Part 2 out of 5
Against whom was he guarding her? What danger could there be in
this quiet, starlit night for Josephine? A sudden chill ran
through Philip. Did Jean mistrust HIM? Was it possible that
Josephine had secretly expressed a fear which made the Frenchman
watch over her while she slept? As silently as he had approached
he moved away until he stood in the sand at the shore of the lake.
There he looked back. He could just see Jean, a dark blot; and all
at once the unfairness of his suspicion came upon him. To him
Josephine had given proofs of her faith which nothing could
destroy. And he understood now the reason for that tired, drawn
look in Jean's face. This was not the first night he had watched.
Every night he had guarded her until, in the small hours of dawn,
his eyes had closed heavily as they were closed now.
The beginning of the gray northern dawn was not far away. Philip
knew that without looking at the hour. He sensed it. It was in the
air, the stillness of the forest, in the appearance of the stars
and moon. To prove himself he looked at his watch with the match
with which he lighted his pipe. It was half-past three. At this
season of the year dawn came at five.
He walked slowly along the strip of sand between the dark wall of
the forest and the lake. Not until he was a mile away from the
camp did he stop. Then something happened to betray the uneasy
tension to which his nerves were drawn. A sudden crash in the
brush close at hand drew him about with a start, and even while he
laughed at himself he stood with his automatic in his hand.
He heard the whimpering, babyish-like complaint of the porcupine
that had made the sound, and still chuckling over his nervousness
he seated himself on a white drift-log that had lain bleaching for
half a century in the sand.
The moon had fallen behind the western forests; the stars were
becoming fainter in the sky, and about him the darkness was
drawing in like a curtain. He loved this hour that bridged the
northern night with the northern day, and he sat motionless and
still, covering the glow of fire in his pipe bowl with the palm of
Out of the brush ambled the porcupine, chattering and talking to
itself in its queer and good-humoured way, fat as a poplar bud
ready to burst, and so intent on reaching the edge of the lake
that it passed in its stupid innocence so close that Philip might
have struck it with a stick. And then there swooped down from out
of the cover of the black spruce a gray cloudlike thing that came
with the silence and lightness of a huge snowflake, hovered for an
instant over the porcupine, and disappeared into the darkness
beyond. And the porcupine, still oblivious of danger and what the
huge owl would have done to him had he been a snowshoe rabbit
instead of a monster of quills, drank his fill leisurely and
ambled back as he had come, chattering his little song of good-
humour and satisfaction.
One after another there came now the sounds that merged dying
night into the birth of day, and for the hundredth time Philip
listened to the wonders that never grew old for him. The laugh of
the loon was no longer a raucous, mocking cry of exultation and
triumph, but a timid, question note--half drowsy, half filled with
fear; and from the treetops came the still lower notes of the
owls, their night's hunt done, and seeking now the densest covers
for the day. And then, from deep back in the forests, came a cry
that was filled with both hunger and defiance--the wailing howl of
a wolf. With these night sounds came the first cheep, cheep, cheep
of the little brush sparrow, still drowsy and uncertain, but
faintly heralding the day. Wings fluttered in the spruce and cedar
thickets. From far overhead came the honking of Canada geese
flying southward. And one by one the stars went out, and in the
south-eastern skies a gray hand reached up slowly over the forests
and wiped darkness from the earth. Not until then did Philip rise
from his seat and turn his face toward camp.
He tried to throw off the feeling of oppression that still clung
to him. By the time he reached camp he had partly succeeded. The
fire was burning brightly again, and Jean was busy preparing
breakfast. To his surprise he saw Josephine standing outside of
her tent. She had finished brushing her hair, and was plaiting it
in a long braid. He had wondered how they would meet that morning.
His face flushed warm as he approached her. The thrill of their
kiss was still on his lips, and his heart sent the memory of it
burning in his eyes as he came up, Josephine turned to greet him.
She was pale and calm. There were dark lines under her eyes, and
her voice was steady and without emotion as she said "Good
morning." It was as if he had dreamed the thing that had passed
the night before. There was neither glow of tenderness, of regret,
nor of memory in her eyes. Her smile was wan and forced. He knew
that she was calling upon his chivalry to forget that one moment
before the door of her tent. He bowed, and said simply:
"I'm afraid you didn't sleep well, Josephine. Did I disturb you
when I stole out of camp?"
"I heard nothing," she replied. "Nothing but the cries of that
terrible bird out on the lake. I'm afraid I didn't sleep much."
The atmosphere of the camp that morning weighted Philip's heart
with a heaviness which he could not throw off. He performed his
share of the work with Jean, and tried to talk to him, but
Croisset would only reply to his most pointed remarks. He
whistled. He shouted out a song back in the timber as he cut an
armful of dry birch, and he returned to Jean and the girl
laughing, the wood piled to his chin and the axe under his arm.
Neither showed that they had heard him. The meal was eaten in a
chilly silence that filled him with deepest foreboding. Josephine
seemed at ease. She talked with him when he spoke to her, but
there seemed now to be a mysterious restraint in every word that
she uttered. She excused herself before Jean and he were through,
and went to her tent. A moment later Philip rose and went down to
In the rubber sack was the last of his tobacco. He was fumbling
for it when his heart gave a great jump. A voice had spoken softly
Slowly, unbelieving, he turned. It was Josephine. For the first
time she had called him by his name. And yet the speaking of it
seemed to put a distance between them, for her voice was calm and
without emotion, as she might have spoken to Jean.
"I lay awake nearly all of the night, thinking," she said. "It was
a terrible thing that we did, and I am sorry--sorry--"
In the quickening of her breath he saw how heroically she was
fighting to speak steadily to him.
"You can't understand," she resumed, facing him with the
steadiness of despair. "You cannot understand--until you reach
Adare House. And that is what I dread, the hour when you will know
what I am, and how terrible it was for me to do what I did last
night. If you were like most other men, I wouldn't care so much.
But you have been different."
He replied in words which he would not dare to have uttered a few
"And yet, back there when you first asked me to go with you as
your husband, you knew what I would find at Adare House?" he
asked, his voice low and tense. "You knew?"
"Then what has produced the change that makes you fear to have me
go on? Is it because"--he leaned toward her, and his face was
bloodless--"Is it because you care a little for me?"
"Because I respect you, yes," she said in a voice that
disappointed him. "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want you to
go back into the world thinking of me as you will. You have been
honest with me. I do not blame you for what happened last night.
The fault was mine. And I have come to you now, so that you will
understand that, no matter how I may appear and act, I have faith
and trust in you. I would give anything that last night might be
wiped out of our memories. That is impossible, but you must not
think of it and you must not talk to me any more as you have,
until we reach Adare House. And then--"
Her white face was pathetic as she turned away from him.
"You will not want to," she finished. "After that you will fight
for me simply because you are a knight among men, and because you
have promised. There will not even be the promise to bind you, for
I release you from that."
Philip stood silent as she left him. He knew that to follow her
and to force further conversation upon her after what she had said
would be little less than brutal. She had given him to understand
that from now on he was to hold himself toward her with greater
restraint, and the blood flushed hot and uncomfortable into his
face as he realized for the first time how he had overstepped the
All his life womanhood had been the most beautiful thing in the
world to him. And now there was forced upon him the dread
conviction that he had insulted it. He did not stop to argue that
the overwhelming completeness of his love had excused him. What he
thought of now was that he had found Josephine alone, had declared
that love for her before he knew her name, and had followed it up
by act and word which he now felt to be dishonourable. And yet,
after all, would he have recalled what had happened if he could?
He asked himself that question as he returned to help Jean. And he
found no answer to it until they were in their canoes again and
headed up the lake, Josephine sitting with her back to him, her
thick silken braid falling in a sinuous and sunlit rope of red
gold over her shoulders. Then he knew that he would not.
Jean gave little rest that day, and by noon they had covered
twenty miles of the lake-way. An hour for dinner, and they went
on. At times Josephine used her paddle, and not once during the
day did she sit with her face to Philip. Late in the afternoon
they camped on a portage fifty miles from Adare House.
There were no stars or moon in the sky this night. The wind had
changed, and came from the north. In it was the biting chill of
the Arctic, and overhead was a gray-dun mass of racing cloud. A
dozen times Jean turned his face anxiously from the fire into the
north, and held wet fingers high over his head to see if in the
air was that peculiar sting by which the forest man forecasts the
approach of snow.
At last he said to Philip: "The wind will grow, M'sieur," and
picked up his axe.
Philip followed with his own, and they piled about Josephine's
tent a thick protection of spruce and cedar boughs. Then together
they brought three or four big logs to the fire. After that Philip
went into their own tent, stripped off his outer garments, and
buried himself in his sleeping bag. For a long time he lay awake
and listened to the increasing wail of the wind in the tall spruce
tops. It was not new to him. For months he had fallen asleep with
the thunderous crash of ice and the screaming fury of storm in his
ears. But to-night there was something in the sound which sunk him
still deeper into the gloom which he had found it impossible to
throw off. At last he fell asleep.
When he awoke he struck a match and looked at his watch. It was
four o'clock, and he dressed and went outside. The wind had died
down. Jean was already busy over the cook-fire, and in Josephine's
tent he saw the light of a candle. She appeared a little later,
wrapped close in a thick red Hudson's Bay coat, and with a marten-
skin cap on her head. Something in her first appearance, the
picturesqueness of her dress, the jauntiness of the little cap,
and the first flush of the fire in her face filled him with the
hope that sleep had given her better spirit. A closer glance
dashed this hope. Without questioning her he knew that she had
spent another night of mental torture. And Jean's face looked
thinner, and the hollows under his eyes were deeper.
All that day the sky hung heavy and dark with cloud, and the water
was rough. Early in the afternoon the wind rose again, and
Croisset ran alongside them to suggest that they go ashore. He
spoke to Philip, but Josephine interrupted quickly:
"We must go on, Jean," she demanded. "If it is not impossible we
must reach Adare House to-night."
"It will be late--midnight," replied Jean. "And if it grows
A dash of spray swept over the bow into the girl's face.
"I don't care for that," she cried. "Wet and cold won't hurt us."
She turned to Philip, as if needing his argument against Jean's.
