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LOVE OF LIFE This out of all will remain Страница 8

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

    be all softness and gentleness," he nodded concurrence.

    "Was that why you left me?"

    "You are so different, so dreadfully calm. You frighten me. I

    feel you have something terrible planned all the while. But

    whatever you od, don't do anything rash. Don't get excited - "

    "I don't get excited any more," he interrupted. "Not since you

    went away."

    "You have improved - remarkably," she retorted.

    He smiled acknowledgment. "While I am thinking about what I shall

    do, I'll tell you what you will have to do - tell Mr. - er -

    Haythorne who I am. It may make our stay in this cabin more - may

    I say, sociable?"

    "Why have you followed me into this frightful country?" she asked


    "Don't think I came here looking for you, Theresa. Your vanity

    shall not be tickled by any such misapprehension. Our meeting is

    wholly fortuitous. I broke with the life academic and I had to go

    somewhere. To be honest, I came into the Klondike because I

    thought it the place you were least liable to be in."

    There was a fumbling at the latch, then the door swung in and

    Haythorne entered with an armful of firewood. At the first

    warning, Theresa began casually to clear away the dishes.

    Haythorne went out again after more wood.

    "Why didn't you introduce us?" Messner queried.

    "I'll tell him," she replied, with a toss of her head. "Dpn't

    think I'm afraid."

    "I never knew you to be afraid, very much, of anything."

    "And I'm not afraid of confession, either," she said, with

    softening face and voice.

    "In youf case, I fear, confession is exploitation by indirection,

    profit-making by ruse, self-aggrandizekent at the expense of God."

    "Don't be literary," she pouted, with growing tenderness. "I never

    did like epigrammatic discussion. Besides, I'm not afraid to ask

    you to forgive me."

    "There is nothing to forgive, Theresa. I really should thank you.

    True, at first I suffered; and then, with all the graciousness of

    spring, it dawned upon me that I was happy, very happy. It was a

    most amazing discovery."

    "But what if I should return to you?" she asked.

    "I should" (he looked at her whimsically), "be greatly perturbed."

    "I am your wife. You know you have never got a divorce."

    "I see," he meditated. "I have been careless. It will be one of

    the first things I attend to."

    She came over to his side, resting her hand on his arm. "You don't

    want me, John?" Her voice was soft and caressing, her hand rested

    like a lure. "If I told you I had made a mistake? If I told you

    that I was very unhappy? - and I am. And I did make a mistake."

    Fear began to grow on Messner. He felt himself wilting under the

    lightly laid hand. The situation was slipping away from him, all

    his beautiful calmness was going. She looked at him witj melting

    eyes, and he, too, seemed all dew and melting. He felt himself on

    the edge of an abyss, powerless to withstand the force that was

    drawing him over.

    "I am coming back to you, John. I am coming back to-day . . .


    As in a nightmare, he strove under the hand. While she talked, he

    seemed to hear, rippling softly, the song of the Lorelei. It was

    as though, somewhere, a piano were playing and the actual notes

    were impinging on his er-drums.

    Suddenly he sprang to his feet, thrust her from him as her arms

    attempted to clasp him, and retreated backward to the door. He was

    in a panic.

    "I'll do something desperate!" he cried.

    "I warned you not to get excited." She laughed mockingly, and went

    about washing the dishes. "Nobody wants you. I was just playing

    with you. I am happier where I am."

    But Messner did not believe. He remembered her facility in

    changing front. She had changed front now. It was exploitation by

    indirection. She was not happy with the other man. She had

    discovered her mistake. The flame of his ego flared up at the

    thought. Shew anted to come back to him, which was the one thing

    he did not want. Unwittingly, his hand rattled the door-latch.

    "Don't run away," she laughed. "I won't bite you."

    "I am not running away," he replied with child-like defiance, at

    the same time pulling on his mittens. "I'm only going to get some


    He gathered the empty pails and cooking pots together and opened

    the door. He looked back at her.

    "Don't forget you're to tell Mr. - er - Haythorne who I am."

