\x92m eternally--\x94 and broke off with a low laugh, which
was at first mirthful, and then became ominous and hard.

\x93Oh, magnificent--magnificent--jerickety!\x94 he said into the sky above
him.

His friends who were not \x93saved,\x94 closed in on him to find the meaning
of his words, but he pulled himself together, looked blankly at them,
and asked them questions. They told him so much more than he cared to
hear, that his face flushed a deep red--the bronze of it most like the
colour of Laura Sloly\x92s hair; then he turned pale. Men saw that he was
roused beyond any feeling in themselves.

\x93\x91Sh!\x94 he said. \x93Let\x92s see what he can do.\x94 With the many who were
silently praying, as they had been, bidden to do, the invincible ones
leant forwards, watching the little room where healing--or tragedy--was
afoot. As in a picture, framed by the window, they saw the kneeling
figures, the Healer standing with outstretched arms. They heard his
voice, sonorous and appealing, then commanding--and yet Mary Jewell did
not rise from her bed and walk. Again, and yet again, the voice rang
out, and still the woman lay motionless. Then he laid his hands upon
her, and again he commanded her to rise.

There was a faint movement, a desperate struggle to obey, but Nature and
Time and Disease had their way. Yet again there was the call. An agony
stirred the bed. Then another great Healer came between, and mercifully
dealt the sufferer a blow--Death has a gentle hand sometimes. Mary
Jewell was bedridden still--and for ever.

Like a wind from the mountains the chill knowledge of death wailed
through the window, and over the heads of the crowd. All the figures
were upright now in the little room. Then those outside saw Laura Sloly
lean over and close the sightless eyes. This done, she came to the
door and opened it, and motioned for the Healer to leave. He hesitated,
hearing the harsh murmur from the outskirts of the crowd. Once again she
motioned, and he came. With a face deadly pale she surveyed the people
before her silently for a moment, her eyes all huge and staring.

Presently she turned to Ingles and spoke to him quickly in a low voice;
then, descending the steps, passed out through the lane made for her by
the crowd, he following with shaking limbs and bowed bead.

Warning words had passed among the few invincible ones who waited where
the Healer must pass into the open, and there was absolute stillness as
Laura advanced. Their work was to come--quiet and swift and sure; but
not yet.

Only one face Laura saw, as she led the way to the moment\x92s safety--Tim
Denton\x92s; and it was as stricken as her own. She passed, then turned,
and looked at him again. He understood; she wanted him.

He waited till she sprang into her waggon, after the Healer had mounted
his mule and ridden away with ever-quickening pace into the prairie.
Then he turned to the set, fierce men beside him.

\x93Leave him alone,\x94 he said, \x93leave him to me. I know him. You hear?
Ain\x92t I no rights? I tell you I knew him--South. You leave him to me.\x94

They nodded, and he sprang into his saddle and rode away. They watched
the figure of the Healer growing smaller in the dusty distance.

\x93Tim\x92ll go to her,\x94 one said, \x93and perhaps they\x92ll let the snake get
off. Hadn\x92t we best make sure?\x94

\x93Perhaps you\x92d better let him vamoose,\x94 said Flood Rawley anxiously.
\x93Jansen is a law-abiding place!\x94 The reply was decisive. Jansen had
its honour to keep. It was the home of the Pioneers--Laura Sloly was a
Pioneer.

Tim Denton was a Pioneer, with all the comradeship which lay in the
word, and he was that sort of lover who has seen one woman, and can
never see another--not the product of the most modern civilisation.
Before Laura had had Playmates he had given all he had to give; he had
waited and hoped ever since; and when the ruthless gossips had said
to him before Mary Jewell\x92s house that she was in love with the Faith
Healer, nothing changed in him. For the man, for Ingles, Tim belonged
to a primitive breed, and love was not in his heart. As he rode out to
Sloly\x92s Ranch, he ground his teeth in rage. But Laura had called him to
her, and: \x93Well, what you say goes, Laura,\x94 he muttered at the end of a
long hour of human passion and its repression. \x93If he\x92s to go scot-free,
then he\x92s got to go; but the boys yonder\x92ll drop on me, if he gets away.
Can\x92t you see what a swab he is, Laura?\x94

The brown eyes of the girl looked at him gently. The struggle between
them was over; she had had her way--to save the preacher, impostor
though he was; and now she felt, as she had never felt before in the
same fashion, that this man was a man of men.

\x93Tim, you do not understand,\x94 she urged. \x93You say he was a landsharp in
the South, and that he had to leave-\x94

\x93He had to vamoose, or take tar and feathers.\x94

\x93But he had to leave. And he came here preaching and healing; and he is
a hypocrite and a fraud--I know that now, my eyes are opened. He didn\x92t
do what he said he could do, and it killed Mary Jewell--the shock; and
there were other things he said he could do, and he didn\x92t do them.
Perhaps he is all bad, as you say--I don\x92t think so. But he did some
good things, and through him I\x92ve felt as I\x92ve never felt before about
God and life, and about Walt and the baby--as though I\x92ll see them
again, sure. I\x92ve never felt that before. It was all as if they were
lost in the hills, and no trail home, or out to where they are. Like as
not God was working in him all the time, Tim; and he failed because he
counted too much on the little he had, and made up for what he hadn\x92t by
what he pretended.\x94

\x93He can pretend to himself, or God Almighty, or that lot down there\x94--he
jerked a finger towards the town--\x93but to you, a girl, and a Pioneer--\x94

A flash of humour shot into her eyes at his last words, then they
filled with tears, through which the smile shone. To pretend to \x93a
Pioneer\x94--the splendid vanity and egotism of the West!

\x93He didn\x92t pretend to me, Tim. People don\x92t usually have to pretend to
like me.\x94

\x93You know what I\x92m driving at.\x94

\x93Yes, yes, I know. And whatever he is, you\x92ve said that you will
save him. I\x92m straight, you know that. Somehow, what I felt from his
preaching--well, everything got sort of mixed up with him, and he
was--was different. It was like the long dream of Walt and the baby, and
he a part of it. I don\x92t know what I felt, or what I might have felt
for him. I\x92m a woman--I can\x92t understand. But I know what I feel now.
I never want to see him again on earth--or in Heaven. It needn\x92t be
necessary even in Heaven; but what happened between God and me through
him stays, Tim; and so you must help him get away safe. It\x92s in your
hands--you say they left it to you.\x94

\x93I don\x92t trust that too much.\x94

Suddenly he pointed out of the window towards the town. \x93See, I\x92m right;
there they are, a dozen of \x91em mounted. They\x92re off, to run him down.\x94

Her face paled; she glanced towards the Hill of Healing. \x93He\x92s got an
hour\x92s start,\x94 she said; \x93he\x92ll get into the mountains and be safe.\x94

\x93If they don\x92t catch him \x91fore that.\x94

\x93Or if you don\x92t get to him first,\x94 she said, with nervous insistence.

He turned to her with a hard look; then, as he met her soft, fearless,
beautiful eyes, his own grew gentle. \x93It takes a lot of doing. Yet I\x92ll
do it for you, Laura,\x94 he said. \x93But it\x92s hard on the Pioneers.\x94 Once
more her humour flashed, and it seemed to him that \x93getting religion\x94
 was not so depressing after all--wouldn\x92t be, anyhow, when this nasty
job was over. \x93The Pioneers will get over it, Tim,\x94 she rejoined.
\x93They\x92ve swallowed a lot in their time. Heaven\x92s gate will have to be
pretty wide to let in a real Pioneer,\x94 she added. \x93He takes up so much
room--ah, Timothy Denton!\x94 she added, with an outburst of whimsical
merriment.

\x93It hasn\x92t spoiled you--being converted, has it?\x94 he said, and gave a
quick little laugh, which somehow did more for his ancient cause with
her than all he had ever said or done. Then he stepped outside and swung
into his saddle.

It had been a hard and anxious ride, but Tim had won, and was keeping
his promise. The night had fallen before he got to the mountains, which
he and the Pioneers had seen the Faith Healer enter. They had had four
miles\x92 start of Tim, and had ridden fiercely, and they entered the gulch
into which the refugee had disappeared still two miles ahead.

The invincibles had seen Tim coming, but they had determined to make a
sure thing of it, and would themselves do what was necessary with the
impostor, and take no chances. So they pressed their horses, and he saw
them swallowed by the trees, as darkness gathered. Changing his course,
he entered the familiar hills, which he knew better than any pioneer of
Jansen, and rode a diagonal course over the trail they would take.
But night fell suddenly, and there was nothing to do but to wait till
morning. There was comfort in this--the others must also wait, and the
refugee could not go far. In any case, he must make for settlement or
perish, since he had left behind his sheep and his cow.

It fell out better than Tim hoped. The Pioneers were as good hunters as
was he, their instinct was as sure, their scouts and trackers were many,
and he was but one. They found the Faith Healer by a little stream,
eating bread and honey, and, like an ancient woodlander drinking from
a horn--relics of his rank imposture. He made no resistance. They tried
him formally, if perfunctorily; he admitted his imposture, and begged
for his life. Then they stripped him naked, tied a bit of canvas round
his waist, fastened him to a tree, and were about to complete his
punishment when Tim Denton burst upon them.

Whether the rage Tim showed was all real or not; whether his accusations
of bad faith came from so deeply wounded a spirit as he would have them
believe, he was not likely to tell; but he claimed the prisoner as his
own, and declined to say what he meant to do.

When, however, they saw the abject terror of the Faith Healer as he
begged not to be left alone with Tim--for they had not meant death,
and Ingles thought he read death in Tim\x92s ferocious eyes--they laughed
cynically, and left it to Tim to uphold the honour of Jansen and the
Pioneers.

As they disappeared, the last thing they saw was Tim with his back to
them, his hands on his hips, and a knife clasped in his fingers.

\x93He\x92ll lift his scalp and make a monk of him,\x94 chuckled the oldest and
hardest of them.

\x93Dat Tim will cut his heart out, I t\x92ink-bagosh!\x94 said Nicolle Terasse,
and took a drink of white-whiskey. For a long time Tim stood looking at
the other, until no sound came from the woods, whither the Pioneers
had gone. Then at last, slowly, and with no roughness, as the
terror-stricken impostor shrank and withered, he cut the cords.

\x93Dress yourself,\x94 he said shortly, and sat down beside the stream, and
washed his face and hands, as though to cleanse them from contamination.
He appeared to take no notice of the other, though his ears keenly noted
every movement.

The impostor dressed nervously, yet slowly; he scarce comprehended
anything, except that he was not in immediate danger. When he had
finished, he stood looking at Tim, who was still seated on a log plunged
in meditation.

It seemed hours before Tim turned round, and now his face was quiet,
if set and determined. He walked slowly over, and stood looking at his
victim for some time without speaking. The other\x92s eyes dropped, and
a greyness stole over his features. This steely calm was even more
frightening than the ferocity which had previously been in his captor\x92s
face. At length the tense silence was broken.

\x93Wasn\x92t the old game good enough? Was it played out? Why did you take to
this? Why did you do it, Scranton?\x94

The voice quavered a little in reply. \x93I don\x92t know. Something sort of
pushed me into it.\x94

\x93How did you come to start it?\x94

There was a long silence, then the husky reply came. \x93I got a sickener
last time--\x94

\x93Yes, I remember, at Waywing.\x94

\x93I got into the desert, and had hard times--awful for a while. I hadn\x92t
enough to eat, and I didn\x92t know whether I\x92d die by hunger, or fever, or
Indians--or snakes.\x94

\x93Oh, you were seeing snakes!\x94 said Tim grimly.

\x93Not the kind you mean; I hadn\x92t anything to drink--\x94

\x93No, you never did drink, I remember--just was crooked, and slopped over
women. Well, about the snakes?\x94

\x93I caught them to eat, and they were poison-snakes often. And I wasn\x92t
quick at first to get them safe by the neck--they\x92re quick, too.\x94

Tim laughed inwardly. \x93Getting your food by the sweat of your brow--and
a snake in it, same as Adam! Well, was it in the desert you got your
taste for honey, too, same as John the Baptist--that was his name, if I
recomember?\x94 He looked at the tin of honey on the ground.

\x93Not in the desert, but when I got to the grass-country.\x94

\x93How long were you in the desert?\x94

\x93Close to a year.\x94

Tim\x92s eyes opened wider. He saw that the man was speaking the truth.

\x93Got to thinking in the desert, and sort of willing things to come to
pass, and mooning along, you, and the sky, and the vultures, and the hot
hills, and the snakes, and the flowers--eh?\x94

\x93There weren\x92t any flowers till I got to the grass-country.\x94

\x93Oh, cuss me, if you ain\x92t simple for your kind! I know all about that.
And when you got to the grass-country, you just picked up the honey, and
the flowers, and a calf, and a lamb, and a mule here and there, \x91without
money and without price,\x92 and walked on--that it?\x94

The other shrank before the steel in the voice, and nodded his head.

\x93But you kept thinking in the grass-country of what you\x92d felt and said
and done--and willed, in the desert, I suppose?\x94

Again the other nodded.

\x93It seemed to you in the desert, as if you\x92d saved your own life a
hundred times, as if you\x92d just willed food and drink and safety to
come; as if Providence had been at your elbow?\x94

\x93It was like a dream, and it stayed with me. I had to think in the
desert things I\x92d never thought before,\x94 was the half-abstracted answer.

\x93You felt good in the desert?\x94 The other hung his head in shame.

\x93Makes you seem pretty small, doesn\x92t it? You didn\x92t stay long enough,
I guess, to get what you were feeling for; you started in on the new
racket too soon. You never got really possessed that you was a sinner. I
expect that\x92s it.\x94

The other made no reply.

\x93Well, I don\x92t know much about such things. I was loose brought up; but
I\x92ve a friend\x94--Laura was before his eyes--\x93that says religion\x92s all
right, and long ago as I can remember my mother used to pray three times
a day--with grace at meals, too. I know there\x92s a lot in it for them
that need it; and there seems to be a lot of folks needing it, if I\x92m
to judge by folks down there at Jansen, specially when there\x92s the
laying-on of hands and the Healing Springs. Oh, that was a pigsty game,
Scranton, that about God giving you the Healing Springs, like Moses and
the rock! Why, I discovered them springs myself two years ago, before I
went South, and I guess God wasn\x92t helping me any--not after I\x92ve kept
out of His way as I have. But, anyhow, religion\x92s real; that\x92s my sense
of it; and you can get it, I bet, if you try. I\x92ve seen it got. A friend
of mine got it--got it under your preaching; not from you; but you
was the accident that brought it about, I expect. It\x92s funny--it\x92s
merakilous, but it\x92s so. Kneel down!\x94 he added, with peremptory
suddenness. \x93Kneel, Scranton!\x94

In fear the other knelt.

\x93You\x92re going to get religion now--here. You\x92re going to pray for what
you didn\x92t get--and almost got--in the desert. You\x92re going to ask
forgiveness for all your damn tricks, and pray like a fanning-mill for
the spirit to come down. You ain\x92t a scoundrel at heart--a friend of
mine says so. You\x92re a weak vessel, cracked, perhaps. You\x92ve got to
be saved, and start right over again--and \x91Praise God from whom all
blessings flow!\x92 Pray--pray, Scranton, and tell the whole truth, and
get it--get religion. Pray like blazes. You go on, and pray out loud.
Remember the desert, and Mary Jewell, and your mother--did you have a
mother, Scranton--say, did you have a mother, lad?\x94

Tim\x92s voice suddenly lowered before the last word, for the Faith Healer
had broken down in a torrent of tears.

\x93Oh, my mother--O God!\x94 he groaned.

\x93Say, that\x92s right--that\x92s right--go on,\x94 said the other, and drew back
a little, and sat down on a log. The man on his knees was convulsed with
misery. Denton, the world, disappeared. He prayed in agony. Presently
Tim moved uneasily, then got up and walked about; and at last, with a
strange, awed look, when an hour was past, he stole back into the shadow
of the trees, while still the wounded soul poured out its misery and
repentance.

Time moved on. A curious shyness possessed Tim now, a thing which he
had never felt in his life. He moved about self-consciously, awkwardly,
until at last there was a sudden silence over by the brook.

Tim looked, and saw the face of the kneeling man cleared, and quiet and
shining. He hesitated, then stepped out, and came over.

\x93Have you got it?\x94 he asked quietly. \x93It\x92s noon now.\x94

\x93May God help me to redeem my past,\x94 answered the other in a new voice.

\x93You\x92ve got it--sure?\x94 Tim\x92s voice was meditative. \x93God has spoken to
me,\x94 was the simple answer. \x93I\x92ve got a friend\x92ll be glad to hear that,\x94
 he said; and once more, in imagination, he saw Laura Sloly standing at
the door of her home, with a light in her eyes he had never seen before.

\x93You\x92ll want some money for your journey?\x94 Tim asked.

\x93I want nothing but to go away--far away,\x94 was the low reply.

\x93Well, you\x92ve lived in the desert--I guess you can live in the
grass-country,\x94 came the dry response. \x93Good-bye-and good luck,
Scranton.\x94

Tim turned to go, moved on a few steps, then looked back.

\x93Don\x92t be afraid--they\x92ll not follow,\x94 he said. \x93I\x92ll fix it for you all
right.\x94

But the man appeared not to hear; he was still on his knees.

Tim faced the woods once more.

He was about to mount his horse when he heard a step behind him. He
turned sharply--and faced Laura. \x93I couldn\x92t rest. I came out this
morning. I\x92ve seen everything,\x94 she said.

\x93You didn\x92t trust me,\x94 he said heavily.

\x93I never did anything else,\x94 she answered.

He gazed half-fearfully into her eyes. \x93Well?\x94 he asked. \x93I\x92ve done my
best, as I said I would.\x94

\x93Tim,\x94 she said, and slipped a hand in his, \x93would you mind the
religion--if you had me?\x94



THE LITTLE WIDOW OF JANSEN

Her advent to Jansen was propitious. Smallpox in its most virulent form
had broken out in the French-Canadian portion of the town, and, coming
with some professional nurses from the East, herself an amateur, to
attend the sufferers, she worked with such skill and devotion that the
official thanks of the Corporation were offered her, together with a
tiny gold watch, the gift of grateful citizens. But she still remained
on at Jansen, saying always, however, that she was \x93going East in the
spring.\x94

Five years had passed, and still she had not gone East, but remained
perched in the rooms she had first taken, over the Imperial Bank, while
the town grew up swiftly round her. And even when the young bank
manager married, and wished to take over the rooms, she sent him to the
right-about from his own premises in her gay, masterful way. The young
manager behaved well in the circumstances, because he had asked her to
marry him, and she had dismissed him with a warning against challenging
his own happiness--that was the way she had put it. Perhaps he was
galled the less because others had striven for the same prize, and had
been thrust back, with an almost tender misgiving as to their sense of
self-preservation and sanity. Some of them were eligible enough, and all
were of some position in the West. Yet she smiled them firmly away, to
the wonder of Jansen, and to its satisfaction, for was it not a tribute
to all that she would distinguish no particular unit by her permanent
favour? But for one so sprightly and almost frivolous in manner at
times, the self-denial seemed incongruous. She was unconventional enough
to sit on the side-walk with a half-dozen children round her
blowing bubbles, or to romp in any garden, or in the street, playing
Puss-in-the-ring; yet this only made her more popular. Jansen\x92s
admiration was at its highest, however, when she rode in the annual
steeplechase with the best horsemen of the province. She had the gift of
doing as well as of being.

\x93\x91Tis the light heart she has, and slippin\x92 in and out of things like a
humming-bird, no easier to ketch, and no longer to stay,\x94 said Finden,
the rich Irish landbroker, suggestively to Father Bourassa, the huge
French-Canadian priest who had worked with her through all the dark
weeks of the smallpox epidemic, and who knew what lay beneath the outer
gaiety. She had been buoyant of spirit beside the beds of the sick, and
her words were full of raillery and humour, yet there was ever a gentle
note behind all; and the priest had seen her eyes shining with tears, as
she bent over some stricken sufferer bound upon an interminable journey.

\x93Bedad! as bright a little spark as ever struck off the steel,\x94 added
Finden to the priest, with a sidelong, inquisitive look, \x93but a heart no
bigger than a marrowfat pea-selfishness, all self. Keepin\x92 herself for
herself when there\x92s manny a good man needin\x92 her. Mother o\x92 Moses, how
manny! From Terry O\x92Ryan, brother of a peer, at Latouche, to Bernard
Bapty, son of a millionaire, at Vancouver, there\x92s a string o\x92 them. All
pride and self; and as fair a lot they\x92ve been as ever entered for the
Marriage Cup. Now, isn\x92t that so, father?\x94

Finden\x92s brogue did not come from a plebeian origin. It was part of his
commercial equipment, an asset of his boyhood spent among the peasants
on the family estate in Galway.

Father Bourassa fanned himself with the black broadbrim hat he wore, and
looked benignly but quizzically on the wiry, sharp-faced Irishman.

\x93You t\x92ink her heart is leetla. But perhaps it is your mind not so big
enough to see--hein?\x94 The priest laughed noiselessly, showing
white teeth. \x93Was it so selfish in Madame to refuse the name of
Finden--n\x92est-ce pas?\x94

Finden flushed, then burst into a laugh. \x93I\x92d almost forgotten I was one
of them--the first almost. Blessed be he that expects nothing, for he\x92ll
get it, sure. It was my duty, and I did it. Was she to feel that Jansen
did not price her high? Bedad, father, I rose betimes and did it, before
anny man should say he set me the lead. Before the carpet in the parlour
was down, and with the bare boards soundin\x92 to my words, I offered her
the name of Finden.\x94

\x93And so--the first of the long line! Bien, it is an honour.\x94 The priest
paused a moment, looked at Finden with a curious reflective look, and
then said: \x93And so you t\x92ink there is no one; that she will say yes not
at all--no?\x94

They were sitting on Father Bourassa\x92s veranda, on the outskirts of
the town, above the great river, along which had travelled millions of
bygone people, fighting, roaming, hunting, trapping; and they could hear
it rushing past, see the swirling eddies, the impetuous currents, the
occasional rafts moving majestically down the stream. They were facing
the wild North, where civilisation was hacking and hewing and ploughing
its way to newer and newer cities, in an empire ever spreading to the
Pole.

