The Flaming Forest
James Oliver Curwood
Part 3 out of 5
hours after that he had no thought of sleep. He had insisted that
she take possession of her cabin again, and Bateese had brought
out a bundle of blankets. These he spread under the awning, and
when he drowsed off, it was to dream of the lovely face he had
seen last in the glow of the moon.
It was in the afternoon of the fourth day that two things
happened--one that he had prepared himself for, and another so
unexpected that for a space it sent his world crashing out of its
orbit. With St. Pierre's wife he had gone again to the ridge-line
for flowers, half a mile back from the river. Returning a new way,
they came to a shallow stream, and Marie-Anne stood at the edge of
it, and there was laughter in her shining eyes as she looked to
the other side of it. She had twined flowers into her hair. Her
cheeks were rich with color. Her slim figure was exquisite in its
wild pulse of life.
Suddenly she turned on him, her red lips smiling their witchery in
his face. "You must carry me across," she said.
He did not answer. He was a-tremble as he drew near her. She
raised her arms a little, waiting. And then he picked her up. She
was against his breast. Her two hands went to his shoulders as he
waded into the stream; he slipped, and they clung a little
tighter. The soft note of laughter was in her throat when the
current came to his knees out in the middle of the stream. He held
her tighter; and then stupidly, he slipped again, and the movement
brought her lower in his arms, so that for a space her head was
against his breast and his face was crushed in the soft masses of
her hair. He came with her that way to the opposite shore and
stood her on her feet again, standing back quickly so that she
would not hear the pounding of his heart. Her face was radiantly
beautiful, and she did not look at David, but away from him.
"Thank you," she said.
And then, suddenly, they heard running feet behind them, and in
another moment one of the brigade men came dashing through the
stream. At the same time there came from the river a quarter of a
mile away a thunderous burst of voice. It was not the voice of a
dozen men, but of half a hundred, and Marie-Anne grew tense,
listening, her eyes on fire even before the messenger could get
the words out of his mouth.
"It is St. Pierre!" he cried then. "He has come with the great
raft, and you must hurry if you would reach the bateau before he
In that moment it seemed to David that Marie-Anne forgot he was
alive. A little cry came to her lips, and then she left him,
running swiftly, saying no word to him, flying with the speed of a
fawn to St. Pierre Boulain! And when David turned to the man who
had come up behind them, there was a strange smile on the lips of
the lithe-limbed forest-runner as his eyes followed the hurrying
figure of St. Pierre's wife.
Until she was out of sight he stood in silence and then he said:
"Come, m'sieu. We, also, must meet St. Pierre!"
David moved slowly behind the brigade man. He had no desire to
hurry. He did not wish to see what happened when Marie-Anne met
St. Pierre Boulain. Only a moment ago she had been in his arms;
her hair had smothered his face; her hands had clung to his
shoulders; her flushed cheeks and long lashes had for an instant
lain close against his breast. And now, swiftly, without a word of
apology, she was running away from him to meet her husband.
He almost spoke that word aloud as he saw the last of her slim
figure among the silver birches. She was going to the man to whom
she belonged, and there was no hesitation in the manner of her
going. She was glad. And she was entirely forgetful of him, Dave
Carrigan, in that gladness.
He quickened his steps, narrowing the distance between him and the
hurrying brigade man. Only the diseased thoughts in his brain had
made the happening in the creek anything but an accident. It was
all an accident, he told himself. Marie-Anne had asked him to
carry her across just as she would have asked any one of her
rivermen. It was his fault, and not hers, that he had slipped in
mid-stream, and that his arms had closed tighter about her, and
that her hair had brushed his face. He remembered she had laughed,
when it seemed for a moment that they were going to fall into the
stream together. Probably she would tell St. Pierre all about it.
Surely she would never guess it had been nearer tragedy than
comedy for him.
Once more he was convinced he had proved himself a weakling and a
fool. His business now was with St. Pierre, and the hour was at
hand when the game had ceased to be a woman's game. He had looked
ahead to this hour. He had prepared himself for it and had
promised himself action that would be both quick and decisive. And
yet, as he went on, his heart was still thumping unsteadily, and
in his arms and against his face remained still the sweet, warm
thrill of his contact with Marie-Anne. He could not drive that
from him. It would never completely go. As long as he lived, what
had happened in the creek would live with him. He did not deny
that crying voice inside him. It was easy for his mouth to make
words. He could call himself a fool and a weakling, but those
words were purely mechanical, hollow, meaningless. The truth
remained. It was a blazing fire in his breast, a conflagration
that might easily get the best of him, a thing which he must fight
and triumph over for his own salvation. He did not think of danger
for Marie-Anne, for such a thought was inconceivable. The tragedy
was one-sided. It was his own folly, his own danger. For just as
he loved Marie-Anne, so did she love her husband, St. Pierre.
He came to the low ridge close to the river and climbed up through
the thick birches and poplars. At the top was a bald knob of
sandstone, over which the riverman had already passed. David
paused there and looked down on the broad sweep of the Athabasca.
What he saw was like a picture spread out on the great breast of
the river and the white strip of shoreline. Still a quarter of a
mile upstream, floating down slowly with the current, was a mighty
raft, and for a space his eyes took in nothing else. On the
Mackenzie, the Athabasca, the Saskatchewan, and the Peace he had
seen many rafts, but never a raft like this of St. Pierre Boulain.
It was a hundred feet in width and twice and a half times as long,
and with the sun blazing down upon it from out of a cloudless sky
it looked to him like a little city swept up from out of some
archaic and savage desert land to be transplanted to the river. It
was dotted with tents and canvas shelters. Some of these were
gray, and some were white, and two or three were striped with
broad bands of yellow and red. Behind all these was a cabin, and
over this there rose a slender staff from which floated the black
and white pennant of St. Pierre. The raft was alive. Men were
running between the tents. The long rudder sweeps were flashing in
the sun. Rowers with naked arms and shoulders were straining their
muscles in four York boats that were pulling like ants at the
giant mass of timber. And to David's ears came a deep monotone of
human voices, the chanting of the men as they worked.
Nearer to him a louder response suddenly made answer to it. A
dozen steps carried him round a projecting thumb of brush, and he
could see the open shore where the bateau was tied. Marie-Anne had
crossed the strip of sand, and Bateese was helping her into a
waiting York boat. Then Bateese shoved it off, and the four men in
it began to row. Two canoes were already half-way to the raft, and
David recognized the occupant of one of them as Andre, the Broken
Man. Then he saw Marie-Anne rise in the York boat and wave
something white in her hand.
He looked again toward the raft. The current and the sweeps and
the tugging boats were drawing it steadily nearer. Standing at the
very edge of it he saw now a solitary figure, and in the clear
sunlight the man stood out clean-cut as a carven statue. He was a
giant in size. His head and arms were bare, and he was looking
steadily toward the bateau and the approaching York boat. He
raised an arm, and a moment later the movement was followed by a
voice that rose above all other voices. It boomed over the river
like the rumble of a gun. In response to it Marie-Anne waved the
white thing in her hand, and David thought he heard her voice in
an answering cry. He stared again at the solitary figure of the
man, seeing nothing else, hearing no other sound but the booming
of the deep cry that came again over the river. His heart was
thumping. In his eyes was a gathering fire. His body grew tense.
For he knew that at last he was looking at St. Pierre, chief of
the Boulains, and husband of the woman he loved.
As the significance of the situation grew upon him, a flash of his
old humor returned. It was the same grim humor that had possessed
him behind the rock, when he had thought he was going to die. Fate
had played him a dishonest turn then, and it was doing the same
thing by him now. Unless he deliberately turned his face away, he
was going to see the reunion of Marie-Anne and St. Pierre.
Yesterday he had strapped his binoculars to his belt. Today Marie-
Anne had looked through them a dozen times. They had been a source
of pleasure and thrill to her. Now, David thought, they would be
good medicine for him. He would see the whole thing through, and
at close range. He would leave himself no room for doubt. He had
laughed behind the rock, when bullets were zipping close to his
head, and the same grim smile came to his lips now as he focused
his glasses on the solitary figure at the head of the raft.
The smile died away when he saw St. Pierre. It was as if he could
reach out and touch him with his hand. And never, he thought, had
he seen such a man. A moment before, a flashing vision had come to
him from out of an Arabian desert; the multitude of colored tents,
the half-naked men, the great raft floating almost without
perceptible motion on the placid breast of the river had stirred
his imagination until he saw a strange picture. But there was
nothing Arabic, nothing desert-like, in this man his binoculars
brought within a few feet of his eyes. He was more like a viking
pirate who had roved the sea a few centuries ago. One great, bare
arm was raised as David looked, and his booming voice was rolling
over the river again. His hair was shaggy, and untrimmed, and red;
he wore a short beard that glistened in the sun--he was laughing
as he waved and shouted to Marie-Anne--a joyous, splendid giant of
a man who seemed almost on the point of leaping into the water in
his eagerness to clasp in his naked arms the woman who was coming
David drew a deep breath, and there came an unconscious tightening
at his heart as he turned his glasses upon Marie-Anne. She was
still standing in the bow of the York boat, and her back was
toward him. He could see the glisten of the sun in her hair. She
was waving her handkerchief, and the poise of her slim body told
him that in her eagerness she would have darted from the bow of
the boat had she possessed wings.
Again he looked at St. Pierre. And this was the man who was no
match for Concombre Bateese! It was inconceivable. Yet he heard
Marie-Anne's voice repeating those very words in his ear. But she
had surely been joking with him. She had been storing up this
little surprise for him. She had wanted him to discover with his
own eyes what a splendid man was this chief of the Boulains. And
yet, as David stared, there came to him an unpleasant thought of
the incongruity of this thing he was looking upon. It struck upon
him like a clashing discord, the fact of matehood between these
two--a condition inconsistent and out of tune with the beautiful
things he had built up in his mind about the woman. In his soul he
had enshrined her as a lovely wildflower, easily crushed, easily
destroyed, a sweet treasure to be guarded from all that was rough
and savage, a little violet-goddess as fragile as she was brave
and loyal. And St. Pierre, standing there at the edge of his raft,
looked as if he had come up out of the caves of a million years
ago! There was something barbaric about him. He needed only a club
and a shield and the skin of a beast about his loins to transform
him into prehistoric man. At least these were his first
impressions--impressions roused by thought of Marie-Anne's slim,
beautiful body crushed close in the embrace of that laughing,
powerful-lunged giant. Then the reaction swept over him. St.
