Her father, her father, had willed this man’s death, and so he was to die! That explained many things—the young fellow’s insolence, his care-free recklessness, his passionate denunciation of the Reverend Crane and the Reverend Crane’s religion. He wanted one little thing—the gift of a rifle wherewith to assure his subsistence should he escape into the forest—and of all those at Conjuror’s House to whom he might turn for help, some were too hard to give it to him, and some too afraid! He should have it! She, the daughter of her father, would see to it that in this one instance her father’s sin should fail! Suddenly, in the white heat of her emotion, she realized why these matters stirred her so profoundly, and she stopped short and gasped with the shock of it. It did not matter that she thwarted her father’s will; it would not matter if she should be discovered and punished as only these harsh characters could punish. For the brave bearing, the brave jest, the jaunty facing of death, the tender, low voice, the gay song, the aurora-lit moment of his summons—all these had at last their triumph. She knew that she loved him; and that if he were to die, she would surely die too.
And, oh, it must be that he loved her! Had she not heard it in the music of his voice from the first?—the passion of his tones? the dreamy, lyrical swing of his talk by the old bronze guns?
Then she staggered sharply, and choked back a cry. For out of her recollections leaped two sentences of his—the first careless, imprudent, unforgivable; the second pregnant with meaning. “Ah, a star shoots!” he had said. “That means a kiss!” and again, to the clergyman, “I came here without the slightest expectation of getting what I asked for. There is another way, but I hate to use it.”
She was the other way! She saw it plainly. He did not love her, but he saw that he could fascinate her, and he hoped to use her as an aid to his escape. She threw her head up proudly.
Then a man swung into view across the Northern Lights. Virginia pressed back against the palings among the bushes until he should have passed. It was Ned Trent, returning from a walk to the end of the island. He was alone and unfollowed, and the girl realized with a sudden grip at the heart that the wilderness itself was sufficient safeguard against a man unarmed and unequipped. It was not considered worth while even to watch him. Should he escape, unarmed as he was, sure death by starvation awaited him in the land of dread.
As he entered the settlement he struck up an air.
“Le fils du roi s’en va chassant,
En roulant ma boule,
Avec son grand fusil d’argent,
Rouli roulant, ma boule roulant.”
Almost immediately a window slid back, and an exasperated voice cried out:
“Hola dere, w’at one time dam fool you for mak’ de sing so late!”