“Yes, yes, I will come to you—if you go now.” She broke from him and he heard her fumbling at the window. “I will come—I will come—but not to Wekusko. They will follow you there. Go back to Prince Albert—to the hotel where I looked at you through the window. I will come there—sometime—as soon as I can—”
A blast of cold air swept into his face. He had thrust his revolver into its holster and now again for an instant he held Meleese close in his arms.
“You will be my wife?” he whispered.
He felt her throbbing against him. Suddenly her arms tightened around his neck.
“Yes, if you want me then—if you want me after you know what I am. Now, go—please, please go!”
He pulled himself through the window, hanging for a last moment to the ledge.
“If you fail to come—within a month—I shall return,” he said.
Her hands were at his face again. Once more, as on the trail at Le Pas, he felt the sweet pressure of her lips.
“I will come,” she whispered.
Her hands thrust him back and he was forced to drop to the snow below. Scarcely had his feet touched when there sounded the fierce yelp of a dog close to him, and as he darted away into the smother of the storm the brute followed at his heels, barking excitedly in the manner of the mongrel curs that had found their way up from the South. Between the dog’s alarm and the loud outcry of men there was barely time in which to draw a breath. From the stair platform came a rapid fusillade of rifle shots that sang through the air above Howland’s head, and mingled with the fire was a hoarse voice urging on the cur that followed within a leap of his heels.
The presence of the dog filled the engineer with a fear that he had not anticipated. Not for an instant did the brute give slack to his tongue as they raced through the night, and Howland knew now that the storm and the darkness were of little avail in his race for life. There was but one chance, and he determined to take it. Gradually he slackened his pace, drawing and cocking his revolver; then he turned suddenly to confront the yelping Nemesis behind him. Three times he fired in quick succession at a moving blot in the snow-gloom, and there went up from that blot a wailing cry that he knew was caused by the deep bite of lead.
Again he plunged on, a muffled shout of defiance on his lips. Never had the fire of battle raged in his veins as now. Back in the window, listening in terror, praying for him, was Meleese. The knowledge that she was there, that at last he had won her and was fighting for her, stirred him with a joy that was next to madness. Nothing could stop him now. He loaded his revolver as he ran, slackening his pace as he covered greater distance, for he knew that in the storm his trail could be followed scarcely faster than a walk.