McKay still had his mind on a certain stretch of timber that reached out into the Barren Lands, hundreds of miles farther north. In this hiding place, three years before, he had built himself a cabin, and had caught foxes during half the long winter. Not only the cabin, but the foxes, were drawing him. Necessity was close upon his heels. What little money he possessed after leaving Cragg's Ridge was exhausted, his supplies were gone, and his boots and clothes were patched with deer hide.

In the Snowbird Lake country, a week after he left Cassidy in his paradise at Wollaston, he fell in with good fortune. Two trappers had come in from Churchill. One of them was sick, and the other needed help in the building of their winter cabin. McKay remained with them for ten days, and when he continued his journey northward his pack was stuffed with supplies, and he wore new boots and more comfortable clothes.

It was the middle of October when he found his old cabin, a thousand miles from Cragg's Ridge. It was as he had left it three years ago. No one had opened its door since then. The little box stove was waiting for a fire. Behind it was a pile of wood. On the table were the old tin dishes, and hanging from babiche cords fastened to the roof timbers, out of reach of mice and ermine, were blankets and clothing and other possessions he had left behind him in that winter break-up of what seemed like ages ago to him. He raised a small section in the floor, and there were his traps, thickly coated with caribou grease. For half an hour before he built a fire he sought eagerly for the things he had concealed here and there. He found oil, and a tin lamp, and candles, and as darkness of the first night gathered outside a roaring fire sent sparks up the chimney, and the little cabin's one window glowed with light, and the battered old coffee pot bubbled and steamed again, as if rejoicing at his return.

With the breaking of another day he immediately began preparations for the season's trapping. In two days' hunting he killed three caribou, his winter meat. Then he cut wood, and made his strychnine poison baits, and marked out his trap-lines.

The first of November brought the chill whisperings of an early winter through the Northland. Farther south autumn was dying, or dead. The last of the red ash berries hung shriveled and frost-bitten on naked twigs, freezing nights were nipping the face of the earth, the voices of the wilderness were filled with a new note and the winds held warning for every man and beast between Hudson's Bay and the Great Slave and from the Height of Land to the Arctic Sea. Seven years before there had come such a winter, and the land had not forgotten it—a winter sudden and swift, deadly in its unexpectedness, terrific in its cold, bringing with it such famine and death as the Northland had not known for two generations.

But this year there was premonition. Omen of it came with the first wailing night winds that bore the smell of icebergs from over the black forests north and west. The moon came up red, and it went down red, and the sun came up red in the morning. The loon's call died a month ahead of its time. The wild geese drove steadily south when they should have been feeding from the Kogatuk to Baffin's Bay, and the beaver built his walls thick, and anchored his alders and his willows deep so that he would not starve when the ice grew heavy. East, west, north and south, in forest and swamp, in the trapper's cabin and the wolf's hiding-place, was warning of it. Gray rabbits turned white. Moose and caribou began to herd. The foxes yipped shrilly in the night, and a new hunger and a new thrill sent the wolves hunting in packs, while the gray geese streaked southward under the red moon overhead.

Through this November, and all of December, Jolly Roger and Peter were busy from two hours before dawn of each day until late at night. The foxes were plentiful, and McKay was compelled to shorten his lines and put out fewer baits, and on the tenth of December he set out for a fur-trading post ninety miles south with two hundred and forty skins. He had made a toboggan, and a harness for Peter, and pulling together they made the trip in three days, and on the fourth started for the cabin again with supplies and something over a thousand dollars in cash.

Through the weeks of increasing storm and cold that followed, McKay continued to trap, and early in February he made another trip to the fur post.

It was on their return that they were caught in the Black Storm. It will be a long time before the northland will forget that storm. It was a storm in which the Sarcees died to a man, woman and child over on the Dubawnt waterways, and when trees froze solid and split open with the sharp explosions of high-power guns. In it, all furred and feathered life and all hoof and horn along the edge of the Barren Lands from Aberdeen Lake to the Coppermine was swallowed up. It was in this storm that streams froze solid, and the man who was cautious fastened a babiche rope about his waist when he went forth from his cabin for wood or water, so that his wife might help to pull and guide him back through that blinding avalanche of wind and freezing fury that held a twisted and broken world in its grip.

