“That I am a fool,” Frona answered. “And I think I am.” And with a smile, “I take it on faith that I am, anyway. I—I can’t reason it out just now, but. . .”
Captain Alexander discovered a prenuptial joke just about then, and led the way over to the stove to crack it upon the colonel, and Vance went along to see fair play.
“It’s the first time,” Lucile was saying, “and it means more to me, so much more, than to . . . most women. I am afraid. It is a terrible thing for me to do. But I do love him, I do!” And when the joke had been duly digested and they came back, she was sobbing, “Dear, dear Frona.”
It was just the moment, better than he could have chosen; and capped and mittened, without knocking, Jacob Welse came in.
“The uninvited guest,” was his greeting. “Is it all over? So?” And he swallowed Lucile up in his huge bearskin. “Colonel, your hand, and your pardon for my intruding, and your regrets for not giving me the word. Come, out with them! Hello, Corliss! Captain Alexander, a good day.”
“What have I done?” Frona wailed, received the bear-hug, and managed to press his hand till it almost hurt.
“Had to back the game,” he whispered; and this time his hand did hurt.
“Now, colonel, I don’t know what your plans are, and I don’t care. Call them off. I’ve got a little spread down to the house, and the only honest case of champagne this side of Circle. Of course, you’re coming, Corliss, and—” His eye roved past Captain Alexander with hardly a pause.
“Of course,” came the answer like a flash, though the Chief Magistrate of the Northwest had had time to canvass the possible results of such unofficial action. “Got a hack?”
Jacob Welse laughed and held up a moccasined foot. “Walking be—chucked!” The captain started impulsively towards the door. “I’ll have the sleds up before you’re ready. Three of them, and bells galore!”
So Trethaway’s forecast was correct, and Dawson vindicated its agglutinativeness by rubbing its eyes when three sleds, with three scarlet-tuniced policemen swinging the whips, tore down its main street; and it rubbed its eyes again when it saw the occupants thereof.
“We shall live quietly,” Lucile told Frona. “The Klondike is not all the world, and the best is yet to come.”
But Jacob Welse said otherwise. “We’ve got to make this thing go,” he said to Captain Alexander, and Captain Alexander said that he was unaccustomed to backing out.
Mrs. Schoville emitted preliminary thunders, marshalled the other women, and became chronically seismic and unsafe.
Lucile went nowhere save to Frona’s. But Jacob Welse, who rarely went anywhere, was often to be found by Colonel Trethaway’s fireside, and not only was he to be found there, but he usually brought somebody along. “Anything on hand this evening?” he was wont to say on casual meeting. “No? Then come along with me.” Sometimes he said it with lamb-like innocence, sometimes with a challenge brooding under his bushy brows, and rarely did he fail to get his man. These men had wives, and thus were the germs of dissolution sown in the ranks of the opposition.