It was Peter who roused Jolly Roger many hours later; Peter nosing about the still burning embers of the fire, and at last muzzling his master's face with increasing anxiety. McKay sat up out of his nest of balsam boughs and blankets and caught the bright glint of sunlight through the treetops. He rubbed his eyes and stared again to make sure. Then he looked at his watch. It was ten o'clock and peering in the direction of the open he saw the white edge of it glistening in the unclouded blaze of a sun. It was the first sun—the first real sun—he had seen for many days, and with Peter he went to the rim of the barren a hundred yards distant. He wanted to shout. As far as he could see the white plain was ablaze with eye-blinding light, and never had the sky at Cragg's Ridge been clearer than the sky that was over him now.

He returned to the fire, singing. Back through the months leapt Peter's memory to the time when his master had sung like that. It was in Indian Tom's cabin, with Cragg's Ridge just beyond the creek, and it was in those days before Terence Cassidy had come to drive them to another hiding place; in the happy days of Nada's visits and of their trysts under the Ridge, when even the little gray mother mouse lived in a paradise with her nest of babies in the box on their cabin shelf. He had almost forgotten but it came back to him now. It was the old Jolly Roger—the old master come to life again.

In the clear stillness of the morning one might have heard that shouting song half a mile away. But McKay was no longer afraid. As the storm seemed to have cleaned the world so the sun cleared his soul of its last shadow of doubt. It was not merely an omen or a promise, but for him proclaimed a certainty. God was with him. Life was with him. His world was opening its arms to him again—and he sang as if Nada was only a mile away from him instead of a thousand.

When he went on, after their breakfast, he laughed at the thought of Breault discovering their trail. The Ferret would be more than human to do that after what wind and storm and fire had done for them.

This first day of their pilgrimage into the southland was a day of glory from its beginning until the setting of the sun. There was no cloud in the sky. And it grew warmer, until Jolly Roger flung back the hood of his parkee and turned up the fur of his cap. That night a million stars lighted the heaven.

After this first day and night nothing could break down the hope and confidence of Jolly Roger and his, dog. Peter knew they were going south, in which direction lay everything he had ever yearned for; and each night beside their campfire McKay made a note with pencil and paper and measured the distance they had come and the distance they had yet to go. Hope in a little while became certainty. Into his mind urged no thought of changes that might have taken place at Cragg's Ridge; or, if the thought did come, it caused him no uneasiness. Now that Jed Hawkins was dead Nada would be with the little old Missioner in whose care he had left her, and not for an instant did a doubt cloud the growing happiness of his anticipations. Breault and the hunters of the law were the one worry that lay ahead and behind him. If he outwitted them he would find Nada waiting for him.

Day after day they kept south and west until they struck the Thelon; and then through a country unmapped, and at times terrific in its cold and storm, they fought steadily to the frozen regions of the Dubawnt waterways. Only once in the first three weeks did they seek human company. This was at a small Indian camp where Jolly Roger bartered for caribou meat and moccasins for Peter's feet. Twice between there and God's Lake they stopped at trappers' cabins.

It was early in March when they struck the Lost Lake country, three hundred miles from Cragg's Ridge.

And here it was, buried under a blind of soft snow, that Peter nosed out the frozen carcass of a disemboweled buck which Boileau, the French trapper, had poisoned for wolves. Jolly Roger had built a fire and was warming half a pint of deer tallow for a baking of bannock, when Peter dragged himself in, his rear legs already stiffening with the palsy of strychnine. In a dozen seconds McKay had the warm tallow down Peter's throat, to the last drop of it; and this he followed with another dose as quickly as he could heat it, and in the end Peter gave up what he had eaten.

Half an hour later Boileau, who was eating his dinner, jumped up in wonderment when the door of his cabin was suddenly opened by a grim and white-faced man who carried the limp body of a dog in his arms.

