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Runnion Finds The Singing People








From: The Barrier

"No Creek" Lee came into the trading-post on the following morning,
and found Gale attending store as if nothing unusual had occurred.

"Say! What's this about you and Stark? I hear you had a horrible
run-in, and that you split him up the back like a quail."

"We had a row," admitted the trader. "It's been a long time working
out, and last night it came to a head."

"Lord-ee! And to think of Ben Stark's bein' licked! Why, the whole
camp's talkin' about it! They say he emptied two six-shooters at
you, but you kept a-comin', and when you did get to him you just
carved your initials on him like he was a bass-wood tree. Say, John,
he's a goner, sure."

"Do you mean he's--passing out?"

"Oh no! I reckon he'll get well, from what I hear, though he won't
let nobody come near him except old Doc; but he's lost a battle, and
that ends him. Don't you savvy? Whenever a killer quits second best,
it breaks his hoodoo. Why, there's been men laying for him these
twenty years, from here to the Rio Grande, and every feller he ever
bested will hear of this and begin to grease his holster; then the
first shave-tail desperado that meets him will spit in his eye, just
to make a name for himself. No, sir! He's a spent shell. He's got to
fight all his battles over again, and this time the other feller
will open the ball. Oh, I've seen it happen before. You killed him
last night, just as sure as if you'd hung up his hide to dry, and he
knows it."

"I'm a peaceable man," said Gale, on the defensive. "I had to do
it."

"I know! I know! There was witnesses--this dress-maker at the fort
seen it, so I hear."

The other acquiesced silently.

"Well! Well! Ben Stark licked! I can't get over that. It must 'a'
been somethin' powerful strong to make you do it, John." It was as
close to a question as the miner dared come, although he was avid
with curiosity, and, like the entire town, was in a fret to know
what lay back of this midnight encounter, concerning which the most
exaggerated rumors were rife. These stories grew the more grotesque
and ridiculous the longer the truth remained hidden, for Stark could
not be seen, and neither Gale nor Burrell would speak. All that the
people knew was that one lay wounded to death behind the dumb walls
of his cabin, and that the other had brought him down. When the old
man vouchsafed no more than a nod to his question, the prospector
inquired:

"Where's Poleon? I've got news for him from the creek."

"I don't know; he's gone."

"Back soon?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"His laymen have give up. They've cross-cut his ground and the pay
ain't there, so they've quit work for good."

"He drew a blank, eh?"

"Worse'n that--three of them. The creek is spotteder than a leopard.
Runnion's men, for instance, are into it bigger than a house, while
Poleon's people can't raise a color. I call it tough luck--yes,
worse'n tough: it's hard-biled and pickled. To them as has shall it
be given, and to them as hasn't shall be took even what they 'ain't
got, as the poet says. Look at Necia! She'll be richer than a cream
puff. Guess I'll step around and see her."

"She's gone," said the trader, wearily, turning his haggard face
from the prospector.

"Gone! Where?"

"Up-river with Runnion. They got her away from me last night."

"Sufferin' snakes!" ejaculated Lee. "So that's why!" Then he added,
simply, "Let's go and git her, John."

The trader looked at him queerly.

"Maybe I won't--on the first boat! I'm eating my heart out hour by
hour waiting--waiting--waiting for some kind of a craft to come, and
so is Burrell."

"What's he got to do with it?" said the one-eyed miner, jealously.
"Can't you and me bring her back?"

"He'll marry her! God, won't there never be a boat!"

For the hundredth time that morning he went to the door of the post
and strained his eyes down-stream.

"Well, well! Them two goin' to be married," said Lee. "Stark licked,
and Necia goin' to be married--all at once. I hate to see it, John;
he ain't good enough; she could 'a' done a heap better. There's a
lot of reg'lar men around here, and she could 'a' had her pick. Of
course, always bein' broke like a dog myself, I 'ain't kept up my
personal appearance like I'd ought, but I've got some new clothes
now, and you wouldn't know me. I bought 'em off a tenderfoot with
cold feet, but they're the goods, and you'd see a big improvement in
me."

