(First published in McClure's Magazine, Vol. 17, May, 1901)

     On  every  hand stretched the forest primeval, -- the home
of noisy comedy and  silent  tragedy.  Here  the  struggle  for
survival  continued  to  wage  with  all its ancient brutality.
Briton and Russian were still to overlap in  the  Land  of  the
Rainbow's  End  -- and this was the very heart of it -- nor had
Yankee gold yet purchased its vast domain. The wolf-pack  still
clung  to  the flank of the cariboo-herd, singling out the weak
and the big with calf, and pulling them down  as  remorselessly
as  were it a thousand, thousand generations into the past. The
sparse aborigines still acknowledged the rule of  their  chiefs
and  medicine men, drove out bad spirits, burned their witches,
fought their neighbors, and ate their  enemies  with  a  relish
which  spoke  well  of  their bellies. But it was at the moment
when the stone age  was  drawing  to  a  close.  Already,  over
unknown  trails and chartless wildernesses, were the harbingers
of the steel arriving,  --  fairfaced,  blue-eyed,  indomitable
men,  incarnations  of the unrest of their race. By accident or
design, single-handed and in twos and threes, they came from no
one knew whither, and fought, or died, or  passed  on,  no  one
knew  whence. The priests raged against them, the chiefs called
forth their fighting men, and stone clashed with steel; but  to
little  purpose. Like water seeping from some mighty reservoir,
they trickled through the dark  forests  and  mountain  passes,
threading the highways in bark canoes, or with their moccasined
feet  breaking  trail  for  the wolf-dogs. They came of a great
breed, and their mothers were many; but the  fur-clad  denizens
of  the  Northland  had  this  yet  to learn. So many an unsung
wanderer fought his last and died under the cold  fire  of  the
aurora,  as  did  his  brothers  in  burning  sands and reeking
jungles, and as they shall continue to do till in  the  fulness
of time the destiny of their race be achieved.

     It  was  near  twelve.  Along  the northern horizon a rosy
glow, fading to the west and deepening to the east, marked  the
unseen  dip of the midnight sun. The gloaming and the dawn were
so commingled that there was no night, -- simply a  wedding  of
day with day, a scarcely perceptible blending of two circles of
the  sun.  A  kildee timidly chirped good-night; the full, rich
throat of a robin proclaimed good-morrow. From an island on the
breast  of  the  Yukon  a  colony  of  wild  fowl  voiced   its
interminable wrongs, while a loon laughed mockingly back across
a still stretch of river.

     In the foreground, against the bank of a lazy eddy, birch-
bark canoes were lined two and three deep. Ivory-bladed spears,
bone-barbed  arrows,  buckskinthonged  bows, and simple basket-
woven traps bespoke the fact that in the muddy current  of  the
river the salmon-run was on. In the background, from the tangle
of  skin tents and drying frames, rose the voices of the fisher
folk. Bucks skylarked with bucks or flirted with  the  maidens,
while  the older squaws, shut out from this by virtue of having
fulfilled the end of their existence in reproduction,  gossiped
as they braided rope from the green roots of trailing vines. At
their  feet their naked progeny played and squabbled, or rolled
in the muck with the tawny wolf-dogs.

     To one side of the  encampment,  and  conspicuously  apart
from  it,  stood a second camp of two tents. But it was a white
man's camp. If nothing else, the choice of  position  at  least
bore  convincing  evidence  of  this.  In  case  of offence, it
commanded the Indian quarters a hundred yards away; of defence,
a rise to the ground and the  cleared  intervening  space;  and
last,  of  defeat,  the  swift slope of a score of yards to the
canoes below. From one of the tents came the petulant cry of  a
sick child and the crooning song of a mother. In the open, over
the smouldering embers of a fire, two men held talk.

     "Eh?  I  love the church like a good son. Bien! So great a
love that my days have been spent in fleeing away from her, and
my nights in dreaming dreams of reckoning. Look you!" The half-
breed's voice rose to an angry snarl. "I am Red River born.  My
father was white -- as white as you. But you are Yankee, and he
was  British bred, and a gentleman's son. And my mother was the
daughter of a chief, and was a man. Ay, and one had to look the
second time to see what manner of blood ran in my veins; for  I
lived  with  the  whites,  and was one of them, and my father's
heart beat in me. It happened
     there was a maiden -- white -- who looked on me with  kind
eyes.  Her  father had much land and many horses; also he was a
big man among his people, and his blood was the  blood  of  the
French.  He  said  the  girl  knew not her own mind, and talked
overmuch with her, and became wroth that such things should be.

