It was less than that–half an hour after she had finished the dunnage sack–when they heard footsteps crunching outside and then a knock at the door. Wapi answered with a snarl, and when Dolores opened the door and Blake entered, his eyes fell first of all on the dog.
“Attached himself, eh?” he greeted, turning his quiet, unemotional smile on Peter. “First white woman he has ever seen, and I guess the case is hopeless. Mrs. Keith may have him.”
He turned to her. “Are you ready?”
She nodded and pointed to the dunnage sack. Then she put on her fur coat and hood and helped Peter sit up on the edge of the bed while Blake opened the door again and made a low signal. Instantly Uppy and another Eskimo came in. Blake led with the sack, and the two Eskimos carried Peter. Dolores followed last, with the fingers of one little hand gripped about the revolver in her pocket. Wapi hugged so close to her that she could feel his body.
On the ice was a sledge without dogs. Peter was bundled on this, and the Eskimos pulled him. Blake was still in the lead. Twenty minutes after leaving the ship they pulled up beside his cabin.
There were two teams ready for the trail, one of six dogs, and another of five, each watched over by an Eskimo. The visor of Dolores’ hood kept Blake from seeing how sharply she took in the situation. Under it her eyes were ablaze. Her bare hand gripped her revolver, and if Peter could have heard the beating of her heart, he would have gasped. But she was cool, for all that. Swiftly and accurately she appraised Blake’s preparations. She observed that in the six-dog team, in spite of its numerical superiority, the animals were more powerful than those in the five-dog team. The Eskimos placed Peter on the six-dog sledge, and Dolores helped to wrap him up warmly in the bearskins. Their dunnage sack was tied on at Peter’s feet. Not until then did she seem to notice the five-dog sledge. She smiled at Blake. “We must be sure that in our excitement we haven’t forgotten something,” she said, going over what was on the sledge. “This is a tent, and here are plenty of warm bearskins–and–and–” She looked up at Blake, who was watching her silently. “If there is no timber for so long, Mr. Blake, shouldn’t we have a big bundle of kindling? And surely we should have meat for the dogs!”
Blake stared at her and then turned sharply on Uppy with a rattle of Eskimo. Uppy and one of the companions made their exit instantly and in great haste.
“The fools!” he apologized. “One has to watch them like children, Mrs. Keith. Pardon me while I help them.”
She waited until he followed Uppy into the cabin. Then, with the remaining Eskimo staring at her in wonderment, she carried an extra bearskin, the small tent, and a narwhal grub-sack to Peter’s sledge. It was another five minutes before Blake and the two Eskimos reappeared with a bag of fish and a big bundle of ship-timber kindlings. Dolores stood with a mittened hand on Peter’s shoulder, and bending down, she whispered:
“Peter, if you love me, don’t mind what I’m going to say now. Don’t move, for everything is going to be all right, and if you should try to get up or roll off the sledge, it would be so much harder for me. I haven’t even told you why we’re going to Port Confidence. Now you’ll know!”
She straightened up to face Blake. She had chosen her position, and Blake was standing clear and unshadowed in the starlight half a dozen paces from her. She had thrust her hood back a little, inspired by her feminine instinct to let him see her contempt for him.
The words hissed hot and furious from her lips, and in that same instant Blake found himself staring straight into the unquivering muzzle of her revolver.
“You beast!” she repeated. “I ought to kill you. I ought to shoot you down where you stand, for you are a cur and a coward. I know what you have planned. I followed you when you went to Rydal’s cabin a little while ago, and I heard everything that passed between you. Listen, Peter, and I’ll tell you what these brutes were going to do with us. You were to go with the six-dog team and I with the five, and out on the barrens we were to become separated, you to go on and be killed when you we’re a proper distance away, and I to be brought back–to Rydal. Do you understand, Peter dear? Isn’t it splendid that we should have forced on us like this such wonderful material for a story!”
She was gloriously unafraid now. A paean of triumph rang in her voice, triumph, contempt, and utter fearlessness. Her mittened hand pressed on Peter’s shoulder, and before the weapon in her other hand Blake stood as if turned into stone.
“You don’t know,” she said, speaking to him directly, “how near I am to killing you. I think I shall shoot unless you have the meat and kindlings put on Peter’s sledge immediately and give Uppy instructions–in English–to drive us to Fort Confidence. Peter and I will both go with the six-dog sledge. Give the instructions quickly, Mr. Blake!”