Part 5 out of 5
she planned how we--she and I--would live very near to the place
where they imprisoned you, and how each day some sight or sign
should pass between you, and the baby--"
"The baby, Father?"
"Thus it seems she dreams, Roger. She, in the wilfulness of her
desire and selfishness--"
With a choking cry Roger bowed his face in his hands.
For a moment Father John was silent. And then he said, so very low
that it was almost a whisper,
"I have passed many years in the wilderness, Roger, many years
trying to look into the hearts of people--and of God. And this--
this love of Nada's--is the greatest of all the miracles I have
witnessed in a life that is now reaching to its three score and
five. Do you see the wonder of it, son? And does it make you
happy, and fearless now?"
He did not wait for an answer, but turned slowly and went in the
direction of the cabin, leaving Roger alone under the thickening
stars. And McKay's face was like Father John's, filled with a
strange and wonderful radiance when he looked up. But with that
light of happiness was also the fiercer underglow of a great
determination. For Nada--for THE BABY--the worst should not
happen; he breathed the thought aloud, and in the words was a
prayer that God might help him, and make unnecessary the sacrifice
from which Father John had taken the sting of fear. And yet, if
that sacrifice came, he saw clearly now that it would not be a
great tragedy but only a brief shadow cast over the undying
happiness in his soul. For they--NADA AND THE BABY--would be
Suddenly he was conscious of a sound very near, and he beheld
Nada, taller and slimmer and more beautiful than ever, it seemed
to him, in the starlight.
"I have told him," Father John had whispered to her only a moment
before. "I have told him, so that he will not fear prison--either
for himself or for you."
And she had come to him quietly, all of the pretty triumph and
playfulness gone, so that she stood like an angel in the soft glow
of the skies, much older than he had ever seen her before, and
smiled at him with a new and wonderful tenderness as she held out
her hands to him.
Not until she lay in his arms, looking up at him from under her
long lashes, did he dare to speak. And then,
"Is it true--what Father John has told me?" he asked.
"It is true," she whispered, and the silken lashes covered her
Her hand crept up to his face in the silence that followed, and
rested there; and with no desire to hear more than the three words
she had spoken he crushed his lips in the sweet coils of her hair,
and together, in that peace ands understanding, they listened to
the gentle whisperings of the night.
"Roger," she whispered at last.
"Yes, my NEWA--"
"What does that mean, Roger?"
"Then I like it. But I shall like the others--one of the others--
"That--that makes me happiest, Roger. Your WIFE. Oh, it is the
sweetest word in the world, that--and--"
He felt her warm face hide itself softly against his neck.
"Mother," he added.
"Yes--Mother," she repeated after him in an awed little voice.
"Oh, I have dreamed of Mothers since I have been old enough to
dream, Roger! My Mother--I never had one that I can remember,
except in a dream. It must be wonderful to--to--have a Mother,
"And yet, I think, not quite so wonderful as to BE a Mother, my
"Listen!" she whispered.
"It is the Leaf Bud singing."
"A love song?"
"Yes, in Cree."
She raised her head, so that her eyes were wide open, and looking
"Since we came up here all this wonderful world has been promising
song for me, Roger. And since you came back to me it has been
singing--singing--singing--every hour of night and day. Have you
ever dreamed of leaving it, Roger--of going down into that world
of towns and cities of which Father John has told me so much?"
"Would you like to go there, Nada?"
"Only to look upon it, and come away. I want to live in the
forests, where I found you. Always and always, Roger."
She raised herself on tip-toe, and kissed him.
"I want to live near Yellow Bird and Sun Cloud--please--Mister
Jolly Roger--I do. And Father John will go with us. And we'll be
so happy there all together, Yellow Bird and Sun Cloud and Giselle
His arms had tightened so suddenly that the little cry came from
"And yet--I may have to leave you for a little time, Nada. But it
will not be for long. What are five years, when all life reaches
out a paradise before us? They are nothing--nothing--and will pass
"Yes, they will pass swiftly," she said, so gently that scarce did
But on his breast she gave a little sob which would not choke
itself back, a sob which bravely she smiled through a moment
later, and which he--knowing that it was best--made as if he had
And so, this night, while Father John and Peter waited and watched
in the cabin, did they plan their future in the company of the
The Sabbath was a day of glory and peace in the Burntwood country.
The sun rose warm and golden, the birds were singing, and never
had the air seemed sweeter to Father John when he came out quietly
from the cabin and breathed it in the early break of dawn. Best of
all he loved this very beginning of day, before darkness was quite
gone, when the world seemed to be awakening mid sleepy whisperings
and sounds came clearly from a long distance.
This morning he heard the barking of a dog, a mile away it must
have been, and Peter, who followed close beside him, pricked up
his ears at the sound of it. Father John had noted Peter's
vigilance, the cautious expectancy with which he was always
sniffing the air, and the keen alertness of his eyes and ears.
McKay had explained the reason for it. And this morning, as they
made their way down to the pool at the creekside, Peter's
ceaseless watching for danger held a deeper significance for
Father John. All through the night, in spite of his faith and his
words of consolation, he was thinking of the menace which was
following McKay, and which eventually must catch up with him.
And yet, how short a time was five years! Looking backward, each
five years of his life seemed but a yesterday. It was eight times
five years ago that a sweet-faced girl had first filled his life,
as Nada filled Jolly Roger's now, and through the thirty years
since he had lost her he could still hear her voice as clearly as
though he had held her in his arms only a few hours ago, so swift
had been the passing of time. But looking ahead, and not backward,
five years seemed an eternity of time, and the dread of it was in
Father John's heart as he stood at the side of the pool, with the
first pink glow of sunrise coming to him over the forest-tops.
Five years, and he was an old man now. A long and dreary wait it
would be for him. But for youth, the glorious youth of Roger and
Nada, it would seem very short when in later years they looked
back upon it. And for a time as he contemplated the long span of
life that lay behind him, and the briefness of that which lay
ahead, a yearning selfishness possessed the soul of Father John,
an almost savage desire to hold those five years away from the
violation of the law--not alone for Nada's sake and Roger McKay's
--but for his own. In this twilight of a tragic life a great
happiness had come to him in the love of these two, and thought of
its menace, its desecration by a pitiless and mistaken justice,
roused in him something that was more like the soul of a fighting
man than the spirit of a missioner of God.
