“What is it, Wapi?” whispered Dolores. She heard his long fangs click, and under her hand she felt his body grow tense. “What is it?” she repeated.
A thrill, a suspicion, shot into her heart as they went on. A fourth time Wapi faced the shore and growled before they reached the ship. Like shadows they went up over the ice bridge. Dolores did not enter the cabin but drew Wapi behind it so they could not be seen. Ten minutes, fifteen, and suddenly she caught her breath and fell down on her knees beside Wapi, putting her arms about his gaunt shoulders. “Be quiet,” she whispered. “Be quiet.”
Up out of the night came a dark and grotesque shadow. It paused below the bridge, then it came on silently and passed almost without sound toward the captain’s quarters. It was Blake. Dolores’ heart was choking her. Her arms clutched Wapi, whispering for him to be quiet, to be quiet. Blake disappeared, and she rose to her feet. She had come of fighting stock. Peter was proud of that. “You slim wonderful little thing!” he had said to her more than once. “You’ve a heart in that pretty body of yours like the general’s!” The general was her father, and a fighter. She thought of Peter’s words now, and the fighting blood leaped through her veins. It was for Peter more than herself that she was going to fight now.
She made Wapi understand that he must remain where he was. Then she followed after Blake, followed until her ears were close to the door behind which she could already hear Blake and Rydal talking.
Ten minutes later she returned to Wapi. Under her hood her face was as white as the whitest star in the sky. She stood for many minutes close to the dog, gathering her courage, marshaling her strength, preparing herself to face Peter. He must not suspect until the last moment. She thanked God that Wapi had caught the taint of Blake in the air, and she was conscious of offering a prayer that God might help her and Peter.
Peter gave a cry of pleasure when the door opened and Dolores entered. He saw Wapi crowding in, and laughed. “Pals already! I guess I needn’t have been afraid for you. What a giant of a dog!”
The instant she appeared, Dolores forced upon herself an appearance of joyous excitement. She flung off her coat and ran to Peter, hugging his head against her as she told him swiftly what they were going to do. Fort Confidence was only one hundred and fifty miles away, and a garrison of police and a doctor were there. Five days on a sledge! That was all. And she had persuaded Blake, the trader, to help them. They would start now, as soon as she got him ready and Blake came. She must hurry. And she was wildly and gloriously happy, she told him. In a little while they would be at least on the outer edge of this horrible night, and he would be in a doctor’s hands.
She was holding Peter’s head so that he could not see her face, and by the time she jumped up and he did see it, there was nothing in it to betray the truth or the fact that she was acting a lie. First she began to dress Peter for the trail. Every instant gave her more courage. This helpless, sunken-cheeked man with the hair graying over his temples was Peter, her Peter, the Peter who had watched over her, and sheltered her, and fought for her ever since she had known him, and now had come her chance to fight for him. The thought filled her with a wonderful exultation. It flushed her cheeks, and put a glory into her eyes, and made her voice tremble. How wonderful it was to love a man as she loved Peter! It was impossible for her to see the contrast they made–Peter with his scrubby beard, his sunken cheeks, his emaciation, and she with her radiant, golden beauty. She was ablaze with the desire to fight. And how proud of her Peter would be when it was all over!
She finished dressing him and began putting things in their big dunnage sack. Her lips tightened as she made this preparation. Finally she came to a box of revolver cartridges and emptied them into one of the pockets of her under-jacket. Wapi flattened out near the door, watched every movement she made.
When the dunnage sack was filled, she returned to Peter. “Won’t it be a joke on Captain Rydal!” she exulted. “You see, we aren’t gong to let him know anything about it.” She appeared not to observe Peter’s surprise. “You know how I hate him, Peter dear,” she went on. “He is a beast. But Mr. Blake has done a great deal of trading with him, and he doesn’t want Captain Rydal to know the part he is taking in getting us away. Not that Rydal would miss us, you know! I don’t think he cares very much whether you live or die, Peter, and that’s why I hate him. But we must humor Mr. Blake. He doesn’t want him to know.”
“Odd,” mused Peter. “It’s sort of–sneaking away.”
His eyes had in them a searching question which Dolores tried not to see and which she was glad he did not put into words. If she could only fool him another hour–just one more hour.