But it was the river that impressed itself most upon his senses. It seemed to him, as the minutes passed, like a living thing. He could hear it gurgling and playing under the end of the scow. And with that sound there was another and more indescribable thing, the tremble of it, the pulse of it, the thrill of it in the impenetrable gloom, the life of it as it swept on in a slow and mighty flood between its wilderness walls. Kent had always said, “You can hear the river’s heart beat—if you know how to listen for it.” And he heard it now. He felt it. The rain could not beat it out, nor could the splash of the water he was throwing overboard drown it, and the darkness could not hide it from the vision that was burning like a living coal within him. Always it was the river that had given him consolation in times of loneliness. For him it had grown into a thing with a soul, a thing that personified hope, courage, comradeship, everything that was big and great in final achievement. And tonight—for he still thought of the darkness as night—the soul of it seemed whispering to him a sort of paean.
He could not lose. That was the thought that filled him. Never had his pulse beat with greater assurance, never had a more positive sense of the inevitable possessed him. It was inconceivable, he thought, even to fear the possibility of being taken by the Police. He was more than a man fighting for his freedom alone, more than an individual struggling for the right to exist. A thing vastly more priceless than either freedom or life, if they were to be accepted alone, waited for him in the little cabin, shut in by its sea of darkness. And ahead of them lay their world. He emphasized that. Their world—the world which, in an illusive and unreal sort of way, had been a part of his dreams all his life. In that world they would shut themselves in. No one would ever find them. And the glory of the sun and the stars and God’s open country would be with them always.
Marette was the very heart of that reality which impinged itself upon him now. He did not worry about what it was she would tell him tomorrow, or day after tomorrow. He believed that it was then —when she had told him what there was to tell, and he still reached, out his arms to her—that she would come into those arms. And he knew that nothing that might have happened in Kedsty’s room would keep his arms from reaching, to her. Such was his faith, potent as the mighty flood hidden in the gray-ghost gloom of approaching dawn.
Yet he did not expect to win easily. As he worked, his mind swept up and down the Three Rivers from the Landing to Fort Simpson, and mentally he pictured the situations that might arise, and how he would triumph over them. He figured that the men at Barracks would not enter Kedsty’s bungalow until noon at the earliest. The Police gasoline launch would probably set out on a river search soon after. By mid-afternoon the scow would have a fifty-mile start.