“No, it’s not so bad as that. You shall not be hanged. Trust me for that.”
“But what can you do?” he asked, despairingly. “They have usurped the law, have made themselves the law.”
“In the first place, the river has broken. That means everything. The Governor and the territorial judges may be expected in at any moment with a detachment of police at their backs. And they’re certain to stop here. And, furthermore, we may be able to do something ourselves. The river is open, and if it comes to the worst, escape would be another way out; and escape is the last thing they would dream of.”
“No, no; impossible. What are you and I against the many?”
“But there’s my father and Baron Courbertin. Four determined people, acting together, may perform miracles, Gregory, dear. Trust me, it shall come out well.”
She kissed him and ran her hand through his hair, but the worried look did not depart.
Jacob Welse crossed over the back-channel long before dark, and with him came Del, the baron, and Corliss. While Frona retired to change her clothes in one of the smaller cabins, which the masculine owners readily turned over to her, her father saw to the welfare of the mail-carrier. The despatches were of serious import, so serious that long after Jacob Welse had read and re-read them his face was dark and clouded; but he put the anxiety from him when he returned to Frona. St. Vincent, who was confined in an adjoining cabin, was permitted to see them.
“It looks bad,” Jacob Welse said, on parting for the night. “But rest assured, St. Vincent, bad or not, you’ll not be stretched up so long as I’ve a hand to play in the rumpus. I am certain you did not kill Borg, and there’s my fist on it.”
“A long day,” Corliss remarked, as he walked back with Frona to her cabin.
“And a longer to-morrow,” she answered, wearily. “And I’m so sleepy.”
“You’re a brave little woman, and I’m proud of you.” It was ten o’clock, and he looked out through the dim twilight to the ghostly ice drifting steadily by. “And in this trouble,” he went on, “depend upon me in any way.”
“In any way?” she queried, with a catch in her voice.
“If I were a hero of the melodrama I’d say; ‘To the death!’ but as I’m not; I’ll just repeat, in any way.”
“You are good to me, Vance. I can never repay—”
“Tut! tut! I do not put myself on sale. Love is service, I believe.”
She looked at him for a long time, but while her face betrayed soft wonder, at heart she was troubled, she knew not why, and the events of the day, and of all the days since she had known him, came fluttering through her mind.
“Do you believe in a white friendship?” she asked at last. “For I do hope that such a bond may hold us always. A bright, white friendship, a comradeship, as it were?” And as she asked, she was aware that the phrase did not quite express what she felt and would desire. And when he shook his head, she experienced a glad little inexplicable thrill.