Part 4 out of 5
Without a word Philip obeyed. By the time they stood out in the
night his blood was racing in a wild anticipation. Josephine had
disappeared. Jean gripped his arm.
"To-night something may happen," he said, in a voice that was as
hard and cold as the blue lights of the aurora in the polar sky.
"It is--possible. We may need your help. I would have asked
Metoosin, but it would have made him suspicious of something--and
he knows nothing. You have made friends with the dogs? You know
"Then go to them--go as fast as you can, M'sieur. And if you hear
a shot to-night--or a loud cry from out there in the forest, free
the dogs swiftly, Captain first, and run with them to our trail,
shouting 'KILL! KILL! KILL!' with every breath you take, and don't
stop so long as there is a footprint in the snow ahead of you or a
human bone to pick! Do you understand, M'sieur?"
His eyes were points of flame in the gloom.
"Do you understand?"
"Yes," gasped Philip. "But--Jean--"
"If you understand--that is all," interrupted Jean, "If there is a
peril in what we are doing this night the pack will be worth more
to us than a dozen men. If anything happens to us they will be our
avengers. Go! There is not one moment for you to lose. Remember--a
shot--a single cry!"
His voice, the glitter in his eyes, told Philip this was no time
for words. He turned and ran swiftly across the clearing in the
direction of the dog pit, Ten minutes later he came into a gloom
warm with the smell of beast. Eyes of fire glared at him. The
snapping of fangs and the snarling of savage throats greeted him.
One by one he called the names of the dogs he remembered--called
them over and over again, advancing fearlessly among them, until
he dropped upon his knees with his hand on the chain that held
Captain. From there he talked to them, and their whines answered
Then he fell silent--listening. He could hear his own heart beat.
Every fibre in his body was aquiver with excitement and a strange
fear. The hand that rested on Captain's collar trembled. In the
distance an owl hooted, and the first note of it sent a red-hot
fire through him. Still farther away a wolf howled. Then came a
silence in which he thought he could hear the rush of blood
through his own throbbing veins.
With his fingers at the steel snap on Captain's collar he waited.
In the course of nearly every human life there comes an hour which
stands out above all others as long as memory lasts. Such was the
one in which Philip crouched in the dog pit, his hand at Captain's
collar, waiting for the sound of cry or shot. So long as he lived
he knew this scene could not be wiped out of his brain. As he
listened, he stared about him and the drama of it burning into his
soul. Some intuitive spirit seemed to have whispered to the dogs
that these tense moments were heavy with tragic possibilities for
them as well as the man. Out of the surrounding darkness they
stared at him without a movement or a sound, every head turned
toward him, forty pairs of eyes upon him like green and opal
fires. They, too, were waiting and listening. They knew there was
some meaning in the attitude of this man crouching at Captain's
side. Their heads were up. Their ears were alert. Philip could
hear them breathing. And he could feel that the muscles of
Captain's splendid body were tense and rigid.
Minutes passed. The owl hooted nearer; the wolf howled again,
farther away. Slowly the tremendous strain passed and Philip began
to breathe easier. He figured that Josephine and the half-breed
had reached last night's meeting-place. He had given them a margin
of at least five minutes--and nothing had happened. His knees were
cramped, and he rose to his feet, still holding Captain's chain.
The tension was broken among the beasts. They moved; whimpering
sounds came to him; eyes shifted uneasily in the gloom. Fully half
an hour had passed when there was a sudden movement among them.
The points of green and opal fire were turned from Philip, and to
his ears came the clink of chains, the movement of bodies, a
subdued and menacing rumble from a score of throats. Captain
growled. Philip stared out into the darkness and listened.
And then a voice came, quite near:
"Ho, M'sieur Philip!"
It was Jean! Philip's hand relaxed its clutch at Captain's collar,
and almost a groan of relief fell from his lips. Not until Jean's
voice came to him, quiet and unexcited, did he realize under what
a strain he had been.
"I am here," he said, moving slowly out of the pit.
On the edge of it, where the light shone down through an opening
in the spruce tops, he found Jean. Josephine was not with him.
Eagerly Philip caught the other's arm, and looked beyond him.
"Where is she?"
"Safe," replied Jean. "I left her at Adare House, and came to you.
I came quickly, for I was afraid that some one might shout in the
night, or fire a shot. Our business was done quickly to-night,
He was looking straight into Philip's eyes, a cold, steady look
that told Philip what he meant before he had spoken the words.
"Our business was done quickly!" he repeated. "And it is coming!"
"And Josephine knows? She understands?"
"No, M'sieur. Only you and I know. Listen: To-night I kneeled down
in darkness in my room, and prayed that the soul of my Iowaka
might come to me. I felt her near, M'sieur! It is strange--you
may not believe--but some day you may understand. And we were
there together for an hour, and I pleaded for her forgiveness, for
the time had come when I must break my oath to save our Josephine.
And I could hear her speak to me, M'sieur, as plainly as you hear
that breath of wind in the tree-tops yonder. Praise the Holy
Father, I heard her! And so we are going to fight the great fight,
Philip waited. After a moment Jean said, as quietly as if he were
asking the time of day:
"Do you know whom we went out to see last night--and met again to-
night?" he asked.
"I have guessed," replied Philip. His face was white and hard.
"I think you have guessed correctly, M'sieur. It was the baby's
And then, in amazement, he stared at Philip. For the other had
flung off his arm, and his eyes were blazing in the starlight.
"And you have had all this trouble, all this mystery, all this
fear because of HIM?" he demanded. His voice rang out in a harsh
laugh. "You met him last night, and again to-night, and LET HIM
GO? You, Jean Croisset? The one man in the whole world I would
give my life to meet--and YOU afraid of him? My God, if that is
Jean interrupted him, laying a firm, quiet hand on his arm.
"What would you do, M'sieur?"
"Kill him," breathed Philip. "Kill him by inches, slowly,
torturingly. And to-night, Jean. He is near. I will follow him,
and do what you have been afraid to do."
"Yes, that is it, I have been afraid to kill him," replied Jean.
Philip saw the starlight on the half-breed's face. And he knew, as
he looked, that he had called Jean Jacques Croisset the one thing
in the world that he could not be: a coward.
"I am wrong," he apologized quickly. "Jean, it is not that. I am
excited, and I take back my words. It is not fear. It is something
else. Why have you not killed him?"
"M'sieur, do you believe in an oath that you make to your God?"
"Yes. But not when it means the crushing of human souls. Then it
is a crime."
"Ah!" Jean was facing him now, his eyes aflame. "I am a Catholic,
M'sieur--one of those of the far North, who are different from the
Catholics of the south, of Montreal and Quebec. Listen! To-night I
have broken a part of my oath; I am breaking a part of it in
telling you what I am about to say. But I am not a coward, unless
it is a coward who lives too much in fear of the Great God. What
is my soul compared to that in the gentle breast of our Josephine?
I would sacrifice it to-night--give it to Wetikoo--lend it
forever to hell if I could undo what has been done. And you ask me
why I have not killed, why I have not taken the life of a beast
who is unfit to breathe God's air for an hour! Does it not occur
to you, M'sieur, that there must be a reason?"
"Besides the oath, yes!"
"And now, I will tell you of the game I played, and lost, M'sieur.
In me alone Josephine knew that she could trust, and so it was to
me that she bared her sorrow. Later word came to me that this man,
the father of the baby, was following her into the North, That was
after I had given my oath to Josephine. I thought he would come by
the other waterway, where we met you. And so we went there, alone.
I made a camp for her, and went on to meet him. My mind was made
up, M'sieur. I had determined upon the sacrifice: my soul for
hers. I was going to kill him. But I made a mistake. A friend I
had sent around by the other waterway met me, and told me that I
had missed my game. Then I returned to the camp--and you were
there. You understand this far, M'sieur?"
"Yes. Go on."
"The friend I had sent brought a letter for Josephine," resumed
Jean. "A runner on his way north gave it to him. It was from Le
M'sieur Adare, and said they were not starting north. But they did
start soon after the letter, and this same friend brought me the
news that the master had passed along the westward waterway a few
days behind the man I had planned to kill. Then we returned to
Adare House, and you came with us. And after that--the face at
the window, and the shot!"
Philip felt the half-breed's arm quiver.
"I must tell you about him or you will not understand," he went
on, and there was effort in his voice now. "The man whose face you
saw was my brother. Ah, you start! You understand now why I was
glad you failed to kill him. He was bad, all that could be bad,
M'sieur, but blood is thicker than water, and up here one does not
forget those early days when childhood knows no sin. And my
brother came up from the south as canoe-man for the man I wanted
to kill! A few hours before you saw his face at the window I met
him in the forest. He promised to leave. Then came the shot--and I
understood. The man I was going to kill had sent him to
assassinate the master of Adare. That is why I followed his trail
that night. I knew that I would find the man I wanted not far
"And you found him?"
"Yes. I came upon my brother first. And I lied. I told him he had
made a mistake, and killed you, that his life was not worth the
quill from a porcupine's back if he remained in the country. I
made him believe it was another who fought him in the forest. He
fled. I am glad of that. He will never come back. Then I followed
over the trail he had made to Adare House, and far back in the
swamp I came upon them, waiting for him. I passed myself off as my
brother, and I tricked the man I was after. We went a distance
from the camp--alone--and I was choking the life from him, when
the two others that were with him came upon us. He was dying,
M'sieur! He was black in the face, and his tongue was out. Another
second--two or three at the most--and I would have brought ruin
upon every soul at Adare House. For he was dying. And if I had
killed him all would have been lost!"
"That is impossible!" gasped Philip, as the half-breed paused. "If
you had killed him--"
"All would have been lost," repeated Jean, in a strange, hard
voice. "Listen, M'sieur. The two others leaped upon me. I fought.
