Pierre And His People by Gilbert Parker
The Tall Master
The story has been so much tossed about in the mouths of Indians, and half-breeds, and men of the Hudson's Bay Company, that you are pretty sure to hear only an apocryphal version of the thing as you now travel in the North. But Pretty Pierre was at Fort Luke when the battle occurred, and, before and after, he sifted the business thoroughly. For he had a philosophical turn, and this may be said of him, that he never lied except to save another from danger. In this matter he was cool and impartial from first to last, and evil as his reputation was in many ways there were those who believed and trusted him. Himself, as he travelled here and there through the North, had heard of the Tall Master. Yet he had never met anyone who had seen him; for the Master had dwelt, it was said, chiefly among the strange tribes of the Far-Off Metal River whose faces were almost white, and who held themselves aloof from the southern races. The tales lost nothing by being retold, even when the historians were the men of the H. B. C.;---Pierre knew what accomplished liars may be found among that Company of Adventurers trading in Hudson's Bay, and how their art had been none too delicately engrafted by his own people. But he was, as became him, open to conviction, especially when, journeying to Fort Luke, he heard what John Hybar, the Chief Factor-- a man of uncommon quality--had to say. Hybar had once lived long among those Indians of the Bright Stone, and had seen many rare things among them. He knew their legends of the White Valley and the Hills of the Mighty Men, and how their distinctive character had imposed itself on the whole Indian race of the North, so that there was none but believed, even though vaguely, in a pleasant land not south but Arcticwards; and Pierre himself, with Shon McGann and Just Trafford, had once had a strange experience in the Kimash Hills. He did not share the opinion of Lazenby, the Company's clerk at Fort Luke, who said, when the matter was talked of before him, that it was all hanky-panky,--which was evidence that he had lived in London town, before his anxious relatives, sending him forth under the delusive flag of adventure and wild life, imprisoned him in the Arctic regions with the H. B. C.
Lazenby admired Pierre; said he was good stuff, and voted him amusing, with an ingenious emphasis of heathen oaths; but advised him, as only an insolent young scoundrel can, to forswear securing, by the seductive game of poker or euchre, larger interest on his capital than the H. B. C.; whose record, he insisted, should never be rivalled by any single man in any single lifetime. Then he incidentally remarked that he would like to empty the Company's cash-box once--only once;--thus reconciling the preacher and the sinner, as many another has done. Lazenby's morals were not bad, however. He was simply fond of making them appear terrible; even when in London he was more idle than wicked. He gravely suggested at last, as a kind of climax, that he and Pierre should go out on the pad together. This was a mere stroke of pleasantry on his part, because, the most he could loot in that far North were furs and caches of buffalo meat; and a man's capacity and use for them were limited. Even Pierre's especial faculty and art seemed valueless so far Polewards; but he had his beat throughout the land, and he kept it like a perfect patrolman. He had not been at Fort Luke for years, and he would not be there again for more years; but it was certain that he would go on reappearing till he vanished utterly. At the end of the first week of this visit at Fort Luke, so completely had he conquered the place, that he had won from the Chief Factor the year's purchases of skins, the stores, and the Fort itself; and every stitch of clothing owned by Lazenby: so that, if he had insisted on the redemption of the debts, the H. B. C. and Lazenby had been naked and hungry in the wilderness. But Pierre was not a hard creditor. He instantly and nonchalantly said that the Fort would be useless to him, and handed it back again with all therein, on a most humorously constructed ninety-nine years' lease; while Lazenby was left in pawn. Yet Lazenby's mind was not at certain ease; he had a wholesome respect for Pierre's singularities, and dreaded being suddenly called upon to pay his debt before he could get his new clothes made, maybe, in the presence of Wind Driver, chief of the Golden Dogs, and his demure and charming daughter, Wine Face, who looked upon him with the eye of affection--a matter fully, but not ostentatiously, appreciated by Lazenby. If he could have entirely forgotten a pretty girl in South Kensington, who, at her parents' bidding, turned her shoulder on him, he would have married Wine Face; and so he told Pierre. But the half-breed had only a sardonic sympathy for such weakness. Things changed at once when Shon McGann arrived. He should have come before, according to a promise given Pierre, but there were reasons for the delay; and these Shon elaborated in his finely picturesque style.
He said that he had lost his way after he left the Wapiti Woods, and should never have found it again, had it not been for a strange being who came upon him and took him to the camp of the White Hand Indians, and cared for him there, and sent him safely on his way again to Fort Luke.
