Peter was on his way to the mystery of the bundle he had found in the jackpines.

At the foot of the ridge, where the green plain fought with the blighting edge of the Stew-Kettle, he stood for many minutes before he started east-ward. With keen eyes gleaming behind his mop of scraggly face-bristles he critically surveyed both land and air, and then, with the slight limp in his gait which would always remain as a mark of Jed Hawkins' brutality, he trotted deliberately in the direction of the whiskey-runner's cabin home.

A bitter memory of Jed Hawkins flattened his ears when he came near the rock-cluttered coulee in which he had fought for Nada, and had suffered his broken bones, and today—even as he obeyed the instinctive caution to stop and listen—Jed Hawkins himself came out of the mouth of the coulee, bearing a brown jug in one hand and a thick cudgel in the other. His one wicked eye gleamed in the waning sun. His lean and scraggly face was alight with a sinister exultation as he paused for a moment close to the rock behind which Peter was hidden, and Peter's fangs lay bare and his body trembled while the man stood there. Then he moved on, and Peter did not stir, but waited until the jug and the cudgel and the man were out of sight.

Low under his breath he was snarling when he went on. Hatred, for a moment, had flamed hot in his soul. Then he turned, and buried himself in a clump of balsams that reached out into the plain, and a few moments later came to the edge of a tiny meadow in the heart of them, where a warbler was bursting its throat in evening-song.

Around the edge of the meadow Peter circled, his feet deep in buttercups and red fire-flowers, and crushing softly ripe strawberries that grew in scarlet profusion in the open, until he came to a screen of young jackpines, and through these he quietly and apologetically nosed his way. Then he stood wagging his tail, with Nada sitting on the grass half a dozen steps from him, wiping the strawberry stain from her finger-tips. And the stain was on her red lips, and a bit of it against the flush of her cheek, as she gave a little cry of gladness and greeting to Peter. Her eyes flashed beyond him, and every drop of blood in her slim, beautiful little body seemed to be throbbing with an excitement new to Peter as she looked for Jolly Roger.

Peter went to her, and dropped down, with his head in her lap, and looking up through his bushy eye-brows he saw a livid bruise just under the ripples of her brown hair, where there had been no mark yesterday, or the day before. Nada's hands drew him closer, until he was half in her lap, and she bent her face down to him, so that her thick, shining hair fell all about him. Peter loved her hair, almost as much as Jolly Roger loved it, and he closed his eyes and drew a deep breath of content as the smothering sweetness of it shut out the sunlight from him.

"Peter," she whispered, "I'm almost scared to have him come today. I've promised him. You remember—I promised to tell him if Jed Hawkins struck me again. And he has! He made that mark, and if Jolly Roger knows it he'll kill him. I've got to lie—lie—"

Peter wriggled, to show his interest, and his hard tail thumped the ground. For a space Nada said nothing more, and he could hear and feel the beating of her heart close down against him. Then she raised her head, and looked in the direction from which she would first hear Jolly Roger as he came through the young jackpines. Peter, with his eyes half closed in a vast contentment, did not see or sense the change in her today—that her blue eyes were brighter, her cheeks flushed, and in her body a strange and subdued throbbing that had never been there before. Not even to Peter did she whisper her secret, but waited and listened for Jolly Roger, and when at last she heard him and he came through the screen of jackpines, the color in her cheeks was like the stain of strawberries crimsoning her finger-tips. In an instant, looking down upon her, Jolly Roger saw what Peter had not discovered, and he stopped in his tracks, his heart thumping like a hammer inside him. Never, even in his dreams, had the girl looked lovelier than she did now, and never had her eyes met his eyes as they met them today, and never had her red lips said as much to him, without uttering a word. In the same instant he saw the livid bruise, half hidden under her hair—and then he saw a big bundle behind her, partly screened by a dwarfed banksian. After that his eyes went back to the bruise.

"Jed Hawkins didn't do it," said Nada, knowing what was in his mind. "It was Jed's woman. And you can't kill her!" she added a little defiantly.

