Days of new hope and gladness followed in the camp of Yellow Bird and Slim Buck. It was as if McKay, after a long absence, had come back to his own people. The tenderness of mother and sister lay warm in Yellow Bird's breast. Slim Buck loved him as a brother. The wrinkled faces of the old softened when he came near and spoke to them; little children followed him, and at dusk and dawn Sun Cloud held up her mouth to be kissed. For the first time in years McKay felt as if he had found home. The northland Indian Summer held the world in its drowsy arms, and the sun-filled days and the starry nights seemed overflowing with the promise of all time. Each day he put off his going until tomorrow, and each day Slim Buck urged him to remain with them always.

But in Yellow Bird's eyes was a strange, quiet mystery, and she did not urge. Each day and night she was watching—and waiting.

And at last that for which she watched and waited came to pass.

It was night, a dark, still night with a creeping restlessness in it. This restlessness was like the ghostly pulse of a great living body, still for a time, then moving, hiding, whispering between the clouds in the sky and the deeper shadowed earth below. A night of uneasiness, of unseen forces chained and stifled, of impending doubt and oppressive lifelessness.

There was no wind, yet under the stars gray masses of cloud sped as if in flight.

There was no breeze in the treetops, yet they whispered and sighed.

In the strange spell of this midnight, heavy with its unrest, the wilderness lay half asleep, half awake, with the mysterious stillness of death enshrouding it.

At the edge of the white sands of Wollaston, whose broad water was like oil tonight, stood the tepees of Yellow Bird's people. Smoke-blackened and seasoned by wind and rain they were dark blotches sentineling the shore of the big lake. Behind them, beyond the willows, were the Indian dogs. From them came an occasional whine, a deep sigh, the snapping of a jaw, and in the gloom their bodies moved restlessly. In the tepees was the spell of this same unrest. Sleep was never quite sure of itself. Men, women and little children twisted and rolled, or lay awake, and weird and distorted shapes and fancies came in dreams.

In her tepee Yellow Bird lay with her eyes wide open, staring at the gray blur of the smoke hole above. Her husband was asleep. Sun Cloud, tossing on her blankets, had flung one of her long braids so that it lay across her mother's breast. Yellow Bird's slim fingers played with its silken strands as she looked straight up into nothingness. Wide awake, she was thinking—thinking as Slim Buck—would never be able to think, back to the days when a white woman had been her goddess, and when a little white boy—the woman's son—had called Yellow Bird "my fairy."

In the gloom, with foreboding eating at her heart, Yellow Bird's red lips parted in a smile as those days came back to her, for they were pleasing days to think about. But after that the years sped swiftly in her mind until the day when the little boy—a man grown—came to save her tribe, and her own life, and the life of Sun Cloud, and of Slim Buck her husband. Since then prosperity and happiness had been her lot. The spirits had been good. They had not let her grow old, but had kept her still beautiful. And Sun Cloud, her little daughter, was beautiful, and Slim Buck was more than ever her god among men, and her people were happy. And all this she owed to the man who was sleeping under the gloom of the sky outside, the hunted man, the outlaw, "the little boy grown up"—Jolly Roger McKay.

As she listened, and stared up at the smoke hole, strange spirits were whispering to her, and Yellow Bird's blood ran a little faster and her eyes grew bigger and brighter in the darkness. They seemed to be accusing her. They told her it was because of her that Roger McKay had come in that winter of starvation and death, and had robbed and almost killed, that she and Slim Buck and little Sun Cloud might live. That was the beginning, and the thrill of it had got into the blood of Neekewa, her "little white brother grown up." And now he was out there, alone with his dog in the night—and the red-coated avengers of the law were hunting him. They wanted him for many things, but chiefly for the killing of a man.

Yellow Bird sat up, her little hands clenched about the thick braid of Sun Cloud's hair. She had conjured with the spirits and had let the soul go out of her body that she might learn the future for Neekewa, her white brother. And they had told her that Roger McKay had done right to think of killing.

Their voices had whispered to her that he would not suffer more than he had already suffered—and that in the Country Beyond he would find Nada the white girl, and happiness, and peace. Yellow Bird did not disbelieve. Her faith was illimitable. The spirits would not lie. But the unrest of the night was eating at her heart. She tried to lift herself to the whisperings above the tepee top. But they were unintelligible, like many voices mingling, and with them came a dull fear into her soul.

She put out a hand, as if to rouse Slim Buck. Then she drew it back, and placed Sun Cloud's braid away from her. She rose to her feet so quietly that even in their restlessness they did not fully awake. Through the tepee door she went, and stood up straight in the night, as if now she might hear more clearly, and understand.