"He's a good man," said Gale. "Better than you or me, and he's all
torn up over this. I never saw a man act so. When he learned about
it I thought he'd go mad--he's haunted the river-bank ever since,
raging about for some means of following her, and if I hadn't fairly
held him he'd have set out single-handed."

"I'm still strong in the belief that Necia could have bettered her
hand by stayin' out awhile longer," declared Lee, stubbornly; "but
if she wants a soldier, why, we'll get one for her, only I'd rather
have got her somethin' real good and pronounced in the military
line--like an agitant-gen'ral or a walkin' delegate."

While they were talking Burrell came in, and "No Creek" saw that the
night had affected the youth even more than it had Gale, or at least
he showed the marks more plainly, for his face was drawn, his eyes
were sunken as if from hunger, and his whole body seemed to have
fallen away till his uniform hung upon him loose, unkempt, and
careless. It was as if hope had been a thing of avoirdupois, and
when taken away had caused a shrinkage. He had interrogated Stark
again after getting the doctor, but the man had only cursed at him,
declaring that his daughter was out of reach, where he would take
care to keep her, and torturing the lover anew by linking Runnion's
name with the girl's till the young man fled from the sound of the
monster's voice back to his own quarters. He strove to keep the
image of Runnion out of his mind, for his reason could not endure
it. At such times he cried aloud, cursing in a way that was utterly
strange to a God-fearing man, only to break off and rush to the
other extreme, praying blindly, beseechingly, for the girl's safe-
keeping. At intervals an unholy impulse almost drove him to Stark's
cabin to finish the work Gale had begun, to do it coldly as a matter
of justice, for was he not the one who had put Necia into the hands
of that ruffian? Greeting Lee mechanically, he said to Gale:

"I can't wait much longer," and sank wearily into a seat. Almost the
next instant he was on his feet again, saying to the trader, as he
had said it a score of times already: "Runnion comes to me, Gale!
You understand he's mine, don't you?"

The old man nodded. "Yes! You can take him."

"Well, who do I git?" asked Lee.

"You can't come along," the trader said. "We may have to follow the
hound clean to the States. Think of your mine--"

"To hell with the mine!" exploded the shaggy prospector. "I reckon
I'm kind of a daddy to your gal, and I'm goin' to be in at the
finish."

Back and forth paced the Lieutenant restlessly, pausing every now
and then to peer down the river. Suddenly he uttered a cry, and with
a bound Gale was beside him, Lee at his shoulder.

"Look! Over the point! Down yonder! I saw smoke!"

The three stared at the distant forest fringe that masked the bend
of the river until their eyes ached, and the dark-green grew black
and wavered indistinctly.

"You're tired, my boy," said Gale.

"Wait!"

They obeyed, and finally over the tree-tops saw a faint streamer of
black.

"It is! It is!" cried the soldier. "I'm going for my war bag." And
before the steamboat had hove into sight he was back with his scanty
bundle of baggage, behaving like one daft, talking and laughing and
running here and there. Lee watched him closely, then went behind
the bar and poured out a stiff glass of whiskey, which he made
Burrell drink. To Gale he whispered, a moment later:

"Keep your eye on him, John--he'll go mad at this rate."

They waited, it seemed interminably, until at last a white hull
slowly rounded the point, then shaped a course across the current
towards the other bank, where the water was less swift. As it came
fully into sight, Gale swore aloud in despair:

"It's the Mission boat!"

"Well, what of that?" said Burrell. "We'll hire it--buy it--take
it!"

"It's no use; she ain't got but three dog-power to her engines," Lee
explained. "She's a down-river boat--has to run with the current to
move."

"We can't use her," Gale gave in, reluctantly. "She'd only lose time
for us. We've got to wait for one of the A. C. boats."

