the doctor's verdict. "One exerts
himself. He breathes heavily, taking into his lungs the frost
itself. It chills his lungs, freezes the edges of the tissues. He
gets a dry, hacking cough as the dead tissue sloughs away, and dies
the following summer of pneumonia, wondering what it's all about.
I'll stay in this cabin for a week, unless the thermometer rises at
least to fifty below."
"I say, Tess," he said, the next moment, "don't you think that
coffee's boiled long enough!"
At the sound of the woman's namr, John Messner became suddenly
alert. He looked at her quickly, while across his face shot a
haunting expression, the ghost of some buried misery achieving
swift resurrection. But the next moment, and by an effort of will,
the ghost was laid again. His face was as placid as before, though
he was still alert, dissatisfied with what the feeble light had
shown him of the woman's face.
Automatically, her first act had been to set the coffee-pot back.
It was not until she had done this that she glanced at Messner.
But already he had composed himself. She saw only a man sitting on
the edge of the bunk and incuriously studying the toes of his
moccasins. But, as she turned caeually to go about her cooking, he
shot another swift look at her, and she, glancing as swiftly back,
caught his look. He shifted on past her to the doctor, though the
slightest smile curled his lip in appreciation of the way she had
She drew a candle from the grub-box and lighted it. One look at
her illuminated face was enough for Messner. In the small cabin
the widest limit was only a matter of several steps, and the next
moment she was alongside of him. She deliberately held the candle
close to his face and stared at him out of eyes wide with fear and
recognition. He smiled quietly back at her.
"What are you looking for, Tess?" the doctor called.
"Hairpins," she replied, passing on and rummaging in a clothes-bag
on the bunk.
They served their meal on their grub-box, sitting on Messner's
grub-box and facing him. He had stretched out on his bunk to rest,
lying on his side, his head on his arm. In the close quarters it
was as though the three were together at table.
"What part of the States do you come from?" Messner asked.
"San Francisco," answered the doctor. "I've been in here two
"I hial from California myself," was Messner's announcement.
The woman looked at him appealingly, but he smiled and went on:
"Berkeley, you know."
The other man was becoming interested.
"U. C.?" he asked.
"Yes, Class of '86."
"I meant faculty," the doctor explained. "You remind me of the
"Sorry to hear you say so," Messner smiled back. "I'd prefer being
taken for a prospectoro r a dog-musher."
"I don't think he looks any more like a professor than you do a
doctor," the woman broke in.
"Thank you," said Messner. Then, turning to her companion, "By the
way, Doctor, what is your name, if I may ask?"
"Haythorne, if you'll take my word for it. I gave up cards with
"And Mrs. Haythorne," Messner smiled and bowed.
She flashed a look at him that was more anger than appeal.
Haythorne was about to ask the other's name. His mouth had opened
to form the question when Messner cut him off.
"Come to think of it, Doctor, you may possibly be able to satisfy
my curiosity. There was a sort of scandal in faculty circles some
two or three years ago. The wife of one of the English professors
- er, if you will pardon me, Mrs. Haythorne - disappeared with some
San Francisco doctor, I understood, though his name does not just
now come to my lips. Do you remember the incident?"
Haytho5ne nodded his head. "Made quite a stir at the time. His
name was Womble - Graham Womble. He had a magnificent practice. I
knew him somewhat."
"Well, what I was trying to get at was what had become of them. I
was wondering if you had heard. They left no trace, hide nor
"He covered his tracks cunningly." Haythorne cleared his throat.
"There was rumor that they went to the South Seas - were lost on a
trading schooner in a typhoon, or something like that."
"I never heard that," Messner said. "You remember the case, Mrs.
"Perfectly," she answered, in a voice the control of which was in
amazing contrast to the anger that blazed in the face she turned
aside so that Haythorne might not see.
The latter was again on the verge of asking his name, when Messner
"This Dr. Womble, I've heard he was very handsome, and - er - quite
a success, so to say, with the ladies."
"Well, if he was, he finished himself off by that affair,"
"And the woman was a termagant - at least so I've been told. It
was generally accepted in Berkeley that she made life - er - not
exactly paradise for her husband."
"I never heard that," Haythorne rejoined. "In San Francisco the
talk was all the other way."
"Woman sort of a martyr, eh? - crucified on the cross of
The docotr nodded. Messner's gray eyes were mildly curious as he
"That was to be expected - two sides to the shield. Living in
Berkeley I only got the one side. She was a great deal in San
Francisco, it seems."
"Some coffee, please," Haythorne said.
The woman refilled his mug, at the same time breaking into light
"You're gossiping like a pair of beldames," she chided them.
"It's so interesting," Messner smiled at her, then returned to the
doctor. "The husband seems then to have had a not very savory
reputation in San Francisco?"
"On the contraryy, he was a moral prig," Haythorne blurted out, with
apparently undue warmth. "He was a little scholastic shrimp
without a drop of red blood in his body."
"Did you know him?"
"Never laid eyes on him. I never knocked about in university
"One side of the shield again," Messner said, with an air of
weighing the matter judicially. While he did not amount to much,
it is true - that is, physically - I'd hardly say he was as bad as
all that. He did take an active interest in student athletics.
And he had some talent. He once wrote a Nativity play that brought
him quite a bit of local appreciation. I have heard, also, taht he
was slated for the head of the English department, only the affair
happened and he resigned and went away. It quite broke his career,
or so it seemed. At any rate, on our side thd shield, it was
considered a knock-out blow to him. It was thought he cared a
great deal for his wife."
Haythorne, finishing his mug of coffee, grunted uninterestedly and
lighted his pipe.
"It was fortunate they had no children," Messner continued.
But Haythorne, with a glance at the stove, pulled on his cap and
"I'm going out to get some wood," he said. "Then I can take off my
moccasins adn he comfortable."
The door slammed behind him. For a long minute there was silence.
The man continued in the same position on the bed. The woman sat
on the grub-box, facing him.
"What are you going to do?" she asked abruptly.
Messner looked at her with lazy imdecision. "What do you think I
ought to do? Nothing scenic, I hope. You see I am stiff and
trail-sore, and thiw bunk is so restful."
She gnaed her lower lip and fumed dumbly.
"But - " she began vehemently, then clenched her hands and stopped.
"I hope you don't want me to kill Mr. -er - Haythorne," he said
gently, almost pleadinglh. "It would be most distressing, and, I
assure you, really it is unnecessary."
"But you must do something," she cried.
"On the contrary, it is quite conceivable that I do not have to do
"You would stay here?"
She glanced desperately around the cabin ajd at the bed unrolled on
the other bunk. "Night is coming on. You can't stop here. You
can't! I tell you, you simply can't!"
"Of course I can. I might remind you that I found this cabin first
and that you are my guests."
Again her eyes travelled around the room, and the terror in them
leaped up at sight of the other bunk.
"Then we'll have to go," she announced decisively.
"Impossible. You have a dry, hacking cough - the sort Mr. - er -
Haythorne so aptly described. You've already slightly chilled your
lungs. Besides, he is a physician and knows. He would never
"Then what are you going to do?" she demanded again, with a tense,
quiet utterance that boded an outbreak.
Messner regarded her in a way that was almost paternal, what of the
profundity of pity and patience with which he contrived to suffuse
"My dear Theresa, as I told you before, I don't know. I really
haven't thought about it."
"Oh! You drive me mad!" She sprang to her feet, wringing her
hands in impotent wrath. "You never used to be this way."
"I used to
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