And above, through the darkened loophole of the attic window, Sokwenna’s ferret eyes had caught the movement of a shadow in the gray mist, and his rifle sent its death-challenge once more to John Graham and his men. What followed struck a smile from Mary’s lips, and a moaning sob rose from her breast as she watched the man she loved rise up before the open window to face the winged death that was again beating a tattoo against the log walls of the cabin.
That in the lust and passion of his designs and the arrogance of his power John Graham was not afraid to overstep all law and order, and that he believed Holt would shelter Mary Standish from injury and death, there could no longer be a doubt after the first few swift moments following Sokwenna’s rifle-shots from the attic window.
Through the window of the lower room, barricaded by the cautious old warrior until its aperture was not more than eight inches square, Alan thrust his rifle as the crash of gun-fire broke the gray and thickening mist of night. He could hear the thud and hiss of bullets; he heard them singing like angry bees as they passed with the swiftness of chain-lightning over the cabin roof, and their patter against the log walls was like the hollow drumming of knuckles against the side of a ripe watermelon. There was something fascinating and almost gentle about that last sound. It did not seem that the horror of death was riding with it, and Alan lost all sense of fear as he stared in the direction from which the firing came, trying to make out shadows at which to shoot. Here and there he saw dim, white streaks, and at these he fired as fast as he could throw cartridges into the chamber and pull the trigger. Then he crouched down with the empty gun. It was Mary Standish who held out a freshly loaded weapon to him. Her face was waxen in its deathly pallor. Her eyes, staring at him so strangely, never for an instant leaving his face, were lustrous with the agony of fear that flamed in their depths. She was not afraid for herself. It was for him. His name was on her lips, a whisper unspoken, a breathless prayer, and in that instant a bullet sped through the opening in front of which he had stood a moment before, a hissing, writhing serpent of death that struck something behind them in its venomous wrath. With a cry she flung up her arms about his bent head.
“My God, they will kill you if you stand there!” she moaned. “Give me up to them, Alan. If you love me—give me up!”
A sudden spurt of white dust shot out into the dim candle-glow, and then another, so near Nawadlook that his blood went cold. Bullets were finding their way through the moss and earth chinking between the logs of the cabin. His arms closed in a fierce embrace about the girl’s slim body, and before she could realize what was happening, he leaped to the trap with her and almost flung her into its protection. Then he forced Nawadlook down beside her, and after them he thrust in the empty gun and the apron with its weight of cartridges. His face was demoniac in its command.