And then I was struck on the head, and when I came to my senses I
was in the light of the campfire, and the man I had come to kill
was over me. One of the other men was Thoreau, the Free Trader. He
had told who I was. It was useless to lie. I told the truth--that
I had come to kill him, and why. And then--in the light of that
campfire, M'sieur--he proved to me what it would have meant if I
had succeeded. Thoreau carried the paper. It was in an envelope,
addressed to the master of Adare. They tore this open, that I
might read. And in that paper, written by the man I had come to
kill, was the whole terrible story, every detail--and it made me
cold and sick. Perhaps you begin to understand, M'sieur. Perhaps
you will see more clearly when I tell you--"
"Yes, yes," urged Philip.
"--that this man, the father of the baby, is the Lang who owns
Thoreau, who owns that freebooters' hell, who owns the string of
them from here to the Athabasca, and who lives in Montreal!"
Philip could only stare at Jean, who went on, his face the colour
of gray ash in the starlight.
"I must tell you the rest. You must understand before the great
fight comes. You know--the terrible thing happened in Montreal.
And this man Lang--all the passion of hell is in his soul! He is
rich. He has power up here, for he owns Thoreau and all his
cutthroats. And he is not satisfied with the ruin he worked down
there. He has followed Josephine. He is mad with passion--with the
"Good God, don't tell me more of that!" cried Philip. "I
understand. He has followed. And Josephine is to be the price of
"Yes, just that. He knows what it means up here for such a thing
to happen. His love for her is not love. It is the passion that
fills hell with its worst. He laid his plans before he came. That
letter, the paper I read, M'sieur! He meant to see Josephine at
once, and show it to her. There are two of those papers: one at
Thoreau's place and one in Thoreau's pocket. If anything happens
to Lang, one of them is to be delivered to the master of Adare by
Thoreau. If I had killed him it would have gone to Le M'sieur. It
is his safeguard. And there are two copies--to make the thing
sure. So we cannot kill him.
"Josephine listened to all this to-night, from Lang's own lips.
And she pleaded with him, M'sieur. She called upon him to think of
the little child, letting him believe that it was still alive; and
he laughed at her. And then, almost as I was ready to plunge my
knife into his heart, she threw up her head like an angel and told
him to do his worst--that she refused to pay the price. I never
saw her stronger than in that moment, M'sieur--in that moment when
there was no hope! I would have killed him then for the paper he
had, but the other is at Thoreau's. He has gone back there. He
says that unless he receives word of Josephine's surrender within
a week--the crash will come, the paper will be given to the master
of Adare. And now, M'sieur Philip, what do you have to say?"
"That there never was a game lost until it was played to the end,"
replied Philip, and he drew nearer to look straight and steadily
into the half-breed's eyes. "Go on, Jean. There is something more
which you have not told me. And that is the biggest thing of all.
For a space there was a startled look in Jean's eyes. Then he
shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
"Of course there is more," he said. "You have known that, M'sieur.
There is one thing which you will never know--that which Josephine
said you would not guess if you lived a thousand years. You must
forget that there is more than I have told you, for it will do you
no good to remember."
Expectancy died out of Philip's eyes.
"And yet I believe that what you are holding back from me is the
key to everything."
"I have told you enough, M'sieur--enough to make you see why we
"But not how."
"That will come soon," replied Jean, a little troubled.
The men were silent. Behind them they heard the restless movement
of the dogs. Out of the gloom came a wailing whine. Again Philip
looked at Jean.
"Do you know, your story seems weak in places, Jean," he said. "I
believe every word you have said. And yet, when you come to think
of it all, the situation doesn't seem to be so terribly alarming
to me after all. Why, for instance, do you fear those letters--
this scoundrel Lang's confession? Kill him. Let the letter come to
Adare. Cannot Josephine swear that she is innocent? Can she not
have a story of her own showing how foully Lang tried to blackmail
her into a crime? Would not Adare believe her word before that of
a freebooter? And am I not here to swear--that the child--was
There was almost a pitying look in the half-breed's eyes.
"M'sieur, what if in that letter were named people and places: the
hospital itself, the doctors, the record of birth? What if it
contained all those many things by which the master of Adare might
trail back easily to the truth? With those things in the letter
would he not investigate? And then--" He made a despairing
"I see," said Philip. Then he added, quickly "But could we not
keep the papers from Adare, Jean? Could we not watch for the
"They are not fools, M'sieur. Such a thing would be easy--if they
sent a messenger with the papers. But they have guarded against
that. Le M'sieur is to be invited to Thoreau's. The letter will be
given to him there."
Philip began pacing back and forth, his head bowed in thought, his
hands deep in his pockets.
"They have planned it well--like very devils!" he exclaimed. "And
yet--even now I see a flaw. Is Lang's threat merely a threat?
Would he, after all, actually have the letter given to Adare? If
these letters are his trump cards, why did he try to have him
killed? Would not Adare's death rob him of his greatest power?"
"In a way, M'sieur. And yet with Le M'sieur gone, both Josephine
and Miriam would be still more hopelessly in his clutches. For I
know that he had planned to kill me after the master. My brother
had not guessed that. And then the women would be alone. Holy
Heaven, I cannot see the end of crime that might come of that!
Even though they escaped him to go back to civilization, they
would be still more in his power there."
Philip's face was upturned to the stars. He laughed, but there was
no mirth in the laugh. And then he faced Jean again, and his eyes
were filled with the merciless gleam that came into those of the
wolf-beasts back in the pit.
"It is the big fight then, Jean. But, before that, just one
question more. All of this trouble might have been saved if
Josephine had married Lang. Why didn't she?"
For an instant every muscle in Jean's body became as taut as a
bowstring. He hunched a little forward, as if about to leap upon
the other, and strike him down. And then, all at once, he relaxed.
His hands unclenched. And he answered calmly:
"That is the one story that will never be told, M'sieur. Come!
They will wonder about us at Adare House. Let us return."
Philip fell in behind him. Not until they were close to the door
of the house did Jean speak again.
"You are with me, M'sieur--to the death, if it must be?"
"Yes, to the death," replied Philip.
"Then let no sleep come to your eyes so long as Josephine is
awake," went on Jean quickly. "I am going to leave Adare House to-
night, M'sieur, with team and sledge. The master must believe I
have gone over to see my sick friend on the Pipestone. I am going
there--and farther!" His voice became a low, tense whisper. "You
understand, M'sieur? We are preparing."
The two clasped hands.
"I will return late to-morrow, or to-morrow night," resumed Jean.
"It may even be the next day. But I shall travel fast--without
rest. And during that time you are on guard. In my room you will
find an extra rifle and cartridges. Carry it when you go about.
And spend as much of your time as you can with the master of
Adare. Watch Josephine. I will not see her again to-night. Warn
her for me. She must not go alone in the forests--not even to the
"I understand," said Philip.
They entered the house. Twenty minutes later, from the window of
his room, Philip saw a dark figure walking swiftly back toward the
forest. Still later he heard the distant wail of a husky coming
from the direction of the pit, and he knew that the first gun in
the big fight had been fired--that Jean Jacques Croisset was off
on his thrilling mission into the depths of the forests. What that
mission was he had not asked him. But he had guessed. And his
blood ran warm with a strange excitement.
Again there filled Philip the desire to be with Jean in the
forest. The husky's wail told him that the half-breed had begun
his journey. Between this hour and to-morrow night he would be
threading his way swiftly over the wilderness trails on his
strange mission. Philip envied him the action, the exhaustion that
would follow. He envied even the dogs running in the traces. He
was a living dynamo, overcharged, with every nerve in him drawn to
the point that demanded the reaction of physical exertion. He knew
that he could not sleep. The night would be one long and tedious
wait for the dawn. And Jean had told him not to sleep as long as
Josephine was awake!
Was he to take that literally? Did Jean mean that he was to watch
her? He wondered if she was in bed now. At least the half-breed's
admonition offered him an excuse. He would go to her room. If
there was a light he would knock, and ask her if she would join
him in the piano-room. He looked at his watch. It was nearly
midnight. Probably she had retired.
He opened his door and entered the hall. Quietly he went to the
end room. There was no light--and he heard no sound. He was
standing close to it, concealed in the shadows, when his heart
gave a sudden jump. Advancing toward him down the hall was a
figure clad in a flowing white night-robe.
At first he did not know whether it was Josephine or Miriam. And
then, as she came under one of the low-burning lamps, he saw that
it was Miriam. She had turned, and was looking back toward the
room where she had left her husband. Her beautiful hair was loose,
and fell in lustrous masses to her hips. She was listening. And in
that moment Philip heard a low, passionate sob. She turned her
face toward him again, and he could see it drawn with agony. In
the lamp-glow her hands were clasped at her partly bared breast.
She was barefoot, and made no sound as she advanced. Philip drew
himself back closer against the wall. He was sure she had not seen
him. A moment later Miriam turned into the corridor that led into
Adare's big room.
Philip felt that he was trembling. In Miriam's face he had seen
something that had made his heart beat faster. Quietly he went to
the corridor, turned, and made his way cautiously to the door of
Adare's room. It was dark inside, the corridor was black. Hidden
in the gloom he listened. He heard Miriam sink in one of the big
chairs, and from her movement, and the sound of her sobbing, he
knew that she had buried her head in her arms on the table. He
listened for minutes to the grief that seemed racking her soul.
Then there was silence. A moment later he heard her, and she was
so close to the door that he dared not move. She passed him, and
turned into the main hall. He followed again.
She paused only for an instant at the door of the room in which
she and her husband slept. Then she passed on, and scarcely
believing his eyes Philip saw her open the door that led out into
She was full in the glow of the lamp that hung over the door now,
and Philip saw her plainly. A biting gust of wind flung back her
hair. He saw her bare arms; she turned, and he caught the white
gleam of a naked shoulder. Before he could speak--before he could
call her name, she had darted out into the night!
With a gasp of amazement he sprang after her. Her bare feet were
deep in the snow when he caught her. A frightened cry broke from
her lips. He picked her up in his arms as if she had been a child,
and ran back into the hall with her, closing the door after them.
