A strange restlessness came over her. The confines of the little room seemed smothering—crushing her. Crossing to the row of pegs she drew on her parka and heavy mittens, and tiptoeing to the outer door, passed out into the night, crossed the moonlit clearing, and stepped half-fearfully into the deep shadow of the forest—to the call of the beckoning arms.
As her form was swallowed up in the blackness, another form—a gigantic figure that bore clutched in the grasp of a capable hand the helve of an ax, upon the polished steel of whose double-bitted blade the moonbeams gleamed cruelly—slipped from the door of the kitchen and followed swiftly in the wake of the girl. Big Lena was taking no chances.
So sudden and unexpected had been Lapierre’s denouement at the hands of the Indian girl and Big Lena, that when he quitted Chloe Elliston’s living-room the one thought in his mind was to return to his stronghold on Lac du Mort. For the first time the real seriousness of his situation forced itself upon him. He knew that no accident had brought the officer of the Mounted to the Lac du Mort stronghold in company with Bob MacNair, and he realized the utter futility of attempting an escape to the outside, since the shooting of the officer at the very walls of the stockade.
As the husband of Chloe Elliston, the thing might have been accomplished. But alone or in company with the half-dozen outlaws who had accompanied him to the school, never. There was but one course open to him: To return to Lac du Mort and make a stand against the authorities and against MacNair. And the fact that the man realized in all probability it would be his last stand, was borne to the understanding of the men who accompanied him.
These men knew nothing of the reason for Lapierre’s trip to the school, but they were not slow to perceive that whatever the reason was, Lapierre had failed in its accomplishment. For they knew Lapierre as a man who rarely lost his temper.
They knew him as one equal to any emergency—one who would shoot a man down in cold blood for disobeying an order or relaxing vigilance, but who would shoot with a smile rather than a frown.
Thus when Lapierre joined them in their camp at the edge of the clearing, and with a torrent of unreasoning curses ordered the dogs harnessed and the outfit got under way for Lac du Mort, they knew their cause was at best a forlorn hope.
Darkness overtook them and they camped to await the rising of the late moon. While the men prepared the supper, Lapierre glowered upon his sled by the fire, occasionally leaping to his feet to stamp impatiently up and down upon the snow. The leader spoke no word and none ventured to address him. The meal was eaten in silence. At its conclusion the men took heart and sprang eagerly to obey an order—the order puzzled them not a little, but no man questioned it. For the command came crisp and sharp, and without profanity, in a voice they well knew. Lapierre was himself again, and his black eyes gleamed wickedly as he rolled a cigarette by the light of the rising moon.