Vainly he tried to stamp out the evil of this resentment, for evil
he believed it to be. And shame possessed him when he saw the
sweet glory in Nada's face later that morning, and the happiness
that was in Roger McKay's. Yet was that aching place in his heart,
and the hidden fear which he could not vanquish.
And that day, it seemed to him, his lips gave voice to lies. For,
being Sunday, the wilderness folk gathered from miles about, and
he preached to them in the little mission house which they had
helped him to build of logs in the clearing. Partly he spoke in
Cree, and partly in English, and his message was one of hope and
inspiration, pointing out the silver linings that always lay
beyond the darkness of clouds. To McKay, holding Nada's hand in
his own as they listened, Father John's words brought a great and
comforting faith. And in Nada's eyes and voice as she led in Cree
the song, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," he heard and saw the living
fire of that faith, and had Breault come in through the open
doorway then he would have accepted him calmly as the beginning of
that sacrifice which he had made up his mind to make.
In the afternoon, when the wilderness people had gone, Father John
heard again the story of Yellow Bird, for Nada was ever full of
questions about her, and for the first time the Missioner learned
of the inspiration which the Indian woman's sorcery had been to
"It was foolish," McKay apologized, in spite of the certainty and
faith which he saw shining in Nada's eyes. "But--it helped me."
"It wasn't foolish," replied Nada quickly. "Yellow Bird DID come
to me. And--SHE KNEW."
"No true faith is folly," said Father John, in his soft, low
voice. "The great fact is that Yellow Bird believed. She was
inspired by a great confidence, and confidence and faith give to
the mind a power which it is utterly incapable of possessing
without them. I believe in the mind, children. I believe that in
some day to come it will reach those heights where it will unlock
the mystery of life itself to us. I have seen many strange things
in my forty-odd years in the wilderness, and not the least of
these have been the achievements of the primitive mind. And it
seems to me, Roger, that Yellow Bird told you much that has come
true. And has it occurred to you--"
He stopped, knowing that the cloud of unrest which was almost fear
in his heart was driving him to say these things.
"What, father," questioned Nada, bending toward him.
"I was about to express a thought which suggests an almost
childish curiosity, and you will laugh at me, my dear. I am
wondering if it has occurred to Roger the mysterious 'Country
Beyond' of which Yellow Bird dreamed might be the great country
down there--south--BEYOND THE BORDER--the United States?"
Something which he could not control seemed to drive the words
from his lips, and in an instant he saw that Nada had seized upon
their significance. Her eyes widened. The blue in them grew
darker, and Roger observed her fingers grip suddenly in the
softness of her dress as she turned from Father John to look at
"Or--it might be China, or Africa, or the South Seas," he tried to
laugh, remembering his old visions. "It might be--anywhere."
Nada's lips trembled, as if she were about to speak; and then very
quietly she sat, with her hands tightly clasped in her lap, and
Father John knew she was not expressing the thought in her heart
when she said,
"Someday I want to tell Yellow Bird how much I love her."
Now in these hours since he and his master had come to the
Burntwood it seemed to Peter that he had lost something very
great, for in his happiness McKay had taken but scant notice of
him, and Nada seemed to have found a greater joy than that which a
long time ago she had found in his comradeship. So now, as she saw
him lying in his loneliness a short distance away, Nada suddenly
ran to him, and together they went into the thick screen of the
balsams, Peter yipping joyously, and Nada without so much as
turning her head in the direction of Roger and Father John. But
even in that bird-like swiftness with which she had left them,
Father John had caught the look in her eyes.
"I have made a mistake," he confessed humbly. "I have sinned,
because in her I have roused the temptation to urge you to fly
away with her--down there--south. She is a woman, and being a
woman she has infinite faith in Yellow Bird, for Yellow Bird
helped to give you to her. She believes--"
"And I--I--also believe," said McKay, staring at the green
"And yet--it is better for you to remain. God means that judgment
and happiness should come in their turn."
Jolly Roger rose to his feet, facing the south.
"It is a temptation, father. It would be hard to give her up--now.
If Breault would only wait a little while. But if he comes--NOW--"
He walked away slowly, following through the balsams where Nada
and Peter had gone. Father John watched him go, and a trembling
smile came to his lips when he was alone. In his heart he knew he
was a coward, and that these young people had been stronger than
he. For in their happiness and the faith which he had falsely
built up in them they had resigned themselves to the inevitable,
while he, in these moments of cowardice, had shown them the way to
temptation. And yet as he stood there, looking in the direction
they had gone, he felt no remorse because of what he had done, and
a weight seemed to have lifted itself from his shoulders.
For a time the more selfish instincts of the man rose in him,
fighting down the sacrificial humility of the great faith of which
he was a messenger. The new sensation thrilled him, and in its
thrill he felt his heart beating a little faster, and hope rising
in him. Five years were a long time--FOR HIM. That was the thought
which kept repeating itself over and over in his brain, and with
it came that other thought, that self-preservation was the first
law of existence, and therefore could not be a sin. Thus did
Father John turn traitor to his spoken words, though his calm and
smiling face gave no betrayal of it when Nada and Roger returned
to the cabin an hour later, their arms filled with red bakneesh
vines and early wildflowers.
Nada's cheeks were as pink as the bakneesh, and her eyes as blue
as the rock-violets she wore on her breast.
And Father John knew that Jolly Roger was no longer oppressed by
the fear of a menace which he was helpless to oppose, for there
was something very confident in the look of his eyes and the
manner in which they rested upon Nada
Peter alone saw the mysterious thing which happened in the early
evening. He was with Nada in her room. And she was the old Nada
again, hugging his shaggy head in her arms, and whispering to him
in the old, excited way. And strange memory of a bundle came back
to Peter, for very quietly, as if unseen ears might be listening
to her, Nada gathered many things in a pile on the table, and made
another bundle. This bundle she thrust under her bed, just as a
long time ago she had thrust a similar bundle under a banksian
clump in the meadowland below Cragg's Ridge.
Father John went to his bed very early, and he was thinking of
Breault. The Hudson's Bay Company post was only twelve miles away,
and Breault would surely go there before questing from cabin to
cabin for his victim.
So it happened that a little after midnight he rose without making
a sound, and by the light of a candle wrote a note for Nada,
saying he had business at the post that day, and without wakening
them had made an early start. This note Nada read to McKay when
they sat at breakfast.