In the country west of Artillery Lake and south of the Theolon River, Jolly Roger and Peter were compelled to "dig in." They were in a country where the biggest stick of wood that thrust itself up out of the snow was no bigger than McKay's thumb; a country of green grass and succulent moss on which the caribou fed in season, but a hell on earth when arctic storm howled and screamed across it in winter.

Piled up against a mass of rock Jolly Roger found a huge snow drift. This drift was as long as a church and half as high, with its outer shell blistered and battered to the hardness of rock by wind and sleet. Through this shell he cut a small door with his knife, and after that dug out the soft snow from within until he had a room half as big as his cabin, and so snug and warm after a little with the body heat of himself and Peter that he could throw off the thick coat which he wore.

To Peter, in the first night of this storm, it seemed as though all the people in the world were shrieking and wailing and sobbing in the blackness outside. Jolly Roger sat smoking his pipe at intervals in the gloom, though there was little pleasure in smoking a pipe in darkness. The storm did not oppress him, but filled him with an odd sense of security and comfort. The wind shrieked and lashed itself about his snow-dune, but it could not get at him. Its mightiest efforts to destroy only beat more snow upon him, and made him safer and warmer. In a way, there was something of humor as well as tragedy in its wild frenzy, and Peter heard him laugh softly in the darkness. More and more frequently he had heard that laugh since those warm days of autumn when they had last met the red-headed man, Terence Cassidy, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and his master had shot him on the white shore of Wollaston.

"You see," said McKay, caressing Peter's hairy neck in the gloom. "Everything is turning out right for us, and I'm beginning to believe more and more what Yellow Bird told us, and that in the end we're going to be happy—somewhere—with Nada. What do you think, Pied-Bot? Shall we take a chance, and go back to Cragg's Ridge in the spring?"

Peter wriggled himself in answer, as a wild shriek of wind wailed over the huge snow-dune.

Jolly Roger's fingers tightened at Peter's neck.

"Well, we're going," he said, as though he was telling Peter something new. "I'm believing Yellow Bird, Pied-Bot. I'm believing her—now. What she told us was more than fortune-telling. It wasn't just Indian sorcery. When she shut herself up and starved for those three days and nights in her little conjurer's house, just for you and me—SOMETHING HAPPENED. Didn't it? Wouldn't you say something happened?"

Peter swallowed and his teeth clicked as he gave evidence of understanding.

"She told us a lot of truth," went on Jolly Roger, with deep faith in his voice "And we must believe, Pied-Bot. She told us Cassidy was coming after us, and he came. She said the spirits promised her the law would never get us, and we thought it looked bad when Cassidy had us covered with his gun on the shore at Wollaston. But something more than luck was with us, and we shot him. Then we brought him back to life and lugged him to a cabin, and the little stranger girl took him, and nursed him, and Cassidy fell in love with her—and married her. So Yellow Bird was right again, Pied-Bot. We've got to believe her. And she says everything is coming out right for us, and that we are going back to Nada, and be happy—"

Jolly Roger's pipe-bowl glowed in the blackness.

"I'm going to light the alcohol lamp," he said. "We can't sleep. And I want a good smoke. It isn't fun when you can't see the smoke. Too bad God forgot to make you so you could use a pipe, Peter. You don't know what you are missing—in times like these."

He fumbled in his pack and found the alcohol lamp, which was fresh filled and screwed tight. Peter heard him working for a moment in the darkness. Then he struck a match, and the yellow flare of it lighted up his face. In his joy Peter whined. It was good to see his master. And then, in another moment, the little lamp was filling their white-walled refuge with a mellow glow. Jolly Roger's eyes, coming suddenly out of darkness, were wide and staring. His face was covered with a scrub beard. But there was something of cheer about him even in this night of terror outside, and when he had driven his snowshoe into the snow wall, and had placed the lamp on it, he grinned companionably at Peter.

