It seemed an interminable wait to Peter, back in the cabin. Jolly Roger had put out the light, and when the moon came up the glow of it did not come into the dark room where Peter lay, for the open door was to the west, and curtains were drawn closely at both windows. But through the door he could see the first mellowing of the night, and after that the swift coming of a soft, golden radiance which swallowed all darkness and filled his world with the ghostly shadows which seemed alive, yet never made a sound. It was a big, splendid moon this night, and Peter loved the moon, though he had seen it only a few times in his three months of life. It fascinated him more than the sun, for it was always light when the sun came, and he had never seen the sun eat up darkness, as the moon did. Its mystery awed him, but did not frighten. He could not quite understand the strange, still shadows which were always unreal when he nosed into them, and it puzzled him why the birds did not fly about in the moon glow, and sing as they did in the day-time. And something deep in him, many generations older than himself, made his blood run faster when this thing that ate up darkness came creeping through the sky, and he was filled with a yearning to adventure out into the strange glow of it, quietly and stealthily, watching and listening for things he had never seen or heard.

In the gloom of the cabin his eyes remained fixed steadily upon the open door, and for a long time he listened only for the returning footsteps of Jolly Roger and Nada. Twice he made efforts to drag himself to the edge of the bunk, but the movement sent such a cutting pain through him that he did not make a third. And outside, after a time, he heard the Night People rousing themselves. They were very cautious, these Night People, for unlike the creatures of the dawn, waking to greet the sun with song and happiness, most of them were sharp-fanged and long-clawed-rovers and pirates of the great wilderness, ready to kill. And this, too, Peter sensed through the generations of northland dog that was in him. He heard a wolf howl, coming faintly through the night from miles away, and something told him it was not a dog. From nearer came the call of a moose, and that same sense told him he had heard a monster bear which his eyes had never seen. He did not know of the soft-footed, night-eyed creatures of prey—the fox, the lynx, the fisher-cat, the mink and the ermine, nor of the round-eyed, feathered murderers in the tree-tops—yet that same something told him they were out there among the shadows, under the luring glow of the moon. And a thing happened, all at once, to stab the truth home to him. A baby snowshoe rabbit, a third grown, hopped out into the open close to the cabin door, and as it nibbled at the green grass, a gray catapult of claw and feathers shot out of the air, and Peter heard the crying agony of the rabbit as the owl bore it off into the thick spruce tops. Even then—unafraid—Peter wanted to go out into the moon glow!

At last, there was an end to his wait. He heard footsteps, and Jolly Roger came from out of the yellow moon-mist of the night and stopped in front of the door. There he stood, making no sound, and looking into the west, where the sky was ablaze with stars over the tree-tops. There was a glad little yip in Peter's throat, but he choked it back. Jolly Roger was strangely quiet, and Peter could not hear Nada, and as he sniffed, and gulped the lump in his throat, he seemed to catch the breath of something impending in the air. Then Jolly Roger came in, and sat down in darkness near the table, and for a long time Peter kept his eyes fixed on the shadowy blotch of him there in the gloom, and listened to his breathing, until he could stand it no longer, and whined.

The sound stirred Jolly Roger. He got up, struck a match—and then blew the match out, and came and sat down beside Peter, and stroked him with his hand.

"Peter," he said in a low voice, "I guess we've got a job on our hands. You began it today—and I've got to finish it. We're goin' to kill Jed Hawkins!"

Peter snuggled closer.

"Mebby I'm bad, and mebby the law ought to have me," Jolly Roger went on in the darkness, "but until tonight I never made up my mind to kill a man. I'm ready—now. If Jed Hawkins hurts her again we're goin' to kill him! Understand, Pied-Bot?"

