For the first time she remembered that she had not filled the three empty chambers. Crooking her arm under the gee-bar, she fumbled in her pocket. The dogs, refreshed by their sleep and urged by Uppy’s whip, were tearing off the first mile at a great speed. The trail ahead of them was level and hard again. Uppy knew they were on the edge of the big barren of the Lacs Delesse, and he cracked his whip just as the off runner of the sledge struck a hidden snow-blister. There was a sudden lurch, and in a vicious up-shoot of the gee-bar the revolver was knocked from Dolores’ hand–and was gone. A shriek rose to her lips, but she stifled it before it was given voice. Until this minute she had not felt the terror of utter hopelessness upon her. Now it made her faint. The revolver had not only given her hope, but also a steadfast faith in herself. From the beginning she had made up her mind how she would use it in the end, even though a few moments before she had asked Peter what they would do.
Crumpled down on the sledge, she clung to Peter, and suddenly the inspiration came to her not to let him know what had happened. Her arms tightened about his shoulders, and she looked ahead over the backs of the wolfish pack, shivering as she thought of what Uppy would do could he guess her loss. But he was running now for his life, driven on by his fear of her unerring marksmanship–and Wapi. She looked over her shoulder. Wapi was there, a huge gray shadow twenty paces behind. And she thought she heard a shout!
Peter was speaking to her. “Blake’s dogs are tired,” he was saying. “They were just about to camp, and ours have had a rest. Perhaps–”
“We shall beat them!” she interrupted him. “See how fast we are going, Peter! It is splendid!”
A rifle-shot sounded behind them. It was not far away, and involuntarily she clutched him tighter. Peter reached up a hand.
“Give me the revolver, Dolores.”
“No,” she protested. “They are not going to overtake us.”
“You must give me the revolver,” he insisted.
“Peter, I can’t. You understand, I can’t. I must keep the revolver.”
She looked back again. There was no doubt now. Their pursuers were drawing nearer. She heard a voice, the la-looing of running Eskimos, a faint shout which she knew was a white man’s shout–and another rifle shot. Wapi was running nearer. He was almost at the tail of the sledge, and his red eyes were fixed on her as he ran.
“Wapi!” she cried. “Wapi!”
His jaws dropped agape. She could hear his panting response to her voice.
A third shot–over their heads sped a strange droning sound.
“Wapi,” she almost screamed, “go back! Sick ’em, Wapi–sick ’em–sick ’em–sick ’em!” She flung out her arms, driving him back, repeating the words over and over again. She leaned over the edge of the sledge, clinging to the gee-bar. “Go back, Wapi! Sick ’em–sick ’em–sick ’em!”
As if in response to her wild exhortation, there came a sudden yelping outcry from the team behind. It was close upon them now. Another ten minutes.
And then she saw that Wapi was dropping behind. Quickly he was swallowed up in the starlit chaos of the night.
“Peter,” she cried, sobbingly. “Peter!”
Listening to the retreating sound of the sledge, Wapi stood a silent shadow in the trail. Then he turned and faced the north. He heard the other sound now, and ahead of it the wind brought him a smell, the smell of things he hated. For many years something had been fighting itself toward understanding within him, and the yelping of dogs and the taint in the air of creatures who had been his slave-masters narrowed his instinct to the one vital point. Again it was not a process of reason but the cumulative effect of things that had happened, and were happening. He had scented menace when first he had given warning of the nearness of pursuers, and this menace was no longer an elusive and unseizable thing that had merely stirred the fires of his hatred. It was now a near and physical fact. He had tried to run away from it–with the woman–but it had followed and was overtaking him, and the yelping dogs were challenging him to fight as they had challenged him from the day he was old enough to take his own part. And now he had something to fight for. His intelligence gripped the fact that one sledge was running away from the other, and that the sledge which was running away was his sledge–and that for his sledge he must fight.