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"Aurore" by Ethel Watts Mumford

From Pictorial Review

“Your name!—Votre nom?” Crossman added, for in the North Country not many of the habitants are bilingual.

She looked at him and smiled slowly, her teeth white against cardinal-flower lips.

“Ma name? Aurore,” she answered in a voice as mystically slow as her smile, while the mystery of her eyes changed and deepened.

Crossman watched her, fascinated. She was like no woman he had ever seen, radiating a personality individual and strange. “Aurore,” he repeated. “You're not the dawn, you know; not a bit like it.” He did not expect her to own to any knowledge of the legend of her name, but she nodded her head understandingly.

“It was the Cure name' me so,” she explained. “But the Cure and me,” she shrugged, “never could—how you say?—see—hear—one the other—so, I would not be a blonde just for spite to him—I am a very black dawn, n'est-ce pas?”

“A black dawn,” he repeated. Her words unleashed his fancy—her heavy brows and lashes, her satiny raven hair, her slow voice that seemed made of silence, her eyes that changed in expression so rapidly that they dizzied one with a sense of space. “Black Dawn!” He stared at her long, which in no wise disconcerted her.

“Will you want, then, Antoine and me?” she asked at length.

He woke from his dream with a savage realization that, most surely, he wanted her. “Yes. Of course—you—and Antoine. Wait, attendez, don't go yet.”

Why not?” she smiled. “I have what I came for.”

Her hand was on the door-latch. The radiance from the opened door of the square, old-fashioned stove shimmered over her fur cap and intensified the broad scarlet stripes of her mackinaw. In black corduroy trousers, full and bagging as a moujik's, she stood at ease, her feet small and dainty even in the heavy caribou-hide boots.

Bon soir, monsieur,” she said. “In two days we go with you to camp—me—and Antoine.”

“Wait!” he cried, but she had opened the door. He rose with a start, and, ignoring the intense cold, followed her till the stinging breath of the North stabbed him with the recollection of its immutable power. All about him the night was radiant. Of a sudden the sky was hung with banners—banners that rippled and folded and unfolded, banners of rainbows, long, shaking loops of red and silver, ghosts of lost emeralds and sapphires, oriflammes that fluttered in the heavens, swaying across the world in mysterious majesty. Immensity, Silence, Mystery—The Northern Lights! “Aurora!” he called into the night, “Aurora—Borealis!”

The Cure of Portage Dernier drove up to the log-cabin office and shook himself from his blankets; his soutane was rolled up around his waist and secured with safety-pins; his solid legs were encased in the heaviest of woollen trousers and innumerable long stockings. His appearance was singularly divided—clerical above, under the long wool-lined cape, and “lay” below. Though the thermometer showed a shockingly depressed figure, the stillness and the warmth of the sun, busy at diamond-making in the snow, gave the feeling of spring.

The sky was inconceivably blue. The hard-frozen world was one immaculate glitter, the giant evergreens standing black against its brightness. The sonorous ring of axes on wood, the gnawing of saws, the crunching of runners, the crackling crash of distant trees falling to the woodsmen's onslaughts—Bijou Falls logging-camp was a vital centre of joyous activity.

The Cure grinned and rubbed his mittened hands. “H—Hola!” he called.

At his desk in the north window Crossman heard the hail, and went to the door. At sight of the singular padded figure his face lifted in a grin. “Come in, Father,” he exclaimed; “be welcome.”

“Ah,” said the Priest, his pink face shining with benevolence, “I thank you. Where is my friend, that good Jakapa? I am on my monthly circuit, and I thought to see what happens at the Falls of the Bijou.” He stepped inside the cabin and advanced to the stove with outstretched hands. “I have not the pleasure,” he said tentatively.

“My name is Crossman,” the other answered. “I am new to the North.”

“Ah, so? I am the Cure of Portage Dernier, but, as you see, I must wander after my lambs—very great goats are they, many of them, and the winter brings the logging. So I, too, take to the timber. My team,” he waved an introducing hand at the two great cross-bred sled-dogs that unhooked from their traces had followed him in and now sat gravely on their haunches, staring at the fire. “You are an overseer for the company?” suggested the Cure, politely curious—“or perhaps you cruise?”

Crossman shook his head. “No, mon pere. I came up here to get well.”

“Ah,” said the Cure, sympathetically tapping his lung. “In this air of the evergreens and the new wood, in the clean cold—it is the world's sanatorium—you will soon be yourself again.”

