He was happy. Love of life swept in an irresistible surge through his body, and he breathed in deeply of the soft sea air that came in through his open port from the west. In Stampede Smith he had at last found the comradeship which he had missed, and the responsive note to the wild and half-savage desires always smoldering in his heart. He looked out at the stars and smiled up at them, and his soul was filled with an unspoken thankfulness that he was not born too late. Another generation and there would be no last frontier. Twenty-five years more and the world would lie utterly in the shackles of science and invention and what the human race called progress.
So God had been good to him. He was helping to write the last page in that history which would go down through the eons of time, written in the red blood of men who had cut the first trails into the unknown. After him, there would be no more frontiers. No more mysteries of unknown lands to solve. No more pioneering hazards to make. The earth would be tamed. And suddenly he thought of Mary Standish and of what she had said to him in the dusk of evening. Strange that it had been her thought, too—that she would always love tents and old trails and nature’s barriers, and hated to see cities and railroads and automobiles come to Alaska. He shrugged his shoulders. Probably she had guessed what was in his own mind, for she was clever, very clever.
A tap at his door drew his eyes from the open watch in his hand. It was a quarter after twelve o’clock, an unusual hour for someone to be tapping at his door.
It was repeated—a bit hesitatingly, he thought. Then it came again, quick and decisive. Replacing his watch in his pocket, he opened the door.
It was Mary Standish who stood facing him.
He saw only her eyes at first, wide-open, strange, frightened eyes. And then he saw the pallor of her face as she came slowly in, without waiting for him to speak or give her permission to enter. And it was Mary Standish herself who closed the door, while he stared at her in stupid wonderment—and stood there with her back against it, straight and slim and deathly pale.
“May I come in?” she asked.
“My God, you’re in!” gasped Alan. “You’re in.”
That it was past midnight, and Mary Standish had deliberately come to his room, entering it and closing the door without a word or a nod of invitation from him, seemed incredible to Alan. After his first explosion of astonishment he stood mute, while the girl looked at him steadily and her breath came a little quickly. But she was not excited. Even in his amazement he could see that. What he had thought was fright had gone out of her eyes. But he had never seen her so white, and never had she appeared quite so slim and childish-looking as while she stood there in these astounding moments with her back against the door.