Blake, recovering from the shock she had given him, flashed back at her his cool and cynical smile. In spite of being caught in an unpleasant lie, he admired this golden-haired, blue-eyed slip of a woman for the colossal bluff she was playing. “Personally, I’m sorry,” he said, “but I couldn’t help it. Rydal–”
“I am sure, unless you give the instructions quickly, that I shall shoot,” she interrupted him. Her voice was so quiet that Peter was amazed. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Keith. But–”
A flash of fire blinded him, and with the flash Blake staggered back with a cry of pain and stood swaying unsteadily in the starlight, clutching with one hand at an arm which hung limp and useless at his side.
“That time, I broke your arm,” said Dolores, with scarcely more excitement than if she had made a bull’s-eye on the Piping Rock range. “If I fire again, I am quite positive that I shall kill you!”
The Eskimos had not moved. They were like three lifeless, staring gargoyles. For another second or two Blake stood clutching at his arm. Then he said,
“Uppy, put the dog meat and the kindlings on the big sledge–and drive like hell for Fort Confidence!” And then, before she could stop him, he followed up his words swiftly and furiously in Eskimo.
She almost shrieked the one word of warning, and with it a second shot burned its way through the flesh of Blake’s shoulder and he went down. The revolver turned on Uppy, and instantly he was electrified into life. Thirty seconds later, at the head of the team, he was leading the way out into the chaotic gloom of the night. Hovering over Peter, riding with her hand on the gee-bar of the sledge, Dolores looked back to see Blake staggering to his feet. He shouted after them, and what he said was in Uppy’s tongue. And this time she could not stop him.
She had forgotten Wapi. But as the night swallowed them up, she still looked back, and through the gloom she saw a shadow coming swiftly. In a few moments Wapi was running at the tail of the sledge. Then she leaned over Peter and encircled his shoulders with her furry arms.
“We’re off!” she cried, a breaking note of gladness in her voice. “We’re off! And, Peter dear, wasn’t it perfectly thrilling!”
A few minutes later she called upon Uppy to stop the team. Then she faced him, close to Peter, with the revolver in her hand.
“Uppy,” she demanded, speaking slowly and distinctly, “what was it Blake said to you?”
For a moment Uppy made as if to feign stupidity. The revolver covered a spot half-way between his narrow-slit eyes.
“I shall shoot–”
Uppy gave a choking gasp. “He said–no take trail For’ Con’dence–go wrong–he come soon get you.”
“Yes, he said just that.” She picked her words even more slowly. “Uppy, listen to me. If you let them come up with us–unless you get us to Fort Confidence–I will kill you. Do you understand?”
She poked her revolver a foot nearer, and Uppy nodded emphatically. She smiled. It was almost funny to see Uppy’s understanding liven up at the point of the gun, and she felt a thrill that tingled to her finger-tips. The little devils of adventure were wide-awake in her, and, smiling at Uppy, she told him to hold up the end of his driving whip. He obeyed. The revolver flashed, and a muffled yell came from him as he felt the shock of the bullet as it struck fairly against the butt of his whip. In the same instant there came a snarling deep-throated growl from Wapi. From the sledge Peter gave a cry of warning. Uppy shrank back, and Dolores cried out sharply and put herself swiftly between Wapi and the Eskimo. The huge dog, ready to spring, slunk back to the end of the sledge at the command of her voice. She patted his big head before she got on the sledge behind Peter.
There was no indecision in the manner of Uppy’s going now. He struck out swift and straight for the pale constellation of stars that hung over Fort Confidence. It was splendid traveling. The surface of the arctic plain was frozen solid. What little wind there was came from behind them, and the dogs were big and fresh. Uppy ran briskly, snapping the lash of his whip and la-looing to the dogs in the manner of the Eskimo driver. Dolores did not wait for Peter’s demand for a further explanation of their running away and her remarkable words to Blake. She told him. She omitted, for the sake of Peter’s peace of mind, the physical insults she had suffered at Captain Rydal’s hands. She did not tell him that Rydal had forced her into his arms a few hours before and kissed her. What she did reveal made Peter’s arms and shoulders grow tense and he groaned in his helplessness.
“If you’d only told me!” he protested. Dolores laughed triumphantly, with her arm about his shoulder. “I knew my dear old Peter too well for that,” she exulted. “If I had told you, what a pretty mess we’d be in now, Peter! You would have insisted on calling Captain Rydal into our cabin and shooting him from the bed–and then where would we have been? Don’t you think I’m handling it pretty well, Peter dear?”