"Quite frequently he has gone like that," Nada explained. "He
loves the forests at night--in the light of the moon."
"But last night there was no moon," said Roger.
"And when Father John left the cabin the sky was clouded, and it
was very dark."
"You heard him go?"
"Yes, and saw him. There was a worried look in his face when he
wrote that note in the candle-glow."
"Roger, what do you mean?"
McKay went behind her chair, and tilted up her face, and kissed
her shining hair and questioning eyes.
"It means, precious little wife, that Father John is hurrying to
the post to get news of Breault if he can. It means that deep in
his heart he wants us to follow Yellow Bird's advice to the end.
For he is sure that he knows what Yellow Bird meant by 'The
Country Beyond.' It is the great big world outside the forests. a
world so big that if need be we can put ourselves ten thousand
miles away from the trails of the mounted police. That is the
thought which is urging him to the post to look for Breault."
Her arms crept up to his neck, and in a little voice trembling
with eagerness she said,
"Roger, my bundle is ready. I prepared it last night--and it is
under the bed."
He held her more closely.
"And you are willing to go with me--anywhere?"
"To the end of the earth?"
Her crumpled head nodded against his breast.
"And leave Father John?"
"Yes, for you. But I think--sometime--he will come to us."
Her fingers touched his cheek.
"And there must be forests, big, beautiful forests, in some other
part of the world, Roger"
"Or a desert, where they would never think of looking for us," he
"I'd love the desert, Roger."
"Or an uninhabited island?"
Against him her head nodded again.
"I'd love life anywhere--WITH YOU."
"Then--we'll go," he said, trying to speak very calmly in spite of
the joy that was consuming him like a fire. And then he went on,
steadying his voice until it was almost cold. "But it means giving
up everything you've dreamed of, Nada--these forests you love,
Father John, Yellow Bird, Sun Cloud--"
"I have only one dream," she interrupted him softly.
"And five years will pass very quickly," he continued. "Possibly
it will not be as bad as that, and afterward all this land we love
will be free to us forever. Gladly will I remain and take my
punishment if in the end it will make us happier, Nada"
"I have only one dream," she repeated, caressing his cheek with
her hand, "and that is you, Roger. Where-ever you take me I shall
be the happiest woman in the world."
"WOMAN," he laughed, scarcely breathing the word aloud.
"Yes, I am a woman--now"
"And yet forever and ever the little girl of Cragg's Ridge," he
cried with sudden passion, crushing her close to him. "I'd lose my
life sooner than I would lose her, Nada--the little girl with
flying hair and strawberry stain on her nose, and who believed so
faithfully in the Man in the Moon. Always I shall worship her as
the little goddess who came down to me from somewhere in heaven!"
Yet all through that day, as they waited for Father John's return,
he saw more and more of the wonder of woman that had come to crown
the glory of Nada's wifehood, and his heart trembled with joy at
the miracle of it. There was something vastly sweet in the change
of her. She was no longer the utterly dependent little thing,
possibly caring for him because he was big and strong and able to
protect her; she was a woman, and loved him as a woman, and not
because of fear or helplessness. And then came the thrilling
mystery of another thing. He found himself, in turn, beginning to
depend upon her, and in their planning her calm decision and quiet
reasoning strengthened him with new confidence and made his heart
sing with gladness. With his eyes on the smooth and velvety coils
of hair which she had twisted woman-like on her head, he said,
"With your hair like that you are my Margaret of Anjou, and the
other way--with it down you are my little Nada of Cragg's Ridge.
And I--I don't quite understand why God should be so good to me."
And this day Peter was trying in his dumb way to analyze the
change. The touch of Nada's hand thrilled him, as it did a long
time ago, and still he sensed the difference. Her voice was even
softer when she put her cheek down to his whiskered face and
talked to him, but in it he missed that which he could not quite
bring back clearly through the lapse of time--the childish
comradeship of her. Yet he began to worship her anew, even more
fiercely than he had loved the Nada of old. He was content now to
lie with his nose touching her foot or dress; but when in the
sunset of early evening she went into her room, and came out a
little later with her curling hair clouding her shoulders and
breast, and tied with a faded ribbon she had brought from Cragg's
Ridge, he danced about her, yelping joyously, and she accepted the
challenge in a wild race with him to the edge of the clearing.
Panting and flushed she ran back to Jolly Roger, and rested in his
And it was McKay, with his face half hidden in her riotous hair,
who saw a figure come suddenly out of the forest at the far end of
the clearing. It was Father John. He saw him pause for an instant,
and then stagger toward them, swaying as if about to fall.
The sudden stopping of his breath--the tightening of his arms--
drew Nada's shining eyes to his face, and then she, too, saw the
little old Missioner as he swayed and staggered across the
clearing. With a cry she was out of McKay's arms and running
Father John was leaning heavily upon her when McKay came up. His
face was tense and his breath came in choking gasps. But he tried
to smile as he clutched a hand at his breast.
"I have hurried," he said, making a great effort to speak calmly,
"and I am--winded--"
He drew in a deep breath, and looked at Jolly Roger.
"Roger--I have hurried to tell you--Breault is coming. He cannot
be far behind me. Possibly half a mile, or a mile--"
In the thickening dusk he took Nada's white face between his
"I find--at last--that I was mistaken, child," he said, very
calmly now. "I believe it is not God's will that you remain to be
taken by Breault. You must go. There is no time to lose. If
Breault does not stumble off the trail in this gloom he will be
here in a few minutes. Come."
Not a word did Nada say as they went to the cabin, and McKay saw
her tense face as pale as an ivory cameo in the twilight. But
something in the up-tilt of her chin and the poise of her head
assured him she was prepared, and unafraid.
In the cabin the Leaf Bud met them, and to her Nada spoke quickly.
There was understanding between them, and Oosimisk dragged in a
filled pack from the kitchen while Nada ran into her room and came
out with the bundle.
Suddenly she was standing before McKay and Father John, her breast
throbbing with excitement.
"There is nothing more to make ready," she said. "Yellow Bird has
been with me all this day, and her spirit told me to prepare. We
have everything we need."
And then she saw only Father John, and put her arms closely about
his neck, and with wide, tearless eyes looked into his face.