"Wait!" cried Burrell. "Good God! we've done nothing but wait, WAIT,
WAIT! Let's do something!"

"You go back yonder and set down," commanded Lee. "We'll have a boat
before long."

The arrival of the tiny Mission steamer was never of sufficient
importance to draw a crowd to the riverbank, so the impatient men at
the post relaxed interest in her as she came creeping up abreast of
the town. It was little Johnny Gale who first saw Necia and Poleon
on board, for he had recognized Father Barnum's craft at a distance,
and stationed himself at the bank hand-in-hand with Molly to bid the
good, kind old man welcome.

The men inside the house did not hear the boy crying Necia's name,
for his voice was small, and they had gone to the rear of the store.

"Understand! You leave Runnion to me," Burrell was saying. "No man
shall lay hands on him except me--" His voice trailed away; he rose
slowly to his feet, a strange light on his face. The others turned
to see what sight had drawn his eyes. In the opening, all splendid
with the golden sunlight, stood Necia and Poleon Doret, who had her
by the hand--and she was smiling!

Gale uttered a great cry and went to meet them, but the soldier
could move nothing save his lips, and stood dazed and disbelieving.
He saw them dimly coming towards him, and heard Poleon's voice as if
at a great distance, saw that the Frenchman's eyes were upon him,
and that his words were directed to him.

"I bring her back to you, M'sieu'!"

Doret laid Necia's hand in that of her lover, and Burrell saw her
smiling shyly up at him. Something gripped him chokingly, and he
could utter no sound. There was nothing to say-she was here, safe,
smiling, that was all. And the girl, beholding the glory in his
eyes, understood.

Gale caught her away from him then, and buried her in his arms.

A woman came running into the store, and, seeing the group, paused
at the door--a shapeless, silent, shawled figure in silhouette
against the day. The trader brought the girl to her foster-mother,
who began to talk in her own tongue with a rapidity none of them had
ever heard before, her voice as tender as some wild bird's song;
then the two women went away together around the store into the
house. Poleon had told Necia all the amazing story that had come to
him that direful night, all that he had overheard, all that he knew,
and much that he guessed.

The priest came into the store shortly, and the men fell upon him
for information, for nothing was to be gained from Poleon, who
seemed strangely fagged and weary, and who had said but little.

"Yes, yes, yes!" laughed Father Barnum. "I'll tell you all I know,
of course, but first I must meet Lieutenant Burrell and take him by
the hand."

The story did not lose in his telling, particularly when he came to
describe the fight on the gravel bar which no man had seen, and of
which Poleon had told him little; but the good priest was of a
militant turn, and his blue eyes glittered and flashed like an old
crusader's.

"It was a wondrous combat," he declared, with all the spirit of a
spectator, "for Poleon advanced bare-handed and beat him down even
as the man fired into his face. It is due to the goodness and mercy
of God that he was spared a single wound from this desperado--a
miracle vouchsafed because of his clean heart and his righteous
cause."

"But where is Runnion?" broke in Burrell.

"Nursing his injuries at some wood-cutter's camp, no doubt; but God
be praised for that double spirit of generosity and forgiveness
which prompted our Poleon to spare the wretch. No finer thing have I
known in all my life, Doret, even though you have ever been an
ungodly fellow."

The Frenchman moved uneasily.

"Wal, I don' know; he ain' fight so dam' hard."

"You couldn't find no trace of him?" said Lee.

"No trace whatever," Father Barnum replied; "but he will surely
reach some place of refuge where we can pick him up, for the days
are still mild and the woods full of berries, and, as you know, the
streams overflow with salmon, which he can kill with a stick. Why, a
man might live a fortnight without inconvenience!"

"I'll be on the lookout for him," said the Lieutenant, grimly. "To-
night I'll send Thomas and a couple of men down the river."

