Then Lawrence Pentfield delivered his stroke, and he delivered it with a certain calm elation of spirit that seemed somewhat to compensate for the wrong that had been done him.
“She is my squaw,” he said; “Mrs. Pentfield, if you please.”
Corry Hutchinson gasped, and Pentfield left him and returned to the two women. Mabel, with a worried expression on her face, seemed holding herself aloof. He turned to Dora and asked, quite genially, as though all the world was sunshine:- “How did you stand the trip, anyway? Have any trouble to sleep warm?”
“And, how did Mrs. Hutchinson stand it?” he asked next, his eyes on Mabel.
“Oh, you dear ninny!” Dora cried, throwing her arms around him and hugging him. “Then you saw it, too! I thought something was the matter, you were acting so strangely.”
“I—I hardly understand,” he stammered.
“It was corrected in next day’s paper,” Dora chattered on. “We did not dream you would see it. All the other papers had it correctly, and of course that one miserable paper was the very one you saw!”
“Wait a moment! What do you mean?” Pentfield demanded, a sudden fear at his heart, for he felt himself on the verge of a great gulf.
But Dora swept volubly on.
“Why, when it became known that Mabel and I were going to Klondike, Every Other Week said that when we were gone, it would be lovely on Myrdon Avenue, meaning, of course, lonely.”
“I am Mrs. Hutchinson,” Dora answered. “And you thought it was Mabel all the time—”
“Precisely the way of it,” Pentfield replied slowly. “But I can see now. The reporter got the names mixed. The Seattle and Portland paper copied.”
He stood silently for a minute. Mabel’s face was turned toward him again, and he could see the glow of expectancy in it. Corry was deeply interested in the ragged toe of one of his moccasins, while Dora was stealing sidelong glances at the immobile face of Lashka sitting on the sled. Lawrence Pentfield stared straight out before him into a dreary future, through the grey vistas of which he saw himself riding on a sled behind running dogs with lame Lashka by his side.
Then he spoke, quite simply, looking Mabel in the eyes.
“I am very sorry. I did not dream it. I thought you had married Corry. That is Mrs. Pentfield sitting on the sled over there.”
Mabel Holmes turned weakly toward her sister, as though all the fatigue of her great journey had suddenly descended on her. Dora caught her around the waist. Corry Hutchinson was still occupied with his moccasins. Pentfield glanced quickly from face to face, then turned to his sled.
“Can’t stop here all day, with Pete’s baby waiting,” he said to Lashka.
The long whip-lash hissed out, the dogs sprang against the breast bands, and the sled lurched and jerked ahead.