"Is it not possible to get me home to-night?" she asked.
"It is two o'clock," said Philip. "How far have we to go, Jean?"
"It is not the distance, M'sieur--it is that," replied Jean, as a
wave sent another dash of water over Josephine. "We are twenty
miles from Adare House."
Philip looked at Josephine.
"It is best for you to go ashore and wait until to-morrow,
Josephine. Look at that stretch of water ahead--a mass of
"Please, please take me home," she pleaded, and now she spoke to
Philip alone. "I'm not afraid. And I cannot live through another
night like last night. Why, if anything should happen to us"--she
flung back her head and smiled bravely at him through the mist of
her wet hair and the drenching spray--"if anything should happen I
know you'd meet it gloriously. So I'm not afraid. And I want to go
Philip turned to the half-breed, who had drifted a canoe length
"We'll go on, Jean," he called. "We can make it by keeping close
inshore. Can you swim?"
"Oui, M'sieur; but Josephine--"
"I can swim with her," replied Philip, and Josephine saw the old
life and strength in his face again as she turned to the white-
capped seas ahead of them.
Hour after hour they fought their way on after that, the wind
rising stronger in their faces, the seas burying them deeper; and
each time that Josephine looked back she marvelled at the man
behind her, bare-headed, his hair drenched, his arms naked to the
elbows, and his clear gray eyes always smiling confidence at her
through the gloom of mist. Not until darkness was falling about
them did Jean drop near enough to speak again. Then he shouted:
"Another hour and we reach Snowbird River, M'sieur. That is four
miles from Adare House. But ahead of us the wind rushes across a
wide sweep of the lake. Shall we hazard it?"
"Yes, yes," cried the girl, answering for Philip. "We must go on!"
Without another word Croisset led the way. The wind grew stronger
with each minute's progress. Shouting for Jean to hold his canoe
for a space, Philip steadied his own canoe while he spoke to the
"Come back to me as quietly as you can, Josephine," he said. "Pass
the dunnage ahead of you to take the place of your weight. If
anything happens, I want you near me."
Cautiously Josephine did as he bade her, and as she added slowly
to the ballast in the bow she drew little by little nearer to
Philip, Her hand touched an object in the bottom of the canoe as
she came close to him. It was one of his moccasins. She saw now
his naked throat and chest. He had stripped off his heavy woollen
shirt as well as his footwear. He reached out, and his hand
touched her lightly as she huddled down in front of him.
"Splendid!" he laughed. "You're a little brick, Josephine, and the
best comrade in a canoe that I ever saw. Now if we go over all
I've got to do is to swim ashore with you. Is it good walking to
He did not hear her reply; but a fresh burst of the wind sent a
loose strand of her hair back into his face, and he was happy.
Happy in spite of a peril which neither he nor Jean would have
thought of facing alone. In the darkness he could no longer see
Croisset or his canoe. But Jean's shout came back to him every
minute on the wind, and over Josephine's head he answered. He was
glad that it was so dark the girl could not see what was ahead of
them now. Once or twice his own breath stopped short, when it
seemed that the canoe had taken the fatal plunge which he was
dreading. Every minute he figured the distance from the shore, and
his chances of swimming it if they were overturned. And then,
after a long time, there came a sudden lull in the wind, and the
seas grew less rough. Jean's voice came from near them, filled
with a thrill of relief.
"We are behind the point," he shouted. "Another mile and we will
enter the Snowbird, M'sieur!"
Philip leaned forward in the gloom. Josephine's cap had fallen
off, and for a moment his hand rested on her wet and wind-blown
"Did you hear that?" he cried. "We're almost home."
"Yes," she shivered. "And I'm glad--glad--"
Was it an illusion of his own, or did she seem to shiver and draw
away from him AT THE TOUCH OF HIS HAND? Even in the blackness he
could FEEL that she was huddled forward, her face in her hands.
She did not speak to him again. When they entered the smooth water
of the Snowbird, Jean's canoe drew close in beside them, but not a
word fell from Croisset. Like shadows they moved up the stream
between two black walls of forest. A steadily increasing
excitement, a feeling that he was upon the eve of strange events,
grew stronger in Philip. His arms and back ached, his legs were
cramped, the last of his splendid strength had been called upon in
the fight with wind and seas, but he forgot this exhaustion in
anticipation of the hour that was drawing near. He knew that Adare
House would reveal to him things which Josephine had not told him.
She had said that it would, and that he would hate her then. That
they were burying themselves deeper into the forest he guessed by
the lessening of the wind.
Half an hour passed, and in that time his companion did not move
or speak. He heard faintly a distant wailing cry. He recognized
the sound. It was not a wolf-cry, but the howl of a husky. He
fancied then that the girl moved, that she was gripping the sides
of the canoe with her hands. For fifteen minutes more there was
not a sound but the dip of the paddles and the monotone of the
wind sweeping through the forest tops. Then the dog howled again,
much nearer; and this time he was joined by a second, a third, and
a fourth, until the night was filled with a din that made Philip
stare wonderingly off into the blackness. There were fifty dogs if
there was one in that yelping, howling horde, he told himself, and
they were coming with the swiftness of the wind in their
From his canoe Croisset broke the silence.
"The wind has given the pack our scent, ma Josephine, and they are
coming to meet you," he said.
The girl made no reply, but Philip could see now that she was
sitting tense and erect. As suddenly as it had begun the cry of
the pack ceased. The dogs had reached the water, and were waiting.
Not until Jean swung his canoe toward shore and the bow of it
scraped on a gravelly bar did they give voice again, and then so
close and fiercely that involuntarily Philip held his canoe back.
In another moment Josephine had stepped lightly over the side in a
foot of water. He could not see what happened then, except that
the bar was filled with a shadowy horde of leaping, crowding,
yelping beasts, and that Josephine was the centre of them. He
heard her voice clear and commanding, crying out their names--
Tyr, Captain, Bruno, Thor, Wamba--until their number seemed
without end; he heard the metallic snap of fangs, quick, panting
breaths, the shuffling of padded feet; and then the girl's voice
grew more clear, and the sounds less, until he heard nothing but
the bated breath of the pack and a low, smothered whine.
In that moment the wind-blown clouds above them broke in a narrow
rift across the skies, and for an instant the moon shone through.
What he saw then drew Philip's breath from him in a wondering
On the white bar stood Josephine. The wind on the lake had torn
the strands of her long braid loose and her hair swept in a damp
and clinging mass to her hips. She was looking toward him, as if
about to speak. But it was the pack that made him stare. A sea of
great shaggy heads and crouching bodies surrounded her, a fierce
yellow and green-eyed horde flattened like a single beast upon
their bellies their heads turned toward her, their throats
swelling and their eyes gleaming in the joyous excitement of her
return. An instant of that strange and thrilling picture, and the
night was black again. The girl's voice spoke softly. Bodies
shuffled out of her path. And then she said, quite near to him;
"Are you coming, Philip?"
Not without a slight twinge of trepidation did Philip step from
his canoe to her. He had not heard Croisset go ashore, and for a
moment he felt as if he were deliberately placing himself at the
mercy of a wolf-pack. Josephine may have guessed the effect of the
savage spectacle he had beheld from the canoe, for she was close
to the water's edge to meet him. She spoke, and in the pitch
darkness he reached out. Her hand was groping for him, and her
fingers closed firmly about his own.
"They are my bodyguard, and I have trained them all from puppies,"
she explained. "They don't like strangers, but will fight for
anything that I touch. So I will lead you." She turned with him
toward the pack, and cried in her clear, commanding voice:
"Marche, boys!--Tyr, Captain, Thor, Marche! Hoosh, hoosh, Marche!"
It seemed as if a hundred eyes gleamed out of the blackness; then
there was a movement, a whining, snarling, snapping movement, and
as they walked up the bar and into a narrow trail Philip could
hear the pack falling out to the side and behind them. Also he
knew that Jean was ahead of them now. He did not speak, nor did
Josephine offer to break the silence again. Still letting her hand
rest in his she followed close behind the half-breed. Her hand was
so cold that Philip involuntarily held it tighter in his own, as
if to give it warmth. He could feel her shivering, and yet
something told him that what he sensed in the darkness was not
caused by chill alone. Several times her fingers closed
shudderingly about his.
They had not walked more than a couple of hundred yards when a
turn brought them out of the forest trail, and the blackness ahead
was broken by a solitary light, a dimly lighted window in a pit of
"Marja is not expecting us to-night," apologized the girl
nervously. "That is Adare House."
The loneliness of the spot, its apparent emptiness of life, the
silence save for the snuffling and whining of the unseen beasts
about them, stirred Philip with a curious sensation of awe. He had
at least expected light and life at Adare House. Here were only
the mystery of darkness and a deathlike quiet. Even the one light
seemed turned low. As they advanced toward it a great shadow grew
out of the gloom; and then, all at once, it seemed as if a curtain
of the forest had been drawn aside, and away beyond the looming
shadow Philip saw the glow of a camp-fire. From that distant fire
there came the challenging howl of a dog, and instantly it was
taken up by a score of fierce tongues about them. As Josephine's
voice rose to quell the disturbance the light in the window grew
suddenly brighter, and then a door opened and in it stood the
figures of a man and woman. The man was standing behind the woman,
looking over her shoulder, and for one moment Philip caught the
flash of the lamp-glow on the barrel of a rifle.
"You will forgive me if I ask you to let me go on alone, and you
follow with Jean?" she whispered. "I will try and see you again
to-night, when I have dressed myself, and I am in better condition
to show you hospitality."
Jean was so close that he overheard her. "We will follow," he said
softly. "Go ahead, ma cheri."
His voice was filled with an infinite gentleness, almost of pity;
and as Josephine drew her hand from Philip's and went on ahead of
them he dropped back close to the other's side.
"Something will happen soon which may turn your heart to stone and
ice, M'sieur," he said, and his voice was scarce above a whisper.
"I wanted her to tell you back there, two days ago, but she shrank
from the ordeal then. It is coming to-night. And, however it may
effect you, M'sieur, I ask you not to show the horror of it, but
to have pity. You have perhaps known many women, but you have
never known one like our Josephine. In her soul is the purity of
the blue skies, the sweetness of the wild flowers, the goodness of
our Blessed Lady, the Mother of Christ. You may disbelieve, and
what is to come may eat at the core of your heart as it has
devoured life and happiness from mine. But you will love L'Ange--
our Josephine--just the same."