When the voluble old priest had at last exhausted his narrative he
requested of Burrell the privilege of a few words, and drew him
apart from the others. His face was shrewdly wrinkled and warm with
understanding.

"I had a long conversation with my little girl, for she is like a
daughter to me, and I discovered the depth of her love for you. Do
you think you are worthy of her?"

"No."

"Do you love her as much as you should?"

"As much as I can. They don't make words or numbers big enough to
tell you how dear she is to me."

"Then why delay? To-morrow I leave again, and one never knows what a
day may bring forth."

"But Stark?" the young man cried. "He's her father, you know; he's
like a madman, and she's still under age."

"I know very little of law outside of the Church," the Father
observed, "but, as I understand it, if she marries before he forbids
her, the law will hold him powerless. Now, he has never made himself
known to her, he has never forbidden her anything; and although my
conclusion may not be correct, I believe it is, and you have a
chance if you make haste. At your age, my boy, I never needed a
spur."

"A spur? Good Lord! I'm from Kentucky."

"Once she is yours before God, your hold will be stronger in the
eyes of men. If I am wrong, and he takes her from you--well, may
some other priest re-wed you two--I sha'n't!"

"Don't worry," laughed Burrell, ablaze at the thought. "You're the
only preacher who'll kiss my bride, for I'm a jealous man, and all
the Starks and all the fathers in the world won't get her away from
me. Do you think she'll do it?"

"A woman in love will do anything."

Burrell seized the little man by the hand. "If I had known more law
you needn't have given me this hint."

"I must go now to this Stark," said the Father; "he may need me. But
first I shall talk with Necia. Poor child, she is in a difficult
position, standing between the love of John Gale and the loyalty she
owes her father. I--I fear I cannot counsel her as well as I ought,
for I am very weak and human. You had better come with me; perhaps
the plea of a lover may have more weight than the voice of reason."
As they started towards the house, he continued, energetically:
"Young man, I'm beginning to live once more. Do you know, sometimes
I think I was not designed for this vocation, and, just between you
and me, there was a day when--" He paused and coughed a trifle, then
said, sharply, "Well, what are you waiting for?"

Together they went into the trader's house.

Back in the store there was silence after the priest and the soldier
went out, which Gale broke at last:

"This forgiveness talk is all right, I suppose--but I WANT
RUNNION!"

"We'll git him, too," growled Lee, at which Poleon uttered a curt
exclamation:

"No!"

"Why not?" said the miner.

"Wal," the Canadian drawled, slowly, then paused to light the
cigarette he had rolled in a bit of wrapping-paper, inhaled the
smoke deeply to the bottom of his lungs, held it there a moment, and
blew it out through mouth and nostrils before adding, "you'll jus'
be wastin' tam'!"

Gale looked up from beneath his thatch of brow, and asked, quietly:

"Why?"

"You 'member--story I tol' you wan day, two, t'ree mont' ago,"
Poleon remarked, with apparent evasion, "'bout Johnny Platt w'at I
ketch on de Porcupine all et up by skeeter-bugs?"

"I do," answered Gale.

"Wal,"--he met their eyes squarely, then drew another long breath
from his cigarette--"I'm jus' hopin' nobody don' pick it up dis
Runnion feller de same way. Mebbe dey fin' hees han's tie' behin'
'im wit' piece of hees shirt-"

"Good God!" cried the trader, starting to his feet. "You--you--"

"--of course, I'm jus' s'posin'. He was feel purty good w'en I lef'.
He was feel so good I tak' hees coat for keepin' off dem bugs from
me, biccause I lef it my own shirt on de canoe. He's nice feller dat
way; he give up easy. Ba gosh! I never see worse place for
skeeters!"

Gale fell silent, and "No Creek" Lee began to swear in little,
useless, ineffective oaths, which were but two ways of showing
similar emotions. Then the former stepped up and laid a big hand
upon Poleon's shoulder.

