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´╗┐Title: Love of Life and Other Stories
Author: London, Jack, 1876-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Love of Life and Other Stories" ***

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Transcribed from the 1913 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email



New York
_All rights reserved_


{He watched the play of life before him: p0.jpg}

Set up and electrotyped.  Published September, 1907.  Reprinted December,
1907; December, 1911.  October, 1913.


   "This out of all will remain--
      They have lived and have tossed:
   So much of the game will be gain,
      Though the gold of the dice has been lost."

They limped painfully down the bank, and once the foremost of the two men
staggered among the rough-strewn rocks.  They were tired and weak, and
their faces had the drawn expression of patience which comes of hardship
long endured.  They were heavily burdened with blanket packs which were
strapped to their shoulders.  Head-straps, passing across the forehead,
helped support these packs.  Each man carried a rifle.  They walked in a
stooped posture, the shoulders well forward, the head still farther
forward, the eyes bent upon the ground.

"I wish we had just about two of them cartridges that's layin' in that
cache of ourn," said the second man.

His voice was utterly and drearily expressionless.  He spoke without
enthusiasm; and the first man, limping into the milky stream that foamed
over the rocks, vouchsafed no reply.

The other man followed at his heels.  They did not remove their
foot-gear, though the water was icy cold--so cold that their ankles ached
and their feet went numb.  In places the water dashed against their
knees, and both men staggered for footing.

The man who followed slipped on a smooth boulder, nearly fell, but
recovered himself with a violent effort, at the same time uttering a
sharp exclamation of pain.  He seemed faint and dizzy and put out his
free hand while he reeled, as though seeking support against the air.
When he had steadied himself he stepped forward, but reeled again and
nearly fell.  Then he stood still and looked at the other man, who had
never turned his head.

The man stood still for fully a minute, as though debating with himself.
Then he called out:

"I say, Bill, I've sprained my ankle."

Bill staggered on through the milky water.  He did not look around.  The
man watched him go, and though his face was expressionless as ever, his
eyes were like the eyes of a wounded deer.

The other man limped up the farther bank and continued straight on
without looking back.  The man in the stream watched him.  His lips
trembled a little, so that the rough thatch of brown hair which covered
them was visibly agitated.  His tongue even strayed out to moisten them.

"Bill!" he cried out.

It was the pleading cry of a strong man in distress, but Bill's head did
not turn.  The man watched him go, limping grotesquely and lurching
forward with stammering gait up the slow slope toward the soft sky-line
of the low-lying hill.  He watched him go till he passed over the crest
and disappeared.  Then he turned his gaze and slowly took in the circle
of the world that remained to him now that Bill was gone.

Near the horizon the sun was smouldering dimly, almost obscured by
formless mists and vapors, which gave an impression of mass and density
without outline or tangibility.  The man pulled out his watch, the while
resting his weight on one leg.  It was four o'clock, and as the season
was near the last of July or first of August,--he did not know the
precise date within a week or two,--he knew that the sun roughly marked
the northwest.  He looked to the south and knew that somewhere beyond
those bleak hills lay the Great Bear Lake; also, he knew that in that
direction the Arctic Circle cut its forbidding way across the Canadian
Barrens.  This stream in which he stood was a feeder to the Coppermine
River, which in turn flowed north and emptied into Coronation Gulf and
the Arctic Ocean.  He had never been there, but he had seen it, once, on
a Hudson Bay Company chart.

Again his gaze completed the circle of the world about him.  It was not a
heartening spectacle.  Everywhere was soft sky-line.  The hills were all
low-lying.  There were no trees, no shrubs, no grasses--naught but a
tremendous and terrible desolation that sent fear swiftly dawning into
his eyes.

"Bill!" he whispered, once and twice; "Bill!"

He cowered in the midst of the milky water, as though the vastness were
pressing in upon him with overwhelming force, brutally crushing him with
its complacent awfulness.  He began to shake as with an ague-fit, till
the gun fell from his hand with a splash.  This served to rouse him.  He
fought with his fear and pulled himself together, groping in the water
and recovering the weapon.  He hitched his pack farther over on his left
shoulder, so as to take a portion of its weight from off the injured
ankle.  Then he proceeded, slowly and carefully, wincing with pain, to
the bank.

He did not stop.  With a desperation that was madness, unmindful of the
pain, he hurried up the slope to the crest of the hill over which his
comrade had disappeared--more grotesque and comical by far than that
limping, jerking comrade.  But at the crest he saw a shallow valley,
empty of life.  He fought with his fear again, overcame it, hitched the
pack still farther over on his left shoulder, and lurched on down the

The bottom of the valley was soggy with water, which the thick moss held,
spongelike, close to the surface.  This water squirted out from under his
feet at every step, and each time he lifted a foot the action culminated
in a sucking sound as the wet moss reluctantly released its grip.  He
picked his way from muskeg to muskeg, and followed the other man's
footsteps along and across the rocky ledges which thrust like islets
through the sea of moss.

Though alone, he was not lost.  Farther on he knew he would come to where
dead spruce and fir, very small and weazened, bordered the shore of a
little lake, the _titchin-nichilie_, in the tongue of the country, the
"land of little sticks."  And into that lake flowed a small stream, the
water of which was not milky.  There was rush-grass on that stream--this
he remembered well--but no timber, and he would follow it till its first
trickle ceased at a divide.  He would cross this divide to the first
trickle of another stream, flowing to the west, which he would follow
until it emptied into the river Dease, and here he would find a cache
under an upturned canoe and piled over with many rocks.  And in this
cache would be ammunition for his empty gun, fish-hooks and lines, a
small net--all the utilities for the killing and snaring of food.  Also,
he would find flour,--not much,--a piece of bacon, and some beans.

Bill would be waiting for him there, and they would paddle away south
down the Dease to the Great Bear Lake.  And south across the lake they
would go, ever south, till they gained the Mackenzie.  And south, still
south, they would go, while the winter raced vainly after them, and the
ice formed in the eddies, and the days grew chill and crisp, south to
some warm Hudson Bay Company post, where timber grew tall and generous
and there was grub without end.

These were the thoughts of the man as he strove onward.  But hard as he
strove with his body, he strove equally hard with his mind, trying to
think that Bill had not deserted him, that Bill would surely wait for him
at the cache.  He was compelled to think this thought, or else there
would not be any use to strive, and he would have lain down and died.  And
as the dim ball of the sun sank slowly into the northwest he covered
every inch--and many times--of his and Bill's flight south before the
downcoming winter.  And he conned the grub of the cache and the grub of
the Hudson Bay Company post over and over again.  He had not eaten for
two days; for a far longer time he had not had all he wanted to eat.
Often he stooped and picked pale muskeg berries, put them into his mouth,
and chewed and swallowed them.  A muskeg berry is a bit of seed enclosed
in a bit of water.  In the mouth the water melts away and the seed chews
sharp and bitter.  The man knew there was no nourishment in the berries,
but he chewed them patiently with a hope greater than knowledge and
defying experience.

At nine o'clock he stubbed his toe on a rocky ledge, and from sheer
weariness and weakness staggered and fell.  He lay for some time, without
movement, on his side.  Then he slipped out of the pack-straps and
clumsily dragged himself into a sitting posture.  It was not yet dark,
and in the lingering twilight he groped about among the rocks for shreds
of dry moss.  When he had gathered a heap he built a fire,--a
smouldering, smudgy fire,--and put a tin pot of water on to boil.

He unwrapped his pack and the first thing he did was to count his
matches.  There were sixty-seven.  He counted them three times to make
sure.  He divided them into several portions, wrapping them in oil paper,
disposing of one bunch in his empty tobacco pouch, of another bunch in
the inside band of his battered hat, of a third bunch under his shirt on
the chest.  This accomplished, a panic came upon him, and he unwrapped
them all and counted them again.  There were still sixty-seven.

He dried his wet foot-gear by the fire.  The moccasins were in soggy
shreds.  The blanket socks were worn through in places, and his feet were
raw and bleeding.  His ankle was throbbing, and he gave it an
examination.  It had swollen to the size of his knee.  He tore a long
strip from one of his two blankets and bound the ankle tightly.  He tore
other strips and bound them about his feet to serve for both moccasins
and socks.  Then he drank the pot of water, steaming hot, wound his
watch, and crawled between his blankets.

He slept like a dead man.  The brief darkness around midnight came and
went.  The sun arose in the northeast--at least the day dawned in that
quarter, for the sun was hidden by gray clouds.

At six o'clock he awoke, quietly lying on his back.  He gazed straight up
into the gray sky and knew that he was hungry.  As he rolled over on his
elbow he was startled by a loud snort, and saw a bull caribou regarding
him with alert curiosity.  The animal was not mere than fifty feet away,
and instantly into the man's mind leaped the vision and the savor of a
caribou steak sizzling and frying over a fire.  Mechanically he reached
for the empty gun, drew a bead, and pulled the trigger.  The bull snorted
and leaped away, his hoofs rattling and clattering as he fled across the

The man cursed and flung the empty gun from him.  He groaned aloud as he
started to drag himself to his feet.  It was a slow and arduous task.

His joints were like rusty hinges.  They worked harshly in their sockets,
with much friction, and each bending or unbending was accomplished only
through a sheer exertion of will.  When he finally gained his feet,
another minute or so was consumed in straightening up, so that he could
stand erect as a man should stand.

He crawled up a small knoll and surveyed the prospect.  There were no
trees, no bushes, nothing but a gray sea of moss scarcely diversified by
gray rocks, gray lakelets, and gray streamlets.  The sky was gray.  There
was no sun nor hint of sun.  He had no idea of north, and he had
forgotten the way he had come to this spot the night before.  But he was
not lost.  He knew that.  Soon he would come to the land of the little
sticks.  He felt that it lay off to the left somewhere, not far--possibly
just over the next low hill.

He went back to put his pack into shape for travelling.  He assured
himself of the existence of his three separate parcels of matches, though
he did not stop to count them.  But he did linger, debating, over a squat
moose-hide sack.  It was not large.  He could hide it under his two
hands.  He knew that it weighed fifteen pounds,--as much as all the rest
of the pack,--and it worried him.  He finally set it to one side and
proceeded to roll the pack.  He paused to gaze at the squat moose-hide
sack.  He picked it up hastily with a defiant glance about him, as though
the desolation were trying to rob him of it; and when he rose to his feet
to stagger on into the day, it was included in the pack on his back.

He bore away to the left, stopping now and again to eat muskeg berries.
His ankle had stiffened, his limp was more pronounced, but the pain of it
was as nothing compared with the pain of his stomach.  The hunger pangs
were sharp.  They gnawed and gnawed until he could not keep his mind
steady on the course he must pursue to gain the land of little sticks.
The muskeg berries did not allay this gnawing, while they made his tongue
and the roof of his mouth sore with their irritating bite.

He came upon a valley where rock ptarmigan rose on whirring wings from
the ledges and muskegs.  Ker--ker--ker was the cry they made.  He threw
stones at them, but could not hit them.  He placed his pack on the ground
and stalked them as a cat stalks a sparrow.  The sharp rocks cut through
his pants' legs till his knees left a trail of blood; but the hurt was
lost in the hurt of his hunger.  He squirmed over the wet moss,
saturating his clothes and chilling his body; but he was not aware of it,
so great was his fever for food.  And always the ptarmigan rose,
whirring, before him, till their ker--ker--ker became a mock to him, and
he cursed them and cried aloud at them with their own cry.

Once he crawled upon one that must have been asleep.  He did not see it
till it shot up in his face from its rocky nook.  He made a clutch as
startled as was the rise of the ptarmigan, and there remained in his hand
three tail-feathers.  As he watched its flight he hated it, as though it
had done him some terrible wrong.  Then he returned and shouldered his

As the day wore along he came into valleys or swales where game was more
plentiful.  A band of caribou passed by, twenty and odd animals,
tantalizingly within rifle range.  He felt a wild desire to run after
them, a certitude that he could run them down.  A black fox came toward
him, carrying a ptarmigan in his mouth.  The man shouted.  It was a
fearful cry, but the fox, leaping away in fright, did not drop the

Late in the afternoon he followed a stream, milky with lime, which ran
through sparse patches of rush-grass.  Grasping these rushes firmly near
the root, he pulled up what resembled a young onion-sprout no larger than
a shingle-nail.  It was tender, and his teeth sank into it with a crunch
that promised deliciously of food.  But its fibers were tough.  It was
composed of stringy filaments saturated with water, like the berries, and
devoid of nourishment.  He threw off his pack and went into the
rush-grass on hands and knees, crunching and munching, like some bovine

He was very weary and often wished to rest--to lie down and sleep; but he
was continually driven on--not so much by his desire to gain the land of
little sticks as by his hunger.  He searched little ponds for frogs and
dug up the earth with his nails for worms, though he knew in spite that
neither frogs nor worms existed so far north.

He looked into every pool of water vainly, until, as the long twilight
came on, he discovered a solitary fish, the size of a minnow, in such a
pool.  He plunged his arm in up to the shoulder, but it eluded him.  He
reached for it with both hands and stirred up the milky mud at the
bottom.  In his excitement he fell in, wetting himself to the waist.  Then
the water was too muddy to admit of his seeing the fish, and he was
compelled to wait until the sediment had settled.

The pursuit was renewed, till the water was again muddied.  But he could
not wait.  He unstrapped the tin bucket and began to bale the pool.  He
baled wildly at first, splashing himself and flinging the water so short
a distance that it ran back into the pool.  He worked more carefully,
striving to be cool, though his heart was pounding against his chest and
his hands were trembling.  At the end of half an hour the pool was nearly
dry.  Not a cupful of water remained.  And there was no fish.  He found a
hidden crevice among the stones through which it had escaped to the
adjoining and larger pool--a pool which he could not empty in a night and
a day.  Had he known of the crevice, he could have closed it with a rock
at the beginning and the fish would have been his.

Thus he thought, and crumpled up and sank down upon the wet earth.  At
first he cried softly to himself, then he cried loudly to the pitiless
desolation that ringed him around; and for a long time after he was
shaken by great dry sobs.

He built a fire and warmed himself by drinking quarts of hot water, and
made camp on a rocky ledge in the same fashion he had the night before.
The last thing he did was to see that his matches were dry and to wind
his watch.  The blankets were wet and clammy.  His ankle pulsed with
pain.  But he knew only that he was hungry, and through his restless
sleep he dreamed of feasts and banquets and of food served and spread in
all imaginable ways.

He awoke chilled and sick.  There was no sun.  The gray of earth and sky
had become deeper, more profound.  A raw wind was blowing, and the first
flurries of snow were whitening the hilltops.  The air about him
thickened and grew white while he made a fire and boiled more water.  It
was wet snow, half rain, and the flakes were large and soggy.  At first
they melted as soon as they came in contact with the earth, but ever more
fell, covering the ground, putting out the fire, spoiling his supply of

This was a signal for him to strap on his pack and stumble onward, he
knew not where.  He was not concerned with the land of little sticks, nor
with Bill and the cache under the upturned canoe by the river Dease.  He
was mastered by the verb "to eat."  He was hunger-mad.  He took no heed
of the course he pursued, so long as that course led him through the
swale bottoms.  He felt his way through the wet snow to the watery muskeg
berries, and went by feel as he pulled up the rush-grass by the roots.
But it was tasteless stuff and did not satisfy.  He found a weed that
tasted sour and he ate all he could find of it, which was not much, for
it was a creeping growth, easily hidden under the several inches of snow.

He had no fire that night, nor hot water, and crawled under his blanket
to sleep the broken hunger-sleep.  The snow turned into a cold rain.  He
awakened many times to feel it falling on his upturned face.  Day came--a
gray day and no sun.  It had ceased raining.  The keenness of his hunger
had departed.  Sensibility, as far as concerned the yearning for food,
had been exhausted.  There was a dull, heavy ache in his stomach, but it
did not bother him so much.  He was more rational, and once more he was
chiefly interested in the land of little sticks and the cache by the
river Dease.

He ripped the remnant of one of his blankets into strips and bound his
bleeding feet.  Also, he recinched the injured ankle and prepared himself
for a day of travel.  When he came to his pack, he paused long over the
squat moose-hide sack, but in the end it went with him.

The snow had melted under the rain, and only the hilltops showed white.
The sun came out, and he succeeded in locating the points of the compass,
though he knew now that he was lost.  Perhaps, in his previous days'
wanderings, he had edged away too far to the left.  He now bore off to
the right to counteract the possible deviation from his true course.

Though the hunger pangs were no longer so exquisite, he realized that he
was weak.  He was compelled to pause for frequent rests, when he attacked
the muskeg berries and rush-grass patches.  His tongue felt dry and
large, as though covered with a fine hairy growth, and it tasted bitter
in his mouth.  His heart gave him a great deal of trouble.  When he had
travelled a few minutes it would begin a remorseless thump, thump, thump,
and then leap up and away in a painful flutter of beats that choked him
and made him go faint and dizzy.

In the middle of the day he found two minnows in a large pool.  It was
impossible to bale it, but he was calmer now and managed to catch them in
his tin bucket.  They were no longer than his little finger, but he was
not particularly hungry.  The dull ache in his stomach had been growing
duller and fainter.  It seemed almost that his stomach was dozing.  He
ate the fish raw, masticating with painstaking care, for the eating was
an act of pure reason.  While he had no desire to eat, he knew that he
must eat to live.

In the evening he caught three more minnows, eating two and saving the
third for breakfast.  The sun had dried stray shreds of moss, and he was
able to warm himself with hot water.  He had not covered more than ten
miles that day; and the next day, travelling whenever his heart permitted
him, he covered no more than five miles.  But his stomach did not give
him the slightest uneasiness.  It had gone to sleep.  He was in a strange
country, too, and the caribou were growing more plentiful, also the
wolves.  Often their yelps drifted across the desolation, and once he saw
three of them slinking away before his path.

Another night; and in the morning, being more rational, he untied the
leather string that fastened the squat moose-hide sack.  From its open
mouth poured a yellow stream of coarse gold-dust and nuggets.  He roughly
divided the gold in halves, caching one half on a prominent ledge,
wrapped in a piece of blanket, and returning the other half to the sack.
He also began to use strips of the one remaining blanket for his feet.  He
still clung to his gun, for there were cartridges in that cache by the
river Dease.

This was a day of fog, and this day hunger awoke in him again.  He was
very weak and was afflicted with a giddiness which at times blinded him.
It was no uncommon thing now for him to stumble and fall; and stumbling
once, he fell squarely into a ptarmigan nest.  There were four newly
hatched chicks, a day old--little specks of pulsating life no more than a
mouthful; and he ate them ravenously, thrusting them alive into his mouth
and crunching them like egg-shells between his teeth.  The mother
ptarmigan beat about him with great outcry.  He used his gun as a club
with which to knock her over, but she dodged out of reach.  He threw
stones at her and with one chance shot broke a wing.  Then she fluttered
away, running, trailing the broken wing, with him in pursuit.

The little chicks had no more than whetted his appetite.  He hopped and
bobbed clumsily along on his injured ankle, throwing stones and screaming
hoarsely at times; at other times hopping and bobbing silently along,
picking himself up grimly and patiently when he fell, or rubbing his eyes
with his hand when the giddiness threatened to overpower him.

The chase led him across swampy ground in the bottom of the valley, and
he came upon footprints in the soggy moss.  They were not his own--he
could see that.  They must be Bill's.  But he could not stop, for the
mother ptarmigan was running on.  He would catch her first, then he would
return and investigate.

He exhausted the mother ptarmigan; but he exhausted himself.  She lay
panting on her side.  He lay panting on his side, a dozen feet away,
unable to crawl to her.  And as he recovered she recovered, fluttering
out of reach as his hungry hand went out to her.  The chase was resumed.
Night settled down and she escaped.  He stumbled from weakness and
pitched head foremost on his face, cutting his cheek, his pack upon his
back.  He did not move for a long while; then he rolled over on his side,
wound his watch, and lay there until morning.

Another day of fog.  Half of his last blanket had gone into
foot-wrappings.  He failed to pick up Bill's trail.  It did not matter.
His hunger was driving him too compellingly--only--only he wondered if
Bill, too, were lost.  By midday the irk of his pack became too
oppressive.  Again he divided the gold, this time merely spilling half of
it on the ground.  In the afternoon he threw the rest of it away, there
remaining to him only the half-blanket, the tin bucket, and the rifle.

An hallucination began to trouble him.  He felt confident that one
cartridge remained to him.  It was in the chamber of the rifle and he had
overlooked it.  On the other hand, he knew all the time that the chamber
was empty.  But the hallucination persisted.  He fought it off for hours,
then threw his rifle open and was confronted with emptiness.  The
disappointment was as bitter as though he had really expected to find the

He plodded on for half an hour, when the hallucination arose again.  Again
he fought it, and still it persisted, till for very relief he opened his
rifle to unconvince himself.  At times his mind wandered farther afield,
and he plodded on, a mere automaton, strange conceits and whimsicalities
gnawing at his brain like worms.  But these excursions out of the real
were of brief duration, for ever the pangs of the hunger-bite called him
back.  He was jerked back abruptly once from such an excursion by a sight
that caused him nearly to faint.  He reeled and swayed, doddering like a
drunken man to keep from falling.  Before him stood a horse.  A horse!  He
could not believe his eyes.  A thick mist was in them, intershot with
sparkling points of light.  He rubbed his eyes savagely to clear his
vision, and beheld, not a horse, but a great brown bear.  The animal was
studying him with bellicose curiosity.

The man had brought his gun halfway to his shoulder before he realized.
He lowered it and drew his hunting-knife from its beaded sheath at his
hip.  Before him was meat and life.  He ran his thumb along the edge of
his knife.  It was sharp.  The point was sharp.  He would fling himself
upon the bear and kill it.  But his heart began its warning thump, thump,
thump.  Then followed the wild upward leap and tattoo of flutters, the
pressing as of an iron band about his forehead, the creeping of the
dizziness into his brain.

His desperate courage was evicted by a great surge of fear.  In his
weakness, what if the animal attacked him?  He drew himself up to his
most imposing stature, gripping the knife and staring hard at the bear.
The bear advanced clumsily a couple of steps, reared up, and gave vent to
a tentative growl.  If the man ran, he would run after him; but the man
did not run.  He was animated now with the courage of fear.  He, too,
growled, savagely, terribly, voicing the fear that is to life germane and
that lies twisted about life's deepest roots.

The bear edged away to one side, growling menacingly, himself appalled by
this mysterious creature that appeared upright and unafraid.  But the man
did not move.  He stood like a statue till the danger was past, when he
yielded to a fit of trembling and sank down into the wet moss.

He pulled himself together and went on, afraid now in a new way.  It was
not the fear that he should die passively from lack of food, but that he
should be destroyed violently before starvation had exhausted the last
particle of the endeavor in him that made toward surviving.  There were
the wolves.  Back and forth across the desolation drifted their howls,
weaving the very air into a fabric of menace that was so tangible that he
found himself, arms in the air, pressing it back from him as it might be
the walls of a wind-blown tent.

Now and again the wolves, in packs of two and three, crossed his path.
But they sheered clear of him.  They were not in sufficient numbers, and
besides they were hunting the caribou, which did not battle, while this
strange creature that walked erect might scratch and bite.

In the late afternoon he came upon scattered bones where the wolves had
made a kill.  The debris had been a caribou calf an hour before,
squawking and running and very much alive.  He contemplated the bones,
clean-picked and polished, pink with the cell-life in them which had not
yet died.  Could it possibly be that he might be that ere the day was
done!  Such was life, eh?  A vain and fleeting thing.  It was only life
that pained.  There was no hurt in death.  To die was to sleep.  It meant
cessation, rest.  Then why was he not content to die?

But he did not moralize long.  He was squatting in the moss, a bone in
his mouth, sucking at the shreds of life that still dyed it faintly pink.
The sweet meaty taste, thin and elusive almost as a memory, maddened him.
He closed his jaws on the bones and crunched.  Sometimes it was the bone
that broke, sometimes his teeth.  Then he crushed the bones between
rocks, pounded them to a pulp, and swallowed them.  He pounded his
fingers, too, in his haste, and yet found a moment in which to feel
surprise at the fact that his fingers did not hurt much when caught under
the descending rock.

Came frightful days of snow and rain.  He did not know when he made camp,
when he broke camp.  He travelled in the night as much as in the day.  He
rested wherever he fell, crawled on whenever the dying life in him
flickered up and burned less dimly.  He, as a man, no longer strove.  It
was the life in him, unwilling to die, that drove him on.  He did not
suffer.  His nerves had become blunted, numb, while his mind was filled
with weird visions and delicious dreams.

But ever he sucked and chewed on the crushed bones of the caribou calf,
the least remnants of which he had gathered up and carried with him.  He
crossed no more hills or divides, but automatically followed a large
stream which flowed through a wide and shallow valley.  He did not see
this stream nor this valley.  He saw nothing save visions.  Soul and body
walked or crawled side by side, yet apart, so slender was the thread that
bound them.

He awoke in his right mind, lying on his back on a rocky ledge.  The sun
was shining bright and warm.  Afar off he heard the squawking of caribou
calves.  He was aware of vague memories of rain and wind and snow, but
whether he had been beaten by the storm for two days or two weeks he did
not know.

For some time he lay without movement, the genial sunshine pouring upon
him and saturating his miserable body with its warmth.  A fine day, he
thought.  Perhaps he could manage to locate himself.  By a painful effort
he rolled over on his side.  Below him flowed a wide and sluggish river.
Its unfamiliarity puzzled him.  Slowly he followed it with his eyes,
winding in wide sweeps among the bleak, bare hills, bleaker and barer and
lower-lying than any hills he had yet encountered.  Slowly, deliberately,
without excitement or more than the most casual interest, he followed the
course of the strange stream toward the sky-line and saw it emptying into
a bright and shining sea.  He was still unexcited.  Most unusual, he
thought, a vision or a mirage--more likely a vision, a trick of his
disordered mind.  He was confirmed in this by sight of a ship lying at
anchor in the midst of the shining sea.  He closed his eyes for a while,
then opened them.  Strange how the vision persisted!  Yet not strange.  He
knew there were no seas or ships in the heart of the barren lands, just
as he had known there was no cartridge in the empty rifle.

He heard a snuffle behind him--a half-choking gasp or cough.  Very
slowly, because of his exceeding weakness and stiffness, he rolled over
on his other side.  He could see nothing near at hand, but he waited
patiently.  Again came the snuffle and cough, and outlined between two
jagged rocks not a score of feet away he made out the gray head of a
wolf.  The sharp ears were not pricked so sharply as he had seen them on
other wolves; the eyes were bleared and bloodshot, the head seemed to
droop limply and forlornly.  The animal blinked continually in the
sunshine.  It seemed sick.  As he looked it snuffled and coughed again.

This, at least, was real, he thought, and turned on the other side so
that he might see the reality of the world which had been veiled from him
before by the vision.  But the sea still shone in the distance and the
ship was plainly discernible.  Was it reality, after all?  He closed his
eyes for a long while and thought, and then it came to him.  He had been
making north by east, away from the Dease Divide and into the Coppermine
Valley.  This wide and sluggish river was the Coppermine.  That shining
sea was the Arctic Ocean.  That ship was a whaler, strayed east, far
east, from the mouth of the Mackenzie, and it was lying at anchor in
Coronation Gulf.  He remembered the Hudson Bay Company chart he had seen
long ago, and it was all clear and reasonable to him.

He sat up and turned his attention to immediate affairs.  He had worn
through the blanket-wrappings, and his feet were shapeless lumps of raw
meat.  His last blanket was gone.  Rifle and knife were both missing.  He
had lost his hat somewhere, with the bunch of matches in the band, but
the matches against his chest were safe and dry inside the tobacco pouch
and oil paper.  He looked at his watch.  It marked eleven o'clock and was
still running.  Evidently he had kept it wound.

