From the cabin McKay went first to the great rock that jutted from the broken shoulder of Cragg's Ridge, and as they stood there Peter heard the strange something that was like a laugh, and yet was not a laugh, on his master's lips. But his scraggly face did not look up. There was an answering whimper in his throat. He had been slow in sensing the significance of the mysterious thing that had changed his old home since months ago. During the hours of afternoon, and these moonlit hours that followed, he tried to understand. He knew this was home. Yet the green grass was gone, and a million trees had changed into blackened stubs. The world was no longer shut in by deep forests. And Cragg's Ridge was naked where he and Nada had romped in sunshine and flowers, and out of it all rose the mucky death-smell of the flame-swept earth. These things he understood, in his dog way. But what he could not understand clearly was why Nada was not in the cabin, and why they did not find her, even though the world was changed.

He sat back on his haunches, and Jolly Roger heard again the whimpering grief in his throat. It comforted the man to know that Peter remembered, and he was not alone in his desolation. Gently he placed a soot-grimed hand on his comrade's head.

"Peter, it was from this rock—right where we're standing now—that I first saw her, a long time ago," he said, a bit of forced cheer breaking through the huskiness of his voice. "Remember the little jackpine clump down there? You climbed up onto her lap, a little know-nothing thing, and you pawed in her loose curls, and growled so fiercely I could hear you. And when I made a noise, and she looked up, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen—just a kid, with those eyes like the flowers, and her hair shining in the sun, an' tear stains on her cheeks. Tear stains, Pied-Bot—because of that snake who's dead over there. Remember how you growled at me, Peter?"

Peter wriggled an answer.

"That was the beginning," said Jolly Roger, "and this—looks like the end. But—"

He clenched his fists, and there was a sudden fierceness in the grotesque movement of his shadow on the rock.

"We're going to find her before that end comes," he added defiantly. "We're going to find her, Pied-Bot, even if it takes us to the settlements—right up into the face of the law."

He set out over the rocks, his boots making hollow sounds in the deadness of the world about them. Again he followed where once had been the trail that led to Mooney's shack, over on the wobbly line of rail that rambled for eighty miles into the wilderness from Fort William. The P. D. & W. it was named—Port Arthur, Duluth & Western; but it had never reached Duluth, and there were those who had nicknamed it Poverty, Destruction & Want. Many times Jolly Roger had laughed at the queer stories Nada told him about it; how a wrecking outfit was always carried behind on the twice-a-week train, and how the crew picked berries in season, and had their trapping lines, and once chased a bear half way to Whitefish Lake while the train waited for hours. She called it the "Cannon Ball," because once upon a time it had made sixty-nine miles in twenty-four hours. But there was nothing of humor about it as Jolly Roger and Peter came out upon it tonight. It stretched out both ways from them, a thin, grim line of tragedy in the moonlight, and from where they stood it appeared to reach into a black and abysmal sea.

Once more man and dog paused, and looked back at what had been. And the whine came in Peter's throat again and something tugged inside him, urging him to bark up into the face of the moon, as he had often barked for Nada in the days of his puppyhood, and afterward.

But his master went on and Peter followed him, stepping the uneven ties one by one. And with the black chaos of the world under and about them, and the glorious light of the moon filling; the sky over their heads, the journey they made seemed weirdly unreal. For the silver and gold of the moon and the black muck of the fire refused to mingle, and while over their heads they could see the tiniest clouds and beyond to the farthest stars, all was black emptiness when they looked about them upon what once had been a living earth. Only the two lines of steel caught the moon-glow and the charred ends of the fire-shriven stubs that rose up out of the earth shroud and silhouetted themselves against the sky.

