“Mebby she’ll come back some day,” he said.
That was all, but the others understood.
For nine days Jan raced his dogs into the South. On the tenth they came to Le Pas. It was night when they stopped before the little log hotel, and the gloom hid the twitching in Jan’s face.
“You will stay here—to-night?” asked the woman.
“Me go back—now,” said Jan.
Cummins’ wife came very close to him. She did not urge, for she, too, was suffering the torture of this last parting with the “honor of the Beeg Snows.” It was not the baby’s face that came to Jan’s now, but the woman’s. He felt the soft touch of her lips, and his soul burst forth in a low, agonized cry.
“The good God bless you, and keep you, and care for you evermore, Jan,” she whispered. “Some day we will meet again.”
And she kissed him again, and lifted the child to him, and Jan turned his tired dogs back into the grim desolation of the North, where the Aurora was lighting his way feebly, and beckoning to him, and telling him that the old life of centuries and centuries ago was waiting for him there.
Father Brochet had come south from Fond du Lac, and Weyman, the Hudson’s Bay Company doctor, north through the Geikee River country. They had met at Severn’s cabin, on the Waterfound. Both had come on the same mission—to see Severn; one to keep him from dying, if that was possible, one to comfort him in the last hour, if death came. Severn insisted on living. Bright-eyed, hollow-cheeked, with a racking cough that reddened the gauze handkerchief the doctor had given him, he sat bolstered up in his cot and looked out through the open door with glad and hopeful gaze. Weyman had arrived only half an hour before. Outside was the Indian canoeman who had helped to bring him up.
It was a glorious day, such as comes in its full beauty only in the far northern spring, where the air enters the lungs like sharp, warm wine, laden with the tang of spruce and balsam, and the sweetness of the bursting poplar-buds.
“It was mighty good of you to come up,” Severn was saying to the doctor. “The company has always been the best friend I’ve ever had—except one—and that’s why I’ve hung to it all these years, trailing the sledges first as a kid, you know, then trapping, running, and—oh, Lord!”
He stopped to cough, and the little black-frocked missioner, looking across at Weyman, saw him bite his lips.
“That cough hurts, but it’s better,” Severn apologized, smiling weakly. “Funny, ain’t it, a man like me coming down with a cough? Why, I’ve slept in ice a thousand times, with snow for a pillow and the thermometer down to fifty. But this last winter it was cold, seventy or lower, an’ I worked in it when I ought to have been inside, warming my toes. But, you see, I wanted to get the cabin built, an’ things all cleared up about here, before she came. It’s the cold that got me, wasn’t it, doc?”