For a space she breathed in the oppressive something that was in the air, and her eyes went east and west for sign of storm. But there was no threat of storm. The clouds were drifting slowly and softly, with starlight breaking through their rifts, and there was no moan of thunder or wail of wind far away. Her heart, for a little, seemed to stop its beating, and her hands clasped tightly at her breast. She began to understand, and a strange thrill crept into her. The spirits had put a great burden upon the night so that it might drive sleep from her eyes. They were warning her. They were telling her of danger, approaching swiftly, almost impending. And it was peril for the white man who was sleeping somewhere near.

Swiftly she began seeking for him, her naked little brown feet making no sound in the soft white sands of Wollaston.

And as she sought, the clouds thinned out above, and the stars shone through more clearly, as if to make easier for her the quest in the gloom.

Where he had made his bed of blankets in the sand, close beside a flat mass of water-washed sandstone, Jolly Roger lay half asleep. Peter was wide awake. His eyes gleamed brightly and watchfully. His lank and bony body was tense and alert. He did not whine or snap his jaws, though he heard the Indian dogs occasionally doing so. The comradeship of a fugitive, ever on the watch for his fellow men, had made him silent and velvet-footed, and had sharpened his senses to the keenness of knives. He, too, felt the impelling force of an approaching menace in this night of stillness and mystery, and he watched closely the restless movements of his master's body, and listened with burning eyes to the name which he had spoken three times in the last five minutes of his sleep.

It was Nada's name, and as Jolly Roger cried it out softly in the old way, as if Nada was standing before them, he reached out, and his hands struck the sandstone rock. His eyes opened, and slowly he sat up. The sky had cleared of clouds, and there was starlight, and in that starlight Jolly Roger saw a figure standing near him in the sand. At first he thought it was Sun Cloud, for Peter stood with his head raised to her. Then he saw it was Yellow Bird, with her beautiful eyes looking at him steadily and strangely as he awakened.

He got upon his feet and went to her, and took one of her hands. It was cold. He felt the shiver that ran through her slim body, and suddenly her eyes swept from him out into the night.

"Listen, Neekewa!"

Her fingers tightened in his hand. For a space he could hear the beating of her heart.

"Twice I have heard it," she whispered then. "Neekewa, you must go!"

"Heard what?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Something—I don't know what. But it tells me there is danger. And I saw danger over the tepee top, and I have heard whisperings of it all about me. It is coming. It is coming slowly and cautiously. It is very near. Hark, Neekewa! Was that not a sound out on the water?"

"I think it was the wing of a duck, Yellow Bird."

"And that!" she cried swiftly, her fingers tightening still more. "That sound—as if wood strikes on wood!"

"The croak of a loon far up the shore, Yellow Bird."

She drew her hand away.

"Neekewa, listen to me," she importuned him in Cree. "The spirits have made this night heavy with warning. I could not sleep. Sun Cloud twitches and moans. Slim Buck whispers to himself. You were crying out the name of Nada—Oo-Mee the Pigeon—when I came to you. I know. It is danger. It is very near. And it is danger for you."

"And only a short time ago you were confident happiness and peace were coming to me, Yellow Bird," reminded Jolly Roger. "The spirits, you said, promised the law should never get me, and I would find Nada again in that strange place you called the Country Beyond. Have the spirits changed their message, because the night is heavy?"

Yellow Bird's eyes were staring into darkness.

"No, they have not changed," she whispered. "They have spoken the truth. They want to tell me more, but for some reason it is impossible. They have tried to tell me where lies this place they call the Country Beyond—where you will again find Oo-Mee the Pigeon. But a cloud always comes between. And they are trying to tell me what the danger is off there—in the darkness." Suddenly she caught his arm. "Nee-kewa, did you hear?"

"A fish leaping in the still water, Yellow Bird."

He heard a low whimper in Peter's throat, and looking down he saw Peter's muzzle pointing toward the thick cloud of gloom over the lake.

"What is it, Pied-Bot?" he asked.

Peter whimpered again.

Jolly Roger touched the cold hand that rested on his arm.

"Go back to your bed, Yellow Bird. There is only one danger for me—the red-coated police. And they do not travel in the dark hours of a night like this."

"They are coming," she replied. "I cannot hear or see, but they are coming!"

Her fingers tightened.

"And they are near," she cried softly.

"You are nervous, Yellow Bird," he said, thinking of the two days and three nights of her conjuring, when she had neither slept nor taken food, that she might more successfully commune with the spirits. "There is no danger. The night is a hard one for sleep. It has frightened you."

