When Ann came near she saw the bound figure reclining in the arms of the fallen tree. Then she believed that her worst fear had been true—that Bart had been unfaithful, and that her father had died in this wretched place. He must be dead because she had seen his spirit!
She came nearer. He had not died of starvation; the bag of food which she had hung upon the branch hung there yet. She set the canoe close against the tree, and, holding by the tree, raised herself in it. She had to be very careful lest the canoe should tip under her even while she held by the tree. Then she put forth a brave hand, and laid it upon the breast of the unconscious man.
He was not dead. The heart was beating, though not strongly; the body was warm.
“Father, father.” She shook him gently.
The answer was a groan, very feeble. It told her at once that the man before her was stricken with some physical ill that made him incapable of responding to her.
And now what was she to do? It was necessary by some means to get her father into the canoe. To that she did not give a second thought, but while he still lived it seemed to her monstrous to take him either back to Fentown Falls or down to The Mills. Her horror of prison and of judgment for him had grown to be wholly morbid and unreasonable, just because his terror of it had been so extreme. Only one course remained. She had the chart that David Brown had given her. He had told her that at that northern edge of the swamp, which could be reached by the way he had marked out, a small farmhouse stood. Possibly the people in this house might not yet have heard of Markham the murderer; or possibly, if they had heard, they might be won for pity’s sake to let him regain strength there and go in peace. It was her only chance. The moon was rising now, and she would find the way. She felt strength to do anything when she had realised that the heart beneath her hand was still beating.
Ann moved the canoe under the fallen log, and moving down it upon her knees, she took the rope from the prow, secured it round the log from which the sick man must descend, and fastened it again to the other end of the boat. This at least was a guarantee that they could not all sink together. Even yet the danger of upsetting the canoe sideways was very great. It was only necessity that enabled her to accomplish her task.