Part 3 out of 5
Then Yellow Bird called, and the girl went to her mother, and
Jolly Roger hugged her in his arms and kissed her on the scarlet
mouth she turned up to him. Then they hurried along the shore
toward the fishing camp, the children racing ahead to tell the
news, led by Sun Cloud--with Peter running at her heels.
Never had Peter heard anything from a man's throat like the two
yells that came from Slim Buck, Yellow Bird's husband and chief of
the tribe, after he had greeted Jolly Roger McKay. It was a note
harking back to the old war trails of the Crees, and what followed
it that night was most exciting to Peter. Big fires were built of
white driftwood, and there was singing and dancing, and a great
deal of laughter and eating, and the interminable howling of half
a hundred Siwash dogs. Peter did not like the dogs, but he did no
fighting because his love for Sun Cloud kept him close to the
touch of her little brown hand.
That night, in the glow of the big fire outside of Slim Buck's
tepee, Jolly Roger's heart thrilled with a pleasure which it had
not known for a long time. He loved to look at Yellow Bird. Five
years had not changed her. Her eyes were starry bright. Her teeth
were like milk. The color still came and went in her brown cheeks,
even as it did in Sun Cloud's. All of which, in this heart of a
wilderness, meant that she had been happy and prosperous. And he
also loved to look at Sun Cloud, who possessed all of that rare
wildflower beauty sometimes given to the northern Crees. And it
did him good to look at Slim Buck. He was a splendid mate, and a
royal father, and Jolly Roger found himself strangely happy in
their happiness. In the eyes of men and women and little children
he saw that happiness all about him. For three winters there had
been splendid trapping, Slim Buck told him, and this season they
had caught and dried enough fish to carry them through the
following winter, even if black days should come. His people were
rich. They had many warm blankets, and good clothes, and the best
of tepees and guns and sledges, and several treasures besides. Two
of these Yellow Bird and her husband disclosed to Jolly Roger this
first night. One of them was a sewing machine, and the other--a
phonograph! And Jolly Roger listened to "Mother Machree" and "The
Rosary" that night as he sat by Wollaston Lake with six hundred
miles of wilderness between him and Cragg's Ridge.
Later, when the camp slept, Yellow Bird and Slim Buck and Jolly
Roger still sat beside the red embers of their fire, and Jolly
Roger told of what had happened down at the edge of civilization.
It was what his heart needed, and he left out none of the details.
Slim Buck was listening, but Jolly Roger knew he was talking
straight at Yellow Bird, and that her warm heart was full of
understanding. Softly, in that low Cree voice which is the
sweetest of all voices, she asked him many questions about Nada,
and gently her slim fingers caressed the tress of Nada's hair
which he let her take in her hands. And after a long time, she
"I have given her a name. She is Oo-Mee, the Pigeon."
Slim Buck started at the strange note in her voice.
"The Pigeon," he repeated,
"Yes, Oo-Mee, the Pigeon," Yellow Bird nodded. She was not looking
at them. In the firelight her eyes were glowing pools. Her body
had grown a little tense. Without asking Jolly Roger's permission
she placed the tress of Nada's hair in her bosom. "Oo-Mee, the
Pigeon," she said again, looking far away. "That is her name,
because the Pigeon flies fast and straight and true. Over forests
and lakes and worlds the Pigeon flies. It is tireless. It is
swift. It always--flies home."
Slim Buck rose quietly to his feet.
"Come," he whispered, looking at Jolly Roger,
Yellow Bird did not look at them or speak to them, and Slim Buck--
with his hand on Jolly Roger's arm--pulled him gently away. In his
eyes was a little something of fear, and yet along with it a
"Her spirit will be with Oo-Mee, the Pigeon, tonight," he said in
a voice struck with awe. "It will go to this place which you have
described, and it will live in the body of the girl, and through
Yellow Bird it will tell you tomorrow what has happened, and what
is going to happen."
In the edge of the shore-willows Jolly Roger stood for a time
watching Yellow Bird as she sat under the stars, motionless as a
figure graven out of stone. He felt a curious tingling at his
heart, something stirring uneasily in his breast, and he stood
alone even after Slim Buck had stretched himself out in the soft
sand to sleep. He was not superstitious. Yet it was equally a part
of his philosophy and his creed to believe in the overwhelming
power of the mind. "If you have faith enough, and think hard
enough, you can think anything until it comes true," he had told
himself more than once. And he knew Yellow Bird possessed that
illimitable faith, and that behind her divination lay generations
and centuries of an unbreakable certainty in the power of mind
over matter. He realized his own limitations, but a mysterious
voice in the still night seemed whispering to him that in the
crude wisdom of Yellow Bird's brain lay the secret to strange
achievement, and that on this night her mind might perform for him
what he, in his greater wisdom, would call a miracle. He had seen
things like that happen. And he sat down in the sand, sleepless,
and with Peter at his feet waited for Yellow Bird to stir.
He could see the dull shimmer of starlight in her hair, but the
rest of her was a shadow that gave no sign of life. The camp was
asleep. Even the dogs were buried in their wallows of sand, and
the last red spark of the fires had died out. The hour passed, and
another hour followed, and the lids of Jolly Roger's eyes grew
heavier as the fading stars seemed to be sinking deeper into
infinity. At last he slept, with his back leaning against a sand-
dune the children had made. He dreamed, and was flying through the
air with Yellow Bird. She was traveling swift and straight, like
an arrow, and he had difficulty in keeping up with her, and at
last he cried out for her to wait--that he could go no farther.
The cry roused him. He opened his eyes, and found cool, gray dawn
in the sky. Peter, alert, was muzzling his hand. Slim Buck lay in
the sand, still asleep. There was no stir in the camp. And then,
with a sudden catch in his breath, he looked toward Yellow Bird's
Yellow Bird still sat in the sand. Through the hours of fading
starlight and coming dawn she had not moved. Slowly McKay rose to
his feet. When he came to her, making no sound, she looked up. The
shimmer of glistening dew was in her hair. Her long lashes were
wet with it. Her face was very pale, and her eyes so large and
dark that for a moment they startled him. She was tired.
Exhaustion was in her slim, limp body.
A sigh came from her lips, and her shoulders swayed a little.
"Sit down, Neekewa," she whispered, drawing the ropes of her hair
about her as if she were cold.
Then she drew a slim hand over her eyes, and shivered.
"It is well, Neekewa," she spoke softly. "I have gone through the
clouds to where lives Oo-Mee, the Pigeon. I found her crying in a
trail. I whispered to her and happiness came, and that happiness
is going to live--for Neekewa and The Pigeon. It cannot die. It
cannot be killed. The Red Coated men of the Great White Father
will never destroy it. You will live. She will live. You will meet
again--in happiness. And happiness will follow ever after. That
much I learned, Neekewa. In happiness--you will meet again."
"Where? When?" whispered Jolly Roger, his heart beating with
Again Yellow Bird passed her hand over her eyes, and as she held
it there for a moment she bowed her head until Jolly Roger could
see only her dew-wet hair and she said,
"In the Country Beyond, Neekewa."
Her eyes were looking at him again, big, dark and filled with
"And where is this country, Yellow Bird?" he asked, a strange
chill driving the warmth out of his heart. "You mean--up there?"
And he pointed to the gray sky above them.
"No, it is happiness to come in life, not in death," said Yellow
Bird slowly. "It is not beyond the stars. It is--"
He waited, leaning toward her.
"In the Country Beyond," she repeated with a tired little droop of
her head. "And where that is I do not know, Neekewa. I could not
pass beyond the great white cloud that shut me out. But it is--
somewhere, I will find it. And then I will tell you--and The
She stood up, and swayed in the gray light, like one worn out by
hard travel. Then she passed into the tepee, and Jolly Roger heard
her fall on her blanket-bed.
And still stranger whisperings filled his heart as he faced the
east, where the first red blush of day drove back the star-mists
of dawn. He heard a step in the soft sand, and Slim Buck stood
beside him. And he asked.
"Did you ever hear of the Country Beyond?" Slim Buck shook his
head, and both looked in silence toward the rising sun.
Peter was glad when the camp roused itself out of sleep with
waking voices, and laughter, and the building of fires. He waited
eagerly for Sun Cloud. At last she came out of Yellow Bird's
tepee, rubbing her eyes in the face of the glow in the east, and
then her white teeth flashed a smile of welcome at him. Together
they ran down to the edge of the lake, and Peter wagged his tail
while Sun Cloud went out knee-deep and scrubbed her pretty face
with handfuls of the cool water. It was a happy day for him. He
was different from the Indian dogs, and Sun Cloud and her
playmates made much of him. But never, even in their most exciting
play, did he entirely lose track of his master.
Jolly Roger, to an extent, forgot Peter. He tried to deaden within
him the impulses which Yellow Bird's conjuring had roused. He
tried to see in them a menace and a danger, and he repeated to
himself the folly of placing credence in Yellow Bird's "medicine."
But his efforts were futile, and he was honest enough to admit it.
The uneasiness was in his breast. A new hope was rising up. And
with that hope were fear and suspense, for deep in him was growing
stronger the conviction that what Yellow Bird would tell him would
be true. He noted the calm and dignified stiffness with which Slim
Buck greeted the day. The young chief passed quietly among his
people. A word traveled in whispers, voices and footsteps were
muffled and before the sun was an hour high there was no tepee
standing but one on that white strip of beach. And the one tepee
was Yellow Bird's,
Not until the camp was gone, leaving her alone, did Yellow Bird
come out into the day. She saw the food placed at her tepee door.
She saw the empty places where the homes of her people had stood,
and in the wet sand of the beach the marks of their missing
canoes. Then she turned her pale face and tired eyes to the sun,
and unbraided her hair so that it streamed glistening all about
her and covered the white sand when she sat down again in front of
the smoke-darkened canvas that had become her conjurer's house.
Two miles up the beach Slim Buck's people made another camp. But
Slim Buck and Jolly Roger remained in the cover of a wooded
headland only half a mile from Yellow Bird. They saw her when she
came out. They watched for an hour after she sat down in the sand.
And then Slim Buck grunted, and with a gesture of his hands said
they would go. Jolly Roger protested. It was not safe for Yellow
Bird to remain entirely beyond their protection. There were bears
prowling about. And human beasts occasionally found their way
through the wilderness. But Slim Buck's face was like a bronze
carving in its faith and pride.
