For the first time something rose and overwhelmed the love in Philip’s breast.
“She wants to come to you,” he cried, and he leaned toward Peter God, white-faced, clenching his hands. “She wants to come!” he repeated. “And the law won’t find you. It’s been seven years—and God knows no word will ever go from me. It won’t find you. And if it should, you can fight it together, you and Josephine.”
Peter God held out his hands.
“Now I know I need have no fear in sending you back,” he said huskily. “You’re a man. And you’ve got to go. She can’t come to me, Curtis. It would kill her—this life. Think of a winter here—madness—the yapping of the foxes—”
He put a hand to his head, and swayed.
“You’ve got to go. Tell her Peter God is dead—”
Philip sprang forward as Peter God crumpled down on his bunk.
After that came the long dark hours of fever and delirium. They crawled along into days, and day and night Philip fought to keep life in the body of the man who had given the world to him, for as the fight continued he began more and more to accept Josephine as his own. He had come fairly. He had kept his pledge. And Peter God had spoken.
“You must go. You must tell her Peter God is dead.”
And Philip began to accept this, not altogether as his joy, but as his duty. He could not argue with Peter God when he rose from his sick bed. He would go back to Josephine.
For many days he and Peter God fought with the “red death” in the little cabin. It was a fight which he could never forget. One afternoon—to strengthen himself for the terrible night that was coming—he walked several miles back into the stunted spruce on his snowshoes. It was mid-afternoon when he returned with a haunch of caribou meat on his shoulder. Three hundred yards from the cabin something stopped him like a shot. He listened. From ahead of him came the whining and snarling of dogs, the crack of a whip, a shout which he could not understand. He dropped his burden of meat and sped on. At the southward edge of a level open he stopped again. Straight ahead of him was the cabin. A hundred yards to the right of him was a dog team and a driver. Between the team and the cabin a hooded and coated figure was running in the direction of the danger signal on the sapling pole.
With a cry of warning Philip darted in pursuit. He overtook the figure at the cabin door. His hand caught it by the arm. It turned—and he stared into the white, terror-stricken face of Josephine McCloud!
“Good God!” he cried, and that was all.
She gripped him with both hands. He had never heard her voice as it was now. She answered the amazement and horror in his face.
“I sent you a letter,” she cried pantingly, “and it didn’t overtake you. As soon as you were gone, I knew that I must come—that I must follow—that I must speak with my own lips what I had written. I tried to catch you. But you traveled faster. Will you forgive me—you will forgive me—”