“Nothing, ma Nepeese—except that you have roused a thousand devils in the heart of the factor from Lac Barn, and that—”
He stopped as he saw Baree, and pointed at him.
“Last night when M’sieu the Factor caught him in a snare, he bit m’sieu’s hand. M’sieu’s hand is swollen twice its size, and I can see his blood turning black. It is pechipoo.”
“Pechipoo!” gasped Nepeese.
She looked into Pierrot’s eyes. They were dark, and filled with a sinister gleam—a flash of exultation, she thought.
“Yes, it is the blood poison,” said Pierrot. A gleam of cunning shot into his eyes as he looked over his shoulder, and nodded. “I have hidden the medicine—and told him there is no time to lose in getting back to Lac Bain. And he is afraid—that devil! He is waiting. With that blackening hand, he is afraid to start back alone—and so I go with him. And—listen, ma Nepeese. We will be away by sundown, and there is something you must know before I go.”
Baree saw them there, close together in the shadows thrown by the tall spruce trees. He heard the low murmur of their voices—chiefly of Pierrot’s, and at last he saw Nepeese put her two arms up around the man-beast’s neck, and then Pierrot went away again into the forest. He thought that the Willow would never turn her face toward him after that. For a long time she stood looking in the direction which Pierrot had taken. And when after a time she turned and came back to Baree, she did not look like the Nepeese who had been twining flowers in her hair. The laughter was gone from her face and eyes. She knelt down beside him and with sudden fierceness she cried:
“It is pechipoo, Baree! It was you—you—who put the poison in his blood. And I hope he dies! For I am afraid—afraid!”
Perhaps it was in this moment that the Great Spirit of things meant Baree to understand—that at last it was given him to comprehend that his day had dawned, that the rising and the setting of his sun no longer existed in the sky but in this girl whose hand rested on his head. He whined softly, and inch by inch he dragged himself nearer to her until again his head rested in the hollow of her lap.
For a long time after Pierrot left them the Willow did not move from the spot where she had seated herself beside Baree. It was at last the deepening shadows and a low rumble in the sky that roused her from the fear of the things Pierrot had told her. When she looked up, black clouds were massing slowly over the open space above the spruce tops. Darkness was falling. In the whisper of the wind and the dead stillness of the thickening gloom there was the sullen brewing of storm. Tonight there would be no glorious sunset. There would be no twilight hour in which to follow the trail, no moon, no stars—and unless Pierrot and the factor were already on their way, they would not start in the face of the pitch blackness that would soon shroud the forest.