Finden\x92s glance loitered on this scene before he replied. At length,
screwing up one eye, and with a suggestive smile, he answered: \x93Sure,
it\x92s all a matter of time, to the selfishest woman. \x91Tis not the same
with women as with men; you see, they don\x92t get younger--that\x92s a point.
But\x94--he gave a meaning glance at the priest--\x93but perhaps she\x92s not
going to wait for that, after all. And there he rides, a fine figure of
a man, too, if I have to say it!\x94

\x93M\x92sieu\x92 Varley?\x94 the priest responded, and watched a galloping horseman
to whom Finden had pointed, till he rounded the corner of a little wood.

\x93Varley, the great London surgeon, sure! Say, father, it\x92s a hundred to
one she\x92d take him, if--\x94

There was a curious look in Father Bourassa\x92s face, a cloud in his eyes.
He sighed. \x93London, it is ver\x92 far away,\x94 he remarked obliquely.

\x93What\x92s to that? If she is with the right man, near or far is nothing.\x94

\x93So far--from home,\x94 said the priest reflectively, but his eyes
furtively watched the other\x92s face.

\x93But home\x92s where man and wife are.\x94

The priest now looked him straight in the eyes. \x93Then, as you say, she
will not marry M\x92sieu\x92 Varley--hein?\x94

The humour died out of Finden\x92s face. His eyes met the priest\x92s eyes
steadily. \x93Did I say that? Then my tongue wasn\x92t making a fool of me,
after all. How did you guess I knew--everything, father?\x94

\x93A priest knows many t\x92ings--so.\x94

There was a moment of gloom, then the Irishman brightened. He came
straight to the heart of the mystery around which they had been
maneuvering. \x93Have you seen her husband--Meydon--this year? It isn\x92t his
usual time to come yet.\x94

Father Bourassa\x92s eyes drew those of his friend into, the light of a new
understanding and revelation. They understood and trusted each other.

\x93Helas! He is there in the hospital,\x94 he answered, and nodded towards
a building not far away, which had been part of an old Hudson\x92s Bay
Company\x92s fort. It had been hastily adapted as a hospital for the
smallpox victims.

\x93Oh, it\x92s Meydon, is it, that bad case I heard of to-day?\x94

The priest nodded again and \x91pointed. \x93Voila, Madame Meydon, she is
coming. She has seen him--her hoosban\x92.\x94

Finden\x92s eyes followed the gesture. The little widow of Jansen was
coming from the hospital, walking slowly towards the river.

\x93As purty a woman, too--as purty and as straight bewhiles. What is the
matter with him--with Meydon?\x94 Finden asked, after a moment.

\x93An accident in the woods--so. He arrive, it is las\x92 night, from Great
Slave Lake.\x94

Finden sighed. \x93Ten years ago he was a man to look at twice--before he
did It and got away. Now his own mother wouldn\x92t know him--bad \x91cess
to him! I knew him from the cradle almost. I spotted him here by a
knife-cut I gave him in the hand when we were lads together. A divil of
a timper always both of us had, but the good-nature was with me, and I
didn\x92t drink and gamble and carry a pistol. It\x92s ten years since he did
the killing, down in Quebec, and I don\x92t suppose the police will get
him now. He\x92s been counted dead. I recognised him here the night after I
asked her how she liked the name of Finden. She doesn\x92t know that I
ever knew him. And he didn\x92t recognise me-twenty-five years since we met
before! It would be better if he went under the sod. Is he pretty sick,
father?\x94

\x93He will die unless the surgeon\x92s knife it cure him before twenty-four
hours, and--\x94

\x93And Doctor Brydon is sick, and Doctor Hadley away at Winnipeg, and this
is two hundred miles from nowhere! It looks as if the police\x92ll never
get him, eh?\x94

\x93You have not tell any one--never?\x94

Finden laughed. \x93Though I\x92m not a priest, I can lock myself up as tight
as anny. There\x92s no tongue that\x92s so tied, when tying\x92s needed, as the
one that babbles most bewhiles. Babbling covers a lot of secrets.\x94

\x93So you t\x92ink it better Meydon should die, as Hadley is away and Brydon
is sick-hein?\x94

\x93Oh, I think--\x94

Finden stopped short, for a horse\x92s hoofs sounded on the turf beside
the house, and presently Varley, the great London surgeon, rounded the
corner and stopped his horse in front of the veranda.

He lifted his hat to the priest. \x93I hear there\x92s a bad case at the
hospital,\x94 he said.

\x93It is ver\x92 dangerous,\x94 answered Father Bourassa; \x93but, voila, come in!
There is something cool to drink. Ah yes, he is ver\x92 bad, that man from
the Great Slave Lake.\x94

Inside the house, with the cooling drinks, Varley pressed his questions,
and presently, much interested, told at some length of singular cases
which had passed through his hands--one a man with his neck broken, who
had lived for six months afterward.

\x93Broken as a man\x92s neck is broken by hanging--dislocation, really--the
disjointing of the medulla oblongata, if you don\x92t mind technicalities,\x94
 he said. \x93But I kept him living just the same. Time enough for him
to repent in and get ready to go. A most interesting case. He was a
criminal, too, and wanted to die; but you have to keep life going if you
can, to the last inch of resistance.\x94

The priest looked thoughtfully out of the window; Finden\x92s eyes were
screwed up in a questioning way, but neither made any response to
Varley\x92s remarks. There was a long minute\x92s silence. They were all three
roused by hearing a light footstep on the veranda.

Father Bourassa put down his glass and hastened into the hallway.
Finden caught a glimpse of a woman\x92s figure, and, without a word, passed
abruptly from the dining-room where they were, into the priest\x92s study,
leaving Varley alone. Varley turned to look after him, stared, and
shrugged his shoulders.

\x93The manners of the West,\x94 he said good-humouredly, and turned again to
the hallway, from whence came the sound of the priest\x92s voice.
Presently there was another voice--a woman\x92s. He flushed slightly and
involuntarily straightened himself.

\x93Valerie,\x94 he murmured.

An instant afterwards she entered the room with the priest. She was
dressed in a severely simple suit of grey, which set off to advantage
her slim, graceful figure. There seemed no reason why she should have
been called the little widow of Jansen, for she was not small, but
she was very finely and delicately made, and the name had been but an
expression of Jansen\x92s paternal feeling for her. She had always had a
good deal of fresh colour, but to-day she seemed pale, though her eyes
had a strange disturbing light. It was not that they brightened on
seeing this man before her; they had been brighter, burningly bright,
when she left the hospital, where, since it had been built, she had been
the one visitor of authority--Jansen had given her that honour. She had
a gift of smiling, and she smiled now, but it came from grace of mind
rather than from humour. As Finden had said, \x93She was for ever acting,
and never doin\x92 any harm by it.\x94

Certainly she was doing no harm by it now; nevertheless, it was acting.
Could it be otherwise, with what was behind her life--a husband who had
ruined her youth, had committed homicide, had escaped capture, but
who had not subsequently died, as the world believed he had done, so
circumstantial was the evidence. He was not man enough to make the
accepted belief in his death a fact. What could she do but act, since
the day she got a letter from the Far North, which took her out to
Jansen, nominally to nurse those stricken with smallpox under Father
Bourassa\x92s care, actually to be where her wretched husband could come to
her once a year, as he had asked with an impossible selfishness?

Each year she had seen him for an hour or less, giving him money,
speaking to him over a gulf so wide that it seemed sometimes as though
her voice could not be heard across it; each year opening a grave to
look at the embalmed face of one who had long since died in shame, which
only brought back the cruellest of all memories, that which one would
give one\x92s best years to forget. With a fortitude beyond description she
had faced it, gently, quietly, but firmly faced it--firmly, because she
had to be firm in keeping him within those bounds the invasion of
which would have killed her. And after the first struggle with his
unchangeable brutality it had been easier: for into his degenerate brain
there had come a faint understanding of the real situation and of her.
He had kept his side of the gulf, but gloating on this touch between the
old luxurious, indulgent life, with its refined vices, and this present
coarse, hard life, where pleasures were few and gross. The free Northern
life of toil and hardship had not refined him. He greedily hung over
this treasure, which was not for his spending, yet was his own--as
though in a bank he had hoards of money which he might not withdraw.

So the years had gone on, with their recurrent dreaded anniversaries,
carrying misery almost too great to be borne by this woman mated to the
loathed phantom of a sad, dead life; and when this black day of each
year was over, for a few days afterwards she went nowhere, was seen
by none. Yet, when she did appear again, it was with her old laughing
manner, her cheerful and teasing words, her quick response to the
emotions of others.

So it had gone till Varley had come to follow the open air life for four
months, after a heavy illness due to blood-poisoning got in his surgical
work in London. She had been able to live her life without too great a
struggle till he came. Other men had flattered her vanity, had given her
a sense of power, had made her understand her possibilities, but nothing
more--nothing of what Varley brought with him. And before three months
had gone, she knew that no man had ever interested her as Varley had
done. Ten years before, she would not have appreciated or understood
him, this intellectual, clean-shaven, rigidly abstemious man, whose
pleasures belonged to the fishing-rod and the gun and the horse, and
who had come to be so great a friend of him who had been her best
friend--Father Bourassa. Father Bourassa had come to know the truth--not
from her, for she had ever been a Protestant, but from her husband, who,
Catholic by birth and a renegade from all religion, had had a moment of
spurious emotion, when he went and confessed to Father Bourassa and
got absolution, pleading for the priest\x92s care of his wife. Afterwards
Father Bourassa made up his mind that the confession had a purpose
behind it other than repentance, and he deeply resented the use to which
he thought he was being put--a kind of spy upon the beautiful woman
whom Jansen loved, and who, in spite of any outward flippancy, was above
reproach.

In vital things the instinct becomes abnormally acute, and, one day,
when the priest looked at her commiseratingly, she had divined what
moved him. However it was, she drove him into a corner with a question
to which he dare not answer yes, but to which he might not answer no,
and did not; and she realised that he knew the truth, and she was the
better for his knowing, though her secret was no longer a secret. She
was not aware that Finden also knew. Then Varley came, bringing a new
joy and interest in her life, and a new suffering also, for she realised
that if she were free, and Varley asked her to marry him, she would
consent.

But when he did ask her, she said no with a pang that cut her heart in
two. He had stayed his four months, and it was now six months, and he
was going at last-tomorrow. He had stayed to give her time to learn to
say yes, and to take her back with him to London; and she knew that he
would speak again to-day, and that she must say no again; but she had
kept him from saying the words till now. And the man who had ruined her
life and had poisoned her true spirit was come back broken and battered.
He was hanging between life and death; and now--for he was going
to-morrow--Varley would speak again.

The half-hour she had just spent in the hospital with Meydon had tried
her cruelly. She had left the building in a vortex of conflicting
emotions, with the call of duty and of honour ringing through a thousand
other voices of temptation and desire, the inner pleadings for a little
happiness while yet she was young. After she married Meydon, there had
only been a few short weeks of joy before her black disillusion came,
and she had realised how bitter must be her martyrdom.

When she left the hospital, she seemed moving in a dream, as one,
intoxicated by some elixir, might move unheeding among event and
accident and vexing life and roaring multitudes. And all the while the
river flowing through the endless prairies, high-banked, ennobled by
living woods, lipped with green, kept surging in her ears, inviting her,
alluring her--alluring her with a force too deep and powerful for weak
human nature to bear for long. It would ease her pain, it said; it would
still the tumult and the storm; it would solve her problem, it would
give her peace. But as she moved along the river-bank among the trees,
she met the little niece of the priest, who lived in his house, singing
as though she was born but to sing, a song which Finden had written and
Father Bourassa had set to music. Did not the distant West know Father
Bourassa\x92s gift, and did not Protestants attend Mass to hear him play
the organ afterwards? The fresh, clear voice of the child rang through
the trees, stealing the stricken heart away from the lure of the river:

  \x93Will you come back home, where the young larks are singin\x92?
   The door is open wide, and the bells of Lynn are ringin\x92;
     There\x92s a little lake I know,
     And a boat you used to row
   To the shore beyond that\x92s quiet--will you come back home?

   Will you come back, darlin\x92? Never heed the pain and blightin\x92,
   Never trouble that you\x92re wounded, that you bear the scars of
   fightin\x92;
     Here\x92s the luck o\x92 Heaven to you,
     Here\x92s the hand of love will brew you
   The cup of peace--ah, darlin\x92, will you come back home?\x94

She stood listening for a few moments, and, under the spell of the
fresh, young voice, the homely, heart-searching words, and the intimate
sweetness of the woods, the despairing apathy lifted slowly away.
She started forwards again with a new understanding, her footsteps
quickened. She would go to Father Bourassa. He would understand. She
would tell him all. He would help her to do what now she knew she must
do, ask Leonard Varley to save her husband\x92s life--Leonard Varley to
save her husband\x92s life!

When she stepped upon the veranda of the priest\x92s house, she did not
know that Varley was inside. She had no time to think. She was ushered
into the room where he was, with the confusing fact of his presence
fresh upon her. She had had but a word or two with the priest, but
enough for him to know what she meant to do, and that it must be done at
once.

Varley advanced to meet her. She shuddered inwardly to think what a
difference there was between the fallen creature she had left behind
in the hospital and this tall, dark, self-contained man, whose name was
familiar in the surgeries of Europe, who had climbed from being the son
of a clockmaker to his present distinguished place.

\x93Have you come for absolution, also?\x94 he asked with a smile; \x93or is it
to get a bill of excommunication against your only enemy--there couldn\x92t
be more than one?\x94

Cheerful as his words were, he was shrewdly observing her, for her
paleness, and the strange light in her eyes, gave him a sense of
anxiety. He wondered what trouble was on her.

\x93Excommunication?\x94 he repeated.

The unintended truth went home. She winced, even as she responded with
that quaint note in her voice which gave humour to her speech. \x93Yes,
excommunication,\x94 she replied; \x93but why an enemy? Do we not need to
excommunicate our friends sometimes?\x94

\x93That is a hard saying,\x94 he answered soberly. Tears sprang to her eyes,
but she mastered herself, and brought the crisis abruptly.

\x93I want you to save a man\x92s life,\x94 she said, with her eyes looking
straight into his. \x93Will you do it?\x94

His face grew grave and eager. \x93I want you to save a man\x92s happiness,\x94
 he answered. \x93Will you do it?\x94

\x93That man yonder will die unless your skill saves him,\x94 she urged.

\x93This man here will go away unhappy and alone, unless your heart
befriends him,\x94 he replied, coming closer to her.

\x93At sunrise to-morrow he goes.\x94 He tried to take her hand.

\x93Oh, please, please,\x94 she pleaded, with a quick, protesting gesture.
\x93Sunrise is far off, but the man\x92s fate is near, and you must save him.
You only can do so, for Doctor Hadley is away, and Doctor Brydon is
sick, and in any case Doctor Brydon dare not attempt the operation
alone. It is too critical and difficult, he says.\x94

\x93So I have heard,\x94 he answered, with a new note in his voice, his
professional instinct roused in spite of himself. \x93Who is this man? What
interests you in him?\x94

\x93To how many unknown people have you given your skill for nothing--your
skill and all your experience to utter strangers, no matter how low or
poor! Is it not so? Well, I cannot give to strangers what you have given
to so many, but I can help in my own way.\x94

\x93You want me to see the man at once?\x94

\x93If you will.\x94

\x93What is his name? I know of his accident and the circumstances.\x94

She hesitated for an instant, then said, \x93He is called Draper--a trapper
and woodsman.\x94

\x93But I was going away to-morrow at sunrise. All my arrangements are
made,\x94 he urged, his eyes holding hers, his passion swimming in his eyes
again.

\x93But you will not see a man die, if you can save him?\x94 she pleaded,
unable now to meet his look, its mastery and its depth.

Her heart had almost leaped with joy at the suggestion that he could not
stay; but as suddenly self-reproach and shame filled her mind, and she
had challenged him so. But yet, what right had she to sacrifice this man
she loved to the perverted criminal who had spoiled her youth and taken
away from her every dear illusion of her life and heart? By every right
of justice and humanity she was no more the wife of Henry Meydon than if
she had never seen him. He had forfeited every claim upon her, dragged
in the mire her unspotted life--unspotted, for in all temptation, in her
defenceless position, she had kept the whole commandment; she had, while
at the mercy of her own temperament, fought her way through all, with
a weeping heart and laughing lips. Had she not longed for a little
home with a great love, and a strong, true man? Ah, it had been lonely,
bitterly lonely! Yet she had remained true to the scoundrel, from whom
she could not free herself without putting him in the grasp of the law
to atone for his crime. She was punished for his crimes; she was
denied the exercise of her womanhood in order to shield him. Still she
remembered that once she had loved him, those years ago, when he first
won her heart from those so much better than he, who loved her so much
more honestly; and this memory had helped her in a way. She had tried to
be true to it, that dead, lost thing, of which this man who came once a
year to see her, and now, lying with his life at stake in the hospital,
was the repellent ghost.

\x93Ah, you will not see him die?\x94 she urged.

\x93It seems to move you greatly what happens to this man,\x94 he said, his
determined dark eyes searching hers, for she baffled him. If she could
feel so much for a \x93casual,\x94 why not a little more feeling for him?
Suddenly, as he drew her eyes to him again, there came the conviction
that they were full of feeling for him. They were sending a message,
an appealing, passionate message, which told him more than he had ever
heard from her or seen in her face before. Yes, she was his! Without a
spoken word she had told him so. What, then, held her back? But women
were a race by themselves, and he knew that he must wait till she chose
to have him know what she had unintentionally conveyed but now.

\x93Yes, I am moved,\x94 she continued slowly. \x93Who can tell what this man
might do with his life, if it is saved! Don\x92t you think of that? It
isn\x92t the importance of a life that\x92s at stake; it\x92s the importance of
living; and we do not live alone, do we?\x94

His mind was made up. \x93I will not, cannot promise anything till I have
seen him. But I will go and see him, and I\x92ll send you word later what I
can do, or not do. Will that satisfy you? If I cannot do it, I will come
to say good-by.\x94

Her face was set with suppressed feeling. She held out her hand to him
impulsively, and was about to speak, but suddenly caught the hand away
again from his thrilling grasp and, turning hurriedly, left the room. In
the hall she met Father Bourassa.

\x93Go with him to the hospital,\x94 she whispered, and disappeared through
the doorway.

Immediately after she had gone, a man came driving hard to bring Father
Bourassa to visit a dying Catholic in the prairie, and it was Finden who
accompanied Varley to the hospital, waited for him till his examination
of the \x93casual\x94 was concluded, and met him outside.

\x93Can it be done?\x94 he asked of Varley. \x93I\x92ll take word to Father
Bourassa.\x94

\x93It can be done--it will be done,\x94 answered Varley absently. \x93I do not
understand the man. He has been in a different sphere of life. He tried
to hide it, but the speech--occasionally! I wonder.\x94

\x93You wonder if he\x92s worth saving?\x94

Varley shrugged his shoulders impatiently. \x93No, that\x92s not what I
meant.\x94

Finden smiled to himself. \x93Is it a difficult case?\x94 he asked.

\x93Critical and delicate; but it has been my specialty.\x94

\x93One of the local doctors couldn\x92t do it, I suppose?\x94

\x93They would be foolish to try.\x94

\x93And you are going away at sunrise to-morrow?\x94

\x93Who told you that?\x94 Varley\x92s voice was abrupt, impatient.

\x93I heard you say so-everybody knows it.... That\x92s a bad man yonder,
Varley.\x94 He jerked his thumb towards the hospital. \x93A terrible bad man,
he\x92s been. A gentleman once, and fell down--fell down hard. He\x92s done
more harm than most men. He\x92s broken a woman\x92s heart and spoilt her
life, and, if he lives, there\x92s no chance for her, none at all. He
killed a man, and the law wants him; and she can\x92t free herself without
ruining him; and she can\x92t marry the man she loves because of that
villain yonder, crying for his life to be saved. By Josh and by Joan,
but it\x92s a shame, a dirty shame, it is!\x94

Suddenly Varley turned and gripped his arm with fingers of steel.

\x93His name--his real name?\x94

\x93His name\x92s Meydon--and a dirty shame it is, Varley.\x94

Varley was white. He had been leading his horse and talking to Finden.
He mounted quickly now, and was about to ride away, but stopped short
again. \x93Who knows--who knows the truth?\x94 he asked.

\x93Father Bourassa and me--no others,\x94 he answered. \x93I knew Meydon thirty
years ago.\x94

There was a moment\x92s hesitation, then Varley said hoarsely, \x93Tell
me--tell me all.\x94

When all was told, he turned his horse towards the wide waste of the
prairie, and galloped away. Finden watched him till he was lost to view
beyond the bluff.

\x93Now, a man like that, you can\x92t guess what he\x92ll do,\x94 he said
reflectively. \x93He\x92s a high-stepper, and there\x92s no telling what
foolishness will get hold of him. It\x92d be safer if he got lost on
the prairie for twenty-four hours. He said that Meydon\x92s only got
twenty-four hours, if the trick isn\x92t done! Well--\x94

He took a penny from his pocket. \x93I\x92ll toss for it. Heads he does it,
and tails he doesn\x92t.\x94

He tossed. It came down heads. \x93Well, there\x92s one more fool in the world
than I thought,\x94 he said philosophically, as though he had settled the
question; as though the man riding away into the prairie with a dark
problem to be solved had told the penny what he meant to do.

