Two sleighs were standing before the huts. Leroux led me past them and knocked at the door of the largest cabin.
“Pierre Caribou!” he shouted.
He was facing the door and did not see what I saw at the little window on the other side. I saw the face of the old Indian, distorted with a grimace of fury as he eyed Leroux.
Next moment he stood cringing before him, his features a mask. Looking in, I saw a huge stove which nearly filled the interior, and seated beside it the middle-aged squaw.
“This gentleman will sleep here to-night,” said Leroux curtly. “In the morning at sunrise harness a sleigh for him and M. Lacroix. Adieu, M. Hewlett,” he continued, turning to me. “And be sure your check will never be presented.”
There was something so sinister in his manner that again I felt that thrill of fear which he seemed able to inspire in me.
He was less human than any man I had known. He impressed me always as the incarnation of resolute evil. That was his strength—he was both bad and resolute. If bad men were in general brave, evil would rule the world as he ruled his. He swung upon his heel and left me.
I went in with Pierre Caribou, and the squaw glided out of the cabin. There were two couches of the kind they used to call ottomans inside, which had evidently once formed part of the chateau furnishings for their faded splendour accorded little with the decrepit interior of the hut.
I looked at my watch. I had thought it must be midnight, and it was only eight. Within three hours I had won Jacqueline and lost her forever. With Leroux in my power, I had yielded and gone away.
And on the morrow I should arrive at Pere Antoine’s hut just when he expected me.
Surely the mockery of fate could go no further!
I sank down on one of the divans and buried my face
in my hands, while
Pierre Caribou busied himself preparing food over the stove.
TEE OLD ANGEL
Presently the Indian touched me on the shoulder and I looked up. He had a plateful of steaming stew in his hands, and set it down beside me.
“Eat!” he said in English.
I was too dispirited and dejected to obey him at first. But soon I managed to fall to, and I was surprised to discover how ravenous I was. I had eaten hardly anything for days, and only a few mouthfuls since morning.
As I was eating there came a scratching at the door, and the Eskimo-dog pushed its way into the cabin and came bounding to my side. I stroked and petted it, and gave it the remnants of my meal, while Pierre watched us.
“You know him dog?” he asked.
“I saw it in New York,” I answered. “It brought me to Mlle. Jacqueline.”
My mind was very much alert just then. It was as though some hidden monitor within me had taken control to guide me through a maze of unknown dangers. It was that inner prompting which had forbidden me to say “Mme. d’Epernay.”