He was calm and collected.  Though extremely weak, he had no sensation of
pain.  He was not hungry.  The thought of food was not even pleasant to
him, and whatever he did was done by his reason alone.  He ripped off his
pants' legs to the knees and bound them about his feet.  Somehow he had
succeeded in retaining the tin bucket.  He would have some hot water
before he began what he foresaw was to be a terrible journey to the ship.

His movements were slow.  He shook as with a palsy.  When he started to
collect dry moss, he found he could not rise to his feet.  He tried again
and again, then contented himself with crawling about on hands and knees.
Once he crawled near to the sick wolf.  The animal dragged itself
reluctantly out of his way, licking its chops with a tongue which seemed
hardly to have the strength to curl.  The man noticed that the tongue was
not the customary healthy red.  It was a yellowish brown and seemed
coated with a rough and half-dry mucus.

After he had drunk a quart of hot water the man found he was able to
stand, and even to walk as well as a dying man might be supposed to walk.
Every minute or so he was compelled to rest.  His steps were feeble and
uncertain, just as the wolf's that trailed him were feeble and uncertain;
and that night, when the shining sea was blotted out by blackness, he
knew he was nearer to it by no more than four miles.

Throughout the night he heard the cough of the sick wolf, and now and
then the squawking of the caribou calves.  There was life all around him,
but it was strong life, very much alive and well, and he knew the sick
wolf clung to the sick man's trail in the hope that the man would die
first.  In the morning, on opening his eyes, he beheld it regarding him
with a wistful and hungry stare.  It stood crouched, with tail between
its legs, like a miserable and woe-begone dog.  It shivered in the chill
morning wind, and grinned dispiritedly when the man spoke to it in a
voice that achieved no more than a hoarse whisper.

The sun rose brightly, and all morning the man tottered and fell toward
the ship on the shining sea.  The weather was perfect.  It was the brief
Indian Summer of the high latitudes.  It might last a week.  To-morrow or
next day it might he gone.

In the afternoon the man came upon a trail.  It was of another man, who
did not walk, but who dragged himself on all fours.  The man thought it
might be Bill, but he thought in a dull, uninterested way.  He had no
curiosity.  In fact, sensation and emotion had left him.  He was no
longer susceptible to pain.  Stomach and nerves had gone to sleep.  Yet
the life that was in him drove him on.  He was very weary, but it refused
to die.  It was because it refused to die that he still ate muskeg
berries and minnows, drank his hot water, and kept a wary eye on the sick

He followed the trail of the other man who dragged himself along, and
soon came to the end of it--a few fresh-picked bones where the soggy moss
was marked by the foot-pads of many wolves.  He saw a squat moose-hide
sack, mate to his own, which had been torn by sharp teeth.  He picked it
up, though its weight was almost too much for his feeble fingers.  Bill
had carried it to the last.  Ha! ha!  He would have the laugh on Bill.  He
would survive and carry it to the ship in the shining sea.  His mirth was
hoarse and ghastly, like a raven's croak, and the sick wolf joined him,
howling lugubriously.  The man ceased suddenly.  How could he have the
laugh on Bill if that were Bill; if those bones, so pinky-white and
clean, were Bill?

He turned away.  Well, Bill had deserted him; but he would not take the
gold, nor would he suck Bill's bones.  Bill would have, though, had it
been the other way around, he mused as he staggered on.

He came to a pool of water.  Stooping over in quest of minnows, he jerked
his head back as though he had been stung.  He had caught sight of his
reflected face.  So horrible was it that sensibility awoke long enough to
be shocked.  There were three minnows in the pool, which was too large to
drain; and after several ineffectual attempts to catch them in the tin
bucket he forbore.  He was afraid, because of his great weakness, that he
might fall in and drown.  It was for this reason that he did not trust
himself to the river astride one of the many drift-logs which lined its

That day he decreased the distance between him and the ship by three
miles; the next day by two--for he was crawling now as Bill had crawled;
and the end of the fifth day found the ship still seven miles away and
him unable to make even a mile a day.  Still the Indian Summer held on,
and he continued to crawl and faint, turn and turn about; and ever the
sick wolf coughed and wheezed at his heels.  His knees had become raw
meat like his feet, and though he padded them with the shirt from his
back it was a red track he left behind him on the moss and stones.  Once,
glancing back, he saw the wolf licking hungrily his bleeding trail, and
he saw sharply what his own end might be--unless--unless he could get the
wolf.  Then began as grim a tragedy of existence as was ever played--a
sick man that crawled, a sick wolf that limped, two creatures dragging
their dying carcasses across the desolation and hunting each other's

Had it been a well wolf, it would not have mattered so much to the man;
but the thought of going to feed the maw of that loathsome and all but
dead thing was repugnant to him.  He was finicky.  His mind had begun to
wander again, and to be perplexed by hallucinations, while his lucid
intervals grew rarer and shorter.

He was awakened once from a faint by a wheeze close in his ear.  The wolf
leaped lamely back, losing its footing and falling in its weakness.  It
was ludicrous, but he was not amused.  Nor was he even afraid.  He was
too far gone for that.  But his mind was for the moment clear, and he lay
and considered.  The ship was no more than four miles away.  He could see
it quite distinctly when he rubbed the mists out of his eyes, and he
could see the white sail of a small boat cutting the water of the shining
sea.  But he could never crawl those four miles.  He knew that, and was
very calm in the knowledge.  He knew that he could not crawl half a mile.
And yet he wanted to live.  It was unreasonable that he should die after
all he had undergone.  Fate asked too much of him.  And, dying, he
declined to die.  It was stark madness, perhaps, but in the very grip of
Death he defied Death and refused to die.

He closed his eyes and composed himself with infinite precaution.  He
steeled himself to keep above the suffocating languor that lapped like a
rising tide through all the wells of his being.  It was very like a sea,
this deadly languor, that rose and rose and drowned his consciousness bit
by bit.  Sometimes he was all but submerged, swimming through oblivion
with a faltering stroke; and again, by some strange alchemy of soul, he
would find another shred of will and strike out more strongly.

Without movement he lay on his back, and he could hear, slowly drawing
near and nearer, the wheezing intake and output of the sick wolf's
breath.  It drew closer, ever closer, through an infinitude of time, and
he did not move.  It was at his ear.  The harsh dry tongue grated like
sandpaper against his cheek.  His hands shot out--or at least he willed
them to shoot out.  The fingers were curved like talons, but they closed
on empty air.  Swiftness and certitude require strength, and the man had
not this strength.

The patience of the wolf was terrible.  The man's patience was no less
terrible.  For half a day he lay motionless, fighting off unconsciousness
and waiting for the thing that was to feed upon him and upon which he
wished to feed.  Sometimes the languid sea rose over him and he dreamed
long dreams; but ever through it all, waking and dreaming, he waited for
the wheezing breath and the harsh caress of the tongue.

He did not hear the breath, and he slipped slowly from some dream to the
feel of the tongue along his hand.  He waited.  The fangs pressed softly;
the pressure increased; the wolf was exerting its last strength in an
effort to sink teeth in the food for which it had waited so long.  But
the man had waited long, and the lacerated hand closed on the jaw.
Slowly, while the wolf struggled feebly and the hand clutched feebly, the
other hand crept across to a grip.  Five minutes later the whole weight
of the man's body was on top of the wolf.  The hands had not sufficient
strength to choke the wolf, but the face of the man was pressed close to
the throat of the wolf and the mouth of the man was full of hair.  At the
end of half an hour the man was aware of a warm trickle in his throat.  It
was not pleasant.  It was like molten lead being forced into his stomach,
and it was forced by his will alone.  Later the man rolled over on his
back and slept.

* * * * *

There were some members of a scientific expedition on the whale-ship
_Bedford_.  From the deck they remarked a strange object on the shore.  It
was moving down the beach toward the water.  They were unable to classify
it, and, being scientific men, they climbed into the whale-boat alongside
and went ashore to see.  And they saw something that was alive but which
could hardly be called a man.  It was blind, unconscious.  It squirmed
along the ground like some monstrous worm.  Most of its efforts were
ineffectual, but it was persistent, and it writhed and twisted and went
ahead perhaps a score of feet an hour.

* * * * *

Three weeks afterward the man lay in a bunk on the whale-ship _Bedford_,
and with tears streaming down his wasted cheeks told who he was and what
he had undergone.  He also babbled incoherently of his mother, of sunny
Southern California, and a home among the orange groves and flowers.

The days were not many after that when he sat at table with the
scientific men and ship's officers.  He gloated over the spectacle of so
much food, watching it anxiously as it went into the mouths of others.
With the disappearance of each mouthful an expression of deep regret came
into his eyes.  He was quite sane, yet he hated those men at mealtime.  He
was haunted by a fear that the food would not last.  He inquired of the
cook, the cabin-boy, the captain, concerning the food stores.  They
reassured him countless times; but he could not believe them, and pried
cunningly about the lazarette to see with his own eyes.

It was noticed that the man was getting fat.  He grew stouter with each
day.  The scientific men shook their heads and theorized.  They limited
the man at his meals, but still his girth increased and he swelled
prodigiously under his shirt.

The sailors grinned.  They knew.  And when the scientific men set a watch
on the man, they knew too.  They saw him slouch for'ard after breakfast,
and, like a mendicant, with outstretched palm, accost a sailor.  The
sailor grinned and passed him a fragment of sea biscuit.  He clutched it
avariciously, looked at it as a miser looks at gold, and thrust it into
his shirt bosom.  Similar were the donations from other grinning sailors.

The scientific men were discreet.  They let him alone.  But they privily
examined his bunk.  It was lined with hardtack; the mattress was stuffed
with hardtack; every nook and cranny was filled with hardtack.  Yet he
was sane.  He was taking precautions against another possible famine--that
was all.  He would recover from it, the scientific men said; and he did,
ere the _Bedford's_ anchor rumbled down in San Francisco Bay.


   It was the gosh-dangdest stampede I ever seen.  A thousand dog-teams
   hittin' the ice.  You couldn't see 'm fer smoke.  Two white men an' a
   Swede froze to death that night, an' there was a dozen busted their
   lungs.  But didn't I see with my own eyes the bottom of the
   water-hole?  It was yellow with gold like a mustard-plaster.  That's
   why I staked the Yukon for a minin' claim.  That's what made the
   stampede.  An' then there was nothin' to it.  That's what I
   said--NOTHIN' to it.  An' I ain't got over guessin' yet.--NARRATIVE OF

John Messner clung with mittened hand to the bucking gee-pole and held
the sled in the trail.  With the other mittened hand he rubbed his cheeks
and nose.  He rubbed his cheeks and nose every little while.  In point of
fact, he rarely ceased from rubbing them, and sometimes, as their
numbness increased, he rubbed fiercely.  His forehead was covered by the
visor of his fur cap, the flaps of which went over his ears.  The rest of
his face was protected by a thick beard, golden-brown under its coating
of frost.

Behind him churned a heavily loaded Yukon sled, and before him toiled a
string of five dogs.  The rope by which they dragged the sled rubbed
against the side of Messner's leg.  When the dogs swung on a bend in the
trail, he stepped over the rope.  There were many bends, and he was
compelled to step over it often.  Sometimes he tripped on the rope, or
stumbled, and at all times he was awkward, betraying a weariness so great
that the sled now and again ran upon his heels.

When he came to a straight piece of trail, where the sled could get along
for a moment without guidance, he let go the gee-pole and batted his
right hand sharply upon the hard wood.  He found it difficult to keep up
the circulation in that hand.  But while he pounded the one hand, he
never ceased from rubbing his nose and cheeks with the other.

"It's too cold to travel, anyway," he said.  He spoke aloud, after the
manner of men who are much by themselves.  "Only a fool would travel at
such a temperature.  If it isn't eighty below, it's because it's seventy-

He pulled out his watch, and after some fumbling got it back into the
breast pocket of his thick woollen jacket.  Then he surveyed the heavens
and ran his eye along the white sky-line to the south.

"Twelve o'clock," he mumbled, "A clear sky, and no sun."

He plodded on silently for ten minutes, and then, as though there had
been no lapse in his speech, he added:

"And no ground covered, and it's too cold to travel."

Suddenly he yelled "Whoa!" at the dogs, and stopped.  He seemed in a wild
panic over his right hand, and proceeded to hammer it furiously against
the gee-pole.

"You--poor--devils!" he addressed the dogs, which had dropped down
heavily on the ice to rest.  His was a broken, jerky utterance, caused by
the violence with which he hammered his numb hand upon the wood.  "What
have you done anyway that a two-legged other animal should come along,
break you to harness, curb all your natural proclivities, and make slave-
beasts out of you?"

He rubbed his nose, not reflectively, but savagely, in order to drive the
blood into it, and urged the dogs to their work again.  He travelled on
the frozen surface of a great river.  Behind him it stretched away in a
mighty curve of many miles, losing itself in a fantastic jumble of
mountains, snow-covered and silent.  Ahead of him the river split into
many channels to accommodate the freight of islands it carried on its
breast.  These islands were silent and white.  No animals nor humming
insects broke the silence.  No birds flew in the chill air.  There was no
sound of man, no mark of the handiwork of man.  The world slept, and it
was like the sleep of death.

John Messner seemed succumbing to the apathy of it all.  The frost was
benumbing his spirit.  He plodded on with bowed head, unobservant,
mechanically rubbing nose and cheeks, and batting his steering hand
against the gee-pole in the straight trail-stretches.

But the dogs were observant, and suddenly they stopped, turning their
heads and looking back at their master out of eyes that were wistful and
questioning.  Their eyelashes were frosted white, as were their muzzles,
and they had all the seeming of decrepit old age, what of the frost-rime
and exhaustion.

The man was about to urge them on, when he checked himself, roused up
with an effort, and looked around.  The dogs had stopped beside a water-
hole, not a fissure, but a hole man-made, chopped laboriously with an axe
through three and a half feet of ice.  A thick skin of new ice showed
that it had not been used for some time.  Messner glanced about him.  The
dogs were already pointing the way, each wistful and hoary muzzle turned
toward the dim snow-path that left the main river trail and climbed the
bank of the island.

"All right, you sore-footed brutes," he said.  "I'll investigate.  You're
not a bit more anxious to quit than I am."

He climbed the bank and disappeared.  The dogs did not lie down, but on
their feet eagerly waited his return.  He came back to them, took a
hauling-rope from the front of the sled, and put it around his shoulders.
Then he _gee'd_ the dogs to the right and put them at the bank on the
run.  It was a stiff pull, but their weariness fell from them as they
crouched low to the snow, whining with eagerness and gladness as they
struggled upward to the last ounce of effort in their bodies.  When a dog
slipped or faltered, the one behind nipped his hind quarters.  The man
shouted encouragement and threats, and threw all his weight on the

They cleared the bank with a rush, swung to the left, and dashed up to a
small log cabin.  It was a deserted cabin of a single room, eight feet by
ten on the inside.  Messner unharnessed the animals, unloaded his sled
and took possession.  The last chance wayfarer had left a supply of
firewood.  Messner set up his light sheet-iron stove and starred a fire.
He put five sun-cured salmon into the oven to thaw out for the dogs, and
from the water-hole filled his coffee-pot and cooking-pail.

While waiting for the water to boil, he held his face over the stove.  The
moisture from his breath had collected on his beard and frozen into a
great mass of ice, and this he proceeded to thaw out.  As it melted and
dropped upon the stove it sizzled and rose about him in steam.  He helped
the process with his fingers, working loose small ice-chunks that fell
rattling to the floor.

A wild outcry from the dogs without did not take him from his task.  He
heard the wolfish snarling and yelping of strange dogs and the sound of
voices.  A knock came on the door.

"Come in," Messner called, in a voice muffled because at the moment he
was sucking loose a fragment of ice from its anchorage on his upper lip.

The door opened, and, gazing out of his cloud of steam, he saw a man and
a woman pausing on the threshold.

"Come in," he said peremptorily, "and shut the door!"

Peering through the steam, he could make out but little of their personal
appearance.  The nose and cheek strap worn by the woman and the trail-
wrappings about her head allowed only a pair of black eyes to be seen.
The man was dark-eyed and smooth-shaven all except his mustache, which
was so iced up as to hide his mouth.

"We just wanted to know if there is any other cabin around here," he
said, at the same time glancing over the unfurnished state of the room.
"We thought this cabin was empty."

"It isn't my cabin," Messner answered.  "I just found it a few minutes
ago.  Come right in and camp.  Plenty of room, and you won't need your
stove.  There's room for all."

At the sound of his voice the woman peered at him with quick curiousness.

"Get your things off," her companion said to her.  "I'll unhitch and get
the water so we can start cooking."

Messner took the thawed salmon outside and fed his dogs.  He had to guard
them against the second team of dogs, and when he had reentered the cabin
the other man had unpacked the sled and fetched water.  Messner's pot was
boiling.  He threw in the coffee, settled it with half a cup of cold
water, and took the pot from the stove.  He thawed some sour-dough
biscuits in the oven, at the same time heating a pot of beans he had
boiled the night before and that had ridden frozen on the sled all

Removing his utensils from the stove, so as to give the newcomers a
chance to cook, he proceeded to take his meal from the top of his grub-
box, himself sitting on his bed-roll.  Between mouthfuls he talked trail
and dogs with the man, who, with head over the stove, was thawing the ice
from his mustache.  There were two bunks in the cabin, and into one of
them, when he had cleared his lip, the stranger tossed his bed-roll.

"We'll sleep here," he said, "unless you prefer this bunk.  You're the
first comer and you have first choice, you know."

"That's all right," Messner answered.  "One bunk's just as good as the

He spread his own bedding in the second bunk, and sat down on the edge.
The stranger thrust a physician's small travelling case under his
blankets at one end to serve for a pillow.

"Doctor?" Messner asked.

"Yes," came the answer, "but I assure you I didn't come into the Klondike
to practise."

The woman busied herself with cooking, while the man sliced bacon and
fired the stove.  The light in the cabin was dim, filtering through in a
small window made of onion-skin writing paper and oiled with bacon
grease, so that John Messner could not make out very well what the woman
looked like.  Not that he tried.  He seemed to have no interest in her.
But she glanced curiously from time to time into the dark corner where he

"Oh, it's a great life," the doctor proclaimed enthusiastically, pausing
from sharpening his knife on the stovepipe.  "What I like about it is the
struggle, the endeavor with one's own hands, the primitiveness of it, the

"The temperature is real enough," Messner laughed.

"Do you know how cold it actually is?" the doctor demanded.

The other shook his head.

"Well, I'll tell you.  Seventy-four below zero by spirit thermometer on
the sled."

"That's one hundred and six below freezing point--too cold for
travelling, eh?"

"Practically suicide," was the doctor's verdict.  "One exerts himself.  He
breathes heavily, taking into his lungs the frost itself.  It chills his
lungs, freezes the edges of the tissues.  He gets a dry, hacking cough as
the dead tissue sloughs away, and dies the following summer of pneumonia,
wondering what it's all about.  I'll stay in this cabin for a week,
unless the thermometer rises at least to fifty below."

"I say, Tess," he said, the next moment, "don't you think that coffee's
boiled long enough!"

At the sound of the woman's name, John Messner became suddenly alert.  He
looked at her quickly, while across his face shot a haunting expression,
the ghost of some buried misery achieving swift resurrection.  But the
next moment, and by an effort of will, the ghost was laid again.  His
face was as placid as before, though he was still alert, dissatisfied
with what the feeble light had shown him of the woman's face.

Automatically, her first act had been to set the coffee-pot back.  It was
not until she had done this that she glanced at Messner.  But already he
had composed himself.  She saw only a man sitting on the edge of the bunk
and incuriously studying the toes of his moccasins.  But, as she turned
casually to go about her cooking, he shot another swift look at her, and
she, glancing as swiftly back, caught his look.  He shifted on past her
to the doctor, though the slightest smile curled his lip in appreciation
of the way she had trapped him.

She drew a candle from the grub-box and lighted it.  One look at her
illuminated face was enough for Messner.  In the small cabin the widest
limit was only a matter of several steps, and the next moment she was
alongside of him.  She deliberately held the candle close to his face and
stared at him out of eyes wide with fear and recognition.  He smiled
quietly back at her.

"What are you looking for, Tess?" the doctor called.

"Hairpins," she replied, passing on and rummaging in a clothes-bag on the

They served their meal on their grub-box, sitting on Messner's grub-box
and facing him.  He had stretched out on his bunk to rest, lying on his
side, his head on his arm.  In the close quarters it was as though the
three were together at table.

"What part of the States do you come from?" Messner asked.

"San Francisco," answered the doctor.  "I've been in here two years,

"I hail from California myself," was Messner's announcement.

The woman looked at him appealingly, but he smiled and went on:

"Berkeley, you know."

The other man was becoming interested.

"U. C.?" he asked.

"Yes, Class of '86."

"I meant faculty," the doctor explained.  "You remind me of the type."

"Sorry to hear you say so," Messner smiled back.  "I'd prefer being taken
for a prospector or a dog-musher."

"I don't think he looks any more like a professor than you do a doctor,"
the woman broke in.

"Thank you," said Messner.  Then, turning to her companion, "By the way,
Doctor, what is your name, if I may ask?"

"Haythorne, if you'll take my word for it.  I gave up cards with

"And Mrs. Haythorne," Messner smiled and bowed.

She flashed a look at him that was more anger than appeal.

Haythorne was about to ask the other's name.  His mouth had opened to
form the question when Messner cut him off.

"Come to think of it, Doctor, you may possibly be able to satisfy my
curiosity.  There was a sort of scandal in faculty circles some two or
three years ago.  The wife of one of the English professors--er, if you
will pardon me, Mrs. Haythorne--disappeared with some San Francisco
doctor, I understood, though his name does not just now come to my lips.
Do you remember the incident?"

Haythorne nodded his head.  "Made quite a stir at the time.  His name was
Womble--Graham Womble.  He had a magnificent practice.  I knew him

"Well, what I was trying to get at was what had become of them.  I was
wondering if you had heard.  They left no trace, hide nor hair."

"He covered his tracks cunningly."  Haythorne cleared his throat.  "There
was rumor that they went to the South Seas--were lost on a trading
schooner in a typhoon, or something like that."

"I never heard that," Messner said.  "You remember the case, Mrs.

"Perfectly," she answered, in a voice the control of which was in amazing
contrast to the anger that blazed in the face she turned aside so that
Haythorne might not see.

The latter was again on the verge of asking his name, when Messner

"This Dr. Womble, I've heard he was very handsome, and--er--quite a
success, so to say, with the ladies."

"Well, if he was, he finished himself off by that affair," Haythorne

"And the woman was a termagant--at least so I've been told.  It was
generally accepted in Berkeley that she made life--er--not exactly
paradise for her husband."

"I never heard that," Haythorne rejoined.  "In San Francisco the talk was
all the other way."

"Woman sort of a martyr, eh?--crucified on the cross of matrimony?"

The doctor nodded.  Messner's gray eyes were mildly curious as he went

"That was to be expected--two sides to the shield.  Living in Berkeley I
only got the one side.  She was a great deal in San Francisco, it seems."

"Some coffee, please," Haythorne said.

The woman refilled his mug, at the same time breaking into light

"You're gossiping like a pair of beldames," she chided them.

"It's so interesting," Messner smiled at her, then returned to the
doctor.  "The husband seems then to have had a not very savory reputation
in San Francisco?"

"On the contrary, he was a moral prig," Haythorne blurted out, with
apparently undue warmth.  "He was a little scholastic shrimp without a
drop of red blood in his body."

"Did you know him?"

"Never laid eyes on him.  I never knocked about in university circles."

"One side of the shield again," Messner said, with an air of weighing the
matter judicially.  "While he did not amount to much, it is true--that
is, physically--I'd hardly say he was as bad as all that.  He did take an
active interest in student athletics.  And he had some talent.  He once
wrote a Nativity play that brought him quite a bit of local appreciation.
I have heard, also, that he was slated for the head of the English
department, only the affair happened and he resigned and went away.  It
quite broke his career, or so it seemed.  At any rate, on our side the
shield, it was considered a knock-out blow to him.  It was thought he
cared a great deal for his wife."

Haythorne, finishing his mug of coffee, grunted uninterestedly and
lighted his pipe.

"It was fortunate they had no children," Messner continued.

But Haythorne, with a glance at the stove, pulled on his cap and mittens.

"I'm going out to get some wood," he said.  "Then I can take off my
moccasins and he comfortable."

The door slammed behind him.  For a long minute there was silence.  The
man continued in the same position on the bed.  The woman sat on the grub-
box, facing him.

"What are you going to do?" she asked abruptly.

Messner looked at her with lazy indecision.  "What do you think I ought
to do?  Nothing scenic, I hope.  You see I am stiff and trail-sore, and
this bunk is so restful."

She gnawed her lower lip and fumed dumbly.

"But--" she began vehemently, then clenched her hands and stopped.

"I hope you don't want me to kill Mr.--er--Haythorne," he said gently,
almost pleadingly.  "It would be most distressing, and, I assure you,
really it is unnecessary."

"But you must do something," she cried.

"On the contrary, it is quite conceivable that I do not have to do

"You would stay here?"

He nodded.

She glanced desperately around the cabin and at the bed unrolled on the
other bunk.  "Night is coming on.  You can't stop here.  You can't!  I
tell you, you simply can't!"

"Of course I can.  I might remind you that I found this cabin first and
that you are my guests."

Again her eyes travelled around the room, and the terror in them leaped
up at sight of the other bunk.

"Then we'll have to go," she announced decisively.

"Impossible.  You have a dry, hacking cough--the sort Mr.--er--Haythorne
so aptly described.  You've already slightly chilled your lungs.  Besides,
he is a physician and knows.  He would never permit it."

"Then what are you going to do?" she demanded again, with a tense, quiet
utterance that boded an outbreak.

Messner regarded her in a way that was almost paternal, what of the
profundity of pity and patience with which he contrived to suffuse it.

"My dear Theresa, as I told you before, I don't know.  I really haven't
thought about it."

"Oh!  You drive me mad!"  She sprang to her feet, wringing her hands in
impotent wrath.  "You never used to be this way."

"I used to be all softness and gentleness," he nodded concurrence.  "Was
that why you left me?"

"You are so different, so dreadfully calm.  You frighten me.  I feel you
have something terrible planned all the while.  But whatever you do,
don't do anything rash.  Don't get excited--"

"I don't get excited any more," he interrupted.  "Not since you went

"You have improved--remarkably," she retorted.

He smiled acknowledgment.  "While I am thinking about what I shall do,
I'll tell you what you will have to do--tell Mr.--er--Haythorne who I am.
It may make our stay in this cabin more--may I say, sociable?"

"Why have you followed me into this frightful country?" she asked

"Don't think I came here looking for you, Theresa.  Your vanity shall not
be tickled by any such misapprehension.  Our meeting is wholly
fortuitous.  I broke with the life academic and I had to go somewhere.  To
be honest, I came into the Klondike because I thought it the place you
were least liable to be in."

There was a fumbling at the latch, then the door swung in and Haythorne
entered with an armful of firewood.  At the first warning, Theresa began
casually to clear away the dishes.  Haythorne went out again after more

"Why didn't you introduce us?" Messner queried.

"I'll tell him," she replied, with a toss of her head.  "Don't think I'm

"I never knew you to be afraid, very much, of anything."

"And I'm not afraid of confession, either," she said, with softening face
and voice.

"In your case, I fear, confession is exploitation by indirection, profit-
making by ruse, self-aggrandizement at the expense of God."

"Don't be literary," she pouted, with growing tenderness.  "I never did
like epigrammatic discussion.  Besides, I'm not afraid to ask you to
forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive, Theresa.  I really should thank you.  True,
at first I suffered; and then, with all the graciousness of spring, it
dawned upon me that I was happy, very happy.  It was a most amazing

"But what if I should return to you?" she asked.

"I should" (he looked at her whimsically), "be greatly perturbed."

"I am your wife.  You know you have never got a divorce."

"I see," he meditated.  "I have been careless.  It will be one of the
first things I attend to."

