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from Under The Northern Lights (1928)
THIS is a tale of the big timber that grows in league-long patches where the headwaters of the Saguenay find their birth amongst tumbled foothills of the Laurentian range. Thence flows the Saguenay, a chill and formidable stream, gathering volume as it moves southward with countless tributaries from unknown lakes and moose-trampled marshes, loitering on its way through stretches of cedar-bordered solitude, flinging itself headlong over cataracts where the tawny water rages thunderously day and night, ever more deep, forbidding and austere, till at last it merges majestically with the great St. Lawrence, the mother of many rivers, and spends itself between the thousand-foot crags of Capes Trinity and Eternity.
All along the Saguenay it is a French country, as French as when two hundred years ago the peasants of Brittany and Normandy first fared northward into the unexplored wilderness. Amid the big timber and beside untamed waters they raised their log-hewn walls, with the mud-chinked joints, the tiny deep set windows and the massive roofs that must bear the weight of winter snows. Out of the forest they carved their farms, planting grain between the unconquerable roots, drawing sustenance from wood and stream, beating off marauding Indians, gathering in the long winter evenings round pine-heaped hearths, utterly alone save when in summer the yellow bows of a canoe glided round a point, and a missionary Jesuit Father landed from Quebec; or when in winter the man of God tramped, solitary, through endless miles of big timber on his errand of mercy and peace.
But always there was talk of France, with lingering, poignant pictures of the land they had left, of the red roofs of Quiberon that look across the bay at Croise and the cobbled streets of Rennes that lead to the swift waters of the Vilaine.
In one of the patches of timber on Lac St. Luc there is a lumber-camp, a nest of long buildings, ten feet high, that occupy a roughly cleared space close to the water's edge. From the camp there radiates a maze of winter roads traversed by a hundred lumberjacks in gaudy woollen capotes, with axes and saws over their shoulders, and down these roads, which all slope gently to the lake, great logs are drawn, to be dumped, rumbling, on the ice. All through the day one can hear, near and far, the crash of big timber toppling earthward, the creak of straining harness, the crack of whips, the stroke of axes and the whine of distant saws. At night there is talk beside great cast-iron stoves stuffed with fuel, much smoke, the drone of winter winds and the plaintive hoot of the great white owl.
It fell on a day when the sun shone bright and the snow was like a sparkling blanket, that a man emerged from the Saguenay trail and struck across Lac St. Luc. He walked with a long, easy swing, bending a little forward beneath the weight of his pack. Threading his way between the piles of logs, he halted at the door of the main building, twisted his feet free of snowshoes and entered.
"Hallo!" he said with a smile. "I have again arrived."
The cook looked round, and straightway forgot his cooking, for the new-comer was none other than Antoine Carnot the peddler the bringer of news the teller of tales the confidential go-between in the wilderness the human link with the outside world. Antoine was all of these, and more. A bit of a doctor, a bit more of a lawyer, a shrewd trader, and withal possessed of unfailing humour and a heart of gold. No wonder that Pierre Colange forgot his cooking and hurried forward, hands outstretched.
"Ten thousand welcomes, mon vieux. No, you shall not talk till you have eaten. Behold, a partridge which was for the boss, but eat and say nothing. The wind makes a chill in the stomach, but you have an hour before the men come in. Fill thyself, and say nothing till afterwards."
Antoine nodded and obeyed, while Pierre watched him admiringly. Then there was news, much news from a dozen villages, while the pack was unrolled and its contents spread on a table in the corner. Knives and neckties, shirts and razors and mouth-organs, jimcracks and cheap jewellery, studs and celluloid collars the result of Antoine's annual trip to Quebec. A great man was Antoine; had he not once sent a telegram to Montreal and got an answer the very next day, and he right there in Quebec all the time! Presently his wares were displayed to his satisfaction, and he sent Pierre a swift glance.
"Jean Deslormes, he is still here?"
Pierre nodded. "He makes good money, forty dollars a month and spends nothing save for tobacco."
"I was at Villeneuve this day two weeks ago," said Antoine thoughtfully, "and saw the girl Marie Fisette. They are betrothed."