Jolly Roger caught the choking throb in her throat, and he knew she was lying. But Nada thrust Peter from her lap, and stood up, and she seemed taller and more like a woman than ever before in her life as she faced Jolly Roger there in the tiny open, with violets and buttercups and red strawberries in the soft grass under their feet. And behind them, and very near, a rival to the warbler in the meadow began singing. But Nada did not hear. The color had rushed hot into her cheeks at first, but now it was fading out as swiftly, and her hands trembled, clasped in front of her. But the blue in her eyes was as steady as the blue in the sky as she looked at Jolly Roger.

"I'm not going back to Jed Hawkins' any more, Mister Roger," she said.

A soft breath of wind lifted the tress of hair from her forehead, revealing more clearly the mark of Jed Hawkins' brutality, and Nada saw gathering in Jolly Roger's eyes that cold, steely glitter which always frightened her when it came. His hands clenched, and when she reached out and touched his arm the flesh of it was as hard as white birch. Even in her fear there was glory in the thought that at a word from her he would kill the man who had struck her. Her fingers crept up his arm, timidly, and the blue in her eyes darkened, and there was a pleading tremble in the curve of her lips as she looked straight at him.

"I'm not going back," she repeated.

Jolly Roger, looking beyond her, saw the significance of the bundle. His eyes met her steady gaze again, and his heart seemed to swell in his chest, and choke him. He tried to let his tense muscles relax. He tried to smile. He struggled to bring up the courage which would make possible the confession he had to make. And Peter, sitting on his haunches in a patch of violets, watched them both, wondering what was going to happen between these two.

"Where are you going?" Jolly Roger asked.

Nada's fingers had crept almost to his shoulder. They were twisting at his flannel shirt nervously, but not for the tenth part of a second did she drop her eyes, and that strange, wonderful something which he saw looking at him so clearly out of her soul brought the truth to Jolly Roger, before she had spoken.

"I'm goin' with you and Peter."

The low cry that came from Jolly Roger was almost a sob as he stepped back from her. He looked away from her—at Peter. But her pale face, her parted red lips, her wide-open, wonderful eyes, her radiant hair stirred by the wind—came between them. She was no longer the little girl—"past seventeen, goin' on eighteen." To Jolly Roger she was all that the world held of glorious womanhood.

"But—you can't!" he cried desperately. "I've come to tell you things, Nada. I'm not fit. I'm not what you think I am. I've been livin' a lie—"

"I've come to tell you things, Nada. I've been living a lie."

"I've come to tell you things, Nada. I've been living a lie."

He hesitated, and then lashed himself on to the truth.

"You'll hate me when I tell you, Nada. You think Jed Hawkins is bad. But the law thinks I'm worse. The police want me. They've wanted me for years. That's why I came down here, and hid over in Indian Tom's cabin—near where I first met you. I thought they wouldn't find me away down here, but they did. That's why Peter and I moved over to the big rock-pile at the end of the Ridge. I'm—an outlaw. I've done a lot of bad things—in the eyes of the law, and I'll probably die with a bullet in me, or in jail. I'm sorry, but that don't help. I'd give my life to be able to tell you what's in my heart. But I can't. It wouldn't be square."

He wondered why no change came into the steady blue of her eyes as he went on with the truth. The pallor was gone from her cheeks. Her lips seemed redder, and what he was saying did not seem to startle her, or frighten her.

"Don't you understand, Nada?" he cried. "I'm bad. The police want me. I'm a fugitive—always running away, always hiding—an outlaw—"

She nodded.

"I know it, Mister Roger," she said quietly. "I heard you tell Peter that a long time ago. And Mister Cassidy was at our place the day after you and Peter ran away from Indian Tom's cabin, and I showed him the way to Father John's, and he told me a lot about you, and he told Father John a lot more, and it made me awful proud of you, Mister Roger—and I want to go with you and Peter!"

"Proud!" gasped Jolly Roger. "Proud, of ME—"

She nodded again.

