The Flaming Forest
James Oliver Curwood
Part 1 out of 5
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THE FLAMING FOREST
BY JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD
AUTHOR OF THE VALLEY OF SILENT MEN, THE COUNTRY BEYOND, THE
THE FLAMING FOREST
An hour ago, under the marvelous canopy of the blue northern sky,
David Carrigan, Sergeant in His Most Excellent Majesty's Royal
Northwest Mounted Police, had hummed softly to himself, and had
thanked God that he was alive. He had blessed McVane,
superintendent of "N" Division at Athabasca Landing, for detailing
him to the mission on which he was bent. He was glad that he was
traveling alone, and in the deep forest, and that for many weeks
his adventure would carry him deeper and deeper into his beloved
north. Making his noonday tea over a fire at the edge of the
river, with the green forest crowding like an inundation on three
sides of him, he had come to the conclusion--for the hundredth
time, perhaps--that it was a nice thing to be alone in the world,
for he was on what his comrades at the Landing called a "bad
"If anything happens to me," Carrigan had said to McVane, "there
isn't anybody in particular to notify. I lost out in the matter of
family a long time ago."
He was not a man who talked much about himself, even to the
superintendent of "N" Division, yet there were a thousand who
loved Dave Carrigan, and many who placed their confidences in him.
Superintendent Me Vane had one story which he might have told, but
he kept it to himself, instinctively sensing the sacredness of it.
Even Carrigan did not know that the one thing which never passed
his lips was known to McVane.
Of that, too, he had been thinking an hour ago. It was the thing
which, first of all, had driven him into the north. And though it
had twisted and disrupted the earth under his feet for a time, it
had brought its compensation. For he had come to love the north
with a passionate devotion. It was, in a way, his God. It seemed
to him that the time had never been when he had lived any other
life than this under the open skies. He was thirty-seven now. A
bit of a philosopher, as philosophy comes to one in a sun-cleaned
and unpolluted air, A good-humored brother of humanity, even when
he put manacles on other men's wrists; graying a little over the
temples--and a lover of life. Above all else he was that. A lover
of life. A worshiper at the shrine of God's Country.
So he sat, that hour ago, deep in the wilderness eighty miles
north of Athabasca Landing, congratulating himself on the present
conditions of his existence. A hundred and eighty miles farther on
was Fort McMurray, and another two hundred beyond that was
Chipewyan, and still beyond that the Mackenzie and its fifteen-
hundred-mile trail to the northern sea. He was glad there was no
end to this world of his. He was glad there were few people in it.
But these people he loved. That hour ago he had looked out on the
river as two York boats had forged up against the stream, craft
like the long, slim galleys of old, brought over through the
Churchill and Clearwater countries from Hudson's Bay. There were
eight rowers in each boat. They were singing. Their voices rolled
between the walls of the forests. Their naked arms and shoulders
glistened in the sun. They rowed like Vikings, and to him they
were symbols of the freedom of the world. He had watched them
until they were gone up-stream, but it was a long time before the
chanting of their voices had died away. And then he had risen from
beside his tiny fire, and had stretched himself until his muscles
cracked. It was good to feel the blood running red and strong in
one's veins at the age of thirty-seven. For Carrigan felt the
thrill of these days when strong men were coming out of the north
--days when the glory of June hung over the land, when out of the
deep wilderness threaded by the Three Rivers came romance and
courage and red-blooded men and women of an almost forgotten
people to laugh and sing and barter for a time with the outpost
guardians of a younger and more progressive world. It was north of
Fifty-Four, and the waters of a continent flowed toward the Arctic
Sea. Yet soon would the strawberries be crushing red underfoot;
the forest road was in bloom, scarlet fire-flowers reddened the
trail, wild hyacinths and golden-freckled violets played hide-
and-seek with the forget-me-nots in the meadows, and the sky was a
great splash of velvety blue. It was the north triumphant--at the
edge of civilization; the north triumphant, and yet paying its
tribute. For at the other end were waiting the royal Upper Ten
Thousand and the smart Four Hundred with all the beau monde behind
them, coveting and demanding that tribute to their sex--the silken
furs of a far country, the life's blood and labor of a land
infinitely beyond the pale of drawing-rooms and the whims of
Carrigan had thought of these things that hour ago, as he sat at
the edge of the first of the Three Rivers, the great Athabasca.
From down the other two, the Slave and the Mackenzie, the fur
fleets of the unmapped country had been toiling since the first
breakups of ice. Steadily, week after week, the north had been
emptying itself of its picturesque tide of life and voice, of
muscle and brawn, of laughter and song--and wealth. Through, long
months of deep winter, in ten thousand shacks and tepees and
cabins, the story of this June had been written as fate had
written it each winter for a hundred years or more. A story of the
triumph of the fittest. A story of tears, of happiness here and
there, of hunger and plenty, of new life and quick death; a story
of strong men and strong women, living in the faith of their
forefathers, with the best blood of old England and France still
surviving in their veins.
Through those same months of winter, the great captains of trade
in the city of Edmonton had been preparing for the coming of the
river brigades. The hundred and fifty miles of trail between that
last city outpost of civilization and Athabasca Landing, the door
that opened into the North, were packed hard by team and dog-
sledge and packer bringing up the freight that for another year
was to last the forest people of the Three River country--a domain
reaching from the Landing to the Arctic Ocean. In competition
fought the drivers of Revillon Brothers and Hudson's Bay, of free
trader and independent adventurer. Freight that grew more precious
with each mile it advanced must reach the beginning of the
waterway. It started with the early snows. The tide was at full by
midwinter. In temperature that nipped men's lungs it did not
cease. There was no let-up in the whip-hands of the masters of
trade at Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, and London across the sea.
It was not a work of philanthropy. These men cared not whether
Jean and Jacqueline and Pierre and Marie were well-fed or hungry,
whether they lived or died, so far as humanity was concerned. But
Paris, Vienna, London, and the great capitals of the earth must
have their furs--and unless that freight went north, there would
be no velvety offerings for the white shoulders of the world.
Christmas windows two years hence would be bare. A feminine wail
of grief would rise to the skies. For woman must have her furs,
and in return for those furs Jean and Jacqueline and Pierre and
Marie must have their freight. So the pendulum swung, as it had
swung for a century or two, touching, on the one side, luxury,
warmth, wealth, and beauty; on the other, cold and hardship, deep
snows and open skies--with that precious freight the thing
And now, in this year before rail and steamboat, the glory of
early summer was at hand, and the wilderness people were coming up
to meet the freight. The Three Rivers--the Athabasca, the Slave,
and the Mackenzie, all joining in one great two-thousand-mile
waterway to the northern sea--were athrill with the wild impulse
and beat of life as the forest people lived it. The Great Father
had sent in his treaty money, and Cree song and Chipewyan chant
joined the age-old melodies of French and half-breed. Countless
canoes drove past the slower and mightier scow brigades; huge York
boats with two rows of oars heaved up and down like the ancient
galleys of Rome; tightly woven cribs of timber, and giant rafts
made tip of many cribs were ready for their long drift into a
timberless country. On this two-thousand-mile waterway a world had
gathered. It was the Nile of the northland, and each post and
gathering place along its length was turned into a metropolis,
half savage, archaic, splendid with the strength of red blood,
clear eyes, and souls that read the word of God in wind and tree.
And up and down this mighty waterway of wilderness trade ran the
whispering spirit of song, like the voice of a mighty god heard
under the stars and in the winds.
But it was an hour ago that David Carrigan had vividly pictured
these things to himself close to the big river, and many things
may happen in the sixty minutes that follow any given minute in a
man's life. That hour ago his one great purpose had been to bring
in Black Roger Audemard, alive or dead--Black Roger, the forest
fiend who had destroyed half a dozen lives in a blind passion of
vengeance nearly fifteen years ago. For ten of those fifteen years
it had been thought that Black Roger was dead. But mysterious
rumors had lately come out of the North. He was alive. People had
seen him. Fact followed rumor. His existence became certainty. The
Law took up once more his hazardous trail, and David Carrigan was
the messenger it sent.
"Bring him back, alive or dead," were Superintendent McVane's last
And now, thinking of that parting injunction, Carrigan grinned,
even as the sweat of death dampened his face in the heat of the
afternoon sun. For at the end of those sixty minutes that had
passed since his midday pot of tea, the grimly, atrociously
unexpected had happened, like a thunderbolt out of the azure of
Huddled behind a rock which was scarcely larger than his body,
groveling in the white, soft sand like a turtle making a nest for
its eggs, Carrigan told himself this without any reservation. He
was, as he kept repeating to himself for the comfort of his soul,
in a deuce of a fix. His head was bare--simply because a bullet
had taken his hat away. His blond hair was filled with sand. His
face was sweating. But his blue eyes were alight with a grim sort
of humor, though he knew that unless the other fellow's ammunition
ran out he was going to die.
For the twentieth time in as many minutes he looked about him. He
was in the center of a flat area of sand. Fifty feet from him the
river murmured gently over yellow bars and a carpet of pebbles.
Fifty feet on the opposite side of him was the cool, green wall of
the forest. The sunshine playing in it seemed like laughter to him
now, a whimsical sort of merriment roused by the sheer effrontery
of the joke which fate had inflicted upon him.
Between the river and the balsam and spruce was only the rock
behind which he was cringing like a rabbit afraid to take to the
open. And his rock was a mere up-jutting of the solid floor of
shale that was under him. The wash sand that covered it like a
carpet was not more than four or five inches deep. He could not
dig in. There was not enough of it within reach to scrape up as a
protection. And his enemy, a hundred yards or so away, was a
determined wretch--and the deadliest shot he had ever known.
Three times Carrigan had made experiments to prove this, for he
had in mind a sudden rush to the shelter of the timber. Three
times he had raised the crown of his hat slightly above the top of
the rock, and three times the marksmanship of the other had
perforated it with neatness and dispatch. The third bullet had
carried his hat a dozen feet away. Whenever he showed a patch of
his clothing, a bullet replied with unerring precision. Twice they
had drawn blood. And the humor faded out of Carrigan's eyes.
Not long ago he had exulted in the bigness and glory of this
country of his, where strong men met hand to hand and eye to eye.
There were the other kind in it, the sort that made his profession
of manhunting a thing of reality and danger, but he expected
these--forgot them--when the wilderness itself filled his vision.
But his present situation was something unlike anything that had
ever happened in his previous experience with the outlawed. He had
faced dangers. He had fought. There were times when he had almost
died. Fanchet, the half-breed who had robbed a dozen wilderness
mail sledges, had come nearest to trapping him and putting him out
of business. Fanchet was a desperate man and had few scruples. But
even Fanchet--before he was caught--would not have cornered a man
with such bloodthirsty unfairness as Carrigan found himself
cornered now. He no longer had a doubt as to what was in the
other's mind. It was not to wound and make merely helpless. It was
to kill. It was not difficult to prove this. Careful not to expose
a part of his arm or shoulder, he drew a white handkerchief from
his pocket, fastened it to the end of his rifle, and held the flag
of surrender three feet above the rock. And then, with equal
caution, he slowly thrust up a flat piece of shale, which at a
distance of a hundred yards might appear as his shoulder or even
his head. Scarcely was it four inches above the top of the rock
before there came the report of a rifle, and the shale was
splintered into a hundred bits.
