Her eyes were shining, her lips parted, her face lit up with a beautiful glow. She saw the overturned table, Rossland’s hat and coat on a chair, the evidence of what had happened and the quickness of his flight; and then she turned her face to Alan again, and what he saw broke down the last of that grim resolution which he had measured for himself, so that in a moment he was at her side, and had her in his arms. She made no effort to free herself as she had done in the cottonwoods, but turned her mouth up for him to kiss, and then hid her face against his shoulder—while he, fighting vainly to find utterance for the thousand words in his throat, stood stroking her hair, and then buried his face in it, crying out at last in the warm sweetness of it that he loved her, and was going to fight for her, and that no power on earth could take her away from him now. And these things he repeated until she raised her flushed face from his breast, and let him kiss her lips once more, and then freed herself gently from his arms.
For a Space they stood apart, and in the radiant loveliness of Mary Standish’s face and in Alan’s quiet and unimpassioned attitude were neither shame nor regret. In a moment they had swept aside the barrier which convention had raised against them, and now they felt the inevitable thrill of joy and triumph, and not the humiliating embarrassment of dishonor. They made no effort to draw a curtain upon their happiness, or to hide the swift heart-beat of it from each other. It had happened, and they were glad. Yet they stood apart, and something pressed upon Alan the inviolableness of the little freedom of space between them, of its sacredness to Mary Standish, and darker and deeper grew the glory of pride and faith that lay with the love in her eyes when he did not cross it. He reached out his hand, and freely she gave him her own. Lips blushing with his kisses trembled in a smile, and she bowed her head a little, so that he was looking at her smooth hair, soft and sweet where he had caressed it a few moments before.
“I thank God!” he said.
He did not finish the surge of gratitude that was in his heart. Speech seemed trivial, even futile. But she understood. He was not thanking God for that moment, but for a lifetime of something that at last had come to him. This, it seemed to him, was the end, the end of a world as he had known it, the beginning of a new. He stepped back, and his hands trembled. For something to do he set up the overturned table, and Mary Standish watched him with a quiet, satisfied wonder. She loved him, and she had come into his arms. She had given him her lips to kiss. And he laughed softly as he came to her side again, and looked over the tundra where Rossland had gone.
“How long before you can prepare for the journey?” he asked.
“That we must start tonight or in the morning. I think we shall go through the cottonwoods over the old trail to Nome. Unless Rossland lied, Graham is somewhere out there on the Tanana trail.”