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Title: A Claim on Klondyke - A Romance of the Arctic El Dorado
Author: Roper, Edward
Language: English
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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.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: ALONE IN THE VAST SOLITUDE.]



A CLAIM ON KLONDIKE


A Romance

OF

THE ARCTIC EL DORADO



BY

EDWARD ROPER, F.R.G.S.


AUTHOR OF

'BY TRACK AND TRAIL THROUGH CANADA,' ETC., ETC.



_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS_



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON

MDCCCXCIX



_All Rights reserved_



ILLUSTRATIONS.


ALONE IN THE VAST SOLITUDE . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

SHOOTING MYLES CAÑON

LAKE LA BARGE

FIVE FINGERS RAPIDS

ON THE YUKON AT THE MOUTH OF THE KLONDYKE RIVER

OUR DUG-OUT, OUR TUNNEL, AND OUR SLUICE

"WHEN SHE APPEARED AGAIN I WAS GREATLY EMBARRASSED"

MAY AND I IN THE DUG-OUT

"IT WAS A MELANCHOLY UNDERTAKING"

"WELCOME, FRIENDS."



A CLAIM ON KLONDYKE



PREAMBLE.

Somewhere near midnight in January 1897, a man--important to this
little history--stood on an expanse of glittering snow, amidst low
forest-covered hills and rugged mountains which were draped in the same
white garb.  He was looking eagerly towards the north-west, and was
listening intently.

This man was muffled to the eyes in furs, he wore a rough bearskin
coat, and his head was enveloped in a huge capote.  He wore snow-shoes,
and a gun lay across his arm.

A grand long-haired dog was by his side; he was listening, seemingly as
intently as his master.

The moon was shining full, the deep purple sky was sown thick with
brilliant stars,--one could have read small print easily, it was so
light.

Not a breath of air was stirring.

The intensity of the cold was indescribable: if there had been the
slightest wind, this man could not have stood thus, in this open space,
and lived.

He was a large man really, but the immensity of his surroundings, the
vast field of dazzling snow on which he stood, made him appear to be a
pigmy, whilst his loneliness and solitude gave a note of unutterable
melancholy to the scene.

Several minutes passed, neither dog nor man moving from this attitude
of strained attention.  All nature was absolutely motionless; no branch
stirred in the near forest, nor was one flake of snow wafted by the
softest zephyr--yet there was no silence.  The far-off woods resounded
with frequent sharp reports, as if firearms were being discharged
there, the nearer rocks and trees from time to time gave forth
detonations like fusilades of musketry, and beneath his feet--he stood
on a broad space of water, turned to ice of unknown depth, cushioned
deep with snow--were groanings, grindings, cracklings, and explosions.
It was the terrible arctic cold that caused this tumult.  One could
almost fancy that these two figures, silhouetted black against the
dazzling white, were frozen solid too.

At length the man moved, and, patting his companion's head with his
gauntleted hand, spoke, "No, good dog," he sighed, "it's another
hallucination."  And the dog looked up at him, and whimpered, then
turned his gaze again in the direction it had been before, with
eagerness.

It was impossible to guess from this man's appearance what he was like:
he was so enveloped in wrappers only his eyes were visible; but his
voice proclaimed him to be gently bred--it had the accent of a
cultivated Englishman.

"No good," he went on muttering.  "Let us get back, old Patch, my sole
companion in this awful wilderness; it was not a shot we heard, only
the frost that made that clamour," and he made as if to move away.

But the dog evidently was not satisfied.  He sat down, kept his nose
pointed in the one direction, and whimpered again and again.  The man
stood still and listened.

"Strange, strange," he spoke aloud, "that Patch is so persistent;
perhaps it will be well to go on a bit more.  There's nothing to
prevent it--no one waiting for us.  I suppose it is about midnight by
the moon; but night or day, it's pretty much the same up here.  Yes;
we'll go on along this frozen creek: one cannot well miss the way back."

He was silent for a few moments, then resumed, "I'm talking aloud to
myself again! or is it to the dog?  This isolation, this loneliness, is
terrible; but, come, my lad, come on!" and he started.

Patch, seeing his master move, began to wag his bushy tail, and dance
with delight; he flew ahead, barking and capering, but every now and
then stopped suddenly, pricked up his sharp ears, and listened as his
master did.

They must have pushed on a mile or more from where we first encountered
them.  The expanse of level snow had widened greatly.  There were no
trees near, the sound of the frost in rock and timber was distant and
subdued, and they stood side by side again attentive.

Suddenly, away off in the ranges to their right, two reports were
audible--unmistakably they were shots fired from a gun--and then
immediately six sharp cracks resounded; it was the discharge of a
revolver!

At the first noise, again the man's mittened hand sought the dog's
collar to restrain him, for he was intensely excited.  The moment the
sixth revolver shot had sounded, he removed his hand, and shouted,
"Forward, good dog; go sic 'em!" and the two rushed off in the
direction of the sounds.

Another mile they covered rapidly, the dog running ahead and barking;
then returning, looking eagerly and joyfully into his master's face,
then hurrying on again.

But soon calling Patch to him, he held him and waited, hoping to hear
more signs of human presence in that awful region.  He was not
disappointed.

Again two rapid gun shots were fired, and six revolver shots, and they
were nearer than they had been before.

"Patch," said the man then, "we'll try what this will do," and lifting
up his gun, he pulled one trigger, and a few seconds after the other.
Then taking a revolver from his belt, he fired six cartridges slowly in
the air.

What would come of this? would there be any response?  He had not long
to wonder.  The signal was repeated, and he knew that there were
fellow-creatures in those mountains.  White, black, or red, he did not
care then.  The feeling that he was not alone in that white world, that
terribly hard, frozen world, was enough for him.

He and the dog hurried on, ascended the low bare hill upon their right,
and when after a vigorous climb they reached the summit, he fired
again, as he had done before.  Patch barked loudly, joyfully, and there
came into his master's mind the certainty that he was on the point of
some discovery, some adventure to break the monotony of his life.

The response was immediate.  Down in the valley at his feet, but at
some distance, what appeared to be a door was opened suddenly,
revealing a light within, and in the illuminated space a figure stood,
who, lifting up a gun, fired again.  Next this figure ran out of the
building brandishing a blazing pine-knot, and across the wide valley he
distinctly heard the cry of a fellow-being, and, still more wonderful,
more amazing, it sounded to be the voice of a woman in distress.

"Go to her, Patch!" he cried.  The good dog obeyed, whilst he followed
as rapidly as he could.  It was rough ground, all rocks and fallen
trees: he was exhausted ere he had traversed half the distance.
Halting a moment to recover breath, he had a view against the bright
light of the doorway of Patch crouched at the feet of the person there,
who was stooping to caress him.

A few hundred yards more and he halted again for breath, and then he
heard a long-drawn cry of agony.  "Help, oh! help! whoever you are!
Indian or white man, come, come and help!"  And our friend called
loudly across the waste: "I'm an Englishman!  Trust me.  I'm making my
way to you with all the haste I can!" and over the snow-clad expanse
resounded the response, "Thank God! thank God!"



CHAPTER I.

During the winter of 1895-96, I was staying at Bella Rocca, a
boarding-house in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I had
come to that charming city, on that beautiful island, to discover, if
possible, an opening for the investment of my modest capital in a
manner which would give me a more congenial way of making a livelihood
than I had found in Eastern Canada, where I had resided for some few
years.

When I first arrived in the Dominion, I settled in the backwoods of
Ontario.  Later, I had passed some years on the prairies, and later
still, I had spent some time in the Rocky Mountains, the Selkirks, and
on the Fraser river.

I had led a life of toil, I was well up in bush work and ways, but I
did not like the life; so, having saved a little money, and having
heard so much of the Pacific coast, I came to Victoria, as I have said.

At Bella Rocca a man was staying with whom I became very friendly: he
was an Englishman, about my age, and had many tastes congenial to me.
He was idle, appeared to have plenty of money, and seemingly had no
wish to do any work or business.

He was my frequent companion in my walks around Victoria: there being
few idle people there, and I having much time unoccupied, this
friendship was mutually agreeable.

I was puzzled for a while about him.  He was very reticent about
himself--I could not even tell if he had been long in Canada, although
occasionally a few words fell from him which made me believe he knew it
well.

It was towards March; I had found nothing to suit me; I had often told
this friend what I was looking for, and had been quite open about my
past, my present desires, and my experience in the country, when one
day, as he and I were sitting on Beacon Hill, enjoying the soft spring
weather, gazing with delight at the glorious Olympic range across the
Straits of San Juan de Fuca, "Ah!" said my companion--his name was
Percy Meade--"ah! it's not long now before I'll be outside there," and
he pointed north to Cape Flattery and the Pacific Ocean.

"You are going across, then--to China or Australia?" I asked.

"Neither," replied he, with a smile; "I am going north by the first
ship that sails."

"North!" I remarked.  I was not greatly interested.  "Well, I've never
had the wish to go up the coast.  What is to be done up there?"

He did not reply at once; but after a bit said he, "I wonder you have
never tried gold-mining in this country; don't you think it's worth
considering?"

I replied that I had heard so much about it in the mountains, and had
read about the old days on the Fraser and the Cariboo, that I believed
it to be a poor business, and supposed that every ounce of gold found
cost two in labour and expense, and said many things that most men do
who have not taken the gold-fever.

Meade said little more that day, but shortly after he asked me what I
would do if I were told of a spot, by some one I could trust, where
gold existed in large quantities, where any one who had the courage to
go could pick it up, or at any rate obtain it, with comparatively
little labour.

I replied that, no doubt, if such a chance were offered me I should
accept it,--that I was as keen to make a pile as any one.  "Only," I
added, laughing, "I doubt if there are such places left, and still more
that if any person knew of one he would tell me."

Meade was silent for some time, then, "Look here," he said, very
seriously, "we've been together a few months; I can see the sort of
fellow you are; you know what rough life is, I'm sure you can stand it
better than most; so now, listen--I know of such a place, and I'll tell
you about it on condition, naturally, that you'll keep it to yourself."

I smiled.  "How do you know?" I asked, "and why do you tell me?"

To this he answered slowly and earnestly, "I was up north all last
season--on the Yukon.  I found a place on our side that is full of
gold; you would hardly believe it if you saw it, but it is so.  It is
on a creek up a river that joins the Yukon in British territory, about
seventy-five miles from the boundary, not far from the ruins of Fort
Reliance.

"I went from Seattle last spring up the coast round the Alaskan
peninsula, into Behring Sea, and so to Fort St Michael, where I landed.
Then I proceeded up the Yukon in a stern-wheel steamer to a place they
call Fort Cudahy, or the Forty Mile, in British territory.  It was a
terribly long journey--four thousand three hundred and fifty miles from
here.  It took eight weeks, and cost a big sum.  There was a little
mining going on up the river, but different from any I had seen, and I
have been to Australia.  I did not like the look of it.  The diggers
were scattered about, getting what they called flour-gold, and not so
very much of that.

"The season during which washing can be done is very short--four months
at most; but then it is broad daylight always, no night at all; men
work ceaselessly--ay, and women too.

"I tried a little here and there, I 'prospected' about, and in time I
got up the big river some long way indeed, until I came to a collection
of shacks and shanties, with a store or two, that they call Dawson
City.  I was short of everything then but money, of which I still had a
moderate supply; so I obtained some stores and a decent outfit, and
after a few days of misery in the wretched place, I loaded all into a
canoe which I bought, and pushed on, quite alone, up a river which
joined the Yukon there.  It was the THRON-DUICK--the Klondyke as it is
called now.  Paddling slowly up this stream, I landed frequently,
seldom finding gold, and I always tried the soil as I went along.
Occasionally I found the colour, once or twice enough to pay, I
fancied, with good machinery.  There was a fascination about this life.
I believed that any moment some pan of gravel that I washed might be
rich and give me all I wanted--a golden claim.

"I kept on thus until I must have been at least forty miles up this
river.  I passed several branches, for to me the main stream looked
most promising, until I came to one, much narrower: it joined in with a
rush and roar, and I liked the look of it.  I landed, walked up it, and
liked it so that I determined to ascend it if possible.  I could not
get my laden canoe up the steep water--I must therefore 'portage.'  I
set to work; I carried my stuff past the rapid.  It was a tough job
getting my canoe up, but by good luck I did.  Then I went on again,
trying here and there as usual.

"When I was too tired to keep on, I put up my little tent ashore and
slept.  When rested, on I went again.

"I had quite lost reckoning; I had no idea of the day of the week or
month, but the sun indicated that the summer was going.  It would not
do to be caught up there as unprovided as I was.  I thought I had come
far enough, so, reluctantly, I made up my mind that I would after
another day or two retrace my steps.

"That very day I found what I had looked for.  I hit upon a bar on this
creek, where gold was so thick that I was bewildered.

"I suppose you know how gold is washed?  Well, I had no need to wash--I
picked out of that heap of gravel in three days over seventy-five
pounds' weight of it!"

"Seventy-five pounds of gold!  Why, that was worth £3000!" I cried.

"Yes, quite that," said Meade; "but I got £2500 for it here, and have a
decent little bag of nuggets still unsold.  I'll show them to you at
the bank some day if you like."

I smiled.  I'm afraid I did not altogether believe him.  I had an idea
that he was romancing.  "How did you get down and bring all that gold
with you?" I asked, half laughing.

"It's too long a yarn to tell now," he replied.  "I got back all right
to Dawson in my canoe, sold it, and managed to keep my find secret.  I
fortunately procured a passage in the stern-wheeler, P. B. Weare, the
last boat for St Michael's that season.  From there I easily got here,
and no one knew that I had struck gold--no one does know it yet but the
manager of the bank, and now you."

It was a most interesting story, certainly; I was glad to have heard
it, but there was "no such luck for me," I observed, at which Meade
laughed, but added, "See here, I've told you this because I want you to
share with me this season!  What d'ye say?"

"What?" I exclaimed, "and get gold like that?  Oh! of course I'll go;
but are you in earnest? why should you favour me thus?"

He declared solemnly that he meant it; he averred that he had taken to
me, that he knew I was strong, healthy, a good fellow, and used to
working in rough country, and as he was determined to go, and certainly
would not do so again alone, he had made me his confidant and this
offer in perfect good faith, and he ended thus, "Think it over, take
time, keep what I've told you to yourself, but I hope you'll join me."

Later, he explained that we must leave Victoria soon, that we should
come back at the end of September, and that he would be miserably
surprised if we did not return with reasonable piles.  "But we will not
go the way I went," said he.  "No, I met some men at Dawson who had
come by a much shorter route--by the Lynn Canal and Skagway.  We save
thus nearly 3000 miles, and the trail is quite feasible.  You've done
some boating, some canoeing, I suppose?"

I said I had, both in England and Canada, which pleased him, and he
assured me that we should do splendidly, and again he said he hoped I'd
join him.

Naturally, I did think this over.  I heard about his antecedents from
the bank manager, found he was a member of a good old English family,
and that he himself was of good repute.  I heard from the same source
that it was true about the gold he had brought down, I saw his bag of
nuggets, and I liked him.  I was looking for some employment, I counted
the cost, and knowing that if, at the worst, I returned empty-handed, I
should not even then be quite without funds, I consented to share with
him in the adventure.  He was to defray all expenses.

It was early in April that he and I started in a steamer bound for
Sitka and other ports in Alaska.  She came from Tacoma, in the State of
Washington, and picked us up at Victoria on her way to the north.

Meade having all plans cut and dried, it did not take us long to lay in
our stock of necessaries.  We purchased provisions, tinned meats and
vegetables, flour and bacon, with plenty of various preserved foods,
enough to keep us going well for at least a year.  We took ample supply
of tobacco, with guns, ammunition, a sheet-iron Yukon stove, picks,
shovels, washpans, and we did not forget our axes.  All these goods
were done up in parcels covered with waterproof canvas, each in weight
suitable for "packing," that is for Indians to carry.

Leaving Victoria, we travelled up between Vancouver Island and the
mainland to Naniamo.  Here we took in coal, then headed up the coast.

How am I to describe to you this wonderful journey?  Words fail me.
From the very start it was delightful.  True, we were at sea; but being
amongst islands, we were so sheltered that it was like a placid river.
We traversed the grandest scenery that can be imagined, the water clear
and smooth as glass, with air as soft as velvet.  We sighted Queen
Charlotte's Islands, but voyaged through channels nearer the mainland,
between grand timbered islets, past rocky bluffs and gorges, always in
sight of mountains, many being snow-covered and glaciered.  Then on
between Prince of Wales' Island and the mainland, and so to Fort
Wrangel, where we left the goodly steamer.  We had come seven hundred
miles in her, and had been four days on the way.

Wrangel was just a rough group of shanties, with some stores and many
totem-poles, as most of the few inhabitants were Indians of the
Stickeen tribe.  The whites were traders, or miners and prospectors, en
route to the Yukon country.  Here we hired a canoe to carry us to
Juneau.  It was an immense one, beautifully fashioned out of one huge
log of cedar--a dug-out--but in shape and seaworthiness most excellent.
We engaged four Indians to man it.  Most of the trip was made with
paddles; but sometimes a square sail was hoisted on a pole forward.  We
camped each night upon the rocky shores.

It took three days to reach that town.  It is the metropolis of Alaska,
Sitka being the capital.  But most of the business is done in Juneau.
It is, naturally, a rough and ramshackle place, yet we found it
possible to obtain fair accommodation at a queer hotel, and every
article of provisions and gear needed in the upper country.  It has a
city hall and court-house, waterworks, banks, and electric light and
wharves!  We had to wait two days for one of the two small steamers
which ply between Juneau and Skagway.  The Rustler is the one we took,
the fare then being only 10 dollars each--but we had to feed ourselves.

After leaving Juneau we steamed along a narrow strait between Douglas
Island and the coast, and entered the famed Lynn Canal, which is an arm
of the sea running almost due north.  It averages ten miles in width,
and is about one hundred in length, having very regular shores,
straight and uniform; but for its dimensions, it might be taken indeed
for an artificially made canal.  On our left we skirted the great
Davidson Glacier.  The whole journey was grand, sublime, and in many
places awful.

We arrived in Skagway Inlet on the second day.  A few miles from the
head of it we came to the Skagway river or creek, 120 miles from
Juneau, and here, amongst a wilderness of trees, mountains, and mud
flats, a mere foothold in the snow-clad granite coast-range, were a
handful of Indian rancheries and a few log shanties and some tents.
There is a great rise and fall in the tides at Skagway.  We had to wait
some time ere the one boat belonging to the Rustler could land us and
our stuff on the rock-strewn muddy beach.  No one from the shore lent a
hand.  There was a rough wharf, it is true, in course of construction.
The men building it, we understood, had gone to their camp, for it was
late when we arrived.

A number of Indians were about: their sole employment seemed to be to
sit on stumps and logs, smoke and chew tobacco, and gaze stolidly at
us.  They were dressed just like the white men.

As for the few white men, they gathered round us, eyed us and our
outfit, but said nothing.  A more miserable, unhappy, low-spirited set
of men I had never before come across.

Well, we were landed at Skagway, and questioned the inhabitants.  It
was not easy to obtain information.  "Where is the trail to the White
Pass?  How could we get to it?  What means of transport were there?"
Those were the questions we made it plain that we desired to have
answered.

One would have supposed that these people could have enlightened us;
but no--their advice and information was so vague that we might have
taken them for new arrivals, like ourselves.  But that they were old
hands was plain, for they argued amongst themselves, entered into long
yarns about what this and that man had experienced, what Slim Jim
thought, and Blear-eyed Scottie said--we could make nothing of them.
Some advised us to go by canoe, which was chaff; and others declared
that was ridiculous--by the trail was the only way.  "What trail?
Which is it?" we begged to be informed.  "Oh! just up the river a
piece," was all we could arrive at.