Even as he felt himself trembling strangely at Jean Croisset's
words, Philip replied:
"Always, Jean, I swear that."
In the open door Josephine had paused for a moment, and was
looking back. Then she disappeared.
"Come," said Jean. "And may God have pity on you if you fail to
keep your word in all you have promised, M'sieur Philip Darcambal.
For from this hour on you are Philip Darcambal, of Montreal, the
husband of Josephine Adare, our beloved lady of the forests. Come,
Without another word Jean led the way to the door, which had
partly closed after Josephine. For a moment he paused with his
hand upon it, and then entered. Philip was close behind him. His
first glance swept the room in search of the girl. She had
disappeared with her two companions. For a moment he heard voices
beyond a second door in front of him. Then there was silence.
In wonder he stared about him, and Jean did not interrupt his
gaze. He stood in a great room whose walls were of logs and axe-
hewn timbers. It was a room forty feet long by twenty in width,
massive in its build, with walls and ceiling stained a deep brown.
In one end was a fireplace large enough to hold a pile of logs six
feet in length, and in this a small fire was smouldering. In the
centre of the room was a long, massive table, its timber carved by
the axe, and on this a lamp was burning. The floor was strewn with
fur rugs, and on the walls hung the mounted heads of beasts. These
things impressed themselves upon Philip first. It was as if he had
stepped suddenly out of the world in which he was living into the
ancient hall of a wild and half-savage thane whose bones had
turned to dust centuries ago.
Not until Jean spoke to him, and led the way through the room, was
this first impression swept back by his swift and closer
observation of detail. About him extreme age was curiously blended
with the modern. His breath stopped short when he saw in the
shadow of the farther wall a piano, with a bronze lamp suspended
from the ceiling above it. His eyes caught the shadowy outline of
cases filled with books; he saw close to the fireplace wide, low-
built divans covered with cushions; and over the door through
which they passed hung a framed copy of da Vinci's masterpiece,
"La Joconde," the Smiling Woman.
Into a dimly lighted hall he followed Jean, who paused a moment
later before another door, which he opened. Philip waited while he
struck a match and lighted a lamp. He knew at a glance that this
was to be his sleeping apartment, and as he took in its ample
comfort, the broad low bed behind its old-fashioned curtains, the
easy chairs, the small table covered with books and magazines, and
the richly furred rugs on the floor, he experienced a new and
strange feeling of restfulness and pleasure which for the moment
overshadowed his more excited sensations. Jean was already on his
knees before a fireplace touching a match to a pile of birch, and
as the inflammable bark spurted into flame and the small logs
began to crackle he rose to his feet and faced Philip. Both were
soaked to the skin. Jean's hair hung lank and wet about his face,
and his hollow cheeks were cadaverous. In spite of the hour and
the place, Philip could not restrain a laugh.
"I'm glad Josephine was thoughtful enough to come in ahead of us,
Jean," he chuckled. "We look like a couple of drowned water-rats!"
"I will bring up your sack, M'sieur," responded Jean. "If you
haven't dry clothes of your own you will find garments behind the
curtains. I think some of them will fit you. After we are warmed
and dried we will have supper."
A few moments after Jean left him an Indian woman brought him a
pail of hot water. He was half stripped and enjoying a steaming
sponge bath when Croisset returned with his dunnage sack. The
Arctic had not left him much to choose from, but behind the
curtains which Jean had pointed out to him he found a good-sized
wardrobe. He glowed with warmth and comfort when he had finished
dressing. The chill was gone from his blood. He no longer felt the
ache in his arms and back. He lighted his pipe, and for a few
moments stood with his back to the crackling fire, listening and
waiting. Through the thick walls no sound came to him. Once he
thought that he heard the closing of a distant door. Even the
night was strangely silent, and he walked to the one large window
in his room and stared out into the darkness. On this side the
edge of the forest was not far away, for he could hear the
soughing of the wind in the treetops.
For an hour he waited with growing impatience for Jean's return or
some word from Josephine. At last there came another knock at the
door. He opened it eagerly. To his disappointment neither Jean nor
the girl stood there, but the Indian woman who had brought him the
hot water, carrying in her hands a metal server covered with
steaming dishes. She moved silently past him, placed the server on
the table, and was turning to go when he spoke to her.
"Tan'se a itumuche hooyun?" he asked in Cree.
She went out as if she had not heard him, and the door closed
behind her. With growing perplexity, Philip directed his attention
to the food. This manner of serving his supper partly convinced
him that he would not see Josephine again that night. He was
hungry, and began to do justice to the contents of the dishes. In
one dish he found a piece of fruit cake and half a dozen pickles,
and he knew that at least Josephine had helped to prepare his
supper. Half an hour later the Indian woman returned as silently
as before and carried away the dishes. He followed her to the door
and stood for a few moments looking down the hall. He looked at
his watch. It was after ten o'clock. Where was Jean? he wondered.
Why had Josephine not sent some word to him--at least an
explanation telling him why she could not see him as she had
promised? Why had Croisset spoken in that strange way just before
they entered the door of Adare House? Nothing had happened, and he
was becoming more and more convinced that nothing would happen--
He turned suddenly from the door, facing the window in his room.
The next instant he stood tense and staring. A face was glued
against the pane: dark, sinister, with eyes that shone with the
menacing glare of a beast. In a flash it was gone. But in that
brief space Philip had seen enough to hold him like one turned to
stone, still staring where the face had been, his heart beating
like a hammer. As the face disappeared he had seen a hand pass
swiftly through the light, and in the hand was a pistol. It was
not this fact, nor the suddenness of the apparition, that drew the
gasping breath from his lips. It was the face, filled with a
hatred that was almost madness--the face of Jean Jacques Croisset!
Scarcely was it gone when Philip sprang to the table, snatched up
his automatic, and ran out into the hall. The end of the hall he
believed opened outdoors, and he ran swiftly in that direction,
his moccasined feet making no sound. He found a door locked with
an iron bar. It took him but a moment to throw this up, open the
door, and leap out into the night. The wind had died away, and it
was snowing. In the silence he stood and listened, his eyes trying
to find some moving shadow in the gloom. His fighting blood was
up. His one impulse now was to come face to face with Jean
Croisset and demand an explanation. He knew that if he had stood
another moment with his back to the window Jean would have killed
him. Murder was in the half-breed's eyes. His pistol was ready.
Only Philip's quick turning from the door had saved him. It was
evident that Jean had fled from the window as quickly as Philip
had run out into the hall. Or, if he had not fled, he was hiding
in the gloom of the building. At the thought that Jean might be
crouching in the shadows Philip turned suddenly and moved swiftly
and silently along the log wall of Adare House. He half expected a
shot out of the darkness, and with his thumb he pressed down the
safety lever of his automatic. He had almost reached his own
window when a sound just beyond the pale filter of light that came
out of it drew him more cautiously into the pitch darkness of the
deep shadow next the wall. In another moment he was sure. Some
other person was moving through the gloom beyond the streak of
With his pistol in readiness, Philip darted through the
illuminated path. A startled cry broke out of the night, and with
that cry his hand gripped fiercely in the deep fur of a coat. In
the same breath an exclamation of astonishment came from his own
lips as he looked into the white, staring face of Josephine. His
pistol arm had dropped to his side. He believed that she had not
seen the weapon, and he thrust it in his trousers pocket.
"You, Josephine!" he gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"And you?" she counter demanded. "You have no coat, no hat ..."
Her hands gripped his arm. "I saw you run through the light. You
had a pistol."
An impulse which he could not explain prompted him to tell her a
"I came out--to see what the night looked like," he said. "When I
heard you in the darkness it startled me for a moment, and I drew
It seemed to him that her fingers clutched deeper and more
convulsively into his arm.
"You have seen no one else?" she asked.
Again he was prompted to keep his secret.
"Is it possible that any one else is awake and roaming about at
this hour?" he laughed. "I was just returning to my room to go to
bed, Josephine. I thought that you had forgotten me. And Jean--
where is he?"
"We hadn't forgotten you," shivered Josephine. "But unexpected
things have happened since we came to Adare House to-night. I was
on my way to you. And Jean is back in the forest. Listen!"
From perhaps half a mile away there came the howl of a dog, and
scarcely had that sound died away when there followed it the full-
throated voice of the pack whose silence Philip had wondered at. A
strange cry broke from Josephine.
"They are coming!" she almost sobbed. "Quick, Philip! My last hope
of saving you is gone, and now you must be good to me--if you care
at all!" She seized him by the hand and half ran with him to the
door through which they had entered a short time before. In the
great room she threw off her hood and the long fur cape that
covered her, and then Philip saw that she had not dressed for the
night and the storm. She had on a thin, shimmering dress of white,
and her hair was coiled in loose golden masses about her head. On
her breast, just below her white, bare throat, she wore a single
red rose. It did not seem remarkable that she should be wearing a
rose. To him the wonderful thing was that the rose, the clinging
beauty of her dress, the glowing softness of her hair had been for
him, and that something unexpected had taken her out into the
night. Before he could speak she led him swiftly through the hall
beyond, and did not pause until they had entered through another
door and stood in the room which he knew was her room. In a glance
he took in its exquisite femininity. Here, too, the bed was set
behind curtains, and the curtains were closely drawn.
She had faced him now, standing a few steps away. She was deathly
white, but her eyes had never met his more unflinchingly or more
beautiful. Something in her attitude restrained him from
approaching nearer. He looked at her, and waited. When she spoke
her voice was low and calm. He knew that at last she had come to
the hour of her greatest fight, and in that moment he was more
unnerved than she.
"In a few minutes my mother and father will be here, Philip," she
said. "The letter Jean brought me back there, where we first saw
each other, came up by way of Wollaston House, and told me I need
not expect them for a number of weeks. That was what made me happy
for a little while. They were in Montreal, and I didn't want them
to return. You will understand why--very soon. But my father
changed his mind, and almost with the mailing of the letter he and
my mother started home by way of Fond du Lac. Only an hour ago an
Indian ran to us with the news that they were coming down the
river. They are out there now--less than half a mile away--with
Jean and the dogs!"
