The hot blood mounted to his cheeks and suddenly receded, so that his face showed pallid and pasty in the gloom of the darkened room. He drew his hand uncertainly across his brow and found it damp with a cold, moist sweat. Was it fancy, or did the china-blue, fishlike eyes rest for just an instant upon the porcelain cup on the table? With an effort the man composed himself, and stooping, whispered a few hurried words into the ears of the girl who sat with her face buried in her hands.
“Forgive me, Miss Elliston; for the moment I forgot that I had no right. I love you! Love you more than life itself! More than my own life—or the lives of others. It was but the impulse of an unguarded moment that caused me to forget that I had not the right—forget that I am a gentleman. We love as we kill in the North. And now, good-by, I am going Southward. I will return, if it is within the power of man to return, before the ice skims the lakes and the rivers.”
He paused, but the girl remained as though she had not heard him. He leaned closer, his lips almost upon her ear. “Please, Miss Elliston, can you not forgive me—wish me one last bon voyage?”
Slowly, as one in a dream, Chloe offered him her hand. “Good-by!” she said simply, in a dull, toneless voice. The man seized the hand, pressed it lightly, and turning abruptly, crossed to the table. As he drew his Stetson toward him, its brim came into violent contact with the porcelain medicine cup. The cup crashed to the floor, its contents splashing widely over the whip-sawed boards.
With a hurried word of apology he passed out of the door—passed close beside the form of Big Lena onto whose cold, fishlike eyes the black eyes stared insolently, even as the thin lips twisted into a smile—cynical, sardonic, mocking.
A FIGHT IN THE NIGHT
The days immediately following Lapierre’s departure were busy days for Chloe Elliston. The word had passed along the lakes and the rivers, and stolid, sullen-faced Indians stole in from the scrub to gaze apathetically at the buildings on the banks of the Yellow Knife. Chloe with pain-staking repetition, through LeFroy as interpreter, explained to each the object of her school; with the result that a goodly number remained and lost no time in installing themselves in the commodious barracks.
On the evening of the second day the girl tiptoed into the sick-room and, bending over MacNair, was startled to encounter the steady gaze of the steel-grey eyes. “I thought you never would come to,” she smiled. “You see, I don’t know much about surgery, and I was afraid perhaps—”
“Perhaps Lapierre had done his work well?”
Chloe started at the weak, almost gentle tones of the gruff voice she had learned to associate with this man of the North. She flushed as she met the steady, disconcerting stare of the grey eyes. “He shot on the spur of the moment. He thought you were going to shoot him.”