"Yellow Bird only goes with the good spirits," he assured Jolly
Roger. "She does not do witchcraft with the bad. And no harm can
come while the good spirits are with her. It is thus she has
brought us happiness and prosperity since the days of the famine,
He spoke these words in Cree, and McKay answered him in Cree as
they turned in the direction of the camp. Half way, Sun Cloud came
to meet them, with Peter at her side. She put a brown little hand
in Jolly Roger's. It was quite new and pleasant to be kissed as
Jolly Roger had kissed her, and she held up her mouth to him
again. Then she ran ahead, with Peter yipping foolishly and
happily at her moccasined heels.
And Jolly Roger said,
"I wish I was your brother, Slim Buck, and Nada was Yellow Bird's
sister--and that I had many like her," and his eyes followed Sun
Cloud with hungry yearning.
And as he said these words, Yellow Bird sat with bowed head and
closed eyes, with the soft tress of Nada's hair in her hands. It
was the physical union between them, and all that day, and the
night that followed, Yellow Bird held it in her hand or against
her breast as she struggled to send out the soul that was in her
on its mission to Oo-Mee the Pigeon. In darkness she buried the
food that was left her, and stamped on it with her feet. The
sacrifice of her body had begun, and for two days thereafter Jolly
Roger and Slim Buck saw no movement of life about the lone tepee
in the sand.
But the third morning they saw the smoke of a little greenwood
fire rising straight up from in front of it.
Slim Buck drew in a deep breath. It was the signal fire.
"She knows," he said, pointing for Jolly Roger to go. "She is
The tenseness was gone from the bronze muscles of his face. He was
lonely without Yellow Bird, and the signal fire meant she would be
with him again soon. Jolly Roger walked swiftly over the white
beach. Again he tried to tell himself what folly it all was, and
that he was answering the signal-fire only to humor Yellow Bird
and Slim Buck. But words, even spoken half aloud, did not quiet
the eager beating of his heart.
Not until he was very near did Yellow Bird come out of the tepee.
And it was then Jolly Roger stopped short, a gasp on his lips. She
was changed. Her radiant hair was still down, polished smooth; but
her face was whiter than he had ever seen it, and drawn and
pinched almost as in the days of the famine. For two days and two
nights she had taken no food, and for two days and two nights she
had not slept. But there was triumph in her big, wide-open eyes,
and Jolly Roger felt something strange rising up in his breast.
Yellow Bird held out her hands toward him.
"We have been together, The Pigeon and I," she said. "We have
slept in each other's arms, and the warmth of her head has lain
against my breast. I have learned the secrets, Neekewa--all but
one. The spirits will not tell me where lies the Country Beyond.
But it is not up there--beyond the stars. It is not in death, but
in life you will find it. That they have told me. And you must not
go back to where The Pigeon lives, for you will find black
desolation there--but always you must keep on and on, seeking for
the Country Beyond. You will find it. And there also you will find
The Pigeon--and happiness. You cannot fail, Neekewa, yet my heart
stings me that I cannot tell you where that strange country is.
But when I came to it gold and silver clouds shut it in, and I
could see nothing, and yet out of it came the singing of birds and
the promise of sweet voices that it shall be found--if you seek
faithfully, Neekewa. I am glad."
Each word that she spoke in her soft and tremulous Cree was a new
message of hope in the empty heart of Jolly Roger McKay. The world
might laugh. Men might tap their heads and smile. His own voice
might argue and taunt. But deep in his heart he believed.
Something of the radiance of the new day came into his face, even
as it was returning into Yellow Bird's. He looked about him--east,
west, north and south--upon the sunlit glory of water and earth,
and suddenly he reached out his arms.
"I'll find it, Yellow Bird," he cried. "I'll find this place you
call the Country Beyond! And when I do--"
He turned and took one of Yellow Bird's slim hands in both his
"And when I do, we'll come back to you, Yellow Bird," he said.
And like a cavalier of old he touched his lips gently to the palm
of Yellow Bird's little brown hand.
Days of new hope and gladness followed in the camp of Yellow Bird
and Slim Buck. It was as if McKay, after a long absence, had come
back to his own people. The tenderness of mother and sister lay
warm in Yellow Bird's breast. Slim Buck loved him as a brother.
The wrinkled faces of the old softened when he came near and spoke
to them; little children followed him, and at dusk and dawn Sun
Cloud held up her mouth to be kissed. For the first time in years
McKay felt as if he had found home. The northland Indian Summer
held the world in its drowsy arms, and the sun-filled days and the
starry nights seemed overflowing with the promise of all time.
Each day he put off his going until tomorrow, and each day Slim
Buck urged him to remain with them always.
But in Yellow Bird's eyes was a strange, quiet mystery, and she
did not urge. Each day and night she was watching--and waiting.
And at last that for which she watched and waited came to pass.
It was night, a dark, still night with a creeping restlessness in
it. This restlessness was like the ghostly pulse of a great living
body, still for a time, then moving, hiding, whispering between
the clouds in the sky and the deeper shadowed earth below. A night
of uneasiness, of unseen forces chained and stifled, of impending
doubt and oppressive lifelessness.
There was no wind, yet under the stars gray masses of cloud sped
as if in flight.
There was no breeze in the treetops, yet they whispered and
In the strange spell of this midnight, heavy with its unrest, the
wilderness lay half asleep, half awake, with the mysterious
stillness of death enshrouding it.
At the edge of the white sands of Wollaston, whose broad water was
like oil tonight, stood the tepees of Yellow Bird's people. Smoke-
blackened and seasoned by wind and rain they were dark blotches
sentineling the shore of the big lake. Behind them, beyond the
willows, were the Indian dogs. From them came an occasional whine,
a deep sigh, the snapping of a jaw, and in the gloom their bodies
moved restlessly. In the tepees was the spell of this same unrest.
Sleep was never quite sure of itself. Men, women and little
children twisted and rolled, or lay awake, and weird and distorted
shapes and fancies came in dreams.
In her tepee Yellow Bird lay with her eyes wide open, staring at
the gray blur of the smoke hole above. Her husband was asleep. Sun
Cloud, tossing on her blankets, had flung one of her long braids
so that it lay across her mother's breast. Yellow Bird's slim
fingers played with its silken strands as she looked straight up
into nothingness. Wide awake, she was thinking--thinking as Slim
Buck--would never be able to think, back to the days when a white
woman had been her goddess, and when a little white boy--the
woman's son--had called Yellow Bird "my fairy."
In the gloom, with foreboding eating at her heart, Yellow Bird's
red lips parted in a smile as those days came back to her, for
they were pleasing days to think about. But after that the years
sped swiftly in her mind until the day when the little boy--a man
grown--came to save her tribe, and her own life, and the life of
Sun Cloud, and of Slim Buck her husband. Since then prosperity and
happiness had been her lot. The spirits had been good. They had
not let her grow old, but had kept her still beautiful. And Sun
Cloud, her little daughter, was beautiful, and Slim Buck was more
than ever her god among men, and her people were happy. And all
this she owed to the man who was sleeping under the gloom of the
sky outside, the hunted man, the outlaw, "the little boy grown
up"--Jolly Roger McKay.
As she listened, and stared up at the smoke hole, strange spirits
were whispering to her, and Yellow Bird's blood ran a little
faster and her eyes grew bigger and brighter in the darkness. They
seemed to be accusing her. They told her it was because of her
that Roger McKay had come in that winter of starvation and death,
and had robbed and almost killed, that she and Slim Buck and
little Sun Cloud might live. That was the beginning, and the
thrill of it had got into the blood of Neekewa, her "little white
brother grown up." And now he was out there, alone with his dog in
the night--and the red-coated avengers of the law were hunting
him. They wanted him for many things, but chiefly for the killing
of a man.
Yellow Bird sat up, her little hands clenched about the thick
braid of Sun Cloud's hair. She had conjured with the spirits and
had let the soul go out of her body that she might learn the
future for Neekewa, her white brother. And they had told her that
Roger McKay had done right to think of killing.
Their voices had whispered to her that he would not suffer more
than he had already suffered--and that in the Country Beyond he
would find Nada the white girl, and happiness, and peace. Yellow
Bird did not disbelieve. Her faith was illimitable. The spirits
would not lie. But the unrest of the night was eating at her
heart. She tried to lift herself to the whisperings above the
tepee top. But they were unintelligible, like many voices
mingling, and with them came a dull fear into her soul.
She put out a hand, as if to rouse Slim Buck. Then she drew it
back, and placed Sun Cloud's braid away from her. She rose to her
feet so quietly that even in their restlessness they did not fully
awake. Through the tepee door she went, and stood up straight in
the night, as if now she might hear more clearly, and understand.
For a space she breathed in the oppressive something that was in
the air, and her eyes went east and west for sign of storm. But
there was no threat of storm. The clouds were drifting slowly and
softly, with starlight breaking through their rifts, and there was
no moan of thunder or wail of wind far away. Her heart, for a
little, seemed to stop its beating, and her hands clasped tightly
at her breast. She began to understand, and a strange thrill crept
into her. The spirits had put a great burden upon the night so
that it might drive sleep from her eyes. They were warning her.
They were telling her of danger, approaching swiftly, almost
impending. And it was peril for the white man who was sleeping
Swiftly she began seeking for him, her naked little brown feet
making no sound in the soft white sands of Wollaston.
And as she sought, the clouds thinned out above, and the stars
shone through more clearly, as if to make easier for her the quest
in the gloom.
Where he had made his bed of blankets in the sand, close beside a
flat mass of water-washed sandstone, Jolly Roger lay half asleep.
Peter was wide awake. His eyes gleamed brightly and watchfully.
His lank and bony body was tense and alert. He did not whine or
snap his jaws, though he heard the Indian dogs occasionally doing
so. The comradeship of a fugitive, ever on the watch for his
fellow men, had made him silent and velvet-footed, and had
sharpened his senses to the keenness of knives. He, too, felt the
impelling force of an approaching menace in this night of
stillness and mystery, and he watched closely the restless
movements of his master's body, and listened with burning eyes to
the name which he had spoken three times in the last five minutes
of his sleep.
It was Nada's name, and as Jolly Roger cried it out softly in the
old way, as if Nada was standing before them, he reached out, and
his hands struck the sandstone rock. His eyes opened, and slowly
he sat up. The sky had cleared of clouds, and there was starlight,
and in that starlight Jolly Roger saw a figure standing near him
in the sand. At first he thought it was Sun Cloud, for Peter stood
with his head raised to her. Then he saw it was Yellow Bird, with
her beautiful eyes looking at him steadily and strangely as he
He got upon his feet and went to her, and took one of her hands.