"Sorra wan did I ever see like him," said Shon, with a face that was divil this minute and saint the next; pale in the cheek, and black in the eye, and grizzled hair flowin' long at his neck and lyin' like snakes on his shoulders; and whin his fingers closed on yours, bedad! they didn't seem human at all, for they clamped you so cold and strong."
"'For they clamped you so cold and strong,'" replied Pierre, mockingly, yet greatly interested, as one could see by the upward range of his eye towards Shon. "Well, what more?"
"Well, squeeze the acid from y'r voice, Pierre; for there's things that better become you: and listen to me, for I've news for all here at the Fort, before I've done, which'll open y'r eyes with a jerk."
"With a wonderful jerk, hold! let us prepare, messieurs, to be waked with an Irish jerk!" and Pierre pensively trifled with the fringe on Shon's buckskin jacket, which was whisked from his fingers with smothered anger. For a few moments he was silent; but the eager looks of the Chief Factor and Lazenby encouraged him to continue. Besides, it was only Pierre's way--provoking Shon was the piquant sauce of his life.
"Lyin' awake I was," continued Shon, "in the middle of the night, not bein' able to sleep for a pain in a shoulder I'd strained, whin I heard a thing that drew me up standin'. It was the sound of a child laughin'; so wonderful and bright, and at the very door of me tent it seemed. Then it faded away till it was only a breath, lovely, and idle, and swingin'. I wint to the door and looked out. There was nothin' there, av coorse." "And why 'av coorse'"? rejoined Pierre. The Chief Factor was intent on what Shon was saying, while Lazenby drummed his fingers on the table, his nose in the air.
"Divils me darlin', but ye know as well as I, that there's things in the world neither for havin' nor handlin'. And that's wan of thim, says I to meself. . . . I wint back and lay down, and I heard the voice singin' now and comin' nearer and nearer, and growin' louder and louder, and then there came with it a patter of feet, till it was as a thousand children were dancin' by me door. I was shy enough, I'll own; but I pulled aside the curtain of the tent to see again: and there was nothin' beyand for the eye. But the singin' was goin' past and recedin' as before, till it died away along the waves of prairie grass. I wint back and give Grey Nose, my Injin bed-fellow, a lift wid me fut. 'Come out of that,' says I, 'and tell me if dead or alive I am.' He got up, and there was the noise soft and grand again, but with it now the voices of men, the flip of birds' wings and the sighin' of tree tops, and behind all that the long wash of a sea like none I ever heard. . . . 'Well,' says I to the Injin grinnin' before me, 'what's that, in the name o' Moses?' 'That,' says he, laughin' slow in me face, 'is the Tall Master--him that brought you to the camp.' Thin I remimbered all the things that's been said of him, and I knew it was music I'd been hearin' and not children's voices nor anythin' else at all.
"'Come with me,' says Grey Nose; and he took me to the door of a big tent standin' alone from the rest.
"'Wait a minute,' says he, and he put his hand on the tent curtain; and at that there was a crash, as a million gold hammers were fallin' on silver drums. And we both stood still; for it seemed an army, with swords wranglin' and bridle-chains rattlin', was marchin' down on us. There was the divil's own uproar, as a battle was comin' on; and a long line of spears clashed. But just then there whistled through the larrup of sound a clear voice callin', gentle and coaxin', yet commandin' too; and the spears dropped, and the pounding of horsehoofs ceased, and then the army marched away; far away; iver so far away, into--"
"Into Heaven!" flippantly interjected Lazenby. "Into Heaven, say I, and be choked to you! for there's no other place for it; and I'll stand by that, till I go there myself, and know the truth o' the thing." Pierre here spoke. "Heaven gave you a fine trick with words, Shon McGann. I sometimes think Irishmen have gifts for only two things--words and women. . . . 'Bien,' what then?"
