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Jack London. The God of his fathers



(First published in McClure's Magazine, Vol. 17, May, 1901)

On every hand stretched the forest primeval, -- the home
of noisy comedy and silent tragedy. Here the struggle for
survival continued to wage with all its ancient brutality.
Briton and Russian were still to overlap in the Land of the
Rainbow's End -- and this was the very heart of it -- nor had
Yankee gold yet purchased its vast domain. The wolf-pack still
clung to the flank of the cariboo-herd, singling out the weak
and the big with calf, and pulling them down as remorselessly
as were it a thousand, thousand generations into the past. The
sparse aborigines still acknowledged the rule of their chiefs
and medicine men, drove out bad spirits, burned their witches,
fought their neighbors, and ate their enemies with a relish
which spoke well of their bellies. But it was at the moment
when the stone age was drawing to a close. Already, over
unknown trails and chartless wildernesses, were the harbingers
of the steel arriving, -- fairfaced, blue-eyed, indomitable
men, incarnations of the unrest of their race. By accident or
design, single-handed and in twos and threes, they came from no
one knew whither, and fought, or died, or passed on, no one
knew whence. The priests raged against them, the chiefs called
forth their fighting men, and stone clashed with steel; but to
little purpose. Like water seeping from some mighty reservoir,
they trickled through the dark forests and mountain passes,
threading the highways in bark canoes, or with their moccasined
feet breaking trail for the wolf-dogs. They came of a great
breed, and their mothers were many; but the fur-clad denizens
of the Northland had this yet to learn. So many an unsung
wanderer fought his last and died under the cold fire of the
aurora, as did his brothers in burning sands and reeking
jungles, and as they shall continue to do till in the fulness
of time the destiny of their race be achieved.

It was near twelve. Along the northern horizon a rosy
glow, fading to the west and deepening to the east, marked the
unseen dip of the midnight sun. The gloaming and the dawn were
so commingled that there was no night, -- simply a wedding of
day with day, a scarcely perceptible blending of two circles of
the sun. A kildee timidly chirped good-night; the full, rich
throat of a robin proclaimed good-morrow. From an island on the
breast of the Yukon a colony of wild fowl voiced its
interminable wrongs, while a loon laughed mockingly back across
a still stretch of river.

In the foreground, against the bank of a lazy eddy, birch-
bark canoes were lined two and three deep. Ivory-bladed spears,
bone-barbed arrows, buckskinthonged bows, and simple basket-
woven traps bespoke the fact that in the muddy current of the
river the salmon-run was on. In the background, from the tangle
of skin tents and drying frames, rose the voices of the fisher
folk. Bucks skylarked with bucks or flirted with the maidens,
while the older squaws, shut out from this by virtue of having
fulfilled the end of their existence in reproduction, gossiped
as they braided rope from the green roots of trailing vines. At
their feet their naked progeny played and squabbled, or rolled
in the muck with the tawny wolf-dogs.

To one side of the encampment, and conspicuously apart
from it, stood a second camp of two tents. But it was a white
man's camp. If nothing else, the choice of position at least
bore convincing evidence of this. In case of offence, it
commanded the Indian quarters a hundred yards away; of defence,
a rise to the ground and the cleared intervening space; and
last, of defeat, the swift slope of a score of yards to the
canoes below. From one of the tents came the petulant cry of a
sick child and the crooning song of a mother. In the open, over
the smouldering embers of a fire, two men held talk.

"Eh? I love the church like a good son. Bien! So great a
love that my days have been spent in fleeing away from her, and
my nights in dreaming dreams of reckoning. Look you!" The half-
breed's voice rose to an angry snarl. "I am Red River born. My
father was white -- as white as you. But you are Yankee, and he
was British bred, and a gentleman's son. And my mother was the
daughter of a chief, and was a man. Ay, and one had to look the
second time to see what manner of blood ran in my veins; for I
lived with the whites, and was one of them, and my father's
heart beat in me. It happened
there was a maiden -- white -- who looked on me with kind
eyes. Her father had much land and many horses; also he was a
big man among his people, and his blood was the blood of the
French. He said the girl knew not her own mind, and talked
overmuch with her, and became wroth that such things should be.