To Peter it was not what he failed to see, but what he did not hear or smell that oppressed him and stirred him to wide-eyed watchfulness against impending evil. Under many moons he had traveled with his master in their never-ending flight from the law, and many other nights with neither moon nor stars had they felt out their trails together. But always, under him and over him on all sides of him, there had been life. And tonight there was no life, nor smell of life. There was no chirp of night bird, or flutter of owl's wing, no plash of duck or cry of loon. He listened in vain for the crinkling snap of twig, and the whisper of wind in treetops. And there was no smell—no musk of mink that had crossed his path, no taste in the air of the strong scented fox, no subtle breath of partridge and rabbit and fleshy porcupine. And even from the far distances there came no sound, no howl of wolf, no castanet clatter of stout moose horns against bending saplings—not even the howl of a trapper's dog.

The stillness was of the earth, and yet unearthly. It was even as if some fearsome thing was smothering the sound of his master's feet. To McKay, sensing these same things that Peter sensed, came understanding that brought with it an uneasiness which changed swiftly into the chill of a growing fear. The utter lifelessness told him how vast the destruction of the fire had been. Its obliteration was so great no life had adventured back into the desolated country, though the conflagration must have passed in the preceding autumn, many months ago. The burned country was a grave and the nearest edge of it, judged from the sepulchral stillness of the night, was many miles away.

For the first time came the horror of the thought that in such a fire as this people must have died. It had swept upon them like a tidal wave, galloping the forests with the speed of a race horse, with only this thin line of rail leading to the freedom of life outside. In places only a miracle could have made escape possible. And here, where Nada had lived, with the pitch-wood forests crowding close, the fire must have burned most fiercely. In this moment, when fear of the unspeakable set his heart trembling, his faith fastened itself grimly to the little old gray Missioner, Father John, in whose cabin Nada had taken refuge many months ago, when Jed Hawkins lay dead in the trail with his one-eyed face turned up to the thunder and lightning in the sky. Father John, on that stormy night when he fled north, had promised to care for Nada, and in silence he breathed a prayer that the Missioner had saved her from the red death that had swept like an avalanche upon them. He told himself it must be so. He cried out the words aloud, and Peter heard him, and followed closer, so that his head touched his master's leg as he walked.

But the fear was there. From a spark it grew into a red-hot spot in Jolly Roger's heart. Twice in his own life he had raced against death in a forest fire. But never had he seen a fire like this must have been. All at once he seemed to hear the roar of it in his ears, the rolling thunder of the earth as it twisted in the cataclysm of flame, the hissing shriek of the flaming pitch-tops as they leapt in lightning fires against the smoke-smothered sky. A few hours ago he had stood where Father John's Cabin had been and the place was a ruin of char and ash. If the fire had hemmed them in and they had not escaped—

His voice cried out in sudden protest.

"It can't be, Peter. It can't be! They made the rail—or the lake—and we'll find them in the settlements. It couldn't happen. God wouldn't let her die like that!"

He stopped, and stared into the moon-broken gloom on his left. Something was there, fifty feet away, that drew him down through the muck which lay knee deep in the right-of-way ditch. It was what was left of the cutter's cabin, a clutter of burned logs, a wind scattered heap of ash. Even there, within arm's reach of the railroad, there had been no salvation from the fire.

He waded again through the muck of the ditch, and went on. Mentally and physically he was fighting the ogre that was striving to achieve possession of his brain. Over and over he repeated his faith that Nada and the Missioner had escaped and he would find them in the settlements. Less than ever he thought of the law in these hours. What happened to himself was of small importance now, if he could find Nada alive before the menace caught up with him from behind, or ambushed him ahead. Yet the necessity of caution impinged itself upon him even in the recklessness of his determination to find her if he had to walk into the arms of the law that was hunting him.

For an hour they went on, and as the moon sank westward it seemed to turn its face to look at them; and behind them, when they looked back, the world was transformed into a black pit, while ahead—with the glow of it streaming over their shoulders—ghostly shapes took form, and vision reached farther. Twice they caught the silvery gleam of lakes through the tree-stubs, and again they walked with the rippling murmur of a stream that kept for a mile within the sound of their ears. But even here, with water crying out its invitation to life, there was no life.

