“A comradeship?” he questioned. “When you know I love you?”
“Yes,” she affirmed in a low voice.
“I am afraid, after all, that your knowledge of man is very limited. Believe me, we are not made of such clay. A comradeship? A coming in out of the cold to sit by your fire? Good. But a coming in when another man sits with you by your fire? No. Comradeship would demand that I delight in your delights, and yet, do you think for a moment that I could see you with another man’s child in your arms, a child which might have been mine; with that other man looking out at me through the child’s eyes, laughing at me through its mouth? I say, do you think I could delight in your delights? No, no; love cannot shackle itself with white friendships.”
She put her hand on his arm.
“Do you think I am wrong?” he asked, bewildered by the strange look in her face.
She was sobbing quietly.
“You are tired and overwrought. So there, good-night. You must get to bed.”
“No, don’t go, not yet.” And she arrested him. “No, no; I am foolish. As you say, I am tired. But listen, Vance. There is much to be done. We must plan to-morrow’s work. Come inside. Father and Baron Courbertin are together, and if the worst comes, we four must do big things.”
“Spectacular,” Jacob Welse commented, when Frona had briefly outlined the course of action and assigned them their parts. “But its very unexpectedness ought to carry it through.”
“A coup d’etat!” was the Baron’s verdict. “Magnificent! Ah! I feel warm all over at the thought. ‘Hands up!’ I cry, thus, and very fierce.
“And if they do not hold up their hands?” he appealed to Jacob Welse.
“Then shoot. Never bluff when you’re behind a gun, Courbertin. It’s held by good authorities to be unhealthy.”
“And you are to take charge of La Bijou, Vance,” Frona said. “Father thinks there will be little ice to-morrow if it doesn’t jam to-night. All you’ve to do is to have the canoe by the bank just before the door. Of course, you won’t know what is happening until St. Vincent comes running. Then in with him, and away you go—Dawson! So I’ll say good-night and good-by now, for I may not have the opportunity in the morning.”
“And keep the left-hand channel till you’re past the bend,” Jacob Welse counselled him; “then take the cut-offs to the right and follow the swiftest water. Now off with you and into your blankets. It’s seventy miles to Dawson, and you’ll have to make it at one clip.”