"But she knew her mind, for we came quick before the
priest. And quicker had come her father, with lying words,
false promises, know not what; so that the priest stiffened his
neck and would not make us that we might live one with the
other. As at the beginning it was the church which would not
bless my birth, so now it was the church which refused me
marriage and put the blood of men upon my hands. Bien! Thus
have I cause to love the church. So I struck the priest on his
woman's mouth, and we took swift horses, the girl and I, to
Fort Pierre, where was a minister of good heart. But hot on our
trail was her father, and brothers, and other men he had
gathered to him. And we fought, our horses on the run, till I
emptied three saddles and the rest drew off and went on to Fort
Pierre. Then we took east, the girl and I, to the hills and
forests, and we lived one with the other, and we were not
married, -- the work of the good church which I love like a
son.



"But mark you, for this is the strangeness of woman, the
way of which no man may understand. One of the saddles I
emptied was that of her father's, and the hoofs of those who
came behind had pounded him into the earth. This we saw, the
girl and I, and this I had forgot had she not remembered. And
in the quiet of the evening, after the day's hunt were done, it
came between us, and in the silence of the night when we lay
beneath the stars and should have been one. It was there
always. She never spoke, but it sat by our fire and held us
ever apart. She tried to put it aside, but at such times it
would rise up till I could read it in the look of her eyes, in
the very intake of her breath.

"So in the end she bore me a child, a woman-child, and
died. Then I went among my mother's people, that it might nurse
at a warm breast and live. But my hands were wet with the blood
of men, look you, because of the church, wet with the blood of
men. And the Riders of the North came for me, but my mother's
brother, who was then chief in his own right, hid me and gave
me horses and food. And we went away, my woman-child and I,
even to the Hudson Bay Country, where white men were few and
the questions they asked not many. And I worked for the company
as a hunter, as a guide, as a driver of dogs, till my woman-
child was become a woman, tall, and slender, and fair to the
eye. "You know the winter, long and lonely, breeding evil
thoughts and bad deeds. The Chief Factor was a hard man, and
bold. And he was not such that a woman would delight in looking
upon. But he cast eyes upon my woman-child who was become a
woman. Mother of God! he sent me away on a long trip with the
dogs, that he might -you understand, he was a hard man and
without heart. She was most white, and her soul was white, and
a good woman, and -- well, she died.

"It was bitter cold the night of my return, and I had been
away months, and the dogs were limping sore when I came to the
fort. The Indians and breeds looked on me in silence, and I
felt the fear of knew not what, but I said nothing till the
dogs were fed and I had eaten as a man with work before him
should. Then I spoke up, demanding the word, and they shrank
from me, afraid of my anger and what I should do; but the story
came out, the pitiful story, word for word and act for act, and
they marvelled that I should be so quiet.

"When they had done I went to the Factor's house, calmer
than now in the telling of it. He had been afraid and called
upon the breeds to help him; but they were not pleased with the
deed, and had left him to lie on the bed he had made. So he had
fled to the house of the priest. Thither I followed. But when I
was come to that place, the priest stood in my way, and spoke
soft words, and said a man in anger should go neither to the
right nor left, but straight to God. I asked by the right of a
father's wrath that he give me past, but he said only over his
body, and besought with me to pray. Look you, it was the
church, always the church; for I passed over his body and sent
the Factor to meet my woman-child before his god, which is a
bad god, and the god of the white men.