For a long time after this the shadow of death hung over the Frenchman's trapping-shack. To Boileau, with his brotherly sympathy and regret that his poison-bait had brought calamity, Peter was "just dog." But when at last he saw the strong shoulders of the grim-faced stranger shaking over Peter's paralyzed body and listened to the sobbing grief that broke in passionate protest from his white lips, he drew back a little awed. It seemed for a time that Peter was dead; and in those moments Jolly Roger put his arms about him and buried his despairing face in Peter's scraggly neck, calling in a wild fit of anguish for him to come back, to live, to open his eyes again. Boileau, crossing himself, felt of Peter's body and McKay heard his voice over him, saying that the dog was not dead, but that his heart was beating steadily and that he thought the last stiffening blow of the poison was over. To McKay it was like bringing the dead back to life. He raised his head and drew away his arms and knelt beside the bunk stunned and mutely hopeful while Boileau took his place and began dropping warm condensed milk down Peter's throat. In a little while Peter's eyes opened and he gave a great sigh.

Boileau looked up and shrugged his shoulders.

"That was a good breath, m'sieu," he said. "What is left of the poison has done its worst. He will live."

A bit stupidly McKay rose to his feet. He swayed a little, and for the first time sensed the hot tears that had blinded his eyes and wet his cheeks. And then there came a sobbing laugh out of his throat and he went to the window of the Frenchman's shack and stared out into the white world, seeing nothing. He had stood in the presence of death many times before but never had that presence choked up his heart as in this hour when the soul of Peter, his comrade, had stood falteringly for a space half-way between the living and the dead.

When he turned from the window Boileau was covering Peter's body with blankets and a warm bear skin. And for many days thereafter Peter was nursed through the slow sickness which followed.

An early spring came this year in the northland. South of the Reindeer waterway country the snows were disappearing late in March and ice was rotting the first week in April. Winds came from the south and west and the sun was warmer and clearer than Boileau had ever known it at the winter's end in Lost Lake country. It was in this first week of April that Peter was able to travel, and McKay pointed his trail once more for Cragg's Ridge.

He left a part of his winter dunnage at Boileau's shack and went on light, figuring to reach Cragg's Ridge before the new "goose moon" had worn itself out in the west. But for a week Peter lagged and until the darker red in the rims of his eyes cleared away Jolly Roger checked the impetus of his travel so that the goose moon had faded out and the "frog moon" of May was in its full before they came down the last slope that dipped from the Height of Land to the forests and lakes of the lower country.

And now, in these days, it seemed to Jolly Roger that a great kindness, and not tragedy, had delayed him so that his "home coming" was in the gladness of spring. All about him was the sweetness and mystic whispering of new life just awakening. It was in the sky and the sun; it was underfoot, in the fragrance of the mold he trod upon, in the trees about him, and in the mate-chirping of the birds flocking back from the southland. His friends the jays were raucous and jaunty again, bullying and bluffing in the warmth of sunshine; the black glint of crows' wings flashed across the opens; the wood-sappers and pewees and big-eyed moose-birds were aflutter with the excitement of home planning; partridges were feasting on the swelling poplar buds—and then, one glorious sunset, he heard the chirruping evening song of his first robin.

And the next day they would reach Cragg's Ridge!

Half of that last night he sat up, awake, or smoked in the glow of his fire, waiting for the dawn. With the first lifting of darkness he was traveling swiftly ahead of Peter and the morning was only half gone when he saw far ahead of him the great ridge which shut out Indian Tom's swamp, and Nada's plain, and Cragg's Ridge beyond it.

It was noon when he stood at the crest of this. He was breathing hard, for to reach this last precious height from which he might look upon the country of Nada's home he had half run up its rock-strewn side. There, with his lungs gasping for air, his eager eyes shot over the country below him and for a moment the significance of the thing which he saw did not strike him. And then in another instant it seemed that his heart choked up, like a fist suddenly tightened, and stopped its beating.

Reaching away from him, miles upon miles of it, east, west and south—was a dead and char-stricken world.

Up to the foot of the ridge itself had come the devastation of flame, and where it had swept, months ago, there was now no sign of the glorious spring that lay behind him.

