“By the god of love, there she is, old man! Quick, if you want to get a glimpse of her!”
He flung the door open and Howland hurried to his side. There came another crack of the whip, a loud shout, and a sledge drawn by six dogs sped past them into the gathering gloom of the early night.
From Howland’s lips, too, there fell a sudden cry; for one of the two faces that were turned toward him for an instant was that of Croisset, and the other—white and staring as he had seen it that first night in Prince Albert—was the face of the beautiful girl who had lured him into the ambush on the Great North Trail!
HOWLAND’S MIDNIGHT VISITOR
For a moment after the swift passing of the sledge it was on Howland’s lips to shout Croisset’s name; as he thrust Gregson aside and leaped out into the night he was impelled with a desire to give chase, to overtake in some way the two people who, within the space of forty-eight hours, had become so mysteriously associated with his own life, and who were now escaping him again.
It was Gregson who recalled him to his senses.
“I thought you didn’t care for theaters—and girls, Howland,” he exclaimed banteringly, repeating Howland’s words of a few minutes before. “A pretty face affects you a little differently up here, eh? Well, after you’ve been in this fag-end of the universe for a month or so you’ll learn—”
Howland interrupted him sharply.
“Did you ever see either of them before, Gregson?”
“Never until to-day. But there’s hope, old man. Surely we can find some one in the place who knows them. Wouldn’t it be jolly good fun if Jack Howland, Esquire, who has never been interested in theaters and girls, should come up into these God-forsaken regions and develop a case of love at first sight? By the Great North Trail, I tell you it may not be as uninteresting for you as it has been for Thorne and me! If I had only seen her sooner—”
“Shut up!” growled Howland, betraying irritability for the first time. “Let’s go in to supper.”
“Good. And I move that we investigate these people while we are smoking our after-supper cigars. It will pass our time away, at least.”
“Your taste is good, Gregson,” said Howland, recovering his good-humor as they seated themselves at one of the rough board tables in the dining-room. Inwardly he was convinced it would be best to keep to himself the incidents of the past two days and nights. “It was a beautiful face.”
“And the eyes!” added Gregson, his own gleaming with enthusiasm. “She looked at me squarely this afternoon when she and that dark fellow passed, and I swear they’re the most beautiful eyes I ever saw. And her hair—”
“Do you think that she knew you?” asked Howland quietly.
Gregson hunched his shoulders.
“How the deuce could she know me?”