It was cold. He felt the shiver that ran through her slim body,
and suddenly her eyes swept from him out into the night.
Her fingers tightened in his hand. For a space he could hear the
beating of her heart.
"Twice I have heard it," she whispered then. "Neekewa, you must
"Heard what?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"Something--I don't know what. But it tells me there is danger.
And I saw danger over the tepee top, and I have heard whisperings
of it all about me. It is coming. It is coming slowly and
cautiously. It is very near. Hark, Neekewa! Was that not a sound
out on the water?"
"I think it was the wing of a duck, Yellow Bird."
"And THAT!" she cried swiftly, her fingers tightening still more.
"That sound--as if wood strikes on wood!"
"The croak of a loon far up the shore, Yellow Bird."
She drew her hand away.
"Neekewa, listen to me," she importuned him in Cree. "The spirits
have made this night heavy with warning. I could not sleep. Sun
Cloud twitches and moans. Slim Buck whispers to himself. You were
crying out the name of Nada--Oo-Mee the Pigeon--when I came to
you. I know. It is danger. It is very near. And it is danger for
"And only a short time ago you were confident happiness and peace
were coming to me, Yellow Bird," reminded Jolly Roger. "The
spirits, you said, promised the law should never get me, and I
would find Nada again in that strange place you called the Country
Beyond. Have the spirits changed their message, because the night
Yellow Bird's eyes were staring into darkness.
"No, they have not changed," she whispered. "They have spoken the
truth. They want to tell me more, but for some reason it is
impossible. They have tried to tell me where lies this place they
call the Country Beyond--where you will again find Oo-Mee the
Pigeon. But a cloud always comes between. And they are trying to
tell me what the danger is off there--in the darkness." Suddenly
she caught his arm. "Nee-kewa, DID YOU HEAR?"
"A fish leaping in the still water, Yellow Bird."
He heard a low whimper in Peter's throat, and looking down he saw
Peter's muzzle pointing toward the thick cloud of gloom over the
"What is it, Pied-Bot?" he asked.
Peter whimpered again.
Jolly Roger touched the cold hand that rested on his arm.
"Go back to your bed, Yellow Bird. There is only one danger for
me--the red-coated police. And they do not travel in the dark
hours of a night like this."
"They are coming," she replied. "I cannot hear or see, but they
Her fingers tightened.
"And they are near," she cried softly.
"You are nervous, Yellow Bird," he said, thinking of the two days
and three nights of her conjuring, when she had neither slept nor
taken food, that she might more successfully commune with the
spirits. "There is no danger. The night is a hard one for sleep.
It has frightened you."
"It has warned me," she persisted, standing as motionless as a
statue at his side. "Neekewa, the spirits do not forget. They have
not forgotten that winter when you came, and my people were dying
of famine and sickness--when I dreaded to see little Sun Cloud
close her eyes even in sleep, fearing she would never open them
again. They have not forgotten how all that winter you robbed the
white people over on the Des Chenes, that we might live. If they
remember those things, and lie, I would not be afraid to curse
them. But they do not lie."
Jolly Roger McKay did not answer. Deep down in him that strange
something was at work again, compelling him to believe Yellow
Bird. She did not look at him, but in her low Cree voice, soft as
the mellow notes of a bird, she was saying:
"You will be going very soon, Neekewa, and I shall not see you
again for a long time. Do not forget what I have told you. And you
must believe. Somewhere there is this place called the Country
Beyond. The spirits have said so. And it is there you will find
your Oo-Mee the Pigeon--and happiness. But if you go back to the
place where you left The Pigeon when you fled from the red-coated
men of the law, you will find only blackness and desolation.
Believe, and you shall be guided. If you disbelieve--"
"You heard that, Neekewa? It was not the wing of a duck, nor was
it the croak of a loon far up the shore, or a fish leaping in the
still water. IT WAS A PADDLE!"
In the star-gloom Jolly Roger McKay bowed his head, and listened.
"Yes, a paddle," he said, and his voice sounded strange to him.
"Probably it is one of your people returning to camp, Yellow
She turned toward him, and stood very near. Her hands reached out
to him. Her hair and eyes were filled with the velvety glow of the
stars, and for an instant he saw the tremble of her parted lips.
"Goodby, Neekewa," she whispered.
And then, without letting her hands touch him, she was gone.
Swiftly she ran to Slim Buck's tepee, and entered, and very soon
she came out again with Slim Buck beside her. Jolly Roger did not
move, but watched as Yellow Bird and her husband went down to the
edge of the lake, and stood there, waiting for the strange canoe
to pass--or come in. It was approaching. Slowly it came up, an
indistinct shadow at first, but growing clearer, until at last he
could see the silhouette of it against the star-silvered water
beyond. There were two people in it. Before the canoe reached the
shore Slim Buck stood out knee-deep in the water and hailed it.
A voice answered. And at the sound of that voice McKay dropped
like a shot beside Peter, and Peter's lips curled up, and he
snarled. His master's hand warned him, and together they slipped
back into the shadows, and from under a piece of canvas Jolly
Roger dragged forth his pack, and quietly strapped it over his
shoulders while he waited and listened.
And then, as he heard the voice again, he grinned, and chuckled
"It's Cassidy, Pied-Bot! We can't lose that redheaded fox, can
A good humored deviltry lay in his eyes, and Peter--looking up--
thought for a moment his master was laughing. Then Jolly Roger
made a megaphone of his hands, and called very clearly out into
"Ho, Cassidy! Is that you, Cassidy?"
Peter's heart was choking him as he listened. He sensed a terrific
danger. There was no sound at the edge of the lake. There was no
sound anywhere. For a few moments a death-like stillness followed
Jolly Roger's words.
Then a voice came in answer, each word cutting the gloom with the
decisive clearness of a bullet coming from a gun.
"Yes, this is Cassidy--Corporal Terence Cassidy, of 'M' Division,
Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Is that you, McKay?"
"Yes, it's me," replied Jolly Roger. "Does the wager still hold,
There was a shadowy movement on the beach. The voice came again.
"Watch yourself, McKay. If I see you I shall fire!"
With drawn gun Cassidy rushed toward the spot where Jolly Roger
and Peter had stood. It was empty now, except for the bit of old
canvas. Cassidy's Indian came up and stood behind him, and for
many minutes they listened for the crackling of brush. Slim Buck
joined them, and last came Yellow Bird, her dark eyes glowing like
pools of fire in their excitement. Cassidy looked at her,
marveling at her beauty, and suspicious of something that was in
her face. He went back to the beach. There he caught himself
short, astonishment bringing a sharp exclamation from his lips.
His canoe and outfit were gone!
Out of the star-gloom behind him floated a soft ripple of laughter
as Yellow Bird ran to her tepee.
And from the mist of water--far out--came a voice, the voice of
Jolly Roger McKay.
With it mingled the defiant bark of a dog.
In her tepee, a moment later, Yellow Bird drew Sun Cloud's glossy
head close against her warm breast, and turned her radiant face up
thankfully to the smoke hole in the tepee top, through which the
spirits had whispered their warning to her. Indistinctly, and
still farther away, her straining ears heard again the cry,
In Cassidy's canoe, driving himself with steady strokes deeper
into the mystery of the starlit waters of Wollaston, Jolly Roger
felt the night suddenly filled with an exhilarating tonic. Its
deadness was gone. Its weight had lifted. A ripple broke the star
gleams where an increasing breeze touched the surface of the lake.
And the thrill of adventure stirred in his blood. He laughed as he
put his skill and strength in the sweep of his paddle, and for a
time the thought that he was an outlaw, and in losing Nada had
lost everything in life worth righting for, was not so oppressive.
It was the old, joyous laugh, stirred by his sense of humor, and
the trick he had played on Cassidy. He could imagine Cassidy back
on the shore, his temper redder than his hair as he cursed and
tore up the sand in his search for another canoe.
"We're inseparable," Jolly Roger explained to Peter. "Wherever I
go, Cassidy is sure to follow. You see, it's this way. A long time
ago someone gave Cassidy what they call an assignment, and in that
assignment it says 'go get Jolly Roger McKay, dead or alive'--or
something to that effect. And Cassidy has been on the job ever
since. But he can't quite catch up with me, Pied-Bot. I'm always a
And yet, even as he laughed, there was in Jolly Roger's heart a
yearning to which he had never given voice. Half a dozen times he
might have killed Cassidy, and an equal number of times Cassidy
might have killed him. But neither had taken advantage of the
opportunity to destroy. They had played the long and thrilling
game like men, and because of the fairness and sportsmanship of
the man who hunted him Jolly Roger thought of Cassidy as he might
have thought of a brother, and more than once he yearned to go to
him, and hold out his hand in friendship. Yet he knew Corporal
Cassidy was the deadliest menace the earth held for him, a menace
that had followed him like a shadow through months and years--
across the Barren Lands, along the rim of the Arctic, down the
Mackenzie, and back again--a menace that never tired, and was
never far behind in that ten thousand miles of wilderness they had
covered. Together in the bloodstirring game of One against One
they had faced the deadliest perils of the northland. They had
gone hungry, and cold, and more than once a thousand miles of
nothingness lay behind them, and death seemed preferable to
anything that might lie ahead. Yet in that aloneness, when
companionship was more precious than anything else on earth,
neither had cried quits. The game had gone on, Cassidy after his
man--and Jolly Roger McKay fighting for his freedom.
As he headed his canoe north and east, Jolly Roger thought again
of the wager made weeks ago down at Cragg's Ridge, when he had
turned the tables on Cassidy and when Cassidy had made a solemn
oath to resign from the service if he failed to get his man in
their next encounter. He knew Cassidy would keep his word, and
something told him that tonight the last act in this tragedy of
two had begun. He chuckled again as he pictured the probable
course of events on shore. Cassidy, backed by the law, was
demanding another canoe and a necessary outfit of Slim Buck. Slim
Buck, falling back on his tribal dignity, was killing all possible
time in making the preparations. When pursuit was resumed Jolly
Roger would have at least a mile the start of the red-headed
nemesis who hung to his trail. And Wollaston Lake, sixty miles
from end to end, and half as wide, offered plenty of room in which
to find safety.