Pierre laughed at this. "Does not the whole camp know it, and how many times has Jean not told us! Every morning he goes along the road making verses to that girl with his mouth. It is well that he cannot write but perhaps I do not understand such things. I made no verses to my Henriette."
Antoine looked a little grave, "Sebastien was also at Villeneuve, and full of anger when he heard of the betrothal. Marie told me that he said strange and threatening things, that she should never marry Jean. Then he barked something like a wolf, and she did not see him again."
"Loup Garou!" whisPèred Pierre under his breath. It was a word of awe through the outlying French country. The story of the Loup Garou, that strange and malign combination of man and wolf, had come across with them from the hills of Brittany. The belief still held north of the Laurentians. It was always an old dog wolf, tenanted by some evil and human spirit, endowed with wild powers of murder and revenge, a lean grey beast that patrolled the winter hills and sent his savage note drifting down into solitary villages where simple folk gathered closer round the fire and glanced apprehensively at the window-fastenings. Sometimes it was a man who took the form of a wolf to serve his dread purpose, and became again human when his deadly part was played.
This had been whisPèred of Sebastien behind his back. Where the man came from none knew, only that calamity came with him. He was small, dark and very active, with hollow cheeks and burning eyes, and moved about through the French country, seldom doing any work, but living apparently without effort. He was disliked and feared, but the folk made no protest at least to Sebastien. There was the case of Georges Famieux who threw Sebastien out of his barn one evening, and next morning found his prize cow with her throat torn. One remembered that sort of thing in a district where cows were scarce. So now the good Antoine pushed out his lips and nodded gravely.
"Yes," he said thoughtfully, "it can be nothing else."
A little silence fell in the cook's camp, and both men had a vision of Marie Fisette of the parish of Villeneuve, Marie the prettiest girl north of Cape Trinity, with her flaxen hair and white skin like milk and a smile that was remembered and treasured enviously in every lumber-camp on the Saguenay. They said that she chose Jean Deslormes when she saw him driving logs through the chute at Les Arables. And what Jean did then ought to be enough for any girl.
"They will be married this summer yes?" asked Pierre.
And just at this moment the door opened without sound, and Sebastien himself strolled in. He rubbed his long hands to set the blood going, glanced shrewdly at the two men and stared meaningly toward the heaped platters on the stove. Pierre gave him food, this being the law of the wilderness, while Antoine began to re-arrange his stock. Both were a little breathless. Presently Sebastien pushed away his plate.
"Without doubt, Pierre, you are the best cook in the Saguenay camps. I will tell them so in Villeneuve." He lit his pipe and began to smoke contentedly.
"You go then to Villeneuve?" hazarded Antoine.
"Yes, I start at once, this very day."
"By the Saguenay trail?"
Sebastien sent him an inscrutable smile. "My trail is my own, Antoine"; then, meaningly, "let him follow who can."
"It is ninety miles to Villeneuve as the goose flies. What takes you there in mid-winter?"
"The thing that takes all men to all places no matter what the season. The face of a woman."
Pierre lifted a kettle from the stove, and the lid rattled. "Is it then that Sebastien marries at his age?"
"What is age to the man who desires? In five days I shall have what has been desired by many."
He announced this in a voice that lifted as he spoke, and surveyed the others with burning, insolent eyes as though daring them to protest. There was in his manner something suggesting that he had at his disposal powers of which they knew nothing. He leaned a little forward, every line of his sinewy body resembling an animal crouched to spring, and there was but one animal in the minds of the others. He was known to travel swiftly, and always alone, but no man had ever found his tracks. And though he could not marry till after he had been in Villeneuve for at least three days, he now stated he would marry in five. That left two days to cover ninety miles, measured as the goose flies. There was but one beast in the big timber that could travel like this. Antoine glanced furtively at Pierre, and the latter gave the faintest nod. "Loup Garou," their lips signalled.
Sebastien got up, stretched himself, gave a short laugh and strode to the door. "For a good dinner, bien merci, mon vieux. It is I who shall feed you when the logs come down past Villeneuve in the spring. Every woman of the family of Fisette is an incomparable cook. We shall be ready, Marie and I."