Crossman smiled painfully. “Perhaps here”—he laid a long, slender finger on his broad chest—“but I heal not easily of the great world sickness—the War. It has left its mark! The War, the great malady of the world.”

“You are right.” Meditatively the Priest threw aside his cape and began unfastening the safety-pins that held up his cassock. “You say well. It strikes at the heart.”

Crossman nodded.

“Yet it passes, my son, and Nature heals; as long as the hurt be in Nature, Nature will take care. And you have come where Nature and God work together. In this great living North Country, for sick bodies and sick souls, the good God has His good sun and His clean winds.” He nodded reassurance, and Crossman's dark face cleared of its brooding.

“Sit down, Father.” He advanced a chair.

“So,” murmured the Cure, continuing his thought as he sank into the embrace of thong and withe. “So you were in the War, and did you take hurt there, my son?”

Crossman nodded. “Trench pneumonia, and then the rat at the lung; but of shock, something also. But I think it was not concussion, as the doctors said, but soul-shock. It has left me, Father, like Mohammed's coffin, suspended. I think I have lost my grip on the world—and not found my hold on another.”

“Shock of the soul,” the Priest ruminated. “Your soul is bruised, my son. We must take care of it.” His voice trailed off. There was silence in the little office broken only by the yawn and snuffle of the sled-dogs.

Suddenly the door swung open. In the embrasure stood Aurore in her red mackinaw and corduroy trousers. A pair of snowshoes hung over her back, and her hand gripped a short-handled broad axe. Her great eyes turned from Crossman to the Cure, and across her crimson mouth crept her slow smile. The Cure sprang to his feet at sight of her, his face went white, and the lines from nose to lips seemed to draw in.

“Aurore!” he exclaimed; “Aurore!”

Oui, mon pere,” she drawled. “It is Aurore.” She struck a provocative pose, her hand on her hip, her head thrown back, while her eyes changed colour as alexandrite in the sun.

The Cure turned on Crossman. “What is this woman to you?”

Her eyes defied him. “Tell him,” she jeered. “What am I to you?”

“She is here with Antoine Marceau, the log-brander,” Crossman answered unsteadily. “She takes care of our cabin, Jakapa's and mine.”

“Is that all?” the Priest demanded.

Her eyes challenged him. What, indeed, was she to him? What was she? From the moment he had followed her into the boreal night, with its streaming lights of mystery and promise, she had held his imagination and his thoughts.

“Is that all?” the Priest insisted.

“You insult both this girl and me,” Crossman retorted, stung to sudden anger.

Dieu merci!” the Cure made the sign of the cross as he spoke. “As for this woman, send her away. She is not the wife of Antoine Marceau; she is not married—she will not be.”

In spite of himself a savage joy burned in Crossman's veins. She was the wife of no man; she was a free being, whatever else she was.

“I do not have to marry,” she jeered. “That is for the women that only one man desires—or perhaps two—like some in your parish, mon pere.”

“She is evil,” the Priest continued, paying no attention to her sneering comment. “I know not what she is, nor who. One night, in autumn, in the dark of the hour before morning, she was brought to me by some Indians. They had found her, a baby, wrapped in furs, in an empty canoe, rocking almost under the Grande Falls. But I tell you, and to my sorrow, I know, she is evil. She knows not God, nor God her. You, whose soul is sick, flee her as you would the devil! Aurore, the Dawn! I named her, because she came so near the morning. Aurore! Ah, God! She should be named after the blackest hour of a witch's Sabbath!”

She laughed. It was the first time Crossman had heard her laugh—a deep, slow, far-away sound, more like an eerie echo.

He has a better name for me,” she said, casting Crossman a look whose intimacy made his blood run hot within him. “'The Black Dawn'—n'est-ce-pas? Though I have heard him call me in the night—by another name,” with which equivocal statement she swung the axe into the curve of her arm, turned on her heel, and softly closed the door between them.

The Priest turned on him. “My son,” his eyes searched Crossman's, “you have not lied to me?”

“No,” he answered steadily. “Once I called her the Aurora Borealis—that is all. To me she seems mysterious and changing, and coloured, like the Northern Lights.”

“She is mysterious and changing and beautiful, but it is not the lights of the North and of Heaven. She is the feu follet, the will-o'-the-wisp that hovers over what is rotten, and dead. Send her away, my son; send her away. Oh, she has left her trail of blood and hatred and malice in my parish, I know. She has bred feuds; she has sent strong men to the devil, and broken the hearts of good women. But you will not believe me. It is to Jakapa I must talk. Mon Dieu! how is it that he let her come! You are a stranger, but he——”

“Jakapa wished for Antoine, and she was with him,” explained Crossman uneasily, yet resentful of the Priest's vehemence.

