But it was the dying of the rabbits more than the crying of the wolves that worried them at first. The plague-stricken animals were lying everywhere, even up to the steps of the cabins, and one day Peter counted so many in a corner of the swamp 佛山桑拿夜生活 that Simon McQuarrie’s eyes widened a little with doubt when he told his story. Once every seven or nine years had the rabbit plague swept on its devastating way through the wilderness, but never had Pierre or Dominique or Simon seen it so destructive as this year, and the nearer howling of the wolves and the strange, clammy nights with their deathlike fogs roused in Pierre Gourdon’s heart the ghosts of old superstitions and old fears put there in tragic days when he was a boy.
And then came a night when the world seemed filled with wet smoke, and on that night the gray Canada geese came down from the north in a multitude so great that they filled the sky over Five Fingers with a winged deluge, and thousands of them dropped into the inlet and the clearing to rest. Their honking was a bedlam which made sleep impossible, and with 佛山桑拿红场 the dawn Peter could see them darkening the fields and the water of Middle Finger Inlet. When the various companies and regiments began taking wing the sound they made was a steady thunder that sent a weird and thrilling shudder through earth and air. There were ten thousand pair of wings in that southward moving host, Pierre Gourdon said. Peter had never thought there were so many wild geese in the world and it puzzled him that not one of them was killed by the men at Five Fingers.
“A wild goose mates but once,” Pierre explained. “If his mate dies, he does not take another, but lives alone for the rest of his life. Memory and loyalty like that men do not have, and so it is a crime to kill them.” Then he added, looking up thoughtfully at one of the winged triangles racing through the sky, “And the gray goose lives a 佛山洗浴按摩论坛 hundred years!”
In October what were left of the big snowshoe rabbits began to turn white, and the wind kept steadily in the north. Snow fell early. All through November the big lake was lashed by fierce gales; the Pit roared and whipped itself into furies, and the gulls were gone entirely from Middle Finger Inlet. In a single night, it seemed to Peter, winter came. And from the beginning it was a black, ominous winter. For days at a time there was no sun. The sky was shut in by a gray canopy of cloud. When snow fell it was hard and biting, and riding with the wind, it stung the flesh like fine shot.
In December came a change. The winds died, the skies cleared a little, and day and night it snowed until the wilderness was smothered and the evergreen forests bent to the snapping point under their burden. Trails were closed and the hollows between ridges were filled. One day Poleon Dufresne snowshoed in from the railroad settlement, half dead from exhaustion and bearing the news that all the world was shut out by snow, and that it lay twenty feet deep in the open places. And quietly he gave other news to Pierre Gourdon and Dominique and Simon McQuarrie. The dreaded plague of the wilderness—the smallpox—had already begun to stalk through the northland.
Following the deep snows came a cold so intense that the men no longer ran the hazard of frosted lungs by working in the woods, and all wild life seemed to have become extinct. Between the lake and the settlements along the line of steel one could scarcely have found the trail of a cloven hoof, for the deer and moose were yarded deep and struggled breast-high against snow for the bush-browsing that kept them alive, while the caribou, milling against wind and storm, had left the snow-smothered country for feeding grounds farther north. It was a winter that began—first of all—with starvation. The icy coating of the trees left no budding for the grouse; small creatures smothered in thousands under the hardening snow crust which could soon bear the weight of a man; foxes and ermine gnawed bark in their hunger; with the rabbits gone, owls died of a sickness which ravages them in times of forest famine—and the empty stomachs of wolves brought them nearer and nearer to the clearing until frightened horses broke halters in their stalls and cattle bellowed in their terror.
Peter had never heard wolves as they cried out now. Sometimes their wail of hunger was almost a sobbing in the night, and again it was bitter and vengeful as hoof and horn beat them back from some yarded stronghold of moose and deer.