She turned a little from him, facing the bed.
"You remember--I told you that I had spent a year in Montreal,"
she went on. "I was there--alone--when it happened. See--"
She moved to the bed and gently drew the curtains aside. Scarcely
breathing, Philip followed her.
"It's my baby," she whispered, "My little boy."
He could not see her face. She bowed her head and continued
softly, as if fearing to awaken the baby asleep on the bed:
"No one knows--but Jean. My mother came first, and then my father.
I lied to them. I told them that I was married, and that my
husband had gone into the North. I came home with the baby--to
meet this man I called Paul Darcambal, and whom they thought was
my husband. I didn't want it to happen down there, but I planned
on telling them the truth when we all got back in our forests. But
after I returned I found that--I couldn't. Perhaps you may
understand. Up here--among the forest people--the mother of a
baby--like that--is looked upon as the most terrible thing in the
world. She is called La bete noir--the black beast. Day by day I
came to realize that I couldn't tell the truth, that I must live a
great lie to save other hearts from being crushed as life has been
crushed out of mine. I thought of telling them that my husband had
died up here--in the North. And I was fearing suspicion ... the
chance that my father might learn the untruth of it, when you
came. That is all, Philip. You understand now. You know why--some
day--you must go away and never come back. It is to save the boy,
my father, my mother, and me!"
Not once in her terrible recital had the girl's voice broke. And
now, as if bowing herself in silent prayer, she kneeled beside the
bed and laid her head close to the baby's. Philip stood
motionless, his unseeing eyes staring straight through the log
walls and the black night to a city a thousand miles away. He
understood now. Josephine's story was not the strangest thing in
the world after all. It was perhaps the oldest of all stories. He
had heard it a hundred times before, but never had it left him
quite so cold and pulseless as he was now. And yet, even as the
palace of the wonderful ideal he had builded crumbled about him in
ruin, there rose up out of the dust of it a thing new-born and
tangible for him. Slowly his eyes turned to the beautiful head
bowed in its attitude of prayer. The blood began to surge back
into his heart. His hands unclenched. She had told him that he
would hate her, that he would want to leave her when he heard the
story of her despair. And instead of that he wanted to kneel
beside her now and take her close in his arms, and whisper to her
that the sun had not set for them, but that it had only begun to
And then, as he took a step toward her, there flashed through his
brain like a disturbing warning the words with which she had told
him that he would never know the real cause of her grief. "YOU MAY
GUESS, BUT YOU WOULD NOT GUESS THE TRUTH IF YOU LIVED A THOUSAND
YEARS." And could this that he had heard, and this that he looked
upon be anything but the truth? Another step and he was at her
side. For a moment all barriers were swept from between them. She
did not resist him as he clasped her close to his breast. He
kissed her upturned face again and again, and his voice kept
whispering: "I love you, my Josephine--I love you--I love you--"
Suddenly there came to them sounds from out of the night. A door
opened, and through the hall there came the great, rumbling voice
of a man, half laughter, half shout; and then there were other
voices, the slamming of the door, and THE voice again, this time
in a roar that reached to the farthest walls of Adare House.
"Ho, Mignonne--Ma Josephine!"
And Philip held Josephine still closer and whispered:
"I love you!"
Not until the sound of approaching steps grew near did Josephine
make an effort to free herself from Philip's arms. Unresisting she
had given him her lips to kiss; for one rapturous moment he had
felt the pressure of her arms about his shoulders; in the blue
depths of her eyes he had caught the flash of wonderment and
disbelief, and then the deeper, tenderer glow of her surrender to
him. In this moment he forgot everything except that she had bared
her secret to him, and in baring it had given herself to him. Even
as her hands pressed now against his breast he kissed her lips
again, and his arms tightened about her.
"They are coming to the door, Philip," she panted, straining
against him. "We must not be found like this!"
The voice was booming in the hall again, calling her name, and in
a moment Philip was on his feet raising Josephine to him. Her face
still was white. Her eyes were still on the verge of fear, and as
the steps came nearer he brushed back the warm masses of her hair
and whispered for the twentieth time, as if the words must
convince her: "I love you!" He slipped an arm about her waist, and
Josephine's fingers nervously caught his hand.
Then the door was flung open. Philip knew that it was the master
of Adare House who stood on the threshold--a great, fur-capped
giant of a man who seemed to stoop to enter, and in whose eyes as
they met Philip's there was a wild and half-savage inquiry. Such a
man Philip had not expected to see; awesome in his bulk, a
Thorlike god of the forests, gray-bearded, deep-chested, with
shaggy hair falling out from under his cap, and in whose eyes
there was the glare which Philip understood and which he met
For a moment he felt Josephine's fingers grip tighter about his
own; then with a low cry she broke from him, and John Adare opened
his arms to her and crushed his bearded face down to hers as her
arms encircled his neck. In the gloom of the hall beyond them
there appeared for an instant the thin, dark face of Jean Jacques
Croisset. In a flash it had come and gone. In that flash the half-
breed's eyes had met Philip's, and in them was a look that made
the latter take a quick step forward. His impulse was to pass John
Adare and confront Jean in the hall. He held himself back, and
looked at Josephine and her father. She had pushed the cap from
the giant's head and had taken his bearded face between her two
hands, and John Adare was smiling down into her white, pleading
face with the gentleness and worship of a woman. In a moment he
broke forth into a great rumbling laugh, and looked over her head
"God bless my soul, if I don't almost believe my little girl
thought I was coming home to murder her!" he cried. "I guess she
thought I'd hate you for stealing her away from me the way you
did. I have contemplated disliking you, quite seriously, too. But
you're not the sort of looking chap I thought you'd be with that
oily French name. You've shown good judgment. There isn't a man in
the world good enough for my Jo. And if you'll excuse my
frankness, I like your looks!"
As he spoke he held out a hand, and Josephine eagerly faced
Philip. A flush grew in her cheeks as the two men shook hands. Her
eyes were on Philip, and her heart beat a little quicker. She had
not hoped that he would rise to the situation so completely. She
had feared that there would be some betrayal in voice or action.
But he was completely master of himself, and the colour in her
face deepened beautifully. Before this moment she had not wholly
perceived how splendidly clear and fearless were his eyes. His
long blond hair, touched with its premature gray, was still
windblown from his rush out into the night, giving to his head a
touch of leonine strength as he faced her father.
Quietly she slipped aside and looked at them, and neither saw the
strange, proud glow that came like a flash of fire into her eyes.
They were wonderful, these two strong men who were hers. And in
this moment they WERE her own. Neither spoke for a space, as they
stood, hand clasping hand, and in that space, brief as it was, she
saw that they measured each other as completely as man ever
measured man; and that it was not satisfaction alone, but
something deeper and more wonderful to her, that began to show in
their faces. It was as if they had forgotten her presence in this
meeting, and for a moment she, too, forgot that everything was not
real. Moved by an impulse that made her breath quicken, she darted
to them and caught their two clasped hands in both her own. Her
face was glorious as she looked up at them,
"I'm glad, glad that you like each other," she cried softly. "I
knew that it would be so, because--"
The master of Adare House had drawn her to him again. She put out
a hand, and it rested on Philip's shoulder. Her eyes turned
directly to him, and he alone saw the swift ebbing of the joyous
light from them. John Adare's voice rumbled happily, and with his
grizzled face bowed in Josephine's hair he said:
"I guess I'm not sorry--but glad, Mignonne." He looked at Philip
again. "Paul, my son, you are welcome to Adare House!"
"Philip, Mon Pere," corrected Josephine. "I like that better than
"And you?" said Philip, smiling straight into Adare's eyes. "I am
almost afraid to keep my promise to Josephine. It was that I
should call you mon pere, too."
"There was one other promise, Philip," replied Adare quickly.
"There must have been one other promise, that you would never take
my girl away from me. If you did not swear to that, I am your
"That promise was unnecessary," said Philip. "Outside of my
Josephine's world there is nothing for me. If there is room for me
in Adare House--"
"Room!" interrupted Adare, beginning to throw off his great fur
coat. "Why, I've dreamed of the day when there'd be half a dozen
babies under my feet. I--" His huge frame suddenly stiffened. He
looked at Josephine, and his voice dropped to a hoarse whisper:
"Where's the kid?" he asked.
Philip saw Josephine turn at the question. Silently she pointed to
the curtained bed. As her father moved toward it she went to the
door, but not before Philip had taken a step to intercept her. He
felt her shuddering.
"I must go to my mother," she whispered for him alone. "I will
return soon. If he asks--tell him that we named the baby after
him." With a swift glance in her father's direction she whispered
still lower: "He knows nothing about you, so you may tell him the
truth about yourself--except that you met me in Montreal eighteen
months ago, and married me there."
With this warning she was gone. From the curtains Philip heard a
deep breath. When he came to the other's side John Adare stood
staring down upon the sleeping baby.
"I came in like a monster and didn't wake 'im," he was whispering
to himself. "The little beggar!"
He reached out a great hand behind him, gropingly, and it touched
a chair. He drew it to him, still keeping his eyes on the baby,
and sat down, his huge, bent shoulders doubled over the edge of
the bed, his hands hovering hesitatingly over the counterpane. In
wonderment Philip watched him, and he heard him whisper again:
"You blessed little beggar!"
Then he looked up suddenly. In his face was the transformation
that might have come into a woman's. There was something awesome
in its animal strength and its tenderness. He seized one of
Philip's hands and held it for a moment in a grip that made the
other's fingers ache.
"You're sure it's a boy?" he asked anxiously.
"Quite sure," replied Philip. "We've named him John."
The master of the Adare House leaned over the bed again. Philip
heard him mumbling softly in his thick beard, and very cautiously
he touched the end of a big forefinger to one of the baby's tiny
fists. The little fingers opened, and then they closed tightly
about John Adare's thumb. The older man looked again at Philip,
and from him his eyes sought Josephine. His voice trembled with
"Where is Josephine?"
"Gone to her mother," replied Philip.