Another hour after that Jolly Roger's pulse beat a little faster as he strained his eyes to see ahead. Somewhere near, within a mile or two, was the first settlement with its sawmill and its bunkhouses, its one store and its few cabins, with flat mountains of sawdust on one side of it, and the evergreen forest creeping up to its doors on the other. Surely they would find life here, where there had been man power to hold fire back from the clearing. And it was here he might find Nada and the Missioner, for more than once Father John had preached to the red-cheeked women and children and the clear-eyed men of the Finnish community that thrived there.

But as they drew nearer he listened in vain for the bark of a dog, and his eyes quested as futilely for a point of light in the wide canopy of gloom. At last, close together, they rounded a curve in the road, and crossed a small bridge with a creek running below, and McKay knew his arm should be able to send a stone to what he was seeking ahead. And then, a minute later, he drew in a great gasping breath of unbelief and horror.

For the settlement was no longer in the clearing between him and the rim-glow of the moon. No living tree raised its head against the sky, no sign of cabin or mill shadowed the earth, and where the store had been, and the little church with its white-painted cross, was only a chaos of empty gloom.

He went down, as he had gone to the tie cutter's cabin, and for many minutes he stared and listened, while Peter seemed to stand without breathing. Then making a wide megaphone of his hands, he shouted. It was an alarming thing to do and Peter started as if struck. For there were only ghosts to answer back and the hollowness of a shriven pit for the cry to travel in. Nothing was there. Even the great sawdust piles had shrunk into black scars under the scourge of the fire.

A groaning agony was in the breath of Jolly Roger's lips as he went back to the railroad and hurried on Death must have come here, death sudden and swift. And if it had fallen upon the Finnish settlement, with its strong women and its stronger men, what might it not have done in the cabin of the little old gray Missioner—and Nada?

For a long time after that he forgot Peter was with him. He forgot everything but his desire to reach a living thing. At times, where the road-bed was smooth, he almost ran, and at others he paused for a little to gather his breath and listen. And it was Peter, in one of these intervals, who caught the first message of life. From a long distance away came faintly the barking of a dog.

Half a mile farther on they came to a clearing where no stubs of trees stood up like question marks against the sky, and in this clearing was a cabin, a dark blotch that was without light or sound. But from behind it the dog barked again, and Jolly Roger made quickly toward it. Here there was no ash under his feet, and he knew that at last he had found an oasis of life in the desolation. Loudly he knocked with his fist at the cabin door and soon there was a response inside, the heavy movement of a man's body getting out of bed, and after that the questioning voice of a woman. He knocked again and the flare of a lighted match illumined the window. Then came the drawing of a bar at the door and a man stood there in his night attire, a man with a heavy face and bristling beard, and a lamp in his hand.

"I beg your pardon for waking you," said Jolly Roger, "but I am just down from the north, hoping to find my friends back here and I have seen nothing but destruction and death. You are the first living soul I have found to ask about them."

"Where were they?" grunted the man.

"At Cragg's Ridge."

"Then God help them," came the woman's voice from back in the room.

"Cragg's Ridge," said the man, "was a burning hell in the middle of the night."

Jolly Roger's fingers dug into the wood at the edge of the door.

"You mean—"

"A lot of 'em died," said the man stolidly, as if eager to rid himself of the one who had broken his sleep. "If it was Mooney, he's dead. An' if it was Robson, or Jake the Swede, or the Adams family—they're dead, too."

"But it wasn't," said Jolly Roger, his heart choking between fear and hope. "It was Father John, the Missioner, and Nada Hawkins, who lived with him—or with her foster-mother in the Hawkins' cabin."

The man shook his head, and turned down the wick of his lamp.

"I dunno about the girl, or the old witch who was her mother," he said, "but the Missioner made it out safe, and went to the settlements."

"And no girl was with him?"

