“Some day, if we’re lucky, there always comes a woman to make the world worth living in, Stampede,” he said.
“There does,” replied Stampede.
He looked steadily at Alan.
“And I take it you love Mary Standish,” he added, “and that you’d fight for her if you had to.”
“I would,” said Alan.
“Then it’s time you were traveling,” advised Stampede significantly. “I’ve been twelve hours on the trail without a rest. She told me to move fast, and I’ve moved. I mean Mary Standish. She said it was almost a matter of life and death that I find you in a hurry. I wanted to stay, but she wouldn’t let me. It’s you she wants. Rossland is at the range.”
“Yes, Rossland. And it’s my guess John Graham isn’t far away. I smell happenings, Alan. We’d better hurry.”
Stampede had started with one of the two saddle-deer left at the range, but to ride deer-back successfully and with any degree of speed and specific direction was an accomplishment which he had neglected, and within the first half-dozen miles he had abandoned the adventure to continue his journey on foot. As Tatpan had no saddle-deer in his herd, and the swiftest messenger would require many hours in which to reach Amuk Toolik, Alan set out for his range within half an hour after his arrival at Tatpan’s camp. Stampede, declaring himself a new man after his brief rest and the meal which followed it, would not listen to Alan’s advice that he follow later, when he was more refreshed.
A fierce and reminiscent gleam smoldered in the little gun-fighter’s eyes as he watched Alan during the first half-hour leg of their race through the foothills to the tundras. Alan did not observe it, or the grimness that had settled in the face behind him. His own mind was undergoing an upheaval of conjecture and wild questioning. That Rossland had discovered Mary Standish was not dead was the least astonishing factor in the new development. The information might easily have reached him through Sandy McCormick or his wife Ellen. The astonishing thing was that he had in some mysterious way picked up the trail of her flight a thousand miles northward, and the still more amazing fact that he had dared to follow her and reveal himself openly at his range. His heart pumped hard, for he knew Rossland must be directly under Graham’s orders.
Then came the resolution to take Stampede into his confidence and to reveal all that had happened on the day of his departure for the mountains. He proceeded to do this without equivocation or hesitancy, for there now pressed upon him a grim anticipation of impending events ahead of them.
Stampede betrayed no astonishment at the other’s disclosures. The smoldering fire remained in his eyes, the immobility of his face unchanged. Only when Alan repeated, in his own words, Mary Standish’s confession of love at Nawadlook’s door did the fighting lines soften about his comrade’s eyes and mouth.