No matter what she was, or had been, there was something tenaciously admirable about her, a quality which had risen even above her feminine loveliness. She had proved herself not only clever; she was inspired by courage—a courage which he would have been compelled to respect even in a man like John Graham, and in this slim and fragile girl it appealed to him as a virtue to be laid up apart and aside from any of the motives which might be directing it. From the beginning it had been a bewildering part of her—a clean, swift, unhesitating courage that had leaped bounds where his own volition and judgment would have hung waveringly; that one courage in all the world—a woman’s courage—which finds in the effort of its achievement no obstacle too high and no abyss too wide though death waits with outreaching arms on the other side. And, surely, where there had been all this, there must also have been some deeper and finer impulse than one of destruction, of physical gain, or of mere duty in the weaving of a human scheme.
The thought and the desire to believe brought words half aloud from Alan’s lips, as he looked up again at the flags beating softly above his cabin. Mary Standish was not what Stampede’s discovery had proclaimed her to be; there was some mistake, a monumental stupidity of reasoning on their part, and tomorrow would reveal the littleness and the injustice of their suspicions. He tried to force the conviction upon himself, and reentering the cabin he went to bed, still telling himself that a great lie had built itself up out of nothing, and that the God of all things was good to him because Mary Standish was alive, and not dead.
Alan slept soundly for several hours, but the long strain of the preceding day did not make him overreach the time he had set for himself, and he was up at six o’clock. Wegaruk had not forgotten her old habits, and a tub filled with cold water was waiting for him. He bathed, shaved himself, put on fresh clothes, and promptly at seven was at breakfast. The table at which he ordinarily sat alone was in a little room with double windows, through which, as he enjoyed his meals, he could see most of the habitations of the range. Unlike the average Eskimo dwellings they were neatly built of small timber brought down from the mountains, and were arranged in orderly fashion like the cottages of a village, strung out prettily on a single street. A sea of flowers lay in front of them, and at the end of the row, built on a little knoll that looked down into one of the watered hollows of the tundra, was Sokwenna’s cabin. Because Sokwenna was the “old man” of the community and therefore the wisest—and because with him lived his foster-daughters, Keok and Nawadlook, the loveliest of Alan’s tribal colony—Sokwenna’s cabin was next to Alan’s in size. And Alan, looking at it now and then as he ate his breakfast, saw a thin spiral of smoke rising from the chimney, but no other sign of life.