The missioner was rubbing his brown, knotted hands together raspingly.
“Go on,” said Kent a little thickly.
“He has also sent Inspector Kedsty the same word,” finished Father Layonne. “His word to Kedsty is that he can see no fighting chance for you, and that it is useless effort on his part to put up a defense for you. Jimmy!” His hand touched Kent’s arm gently.
Kent’s face was white. He faced the window, and for a space he did not see. Then with pencil and paper he wrote again to Fingers.
It was late in the afternoon before Father Layonne returned with an answer. Again it was verbal. Fingers had read his note and had burned it with a match. He was particular that the last scrap of it was turned into ash, the missioner said. And he had nothing to say to Kent that he had not previously said. He simply could not go on with their plans. And he requested Kent not to write to him again. He was sorry, but that was his definite stand in the matter.
Even then Kent could not bring himself to believe. All the rest of the day he tried to put himself in Fingers’ brain, but his old trick of losing his personality in that of another failed him this time. He could find no reason for the sudden change in Fingers, unless it was what Fingers had frankly confessed to Father Layonne—fear. The influence of mind, in this instance, had failed in its assault upon a mass of matter. Fingers’ nerve had gone back on him.
The fifth day Kent rose from his cot with hope still not quite dead in his heart. But that day passed and the sixth, and the missioner brought word that Fingers was the old Dirty Fingers again, sitting from morning till night on his porch.
On the seventh day came the final crash to Kent’s hopes. Kedsty’s program had changed. He, Kent, was to start for Edmonton the following morning under charge of Pelly and a special constable!
After this Kent felt a strange change come over him. Years seemed to multiply themselves in his body. His mind, beaten back, no longer continued in its old channels of thought. The thing pressed upon him now as fatalistic. Fingers had failed him. Fortune had failed him. Everything had failed, and for the first time in the weeks of his struggle against death and a thing worse than death, he cursed himself. There was a limit to optimism and a limit to hope. His limit was reached.
In the afternoon of this seventh day came a depressing gloom. It was filled with a drizzling rain. Hour after hour this drizzle kept up, thickening as the night came. He ate his supper by the light of a cell lamp. By eight o’clock it was black outside. In that blackness there was an occasional flash of lightning and rumble of thunder. On the roof of the barracks the rain beat steadily and monotonously.
His watch was in his hand—it was a quarter after nine o’clock, when he heard the door at the far exit of the hall open and close. He had heard it a dozen times since supper and paid no attention to it, but this time it was followed by a voice at the detachment office that hit him like an electrical shock. Then, a moment later, came low laughter. It was a woman who laughed.