The Flaming Forest
James Oliver Curwood
Part 2 out of 5
confessed. "I guess you are proving I was wrong in what I said. I
ought to arrest you and take you back to the Landing as soon as I
can. But, you see, it strikes me there is a big personal element
in this. I was the man almost killed. There was a mistake,--must
have been, for as soon as you put me out of business you began
nursing me back to life again. And--"
"But that doesn't change it," insisted St. Pierre's wife. "If
there had been no mistake, there would have been a murder. Do you
understand, m'sieu? If it had been some one else behind that rock,
I am quite certain he would have died. The Law, at least, would
have called it murder. If Roger Audemard is a criminal, then I
also am a criminal. And an honorable man would not make a
distinction because one of them is a woman!"
"But--Black Roger was a fiend. He deserves no mercy. He--"
She was on her feet, her eyes flaming down upon him. In that
moment her beauty was like the beauty of Carmin Fanchet. The poise
of her slender body, her glowing cheeks, her lustrous hair, her
gold-flecked eyes with the light of diamonds in them, held him
"I was sorry and went back for you," she said. "I wanted you to
live, after I saw you like that on the sand. Bateese says I was
indiscreet, that I should have left you there to die. Perhaps he
is right. And yet--even Roger Audemard might have had that pity
She turned quickly, and he heard her moving away from him. Then,
from the door, she said,
"Bateese will make you comfortable, m'sieu."
The door opened and closed. She was gone. And he was alone in the
The swiftness of the change in her amazed him. It was as if he had
suddenly touched fire to an explosive. There had been the flare,
but no violence. She had not raised her voice, yet he heard in it
the tremble of an emotion that was consuming her. He had seen the
flame of it in her face and eyes. Something he had said, or had
done, had tremendously upset her, changing in an instant her
attitude toward him. The thought that came to him made his face
burn under its scrub of beard. Did she think he was a scoundrel?
The dropping of his hand, the shock that must have betrayed itself
in his face when she said she was St. Pierre's wife--had those
things warned her against him? The heat went slowly out of his
face. It was impossible. She could not think that of him. It must
have been a sudden giving way under terrific strain. She had
compared herself to Roger Audemard, and she was beginning to
realize her peril--that Bateese was right--that she should have
left him to die in the sand!
The thought pressed itself heavily upon Carrigan. It brought him
suddenly back to a realization of how small a part he had played
in this last half hour in the cabin. He had offered to Pierre's
wife a friendship which he had no right to offer and which she
knew he had no right to offer. He was the Law. And she, like Roger
Audemard, was a criminal. Her quick woman's instinct had told her
there could be no distinction between them, unless there was a
reason. And now Carrigan confessed to himself that there had been
a reason. That reason had come to him with the first glimpse of
her as he lay in the hot sand. He had fought against it in the
canoe; it had mastered him in those thrilling moments when he had
beheld this slim, beautiful creature riding fearlessly into the
boiling waters of the Holy Ghost. Her eyes, her hair, the sweet,
low voice that had been with him in his fever, had become a
definite and unalterable part of him. And this must have shown in
his eyes and face when he dropped his hand--when she told him she
was St. Pierre's wife.
And now she was afraid of him! She was regretting that she had not
left him to die. She had misunderstood what she had seen betraying
itself during those few seconds of his proffered friendship. She
saw only a man whom she had nearly killed, a man who represented
the Law, a man whose power held her in the hollow of his hand. And
she had stepped back from him, startled, and had told him that she
was not St. Pierre's daughter, but his wife!
In the science of criminal analysis Carrigan always placed himself
in the position of the other man. And he was beginning to see the
present situation from the view-point of Jeanne Marie-Anne
Boulain. He was satisfied that she had made a desperate mistake
and that until the last moment she had believed it was another man
behind the rock. Yet she had shown no inclination to explain away
her error. She had definitely refused to make an explanation. And
it was simply a matter of common sense to concede that there must
be a powerful motive for her refusal. There was but one conclusion
for him to arrive at--the error which St. Pierre's wife had made
in shooting the wrong man was less important to her than keeping
the secret of why she had wanted to kill some other man.
David was not unconscious of the breach in his own armor. He had
weakened, just as the Superintendent of "N" Division had weakened
that day four years ago when they had almost quarreled over Carmin
"I'll swear to Heaven she isn't bad, no matter what her brother
has been," McVane had said. "I'll gamble my life on that,
And because the Chief of Division with sixty years of experience
behind him, had believed that, Carmin Fanchet had not been held as
an accomplice in her brother's evildoing, but had gone back into
her wilderness uncrucified by the law that had demanded the life
of her brother. He would never forget the last time he had seen
Carmin Fanchet's eyes--great, black, glorious pools of gratitude
as they looked at grizzled old McVane; blazing fires of venomous
hatred when they turned on him. And he had said to McVane,
"The man pays, the woman goes--justice indeed is blind!"
McVane, not being a stickler on regulations when it came to
Carrigan, had made no answer.
The incident came back vividly to David as he waited for the
promised coming of Bateese. He began to appreciate McVane's point
of view, and it was comforting, because he realized that his own
logic was assailable. If McVane had been comparing the two women
now, he knew what his argument would be. There had been no
absolute proof of crime against Carmin Fanchet, unless to fight
desperately for the life of her brother was a crime. In the case
of Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain there was proof. She had tried to
kill. Therefore, of the two, Carmin Fanchet would have been the
better woman in the eyes of McVane.
In spite of the legal force of the argument which he was bringing
against himself, David felt unconvinced. Carmin Fanchet, had she
been in the place of St. Pierre's wife, would have finished him
there in the sand. She would have realized the menace of letting
him live and would probably have commanded Bateese to dump him in
the river. St. Pierre's wife had gone to the other extreme. She
was not only repentant, but was making restitution, for her
mistake, and in making that restitution had crossed far beyond the
dead-line of caution. She had frankly told him who she was; she
had brought him into the privacy of what was undeniably her own
home; in her desire to undo what she had done she had hopelessly
enmeshed herself in the net of the Law--if that Law saw fit to
act. She had done these things with courage and conviction. And of
such a woman, Carrigan thought, St. Pierre must be very proud.
He looked slowly about the cabin again and each thing that he saw
was a living voice breaking up a dream for him. These voices told
him that he was in a temple built because of a man's worship for a
woman--and that man was St. Pierre. Through the two western
windows came the last glow of the western sun, like a golden
benediction finding its way into a sacred place. Here there was--
or had been--a great happiness, for only a great pride and a great
happiness could have made it as it was. Nothing that wealth and
toil could drag up out of a civilization a thousand miles away had
been too good for St. Pierre's wife. And about him, looking more
closely, David saw the undisturbed evidences of a woman's
contentment. On the table were embroidery materials with which she
had been working, and a lamp-shade half finished. A woman's
magazine printed in a city four thousand miles away lay open at
the fashion plates. There were other magazines, and many books,
and open music above the white keyboard of the piano, and vases
glowing red and yellow with wild-flowers and silver birch leaves.
He could smell the faint perfume of the fireglow blossoms, red as
blood. In a pool of sunlight on one of the big white bear rugs lay
the sleeping cat. And then, at the far end of the cabin, an ivory-
white Cross of Christ glowed for a few moments in a last homage of
the sinking sun.
Uneasiness stole upon him. This was the woman's holy ground, her
sanctuary and her home, and for three days his presence had driven
her from it. There was no other room. In making restitution she
had given up to him her most sacred of all things. And again there
rose up in him that new-born thing which had set strange fires
stirring in his heart, and which from this hour on he knew he must
fight until it was dead.
For an hour after the last of the sun was obirterated by the
western mountains he lay in the gloom of coming darkness. Only the
lapping of water under the bateau broke the strange stillness of
the evening. He heard no sound of life, no voice, no tread of
feet, and he wondered where the woman and her men had gone and if
the scow was still tied up at the edge of the tar-sands. And for
the first time he asked himself another question, Where was the
man, St. Pierref
It was utterly dark in the cabin, when the stillness was broken by
low voices outside. The door opened, and some one came in. A
moment later a match flared up, and in the shifting glow of it
Carrigan saw the dark face of Bateese, the half-breed. One after
another he lighted the four lamps. Not until he had finished did
he turn toward the bed. It was then that David had his first good
impression of the man. He was not tall, but built with the
strength of a giant. His arms were long. His shoulders were
stooped. His head was like the head of a stone gargoyle come to
life. Wide-eyed, heavy-lipped, with the high cheek-bones of an
Indian and uncut black hair bound with the knotted red MOUCHOIR,
he looked more than ever like a pirate and a cutthroat to David.
Such a man, he thought, might make play out of the business of
murder. And yet, in spite of his ugliness, David felt again the
mysterious inclination to like the man.
Bateese grinned. It was a huge grin, for his mouth was big. "You
ver' lucky fellow," he announced. "You sleep lak that in nice sof
bed an' not back on san'-bar, dead lak ze feesh I bring you,
m'sieu. That ees wan beeg mistake. Bateese say, 'Tie ze stone
roun' hees neck an' mak' heem wan ANGE DE MER. Chuck heem in ze
river, MA BELLE Jeanne!' An' she say no, mak heem well, an' feed
heem feesh. So I bring ze feesh which she promise, an' when you
have eat, I tell you somet'ing!"
He returned to the door and brought back with him a wicker basket.
Then he drew up the table beside Carrigan and proceeded to lay out
before him the boiled fish which St. Pierre's wife had promised
him. With it was bread and an earthen pot of hot tea.
"She say that ees all you have because of ze fever. Bateese say,
'Stuff heem wit' much so that he die queek!'"
"You want to see me dead. Is that it, Bateese?"
"OUI. You mak' wan ver' good dead man, m'sieu!" Bateese was no
longer grinning. He stood back and pointed at the food. "You eat--
queek. An' when you have finish' I tell you somet'ing!"
Now that he saw the luscious bit of whitefish before him, Carrigan
was possessed of the hungering emptiness of three days and nights.
As he ate, he observed that Bateese was performing curious duties.
He straightened a couple of rugs, ran fresh water into the flower
vases, picked up half a dozen scattered magazines, and then, to
David's increasing interest, produced a dust-cloth from somewhere
and began to dust. David finished his fish, the one slice of
bread, and his cup of tea. He felt tremendously good. The hot tea
was like a trickle of new life through every vein in his body, and
he had the desire to get up and try out his legs. Suddenly Bateese
discovered that his patient was laughing at him.
