“By the Heaven above, yes!” said Bagot, half starting to his feet.
“Ah, ‘by the Heaven above,’ no! nor the child. For true love is unselfish and patient, and where it is the stronger, it cares for the weaker; but it was your wife who was unselfish, patient, and cared for you. Every time she said an ave she thought of you, and her every thanks to God had you therein. They know you well in heaven, Bagot—through your wife. Did you ever pray—ever since I married you to her?”
“An hour or so ago.”
Once again the priest’s eyes glanced towards the lighted candles.
Presently he said: “You asked me if I had heard anything of your wife. Listen, and be patient while you listen.... Three weeks ago I was camping on the Sundust Plains, over against the Young Sky River. In the morning, as I was lighting a fire outside my tent, my young Cree Indian with me, I saw coming over the crest of a landwave, from the very lips of the sunrise, as it were, a band of Indians. I could not quite make them out. I hoisted my little flag on the tent, and they hurried on to me. I did not know the tribe—they had come from near Hudson’s Bay. They spoke Chinook, and I could understand them. Well, as they came near, I saw that they had a woman with them.”
Bagot leaned forward, his body strained, every muscle tense. “A woman!” he said, as if breathing gave him sorrow—“my wife?”
“Quick! Quick! Go on—oh, go on, m’sieu’—good father.”
“She fell at my feet, begging me to save her.... I waved her off.”
The sweat dropped from Bagot’s forehead, a low growl broke from him, and he made such a motion as a lion might make at its prey.
“You wouldn’t—wouldn’t save her—you coward!” He ground the words out.
The priest raised his palm against the other’s violence. “Hush!... She drew away, saying that God and man had deserted her.... We had breakfast, the chief and I. Afterwards, when the chief had eaten much and was in good humor, I asked him where he had got the woman. He said that he had found her on the plains—she had lost her way. I told him then that I wanted to buy her. He said to me. ’What does a priest want of a woman?’ I said that I wished to give her back to her husband. He said that he had found her, and she was his, and that he would marry her when they reached the great camp of the tribe. I was patient. It would not do to make him angry. I wrote down on a piece of bark the things that I would give him for her: an order on the Company at Fort o’ Sin for shot, blankets and beads. He said no.”
The priest paused. Bagot’s face was all swimming with sweat, his body was rigid, but the veins of his neck knotted and twisted.
“For the love of God go on!” he said hoarsely.