"That saves us quite a trip," he said, but "No Creek" Lee continued
to swear softly.

It seemed that Poleon's wish was to be gratified, for no news of the
missing man came through in the days that followed. Only at a
fishing village far down the river, where a few native families had
staked their nets and weirs for salmon, a hunter told a strange tale
to his brothers--a tale of the white man's idiosyncrasies. In sooth,
they were a strange people, he observed, surpassing wise in many
things, yet ignorant and childish in all others, else why should a
half-naked man go wandering idly through the thickets holding a
knotted rag behind his back, and that when the glades were dense and
the moss-chinks filled with the singing people who lived for blood?
The elders of the village nodded their heads sagely, and commended
the hunter for holding aloof from the inert body, for the
foolishness of this man was past belief, and--well, his people were
swift and cruel in their vengeance, and sometimes doubted an
Indian's word, wherefore it were best to pay no heed to their ways
and say nothing. But they continued to wonder why.

Father Barnum found the three still talking in the store when he had
finished an hour's counsel with Necia, so came straight to the
point. It was work that delighted his soul, for he loved the girl,
and had formed a strong admiration for Burrell. Two of them took his
announcement quietly, the other cried out strenuous objections. It
was the one-eyed miner.

"Right away! Not on your life! It's too onexpected. You've got to
hold 'em apart for an hour, anyhow, till I get dressed." He slid
down from his seat upon the counter. "What do you reckon I got all
them clothes for?"

"Come as you are," urged the Father, but Lee fought his point
desperately.

"I'll bust it up if you don't gimme time. What's an hour or two when
they've got a life sentence comin' to 'em. Dammit, you jest ought to
see them clothes!" And by very force of his vociferations he
succeeded in exacting the promise of a brief stay in the proceedings
before he bolted out, the rags of his yellow mackinaw flapping
excitedly.

The priest returned to Necia, leaving the trader and Poleon alone.

"I s'pose it's best," said the former.

"Yes!"

"Beats the deuce, though, how things work out, don't it?"

"I'm glad for see dis day," said the Frenchman. "He's good man, an'
he ain' never goin' to hurt her none." He paused. "Dere's jus' wan
t'ing I want for ask it of you, John--you 'member dat day we stop on
de birch grove, an' you spik 'bout her an' tol' me dose story 'bout
her moder? Wal, I was dreamin' dat tam', so I'm goin' ask it you now
don' never tell her w'at I said."

"Doesn't she know, my boy?"

"No; I ain' never spoke 'bout love. She t'inks I'm broder wit' her,
an'--dat's w'at I am, ba Gar!" He could not hold his voice even--it
broke with him; but he avoided the old man's gaze. Gale took him by
the shoulders.

"There ain't nothing so cruel in the world as a gentle woman," said
he; "but she wouldn't hurt you for all the world, Poleon; only the
blaze of this other thing has blinded her. She can't see nothing for
the light of this new love of hers."

"I know! Dat's w'y--nobody onderstan's but you an' me--"

Gale looked out through the open door, past the sun-lit river which
came from a land of mystery and vanished into a valley of
forgetfulness, past the forest and the hills, in his deep-set eyes
the light of a wondrous love that had lived with him these many
weary years, and said:

"Nobody else CAN understand but me--I know how it is. I had even a
harder thing to bear, for you'll know she's happy at least, while I-
-" His voice trembled, but, after a pause, he continued: "They
neither of them understand what you've done for them, for it was you
that brought her back; but some time they'll learn how great their
debt is and thank you. It'll take them years and years, however, and
when they do they'll tell their babes of you, Poleon, so that your
name will never die. I loved her mother, but I don't think I could
have done what you did."

"She's purty hard t'ing, for sure, but I ain' t'ink 'bout Poleon
Doret none w'en I'm doin' it. No, I'm t'ink 'bout her all de tarn'.
She's li'l' gal, an' I'm beeg, strong feller w'at don' matter much
an' w'at ain' know much--'cept singin', an' lovin' her. I'm see for
sure now dat I ain' fit for her--I'm beeg, rough, fightin' feller
w'at can't read, an' she's de beam of sunlight w'at blin' my eyes."