"Mister Cassidy—the policeman—he used just the word you used a minute ago. He said you was square, even when you robbed other people. He said he had to get you in jail if he could, but he hoped he never would. He said he'd like to have a man like you for a brother. And Peter loves you. And I—"

The color came into her white face.

"I'm goin' with you and Peter," she finished.

Something came to relieve the tenseness of the moment for Jolly Roger. Peter, nosing in a thick patch of bunch-grass, put out a huge snowshoe rabbit, and the two crashed in a startling avalanche through the young jackpines, Peter's still puppyish voice yelling in a high staccato as he pursued. Jolly Roger turned from Nada, and stared where they had gone. But he was seeing nothing. He knew the hour of his mightiest fight had come. In the reckless years of his adventuring he had more than once faced death. He had starved. He had frozen. He had run the deadliest gantlets of the elements, of beast, and of man. Yet was the strife in him now the greatest of all his life. His heart thumped. His brain was swirling in a vague and chaotic struggle for the mastery of things, and as he fought with himself—his unseeing eyes fixed on the spot where Peter and the snowshoe rabbit had disappeared—he heard Nada's voice behind him, saying again that she was going with him and Peter. In those seconds he felt himself giving way, and the determined action he had built up for himself began to crumble like sand. He had made his confession and in spite of it this young girl he worshipped—sweeter and purer than the flowers of the forest—was urging herself upon him! And his soul cried out for him to turn about, and open his arms to her, and gather her into them for as long as God saw fit to give him freedom and life.

But still he fought against that mighty urge, dragging reason and right back fragment by fragment, while Nada stood behind him, her wide-open, childishly beautiful eyes beginning to comprehend the struggle that was disrupting the heart of this man who was an outlaw—and her god among men. And when Jolly Roger turned, his face had aged to the grayness of stone, and his eyes were dull, and there was a terribly dead note in his voice.

"You can't go with us," he said. "You can't. It's wrong—all wrong. I couldn't take care of you in jail, and some day—that's where I'll be."

More than once when she had spoken of Jed Hawkins he had seen the swift flash of lightning come into the violet of her eyes. And it came now, and her little hands grew tight at her sides, and bright spots burned in her cheeks.

"You won't!" she cried. "I won't let you go to jail. I'll fight for you—if you'll let me go with you and Peter!"

She came a step nearer.

"And if I stay here Jed Hawkins is goin' to sell me to a tie-cutter over on the railroad. That's what it is—sellin' me. I ain't—I mean I haven't—told you before, because I was afraid of what you'd do. But it's goin' to happen, unless you let me go with you and Peter. Oh, Mister Roger—Mister Jolly Roger—"

Her fingers crept up his arms. They reached his shoulders, and her blue eyes, and her red lips, and the woman's soul in her girl-body were so close to him he could feel their sweetness and thrill, and then he saw a slow-gathering mist, and tears—

"I'll go wherever you go," she was whispering, "And we'll hide where they won't ever find us, and I'll be happy, so happy, Mister Roger—and if you won't take me I want to die. Oh—"

She was crying, with her head on his breast, and her slim, half bare arms around his neck, and Jolly Roger listened like a miser to the choking words that came with her sobs. And where there had been tumult and indecision in his heart there came suddenly the clearness of sunshine and joy, and with it the happiness of a new and mighty possession as his arms closed about her, and he turned her face up, so that for the first time he kissed the soft red lips that for some inscrutable reason the God of all things had given into his keeping this day.

And then, holding her close, with her arms still tighter about his neck, he cried softly,

"I'm goin' to take you, little girl. You're goin' with Peter and me, for ever—and ever. And we'll go—tonight!"

When Peter came back, just in the last sunset glow of the evening, he found his master alone in the bit of jackpine opening, and Nada was swiftly crossing the larger meadow that lay between them and the break in Cragg's Ridge, beyond which was Jed Hawkins' cabin. It was not the same Jolly Roger whom he had left half an hour before. It was not the man of the hiding-place in the rock-pile. Jolly Roger McKay, standing there in the last soft glow of the day, was no longer the fugitive and the outcast. He stood with silent lips, yet his soul was crying out its gratitude to all that God of Life which breathed its sweetness of summer evening about him. He was the First Possessor of the earth. In that hour, that moment, he would not have sold his place for all the happiness of all the remaining people in the world. He cried out aloud, and Peter, squatted at his feet with his red tongue lolling out, listened to him.