"QUE DIABLE!" he demanded, coming up ferociously with the cloth in
his great hand. "You see somet'ing ver' fonny, m'sieu?"
"No, nothing funny, Bateese," grinned Carrigan. "I was just
thinking what a handsome chambermaid you make. You are so gentle,
so nice to look at, so--"
"DIABLE!" exploded Bateese, dropping his dust cloth and bringing
his huge hands down upon the table with a smash that almost
wrecked the dishes. "You have eat, an' now you lissen. You have
never hear' before of Concombre Bateese. An' zat ees me. See! Wit'
these two hands I have choke' ze polar bear to deat'. I am
strongest man w'at ees in all nort' countree. I pack four hundre'
pound ovair portage. I crack ze caribou bones wit' my teeth, lak a
dog. I run sixt' or hundre' miles wit'out stop for rest. I pull
down trees w'at oder man cut wit' axe. I am not 'fraid of not'ing.
You lissen? You hear w'at I say?"
"I hear you."
"BIEN! Then I tell you w'at Concombre Bateese ees goin' do wit'
you, M'sieu Sergent de Police! MA BELLE Jeanne she mak' wan gran'
meestake. She too much leetle bird heart, too much pity for want
you to die. Bateese say, 'Keel him, so no wan know w'at happen
t'ree day ago behin' ze rock.' But MA BELLE Jeanne, she say, 'No,
Bateese, he ees meestake for oder man, an' we mus' let heem live.'
An' then she tell me to come an' bring you feesh, an' tell you
w'at is goin' happen if you try go away from thees bateau. You
COMPREN'? If you try run away, Bateese ees goin' keel you! See--
wit' thees han's I br'ak your neck an' t'row you in river. MA
BELLE Jeanne say do zat, an' she tell oder mans-twent', thirt',
almos' hundre' GARCONS--to keel you if you try run away. She tell
me bring zat word to you wit' ze feesh. You listen hard w'at I
If ever a worker of iniquity lived on earth, Carrigan might have
judged Bateese as that man in these moments. The half-breed had
worked himself up to a ferocious pitch. His eyes rolled. His wide
mouth snarled in the virulence of its speech. His thick neck grew
corded, and his huge hands clenched menacingly upon the table. Yet
David had no fear. He wanted to laugh, but he knew laughter would
be the deadliest of insults to Bateese just now. He remembered
that the half-breed, fierce as a pirate, had a touch as gentle as
a woman's. This man, who could choke an ox with his monstrous
hands, had a moment before petted a cat, straightened out rugs,
watered the woman's flowers, and had dusted. He was harmless--now.
And yet in the same breath David sensed the fact that a single
word from St. Pierre's wife would be sufficient to fire his brute
strength into a blazing volcano of action. Such a henchman was
priceless--under certain conditions! And he had brought a warning
straight from the woman.
"I think I understand what you mean, Bateese," he said. "She says
that I am to make no effort to leave this bateau--that I am to be
killed if I try to escape? Are you sure she said that?"
"PAR LES MILLE CORNES DU DIABLE, you t'ink Bateese lie, m'sieu?
Concombre Bateese, who choke ze w'ite bear wit' hees two ban', who
pull down ze tree--"
"No, no, I don't think you lie. But I am wondering why she didn't
tell me that when she was here."
"Becaus' she have too much leetle bird heart, zat ees w'y. She
say: 'Bateese, you tell heem he mus' wait for St. Pierre. An' you
tell heem good an' hard, lak you choke ze w'ite bear an' lak you
pull down ze tree, so he mak' no meestake an' try get away.' An'
she tell zat before all ze BATELIERS--all ze St. Pierre mans
gathered 'bout a beeg fire--an' they shout up lak wan gargon that
they watch an' keel you if you try get away."
Carrigan reached out a hand. "Let's shake, Bateese. I'll give you
my word that I won't try to escape--not until you and I have a
good stand-up fight with the earth under our feet, and I've
whipped you. Is it a go?"
Bateese stared for a moment, and then his face broke into a wide
grin. "You lak ze fight, m'sieu?"
"Yes. I love a scrap with a good man like you."
One of Bateese's huge hands crawled slowly over the table and
engulfed David's. Joy shone on his face.
"An' you promise give me zat fight, w'en you are strong?"
"If I don't, I'll let you tie a stone around my neck and drop me
into the river."
"You are brave GARCON," cried the delighted Bateese. "Up an' down
ze rivers ees no man w'at can whip Concombre Bateese!" Suddenly
his face grew clouded. "But ze head, m'sieu?" he added anxiously.
"It will get well quickly if you will help me, Bateese. Right now
I want to get up. I want to stretch my legs. Was my head bad?"
"NON. Ze bullet scrape ze ha'r off--so--so--an' turn ze brain
seek. I t'ink you be good fighting man in week!"
"And you will help me up?"
Bateese was a changed man. Again David felt that mighty but gentle
strength of his arms as he helped him to his feet. He was a trifle
unsteady for a moment. Then, with the half-breed close at his
side, ready to catch him if his legs gave way, he walked to one of
the windows and looked out. Across the river, fully half a mile
away, he saw the glow of fires.
"Her camp?" he asked.
"We have moved from the tar-sands?"
"Yes, two days down ze river."
"Why are they not camping over here with us?"
Bateese gave a disgusted grunt. "Becaus' MA BELLE Jeanne have such
leetle bird heart, m'sieu. She say you mus' not have noise near,
lak ze talk an' laugh an' ZE CHANSONS. She say it disturb, an' zat
it rnak you worse wit' ze fever. She ees mak you lak de baby,
Bateese say to her. But she on'y laugh at zat an' snap her leetle
w'ite finger. Wait St. Pierre come! He brak yo'r head wit' hees
two fists. I hope we have ze fight before then, m'sieu!"
"We'll have it anyway, Bateese. Where is St. Pierre, and when
shall we see him?"
Bateese shrugged his shoulders. "Mebby week, mebby more. He long
"Is he an old man?"
Slowly Bateese turned David about until he was facing him. "You
ask not'ing more about St. Pierre," he warned. "No mans talk 'bout
St. Pierre. Only wan--MA BELLE Jeanne. You ask her, an' she tell
you shut up. W'en you don't shut up she call Bateese to brak your
"You're a--a sort of all-round head-breaker, as I understand it,"
grunted David, walking slowly back to his bed. "Will you bring me
my pack and clothes in the morning? I want to shave and dress."
Bateese was ahead of him, smoothing the pillows and straightening
out the rumpled bed-clothes. His huge hands were quick and capable
as a woman's, and David could not keep himself from chuckling at
this feminine ingeniousness of the powerful half-breed. Once in
the crush of those gorilla-like arms that were working over his
bed now, he thought, and it would be all over with the strongest
man in "N" Division. Bateese heard the chuckle and looked up.
"Somet'ing ver' funny once more, is eet--w'at?" he demanded.
"I was thinking, Bateese--what will happen to me if you get me in
those arms when we fight? But it isn't going to happen. I fight
with my fists, and I'm going to batter you up so badly that nobody
will recognize you for a long time."
"You wait!" exploded Bateese, making a horrible grimace. "I choke
you lak w'ite bear, I t'row you ovair my should'r, I mash you lak
leetle strawberr', I--" He paused in his task to advance with a
"Not now," warned Carrigan. "I'm still a bit groggy, Bateese." He
pointed down at the bed. "I'm driving HER from that," he said. "I
don't like it. Is she sleepin' over there--in the camp?"
"Mebby--an' mebby not, m'sieu," growled Bateese. "You mak' guess,
He began extinguishing the lights, until only the one nearest the
door was left burning. He did not turn toward Carrigan or speak to
him again. When he Went out, David heard the click of a lock in
the door. Bateese had not exaggerated. It was the intention of St.
Pierre's wife that he should consider himself a prisoner--at least
He had no desire to lie down again. There was an unsteadiness in
his legs, but outside of that the evil of his sickness no longer
oppressed him. The staff doctor at the Landing would probably have
called him a fool for not convalescing in the usual prescribed
way, but Carrigan was already beginning to feel the demand for
action. In spite of what physical effort he had made, his head did
not hurt him, and his mind was keenly alive. He returned to the
window through which he could see the fires on the western shore,
and found no difficulty in opening it. A strong screen netting
kept him from thrusting out his head and shoulders. Through it
came the cool night breeze of the river. It seemed good to fill
his lungs with it again and smell the fresh aroma of the forest.
It was very dark, and the fires across the river were brighter
because of the deep gloom. There was no promise of the moon in the
sky. He could not see a star. From far in the west he caught the
low intonation of thunder.
Carrigan turned from the window to the end of the cabin in which
the piano stood. Here, too, was the second divan, and he saw the
meaning now of two close-tied curtains, one at each side of the
cabin. Drawn together on a taut wire stretched two inches under
the ceiling, they shut off this end of the bateau and turned at
least a third of the cabin into the privacy of the woman's
bedroom. With growing uneasiness David saw the evidences that this
had been her sleeping apartment. At each side of the piano was a
small door, and he opened one of these just enough to discover
that it was a wardrobe closet. A third door opened on the shore
side of the bateau, but this was locked. Shut out from the view of
the lower end of the cabin by a Japanese screen were a small
dresser and a mirror. In the dim illumination that came from the
distant lamp David bent over the open sheet of music on the piano.
It was Mascagni's AVE MARIA.
His blood tingled. His brain was stirred by a new emotion, a
growing thing that made him uneasy and filled him with a strange
restlessness. He felt as though he had come suddenly to the edge
of a great danger; somewhere within him an intelligence seized
upon it and understood. Yet it was not physical enough for him to
fight. It was a danger which crept up and about him, something
which he could not see or touch and yet which made his heart beat
faster and the blood come into his face. It drew him, triumphed
over him, dragged his hand forth until his fingers closed upon a
lacy, crumpled bit of a handkerchief that lay on the edge of the
piano keys. It was the woman's handkerchief, and like a thief he
raised it slowly. It smelled faintly of crushed violets; it was as
if she were bending over him in his sickness again, and it was her
breath that came to him. He was not thinking of her as St.
Pierre's wife. And then sharply he caught himself and placed the
handkerchief back on the piano keys. He tried to laugh at himself,
but there was an emptiness where a moment before there had been
that thrill of which he was now ashamed.