For a moment after he disappeared there was silence in the camp, till both men stepped quickly to the window. Sebastien had reached the ice, and putting on his snowshoes already struck southward across Lac St. Luc. He walked swiftly, dwindling as they watched to a dark speck that vanished round a nearby point. Then Antoine looked at his friend and swore a great oath.
"Jean where is Jean?"
"He comes with the sawyers in ten minutes. But wait, I will call them now."
Pierre went out and smote with a poker on a large steel triangle that hung close to the door. Straightway the woods throbbed with a clear singing note that lifted through the green tops and caused a dropping of axes and cessation of droning saws, till down the winter roads trooped the lumberjacks, hungry as bears and chanting musically of Alluette and La Claire Fontaine. At their head came Jean Delormes, a young, tawny-haired giant, straight as a hemlock and shouldered like a bull moose. He caught sight of Antoine outside the camp, and, running forward, flung round him a pair of gigantic arms.
"Ah, c'est le vieux Papa Carnot. When didst thou arrive, and hast thou perchance been at a place called Villeneuve?"
Antoine struggled for breath, "I would first that some young fools learn their strength and use it less," he gasped then, in a whisper, "No, I have not visited Villeneuve since a fortnight past, but "
"A fortnight! That is but a moment, while I have not been there for two months. Is there nothing then, to tell me, no message?"
"Shout not thy love to the whole camp, my son. There was one here a moment ago who even now is on his way to Villeneuve."
"Have you then sold all your stock to the good Pierre, and send out for more?"
Antoine shook his head. "The name of the traveller is Sebastien, and he goes fast."
"Le Loup Garou," said Jean grimly. "But why to Villeneuve?"
"In search of one Marie Fisette, who he swears will be his in the space of five days. My son will need all his strength, and must act very quickly. Let go, Jean, you break my arm!"
"He took what trail quick!" Jean swayed a little, with such a tremor as runs through the brown column of a pine when the saw eats at its heart.
"He said that his trail was his own, and that any might follow who could, then struck south around the point. Shut up thy Marie in thy breast, my son, and hasten; but" and here Antoine sent him an eloquent glance "search not always for the form of a man as you travel."
Jean hurled himself into the sleeping-camp.
In ten minutes he was out on the ice, and, clearing the strewn logs, swung forward toward the first southerly point of Lac St. Luc. Thus led Sebastien's trail long, narrow tracks with the points of the shoes turned up a Little more than was usual in a bush country and the tail of one with an outward twist. He would remember that. They took him round that point, straight as an arrow-flight past the next one and on to a glassy patch where the water had come up and turned a mile of Lac St. Luc into a looking-glass. Here he slipped off his shoes, trotted across and cast about close to the shore line. There was no more trail. He stood for a moment, shaking his head like a great puzzled dog. This was the trail that any might follow who could! His lips became dry as he doubled back, and, picking up his own tracks, traversed the edge of the patch till he came to them again. "By Gar!" he whisPèred. "By Gar!"
Eighty miles due south was Villeneuve, with Marie and tinkling sleigh-bells and pearl-grey smoke climbing from heaped roofs. Somewhere to the south was something nosing swiftly through the big timber. "Search not always for the form of a man," Antoine had said. Jean jerked out a tense petition to St. Joseph, patron and guardian of the family Fisette, then put on his shoes.
There was moonlight by seven. It turned the snow to a pale purple, on which blue-black shadows of big timber lay in wide and parallel bars. He tramped across these, bar to bar, leaning forward with massive arms swinging, his legs working like pistons; a vast engine of a man moving in a white flurry and spouting deep-drawn jets of vapour. There was no sound save the creak of shoes, and a muffled thud as some overburdened cedar doffed its load of snow and straightened its tender branches in the stinging air. Presently he came to a frozen swamp.
On the other side of this, where the shadows began again, stood a lone wolf.