"Father, you will come to us?" she whispered. "You promise that?"
The Missioner's arms closed about her, and he bowed his face
against her lips and cheek.
"I pray God that it may be so," he said.
Nada's arms tightened convulsively, and in that moment there came
a warning growl from outside the cabin door.
"Peter!" she cried.
In another moment Father John had extinguished the light.
"Go, my children," he commanded. "You must be quick. Twenty paces
below the pool is a canoe. I had one of my Indians leave it there
yesterday, and it is ready. Roger--Nada--"
He groped out, and the hands of the three met in the darkness.
"God bless you--both! And go south--always south. Now go--go! I
think I hear footsteps--"
He thrust them to the door, Nada with her bundle and Roger with
his pack. Suddenly he felt Peter at his side, and reaching down he
fastened his fingers in the scruff of his neck, and held him back.
"Good-bye," he whispered huskily. "Good-bye--Nada--Roger--"
A sob came back out of the gloom.
And then they listened, Peter and Father John, until the swift
footsteps of the two they loved passed beyond their hearing.
Peter whimpered, and struggled a little, but Father John held him
as he closed the door.
"It's best for you to stay, Peter," he tried to explain. "It's
best for you to stay--with me. For I think they are going a far
distance, and will come to a land where you would shrivel up and
die. Besides, you could not go in the canoe. So be good, and
remain with me, Peter--with me--"
And the Leaf Bud, standing wide-eyed and motionless, heard a
strange little choking laugh come from Father John as he groped in
darkness for a light.
A slow illumination filled the cabin, first the yellow flare of a
match and then the light of a lamp, and as Father John's waxen
face grew out of the darkness Peter whimpered and whined and
scratched with, his paws at the closed door.
Oosimisk, the Leaf Bud, stood like a statue, with her wide, dark
eyes staring at Father John, but scarcely seeming to breathe.
In the old Missioner's face came a trembling smile and a look of
triumph as he read the fear-written question in her steady gaze
"All is well, Oosimisk," he said quietly, speaking in Cree. "They
are safely away, and will not be caught. Continue with your duties
and let no one see that anything unusual has happened. Breault
will come very soon."
He straightened his shoulders, as if to give himself confidence
and strength, and then he called Peter, and comforted the dog
whose master and mistress were fleeing through the dark.
"They have reached the pool," he said, seating himself and holding
Peter's shaggy head between his hands. "They have just about
reached the pool, and Breault must be entering the clearing on the
other side. Roger cannot miss the canoe--twenty paces down and
with nothing to shadow it overhead; I think he has found it by
this time, and in another half minute they will be off. And it is
very black down the Burntwood, with deep timber close to the
water, and for many miles no man can follow by night along its
shores. "Suddenly his hands tightened, and the Leaf Bud, watching
him slyly, saw the last of suspense go out of his face. "And now--
they are safe," he cried exultantly. "They must be on their way--
and Breault has not come across the clearing!"
He rose to his feet, and began pacing back and forth, while Peter
sniffed yearningly at the door again. Oosimisk, with the caution
of her race in moments of danger, was drawing the curtains at the
windows, and Father John smiled his approbation. He did not want
Breault, the man-hunter, peering through one of the windows at
him. Even as he walked back and forth he listened intently for
Breault's footsteps. Peter, with a sigh, gave up his scratching
and settled himself on his haunches close to Nada's door.
Father John, in passing him, paused to lay a hand on his head.
"Some day it may please God to let us go to them," he consoled,
speaking for himself even more than for Peter. "Some day, when
they are far away--and safe."
He felt Peter suddenly stiffen under his hand, and from the Leaf
Bud came a low, swift word of warning.
She began singing softly, and dishes and pans already clean
rattled under her hands in the kitchen, and she continued to sing
even as the cabin door opened and Breault the man-hunter stood in
The unexpectedness of his appearance, without the sound of a
warning footstep outside, was amazing even to Peter. In the open
door he stood for a moment, his thin, ferret-like face standing
out against the black background of the night, and his strange
eyes, apparently half closed yet bright as diamonds, sweeping the
interior without effort but with the quickness of lightning.
There was something deadly and foreboding about him as he stood
here, and Peter growled low in his throat. Recognition flashed
upon him in an instant. It was the man of the snow-dune, away up
on the Barren, the man whom he had mistrusted from the beginning,
and from whom they had fled into the face of the Big Storm months
ago. His mind worked swiftly, even as swiftly as Breault's in its
way, and without any process of reasoning he sensed menace and
enmity in this man's appearance, and associated with it the
mysterious flight of Jolly Roger and Nada.
Breault had nodded, without speaking. Then his eyes rested on
Peter, and his face broke into a twisted sort of smile. It was not
altogether unpleasant, yet was there something about it which made
one shiver. It spoke the character of the man, pitiless,
determined, omniscient almost, as if the spirit of a grim and
unrelenting fate walked with him.
Again he nodded, and held out a hand.
"Peter," he called. "Come here, Peter!"
Peter flattened his ears a fraction of an inch, but did not move.
Even that fraction of an inch caught Breault's keen eyes.
"Still a one-man dog," he observed, stepping well inside the
cabin, and facing Father John. "Where is McKay, Father?"
He had not closed the door, and Peter saw his chance. The Leaf Bud
saw him pass like a shot out into the night, but as he went she
made no effort to call him back, for her ears were wide open as
Breault repeated his question,
"Where is McKay, Father?"
Peter heard the man-hunter's voice from the darkness outside. For
barely an instant he paused, picking up the fresh scent of Nada
and Jolly Roger. It was easy to follow--straight to the pool, and
from the pool twenty paces down-stream, where a little finger of
sand and pebbles had been formed by the eddies. In this bar was
fresh imprint of the canoe, and here the footprints ended.
Peter whimpered, peering into the tunnel of darkness between
forest trees, where the water rippled and gurgled softly on its
way into a deeper and more tangled wilderness. He waded belly-deep
into the current, half determined to swim; and then he waited,
listening intently, but could hear no sound of voice or paddle
Yet he knew Jolly Roger and Nada could not be far away.
He returned to the edge of the pool, and began sniffing his way
down-stream, pausing every two or three minutes to listen. Now and
then he caught the presence of those he sought, in the air, but
those intervals in which he stopped to catch sound of voice or
paddle lost him time, so the canoe was traveling faster than
Half way between himself and the bow of that canoe McKay could
dimly make out Nada's pale face in the star glow that filtered
like a mist through the tops of the close-hanging trees.
