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 skinned over with young ice when he picked them up and made for the cabin.
When he entered he found the other 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 wronged.
"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 broke 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?"