Chapter X
 

On a beautiful May evening Lepage, Hume, and the White Guard were welcomed at Fort Edmonton by the officer in command of the Mounted Police. They were to enjoy the hospitality of the fort for a couple of days. Hume was to go back with Cloud-in-the-Sky and Late Carscallen, and a number of Indian carriers; for this was a journey of business too. Gaspe Toujours and Jeff Hyde were to press on with Lepage, who was now much stronger and better. One day passed, and on the following morning Hume gave instructions to Gaspe Toujours and Jeff Hyde, and made preparations for his going back. He was standing in the Barracks Square, when a horseman rode in and made inquiry of a sergeant standing near, if Lepage had arrived at the fort. A few words brought out the fact that Rose Lepage was nearing the fort from the south. The trooper had been sent on ahead the day before, but his horse having met with a slight accident, he had been delayed. He had seen the party, however, a long distance back in the early morning. He must now ride away and meet Mrs. Lepage, he said. He was furnished with a fresh horse, and he left, bearing a message from Lepage.

Hume decided to leave Fort Edmonton at once, and to take all the White Guard back with him; and gave orders to that effect. Entering the room where Lepage sat alone, he said: "Lepage, the time has come for good-bye. I am starting for Fort Providence."

But the other replied: "You will wait until my wife comes. You must." There was trouble in his voice. "I must not."

Lepage braced himself for a heavy task and said: "Hume, if the time has come to say good-bye, it has also come when we should speak together for once openly: to settle, in so far as can be done, a long account. You have not let my wife know who saved me. That appears from her letters. She asks the name of my rescuer. I have not yet told her. But she will know that to-day when I tell her all."

"When you tell her all?"

"When I tell her all."

"But you shall not do that."

"I will. It will be the beginning of the confession which I shall afterwards make to the world."

"By Heaven you shall not do it. Do you want to wreck her life?"

Jaspar Hume's face was wrathful, and remained so till the other sank back in the chair with his forehead in his hands; but it softened as he saw this remorse and shame. He began to see that Lepage had not clearly grasped the whole situation. He said in quieter but still firm tones: "No, Lepage, that matter is between us two, and us alone. She must never know--the world therefore must never know. You did an unmanly thing; you are suffering a manly remorse. Now let it end here--but I swear it shall," he said in sharp tones, as the other shook his head negatively: "I would have let you die at Manitou Mountain, if I had thought you would dare to take away your wife's peace--your children's respect."

"I have no children; our baby died."

Hume softened again. "Can you not see, Lepage? The thing cannot be mended. I bury it all, and so must you. You will begin the world again, and so shall I. Keep your wife's love. Henceforth you will deserve it."

Lepage raised moist eyes to the other and said: "But you will take back the money I got for that?"

There was a pause, then Hume replied: "Yes, upon such terms, times, and conditions as I shall hereafter fix. You have no child, Lepage?" he gently added.

"We have no child; it died with my fame."

Hume looked steadily into the eyes of the man who had wronged him. "Remember, Lepage, you begin the world again. I am going now. By the memory of old days, good-bye." He held out his hand. Lepage took it, rose tremblingly to his feet, and said, "You are a good man, Hume. Good- bye."

The sub-factor turned at the door. "If it will please you, tell your wife that I saved you. Some one will tell her; perhaps I would rather-- at least it would be more natural, if you did it."

He passed out into the sunshine that streamed into the room and fell across the figure of Lepage, who murmured dreamily: "And begin the world again."

Time passed. A shadow fell across the sunlight that streamed upon Lepage. He looked up. There was a startled cry of joy, an answering exclamation of love, and Rose was clasped in her husband's arms.

A few moments afterwards the sweet-faced woman said: "Who was that man who rode away to the north as I came up, Clive? He reminded me of some one."

"That was the leader of the White Guard, the man who saved me, Rose." He paused a moment and then solemnly said: "It was Jaspar Hume."

The wife came to her feet with a spring. "He saved you--Jaspar Hume! Oh, Clive!"

"He saved me, Rose."

Her eyes were wet: "And he would not stay and let me thank him! Poor fellow, poor Jaspar Hume! Has he been up here all these years?"

Her face was flushed, and pain was struggling with the joy she felt in seeing her husband again.

"Yes, he has been here all the time."

"Then he has not succeeded in life, Clive!" Her thoughts went back to the days when, blind and ill, Hume went away for health's sake, and she remembered how sorry then she felt for him, and how grieved she was that when he came back strong and well, he did not come near her or her husband, and offered no congratulations. She had not deliberately wronged him. She knew he cared for her: but so did Lepage. A promise had been given to neither when Jaspar Hume went away; and after that she grew to love the successful, kind-mannered genius who became her husband. No real pledge had been broken. Even in this happiness of hers, sitting once again at her husband's feet, she thought with tender kindness of the man who had cared for her eleven years ago; and who had but now saved her husband.

"He has not succeeded in life," she repeated softly. Looking down at her, his brow burning with a white heat, Lepage said: "He is a great man, Rose."

"I am sure he is a good man," she added.

Perhaps Lepage had borrowed some strength not all his own, for he said almost sternly: "He is a great man."

His wife looked up half-startled and said: "Very well, dear; he is a good man--and a great man."

The sunlight still came in through the open door. The Saskatchewan flowed swiftly between its verdant banks, an eagle went floating away to the west, robins made vocal a solitary tree a few yards away, troopers moved backwards and forwards across the square, and a hen and her chickens came fluttering to the threshold. The wife looked at the yellow brood drawing close to their mother, and her eyes grew wistful. She thought of their one baby asleep in an English grave. But thinking of the words of the captain of the White Guard, Lepage said firmly: "We will begin the world again."

She smiled, and rose to kiss him as the hen and chickens hastened away from the door, and a clear bugle call sounded in the square.