Read CHAPTER - XVIII of Flower of the North, free online book, by James Oliver Curwood, on

Philip stood where Jeanne had left him, his arms half reaching out to the vacant door through which she had fled, his lips parted as if to call her name, and yet motionless, dumb.  A moment before he was intoxicated by a joy that was almost madness.  He had held Jeanne in his arms; he had looked into her eyes, filled with surrender under his caresses and his avowal of love.  For a moment he had possessed her, and now he was alone.  The cry that had wrung itself from her lips, breaking in upon his happiness like a blow, still rang in his ears, and there was something in the exquisite pain of it that left him in torment.  Heart and soul, every drop of blood in him, had leaped in the joy of that glorious moment, when Jeanne’s eyes and sweet lips had accepted his love, and her arms had clung about his shoulders.  Now these things had been struck dead within him.  He felt again the fierce pressure of Jeanne’s arms as she had thrust him away, he saw the fright and torture that had leaped into her eyes as she sprang from him, as though his touch had suddenly become a sacrilege.  He lowered his arms slowly, and went to the hall.  It was empty.  He heard no sound, and closed the door.

It was so still that he could hear the excited throbbing of his own heart.  He looked at the picture again, and a strange fancy impressed him with the idea that it was no longer smiling at him, but that its eyes were turned to the door through which Jeanne had disappeared.  He moved his position, and the illusion was gone.  It was Jeanne looking down upon him again, an older and happier Jeanne than the one whom he loved.  For the first time he examined it closely.  In one corner of the canvas he found the artist’s name, Bourret, and after it the date, 1888.  Could it be the picture of Jeanne’s mother?  He told himself that it was impossible, for Jeanne’s mother had been found dead in the snow, five years later than the date of the canvas, and Pierre, the half-breed, had buried her somewhere out on the barren, so that she was a mystery to all but him.  Even the master of Fort o’ God, to whom he had brought the child, had never seen the woman upon whose cold breast Pierre had found the little Jeanne.

With nervous hands he replaced the picture with its face to the wall, and began to pace up and down the room, wondering if D’Arcambal would send for him.  He had hope of seeing Jeanne again that night.  He felt sure that she had gone to her room, and that even D’Arcambal might not know that he was alone.  In that event he had a long night ahead of him, filled with hours of sleeplessness and torment.  He waited for three-quarters of an hour, and then the idea came to him that he might discover some plausible excuse for seeking out his host.  He was about to act upon this mental suggestion when he heard a low rustling in the hall, followed by a distinct and yet timid knock.  It was not a man’s knock, and filled with the hope that Jeanne had returned, Philip hastened to the door and opened it.

He heard soft footsteps retreating rapidly down the hall, but the lights were out, and he could see nothing.  Something had fallen at his feet, and he bent down to pick it up.  The object was a small, square envelope; and re-entering his room he saw his own name written across it in Jeanne’s delicate hand.  His heart beat with hope as he opened the note.  What he read brought a gray pallor into his face: 

Monsieur Philip, ­If you cannot forget what I have done, please at least try to forgive me.  No woman in the world could value your love more than I, for circumstances have proven to me the strength and honor of the man who gives it.  And yet it is as impossible for me to accept it as it would be for me to give up Fort o’ God, my father, or my life, though I cannot tell you why.  And this, I know, you will not ask.  After what has happened to-night it will be impossible for me to see you again, and I must ask you, as one who values your friendship among the highest things in my life, to leave Fort o’ God.  No one must know what has passed between us.  You will go ­in the morning.  And with you there will always be my prayers.


The paper dropped from between Philip’s fingers and fell to the floor.  Three or four times in his life Philip had received blows that had made him sick ­physical blows.  He felt now as though one of these blows had descended upon him, turning things black before his eyes.  He staggered to the big chair and dropped into it, staring at the bit of white paper on the floor.  If one had spoken to him he would not have heard.  Gregson, in these moments, might have laughed a little nervously, smoked innumerable cigarettes, and laid plans for a continuance of the battle to-morrow.  But Philip was a fighter of men, and not of women.  He had declared his love, he had laid open his soul to Jeanne, and to a heart like his own, simple in its language, boundless in its sincerity, this was all that could be done.  Jeanne’s refusal of his love was the end ­for him.  He accepted his fate without argument.  In an instant he would have fought ten men ­a hundred, naked-handed, if such a fight would have given him a chance of winning Jeanne; he would have died, laughing, happy, if it had been in a struggle for her.  But Jeanne herself had dealt him the blow.

