“Yes, I did.”
The confession almost startled him. It seemed an amazing confidence to be making under any circumstances, and especially upon such brief acquaintance. But he said no more, though in Ellen McCormick’s face and eyes was a tremulous expectancy. He stepped into the little room which had been his sleeping place, and returned with his dunnage-sack. Out of this he took the bag in which were Mary Standish’s belongings, and gave it to Sandy’s wife. It was a matter of business now, and he tried to speak in a businesslike way.
“Her things are inside. I got them in her cabin. If you find her, after I am gone, you will need them. You understand, of course. And if you don’t find her, keep them for me. I shall return some day.” It seemed hard for him to give his simple instructions. He went on: “I don’t think I shall stay any longer, but I will leave a certified check at Cordova, and it will be turned over to your husband when she is found. And if you do find her, you will look after her yourself, won’t you, Mrs. McCormick?”
Ellen McCormick choked a little as she answered him, promising to do what he asked. He would always remember her as a sympathetic little thing, and half an hour later, after he had explained everything to Sandy, he wished her happiness when he took her hand in saying good-by. Her hand was trembling. He wondered at it and said something to Sandy about the priceless value of a happiness such as his, as they went down to the beach.
The velvety darkness of the sky was athrob with the heart-beat of stars, when the Norden’s shimmering trail led once more out to sea. Alan looked up at them, and his mind groped strangely in the infinity that lay above him. He had never measured it before. Life had been too full. But now it seemed so vast, and his range in the tundras so far away, that a great loneliness seized upon him as he turned his eyes to look back at the dimly white shore-line dissolving swiftly in the gloom that lay beneath the mountains.
That night, in Olaf’s cabin, Alan put himself back on the old track again. He made no effort to minimize the tragedy that had come into his life, and he knew its effect upon him would never be wiped away, and that Mary Standish would always live in his thoughts, no matter what happened in the years to come. But he was not the sort to let any part of himself wither up and die because of a blow that had darkened his mental visions of things. His plans lay ahead of him, his old ambitions and his dreams of achievement. They seemed pulseless and dead now, but he knew it was because his own fire had temporarily burned out. And he realized the vital necessity of building it up again. So he first wrote a letter to Ellen McCormick, and in this placed a second letter—carefully sealed—which was not to be opened unless they found Mary Standish,