For a space he stood still, listening and watching. There was no other light, no other sound after the barking of the dog. About him the snow fell with fluttering noiselessness and it filled him with a sensation of safety. The sharpest eyes could not see him, the keenest ears could not hear him—and he advanced again until before him there rose out of the gloom a huge shadowy mass that was blacker than the night itself. The one lighted window was plainly visible now, its curtain two-thirds drawn, and as he looked a shadow passed over it. Was it a woman’s shadow? The window darkened as the figure within came nearer to it, and Howland stood with clenched hands and wildly beating heart, almost ready to call out softly a name. A little nearer—one more step—and he would know. He might throw a chunk of snow-crust, a cartridge from his belt—and then—
The shadow disappeared. Dimly Howland made out the snow-covered stair, and he went to it and looked up. Ten feet above him the light shone out.
He looked into the gloom behind him, into the gloom out of which he had come. Nothing—nothing but the storm. Swiftly he mounted the stair.
IN THE BEDROOM CHAMBER
Flattening himself closely against the black logs of the wall Howland paused on the platform at the top of the stair. His groping hand touched the jam of a door and he held his breath when his fingers incautiously rattled the steel of a latch. In another moment he passed on, three paces—–four—along the platform, at last sinking on his knees in the snow, close under the window, his eyes searched the lighted room an inch at a time. He saw a section of wall at first, dimly illuminated; then a small table near the window covered with books and magazines, and beside it a reclining chair buried thick under a great white bear robe. On the table, but beyond his vision, was the lamp. He drew himself a few inches more through the snow, leaning still farther ahead, until he saw the foot of a white bed. A little more and he stopped, his white face close to the window-pane.
On the bed, facing him, sat Meleese. Her chin was buried in the cup of her hands, and he noticed that she was in a dressing-gown and that her beautiful hair was loosed and flowing in glistening waves about her, as though she had just brushed it for the night. A movement, a slight shifting of her eyes, and she would have seen him.
He was filled with an almost mastering impulse to press his face closer, to tap on the window, to draw her eyes to him, but even as his hand rose to do the bidding of that impulse something restrained him. Slowly the girl lifted her head, and he was thrilled to find that another impulse drew him back until his ghostly face was a part of the elusive snow-gloom. He watched her as she turned from him and threw back the glory of her hair until it half hid her in a mass of copper and gold; from his distance he still gazed at her, choking and undecided, while she gathered it in three heavy strands and plaited it into a shining braid.