     "But she knew her mind,  for  we  came  quick  before  the
priest.  And  quicker  had  come  her father, with lying words,
false promises, know not what; so that the priest stiffened his
neck and would not make us that we  might  live  one  with  the
other.  As  at  the beginning it was the church which would not
bless my birth, so now it  was  the  church  which  refused  me
marriage  and  put  the  blood of men upon my hands. Bien! Thus
have I cause to love the church. So I struck the priest on  his
woman's  mouth,  and  we  took swift horses, the girl and I, to
Fort Pierre, where was a minister of good heart. But hot on our
trail was her father,  and  brothers,  and  other  men  he  had
gathered  to  him. And we fought, our horses on the run, till I
emptied three saddles and the rest drew off and went on to Fort
Pierre. Then we took east, the girl and I,  to  the  hills  and
forests,  and  we  lived  one  with  the other, and we were not
married, -- the work of the good church which  I  love  like  a
son.

     "But  mark  you, for this is the strangeness of woman, the
way of which no man  may  understand.  One  of  the  saddles  I
emptied  was  that  of her father's, and the hoofs of those who
came behind had pounded him into the earth. This  we  saw,  the
girl  and  I, and this I had forgot had she not remembered. And
in the quiet of the evening, after the day's hunt were done, it
came between us, and in the silence of the night  when  we  lay
beneath  the  stars  and  should  have  been  one. It was there
always. She never spoke, but it sat by our  fire  and  held  us
ever  apart.  She  tried  to put it aside, but at such times it
would rise up till I could read it in the look of her eyes,  in
the very intake of her breath.

     "So  in  the  end  she bore me a child, a woman-child, and
died. Then I went among my mother's people, that it might nurse
at a warm breast and live. But my hands were wet with the blood
of men, look you, because of the church, wet with the blood  of
men.  And  the Riders of the North came for me, but my mother's
brother, who was then chief in his own right, hid me  and  gave
me  horses  and  food.  And we went away, my woman-child and I,
even to the Hudson Bay Country, where white men  were  few  and
the questions they asked not many. And I worked for the company
as  a  hunter,  as a guide, as a driver of dogs, till my woman-
child was become a woman, tall, and slender, and  fair  to  the
eye.  "You  know  the  winter,  long  and lonely, breeding evil
thoughts and bad deeds. The Chief Factor was a  hard  man,  and
bold. And he was not such that a woman would delight in looking
upon.  But  he  cast  eyes upon my woman-child who was become a
woman. Mother of God! he sent me away on a long trip  with  the
dogs,  that  he  might  -you  understand, he was a hard man and
without heart. She was most white, and her soul was white,  and
a good woman, and -- well, she died.

     "It was bitter cold the night of my return, and I had been
away  months, and the dogs were limping sore when I came to the
fort. The Indians and breeds looked on me  in  silence,  and  I
felt  the  fear  of  knew not what, but I said nothing till the
dogs were fed and I had eaten as a man  with  work  before  him
should.  Then  I  spoke up, demanding the word, and they shrank
from me, afraid of my anger and what I should do; but the story
came out, the pitiful story, word for word and act for act, and
they marvelled that I should be so quiet.

     "When they had done I went to the Factor's  house,  calmer
than  now  in  the telling of it. He had been afraid and called
upon the breeds to help him; but they were not pleased with the
deed, and had left him to lie on the bed he had made. So he had
fled to the house of the priest. Thither I followed. But when I
was come to that place, the priest stood in my way,  and  spoke
soft  words,  and  said a man in anger should go neither to the
right nor left, but straight to God. I asked by the right of  a
father's  wrath that he give me past, but he said only over his
body, and besought with me  to  pray.  Look  you,  it  was  the
church,  always the church; for I passed over his body and sent
the Factor to meet my woman-child before his god,  which  is  a
bad god, and the god of the white men.