The rising of the wind, which came from the south and west, was
pleasing to Jolly Roger, and he put less caution and more force
into the sweep of his paddle. For two hours he kept steadily
eastward, and then swung a little north, guiding himself by the
stars. With the breaking of dawn he made out the thickly wooded
shore on the opposite side of the lake from Slim Buck's camp, and
before the sun was half an hour high he had drawn up his canoe at
the tip of a headland which gave him a splendid view of the lake
in all directions.
From this point, comfortably encamped in the cool shadows of a
thick clump of spruce, Jolly Roger and Peter watched all that day
for a sign of their enemy. As far as the eye could reach no
movement of human life appeared on the quiet surface of Wollaston.
Not until that hazy hour between sunset and dusk did he build a
fire and cook a meal from the supplies in Cassidy's pack, for he
knew smoke could be discerned much farther than a canoe. Yet even
as he observed this caution he was confident there was no longer
any danger in returning to Yellow Bird and her people.
"You see, Pied-Bot," he said, discussing the matter with Peter,
while he smoked a pipeful of tobacco in the early evening,
"Cassidy thinks we're on our way north, as fast as we can go.
He'll hit for the upper end of the Lake and the Black River
waterway, and keep right on into the Porcupine country. It's a big
country up there, and we've always taken plenty of space for our
travels. Shall we go back to Yellow Bird, Peter? And Sun Cloud?"
Peter tried to answer, and thumped his tail, but even as he asked
the questions there was a doubt growing in Jolly Roger's mind. He
wanted to go back, and as darkness gathered about him he was urged
by a great loneliness. Only Yellow Bird grieved with him in his
loss of Nada, and understood how empty life had become for him.
She had, in a way, become a part of Nada; her presence raised him
out of despair, her voice gave him hope, her unconquerable spirit
--fighting for his happiness--inspired him until he saw light where
there had been only darkness. The impelling desire to return to
her brought him to his feet and down to the pebbly shore of the
lake, where the water rippled softly in the thickening gloom. But
a still more powerful force held him back, and he went to his
blankets, spread over a thick couch of balsam boughs. For hours
his eyes were wide open and sleepless.
He no longer thought of Cassidy, but of Yellow Bird. Doubt--a
charitable inclination to half believe--gave way in him to a
conviction which he could not fight down. More than once in his
years of wilderness life strange facts had compelled him to give
some credence to the power of the Indian conjurer. Belief in the
mastery of the mind was part of his faith in nature. It had come
to him from his mother, who had lived and died in the strength of
"Think hard, and with faith, if you want anything to come true,"
she had told him. And this was also Yellow Bird's creed. Was it
possible she had told him the truth? Had her mind actually
communed with the mind of Nada? Had she, through the sheer force
of her illimitable faith, projected her subconscious self into the
future that she might show him the way? His eyes were staring, his
ears unhearing, as he thought of the proof which Yellow Bird had
given to him. A few hours ago she had brought him warning of
impending danger. There had been no hesitation and no doubt. She
had come to him unequivocal and sure. Without seeing, without
hearing, she knew Cassidy was stealing upon him through the night.
In the darkness Jolly Roger sat up, his heart beating fast.
Without effort, and with no thought of the necessity of proof,
Yellow Bird had given him a test of her power. It had been a
spontaneous and unstaged thing, a woman's heart reaching out for
him--as she had promised that it would. And yet, even as the
simplicity and truth of it pressed upon him, doubt followed with
its questions. If, after this, Yellow Bird had told him to return
to Nada as swiftly as he could, he would have believed, and this
night would have seen him on his way. But she had warned him
against this, predicting desolation and grief if he returned. She
had urged him to go on, somewhere, anywhere, seeking for an
illusion and an unreality which the spirits had named, to her as
the Country Beyond. And when he reached this Country Beyond,
wherever it might be, he would possess Nada again, and happiness
for all time. After all, there was something archaically crude in
what he was trying to believe, when he came to analyze it. Yellow
Bird possessed her powers, but they were definitely limited. And
to believe beyond those limitations, to ride upon the wings of
superstition and imagination, was sheer savagery.
Jolly Roger stretched himself upon his blankets again, repeating
this final argument to himself. But as the night drew closer about
him, and his eyes closed, and sleep came, there was a lightness in
his heart which he had not known for many days. He dreamed, and
his dream was of Nada. He was with her again and it seemed, in
this dream, that Yellow Bird was always watching them, and they
could not quite get away from her. They ran through the jackpine
openings where the strawberries and blue violets grew, and he
always ran behind Nada, so he could see her brown curls flying
But they never could rid themselves of Yellow Bird, no matter how
fast they ran or where they tried to hide. From somewhere Yellow
Bird's dark eyes would look out at them, and finally, laughing at
his own discomfiture, he drew Nada down beside him in a little
fen, white and yellow and blue with wildflowers, and boldly took
her head in his arms and kissed her--with Yellow Bird looking at
them from behind a banksian clump twenty feet away. So real was
the kiss, and so real the warm pressure of Nada's slim arms about
his neck that he awoke with a glad cry--and sat up to find the
dawn had come.
For a few moments he sat stupidly, looking about him as if not
quite believing the unreality of it all. Then with Peter he went
down to the edge of the lake.
All that day Peter sensed a quiet change in his master. Jolly
Roger did not talk. He did not whistle or laugh, but moved quietly
when he moved at all, with a set, strange look in his face. He was
making his last big fight against the desire to return to Cragg's
Ridge. Yellow Bird's predictions, and her warning, had no
influence with him now. He was thinking of Nada alone. She was
back there, waiting for him, praying for his return, ready and
happy to become a fugitive with him--to accept her chances of life
or death, of happiness or grief, in his company. A dozen times the
determination to return for her almost won. But each time came the
other picture--a vision of ceaseless flight, of hiding, of hunger
and cold and never ending hardship, and at the last, inevitable as
the dawning of another day--prison, and possibly the hangman.
Not until late that afternoon did Peter see the old Jolly Roger in
the face of his master. And Jolly Roger said:
"We've made up our mind, Pied-Bot. We can't go back. We'll hit
north and spend the winter along the edge of the Barren Lands.
It's the biggest country I know of, and if Cassidy comes--"
He shrugged his shoulders grimly.
In half an hour they had started, with the sun beginning to sink
in the west.
For two days Jolly Roger and Peter paddled their way slowly up the
eastern shore of Wollaston. That he had correctly analyzed the
mental arguments which would guide Cassidy in his pursuit Jolly
Roger had little doubt. He would keep to the west shore, and up
through the Hatchet Lake and Black River waterways, as his quarry
had never failed to hit straight for the farther north in time of
peril. Meanwhile Jolly Roger had decided to make his way without
haste up the east shore of Wollaston, and paddle north and east
through the Du Brochet and Thiewiaza River waterways. If these
courses were followed, each hour would add to the distance between
them, and when the way was safe they would head straight for the
Peter, and only Peter, sensed the glory of that third afternoon
when they paddled slowly ashore close to the shimmering stream of
spring water that was called Limping Moose Creek. The sun was
still two hours high in the west. There was no wind, and Wollaston
was like a mirror; yet in the still air was the clean, cool tang
of early autumn, and shoreward the world reached out in ridges and
billows of tinted forests, with a September haze pulsing softly
over them, fleecy as the misty shower of a lady's powder puff. It
was destined to be a memorable afternoon for Peter, a going down
of the sun that he would never forget as long as he lived.
Yet there was no warning of the thing impending, and his eyes saw
only the mystery and wonder of the big world, and his ears heard
only the drowsing murmur of it, and his nose caught only the sweet
scents of cedars and balsams and of flowering and ripening things.
Straight ahead, beyond the white shore line, was a low ridge, and
this ridge--where it was not purple and black with the evergreen--
was red with the crimson blotches of mountain-ash berries, and
patches of fire flowers that glowed like flame in the setting sun.
From out of this paradise, as they drew near to it, came softly
the voice and song of birds and the chatter of red squirrels. A
big jay was screeching over it all, and between the first ridge
and the second--which rose still higher beyond it--a cloud of
crows were circling excitedly over a mother black bear and her
half grown cubs as they feasted on the red ash berries. But Peter
could not smell the bears, nor hear them, and the distant crows
were of less interest than the wonder and mystery of the shore
close at hand.
He turned from his place in the bow of the canoe, and looked at
his master. There was little of inspiration in Jolly Roger's face
or eyes. The glory of the world ahead gave him no promise, as it
gave promise to Peter. Beyond what he could see there lay, for
him, a vast emptiness, a chaos of loneliness, an eternity of
shattered hopes and broken dreams. Love of life was gone out of
him. He saw no beauty. The sun had changed. The sky was different.
The bigness of his wilderness no longer thrilled him, but
Peter sensed sharply the change in his master without knowing the
reason for it. Just as the world had changed for Jolly Roger, so
Jolly Roger had changed for Peter.
They landed on a beach of sand, soft as a velvet carpet. Peter
jumped out. A long-legged sandpiper and her mate ran down the
shore ahead of him. He perked up his angular ears, and then his
nose caught a fresh scent under his feet where a porcupine had
left his trail. And he heard more clearly the raucous tumult of
the jay and the musical chattering of the red squirrels.
All these things were satisfactory to Peter. They were life, and
life thrilled him, just as it had thrilled his master a few days
ago. He adventured a little distance up to the edge of the green
willows and the young birch and the crimson masses of fire flowers
that fringed the beginning of the forest. It had rained recently
here, and the scents were fresh and sweet.
He found a wild currant bush, glistening with its juscious black
berries, and began nibbling at them. A gopher, coming to his
supper bush, gave a little squeak of annoyance, and Peter saw the
bright eyes of the midget glaring at him from under a big fern
leaf. Peter wagged his tail, for the savagery of his existence was
qualified by that mellowing sense of humor which had always been a
part of his master. He yipped softly, in a companionable sort of
And then there smote upon his ears a sound which hardened every
muscle in his body.
"Throw up your hands, McKay!"
He turned his head. Close to him stood a man. In an instant he had
recognized him. It was the man whose scent he had first discovered
down at Cragg's Ridge, the man from whom his master was always
running away, the man whose voice he had heard again at Yellow
Bird's Camp a few nights ago--Corporal Terence Cassidy, of the
Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
Twenty paces away stood McKay. His dunnage was on his back, his
paddle in his hand. And Cassidy, smiling grimly, a dangerous humor
in his eyes, was leveling an automatic at his breast. It was, in
that instant, a tableau which no man could ever forget. Cassidy
was bareheaded, and the sun burned hotly in his red hair. And his
face was red, and in the pale blue of his Irish eyes was a fierce
joy of achievement. At last, after months and years, the thrilling
game of One against One was at an end. Cassidy had made the last
move, and he was winner.