"No, there was no girl," came the woman's voice again, and Peter jerked up his ears at the creaking of a bed. "Father John stopped here the second day after the fire had passed, and he said he was gathering up the bones of the dead. Nada Hawkins wasn't with him, and he didn't say who had died and who hadn't. But I think—"

She stopped as the bearded man turned toward her.

"You think what?" demanded Jolly Roger, stepping half into the room.

"I think," said the woman, "that she died along with the others. Anyway, Jed Hawkins' witch-woman was burned trying to make for the lake, and little of her was left."

The man with the lamp made a movement as if to close the door.

"That's all we know," he growled.

"For God's sake—don't!" entreated Jolly Roger, barring the door with his arm. "Surely there were some who escaped from Cragg's Ridge and beyond!"

"Mebby a half, mebby less," said the man. "I tell you it burned like hell, and the worst of it came in the middle of the night with a wind behind it that blew a hurricane. We've twenty acres cleared here, with the cabin in the center of it, an' it singed my beard and burned her hair and scorched our hands, and my pigs died out there from the heat of it. Mebby it's a place to sleep in for the night you want, stranger?"

"No, I'm going on," said Jolly Roger, the blood in his veins running with the chill of water. "How far before I come to the end of fire?"

"Ten miles on. It started this side of the next settlement."

Jolly Roger drew back and the door closed, and standing on the railroad once more he saw the light go out and after that the occasional barking of the settler's dog grew fainter and fainter behind them.

He felt a great weariness in his bones and body now. With hope struck down the exhaustion of two nights and a day without sleep seized upon him and his feet plodded more and more slowly over the uneven ties of the road. Even in his weariness he fought madly against the thought that Nada was dead and he repeated the word "impossible—impossible" so often that it ran in sing-song through his brain. And he could not keep away from him the white, thin face of the Missioner, who had promised on his faith In God to care for Nada, and who had passed the settler's cabin alone.

Another two hours they went on and then came the first of the green timber. Under the shelter of some balsams Jolly Roger found a resting place and there they waited for the break of dawn. Peter stretched out and slept. But Jolly Roger sat with his head and shoulders against the bole of a tree, and not until the light of the moon was driven away by the darkness that preceded dawn by an hour or two did his eyes close in restless slumber. He was roused by the wakening twitter of birds and in the cold water of a creek that ran near he bathed his face and hands. Peter wondered why there was no fire and no breakfast this morning.

The settlement was only a little way ahead and it was very early when they reached it. People were still in their beds and out of only one chimney was smoke rising into the clear calm of the breaking day. From this cabin a young man came, and stood for a moment after he had closed the door, yawning and stretching his arms and looking up to see what sort of promise the sky held for the day. After that he went to a stable of logs, and Jolly Roger followed him there.

He was unlike the bearded settler, and nodded with a youthful smile of cheer.

"Good morning," he said. "You're traveling early, and—"

He looked more keenly as his eyes took in Jolly Roger's boots and clothes, and the gray pallor in his face.

"Just get in?" he asked kindly. "And—from the burnt country?"

"Yes, from the burnt country. I've been away a long time, and I'm trying to find out if my friends are among the living or the dead. Did you ever hear of Father John, the Missioner at Cragg's Ridge?"

The young man's face brightened.

"I knew him," he said. "He helped me to bury my brother, three years ago. And if it's him you seek, he is safe. He went up to Fort William a week after the fire, and that was in September, eight months past."

"And was there with him a girl named Nada Hawkins?" asked Jolly Roger, trying hard to speak calmly as he looked into the other's face.

The youth shook his head.

"No, he was alone. He slept in my cabin overnight, and he said nothing of a girl named Nada Hawkins."

"Did he speak of others?"

"He was very tired, and I think he was half dead with grief at what had happened. He spoke no names that I remember."

Then he saw the gray look in Jolly Roger's face grow deeper, and saw the despair which could not hide itself in his eyes.