Scarcely above his breath he laughed in joyous confidence.
"At last my dream is coming true, Nada," he whispered. "You are
mine. And we are going into another world. And no one will ever
find us there--no one but Father John, when we send him word. You
are not afraid?"
Her voice trembled a little in the gloom.
"No, I am not afraid. But it is dark--so dark--"
"The moon will be with us again in a few nights--your moon, with
the Old Man smiling down on us. I know how the Man in the Moon
must feel when he's on the other side of the world, and can't see
Her silence made him lean toward her, striving to get a better
view of her face where the starlight broke through an opening in
And in that moment he heard a little breath that was almost a sob.
"It's Peter," she said, before he could speak. "Oh, Roger, why
didn't we bring Peter?"
"Possibly--we should have," he replied, skipping a stroke with his
paddle. "But I think we have done the best thing for Peter. He is
a wilderness dog, and has never known anything different. Over
there, where we are going--"
"I understand. And some day, Father John will bring him?"
"Yes. He has promised that. Peter will come to us when Father John
She had turned, looking into the pit-gloom ahead of them, so dark
that the canoe seemed about to drive against a wall. Under its bow
the water gurgled like oil.
"We are entering the big cedar swamp," he explained. "It is like
Blind Man's Buff, isn't it? Can you see?"
"Not beyond the bow of the canoe, Roger."
"Work back to me," he said, "very carefully."
She came, obediently.
"Now turn slowly, so that you face the bow, and lean back with
your head against my knees."
This also, she did.
"This is much nicer," she whispered, nestling her head comfortably
against him. "So much nicer."
By leaning over until his back nearly cracked he was able to find
her lips in the darkness.
"I was thinking of the brush that overhangs the stream," he
explained when he had straightened himself. "Sitting up as you
were it might have caused you hurt."
There was a little silence between them, in which his paddle
caught again its slow and steady rhythm. Then,
"Were you thinking only of the brush, Roger--and of the hurt it
might cause me?"
"Yes, only of that," and he chuckled softly.
"Then I don't think it nice here at all," she complained. "I shall
sit up straight so the brush may put my eyes out!"
But her head pressed even closer against him, and careful not to
interrupt his paddle-stroke she touched his face for an instant
with her hand.
"It's there," she purled, as if utterly comforted. "I wanted to be
sure--it is so dark!"
With cimmerian blackness on all sides of them, and a chaotic
tunnel ahead, they were happy. Staring straight before him, though
utterly unable to see, McKay sensed in every movement he made and
in every breath he drew the exquisite thrill of a miracle. And the
same thrill swept into him and through him from the softly
breathing body of Nada. Light or darkness made no difference now.
Together, inseparable from this time forth, they had started on
the one great adventure of their lives, and for them fear had
ceased to exist. The night sheltered them. Its very blackness held
in its embrace a warmth of welcome and of unending hope. Twice in
the next half hour he put his hand to Nada's face, and each time
she pressed her lips against it, sweet with that confidence which
so completely possessed her soul.
Very slowly they moved through the swamp, for because of the gloom
his paddle-strokes were exceedingly short, and he was feeling his
way. Frequently he ran into brush, or struck the boggy shore, and
occasionally Nada would hold lighted matches while he extricated
the canoe from tree-tops and driftwood that impeded the way. He
loved the brief glimpses he caught of her face in the match-glow,
and twice he deliberately wasted the tiny flares that he might
hold the vision of her a little longer.
At last he began to feel the pulse of a current against his
paddle, and soon after that the star-mist began filtering through
the thinning tree-tops again, so that he knew they were almost
through the swamp. Another half-hour and they were free of it,
with a clear sky overhead and the cheering song of running water
on both sides of them.
Nada sat up, and it was now so light that he could see the soft
shimmer of her hair in the starlight. He also saw a pretty little
grimace in her face, even as she smiled at him.
"I--I can't move," she exclaimed. "UGH! my feet are asleep--"
"We'll go ashore and stretch ourselves," said McKay, who had
looked at his watch in the light of the last match. "We've two
hours the start of Breault, and there is no other canoe."
He began watching the shore closely, and it was not long before he
made out the white smoothness of a sandbar on their right. Here
they landed and for half an hour rested their cramped limbs.
Then they went on, and in his heart McKay blessed the deep swamp
that lay between them and Breault.
"I don't think he can make it without a canoe, even if he guesses
we went this way," he explained to Nada. "And that means--we are
There was a cheery ring in his voice which would have changed to
the deadness of cold iron could he have looked back into that
sluggish pit of the Burntwood through which they had come, or
could he have seen into the heart of the still blacker swamp.
For through the swamp, feeling his way in the black abysses and
amid the monster-ghosts of darkness, came Peter.
And down the Burntwood, between the boggy mucklips of the swamp, a
man followed with slow but deadly surety, guiding with a long pole
two light cedar timbers which he had lashed together with wire,
and which bore him safely and in triumph where the canoe had gone
This man was Breault, the man-hunter.
"The swamp will hold him!" McKay was saying again, exultantly.
"Even if he guesses our way, the swamp will hold him back, Nada."
"But he won't know the way we have come," cried Nada, the faith in
her voice answering his own. "Father John will guide him in
Back in the pit-gloom, with a grim smile now and then relaxing the
tight-set compression of his thin lips, and with eyes that stared
like a night-owl's into the gloom ahead of him, Breault poled
Dripping from the bog-holes and lathered with mud, it was the
mystery of Breault's noiseless presence somewhere near him in the
still night that drew Peter continually deeper into the swamp.
Half a dozen times he caught the scent of him in a quiet air that
seemed only now and then to rise up in his face softly, as if
stirred by butterflies' wings. Always it came from ahead, and
Peter's mind worked swiftly to the decision that where Breault was
there also would be Nada and Jolly Roger. Yet he caught the scent
of neither of these two, and that puzzled him.
Many times he found himself at the edge of the black lip of water,
but never quite at the right time to see a shadow in its darkness,
or hear the sound of Breault's pole.
But in the swamp, as he went on, he saw nothing but shadow, and
heard weird and nameless sounds which made his blood creep, even
though his courage was now full-grown within him.