"Bring her--quick!" commanded Adare. "Tell her to bring her mother
and wake the kid or I'll yell. I've got to hear the little beggar
talk." As Philip turned toward the door he flung after him in a
sibilant whisper: "Wait! Maybe you know how to do it--"
"We'd better have Josephine," advised Philip quickly, and before
Adare could argue his suggestion he hurried into the hall.
Where he would find her he had no idea, and as he went down the
hall he listened at each of the several doors he passed. The door
into the big living-room was partly ajar, and he looked in. The
room was empty. For a few moments he stood silent. From the size
and shape of the building whose outside walls he had followed in
his hunt for Jean he knew there must be many other rooms, and
probably other shorter corridors leading to some of them.
Just now his greatest desire was to come face to face with
Croisset--and alone. He had already determined upon a course of
action if such a meeting occurred. Next to that he wanted to see
Josephine's mother. It had struck him as singular that she had not
accompanied her husband to Josephine's room, and his curiosity was
still further aroused by the girl's apparent indifference to this
fact. Jean Croisset and the mistress of Adare House had hung
behind when the older man came into the room where they were
standing. For an instant Jean had revealed himself, and he was
sure that Adare's wife was not far behind him, concealed in the
Suddenly the sound of a falling object came to his ears, as if a
book had dropped from a table, or a chair had overturned. It was
from the end of the hall--almost opposite his room. At his own
door he stopped again and listened. This time he could hear
voices, a low and unintelligible murmur. It was quite easy for him
to locate the sound. He moved across to the other door, and
hesitated. He had already disobeyed Josephine's injunction to
remain with her father. Should he take a further advantage by
obeying John Adare's command to bring his wife and daughter? A
strange and subdued excitement was stirring him. Since the
appearance of the threatening face at his window--the knowledge
that in another moment he would have invited death from out of the
night--he felt that he was no longer utterly in the hands of the
woman he loved. And something stronger than he could resist
impelled him to announce his presence at the door.
At his knock there fell a sudden silence beyond the thick panels.
For several moments he waited, holding his breath. Then he heard
quick steps, the door swung slowly open, and he faced Josephine.
"Pardon me for interrupting you," he apologized in a low voice.
"Your father sent me for you and your mother. He says that you
must come and wake the baby."
Slowly Josephine held out a hand to him. He was startled by its
"Come in, Philip," she said. "I want you to meet my mother."
He entered into the warm glow of the room. Slightly bending over a
table stood the slender form of a woman, her back toward him.
Without seeing her face he was astonished at her striking
resemblance to Josephine--the same slim, beautiful figure, the
same thick, glowing coils of hair crowning her head--but darker.
She turned toward him, and he was still more amazed by this
resemblance. And yet it was a resemblance which he could not at
first define. Her eyes were very dark instead of blue. Her heavy
hair, drawn smoothly back from her forehead, was of the deep brown
that is almost black in the shadow. Slimness had given her the
appearance of Josephine's height. She was still beautiful. Hair,
eyes, and figure gave her at first glance an appearance of almost
And then, all at once, the difference swept upon him. She was like
Josephine as he had seen her in that hour of calm despair when she
had come to him at the canoe. Home-coming had not brought her
happiness. Her face was colourless, her cheeks slightly hollowed,
in her eyes he saw now the lustreless glow which frequently comes
with a fatal sickness. He was smiling and holding out his hand to
her even as he saw these things, and at his side he heard
"Mother, this is Philip."
The hand she gave him was small and cold. Her voice, too, was
wonderfully like Josephine's.
"I was not expecting to see you to-night, Philip," she said. "I am
almost ill. But I am glad now that you joined us. Did I hear you
say that my husband sent you?"
"The baby is holding his thumb," laughed Philip. "He says that you
must come and wake him. I doubt if you can get him out of the
baby's room to-night."
The voice of Adare himself answered from the door: "Was holding
it," he corrected. "He's squirming like an eel now and making
grimaces that frightened me. Better hurry to him, Josephine!" He
went directly to his wife, and his voice was filled with an
infinite tenderness as he slipped an arm about her and caressed
her smooth hair with one of his big hands. "You're tired, aren't
you?" he asked gently. "The jaunt was almost too much for my
little girl, wasn't it? It will do you good to see the baby before
you go to bed. Won't you come, Miriam?"
Josephine alone saw the look in Philip's face. And for one moment
Philip forgot himself as he stared at John Adare and his wife.
Beside this flowerlike slip of a woman Adare was more than ever a
giant, and his eyes glowed with the tenderness that was in his
voice. Miriam's lips trembled in a smile as she gazed up at her
husband. In her eyes shone a responsive gentleness; and then
Philip turned to find Josephine looking at him from the door, her
lips drawn in a straight, tense line, her face as white as the bit
of lace at her throat. He hurried to her. Behind him rumbled the
deep, joyous voice of the master of Adare House, and passing
through the door he glanced behind and saw them following, Adare's
arm about his wife's waist. Josephine caught Philip's arm, and
whispered in a low voice:
"They are always like that, always lovers. They are like two
wonderful children, and sometimes I think it is too beautiful to
be true. And now that you have met them I am going to ask you to
go to your room. You have been my true knight--more than I dared
to hope, and to-morrow--"
She interrupted herself as Adare and his wife appeared at the
"To-morrow?" he persisted.
"I will try and thank you," she replied. Then she said, and Philip
saw she spoke directly to her father: "You will excuse Philip,
won't you, Mon Pere? I will go with you, for I have taken the care
of baby from Moanne to-night. Her husband is sick."
Adare shook hands with Philip.
"I'm up mornings before the owls have gone to sleep," he said.
"Will you breakfast with me? I'm afraid that if you wait for
Miriam and Mignonne you will go hungry. They will sleep until noon
to make up for to-night."
"Nothing would suit me better," declared Philip. "Will you knock
at my door if I fail to show up?"
Adare was about to answer, but caught himself suddenly as he
looked from Philip to Josephine.
"What! this soon, Mignonne?" he demanded, chuckling in his beard.
"Your rooms at the two ends of the house already! That was never
the way with Miriam and me. Can you remember such a thing, Ma
"It--it is the baby," gasped Josephine, backing from the light to
hide the wild rush of blood to her face. "Philip cannot sleep,"
she finished desperately.
"Then I disapprove of his nerves," rejoined her father. "Good-
night, Philip, my boy!"
"Good-night!" said Philip.
He was looking at Adare's wife as they moved away. In the dim
light of the hall a strange look had come into her face at her
husband's jesting words. Was it the effect of the shadows, or had
he seen her start--almost as if for an instant she had been
threatened by a blow? Was it imagination, or had he in that same
instant caught a sudden look of alarm, of terror, in her eyes?
Josephine had told him that her mother knew nothing of the tragedy
of the child's birth. If this were so, why had she betrayed the
emotions which Philip was sure he had seen?
A chaotic tangle of questions and of doubts rushed through his
mind. John Adare alone had acted a natural and unrestrained part
in the brief space that had intervened since his home-coming.
Philip had looked upon the big man's love and happiness, his
worship of the woman who was his wife, his ecstasy over the baby,
his affection for Josephine, and it seemed to him that he KNEW
this man now. The few moments he had stood in the room with mother
and daughter had puzzled him most. In their faces he had seen no
sign of gladness at their reunion, and he asked himself if
Josephine had told him all the truth--if her mother were not,
after all, a partner to her secret.
And then there swept upon him in all its overwhelming cloud of
mystery that other question which until now he had not dared to
ask himself: HAD JOSEPHINE HERSELF TOLD HIM ALL THE TRUTH? He did
not dare to tell himself that it was possible that she was NOT the
mother of the child which she had told him was her own. And yet he
could not kill the whispering doubt deep back in his brain. It had
come to him in the room, quick as a flashlight, when she had made
her confession; it was insistent now as he stood looking at the
closed door through which they had disappeared.
For him to believe wholly and unquestioned Josephine's confession
was like asking him to believe that da Vinci's masterpiece hanging
in the big room had been painted by a blind man. In her he had
embodied all that he had ever dreamed of as pure and beautiful in
a woman, and the thought came now. Had Josephine, for some
tremendous reason known only to herself and Jean, tried to destroy
his great love for her by revealing herself in a light that was
Instantly he told himself that this could not be so. If he
believed in Josephine at all, he must believe that she had told
him the truth. And he did believe, in spite of the whispering
doubt. He felt that he could not sleep until he had seen Josephine
alone. In her room John Adare had interrupted them a minute too
soon. In spite of the mysterious and unsettling events of the
night his heart still beat with the wild and joyous hope that had
come with Josephine's surrender to his arms and lips.
Instead of accepting the confession of her misfortune as the final
barrier between them, he had taken it as the key that had unlocked
the chains of her bondage. If she had told him the truth--if this
were what separated them--she belonged to him; and he wanted to
tell her this again before he slept, and hear from her lips the
words that would give her to him forever.
Despairing of this, he opened the door to his room.
Scarcely had he crossed the threshold when an exclamation of
surprise rose to Philip's lips. A few minutes before he had left
his room even uncomfortably warm. A cold draught of air struck his
face now, and the light was out. He remembered that he had left
the lamp burning. He groped his way through the darkness to the
table before he lighted a match.
As he touched the flame to the wick he glanced toward the window.
It was open. A film of snow had driven through and settled upon
the rug under it. Replacing the chimney, he took a step or two
toward the window. Then he stopped, and stared at the floor. Some
one had entered his room through the open window and had gone to
the door opening into the hall. At each step had fallen a bit of
snow, and close to the door was a space of the bare floor soppy
and stained. At that point the intruder had stood for some moments
For several seconds Philip stared at the evidences of a prowling
visitor without making a move himself. It was not without a
certain thrill of uneasiness that he went to the window and closed
it. It did not take him long to assure himself that nothing in the
room had been touched. He could find no other marks of feet except
those which led directly from the window to the door, and this
fact was sufficient proof that whoever had visited his room had
come as a listener and a spy and not as a thief.
It occurred to Philip now that he had found his door unlatched and
slightly ajar when he entered. That the eavesdropper had seen them
in the hall and had possibly overheard a part of their
conversation he was quite certain from the fact that the window
had been left open in a hurried flight.
