Chapter V
 

The next morning Lepage was placed upon a sled, and they started back, Bouche barking joyfully as he led off, with Cloud-in-the-Sky beside him. There was light in the faces of all, though the light could not be seen by reason of their being muffled so. All day they travelled, scarcely halting, Lepage's Indian marching well. Often the corpse-like bundle on the sled was disturbed, and biscuits wet in brandy and bits of preserved venison were given.

That night Hume said to Late Carscallen: "I am going to start at the first light of the morning to get to Gaspe Toujours and Jeff Hyde as soon as possible. Follow as fast as you can. He will be safe, if you give him food and drink often. I shall get to the place where we left them about noon; you should reach there at night or early the next morning."

"Hadn't you better take Bouche with you?" said Late Carscallen.

The sub-factor thought a moment, and then said: "No, he is needed most where he is."

At noon the next day Jaspar Hume looked round upon a billowy plain of sun and ice, but saw no staff, no signal, no tent, no sign of human life: of Gaspe Toujours or of Jeff Hyde. His strong heart quailed. Had he lost his way? He looked at the sun. He was not sure. He consulted his compass, but it quivered hesitatingly. For awhile that wild bewilderment which seizes upon the minds of the strongest, when lost, mastered him, in spite of his struggles against it. He moved in a maze of half-blindness, half-delirium. He was lost in it, swayed by it. He began to wander about; and there grew upon his senses strange delights and reeling agonies. He heard church bells, he caught at butterflies, he tumbled in new-mown hay, he wandered in a tropic garden. But in the hay a wasp stung him, and the butterfly changed to a curling black snake that struck at him and glided to a dark-flowing river full of floating ice, and up from the river a white hand was thrust, and it beckoned him--beckoned him. He shut his eyes and moved towards it, but a voice stopped him, and it said, "Come away, come away," and two arms folded him round, and as he went back from the shore he stumbled and fell, and . . . What is this? A yielding mass at his feet--a mass that stirs! He clutches at it, he tears away the snow, he calls aloud--and his voice has a faraway unnatural sound--"Gaspe Toujours! Gaspe Toujours!" Then the figure of a man shakes itself in the snow, and a voice says: "Ay, ay, sir!" Yes, it is Gaspe Toujours! And beside him lies Jeff Hyde, and alive. "Ay, ay, sir, alive!"

Jaspar Hume's mind was itself again. It had but suffered for a moment the agony of delirium.

Gaspe Toujours and Jeff Hyde had lain down in the tent the night of the great wind, and had gone to sleep at once. The staff had been blown down, the tent had fallen over them, the drift had covered them, and for three days they had slept beneath the snow, never waking.

Jeff Hyde's sight was come again to him. "You've come back for the book," he said. "You couldn't go on without it. You ought to have taken it yesterday."

He drew it from his pocket. He was dazed.

"No, Jeff, I've not come back for that, and I did not leave you yesterday: it is three days and more since we parted. The book has brought us luck, and the best. We have found our man; and they'll be here to-night with him. I came on ahead to see how you fared."

In that frost-bitten world Jeff Hyde uncovered his head for a moment. "Gaspe Toujours is a papist," he said, "but he read me some of that book the day you left, and one thing we went to sleep on: it was that about 'Lightenin' the darkness, and defendin' us from all the perils and dangers of this night.'" Here Gaspe Toujours made the sign of the cross. Jeff Hyde continued half apologetically for his comrade: "That comes natural to Gaspe Toujours--I guess it always does to papists. But I never had any trainin' that way, and I had to turn the thing over and over, and I fell asleep on it. And when I wake up three days after, here's my eyes as fresh as daisies, and you back, sir, and the thing done that we come to do."

He put the Book into Hume's hands and at that moment Gaspe Toujours said: "See!" Far off, against the eastern horizon, appeared a group of moving figures.

That night the broken segments of the White Guard were reunited, and Clive Lepage slept by the side of Jaspar Hume.