He was not frightened at the ugly sputter of the owls, as in the
days of old. Their throaty menace and snapping beaks did not stop
him nor turn him aside. The slashing scrape of claws in the bark
of trees and the occasional crackling of brush were matters of
intimate knowledge, and he gave but little attention to them in
his eagerness to reach those who had gone ahead of him. What
troubled him, and filled his eyes with sudden red glares, were the
oily gurgles of the pitfalls which tried to suck him down; the
laughing madness of muck that held him as if living things were in
it, and which spluttered and coughed when he freed himself.
Half blinded at times, so that even the black shadows were blotted
out, he went on. And at last, coming again to the edge of the
stream, he heard a new kind of sound--the slow, steady dipping of
He hurried on, finding harder ground under his feet, and came
noiselessly abreast of the man on his raft of cedar timbers. He
could almost hear his breathing. And very faintly he could see in
the vast gloom a shadow--a shadow that moved slowly against the
background of a still deeper shadow beyond.
But there was no scent of Nada or Jolly Roger, and whatever desire
had risen in him to make himself known was smothered by caution
and suspicion. After this he did not go ahead of Breault, but kept
behind him or abreast of him, within sound of the dipping pole.
And every minute his heart thumped expectantly, and he sniffed the
new air for signs of those he most desired to find.
Dawn was breaking in the sky when they came out of the swamp, and
the first flush of the sun was lighting up the east when Breault
headed his improvised craft for the sandbar upon which Nada and
McKay had rested many hours before.
Breault was tired, but his eyes lighted up when he saw the
footprints in the sand, and he chuckled--almost good humoredly. As
a matter of fact he was in a good humor. But one would not have
reckoned it as such in Breault. A hard man, the forests called
him; a man with the hunting instincts of the fox and the wolf and
the merciless persistency of the weazel--a man who lived his code
to the last letter of the law, without pity and without
favoritism. At least so he was judged, and his hard, narrow eyes,
his thin lips and his cynically lined face seldom betrayed the
better thoughts within him, if he possessed any at all. In the
Service he was regarded as a humanly perfect mechanism, a bit of
machinery that never failed, the dreaded Nemesis to be set on the
trail of a wrong-doer when all others had failed.
But this morning, with every bone and muscle in him aching from
his long night of tedious exertion, the chuckle grew into a laugh
as he looked upon the telltale signs in the sand.
He stretched himself and his tired bones cracked.
Breault did not think aloud. But he was saying to himself.
"There, against that rock, Jolly Roger McKay sat There is the
imprint of only one person sitting. The girl was in his arms. Here
are little holes where her outstretched heels rested in the sand.
She is wearing shoes and not moccasins."
He grinned as he drew his service pack from the two-log cedar
"Plenty of time now," he continued to think. "They are mine this
time--sure. They believe they have fooled me, and they haven't.
That's fatal. Always."
Not infrequently, when entirely alone, Breault let a little part
of himself loose, as if freeing a prisoner from bondage for a
short time. For instance, he whistled. It was not an unpleasant
whistle, but rather oddly reminiscent of tender things he
remembered away back somewhere; and as he fried his bacon and
steamed a handful of desiccated potatoes he hummed a song, also
rather pleasant to ears that were as closely attentive as Peter's.
For Peter had crept up through a tangle of ground-scrub and lay
not twenty paces away, smelling of the bacon hungrily, and
watching intently from his concealment.
Peter knew the fox and the wolf, but he did not know Breault, and
he did not guess why the man's whistling grew a little louder, nor
why his humming voice grew stronger. But after a time, with his
back and not his face toward Peter, Breault called in the most
natural and matter-of-fact voice in the world,
"Come on, Peter. Breakfast is ready!"
Peter's jaws dropped in amazement. And as Breault turned toward
him, his thin face a-grin, and continued to invite him in a most
companionable way, he forgot his concealment entirely and stood up
straight, ready either to fight or fly.
Breault tossed him a dripping slice of bacon which he held in his
hand. It fell within a foot of Peter's nose, and Peter was
ravenously hungry. The delicious odor of it demoralized his senses
and his caution. For a few seconds he resisted, then thrust
himself out toward it an inch at a time, made a sudden grab, and
swallowed it at one gulp
Breault laughed outright, and with the first of the sun striking
into his face he did not look like an enemy to Peter.
A second slice of bacon followed the first, and then a third--
until Breault was frying another mess over the fire.
"That's partial payment for what you did up on the Barren," he was
saying inside himself. "If it hadn't been for you--"
He didn't even imagine the rest. Nor after that did he pay the
slightest attention to Peter. For Breault knew dogs possibly even
better than he knew men, and not by the smallest sign did he give
Peter to understand that he was interested in him at all. He
washed his dishes, whistling and humming, reloaded his pack on the
raft, and once more began poling his way downstream.
Peter, still in the edge of the scrub, was not only puzzled, but
felt a further sense of abandonment. After all, this man was not
his enemy, and he was leaving him as his master and mistress had
left him. He whined. And Breault was not out of sight when he
trotted down to the sandbar, and quickly found the scent of Nada
and McKay. Purposely Breault had left a lump of desiccated potato
as big as his fist, and this Peter ate as ravenously as he had
eaten the bacon. Then, just as Breault knew he would do, he began
following the raft.
Breault did not hurry, and he did not rest. There was something
almost mechanically certain in his slow but steady progress,
though he knew it was possible for the canoe to outdistance him
three to one. He was missing nothing along the shore. Three times
during the forenoon he saw where the canoe had landed, and he
chuckled each time, thinking of the old story of the tortoise and
the hare. He stopped for not more than two or three minutes at
each of these places, and was then on his way again.
Peter was fascinated by the unexcited persistency of the man's
movement. He followed it, watched it, and became more and more
interested in the unvarying monotony of it. There were the same
up-and-down strokes of the long pole, the slight swaying of the
upstanding body, the same eddy behind the cedar logs--and
occasionally wisps of smoke floating behind when the pursuer
smoked his pipe. Not once did Peter see Breault turn his head to
look behind him. Yet Breault was seeing everything. Five times
that morning he saw Peter, but not once did he make a sign or call
He drove his raft ashore at twelve o'clock to prepare his dinner,
and after he had built a fire, and his cooking things were
scattered about, he straightened himself up and called in that
same matter-of-fact way, as if expecting an immediate response,
"Here, Peter!--Peter!--Come in, Boy!"
