And then he laughed. If Pelly or Carter had heard him, they would have wondered if he was mad. It was madness of a sort—the madness of restored confidence, of an unlimited faith, of an optimism that was bound to make dreams come true. Again he looked beyond the bars of his cell. The world was still there; the river was there; all the things that were worth fighting for were there. And he would fight. Just how, he did not try to tell himself now. And then he laughed again, softly, a bit grimly, for he saw the melancholy humour of the fact that he had built his own prison.
He sat down again on the edge of his cot, and the whimsical thought struck him that all those he had brought to this same cell, and who had paid the first of their penance here, must be laughing at him now in the spirit way. In his mental fancy a little army of faces trooped before him, faces dark and white, faces filled with hatred and despair, faces brave with the cheer of hope and faces pallid with the dread of death. And of these ghosts of his man-hunting prowess it was Anton Fournet’s face that came out of the crowd and remained with him. For he had brought Anton to this same cell—Anton, the big Frenchman, with his black hair, his black beard, and his great, rolling laugh that even in the days when he was waiting for death had rattled the paper-weights on Kedsty’s desk.
Anton rose up like a god before Kent now. He had killed a man, and like a brave man he had not denied it. With a heart in his great body as gentle as a girl’s, Anton had taken pride in the killing. In his prison days he sang songs to glorify it. He had killed the white man from Chippewyan who had stolen his neighbor’s wife! Not his wife, but his neighbor’s! For Anton’s creed was, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” and he had loved his neighbor with the great forest love of man for man. His neighbor was weak, and Anton was strong with the strength of a bull, so that when the hour came, it was Anton who had measured out vengeance. When Kent brought Anton in, the giant had laughed first at the littleness of his cell, then at the unsuspected strength of it, and after that he had laughed and sung great, roaring songs every day of the brief tenure of life that was given him. When he died, it was with the smiling glory in his face of one who had cheaply righted a great wrong.
Kent would never forget Anton Fournet. He had never ceased to grieve that it had been his misfortune to bring Anton in, and always, in close moments, the thought of Anton, the stout-hearted, rallied him back to courage. Never would he be the man that Anton Fournet had been, he told himself many times. Never would his heart be as great or as big, though the Law had hanged Anton by the neck until the soul was choked out of his splendid body, for it was history that Anton Fournet had never harmed man, woman, or child until he set out to kill a human snake and the Law placed its heel upon him and crushed him.