Dawn came softly where the quiet waters of the Willow Bud ran under deep forests of evergreen out into the gold and silver birch of the Nelson River flats. A veiling mist rose out of the earth to meet the promise of day, gentle and sweet, like scented raiment, stirring sleepily to the pulse of an awakening earth. Through it came the first low twitter of birdsong, a sound that seemed to swell and grow until it filled the world. Yet was it still a sound of sleep, of half wakefulness, and the mist was thinning away when, a ruffled little breast sent out its full throat-song from the tip of a silver birch that overhung the stream.

The little warbler was looking down, as if wondering why there was no stir of life beneath him, where in last night's sunset there had been much to wonder at and a new kind of song to thrill him. But the girl was no longer there to sing back at him. The cedar and balsam shelter dripped with morning dew, the place where fire had been was black and dead, and ruffling his feathers the warbler continued his song in triumph.

Nada, hidden under her shelter, and still half dreaming, heard him. She lay with her head nestled in the crook of Roger's arm, and the birdsong seemed to come to her from a great distance away. She smiled, and her lips trembled, as if even in sleep she—was about to answer it. And then the song drifted away until she could no longer hear it, and she sank back into an oblivion of darkness in which she seemed lost for a long time, and out of which some invisible force was struggling to drag her.

There came at last a sudden irresistible pull at her senses, and she opened her eyes, awake. Her head was no longer in the crook of Jolly Roger's arm. She could see him sitting up straight, and he was not looking at her. It must be late, she thought, for the light was strong in his face, warm with the first golden flow of the sun. She smiled, and sat up, and shook her soft curls with a happy little laugh.


And then she, too, was staring, wide-eyed and speechless. For she saw Peter under Jolly Roger's hand. But it was not Peter who drew her breath short and sent fear cutting like a sharp knife through her heart.

Facing them, seated coldly on a log which McKay had dragged in from the timber, was a thin-faced sharp-eyed man who was studying them with an odd smile on his lips, and instantly Nada knew this man was Breault.

There was something peculiarly appalling about him as he sat there, in spite of the fact that for a few moments he neither spoke nor moved. His eyes, Nada thought, were not like human eyes, and his lips were like the blades of two knives set together. Yet he was smiling, or half smiling, not in a comforting or humorous way, but with exultation and triumph. From looking at him one would never have guessed that Breault loved his joke.

He nodded.

"Good morning, Jolly Roger McKay! And—good morning, Mrs. Jolly Roger McKay! Pardon me for watching you like this, but duty is duty. I am Breault, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police."

McKay wet his lips. Breault saw him, and the grin on his thin face widened.

"I know, it's hard," he said. "But you've got Peter to thank for it. Peter led me to you."

He stood up, and in a most casual fashion covered Jolly Roger with his automatic.

"Would you mind stepping out, McKay?" he asked.

In his other hand he dangled a pair of handcuffs. McKay stood up, and Nada rose beside him, gripping his arms with both hands.

"No need of those things, Breault," he said. "I'll go peaceably."

"Still—it's safer," argued Breault, a wicked glitter in his eyes. "Hold out one hand, please—"

The manacle snapped over Jolly Roger's wrist.

"I'm Breault—not Terence Cassidy," he chuckled. "Never take a chance, you know. Never!"

Swift as a flash was his movement then, as the companion bracelet snapped over Nada's wrist. He stepped back, facing them with a grin.

"Got you both now, haven't I?" he gloated. "Can't get away, can you?" He put his gun away, and bowed low to Nada. "How do you like married life, Mrs. Jolly Roger?"

McKay's face was whiter than Nada's.

"You coward!" he spoke in a low, quiet voice. "You low-down miserable coward. You're a disgrace to the Service. Do you mean you are going to keep my wife ironed like this?"

"Sure," said Breault. "I'm going to make you pay for some of the trouble I've had over you. I believe in a man paying his debts, you know. And a woman, too. And probably you've lied to her like the very devil."

"He hasn't!" protested Nada fiercely. "You're a—a—"

"Say it," nodded Breault good humoredly. "By all means say it, Mrs. Jolly Roger. If you can't find words, let me help you," and while he waited he loaded his pipe and lighted it.

"You see I don't exactly live up to regulations when I'm with good friends like you," he apologized cynically. "In other words you're a couple of hard cases. Cassidy has turned in all sorts of evidence about you. He says that you, McKay, should be hung the moment we catch you. He warned me not to take a chance—that you'd slit my throat in the dark without a prick of conscience. And I'm a valuable man in the Service. It can't afford to lose me."

McKay shut his lips tightly, and did not answer.

"Now, while you're helpless, I want to tell you a few things," Breault went on. "And while I'm talking I'll start the fire, so we can have breakfast. Peter and, I are hungry. A good dog, McKay. He saved us up on the Barren. Have you told Mrs. Jolly Roger about that?"

He expected no answer, and whistled as he lighted a pile of birchbark which he had already placed under dry cedar wood which McKay had gathered the preceding evening.

"That's where my trouble began—up there on the Barren, Mrs. Jolly Roger," he continued, ignoring McKay. "You see the three of us, Superintendent Tavish, and Porter—who is now his son-in-law—and I had a splendid chance to die like martyrs, and go down forever in the history of the Service, if it hadn't been for this fool of a husband of yours, and Peter. I can't blame Peter, because he's only a dog. But McKay is responsible. He robbed us of a beautiful opportunity of dying in an unusual way by hunting us up and dragging us into his shelter. A shabby trick, don't you think? And inasmuch as Superintendent Tavish is about the biggest man in the Service, and Porter is his son-in-law, and Miss Tavish was saved along with us—why, they reckoned something ought to be done about it."

Breault did not look up. With, exasperating slowness he added fuel to the fire.

"And so—"

He rose and stood before them again.

"And so—they assigned me to the very unpleasant duty of running you down with a pardon, McKay—a pardon forgiving you for all your sins, forever and ever, Amen. And here it is!"

He had drawn an official-looking envelope from inside his coat, and held it out now—not to McKay—but to Nada.

Neither reached for it. Standing there with the cynical smile still on his lips, his strange eyes gimleting them with a cold sort of laughter, it was as if Breault tortured them with a last horrible joke. Then, suddenly, Nada seized the envelope and tore it open, while McKay stared at Breault, believing, and yet not daring to speak.

It was Nada's cry, a cry wild and sobbing and filled with gladness, that told him the truth, and with the precious paper clutched in her hand she smothered her face against McKay's breast, while Breault came up grinning behind them, and Jolly Roger heard the click of his key in the handcuffs.

"I am also loaded down with a number of foolish messages for you," he said, attending to the fire again. "For instance, that red-headed good-for-nothing, Cassidy, says to tell you he is building a four-room bungalow for you in their clearing, and that it will be finished by the time you arrive. Also, a squaw named Yellow Bird, and a redskin who calls himself Slim Buck, sent word that you will always be welcome in their hunting grounds. And a pretty little thing named Sun Cloud sent as many kisses as there are leaves on the trees—"

"—a squaw named Yellow Bird send word that you would be welcome."

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