"Kiss me," she said. "Kiss me, my Sakewawin!"
* * * * *
It was noon when they stood under the topmost crags of the southward range, and under them they saw once more the green valley, with its silvery stream, in which they had met that first day beside the great rock. It seemed to them both a long time ago, and the valley was like a friend smiling up at them its welcome and its gladness that they had at last returned. Its drone of running waters, the whispering music of the air, and the piping cries of the marmots sunning themselves far below, came up to them faintly as they rested, and as the Girl sat in the circle of David's arm, with her head against his breast, she pointed off through the blue haze miles to the eastward.
"Are we going that way?" she asked.
He had been thinking as they had climbed up the mountain. Off there, where she was pointing, were his friends, and hers; between them and that wandering tribe of the totem people on the Kwadocha there were no human beings. Nothing but the unbroken peace of the mountains, in which they were safe. He had ceased to fear their immensity—was no longer disturbed by the thought that in their vast and trackless solitude he might lose himself forever. After what had passed, their gleaming peaks were beckoning to him, and he was confident that he could find his way back to the Finley and down to Hudson's Hope. What a surprise it would be to Father Roland when they dropped in on him some day, he and Marge! His heart beat excitedly as he told her about it, described the great distance they must travel, and what a wonderful journey it would be, with that glorious country at the end of it.... "We'll find your mother, then," he whispered. They talked a great deal about her mother and Father Roland as they made their way down into the valley, and whenever they stopped to rest she had new questions to ask, and each time there was that trembling doubt in her voice. "I wonder whether it's true." And each time he assured her that it was.
"I have been thinking that it was Nisikoos who sent to her that picture you wanted to destroy," he said once. "Nisikoos must have known."
"Then why didn't she tell me?" she flashed.
"Because, it may be that she didn't want to lose you—and that she didn't send the picture until she knew that she was not going to live very long."
The girl's eyes darkened, and then—slowly—there came back the softer glow into them.
"I loved—Nisikoos," she said.
It was sunset when they began making their first camp in a cedar thicket, where David shot a porcupine for Tara and Baree. After their supper they sat for a while in the glow of the stars, and after that Marge snuggled down in her cedar bed and went to sleep. But before she closed her eyes she put her arms about his neck and kissed him good-night. For a long time after that he sat awake, thinking of the wonderful dream he had dreamed all his life, and which at last had come true.
* * * * *
Day after day they travelled steadily into the east and south. The mountains swallowed them, and their feet trod the grass of many strange valleys. Strange—and yet now and then David saw something he had seen once before, and he knew that he had not lost the trail. They travelled slowly, for there was no longer need of haste; and in that land of plenty there was more of pleasure than inconvenience in their foraging for what they ate. In her haste in making up the contents of the pack Marge had seized what first came to her hands in the way of provisions, and fortunately the main part of their stock was a 20-pound sack of oatmeal. Of this they made bannock and cakes. The country was full of game. In the valleys the black currants and wild raspberries were ripening lusciously, and now and then in the pools of the lower valleys David would shoot fish. Both Tara and Baree began to grow fat, and with quiet joy David noticed that each day added to the wonderful beauty and happiness in the Girl's face, and it seemed to him that her love was enveloping him more and more, and there never was a moment now that he could not see the glow of it in her eyes. It thrilled him that she did not want him out of her presence for more than a few minutes at a time. He loved to fondle her hair, and she had a sweet habit of running her fingers through his own, and telling him each time how she loved it because it was a little gray; and she had a still sweeter way of holding one of his hands in hers when she was sitting beside him, and pressing it now and then to her soft lips.
They had been ten days in the mountains when, one evening, sitting beside him in this way, she said, with that adorable and almost childish ingenuousness which he loved in her:
"It will be nice to have Father Roland marry us, Sakewawin!" And before he could answer, she added: "I will keep house for you two at the Chateau."
He had been thinking a great deal about it.
"But if your mother should live down there—among the cities?" he asked.
She shivered a little, and nestled to him.
"I wouldn't like it, Sakewawin—not for long. I love this—the forest, the mountains, the skies." And then, suddenly she caught herself, and added quickly: "But anywhere—anywhere—if you are there, Sakewawin!"
"I too, love the forests, the mountains, and the skies," he whispered. "We will have them with us always, little comrade."
It was the fourteenth day when they descended the eastern slopes of the Divide, and he knew that they were not far from the Kwadocha and the Finley. Their fifteenth night they camped where he and the Butterfly's lover had built a noonday fire; and this night, though it was warm and glorious with a full moon, the Girl was possessed of a desire to have a fire of their own, and she helped to add fuel to it until the flames leaped high up into the shadows of the spruce, and drove them far back with its heat. David was content to sit and smoke his pipe while he watched her flit here and there after still more fuel, now a shadow in the darkness, and then again in the full fireglow. After a time she grew tired and nestled down beside him, spreading her hair over his breast and about his face in the way she knew he loved, and for an hour after that they talked in whispering voices that trembled with their happiness. When at last she went to bed, and fell asleep, he walked a little way out into the clear moonlight and sat down to smoke and listen to the murmur of the valley, his heart too full for sleep. Suddenly he was startled by a voice.