She came over to his side, resting her hand on his arm.  "You don't want
me, John?"  Her voice was soft and caressing, her hand rested like a
lure.  "If I told you I had made a mistake?  If I told you that I was
very unhappy?--and I am.  And I did make a mistake."

Fear began to grow on Messner.  He felt himself wilting under the lightly
laid hand.  The situation was slipping away from him, all his beautiful
calmness was going.  She looked at him with melting eyes, and he, too,
seemed all dew and melting.  He felt himself on the edge of an abyss,
powerless to withstand the force that was drawing him over.

"I am coming back to you, John.  I am coming back to-day . . . now."

As in a nightmare, he strove under the hand.  While she talked, he seemed
to hear, rippling softly, the song of the Lorelei.  It was as though,
somewhere, a piano were playing and the actual notes were impinging on
his ear-drums.

Suddenly he sprang to his feet, thrust her from him as her arms attempted
to clasp him, and retreated backward to the door.  He was in a panic.

"I'll do something desperate!" he cried.

"I warned you not to get excited."  She laughed mockingly, and went about
washing the dishes.  "Nobody wants you.  I was just playing with you.  I
am happier where I am."

But Messner did not believe.  He remembered her facility in changing
front.  She had changed front now.  It was exploitation by indirection.
She was not happy with the other man.  She had discovered her mistake.
The flame of his ego flared up at the thought.  She wanted to come back
to him, which was the one thing he did not want.  Unwittingly, his hand
rattled the door-latch.

"Don't run away," she laughed.  "I won't bite you."

"I am not running away," he replied with child-like defiance, at the same
time pulling on his mittens.  "I'm only going to get some water."

He gathered the empty pails and cooking pots together and opened the
door.  He looked back at her.

"Don't forget you're to tell Mr.--er--Haythorne who I am."

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

"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?"

"Don't be silly," Theresa interjected.

"I can't help being natural," Messner complained.

"You can be expedient at the same time, and practical," Womble said
sharply.  "What we want to know is what are you going to do?"

Messner made a well-feigned gesture of helplessness.  "I really don't
know.  It is one of those impossible situations against which there can
be no provision."

"All three of us cannot remain the night in this cabin."

Messner nodded affirmation.

"Then somebody must get out."

"That also is incontrovertible," Messner agreed.  "When three bodies
cannot occupy the same space at the same time, one must get out."

"And you're that one," Womble announced grimly.  "It's a ten-mile pull to
the next camp, but you can make it all right."

"And that's the first flaw in your reasoning," the other objected.  "Why,
necessarily, should I be the one to get out?  I found this cabin first."

"But Tess can't get out," Womble explained.  "Her lungs are already
slightly chilled."

"I agree with you.  She can't venture ten miles of frost.  By all means
she must remain."

"Then it is as I said," Womble announced with finality.

Messner cleared his throat.  "Your lungs are all right, aren't they?"

"Yes, but what of it?"

Again the other cleared his throat and spoke with painstaking and
judicial slowness.  "Why, I may say, nothing of it, except, ah, according
to your own reasoning, there is nothing to prevent your getting out,
hitting the frost, so to speak, for a matter of ten miles.  You can make
it all right."

Womble looked with quick suspicion at Theresa and caught in her eyes a
glint of pleased surprise.

"Well?" he demanded of her.

She hesitated, and a surge of anger darkened his face.  He turned upon

"Enough of this.  You can't stop here."

"Yes, I can."

"I won't let you." Womble squared his shoulders.  "I'm running things."

"I'll stay anyway," the other persisted.

"I'll put you out."

"I'll come back."

Womble stopped a moment to steady his voice and control himself.  Then he
spoke slowly, in a low, tense voice.

"Look here, Messner, if you refuse to get out, I'll thrash you.  This
isn't California.  I'll beat you to a jelly with my two fists."

Messner shrugged his shoulders.  "If you do, I'll call a miners' meeting
and see you strung up to the nearest tree.  As you said, this is not
California.  They're a simple folk, these miners, and all I'll have to do
will be to show them the marks of the beating, tell them the truth about
you, and present my claim for my wife."

The woman attempted to speak, but Womble turned upon her fiercely.

"You keep out of this," he cried.

In marked contrast was Messner's "Please don't intrude, Theresa."

What of her anger and pent feelings, her lungs were irritated into the
dry, hacking cough, and with blood-suffused face and one hand clenched
against her chest, she waited for the paroxysm to pass.

Womble looked gloomily at her, noting her cough.

"Something must be done," he said.  "Yet her lungs can't stand the
exposure.  She can't travel till the temperature rises.  And I'm not
going to give her up."

Messner hemmed, cleared his throat, and hemmed again,
semi-apologetically, and said, "I need some money."

Contempt showed instantly in Womble's face.  At last, beneath him in
vileness, had the other sunk himself.

"You've got a fat sack of dust," Messner went on.  "I saw you unload it
from the sled."

"How much do you want?" Womble demanded, with a contempt in his voice
equal to that in his face.

"I made an estimate of the sack, and I--ah--should say it weighed about
twenty pounds.  What do you say we call it four thousand?"

"But it's all I've got, man!" Womble cried out.

"You've got her," the other said soothingly.  "She must be worth it.
Think what I'm giving up.  Surely it is a reasonable price."

"All right."  Womble rushed across the floor to the gold-sack.  "Can't
put this deal through too quick for me, you--you little worm!"

"Now, there you err," was the smiling rejoinder.  "As a matter of ethics
isn't the man who gives a bribe as bad as the man who takes a bribe?  The
receiver is as bad as the thief, you know; and you needn't console
yourself with any fictitious moral superiority concerning this little

"To hell with your ethics!" the other burst out.  "Come here and watch
the weighing of this dust.  I might cheat you."

And the woman, leaning against the bunk, raging and impotent, watched
herself weighed out in yellow dust and nuggets in the scales erected on
the grub-box.  The scales were small, making necessary many weighings,
and Messner with precise care verified each weighing.

"There's too much silver in it," he remarked as he tied up the gold-sack.
"I don't think it will run quite sixteen to the ounce.  You got a trifle
the better of me, Womble."

He handled the sack lovingly, and with due appreciation of its
preciousness carried it out to his sled.

Returning, he gathered his pots and pans together, packed his grub-box,
and rolled up his bed.  When the sled was lashed and the complaining dogs
harnessed, he returned into the cabin for his mittens.

"Good-by, Tess," he said, standing at the open door.

She turned on him, struggling for speech but too frantic to word the
passion that burned in her.

"Good-by, Tess," he repeated gently.

"Beast!" she managed to articulate.

She turned and tottered to the bunk, flinging herself face down upon it,
sobbing:  "You beasts!  You beasts!"

John Messner closed the door softly behind him, and, as he started the
dogs, looked back at the cabin with a great relief in his face.  At the
bottom of the bank, beside the water-hole, he halted the sled.  He worked
the sack of gold out between the lashings and carried it to the water-
hole.  Already a new skin of ice had formed.  This he broke with his
fist.  Untying the knotted mouth with his teeth, he emptied the contents
of the sack into the water.  The river was shallow at that point, and two
feet beneath the surface he could see the bottom dull-yellow in the
fading light.  At the sight of it, he spat into the hole.

He started the dogs along the Yukon trail.  Whining spiritlessly, they
were reluctant to work.  Clinging to the gee-pole with his right band and
with his left rubbing cheeks and nose, he stumbled over the rope as the
dogs swung on a bend.

"Mush-on, you poor, sore-footed brutes!" he cried.  "That's it, mush-on!"


"To cook by your fire and to sleep under your roof for the night," I had
announced on entering old Ebbits's cabin; and he had looked at me blear-
eyed and vacuous, while Zilla had favored me with a sour face and a
contemptuous grunt.  Zilla was his wife, and no more bitter-tongued,
implacable old squaw dwelt on the Yukon.  Nor would I have stopped there
had my dogs been less tired or had the rest of the village been
inhabited.  But this cabin alone had I found occupied, and in this cabin,
perforce, I took my shelter.

Old Ebbits now and again pulled his tangled wits together, and hints and
sparkles of intelligence came and went in his eyes.  Several times during
the preparation of my supper he even essayed hospitable inquiries about
my health, the condition and number of my dogs, and the distance I had
travelled that day.  And each time Zilla had looked sourer than ever and
grunted more contemptuously.

Yet I confess that there was no particular call for cheerfulness on their
part.  There they crouched by the fire, the pair of them, at the end of
their days, old and withered and helpless, racked by rheumatism, bitten
by hunger, and tantalized by the frying-odors of my abundance of meat.
They rocked back and forth in a slow and hopeless way, and regularly,
once every five minutes, Ebbits emitted a low groan.  It was not so much
a groan of pain, as of pain-weariness.  He was oppressed by the weight
and the torment of this thing called life, and still more was he
oppressed by the fear of death.  His was that eternal tragedy of the
aged, with whom the joy of life has departed and the instinct for death
has not come.

When my moose-meat spluttered rowdily in the frying-pan, I noticed old
Ebbits's nostrils twitch and distend as he caught the food-scent.  He
ceased rocking for a space and forgot to groan, while a look of
intelligence seemed to come into his face.

Zilla, on the other hand, rocked more rapidly, and for the first time, in
sharp little yelps, voiced her pain.  It came to me that their behavior
was like that of hungry dogs, and in the fitness of things I should not
have been astonished had Zilla suddenly developed a tail and thumped it
on the floor in right doggish fashion.  Ebbits drooled a little and
stopped his rocking very frequently to lean forward and thrust his
tremulous nose nearer to the source of gustatory excitement.

When I passed them each a plate of the fried meat, they ate greedily,
making loud mouth-noises--champings of worn teeth and sucking intakes of
the breath, accompanied by a continuous spluttering and mumbling.  After
that, when I gave them each a mug of scalding tea, the noises ceased.
Easement and content came into their faces.  Zilla relaxed her sour mouth
long enough to sigh her satisfaction.  Neither rocked any more, and they
seemed to have fallen into placid meditation.  Then a dampness came into
Ebbits's eyes, and I knew that the sorrow of self-pity was his.  The
search required to find their pipes told plainly that they had been
without tobacco a long time, and the old man's eagerness for the narcotic
rendered him helpless, so that I was compelled to light his pipe for him.

"Why are you all alone in the village?" I asked.  "Is everybody dead?  Has
there been a great sickness?  Are you alone left of the living?"

Old Ebbits shook his head, saying:  "Nay, there has been no great
sickness.  The village has gone away to hunt meat.  We be too old, our
legs are not strong, nor can our backs carry the burdens of camp and
trail.  Wherefore we remain here and wonder when the young men will
return with meat."

"What if the young men do return with meat?" Zilla demanded harshly.

"They may return with much meat," he quavered hopefully.

"Even so, with much meat," she continued, more harshly than before.  "But
of what worth to you and me?  A few bones to gnaw in our toothless old
age.  But the back-fat, the kidneys, and the tongues--these shall go into
other mouths than thine and mine, old man."

Ebbits nodded his head and wept silently.

"There be no one to hunt meat for us," she cried, turning fiercely upon

There was accusation in her manner, and I shrugged my shoulders in token
that I was not guilty of the unknown crime imputed to me.

"Know, O White Man, that it is because of thy kind, because of all white
men, that my man and I have no meat in our old age and sit without
tobacco in the cold."

"Nay," Ebbits said gravely, with a stricter sense of justice.  "Wrong has
been done us, it be true; but the white men did not mean the wrong."

"Where be Moklan?" she demanded.  "Where be thy strong son, Moklan, and
the fish he was ever willing to bring that you might eat?"

The old man shook his head.

"And where be Bidarshik, thy strong son?  Ever was he a mighty hunter,
and ever did he bring thee the good back-fat and the sweet dried tongues
of the moose and the caribou.  I see no back-fat and no sweet dried
tongues.  Your stomach is full with emptiness through the days, and it is
for a man of a very miserable and lying people to give you to eat."

"Nay," old Ebbits interposed in kindliness, "the white man's is not a
lying people.  The white man speaks true.  Always does the white man
speak true."  He paused, casting about him for words wherewith to temper
the severity of what he was about to say.  "But the white man speaks true
in different ways.  To-day he speaks true one way, to-morrow he speaks
true another way, and there is no understanding him nor his way."

"To-day speak true one way, to-morrow speak true another way, which is to
lie," was Zilla's dictum.

"There is no understanding the white man," Ebbits went on doggedly.

The meat, and the tea, and the tobacco seemed to have brought him back to
life, and he gripped tighter hold of the idea behind his age-bleared
eyes.  He straightened up somewhat.  His voice lost its querulous and
whimpering note, and became strong and positive.  He turned upon me with
dignity, and addressed me as equal addresses equal.

"The white man's eyes are not shut," he began.  "The white man sees all
things, and thinks greatly, and is very wise.  But the white man of one
day is not the white man of next day, and there is no understanding him.
He does not do things always in the same way.  And what way his next way
is to be, one cannot know.  Always does the Indian do the one thing in
the one way.  Always does the moose come down from the high mountains
when the winter is here.  Always does the salmon come in the spring when
the ice has gone out of the river.  Always does everything do all things
in the same way, and the Indian knows and understands.  But the white man
does not do all things in the same way, and the Indian does not know nor

"Tobacco be very good.  It be food to the hungry man.  It makes the
strong man stronger, and the angry man to forget that he is angry.  Also
is tobacco of value.  It is of very great value.  The Indian gives one
large salmon for one leaf of tobacco, and he chews the tobacco for a long
time.  It is the juice of the tobacco that is good.  When it runs down
his throat it makes him feel good inside.  But the white man!  When his
mouth is full with the juice, what does he do?  That juice, that juice of
great value, he spits it out in the snow and it is lost.  Does the white
man like tobacco?  I do not know.  But if he likes tobacco, why does he
spit out its value and lose it in the snow?  It is a great foolishness
and without understanding."

He ceased, puffed at the pipe, found that it was out, and passed it over
to Zilla, who took the sneer at the white man off her lips in order to
pucker them about the pipe-stem.  Ebbits seemed sinking back into his
senility with the tale untold, and I demanded:

"What of thy sons, Moklan and Bidarshik?  And why is it that you and your
old woman are without meat at the end of your years?"

He roused himself as from sleep, and straightened up with an effort.

"It is not good to steal," he said.  "When the dog takes your meat you
beat the dog with a club.  Such is the law.  It is the law the man gave
to the dog, and the dog must live to the law, else will it suffer the
pain of the club.  When man takes your meat, or your canoe, or your wife,
you kill that man.  That is the law, and it is a good law.  It is not
good to steal, wherefore it is the law that the man who steals must die.
Whoso breaks the law must suffer hurt.  It is a great hurt to die."

"But if you kill the man, why do you not kill the dog?" I asked.

Old Ebbits looked at me in childlike wonder, while Zilla sneered openly
at the absurdity of my question.

"It is the way of the white man," Ebbits mumbled with an air of

"It is the foolishness of the white man," snapped Zilla.

"Then let old Ebbits teach the white man wisdom," I said softly.

"The dog is not killed, because it must pull the sled of the man.  No man
pulls another man's sled, wherefore the man is killed."

"Oh," I murmured.

"That is the law," old Ebbits went on.  "Now listen, O White Man, and I
will tell you of a great foolishness.  There is an Indian.  His name is
Mobits.  From white man he steals two pounds of flour.  What does the
white man do?  Does he beat Mobits?  No.  Does he kill Mobits?  No. What
does he do to Mobits?  I will tell you, O White Man.  He has a house.  He
puts Mobits in that house.  The roof is good.  The walls are thick.  He
makes a fire that Mobits may be warm.  He gives Mobits plenty grub to
eat.  It is good grub.  Never in his all days does Mobits eat so good
grub.  There is bacon, and bread, and beans without end.  Mobits have
very good time.

"There is a big lock on door so that Mobits does not run away.  This also
is a great foolishness.  Mobits will not run away.  All the time is there
plenty grub in that place, and warm blankets, and a big fire.  Very
foolish to run away.  Mobits is not foolish.  Three months Mobits stop in
that place.  He steal two pounds of flour.  For that, white man take
plenty good care of him.  Mobits eat many pounds of flour, many pounds of
sugar, of bacon, of beans without end.  Also, Mobits drink much tea.
After three months white man open door and tell Mobits he must go.  Mobits
does not want to go.  He is like dog that is fed long time in one place.
He want to stay in that place, and the white man must drive Mobits away.
So Mobits come back to this village, and he is very fat.  That is the
white man's way, and there is no understanding it.  It is a foolishness,
a great foolishness."

"But thy sons?" I insisted.  "Thy very strong sons and thine old-age

"There was Moklan," Ebbits began.

"A strong man," interrupted the mother.  "He could dip paddle all of a
day and night and never stop for the need of rest.  He was wise in the
way of the salmon and in the way of the water.  He was very wise."

"There was Moklan," Ebbits repeated, ignoring the interruption.  "In the
spring, he went down the Yukon with the young men to trade at Cambell
Fort.  There is a post there, filled with the goods of the white man, and
a trader whose name is Jones.  Likewise is there a white man's medicine
man, what you call missionary.  Also is there bad water at Cambell Fort,
where the Yukon goes slim like a maiden, and the water is fast, and the
currents rush this way and that and come together, and there are whirls
and sucks, and always are the currents changing and the face of the water
changing, so at any two times it is never the same.  Moklan is my son,
wherefore he is brave man--"

"Was not my father brave man?" Zilla demanded.

"Thy father was brave man," Ebbits acknowledged, with the air of one who
will keep peace in the house at any cost.  "Moklan is thy son and mine,
wherefore he is brave.  Mayhap, because of thy very brave father, Moklan
is too brave.  It is like when too much water is put in the pot it spills
over.  So too much bravery is put into Moklan, and the bravery spills

"The young men are much afraid of the bad water at Cambell Fort.  But
Moklan is not afraid.  He laughs strong, Ho! ho! and he goes forth into
the bad water.  But where the currents come together the canoe is turned
over.  A whirl takes Moklan by the legs, and he goes around and around,
and down and down, and is seen no more."

"Ai! ai!" wailed Zilla.  "Crafty and wise was he, and my first-born!"

"I am the father of Moklan," Ebbits said, having patiently given the
woman space for her noise.  "I get into canoe and journey down to Cambell
Fort to collect the debt!"

"Debt!" interrupted.  "What debt?"

"The debt of Jones, who is chief trader," came the answer.  "Such is the
law of travel in a strange country."

I shook my head in token of my ignorance, and Ebbits looked compassion at
me, while Zilla snorted her customary contempt.

"Look you, O White Man," he said.  "In thy camp is a dog that bites.  When
the dog bites a man, you give that man a present because you are sorry
and because it is thy dog.  You make payment.  Is it not so?  Also, if
you have in thy country bad hunting, or bad water, you must make payment.
It is just.  It is the law.  Did not my father's brother go over into the
Tanana Country and get killed by a bear?  And did not the Tanana tribe
pay my father many blankets and fine furs?  It was just.  It was bad
hunting, and the Tanana people made payment for the bad hunting.

"So I, Ebbits, journeyed down to Cambell Fort to collect the debt.  Jones,
who is chief trader, looked at me, and he laughed.  He made great
laughter, and would not give payment.  I went to the medicine-man, what
you call missionary, and had large talk about the bad water and the
payment that should be mine.  And the missionary made talk about other
things.  He talk about where Moklan has gone, now he is dead.  There be
large fires in that place, and if missionary make true talk, I know that
Moklan will be cold no more.  Also the missionary talk about where I
shall go when I am dead.  And he say bad things.  He say that I am blind.
Which is a lie.  He say that I am in great darkness.  Which is a lie.  And
I say that the day come and the night come for everybody just the same,
and that in my village it is no more dark than at Cambell Fort.  Also, I
say that darkness and light and where we go when we die be different
things from the matter of payment of just debt for bad water.  Then the
missionary make large anger, and call me bad names of darkness, and tell
me to go away.  And so I come back from Cambell Fort, and no payment has
been made, and Moklan is dead, and in my old age I am without fish and

"Because of the white man," said Zilla.

"Because of the white man," Ebbits concurred.  "And other things because
of the white man.  There was Bidarshik.  One way did the white man deal
with him; and yet another way for the same thing did the white man deal
with Yamikan.  And first must I tell you of Yamikan, who was a young man
of this village and who chanced to kill a white man.  It is not good to
kill a man of another people.  Always is there great trouble.  It was not
the fault of Yamikan that he killed the white man.  Yamikan spoke always
soft words and ran away from wrath as a dog from a stick.  But this white
man drank much whiskey, and in the night-time came to Yamikan's house and
made much fight.  Yamikan cannot run away, and the white man tries to
kill him.  Yamikan does not like to die, so he kills the white man.

"Then is all the village in great trouble.  We are much afraid that we
must make large payment to the white man's people, and we hide our
blankets, and our furs, and all our wealth, so that it will seem that we
are poor people and can make only small payment.  After long time white
men come.  They are soldier white men, and they take Yamikan away with
them.  His mother make great noise and throw ashes in her hair, for she
knows Yamikan is dead.  And all the village knows that Yamikan is dead,
and is glad that no payment is asked.

"That is in the spring when the ice has gone out of the river.  One year
go by, two years go by.  It is spring-time again, and the ice has gone
out of the river.  And then Yamikan, who is dead, comes back to us, and
he is not dead, but very fat, and we know that he has slept warm and had
plenty grub to eat.  He has much fine clothes and is all the same white
man, and he has gathered large wisdom so that he is very quick head man
in the village.

"And he has strange things to tell of the way of the white man, for he
has seen much of the white man and done a great travel into the white
man's country.  First place, soldier white men take him down the river
long way.  All the way do they take him down the river to the end, where
it runs into a lake which is larger than all the land and large as the
sky.  I do not know the Yukon is so big river, but Yamikan has seen with
his own eyes.  I do not think there is a lake larger than all the land
and large as the sky, but Yamikan has seen.  Also, he has told me that
the waters of this lake be salt, which is a strange thing and beyond

"But the White Man knows all these marvels for himself, so I shall not
weary him with the telling of them.  Only will I tell him what happened
to Yamikan.  The white man give Yamikan much fine grub.  All the time
does Yamikan eat, and all the time is there plenty more grub.  The white
man lives under the sun, so said Yamikan, where there be much warmth, and
animals have only hair and no fur, and the green things grow large and
strong and become flour, and beans, and potatoes.  And under the sun
there is never famine.  Always is there plenty grub.  I do not know.
Yamikan has said.

"And here is a strange thing that befell Yamikan.  Never did the white
man hurt him.  Only did they give him warm bed at night and plenty fine
grub.  They take him across the salt lake which is big as the sky.  He is
on white man's fire-boat, what you call steamboat, only he is on boat
maybe twenty times bigger than steamboat on Yukon.  Also, it is made of
iron, this boat, and yet does it not sink.  This I do not understand, but
Yamikan has said, 'I have journeyed far on the iron boat; behold! I am
still alive.'  It is a white man's soldier-boat with many soldier men
upon it.

"After many sleeps of travel, a long, long time, Yamikan comes to a land
where there is no snow.  I cannot believe this.  It is not in the nature
of things that when winter comes there shall be no snow.  But Yamikan has
seen.  Also have I asked the white men, and they have said yes, there is
no snow in that country.  But I cannot believe, and now I ask you if snow
never come in that country.  Also, I would hear the name of that country.
I have heard the name before, but I would hear it again, if it be the
same--thus will I know if I have heard lies or true talk."

Old Ebbits regarded me with a wistful face.  He would have the truth at
any cost, though it was his desire to retain his faith in the marvel he
had never seen.

"Yes," I answered, "it is true talk that you have heard.  There is no
snow in that country, and its name is California."

"Cal-ee-forn-ee-yeh," he mumbled twice and thrice, listening intently to
the sound of the syllables as they fell from his lips.  He nodded his
head in confirmation.  "Yes, it is the same country of which Yamikan made

I recognized the adventure of Yamikan as one likely to occur in the early
days when Alaska first passed into the possession of the United States.
Such a murder case, occurring before the instalment of territorial law
and officials, might well have been taken down to the United States for
trial before a Federal court.

"When Yamikan is in this country where there is no snow," old Ebbits
continued, "he is taken to large house where many men make much talk.
Long time men talk.  Also many questions do they ask Yamikan.  By and by
they tell Yamikan he have no more trouble.  Yamikan does not understand,
for never has he had any trouble.  All the time have they given him warm
place to sleep and plenty grub.

"But after that they give him much better grub, and they give him money,
and they take him many places in white man's country, and he see many
strange things which are beyond the understanding of Ebbits, who is an
old man and has not journeyed far.  After two years, Yamikan comes back
to this village, and he is head man, and very wise until he dies.

"But before he dies, many times does he sit by my fire and make talk of
the strange things he has seen.  And Bidarshik, who is my son, sits by
the fire and listens; and his eyes are very wide and large because of the
things he hears.  One night, after Yamikan has gone home, Bidarshik
stands up, so, very tall, and he strikes his chest with his fist, and
says, 'When I am a man, I shall journey in far places, even to the land
where there is no snow, and see things for myself.'"

"Always did Bidarshik journey in far places," Zilla interrupted proudly.

"It be true," Ebbits assented gravely.  "And always did he return to sit
by the fire and hunger for yet other and unknown far places."

"And always did he remember the salt lake as big as the sky and the
country under the sun where there is no snow," quoth Zilla.

"And always did he say, 'When I have the full strength of a man, I will
go and see for myself if the talk of Yamikan be true talk,'" said Ebbits.

"But there was no way to go to the white man's country," said Zilla.

"Did he not go down to the salt lake that is big as the sky?" Ebbits

"And there was no way for him across the salt lake," said Zilla.

"Save in the white man's fire-boat which is of iron and is bigger than
twenty steamboats on the Yukon," said Ebbits.  He scowled at Zilla, whose
withered lips were again writhing into speech, and compelled her to
silence.  "But the white man would not let him cross the salt lake in the
fire-boat, and he returned to sit by the fire and hunger for the country
under the sun where there is no snow.'"

"Yet on the salt lake had he seen the fire-boat of iron that did not
sink," cried out Zilla the irrepressible.

"Ay," said Ebbits, "and he saw that Yamikan had made true talk of the
things he had seen.  But there was no way for Bidarshik to journey to the
white man's land under the sun, and he grew sick and weary like an old
man and moved not away from the fire.  No longer did he go forth to kill

"And no longer did he eat the meat placed before him," Zilla broke in.
"He would shake his head and say, 'Only do I care to eat the grub of the
white man and grow fat after the manner of Yamikan.'"

"And he did not eat the meat," Ebbits went on.  "And the sickness of
Bidarshik grew into a great sickness until I thought he would die.  It
was not a sickness of the body, but of the head.  It was a sickness of
desire.  I, Ebbits, who am his father, make a great think.  I have no
more sons and I do not want Bidarshik to die.  It is a head-sickness, and
there is but one way to make it well.  Bidarshik must journey across the
lake as large as the sky to the land where there is no snow, else will he
die.  I make a very great think, and then I see the way for Bidarshik to

"So, one night when he sits by the fire, very sick, his head hanging
down, I say, 'My son, I have learned the way for you to go to the white
man's land.'  He looks at me, and his face is glad.  'Go,' I say, 'even
as Yamikan went.'  But Bidarshik is sick and does not understand.  'Go
forth,' I say, 'and find a white man, and, even as Yamikan, do you kill
that white man.  Then will the soldier white men come and get you, and
even as they took Yamikan will they take you across the salt lake to the
white man's land.  And then, even as Yamikan, will you return very fat,
your eyes full of the things you have seen, your head filled with

"And Bidarshik stands up very quick, and his hand is reaching out for his
gun.  'Where do you go?' I ask.  'To kill the white man,' he says.  And I
see that my words have been good in the ears of Bidarshik and that he
will grow well again.  Also do I know that my words have been wise.

