"Still at work!" Crayford exclaimed,
looking at the half-demolished
bed-place. "Give yourself a little
rest, Richard. The exploring
party is ready to start. If you
wish to take leave of your brother
officers before they go, you
have no time to
He checked himself there, looking
Wardour full in the face.
"Good Heavens!" he cried, "how
pale you are! Has anything happened?"
Frank--searching in his locker
for articles of clothing which
he might require on the journey--looked
round. He was startled, as Crayford
had been startled, by the sudden
change in Wardour since they
had last seen him.
"Are you ill?" he asked. "I
hear you have been doing Bateson's
work for him. Have you hurt yourself?"
Wardour suddenly moved his
head, so as to hide his face
from both Crayford and Frank.
He took out his handkerchief,
and wound it clumsily round his
"Yes," he said; "I
hurt myself with the ax. It's
mind. Pain always has a curious
effect on me. I tell you it's
nothing! Don't notice it!"
He turned his face toward them
again as suddenly as he had turned
it away. He advanced a few steps,
and addressed himself with an
uneasy familiarity to Frank.
"I didn't answer
you civilly when you spoke
to me some little
time since. I mean when I first
came in here along with the rest
of them. I apologize. Shake hands!
How are you? Ready for the march?"
Frank met the oddly abrupt
advance which had been made to
him with perfect good humor.
"I am glad
to be friends with you, Mr.
Wardour. I wish I was
as well seasoned to fatigue as
Wardour burst into a hard,
joyless, unnatural laugh.
"Not strong, eh? You don't
look it. The dice had better
have sent me away, and kept you
here. I never felt in better
condition in my life." He paused
and added, with his eye on Frank
and with a strong emphasis on
the words: "We men of Kent are
made of tough material."
Frank advanced a step on his
side, with a new interest in
"You come from Kent?" he
"Yes. From East Kent." He waited
a little once more, and looked
hard at Frank. "Do you know that
part of the country?" he asked.
"I ought to know something
about East Kent," Frank answered. "Some
dear friends of mine once lived
"Friends of yours?" Wardour
repeated. "One of the county
families, I suppose?"
As he put the question, he
abruptly looked over his shoulder.
He was standing between Crayford
and Frank. Crayford, taking no
part in the conversation, had
been watching him, and listening
to him more and more attentively
as that conversation went on.
Within the last moment or two
Wardour had become instinctively
conscious of this. He resented
Crayford's conduct with needless
"Why are you staring at me?" he
"Why are you looking unlike
yourself?" Crayford answered,
Wardour made no reply. He renewed
the conversation with Frank.
"One of the county families?" he
resumed. "The Winterbys of Yew
Grange, I dare say?"
"No," said Frank; "but
friends of the Witherbys, very
Desperately as he struggled
to maintain it, Wardour's self-control
failed him. He started violently.
The clumsily-wound handkerchief
fell off his hand. Still looking
at him attentively, Crayford
picked it up.
"There is your handkerchief,
Richard," he said. "Strange!"
"What is strange?"
"You told us
you had hurt yourself with
"There is no
blood on your handkerchief."
the handkerchief out of Crayford's
turning away, approached the
outer door of the hut. "No blood
on the handkerchief," he said
to himself. "There may be a stain
or two when Crayford sees it
again." He stopped within a few
paces of the door, and spoke
to Crayford. "You recommended
me to take leave of my brother
officers before it was too late," he
said. "I am going to follow your
The door was opened from the
outer side as he laid his hand
on the lock.
One of the quartermasters of
the _Wanderer_ entered the hut.
"Is Captain Helding here, sir?" he
asked, addressing himself to
Wardour pointed to Crayford.
"The lieutenant will tell you," he
and questioned the quartermaster. "What do you
want with Captain Helding?" he
"I have a report
to make, sir. There has been
an accident on
"To one of
"No, sir. To
one of our officers."
Wardour, on the point of going
out, paused when the quartermaster
made that reply. For a moment
he considered with himself. Then
he walked slowly back to the
part of the room in which Frank
was standing. Crayford, directing
the quartermaster, pointed to
the arched door way in the side
of the hut.
"I am sorry to hear of the
accident," he said. "You will
find Captain Helding in that
For the second time, with singular
persistency, Wardour renewed
the conversation with Frank.