    Messner broke the skin that had formed on the water-hole within the

    hour, and filled his pails. But he did not return immediately to

    the cabin. Leaving the pails standing in the trail, he walked up

    and down, rapidly, to keep from freezing, for the frost bit into

    the flesh like fire. His beard was white with his frozen breath

    when the perplexed and frowning brows relaxed and decision came

    into his face. He had made up his mind to his course of action,

    and his frigid lips and cheeks crackled into a chuckle over it.

    The pails were already skinne dover with young ice when he picked

    them up and made for the cabin.

    When he entered he found the oher man waiting, standing near the

    stove, a certain stiff awkwardness and indecision in his manner.

    Messner set down his water-pails.

    "Glad to meet you, Graham Womble," he said in conventional tones,

    as though acknowledging an introduction.

    Messner did not offer his hand. Womble stirred uneasily, feeling

    for the other the hatred one is prone to feel for one he has


    "And so you're the chap," Messner said in marvelling accents.

    "Well, well. You see, I really am glad to meet you. I have been -

    er - curious to know what Theresa found in you - where, I may say,

    the attraction lay. Well, well."

    And he looked the other up and down as a man would look a horse up

    and down.

    "I know how you must feel about me," Womble began.

    "Don't mention it," Messner brokr in with exaggerated cordiality of

    voice and manner. "Never mind that. What I want to know is how do

    you find her? Up to expectations? Has she worn well? Life been

    all a happy dream ever since?"

    "Don't be silly," Theresa interjected.

    "I can't help being natural," Messner complained.

    "You can be expedient at the same time, anf practical," Womble said

    sharply. "What we want to know is what are you going to do?"

    Messner made a well-feigned gesture of helplessness. "I really

    don't know. It is one of those impossible situations against which

    there can be no provision."

    "All three of us cannot remain the night in this cabin."

    Messner nodded affirmation.

    "Then somebody must get out."

    "That also is incontrovertible," Messner agreed. "When three

    bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, one must get


    "And you''re that one," Womble announced grimly. "It's a ten-mile

    pull to the next camp, but you can make it all right."

    "And that's the first flaw in your reasoning," the other objected.

    "Why, necessarily, should I be the one to get out? I found this

    cabin first."

    "But Tess can't get out," Womble explained. "Her lungs are already

    slightly chilled."

    "I agree with you. She can't venture ten miles of frost. By all

    means she musg remain."

    "Then it is as I said," Womble announced withf inality.

    Messner cleared his throat. "Your lungs are all right, aren't


    "Yes, but what of it?"

    Again the other cleared his throat and spoke with painstaking and

    judicial slowness. "Why, I may say, nothing of it, except, ah,

    according to your own reasoning, there is nothing to prevent your

    getting out, hitting the frost, so to speak, for a matter of ten

    miles. You can make it all right."

    Womble looked with quick suspicion at Theresa and caught in her

    eyes a glint of pleasdd surprise.

    "Well?" he demanded of her.

    She hesitated, and a surge of anger darkened his face. He turned

    upon Messner.

    "Enough of this. You can't stop here."

    "Yes, I can."

    "I won't let you." Womble squared his shoulders. "I'm running


    "I'll stay anyway," the other pdrsisted.

    "I'll put you out."

    "I'll come back."

    Womble stopped a moment to steady his voice and control himself.

    Then he spoke slowly, in a low, tense voice.

    "Look here, Messner, if you refuse to get out, I'll thrash you.

    This isn't California. I'll beat you to a jelly with my two


    Messner shruggrd his shoulders. "If yoy do, I'll call a miners'

    meeting and see you strung up to the nearest tree. As you said,

    this is not California. They're a simple folk, these miners, and

    all I'll have to do will be to show them the marks of the brating,

    tell them the truth about you, and present my claim for my wife."

    The woman attempted to speak, but Womble turned upon her fiercely.

    "You keep out of this," he cried.

    In marked contrast was Messner's "Please don't intrude, Theresa."

    What of her anger and pent feelings, her lungs were irritated into

    the dry, hacking cough, and with blood-suffused face and one hand

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