“Like the tight-rope dancer?”
“Oh, you are incorrigible,” Frona laughed. “I feel certain that you know as much about canoes as we.”
“And you know?—a woman?” Cosmopolitan as the Frenchman was, the independence and ability for doing of the Yankee women were a perpetual wonder to him. “How?”
“When I was a very little girl, at Dyea, among the Indians. But next spring, after the river breaks, we’ll give you your first lessons, Mr. St. Vincent and I. So you see, you will return to civilization with accomplishments. And you will surely love it.”
“Under such charming tutorship,” he murmured, gallantly. “But you, Mr. St. Vincent, do you think I shall be so successful that I may come to love it? Do you love it?—you, who stand always in the background, sparing of speech, inscrutable, as though able but unwilling to speak from out the eternal wisdom of a vast experience.” The baron turned quickly to Frona. “We are old friends, did I not tell you? So I may, what you Americans call, josh with him. Is it not so, Mr. St. Vincent?”
Gregory nodded, and Frona said, “I am sure you met at the ends of the earth somewhere.”
“Yokohama,” St. Vincent cut in shortly; “eleven years ago, in cherry-blossom time. But Baron Courbertin does me an injustice, which stings, unhappily, because it is not true. I am afraid, when I get started, that I talk too much about myself.”
“A martyr to your friends,” Frona conciliated. “And such a teller of good tales that your friends cannot forbear imposing upon you.”
“Then tell us a canoe story,” the baron begged. “A good one! A—what you Yankees call—a hair-raiser!”
They drew up to Mrs. Schoville’s fat wood-burning stove, and St. Vincent told of the great whirlpool in the Box Canyon, of the terrible corkscrew in the mane of the White Horse Rapids, and of his cowardly comrade, who, walking around, had left him to go through alone—nine years before when the Yukon was virgin.
Half an hour later Mrs. Schoville bustled in, with Corliss in her wake.
“That hill! The last of my breath!” she gasped, pulling off her mittens. “Never saw such luck!” she declared none the less vehemently the next moment.
“This play will never come off! I never shall be Mrs. Linden! How can I? Krogstad’s gone on a stampede to Indian River, and no one knows when he’ll be back! Krogstad” (to Corliss) “is Mr. Maybrick, you know. And Mrs. Alexander has the neuralgia and can’t stir out. So there’s no rehearsal to-day, that’s flat!” She attitudinized dramatically: “’Yes, in my first terror! But a day has passed, and in that day I have seen incredible things in this house! Helmer must know everything! There must be an end to this unhappy secret! O Krogstad, you need me, and I—I need you,’ and you are over on the Indian River making sour-dough bread, and I shall never see you more!”