And Peter came. Fighting against the last instinct that held him
back he first thrust his head out from the brush and looked at
Breault. Breault paid no attention to him for a few moments, but
sliced his bacon. When the perfume of the cooking meat reached
Peter's nose he edged himself a little nearer, and with a
whimpering sigh flattened himself on his belly.
Breault heard the sigh, and grunted a reply,
"Hungry again, Peter?" he inquired casually.
He had saved for this moment a piece of cooked bacon held over
from breakfast, and tearing this with his fingers he tossed the
strips to Peter. As he did this he was thinking to himself,
"Why am I doing this? I don't want the dog. He will be a nuisance.
He will eat my grub. But it's fair. I'm paying a debt. He helped
to save me up on the Barren."
Thus did Breault, the man without mercy, the Nemesis, briefly
analyze the matter. And he cooked five pieces of bacon for Peter.
During the rest of that day Peter made no effort to keep himself
in concealment as he followed Breault and his raft. This afternoon
Breault shot a fawn, and when he made camp that night both he and
Peter feasted on fresh meat. This broke down the last of Peter's
suspicion, and Breault laid a hand on his head. He did not
particularly like the feel of the hand, but he tolerated it, and
Breault grunted aloud, with a note of commendation in his hard
"A one-man dog--never anything else."
Half a dozen times during the day Peter had found the scent of
Nada and Roger where they had come ashore, and from this night on
he associated Breault as a necessary agent in his search for them.
And with Breault he went, instinctively guessing the truth.
The next day they found where Nada and McKay had abandoned the
canoe, and had struck south through the wilderness. This pleased
Breault, who was tired of his poling. This third night there was a
new moon, and something about it stirred in Peter an impulse to
run ahead and overtake those he was seeking. But a still strong
instinct held him to Breault.
Tonight Breault slept like a dead man on his cedar boughs. He was
up and had a fire built an hour before dawn, and with the first
gray streaking of day was on the trail again. He made no further
effort to follow signs of the pursued, for that was a hopeless
task. But he knew how McKay was heading, and he traveled swiftly,
figuring to cover twice the distance that Nada might travel in the
same given time. It was three o'clock in the afternoon when he
came to a great ridge, and on its highest pinnacle he stopped.
Peter had grown restless again, and a little more suspicious of
Breault. He was not afraid of him, but all that day he had found
no scent of Nada or Jolly Roger, and slowly the conviction was
impinging itself upon him that he should seek for himself in the
Breault saw this restlessness, and understood it.
"I'll keep my eye on the dog," he thought. "He has a nose, and an
uncanny sixth sense, and I haven't either. He will bear watching.
I believe McKay and the girl cannot be far away. Possibly they
have traveled more slowly than I thought, and haven't passed this
ridge; or it may be they are down there, in the plain. If so I
should catch sign of smoke or fire--in time."
For an hour he kept watch over the plain through his binoculars,
seeking for a wisp of smoke that might rise at any time over the
treetops. He did not lose sight of Peter, questing out in widening
circles below him. And then, quite unexpectedly, something
happened. In the edge of a tiny meadow an eighth of a mile away
Peter was acting strangely. He was nosing the ground, gulping the
wind, twisting eagerly back and forth. Then he set out, steadily
and with unmistakable decision, south and west.
In a flash Breault was on his feet, had caught up his pack, and
was running for the meadow. And there he found something in the
velvety softness of the earth which brought a grim smile to his
thin lips as he, too, set out south and west.
The scent he had found, hours old, drew Peter on until in the edge
of the dusk of evening it brought him to a foot-worn trail leading
to the Hudson's Bay Company post many miles south. In this path,
beaten by the feet of generations of forest dwellers, the hard
heels of McKay's boots had made their imprint, and after this the
scent was clearer under Peter's nose. But with forest-bred caution
he still traveled slowly, though his blood was burning like a
pitch-fed fire in his veins. Almost as swiftly followed Breault
Again came darkness, and then the moon, brighter than last night,
lighting his way between the two walls of the forest
Dawn came softly where the quiet waters of the Willow Bud ran
under deep forests of evergreen out into the gold and silver birch
of the Nelson River flats. A veiling mist rose out of the earth to
meet the promise of day, gentle and sweet, like scented raiment,
stirring sleepily to the pulse of an awakening earth. Through it
came the first low twitter of birdsong, a sound that seemed to
swell and grow until it filled the world. Yet was it still a sound
of sleep, of half wakefulness, and the mist was thinning away
when, a ruffled little breast sent out its full throat-song from
the tip of a silver birch that overhung the stream.
The little warbler was looking down, as if wondering why there was
no stir of life beneath him, where in last night's sunset there
had been much to wonder at and a new kind of song to thrill him.
But the girl was no longer there to sing back at him. The cedar
and balsam shelter dripped with morning dew, the place where fire
had been was black and dead, and ruffling his feathers the warbler
continued his song in triumph.
Nada, hidden under her shelter, and still half dreaming, heard
him. She lay with her head nestled in the crook of Roger's arm,
and the birdsong seemed to come to her from a great distance away.
She smiled, and her lips trembled, as if even in sleep she--was
about to answer it. And then the song drifted away until she could
no longer hear it, and she sank back into an oblivion of darkness
in which she seemed lost for a long time, and out of which some
invisible force was struggling to drag her.
There came at last a sudden irresistible pull at her senses, and
she opened her eyes, awake. Her head was no longer in the crook of
Jolly Roger's arm. She could see him sitting up straight, and he
was not looking at her. It must be late, she thought, for the
light was strong in his face, warm with the first golden flow of
the sun. She smiled, and sat up, and shook her soft curls with a
happy little laugh.
And then she, too, was staring, wide-eyed and speechless. For she
saw Peter under Jolly Roger's hand. But it was not Peter who drew
her breath short and sent fear cutting like a sharp knife through
Facing them, seated coldly on a log which McKay had dragged in
from the timber, was a thin-faced sharp-eyed man who was studying
them with an odd smile on his lips, and instantly Nada knew this
man was Breault.