He looked for Indian Tom's swamp, and where it had been there was no longer a swamp but a stricken chaos of ten thousand black stubs, the shriven corpses of the spruce and cedar and jackpines out of which the wolves had howled at night.

He looked for the timber on Sucker Creek where the little old Missioner's cabin lay, and where he had dreamed that Nada would be waiting for him. And he saw no timber there but only the littleness and emptiness of a blackened world.

And then he looked to Cragg's Ridge, and along the bald crest of it, naked as death, he saw blackened stubs pointing skyward, painting desolation against the blue of the heaven beyond.

A cry came from him, a cry of fear and of horror, for he was looking upon the fulfilment of Yellow Bird's prediction. He seemed to hear, whispering softly in his ears, the low, sweet voice of the sorceress, as on the night when she had told him that if he returned to Cragg's Ridge he would find a world that had turned black with ruin and that it would not be there he would ever find Nada.

After that one sobbing cry he tore like a madman dawn into the valley, traveling swiftly through the muck of fire and under-foot tangle with Peter fighting behind him. Half an hour later he stood where the Missioner's cabin had been and he found only a ruin of ash and logs burned down to the earth. Where the trail had run there was no longer a trail. A blight, grim and sickening, lay upon the earth that had been paradise.

Peter heard the choking sound in his master's throat and chest. He, too, sensed the black shadow of tragedy and cautiously he sniffed the air, knowing that at last they were home—and yet it was not home. Instinctively he had faced Cragg's Ridge and Jolly Roger, seeing the dog's stiffened body pointing toward the break beyond which lay Nada's old home, felt a thrill of hope leap up within him. Possibly the farther plain had escaped the scourge of fire. If so, Nada would be there, and the Missioner—

He started for the break, a mile away. As he came nearer to it his hope grew less for he could see where the flames had swept in an inundating sea along Cragg's Ridge. They passed over the meadow where the thick young jackpines, the red strawberries and the blue violets had been and Peter heard the strange sob when they came to the little hollow—the old trysting place where Nada had first given herself into his master's arms. And there it was that Peter forgot master and caution and sped swiftly ahead to the break that cut the Ridge in twain.

When Jolly Roger came to that break and ran through it he was staggering from the mad effort he had made. And then, all at once, the last of his wind came in a cry of gladness. He swayed against a rock and stood there staring wild-eyed at what was before him. The world was as black ahead of him as it was behind. But Jed Hawkins' cabin was untouched! The fire had crept up to its very door and there it had died.

He went on the remaining hundred yards and before the closed door of Nada's old home he found Peter standing stiff-legged and strange. He opened the door and a damp chill touched his face. The cabin was empty. And the gloom and desolation of a grave filled the place.

He stepped in, a moaning whisper of the truth coming to his lips. He heard the scurrying flight of a starved wood-rat, a flutter of loose papers, and then the silence of death fell about him. The door of Nada's little room was open and he entered through it. The bed was naked and there remained only the skeleton of things that had been.

He moved now like a man numbed by a strange sickness and Peter followed gloomily and silently in the footsteps of his master. They went outside and a distance away Jolly Roger saw a thing rising up out of the char of fire, ugly and foreboding, like the evil spirit of desolation itself. It was a rude cross made of saplings, up which the flames had licked their way, searing it grim and black.

His hands clenched slowly for he knew that under the cross lay the body of Jed Hawkins, the fiend who had destroyed his world.

After that he re-entered the cabin and went into Nada's room, closing the door behind him; and for many minutes thereafter Peter remained outside guarding the outer door, and hearing no sound or movement from within.

When Jolly Roger came out his face was set and white, and he looked where the thick forest had stood on that stormy night when he ran down the trail toward Mooney's cabin. There was no forest now. But he found the old tie-cutters' road, cluttered as it was with the debris of fire, and he knew when he came to that twist in the trail where long ago Jed Hawkins had lain dead on his back. Half a mile beyond he came to the railroad. Here it was that the fire had burned hottest, for as far as his vision went he could see no sign of life or of forest green alight in the waning sun.