"But there were a number of girls who passed here, alone or with their friends," he said hopefully. "What sort of looking girl was Nada Hawkins?"

"A—kid. That's what I called her," said Jolly Roger, in a dead, cold voice. "Eighteen, and beautiful, with blue eyes, and brown hair that she couldn't keep from blowing in curls about her face. So like an angel you wouldn't forget her if you'd seen her—just once."

Gently the youth placed a hand on Jolly Roger's arm.

"She didn't come this way," he said, "but maybe you'll find her somewhere else. Won't you have breakfast with me? I've a stranger in the cabin, still sleeping, who's going into the fire country from which you've come. He's hunting for some one, and maybe you can give him information. He's going to Cragg's Ridge."

"Cragg's Ridge!" exclaimed Jolly Roger. "What is his name?"

"Breault," said the youth. "Sergeant Breault, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police."

Jolly Roger turned to stroke the neck of a horse waiting for its morning feed. But he felt nothing of the touch of flesh under his hand. Cold as iron went his heart, and for half a minute he made no answer. Then he said:

"Thanks, friend. I breakfasted before it was light and I'm hitting out into the brush west and north, for the Rainy River country. Please don't tell this man Breault that you saw me, for he'll think badly of me for not waiting to give him information he might want. But—you understand—if you loved the brother who died—that it's hard for me to talk with anyone just now."

The young man's fingers touched his arm again.

"I understand," he said, "and I hope to God you'll find her."

Silently they shook hands, and Jolly Roger hurried away from the cabin with the rising spiral of smoke.

Three days later a man and a dog came from the burned country into the town of Fort William, seeking for a wandering messenger of God who called himself Father John, and a young and beautiful girl whose name was Nada Hawkins. He stopped first at the old mission, in whose shadow the Indians and traders of a century before had bartered their wares, and Father Augustine, the aged patriarch who talked with him, murmured as he went that he was a strange man, and a sick one, with a little madness lurking in his eyes.

And it was, in fact, a madness of despair eating out the life in Jolly Roger's heart. For he no longer had hope Nada had escaped the fire, even though at no place had he found a conclusive evidence of her death. But that signified little, for there were many of the missing who had not been found between the last of September and these days of May. What he did find, with deadly regularity, was the fact that Father John had escaped—and that he had traveled to safety ALONE.

And Father Augustine told him that when Father John stopped to rest for a few days at the Mission he was heading north, for somewhere on Pashkokogon Lake near the river Albany.

There was little rest for Peter and his master at Fort William town. That Breault must be close on their trail, and following it with the merciless determination of the ferret from which he had been named, there was no shadow of doubt in the mind of Jolly Roger McKay. So after outfitting his pack at a little corner shop, where Breault would be slow to enquire about him, he struck north through the bush toward Dog Lake and the river of the same name. Five or six days, he thought, would bring him to Father John and the truth which he dreaded more and more to hear.

The despondency of his master had sunk, in some mysterious way, into the soul of Peter. Without the understanding of language he sensed the oppressive gloom of tragedy behind and about him and there was a wolfish slinking in the manner of his travel now, and his confidence was going as he caught the disease of despair of the man who traveled with him. But constantly and vigilantly his eyes and scent were questing about them, suspicious of the very winds that whispered in the treetops. And at night after they had built their little cooking fire in the deepest heart of the bush he would lie half awake during the hours of darkness, the watchfulness of his senses never completely dulled in the stupor of sleep.

Since the night they had stopped at the settler's cabin Jolly Roger's face had grown grayer and thinner. A number of times he had tried to assure himself what he would do in that moment which was coming when he would stand face to face with Breault the man-hunter. His caution, after he left Fort William, was in a way an automatic instinct that worked for self-preservation in face of the fact that he was growing less and less concerned regarding Breault's appearance. It was not in his desire to delay the end much longer. The chase had been a long one, with its thrills and its happiness at times, but now he was growing tired and with Nada gone there was only hopeless gloom ahead. If she were dead he wanted to go to her. That thought was a dawning pleasure in his breast, and it was warm in his heart when he tied in a hard knot the buckskin string which locked the flap of his pistol holster. When Breault overtook him the law would know, because of the significance of this knot, that he had welcomed the end of the game.