It vanished as he stared, merging like one shadow into another. Jean paused for a moment while a new thought dawned, and struck off sharp to the right. Two hundred yards away he found it a wolf track the triangular pad with the long sharp projecting toe and narrow trailing heel. He followed this back a quarter-mile, noting that it paralleled his own, curving where his curved and holding south for Villeneuve. And then Jean knew.
At four in the morning the moon went down in a bank of cloud. Came a whine of wind and a few drifting flakes. The woods grew dark. By this time Jean was very hungry, and therefore felt cold, for in these latitudes the body, like a boiler, demands fuel. He shoveled aside the snow, made fire and tea, searching the gloom with quick and furtive glances, crossing himself between gulps. In ten minutes he heard a rabbit squeal. That meant death in the ground hemlock near by. Something else was feeding there, and resting resting.
As the goose flies it is ninety miles from the camp on St, Luc to Villeneuve, but as man travels not less than a hundred. As a wolf might go it is perhaps ninety-five. At sunrise Jean knew it was the same this time for man and wolf. There was not so much concealment now. He saw the gaunt, grey form flitting, wraith-like, between brown trunks, a malign beast with deep, lean shoulders and bony, arrow-shaped head. It rested when he rested, ate when he ate and kept always a little in advance.
By mid-afternoon it became difficult to think of anything else and he grew very sleepy. It was only the vision of Marie with her flaxen hair, her smiling mouth and white arms that held him awake. At sundown he knew that he must sleep if only for half an hour, or he would lose his way. There were no stars this time, and no moon. He made two fires of green birch-logs, laid spruce-boughs between them, pulled the hood of his capote over his nose and stretched out.
Instantly, it seemed he began to dream. There was no loup garou now, but only love and the whiteness of his girl's shoulder. At this unction his body yielded, his great muscles relaxed; till, smiling, he plunged into an abyss of slumber, lulled by tiny, crepitant voices from the surrounding forest. Then, horribly, the dream became distorted. Marie's face, so close to his own, changed to a grinning mask with black lifted lips, fat, sleek skull and malevolent yellow eyes. The yellow gave place to black. They were the eyes of Sebastien. Simultaneously came a strange warmth on his cheeks. He blinked. Something was staring at him, something so near that it shut out the rest of the world. He gave a cry and sprang to his feet. There was a scramble in the snow by the spruce-boughs. Jean Deslornes was alone again.
"Que le bon Dieu nous sauvasit!" he whisPèred, trembling.
From a southward ridge came answer, not by le bon Dieu, but the wild and haunting voice of the grey wolf. Through the big timber it drifted, savage, remote, but inescapable, the note of terror that in a season of the year carries its own message to fur and hide on the foothills of the Laurentians. To Jean it also carried a message, and he flung himself forward. It could not now be more than thirty miles to Villeneuve. He swung on, summoning his vast reserve of strength, plunging through underbrush where once he would have gone round, himself now a thing of the woods in the manner of his going this giant with the mind of a child. He stayed not to rest or eat; he looked not again for the grey shape. Then a remembered hilltop a winter road for drawing wood an outlying pasture the bark of a distant dog and below, in the valley, revealed in the half-light of dawn, the spire of a church and the forty farms they called Villeneuve. Into the crisping air climbed forty pencils of pearl smoke, like the exhalations of those who slumbered yet a while ere facing the rigour of the day.
Jean tore downhill to the house of Marthe Fisette, the mother of Marie. It seemed that all was safe here. He paused at the door, heard inside the crackling of a fire, and knocked. At sight of him the old woman dropped an armful of wood.
"Jean!" she stammered, "how came you here?"
"As flies the goose from Lac St. Luc," he said, breathing hard; "and Marie?"
Marthe did not answer that, but stared at him wonderingly and with a touch of awe. "It is undoubtedly the good God who has sent you, but how did you know?"
"Antoine Carnot told me; and, hearing it, I waited for nothing " He broke off, staring back. "Then it is true?"
"Sebastien?" Her lips framed the name.