Carrigan lowered his flag and gathered himself in tighter. The
accuracy of the other's marksmanship was appalling. He knew that
if he exposed himself for an instant to use his own rifle or the
heavy automatic in his holster, he would be a dead man before he
could press a trigger. And that time, he felt equally sure, would
come sooner or later. His muscles were growing cramped. He could
not forever double himself up like a four-bladed jackknife behind
the altogether inefficient shelter of the rock.
His executioner was hidden in the edge of the timber, not directly
opposite him, but nearly a hundred yards down stream. Twenty times
he had wondered why the fiend with the rifle did not creep up
through that timber and take a good, open pot-shot at him from the
vantage point which lay at the end of a straight line between his
rock and the nearest spruce and balsam. From that angle he could
not completely shelter himself. But the man a hundred yards below
had not moved a foot from his ambush since he had fired his first
shot. That had come when Carrigan was crossing the open space of
soft, white sand. It had left a burning sensation at his temple--
half an inch to the right and it would have killed him. Swift as
the shot itself, he dropped behind the one protection at hand, the
up-jutting shoulder of shale.
For a quarter of an hour he had been making efforts to wriggle
himself free from his bulky shoulder-pack without exposing himself
to a coup-de-grace. At last he had the thing off. It was a
tremendous relief when he thrust it out beside the rock, almost
doubling the size of his shelter. Instantly there came the crash
of a bullet in it, and then another. He heard the rattle of pans,
and wondered if his skillet would be any good after today.
For the first time he could wipe the sweat from his face and
stretch himself. And also he could think. Carrigan possessed an
unalterable faith in the infallibility of the mind. "You can do
anything with the mind," was his code. "It is better than a good
Now that he was physically more at ease, he began reassembling his
scattered mental faculties. Who was this stranger who was pot-
shotting at him with such deadly animosity from the ambush below?
Another crash of lead in tinware and steel put an unpleasant
emphasis to the question. It was so close to his head that it made
him wince, and now--with a wide area within reach about him--he
began scraping up the sand for an added protection. There came a
long silence after that third clatter of distress from his cooking
utensils. To David Carrigan, even in his hour of deadly peril,
there was something about it that for an instant brought back the
glow of humor in his eyes. It was hot, swelteringly hot, in that
packet of sand with the unclouded sun almost straight overhead. He
could have tossed a pebble to where a bright-eyed sandpiper was
cocking itself backward and forward, its jerky movements
accompanied by friendly little tittering noises. Everything about
him seemed friendly. The river rippled and murmured in cooling
song just beyond the sandpiper. On the other side the still cooler
forest was a paradise of shade and contentment, astir with subdued
and hidden life. It was nesting season. He heard the twitter of
birds. A tiny, brown wood warbler fluttered out to the end of a
silvery birch limb, and it seemed to David that its throat must
surely burst with the burden of its song. The little fellow's
brown body, scarcely larger than a butternut, was swelling up like
a round ball in his effort to vanquish all other song.
"Go to it, old man," chuckled Carrigan. "Go to it!"
The little warbler, that he might have crushed between thumb and
forefinger, gave him a lot of courage.
Then the tiny chorister stopped for breath. In that interval
Carrigan listened to the wrangling of two vivid-colored Canada
jays deeper in the timber. Chronic scolds they were, never without
a grouch. They were like some people Carrigan had known, born
pessimists, always finding something to complain about, even in
their love days.
And these were love days. That was the odd thought that came to
Carrigan as he lay half on his face, his fingers slowly and
cautiously working a loophole between his shoulder-pack and the
rock. They were love days all up and down the big rivers, where
men and women sang for joy, and children played, forgetful of the
long, hard days of winter. And in forest, plain, and swamp was
this spirit of love also triumphant over the land. It was the
mating season of all feathered things. In countless nests were the
peeps and twitters of new life; mothers of first-born were
teaching their children to swim and fly; from end to end of the
forest world the little children of the silent places, furred and
feathered, clawed and hoofed, were learning the ways of life.
Nature's yearly birthday was half-way gone, and the doors of
nature's school wide open. And the tiny brown songster at the end
of his birch twig proclaimed the joy of it again, and challenged
all the world to beat him in his adulation.
Carrigan found that he could peer between his pack and the rock to
where the other warbler was singing--and where his enemy lay
watching for the opportunity to kill. It was taking a chance. If a
movement betrayed his loophole, his minutes were numbered. But he
had worked cautiously, an inch at a time, and was confident that
the beginning of his effort to fight back was, up to the present
moment, undiscovered. He believed that he knew about where the
ambushed man was concealed. In the edge of a low-hanging mass of
balsam was a fallen cedar. From behind the butt of that cedar he
was sure the shots had come.
And now, even more cautiously than he had made the tiny opening,
he began to work the muzzle of his rifle through the loophole. As
he did this he was thinking of Black Roger Audemard. And yet,
almost as quickly as suspicion leaped into his mind, he told
himself that the thing was impossible. It could not be Black
Roger, or one of Black Roger's friends, behind the cedar log. The
idea was inconceivable, when he considered how carefully the
secret of his mission had been kept at the Landing. He had not
even said goodby to his best friends. And because Black Roger had
won through all the preceding years, Carrigan was stalking his
prey out of uniform. There had been nothing to betray him.
Besides, Black Roger Audemard must be at least a thousand miles
north, unless something had tempted him to come up the rivers with
the spring brigades. If he used logic at all, there was but one
conclusion for him to arrive at. The man in ambush was some
rascally half-breed who coveted his outfit and whatever valuables
he might have about his person.
A fourth smashing eruption among his comestibles and culinary
possessions came to drive home the fact that even that analysis of
the situation was absurd. Whoever was behind the rifle fire had
small respect for the contents of his pack, and he was surely not
in grievous need of a good gun or ammunition. A sticky mess of
condensed cream was running over Carrigan's hand. He doubted if
there was a whole tin in his kit.
For a few moments he lay quietly on his face after the fourth
shot. His eyes were turned toward the river, and on the far side,
a quarter of a mile away, three canoes were moving swiftly up the
slow current of the stream. The sunlight flashed on their wet
sides. The gleam of dripping paddles was like the flutter of
silvery birds' wings, and across the water came an unintelligible
shout in response to the rifle shot. It occurred to David that he
might make a trumpet of his hands and shout back, but the distance
was too great for his voice to carry its message for help.
Besides, now that he had the added protection of the pack, he felt
a certain sense of humiliation at the thought of showing the white
feather. A few minutes more, if all went well, and he would settle
for the man behind the log.
He continued again the slow operation of worming his rifle barrel
between the pack and the rock. The near-sighted little sandpiper
had discovered him and seemed interested in the operation. It had
come a dozen feet nearer, and was perking its head and seesawing
on its long legs as it watched with inquisitive inspection the
unusual manifestation of life behind the rock. Its twittering note
had changed to an occasional sharp and querulous cry. Carrigan
wanted to wring its neck. That cry told the other fellow that he
was still alive and moving.
It seemed an age before his rifle was through, and every moment he
expected another shot. He flattened himself out, Indian fashion,
and sighted along the barrel. He was positive that his enemy was
watching, yet he could make out nothing that looked like a head
anywhere along the log. At one end was a clump of deeper foliage.
He was sure he saw a sudden slight movement there, and in the
thrill of the moment was tempted to send a bullet into the heart
of it. But he saved his cartridge. He felt the mighty importance
of certainty. If he fired once--and missed--the advantage of his
unsuspected loophole would be gone. It would be transformed into a
deadly menace. Even as it was, if his enemy's next bullet should
enter that way--
He felt the discomfort of the thought, and in spite of himself a
tremor of apprehension ran up his spine. He felt an even greater
desire to wring the neck of the inquisitive little sandpiper. The
creature had circled round squarely in front of him and stood
there tilting its tail and bobbing its head as if its one insane
desire was to look down the length of his rifle barrel. The bird
was giving him away. If the other fellow was only half as clever
as his marksmanship was good--
Suddenly every nerve in Carrigan's body tightened. He was positive
that he had caught the outline of a human head and shoulders in
the foliage. His finger pressed gently against the trigger of his
Winchester. Before he breathed again he would have fired. But a
shot from the foliage beat him out by the fraction of a second. In
that precious time lost, his enemy's bullet entered the edge of
his kit--and came through. He felt the shock of it, and in the
infinitesimal space between the physical impact and the mental
effect of shock his brain told him the horrible thing had
happened. It was his head--his face. It was as if he had plunged
them suddenly into hot water, and what was left of his skull was
filled with the rushing and roaring of a flood. He staggered up,
clutching his face with both hands. The world about him was
twisted and black, a dizzily revolving thing--yet his still
fighting mental vision pictured clearly for him a monstrous,
bulging-eyed sandpiper as big as a house. Then he toppled back on
the white sand, his arms flung out limply, his face turned to the
ambush wherein his murderer lay.
His body was clear of the rock and the pack, but there came no
other shot from the thick clump of balsam. Nor, for a time, was
there movement. The wood warbler was cheeping inquiringly at this
sudden change in the deportment of his friend behind the shoulder
of shale. The sandpiper, a bit startled, had gone back to the edge
of the river and was running a race with himself along the wet
sand. And the two quarrelsome jays had brought their family
squabble to the edge of the timber.
It was their wrangling that roused Carrigan to the fact that he
was not dead. It was a thrilling discovery--that and the fact that
he made out clearly a patch of sunlight in the sand. He did not
move, but opened his eyes wider. He could see the timber. On a
straight line with his vision was the thick clump of balsam. And
as he looked, the boughs parted and a figure came out. Carrigan
drew a deep breath. He found that it did not hurt him. He gripped
the fingers of the hand that was under his body, and they closed
on the butt of his service automatic. He would win yet, if God
gave him life a few minutes longer.
His enemy advanced. As he drew nearer, Carrigan closed his eyes
more and more. They must be shut, and he must appear as if dead,
when the other came up. Then, when the scoundrel put down his gun,
as he naturally would--his chance would be at hand. If a quiver of
his eyes betrayed him--
He closed them tight. Dizziness began to creep over him, and the
fire in his brain grew hot again. He heard footsteps, and they
stopped in the sand close beside him. Then he heard a human voice.
It did not speak in words, but gave utterance to a strange and
unnatural cry. With a mighty effort Carrigan assembled his last
strength. It seemed to him that he brought himself up quickly, but
his movement was slow, painful--the effort of a man who might be
dying. The automatic hung limply in his hand, its muzzle pointing
to the sand. He looked up, trying to swing into action that mighty
weight of his weapon. And then from his own lips, even in his
utter physical impotence, fell a cry of wonder and amazement.