"There is a white man come to this village.  He does not seek after gold
in the ground, nor after furs in the forest.  All the time does he seek
after bugs and flies.  He does not eat the bugs and flies, then why does
he seek after them?  I do not know.  Only do I know that he is a funny
white man.  Also does he seek after the eggs of birds.  He does not eat
the eggs.  All that is inside he takes out, and only does he keep the
shell.  Eggshell is not good to eat.  Nor does he eat the eggshells, but
puts them away in soft boxes where they will not break.  He catch many
small birds.  But he does not eat the birds.  He takes only the skins and
puts them away in boxes.  Also does he like bones.  Bones are not good to
eat.  And this strange white man likes best the bones of long time ago
which he digs out of the ground.

"But he is not a fierce white man, and I know he will die very easy; so I
say to Bidarshik, 'My son, there is the white man for you to kill.'  And
Bidarshik says that my words be wise.  So he goes to a place he knows
where are many bones in the ground.  He digs up very many of these bones
and brings them to the strange white man's camp.  The white man is made
very glad.  His face shines like the sun, and he smiles with much
gladness as he looks at the bones.  He bends his head over, so, to look
well at the bones, and then Bidarshik strikes him hard on the head, with
axe, once, so, and the strange white man kicks and is dead.

"'Now,' I say to Bidarshik, 'will the white soldier men come and take you
away to the land under the sun, where you will eat much and grow fat.'
Bidarshik is happy.  Already has his sickness gone from him, and he sits
by the fire and waits for the coming of the white soldier men.

"How was I to know the way of the white man is never twice the same?" the
old man demanded, whirling upon me fiercely.  "How was I to know that
what the white man does yesterday he will not do to-day, and that what he
does to-day he will not do to-morrow?"  Ebbits shook his head sadly.
"There is no understanding the white man.  Yesterday he takes Yamikan to
the land under the sun and makes him fat with much grub.  To-day he takes
Bidarshik and--what does he do with Bidarshik?  Let me tell you what he
does with Bidarshik.

"I, Ebbits, his father, will tell you.  He takes Bidarshik to Cambell
Fort, and he ties a rope around his neck, so, and, when his feet are no
more on the ground, he dies."

"Ai! ai!" wailed Zilla.  "And never does he cross the lake large as the
sky, nor see the land under the sun where there is no snow."

"Wherefore," old Ebbits said with grave dignity, "there be no one to hunt
meat for me in my old age, and I sit hungry by my fire and tell my story
to the White Man who has given me grub, and strong tea, and tobacco for
my pipe."

"Because of the lying and very miserable white people," Zilla proclaimed

"Nay," answered the old man with gentle positiveness.  "Because of the
way of the white man, which is without understanding and never twice the


Keesh lived long ago on the rim of the polar sea, was head man of his
village through many and prosperous years, and died full of honors with
his name on the lips of men.  So long ago did he live that only the old
men remember his name, his name and the tale, which they got from the old
men before them, and which the old men to come will tell to their
children and their children's children down to the end of time.  And the
winter darkness, when the north gales make their long sweep across the
ice-pack, and the air is filled with flying white, and no man may venture
forth, is the chosen time for the telling of how Keesh, from the poorest
_igloo_ in the village, rose to power and place over them all.

He was a bright boy, so the tale runs, healthy and strong, and he had
seen thirteen suns, in their way of reckoning time.  For each winter the
sun leaves the land in darkness, and the next year a new sun returns so
that they may be warm again and look upon one another's faces.  The
father of Keesh had been a very brave man, but he had met his death in a
time of famine, when he sought to save the lives of his people by taking
the life of a great polar bear.  In his eagerness he came to close
grapples with the bear, and his bones were crushed; but the bear had much
meat on him and the people were saved.  Keesh was his only son, and after
that Keesh lived alone with his mother.  But the people are prone to
forget, and they forgot the deed of his father; and he being but a boy,
and his mother only a woman, they, too, were swiftly forgotten, and ere
long came to live in the meanest of all the _igloos_.

It was at a council, one night, in the big _igloo_ of Klosh-Kwan, the
chief, that Keesh showed the blood that ran in his veins and the manhood
that stiffened his back.  With the dignity of an elder, he rose to his
feet, and waited for silence amid the babble of voices.

"It is true that meat be apportioned me and mine," he said.  "But it is
ofttimes old and tough, this meat, and, moreover, it has an unusual
quantity of bones."

The hunters, grizzled and gray, and lusty and young, were aghast.  The
like had never been known before.  A child, that talked like a grown man,
and said harsh things to their very faces!

But steadily and with seriousness, Keesh went on.  "For that I know my
father, Bok, was a great hunter, I speak these words.  It is said that
Bok brought home more meat than any of the two best hunters, that with
his own hands he attended to the division of it, that with his own eyes
he saw to it that the least old woman and the last old man received fair

"Na! Na!" the men cried.  "Put the child out!"  "Send him off to bed!"
"He is no man that he should talk to men and graybeards!"

He waited calmly till the uproar died down.

"Thou hast a wife, Ugh-Gluk," he said, "and for her dost thou speak.  And
thou, too, Massuk, a mother also, and for them dost thou speak.  My
mother has no one, save me; wherefore I speak.  As I say, though Bok be
dead because he hunted over-keenly, it is just that I, who am his son,
and that Ikeega, who is my mother and was his wife, should have meat in
plenty so long as there be meat in plenty in the tribe.  I, Keesh, the
son of Bok, have spoken."

He sat down, his ears keenly alert to the flood of protest and
indignation his words had created.

"That a boy should speak in council!" old Ugh-Gluk was mumbling.

"Shall the babes in arms tell us men the things we shall do?" Massuk
demanded in a loud voice.  "Am I a man that I should be made a mock by
every child that cries for meat?"

The anger boiled a white heat.  They ordered him to bed, threatened that
he should have no meat at all, and promised him sore beatings for his
presumption.  Keesh's eyes began to flash, and the blood to pound darkly
under his skin.  In the midst of the abuse he sprang to his feet.

"Hear me, ye men!" he cried.  "Never shall I speak in the council again,
never again till the men come to me and say, 'It is well, Keesh, that
thou shouldst speak, it is well and it is our wish.'  Take this now, ye
men, for my last word.  Bok, my father, was a great hunter.  I, too, his
son, shall go and hunt the meat that I eat.  And be it known, now, that
the division of that which I kill shall be fair.  And no widow nor weak
one shall cry in the night because there is no meat, when the strong men
are groaning in great pain for that they have eaten overmuch.  And in the
days to come there shall be shame upon the strong men who have eaten
overmuch.  I, Keesh, have said it!"

Jeers and scornful laughter followed him out of the _igloo_, but his jaw
was set and he went his way, looking neither to right nor left.

The next day he went forth along the shore-line where the ice and the
land met together.  Those who saw him go noted that he carried his bow,
with a goodly supply of bone-barbed arrows, and that across his shoulder
was his father's big hunting-spear.  And there was laughter, and much
talk, at the event.  It was an unprecedented occurrence.  Never did boys
of his tender age go forth to hunt, much less to hunt alone.  Also were
there shaking of heads and prophetic mutterings, and the women looked
pityingly at Ikeega, and her face was grave and sad.

"He will be back ere long," they said cheeringly.

"Let him go; it will teach him a lesson," the hunters said.  "And he will
come back shortly, and he will be meek and soft of speech in the days to

But a day passed, and a second, and on the third a wild gale blew, and
there was no Keesh.  Ikeega tore her hair and put soot of the seal-oil on
her face in token of her grief; and the women assailed the men with
bitter words in that they had mistreated the boy and sent him to his
death; and the men made no answer, preparing to go in search of the body
when the storm abated.

Early next morning, however, Keesh strode into the village.  But he came
not shamefacedly.  Across his shoulders he bore a burden of fresh-killed
meat.  And there was importance in his step and arrogance in his speech.

"Go, ye men, with the dogs and sledges, and take my trail for the better
part of a day's travel," he said.  "There is much meat on the ice--a she-
bear and two half-grown cubs."

Ikeega was overcome with joy, but he received her demonstrations in
manlike fashion, saying:  "Come, Ikeega, let us eat.  And after that I
shall sleep, for I am weary."

And he passed into their _igloo_ and ate profoundly, and after that slept
for twenty running hours.

There was much doubt at first, much doubt and discussion.  The killing of
a polar bear is very dangerous, but thrice dangerous is it, and three
times thrice, to kill a mother bear with her cubs.  The men could not
bring themselves to believe that the boy Keesh, single-handed, had
accomplished so great a marvel.  But the women spoke of the fresh-killed
meat he had brought on his back, and this was an overwhelming argument
against their unbelief.  So they finally departed, grumbling greatly that
in all probability, if the thing were so, he had neglected to cut up the
carcasses.  Now in the north it is very necessary that this should be
done as soon as a kill is made.  If not, the meat freezes so solidly as
to turn the edge of the sharpest knife, and a three-hundred-pound bear,
frozen stiff, is no easy thing to put upon a sled and haul over the rough
ice.  But arrived at the spot, they found not only the kill, which they
had doubted, but that Keesh had quartered the beasts in true hunter
fashion, and removed the entrails.

Thus began the mystery of Keesh, a mystery that deepened and deepened
with the passing of the days.  His very next trip he killed a young bear,
nearly full-grown, and on the trip following, a large male bear and his
mate.  He was ordinarily gone from three to four days, though it was
nothing unusual for him to stay away a week at a time on the ice-field.
Always he declined company on these expeditions, and the people
marvelled.  "How does he do it?" they demanded of one another.  "Never
does he take a dog with him, and dogs are of such great help, too."

"Why dost thou hunt only bear?" Klosh-Kwan once ventured to ask him.

And Keesh made fitting answer.  "It is well known that there is more meat
on the bear," he said.

But there was also talk of witchcraft in the village.  "He hunts with
evil spirits," some of the people contended, "wherefore his hunting is
rewarded.  How else can it be, save that he hunts with evil spirits?"

"Mayhap they be not evil, but good, these spirits," others said.  "It is
known that his father was a mighty hunter.  May not his father hunt with
him so that he may attain excellence and patience and understanding?  Who

None the less, his success continued, and the less skilful hunters were
often kept busy hauling in his meat.  And in the division of it he was
just.  As his father had done before him, he saw to it that the least old
woman and the last old man received a fair portion, keeping no more for
himself than his needs required.  And because of this, and of his merit
as a hunter, he was looked upon with respect, and even awe; and there was
talk of making him chief after old Klosh-Kwan.  Because of the things he
had done, they looked for him to appear again in the council, but he
never came, and they were ashamed to ask.

"I am minded to build me an _igloo_," he said one day to Klosh-Kwan and a
number of the hunters.  "It shall be a large _igloo_, wherein Ikeega and
I can dwell in comfort."

"Ay," they nodded gravely.

"But I have no time.  My business is hunting, and it takes all my time.
So it is but just that the men and women of the village who eat my meat
should build me my _igloo_."

And the _igloo_ was built accordingly, on a generous scale which exceeded
even the dwelling of Klosh-Kwan.  Keesh and his mother moved into it, and
it was the first prosperity she had enjoyed since the death of Bok.  Nor
was material prosperity alone hers, for, because of her wonderful son and
the position he had given her, she came to be looked upon as the first
woman in all the village; and the women were given to visiting her, to
asking her advice, and to quoting her wisdom when arguments arose among
themselves or with the men.

But it was the mystery of Keesh's marvellous hunting that took chief
place in all their minds.  And one day Ugh-Gluk taxed him with witchcraft
to his face.

"It is charged," Ugh-Gluk said ominously, "that thou dealest with evil
spirits, wherefore thy hunting is rewarded."

"Is not the meat good?" Keesh made answer.  "Has one in the village yet
to fall sick from the eating of it?  How dost thou know that witchcraft
be concerned?  Or dost thou guess, in the dark, merely because of the
envy that consumes thee?"

And Ugh-Gluk withdrew discomfited, the women laughing at him as he walked
away.  But in the council one night, after long deliberation, it was
determined to put spies on his track when he went forth to hunt, so that
his methods might be learned.  So, on his next trip, Bim and Bawn, two
young men, and of hunters the craftiest, followed after him, taking care
not to be seen.  After five days they returned, their eyes bulging and
their tongues a-tremble to tell what they had seen.  The council was
hastily called in Klosh-Kwan's dwelling, and Bim took up the tale.

"Brothers!  As commanded, we journeyed on the trail of Keesh, and
cunningly we journeyed, so that he might not know.  And midway of the
first day he picked up with a great he-bear.  It was a very great bear."

"None greater," Bawn corroborated, and went on himself.  "Yet was the
bear not inclined to fight, for he turned away and made off slowly over
the ice.  This we saw from the rocks of the shore, and the bear came
toward us, and after him came Keesh, very much unafraid.  And he shouted
harsh words after the bear, and waved his arms about, and made much
noise.  Then did the bear grow angry, and rise up on his hind legs, and
growl.  But Keesh walked right up to the bear."

"Ay," Bim continued the story.  "Right up to the bear Keesh walked.  And
the bear took after him, and Keesh ran away.  But as he ran he dropped a
little round ball on the ice.  And the bear stopped and smelled of it,
then swallowed it up.  And Keesh continued to run away and drop little
round balls, and the bear continued to swallow them up."

Exclamations and cries of doubt were being made, and Ugh-Gluk expressed
open unbelief.

"With our own eyes we saw it," Bim affirmed.

And Bawn--"Ay, with our own eyes.  And this continued until the bear
stood suddenly upright and cried aloud in pain, and thrashed his fore
paws madly about.  And Keesh continued to make off over the ice to a safe
distance.  But the bear gave him no notice, being occupied with the
misfortune the little round balls had wrought within him."

"Ay, within him," Bim interrupted.  "For he did claw at himself, and leap
about over the ice like a playful puppy, save from the way he growled and
squealed it was plain it was not play but pain.  Never did I see such a

"Nay, never was such a sight seen," Bawn took up the strain.  "And
furthermore, it was such a large bear."

"Witchcraft," Ugh-Gluk suggested.

"I know not," Bawn replied.  "I tell only of what my eyes beheld.  And
after a while the bear grew weak and tired, for he was very heavy and he
had jumped about with exceeding violence, and he went off along the shore-
ice, shaking his head slowly from side to side and sitting down ever and
again to squeal and cry.  And Keesh followed after the bear, and we
followed after Keesh, and for that day and three days more we followed.
The bear grew weak, and never ceased crying from his pain."

"It was a charm!" Ugh-Gluk exclaimed.  "Surely it was a charm!"

"It may well be."

And Bim relieved Bawn.  "The bear wandered, now this way and now that,
doubling back and forth and crossing his trail in circles, so that at the
end he was near where Keesh had first come upon him.  By this time he was
quite sick, the bear, and could crawl no farther, so Keesh came up close
and speared him to death."

"And then?" Klosh-Kwan demanded.

"Then we left Keesh skinning the bear, and came running that the news of
the killing might be told."

And in the afternoon of that day the women hauled in the meat of the bear
while the men sat in council assembled.  When Keesh arrived a messenger
was sent to him, bidding him come to the council.  But he sent reply,
saying that he was hungry and tired; also that his _igloo_ was large and
comfortable and could hold many men.

And curiosity was so strong on the men that the whole council, Klosh-Kwan
to the fore, rose up and went to the _igloo_ of Keesh.  He was eating,
but he received them with respect and seated them according to their
rank.  Ikeega was proud and embarrassed by turns, but Keesh was quite

Klosh-Kwan recited the information brought by Bim and Bawn, and at its
close said in a stern voice:  "So explanation is wanted, O Keesh, of thy
manner of hunting.  Is there witchcraft in it?"

Keesh looked up and smiled.  "Nay, O Klosh-Kwan.  It is not for a boy to
know aught of witches, and of witches I know nothing.  I have but devised
a means whereby I may kill the ice-bear with ease, that is all.  It be
headcraft, not witchcraft."

"And may any man?"

"Any man."

There was a long silence.  The men looked in one another's faces, and
Keesh went on eating.

"And . . . and . . . and wilt thou tell us, O Keesh?" Klosh-Kwan finally
asked in a tremulous voice.

"Yea, I will tell thee."  Keesh finished sucking a marrow-bone and rose
to his feet.  "It is quite simple.  Behold!"

He picked up a thin strip of whalebone and showed it to them.  The ends
were sharp as needle-points.  The strip he coiled carefully, till it
disappeared in his hand.  Then, suddenly releasing it, it sprang straight
again.  He picked up a piece of blubber.

"So," he said, "one takes a small chunk of blubber, thus, and thus makes
it hollow.  Then into the hollow goes the whalebone, so, tightly coiled,
and another piece of blubber is fitted over the whale-bone.  After that
it is put outside where it freezes into a little round ball.  The bear
swallows the little round ball, the blubber melts, the whalebone with its
sharp ends stands out straight, the bear gets sick, and when the bear is
very sick, why, you kill him with a spear.  It is quite simple."

And Ugh-Gluk said "Oh!" and Klosh-Kwan said "Ah!"  And each said
something after his own manner, and all understood.

And this is the story of Keesh, who lived long ago on the rim of the
polar sea.  Because he exercised headcraft and not witchcraft, he rose
from the meanest _igloo_ to be head man of his village, and through all
the years that he lived, it is related, his tribe was prosperous, and
neither widow nor weak one cried aloud in the night because there was no


It is a simple matter to see the obvious, to do the expected.  The
tendency of the individual life is to be static rather than dynamic, and
this tendency is made into a propulsion by civilization, where the
obvious only is seen, and the unexpected rarely happens.  When the
unexpected does happen, however, and when it is of sufficiently grave
import, the unfit perish.  They do not see what is not obvious, are
unable to do the unexpected, are incapable of adjusting their
well-grooved lives to other and strange grooves.  In short, when they
come to the end of their own groove, they die.

On the other hand, there are those that make toward survival, the fit
individuals who escape from the rule of the obvious and the expected and
adjust their lives to no matter what strange grooves they may stray into,
or into which they may be forced.  Such an individual was Edith
Whittlesey.  She was born in a rural district of England, where life
proceeds by rule of thumb and the unexpected is so very unexpected that
when it happens it is looked upon as an immorality.  She went into
service early, and while yet a young woman, by rule-of-thumb progression,
she became a lady's maid.

The effect of civilization is to impose human law upon environment until
it becomes machine-like in its regularity.  The objectionable is
eliminated, the inevitable is foreseen.  One is not even made wet by the
rain nor cold by the frost; while death, instead of stalking about
grewsome and accidental, becomes a prearranged pageant, moving along a
well-oiled groove to the family vault, where the hinges are kept from
rusting and the dust from the air is swept continually away.

Such was the environment of Edith Whittlesey.  Nothing happened.  It
could scarcely be called a happening, when, at the age of twenty-five,
she accompanied her mistress on a bit of travel to the United States.  The
groove merely changed its direction.  It was still the same groove and
well oiled.  It was a groove that bridged the Atlantic with
uneventfulness, so that the ship was not a ship in the midst of the sea,
but a capacious, many-corridored hotel that moved swiftly and placidly,
crushing the waves into submission with its colossal bulk until the sea
was a mill-pond, monotonous with quietude.  And at the other side the
groove continued on over the land--a well-disposed, respectable groove
that supplied hotels at every stopping-place, and hotels on wheels
between the stopping-places.

In Chicago, while her mistress saw one side of social life, Edith
Whittlesey saw another side; and when she left her lady's service and
became Edith Nelson, she betrayed, perhaps faintly, her ability to
grapple with the unexpected and to master it.  Hans Nelson, immigrant,
Swede by birth and carpenter by occupation, had in him that Teutonic
unrest that drives the race ever westward on its great adventure.  He was
a large-muscled, stolid sort of a man, in whom little imagination was
coupled with immense initiative, and who possessed, withal, loyalty and
affection as sturdy as his own strength.

"When I have worked hard and saved me some money, I will go to Colorado,"
he had told Edith on the day after their wedding.  A year later they were
in Colorado, where Hans Nelson saw his first mining and caught the mining-
fever himself.  His prospecting led him through the Dakotas, Idaho, and
eastern Oregon, and on into the mountains of British Columbia.  In camp
and on trail, Edith Nelson was always with him, sharing his luck, his
hardship, and his toil.  The short step of the house-reared woman she
exchanged for the long stride of the mountaineer.  She learned to look
upon danger clear-eyed and with understanding, losing forever that panic
fear which is bred of ignorance and which afflicts the city-reared,
making them as silly as silly horses, so that they await fate in frozen
horror instead of grappling with it, or stampede in blind self-destroying
terror which clutters the way with their crushed carcasses.

Edith Nelson met the unexpected at every turn of the trail, and she
trained her vision so that she saw in the landscape, not the obvious, but
the concealed.  She, who had never cooked in her life, learned to make
bread without the mediation of hops, yeast, or baking-powder, and to bake
bread, top and bottom, in a frying-pan before an open fire.  And when the
last cup of flour was gone and the last rind of bacon, she was able to
rise to the occasion, and of moccasins and the softer-tanned bits of
leather in the outfit to make a grub-stake substitute that somehow held a
man's soul in his body and enabled him to stagger on.  She learned to
pack a horse as well as a man,--a task to break the heart and the pride
of any city-dweller, and she knew how to throw the hitch best suited for
any particular kind of pack.  Also, she could build a fire of wet wood in
a downpour of rain and not lose her temper.  In short, in all its guises
she mastered the unexpected.  But the Great Unexpected was yet to come
into her life and put its test upon her.

The gold-seeking tide was flooding northward into Alaska, and it was
inevitable that Hans Nelson and his wife should he caught up by the
stream and swept toward the Klondike.  The fall of 1897 found them at
Dyea, but without the money to carry an outfit across Chilcoot Pass and
float it down to Dawson.  So Hans Nelson worked at his trade that winter
and helped rear the mushroom outfitting-town of Skaguay.

He was on the edge of things, and throughout the winter he heard all
Alaska calling to him.  Latuya Bay called loudest, so that the summer of
1898 found him and his wife threading the mazes of the broken coast-line
in seventy-foot Siwash canoes.  With them were Indians, also three other
men.  The Indians landed them and their supplies in a lonely bight of
land a hundred miles or so beyond Latuya Bay, and returned to Skaguay;
but the three other men remained, for they were members of the organized
party.  Each had put an equal share of capital into the outfitting, and
the profits were to be divided equally.  In that Edith Nelson undertook
to cook for the outfit, a man's share was to be her portion.

First, spruce trees were cut down and a three-room cabin constructed.  To
keep this cabin was Edith Nelson's task.  The task of the men was to
search for gold, which they did; and to find gold, which they likewise
did.  It was not a startling find, merely a low-pay placer where long
hours of severe toil earned each man between fifteen and twenty dollars a
day.  The brief Alaskan summer protracted itself beyond its usual length,
and they took advantage of the opportunity, delaying their return to
Skaguay to the last moment.  And then it was too late.  Arrangements had
been made to accompany the several dozen local Indians on their fall
trading trip down the coast.  The Siwashes had waited on the white people
until the eleventh hour, and then departed.  There was no course left the
party but to wait for chance transportation.  In the meantime the claim
was cleaned up and firewood stocked in.

The Indian summer had dreamed on and on, and then, suddenly, with the
sharpness of bugles, winter came.  It came in a single night, and the
miners awoke to howling wind, driving snow, and freezing water.  Storm
followed storm, and between the storms there was the silence, broken only
by the boom of the surf on the desolate shore, where the salt spray
rimmed the beach with frozen white.

All went well in the cabin.  Their gold-dust had weighed up something
like eight thousand dollars, and they could not but be contented.  The
men made snowshoes, hunted fresh meat for the larder, and in the long
evenings played endless games of whist and pedro.  Now that the mining
had ceased, Edith Nelson turned over the fire-building and the
dish-washing to the men, while she darned their socks and mended their

There was no grumbling, no bickering, nor petty quarrelling in the little
cabin, and they often congratulated one another on the general happiness
of the party.  Hans Nelson was stolid and easy-going, while Edith had
long before won his unbounded admiration by her capacity for getting on
with people.  Harkey, a long, lank Texan, was unusually friendly for one
with a saturnine disposition, and, as long as his theory that gold grew
was not challenged, was quite companionable.  The fourth member of the
party, Michael Dennin, contributed his Irish wit to the gayety of the
cabin.  He was a large, powerful man, prone to sudden rushes of anger
over little things, and of unfailing good-humor under the stress and
strain of big things.  The fifth and last member, Dutchy, was the willing
butt of the party.  He even went out of his way to raise a laugh at his
own expense in order to keep things cheerful.  His deliberate aim in life
seemed to be that of a maker of laughter.  No serious quarrel had ever
vexed the serenity of the party; and, now that each had sixteen hundred
dollars to show for a short summer's work, there reigned the well-fed,
contented spirit of prosperity.

And then the unexpected happened.  They had just sat down to the
breakfast table.  Though it was already eight o'clock (late breakfasts
had followed naturally upon cessation of the steady work at mining) a
candle in the neck of a bottle lighted the meal.  Edith and Hans sat at
each end of the table.  On one side, with their backs to the door, sat
Harkey and Dutchy.  The place on the other side was vacant.  Dennin had
not yet come in.

Hans Nelson looked at the empty chair, shook his head slowly, and, with a
ponderous attempt at humor, said:  "Always is he first at the grub.  It
is very strange.  Maybe he is sick."

"Where is Michael?" Edith asked.

"Got up a little ahead of us and went outside," Harkey answered.

Dutchy's face beamed mischievously.  He pretended knowledge of Dennin's
absence, and affected a mysterious air, while they clamored for
information.  Edith, after a peep into the men's bunk-room, returned to
the table.  Hans looked at her, and she shook her head.

"He was never late at meal-time before," she remarked.

"I cannot understand," said Hans.  "Always has he the great appetite like
the horse."

"It is too bad," Dutchy said, with a sad shake of his head.

They were beginning to make merry over their comrade's absence.

"It is a great pity!" Dutchy volunteered.

"What?" they demanded in chorus.

"Poor Michael," was the mournful reply.

"Well, what's wrong with Michael?" Harkey asked.

"He is not hungry no more," wailed Dutchy.  "He has lost der appetite.  He
do not like der grub."

"Not from the way he pitches into it up to his ears," remarked Harkey.

"He does dot shust to be politeful to Mrs. Nelson," was Dutchy's quick
retort.  "I know, I know, and it is too pad.  Why is he not here?  Pecause
he haf gone out.  Why haf he gone out?  For der defelopment of der
appetite.  How does he defelop der appetite?  He walks barefoots in der
snow.  Ach! don't I know?  It is der way der rich peoples chases after
der appetite when it is no more and is running away.  Michael haf sixteen
hundred dollars.  He is rich peoples.  He haf no appetite.  Derefore,
pecause, he is chasing der appetite.  Shust you open der door und you
will see his barefoots in der snow.  No, you will not see der appetite.
Dot is shust his trouble.  When he sees der appetite he will catch it und
come to preak-fast."

They burst into loud laughter at Dutchy's nonsense.  The sound had
scarcely died away when the door opened and Dennin came in.  All turned
to look at him.  He was carrying a shot-gun.  Even as they looked, he
lifted it to his shoulder and fired twice.  At the first shot Dutchy sank
upon the table, overturning his mug of coffee, his yellow mop of hair
dabbling in his plate of mush.  His forehead, which pressed upon the near
edge of the plate, tilted the plate up against his hair at an angle of
forty-five degrees.  Harkey was in the air, in his spring to his feet, at
the second shot, and he pitched face down upon the floor, his "My God!"
gurgling and dying in his throat.

It was the unexpected.  Hans and Edith were stunned.  They sat at the
table with bodies tense, their eyes fixed in a fascinated gaze upon the
murderer.  Dimly they saw him through the smoke of the powder, and in the
silence nothing was to be heard save the drip-drip of Dutchy's spilled
coffee on the floor.  Dennin threw open the breech of the shot-gun,
ejecting the empty shells.  Holding the gun with one hand, he reached
with the other into his pocket for fresh shells.