He turned back to the window. The thunder had come nearer. It was
coming up fast out of the west, and with it a darkness that was
like the blackness of a pit. A dead stillness was preceding it
now, and in that stillness it seemed to Carrigan that he could
hear the soapy, slitting sound of the streaming flashes of
electrical fire that blazoned the advance of the storm. The camp-
fires across the river were dying down. One of them went out as he
looked at it, and he stared into the darkness as if trying to
pierce distance and gloom to see what sort of a shelter it was
that St. Pierre's wife had over there. And there came over him in
these moments a desire that was almost cowardly. It was the desire
to escape, to leave behind him the memory of the rock and of St.
Pierre's wife, and to pursue once more his own great adventure,
the quest of Black Roger Audemard.
He heard the rain coming. At first the sound of it was like the
pattering of ten million tiny feet in dry leaves; then, suddenly,
it was like the roar of an avalanche. It was an inundation, and
with it came crash after crash of thunder, and the black skies
were illumined by an almost uninterrupted glare of lightning. It
had been a long time since Carrigan had felt the shock of such a
storm. He closed the window to keep the rain out, and after that
stood with his face flattened against the glass, staring over the
river. The camp-fires were all gone now, blotted out like so many
candles snuffed between thumb and forefinger, and he shuddered. No
canvas ever made would keep that deluge out. And now there was
growing up a wind with it. The tents on the other side would be
beaten down like pegged sheets of paper, ripped up and torn to
pieces. He imagined St. Pierre's wife in that tumult and distress
--the breath blown out of her, half drowned, blinded by deluge and
lightning, broken and beaten because of him. Thought of her
companions did not ease his mind. Human hands were entirely
inadequate to cope with a storm like this that was rocking the
earth about him.
Suddenly he went to the door, determined that if Bateese was
outside he would get some satisfaction out of him or challenge him
to a fight right there. He beat against it, first with one fist
and then with both. He shouted. There was no response. Then he
exerted his strength and his weight against the door. It was
He was half turned when his eyes discovered, in a corner where the
lamplight struck dimly, his pack and clothes. In thirty seconds he
had his pipe and tobacco. After that for half an hour he paced up
and down the cabin, while the storm crashed and thundered &s if
bent upon destroying all life off the face of the earth.
Comforted by the company of his pipe, Carrigan did not beat at the
door again. He waited, and at the end of another half-hour the
storm had softened down into a steady patter of rain. The thunder
had traveled east, and the lightning had gone with it. David
opened the window again. The air that came in was rain-sweet,
soft, and warm. He puffed out a cloud of smoke and smiled. His
pipe always brought his good humor to the surface, even in the
worst places. St. Pierre's wife had certainly had a good soaking.
And in a way the whole thing was a bit funny. He was thinking now
of a poor little golden-plumaged partridge, soaked to the skin,
with its tail-feathers dragging pathetically. Grinning, he told
himself that it was an insult to think of her and a half-drowned
partridge in the same breath. But the simile still remained, and
he chuckled. Probably she was wringing out her clothes now, and
the men were cursing under their breath while trying to light a
fire. He watched for the fire. It failed to appear. Probably she
was hating him for bringing all this discomfort and humiliation
upon her. It was not impossible that tomorrow she would give
Bateese permission to brain him. And St. Pierre? What would this
man, her husband, think and do if he knew that his wife had given
up her bedroom to this stranger? What complications might arise IF
It was late--past midnight--when Carrigan went to bed. Even then
he did not sleep for a long time. The patter of the rain grew less
and less on the roof of the bateau, and as the sound of it droned
itself off into nothingness, slumber came. David was conscious of
the moment when the rain ceased entirely. Then he slept. At least
he must have been very close to sleep, or had been asleep and was
returning for a moment close to consciousness, when he heard a
voice. It came several times before he was roused enough to
realize that it was a voice. And then, suddenly, piercing his
slowly wakening brain almost with the shock of one of the thunder
crashes, it came to him so distinctly that he found himself
sitting up straight, his hands clenched, eyes staring in the
darkness, waiting for it to come again.
Somewhere very near him, in his room, within the reach of his
hands, a strange and indescribable voice had cried out in the
darkness the words which twice before had beat themselves
mysteriously into David Carrigan's brain--"HAS ANY ONE SEEN BLACK
ROGER AUDEMARD? HAS ANY ONE SEEN BLACK ROGER AUDEMARD?"
And David, holding his breath, listened for the sound of another
breath which he knew was in that room.
For perhaps a minute Carrigan made no sound that could have been
heard three feet away from him. It was not fear that held him
quiet. It was something which he could not explain afterward, the
sensation, perhaps, of one who feels himself confronted for a
moment by a presence more potent than that of flesh and blood.
BLACK ROGER AUDEMARD! Three times, twice in his sickness, some one
had cried out that name in his ears since the hour when St.
Pierre's wife had ambushed him on the white carpet of sand. And
the voice was now in his room!
Was it Bateese, inspired by some sort of malformed humor? Carrigan
listened. Another minute passed. He reached out a hand and groped
about him, very careful not to make a sound, urged by the feeling
that some one was almost within reach of him. He flung back his
blanket and stood out in the middle of the floor.
Still he heard no movement, no soft footfalls of retreat or
advance. He lighted a match and held it high above his head. In
its yellow illumination he could see nothing alive. He lighted a
lamp. The cabin was empty. He drew a deep breath and went to the
window. It was still open. The voice had undoubtedly come to him
through that window, and he fancied he could see where the screen
netting was crushed a bit inward, as though a face had pressed
heavily against it. Outside the night was beautifully calm. The
sky, washed by storm, was bright with stars. But there was not a
ripple of movement that he could hear.
After that he looked at his watch. He must have been sleeping for
some time when the voice roused him, for it was nearly three
o'clock. In spite of the stars, dawn was close at hand. When he
looked out of the window again they were paler and more distant.
He had no intention of going back to bed. He was restless and felt
himself surrendering more and more to the grip of presentiment.
It was still early, not later than six o'clock, when Bateese came
in with his breakfast. He was surprised, as he had heard no
movement or sound of voices to give evidence of life anywhere near
the bateau. Instantly he made up his mind that it was not Bateese
who had uttered the mysterious words of a few hours ago, for the
half-breed had evidently experienced a most uncomfortable night.
He was like a rat recently pulled out of water. His clothes hung
upon him sodden and heavy, his head kerchief dripped, and his lank
hair was wet. He slammed the breakfast things down on the table
and went out again without so much as nodding at his prisoner.
Again a sense of discomfort and shame swept over David, as he sat
down to breakfast. Here he was comfortably, even luxuriously,
housed, while out there somewhere St. Pierre's lovely wife was
drenched and even more miserable than Bateese. And the breakfast
amazed him. It was not so much the caribou tenderloin, rich in its
own red juice, or the potato, or the pot of coffee that was
filling the cabin with its aroma, that roused his wonder, but the
hot, brown muffins that accompanied the other things. Muffins! And
after a deluge that had drowned every square inch of the earth!
How had Bateese turned the trick?
Bateese did not return immediately for the dishes, and for half an
hour after he had finished breakfast Carrigan smoked his pipe and
watched the blue haze of fires on the far side of the river. The
world was a blaze of sunlit glory. His imagination carried him
across the river. Somewhere over there, in an open spot where the
sun was blazing, Jeanne Marie-Anne was probably drying herself
after the night of storm. There was but little doubt in his mind
that she was already heaping the ignominy of blame upon him. That
was the woman of it.
A knock at his door drew him about. It was a light, quick TAP,
TAP, TAP--not like the fist of either Bateese or Nepapinas. In
another moment the door swung open, and in the flood of sunlight
that poured into the cabin stood St. Pierre's wife!
It was not her presence, but the beauty of her, that held him
spellbound. It was a sort of shock after the vivid imaginings of
his mind in which he had seen her beaten and tortured by storm.
Her hair, glowing in the sun and piled up in shining coils on the
crown of her head, was not wet. She was not the rain-beaten little
partridge that had passed in tragic bedragglement through his
mind. Storm had not touched her. Her cheeks were soft with the
warm flush of long hours of sleep. When she came in, her lips
greeting him with a little smile, all that he had built up for
himself in the hours of the night crumbled away in dust. Again he
forgot for a moment that she was St. Pierre's wife. She was woman,
and as he looked upon her now, the most adorable woman in all the
"You are better this morning," she said. Real pleasure shone in
her eyes. She had left the door open, so that the sun filled the
room. "I think the storm helped you. Wasn't it splendid?"
David swallowed hard. "Quite splendid," he managed to say. "Have
you seen Bateese this morning?"
A little note of laughter came into her throat. "Yes. I don't
think he liked it. He doesn't understand why I love storms. Did
you sleep well, M'sieu Carrigan?"
"An hour or two, I think. I was worrying about you. I didn't like
the thought that I had turned you out into the storm. But it
doesn't seem to have touched you."
"No. I was there--quite comfortable." She nodded to the forward
bulkhead of the cabin, beyond the wardrobe closets and the piano.
"There is a little dining-room and kitchenette ahead," she
explained. "Didn't Bateese tell you that?"
"No, he didn't. I asked him where you were, and I think he told me
to shut up."
"Bateese is very odd," said St. Pierre's wife. "He is exceedingly
jealous of me, M'sieu David. Even when I was a baby and he carried
me about in his arms, he was just that way. Bateese, you know, is
older than he appears. He is fifty-one."
She was moving about, quite as if his presence was in no way going
to disturb her usual duties of the day. She rearranged the damask
curtains which he had crumpled with his hands, placed two or three
chairs in their usual places, and moved from this to that with the
air of a housewife who is in the habit of brushing up a bit in the
She seemed not at all embarrassed because he was her prisoner, nor
uncomfortably restrained because of the message she had sent to
him by Bateese. She was warmly and gloriously human. In her
apparent unconcern at his presence he found himself sweating
inwardly. A bit nervously he struck a match to light his pipe,
then extinguished it.
She noticed what he had done. "You may smoke," she said, with that
little note in her throat which he loved to hear, like the
faintest melody of laughter that did not quite reach her lips.
"St. Pierre smokes a great deal, and I like it."
She opened a drawer in the dressing-table and came to him with a
box half filled with cigars.
"St. Pierre prefers these--on occasions," she said, "Do you?"
His fingers seemed all thumbs as he took a cigar from the
proffered box. He cursed himself because his tongue felt thick.
Perhaps it was his silence, betraying something of his mental
clumsiness, that brought a faint flush of color into her cheeks.
He noted that; and also that the top of her shining head came just
about to his chin, and that her mouth and throat, looking down on
them, were bewitchingly soft and sweet.