Panting, shivering with the cold, she stared at him without
"Why were you going out there?" he whispered. "Why--like that?"
For a moment he was afraid that from her heaving bosom and
quivering lips would burst forth the strange excitement which she
was fighting back. Something told him that Adare must not discover
them in the hall. He caught her hands. They were cold as ice.
"Go to your room," he whispered gently. "You must not let him know
you were out there in the snow--like this. You--were partly
Purposely he gave her the chance to seize upon this explanation.
The sobbing breath came to her lips again.
"I guess--it must have been--that," she said, drawing her hands
from him. "I was going out--to--the baby. Thank you, Philip. I--I
will go to my room now."
She left him, and not until her door had closed behind her did he
move. Had she spoken the truth? Had she in those few moments been
temporarily irresponsible because of grieving over the baby's
death? Some inner consciousness answered him in the negative. It
was not that. And yet--what more could there be? He remembered.
Jean's words, his insistent warnings. Resolutely he moved toward
Josephine's room, and knocked softly upon her door. He was
surprised at the promptness with which her voice answered. When he
spoke his name, and told her it was important for him to see her,
she opened the door. She had unbound her hair. But she was still
dressed, and Philip knew that she had been sitting alone in the
darkness of her room.
She looked at him strangely and expectantly. It seemed to Philip
as if she had been waiting for news which she dreaded, and which
she feared that he was bringing her.
"May I come in?" he whispered. "Or would you prefer to go into the
"You may come in, Philip," she replied, letting him take her hand.
"I am still dressed. I have been so dreadfully nervous to-night
that I haven't thought of going to bed. And the moon is so
beautiful through my window. It has been company." Then she asked:
"What have you to tell me, Philip?"
She had stepped into the light that flooded through the window. It
transformed her hair into a lustrous mantle of deep gold; into her
eyes it put the warm glow of the stars. He made a movement, as if
to put his arms about her, but he caught himself, and a little
joyous breath came to Josephine's lips. It was her room, where she
slept--and he had come at a strange hour. She understood the
movement, his desire to take her in his arms, and his big, clean
thoughts of her as he drew a step back. It sent a flush of
pleasure and still deeper trust into her cheeks.
"You have something to tell me?" she asked.
"Yes--about your mother."
Her hand had touched his arm, and he felt her start. Briefly he
told what had happened. Josephine's face was so white that it
startled him when he had finished.
"She said--she was going to the baby!" she breathed, as if
whispering the words to herself. "And she was in her bare feet,
with her hair down, and her gown open to the snow and wind! Oh my
"Perhaps she was in her sleep," hurried Philip. "It might have
been that, Josephine."
"No, she wasn't in her sleep," replied Josephine, meeting his
eyes. "You know that, Philip. She was awake. And you have come to
tell me so that I may watch her. I understand."
"She might rest easier with you--if you can arrange it," he
agreed. "Your father worries over her now. It will not do to let
him know this."
"I will bring her to my room, Philip. I will tell my father that I
am nervous and cannot sleep. And I will say nothing to her of what
has happened. I will go as soon as you have returned to your
He went to the door, and there for a moment she stood close to
him, gazing up into his face. Still he did not put his hands to
her. To-night--in her own room--it seemed to him something like
sacrilege to touch her. And then, suddenly, she raised her two
arms up through her shimmering hair to his shoulders. and held her
lips to him.
He caught her to him. Her arms tightened about his shoulders. For
a moment he felt the thrill of her warm lips. Then she drew back,
The door closed softly, and he returned to his room. Again the
song of life, of love, of hope that pictured but one glorious end
filled his soul to overflowing. A little later and he knew that
Adare's wife had gone with Josephine to her room. He went to bed.
And sleep came to him now, filled with dreams in which he lived
with Josephine always at his side, laughing and singing with him,
and giving him her lips to kiss in their joyous paradise.
Out of these dreams he was awakened by a sound that had slowly and
persistently become a part of his mental consciousness. It was a
tap, tap, tap at his window. At last he sat up and listened. It
was in the gray gloom of dawn. Again the sound was repeated: tap,
tap, tap on the pane of glass.
He slipped out of bed, his hand seeking the automatic under his
pillow. He had slept with the window partly open. Covering it with
his pistol, he called:
"Who is there?"
"A runner from Jean Croisset," came back a cautious voice. "I have
a written message for you, M'sieur."
He saw an arm thrust through the window, in the hand a bit of
paper. He advanced cautiously until he could see the face that was
peering in. It was a thin, dark, fur-hooded face, with eyes black
and narrow like Jean's, a half-breed. He seized the paper, and,
still watching the face and arm, lighted a lamp. Not until he had
read the note did his suspicion leave him.
This is Pierre Langlois, my friend of the Pipestone. If anything
should happen that you need me quickly let him come after me. You
may trust him. He will put up his tepee in the thick timber close
to the dog pit. We have fought together. L'Ange saved his wife
from the smallpox. I am going westward.
Philip sprang back to the window and gripped the mittened hand
that still hung over the sill.
"I'm glad to know you, Pierre! Is there no other word from Jean?"
"Only the note, Ookimow."
"You just came?"
"Aha. My dogs and sledge are back in the forest."
"Listen!" Philip turned toward the door. In the hall he heard
footsteps. "Le M'sieur is awake," he said quickly to Pierre. "I
will see you in the forest!"
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the half-breed was
gone. A moment later Philip knew that it was Adare who had passed
his door. He dressed and shaved himself before he left his room.
He found Adare in his study. Metoosin already had a fire burning,
and Adare was standing before this alone, when Philip entered.
Something was lacking in Adare's greeting this morning. There was
an uneasy, searching look in his eyes as he looked at Philip. They
shook hands, and his hand was heavy and lifeless. His shoulders
seemed to droop a little more, and his voice was unnatural when he
"You did not go to bed until quite late last night, Philip?"
"Yes, it was late, Mon Pere."
For a moment Adare was silent, his head bowed, his eyes on the
floor. He did not raise his gaze when he spoke again.
"Did you hear anything--late--about midnight?" he asked. He
straightened, and looked steadily into Philip's eyes. "Did you see
For an instant Philip felt that it was useless to attempt
concealment under the searching scrutiny of the older man's eyes.
Like an inspiration came to him a thought of Josephine.
"Josephine was the last person I saw after leaving you," he said
truthfully. "And she was in her room before eleven o'clock."
"It is strange, unaccountable," mused Adare. "Miriam left her bed
last night while I was asleep. It must have been about midnight,
for it is then that the moon shines full into our window. In
returning she awakened me. And her hair was damp, there was snow
on her gown! My God, she had been outdoors, almost naked! She said
that she must have walked in her sleep, that she had awakened to
find herself in the open door with the wind and snow beating upon
her. This is the first time. I never knew her to do it before. It
"She is sleeping now?"
"I don't know. Josephine came a little later and said that she
could not sleep. Miriam went with her."
"It must have been the baby," comforted Philip, placing a hand on
Adare's arm. "We can stand it, Mon Pere. We are men. With them it
is different. We must bear up under our grief. It is necessary for
us to have strength for them as well as ourselves."
"Do you think it is that?" cried Adare with sudden eagerness. "If
it is, I am ashamed of myself, Philip! I have been brooding too
much over the strange change in Miriam. But I see now. It must
have been the baby. It has been a tremendous strain. I have heard
her crying when she did not know that I heard. I am ashamed of
myself. And the blow has been hardest on you!"
"And Josephine," added Philip.
John Adare had thrown back his shoulders, and with a deep feeling
of relief Philip saw the old light in his eyes.
"We must cheer them up," he added quickly. "I will ask Josephine
if they will join us at breakfast, Mon Pere."
He closed the door behind him when he left the room, and he went
at once to rouse Josephine if she was still in bed. He was
agreeably surprised to find that both Miriam and Josephine were up
and dressing. With this news he returned to Adare.
Three quarters of an hour later they met in the breakfast-room. It
took only a glance to tell him that Josephine was making a last
heroic fight. She had dressed her hair in shining coils low over
her neck and cheeks this morning in an effort to hide her pallor.
Miriam seemed greatly changed from the preceding night. Her eyes
were clearer. A careful toilette had taken away the dark circles
from under them and had added a touch of colour to her lips and
cheeks. She went to Adare when the two men entered, and with a
joyous rumble of approval the giant held her off at arm's length
and looked at her.
"It didn't do you any harm after all," Philip heard him say. "Did
you tell Mignonne of your adventure, Ma Cheri?"
He did not hear Miriam's reply, for he was looking down into
Josephine's face. Her lips were smiling. She made no effort to
conceal the gladness in her eyes as he bent and kissed her.
"It was a hard night, dear."
"Terrible," she whispered. "Mother told me what happened. She is
stronger this morning. We must keep the truth from HIM."
He felt her start.
"Hush!" she breathed. "You know--you understand what I mean. Let
us sit down to breakfast now."
During the hour that followed Philip was amazed at Miriam. She
laughed and talked as she had not done before. The bit of
artificial colour she had given to her cheeks and lips faded under
the brighter flush that came into her face. He could see that
Josephine was nearly as surprised as himself. John Adare was
fairly boyish in his delight. The meal was finished and Philip and
Adare were about to light their cigars when a commotion outside
drew them all to the window that overlooked one side of the
clearing. Out of the forest had come two dog-teams, their drivers
shouting and cracking their long caribou-gut whips. Philip stared,
conscious that Josephine's hand was clutching his arm. Neither of
the shouting men was Jean.
"An Indian, and Renault the quarter-blood," grunted Adare. "Wonder
what they want here in November. They should be on their trap-
"Perhaps, Mon Pere, they have come to see their friends,"
suggested Josephine. "You know, it has been a long time since some
of them have seen us. I would be disappointed if our people didn't
show they were glad because of your home-coming!"