     "Then  was  there  hue  and  cry, for word was sent to the
station below, and I came away. Through the Land of  the  Great
Slave,  down  the  Valley of the Mackenzie to the never-opening
ice, over the White Rockies, past the Great Curve of the Yukon,
even to this place did come. And from that day to  this,  yours
is the first face of my father's people I have looked upon. May
it be the last! These people, which are my people, are a simple
folk,  and  I  have been raised to honor among them. My word is
their law, and their priests but do my bidding,  else  would  I
not  suffer  them. When I speak for them I speak for myself. We
ask to be let alone. We do not want your kind. If we permit you
to sit by our fires, after you  will  come  your  church,  your
priests,  and  your gods. And know this, for each white man who
comes to my village, him will I make deny his god. You are  the
first,  and  I  give  you grace. So it were well you go, and go
quickly."

     "I am not responsible for my  brothers,"  the  second  man
spoke up, filling his pipe in a meditative manner. Hay Stockard
was  at  times  as  thoughtful  of  speech  as he was wanton of
action; but only at times.

     "But I  know  your  breed,"  responded  the  other.  "Your
brothers  are many, and it is you and yours who break the trail
for them to follow. In time they  shall  come  to  possess  the
land,  but  not  in my time. Already, have I heard, are they on
the head-reaches of the Great River, and far away below are the
Russians."

     Hay Stockard lifted his head with a quick start. This  was
startling geographical information. The Hudson Bay post at Fort
Yukon  had  other  notions  concerning the course of the river,
believing it to flow into the Arctic.

     "Then the Yukon empties into Bering Sea?" he asked.

     "I do  not  know,  but  below  there  are  Russians,  many
Russians.  Which  is  neither here nor there. You may go on and
see for yourself; you may go back to your brothers; but up  the
Koyukuk  you shall not go while the priests and fighting men do
my bidding. Thus do I command, I, Baptiste the Red, whose  word
is law and who am head man over this people."

     "And  should  I not go down to the Russians, or back to my
brothers?"

     "Then shall you go swift-footed before your god, which  is
a bad god, and the god of the white men."

     The  red  sun shot up above the northern skyline, dripping
and bloody. Baptiste the Red came to his feet,  nodded  curtly,
and  went  back  to  his  camp amid the crimson shadows and the
singing of the robins.

     Hay Stockard finished his pipe by the fire,  picturing  in
smoke  and  coal  the unknown upper reaches of the Koyukuk, the
strange stream which ended here its arctic travels  and  merged
its  waters  with the muddy Yukon flood. Somewhere up there, if
the dying words of a shipwrecked sailorman  who  had  made  the
fearful  overland  journey were to be believed, and if the vial
of  golden  grains  in  his  pouch  attested  to  anything,  --
somewhere  up there, in that home of winter, stood the Treasure
House of the North. And as keeper of  the  gate,  Baptiste  the
Red, English half-breed and renegade, barred the way.

     "Bah!"  He  kicked  the  embers apart and rose to his full
height, arms lazily outstretched,  facing  the  flushing  north
with careless soul.

     Hay  Stockard  swore, harshly, in the rugged monosyllables
of his mother tongue. His wife lifted her gaze  from  the  pots
and pans, and followed his in a keen scrutiny of the river. She
was  a  woman  of  the  Teslin Country, wise in the ways of her
husband's vernacular when it grew intensive. From the  slipping
of a snowshoe thong to the forefront of sudden death, she could
gauge occasion by the pitch and volume of his blasphemy. So she
knew the present occasion merited attention. A long canoe, with
paddles  flashing  back  the  rays  of  the  westering sun, was
crossing the current from above and urging in for the eddy. Hay
Stockard watched it intently. Three men rose and  dipped,  rose
and  dipped,  in  rhythmical  precision;  but  a  red bandanna,
wrapped about the head of one, caught and held his eye.

     "Bill!" he called. "Oh, Bill!"

     A shambling, loose-jointed giant rolled out of one of  the
tents,  yawning  and  rubbing  the sleep from his eyes. Then he
sighted the strange canoe and was wide awake on the instant.

     "By the jumping Methuselah! That damned sky-pilot!"

     Hay Stockard nodded his head  bitterly,  half-reached  for
his rifle, then shrugged his shoulders.

     "Pot-shot  him," Bill suggested, "and settle the thing out
of hand. He 'll spoil us sure  if  we  don't."  But  the  other
declined this drastic measure and turned away, at the same time
bidding  the  woman  return  to her work, and calling Bill back
from the bank. The two Indians in the canoe moored  it  on  the
edge  of the eddy, while its white occupant, conspicuous by his
gorgeous head-gear, came up the bank.

     "Like Paul of Tarsus, I give you greeting. Peace  be  unto
you and grace before the Lord."