Pierre was not a monster, even though his disturbed mind
unconsciously made an effort to conceive him as such. There were
gladness and laughter in his face. There was the contagion of joy
and good cheer in the voice that boomed over the water. Laughter
and shouts answered it from the shore. The rowers in Marie-Anne's
York boat burst into a wild and exultant snatch of song and made
their oars fairly crack. There came a solitary yell from Andre,
the Broken Man, who was close to the head of the raft now. And
from the raft itself came a slowly swelling volume of sound, the
urge and voice and exultation of red-blooded men a-thrill with the
glory of this day and the wild freedom of their world. The truth
came to David. St. Pierre Boulain was the beloved Big Brother of
He waited, his muscles tense, his jaws set tight. Good medicine,
he called it again, a righteous sort of punishment set upon him
for the moral cowardice he had betrayed in falling down in worship
at the feet of another man's wife. The York boat was very close to
the head of the raft now. He saw Marie-Anne herself fling a rope
to St. Pierre. Then the boat swung alongside. In another moment
St. Pierre had leaned over, and Marie-Anne was with him on the
raft. For a space everything else in the world was obliterated for
David. He saw St. Pierre's arms gather the slim form into their
embrace. He saw Marie-Anne's hands go up fondly to the bearded
face. And then--
Carrigan cut the picture there. He turned his shoulder to the raft
and snapped the binoculars in the case at his belt. Some one was
coming in his direction from the bateau. It was the riverman who
had brought to Marie-Anne the news of St. Pierre's arrival. David
went down to meet him. From the foot of the ridge he again turned
his eyes in the direction of the raft. St. Pierre and Marie-Anne
were just about to enter the little cabin built in the center of
the drifting mass of timber.
It was easy for Carrigan to guess why the riverman had turned back
for him. Men were busy about the bateau, and Concombre Bateese
stood in the stern, a long pole in his hands, giving commands to
the others. The bateau was beginning to swing out into the stream
when he leaped aboard. A wide grin spread over the half-breed's
face. He eyed David keenly and laughed in his deep chest, an
unmistakable suggestiveness in the note of it.
"You look seek, m'sieu," he said in an undertone, for David's ears
alone, "You look ver' unhappy, an' pale lak leetle boy! Wat happen
w'en you look t'rough ze glass up there, eh? Or ees it zat you
grow frighten because ver' soon you stan' up an' fight Concombre
Bateese? Eh, coq de bruyere? Ees it zat?"
A quick thought came to David. "Is it true that St. Pierre can not
whip you, Bateese?"
Bateese threw out his chest with a mighty intake of breath. Then
he exploded: "No man on all T'ree River can w'ip Concombre
"And St. Pierre is a powerful man," mused David, letting his eyes
travel slowly from the half-breed's moccasined feet to the top of
his head. "I measured him well through the glasses, Bateese. It
will be a great fight. But I shall whip you!"
He did not wait for the half-breed to reply, but went into the
cabin and closed the door behind him. He did not like the taunting
note of suggestiveness in the other's words. Was it possible that
Bateese suspected the true state of his mind, that he was in love
with the wife of St. Pierre, and that his heart was sick because
of what he had seen aboard the raft? He flushed hotly. It made him
uncomfortable to feel that even the half-breed might have guessed
David looked through the window toward the raft. The bateau was
drifting downstream, possibly a hundred feet from the shore, but
it was quite evident that Concombre Bateese was making no effort
to bring it close to the floating mass of timber, which had made
no change in its course down the river. David's mind painted
swiftly what was happening in the cabin into which Marie-Anne and
St. Pierre had disappeared. At this moment Marie-Anne was telling
of him, of the adventure in the hot patch of sand. He fancied the
suppressed excitement in her voice as she unburdened herself. He
saw St. Pierre's face darken, his muscles tighten--and crouching
in silence, he seemed to see the misshapen hulk of Andre, the
Broken Man, listening to what was passing between the other two.
And he heard again the mad monotone of Andre's voice, crying
plaintively, "HAS ANY ONE SEEN BLACK ROGER AUDEMARD?"
His blood ran a little faster, and his old craft was a dominantly
living thing within him once more. Love had dulled both his
ingenuity and his desire. For a space a thing had risen before him
that was mightier than the majesty of the Law, and he had TRIED to
miss the bull's-eye--because of his love for the wife of St.
Pierre Boulain. Now he shot squarely for it, and the bell rang in
his brain. Two times two again made four. Facts assembled
themselves like arguments in flesh and blood. Those facts would
have convinced Superintendent McVane, and they now convinced
David. He had set out to get Black Roger Audemard, alive or dead.
And Black Roger, wholesale murderer, a monster who had painted the
blackest page of crime known in the history of Canadian law, was
closely and vitally associated with Marie-Anne and St. Pierre
The thing was a shock, but Carrigan no longer tried to evade the
point. His business was no longer with a man supposed to be a
thousand or fifteen hundred miles farther north. It was with
Marie-Anne, St. Pierre, and Andre, the Broken Man. And also with
He smiled a little grimly as he thought of his approaching battle
with the half-breed. St. Pierre would be astounded at the
proposition he had in store for him. But he was sure that St.
Pierre would accept. And then, if he won the fight with Bateese--
The smile faded from his lips. His face grew older as he looked
slowly about the bateau cabin, with its sweet and lingering
whispers of a woman's presence. It was a part of her. It breathed
of her fragrance and her beauty; it seemed to be waiting for her,
crying softly for her return. Yet once had there been another
woman even lovelier than the wife of St. Pierre. He had not
hesitated then. Without great effort he had triumphed over the
loveliness of Carmin Fanchet and had sent her brother to the
hangman. And now, as he recalled those days, the truth came to him
that even in the darkest hour Carmin Fanchet had made not the
slightest effort to buy him off with her beauty. She had not tried
to lure him. She had fought proudly and defiantly. And had Marie-
Anne done that? His fingers clenched slowly, and a thickening came
in his throat. Would she tell St. Pierre of the many hours they
had spent together? Would she confess to him the secret of that
precious moment when she had lain close against his breast, her
arms about him, her face pressed to his? Would she speak to him of
secret hours, of warm flushes that had come to her face, of
glowing fires that at times had burned in her eyes when he had
been very near to her? Would she reveal EVERYTHING to St. Pierre--
her husband? He was powerless to combat the voice that told him
no. Carmin Fanchet had fought him openly as an enemy and had not
employed her beauty as a weapon. Marie-Anne had put in his way a
great temptation. What he was thinking seemed to him like a
sacrilege, yet he knew there could be no discriminating
distinctions between weapons, now that he was determined to play
the game to the end, for the Law.
When Carrigan went out on deck, the half-breed was sweating from
his exertion at the stern sweep. He looked at the agent de police
who was going to fight him, perhaps tomorrow or the next day.
There was a change in Carrigan. He was not the same man who had
gone into the cabin an hour before, and the fact impressed itself
upon Bateese. There was something in his appearance that held back
the loose talk at the end of Concombre's tongue. And so it was
Carrigan himself who spoke first.
"When will this man St. Pierre come to see me?" he demanded. "If
he doesn't come soon, I shall go to him."
For an instant Concombre's face darkened. Then, as he bent over
the sweep with his great back to David, he chuckled audibly, and
"Would you go, m'sieu? Ah--it is le malade d'amour over there in
the cabin. Surely you would not break in upon their love-making?"
Bateese did not look over his shoulder, and so he did not see the
hot flush that gathered in David's face. But David was sure he
knew it was there and that Concombre had guessed the truth of
matters. There was a sly note in his voice, as if he could not
quite keep to himself his exultation that beauty and bright eyes
had played a clever trick on this man who, if his own judgment had
been followed, would now be resting peacefully at the bottom of
the river. It was the final stab to Carrigan. His muscles tensed.
For the first time he felt the desire to shoot a naked fist into
the grinning mouth of Concombre Bateese. He laid a hand on the
half-breed's shoulder, and Bateese turned about slowly. He saw
what was in the other's eyes.
"Until this moment I have not known what a great pleasure it will
be to fight you, Bateese," said David quietly. "Make it tomorrow--
in the morning, if you wish. Take word to St. Pierre that I will
make him a great wager that I win, a gamble so large that I think
he will be afraid to cover it. For I don't think much of this St.
Pierre of yours, Bateese. I believe him to be a big-winded bluff,
like yourself. And also a coward. Mark my word, he will be so much
afraid that he will not accept my wager!"
Bateese did not answer. He was looking over David's shoulder. He
seemed not to have heard what the other had said, yet there had
come a sudden gleam of exultation in his eyes, and he replied,
still gazing toward the raft,
"Diantre, m'sieu coq de bruyere may keep ze beeg word in hees
mout'! See!--St. Pierre, he ees comin' to answer for himself. Mon
Dieu, I hope he does not wring ze leetle rooster's neck, for zat
would spoil wan great, gran' fight tomorrow!"
David turned toward the big raft. At the distance which separated
them he could make out the giant figure of St. Pierre Boulain
getting into a canoe. The humped-up form already in that canoe he
knew was the Broken Man. He could not see Marie-Anne.
Very lightly Bateese touched his arm. "M'sieu will go into ze
cabin," he suggested softly. "If somet'ing happens, it ees bes'
too many eyes do not see it. You understan', m'sieu agent de
Carrigan nodded. "I understand," he said.
In the cabin David waited. He did not look through the window to
watch St. Pierre's approach. He sat down and picked up a magazine
from the table upon which Marie-Anne's work-basket lay. He was
cool as ice now. His blood flowed evenly and his pulse beat
unhurriedly. Never had he felt himself more his own master, more
like grappling with a situation. St. Pierre was coming to fight.
He had no doubt of that. Perhaps not physically, at first. But,
one way or another, something dynamic was bound to happen in the
bateau cabin within the next half-hour. Now that the impending
drama was close at hand, Carrigan's scheme of luring St. Pierre
into the making of a stupendous wager seemed to him rather
ridiculous. With calculating coldness he was forced to concede
that St. Pierre would be somewhat of a fool to accept the wager he
had in mind, when he was so completely in St. Pierre's power. For
Marie-Anne and the chief of the Boulains, the bottom of the river
would undoubtedly be the best and easiest solution, and the half-
breed's suggestion might be acted upon after all.
As his mind charged itself for the approaching struggle, David
found himself staring at a double page in the magazine, given up
entirely to impossibly slim young creatures exhibiting certain
bits of illusive and mysterious feminine apparel. Marie-Anne had
expressed her approbation in the form of pencil notes under
several of them. Under a cobwebby affair that wreathed one of the
slim figures he read, "St. Pierre will love this!" There were two
exclamation points after that particular notation!
David replaced the magazine on the table and looked toward the
door. No, St. Pierre would not hesitate to put him at the bottom
of the river, for her. Not if he, Dave Carrigan, made the solution
of the matter a necessity. There were times, he told himself, when
it was confoundedly embarrassing to force the letter of the law.
And this was one of them. He was not afraid of the river bottom.
He was thinking again of Marie-Anne.
The scraping of a canoe against the side of the bateau recalled
him suddenly to the moment at hand. He heard low voices, and one
of them, he knew, was St. Pierre's. For an interval the voices
continued, frequently so low that he could not distinguish them at
all. For ten minutes he waited impatiently. Then the door swung
open, and St. Pierre came in.