He sprang up. From the shadow of a dwarf spruce half a dozen paces from him had stepped the figure of a man. He stood with bared head, the light of the moon streaming down upon him, and out of David's breast rose a strange cry, as if it were a spirit he saw, and not a man.
"My God—Father Roland!"
They sprang across the little space between them, and their hands clasped. David could not speak. Before he found his voice, the Missioner was saying:
"I saw the fire, David, and I stole up quietly to see who it was. We are camped down there not more than a quarter of a mile. Come! I want you to see...."
He stopped. He was excited. And to David his face seemed many years younger there in the moonlight, and he walked with the spring of youth as he caught his arm and started down the valley. A strange force held David silent, an indefinable feeling that something tremendous and unexpected was impending. He heard the other's quick breath, caught the glow in his eyes, and his heart was thrilled. They walked so swiftly that it seemed to him only a few moments when they came to a little clump of low trees, and into these Father Roland led David by the hand, treading lightly now.
In another moment they stood beside someone who was sleeping. Father Roland pointed down, and spoke no word.
It was a woman. The moonlight fell upon her, and shimmered in the thick masses of dark hair that streamed about her, concealing her face. David choked. It was his heart in his throat. He bent down. Gently he lifted the heavy tresses, and stared into the sleeping face that was under them—the face of the woman he had met that night on the Transcontinental!
Over him he heard a gentle whisper.
"My wife, David!"
He staggered back, and clutched Father Roland by the shoulders, and his voice was almost sobbing in its excitement as he cried, whisperingly:
"Then you—you are Michael O'Doone—the father of Marge—and Tavish—Tavish...."
His voice broke. The Missioner's face had gone white. They went back into the moonlight again, so that they should not awaken the woman.
* * * * *
Out there, so close that they seemed to be in each other's arms, the stories were told, David's first—briefly, swiftly; and when Michael O'Doone learned that his daughter was in David's camp, he bowed his face in his hands and David heard him giving thanks to his God. And then he, also, told what had happened—briefly, too, for the minutes of this night were too precious to lose. In his madness Tavish had believed that his punishment was near—believed that the chance which had taken him so near to the home of the man whose life he had destroyed was his last great warning, and before killing himself he had written out fully his confession for Michael O'Doone, and had sworn to the innocence of the woman whom he had stolen away.
"And even as he was destroying himself, God's hand was guiding my Margaret to me," explained the Missioner. "All those years she had been seeking for me, and at last she learned at Nelson House about Father Roland, whose real name no man knew. And at almost that same time, at Le Pas, there came to her the photograph you found on the train, with a letter saying our little girl was alive at this place you call the Nest. Hauck's wife sent the letter and picture to the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and it was sent from inspector to inspector, until it found her at Le Pas. She came to the Chateau. We were gone—with you. She followed, and we met as Metoosin and I were returning. We did not go back to the Chateau. We turned about and followed your trail, to seek our daughter. And now...."
Out of the shadow of the trees there broke upon them suddenly the anxious voice of the woman.
"Napao! where are you?"
"Dear God, it is the old, sweet name she called me so many years ago," whispered Michael O'Doone. "She is awake. Come!"
David held him back a moment.
"I will go to Marge," he said quickly. "I will wake her. And you—bring her mother. Understand, dear Father? Bring her up there, where Marge is sleeping...."
The voice came again:
"I am coming; I am coming!" cried the Missioner.
He turned to David.
"Yes—I will bring her—up there—to your camp."
And as David hurried away, he heard the sweet voice saying:
"You must not leave me alone, Napao—never, never, never, so long as we live...."
* * * * *
On his knees, beside the Girl, David waited many minutes while he gained his breath. With his two hands he crumpled her hair; and then, after a little, he kissed her mouth, and then her eyes; and she moved, and he caught the sleepy whisper of his name.
"Wake," he cried softly. "Wake, little comrade!"
Her arms rose up out of her dream of him and encircled his neck.
"Sakewawin," she murmured. "Is it morning?"
He gathered her in his arms.
"Yes, a glorious day, little comrade. Wake!"
* * * * *
BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
THE COURAGE OF CAPTAIN PLUM THE HONOR OF THE BIG SNOWS THE GOLD HUNTERS THE WOLF HUNTERS THE DANGER TRAIL PHILIP STEELE THE GREAT LAKES FLOWER OF THE NORTH ISOBEL KAZAN GOD'S COUNTRY—AND THE WOMAN THE HUNTED WOMAN THE GRIZZLY KING BAREE, SON OF KAZAN
* * * * *
Transcriber's note: Punctuation normalized.
Page 254, "spood" changed to "stood" (he stood without moving).
Page 287, "thus" changed to "this" (bullets this early in the game).
Page 294, "inpression" changed to "impression" (lightning impression).