His enemy stood there in the sunlight, staring down at him with
big, dark eyes that were filled with horror. They were not the
eyes of a man. David Carrigan, in this most astounding moment of
his life, found himself looking up into the face of a woman.
For a matter of twenty seconds--even longer it seemed to Carrigan
--the life of these two was expressed in a vivid and unforgettable
tableau. One half of it David saw--the blue sky, the dazzling sun,
the girl in between. The pistol dropped from his limp hand, and
the weight of his body tottered on the crook of his under-elbow.
Mentally and physically he was on the point of collapse, and yet
in those few moments every detail of the picture was painted with
a brush of fire in his brain. The girl was bareheaded. Her face
was as white as any face he had ever seen, living or dead; her
eyes were like pools that had caught the reflection of fire; he
saw the sheen of her hair, the poise of her slender body--its
shock, stupefaction, horror. He sensed these things even as his
brain wobbled dizzily, and the larger part of the picture began to
fade out of his vision. But her face remained to the last. It grew
clearer, like a cameo framed in an iris--a beautiful, staring,
horrified face with shimmering tresses of jet-black hair blowing
about it like a veil. He noticed the hair, that was partly undone
as if she had been in a struggle of some sort, or had been running
fast against the breeze that came up the river.
He fought with himself to hold that picture of her, to utter some
word, make some movement. But the power to see and to live died
out of him. He sank back with a queer sound in his throat. He did
not hear the answering cry from the girl as she flung herself,
with a quick little prayer for help, on her knees in the soft,
white sand beside him. He felt no movement when she raised his
head in her arm and with her bare hand brushed back his sand-
littered hair, revealing where the bullet had struck him. He did
not know when she ran back to the river.
His first sensation was of a cool and comforting something
trickling over his burning temples and his face. It was water.
Subconsciously he knew that, and in the same way he began to
think. But it was hard to pull his thoughts together. They
persisted in hopping about, like a lot of sand-fleas in a dance,
and just as he got hold of one and reached for another, the first
would slip away from him. He began to get the best of them after a
time, and he had an uncontrollable desire to say something. But
his eyes and his lips were sealed tight, and to open them, a
little army of gnomes came out of the darkness in the back of his
head, each of them armed with a lever, and began prying with all
their might. After that came the beginning of light and a flash of
The girl was working over him. He could feel her and hear her
movement. Water was trickling over his face. Then he heard a
voice, close over him, saying something in a sobbing monotone
which he could not understand.
With a mighty effort he opened his eyes.
"Thank LE BON DIEU, you live, m'sieu," he heard the voice say, as
if coming from a long distance away. "You live, you live--"
"Tryin' to," he mumbled thickly, feeling suddenly a sense of great
He wanted to curse the gnomes for deserting him, for as soon as
they were gone with their levers, his eyes and his lips shut tight
again, or at least he thought they did. But he began to sense
things in a curious sort of way. Some one was dragging him. He
could feel the grind of sand under his body. There were intervals
when the dragging operation paused. And then, after a long time,
he seemed to hear more than one voice. There were two--sometimes a
murmur of them. And odd visions came to him. He seemed to see the
girl with shining black hair and dark eyes, and then swiftly she
would change into a girl with hair like blazing gold. This was a
different girl. She was not like Pretty Eyes, as his twisted mind
called the other. This second vision that he saw was like a
radiant bit of the sun, her hair all aflame with the fire of it
and her face a different sort of face. He was always glad when she
went away and Pretty Eyes came back.
To David Carrigan this interesting experience in his life might
have covered an hour, a day, or a month. Or a year for that
matter, for he seemed to have had an indefinite association with
Pretty Eyes. He had known her for a long time and very intimately,
it seemed. Yet he had no memory of the long fight in the hot sun,
or of the river, or of the singing warblers, or of the inquisitive
sandpiper that had marked out the line which his enemy's last
bullet had traveled. He had entered into a new world in which
everything was vague and unreal except that vision of dark hair,
dark eyes, and pale, beautiful face. Several times he saw it with
marvelous clearness, and each time he drifted away into darkness
again with the sound of a voice growing fainter and fainter in his
Then came a time of utter chaos and soundless gloom. He was in a
pit, where even his subconscious self was almost dead under a
crushing oppression. At last a star began to glimmer in this pit,
a star pale and indistinct and a vast distance away. But it crept
steadily up through the eternity of darkness, and the nearer it
came, the less there was of the blackness of night. From a star it
grew into a sun, and with the sun came dawn. In that dawn he heard
the singing of a bird, and the bird was just over his head. When
Carrigan opened his eyes, and understanding came to him, he found
himself under the silver birch that belonged to the wood warbler.
For a space he did not ask himself how he had come there. He was
looking at the river and the white strip of sand. Out there were
the rock and his dunnage pack. Also his rifle. Instinctively his
eyes turned to the balsam ambush farther down. That, too, was in a
blaze of sunlight now. But where he lay, or sat, or stood--he was
not sure what he was doing at that moment--it was shady and
deliciously cool. The green of the cedar and spruce and balsam was
close about him, inset with the silver and gold of the thickly-
leaved birch. He discovered that he was bolstered up partly
against the trunk of this birch and partly against a spruce
sapling. Between these two, where his head rested, was a pile of
soft moss freshly torn from the earth. And within reach of him was
his own kit pail filled with water.
He moved himself cautiously and raised a hand to his head. His
fingers came in contact with a bandage.
For a minute or two after that he sat without moving while his
amazed senses seized upon the significance of it all. In the first
place he was alive. But even this fact of living was less
remarkable than the other things that had happened. He remembered
the final moments of the unequal duel. His enemy had got him. And
that enemy was a woman! Moreover, after she had blown away a part
of his head and had him helpless in the sand, she had--in place of
finishing him there--dragged him to this cool nook and tied up his
wound. It was hard for him to believe, but the pail of water, the
moss behind his shoulders, the bandage, and certain visions that
were reforming themselves in his brain convinced him. A woman had
shot him. She had worked like the very devil to kill him. And
afterward she had saved him! He grinned. It was final proof that
his mind hadn't been playing tricks on him. No one but a woman
would have been quite so unreasonable. A man would have completed
He began to look for her up and down the white strip of sand. And
in looking he saw the gray and silver flash of the hard-working
sandpiper. He chuckled, for he was exceedingly comfortable, and
also exhilaratingly happy to know that the thing was over and he
was not dead. If the sandpiper had been a man, he would have
called him up to shake hands with him. For if it hadn't been for
the bird getting squarely in front of him and giving him away,
there might have been a more horrible end to it all. He shuddered
as he thought of the mighty effort he had made to fire a shot into
the heart of the balsam ambush--and perhaps into the heart of a
He reached for the pail and drank deeply of the water in it. He
felt no pain. His dizziness was gone. His mind had grown suddenly
clear and alert. The warmth of the water told him almost instantly
that it had been taken from the river some time ago. He observed
the change in sun and shadows. With the instinct of a man trained
to note details, he pulled out his watch. It was almost six
o'clock. More than three hours had passed since the sandpiper had
got in front of his gun. He did not attempt to rise to his feet,
but scanned with slower and more careful scrutiny the edge of the
forest and the river. He had been mystified while cringing for his
life behind the rock, but he was infinitely more so now. Greater
desire he had never had than this which thrilled him in these
present minutes of his readjustment--desire to look upon the woman
again. And then, all at once, there came back to him a mental
flash of the other. He remembered, as if something was coming back
to him out of a dream, how the whimsical twistings of his sick
brain had made him see two faces instead of one. Yet he knew that
the first picture of his mysterious assailant, the picture painted
in his brain when he had tried to raise his pistol, was the right
one. He had seen her dark eyes aglow; he had seen the sunlit sheen
of her black hair rippling in the wind; he had seen the white
pallor in her face, the slimness of her as she stood over him in
horror--he remembered even the clutch of her white hand at her
throat. A moment before she had tried to kill him. And then he had
looked up and had seen her like that! It must have been some
unaccountable trick in his brain that had flooded her hair with
golden fire at times.
His eyes followed a furrow in the white sand which led from where
he sat bolstered against the tree down to his pack and the rock.
It was the trail made by his body when she had dragged him up to
the shelter and coolness of the timber. One of his laws of
physical care was to keep himself trained down to a hundred and
sixty, but he wondered how she had dragged up even so much as that
of dead weight. It had taken a great deal of effort. He could see
distinctly three different places in the sand where she had
stopped to rest.
Carrigan had earned a reputation as the expert analyst of "N"
Division. In delicate matters it was seldom that McVane did not
take him into consultation. He possessed an almost uncanny grip on
the working processes of a criminal mind, and the first rule he
had set down for himself was to regard the acts of omission rather
than the one outstanding act of commission. But when he proved to
himself that the chief actor in a drama possessed a normal rather
than a criminal mind, he found himself in the position of
checkmate. It was a thrilling game. And he was frankly puzzled
now, until--one after another--he added up the sum total of what
had been omitted in this instance of his own personal adventure.
Hidden in her ambush, the woman who had shot him had been in both
purpose and act an assassin. Her determination had been to kill
him. She had disregarded the white flag with which he had pleaded
for mercy. Her marksmanship was of fiendish cleverness. Up to her
last shot she had been, to all intent and purpose, a murderess.
The change had come when she looked down upon him, bleeding and
helpless, in the sand. Undoubtedly she had thought he was dying.
But why, when she saw his eyes open a little later, had she cried
out her gratitude to God? What had worked the sudden
transformation in her? Why had she labored to save the life she
had so atrociously coveted a minute before?
If his assailant had been a man, Carrigan would have found an
answer. For he was not robbed, and therefore robbery was not a
motif. "A case of mistaken identity," he would have told himself.
"An error in visual judgment."
But the fact that in his analysis he was dealing with a woman made
his answer only partly satisfying. He could not disassociate
himself from her eyes--their beauty, their horror, the way they
had looked at him. It was as if a sudden revulsion had come over
her; as if, looking down upon her bleeding handiwork, the woman's
soul in her had revolted, and with that revulsion had come
repentance--repentance and pity.
"That," thought Carrigan, "would be just like a woman--and
especially a woman with eyes like hers."
This left him but two conclusions to choose from. Either there had
been a mistake, and the woman had shown both horror and desire to
amend when she discovered it, or a too tender-hearted agent of
Black Roger Audemard had waylaid him in the heart of the white
strip of sand.
The sun was another hour lower in the sky when Carrigan assured
himself in a series of cautious experiments that he was not in a
condition to stand upon his feet. In his pack were a number of
things he wanted--his blankets, for instance, a steel mirror, and
the thermometer in his medical kit. He was beginning to feel a bit
anxious about himself. There were sharp pains back of his eyes.