And now there fell upon him, along with the desolation of despair, a something grimmer and more terrible—a thing that was fear. About him everywhere reached this graveyard of death, leaving no spot untouched. Was it possible that Nada and the Missioner had not escaped its fury? The fear settled upon him more heavily as the sun went down and the gloom of evening came, bringing with it an unpleasant chill and a cloying odor of things burned dead.

He did not talk to Peter now. There was a lamp in the cabin and wood behind the stove, and silently he built a fire and trimmed and lighted the wick when darkness came. And Peter, as if hiding from the ghosts of yesterday, slunk into a corner and lay there unmoving and still. And McKay did not get supper nor did he smoke, but after a long time he carried his blankets into Nada's room, and spread them out upon her bed. Then he put out the light and quietly laid himself down where through the nights of many a month and year Nada had slept in the moon glow.

The moon was there tonight. The faint glow of it rose in the east and swiftly it climbed over the ragged shoulder of Cragg's Ridge, flooding the blackened world with light and filling the room with a soft and golden radiance. It was a moon undimmed, full and round and yellow; and it seemed to smile in through the window as if some living spirit in it had not yet missed Nada, and was embracing her in its glory. And now it came upon Jolly Roger why she had loved it even more than she had loved the sun; for through the little window it shut out all the rest of the world, and sitting up, he seemed to hear her heart beating at his side and clearly he saw her face in the light of it and her slim arms out-reaching, as if to gather it to her breast. Thus—many times, she had told him—had she sat up in her bed to greet the moon and to look for the smiling face that was almost always there, the face of the Man in the Moon, her friend and playmate in the sky.

For a space his heart leapt up; and then, as if discovery of the usurper in her room had come, a cloud swept over the face of the moon like a mighty hand and darkness crowded him in. But the cloud sailed on and the light drove out the gloom again. Then it was that Jolly Roger saw the Old Man in the Moon was up and awake tonight, for never had he seen his face more clearly. Often had Nada pointed it out to him in her adorable faith that the Old Man loved her, telling him how this feature changed and that feature changed, how sometimes the Old Man looked sick and at others well, and how there were times when he smiled and was happy and other times when he was sad and stern and sat there in his castle in the sky sunk in a mysterious grief which she could not understand.

"And always I can tell whether I'm going to be glad or sorry by the look of the Man in the Moon," she had said to him. "He looks down and tells me even when the clouds are thick and he can only peep through now and then. And he knows a lot about you, Mister—Jolly Roger—because I've told him everything."

Very quietly Jolly Roger got up from the bed and very strange seemed his manner to Peter as he walked through the outer room and into the night beyond. There he stood making no sound or movement, like one of the lifeless stubs left by fire; and Peter looked up, as his master was looking, trying to make out what it was he saw in the sky. And nothing was there—nothing that he had not seen many times before; a billion stars, and the moon riding King among them all, and fleecy clouds as if made of web, and stillness, a great stillness that was like sleep in the lap of the world.

For a little Jolly Roger was silent and then Peter heard him saying,

"Yellow Bird was right—again. She said we'd find a black world down here and we've found it. And we're going to find Nada where she told us we'd find her, in that place she called The Country Beyond—the country beyond the forests, beyond the tall trees and the big swamps, beyond everything we've ever known of the wild and open spaces; the country where God lives in churches on Sunday and where people would laugh at some of our queer notions, Pied-Bot. It's there we'll find Nada, driven out by the fire, and waiting for us now in the settlements."

He spoke with a strange and quiet conviction, the haggard look dying out of his face as he stared up into the splendor of the sky.

And then he said.

"We won't sleep tonight, Peter. We'll travel with the moon."

Half an hour later, as the lonely figures of man and dog headed for the first settlement a dozen miles away, there seemed to come for an instant the flash of a satisfied smile in the face of the Man in the sky.

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