Then came another of those strange unearthly sunsets. Ann’s mind was made up. Inactivity she could endure no longer. There was one explanation that appeared to her more reasonable than any other; that was, that Bart had wavered in his resolution to relieve Markham, that the latter had died upon the tree where he was hiding, and that Bart would not show himself for the present where Ann could see him. Ann did not believe in this explanation; but because of the apparition which she thought she had seen, because of the horrible nature of the fear it entailed, she determined that, come what would, she would go to that secret place which she alone knew and find out if her father had been taken from it or if any trace remained there to show what had really happened. It was when the sisters were again alone for the night that she first broke the silence of her fears.
“Christa, father came to the window last night, but went away again before I could catch him.”
“Sure he would never show his face in this place, Ann. You must have been dreaming!”
“Well, I must try to find him. I tell you what I’m going to do. I’ve been along all the boats, and there’s not one of them I could take without being heard except David Brown’s canoe that is tied at the foot of his father’s field. I could get that, and I expect to be back here long before it’s light. If any one should come to the door asking for me, you say, like the other night, that I’m ill and can’t see them.”
“Yes,” said Christa, without exhibiting much interest. Ann had been the deus ex machina of the house since Christa’s babyhood. It never occurred to her that any power needed to interfere on behalf of Ann.
“But if I shouldn’t get back by daylight, you’ll have to manage to say a word to David Brown. Tell him that I borrowed his canoe for a very special purpose. If you just say that, he’ll have sense not to make a fuss.”
“Yes,” said Christa sleepily.
The canoe did not answer to Ann’s one slim Indian paddle so lightly as the boat she had taken before had answered to the oars. Kneeling upright in the stern, she was obliged to keep her body in perfect balance.
The moon did not rise now until late, but the smoke that had for two days hung so still and dim had been lifted on a light breeze that came with the darkness. The stars were clear above, and Ann’s eyes were well accustomed to the wood and stream.
Ah! how long it seemed before she came round the bend of the river and down to the blasted tree. She felt a repulsion for the whole death-like place to-night that she had not felt before. She had been sure the other night of meeting some one at the end of her secret journey, and now the best she could hope was that the place would be empty; and even if it were empty, perhaps, for all she knew, one of the men