His face was hot, and he was developing an unhealthy appetite for
water. It was fever and he knew what fever meant in this sort of
thing, when one was alone. He had given up hope of the woman's
return. It was not reasonable to expect her to come back after her
furious attempt to kill him. She had bandaged him, bolstered him
up, placed water beside him, and had then left him to work out the
rest of his salvation alone. But why the deuce hadn't she brought
up his pack?
On his hands and knees he began to work himself toward it slowly.
He found that the movement caused him pain, and that with this
pain, if he persisted in movement, there was a synchronous rise of
nausea. The two seemed to work in a sort of unity. But his
medicine case was important now, and his blankets, and his rifle
if he hoped to signal help that might chance to pass on the river.
A foot at a time, a yard at a time, he made his way down into the
sand. His fingers dug into the footprints of the mysterious gun-
woman. He approved of their size. They were small and narrow,
scarcely longer than the palm and fingers of his hand--and they
were made by shoes instead of moccasins.
It seemed an interminable time to him before he reached his pack.
When he got there, a pendulum seemed swinging back and forth
inside his head, beating against his skull. He lay down with his
pack for a pillow, intending to rest for a spell. But the minutes
added themselves one on top of another. The sun slipped behind
clouds banking in the west. It grew cooler, while within him he
was consumed by a burning thirst. He could hear the ripple of
running water, the laughter of it among pebbles a few yards away.
And the river itself became even more desirable than his medicine
case, or his blankets, or his rifle. The song of it, inviting and
tempting him, blotted thought of the other things out of his mind.
And he continued his journey, the swing of the pendulum in his
head becoming harder, but the sound of the river growing nearer.
At last he came to the wet sand, and fell on his face, and drank.
After this he had no great desire to go back. He rolled himself
over, so that his face was turned up to the sky. Under him the wet
sand was soft, and it was comfortingly cool. The fire in his head
died out. He could hear new sounds in the edge of the forest
evening sounds. Only weak little twitters came from the wood
warblers, driven to silence by thickening gloom in the densely
canopied balsams and cedars, and frightened by the first low hoots
of the owls. There was a crash not far distant, probably a
porcupine waddling through brush on his way for a drink; or
perhaps it was a thirsty deer, or a bear coming out in the hope of
finding a dead fish. Carrigan loved that sort of sound, even when
a pendulum was beating back and forth in his head. It was like
medicine to him, and he lay with wide-open eyes, his ears picking
up one after another the voices that marked the change from day to
night. He heard the cry of a loon, its softer, chuckling note of
honeymoon days. From across the river came a cry that was half
howl, half bark. Carrigan knew that it was coyote, and not wolf, a
coyote whose breed had wandered hundreds of miles north of the
The gloom gathered in, and yet it was not darkness as the darkness
of night is known a thousand miles south. It was the dusky
twilight of day where the sun rises at three o'clock in the
morning and still throws its ruddy light in the western sky at
nine o'clock at night; where the poplar buds unfold themselves
into leaf before one's very eyes; where strawberries are green in
the morning and red in the afternoon; where, a little later, one
could read newspaper print until midnight by the glow of the sun--
and between the rising and the setting of that sun there would be
from eighteen to twenty hours of day. It was evening time in the
wonderland of the north, a wonderland hard and frozen and ridden
by pain and death in winter, but a paradise upon earth in this
month of June.
The beauty of it filled Carrigan's soul, even as he lay on his
back in the damp sand. Far south of him steam and steel were
coming, and the world would soon know that it was easy to grow
wheat at the Arctic Circle, that cucumbers grew to half the size
of a man's arm, that flowers smothered the land and berries turned
it scarlet and black. He had dreaded these days--days of what he
called "the great discovery"--the time when a crowded civilization
would at last understand how the fruits of the earth leaped up to
the call of twenty hours of sun each day, even though that earth
itself was eternally frozen if one went down under its surface
four feet with a pick and shovel.
Tonight the gloom came earlier because of the clouds in the west.
It was very still. Even the breeze had ceased to come from up the
river. And as Carrigan listened, exulting in the thought that the
coolness of the wet sand was drawing the fever from him, he heard
another sound. At first he thought it was the splashing of a fish.
But after that it came again, and still again, and he knew that
it was the steady and rhythmic dip of paddles.
A thrill shot through him, and he raised himself to his elbow.
Dusk covered the river, and he could not see. But he heard low
voices as the paddles dipped. And after a little he knew that one
of these was the voice of a woman.
His heart gave a big jump. "She is coming back," he whispered to
himself. "She is coming back!"
Carrigan's first impulse, sudden as the thrill that leaped through
him, was to cry out to the occupants of the unseen canoe. Words
were on his lips, but he forced them back. They could not miss
him, could not get beyond the reach of his voice--and he waited.
After all, there might be profit in a reasonable degree of
caution. He crept back toward his rifle, sensing the fact that
movement no longer gave him very great distress. At the same time
he lost no sound from the river. The voices were silent, and the
dip, dip, dip of paddles was approaching softly and with extreme
caution. At last he could barely hear the trickle of them, yet he
knew the canoe was coming steadily nearer. There was a suspicious
secretiveness in its approach. Perhaps the lady with the beautiful
eyes and the glistening hair had changed her mind again and was
returning to put an end to him.
The thought sharpened his vision. He saw a thin shadow a little
darker than the gloom of the river; it grew into shape; something
grated lightly upon sand and pebbles, and then he heard the
guarded plash of feet in shallow water and saw some one pulling
the canoe up higher. A second figure joined the first. They
advanced a few paces and stopped. In a moment a voice called
"M'sieu! M'sieu Carrigan!"
There was an anxious note in the voice, but Carrigan held his
tongue. And then he heard the woman say,
"It was here, Bateese! I am sure of it!"
There was more than anxiety in her voice now. Her words trembled
with distress. "Bateese--if he is dead--he is up there close to
"But he isn't dead," said Carrigan, raising himself a little. "He
is here, behind the rock again!"
In a moment she had run to where he was lying, his hand clutching
the cold barrel of the pistol which he had found in the sand, his
white face looking up at her. Again he found himself staring into
the glow of her eyes, and in that pale light which precedes the
coming of stars and moon the fancy struck him that she was
lovelier than in the full radiance of the sun. He heard a
throbbing note in her throat. And then she was down on her knees
at his side, leaning close over him, her hands groping at his
shoulders, her quick breath betraying how swiftly her heart was
"You are not hurt--badly?" she cried.
"I don't know," replied David. "You made a perfect shot. I think a
part of my head is gone. At least you've shot away my balance,
because I can't stand on my feet!"
Her hand touched his face, remaining there for an instant, and the
palm of it pressed his forehead. It was like the touch of cool
velvet, he thought. Then she called to the man named Bateese. He
made Carrigan think of a huge chimpanzee as he came near, because
of the shortness of his body and the length of his arms. In the
half light he might have been a huge animal, a hulking creature of
some sort walking upright. Carrigan's fingers closed more tightly
on the butt of his automatic. The woman began to talk swiftly in a
patois of French and Cree. David caught the gist of it. She was
telling Bateese to carry him to the canoe, and to be very careful,
because m'sieu was badly hurt. It was his head, she emphasized.
Bateese must be careful of his head.
David slipped his pistol into its holster as Bateese bent over
him. He tried to smile at the woman to thank her for her
solicitude--after having nearly killed him. There was an
increasing glow in the night, and he began to see her more
plainly. Out on the middle of the river was a silvery bar of
light. The moon was coming up, a little pale as yet, but
triumphant in the fact that clouds had blotted out the sun an hour
before his time. Between this bar of light and himself he saw the
head of Bateese. It was a wild, savage-looking head, bound pirate-
fashion round the forehead with a huge Hudson's Bay kerchief.
Bateese might have been old Jack Ketch himself bending over to
give the final twist to a victim's neck. His long arms slipped
under David. Gently and without effort he raised him to his feet.
And then, as easily as he might have lifted a child, he trundled
him up in his arms and walked off with him over the sand.
Carrigan had not expected this. He was a little shocked and felt
also the impropriety of the thing. The idea of being lugged off
like a baby was embarrassing, even in the presence of the one who
had deliberately put him in his present condition. Bateese did the
thing with such beastly ease. It was as if he was no more than a
small boy, a runt with no weight whatever, and Bateese was a man.
He would have preferred to stagger along on his own feet or creep
on his hands and knees, and he grunted as much to Bateese on the
way to the canoe. He felt, at the same time, that the situation
owed him something more of discussion and explanation. Even now,
after half killing him, the woman was taking a rather high-handed
advantage of him. She might at least have assured him that she had
made a mistake and was sorry. But she did not speak to him again.
She said nothing more to Bateese, and when the half-breed
deposited him in the midship part of the canoe, facing the bow,
she stood back in silence. Then Bateese brought his pack and
rifle, and wedged the pack in behind him so that he could sit
upright. After that, without pausing to ask permission, he picked
up the woman and carried her through the shallow water to the bow,
saving her the wetting of her feet.
As she turned to find her paddle her face was toward David, and
for a moment she was looking at him.
"Do you mind telling me who you are, and where we are going?" he
"I am Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain," she said. "My brigade is down
the river, M'sieu Carrigan."
He was amazed at the promptness of her confession, for as one of
the working factors of the long arm of the police he accepted it
as that. He had scarcely expected her to divulge her name after
the cold-blooded way in which she had attempted to kill him. And
she had spoken quite calmly of "my brigade." He had heard of the
Boulain Brigade. It was a name associated with Chipewyan, as he
remembered it--or Fort McMurray. He was not sure just where the
Boulain scows had traded freight with the upper-river craft. Until
this year he was positive they had not come as far south as
Athabasca Landing. Boulain--Boulain--The name repeated itself over
and over in his mind. Bateese shoved off the canoe, and the
woman's paddle dipped in and out of the water beginning to shimmer
in moonlight. But he could not, for a time, get himself beyond the
pounding of that name in his brain. It was not merely that he had
heard the name before. There was something significant about it.
Something that made him grope back in his memory of things.
Boulain! He whispered it to himself, his eyes on the slender
figure of the woman ahead of him, swaying gently to the steady
sweep of the paddle in her hands. Yet he could think of nothing. A
feeling of irritation swept over him, disgust at his own mental
impotency. And the dizzying sickness was brewing in his head
"I have heard that name--somewhere--before," he said. There was a
space of only five or six feet between them, and he spoke with
"Possibly you have, m'sieu."
Her voice was exquisite, clear as the note of a bird, yet so soft
and low that she seemed scarcely to have spoken. And it was,
Carrigan thought, criminally evasive--under the circumstances. He
wanted her to turn round and say something. He wanted, first of
all, to ask her why she had tried to kill him. It was his right to
demand an explanation. And it was his duty to get her back to the
Landing, where the law would ask an accounting of her. She must
know that. There was only one way in which she could have learned
his name, and that was by prying into his identification papers
while he was unconscious. Therefore she not only knew his name,
but also that he was Sergeant Carrigan of the Royal Northwest
Mounted Police. In spite of all this she was apparently not very
deeply concerned. She was not frightened, and she did not appear
to be even slightly excited.