Never in the northland had there come a spring more beautiful than this of the year in which McKay and his dog went through the deep wilds to Pashkokogon Lake. In a few hours, it seemed, the last chill died out of the air and there came the soft whispers of those bridal-weeks between May and Summer, a month ahead of their time. But Jolly Roger, for the first time in his life, failed to respond to the wonder and beauty of the earth's rejoicing. The first flowers did not fill him with the old joy. He no longer stood up straight, with expanding chest, to drink in the rare sweetness of air weighted with the tonic of balsams and cedar spruce. Vainly he tried to lift up his soul with the song and bustle of mating things. There was no longer music for him in the flood-time rushing of spring waters. An utter loneliness filled the cry of the loon. And all about him was a vast emptiness from which the spirit of life had fled for him.

Thus he came at last to a stream in the Burntwood country which ran into Pashkokogon Lake; and it was this day, in the mellow sunlight of late afternoon, that they heard coming to them from out of the dense forest the chopping of an axe.

Toward this they made their way, with caution and no sound, until in a little clearing in a bend of the stream they saw a cabin. It was a newly built cabin, and smoke was rising from the chimney.

But the chopping was nearer them, in the heart of a thick cover of evergreen and birch. Into this Jolly Roger and Peter made their way and came within a dozen steps of the man who was wielding the axe. It was then that Jolly Roger rose up with a cry on his lips, for the man was Father John the Missioner.

In spite of the tragedy through which he had passed the little gray man seemed younger than in that month long ago when Jolly Roger had fled to the north. He dropped his axe now and stood as if only half believing, a look of joy shining in his face as he realized the truth of what had happened. "McKay," he cried, reaching out his hands. "McKay, my boy!"

A look of pity mellowed the gladness in his eyes as he noted the change in Jolly Roger's face, and the despair that had set its mark upon it.

They stood for a moment with clasped hands, questioning and answering with the silence of their eyes. And then the Missioner said:

"You have heard? Someone has told you?"

"No," said Jolly Roger, his head dropping a little. "No one has told me," and he was thinking of Nada, and her death.

Father John's fingers tightened.

"It is strange how the ways of God bring themselves about," he spoke in a low voice. "Roger, you did not kill Jed Hawkins!"

Dumbly, his lips dried of words, Jolly Roger stared at him.

"No, you didn't kill him," repeated Father John. "On that same night of the storm when you thought you left him dead in the trail, he stumbled back to his cabin, alive. But God's vengeance came soon.

"A few days later, while drunk, he missed his footing and fell from a ledge to his death. His wife, poor creature, wished him buried in sight of the cabin door—"

But in this moment Roger McKay was thinking less of Breault the Ferret and the loosening of the hangman's rope from about his neck than he was of another thing. And Father John was saying in a voice that seemed far away and unreal:

"We've sent out word to all parts of the north, hoping someone would find you and send you back. And she has prayed each night, and each hour of the day the same prayer has been in her heart and on her lips. And now—"

Someone was coming to them from the direction of the cabin—someone, a girl, and she was singing,

McKay's face went whiter than the gray ash of fire.

"My God," he whispered huskily. "I thought—she had died!"

It was only then Father John understood the meaning of what he had seen in his face.

"No, she is alive," he cried. "I sent her straight north through the bush with an Indian the day after the fire. And later I left word for you with the Fire Relief Committee at Fort William, where I thought you would first enquire."

"And it was there," said Jolly Roger, "that I did not enquire at all!"

