Black Dennis Nolan’s explorations in the wilderness in search of the corpse of Foxey Jack Quinn served no purpose save that of occupying his three days of exile from Chance Along. Of course he acquired a deal of exact information of the country lying beyond the little harbor and north and south of it for several miles; but this knowledge of the minute details of the landscape did not seem of much value to him, at the time. He searched high and low, far and wide, returning at intervals of from three to five hours to within sound of the axes of his men. He dug the dry snow from clefts between granite boulders and ransacked the tangled hearts of thickets of spruce-tuck and alder. He investigated frozen swamps, wooded slopes, rocky knolls and hummocks, and gazed down through black ice at the brown waters of frozen ponds. He carried on his search scientifically, taking his camp as a point of departure and moving away from it in ever widening and lengthening curves. He found the shed antlers of a stag, the barrel of an old, long-lost sealing gun, the skeleton of a caribou, and the bones of a fox with one shank still gripped in the jaws of a rusty trap. He found a large dry cave in the side of a knoll. He found the charred butts of an old camp-fire and near it that which had once been a plug of tobacco—a brown, rotten mass, smelling of dead leaves and wet rags. He found a rusted fish-hook, so thorough was his search—aye, and a horn button. In such signs he read the fleeting history of the passing of generations of men that way—of men from Chance Along who had sought in this wilderness for flesh for their pots and timber for their huts, boats and stages. He found everything but what he was looking for—the frozen body of Foxey Jack Quinn with the necklace of diamonds and rubies in its pocket. Then a haunting fear came to him that the thief had escaped—had won out to the big world in spite of the storm and by some other course than Witless Bay.
With this fear in him, he carried on terribly for a few minutes, raging around his fire, cursing the name and the soul of Foxey Jack Quinn, calling upon the saints for justice, confounding his luck and his enemies. He stopped it suddenly, for he had a way of regaining command of his threshing passions all at once. He did not have to let them thresh themselves out, as is the case with weaker men; but he gripped them, full-blooded, to quiet, by sheer will power and a turn of thought. The force of mastery was strong in Black Dennis Nolan’s wild nature. When he wished it he could master himself as well as others. Now he sat down quietly beside his fire and lit his pipe. The evening was near at hand—the evening of the third and last day of his exile. The sun, like a small round window of red glass, hung low above the black hills to the north and west. He got to his feet, threw snow on the breaking fire and scattered the steaming coals with his foot. Then he pulled down his shelter and threw the poles and spruce branches into a thicket, so that no marks of his encampment were left except the wet coals and smudged ashes of the fire.