At last he came to the edge of this country. He camped with the stink of it in his nostrils. The moon rose, and he saw that desolate world as through the fumes of a yellow smoke. With dawn he went on.
He passed through broad, low morasses out of which rose sulphurous fogs. Mile after mile he buried himself deeper in it, and it became more and more a dead country, a lost hell. There were berry bushes on which there grew no berries. There were forests and swamps, but without a living creature to inhabit them.
It was a country of water in which there were no fish, of air in which there were no birds, of plants without flowers—a reeking, stinking country still with the stillness of death. He began to turn yellow. His clothing, his canoe, his hands, face—everything turned yellow. He could not get the filthy taste of sulphur out of his mouth. Yet he kept on, straight west by the compass Gowen had given him at Hay River. Even this compass became yellow in his pocket. It was impossible for him to eat. Only twice that day did he drink from his flask of water.
And Marette had made this journey! He kept telling himself that. It was the secret way in and out of their hidden world, a region accursed by devils, a forbidden country to both Indian and white man. It was hard for him to believe that she had come this way, that she had drunk in the air that was filling his own lungs, nauseating him a dozen times to the point of sickness. He worked desperately. He felt neither fatigue nor the heat of the warm water about him.
Night came, and the moon rose, lighting up with a sickly glow the diseased world that had swallowed him. He lay in the bottom of his canoe, covering his face with his caribou coat, and tried to sleep. But sleep would not come. Before dawn he struck on, watching his compass by the light of matches. All that day he made no effort to swallow food. But with the coming of the second night he found the air easier to breathe. He fought his way on by the light of the moon which was clearer now. And at last, in a resting spell, he heard far ahead of him the howl of a wolf.
In his joy he cried out. A western breeze brought him air that he drank in as a desert-stricken man drinks water. He did not look at his compass again, but worked steadily in the face of that fresh air. An hour later he found that he was paddling again a slow current, and when he tasted the water it was only slightly tainted with sulphur. By midnight the water was cool and clean. He landed on a shore of sand and pebbles, stripped to the skin, and gave himself such a scouring as he had never before experienced. He had worn his old trapping shirt and trousers, and after his bath he changed to the outfit which he had kept clean in his pack. Then he built a fire and ate his first meal in two days.