“I can not wait.” The Cure rose and began repinning his clerical garments. “Where is Jakapa? Have you a pair of snowshoes to lend me? You must forgive my agitation, Monsieur, but you do not understand—I—which way?”

“He should be at Mile End, just above the Bijou. Sit still, Father; I will send for him. The wind sets right. I'll call him in.” Slipping on his beaver jacket, he stepped outside and struck two blows on the great iron ring, a bent rail, that swung from its gibbet like a Chinese gong. A singing roar, like a metal bellow, sprang into the clear, unresisting air, leaped and echoed, kissed the crags of the Bijou and recoiled again, sending a shiver of sound and vibration through snow-laden trees, on, till the echoes sighed into silence. Crossman's over-sensitive ear clung to the last burring whisper as it answered, going north, north, to the House of Silence, drawn there by the magnet of Silence, as water seeks the sea. For a moment he had almost forgotten the reason for the smitten clamour, hypnotized by the mystery of sound. Then he turned, to see Aurore, a distant figure of scarlet and black at the edge of the wood road, shuffling northward on her long snowshoes, northward, as if in pursuit of the sound that had gone before. She raised a mittened hand to him in ironic salutation. She seemed to beckon, north—north—into the Silence. Crossman shook himself. What was this miasma in his heart? He inhaled the vital air and felt the rush of his blood in answer, realizing the splendour of this beautiful, intensely living world of white and green, of sparkle and prismatic brilliance. Its elemental power like the urge of the world's youth.

But Aurore? His brain still heard the echo of her laugh. He cursed savagely under his breath, and turned his back upon the Cure, unable to face the scrutiny of those kind, troubled eyes.

“Jakapa will be here presently,” he said over his shoulder. “That gong carries ten miles if there's no wind. One ring, that's for the Boss; two, call in for the whole gang; three, alarm—good as a telegraph or the telephone as far as it goes. Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me, I'll have a look at the larder.”

Without a doubt, he reasoned, Aurore would have left their mid-day meal ready. She would not return, he knew, until the guest had gone. In the little overheated cook-house he found the meal set out. All was in order. Then his eye caught a singular decoration fastened to the door, a paper silhouette, blackened with charcoal, the shape of a cassocked priest. The little cut-out paper doll figure was pinned to the wood by a short, sharp kitchen knife driven viciously deep, and the handle, quivering with the closing of the door, gave the illusion that the hand that had delivered the blow must have only at that instant been withdrawn.

Crossman shivered. He knew that world-old formula of hate; he knew of its almost innocent use in many a white caban, but its older, deeper meaning of demoniacal incantation rushed to his mind, somehow blending with the wizardry with which he surrounded his thoughts of the strange woman.

A step outside crunching in the snow. The door opened, revealing Antoine Marceau. The huge form of the log-brander towered above him. He could not read the expression of the eyes behind the square-cupped snow spectacles.

“She tell me, Aurore,” he rumbled, “that I am to come. We have the company.”

“Yes, the Cure of Portage Dernier.” Crossman watched him narrowly.

Antoine took off the protecting wooden blinders and thrust them in his pocket.

Crossman stood aside, hesitating. Antoine drew off his mittens with businesslike precision, and placed a huge, capable hand on a pot-lid, lifted it, and eyed the contents of the saucepan.

“The Cure, he like ptarmigan,” he observed, “but,” he added in a matter-of-fact voice, “the Cure like not Aurore—he have tell you, hein? Ah, well, why not? For him such as Aurore are not— voila.”

“The Cure says she is a devil.” Crossman marvelled at his temerity, yet he hung on the answer.

“Why not? For him, as I have say, she is not—for me, for you, ma frien', that is different.” Antoine turned on him eyes as impersonal as those of Fate; where Crossman had expected to see animosity there was none, only a strange brotherhood of pitying understanding.

“For who shall forbid that the dawn she shall break—hein?” he continued. “The Cure? Not mooch. When the Dawn she come, she come; not with his hand can he hold her back. For me, now comes perhaps the sunset; perhaps the dawn for you. But what would you? Who can put the dog-harness on the wind, or put the bit in the teeth of the waterfall to hold him up?”

“Or who with his hand can draw the Borealis from heaven?” Crossman cut in. He spoke unconsciously. He had not wished to say that, he had not wanted to speak at all, but his subconscious mind had welded the thought of her so fast to the great mystery of the Northern Lights that without volition he had voiced it.