Slowly and coolly David rose to meet him, and at the same moment
the chief of the Boulains closed the door behind him. There was no
greeting in Carrigan's manner. He was the Law, waiting, unexcited,
sure of himself, impassive as a thing of steel. He was ready to
fight. He expected to fight. It only remained for St. Pierre to
show what sort of fight it was to be. And he was amazed at St.
Pierre, without betraying that amazement. In the vivid light that
shot through the western windows the chief of the Boulains stood
looking at David. He wore a gray flannel shirt open at the throat,
and it was a splendid throat David saw, and a splendid head above
it, with its reddish beard and hair. But what he saw chiefly were
St. Pierre's eyes. They were the sort of eyes he disliked to find
in an enemy--a grayish, steely blue that reflected sunlight like
polished flint. But there was no flash of battle-glow in them now.
St. Pierre was neither excited nor in a bad humor. Nor did
Carrigan's attitude appear to disturb him in the least. He was
smiling; his eyes glowed with almost boyish curiosity as he stared
appraisingly at David--and then, slowly, a low chuckle of laughter
rose in his deep chest, and he advanced with an outstretched hand.
"I am St. Pierre Boulain," he said. "I have heard a great deal
about you, Sergeant Carrigan. You have had an unfortunate time!"
Had the man advanced menacingly, David would have felt more
comfortable. It was disturbing to have this giant come to him with
an extended hand of apparent friendship when he had anticipated an
entirely different sort of meeting. And St. Pierre was laughing at
him! There was no doubt of that. And he had the colossal nerve to
tell him that he had been unfortunate, as though being shot up by
somebody's wife was a fairly decent joke!
Carrigan's attitude did not change. He did not reach out a hand to
meet the other. There was no responsive glimmer of humor in his
eyes or on his lips. And seeing these things, St. Pierre turned
his extended hand to the open box of cigars, so that he stood for
a moment with his back toward him.
"It's funny," he said, as if speaking to himself, and with only a
drawling note of the French patois in his voice. "I come home,
find my Jeanne in a terrible mix-up, a stranger in her room--and
the stranger refuses to let me laugh or shake hands with him.
Tonnerre, I say it is funny! And my Jeanne saved his life, and
made him muffins, and gave him my own bed, and walked with him in
the forest! Ah, the ungrateful cochon!"
He turned, laughing openly, so that his deep voice filled the
cabin. "Vous aves de la corde de pendu, m'sieu--yes, you are a
lucky dog! For only one other man in the world would my Jeanne
have done that. You are lucky because you were not ended behind
the rock; you are lucky because you are not at the bottom of the
river; you are lucky--"
He shrugged his big shoulders hopelessly. "And now, after all our
kindness and your good luck, you wait for me like an enemy,
m'sieu. Diable, I can not understand!"
For the life of him Carrigan could not, in these few moments,
measure up his man. He had said nothing. He had let St. Pierre
talk. And now St. Pierre stood there, one of the finest men he had
ever looked upon, as if honestly overcome by a great wonder. And
yet behind that apparent incredulity in his voice and manner David
sensed the deep underflow of another thing. St. Pierre was all
that Marie-Anne had claimed for him, and more. She had given him
assurance of her unlimited confidence that her husband could
adjust any situation in the world, and Carrigan conceded that St.
Pierre measured up splendidly to that particular type of man. The
smile had not left his face; the good humor was still in his eyes.
David smiled back at him coldly. He recognized the cleverness of
the other's play. St. Pierre was a man who would smile like that
even as he fought, and Carrigan loved a smiling fighter, even when
he had to slip steel bracelets over his wrists.
"I am Sergeant Carrigan, of 'N' Division, Royal Northwest Mounted
Police," he said, repeating the formula of the law. "Sit down, St.
Pierre, and I will tell you a few things that have happened. And
"Non, non, it is not necessary, m'sieu. I have already listened
for an hour, and I do not like to hear a story twice. You are of
the Police. I love the Police. They are brave men, and brave men
are my brothers. You are out after Roger Audemard, the rascal! Is
it not so? And you were shot at behind the rock back there. You
were almost killed. Ma foi, and it was my Jeanne who did the
shooting! Yes, she thought you were another man." The chuckling,
drum-like note of laughter came again out of St. Pierre's great
chest. "It was bad shooting. I have taught her better, but the sun
was blinding there in the hot, white sand. And after that--I know
everything that has happened. Bateese was wrong. I shall scold him
for wanting to put you at the bottom of the river--perhaps. Oui,
ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut--that is it. A woman must have her
way, and my Jeanne's gentle heart was touched because you were a
brave and handsome man, M'sieu Carrigan. But I am not jealous.
Jealousy is a worm that does not make friendship! And we shall be
friends. Only as a friend could I take you to the Chateau Boulain,
far up on the Yellowknife. And we are going there."
In spite of what might have been the entirely proper thing to do
at this particular moment, Carrigan's face broke into a smile as
he drew a second chair up close to the table. He was swift to
readjust himself. It came suddenly back to him how he had grinned
behind the rock, when death seemed close at hand. And St. Pierre
was like that now. David measured him again as the chief of the
Boulains sat down opposite him. Such a man could not be afraid of
anything on the face of the earth, even of the Law. The gleam that
lay in his eyes told David that as they met his own over the
table. "We are smiling now because it happens to please us," David
read in them. "But in a moment, if it is necessary, we shall
Carrigan leaned a little over the table. "You know we are not
going to the Chateau Boulain, St. Pierre," he said. "We are going
to stop at Fort McMurray, and there you and your wife must answer
for a number of things that have happened. There is one way out--
possibly. That is largely up to you. Why did your wife try to kill
me behind the rock? And what did you know about Black Roger
St. Pierre's eyes did not for an instant leave Carrigan's face.
Slowly a change came into them; the smile faded, the blue went
out, and up from behind seemed to come another pair of eyes that
were hard as steel and cold as ice. Yet they were not eyes that
threatened, nor eyes that betrayed excitement or passion. And St.
Pierre's voice, when he spoke, lacked the deep and vibrant note
that had been in it. It was as if he had placed upon it the force
of a mighty will, chaining it back, just as something hidden and
terrible lay chained behind his eyes.
"Why play like little children, M'sieu Carrigan?" he asked. "Why
not come out squarely, honestly, like men? I know what has
happened. Mon Dieu, it was bad! You were almost killed, and you
heard that poor wreck, Andre, call for Roger Audemard. My Jeanne
has told you about that--how I found him in the forest with his
broken mind and body. And about my Jeanne--" St. Pierre's fists
grew into knotted lumps on the table. "Non, I will die--I will
kill you--before I will tell you why she shot at you behind the
rock! We are men, both of us. We are not afraid. And you--in my
place--what would YOU do, m'sieu?"
In the moment's silence each man looked steadily at the other.
"I would--fight," said David slowly. "If it was for her, I am
pretty sure I would fight."
He believed that he was drawing the net in now, that it would
catch St. Pierre. He leaned a little farther over the table.
"And I, too, must fight," he added. "You know our law, St. Pierre.
We don't go back without our man--unless we happen to die. And I
would be stupid if I did not understand the situation here. It
would be quite easy for you to get rid of me. But I don't believe
you are a murderer, even if your Jeanne tried to be." A flicker of
a smile crossed his lips. "And Marie-Anne--I beg pardon!--your
St. Pierre interrupted him. "It will please me to have you call
her Marie-Anne. And it will please her also, m'sieu. Dieu, if we
only had eyes that could see what is in a woman's heart! Life is
funny, m'sieu. It is a great joke, I swear it on my soul!"
He shrugged his shoulders, smiling again straight into David's
eyes. "See what has happened! You set out for a murderer. My
Jeanne makes a great mistake and shoots you. Then she pities you,
saves your life, brings you here, and--ma foi! it is true--learns
to care for you more than she should! But that does not make me
want to kill you. Non, her happiness is mine. Dead men tell no
tales, m'sieu, but there are times when living men also keep tales
to themselves. And that is what you are going to do, M'sieu
Carrigan. You are going to keep to yourself the thing that
happened behind the rock. You are going to keep to yourself the
mumblings of our poor mad Andre. Never will they pass your lips. I
know. I swear it. I stake my life on it!" St. Pierre was talking
slowly and unexcitedly. There was an immeasurable confidence in
his deep voice. It did not imply a threat or a warning. He was
sure of himself. And his eyes had deepened into blue again and
were almost friendly.
"You would stake your life?" repeated Carrigan questioningly. "You
would do that?"
St. Pierre rose to his feet and looked about the cabin with a
shining light in his eyes that was both pride and exaltation. He
moved toward the end of the room, where the piano stood, and for a
moment his big fingers touched the keys; then, seeing the lacy bit
of handkerchief that lay there, he picked it up--and placed it
back again. Carrigan did not urge his question, but waited. In
spite of his effort to fight it down he found himself in the grip
of a mysterious and growing thrill as he watched St. Pierre. Never
had the presence of another man had the same effect upon him, and
strangely the thought came to him that he was matched--even
overmatched. It was as if St. Pierre had brought with him into the
cabin something more than the splendid strength of his body, a
thing that reached out in the interval of silence between them,
warning Carrigan that all the law in the world would not swerve
the chief of the Boulains from what was already in his mind. For a
moment the thought passed from David that fate had placed him up
against the hazard of enmity with St. Pierre. His vision centered
in the man alone. And as he, too, rose to his feet, an unconscious
smile came to his lips as he recalled the boastings of Bateese.
"I ask you," said he, "if you would really stake your life in a
matter such as that? Of course, if your words were merely
accidental, and meant nothing--"
"If I had a dozen lives, I would stake them, one on top of the
other, as I have said," interrupted St. Pierre. Suddenly his laugh
boomed out and his voice became louder. "M'sieu Carrigan, I have
come to offer you just that test! Oui, I could kill you now. I
could put you at the bottom of the river, as Bateese thinks is
right. Mon Dieu, how completely I could make you disappear! And
then my Jeanne would be safe. She would not go behind prison bars.
She would go on living, and laughing, and singing in the big
forests, where she belongs. And Black Roger Audemard, the rascal,
would be safe for a time! But that would be like destroying a
little child. You are so helpless now. So you are going on to the
Chateau Boulain with us, and if at the end of the second month
from today you do not willingly say I have won my wager--why--
m'sieu--I will go with you into the forest, and you may shoot out
of me the life which is my end of the gamble. Is that not fair?
Can you suggest a better way--between men like you and me?"
"I can at least suggest a way that has the virtue of saving time,"
replied David. "First, however, I must understand my position
here. I am, I take it, a prisoner."
"A guest, with certain restrictions placed upon you, m'sieu,"
corrected St. Pierre.
The eyes of the two men met on a dead level.