"Of course, that's it!" cried Adare. "Ho, Metoosin!" he roared,
turning toward the door. "Metoosin! Paitoo ta! Wawep isewin!"
Metoosin appeared at the door.
"Build a great fire in the una kah house," commanded Adare. Feed
all who come in from the forests, Metoosin. Open up tobacco and
preserves, and flour and bacon. Nothing in the storeroom is too
good for them. And send Jean to me! Where is he?"
"Numma tao, ookimow."
"Gone!" exclaimed Adare.
"He didn't want to disturb you last night," explained Philip. "He
made an early start for the Pipestone."
"If he was an ordinary man, I'd say he was in love with one of the
Langlois girls," said Adare, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Neah,
Metoosin! Make them comfortable, and we will all see them later."
As Metoosin went Adare turned upon the others: "Shall we all go
out now?" he asked.
"Splendid!" accepted Josephine eagerly. "Come, Mikawe, we can be
ready in a moment!"
She ran from the room, leading her mother by the hand. Philip and
Adare followed them, and shortly the four were ready to leave the
house. The una kah, or guest house, was in the edge of the timber.
It was a long, low building of logs, and was always open with its
accommodations to the Indians and half-breeds--men, women, and
children--who came in from the forest trails. Renault and the
Indian were helping Metoosin build fires when they entered. Philip
thought that Renault's eyes rested upon him in a curious and
searching glance even as Adare shook hands with him. He was more
interested in the low words both the Indian and the blood muttered
as they stood for a moment with bowed heads before Josephine and
Miriam. Then Renault raised his head and spoke direct to
"I breeng word for heem of Jan Breuil an' wewimow over on Jac'
fish ma Kichi Utooskayakun," he said in a low voice. "Heem lee'l
girl so seek she goin' die."
"Little Marie? She is sick--dying, you say?" cried Josephine.
"Aha. She ver' dam' seek. She burn up lak fire."
Josephine looked up at Philip.
"I knew she was sick," she said. "But I didn't think it was so
bad. If she dies it will be my fault. I should have gone." She
turned quickly to Renault. "When did you see her last?" she asked.
"It is a sickness the children have each winter," she explained,
looking questioningly into Philip's eyes again. "It kills quickly
when left alone. But I have medicine that will cure it. There is
still time. We must go, Philip. We must!"
Her face had paled a little. She saw the gathering lines in
Philip's forehead. He thought of Jean's words--the warning they
carried. She pressed his arm, and her mouth was firm.
"I am going, Philip," she said softly. "Will you go with me?"
"I will, if you must go," he said. "But it is not best."
"It is best for little Marie," she retorted, and left him to tell
Adare and her mother of Renault's message.
Renault stepped close to Philip. His back was to the others. He
spoke in a low voice:
"I breeng good word from Jean Croisset, M'sieur. Heem say Soomin
Renault good man lak Pierre Langlois, an' he fight lak devil when
ask. I breeng Indian an' two team. We be in forest near dog
watekan, where Pierre mak his fire an' tepee. You understand?
"Yes--I understand," whispered Philip, "And Jean has gone on--to
"He go lak win' to Francois over on Waterfound. Francois come in
one hour--two, t'ree, mebby."
Josephine and Adare approached them.
"Mignonne is turning nurse again," rumbled Adare, one of his great
arms thrown affectionately about her waist. "You'll have a jolly
run on a clear morning like this, Philip. But remember, if it is
the smallpox I forbid her to expose herself!"
"I shall see to that, Mon Pere. When do we start, Josephine?"
"As soon as I can get ready and Metoosin brings the dogs," replied
Josephine. "I am going to the house now. Will you come with me?"
It was an hour before Metoosin had brought the dogs up from the
pit and they were ready to start. Philip had armed himself with a
rifle and his automatic, and Josephine had packed both medicine
and food in a large basket. The new snow was soft, and Metoosin
had brought a toboggan instead of a sledge with runners. In the
traces were Captain and five of his team-mates.
"Isn't the pack going with us?" asked Philip.
"I never take them when there is very bad sickness, like this,"
explained Josephine. "There is something about the nearness of
death that makes them howl. I haven't been able to train that out
Philip was disappointed, but he said nothing more. He tucked
Josephine among the furs, cracked the long whip Metoosin had given
him, and they were off, with Miriam and her husband waving their
hands from the door of Adare House. They had scarcely passed out
of view in the forest when with a sudden sharp command Josephine
stopped the dogs. She sprang out of her furs and stood laughingly
"Father always insists that I ride. He says it's not good for a
woman to run," she said. "But I do. I love to run. There!"
As she spoke she had thrown her outer coat on the sledge, and
stood before him, straight and slim. Her hair was in a long braid.
"Now, are you ready?" she challenged.
"Good Lord, have mercy on me!" gasped Philip. "You look as if you
might fly, Josephine!"
Her signal to the dogs was so low he scarcely heard it, and they
sped along the white and narrow trail into which Josephine had
directed them. Philip fell in behind her. It had always roused a
certain sense of humour in him to see a woman run. But in
Josephine he saw now the swiftness and lithesome grace of a fawn.
Her head was thrown back, her mittened hands were drawn up to her
breast as the forest man runs, and her shining braid danced and
rippled in the early sun with each quick step she took.
Ahead of her the gray and yellow backs of the dogs rose and fell
with a rhythmic movement that was almost music. Their ears aslant,
their crests bristling, their bushy tails curling like plumes over
their hips, they responded with almost automatic precision to the
low words that fell from the lips of the girl behind them.
With each minute that passed Philip wondered how much longer
Josephine could keep up the pace. They had run fully a mile and
his own breath was growing shorter when the toe of his moccasined
foot caught under a bit of brushwood and he plunged head foremost
into the snow. When he had brushed the snow out of his eyes and
ears Josephine was standing over him, laughing. The dogs were
squatted on their haunches, looking back.
"My poor Philip!" she laughed, offering him an assisting hand. "We
almost lost you, didn't we? It was Captain who missed you first,
and he almost toppled me over the sled!"
Her face was radiant. Lips, eyes, and cheeks were glowing. Her
breast rose and fell quickly.
"It was your fault!" he accused her. "I couldn't keep my eyes off
you, and never thought of my feet. I shall have my revenge--here!"
He drew her into his arms, protesting. Not until he had kissed her
parted, half-smiling lips did he release her.
"I'm going to ride now," she declared. "I'm not going to run the
danger of being accused again."
He wrapped her again in the furs on the toboggan. It was eight
miles to Jac Breuil's, and they reached his cabin in two hours.
Breuil was not much more than a boy, scarcely older than the dark-
eyed little French girl who was his wife, and their eyes were big
with terror. With a thrill of wonder and pleasure Philip observed
the swift change in them as Josephine sprang from the toboggan.
Breuil was almost sobbing as he whispered to Philip:
"Oh, ze sweet Ange, M'sieur! She cam jus' in time."
Josephine was bending over little Marie's cot when they followed
her and the girl mother into the cabin. In a moment she looked up
with a glad smile.
"It is the same sickness, Marie," she said to the mother. "I have
medicine here that will cure it. The fever isn't as bad as I
thought it would be."
Noon saw a big change in the cabin. Little Marie's temperature was
falling rapidly. Breuil and his wife were happy. After dinner
Josephine explained again how they were to give the medicine she
was leaving, and at two o'clock they left on their return journey
to Adare House. The sun had disappeared hours before. Gray banks
of cloud filled the sky, and it had grown much colder.
"We will reach home only a little before dark," said Philip. "You
had better ride, Josephine."
He was eager to reach Adare House. By this time he felt that Jean
should have returned, and he was confident that there were others
of the forest people besides Pierre, Renault, and the Indian in
the forest near the pit. For an hour he kept up a swift pace.
Later they came to a dense cover of black spruce two miles from
Adare House. They had traversed a part of this when the dogs
stopped. Directly ahead of them had fallen a dead cedar, barring
the trail. Philip went to the toboggan for the trail axe.
"I haven't noticed any wind, have you?" he asked. "Not enough to
topple over a cedar."
He went to the tree and began cutting. Scarcely had his axe fallen
half a dozen times when a scream of terror turned him about like a
flash. He had only time to see that Josephine had left the sledge,
and was struggling in the arms of a man. In that same instant two
others had leaped upon him. He had not time to strike, to lift his
axe. He went down, a pair of hands gripping at his throat. He saw
a face over him, and he knew now that it was the face of the man
he had seen in the firelight, the face of Lang, the Free Trader.
Every atom of strength in him rose in a superhuman effort to throw
off his assailants. Then came the blow. He saw the club over him,
a short, thick club, in the hand of Thoreau himself. After that
followed darkness and oblivion, punctuated by the CRACK, CRACK,
CRACK of a revolver and the howling of dogs--sounds that grew
fainter and fainter until they died away altogether, and he sank
into the stillness of night.
It was almost dark when consciousness stirred Philip again. With
an effort he pulled himself to his knees, and stared about him.
Josephine was gone, the dogs were gone. He staggered to his feet,
a moaning cry on his lips. He saw the sledge. Still in the traces
lay the bodies of two of the dogs, and he knew what the pistol
shots had meant. The others had been cut loose; straight out into
the forest led the trails of several men; and the meaning of it
all, the reality of what had happened, surged upon him in all its
horror. Lang and his cutthroats had carried off Josephine. He knew
by the thickening darkness that they had time to get a good start
on their way to Thoreau's.
One thought filled his dizzy brain now. He must reach Jean and the
camp near the pit. He staggered as he turned his face homeward. At
times the trail seemed to reach up and strike him in the face.
