The view from this point was a stupendous one. New peaks sprang into vision, shimmering in the sunlight. Patches of dark forest stained the whiteness of the land, and far away, like a thin, winding ribbon among the hills, I saw the valley of the Riviere d’Or.
I cried out in delight and lingered to enjoy the grandeur of the spectacle.
Beneath me I saw Jacqueline waiting, a tiny figure upon the snow. My heart smote me with a deep sense of reproach that I had put her to so much sacrifice. But I had seen the valley between those mountains, the only possible entrance to that mysterious land. Nothing could fail us now.
I cast my eyes beyond her toward the mist-wrapped tops of the far Laurentians and the plains.
And a sense of an inevitable fate came over me as I perceived far away a tiny, crawling ant upon the snows—Simon Leroux’s dog sleigh.
I went back to the little, patient figure that was waiting for me, and I took up my pack again and told her nothing. She stepped bravely out beside me, frozen, fatigued, but willing because I bade her. She did not ask anything of me.
The sun dipped lower, and far away I heard the howl of the solitary wolf again.
My mind had been working very fast during that journey down the hill, and long before I reached Jacqueline I had resolved that she should know nothing of the pursuit until the moment came when she must be told.
That the pursuer was Leroux there could be no possible doubt. He had evidently passed the sleigh, and was undoubtedly pressing forward, elated and confident of our capture. But he must still be at least a dozen miles away.
He could not reach us that night and he could hardly travel by night. We should have a half day’s start of him in the morning.
I gripped my pistols as we strode along.
We went on and on. The afternoon was wearing away; the sun was very low now and all its strength had gone. The wolf followed us, howling from afar. Once I saw it across the treeless wastes—a gaunt, white, dog-like figure, trotting against the steely grey of the sky.
We ascended the last of the foot-hills before the trail dipped toward the valley, which was guarded by two sentinel mountains of that jagged ridge before us. From the top I looked back. Simon was nowhere to be seen.
“Courage, Jacqueline,” I said, patting her arm, “The huts ought to be here.”
Her courage was greater than my own. She looked up and smiled at me. And so we descended and went on and on, and the sun dipped below the edge of the world.
The wolf crept nearer, and its howls rang out with piercing strokes across the silence. My eyes ached so that I could hardly discern the darkening land, and the snow came down, not steadily, but in swirling eddies blown on fierce gusts of wind.
And suddenly raising my eyes despairingly, I saw the huts. They stood about four hundred yards away from where the trail ran through the mountains.