"Tomorrow morning I am going to fight Bateese," said David. "It is
a little sporting event we have fixed up between us for the
amusement of--your men. I have heard that Bateese is the best
fighting man along the Three Rivers. And I--I do not like to have
any other man claim that distinction when I am around."
For the first time St. Pierre's placidity seemed to leave him. His
brow became clouded, a moment's frown grew in his face, and there
was a certain disconsolate hopelessness in the shrug of his
shoulders. It was as if Carrigan's words had suddenly robbed the
day of all its sunshine for the chief of the Boulains. His voice,
too, carried an unhappy and disappointed note as he made a gesture
toward the window.
"M'sieu, on that raft out there are many of my men, and they have
scarcely rested or slept since word was brought to them that a
stranger was to fight Concombre Bateese. Tonnerre, they have
gambled without ever seeing you until the clothes on their backs
are in the hazard, and they have cracked their muscles in labor to
overtake you! They have prayed away their very souls that it would
be a good fight, and that Bateese would not eat you up too
quickly. It has been a long time since we have seen a good fight,
a long time since the last man dared to stand up against the half-
breed. Ugh, it tears out my heart to tell you that the fight can
St. Pierre made no effort to suppress his emotion. He was like a
huge, disappointed boy. He walked to the window, peered forth at
the raft, and as he shrugged his big shoulders again something
like a groan came from him.
The thrill of approaching triumph swept through David's blood. The
flame of it was in his eyes when St. Pierre turned from the
"And you are disappointed, St. Pierre? You would like to see that
The blue steel in St. Pierre's eyes flashed back. "If the price
were a year of my life, I would give it--if Bateese did not eat
you up too quickly. I love to look upon a good fight, where there
is no venom of hatred in the blows!"
"Then you shall see a good fight, St. Pierre."
"Bateese would kill you, m'sieu. You are not big. You are not his
"I shall whip him, St. Pierre--whip him until he avows me his
"You do not know the half-breed, m'sieu. Twice I have tried him in
friendly combat myself and have been beaten."
"But I shall whip him," repeated Carrigan. "I will wager you
anything--anything in the world--even life against life--that I
The gloom had faded from the face of St. Pierre Boulain. But in a
moment it clouded again.
"My Jeanne has made me promise that I will stop the fight," he
"And why--why should she insist in a matter such as this, which
properly should be settled among men?" asked David.
Again St. Pierre laughed; with an effort, it seemed, "She is
gentle-hearted, m'sieu. She laughed and thought it quite a joke
when Bateese humbled me. 'What! My great St. Pierre, with the
blood of old France in his veins, beaten by a man who has been
named after a vegetable!' she cried. I tell you she was merry over
it, m'sieu! She laughed until the tears came into her eyes. But
with you it is different. She was white when she entreated me not
to let you fight Bateese. Yes, she is afraid you will be badly
hurt. And she does not want to see you hurt again. But I tell you
that I am not jealous, m'sieu! She does not try to hide things
from me. She tells me everything, like a little child. And so--"
"I am going to fight Bateese," said David. He wondered if St.
Pierre could hear the thumping of his heart, or if his face gave
betrayal of the hot flood it was pumping through his body.
"Bateese and I have pledged ourselves. We shall fight, unless you
tie one of us hand and foot. And as for a wager--"
"Yes--what have you to wager?" demanded St. Pierre eagerly.
"You know the odds are great," temporized Carrigan.
"That I concede, m'sieu."
"But a fight without a wager would be like a pipe without tobacco,
"You speak truly, m'sieu."
David came nearer and laid a hand on the other's arm. "St. Pierre,
I hope you--and your Jeanne--will understand what I am about to
offer. It is this. If Bateese whips me, I will disappear into the
forests, and no word shall ever pass my lips of what has passed
since that hour behind the rock--and this. No whisper of it will
ever reach the Law. I will forget the attempted murder and the
suspicious mumblings of your Broken Man. You will be safe. Your
Jeanne will be safe--if Bateese whips me."
He paused, and waited. St. Pierre made no answer, but amazement
came into his face, and after that a slow and burning fire in his
eyes which told how deeply and vitally Carrigan's words had struck
into his soul.
"And if I should happen to win," continued David, turning a bit
carelessly toward the window, "why, I should expect as large a
payment from you. If I win, your fulfillment of the wager will be
to tell me in every detail why your wife tried to kill me behind
the rock, and you will also tell me all that you know about the
man I am after, Black Roger Audemard. That is all. I am asking for
no odds, though you concede the handicap is great."
He did not look at St. Pierre. Behind him he heard the other's
deep breathing. For a space neither spoke. Outside they could hear
the soft swish of water, the low voices of men in the stern, and a
shout and the barking of a dog coming from the raft far out on the
river. For David the moment was one of suspense. He turned again,
a bit carelessly, as if his proposition were a matter of but
little significance to him. St. Pierre was not looking at him. He
was staring toward the door, as if through it he could see the
powerful form of Bateese bending over the stern sweep. And
Carrigan could see that his face was flaming with a great desire,
and that the blood in his body was pounding to the mighty urge of
Suddenly he faced Carrigan.
"M'sieu, listen to me," he said. "You are a brave man. You are a
man of honor, and I know you will bury sacredly in your heart what
I am going to tell you now, and never let a word of it escape--
even to my Jeanne. I do not blame you for loving her. Non! You
could not help that. You have fought well to keep it within
yourself, and for that I honor you. How do I know? Mon Dieu, she
has told me! A woman's heart understands, and a woman's ears are
quick to hear, m'sieu. When you were sick, and your mind was
wandering, you told her again and again that you loved her--and
when she brought you back to life, her eyes saw more than once the
truth of what your lips had betrayed, though you tried to keep it
to yourself. Even more, m'sieu--she felt the touch of your lips on
her hair that day. She understands. She has told me everything,
openly, innocently--yet her heart thrills with that sympathy of a
woman who knows she is loved. M'sieu, if you could have seen the
light in her eyes and the glow in her cheeks as she told me these
secrets. But I am not jealous! Non! It is only because you are a
brave man, and one of honor, that I tell you all this. She would
die of shame did she know I had betrayed her confidence. Yet it is
necessary that I tell you, because if we make the big wager we
must drop my Jeanne from the gamble. Do you comprehend me, m'sieu?
"We are two men, strong men, fighting men. I--Pierre Boulain--can
not feel the shame of jealousy where a woman's heart is pure and
sweet, and where a man has fought against love with honor as you
have fought. And you, m'sieu--David Carrigan, of the Police--can
not strike with your hard man's hand that tender heart, that is
like a flower, and which this moment is beating faster than it
should with the fear that some harm is going to befall you. Is it
not so, m'sieu? We will make the wager, yes. But if you whip
Bateese--and you can not do that in a hundred years of fighting--I
will not tell you why my Jeanne shot at you behind the rock. Non,
never! Yet I swear I will tell you the other. If you win, I will
tell you all I know about Roger Audemard, and that is
considerable, m'sieu. Do you agree?"
Slowly David held out a hand. St. Pierre's gripped it. The fingers
of the two men met like bands of steel.
"Tomorrow you will fight," said St. Pierre. "You will fight and be
beaten so terribly that you may always show the marks of it. I am
sorry. Such a man as you I would rather have as a brother than an
enemy. And she will never forgive me. She will always remember it.
The thought will never die out of her heart that I was a beast to
let you fight Bateese. But it is best for all. And my men? Ah!
Diable, but it will be great sport for them, m'sieu!"
His hand unclasped. He turned to the door. A moment later it
closed behind him, and David was alone. He had not spoken. He had
not replied to the engulfing truths that had fallen quietly and
without a betrayal of passion from St. Pierre's lips. Inwardly he
was crushed. Yet his face was like stone, hiding his shame. And
then, suddenly, there came a sound from outside that sent the
blood through his cold veins again. It was laughter, the great,
booming laughter of St. Pierre! It was not the merriment of a man
whose heart was bleeding, or into whose life had come an
unexpected pain or grief. It was wild and free, and filled with
the joy of the sun-filled day.
And David, listening to it, felt something that was more than
admiration for this man growing within him. And unconsciously his
lips repeated St. Pierre's words.
"Tomorrow--you will fight."
For many minutes David stood at the bateau window and watched the
canoe that carried St. Pierre Boulain and the Broken Man back to
the raft. It moved slowly, as if St. Pierre was loitering with a
purpose and was thinking deeply of what had passed. Carrigan's
fingers tightened, and his face grew tense, as he gazed out into
the glow of the western sun. Now that the stress of nerve-breaking
moments in the cabin was over, he no longer made an effort to
preserve the veneer of coolness and decision with which he had
encountered the chief of the Boulains. Deep in his soul he was
crushed and humiliated. Every nerve in his body was bleeding.
He had heard St. Pierre's big laugh a moment before, but it must
have been the laugh of a man who was stabbed to the heart. And he
was going back to Marie-Anne like that--drifting scarcely faster
than the current that he might steal time to strengthen himself
before he looked into her eyes again. David could see him,
motionless, his giant shoulders hunched forward a little, his head
bowed, and in the stern the Broken Man paddled listlessly, his
eyes on the face of his master. Without voice David cursed
himself. In his egoism he had told himself that he had made a
splendid fight in resisting the temptation of a great love for the
wife of St. Pierre. But what was his own struggle compared with
this tragedy which St. Pierre was now facing?
He turned from the window and looked about the cabin room again--
the woman's room and St. Pierre's--and his face burned in its
silent accusation. Like a living thing it painted another picture
for him. For a space he lost his own identity. He saw himself in
the place of St. Pierre. He was the husband of Marie-Anne,
worshipping her even as St. Pierre must worship her, and he came,
as St. Pierre had come, to find a stranger in his home, a stranger
who had lain in his bed, a stranger whom his wife had nursed back
to life, a stranger who had fallen in love with his most
inviolable possession, who had told her of his love, who had
kissed her, who had held her close, in his arms, whose presence
had brought a warmer flush and a brighter glow into eyes and
cheeks that until this stranger's coming had belonged only to him.
And he heard her, as St. Pierre had heard her, pleading with him
to keep this man from harm; he heard her soft voice, telling of
the things that had passed between them, and he saw in her eyes--
With almost a cry he swept the thought and the picture from him.
It was an atrocious thing to conceive, impossible of reality. And
yet the truth would not go. What would he have done in St.
He went to the window again. Yes, St. Pierre was a bigger man than
he. For St. Pierre had come quietly and calmly, offering a hand of
friendship, generous, smiling, keeping his hurt to himself, while
he, Dave Carrigan, would have come with the murder of man in his
His eyes passed from the canoe to the raft, and from the big raft
to the hazy billows of green and golden forest that melted off
into interminable miles of distance beyond the river. He knew that
on the other side of him lay that same distance, north, east,
south, and west, vast spaces in an unpeopled world, the same green
and golden forests, ten thousand plains and rivers and lakes, a
million hiding-places where romance and tragedy might remain
forever undisturbed. The thought came to him that it would not be
difficult to slip out into that world and disappear. He almost
owed it to St. Pierre. It was the voice of Bateese in a snatch of
wild and discordant song that brought him back into grim reality.