     His  advances  were  met sullenly, and without speech. "To
you, Hay Stockard, blasphemer and Philistine, greeting. In your
heart is the lust of Mammon, in your mind  cunning  devils,  in
your  tent  this  woman  whom you live with in adultery; yet of
these divers sins, even here  in  the  wilderness,  I,  Sturges
Owen,  apostle to the Lord, bid you to repent and cast from you
your iniquities."

     "Save your cant! Save your cant!" Hay  Stockard  broke  in
testily.  "You  'll  need  all  you  've got, and more, for Red
Baptiste over yonder."

     He waved his hand toward the Indian camp, where the  half-
breed  was  looking  steadily  across, striving to make out the
new-comers. Sturges Owen, disseminator of light and apostle  to
the  Lord,  stepped  to the edge of the steep and commanded his
men to bring up the camp outfit. Stockard followed him.

     "Look here," he demanded, plucking the missionary  by  the
shoulder and twirling him about. "Do you value your hide?"

     "My  life  is  in the Lord's keeping, and I do but work in
His vineyard," he replied solemnly.

     "Oh, stow that! Are you looking for a job of martyrship?"

     "If He so wills."

     "Well, you 'll find it right here, but I 'm going to  give
you  some  advice first. Take it or leave it. If you stop here,
you 'll be cut off in the midst of your  labors.  And  not  you
alone, but your men, Bill, my wife -- "

     "Who  is  a  daughter  of Belial and hearkeneth not to the
true Gospel."

     "And myself. Not only do you bring trouble upon  yourself,
but  upon us. I was frozen in with you last winter, as you will
well recollect, and I know you for a good man and  a  fool.  If
you  think  it  your  duty to strive with the heathen, well and
good; but do exercise some wit in the way you go about it. This
man, Red Baptiste, is no Indian. He comes of our common  stock,
is as bull-necked as I ever dared be, and as wild a fanatic the
one  way as you are the other. When you two come together, hell
'll be to pay,  and  I  don't  care  to  be  mixed  up  in  it.
Understand?  So  take  my  advice  and go away. If you go down-
stream, you 'll fall in with the Russians. There 's bound to be
Greek priests among them, and they 'll see you safe through  to
Bering Sea, -- that 's where the Yukon empties, -and from there
it  won't be hard to get back to civilization. Take my word for
it and get out of here as fast as God 'll let you."

     "He who carries the Lord in his heart and  the  Gospel  in
his hand hath no fear of the machinations of man or devil," the
missionary  answered  stoutly. "I will see this man and wrestle
with him. One backslider returned to  the  fold  is  a  greater
victory  than a thousand heathen. He who is strong for evil can
be as mighty for good, witness Saul when  he  journeyed  up  to
Damascus  to  bring  Christian  captives  to Jerusalem. And the
voice of the Saviour came to  him,  crying,  `Saul,  Saul,  why
persecutest thou me?' And therewith Paul arrayed himself on the
side  of the Lord, and thereafter was most mighty in the saving
of souls. And even as thou, Paul of Tarsus, even so do  I  work
in  the  vineyard of the Lord, bearing trials and tribulations,
scoffs and sneers, stripes and punishments, for His dear sake."

     "Bring up the little bag with the  tea  and  a  kettle  of
water,"  he  called  the  next  instant  to  his  boatmen; "not
forgetting the haunch of cariboo and the mixing-pan." When  his
men,  converts  by  his own hand, had gained the bank, the trio
fell to  their  knees,  hands  and  backs  burdened  with  camp
equipage,  and  offered up thanks for their passage through the
wilderness and their safe arrival. Hay Stockard looked upon the
function with sneering disapproval, the romance  and  solemnity
of  it lost to his matter-of-fact soul. Baptiste the Red, still
gazing across, recognized the familiar postures, and remembered
the girl who had shared his star-roofed couch in the hills  and
forests, and the womanchild who lay somewhere by bleak Hudson's
Bay.

     "Confound  it,  Baptiste, could n't think of it. Not for a
moment. Grant that this man is a fool and of small use  in  the
nature of things, but still, you know, I can't give him up."

     Hay  Stockard paused, striving to put into speech the rude
ethics of his heart.

     "He 's worried me, Baptiste, in  the  past  and  now,  and
caused  me  all manner of troubles; but can't you see, he 's my
own breed -- white -- and -- and -why, I could n't buy my  life
with his, not if he was a nigger."

