“You are right,” echoed the girl. “Only after the scene we have just witnessed, it seemed that I myself could kill deliberately, and be glad I killed. Truly the North breeds savagery. For I, too, have killed on the spur of the moment!” The words fell rapidly from her lips, and she cried out as in physical pain. “And to think that I killed in defence of him! Oh, if I had let the Indian shoot that night, all this”—she waved her hand to the northward—“would never have happened.”
“Very true, Miss Elliston,” answered Lapierre softly. “But do not blame yourself. Under the circumstances, you could not have done otherwise.”
As he talked, two of the canoemen made up light packs from the outfit of the wrecked canoe. Seeing that they had concluded, Lapierre arose, and taking Chloe’s hand in both of his, looked straight into her eyes.
“Good-by,” he said simply. “These Indians will conduct you in safety to your school.” And, without waiting for a reply, turned and followed the two canoemen into the brush.
Chloe sat for a long time staring into the flames of the tiny fire before creeping between her damp blankets. Despite the utter body-weariness of her long canoe-trip, the girl slept but fitfully in her cold bed.
In the early grey of the morning she started up nervously. Surely a sound had awakened her. She heard it distinctly now, the sound of approaching footsteps. She strained to locate the sound, and instantly realized it was not the tread of moccasined feet. She threw off the frost-stiffened blankets and leaped to her feet, shivering in the keen air of the biting dawn.
The sounds of the footsteps grew louder, plainer, as though someone had turned suddenly from the shore and approached the thicket with long, heavy strides. With muscles tense and heart bounding wildly the girl waited. Then, scarce ten feet from her side, the thick scrub parted with a vicious swish, and a man, hatless, glaring, and white-faced, stood before her. The man was MacNair.
“ARREST THAT MAN!”
Seconds passed—tense, portentous seconds—as the two stood facing each other over the dead ashes of the little fire. Seconds in which the white drawn features of the man engraved themselves indelibly upon Chloe Elliston’s brain. She noted the knotted muscles of the clenched hands and the glare of the sunken eyes. Noted, also, the cringing fear-stricken forms of the two Indians, who had awakened and lay cowering upon their blankets. And Big Lena, whose pale-blue, fishlike eyes stared first at one and then the other from out a face absolutely devoid of expression.
Suddenly a fierce, consuming anger welled into the girl’s heart, and words fell from her lips in a veritable hiss of scorn: “Have you come to kill me, too?”
“By God, it would be a good thing for the North if I should kill you!”