He was rather surprised the next morning to find he had entirely forgotten Rossland. While he was attending to his affairs at the bank, Olaf secured information that Rossland was resting comfortably in the hospital and had not one chance in ten of dying. It was not Alan’s intention to see him. He wanted to hear nothing he might have to say about Mary Standish. To associate them in any way, as he thought of her now, was little short of sacrilege. He was conscious of the change in himself, for it was rather an amazing upsetting of the original Alan Holt. That person would have gone to Rossland with the deliberate and businesslike intention of sifting the matter to the bottom that he might disprove his own responsibility and set himself right in his own eyes. In self-defense he would have given Rossland an opportunity to break down with cold facts the disturbing something which his mind had unconsciously built up. But the new Alan revolted. He wanted to carry the thing away with him, he wanted it to live, and so it went with him, uncontaminated by any truths or lies which Rossland might have told him.
They left Cordova early in the afternoon, and at sunset that evening camped on the tip of a wooded island a mile or two from the mainland. Olaf knew the island and had chosen it for reasons of his own. It was primitive and alive with birds. Olaf loved the birds, and the cheer of their vesper song and bedtime twitter comforted Alan. He seized an ax, and for the first time in seven months his muscles responded to the swing of it. And Ericksen, old as his years in the way of the north, whistled loudly and rumbled a bit of crude song through his beard as he lighted a fire, knowing the medicine of the big open was getting its hold on Alan again. To Alan it was like coming to the edge of home once more. It seemed an age, an infinity, since he had heard the sputtering of bacon in an open skillet and the bubbling of coffee over a bed of coals with the mysterious darkness of the timber gathering in about him. He loaded his pipe after his chopping, and sat watching Olaf as he mothered the half-baked bannock loaf. It made him think of his father. A thousand times the two must have camped like this in the days when Alaska was new and there were no maps to tell them what lay beyond the next range.