And what she said, when her eyes opened wide and beautiful on him
again, was like a knife cutting suddenly into the heart of his
"In the evening I love to sit at St. Pierre's feet and watch him
smoke," she said. "I am glad it doesn't annoy you, because--I like
to smoke," he replied lamely.
She placed the box on the little reading table and looked at his
breakfast things. "You like muffins, too. I was up early this
morning, making them for you!"
"You made them?" he demanded, as if her words were a most amazing
revelation to him.
"Surely, M'sieu David. I make them every morning for St. Pierre.
He is very fond of them. He says the third nicest thing about me
is my muffins!"
"And the other two?" asked David.
"Are St. Pierre's little secrets, m'sieu," she laughed softly, the
color deepening in her cheeks. "It wouldn't be fair to tell you,
"Perhaps it wouldn't," he said slowly. "But there are one or two
other things, Mrs.--Mrs. Boulain--"
"You may call me Jeanne, or Marie-Anne, if you care to," she
interrupted him. "It will be quite all right."
She was picking up the breakfast dishes, not at all perturbed by
the fact that she was offering him a privilege which had the
effect of quickening his pulse for a moment or two.
"Thank you," he said. "I don't mind telling you it is going to be
difficult for me to do that--because--well, this is a most unusual
situation, isn't it? In spite of all your kindness, including what
was probably your good-intentioned endeavor to put an end to my
earthly miseries behind the rock, I believe it is necessary for
you to give me some kind of explanation. Don't you?"
"Didn't Bateese explain to you last night?" she asked, facing him.
"He brought a message from you to the effect that I was a
prisoner, that I must make no attempt to escape, and that if I did
try to escape, you had given your men instructions to kill me."
She nodded, quite seriously. "That is right, M'sieu David."
His face flamed. "Then I am a prisoner? You threaten me with
"I shall treat you very nicely if you make no attempt to escape,
M'sieu David. Isn't that fair?"
"Fair!" he cried, choking back an explosion that would have vented
itself on a man. "Don't you realize what has happened? Don't you
know that according to every law of God and man I should arrest
you and give you over to the Law? Is it possible that you don't
comprehend my own duty? What I must do?"
If he had noticed, he would have seen that there was no longer the
flush of color in her cheeks. But her eyes, looking straight at
him, were tranquil and unexcited. She nodded.
"That is why you must remain a prisoner, M'sieu David, It is
because I do realize, I shall not tell you why that happened
behind the rock, and if you ask me, I shall refuse to talk to you.
If I let you go now, you would probably have me arrested and put
in jail. So I must keep you until St. Pierre comes. I don't know
what to do--except to keep you, and not let you escape until then.
What would you do?"
The question was so honest, so like a question that might have
been asked by a puzzled child, that his argument for the Law was
struck dead. He stared into the pale face, the beautiful, waiting
eyes, saw the pathetic intertwining of her slim fingers, and
suddenly he was grinning in that big, honest way which made people
love Dave Carrigan.
"You're--doing--absolutely--right," he said.
A swift change came in her face. Her cheeks flushed. Her eyes
filled with a sudden glow that made the little violet-freckles in
them dance like tiny flecks of gold.
"From your point of view you are right," he repeated, "and I shall
make no attempt to escape until I have talked with St. Pierre. But
I can't quite see--just now--how he is going to help the
"He will," she assured him confidently.
"You seem to have an unlimited faith in St. Pierre," he replied a
"Yes, M'sieu David. He is the most wonderful man in the world. And
he will know what to do."
David shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps, in some nice, quiet place,
he will follow the advice Bateese gave you--tie a stone round my
neck and sink me to the bottom of the river."
"Perhaps. But I don't think he will do that I should object to
"Oh, you would!"
"Yes. St. Pierre is big and strong, afraid of nothing in the
world, but he will do anything for me. I don't think he would kill
you if I asked him not to." She turned to resume her task of
cleaning up the breakfast things.
With a sudden movement David swung one of the' big chairs close to
her. "Please sit down," he commanded. "I can talk to you better
that way. As an officer of the law it is my duty to ask you a few
questions. It rests in your power to answer all of them or none of
them. I have given you my word not to act until I have seen St.
Pierre, and I shall keep that promise. But when we do meet I shall
act largely on the strength of what you tell me during the next
tea minutes. Please sit down!"
In that big, deep chair which must have been St. Pierre's own,
Marie-Anne sat facing Carrigan. Between its great arms her slim
little figure seemed diminutive and out of place. Her brown eyes
were level and clear, waiting. They were not warm or nervous, but
so coolly and calmly beautiful that they disturbed Carrigan. She
raised her hands, her slim fingers crumpling for a moment in the
soft, thick coils of her hair. That little movement, the
unconscious feminism of it, the way she folded her hands in her
lap afterward, disturbed Carrigan even more. What a glory on earth
it must be to possess a woman like that! The thought made him
uneasy. And she sat waiting, a vivid, softly-breathing question-
mark against the warm coloring of the upholstered chair.
"When you shot me," he began, "I saw you, first, standing over me.
I thought you had come to finish me. It was then that I saw
something in your face--horror, amazement, as though you had done
something you did not know you were doing. You see, I want to be
charitable. I want to understand. I want to excuse you if I can.
Won't you tell me why you shot me, and why that change came over
you when you saw me lying there?"
"No, M'sieu David, I shall not tell." She was not antagonistic or
defiant. Her voice was not raised, nor did it betray an unusual
emotion. It was simply decisive, and the unflinching steadiness of
her eyes and the way in which she sat with her hands folded gave
to it an unqualified definiteness.
"You mean that I must make my own guess?"
"Or get it out of St. Pierre?"
"If St. Pierre wishes to tell you, yes."
"Well--" He leaned a little toward her. "After that you dragged me
up into the shade, dressed my wound and made me comfortable. In a
hazy sort of way I knew what was going on. And a curious thing
happened. At times--" he leaned still a little nearer to her--"at
times--there seemed to be two of you!"
He was not looking at her hands, or he would have seen her fingers
slowly tighten in her lap.
"You were badly hurt," she said. "It is not strange that you
should have imagined things, M'sieu David."
"And I seemed to hear two voices," he went on.
She made no answer, but continued to look at him steadily.
"And the other had hair that was like copper and gold fire in the
sun. I would see your face and then hers, again and again--and--
since then--I have thought I was a heavy load for your hands to
drag up through that sand to the shade alone."
She held up her two hands, looking at them. "They are strong," she
"They are small," he insisted, "and I doubt if they could drag me
across this floor."
For the first time the quiet of her eyes gave way to a warm fire.
"It was hard work," she said, and the note in her voice gave him
warning that he was approaching the dead-line again. "Bateese says
I was a fool for doing it. And if you saw two of me, or three or
four, it doesn't matter. Are you through questioning me, M'sieu
David? If so, I have a number of things to do."
He made a gesture of despair. "No, I am not through. But why ask
you questions if you won't answer them?"
"I simply can not. You must wait."
"For your husband?"
"Yes, for St. Pierre."
He was silent for a moment, then said, "I raved about a number of
things when I was sick, didn't I?"
"You did, and especially about what you thought happened in the
sand. You called this--this other person--the Fire Goddess. You
were so near dying that of course it wasn't amusing. Otherwise it
would have been. You see MY hair is black, almost!" Again, in a
quick movement, her fingers were crumpling the lustrous coils on
the crown of her head.
"Why do you say 'almost'?" he asked.
"Because St. Pierre has often told me that when I am in the sun
there are red fires in it. And the sun was very bright that
afternoon in the sand, M'sieu David."
"I think I understand," he nodded. "And I'm rather glad, too. I
like to know that it was you who dragged me up into the shade
after trying to kill me. It proves you aren't quite so savage as--"
"Carmin Fanchet," she interrupted him softly. "You talked about
her in your sickness, M'sieu David. It made me terribly afraid of
you--so much so that at times I almost wondered if Bateese wasn't
right. It made me understand what would happen to me if I should
let you go. What terrible thing did she do to you? What could she
have done more terrible than I have done?"
"Is that why you have given your men orders to kill me if I try to
escape?" he asked. "Because I talked about this woman, Carmin
"Yes, it is because of Carmin Fanchet that I am keeping you for
St. Pierre," she acknowledged. "If you had no mercy for her, you
could have none for me. What terrible thing did she do to you,
"Nothing--to me," he said, feeling that she was putting him where
the earth was unsteady under his feet again. "But her brother was
a criminal of the worst sort. And I was convinced then, and am
convinced now, that his sister was a partner in his crimes. She
was very beautiful. And that, I think, was what saved her."
He was fingering his unlighted cigar as he spoke. When he looked
up, he was surprised at the swift change that had come into the
face of St. Pierre's wife. Her cheeks were flaming, and there were
burning fires screened behind the long lashes of her eyes. But her
voice was unchanged. It was without a quiver that betrayed the
emotion which had sent the hot flush into her face.
"Then--you judged her without absolute knowledge of fact? You
judged her--as you hinted in your fever--because she fought so
desperately to save a brother who had gone wrong?"
"I believe she was bad."
The long lashes fell lower, like fringes of velvet closing over
the fires in her eyes. "But you didn't know!"
"Not absolutely," he conceded. "But investigations--"
"Might have shown her to be one of the most wonderful women that
ever lived, M'sieu David. It is not hard to fight for a good
brother--but if he is bad, it may take an angel to do it!"
He stared, thoughts tangling themselves in his head. A slow shame
crept over him. She had cornered him. She had convicted him of
unfairness to the one creature on earth his strength and his
manhood were bound to protect--a woman. She had convicted him of
judging without fact. And in his head a voice seemed to cry out to
him, "What did Carmin Fanchet ever do to you?"
He rose suddenly to his feet and stood at the back of his chair,
his hands gripping the top of it. "Maybe you are right," he said.
"Maybe I was wrong. I remember now that when I got Fanchet I
manacled him, and she sat beside him all through that first night.
I didn't intend to sleep, but I was tired--and did. I must have
slept for an hour, and SHE roused me--trying to get the key to the
handcuffs. She had the opportunity then--to kill me."
Triumph swept over the face that was looking up at him. "Yes, she
could have killed you--while you slept. But she didn't. WHY?"
"I don't know. Perhaps she had the idea of getting the key and
letting her brother do the job. Two or three days later I am
convinced she would not have hesitated. I caught her twice trying
to steal my gun. And a third time, late at night, when we were
within a day or two of Athabasca Landing, she almost got me with a
club. So I concede that she never did anything very terrible to
me. But I am sure that she tried, especially toward the last."