There was a blinding pain back of his eyes. A dozen times in the
first mile he fell, and each time it was harder for him to regain
his feet. The darkness of night grew heavier about him, and now
and then he found himself crawling on his hands and knees. It was
two hours before his dazed senses caught the glow of a fire ahead
of him. Even then it seemed an age before he reached it. And when
at last he staggered into the circle of light he saw half a dozen
startled faces, and he heard the strange cry of Jean Jacques
Croisset as he sprang up and caught him in his arms. Philip's
strength was gone, but he still had time to tell Jean what had
happened before he crumpled down into the snow.
And then he heard a voice, Jean's voice, crying fierce commands to
the men about the fire; he heard excited replies, the hurry of
feet, the barking of dogs. Something warm and comforting touched
his lips. He struggled to bring himself back into life. He seemed
to have been fighting hours before he opened his eyes. He pulled
himself up, stared into the dark, livid face of Jean, the half-
"The hour--has come--" he murmured.
"Yes, the hour has come, M'sieur!" cried Jean. "The swiftest teams
and the swiftest runners in this part of the Northland are on the
trail, and by morning the forest people will be roused from here
to the Waterfound, from the Cree camp on Lobstick to the Gray Loon
waterway! Drink this, M'sieur. There is no time to lose. For it is
Jean Jacques Croisset who tells you that not a wolf will howl this
night that does not call forth the signal to those who love our
Jean's thrilling words burned into Philip's consciousness like
fire. They roused him from his stupor, and he began to take in
deep breaths of the chill night air, and to see more clearly. The
camp was empty now. The men were gone. Only Jean was with him, his
face darkly flushed and his eyes burning. Philip rose slowly to
his feet. There was no longer the sickening dizziness in his head,
He inhaled still deeper breaths, while Jean stood a step back and
watched. Far off in the forest he heard the faint barking of dogs.
"They are running like the wind!" breathed Jean. "Those are
Renault's dogs. They are two miles away!"
He took Philip by the arm.
"I have made a comfortable bed for you in Pierre's tepee, M'sieur.
You must lie down, and I will get your supper. You will need all
of your strength soon."
"But I must know what is happening," protested Philip. "My God, I
cannot lie down like a tired dog--with Josephine out there with
Lang! I am ready now, Jean. I am not hungry. And the pain is gone.
See--I am as steady as you!" he cried excitedly, gripping Jean's
hand. "God in Heaven, who knows what may be happening out there!"
"Josephine is safe for a time, M'sieur," assured Jean. "Listen to
me, Netootam! I feared this. That is why I warned you. Lang is
taking her to Thoreau's. He believes that we will not dare to
pursue, and that Josephine will send back word she is there of her
own pleasure. Why? Because he has sworn to give Le M'sieur the
confession if we make him trouble. Mon Dieu, he thinks we will not
dare! and even now, Netootam, six of the fastest teams and
swiftest runners within a hundred miles are gone to spread the
word among the forest people that L'Ange, our Josephine, has been
carried off by Thoreau and his beasts! Before dawn they will begin
to gather where the forks meet, twelve miles off there toward the
Devil's Nest, and to-morrow--"
Jean crossed himself.
"Our Lady forgive us, if it is a sin to take the lives of twenty
such men," he said softly. "Not one will live to tell the story.
And not a log of Thoreau House will stand to hold the secret which
will die forever with to-morrow's end."
Philip came near to Jean now. He placed his two hands on the half-
breed's shoulders, and for a moment looked at him without
speaking. His face was strangely white.
"I understand--everything, Jean," he whispered huskily, and his
lips seemed parched. "To-morrow, we will destroy all evidence, and
kill. That is the one way. And that secret which you dread, which
Josephine has told me I could not guess in a thousand years, will
be buried forever. But Jean--I HAVE GUESSED IT. I KNOW! It has
come to me at last, and--my God!--I understand!"
Slowly, with a look of horror in his eyes, Jean drew back from
him. Philip, with bowed head, saw nothing of the struggle in the
half-breed's face. When Jean spoke it was in a strange voice and
Philip looked up. In the fire-glow Jean was reaching out his hand
to him. In the faces of the two men was a new light, the birth of
a new brotherhood. Their hands clasped. Silently they gazed into
each other's eyes, while over them the beginning of storm moaned
in the treetops and the clouds raced in snow-gray armies under the
"Breathe no word of what may have come to you to-night," spoke
Jean then. "You will swear that?"
"And to-morrow we fight! You see now--you understand what that
fight means, M'sieur?"
"Yes. It means that Josephine--"
"Tsh! Even I must not hear what is on your lips, M'sieur! I cannot
believe that you have guessed true. I do not want to know. I dare
not. And now, M'sieur, will you lie down? I will go to Le M'sieur
and tell him I have received word that you and Josephine are to
stay at Breuil's overnight. He must not know what has happened. He
must not be at the big fight to-morrow. When it is all over we
will tell him that we did not want to terrify him and Miriam over
Josephine. If he should be at the fight, and came hand to hand
with Lang or Thoreau--"
"He must not go!" exclaimed Philip. "Hurry to him, Jean. I will
boil some coffee while you are gone. Bring another rifle. They
robbed me of mine, and the pistol."
Jean prepared to leave.
"I will return soon," he said. "We should start for the Forks
within two hours, M'sieur. In that time you must rest."
He slipped away into the gloom in the direction of the pit. For
several minutes Philip stood near the fire staring into the
flames. Then he suddenly awoke into life. The thought that had
come to him this night had changed his world for him. And he
wondered now if he was right. Jean had said: "I cannot believe
that you have guessed true," and yet in the half-breed's face, in
his horror-filled eyes, in the tense gathering of his body was
revealed the fear that he HAD! But if he had made a mistake! If he
had guessed wrong! The hot blood surged in his face. If he had
guessed wrong--his thought would be a crime. He had made up his
mind to drive the guess out of his head, and he went into the
tepee to find food and coffee. When Jean returned, an hour later,
supper was waiting in the heat of the fire. The half-breed had
brought Philip's rifle along with his own.
"What did he say?" asked Philip, as they sat down to eat. "He had
"None, M'sieur," replied Jean, a strange smile on his lips. "He
was with Miriam. When I entered they were romping like two
children in the music-room. Her hair was down. She was pulling
his beard, and they were laughing so that at first they did not
hear me when I spoke to them. Laughing, M'sieur!"
His eyes met Philip's.
"Has Josephine told you what the Indians call them?" he asked
"In every tepee in these forests they speak of them as Kah
Sakehewawin, 'the lovers.' Ah, M'sieur, there is one picture in my
brain which I shall never forget. I first came to Adare House on a
cold, bleak night, dying of hunger, and first of all I looked
through a lighted window. In a great chair before the fire sat Le
M'sieur, so that I could see his face and what was gathered up
close in his arms. At first I thought it was a sleeping child he
was holding. And then I saw the long hair streaming to the floor,
and in that moment La Fleurette--beautiful as the angels I had
dreamed of--raised her face and saw me at the window. And during
all the years that have passed since then it has been like that,
M'sieur. They have been lovers. They will be until they die."
Philip was silent. He knew that Jean was looking at him. He felt
that he was reading the thoughts in his heart. A little later he
drew out his watch and looked at it.
"What time is it, M'sieur?"
"Nine o'clock," replied Philip. "Why wait another hour, Jean? I am
"Then we will go," replied Jean, springing to his feet. "Throw
these things into the tepee, M'sieur, while I put the dogs in the
They moved quickly now. Over them the gray heavens seemed to drop
lower. Through the forest swept a far monotone, like the breaking
of surf on a distant shore. With the wind came a thin snow, and
the darkness gathered so that beyond the rim of fire-light there
was a black chaos in which the form of all things was lost. It was
not a night for talk. It was filled with the whisperings of storm,
and to Philip those whisperings were an oppressive presage of the
tragedy that lay that night ahead of them. The dogs were
harnessed, five that Jean had chosen from the pack; and straight
out into the pit of gloom the half-breed led them. In that
darkness Philip could see nothing. But not once did Jean falter,
and the dogs followed him, occasionally whining at the strangeness
and unrest of the night; and close behind them came Philip. For a
long time there was no sound but the tread of their feet, the
scraping of the toboggan, the patter of the dogs, and the wind
that bit down from out of the thick sky into the spruce tops. They
had travelled an hour when they came to a place where the
smothering weight of the darkness seemed to rise from about them.
It was the edge of a great open, a bit of the Barren that reached
down like a solitary finger from the North: treeless, shrubless,
the playground of the foxes and the storm winds. Here Jean fell
back beside Philip for a moment.
"You are not tiring, M'sieur?"
"I am getting stronger every mile," declared Philip. "I feel no
effects of the blow now, Jean. How far did you say it was to the
place where our people are to meet?"
"Eight miles. We have come four. In this darkness we could make it
faster without the dogs, but they are carrying a hundred pounds of
tepee, guns, and food."
He urged the dogs on in the open space. Another hour and they had
come again to the edge of forest. Here they rested.
"There will be some there ahead of us," said Jean. "Renault and
the other runners will have had more than four hours. They will
have visited a dozen cabins on the trap-lines. Pierre reached old
Kaskisoon and his Swamp Crees in two hours. They love Josephine
next to their Manitou. The Indians will be there to a man!"
Philip did not reply. But his heart beat like a drum at the
sureness and triumph that thrilled in the half-breed's voice. As
they went on, he lost account of time in the flashing pictures
that came to him of the other actors in this night's drama; of
those half-dozen Paul Reveres of the wilderness speeding like
shadows through the mystery of the night, of the thin-waisted,
brown-faced men who were spreading the fires of vengeance from
cabin to cabin and from tepee to tepee. Through his lips there
came a sobbing breath of exultation, of joy. He did not tire. At
times he wanted to run on ahead of Jean and the dogs. Yet he saw
that no such desire seized upon Jean. Steadily--with a precision
that was almost uncanny--the half-breed led the way. He did not
hurry, he did not hesitate. He was like a strange spirit of the
night itself, a voiceless and noiseless shadow ahead, an automaton
of flesh and blood that had become more than human to Philip. In
this man's guidance he lost his fear for Josephine.