There was, after all, that embarrassing matter of justice--and the
After a little he observed that the canoe was moving faster, and
that Andre's paddle was working steadily and with force. St.
Pierre no longer sat hunched in the bow. His head was erect, and
he was waving a hand in the direction of the raft. A figure had
come from the cabin on the huge mass of floating timber. David
caught the shimmer of a woman's dress, something white fluttering
over her head, waving back at St. Pierre. It was Marie-Anne, and
he moved away from the window.
He wondered what was passing between St. Pierre and his wife in
the hour that followed. The bateau kept abreast of the raft,
moving neither faster nor slower than it did, and twice he
surrendered to the desire to scan the deck of the floating timbers
through his binoculars. But the cabin held St. Pierre and Marie-
Anne, and he saw neither of them again until the sun was setting.
Then St. Pierre came out--alone.
Even at that distance over the broad river he heard the booming
voice of the chief of the Boulains. Life sprang up where there had
been the drowse of inactivity aboard the raft. A dozen more of the
great sweeps were swiftly manned by men who appeared suddenly from
the shaded places of canvas shelters and striped tents. A murmur
of voices rose over the water, and then the murmur was broken by
howls and shouts as the rivermen ran to their places at the
command of St. Pierre's voice, and as the sweeps began to flash in
the setting sun, it gave way entirely to the evening chant of the
David gripped himself as he listened and watched the slowly
drifting glory of the world that came down to the shores of the
river. He could see St. Pierre clearly, for the bateau had worked
its way nearer. He could see the bare heads and naked arms of the
rivermen at the sweeps. The sweet breath of the forests filled his
lungs, as that picture lay before him, and there came into his
soul a covetousness and a yearning where before there had been
humiliation and the grim urge of duty. He could breathe the air of
that world, he could look at its beauty, he could worship it--and
yet he knew that he was not a part of it as those others were a
part of it. He envied the men at the sweeps; he felt his heart
swelling at the exultation and joy in their song. They were going
home--home down the big rivers, home to the heart of God's
Country, where wives and sweethearts and happiness were waiting
for them, and their visions were his visions as he stared wide-
eyed and motionless over the river. And yet he was irrevocably an
alien. He was more than that--an enemy, a man-hound sent out on a
trail to destroy, an agent of a powerful and merciless force that
carried with it punishment and death.
The crew of the bateau had joined in the evening song of the
rivermen on the raft, and over the ridges and hollows of the
forest tops, red and green and gold in the last warm glory of the
sun, echoed that chanting voice of men. David understood now what
St. Pierre's command had been. The huge raft with its tented city
of life was preparing to tie up for the night. A quarter of a mile
ahead the river widened, so that on the far side was a low, clean
shore toward which the efforts of the men at the sweeps were
slowly edging the raft. York boats shot out on the shore side and
dropped anchors that helped drag the big craft in. Two others
tugged at tow-lines fastened to the shoreside bow, and within
twenty minutes the first men were plunging up out of the water on
the white strip of beach and were whipping the tie-lines about the
nearest trees. David unconsciously was smiling in the thrill and
triumph of these last moments, and not until they were over did he
sense the fact that Bateese and his crew were bringing the bateau
in to the opposite shore. Before the sun was quite down, both raft
and house-boat were anchored for the night.
As the shadows of the distant forests deepened, Carrigan felt
impending about him an oppression of emptiness and loneliness
which he had not experienced before. He was disappointed that the
bateau had not tied up with the raft. Already he could see men
building fires. Spirals of smoke began to rise from the shore, and
he knew that the riverman's happiest of all hours, supper time,
was close at hand. He looked at his watch. It was after seven
o'clock. Then he watched the fading away of the sun until only the
red glow of it remained in the west, and against the still thicker
shadows the fires of the rivermen threw up yellow flames. On his
own side, Bateese and the bateau crew were preparing their meal.
It was eight o'clock when a man he had not seen before brought in
his supper. He ate, scarcely sensing the taste of his food, and
half an hour later the man reappeared for the dishes.
It was not quite dark when he returned to his window, but the far
shore was only an indistinct blur of gloom. The fires were
brighter. One of them, built solely because of the rivermen's
inherent love of light and cheer, threw the blaze of its flaming
logs twenty feet into the air.
He wondered what Marie-Anne was doing in this hour. Last night
they had been together. He had marveled at the witchery of the
moonlight in her hair and eyes, he had told her of the beauty of
it, she had smiled, she had laughed softly with him--for hours
they had sat in the spell of the golden night and the glory of the
river. And tonight--now--was she with St. Pierre, waiting as they
had waited last night for the rising of the moon? Had she
forgotten? COULD she forget? Or was she, as he thought St. Pierre
had painfully tried to make him believe, innocent of all the
thoughts and desires that had come to him, as he sat worshipping
her in their stolen hours? He could think of them only as stolen,
for he did not believe Marie-Anne had revealed to her husband all
she might have told him.
He was sure he would never see her again as he had seen her then,
and something of bitterness rose in him as he thought of that. St.
Pierre, could he have seen her face and eyes when he told her that
her hair in the moonlight was lovelier than anything he had ever
seen, would have throttled him with his naked hands in that
meeting in the cabin. For St. Pierre's code would not have had her
eyes droop under their long lashes or her cheeks flush so warmly
at the words of another man--and he could not take vengeance on
the woman herself. No, she had not told St. Pierre all she might
have told! There were things which she must have kept to herself,
which she dared not reveal even to this great-hearted man who was
her husband. Shame, if nothing more, had kept her silent.
Did she feel that shame as he was feeling it? It was inconceivable
to think otherwise. And for that reason, more than all others, he
knew that she would not meet him face to face again--unless he
forced that meeting. And there was little chance of that, for his
pledge with St. Pierre had eliminated her from the aftermath of
tomorrow's drama, his fight with Bateese. Only when St. Pierre
might stand in a court of law would there be a possibility of her
eyes meeting his own again, and then they would flame with the
hatred that at another time had been in the eyes of Carmin
With the dull stab of a thing that of late had been growing inside
him, he wondered what had happened to Carmin Fanchet in the years
that had gone since he had brought about the hanging of her
brother. Last night and the night before, strange dreams of her
had come to him in restless slumber. It was disturbing to him that
he should wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of her, when
he had gone to his bed with a mind filled to overflowing with the
sweet presence of Marie-Anne Boulain. And now his mind reached out
poignantly into mysterious darkness and doubt, even as the
darkness of night spread itself in a thickening canopy over the
Gray clouds had followed the sun of a faultless day, and the stars
were veiled overhead. When David turned from the window, it was so
dark in the cabin that he could not see. He did not light the
lamps, but made his way to St. Pierre's couch and sat down in the
silence and gloom.
Through the open windows came to him the cadence of the river and
the forests. There was silence of human voice ashore, but under
him he heard the lapping murmur of water as it rustled under the
stern and side of the bateau, and from the deep timber came the
never-ceasing whisper of the spruce and cedar tops, and the
subdued voice of creatures whose hours of activity had come with
the dying out of the sun.
For a long time he sat in this darkness. And then there came to
him a sound that was different than the other sounds--a low
monotone of voices, the dipping of a paddle--and a canoe passed
close under his windows and up the shore. He paid small attention
to it until, a little later, the canoe returned, and its occupants
boarded the bateau. It would have roused little interest in him
then had he not heard a voice that was thrillingly like the voice
of a woman.
He drew his hunched shoulders erect and stared through the
darkness toward the door. A moment more and there was no doubt. It
was almost shock that sent the blood leaping suddenly through his
veins. The inconceivable had happened. It was Marie-Anne out
there, talking in a low voice to Bateese!
Then there came a heavy knock at his door, and he heard the door
open. Through it he saw the grayer gloom of the outside night
partly shut out a heavy shadow.
"M'sieu!" called the voice of Bateese.
"I am here," said David.
"You have not gone to bed, m'sieu?"
The heavy shadow seemed to fade away, and yet there still remained
a shadow there. David's heart thumped as he noted the slenderness
of it. For a space there was silence. And then,
"Will you light the lamps, M'sieu David?" a soft voice came to
him. "I want to come in, and I am afraid of this terrible
He rose to his feet, fumbling in his pocket for matches.
He did not turn toward Marie-Anne when he had lighted the first of
the great brass lamps hanging at the side of the bateau. He went
to the second, and struck another match, and flooded the cabin
She still stood silhouetted against the darkness beyond the cabin
door when he faced her. She was watching him, her eyes intent, her
face a little pale, he thought. Then he smiled and nodded. He
could not see a great change in her since this afternoon, except
that there seemed to be a little more fire in the glow of her
eyes. They were looking at him steadily as she smiled and nodded,
wide, beautiful eyes in which there was surely no revelation of
shame or regret, and no very clear evidence of unhappiness. David
stared, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.
"Why is it that you sit in darkness?" she asked, stepping within
and closing the door. "Did you not expect me to return and
apologize for leaving you so suddenly this afternoon? It was
impolite. Afterward I was ashamed. But I was excited, M'sieu
"Of course," he hurried to interrupt her. "I understand. St.
Pierre is a lucky man. I congratulate you--as well as him. He is
splendid, a man in whom you can place great faith and confidence."
"He scolded me for running away from you as I did, M'sieu David.
He said I should have shown better courtesy than to leave like
that one who was a guest in our--home. So I have returned, like a
good child, to make amends."
"It was not necessary."
"But you were lonesome and in darkness!"
He nodded. "Yes."
"And besides," she added, so quietly and calmly that he was
amazed, "you know my sleeping apartment is also on the bateau. And
St. Pierre made me promise to say good night to you."
"It is an imposition," cried David, the blood rushing to his face.
"You have given up all this to me! Why not let me go into that
little room forward, or sleep on the raft and you and St. Pierre--
"St. Pierre would not leave the raft," replied Marie-Anne, turning
from him toward the table on which were the books and magazines
and her work-basket. "And I like my little room forward."
He stopped himself. He could see a sudden color deepening in the
cheek of St. Pierre's wife as she made pretense of looking for
something in her basket. He felt that if he went on he would
blunder, if he had not already blundered. He was uncomfortable,
for he believed he had guessed the truth. It was not quite
reasonable to expect that Marie-Anne would come to him like this
on the first night of St. Pierre's homecoming. Something had
happened over in the little cabin on the raft, he told himself.
Perhaps there had been a quarrel--at least ironical implications
on St. Pierre's part. And his sympathy was with St. Pierre.
