“Will you—Jeems? Will you—no matter what happens—if I promise— when I come back—to kiss you?”
Her hands slipped almost caressingly from his arms, and then she had turned swiftly and was gone through the partly open door, closing it after her, before he could give his promise.
For a space he stood where she had left him, staring at the door through which she had gone. The nearness of her in those last few seconds of her presence, the caressing touch of her hands, what he had seen in her eyes, her promise to kiss him if he did not reveal himself—these things, and the thought of the splendid courage that must be inspiring her to face Kedsty now, made him blind even to the door and the wall at which he was apparently looking. He saw only her face, as he had seen it in that last moment—her eyes, the tremble of her lips, and the fear which she had not quite hidden from him. She was afraid of Kedsty. He was sure of it. For she had not smiled; there was no flicker of humor in her eyes, when she called him Jeems, an intimate use of the names Jim and James in the far North. It was not facetiously that she had promised to kiss him. An almost tragic seriousness had possessed her. And it was that seriousness that thrilled him—that, and the amazing frankness with which she had coupled the name Jeems with the promise of her lips. Once before she had called him Jeems. But it was M’sieu Jeems then, and there had been a bit of taunting laughter in her voice. Jim or James meant nothing, but Jeems—He had heard mothers call little children that, in moments of endearment. He knew that wives and sweethearts used it in that same way. For Jim and James were not uncommon names up and down the Three Rivers, even among the half-breeds and French, and Jeems was the closer and more intimate thing bred of it.
His heart was thumping riotously as he went to the door and listened. A little while ago, when she faced him with flashing eyes, commanding him not to question her, he had felt an abyss under his feet. Now he was on a mountain. And he knew that no matter what he heard, unless it was her cry for help, he would not go down.
After a little he opened the door a mere crack so that sound might come to him. She had not forbidden that. Through the crack he could see a dim glow of light in the lower hall. But he heard no sound, and it occurred to him that old Mooie could still run swiftly, and that it might be some time before Kedsty would arrive.
As he waited, he looked about the room. His first impression was that Marette must have lived in it for a long time. It was a woman’s room, without the newness of sudden and unpremeditated occupancy. He knew that formerly it had been Kedsty’s room, but nothing of Kedsty remained in it now. And then, as his wondering eyes beheld the miracle, a number of things struck him with amazing significance. He no longer doubted that Marette Radisson was of the far Northland. His faith in that was absolute. If there had been a last question in his mind, it was wiped away because she called him Jeems. Yet this room seemed to give the lie to his faith. Fascinated by his discovery of things, he drew away from the door and stood over the dressing-table in front of the mirror.