At last they came to the foot of a rock ridge. Up this the dogs
toiled, with Jean pulling at the lead-trace. They came to the
top. There they stopped. And standing like a hewn statue, his
voice breaking in a panting cry, Jean Jacques Croisett pointed
down into the plain below.
Half a mile away a light stood out like a glowing star in the
darkness. It was a campfire.
"It is a fire at the Forks," spoke Jean above the wind. "Mon Dieu,
M'sieur--is it not something to have friends like that!"
He led the way a short distance along the face of the ridge, and
then they plunged down the valley of deeper gloom. The forest was
thick and low, and Philip guessed that they were passing through a
swamp. When they came out of it the fire was almost in their
faces. The howling of dogs greeted them. As they dashed into the
light half a dozen men had risen and were facing them, their
rifles in the crooks of their arms. From out of the six there
strode a tall, thin, smooth-shaven man toward them, and from
Jean's lips there fell words which he tried to smother.
"Mother of Heaven, it is Father George, the Missioner from
Baldneck!" he gasped.
In another moment the Missioner was wringing the half-breed's
mittened hand. He was a man of sixty. His face was of cadaverous
thinness, and there was a feverish glow in his eyes.
"Jean Croisset!" he cried. "I was at Ladue's when Pierre came with
the word. Is it true? Has the purest soul in all this world been
stolen by those Godless men at Thoreau's? I cannot believe it! But
if it is so, I have come to fight!"
"It is true, Father," replied Jean. "They have stolen her as the
wolves of white men stole Red Fawn from her father's tepee three
years ago. And to-morrow--"
"The vengeance of the Lord will descend upon them," interrupted
the Missioner. "And this, Jean, your friend?"
"Is M'sieur Philip Darcambal, the husband of Josephine," said
As the Missioner gripped Philip's hand his thin fingers had in
them the strength of steel.
"Ladue told me that she had found her man," he said. "May God
bless you, my son! It was I, Father George, who baptized her years
and years ago. For me she made Adare House a home from the time
she was old enough to put her tiny arms about my neck and lisp my
name. I was on my way to see you when night overtook me at
Ladue's. I am not a fighting man, my son. God does not love their
kind. But it was Christ who flung the money-changers from the
temple--and so I have come to fight."
The others were close about them now, and Jean was telling of the
ambush in the forest. Purple veins grew in the Missioner's
forehead as he listened. There were no questions on the lips of
the others. With dark, tense faces and eyes that burned with
slumbering fires they heard Jean. There were the grim and silent
Foutelles, father and son, from the Caribou Swamp. Tall and
ghostlike in the firelight, more like spectre than man, was
Janesse, a white beard falling almost to his waist, a thick marten
skin cap shrouding his head, and armed with a long barrelled
smooth-bore that shot powder and ball. From the fox grounds out on
the Barren had come "Mad" Joe Horn behind eight huge malemutes
that pulled with the strength of oxen. And with the Missioner had
come Ladue, the Frenchman, who could send a bullet through the
head of a running fox at two hundred yards four times out of five.
Kaskisoon and his Crees had not arrived, and Philip knew that Jean
"I heard three days ago of a big caribou herd to the west," said
Janesse in answer to the half-breed's inquiry. "It may be they
have gone for meat."
They drew close about the fire, and the Foutelles dragged in a
fresh birch log for the flames. "Mad" Joe Horn, with hair and
beard as red as copper, hummed the Storm Song under his breath.
Janesse stood with his back to the heat, facing darkness and the
west. He raised a hand, and all listened. For sixty years his
world had been bounded by the four walls of the forests. It was
said that he could hear the padded footfall of the lynx--and so
all listened while the hand was raised, though they heard nothing
but the wailing of the wind, the crackling of the fire, and the
unrest of the dogs in the timber behind them. For many seconds
Janesse did not lower his hand; and then, still unheard by the
others, there came slowly out of the gloom a file of dusky-faced,
silent, shadowy forms. They were within the circle of light before
Jean or his companions had moved, and at their head was Kaskisoon,
the Cree: tall, slender as a spruce sapling, and with eyes that
went searchingly from face to face with the uneasy glitter of an
ermine's. They fell upon Jean, and with a satisfied "Ugh!" and a
hunch of his shoulders he turned to his followers. There were
seven. Six of them carried rifles. In the hands of the seventh was
After this, one by one, and two by two, there were added others to
the circle of waiting men about the fire. By two o'clock there
were twenty. They came faster after that. With Bernard, from the
south, came Renault, who had gone to the end of his run. From the
east, west, and south they continued to come--but from out of the
northwest there led no trail. Off there was Thoreau's place. Pack
after pack was added to the dogs in the timber. Their voices rose
above and drowned all other sound. Teams strained at their leashes
to get at the throats of rival teams, and from the black shelter
in which they were fastened came a continuous snarling and
gnashing of fangs. Over the coals of a smaller fire simmered two
huge pots of coffee from which each arrival helped himself; and on
long spits over the larger fire were dripping chunks of moose and
caribou meat from which they cut off their own helpings.
In the early dawn there were forty who gathered about Father
George to listen to the final words he had to say. He raised his
hands. Then he bowed his head, and there was a strange silence.
Words of prayer fell solemnly from his lips. Partly it was in
Cree, partly in French, and when he had finished a deep breath ran
through the ranks of those who listened to him. Then he told them,
beginning with Cree, in the three languages of the wilderness,
that they were to be led that day by Jean Jacques Croisset and
Philip Darcambal, the husband of Josephine. Two of the Indians
were to remain behind to care for the camp and dogs. Beyond that
they needed no instructions.
They were ready, and Jean was about to give the word to start when
there was an interruption. Out of the forest and into their midst
came a figure--the form of a man who rose above them like a giant,
and whose voice as it bellowed Jean's name had in it the wrath of
It was the master of Adare!
For a moment John Adare stood like an avenging demon in the midst
of the startled faces of the forest men. His shaggy hair blew out
from under his gray lynx cap. His eyes were red and glaring with
the lights of the hunting wolf. His deep chest rose and fell in
panting breaths. Then he saw Jean and Philip, side by side. Toward
them he came, as if to crush them, and Philip sprang toward him,
so that he was ahead of Jean. Adare stopped. The wind rattled in
"And you came WITHOUT ME--"
His voice was a rumble, deep, tense, like the muttering vibration
before an explosion. Philip's hands gripped his arms, and those
arms were as hard as oak. In one hand Adare held a gun. His other
fist was knotted, heavy.
"Yes, Mon Pere, we came without you," said Philip. "It is
terrible. We did not want you two to suffer. We did not want you
to know until it was all over, and Josephine was back in your
arms. We thought it drive her mother mad. And you, Mon Pere, we
wanted to save you!"
Adare's face relaxed. His arm dropped. His red eyes shifted to the
faces about him, and he said, as he looked:
"It was Breuil. He said you and Josephine were not at his cabin.
He came to tell Mignonne the child was so much better. I cornered
Metoosin, and he told me. I have been coming fast, running."
He drew in a deep breath. Then suddenly he became like a tiger. He
sprang among the men, and threw up his great arms. His voice rose
more than human, fierce and savage, above the growing tumult of
the dogs and the wailing of the wind.
"Ye are with me, men?"
A rumble of voice answered him.
He had seen that they were ready, and he strode on ahead of them.
He was leader now, and Philip saw Father George close at his side,
clutching his arm, talking. In Jean's face there was a great fear.
He spoke low to Philip.
"If he meets Lang, if he fights face to face with Thoreau, or if
they call upon us to parley, all is lost! M'sieur, for the love of
God, hold your fire for those two! We must kill them. If a parley
is granted, they will come to us. We will kill them--even as they
come toward us with a white flag, if we must!"
"No truce will be granted!" cried Philip.
As if John Adare himself had heard his words, he stopped and faced
those behind him. They were in the shelter of the forest. In the
gray gloom of dawn they were only a sea of shifting shadows.
"Men, there is to be no mercy this day!" he said, and his voice
rumbled like an echo through the aisles of the forest. "We are not
on the trail of men, but of beasts and murderers. The Law that is
three hundred miles away has let them live in our midst. It has
let them kill. It said nothing when they stole Red Fawn from her
father's tepee and ravaged her to death. It has said: 'Give us
proof that Thoreau killed Reville, and that his wife did not die a
natural death.' We are our own law. In these forests we are
masters. And yet with this brothel at our doors we are not safe,
our wives and daughters are within the reach of monsters. To-day
it is my daughter--her husband's wife. To-morrow it may be yours.
There can be no mercy. We must kill--kill and burn! Am I right,
This time it was not a murmur but a low thunder of voice that
answered. Philip and Jean forged ahead to his side. Shoulder to
shoulder they led the way.
From the camp at the Forks it was eighteen miles to the Devil's
Nest, where hung on the edge of a chasm the log buildings that
sheltered Lang and his crew. To these men of the trails those
eighteen miles meant nothing. White-bearded Janesse's trapline was
sixty miles long, and he covered it in two days, stripping his
pelts as he went. Renault had run sixty miles with his dogs
between daybreak and dusk, and "Mad" Joe Horn had come down one
hundred and eighty miles from the North in five days. These were
not records. They were the average. Those who followed the master
of Adare were thin-legged, small-footed, narrow-waisted--but
their sinews were like rawhide, and their lungs filled chests that
were deep and wide.
With the break of day the wind fell, the sky cleared, and it grew
colder. In silence John Adare, Jean, and Philip broke the trail.
In silence followed close behind them the Missioner with his
smooth-bore. In silence followed the French and half-breeds and
Crees. Now and then came the sharp clink of steel as rifle barrel
struck rifle barrel. Voices were low, monosyllabic; breaths were
deep, the throbbing of hearts like that of engines. Here were
friends who were meeting for the first time in months, yet they
spoke no word of each other, of the fortunes of the "line," of
wives or children. There was but one thought in their brains,
pumping the blood through their veins, setting their dark faces in
lines of iron, filling their eyes with the feverish fires of
excitement. Yet this excitement, the tremendous passion that was
working in them, found no vent in wild outcry.