For a long time he sat motionless in the chair facing the picture on the wall.  Then he rose to his feet, picked up the note, and went to one of the little square windows that looked out into the night.  The moon had risen, and the sky was full of stars.  He knew that he was looking into the north, for the pale shimmer of the aurora was in his face.  He saw the black edge of the spruce forest; the barren stretched out, pale and ghostly, into the night shadows.

He made an effort to open the window, but it was wedged tightly in its heavy sill.  He crossed the room, opened the door, and went silently down the hall to the door through which Pierre had led him a few hours before.  It was not locked, and he passed out into the night.  The fresh air was like a tonic, and he walked swiftly out into the moonlit spaces, until he found himself in the deep shadow of the Sun Rock that towered like a sentinel giant above his head.  He made his way around its huge base, and then stopped, close to where they had landed in the canoe.  There was another canoe drawn up beside Pierre’s, and two figures stood out clear in the moonlight.

One of these was a man, the other a woman, and as Philip stopped, wondering at the scene, the man advanced to the woman and caught her in his embrace.  He heard a voice, low and expostulating, which sounded like Otille’s, and in spite of his own misery Philip smiled at this other love which had found its way to Fort o’ God.  He turned back softly, leaving the lovers as he had found them; but he had scarce taken half a dozen steps when he heard other steps, and saw that the girl had left her companion and was hurrying toward him.  He drew back close into the shadow of the rock to avoid possible discovery, and the girl passed through the moonlight almost within arm’s reach of him.  At that moment his heart ceased to beat.  He choked back the groaning cry that rose to his lips.  It was not Otille who passed him.  It was Jeanne.

In another moment she was gone.  The man had shoved his canoe into the narrow stream, and was already lost in the gloom.  Then, and not until then, did the cry of torture fall from Philip.  And as if in echo to it he heard the sobbing break of another voice, and stepping out into the moonlight he stood face to face with Pierre Couchee.

It was Pierre who spoke first.

“I am sorry, M’sieur,” he whispered, hoarsely.  “I know that it has broken your heart.  And mine, too, is crushed.”

Something in the half-breed’s face, in the choking utterance of his voice, struck Philip as new and strange.  He had seen the eyes of dying animals filled with the wild pain that glowed in Pierre’s, and suddenly he reached out and gripped the other’s hand, and they stood staring into each other’s face.  In that look, the cold grip of their hands, the strife in their eyes, the bare truth revealed itself.

“And you, too ­you love her, Pierre,” said Philip.

“Yes, I love her, M’sieur,” replied Pierre, softly.  “I love her, not as a brother, but as a man whose heart is broken.”

“Now ­I understand,” said Philip.

He dropped Pierre’s hand, and his voice was cold and lifeless.

“I received a note ­from her, asking me to leave Fort o’ God in the morning,” he went on, looking from Pierre out beyond the rock into the white barren.  “I will go to-night.”

“It is best,” said Pierre.

“I have left nothing in Fort o’ God, so there is no need of even returning to my room,” continued Philip.  “Jeanne will understand, but you must tell her father that a messenger came suddenly from Blind Indian Lake, and that I thought it best to leave without awakening him.  Will you guide me for a part of the distance, Pierre?”

“I will go with you the whole way, M’sieur.  It is only twenty miles, ten by canoe, ten by land.”

They said no more, but both went to the canoe, and were quickly lost in the gloom into which the other canoe had disappeared a few minutes ahead of them.  They saw nothing of this canoe, and when they came to the Churchill Pierre headed the birch-bark down-stream.  For two hours not a word passed between them.  At the end of that time the half-breed turned in to shore.

“We take the trail here, M’sieur,” he explained.

He went on ahead, walking swiftly, and now and then when Philip caught a glimpse of his face he saw in it a despair as great as his own.  The trail led along the backbone of a huge ridge, and then twisted down into a broad plain; and across this they traveled, one after the other, two moving, silent shadows in a desolation that seemed without end.  Beyond the plain there rose another ridge, and half an hour after they had struck the top of it Pierre halted, and pointed off into the ghostly world of light and shadow that lay at their feet.

“Your camp is on the other side of this plain, M’sieur,” he said.  “Do you recognize the country?”

“I have hunted along this ridge,” replied Philip.  “It is only three miles from here, and I will strike a beaten trail half a mile out yonder.  A thousand thanks, Pierre.”

He held out his hand.

“Good-by, M’sieur.”

“Good-by, Pierre.”

Their voices trembled.  Their hands gripped hard.  A choking lump rose in Philip’s throat, and Pierre turned away.  He disappeared slowly in the gray gloom, and Philip went down the side of the mountain.  From the plain below he looked back.  For an instant he saw Pierre drawn like a silhouette against the sky.

“Good-by, Pierre,” he shouted.

“Good-by, M’sieur,” came back faintly.

Light and silence dropped about them.