"Then was there hue and cry, for word was sent to the
station below, and I came away. Through the Land of the Great
Slave, down the Valley of the Mackenzie to the never-opening
ice, over the White Rockies, past the Great Curve of the Yukon,
even to this place did come. And from that day to this, yours
is the first face of my father's people I have looked upon. May
it be the last! These people, which are my people, are a simple
folk, and I have been raised to honor among them. My word is
their law, and their priests but do my bidding, else would I
not suffer them. When I speak for them I speak for myself. We
ask to be let alone. We do not want your kind. If we permit you
to sit by our fires, after you will come your church, your
priests, and your gods. And know this, for each white man who
comes to my village, him will I make deny his god. You are the
first, and I give you grace. So it were well you go, and go
quickly."

"I am not responsible for my brothers," the second man
spoke up, filling his pipe in a meditative manner. Hay Stockard
was at times as thoughtful of speech as he was wanton of
action; but only at times.

"But I know your breed," responded the other. "Your
brothers are many, and it is you and yours who break the trail
for them to follow. In time they shall come to possess the
land, but not in my time. Already, have I heard, are they on
the head-reaches of the Great River, and far away below are the
Russians."

Hay Stockard lifted his head with a quick start. This was
startling geographical information. The Hudson Bay post at Fort
Yukon had other notions concerning the course of the river,
believing it to flow into the Arctic.

"Then the Yukon empties into Bering Sea?" he asked.

"I do not know, but below there are Russians, many
Russians. Which is neither here nor there. You may go on and
see for yourself; you may go back to your brothers; but up the
Koyukuk you shall not go while the priests and fighting men do
my bidding. Thus do I command, I, Baptiste the Red, whose word
is law and who am head man over this people."

"And should I not go down to the Russians, or back to my
brothers?"

"Then shall you go swift-footed before your god, which is
a bad god, and the god of the white men."

The red sun shot up above the northern skyline, dripping
and bloody. Baptiste the Red came to his feet, nodded curtly,
and went back to his camp amid the crimson shadows and the
singing of the robins.

Hay Stockard finished his pipe by the fire, picturing in
smoke and coal the unknown upper reaches of the Koyukuk, the
strange stream which ended here its arctic travels and merged
its waters with the muddy Yukon flood. Somewhere up there, if
the dying words of a shipwrecked sailorman who had made the
fearful overland journey were to be believed, and if the vial
of golden grains in his pouch attested to anything, --
somewhere up there, in that home of winter, stood the Treasure
House of the North. And as keeper of the gate, Baptiste the
Red, English half-breed and renegade, barred the way.

"Bah!" He kicked the embers apart and rose to his full
height, arms lazily outstretched, facing the flushing north
with careless soul.

Hay Stockard swore, harshly, in the rugged monosyllables
of his mother tongue. His wife lifted her gaze from the pots
and pans, and followed his in a keen scrutiny of the river. She
was a woman of the Teslin Country, wise in the ways of her
husband's vernacular when it grew intensive. From the slipping
of a snowshoe thong to the forefront of sudden death, she could
gauge occasion by the pitch and volume of his blasphemy. So she
knew the present occasion merited attention. A long canoe, with
paddles flashing back the rays of the westering sun, was
crossing the current from above and urging in for the eddy. Hay
Stockard watched it intently. Three men rose and dipped, rose
and dipped, in rhythmical precision; but a red bandanna,
wrapped about the head of one, caught and held his eye.

"Bill!" he called. "Oh, Bill!"

A shambling, loose-jointed giant rolled out of one of the
tents, yawning and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Then he
sighted the strange canoe and was wide awake on the instant.

"By the jumping Methuselah! That damned sky-pilot!"

Hay Stockard nodded his head bitterly, half-reached for
his rifle, then shrugged his shoulders.

"Pot-shot him," Bill suggested, "and settle the thing out
of hand. He 'll spoil us sure if we don't." But the other
declined this drastic measure and turned away, at the same time
bidding the woman return to her work, and calling Bill back
from the bank. The two Indians in the canoe moored it on the
edge of the eddy, while its white occupant, conspicuous by his
gorgeous head-gear, came up the bank.

