“Yes, Bart,” she said, with some sudden intuitive sense of agreement.
Then, seeming to be satisfied, he closed his eyes and went back into the state of drowsiness.
Ann went up to the house. It was a great relief to her to remember that the man for whom she was going to ask help was no criminal. She could hold up her head and speak boldly.
Another minute and she began to look curiously to see how long the grass and weeds had grown before the door. It was some months since David Brown had been here. The doubt which had entered Ann’s mind grew swiftly. She knocked loudly upon the door and upon the wooden shutters of the windows. The knocks echoed through empty rooms.
She had no hesitation in house-breaking. In a shed at the back she found a broken spade which formed a sufficiently strong and sharp lever for her purpose. She pried open a shutter and climbed in. She found only such furniture as was necessary for a temporary abode. A small iron stove, a few utensils of tin, a huge sack which had been used for a straw bed, and a few articles of wooden furniture, were all that was to be seen.
Upon the canvas sack she seized eagerly. Bart might be dying, or he might be recovering from some injury; in either case she had only one desire, and that was to procure for him the necessary comforts. Having no access to hay or straw, she began rapidly to gather the bracken which was standing two and three feet high in great quantities wherever the ground was dry under the trees. She worked with a nervous strength that was extraordinary, even to herself, after the toilsome night. When she had filled the sack, she put it upon the floor of the lower room and went back to the canoe. She saw that Bart had roused himself and was sitting up. He was even holding on to the rushes with his hand—an act which she thought showed the dreamy state of his mind, for she did not notice that the rope had come undone. She helped Bart out of the canoe, putting her arm strongly round him so that he was able to walk. She saw that he had not his mind yet; he said no word about the help she gave him; he walked as a sleeping man might walk. When she laid him down upon the bed of bracken and arranged his head upon the thicker part which she had heaped for a pillow, he seemed to her to fall asleep almost at once; and yet, for fear that his strange condition was not sleep, she hastily opened the bag of food and the flask of rum.
She stripped the twigs from a tiny spruce tree, piling them inside the old stove. When they had cracked and blazed with a fierce, sudden heat, Ann could only break bread-crumbs into a cupful of boiling water and put a few drops of rum in it. She woke Bart and fed him as she might have fed a baby. When he lay down again exhausted, with that strange moan which he always gave when he first put back his head, she had the comfort of believing that a better colour came to his cheek than before. She resolved that if he rested quietly for a few hours and appeared better after the next food she gave him, she would think it safe to cushion the canoe with bracken and take him home. This thought suggested to her to moor the canoe.