Then, with a deep breath of satisfaction, he puffed out clouds of smoke from his pipe, and stood up to look about their room.

"Not so bad, is it?" he asked. "We could have a big house here if we wanted to dig out rooms—eh, Peter? Parlors, and bed-rooms, and a library—and not a policeman within a million miles of us. That's the nice part of it, PIED-BOT—none of the Royal Mounties to trouble us. They would never think of looking for us in the heart of a big snow-dune out in this God-forsaken barren, would they?"

The thought was a pleasing one to Jolly Roger. He spread out his blankets on the snow floor, and sat down on them, facing Peter.

"We've got 'em beat," he said, a chuckling note of pride in his voice. "The world is small when it comes to hiding, Pied-Bot, but all the people in it couldn't find us here—not in a million years. If we could only find a place as safe as this—where a girl could live—and had Nada with us—"

Many times during the past few weeks Peter had seen the light that flamed up now in his master's eyes. That, and the strange thrill in Jolly Roger's voice, stirred him more than the words to which he listened, and tried to understand.

"And we're going to," finished McKay, almost fiercely, his hands clenching as he leaned toward Peter. "We have made a big mistake, Pied-Bot, and it has taken us a long time to see it. It will be hard for us to leave our north country, but that is what we must do. Maybe Yellow Bird's good spirits meant that when they said we would find happiness with Nada in a place called The Country Beyond. There are a lot of 'Countries Beyond,' Peter, and as soon as the spring break-up comes and we can travel without leaving trails behind us we will go back to Cragg's Ridge and get Nada, and hit for some place where the law won't expect to find us. There's China, for instance. A lot of yellow people. But what do we care for color as long as we have her with us? I say—"

Suddenly he stopped. And Peter's body grew tense. Both faced the round hole, half filled with softly packed snow, which McKay had cut as a door into the heart of the big drift. They had grown accustomed to the tumult of the storm. Its strange wailings and the shrieking voices which at times seemed borne in the moaning sweep of it no longer sent shivers of apprehension through Peter. But in that moment when both turned to listen there came a sound which was not like the other sounds they had heard. It was a voice—not one of the phantom voices of the screaming wind, but a voice so real and so near that for a beat or two even Jolly Roger McKay's heart stood still. It was as if a man, standing just beyond their snow barricade, had shouted a name. But there came no second call. The wind lulled, so that for a space there was stillness outside.

Jolly Roger laughed a little uneasily.

"Good thing we don't believe in ghosts, Peter, or we would swear it was a Loup-Garou smelling us through the wall!" He thumbed the tobacco down in his pine, and nodded. "Then—there is South America," he said. "They have everything down there—the biggest rivers in the world, the biggest mountains, and so much room that even a Loup-Garou couldn't hunt us out. She will love it, Pied-Bot. But if it happens she likes Africa better, or Australia, or the South Sea—Now, what the devil was that?"

Peter had jumped as if stung, and for a moment Jolly Roger sat tense as a carven Indian. Then he rose to his feet, a look of perplexity and doubt in his eyes.

"What was it, Peter? Can the wind shoot a gun—like that?"

Peter was sniffing at the loosely blocked door of their snow-room. A whimper rose in his throat. He looked up at Jolly Roger, his eyes glowing fiercely through the mass of Airedale whiskers that covered his face. He wanted to dig. He wanted to plunge out into the howling darkness. Slowly McKay beat the ash out of his pipe and placed the pipe in his pocket.

"We'll take a look," he said, something repressive in his voice. "But it isn't reasonable, Peter. It is the wind. There couldn't be a man out there, and it wasn't a rifle we heard. It is the wind—with the devil himself behind it!"