     "So  be  it,"  Baptiste the Red made answer. "I have given
you grace and choice. I shall come presently, with  my  priests
and fighting men, and either shall I kill you, or you deny your
god. Give up the priest to my pleasure, and you shall depart in
peace.  Otherwise  your  trail ends here. My people are against
you to the babies. Even now have the children stolen away  your
canoes."  He  pointed down to the river. Naked boys had slipped
down the water from the point above, cast loose the canoes, and
by then had worked them into the current. When they had drifted
out of rifle-shot they clambered over  the  sides  and  paddled
ashore.

     "Give  me  the  priest,  and you may have them back again.
Come! Speak your mind, but without haste."

     Stockard shook his head. His glance dropped to  the  woman
of  the Teslin Country with his boy at her breast, and he would
have wavered had he not lifted his eyes to the men before him.

     "I am not afraid," Sturges Owen spoke up. "The Lord  bears
me  in his right hand, and alone am I ready to go into the camp
of  the  unbeliever.  It  is  not  too  late.  Faith  may  move
mountains.  Even in the eleventh hour may I win his soul to the
true righteousness."

     "Trip the beggar up and make  him  fast,"  Bill  whispered
hoarsely  in  the  ear of his leader, while the missionary kept
the floor and wrestled with the heathen. "Make him hostage, and
bore him if they get ugly."

     "No," Stockard answered. "I gave him my word that he could
speak with us unmolested. Rules  of  warfare,  Bill;  rules  of
warfare.  He's  been  on  the square, given us warning, and all
that, and -- why, damn it, man, I can't break my word!"

     "He 'll keep his, never fear."

     "Don't doubt it, but I won't let a half-breed outdo me  in
fair  dealing.  Why  not  do  what  he  wants,  -- give him the
missionary and be done with it?"

     "N-no," Bill hesitated doubtfully.

     "Shoe pinches, eh?"

     Bill flushed a little and dropped the discussion. Baptiste
the Red was still waiting the final decision. Stockard went  up
to him.

     "It  's  this way, Baptiste. I came to your village minded
to go up the Koyukuk. I intended no wrong. My heart  was  clean
of  evil.  It  is  still clean. Along comes this priest, as you
call him. I did n't bring him here. He 'd have come  whether  I
was here or not. But now that he is here, being of my people, I
've  got  to stand by him. And 'm going to. Further, it will be
no child's play. When you  have  done,  your  village  will  be
silent  and  empty, your people wasted as after a famine. True,
we will be gone; likewise the pick of your fighting men -"

     "But those who remain shall be in  peace,  nor  shall  the
word  of  strange  gods  and  the tongues of strange priests be
buzzing in their ears."

     Both men shrugged their shoulders  and  turned  away,  the
half-breed  going  back  to his own camp. The missionary called
his two men to him, and they fell  into  prayer.  Stockard  and
Bill  attacked  the few standing pines with their axes, felling
them into convenient breastworks. The child had fallen  asleep,
so  the  woman  placed  it on a heap of furs and lent a hand in
fortifying the camp. Three sides were thus defended, the  steep
declivity  at  the  rear precluding attack from that direction.
When these arrangements had been completed, the two men stalked
into the open, clearing away, here  and  there,  the  scattered
underbrush.  From  the  opposing  camp came the booming of war-
drums and the voices of the  priests  stirring  the  people  to
anger.

     "Worst  of it is they 'll come in rushes," Bill complained
as they walked back with shouldered axes.

     "And wait till midnight,  when  the  light  gets  dim  for
shooting."

     "Can't  start  the  ball  a-rolling too early, then." Bill
exchanged the axe for a rifle, and took a careful rest. One  of
the  medicine-men,  towering  above  his  tribesmen,  stood out
distinctly. Bill drew a bead on him.

     "All ready?" he asked.

     Stockard opened the ammunition box, placed the woman where
she could reload in safety, and gave the word. The medicine-man
dropped. For a moment there was silence, then a wild howl  went
up and a flight of bone arrows fell short.

     "I  'd  like to take a look at the beggar," Bill remarked,
throwing a fresh shell into place. "I 'll swear I  drilled  him
clean between the eyes."

     "Did n't work." Stockard shook his head gloomily. Baptiste
had evidently  quelled  the  more warlike of his followers, and
instead of precipitating an attack in the bright light of  day,
the  shot had caused a hasty exodus, the Indians drawing out of
the village beyond the zone of fire.

