Before a shot had been fired from outside, he was up the ladder; in another moment he was bending over the huddled form of the old Eskimo.
“Come below!” he commanded. “We must be ready to leave through the cellar-pit.”
His hand touched Sokwenna’s face; it hesitated, groped in the darkness, and then grew still over the old warrior’s heart. There was no tremor or beat of life in the aged beast. Sokwenna was dead.
The guns of Graham’s men opened fire again. Volley after volley crashed into the cabin as Alan descended the ladder. He could hear bullets tearing through the chinks and windows as he turned quickly to the shelter of the pit.
He was amazed to find that Mary Standish had returned and was waiting for him there.
In the astonishment with which Mary’s unexpected presence confused him for a moment, Alan stood at the edge of the trap, staring down at her pale face, heedless of the terrific gun-fire that was assailing the cabin. That she had not gone with Keok and Nawadlook, but had come back to him, filled him with instant dread, for the precious minutes he had fought for were lost, and the priceless time gained during the parley with Rossland counted for nothing.
She saw his disappointment and his danger, and sprang up to seize his hand and pull him down beside her.
“Of course you didn’t expect me to go,” she said, in a voice that no longer trembled or betrayed excitement. “You didn’t want me to be a coward. My place is with you.”
He could make no answer to that, with her beautiful eyes looking at him as they were, but he felt his heart grow warmer and something rise up chokingly in his throat.
“Sokwenna is dead, and Rossland lies out there—shot under a flag of truce,” he said. “We can’t have many minutes left to us.”
He was looking at the square of light where the tunnel from the cellar-pit opened into the ravine. He had planned to escape through it—alone—and keep up a fight in the open, but with Mary at his side it would be a desperate gantlet to run.
“Where are Keok and Nawadlook?” he asked.
“On the tundra, hurrying for the mountains. I told them it was your plan that I should return to you. When they doubted, I threatened to give myself up unless they did as I commanded them. And—Alan—the ravine is filled with the rain-mist, and dark—” She was holding his free hand closely to her breast.