"And because she failed, she hated you; and because she hated you,
something was warped inside you, and you made up your mind she
should be punished along with her brother. You didn't look at it
from a woman's viewpoint. A woman will fight, and kill, to save
one she loves. She tried, perhaps, and failed. The result was that
her brother was killed by the Law. Was not that enough? Was it
fair or honest to destroy her simply because you thought she might
be a partner in her brother's crimes?"
"It is rather strange," he replied, a moment of indecision in his
voice. "McVane, the superintendent, asked me that same question. I
thought he was touched by her beauty. And I'm sorry--very sorry--
that I talked about her when I was sick. I don't want you to think
I am a bad sort--that way. I'm going to think about it. I'm going
over the whole thing again, from the time I manacled Fanchet, and
if I find that I was wrong--and I ever meet Carmin Fanchet again--
I shall not be ashamed to get down on my knees and ask her pardon,
For the first time he spoke the name which she had given him
permission to use. And she noticed it. He could not help seeing
that--a flashing instant in which the indefinable confession of it
was in her face, as though his use of it had surprised her, or
pleased her, or both. Then it was gone.
She did not answer, but rose from the big chair, and went to the
window, and stood with her back toward him, looking out over the
river. And then, suddenly, they heard a voice. It was the voice he
had heard twice in his sickness, the voice that had roused him
from his sleep last night, crying out in his room for Black Roger
Audemard. It came to him distinctly through the open door in a low
and moaning monotone. He had not taken his eyes from the slim
figure of St. Pierre's wife, and he saw a little tremor pass
through her now.
"I heard that voice--again--last night," said David. "It was in
this cabin, asking for Black Roger Audemard."
She did not seem to hear him, and he also turned so that he was
looking at the open door of the cabin.
The sun, pouring through in a golden flood, was all at once
darkened, and in the doorway--framed vividly against the day--was
the figure of a man. A tense breath came to Carrigan's lips. At
first he felt a shock, then an overwhelming sense of curiosity and
of pity. The man was terribly deformed. His back and massive
shoulders were so twisted and bent that he stood no higher than a
twelve-year-old boy; yet standing straight, he would have been six
feet tall if an inch, and splendidly proportioned. And in that
same breath with which shock and pity came to him, David knew that
it was accident and not birth that had malformed the great body
that stood like a crouching animal in the open door. At first he
saw only the grotesqueness of it--the long arms that almost
touched the floor, the broken back, the twisted shoulders--and
then, with a deeper thrill, he saw nothing of these things but
only the face and the head of the man. There was something god-
like about them, fastened there between the crippled shoulders. It
was not beauty, but strength--the strength of rock, of carven
granite, as if each feature had been chiseled out of something
imperishable and everlasting, yet lacking strangely and
mysteriously the warm illumination that comes from a living soul.
The man was not old, nor was he young. And he did not seem to see
Carrigan, who stood nearest to him. He was looking at St. Pierre's
The look which David saw in her face was infinitely tender. She
was smiling at the misshapen hulk in the door as she might have
smiled at a little child. And David, looking back at the wide,
deep-set eyes of the man, saw the slumbering fire of a dog-like
worship in them. They shifted slowly, taking in the cabin,
questing, seeking, searching for something which they could not
find. The lips moved, and again he heard that weird and mysterious
monotone, as if the plaintive voice of a child were coming out of
the huge frame of the man, crying out as it had cried last night,
In another moment St. Pierre's wife was at the deformed giant's
side. She seemed tall beside him. She put her hands to his head
and brushed back the grizzled black hair, laughing softly into his
upturned face, her eyes shining and a strange glow in her cheeks.
Carrigan, looking at them, felt his heart stand still. WAS THIS
MAN ST. PIERRE? The thought came like a lightning flash--and went
as quickly; it was impossible and inconceivable. And yet there was
something more than pity in the voice of the woman who was
"No, no, we have not seen him, Andre--we have not seen Black Roger
Audemard. If he comes, I will call you. I promise, Michiwan. I
will call you!"
She was stroking his bearded cheek, and then she put an arm about
his twisted shoulders, and slowly she turned so that in a moment
or two they were facing the sun--and it seemed to Carrigan that
she was talking and sobbing and laughing in the same breath, as
that great, broken hulk of a man moved out slowly from under the
caress of her arm and went on his way. For a space she looked
after him. Then in a swift movement she closed the door and faced
Carrigan. She did not speak, but waited. Her head was high. She
was breathing quickly. The tenderness that a moment before had
filled her face was gone, and in her eyes was the blaze of
fighting fires as she waited for him to speak--to give voice to
what she knew was passing in his mind.
For a space there was silence between Carrigan and St. Pierre's
wife. He knew what she was thinking as she stood with her back to
the door, waiting half defiantly, her cheeks still flushed, her
eyes bright with the anticipation of battle. She was ready to
fight for the broken creature on the other side of the door. She
expected him to give no quarter in his questioning of her, to
corner her if he could, to demand of her why the deformed giant
had spoken the name of the man he was after, Black Roger Audemard.
The truth hammered in David's brain. It had not been a delusion of
his fevered mind after all; it was not a possible deception of the
half-breed's, as he had thought last night. Chance had brought him
face to face with the mystery of Black Roger. St. Pierre's wife,
waiting for him to speak, was in some way associated with that
mystery, and the cripple was asking for the man McVane had told
him to bring in dead or alive! Yet he did not question her. He
turned to the window and looked out from where Marie-Anne had
stood a few moments before.
The day was glorious. On the far shore he saw life where last
night's camp had been. Men were moving about close to the water,
and a York boat was putting out slowly into the stream. Close
under the window moved a canoe with a single occupant. It was
Andre, the Broken Man. With powerful strokes he was paddling
across the river. His deformity was scarcely noticeable in the
canoe. His bare head and black beard shone in the sun, and between
his great shoulders his head looked more than ever to Carrigan
like the head of a carven god. And this man, like a mighty tree
stricken by lightning, his mind gone, was yet a thing that was
more than mere flesh and blood to Marie-Anne Boulain!
David turned toward her. Her attitude was changed. It was no
longer one of proud defiance. She had expected to defend herself
from something, and he had given her no occasion for defense. She
did not try to hide the fact from him, and he nodded toward the
"He is going away in a canoe. I am afraid you didn't want me to
see him, and I am sorry I happened to be here when he came."
"I made no effort to keep him away, M'sieu David. Perhaps I wanted
you to see him. And I thought, when you did--" She hesitated.
"You expected me to crucify you, if necessary, to learn the truth
of what he knows about Roger Audemard," he said. "And you were
ready to fight back. But I am not going to question you unless you
give me permission."
"I am glad," she said in a low voice. "I am beginning to have
faith in you, M'sieu David. You have promised not to try to
escape, and I believe you. Will you also promise not to ask me
questions, which I can not answer--until St. Pierre comes?"
"I will try."
She came up to him slowly and stood facing him, so near that she
could have reached out and put her hands on his shoulders.
"St. Pierre has told me a great deal about the Scarlet Police,"
she said, looking at him quietly and steadily. "He says that the
men who wear the red jackets never play low tricks, and that they
come after a man squarely and openly. He says they are men, and
many times he has told me wonderful stories of the things they
have done. He calls it 'playing the game.' And I'm going to ask
you, M'sieu David, will you play square with me? If I give you the
freedom of the bateau, of the boats, even of the shore, will you
wait for St. Pierre and play the rest of the game out with him,
man to man?"
Carrigan bowed his head slightly. "Yes, I will wait and finish the
game with St. Pierre."
He saw a quick throb come and go in her white throat, and with a
sudden, impulsive movement she held out her hand to him. For a
moment he held it close. Her little fingers tightened about his
own, and the warm thrill of them set his blood leaping with the
thing he was fighting down. She was so near that he could feel the
throb of her body. For an instant she bowed her head, and the
sweet perfume of her hair was in his nostrils, the lustrous beauty
of it close under his lips.
Gently she withdrew her hand and stood back from him. To Carrigan
she was like a young girl now. It was the loveliness of girlhood
he saw in the flush of her face and in the gladness that was
flaming unashamed in her eyes.
"I am not frightened any more," she exclaimed, her voice trembling
a bit. "When St. Pierre comes, I shall tell him everything. And
then you may ask the questions, and he will answer. And he will
not cheat! He will play square. You will love St. Pierre, and you
will forgive me for what happened behind the rock!"
She made a little gesture toward the door. "Everything is free to
you out there now," she added. "I shall tell Bateese and the
others. When we are tied up, you may go ashore. And we will forget
all that has happened, M'sieu David. We will forget until St.
"St. Pierre!" he groaned. "If there were no St. Pierre!"
"I should be lost," she broke in quickly. "I should want to die!"
Through the open window came the sound of a voice. It was the
weird monotone of Andre, the Broken Man. Marie-Anne went to the
window. And David, following her, looked over her head, again so
near that his lips almost touched her hair. Andre had come back.
He was watching two York boats that were heading for the bateau.
"You heard him asking for Black Roger Audemard," she said. "It is
strange. I know how it must have shocked you when he stood like
that in the door. His mind, like his body, is a wreck, M'sieu
David. Years ago, after a great storm, St. Pierre found him in the
forest. A tree had fallen on him. St. Pierre carried him in on his
shoulders. He lived, but he has always been like that. St. Pierre
loves him, and poor Andre worships St. Pierre and follows him
about like a dog. His brain is gone. He does not know what his
name is, and we call him Andre. And always, day and night, he is
asking that same question, 'Has any one seen Black Roger
Audemard?' Sometime--if you will, M'sieu David--I should like to
have you tell me what it is so terrible that you know about Roger
The York boats were half-way across the river, and from them came
a sudden burst of wild song. David could make out six men in each
boat, their oars flashing in the morning sun to the rhythm of
their chant. Marie-Anne looked up at him suddenly, and in her face
and eyes he saw what the starry gloom of evening had half hidden
from him in those thrilling moments when they shot through the
rapids of the Holy Ghost. She was girl now. He did not think of
her as woman. He did not think of her as St. Pierre's wife. In
that upward glance of her eyes was something that thrilled him to
the depth of his soul. She seemed, for a moment, to have dropped a
curtain from between herself and him.