"So you knew the Burnhams?" he
said. "What became of Clara when
her father died?"
Frank's face flushed angrily
on the instant.
"Clara!" he repeated. "What
authorizes you to speak of Miss
Burnham in that familiar manner?"
Wardour seized the opportunity
of quarreling with him.
"What right have you to ask?" he
Frank's blood was up. He forgot
his promise to Clara to keep
their engagement secret--he forgot
everything but the unbridled
insolence of Wardour's language
"A right which I insist on
your respecting," he answered. "The
right of being engaged to marry
Crayford's steady eyes were
still on the watch, and Wardour
felt them on him. A little more
and Crayford might openly interfere.
Even Wardour recognized for once
the necessity of controlling
his temper, cost him what it
might. He made his apologies,
with overstrained politeness,
"Impos sible to dispute such
a right as yours," he said. "Perhaps
you will excuse me when you know
that I am one of Miss Burnham's
old friends. My father and her
father were neighbors. We have
always met like brother and sister--"
Frank generously stopped the
"Say no more," he interposed. "I
was in the wrong--I lost my temper.
Pray forgive me."
Wardour looked at him with
a strange, reluctant interest
while he was speaking. Wardour
asked an extraordinary question
when he had done.
"Is she very
fond of you?"
Frank burst out laughing.
"My dear fellow," he said, "come
to our wedding, and judge for
"Come to your wedding?" As
he repeated the words Wardour
stole one glance at Frank which
Frank (employed in buckling his
knapsack) failed to see. Crayford
noticed it, and Crayford's blood
ran cold. Comparing the words
which Wardour had spoken to him
while they were alone together
with the words that had just
passed in his presence, he could
draw but one conclusion. The
woman whom Wardour had loved
and lost was--Clara Burnham.
The man who had robbed him of
her was Frank Aldersley. And
Wardour had discovered it in
the interval since they had last
met. "Thank God!" thought Crayford, "the
dice have parted them! Frank
goes with the expedition, and
Wardour stays behind with me."
The reflection had barely occurred
to him--Frank's thoughtless invitation
to Wardour had just passed his
lips--when the canvas screen
over the doorway was drawn aside.
Captain Helding and the officers
who were to leave with the exploring
party returned to the main room
on their way out. Seeing Crayford,
Captain Helding stopped to speak
"I have a casualty to report," said
the captain, "which diminishes
our numbers by one. My second
lieutenant, who was to have joined
the exploring party, has had
a fall on the ice. Judging by
what the quartermaster tells
me, I am afraid the poor fellow
has broken his leg."
"I will supply his place," cried
a voice at the other end of the
Everybody looked round. The
man who had spoken was Richard
Crayford instantly interfered--so
vehemently as to astonish all
who knew him.
"No!" he said. "Not
you, Richard! not you!"
"Why not?" Wardour
"Why not, indeed?" added Captain
Helding. "Wardour is the very
man to be useful on a long march.
He is in perfect health, and
he is the best shot among us.
I was on the point of proposing
Crayford failed to show his
customary respect for his superior
officer. He openly disputed the
"Wardour has no right to volunteer," he
rejoined. "It has been settled,
Captain Helding, that chance
shall decide who is to go and
who is to stay."
"And chance _has_ decided it," cried
Wardour. "Do you think we are
going to cast the dice again,
and give an officer of the _Sea-mew_
a chance of replacing an officer
of the _Wanderer_? There is a
vacancy in our party, not in
yours; and we claim the right
of filling it as we please. I
volunteer, and my captain backs
me. Whose authority is to keep
me here after that?"
"Gently, Wardour," said Captain
Helding. "A man who is in the
right can afford to speak with
moderation." He turned to Crayford. "You
must admit yourself," he continued, "that
Wardour is right this time. The
missing man belongs to my command,
and in common justice one of
my officers ought to supply his
It was impossible to dispute
the matter further. The dullest
man present could see that the
captain's reply was unanswerable.
In sheer despair, Crayford took
Frank's arm and led him aside
a few steps. The last chance
left of parting the two men was
the chance of appealing to Frank.
