“God in Heaven!” he cried. “Nancy! You?”
ON THE HOME TRAIL
Nancy’s eyes were desperately troubled as she gazed out across the great valley of the Beaver River. Somewhere behind her, in the shelter of the woods, a mid-day camp had been pitched, and the men who had captured her red-hand in the work of their enemies were preparing the, rough food of the trail. But she was beyond all such concern.
Far out on every hand lay the amazing panorama of the splendid valley, but she saw none of it. The mighty frozen waterway, the depths of virgin snow, the far-reaching woodlands its gaping lips embraced; they were things of frigid beauty for her eyes to gaze upon, but their meaning was lost upon a mind tortured with the vivid, hateful pictures it was powerless to escape.
From the moment of that dreadful night when she had witnessed the ruthless climax of the work to which she had given herself she had known no peace. It was no thought of her failure, her capture, that inspired her trouble. She could have been thankful enough for that. It was the only mercy, she felt, that had been vouchsafed to her.
No, long before her capture, a deep undermining of regret had set in. She had been without realisation of it, perhaps. But it had been there. In yielding to the demands of those she served, in her self-confidence she had forgotten the woman in her. She had forgotten everything but the crazy ambition which had blinded her to all consequences. Yes, even in the excitement of the work itself she had forgotten everything but the achievement she desired. But through it all, under it all, the woman in her had been slowly awakening, and an unadmitted regret at the destruction of work which meant the whole life of another had been stirring. Then, when the leading tongues of the guns had flashed out, and human life, even the life of dogs, had yielded to the demand of her cause, the last vestige of her dreaming had been swept away, and she told herself it was murder, murder at her bidding!
Now her soul was afire with the bitterness of repentance, with passionate self-accusation. Murder had been done through her. Murder! The horror of it all had driven her well-nigh demented when she gazed from the distance while the two men disposed of Arden Laval’s body under the snow. The dogs? They had been left where they fell. The living had been cut loose from their trappings to roam the forests at their will, while the dead had remained to satisfy the fierce hunger of the savage forest creatures. Even the sled had been destroyed, and its wood used to make fire that the living might endure on those pitiless northern heights. The memory of it all was days old now, but its horror showed no abatement. The agony was still with her. She felt that never again could she know peace.
So she had moved away out from camp, as she had done at every stopping they had made on the long journey from the highlands down to Sachigo. Somehow it seemed to her impossible to do otherwise. She felt she must hide herself from the sight of those others who were her captors, and who, in their hearts, she felt, must deeply abhor the presence of so vile a creature in their camp.