"It's the gun,"
Sam said. He stood beside the fence, motionless, the
old man, son of a negro slave and a Chickasaw chief,
in the battered and faded overalls and the frayed five-cent
straw hat which had been the badge of the negro's slavery
and was now the regalia of his freedom. The camp—the
clearing, the house, the barn and its tiny lot with
which Major de Spain in his turn had scratched punily
and evanescently at the wilderness—faded in the
dusk, back into the immemorial darkness of the woods.
The gun, the boy thought. The gun. "You
will have to choose," Sam said. . . .
He stopped, for the first time since
he had risen from the log when he could see the compass
face at last, and looked about, mopping his sweating
face on his sleeve. He had already relinquished, of
his will, because of his need, in humility and peace
and without regret, yet apparently that had not been
enough, the leaving of the gun was not enough. He stood
for a moment—a child, alien and lost in the green
and soaring gloom of the markless wilderness. Then he
relinquished completely to it. It was the watch and
the compass. He was still tainted. He removed the linked
chain of the one and the looped thong of the other from
his overalls and hung them on a bush and leaned the
stick beside them and entered it. . . .
Then he saw the bear.