“Bete noir!” she panted at him, freeing herself from the last touch of his hands. “Beast—black beast!” Her voice trembled, and her face flamed. “See—I came to show you my pool—and tell you what you wanted to hear—and you—you—have crushed me like a beast—like a great rock— See! down there—it is my pool!”
She had not planned it like this. She had intended to be smiling, even laughing, in this moment. But McTaggart had spoiled them—her carefully made plans! And yet, as she pointed, the factor from Lac Bain looked for an instant over the edge of the chasm. And then she laughed—laughed as she gave him a sudden shove from behind.
“And that is my answer, M’sieu le Facteur from Lac Bain!” she cried tauntingly as he plunged headlong into the deep pool between the rock walls.
From the edge of the open Pierrot saw what had happened, and he gave a great gasp of horror. He drew back among the balsams. This was not a moment for him to show himself. While his heart drummed like a hammer, his face was filled with joy.
On her hands and knees the Willow was peering over the edge. Bush McTaggart had disappeared. He had gone down like the great clod he was. The water of her pool had closed over him with a dull splash that was like a chuckle of triumph. He appeared now, beating out with his arms and legs to keep himself afloat, while the Willow’s voice came to him in taunting cries.
“Bete noir! Bete noir! Beast! Beast—”
Savagely she flung small sticks and tufts of earth down at him; and McTaggart, looking up as he gained his equilibrium, saw her leaning so far over that she seemed almost about to fall. Her long braids hung down into the chasm, gleaming in the sun. Her eyes were laughing while her lips taunted him. He could see the flash of her white teeth.
He began swimming, still looking up at her. It was a hundred yards down the slow-going current to the beach of shale where he could climb out, and a half of that distance she followed him, laughing and taunting him, and flinging down sticks and pebbles. He noted that none of the sticks or stones was large enough to hurt him. When at last his feet touched bottom, she was gone.
Swiftly Nepeese ran back over the trail, and almost into Pierrot’s arms. She was panting and laughing when for a moment she stopped.
“I have given him the answer, Nootawe! He is in the pool!”
Into the balsams she disappeared like a bird. Pierrot made no effort to stop her or to follow.
“Tonnerre de Dieu,” he chuckled—and cut straight across for the other trail.