He was thrusting the shells into the gun when Edith Nelson was aroused to
action.  It was patent that he intended to kill Hans and her.  For a
space of possibly three seconds of time she had been dazed and paralysed
by the horrible and inconceivable form in which the unexpected had made
its appearance.  Then she rose to it and grappled with it. She grappled
with it concretely, making a cat-like leap for the murderer and gripping
his neck-cloth with both her hands.  The impact of her body sent him
stumbling backward several steps.  He tried to shake her loose and still
retain his hold on the gun.  This was awkward, for her firm-fleshed body
had become a cat's.  She threw herself to one side, and with her grip at
his throat nearly jerked him to the floor.  He straightened himself and
whirled swiftly.  Still faithful to her hold, her body followed the
circle of his whirl so that her feet left the floor, and she swung
through the air fastened to his throat by her hands.  The whirl
culminated in a collision with a chair, and the man and woman crashed to
the floor in a wild struggling fall that extended itself across half the
length of the room.

Hans Nelson was half a second behind his wife in rising to the
unexpected.  His nerve processed and mental processes were slower than
hers.  His was the grosser organism, and it had taken him half a second
longer to perceive, and determine, and proceed to do.  She had already
flown at Dennin and gripped his throat, when Hans sprang to his feet.  But
her coolness was not his.  He was in a blind fury, a Berserker rage.  At
the instant he sprang from his chair his mouth opened and there issued
forth a sound that was half roar, half bellow.  The whirl of the two
bodies had already started, and still roaring, or bellowing, he pursued
this whirl down the room, overtaking it when it fell to the floor.

Hans hurled himself upon the prostrate man, striking madly with his
fists.  They were sledge-like blows, and when Edith felt Dennin's body
relax she loosed her grip and rolled clear.  She lay on the floor,
panting and watching.  The fury of blows continued to rain down.  Dennin
did not seem to mind the blows.  He did not even move.  Then it dawned
upon her that he was unconscious.  She cried out to Hans to stop.  She
cried out again.  But he paid no heed to her voice.  She caught him by
the arm, but her clinging to it merely impeded his effort.

It was no reasoned impulse that stirred her to do what she then did.  Nor
was it a sense of pity, nor obedience to the "Thou shalt not" of
religion.  Rather was it some sense of law, an ethic of her race and
early environment, that compelled her to interpose her body between her
husband and the helpless murderer.  It was not until Hans knew he was
striking his wife that he ceased.  He allowed himself to be shoved away
by her in much the same way that a ferocious but obedient dog allows
itself to be shoved away by its master.  The analogy went even farther.
Deep in his throat, in an animal-like way, Hans's rage still rumbled, and
several times he made as though to spring back upon his prey and was only
prevented by the woman's swiftly interposed body.

Back and farther back Edith shoved her husband.  She had never seen him
in such a condition, and she was more frightened of him than she had been
of Dennin in the thick of the struggle.  She could not believe that this
raging beast was her Hans, and with a shock she became suddenly aware of
a shrinking, instinctive fear that he might snap her hand in his teeth
like any wild animal.  For some seconds, unwilling to hurt her, yet
dogged in his desire to return to the attack, Hans dodged back and forth.
But she resolutely dodged with him, until the first glimmerings of reason
returned and he gave over.

Both crawled to their feet.  Hans staggered back against the wall, where
he leaned, his face working, in his throat the deep and continuous rumble
that died away with the seconds and at last ceased.  The time for the
reaction had come.  Edith stood in the middle of the floor, wringing her
hands, panting and gasping, her whole body trembling violently.

Hans looked at nothing, but Edith's eyes wandered wildly from detail to
detail of what had taken place.  Dennin lay without movement.  The
overturned chair, hurled onward in the mad whirl, lay near him.  Partly
under him lay the shot-gun, still broken open at the breech.  Spilling
out of his right hand were the two cartridges which he had failed to put
into the gun and which he had clutched until consciousness left him.
Harkey lay on the floor, face downward, where he had fallen; while Dutchy
rested forward on the table, his yellow mop of hair buried in his mush-
plate, the plate itself still tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees.
This tilted plate fascinated her.  Why did it not fall down?  It was
ridiculous.  It was not in the nature of things for a mush-plate to up-
end itself on the table, even if a man or so had been killed.

She glanced back at Dennin, but her eyes returned to the tilted plate.  It
was so ridiculous!  She felt a hysterical impulse to laugh.  Then she
noticed the silence, and forgot the plate in a desire for something to
happen.  The monotonous drip of the coffee from the table to the floor
merely emphasized the silence.  Why did not Hans do something? say
something?  She looked at him and was about to speak, when she discovered
that her tongue refused its wonted duty.  There was a peculiar ache in
her throat, and her mouth was dry and furry.  She could only look at
Hans, who, in turn, looked at her.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp, metallic clang.  She
screamed, jerking her eyes back to the table.  The plate had fallen down.
Hans sighed as though awakening from sleep.  The clang of the plate had
aroused them to life in a new world.  The cabin epitomized the new world
in which they must thenceforth live and move.  The old cabin was gone
forever.  The horizon of life was totally new and unfamiliar.  The
unexpected had swept its wizardry over the face of things, changing the
perspective, juggling values, and shuffling the real and the unreal into
perplexing confusion.

"My God, Hans!" was Edith's first speech.

He did not answer, but stared at her with horror.  Slowly his eyes
wandered over the room, for the first time taking in its details.  Then
he put on his cap and started for the door.

"Where are you going?" Edith demanded, in an agony of apprehension.

His hand was on the door-knob, and he half turned as he answered, "To dig
some graves."

"Don't leave me, Hans, with--" her eyes swept the room--"with this."

"The graves must be dug sometime," he said.

"But you do not know how many," she objected desperately.  She noted his
indecision, and added, "Besides, I'll go with you and help."

Hans stepped back to the table and mechanically snuffed the candle.  Then
between them they made the examination.  Both Harkey and Dutchy were
dead--frightfully dead, because of the close range of the shot-gun.  Hans
refused to go near Dennin, and Edith was forced to conduct this portion
of the investigation by herself.

"He isn't dead," she called to Hans.

He walked over and looked down at the murderer.

"What did you say?" Edith demanded, having caught the rumble of
inarticulate speech in her husband's throat.

"I said it was a damn shame that he isn't dead," came the reply.

Edith was bending over the body.

"Leave him alone," Hans commanded harshly, in a strange voice.

She looked at him in sudden alarm.  He had picked up the shot-gun dropped
by Dennin and was thrusting in the shells.

"What are you going to do?" she cried, rising swiftly from her bending

Hans did not answer, but she saw the shot-gun going to his shoulder.  She
grasped the muzzle with her hand and threw it up.

"Leave me alone!" he cried hoarsely.

He tried to jerk the weapon away from her, but she came in closer and
clung to him.

"Hans!  Hans!  Wake up!" she cried.  "Don't be crazy!"

"He killed Dutchy and Harkey!" was her husband's reply; "and I am going
to kill him."

"But that is wrong," she objected.  "There is the law."

He sneered his incredulity of the law's potency in such a region, but he
merely iterated, dispassionately, doggedly, "He killed Dutchy and

Long she argued it with him, but the argument was one-sided, for he
contented himself with repeating again and again, "He killed Dutchy and
Harkey."  But she could not escape from her childhood training nor from
the blood that was in her.  The heritage of law was hers, and right
conduct, to her, was the fulfilment of the law.  She could see no other
righteous course to pursue.  Hans's taking the law in his own hands was
no more justifiable than Dennin's deed.  Two wrongs did not make a right,
she contended, and there was only one way to punish Dennin, and that was
the legal way arranged by society.  At last Hans gave in to her.

"All right," he said.  "Have it your own way.  And to-morrow or next day
look to see him kill you and me."

She shook her head and held out her hand for the shot-gun.  He started to
hand it to her, then hesitated.

"Better let me shoot him," he pleaded.

Again she shook her head, and again he started to pass her the gun, when
the door opened, and an Indian, without knocking, came in.  A blast of
wind and flurry of snow came in with him.  They turned and faced him,
Hans still holding the shot-gun.  The intruder took in the scene without
a quiver.  His eyes embraced the dead and wounded in a sweeping glance.
No surprise showed in his face, not even curiosity.  Harkey lay at his
feet, but he took no notice of him.  So far as he was concerned, Harkey's
body did not exist.

"Much wind," the Indian remarked by way of salutation.  "All well?  Very

Hans, still grasping the gun, felt sure that the Indian attributed to him
the mangled corpses.  He glanced appealingly at his wife.

"Good morning, Negook," she said, her voice betraying her effort.  "No,
not very well.  Much trouble."

"Good-by, I go now, much hurry," the Indian said, and without semblance
of haste, with great deliberation stepping clear of a red pool on the
floor, he opened the door and went out.

The man and woman looked at each other.

"He thinks we did it," Hans gasped, "that I did it."

Edith was silent for a space.  Then she said, briefly, in a businesslike

"Never mind what he thinks.  That will come after.  At present we have
two graves to dig.  But first of all, we've got to tie up Dennin so he
can't escape."

Hans refused to touch Dennin, but Edith lashed him securely, hand and
foot.  Then she and Hans went out into the snow.  The ground was frozen.
It was impervious to a blow of the pick.  They first gathered wood, then
scraped the snow away and on the frozen surface built a fire.  When the
fire had burned for an hour, several inches of dirt had thawed.  This
they shovelled out, and then built a fresh fire.  Their descent into the
earth progressed at the rate of two or three inches an hour.

It was hard and bitter work.  The flurrying snow did not permit the fire
to burn any too well, while the wind cut through their clothes and
chilled their bodies.  They held but little conversation.  The wind
interfered with speech.  Beyond wondering at what could have been
Dennin's motive, they remained silent, oppressed by the horror of the
tragedy.  At one o'clock, looking toward the cabin, Hans announced that
he was hungry.

"No, not now, Hans," Edith answered.  "I couldn't go back alone into that
cabin the way it is, and cook a meal."

At two o'clock Hans volunteered to go with her; but she held him to his
work, and four o'clock found the two graves completed.  They were
shallow, not more than two feet deep, but they would serve the purpose.
Night had fallen.  Hans got the sled, and the two dead men were dragged
through the darkness and storm to their frozen sepulchre.  The funeral
procession was anything but a pageant.  The sled sank deep into the
drifted snow and pulled hard.  The man and the woman had eaten nothing
since the previous day, and were weak from hunger and exhaustion.  They
had not the strength to resist the wind, and at times its buffets hurled
them off their feet.  On several occasions the sled was overturned, and
they were compelled to reload it with its sombre freight.  The last
hundred feet to the graves was up a steep slope, and this they took on
all fours, like sled-dogs, making legs of their arms and thrusting their
hands into the snow.  Even so, they were twice dragged backward by the
weight of the sled, and slid and fell down the hill, the living and the
dead, the haul-ropes and the sled, in ghastly entanglement.

"To-morrow I will put up head-boards with their names," Hans said, when
the graves were filled in.

Edith was sobbing.  A few broken sentences had been all she was capable
of in the way of a funeral service, and now her husband was compelled to
half-carry her back to the cabin.

Dennin was conscious.  He had rolled over and over on the floor in vain
efforts to free himself.  He watched Hans and Edith with glittering eyes,
but made no attempt to speak.  Hans still refused to touch the murderer,
and sullenly watched Edith drag him across the floor to the men's bunk-
room.  But try as she would, she could not lift him from the floor into
his bunk.

"Better let me shoot him, and we'll have no more trouble," Hans said in
final appeal.

Edith shook her head and bent again to her task.  To her surprise the
body rose easily, and she knew Hans had relented and was helping her.
Then came the cleansing of the kitchen.  But the floor still shrieked the
tragedy, until Hans planed the surface of the stained wood away and with
the shavings made a fire in the stove.

The days came and went.  There was much of darkness and silence, broken
only by the storms and the thunder on the beach of the freezing surf.
Hans was obedient to Edith's slightest order.  All his splendid
initiative had vanished.  She had elected to deal with Dennin in her way,
and so he left the whole matter in her hands.

The murderer was a constant menace.  At all times there was the chance
that he might free himself from his bonds, and they were compelled to
guard him day and night.  The man or the woman sat always beside him,
holding the loaded shot-gun.  At first, Edith tried eight-hour watches,
but the continuous strain was too great, and afterwards she and Hans
relieved each other every four hours.  As they had to sleep, and as the
watches extended through the night, their whole waking time was expended
in guarding Dennin.  They had barely time left over for the preparation
of meals and the getting of firewood.

Since Negook's inopportune visit, the Indians had avoided the cabin.
Edith sent Hans to their cabins to get them to take Dennin down the coast
in a canoe to the nearest white settlement or trading post, but the
errand was fruitless.  Then Edith went herself and interviewed Negook.  He
was head man of the little village, keenly aware of his responsibility,
and he elucidated his policy thoroughly in few words.

"It is white man's trouble," he said, "not Siwash trouble.  My people
help you, then will it be Siwash trouble too.  When white man's trouble
and Siwash trouble come together and make a trouble, it is a great
trouble, beyond understanding and without end.  Trouble no good.  My
people do no wrong.  What for they help you and have trouble?"

So Edith Nelson went back to the terrible cabin with its endless
alternating four-hour watches.  Sometimes, when it was her turn and she
sat by the prisoner, the loaded shot-gun in her lap, her eyes would close
and she would doze.  Always she aroused with a start, snatching up the
gun and swiftly looking at him.  These were distinct nervous shocks, and
their effect was not good on her.  Such was her fear of the man, that
even though she were wide awake, if he moved under the bedclothes she
could not repress the start and the quick reach for the gun.

She was preparing herself for a nervous break-down, and she knew it.
First came a fluttering of the eyeballs, so that she was compelled to
close her eyes for relief.  A little later the eyelids were afflicted by
a nervous twitching that she could not control.  To add to the strain,
she could not forget the tragedy.  She remained as close to the horror as
on the first morning when the unexpected stalked into the cabin and took
possession.  In her daily ministrations upon the prisoner she was forced
to grit her teeth and steel herself, body and spirit.

Hans was affected differently.  He became obsessed by the idea that it
was his duty to kill Dennin; and whenever he waited upon the bound man or
watched by him, Edith was troubled by the fear that Hans would add
another red entry to the cabin's record.  Always he cursed Dennin
savagely and handled him roughly.  Hans tried to conceal his homicidal
mania, and he would say to his wife:  "By and by you will want me to kill
him, and then I will not kill him.  It would make me sick."  But more
than once, stealing into the room, when it was her watch off, she would
catch the two men glaring ferociously at each other, wild animals the
pair of them, in Hans's face the lust to kill, in Dennin's the fierceness
and savagery of the cornered rat.  "Hans!" she would cry, "wake up!" and
he would come to a recollection of himself, startled and shamefaced and

So Hans became another factor in the problem the unexpected had given
Edith Nelson to solve.  At first it had been merely a question of right
conduct in dealing with Dennin, and right conduct, as she conceived it,
lay in keeping him a prisoner until he could be turned over for trial
before a proper tribunal.  But now entered Hans, and she saw that his
sanity and his salvation were involved.  Nor was she long in discovering
that her own strength and endurance had become part of the problem.  She
was breaking down under the strain.  Her left arm had developed
involuntary jerkings and twitchings.  She spilled her food from her
spoon, and could place no reliance in her afflicted arm.  She judged it
to be a form of St. Vitus's dance, and she feared the extent to which its
ravages might go.  What if she broke down?  And the vision she had of the
possible future, when the cabin might contain only Dennin and Hans, was
an added horror.

After the third day, Dennin had begun to talk.  His first question had
been, "What are you going to do with me?" And this question he repeated
daily and many times a day.  And always Edith replied that he would
assuredly be dealt with according to law.  In turn, she put a daily
question to him,--"Why did you do it?"  To this he never replied.  Also,
he received the question with out-bursts of anger, raging and straining
at the rawhide that bound him and threatening her with what he would do
when he got loose, which he said he was sure to do sooner or later.  At
such times she cocked both triggers of the gun, prepared to meet him with
leaden death if he should burst loose, herself trembling and palpitating
and dizzy from the tension and shock.

But in time Dennin grew more tractable.  It seemed to her that he was
growing weary of his unchanging recumbent position.  He began to beg and
plead to be released.  He made wild promises.  He would do them no harm.
He would himself go down the coast and give himself up to the officers of
the law.  He would give them his share of the gold.  He would go away
into the heart of the wilderness, and never again appear in civilization.
He would take his own life if she would only free him.  His pleadings
usually culminated in involuntary raving, until it seemed to her that he
was passing into a fit; but always she shook her head and denied him the
freedom for which he worked himself into a passion.

But the weeks went by, and he continued to grow more tractable.  And
through it all the weariness was asserting itself more and more.  "I am
so tired, so tired," he would murmur, rolling his head back and forth on
the pillow like a peevish child.  At a little later period he began to
make impassioned pleas for death, to beg her to kill him, to beg Hans to
put him our of his misery so that he might at least rest comfortably.

The situation was fast becoming impossible.  Edith's nervousness was
increasing, and she knew her break-down might come any time.  She could
not even get her proper rest, for she was haunted by the fear that Hans
would yield to his mania and kill Dennin while she slept.  Though January
had already come, months would have to elapse before any trading schooner
was even likely to put into the bay.  Also, they had not expected to
winter in the cabin, and the food was running low; nor could Hans add to
the supply by hunting.  They were chained to the cabin by the necessity
of guarding their prisoner.

Something must be done, and she knew it.  She forced herself to go back
into a reconsideration of the problem.  She could not shake off the
legacy of her race, the law that was of her blood and that had been
trained into her.  She knew that whatever she did she must do according
to the law, and in the long hours of watching, the shot-gun on her knees,
the murderer restless beside her and the storms thundering without, she
made original sociological researches and worked out for herself the
evolution of the law.  It came to her that the law was nothing more than
the judgment and the will of any group of people.  It mattered not how
large was the group of people.  There were little groups, she reasoned,
like Switzerland, and there were big groups like the United States.  Also,
she reasoned, it did not matter how small was the group of people.  There
might be only ten thousand people in a country, yet their collective
judgment and will would be the law of that country.  Why, then, could not
one thousand people constitute such a group? she asked herself.  And if
one thousand, why not one hundred?  Why not fifty?  Why not five?  Why

She was frightened at her own conclusion, and she talked it over with
Hans.  At first he could not comprehend, and then, when he did, he added
convincing evidence.  He spoke of miners' meetings, where all the men of
a locality came together and made the law and executed the law.  There
might be only ten or fifteen men altogether, he said, but the will of the
majority became the law for the whole ten or fifteen, and whoever
violated that will was punished.

Edith saw her way clear at last.  Dennin must hang.  Hans agreed with
her.  Between them they constituted the majority of this particular
group.  It was the group-will that Dennin should be hanged.  In the
execution of this will Edith strove earnestly to observe the customary
forms, but the group was so small that Hans and she had to serve as
witnesses, as jury, and as judges--also as executioners.  She formally
charged Michael Dennin with the murder of Dutchy and Harkey, and the
prisoner lay in his bunk and listened to the testimony, first of Hans,
and then of Edith.  He refused to plead guilty or not guilty, and
remained silent when she asked him if he had anything to say in his own
defence.  She and Hans, without leaving their seats, brought in the
jury's verdict of guilty.  Then, as judge, she imposed the sentence.  Her
voice shook, her eyelids twitched, her left arm jerked, but she carried
it out.

"Michael Dennin, in three days' time you are to be hanged by the neck
until you are dead."

Such was the sentence.  The man breathed an unconscious sigh of relief,
then laughed defiantly, and said, "Thin I'm thinkin' the damn bunk won't
be achin' me back anny more, an' that's a consolation."

With the passing of the sentence a feeling of relief seemed to
communicate itself to all of them.  Especially was it noticeable in
Dennin.  All sullenness and defiance disappeared, and he talked sociably
with his captors, and even with flashes of his old-time wit.  Also, he
found great satisfaction in Edith's reading to him from the Bible.  She
read from the New Testament, and he took keen interest in the prodigal
son and the thief on the cross.

On the day preceding that set for the execution, when Edith asked her
usual question, "Why did you do it?" Dennin answered, "'Tis very simple.
I was thinkin'--"

But she hushed him abruptly, asked him to wait, and hurried to Hans's
bedside.  It was his watch off, and he came out of his sleep, rubbing his
eyes and grumbling.

"Go," she told him, "and bring up Negook and one other Indian.  Michael's
going to confess.  Make them come.  Take the rifle along and bring them
up at the point of it if you have to."

Half an hour later Negook and his uncle, Hadikwan, were ushered into the
death chamber.  They came unwillingly, Hans with his rifle herding them

"Negook," Edith said, "there is to be no trouble for you and your people.
Only is it for you to sit and do nothing but listen and understand."

Thus did Michael Dennin, under sentence of death, make public confession
of his crime.  As he talked, Edith wrote his story down, while the
Indians listened, and Hans guarded the door for fear the witnesses might

He had not been home to the old country for fifteen years, Dennin
explained, and it had always been his intention to return with plenty of
money and make his old mother comfortable for the rest of her days.

"An' how was I to be doin' it on sixteen hundred?" he demanded.  "What I
was after wantin' was all the goold, the whole eight thousan'.  Thin I
cud go back in style.  What ud be aisier, thinks I to myself, than to
kill all iv yez, report it at Skaguay for an Indian-killin', an' thin
pull out for Ireland?  An' so I started in to kill all iv yez, but, as
Harkey was fond of sayin', I cut out too large a chunk an' fell down on
the swallowin' iv it.  An' that's me confession.  I did me duty to the
devil, an' now, God willin', I'll do me duty to God."

"Negook and Hadikwan, you have heard the white man's words," Edith said
to the Indians.  "His words are here on this paper, and it is for you to
make a sign, thus, on the paper, so that white men to come after will
know that you have heard."

The two Siwashes put crosses opposite their signatures, received a
summons to appear on the morrow with all their tribe for a further
witnessing of things, and were allowed to go.

Dennin's hands were released long enough for him to sign the document.
Then a silence fell in the room.  Hans was restless, and Edith felt
uncomfortable.  Dennin lay on his back, staring straight up at the moss-
chinked roof.

"An' now I'll do me duty to God," he murmured.  He turned his head toward
Edith.  "Read to me," he said, "from the book;" then added, with a glint
of playfulness, "Mayhap 'twill help me to forget the bunk."

The day of the execution broke clear and cold.  The thermometer was down
to twenty-five below zero, and a chill wind was blowing which drove the
frost through clothes and flesh to the bones.  For the first time in many
weeks Dennin stood upon his feet.  His muscles had remained inactive so
long, and he was so out of practice in maintaining an erect position,
that he could scarcely stand.

He reeled back and forth, staggered, and clutched hold of Edith with his
bound hands for support.

"Sure, an' it's dizzy I am," he laughed weakly.

A moment later he said, "An' it's glad I am that it's over with.  That
damn bunk would iv been the death iv me, I know."

When Edith put his fur cap on his head and proceeded to pull the flaps
down over his ears, he laughed and said:

"What are you doin' that for?"

"It's freezing cold outside," she answered.

"An' in tin minutes' time what'll matter a frozen ear or so to poor
Michael Dennin?" he asked.

She had nerved herself for the last culminating ordeal, and his remark
was like a blow to her self-possession.  So far, everything had seemed
phantom-like, as in a dream, but the brutal truth of what he had said
shocked her eyes wide open to the reality of what was taking place.  Nor
was her distress unnoticed by the Irishman.

"I'm sorry to be troublin' you with me foolish spache," he said
regretfully.  "I mint nothin' by it.  'Tis a great day for Michael
Dennin, an' he's as gay as a lark."

He broke out in a merry whistle, which quickly became lugubrious and

"I'm wishin' there was a priest," he said wistfully; then added swiftly,
"But Michael Dennin's too old a campaigner to miss the luxuries when he
hits the trail."

He was so very weak and unused to walking that when the door opened and
he passed outside, the wind nearly carried him off his feet.  Edith and
Hans walked on either side of him and supported him, the while he cracked
jokes and tried to keep them cheerful, breaking off, once, long enough to
arrange the forwarding of his share of the gold to his mother in Ireland.

They climbed a slight hill and came out into an open space among the
trees.  Here, circled solemnly about a barrel that stood on end in the
snow, were Negook and Hadikwan, and all the Siwashes down to the babies
and the dogs, come to see the way of the white man's law.  Near by was an
open grave which Hans had burned into the frozen earth.

Dennin cast a practical eye over the preparations, noting the grave, the
barrel, the thickness of the rope, and the diameter of the limb over
which the rope was passed.

"Sure, an' I couldn't iv done better meself, Hans, if it'd been for you."

He laughed loudly at his own sally, but Hans's face was frozen into a
sullen ghastliness that nothing less than the trump of doom could have
broken.  Also, Hans was feeling very sick.  He had not realized the
enormousness of the task of putting a fellow-man out of the world.  Edith,
on the other hand, had realized; but the realization did not make the
task any easier.  She was filled with doubt as to whether she could hold
herself together long enough to finish it.  She felt incessant impulses
to scream, to shriek, to collapse into the snow, to put her hands over
her eyes and turn and run blindly away, into the forest, anywhere, away.
It was only by a supreme effort of soul that she was able to keep upright
and go on and do what she had to do.  And in the midst of it all she was
grateful to Dennin for the way he helped her.

"Lind me a hand," he said to Hans, with whose assistance he managed to
mount the barrel.

He bent over so that Edith could adjust the rope about his neck.  Then he
stood upright while Hans drew the rope taut across the overhead branch.

"Michael Dennin, have you anything to say?" Edith asked in a clear voice
that shook in spite of her.

Dennin shuffled his feet on the barrel, looked down bashfully like a man
making his maiden speech, and cleared his throat.

"I'm glad it's over with," he said.  "You've treated me like a Christian,
an' I'm thankin' you hearty for your kindness."

"Then may God receive you, a repentant sinner," she said.

"Ay," he answered, his deep voice as a response to her thin one, "may God
receive me, a repentant sinner."

"Good-by, Michael," she cried, and her voice sounded desperate.

She threw her weight against the barrel, but it did not overturn.

"Hans!  Quick!  Help me!" she cried faintly.

She could feel her last strength going, and the barrel resisted her.  Hans
hurried to her, and the barrel went out from under Michael Dennin.

She turned her back, thrusting her fingers into her ears.  Then she began
to laugh, harshly, sharply, metallically; and Hans was shocked as he had
not been shocked through the whole tragedy.  Edith Nelson's break-down
had come.  Even in her hysteria she knew it, and she was glad that she
had been able to hold up under the strain until everything had been
accomplished.  She reeled toward Hans.

"Take me to the cabin, Hans," she managed to articulate.

"And let me rest," she added.  "Just let me rest, and rest, and rest."

With Hans's arm around her, supporting her weight and directing her
helpless steps, she went off across the snow.  But the Indians remained
solemnly to watch the working of the white man's law that compelled a man
to dance upon the air.


She had delayed, because of the dew-wet grass, in order to put on her
overshoes, and when she emerged from the house found her waiting husband
absorbed in the wonder of a bursting almond-bud.  She sent a questing
glance across the tall grass and in and out among the orchard trees.

"Where's Wolf?" she asked.

"He was here a moment ago."  Walt Irvine drew himself away with a jerk
from the metaphysics and poetry of the organic miracle of blossom, and
surveyed the landscape.  "He was running a rabbit the last I saw of him."

"Wolf!  Wolf!  Here Wolf!" she called, as they left the clearing and took
the trail that led down through the waxen-belled manzanita jungle to the
county road.

Irvine thrust between his lips the little finger of each hand and lent to
her efforts a shrill whistling.

She covered her ears hastily and made a wry grimace.

"My! for a poet, delicately attuned and all the rest of it, you can make
unlovely noises.  My ear-drums are pierced.  You outwhistle--"


"I was about to say a street-arab," she concluded severely.