With a few sweeps of his hands and arms he scooped out the loose snow from the hole. The opening was on the sheltered side of the drift, and only the whirling eddies of the storm swept about him as he thrust out his head and shoulders. But over him it was rushing like an avalanche. He could hear nothing but the moaning advance of it. And he could see nothing. He held out his hand before his face, and blackness swallowed it.

"We have been chased so much that we're what you might call super-sensitive," he said, pulling himself back and nodding at Peter in the gray light of the alcohol lamp. "Guess we'd better turn in, boy. This is a good place to sleep—plenty of fresh air, no mosquitoes or black flies, and the police so far away that we will soon forget how they look. If you say so we will have a nip of cold tea and a bite—"

He did not finish. For a moment the wind had lessened in fury, as if gathering a deeper breath. And what he heard drew a cry from him this time, and a sharper whine from Peter. Out of the blackness of the night had come a woman's voice! In that first instant of shock and amazement he would have staked his life that what he heard was not a mad outcry of the night or an illusion of his brain. It was clear—distinct—a woman's voice coming from out on the Barren, rising above the storm in an agony of appeal, and dying out quickly until it became a part of the moaning wind. And then, with equal force, came the absurdity of it to McKay. A woman! He swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat, and tried to laugh. A WOMAN—out in that storm—a thousand miles from nowhere! It was inconceivable.

The laugh which he forced from his lips was husky and unreal, and there was a smothering grip of something at his heart. In the ghostly light of the alcohol lamp his eyes were wide open and staring.

He looked at Peter. The dog stood stiff-legged before the hole. His body was trembling.


With a responsive wag of his tail Peter turned his bristling face up to his master. Many times Jolly Roger had seen that unfailing warning in his comrade's eyes. There was some one outside—or Peter's brain, like his own, was twisted and fooled by the storm!

Against his reasoning—in the face of the absurdity of it—Jolly Roger was urged into action. He changed the snowshoe and replaced the alcohol lamp so that the glow of light could be seen more clearly from the Barren. Then he went to the hole and crawled through. Peter followed him.

As if infuriated by their audacity, the storm lashed itself over the top of the dune. They could hear the hissing whine of fine hard snow tearing above their heads like volleys of shot, and the force of the wind reached them even in their shelter, bringing with it the flinty sting of the snow-dust. Beyond them the black barren was filled with a dismal moaning. Looking up, and yet seeing nothing in the darkness, Peter understood where the weird shriekings and ghostly cries came from. It was the wind whipping itself up the side and over the top of the dune.

Jolly Roger listened, hearing only the convulsive sweep of that mighty force over a thousand miles of barren. And then came again one of those brief intervals when the storm seemed to rest for a moment, and its moaning grew less and less, until it was like the sound of giant chariot wheels receding swiftly over the face of the earth. Then came the silence—a few seconds of it—while in the north gathered swiftly the whispering rumble of a still greater force.

And in this silence came once more a cry—a cry which Jolly Roger McKay could no longer disbelieve, and close upon the cry the report of a rifle. Again he could have sworn the voice was a woman's voice. As nearly as he could judge it came from dead ahead, out of the chaos of blackness, and in that direction he shouted an answer. Then he ran out into the darkness, followed by Peter. Another avalanche of wind gathered at their heels, driving them on like the crest of a flood. In the first force of it Jolly Roger stumbled and fell to his knees, and in that moment he saw very faintly the glow of his light at the opening in the snow dune. A realization of his deadly peril if he lost sight of the light flashed upon him. Again and again he called into the night. After that, bowing his head in the fury of the storm, he plunged on deeper into darkness.

A sudden wild thought seized upon his soul and thrilled him into forgetfulness of the light and the snow-dune and his own safety. In the heart of this mad world he had heard a voice. He no longer doubted it. And the voice was a woman's voice! Could it be Nada? Was it possible she had followed him after his flight, determined to find him, and share his fate? His heart pounded. Who else, of all the women in the world, could be following his trail across the Barrens—a thousand miles from civilization? He began to shout her name. "Nada—Nada—Nada!" And hidden in the gloom at his side Peter barked.