He caught suddenly a little tremble at the corner of Marie-Anne's
mouth as her face was turned partly from him, and he stepped to
the opposite side of the table so he could look at her fairly. If
there had been unpleasantness in the cabin on the raft, St.
Pierre's wife in no way gave evidence of it. The color had
deepened to almost a blush in her cheeks, but it was not on
account of embarrassment, for one who is embarrassed is not
usually amused, and as she looked up at him her eyes were filled
with the flash of laughter which he had caught her lips struggling
to restrain. Then, finding a bit of lace work with the needles
meshed in it, she seated herself, and again he was looking down on
the droop of her long lashes and the seductive glow of her
lustrous hair. Yesterday, in a moment of irresistible impulse, he
had told her how lovely it was as she had dressed it, a bewitching
crown of interwoven coils, not drawn tightly, but crumpled and
soft, as if the mass of tresses were openly rebelling at closer
confinement. She had told him the effect was entirely accidental,
largely due to carelessness and haste in dressing it. Accidental
or otherwise, it was the same tonight, and in the heart of it were
the drooping red petals of a flower she had gathered with him
early that afternoon.
"St. Pierre brought me over," she said in a calmly matter-of-fact
voice, as though she had expected David to know that from the
beginning. "He is ashore talking over important matters with
Bateese. I am sure he will drop in and say good night before he
returns to the raft. He asked me to wait for him--here." She
raised her eyes, so clear and untroubled, so quietly unembarrassed
under his gaze, that he would have staked his life she had no
suspicion of the confessions which St. Pierre had revealed to him.
"Do you care? Would you rather put out the lights and go to bed?"
He shook his head. "No. I am glad. I was beastly lonesome. I had
He was on the point of blundering again when he caught himself.
The effect of her so near him was more than ever disturbing, in
spite of St. Pierre. Her eyes, clear and steady, yet soft as
velvet when they looked at him, made his tongue and his thoughts
"You had an idea, M'sieu David?"
"That you would have no desire to see me again after my talk with
St. Pierre," he said. "Did he tell you about it?"
"He said you were very fine, M'sieu David--and that he liked you."
"And he told you it is determined that I shall fight Bateese in
The one word was spoken with a quiet lack of excitement, even of
interest--it seemed to belie some of the things St. Pierre had
told him, and he could scarcely believe, looking at her now, that
she had entreated her husband to prevent the encounter, or that
she had betrayed any unusual emotion in the matter at all.
"I was afraid you would object," he could not keep from saying.
"It does not seem nice to pull off such a thing as that, when
there is a lady about--"
"Or LADIES." She caught him up quickly, and he saw a sudden little
tightening of her pretty mouth as she turned her eyes to the bit
of lace work again. "But I do not object, because what St. Pierre
says is right--must be right."
And the softness, he thought, went altogether out of the curve of
her lips for an instant. In a flash their momentary betrayal of
vexation was gone, and St. Pierre's wife had replaced the work-
basket on the table and was on her feet, smiling at him. There was
something of wild daring in her eyes, something that made him
think of the glory of adventure he had seen flaming in her face
the night they had run the rapids of the Holy Ghost.
"Tomorrow will be very unpleasant, M'sieu David," she cried
softly. "Bateese will beat you--terribly. Tonight we must think of
things more agreeable."
He had never seen her more radiant than when she turned toward the
piano. What the deuce did it mean? Had St. Pierre been making a
fool of him? She actually appeared unable to restrain her elation
at the thought that Bateese would surely beat him up! He stood
without moving and made no effort to answer her. Just before they
had started on that thrilling adventure into the forest, which had
ended with his carrying her in his arms, she had gone to the piano
and had played for him. Now her fingers touched softly the same
notes. A little humming trill came in her throat, and it seemed to
David that she was deliberately recalling his thoughts to the
things that had happened before the coming of St. Pierre. He had
not lighted the lamp over the piano, and for a flash her dark eyes
smiled at him out of the half shadow. After a moment she began to
Her voice was low and without effort, untrained, and subdued as if
conscious and afraid of its limitations, yet so exquisitely sweet
that to David it was a new and still more wonderful revelation of
St. Pierre's wife. He drew nearer, until he stood close at her
side, the dark luster of her hair almost touching his arm, her
partly upturned face a bewitching profile in the shadows.
Her voice grew lower, almost a whisper in its melody, as if meant
for him alone. Many times he had heard the Canadian Boat Song, but
never as its words came now from the lips of Marie-Anne Boulain.
"Faintly as tolls the evening chime, Our voices keep tune, and
our oars keep time. Soon as the woods on shore look dim, We'll
sing at St. Ann's our parting hymn; Row, brothers, row, the
stream runs fast, The rapids are near, and the daylight's past."
She paused. And David, staring down at her shining head, did not
speak. Her fingers trembled over the keys, he could see dimly the
shadow of her long lashes, and the spirit-like scent of crushed
violets rose to him from the soft lace about her throat and her
"It is your music," he whispered. "I have never heard the Boat
Song like that!"
He tried to drag his eyes from her face and hair, sensing that he
was a near-criminal, fighting a mighty impulse. The notes under
her fingers changed, and again--by chance or design--she was
stabbing at him; bringing him face to face with the weakness of
his flesh, the iniquity of his desire to reach out his arms and
crumple her in them. Yet she did not look up, she did not see him,
as she began to sing "Ave Maria."
"Ave, Maria, hear my cry! O, guide my path where no harm, no
harm is nigh--"
As she went on, he knew she had forgotten to think of him. With
the reverence of a prayer the holy words came from her lips,
slowly, softly, trembling with a pathos and sweetness that told
David they came not alone from the lips, but from the very soul of
St, Pierre's wife. And then--
"Oh, Mother, hear me where thou art, And guard and guide my
aching heart, my aching heart!"
The last words drifted away into a whisper, and David was glad
that he was not looking into the face of St. Pierre's wife, for
there must have been something there now which it would have been
sacrilege for him to stare at, as he was staring at her hair.
No sound of opening door had come from behind them. Yet St. Pierre
had opened it and stood there, watching them with a curious humor
in eyes that seemed still to hold a glitter of the fire that had
leaped from the half-breed's flaming birch logs. His voice was a
shock to Carrigan.
"PESTE, but you are a gloomy pair!" he boomed. "Why no light over
there in the corner, and why sing that death-song to chase away
the devil when there is no devil near?"
Guilt was in David's heart, but there was no sting of venom in St.
Pierre's words, and he was laughing at them now, as though what he
saw were a pretty joke and amused him.
"Late hours and shady bowers! I say it should be a love song or
something livelier," he cried, closing the door behind him and
coming toward them. "Why not En Roulant ma Boule, my sweet Jeanne?
You know that is my favorite."
He suddenly interrupted himself, and his voice rolled out in a
wild chant that rocked the cabin.
"The wind is fresh, the wind is free, En roulant ma boule! The
wind is fresh--my love waits me, Rouli, roulant, ma boule
roulant! Behind our house a spring you see, In it three ducks
swim merrily, And hunting, the Prince's son went he, With a
silver gun right fair to see--"
David was conscious that St. Pierre's wife had risen to her feet,
and now she came out of shadow into light, and he was amazed to
see that she was laughing back at St. Pierre, and that her two
fore-fingers were thrust in her ears to keep out the bellow of her
husband's voice. She was not at all discomfited by his unexpected
appearance, but rather seemed to join in the humor of the thing
with St. Pierre, though he fancied he could see something in her
face that was forced and uneasy. He believed that under the
surface of her composure she was suffering a distress which she
did not reveal.
St. Pierre advanced and carelessly patted her shoulder with one of
his big hands, while he spoke to David.
"Has she not the sweetest voice in the world, m'sieu? Did you ever
hear a sweeter or as sweet? I say it is enough to get down into
the soul of a man, unless he is already half dead! That voice--"
He caught Marie-Anne's eyes. Her cheeks were flaming. Her look,
for an instant, flashed lightning as she halted him.
"Ma foi, I speak it from the heart," he persisted, with a shrug of
his shoulders. "Am I not right, M'sieu Carrigan? Did you ever hear
a sweeter voice?"
"It is wonderful," agreed David, wondering if he was hazarding too
"Good! It fills me with happiness to know I am right. And now,
cherie, good-night! I must return to the raft."
A shadow of vexation crossed Marie-Anne's face. "You seem in great
"Plagues and pests! You are right, Pretty Voice! I am most anxious
to get back to my troubles there, and you--"
"Will also bid M'sieu Carrigan good-night," she quickly
interrupted him. "You will at least see me to my room, St. Pierre,
and safely put away for the night."
She held out her hand to David. There was not a tremor in it as it
lay for an instant soft and warm in his own. She made no effort to
withdraw it quickly, nor did her eyes hide their softness as they
looked into his own.
Mutely David stood as they went out. He heard St. Pierre's loud
voice rumbling about the darkness of the night. He heard them pass
along the side of the bateau forward, and half a minute later he
knew that St. Pierre was getting into his canoe. The dip of a
paddle came to him.
For a space there was silence, and then, from far out in the black
shadow of the river, rolled back the great voice of St. Pierre
Boulain singing the wild river chant, "En Roulant ma Boule."
At the open window he listened. It seemed to him that from far
over the river, where the giant raft lay, there came a faint
answer to the words of the song,
With the slow approach of the storm which was advancing over the
wilderness, Carrigan felt more poignantly the growing unrest that
was in him. He heard the last of St. Pierre's voice, and after
that the fires on the distant shore died out slowly, giving way to
utter blackness. Faintly there came to him the far-away rumbling
of thunder. The air grew heavy and thick, and there was no sound
of night-bird over the breast of the river, and out of the thick
cedar and spruce and balsam there came no cry or whisper of the
nocturnal life waiting in silence for the storm to break. In that
stillness David put out the lights in the cabin and sat close to
the window in darkness.
He was more than sleepless. Every nerve in his body demanded
action, and his brain was fired by strange thoughts until their
vividness seemed to bring him face to face with a reality that set
his blood stirring with an irresistible thrill. He believed he had
made a discovery, that St. Pierre had betrayed himself. What he
had visioned, the conclusion he had arrived at, seemed
inconceivable, yet what his own eyes had seen and his ears had
heard pointed to the truth of it all. The least he could say was
that St. Pierre's love for Marie-Anne Boulain was a strange sort
of love. His attitude toward her seemed more like that of a man in
the presence of a child of whom he was fond in a fatherly sort of
way. His affection, as he had expressed it, was parental and
careless. Not for an instant had there been in it a betrayal of
the lover, no suggestion of the husband who cared deeply or who
might be made jealous by another man.
Sitting in darkness thickening with the nearer approach of storm,
David recalled the stab of pain mingled with humiliation that had
come into the eyes of St. Pierre's wife when she had stood facing
her husband. He heard again, with a new understanding, the low
note of pathos in her voice as in song she had called upon the
Mother of Christ to hear her--and help her. He had not guessed at
the tragedy of it then. Now he knew, and he thought of her lying
awake in the gloom beyond the bulkhead, her eyes were with tears.