No doubt these men, regarding us as "tenderfeet," took pleasure, as
usual, in mystifying us; and it was our policy not to undeceive them.
I was the usual spokesman.

It must be quite clearly understood that the rush to the Klondyke had
not begun then.  It was known, undoubtedly, that there was much gold up
country, and every white man there was after it, so that if it had been
guessed that Meade had been up already, the fact of his returning with
the ample outfit we possessed would have convinced them that he had
been successful, and we should have been followed and our secret
discovered.

It was ten o'clock at night then, but not really dark.  We were
perplexed.  These loafers gradually dispersed, and only one man hung
behind, who had been silent hitherto.  When we were alone with him he
became communicative.  We knew, directly he spoke, that he was an
Englishman of a better sort, and he recognised what we were.

Said he, "Let me advise you: get all your stuff piled up yonder; put up
your tent and turn in; in the morning you'll find all easy.  There's a
man here who bosses everything--white folks and Indians; he's a Yankee,
true enough, but a decent fellow; he keeps a sort of a boarding-house,
and has a store; he's a fur-buyer, a trader, and a packer; he'll
straighten things out for you."

Accordingly, in the morning, after we had fed, Indians and loafers
gathered around again, and for a bit it looked as if the difficulty
would continue; but shortly our English friend, who was working at the
wharf building, and whose sobriquet, we found, was "Colney Hatch,"
usually shortened to "Coney" (he explained that he foolishly one day
let it be known that that famous institution was near his home in
England), well, this man came to us, and took us with him to Boss
Parkinson's--the man he had mentioned.

We found the boss was certainly a "live" man: in five minutes he had
cleared all up.  He shook hands heartily, asked us if we had any money,
where we proposed to go, with a few other questions.

Having satisfied him on these points, "Come on," said he; "guess we
will soon fix things.  Thar's but one way from here to Dawson City.
You've got to have your gear packed to the Windy Arm, that's sure.
It'll cost you 14 dollars for every hundred pounds.  How much you got?"

We took him to our pile.  He was surprised.  "Land sakes!" he
exclaimed.  "Why, what'n tarnation!  There ain't bin one party through
yere yet fixed like you fellers; 'n say--guess you bin through before.
No; wall some person's told you who has been--eh?"

We admitted we had had good advice.  "Wall, so I jedge," he went on.
"Why, darn me, if you hain't got every pack just right!" and he lifted
one or two.  "50 lb. each, I reck'n?"

We said that was so, and that each man could carry two; and as we had
exactly 800 lb. of grub, and about 200 lb. weight of tent, blankets,
and cooking gear and tools, we considered it would take just about
twelve Indians to do what was required comfortably.

"Gee-rusalem!" cried our new acquaintance; "'n you're fixed to pay 140
dollars for this yere job?"

"Oh yes, we can," I replied; "but it seems these Indians around are
idle--can't it be done for less?"

"Idle!--Great Scot!" he yelled with laughter.  "Why, stranger, they're
a restin'--you bet they need it.  Hold on till you see the kind o'
journey they've got to make--lor! and you too--you stop till you've
felt fifty, 'n mebbe a hundred pounds o' pack on your backs, 'n then I
guess you'll think them 140 dollars ain't so easy airned.  These yere
Si-washes ain't like them red fellers of the plains--nossir.  These
work, they do; m--m--I guess so.  You pay me that 140 dollars, 'n I
guess all will go slick."

A few dollars one way or the other were no particular consequence to
us, and we thought it wiser to keep dark, so we agreed; at which the
boss, calling to an Indian, took him aside.

Ten minutes after there was excitement in the camp.  From listless,
silent logs, the whole tribe woke up, and from that moment showed of
what stuff they were made.  We learnt from the boss what our route
would be after reaching Lake Tagish.  He told us about Miles Cañon and
the White Horse Rapids, which he assured us were the only real
difficulties we had to face.  He advised us to hire an Indian to go
with us who knew the way to the foot of the White Horse, anyway.

The Stick (Stickeen) Indians are an avaricious people, they are shrewd
and tricky, a good match for whites at bargains, and will do anything
for money, which they know the value of right well.  They are fine
strapping fellows, and are proud to tell you they are "aller same King
George man"--_i.e._, Englishmen; but I believe they say to Yankees that
they are "aller same Boston man," which means Americans.  They are
evidently pretty deep, have a great love for tobacco and all
intoxicants, and every beverage that possesses a "tang."  They are
supposed to be diminishing in numbers rapidly--there were thought to be
only about one thousand left of them then.

It was sixty-five miles from Skagway to the Windy Arm of Lake Tagish,
we were told, and that if we averaged ten miles a-day we should do well.

Within an hour our march began--that is, our Indians loaded four canoes
with our packs; then we paddled six miles up-stream, landed, and camped
for the night.

Our men were cheery; some spoke the Chinook jargon,--"the trade
language of the Pacific coast,"--a few knew a little English.  One who
appeared to be their head man knew most, and he attached himself
closely to us, cooked and helped us.  It was our policy to appear
"green," and this man, believing it was our first night in the bush,
showed us how to manage.  He called himself Jim Crow; this name had
been given him by some facetious countryman of ours.

Starting at six the following morning, we soon understood what packing
over the White Pass meant.  There was a trail, sure enough; it
consisted of a path winding through thick forest, up steep and rocky
hills, some of them almost perpendicular; across swift running brooks,
and beds of spongy moss--up to one's waist in places.  There were
clumps of coarse grass, thickets of brambles and the terrible devil's
club thorn; so, before we had gone a couple of miles, we were satisfied
that every cent we paid these Indian packers was well "airned" indeed.

For ourselves, it was all we could do to get on, carrying only our
guns, and a small shoulder-bag with a little grub; whilst our boys
plodded on, grunting but cheery, with their one hundred pounds apiece.

As we ascended gradually, we realised that it was becoming colder.  We
had not done three miles by noon when we came to snow.  Jim Crow--Jim
is what we called him of course--ordered a halt, and said they were
well pleased,--that it was probably snow in the pass; some of them
would go ahead without burdens and investigate--if so, they would
return for sledges, "sleds"; they were very happy at this prospect.
Accordingly two men went on.  We rested, boiled some tea, and ate.  In
a couple of hours they returned, and had a pow-wow, resulting in some
of them starting back to Skagway, whilst our tent was erected, a huge
camp-fire built, and we prepared to pass the night, as Jim told us it
would be too late when they returned with sleds to push on.  We were
somewhat annoyed at what we thought delay, but he assured us this plan
would shorten the journey greatly.

It was midnight when they returned.  They brought five sleds.  On
these, next day--which was hot and the snow was melting--all our goods
were lashed, and that evening, when the crust upon the snow was frozen,
we were off.

Our route lay up a shelving mountain-side overlooking a deep cañon.
Snow-capped ranges and many small glaciers were constantly in sight
across the valley, and every depression, on our side, held a trickling
rivulet, a roaring stream, or more frequently a morass, knee-deep in
moss and sodden grasses.  The snow was not deep, but it was soft and
slushy--the travelling was terrible, yet in spite of all we made what
Jim called "good time."

It was noon next day ere we reached the timber line, and all above this
was open and rocky.  The snow was heavier here; in the shade it was
frozen solid; the sleds travelled over it easily.  Meade and I had all
we could do to keep up with them; indeed we had let them get some
distance ahead at one time, and when we caught them they were camped
beside a great rock with stunted trees about it, and Jim said that we
were very near the summit.

We camped that night in considerable comfort,--it was dry and cold, but
having good blankets and plenty of fuel, Meade and I were cosy enough.
Our Indians made shelters of sticks and brushwood and thin blankets,
and built a huge fire.  They played "poker"; their "chips" were beans.

An immense amount of snow falls on these coast ranges; luckily we had
none during our crossing--neither did it rain, which was wonderful.

Now, as to this White Pass ever being made the highway to the Yukon, I
must say a few words.  The trail as it then existed was absolutely
impracticable for horses--it was all that men could do to clamber up
it, and we realised that with much traffic, even of human beings, it
would quickly become impassable, and yet Meade and I felt confident
that with comparatively little work and some engineering skill a road,
and some day even a railroad, could be made across it.  Most of the
runs of water could be bridged easily, in the rough way which is the
custom in the wilds.  Many of the morasses, we could see, could be
drained by a few gutters cut with a spade.  There being such a slope it
was easy to run water off, and where that was impossible log
causeways--corduroys--could be built with no great trouble, for logs
were plentiful for the cutting.  It was possible to wind round most of
the rocks, and a few pounds of dynamite or giant powder would quickly
clear the impassable masses.  Certainly when we crossed it was terrible
enough; but yet we plainly saw that a good road, fairly easy to
traverse by horses, even with loaded waggons, was certain ere long to
exist there.

If it should be proved that gold was plentiful in the Yukon
country,--"Undoubtedly," we said, "before two years are past there will
be a fine road here," and as to the gold--well, we had reason to be
very sure about that.

From this camp the trail led up a narrow and precipitous defile until
the actual summit was reached.  We were then at least fifteen miles
from Skagway, and near three thousand feet above tide-water.

From here there was a sheer descent of many feet to a lake--Summit
Lake.  It was frozen solid.  The Indians assured us it was always
frozen--that the snow never left its margin.  At one point the ice
overlapped the edge, forming a small glacier.  A few yards below it was
thawing.  At some far distant day a great glacier had been there, for a
cañon had been formed, and down it, beside the rushing stream of white
water, our course lay.  Mountains rose high around us, covered with
ever-lasting snow.

Gradually the snow on our course disappeared and the sleds became
useless, and Jim assured us that for the rest of the journey to Windy
Arm packing must be resorted to.  Therefore next morning the sleds were
cached, and we started on our weary tramp.

Everything was frozen solid still, for it was not yet May.  The
travelling was exceedingly arduous,--not that there were any mountains
to traverse or swamps to push through; it was simply a rough
rock-strewn country, sparsely covered with scraggy trees, mostly pines
and spruces, with bushes which we thought were willows, and long coarse
grass.

We had five days of this, and then we reached the Windy Arm, and the
Indians' contract was completed.  We had come about sixty-five miles
from Skagway.

It was still winter here: there was no open water, the woods were full
of snow, which had been long since driven by strong winds from the
open; it was a bleak and dreary outlook.  Around the lake most of the
timber had been fired, gaunt grey sticks alone were standing, and the
ground was covered with half-burned logs and branches.  Of fuel there
was no lack.  We made camp in the only close clump of living trees
about.  We put our tent up securely, made ourselves comfortable, for we
knew we must stay on there and by some means build a boat or raft, and
wait for the ice to break up.  Thus our object was gained in reaching
that spot, and we were ready to avail ourselves instantly of the open
water, and to pursue our journey.

The Indians had behaved so exceedingly well that I proposed, and Meade
agreed, to give them each a dollar.

Through Jim we signified our intention: he made them clearly understand
that this was "potlach"--that is, a present.  It gave great
satisfaction, and when we added a plug of tobacco to each man, there
was rejoicing in the camp.

We had taken quite a liking to Jim.  He was seemingly proud to be more
noticed by us than the others.  He was an exceedingly handy fellow, and
so far as we could make out from his very peculiar English and Chinook,
he knew all about the route we had to follow, and was an experienced
boatman.  He had "shot" the Grand Cañon twice, and knew the way to get
past the White Horse Rapids.  He was apparently about five-and-twenty,
a tall, athletic fellow, and with us very bright and talkative,
although with his fellows he was taciturn.  Like them he was keen after
money, yet did not appear to realise that we were going up to where we
hoped it would be plentiful.  It is difficult to understand an Indian's
apathy on this matter--along the Fraser, at Cariboo, and even in
Alaska, they will work at washing gold, and seem quite satisfied to
make a dollar or two a-day; but to undertake any plan for making a big
lot at once they have no notion.  It is perhaps because the idea of
accumulating anything is not an Indian's nature.

Meade formed the idea that it would be well to induce this fellow to go
with us to Lake La Barge.  With this intent we plied him with
information about gold, assuring him that, if he went with us, he would
get plenty, so that he could return to the coast a rich man.  This
prospect had no charms for him, yet he liked the idea of the trip, and
said that if we would pay him "ikt dolla la sun"--that is, in plain
English, one dollar a-day--he would go; but when he added that he must
bring his klootchman, his wife, with him, I was taken aback.  Meade,
however, was in favour of it--he considered it would be an additional
inducement for Jim to stay, that she would probably be useful, and no
trouble to us.

He questioned the fellow closely as to her age, her abilities; and he
made us understand that she was young, could cook and paddle well,
speak English, and would "mamook elan wash pil chickamin," which meant
that she would help wash for gold.  Her name, he announced, was Fanny;
and Meade confided to me that he had a particular liking for that name,
so we were induced to enter into the arrangement.

About "muck a muck"--_i.e._, food--Jim said they would provide
themselves; that he would go back to Skagway with the party and bring
his wife out, and a load of all they needed, in six "la suns," six
days.  All that he stipulated for was that we should have nothing to do
with Tagish Indians and that he should have "plenty 'bacca."

Of this we had a good supply; but thinking it would be no harm to have
still more, we sent a little "chit" by him to Boss Parkinson, telling
him how we had got on, and begging him to send out to us by Jim, if he
discovered that they really meant to come with us, another dozen pounds
of that fascinating weed.

The following day the band left us, and Meade and I were left alone in
our glory.



CHAPTER II.

Meade and I were by this time great friends: our tastes and aims were
exactly alike--it was very nice.  We had mutual acquaintances in
England--we were the best of companions.

In our tent, with our sheet-iron stove going, our beds of thick layers
of sweet-scented spruce twigs on rubber ground-sheets, with plenty of
good blankets, we were quite cosy, and we had a few books with us.

Our surroundings were gloomy and uninteresting enough--just a dreary
rock-strewn waste.  Here and there were patches of faded grass,
flattened by the snow which had covered it for months.  A few gnarled
and twisted cedars and spruces still grew about there; but gaunt,
black-butted, dead pine-trees, their tops whitened by the frost and
wind, were everywhere--the dry bones of the forest.  The frozen lake
and the coast range close behind us, the mountains to right, left, and
ahead, were snow-covered and dismal, and there was no sign of life, no
trace of a living creature.

It rained steadily for two days, and as it was freezing hard at the
same time, everything was encased in ice.  On the third day the clouds
were scattered, and each twig and leaf and blade flashed and sparkled
gloriously in the brilliant sun-rays.  This only lasted a few hours,
for the heat of the sun being great, this beautiful scene was soon
spoiled.  However, we hoped that a few such days would make havoc with
the ice upon the lake, and we should have open water.  But this was not
to be just yet, for on the fourth day it blew hard from the east, and
that night it snowed again and froze as hard as ever.

"On time," as Yankees say, Jim and his wife arrived: they came bounding
along the trail, full of glee,--we thought them like children coming
home from school.  Jim was most voluble; a stream of the best English
he knew, and jargon, fell unceasingly from his mouth.  He was proud of
his wife, that was clear--he showed her off, asking our opinion of her,
giving us to understand that she was as good as she appeared.

I must say that she was well worth his praise, in looks at any rate;
her other good qualities we discovered later.

She was unmistakably an Indian woman: her colour was warm brown, she
had beautiful eyes, and a very amiable expression.  Her hair was her
pride: it was not straight and coarse--it waved, even curled some
little, and glistened in the sun as if it were black spun glass.

We took to her at once: she appeared to be of a bright and happy
disposition, and not an atom like our preconceived notions of a squaw.
Meade subsequently made a sketch of her in her ordinary dress.

But what charmed us greatly was, she could speak English quite
understandably, and when she informed us that she was "one Metlakahtla
gal," and had been trained under the eye of good Mr Duncan, we felt we
were fortunate to have her with us, and we never ceased to impress on
Jim what a lucky dog he was.  He seemed to think so himself--at least
Fan said he did.  They put up a little canvas tepee, or wigwam, near.
They had brought it with them on their sled, with their entire
household gear, which was not much.  It consisted mostly of dried
salmon which was to be their food.  We added some of ours to it
occasionally, and later when we killed game we shared it with them.
Fan cooked for us, and we believed she religiously refrained from
pilfering our food.  She had certainly been well trained.

After this we had a few days clear, calm, and sunny.  Pools of water
formed on land amongst the rocks and tangle, and the lake-ice was
awash, yet Jim assured us that we need not expect the lake to open yet,
and Fan added, "By'me by we get plenty freeze once more, and, mebbe,
plenty snow!"

In this latter she was mistaken: she was right about the freeze,
though.  Thick ice formed every night, if night it could be called.
One day it blew a heavy gale: we kept under cover, wondering that our
little tent was not carried bodily away.

The matter of a boat occupied our consideration.  Jim had heard that
two men, camped down on Tagish Lake, had a whip-saw, and were cutting
lumber to sell to parties like us to build their boats with, but our
only means of getting to them was by a raft.  There was no timber fit
for boat-building in our neighbourhood, therefore when weather
permitted we chopped and rolled logs on to the ice, and lashed and
pinned them together into a form we hoped would bear us safely.  We
built it on the ice so that when that broke up it would be afloat.

Jim and his wife helped: she was as active as a young deer, and as
strong as either of us.

Two weeks passed thus.  Our raft was finished, and we were waiting
patiently for the ice to disappear.  We had spells of very hot weather,
plenty of wind, but very little rain.  The sun did not set till late;
by two A.M. it was up again.  The growth of vegetation was
amazing--grass was green, and flowers had sprung into bloom, seemingly
in a few hours.  A few birds were seen, robins and jays.

One evening a flock of ducks whistled over the tent.  Meade sprang up,
gun in hand, but too late for a shot; but next day more passed and we
bagged several brace.  It was evident that spring had arrived.

On May 15th Fan informed us that "Pretty soon now, my believe, ice go
away."  Jim had gone up a creek to try for fish; when he returned, with
a string of suckers he had speared, he agreed with what Fan had said,
adding that he believed next day we should "no more ice see."

It was so.  When we turned out the following morning, instead of a
field of rotting ice, which had all sunk we supposed, there was before
our camp a lovely blue lake, sparkling and rippling in a gentle breeze,
and Jim gleefully announced, "Now, bossee, you bet we go ahead aller
same steamboat."

At once we loaded our raft, and we four drifted on it down the Windy
Arm, Tagish Lake.  It is but a narrow strip of water, this arm, more
like a river.  The hills on both sides are steep, the wind from the
east rushes through, sometimes dangerously, but we were fortunate to
have merely a fresh breeze behind us.

By towing from the shore sometimes, at others by poling, we contrived
on the third day to reach the lake, and here we were lucky enough to
find not only the men we had heard were cutting lumber there, but that
they had just finished a boat which they could sell to us.

These men welcomed us very heartily: they told us we were the first
party on the way since the previous autumn.  They had run out of
tobacco.

The boat they had to sell was not built for either speed or beauty, but
we saw it was the very thing for us---it would carry us well with our
heavy load to Dawson City.  We agreed to their price, which was
naturally high, and before we turned in that night we had stowed our
goods on board her, and were ready to begin our journey in earnest.  We
had received a good bit of information about it from these men, who had
been often up and down the Yukon.  We left them a little happier for
our visit, for we had supplied them with a few stores, and notably with
tobacco.

We sailed off cheerfully next morning down Lake Tagish.  At the mouth
of Windy Arm are islands and high mountains,--one superb dome-shaped
giant stands alone.

We trolled that day, and caught one large fish like a salmon,--it
probably was a land-locked one.  Its flesh was white and absolutely
tasteless, but Jim and Fan considered it was prime.  We made a lovely
camp that night on an island near shore.

It took us till the following afternoon to get down this lake.  We saw
no human beings, but along the sluggish river which joins it to Lake
Marsh we passed Tagish House, and there was a group of Indians at which
Jim and Fan were terribly alarmed, declaring that if they were seen
they would be killed by them, for it appears that war between the
Tagishes and the Sticks, which our two were, is perpetual.

