The girl crept nearer, lying almost prone beside him, and her soft hands stole over his bruised flesh. But no tears came now. She was past the kindly mercy of tears. She could only gaze at him, and sometimes dry half-sobs clutched at her throat. The man half-opened his eyes, smiling. Life still remained in his rugged body. Even the cruel test of the last hour had not taken that from him.
But he knew better than that, and guessing very shrewdly that he was not wholly unconnected with the matter himself, questioned her as closely as was consistent with delicacy, and, in the end, after some diplomacy, and a few more of surprised, piteous, little unwilling half-sobs, gleaned a great deal of the truth from her.
The animal no longer crouched. Rather he was standing rigid, his head half-turned and lifted, gazing away toward a distant ridge behind the lake. A wilderness message had reached him, clear as a voice. But presently Ben understood. Throbbing through the night he heard a weird, far-carrying call a long-drawn note, broken by half-sobs the mysterious, plaintive utterance of the wild itself.
So bright did it become that Cuthfert thought the sun must surely be behind it a miracle, the sun rising in the north! Suddenly, without warning and without fading, the canvas was swept clean. There was no color in the sky. The light had gone out of the day. They caught their breaths in half-sobs.
The little ones shouted and babbled, were lifted high on their fathers' shoulders, or clamored with disappointed half-sobs down in the crowd which shut out all vision, beside the weary, expostulating mothers whose arms were filled with wee things who could not stand, and who had come early in the day so early in hope of a treat for the bambini.
With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, and was more the pleading of life, the articulate travail of existence.