There was something peculiarly appalling about him as he sat
there, in spite of the fact that for a few moments he neither
spoke nor moved. His eyes, Nada thought, were not like human eyes,
and his lips were like the blades of two knives set together. Yet
he was smiling, or half smiling, not in a comforting or humorous
way, but with exultation and triumph. From looking at him one
would never have guessed that Breault loved his joke.
"Good morning, Jolly Roger McKay! And--good morning, Mrs. Jolly
Roger McKay! Pardon me for watching you like this, but duty is
duty. I am Breault, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police."
McKay wet his lips. Breault saw him, and the grin on his thin face
"I know, it's hard," he said. "But you've got Peter to thank for
it. Peter led me to you."
He stood up, and in a most casual fashion covered Jolly Roger with
"Would you mind stepping out, McKay?" he asked.
In his other hand he dangled a pair of handcuffs. McKay stood up,
and Nada rose beside him, gripping his arms with both hands.
"No need of those things, Breault," he said. "I'll go peaceably."
"Still--it's safer," argued Breault, a wicked glitter in his eyes.
"Hold out one hand, please--"
The manacle snapped over Jolly Roger's wrist.
"I'm Breault--not Terence Cassidy," he chuckled. "Never take a
chance, you know. Never!"
Swift as a flash was his movement then, as the companion bracelet
snapped over Nada's wrist. He stepped back, facing them with a
"Got you both now, haven't I?" he gloated. "Can't get away, can
you?" He put his gun away, and bowed low to Nada. "How do you like
married life, Mrs. Jolly Roger?"
McKay's face was whiter than Nada's.
"You coward!" he spoke in a low, quiet voice. "You low-down
miserable coward. You're a disgrace to the Service. Do you mean
you are going to keep my wife ironed like this?"
"Sure," said Breault. "I'm going to make you pay for some of the
trouble I've had over you. I believe in a man paying his debts,
you know. And a woman, too. And probably you've lied to her like
the very devil."
"He hasn't!" protested Nada fiercely. "You're a--a--"
"Say it," nodded Breault good humoredly. "By all means say it,
Mrs. Jolly Roger. If you can't find words, let me help you," and
while he waited he loaded his pipe and lighted it.
"You see I don't exactly live up to regulations when I'm with good
friends like you," he apologized cynically. "In other words you're
a couple of hard cases. Cassidy has turned in all sorts of
evidence about you. He says that you, McKay, should be hung the
moment we catch you. He warned me not to take a chance--that you'd
slit my throat in the dark without a prick of conscience. And I'm
a valuable man in the Service. It can't afford to lose me."
McKay shut his lips tightly, and did not answer.
"Now, while you're helpless, I want to tell you a few things,"
Breault went on. "And while I'm talking I'll start the fire, so we
can have breakfast. Peter and, I are hungry. A good dog, McKay. He
saved us up on the Barren. Have you told Mrs. Jolly Roger about
He expected no answer, and whistled as he lighted a pile of
birchbark which he had already placed under dry cedar wood which
McKay had gathered the preceding evening.
"That's where MY trouble began--up there on the Barren, Mrs. Jolly
Roger," he continued, ignoring McKay. "You see the three of us,
Superintendent Tavish, and Porter--who is now his son-in-law--and
I had a splendid chance to die like martyrs, and go down forever
in the history of the Service, if it hadn't been for this fool of
a husband of yours, and Peter. I can't blame Peter, because he's
only a dog. But McKay is responsible. He robbed us of a beautiful
opportunity of dying in an unusual way by hunting us up and
dragging us into his shelter. A shabby trick, don't you think? And
inasmuch as Superintendent Tavish is about the biggest man in the
Service, and Porter is his son-in-law, and Miss Tavish was saved
along with us--why, they reckoned something ought to be done about
Breault did not look up. With, exasperating slowness he added fuel
to the fire.
He rose and stood before them again.
"And so--they assigned me to the very unpleasant duty of running
you down with a pardon, McKay--a pardon forgiving you for all your
sins, forever and ever, Amen. And here it is!"
He had drawn an official-looking envelope from inside his coat,
and held it out now--not to McKay--but to Nada.
Neither reached for it. Standing there with the cynical smile
still on his lips, his strange eyes gimleting them with a cold
sort of laughter, it was as if Breault tortured them with a last
horrible joke. Then, suddenly, Nada seized the envelope and tore
it open, while McKay stared at Breault, believing, and yet not
daring to speak.
It was Nada's cry, a cry wild and sobbing and filled with
gladness, that told him the truth, and with the precious paper
clutched in her hand she smothered her face against McKay's
breast, while Breault came up grinning behind them, and Jolly
Roger heard the click of his key in the handcuffs.
"I am also loaded down with a number of foolish messages for you,"
he said, attending to the fire again. "For instance, that red-
headed good-for-nothing, Cassidy, says to tell you he is building
a four-room bungalow for you in their clearing, and that it will
be finished by the time you arrive. Also, a squaw named Yellow
Bird, and a redskin who calls himself Slim Buck, sent word that
you will always be welcome in their hunting grounds. And a pretty
little thing named Sun Cloud sent as many kisses as there are
leaves on the trees--"
He paused, chuckling, and did not look up to see the wide,
glorious eyes of the girl upon him.
"But the funniest thing of all is the baby," he went on, preparing
to slice bacon. "They're going to have one pretty soon--Cassidy's
wife, I mean. They've given it a name already. If it's a boy it's
Roger--if it's a girl it's Nada. They wanted me to tell you that.
Silly bunch, aren't they? A couple of young fools--"
Just then something new happened in the weirdly adventurous life
of Frangois Breault. Without warning he was suddenly smothered in
a pair of arms, his head was jerked back, and against his hard and
pitiless mouth a pair of soft red lips pressed for a single
thrilling instant. "Well, I'll be damned," he gasped, dropping his
bacon and staggering to his feet like a man who had been shot.
And he picked up his pack and walked off into the thick young
spruce at the edge of the timber, without saying another word or
once looking behind him. And breakfast waited, and Nada and Jolly
Roger and Peter waited, but Frangois Breault did not return. For a
strange and unaccountable man was he, a hard and pitiless man and
a deadly hunter who knew no fear. Yet the wilderness swallowed
him, a coward at last--running away from the two red lips that had
So went Breault, for the first time in his life a messenger of
mercy; and at the top of the silver birch the little warbler knew
that something glad had happened, and offered up its gratitude in
a sudden burst of song.