"It has warned me," she persisted, standing as motionless as a statue at his side. "Neekewa, the spirits do not forget. They have not forgotten that winter when you came, and my people were dying of famine and sickness—when I dreaded to see little Sun Cloud close her eyes even in sleep, fearing she would never open them again. They have not forgotten how all that winter you robbed the white people over on the Des Chenes, that we might live. If they remember those things, and lie, I would not be afraid to curse them. But they do not lie."

Jolly Roger McKay did not answer. Deep down in him that strange something was at work again, compelling him to believe Yellow Bird. She did not look at him, but in her low Cree voice, soft as the mellow notes of a bird, she was saying:

"You will be going very soon, Neekewa, and I shall not see you again for a long time. Do not forget what I have told you. And you must believe. Somewhere there is this place called the Country Beyond. The spirits have said so. And it is there you will find your Oo-Mee the Pigeon—and happiness. But if you go back to the place where you left The Pigeon when you fled from the red-coated men of the law, you will find only blackness and desolation. Believe, and you shall be guided. If you disbelieve—"

She stopped.

"You heard that, Neekewa? It was not the wing of a duck, nor was it the croak of a loon far up the shore, or a fish leaping in the still water. It was a paddle!"

In the star-gloom Jolly Roger McKay bowed his head, and listened.

"Yes, a paddle," he said, and his voice sounded strange to him. "Probably it is one of your people returning to camp, Yellow Bird."

She turned toward him, and stood very near. Her hands reached out to him. Her hair and eyes were filled with the velvety glow of the stars, and for an instant he saw the tremble of her parted lips.

"Goodby, Neekewa," she whispered.

And then, without letting her hands touch him, she was gone. Swiftly she ran to Slim Buck's tepee, and entered, and very soon she came out again with Slim Buck beside her. Jolly Roger did not move, but watched as Yellow Bird and her husband went down to the edge of the lake, and stood there, waiting for the strange canoe to pass—or come in. It was approaching. Slowly it came up, an indistinct shadow at first, but growing clearer, until at last he could see the silhouette of it against the star-silvered water beyond. There were two people in it. Before the canoe reached the shore Slim Buck stood out knee-deep in the water and hailed it.

A voice answered. And at the sound of that voice McKay dropped like a shot beside Peter, and Peter's lips curled up, and he snarled. His master's hand warned him, and together they slipped back into the shadows, and from under a piece of canvas Jolly Roger dragged forth his pack, and quietly strapped it over his shoulders while he waited and listened.

And then, as he heard the voice again, he grinned, and chuckled softly.

"It's Cassidy, Pied-Bot! We can't lose that redheaded fox, can we?"

A good humored deviltry lay in his eyes, and Peter—looking up—thought for a moment his master was laughing. Then Jolly Roger made a megaphone of his hands, and called very clearly out into the night.

"Ho, Cassidy! Is that you, Cassidy?"

Peter's heart was choking him as he listened. He sensed a terrific danger. There was no sound at the edge of the lake. There was no sound anywhere. For a few moments a death-like stillness followed Jolly Roger's words.

Then a voice came in answer, each word cutting the gloom with the decisive clearness of a bullet coming from a gun.

"Yes, this is Cassidy—Corporal Terence Cassidy, of 'M' Division, Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Is that you, McKay?"

"Yes, it's me," replied Jolly Roger. "Does the wager still hold, Cassidy?"

"It holds."

There was a shadowy movement on the beach. The voice came again.

"Watch yourself, McKay. If I see you I shall fire!"

With drawn gun Cassidy rushed toward the spot where Jolly Roger and Peter had stood. It was empty now, except for the bit of old canvas. Cassidy's Indian came up and stood behind him, and for many minutes they listened for the crackling of brush. Slim Buck joined them, and last came Yellow Bird, her dark eyes glowing like pools of fire in their excitement. Cassidy looked at her, marveling at her beauty, and suspicious of something that was in her face. He went back to the beach. There he caught himself short, astonishment bringing a sharp exclamation from his lips.

His canoe and outfit were gone!

Out of the star-gloom behind him floated a soft ripple of laughter as Yellow Bird ran to her tepee.

And from the mist of water—far out—came a voice, the voice of Jolly Roger McKay.

"Goodby, Cassidy!"

With it mingled the defiant bark of a dog.

In her tepee, a moment later, Yellow Bird drew Sun Cloud's glossy head close against her warm breast, and turned her radiant face up thankfully to the smoke hole in the tepee top, through which the spirits had whispered their warning to her. Indistinctly, and still farther away, her straining ears heard again the cry,

"Goodby, Cassidy!"

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