Mrs. Meydon, Father Bourassa, and Finden stood in the little
waiting-room of the hospital at Jansen, one at each window, and watched
the wild thunderstorm which had broken over the prairie. The white
heliographs of the elements flashed their warnings across the black sky,
and the roaring artillery of the thunder came after, making the circle
of prairie and tree and stream a theatre of anger and conflict. The
streets of Jansen were washed with flood, and the green and gold things
of garden and field and harvest crumbled beneath the sheets of rain.

The faces at the window of the little room of the hospital, however,
were but half-conscious of the storm; it seemed only an accompaniment of
their thoughts, to typify the elements of tragedy surrounding them.

For Varley there had been but one thing to do. A life might be saved,
and it was his duty to save it. He had ridden back from the prairie as
the sun was setting the night before, and had made all arrangements at
the hospital, giving orders that Meydon should have no food whatever
till the operation was performed the next afternoon, and nothing to
drink except a little brandy-and-water.

The operation was performed successfully, and Varley had issued from
the operating-room with the look of a man who had gone through an ordeal
which had taxed his nerve to the utmost, to find Valerie Meydon waiting,
with a piteous, dazed look in her eyes. But this look passed when she
heard him say, \x93All right!\x94 The words brought a sense of relief, for
if he had failed it would have seemed almost unbearable in the
circumstances--the cup of trembling must be drunk to the dregs.

Few words had passed between them, and he had gone, while she remained
behind with Father Bourassa, till the patient should wake from the sleep
into which he had fallen when Varley left.

But within two hours they sent for Varley again, for Meydon was in
evident danger. Varley had come, and had now been with the patient for
some time.

At last the door opened and Varley came in quickly. He beckoned to Mrs.
Meydon and to Father Bourassa. \x93He wishes to speak with you,\x94 he said to
her. \x93There is little time.\x94

Her eyes scarcely saw him, as she left the room and passed to where
Meydon lay nerveless, but with wide-open eyes, waiting for her. The
eyes closed, however, before she reached the bed. Presently they opened
again, but the lids remained fixed. He did not hear what she said.

        ......................

In the little waiting-room, Finden said to Varley, \x93What happened?\x94

\x93Food was absolutely forbidden, but he got it from another patient early
this morning while the nurse was out for a moment. It has killed him.\x94

\x93\x91Twas the least he could do, but no credit\x92s due him. It was to be. I\x92m
not envying Father Bourassa nor her there with him.\x94

Varley made no reply. He was watching the receding storm with eyes which
told nothing.

Finden spoke once more, but Varley did not hear him. Presently the door
opened and Father Bourassa entered. He made a gesture of the hand to
signify that all was over.

Outside, the sun was breaking through the clouds upon the Western
prairie, and there floated through the evening air the sound of a
child\x92s voice singing beneath the trees that fringed the river:

  \x93Will you come back, darlin\x92? Never heed the pain and blightin\x92,
   Never trouble that you\x92re wounded, that you bear the scars of
   fightin\x92;
     Here\x92s the luck o\x92 Heaven to you,
     Here\x92s the hand of love will brew you
   The cup of peace-ah, darlin\x92, will you come back home?\x94



WATCHING THE RISE OF ORION

\x93In all the wide border his steed was the best,\x94 and the name and fame
of Terence O\x92Ryan were known from Strathcona to Qu\x92appelle. He had
ambition of several kinds, and he had the virtue of not caring who knew
of it. He had no guile, and little money; but never a day\x92s work was
too hard for him, and he took bad luck, when it came, with a jerk of
the shoulder and a good-natured surprise on his clean-shaven face that
suited well his wide grey eyes and large, luxurious mouth. He had an
estate, half ranch, half farm, with a French Canadian manager named
Vigon, an old prospector who viewed every foot of land in the world with
the eye of the discoverer. Gold, coal, iron, oil, he searched for them
everywhere, making sure that sooner or later he would find them.
Once Vigon had found coal. That was when he worked for a man called
Constantine Jopp, and had given him great profit; but he, the
discoverer, had been put off with a horse and a hundred dollars. He was
now as devoted to Terence O\x92Ryan as he had been faithful to Constantine
Jopp, whom he cursed waking and sleeping.

In his time O\x92Ryan had speculated, and lost; he had floated a coal mine,
and \x93been had\x94; he had run for the local legislature, had been elected,
and then unseated for bribery committed by an agent; he had run races at
Regina, and won--he had won for three years in succession; and this had
kept him going and restored his finances when they were at their worst.
He was, in truth, the best rider in the country, and, so far, was the
owner also of the best three-year-old that the West had produced. He
achieved popularity without effort. The West laughed at his enterprises
and loved him; he was at once a public moral and a hero. It was a legend
of the West that his forbears had been kings in Ireland like Brian
Borhoime. He did not contradict this; he never contradicted anything.
His challenge to all fun and satire and misrepresentation was, \x93What\x92ll
be the differ a hundred years from now!\x94

He did not use this phrase, however, towards one experience--the
advent of Miss Molly Mackinder, the heiress, and the challenge that
reverberated through the West after her arrival. Philosophy deserted him
then; he fell back on the primary emotions of mankind.

A month after Miss Mackinder\x92s arrival at La Touche a dramatic
performance was given at the old fort, in which the officers of the
Mounted Police took part, together with many civilians who fancied
themselves. By that time the district had realised that Terry O\x92Ryan
had surrendered to what they called \x93the laying on of hands\x94 by Molly
Mackinder. It was not certain, however, that the surrender was complete,
because O\x92Ryan had been wounded before, and yet had not been taken
captive altogether. His complete surrender seemed now more certain
to the public because the lady had a fortune of two hundred thousand
dollars, and that amount of money would be useful to an ambitious man in
the growing West. It would, as Gow Johnson said, \x93Let him sit back and
view the landscape o\x92er, before he puts his ploughshare in the mud.\x94

There was an outdoor scene in the play produced by the impetuous
amateurs, and dialogue had been interpolated by three \x93imps of fame\x94 at
the suggestion of Constantine Jopp, one of the three, who bore malice
towards O\x92Ryan, though this his colleagues did not know distinctly. The
scene was a camp-fire--a starlit night, a colloquy between the three,
upon which the hero of the drama, played by Terry O\x92Ryan, should break,
after having, unknown to them, but in sight of the audience, overheard
their kind of intentions towards himself.

The night came. When the curtain rose for the third act there was
exposed a star-sown sky, in which the galaxy of Orion was shown with
distinctness, each star sharply twinkling from the electric power
behind-a pretty scene evoking great applause. O\x92Ryan had never seen this
back curtain--they had taken care that he should not--and, standing in
the wings awaiting his cue, he was unprepared for the laughter of the
audience, first low and uncertain, then growing, then insistent, and
now a peal of ungovernable mirth, as one by one they understood the
significance of the stars of Orion on the back curtain.

O\x92Ryan got his cue, and came on to an outburst of applause which shook
the walls. La Touche rose at him, among them Miss Molly Mackinder in the
front row with the notables.

He did not see the back curtain, or Orion blazing in the ultramarine
blue. According to the stage directions, he was to steal along the trees
at the wings, and listen to the talk of the men at the fire plotting
against him, who were presently to pretend good comradeship to his face.
It was a vigorous melodrama with some touches of true Western feeling.
After listening for a moment, O\x92Ryan was to creep up the stage again
towards the back curtain, giving a cue for his appearance.

When the hilarious applause at his entrance had somewhat subsided, the
three took up their parable, but it was not the parable of the play.
They used dialogue not in the original. It had a significance which the
audience were not slow to appreciate, and went far to turn \x93The Sunburst
Trail\x94 at this point into a comedy-farce. When this new dialogue began,
O\x92Ryan could scarcely trust his ears, or realise what was happening.

\x93Ah, look,\x94 said Dicky Fergus at the fire, \x93as fine a night as ever I
saw in the West! The sky\x92s a picture. You could almost hand the stars
down, they\x92re so near.\x94

\x93What\x92s that clump together on the right--what are they called in
astronomy?\x94 asked Constantine Jopp, with a leer.

\x93Orion is the name--a beauty, ain\x92t it?\x94 answered Fergus.

\x93I\x92ve been watching Orion rise,\x94 said the third--Holden was his name.
\x93Many\x92s the time I\x92ve watched Orion rising. Orion\x92s the star for me.
Say, he wipes \x91em all out--right out. Watch him rising now.\x94

By a manipulation of the lights Orion moved up the back curtain slowly,
and blazed with light nearer the zenith. And La Touche had more than the
worth of its money in this opening to the third act of the play. O\x92Ryan
was a favourite, at whom La Touche loved to jeer, and the parable of the
stars convulsed them.

At the first words O\x92Ryan put a hand on himself and tried to grasp the
meaning of it all, but his entrance and the subsequent applause had
confused him. Presently, however, he turned to the back curtain, as
Orion moved slowly up the heavens, and found the key to the situation.
He gasped. Then he listened to the dialogue which had nothing to do with
\x93The Sunburst Trail.\x94

\x93What did Orion do, and why does he rise? Has he got to rise? Why was
the gent called Orion in them far-off days?\x94 asked Holden.

\x93He did some hunting in his time--with a club,\x94 Fergus replied. \x93He kept
making hits, he did. Orion was a spoiler. When he took the field there
was no room for the rest of the race. Why does he rise? Because it is a
habit. They could always get a rise out of Orion. The Athens Eirenicon
said that yeast might fail to rise, but touch the button and Orion would
rise like a bird.\x94

At that instant the galaxy jerked up the back curtain again, and when
the audience could control itself, Constantine Jopp, grinning meanly,
asked:

\x93Why does he wear the girdle?\x94

\x93It is not a girdle--it is a belt,\x94 was Dicky Fergus\x92s reply. \x93The
gods gave it to him because he was a favourite. There was a lady called
Artemis--she was the last of them. But he went visiting with Eos,
another lady of previous acquaintance, down at a place called Ortygia,
and Artemis shot him dead with a shaft Apollo had given her; but she
didn\x92t marry Apollo neither. She laid Orion out on the sky, with his
glittering belt, around him. And Orion keeps on rising.\x94

\x93Will he ever stop rising?\x94 asked Holden.

Followed for the conspirators a disconcerting moment; for, when the
laughter had subsided, a lazy voice came from the back of the hall,
\x93He\x92ll stop long enough to play with Apollo a little, I guess.\x94

It was Gow Johnson who had spoken, and no man knew Terry O\x92Ryan better,
or could gauge more truly the course he would take. He had been in many
an enterprise, many a brush with O\x92Ryan, and his friendship would bear
any strain.

O\x92Ryan recovered himself from the moment he saw the back curtain, and
he did not find any fun in the thing. It took a hold on him out of
all proportion to its importance. He realised that he had come to
the parting of the ways in his life. It suddenly came upon him that
something had been lacking in him in the past; and that his want of
success in many things had not been wholly due to bad luck. He had been
eager, enterprising, a genius almost at seeing good things; and yet
others had reaped where he had sown. He had believed too much in his
fellow-man. For the first time in his life he resented the friendly,
almost affectionate satire of his many friends. It was amusing, it
was delightful; but down beneath it all there was a little touch of
ridicule. He had more brains than any of them, and he had known it in
a way; he had led them sometimes, too, as on raids against
cattle-stealers, and in a brush with half-breeds and Indians; as when
he stood for the legislature; but he felt now for the first time that
he had not made the most of himself, that there was something hurting to
self-respect in this prank played upon him. When he came to that point
his resentment went higher. He thought of Molly Mackinder, and he heard
all too acutely the vague veiled references to her in their satire. By
the time Gow Johnson spoke he had mastered himself, however, and had
made up his mind. He stood still for a moment.

\x93Now, please, my cue,\x94 he said quietly and satirically from the trees
near the wings.

He was smiling, but Gow Johnson\x92s prognostication was right; and ere
long the audience realised that he was right. There was standing before
them not the Terry O\x92Ryan they had known, but another. He threw himself
fully into his part--a young rancher made deputy sheriff, who by the
occasional exercise of his duty had incurred the hatred of a small
floating population that lived by fraud, violence, and cattle-stealing.
The conspiracy was to raid his cattle, to lure him to pursuit, to ambush
him, and kill him. Terry now played the part with a naturalness
and force which soon lifted the play away from the farcical element
introduced into it by those who had interpolated the gibes at himself.
They had gone a step too far.

\x93He\x92s going large,\x94 said Gow Johnson, as the act drew near its close,
and the climax neared, where O\x92Ryan was to enter upon a physical
struggle with his assailants. \x93His blood\x92s up. There\x92ll be hell to pay.\x94

To Gow Johnson the play had instantly become real, and O\x92Ryan an injured
man at bay, the victim of the act--not of the fictitious characters of
the play, but of the three men, Fergus, Holden, and Constantine Jopp,
who had planned the discomfiture of O\x92Ryan; and he felt that the
victim\x92s resentment would fall heaviest on Constantine Jopp, the bully,
an old schoolmate of Terry\x92s.

Jopp was older than O\x92Ryan by three years, which in men is little, but
in boys, at a certain time of life, is much. It means, generally, weight
and height, an advantage in a scrimmage. Constantine Jopp had been the
plague and tyrant of O\x92Ryan\x92s boyhood. He was now a big, leering fellow
with much money of his own, got chiefly from the coal discovered on his
place by Vigon, the half-breed French Canadian. He had a sense of dark
and malicious humour, a long horse-like face, with little beady eyes and
a huge frame.

Again and again had Terry fought him as a boy at school, and often he
had been badly whipped, but he had never refused the challenge of an
insult when he was twelve and Jopp fifteen. The climax to their enmity
at school had come one day when Terry was seized with a cramp while
bathing, and after having gone down twice was rescued by Jopp, who
dragged him out by the hair of the head. He had been restored to
consciousness on the bank and carried to his home, where he lay ill for
days. During the course of the slight fever which followed the accident
his hair was cut close to his head. Impetuous always, his first thought
was to go and thank Constantine Jopp for having saved his life. As soon
as he was able he went forth to find his rescuer, and met him suddenly
on turning a corner of the street. Before he could stammer out the
gratitude that was in his heart, Jopp, eyeing him with a sneering smile,
said drawlingly:

\x93If you\x92d had your hair cut like that I couldn\x92t have got you out,
could I? Holy, what a sight! Next time I\x92ll take you by the scruff,
putty-face--bah!\x94

That was enough for Terry. He had swallowed the insult, stuttered his
thanks to the jeering laugh of the lank bully, and had gone home and
cried in shame and rage.

It was the one real shadow in his life. Ill luck and good luck had been
taken with an equable mind; but the fact that he must, while he lived,
own the supreme debt of his life to a boy and afterwards to a man whom
he hated by instinct was a constant cloud on him. Jopp owned him. For
some years they did not meet, and then at last they again were thrown
together in the West, when Jopp settled at La Touche. It was gall and
wormwood to Terry, but he steeled himself to be friendly, although the
man was as great a bully as the boy, as offensive in mind and character;
but withal acute and able in his way, and with a reputation for
commercial sharpness which would be called by another name in a
different civilisation. They met constantly, and O\x92Ryan always put
a hand on himself, and forced himself to be friendly. Once when Jopp
became desperately ill there had been--though he fought it down, and
condemned himself in every term of reproach--a sense of relief in the
thought that perhaps his ancient debt would now be cancelled. It had
gone on so long. And Constantine Jopp had never lost an opportunity of
vexing him, of torturing him, of giving veiled thrusts, which he knew
O\x92Ryan could not resent. It was the constant pin-prick of a mean soul,
who had an advantage of which he could never be dispossessed--unless the
ledger was balanced in some inscrutable way.

Apparently bent on amusement only, and hiding his hatred from his
colleagues, Jopp had been the instigator and begetter of the huge joke
of the play; but it was the brains of Dick Fergus which had carried it
out, written the dialogue, and planned the electric appliances of the
back curtain--for he was an engineer and electrician. Neither he nor
Holden had known the old antipathy of Terry and Constantine Jopp. There
was only one man who knew the whole truth, and that was Gow Johnson, to
whom Terry had once told all. At the last moment Fergus had interpolated
certain points in the dialogue which were not even included at
rehearsal. These referred to Apollo. He had a shrewd notion that Jopp
had an idea of marrying Molly Mackinder if he could, cousins though they
were; and he was also aware that Jopp, knowing Molly\x92s liking for Terry,
had tried to poison her mind against him, through suggestive gossip
about a little widow at Jansen, thirty miles away. He had in so far
succeeded that, on the very day of the performance, Molly had declined
to be driven home from the race-course by Terry, despite the fact that
Terry had won the chief race and owned the only dog-cart in the West.

As the day went on Fergus realised, as had Gow Johnson, that Jopp had
raised a demon. The air was electric. The play was drawing near to its
climax--an attempt to capture the deputy sheriff, tie him to a tree, and
leave him bound and gagged alone in the waste. There was a glitter
in Terry\x92s eyes, belying the lips which smiled in keeping with the
character he presented. A look of hardness was stamped on his face, and
the outlines of the temples were as sharp as the chin was set and the
voice slow and penetrating.

Molly Mackinder\x92s eyes were riveted on him. She sat very still, her
hands clasped in her lap, watching his every move. Instinct told her
that Terry was holding himself in; that some latent fierceness and iron
force in him had emerged into life; and that he meant to have revenge
on Constantine Jopp one way or another, and that soon; for she had heard
the rumour flying through the hall that her cousin was the cause of the
practical joke just played. From hints she had had from Constantine that
very day she knew that the rumour was the truth; and she recalled now
with shrinking dislike the grimace accompanying the suggestion. She
had not resented it then, being herself angry with Terry because of the
little widow at Jansen.

Presently the silence in the hall became acute; the senses of the
audience were strained to the utmost. The acting before them was more
realistic than anything they had ever seen, or were ever likely to see
again in La Touche. All three conspirators, Fergus, Holden, and Jopp,
realised that O\x92Ryan\x92s acting had behind it an animal anger which
transformed him. When he looked into their eyes it was with a steely
directness harder and fiercer than was observed by the audience. Once
there was occasion for O\x92Ryan to catch Fergus by the arm, and Fergus
winced from the grip. When standing in the wings with Terry he ventured
to apologise playfully for the joke, but Terry made no answer; and once
again he had whispered good-naturedly as they stood together on the
stage; but the reply had been a low, scornful laugh. Fergus realised
that a critical moment was at hand. The play provided for some dialogue
between Jopp and Terry, and he observed with anxiety that Terry now
interpolated certain phrases meant to warn Constantine, and to excite
him to anger also.

The moment came upon them sooner than the text of the play warranted.
O\x92Ryan deliberately left out several sentences, and gave a later cue,
and the struggle for his capture was precipitated. Terry meant to make
the struggle real. So thrilling had been the scene that to an extent the
audience was prepared for what followed; but they did not grasp the full
reality--that the play was now only a vehicle for a personal issue of a
desperate character. No one had ever seen O\x92Ryan angry; and now that the
demon of rage was on him, directed by a will suddenly grown to its full
height, they saw not only a powerful character in a powerful melodrama,
but a man of wild force. When the three desperadoes closed in on O\x92Ryan,
and, with a blow from the shoulder which was not a pretence, he sent
Holden into a far corner gasping for breath and moaning with pain,
the audience broke out into wild cheering. It was superb acting,
they thought. As most of them had never seen the play, they were not
surprised when Holden did not again join the attack on the
deputy sheriff. Those who did know the drama--among them Molly
Mackinder--became dismayed, then anxious. Fergus and Jopp knew well from
the blow O\x92Ryan had given that, unless they could drag him down, the end
must be disaster to some one. They were struggling with him for personal
safety now. The play was forgotten, though mechanically O\x92Ryan and
Fergus repeated the exclamations and the few phrases belonging to the
part. Jopp was silent, fighting with a malice which belongs to only
half-breed, or half-bred, natures; and from far back in his own nature
the distant Indian strain in him was working in savage hatred. The two
were desperately hanging on to O\x92Ryan like pumas on a grizzly, when
suddenly, with a twist he had learned from Ogami the Jap on the Smoky
River, the slim Fergus was slung backward to the ground with the tendons
of his arm strained and the arm itself useless for further work. There
remained now Constantine Jopp, heavier and more powerful than O\x92Ryan.

For O\x92Ryan the theatre, the people, disappeared. He was a boy again on
the village green, with the bully before him who had tortured his young
days. He forgot the old debt to the foe who saved his life; he forgot
everything, except that once again, as of old, Constantine Jopp was
fighting him, with long, strong arms trying to bring him to the ground.
Jopp\x92s superior height gave him an advantage in a close grip; the
strength of his gorilla-like arms was difficult to withstand. Both were
forgetful of the world, and the two other injured men, silent and awed,
were watching the fight, in which one of them, at least, was powerless
to take part.

The audience was breathless. Most now saw the grim reality of the scene
before them; and when at last O\x92Ryan\x92s powerful right hand got a grip
upon the throat of Jopp, and they saw the grip tighten, tighten, and
Jopp\x92s face go from red to purple, a hundred people gasped. Excited men
made as though to move toward the stage; but the majority still believed
that it all belonged to the play, and shouted \x93Sit down!\x94

Suddenly the voice of Gow Johnson was heard \x93Don\x92t kill him--let go,
boy!\x94

The voice rang out with sharp anxiety, and pierced the fog of passion
and rage in which O\x92Ryan was moving. He realised what he was doing, the
real sense of it came upon him. Suddenly he let go the lank throat of
his enemy, and, by a supreme effort, flung him across the stage, where
Jopp lay resting on his hands, his bleared eyes looking at Terry with
the fear and horror still in them which had come with that tightening
grip on his throat.