He leaned nearer to her, the movement sending a sharp pain between
his eyes. It almost drew a cry from him, but he forced himself to
speak without betraying it.
"You tried to murder me--and almost succeeded. Haven't you
anything to say?"
"Not now, m'sieu--except that it was a mistake. and I am sorry.
But you must not talk. You must remain quiet. I am afraid your
skull is fractured."
Afraid his skull was fractured! And she expressed her fear in the
casual way she might have spoken of a toothache. He leaned back
against his dunnage sack and closed his eyes. Probably she was
right. These fits of dizziness and nausea were suspicious. They
made him top-heavy and filled him with a desire to crumple up
somewhere. He was clear-mindedly conscious of this and of his
fight against the weakness. But in those moments when he felt
better and his head was clear of pain, he had not seriously
thought of a fractured skull. If she believed it, why did she not
treat him a bit more considerately? Bateese, with that strength of
an ox in his arms, had no use for her assistance with the paddle.
She might at least have sat facing him, even if she refused to
explain matters more definitely.
A mistake, she called it. And she was sorry for him! She had made
those statements in a matter-of-fact way, but with a voice that
was like music. She had spoken perfect English, but in her words
were the inflection and velvety softness of the French blood which
must be running red in her veins. And her name was Jeanne Marie-
With eyes closed, Carrigan called himself an idiot for thinking of
these things at the present time. Primarily he was a man-hunter
out on important duty, and here was duty right at hand, a thousand
miles south of Black Roger Audemard, the wholesale murderer he was
after. He would have sworn on his life that Black Roger had never
gone at a killing more deliberately than this same Jeanne Marie-
Anne Boulain had gone after him behind the rock!
Now that it was all over, and he was alive, she was taking him
somewhere as coolly and as unexcitedly as though they were
returning from a picnic. Carrigan shut his eyes tighter and
wondered if he was thinking straight. He believed he was badly
hurt, but he was as strongly convinced that his mind was clear.
And he lay quietly with his head against the pack, his eyes
closed, waiting for the coolness of the river to drive his nausea
He sensed rather than felt the swift movement of the canoe. There
was no perceptible tremor to its progress. The current and a
perfect craftsmanship with the paddles were carrying it along at
six or seven miles an hour. He heard the rippling of water that at
times was almost like the tinkling of tiny bells, and more and
more bell-like became that sound as he listened to it. It struck a
certain note for him. And to that note another added itself, until
in the purling rhythm of the river he caught the murmuring
monotone of a name Boulain--Boulain--Boulain. The name became an
obsession. It meant something. And he knew what it meant--if he
could only whip his memory back into harness again. But that was
impossible now. When he tried to concentrate his mental faculties,
his head ached terrifically.
He dipped his hand into the water and held it over his eyes. For
half an hour after that he did not raise his head. In that time
not a word was spoken by Bateese or Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain. For
the forest people it was not an hour in which to talk. The moon
had risen swiftly, and the stars were out. Where there had been
gloom, the world was now a flood of gold and silver light. At
first Carrigan allowed this to filter between his fingers; then he
opened his eyes. He felt more evenly balanced again.
Straight in front of him was Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain. The
curtain of dusk had risen from between them, and she was full in
the radiance of the moon. She was no longer paddling, but was
looking straight ahead. To Cardigan her figure was exquisitely
girlish as he saw it now. She was bareheaded, as he had seen tier
first, and her hair hung down her back like a shimmering mass of
velvety sable in the star-and-moon glow. Something told Carrigan
she was going to turn her face in his direction, and he dropped
his hand over his eyes again, leaving a space between the fingers.
He was right in his guess. She fronted the moon, looking at him
closely--rather anxiously, he thought. She even leaned a little
toward him that she might see more clearly. Then she turned and
resumed her paddling.
Carrigan was a bit elated. Probably she had looked at him a number
of times like that during the past half-hour. And she was
disturbed. She was worrying about him. The thought of being a
murderess was beginning to frighten her. In spite of the beauty of
her eyes and hair and the slim witchery of her body he had no
sympathy for her. He told himself that he would give a year of his
life to have her down at Barracks this minute. He would never
forget that three-quarters of an hour behind the rock, not if he
lived to be a hundred. And if he did live, she was going to pay,
even if she was lovelier than Venus and all the Graces combined.
He felt irritated with himself that he should have observed in
such a silly way the sable glow of her hair in the moonlight. And
her eyes. What the deuce did prettiness matter in the present
situation? The sister of Fanchet, the mail robber, was beautiful,
but her beauty had failed to save Fanchet. The Law had taken him
in spite of the tears in Carmin Fanchet's big black eyes, and in
that particular instance he was the Law. And Carmin Fanchet was
pretty--deucedly pretty. Even the Old Man's heart had been stirred
by her loveliness.
"A shame!" he had said to Carrigan. "A shame!" But the rascally
Fanchet was hung by the neck until he was dead.
Carrigan drew himself up slowly until he was sitting erect. He
wondered what Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain would say if he told her
about Carmin. But there was a big gulf between the names Fanchet
and Boulain. The Fanchets had come from the dance halls of Alaska.
They were bad, both of them. At least, so they had judged Carmin
Fanchet--along with her brother. And Boulain--
His hand, in dropping to his side, fell upon the butt of his
pistol. Neither Bateese nor the girl had thought of disarming him.
It was careless of them, unless Bateese was keeping a good eye on
him from behind.
A new sort of thrill crept into Carrigan's blood. He began to see
where he had made a huge error in not playing his part more
cleverly. It was this girl Jeanne who had shot him. It was Jeanne
who had stood over him in that last moment when he had made an
effort to use his pistol. It was she who had tried to murder him
and who had turned faint-hearted when it came to finishing the
job. But his knowledge of these things he should have kept from
her. Then, when the proper moment came, he would have been in a
position to act. Even now it might be possible to cover his
blunder. He leaned toward her again, determined to make the
"I want to ask your pardon," he said. "May I?"
His voice startled her. It was as if the stinging tip of a whip-
lash had touched her bare neck. He was smiling when she turned. In
her face and eyes was a relief which she made no effort to
"You thought I might be dead," he laughed softly. "I'm not, Miss
Jeanne. I'm very much alive again. It was that accursed fever--and
I want to ask your pardon! I think--I know--that I accused you of
shooting me. It's impossible. I couldn't think of it--In my clear
mind. I am quite sure that I know the rascally half-breed who pot-
shotted me like that. And it was you who came in time, and
frightened him away, and saved my life. Will you forgive me--and
accept my gratitude?"
There came into the glowing eyes of the girl a reflection of his
own smile. It seemed to him that he saw the corners of her mouth
tremble a little before she answered him.
"I am glad you are feeling better, m'sieu."
"And you will forgive me for--for saying such beastly things to
She was lovely when she smiled, and she was smiling at him now.
"If you want to be forgiven for lying, yes," she said. "I forgive
you that, because it is sometimes your business to lie. It was I
who tried to kill you, m'sieu. And you know it."
"You must not talk, m'sieu. It is not good for you: Bateese, will
you tell m'sieu not to talk?"
Carrigan heard a movement behind him.
"M'sieu, you will stop ze talk or I brak hees head wit' ze paddle
in my han'!" came the voice of Bateese close to his shoulder. "Do
I mak' ze word plain so m'sieu compren'?"
"I get you, old man," grunted Carrigan. "I get you--both!"
And he leaned back against his dunnage-sack, staring again at the
witching slimness of the lovely Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain as she
calmly resumed her paddling in the bow of the canoe.
In the few minutes following the efficient and unexpected warning
of Bateese an entirely new element of interest entered into the
situation for David Carrigan. He had more than once assured
himself that he had made a success of his profession of man-
hunting not because he was brighter than the other fellow, but
largely because he possessed a sense of humor and no vanities to
prick. He was in the game because he loved the adventure of it. He
was loyal to his duty, but he was not a worshipper of the law, nor
did he covet the small monthly stipend of dollars and cents that
came of his allegiance to it. As a member of the Scarlet Police,
and especially of "N" Division, he felt the pulse and thrill of
life as he loved to live it. And the greatest of all thrills came
when he was after a man as clever as himself, or cleverer.
This time it was a woman--or a girl! He had not yet made up his
mind which she was. Her voice, low and musical, her poise, and the
tranquil and unexcitable loveliness of her face had made him, at
first, register her as a woman. Yet as he looked at the slim
girlishness of her figure in the bow of the canoe, accentuated by
the soft sheen of her partly unbraided hair, he wondered if she
were eighteen or thirty. It would take the clear light of day to
tell him. But whether a girl or a woman, she had handled him so
cleverly that the unpleasantness of his earlier experience began
to give way slowly to an admiration for her capability.
He wondered what the superintendent of "N" Division would say if
he could see Black Roger Audemard's latest trailer propped up here
in the center of the canoe, the prisoner of a velvety-haired but
dangerously efficient bit of feminine loveliness--and a bull-
necked, chimpanzee-armed half-breed!
Bateese had confirmed the suspicion that he was a prisoner, even
though this mysterious pair were bent on saving his life. Why it
was their desire to keep life in him when only a few hours ago one
of them had tried to kill him was a. question which only the
future could answer. He did not bother himself with that problem
now. The present was altogether too interesting, and there was but
little doubt that other developments equally important were close
at hand. The attitude of both Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain and her
piratical-looking henchman was sufficient evidence of that.
Bateese had threatened to knock his head off, and he could have
sworn that the girl--or woman--had smiled her approbation of the
threat. Yet he held no grudge against Bateese. An odd sort of
liking for the man began to possess him, just as he found himself
powerless to resist an ingrowing admiration for Marie-Anne. The
existence of Black Roger Audemard became with him a sort of
indefinite reality. Black Roger was a long way off. Marie-Anne and
Bateese were very near. He began thinking of her as Marie-Anne. He
liked the name. It was the Boulain part of it that worked in him
with an irritating insistence.
For the first time since the canoe journey had begun, he looked
beyond the darkly glowing head and the slender figure in the bow.
It was a splendid night. Ahead of him the river was like a
rippling sheet of molten silver. On both sides, a quarter of a
mile apart, rose the walls of the forest, like low-hung, oriental
tapestries. The sky seemed near, loaded with stars, and the moon,
rising with almost perceptible movement toward the zenith, had
changed from red to a mellow gold. Carrigan's soul always rose to
this glory of the northern light. Youth and vigor, he told
himself, must always exist under those unpolluted lights of the
upper worlds, the unspeaking things which had told him more than
he had ever learned from the mouths of other men. They stood for
his religion, his faith, his belief in the existence of things
greater than the insignificant spark which animated his own body.