Each day and week Peter came to understand more of the tragedy through which he was passing. It was one of the “black years.” Father Albanel came to the settlement early in January; he was thin and haggard, his eyes deep-set, the rosy color gone from his face. In the little church he asked the people of Five Fingers to offer up prayer for the thousands who were sick and the hundreds who were dying through all the great wilderness from Hudson Bay to the Athabasca and from Big Lake to the Barren Lands. Over all that country the plague was raging, sweeping like a forest fire from tepee to cabin, until in certain far places the great Hudson Bay Company could no longer bury its dead, and masterless dogs ran with the wild things in the forests. Pierre Gourdon’s face was almost as haggard as Father Albanel’s, and Mona called Peter’s attention to it, with a tense and strange look in her eyes.
“I overheard Uncle Pierre and Aunt Josette when they were talking last night and they said they weren’t afraid for themselves but that they were afraid for me,” she said. “Why should they be, Peter? I don’t get sick easily.”
“You’re a girl, that’s why,” he explained.
“But if I should get sick—what would you do? Would you dare to come and see me?”
“Even if it was the plague?”
“I’d still come.”
Old Simon held Peter off at arm’s length
OLD SIMON held Peter off at arm’s length, his
stern face working in a strange way
Peter McRae had come home
PETER McRAE had come home and a whisper
of gladness ran among the crowd
“I’d like to have you, Peter. If I was sick and you didn’t come, I think it would make me feel so badly I wouldn’t get well.”
And that night, with the wolves wailing at its doors, the blighting hand of the red plague fell upon Five Fingers!
It touched Geertruda Poulin first, and Jeremie, her husband, nailed a red cloth over his cabin door to keep the children at a distance, and that rag, fluttering in the winds, soon filled their hearts with a greater terror than if they had seen a loup-garou haunting the edge of the forest or the grim hunters of the Chasse-galerie riding through the gloomy sky, for they were told that to go near it meant death. And then, three days later, little Tobina fell ill, and with a pale, brave face and eyes in which there was no sign of fear Marie Antoinette went into the plague-stricken cabin to nurse them. After that Joe Gourdon’s face was like a mask carven out of stone until the night when Jame Clamart pounded at his door and cried out the terrible news that Adette was down with the fever. And that midnight Josette calmly kissed Pierre and Mona good-by and went to her. Until she was gone Pierre held back the sob in his throat—then it escaped him, and he held Mona close, so close that it hurt her. It was on a Sunday morning, bitterly cold and filled with gusty winds, that Jeremie Poulin staggered out from his door and flung up his arms to the sky, and the word passed from cabin to cabin that Geertruda was dead.
Alone, barring all others from their company, Simon McQuarrie and Father Albanel dug with picks and grub-hoes the first new grave in the little cemetery. Chunk by chunk they broke out the frozen earth, and when it was dark—so dark no eyes could see them—they helped Jeremie Poulin carry his dead over the clearing and upon their knees prayed with him at the grave-side. After that they lived in one of the barns, visiting only the sick and the dead, and each morning and evening Simon would shout to Peter through the megaphone of his hands, asking him if he felt pain or dizziness or fever, and warning him to stay in the cabin. Then Sara Dufresne and two of her three children were stricken and Jean Croisset died so suddenly that the shock of it stopped every heart in Five Fingers. Pounding of hammers came from the barn, and the next morning there was another mound of brown and frozen earth in the cemetery. A day later Dominique Beauvais, with his house full of children, nailed up the red badge of sickness over his cabin door.
Each day Peter saw Mona. They spent their hours together, and Pierre Gourdon watched them as a hawk watches its young. At night they sat at their windows, for after Jean’s death the skies cleared and a glorious moon filled the world with light. And one night Peter heard the hammers pounding again, and in the gray of dawn—still sleepless and wide-eyed—he saw Father Albanel and Simon and Jeremie Poulin come from Dominique Beauvais’s cabin bearing a long, grim thing[
163] among them; and when they had reached the burial slope he saw them turn back, and enter the cabin again, and come forth once more with their shoulders bent under a burden. Peter’s heart choked him. He sobbed and clutched his hands at his breast. It was Félipe and Dominique, the 佛山桑拿按摩论坛 two youngest of the Beauvais children, whom he had seen carried to the burial plot.
