Following this day Peter was observant of a strange excitement in the cabin on the Burntwood. It was not so much a thing of physical happening, but more the mysterious feel of something impending and very near. The day following their arrival in the Pashkokogon country his master seemed to have forgotten him entirely. It was Nada who noticed him, but even she was different; and Father John went about, overseeing two Indians whom he kept very busy, his pale, thin face luminous with an anticipation which roused Peter's curiosity, and kept him watchful. He was puzzled, too, by the odd actions of the humans about him. The second morning Nada remained in her room, and Jolly Roger wandered off into the woods without his breakfast, and Father John ate alone, smiling gently as he looked at the tightly closed door of Nada's bedroom. Even Oosimisk, the Leaf Bud, the sleek-haired Indian woman who cared for the house, was nervously expectant as she watched for Nada, and Mistoos, her husband, grunted and grimaced as he carried in from the edge of the forest many loads of soft evergreens on his shoulders.

Into the forest Jolly Roger went alone, puffing furiously at his pipe. He was all a-tremble and his blood seemed to quiver and dance as it ran through his veins. Since the first rose-flush of dawn he had been awake, fighting against this upsetting of every nerve that was in him.

He felt pitiably weak and helpless. But it was the weakness and helplessness of a happiness too vast for him to measure. It was Nada in her ragged shoes and dress, with the haunting torture of Jed Hawkins' brutality in her eyes and face, that he had expected to find, if he found her at all; someone to fight for, and kill for if necessary, someone his muscle and brawn would always protect against evil. He had not dreamed that in these many months with Father John she would change from "a little kid goin' on eighteen" into—a woman.

He tried to recall just what he had said to her last night—that he was still an outlaw, and would always be, no matter how well he lived from this day on; and that she, now that she had Father John's protection, was very foolish to care for him, or keep her troth with him, and would be happier if she could forget what had happened at Cragg's Ridge.

"You're a woman now," he said. "A woman—" he had emphasized that—"and you don't need me any more."

And she had looked at him, without speaking, as if reading what was inside him; and then, with a sudden little laugh, she swiftly pulled her hair down about her shoulders, and repeated the very words she had said to him a long time ago—"Without you—I'd want to die—Mister—Jolly Roger," and with that she turned and ran into the cabin, her hair flying riotously, and he had not seen her again since that moment.

Since then his heart had behaved like a thing with the fever, and it was beating swiftly now as he looked at his watch and noted the quick passing of time.

Back in the cabin Peter was sniffing at the crack under Nada's door, and listening to her movement. For a long time he had heard her, but not once had she opened the door. And he wondered, after that, why Oosimisk and her husband and Father John piled evergreens all about, until the cabin looked like the little jackpine trysting-place down at Cragg's Ridge, even to the soft carpet of grass on the floor, and flowers scattered all about.

Hopeless of understanding what it meant, he went outside, and waited in the warm May-day sun until his master came back through the clearing. What happened after that puzzled him greatly. When he followed Jolly Roger into the cabin Mistoos and the Leaf Bud were seated in chairs, their hands folded, and Father John stood behind a small table on which lay an open book, and he was looking at his watch when they came in. He nodded, and smiled, and very clearly Peter saw his master gulp, as if swallowing something that was in his throat. And the ruddiness had gone completely out of his smooth-shaven cheeks. It was the first time Peter had seen his master so clearly afraid, and from his burrow in the evergreens he growled under his breath, eyeing the open door with sudden thought of an enemy.

And then Father John was tapping at Nada's door.

He went back to the table and waited, and as the knob of the door turned very slowly Jolly Roger swallowed again, and took a step toward it. It opened, and Nada stood there. And Jolly Roger gave a little cry, so low that Peter could just hear it, as he held out his hands to her.

For Nada was no longer the Nada who had come to him in Father John's clearing. She was the Nada of Cragg's Ridge, the Nada of that wild night of storm when he had fled into the north. Her hair fell about her, as in the old days when Peter and she had played together among the rocks and flowers, and her wedding dress was faded and torn, for it was the dress she had worn that night of despair when she sent her message to Peter's master, and on her little feet were shoes broken and disfigured by her flight in those last hours of her mighty effort to go with the man she loved. In Father John's eyes, as she stood there, was a great astonishment; but in Jolly Roger's there came such a joy that, in answer to it, Nada went straight into his arms and held up her lips to be kissed.

Her cheeks were very pink when she stood beside McKay, with Father John before them, the open book in his hands; and then, as her long lashes drooped over her eyes, and her breath came a little more quickly, she saw Peter staring at her questioningly, and made a little motion to him with her hand. He went to her, and her fingers touched his head as Father John began speaking. Peter looked up, and listened, and was very quiet in these moments. Jolly Roger was staring straight at the balsam-decked wall opposite him, but there was something mighty strong and proud in the way he held his head, and the fear had gone completely out of his eyes. And Nada stood very close to him, so that her brown head lightly touched his shoulder and he could see the silken shimmer of loose tresses which with sweet intent she had let fall over his arm. And her little fingers clung tightly to his thumb, as on that blessed night when they had walked together across the plain below Cragg's Ridge, with the moon lighting their way.