And St. Pierre had gone back to his raft, singing in the night!
Where before there had been sympathy for him, there rose a sincere
revulsion. There had been a reason for St. Pierre's masterly
possession of himself, and it had not been, as he had thought,
because of his bigness of soul. It was because he had not cared.
He was a splendid hypocrite, playing his game well at the
beginning, but betraying the lie at the end. He did not love
Marie-Anne as he, Dave Carrigan, loved her. He had spoken of her
as a child, and he had treated her as a child, and was serenely
dispassionate in the face of a situation which would have roused
the spirit in most men. And suddenly, recalling that thrilling
hour in the white strip of sand and all that had happened since,
it flashed upon David that St. Pierre was using his wife as the
vital moving force in a game of his own--that under the masquerade
of his apparent faith and bigness of character he was sacrificing
her to achieve a certain mysterious something it the scheme of his
Yet he could not forget the infinite faith Marie-Anne Boulain had
expressed in her husband. There had been no hypocrisy in her
waiting and her watching for him, or in her belief that he would
straighten out the tangles of the dilemma in which she had become
involved. Nor had there been make-believe in the manner she had
left him that day in her eagerness to go to St. Pierre. Adding
these facts as he had added the others, he fancied he saw the
truth staring at him out of the darkness of his cabin room. Marie-
Anne loved her husband. And St. Pierre was merely the possessor,
careless and indifferent, almost brutally dispassionate in his
consideration of her.
A heavy crash of thunder brought Carrigan back to a realization of
the impending storm. He rose to his feet in the chaotic gloom,
facing the bulkhead beyond which he was certain St. Pierre's wife
lay wide awake. He tried to laugh. It was inexcusable, he told
himself, to let his thoughts become involved in the family affairs
of St. Pierre and Marie-Anne. That was not his business. Marie-
Anne, in the final analysis, did not appear to be especially
abused, and her mind was not a child's mind. Probably she would
not thank him for his interest in the matter. She would tell him,
like any other woman with pride, that it was none of his business
and that he was presuming upon forbidden ground.
He went to the window. There was scarcely a breath of air, and
unfastening the screen, he thrust out his head and shoulders into
the night. It was so black that he could not see the shadow of the
water almost within reach of his hands, but through the chaos of
gloom that lay between him and the opposite shore he made out a
single point of yellow light. He was positive the light was in the
cabin on the raft. And St. Pierre was probably in that cabin.
A huge drop of rain splashed on his hand, and behind him he heard
sweeping over the forest tops the quickening march of the deluge.
There was no crash of thunder or flash of lightning when it broke.
Straight down, in an inundation, it came out of a sky thick enough
to slit with a knife. Carrigan drew in his head and shoulders and
sniffed the sweet freshness of it. He tried again to make out the
light on the raft, but it was obliterated.
Mechanically he began taking off his clothes, and in a few moments
he stood again at the window, naked. Thunder and lightning had
caught up with the rain, and in the flashes of fire Carrigan's
ghost-white face stared in the direction of the raft. In his veins
was at work an insistent and impelling desire. Over there was St.
Pierre, he was undoubtedly in the cabin, and something might
happen if he, Dave Carrigan, took advantage of storm and gloom to
go to the raft.
It was almost a presentiment that drew his bare head and shoulders
out through the window, and every hunting instinct in him urged
him to the adventure. The stygian darkness was torn again by a
flash of fire. In it he saw the river and the vivid silhouette of
the distant shore. It would not be a difficult swim, and it would
be good training for tomorrow.
Like a badger worming his way out of a hole a bit too small for
him, Carrigan drew himself through the window. A lightning flash
caught him at the edge of the bateau, and he slunk back quickly
against the cabin, with the thought that other eyes might be
staring out into that same darkness. In the pitch gloom that
followed he lowered himself quietly into the river, thrust himself
under water, and struck out for the opposite shore.
When he came to the surface again it was in the glare of another
lightning flash. He flung the water from his face, chose a point
several hundred yards above the raft, and with quick, powerful
strokes set out in its direction. For ten minutes he quartered the
current without raising his head. Then he paused, floating
unresistingly with the slow sweep of the river, and waited for
another illumination. When it came, he made out the tented raft
scarcely a hundred yards away and a little below him. In the next
darkness he found the edge of it and dragged himself up on the
mass of timbers.
The thunder had been rolling steadily westward, and David crouched
low, hoping for one more flash to illumine the raft. It came at
last from a mass of inky cloud far to the west, so indistinct that
it made only dim shadows out of the tents and shelters, but it was
sufficient to give him direction. Before its faint glare died out,
he saw the deeper shadow of the cabin forward.
For many minutes he lay where he had dragged himself, without
making a movement in its direction. Nowhere about him could he see
a sign of light, nor could he hear any sound of life. St. Pierre's
people were evidently deep in slumber.
Carrigan had no very definite idea of the next step in his
adventure. He had swum from the bateau largely under impulse, with
no preconceived scheme of action, urged chiefly by the hope that
he would find St. Pierre in the cabin and that something might
come of it. As for knocking at the door and rousing the chief of
the Boulains from sleep--he had at the present moment no very good
excuse for that. No sooner had the thought and its objection come
to him than a broad shaft of light shot with startling suddenness
athwart the blackness of the raft, darkened in another instant by
an obscuring shadow. Swift as the light itself David's eyes turned
to the source of the unexpected illumination. The door of St.
Pierre's cabin was wide open. The interior was flooded with
lampglow, and in the doorway stood St. Pierre himself.
The chief of the Boulains seemed to be measuring the weather
possibilities of the night. His subdued voice reached David,
chuckling with satisfaction, as he spoke to some one who was
behind him in the cabin.
"Pitch and brimstone, but it's black!" he cried. "You could carve
it with a knife, and stand it on end, AMANTE. But it's going west.
In a few hours the stars will be out."
He drew back into the cabin, and the door closed. David held his
breath in amazement, staring at the blackness where a moment
before the light had been. Who was it St. Pierre had called
sweetheart? AMANTE! He could not have been mistaken. The word had
come to him clearly, and there was but one guess to make. Marie-
Anne was not on the bateau. She had played him for a fool, had
completely hoodwinked him in her plot with St. Pierre. They were
cleverer than he had supposed, and in darkness she had rejoined
her husband on the raft! But why that senseless play of falsehood?
What could be their object in wanting him to believe she was still
aboard the bateau?
He stood up on his feet and mopped the warm rain from his face,
while the gloom hid the grim smile that came slowly to his lips.
Close upon the thrill of his astonishment he felt a new stir in
his blood which added impetus to his determination and his action.
He was not disgusted with himself, nor was he embittered by what
he had thought of a moment ago as the lying hypocrisy of his
captors. To be beaten in his game of man-hunting was sometimes to
be expected, and Carrigan always gave proper credit to the
winners. It was also "good medicine" to know that Marie-Anne,
instead of being an unhappy and neglected wife, had blinded him
with an exquisitely clever simulation. Just why she had done it,
and why St. Pierre had played his masquerade, it was his duty now
to find out.
An hour ago he would have cut off a hand before spying upon St.
Pierre's wife or eavesdropping under her window. Now he felt no
uneasiness of conscience as he approached the cabin, for Marie-
Anne herself had destroyed all reason for any delicate
discrimination on his part.
The rain had almost stopped, and in one of the near tents he heard
a sleepy voice. But he had no fear of chance discovery. The night
would remain dark for a long time, and in his bare feet he made no
sound the sharpest ears of a dog ten feet away might have heard.
Close to the cabin door, yet in such a way that the sudden opening
of it would not reveal him, he paused and listened.
Distinctly he heard St. Pierre's voice, but not the words. A
moment later came the soft, joyous laughter of a woman, and for an
instant a hand seemed to grip David's heart, filling it with pain.
There was no unhappiness in that laughter. It seemed, instead, to
tremble in an exultation of gladness.
Suddenly St. Pierre came nearer the door, and his voice was more
distinct. "Chere-coeur, I tell you it is the greatest joke of my
life," he heard him say. "We are safe. If it should come to the
worst, we can settle the matter in another way. I can not but sing
and laugh, even in the face of it all. And she, in that very
innocence which amuses me so, has no suspicion--"
He turned, and vainly David keyed his ears to catch the final
words. The voices in the cabin grew lower. Twice he heard the soft
laughter of the woman. St. Pierre's voice, when he spoke, was
The thought that his random adventure was bringing him to an
important discovery possessed Carrigan. St. Pierre, he believed,
had been on the very edge of disclosing something which he would
have given a great deal to know. Surely in this cabin there must
be a window, and the window would be open--
Quietly he felt his way through the darkness to the shore side of
the cabin. A narrow bar of light at least partly confirmed his
judgment. There was a window. But it was almost entirely
curtained, and it was closed. Had the curtain been drawn two
inches lower, the thin stream of light would have been shut
entirely out from the night.
Under this window David crouched for several minutes, hoping that
in the calm which was succeeding the storm it might be opened. The
voices were still more indistinct inside. He scarcely heard St.
Pierre, but twice again he heard the low and musical laughter of
the woman. She had laughed differently with HIM--and the grim
smile settled on his lips as he looked up at the narrow slit of
light over his head. He had an overwhelming desire to look in.
After all, it was a matter of professional business--and his duty.
He was glad the curtain was drawn so low. From experiments of his
own he knew there was small chance of those inside seeing him
through the two-inch slit, and he raised himself boldly until his
eyes were on a level with the aperture.
Directly in the line of his vision was St. Pierre's wife. She was
seated, and her back was toward him, so he could not see her face.
She was partly disrobed, and her hair was streaming loose about
her. Once, he remembered, she had spoken of fiery lights that came
into her hair under certain illumination. He had seen them in the
sun, but never as they revealed themselves now in that cabin lamp
glow. He scarcely looked at St. Pierre, who was on his feet,
looking down upon her--not until St. Pierre reached out and
crumpled the smothering mass of glowing tresses in his big hands,
and laughed. It was a laugh filled with the unutterable joy of
possession. The woman rose to her feet. Up through her hair went
her two white, bare arms, encircling St. Pierre's neck. The giant
drew her close. Her slim form seemed to melt in his, and their
And then the woman threw back her head, laughing, so that her
glory of hair fell straight down, and she was out of reach of St.