It was like the deadly undertow of the maelstroms in the spring
floods. It was there, unseen--silent as death. And this thought,
blinding them to all else, insensating them to all emotions but
that of vengeance, was thought of Josephine.
John Adare himself seemed possessed of a strange madness. He said
no word to Jean or Philip. Hour after hour he strode ahead, until
it seemed that tendons must snap and legs give way under the
strain. Not once did he stop for rest until, hours later, they
reached the summit of a ridge, and he pointed far off into the
plain below. They could see the smoke rising up from the Devil's
Nest. A breath like a great sigh swept through the band.
And now, silently, there slipped away behind a rock Kaskisoon and
his Indians. From under his blanket-coat the chief brought forth
the thing that had bulged there, a tom-tom. Philip and the waiting
men heard then the low Te-dum--Te-dum--Te-dum of it, as Kaskisoon
turned his face first to the east and then the west, north and
then south, calling upon Iskootawapoo to come from out of the
valley of Silent Men and lead them to triumph. And the waiting men
were silent--deadly silent--as they listened. For they knew that
the low Te-dum was the call to death. Their hands gripped harder
at the barrels of their guns, and when Kaskisoon and his braves
came from behind the rock they faced the smoke above the Devil's
Nest, wiped their eyes to see more clearly, and followed John
Adare down into the plain.
And to other ears than their own the medicine-drum had carried the
Song of Death. Down in the thick spruce of the plain a man on the
trail of a caribou had heard. He looked up, and on the cap of the
ridge he saw. He was old in the ways and the unwritten laws of the
North, and like a deer he turned and sped back unseen in the
direction of the Devil's Nest. And as the avengers came down into
the plain Kaskisoon chanted in a low monotone:
Come from out of the valley.
Guide us--for to-day we fight,
And the winds whisper of death!
And those who heard did not laugh. Father George crossed himself,
and muttered something that might have been a prayer. For in this
hour Kaskisoon's God was very near.
Many years before, Thoreau had named his aerie stronghold the
Eagle's Nest. The brown-faced people of the trails had changed it
to Devil's Nest. It was not built like the posts, on level ground
and easy of access. Its northern wall rose sheer up with the wall
of Eagle Chasm, with a torrent two hundred feet below that rumbled
and roared like distant thunder when the spring floods came. John
Adare knew that this chasm worked its purpose. Somewhere in it
were the liquor caches which the police never found when they came
that way on their occasional patrols. On the east and south sides
of the Nest was an open, rough and rocky, filled with jagged
outcrops of boulders and patches of bush; behind it the thick
forest grew up to the very walls.
The forest people were three quarters of a mile from this open
when they came upon the trail of the lone caribou hunter. Where he
had stood and looked up at them the snow was beaten down; from
that spot his back-trail began first in a cautious, crouching
retreat that changed swiftly into the long running steps of a man
in haste. Like a dog, Kaskisoon hovered over the warm trail. His
eyes glittered, and he held out his hands, palms downward, and
looked at Adare.
"The snow still crumbles in the footmarks," he said in Cree. "They
are expecting us."
Adare turned to the men behind him.
"You who have brought axes cut logs with which to batter in the
doors," he said. "We will not ask them to surrender. We must make
them fight, so that we may have an excuse to kill them. Two logs
for eight men each. And you others fill your pockets with birch
bark and spruce pitch-knots. Let no man touch fire to a log until
we have Josephine. Then, burn! And you, Kaskisoon, go ahead and
watch what is happening!"
He was calmer now. As the men turned to obey his commands he laid
a hand on Philip's shoulder.
"I told you this was coming, Boy," he said huskily. "But I didn't
think it meant HER. My God, if they have harmed her--"
His breath seemed choking him.
"They dare not!" breathed Philip.
John Adare looked into the white fear of the other's face. There
was no hiding of it: the same terrible dread that was in his own.
"If they should, we will kill them by inches, Philip!" he
whispered. "We will cut them into bits that the moose-birds can
carry away. Great God, they shall roast over fires!" He hurried
toward the men who were already chopping at spruce timber. Philip
looked about for Jean. He had disappeared. A hundred yards ahead
of them he had caught up with Kaskisoon, and side by side the
Indian and the half-breed were speeding now over the man-trail.
Perhaps in the hearts of these two, of all those gathered in this
hour of vengeance, there ran deepest the thirst for blood. With
Kaskisoon it was the dormant instinct of centuries of forebears,
roused now into fierce desire. With Jean it was necessity.
In the face of John Adare's words that there was to be no quarter,
Jean still feared the possibility of a parley, a few minutes of
truce, the meaning of which sent a shiver to the depths of his
soul. He said nothing to the Cree. And Kaskisoon's lips were as
silent as the great flakes of snow that began to fall about them
now in a mantle so thick that it covered their shoulders in the
space of two hundred yards. When the timber thinned out Kaskisoon
picked his way with the caution of a lynx. At the edge of the
clearing they crouched side by side behind a low windfall, and
peered over the top.
Three hundred yards away was the Nest. The man whose trail they
had followed had disappeared. And then, suddenly, the door opened,
and there poured out a crowd of excited men. The lone hunter was
ahead of them, talking and pointing toward the forest. Jean
counted--eight, ten, eleven--and his eyes searched for Lang and
Thoreau. He cursed the thick snow now. Through it he could not
make them out. He had drawn back the hammer of his rifle.
At the click of it Kaskisoon moved. He looked at the half-breed.
His breath came in a low monosyllable of understanding. Over the
top of the windfall he poked the barrel of his gun. Then he looked
again at Jean. And Jean turned. Their eyes met. They were eyes red
and narrowed by the beat of storm. Jean Croisset knew what that
silence meant. He might have spoken. But no word moved his lips.
Unseen, his right hand made a cross over his heart. Deep in his
soul he thought a prayer.
Jean looked again at the huddled group about the door. And beside
him there was a terrible silence. He held his breath, his heart
ceased to beat, and then there came the crashing roar of the
Cree's heavy gun, and one of the group staggered out with a shriek
and fell face downward in the snow. Even then Jean's finger
pressed lightly on the trigger of his rifle as he tried to
recognize Lang. Another moment, and half a dozen rifles were
blazing in their direction. It was then that he fired. Once,
twice--six times, as fast as he could pump the empty cartridges
out of his gun and fresh ones into the chamber. With the sixth
came again the thunderous roar of the Cree's single-loader.
"Pa, Kaskisoon!" cried Jean then. The last of Thoreau's men had
darted back into the house. Three of their number they had carried
in their arms. A fourth stumbled and fell across the threshold.
"Pa! We have done. Quick--kistayetak!"
He darted back over their trail, followed by the Cree. There would
be no truce now! It was WAR. He was glad that he had come with
Two hundred yards back in the forest they met Philip and Adare at
the head of their people.
"They were coming to ambush us when we entered the clearing!"
shouted Jean. "We drove them back. Four fell under our bullets.
The place is still full of the devils, M'sieur!"
"It will be impossible to rush the doors," cried Philip, seeing
the gathering madness in John Adare's face. "We must fight with
caution, Mon Pere! We cannot throw away lives. Divide our men. Let
Jean take twelve and you another twelve, and give Kaskisoon his
own people. That will leave me ten to batter in the doors. You can
cover the windows with your fire while we rush across the open
with the one log. There is no need for two."
"Philip is right," added the Missioner in a low voice. "He is
right, John. It would be madness to attempt to rush the place in a
Adare hesitated for a moment. His clenched hands relaxed.
"Yes, he is right," he said. "Divide the men."
Fifteen minutes later the different divisions of the little army
had taken up their positions about the clearing. Philip was in the
centre, with eight of the youngest and strongest of the forest men
waiting for the signal to dash forward with the log. First, on his
right, was Jean and his men, and two hundred yards beyond him the
master of Adare, concealed in a clump of thick spruce, Kaskisoon
and his braves had taken the windfalls on the left.
As yet not a man had revealed himself to Thoreau and his band. But
the dogs had scented them, and they stood watchfully in front of
the long log building, barking and whining.
From where he crouched Philip could see five windows. Through
these would come the enemy's fire. He waited. It was Jean who was
to begin, and draw the first shots. Suddenly the half-breed and
his men broke from cover. They were scattered, darting low among
the boulders and bush, partly protected and yet visible from the
Philip drew himself head and shoulders over his log as he watched.
He forgot himself in this moment when he was looking upon men
running into the face of death. In another moment came the crash
of rifles muffled behind log walls. He could hear the whine of
bullets, the ZIP, ZIP, ZIP of them back in the spruce and cedar.
Another hundred yards beyond Jean, he saw John Adare break from
his cover like a great lion, his men spreading out like a pack of
wolves. Swiftly Philip turned and looked to the left. Kaskisoon
and his braves were advancing upon the Nest with the elusiveness
of foxes. At first he could not see them. Then, as Adare's voice
boomed over the open, they rose with the suddenness of a flight of
partridges, and ran swift-footed straight in the face of the
windows. Thus far the game of the attackers had worked without
flaw. Thoreau and his men would be forced to divide their fire,
It had taken perhaps three quarters of a minute for the first
forward rush of the three parties, and during this time the fire
from the windows had concentrated upon Jean and his men. Philip
looked toward them again. They were in the open. He caught his
breath, stared--and counted eight! Two were missing.
He turned to his own men, crouching and waiting. Eight were ready
with the log. Two others were to follow close behind, prepared to
take the place of the first who fell. He looked again out into the
open field. There came a long clear cry from the half-breed, a
shout from Adare, a screaming, animal-like response from
Kaskisoon, and at those three signals the forest people fell
behind rocks, bits of shrub, and upon their faces. In that same
breath the crash of rifles in the open drowned the sound of those
beyond the wall of the Nest. From thirty rifles a hail of bullets
swept through the windows. This was Philip's cue. He rose with a
sharp cry, and behind him came the eight with the battering-ram.