In the edge of the clearing, close to the thicket of timber, Nada had stopped. For across the open space a strange looking creature had raced at the sound of her voice; a dog with bristling Airedale whiskers, and a hound's legs, and wild-wolf's body hardened and roughened by months of fighting in the wilderness. As in the days of his puppyhood, Peter leapt up against her, and a cry burst from Nada's lips, a wild and sobbing cry of Peter, Peter, Peter—and it was this cry Jolly Roger heard as he tore away from Father John.

On her knees, with her arms about Peter's shaggy head, Nada stared wildly at the clump of timber, and in a moment she saw a man break out of it, and stand still, as if the mellow sunlight blinded him, and made him unable to move. And the same choking weakness was at her own heart as she rose up from Peter, and reached out her arms toward the gray figure in the edge of the wood, sobbing, trying to speak and yet saying no word.

And a little slower, because of his age, Father John came a moment later, and peered out with the knowledge of long years from a thicket of young banksians, and when he saw the two in the open, close in each other's arms, and Peter hopping madly about them, he drew out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes, and went back then for the axe which he had dropped in the timber clump.

There was a great drumming in Jolly Roger's head, and for a time he failed even to hear Peter yelping at their side, for all the world was drowned in those moments by the breaking sobs in Nada's breath and the wild thrill of her body in his arms; and he saw nothing but the upturned face, crushed close against his breast, and the wide-open eyes, and the lips to kiss. And even Nada's face he seemed to see through a silvery mist, and he felt her arms strangely about his neck, as if it was all half like a dream—a dream of the kind that had come to him beside his campfire. It was a little cry from Nada that drove the unreality away.

"Roger—you're—breaking me," she cried, gasping for her breath in his arms, yet without giving up the clasp of her own arms about his neck in the least; and at that he sensed the brutality of his strength, and held her off a little, looking into her face.

Pride and happiness and the courage in his heart would have slunk away could he have seen himself then, as Father John saw him, coming from the edge of the bush, and as Nada saw him, held there at the end of his arms. Since the day he had come with Peter to Cragg's Ridge the blade of a razor had not touched his face, and his beard was like a brush, and with it his hair unkempt and straggling; and his eyes were red from sleeplessness and the haunting of that grim despair which had dogged his footsteps.

But these things Nada did not see. Or, if she did, there must have been something beautiful about them for her. For it was not a little girl, but a woman who was standing there before Jolly Roger now—Nada grown older, very much older it seemed to McKay, and taller, with her hair no longer rioting free about her, but gathered up in a wonderful way on the crown of her head. This change McKay discovered as she stood there, and it swept upon him all in a moment, and with it the prick of something swift and terrorizing inside him. She was not the little girl of Cragg's Ridge. She was a woman. In a year had come this miracle of change, and it frightened him, for such a creature as this that stood before him now Jed Hawkins would never have dared to curse or beat, and he—Roger McKay—was afraid to gather her back into his arms again.

And then, even as his fingers slowly drew themselves away from her shoulders, he saw that which had not changed—the wonder-light in her eyes, the soul that lay as open to him now as on that other day in Indian Tom's cabin, when Mrs. Captain Kidd had bustled and squeaked on the pantry shelf, and Peter had watched them as he lay with his broken leg in the going down of the sun. And as he hesitated it was Nada herself who came into his arms, and laid her head on his breast, and trembled and laughed and cried there, while Father John came up and patted her shoulder, and smiled happily at McKay, and then went on to the cabin in the clearing. For a time after that Jolly Roger crushed his face in Nada's hair, and neither said a word, but there was a strange throbbing of their hearts together, and after a little Nada reached up a hand to his cheek, and stroked it tenderly, bristly beard and all.

"I'll never let you run away from me again—Mister—Jolly Roger," she said, and it was the little Nada of Cragg's Ridge who whispered the words, half sobbing; but in the voice there was also something very definite and very sure, and McKay felt the glorious thrill of it as he raised his face from her hair, and saw once more the sun-filled world about him.

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