Shon was determined not to be angered. The occasion was too big. "Well, Grey Nose lifted the curtain and wint in. In a minute he comes out. 'You can go in,' says he. So in I wint, the Injin not comin', and there in the middle of the tint stood the Tall Master, alone. He had his fiddle to his chin, and the bow hoverin' above it. He looked at me for a long time along the thing; then, all at once, from one string I heard the child laughin' that pleasant and distant, though the bow seemed not to be touchin'. Soon it thinned till it was the shadow of a laugh, and I didn't know whin it stopped, he smilin' down at the fiddle bewhiles. Then he said without lookin' at me,--'It is the spirit of the White Valley and the Hills of the Mighty Men; of which all men shall know, for the North will come to her spring again one day soon, at the remaking of the world. They thought the song would never be found again, but I have given it a home here.' And he bent and kissed the strings. After, he turned sharply as if he'd been spoken to, and looked at someone beside him; someone that I couldn't see. A cloud dropped upon his face, he caught the fiddle hungrily to his breast, and came limpin' over to me-- for there was somethin' wrong with his fut--and lookin' down his hook- nose at me, says he,--'I've a word for them at Fort Luke, where you're goin', and you'd better be gone at once; and I'll put you on your way. There's to be a great battle. The White Hands have an ancient feud with the Golden Dogs, and they have come from where the soft Chinook wind ranges the Peace River, to fight until no man of all the Golden Dogs be left, or till they themselves be destroyed. It is the same north and south,' he wint on; 'I have seen it all in Italy, in Greece, in--' but here he stopped and smiled strangely. After a minute he wint on: 'The White Hands have no quarrel with the Englishmen of the Fort, and I would warn them, for Englishmen were once kind to me--and warn also the Golden Dogs. So come with me at once,' says he. And I did. And he walked with me till mornin', carryin' the fiddle under his arm, but wrapped in a beautiful velvet cloth, havin' on it grand figures like the arms of a king or queen. And just at the first whisk of sun he turned me into a trail and give me good-bye, sayin' that maybe he'd follow me soon, and, at any rate, he'd be there at the battle. Well, divils betide me! I got off the track again; and lost a day; but here I am; and there's me story to take or lave as you will."
Shon paused and began to fumble with the cards on the table before him, looking the while at the others.
The Chief Factor was the first to speak. "I don't doubt but he told you true about the White Hands and the Golden Dogs," he said; "for there's been war and bad blood between them beyond the memory of man--at least since the time that the Mighty Men lived, from which these date their history. But there's nothing to be done to-night; for if we tell old Wind Driver, there'll be no sleeping at the Fort. So we'll let the thing stand."
"You believe all this poppy-cock, Chief"? said Lazenby to the Factor, but laughing in Shon's face the while. The Factor gravely replied: "I knew of the Tall Master years ago on the Far-Off Metal River; and though I never saw him I can believe these things--and more. You do not know this world through and through, Lazenby; you have much to learn."
Pierre said nothing. He took the cards from Shon and passed them to and fro in his hand. Mechanically he dealt them out, and as mechanically they took them up and in silence began to play.
The next day there was commotion and excitement at Fort Luke. The Golden Dogs were making preparations for the battle. Pow-wow followed pow-wow, and paint and feathers followed all. The H. B. C. people had little to do but look to their guns and house everything within the walls of the Fort.
At night, Shon, Pierre, and Lazenby were seated about the table in the common-room, the cards lying dealt before them, waiting for the Factor to come. Presently the door opened and the Factor entered, followed by another. Shon and Pierre sprang to their feet.
"The Tall Master," said Shon with a kind of awe; and then stood still.
Their towering visitor slowly unloosed something he carried very carefully and closely beneath his arm, and laid it on the table, dropping his compass-like fingers softly on it. He bowed gravely to each, yet the bow seemed grotesque, his body was so ungainly. With the eyes of all drawn to him absolutely, he spoke in a low sonorous tone: "I have followed the traveller fast"--his hand lifted gently towards Shon--"for there are weighty concerns abroad, and I have things to say and do before I go again to my people--and beyond. . . . I have hungered for the face of a white man these many years, and his was the first I saw;"-- again he tossed a long finger towards the Irishman--"and it brought back many things. I remember. . . . " He paused, then sat down; and they all did the same. He looked at them one by one with distant kindness. "I remember," he continued, and his strangely articulated fingers folded about the thing on the table beside him, "when"--here the cards caught his eye. His face underwent a change. An eager fantastic look shot from his eye, "when I gambled this away at Lucca,"--his hand drew the bundle closer to him--"but I won it back again--at a price!" he gloomily added, glancing sideways as to someone at his elbow.
He remained, eyes hanging upon space for a moment, then he recollected himself and continued: "I became wiser; I never risked it again; but I loved the game always. I was a gamester from the start--the artist is always so when he is greatest,--like nature herself. And once, years after, I played with a mother for her child--and mine. And yet once again at Parma with"--here he paused, throwing that sharp sidelong glance--"with the greatest gamester, for the infinite secret of Art: and I won it; but I paid the price! . . . I should like to play now."