"She is mine, mine, mine," he was saying, and he repeated that word over and over, until Peter quirked his ears, and wondered what it meant. And then, seeing Peter, Jolly Roger laughed softly, and bent over him, with a look of awe and wonderment mingling with the happiness in his face.

"She's mine—ours," he cried boyishly. "God A'mighty took a hand, Pied-Bot, and she's going with us! We're going tonight, when the moon comes up. And Peter—Peter—we're going straight to the Missioner's, and he'll marry us, and then we'll hit for a place where no one in the world will ever find us. The law may want us, Pied-Bot, but God—this God all around—is good to us. And we'll try and pay Him back. We will, Peter!"

He straightened himself, and faced the west. Then he picked up the bundle Nada had brought, and dived through the jackpines, with Peter at his heels. Swiftly they moved through the shadowing dusk of the plain, and came at last to the Stew-Kettle, and to their hiding-place under the shoulders of Gog and Magog. There was still a faint twilight in the tunnel, and in this twilight Jolly Roger McKay packed his possessions; and then, with fingers that trembled as if they were committing a sacrilege, he drew Nada's few treasures from her bundle and placed them tenderly with his own. And all the time Peter heard him saying things under his breath, so softly that it was like the whispered drone of song.

In darkness they went down through the rocks to the plain, and half an hour later they came to the break in the Ridge, and went through it, and stopped in the black shadow of a great rock, with Jed Hawkins' cabin half a rifle-shot away. Here Nada was to come to them with the first rising of the moon.

It was very still all about, and Peter sensed a significance in the silence, and lay very quietly watching the light in the cabin, and the shadowy form of his master. Also he knew that somewhere in the distance a storm was gathering. The breath of it was in the air, though the sky was clear of cloud overhead, except for the haze of a gray and ghostly mist that lay between them and the yellow stars. Jolly Roger counted the seconds between then and moonrise. It seemed hours before the golden rim of it rose in the east. Shadows grew swiftly after that. Grotesque things took shape. The rock-caps of the ridge began to light up, like timid signal-fires. Black spruce and balsam and cedar glistened as if bathed in enamel. And the moon came on, and mellow floods of light played in the valleys and plains, and danced over the forest-tops, and in voice-less and soundless miracle called upon all living things to look upon the glory of God. In his soul Jolly Roger McKay felt the urge and the call of that voiceless Master Power, and through his lips came an unconscious whisper of prayer—of gratitude.

And he watched the light in Jed Hawkins' cabin, and strained his ears to hear a sound of footsteps coming through the moonlight.

But there was no change. The light did not move. A door did not open or close. There was no sound, except the growing whisper of the wind, the call of a night bird, and the howl of the old gray wolf that always cried out to the moon from the tangled depths of Indian Tom's swamp.

A thrill of nervousness swept through Jolly Roger. He waited half an hour, three-quarters, an hour—after the moon had risen. And Nada did not come. The nervousness grew in him, and he moved out into the moon-glow, and slowly and watchfully followed the edge of the rock-shadows until he came to the fringe of cedars and spruce behind the cabin. Peter, careful not to snap a twig under his paws, followed closely. They came to the cabin, and there—very distinctly—Jolly Roger McKay heard the low moaning of a voice.

He edged his way to the window, and looked in.

Crouched beside a chair in the middle of the floor was Jed Hawkins's woman. She was moaning, and her thin body was rocking back and forth, and with her hands clasped at her bony breast she was staring at the open door. With a shock Jolly Roger saw that except for the strangely crying old woman the cabin was empty. Sudden fear chilled his blood—a fear that scarcely took form before he was at the door, and in the cabin. The woman's eyes were red and wild as she stared at him, and she stopped her moaning, and her hands unclasped. Jolly Roger went nearer and bent over her and shivered at the half-mad terror he saw in her face.