Her red lips trembled, she smiled at him, and then she faced the
river again, and he leaned a little forward, so that a breath of
wind floated a shimmering tress of her hair against his cheek. An
irresistible impulse seized upon him. He leaned still nearer to
her, holding his breath, until his lips softly touched one of the
velvety coils of her hair. And then he stepped back. Shame swept
over him. His heart rose and choked him, and his fists were
clenched at his side. She had not noticed what he had done, and
she seemed to him like a bird yearning to fly out through the
window, throbbing with the desire to answer the chanting song that
came over the water. And then she was smiling up again into his
face hardened with the struggle which he was making with himself.
"My people are happy," she cried. "Even in storm they laugh and
sing. Listen, m'sieu. They are singing La Derniere Domaine. That
is our song. It is what we call our home, away up there in the
lost wilderness where people never come--the Last Domain. Their
wives and sweethearts and families are up there, and they are
happy in knowing that today we shall travel a few miles nearer to
them. They are not like your people in Montreal and Ottawa and
Quebec, M'sieu David. They are like children. And yet they are
She ran to the wall and took down the banner of St. Pierre
Boulain. "St. Pierre is behind us," she explained. "He is coming
down with a raft of timber such as we can not get in our country,
and we are waiting for him. But each day we must float down with
the stream a few miles nearer the homes of my people. It makes
them happier, even though it is but a few miles. They are coming
now for my bateau. We shall travel slowly, and it will be
wonderful on a day like this. It will do you good to come outside,
M'sieu David--with me. Would you care for that? Or would you
rather be alone?"
In her face there was no longer the old restraint. On her lips was
the witchery of a half-smile; in her eyes a glow that flamed the
blood in his veins. It was not a flash of coquetry. It was
something deeper and warmer than that, something real--a new
Marie-Anne Boulain telling him plainly that she wanted him to
come. He did not know that his hands were still clenched at his
side. Perhaps she knew. But her eyes did not leave his face, eyes
that were repeating the invitation of her lips, openly asking him
not to refuse.
"I shall be happy to come," he said.
The words fell out of him numbly. He scarcely heard them or knew
what he was saying, yet he was conscious of the unnatural note in
his voice. He did not know he was betraying himself beyond that,
did not see the deepening of the wild-rose flush in the cheeks of
St. Pierre's wife. He picked up his pipe from the table and moved
to accompany her.
"You must wait a little while," she said, and her hand rested for
an instant upon his arm. Its touch was as light as the touch of
his lips had been against her shining hair, but he felt it in
every nerve of his body. "Nepapinas is making a special lotion for
your hurt. I will send him in, and then you may come."
The wild chant of the rivermen was near as she turned to the door.
From it she looked back at him swiftly.
"They are happy, M'sieu David," she repeated softly. "And I, too,
am happy. I am no longer afraid. And the world is beautiful again.
Can you guess why? It is because you have given me your promise,
M'sieu David, and because I believe you!"
And then she was gone.
For many minutes he did not move. The chanting of the rivermen, a
sudden wilder shout, the voices of men, and after that the grating
of something alongside the bateau came to him like sounds from
another world. Within himself there was a crash greater than that
of physical things. It was the truth breaking upon him, truth
surging over him like the waves of a sea, breaking down the
barriers he had set up, inundating him with a force that was
mightier than his own will. A voice in his soul was crying out the
truth--that above all else in the world he wanted to reach out his
arms to this glorious creature who was the wife of St. Pierre,
this woman who had tried to kill him and was sorry. He knew that
it was not desire for beauty. It was the worship which St. Pierre
himself must have for this woman who was his wife. And the shock
of it was like a conflagration sweeping through him, leaving him
dead and shriven, like the crucified trees standing in the wake of
a fire. A breath that was almost a cry came from him, and his
fists knotted until they were purple. She was St. Pierre's wife!
And he, David Carrigan, proud of his honor, proud of the strength
that made him man, had dared covet her in this hour when her
husband was gone! He stared at the closed door, beginning to cry
out against himself, and over him there swept slowly and terribly
another thing--the shame of his weakness, the hopelessness of the
thing that for a space had eaten into him and consumed him.
And as he stared, the door opened, and Nepapinas came in.
During the next quarter of an hour David was as silent as the old
Indian doctor. He was conscious of no pain when Nepapinas took off
his bandage and bathed his head in the lotion he had brought.
Before a fresh bandage was put on, he looked at himself for a
moment in the mirror. It was the first time he had seen his wound,
and he expected to find himself marked with a disfiguring scar. To
his surprise there was no sign of his hurt except a slightly
inflamed spot above his temple. He stared at Nepapinas, and there
was no need of the question that was in his mind.
The old Indian understood, and his dried-up face cracked and
crinkled in a grin. "Bullet hit a piece of rock, an' rock, not
bullet, hit um head," he explained. "Make skull almost break--bend
um in--but Nepapinas straighten again with fingers, so-so." He
shrugged his thin shoulders with a cackling laugh of pride as he
worked his claw-like fingers to show how the operation had been
David shook hands with him in silence; then Nepapinas put on the
fresh bandage, and after that went out, chuckling again in his
weird way, as though he had played a great joke on the white man
whom his wizardry had snatched out of the jaws of death.
For some time there had been a subdued activity outside. The
singing of the boatmen had ceased, a low voice was giving
commands, and looking through the window, David saw that the
bateau was slowly swinging away from the shore. He turned from the
window to the table and lighted the cigar St. Pierre's wife had
In spite of the mental struggle he had made during the presence of
Nepapinas, he had failed to get a grip on himself. For a time he
had ceased to be David Carrigan, the man-hunter. A few days ago
his blood had run to that almost savage thrill of the great game
of one against one, the game in which Law sat on one side of the
board and Lawlessness on the other, with the cards between. It was
the great gamble. The cards meant life or death; there was never a
checkmate--one or the other had to lose. Had some one told him
then that soon he would meet the broken and twisted hulk of a man
who had known Black Roger Audemard, every nerve in him would have
thrilled in anticipation of that hour. He realized this as he
paced back and forth over the thick rugs of the bateau floor. And
he knew, even as he struggled to bring them back, that the old
thrill and the old desire were gone. It was impossible to lie to
himself. St. Pierre, in this moment, was of more importance to him
than Roger Audemard. And St. Pierre's wife, Marie-Anne--
His eyes fell on the crumpled handkerchief on the piano keys.
Again he was crushing it in the palm of his hand, and again the
flood of humiliation and shame swept over him. He dropped the
handkerchief, and the great law of his own life seemed to rise up
in his face and taunt him. He was clean. That had been his
greatest pride. He hated the man who was unclean. It was his
instinct to kill the man who desecrated another man's home. And
here, in the sacredness of St. Pierre's paradise, he found himself
at last face to face with that greatest fight of all the ages.
He faced the door. He threw back his shoulders until they snapped,
and he laughed, as if at the thing that had risen up to point its
finger at him. After all, it did not hurt a man to go through a
bit of fire--if he came out of it unburned. And deep in his heart
he knew it was not a sin to love, even as he loved, if he kept
that love to himself. What he had done when Marie-Anne stood at
the window he could not undo. St. Pierre would probably have
killed him for touching her hair with his lips, and he would not
have blamed St. Pierre. But she had not felt that stolen caress.
No one knew--but himself. And he was happier because of it. It was
a sort of sacred thing, even though it brought the heat of shame
into his face.
He went to the door, opened it, and stood out in the sunshine. It
was good to feel the warmth of the sun in his face again and the
sweet air of the open day in his lungs. The bateau was free of the
shore and drifting steadily towards midstream. Bateese was at the
great birchwood rudder sweep, and to David's surprise he nodded in
a friendly way, and his wide mouth broke into a grin.
"Ah, it is coming soon, that fight of ours, little coq de
bruyere!" he chuckled gloatingly. "An' ze fight will be jus' lak
that, m'sieu--you ze little fool-hen's rooster, ze partridge, an'
I, Concombre Bateese, ze eagle!"
The anticipation in the half-breed's eyes reflected itself for an
instant in David's. He turned back into the cabin, bent over his
pack, and found among his clothes two pairs of boxing gloves. He
fondled them with the loving touch of a brother and comrade, and
their velvety smoothness was more soothing to his nerves than the
cigar he was smoking. His one passion above all others was boxing,
and wherever he went, either on pleasure or adventure, the gloves
went with him. In many a cabin and shack of the far hinterland he
had taught white men and Indians how to use them, so that he might
have the pleasure of feeling the thrill of them on his hands. And
now here was Concombre Bateese inviting him on, waiting for him to
He went out and dangled the clumsy-looking mittens under the half-
Bateese looked at them curiously. "Mitaines," he nodded. "Does ze
little partridge rooster keep his claws warm in those in ze
winter? They are clumsy, m'sieu. I can make a better mitten of
caribou skin." Putting on one of the gloves, David doubled up his
fist. "Do you see that, Concombre Bateese?" he asked. "Well, I
will tell you this, that they are not mittens to keep your hands
warm. I am going to fight you in them when our time comes. With
these mittens I will fight you and your naked fists. Why? Because
I do not want to hurt you too badly, friend Bateese! I do not want
to break your face all to pieces, which I would surely do if I did
not put on these soft mittens. Then, when you have really learned
The bull neck of Concombre Bateese looked as if it were about to
burst. His eyes seemed ready to pop out of their sockets, and
suddenly he let out a roar. "What!--You dare talk lak that to
Concombre Bateese, w'at is great'st fightin' man on all T'ree
River? You talk lak that to me, Concombre Bateese, who will kill
ze bear wit' hees ban's, who pull down ze tree, who--who--"
The word-flood of his outraged dignity sprang to his lips; emotion
choked him, and then, looking suddenly over Carrigan's shoulder--
he stopped. Something in his look made David turn. Three paces
behind him stood Marie-Anne, and he knew that from the corner of
the cabin she had heard what had passed between them. She was
biting her lips, and behind the flash of her eyes he saw laughter.
"You must not quarrel, children," she said. "Bateese, you are
She reached out her hands, and without a word David gave her the
gloves. With her palm and fingers she caressed them softly, yet
David saw little lines of doubt come into her white forehead.
"They are pretty--and soft, M'sieu David. Surely they can not hurt
much! Some day when St. Pierre comes, will you teach me how to use
"Always it is 'When St. Pierre comes,'" he replied. "Shall we be
"Two or three days, perhaps a little longer. Are you coming with
me to the proue, m'sieu?"