"Like Paul of Tarsus, I give you greeting. Peace be unto
you and grace before the Lord."

His advances were met sullenly, and without speech. "To
you, Hay Stockard, blasphemer and Philistine, greeting. In your
heart is the lust of Mammon, in your mind cunning devils, in
your tent this woman whom you live with in adultery; yet of
these divers sins, even here in the wilderness, I, Sturges
Owen, apostle to the Lord, bid you to repent and cast from you
your iniquities."

"Save your cant! Save your cant!" Hay Stockard broke in
testily. "You 'll need all you 've got, and more, for Red
Baptiste over yonder."

He waved his hand toward the Indian camp, where the half-
breed was looking steadily across, striving to make out the
new-comers. Sturges Owen, disseminator of light and apostle to
the Lord, stepped to the edge of the steep and commanded his
men to bring up the camp outfit. Stockard followed him.

"Look here," he demanded, plucking the missionary by the
shoulder and twirling him about. "Do you value your hide?"

"My life is in the Lord's keeping, and I do but work in
His vineyard," he replied solemnly.

"Oh, stow that! Are you looking for a job of martyrship?"

"If He so wills."

"Well, you 'll find it right here, but I 'm going to give
you some advice first. Take it or leave it. If you stop here,
you 'll be cut off in the midst of your labors. And not you
alone, but your men, Bill, my wife -- "

"Who is a daughter of Belial and hearkeneth not to the
true Gospel."

"And myself. Not only do you bring trouble upon yourself,
but upon us. I was frozen in with you last winter, as you will
well recollect, and I know you for a good man and a fool. If
you think it your duty to strive with the heathen, well and
good; but do exercise some wit in the way you go about it. This
man, Red Baptiste, is no Indian. He comes of our common stock,
is as bull-necked as I ever dared be, and as wild a fanatic the
one way as you are the other. When you two come together, hell
'll be to pay, and I don't care to be mixed up in it.
Understand? So take my advice and go away. If you go down-
stream, you 'll fall in with the Russians. There 's bound to be
Greek priests among them, and they 'll see you safe through to
Bering Sea, -- that 's where the Yukon empties, -and from there
it won't be hard to get back to civilization. Take my word for
it and get out of here as fast as God 'll let you."

"He who carries the Lord in his heart and the Gospel in
his hand hath no fear of the machinations of man or devil," the
missionary answered stoutly. "I will see this man and wrestle
with him. One backslider returned to the fold is a greater
victory than a thousand heathen. He who is strong for evil can
be as mighty for good, witness Saul when he journeyed up to
Damascus to bring Christian captives to Jerusalem. And the
voice of the Saviour came to him, crying, `Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou me?' And therewith Paul arrayed himself on the
side of the Lord, and thereafter was most mighty in the saving
of souls. And even as thou, Paul of Tarsus, even so do I work
in the vineyard of the Lord, bearing trials and tribulations,
scoffs and sneers, stripes and punishments, for His dear sake."

"Bring up the little bag with the tea and a kettle of
water," he called the next instant to his boatmen; "not
forgetting the haunch of cariboo and the mixing-pan." When his
men, converts by his own hand, had gained the bank, the trio
fell to their knees, hands and backs burdened with camp
equipage, and offered up thanks for their passage through the
wilderness and their safe arrival. Hay Stockard looked upon the
function with sneering disapproval, the romance and solemnity
of it lost to his matter-of-fact soul. Baptiste the Red, still
gazing across, recognized the familiar postures, and remembered
the girl who had shared his star-roofed couch in the hills and
forests, and the womanchild who lay somewhere by bleak Hudson's
Bay.

"Confound it, Baptiste, could n't think of it. Not for a
moment. Grant that this man is a fool and of small use in the
nature of things, but still, you know, I can't give him up."

Hay Stockard paused, striving to put into speech the rude
ethics of his heart.