"If I was a fool I'd say you'd forget in time, but I've lived my
life in the open, and I know you won't. I didn't."

"I don' want to forget," the brown man cried, hurriedly. "Le bon
Dieu would not let me forget--it's all I've got to keep wit' me w'en
I'm lookin' for my 'New Countree.'"

"You're not goin' to look for that 'New Country' any more," Gale
replied.

"To-day," said the other, quietly.

"No."

"To-day! Dis affernoon! De blood in me is callin' for travel, John.
I'm livin' here on dis place five year dis fall, an' dat's long
tarn' for voyageur. I'm hongry for hear de axe in de woods an' de
moose blow at sundown. I want for see the camp-fire t'rough de brush
w'en I come from trap de fox an' dem little wild fellers. I want to
smell smoke in de dusk. My work she's finish here, so I'm paddle
away to-day, an' I'll fin' dat place dis tam', for sure--she's over
dere." He raised his long arm and pointed to the dim mountains that
hid the valley of the Koyukuk, the valley that called good men and
strong, year after year, and took them to itself, while in his face
the trader saw the hunger of his race, the unslaked longing for the
wilderness, the driving desire that led them ever North and West,
and, seeing it, he knew the man would go.

"Have you heard the news from the creeks?"

"No."

"Your claims are blanks; your men have quit."

The Frenchman shook his head sadly, then smiled--a wistful little
smile.

"Wal, it's better I lose dan you--or Necia; I ain' de lucky kin',
dat's all; an', affer all, w'at good to me is riche gol'-mine? I
ain' got no use for money--any more."

They stood in the doorway together, two rugged, stalwart figures,
different in blood and birth and every other thing, yet brothers
withal, whom the ebb and flow of the far places had thrown together
and now drew apart again. And they were sad, these two, for their
love was deeper than comes to other people, and they knew this was
farewell; so they remained thus side by side, two dumb, sorrowful
men, until they were addressed by a person who hurried from the
town.

He came as an apparition bearing the voice of "No Creek" Lee, the
mining king, but in no other way showing sign or symbol of their old
friend. Its style of face and curious outfit were utterly foreign to
the miner, for he had been bearded with the robust, unkempt growth
of many years, tanned to a leathery hue, and garbed perennially in
the habit of a scarecrow, while this creature was shaved and clipped
and curried, and the clothes it stood up in were of many startling
hues. Its face was scraped so clean of whiskers as to be a pallid
white, but lack of adornment ended at this point and the rest was
overladen wondrously, while from the centre of the half-brown, half-
white face the long, red nose of Lee ran out. Beside it rolled his
lonesome eye, alive with excitement.

He came up with a strut, illumining the landscape, and inquired:

"Well, how do I look?"

"I'm darned if I know," said Gale. "But it's plumb unusual."

"These here shoes leak," said the spectacle, pulling up his baggy
trousers to display his tan footgear, "because they was made for dry
goin'--that's why they left the tops off; but they've got a nice,
healthy color, ain't they? As a whole, it seems to me I'm sort of
nifty." He revolved slowly before their admiring gaze, and while to
one versed in the manners of the Far East it would have been evident
that the original owner of these clothes had come from somewhere
beyond the Susquehanna, and had either been a football player or had
travelled with a glee club, to these three Northmen it seemed merely
that here was the modish echo of a distant civilization.

"Wat's de matter on your face?" said Poleon. "You been fightin'?"

"I ain't shaved in a long time, and this here excitement has kind of
shattered my nerves. I didn't have no lookin'-glass, neither, in my
shack, so I had to use a lard-can cover. Does it look bad?"

