And then she said: “You may keep it always if you want to, Jeems, for I cut it from my head when I left you in the room below, and when you—almost—believed I had killed Kedsty. It was this—”
She gave him another packet, and her lips tightened a little as Kent unwrapped it, and another tress of hair shimmered in the lamp glow.
“That was father Donald’s,” she whispered.
“It—it was all he had left of Marie, his wife. And that night— when Kedsty died—”
“I understand,” cried Kent, stopping her. “He choked Kedsty with it until he was dead. And when I found it around Kedsty’s neck— you—you let me think it was yours—to save father Donald!”
She nodded. “Yes, Jeems. If the police had come, they would have thought I was guilty. I planned to let them think so until father Donald was safe. But all the time I had here in my breast this other tress, which would prove that I was innocent—when the time came. And now, Jeems—”
She smiled at him again and reached out her hands. “Oh, I feel so strong! And I want to take you out now—and show you my valley— Jeems—our valley—yours and mine—in the starlight. Not tomorrow, Jeems. But tonight. Now.”
A little later the Watcher looked down on them, even as it had looked down on another man and another woman who had preceded them. But the stars were bigger and brighter, and the white cap of snow that rested on the Watcher’s head like a crown caught the faint gleam of a far-away light; and after that, slowly and wonderfully, other snow-crested mountain-tops caught that greeting radiance of the moon. But it was the Watcher who stood out like a mighty god among them all, and when they came to the elbow in the plain, Marette drew Kent down beside her on a great flat rock and laughed softly as she held his hand tightly in her lap.
“Always, from a little child, I have sat and played on this rock, with the Watcher looking, like that,” she said in a low voice. “I have grown to love him, Jeems. And I have always believed that he was gazing off there, night and day, into the east, watching for something that was coming to me. Now I know. It was you, Jeems. And, Jeems, when I was away—down there in the big city—”
Her fingers gripped his thumb in their old way, and Kent waited.
“It was the Watcher that made me want to come home most of all,” she went on, a bit of tremble in her voice. “Oh, I grew lonely for him, and I could see him in my dreams at night, watching, watching, watching, and sometimes even calling me. Jeems, do you see that hump on his left shoulder, like a great epaulet?”
“Yes, I see,” said Kent.
“Beyond that, on a straight line from here—hundreds of miles away—are Dawson City, the Yukon, the big gold country, men, women, civilization. Father Malcolm and father Donald have never found but one trail to this side of the mountains, and I have been over it three times—to Dawson. But the Watcher’s back is on those things. Sometimes I imagine it was he who built those great ramparts through which few men come. He wants this valley alone. And so do I. Alone—with you, and with my people.”