For some time the impulse was strong in him to acquaint both
Josephine and her father with what had happened, and with Jean
Croisset's apparent treachery. He did not need to ask himself if
it was the half-breed who had stolen into his room. He was as
certain of that as he was of the identity of the face he had seen
at the window some time before. And yet something held him from
communicating these events of the night to the master of Adare
House and the girl. He was becoming more and more convinced that
there existed an unaccountable and mysterious undercurrent of
tragic possibilities at Adare House of which Josephine was almost
ignorant, and her father entirely so. Josephine's motherhood and
the secret she was guarding were not the only things that were
clouding his mental horizon now. There was something else. And he
believed that Jean was the key to the situation.
He felt a clammy chill creep over him as he asked himself how
closely Jean Jacques Croisset himself was associated with the girl
he loved. It was a thought that almost made him curse himself for
giving it birth. And yet it clung to him like a grim and haunting
spectre that he would have crushed if he could. Josephine's
confession of motherhood had not made him love her less. In those
terrible moments when she had bared her soul to him, his own soul
had suffered none of the revulsion with which he might have
sympathized in others. It was as if she had fallen at his feet,
fluttering in the agony of a terrible wound, a thing as pure as
the heavens, hurt for him to cherish in his greater strength--such
was his love. And the thought that Jean loved her, and that a
jealousy darker than night was burning all that was human out of
his breast, was a possibility which he found unpleasant to admit
So deeply was he absorbed in these thoughts that he forgot any
immediate danger that might be threatening himself. He passed and
repassed the window, smoking his pipe, and fighting with himself
to hit upon some other tangible reason for Jean's unexpected
change of heart. He could not forget his first impression of the
dark-faced half-breed, nor the grip in which they had pledged
their fealty. He had accepted Jean as one of ten thousand--a man
he would have trusted to the ends of the earth, and yet he
recalled moments now when he had seen strange fires smouldering
far back in the forest man's eyes. The change in Jean alone he
felt that he might have diagnosed, but almost simultaneously with
his discovery of this change he had met Adare's wife--and she had
puzzled him even more than the half-breed.
Restlessly he moved to his door again, opened it, and looked down
the hall. The door of Josephine's room was closed, and he
reentered his room. For a moment he stood facing the window. In
the same instant there came the report of a rifle and the crashing
of glass. A shower of shot-like particles struck his face. He
heard a dull smash behind him, and then a stinging, red-hot pain
shot across his arm, as if a whiplash had seared his naked flesh.
He heard the shot, the crashing glass, the strike of the bullet
behind him before he felt the pain--before he reeled back toward
the wall. His heel caught in a rug and he fell. He knew that he
was not badly hurt, but he crouched low, and with his right hand
drew his automatic and levelled it at the window.
Never in his life had his blood leaped more quickly through his
body than it did now. It was not merely excitement--the knowledge
that he had been close to death, and had escaped. From out of the
darkness Jean Croisset had shot at him like a coward. He did not
feel the burn of the scratch on his arm as he jumped to his feet.
Once more he ran swiftly through the hall. At the end door he
looked back. Apparently the shot had not alarmed the occupants of
Josephine's room, to whom the report of a rifle--even at night--
held no special significance.
Another moment and Philip was outside. It had stopped snowing, and
the clouds were drifting away from under the moon. Crouched low,
his pistol level at his side, he ran swiftly in the direction from
which the shot must have come. The moon revealed the dark edge of
the forest a hundred yards away, and he was sure that his
attempted murderer had stood somewhere between Adare House and the
timber when he fired. He was not afraid of a second shot. Even
caution was lost in his mad desire to catch Jean red-handed and
choke a confession of several things from his lips. If Jean had
suddenly risen out of the snow he would not have used his pistol
unless forced to do so. He wanted to be hand to hand with the
treacherous half-breed, and his breath came in panting eagerness
as he ran.
Suddenly he stopped short. He had struck the trail. Here Croisset
had stood, fifty yards from his window, when he fired. The snow
was beaten down, and from the spot his retreating footsteps led
toward the forest. Like a dog Philip followed the trail. The first
timber was thinned by the axe, and the moon lighted up the white
spaces ahead of him. He was half across the darker wall of the
spruce when his heart gave a sudden jump. He had heard the snarl
of a dog, the lash of a whip, a man's low voice cursing the beast
he was striking. The sounds came from the dense cover of the
spruce, and told him that Jean was not looking for immediate
pursuit. He slipped in among the shadows quietly, and a few steps
brought him to a smaller open space where a few trees had been
cut. In this little clearing a slim dark figure of a man was
straightening out the tangled traces of a sledge-team.
Philip could not see his face, but he knew that it was Jean. It
was Jean's figure, Jean's movement, his low, sharp voice as he
spoke to the dogs. Man and huskies were not twenty steps from him.
With a tense breath Philip replaced his pistol in its holster. He
did not want to kill, and he possessed a proper respect for the
hair-trigger mechanism of his automatic. In the fight he
anticipated with Jean the weapon would be safer in its holster
than in his hand. Jean was at present unarmed, except for his
hunting-knife. His rifle leaned against a tree, and in another
moment Philip was between the gun and the half-breed.
One of the sledge dogs betrayed him. At its low and snarling
warning the half-breed whirled about with the alertness of a lynx,
and he was half ready when Philip launched himself at his throat.
They went down free of the dogs, the forest man under. One of
Philip's hands had reached his enemy's throat, but with a swift
movement of his arm the half-breed wrenched it off and slipped out
from under his assailant with the agility of an eel. Both were on
their feet in an instant, facing each other in the tiny moonlit
arena a dozen feet from the silent and watchful dogs.
Even now Philip could not see the half-breed's features because of
a hood drawn closely about his face. The "breed" had made no
effort to draw a weapon, and Philip flung himself upon him again.
Thus in open battle his greater physical strength and advantage of
fifty pounds in weight would have won for Philip. But the forest
man's fighting is filled with the elusive ermine's trickery and
the lithe quickness of the big, fur-padded cat of the trap-lines.
The half-breed made no effort to evade Philip's assault. He met
the shock of attack fairly, and went down with him. But this time
his back was to the watchful semicircle of dogs, and with a sharp,
piercing command he pitched back among them, dragging Philip with
him. Too late Philip realized what the cry meant. He tried to
fling himself out of reach of the threatening fangs, and freed one
hand to reach for his pistol. This saved him from the dogs, but
gave the half-breed his opportunity. Again he was on his feet, the
butt of his dog whip in his hand. As the moonlight glinted on the
barrel of the automatic, he brought the whip down with a crash on
Philip's head--and then again and again, and Philip pitched
backward into the snow.
He was not wholly unconscious. He knew that as soon as he had
fallen the half-breed had turned again to the dogs. He could hear
him as he straightened out the traces. In a subconscious sort of
way, Philip wondered why he did not take advantage of his
opportunity and finish what he had failed to do with the bullet
through the window. Philip heard him run back for his gun, and
tried to struggle to his knees. Instead of the shot he half
expected there came the low "Hoosh--hoosh--marche!" of the forest
man's voice. Dogs and sledge moved. He fought himself up and
swayed on his knees, staring after the retreating shadows. He saw
his automatic in the snow and crawled to it. It was another minute
before he could stand on his feet, and then he was dizzy. He
staggered to a tree and for a space leaned against it.
It was some minutes before he was steady enough to walk, and by
that time he knew that it would be futile to pursue the half-breed
and his swift-footed dogs, weakened and half dressed as he was.
Slowly he returned to Adare House, cursing himself for not having
used his pistol to compel Jean's surrender. He acknowledged that
he had been a fool, and that he had deserved what he got. The hall
was still empty when he reentered it. His adventure had roused no
one, and with a feeling of relief he went to his room.
If the walls had fallen about his ears he could not have received
a greater shock than when he entered through the door.
Seated in a chair close to the table, looking at him calmly as he
entered, was Jean Jacques Croisset!
Unable to believe that what he saw was not an illusion, Philip
stood and stared at the half-breed. No word fell from his lips. He
did not move. And Jean met his eyes calmly, without betraying a
tremor of excitement or of fear. In another moment Philip's hand
went to his pistol. As he half drew it his confused brain saw
other things which made him gasp with new wonder.
Croisset showed no signs of the fight in the forest which had
occurred not more than ten minutes before. He was wearing a pair
of laced Hudson's Bay boots. In the struggle in the snow Philip's
hand had once gripped his enemy's foot, and he knew that he had
worn moccasins. And Jean was not winded. He was breathing easily.
And now Philip saw that behind the calmness in his eyes there was
a tense and anxious inquiry. Slowly the truth broke upon him. It
could not have been Jean with whom he had fought in the edge of
the forest! He advanced a step or two toward the half-breed, his
hand still resting uncertainly on his pistol. Not until then did
Jean speak, and there was no pretence in his voice:
"The Virgin be praised, you are not badly hurt, M'sieur?" he
exclaimed, rising. "There is a little blood on your face. Did the
glass cut you?"
"No," said Philip. "I overtook him in the edge of the forest."
Not for an instant had his eyes left Croisset. Now he saw him
start. His dark face took on a strange pallor. He leaned forward,
and his breath came in a quick gasp.
"The result?" he demanded. "Did you kill him?"
The tense lines on Croisset's face relaxed. Philip turned and
bolted the door.
"Sit down, Croisset," he commanded. "You and I are going to square
things up in this room to-night. It is quite natural that you
should be glad he escaped. Perhaps if you had fired the shot in
place of putting the affair into the hands of a hired murderer the
work would have been better done. Sit down!"
Something like a smile flickered across Jean's face as he reseated
himself. There was in it no suggestion of bravado or of defiance.
It was rather the facial expression of one who was looking beyond
Philip's set jaws, and seeing other things--the betrayal which
comes at times when one has suffered quietly for another. It was a
look which made Philip uneasy as he seated himself opposite the
half-breed, and made him ashamed of the fact that he had exposed
his right hand on the table, with the muzzle of his automatic
turned toward Jean's breast. Yet he was determined to have it out
with Jean now.
"You are glad that the man who tried to kill me escaped?" he
The promptness and quiet decisiveness of Jean's answer amazed him.
