“... for indeed I knew Of no more subtle master under heaven Than is the maiden passion for a maid, Not only to keep down the base in man, But teach high thought and amiable words And courtliness, and the desire of fame, And love of truth, and all that makes a man.”
His eyes were no longer impassive. There was in them, for the moment at least, a hunted, haggard look. He saw himself as he was, in a blaze of light that burned down to his very soul.
And he saw her too transformed—not a half-breed, the fair prey of any man’s passion, but a clean, proud, high-spirited white girl who lived in the spirit as well as the flesh.
“You’re tired. Better lie down and sleep,” he told her, very gently.
Jessie looked at him, and she knew she was safe. She might sleep without fear. This man would not harm her any more than Beresford or Morse would have done. Some chemical change had occurred in his thoughts that protected her. She did not know what it was, but her paean of prayer went up to heaven in a little rush of thanksgiving.
She did not voice her gratitude to him. But the look she gave him was more expressive than words.
Out of the storm a voice raucous and profane came to them faintly.
“Ah, crapaud Wulf, pren’ garde. Yeu-oh! (To the right!) Git down to it, Fox. Sacre demon! Cha! Cha! (To the left!)”
Then the crack of a whip and a volley of oaths.
The two in the cabin looked at each other. One was white to the lips. The other smiled grimly. It was the gambler that spoke their common thought.
“Bully West, by all that’s holy!”
WEST MAKES A DECISION
Came to those in the cabin a string of oaths, the crack of a whip lashing out savagely, and the yelps of dogs from a crouching, cowering team.
Whaley slipped a revolver from his belt to the right-hand pocket of his fur coat.
The door burst open. A man stood on the threshold, a huge figure crusted with snow, beard and eyebrows ice-matted. He looked like the storm king who had ridden the gale out of the north. This on the outside, at a first glance only. For the black scowl he flung at his partner was so deadly that it seemed to come red-hot from a furnace of hate and evil passion.
“Run to earth!” he roared. “Thought you’d hole up, you damned fox, where I wouldn’t find you. Thought you’d give Bully West the slip, you’n’ that li’l’ hell-cat. Talk about Porcupine Creek, eh? Tried to send me mushin’ over there while you’n’ her—”
What the fellow said sent a hot wave creeping over the girl’s face to the roots of her hair. The gambler did not speak, but his eyes, filmed and wary, never lifted from the other’s bloated face.
“Figured I’d forget the ol’ whiskey cache, eh? Figured you could gimme the double-cross an’ git away with it? Hell’s hinges, Bully West’s no fool! He’s forgot more’n you ever knew.”