Silence fell suddenly on the theatre. The audience was standing. A
woman sobbed somewhere in a far corner, but the rest were dismayed and
speechless. A few steps before them all was Molly Mackinder, white and
frightened, but in her eyes was a look of understanding as she gazed at
Terry. Breathing hard, Terry stood still in the middle of the stage,
the red fog not yet gone out of his eyes, his hands clasped at his side,
vaguely realising the audience again. Behind him was the back curtain in
which the lights of Orion twinkled aggressively. The three men who had
attacked him were still where he had thrown them.

The silence was intense, the strain oppressive. But now a drawling voice
came from the back of the hall. \x93Are you watching the rise of Orion?\x94 it
said. It was the voice of Gow Johnson.

The strain was broken; the audience dissolved in laughter; but it was
not hilarious; it was the nervous laughter of relief, touched off by a
native humour always present in the dweller of the prairie.

\x93I beg your pardon,\x94 said Terry quietly and abstractedly to the
audience.

And the scene-shifter bethought himself and let down the curtain.

The fourth act was not played that night. The people had had more than
the worth of their money. In a few moments the stage was crowded with
people from the audience, but both Jopp and O\x92Ryan had disappeared.

Among the visitors to the stage was Molly Mackinder. There was a meaning
smile upon her face as she said to Dicky Fergus:

\x93It was quite wonderful, wasn\x92t it--like a scene out of the
classics--the gladiators or something?\x94

Fergus gave a wary smile as he answered: \x93Yes. I felt like saying Ave
Caesar, Ave! and I watched to see Artemis drop her handkerchief.\x94

\x93She dropped it, but you were too busy to pick it up. It would have
been a useful sling for your arm,\x94 she added with thoughtful malice.
\x93It seemed so real--you all acted so well, so appropriately. And how you
keep it up!\x94 she added, as he cringed when some one knocked against his
elbow, hurting the injured tendons.

Fergus looked at her meditatively before he answered. \x93Oh, I think we\x92ll
likely keep it up for some time,\x94 he rejoined ironically.

\x93Then the play isn\x92t finished?\x94 she added. \x93There is another act? Yes, I
thought there was, the programme said four.\x94

\x93Oh yes, there\x92s another act,\x94 he answered, \x93but it isn\x92t to be played
now; and I\x92m not in it.\x94

\x93No, I suppose you are not in it. You really weren\x92t in the last act.
Who will be in it?\x94

Fergus suddenly laughed outright, as he looked at Holden expostulating
intently to a crowd of people round him. \x93Well, honour bright, I don\x92t
think there\x92ll be anybody in it except little Conny Jopp and gentle
Terry O\x92Ryan; and Conny mayn\x92t be in it very long. But he\x92ll be in it
for a while, I guess. You see, the curtain came down in the middle of a
situation, not at the end of it. The curtain has to rise again.\x94

\x93Perhaps Orion will rise again--you think so?\x94 She laughed in satire;
for Dicky Fergus had made love to her during the last three months with
unsuppressed activity, and she knew him in his sentimental moments;
which is fatal. It is fatal if, in a duet, one breathes fire and the
other frost.

\x93If you want my opinion,\x94 he said in a lower voice, as they moved
towards the door, while people tried to listen to them--\x93if you want
it straight, I think Orion has risen--right up where shines the evening
star--Oh, say, now,\x94 he broke off, \x93haven\x92t you had enough fun out of
me? I tell you, it was touch and go. He nearly broke my arm--would
have done it, if I hadn\x92t gone limp to him; and your cousin Conny Jopp,
little Conny Jopp, was as near Kingdom Come as a man wants at his age.
I saw an elephant go \x91must\x92 once in India, and it was as like O\x92Ryan as
putty is to dough. It isn\x92t all over either, for O\x92Ryan will forget and
forgive, and Jopp won\x92t. He\x92s your cousin, but he\x92s a sulker. If he has
to sit up nights to do it, he\x92ll try to get back on O\x92Ryan. He\x92ll sit
up nights, but he\x92ll do it, if he can. And whatever it is, it won\x92t be
pretty.\x94

Outside the door they met Gow Johnson, excitement in his eyes. He heard
Fergus\x92s last words.

\x93He\x92ll see Orion rising if he sits up nights,\x94 Gow Johnson said. \x93The
game is with Terry--at last.\x94 Then he called to the dispersing gossiping
crowd: \x93Hold on--hold on, you people. I\x92ve got news for you. Folks, this
is O\x92Ryan\x92s night. It\x92s his in the starry firmament. Look at him
shine,\x94 he cried, stretching out his arm towards the heavens, where the
glittering galaxy hung near the zenith. \x93Terry O\x92Ryan, our O\x92Ryan--he\x92s
struck oil--on his ranch it\x92s been struck. Old Vigon found it. Terry\x92s
got his own at last. O\x92Ryan\x92s in it--in it alone. Now, let\x92s hear the
prairie-whisper,\x94 he shouted, in a great raucous voice. \x93Let\x92s hear the
prairie-whisper. What is it?\x94

The crowd responded in a hoarse shout for O\x92Ryan and his fortune. Even
the women shouted--all except Molly Mackinder. She was wondering if
O\x92Ryan risen would be the same to her as O\x92Ryan rising. She got into her
carriage with a sigh, though she said to the few friends with her:

\x93If it\x92s true, it\x92s splendid. He deserves it too. Oh, I\x92m glad--I\x92m so
glad.\x94 She laughed; but the laugh was a little hysterical.

She was both glad and sorry. Yet as she drove home over the prairie she
was silent. Far off in the east was a bright light. It was a bonfire
built on O\x92Ryan\x92s ranch, near where he had struck oil--struck it rich.
The light grew and grew, and the prairie was alive with people hurrying
towards it. La Touche should have had the news hours earlier, but the
half-breed French-Canadian, Vigon, who had made the discovery, and had
started for La Touche with the news, went suddenly off his head with
excitement, and had ridden away into the prairie fiercely shouting
his joy to an invisible world. The news had been brought in later by a
farmhand.

Terry O\x92Ryan had really struck oil, and his ranch was a scene of decent
revelry, of which Gow Johnson was master. But the central figure of
it all, the man who had, in truth, risen like a star, had become to La
Touche all at once its notoriety as well as its favourite, its great
man as well as its friend, he was nowhere to be found. He had been seen
riding full speed into the prairie towards the Kourmash Wood, and the
starlit night had swallowed him. Constantine Jopp had also disappeared;
but at first no one gave that thought or consideration.

As the night went on, however, a feeling began to stir which it is not
good to rouse in frontier lands. It is sure to exhibit itself in forms
more objective than are found in great populations where methods of
punishment are various, and even when deadly are often refined. But
society in new places has only limited resources, and is thrown back
on primary ways and means. La Touche was no exception, and the keener
spirits, to whom O\x92Ryan had ever been \x93a white man,\x94 and who so rejoiced
in his good luck now that they drank his health a hundred times in his
own whiskey and cider, were simmering with desire for a public reproval
of Constantine Jopp\x92s conduct. Though it was pointed out to them by
the astute Gow Johnson that Fergus and Holden had participated in the
colossal joke of the play, they had learned indirectly also the whole
truth concerning the past of the two men. They realised that Fergus and
Holden had been duped by Jopp into the escapade. Their primitive sense
of justice exonerated the humourists and arraigned the one malicious
man. As the night wore on they decided on the punishment to be meted out
by La Touche to the man who had not \x93acted on the square.\x94

Gow Johnson saw, too late, that he had roused a spirit as hard to
appease as the demon roused in O\x92Ryan earlier in the evening. He would
have enjoyed the battue of punishment under ordinary circumstances; but
he knew that Miss Molly Mackinder would be humiliated and indignant
at the half-savage penalty they meant to exact. He had determined that
O\x92Ryan should marry her; and this might be an obstruction in the path.
It was true that O\x92Ryan now would be a rich man--one of the richest in
the West, unless all signs failed; but meanwhile a union of fortunes
would only be an added benefit. Besides, he had seen that O\x92Ryan was in
earnest, and what O\x92Ryan wanted he himself wanted even more strongly.
He was not concerned greatly for O\x92Ryan\x92s absence. He guessed that Terry
had ridden away into the night to work off the dark spirit that was on
him, to have it out with himself. Gow Johnson was a philosopher. He was
twenty years older than O\x92Ryan, and he had studied his friend as a pious
monk his missal.

He was right in his judgment. When Terry left the theatre he was like
one in a dream, every nerve in his body at tension, his head aflame,
his pulses throbbing. For miles he rode away into the waste along the
northern trail, ever away from La Touche and his own home. He did not
know of the great good fortune that had come to him; and if, in this
hour, he had known, he would not have cared. As he rode on and on
remorse drew him into its grasp. Shame seized him that he had let
passion be his master, that he had lost his self-control, had taken a
revenge out of all proportion to the injury and insult to himself. It
did not ease his mind that he knew Constantine Jopp had done the thing
out of meanness and malice; for he was alive to-night in the light of
the stars, with the sweet crisp air blowing in his face, because of an
act of courage on the part of his schooldays\x92 foe. He remembered now
that, when he was drowning, he had clung to Jopp with frenzied arms and
had endangered the bully\x92s life also. The long torture of owing
this debt to so mean a soul was on him still, was rooted in him; but
suddenly, in the silent searching night, some spirit whispered in his
ear that this was the price which he must pay for his life saved to the
world, a compromise with the Inexorable Thing. On the verge of oblivion
and the end, he had been snatched back by relenting Fate, which requires
something for something given, when laws are overridden and doom
defeated. Yes, the price he was meant to pay was gratitude to one of
shrivelled soul and innate antipathy; and he had not been man enough
to see the trial through to the end! With a little increased strain put
upon his vanity and pride he had run amuck. Like some heathen gladiator
he had ravaged in the ring. He had gone down into the basements of human
life and there made a cockpit for his animal rage, till, in the contest,
brain and intellect had been saturated by the fumes and sweat of fleshly
fury.

How quiet the night was, how soothing to the fevered mind and body, how
the cool air laved the heated head and flushed the lungs of the rheum of
passion! He rode on and on, farther and farther away from home, his
back upon the scenes where his daily deeds were done. It was long past
midnight before he turned his horse\x92s head again homeward.

Buried in his thoughts, now calm and determined, with a new life grown
up in him, a new strength different from the mastering force which gave
him a strength in the theatre like one in delirium, he noticed nothing.
He was only conscious of the omniscient night and its warm penetrating
friendliness; as, in a great trouble, when no words can be spoken, a
cool kind palm steals into the trembling hand of misery and stills it,
gives it strength and life and an even pulse. He was now master in the
house of his soul, and had no fear or doubt as to the future, or as to
his course.

His first duty was to go to Constantine Jopp, and speak his regret like
a man. And after that it would be his duty to carry a double debt his
life long for the life saved, for the wrong done. He owed an apology to
La Touche, and he was scarcely aware that the native gentlemanliness in
him had said through his fever of passion over the footlights: \x93I beg
your pardon.\x94 In his heart he felt that he had offered a mean affront
to every person present, to the town where his interests lay, where his
heart lay.

Where his heart lay--Molly Mackinder! He knew now that vanity had
something to do, if not all to do, with his violent acts, and though
there suddenly shot through his mind, as he rode back, a savage thrill
at the remembrance of how he had handled the three, it was only a
passing emotion. He was bent on putting himself right with Jopp and with
La Touche. With the former his way was clear; he did not yet see his way
as to La Touche. How would he be able to make the amende honorable to La
Touche?

By and by he became somewhat less absorbed and enveloped by the
comforting night. He saw the glimmer of red light afar, and vaguely
wondered what it was. It was in the direction of O\x92Ryan\x92s Ranch, but
he thought nothing of it, because it burned steadily. It was probably a
fire lighted by settlers trailing to the farther north. While the night
wore on he rode as slowly back to the town as he had galloped from it
like a centaur with a captive.

Again and again Molly Mackinder\x92s face came before him; but he
resolutely shut it out of his thoughts. He felt that he had no right
to think of her until he had \x93done the right thing\x94 by Jopp and by La
Touche. Yet the look in her face as the curtain came down, it was not
that of one indifferent to him or to what he did. He neared the town
half-way between midnight and morning. Almost unconsciously avoiding the
main streets, he rode a roundabout way towards the little house where
Constantine Jopp lived. He could hear loud noises in the streets,
singing, and hoarse shouts. Then silence came, then shouts, and silence
again. It was all quiet as he rode up to Jopp\x92s house, standing on the
outskirts of the town. There was a bright light in the window of a room.

Jopp, then, was still up. He would not wait till tomorrow. He would do
the right thing now. He would put things straight with his foe before
he slept; he would do it at any sacrifice to his pride. He had conquered
his pride.

He dismounted, threw the bridle over a post, and, going into the garden,
knocked gently at the door. There was no response. He knocked again, and
listened intently. Now he heard a sound-like a smothered cry or groan.
He opened the door quickly and entered. It was dark. In another room
beyond was a light. From it came the same sound he had heard before, but
louder; also there was a shuffling footstep. Springing forward to the
half-open door, he pushed it wide, and met the terror-stricken eyes of
Constantine Jopp--the same look that he had seen at the theatre when his
hands were on Jopp\x92s throat, but more ghastly.

Jopp was bound to a chair by a lasso. Both arms were fastened to the
chair-arm, and beneath them, on the floor, were bowls into which blood
dripped from his punctured wrists.

He had hardly taken it all in--the work of an instant--when he saw
crouched in a corner, madness in his eyes, his half-breed Vigon. He
grasped the situation in a flash. Vigon had gone mad, had lain in wait
in Jopp\x92s house, and when the man he hated had seated himself in the
chair, had lassoed him, bound him, and was slowly bleeding him to death.

He had no time to think. Before he could act Vigon was upon him also,
frenzy in his eyes, a knife clutched in his hand. Reason had fled, and
he only saw in O\x92Ryan the frustrator of his revenge. He had watched the
drip, drip from his victim\x92s wrists with a dreadful joy.

They were man and man, but O\x92Ryan found in this grisly contest a vaster
trial of strength than in the fight upon the stage a few hours ago. The
first lunge that Vigon made struck him on the tip of the shoulder, and
drew blood; but he caught the hand holding the knife in an iron grasp,
while the half-breed, with superhuman strength, tried in vain for
the long brown throat of the man for whom he had struck oil. As they
struggled and twisted, the eyes of the victim in the chair watched them
with agonised emotions. For him it was life or death. He could not cry
out--his mouth was gagged; but to O\x92Ryan his groans were like a distant
echo of his own hoarse gasps as he fought his desperate fight. Terry
was as one in an awful dream battling with vague impersonal powers which
slowly strangled his life, yet held him back in torture from the final
surrender.

For minutes they struggled. At last O\x92Ryan\x92s strength came to the point
of breaking, for Vigon was a powerful man, and to this was added a
madman\x92s energy. He felt that the end was coming. But all at once,
through the groans of the victim in the chair, Terry became conscious of
noises outside--such noises as he had heard before he entered the house,
only nearer and louder. At the same time he heard a horse\x92s hoofs, then
a knock at the door, and a voice calling: \x93Jopp! Jopp!\x94

He made a last desperate struggle, and shouted hoarsely.

An instant later there were footsteps in the room, followed by a cry of
fright and amazement.

It was Gow Johnson. He had come to warn Constantine Jopp that a crowd
were come to tar and feather him, and to get him away on his own horse.

Now he sprang to the front door, called to the approaching crowd for
help, then ran back to help O\x92Ryan. A moment later a dozen men had Vigon
secure, and had released Constantine Jopp, now almost dead from loss of
blood.

As they took the gag from his mouth and tied their handkerchiefs round
his bleeding wrists, Jopp sobbed aloud. His eyes were fixed on Terry
O\x92Ryan. Terry met the look, and grasped the limp hand lying on the
chair-arm.

\x93I\x92m sorry, O\x92Ryan, I\x92m sorry for all I\x92ve done to you,\x94 Jopp sobbed. \x93I
was a sneak, but I want to own it. I want to be square now. You can tar
and feather me, if you like. I deserve it.\x94 He looked at the others. \x93I
deserve it,\x94 he repeated.

\x93That\x92s what the boys had thought would be appropriate,\x94 said Gow
Johnson with a dry chuckle, and the crowd looked at each other and
winked. The wink was kindly, however. \x93To own up and take your gruel\x94
 was the easiest way to touch the men of the prairie.

A half-hour later the roisterers, who had meant to carry Constantine
Jopp on a rail, carried Terry O\x92Ryan on their shoulders through the
town, against his will. As they passed the house where Miss Mackinder
lived some one shouted:

\x93Are you watching the rise of Orion?\x94

Many a time thereafter Terry O\x92Ryan and Molly Mackinder looked at the
galaxy in the evening sky with laughter and with pride. It had played
its part with Fate against Constantine Jopp and the little widow at
Jansen. It had never shone so brightly as on the night when Vigon struck
oil on O\x92Ryan\x92s ranch. But Vigon had no memory of that. Such is the
irony of life.



THE ERROR OF THE DAY

The \x93Error of the Day\x94 may be defined as \x93The difference between the
distance or range which must be put upon the sights in order to hit the
target and the actual distance from the gun to the target.\x94--Admiralty
Note.

A great naval gun never fires twice alike. It varies from day to day,
and expert allowance has to be made in sighting every time it is fired.
Variations in atmosphere, condition of ammunition, and the wear of the
gun are the contributory causes to the ever-varying \x93Error of the Day.\x94

         .........................

\x93Say, ain\x92t he pretty?\x94

\x93A Jim-dandy-oh, my!\x94

\x93What\x92s his price in the open market?\x94

\x93Thirty millions-I think not.\x94

Then was heard the voice of Billy Goat--his name was William Goatry

       \x93Out in the cold world, out in the street;
        Nothing to wear, and nothing to eat,
        Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam,
        Child of misfortune, I\x92m driven from home.\x94

A loud laugh followed, for Billy Goat was a popular person at Kowatin in
the Saskatchewan country. He had an inimitable drollery, heightened by
a cast in his eye, a very large mouth, and a round, good-humoured face;
also he had a hand and arm like iron, and was altogether a great man on
a \x93spree.\x94

There had been a two days\x92 spree at Kowatin, for no other reason than
that there had been great excitement over the capture and the subsequent
escape of a prairie-rover, who had robbed the contractor\x92s money-chest
at the rail-head on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Forty miles from
Kowatin he had been caught by, and escaped from, the tall, brown-eyed
man with the hard-bitten face who leaned against the open window of the
tavern, looking indifferently at the jeering crowd before him. For a
police officer he was not unpopular with them, but he had been a failure
for once, and, as Billy Goat had said: \x93It tickled us to death to see a
rider of the plains off his trolley--on the cold, cold ground, same as
you and me.\x94

They did not undervalue him. If he had been less a man than he was,
they would not have taken the trouble to cover him with their drunken
ribaldry. He had scored off them in the past in just such sprees as
this, when he had the power to do so, and used the power good-naturedly
and quietly--but used it.

Then, he was Sergeant Foyle of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, on
duty in a district as large as the United Kingdom. And he had no greater
admirer than Billy Goat, who now reviled him. Not without cause, in
a way, for he had reviled himself to this extent, that when the
prairie-rover, Halbeck, escaped on the way to Prince Albert, after six
months\x92 hunt for him and a final capture in the Kowatin district, Foyle
resigned the Force before the Commissioner could reproach him or call
him to account. Usually so exact, so certain of his target, some care
had not been taken, he had miscalculated, and there had been the Error
of the Day. Whatever it was, it had seemed to him fatal; and he had
turned his face from the barrack yard.

Then he had made his way to the Happy Land Hotel at Kowatin, to begin
life as \x93a free and independent gent on the loose,\x94 as Billy Goat had
said. To resign had seemed extreme; because, though the Commissioner was
vexed at Halbeck\x92s escape, Foyle was the best non-commissioned officer
in the Force. He had frightened horse thieves and bogus land-agents and
speculators out of the country; had fearlessly tracked down a criminal
or a band of criminals when the odds were heavy against him. He carried
on his cheek the scars of two bullets, and there was one white lock in
his brown hair, where an arrow had torn the scalp away as, alone, he
drove into the Post a score of Indians, fresh from raiding the cattle of
an immigrant trailing north.

Now he was out of work, or so it seemed; he had stepped down from
his scarlet-coated dignity, from the place of guardian and guide of
civilisation, into the idleness of a tavern stoop.

As the little group swayed round him, and Billy Goat started another
song, Foyle roused himself as though to move away--he was waiting for
the mail-stage to take him south:

     \x93Oh, father, dear father, come home with me now,
     The clock in the steeple strikes one;
     You said you were coming right home from the shop
     As soon as your day\x92s work was done.
     Come home--come home--\x94

The song arrested him, and he leaned back against the window again. A
curious look came into his eyes, a look that had nothing to do with the
acts of the people before him. It was searching into a scene beyond this
bright sunlight and the far green-brown grass, and the little oasis
of trees in the distance marking a homestead and the dust of the
wagon-wheels, out on the trail beyond the grain-elevator-beyond the blue
horizon\x92s rim, quivering in the heat, and into regions where this crisp,
clear, life-giving, life-saving air never blew.

