He returned to his bed, wondering who the new patient could be.
He was breathing easier after his exertion. The fact that he was feeling keenly alive, and that the thickening in his chest was disappearing, flushed him with elation. An unbounded optimism possessed him. It was late when he fell asleep, and he slept late. It was Mercer’s entrance into his room that roused him. He came in softly, closed the door softly, yet Kent heard him. The moment he pulled himself up, he knew that Mercer had a report to make, and he also saw that something upsetting had happened to him. Mercer was a bit excited.
“I beg pardon for waking you, sir,” he said, leaning close over Kent, as though fearing the guard might be listening at the door. “But I thought it best for you to hear about the Indian, sir.”
“Yes, sir—Mooie, sir. I am quite upset over it, Mr. Kent. He told me early last evening that he had found the scow on which the girl was going down-river. He said it was hidden in Kim’s Bayou.”
“Kim’s Bayou! That was a good hiding-place, Mercer!”
“A very good place of concealment indeed, sir. As soon as it was dark, Mooie returned to watch. What happened to him I haven’t fully discovered, sir. But it must have been near midnight when he staggered up to Crossen’s place, bleeding and half out of his senses. They brought him here, and I watched over him most of the night. He says the girl went aboard the scow and that the scow started down-river. That much I learned, sir. But all the rest he mumbles in a tongue I can not understand. Crossen says it’s Cree, and that old Mooie believes devils jumped on him with clubs down at Kim’s Bayou. Of course they must have been men. I don’t believe in Mooie’s devils, sir.”
“Nor I,” said Kent, the blood stirring strangely in his veins. “Mercer, it simply means there was some one cleverer than old Mooie watching that trail.”
With a curiously tense face Mercer was looking cautiously toward the door. Then he leaned still lower over Kent.
“During his mumblings, when I was alone with him, I heard him speak a name, sir. Half a dozen times, sir—and it was—Kedsty!”
Kent’s fingers gripped the young Englishman’s hand.
“You heard that, Mercer?”
“I am sure I could not have been mistaken, sir. It was repeated a number of times.”
Kent fell back against his pillows. His mind was working swiftly. He knew that behind an effort to appear calm Mercer was uneasy over what had happened.
“We mustn’t let this get out, Mercer,” he said. “If Mooie should be badly hurt—should die, for instance—and it was discovered that you and I—”
He knew he had gone far enough to give effect to his words. He did not even look at Mercer.