Sobbing, he ran toward Mona’s home. The door opened and Pierre Gourdon came out. Peter stopped a few paces away, for there was something in Pierre’s face that frightened him. At first he thought it must be the madness of the fever; then his ears caught words, strange, hard words that froze his blood and that seemed to come with a mighty effort from Pierre’s ghastly face. Mona was sick! She was in bed—and he must return to Simon McQuarrie’s cabin and not
come again within breathing distance of the house! Peter moved closer to the door, powerless to speak, and Pierre thrust him back so roughly that he fell to the ground.
“Go away!” he commanded, raising a hand as if to strike the boy.
Through the open door Peter had a glimpse of Josette’s 佛山桑拿按摩视频 face looking out at him, so white and haggard that for a moment he thought it was an old woman’s face. He cried out to her but in the same moment she was gone and there came no answer.
Then he spoke half defiantly to Pierre.
“I want to see Mona,” he said. “I promised her I’d come if she was sick.”
“Go!” said Pierre again, pointing sternly toward Simon McQuarrie’s cabin. “You can come halfway to learn how Mona is, but if you come this near again I shall have you taken from Five Fingers!”
Peter drew slowly away, staring in
horror at Pierre and the cabin behind him. He slumped down on the doorstep at Simon’s place and did not feel the bitter cold. He saw Pierre enter the cabin, and then he watched the gray figures in the distant cemetery as they moved slowly about, piling the last of the frozen clods upon the burdens 佛山桑拿去哪里好 they had carried through the dawn a few minutes before. And Mona was down with that same sickness—which meant death!
In his torment he picked and twisted at his clothes until his thin fingers were blue with the cold. Pierre came out again and put up the red cloth, and then he went to intercept the three men who were on their way from the cemetery to their quarters in the barn. Father Albanel and Simon McQuarrie returned with Pierre and entered the cabin where Mona was sick. In a few minutes Simon came out and seeing Peter huddled on the doorstep, approached as near to him as he dared. He asked the same questions, and gave the same warnings, and assured Peter that Mona was only slightly ill, and that she would get over it very quickly. But there was in his face the same look that had been in Pierre’s, and Peter knew he was 佛山桑拿技师网 lying.
“She is going to die,” his heart kept crying, and he dragged himself into the cabin and flung himself upon Simon’s bed, and when Joe Gourdon came in he was crying, his head buried in his arms. With his beloved Marie Antoinette keeping guard in Jeremie Poulin’s house of death, Joe was making a courageous fight. “Tobina Poulin is past all danger, and if things go well Aunt Marie Antoinette will come home in a few days, and then you can come to us,” he comforted Peter. “Meanwhile I’m going to stay with you.”
But Joe’s cheerfulness was mostly forced. News came early in the day that Adette Clamart was very close to death, and that Jame and Father Albanel were constantly at her bedside.
That night sheer exhaustion brought sleep to Peter. He was awakened by a pounding at the door. Joe’s voice called out below and another 黄岐桑拿体验 answered it from outside. It was Jame Clamart, going from cabin to cabin in a madness of joy, telling the people of Five Fingers that the crisis was over and Adette would live.
Peter could hear the running crunch of Jame’s boots in the hard snow as he hurried on to the next neighbor and for a long time after that he lay awake in the cold darkness of his room, thinking of Mona. Fear of death had not gripped him so terribly before. In the tragedy of others he had felt shock; its suddenness and horror had stunned him and filled him with dread, but the physical grief of it had not touched him deeply until now. He was sick, but the sickness was in his heart, as if something had been cut out of it, leaving in its place an emptiness which made breath come to his lips in smothered sobs. And that something which had been taken 佛山桑拿全套 away from him was Mona.
When he closed his eyes he could see her clearly on her white bed, her long hair streaming about the pillow, her face pinched and thin, and all the time she was wondering why he did not come. She was going to die; he could think of nothing but that, and after a little one thing persisted in traveling through his brain so frequently and so terribly that he called aloud for Joe. The maddening picture was that of Father Albanel and Simon and Jeremie Poulin marching through the gray dawn to the burial plot with the bodies of Félipe and Dominique Beauvais.