He nodded. "Le Loup Garou! Together we have come from the camp on Lac St. Luc, and this morning he also is in Villeneuve, but in what form I know not. Last night when for a moment I closed my eyes he came and crouched beside me, breathing in my face, and would have torn my throat had I not suddenly awakened. I brought no gun, for one cannot kill a loup garou except with a bullet that has been blessed, and there was no priest on Lac St. Luc."
Marthe crossed herself fervently. "That is true always it has been so."
"And the friends here what do they say?"
"They shrug their shoulders and say nothing. It is not well to quarrel with Sebastien. There is that affair of the good Famieux a thing all remember."
"And Marie?" he demanded.
Marthe sent him a wintry smile. "Look over your shoulder, my son."
She was halfway down the ladder-stair from the room above; Marie with thick, yellow, knitted strands down her back, great, slumbrous roses in her smooth cheeks and drowsy love in her blue eyes. Jean gave a huge, gusty sigh of delight, put out his mighty arms and lifted her as one picks up an acorn. She hid her face in his capote.
"My little one," he said softly, "my little partridge; thou art safe here, very safe."
Presently they put food before him, and he ate ravenously, telling in snatches of the trip from Lac St. Luc "ninety-five miles in forty-two hours, by Gar!" while Marie clucked over him as though she were indeed a hen partridge, and Marthe busied herself without words between stove and table. Then Jean got up.
"I go now to Père Leduc, for we shall be married in three days. Also there is the matter of blessing some bullets." He paused, and waved a hand at the encircling bush. "It is there I shall use them."
"I also shall go," said Marie, divided between love and fear.
He shook his great head. "Such talk is not for my little bird, but thou shalt go so far as the store, and wait there. In three days my soul shall go everywhere with me. Be content, my swallow."
They went off down the packed road, where the snowplough had left four-foot ridges on either side, down to the store which was diagonally opposite the church and the house of the good Father. Here Jean left her clasped to the expansive bosom of Madame Famieux, crossed the road, kicked his shoe-packs clean and found Père Leduc in his book-lined study. And books were precious north of the Laurentians. He spoke first of his heart's desire.
The Father nodded, smiling. He loved this young Anak, this son of the wilderness, with his great thews and child-like heart. Wise and tender was Père Leduc, a pure flame that glowed constantly, healing both minds and souls with a wide spiritual paternity.
"It is well for you both and the good Marthe agrees?"
"Then I will call your names at vespers this very night, so that it may take place in three days. A good girl, your Marie. You go yourself back to Lac St. Luc?"
No, Jean would not do that, He had saved eight hundred dollars for a farm and the farm of Georges Laurier was it not in the market?
He paused a moment.
"There is another matter. Mon Père that of these bullets." He held out a dozen, cupped in a gigantic palm. "May it please you to bless them?"
Père Leduc shook his head gently. Had he not been very wise he would have laughed. He knew knew all about it. Individually he knew more than the entire village put together. Part of his strength was that he only revealed a fraction of his knowledge. And now he wanted to hear what this enormous child had to say all of it.
"Tell me, my son."
Jean told him, from the very start, touching not on the physical marvel of the trip for to Jean it was no marvel but only on its terror. How did Sebastien leave the flooded patch on Lac St. Luc? What became of his shoes when he turned into a wolf. What did he mean by breathing in Jean's face? Why did he lead the way to Villeneuve? And most of all, what was the import of his boast about Marie? There must be an end to this the end brought by a bullet that had been blessed. All Villeneuve was waiting for that.
Père Leduc put his hand on the young giant's shoulder, and spoke of tradition and legends and the powers of evil. "No, my son, you yourself are about to give answer to Sebastien a final answer. You and this dear daughter of the parish will have my blessing, and not these bullets. When in three days you leave the church with Marie on your arm and joy in your heart you will have replied to Sebastien. He will have written himself down as a loud-speaking fool at whom not only the village of Villeneuve will laugh. That laugh will run up and down the Saguenay, till he will wish to walk into the stream itself to escape it. As for what you saw and searched for, but did not find on your way here, when the mind of a man be distraught with weariness, and perhaps fear, there is not much of which he can be very sure. You have had an evil dream, but it is past. Go now, my son, and take peace and happiness with you. Le bon Dieu is not forgetful of his children on the Saguenay."