He got up, and Peter could hear him undressing. Then he made a nest for Peter on the floor, and stretched himself out in the bunk; and after that, for a long time, there seemed to be something heavier than the gloom of night in the cabin for Peter, and he listened and waited and prayed in his dog way for Nada's return, and wondered why it was that she left him so long. And the Night People held high carnival under the yellow moon, and there was flight and terror and slaughter in the glow of it—and Jolly Roger slept, and the wolf howled nearer, and the creek chortled its incessant song of running water, and in the end Peter's eyes closed, and a red-eyed ermine peeped over the sill into the man-and dog-scented stillness of the outlaw's cabin.

For many days after this first night in the cabin, Peter did not see Nada. There was more rain, and the creek flooded higher, so that each time Jolly Roger went over to Cragg's Ridge he took his life in his hands in fording the stream. Peter saw no one but Jolly Roger, and at the end of the second week he was going about on his mended leg. But there would always be a limp in his gait, and always his right hind-foot would leave a peculiar mark in the trail.

These two weeks of helplessness were an education in Peter's life and were destined to leave their mark upon him always. He learned to know Jolly Roger, not alone from seeing events, but through an intuitive instinct that grew swiftly somewhere in his shrewd head. This instinct, given widest scope in these weeks of helplessness, developed faster than any other in him, until in the end, he could judge Jolly Roger's humor by the sound of his approaching footsteps. Never was there a waking hour in which he was not fighting to comprehend the mystery of the change that had come over his life. He knew that Nada was gone, and each day that passed put her farther away from him, yet he also sensed the fact that Jolly Roger went to her, and when the outlaw returned to the cabin Peter was filled with a yearning hope that Nada was returning with him.

But gradually Peter came to think less about Nada, and more about Jolly Roger, until at last his heart beat with a love for this man which was greater than all other things in his world. And in these days Jolly Roger found in Peter's comradeship and growing understanding a comforting outlet for the things which at times consumed him. Peter saw it all—hours when Jolly Roger's voice and laughter filled the cabin with cheer and happiness, and others when his face was set in grim lines, with that hard, far-away look in his eyes that Peter could never quite make out. It was at such times, when Jolly Roger held a choking grip on the love in his heart, that he told Peter things which he had never revealed to a human soul.

In the dusk of one evening, as he sat wet with the fording of the creek, he said to Peter,

"We ought to go, Peter. We ought to pack up—and go tonight. Because—sometimes I'm afraid of myself, Pied-Bot. I'd kill for her. I'd die for her. I'd give up the whole world, and live in a prison cell—if I could have her with me. And that's dangerous, Peter, because we can't have her. It's impossible, boy. She doesn't guess why I'm here. She doesn't know I've been outlawin' it for years, and that I'm hiding here because the Police would never think of looking for Jolly Roger McKay this close to civilization. If I told her, she would think I was worse than Jed Hawkins, and she wouldn't believe me if I told her I've outlawed with my wits instead of a gun, and that I've never criminally hurt a person in my life. No, she wouldn't believe that, Peter. And she—she cares for me, Pied-Bot. That's the hell of it! And she's got faith in me, and would go with me to the Missioner's tomorrow. I know it. I can see it, feel it, and I—"

His fingers tightened in the loose hide of Peter's neck.

"Peter," he whispered in the thickening darkness. "I believe there's a God, but He's a different sort of God than most people believe in. He lives in the trees out there, in the flowers, in the birds, the sky, in everything—and I hope that God will strike me dead if I do what isn't right with her, Peter! I do. I hope he strikes me dead!"

And that night Peter knew that Jolly Roger tossed about restlessly in his bunk, and slept but little.

But the next morning he was singing, and the warm sun flooding over the wilderness was not more cheerful than his voice as he cooked their breakfast. That, to Peter, was the most puzzling thing about this man. With gloom and oppression fastened upon him he would rise up suddenly, and start whistling or singing, and once he said to Peter,

"I take my cue from the sun, Peter Clubfoot. It's always shining, no matter if the clouds are so thick underneath that we can't see it. A laugh never hurts a man, unless he's got a frozen lung."

Jolly Roger did not cross the ford that day.

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