Accordingly we gave these Indians a wide berth.  Tagish House is but a
rough log affair.  Yet it is famous, for it is not only the place the
tribe meets at annually for its council and festival, but it is the
only permanent building in all that country.

Passing down for half-a-dozen miles, we entered Lake Marsh, which
occupies a broad valley with high mountains on the east.  It is about
two miles wide.  Traversing it, we got all the wildfowl and the fish we
could consume.  We lived sumptuously.  The journey took us two days.

Fan and Jim were always bright and cheery, and ready to lend a hand;
they were good companions, and were uncommonly good specimens of
Indians.  One particularly good thing about them was that Fan had been
taught the use of soap at Metlakahtla, and she had taught her husband;
so they were, wonder of wonders, clean Indians!

The foot of Marsh Lake we found to be low and swampy; the sleughs
appeared to be full of ducks and musk-rats--also of _mosquitos_!

We certainly expected these last.  We had suffered from them in
Manitoba and in other parts of Canada; we supposed we knew what we had
to contend with, but we did not.

Fortunately we had brought some mosquito netting, which we rigged up in
our tent, so that, inside, we had a trifle of peace; but when
travelling or moving outside, it was impossible to protect ourselves,
and we experienced untold misery.  Our Indians suffered quite as much
as we did, and complained as loudly.  They lit fires inside their
tepee, filling it with pungent smoke, through which they slept
contented; but we could not stand that.

I may here say that from this time on, with very rare exceptions, we
were simply tortured by mosquitos.  We passed through many hardships,
had innumerable physical difficulties to contend with during that
summer and winter, but they are all forgotten, or regarded as mere
trifles, and one phase of misery is vividly recorded on my memory: it
is the ceaseless torment of those infernal gnats.  They are the cause
of the worst suffering that people must submit to in that country:
winter's cold, summer's heat, even hunger, are not to be compared to
this awful pest.

For instance, you are tramping with a load upon your back, your hands
are full carrying tools or packages, the sun is blistering hot, the
perspiration is pouring off you in streams, yet all the time the
ubiquitous mosquitos are engaging your closest attention; your eyes,
your ears, your nostrils, all your most sensitive spots, are their
favourite feeding-grounds.  You are helpless, you suffer agony, and you
often feel that life itself is next thing to a curse.  We have seen
hardy, rough men shed tears of impotent anger at these innumerable,
invisible, relentless enemies.  Dogs and men, cattle and wild beasts,
deer especially, and even bears, are their victims.

Frequently we were so swollen about our necks that we could hardly turn
our heads, and our wrists were so enlarged that our wristbands were
useless.  We tried tobacco juice, turpentine, lamp-oil, but nothing
gave us relief.  Truly the mosquitos of the Yukon hold the record as
tormentors.

Lake Marsh is twenty miles long.  It then narrows, and for nearly
thirty miles we followed the course of the river, which is the Lewes.
The current is about three miles an hour, and we were blessed with a
gentle breeze astern, so got on famously.  We passed through miles and
miles of cut sandbanks, which were completely honeycombed by a species
of martin, which were then busy nesting.  The air was alive with
millions of these little birds, and we gloried in the knowledge that
they were feeding exclusively on our deadly foes.

Here we met with a few large salmon.  They come all the long way up
from Behring Sea to spawn.  In August, Jim said, the river is crowded
with them, and the bears come down from the hills to feed on them.
Dozens, he assured us, might be seen any day along that river.  We saw
but one; we shot at and missed it.

Up to this time, it will be noticed, we had experienced only fine
weather,--indeed, so far, our only real suffering had been from the
mosquitos; but one evening, the sun being high, though it was ten P.M.,
the sky was suddenly enveloped in dense clouds, against which steamlike
scud drifted with great rapidity; and by the action of the martins and
waterfowl, and by the sudden cessation of the rapacity of the
mosquitos, which had been earlier in the day more persistent than
usual, we knew that some change was at hand.

Jim said that wind was coming, so we camped, put our tents up with
extra care, and drew our boat into what we thought was a safe harbour
by the river side.

Not long after--we could see up stream for at least a mile--we
perceived that a huge wave was bearing down to us.  It was like a bore.
We stared aghast!

Our boat and nearly all we had was in imminent danger.  I made a rush,
intending to leap on board, push it out into the river, then turn its
head to the great surge that was rolling down, and so, I hoped, save it
from wreck; but Meade held me back, shouting above the dreadful roar of
wind and water that I should not go--that the risk was far too great.

As we stood thus, he restraining me, I struggling to go, Jim passed us,
stripped: he leapt into the boat, pushed her off, then with one grand
sweep of the steering oar he turned her head up stream just as the wave
reached her.  She lifted with the heave of it, veered this way and
that, the heavy water curled up, and we stood there trembling, feeling
sure that she would be swamped.  But Jim held on manfully, kept her
well up, and although she was carried down stream at terrible speed,
yet we saw that the brave Indian, standing like a bronze statue at the
stern, had conquered.

It was soon lost to sight in the gloom, for the spray which the mighty
wind raised was driving down river as if it were drifting snow.

So far, the boat, we trusted, had escaped, but what would ultimately
become of her and Jim, we wondered.

We turned to Fan, asking what she thought about it.  She was crouched
under the lee of a log, smiling peacefully!

"No you bother," she shouted, "Jim all light; outfit all light too.
By'me by, pretty soon, no mo' wind, Jim tie up er boat, come back'n we
pack all tings down to boat--or, mebbee, Jim bring boat back here.  You
see me?--well, all light!" and she smiled again quite happily.

How we blessed our stars that we had hired this Indian and his charming
klootchman.  We thought her a perfect heroine that night, whilst I
believe she considered us very childish for being so very much alarmed.

Almost as quickly as this heavy squall had arisen it ceased, the sun
streamed out, and the silence was oppressive, yet very welcome.  But
what should we do about Jim?

We consulted Fan, who calmly replied, "Nosing, nossir, make
muck-a-muck, what you call supper, then turn in, my tink Jim come along
all lightee by'me by, soon."

At which we made up the fire, and did as she advised.

We were aroused towards morning by Jim calling to his wife from the
other side the river.  He told us that the boat was safely moored a
mile below, that he had tried to bring her to camp but could not,
therefore we must pack all to her.  He swam across and joined us, after
which we had our first real essay at "packing," and we concluded that
it was not our forte.  We found our boat and her cargo safe and sound
below, which was no small blessing.  It took two days to pack all down
to her.  Then on we went again, the stream carrying us along between
smooth grassy hills and sandy knolls.  Soon the current became
stronger, and we heard a distinct roar ahead, and on the bank we saw a
board stuck up by some friendly voyageur, on which was scrawled in big
letters--"_Danger, Stop_," which at once we did.

We had arrived at Myles Cañon, the grand cañon of the Lewes--the
Miners' Grave.

Eager to examine what we had now to encounter, Meade and I landed and
went ahead to prospect.  Where we had stopped the river was two hundred
yards wide at least: it was roaring ahead in the middle, rushing
vehemently on its way.

We mounted the basalt cliff above where we were camped, and came in
full view of the cañon.  We knew the length of it and the width, we had
heard so much about it, and believed we knew just what to expect, yet
the reality appalled us.  How could we get through?  It looked
impossible: still, knowing that it had been done, and if we were to
reach our destination we must negotiate it, we sat on an outstanding
point and wondered.

The walls of the gorge, which averages one hundred feet in width, are
about the same height; they are worn into fantastic shapes, very little
vegetation clings to them, but along the top there is timber, and one
can march through it with ease.

The river, forced through this narrow cañon, is heaped up in the middle
much higher than at the sides: it is one mass of foam, and it flashes
along at lightning speed, roaring and raging.  It is about
three-quarters of a mile from fairly smooth water up stream to
quietness below.

As we sat on the summit of the cliff, critically examining the scene,
we presently perceived two tents at what looked to be the lower end of
the gorge, and there was the smoke of a camp-fire.

With Jim and Fan, who had joined us, we consulted; it resulted in Meade
and Jim going ahead to visit these campers and obtaining information.
From them they learned that they had got through safely.  There were
half-a-dozen men, old Yukoners, friendly and communicative, who had
wintered by Lake Marsh, where they had got a little gold.  They offered
to help us.  Some of them returned and packed each a load over the
portage, and then as they saw that neither of us was experienced at
shooting rapids, one of them very kindly volunteered to go through with
Fan and Jim in our boat.

Everything was carefully planned, the strength of the steering sweep
tested; Jim stripped, Fan doffed all she could decently, and our new
friend, whom his chums called Samson, did the same,--then the start was
made.

Meade stayed to push them off; I went to the cliff-top to watch the
proceedings.

Fan and Samson took the oars, Jim was steersman.  They pulled far out
into the eddy, straining every nerve, even after the current caught
them, so as to keep steerage way on the boat.  They soon shot into the
dark shadows of the walls.  Here, they told us, they were nearly
stopped by the first huge breaker, but only for a second: the frail
boat trembled, seemed to stagger, then surmounting the crest, dashed on.

[Illustration: SHOOTING MYLES CAÑON.]

I, on the top, could mark their progress easily.  I saw them flying
like a cork through the turmoil; I saw them now whirled one way, now
another; at one moment it seemed they were to be hurled against the
adamantine walls, where they would be stove to splinters instantly; at
the next they miraculously sheered away into the boiling turmoil in the
midst.  Clouds of spray dashed over them; they were often lost to my
sight.  Half a minute passed--I saw their speed slacken--was anything
wrong?  No, I saw they were in the eddy, and were half-way through;
next moment they were again in the thick of it, and, so far as I could
tell, they were having more terrible experiences still.  There were
then a few indescribable moments.  I held my breath, as I am sure they
did theirs, as they vanished from my sight round an intervening point.

Directly after one of our new acquaintances at the camp below fired two
shots and waved a red blanket, the signal agreed on that all was well.

From the moment they started until I saw that signal was exactly two
and a half minutes by my watch.

With thankful hearts we two shouldered our light packs, crossed the
portage, and joined the others.  Jim and Fan were perfectly
unconcerned,--he was contentedly smoking beside the fire, she was
putting our tent up.  We thanked Jim, called him a brave good fellow,
at which he merely grunted "Ugh"; and Fan said, "Orl right--welly good;
guess we make camp here one day--eh?"

We were agreeable to this, especially as the other party was remaining
too.  They were Canadians, very decent fellows indeed, and on that and
for several days we kept company with them with much mutual pleasure.

On the river-side were several mounds, marked with rough stones or
wooden crosses.  They were the graves of some of the many who had lost
their lives there--many more had been drowned whose bodies had never
been recovered--and we, I hope, were very grateful that we had got
through so safely.

Next day a couple of us went ahead in one of their light canoes to
examine the White Horse Rapids--they were two miles on--and to arrange
how to attack them.  Then we loaded our boats, and, by warping and
towing, we, by degrees, hauled them to a place where there is slack
water, just above the dangerous place.

Here we camped again, unloaded everything, and hauled boats and canoes
on shore.  Then we carried our packages on to smooth water below, and
lastly dragged the boats there: there were many willing hands to help
now, and we did it all quickly.

These rapids are full of sunken rocks, impossible to steer amongst.
There is one piece particularly formidable: it is only about one
hundred feet, and has been shot, but not intentionally up to that time.
With light well-made canoes it would be possible, we thought, though
very risky, but with the really unwieldy boat of ours it was impossible.

When we had everything safely over--it took us best part of a day, and
we all worked very hard to do it--we packed up again, and camped for
the night.  We had a most jovial evening--there was a banjo in the
crowd, and one good singer, the weather was grand, the mosquitos were
rather less troublesome than usual, and the last great obstacle had
been thus safely mastered.  Yet there were many graves about us of poor
fellows who had failed where we had come through with such success.

Next morning early we were off again.

We had now reached the place to which Jim and Fan had agreed to
accompany us.  We were loath to part with them, and, so far as we could
judge, they were not anxious to leave us.  If good food and plenty of
tobacco is an Indian's idea of earthly bliss, then I should think these
two had all they could desire.  I must say they appeared to appreciate
it, and when we spoke to them about returning to the coast they were
evidently anything but pleased.

Besides, how were they to go back?  We had really never thought of
that: it was very stupid of us.  We had brought their sled, but they
could not go home on that.

We should have brought a canoe with us.  We proposed to buy one from
the Canadians, but they would not part with one.

Jim showed no anxiety at all to solve the problem; as for Fan, she
declared her intention was to go on to Dawson City in our company! but
this she said merely to tease Jim.  The fact is, they were both
perfectly satisfied with the life, and indifferent about returning to
Skagway, where what they call their home was thought to be.  They
talked about Lake La Barge, the Five Fingers, and the Rink in such a
way that we believed they did really intend to come with us, whether we
would or not, if they could.

It ended in our proposing to continue Jim in our employ until we
reached our journey's end, offering him the same pay--that is, one
dollar a day and food, now, for himself and Fan.

They had been very quiet and melancholy for some hours: when we made
this proposal they jumped up, laughed, and shouted with delight.  These
Indians are very much like children.

We were very glad too, and, as Meade always said when any question
about expense arose between us, "Don't bother; when we get to the spot
I know about, we can wash out what will cover all these outlays in
twenty minutes!"



CHAPTER III.

From the foot of White Horse Rapids to the head of Lake La Barge the
Lewes river is said to be thirty miles.  Midway it is joined by the
Tahkeena, and runs then through a wide valley, having cut many
channels, so that we found difficulty in keeping the right one.  The
current and the wind were still with us.

We camped together with the Canadians: they had two good boats and two
canoes.  We should have been a merry party, but for the mosquitos.  We
caught plenty of fish; in every creek were trout and grayling; they
rose to a fly, to a black feather, or even to a scrap of cloth.  We
trolled when moving, catching white fish and some salmon, proving that
no one need starve there at that time of the year.

We were fortunate with our guns, shooting many ducks and geese, several
swans, and a few grouse--probably ptarmigan.  It was the breeding
season, yet we considered we were justified in killing what we needed
for our larder.  Humming-birds were quite numerous, flitting about the
brilliant flowers which were everywhere.  We saw ravens, some magpies
exactly like English ones, and several bald eagles.

We only shot one deer.  At one of our camps a herd of some dozens
trotted past.  All guns were instantly brought to bear, but as only one
contained a ball, but one animal fell.  It was a caribou, very much
like a reindeer.

We saw a few bears, black and brown, and there were small ones called
silver-tips, as they have white throats and chins.  Our friends assured
us they were fierce, and attack a man "on sight"; but we fancied this
was only a hunter's yarn, until we had proof that it is true.  This was
what occurred:--

We were settled for the night in an exposed position, away from
stagnant water and bushes, as we found such spots a trifle freer than
others from mosquitos.  All of us but Fan were scattered, fishing or
trying in the woods for birds, quite free from apprehension of anything
untoward happening.  It was a beautiful night; the sun had set--that
is, it had just dipped behind some mountains to the north; the sky was
brilliant in purple, gold, and crimson fire, as it would remain till
three or four next morning, when we were to move on again.  It was
late, eleven, I suppose, and we were all out of sight of camp, when Jim
and I--we were after ptarmigan--heard the crack of a rifle there.

"M'm," says Jim, "guess dat Fan ketch'm deer mebbe--welly good shot dat
klootchman."

I merely said that I hoped it was so, for he and I were having bad
luck, and were longing for meat; fish was palling on us.  A few seconds
after we heard another shot.

"M'm," says Jim again, "my tink Fan got two deer; zat is welly good."

He had hardly ceased speaking when we heard a third report, and several
at quick intervals, at which I said, "Come, we'd better return and help
her," and we hastened back to camp.

When we came in sight of the river and our boats, we heard Fan calling.
It did not sound as if she were afraid, and yet we realised that she
was in earnest; so we hurried, and perceived her on a great log that
lay stretched across a narrow chasm in the cliff behind the tents, some
distance from the ground.  There she stood, firmly planted, with a
rifle, looking intently at one spot below her.  We called; she looked
at us delighted.

"Come on! quick, quick!" she cried.  "My have got one silver-tip thar;
it is no dead, look out; but my tink he no can move!  My cannot see him
no more, frow rocks in dere," and she pointed.  "My have nosing hyar to
frow!"

At which, of course, we began to bombard the spot, and as nothing
stirred, we stepped forward slowly, cautiously, till amongst some
tangle we found the beast lying dead.  Telling Fan this, we called to
her to come down.

She walked to the butt end of the log and looked up, then to the other.
"My can't!" she cried, half laughing.

"Well, but how did you get there?" I asked.

"My jumped down.  My no can get up no more, and my no can come down!"

Jim began haranguing her in Indian, then said that we must cut a pole
to reach to the log, which we did, and the girl climbed down and joined
us.

Meade and the others had returned during this operation, which we
carried out amidst much laughter.  The bear was hauled out, dragged to
camp, Jim set to work, and we soon had steaks frying for supper--or
breakfast was it?  We praised Fan for what she had done; she said it
was "Oh, nosing--nosing at all, at all!" that the bear was trying to
get a salmon we had hung in a bush, and she went for it.

"But how did you get up where you were?" we asked.

She said that the bear drove her there, at which we made her tell
exactly what had happened, which she did, with many laughs, much as
follows:--

"My was making slapjacks for de supper; my was at de fire.  My see de
bar a-grabbin' for de fish, and my go for him.  My got no gun, no
nosing but de fry-pan.  You bet my go for him wis zat.  Oh, yes! but de
bar he no scart; nossir, he come for me; yessir, 'n I go for de tepee,
'n zare I ketch Jim's lifle and katlidges.  Well, de bar he come zare
too, 'll he went for de tepee--see," and she pointed to where it had
been torn.  "He make to drag down de tepee 'n ketch dis Injun gal;
yessir, 'n so my shoot at him 'n hit him, 'n den my run avay!  Oh yes,
my run up dat rock dare, 'n de bar kum arter me, 'n he druv me to de
aige of de bank dere.  'N he druv, 'n druv, 'n my shot two times--tree
times, 'n my guess my didn't hit him bad; 'n he comed up so clost my
tink he'd have me.  So zen my look down onct; my see de log, my jump
for it, 'n when my get dere zat bar he make to come to me too!  Yessir,
but zat time my get steady shot, my give it him in de tum-tum 'n he go
tumblin' down--way down dere where you find him.  Oh, you bet, dat last
time my shot it hurt him--eh?"  Then she turned to her cookery as
calmly as if it had been the neck of a pigeon she had wrung, and
nothing more.

After this we took care that no one was left alone at camp again, and
if by any chance we came across a silver-tip we steered clear of him.

Barring mosquitos--and they were a bar and no mistake--it was a
glorious trip down Lewes river: we did it in two days to Lake La Barge.

This lovely sheet of water is five, and in some places ten, miles
broad, and about thirty-five long.  Our friends parted from us here,
and we were left to pursue our travels alone.  They could sail straight
down the lake, their boats being good and not laden like ours.  We
dared not venture, as it was blowing stiffly, and there was some sea on.

We followed the coast closely, and were three days doing the journey.

When we left this--the last of the lakes--we found the Lewes had
quickened its current to six miles an hour.  It was extremely crooked,
too, and filled with boulders, causing us much difficult and anxious
work; but by means of ropes from shore, and careful poling, we made a
safe and fairly rapid progress.

The hills came down, often, sheer to the water's edge, and were
generally well timbered.  We moved on, mostly at night--that is, when
the sun was low: at other times it was too terribly hot, and we found
it better to turn night into day.

[Illustration: LAKE LA BARGE.]