"He 's worried me, Baptiste, in the past and now, and
caused me all manner of troubles; but can't you see, he 's my
own breed -- white -- and -- and -why, I could n't buy my life
with his, not if he was a nigger."

"So be it," Baptiste the Red made answer. "I have given
you grace and choice. I shall come presently, with my priests
and fighting men, and either shall I kill you, or you deny your
god. Give up the priest to my pleasure, and you shall depart in
peace. Otherwise your trail ends here. My people are against
you to the babies. Even now have the children stolen away your
canoes." He pointed down to the river. Naked boys had slipped
down the water from the point above, cast loose the canoes, and
by then had worked them into the current. When they had drifted
out of rifle-shot they clambered over the sides and paddled
ashore.

"Give me the priest, and you may have them back again.
Come! Speak your mind, but without haste."

Stockard shook his head. His glance dropped to the woman
of the Teslin Country with his boy at her breast, and he would
have wavered had he not lifted his eyes to the men before him.

"I am not afraid," Sturges Owen spoke up. "The Lord bears
me in his right hand, and alone am I ready to go into the camp
of the unbeliever. It is not too late. Faith may move
mountains. Even in the eleventh hour may I win his soul to the
true righteousness."

"Trip the beggar up and make him fast," Bill whispered
hoarsely in the ear of his leader, while the missionary kept
the floor and wrestled with the heathen. "Make him hostage, and
bore him if they get ugly."

"No," Stockard answered. "I gave him my word that he could
speak with us unmolested. Rules of warfare, Bill; rules of
warfare. He's been on the square, given us warning, and all
that, and -- why, damn it, man, I can't break my word!"

"He 'll keep his, never fear."

"Don't doubt it, but I won't let a half-breed outdo me in
fair dealing. Why not do what he wants, -- give him the
missionary and be done with it?"

"N-no," Bill hesitated doubtfully.

"Shoe pinches, eh?"

Bill flushed a little and dropped the discussion. Baptiste
the Red was still waiting the final decision. Stockard went up
to him.

"It 's this way, Baptiste. I came to your village minded
to go up the Koyukuk. I intended no wrong. My heart was clean
of evil. It is still clean. Along comes this priest, as you
call him. I did n't bring him here. He 'd have come whether I
was here or not. But now that he is here, being of my people, I
've got to stand by him. And 'm going to. Further, it will be
no child's play. When you have done, your village will be
silent and empty, your people wasted as after a famine. True,
we will be gone; likewise the pick of your fighting men -"

"But those who remain shall be in peace, nor shall the
word of strange gods and the tongues of strange priests be
buzzing in their ears."

Both men shrugged their shoulders and turned away, the
half-breed going back to his own camp. The missionary called
his two men to him, and they fell into prayer. Stockard and
Bill attacked the few standing pines with their axes, felling
them into convenient breastworks. The child had fallen asleep,
so the woman placed it on a heap of furs and lent a hand in
fortifying the camp. Three sides were thus defended, the steep
declivity at the rear precluding attack from that direction.
When these arrangements had been completed, the two men stalked
into the open, clearing away, here and there, the scattered
underbrush. From the opposing camp came the booming of war-
drums and the voices of the priests stirring the people to
anger.

"Worst of it is they 'll come in rushes," Bill complained
as they walked back with shouldered axes.

"And wait till midnight, when the light gets dim for
shooting."

"Can't start the ball a-rolling too early, then." Bill
exchanged the axe for a rifle, and took a careful rest. One of
the medicine-men, towering above his tribesmen, stood out
distinctly. Bill drew a bead on him.

"All ready?" he asked.

Stockard opened the ammunition box, placed the woman where
she could reload in safety, and gave the word. The medicine-man
dropped. For a moment there was silence, then a wild howl went
up and a flight of bone arrows fell short.

"I 'd like to take a look at the beggar," Bill remarked,
throwing a fresh shell into place. "I 'll swear I drilled him
clean between the eyes."

