He found himself wondering if there was a possibility that the girl might return. For a long time he lay thinking about her, and it struck him as incongruous and in bad taste that fate should have left this adventure for his last. If he had met her six months ago—or even three—it was probable that she would so have changed the events of life for him that he would not have got the half-breed’s bullet in his chest. He confessed the thing unblushingly. The wilderness had taken the place of woman for him. It had claimed him, body and soul. He had desired nothing beyond its wild freedom and its never-ending games of chance. He had dreamed, as every man dreams, but realities and not the dreams had been the red pulse of his life. And yet, if this girl had come sooner—
He revisioned for himself over and over again her hair and eyes, the slimness of her as she had stood at the window, the freedom and strength of that slender body, the poise of her exquisite head, and he felt again the thrill of her hand and the still more wonderful thrill of her lips as she had pressed them warmly upon his.
And she was of the north! That was the thought that overwhelmed him. He did not permit himself to believe that she might have told him an untruth. He was confident, if he lived until tomorrow, that Mercer would corroborate his faith in her. He had never heard of a place called the Valley of Silent Men, but it was a big country, and Fort Simpson with its Hudson Bay Company’s post and its half-dozen shacks was a thousand miles away. He was not sure that such a place as that valley really existed. It was easier to believe that the girl’s home was at Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Fort Good Hope, or even at Fort McPherson. It was not difficult for him to picture her as the daughter of one of the factor lords of the North. Yet this, upon closer consideration, he gave up as unreasonable. The word “Fort” did not stand for population, and there were probably not more than fifty white people at all the posts between the Great Slave and the Arctic. She was not one of these, or the fact would have been known at the Landing.
Neither could she be a riverman’s daughter, for it was inconceivable that either a riverman or a trapper would have sent this girl down into civilization, where this girl had undoubtedly been. It was that point chiefly which puzzled Kent. She was not only beautiful. She had been tutored in schools that were not taught by wilderness missioners. In her, it seemed to him, he had seen the beauty and the wild freedom of the forests as they had come to him straight out of the heart of an ancient aristocracy that was born nearly two hundred years ago in the old cities of Quebec and Montreal.