"Not to my way of thinkin'," said Gale, allaying "No Creek's"
anxiety. "It's more desp'rate than bad, but it sort of adds
expression." At which the miner's pride burst bounds.

"I'll kindly ask you to note the shirt--ten dollars a copy, that's
all! I got it from the little Jew down yon. der. See them red spear-
heads on the boosum? 'Flower dee Lizzies,' which means 'calla
lilies' in French. Every one of 'em cost me four bits. On the level-
-how am I?"

"I never see no harness jus' lak it mese'f!" exclaimed Doret. "You
look good 'nough for tin-horn gambler. Say, don' you wear no necktie
wit' dem kin' of clothes?"

"No, sir! Not me. I'm a rude, rough miner, and I dress the part.
Low-cut, blushin' shoes and straw hats I can stand for, likewise
collars--they go hand-in-hand with pay-streaks; but a necktie ain't
neither wore for warmth nor protection; it's a pomp and a vanity,
and I'm a plain man without conceit. Now, let's proceed with the
obsequies."

It was a very simple, unpretentious ceremony that took place inside
the long, low house of logs, and yet it was a wonderful thing to the
dark, shy maid who hearkened so breathlessly beside the man she had
singled out--the clean-cut man in uniform, who stood so straight and
tall, making response in a voice that had neither fear nor weakness
in it. When they had done he turned and took her reverently in his
arms and kissed her before them all; then she went and stood beside
Gale and the red wife who was no wife, and said, simply:

"I am very happy."

The old man stooped, and for the first time in her memory pressed
his lips to hers, then went out into the sunlight, where he might be
alone with himself and the memory of that other Merridy, the woman
who, to him, was more than all the women of the world; the woman
who, each day and night, came to him, and with whom he had kept
faith. The burden she had laid upon him had been heavy, but he had
borne it long and uncomplainingly; and now he was very glad, for he
had kept his covenant.

The first word of the wedding was borne by Father Barnum, who went
alone to the cabin where the girl's father lay, entering with
trepidation; for, in spite of the pleas of justice and humanity,
this stony-hearted, amply hated man had certain rights which he
might choose to enforce; hence, the good priest feared for the peace
of his little charge, and approached the stricken man with
apprehension. He was there a long time alone with Stark, and when he
returned to Gale's house he would answer no questions.

"He is a strange man--a wonderfully strange man: unrepentant and
wicked; but I can't tell you what he said. Have a little patience
and you will soon know."

The mail boat, which had arrived an hour after the Mission boat, was
ready to continue its run when, just as it blew a warning blast,
down the street of the camp came a procession so strange for this
land that men stopped, eyed it curiously, and whispered among
themselves. It was a blanketed man upon a stretcher, carried by a
doctor and a priest. The face was muffled so that the idlers could
not make it out; and when they inquired, they received no answer
from the carriers, who pursued their course impassively down the
runway to the water's edge and up the gang-plank to the deck. When
the boat had gone, and the last faint cough of its towering stacks
had died away, Father Barnum turned to his friends:

"He has gone away, not for a day, but for all time. He is a strange
man, and some things he said I could not understand. At first I
feared greatly, for when I told him what had occurred--of Necia's
return and of her marriage--he became so enraged I thought he would
burst open his wounds and die from his very fury; but I talked a
long, long time with him, and gradually I came to know somewhat of
his queer, disordered soul. He could not bring himself to face
defeat in the eyes of men, or to see the knowledge of it in their
bearing; therefore, he fled. He told me that he would be a hunted
animal all his life; that the news of his whipping would travel
ahead of him; and that his enemies would search him out to take
advantage of him. This I could not grasp, but it seemed a big thing
in his eyes--so big that he wept. He said the only decent thing he
could or would do was to leave the daughter he had never known to
that happiness he had never experienced, and wished me to tell her
that she was very much like her mother, who was the best woman in
the world."





Next: The Call Of The Oreads

Previous: The Love Of Poleon Doret



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