About twenty-eight miles from Lake La Barge the Hootalinqua river
enters from the east: it is as wide as the Lewes at the junction.  Here
we came in sight of several tents, with people about them.  We were for
passing unnoticed, for Jim and his wife were terribly afraid of
Indians.  However, we were hailed from the shore, and begged to land.
They were miners, rough customers; but they treated us well, and were
glad of the latest news from the outer world.  They were Americans.
They said they were finding "flour" gold on all the bars, and advised
us to stay and prospect; but we made excuses and hurried on, giving our
destination as Fort Cudahy.  I believe these men thought we were
Government officials, and not gold-seekers, for our equipment was so
perfect, and the careless way in which we spoke of gold deceived them.

Cut clay banks, full of martins, were common along this river.  We
found first-rate camping places, and were never without fish and game,
but rarely missed mosquitos for more than an hour or two in the early
morning.

Thirty miles below the Hootalinqua the Big Salmon joins.  We saw no one
about here, though we had heard that its bars carry much gold.  Salmon
were crowding up its rather shallow mouth when we passed; we could have
secured a boatful in an hour with a net.

Below the Big Salmon the hills are high and round, mostly wooded to
their summits.  Thirty-five miles below, the Little Salmon river enters
also from the east.  There was a band of veritable Indians fishing.  We
had much ado to pacify our two--they wished us to keep close to the
opposite shore, and generally to act as if we had something to conceal;
but we made them sit out of sight, and sailed merrily by, with only the
cheery response to our cry, "Kla-howya!"[1] from them.

Still a little farther we passed a camp.  A boat was hauled up, the
tents were closed; we concluded they were all asleep--it was bed-time
anyway.

Twenty miles below this we came to a trading-post kept by one George
M'Connel.  There was a log-house and store, two or three rough
shanties, and a boat or two.  We hailed some men, "asking if there were
any Indians around?"  As they said "No," we landed, and spent an hour
with them.  M'Connel was impressed with our outfit, and the fact that
we had two Indians as helpers struck him as very stylish.  He, too,
evidently supposed we were on some Government business.  We got from
these people information about the Five Fingers Rapids, which we had
now to tackle.

A short distance below the Little Salmon we passed the Eagle's Nest,
which is the most conspicuous landmark along the Lewes.  It is about
five hundred feet high, rising abruptly from a gravel flat.  The river
is here three hundred yards wide, and we had come three hundred miles
from tide-water at Skagway.

[Illustration: FIVE FINGERS RAPIDS.]

We camped here and tried some of the soil for gold, as we had done at
many of our stopping-places.  More often than not we got the
colour--that is, a few fine specks.  In several spots we got so many
that we felt sure it would some day pay to work, but Meade always
smiled and said, "Don't bother; we'll get all we want directly."

From here the banks are high, of clay and gravel; the current is about
five miles an hour.  The country was well wooded; there were many birch
trees.  We had fifty-three miles to go from Little Salmon river, which
took us two days only; then Five Fingers came in sight.  We had little
difficulty in running these rapids--Meade and I had become expert with
oars and paddles.  We rested for a few hours above them, on the western
bank of the river, where he made a sketch, as he had done when any
particularly interesting bit was noted and the mosquitos would give him
a chance.  Then, without discharging any cargo, with Jim at the
steering sweep, we ventured forth, crossed to the right-hand shore,
into the white water, and in a very few minutes had rushed through the
passage, and were in quiet beyond, and the last serious obstruction had
been overcome.

We ran on cheerily after this, and came to a bar of rocks they call
Rink Rapids, which we passed without mishap.  Below this the river
widens considerably, and there are many islands, which became more
numerous as we advanced: it was often difficult to tell which were the
real shores.  Past there the high hills came down abruptly to the
water, the current was accelerated, and navigation, though not
dangerous, needed constant care.

Fifty-five miles from Five Fingers the great Pelly river joins the
Lewes, and the two become the Yukon.  Here is old Fort Selkirk, a
trading-post of some importance, and there they winter the steamer P.
B. Weare, which navigates the Yukon between there and Fort St Michael.
Several dwellings and a store were on the bank; half-a-dozen men were
about and some women.  We supposed they were prospectors, for they
spoke of nothing but gold, which indeed was the one topic with every
one.  Indeed, Gold!  Gold!  Gold! was in everybody's mouth we met,
though certainly they were not numerous.

One man here was very friendly, lavish with advice, telling us again
and again about the good places he knew, and saying he only wished he
was free to go--he would quickly make his pile and quit the country; at
which the bystanders smiled, and winked at one another.  One of them
told us aside that it was well known that this man had already got
better than a gold mine, and was making his fortune rapidly.  All the
goods he sold were exorbitant in price--which was, as they admitted,
fair enough--and everything was paid for in gold dust, which he had to
weigh himself.  "'N you bet," as an old Yankee miner said with a
grin,--"you bet he don't lose much every time he uses them scales o'
his'n."

The furs he bought from the trappers and Indians at a very low price,
which he paid in goods.  Oh, yes; we readily understood he did not
need, or really wish, to go gold-mining.

There was a large number of dogs about this place, principally
mongrels, yet there were some pure Huskies--that is, Esquimaux dogs.
One fine young one had been petted, which made the others jealous: they
set upon him whenever they caught him outside alone, which made his
owner believe they were bound to kill him, so he offered him to us and
we accepted him.  We named him Patch, after an old dog I knew in
England: we fed him well, and he quickly became a most beautiful and
faithful creature--one of the most intelligent dogs I ever knew.

Very little remains of Fort Selkirk now beyond the ruins of the
chimneys.  It was raided and burned by coast Indians in 1852.

Ninety-six miles on we passed the mouth of the White river, which is of
great volume, coming into the Yukon with a roar.  It is so called from
a white substance it holds in solution, probably volcanic ash.  Ten
miles below this is the Stewart river, helping to swell the already
mighty Yukon.  It is deep and dark.

There were a few miners hereabouts.  We did not land.  They hailed us
as we passed, calling out that there was plenty of gold if we would
stay and tackle it.  We replied that we were bound down river some
distance, and one fellow shouted, "Bloomin' Yanks, no doubt!"

Seventy miles below Stewart river we came to another trading-post, and
a sawmill actually--this was at Sixty-Mile Creek.  We camped below it,
as there were some Indians working at the mill, much to Jim's and Fan's
horror.  Meade and I walked back and purchased some boards to make
sluice-boxes, and floated them down to our boat.  There were a number
of miners about: some spoke favourably of their doings, but most were
downhearted, and all looked unhappy.  We thought then, and believe it
fully now, that mosquitos were the cause of most of it.  Here we found
to our great content that we had but fifty more miles to run down to
the Klondyke.  They called it the Thronduk though.

Asking if there was any gold there, we were told not any--that it had
been examined well, and there was nothing there to pay.  It was just a
salmon river and nothing more, at which information Meade looked at me
with eyebrows raised and a smile hovering about his mouth.

We heard, however, that twenty miles before reaching that river we
should come to Indian Creek, which the year before had proved to be
quite rich, though already "played out."  But as we heard people were
still at work on it, we had doubts about the truth of this.  The fact
is, gold-hunters are amongst the most easily excited and depressed of
beings, and one can rarely depend on individual opinions.

[Illustration: ON THE YUKON AT THE MOUTH OF THE KLONDYKE RIVER.]

We made the run to the mouth of the Klondyke in two days.  Here and
there were heaps of ice still on the shore and shallows, for it does
not entirely disappear from the Yukon till well on in June.

Usually an Indian camp was there, as it is really famous for salmon.
They come annually to fish it.  Here, too, is Dawson City--described by
Meade as a rough miners' camp of shacks and shanties only--chiefly
saloons, drinking-bars, dance-houses, and gambling dens.  There were
only a few hundred people in it, storekeeping and trading with the
miners, of whom there were always a number hanging about, spending
their hard-earned gold.  Our aim being to avoid all communication with
the shore, we held back till midnight, when there was a certain gloom
spread over the scene, and when most people would be asleep.  We were
fortunate enough to slip into the river without any notice being taken.
There was no very strong current down the Klondyke, yet as we had to
pull against it we moved slower: however, finding a sequestered nook a
few miles up, we camped before it was what we called day.  This stream
is not wide.  The water is very clear.  It was a very beautiful scene,
but truly we took no time to criticise our surroundings.  We had all we
could do to attend to our business, and fight mosquitos!

Naturally we were impatient to reach Meade's last year's camp
unobserved, and to discover if his find had been unmolested by
wandering prospectors.  We had seen so few human beings about that we
hoped for the best; yet, now that we were so near the end of our long
journey, we were in a fever of excitement.

Meade and I realised what a mistake we had made in not bringing a light
canoe with us, for he knew it would be impossible to get our heavy boat
past the rough water at the mouth of the creek where he had found the
gold.  We could manage our packs, but we four could not convey that
boat over the portage.

Besides, how were Jim and his wife to get home?  We did not intend to
keep them with us whilst we were mining.  We firmly believed that they
were both true and trustworthy, but they were simple, and it would be
easy for them to be led to disclose where we were and what we were
doing, so we had determined that they should go back as soon as they
had helped us with our stuff on to the still water of Meade's creek.

To carry out our plans, then, we must have a canoe, so it was in the
end arranged that I should march into Dawson and, if possible, buy one.
It was a difficult tramp, but I managed it.

My arrival at the "City" attracted little notice: a number of men had
lately come up by the boat from Fort St Michael--they supposed I was
one of them.  I announced that I was one of a party camped up stream,
and wanted a canoe.

There was a variety on sale.  I don't suppose those who said they owned
them did so really--they had been brought there by people who had gone
back and abandoned them; but anyway one was offered with a pair of
paddles for one hundred dollars--a Peterborough canoe, therefore a good
one.  I purchased it, got a square meal, and then towards evening I
paddled off, not heading up the Klondyke but across it, as if I were
going to ascend the Yukon.  I wished to put the people off my scent.

I need not attempt to describe what I saw at Dawson.  It was rough, and
the goings on were rougher.  I was assured that there was very little
actual crime--only gambling, drinking, and every description of
dissipation.  There were some women, strange specimens.  I came across
the wife of a storekeeper, however, who was very pleasant.  She was an
Englishwoman from Eastbourne.  She spoke bitterly of everything
there--climate, people, and mosquitos.  She admitted that she and her
husband were making money, and hoped that a year or two only of the
awful life would have to be endured ere they could return to England.

Not having seen or spoken to a decent white woman since I left the
steamship at Juneau, I confess it was pleasant to have a talk with this
nice Englishwoman, and I am thankful that I made her acquaintance then,
as subsequent events will demonstrate.

I did not get back to our camp till the following day, when we started
again.  We made no rapid progress--there were many shallow bars or
ledges to cross; we got stuck more than once, until we put some of our
cargo into the canoe and towed her.  It took us four days, hard work
too, to get up to the rapids at the mouth of what we called "The Creek."

On the way we passed the mouths of several creeks where a few miners
were camped.  They hailed us, but were so intent upon making use of
every moment of the short summer that they really took small heed of
us.  However, for the last two days we had not seen a soul.

Meade knew the way perfectly.  When we reached the rapids we unloaded
everything, and carried all with the canoe up to calm water above.  The
boat we cached in a convenient crevice we found in a rocky bluff near
at hand.  Then loading all we possibly could into the canoe, my friend
and I pushed up stream, paddling, as you may be sure, our very hardest,
scarcely taking time to eat or sleep.

We left Jim and his wife in charge of the rest of the stores.  We would
not allow them to erect tent or tepee.  They were to make themselves a
wigwam of brush, and to cover all our stuff with bushes, for we did not
wish to attract attention, you understand.

I told Jim he might try for gold whilst they were waiting for our
return--that it would be good if he could take some back to the coast;
and Fan, laughing merrily, said, "Plenty chickamin (gold) hyar, my will
make pile hyar, my feel it in my tum-tum."

These Indians well understood what a pile meant, but their notion of
its amount, and what to do with one when they had secured it, were very
funny.

On the second night, after having come, as we thought, about forty
miles, behold Meade and I hauling our canoe to shore and arrived at our
journey's end.  For some hours before my companion had been greatly
excited.  "See that stump?" he would cry.  "Yes."  "Well, I did that.
I camped in there one day."

A little farther on he pointed to a bank covered with brush.  "See that
bare place there?"  "Yes."  "Well, I tried a pan of stuff there, and
got a good show.  I was half a mind to stay on and give it a good
examination.  I'm glad enough I did not."

From a considerable distance he declared he could see the dug-out which
he had made, and where he had passed some weeks; and as we drew quite
near he exclaimed with delight, "All's right.  I don't believe a living
thing has been here since I left last September.  Hurrah!"

We had been forty-five days on the journey in.  Considering all things,
we had done well.  It was now, we believed, the third day of July, but
we were not certain.  We had endeavoured to keep a log of our voyaging,
but from there always being daylight now, and from the irregularity
with which we had eaten and slept, we were not very sure even of the
day of the week!



[1] "Clark, how are you?" is the greeting Sir James (then Mr) Douglas
used to his second-in-command many years ago, which the Indians caught
up, and it is to this day the form of greeting between whites and reds
on the Pacific coast.



CHAPTER IV.

In a bank near the creek, which was about twenty yards wide and had a
fairly swift current, there was a rough door, which, being half open,
disclosed a dark cave within.  One sees similar places in railway
cuttings and cliffs in Britain, where workmen keep their tools.

In this "dug-out" Meade had lived.

A few cut stumps, some wood chopped for fuel, and the ground bared
around this door, were the only indications of any person having ever
been about.

There was a quantity of timber growing around, but no really large
trees; all were of the fir tribe.  The earth was, as usual, covered
with moss some feet in thickness, much of it pink and golden, and very
beautiful.  From the lower branches of trees hung long streamers of
gray lichen; rotting logs, dead branches, and rock were cushioned in
brilliant mosses, green and orange, whilst creepers and bushes were
thickly matted everywhere.  Yet, as we well knew, beneath this and for
many feet below it the ground was frozen, in spite of the sun's great
heat, which could not penetrate that mass of vegetation.

There we were, then, entirely alone, so far as we could tell, many
miles from any one but Jim and his klootchman.  Yet we thought it
better, in spite of this belief, not to put up our white tent: some
wandering prospector might come our way, and it was better not to
attract attention, therefore we decided to enlarge this dug-out and
dwell in it.

Fancy a hole scooped out of the bank about ten feet square, very little
higher than a man, with a hole in one corner of the roof to allow the
smoke from the fire to escape: that was all, and that was to be our
home--for three months, we said.

How little we knew what was before us!

The front of this luxurious habitation was built up with logs, the
chinks between stuffed with moss; the door was of rough split slabs; it
had no hinges--to open and close it one had to lift it bodily.  There
were a few notches in the top which admitted all the light we had when
it was shut.

The remains of Meade's last year's bedding (fir twigs), a few old tins,
and bits of rubbish, strewed the floor.  It was just a den, and a very
dismal one at that,--far worse than the meanest hopper's crib in Kent.

First we lit a big fire inside, and when the frost was driven out we
set to with pick and shovel and very quickly enlarged it by about five
feet, after which we strewed a thick layer of fresh pine brush over the
floor, spread our bedding, and were at home!

"It'll do," said Meade; "we can exist here till we've got all the gold
we want--that will not take long, you'll see.  Then for England, home,
and beauty, eh?"

I said, "All right, it's good enough for me."

We made a pot of tea, boiled part of a salmon we had taken just before
we landed--the creek appeared to be full of them--then we rolled
ourselves in our blankets, tired out, and I soon slept in spite of dirt
and heat.

The sun was high when I was awakened by my companion, who called me
excitedly.  He held a tin pannikin in his hand.  "See," he exclaimed;
"it was a shame to rouse you, but I could not help it.  I went down to
the bar and got a pan of dirt, and this is what I have washed out of
it!" and he held the tin close to my face, and there was a handful of
gold in it, dust and small nuggets--bright, shining, yellow nuggets,
looking like pieces of shelled walnuts which had been gilded!

"Now, Bertie, what d'ye say?" he went on, as I stared at the gold, took
some up and let it run through my fingers; "are you sorry you have
come?  Isn't all we have gone through a mere nothing? isn't it all
forgotten?--and there's heaps and heaps of it!"

I was on my feet now.  I could not say I was amazed, for I had heard so
much about it from my friend, and had learned to trust his words so
implicitly; but I was pleased, I was delighted, in fact, to find that
he had not been mistaken, and that we had not come up to this dismal
place and passed through all our hardships in vain.  Indeed it was
grand, and I said so.

We hardly had patience to wait for the kettle to boil.  We swallowed
some breakfast in a hurry, then with shovel and tin dish we each went
at it, and we worked away till we judged that it was noon, out on a
gravelly point that jutted into the stream close to the shanty.

As we moved this gravel we could see the gold; no wonder Meade had
brought out what he did--it was easy to do it.  I picked out several
handfuls myself that morning, and so did he, and this, with what we
washed out, weighed over fifty ounces!

We had thus proved that all was right.  I had myself seen it, handled
it, washed it, picked it out.  Naturally we were both highly elated.

It was hard to drag myself away from all this, but I had to.  I took a
blanket and a little grub, got into the canoe, and paddled off down the
creek.  I was returning to Jim and his wife to bring up the rest of our
property.  Jim was to return with me; Fan was to remain there until her
husband came down with the canoe which we had given them, then they
were to get back to the headquarters of their band.

Meade had said farewell to them already, now I had to do so.  It was
not a pleasant business, for we had both become really attached to
these two Indians, and I am sure that the liking was mutual.  We had
found them perfectly trustworthy and reliable, and very different in
their habits and, so far as we could judge, in their ideas, to what we
had always supposed were characteristic of their race.  We had treated
them in terms of equality with ourselves; we had shared alike of late,
and had learnt much that was useful and interesting from them, and I
believe they had learnt some good from us.  At any rate, Fan said to me
one day, "S'pose all white folk same as you and Meade, there no be so
plenty bad Injun"; which was satisfactory.

Paddling energetically, the current with me, I reached their camp the
following evening, so fatigued that I slept nearly twelve hours on end!
It was noon next day before Jim and I had the canoe loaded and were
able to start up stream again.

My leave-taking with Fan was really quite sad: I must admit that I
never supposed I could have felt it so.  As for the poor girl, she
showed no apathy: she shed many tears, and made me certain that if I
should ever go to that country again I would find a welcome from Fan,
her husband, and her entire nation.  True, they had been well treated,
and, I suppose for them, well paid.  They had a handsome canoe given to
them, and many other little things which they valued; but, for all
that, I believe their grief at parting from us was quite genuine.

Fan shouted to me as I paddled up stream with her man, "Plenty come
again soon; my will be sick by'me-by, all er time, for love of you!"

I did not take Jim right up to our shanty.  About a mile below it,
where a small stream trickled down a bank, we landed the cargo.  I had
to make him suppose that it was up there we intended to remain, as we
did not wish him to know exactly where we were, and what we were doing.
With many a hearty hand-clasp, with many a good wish on both sides, I
parted with that Indian.  I have never seen him since, nor have I heard
of him or his good wife, but the day may come when I shall do so.  I
believe their association with us did them good, and I know that always
in the future, when men speak evil of Indians, I shall adhere to my
opinion that there are some good and true ones.

I found that Meade had increased our lot of gold during my absence to
over one hundred ounces!

After packing in our stores, amongst which were a few tools and a
trifle of ironmongery, with which we did a little to our domicile, and
having fed and slept, which we considered all but waste of time, we
went at gold getting.

It was most absorbing, and, in a sense, glorious work.  For over a week
we worked with pans and fingers only.  A ridge of rock ran across the
creek, against which the gravel had been washed by the stream; this
formed a bar, and here we were getting the gold, and down on this rock
itself, the bed rock, was where we found it richest.  By the week-end
we had hidden away what was worth one thousand pounds each--some fifty
pounds weight of gold!

At the finish of the next we had more than doubled the quantity, and we
were reckoning that if we could keep going like that till the middle of
September, we should be able to take out ten thousand pounds
apiece--five hundred pounds weight of it!  We could think of nothing to
prevent it.