Pierre's lips. They turned. Her face fronted the window, and out
in the night Carrigan stifled a cry that almost broke from his
lips. For a flash he was looking straight into her eyes. Her
parted lips seemed smiling at him; her white throat and bosom were
bared to him. He dropped down, his heart choking him as he
stumbled through the darkness to the edge of the raft. There, with
the lap of the water at his feet, he paused. It was hard for him
to get Breath. He stared through the gloom in the direction of the
bateau. Marie-Anne Boulain, the woman he loved, was there! In her
little cabin, alone, on the bateau, was St. Pierre's wife, her
And in this cabin on the raft, forgetful of her degradation and
her grief, was the vilest wretch he had ever known--St. Pierre
Boulain. And with him, giving herself into his arms, caressing him
with her lips and hair, was the sister of the man he had helped to
The shock of the amazing discovery which Carrigan had made was as
complete as it was unexpected. His eyes had looked upon the last
thing in the world he might have guessed at or anticipated when
they beheld through the window of St. Pierre's cabin the beautiful
face and partly disrobed figure of Carmin Fanchet. The first
effect of that shock had been to drive him away. His action had
been involuntary, almost without the benefit of reason, as if
Carmin had been Marie-Anne herself receiving the caresses which
were rightfully hers, and upon which it was both insult and
dishonor for him to spy. He realized now that he had made a
mistake in leaving the window too quickly.
But he did not move back through the gloom, for there was
something too revolting in what he had seen, and with the
revulsion of it a swift understanding of the truth which made his
hands clench as he sat down on the edge of the raft with his feet
and legs submerged in the slow-moving current of the river. The
thing was not uncommon. It was the same monstrous story, as old as
the river itself, but in this instance it filled him with a
sickening sort of horror which gripped him at first even more than
the strangeness of the fact that Carmin Fanchet was the other
woman. His vision and his soul were reaching out to the bateau
lying in darkness on the far side of the river, where St. Pierre's
wife was alone in her unhappiness. His first impulse was to fling
himself in the river and race to her--his second, to go back to
St. Pierre, even in his nakedness, and call him forth to a
reckoning. In his profession of man-hunting he had never had the
misfortune to kill, but he could kill St. Pierre--now. His fingers
dug into the slippery wood of the log under him, his blood ran
hot, and in his eyes blazed the fury of an animal as he stared
into the wall of gloom between him and Marie-Anne Boulain.
How much did she know? That was the first question which pounded
in his brain. He suddenly recalled his reference to the fight, his
apology to Marie-Anne that it should happen so near to her
presence, and he saw again the queer little twist of her mouth as
she let slip the hint that she was not the only one of her sex who
would know of tomorrow's fight. He had not noticed the
significance of it then. But now it struck home. Marie-Anne was
surely aware of Carmin Fanchet's presence on the raft.
But did she know more than that? Did she know the truth, or was
her heart filled only with suspicion and fear, aggravated by St.
Pierre's neglect and his too-apparent haste to return to the raft
that night? Again David's mind flashed back, recalling her defense
of Carmin Fanchet when he had first told her his story of the
woman whose brother he had brought to the hangman's justice. There
could be but one conclusion. Marie-Anne knew Carmin Fanchet, and
she also knew she was on the raft with St. Pierre.
As cooler judgment returned to him, Carrigan refused to concede
more than that. For any one of a dozen reasons Carmin Fanchet
might be on the raft going down the river, and it was also quite
within reason that Marie-Anne might have some apprehension of a
woman as beautiful as Carmin, and possibly intuition had begun to
impinge upon her a disturbing fear of a something that might
happen. But until tonight he was confident she had fought against
this suspicion, and had overridden it, even though she knew a
woman more beautiful than herself was slowly drifting down the
stream with her husband. She had betrayed no anxiety to him in the
days that had passed; she had waited eagerly for St. Pierre; like
a bird she had gone to him when at last he came, and he had seen
her crushed close in St. Pierre's arms in their meeting. It was
this night, with its gloom and its storm, that had made the
shadowings of her unrest a torturing reality. For St. Pierre had
brought her back to the bateau and had played a pitiably weak part
in concealing his desire to return to the raft.
So he told himself Marie-Anne did not know the truth, not as he
had seen it through the window of St. Pierre's cabin. She had been
hurt, for he had seen the sting of it, and in that same instant he
had seen her soul rise up and triumph. He saw again the sudden
fire that came into her eyes when St. Pierre urged the necessity
of his haste, he saw her slim body grow tense, her red lips curve
in a flash of pride and disdain. And as Carrigan thought of her in
that way his muscles grew tighter, and he cursed St. Pierre.
Marie-Anne might be hurt, she might guess that her husband's eyes
and thoughts were too frequently upon another's face--but in the
glory of her womanhood it was impossible for her to conceive of a
crime such as he had witnessed through the cabin window. Of that
he was sure.
And then, suddenly, like a blinding sheet of lightning out of a
dark sky, came back to him all that St. Pierre had said about
Marie-Anne. He had pitied St. Pierre then; he had pitied this
great cool-eyed giant of a man who was fighting gloriously, he had
thought, in the face of a situation that would have excited most
men. Frankly St. Pierre had told him Marie-Anne cared more for him
than she should. With equal frankness he had revealed his wife's
confessions to him, that she knew of his love for her, of his kiss
upon her hair.
In the blackness Carrigan's face burned hot. If he had in him the
desire to kill St. Pierre now, might not St. Pierre have had an
equally just desire to kill him? For he had known, even as he
kissed her hair, and as his arms held her close to his breast in
crossing the creek, that she was the wife of St. Pierre. And
His muscles relaxed. Slowly he lowered himself into the cool wash
of the river, and struck out toward the bateau. He did not breast
the current with the same fierce determination with which he had
crossed through the storm to the raft, but drifted with it and
reached the opposite shore a quarter of a mile below the bateau.
Here he waited for a time, while the thickness of the clouds
broke, and a gray light came through them, revealing dimly the
narrow path of pebbly wash along the shore. Silently, a stark
naked shadow in the night, he came back to the bateau and crawled
through his window.
He lighted a lamp, and turned it very low, and in the dim glow of
it rubbed his muscles until they burned. He was fit for tomorrow,
and the knowledge of that fitness filled him with a savage
elation. A good-humored love of sport had induced him to fling his
first half-bantering challenge into the face of Concombre Bateese,
but that sentiment was gone. The approaching fight was no longer
an incident, a foolish error into which he had unwittingly plunged
himself. In this hour it was the biggest physical thing that had
ever loomed up in his life, and he yearned for the dawn with the
eagerness of a beast that waits for the kill which comes with the
break of day. But it was not the half-breed's face he saw under
the hammering of his blows. He could not hate the half-breed. He
could not even dislike him now. He forced himself to bed, and
later he slept. In the dream that came to him it was not Bateese
who faced him in battle, but St. Pierre Boulain.
He awoke with that dream a thing of fire in his brain. The sun was
not yet up, but the flush of it was painting the east, and he
dressed quietly and carefully, listening for some sound of
awakening beyond the bulkhead. If Marie-Anne was awake, she was
very still. There was noise ashore. Across the river he could hear
the singing of men, and through his window saw the white smoke of
early fires rising above the tree-tops. It was the Indian who
unlocked the door and brought in his breakfast, and it was the
Indian who returned for the dishes half an hour later.
After that Carrigan waited, tense with the desire for action to
begin. He sensed no premonition of evil about to befall him. Every
nerve and sinew in his body was alive for the combat. He thrilled
with an overwhelming confidence, a conviction of his ability to
win, an almost dangerous, self-conviction of approaching triumph
in spite of the odds in weight and brute strength which were
pitted against him. A dozen times he listened at the bulkhead
between him and Marie-Anne, and still he heard no movement on the
It was eight o'clock when one of the bateau men appeared at the
door and asked if he was ready. Quickly David joined him. He
forgot his taunts to Concombre Bateese, forgot the softly padded
gloves in his pack with which he had promised to pommel the half-
breed into oblivion. He was thinking only of naked fists.
Into a canoe he followed the bateau man, who turned his craft
swiftly in the direction of the opposite shore. And as they went,
David was sure he caught the slight movement of a curtain at the
little window of Marie-Anne's forward cabin. He smiled back and
raised his hand, and at that the curtain was drawn back entirely,
and he knew that St. Pierre's wife was watching him as he went to
The raft was deserted, but a little below it, on a wide strip of
beach made hard and smooth by flood water, had gathered a crowd of
men. It seemed odd to David they should remain so quiet, when he
knew the natural instinct of the riverman was to voice his emotion
at the top of his lungs. He spoke of this to the bateau man, who
shrugged his shoulders and grinned.
"Eet ees ze command of St. Pierre," he explained. "St. Pierre say
no man make beeg noise at--what you call heem--funeral? An' theese
goin' to be wan gran' fun-e-RAL, m'sieu!"
"I see," David nodded. He did not grin back at the other's humor.
He was looking at the crowd. A giant figure had appeared out of
the center of it and was coming slowly down to the river. It was
St. Pierre. Scarcely had the prow of the canoe touched shore when
David leaped out and hurried to meet him. Behind St. Pierre came
Bateese, the half-breed. He was stripped to the waist and naked
from the knees down. His gorilla-like arms hung huge and loose at
his sides, and the muscles of his hulking body stood out like
carven mahogany in the glisten of the morning sun. He was like a
grizzly, a human beast of monstrous power, something to look at,
to back away from, to fear.
Yet, David scarcely noticed him. He met St. Pierre, faced him, and
stopped--and he had gone swiftly to this meeting, so that the
chief of the Boulains was within earshot of all his men.
St. Pierre was smiling. He held out his hand as he had held it out
once before in the bateau cabin, and his big voice boomed out a
Carrigan did not answer, nor did he look at the extended hand. For
an instant the eyes of the two men met, and then, swift as
lightning, Carrigan's arm shot out, and with the flat of his hand
he struck St. Pierre a terrific blow squarely on the cheek. The
sound of the blow was like the smash of a paddle on smooth water.
Not a riverman but heard it, and as St. Pierre staggered back,
flung almost from his feet by its force, a subdued cry of
amazement broke from the waiting men. Concombre Bateese stood like
one stupefied. And then, in another flash, St. Pierre had caught
himself and whirled like a wild beast. Every muscle in his body
was drawn for a gigantic, overwhelming leap; his eyes blazed; the
fury of a beast was in his face. Before all his people he had
suffered the deadliest insult that could be offered a man of the
Three River Country--a blow struck with the flat of another's
hand. Anything else one might forgive, but not that. Such a blow,
if not avenged, was a brand that passed down into the second and
third generations, and even children would call out "Yellow-Back--
Yellow-Back," to the one who was coward enough to receive it
without resentment. A rumbling growl rose in the throat of
Concombre Bateese in that moment when it seemed as though St.
Pierre Boulain was about to kill the man who had struck him. He
saw the promise of his own fight gone in a flash. For no man in
all the northland could now fight David Carrigan ahead of St.
David waited, prepared to meet the rush of a madman. And then, for
a second time, he saw a mighty struggle in the soul of St. Pierre.
The giant held himself back. The fury died out of his face, but
his great hands remained clenched as he said, for David alone,
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