The travelling was becoming heavier now, and the storm increasing in violence. But still he pressed on, up hill and down, over wind-swept lakes, and bleak stretches of wild meadows. But for the importance of his mission he would have sought the shelter of a friendly clump of bushes, and camped for the night. He had often done so in the past, for he could sleep as comfortably curled up in a nest of fir boughs with the snow weaving its mystic web over him as on a soft bed. But not to-night could he afford to tarry. Too much was at stake, so he must hasten on, no matter how fierce the storm or how hard the trail.
His attention was at length arrested by recently-made marks in the snow. He was woodsman enough to understand that some one was travelling that way, evidently under considerable difficulty. Several times he stopped to examine where the wayfarer had floundered about in the snow in desperate efforts to regain the trail. He wondered who it could be, so he hurried forward hoping to overtake the struggling man, for the thought of a woman never once entered his mind.
He had gone but half a mile when he came to a place where the traveller had left the trail and gone off to the right. He stood debating with himself whether to follow or not, when the sound of a human voice mingled with the roaring of the wind. What was said he could not distinguish, although he was certain that it was a call for help. Hesitating no longer, he surged rapidly forward, keeping careful watch upon the crooked tracks. Someone was in need, he was certain, who had become bewildered, lost the trail, and in despair had uttered a wild cry for help. Such cases were not uncommon, especially in winter, where men had perished, and the great forest had never revealed the secrets.
In a few minutes his keen eyes caught sight of something huddled at the foot of a lordly tree. That it was a human form he was sure, and as he stepped forward a great cry of surprise leaped from his lips. Like one almost bereft of his senses he sprang toward the girl, caught her in his arms, and looked into her white face.
“Jean! Jean!” he passionately cried. “Don’t you know me, your own Dane? Open your eyes, and speak to me!”
Slowly, as if coming out of a troubled dream, the girl opened her eyes, and stared into her lover’s face.
“Don’t look at me that way,” he pleaded. “Don’t you know me? It is Dane.”
Then he kissed her again, and again, beseeching her, and calling upon her to speak.
Gradually the light of understanding dawned in Jean’s eyes. At first she imagined it was but a happy dream from which she would shortly awaken. But as those strong arms held her firm, and that loved face remained close to hers, she knew that in very truth it was her own Dane. Her lips parted in a glad smile, and reaching out her arms, she impulsively twined them about his neck.