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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Country Beyond - Chapter 19
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The Country Beyond - Chapter 19 Post by :simkl Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :1678

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The Country Beyond - Chapter 19

CHAPTER XIX

In the star dusk of evening the time came when he spoke his fears to Father John.

Nada had gone into her room, taking Peter with her, and out under the cool of the skies Father John's pale face was turned up to the unending glory of the firmament, and his lips were whispering a prayer of gratitude and blessing, when Roger laid a hand gently on his arm.

"Father," he said, "it is a wonderful night."

"A night of gladness and omen," replied Father John. "See the stars! They seem to be alive and rejoicing, and it is not sacrilege to believe they are, giving you their benediction."

"And yet--I am afraid."

"Afraid?"

Father John looked into his eyes, and saw him staring off over the forest-tops.

"Yes--afraid for her."

Briefly he told him of what had happened on the Barren months ago, and how he had narrowly escaped Breault in coming away from the burned country.

"He is on my trail," he said, "and tonight he is not very far away."

The Missioner's hand rested in a comforting way on his arm.

"You did not kill Jed Hawkins, my son, and for that we have thanked God each day and night of our lives--Nada and I. And each evening she has prayed for you, kneeling at my side, and through every hour of the day I know she was praying for you in her heart --and I believe in the answer to prayer such as that, Roger. Her faith, now, is as deep as the sea. And you, too, must have faith."

"She is more precious to me than life--a thousand lives, if I had them," whispered Jolly Roger. "If anything should happen--now--"

"Yes, if the thing you fear should happen, what then?" cried Father John, faith ringing like a note of inspiration in his low voice. "What, then, Roger? You did not kill Jed Hawkins. If the law compels you to pay a price for the errors it believes you have committed, will that price be so terribly severe?"

"Prison, Father. Probably five years."

Father John laughed softly, the star-glow revealing a radiance in his face.

"Five years!" he repeated. "Oh, my boy, my dear boy, what are five years to pay for such a treasure as that which has come into your possession tonight? Five short years--only five. And she waiting for you, proud of you for those very achievements which sent you to prison, planning for all the future that lies beyond those five short years, growing sweeter and more beautiful for you as she waits--Roger, is that a very great sacrifice? Is it too great a price to pay? Five years, and after that--peace, love, happiness for all time? Is it, Roger?"

McKay felt his voice tremble as he tried to answer.

"But she, father--"

"Yes, yes, I know what you would say," interrupted Father John gently. "I argued with her, just as you would have argued, Roger. I appealed to her reason. I told her that if you returned it would mean prison for you, and strangely I said that same thing--five years. But I found her selfish, Roger, very selfish--and set upon her desire beyond all reason. And it was she who asked first those very questions I have asked you tonight. 'What are five years?' she demanded of me, defying my logic. 'What are five years--or ten--or twenty, IF I KNOW I AM TO HAVE HIM AFTER THAT?' Yes, she was selfish, Roger. Just that great is her love for you."

"Dear God in Heaven," breathed Jolly Roger, and stopped, his eyes staring wide at the stars.

"And after that, after I had given in to her selfishness, Roger, she planned how we--she and I--would live very near to the place where they imprisoned you, and how each day some sight or sign should pass between you, and the baby--"

"The baby, Father?"

"Thus it seems she dreams, Roger. She, in the wilfulness of her desire and selfishness--"

With a choking cry Roger bowed his face in his hands.

For a moment Father John was silent. And then he said, so very low that it was almost a whisper,

"I have passed many years in the wilderness, Roger, many years trying to look into the hearts of people--and of God. And this-- this love of Nada's--is the greatest of all the miracles I have witnessed in a life that is now reaching to its three score and five. Do you see the wonder of it, son? And does it make you happy, and fearless now?"

He did not wait for an answer, but turned slowly and went in the direction of the cabin, leaving Roger alone under the thickening stars. And McKay's face was like Father John's, filled with a strange and wonderful radiance when he looked up. But with that light of happiness was also the fiercer underglow of a great determination. For Nada--for THE BABY--the worst should not happen; he breathed the thought aloud, and in the words was a prayer that God might help him, and make unnecessary the sacrifice from which Father John had taken the sting of fear. And yet, if that sacrifice came, he saw clearly now that it would not be a great tragedy but only a brief shadow cast over the undying happiness in his soul. For they--NADA AND THE BABY--would be waiting--waiting--

Suddenly he was conscious of a sound very near, and he beheld Nada, taller and slimmer and more beautiful than ever, it seemed to him, in the starlight.

"I have told him," Father John had whispered to her only a moment before. "I have told him, so that he will not fear prison--either for himself or for you."

And she had come to him quietly, all of the pretty triumph and playfulness gone, so that she stood like an angel in the soft glow of the skies, much older than he had ever seen her before, and smiled at him with a new and wonderful tenderness as she held out her hands to him.

Not until she lay in his arms, looking up at him from under her long lashes, did he dare to speak. And then,

"Is it true--what Father John has told me?" he asked.

"It is true," she whispered, and the silken lashes covered her eyes.

Her hand crept up to his face in the silence that followed, and rested there; and with no desire to hear more than the three words she had spoken he crushed his lips in the sweet coils of her hair, and together, in that peace ands understanding, they listened to the gentle whisperings of the night.

"Roger," she whispered at last.

"Yes, my NEWA--"

"What does that mean, Roger?"

"It means--beloved--wife"

"Then I like it. But I shall like the others--one of the others-- best."

"My--WIFE."

"That--that makes me happiest, Roger. Your WIFE. Oh, it is the sweetest word in the world, that--and--"

He felt her warm face hide itself softly against his neck.

"Mother," he added.

"Yes--Mother," she repeated after him in an awed little voice. "Oh, I have dreamed of Mothers since I have been old enough to dream, Roger! My Mother--I never had one that I can remember, except in a dream. It must be wonderful to--to--have a Mother, Roger."

"And yet, I think, not quite so wonderful as to BE a Mother, my Nada."

"Listen!" she whispered.

"It is the Leaf Bud singing."

"A love song?"

"Yes, in Cree."

She raised her head, so that her eyes were wide open, and looking at him.

"Since we came up here all this wonderful world has been promising song for me, Roger. And since you came back to me it has been singing--singing--singing--every hour of night and day. Have you ever dreamed of leaving it, Roger--of going down into that world of towns and cities of which Father John has told me so much?"

"Would you like to go there, Nada?"

"Only to look upon it, and come away. I want to live in the forests, where I found you. Always and always, Roger."

She raised herself on tip-toe, and kissed him.

"I want to live near Yellow Bird and Sun Cloud--please--Mister Jolly Roger--I do. And Father John will go with us. And we'll be so happy there all together, Yellow Bird and Sun Cloud and Giselle and I--oh!"

His arms had tightened so suddenly that the little cry came from her.

"And yet--I may have to leave you for a little time, Nada. But it will not be for long. What are five years, when all life reaches out a paradise before us? They are nothing--nothing--and will pass swiftly--"

"Yes, they will pass swiftly," she said, so gently that scarce did he hear.

But on his breast she gave a little sob which would not choke itself back, a sob which bravely she smiled through a moment later, and which he--knowing that it was best--made as if he had not heard.

And so, this night, while Father John and Peter waited and watched in the cabin, did they plan their future in the company of the stars.

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