"Poesy does not prevent one from being practical--at least it doesn't
prevent _me_.  Mine is no futility of genius that can't sell gems to the

He assumed a mock extravagance, and went on:

"I am no attic singer, no ballroom warbler.  And why?  Because I am
practical.  Mine is no squalor of song that cannot transmute itself, with
proper exchange value, into a flower-crowned cottage, a sweet mountain-
meadow, a grove of redwoods, an orchard of thirty-seven trees, one long
row of blackberries and two short rows of strawberries, to say nothing of
a quarter of a mile of gurgling brook.  I am a beauty-merchant, a trader
in song, and I pursue utility, dear Madge.  I sing a song, and thanks to
the magazine editors I transmute my song into a waft of the west wind
sighing through our redwoods, into a murmur of waters over mossy stones
that sings back to me another song than the one I sang and yet the same
song wonderfully--er--transmuted."

"O that all your song-transmutations were as successful!" she laughed.

"Name one that wasn't."

"Those two beautiful sonnets that you transmuted into the cow that was
accounted the worst milker in the township."

"She was beautiful--" he began,

"But she didn't give milk," Madge interrupted.

"But she _was_ beautiful, now, wasn't she?" he insisted.

"And here's where beauty and utility fall out," was her reply.  "And
there's the Wolf!"

From the thicket-covered hillside came a crashing of underbrush, and
then, forty feet above them, on the edge of the sheer wall of rock,
appeared a wolf's head and shoulders.  His braced fore paws dislodged a
pebble, and with sharp-pricked ears and peering eyes he watched the fall
of the pebble till it struck at their feet.  Then he transferred his gaze
and with open mouth laughed down at them.

"You Wolf, you!" and "You blessed Wolf!" the man and woman called out to

The ears flattened back and down at the sound, and the head seemed to
snuggle under the caress of an invisible hand.

They watched him scramble backward into the thicket, then proceeded on
their way.  Several minutes later, rounding a turn in the trail where the
descent was less precipitous, he joined them in the midst of a miniature
avalanche of pebbles and loose soil.  He was not demonstrative.  A pat
and a rub around the ears from the man, and a more prolonged caressing
from the woman, and he was away down the trail in front of them, gliding
effortlessly over the ground in true wolf fashion.

In build and coat and brush he was a huge timber-wolf; but the lie was
given to his wolfhood by his color and marking.  There the dog
unmistakably advertised itself.  No wolf was ever colored like him.  He
was brown, deep brown, red-brown, an orgy of browns.  Back and shoulders
were a warm brown that paled on the sides and underneath to a yellow that
was dingy because of the brown that lingered in it.  The white of the
throat and paws and the spots over the eyes was dirty because of the
persistent and ineradicable brown, while the eyes themselves were twin
topazes, golden and brown.

The man and woman loved the dog very much; perhaps this was because it
had been such a task to win his love.  It had been no easy matter when he
first drifted in mysteriously out of nowhere to their little mountain
cottage.  Footsore and famished, he had killed a rabbit under their very
noses and under their very windows, and then crawled away and slept by
the spring at the foot of the blackberry bushes.  When Walt Irvine went
down to inspect the intruder, he was snarled at for his pains, and Madge
likewise was snarled at when she went down to present, as a
peace-offering, a large pan of bread and milk.

A most unsociable dog he proved to be, resenting all their advances,
refusing to let them lay hands on him, menacing them with bared fangs and
bristling hair.  Nevertheless he remained, sleeping and resting by the
spring, and eating the food they gave him after they set it down at a
safe distance and retreated.  His wretched physical condition explained
why he lingered; and when he had recuperated, after several days'
sojourn, he disappeared.

And this would have been the end of him, so far as Irvine and his wife
were concerned, had not Irvine at that particular time been called away
into the northern part of the state.  Riding along on the train, near to
the line between California and Oregon, he chanced to look out of the
window and saw his unsociable guest sliding along the wagon road, brown
and wolfish, tired yet tireless, dust-covered and soiled with two hundred
miles of travel.

Now Irvine was a man of impulse, a poet.  He got off the train at the
next station, bought a piece of meat at a butcher shop, and captured the
vagrant on the outskirts of the town.  The return trip was made in the
baggage car, and so Wolf came a second time to the mountain cottage.  Here
he was tied up for a week and made love to by the man and woman.  But it
was very circumspect love-making.  Remote and alien as a traveller from
another planet, he snarled down their soft-spoken love-words.  He never
barked.  In all the time they had him he was never known to bark.

To win him became a problem.  Irvine liked problems.  He had a metal
plate made, on which was stamped:  RETURN TO WALT IRVINE, GLEN ELLEN,
SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA.  This was riveted to a collar and strapped
about the dog's neck.  Then he was turned loose, and promptly he
disappeared.  A day later came a telegram from Mendocino County.  In
twenty hours he had made over a hundred miles to the north, and was still
going when captured.

He came back by Wells Fargo Express, was tied up three days, and was
loosed on the fourth and lost.  This time he gained southern Oregon
before he was caught and returned.  Always, as soon as he received his
liberty, he fled away, and always he fled north.  He was possessed of an
obsession that drove him north.  The homing instinct, Irvine called it,
after he had expended the selling price of a sonnet in getting the animal
back from northern Oregon.

Another time the brown wanderer succeeded in traversing half the length
of California, all of Oregon, and most of Washington, before he was
picked up and returned "Collect."  A remarkable thing was the speed with
which he travelled.  Fed up and rested, as soon as he was loosed he
devoted all his energy to getting over the ground.  On the first day's
run he was known to cover as high as a hundred and fifty miles, and after
that he would average a hundred miles a day until caught.  He always
arrived back lean and hungry and savage, and always departed fresh and
vigorous, cleaving his way northward in response to some prompting of his
being that no one could understand.

But at last, after a futile year of flight, he accepted the inevitable
and elected to remain at the cottage where first he had killed the rabbit
and slept by the spring.  Even after that, a long time elapsed before the
man and woman succeeded in patting him.  It was a great victory, for they
alone were allowed to put hands on him.  He was fastidiously exclusive,
and no guest at the cottage ever succeeded in making up to him.  A low
growl greeted such approach; if any one had the hardihood to come nearer,
the lips lifted, the naked fangs appeared, and the growl became a snarl--a
snarl so terrible and malignant that it awed the stoutest of them, as it
likewise awed the farmers' dogs that knew ordinary dog-snarling, but had
never seen wolf-snarling before.

He was without antecedents.  His history began with Walt and Madge.  He
had come up from the south, but never a clew did they get of the owner
from whom he had evidently fled.  Mrs. Johnson, their nearest neighbor
and the one who supplied them with milk, proclaimed him a Klondike dog.
Her brother was burrowing for frozen pay-streaks in that far country, and
so she constituted herself an authority on the subject.

But they did not dispute her.  There were the tips of Wolf's ears,
obviously so severely frozen at some time that they would never quite
heal again.  Besides, he looked like the photographs of the Alaskan dogs
they saw published in magazines and newspapers.  They often speculated
over his past, and tried to conjure up (from what they had read and
heard) what his northland life had been.  That the northland still drew
him, they knew; for at night they sometimes heard him crying softly; and
when the north wind blew and the bite of frost was in the air, a great
restlessness would come upon him and he would lift a mournful lament
which they knew to be the long wolf-howl.  Yet he never barked.  No
provocation was great enough to draw from him that canine cry.

Long discussion they had, during the time of winning him, as to whose dog
he was.  Each claimed him, and each proclaimed loudly any expression of
affection made by him.  But the man had the better of it at first,
chiefly because he was a man.  It was patent that Wolf had had no
experience with women.  He did not understand women.  Madge's skirts were
something he never quite accepted.  The swish of them was enough to set
him a-bristle with suspicion, and on a windy day she could not approach
him at all.

On the other hand, it was Madge who fed him; also it was she who ruled
the kitchen, and it was by her favor, and her favor alone, that he was
permitted to come within that sacred precinct.  It was because of these
things that she bade fair to overcome the handicap of her garments.  Then
it was that Walt put forth special effort, making it a practice to have
Wolf lie at his feet while he wrote, and, between petting and talking,
losing much time from his work.  Walt won in the end, and his victory was
most probably due to the fact that he was a man, though Madge averred
that they would have had another quarter of a mile of gurgling brook, and
at least two west winds sighing through their redwoods, had Wait properly
devoted his energies to song-transmutation and left Wolf alone to
exercise a natural taste and an unbiassed judgment.

"It's about time I heard from those triolets," Walt said, after a silence
of five minutes, during which they had swung steadily down the trail.
"There'll be a check at the post-office, I know, and we'll transmute it
into beautiful buckwheat flour, a gallon of maple syrup, and a new pair
of overshoes for you."

"And into beautiful milk from Mrs. Johnson's beautiful cow," Madge added.
"To-morrow's the first of the month, you know."

Walt scowled unconsciously; then his face brightened, and he clapped his
hand to his breast pocket.

"Never mind.  I have here a nice beautiful new cow, the best milker in

"When did you write it?" she demanded eagerly.  Then, reproachfully, "And
you never showed it to me."

"I saved it to read to you on the way to the post-office, in a spot
remarkably like this one," he answered, indicating, with a wave of his
hand, a dry log on which to sit.

A tiny stream flowed out of a dense fern-brake, slipped down a
mossy-lipped stone, and ran across the path at their feet.  From the
valley arose the mellow song of meadow-larks, while about them, in and
out, through sunshine and shadow, fluttered great yellow butterflies.

Up from below came another sound that broke in upon Walt reading softly
from his manuscript.  It was a crunching of heavy feet, punctuated now
and again by the clattering of a displaced stone.  As Walt finished and
looked to his wife for approval, a man came into view around the turn of
the trail.  He was bare-headed and sweaty.  With a handkerchief in one
hand he mopped his face, while in the other hand he carried a new hat and
a wilted starched collar which he had removed from his neck.  He was a
well-built man, and his muscles seemed on the point of bursting out of
the painfully new and ready-made black clothes he wore.

"Warm day," Walt greeted him.  Walt believed in country democracy, and
never missed an opportunity to practise it.

The man paused and nodded.

"I guess I ain't used much to the warm," he vouchsafed half
apologetically.  "I'm more accustomed to zero weather."

"You don't find any of that in this country," Walt laughed.

"Should say not," the man answered.  "An' I ain't here a-lookin' for it
neither.  I'm tryin' to find my sister.  Mebbe you know where she lives.
Her name's Johnson, Mrs. William Johnson."

"You're not her Klondike brother!" Madge cried, her eyes bright with
interest, "about whom we've heard so much?"

"Yes'm, that's me," he answered modestly.  "My name's Miller, Skiff
Miller.  I just thought I'd s'prise her."

"You are on the right track then.  Only you've come by the foot-path."
Madge stood up to direct him, pointing up the canyon a quarter of a mile.
"You see that blasted redwood?  Take the little trail turning off to the
right.  It's the short cut to her house.  You can't miss it."

"Yes'm, thank you, ma'am," he said.  He made tentative efforts to go, but
seemed awkwardly rooted to the spot.  He was gazing at her with an open
admiration of which he was quite unconscious, and which was drowning,
along with him, in the rising sea of embarrassment in which he

"We'd like to hear you tell about the Klondike," Madge said.  "Mayn't we
come over some day while you are at your sister's?  Or, better yet, won't
you come over and have dinner with us?"

"Yes'm, thank you, ma'am," he mumbled mechanically.  Then he caught
himself up and added:  "I ain't stoppin' long.  I got to be pullin' north
again.  I go out on to-night's train.  You see, I've got a mail contract
with the government."

When Madge had said that it was too bad, he made another futile effort to
go.  But he could not take his eyes from her face.  He forgot his
embarrassment in his admiration, and it was her turn to flush and feel

It was at this juncture, when Walt had just decided it was time for him
to be saying something to relieve the strain, that Wolf, who had been
away nosing through the brush, trotted wolf-like into view.

Skiff Miller's abstraction disappeared.  The pretty woman before him
passed out of his field of vision.  He had eyes only for the dog, and a
great wonder came into his face.

"Well, I'll be damned!" he enunciated slowly and solemnly.

He sat down ponderingly on the log, leaving Madge standing.  At the sound
of his voice, Wolf's ears had flattened down, then his mouth had opened
in a laugh.  He trotted slowly up to the stranger and first smelled his
hands, then licked them with his tongue.

Skiff Miller patted the dog's head, and slowly and solemnly repeated,
"Well, I'll be damned!"

"Excuse me, ma'am," he said the next moment "I was just s'prised some,
that was all."

"We're surprised, too," she answered lightly.  "We never saw Wolf make up
to a stranger before."

"Is that what you call him--Wolf?" the man asked.

Madge nodded.  "But I can't understand his friendliness toward you--unless
it's because you're from the Klondike.  He's a Klondike dog, you know."

"Yes'm," Miller said absently.  He lifted one of Wolf's fore legs and
examined the foot-pads, pressing them and denting them with his thumb.
"Kind of soft," he remarked.  "He ain't been on trail for a long time."

"I say," Walt broke in, "it is remarkable the way he lets you handle

Skiff Miller arose, no longer awkward with admiration of Madge, and in a
sharp, businesslike manner asked, "How long have you had him?"

But just then the dog, squirming and rubbing against the newcomer's legs,
opened his mouth and barked.  It was an explosive bark, brief and joyous,
but a bark.

"That's a new one on me," Skiff Miller remarked.

Walt and Madge stared at each other.  The miracle had happened.  Wolf had

"It's the first time he ever barked," Madge said.

"First time I ever heard him, too," Miller volunteered.

Madge smiled at him.  The man was evidently a humorist.

"Of course," she said, "since you have only seen him for five minutes."

Skiff Miller looked at her sharply, seeking in her face the guile her
words had led him to suspect.

"I thought you understood," he said slowly.  "I thought you'd tumbled to
it from his makin' up to me.  He's my dog.  His name ain't Wolf.  It's

"Oh, Walt!" was Madge's instinctive cry to her husband.

Walt was on the defensive at once.

"How do you know he's your dog?" he demanded.

"Because he is," was the reply.

"Mere assertion," Walt said sharply.

In his slow and pondering way, Skiff Miller looked at him, then asked,
with a nod of his head toward Madge:

"How d'you know she's your wife?  You just say, 'Because she is,' and
I'll say it's mere assertion.  The dog's mine.  I bred 'm an' raised 'm,
an' I guess I ought to know.  Look here.  I'll prove it to you."

Skiff Miller turned to the dog.  "Brown!"  His voice rang out sharply,
and at the sound the dog's ears flattened down as to a caress.  "Gee!"
The dog made a swinging turn to the right.  "Now mush-on!"  And the dog
ceased his swing abruptly and started straight ahead, halting obediently
at command.

"I can do it with whistles," Skiff Miller said proudly.  "He was my lead

"But you are not going to take him away with you?" Madge asked

The man nodded.

"Back into that awful Klondike world of suffering?"

He nodded and added:  "Oh, it ain't so bad as all that.  Look at me.
Pretty healthy specimen, ain't I?"

"But the dogs!  The terrible hardship, the heart-breaking toil, the
starvation, the frost!  Oh, I've read about it and I know."

"I nearly ate him once, over on Little Fish River," Miller volunteered
grimly.  "If I hadn't got a moose that day was all that saved 'm."

"I'd have died first!" Madge cried.

"Things is different down here," Miller explained.  "You don't have to
eat dogs.  You think different just about the time you're all in.  You've
never ben all in, so you don't know anything about it."

"That's the very point," she argued warmly.  "Dogs are not eaten in
California.  Why not leave him here?  He is happy.  He'll never want for
food--you know that.  He'll never suffer from cold and hardship.  Here
all is softness and gentleness.  Neither the human nor nature is savage.
He will never know a whip-lash again.  And as for the weather--why, it
never snows here."

"But it's all-fired hot in summer, beggin' your pardon," Skiff Miller

"But you do not answer," Madge continued passionately.  "What have you to
offer him in that northland life?"

"Grub, when I've got it, and that's most of the time," came the answer.

"And the rest of the time?"

"No grub."

"And the work?"

"Yes, plenty of work," Miller blurted out impatiently.  "Work without
end, an' famine, an' frost, an all the rest of the miseries--that's what
he'll get when he comes with me.  But he likes it.  He is used to it.  He
knows that life.  He was born to it an' brought up to it.  An' you don't
know anything about it.  You don't know what you're talking about.  That's
where the dog belongs, and that's where he'll be happiest."

"The dog doesn't go," Walt announced in a determined voice.  "So there is
no need of further discussion."

"What's that?" Skiff Miller demanded, his brows lowering and an obstinate
flush of blood reddening his forehead.

"I said the dog doesn't go, and that settles it.  I don't believe he's
your dog.  You may have seen him sometime.  You may even sometime have
driven him for his owner.  But his obeying the ordinary driving commands
of the Alaskan trail is no demonstration that he is yours.  Any dog in
Alaska would obey you as he obeyed.  Besides, he is undoubtedly a
valuable dog, as dogs go in Alaska, and that is sufficient explanation of
your desire to get possession of him.  Anyway, you've got to prove

Skiff Miller, cool and collected, the obstinate flush a trifle deeper on
his forehead, his huge muscles bulging under the black cloth of his coat,
carefully looked the poet up and down as though measuring the strength of
his slenderness.

The Klondiker's face took on a contemptuous expression as he said
finally, "I reckon there's nothin' in sight to prevent me takin' the dog
right here an' now."

Walt's face reddened, and the striking-muscles of his arms and shoulders
seemed to stiffen and grow tense.  His wife fluttered apprehensively into
the breach.

"Maybe Mr. Miller is right," she said.  "I am afraid that he is.  Wolf
does seem to know him, and certainly he answers to the name of 'Brown.'
He made friends with him instantly, and you know that's something he
never did with anybody before.  Besides, look at the way he barked.  He
was just bursting with joy.  Joy over what?  Without doubt at finding Mr.

Walt's striking-muscles relaxed, and his shoulders seemed to droop with

"I guess you're right, Madge," he said.  "Wolf isn't Wolf, but Brown, and
he must belong to Mr. Miller."

"Perhaps Mr. Miller will sell him," she suggested.  "We can buy him."

Skiff Miller shook his head, no longer belligerent, but kindly, quick to
be generous in response to generousness.

"I had five dogs," he said, casting about for the easiest way to temper
his refusal.  "He was the leader.  They was the crack team of Alaska.
Nothin' could touch 'em.  In 1898 I refused five thousand dollars for the
bunch.  Dogs was high, then, anyway; but that wasn't what made the fancy
price.  It was the team itself.  Brown was the best in the team.  That
winter I refused twelve hundred for 'm.  I didn't sell 'm then, an' I
ain't a-sellin' 'm now.  Besides, I think a mighty lot of that dog.  I've
ben lookin' for 'm for three years.  It made me fair sick when I found
he'd ben stole--not the value of him, but the--well, I liked 'm like
hell, that's all, beggin' your pardon.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I
seen 'm just now.  I thought I was dreamin'.  It was too good to be true.
Why, I was his wet-nurse.  I put 'm to bed, snug every night.  His mother
died, and I brought 'm up on condensed milk at two dollars a can when I
couldn't afford it in my own coffee.  He never knew any mother but me.  He
used to suck my finger regular, the darn little cuss--that finger right

And Skiff Miller, too overwrought for speech, held up a fore finger for
them to see.

"That very finger," he managed to articulate, as though it somehow
clinched the proof of ownership and the bond of affection.

He was still gazing at his extended finger when Madge began to speak.

"But the dog," she said.  "You haven't considered the dog."

Skiff Miller looked puzzled.

"Have you thought about him?" she asked.

"Don't know what you're drivin' at," was the response.

"Maybe the dog has some choice in the matter," Madge went on.  "Maybe he
has his likes and desires.  You have not considered him.  You give him no
choice.  It has never entered your mind that possibly he might prefer
California to Alaska.  You consider only what you like.  You do with him
as you would with a sack of potatoes or a bale of hay."

This was a new way of looking at it, and Miller was visibly impressed as
he debated it in his mind.  Madge took advantage of his indecision.

"If you really love him, what would be happiness to him would be your
happiness also," she urged.

Skiff Miller continued to debate with himself, and Madge stole a glance
of exultation to her husband, who looked back warm approval.

"What do you think?" the Klondiker suddenly demanded.

It was her turn to be puzzled.  "What do you mean?" she asked.

"D'ye think he'd sooner stay in California?"

She nodded her head with positiveness.  "I am sure of it."

Skiff Miller again debated with himself, though this time aloud, at the
same time running his gaze in a judicial way over the mooted animal.

"He was a good worker.  He's done a heap of work for me.  He never loafed
on me, an' he was a joe-dandy at hammerin' a raw team into shape.  He's
got a head on him.  He can do everything but talk.  He knows what you say
to him.  Look at 'm now.  He knows we're talkin' about him."

The dog was lying at Skiff Miller's feet, head close down on paws, ears
erect and listening, and eyes that were quick and eager to follow the
sound of speech as it fell from the lips of first one and then the other.

"An' there's a lot of work in 'm yet.  He's good for years to come.  An'
I do like him.  I like him like hell."

Once or twice after that Skiff Miller opened his mouth and closed it
again without speaking.  Finally he said:

"I'll tell you what I'll do.  Your remarks, ma'am, has some weight in
them.  The dog's worked hard, and maybe he's earned a soft berth an' has
got a right to choose.  Anyway, we'll leave it up to him.  Whatever he
says, goes.  You people stay right here settin' down.  I'll say good-by
and walk off casual-like.  If he wants to stay, he can stay.  If he wants
to come with me, let 'm come.  I won't call 'm to come an' don't you call
'm to come back."

He looked with sudden suspicion at Madge, and added, "Only you must play
fair.  No persuadin' after my back is turned."

"We'll play fair," Madge began, but Skiff Miller broke in on her

"I know the ways of women," he announced.  "Their hearts is soft.  When
their hearts is touched they're likely to stack the cards, look at the
bottom of the deck, an' lie like the devil--beggin' your pardon, ma'am.
I'm only discoursin' about women in general."

"I don't know how to thank you," Madge quavered.

"I don't see as you've got any call to thank me," he replied.  "Brown
ain't decided yet.  Now you won't mind if I go away slow?  It's no more'n
fair, seein' I'll be out of sight inside a hundred yards."--Madge agreed,
and added, "And I promise you faithfully that we won't do anything to
influence him."

"Well, then, I might as well be gettin' along," Skiff Miller said in the
ordinary tones of one departing.

At this change in his voice, Wolf lifted his head quickly, and still more
quickly got to his feet when the man and woman shook hands.  He sprang up
on his hind legs, resting his fore paws on her hip and at the same time
licking Skiff Miller's hand.  When the latter shook hands with Walt, Wolf
repeated his act, resting his weight on Walt and licking both men's

"It ain't no picnic, I can tell you that," were the Klondiker's last
words, as he turned and went slowly up the trail.

For the distance of twenty feet Wolf watched him go, himself all
eagerness and expectancy, as though waiting for the man to turn and
retrace his steps.  Then, with a quick low whine, Wolf sprang after him,
overtook him, caught his hand between his teeth with reluctant
tenderness, and strove gently to make him pause.

Failing in this, Wolf raced back to where Walt Irvine sat, catching his
coat-sleeve in his teeth and trying vainly to drag him after the
retreating man.

Wolf's perturbation began to wax.  He desired ubiquity.  He wanted to be
in two places at the same time, with the old master and the new, and
steadily the distance between them was increasing.  He sprang about
excitedly, making short nervous leaps and twists, now toward one, now
toward the other, in painful indecision, not knowing his own mind,
desiring both and unable to choose, uttering quick sharp whines and
beginning to pant.

He sat down abruptly on his haunches, thrusting his nose upward, the
mouth opening and closing with jerking movements, each time opening
wider.  These jerking movements were in unison with the recurrent spasms
that attacked the throat, each spasm severer and more intense than the
preceding one.  And in accord with jerks and spasms the larynx began to
vibrate, at first silently, accompanied by the rush of air expelled from
the lungs, then sounding a low, deep note, the lowest in the register of
the human ear.  All this was the nervous and muscular preliminary to

But just as the howl was on the verge of bursting from the full throat,
the wide-opened mouth was closed, the paroxysms ceased, and he looked
long and steadily at the retreating man.  Suddenly Wolf turned his head,
and over his shoulder just as steadily regarded Walt.  The appeal was
unanswered.  Not a word nor a sign did the dog receive, no suggestion and
no clew as to what his conduct should be.

A glance ahead to where the old master was nearing the curve of the trail
excited him again.  He sprang to his feet with a whine, and then, struck
by a new idea, turned his attention to Madge.  Hitherto he had ignored
her, but now, both masters failing him, she alone was left.  He went over
to her and snuggled his head in her lap, nudging her arm with his nose--an
old trick of his when begging for favors.  He backed away from her and
began writhing and twisting playfully, curvetting and prancing, half
rearing and striking his fore paws to the earth, struggling with all his
body, from the wheedling eyes and flattening ears to the wagging tail, to
express the thought that was in him and that was denied him utterance.

This, too, he soon abandoned.  He was depressed by the coldness of these
humans who had never been cold before.  No response could he draw from
them, no help could he get.  They did not consider him.  They were as

He turned and silently gazed after the old master.  Skiff Miller was
rounding the curve.  In a moment he would be gone from view.  Yet he
never turned his head, plodding straight onward, slowly and methodically,
as though possessed of no interest in what was occurring behind his back.

And in this fashion he went out of view.  Wolf waited for him to
reappear.  He waited a long minute, silently, quietly, without movement,
as though turned to stone--withal stone quick with eagerness and desire.
He barked once, and waited.  Then he turned and trotted back to Walt
Irvine.  He sniffed his hand and dropped down heavily at his feet,
watching the trail where it curved emptily from view.

The tiny stream slipping down the mossy-lipped stone seemed suddenly to
increase the volume of its gurgling noise.  Save for the meadow-larks,
there was no other sound.  The great yellow butterflies drifted silently
through the sunshine and lost themselves in the drowsy shadows.  Madge
gazed triumphantly at her husband.

A few minutes later Wolf got upon his feet.  Decision and deliberation
marked his movements.  He did not glance at the man and woman.  His eyes
were fixed up the trail.  He had made up his mind.  They knew it.  And
they knew, so far as they were concerned, that the ordeal had just begun.

He broke into a trot, and Madge's lips pursed, forming an avenue for the
caressing sound that it was the will of her to send forth.  But the
caressing sound was not made.  She was impelled to look at her husband,
and she saw the sternness with which he watched her.  The pursed lips
relaxed, and she sighed inaudibly.

Wolf's trot broke into a run.  Wider and wider were the leaps he made.
Not once did he turn his head, his wolf's brush standing out straight
behind him.  He cut sharply across the curve of the trail and was gone.


Sitka Charley smoked his pipe and gazed thoughtfully at the _Police
Gazette_ illustration on the wall.  For half an hour he had been steadily
regarding it, and for half an hour I had been slyly watching him.
Something was going on in that mind of his, and, whatever it was, I knew
it was well worth knowing.  He had lived life, and seen things, and
performed that prodigy of prodigies, namely, the turning of his back upon
his own people, and, in so far as it was possible for an Indian, becoming
a white man even in his mental processes.  As he phrased it himself, he
had come into the warm, sat among us, by our fires, and become one of us.
He had never learned to read nor write, but his vocabulary was
remarkable, and more remarkable still was the completeness with which he
had assumed the white man's point of view, the white man's attitude
toward things.

We had struck this deserted cabin after a hard day on trail.  The dogs
had been fed, the supper dishes washed, the beds made, and we were now
enjoying that most delicious hour that comes each day, and but once each
day, on the Alaskan trail, the hour when nothing intervenes between the
tired body and bed save the smoking of the evening pipe.  Some former
denizen of the cabin had decorated its walls with illustrations torn from
magazines and newspapers, and it was these illustrations that had held
Sitka Charley's attention from the moment of our arrival two hours
before.  He had studied them intently, ranging from one to another and
back again, and I could see that there was uncertainty in his mind, and

"Well?" I finally broke the silence.