"Where is Nada?" he demanded. "Tell me—where is she?"

"Gone, gone, gone," crooned the woman, clutching her hands at her breast again. "Jed has taken her—taken her to Mooney's shack, over near the railroad. Oh, my God!—I tried to keep her, but I couldn't. He dragged her away, and tonight he's sellin' her to Mooney—the devil—the black brute—the tie-cutter—"

She choked, and began rocking herself back and forth, and the moaning came again from her thin lips. Fiercely McKay gripped her by the shoulder.

"Mooney's shack—where?" he cried. "Quick! Tell me!"

"A thousand—a thousand—he's givin' a thousand dollars to git her in the shack—alone," she cried in a dull, sing-song voice. "The road out there leads straight to it. Near the railroad. A mile. Two miles. I tried to keep him from doin' it, but I couldn't—I couldn't—"

Jolly Roger heard no more. He was out of the door, and running across the open, with Peter racing close behind him. They struck the road, and Jolly Roger swung into it, and continued to run until the breath was out of his lungs. And all that time the things Nada had told him about Jed Hawkins and the tie-cutter were rushing madly through his brain. An hour or two ago, when the words had come from her lips in the jackpine thicket, he had believed that Nada was frightened, that a distorted fear possessed her, that such a thing as she had half confessed to him was too monstrous to happen. And now he cried out aloud, a groaning, terrible cry as he went on. Hawkins and Nada had reached Mooney's shack long before this, a shack buried deep in the wilderness, a shack from which no cries could be heard—

Peter, trotting behind, whined at what he heard in Jolly Roger McKay's panting voice. And the moon shone on them as they staggered and ran, and here and there dark clouds were racing past the face of it, and the slumberous whisper of storm grew nearer in the air. And then came the time when one of the dark clouds rode under the moon and the two ran on in darkness. The cloud passed, and the moon flooded the road again with light—and suddenly Jolly Roger stopped in his tracks, and his heart almost broke in the strain of that moment.

Ahead of them, staggering toward them, sobbing as she came, was Nada. Jolly Roger's blazing eyes saw everything in that vivid light of the moon. Her hair was tangled and twisted about her shoulders and over her breast. One arm was bare where the sleeve had been torn away, and her girlish breast gleamed white where her waist had been stripped half from her body. And then she saw Jolly Roger in the trail, with wide-open, reaching arms, and with a cry such as Peter had never heard come from her lips before she ran into them, and held up her face to him in the yellow moon-light. In her eyes—great, tearless, burning pools—he saw the tragedy and yet it was only that, and not horror, not despair, not the other thing. His arms closed crushingly about her. Her slim body seemed to become a part of him. Her hot lips reached up and clung to his.

And then,

"Did—he get you—to—Mooney's shack—" He felt her body stiffen against him.

"No," she panted. "I fought—every inch. He dragged me, and hit me, and tore my clothes—but I fought. And up there—in the trail—he turned his back for a moment, when he thought I was done, and I hit him with a club. And he's there, now, on his back—"

She did not finish. Jolly Roger thrust her out from him, arm's length. A cloud under the moon hid his face. But his voice was low, and terrible.

"Nada, go to the Missioner's as fast as you can," he said, fighting to speak coolly. "Take Peter—and go. You will make it before the storm breaks. I am going back to have a few words with Jed Hawkins—alone. Then I will join you, and the Missioner will marry us—"

The cloud was gone, and he saw joy and radiance in her face. Fear had disappeared. Her eyes were luminous with the golden glow of the night. Her red lips were parted, entreating him with the lure of their purity and love, and for a moment he held her close in his arms again, kissing her as he might have kissed an angel, while her little hands stroked his face, and she laughed softly and strangely in her happiness—the wonder of a woman's soul rising swiftly out of the sweetness of her girlhood.

And then Jolly Roger set her firmly in the direction she was to go.

"Hurry, little girl," he said. "Hurry—before the storm breaks!"

