Speechless he had stood, all the life of his soul burning like a fire in his eyes as he looked at her and listened to her, and now, quietly and unexcitedly, he said:
“Marette, I am going to play this game as you want me to play it, because I love you. It is only honest for me to tell you in words what you must already know. And I am going to fight for you as long as there is a drop of blood in my body. If I go with Jean Laselle’s brigade, will you promise me—”
His voice trembled. He was repressing a mighty emotion. But not by the quiver of one of her long lashes did Marette Radisson give evidence that she had even heard his confession of love. She interrupted him before he had finished.
“I can promise you nothing, no matter what you do. Jeems, Jeems, you are not like those other men I learned to hate? You will not insist? If you do—if you are like them—yes, you may go away from here tonight and not wait for Jean Laselle. Listen! The storm will not break for hours. If you are going to demand a price for playing the game as I want you to play it, you may go. You have my permission.”
She was very white. She rose from the big chair and stood before him. There was no anger in her voice or gesture, but her eyes glowed like luminous stars. There was something in them which he had not seen before, and suddenly a thought struck his heart cold as ice.
With a low cry he stretched out his hands, “My God, Marette, I am not a murderer! I did not kill John Barkley!”
She did not answer him.
“You don’t believe me,” he cried. “You believe that I killed Barkley, and that now—a murderer—I dare to tell you that I love you!”
She was trembling. It was like a little shiver running through her. For only a flash it seemed to him that he had caught a glimpse of something terrible, a thing she was hiding, a thing she was fighting as she stood there with her two little clenched hands. For in her face, in her eyes, in the beating throb of her white throat he saw, in that moment, the almost hidden agony of a hurt thing. And then it was gone, even as he entreated again, pleading for her faith.
“I did not kill John Barkley!”
“I am not thinking of that, Jeems,” she said. “It is of something—”
They had forgotten the storm. It was howling and beating at the windows outside. But suddenly there came a sound that rose above the monotonous tumult of it, and Marette started as if it had sent an electric shock through her. Kent, too, turned toward the window.
It was the metallic tap, tap, tapping which once before had warned them of approaching danger. And this time it was insistent. It was as if a voice was crying out to them from beyond the window. It was more than premonition—it was the alarm of a near and impending menace. And in that moment Kent saw Marette Radisson’s hands go swiftly to her throat and her eyes leap with sudden fire, and she gave a little cry as she listened to the sound.