     In the full tide of his proselyting fervor, borne along by
the hand of God, Sturges Owen would have  ventured  alone  into
the  camp  of  the  unbeliever, equally prepared for miracle or
martyrdom; but in  the  waiting  which  ensued,  the  fever  of
conviction  died  away  gradually,  as the natural man asserted
itself. Physical fear replaced  spiritual  hope;  the  love  of
life,  the love of God. It was no new experience. He could feel
his weakness coming on,  and  knew  it  of  old  time.  He  had
struggled  against  it  and  been  overcome  by  it  before. He
remembered when the other men had driven their paddles like mad
in the van of a roaring ice-flood, how, at the critical moment,
in a panic of worldly terror, he had  dropped  his  paddle  and
besought  wildly  with  his  God for pity. And there were other
times. The recollection was not pleasant. It brought  shame  to
him  that his spirit should be so weak and his flesh so strong.
But the love of life! the love of life! He could not  strip  it
from him. Because of it had his dim ancestors perpetuated their
line;  because  of  it  was  he destined to perpetuate his. His
courage, if courage it might be called, was bred of fanaticism.
The courage of Stockard and Bill was  the  adherence  to  deep-
rooted ideals. Not that the love of life was less, but the love
of race tradition more; not that they were unafraid to die, but
that they were brave enough not to live at the price of shame.

     The  missionary rose, for the moment swayed by the mood of
sacrifice. He half crawled over the barricade to proceed to the
other camp, but sank back, a trembling mass, wailing:  "As  the
spirit  moves!  As the spirit moves! Who am I that I should set
aside the judgments of God? Before the foundations of the world
were all things written in the book of life. Worm  that  I  am,
shall I erase the page or any portion thereof? As God wills, so
shall the spirit move!"

     Bill reached over, plucked him to his feet, and shook him,
fiercely,  silently.  Then  he  dropped the bundle of quivering
nerves and turned his attention to the two converts.  But  they
showed  little  fright and a cheerful alacrity in preparing for
the coming passage at arms.

     Stockard, who had been  talking  in  undertones  with  the
Teslin woman, now turned to the missionary.

     "Fetch him over here," he commanded of Bill.

     "Now,"  he  ordered,  when  Sturges  Owen  had  been  duly
deposited before him, "make us man  and  wife,  and  be  lively
about  it."  Then  he added apologetically to Bill: "No telling
how it 's to end, so  I  just  thought  I  'd  get  my  affairs
straightened up."

     The  woman obeyed the behest of her white lord. To her the
ceremony was meaningless. By her lights she was his  wife,  and
had  been  from  the  day they first foregathered. The converts
served as witnesses. Bill stood over the missionary,  prompting
him when he stumbled. Stockard put the responses in the woman's
mouth,  and  when the time came, for want of better, ringed her
finger with thumb and forefinger of his own.

     "Kiss the bride!" Bill thundered, and Sturges Owen was too
weak to disobey.

     "Now baptize the child!"

     "Neat and tidy," Bill commented.

     "Gathering the proper outfit for a new trail," the  father
explained,  taking the boy from the mother's arms. "I was grub-
staked, once, into the Cascades, and had everything in the  kit
except  salt.  Never  shall forget it. And if the woman and the
kid cross the divide to-night they might as  well  be  prepared
for  potluck. A long shot, Bill, between ourselves, but nothing
lost if it misses."

     A cup of water served the purpose, and the child was  laid
away  in  a  secure  corner of the barricade. The men built the
fire, and the evening meal was cooked.
     The sun hurried round to the north, sinking closer to  the
horizon.  The  heavens in that quarter grew red and bloody. The
shadows  lengthened,  the  light  dimmed,  and  in  the  sombre
recesses  of  the  forest  life slowly died away. Even the wild
fowl in the river softened their raucous  chatter  and  feigned
the nightly farce of going to bed. Only the tribesmen increased
their  clamor,  war-drums  booming  and voices raised in savage
folk songs. But as the sun dipped they ceased their tumult. The
rounded hush of midnight was complete.  Stockard  rose  to  his
knees  and  peered over the logs. Once the child wailed in pain
and disconcerted him. The mother bent over  it,  but  it  slept
again.  The  silence  was  interminable,  profound.  Then, of a
sudden, the robins burst into full-throated song. The night had
passed.