He appreciated them most when there was stillness. And tonight it
was still. It was so quiet that the trickling of the paddles was
like subdued music. From the forest there came no sound. Yet he
knew there was life there, wide-eyed, questing life, life that
moved on velvety wing and padded foot, just as he and Marie-Anne
and the half-breed Bateese were moving in the canoe. To have
called out in this hour would have taken an effort, for a supreme
and invisible Hand seemed to have commanded stillness upon the
And then there came droning upon his ears a break in the
stillness, and as he listened, the shores closed slowly in,
narrowing the channel until he saw giant masses of gray rock
replacing the thick verdure of balsam, spruce, and cedar. The
moaning grew louder, and the rocks climbed skyward until they hung
in great cliffs. There could be but one meaning to this sudden
change. They were close to LE SAINT-ESPRIT RAPIDE--the Holy Ghost
Rapids. Carrigan was astonished. That day at noon he had believed
the Holy Ghost to be twenty or thirty miles below him. Now they
were at its mouth, and he saw that Bateese and Jeanne Marie-Anne
Boulain were quietly and unexcitedly preparing to run that vicious
stretch of water. Unconsciously he gripped the gunwales of the
canoe with both hands as the sound of the rapids grew into low and
sullen thunder. In the moonlight ahead he could see the rock walls
closing in until the channel was crushed between two precipitous
ramparts, and the moon and stars, sending their glow between those
walls, lighted up a frothing path of water that made Carrigan hold
his breath. He would have portaged this place even in broad day.
He looked at the girl in the bow. The slender figure Was a little
more erect, the glowing head held a little higher. In those
moments he would have liked to see her face, the wonderful
something that must be in her eyes as she rode fearlessly into the
teeth of the menace ahead. For he could see that she was not
afraid, that she was facing this thing with a sort of exultation,
that there was something about it which thrilled her until every
drop of blood in her body was racing with the impetus of the
stream itself. Eddies of wind puffing out from between the chasm
walls tossed her loose hair about her back in a glistening veil.
He saw a long strand of it trailing over the edge of the canoe
into the water. It made him shiver, and he wanted to cry out to
Bateese that he was a fool for risking her life like this. He
forgot that he was the one helpless individual in the canoe, and
that an upset would mean the end for him, while Bateese and his
companion might still fight on. His thought and his vision were
focused on the girl--and what lay straight ahead. A mass of froth,
like a windrow of snow, rose up before them, and the canoe plunged
into it with the swiftness of a shot. It spattered in his face,
and blinded him for an instant. Then they were out of it, and he
fancied he heard a note of laughter from the girl in the bow. In
the next breath he called himself a fool for imagining that. For
the run was dead ahead, and the girl became vibrant with life, her
paddle flashing in and out, while from her lips came sharp, clear
cries which brought from Eateese frog-like bellows of response.
The walls shot past; inundations rose and plunged under them;
black rocks whipped with caps of foam raced up-stream with the
speed of living things; the roar became a drowning voice, and
then--as if outreached by the wings of a swifter thing--dropped
suddenly behind them. Smoother water lay ahead. The channel
broadened. Moonlight filled it with a clearer radiance, and
Carrigan saw the girl's hair glistening wet, and her arms
For the first time he turned about and faced Bateese. The half-
breed was grinning like a Cheshire cat!
"You're a confoundedly queer pair!" grunted Carrigan, and he
turned about again to find Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain as
unconcerned as though running the Holy Ghost Rapids in the glow of
the moon was nothing more than a matter of play.
It was impossible for him to keep his heart from beating a little
faster as he watched her, even though he was trying to regard her
in a most professional sort of way. He reminded himself that she
was an iniquitous little Jezebel who had almost murdered him.
Carmin Fanchet had been like her, an AME DAMNEE--a fallen angel--
but his business was not sympathy in such matters as these. At the
same time he could not resist the lure of both her audacity and
her courage, and he found himself all at once asking himself the
amazing question as to what her relationship might be to Bateese.
It occurred to him rather unpleasantly that there had been
something distinctly proprietary in the way the half-breed had
picked her up on the sand, and that Bateese had shown no
hesitation a little later in threatening to knock his head off
unless he stopped talking to her. He wondered if Bateese was a
The two or three minutes of excitement in the boiling waters of
the Holy Ghost had acted like medicine on Carrigan. It seemed to
him that something had given way in his head, relieving him of an
oppression that had been like an iron hoop drawn tightly about his
skull. He did not want Bateese to suspect this change in him, and
he slouched lower against the dunnage-pack with his eyes still on
the girl. He was finding it increasingly difficult to keep from
looking at her. She had resumed her paddling, and Bateese was
putting mighty efforts in his strokes now, so that the narrow,
birchbark canoe shot like an arrow with the down-sweeping current
of the river. A few hundred yards below was a twist in the
channel, and as the canoe rounded this, taking the shoreward curve
with dizzying swiftness, a wide, still straight-water lay ahead.
And far down this Carrigan saw the glow of fires.
The forest had drawn back from the river, leaving in its place a
broken tundra of rock and shale and a wide strip of black sand
along the edge of the stream itself. Carrigan knew what it was--an
upheaval of the tar-sand country so common still farther north,
the beginning of that treasure of the earth which would some day
make the top of the American continent one of the Eldorados of the
world. The fires drew nearer, and suddenly the still night was
broken by the wild chanting of men. David heard behind him a
choking note in the throat of Bateese. A soft word came from the
lips of the girl, and it seemed to Carrigan that her head was held
higher in the moon glow. The chant increased in volume, a
rhythmic, throbbing, savage music that for a hundred and fifty
years had come from the throats of men along the Three Rivers. It
thrilled Carrigan as they bore down upon it. It was not song as
civilization would have counted song. It was like an explosion, an
exultation of human voice unchained, ebullient with the love of
life, savage in its good-humor. It was LE GAITE DE COEUR of the
rivermen, who thought and sang as their forefathers did in the
days of Radisson and good Prince Rupert; it was their merriment,
their exhilaration, their freedom and optimism, reaching up to the
farthest stars. In that song men were straining their vocal
muscles, shouting to beat out their nearest neighbor, bellowing
like bulls in a frenzy of sudden fun. And then, as suddenly as it
had risen in the night, the clamor of voices died away. A single
shout came up the river. Carrigan thought he heard a low rumble of
laughter. A tin pan banged against another. A dog howled. The flat
of an oar played a tattoo for a moment on the bottom of a boat.
Then one last yell from a single throat--and the night was silent
And that was the Boulain Brigade--singing at this hour of the
night, when men should have been sleeping if they expected to be
up with the sun. Carrigan stared ahead. Shortly his adventure
would take a new twist. Something was bound to happen when they
got ashore. The peculiar glow of the fires had puzzled him. Now he
began to understand. Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain's men were camped
in the edge of the tar-sands and had lighted a number of natural
gas-jets that came up out of the earth. Many times he had seen
fires like these burning up and down the Three Rivers. He had
lighted fires of his own; he had cooked over them and had
afterward had the fun and excitement of extinguishing them with
pails of water. But he had never seen anything quite like this
that was unfolding itself before his eyes now. There were seven of
the fires over an area of half an acre--spouts of yellowish flame
burning like giant torches ten or fifteen feet in the air. And
between them he very soon made out great bustle and activity. Many
figures were moving about. They looked like dwarfs at first,
gnomes at play in a little world made out of witchcraft. But
Bateese was sending the canoe nearer with powerful strokes, and
the figures grew taller, and the spouts of flame higher. Then he
knew what was happening. The Boulain men were taking advantage of
the cool hours of the night and were tarring up.
He could smell the tar, and he could see the big York boats drawn
up in the circle of yellowish light. There were half a dozen of
them, and men stripped to the waist were smearing the bottoms of
the boats with boiling tar and pitch. In the center was a big,
black cauldron steaming over a gas-jet, and between this cauldron
and the boats men were running back and forth with pails. Still
nearer to the huge kettle other men were filling a row of kegs
with the precious black GOUDRON that oozed up from the bowels of
the earth, forming here and there jet-black pools that Carrigan
could see glistening in the flare of the gas-lamps. He figured
there were thirty men at work. Six big York boats were turned keel
up in the black sand. Close inshore, just outside the circle of
light, was a single scow.
Toward this scow Bateese sent the canoe. And as they drew nearer,
until the laboring men ashore were scarcely a stone's throw away,
the weirdness of the scene impressed itself more upon Carrigan.
Never had he seen such a crew. There were no Indians among them.
Lithe, quick-moving, bare-headed, their naked arms and shoulders
gleaming in the ghostly illumination, they were racing against
time with the boiling tar and pitch in the cauldron. They did not
see the approach of the canoe, and Bateese did not draw their
attention to it. Quietly he drove the birchbark under the shadow
of the big bateau. Hands were waiting to seize and steady it.
Carrigan caught but a glimpse of the faces. In another instant the
girl was aboard the scow, and Bateese was bending over him. A
second time he was picked up like a child in the chimpanzee-like
arms of the half-breed. The moonlight showed him a scow bigger
than he had ever seen on the upper river, and two-thirds of it
seemed to be cabin. Into this cabin Bateese carried him, and in
darkness laid him upon what Carrigan thought must be a cot built
against the wall. He made no sound, but let himself fall limply
upon it. He listened to Bateese as he moved about, and closed his
eyes when Bateese struck a match. A moment later he heard the door
of the cabin close behind the half-breed. Not until then did he
open his eyes and sit up.
He was alone. And what he saw in the next few moments drew an
exclamation of amazement from him. Never had he seen a cabin like
this on the Three Rivers. It was thirty feet long if an inch, and
at least eight feet wide. The walls and ceiling were of polished
cedar; the floor was of cedar closely matched. It was the
exquisite finish and craftsmanship of the woodwork that caught his
eyes first. Then his astonished senses seized upon the other
things. Under his feet was a soft rug of dark green velvet. Two
magnificent white bearskins lay between him and the end of the
room. The walls were hung with pictures, and at the four windows
were curtains of ivory lace draped with damask. The lamp which
Bateese had lighted was fastened to the wall close to him. It was
of polished silver and threw a brilliant light softened by a shade
of old gold. There were three other lamps like this, unlighted.
The far end of the room was in deep shadow, but Carrigan made out
the thing he was staring at--a piano. He rose to his feet,
disbelieving his eyes, and made his way toward it. He passed
between chairs. Near the piano was another door, and a wide divan
of the same soft, green upholstery. Looking back, he saw that what
he had been lying upon was another divan. And dose to this were
book-shelves, and a table on which were magazines and papers and a
woman's workbasket, and in the workbasket--sound asleep--a cat!
And then, over the table and the sleeping cat, his eyes rested
upon a triangular banner fastened to the wall. In white against a
background of black was a mighty polar bear holding at bay a horde
of Arctic wolves. And suddenly the thing he had been fighting to
recall came to Carrigan--the great bear--the fighting wolves--the
crest of St. Pierre Boulain!
