Baree did not take his eyes from McTaggart as he smoked. He watched the man when the latter stretched himself out on the bare ground and went to sleep. He listened, still later, to the man-monster’s heinous snoring. Again and again during the long night he struggled to free himself. He would never forget that night. It was terrible. In the thick, hot folds of the blanket his limbs and body were suffocated until the blood almost stood still in his veins. Yet he did not whine.
They began to journey before the sun was up, for if Baree’s blood was almost dead within him, Bush McTaggart’s was scorching his body. He made his last plans as he walked swiftly through the forest with Baree under his arm. He would send Pierrot at once for Father Grotin at his mission seventy miles to the west. He would marry Nepeese—yes, marry her! That would tickle Pierrot. And he would be alone with Nepeese while Pierrot was gone for the missioner.
This thought flamed McTaggart’s blood like strong whisky. There was no thought in his hot and unreasoning brain of what Nepeese might say—of what she might think. His hand clenched, and he laughed harshly as there flashed on him for an instant the thought that perhaps Pierrot would not want to give her up. Pierrot! Bah! It would not be the first time he had killed a man—or the second.
McTaggart laughed again, and he walked still faster. There was no chance of his losing—no chance for Nepeese to get away from him. He—Bush McTaggart—was lord of this wilderness, master of its people, arbiter of their destinies. He was power—and the law.
The sun was well up when Pierrot, standing in front of his cabin with Nepeese, pointed to a rise in the trail three or four hundred yards away, over which McTaggart had just appeared.
“He is coming.”
With a face which had aged since last night he looked at Nepeese. Again he saw the dark glow in her eyes and the deepening red of her parted lips, and his heart was sick again with dread. Was it possible—
She turned on him, her eyes shining, her voice trembling.
“Remember, Nootawe—you must send him to me for his answer,” she cried quickly, and she darted into the cabin. With a cold, gray face Pierrot faced Bush McTaggart.
From the window, her face screened by the folds of the curtain which she had made for it, the Willow could see what happened outside. She was not smiling now. She was breathing quickly, and her body was tense. Bush McTaggart paused not a dozen feet from the window and shook hands with Pierrot, her father. She heard McTaggart’s coarse voice, his boisterous greeting, and then she saw him showing Pierrot what he carried under his arm. There came to her distinctly his explanation of how he had caught his captive in a rabbit snare. He unwrapped the blanket. Nepeese gave a cry of amazement. In an instant she was out beside them. She did not look at McTaggart’s red face, blazing in its joy and exultation.