He reached his hand, drew up five cards, and ran his eye through them. "Play!" he said. "The hand is good--very good. . . . Once when I played with the Princess--but it is no matter; and Tuscany is far away! . . . Play!" he repeated.
Pierre instantly picked up the cards, with an air of cool satisfaction. He had either found the perfect gamester or the perfect liar. He knew the remedy for either.
The Chief Factor did not move. Shon and Lazenby followed Pierre's action. By their positions Lazenby became his partner. They played in silence for a minute, the Tall Master taking all. "Napoleon was a wonderful player, but he lost with me," he said slowly as he played a card upon three others and took them.
Lazenby was so taken back by this remark that, presently, he trumped his partner's ace, and was rewarded by a talon-like look from the Tall Master's eye; but it was immediately followed by one of saturnine amusement.
They played on silently.
"Ah, you are a wonderful player!" he presently said to Pierre, with a look of keen scrutiny. "Come, I will play with you--for values--the first time in seventy-five years; then, no more!"
Lazenby and Shon drew away beside the Chief Factor. The two played. Meanwhile Lazenby said to Shon: "The man's mad. He talks about Napoleon as if he'd known him--as if it wasn't three-fourths of a century ago. Does he think we're all born idiots? Why, he's not over sixty years old now. But where the deuce did he come from with that Italian face? And the funniest part of it is, he reminds me of someone. Did you notice how he limped--the awkward beggar!"
Lazenby had unconsciously lifted his voice, and presently the Tall Master turned and said to him: "I ran a nail into my foot at Leyden seventy-odd years ago."
"He's the devil himself," rejoined Lazenby, and he did not lower his voice.
"Many with angelic gifts are children of His Dark Majesty," said the Tall Master, slowly; and though he appeared closely occupied with the game, a look of vague sadness came into his face.
For a half-hour they played in silence, the slight, delicate-featured half-breed, and the mysterious man who had for so long been a thing of wonder in the North, a weird influence among the Indians.
There was a strange, cold fierceness in the Tall Master's face. He now staked his precious bundle against the one thing Pierre prized--the gold watch received years ago for a deed of heroism on the Chaudiere. The half-breed had always spoken of it as amusing, but Shon at least knew that to Pierre it was worth his right hand.
Both men drew breath slowly, and their eyes were hard. The stillness became painful; all were possessed by the grim spirit of Chance. . . . The Tall Master won. He came to his feet, his shambling body drawn together to a height. Pierre rose also. Their looks clinched. Pierre stretched out his hand. "You are my master at this," he said.
The other smiled sadly. "I have played for the last time. I have not forgotten how to win. If I had lost, uncommon things had happened. This,"--he laid his hand on the bundle and gently undid it,--"is my oldest friend, since the warm days at Parma . . . all dead . . . all dead." Out of the velvet wrapping, broidered with royal and ducal arms, and rounded by a wreath of violets--which the Chief Factor looked at closely--he drew his violin. He lifted it reverently to his lips.
"My good Garnerius!" he said. "Three masters played you, but I am chief of them all. They had the classic soul, but I the romantic heart--'les grandes caprices.'" His head lifted higher. "I am the master artist of the world. I have found the core of Nature. Here in the North is the wonderful soul of things. Beyond this, far beyond, where the foolish think is only inviolate ice, is the first song of the Ages in a very pleasant land. I am the lost Master, and I shall return, I shall return . . . but not yet . . . not yet."
He fetched the instrument to his chin with a noble pride. The ugliness of his face was almost beautiful now.
The Chief Factor's look was fastened on him with bewilderment; he was trying to remember something: his mind went feeling, he knew not why, for a certain day, a quarter of a century before, when he unpacked a box of books and papers from England. Most of them were still in the Fort. The association of this man with these things fretted him.