She went, calling Peter softly, and Jolly Roger strode down the trail, not once looking back, and bent only upon the vengeance he would this night wreak upon the two lowest brutes in creation. Never before had he felt the desire to kill. But he felt that desire now. Before the night was much older he would do unto Hawkins and Mooney as Hawkins had done unto Peter. He would leave them alive, but broken and crippled and forever punished.

And then he stumbled over something in another darkening of the moon. He stopped, and the light came again, and he looked down into the upturned face of Jed Hawkins. It was a distorted and twisted face, and its one eye was closed. The body did not move. And close to the head was the club which Nada had used.

Jolly Roger laughed grimly. Fate was kind to him in making a half of his work so easy. But he wanted Hawkins to rouse himself first. Roughly he stirred him with the toe of his boot.

"Wake up, you fiend," he said. "I'm going to break your bones, your arms, your legs, just as you broke Peter—and that poor old woman back in the cabin. Wake up!"

Jed Hawkins made no stir. He was strangely limp. For many seconds Jolly Roger stood looking down at him, his eyes growing wider, more staring. Darkness came again. It was an inky blackness this time, like a blotter over the world. Low thunder came out of the west. The tree-tops whispered in a frightened sort of way. And Jolly Roger could hear his heart beating. He dropped upon his knees, and his hands moved over Jed Hawkins. For a space not even Peter could have heard his movement or his breath.

In the ebon darkness he rose to his feet, and the night—lifelessly still for a moment—heard the one choking word that came from his lips.


And there he stood, the heat of his rage changing to an icy chill, his heart dragging within him like a chunk of lead, his breath choking in his throat. Jed Hawkins was dead! He was growing stiff there in the black trail. He had ceased to breathe. He had ceased to be a part of life. And the wind, rising a little with the coming of storm, seemed to whisper and chortle over the horrible thing, and the lone wolf in Indian Tom's swamp howled weirdly, as if he smelled death.

Jolly Roger McKay's finger-nails dug into the flesh of his palms. If he had killed the human viper at his feet, if his own hands had meted out his punishment, he would not have felt the clammy terror that wrapped itself about him in the darkness. But he had come too late. It was Nada who had killed Jed Hawkins. Nada, with her woman's soul just born in all its glory, had taken the life of her foster-father. And Canadian law knew no excuse for killing.

The chill crept to his finger-tips, and unconsciously, in a childish sort of way, he sobbed between his clenched teeth. The thunder was rolling nearer, and it was like a threatening voice, a deep-toned booming of a thing inevitable and terrible. He felt the air shivering about him, and suddenly something moved softly against his foot, and he heard a questioning whine. It was Peter—come back to him in this hour when he needed a living thing to give him courage. With a groan he dropped on his knees again, and clutched his hands about Peter.

"My God," he breathed huskily. "Peter, she's killed him. And she mustn't know. We mustn't let anyone know—"

And there he stopped, and Peter felt him growing rigid as stone, and for many moments Jolly Roger's body seemed as lifeless as that of the man who lay with up-turned face in the trail. Then he fumbled in a pocket and found a pencil and an old envelope. And on the envelope, with the darkness so thick he could not see his hand, he scribbled, "I killed Jed Hawkins," and after that he signed his name firmly and fully—"Jolly Roger McKay."

Then he tucked the envelope under Jed Hawkins' body, where the rain could not get at it. And after that, to make the evidence complete, he covered the dead man's face with his coat.

"We've got to do it, Peter," he said, and there was a new note in his voice as he stood up on his feet again. "We've got to do it—for her. We'll—tell her we caught Jed Hawkins in the trail and killed him."

Caution, cleverness, his old mental skill returned to him. He dragged the boot-legger's body to a new spot, turned it face down, threw the club away, and kicked up the earth with his boots to give signs of a struggle.

The note in his voice was triumph—triumph in spite of its heartbreak—as he turned back over the trail after he had finished, and spoke to Peter.

"We may have done some things we oughtn't to, Pied-Bot," he said, "but tonight I sort o' think we've tried to make—restitution. And if they hang us, which they probably will some time, I sort o' think it'll make us happy to know we've done it—for her. Eh, Pied-Bot?"