For half a minute after the command to throw up his hands McKay
did not move. And Cassidy did not repeat the command, for he
sensed the shock that had fallen upon his adversary, and was
charitable enough to give him time. And then, with something like
a deep sigh from between his lips, Jolly Roger's body sagged. The
dunnage dropped from his shoulder to the sand. The paddle slipped
from his hand. Slowly he raised his arms above his head, and
Cassidy laughed softly.
A few days ago McKay would have grinned back, coolly, good
humoredly, appreciative of the other's craftsmanship even in the
hour of his defeat. But today there was another soul within him.
His eyes no longer saw the old Cassidy, brave and loyal to his
duty, a chivalrous enemy, the man he had yearned to love as
brother loves brother, even in the hours of sharpest pursuit. In
Cassidy he saw now the hangman himself. The whole world had turned
against him, and in this hour of his greatest despair and
hopelessness a bitter fate had turned up Cassidy to deal him the
A swift rage burned in him, even as he raised his hands. It swept
through his brain in a blinding inundation. He did not think of
the law, or of death, or of freedom. It was the unfairness of the
thing that filled his soul with the blackness of one last terrible
desire for vengeance. Cassidy's gun, leveled at his breast, meant
nothing. A thousand guns leveled at his breast would have meant
nothing. A choking sound came from his lips, and like a shot his
right hand went to his revolver holster.
In that last second or two Cassidy had foreseen the impending
thing, and with the movement of the other's hand he cried out:
"Stop! For God's sake stop--or I shall fire!"
Even into the soul of Peter there came in that moment the
electrical thrill of something terrific about to happen, of
impending death, of tragedy close at hand. Once, a long time ago,
Peter had felt another moment such as this--when he had buried his
fangs in Jed Hawkins' leg to save Nada.
In that fraction of a second which carried Peter through space,
Corporal Cassidy's finger was pressing the trigger of his
automatic, for McKay's gun was half out of its holster. He was
aiming at the other's shoulder, somewhere not to kill.
The shock of Peter's assault came simultaneously with the
explosion of his gun, and McKay heard the hissing spit of the
bullet past his ear. His arm darted out. And as Peter buried his
teeth deeper into Cassidy's leg, he heard a second shot, and knew
that it came from his master. There was no third. Cassidy drooped,
and something like a little laugh came from him--only it was not a
laugh. His body sagged, and then crumpled down, so that the weight
of him fell upon Peter.
For many seconds after that Jolly Roger stood with his gun in his
hand, not a muscle of his body moving, and with something like
stupor in his staring eyes. Peter struggled out from under
Cassidy, and looked inquisitively from his master to the man who
lay sprawled out like a great spider upon the sand. It was then
that life seemed to come back into Jolly Roger's body. His gun
fell, as if it was the last thing in the world to count for
anything now, and with a choking cry he ran to Cassidy and dropped
upon his knees beside him.
"Cassidy--Cassidy--" he cried. "Good God, I didn't mean to do it!
Cassidy, old pal--"
The agony in his voice stilled the growl in Peter's throat. McKay
saw nothing for a space, as he raised Cassidy's head and
shoulders, and brushed back the mop of red hair. Everything was a
blur before his eyes. He had killed Cassidy. He knew it. He had
shot to kill, and not once in a hundred times did he miss his
mark. At last he was what the law wanted him to be--a murderer.
And his victim was Cassidy--the man who had played him fairly and
squarely from beginning to end, the man who had never taken a mean
advantage of him, and who had died there in the white sand because
he had not shot to kill. With sobbing breath he cried out his
grief, and then, looking down, he saw the miracle in Cassidy's
face. The Irishman's eyes were wide open, and there was pain, and
also a grin, about his mouth.
"I'm glad you're sorry," he said. "I'd hate to have a bad opinion
of you, McKay. But--you're a rotten shot!"
His body sagged heavily, and the grin slowly left his lips, and a
moan came from between them. He struggled and spoke.
"It may be--you'll want help, McKay. If you do--there's a cabin
half a mile up the creek. Saw the smoke--heard axe--I don't blame
you. You're a good sport--pretty quick--but--rotten shot! Oh,
And he tried vainly to grin up into Jolly Roger's face as he
became a lifeless weight in the other's arms.
Jolly Roger was sobbing. He was sobbing, in a strange, hard man-
fashion, as he tore open Cassidy's shirt and saw the red wound
that went clean through Cassidy's right breast just under the
shoulder. And Peter still heard that strange sound coming from his
lips, a moaning as if for breath, as his master ran and brought up
water, and worked over the fallen man. And then he got under
Cassidy, and rose up with him on his shoulders, and staggered off
with him toward the creek. There he found a path, a narrow foot
trail, and not once did he stop with his burden until he came into
a little clearing, out of which Cassidy had seen the smoke rising.
In this clearing was a cabin, and from the cabin came an old man
to meet him--an old man and a girl.
At first something shot up into Peter's throat, for he thought it
was Nada who came behind the grizzled and white-headed man. There
was the same lithe slimness in her body, the same brown glint in
her hair, and the same--but he saw then that it was not Nada. She
was older. She was a bit taller. And her face was white when she
saw the bleeding burden on Jolly Roger's back.
"I shot him," panted McKay. "God knows I didn't mean to! I'm
He did not finish giving voice to the fear that Cassidy was dead--
or dying, and for a moment he saw only the big staring eyes of the
girl as the gray-bearded man helped him with his burden. Not until
the Irishman was on a cot in the cabin did he discover how
childishly weak he had become and what a terrific struggle he had
made with the weight on his shoulders. He sank into a chair, while
the old trapper worked over Cassidy.
He heard the girl call him grandfather. She was no longer
frightened, and she moved like a swift bird about the cabin,
getting water and bandages and pillows, and the sight of fresh
blood and of Cassidy's dead-white face brought a glow of
tenderness into her eyes. McKay, sitting dumbly, saw that her
hands were doing twice the work his own could have accomplished,
and not until he heard a low moan from the wounded man did he come
to her side.
"The bullet went through clean as a whistle," the old man said.
"Lucky you don't use soft nosed bullets, friend."
A deep sigh came from Cassidy's lips. His eyelids fluttered, and
then slowly his eyes opened. The girl was bending over him, and
Cassidy saw only her face, and the brown sheen of her hair.
"He'll live?" Jolly Roger said tremulously.
The older man remained mute. It was Cassidy, turning his head a
little, who answered weakly.
"Don't worry, McKay. I'll--live."
Jolly Roger bent over the cot, between Cassidy and the girl.
Gently he took one of the wounded man's hands in both his own.
"I'm sorry, old man," he whispered. "You won, fair and square. And
I won't go far away. I'll be waiting for you when you get on your
feet. I promise that. I'll wait."
A wan smile came over Cassidy's lips, and then he moaned again,
and his eyes closed. The girl thrust Jolly Roger back.
"No--you better not go far, an' you better wait," she said, and
there was an unspoken thing in the dark glow of her eyes that made
him think of Nada on that day when she told him how Jed Hawkins
had struck her in the cabin at Cragg's Ridge.
That night Jolly Roger made his camp close to the mouth of the
Limping Moose. And for three days thereafter his trail led only
between this camp and the cabin of old Robert Baron and his
granddaughter, Giselle. All this time Cassidy was telling things
in a fever. He talked a great deal about Jolly Roger. And the
girl, nursing him night and day, with scarcely a wink of sleep
between, came to believe they had been great comrades, and had
been inseparable for a long time. Even then she would not let
McKay take her place at Cassidy's side. The third day she started
him off for a post sixty miles away to get a fresh supply of
bandages and medicines.
It was evening, three days later, when Jolly Roger and Peter
returned. The windows of the cabin were brightly lighted, and
McKay came up to one of these windows and looked in. Cassidy was
bolstered up in his cot. He was very much alive, and on the floor
at his side, sitting on a bear rug, was the girl. A lump rose in
Jolly Roger's throat. Quietly he placed the bundle which he had
brought from the post close up against the door, and knocked. When
Giselle opened it he had disappeared into darkness, with Peter at
The next morning he found old Robert and said to him:
"I'm restless, and I'm going to move a little. I'll be back in two
weeks. Tell Cassidy that, will you?"
Ten minutes later he was paddling up the shore of Wollaston, and
for a week thereafter he haunted the creeks and inlets, always on
the move. Peter saw him growing thinner each day. There was less
and less of cheer in his voice, seldom a smile on his lips, and
never did his laugh ring out as of old. Peter tried to understand,
and Jolly Roger talked to him, but not in the old happy way.
"We might have finished him, an' got rid of him for good," he said
to Peter one chilly night beside their campfire. "But we couldn't,
just like we couldn't have brought Nada up here with us. And we're
going back. I'm going to keep that promise. We're going back,
Peter, if we hang for it!"
And Jolly Roger's jaw would set grimly as he measured the time
The tenth day came and he set out for the mouth of the Canoe
River. On the afternoon of the twelfth he paddled slowly into
Limping Moose Creek. Without any reason he looked at his watch
when he started for old Robert's cabin. It was four o'clock. He
was two days ahead of his promise, and there was a bit of
satisfaction in that. There was an odd thumping at his heart. He
had faith in Cassidy, a belief that the Irishman would call their
affair a draw, and tell him to take another chance in the big
open. He was the sort of man to live up to the letter of a wager,
when it was honestly made. But, if he didn't--
Jolly Roger paused long enough to take the cartridges from his
gun. There would be no more shooting'--on his part.
The mellow autumn sun was flooding the open door of the cabin when
he came up. He heard laughter. It was Giselle. She was talking,
too. And then he heard a man's voice--and from far off to his
right came the chopping of an axe. Old Robert was at work. Giselle
and Cassidy were at home.
He stepped up to the door, coughing to give notice of his
approach. And then, suddenly, he stopped, staring thunderstruck at
what was happening within.
Terence Cassidy was sitting in a big chair. The girl was behind
him. Her white arms were around his neck, her face was bent down,
her lips were kissing him.
In an instant Cassidy's eyes had caught him.
"Come in," he cried, so suddenly and so loudly that it startled
the girl. "McKay, come in!"