She did not wait for his answer, but went ahead of him, dangling
the two pairs of gloves at her side. David caught a last glimpse
of the half-breed's face as he followed Marie-Anne around the end
of the cabin. Bateese was making a frightful grimace and shaking
his huge fist, but scarcely were they out of sight on the narrow
footway that ran between the cabin and the outer timbers of the
scow when a huge roar of laughter followed them. Bateese had not
done laughing when they reached the proue, or bow-nest, a deck
fully ten feet in length by eight in width, sheltered above by an
awning, and comfortably arranged with chairs, several rugs, a
small table, and, to David's amazement, a hammock. He had never
seen anything like this on the Three Rivers, nor had he ever heard
of a scow so large or so luxuriously appointed. Over his head, at
the tip of a flagstaff attached to the forward end of the cabin,
floated the black and white pennant of St. Pierre Boulain. And
under this staff was a screened door which undoubtedly opened into
the kitchenette which Marie-Anne had told him about. He made no
effort to hide his surprise. But St. Pierre's wife seemed not to
notice it. The puckery little lines were still in her forehead,
and the laughter had faded out of her eyes. The tiny lines
deepened as there came another wild roar of laughter from Bateese
in the stern.
"Is it true that you have given your word to fight Bateese?" she
"It is true, Marie-Anne. And I feel that Bateese is looking ahead
joyously to the occasion."
"He is," she affirmed. "Last night he spread the news among all my
people. Those who left to join St. Pierre this morning have taken
the news with them, and there is a great deal of excitement and
much betting. I am afraid you have made a bad promise. No man has
offered to fight Bateese in three years--not even my great St.
Pierre, who says that Concombre is more than a match for him."
"And yet they must have a little doubt, as there is betting, and
it takes two to make a bet," chuckled David.
The lines went out of Marie-Anne's forehead, and a half-smile
trembled on her red lips. "Yes, there is betting. But those who
are for you are offering next autumn's muskrat skins and frozen
fish against lynx and fisher and marten. The odds are about thirty
to one against you, M'sieu David!"
The look of pity which was clearly in her eyes brought a rush of
blood to David's face. "If only I had something to wager!" he
"You must not fight. I shall forbid it!"
"Then Bateese and I will steal off into the forest and have it out
"He will hurt you badly. He is terrible, like a great beast, when
he fights. He loves to fight and is always asking if there is not
some one who will stand up to him. I think he would desert even me
for a good fight. But you, M'sieu David--"
"I also love a fight," he admitted, unashamed.
St. Pierre's wife studied him thoughtfully for a moment. "With
these?" she asked then, holding up the gloves.
"Yes, with those. Bateese may use his fists, but I shall use
those, so that I shall not disfigure him permanently. His face is
none too handsome as it is."
For another flash her lips trembled on the edge of a smile. Then
she gave him the gloves, a bit troubled, and nodded to a chair
with a deep, cushioned seat and wide arms. "Please make yourself
comfortable, M'sieu David. I have something to do in the cabin and
will return in a little while."
He wondered if she had gone back to settle the matter with Bateese
at once, for it was clear that she did not regard with favor the
promised bout between himself and the half-breed. It was on the
spur of a careless moment that he had promised to fight Bateese,
and with little thought that it was likely to be carried out or
that it would become a matter of importance with all of St.
Pierre's brigade. He was evidently in for it, he told himself, and
as a fighting man it looked as though Concombre Bateese was at
least the equal of his braggadocio. He was glad of that. He
grinned as he watched the bending backs of St. Pierre's men. So
they were betting thirty to one against him! Even St. Pierre might
be induced to bet--with HIM. And if he did--
The hot blood leaped for a moment in Carrigan's veins. The thrill
went to the tips of his fingers. He stared out over the river,
unseeing, as the possibilities of the thing that had come into his
mind made him for a moment oblivious of the world. He possessed
one thing against which St. Pierre and St. Pierre's wife would
wager a half of all they owned in the world! And if he should
gamble that one thing, which had come to him like an inspiration,
and should whip Bateese--
He began to pace back and forth over the narrow deck, no longer
watching the rowers or the shore. The thought grew, and his mind
was consumed by it. Thus far, from the moment the first shot was
fired at him from the ambush, he had been playing with adventure
in the dark. But fate had at last dealt him a trump card. That
something which he possessed was more precious than furs or gold
to St. Pierre, and St. Pierre would not refuse the wager when it
was offered. He would not dare refuse. More than that, he would
accept eagerly, strong in the faith that Bateese would whip him as
he had whipped all other fighters who had come up against him
along the Three Rivers. And when Marie-Anne knew what that wager
was to be, she, too, would pray for the gods of chance to be with
He did not hear the light footsteps behind him, and when he turned
suddenly in his pacing, he found himself facing Marie-Anne, who
carried in her hands the little basket he had seen on the cabin
table. She seated herself in the hammock and took from the basket
a bit of lace work. For a moment he watched her fingers flashing
in and out with the needles.
Perhaps his thought went to her. He was almost frightened as he
saw her cheeks coloring under the long, dark lashes. He faced the
rivermen again, and while he gripped at his own weakness, he tried
to count the flashings of their oars. And behind him, the
beautiful eyes of St. Pierre's wife were looking at him with a
strange glow in their depths.
"Do you know," he said, speaking slowly and still looking toward
the flashing of the oars, "something tells me that unexpected
things are going to happen when St. Pierre returns. I am going to
make a bet with him that I can whip Bateese. He will not refuse.
He will accept. And St. Pierre will lose, because I shall whip
Bateese. It is then that these unexpected things will begin to
happen. And I am wondering--after they do happen--if you will care
so very much?"
There was a moment of silence. And then, "I don't want you to
fight Bateese," she said.
The needles were working swiftly when he turned toward her again,
and a second time the long lashes shadowed what a moment before he
might have seen in her eyes.
The morning passed like a dream to Carrigan. He permitted himself
to live and breathe it as one who finds himself for a space in the
heart of a golden mirage. He was sitting so near Marie-Anne that
now and then the faint perfume of her came to him like the
delicate scent of a flower. It was a breath of crushed violets,
sweet as the air he was breathing, violets gathered in the deep
cool of the forest, a whisper of sweetness about her, as if on her
bosom she wore always the living flowers. He fancied her gathering
them last bloom-time, a year ago, alone, her feet seeking out the
damp mosses, her little fingers plucking the smiling and laughing
faces of the violet flowers to be treasured away in fragrant
sachets, as gentle as the wood-thrush's note, compared with the
bottled aromas fifteen hundred miles south. It seemed to be a
physical part of her, a thing born of the glow in her cheeks, a
living exhalation of her soft red lips--and yet only when he was
near, very near, did the life of it reach him.
She did not know he was thinking these things. There was nothing
in his voice, he thought, to betray him. He was sure she was
unconscious of the fight he was making. Her eyes smiled and
laughed with him, she counted her stitches, her fingers worked,
and she talked to him as she might have talked to a friend of St.
Pierre's. She told him how St. Pierre had made the barge, the
largest that had ever been on the river, and that he had built it
entirely of dry cedar, so that it floated like a feather wherever
there was water enough to run a York boat. She told him how St.
Pierre had brought the piano down from Edmonton, and how he had
saved it from pitching in the river by carrying the full weight of
it on his shoulders when they met with an accident in running
through a dangerous rapids bringing it down. St. Pierre was a very
strong man, she said, a note of pride in her voice. And then she
"Sometimes, when he picks me up in his arms, I feel that he is
going to squeeze the life out of me!"
Her words were like a sharp thrust into his heart. For an instant
they painted a vision for him, a picture of that slim and adorable
creature crushed close in the great arms of St. Pierre, so close
that she could not breathe. In that mad moment of his hurt it was
almost a living, breathing reality for him there on the golden
fore-deck of the scow. He turned his face toward the far shore,
where the wilderness seemed to reach off into eternity. What a
glory it was--the green seas of spruce and cedar and balsam, the
ridges of poplar and birch rising like silvery spume above the
darker billows, and afar off, mellowed in the sun-mists, the
guardian crests of Trout Mountains sentineling the country beyond!
Into that mystery-land on the farther side of the Wabiskaw
waterways Carrigan would have loved to set his foot four days ago.
It was that mystery of the unpeopled places that he most desired,
their silence, the comradeship of spaces untrod by the feet of
man. And now, what a fool he was! Through vast distances the
forests he loved seemed to whisper it to him, and ahead of him the
river seemed to look back, nodding over its shoulder, beckoning to
him, telling him the word of the forests was true. It streamed on
lazily, half a mile wide, as if resting for the splashing and
roaring rush it would make among the rocks of the next rapids, and
in its indolence it sang the low and everlasting song of deep and
slowly passing water. In that song David heard the same whisper,
that he was a fool! And the lure of the wilderness shores crept in
on him and gripped him as of old. He looked at the rowers in the
two York boats, and then his eyes came back to the end of the
barge and to St. Pierre's wife.
Her little toes were tapping the floor of the deck. She, too, was
looking out over the wilderness. And again it seemed to him that
she was like a bird that wanted to fly.
"I should like to go into those hills," she said, without looking
at him. "Away off yonder!"
"And I--I should like to go with you."
"You love all that, m'sieu?" she asked.
"Why 'madame,' when I have given you permission to call me 'Marie-
Anne'?" she demanded.
"Because you call me 'm'sieu'."
"But you--you have not given me permission--"
"Then I do now," he interrupted quickly.
"Merci! I have wondered why you did not return the courtesy," she
laughed softly. "I do not like the m'sieu. I shall call you
She rose out of the hammock suddenly and dropped her needles and
lace work into the little basket. "I have forgotten something. It
is for you to eat when it comes dinner-time, m'sieu--I mean David.
So I must turn fille de cuisine for a little while. That is what
St. Pierre sometimes calls me, because I love to play at cooking.
I am going to bake a pie!"
The dark-screened door of the kitchenette closed behind her, and
Carrigan walked out from under the awning, so that the sun beat
down upon him. There was no longer a doubt in his mind. He was
more than fool. He envied St. Pierre, and he coveted that which
St. Pierre possessed. And yet, before he would take what did not
belong to him, he knew he would put a pistol to his head and blow
his life out. He was confident of himself there. Yet he had
fallen, and out of the mire into which he had sunk he knew also
that he must drag himself, and quickly, or be everlastingly
lowered in his own esteem. He stripped himself naked and did not
lie to that other and greater thing of life that was in him.
He was not only a fool, but a coward. Only a coward would have
touched the hair of St. Pierre's wife with his lips; only a coward
would have let live the thoughts that burned in his brain. She was
St. Pierre's wife--and he was anxious now for the quick homecoming
of the chief of the Boulains. After that everything would happen
quickly. He thanked God that the inspiration of the wager had come
to him. After the fight, after he had won, then once more would he
be the old Dave Carrigan, holding the trump hand in a thrilling
Loud voices from the York boats ahead and answering cries from
Bateese in the stern drew him to the open deck. The bateau was
close to shore, and the half-breed was working the long stern
sweep as if the power of a steam-engine was in his mighty arms.
