Carter, too, was a man bred of the red blood of the North, and he knew what was in Kent’s heart. For only by the breadth of a hair had Kent failed in his flight.
Pelly was on duty at barracks, and it was Pelly who locked him in one of the three cells behind the detachment office. When he was gone, Kent sat down on the edge of his prison cot and for the first time let the agony of his despair escape in a gasping breath from between his lips. Half an hour ago the world had reached out its arms to him, and he had gone forth to its welcome, only to have the grimmest tragedy of all his life descend upon him like the sword of Damocles. For this was real tragedy. Here there was no hope. The tentacles of the law had him in their grip, and he could no longer dream of escape.
Ghastly was the thought that it was he, James Kent, who had supervised the building of these cells! Acquainted with every trick and stratagem of the prisoner plotting for his freedom, he had left no weak point in their structure. Again he clenched his hands, and in his soul he cursed Mercer as he went to the little barred window that overlooked the river from his cell. The river was near now. He could hear the murmur of it. He could see its movement, and that movement, played upon by the stars, seemed now a writhing sort of almost noiseless laughter taunting him in his folly.
He went back to his cot, and in his despair buried his face in his hands. In the half-hour after that he did not raise his head. For the first time in his life he knew that he was beaten, so utterly beaten that he no more had the desire to fight, and his soul was dark with the chaos of the things he had lost.
At last he opened his eyes to the blackness of his prison room, and he beheld a marvelous thing. Across the gloom of the cell lay a shaft of golden fire. It was the light of the rising moon coming through his little, steel-barred window. To Kent it had crept into his cell like a living thing. He watched it, fascinated. His eyes followed it to the foot-square aperture, and there, red and glorious as it rose over the forests, the moon itself filled the world. For a space he saw nothing but that moon crowding the frame of his window. And as he rose to his feet and stood where his face was flooded in the light of it, he felt stirring within him the ghosts of his old hopes. One by one they rose up and came to life. He held out his hands, as if to fill them with the liquid glow; his heart beat faster in that glory of the moonrise. The taunting murmur of the river changed once more into hopeful song, his fingers closed tightly around the bars, and the fighting spirit rose in him again. As that spirit surged stronger, beating down his despair, driving the chaos out of his brain, he watched the moon as it climbed higher, changing from the red of the lower atmosphere to the yellow gold of the greater heights, marveling at the miracle of light and color that had never failed to stir him.