     \x93You said you were coming right home from the shop
     As soon as your day\x92s work was done.
     Come home--come home--\x94

He remembered when he had first heard this song in a play called \x91Ten
Nights in a Bar-room\x92, many years before, and how it had wrenched his
heart and soul, and covered him with a sudden cloud of shame and anger.
For his father had been a drunkard, and his brother had grown up a
drunkard, that brother whom he had not seen for ten years until--until--

He shuddered, closed his eyes, as though to shut out something that the
mind saw. He had had a rough life, he had become inured to the seamy
side of things--there was a seamy side even in this clean, free, wide
land; and he had no sentimentality; though something seemed to hurt and
shame him now.

     \x93As soon as your day\x92s work was done.
     Come home--come home--\x94

The crowd was uproarious. The exhilaration had become a kind of
delirium. Men were losing their heads; there was an element of
irresponsibility in the new outbreak likely to breed some violent act,
which every man of them would lament when sober again.

Nettlewood Foyle watched the dust rising from the wheels of the stage,
which had passed the elevator and was nearing the Prairie Home Hotel far
down the street. He would soon leave behind him this noisy ribaldry of
which he was the centre. He tossed his cheroot away. Suddenly he heard a
low voice behind him.

\x93Why don\x92t you hit out, sergeant?\x94 it said.

He started almost violently, and turned round. Then his face flushed,
his eyes blurred with feeling and deep surprise, and his lips parted in
a whispered exclamation and greeting.

A girl\x92s face from the shade of the sitting-room was looking out at him,
half-smiling, but with heightened colour and a suppressed agitation. The
girl was not more than twenty-five, graceful, supple, and strong. Her
chin was dimpled; across her right temple was a slight scar. She had
eyes of a wonderful deep blue; they seemed to swim with light. As Foyle
gazed at her for a moment dumfounded, with a quizzical suggestion and
smiling still a little more, she said:

\x93You used to be a little quicker, Nett.\x94 The voice appeared to attempt
unconcern; but it quivered from a force of feeling underneath. It was so
long since she had seen him.

He was about to reply, but, at the instant, a reveller pushed him with
a foot behind the knees so that they were sprung forward. The crowd
laughed--all save Billy Goat, who knew his man.

Like lightning, and with cold fury in his eyes, Foyle caught the tall
cattleman by the forearm, and, with a swift, dexterous twist, had the
fellow in his power.

\x93Down--down, to your knees, you skunk,\x94 he said in a low, fierce voice.

The knees of the big man bent,--Foyle had not taken lessons of Ogami,
the Jap, for nothing--they bent, and the cattleman squealed, so intense
was the pain. It was break or bend; and he bent--to the ground and lay
there. Foyle stood over him for a moment, a hard light in his eyes, and
then, as if bethinking himself, he looked at the other roisterers, and
said:

\x93There\x92s a limit, and he reached it. Your mouths are your own, and you
can blow off to suit your fancy, but if any one thinks I\x92m a tame coyote
to be poked with a stick--!\x94 He broke off, stooped over, and helped
the man before him to his feet. The arm had been strained, and the big
fellow nursed it.

\x93Hell, but you\x92re a twister!\x94 the cattleman said with a grimace of pain.

Billy Goat was a gentleman, after his kind, and he liked Sergeant Foyle
with a great liking. He turned to the crowd and spoke.

\x93Say, boys, this mine\x92s worked out. Let\x92s leave the Happy Land to Foyle.
Boys, what is he--what--is he? What--is--Sergeant Foyle--boys?\x94

The roar of the song they all knew came in reply, as Billy Goat waved
his arms about like the wild leader of a wild orchestra:

     \x93Sergeant Foyle, oh, he\x92s a knocker from the West,
     He\x92s a chase-me-Charley, come-and-kiss-me tiger from the zoo;
     He\x92s a dandy on the pinch, and he\x92s got a double cinch
     On the gent that\x92s going careless, and he\x92ll soon cinch you:
     And he\x92ll soon--and he\x92ll soon--cinch you!\x94

Foyle watched them go, dancing, stumbling, calling back at him, as they
moved towards the Prairie Home Hotel:

     \x93And he\x92ll soon-and he\x92ll soon-cinch you!\x94

His under lip came out, his eyes half-closed, as he watched them. \x93I\x92ve
done my last cinch. I\x92ve done my last cinch,\x94 he murmured.

Then, suddenly, the look in his face changed, the eyes swam as they
had done a minute before at the sight of the girl in the room behind.
Whatever his trouble was, that face had obscured it in a flash, and
the pools of feeling far down in the depths of a lonely nature had been
stirred. Recognition, memory, tenderness, desire swam in his face, made
generous and kind the hard lines of the strong mouth. In an instant he
had swung himself over the window-sill. The girl had drawn away now into
a more shaded corner of the room, and she regarded him with a mingled
anxiety and eagerness. Was she afraid of something? Did she fear
that--she knew not quite what, but it had to do with a long ago.

\x93It was time you hit out, Nett,\x94 she said, half shyly. \x93You\x92re more
patient than you used to be, but you\x92re surer. My, that was a twist you
gave him, Nett. Aren\x92t you glad to see me?\x94 she added hastily, and with
an effort to hide her agitation.

He reached out and took her hand with a strange shyness, and a
self-consciousness which was alien to his nature. The touch of her hand
thrilled him. Their eyes met. She dropped hers. Then he gathered him
self together. \x93Glad to see you? Of course, of course, I\x92m glad. You
stunned me, Jo. Why, do you know where you are? You\x92re a thousand miles
from home. I can\x92t get it through my head, not really. What brings
you here? It\x92s ten years--ten years since I saw you, and you were only
fifteen, but a fifteen that was as good as twenty.\x94

He scanned her face closely. \x93What\x92s that scar on your forehead, Jo? You
hadn\x92t that--then.\x94

\x93I ran up against something,\x94 she said evasively, her eyes glittering,
\x93and it left that scar. Does it look so bad?\x94

\x93No, you\x92d never notice it, if you weren\x92t looking close as I am. You
see, I knew your face so well ten years ago.\x94

He shook his head with a forced kind of smile. It became him, however,
for he smiled rarely; and the smile was like a lantern turned on his
face; it gave light and warmth to its quiet strength-or hardness.

\x93You were always quizzing,\x94 she said with an attempt at a laugh--\x93always
trying to find out things. That\x92s why you made them reckon with you out
here. You always could see behind things; always would have your own
way; always were meant to be a success.\x94

She was beginning to get control of herself again, was trying hard to
keep things on the surface. \x93You were meant to succeed--you had to,\x94 she
added.

\x93I\x92ve been a failure--a dead failure,\x94 he answered slowly. \x93So they say.
So they said. You heard them, Jo.\x94

He jerked his head towards the open window.

\x93Oh, those drunken fools!\x94 she exclaimed indignantly, and her face
hardened. \x93How I hate drink! It spoils everything.\x94

There was silence for a moment. They were both thinking of the same
thing--of the same man. He repeated a question.

\x93What brings you out here, Jo?\x94 he asked gently. \x93Dorland,\x94 she
answered, her face setting into determination and anxiety.

His face became pinched. \x93Dorl!\x94 he said heavily. \x93What for, Jo? What do
you want with Dorl?\x94

\x93When Cynthy died she left her five hundred dollars a year to the baby,
and--\x94

\x93Yes, yes, I know. Well, Jo?\x94

\x93Well, it was all right for five years--Dorland paid it in; but for five
years he hasn\x92t paid anything. He\x92s taken it, stolen it from his own
child by his own honest wife. I\x92ve come to get it--anyway, to stop him
from doing it any more. His own child--it puts murder in my heart, Nett!
I could kill him.\x94

He nodded grimly. \x93That\x92s likely. And you\x92ve kept, Dorl\x92s child with
your own money all these years?\x94

\x93I\x92ve got four hundred dollars a year, Nett, you know; and I\x92ve been
dressmaking--they say I\x92ve got taste,\x94 she added, with a whimsical
smile.

Nett nodded his head. \x93Five years. That\x92s twenty-five hundred dollars
he\x92s stolen from his own child. It\x92s eight years old now, isn\x92t it?\x94

\x93Bobby is eight and a half,\x94 she answered.

\x93And his schooling, and his clothing, and everything; and you have to
pay for it all?\x94

\x93Oh, I don\x92t mind, Nett, it isn\x92t that. Bobby is Cynthy\x92s child; and I
love him--love him; but I want him to have his rights. Dorl must give up
his hold on that money--or--\x94

He nodded gravely. \x93Or you\x92ll set the law on him?\x94

\x93It\x92s one thing or the other. Better to do it now when Bobby is young
and can\x92t understand.\x94

\x93Or read the newspapers,\x94 he commented thoughtfully.

\x93I don\x92t think I\x92ve a hard heart,\x94 she continued, \x93but I\x92d like to
punish him, if it wasn\x92t that he\x92s your brother, Nett; and if it wasn\x92t
for Bobby. Dorland was dreadfully cruel, even to Cynthy.\x94

\x93How did you know he was up here?\x94 he asked. \x93From the lawyer that pays
over the money. Dorland has had it sent out here to Kowatin this two
years. And he sent word to the lawyer a month ago that he wanted it to
get here as usual. The letter left the same day as I did, and it got
here yesterday with me, I suppose. He\x92ll be after it-perhaps to-day. He
wouldn\x92t let it wait long, Dorl wouldn\x92t.\x94

Foyle started. \x93To-day--to-day--\x94

There was a gleam in his eyes, a setting of the lips, a line sinking
into the forehead between the eyes.

\x93I\x92ve been watching for him all day, and I\x92ll watch till he comes. I\x92m
going to say some things to him that he won\x92t forget. I\x92m going to get
Bobby\x92s money, or have the law do it--unless you think I\x92m a brute,
Nett.\x94 She looked at him wistfully.

\x93That\x92s all right. Don\x92t worry about me, Jo. He\x92s my brother, but I know
him--I know him through and through. He\x92s done everything that a man can
do and not be hanged. A thief, a drunkard, and a brute--and he killed a
man out here,\x94 he added hoarsely. \x93I found it out myself--myself. It was
murder.\x94

Suddenly, as he looked at her, an idea seemed to flash into his mind.
He came very near and looked at her closely. Then he reached over and
almost touched the scar on her forehead.

\x93Did he do that, Jo?\x94

For an instant she was silent and looked down at the floor. Presently
she raised her eyes, her face suffused. Once or twice she tried to
speak, but failed. At last she gained courage and said:

\x93After Cynthy\x92s death I kept house for him for a year, taking care
of little Bobby. I loved Bobby so--he has Cynthy\x92s eyes. One day
Dorland--oh, Nett, of course I oughtn\x92t to have stayed there, I know it
now; but I was only sixteen, and what did I understand! And my mother
was dead. One day--oh, please, Nett, you can guess. He said something to
me. I made him leave the house. Before I could make plans what to do, he
came back mad with drink. I went for Bobby, to get out of the house, but
he caught hold of me. I struck him in the face, and he threw me against
the edge of the open door. It made the scar.\x94

Foyle\x92s face was white. \x93Why did you never write and tell me that, Jo?
You know that I--\x94 He stopped suddenly.

\x93You had gone out of our lives down there. I didn\x92t know where you were
for a long time; and then--then it was all right about Bobby and me,
except that Bobby didn\x92t get the money that was his. But now--\x94

Foyle\x92s voice was hoarse and low. \x93He made that scar, and he--and you
only sixteen--Oh, my God!\x94 Suddenly his face reddened, and he choked
with shame and anger. \x93And he\x92s my brother!\x94 was all that he could say.

\x93Do you see him up here ever?\x94 she asked pityingly.

\x93I never saw him till a week ago.\x94 A moment, then he added: \x93The letter
wasn\x92t to be sent here in his own name, was it?\x94

She nodded. \x93Yes, in his own name, Dorland W. Foyle. Didn\x92t he go by
that name when you saw him?\x94

There was an oppressive silence, in which she saw that something moved
him strangely, and then he answered: \x93No, he was going by the name of
Halbeck--Hiram Halbeck.\x94

The girl gasped. Then the whole thing burst upon her. \x93Hiram Halbeck!
Hiram Halbeck, the thief--I read it all in the papers--the thief that
you caught, and that got away. And you\x92ve left the Mounted Police
because of it--oh, Nett!\x94 Her eyes were full of tears, her face was
drawn and grey.

He nodded. \x93I didn\x92t know who he was till I arrested him,\x94 he said.
\x93Then, afterward, I thought of his child, and let him get away; and for
my poor old mother\x92s sake. She never knew how bad he was even as a
boy. But I remember how he used to steal and drink the brandy from her
bedside, when she had the fever. She never knew the worst of him. But
I let him away in the night, Jo, and I resigned, and they thought that
Halbeck had beaten me, had escaped. Of course I couldn\x92t stay in the
Force, having done that. But, by the heaven above us, if I had him here
now, I\x92d do the thing--do it, so help me God!\x94

\x93Why should you ruin your life for him?\x94 she said, with an outburst
of indignation. All that was in her heart welled up in her eyes at the
thought of what Foyle was. \x93You must not do it. You shall not do it. He
must pay for his wickedness, not you. It would be a sin. You and what
becomes of you mean so much.\x94 Suddenly with a flash of purpose she
added: \x93He will come for that letter, Nett. He would run any kind of
risk to get a dollar. He will come here for that letter--perhaps today.\x94

He shook his head moodily, oppressed by the trouble that was on him.
\x93He\x92s not likely to venture here, after what\x92s happened.\x94

\x93You don\x92t know him as well as I do, Nett. He is so vain he\x92d do it,
just to show that he could. He\x92d\x92 probably come in the evening. Does any
one know him here? So many people pass through Kowatin every day. Has
any one seen him?\x94

\x93Only Billy Goatry,\x94 he answered, working his way to a solution of the
dark problem. \x93Only Billy Goatry knows him. The fellow that led the
singing--that was Goatry.\x94

\x93There he is now,\x94 he added, as Billy Goat passed the window.

She came and laid a hand on his arm. \x93We\x92ve got to settle things with
him,\x94 she said. \x93If Dorl comes, Nett--\x94

There was silence for a moment, then he caught her hand in his and held
it. \x93If he comes, leave him to me, Jo. You will leave him to me?\x94 he
added anxiously.

\x93Yes,\x94 she answered. \x93You\x92ll do what\x92s right-by Bobby?\x94

\x93And by Dorl, too,\x94 he replied strangely. There were loud footsteps
without.

\x93It\x92s Goatry,\x94 said Foyle. \x93You stay here. I\x92ll tell him everything.
He\x92s all right; he\x92s a true friend. He\x92ll not interfere.\x94

The handle of the door turned slowly. \x93You keep watch on the
post-office, Jo,\x94 he added.

Goatry came round the opening door with a grin. \x93Hope I don\x92t intrude,\x94
 he said, stealing a half-leering look at the girl. As soon as he saw her
face, however, he straightened himself up and took on different manners.
He had not been so intoxicated as he had made, out, and he seemed only
\x93mellow\x94 as he stood before them, with his corrugated face and queer,
quaint look, the eye with the cast in it blinking faster than the other.

\x93It\x92s all right, Goatry,\x94 said Foyle. \x93This lady is, one of my family
from the East.\x94

\x93Goin\x92 on by stage?\x94 Goatry said vaguely, as they shook hands.

She did not reply, for she was looking down the street, and presently
she started as she gazed. She laid a hand suddenly on Foyle\x92s arm.

\x93See--he\x92s come,\x94 she said in a whisper, and as though not realising
Goatry\x92s presence. \x93He\x92s come.\x94

Goatry looked as well as Foyle. \x93Halbeck--the devil!\x94 he said.

Foyle turned to him. \x93Stand by, Goatry. I want you to keep a shut mouth.
I\x92ve work to do.\x94

Goatry held out his hand. \x93I\x92m with you. If you get him this time, clamp
him, clamp him like a tooth in a harrow.\x94

Halbeck had stopped his horse at the post-office door. Dismounting he
looked quickly round, then drew the reins over the horse\x92s head, letting
them trail, as is the custom of the West.

A few swift words passed between Goatry and Foyle. \x93I\x92ll do this myself,
Jo,\x94 he whispered to the girl presently. \x93Go into another room. I\x92ll
bring him here.\x94

In another minute Goatry was leading the horse away from the
post-office, while Foyle stood waiting quietly at the door. The
departing footsteps of the horse brought Halbeck swiftly to the doorway,
with a letter in his hand.

\x93Hi, there, you damned sucker!\x94 he called after Goatry, and then saw
Foyle waiting.

\x93What the hell--!\x94 he said fiercely, his hand on something in his hip
pocket.

\x93Keep quiet, Dorl. I want to have a little talk with you. Take your hand
away from that gun--take it away,\x94 he added with a meaning not to be
misunderstood.

Halbeck knew that one shout would have the town on him, and he did not
know what card his brother was going to play. He let his arm drop to his
side. \x93What\x92s your game? What do you want?\x94 he asked surlily.

\x93Come over to the Happy Land Hotel,\x94 Foyle answered, and in the light of
what was in his mind his words had a grim irony.

With a snarl Halbeck stepped out. Goatry, who had handed the horse over
to the hostler, watched them coming.

\x93Why did I never notice the likeness before?\x94 Goatry said to himself.
\x93But, gosh! what a difference in the men. Foyle\x92s going to double cinch
him this time, I guess.\x94

He followed them inside the hall of the Happy Land. When they stepped
into the sitting-room, he stood at the door waiting. The hotel was
entirely empty, the roisterers at the Prairie Home having drawn off
the idlers and spectators. The barman was nodding behind the bar, the
proprietor was moving about in the backyard inspecting a horse. There
was a cheerful warmth everywhere, the air was like an elixir, the
pungent smell of a pine-tree at the door gave a kind of medicament to
the indrawn breath. And to Billy Goat, who sometimes sang in the choir
of a church not a hundred miles away--for people agreed to forget his
occasional sprees--there came, he knew not why, the words of a hymn he
had sung only the preceding Sunday:

       \x93As pants the hart for cooling streams,
        When heated in the chase--\x94

The words kept ringing in his ears as he listened to the conversation
inside the room--the partition was thin, the door thinner, and he heard
much. Foyle had asked him not to intervene, but only to stand by and
await the issue of this final conference. He meant, however, to take a
hand in, if he thought he was needed, and he kept his ear glued to the
door. If he thought Foyle needed him--his fingers were on the handle of
the door.

\x93Now, hurry up! What do you want with me?\x94 asked Halbeck of his brother.

\x93Take your time,\x94 said ex-Sergeant Foyle, as he drew the blind
three-quarters down, so that they could not be seen from the street.

\x93I\x92m in a hurry, I tell you. I\x92ve got my plans. I\x92m going South. I\x92ve
only just time to catch the Canadian Pacific three days from now, riding
hard.\x94

\x93You\x92re not going South, Dorl.\x94

\x93Where am I going, then?\x94 was the sneering reply. \x93Not farther than the
Happy Land.\x94

\x93What the devil\x92s all this? You don\x92t mean you\x92re trying to arrest me
again, after letting me go?\x94

\x93You don\x92t need to ask. You\x92re my prisoner. You\x92re my prisoner,\x94 he said
in a louder voice--\x93until you free yourself.\x94

\x93I\x92ll do that damn quick, then,\x94 said the other, his hand flying to his
hip.

\x93Sit down,\x94 was the sharp rejoinder, and a pistol was in his face before
he could draw his own weapon. \x93Put your gun on the table,\x94 Foyle said
quietly. Halbeck did so. There was no other way.

Foyle drew it over to himself. His brother made a motion to rise.

\x93Sit still, Dorl,\x94 came the warning voice.

White with rage, the freebooter sat still, his dissipated face and heavy
angry lips looking like a debauched and villainous caricature of his
brother before him.

\x93Yes, I suppose you\x92d have potted me, Dorl,\x94 said the ex-sergeant.

\x93You\x92d have thought no more of doing that than you did of killing
Linley, the ranchman; than you did of trying to ruin Jo Byndon, your
wife\x92s sister, when she was sixteen years old, when she was caring for
your child--giving her life for the child you brought into the world.\x94

\x93What in the name of hell--it\x92s a lie!\x94

\x93Don\x92t bluster. I know the truth.\x94

\x93Who told you-the truth?\x94

\x93She did--to-day--an hour ago.\x94

\x93She here--out here?\x94 There was a new cowed note in the voice.

\x93She is in the next room.\x94

\x93What did she come here for?\x94

\x93To make you do right by your own child. I wonder what a jury of decent
men would think about a man who robbed his child for five years, and
let that child be fed and clothed and cared for by the girl he tried to
destroy, the girl he taught what sin there was in the world.\x94

\x93She put you up to this. She was always in love with you, and you know
it.\x94

There was a dangerous look in Foyle\x92s eyes, and his jaw set hard. \x93There
would be no shame in a decent woman caring for me, even if it was
true. I haven\x92t put myself outside the boundary as you have. You\x92re
my brother, but you\x92re the worst scoundrel in the country--the worst
unhanged. Put on the table there the letter in your pocket. It holds
five hundred dollars belonging to your child. There\x92s twenty-five
hundred dollars more to be accounted for.\x94

The other hesitated, then with an oath threw the letter on the table.
\x93I\x92ll pay the rest as soon as I can, if you\x92ll stop this damned
tomfoolery,\x94 he said sullenly, for he saw that he was in a hole.

\x93You\x92ll pay it, I suppose, out of what you stole from the C.P.R.
contractor\x92s chest. No, I don\x92t think that will do.\x94

\x93You want me to go to prison, then?\x94

\x93I think not. The truth would come out at the trial--the whole
truth--the murder, and all. There\x92s your child Bobby. You\x92ve done him
enough wrong already. Do you want him--but it doesn\x92t matter whether
you do or not--do you want him to carry through life the fact that his
father was a jail-bird and a murderer, just as Jo Byndon carries the
scar you made when you threw her against the door?\x94

\x93What do you want with me, then?\x94 The man sank slowly and heavily back
into the chair.