And the moon sailed out for a space, and shone on the dead whiteness of Jolly Roger's face. And on the lips of that face was a strange, cold smile, a smile of mastery, of exaltation, and the eyes were looking straight ahead—the eyes of a man who had made his sacrifice for a thing more precious to him than his God.

Only now and then did the moon gleam through the slow-moving masses of black cloud when he came to the edge of the Indian settlement clearing three miles away, where stood the cabin of the Missioner. The storm had not broken, but seemed holding back its forces for one mighty onslaught upon the world. The thunder was repressed, and the lightning held in leash, with escaping flashes of it occasionally betraying the impending ambuscades of the sky.

The clearing itself was a blot of stygian darkness, with a yellow patch of light in the center of it—the window of the Missioner's cabin. And Jolly Roger stood looking at it for a space, as a carven thing of rock might have stared. His heart was dead. His soul crushed. His dream broken. There remained only his brain, his mind made up, his worship for the girl—a love that had changed from a thing of joy to a fire of agony within him. Straight ahead he looked, knowing there was only one thing for him to do. And only one. There was no alternative. No hope. No change of fortune that even the power of God might bring about. What lay ahead of him was inevitable.

After all, there is something unspeakable in the might and glory of dying for one's country—or for a great love. And Jolly Roger McKay felt that strength as he strode through the blackness, and knocked at the door, and went in to face Nada and the little old gray-haired Missioner in the lampglow.

Swift as one of the flashes of lightning in the sky the anxiety and fear had gone out of Nada's face, and in an instant it was flooded with the joy of his coming. She did not mark the strange change in him, but went to him as she had gone to him in the trail, and Jolly Roger's arms closed about her, but gently this time, and very tenderly, as he might have held a little child he was afraid of hurting. Then she felt the chill of his lips as she pressed her own to them. Startled, she looked up into his eyes. And as he had done in the trail, so now Jolly Roger stood her away from him, and faced the Missioner. In a cold, hard voice he told what had happened to Nada that evening, and of the barbarous effort Jed Hawkins had made to sell her to Mooney. Then, from a pocket inside his shirt, he drew out a small, flat leather wallet, and thrust it in the little Missioner's hand.

"There's close to a thousand dollars in that," he said. "It's mine. And I'm giving it to you—for Nada. I want you to keep her, and care for her, and mebby some day—"

With both her hands Nada clutched his arm. Her eyes had widened. Swift pallor had driven the color from her face, and a broken cry was in her voice.

"I'm goin' with you," she protested. "I'm goin' with you—and Peter!"

"You can't—now," he said. "I've got to go alone, Nada. I went back—and I killed Jed Hawkins."

Over the roof of the cabin rolled a crash of thunder. As the explosion of it rocked the floor under their feet, Jolly Roger pointed to a door, and said,

"Father, if you will leave us alone—just a minute—"

White-faced, clutching the wallet, the little gray Missioner nodded, and went to the door, and as he opened it and entered into the darkness of the other room he saw Jolly Roger McKay open wide his arms, and the girl go into them. After that the storm broke. The rain descended in a deluge upon the cabin roof. The black night was filled with the rumble and roar and the hissing lightning-flare of pent-up elements suddenly freed of bondage. And in the darkness and tumult the Missioner stood, a little gray man of tragedy, of deeply buried secrets, a man of prayer and of faith in God—his heart whispering for guidance and mercy as he waited. The minutes passed. Five. Ten. And then there came a louder roaring of the storm, shut off quickly, and the little Missioner knew that a door was opened—and closed.

He lifted the latch, and looked out again into the lampglow. Huddled at the side of a chair on the floor, her arms and face buried in the lustrous, disheveled mass of her shining hair—lay Nada, and close beside her was Peter. He went to her. Tenderly he knelt down beside her. His thin arm went about her, and as the storm raved and shrieked above them he tried to comfort her—and spoke of God.

And through that storm, his head bowed, his heart gone, went Jolly Roger McKay—heading north.

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