The Tall Master swung his bow upward, but at that instant there came a knock, and, in response to a call, Wind Driver and Wine Face entered. Wine Face was certainly a beautiful girl; and Lazenby might well have been pardoned for throwing in his fate with such a heathen, if he despaired of ever seeing England again. The Tall Master did not turn towards these. The Indians sat gracefully on a bearskin before the fire. The eyes of the girl were cast shyly upon the Man as he stood there unlike an ordinary man; in his face a fine hardness and the cold light of the North. He suddenly tipped his bow upward and brought it down with a most delicate crash upon the strings. Then softly, slowly, he passed into a weird fantasy. The Indians sat breathless. Upon them it acted more impressively than the others: besides, the player's eye was searching them now; he was playing into their very bodies. And they responded with some swift shocks of recognition crossing their faces. Suddenly the old Indian sprang up. He thrust his arms out, and made, as if unconsciously, some fantastic yet solemn motions. The player smiled in a far-off fashion, and presently ran the bow upon the strings in an exquisite cry; and then a beautiful avalanche of sound slid from a distance, growing nearer and nearer, till it swept through the room, and imbedded all in its sweetness.
At this the old Indian threw himself forward at the player's feet. "It is the song of the White Weaver, the maker of the world--the music from the Hills of the Mighty Men. . . . I knew it--I knew it--but never like that. . . . It was lost to the world; the wild cry of the lofty stars. . . ." His face was wet.
The girl too had risen. She came forward as if in a dream and reverently touched the arm of the musician, who paused now, and was looking at them from under his long eyelashes. She said whisperingly: "Are you a spirit? Do you come from the Hills of the Mighty Men?"
He answered gravely: "I am no spirit. But I have journeyed in the Hills of the Mighty Men and along their ancient hunting-grounds. This that I have played is the ancient music of the world--the music of Jubal and his comrades. It comes humming from the Poles; it rides laughing down the planets; it trembles through the snow; it gives joy to the bones of the wind. . . . And I am the voice of it," he added; and he drew up his loose unmanageable body till it looked enormous, firm, and dominant.
The girl's fingers ran softly over to his breast. "I will follow you," she said, "when you go again to the Happy Valleys."
Down from his brow there swept a faint hue of colour, and, for a breath, his eyes closed tenderly with hers. But he straightway gathered back his look again, his body shrank, not rudely, from her fingers, and he absently said: "I am old-in years the father of the world. It is a man's life gone since, at Genoa, she laid her fingers on my breast like that. . . . These things can be no more . . . until the North hath its summer again; and I stand young--the Master--upon the summits of my renown."
The girl drew slowly back. Lazenby was muttering under his breath now; he was overwhelmed by this change in Wine Face. He had been impressed to awe by the Tall Master's music, but he was piqued, and determined not to give in easily. He said sneeringly that Maskelyne and Cooke in music had come to life, and suggested a snake-dance.
The Tall Master heard these things, and immediately he turned to Lazenby with an angry look on his face. His brows hung heavily over the dull fire of his eyes; his hair itself seemed like Medusa's, just quivering into savage life; the fingers spread out white and claw-like upon the strings as he curved his violin to his chin, whereof it became, as it were, a piece. The bow shot out and down upon the instrument with a great clangour. There eddied into a vast arena of sound the prodigious elements of war. Torture rose from those four immeasurable chords; destruction was afoot upon them; a dreadful dance of death supervened.
Through the Chief Factor's mind there flashed--though mechanically, and only to be remembered afterwards--the words of a schoolday poem. It shuttled in and out of the music:
"Wheel the wild dance, While lightnings glance, And thunders rattle loud; And call the brave to bloody grave, To sleep without a shroud."
The face of the player grew old and drawn. The skin was wrinkled, but shone, the hair spread white, the nose almost met the chin, the mouth was all malice. It was old age with vast power: conquest volleyed from the fingers.
Shon McGann whispered aves, aching with the sound; the Chief Factor shuddered to his feet; Lazenby winced and drew back to the wall, putting his hand before his face as though the sounds were striking him; the old Indian covered his head with his arms upon the floor. Wine Face knelt, her face all grey, her fingers lacing and interlacing with pain. Only Pierre sat with masterful stillness, his eyes never moving from the face of the player; his arms folded; his feet firmly wedded to the floor. The sound became strangely distressing. It shocked the flesh and angered the nerves. Upon Lazenby it acted singularly. He cowered from it, but presently, with a look of madness in his eyes, rushed forward, arms outstretched, as though to seize this intolerable minstrel. There was a sudden pause in the playing; then the room quaked with noise, buffeting Lazenby into stillness. The sounds changed instantly again, and music of an engaging sweetness and delight fell about them as in silver drops--an enchanting lyric of love. Its exquisite tenderness subdued Lazenby, who, but now, had a heart for slaughter. He dropped on his knees, threw his head into his arms, and sobbed hard. The Tall Master's fingers crept caressingly along one of those heavenly veins of sound, his bow poising softly over it. The farthest star seemed singing.