Antoine Marceau nodded quietly. The strangely aloof acknowledgment of Crossman's possible relation to this woman, his woman, who yet was not his or any man's, somehow shocked Crossman. His blood flamed at the thought, and yet he felt her intangible, unreal. He had but to look into her shifting, glittering eyes, and there were silence and playing lights. Suddenly his vision of her changed, became human and vital. He saw before him the sinuous movement of her strong young body. He realized the living perfume of her, clean and fresh, faintly aromatic as of pine in the sunlight, and violets in the shadow.

Antoine Marceau busied himself about the cook-house. He did not speak of Aurore again, not even when his eye rested on the paper doll skewered to the door by the deep-driven knife. He frowned, made the sign of the cross, jerked out the knife, and thrust its point in the purifying blaze of the charcoal fire. But he made no comment.

Crossman turned on his heel and entered the office-building. Through the south window he saw Jakapa snowshoeing swiftly up the short incline to the door; beside him walked the Cure, pleading and anxious. He could follow the words as his lips framed them. In the present mood Crossman did not wish to hear the Cure's denunciation. It was sufficient to see that the Foreman had, evidently, no intention of acting on the advice proffered.

As he softly closed the door between the main office and the living room at the rear, he heard the men enter on a quick word of reproof in the Cure's rich bass.

“She does her work sufficiently well, and I shall not order her from the camp,” Jakapa snapped in reply. “She is with Marceau; if he keeps her in hand, what do I care? She leave him, that his affair, mon Dieu, mon pere.”

“She has bewitched you, too, Jakapa. She has bewitched that other, the young man who is here for the healing of his soul. What an irony, to heal his soul, and she comes to poison it!”

“Heal his soul?” Jakapa laughed harshly. “He's had the weak lung, shell-shock, and he's a friend of the owner. Mon pere, if he is here for the good of his soul, that is your province—but me?—I am here to boss one job, and I boss him, that's all. I hope only you have not driven the cook away, or the pot-au-feu, she will be thin.” He tried to speak the latter part of his sentence lightly, but his voice betrayed his irritation.

Crossman opened the door and entered. “Antoine will be here in a minute,” he announced. “Aurore sent him back to feed the animals.” He took down the enamelled tin dishes and cups and set their places. Jakapa eyed him covertly, with a half-sneering venom he had never before shown.

It was a silent meal. The Cure sighed and shook his head at intervals, and the Boss grumbled a few comments in answer to an occasional question concerning his lumberjacks. Crossman sat in a dream. Could he have understood aright when Antoine had spoken of the dawn?

Jakapa dropped a plate with a curse and a clatter. The sudden sound ripped the sick man's nerves like an exploding bomb. White to the lips, he jumped from his chair to meet the Boss's sneering eyes. The Cure laid a gentle hand on his arm, and he settled back shamefacedly.

“Your pardon, mon pere—my nerves are on edge—excuse me—an inheritance of the trenches.”

“Emotion is bad for you, my son, and you should not emotion yourself,” said the Priest gently.

“Do you travel far when you leave us now?” Crossman asked self-consciously, anxious to change the subject.

“To the camp at the Chaumiere Noire, a matter of ten kilometres. It is no hardship, my rounds, not at all, with the ground like a white tablecloth, and this good sun, to me like to my dogs, it is but play.” He rose from the table, glad of the excuse to hasten his going, and with scant courtesy Jakapa sped his guest's departure.

As the sled disappeared among the trees, bearing the queerly bundled figure of the Priest, the Boss unhooked his snowshoes from the wall. He seemed to have forgotten Crossman's presence, but as he turned, his smouldering eyes lighted on him. He straightened with a jerk. “What did he mean when he say, she have bewitch you?” As always, when excited, his somewhat precise English slipped back into the idiom of the habitant. “By Gar! Boss or no Boss, I pack you out if I catch you. We make no jealousies for any one, not where I am. You come here for your health—hein? Well, better you keep this place healthy for you.”

As if further to complicate the situation, the door opened to admit the woman herself. She closed it, leaned against the wall, looking from one to the other with mocking eyes.

“Well, do I leave? Am I to pack? Have you wash the hand of me to please the Cure, yes?”

Jakapa turned on her brutally. “Get to the cook-house! Wash your dish! Did I give orders to Antoine to leave hees work? By Gar! I feel like I take you and break you in two!” He moved his knotted hands with a gesture of destruction. There was something so sinister in the action that, involuntarily, Crossman cried out a startled warning. Her laugh tinkled across it.