We had by working, often to our waists, in ice-cold water, got out all
the gravel we could from the river; we then began to trace the run of
golden dirt in along the rock, which led into the bank a few yards only
from our den.  We found that it continued quite rich, and so far as we
could tell this vein or lead might continue into the hill to an
indefinite distance.  We removed the moss and vegetation, then raised a
huge fire over the spot where we wished to dig; in a few hours the
ground was thawed a foot or two; we dug that out, and lit another fire,
and thawed a little more.  We kept at it thus almost day and night.  We
were well paid for it, no doubt, so far as getting gold went.

In three weeks we had excavated into the bank ten feet and more,
following the streak on bed rock, and found it always rich.  We made a
dump, or heap of wash dirt, at the entrance.  Our piles were in it, we
had good reason to feel sure; besides, we had, as we considered,
equally rich ground ahead of us.

One thing we knew, that if we should be discovered we could each claim
five hundred feet along the creek; indeed, we thought twice that, as
discoverers, so that our claim on the Klondyke might be two thousand
feet in length.  Therefore we need not have been so much afraid of
being found.  I used to say so to Meade, who invariably replied that we
were better as we were, and were bound to keep our secret as long as
possible.

It was now the middle of August--we had attempted to continue a sort of
diary, but we had quite lost count by this time of dates and days.  For
weeks there had been no darkness, there was only what the Shetlanders
call "the dim," and which we could then perceive was becoming more
pronounced.  We ate and slept when we felt we must; the rest of the
time we worked without ceasing--we took no relaxation whatever.

Our creek was now alive with salmon; we could, with a long-handled
shovel, scoop one out whenever we liked.  They were so closely packed
that they crowded each other out.  In places many had been forced on to
the land, where they lay rotting by the hundred: crows and ravens,
jays, magpies, and hawks were numerous, feeding on dead fish, and
several times we noticed bears dragging the salmon out and gorging
themselves with them--not one bear only, often we saw several at once
catching and eating them, or lying, surfeited with food, on sunny banks
asleep.

We could easily have killed all we wished of them, but we did not dream
of doing so; we had stores in plenty, as much salmon as we chose--why
should we bother about bear meat?

About this time Meade first complained of being out of sorts.  He was a
powerful man, and had, till lately, looked the picture of health, but
now clearly a change had come over him.  He was pale, always tired, and
did not eat properly.  Was it to be wondered at?  Such work, such
living, such worry with mosquitos would tell on any one.

I, too, felt that I was not the man I should be.  Yet in spite of all,
we told each other we must stick to it for another six weeks, then we
could rest, which was foolishness.  One night we both felt so bad that
we could neither work nor eat; it had become serious.  Then we settled
to devote the next few days to making a sluice with the boards we had
brought, hoping that change of work, which, it is said, is as good as
play, would prove so in our case: it did.

We constructed three-sided boxes, the depth and width of our boards,
and about six feet long, an inch or two wider at one end than the
other; across the inside, along the bottom, we put bars or riffles a
foot apart.  We made six of these boxes, then went up stream, where a
little obstruction, a sort of dam, raised the water; there we cut a
groove, or ditch, and led a powerful stream into the boxes, which we
had set up by our dump, one behind the other on a slant, the narrow
ends fitting into the wider, so as to form a trough some thirty feet
long.  This was our sluice.

Into the upper boxes we threw the wash dirt, allowing the water to rush
over it.  One of us was continually throwing in the dirt, the other
stirred it about and flung out the large stones and coarse gravel with
a long-handled shovel.

[Illustration: OUR DUG-OUT, OUR TUNNEL, AND OUR SLUICE.]

Thus, by degrees, against the riffles was collected fine sand and gold,
which once a day we cleared away thoroughly, turning the run of water
on one side whilst we did it.  This washed stuff we then panned off in
the usual way, and a very delightful operation this was, for the amount
of gold we got and stored away daily was immense.

By this process we were able to wash a very much larger amount of stuff
than before, and we soon had our dump cleared away, and found we had,
in old meat tins and bags, not less than three hundred pounds weight of
gold!

Feeling much better after this, we stupidly went on working as hard as
ever, and in a few days were queer again.  Then we realised that this
would not do at all, and we determined to take things much easier.  We
had done splendidly; we could go home with a large sum each, and we
believed that we could at Dawson City register, or in some way secure,
our claim, and could return to it next season.  Or, as we said, we
could surely find capitalists in Canada or England to pay us well for
such a splendid property.  At any rate, we knew we should do well to
cease this extraordinary labour, yet every day add something to our
pile.

Having by this time driven in a tunnel quite twenty feet, and being at
least forty from the surface, we were not troubled with frozen ground,
and could work more easily, anyway.  It was quite dark in there: we
burnt candles, of which we had brought with us a quantity.

We left off work in reasonable time now, we smoked and read and talked
and sketched of an evening, and planned what we should do about getting
home, and what big things we would do when we had arrived there.

During all this time we had experienced wonderfully good weather.  I
have no recollection of any rain; we had strong winds and squalls
often,--we rather liked them, for they lessened the insect pests, but
by the end of August mosquitos had much diminished in numbers.
Although we had nightly frosts, some pretty severe, when the sun was
high they came in clouds, and sometimes we thought they were more
bloodthirsty than ever.  And thus, as the time went by, we began to
realise that the day was drawing near when we must depart.

We spent a little time now with our guns, killing several deer close to
our den.  We often saw bears; we left them alone, having plenty of
venison.

We had not seen a human being, or the sign of one, since we had been up
there.  But one morning early, for there was real day and night
now--the sun rose about four--I was awakened by low growls from Patch,
who happened to be in with us that night.  I motioned the dog to be
silent, and, listening, I heard footsteps outside.  Pit-a-pat they
went; then I heard a bucket being moved.

I reached over and shook my companion gently; when he awoke I
whispered, "There's some one about at last."

Meade roused up, listened, and, jumping from his blankets, stepped to
our spy-hole.  Then, turning to me, he held his finger up for silence,
and with a smile motioned me to come and look.  I did so; it was a huge
bear, the largest I had ever seen, snuffing about, examining things,
and it was not ten yards away!

I asked by signs if I should shoot it--for answer Meade handed me my
rifle, and I let fly at the beast.

I was altogether too careless, too sure that I should put the ball just
where I wanted to.  At any rate, I only grazed its skull, and did not
even stun it--only aroused its fury, for it turned with a roar of
anger, and came at our frail door with a bound.

I jumped back as the door fell inwards, and the huge creature stood for
a moment glaring at us.  Patch flew at him, barking vociferously.

My other barrel was a smooth-bore, and only held shot; but Meade was
ready with his rifle.  He fired, hit the bear square between the eyes,
and the beast fell prone upon the door.  He lifted up his head a time
or two, opened his savage mouth, and growled; but he was practically
dead and harmless, whilst our good dog mounted on his carcase, howled
with excitement, waved his grand tail, proud of victory, probably
thinking that he himself had done it.

"By George!" exclaimed Meade, "a splendid fellow, eh?  It must be a St
Elias grizzly!"

Its fur was brown, long and thick.  We took the skin off and stretched
it around the butt of a tree, fastening Patch near to keep strange
beasts away.  As for the meat, we found it excellent for a change.  We
hoisted a lot of it up into adjoining trees.  It was very fat.

The scent of it attracted many animals about us, wolves and wolverines,
foxes and lynxes.  Patch kept them from doing harm.

The woods were seldom altogether silent at night; one often heard the
howls and barks of many creatures.  Foxes were very numerous.  There
were many silver grey and black ones.  We shot them whenever we had the
chance: we skinned and stretched them properly, as we had learnt to do
in Ontario.

I don't believe that two fellows were ever better fitted to be
companions, under such circumstances, than Meade and I were.  He was a
very cheerful man, always looking at the bright side of things, full of
resources, an excellent bushman.

He told me much about his English home, spoke often of his mother, for
whom he had the greatest love and veneration.  His father had been dead
for years.  Money was not too abundant with his mother and his two
sisters; he was often saying what a blessing the gold that he had got
would be to them.

I could tell, too, that there was one person in England around whom all
his warmest feelings were centred.  He did not say very much to me
about her, for, as he knew from me that I was perfectly heart-whole, I
believe he thought that I could not sympathise with him, nor understand
his feelings.  Meade was very well read, and his conversation was
always very pleasant.  As for me, he was kind enough to say that he
could not have had a better "mate."

It was in the beginning of September, our health was not good, and the
season was hurrying towards winter, when we deemed it wise to begin to
carry out some plan for getting away.  We had not acted wisely, I must
admit; that is, we should have arranged as well for getting out as for
getting in.  How were we to take our camping gear, our grub, and our
gold down to our boat?

We should have brought up two canoes with us--one for Fan and Jim to
get away in, another for ourselves.

Meade saw this now, and was always blaming himself for the error,
saying that as he knew the lie of the land he should have known better.

These points he and I had discussed again and again, and had not really
settled what to do, when this time arrived.

Certainly we could not "pack" our stuff.  There was no decent trail,
and even if there had been, we knew we were not robust enough to take a
dozen journeys to our boat and back, heavily laden, as we should have
to be.  No!  By some means we must float down to the Klondyke, to the
main stream, where our boat was cached.

And about the boat, too, we had some anxiety.  Supposing it had been
found and carried off, where should we be?

Certainly we had acted most unwisely.

There was a bear track along the creek which it was possible to
traverse, and as the existence of our boat was of first importance, we
arranged to take a small pack each and go down to ascertain if all were
well.

I shall not easily forget that tramp.  We were three days reaching the
mouth of our creek, but we found our boat safe.  We rested there a day,
and then marched home again; and such a march that was too!  The path
was quite narrow, and seldom along level ground--indeed it appeared
that the bears preferred to climb boulders, creep along logs, or tramp
through the softest sleughs.  Bad as the trail was, however, it would
have been impossible to get through those woods at all if we had left
it.

We saw at least twenty bears on this journey, besides hearing many
scooting through the bush.  They did not approve of other travellers
along their road.  They showed no disposition to dispute with us
though.  They blew and snorted, but fled.

We thus realised how utterly impossible it would be to even carry what
gold we had that way, to say nothing of other things we must have with
us.  Hours were spent discussing these important questions.

When we reached our place we searched the adjacent forest for a cedar
or a pine tree big enough to make a dug-out canoe.  We felt certain we
were axemen enough for that; but, alas! there were no large trees there.

So then, at last, we had to come down to the plan I had favoured from
the first.  It was that we should build a raft.  I knew that we could
construct one which we could navigate.  The stream was not too rapid,
although crooked, much encumbered with boulders, logs, and snags.  I
had traversed it in the canoe three times; with good luck I believed I
could take a raft down too.

We did not intend to take many of the stores we still had with us, for
it was our determination to return in the spring of '98.  All tinned
things and many others would keep good in that climate if we protected
them from bears and other beasts.

The first idea was to stow them in our den, making all secure with
rocks and timber, but we found this would be too difficult and risky.
So we made a cache, as the Indians do to preserve their salmon--that
is, high up between two suitable trees near.  We built a huge box or
safe of logs, large enough to hold all we proposed to leave behind.
The trees we chose were not large.  Bears cannot climb small ones,
unless there are plenty of branches to hold by.  We took care to remove
all such helps as we came down from our task, and so felt secure.

Next we turned seriously to building the raft.

Selecting trees for the purpose, we felled and rolled them to the
water, notched and pinned them together, fitted others across and
across again, carefully lashing all in such a way that we felt would be
safe.  To do this we were working up to our waists in water often, and
it was icy cold.

I think it was on the third day we had been at this job when Meade took
really ill.  I know we reckoned that we only had two or three hours
more work to complete it when he gave in.

There was only one heavy log to get into position.  I said to him that
if he could give me a hand with that, I could do the rest alone.  Then
we would pack up and be off, for I hoped and believed that the change
of scene and work, and the actually having started on the long journey
out and home, would soon set him to rights.

We were talking thus, and the poor fellow was doing all he could to aid
me.  He was lifting one end of the log which was to complete the
structure; then, whilst I was finishing, he was to go inside, turn in,
and try if sleep would help him--when, putting out all his strength to
lift, his foot slipped upon a barked stick under water, and he came
down heavily, the log he had been lifting falling sharply across his
legs!

I shall never forget the look on his face as he sank back slowly in the
water, which rippled over him to his waist.

He turned deathly pale, then red; his eyes were dilated, his expression
was terrible.  "Bertie, Bertie," he groaned, "it is all up with me, my
leg is broken!"

As for me, I was appalled; for a few moments I was dumb with fear.  I
thought my friend would drown!

I suppose I simply stared at him with open mouth; I don't really know
what I did, or thought.  There was my poor friend pinned to the bottom
of the creek by a heavy piece of timber, his head and shoulders only
out of water, his hands pressing against that awful log to keep it from
rolling farther on to him.

Thank God, though dazed, I was not idle long.  I leapt ashore, seized a
handspike, got it under the end of the stick, and prised it up quite
clear of him.  Then I called to him that he was free, and begged him to
move away.

But he could not.  He repeated that his leg was broken, and that he was
jammed there; that if I could not help him he must there lie--there
die!  He spoke in such a despondent manner, he looked so dreadful; his
teeth were chattering with the cold.  It was awful.

I was all this time exerting my power to keep the log up, and off him.
I realised that I could not do that for long, and if I let go it would
go down on him and hurt him worse perhaps.  It was a horrible fix to be
in.  I suppose it lasted hardly twenty seconds, but it seemed to me an
hour.

What could I do?  How could I, in the first place, get that log
entirely clear of him?  That was the question.  I looked round in
despair; would no clever thought come to me?  I think in those few
seconds I lifted up my heart to God Almighty very earnestly.

Thanks be to Him, He did show me a way.  The handspike, or lever, I had
was a pole of considerable length.  I found that by moving to the end
farthest from the log I could with very little pressure keep it up.
There were branches and sticks about; with one hand I put enough of
them upon the end of the lever to keep it down, when I let go entirely,
and wading into the creek beside my friend, who had fainted--he was
insensible at any rate--I put out all my strength and pushed the log
clear.

As it fell it splashed the water over Meade and brought him to.  He
looked at me despairing.  "Come, come, dear friend!" I cried, "the log
is off you; make an effort, let us get you out of this!"

He tried hard, groaning with pain; he really swooned more than once as
he endeavoured to drag himself out, and somehow, I cannot remember how,
he did get out, and I got him clear and on to a level place on the
bank, and then I let him rest whilst I got him some whisky--for we had
brought a little with us, "in case of accident," we said, and here was
an accident indeed.

After a little while my chum revived.  He said the agony in one leg was
intense.  He was quite unable to help himself or to discuss the
situation.

First thing, I was sure, was to get him inside; then we must discover
what was really wrong.  He declared he knew that his thigh was
fractured.  The slightest movement made him scream with anguish.  Yet
moved he must be--but how was I alone to do it?  I am a big fellow.  I
endeavoured to lift him bodily.  I could not.  His constant cry was,
"Let me lie--and die!"

Suddenly an idea occurred to me.  We had just been reading about Swiss
mountaineering, and that to get wounded people or ladies unable to walk
over the ice and snow they use hides, or, failing them,
sacking--anything really which is strong enough.

Well, I remembered the bearskin we had--would that do?

I tore it from the tree, spread it out by Meade, the fur side up, then
with all the tenderness I could exert I contrived to get it under him:
he could help himself but little, and half the time he appeared to be
unconscious.

As for my thoughts, I cannot recall them really.  If, as he said, his
thigh was broken, what could _I_ do for him?  I had no knowledge at all
of surgery.  I was almost despairing, and began to fear it would indeed
be that he would die!

Good old Patch seemed to realise that some great disaster had occurred.
The expression on his face was almost human.  He sat perfectly still,
intently watching us.

To get Meade in, and lying on his far from comfortable bed, was the
first thing to do--of that I was quite sure.  It was no easy task.  I
did, however, manage by attaching a rope to the bearskin to haul him
along by degrees, and at last got him near the fire.  Still on the
bearskin, I arranged him with rugs and blankets, as we had plenty.

Next thing was to examine his hurts.  I cut off his boots and clothing.
I found one leg was much cut and bruised, but he could move it--it was
the other that was seriously damaged.  I found that it was broken just
above the knee!

Naturally my first thought was that we must have a doctor.  But how
could it be managed?  Could I leave him for a forty-mile tramp to the
boat?  Could I launch it alone?  Could I navigate it alone to Dawson?
When I did get there, could I get a doctor to come out with me?

It would take at the very least ten days to go and come, and where
would my poor friend be then?  He would die indeed without me.  He
would freeze to death, even if I left food and water handy, for it
froze every night, and the earth itself was frozen always, summer and
winter, you must remember, and if the fire died out he could not
rekindle it.

No--it was impossible.  I could not leave him.

We talked this over, at least I talked, and he agreed with me--that we
must sink or swim together, that we could not be parted.  He was
awfully depressed.

I plied him with hot tea and whisky--that is all I could think of then,
and he became calmer after a little.  But soon he became uneasy again.
"Bertie, dear friend," said he, with a mournful sigh, "I see clearly
nothing can be done.  I must die here--that is plain."

"Not if I can help it," I declared, and I begged him to tell me what he
thought I could do for him; that as it was evident I could not leave
him, I must do something--if only to alleviate his pain.

He asked what I knew of surgery, if I had ever seen a leg set, if I
thought that I could do it.  I was grieved at heart to have to tell him
that I was absolutely ignorant about all such matters.

He lay silently for a long time--I thought he slept.  I made up the
fire, closed the door, lit the lamp, for it was evening, then I sat on
the ground beside him, very sorrowful--ay, far more than sorrowful--I
was despairing.

A broken leg--no surgeon--no appliances--a fearful journey before us
through an Arctic winter, for I knew that at the best many weeks,
perhaps months, must elapse before my friend could possibly start
homewards, and what could I do alone?  I was utterly ignorant about
sickness and sick-nursing, and I knew nothing about cooking food
suitable for a sick man, even if we had the materials to cook.

There was a long, long silence, only the crackling of the fire in the
corner, the sough of the wind amongst the pines outside, or the weird
howl of a wolf prowling around our miserable home.

Patch sat upright by the fire, almost motionless.  He scarcely shut an
eye; he appeared to be full of sad thoughts.  Occasionally he turned
his head slowly and gazed first at Meade a while, and then at me, and
then, as if he too was quite despairing, he gazed long and sorrowfully
at the burning wood.  Certainly that good dog knew that something
terrible had happened to his friends.



CHAPTER V.

It was about midnight before Meade spoke again.  He had been lying
motionless, though occasionally a low groan escaped him.  I thought he
had been sleeping, from the effect of the whisky I had given him;
however it was not so.

Suddenly, with a cry of anguish, with eyes wide open, pupils dilated,
he gazed at me fixedly.  "Bertie," he murmured, "the pain has been
bearable, but now it is increasing; if I move in the least the agony is
dreadful.  Inflammation is beginning I suppose, and if something is not
done speedily I must die!"

What could I answer?  I expect I looked as dismayed as I felt, for he
went on, "But don't grieve, my boy, don't you give up; it's a miserable
affair, I know, for you as well as for me, but I am not hopeless; no!
if you could follow the instructions I can give you I may pull
through--I've been thinking it all out."

I was alert instantly.  "Everything you tell me I will do," said I;
"your every wish I will carry out.  I'm an awful muff at anything like
this, you know, yet I'll do my best, and God helping us, we may, as you
say, pull through."

At which he told me that some years before he left England he had
attended what was called an ambulance class, where instructions were
given about "first aid to the injured," and he had been striving to
remember all he had learned about broken bones.  He told me I must get
a strip of wood, smooth and strong, about four feet long, and a number
of shorter and thinner pieces for splints.

These I quickly procured.  The next things were bandages.  We had very
little stuff that would answer for them, but our tent, which was of
thin duck, would do; so I ripped some of that into strips.