     A flood of dark figures boiled  across  the  open.  Arrows
whistled and bowthongs sang. The shrill-tongued rifles answered
back.  A  spear, and a mighty cast, transfixed the Teslin woman
as she hovered above the child. A spent arrow,  diving  between
the logs, lodged in the missionary's arm.

     There  was  no  stopping the rush. The middle distance was
cumbered with bodies, but the rest surged on, breaking  against
and over the barricade like an ocean wave. Sturges Owen fled to
the  tent,  while  the  men  were swept from their feet, buried
beneath  the  human  tide.  Hay  Stockard  alone  regained  the
surface, flinging the tribesmen aside like yelping curs. He had
managed  to  seize  an  axe. A dark hand grasped the child by a
naked foot, and drew it  from  beneath  its  mother.  At  arm's
length  its puny body circled through the air, dashing to death
against the logs. Stockard clove the man to the chin  and  fell
to  clearing space. The ring of savage faces closed in, raining
upon him spear-thrusts and bonebarbed arrows. The sun shot  up,
and  they  swayed back and forth in the crimson shadows. Twice,
with his axe blocked by too deep a blow, they rushed  him;  but
each  time  he  flung  them  clear.  They fell underfoot and he
trampled dead and dying, the way slippery with blood. And still
the day brightened and the robins sang.  Then  they  drew  back
from him in awe, and he leaned breathless upon his axe.

     "Blood  of my soul!" cried Baptiste the Red. "But thou art
a man. Deny thy god, and thou shalt yet live."

     Stockard swore his refusal, feebly but with grace.

     "Behold! A woman!" Sturges Owen had  been  brought  before
the half-breed.

     Beyond  a  scratch  on  the arm, he was uninjured, but his
eyes roved about him in an ecstasy of fear. The  heroic  figure
of  the  blasphemer,  bristling with wounds and arrows, leaning
defiantly  upon  his  axe,  indifferent,  indomitable,  superb,
caught his wavering vision. And he felt a great envy of the man
who  could  go down serenely to the dark gates of death. Surely
Christ, and not he, Sturges Owen,  had  been  moulded  in  such
manner.  And  why  not he? He felt dimly the curse of ancestry,
the feebleness of spirit which had come down to him out of  the
past,  and he felt an anger at the creative force, symbolize it
as he would, which had formed him, its servant, so weakly.  For
even  a stronger man, this anger and the stress of circumstance
were sufficient to breed apostasy, and for Sturges Owen it  was
inevitable.  In the fear of man's anger he would dare the wrath
of God. He had been raised up to serve the Lord  only  that  he
might  be  cast  down.  He  had  been  given  faith without the
strength of faith; he had been given spirit without  the  power
of spirit. It was unjust.

     "Where now is thy god?" the half-breed demanded.

     "I do not know." He stood straight and rigid, like a child
repeating a catechism.

     "Hast thou then a god at all?" "I had."

     "And now?"

     "No."

     Hay  Stockard  swept  the blood from his eyes and laughed.
The missionary looked at  him  curiously,  as  in  a  dream.  A
feeling  of  infinite  distance  came  over him, as though of a
great remove. In that which had transpired, and  which  was  to
transpire, he had no part. He was a spectator -- at a distance,
yes,  at a distance. The words of Baptiste came to him faintly:
--

     "Very good. See that this man go free, and  that  no  harm
befall him. Let him depart in peace. Give him a canoe and food.
Set  his  face  toward  the  Russians,  that  he may tell their
priests of Baptiste the Red, in whose country there is no god."

     They led him to the edge of the steep, where  they  paused
to  witness  the  final  tragedy.  The half-breed turned to Hay
Stockard.

     "There is no god," he prompted.

     The man laughed in reply. One of the young  men  poised  a
war-spear for the cast.

     "Hast thou a god?"

     "Ay, the God of my fathers."

     He  shifted  the  axe  for a better grip. Baptiste the Red
gave the sign, and the spear hurtled full against  his  breast.
Sturges  Owen saw the ivory head stand out beyond his back, saw
the man sway, laughing, and snap the shaft  short  as  he  fell
upon it. Then he went down to the river, that he might carry to
the  Russians the message of Baptiste the Red, in whose country
there was no god.

Популярность: 23, Last-modified: Thu, 31 Jul 1997 05:59:05 GMT