He took a quick step toward the table--then caught at the back of
a chair. Confound his head! Or was it the big bateau rocking under
his feet? The cat seemed to be turning round in its basket. There
were half a dozen banners instead of one; the lamp was shaking in
its bracket; the floor was tilting, everything was becoming
hideously contorted and out of place. A shroud of darkness
gathered about him, and through that darkness Carrigan staggered
blindly toward the divan. He reached it just in time to fall upon
it like a dead man.
For what seemed to be an interminable time after the final
breakdown of his physical strength David Carrigan lived in a black
world where a horde of unseen little devils were shooting red-hot
arrows into his brain. He did not sense the fact of human
presence; nor that the divan had been changed into a bed and the
four lamps lighted, and that wrinkled, brown hands with talon-like
fingers were performing a miracle of wilderness surgery upon him.
He did not see the age-old face of Nepapinas--"The Wandering Bolt
of Lightning"--as the bent and tottering Cree called upon all his
eighty years of experience to bring him back to life. And he did
not see Bateese, stolid-faced, silent, nor the dead-white face and
wide-open, staring eyes of Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain as her slim,
white fingers worked with the old medicine man's. He was in a gulf
of blackness that writhed with the spirits of torment. He fought
them and cried out against them, and his fighting and his cries
brought the look of death itself into the eyes of the girl who was
over him. He did not hear her voice nor feel the soothing of her
hands, nor the powerful grip of Bateese as he held him when the
critical moments came. And Nepapinas, like a machine that had
looked upon death a thousand times, gave no rest to his claw-like
fingers until the work was done--and it was then that something
came to drive the arrow-shooting devils out of the darkness that
was smothering Carrigan.
After that Carrigan lived through an eternity of unrest, a life in
which he seemed powerless and yet was always struggling for
supremacy over things that were holding him down. There were
lapses in it, like the hours of oblivion that come with sleep, and
there were other times when he seemed keenly alive, yet unable to
move or act. The darkness gave way to flashes of light, and in
these flashes he began to see things, curiously twisted, fleeting,
and yet fighting themselves insistently upon his senses. He was
back in the hot sand again, and this time he heard the voices of
Jeanne Marie-Anne and Golden-Hair, and Golden-Hair flaunted a
banner in his face, a triangular pennon of black on which a huge
bear was fighting white Arctic wolves, and then she would run away
from him, crying out--"St. Pierre Boulain--St. Pierre Boulain--"
and the last he could see of her was her hair flaming like fire in
the sun. But it was always the other--the dark hair and dark eyes
--that came to him when the little devils returned to assault him
with their arrows. From somewhere she would come out of darkness
and frighten them away. He could hear her voice like a whisper in
his ears, and the touch of her hands comforted him and quieted his
pain. After a time he grew to be afraid when the darkness
swallowed her up, and in that darkness he would call for her, and
always he heard her voice in answer.
Then came a long oblivion. He floated through cool space away from
the imps of torment; his bed was of downy clouds, and on these
clouds he drifted with a great shining river under him; and at
last the cloud he was in began to shape itself into walls and on
these walls were pictures, and a window through which the sun was
shining, and a black pennon--and he heard a soft, wonderful music
that seemed to come to him faintly from another world. Other
creatures were at work in his brain now. They were building up and
putting together the loose ends of things. Carrigan became one of
them, working so hard that frequently a pair of dark eyes came out
of the dawning of things to stop him, and quieting hands and a
voice soothed him to rest. The hands and the voice became very
intimate. He missed them when they were not near, especially the
hands, and he was always groping for them to make sure they had
not gone away.
Only once after the floating cloud transformed itself into the
walls of the bateau cabin did the chaotic darkness of the sands
fully possess him again. In that darkness he heard a voice. It was
not the voice of Golden-Hair, or of Bateese, or of Jeanne Marie-
Anne. It was close to his ears. And in that darkness that
smothered him there was something terrible about it as it droned
slowly the words--"HAS-ANY-ONE-SEEN-BLACK-ROGER-AUDEMARD?" He
tried to answer, to call back to it, and the voice came again,
repeating the words, emotionless, hollow, as if echoing up out of
a grave. And still harder he struggled to reply to it, to say that
he was David Carrigan, and that he was out on the trail of Black
Roger Audemard, and that Black Roger was far north. And suddenly
it seemed to him that the voice changed into the flesh and blood
of Black Roger himself, though he could not see in the darkness--
and he reached out, gripping fiercely at the warm substance of
flesh, until he heard another voice, the voice of Jeanne Marie-
Anne Boulain, entreating him to let his victim go. It was this
time that his eyes shot open, wide and seeing, and straight over
him was the face of Jeanne Marie-Anne, nearer him than it had been
even in the visionings of his feverish mind. His fingers were
clutching her shoulders, gripping like steel hooks.
"M'sieu--M'sieu David!" she was crying.
For a moment he stared; then his hands and fingers relaxed, and
his arms dropped limply. "Pardon--I--I was dreaming," he struggled
weakly. "I thought--"
He had seen the pain in her face. Now, changing swiftly, it
lighted up with relief and gladness. His vision, cleared by long
darkness, saw the change come in an instant like a flash of
sunshine. And then--so near that he could have touched her--she
was smiling down into his eyes. He smiled back. It took an effort,
for his face felt stiff and unnatural.
"I was dreaming--of a man--named Roger Audemard," he continued to
apologize. "Did I--hurt you?"
The smile on her lips was gone as swiftly as it had come. "A
little, m'sieu. I am glad you are better. You have been very
He raised a hand to his face. The bandage was there, and also a
stubble of beard on his cheeks. He was puzzled. This morning he
had fastened his steel mirror to the side of a tree and shaved.
"It was three days ago you were hurt," she said quietly. "This is
the afternoon of the third day. You have been in a great fever.
Nepapinas, my Indian doctor, saved your life. You must lie quietly
now. You have been talking a great deal."
"About--Black Roger?" he said.
"Yes, of Golden--Hair."
"And--some one else--with dark hair--and dark eyes--"
"It may be, m'sieu."
"And of little devils with bows and arrows, and of polar bears,
and white wolves, and of a great lord of the north who calls
himself St. Pierre Boulain?"
"Yes, of all those."
"Then I haven't anything more to tell you," grunted David. "I
guess I've told you all I know. You shot me, back there. And here
I am. What are you going to do next?"
"Call Bateese," she answered promptly, and she rose swiftly from
beside him and moved toward the door.
He made no effort to call her back. His wits were working slowly,
readjusting themselves after a carnival in chaos, and he scarcely
sensed that she was gone until the cabin door closed behind her.
Then again he raised a hand to his face and felt his beard. Three
days! He turned his head so that he could take in the length of
the cabin. It was filled with subdued sunlight now, a western sun
that glowed softly, giving depth and richness to the colors on the
floor and walls, lighting up the piano keys, suffusing the
pictures with a warmth of life. David's eyes traveled slowly to
his own feet. The divan had been opened and transformed into a
bed. He was undressed. He had on somebody's white nightgown. And
there was a big bunch of wild roses on the table where three days
ago the cat had been sleeping in the work-basket. His head cleared
swiftly, and he raised himself a little on one elbow, with extreme
caution, and listened. The big bateau was not moving. It was still
tied up, but he could hear no voices out where the tar-sands were.
He dropped back on his pillow, and his eyes rested on the black
pennon. His blood stirred again as he looked at the white bear and
the fighting wolves. Wherever men rode the waters of the Three
Rivers that pennon was known. Yet it was not common. Seldom was it
seen, and never had it come south of Chipewyan. Many things came
to Carrigan now, things that he had heard at the Landing and up
and down the rivers. Once he had read the tail-end of a report the
Superintendent of "N" Division had sent in to headquarters.
"We do not know this St. Pierre. Few men have seen him out of his
own country, the far headwaters of the Yellowknife, where he rules
like a great overlord. Both the Yellowknives and the Dog Ribs call
him KICHEOO KIMOW, or King, and the same rumors say there is never
starvation or plague in his regions; and it is fact that neither
the Hudson's Bay nor Revillon Brothers in their cleverest
generalship and trade have been able to uproot his almost dynastic
jurisdiction. The Police have had no reason to investigate or
At least that was the gist of what Carrigan had read in McVane's
report. But he had never associated it with the name of Boulain.
It was of St. Pierre that he had heard stories, St. Pierre and his
black pennon with its white bear and fighting wolves. And so--it
was St. Pierre BOULAIN!
He closed his eyes and thought of the long winter weeks he had
passed at Hay River Post, watching for Fanchet, the mail robber.
It was there he had heard most about this St. Pierre, and yet no
one he had talked with had ever seen him; no one knew whether he
was old or young, a pigmy or a giant. Some stories said that he
was strong, that he could twist a gun-barrel double in his hands;
others said that he was old, very old, so that he never set forth
with his brigades that brought down each year a treasure of furs
to be exchanged for freight. And never did a Dog Rib or a
Yellowknife open his mouth about KICHEOO KIMOW St. Pierre, the
master of their unmapped domains. In that great country north and
west of the Great Slave he remained an enigma and a sphinx. If he
ever came out with his brigades, he did not disclose his identity,
so that if one saw a fleet of boats or canoes with the St. Pierre
pennon, one had to make his own guess whether St. Pierre himself
was there or not. But these things were known--that the keenest,
quickest, and strongest men in the northland ran the St. Pierre
brigades, that they brought out the richest cargoes of furs, and
that they carried back with them into the secret fastnesses of
their wilderness the greatest cargoes of freight that treasure
could buy. So much the name St. Pierre dragged out of Carrigan's
memory. It came to him now why the name "Boulain" had pounded so
insistently in his brain. He had seen this pennon with its white
bear and fighting wolves only once before, and that had been over
a Boulain scow at Chipewyan. But his memory had lost its grip on
that incident while retaining vividly its hold on the stories and
rumors of the mystery-man, St. Pierre.
Carrigan pulled himself a little higher on his pillow and with a
new interest scanned the cabin. He had never heard of Boulain
women. Yet here was the proof of their existence and of the
greatness that ran in the red blood of their veins. The history of
the great northland, hidden in the dust-dry tomes and guarded
documents of the great company, had always been of absorbing
interest to him. He wondered why it was that the outside world
knew so little about it and believed so little of what it heard. A
long time ago he had penned an article telling briefly the story
of this half of a great continent in which for two hundred years
romance and tragedy and strife for mastery had gone on in a way to
thrill the hearts of men. He had told of huge forts with thirty-
foot stone bastions, of fierce wars, of great warships that had
fired their broadsides in battle in the ice-filled waters of
Hudson's Bay. He had described the coming into this northern world
of thousands and tens of thousands of the bravest and best-blooded
men of England and France, and how these thousands had continued
to come, bringing with them the names of kings, of princes, and of
great lords, until out of the savagery of the north rose an
aristocracy of race built up of the strongest men of the earth.
