“And Rossland was on the Nome, and saw you, and sent word back to Graham,” he said, fighting to keep himself from going nearer to her.
She nodded. “Yes; and so I came to you, and failing there, I leaped into the sea, for I wanted them to think I was dead.”
“And Rossland was hurt.”
“Yes. Strangely. I heard of it in Cordova. Men like Rossland frequently come to unexpected ends.”
He went to the door which she had closed, and opened it, and stood looking toward the blue billows of the foothills with the white crests of the mountains behind them. She came, after a moment, and stood beside him.
“I understand,” she said softly, and her hand lay in a gentle touch upon his arm. “You are trying to see some way out, and you can see only one. That is to go back, face the creatures I hate, regain my freedom in the old way. And I, too, can see no other way. I came on impulse; I must return with impulse and madness burned out of me. And I am sorry. I dread it. I—would rather die.”
“And I—” he began, then caught himself and pointed to the distant hills and mountains. “The herds are there,” he said. “I am going to them. I may be gone a week or more. Will you promise me to be here when I return?”
“Yes, if that is your desire.”
She was so near that his lips might have touched her shining hair.
“And when you return, I must go. That will be the only way.”
“I think so.”
“It will be hard. It may be, after all, that I am a coward. But to face all that—alone—”
“You won’t be alone,” he said quietly, still looking at the far-away hills. “If you go, I am going with you.”
It seemed as if she had stopped breathing for a moment at his side, and then, with a little, sobbing cry she drew away from him and stood at the half-opened door of Nawadlook’s room, and the glory in her eyes was the glory of his dreams as he had wandered with her hand in hand over the tundras in those days of grief and half-madness when he had thought she was dead.
“I am glad I was in Ellen McCormick’s cabin the day you came,” she was saying. “And I thank God for giving me the madness and courage to come to you. I am not afraid of anything in the world now—because—I love you, Alan!”
And as Nawadlook’s door closed behind her, Alan stumbled out into the sunlight, a great drumming in his heart, and a tumult in his brain that twisted the world about him until for a little it held neither vision nor space nor sound.
In that way, with the beautiful world swimming in sunshine and golden tundra haze until foothills and mountains were like castles in a dream, Alan Holt set off with Tautuk and Amuk Toolik, leaving Stampede and Keok and Nawadlook at the corral bars, with Stampede little regretting that he was left behind to guard the range. For a mighty resolution had taken root in the prospector’s heart, and he felt himself thrilled and a bit trembling at the nearness of the greatest drama that had ever entered his life. Alan, looking back after the first few minutes, saw that Keok and Nawadlook stood alone. Stampede was gone.