It was two hundred yards from their cover to the building. They
passed the last shelter, and struck the open on a trot. Now rose
from the firing men behind rock and bush a wild and savage cheer.
Philip heard John Adare roaring his encouragement. With each shot
of the Crees came a piercing yell.
Yard by yard they ran on, the men panting in their excitement.
Then came the screech of a bullet, and the shout on Philip's lips
froze into silence. At first he thought the bullet had struck. But
it had gone a little high. A second--a third--and the biting dust
of a shattered rock spat into their faces. With a strange thrill
Philip saw that the fire was not coming from the windows. Flashes
of smoke came from low under the roof of the building. Thoreau and
his men were firing through loopholes! John Adare and Jean saw
this, and with loud cries they led their men fairly out into the
open in an effort to draw the fire from Philip and the log-
bearers. Not a shot was turned in their direction.
A leaden hail enveloped Philip and his little band. One of the
log-bearers crumpled down without a moan. Instantly his place was
filled. Twenty yards more and a second staggered out from the
line, clutched a hand to his breast, and sank into the snow. The
last man filled his place. They were only a hundred yards from the
door now, but without a rock or a stump between them and death.
Another of the log-bearers rolled out from the line, and Philip
sprang into the vacancy. A fourth, a fifth--and with a wild cry
of horror John Adare called upon Philip to drop the log.
Nothing but the bullets could stop the little band now. Seventy
yards! Sixty! Only fifty more--and the man ahead of Philip fell
under his feet. The remaining six staggered over him with the log.
And now up from behind them came Jean Jacques Croisset and his
men, firing blindly at the loopholes, and enveloping the men along
the log in those last thirty yards that meant safety from the fire
above. And behind him came John Adare, and from the south
Kaskisoon and his Crees, a yelling, triumphant horde of avengers
now at the very doors of the Devil's Nest!
Philip staggered a step aside, winded, panting, a warm trickle of
blood running over his face. He heard the first thunder of the
battering-ram against the door, the roaring voice of John Adare,
and then a hand like ice smote his heart as he saw Jean huddled up
in the snow. In an instant he was on his knees at the half-breed's
side. Jean was not dead. But in his eyes was a fading light that
struck Philip with terror. A wan smile crept over his lips. With
his head in Philip's arm, he whispered:
"M'sieur, I am afraid I am struck through the lung. I do not know,
but I am afraid." His voice was strangely steady. But in his eyes
was that swiftly fading light! "If should go--you must know," he
went on, and Philip bent low to hear his words above the roar of
voices and the crashing of the battering-ram. "You must know--to
take my place in the fight for Josephine. I think--you have
guessed it. The baby was not Josephine's. IT WAS MIRIAM'S!"
"Yes, yes, Jean!" cried Philip into the fading eyes. "That was
what I guessed!"
"Don't blame her--too much," struggled Jean. "She went down into a
world she didn't know. Lang--trapped her. And Josephine, to save
her, to save the baby, to save her father--did as Munito the White
Star did to save the Cree god. You know. You understand. Lang
followed--to demand Josephine as the price of her mother. M'sieur,
YOU MUST KILL HIM! GO!"
The door had fallen in with a crash, and now over the crime-
darkened portals of the Devil's Nest poured the avengers, with
John Adare at their head.
"Go!" gasped Jean, almost rising to his knees. "You must meet this
Lang before John Adare!"
Philip sprang to his feet. The last of the forest people had
poured through the door. Alone he stood--and stared. But not
through the door! Two hundred yards away a man was flying along
the edge of the forest, and he had come FROM BEHIND THE WALLS OF
THE DEVIL'S NEST! He recognized him. It was Lang, the man he was
In a moment the flying figure of the Free Trader had disappeared.
With a last glance at Jean, who was slowly sinking back into the
snow, Philip dashed in pursuit. Where Lang had buried himself in
the deeper forest the trees grew so thick that Philip, could not
see fifty yards ahead of him. But Lang's trail was distinct--and
alone. He was running swiftly. Philip had noticed that Lang had no
rifle, He dropped his own now, and drew his pistol. Thus
unencumbered he made swifter progress. He had expected to overtake
Lang within four or five hundred yards; but minute followed minute
in the mad race without another view of his enemy. He heard a few
faint shouts back in the direction of the Devil's Nest, the
barking of dogs, and half a dozen shots, the sounds growing
fainter and fainter. And then Lang's trail led him unexpectedly
into one of the foot-beaten aisles of the forest where there were
the tracks of a number of men.
At this point the thick spruce formed a roof over-head that had
shut out the fresh snow, and Philip lost several minutes before he
found the place where Lang had left the trail to bury himself
again in the unblazed forest. Half a mile farther he followed the
Free Trader's trail without catching a glimpse of the man. He was
at least a mile from the Devil's Nest when he heard sounds ahead
of him. Beyond a clump of balsam he heard the voices of men, and
then the whine of a cuffed dog. Cautiously he picked his way
through the thick cover until he crouched close to the edge of a
small open. In an instant it seemed as though his heart had leapt
from his breast into his throat, and was choking him. Within fifty
paces of him were both Lang and Thoreau. But for a moment he
scarcely saw them, or the powerful team of eight huskies,
harnessed and waiting. For on the sledge, a cloth bound about her
mouth, her hands tied behind her, was Josephine!
At sight of her Philip did not pause to plan an attack. The one
thought that leapt into his brain like fire was that Lang and
Thoreau had fooled the forest people--Josephine had not been taken
to the Devil's Nest, and the two were attempting to get away with
A cry burst from his lips as he ran from cover. Instantly the pair
were facing him. Lang was still panting from his run. He held no
weapons. In the crook of Thoreau's arm rested a rifle. Swift as a
flash he raised it to his shoulder, the muzzle levelled at
Philip's breast. Josephine had turned. From her smothered lips
came a choking cry of agony. Philip had now raised his automatic.
It was level with his waistline. From that position he had trained
himself to fire with the deadly precision that is a part of the
training of the men of the Royal Northwest Mounted. Before
Thoreau's forefinger had pressed the trigger of his rifle a stream
of fire shot out from the muzzle of the automatic.
Thoreau did not move. Then a shudder passed through him. His rifle
dropped from his nerveless hands. Without a moan he crumpled down
into the snow. Three of the five bullets that had flashed like
lightning from the black-muzzled Savage had passed completely
through his body. It had all happened in a space so short that
Lang had not stirred. Now he found himself looking into that
little engine of death. With a cry of fear he staggered back.
Philip did not fire. He felt in himself now the tigerish madness
that had been in John Adare. To him Thoreau had been no more than
a wolf, one of the many at Devil's Nest. Lang was different. For
all things this monster was accountable. He had no desire to
shoot. He wanted to reach him with his HANDS--to choke the life
from him slowly, to hear from his own blackening lips the
confession that had come through Jean Croisset.
He knew that Josephine was on her feet now, that she was
struggling to free her hands, but it was only in a swift glance
that he saw this. In the same breath he had dropped his pistol and
was at Lang's throat. They went down together. Even Thoreau, a
giant in size and strength, would not have been a match for him
now. Every animal passion in him was roused to its worst.
Lang's jaws shot apart, his eyes protruded, his tongue came out--
the breath rattled in his throat. Then for a moment Philip's
death-grip relaxed. He bent down until his lips were close to the
death-filled face of his victim.
"The truth, Lang, or I'll kill you!" he whispered hoarsely.
And then he asked the question--and as he asked Josephine freed
her hands. She tore the cloth from her mouth, but before she could
rush forward, through Lang's mottling lips had come the choking
"It was Miriam's."
Again Philip's fingers sank in their death-grip in Lang's throat.
Twenty seconds more and he would have fulfilled his pact with
Jean. A scream from Josephine turned his eyes for an instant from
his victim. Out of that same cover of balsam three men were
rushing upon him. A glance told him they were not of the forest
people. He had time to gain his feet before they were upon him.
It was a fight for life now, and his one hope lay in the fact that
his assailants, escaping from the Nest, did not want to betray
themselves by using firearms. The first man at him he struck a
terrific blow that sent him reeling. A second caught his arm
before he could recover himself--and then it was the hopeless
struggle of one against three.
Josephine stood free. She had seen Philip drop his pistol and she
sprang to the spot where it had fallen. It was buried under the
snow. The four men were on the ground now, Philip under. She heard
a gasping sound--and then, far away, something else: a sound that
thrilled her, that sent her voice back through the forest in cry
What she heard was the wailing cry of the dog pack, her pack,
following over the trail which her abductors had made in their
flight from Adare House! A few steps away she saw a heavy stick in
the snow. Fiercely she tore it loose, ran back to the men, and
began striking blindly at those who were choking the life from
Lang had risen to his knees, clutching his throat, and now
staggered toward her. She struck at him, and he caught the club.
The dogs heard her cries now. Half a mile back in the forest they
were coming in a gray, fierce horde. Only Josephine knew, as she
struggled with Lang. Under his assailants, Philip's strength was
leaving him. Iron fingers gripped at his throat. A flood of fire
seemed bursting his head. Josephine's cries were drifting farther
and farther away, and his face was as Lang's face had been a few
Nearer and nearer swept the pack, covering that last half mile
with the speed of the wind, the huge yellow form of Hero leading
the others by a body's length. They made no sound now. When they
shot out of the forest into the little opening they had come so
silently that even Lang did not see them. In another moment they
were upon him. Josephine staggered back, her eyes big and wild
with horror. She saw him go down, and then his shrieks rang out
like a madman's. The others were on their feet, and not until she
saw Philip lying still and white on the snow did the power of
speech return to her lips. She sprang toward the dogs.