He came to the first of the trees and concealed himself carefully. He heard the popping of individual firecrackers and the louder bang of one of the “giants” that always made Nawadlook put her fingers in her pretty ears. He crept stealthily over a knoll, down through a hollow, and then up again to the opposite crest. It was as he had thought. He could see Keok a hundred yards away, standing on the trunk of a fallen tree, and as he looked, she tossed another bunch of sputtering crackers away from her. The others were probably circled about her, out of his sight, watching her performance. He continued cautiously, making his way so that he could come up behind a thick growth of bush unseen, within a dozen paces of them. At last he was as near as that to her, and Keok was still standing on the log with her back toward him.
It puzzled him that he could not see or hear the others. And something about Keok puzzled him, too. And then his heart gave a sudden throb and seemed to stop its beating. It was not Keok on the log. And it was not Nawadlook! He stood up and stepped out from his hiding-place. The slender figure of the girl on the log turned a little, and he saw the glint of golden sunshine in her hair. He called out.
Was he mad? Had the sickness in his head turned his brain?
“Mary!” he called. “Mary Standish!”
She turned. And in that moment Alan Holt’s face was the color of gray rock. It was the dead he had been thinking of, and it was the dead that had risen before him now. For it was Mary Standish who stood there on the old cottonwood log, shooting firecrackers in this evening of his home-coming.
After that one calling of her name Alan’s voice was dead, and he made no movement. He could not disbelieve. It was not a mental illusion or a temporary upsetting of his sanity. It was truth. The shock of it was rending every nerve in his body, even as he stood as if carved out of wood. And then a strange relaxation swept over him. Some force seemed to pass out of his flesh, and his arms hung limp. She was there, alive! He could see the whiteness leave her face and a flush of color come into it, and he heard a little cry as she jumped down from the log and came toward him. It had all happened in a few seconds, but it seemed a long time to Alan.
He saw nothing about her or beyond her. It was as if she were floating up to him out of the cold mists of the sea. And she stopped only a step away from him, when she saw more clearly what was in his face. It must have been something that startled her. Vaguely he realized this and made an effort to recover himself.
“You almost frightened me,” she said. “We have been expecting you and watching for you, and I was out there a few minutes ago looking back over the tundra. The sun was in my eyes, and I didn’t see you.”