And these men of later days he had called Lords of the North--men
who had held power of life and death in the hollow of their hands
until the great company yielded up its suzerainty to the
Government of the Dominion in 1870; men who were kings in their
domains, whose word was law, who were more powerful in their
wilderness castles than their mistress over the sea, the Queen of
And Carrigan, after writing of these things, had stuffed his
manuscript away in the bottom of his chest at barracks, for he
believed that it was not in his power to do justice to the people
of this wilderness world that he loved. The powerful old lords
were gone. Like dethroned monarchs, stripped to the level of other
men, they lived in the memories of what had been. Their might now
lay in trade. No more could they set out to wage war upon their
rivals with powder and ball. Keen wit, swift dogs, and the
politics of barter had taken the place of deadlier things. LE
FACTEUR could no longer slay or command that others be slain. A
mightier hand than his now ruled the destinies of the northern
people--the hand of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
It was this thought, the thought that Law and one of the powerful
forces of the wilderness had met in this cabin of the big bateau,
that came to Carrigan as he drew himself still higher against his
pillow. A greater thrill possessed him than the thrill of his hunt
for Black Roger Audemard. Black Roger was a murderer, a wholesale
murderer and a fiend, a Moloch for whom there could be no pity. Of
all men the Law wanted Black Roger most, and he, David Carrigan,
was the chosen one to consummate its desire. Yet in spite of that
he felt upon him the strange unrest of a greater adventure than
the quest for Black Roger. It was like an impending thing that
could not be seen, urging him, rousing his faculties from the
slough into which they had fallen because of his wound and
sickness. It was, after all, the most vital of all things, a
matter of his own life. Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain had tried to
kill him deliberately, with malice and intent. That she had saved
him afterward only added to the necessity of an explanation, and
he was determined that he would have that explanation and settle
the present matter before he allowed another thought of Black
Roger to enter his head.
This resolution reiterated itself in his mind as the machine-like
voice of duty. He was not thinking of the Law, and yet the
consciousness of his accountability to that Law kept repeating
itself. In the very face of it Carrigan knew that something
besides the moral obligation of the thing was urging him,
something that was becoming deeply and dangerously personal. At
least--he tried to think of it as dangerous. And that danger was
his unbecoming interest in the girl herself. It was an interest
distinctly removed from any ethical code that might have governed
him in his experience with Carmin Fanchet, for instance.
Comparatively, if they had stood together, Carmin would have been
the lovelier. But he would have looked longer at Jeanne Marie-Anne
He conceded the point, smiling a bit grimly as he continued to
study that part of the cabin which he could see from his pillow.
He had lost interest--temporarily at least--in Black Roger
Audemard. Not long ago the one question to which, above all
others, he had desired an answer was, why had Jeanne Marie-Anne
Boulain worked so desperately to kill him and so hard to save him
afterward? Now, as he looked about him, the question which
repeated itself insistently was, what relationship did she bear to
this mysterious lord of the north, St. Pierre?
Undoubtedly she was his daughter, for whom St. Pierre had built
this luxurious barge of state. A fierce-blooded offspring, he
thought, one like Cleopatra herself, not afraid to kill--and
equally quick to make amends when there was a mistake.
There came the quiet opening of the cabin door to break in upon
his thought. He hoped it was Jeanne Marie-Anne returning to him.
It was Nepapinas. The old Indian stood over him for a moment and
put a cold, claw-like hand to his forehead. He grunted and nodded
his head, his little sunken eyes gleaming with satisfaction. Then
he put his hands under David's arms and lifted him until he was
sitting upright, with three or four pillows at his back.
"Thanks," said Carrigan. "That makes me feel better. And--if you
don't mind--my last lunch was three days ago, boiled prunes and a
piece of bannock--"
"I have brought you something to eat, M'sieu David," broke in a
soft voice behind him.
Nepapinas slipped away, and Jeanne Marie-Anne stood in his place.
David stared up at her, speechless. He heard the door close behind
the old Indian. Then Jeanne Marie-Anne drew up a chair, so that
for the first time he could see her clear eyes with the light of
day full upon her.
He forgot that a few days ago she had been his deadliest enemy. He
forgot the existence of a man named Black Roger Audemard. Her
slimness was as it had pictured itself to him in the hot sands.
Her hair was as he had seen it there. It was coiled upon her head
like ropes of spun silk, jet-black, glowing softly. But it was her
eyes he stared at, and so fixed was his look that the red lips
trembled a bit on the verge of a smile. She was not embarrassed.
There was no color in the clear whiteness of her skin, except that
redness of her lips.
"I thought you had black eyes," he said bluntly. "I'm glad you
haven't. I don't like them. Yours are as brown as--as--"
"Please, m'sieu," she interrupted him, sitting down close beside
him. "Will you eat--now?"
A spoon was at his mouth, and he was forced to take it in or have
its contents spilled over him. The spoon continued to move quickly
between the bowl and his mouth. He was robbed of speech. And the
girl's eyes, as surely as he was alive, were beginning to laugh at
him. They were a wonderful brown, with little, golden specks in
them, like the freckles he had seen in wood-violets. Her lips
parted. Between their bewitching redness he saw the gleam of her
white teeth. In a crowd, with her glorious hair covered and her
eyes looking straight ahead, one would not have picked her out.
But close, like this, with her eyes smiling at him, she was
Something of Carrigan's thoughts must have shown in his face, for
suddenly the girl's lips tightened a little, and the warmth went
out of her eyes, leaving them cold and distant. He finished the
soup, and she rose again to her feet.
"Please don't go," he said. "If you do, I think I shall get up and
follow. I am quite sure I am entitled to a little something more
"Nepapinas says that you may have a bit of boiled fish for
supper," she assured him.
"You know I don't mean that. I want to know why you shot me, and
what you think you are going to do with me."
"I shot you by mistake--and--I don't know just what to do with
you," she said, looking at him tranquilly, but with what he
thought was a growing shadow of perplexity in her eyes. "Bateese
says to fasten a big stone to your neck and throw you in the
river. But Bateese doesn't always mean what he says. I don't think
he is quite as bloodthirsty--"
"--As the young lady who tried to murder me behind the rock,"
"Exactly, m'sieu. I don't think he would throw you into the river
--unless I told him to. And I don't believe I am going to ask him
to do that," she added, the soft glow flashing back into her eyes
for an instant. "Not after the splendid work Nepapinas has done on
your head. St. Pierre must see that. And then, if St. Pierre
wishes to finish you, why--" She shrugged her slim shoulders and
made a little gesture with her hands.
In that same moment there came over her a change as sudden as the
passing of light itself. It was as if a thing she was hiding had
broken beyond her control for an instant and had betrayed her. The
gesture died. The glow went out of her eyes, and in its place came
a light that was almost fear--or pain. She came nearer to Carrigan
again, and somehow, looking up at her, he thought of the little
brush warbler singing at the end of its birch twig to give him
courage. It must have been because of her throat, white and soft,
which he saw pulsing like a beating heart before she spoke to him.
"I have made a terrible mistake, m'sieu David," she said, her
voice barely rising above a whisper. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I
thought it was some one else behind the rock. But I can not tell
you more than that--ever. And I know it is impossible for us to be
friends." She paused, one of her hands creeping to her bare
throat, as if to cover the throbbing he had seen there.
"Why is it impossible?" he demanded, leaning away from his pillows
so that he might bring himself nearer to her.
"Because--you are of the police, m'sieu."
"The police, yes," he said, his heart thrumming inside his breast.
"I am Sergeant Carrigan. I am out after Roger Audemard, a
murderer. But my commission has nothing to do with the daughter of
St. Pierre Boulain. Please--let's be friends--"
He held out his hand; and in that moment David Carrigan placed
another thing higher than duty--and in his eyes was the confession
of it, like the glow of a subdued fire. The girl's fingers drew
more closely at her throat, and she made no movement to accept his
"Friends," he repeated. "Friends--in spite of the police."
Slowly the girl's eyes had widened, as if she saw that new-born
thing riding over all other things in his swiftly beating heart.
And afraid of it, she drew a step away from him.
"I am not St. Pierre Boulain's daughter," she said, forcing the
words out one by one. "I am--his wife."
Afterward Carrigan wondered to what depths he had fallen in the
first moments of his disillusionment. Something like shock,
perhaps even more than that, must have betrayed itself in his
face. He did not speak. Slowly his outstretched arm dropped to the
white counterpane. Later he called himself a fool for allowing it
to happen, for it was as if he had measured his proffered
friendship by what its future might hold for him. In a low, quiet
voice Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain was saying again that she was St.
Pierre's wife. She was not excited, yet he understood now why it
was he had thought her eyes were very dark. They had changed
swiftly. The violet freckles in them were like little flecks of
gold. They were almost liquid in their glow, neither brown nor
black now, and with that threat of gathering lightning in them.
For the first time he saw the slightest flush of color in her
cheeks. It deepened even as he held out his hand again. He knew
that it was not embarrassment. It was the heat of the fire back of
her eyes. "It's--funny," he said, making an effort to redeem
himself with a lie and smiling. "You rather amaze me. You see, I
have been told this St. Pierre is an old, old man--so old that he
can't stand on his feet or go with his brigades, and if that is
the truth, it is hard for me to picture you as his wife. But that
isn't a reason why we should not be friends. Is it?"
He felt that he was himself again, except for the three days'
growth of beard on his face. He tried to laugh, but it was rather
a poor attempt. And St. Pierre's wife did not seem to hear him.
She was looking at him, looking into and through him with those
wide-open glowing eyes. Then she sat down, out of reach of the
hand which he had held toward her.
"You are a sergeant of the police," she said, the softness gone
suddenly out of her voice. "You are an honorable man, m'sieu. Your
hand is against all wrong. Is it not so?" It was the voice of an
inquisitor. She was demanding an answer of him.
He nodded. "Yes, it is so."
The fire in her eyes deepened. "And yet you say you want to be the
friend of a stranger who has tried to kill you. WHY, m'sieu?"
He was cornered. He sensed the humiliation of it, the
impossibility of confessing to her the wild impulse that had moved
him before he knew she was St. Pierre's wife. And she did not wait
for him to answer.
"This--this Roger Audemard--if you catch him--what will you do
with him?" she asked.
"He will be hanged," said David. "He is a murderer."
"And one who tries to kill--who almost succeeds--what is the
penalty for that?" She leaned toward him, waiting. Her hands were
clasped tightly in her lap, the spots were brighter in her cheeks.
"From ten to twenty years," he acknowledged. "But, of course,
there may be circumstances--"
"If so, you do not know them," she interrupted him. "You say Roger
Audemard is a murderer. You know I tried to kill you. Then why is
it you would be my friend and Roger Audemard's enemy? Why,
Carrigan shrugged his shoulders hopelessly. "I shouldn't," he
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