\x93There is a way--have you never thought of it? When you threatened
others as you did me, and life seemed such a little thing in
others--can\x92t you think?\x94

Bewildered, the man looked around helplessly. In the silence which
followed Foyle\x92s words his brain was struggling to see a way out.
Foyle\x92s further words seemed to come from a great distance.

\x93It\x92s not too late to do the decent thing. You\x92ll never repent of all
you\x92ve done; you\x92ll never do different.\x94

The old reckless, irresponsible spirit revived in the man; he had both
courage and bravado, he was not hopeless yet of finding an escape from
the net. He would not beg, he would struggle.

\x93I\x92ve lived as I meant to, and I\x92m not going to snivel or repent now.
It\x92s all a rotten business, anyhow,\x94 he rejoined.

With a sudden resolution the ex-sergeant put his own pistol in his
pocket, then pushed Halbeck\x92s pistol over towards him on the table.
Halbeck\x92s eyes lighted eagerly, grew red with excitement, then a change
passed over them. They now settled on the pistol, and stayed. He heard
Foyle\x92s voice. \x93It\x92s with you to do what you ought to do. Of course
you can kill me. My pistol\x92s in my pocket. But I don\x92t think you will.
You\x92ve murdered one man. You won\x92t load your soul up with another.
Besides, if you kill me, you will never get away from Kowatin alive. But
it\x92s with you--take your choice. It\x92s me or you.\x94

Halbeck\x92s fingers crept out and found the pistol. \x93Do your duty, Dorl,\x94
 said the ex-sergeant as he turned his back on his brother.

The door of the room opened, and Goatry stepped inside softly. He had
work to do, if need be, and his face showed it. Halbeck did not see him.

There was a demon in Halbeck\x92s eyes, as his brother stood, his back
turned, taking his chances. A large mirror hung on the wall opposite
Halbeck. Goatry was watching Halbeck\x92s face in the glass, and saw the
danger. He measured his distance.

All at once Halbeck caught Goatry\x92s face in the mirror. The dark devilry
faded out of his eyes. His lips moved in a whispered oath. Every way was
blocked.

With a sudden wild resolution he raised the pistol to his head. It
cracked, and he fell back heavily in the chair. There was a red trickle
at the temple.

He had chosen the best way out.

\x93He had the pluck,\x94 said Goatry, as Foyle swung round with a face of
misery.

A moment afterward came a rush of people. Goatry kept them back.

\x93Sergeant Foyle arrested Halbeck, and Halbeck\x92s shot himself,\x94 Goatry
explained to them.

A white-faced girl with a scar on her temple made her way into the room.

\x93Come away-come away, Jo,\x94 said the voice of the man she loved; and he
did not let her see the lifeless figure in the chair.

Three days later the plains swallowed them, as they made their way with
Billy Goatry to the headquarters of the Riders of the Plains, where
Sergeant Foyle was asked to reconsider his resignation: which he did.



THE WHISPERER

   \x93And thou shalt be brought down and shalt speak out of the ground,
   and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be
   as of one that hath a familiar spirit out of the ground, and thy
   speech shall whisper out of the dust.\x94

The harvest was all in, and, as far as eye could observe nothing
remained of the golden sea of wheat which had covered the wide prairie
save the yellow stubble, the bed of an ocean of wealth which had been
gathered. Here, the yellow level was broken by a dark patch of fallow
land, there, by a covert of trees also tinged with yellow, or deepening
to crimson and mauve--the harbinger of autumn. The sun had not the
insistent and intensive strength of more southerly climes; it was
buoyant, confident and heartening, and it shone in a turquoise vault
which covered and endeared the wide, even world beneath. Now and then
a flock of wild ducks whirred past, making for the marshes or the
innumerable lakes that vitalised the expanse, or buzzards hunched
heavily along, frightened from some far resort by eager sportsmen.

That was above; but beneath, on a level with the unlifted eye, were
houses here and there, looking in the vastness like dolls\x92 habitations.
Many of the houses stood blank and staring in the expanse, but some
had trees, and others little oases of green. Everywhere prosperity,
everywhere the strings of life pulled taut, signs that energy had been
straining on the leash.

Yet there was one spot where it seemed that deadness made encampment. It
could not be seen in the sweep of the eye, you must have travelled and
looked vigilantly to find it; but it was there--a lake shimmering in the
eager sun, washing against a reedy shore, a little river running into
the reedy lake at one end and out at, the other, a small, dilapidated
house half hid in a wood that stretched for half a mile or so upon a
rising ground. In front of the house, not far from the lake, a man was
lying asleep upon the ground, a rough felt hat drawn over his eyes.

Like the house, the man seemed dilapidated also: a slovenly,
ill-dressed, demoralised figure he looked, even with his face covered.
He seemed in a deep sleep. Wild ducks settled on the lake not far from
him with a swish and flutter; a coyote ran past, veering as it saw the
recumbent figure; a prairie hen rustled by with a shrill cluck, but he
seemed oblivious to all. If asleep, he was evidently dreaming, for now
and then he started, or his body twitched, and a muttering came from
beneath the hat.

The battered house, the absence of barn or stable or garden, or any
token of thrift or energy, marked the man as an excrescence in this
theatre of hope and fruitful toil. It all belonged to some degenerate
land, some exhausted civilisation, not to this field of vigour where
life rang like silver.

So the man lay for hour upon hour. He slept as though he had been upon a
long journey in which the body was worn to helplessness. Or was it that
sleep of the worn-out spirit which, tortured by remembrance and
remorse, at last sinks into the depths where the conscious vexes the
unconscious--a little of fire, a little of ice, and now and then the
turn of the screw?

The day marched nobly on towards evening, growing out of its blue and
silver into a pervasive golden gleam; the bare, greyish houses on the
prairie were transformed into miniature palaces of light. Presently a
girl came out of the woods behind, looking at the neglected house with a
half-pitying curiosity. She carried in one hand a fishing rod which
had been telescoped till it was no bigger than a cane; in the other she
carried a small fishing basket. Her father\x92s shooting and fishing camp
was a few miles away by a lake of greater size than this which she
approached. She had tired of the gay company in camp, brought up for
sport from beyond the American border where she also belonged, and she
had come to explore the river running into this reedy lake. She turned
from the house and came nearer to the lake, shaking her head, as though
compassionating the poor, folk who lived there. She was beautiful. Her
hair was brown, going to tawny, but in this soft light which enwrapped
her, she was in a sort of topaz flame. As she came on, suddenly she
stopped as though transfixed. She saw the man--and saw also a tragedy
afoot.

The man stirred violently in his sleep, cried out, and started up. As
he did so, a snake, disturbed in its travel past him, suddenly raised
itself in anger. Startled out of sleep by some inner torture, the man
heard the sinister rattle he knew so well, and gazed paralysed.

The girl had been but a few feet away when she first saw the man and
his angry foe. An instant, then, with the instinct of the woods and the
plains, and the courage that has habitation everywhere, dropping her
basket she sprang forward noiselessly. The short, telescoped fishing rod
she carried swung round her head and completed its next half-circle at
the head of the reptile, even as it was about to strike. The blow was
sure, and with half-severed head the snake fell dead upon the ground
beside the man.

He was like one who has been projected from one world to another, dazed,
stricken, fearful. Presently the look of agonised dismay gave way to
such an expression of relief as might come upon the face of a reprieved
victim about to be given to the fire, or to the knife that flays. The
place of dreams from which he had emerged was like hell, and this was
some world of peace that he had not known these many years. Always one
had been at his elbow--\x93a familiar spirit out of the ground\x94--whispering
in his ear. He had been down in the abysses of life.

He glanced again at the girl, and realised what she had done: she had
saved his life. Whether it had been worth saving was another question;
but he had been near to the brink, had looked in, and the animal in
him had shrunk back from the precipice in a confused agony of fear. He
staggered to his feet.

\x93Where do you come from?\x94 he said, pulling his coat closer to hide the
ragged waistcoat underneath, and adjusting his worn and dirty hat--in
his youth he had been vain and ambitious and good-looking also.

He asked his question in no impertinent tone, but in the low voice of
one who \x93shall whisper out of the dust.\x94 He had not yet recovered from
the first impression of his awakening, that the world in which he now
stood was not a real world.

She understood, and half in pity and half in conquered repugnance said:

\x93I come from a camp beyond\x94--she indicated the direction by a
gesture. \x93I had been fishing\x94--she took up the basket--\x93and chanced on
you--then.\x94 She glanced at the snake significantly.

\x93You killed it in the nick of time,\x94 he said, in a voice that still
spoke of the ground, but with a note of half-shamed gratitude. \x93I want
to thank you,\x94 he added. \x93You were brave. It would have turned on you
if you had missed. I know them. I\x92ve killed five.\x94 He spoke very slowly,
huskily.

\x93Well, you are safe--that is the chief thing,\x94 she rejoined, making
as though to depart. But presently she turned back. \x93Why are you so
dreadfully poor--and everything?\x94 she asked gently.

His eye wandered over the lake and back again before he answered her,
in a dull, heavy tone: \x93I\x92ve had bad luck, and, when you get down, there
are plenty to kick you farther.\x94

\x93You weren\x92t always poor as you are now--I mean long ago, when you were
young.\x94

\x93I\x92m not so old,\x94 he rejoined sluggishly--\x93only thirty-four.\x94

She could not suppress her astonishment. She looked at the hair already
grey, the hard, pinched face, the lustreless eyes.

\x93Yet it must seem long to you,\x94 she said with meaning. Now he laughed--a
laugh sodden and mirthless. He was thinking of his boyhood. Everything,
save one or two spots all fire or all darkness, was dim in his
debilitated mind.

\x93Too far to go back,\x94 he said, with a gleam of the intelligence which
had been strong in him once.

She caught the gleam. She had wisdom beyond her years. It was the
greater because her mother was dead, and she had had so much wealth to
dispense, for her father was rich beyond counting, and she controlled
his household, and helped to regulate his charities. She saw that he was
not of the labouring classes, that he had known better days; his speech,
if abrupt and cheerless, was grammatical.

\x93If you cannot go back, you can go forwards,\x94 she said firmly. \x93Why
should you be the only man in this beautiful land who lives like this,
who is idle when there is so much to do, who sleeps in the daytime when
there is so much time to sleep at night?\x94

A faint flush came on the greyish, colourless face. \x93I don\x92t sleep at
night,\x94 he returned moodily.

\x93Why don\x92t you sleep?\x94 she asked.

He did not answer, but stirred the body of the snake with his foot. The
tail moved; he stamped upon the head with almost frenzied violence, out
of keeping with his sluggishness.

She turned away, yet looked back once more--she felt tragedy around her.
\x93It is never too late to mend,\x94 she said, and moved on, but stopped; for
a young man came running from the woods towards her.

\x93I\x92ve had a hunt--such a hunt for you,\x94 the young man said eagerly,
then stopped short when he saw to whom she had been talking. A look of
disgust came upon his face as he drew her away, his hand on her arm.

\x93In Heaven\x92s name, why did you talk to that man?\x94 he said. \x93You ought
not to have trusted yourself near him.\x94

\x93What has he done?\x94 she asked. \x93Is he so bad?\x94

\x93I\x92ve heard about him. I inquired the other day. He was once in a better
position as a ranchman--ten years ago; but he came into some money one
day, and he changed at once. He never had a good character; even
before he got his money he used to gamble, and was getting a bad name.
Afterwards he began drinking, and he took to gambling harder than ever.
Presently his money all went and he had to work; but his bad habits had
fastened on him, and now he lives from hand to mouth, sometimes working
for a month, sometimes idle for months. There\x92s something sinister about
him, there\x92s some mystery; for poverty or drink even--and he doesn\x92t
drink much now--couldn\x92t make him what he is. He doesn\x92t seek company,
and he walks sometimes endless miles talking to himself, going as hard
as he can. How did you come to speak to him, Grace?\x94

She told him all, with a curious abstraction in her voice, for she was
thinking of the man from a standpoint which her companion could not
realise. She was also trying to verify something in her memory. Ten
years ago, so her lover had just said, the poor wretch behind them had
been a different man; and there had shot into her mind the face of a
ranchman she had seen with her father, the railway king, one evening
when his \x93special\x94 had stopped at a railway station on his tour through
Montana--ten years ago. Why did the face of the ranchman which had fixed
itself on her memory then, because he had come on the evening of her
birthday and had spoiled it for her, having taken her father away from
her for an hour--why did his face come to her now? What had it to do
with the face of this outcast she had just left?

\x93What is his name?\x94 she asked at last.

\x93Roger Lygon,\x94 he answered.

\x93Roger Lygon,\x94 she repeated mechanically. Something in the man chained
her thought--his face that moment when her hand saved him and the awful
fear left him, and a glimmer of light came into his eyes.

But her lover beside her broke into song. He was happy with her.
Everything was before him, her beauty, her wealth, herself. He could not
dwell upon dismal things; his voice rang out on the sharp sweet evening
air:

     \x93\x91Oh, where did you get them, the bonny, bonny roses
     That blossom in your cheeks, and the morning in your eyes?\x92
     \x91I got them on the North Trail, the road that never closes,
     That widens to the seven gold gates of paradise.\x92
     \x91O come, let us camp in the North Trail together,
     With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.\x92\x94

Left alone, the man by the reedy lake stood watching them until they
were out of view. The song came back to him, echoing across the waters:

     \x93O come, let us camp on the North Trail together,
     With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.\x94

The sunset glow, the girl\x92s presence, had given him a moment\x92s illusion,
had absorbed him for a moment, acting on his deadened nature like a
narcotic at once soothing and stimulating. As some wild animal in
a forgotten land, coming upon ruins of a vast civilisation, towers,
temples, and palaces, in the golden glow of an Eastern evening, stands
abashed and vaguely wondering, having neither reason to understand, nor
feeling to enjoy, yet is arrested and abashed, so he stood. He had lived
the last three years so much alone, had been cut off so completely from
his kind--had lived so much alone. Yet to-night, at last, he would not
be alone.

Some one was coming to-night, some one whom he had not seen for a long
time. Letters had passed, the object of the visit had been defined, and
he had spent the intervening days since the last letter had arrived, now
agitated, now apathetic and sullen, now struggling with some invisible
being that kept whispering in his ear, saying to him, \x93It was the price
of fire, and blood, and shame. You did it--you--you--you! You are down,
and you will never get up. You can only go lower still--fire, and blood,
and shame!\x94

Criminal as he was he had never become hardened, he had only become
degraded. Crime was not his vocation. He had no gift for it; still the
crime he had committed had never been discovered--the crime that he
did with others. There were himself and Dupont and another. Dupont was
coming to-night--Dupont who had profited by the crime, and had not spent
his profits, but had built upon them to further profit; for Dupont was
avaricious and prudent, and a born criminal. Dupont had never had any
compunctions or remorse, had never lost a night\x92s sleep because of what
they two had done, instigated thereto by the other, who had paid them so
well for the dark thing.

The other was Henderley, the financier. He was worse perhaps than
Dupont, for he was in a different sphere of life, was rich beyond
counting, and had been early nurtured in quiet Christian surroundings.
The spirit of ambition, rivalry, and the methods of a degenerate and
cruel finance had seized him, mastered him; so that, under the cloak
of power--as a toreador hides the blade under the red cloth before his
enemy the toro--he held a sword of capital which did cruel and vicious
things, at last becoming criminal also. Henderley had incited and paid;
the others, Dupont and Lygon, had acted and received. Henderley had had
no remorse, none at any rate that weighed upon him; for he had got used
to ruining rivals, and seeing strong men go down, and those who had
fought him come to beg or borrow of him in the end. He had seen more
than one commit suicide, and those they loved go down and farther down,
and he had helped these up a little, but not enough to put them near his
own plane again; and he could not see--it never occurred to him--that he
had done any evil to them. Dupont thought upon his crimes now and then,
and his heart hardened, for he had no moral feeling; Henderley did
not think at all. It was left to the man of the reedy lake to pay the
penalty of apprehension, to suffer the effects of crime upon a nature
not naturally criminal.

Again and again, how many hundreds of times, had Roger Lygon seen in
his sleep--had even seen awake so did hallucination possess him--the new
cattle trail he had fired for scores of miles. The fire had destroyed
the grass over millions of acres, two houses had been burned and three
people had lost their lives; all to satisfy the savage desire of one
man, to destroy the chance of a cattle trade over a great section of
country for the railway which was to compete with his own--an act which,
in the end, was futile, failed of its purpose. Dupont and Lygon had been
paid their price, and had disappeared, and been forgotten--they were but
pawns in his game--and there was no proof against Henderley. Henderley
had forgotten. Lygon wished to forget, but Dupont remembered, and meant
now to reap fresh profit by the remembrance.

Dupont was coming to-night, and the hatchet of crime was to be dug up
again. So it had been planned. As the shadows fell, Lygon roused himself
from his trance with a shiver. It was not cold, but in him there was a
nervous agitation, making him cold from head to foot; his body seemed
as impoverished as his mind. Looking with heavy-lidded eyes across the
prairie, he saw in the distance the barracks of the Riders of the Plains
and the jail near by, and his shuddering ceased. There was where he
belonged, within four stone walls; yet here he was free to go where he
willed, to live as he willed, with no eye upon him. With no eye upon
him? There was no eye, but there was the Whisperer whom he could never
drive away. Morning and night he heard the words, \x93You--you--you! Fire,
and blood, and shame!\x94 He had snatched sleep when he could find it,
after long, long hours of tramping over the plains, ostensibly to shoot
wild fowl, but in truth to bring on a great bodily fatigue--and sleep.
His sleep only came then in the first watches of the night. As the night
wore on the Whisperer began again, as the cloud of weariness lifted a
little from him, and the senses were released from the heavy sedative of
unnatural exertion.

        .........................

The dusk deepened. The moon slowly rose. He cooked his scanty meal, and
took a deep draught from a horn of whiskey from beneath a board in the
flooring. He had not the courage to face Dupont without it, nor yet
to forget what he must forget, if he was to do the work Dupont came
to arrange--he must forget the girl who had saved his life and the
influence of those strange moments in which she had spoken down to him,
in the abyss where he had been lying.

He sat in the doorway, a fire gleaming behind him; he drank in the good
air as though his lungs were thirsty for it, and saw the silver glitter
of the moon upon the water. Not a breath of wind stirred, and the
shining path the moon made upon the reedy lake fascinated his eye.
Everything was so still except that whisper louder in his ear than it
had ever been before.

Suddenly, upon the silver path upon the lake there shot a silent canoe,
with a figure as silently paddling towards him. He gazed for a moment
dismayed, and then got to his feet with a jerk.

\x93Dupont,\x94 he said mechanically.

The canoe swished among the reeds and rushes, scraped on the shore, and
a tall, burly figure sprang from it, and stood still, looking at the
house.

\x93Qui reste la--Lygon?\x94 he asked.

\x93Dupont,\x94 was the nervous, hesitating reply. Dupont came forwards
quickly. \x93Ah, ben, here we are again--so,\x94 he grunted cheerily.

Entering the house they sat before the fire, holding their hands to the
warmth from force of habit, though the night was not cold.

\x93Ben, you will do it to-night--then?\x94 Dupont said. \x93Sacre, it is time!\x94

\x93Do what?\x94 rejoined the other heavily.

An angry light leapt into Dupont\x92s eyes. \x93You not unnerstan\x92 my
letters-bah! You know it all right, so queeck.\x94

The other remained silent, staring into the fire with wide, searching
eyes.

Dupont put a hand on him. \x93You ketch my idee queeck. We mus\x92 have more
money from that Henderley--certainlee. It is ten years, and he t\x92ink
it is all right. He t\x92ink we come no more becos\x92 he give five t\x92ousan\x92
dollars to us each. That was to do the t\x92ing, to fire the country.
Now we want another ten t\x92ousan\x92 to us each, to forget we do it for
him--hein?\x94

Still there was no reply. Dupont went on, watching the other furtively,
for he did not like this silence. But he would not resent it till he was
sure there was good cause.

\x93It comes to suit us. He is over there at the Old Man Lak\x92, where you
can get at him easy, not like in the city where he lif\x92. Over in the
States, he laugh mebbe, becos\x92 he is at home, an\x92 can buy off the law.
But here--it is Canadaw, an\x92 they not care eef he have hunder\x92 meellion
dollar. He know that--sure. Eef you say you not care a dam to go to
jail, so you can put him there, too, becos\x92 you have not\x92ing, an\x92 so dam
seeck of everyt\x92ing, he will t\x92ink ten t\x92ousan\x92 dollar same as one cent
to Nic Dupont--ben sur!\x94

Lygon nodded his head, still holding his hands to the blaze. With ten
thousand dollars he could get away into--into another world somewhere,
some world where he could forget; as he forgot for a moment this
afternoon when the girl said to him, \x93It is never too late to mend.\x94

Now as he thought of her, he pulled his coat together, and arranged the
rough scarf at his neck involuntarily. Ten thousand dollars--but ten
thousand dollars by blackmail, hush-money, the reward of fire, and
blood, and shame! Was it to go on? Was he to commit a new crime?