Storm and darkness swallowed them. The last faint gleam of the alcohol lamp died out. Jolly Roger did not look back. Blindly he stumbled ahead, counting his footsteps as he went, and shouting Nada's name. Twice he thought he heard a reply, and each time the will-o'-the-wisp voice seemed to be still farther ahead of him. Then, with a fiercer blast of the wind beating upon his back, he stumbled and fell forward upon his face. His hand reached out and touched the thing that had tripped him. It was not snow. His naked fingers clutched in something soft and furry. It was a man's coat. He could feel buttons, a belt, and the sudden thrill of a bearded face.

He stood up. The wind was wailing off over the Barren again, leaving an instant of stillness about him. And he shouted:


An answer came so quickly that it startled him, not one voice, but two—three—and one of them the shrill agonized cry of a woman. They came toward him as he continued to shout, until a few feet away he could make out a gray blur moving through the gloom. He went to it, staggering under the weight of the man he had found in the snow. The blur was made up of two men dragging a sledge, and behind the sledge was a third figure, moaning in the darkness.

"I found some one in the snow," Jolly Roger shouted. "Here he is—"

He dropped his burden, and the last of his words were twisted by a fresh blast of the storm. But the figure behind the sledge had heard, and Jolly Roger saw her indistinctly at his feet, shielding the man he had found with her arms and body, and crying out a name which he could not understand in that howling of the wind. But a thing like cold steel sank into his heart, and he knew it was not Nada he had found this night on the Barren. He placed the unconscious man on the sledge, believing he was dead. The girl was crying out something to him, unintelligible in the storm, and one of the men shouted in a thick throaty voice which he could not understand. Jolly Roger felt the weight of him as he staggered in the wind, fighting to keep his feet, and he knew he was ready to drop down in the snow and die.

"It's only a step," he shouted. "Can you make it?"

His words reached the ears of the others. The girl swayed through the darkness and gripped his arm. The two men began to tug at the sledge, and Jolly Roger seized the rope between them, wondering why there were no dogs, and faced the driving of the storm. It seemed an interminable time before he saw the faint glow of the alcohol lamp. The last fifty feet was like struggling against an irresistible hail from machine-guns. Then came the shelter of the dune.

One at a time McKay helped to drag them through the hole which he used for a door. For a space his vision was blurred, and he saw through the hazy film of storm-blindness the gray faces and heavily coated forms of those he had rescued. The man he had found in the snow he placed on his blankets, and the girl fell down upon her knees beside him. It was then Jolly Roger began to see more clearly. And in that same instant came a shock as unexpected as the smash of dynamite under his feet.

The girl had thrown back her parkee, and was sobbing over the man on the blankets, and calling him father. She was not like Nada. Her hair was in thick, dark coils, and she was older. She was not pretty—now. Her face was twisted by the brutal beating of the storm, and her eyes were nearly closed. But it was the man Jolly Roger stared at, while his heart choked inside him. He was grizzled and gray-bearded, with military mustaches and a bald head. He was not dead. His eyes were open, and his blue lips were struggling to speak to the girl whose blindness kept her from seeing that he was alive. And the coat which he wore was the regulation service garment of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police!

Slowly McKay turned, wiping the film of snow-sweat from his eyes, and stared at the other two. One of them had sunk down with his back to the snow wall. He was a much younger man, possibly not over thirty, and his face was ghastly. The third lay where he had fallen from exhaustion after crawling through the hole. Both wore service coats, with holsters at their sides.

The man against the snow-wall was making an effort to rise. He sagged back, and grinned up apologetically at McKay.

"Dam' fine of you, old man," he mumbled between blistered lips. "I'm Porter—'N' Division—taking Superintendent Tavish to Fort Churchill—Tavish and his daughter. Made a hell of a mess of it, haven't I?"

He struggled to his knees.

"There's brandy in our kit. It might help—over there," and he nodded toward the girl and the gray-bearded man on the blankets.

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