And now it was no longer fear that possessed him. It was the horrible, overwhelming certainty of the thing. The years fell from him, and he sobbed—sobbed like a boy stricken by some great childish grief, as he searched along the edge of the shore. Over and over again he cried and whispered Marette’s name.
But he did not shout it again, for he knew that she was dead. She was gone from him forever. Yet he did not cease to search. The last of the sun went out. Twilight came, and then darkness. Even in that darkness he continued to search for a mile below the Chute, calling her name more loudly now, and listening always for the answer which he knew would never come. The moon came out after a time, and hour after hour he kept up his hopeless quest. He did not know how badly the rocks had battered and hurt him, and he scarcely knew when it was that exhaustion dropped him like a dead man in his tracks. When dawn came, it found him wandering away from the river, and toward noon of that day, he was found by Andre Boileau, the old white-haired half-breed who trapped on Burntwood Creek. Andre was shocked at the sight of his wounds and half dragged and half carried him to his shack hidden away in the forest.
For six days thereafter Kent remained at old Andre’s place, simply because he had neither the strength nor the reason to move. Andre wondered that there were no broken bones in him. But his head was terribly hurt, and it was that hurt that for three days and three nights made Kent hover with nerve-racking indecision between life and death. The fourth day reason came back to him, and Boileau fed him venison broth. The fifth day he stood up. The sixth he thanked Andre, and said that he was ready to go.
Andre outfitted him with old clothes, gave him a supply of food and God’s blessing. And Kent returned to the Chute, giving Andre to understand that his destination was Athabasca Landing.
Kent knew that it was not wise for him to return to the river. He knew that it would have been better for him both in mind and body had be gone in the opposite direction. But he no longer had in him the desire to fight, even for himself. He followed the lines of least resistance, and these led him back to the scene of the tragedy. His grief, when he returned, was no longer the heartbreaking agony of that first night. It was a deep-seated, consuming fire that had already burned him out, heart and soul. Even caution was dead in him. He feared nothing, avoided nothing. Had the police boat been at the Chute, he would have revealed himself without any thought of self-preservation. A ray of hope would have been precious medicine to him. But there was no hope. Marette was dead. Her tender body was destroyed. And he was alone, unfathomably and hopelessly alone.