He stirred, as though to shake off the net that he felt twisting round
him, in the hands of the robust and powerful Dupont, on whom crime
sat so lightly, who had flourished while he, Lygon, had gone lower and
lower. Ten years ago he had been the better man, had taken the lead, was
the master, Dupont the obedient confederate, the tool. Now, Dupont, once
the rough river-driver, grown prosperous in a large way for him--who
might yet be mayor of his town in Quebec--he held the rod of rule. Lygon
was conscious that the fifty dollars sent him every New Year for five
years by Dupont had been sent with a purpose, and that he was now
Dupont\x92s tool. Debilitated, demoralised, how could he, even if he
wished, struggle against this powerful confederate, as powerful in will
as in body? Yet if he had his own way he would not go to Henderley. He
had lived with \x93a familiar spirit\x94 so long, he feared the issue of this
next excursion into the fens of crime.

Dupont was on his feet now. \x93He will be here only three days more--I haf
find it so. To-night it mus\x92 be done. As we go I will tell you what
to say. I will wait at the Forks, an\x92 we will come back togedder. His
cheque will do. Eef he gif at all, the cheque is all right. He will
not stop it. Eef he haf the money, it is better--sacre--yes. Eef he not
gif--well, I will tell you, there is the other railway man he try
to hurt, how would he like--But I will tell you on the river.
Main\x92enant--queeck, we go.\x94

Without a word Lygon took down another coat and put it on. Doing so he
concealed a weapon quickly as Dupont stooped to pick a coal for his pipe
from the blaze. Lygon had no fixed purpose in taking a weapon with him;
it was only a vague instinct of caution that moved him.

In the canoe on the river, in an almost speechless apathy, he heard
Dupont\x92s voice giving him instructions.

        .......................

Henderley, the financier, had just finished his game of whist and
dismissed his friends--it was equivalent to dismissal, rough yet genial
as he seemed to be, so did immense wealth and its accompanying power
affect his relations with those about him. In everything he was
\x93considered.\x94 He was in good humour, for he had won all the evening, and
with a smile he rubbed his hands among the notes--three thousand dollars
it was. It was like a man with a pocket full of money, chuckling over
a coin he has found in the street. Presently he heard a rustle of the
inner tent-curtain and swung round. He faced the man from the reedy
lake.

Instinctively he glanced round for a weapon, mechanically his hands
firmly grasped the chair in front of him.

He had been in danger of his life many times, and he had no fear. He had
been threatened with assassination more than once, and he had got used
to the idea of danger; life to him was only a game.

He kept his nerve; he did not call out; he looked his visitor in the
eyes.

\x93What are you doing here? Who are you?\x94 he said.

\x93Don\x92t you know me?\x94 answered Lygon, gazing intently at him.

Face to face with the man who had tempted him to crime, Lygon had a new
sense of boldness, a sudden feeling of reprisal, a rushing desire to put
the screw upon him. At sight of this millionaire with the pile of notes
before him there vanished the sickening hesitation of the afternoon, of
the journey with Dupont. The look of the robust, healthy financier was
like acid in a wound; it maddened him.

\x93You will know me better soon,\x94 Lygon added, his head twitching with
excitement.

Henderley recognised him now. He gripped the armchair spasmodically,
but presently regained a complete composure. He knew the game that was
forward here; and he also thought that if once he yielded to blackmail
there would never be an end to it. He made no pretence, but came
straight to the point.

\x93You can do nothing; there is no proof,\x94 he said with firm assurance.

\x93There is Dupont,\x94 answered Lygon doggedly.

\x93Who is Dupont?\x94

\x93The French Canadian who helped me--I divided with him.\x94

\x93You said the man who helped you died. You wrote that to me. I suppose
you are lying now.\x94

Henderley coolly straightened the notes on the table, smoothing out
the wrinkles, arranging them according to their denominations with an
apparently interested eye; yet he was vigilantly watching the outcast
before him. To yield to blackmail would be fatal; not to yield to it--he
could not see his way. He had long ago forgotten the fire, and blood,
and shame. No Whisperer reminded him of that black page in the history
of his life; he had been immune of conscience. He could not understand
this man before him. It was as bad a case of human degradation as ever
he had seen--he remembered the stalwart, if dissipated, ranchman who had
acted on his instigation. He knew now that he had made a foolish blunder
then, that the scheme had been one of his failures; but he had never
looked on it as with eyes reproving crime. As a hundred thoughts tending
towards the solution of the problem by which he was faced, flashed
through his mind, and he rejected them all, he repeated mechanically the
phrase, \x93I suppose you are lying now.\x94

\x93Dupont is here--not a mile away,\x94 was the reply. \x93He will give proof.
He would go to jail or to the gallows to put you there, if you do not
pay. He is a devil--Dupont.\x94

Still the great man could not see his way out. He must temporise for a
little longer, for rashness might bring scandal or noise; and near by
was his daughter, the apple of his eye.

\x93What do you want? How much did you figure you could get out of me, if I
let you bleed me?\x94 he asked sneeringly and coolly. \x93Come now, how much?\x94

Lygon, in whom a blind hatred of the man still raged, was about to
reply, when he heard a voice calling, \x93Daddy, Daddy!\x94

Suddenly the red, half-insane light died down in Lygon\x92s eyes. He saw
the snake upon the ground by the reedy lake, the girl standing over
it--the girl with the tawny hair. This was her voice.

Henderley had made a step towards a curtain opening into another room
of the great tent, but before he could reach it the curtain was pushed
back, and the girl entered with a smile.

\x93May I come in?\x94 she said; then stood still astonished; seeing Lygon.

\x93Oh!\x94 she exclaimed. \x93Oh--you!\x94

All at once a look came into her face which stirred it as a flying
insect stirs the water of a pool. On the instant she remembered that she
had seen the man before.

It was ten years ago in Montana on the night of her birthday. Her father
had been called away to talk with this man, and she had seen him from
the steps of the \x93special.\x94 It was only the caricature of the once
strong, erect ranchman that she saw, but there was no mistake, she
recognised him now.

Lygon, dumfounded, looked from her to her father, and he saw now in
Henderley\x92s eyes a fear that was not to be misunderstood.

Here was where Henderley could be smitten, could be brought to his
knees. It was the vulnerable part of him. Lygon could see that he was
stunned. The great financier was in his power. He looked back again to
the girl, and her face was full of trouble.

A sharp suspicion was in her heart that somehow or other her father was
responsible for this man\x92s degradation and ruin. She looked Lygon in the
eyes.

\x93Did you want to see me?\x94 she asked.

She scarcely knew why she said it; but she was sensible of trouble,
maybe of tragedy, somewhere; and she had a vague dread of she knew not
what, for hide it, avoid it, as she had done so often, there was in her
heart an unhappy doubt concerning her father.

A great change had come over Lygon. Her presence had altered him. He was
again where she had left him in the afternoon.

He heard her say to her father, \x93This was the man I told you of--at the
reedy lake. Did you come to see me?\x94 she repeated.

\x93I did not know you were here,\x94 he answered. \x93I came\x94--he was conscious
of Henderley\x92s staring eyes fixed upon him helplessly--\x93I came to ask
your father if he would not buy my shack. There is good shooting at the
lake; the ducks come plenty, sometimes. I want to get away, to start
again somewhere. I\x92ve been a failure. I want to get away, right away
south. If he would buy it I could start again. I\x92ve had no luck.\x94 He had
invented it on the moment, but the girl understood better than Lygon or
Henderley could have dreamed. She had seen the change pass over Lygon.
Henderley had a hand on himself again, and the startled look went out of
his eyes.

\x93What do you want for your shack and the lake?\x94 he asked with restored
confidence. The fellow no doubt was grateful that his daughter had saved
his life, he thought.

\x93Five hundred dollars,\x94 answered Lygon quickly. Henderley would have
handed over all that lay on the table before him but that he thought it
better not to do so. \x93I\x92ll buy it,\x94 he said. \x93You seem to have been hit
hard. Here is the money. Bring me the deed to-morrow--to-morrow.\x94

\x93I\x92ll not take the money till I give you the deed,\x94 said Lygon. \x93It will
do to-morrow. It\x92s doing me a good turn. I\x92ll get away and start again
somewhere. I\x92ve done no good up here. Thank you, sir--thank you.\x94 Before
they realised it, the tent-curtain rose and fell, and he was gone into
the night.

The trouble was still deep in the girl\x92s eyes as she kissed her father,
and he, with an overdone cheerfulness, wished her a good night.

The man of iron had been changed into a man of straw once at least in
his lifetime.

Lygon found Dupont at the Forks.

\x93Eh ben, it is all right--yes?\x94 Dupont asked eagerly as Lygon joined
him.

\x93Yes, it is all right,\x94 answered Lygon.

With an exulting laugh and an obscene oath, Dupont pushed out the
canoe, and they got away into the moonlight. No word was spoken for some
distance, but Dupont kept giving grunts of satisfaction.

\x93You got the ten t\x92ousan\x92 each--in cash or cheque, eh? The cheque or the
money-hein?\x94

\x93I\x92ve got nothing,\x94 answered Lygon. Dupont dropped his paddle with a
curse.

\x93You got not\x92ing! You said eet was all right,\x94 he growled.

\x93It is all right. I got nothing. I asked for nothing. I have had enough.
I have finished.\x94

With a roar of rage Dupont sprang on him, and caught him by the throat
as the canoe swayed and dipped. He was blind with fury.

Lygon tried with one hand for his knife, and got it, but the pressure on
his throat was growing terrible. For minutes the struggle continued, for
Lygon was fighting with the desperation of one who makes his last awful
onset against fate and doom.

Dupont also had his knife at work. At last it drank blood, but as he got
it home, he suddenly reeled blindly, lost his balance, and lurched into
the water with a groan.

Lygon, weapon in hand, and bleeding freely, waited for him to rise and
make for the canoe again.

Ten, twenty, fifty seconds passed. Dupont did not rise. A minute went
by, and still there was no stir, no sign. Dupont would never rise again.
In his wild rage he had burst a blood vessel on the brain.

Lygon bound up his reeking wound as best he could. He did--it calmly,
whispering to himself the while.

\x93I must do it. I must get there if I can. I will not be afraid to die
then,\x94 he muttered to himself. Presently he grasped an oar and paddled
feebly.

A slight wind had risen, and, as he turned the boat in to face the Forks
again, it helped to carry the canoe to the landing-place.

Lygon dragged himself out. He did not try to draw the canoe up, but
began this journey of a mile back to the tent he had left so recently.
First, step by step, leaning against trees, drawing himself forwards,
a journey as long to his determined mind as from youth to age. Would it
never end? It seemed a terrible climbing up the sides of a cliff, and,
as he struggled fainting on, all sorts of sounds were in his ears, but
he realised that the Whisperer was no longer there. The sounds he heard
did not torture, they helped his stumbling feet. They were like the
murmur of waters, like the sounds of the forest and soft, booming bells.
But the bells were only the beatings of his heart-so loud, so swift.

He was on his knees now crawling on-on-on. At last there came a light,
suddenly bursting on him from a tent, he was so near. Then he called,
and called again, and fell forwards on his face. But now he heard a
voice above him. It was her voice. He had blindly struggled on to die
near her, near where she was, she was so pitiful and good.

He had accomplished his journey, and her voice was speaking above him.
There were other voices, but it was only hers that he heard.

\x93God help him--oh, God help him!\x94 she was saying. He drew a long quiet
breath. \x93I will sleep now,\x94 he said clearly.

He would hear the Whisperer no more.



AS DEEP AS THE SEA

\x93What can I do, Dan? I\x92m broke, too. My last dollar went to pay my last
debt to-day. I\x92ve nothing but what I stand in. I\x92ve got prospects, but
I can\x92t discount prospects at the banks.\x94 The speaker laughed bitterly.
\x93I\x92ve reaped and I\x92m sowing, the same as you, Dan.\x94

The other made a nervous motion of protest. \x93No; not the same as me,
Flood--not the same. It\x92s sink or swim with me, and if you can\x92t help
me--oh, I\x92d take my gruel without whining, if it wasn\x92t for Di! It\x92s
that knocks me over. It\x92s the shame to her. Oh, what a cursed ass and
fool--and thief, I\x92ve been!\x94

\x93Thief-thief?\x94

Flood Rawley dropped the flaming match with which he was about to light
a cheroot, and stood staring, his dark-blue eyes growing wider, his
worn, handsome face becoming drawn, as swift conviction mastered him. He
felt that the black words which had fallen from his friend\x92s lips--from
the lips of Diana Welldon\x92s brother--were the truth. He looked at
the plump face, the full amiable eyes, now misty with fright, at the
characterless hand nervously feeling the golden moustache, at the
well-fed, inert body; and he knew that whatever the trouble or the
peril, Dan Welldon could not surmount it alone.

\x93What is it?\x94 Rawley asked rather sharply, his fingers running through
his slightly grizzled, black hair, but not excitedly, for he wanted
no scenes; and if this thing could hurt Di Welldon, and action was
necessary, he must remain cool. What she was to him, Heaven and he only
knew; what she had done for him, perhaps neither understood fully as
yet. \x93What is it--quick?\x94 he added, and his words were like a sharp grip
upon Dan Welldon\x92s shoulder. \x93Racing--cards?\x94

Dan nodded. \x93Yes, over at Askatoon; five hundred on Jibway, the
favourite--he fell at the last fence; five hundred at poker with Nick
Fison; and a thousand in land speculation at Edmonton, on margin.
Everything went wrong.\x94

\x93And so you put your hand in the railway company\x92s money-chest?\x94

\x93It seemed such a dead certainty--Jibway; and the Edmonton
corner-blocks, too. I\x92d had luck with Nick before; but--well, there it
is, Flood.\x94

\x93They know--the railway people--Shaughnessy knows?\x94

\x93Yes, the president knows. He\x92s at Calgary now. They telegraphed him,
and he wired to give me till midnight to pay up, or go to jail. They\x92re
watching me now. I can\x92t stir. There\x92s no escape, and there\x92s no one I
can ask for help but you. That\x92s why I\x92ve come, Flood.\x94

\x93Lord, what a fool! Couldn\x92t you see what the end would be, if your
plunging didn\x92t come off? You--you oughtn\x92t to bet, or speculate, or
play cards, you\x92re not clever enough. You\x92ve got blind rashness, and
so you think you\x92re bold. And Di--oh, you idiot! And on a salary of a
thousand dollars a year!\x94

\x93I suppose Di would help me; but I couldn\x92t explain.\x94 The weak face
puckered, a lifeless kind of tear gathered in the ox-like eyes.

\x93Yes, she probably would help you. She\x92d probably give you all she\x92s
saved to go to Europe with and study, saved from her pictures sold at
twenty per cent of their value; and she\x92d mortgage the little income
she\x92s got to keep her brother out of jail. Of course she would, and of
course you ought to be ashamed of yourself for thinking of it.\x94 Rawley
lighted his cigar and smoked fiercely.

\x93It would be better for her than my going to jail,\x94 stubbornly replied
the other. \x93But I don\x92t want to tell her, or to ask her for money.
That\x92s why I\x92ve come to you. You needn\x92t be so hard, Flood; you\x92ve not
been a saint; and Di knows it.\x94

Rawley took the cheroot from his mouth, threw back his head, and laughed
mirthlessly, ironically. Then suddenly he stopped and looked round the
room till his eyes rested on a portrait-drawing which hung on the wall
opposite the window, through which the sun poured. It was the face of a
girl with beautiful bronzed hair, and full, fine, beautifully modelled
face, with brown eyes deep and brooding, which seemed to have time and
space behind them--not before them. The lips were delicate and full, and
had the look suggesting a smile which the inward thought has stayed. It
was like one of the Titian women--like a Titian that hangs on the wall
of the Gallery at Munich. The head and neck, the whole personality,
had an air of distinction and destiny. The drawing had been done by a
wandering duchess who had seen the girl sketching in the foothills,
when on a visit to that \x93Wild West\x94 which has such power to refine
and inspire minds not superior to Nature. Its replica was carried to a
castle in Scotland. It had been the gift of Diana Welldon on a certain
day not long ago, when Flood Rawley had made a pledge to her, which was
as vital to him and to his future as two thousand dollars were vital to
Dan Welldon now.

\x93You\x92ve not been a saint, and Di knows it,\x94 repeated the weak brother
of a girl whose fame belonged to the West; whose name was a signal for
cheerful looks; whose buoyant humour and impartial friendliness gained
her innumerable friends; and whose talent, understood by few, gave her
a certain protection, lifting her a little away from the outwardly crude
and provincial life around her.

When Rawley spoke, it was with quiet deliberation, and even gentleness.
\x93I haven\x92t been a saint, and she knows it, as you say, Dan; but the law
is on my side as yet, and it isn\x92t on yours. There\x92s the difference.\x94

\x93You used to gamble yourself; you were pretty tough, and you oughtn\x92t to
walk up my back with hobnailed boots.\x94

\x93Yes, I gambled, Dan, and I drank, and I raised a dust out here. My
record was writ pretty big. But I didn\x92t lay my hands on the ark of the
social covenant, whose inscription is, Thou shalt not steal; and that\x92s
why I\x92m poor but proud, and no one\x92s watching for me round the corner,
same as you.\x94

Welldon\x92s half-defiant petulance disappeared. \x93What\x92s done can\x92t be
undone.\x94 Then, with a sudden burst of anguish: \x93Oh, get me out of this
somehow!\x94

\x93How? I\x92ve got no money. By speaking to your sister?\x94

The other was silent.

\x93Shall I do it?\x94 Rawley peered anxiously into the other\x92s face, and he
knew that there was no real security against the shameful trouble being
laid bare to her.

\x93I want a chance to start straight again.\x94

The voice was fluttered, almost whining; it carried no conviction; but
the words had in them a reminder of words that Rawley himself had said
to Diana Welldon but a few months ago, and a new spirit stirred in him.
He stepped forwards and, gripping Dan\x92s shoulder with a hand of steel,
said fiercely:

\x93No, Dan. I\x92d rather take you to her in your coffin. She\x92s never known
you, never seen what most of us have seen, that all you have--or nearly
all--is your lovely looks, and what they call a kind heart. There\x92s only
you two in your family, and she\x92s got to live with you--awhile, anyhow.
She couldn\x92t stand this business. She mustn\x92t stand it. She\x92s had enough
to put up with in me; but at the worst she could pass me by on the other
side, and there would be an end. It would have been said that Flood
Rawley had got his deserts. It\x92s different with you.\x94 His voice changed,
softened. \x93Dan, I made a pledge to her that I\x92d never play cards again
for money while I lived, and it wasn\x92t a thing to take on without some
cogitation. But I cogitated, and took it on, and started life over
again--me! Began practising law again--barrister, solicitor, notary
public--at forty. And at last I\x92ve got my chance in a big case against
the Canadian Pacific. It\x92ll make me or break me, Dan.... There, I wanted
you to see where I stand with Di; and now I want you to promise me that
you\x92ll not leave these rooms till I see you again. I\x92ll get you clear;
I\x92ll save you, Dan.\x94

\x93Flood! Oh, my God, Flood!\x94 The voice was broken.

\x93You\x92ve got to stay here, and you\x92re to remember not to get the funk,
even if I don\x92t come before midnight. I\x92ll be here then, if I\x92m alive.
If you don\x92t keep your word--but, there, you will.\x94 Both hands gripped
the graceful shoulders of the miscreant like a vice.

\x93So help me, Flood,\x94 was the frightened, whispered reply, \x93I\x92ll make it
up to you somehow, some day. I\x92ll pay you back.\x94

Rawley caught up his cap from the table. \x93Steady--steady. Don\x92t go at
a fence till you\x92re sure of your seat, Dan,\x94 he said. Then with a long
look at the portrait on the wall, and an exclamation which the other did
not hear, he left the room with a set, determined face.

        ......................

\x93Who told you? What brought you, Flood?\x94 the girl asked, her chin in her
long, white hands, her head turned from the easel to him, a book in
her lap, the sun breaking through the leaves upon her hat, touching the
Titian hair with splendour.

\x93Fate brought me, and didn\x92t tell me,\x94 he answered, with a whimsical
quirk of the mouth, and his trouble lurking behind the sea-deep eyes.

\x93Wouldn\x92t you have come if you knew I was here?\x94 she urged archly.

\x93Not for two thousand dollars,\x94 he answered, the look of trouble
deepening in his eyes, but his lips were smiling. He had a quaint sense
of humour, and at his last gasp would have noted the ridiculous thing.
And surely it was a droll malignity of Fate to bring him here to her
whom, in this moment of all moments in his life, he wished far away.
Fate meant to try him to the uttermost. This hurdle of trial was high
indeed.

\x93Two thousand dollars--nothing less?\x94 she inquired gaily. \x93You are too
specific for a real lover.\x94

\x93Fate fixed the amount,\x94 he added drily. \x93Fate--you talk so much of
Fate,\x94 she replied gravely, and her eyes looked into the distance. \x93You
make me think of it too, and I don\x92t want to do so. I don\x92t want to feel
helpless, to be the child of Accident and Destiny.\x94

\x93Oh, you get the same thing in the \x91fore-ordination\x92 that old Minister
M\x92Gregor preaches every Sunday. \x91Be elect or be damned,\x92 he says to us
all. Names aren\x92t important; but, anyhow, it was Fate that led me here.\x94

\x93Are you sure it wasn\x92t me?\x94 she asked softly. \x93Are you sure I wasn\x92t
calling you, and you had to come?\x94

\x93Well, it was en route, anyhow; and you are always calling, if I must
tell you,\x94 he laughed. Suddenly he became grave. \x93I hear you call me in
the night sometimes, and I start up and say \x91Yes, Di!\x92 out of my sleep.
It\x92s a queer hallucination. I\x92ve got you on the brain, certainly.\x94

\x93It seems to vex you--certainly,\x94 she said, opening the book that lay in
her lap, \x93and your eyes trouble me to-day. They\x92ve got a look that used
to be in them, Flood, before--before you promised; and another look
I don\x92t understand and don\x92t like. I suppose it\x92s always so. The real
business of life is trying to understand each other.\x94

\x93You have wonderful thoughts for one that\x92s had so little chance,\x94 he
said. \x93That\x92s because you\x92re a genius, I suppose. Teaching can\x92t give
that sort of thing--the insight.\x94

\x93What is the matter, Flood?\x94 she asked suddenly again, her breast
heaving, her delicate, rounded fingers interlacing. \x93I heard a man say
once that you were \x91as deep as the sea.\x92 He did not mean it kindly, but
I do. You are in trouble, and I want to share it if I can. Where were
you going when you came across me here?\x94

\x93To see old Busby, the quack-doctor up there,\x94 he answered, nodding
towards a shrubbed and wooded hillock behind them.