Jean went out, cheered but not convinced. It was all very well to talk like that. But he knew, while the good Father had not been on the trail from St. Luc. He rubbed the bullets together in his pocket, stalked across to the store and gathered in Marie.
"Behold my wife in three days this little spruce partridge," he said to the fat Madame Famieux. "Viens donc, cherie; there is much to talk of."
Up the shining road, arms linked, they walked, while Jean told her the words of Père Leduc. Nor was Marie convinced. The good Father had never felt Sebastien's burning eyes, nor could he understand what it meant to a girl to shrink and quiver beneath that insolent stare till she became weak and helpless like a bird in a net.
"It is but one thing we shall do, Jean."
"What is that, my dove?"
"You shall meet Sebastien and take his promise, or make it, that there is an end to all this."
"Of what value then is the word of a wolf, could he speak it?" grunted Jean. Then, looking up, his heart leaped. Sebastien had rounded a bend in the road and came straight toward them. Marie saw him, shivered and clung the closer.
"Jean," she whispered, "not now!"
Drawing nearer he walked more slowly, staring first at the giant with strange, inscrutable gaze, then at Marie with a wild, unhuman hunger. His cheeks were hollow, but he moved lightly on his feet. They were not the feet of a man who had travelled ninety miles in forty-two hours or less. He came level with them. Marie found herself pushed gently forward and past him. Jean stood motionless, every sinew in him turned to fire.
"Loup Garou," he said thickly, "Loup Garou, what seek you now?"
Sebastien did not speak, but lowered his lids, and from hot, half-veiled eyes sent the big man a look of contemptuous pity. So keen was it, so utterly penetrating, that Jean felt as though a hand were fumbling in his breast and groping for secrets. Then, as Sebastien was about to pass on, a mighty arm shot out and took him by the throat. He was shaken as a wolverine shakes a rabbit, shaken till his teeth chattered and flung headlong into the crusted snow. Jean turned on his heel and followed Marie.
"It is done, my turtle and the wolf did not bark."
Late that night, after Jean had gone to sleep at the farm of Christophe Famieux, Marie talked long with her mother and told her the words of Père Leduc. Marthe could make no answer to these words, but found them nevertheless devoid of comfort. Presently she climbed the stair ladder, returning with a small image of St. Joseph, patron saint to every good Fisette.
"It is lead," she murmured, "and from Ste. Anne de Beaupre it came, where it was blessed by his Eminence from Quebec. Is it not that the head of the holy man is of the size of a bullet?"
Marie nodded, her eyes brightening.
"Then the rest of it I leave to thee, my pigeon. When thy mountain of a husband shall take thee from me in a sleigh to Beaulieu on the third day from this, see that the short gun of Christophe be thus loaded, and near at hand under the robes. It is in my mind that there will be need of that gun."
So on the third day, Gaston Roubidoux, sacristan, sent a rocking peal from the wooden church, and those of Villeneuve came in box-like sleighs stuffed with straw, and drawn by short-legged, round-bodied Percheron horses, to see the union of Jean and Marie doubly intriguing because it spelled the humiliation of Le Loup Garou. Marie was all in white, with everlastings in her hair; Jean in a new, tight and very bright blue suit into which he just wedged his great body, celluloid collar anchored by a large rolled-gold stud, yellow tie and patent-leather shoes that hurt abominably. Then Père Leduc spoke words of peace and love, after which they all went to the house of Christophe, the largest in the village, where was given the marriage feast, with riotous quadrilles and great good feeling. And Sebastien had not been seen by anyone since three days which added not a little to the general hilarity.
Beaulieu lay thirty miles away or was it only three? Jean, being dizzy with happiness and pride, was not quite sure when at sunset he tucked his girl into the sleigh, wrapping the robes closely round her feet. There was plenty of straw underneath. Marthe had seen to that. The horses, pet team of Christophe, arching their glossy necks, dashed off with a jangle of bells amid laughter and cheers. The good Father nodded contentedly and turned homeward. These children of his how gay and handsome they were!
