“Hum,” he deliberated, looking at his watch.
“Wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s five o’clock, anyway, and the men ought to be cooking their suppers.”
She thanked him, as some women can, without speech; yet, as he looked down into her face and eyes, he experienced a subtler and greater satisfaction than if she had spoken.
He stepped to his old position and addressed the room. “On consultation of the defence and the prosecution, and upon consideration of the lateness of the hour and the impossibility of finishing the trial within a reasonable limit, I—hum—I take the liberty of moving an adjournment until eight o’clock to-morrow morning.”
“The ayes have it,” the chairman proclaimed, coming down from his place and proceeding to build the fire, for he was a part-owner of the cabin and cook for his crowd.
Frona turned to St. Vincent as the last of the crowd filed out. He clutched her hands spasmodically, like a drowning man.
“Do believe me, Frona. Promise me.”
Her face flushed. “You are excited,” she said, “or you would not say such things. Not that I blame you,” she relented. “I hardly imagine the situation can be anything else but exciting.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” he answered, bitterly. “I am acting like a fool, and I can’t help it. The strain has been terrible. And as though the horror of Borg’s end were not enough, to be considered the murderer, and haled up for mob justice! Forgive me, Frona. I am beside myself. Of course, I know that you will believe me.”
“Then tell me, Gregory.”
“In the first place, the woman, Bella, lied. She must have been crazed to make that dying statement when I fought as I did for her and Borg. That is the only explanation—”
“Begin at the beginning,” she interrupted. “Remember, I know nothing.”
He settled himself more comfortably on the stool, and rolled a cigarette as he took up the history of the previous night.
“It must have been about one in the morning when I was awakened by the lighting of the slush-lamp. I thought it was Borg; wondered what he was prowling about for, and was on the verge of dropping off to sleep, when, though I do not know what prompted me, I opened my eyes. Two strange men were in the cabin. Both wore masks and fur caps with the flaps pulled down, so that I could see nothing of their faces save the glistening of the eyes through the eye-slits.
“I had no first thought, unless it was that danger threatened. I lay quietly for a second and deliberated. Borg had borrowed my pistol, and I was actually unarmed. My rifle was by the door. I decided to make a rush for it. But no sooner had I struck the floor than one of the men turned on me, at the same time firing his revolver. That was the first shot, and the one La Flitche did not hear. It was in the struggle afterwards that the door was burst open, which enabled him to hear the last three.