\x93Old Busby!\x94 she rejoined in amazement. \x93What do you want with him--not
medicine of that old quack, that dreadful man?\x94

\x93He cures people sometimes. A good many out here owe him more than
they\x92ll ever pay him.\x94

\x93Is he as rich an old miser as they say?\x94

\x93He doesn\x92t look rich, does he?\x94 was the enigmatical answer.

\x93Does any one know his real history? He didn\x92t come from nowhere. He
must have had friends once. Some one must once have cared for him,
though he seems such a monster now.\x94

\x93Yet he cures people sometimes,\x94 he rejoined abstractedly. \x93Probably
there\x92s some good underneath. I\x92m going to try and see.\x94

\x93What is it. What is your business with him? Won\x92t you tell me? Is it so
secret?\x94

\x93I want him to help me in a case I\x92ve got in hand. A client of mine is
in trouble--you mustn\x92t ask about it; and he can help, I think--I think
so.\x94 He got to his feet. \x93I must be going, Di,\x94 he added. Suddenly a
flush swept over his face, and he reached out and took both her hands.
\x93Oh, you are a million times too good for me!\x94 he said. \x93But if all goes
well, I\x92ll do my best to make you forget it.\x94

\x93Wait--wait one moment,\x94 she answered. \x93Before you go, I want you to
hear what I\x92ve been reading over and over to myself just now. It is from
a book I got from Quebec, called \x91When Time Shall Pass\x92. It is a story
of two like you and me. The man is writing to the woman, and it has
things that you have said to me--in a different way.\x94

\x93No, I don\x92t talk like a book, but I know a star in a dark night when I
see it,\x94 he answered, with a catch in his throat.

\x93Hush,\x94 she said, catching his hand in hers, as she read, while all
around them the sounds of summer--the distant clack of a reaper, the
crack of a whip, the locusts droning, the whir of a young partridge, the
squeak of a chipmunk--were tuned to the harmony of the moment and her
voice:

   \x93\x91Night and the sombre silence, oh, my love, and one star shining!
   First, warm, velvety sleep, and then this quick, quiet waking to
   your voice which seems to call me. Is it--is it you that calls?
   Do you sometimes, even in your dreams, speak to me? Far beneath
   unconsciousness is there the summons of your spirit to me?...
   I like to think so. I like to think that this thing which has come
   to us is deeper, greater than we are. Sometimes day and night there
   flash before my eyes--my mind\x92s eyes--pictures of you and me in
   places unfamiliar, landscapes never before seen, activities
   uncomprehended and unknown, bright, alluring glimpses of some second
   being, some possible, maybe never-to-be-realised future, alas! Yet
   these swift-moving shutters of the soul, or imagination, or reality
   --who shall say which?--give me a joy never before felt in life. If
   I am not a better man for this love of mine for you, I am more than
   I was, and shall be more than I am. Much of my life in the past was
   mean and small, so much that I have said and done has been unworthy
   --my love for you is too sharp a light for my gross imperfections of
   the past! Come what will, be what must, I stake my life, my heart,
   my soul on you--that beautiful, beloved face; those deep eyes in
   which my being is drowned; those lucid, perfect hands that have
   bound me to the mast of your destiny. I cannot go back, I must go
   forwards: now I must keep on loving you or be shipwrecked. I did
   not know that this was in me, this tide of love, this current of
   devotion. Destiny plays me beyond my ken, beyond my dreams.
   O Cithaeron! Turn from me now--or never, O my love! Loose me
   from the mast, and let the storm and wave wash me out into the sea
   of your forgetfulness now--or never!... But keep me, keep me,
   if your love is great enough, if I bring you any light or joy; for I
   am yours to my uttermost note of life.\x92\x94

\x93He knew--he knew!\x94 Rawley said, catching her wrists in his hands and
drawing her to him. \x93If I could write, that\x92s what I should have said to
you, beautiful and beloved. How mean and small and ugly my life was till
you made me over. I was a bad lot.\x94

\x93So much hung on one little promise,\x94 she said, and drew closer to
him. \x93You were never bad,\x94 she added; then, with an arm sweeping the
universe, \x93Oh, isn\x92t it all good, and isn\x92t it all worth living?\x94

His face lost its glow. Over in the town her brother faced a ruined
life, and the girl beside him, a dark humiliation and a shame which
would poison her life hereafter, unless--his look turned to the little
house where the quack-doctor lived. He loosed her hands.

\x93Now for Caliban,\x94 he said.

\x93I shall be Ariel and follow you-in my heart,\x94 she said. \x93Be sure and
make him tell you the story of his life,\x94 she added with a laugh, as his
lips swept the hair behind her ears.

As he moved swiftly away, watching his long strides, she said proudly,
\x93As deep as the sea.\x94

After a moment she added: \x93And he was once a gambler, until, until--\x94
 she glanced at the open book, then with sweet mockery looked at her
hands--\x93until \x91those lucid, perfect hands bound me to the mast of
your destiny.\x92 O vain Diana! But they are rather beautiful,\x94 she added
softly, \x93and I am rather happy.\x94 There was something like a gay little
chuckle in her throat.

\x93O vain Diana!\x94 she repeated.

        .......................

Rawley entered the door of the but on the hill without ceremony. There
was no need for courtesy, and the work he had come to do could be easier
done without it.

Old Busby was crouched over a table, his mouth lapping milk from a
full bowl on the table. He scarcely raised his head when Rawley
entered--through the open door he had seen his visitor coming. He sipped
on, his straggling beard dripping. There was silence for a time.

\x93What do you want?\x94 he growled at last.

\x93Finish your swill, and then we can talk,\x94 said Rawley carelessly. He
took a chair near the door, lighted a cheroot and smoked, watching the
old man, as he tipped the great bowl towards his face, as though it
were some wild animal feeding. The clothes were patched and worn, the
coat-front was spattered with stains of all kinds, the hair and beard
were unkempt and long, giving him what would have been the look of a
mangy lion, but that the face had the expression of some beast less
honourable. The eyes, however, were malignantly intelligent, the hands,
ill-cared for, were long, well-shaped and capable, but of a hateful
yellow colour like the face. And through all was a sense of power, dark
and almost mediaeval. Secret, evilly wise and inhuman, he looked a being
apart, whom men might seek for help in dark purposes.

\x93What do you want--medicine?\x94 he muttered at last, wiping his beard and
mouth with the palm of his hand, and the palm on his knees.

Rawley looked at the ominous-looking bottles on the shelves above the
old man\x92s head; at the forceps, knives, and other surgical instruments
on the walls--they at least were bright and clean--and, taking the
cheroot slowly from his mouth, he said:

\x93Shin-plasters are what I want. A friend of mine has caught his leg in a
trap.\x94

The old man gave an evil chuckle at the joke, for a \x93shin-plaster\x94 was a
money-note worth a quarter of a dollar.

\x93I\x92ve got some,\x94 he growled in reply, \x93but they cost twenty-five cents
each. You can have them for your friend at the price.\x94

\x93I want eight thousand of them from you. He\x92s hurt pretty bad,\x94 was the
dogged, dry answer.

The shaggy eyebrows of the quack drew together, and the eyes peered out
sharply through half-closed lids. \x93There\x92s plenty of wanting and not
much getting in this world,\x94 he rejoined, with a leer of contempt,
and spat on the floor, while yet the furtive watchfulness of the eyes
indicated a mind ill at ease.

Smoke came in placid puffs from the cheroot--Rawley was smoking very
hard, but with a judicial meditation, as it seemed.

\x93Yes, but if you want a thing so bad that, to get it, you\x92ll face the
devil or the Beast of Revelations, it\x92s likely to come to you.\x94

\x93You call me a beast?\x94 The reddish-brown face grew black like that of a
Bedouin in his rage.

\x93I said the Beast of Revelations--don\x92t you know the Scriptures?\x94

\x93I know that a fool is to be answered according to his folly,\x94 was the
hoarse reply, and the great head wagged to and fro in its smarting rage.

\x93Well, I\x92m doing my best; and perhaps when the folly is all out, we\x92ll
come to the revelations of the Beast.\x94 There was a silence, in which the
gross impostor shifted heavily in his seat, while a hand twitched across
the mouth, and then caught at the breast of the threadbare black coat
abstractedly.

Rawley leaned forward, one elbow on a knee, the cheroot in his fingers.
He spoke almost confidentially, as to some ignorant and misguided
savage--as he had talked to Indian chiefs in his time, when searching
for the truth regarding some crime:

\x93I\x92ve had a lot of revelations in my time. A lawyer and a doctor always
do. And though there are folks who say I\x92m no lawyer, as there are those
who say with greater truth that you\x92re no doctor, speaking technically,
we\x92ve both had \x91revelations.\x92 You\x92ve seen a lot that\x92s seamy, and so
have I. You\x92re pretty seamy yourself. In fact, you\x92re as bad a man as
ever saved lives--and lost them. You\x92ve had a long tether, and you\x92ve
swung on it--swung wide. But you\x92ve had a lot of luck that you haven\x92t
swung high, too.\x94

He paused and flicked away the ash from his cheroot, while the figure
before him swayed animal-like from side to side, muttering.

\x93You\x92ve got brains, a great lot of brains of a kind--however you came
by them,\x94 Rawley continued; \x93and you\x92ve kept a lot of people in the
West from passing in their cheques before their time. You\x92ve rooked \x91em,
chiselled \x91em out of a lot of cash, too. There was old Lamson--fifteen
hundred for the goitre on his neck; and Mrs. Gilligan for the
cancer--two thousand, wasn\x92t it? Tincture of Lebanon leaves you called
the medicine, didn\x92t you? You must have made fifty thousand or so in the
last ten years.\x94

\x93What I\x92ve made I\x92ll keep,\x94 was the guttural answer, and the talon-like
fingers clawed the table.

\x93You\x92ve made people pay high for curing them, saving them sometimes; but
you haven\x92t paid me high for saving you in the courts; and there\x92s one
case that you haven\x92t paid me for at all. That was when the patient
died--and you didn\x92t.\x94

The face of the old man became mottled with a sudden fear, but he jerked
it forwards once or twice with an effort at self-control. Presently he
steadied to the ordeal of suspense, while he kept saying to himself,
\x93What does he know--what--which?\x94

\x93Malpractice resulting in death--that was poor Jimmy Tearle; and
something else resulting in death--that was the switchman\x92s wife. And
the law is hard in the West where a woman\x92s in the case--quick and hard.
Yes, you\x92ve swung wide on your tether; look out that you don\x92t swing
high, old man.\x94

\x93You can prove nothing; it\x92s bluff;\x94 came the reply in a tone of malice
and of fear.

\x93You forget. I was your lawyer in Jimmy Tearle\x92s case, and a letter\x92s
been found written by the switchman\x92s wife to her husband. It reached
me the night he was killed by the avalanche. It was handed over to me by
the post-office, as the lawyer acting for the relatives. I\x92ve read it.
I\x92ve got it. It gives you away.\x94

\x93I wasn\x92t alone.\x94 Fear had now disappeared, and the old man was
fighting.

\x93No, you weren\x92t alone; and if the switchman and the switchman\x92s wife
weren\x92t dead and out of it all; and if the other man that didn\x92t matter
any more than you wasn\x92t alive and hadn\x92t a family that does matter, I
wouldn\x92t be asking you peaceably for two thousand dollars as my fee for
getting you off two cases that might have sent you to prison for twenty
years, or, maybe, hung you to the nearest tree.\x94

The heavy body pulled itself together, the hands clinched.
\x93Blackmail-you think I\x92ll stand it?\x94

\x93Yes, I think you will. I want two thousand dollars to help a friend in
a hole, and I mean to have it, if you think your neck\x92s worth it.\x94

Teeth, wonderfully white, showed through the shaggy beard. \x93If I had to
go to prison--or swing, as you say, do you think I\x92d go with my mouth
shut? I\x92d not pay up alone. The West would crack--holy Heaven, I know
enough to make it sick. Go on and see! I\x92ve got the West in my hand.\x94 He
opened and shut his fingers with a grimace of cruelty which shook Rawley
in spite of himself.

Rawley had trusted to the inspiration of the moment; he had had no
clearly defined plan; he had believed that he could frighten the old
man, and by force of will bend him to his purposes. It had all been
more difficult than he had expected. He kept cool, imperturbable, and
determined, however. He knew that what the old quack said was true--the
West might shake with scandal concerning a few who, no doubt, in remorse
and secret fear, had more than paid the penalty of their offences. But
he thought of Di Welldon and of her criminal brother, and every nerve,
every faculty was screwed to its utmost limit of endurance and capacity.

Suddenly the old man gave a new turn to the event. He got up and,
rummaging in an old box, drew out a dice-box. Rattling the dice, he
threw them out on the table before him, a strange, excited look crossing
his face.

\x93Play for it,\x94 he said in a harsh, croaking voice. \x93Play for the two
thousand. Win it if you can. You want it bad. I want to keep it bad.
It\x92s nice to have; it makes a man feel warm--money does. I\x92d sleep in
ten-dollar bills, I\x92d have my clothes made of them, if I could; I\x92d
have my house papered with them; I\x92d eat \x91em. Oh, I know, I know about
you--and her--Diana Welldon! You\x92ve sworn off gambling, and you\x92ve
kept your pledge for near a year. Well, it\x92s twenty years since I
gambled--twenty years. I gambled with these then.\x94 He shook the dice
in the box. \x93I gambled everything I had away--more than two thousand
dollars, more than two thousand dollars.\x94 He laughed a raw, mirthless
laugh. \x93Well, you\x92re the greatest gambler in the West. So was I-in the
East. It pulverised me at last, when I\x92d nothing left--and drink, drink,
drink. I gave up both one night and came out West.

\x93I started doctoring here. I\x92ve got money, plenty of money--medicine,
mines, land got it for me. I\x92ve been lucky. Now you come to bluff
me--me! You don\x92t know old Busby.\x94 He spat on the floor. \x93I\x92m not to be
bluffed. I know too much. Before they could lynch me I\x92d talk. But
to play you, the greatest gambler in the West, for two thousand
dollars--yes, I\x92d like the sting of it again. Twos, fours,
double-sixes--the gentleman\x92s game!\x94 He rattled the dice and threw them
with a flourish out on the table, his evil face lighting up. \x93Come! You
can\x92t have something for nothing,\x94 he growled.

As he spoke, a change came over Rawley\x92s face. It lost its cool
imperturbability, it grew paler, the veins on the fine forehead stood
out, a new, flaring light came into the eyes. The old gambler\x92s spirit
was alive. But even as it rose, sweeping him into that area of fiery
abstraction where every nerve is strung to a fine tension, and the
surrounding world disappears, he saw the face of Diana Welldon, he
remembered her words to him not an hour before, and the issue of the
conflict, other considerations apart, was without doubt. But there was
her brother and his certain fate, if the two thousand dollars were not
paid in by midnight. He was desperate. It was in reality for Diana\x92s
sake. He approached the table, and his old calm returned.

\x93I have no money to play with,\x94 he said quietly. With a gasp of
satisfaction, the old man fumbled in the inside of his coat and drew out
layers of ten, fifty, and hundred-dollar bills. It was lined with them.
He passed a pile over to Rawley--two thousand dollars. He placed a
similar pile before himself.

As Rawley laid his hand on the bills, the thought rushed through his
mind, \x93You have it--keep it!\x94 but he put it away from him. With a
gentleman he might have done it, with this man before him, it was
impossible. He must take his chances; and it was the only chance in
which he had hope now, unless he appealed for humanity\x92s sake, for the
girl\x92s sake, and told the real truth. It might avail. Well, that would
be the last resort.

\x93For small stakes?\x94 said the grimy quack in a gloating voice.

Rawley nodded and then added, \x93We stop at eleven o\x92clock, unless I\x92ve
lost or won all before that.\x94

\x93And stake what\x92s left on the last throw?\x94

\x93Yes.\x94

There was silence for a moment, in which Rawley seemed to grow older,
and a set look came to his mouth--a broken pledge, no matter what the
cause, brings heavy penalties to the honest mind. He shut his eyes for
an instant, and, when he opened them, he saw that his fellow-gambler
was watching him with an enigmatical and furtive smile. Did this Caliban
have some understanding of what was at stake in his heart and soul?

\x93Play!\x94 Rawley said sharply, and was himself again. For hour after hour
there was scarce a sound, save the rattle of the dice and an occasional
exclamation from the old man as he threw a double-six. As dusk fell, the
door had been shut, and a lighted lantern was hung over their heads.

Fortune had fluctuated. Once the old man\x92s pile had diminished to two
notes, then the luck had changed and his pile grew larger; then fell
again; but, as the hands of the clock on the wall above the blue
medicine bottles reached a quarter to eleven, it increased steadily
throw after throw.

Now the player\x92s fever was in Rawley\x92s eyes. His face was deadly pale,
but his hand threw steadily, calmly, almost negligently, as it might
seem. All at once, at eight minutes to eleven, the luck turned in
his favour, and his pile mounted again. Time after time he dropped
double-sixes. It was almost uncanny. He seemed to see the dice in the
box, and his hand threw them out with the precision of a machine. Long
afterwards he had this vivid illusion that he could see the dice in the
box. As the clock was about to strike eleven he had before him three
thousand eight hundred dollars. It was his throw.

\x93Two hundred,\x94 he said in a whisper, and threw. He won.

With a gasp of relief, he got to his feet, the money in his hand. He
stepped backward from the table, then staggered, and a faintness passed
over him. He had sat so long without moving that his legs bent under
him. There was a pail of water with a dipper in it on a bench. He caught
up a dipperful of water, drank it empty, and let it fall in the pail
again with a clatter.

\x93Dan,\x94 he said abstractedly, \x93Dan, you\x92re all safe now.\x94

Then he seemed to wake, as from a dream, and looked at the man at the
table. Busby was leaning on it with both hands, and staring at Rawley
like some animal jaded and beaten from pursuit. Rawley walked back to
the table and laid down two thousand dollars.

\x93I only wanted two thousand,\x94 he said, and put the other two thousand in
his pocket.

The evil eyes gloated, the long fingers clutched the pile, and swept it
into a great inside pocket. Then the shaggy head bent forwards.

\x93You said it was for Dan,\x94 he said--\x93Dan Welldon?\x94

Rawley hesitated. \x93What is that to you?\x94 he replied at last.

With a sudden impulse the old impostor lurched round, opened a box, drew
out a roll, and threw it on the table.

\x93It\x92s got to be known sometime,\x94 he said, \x93and you\x92ll be my lawyer
when I\x92m put into the ground--you\x92re clever. They call me a quack.
Malpractice--bah! There\x92s my diploma--James Clifton Welldon. Right
enough, isn\x92t it?\x94

Rawley was petrified. He knew the forgotten story of James Clifton
Welldon, the specialist, turned gambler, who had almost ruined his own
brother--the father of Dan and Diana--at cards and dice, and had then
ruined himself and disappeared. Here, where his brother had died, he had
come years ago, and practised medicine as a quack.

\x93Oh, there\x92s plenty of proof, if it\x92s wanted!\x94 he said. \x93I\x92ve got it
here.\x94 He tapped the box behind him. \x93Why did I do it? Because it\x92s my
way. And you\x92re going to marry my niece, and \x91ll have it all some day.
But not till I\x92ve finished with it--not unless you win it from me at
dice or cards.... But no\x94--something human came into the old, degenerate
face--\x93no more gambling for the man that\x92s to marry Diana. There\x92s a
wonder and a beauty!\x94 He chuckled to himself. \x93She\x92ll be rich when I\x92ve
done with it. You\x92re a lucky man--ay, you\x92re lucky.\x94

Rawley was about to tell the old man what the two thousand dollars
was for, but a fresh wave of repugnance passed over him, and, hastily
drinking another dipperful of water, he opened the door. He looked back.
The old man was crouching forward, lapping milk from the great bowl, his
beard dripping. In disgust he swung round again. The fresh, clear air
caught his face.

With a gasp of relief he stepped out into the night, closing the door
behind him.



     ETEXT EDITOR\x92S BOOKMARKS:

     Babbling covers a lot of secrets
     Being a man of very few ideas, he cherished those he had
     Beneath it all there was a little touch of ridicule
     Don\x92t go at a fence till you\x92re sure of your seat
     Even bad company\x92s better than no company at all
     Future of those who will not see, because to see is to suffer
     I like when I like, and I like a lot when I like
     I don\x92t think. I\x92m old enough to know
     It ain\x92t for us to say what we\x92re goin\x92 to be, not always
     Knew when to shut his eyes, and when to keep them open
     Nothing so popular for the moment as the fall of a favourite
     Self-will, self-pride, and self-righteousness were big in him
     That he will find the room empty where I am not
     The temerity and nonchalance of despair
     The real business of life is trying to understand each other
     Things in life git stronger than we are
     Tyranny of the little man, given a power
     We don\x92t live in months and years, but just in minutes
     What\x92ll be the differ a hundred years from now
     You\x92ve got blind rashness, and so you think you\x92re bold





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