“We’ve got just one chance, Clarry. I can’t see any more. Keep straight ahead—and run for it, and may the good God help us now!”
And Clarry O’Grady, drawing one great breath that was half fire into his lungs, ran straight into the face of what looked like death to Jan Larose. In that one moment Jan closed his eyes and waited for the plunge over the cliff. But in place of death a sweep of air that seemed almost cold struck his face, and he opened his eyes to find the clear and uncharred slope leading before them down to the edge of the lake. He shouted the news into O’Grady’s ear, and then there arose from O’Grady’s chest a great sobbing cry, partly of joy, partly of pain, and more than all else of that terrible grief which came of the knowledge that back in the pit of death from which he had escaped he had left forever the vision of life itself. He dropped Jan in the edge of the water, and, plunging in to his waist, he threw handful after handful of water into his own swollen face, and then stared upward, as though this last experiment was also his last hope.
“My God, I’m blind—stone blind!”
Jan was staring hard into O’Grady’s face. He called him nearer, took the swollen and blackened face between his two hands, and his voice was trembling with joy when he spoke.
“You’re not blind—not for good—O’Grady,” he said. “I’ve seen men like you before—twice. You—you’ll get well. O’Grady—Clarry O’Grady—let’s shake! I’m a brother to you from this day on. And I’m glad—glad—that Marie loves a man like you!”
O’Grady had gripped his hand, but he dropped it now as though it had been one of the live brands that had hurtled down upon them from the top of the mountain.
“Marie—man—why—she hates me!” he cried. “It’s you—you—Jan Larose, that she loves! I went there with a broken leg, an’ I fell in love with her. But she wouldn’t so much as let me touch her hand, an’ she talked of you—always—always—until I had learned to hate you before you came. I dunno why she did it—that other thing—unless it was to make you jealous. I guess it was all f’r fun, Jan. She didn’t know. The day you went away she sent me after you. But I hated you—hated you worse’n she hated me. It’s you—you—”
He clutched his hands at his sightless face again, and suddenly Jan gave a wild shout. Creeping around the edge of a smoking headland, he had caught sight of a man and a canoe.
“There’s a man in a canoe!” he cried, “He sees us! O’Grady—”
He tried to lift himself, but fell back with a groan. Then he laughed, and, in spite of his agony, there was a quivering happiness in his voice.
“He’s coming, O’Grady. And it looks—it looks like a canoe we both know. We’ll go back to her cabin together, O’Grady. And when we’re on our legs again—well, I never wanted the gold. That’s yours—all of it.”
A determined look had settled in O’Grady’s face. He groped his way to Jan’s side, and their hands met in a clasp that told more than either could have expressed of the brotherhood and strength of men.