“Why, Kathleen!” he exclaimed, hastening forward. “Did you really drive down here all alone to meet me?”
She bent over and saluted him, demure, amused, bewitchingly pretty in her Isabella bear furs:
“I really did, Duane, without even a groom, so we could talk about everything and anything all the way home. Give your checks to the station agent—there he is!—Oh, Mr. Whitley, would you mind sending up Mr. Mallett’s trunks to-night? Thank you so much. Now, Duane, dear——”
He tossed suit-case and satchel into the sleigh, put on his fur coat, and climbing up beside Kathleen, burrowed into the robes.
“I tell you what,” he said seriously, “you’re getting to be a howling beauty; not just an ordinary beauty, but a miracle. Do you mind if I kiss you again?”
“Not after that,” she said, presenting him a fresh-curved cheek tinted with rose, and snowy cold. Then, laughing, she swung the impatient horses to the left; a jingling shower of golden bell-notes followed; and they were off through the starlight, tearing northward across the snow.
“Duane!” she said, pulling the young horses down into a swift, swinging trot, “what do you think! Geraldine doesn’t know you’re coming!”
“Why not?” he asked, surprised. “I telegraphed.”
“Yes, but she’s been on the mountain with old Miller for three days. Three of your letters are waiting for her; and then came your telegram, and of course Scott and I thought we ought to open it.”
“Of course. But what on earth sent Geraldine up the Golden Dome in the dead of winter?”
Kathleen shook her pretty head:
“She’s turned into the most uncontrollable sporting proposition you ever heard of! She’s up there at Lynx Peak camp, with her rifle, and old Miller. They’re after that big boar—the biggest, horridest thing in the whole forest. I saw him once. He’s disgusting. Scott objected, and so did I, but, somehow, I’m becoming reconciled to these break-neck enterprises she goes in for so hard—so terribly hard, Duane! and all I do is to fuss a little and make a few tearful objections, and she laughs and does what she pleases.”
He said: “It is better, is it not, to let her?”
“Yes,” returned Kathleen quietly, “it is better. That is why I say very little.”
There was a moment’s silence, but the constraint did not last.
“It’s twenty below zero, my poor friend,” observed Kathleen. “Luckily, there is no wind to-night, but, all the same, you ought to keep in touch with your nose and ears.”
Duane investigated cautiously.
“My features are still sticking to my face,” he announced; “is it really twenty below? It doesn’t seem so.”
“It is. Yesterday the thermometers registered thirty below, but nobody here minds it when the wind doesn’t blow; and Geraldine has acquired the most exquisite colour!—and she’s so maddeningly pretty, Duane, and actually plump, in that long slim way of hers.... And there’s another thing; she is happier than she has been for a long, long while.”