The York boats had shortened their towline and were pulling at
right angles within a few yards of a gravelly beach. A few strokes
more, and men who were bare to the knees jumped out into shallow
water and began tugging at the tow rope with their hands. David
looked at his watch. It was ten o'clock. Never in his life had
time passed so swiftly as that morning on the forward deck of the
barge. And now they were tying up, after a drop of six or eight
miles down the river, and he wondered how swiftly St. Pierre was
overtaking them with his raft.
He was filled with the desire to feel the soft crush of the earth
under his feet again, and not waiting for the long plank that
Bateese was already swinging from the scow to the shore, he made a
leap that put him on the sandy beach, St. Pierre's wife had given
him this permission, and he looked to see what effect his act had
on the half-breed. The face of Concombre Bateese was like sullen
stone. Not a sound came from his thick lips, but in his eyes was a
deep and dangerous fire as he looked at Carrigan. There was no
need for words. In them were suspicion, warning, the deadly threat
of what would happen if he did not come back when it was time to
return. David nodded. He understood. Even though St. Pierre's wife
had faith in him, Bateese had not. He passed between the men, and
to a man their faces turned on him, and in their quiet and
watchful eyes he saw again that warning and suspicion, the
unspoken threat of what would happen if he forgot his promise to
Marie-Anne Boulain. Never, in a single outfit, had he seen such
splendid men. They were not a mongrel assortment of the lower
country. Slim, tall, clean-cut, sinewy--they were stock of the old
voyageurs of a hundred years ago, and all of them were young. The
older men had gone to St. Pierre. The reason for this dawned upon
Carrigan. Not one of these twelve but could beat him in a race
through the forest; not one that could not outrun him and cut him
off though he had hours the start!
Passing beyond them, he paused and looked back at the bateau. On
the forward deck stood Marie-Anne, and she, too, was looking at
him now. Even at that distance he saw that her face was quiet and
troubled with anxiety. She did not smile when he lifted his hat to
her, but gave only a little nod. Then he turned and buried himself
in the green balsams that grew within fifty paces of the river.
The old joy of life leaped into him as his feet crushed in the
soft moss of the shaded places where the sun did not break
through. He went on, passing through a vast and silent cathedral
of spruce and cedar so dense that the sky was hidden, and came
then to higher ground, where the evergreen was sprinkled with
birch and poplar. About him was an invisible choir of voices, the
low twittering of timid little gray-backs, the song of hidden--
warblers, the scolding of distant jays. Big-eyed moose-birds
stared at him as he passed, fluttering so close to his face that
they almost touched his shoulders in their foolish
inquisitiveness. A porcupine crashed within a dozen feet of his
trail. And then he came to a beaten path, and other paths worn
deep in the cool, damp earth by the hoofs of moose and caribou.
Half a mile from the bateau he sat down on a rotting log and
filled his pipe with fresh tobacco, while he listened to catch the
subdued voice of the life in this land that he loved.
It was then that the curious feeling came over him that he was not
alone, that other eyes than those of beast and bird were watching
him. It was an impression that grew on him. He seemed to feel
their stare, seeking him out from the darkest coverts, waiting for
him to shove on, dogging him like a ghost. Within him the hound-
like instincts of the man-hunter rose swiftly to the suspicion of
He began to note the changes in the cries of certain birds. A
hundred yards on his right a jay, most talkative of all the forest
things, was screeching with a new note in its voice. On the other
side of him, in a dense pocket of poplar and spruce, a warbler
suddenly brought its song to a jerky end. He heard the excited Pe-
wee--Pe-wee--Pe-wee of a startled little gray-back giving warning
of an unwelcome intruder near its nest. And he rose to his feet,
laughing softly as he thumbed down the tobacco in his pipe. Jeanne
Marie-Anne Boulain might believe in him, but Bateese and her wary
henchmen had ways of their own of strengthening their faith.
It was close to noon when he turned back, and he did not return by
the moose path. Deliberately he struck out a hundred yards on
either side of it, traveling where the moss grew thick and the
earth was damp and soft. And five times he found the moccasin-
prints of men.
Bateese, with his sleeves up, was scrubbing the deck of the bateau
when David came over the plank.
"There are moose and caribou in there, but I fear I disturbed your
hunters," said Carrigan, grinning at the half-breed. "They are too
clumsy to hunt well, so clumsy that even the birds give them away.
I am afraid we shall go without fresh meat tomorrow!"
Concombre Bateese stared as if some one had stunned him with a
blow, and he spoke no word as David went on to the forward deck.
Marie-Anne had come out under the awning. She gave a little cry of
relief and pleasure.
"I am glad you have come back, M'sieu David!"
"So am I, madame," he replied. "I think the woods are unhealthful
to travel in!"
Out of the earth he felt that a part of the old strength had
returned to him. Alone they sat at dinner, and Marie-Anne waited
on him and called him David again--and he found it easier now to
call her Marie-Anne and look into her eyes without fear that he
was betraying himself. A part of the afternoon he spent in her
company, and it was not difficult for him to tell her something of
his adventuring in the north, and how, body and soul, the
northland had claimed him, and that he hoped to die in it when his
time came. Her eyes glowed at that. She told him of two years she
had spent in Montreal and Quebec, of her homesickness, her joy
when she returned to her forests. It seemed, for a time, that they
had forgotten St. Pierre. They did not speak of him. Twice they
saw Andre, the Broken Man, but the name of Roger Audemard was not
spoken. And a little at a time she told him of the hidden paradise
of the Boulains away up in the unmapped wildernesses of the
Yellowknife beyond the Great Bear, and of the great log chateau
that was her home.
A part of the afternoon he spent on shore. He filled a moosehide
bag full of sand and suspended it from the limb of a tree, and for
three-quarters of an hour pommeled it with his fists, much to the
curiosity and amusement of St. Pierre's men, who could see nothing
of man-fighting in these antics. But the exercise assured David
that he had lost but little of his strength and that he would be
in form to meet Bateese when the time came. Toward evening Marie-
Anne joined him, and they walked for half an hour up and down the
beach. It was Bateese who got supper. And after that Carrigan sat
with Marie-Anne on the foredeck of the barge and smoked another of
St. Pierre's cigars.
The camp of the rivermen was two hundred yards below the bateau,
screened between by a finger of hardwood, so that except when they
broke into a chorus of laughter or strengthened their throats with
snatches of song, there was no sound of their voices. But Bateese
was in the stern, and Nepapinas was forever flitting in and out
among the shadows on the shore, like a shadow himself, and Andre,
the Broken Man, hovered near as night came on. At last he sat down
in the edge of the white sand of the beach, and there he remained,
a silent and lonely figure, as the twilight deepened. Over the
world hovered a sleepy quiet. Out of the forest came the droning
of the wood-crickets, the last twitterings of the day birds, and
the beginning of night sounds. A great shadow floated out over the
river close to the bateau, the first of the questing, blood-
seeking owls adventuring out like pirates from their hiding-places
of the day. One after another, as the darkness thickened, the
different tribes of the people of the night answered the summons
of the first stars. A mile down the river a loon gave its harsh
love-cry; far out of the west came the faint trail-song of a wolf;
in the river the night-feeding trout splashed like the tails of
beaver; over the roof of the wilderness came the coughing, moaning
challenge of a bull moose that yearned for battle. And over these
same forest tops rose the moon, the stars grew thicker and
brighter, and through the finger of hardwood glowed the fire of
St. Pierre Boulain's men--while close beside him, silent in these
hours of silence, David felt growing nearer and still nearer to
him the presence of St. Pierre's wife.
On the strip of sand Andre, the Broken Man, rose and stood like
the stub of a misshapen tree. And then slowly he moved on and was
swallowed up in the mellow glow of the night.
"It is at night that he seeks," said St. Pierre's wife, for it was
as if David had spoken the thought that was in his mind.
David, for a moment, was silent. And then he said, "You asked me
to tell you about Black Roger Audemard. I will, if you care to
have me. Do you?"
He saw the nodding of her head, though the moon and star-mist
veiled her face.
"Yes. What do the Police say about Roger Audemard?"
He told her. And not once in the telling of the story did she
speak or move. It was a terrible story at best, he thought, but he
did not weaken it by smoothing over the details. This was his
opportunity. He wanted her to know why he must possess the body of
Roger Audemard, if not alive, then dead, and he wanted her to
understand how important it was that he learn more about Andre,
the Broken Man.
"He was a fiend, this Roger Audemard," he began. "A devil in man
shape, afterward called 'Black Roger' because of the color of his
Then he went on. He described Hatchet River Post, where the
tragedy had happened; then told of the fight that came about one
day between Roger Audemard and the factor of the post and his two
sons. It was an unfair fight; he conceded that--three to one was
cowardly in a fight. But it could not excuse what happened
afterward. Audemard was beaten. He crept off into the forest,
almost dead. Then he came back one stormy night in the winter with
three strange friends. Who the friends were the Police never
learned. There was a fight, but all through the fight Black Roger
Audemard cried out not to kill the factor and his sons. In spite
of that one of the sons was killed. Then the terrible thing
happened. The father and his remaining son were bound hand and
foot and fastened in the ancient dungeon room under the Post
building. Then Black Roger set the building on fire, and stood
outside in the storm and laughed like a madman at the dying
shrieks of his victims. It was the season when the trappers were
on their lines, and there were but few people at the post. The
company clerk and one other attempted to interfere, and Black
Roger killed them with his own hands. Five deaths that night--two
of them horrible beyond description!
Resting for a moment, Carrigan went on to tell of the long years
of unavailing search made by the Police after that; how Black
Roger was caught once and killed his captor. Then came the rumor
that he was dead, and rumor grew into official belief, and the
Police no longer hunted for his trails. Then, not long ago, came
the discovery that Black Roger was still living, and he, Dave
Carrigan, was after him.
For a time there was silence after he had finished. Then St.
Pierre's wife rose to her feet. "I wonder," she said in a low
voice, "what Roger Audemard's own story might be if he were here
to tell it?"
She stepped out from under the awning, and in the full radiance of
the moon he saw the pale beauty of her face and the crowning
luster of her hair.
"Good night!" she whispered.
"Good night!" said David.
He listened until her retreating footsteps died away, and for
Back to Full Books