To put the fracture into place was a most difficult task.  I hardly
dared to handle him, for every touch gave him exquisite pain; yet I had
to twist and pull and push until I believed the bones were in the right
position.  He directed me as best he could, but only at intervals, on
account of the torture my unskilled hands were giving him.  When, as I
hoped, all was as it should be, I placed the splints, each wrapped in
the softest stuff I had, close together round the injury; then I wound
long bandages over all, tightly and smoothly.

Lastly, outside, from his armpit to his foot, I placed the long strip
of wood and bound it to him, round his chest, his middle, and his
ankle, fastening it securely and firmly with plenty of bands above and
below the fracture.

Meade thanked me when I had finished.  He said, with a sad smile, that
he believed I had done it as well as if I had been through the course
of instructions which he had; then he closed his eyes, exhausted.

He had borne all this with the greatest fortitude, but now a kind of
stupor appeared to creep over him.  I hoped that it would end in
healthy sleep; therefore I quietly made up the fire, lowered the light,
and slipped out into the night.

It was absolutely still in the open air, and not so very cold.  Not a
breath of wind stirred the surrounding foliage; only the ripple of the
creek was audible as it flowed tinkling over the stones a few yards
from me, and the swish of the water swirling through the sluice.

Patch had come out with me.  He was so quiet, so subdued, so sorrowful;
it was just wonderful the almost human sagacity of that dog.  I had
said to him gently as we came out, "We must be very quiet, Patch; you
must not bark; your poor master is very ill; we must let him sleep,"
and the way that dear old fellow looked at me was as if he quite
understood what I had said.  I believe he did, too, by his actions.

From the hot stuffy cavern, little more than a burrow, where I had been
attending to my poor friend, to the clear air outside, the change was
great and most refreshing.  I stood beside the creek for some time
breathing in the sweet pine-scented air, and thinking very deeply, very
seriously.

The sky was cloudless, the stars were gleaming near the southern
horizon in great brilliancy, but over the rest of the heavens they were
hardly discernible--they were overpowered by the blaze of the Northern
Lights.  This was no unusual occurrence; rarely when the sky was clear
were they absent at night, though on this particular time they were
remarkably bright.

I was naturally terribly depressed, wretchedly anxious, all but
despairing; yet when I observed this grand display of Almighty power my
thoughts rose from these mundane troubles, and I felt that He who
marshalled these mysterious forces, whose hand was so plainly visible
there, would, if it pleased Him, help us out of this terrible strait,
and enable us to bear whatever He chose to send us with patience and
trustfulness.  I am not ashamed to add that I lifted up my heart in
prayer to Him, beseeching Him to be with us.

Certainly I received great relief from this.  I took my seat upon an
upturned sluice-box, I drew my blanket-coat close round me, for it was
freezing, and with dear old Patch beside me, I remained there
ruminating for an hour or more.

I could not hide from myself that the position was most serious.  I
hoped, though I feared, that what I had done for Meade would prove to
be successful.  I had heard of people fracturing their limbs, and in a
few weeks being out and about again as well as ever.  But they had
skilled attention, whilst we knew nothing about the treatment.  I
believed that the principal thing was to keep my patient's general
health good.  I wondered what food I should give him.  I ran over the
stores we still possessed, and was thankful to remember how much we
had, and what a variety.  Surely amongst it all I could concoct
wholesome and proper things for him.

Then my mind travelled to our work there.  I realised that it was all
ended for the present, and I fell to wondering how we should ultimately
get all our gold away and our gear, for of course there would be no
rafting.  The creek, the whole country, would be frozen solid and
covered deep in snow, long before my poor friend could travel.

It recurred to me next that in the winter, with snow, one could haul
heavy loads upon a sleigh, and I believed that we two and Patch could
move everything.  I actually caught myself planning how I should build
one.  Indeed it crossed my mind that even if Meade was not strong
enough to help drag, that Patch and I could pull him, with our gold
too, as far as Dawson City.  There, I thought, there might be a doctor,
and surely more comfort than in our dismal hole.  Women were at Dawson:
one whom I had met at that store, it seemed to me, would prove a good
friend to us in our need.

As regards our gold, I felt most grateful that we had secured so much,
for there would be no lack of means to carry out our needs.

I sat outside thus, thinking of these and many other subjects, until I
noticed that the aurora had faded clean away, that the sky in the
north-east was crimson, and that ere many minutes another day would
have dawned.  Then I went inside.  Meade was sleeping naturally,
breathing gently and regularly, so I lay down myself and slept too.

It was broad day when I awoke.  The brilliant sun was scintillating on
the ripples of the creek before our doorway.  Meade was calling me.
"Bertie, dear boy," said he, "I grieve to have awakened you, but oh!  I
am so thirsty; give me some cold water."

Well, now, I was afraid to do so.  I said I must make some hot, open a
tin of Swiss milk, and give him that, but he said "No;" that he
remembered well when one of his sisters had been ill, she had suffered
much because cold water was refused when she craved for it.  When the
doctor came he gave it her, telling them to remember that at all times
it could be given with safety.

On the strength of this I gave Meade what he longed for, and it did him
good.  I made him oatmeal porridge; we had a bottle or two of bovril--I
gave him some; and really that day he ate so well and was so
wonderfully cheerful that I began to believe this would not be such a
terribly serious business after all.

The following day, though, his other leg was exceedingly painful: it
was sadly cut and bruised.  With warm water I washed it.  He wished me
to apply cold water bandages, but I had, in Ontario, seen so much
benefit from using pine gum--which is Venice turpentine, I suppose--for
such hurts, that I persuaded him to let me put some on.  The gum was
oozing from every tree and stump about, wherever we had made a cut with
an axe.  In a few moments I collected plenty.  It was surprising how
quickly this stuff gave him relief, and how healing it was.

Meade was in better spirits that evening again.  I read to him, we
smoked and chatted--he passed a most satisfactory night.  Next day he
complained much.  He said that even the pressure of the blankets on his
legs was dreadfully painful.

I easily remedied that: I made a frame of willow twigs to lie over him,
to bear off the clothes, which answered well.

"What a kind chap you are, Bertie," said he, after I had done all I
could think of for his comfort.

"Kind chap!" I answered smiling.  "Suppose it had been my leg that had
been broken, what would you have done?--let me lie?  And if you had got
me in here, you would have neglected me, I suppose, and let things go?
Not you; you would have done all you could for me, my friend.  I know
that right well, and so I'm doing the same for you, and intend to--so
say no more."

As I have said, we were the best of friends, but the intimate
association this accident occasioned brought us still closer together.
I rarely left his side, only for fuel and other necessaries.  As for
going on with gold-getting, somehow I could not even think of it.  I
endeavoured to keep a bright face in my friend's presence, but when
alone, or at night when he was sleeping, I had many terrible fears and
uncertainties to ponder about and to depress me.

If he did not soon mend! if he got worse! if he could not be
moved!--these thoughts were always in my mind.

The winter would be upon us directly--it was then the end of
September--and I knew that we should be frozen in and snowed up soon,
and remain so till June of this year 1897.  Much of the time would be
passed in darkness; in mid-winter there would be but a gleam of day at
noon.  These were dismal, unnerving forebodings.  I tried to lift my
heart to whence alone I could expect real help.  I sought to repress
all other thoughts, to just do the best I knew for my friend, and to
trust our Heavenly Father for the rest.

To an extent I succeeded, and so many days went by in comparative peace.

We had a terrible gale during this time, I remember: heavy rain and
hail accompanied it.  The creek rose, it washed away a couple of our
sluice-boxes, and seemed as if it would swamp our drive.  This roused
me to active measures: I piled up rocks and logs in such a way that I
secured it against that misfortune.

Meade and I frequently congratulated ourselves about our safety in that
dug-out: we knew that nothing short of an earthquake could upset our
dwelling.  No tents could stand against that heavy wind and downpour.

It was dark and dismal enough, surely, but often when we had a bright
fire roaring in its corner, the lamp alight, the door tightly closed,
and we were lying reading, with Patch curled up between us, we said to
each other how thankful we ought to be, and were, I hope, for such
comfort in that wild land.

It was during this enforced companionship that my friend opened his
mind very freely to me.  I don't know if he had any presentiment then
of what the end would be--any premonition of still greater trouble
ahead.  It is impossible to be certain of this, but I have since
thought that he had.

He had a very lovable disposition, even when he was well, and had had
to fight with me against wilderness troubles which upset and spoil the
temper of most men.  When things went wrong ashore or afloat, when our
Indians were stupid, when the fates seemed to be dead against us and
all appeared to be going wrong, I never remember him becoming really
angry, using bad language, or showing anything but the most perfect
amiability.

Many will think it is impossible to go through the rough countries of
this world, especially such a wilderness as we had traversed, and were
then in, or to subdue others' wills to ours, without showing a
masterful, a domineering spirit.  I thought so, and began, when he and
I started on this expedition, to assert myself, believing that only
thus would we be able to hold our own, or make headway.

Meade, on the contrary, from the first was amiable, friendly, and
polite with all--red men and white.  I thought this, for a while,
unmanly, and feared I should thereby have my hands full of trouble, but
I soon found I was much mistaken.

I noticed on board the steamer going up to Juneau, and at Skagway, that
the people looked astonished, for a little, at the way in which my
friend spoke, his gentleness and consideration to all--never shouting
his desires or orders, but asking politely for what he required.  Yes,
they looked surprised at his uncommon style, for a bit, but were
invariably impressed by it; and thinking that he must be a prince, or
at least a duke (that was the usual idea), they treated him, as far as
they knew, with the same consideration with which he treated them.

And I, as his mate, his friend, came in for the benefit of it.

So, mild and amiable as Meade had been all along, during this sad time
he was, if possible, more so.  He suffered intensely, I know it now,
though at that time I scarcely understood it.  Often he could hardly
speak for pain and weakness, yet he never neglected to thank me for the
slightest thing I did for him, and he never expressed impatience at his
sad condition.

Well, that is hardly true; he did frequently bemoan his fate in having
brought me to such a pass--that was a great trouble to him.

In vain I begged him not to let that grieve him.  I assured him again
and again that I had no one dependent on me in England, or anywhere;
that my people were well off; that a month or two, or even a year or
two, was of no great moment; that even if we had to winter there we
should resume work in the spring, and go home with still larger piles
in the summer.

He would listen to these remarks, patiently and calmly, but with a
smile on his face apparently of unbelief.

Then he would talk gently to me about himself.  How he had looked
forward with such intense pleasure to going home that fall with plenty,
to relieve his loved mother and sisters from all future money worries.
He told me a great deal about them, where they lived, and how.

He had been in Australia for two years, and had done some gold-digging
there.  He had been four years in Canada; like me, he had brought a
little money with him, had taken up land in Assiniboia, had struggled
there for a couple of years, living wretchedly and prospering not at
all, then he had sold all he had, cattle and gear, and had come West.

He took service in the Rockies with the Canadian Pacific Railway at
section work, which is, I believe, what is called "plate-laying" in
Britain.  From there he had gradually drifted to the coast, to
Vancouver City, where he had obtained employment on a wharf.  There his
education helped him, he became a foreman, next he got the post of
purser on one of the steamers trading between Puget Sound and the North.

The spring before I met him he was up at St. Michael's, in Behring Sea,
where he fell in with a man who told him about the gold which was being
got away up the Yukon.  He had acted on this man's advice, with the
result he had already related to me.

He sent his mother a large portion of what he found the year before,
told her of his projected expedition with me, and promised that he
would "come out" in September, he believed with what would be regarded
as a fortune, even in England.

"And now," said he, with a sad sigh, "here I am, laid by the heels--and
you too, my friend, on my account--not able even to let them know that
I'm alive!"

I did my very best to comfort him.  I begged him to have patience, that
I hoped before many weeks--when the snow came--that we should get out,
"and surely," I added, "from Dawson there is some way of communicating
with civilisation."

You understand we really knew very little about the country.  We had
heard many yarns about the awful winter, and generally had the idea
that it would be extremely dismal and melancholy.  But we had also been
told that with plenty of grub and light and fuel--which we had--people
could exist with some little comfort.  So we struck the middle opinion,
and found it would be bad but bearable.

Well, it was bearable, certainly, or I should not be here; and yet I
can aver that the horror of it has not been more than half told yet.

Thank God, we had plenty of food and firing, and as I said to my poor
chum, "I'll bet there are many miserable beggars scattered about this
Yukon country and Alaska who are worse off than we are by a long shot."

He smiled at my enthusiasm, and added, "But I hope there are no broken
legs amongst them."

At which I felt rather subdued.  But I had talked, and continued to do
so thus, to cheer him if I could, and to make him think that I was
quite happy and contented.

Really, at heart, I was neither.  He did not seem to me to be
improving.  He told me of the pain he suffered in his leg.  I suggested
that it was caused by the bone growing together.  I said I had heard
that was usually the most painful time, and he hoped I was right.  He
was very pale and thin.  I tried to believe that was only the effect of
his lying so long and being in the dim light.  His appetite troubled
me: he ate very little, and did not fancy anything we had.

One time he talked to me about the girl he loved at home.  He showed me
her portrait.  Her name is Fanny Hume.  I thought she must be very
pretty from her photo.  He declared she was that--lovely.  They had
been engaged for four years.  She was to have come out to him, if he
had done well in the prairie country.  They had experienced great
disappointment at his failure there, but his good fortune up here the
year before had altered matters.  If he had got out this fall they were
to have been married by Christmas.

He told me of the plans he had laid for his mother's comfort, and of
the dreams he had about the home he would make for his bride with the
good fortune that had come to him.  "And now," said he in grievous
tones, "all this is ended, all my plans frustrated.  God knows how hard
it is; it looks almost cruel, doesn't it?"

What could I say?  I begged him not to lose hope.  I besought him to
remember that God did know--that for some mysterious reason He had
allowed this terrible disaster to take place, that we must just put our
trust in Him.  We were assured, and, I hoped, believed, that He does
all things well, and that we must just leave it so.

Oh! how I longed to have more power of comforting him.  How impotent I
felt, and was.  I could only keep saying, "Look up, Meade! look up!
from there alone can come our help."

One day said he, "I'd give anything for a bit of fresh mutton.  Just
fancy a mutton chop at Pimm's, in the Strand, and a glass of their
stout, eh!"

This pleased me.  If he had such a longing for food I thought it a good
sign, and said so.

But, alas! there was no mutton chop to be got there.  There are
mountain sheep---bighorns, moufflons--up in the hills.  How could I
leave him to stalk one?  But I thought I might shoot him a grouse for a
change.  Salmon he was heartily sick of; the tinned things were very
good for men in health, but not for an invalid.  I had broiled him a
bit of bear meat lately, which he enjoyed.  I did so again and again,
till he was tired of that.

So I took down my gun one day, said I would not be long away.  I
thought I would go up and kill a bird.

I went up the creek to a clump of thick spruce I knew of, feeling sure
I should find some there, but instead out leapt a half-grown deer!

I brought him down, luckily.  I could just manage to pack him home.  I
was back again within an hour.  Meade smiled a welcome.  "I heard you
shoot," said he, "the rifle barrel.  What did you get?"

I would not tell him.  I said he must wait and see.  The little buck
was fat.  I cut out a chop--it looked just like a mutton chop--I
broiled it at a fire I lit outside, and brought it to him.  He was
delighted, he was charmed, and with tears in his eyes he thanked me
again and again.  And there were tears in my eyes too!

For several days he enjoyed what he called mutton.  I had hung it
outside to freeze, where everything was frozen.  I varied his
food--bear meat, deer meat, salmon; salmon, bear meat, deer meat--and
in between I gave him some of the canned things that he fancied.

For weeks matters went on like this.  It was five since the accident,
when I noticed a decided change in him, and it was not for the better!

It was by that time winter.  All green things but the pines and spruces
were frozen and dead.  Snow covered all the high lands, and even the
flats were drifted with it.  The still water everywhere was frozen;
only our creek still ran, and there were still fish in it.  I don't
know what possessed me--thank God, something did--but I took the notion
to secure some of these salmon.

It was easily done.  I rolled a few logs and brush into a narrow place,
then went up stream and drove the fish down, and many became entangled
there.  I dragged out half-a-dozen and slung them in the trees about
our den.

Another day I saw a bear foraging about near.  I gave Meade warning
that I was about to shoot, and I killed it easily.  I put a ball
through him, under his arm, and he died without a struggle.  It was
very fat and lazy--a cinnamon.

I had plenty to do to skin it and cut it up.  The fat I hung up in the
trees.  We had no great amount of oil left for our little lamp, and
very few candles, and I thought, "If we must winter here we must make
shift with this in some way until next June."

For I began to think that my idea of getting out on a sleigh would
never work.  Yet I was busy constructing one.  But I thought I saw that
if my friend was to get away it would only be when the water was open
again, eight or nine months later!

Our almost finished raft was now frozen fast to the bank.  I almost
hated the sight of it.  I wondered if, after all, that would be the
means by which we should get away.

I do not remember that I regarded the prospect of wintering there as
such a terrible calamity.  We really had plenty about us, and we were
such excellent companions that I only felt if he got well, all would be
well.

I must admit that it crossed my mind more than once--"If he should die!"

I put this dreadful thought away, I kept it down generally, but
sometimes it struck me suddenly, and I felt as if a stream of ice ran
down my spine, as though my heart was frozen.  The contemplation of
such a dire disaster was awful.

Time went on; I could see no improvement.  If his leg was joining
properly I could not tell, nor could he.  He himself was usually very
quiet, yet there was a look creeping over him to which I could not shut
my eyes; he was thinner, greyer, and shrivelled.

One night he put down his pipe as if with loathing.  "I'll smoke no
more," said he; "I believe it is not good for me."

I took no notice--thought it better not.

Later he threw down his book, declaring he could not read--that his leg
was so painful.

I examined it.  So far as I could tell all seemed right--so far as
appearance went.  His foot was cold and somewhat swollen, but there was
warmth enough elsewhere.

Next day he had much more pain.  He was all for cold water bandages.
To please him I bathed his leg and wrapped it in wet cloths--this eased
him.

That night he complained that the half-wet bandages were irritating
him.  What was I to do?

Finding that cold water applications soothed him, I kept the cloths wet
always.  Neither of us had the least idea whether we were doing right.

I discovered that he slept very little.  I myself passed many a
sleepless night, but my health was wonderfully good.  I was quite
robust in spite of my terrible anxieties.

The weather was now extremely cold--as cold as I had ever felt it in
the east of Canada.  Our place was warm though--so long as we kept the
door closed and excluded draughts we were cosy.

The nights were extremely long, and the days, though usually sunny,
were very cold.  We had several hard gales: the fine, dry snow was
forced through every crevice.  I used to bring in abundance of food and
fuel at such times, cram every crevice round our doorway full of moss,
make Patch come inside, and none of us left the shelter whilst the
blizzard lasted.

I had cut a hole in the door and covered it with a piece of the thin
intestine of a bear.  We had no glass.  I used to read to my companion
sometimes from a Bible, at others from Shakespeare, and we had a copy
of that penny book W. T. Stead has published, 'Hymns that have Helped.'
It had got out to Victoria, and I had picked it up at a book-store and
valued it, for several of those hymns had powerful associations for me.

My friend was fond of some of them too, and I often saw him read a
verse or two with tears in his eyes.

He was generally silent.  This made me very sad.  Do as I would, try as
I did, I could not help being very much cast down, very full of
forebodings of evil.

One night--it was bitterly cold outside, and the wind was howling
through the trees, we were warm and comfortable enough as far as that
went--I was looking sorrowfully at the invalid, who I thought was
dozing, when he slowly opened his eyes--which seemed to me to have
grown very large and prominent--and gazing at me, oh! so mournfully,
said, "Bertie, my friend, I suppose you realise that I am not going to
get well?"

