And there was that note of force and anxiety in his voice which Steve never remembered to have heard before. Impulse urged him. It was quite beyond his power to restrain it. He waited not a moment for An-ina's reply. Snatching his pipe from his mouth he shouted swift response as he made for the store. "Why, surely, boy," he cried. "It don't seem to me there's a thing north of 60° to do me hurt."
"The forests where the wolves are. And the Sleepers. And the snow comes down, and we dig ourselves out. And the dogs, and sleds, and we go soon very soon! Can't we go now? Oo-o!" "Not now, but soon." Steve's satisfaction was in the glance of thanks which he flashed into An-ina's watching eyes. "But now I must really go along to the house, old fellow," he said, with a sigh.
Marcel go! Bring this white girl. But Marcel say, 'No. Uncle Steve not come back. An-ina alone. Oh, no. Marcel go bimeby. Then An-ina say, 'Go. She know. Him all sick for Keeko. So. Marcel go." An-ina's low, gentle laugh came straight from the woman in her. Just as her account of Marcel's reluctance to leave her was a touch of the mother defending her offspring. But Steve missed these things.
We can start right away, and I guess you can't just set the gait too hot." Steve pushed back from the table in An-ina's kitchen. The woman was standing ready to minister to his lightest demands. She had waited on him throughout the meal, and remained standing the whole time. It was a habit, which, throughout their years of life together, Steve had been powerless to break her of.
He came to release the willing creature, yearning for that moment when she could revel in the joy of the contemplation of her boy's happiness. Steve took his place in the traffic that was going on, and nodded soberly to the eager, dusky woman. "Get right along, An-ina," he said kindly. "Guess they're needing you." "Oh, yes? Marcel Keeko." An-ina's eyes lit. "Sure and Keeko."
He sent you where you found our boy, and later made things so you came along to home. My dear, I'm just glad." Then he added in response to the wonderful light which his words brought into the girl's pretty eyes: "Say, just come right in. An-ina's inside. She'll get you rested and fed. And she'll hand you a mother's welcome, same as I do a father's." The girl made no movement to obey.
The smile that responded to An-ina's sly glance was one of boyish shyness and held no threat of displeasure. "Guess An-ina packed her to bed, Uncle Steve," he explained. "Keeko hadn't a notion that way, but it didn't signify with An-ina. She reckoned Keeko ought to be plumb beat and needing her bed. So she just handed her supper, and gave her her own bed to sleep in."
And An-ina's soft eyes were observing him, and reading him in her own wise way. "You tell me now?" she said, in the fashion of one who knows the value of food to her men folk's mood. Marcel nodded with a ready smile. "Any old thing you fancy," he cried. "What'll I tell you? About the darn outfit, the pelts we got? The woods? The rivers? The skitters? The " An-ina shook her head.
A flicker of disappointment passed over the dusky face of the woman. But there was no demur. She understood. Steve wanted Marcel to himself for this, his first evening. So she bowed to the man's will. With her going the two men sat in at the supper table. And of the two it was only Marcel who did real justice to the plain fare An-ina's hands had set out for them.
"Well, if things should happen so I don't get back I'll fix it so the boy gets all the stuff my father's handed me, and I'll ask you to raise him as if he was your own. You haven't a son, Doc. He won't be a worry. An-ina's his nurse, and he couldn't have a better. If I come back I'm hoping your Millie won't be too grieved at parting from him. Can you fix that, too?