At dawn the next day the Golden Dogs were gathered for war before the Fort. Immediately after the sun rose, the foe were seen gliding darkly out of the horizon. From another direction came two travellers. These also saw the White Hands bearing upon the Fort, and hurried forward. They reached the gates of the Fort in good time, and were welcomed. One was a chief trader from a fort in the west. He was an old man, and had been many years in the service of the H. B. C.; and, like Lazenby, had spent his early days in London, a connoisseur in all its pleasures; the other was a voyageur. They had posted on quickly to bring news of this crusade of the White Hands.
The hostile Indians came steadily to within a few hundred yards of the Golden Dogs. Then they sent a brave to say that they had no quarrel with the people of the Fort; and that if the Golden Dogs came on they would battle with them alone; since the time had come for "one to be as both," as their Medicine Men had declared since the days of the Great Race. And this signified that one should destroy the other.
At this all the Golden Dogs ranged into line. The sun shone brightly, the long hedge of pine woods in the distance caught the colour of the sky, the flowers of the plains showed handsomely as a carpet of war. The bodies of the fighters glistened. You could see the rise and fall of their bare, strenuous chests. They stood as their forefathers in battle, almost naked, with crested head, gleaming axe, scalp-knife, and bows and arrows. At first there was the threatening rustle of preparation; then a great stillness came and stayed for a moment; after which, all at once, there sped through the air a big shout of battle, and the innumerable twang of flying arrows; and the opposing hosts ran upon each other.
Pierre and Shon McGann, watching from the Fort, cried out with excitement.
"Divils me darlin'!" called Shon, "are we gluin' our eyes to a chink in the wall, whin the tangle of battle goes on beyand? Bedad, I'll not stand it! Look at them twistin' the neck o' war! Open the gates, open the gates say I, and let us have play with our guns."
"Hush! 'Mon Dieu!'" interrupted Pierre. "Look! The Tall Master!"
None at the Fort had seen the Tall Master since the night before. Now he was covering the space between the walls and the battle, his hair streaming behind him.
When he came near to the vortex of fight he raised his violin to his chin, and instantly a piercingly sweet call penetrated the wild uproar. The Call filled it, drained through it, wrapped it, overcame it; so that it sank away at last like the outwash of an exhausted tide: the weft of battle stayed unfinished in the loom.
Then from the Indian lodges came the women and children. They drew near to the unearthly luxury of that Call, now lifting with an unbounded joy. Battleaxes fell to the ground; the warriors quieted even where they stood locked with their foes. The Tall Master now drew away from them, facing the north and west. That ineffable Call drew them after him with grave joy; and they brought their dead and wounded along. The women and children glided in among the men and followed also. Presently one girl ran away from the rest and came close into the great leader's footsteps.
At that instant, Lazenby, from the wall of the Fort, cried out madly, sprang down, opened the gates, and rushed towards the girl, crying: "Wine Face! Wine Face!"
She did not look behind. But he came close to her and caught her by the waist. "Come back! Come back! O my love, come back!" he urged; but she pushed him gently from her.
"Hush! Hush!" she said. "We are going to the Happy Valleys. Don't you hear him calling"? . . . And Lazenby fell back.
The Tall Master was now playing a wonderful thing, half dance, half carnival; but with that Call still beating through it. They were passing the Fort at an angle. All within issued forth to see. Suddenly the old trader who had come that morning started forward with a cry; then stood still. He caught the Factor's arm; but he seemed unable to speak yet; his face was troubled, his eyes were hard upon the player.
The procession passed the empty lodges, leaving the ground strewn with their weapons, and not one of their number stayed behind. They passed away towards the high hills of the north-west-beautiful austere barriers.
Still the trader gazed, and was pale, and trembled. They watched long. The throng of pilgrims grew a vague mass; no longer an army of individuals; and the music came floating back with distant charm. At last the old man found voice. "My God, it is--"
The Factor touched his arm, interrupting him, and drew a picture from his pocket--one but just now taken from that musty pile of books, received so many years before. He showed it to the old man.
"Yes, yes," said the other, "that is he. . . . And the world buried him forty years ago!"
Pierre, standing near, added with soft irony: "There are strange things in the world. He is the gamester of the world. 'Mais' a grand comrade also."
The music came waving back upon them delicately but the pilgrims were fading from view.
Soon the watchers were alone with the glowing day.