She clutched the stick as he approached her again. But McTaggart had lost all thought of fear or caution. He sprang upon her like an animal. The stick of firewood fell. And again fate played against the girl. In her terror and hopelessness she had caught up the first stick her hand had touched—a light one. With her last strength she hurled it at McTaggart, and as it struck his head, he staggered back. But it did not make him loose his hold.
Vainly she was fighting now, not to strike him or to escape, but to get her breath. She tried to cry out again, but this time no sound came from between her gasping lips.
Again he laughed, and as he laughed, he heard the door open. Was it the wind? He turned, still holding her in his arms.
In the open door stood Pierrot.
During that terrible interval which followed an eternity of time passed slowly through the little cabin on the Gray Loon—that eternity which lies somewhere between life and death and which is sometimes meted out to a human life in seconds instead of years.
In those seconds Pierrot did not move from where he stood in the doorway. McTaggart, encumbered with the weight in his arms, and staring at Pierrot, did not move. But the Willow’s eyes were opening. And at the same moment a convulsive quiver ran through the body of Baree, where he lay near the wall. There was not the sound of a breath. And then, in that silence, a great gasping sob came from Nepeese.
Then Pierrot stirred to life. Like McTaggart, he had left his coat and mittens outside. He spoke, and his voice was not like Pierrot’s. It was a strange voice.
“The great God has sent me back in time, m’sieu,” he said. “I, too, traveled by way of the east, and saw your trail where it turned this way.”
No, that was not like Pierrot’s voice! A chill ran through McTaggart now, and slowly he let go of Nepeese. She fell to the floor. Slowly he straightened.
“Is it not true, m’sieu?” said Pierrot again. “I have come in time?”
What power was it—what great fear, perhaps, that made McTaggart nod his head, that made his thick lips form huskily the words, “Yes—in time.” And yet it was not fear. It was something greater, something more all-powerful than that. And Pierrot said, in that same strange voice:
“I thank the great God!”
The eyes of madman met the eyes of madman now. Between them was death. Both saw it. Both thought that they saw the direction in which its bony finger pointed. Both were certain. McTaggart’s hand did not go to the pistol in his holster, and Pierrot did not touch the knife in his belt. When they came together, it was throat to throat—two beasts now, instead of one, for Pierrot had in him the fury and strength of the wolf, the cat, and the panther.