He went no further. Was it too late to do these things now? Croisset would return. With a sort of satisfaction it occurred to him that his actions had disarmed the Frenchman of suspicion. He believed that it would be easy to overcome Croisset, to force him to follow in the trail of Meleese and Jackpine. And that trail? It would probably lead to the very stronghold of his enemies. But what of that? He loaded his pipe again, puffing out clouds of smoke until the room was thick with it. That trail would take him to Meleese—wherever she was. Heretofore his enemies had come to him; now he would go to them. With Croisset in his power, and with none of his enemies aware of his presence, everything would be in his favor. He laughed aloud as a sudden thrilling thought flashed into his mind. As a last resort he would use Jean as a decoy.
He foresaw how easy it would be to bring Meleese to him—to see Croisset. His own presence would be like the dropping of a bomb at her feet. In that moment, when she saw what he was risking for her, that he was determined to possess her, would she not surrender to the pleading of his love? If not he would do the other thing—that which had brought the joyous laugh to his lips. All was fair in war and love, and theirs was a game of love. Because of her love for him Meleese had kidnapped him from his post of duty, had sent him a prisoner to this death-house in the wilderness. Love had exculpated her. That same love would exculpate him. He would make her a prisoner, and Jean should drive them back to the Wekusko. Meleese herself had set the pace and he would follow it. And what woman, if she loved a man, would not surrender after this? In their sledge trip he would have her to himself, for not only an hour or two, but for days. Surely in that time he could win. There would be pursuit, perhaps; he might have to fight—but he was willing, and a trifle anxious, to fight.
He went to bed that night, and dreamed of things that were to happen. A second day, a third night, and a third day came. With each hour grew his anxiety for Jean’s return. At times he was almost feverish to have the affair over with. He was confident of the outcome, and yet he did not fail to take the Frenchman’s true measurement. He knew that Jean was like live wire and steel, as agile as a cat, more than a match with himself in open fight despite his own superior weight and size. He devised a dozen schemes for Jean’s undoing. One was to leap on him while he was eating; another to spring on him and choke him into partial insensibility as he knelt beside his pack or fed the fire; a third to strike a blow from behind that would render him powerless. But there was something in this last that was repugnant to him. He remembered that Jean had saved his life, that in no instance had he given him physical pain. He would watch for an opportunity, take advantage of the Frenchman, as Croisset had taken advantage of him, but he would not hurt him seriously. It should be as fair a struggle as Jean had offered him, and with the handicap in his favor the best man would win.