For a few minutes after finding the handkerchief at his door, Alan experienced a feeling of mingled curiosity and disappointment—also a certain resentment. The suspicion that he was becoming involved in spite of himself was not altogether pleasant. The evening, up to a certain point, had been fairly entertaining. It was true he might have passed a pleasanter hour recalling old times with Stampede Smith, or discussing Kadiak bears with the English earl, or striking up an acquaintance with the unknown graybeard who had voiced an opinion about John Graham. But he was not regretting lost hours, nor was he holding Mary Standish accountable for them. It was, last of all, the handkerchief that momentarily upset him.
Why had she dropped it at his door? It was not a dangerous-looking affair, to be sure, with its filmy lace edging and ridiculous diminutiveness. As the question came to him, he was wondering how even as dainty a nose as that possessed by Mary Standish could be much comforted by it. But it was pretty. And, like Mary Standish, there was something exquisitely quiet and perfect about it, like the simplicity of her hair. He was not analyzing the matter. It was a thought that came to him almost unconsciously, as he tossed the annoying bit of fabric on the little table at the head of his berth. Undoubtedly the dropping of it had been entirely unpremeditated and accidental. At least he told himself so. And he also assured himself, with an involuntary shrug of his shoulders, that any woman or girl had the right to pass his door if she so desired, and that he was an idiot for thinking otherwise. The argument was only slightly adequate. But Alan was not interested in mysteries, especially when they had to do with woman—and such an absurdly inconsequential thing as a handkerchief.
A second time he went to bed. He fell asleep thinking about Keok and Nawadlook and the people of his range. From somewhere he had been given the priceless heritage of dreaming pleasantly, and Keok was very real, with her swift smile and mischievous face, and Nawadlook’s big, soft eyes were brighter than when he had gone away. He saw Tautuk, gloomy as usual over the heartlessness of Keok. He was beating a tom-tom that gave out the peculiar sound of bells, and to this Amuk Toolik was dancing the Bear Dance, while Keok clapped her hands in exaggerated admiration. Even in his dreams Alan chuckled. He knew what was happening, and that out of the corners of her laughing eyes Keok was enjoying Tautuk’s jealousy. Tautuk was so stupid he would never understand. That was the funny part of it. And he beat his drum savagely, scowling so that he almost shut his eyes, while Keok laughed outright.
It was then that Alan opened his eyes and heard the last of the ship’s bells. It was still dark. He turned on the light and looked at his watch. Tautuk’s drum had tolled eight bells, aboard the ship, and it was four o’clock in the morning.