He took the pipe from his mouth and said simply, "I do not understand."

He smoked on again, and again removed the pipe, using it to point at the
_Police Gazette_ illustration.

"That picture--what does it mean?  I do not understand."

I looked at the picture.  A man, with a preposterously wicked face, his
right hand pressed dramatically to his heart, was falling backward to the
floor.  Confronting him, with a face that was a composite of destroying
angel and Adonis, was a man holding a smoking revolver.

"One man is killing the other man," I said, aware of a distinct
bepuzzlement of my own and of failure to explain.

"Why?" asked Sitka Charley.

"I do not know," I confessed.

"That picture is all end," he said.  "It has no beginning."

"It is life," I said.

"Life has beginning," he objected.

I was silenced for the moment, while his eyes wandered on to an adjoining
decoration, a photographic reproduction of somebody's "Leda and the

"That picture," he said, "has no beginning.  It has no end.  I do not
understand pictures."

"Look at that picture," I commanded, pointing to a third decoration.  "It
means something.  Tell me what it means to you."

He studied it for several minutes.

"The little girl is sick," he said finally.  "That is the doctor looking
at her.  They have been up all night--see, the oil is low in the lamp,
the first morning light is coming in at the window.  It is a great
sickness; maybe she will die, that is why the doctor looks so hard.  That
is the mother.  It is a great sickness, because the mother's head is on
the table and she is crying."

"How do you know she is crying?" I interrupted.  "You cannot see her
face.  Perhaps she is asleep."

Sitka Charley looked at me in swift surprise, then back at the picture.
It was evident that he had not reasoned the impression.

"Perhaps she is asleep," he repeated.  He studied it closely.  "No, she
is not asleep.  The shoulders show that she is not asleep.  I have seen
the shoulders of a woman who cried.  The mother is crying.  It is a very
great sickness."

"And now you understand the picture," I cried.

He shook his head, and asked, "The little girl--does it die?"

It was my turn for silence.

"Does it die?" he reiterated.  "You are a painter-man.  Maybe you know."

"No, I do not know," I confessed.

"It is not life," he delivered himself dogmatically.  "In life little
girl die or get well.  Something happen in life.  In picture nothing
happen.  No, I do not understand pictures."

His disappointment was patent.  It was his desire to understand all
things that white men understand, and here, in this matter, he failed.  I
felt, also, that there was challenge in his attitude.  He was bent upon
compelling me to show him the wisdom of pictures.  Besides, he had
remarkable powers of visualization.  I had long since learned this.  He
visualized everything.  He saw life in pictures, felt life in pictures,
generalized life in pictures; and yet he did not understand pictures when
seen through other men's eyes and expressed by those men with color and
line upon canvas.

"Pictures are bits of life," I said.  "We paint life as we see it.  For
instance, Charley, you are coming along the trail.  It is night.  You see
a cabin.  The window is lighted.  You look through the window for one
second, or for two seconds, you see something, and you go on your way.
You saw maybe a man writing a letter.  You saw something without
beginning or end.  Nothing happened.  Yet it was a bit of life you saw.
You remember it afterward.  It is like a picture in your memory.  The
window is the frame of the picture."

I could see that he was interested, and I knew that as I spoke he had
looked through the window and seen the man writing the letter.

"There is a picture you have painted that I understand," he said.  "It is
a true picture.  It has much meaning.  It is in your cabin at Dawson.  It
is a faro table.  There are men playing.  It is a large game.  The limit
is off."

"How do you know the limit is off?" I broke in excitedly, for here was
where my work could be tried out on an unbiassed judge who knew life
only, and not art, and who was a sheer master of reality.  Also, I was
very proud of that particular piece of work.  I had named it "The Last
Turn," and I believed it to be one of the best things I had ever done.

"There are no chips on the table," Sitka Charley explained.  "The men are
playing with markers.  That means the roof is the limit.  One man play
yellow markers--maybe one yellow marker worth one thousand dollars, maybe
two thousand dollars.  One man play red markers.  Maybe they are worth
five hundred dollars, maybe one thousand dollars.  It is a very big game.
Everybody play very high, up to the roof.  How do I know?  You make the
dealer with blood little bit warm in face."  (I was delighted.)  "The
lookout, you make him lean forward in his chair.  Why he lean forward?
Why his face very much quiet?  Why his eyes very much bright?  Why dealer
warm with blood a little bit in the face?  Why all men very quiet?--the
man with yellow markers? the man with white markers? the man with red
markers?  Why nobody talk?  Because very much money.  Because last turn."

"How do you know it is the last turn?" I asked.

"The king is coppered, the seven is played open," he answered.  "Nobody
bet on other cards.  Other cards all gone.  Everybody one mind.  Everybody
play king to lose, seven to win.  Maybe bank lose twenty thousand
dollars, maybe bank win.  Yes, that picture I understand."

"Yet you do not know the end!" I cried triumphantly.  "It is the last
turn, but the cards are not yet turned.  In the picture they will never
be turned.  Nobody will ever know who wins nor who loses."

"And the men will sit there and never talk," he said, wonder and awe
growing in his face.  "And the lookout will lean forward, and the blood
will be warm in the face of the dealer.  It is a strange thing.  Always
will they sit there, always; and the cards will never be turned."

"It is a picture," I said.  "It is life.  You have seen things like it

He looked at me and pondered, then said, very slowly:  "No, as you say,
there is no end to it.  Nobody will ever know the end.  Yet is it a true
thing.  I have seen it.  It is life."

For a long time he smoked on in silence, weighing the pictorial wisdom of
the white man and verifying it by the facts of life.  He nodded his head
several times, and grunted once or twice.  Then he knocked the ashes from
his pipe, carefully refilled it, and after a thoughtful pause, lighted it

"Then have I, too, seen many pictures of life," he began; "pictures not
painted, but seen with the eyes.  I have looked at them like through the
window at the man writing the letter.  I have seen many pieces of life,
without beginning, without end, without understanding."

With a sudden change of position he turned his eyes full upon me and
regarded me thoughtfully.

"Look you," he said; "you are a painter-man.  How would you paint this
which I saw, a picture without beginning, the ending of which I do not
understand, a piece of life with the northern lights for a candle and
Alaska for a frame."

"It is a large canvas," I murmured.

But he ignored me, for the picture he had in mind was before his eyes and
he was seeing it.

"There are many names for this picture," he said.  "But in the picture
there are many sun-dogs, and it comes into my mind to call it 'The Sun-
Dog Trail.'  It was a long time ago, seven years ago, the fall of '97,
when I saw the woman first time.  At Lake Linderman I had one canoe, very
good Peterborough canoe.  I came over Chilcoot Pass with two thousand
letters for Dawson.  I was letter carrier.  Everybody rush to Klondike at
that time.  Many people on trail.  Many people chop down trees and make
boats.  Last water, snow in the air, snow on the ground, ice on the lake,
on the river ice in the eddies.  Every day more snow, more ice.  Maybe
one day, maybe three days, maybe six days, any day maybe freeze-up come,
then no more water, all ice, everybody walk, Dawson six hundred miles,
long time walk.  Boat go very quick.  Everybody want to go boat.
Everybody say, 'Charley, two hundred dollars you take me in canoe,'
'Charley, three hundred dollars,' 'Charley, four hundred dollars.'  I say
no, all the time I say no.  I am letter carrier.

"In morning I get to Lake Linderman.  I walk all night and am much tired.
I cook breakfast, I eat, then I sleep on the beach three hours.  I wake
up.  It is ten o'clock.  Snow is falling.  There is wind, much wind that
blows fair.  Also, there is a woman who sits in the snow alongside.  She
is white woman, she is young, very pretty, maybe she is twenty years old,
maybe twenty-five years old.  She look at me.  I look at her.  She is
very tired.  She is no dance-woman.  I see that right away.  She is good
woman, and she is very tired.

"'You are Sitka Charley,' she says.  I get up quick and roll blankets so
snow does not get inside.  'I go to Dawson,' she says.  'I go in your
canoe--how much?'

"I do not want anybody in my canoe.  I do not like to say no.  So I say,
'One thousand dollars.'  Just for fun I say it, so woman cannot come with
me, much better than say no.  She look at me very hard, then she says,
'When you start?'  I say right away.  Then she says all right, she will
give me one thousand dollars.

"What can I say?  I do not want the woman, yet have I given my word that
for one thousand dollars she can come.  I am surprised.  Maybe she make
fun, too, so I say, 'Let me see thousand dollars.'  And that woman, that
young woman, all alone on the trail, there in the snow, she take out one
thousand dollars, in greenbacks, and she put them in my hand.  I look at
money, I look at her.  What can I say?  I say, 'No, my canoe very small.
There is no room for outfit.'  She laugh.  She says, 'I am great
traveller.  This is my outfit.'  She kick one small pack in the snow.  It
is two fur robes, canvas outside, some woman's clothes inside.  I pick it
up.  Maybe thirty-five pounds.  I am surprised.  She take it away from
me.  She says, 'Come, let us start.'  She carries pack into canoe.  What
can I say?  I put my blankets into canoe.  We start.

"And that is the way I saw the woman first time.  The wind was fair.  I
put up small sail.  The canoe went very fast, it flew like a bird over
the high waves.  The woman was much afraid.  'What for you come Klondike
much afraid?' I ask.  She laugh at me, a hard laugh, but she is still
much afraid.  Also is she very tired.  I run canoe through rapids to Lake
Bennett.  Water very bad, and woman cry out because she is afraid.  We go
down Lake Bennett, snow, ice, wind like a gale, but woman is very tired
and go to sleep.

"That night we make camp at Windy Arm.  Woman sit by fire and eat supper.
I look at her.  She is pretty.  She fix hair.  There is much hair, and it
is brown, also sometimes it is like gold in the firelight, when she turn
her head, so, and flashes come from it like golden fire.  The eyes are
large and brown, sometimes warm like a candle behind a curtain, sometimes
very hard and bright like broken ice when sun shines upon it.  When she
smile--how can I say?--when she smile I know white man like to kiss her,
just like that, when she smile.  She never do hard work.  Her hands are
soft, like baby's hand.  She is soft all over, like baby.  She is not
thin, but round like baby; her arm, her leg, her muscles, all soft and
round like baby.  Her waist is small, and when she stand up, when she
walk, or move her head or arm, it is--I do not know the word--but it is
nice to look at, like--maybe I say she is built on lines like the lines
of a good canoe, just like that, and when she move she is like the
movement of the good canoe sliding through still water or leaping through
water when it is white and fast and angry.  It is very good to see.

"Why does she come into Klondike, all alone, with plenty of money?  I do
not know.  Next day I ask her.  She laugh and says:  'Sitka Charley, that
is none of your business.  I give you one thousand dollars take me to
Dawson.  That only is your business.'  Next day after that I ask her what
is her name.  She laugh, then she says, 'Mary Jones, that is my name.'  I
do not know her name, but I know all the time that Mary Jones is not her

"It is very cold in canoe, and because of cold sometimes she not feel
good.  Sometimes she feel good and she sing.  Her voice is like a silver
bell, and I feel good all over like when I go into church at Holy Cross
Mission, and when she sing I feel strong and paddle like hell.  Then she
laugh and says, 'You think we get to Dawson before freeze-up, Charley?'
Sometimes she sit in canoe and is thinking far away, her eyes like that,
all empty.  She does not see Sitka Charley, nor the ice, nor the snow.
She is far away.  Very often she is like that, thinking far away.
Sometimes, when she is thinking far away, her face is not good to see.  It
looks like a face that is angry, like the face of one man when he want to
kill another man.

"Last day to Dawson very bad.  Shore-ice in all the eddies, mush-ice in
the stream.  I cannot paddle.  The canoe freeze to ice.  I cannot get to
shore.  There is much danger.  All the time we go down Yukon in the ice.
That night there is much noise of ice.  Then ice stop, canoe stop,
everything stop.  'Let us go to shore,' the woman says.  I say no, better
wait.  By and by, everything start down-stream again.  There is much
snow.  I cannot see.  At eleven o'clock at night, everything stop.  At
one o'clock everything start again.  At three o'clock everything stop.
Canoe is smashed like eggshell, but is on top of ice and cannot sink.  I
hear dogs howling.  We wait.  We sleep.  By and by morning come.  There
is no more snow.  It is the freeze-up, and there is Dawson.  Canoe smash
and stop right at Dawson.  Sitka Charley has come in with two thousand
letters on very last water.

"The woman rent a cabin on the hill, and for one week I see her no more.
Then, one day, she come to me.  'Charley,' she says, 'how do you like to
work for me?  You drive dogs, make camp, travel with me.'  I say that I
make too much money carrying letters.  She says, 'Charley, I will pay you
more money.'  I tell her that pick-and-shovel man get fifteen dollars a
day in the mines.  She says, 'That is four hundred and fifty dollars a
month.'  And I say, 'Sitka Charley is no pick-and-shovel man.'  Then she
says, 'I understand, Charley.  I will give you seven hundred and fifty
dollars each month.'  It is a good price, and I go to work for her.  I
buy for her dogs and sled.  We travel up Klondike, up Bonanza and
Eldorado, over to Indian River, to Sulphur Creek, to Dominion, back
across divide to Gold Bottom and to Too Much Gold, and back to Dawson.
All the time she look for something, I do not know what.  I am puzzled.
'What thing you look for?' I ask.  She laugh.  'You look for gold?' I
ask.  She laugh.  Then she says, 'That is none of your business,
Charley.'  And after that I never ask any more.

"She has a small revolver which she carries in her belt.  Sometimes, on
trail, she makes practice with revolver.  I laugh.  'What for you laugh,
Charley?' she ask.  'What for you play with that?' I say.  'It is no
good.  It is too small.  It is for a child, a little plaything.'  When we
get back to Dawson she ask me to buy good revolver for her.  I buy a
Colt's 44.  It is very heavy, but she carry it in her belt all the time.

"At Dawson comes the man.  Which way he come I do not know.  Only do I
know he is _checha-quo_--what you call tenderfoot.  His hands are soft,
just like hers.  He never do hard work.  He is soft all over.  At first I
think maybe he is her husband.  But he is too young.  Also, they make two
beds at night.  He is maybe twenty years old.  His eyes blue, his hair
yellow, he has a little mustache which is yellow.  His name is John
Jones.  Maybe he is her brother.  I do not know.  I ask questions no
more.  Only I think his name not John Jones.  Other people call him Mr.
Girvan.  I do not think that is his name.  I do not think her name is
Miss Girvan, which other people call her.  I think nobody know their

"One night I am asleep at Dawson.  He wake me up.  He says, 'Get the dogs
ready; we start.'  No more do I ask questions, so I get the dogs ready
and we start.  We go down the Yukon.  It is night-time, it is November,
and it is very cold--sixty-five below.  She is soft.  He is soft.  The
cold bites.  They get tired.  They cry under their breaths to themselves.
By and by I say better we stop and make camp.  But they say that they
will go on.  Three times I say better to make camp and rest, but each
time they say they will go on.  After that I say nothing.  All the time,
day after day, is it that way.  They are very soft.  They get stiff and
sore.  They do not understand moccasins, and their feet hurt very much.
They limp, they stagger like drunken people, they cry under their
breaths; and all the time they say, 'On! on!  We will go on!'

"They are like crazy people.  All the time do they go on, and on.  Why do
they go on?  I do not know.  Only do they go on.  What are they after?  I
do not know.  They are not after gold.  There is no stampede.  Besides,
they spend plenty of money.  But I ask questions no more.  I, too, go on
and on, because I am strong on the trail and because I am greatly paid.

"We make Circle City.  That for which they look is not there.  I think
now that we will rest, and rest the dogs.  But we do not rest, not for
one day do we rest.  'Come,' says the woman to the man, 'let us go on.'
And we go on.  We leave the Yukon.  We cross the divide to the west and
swing down into the Tanana Country.  There are new diggings there.  But
that for which they look is not there, and we take the back trail to
Circle City.

"It is a hard journey.  December is most gone.  The days are short.  It
is very cold.  One morning it is seventy below zero.  'Better that we
don't travel to-day,' I say, 'else will the frost be unwarmed in the
breathing and bite all the edges of our lungs.  After that we will have
bad cough, and maybe next spring will come pneumonia.'  But they are
_checha-quo_.  They do not understand the trail.  They are like dead
people they are so tired, but they say, 'Let us go on.'  We go on.  The
frost bites their lungs, and they get the dry cough.  They cough till the
tears run down their cheeks.  When bacon is frying they must run away
from the fire and cough half an hour in the snow.  They freeze their
cheeks a little bit, so that the skin turns black and is very sore.  Also,
the man freezes his thumb till the end is like to come off, and he must
wear a large thumb on his mitten to keep it warm.  And sometimes, when
the frost bites hard and the thumb is very cold, he must take off the
mitten and put the hand between his legs next to the skin, so that the
thumb may get warm again.

"We limp into Circle City, and even I, Sitka Charley, am tired.  It is
Christmas Eve.  I dance, drink, make a good time, for to-morrow is
Christmas Day and we will rest.  But no.  It is five o'clock in the
morning--Christmas morning.  I am two hours asleep.  The man stand by my
bed.  'Come, Charley,' he says, 'harness the dogs.  We start.'

"Have I not said that I ask questions no more?  They pay me seven hundred
and fifty dollars each month.  They are my masters.  I am their man.  If
they say, 'Charley, come, let us start for hell,' I will harness the
dogs, and snap the whip, and start for hell.  So I harness the dogs, and
we start down the Yukon.  Where do we go?  They do not say.  Only do they
say, 'On! on!  We will go on!'

"They are very weary.  They have travelled many hundreds of miles, and
they do not understand the way of the trail.  Besides, their cough is
very bad--the dry cough that makes strong men swear and weak men cry.  But
they go on.  Every day they go on.  Never do they rest the dogs.  Always
do they buy new dogs.  At every camp, at every post, at every Indian
village, do they cut out the tired dogs and put in fresh dogs.  They have
much money, money without end, and like water they spend it.  They are
crazy?  Sometimes I think so, for there is a devil in them that drives
them on and on, always on.  What is it that they try to find?  It is not
gold.  Never do they dig in the ground.  I think a long time.  Then I
think it is a man they try to find.  But what man?  Never do we see the
man.  Yet are they like wolves on the trail of the kill.  But they are
funny wolves, soft wolves, baby wolves who do not understand the way of
the trail.  They cry aloud in their sleep at night.  In their sleep they
moan and groan with the pain of their weariness.  And in the day, as they
stagger along the trail, they cry under their breaths.  They are funny

"We pass Fort Yukon.  We pass Fort Hamilton.  We pass Minook.  January
has come and nearly gone.  The days are very short.  At nine o'clock
comes daylight.  At three o'clock comes night.  And it is cold.  And even
I, Sitka Charley, am tired.  Will we go on forever this way without end?
I do not know.  But always do I look along the trail for that which they
try to find.  There are few people on the trail.  Sometimes we travel one
hundred miles and never see a sign of life.  It is very quiet.  There is
no sound.  Sometimes it snows, and we are like wandering ghosts.
Sometimes it is clear, and at midday the sun looks at us for a moment
over the hills to the south.  The northern lights flame in the sky, and
the sun-dogs dance, and the air is filled with frost-dust.

"I am Sitka Charley, a strong man.  I was born on the trail, and all my
days have I lived on the trail.  And yet have these two baby wolves made
me very tired.  I am lean, like a starved cat, and I am glad of my bed at
night, and in the morning am I greatly weary.  Yet ever are we hitting
the trail in the dark before daylight, and still on the trail does the
dark after nightfall find us.  These two baby wolves!  If I am lean like
a starved cat, they are lean like cats that have never eaten and have
died.  Their eyes are sunk deep in their heads, bright sometimes as with
fever, dim and cloudy sometimes like the eyes of the dead.  Their cheeks
are hollow like caves in a cliff.  Also are their cheeks black and raw
from many freezings.  Sometimes it is the woman in the morning who says,
'I cannot get up.  I cannot move.  Let me die.'  And it is the man who
stands beside her and says, 'Come, let us go on.'  And they go on.  And
sometimes it is the man who cannot get up, and the woman says, 'Come, let
us go on.'  But the one thing they do, and always do, is to go on.  Always
do they go on.

"Sometimes, at the trading posts, the man and woman get letters.  I do
not know what is in the letters.  But it is the scent that they follow,
these letters themselves are the scent.  One time an Indian gives them a
letter.  I talk with him privately.  He says it is a man with one eye who
gives him the letter, a man who travels fast down the Yukon.  That is
all.  But I know that the baby wolves are after the man with the one eye.

"It is February, and we have travelled fifteen hundred miles.  We are
getting near Bering Sea, and there are storms and blizzards.  The going
is hard.  We come to Anvig.  I do not know, but I think sure they get a
letter at Anvig, for they are much excited, and they say, 'Come, hurry,
let us go on.'  But I say we must buy grub, and they say we must travel
light and fast.  Also, they say that we can get grub at Charley McKeon's
cabin.  Then do I know that they take the big cut-off, for it is there
that Charley McKeon lives where the Black Rock stands by the trail.

"Before we start, I talk maybe two minutes with the priest at Anvig.  Yes,
there is a man with one eye who has gone by and who travels fast.  And I
know that for which they look is the man with the one eye.  We leave
Anvig with little grub, and travel light and fast.  There are three fresh
dogs bought in Anvig, and we travel very fast.  The man and woman are
like mad.  We start earlier in the morning, we travel later at night.  I
look sometimes to see them die, these two baby wolves, but they will not
die.  They go on and on.  When the dry cough take hold of them hard, they
hold their hands against their stomach and double up in the snow, and
cough, and cough, and cough.  They cannot walk, they cannot talk.  Maybe
for ten minutes they cough, maybe for half an hour, and then they
straighten up, the tears from the coughing frozen on their faces, and the
words they say are, 'Come, let us go on.'

"Even I, Sitka Charley, am greatly weary, and I think seven hundred and
fifty dollars is a cheap price for the labor I do.  We take the big cut-
off, and the trail is fresh.  The baby wolves have their noses down to
the trail, and they say, 'Hurry!'  All the time do they say, 'Hurry!
Faster!  Faster!'  It is hard on the dogs.  We have not much food and we
cannot give them enough to eat, and they grow weak.  Also, they must work
hard.  The woman has true sorrow for them, and often, because of them,
the tears are in her eyes.  But the devil in her that drives her on will
not let her stop and rest the dogs.

"And then we come upon the man with the one eye.  He is in the snow by
the trail, and his leg is broken.  Because of the leg he has made a poor
camp, and has been lying on his blankets for three days and keeping a
fire going.  When we find him he is swearing.  He swears like hell.  Never
have I heard a man swear like that man.  I am glad.  Now that they have
found that for which they look, we will have rest.  But the woman says,
'Let us start.  Hurry!'

"I am surprised.  But the man with the one eye says, 'Never mind me.  Give
me your grub.  You will get more grub at McKeon's cabin to-morrow.  Send
McKeon back for me.  But do you go on.'  Here is another wolf, an old
wolf, and he, too, thinks but the one thought, to go on.  So we give him
our grub, which is not much, and we chop wood for his fire, and we take
his strongest dogs and go on.  We left the man with one eye there in the
snow, and he died there in the snow, for McKeon never went back for him.
And who that man was, and why he came to be there, I do not know.  But I
think he was greatly paid by the man and the woman, like me, to do their
work for them.

"That day and that night we had nothing to eat, and all next day we
travelled fast, and we were weak with hunger.  Then we came to the Black
Rock, which rose five hundred feet above the trail.  It was at the end of
the day.  Darkness was coming, and we could not find the cabin of McKeon.
We slept hungry, and in the morning looked for the cabin.  It was not
there, which was a strange thing, for everybody knew that McKeon lived in
a cabin at Black Rock.  We were near to the coast, where the wind blows
hard and there is much snow.  Everywhere there were small hills of snow
where the wind had piled it up.  I have a thought, and I dig in one and
another of the hills of snow.  Soon I find the walls of the cabin, and I
dig down to the door.  I go inside.  McKeon is dead.  Maybe two or three
weeks he is dead.  A sickness had come upon him so that he could not
leave the cabin.  The wind and the snow had covered the cabin.  He had
eaten his grub and died.  I looked for his cache, but there was no grub
in it.

"'Let us go on,' said the woman.  Her eyes were hungry, and her hand was
upon her heart, as with the hurt of something inside.  She bent back and
forth like a tree in the wind as she stood there.  'Yes, let us go on,'
said the man.  His voice was hollow, like the _klonk_ of an old raven,
and he was hunger-mad.  His eyes were like live coals of fire, and as his
body rocked to and fro, so rocked his soul inside.  And I, too, said,
'Let us go on.'  For that one thought, laid upon me like a lash for every
mile of fifteen hundred miles, had burned itself into my soul, and I
think that I, too, was mad.  Besides, we could only go on, for there was
no grub.  And we went on, giving no thought to the man with the one eye
in the snow.

"There is little travel on the big cut-off.  Sometimes two or three
months and nobody goes by.  The snow had covered the trail, and there was
no sign that men had ever come or gone that way.  All day the wind blew
and the snow fell, and all day we travelled, while our stomachs gnawed
their desire and our bodies grew weaker with every step they took.  Then
the woman began to fall.  Then the man.  I did not fall, but my feet were
heavy and I caught my toes and stumbled many times.

"That night is the end of February.  I kill three ptarmigan with the
woman's revolver, and we are made somewhat strong again.  But the dogs
have nothing to eat.  They try to eat their harness, which is of leather
and walrus-hide, and I must fight them off with a club and hang all the
harness in a tree.  And all night they howl and fight around that tree.
But we do not mind.  We sleep like dead people, and in the morning get up
like dead people out of their graves and go on along the trail.

"That morning is the 1st of March, and on that morning I see the first
sign of that after which the baby wolves are in search.  It is clear
weather, and cold.  The sun stay longer in the sky, and there are sun-
dogs flashing on either side, and the air is bright with frost-dust.  The
snow falls no more upon the trail, and I see the fresh sign of dogs and
sled.  There is one man with that outfit, and I see in the snow that he
is not strong.  He, too, has not enough to eat.  The young wolves see the
fresh sign, too, and they are much excited.  'Hurry!' they say.  All the
time they say, 'Hurry!  Faster, Charley, faster!'

"We make hurry very slow.  All the time the man and the woman fall down.
When they try to ride on sled the dogs are too weak, and the dogs fall
down.  Besides, it is so cold that if they ride on the sled they will
freeze.  It is very easy for a hungry man to freeze.  When the woman fall
down, the man help her up.  Sometimes the woman help the man up.  By and
by both fall down and cannot get up, and I must help them up all the
time, else they will not get up and will die there in the snow.  This is
very hard work, for I am greatly weary, and as well I must drive the
dogs, and the man and woman are very heavy with no strength in their
bodies.  So, by and by, I, too, fall down in the snow, and there is no
one to help me up.  I must get up by myself.  And always do I get up by
myself, and help them up, and make the dogs go on.

"That night I get one ptarmigan, and we are very hungry.  And that night
the man says to me, 'What time start to-morrow, Charley?'  It is like the
voice of a ghost.  I say, 'All the time you make start at five o'clock.'
'To-morrow,' he says, 'we will start at three o'clock.'  I laugh in great
bitterness, and I say, 'You are dead man.'  And he says, 'To-morrow we
will start at three o'clock.'

"And we start at three o'clock, for I am their man, and that which they
say is to be done, I do.  It is clear and cold, and there is no wind.
When daylight comes we can see a long way off.  And it is very quiet.  We
can hear no sound but the beat of our hearts, and in the silence that is
a very loud sound.  We are like sleep-walkers, and we walk in dreams
until we fall down; and then we know we must get up, and we see the trail
once more and bear the beating of our hearts.  Sometimes, when I am
walking in dreams this way, I have strange thoughts.  Why does Sitka
Charley live? I ask myself.  Why does Sitka Charley work hard, and go
hungry, and have all this pain?  For seven hundred and fifty dollars a
month, I make the answer, and I know it is a foolish answer.  Also is it
a true answer.  And after that never again do I care for money.  For that
day a large wisdom came to me.  There was a great light, and I saw clear,
and I knew that it was not for money that a man must live, but for a
happiness that no man can give, or buy, or sell, and that is beyond all
value of all money in the world.

