Then she seemed suddenly to wake, and the scene before her to flash at once and ineffaceably into her mind. It was a clean bare room, with a bed in one corner, and a chair and table in the middle; the stone walls, the floor and ceiling, all white, and a bright flood of sunshine coming in through the unshaded window. Sitting on the only chair, with his arms spread over the table, and his head resting on them, was the prisoner. His face was hidden, but the coarse, disordered dress, the long hair, half grey, half black, lying loose and shaggy over his bony hands, the dreary broken-down expression of his attitude, made a picture not to be looked upon without pity. Yet the thing that seemed most pathetic of all was that utter change in the man which, even at the first glance, was so plainly evident. This visitor, standing silent and unnoticed by the door, had come in full of recollections, not even of him as she had seen him last, but of him as she had married him twenty years ago. Of him? It seemed almost incredible—yet for the very sake of the past and for the pitiful alteration now, she felt her heart yearn towards that desolate figure, and going softly forward she laid her hand upon his shoulder.
“Christian!” she said in a low and trembling voice.
The prisoner slowly moved, as if waking from a doze. He raised his head, pushed back his tangled hair and looked at her.
What a face! It needed all her pity to help her to repress a shudder; but there was no recognition in the dull heavy eyes.
“Christian,” she repeated. “See, I am your wife. I am Mary, who left Moose Island so many years ago.”
Still he looked at her in the same dull way, scarcely seeming to see her.
“Mary,” he repeated mechanically. “She went away.” Then changing to his own language, he said with more energy, “She is hidden, but I shall find her; no fear,” and his head sank down again upon his arm.
His wife trembled as she heard the old threat which had pursued her for so long, but she would not be discouraged. She spoke again in Ojibway,
“She is found. She wants to help and comfort her husband. She is here. Raise your head and look at her.”
He obeyed, and looked steadily at her, but still with the look of one but half awake.
“No,” he said slowly. “All lies. Mary is not like you. She has bright eyes, and brown hair, soft and smooth like a bird’s wing. I beat her, and she ran away. Go! I want to sleep.”
Mr. Strafford came forward.
“Have you forgotten me, too, Christian?” he asked.
Christian turned to him with something like recognition.
“No. You were here yesterday. Tell them to let me go away.”
“It is because I want to persuade them to let you go, that I am here now, and your—this lady, whom you do not remember, also.”
“What does a squaw know? Send her away.”