“Bah!” she shrugged. “If you wish to kill, why do you not kill those who make the interferre? Are you a man? What is it, a cassock, that it so protect a man? But me, because I do not wear a woman's skirt, you will break me, hey? Me! Nevair mind, I prefer this man. He at least make no big talk.” She slipped her arm through Crossman's, letting her fingers play down from his wrist to his finger-tips—and the thrill of it left him tongue-tied and helpless.

Jakapa cursed and crouched low. He seemed about to hurl himself upon the pair before him. Again she laughed, and her tingling, searching fingers stole slowly over his throbbing pulses.

She released Crossman's arm with a jerk, and snapped the fingers that had just caressed him in the face of the furious lumberman. “ Allons! Must I forever have no better revenge but to knife one paper doll? Am I to be hounded like a beast, and threatened wherever I go? I am tired of this dead camp. I think I go me down the river.” She paused a moment in her vehemence. Her next words came almost in a whisper: “ Unless you can cross the trail to Chaumiere Noire—then, maybe, I stay with you—I say—maybe.” With a single swooping movement of her strong young arm she swept the door open, and came face to face with Antoine Marceau. “What, thou?” she said airily.

He nodded. “Shall I go back, or do you want that I go to the other side?” he asked the Foreman.

“Go to the devil!” growled Jakapa, and slinging his snowshoes over his arm, he stamped out.

Tiens!” said Antoine. “He is mad, the Boss.”

“I think we are all mad,” said Crossman.

“Maybe,” said Antoine. Quietly he gathered together his axe, mittens, and cap, and shrugging his huge shoulders into his mackinaw, looked out at the glorious brightness of the stainless world and frowned. “Come, Aurore,” he said quietly.

A little later, as Crossman rose to replenish the dwindling fire, he saw him, followed by Aurore, enter the northern end of the timber limit. Were they leaving, Crossman wondered. Had the silent woodsman asserted his power over the woman? Crossman took down the field-glasses from the nail on the wall. They were the sole reminder, here in the North Country, of his years of war service. He followed the two figures until the thickening timber hid them. Idly he swept the horizon of black-green trees, blue shadows, and sparkling snow. A speck moved—a mackinaw-clad figure passed swiftly across the clearing above the Little Bijou—only a glimpse—the man took to cover in the burned timber, where the head-high brush made a tangle of brown above which the gaunt, white, black-smeared arms of dead trees flung agonized branches to the sky.—“The short-cut trail to Chaumiere Noire”—“Shall I forever have no better revenge but to stab one paper doll?” Her words echoed in his ears.

Jakapa was on the short cut to the Chaumiere Noire! Only Crossman's accidental use of the field-glasses had betrayed his going. For an instant Crossman's impulse was to rush out and ring the alarm on the shrieking steel gong, but the next instant he laughed at himself. Yes, surely, he was a sick man of many imaginings. The gang boss was gone about his business. The log-brander had called upon his woman to accompany him. That was all. Her angry words were mere threats—best forgotten.

With nervous haste he bundled into his heavy garments and ran from himself and his imaginings into the dazzling embrace of the sun.

He tramped to the gang at work above the Little Bijou Chute, where they raced the logs to the iron-hard ice of the river's surface far below. He even took a hand with the axe, was laughed at, and watched the precision and power of the Jacks as they clove, swung, and lopped. From the cliff he looked down at the long bunk-house, saw the blue smoke rising straight, curled at the top like the uncoiling frond of a new fern-leaf. Saw the Chinese cook, in his wadded coat of blue, disappear into the snow-covered mound that hid the provision shack, and watched the bounding pups refusing to be broken into harness by Siwash George. It was all very simple, very real, and the twists of his tired mind relaxed; his nervous hands came to rest in the warm depths of his mackinaw pockets. The peace of sunned spaces and flowing, clean air soothed his mind and heart.

The blue shadows lengthened. The gang knocked off work. The last log was rushed down the satin ice of the chute to leap over its fellows at the foot. The smell of bacon sifted through the odours of evergreen branches and new-cut wood. Crossman declined a cordial invitation to join the gang at chuck. He must be getting back, he explained, “for chow at the Boss's.”