"My dear boy," he began, "I
want to say one friendly word
to you on the subject of your
health. I have already, if you
remember, expressed my doubts
whether you are strong enough
to make one of an exploring party.
I feel those doubts more strongly
than ever at this moment. Will
you take the advice of a friend
who wishes you well?"
Wardour had followed Crayford.
Wardour roughly interposed before
Frank could reply.
"Let him alone!"
Crayford paid no heed to the
interruption. He was too earnestly
bent on withdrawing Frank from
the expedition to notice anything
that was said or done by the
persons about him.
"Don't, pray don't, risk hardships
which you are unfit to bear!" he
went on, entreatingly. "Your
place can be easily filled. Change
your mind, Frank. Stay here with
interfered. Again he called
out, "Leave him alone!" more
roughly than ever. Still deaf
and blind to every consideration
but one, Crayford pressed his
entreaties on Frank.
"You owned yourself just now
that you were not well seasoned
to fatigue," he persisted. "You
feel (you _must_ feel) how weak
that last illness has left you?
You know (I am sure you know)
how unfit you are to brave exposure
to cold, and long marches over
Irritated beyond endurance
by Crayford's obstinacy; seeing,
or thinking he saw, signs of
yielding in Frank's face, Wardour
so far forgot himself as to seize
Crayford by the arm and attempt
to drag him away from Frank.
Crayford turned and looked at
"Richard," he said, very quietly, "you
are not yourself. I pity you.
Drop your hand."
Wardour relaxed his hold, with
something of the sullen submission
of a wild animal to its keeper.
The momentary silence which followed
gave Frank an opportunity of
speaking at last.
"I am gratefully sensible,
Crayford," he began, "of the
interest which you take in me--"
"And you will follow my advice?" Crayford
"My mind is made up, old friend," Frank
answered, firmly and sadly. "Forgive
me for disappointing you. I am
appointed to the expedition.
With the expedition I go." He
moved nearer to Wardour. In his
innocence of all suspicion he
clapped Wardour heartily on the
shoulder. "When I feel the fatigue," said
poor simple Frank, "you will
help me, comrade--won't you?
Wardour snatched his gun out
of the hands of the sailor who
was carrying it for him. His
dark face became suddenly irradiated
with a terrible joy.
"Come!" he cried. "Over
the snow and over the ice!
where no human footsteps have
ever trodden, and where no human
trace is ever left."
Crayford made an effort to
His brother officers, standing
near, pulled him back. They looked
at each other anxiously. The
merciless cold, striking its
victims in various ways, had
struck in some instances at their
reason first. Everybody loved
Crayford. Was he, too, going
on the dark way that others had
taken before him? They forced
him to seat himself on one of
the lockers. "Steady, old fellow!" they
said kindly--"steady!" Crayford
yielded, writhing inwardly under
the sense of his own helplessness.
What in God's name could he do?
Could he denounce Wardour to
Captain Helding on bare suspicion--without
so much as the shadow of a proof
to justify what he said? The
captain would decline to insult
one of his officers by even mentioning
the monstrous accusation to him.
The captain would conclude, as
others had already concluded,
that Crayford's mind was giving
way under stress of cold and
privation. No hope--literally,
no hope now, but in the numbers
of the expedition. Officers and
men, they all liked Frank. As
long as they could stir hand
or foot, they would help him
on the way--they would see that
no harm came to him.
The word of command was given;
the door was thrown open; the
hut emptied rapidly. Over the
merciless white snow--under the
merciless black sky--the exploring
party began to move. The sick
and helpless men, whose last
hope of rescue centered in their
departing messmates, cheered
faintly. Some few whose days
were numbered sobbed and cried
like women. Frank's voice faltered
as he turned back at the door
to say his last words to the
friend who had been a father
Crayford broke away from the
officers near him; and, hurrying
forward, seized Frank by both
hands. Crayford held him as if
he would never let him go.
you, Frank! I would give all
I have in the
world to be with you. Good-by!
Frank waved his hand--das hed
away the tears that were gathering
in his eyes--and hurried out.
Crayford called after him, the
last, the only warning that he
can stand, keep with the main
Wardour, waiting till the last--Wardour,
following Frank through the snow-drift--stopped,
stepped back, and answered Crayford
at the door:
"While he can
stand, he keeps with Me."