"Yes, M'sieur, I am. But the shot was not for you. It was intended
for the master of Adare House. When I heard the shot to-night I
did not know what it meant. A little later I came to your room and
found the broken window and the bullet mark in the wall. This is
M'sieur Adare's old room, and the bullet was intended for him. And
now, M'sieur Philip, why do you say that I am responsible for the
attempt to kill you, or the master?"
"You have convicted yourself," declared Philip, his eyes ablaze.
"A moment ago you said you were glad the assassin escaped!"
"I am, M'sieur," replied Jean in the same quiet voice. "Why I am
glad I will leave to your imagination. Unless I still had faith in
you and was sure of your great love for our Josephine, I would
have lied to you. You were told that you would meet with strange
things at Adare House. You gave your oath that you would make no
effort to discover the secret which is guarded here. And this
early, the first night, you threaten me at the end of a pistol!"
Like fire Jean's eyes were burning now. He gripped the edges of
the table with his thin fingers, and his voice came with a sudden
"By the great God in Heaven, M'sieur, are you accusing me of
turning traitor to the Master and to her, to our Josephine, whom I
have watched and guarded and prayed for since the day she first
opened her eyes to the world? Do you accuse me of that--I, Jean
Jacques Croisset, who would die a thousand deaths by torture that
she might be freed from her own suffering?"
He leaned over the table as if about to spring. And then, slowly,
his fingers relaxed, the fire died out of his eyes, and he sank
back in his chair. In the face of the half-breed's outburst Philip
had remained speechless. Now he spoke:
"Call it threatening, if you like. I do not intend to break my
word to Josephine. I demand no answer to questions which may
concern her, for that is my promise. But between you and me there
are certain things which must be explained. I concede that I was
mistaken in believing that it was you with whom I fought in the
forest. But it was you who looked through my window earlier in the
night, with a pistol in your hand. You would have killed me if I
had not turned."
Genuine surprise shot into Jean's face.
"I have not been near your window, M'sieur. Until I returned with
M'sieur Adare I was waiting up the river, several miles from here.
Since then I have not left the house. Josephine and her father can
tell you this, if you need proof."
"Your words are impossible!" exclaimed Philip. "I could not have
been mistaken. It was you."
"Will you believe Josephine, M'sieur? She will tell you that I
could not have been at the window."
"If it was not you--who was it?"
"It must have been the man who shot at you," replied Jean.
"And you know who that man is, and yet refuse to tell me in order
that he may have another opportunity of finishing what he failed
to do to-night. The most I can do is to inform John Adare."
"You will not do that," said Jean confidently. Again he showed
excitement. "Do you know what it would mean?" he demanded.
"Trouble for you," volunteered Philip,
"And ruin for Josephine and every soul in the House of Adare!"
added Croisset swiftly. "As soon as Adare could lace his moccasins
he would take up that trail out there. He would come to the end of
it, and then--mon Dieu!--in that hour the world would smash about
"Either you are mad or I am," gasped Philip, staring into the
half-breed's tense face. "I don't think you are lying, Jean. But
you must be mad. And I am mad for listening to you. You insist on
giving this murderer another chance. You as much as say that by
giving him a second opportunity to kill John Adare you are proving
your loyalty to Josephine and her father. Can that be anything but
An almost gentle smile nickered over Jean's lips. He looked at
Philip as if marvelling that the other could not understand.
"Within an hour it will be Jean Jacques Croisset who will take up
the trail," he replied softly, and without boastfulness. "It is I,
and not the master of Adare House, who will come to the end of
that trail. And there will be no other shot after that, and no one
will ever know--but you and me."
"You mean that you will follow and kill him--and that John Adare
must never know that an attempt has been made on his life?"
"He must never know, M'sieur. And what happens in the forest at
the end of the trail the trees will never tell."
"And the reason for this secrecy you will not confide in me?"
"I dare not, M'sieur."
Philip leaned across the table.
"Perhaps you will, Jean, when you know there is no longer anything
between Josephine and me," he said. "To-night she told me
everything. I have seen the baby. Her secret she has given to me
freely--and it has made no difference. I love her. Tomorrow I
shall ask her to end all this make-believe, and my heart tells me
that she will. We can be married secretly. No one will ever know."
His face was filled with the flush of hope. One of his hands
caught Jean's in the old grip of friendship--of confidence. Jean
did not reply. But his face betrayed what he did not speak. Once
or twice before Philip had seen the same look of anguish in his
eyes, the tightening of the lines about the corners of his mouth.
Slowly the half-breed rose from the table and turned a little from
Philip. In a moment Philip was at his side.
"Jean!" he cried softly, "you love Josephine!"
No sign of passion was in Jean's face as he met the other's eyes.
"How do you mean, M'sieur?" he asked quietly. "As a father and a
brother, or as a man?"
"A man," said Philip.
Jean smiled. It was a smile of deep understanding, as if suddenly
there had burst upon him a light which he had not seen before.
"I love her as the flowers love the sunshine, as the wood violets
love the rains," he said, touching Philip's arm. "And that,
M'sieur, is not what you understand as the love of a man. There is
one other whom I love in another way, whose voice is the sweetest
music in the world, whose heart beats with mine, whose soul leads
me day and night through the forests, and who whispers to me of
our sweet love in my dreams--Iowaka, my wife! Come, M'sieur; I
will take you to her."
"It is late--too late," voiced Philip wonderingly.
But as he spoke he followed Jean. The half-breed seemed to have
risen out of his world now. There was a wonderful light in his
face, a something that seemed to reach back through centuries that
were gone--and in this moment Philip thought of Marechal, of
Prince Rupert, of le Chevalier Grosselier--of the adventurous and
royal blood that had first come over to the New World to form the
Great Company, and he knew that of such men as these was Jean
Jacques Croisset, the forest man. He understood now the meaning of
the soft and faultless speech of this man who had lived always
under the stars and the open skies. He was not of to-day, but a
harkening back to that long-forgotten yesterday; in his veins ran
the blood red and strong of the First Men of the North. Out into
the night Philip followed him, bare-headed, with the moonlight
streaming down from above; and he stopped only when Jean stopped,
close to a little plot where a dozen wooden crosses rose above a
dozen snow-covered mounds.
Jean stopped, and his hand fell on Philip's arm.
"These are Josephine's," he said softly, with a sweep of his other
hand. "She calls it her Garden of Little Flowers. They are
children, M'sieur. Some are babies. When a little one dies--if it
is not too far away--she brings it to Le Jardin--her garden, so
that it may not sleep alone under the lonely spruce, with the
wolves howling over it on winter nights. They must be lonely in
the woodsy graves, she says. I have known her to bring an Indian
baby a hundred miles, and some of these I have seen die in her
arms, while she crooned to them a song of Heaven. And five times
as many little ones she has saved, M'sieur. That is why even the
winds in the treetops whisper her name, L'Ange! Does it not seem
to you that even the moon shines brighter here upon these little
mounds and the crosses?"
"Yes," breathed Philip reverently.
Jean pointed to a larger mound, the one guardian mound of them
all, rising a little above the others, its cross lifted watchfully
above the other crosses; and he said, as if the spirits themselves
were listening to him:
"M'sieur, there is my wife, my Iowaka. She died three years ago,
but she is with me always, and even now her beloved voice is
singing in my heart, telling me that it is not black and cold
where she and the little ones are waiting, but that all is light
and beautiful. M'sieur"--his voice dropped to a whisper--"Could I
sell my hereafter with her for the price of another woman's love
Philip tried to speak; and strange after a moment he succeeded in
"Jean, an hour ago, I thought I was a man. I see how far short of
that I have fallen. Forgive me, and let me be your brother. Such a
love as yours is my love for Josephine. And to-morrow--"
"Despair will open up and swallow you to the depths of your soul,"
interrupted Jean gently. "Return to your room, M'sieur. Sleep.
Fight for the love that will be yours in Heaven, as I live for my
Iowaka's. For that love will be yours, up there. Josephine has
loved but one man, and that is you. I have watched and I have
seen. But in this world she can never be more to you than she is
now, for what she told you to-night is the least of the terrible
thing that is eating away her soul on earth. Good-night, M'sieur!"
Straight out into the moonlight Jean walked, head erect, in the
face of the forest. And Philip stood looking after him over the
little garden of crosses until he had disappeared.
Alone and with the deadening depression that had come with Jean's
last words, Philip returned to his room. He had made no effort to
follow the half-breed who had shamed him to the quick beside the
grave of his wife. He felt no pleasure, no sense of exultation,
that his suspicions of Croisset's feelings toward Josephine had
been dispelled. Since the hour MacTavish had died up in the
madness of Arctic night, deep and hopeless gloom had not laid its
hand more heavily upon him,
He bolted his door, drew the curtain to the window, and added a
bit of wood to the few embers that still remained alive in the
grate. Then he sat down, with his face to the fire. The dry birch
burst into flame, and for half an hour he sat staring into it with
almost unseeing eyes. He knew that Jean would keep his word--that
even now he was possibly on the fresh trail that led through the
forest. For him there was something about the half-breed now that
was almost omniscient. In him Philip had seen incarnated the
things which made him feel like a dwarf in manhood. In those few
moments close to the graves, Jean had risen above the world. And
Philip believed in him. Yet with his belief, his optimism did not
In the same breath Jean had told him that he could never possess
Josephine, and that Josephine loved him. This in itself, Jean's
assurance of her love, was sufficient to arouse a spirit like his
with new hope. At last he went to bed, and in spite of his mental
and physical excitement of the night, he fell asleep.
John Adare did not fail in his promise to rouse Philip early in
the day. When Philip jumped out of bed in response to Adare's
heavy knock at the door, he judged that it was not later than
seven o'clock, and the room was still dark. Adare's voice came
booming through the thick panels in reply to Philip's assurance
that he was getting up.
"This is the third time," he cried. "I've cracked the door trying
to rouse you. And we've got a caribou porterhouse two inches thick
waiting for us."
The giant was walking back and forth in the big living-room when
Philip joined him a few minutes later. He wore an Indian-made
jacket and was smoking a big pipe. That he had been up for some
time was evident from the logs fully ablaze in the fireplace. He
rubbed his hands briskly as Philip entered. Every atom of him
disseminated good cheer.