Whistling, he entered the office, stirred up the fire, and crossed to the cook-house. It was empty. The charcoal fire was out. Shivering, he rebuilt it, looked through the larder, and hacked off a ragged slice of jerked venison. A film of fear rose in his soul. What if they were really gone? What if Antoine had taken her? It looked like it. His heart sank. Not to see her again! Not to feel her strange, thrilling presence! Not to sense that indomitable, insolent soul, throwing its challenge before it as it walked through the world!

Crossman came out, returned to the office, busied himself in tidying the living room and solving the disorder of his desk. The twilight sifted over wood and hill, crept from under the forest arches, and spread across the snow of the open. He lit the lamps and waited. The silence was complete. It seemed as if the night had come and closed the world, locking it away out of the reach even of God.

The meal Crossman had bunglingly prepared lay untouched on the table. Now and then the crash of an avalanche of snow from the overburdened branches emphasized the stillness. Dreading he knew not what, Crossman waited—and loneliness is not good for a sick soul.

Thoughts began crowding, nudging one another; happenings that he had dismissed as casual took on new and sinister meanings. “Two and two together” became at once a huge sum, leaping to terrifying conclusions. Then with the silence and the tense nerve-draw of waiting came the sense of things finished—done forever. A vast, all-embracing finality—“Neant”—the habitant expression for the uttermost nothing, the word seemed to push at his lips. He wanted to say it, but a premonition warned him that to utter it was to make it real.

Should he call upon the name of the Void, the Void would answer. He feared it—it meant that She would be swallowed also in the great gaping hollow of nothingness. He strained his ears for sounds of the living world—the spit of the fire, the fall of clinkers in the grate, the whisper of the wind stirring at the door. He tried to analyse his growing uneasiness. He was sure now that she had followed Antoine's bidding—forgetting him, if, indeed, her desires had ever reached toward him.

Now she seemed the only thing that mattered. He must find her; he must follow. Wherever she was, there only was the world of reality. Where she was, was life. And to find her, he must find Antoine—and then, without warning, the door gaped—and Antoine stood before him, like a coloured figure pasted on the black ground of the night. Then he entered, quiet and matter-of-fact. He nodded, closed the door against the biting cold, pulled off his cap, and stood respectfully.

“It is no use to wait for the Boss; he will not come,” said the log-brander. “I came to tell Monsieur, before I go on, that le Cure is safe at Chaumiere Noire. Yes, he is safe, and Monsieur Jakapa have turn back, when I catch up with him and tell him——”

“What?” gasped Crossman.

“It was to do,” the giant twisted his cap slowly, “but it was harder than I think. It was not for jealousy, I beg you to know. That she would go if she want—to who she want, she can. I have no right to stop her. But she would have had the Cure knifed to death. She made the wish, and she put her wish in the heart of a man. If it had not been this time—then surely some other time. She always find a hand to do her will—even this of mine—once. I heard her tell to Jakapa. Therefore, Jakapa he has gone back to watch with her body. I told him where. Me I go. There are for me no more dawns. You love her, too, Monsieur, therefore, I come to tell you the end. Bon soir, Monsieur.”

He was gone. Again there was silence. Crossman sat rigid. What had happened? His mind refused to understand. Then he visioned her, lying on the white snow, scarlet under her breast, redder than her mackinaw, redder than her woollen mittens, redder than the cardinal-flower of her mouth—cardinal no more! “No, no!” he shrieked, springing to his feet. His words echoed in the empty room. “No—no!—He couldn't kill her!” He clung to the table. “No—no! No!” he screamed. Then he saw her eyes; she was looking in through the window—yes, they were her eyes—changing and glowing, eyes of mystery, of magic, eyes that made the silence, eyes that called and shifted and glowed. He laughed. Fools, fools! to think her dead! He staggered to the door and threw it wide. Hatless, coatless, he plunged headlong into the dark—the Dark? No! for she was there—on high, wide-flung, the banners of the Aurora Borealis blazed and swung, banners that rippled and ran, banners of rainbows, the souls of amethysts and emeralds, they fluttered in the heavens, they swayed across the world, streamed like amber wine poured from an unseen chalice, dropped fold on fold, like the fluttering raiment of the gods.

In the north a great sapphire curtain trembled as if about to part and reveal the unknown Beyond; it grew brighter, dazzling, radiant.

“Aurore!” he called. “Aurore!” The grip of ice clutched his heart. Cold seized on him with unseen numbing hands. He was struggling, struggling with his body of lead—for one step—just a step nearer the great curtain, that now glowed warm—red—red as the ghost of her cardinal-flower lips—pillars of light, as of the halls of heaven. “Aurore!—Aurore!”