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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XIX A WOMAN'S WAY
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 They had not been forgotten while they journeyed through the wilds. Frobisher thought of them now and then, and his daughter more often; indeed, her mind dwelt a good deal on Andrew after he left and she found herself looking forward eagerly to his return. She spent some weeks in an American city with her father, but its gaieties had less attraction for her than usual, and she was glad when they went back for a time to the Lake of Shadows. On the day after her arrival she drove across the ice to the Landing and inquired at a store where news circulated whether anything had been heard of the Allinson expedition. The proprietor1 had nothing to tell her, but while she spoke2 to him a man crossed the floor, and she saw with annoyance3 that it was Mappin. She left while he made his purchases, but he joined her when she was putting some parcels into the sleigh, and did not seem daunted4 by the coldness of her manner.  
"I didn't know you were coming back so soon," he greeted her.
"Didn't you?" she asked indifferently. "When my father had finished his business we suddenly made up our minds to leave, without consulting Mrs. Denton. I suppose that explains your ignorance."
"You're smart," he said. "As soon as you're ready to receive people I must make my call."
It was getting dark, but the lights from the store[Pg 195] window fell on his face, and Geraldine saw a glitter in his eyes. She thought he meant to defy her.
"You are excused, so far as I am concerned," she replied uncompromisingly.
Mappin stood silent a moment or two, looking at her hard, and she felt half afraid of him.
"You would rather see Allinson! But that's a pleasure you may find deferred5. You didn't get much news of him just now!"
"I don't doubt that you heard me ask for it, though there were two teamsters waiting to buy things, who had the good manners to keep away."
"Certainly I heard," he answered coolly; "that's the kind of man I am. I don't let chances pass."
Geraldine knew that he would make unscrupulous use of those he seized, but his candor6 had its effect on her. He was overbearing, but there was force in the man, and she grew uneasy. Though she shrank from him, she admitted his power; unless she roused herself to fight, he might break her will.
"One could hardly consider it an admirable type," she said, getting into the sleigh. "However, it's too cold to stand talking."
Mappin was obliged to step back when she started the team, and she drove off in some confusion, glad to escape, but feeling that she had run away. It had seemed the safest course, though she did not think she was a coward. Then as the team trotted7 across the frozen lake she remembered Mappin's curious tone when he had spoken of Andrew Allinson. He had suggested with an unpleasant hint of satisfaction that Andrew's return might be delayed, and she grew troubled as she thought of it. Still, she reasoned, as no news had reached the Landing, Mappin could know[Pg 196] nothing about the matter, and the men Andrew had with him were accustomed to the bush. Dismissing the subject, she urged the horses and drew the thick driving-robe close about her. It was very cold and she shivered as she wondered how Andrew and his comrades were faring in the North.
Some days later she met Mrs. Graham at the post-office and inquired about her husband. Geraldine thought she looked anxious.
"He's a little behind time; but soft snow or storms might delay the party."
"Then he mentioned a time when you could expect him?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Graham. "He warned me that he might be a week late; but they thought out the journey very carefully, because it was a question of carrying enough food."
"You mean that helped to fix the time of their return?"
"Of course! They couldn't get food anywhere except at a Hudson Bay factory, and they couldn't take a large quantity. That means they knew within a week or so when they must reach the provision caches that were to be made for them north of the mine."
"I understand," said Geraldine. "They wouldn't delay when they came to the caches, except, perhaps, for a day's rest. I suppose the food was taken up?"
"Oh, yes! I saw the packers leave and come down. They were good bushmen and one of them knew the country. He made the caches at the places decided8 on."
"Then the expedition should be quite safe," said Geraldine cheerfully; but when she left Mrs. Graham she grew thoughtful.
[Pg 197]Andrew was late and Geraldine saw that delay might be dangerous. The men would lose no time in coming south, because, considering the difficulty of transport, the margin9 of provisions would not be large. Nothing but a serious accident would detain them, which was disconcerting to reflect upon. Then she reasoned that their provisions would be nearly exhausted10 when they reached the caches, and her mind dwelt on the point, because it was essential that they should obtain fresh supplies. She felt uneasy as she remembered a remark of Mappin's, which she did not think he had made casually11. There had been a significant grimness in his manner when he had spoken of Allinson. After all, however, it was possible that there was no ground for anxiety: the prospectors12 might turn up in the next few days.
As there was no news of them, however, Geraldine drove to the settlement one evening and called on Mrs. Graham. She found her seriously disturbed.
"A man came down from the mine this morning, and my husband hadn't arrived," she said. "I'm afraid something has gone wrong!"
"What can have gone wrong?"
"I don't know; I've been thinking about it all the last few days and trying not to be afraid. Of course, they would be safe if they reached the food caches."
"Yes," said Geraldine; "those caches are important. But as nobody has turned up I don't think you need be alarmed. The worst would be if one came back alone."
Mrs. Graham did not seem much comforted when Geraldine left her; and the girl, driving home in the moonlight, tried to face the situation calmly. She admitted, without reserve for the first time, that she loved Andrew Allinson; and he was in danger. Something[Pg 198] must be done to extricate13 him, and while she wondered how she ought to set about it her thoughts turned to Mappin. It dawned on her that he knew what peril14 threatened the party, and this suggested that he had either allowed the men to involve themselves in unsuspected difficulties, or had brought the difficulties about. They had depended on him in some way and he had betrayed them. Geraldine shuddered15 at the thought, but she roused herself, for it was obvious that if her suspicions were correct, the man's designs must be combated. Mappin was strong and cunning; but she had ready wits and her lover's safety was at stake.
The next evening Mappin came to the house, and Geraldine carefully made some changes in her dress before she entered the drawing-room, where he was talking with Mrs. Denton. He rose with a challenging smile as she came in, and Geraldine was glad to feel that she was looking her best. It was humiliating to dress to please this man, but there was a struggle before her and she must use such weapons as she had.
"You're surprised to see me?" he said.
"Oh, no! I didn't doubt your boldness."
Mappin glanced at her sharply, for there was nothing ungracious in her tone. Her manner hinted at a change of mood; but he understood that women were variable.
"Then I have your permission to remain?"
"I'm not sure that you need it, and it would be inhospitable to refuse it," Geraldine replied, as if amused.
Mrs. Denton looked from one to the other in a puzzled way, but she said nothing, and Mappin began to talk, relating scraps16 of news picked up at the Landing. Geraldine showed some interest, and after a while Mrs. Denton, seeing them apparently17 on good terms, judiciously18 left them. T............
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