For a few moments I could not reply, my heart was in my throat, I felt
as if it were choking me; at length I managed to ejaculate, "Oh!
Meade, my dear friend, have patience--don't break down like this--or I
shall----"

His eyes were suffused with tears.  "Dear friend, indeed," he began,
slowly and in broken accents, "I grieve--God knows how very much I
grieve--to tell you this, but I know I am not improving, and I believe
I shall never leave this hut alive.  I have been thinking about you,
wondering what you will do if I am taken.  I am awfully sorry that I
brought you here."

"Say not one word on that head," I interrupted him; "_I_ do not regret
it.  Look how well we have done.  What has happened is terrible, I
know, but oh! pray don't give up, don't get to thinking that you'll not
recover.  Please God you'll be all right soon, then fancy with what joy
we'll be off home in the spring."

Thus I tried to cheer him--thus I tried to look at things.

"Well, well," he replied, with a wan smile, "I'll try to be more
hopeful, I'll try to trust; but listen, what will you do if I am taken?
Can you make your way out alone, think you?"

I refused to answer,--I merely said that I would not even think about
it, much less talk of it, and begged him not to.  I asked him if his
leg was so painful, and what reason he had to say he was no better, in
reply to which he went into a number of particulars which I need not
repeat.

Later he talked again about his mother and sisters, and, laying his
hand on mine, he begged me to bear with him, not to be angry with him,
whilst he explained what he wished to be done, "supposing," and he
gazed at me in a most affecting way as he said it,--"supposing I don't
get home myself."

I said very little,--I let him talk.  I nodded occasionally to let him
see I heard what he was saying, understood, and would do as he wished.

He told me what proportion he desired his mother and his sisters to
have--"if I ever got out safely with the gold"--and that the remainder
was to be given to Fanny Hume, the lady to whom he was engaged.

He bade me put all these things down in my notebook, saying also that
he should write letters to them all, "in case of accidents."  He dwelt
for some time on these most melancholy topics, and I expect would have
gone on still longer had I not diverted his thoughts into another
channel.

I got on to the subject of the value of the gold we had, and asked his
opinion of the way we were to proceed to secure our claim, so that we
might return next season and work it.

He told me again all he knew on the subject, declared that we should
have to hire men at Dawson, or at Forty Mile, or even at Circle City,
to work for us; and indeed for an hour or two he talked on very much in
his old way, full of information and cleverness, and quite excited
about the fortune we had made.

He fell asleep at last with a cheerful look on his face, after having
by my persuasion smoked a pipe with me.

I rolled myself in my blankets then, and with some hopefulness and a
quieter spirit I too went to sleep.

Several times I awoke and put on firing.  Meade was always sleeping
peacefully, but towards morning, just as grey light was filtering
through our window, I was aroused by his groans.  He told me that he
was suffering acutely, that the pain in his leg was maddening, that he
was sure all had gone wrong there.  He begged me to remove the
bandages, declaring that he knew they were no longer needed.  "Either
the bones have joined now, or they never will," said he.  "If they have
not, then I shall never get better, and if I go on any longer in this
agony I shall die surely."

Perplexed, bewildered, terribly afraid of doing wrong, yet quite unable
to withstand his entreaties, I consented in the end to do as he desired.

He had already thrown the blankets from him, and was tossing his unhurt
leg and arms about most dangerously.  His face was flushed, he was
continually crying out for water, and I, even with my small experience,
knew that he was in a high fever, of the seriousness of which I was
conscious.

I loosed the fastenings of the long strip of wood.  This did not
appease him.  He exclaimed that he was on fire, that the pain was
excruciating.  He became angry with me because I hesitated to take off
the splints.  He talked wildly, incoherently, madly, and then began
tearing at the bandages himself, so I undid the splints and took them
off, exposing his bare leg, and then I no longer wondered that he
suffered as he did.

He fainted, I believe, and when the pressure was taken off he lay back
pale and silent.  I brought whisky, and by degrees got him to swallow
some.  I opened the door, brought in some snow, which covered
everything outside now.  I put some on his forehead.  He was a long
time, or so it seemed to me, before he came to.

I cannot describe the appearance of his leg; it horrified me.  From
that moment I gave up all hope of his recovery.  It was indeed some
time before he spoke, and then he was delirious, light-headed.  He
talked and raved the whole night through.  Sometimes he begged me to
remove the bandages--which were off; at others he talked of his mother,
of Fanny Hume, often of Jim and Fan, and of me and of our work.  I
never went through such a day and night--I never want to again.
Towards morning he fell asleep, exhausted.  I wondered if I had done
wisely in removing these bandages.  I thought not.  He slept now so
profoundly that I endeavoured to replace some of them without awaking
him, and I did succeed in getting the long strip down his side and
securing it just as he awoke.  He was in his right mind then, and I
believe had no knowledge of the condition he had been in.

He endeavoured to move his leg--he could not.  I suppose he recognised
the importance of this discovery, for he then threw himself back,
extended his arms, and sighed profoundly as he muttered, "It is so,
then--the case is hopeless! hopeless!"

He looked at me once, a fixed solemn look, then closed his eyes and lay
there motionless and silent.

I whispered, "Oh! try, dear friend, not to move that leg, the only hope
is to keep it absolutely still."  Then he opened his eyes, gazed at me
for a moment, and through his clenched teeth he whispered, "Hopeless,
hopeless."

The rest of that day he was profoundly quiet.  I don't think he slept,
for whenever I spoke to him he replied at once in a monosyllable.  He
would not eat, but drank all I gave him.

I myself was so low and exhausted with anxiety and watching that I have
but little recollection of what followed.  Sometimes he slept,
sometimes his mind wandered, generally he was in a state of stupor.
One morning I left him sleeping whilst I went out for food and fuel.
When I returned, to my horror he was sitting upright.

I called out in amazement.  He smiled sadly as he said, "Ah! it does
not matter much, Bertie.  I've not moved my bad leg though, just
dragged it along--it's all right, as right as it'll ever be: but I must
write to-day; after that we'll just hope for the best, that's all we
can do."

"Ay," I answered, "that's all; yes, but we can pray, we can do that,
and that's our only hope."

He begged me to give him paper and pencil, and for an hour or more he
wrote.  He stopped often to sip the drink I set beside him, then he lay
back exhausted, and I think he slept.

By-and-by he aroused and wrote more letters.  He went on thus until it
was quite dark, when he told me he had finished, adding that he
believed he now could sleep well, for a great weight was off his mind.

Before he closed his eyes I begged him to tell me if there was anything
I could do for him, any wish that I could gratify.  Would he have
bovril? whisky? tea?  He thanked me; he said he had no desire for
anything, that he would sleep; but suddenly opening his eyes, looking
at me excitedly, he said, "Bertie, you will not laugh at me, you will
not think I'm off my head, will you, but if you'd just read me that
beautiful hymn of Cowper's--"There is a fountain," you know?  I
remember it was a great favourite of Prince Albert's, and I like it
too.  Read it for me, Bertie, and then I think I'll sleep well."

I read it--I broke down several times--but as I finished the last line
I saw he was sleeping calmly.

I was fagged out myself--I had hardly eaten a scrap that day--I don't
think I had slept an hour for days: so when I saw he was sleeping I too
lay back and was soon unconscious, and had forgotten all our troubles.

Before closing my eyes though, I took a good look at my friend.  I
could not help remarking how great a change there was in him.  His face
was so drawn, so withered; there was no trace of colour on it, even his
lips were white.

I had never seen a human being die.  I had never seen a dead person up
to that time, and yet there was that appearance to my companion;
something had come over him which profoundly affected me, and I kept
saying to myself, "He will die, he will die."  I was whispering this
when I fell asleep, and forgot all my grief and misery.

How long I slept I do not know.  It was still dark when I awoke.  I had
extinguished the light before I went to sleep.  It was very cold, the
fire was nearly out.  This being an all-important affair I jumped up,
stirred the embers together and blew them into a flame.  Then I piled
on more wood, and made quite a noise in doing it.

I feared I had awakened Meade and perhaps alarmed him.  I called gently
to him.  There was no reply.  I concluded that he still slept,
therefore I crouched by the now blazing fire, warming myself.

Just then Patch came quietly up to me and laid his head on my arm.  I
looked down and patted him.

Really and truly there was a most pitiful look in the poor dog's eyes.
He saw that I noticed this, and to my horror and dismay he suddenly
lifted up his head and gave one most vehemently long-drawn,
heartrending howl!

Speaking sharply to the poor beast, I clasped his muzzle, and he
stopped.  Then he sat staring at the blazing logs with a most sorrowful
expression.

I don't know why, I can't tell what made me begin to tremble.  I
reached for a lighted sliver--I could hardly hold my hand still enough
to light the lamp, I shook so--and when I had ignited it and turned it
on to the face of my friend, I saw that he had not moved since he fell
asleep.  There he lay, stretched out on his back, sleeping still.  Yes,
surely, he was sleeping!

Softly I laid my hand on his forehead--it was cold as ice.  I sought
for one of his hands--it was cold and as stiff as if it were frozen.  I
put my hand upon his heart--there was no motion there.

Then like a flash it came to me that my dear friend was dead--ay, Meade
was dead!



CHAPTER VI.

It is impossible to tell you what I felt when I realised that my friend
had breathed his last.

I cannot myself remember what my thoughts and sensations were.  I only
know that I rushed out of the place--very lightly clothed, too--and in
the open air stood gazing around me dazed.

The first few hours after that is nearly a blank to me.  I can merely
call to mind cold, hunger, snow, and poor Patch's evident distress.  I
made a fire outside and we sat by it, I repeating to myself, sometimes
crying aloud, "What shall I do?  What shall I do?"

Once I remember springing up and grasping a white shirt and a red one
which lay by the door, and tying them to a long branch which arched
across the creek conspicuously, saying to myself, "It may attract some
one's notice,"--for, eager as we had been all along to keep our
presence secret, now I would gladly have given half, ay, all the gold
we had obtained, to secure the companionship of a human being.

The days were very short then.  There was but a gleam of sunlight at
noon, and as this faded to the south behind an ice-clad mountain, a
strong breeze arose which roared through the tree-tops.  There was a
wildness and weirdness about its dirge-like roar which seemed to me
quite in keeping with what had happened.

I had taken no food all day.  I had not been inside the hut.  I could
not for long muster courage to enter it.  To gaze upon my lost friend's
features seemed impossible--the idea of stopping for any time in the
same place with his poor body was beyond me, yet I knew I must do
something.  Food at least I must procure for myself and Patch; if we
had this I believed that we could exist beside the huge fire I had
built until I grew calmer, and could decide on some course of action.
I put off doing anything though as long as possible, and not until it
was quite dark did I creep into our dismal abode.

I trod gently, with awe, for I could not divest myself of the idea that
poor Meade could hear me, that my dear friend was at least present in
spirit.  But truly I cannot tell what I thought or what I felt.

The fire was out.  I lit the lamp.  I gazed fearfully around--avoiding
the face, white and drawn, which I knew was amongst the pile of bedding
there.  Why was this?  Why does one naturally dread to look upon a dead
face?  Surely I had got to love my friend, and to know that he loved
me.  There was no reason for this unwillingness to look, but so it was
then, and so it usually is.

I threw a blanket over his poor body, snatched a rug up, a loaf of
bread, a piece of cooked venison, some tea and sugar, and hastened out
again, closing the door securely.

It was blowing harder now; fine snow was being whirled through the
forest and down the creek, which had long since ceased to flow.  It was
freezing very hard; everything was ice-bound; my fire gave but little
warmth.  What could I do?

Really I was so utterly cast down, so despairing, that I was reckless.
It seemed to me just then that nothing mattered, and that I too should
soon die, and lie as Meade did, until perhaps long afterwards some
wandering prospector would find our bones, our gold, and our
belongings; but our real story, or who we were, would never be known.

Patch ate the food I gave him, and I managed to swallow something: then
we crouched, he and I, with the rug round us.  He slept, but I was
thinking--thinking.

The cold increased, the bitter wind was piercing.  I roused myself to
pile on fuel.  A gust of exceeding sharpness seemed to shrivel me, and
it flashed through me that another such blast would end me.

For a second I thought, "So much the better"; but at the same moment,
like a vision, there passed across my half-benumbed consciousness a
picture of what my dear dead friend had told me about his mother and
his sisters, and the dearest one of all.  I knew what he had said about
the benefit the gold that we had found would be to them, and how I had
promised him to fight hard to get it to them should he not recover.

My own future did not trouble me.  I had no one dependent on me, but I
suddenly felt strong in what I saw was my bounden duty.  I straightened
myself up and exclaimed, "No; I'll not give in!  I'll fight this matter
through, God helping me!"

I must have spoken loudly, and I suppose cheerily, for Patch jumped
from his nook beside the fire, looked at me brightly, eagerly, waved
his grand tail, and made me think that he had understood my
exclamation, approved it, and would gladly aid me.

The bitter wind blew keenly past us, the powdery snow penetrated every
crevice in my clothing, my beard was a mass of ice, and I knew that a
few minutes more of this terrible cold would be fatal.

Still I could not bring my mind to going into that dismal den again, or
to remain there with the body of my friend beside me.

How should I proceed then?  I thought hard.  If I could only get
shelter from this awful blizzard, I believed I could manage to exist
until I could plan something.  But where was there shelter!  I gazed
around; there was no bank, no rock, nothing which offered the slightest
protection from the furious blasts.

Something must be done, however--to stay where I was meant death.  The
very fire was being blown away and smothered in the snow-drifts.

Just then the tunnel we had excavated occurred to me.  I grasped a
glowing firebrand, gathered a bunch of sticks, and rushed to the
entrance, Patch excitedly following me.  Pushing my way over the
obstructions I had placed there as protection from the flooded creek, I
entered, passed in a dozen feet, and found this retreat was dry enough,
and such a good protection from the wind and snow outside that it felt
quite warm.  I flung down my fire-stick and soon had a blaze, gladly
perceiving that the smoke ascended to the roof and passed out, leaving
a clear space below where we could sit or lie without annoyance.

I was so pleased with this arrangement that I made excursions for fuel,
and actually went into the shanty for my blankets, more food, a kettle,
and a lamp.

And in this retreat Patch and I remained some days, I only venturing
out for firewood, of which, most happily, I had a good heap cut.

The storm raged furiously and ceaselessly, the snow fell continuously,
it all but closed the entrance to the tunnel; but having a pick and
shovel, I was able to keep an opening for air and to let out the smoke.

Patch and I lay there warm and snug enough.  It was, however, a most
dismal experience--worse even than that Nansen endured on his famous
expedition towards the Pole, for he had companionship.  I had none.

I tried hard to pull myself together, to make some sort of programme
for future action, but I could do very little--the power of consecutive
thought seemed to have left me.  I passed the time eating, smoking,
sleeping--it was to me like some dreadful dream, and I often, often
caught myself wondering when I should awake, and the misery would be
over.

I suppose it was then the end of November, and I knew there would be no
real spring, no open water, till June; seven months of this desolation
and loneliness to look forward to! for I had come to the resolve that,
in any event, so long as provisions held out, even for months, or
years, I would not abandon the gold.

I had calculated, and I knew perfectly well, that Patch and I together
could not haul it out on a sled, with what we must take of gear and
food.  No; we must stay there till spring, and what I could, or would,
do then I did not settle: I only had a vague idea that I would pack
everything on the all but finished raft, and somehow float it down to
Dawson.

I had plenty of time to plan all this, I knew.  At intervals my memory
dwelt on what now seemed to me to have been the real comfort, the real
content, which Meade and I had experienced in that miserable dug-out
before his accident.  My mind reverted to the pleasant evenings he and
I had passed with books and pipes, anticipating the joys that were in
store for us when we had got out, and had once more set foot upon dear
English soil.  How we used to talk, and plan, and prophesy!  Alas! all
was ended, his career had been cut short, as we have seen, and
mine--well, I did not think about mine very much, the present was what
troubled me: the awful loneliness, the misery of it, was what occupied
me.

I was forced to go into the den occasionally for necessaries.  I had
not removed the covering from my friend's face, but I had grown a
little bit familiar with that melancholy heap of bedding, and the fact
that he lay there, frozen, did not now so greatly agitate me.

The storm raged ceaselessly for quite a week, then suddenly there was
perfect silence outside.  I went forth to investigate; whether it was
day or night I could not tell, for there was but little sunrise really
then--the stars were gleaming in a cloudless sky.  It was absolutely
calm, so the cold was bearable, yet I knew it was more intense than I
had ever before felt it.

The moon was rising, and a wonderful scene it was that her beams shone
on; beautiful, I have no doubt, but to me then, and always, it was most
awful desolation.

Everything--our workings, the raft, the creek--was covered deeply with
snow; I could barely make out the door of the dug-out.  I looked at it
very sorrowfully, and I wished--I was almost ashamed of that wish, I
thought it desecration--that I dare go in and live there, even with the
companionship of all that remained of my dear friend.

I brought the shovel, removed the snow, and as I was doing so it came
to my mind that if I were only able to bury Meade's body I could return
to the den and pass the winter there.

But where could I bury it?  How could I dig a grave?  Everything, I
knew, was frozen hard as steel; should I clear away the frozen nigger
grass and moss, and light a fire on the earth in some quiet nook, thaw
it thus, and dig a grave, as miners sink their holes in winter?

I returned to my fire in the tunnel to think this out.  How terrible it
all appeared in there; how I longed to make the change!  I sat
pondering on this for some little time, and then I had an idea.

I grasped a pick and drove it into the wall of the drive behind the
fire, and found that I could excavate the earth easily.  I went to
work, for I had determined what to do.

Soon I had cut a niche quite large enough to hold the body.  I smoothed
it nicely, procured some fresh pine twigs which I strewed in it; then
going to the shanty, I forced myself to draw the dear fellow's remains,
upon the same bear-skin he had passed away on, to the sepulchre that I
had hewed.

The body was frozen, of course, and was as easily handled as if it had
been a log of wood.  I took everything from his pockets, then I rolled
it into its resting-place--a temporary one I regarded it.  I strewed
spruce branches over it, and covered it reverently with the earth I had
removed, and soon no one but I could have told that a brave young
Englishman, a loved friend, a dear companion, was sleeping his last
sleep in there.  I smoothed the opening over, but I knew right well the
spot where Percy Meade, my lost friend, was lying entombed.

It was done at last, the mournful task was ended; having the
Prayer-book with me, I read with tear-dimmed eyes some passages aloud
from it--good Patch sitting by as quiet and sedate as if he understood
it all.

There was no hurry, no need for haste, and yet as soon as this sad
business was finished I left the tunnel gladly, and entered the shanty
with the lamp.

It was awfully cold in there--it was an ice-house; but I soon had a
fire blazing in the corner.  I piled on logs, and on them heaped the
withered pine brush and rubbish with which the floor had been strewed.
Then I cut fresh stuff, brought in the bear and deer-skins, the rugs
and blankets I had been using in the tunnel, heaped them before the
fire to dry, and in a few hours I was, so far as bodily requirements
went, in comfort.

As I gazed around me then, I was very sad.  On the rough shelves we had
constructed were lying the few books and papers we possessed, and there
were some odds and ends which poor Meade had greatly valued.  There was
his pipe and tobacco-box, his plate and knife and fork, which he had
been so fastidious about--two or three photographs of home scenes and a
portrait or two were pinned to the logs about the dismal shanty.

All these had been the texts of many a long yarn, many an interesting
conversation--it was very sad.  But I did not remove them; there seemed
to me a sacredness about them, a melancholy sort of interest which was
my only comfort in that dismal cave.  They brought back to me many and
many an incident, and were to some extent a kind of companionship to me
in my loneliness.  However, I was very weary with all this unaccustomed
grievous labour.  I made tea, cooked some food, then putting a huge log
on the fire, which I knew would last for hours, I fell asleep and
dreamt.  I thought that I was far away from all these horrors, back in
my dear old home, with loving faces round me, my troubles over, my long
agony past, and all forgotten.  Oh, blessed, thrice blessed
sleep!--thank God for sleep!

