“Yes, and a splendid set of horns.”
They had reached the broad corridor leading to his wife’s bedroom, Blakeman continuing up to Thayor’s room with his traps.
Thayor stepped briskly to Alice’s door and knocked, then stood there waiting for her response, keyed up for the scene he knew would ensue the moment he crossed the threshold. The next instant, in response to her voice, he opened the door and entered. To his amazement Alice raised her eyes to his and smiled.
“So you’re back,” she laughed, re-tying a ribbon at her throat.
“Yes,” he replied, closing the door and drawing a chair mechanically to her bedside. “Yes, I’m back and I’ve had a good time, dear.” In spite of her disarming welcome he could not dispel a lingering distrust of her sincerity. “How do I look?” he added.
She leaned toward him, her head pillowed on her hand, and regarded him intently, a smile playing about the corners of her mouth. Again he searched for the truth in her eyes, and again he was baffled.
“Splendid, Sam—like a man who had never been ill.”
Instantly the doubt faded. A sense of mingled relief and of intense happiness stole through him. If she would only believe in him now, he thought, and understand him, and be a help and a comfort to him.
“I was ill when I left,” he continued in a softened tone. “You would not believe it, dear, but I was. I should have been ill in bed if I had stayed a day longer.”
“Yes,” she answered carelessly, “you must have been, otherwise I doubt if you would have had pluck enough to leave me as you did. It was quite dramatic, that little exit of yours, Sam.”
“And so you got my note?” he inquired, stiffening up, yet determined to ignore her touch of sarcasm, and so preserve the peace.
“Oh, yes; Blakeman did not forget. He never forgets anything you tell him. I must say it was very thoughtful of you after our interview a night or two before.” This came with a shrug of her shoulders, the smile still flickering about her mouth. “Of course you had a good time?”
“Yes, and I feel twenty years younger,” he ventured; “couldn’t help it, the way those men took care of me.”
“Who?” she asked, still gazing at him curiously.
“Young Holcomb and—”
“Ah, yes, I remember,” she mused, while she played with the lace on the sleeve of her gown.
“And there was Freme Skinner and a grizzled, kindly old trapper, named Hite Holt,” he added. “I have never met with such sincere hospitality.”
“What deliciously amusing names,” she sighed, changing her position beneath the lace with the swift suppleness of a kitten. “And what luck hunting?” she asked, as she loosened the ribbon at her throat.
“I killed a smashing big buck,” he declared with boyish enthusiasm.
She buried her head once more among the lace pillows and ran one hand through her wealth of hair.