"Did n't work." Stockard shook his head gloomily. Baptiste
had evidently quelled the more warlike of his followers, and
instead of precipitating an attack in the bright light of day,
the shot had caused a hasty exodus, the Indians drawing out of
the village beyond the zone of fire.

In the full tide of his proselyting fervor, borne along by
the hand of God, Sturges Owen would have ventured alone into
the camp of the unbeliever, equally prepared for miracle or
martyrdom; but in the waiting which ensued, the fever of
conviction died away gradually, as the natural man asserted
itself. Physical fear replaced spiritual hope; the love of
life, the love of God. It was no new experience. He could feel
his weakness coming on, and knew it of old time. He had
struggled against it and been overcome by it before. He
remembered when the other men had driven their paddles like mad
in the van of a roaring ice-flood, how, at the critical moment,
in a panic of worldly terror, he had dropped his paddle and
besought wildly with his God for pity. And there were other
times. The recollection was not pleasant. It brought shame to
him that his spirit should be so weak and his flesh so strong.
But the love of life! the love of life! He could not strip it
from him. Because of it had his dim ancestors perpetuated their
line; because of it was he destined to perpetuate his. His
courage, if courage it might be called, was bred of fanaticism.
The courage of Stockard and Bill was the adherence to deep-
rooted ideals. Not that the love of life was less, but the love
of race tradition more; not that they were unafraid to die, but
that they were brave enough not to live at the price of shame.

The missionary rose, for the moment swayed by the mood of
sacrifice. He half crawled over the barricade to proceed to the
other camp, but sank back, a trembling mass, wailing: "As the
spirit moves! As the spirit moves! Who am I that I should set
aside the judgments of God? Before the foundations of the world
were all things written in the book of life. Worm that I am,
shall I erase the page or any portion thereof? As God wills, so
shall the spirit move!"

Bill reached over, plucked him to his feet, and shook him,
fiercely, silently. Then he dropped the bundle of quivering
nerves and turned his attention to the two converts. But they
showed little fright and a cheerful alacrity in preparing for
the coming passage at arms.

Stockard, who had been talking in undertones with the
Teslin woman, now turned to the missionary.

"Fetch him over here," he commanded of Bill.

"Now," he ordered, when Sturges Owen had been duly
deposited before him, "make us man and wife, and be lively
about it." Then he added apologetically to Bill: "No telling
how it 's to end, so I just thought I 'd get my affairs
straightened up."

The woman obeyed the behest of her white lord. To her the
ceremony was meaningless. By her lights she was his wife, and
had been from the day they first foregathered. The converts
served as witnesses. Bill stood over the missionary, prompting
him when he stumbled. Stockard put the responses in the woman's
mouth, and when the time came, for want of better, ringed her
finger with thumb and forefinger of his own.

"Kiss the bride!" Bill thundered, and Sturges Owen was too
weak to disobey.

"Now baptize the child!"

"Neat and tidy," Bill commented.

"Gathering the proper outfit for a new trail," the father
explained, taking the boy from the mother's arms. "I was grub-
staked, once, into the Cascades, and had everything in the kit
except salt. Never shall forget it. And if the woman and the
kid cross the divide to-night they might as well be prepared
for potluck. A long shot, Bill, between ourselves, but nothing
lost if it misses."

A cup of water served the purpose, and the child was laid
away in a secure corner of the barricade. The men built the
fire, and the evening meal was cooked.
The sun hurried round to the north, sinking closer to the
horizon. The heavens in that quarter grew red and bloody. The
shadows lengthened, the light dimmed, and in the sombre
recesses of the forest life slowly died away. Even the wild
fowl in the river softened their raucous chatter and feigned
the nightly farce of going to bed. Only the tribesmen increased
their clamor, war-drums booming and voices raised in savage
folk songs. But as the sun dipped they ceased their tumult. The
rounded hush of midnight was complete. Stockard rose to his
knees and peered over the logs. Once the child wailed in pain
and disconcerted him. The mother bent over it, but it slept
again. The silence was interminable, profound. Then, of a
sudden, the robins burst into full-throated song. The night had
passed.