Jolly Roger entered, and the girl stood up straight behind
Cassidy's chair, her cheeks aflame and her eyes filled with the
glow of the sunset. And Terence Cassidy was grinning in that old
triumphant way as he leaned forward in his chair, gripping the
arms of it with both hands.
"McKay, you've lost," he cried. "I'm the winner!"
In the same moment he took the girl's hand and drew her from
behind his chair.
"Giselle, do as you said you were going to do. Prove to him that
Slowly she came to Jolly Roger. Her cheeks were like the red of
the sunset. Her eyes were flaming. Her lips were parted. And
dumbly he waited, and wondered, until she stood close to him.
Then, swiftly, her arms were around his neck, and she kissed him.
In an instant she was back on her knees at the wounded man's side,
her burning face hidden against him, and Cassidy was laughing, and
holding out both hands to McKay.
"McKay, Roger McKay, I want you to meet Mrs. Terence Cassidy, my
wife," he said. And the girl raised her face, so that her shining
eyes were on Jolly Roger.
Still dumbly he stood where he was.
"The Missioner from Du Brochet was here yesterday, and married
us," he heard Cassidy saying. "And we've written out my
resignation together, old man. We've both won. I thank God you put
that bullet into me down on the shore, for it's brought me
paradise. And here's my hand on it, McKay--forever and ever!"
Half an hour later, when McKay stumbled out into the forest trail
again, his eyes were blinded by tears and his heart choked by a
new hope as big as the world itself. Yellow Bird was right, and
God must have been with her that night when her soul went to
commune with Nada's. For Yellow Bird had proved herself again. And
now he believed her.
He believed in the world again. He believed in love and happiness
and the glory of life, and as he went down the narrow trail to his
canoe, with Peter close behind him, his heart was crying out
Nada's name and Yellow Bird's promise that sometime--somewhere--
they two would find happiness together, as Giselle and Terence
Cassidy had found it.
And Peter heard the chopping of the distant axe, and the song of
birds, and the chattering of squirrels--but thrilling his soul
most of all was the voice of his master, the old voice, the glad
voice, the voice he had first learned to love at Cragg's Ridge in
the days of blue violets and red strawberries, when Nada had
filled his world.
McKay still had his mind on a certain stretch of timber that
reached out into the Barren Lands, hundreds of miles farther
north. In this hiding place, three years before, he had built
himself a cabin, and had caught foxes during half the long winter.
Not only the cabin, but the foxes, were drawing him. Necessity was
close upon his heels. What little money he possessed after leaving
Cragg's Ridge was exhausted, his supplies were gone, and his boots
and clothes were patched with deer hide.
In the Snowbird Lake country, a week after he left Cassidy in his
paradise at Wollaston, he fell in with good fortune. Two trappers
had come in from Churchill. One of them was sick, and the other
needed help in the building of their winter cabin. McKay remained
with them for ten days, and when he continued his journey
northward his pack was stuffed with supplies, and he wore new
boots and more comfortable clothes.
It was the middle of October when he found his old cabin, a
thousand miles from Cragg's Ridge. It was as he had left it three
years ago. No one had opened its door since then. The little box
stove was waiting for a fire. Behind it was a pile of wood. On the
table were the old tin dishes, and hanging from babiche cords
fastened to the roof timbers, out of reach of mice and ermine,
were blankets and clothing and other possessions he had left
behind him in that winter break-up of what seemed like ages ago to
him. He raised a small section in the floor, and there were his
traps, thickly coated with caribou grease. For half an hour before
he built a fire he sought eagerly for the things he had concealed
here and there. He found oil, and a tin lamp, and candles, and as
darkness of the first night gathered outside a roaring fire sent
sparks up the chimney, and the little cabin's one window glowed
with light, and the battered old coffee pot bubbled and steamed
again, as if rejoicing at his return.
With the breaking of another day he immediately began preparations
for the season's trapping. In two days' hunting he killed three
caribou, his winter meat. Then he cut wood, and made his
strychnine poison baits, and marked out his trap-lines.
The first of November brought the chill whisperings of an early
winter through the Northland. Farther south autumn was dying, or
dead. The last of the red ash berries hung shriveled and frost-
bitten on naked twigs, freezing nights were nipping the face of
the earth, the voices of the wilderness were filled with a new
note and the winds held warning for every man and beast between
Hudson's Bay and the Great Slave and from the Height of Land to
the Arctic Sea. Seven years before there had come such a winter,
and the land had not forgotten it--a winter sudden and swift,
deadly in its unexpectedness, terrific in its cold, bringing with
it such famine and death as the Northland had not known for two
But this year there was premonition. Omen of it came with the
first wailing night winds that bore the smell of icebergs from
over the black forests north and west. The moon came up red, and
it went down red, and the sun came up red in the morning. The
loon's call died a month ahead of its time. The wild geese drove
steadily south when they should have been feeding from the Kogatuk
to Baffin's Bay, and the beaver built his walls thick, and
anchored his alders and his willows deep so that he would not
starve when the ice grew heavy. East, west, north and south, in
forest and swamp, in the trapper's cabin and the wolf's hiding-
place, was warning of it. Gray rabbits turned white. Moose and
caribou began to herd. The foxes yipped shrilly in the night, and
a new hunger and a new thrill sent the wolves hunting in packs,
while the gray geese streaked southward under the red moon
Through this November, and all of December, Jolly Roger and Peter
were busy from two hours before dawn of each day until late at
night. The foxes were plentiful, and McKay was compelled to
shorten his lines and put out fewer baits, and on the tenth of
December he set out for a fur-trading post ninety miles south with
two hundred and forty skins. He had made a toboggan, and a harness
for Peter, and pulling together they made the trip in three days,
and on the fourth started for the cabin again with supplies and
something over a thousand dollars in cash.
Through the weeks of increasing storm and cold that followed,
McKay continued to trap, and early in February he made another
trip to the fur post.
It was on their return that they were caught in the Black Storm.
It will be a long time before the northland will forget that
storm. It was a storm in which the Sarcees died to a man, woman
and child over on the Dubawnt waterways, and when trees froze
solid and split open with the sharp explosions of high-power guns.
In it, all furred and feathered life and all hoof and horn along
the edge of the Barren Lands from Aberdeen Lake to the Coppermine
was swallowed up. It was in this storm that streams froze solid,
and the man who was cautious fastened a babiche rope about his
waist when he went forth from his cabin for wood or water, so that
his wife might help to pull and guide him back through that
blinding avalanche of wind and freezing fury that held a twisted
and broken world in its grip.
In the country west of Artillery Lake and south of the Theolon
River, Jolly Roger and Peter were compelled to "dig in." They were
in a country where the biggest stick of wood that thrust itself up
out of the snow was no bigger than McKay's thumb; a country of
green grass and succulent moss on which the caribou fed in season,
but a hell on earth when arctic storm howled and screamed across
it in winter.
Piled up against a mass of rock Jolly Roger found a huge snow
drift. This drift was as long as a church and half as high, with
its outer shell blistered and battered to the hardness of rock by
wind and sleet. Through this shell he cut a small door with his
knife, and after that dug out the soft snow from within until he
had a room half as big as his cabin, and so snug and warm after a
little with the body heat of himself and Peter that he could throw
off the thick coat which he wore.
To Peter, in the first night of this storm, it seemed as though
all the people in the world were shrieking and wailing and sobbing
in the blackness outside. Jolly Roger sat smoking his pipe at
intervals in the gloom, though there was little pleasure in
smoking a pipe in darkness. The storm did not oppress him, but
filled him with an odd sense of security and comfort. The wind
shrieked and lashed itself about his snow-dune, but it could not
get at him. Its mightiest efforts to destroy only beat more snow
upon him, and made him safer and warmer. In a way, there was
something of humor as well as tragedy in its wild frenzy, and
Peter heard him laugh softly in the darkness. More and more
frequently he had heard that laugh since those warm days of autumn
when they had last met the red-headed man, Terence Cassidy, of the
Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and his master had shot him on the
white shore of Wollaston.
"You see," said McKay, caressing Peter's hairy neck in the gloom.
"Everything is turning out right for us, and I'm beginning to
believe more and more what Yellow Bird told us, and that in the
end we're going to be happy--somewhere--with Nada. What do you
think, Pied-Bot? Shall we take a chance, and go back to Cragg's
Ridge in the spring?"
Peter wriggled himself in answer, as a wild shriek of wind wailed
over the huge snow-dune.
Jolly Roger's fingers tightened at Peter's neck.
"Well, we're going," he said, as though he was telling Peter
something new. "I'm believing Yellow Bird, Pied-Bot. I'm believing
her--now. What she told us was more than fortune-telling. It
wasn't just Indian sorcery. When she shut herself up and starved
for those three days and nights in her little conjurer's house,
just for you and me--SOMETHING HAPPENED. Didn't it? Wouldn't you
say something happened?"
Peter swallowed and his teeth clicked as he gave evidence of
"She told us a lot of truth," went on Jolly Roger, with deep faith
in his voice "And we must believe, Pied-Bot. She told us Cassidy
was coming after us, and he came. She said the spirits promised
her the law would never get us, and we thought it looked bad when
Cassidy had us covered with his gun on the shore at Wollaston. But
something more than luck was with us, and we shot him. Then we
brought him back to life and lugged him to a cabin, and the little
stranger girl took him, and nursed him, and Cassidy fell in love
with her--and married her. So Yellow Bird was right again, Pied-
Bot. We've got to believe her. And she says everything is coming
out right for us, and that we are going back to Nada, and be
Jolly Roger's pipe-bowl glowed in the blackness.
"I'm going to light the alcohol lamp," he said. "We can't sleep.
And I want a good smoke. It isn't fun when you can't see the
smoke. Too bad God forgot to make you so you could use a pipe,
Peter. You don't know what you are missing--in times like these."
He fumbled in his pack and found the alcohol lamp, which was fresh
filled and screwed tight. Peter heard him working for a moment in
the darkness. Then he struck a match, and the yellow flare of it
lighted up his face. In his joy Peter whined. It was good to see
his master. And then, in another moment, the little lamp was
filling their white-walled refuge with a mellow glow. Jolly
Roger's eyes, coming suddenly out of darkness, were wide and
staring. His face was covered with a scrub beard. But there was
something of cheer about him even in this night of terror outside,
and when he had driven his snowshoe into the snow wall, and had
placed the lamp on it, he grinned companionably at Peter.
Then, with a deep breath of satisfaction, he puffed out clouds of
smoke from his pipe, and stood up to look about their room.
