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The Fifth Way
by [?]

The prophet confessed four things as beyond his understanding–the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon the rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid–but we of modern times must add a fifth, and that is the way of justice. For often a blunderer caught red-handed escapes with slight punishment, while the clever man who transgresses, yet conceals his transgression craftily, pays at the end of a devious sequence with his life. Of this fashion was the death of Regis Brugiere.

It happened that in the fall of the year two strangers came to Ste. Jeanne for the purpose of shooting grouse, and Regis Brugiere hired himself to them as guide. His duties were not many. He had simply to drive them from one hardwood belt to another. But in his leisure he often followed them about, and so fell in love with Jim.

Jim was a black-and-white setter dog. Regis Brugiere watched him as he trotted carefully through the woods, his four legs working like pistons, his head high, his soft, intelligent eyes spying for the likely cover. Then when he caught a faint whiff of the game, he would stop short, and look around, and wag his tail. Not one step would he take toward assuring his point until the man had struggled through the thicket to his side. Thus his master obtained many shots at birds flushing wild before the dog which otherwise he would not have had.

But when the bird lay well, then Jim would tread carefully forward as though on eggs, until, his nostrils filled with the warm body-scent, he stood rigid, a living statue of beauty. A moment of breathless excitement ensued. With a burst of sound the bird roared away. There followed the quick crack of the fowling-piece, a cloud of feathers in the air, a long slanting fall. Jim looked up, eager but self-controlled.

“Fetch, Jim,” said the man.

At once the dog bounded away, to return after a moment in the pride of an army with banners, carrying the grouse daintily between his jaws.

Or the shot failed. Jim waited until he heard the click of the gun as its breech closed after reloading, then moved forward with well-bred restraint to sniff long and inquiringly where the bird had been.

These things Regis Brugiere saw, following the hunt through the thickets, so that he broke the tenth commandment and coveted Jim with a great love. He worshipped the dog’s aloof dignity, his gentlemanly demeanour of unhasting grace in the woods, his well-bred far-away gaze as he sat on his haunches staring into the distance.

So Regis Brugiere stole Jim, the black-and-white setter, and concealed him well. To him it was a little thing to do. He did not know Jim’s value, for in the north country a dog is a dog. After the strangers had gone, bewailing their loss, Regis Brugiere loaded a toboggan with supplies and traps and set out into the northwest on his annual trapping excursion. He took with him Jim, by now entirely accustomed to his new master.

The two journeyed far through the forest, over many rivers and muskegs, through many swamps and ranges of hills. Regis Brugiere drew the toboggan after him. The task should have been Jim’s, but to the trapper that would have seemed like harnessing Ignace St. Cloud, the seigneur of Ste. Jeanne, to an apple-cart. So Jim ranged at large in diagonals having a good time, while the man enjoyed himself by watching the animal. In due course they came to a glade through which ran a soggy, choked, little spring-creek. Here Regis Brugiere kicked off his snow-shoes with an air of finality. Here he erected a cabin, and established himself and Jim.

Over a circumference of forty miles then he set his traps, for the beaver, the mink, the fox, the fisher, the muskrat, and the other fur-bearing animals of the north. At regular intervals he visited these traps one after the other, crunching swiftly along on his snow-shoes. Jim always accompanied him. When the snow was deep, he wallowed painfully after in the tracks made by Regis Brugiere. When it was not so deep, he looked for grouse or ptarmigan, investigated many strange things, or ran at large over the frozen surfaces of the little lakes.