It seemed to Alan that in an instant a sudden change had come over the world. There was silence in the cabin, except for the breath which came like a sob to the girl’s lips as she turned to the window and looked out into the blaze of golden sunlight that filled the tundra. He heard Tautuk’s voice, calling to Keok away over near the reindeer corral, and he heard clearly Keok’s merry laughter as she answered him. A gray-cheeked thrush flew up to the roof of Sokwenna’s cabin and began to sing. It was as if these things had come as a message to both of them, relieving a tension, and significant of the beauty and glory and undying hope of life. Mary Standish turned from the window with shining eyes.
“Every day the thrush comes and sings on our cabin roof,” she said.
“It is—possibly—because you are here,” he replied.
She regarded him seriously. “I have thought of that. You know, I have faith in a great many unbelievable things. I can think of nothing more beautiful than the spirit that lives in the heart of a bird. I am sure, if I were dying, I would like to have a bird singing near me. Hopelessness cannot be so deep that bird-song will not reach it.”
He nodded, trying to answer in that way. He felt uncomfortable. She closed the door which he had left partly open, and made a little gesture for him to resume the chair which he had left a few moments before. She seated herself first and smiled at him wistfully, half regretfully, as she said:
“I have been very foolish. What I am going to tell you now I should have told you aboard the Nome. But I was afraid. Now I am not afraid, but ashamed, terribly ashamed, to let you know the truth. And yet I am not sorry it happened so, because otherwise I would not have come up here, and all this—your world, your people, and you—have meant a great deal to me. You will understand when I have made my confession.”
“No, I don’t want that,” he protested almost roughly. “I don’t want you to put it that way. If I can help you, and if you wish to tell me as a friend, that’s different. I don’t want a confession, which would imply that I have no faith in you.”
“And you have faith in me?”
“Yes; so much that the sun will darken and bird-song never seem the same if I lose you again, as I thought I had lost you from the ship.”
“Oh, you mean that!”
The words came from her in a strange, tense, little cry, and he seemed to see only her eyes as he looked at her face, pale as the petals of the tundra daises behind her. With the thrill of what he had dared to say tugging at his heart, he wondered why she was so white.
“You mean that,” her lips repeated slowly, “after all that has happened—even after—that part of a letter—which Stampede brought to you last night—”
He was surprised. How had she discovered what he thought was a secret between himself and Stampede? His mind leaped to a conclusion, and she saw it written in his face.