"Not so bad, is it?" he asked. "We could have a big house here if
we wanted to dig out rooms--eh, Peter? Parlors, and bed-rooms, and
a library--and not a policeman within a million miles of us.
That's the nice part of it, PIED-BOT--none of the Royal Mounties
to trouble us. They would never think of looking for us in the
heart of a big snow-dune out in this God-forsaken barren, would
The thought was a pleasing one to Jolly Roger. He spread out his
blankets on the snow floor, and sat down on them, facing Peter.
"We've got 'em beat," he said, a chuckling note of pride in his
voice. "The world is small when it comes to hiding, Pied-Bot, but
all the people in it couldn't find us here--not in a million
years. If we could only find a place as safe as this--where a girl
could live--and had Nada with us--"
Many times during the past few weeks Peter had seen the light that
flamed up now in his master's eyes. That, and the strange thrill
in Jolly Roger's voice, stirred him more than the words to which
he listened, and tried to understand.
"And we're GOING to," finished McKay, almost fiercely, his hands
clenching as he leaned toward Peter. "We have made a big mistake,
Pied-Bot, and it has taken us a long time to see it. It will be
hard for us to leave our north country, but that is what we must
do. Maybe Yellow Bird's good spirits meant that when they said we
would find happiness with Nada in a place called The Country
Beyond. There are a lot of 'Countries Beyond,' Peter, and as soon
as the spring break-up comes and we can travel without leaving
trails behind us we will go back to Cragg's Ridge and get Nada,
and hit for some place where the law won't expect to find us.
There's China, for instance. A lot of yellow people. But what do
we care for color as long as we have her with us? I say--"
Suddenly he stopped. And Peter's body grew tense. Both faced the
round hole, half filled with softly packed snow, which McKay had
cut as a door into the heart of the big drift. They had grown
accustomed to the tumult of the storm. Its strange wailings and
the shrieking voices which at times seemed borne in the moaning
sweep of it no longer sent shivers of apprehension through Peter.
But in that moment when both turned to listen there came a sound
which was not like the other sounds they had heard. It was a
voice--not one of the phantom voices of the screaming wind, but a
voice so real and so near that for a beat or two even Jolly Roger
McKay's heart stood still. It was as if a man, standing just
beyond their snow barricade, had shouted a name. But there came no
second call. The wind lulled, so that for a space there was
Jolly Roger laughed a little uneasily.
"Good thing we don't believe in ghosts, Peter, or we would swear
it was a Loup-Garou smelling us through the wall!" He thumbed the
tobacco down in his pine, and nodded. "Then--there is South
America," he said. "They have everything down there--the biggest
rivers in the world, the biggest mountains, and so much room that
even a Loup-Garou couldn't hunt us out. She will love it, Pied-
Bot. But if it happens she likes Africa better, or Australia, or
the South Sea--Now, what the devil was that?"
Peter had jumped as if stung, and for a moment Jolly Roger sat
tense as a carven Indian. Then he rose to his feet, a look of
perplexity and doubt in his eyes.
"What was it, Peter? Can the wind shoot a gun--like THAT?"
Peter was sniffing at the loosely blocked door of their snow-room.
A whimper rose in his throat. He looked up at Jolly Roger, his
eyes glowing fiercely through the mass of Airedale whiskers that
covered his face. He wanted to dig. He wanted to plunge out into
the howling darkness. Slowly McKay beat the ash out of his pipe
and placed the pipe in his pocket.
"We'll take a look," he said, something repressive in his voice.
"But it isn't reasonable, Peter. It is the wind. There couldn't be
a man out there, and it wasn't a rifle we heard. It is the wind--
with the devil himself behind it!"
With a few sweeps of his hands and arms he scooped out the loose
snow from the hole. The opening was on the sheltered side of the
drift, and only the whirling eddies of the storm swept about him
as he thrust out his head and shoulders. But over him it was
rushing like an avalanche. He could hear nothing but the moaning
advance of it. And he could see nothing. He held out his hand
before his face, and blackness swallowed it.
"We have been chased so much that we're what you might call super-
sensitive," he said, pulling himself back and nodding at Peter in
the gray light of the alcohol lamp. "Guess we'd better turn in,
boy. This is a good place to sleep--plenty of fresh air, no
mosquitoes or black flies, and the police so far away that we will
soon forget how they look. If you say so we will have a nip of
cold tea and a bite--"
He did not finish. For a moment the wind had lessened in fury, as
if gathering a deeper breath. And what he heard drew a cry from
him this time, and a sharper whine from Peter. Out of the
blackness of the night had come a woman's voice! In that first
instant of shock and amazement he would have staked his life that
what he heard was not a mad outcry of the night or an illusion of
his brain. It was clear--distinct--a woman's voice coming from out
on the Barren, rising above the storm in an agony of appeal, and
dying out quickly until it became a part of the moaning wind. And
then, with equal force, came the absurdity of it to McKay. A
woman! He swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat, and
tried to laugh. A WOMAN--out in that storm--a thousand miles from
nowhere! It was inconceivable.
The laugh which he forced from his lips was husky and unreal, and
there was a smothering grip of something at his heart. In the
ghostly light of the alcohol lamp his eyes were wide open and
He looked at Peter. The dog stood stiff-legged before the hole.
His body was trembling.
With a responsive wag of his tail Peter turned his bristling face
up to his master. Many times Jolly Roger had seen that unfailing
warning in his comrade's eyes. THERE WAS SOME ONE OUTSIDE--or
Peter's brain, like his own, was twisted and fooled by the storm!
Against his reasoning--in the face of the absurdity of it--Jolly
Roger was urged into action. He changed the snowshoe and replaced
the alcohol lamp so that the glow of light could be seen more
clearly from the Barren. Then he went to the hole and crawled
through. Peter followed him.
As if infuriated by their audacity, the storm lashed itself over
the top of the dune. They could hear the hissing whine of fine
hard snow tearing above their heads like volleys of shot, and the
force of the wind reached them even in their shelter, bringing
with it the flinty sting of the snow-dust. Beyond them the black
barren was filled with a dismal moaning. Looking up, and yet
seeing nothing in the darkness, Peter understood where the weird
shriekings and ghostly cries came from. It was the wind whipping
itself up the side and over the top of the dune.
Jolly Roger listened, hearing only the convulsive sweep of that
mighty force over a thousand miles of barren. And then came again
one of those brief intervals when the storm seemed to rest for a
moment, and its moaning grew less and less, until it was like the
sound of giant chariot wheels receding swiftly over the face of
the earth. Then came the silence--a few seconds of it--while in
the north gathered swiftly the whispering rumble of a still
And in this silence came once more a cry--a cry which Jolly Roger
McKay could no longer disbelieve, and close upon the cry the
report of a rifle. Again he could have sworn the voice was a
woman's voice. As nearly as he could judge it came from dead
ahead, out of the chaos of blackness, and in that direction he
shouted an answer. Then he ran out into the darkness, followed by
Peter. Another avalanche of wind gathered at their heels, driving
them on like the crest of a flood. In the first force of it Jolly
Roger stumbled and fell to his knees, and in that moment he saw
very faintly the glow of his light at the opening in the snow
dune. A realization of his deadly peril if he lost sight of the
light flashed upon him. Again and again he called into the night.
After that, bowing his head in the fury of the storm, he plunged
on deeper into darkness.
A sudden wild thought seized upon his soul and thrilled him into
forgetfulness of the light and the snow-dune and his own safety.
In the heart of this mad world he had heard a voice. He no longer
doubted it. And the voice was a woman's voice! Could it be Nada?
Was it possible she had followed him after his flight, determined
to find him, and share his fate? His heart pounded. Who else, of
all the women in the world, could be following his trail across
the Barrens--a thousand miles from civilization? He began to shout
her name. "Nada--Nada--Nada!" And hidden in the gloom at his side
Storm and darkness swallowed them. The last faint gleam of the
alcohol lamp died out. Jolly Roger did not look back. Blindly he
stumbled ahead, counting his footsteps as he went, and shouting
Nada's name. Twice he thought he heard a reply, and each time the
will-o'-the-wisp voice seemed to be still farther ahead of him.
Then, with a fiercer blast of the wind beating upon his back, he
stumbled and fell forward upon his face. His hand reached out and
touched the thing that had tripped him. It was not snow. His naked
fingers clutched in something soft and furry. It was a man's coat.
He could feel buttons, a belt, and the sudden thrill of a bearded
He stood up. The wind was wailing off over the Barren again,
leaving an instant of stillness about him. And he shouted:
An answer came so quickly that it startled him, not one voice, but
two--three--and one of them the shrill agonized cry of a woman.
They came toward him as he continued to shout, until a few feet
away he could make out a gray blur moving through the gloom. He
went to it, staggering under the weight of the man he had found in
the snow. The blur was made up of two men dragging a sledge, and
behind the sledge was a third figure, moaning in the darkness.
"I found some one in the snow," Jolly Roger shouted. "Here he is--
He dropped his burden, and the last of his words were twisted by a
fresh blast of the storm. But the figure behind the sledge had
heard, and Jolly Roger saw her indistinctly at his feet, shielding
the man he had found with her arms and body, and crying out a name
which he could not understand in that howling of the wind. But a
thing like cold steel sank into his heart, and he knew it was not
Nada he had found this night on the Barren. He placed the
unconscious man on the sledge, believing he was dead. The girl was
crying out something to him, unintelligible in the storm, and one
of the men shouted in a thick throaty voice which he could not
understand. Jolly Roger felt the weight of him as he staggered in
the wind, fighting to keep his feet, and he knew he was ready to
drop down in the snow and die.
"It's only a step," he shouted. "Can you make it?"
His words reached the ears of the others. The girl swayed through
the darkness and gripped his arm. The two men began to tug at the
sledge, and Jolly Roger seized the rope between them, wondering
why there were no dogs, and faced the driving of the storm. It
seemed an interminable time before he saw the faint glow of the
alcohol lamp. The last fifty feet was like struggling against an
irresistible hail from machine-guns. Then came the shelter of the
One at a time McKay helped to drag them through the hole which he
used for a door. For a space his vision was blurred, and he saw
through the hazy film of storm-blindness the gray faces and
heavily coated forms of those he had rescued. The man he had found
in the snow he placed on his blankets, and the girl fell down upon
her knees beside him. It was then Jolly Roger began to see more
clearly. And in that same instant came a shock as unexpected as
the smash of dynamite under his feet.
