by Ethel Watts
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
“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,
“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,
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
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
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
Crossman shook his head. “No, mon pere. I came up here to get
“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.”
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
“She tell me, Aurore,” he rumbled, “that I am to come. We have the
“Yes, the Cure of Portage Dernier.” Crossman watched him narrowly.
Antoine took off the protecting wooden blinders and thrust them in
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—
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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.