"You don't know how good it seems to get back home," he exclaimed,
as they shook hands. "I feel like a boy--actually like a boy,
Philip! Didn't sleep two winks after I went to bed, and Miriam
scolded me for keeping her awake. Bless my soul, I wouldn't live
in Montreal if they'd make me a present of the whole Hudson's Bay
"Nor I," said Philip. "I love the North."
"Four years--without a break."
"One can live a long time in the North in four years," mused the
master of Adare. "But Josephine said she met you in Montreal?"
"True," laughed Philip, catching himself. "That was a break--and I
thank God for it. Outside of that I spent all of the four years
north of the Hight of Land. For eighteen months I lived along the
edges of the Arctic trying to take an impossible census of the
Eskimo for the government."
"I knew something of the sort when I first looked at you," said
Adare. "I can tell an Arctic man, just as I can pick a Herschel
dog or an Athabasca country malemute from a pack of fifty. We have
much to talk about, my boy. We will be great friends. Just now we
are going to that caribou steak."
Out into the hall, through another door, and down a short
corridor, he led Philip. Here a third door was open, and Adare
stood aside while Philip entered.
"This is my private sanctuary," he said proudly. "What do you
think of it?"
Philip looked about him. He was in a room almost as large as the
one from which they had come. In a huge fireplace a pile of logs
were blazing. One end of the room was given up almost entirely to
shelves and weighted down with books. Philip was amazed at their
number. The other end was still partially hidden in glooms but he
could make out that it was fitted up as a laboratory, and on
shelves he caught the white gleam of scores of wild beast skulls.
Comfortably near to the fire was a large table scattered with
books, papers, and piles of manuscript, and behind this was a
small iron safe. Here, Philip thought, was the adytum of no
ordinary man; it was the study of a scholar and a scientist. He
marked the absence of mounted heads from the walls, but in spite
of that the very atmosphere of the room breathed of the forests
and the beast. Here and there he saw the articulated skeletons of
wild animals. From among the books themselves the jaws and ivory
fangs of skulls gleamed out at him. Before he had finished his
wondering survey of the strange room, John Adare stepped to the
table and picked up a skull.
"This is my latest specimen," he said, his voice eager with
enthusiasim. "It is perfect. Jean secured it for me while I was
away. It is the skull of a beaver, and shows in three distinct and
remarkable gradations how nature replaces the soft enamel as it is
worn from the beaver's teeth. You see, I am a hobbyist. For twenty
years I have been studying wild animals. And there--"
He replaced the skull on the table to point to an isolated shelf
filled with books and magazines.
"--there is my most remarkable collection," he added, a gleam of
humour in his eyes. "They are the books and magazine stories of
nature fakirs, the 'works' of naturalists who have never heard the
howl of a wolf or the cry of a loon; the wild dreams of
fictionists, the rot of writers who spend two weeks or a month
each year on some blazed trail and return to the cities to call
themselves students of nature. When I feel in bad humour I read
some of that stuff and laugh."
He leaned over to press a button under the table,
"One of my little electrical arrangements," he explained. "That
will bring our breakfast. To use a popular expression of the
uninformed, I'm as hungry as a bear. As a matter of fact, you
know, a bear is the lightest eater of all brute creation for his
size, strength, and fat supply. That row of naturalists over there
have made him out a pig. The beast's a genius, for it takes a
genius to grow fat on poplar buds!"
Then he laughed good humouredly.
"I suppose you are tired of this already. Josephine has probably
been filling you with a lot of my foolishness. She says I must be
silly or I would have my stuff published in books. But I am
waiting, waiting until I have come down to the last facts. I am
experimenting now with the black and the silver fox. And there are
many other experiments to come, many of them. But you are tired of
Philip had listened to him without speaking. In this room John
Adare had changed. In him he saw now the living, breathing soul of
the wild. His own face was flushed with a new enthusiasm as he
"Such things could never tire me. I only ask that I may be your
companion in your researches, and learn something of the wonders
which you must already have discovered. You have studied wild
animals--for twenty years?"
"Twenty and four, day and night; it has been my hobby."
"And you have written about them?"
"A score of volumes, if they were in print."
Philip drew a deep breath.
"The world would give a great deal for what you know," he said.
"It would give a great deal for those books, more than I dare to
estimate, undoubtedly it would be a vast sum in dollars."
Adare laughed softly in his beard.
"And what would I do with dollars?" he asked. "I have sufficient
with which to live this life here. What more could money bring me?
I am the happiest man in the world!"
For a moment a cloud overshadowed his face.
"And yet of late I have had a worry," he added thoughtfully. "It
is because of Miriam, my wife. She is not well. I had hoped that
the doctors in Montreal would help her. But they have failed. They
say she possesses no malady, no sickness that they can discover.
And yet she is not the old Miriam. God knows I hope the tonic of
the snows will bring her back to health this winter!"
"It will," declared Philip. "The signs point to a glorious winter,
crisp and dry--the sledge and dog kind, when you can hear the
crack of a whiplash half a mile away."
"You will hear that frequently enough if you follow Josephine,"
chuckled Adare. "Not a trail in these forests for a hundred miles
she does not know. She trains all of the dogs, and they are
It was on the point of Philip's tongue to ask a reason for the
silence of the fierce pack he had seen the night before, when he
caught himself. At the same moment the Indian woman appeared
through the door with a laden tray. Adare helped her arrange their
breakfast on a small table near the fire.
"I thought we would be more congenial here than alone in the
dining-room, Philip," he explained. "Unless I am mistaken the
ladies won't be up until dinner time. Did you ever see a steak
done to a finer turn than this? Marie, you are a treasure." He
motioned Philip to a seat, and began serving. "Nothing in the
world is better than a caribou porterhouse cut well back," he went
on. "Don't fry or roast it, but broil it. An inch and a half is
the proper thickness, just enough to hold the heart of it ripe
with juice. See it ooze from that cut! Can you beat it?"
"Not with anything I have had along the Arctic," confessed Philip.
"A steak from the cheek of a cow walrus is about the best thing
you find up in the 'Big Icebox'--that is, at first. Later, when
the aurora borealis has got into your marrow, you gorge on seal
blubber and narwhal fat and call it good. As for me, I'd prefer
pickles to anything else in the world, so with your permission
I'll help myself. Just now I'd eat pickles with ice cream."
It was a pleasant meal. Philip could not remember when he had
known a more agreeable host. Not until they had finished, and
Adare had produced cigars of a curious length and slimness, did
the older man ask the question for which Philip had been carefully
"Now I want to hear about you," he said. "Josephine told me very
little--said that she wanted me to get my impressions first hand.
We'll smoke and talk. These cigars are clear Havanas. I have the
tobacco imported by the bale and we make the cigars ourselves.
Reduces the cost to a minimum, and we always have a supply. Go on,
Philip, I'm listening."
Philip remembered Josephine's words telling him to narrate the
events of his own life to her father--except that he was to leave
open, as it were, the interval in which he was supposed to have
known her in Montreal. It was not difficult for him to slip over
this. He described his first coming into the North, and Adare's
eyes glowed sympathetically when Philip quoted Hill's words down
at Prince Albert and Jasper's up at Fond du Lac. He listened with
tense interest to his experiences along the Arctic, his
descriptions of the death of MacTavish and the passing of Pierre
Radisson. But what struck deepest with him was Philip's physical
and mental fight for new life, and the splendid way in which the
wilderness had responded.
"And you couldn't go back now," he said, a tone of triumph in his
voice. "When the forests once claim you--they hold."
"Not alone the forests, Mon Pere."
"Ah, Mignonne. No, there is neither man nor beast in the world
that would leave her. Even the dogs are chained out in the deep
spruce that they may not tear down her doors in the night to come
near her. The whole world loves my Josephine. The Indians make the
Big Medicine for her in a hundred tepees when they learn she is
ill. They have trimmed five hundred lob-stick trees in her memory.
Mon Dieu, in the Company's books there are written down more than
thirty babes and children grown who bear her name of Josephine!
She is different than her mother. Miriam has been always like a
flower--a timid wood violet, loving this big world, yet playing no
part in it away from my side. Sometimes Josephine frightens me.
She will travel a hundred miles by sledge to nurse a sick child,
and only last winter she buried herself in a shack filled with
smallpox and brought six souls out of it alive! For two weeks she
was buried in that hell. That is Mignonne, whom Indian, breed, and
white man call L'Ange. Miriam they call La Fleurette. We are two
fortunate men, my son!"
A dozen questions burned on Philip's lips, but he held them back,
fearing that some accidental slip of the tongue might betray him.
He was convinced that Josephine's father knew absolutely nothing
of the trouble that was wrecking the happiness of Adare House, and
he was equally positive that all, even Miriam herself, were
fighting to keep the secret from him.
That Josephine's motherhood was not the sole cause of the
mysterious and tragic undercurrent that he had been made to feel
he was more than suspicious. A few hours would tell him if he was
right, for he would ask Josephine to become his wife. And he
already knew what John Adare did not know.
Miriam was not sick with a physical illness. The doctors whom
Adare had not believed were right. And he wondered, as he sat
facing her husband, if it was fear for his life that was breaking
her down. Were they shielding him from some great and ever-
menacing peril--a danger with which, for some inconceivable
reason, they dared not acquaint him?
In the short time he had known him, a strange feeling for John
Adare had found a place in Philip's heart. It was more than
friendship, more than the feeling which his supposed relationship
might have roused. This big-hearted, tender, rumbling voiced giant
of a man he had grown to love. And he found himself struggling
blindly now to keep from him what the others were trying to
conceal, for he knew that John Adare's heart would crumble down
like a pile of dust if he knew the truth. He was thinking of the
baby, and it seemed as if his thoughts flashed like fire to the
Adare was laughing softly in his beard.
"You should have seen the kid last night, Philip. When they woke
'im he stared at me for a time as though I was an ogre, then he
grinned, kicked me, and grabbed my whiskers, I've just one fault
to find. I wish he was a dozen instead of me. The little rascal! I
wonder if he is awake?"
He half rose, as if about to investigate, then reseated himself.
"Guess I'd better not take a chance of waking him," he reflected.
"If Jean should catch me rousing Josephine or the baby he'd