The girl had thrown back her parkee, and was sobbing over the man
on the blankets, and calling him father. She was not like Nada.
Her hair was in thick, dark coils, and she was older. She was not
pretty--now. Her face was twisted by the brutal beating of the
storm, and her eyes were nearly closed. But it was the man Jolly
Roger stared at, while his heart choked inside him. He was
grizzled and gray-bearded, with military mustaches and a bald
head. He was not dead. His eyes were open, and his blue lips were
struggling to speak to the girl whose blindness kept her from
seeing that he was alive. And the coat which he wore was the
regulation service garment of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police!
Slowly McKay turned, wiping the film of snow-sweat from his eyes,
and stared at the other two. One of them had sunk down with his
back to the snow wall. He was a much younger man, possibly not
over thirty, and his face was ghastly. The third lay where he had
fallen from exhaustion after crawling through the hole. Both wore
service coats, with holsters at their sides.
The man against the snow-wall was making an effort to rise. He
sagged back, and grinned up apologetically at McKay.
"Dam' fine of you, old man," he mumbled between blistered lips.
"I'm Porter--'N' Division--taking Superintendent Tavish to Fort
Churchill--Tavish and his daughter. Made a hell of a mess of it,
He struggled to his knees.
"There's brandy in our kit. It might help--over there," and he
nodded toward the girl and the gray-bearded man on the blankets.
Jolly Roger did not answer, but crawled through the hole and found
the sledge in the outer darkness. He heard Peter coming after him,
and he saw Porter's bloodless face in the illumination of the
alcohol lamp, where he waited to help him with the dunnage. In
those seconds he fought to get a grip on himself. A quarter of an
hour ago he had laughed at the thought of the law. Never had it
seemed to be so far away from him, and never had he been more
utterly isolated from the world. His mind was still a bit dazed by
the thing that had happened. The police had not trailed him. They
had not ferreted him out, nor had they stumbled upon him by
accident. It was he who had gone out into the night and
deliberately dragged them in! Of all the trickery fate had played
upon him this was the least to be expected.
His mind began to work more swiftly as in darkness he cut the
babiche cordage that bound the patrol dunnage to the sledge. "N"
Division, he told himself, was away over in the Athabasca country.
He had never heard of Porter, nor of Superintendent Tavish, and
inasmuch as the outfit was evidently a special escort to Fort
Churchill it was very likely that Porter and his companions would
not be thinking of outlaws, and especially of Jolly Roger McKay.
This was his one chance. To attempt an escape through the blizzard
was not only a desperate hazard. It was death.
There were only two packs on the sledge, and these he passed
through the hole to Porter. A few moments later he was holding a
flask of liquor to the lips of the gray-bearded man, while the
girl looked at him with eyes that were widening as the snow-sting
left them. Tavish gulped, and his mittened hand closed on the
"I'm all right, Jo," he mumbled. "All right--"
His eyes met McKay's, and then took in the snow walls of the dug-
out. They were deep, piercing eyes, overhung by shaggy brows.
Jolly Roger felt the intentness of their gaze as he gave the girl
a swallow of the brandy, and then passed the flask to Porter.
"You have saved our lives," said Tavish, in a voice that was
clearer. "I don't just understand how it happened. I remember
stumbling in the darkness, and being unable to rise. I was behind
the sledge. Porter and Breault were dragging it, and Josephine, my
daughter, was sheltered under the blankets. After that--"
He paused, and Jolly Roger explained how it all had come about. He
pointed to Peter. It was the dog, he said. Peter had insisted
there was someone outside, and they had taken a chance by going in
search of them. He was John Cummings, a fox trapper, and the storm
had caught him fifty miles from his cabin. He was traveling
without a dog-sledge, and had only a pack-outfit.
Breault, the third man, had regained his wind, and was listening
to him. One look at his dark, thin face told McKay that he was the
wilderness man of the three. He was staring at Jolly Roger in a
strange sort of way. And then, as if catching himself, he nodded,
and began rubbing his frosted face with handfuls of snow.
Porter had thrown off his heavy coat, and was unpacking one of the
dunnage sacks. He and the girl seemed to have suffered less than
the other two. Jo, the girl, was looking at him. And then her eyes
turned to Jolly Roger. They were large, fine eyes, wide open and
clear now. There was something of splendid strength about her as
she smiled at McKay. She was not of the hysterical sort. He could
"If we could have some hot soup," she suggested. "May we?"
There was gratitude in her eyes, which she made no attempt to
express in words. Jolly Roger liked her. And Peter crept up behind
her, and watched her as she followed Breault's example, and rubbed
the cheeks of the bearded man with snow.
"There's an alcohol stove in the other pack," said Breault, with
his hard, narrow eyes fixed steadily on Jolly Roger's face. "By
the way, what did you say your name was?"
Breault made no answer. During the next half hour Jolly Roger felt
stealing over him a growing sense of uneasiness. They drank soup
and ate bannock. It grew warm, and the girl threw off the heavy
fur garment that enveloped her. Color returned into her cheeks.
Her eyes were bright, and in her voice was a tremble of happiness
at finding warmth and life where she had expected death. Porter's
friendliness was almost brotherly. He explained what had happened.
Two rascally Chippewyans had deserted them, stealing off into
darkness and storm with both dog teams and one of their sledges.
After that they had fought on, seeking for a drift into which they
might dig a refuge. But the Barren was as smooth as a table. They
had shouted, and Miss Tavish had screamed--not because they
expected to find assistance--but on account of Tavish falling in
the storm, and losing himself. It was quite a joke, Porter
thought, that Superintendent Tavish, one of the iron men of the
service, should have given up the ghost so easily.
Tavish smiled grimly. They were all in good humor, and happy, with
the possible exception of Breault. Not once did he laugh or smile.
Yet Jolly Roger noted that each time he spoke the others were
specially attentive. There was something repressive and mysterious
about the man, and the girl would cut herself short in the middle
of a laugh if he happened to speak, and the softness of her mouth
would harden in an instant. He understood the significance of her
gladness, and of Porter's, for twice he saw their hands come
together, and their fingers entwine. And in their eyes was
something which they could not hide when they looked at each
other. But Breault puzzled him. He did not know that Breault was
the best man-hunter in "N" Division, which reached from Athabasca
Landing to the Arctic Ocean, or that up and down the two thousand-
mile stretch of the Three River Country he was known as Shingoos,
The girl fell asleep first that night, with her cheek on her
father's shoulder. Breault, the Ferret, rolled himself in a
blanket, and breathed deeply. Porter still smoked his pipe, and
looked wistfully at the pale face of Josephine Tavish. He smiled a
bit proudly at McKay.
"She's mine," he whispered. "We're going to be married."
Jolly Roger wanted to reach over and grip his hand.
He nodded, a little lump coming in his throat.
"I know how you feel," he said. "When I heard her calling out
there--it made me think--of a girl down south."
"Down south?" queried Porter. "Why down south--if you care for
her--and you up here?"
McKay shrugged his shoulders. He had said too much. Neither he nor
Porter knew that Breault's eyes were half open, and that he was
Jolly Roger held up a hand, as if something in the wailing of the
storm had caught his attention.
"We'll have two or three days of this. Better turn in, Porter. I'm
going to dig out another room--for Miss Tavish. I'm afraid she'll
need the convenience of a private room before we're able to move.
It's an easy job--and passes the time away."
"I'll help," offered Porter.
For an hour they worked, using McKay's snowshoes as shovels.
During that hour Breault did not close his eyes. A curious smile
curled his thin lips as he watched Jolly Roger. And when at last
Porter turned in, and slept, the Ferret sat up, and stretched
himself. McKay had finished his room, and was beginning a tunnel
which would lead as a back door out of the drift, when Breault
came in and picked up the snowshoe which Porter had used.
"I'll take my turn," he said. "I'm a bit nervous, and not at all
sleepy, Cummings." He began digging into the snow. "Been long in
this country?" he asked.
"Three winters. It's a good red fox country, with now and then a
silver and a black."
"You must have met Cassidy, then," he said casually, without
looking at McKay. "Corporal Terence Cassidy. This is his country."
Jolly Roger did not look up from his work of digging.
"Yes, I know him. Met him last winter. Red headed. A nice chap. I
like him. You know him?"
"Entered the service together," said Breault. "But he's unlucky.
For two or three years he has been on the trail of a man named
McKay. Jolly Roger, they call him--Jolly Roger McKay. Ever hear of
Jolly Roger nodded.
"Cassidy told me about him when he was at my cabin. From what I've
heard I--rather like him."
"Who--Cassidy, or Jolly Roger?"
For the first time the Ferret leveled his eyes at his companion.
They were mystifying eyes, never appearing to open fully, but
remaining half closed as if to conceal whatever thought might lie
behind them. McKay felt their penetration. It was like a cold
chill entering into him, warning him of a menace deadlier than the
"Haven't any idea where one might come upon this Jolly Roger, have
"You see, he thinks he killed a man down south. Well, he didn't.
The man lived. If you happen to see him at any time give him that
information, will you?"
Jolly Roger thrust his head and shoulders into the growing tunnel.
"Yes, I will."
He knew Breault was lying. And also knew that back of the narrow
slits of Breault's eyes was the cunning of a fox.
"You might also tell him the law has a mind to forgive him for
sticking up that free trader's post a few years ago."
Jolly Roger turned with his snowshoe piled high with a load of
"I'll tell him that, too," he said, chuckling at the obviousness
of the other's trap. "What do you think my cabin is, Breault--a
Rest for Homeless Outlaws?"
Breault grinned. It was an odd sort of grin, and Jolly Roger
caught it over his shoulder. When he returned from dumping his
load, Breault said:
"You see, we know this Jolly Roger fellow is spending the winter
somewhere up here. And Cassidy says there is a girl down south--"
Jolly Roger's face was hidden in the tunnel.
"--who would like to see him," finished Breault.
When McKay turned toward him the Ferret was carelessly lighting
"I remember--Cassidy told me about this girl," said Jolly Roger.
"He said--some day--he would trap this--this man--through the
girl. So if I happen to meet Jolly Roger McKay, and send him back
to the girl, it will help out the law. Is that it, Breault? And is
there any reward tacked to it? Anything in it for me?"
Breault was looking at him in the pale light of the alcohol lamp,
puffing out tobacco smoke, and with that odd twist of a smile
about his thin lips.
"Listen to the storm," he said. "I think it's getting worse--