Baree had moved. With the back of his head flattened against the rock, he had heard something which Nepeese had not heard. He had felt a slow and growing pressure, and from this pressure he had dragged himself slowly—and the pressure still followed. The mass of rock was settling! Nepeese did not see or hear or understand. She was calling to him more and more pleadingly:
Her head and shoulders and both arms were under the rock now. The glow of her eyes was very close to Baree. He whined. The thrill of a great and impending danger stirred in his blood. And then—
In that moment Nepeese felt the pressure of the rock on her shoulder, and into the eyes that had been glowing softly at Baree there shot a sudden wild look of horror. And then there came from her lips a cry that was not like any other sound Baree had ever heard in the wilderness—wild, piercing, filled with agonized fear. Pierrot did not hear that first cry. But he heard the second and the third—and then scream after scream as the Willow’s tender body was slowly crushed under the settling mass. He ran toward it with the speed of the wind. The cries were now weaker—dying away. He saw Baree as he came out from under the rock and ran into the canyon, and in the same instant he saw a part of the Willow’s dress and her moccasined feet. The rest of her was hidden under the deathtrap. Like a madman Pierrot began digging.
When a few moments later he drew Nepeese out from under the boulder she was white and deathly still. Her eyes were closed. His hand could not feel that she was living, and a great moan of anguish rose out of his soul. But he knew how to fight for a life. He tore open her dress and found that she was not crushed as he had feared. Then he ran for water. When he returned, the Willow’s eyes were open and she was gasping for breath.
“The blessed saints be praised!” sobbed Pierrot, falling on his knees at her side. “Nepeese, ma Nepeese!”
She smiled at him, and Pierrot drew her up to him, forgetting the water he had run so hard to get.
Still later, when he got down on his knees and peered under the rock, his face turned white and he said:
“Mon Dieu, if it had not been for that little hollow in the earth, Nepeese—”
He shuddered, and said no more. But Nepeese, happy in her salvation, made a movement with her hand and said, smiling at him:
“I would have been like—that.” And she held her thumb and forefinger close together.
“But where did Baree go, mon pere?” Nepeese cried.