"In the morning we come upon the last-night camp of the man who is before
us.  It is a poor camp, the kind a man makes who is hungry and without
strength.  On the snow there are pieces of blanket and of canvas, and I
know what has happened.  His dogs have eaten their harness, and he has
made new harness out of his blankets.  The man and woman stare hard at
what is to be seen, and as I look at them my back feels the chill as of a
cold wind against the skin.  Their eyes are toil-mad and hunger-mad, and
burn like fire deep in their heads.  Their faces are like the faces of
people who have died of hunger, and their cheeks are black with the dead
flesh of many freezings.  'Let us go on,' says the man.  But the woman
coughs and falls in the snow.  It is the dry cough where the frost has
bitten the lungs.  For a long time she coughs, then like a woman crawling
out of her grave she crawls to her feet.  The tears are ice upon her
cheeks, and her breath makes a noise as it comes and goes, and she says,
'Let us go on.'

"We go on.  And we walk in dreams through the silence.  And every time we
walk is a dream and we are without pain; and every time we fall down is
an awakening, and we see the snow and the mountains and the fresh trail
of the man who is before us, and we know all our pain again.  We come to
where we can see a long way over the snow, and that for which they look
is before them.  A mile away there are black spots upon the snow.  The
black spots move.  My eyes are dim, and I must stiffen my soul to see.
And I see one man with dogs and a sled.  The baby wolves see, too.  They
can no longer talk, but they whisper, 'On, on.  Let us hurry!'

"And they fall down, but they go on.  The man who is before us, his
blanket harness breaks often, and he must stop and mend it.  Our harness
is good, for I have hung it in trees each night.  At eleven o'clock the
man is half a mile away.  At one o'clock he is a quarter of a mile away.
He is very weak.  We see him fall down many times in the snow.  One of
his dogs can no longer travel, and he cuts it out of the harness.  But he
does not kill it.  I kill it with the axe as I go by, as I kill one of my
dogs which loses its legs and can travel no more.

"Now we are three hundred yards away.  We go very slow.  Maybe in two,
three hours we go one mile.  We do not walk.  All the time we fall down.
We stand up and stagger two steps, maybe three steps, then we fall down
again.  And all the time I must help up the man and woman.  Sometimes
they rise to their knees and fall forward, maybe four or five times
before they can get to their feet again and stagger two or three steps
and fall.  But always do they fall forward.  Standing or kneeling, always
do they fall forward, gaining on the trail each time by the length of
their bodies.

"Sometimes they crawl on hands and knees like animals that live in the
forest.  We go like snails, like snails that are dying we go so slow.  And
yet we go faster than the man who is before us.  For he, too, falls all
the time, and there is no Sitka Charley to lift him up.  Now he is two
hundred yards away.  After a long time he is one hundred yards away.

"It is a funny sight.  I want to laugh out loud, Ha! ha! just like that,
it is so funny.  It is a race of dead men and dead dogs.  It is like in a
dream when you have a nightmare and run away very fast for your life and
go very slow.  The man who is with me is mad.  The woman is mad.  I am
mad.  All the world is mad, and I want to laugh, it is so funny.

"The stranger-man who is before us leaves his dogs behind and goes on
alone across the snow.  After a long time we come to the dogs.  They lie
helpless in the snow, their harness of blanket and canvas on them, the
sled behind them, and as we pass them they whine to us and cry like
babies that are hungry.

"Then we, too, leave our dogs and go on alone across the snow.  The man
and the woman are nearly gone, and they moan and groan and sob, but they
go on.  I, too, go on.  I have but one thought.  It is to come up to the
stranger-man.  Then it is that I shall rest, and not until then shall I
rest, and it seems that I must lie down and sleep for a thousand years, I
am so tired.

"The stranger-man is fifty yards away, all alone in the white snow.  He
falls and crawls, staggers, and falls and crawls again.  He is like an
animal that is sore wounded and trying to run from the hunter.  By and by
he crawls on hands and knees.  He no longer stands up.  And the man and
woman no longer stand up.  They, too, crawl after him on hands and knees.
But I stand up.  Sometimes I fall, but always do I stand up again.

"It is a strange thing to see.  All about is the snow and the silence,
and through it crawl the man and the woman, and the stranger-man who goes
before.  On either side the sun are sun-dogs, so that there are three
suns in the sky.  The frost-dust is like the dust of diamonds, and all
the air is filled with it.  Now the woman coughs, and lies still in the
snow until the fit has passed, when she crawls on again.  Now the man
looks ahead, and he is blear-eyed as with old age and must rub his eyes
so that he can see the stranger-man.  And now the stranger-man looks back
over his shoulder.  And Sitka Charley, standing upright, maybe falls down
and stands upright again.

"After a long time the stranger-man crawls no more.  He stands slowly
upon his feet and rocks back and forth.  Also does he take off one mitten
and wait with revolver in his hand, rocking back and forth as he waits.
His face is skin and bones and frozen black.  It is a hungry face.  The
eyes are deep-sunk in his head, and the lips are snarling.  The man and
woman, too, get upon their feet and they go toward him very slowly.  And
all about is the snow and the silence.  And in the sky are three suns,
and all the air is flashing with the dust of diamonds.

"And thus it was that I, Sitka Charley, saw the baby wolves make their
kill.  No word is spoken.  Only does the stranger-man snarl with his
hungry face.  Also does he rock to and fro, his shoulders drooping, his
knees bent, and his legs wide apart so that he does not fall down.  The
man and the woman stop maybe fifty feet away.  Their legs, too, are wide
apart so that they do not fall down, and their bodies rock to and fro.
The stranger-man is very weak.  His arm shakes, so that when he shoots at
the man his bullet strikes in the snow.  The man cannot take off his
mitten.  The stranger-man shoots at him again, and this time the bullet
goes by in the air.  Then the man takes the mitten in his teeth and pulls
it off.  But his hand is frozen and he cannot hold the revolver, and it
fails in the snow.  I look at the woman.  Her mitten is off, and the big
Colt's revolver is in her hand.  Three times she shoot, quick, just like
that.  The hungry face of the stranger-man is still snarling as he falls
forward into the snow.

"They do not look at the dead man.  'Let us go on,' they say.  And we go
on.  But now that they have found that for which they look, they are like
dead.  The last strength has gone out of them.  They can stand no more
upon their feet.  They will not crawl, but desire only to close their
eyes and sleep.  I see not far away a place for camp.  I kick them.  I
have my dog-whip, and I give them the lash of it.  They cry aloud, but
they must crawl.  And they do crawl to the place for camp.  I build fire
so that they will not freeze.  Then I go back for sled.  Also, I kill the
dogs of the stranger-man so that we may have food and not die.  I put the
man and woman in blankets and they sleep.  Sometimes I wake them and give
them little bit of food.  They are not awake, but they take the food.  The
woman sleep one day and a half.  Then she wake up and go to sleep again.
The man sleep two days and wake up and go to sleep again.  After that we
go down to the coast at St. Michaels.  And when the ice goes out of
Bering Sea, the man and woman go away on a steamship.  But first they pay
me my seven hundred and fifty dollars a month.  Also, they make me a
present of one thousand dollars.  And that was the year that Sitka
Charley gave much money to the Mission at Holy Cross."

"But why did they kill the man?" I asked.

Sitka Charley delayed reply until he had lighted his pipe.  He glanced at
the _Police Gazette_ illustration and nodded his head at it familiarly.
Then he said, speaking slowly and ponderingly:

"I have thought much.  I do not know.  It is something that happened.  It
is a picture I remember.  It is like looking in at the window and seeing
the man writing a letter.  They came into my life and they went out of my
life, and the picture is as I have said, without beginning, the end
without understanding."

"You have painted many pictures in the telling," I said.

"Ay," he nodded his head.  "But they were without beginning and without

"The last picture of all had an end," I said.

"Ay," he answered.  "But what end?"

"It was a piece of life," I said.

"Ay," he answered.  "It was a piece of life."


He had followed the trail of his fleeing people for eleven days, and his
pursuit had been in itself a flight; for behind him he knew full well
were the dreaded Russians, toiling through the swampy lowlands and over
the steep divides, bent on no less than the extermination of all his
people.  He was travelling light.  A rabbit-skin sleeping-robe, a muzzle-
loading rifle, and a few pounds of sun-dried salmon constituted his
outfit.  He would have marvelled that a whole people--women and children
and aged--could travel so swiftly, had he not known the terror that drove
them on.

It was in the old days of the Russian occupancy of Alaska, when the
nineteenth century had run but half its course, that Negore fled after
his fleeing tribe and came upon it this summer night by the head waters
of the Pee-lat.  Though near the midnight hour, it was bright day as he
passed through the weary camp.  Many saw him, all knew him, but few and
cold were the greetings he received.

"Negore, the Coward," he heard Illiha, a young woman, laugh, and Sun-ne,
his sister's daughter, laughed with her.

Black anger ate at his heart; but he gave no sign, threading his way
among the camp-fires until he came to one where sat an old man.  A young
woman was kneading with skilful fingers the tired muscles of his legs.  He
raised a sightless face and listened intently as Negore's foot crackled a
dead twig.

"Who comes?" he queried in a thin, tremulous voice.

"Negore," said the young woman, scarcely looking up from her task.

Negore's face was expressionless.  For many minutes he stood and waited.
The old man's head had sunk back upon his chest.  The young woman pressed
and prodded the wasted muscles, resting her body on her knees, her bowed
head hidden as in a cloud by her black wealth of hair.  Negore watched
the supple body, bending at the hips as a lynx's body might bend, pliant
as a young willow stalk, and, withal, strong as only youth is strong.  He
looked, and was aware of a great yearning, akin in sensation to physical
hunger.  At last he spoke, saying:

"Is there no greeting for Negore, who has been long gone and has but now
come back?"

She looked up at him with cold eyes.  The old man chuckled to himself
after the manner of the old.

"Thou art my woman, Oona," Negore said, his tones dominant and conveying
a hint of menace.

She arose with catlike ease and suddenness to her full height, her eyes
flashing, her nostrils quivering like a deer's.

"I was thy woman to be, Negore, but thou art a coward; the daughter of
Old Kinoos mates not with a coward!"

She silenced him with an imperious gesture as he strove to speak.

"Old Kinoos and I came among you from a strange land.  Thy people took us
in by their fires and made us warm, nor asked whence or why we wandered.
It was their thought that Old Kinoos had lost the sight of his eyes from
age; nor did Old Kinoos say otherwise, nor did I, his daughter.  Old
Kinoos is a brave man, but Old Kinoos was never a boaster.  And now, when
I tell thee of how his blindness came to be, thou wilt know, beyond
question, that the daughter of Kinoos cannot mother the children of a
coward such as thou art, Negore."

Again she silenced the speech that rushed up to his tongue.

"Know, Negore, if journey be added unto journey of all thy journeyings
through this land, thou wouldst not come to the unknown Sitka on the
Great Salt Sea.  In that place there be many Russian folk, and their rule
is harsh.  And from Sitka, Old Kinoos, who was Young Kinoos in those
days, fled away with me, a babe in his arms, along the islands in the
midst of the sea.  My mother dead tells the tale of his wrong; a Russian,
dead with a spear through breast and back, tells the tale of the
vengeance of Kinoos.

"But wherever we fled, and however far we fled, always did we find the
hated Russian folk.  Kinoos was unafraid, but the sight of them was a
hurt to his eyes; so we fled on and on, through the seas and years, till
we came to the Great Fog Sea, Negore, of which thou hast heard, but which
thou hast never seen.  We lived among many peoples, and I grew to be a
woman; but Kinoos, growing old, took to him no other woman, nor did I
take a man.

"At last we came to Pastolik, which is where the Yukon drowns itself in
the Great Fog Sea.  Here we lived long, on the rim of the sea, among a
people by whom the Russians were well hated.  But sometimes they came,
these Russians, in great ships, and made the people of Pastolik show them
the way through the islands uncountable of the many-mouthed Yukon.  And
sometimes the men they took to show them the way never came back, till
the people became angry and planned a great plan.

"So, when there came a ship, Old Kinoos stepped forward and said he would
show the way.  He was an old man then, and his hair was white; but he was
unafraid.  And he was cunning, for he took the ship to where the sea
sucks in to the land and the waves beat white on the mountain called
Romanoff.  The sea sucked the ship in to where the waves beat white, and
it ground upon the rocks and broke open its sides.  Then came all the
people of Pastolik, (for this was the plan), with their war-spears, and
arrows, and some few guns.  But first the Russians put out the eyes of
Old Kinoos that he might never show the way again, and then they fought,
where the waves beat white, with the people of Pastolik.

"Now the head-man of these Russians was Ivan.  He it was, with his two
thumbs, who drove out the eyes of Kinoos.  He it was who fought his way
through the white water, with two men left of all his men, and went away
along the rim of the Great Fog Sea into the north.  Kinoos was wise.  He
could see no more and was helpless as a child.  So he fled away from the
sea, up the great, strange Yukon, even to Nulato, and I fled with him.

"This was the deed my father did, Kinoos, an old man.  But how did the
young man, Negore?"

Once again she silenced him.

"With my own eyes I saw, at Nulato, before the gates of the great fort,
and but few days gone.  I saw the Russian, Ivan, who thrust out my
father's eyes, lay the lash of his dog-whip upon thee and beat thee like
a dog.  This I saw, and knew thee for a coward.  But I saw thee not, that
night, when all thy people--yea, even the boys not yet hunters--fell upon
the Russians and slew them all."

"Not Ivan," said Negore, quietly.  "Even now is he on our heels, and with
him many Russians fresh up from the sea."

Oona made no effort to hide her surprise and chagrin that Ivan was not
dead, but went on:

"In the day I saw thee a coward; in the night, when all men fought, even
the boys not yet hunters, I saw thee not and knew thee doubly a coward."

"Thou art done?  All done?" Negore asked.

She nodded her head and looked at him askance, as though astonished that
he should have aught to say.

"Know then that Negore is no coward," he said; and his speech was very
low and quiet.  "Know that when I was yet a boy I journeyed alone down to
the place where the Yukon drowns itself in the Great Fog Sea.  Even to
Pastolik I journeyed, and even beyond, into the north, along the rim of
the sea.  This I did when I was a boy, and I was no coward.  Nor was I
coward when I journeyed, a young man and alone, up the Yukon farther than
man had ever been, so far that I came to another folk, with white faces,
who live in a great fort and talk speech other than that the Russians
talk.  Also have I killed the great bear of the Tanana country, where no
one of my people hath ever been.  And I have fought with the Nuklukyets,
and the Kaltags, and the Sticks in far regions, even I, and alone.  These
deeds, whereof no man knows, I speak for myself.  Let my people speak for
me of things I have done which they know.  They will not say Negore is a

He finished proudly, and proudly waited.

"These be things which happened before I came into the land," she said,
"and I know not of them.  Only do I know what I know, and I know I saw
thee lashed like a dog in the day; and in the night, when the great fort
flamed red and the men killed and were killed, I saw thee not.  Also, thy
people do call thee Negore, the Coward.  It is thy name now, Negore, the

"It is not a good name," Old Kinoos chuckled.

"Thou dost not understand, Kinoos," Negore said gently.  "But I shall
make thee understand.  Know that I was away on the hunt of the bear, with
Kamo-tah, my mother's son.  And Kamo-tah fought with a great bear.  We
had no meat for three days, and Kamo-tah was not strong of arm nor swift
of foot.  And the great bear crushed him, so, till his bones cracked like
dry sticks.  Thus I found him, very sick and groaning upon the ground.
And there was no meat, nor could I kill aught that the sick man might

"So I said, 'I will go to Nulato and bring thee food, also strong men to
carry thee to camp.'  And Kamo-tah said, 'Go thou to Nulato and get food,
but say no word of what has befallen me.  And when I have eaten, and am
grown well and strong, I will kill this bear.  Then will I return in
honor to Nulato, and no man may laugh and say Kamo-tah was undone by a

"So I gave heed to my brother's words; and when I was come to Nulato, and
the Russian, Ivan, laid the lash of his dog-whip upon me, I knew I must
not fight.  For no man knew of Kamo-tah, sick and groaning and hungry;
and did I fight with Ivan, and die, then would my brother die, too.  So
it was, Oona, that thou sawest me beaten like a dog.

"Then I heard the talk of the shamans and chiefs that the Russians had
brought strange sicknesses upon the people, and killed our men, and
stolen our women, and that the land must be made clean.  As I say, I
heard the talk, and I knew it for good talk, and I knew that in the night
the Russians were to be killed.  But there was my brother, Kamo-tah, sick
and groaning and with no meat; so I could not stay and fight with the men
and the boys not yet hunters.

"And I took with me meat and fish, and the lash-marks of Ivan, and I
found Kamo-tah no longer groaning, but dead.  Then I went back to Nulato,
and, behold, there was no Nulato--only ashes where the great fort had
stood, and the bodies of many men.  And I saw the Russians come up the
Yukon in boats, fresh from the sea, many Russians; and I saw Ivan creep
forth from where he lay hid and make talk with them.  And the next day I
saw Ivan lead them upon the trail of the tribe.  Even now are they upon
the trail, and I am here, Negore, but no coward."

"This is a tale I hear," said Oona, though her voice was gentler than
before.  "Kamo-tah is dead and cannot speak for thee, and I know only
what I know, and I must know thee of my own eyes for no coward."

Negore made an impatient gesture.

"There be ways and ways," she added.  "Art thou willing to do no less
than what Old Kinoos hath done?"

He nodded his head, and waited.

"As thou hast said, they seek for us even now, these Russians.  Show them
the way, Negore, even as Old Kinoos showed them the way, so that they
come, unprepared, to where we wait for them, in a passage up the rocks.
Thou knowest the place, where the wall is broken and high.  Then will we
destroy them, even Ivan.  When they cling like flies to the wall, and top
is no less near than bottom, our men shall fall upon them from above and
either side, with spears, and arrows, and guns.  And the women and
children, from above, shall loosen the great rocks and hurl them down
upon them.  It will be a great day, for the Russians will be killed, the
land will be made clean, and Ivan, even Ivan who thrust out my father's
eyes and laid the lash of his dog-whip upon thee, will be killed.  Like a
dog gone mad will he die, his breath crushed out of him beneath the
rocks.  And when the fighting begins, it is for thee, Negore, to crawl
secretly away so that thou be not slain."

"Even so," he answered.  "Negore will show them the way.  And then?"

"And then I shall be thy woman, Negore's woman, the brave man's woman.
And thou shalt hunt meat for me and Old Kinoos, and I shall cook thy
food, and sew thee warm parkas and strong, and make thee moccasins after
the way of my people, which is a better way than thy people's way.  And
as I say, I shall be thy woman, Negore, always thy woman.  And I shall
make thy life glad for thee, so that all thy days will be a song and
laughter, and thou wilt know the woman Oona as unlike all other women,
for she has journeyed far, and lived in strange places, and is wise in
the ways of men and in the ways they may be made glad.  And in thine old
age will she still make thee glad, and thy memory of her in the days of
thy strength will be sweet, for thou wilt know always that she was ease
to thee, and peace, and rest, and that beyond all women to other men has
she been woman to thee."

"Even so," said Negore, and the hunger for her ate at his heart, and his
arms went out for her as a hungry man's arms might go out for food.

"When thou hast shown the way, Negore," she chided him; but her eyes were
soft, and warm, and he knew she looked upon him as woman had never looked

"It is well," he said, turning resolutely on his heel.  "I go now to make
talk with the chiefs, so that they may know I am gone to show the
Russians the way."

"Oh, Negore, my man! my man!" she said to herself, as she watched him go,
but she said it so softly that even Old Kinoos did not hear, and his ears
were over keen, what of his blindness.

* * * * *

Three days later, having with craft ill-concealed his hiding-place,
Negore was dragged forth like a rat and brought before Ivan--"Ivan the
Terrible" he was known by the men who marched at his back.  Negore was
armed with a miserable bone-barbed spear, and he kept his rabbit-skin
robe wrapped closely about him, and though the day was warm he shivered
as with an ague.  He shook his head that he did not understand the speech
Ivan put at him, and made that he was very weary and sick, and wished
only to sit down and rest, pointing the while to his stomach in sign of
his sickness, and shivering fiercely.  But Ivan had with him a man from
Pastolik who talked the speech of Negore, and many and vain were the
questions they asked him concerning his tribe, till the man from
Pastolik, who was called Karduk, said:

"It is the word of Ivan that thou shalt be lashed till thou diest if thou
dost not speak.  And know, strange brother, when I tell thee the word of
Ivan is the law, that I am thy friend and no friend of Ivan.  For I come
not willingly from my country by the sea, and I desire greatly to live;
wherefore I obey the will of my master--as thou wilt obey, strange
brother, if thou art wise, and wouldst live."

"Nay, strange brother," Negore answered, "I know not the way my people
are gone, for I was sick, and they fled so fast my legs gave out from
under me, and I fell behind."

Negore waited while Karduk talked with Ivan.  Then Negore saw the
Russian's face go dark, and he saw the men step to either side of him,
snapping the lashes of their whips.  Whereupon he betrayed a great
fright, and cried aloud that he was a sick man and knew nothing, but
would tell what he knew.  And to such purpose did he tell, that Ivan gave
the word to his men to march, and on either side of Negore marched the
men with the whips, that he might not run away.  And when he made that he
was weak of his sickness, and stumbled and walked not so fast as they
walked, they laid their lashes upon him till he screamed with pain and
discovered new strength.  And when Karduk told him all would he well with
him when they had overtaken his tribe, he asked, "And then may I rest and
move not?"

Continually he asked, "And then may I rest and move not?"

And while he appeared very sick and looked about him with dull eyes, he
noted the fighting strength of Ivan's men, and noted with satisfaction
that Ivan did not recognize him as the man he had beaten before the gates
of the fort.  It was a strange following his dull eyes saw.  There were
Slavonian hunters, fair-skinned and mighty-muscled; short, squat Finns,
with flat noses and round faces; Siberian half-breeds, whose noses were
more like eagle-beaks; and lean, slant-eyed men, who bore in their veins
the Mongol and Tartar blood as well as the blood of the Slav.  Wild
adventurers they were, forayers and destroyers from the far lands beyond
the Sea of Bering, who blasted the new and unknown world with fire and
sword and clutched greedily for its wealth of fur and hide.  Negore
looked upon them with satisfaction, and in his mind's eye he saw them
crushed and lifeless at the passage up the rocks.  And ever he saw,
waiting for him at the passage up the rocks, the face and the form of
Oona, and ever he heard her voice in his ears and felt the soft, warm
glow of her eyes.  But never did he forget to shiver, nor to stumble
where the footing was rough, nor to cry aloud at the bite of the lash.
Also, he was afraid of Karduk, for he knew him for no true man.  His was
a false eye, and an easy tongue--a tongue too easy, he judged, for the
awkwardness of honest speech.

All that day they marched.  And on the next, when Karduk asked him at
command of Ivan, he said he doubted they would meet with his tribe till
the morrow.  But Ivan, who had once been shown the way by Old Kinoos, and
had found that way to lead through the white water and a deadly fight,
believed no more in anything.  So when they came to a passage up the
rocks, he halted his forty men, and through Karduk demanded if the way
were clear.

Negore looked at it shortly and carelessly.  It was a vast slide that
broke the straight wall of a cliff, and was overrun with brush and
creeping plants, where a score of tribes could have lain well hidden.

He shook his head.  "Nay, there be nothing there," he said.  "The way is

Again Ivan spoke to Karduk, and Karduk said:

"Know, strange brother, if thy talk be not straight, and if thy people
block the way and fall upon Ivan and his men, that thou shalt die, and at

"My talk is straight," Negore said.  "The way is clear."

Still Ivan doubted, and ordered two of his Slavonian hunters to go up
alone.  Two other men he ordered to the side of Negore.  They placed
their guns against his breast and waited.  All waited.  And Negore knew,
should one arrow fly, or one spear be flung, that his death would come
upon him.  The two Slavonian hunters toiled upward till they grew small
and smaller, and when they reached the top and waved their hats that all
was well, they were like black specks against the sky.

The guns were lowered from Negore's breast and Ivan gave the order for
his men to go forward.  Ivan was silent, lost in thought.  For an hour he
marched, as though puzzled, and then, through Karduk's mouth, he said to

"How didst thou know the way was clear when thou didst look so briefly
upon it?"

Negore thought of the little birds he had seen perched among the rocks
and upon the bushes, and smiled, it was so simple; but he shrugged his
shoulders and made no answer.  For he was thinking, likewise, of another
passage up the rocks, to which they would soon come, and where the little
birds would all be gone.  And he was glad that Karduk came from the Great
Fog Sea, where there were no trees or bushes, and where men learned water-
craft instead of land-craft and wood-craft.

Three hours later, when the sun rode overhead, they came to another
passage up the rocks, and Karduk said:

"Look with all thine eyes, strange brother, and see if the way be clear,
for Ivan is not minded this time to wait while men go up before."

Negore looked, and he looked with two men by his side, their guns resting
against his breast.  He saw that the little birds were all gone, and once
he saw the glint of sunlight on a rifle-barrel.  And he thought of Oona,
and of her words:  "And when the fighting begins, it is for thee, Negore,
to crawl secretly away so that thou be not slain."

He felt the two guns pressing on his breast.  This was not the way she
had planned.  There would be no crawling secretly away.  He would be the
first to die when the fighting began.  But he said, and his voice was
steady, and he still feigned to see with dull eyes and to shiver from his

"The way is clear."

And they started up, Ivan and his forty men from the far lands beyond the
Sea of Bering.  And there was Karduk, the man from Pastolik, and Negore,
with the two guns always upon him.  It was a long climb, and they could
not go fast; but very fast to Negore they seemed to approach the midway
point where top was no less near than bottom.

A gun cracked among the rocks to the right, and Negore heard the war-yell
of all his tribe, and for an instant saw the rocks and bushes bristle
alive with his kinfolk.  Then he felt torn asunder by a burst of flame
hot through his being, and as he fell he knew the sharp pangs of life as
it wrenches at the flesh to be free.

But he gripped his life with a miser's clutch and would not let it go.  He
still breathed the air, which bit his lungs with a painful sweetness; and
dimly he saw and heard, with passing spells of blindness and deafness,
the flashes of sight and sound again wherein he saw the hunters of Ivan
falling to their deaths, and his own brothers fringing the carnage and
filling the air with the tumult of their cries and weapons, and, far
above, the women and children loosing the great rocks that leaped like
things alive and thundered down.

The sun danced above him in the sky, the huge walls reeled and swung, and
still he heard and saw dimly.  And when the great Ivan fell across his
legs, hurled there lifeless and crushed by a down-rushing rock, he
remembered the blind eyes of Old Kinoos and was glad.

Then the sounds died down, and the rocks no longer thundered past, and he
saw his tribespeople creeping close and closer, spearing the wounded as
they came.  And near to him he heard the scuffle of a mighty Slavonian
hunter, loath to die, and, half uprisen, borne back and down by the
thirsty spears.

Then he saw above him the face of Oona, and felt about him the arms of
Oona; and for a moment the sun steadied and stood still, and the great
walls were upright and moved not.

"Thou art a brave man, Negore," he heard her say in his ear; "thou art my
man, Negore."

And in that moment he lived all the life of gladness of which she had
told him, and the laughter and the song, and as the sun went out of the
sky above him, as in his old age, he knew the memory of her was sweet.
And as even the memories dimmed and died in the darkness that fell upon
him, he knew in her arms the fulfilment of all the ease and rest she had
promised him.  And as black night wrapped around him, his head upon her
breast, he felt a great peace steal about him, and he was aware of the
hush of many twilights and the mystery of silence.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Love of Life and Other Stories" ***

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