Peter, in his dog way, fell a-wondering as he stood there, but kept his manners and remained still. When it was all over he felt a desire to show his teeth and growl, for when Father John had kissed Nada, and was shaking Jolly Roger's hand, he saw his mistress crying in that strange, silent way he had so often seen her crying in his puppyhood days. Only now her blue eyes were wide open as she looked at Jolly Roger, and her cheeks were flushed to the pink of wild rose petals, and her lips were trembling a little, and there was a tiny something pulsing in her soft white throat. And all at once there came a smile with the tears, and Jolly Roger—turning from Father John to find her thus—gathered her close in his arms, and Peter wagged his tail and went out into the sun-filled day, where he heard a red squirrel challenging him from a stub in the edge of the clearing.

A little later he saw Nada and his master come out of the cabin, and walk hand in hand across the open into the sweet-smelling timber where Father John had been chopping with his axe.

On a fresh-cut log Nada sat down, and McKay sat beside her, still holding her hand. Not once had he spoken in crossing the open, and it seemed as though little devils were holding his lips closed now.

With her eyes looking down at the greening earth under their feet, Nada said, very softly,

"Mister—Jolly Roger—are you glad?"

"Yes," he said.

"Glad that I am—your wife?"

The word drew a great, sobbing breath from him, and looking up suddenly she saw that he was staring over the balsam-tops into the wonderful blue of the sky.

"Your wife," she whispered, touching his shoulder gently with her lips.

"Yes, I'm glad," he said. "So glad that I'm—afraid."

"Then—if you are glad—please kiss me again."

He stood up, and drew her to him, and held her face between his hands as he kissed her red lips; and after that he kissed her shining hair again and again, and when he let her go her eyes were a glory of happiness.

"And you will never run away from me again?" she demanded, holding him at arm's length. "Never?"


"Then—I want nothing more in this life," she said, nestling against him again. "Only you, for ever and ever."

Jolly Roger made no answer, but held her a long time in his arms, with the soft beating of her heart against him, and listened to the twitter and song of nesting and mating things about them. In this silence she lay content, until Peter—growing restless—started quietly into the golden depths of the forest.

It was Pied-Bot's going, cautious and soft-footed, as if danger and menace might lurk just ahead of him, that brought another look into McKay's eyes as Nada's hand crept to his cheek, and rested there.

"You love me—very much?"

"More than life," he answered, and as he spoke he was watching Peter, questing the soft wind that came whispering from the south.

Her finger touched his lips, gentle and sweet.

"And wherever you go, I go—forever and always?" she questioned.

"Yes, forever and always"—and his eyes were looking through miles upon miles of deep forest, and at the end he saw the thin and pitiless face of a man who was following his trail, Breault the Ferret.

His arms closed more tightly about her, and he pressed her face against him.

"And I pray God you will never be sorry," he said, still looking through the miles of forest.

"No, no—sorry I shall never be," she cried softly. "Not if we fly, and go hungry, and fight—and die. Never shall I be sorry—with you," and he felt the tightening of her arms.

And then, as he remained silent, with his lips on the velvety smoothness of her hair, she told him what Father John had already told him—of her wild effort to overtake him in that night of storm when he had fled from the Missioner's cabin at Cragg's Ridge; and in turn he told her how Peter came to him in the break of the morning with the treasure which had saved him heart and soul, and how he had given that treasure into the keeping of Yellow Bird, on the shores of Wollaston.

And thereafter, for an hour, as they wandered through the May-time sweetness of the forest, she would permit him to talk of only Yellow Bird and Sun Cloud; and, one thing leading to another, she learned how it was that Yellow Bird had been his fairy in childhood days, and how he came to be an outlaw for her in later manhood. Her eyes were shining when he had finished, and her red lips were a-tremble with the quickness of her breathing.

"Some day—you'll take me there," she whispered. "Oh, I'm so proud of you, my Roger. And I love Yellow Bird. And Sun Cloud. Some day—we'll go!"

He nodded, happiness overshadowing the fear of Breault that had grown in his heart.

"Yes, we'll go. I've dreamed it, and the dream helped to keep me alive—"

And then he told her of Cassidy, and of the paradise he had found with Giselle and her grandfather on the other side of Wollaston.

And so it happened the hours passed swiftly, and it was afternoon when they returned to Father John's cabin, and Nada went into her room.

In the early waning of the sun the feast which the Leaf Bud had been preparing was ready, and not until then did Nada appear again.

And once more the lump rose up in Roger's throat at the wonder of her, for very completely she had transformed herself into a woman again, from the softly shining coils of hair on the crown of her head to the coquettish little slippers that set off her dainty feet. And he saw the white gleam of soft shoulders and tender arms where once had been rags and bruises, and held there by the slim beauty and exquisite daintiness of her he stared like a fool, until suddenly she laughed joyously at his amaze, and ran to him with wide-open arms, and kissed him so soundly that Peter cocked up his ears a bit startled. And then she kissed Father John, and after that was mistress at the table, radiant in her triumph and her eyes starry with happiness.

And she was no longer shy in speaking his name, but called him Roger boldly and many times, and twice during that meal of marvelous forgetfulness—though long lashes covered her eyes when she spoke it—she called him 'my husband.'

In truth she was a woman and for the most part Roger McKay—fighting man and very strong though he was—looked at her in dumb worship, speaking little, his heart a-throb, and his brain reeling in the marvel of what at last had come into his possession.

And yet, even in this hour of supreme happiness that held him half mute, there was always lurking in the back of his brain a thought of Breault, the Ferret.

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