Halfway to Beaulieu the horses going like playful kittens Marie pressing to his side frosty roses in her cheeks the blue eyes like stars with all this Jean could hardly believe his own good fortune. What a noble day it had been, and how many others, even more wonderful, lay ahead!
His feet were now very sore that being from the dancing his collar-stud was boring a hole in his gullet, but he was bursting with joy.
"My love," he breathed, "my soul my little ptarmigan!"
Just at this moment there came from a belt of cedar hard by the pulsing howl of a timber wolf. Marie heard and shivered. Jean heard, and his heart stopped, then began to race. The Percherons heard, whinnied their alarm and plunged forward. Jean, gripping the reins, lashed out till the woods streamed past in a blur. If the road only held open he could make Beaulieu in an hour.
They swung into a clearing where the wind had got at the snow and the road was drifted level. Knee-deep toiled the Percherons, heads down, backs rippled with straining muscles. Jean stood up. Something shot across just ahead, turned, doubled back and made a ripping, darting stroke at the throat of the nearest horse.
"Quick, Jean, under the straw at my feet the gun of Christophe with the head of St. Joseph!" panted Marie.
He wondered what St. Joseph had to do with it, but a gun was a gun, and, burrowing swiftly, he recognised the short, single-barrelled muzzle-loader with half-inch bore. Pushing the reins into the girl's hands, he cuddled his cheek against the brown stock and waited. The near Percheron was bleeding at the throat. Again that lean, darting form, ears flattened back on the sleek skull, again the curving attack rapid as light.
The wolf was in mid-air when the foresight covered a grey shoulder for a fraction of time. Jean crooked his finger saw horses rearing in a tangle of harness heard Marie cry out in a jangle of bells. Then a lank, hairy body seemed to have been thrust away, and stretched, twitching, just ahead of the driving hoofs.
He snatched back the reins, forced on the Percherons and fetched them up, quivering, on top of the thing on the road. Here for a deadly second the steel-shod, dancing feet hammered down down, till what lay beneath was a shapeless lump of bloody hide. Marie covered her eyes, but Jean, soothing his team, stared at it hard before he bent over and kissed the roses back to her cheeks. It was in his mind that the eyes of this wolf, instead of being long and yellow, had been large and dark and burning. They did not burn now. But he said nothing of this.
"My little weasel spoke of the gun of Christophe with the head of the good St. Joseph," he smiled. "And what did she mean by that?"
Marie told him, and for months after that there was little talk of Sebastien. Then summer arrived. The logs from St. Luc began to come down the Saguenay, and Jean was persuaded to help the drive through the chute of Les Arables. Marie went with him, and so it happened that Pierre Colange on a certain day did indeed sit at the table of an incomparable cook. The shanty that Jean knocked together stood close to the river, and the table was outside. They were talking of Sebastien when Pierre got up, shaded his eyes and stared hard at the tawny water.
"It has been in my mind, mon vieux, that we should meet him yet once again. What is that between the two hemlocks?"
He had come down with the logs come from the unknown and circled slowly in a great eddy. The smooth face was still unscarred. One sodden arm rested on the ribbed bark. The eddy brought him toward shore, bobbing as though something were twitching at his heels. The three gazed at each other, till Jean, remembering the prophecy of Père Leduc, lifted his brows and signalled.
"Go inside a moment, my little beaver. It is not for thee to see."
There is a cross underneath a jack-pine just below that eddy. Jean hewed it. On a flat stone at the foot is a small leaden image without a head. That was the thought of Marie. On the cross Pierre Colange, with some misgivings, put the name one word. He could not decide what else, under the circumstances, one might safely say. It stood there after the drive went on and the following sweep had cleared every stranded log. Squirrels perched on it, rabbits hopped about it, red-headed woodpeckers sometimes tried their strength on its tough fibre. But nothing happened till Antoine Carnot passed in the autumn.
He saw it, read the one word and exactly appreciated the difficulty. So, smiling, he lit his pipe, squatted close, and began to carve with firm, deep strokes.
"Sebastien. Le Loup Garou," read the next lumberjack who came that way.