A flood of dark figures boiled across the open. Arrows
whistled and bowthongs sang. The shrill-tongued rifles answered
back. A spear, and a mighty cast, transfixed the Teslin woman
as she hovered above the child. A spent arrow, diving between
the logs, lodged in the missionary's arm.

There was no stopping the rush. The middle distance was
cumbered with bodies, but the rest surged on, breaking against
and over the barricade like an ocean wave. Sturges Owen fled to
the tent, while the men were swept from their feet, buried
beneath the human tide. Hay Stockard alone regained the
surface, flinging the tribesmen aside like yelping curs. He had
managed to seize an axe. A dark hand grasped the child by a
naked foot, and drew it from beneath its mother. At arm's
length its puny body circled through the air, dashing to death
against the logs. Stockard clove the man to the chin and fell
to clearing space. The ring of savage faces closed in, raining
upon him spear-thrusts and bonebarbed arrows. The sun shot up,
and they swayed back and forth in the crimson shadows. Twice,
with his axe blocked by too deep a blow, they rushed him; but
each time he flung them clear. They fell underfoot and he
trampled dead and dying, the way slippery with blood. And still
the day brightened and the robins sang. Then they drew back
from him in awe, and he leaned breathless upon his axe.

"Blood of my soul!" cried Baptiste the Red. "But thou art
a man. Deny thy god, and thou shalt yet live."

Stockard swore his refusal, feebly but with grace.

"Behold! A woman!" Sturges Owen had been brought before
the half-breed.

Beyond a scratch on the arm, he was uninjured, but his
eyes roved about him in an ecstasy of fear. The heroic figure
of the blasphemer, bristling with wounds and arrows, leaning
defiantly upon his axe, indifferent, indomitable, superb,
caught his wavering vision. And he felt a great envy of the man
who could go down serenely to the dark gates of death. Surely
Christ, and not he, Sturges Owen, had been moulded in such
manner. And why not he? He felt dimly the curse of ancestry,
the feebleness of spirit which had come down to him out of the
past, and he felt an anger at the creative force, symbolize it
as he would, which had formed him, its servant, so weakly. For
even a stronger man, this anger and the stress of circumstance
were sufficient to breed apostasy, and for Sturges Owen it was
inevitable. In the fear of man's anger he would dare the wrath
of God. He had been raised up to serve the Lord only that he
might be cast down. He had been given faith without the
strength of faith; he had been given spirit without the power
of spirit. It was unjust.

"Where now is thy god?" the half-breed demanded.

"I do not know." He stood straight and rigid, like a child
repeating a catechism.

"Hast thou then a god at all?" "I had."

"And now?"

"No."

Hay Stockard swept the blood from his eyes and laughed.
The missionary looked at him curiously, as in a dream. A
feeling of infinite distance came over him, as though of a
great remove. In that which had transpired, and which was to
transpire, he had no part. He was a spectator -- at a distance,
yes, at a distance. The words of Baptiste came to him faintly:
--

"Very good. See that this man go free, and that no harm
befall him. Let him depart in peace. Give him a canoe and food.
Set his face toward the Russians, that he may tell their
priests of Baptiste the Red, in whose country there is no god."

They led him to the edge of the steep, where they paused
to witness the final tragedy. The half-breed turned to Hay
Stockard.

"There is no god," he prompted.

The man laughed in reply. One of the young men poised a
war-spear for the cast.

"Hast thou a god?"

"Ay, the God of my fathers."

He shifted the axe for a better grip. Baptiste the Red
gave the sign, and the spear hurtled full against his breast.
Sturges Owen saw the ivory head stand out beyond his back, saw
the man sway, laughing, and snap the shaft short as he fell
upon it. Then he went down to the river, that he might carry to
the Russians the message of Baptiste the Red, in whose country
there was no god.
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