Close to the deep, dark pool in which he and the Willow had disported so often Baree, too, had stopped. He could hear the rippling of water, and his eyes shone with a gleaming fire as he searched for Nepeese. He expected to see her there, her slim white body shimmering in some dark shadow of overhanging spruce, or gleaming suddenly white as snow in one of the warm plashes of sunlight. His eyes sought out their old hiding places; the great split rock on the other side, the shelving banks under which they used to dive like otter, the spruce boughs that dipped down to the surface, and in the midst of which the Willow loved to pretend to hide while he searched the pool for her. And at last the realization was borne upon him that she was not there, that he had still farther to go.
He went on to the tepee. The little open space in which they had built their hidden wigwam was flooded with sunshine that came through a break in the forest to the west. The tepee was still there. It did not seem very much changed to Baree. And rising from the ground in front of the tepee was what had come to him faintly on the still air—the smoke of a small fire. Over that fire was bending a person, and it did not strike Baree as amazing, or at all unexpected, that this person should have two great shining braids down her back. He whined, and at his whine the person grew a little rigid, and turned slowly.
Even then it seemed quite the most natural thing in the world that it should be Nepeese, and none other. He had lost her yesterday. Today he had found her. And in answer to his whine there came a sobbing cry straight out of the heart of the Willow.
Carvel found them there a few minutes later, the dog’s head hugged close up against the Willow’s breast, and the Willow was crying—crying like a little child, her face hidden from him on Baree’s neck. He did not interrupt them, but waited; and as he waited something in the sobbing voice and the stillness of the forest seemed to whisper to him a bit of the story of the burned cabin and the two graves, and the meaning of the Call that had come to Baree from out of the south.
That night there was a new campfire in the clearing. It was not a small fire, built with the fear that other eyes might see it, but a fire that sent its flames high. In the glow of it stood Carvel. And as the fire had changed from that small smoldering heap over which the Willow had cooked her dinner, so Carvel, the officially dead outlaw, had changed. The beard was gone from his face. He had thrown off his caribou-skin coat. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, and there was a wild flush in his face that was not altogether the work of wind and sun and storm, and a glow in his eyes that had not been there for five years, perhaps never before. His eyes were on Nepeese.