I looked down on her. Again the snow covered her.
It fell so inexorably. It was like Leroux. It was as tireless as he, and as implacable as he. I brushed it away with frantic haste, and still it drifted into the doorless hut.
A dreadful fear held me in its grip: what if she never awoke? Some people died thus in the snow. I raised the sleigh robe, and saw that the fur coat stirred softly as she breathed.
How gently she slept—as gently as she lived. How could her own have abandoned her in her need?
At last, out of the wild passions that fought within me, decision was born. I would go on, because she had bidden me. And I would be ready for Leroux, and let him act as he saw fit. I loaded my pistols. I could do no more than fight for Jacqueline, and with God be the issue.
And with that determination I grew calm. And I sat over the fire and let my imagination stray toward some future when our troubles would be in the past and we should be together.
I must have been half asleep, for I came back to myself with a start and sprang to my feet. Jacqueline had risen upon her knees; she flung her arms out wildly, and suddenly she caught her breath and screamed, and stood up, and ran uncertainly toward me, with hands that groped for me.
She found me; I caught her, and she pushed me from her and shuddered and stared at me in that uncertain doubt that follows dreams.
“I am here, Jacqueline,” I said. “With you—always, till you send me away. Remember that even in dreams, Jacqueline.”
She knew me now, and she was recoiling from me, out through the hut door, into the blinding snow. I sprang after her.
“Jacqueline! It is I—Paul! It is Paul! Jacqueline!”
She was running from me and screaming in the snow. I heard her moccasins breaking through the thin ice crust. And, mad with terror, I rushed after her.
“Jacqueline! It is Paul!” I cried.
And as I emerged from the hut’s shelter a red-hot glare from the east seemed to sear and kill my vision. It was the rising sun. I had thought it night, and it was already day. And I could see nothing through my swollen eyelids except the white light of the shining snow. The wind howled round me, and though the sun shone, the snowflakes stung my face like hail.
I did not know under the influence of what dread dream she was. But I ran wildly to and fro, calling her, and now and again I heard the sound of her little moccasins as she plunged through the knee-high snow.
Sometimes I seemed to be so near that I could almost touch her hand, and once I heard her panting breath behind me; but I never caught her. And never once did she answer me.
“What is it? What is it?” I pleaded madly. “Jacqueline, don’t you know me? Don’t you remember me?”
The sound of the moccasins far away, and then the whine of the wind again. I did not know where the huts were now. I could see nothing but a yellow glare. And fear of Leroux came on me and turned my heart to water. I stood still, listening, like a hunted stag. There came no sound.