It was a long time since either of us had written a word in our diary.
I was not at all certain of the day, much less of the hour, when Meade
had died.  I spent some time trying to puzzle this out, endeavouring to
account for the time that had elapsed since Meade left me, and, so far
as I could guess, for day and night were very much the same then, and
had been for weeks, it was ten days--but I had nothing to guide me with
certainty.  However, I assumed that it was on the 8th November that he
died, and I determined to start my watch again, and during every
twenty-four hours that passed henceforth to make some entry in our
book, and this I am glad now that I adhered to.

Our gold was buried in a corner of the den; I had lost interest in it.
Occasionally the thought came to me that it was there all right; but as
to looking at it, or adding to it, that never crossed my mind.  All my
thoughts then were how to get away from the dreadful place.  I had come
to the opinion that if I left that gold behind me it would be secure
enough, for I imagined that I was alone in an entirely unknown country,
and that if I left it, it would remain unknown for many a year.

So I thought and thought continually on this one subject--how to get
out.  I read a little, ate more, smoked much, slept half my time, and
thus the hours went slowly by until I fancied it was Christmas Day, and
still I had arranged no definite plan.

I had got into an exceedingly low, stupid, almost imbecile condition.
I had no heart, no energy for anything; I seemed to have no "go" left
in me.  I suppose the continual darkness, the utter loneliness, was
telling on me.  I look back now and wonder at my state: I, who had
always been hitherto full of vigour, resourceful, hardly ever
despondent, and hating to be idle for a moment, was leading a purely
animal life, just eating and sleeping, with very little power,
seemingly, of even thinking of the future.

It was then, as I supposed, Christmas Day; anyway, it was a very calm
and quiet day.  The northern lights were brilliant, and Patch and I
were outside: I was gathering fuel and cutting some logs for the fire,
he was rolling in the dry dust-like snow, and sniffing at the meat and
salmon which hung frozen in the trees around us.  I looked about at the
brilliant scene, I gazed aloft in adoration at the wonderful display.
I felt awed and solemnised at what I saw, and the question came to me,
seemed to hit me almost like a blow--"Was I doing wisely, manfully? was
I doing my duty to myself, or carrying out faithfully the promises I
had made to Meade?"  Again in fancy I saw his mother and his other dear
ones in some quiet, rural, English home, such as he had described to
me, longing for news of him and his fortunes; perhaps suffering for the
want of the money he had promised them so surely, that money which was
now lying useless in the corner of the shanty.

Could I not do something even then? I asked myself.  Must six more
melancholy months drag their slow length along?  Must I wait for the
opening of the water in June?  Could I not take even a few pounds'
weight of gold, food, furs, and blankets on a sled, and somehow get
down to Dawson, where I knew that there were people, and where I could
but fancy there must be some means of communicating with the outer
world?

Such thoughts as these crowded through my brain.  I seemed suddenly to
awaken to my responsibilities.

I knew it was but a hundred miles at most to Dawson City; so surely
Patch and I could manage to do that--and as anything was better than
going on as I had been of late, I determined to adventure.

I had not been twenty yards from the hut or tunnel for weeks; but then,
I at once waded out to the middle of the creek.  It was more than
wading.  The light snow was up to my waist, and I plainly saw that I
could not make headway through it, and that it would be utterly
impossible to draw a loaded sleigh over it.  The dryness of the
atmosphere and the intense cold had not allowed the snow to pack.

If I had snow-shoes, I wondered if I could manage to move about.  But I
had none.  However I had a few flour-barrel hoops of ash.  I bent a
couple somewhat into the shape of snow-shoes, roughly netted some cord
across them, and essayed to use them, and found they answered the
purpose sufficiently to encourage me first of all to make as good a
pair as possible.

I set eagerly to work.  I bound hoops together closely and braced them;
I cut bearskin into strips, well twisted them, laced them across and
across as well as I could remember they were laced in proper ones; I
used some wire we had to strengthen them; and in the course of some
days' close labour I had constructed a pair of very rough but, as I
soon proved, serviceable snow-shoes.

With these I practised walking.  Most days Patch and I took tramps up
and down the creek, and I very soon became dexterous in their use:
besides, I knew it was necessary for me to take plenty of exercise to
knit myself together, to train for my contemplated expedition.

Now I turned my attention to the construction of a sled--a sledge.  The
one I had begun I had not seen for weeks,--it was buried under many a
foot of snow.  I searched, and at last dug it out; it was, I could see,
unsuitable.  I realised that I must make a sort of toboggan--something
to lie flat upon the snow, that would not cut into it as sled-runners
would.

No wood suitable for this purpose grew about there.  I passed many
hours in the bright moonlight, searching the immediate neighbourhood;
but they were all rough trees, and would not answer.  I was perplexed,
puzzled, till I thought of the sluice-boxes, and on one of them I set
to work, and with the few tools I had I managed to make what I felt
sure would do.  But every day or night Patch and I took marches up and
down the creek; sometimes these trips extended for miles.

I knew too that I must carry with me some sort of arrangement for
sleeping in, and contrive a portable shelter, as I had torn up the
little tent for bandages for Meade.  The former--the sleeping-bag--I
made of what remained of the bear-skins, to which I joined deer-skins,
and I lined it with fox, silver-grey and black, of which I had quite a
number.  The tent I made up of what remained, with some blankets and
such materials.  I had already contrived additional warm clothing of
fur and blankets, with a hood or capote.

With all this business the days passed quickly and, may I say,
hopefully.

Just then a great need assailed me.  I had run out of lamp oil, and the
candles had long since been used up.  I tried to work by firelight, but
that was very difficult.  Then I bethought me of the lumps of bear fat
hanging in the trees, and I brought some in, and with an empty meat tin
and a piece of rag I made a very successful lamp, and that difficulty
was surmounted.

My sled, or toboggan, was ready.  My snow-shoes answered well.  I had
made alterations and improvements in them as I had gained experience,
and I was now able to get about on them with speed and comfort.

It was towards the end of January, according to my calculations, and I
began to reckon eagerly of making a start.

The wretchedness, the inexpressible loneliness of this time, was really
awful.  At times I was half beside myself with horror, and I suppose I
acted like a half-crazed being often.  I used to talk to Patch, to
address him as if he were a human being, and the dear old dog would put
his head on one side, prick up his ears and listen to me, and I do
believe he tried his best to understand what I said to him.  What I
should have done without that dear old fellow I cannot imagine.

One day--or night, was it?--Patch and I were up the creek some miles.
I had my gun with me, for I had the day before noticed traces of what I
thought were wolves, and I did not care to be confronted with them
unprepared.

I was standing in an open space, clear of trees, on the surface of the
frozen stream indeed, when I was more than usually struck with the
sublime, the awful spectacle which the heavens exhibited.

These magnificent displays of the aurora borealis always affected me;
but this night they were particularly grand, and I stood some time, as
there was not a breath of wind stirring, admiring them, and wondering.

Streamers, tongues of rose-tinted lurid fire, slowly crept up from the
mysterious north.  Sometimes they stopped, hesitated, then darting on
again, covered the entire heavens.  Often they resembled huge flames of
crimson fire; they flickered and seemed often to be enshrouded in
dense, yet transparent, smoke.  Frequently they whirled and twirled as
if they had been spindles.

Now these appearances were here, now there.  They never remained
stationary; the whole firmament was in motion always.

The snow and all the earth and trees were blood-coloured, my breath and
the dog's was red too, and awful.  There was a certain feeling of
suffocation in the atmosphere, or so I imagined.  The cold was
indescribable; inhaling felt like drawing into one's throat the fumes
of cayenne pepper.  My heart beat violently, I breathed in gasps, and I
knew that if a wind arose I should be shrivelled up as feathers would
be in a fire.

But I also knew that Providence had decreed that when cold has become
so intense, as it was then, wind shall not blow; therefore, I dismissed
this dread.

At times the heavens were suffused with deepest crimson, then bars of
glowing scarlet would undulate across them; or it would be checkered
with different tints of orange purple and deep green.

And suddenly all these colours vanished, and the sky was covered with
what looked like luminous clouds, through which moved shapes of wavy
light, forms which could be likened to angels or spirits.  They arose
from the northern horizon, climbed slowly to the zenith, then with a
burst of brilliance they slipped out of sight.  It seemed to me that
hundreds, thousands of them were up there moving, twining, turning
amongst themselves, like sentient beings, through all the vast space
above me.

These forms, wrapped in robes of diaphanous, tremulous light, sometimes
appeared as if they were about to leave the sky and wrap me about in
fleecy raiment, and I caught myself imagining that they would carry me
away beyond those snow-clad mountains to the north, to the spot which
all men seek, but which none have yet reached.  I was spellbound,
dazzled by this sublime exhibition of Almighty power.  I was not
afraid--not really; I was awestruck, solemnised.

And as this wonderful white light poured over the pine-clad hills and
flashed on the ice-clad mountains, and the nearer trees were fringed
with silvery glow, and as I watched all this, entranced, I perceived
that this splendour was by degrees dying from the sky.  The brilliant
lights were fading slowly, and in their place the full moon wheeled up,
the stars became visible, and it was an ordinary moonlight scene; but
so bright, so brilliant, that for a while I was unable to decide which
was the more wonderful display, this calm and peaceful scene, or that
which had but now faded from the heavens leaving no trace behind.

I had not stirred for quite half-an-hour, and Patch had stood by me,
motionless, all the time.  Strangely--or so it was to me--he did not
appear to have noticed any of these lights and sights.  He was
perfectly impassive.

I had thought during the height of this spectacle that I heard
cracklings and other noises like electric discharges; but now that all
was motionless about me and no aurora visible, I still heard these
sounds, and decided that they were caused by the intense frost
splitting trees and splintering their bark and branches.

I was about to turn towards home--home! fancy speaking of that dreadful
place I stayed in as home!--when I heard a sound far to the east,
beyond some hills, which struck me as most strange.  It was exactly
like the discharge of a double-barrelled gun.

I noticed that Patch pricked up his ears at it, and looked suddenly
alert.

I listened intently for some minutes, then I heard that sound again!

It was the frost at work, I reckoned, and yet there was something about
the report that excited me.  I waited, listening for some time, but as
I did not hear the sound again, Patch and I wandered back to fire and
food.

However, these peculiar sounds frequently recurred to me.  There was a
strange persistency in my thoughts about them.  I wondered if it was
possible that some people were stopping over the hills, or could it be
merely the snapping of the frost.  I concluded that this latter was the
solution, and fell asleep believing so.



CHAPTER VII.

The following day--I call it day, because my watch indicated eight in
the morning--I went to work, determined to lose no time in finishing
all I had to do before starting.  There was a collar and traces to make
for Patch, and a few other things to complete.  I stuck to this
employment till evening, when it blew hard, snow fell in flurries, and
it was again a blizzard.  This lasted for two entire days.

Every few minutes during this time my thoughts reverted to that sound
which had attracted me up the creek.  I could not get rid of the notion
that some people might be there.  I tried to look the matter squarely
in the face, endeavouring to convince myself that even if it were so,
it was of no consequence to me.

I was going down stream; I was ready to leave; in a couple more days,
if the weather settled, I should be off, and would, I trusted and
believed, quickly arrive at where people dwelt.  I knew the way.  I
could not miss the way.  How much better for me this was than setting
out on an indefinite hunt into a region still farther from the haunts
of men.

Thus I reasoned, thus I endeavoured to pacify my thoughts, but again
and again there came over my spirit the fancy that there might be some
one, not so many miles off, who was as much in need of companionship,
who was just as lonely as I was.  I cannot explain why I felt thus.  I
had merely heard, repeated twice, two cracks that sounded like
gunshots, that was all, whilst the woods and the ice on which I had
stood were full of similar noises.

It was, I suppose, the great desire, the mighty longing that I had for
the company of a fellow-being that thus agitated me.

This seemed to me to be the greatest pain I suffered; it was indeed my
chief longing to meet a human being--white, black, or red.  Just then I
believe I should have hailed enthusiastically the poorest specimen of
an Indian, the meanest white man in all the country.

Meade had only been gone about eleven weeks, it is true, although it
appeared to me that I had been eleven years alone.

On the third evening, which was intensely, indescribably cold, but calm
and clear, with brilliant moonlight--stimulated by these thoughts and
anxious for action, I started off with my good dog, determined, if
possible, to satisfy my longing.  I meant, if necessary, to go farther
up the creek than I had yet been, up a branch of it which appeared to
trend in the direction in which I had been attracted by the peculiar
sounds.

I put half a loaf of bread into my bag, some meat, a lump of chocolate,
and a pot to boil water in.  For a wonder I did this--I rarely took any
food with me, but this time it occurred to me as possible that I might
have to be out some time--and, as you will learn, it was indeed
providential that I did.

Patch and I marched off along the wide avenue which our stream formed
through the scrubby firs and Jack pines which grew closely along its
margins.  We halted first at the place where we had stopped previously,
and listened again.

There were the frost-sounds frequent enough, but nothing more.  We
halted there some little time; Patch was not interested, he sat beside
me listless.  Then we trudged on a piece farther up the arm, which
pointed, as nearly as I could guess, south-west, and this was towards
where I thought that I had heard the shots.  Here the stream had spread
out some width, there was a wide expanse of unruffled snow, and the
sounds made by the frost were nearly inaudible.

We waited there again, and to my surprise and amusement Patch became
quite animated.  He stood beside me, gazing solemnly ahead, with his
tail waving slowly, his ears pricked up.  He seemed to be listening, as
I was, very intently.  We stood some minutes thus.  I was very cold,
but I spoke cheerily to Patch.

He paid no attention to me, just gazed wistfully before him.  Yet no
sound like a gunshot broke the silence.

I had become impatient; with my mittened hand I patted my companion's
head, saying something to him about the futility of this--that it was
all hallucination, imagination--at which he looked at me for a moment
gravely, then pointed his nose upstream once more, and with his ears
erect listened again.

But I could not stand still any longer.  I spoke to Patch about it.  He
paid no attention, at which I turned, meaning to retrace my steps.

I saw he was unwilling to go with me; indeed he sat down in the snow
and pointed his nose persistently up the creek, at which it occurred to
me we might just as well go on a little farther, as I knew we could not
lose ourselves, and I knew, alas! that there was no one "at home" to be
troubled about our absence, so I turned again, crying, "Come, my lad!
come on, then!"

At this the good old dog began to wag his tail, to jump and caper
around me, barking with delight.  I had not seen him so excited for
weeks, not even when he thought he had a fox cornered, or a rabbit
entangled in a snow-drift.

Often he stood still suddenly, as if he had heard something deeply
interesting, and always after these intermissions he went ahead with
greater demonstrations of pleasure and excitement, which caused me to
become more agitated: I wondered what his meaning was.

After a while, when we were standing side by side, attentive, suddenly
the stillness, which was oppressive, was broken by two shots!

No doubt of it this time, they were shots! and not so very far away.

Patch looked at me delighted.  I am sure he was.  Instinctively I took
him by the collar, for I thought he might in his transports rush off
and get into mischief.

However, a very few minutes after the sound of the shots had ceased to
echo amongst the hills, six cracks rang through the stillness.  It was
a revolver that had been fired, that was sure!

I loosed the dog then, who rushed off in the direction of the sound,
whilst I floundered after him, calling as I ran, "Forward, good dog!
Forward!"

We must have gone half a mile before we stopped again to listen.  Patch
had been running ahead barking, then returning to me, showing his
eagerness, his delight, urging me with all his powers to hurry on.

But I was out of breath.  I stood still, and then I heard a double shot
fired once more, and six revolver shots immediately after, and they
were much nearer than the last!

There was no mistake about it then.  There were other human beings in
that awful wilderness, there were more folk suffering--perhaps as I
was--for I could not help regarding these reports as signals, perhaps
signals of distress.

I thought it well now to make a response.  I raised my gun, let fly
both barrels, then I drew my revolver from its case and discharged, at
regular intervals, all six cartridges, saying, as I did so, "We'll try
what that will do, Patch."

Very little time elapsed before I had my answer.  The signal was
repeated.

It may be imagined what I felt.  The knowledge that there was really
some person there was pleasing; it was also extremely agitating.  I
rejoiced that I should soon greet a fellow-creature; that I was not
alone in that vast region, in that wilderness of snow and ice.  This
knowledge was quite overpowering--for a few seconds I could neither
speak nor move.

Quickly, however, recovering some composure, I hurried on after Patch,
who was rushing ahead and barking vehemently.

Those shots had seemingly been fired on the far side of a low bare
hill, which I hurried up, cheering on the dog, making my way with all
the speed I could to the summit of the ridge.  Fortunately I had the
presence of mind to note the course I must take to return to our creek.

This hill was steeper than it looked to be; it took me some time to
mount it, and when at last I stood upon its top I saw no sign of life,
nothing but the vast snow-fields, sprinkled here and there with black
pines.

Here I fired again, Patch all the time barking exuberantly, and I,
feeling sure that I was on the point of some wonderful discovery, felt
very strange.

As I stood panting with the exertion of my climb through that chill dry
air, I wondered what I could possibly expect to find in those terrific
wilds--rough miners, possibly Indians, more likely some one as
unfortunate as myself, that was all.

However, the response to my signal was not delayed; down in the valley
below there was what appeared to be a door thrown open.  A flood of
light shone forth, and in the glare of it there stood a figure, whether
man or woman, friend or foe, I did not stay to consider--I just bowed
my head in thankfulness.  This person discharged a double-barrelled
gun, then, running out, brandished a blazing firebrand to attract
attention evidently, at which I started forward.

I soon had to stop, out of breath, and then I heard the outcry of a
human being, and what was most astonishing, it seemed to be the voice
of a woman in distress.

Patch had already disappeared.  I hastened after him, but had to halt
again: the declivity was very steep, the way was encumbered with fallen
timber and scrub, it was difficult to descend; so what with the thin
cold air and my hurry, I made slow progress, and had to rest frequently.

At one of these rests I saw against the light of the open door my dog
crouched at the feet of the person there, who was stooping to caress
him.

I hurried on again, and soon could understand what the woman cried; it
was, "Help! oh, help!  White man or Indian, come and help us!"

I shouted in reply--the distance was very short between us now--"I'm
English!  You may trust me!  I'll come to you as speedily as possible!"

And, as I began to flounder on again, I heard her exclaim most eagerly,
"Thank God!  Thank God!"

It was not long after this before I reached her and the dog.  As I
approached she stood up and gazed at me.

She was so enveloped in rugs and clothing that it was impossible to
make out from her figure what she was; only two piercing eyes were
visible, intently fixed on me.  We stood thus, looking at each other
for several seconds, then she exclaimed, "Oh!  I'm so grateful that
you're an Englishman!  I'm sure you'll help me if you can."

Her voice thrilled me; I knew instinctively that she was a young woman;
moreover, her tone, her accent, assured me that she was no rough and
common one.  Was I in a dream?  I could not realise what had come to
pass; I merely said, "Most certainly, I'll help you; what is the
matter?"

Then she begged me to come inside the dwelling: I followed her, Patch
entering with us.  Shutting the door closely, and drawing a curtain
across it, she pointed to a rough stool, asked me to remove my
snow-shoes and be seated.

I glanced around; I was in a fair-sized log shanty, one end of which
appeared to be the fireplace, which, being piled up with blazing logs,
filled the low room with light and most welcome warmth.  There were two
nooks curtained off with coloured blankets.  Behind one of them my
conductress disappeared, but only for a few moments, when she appeared
again.  I was greatly embarrassed, for she had removed her wraps, and
stood before me a tall and graceful girl, who impressed me instantly
with the feeling that I was in the presence of a saint, for the glow
from the fire, shining on her fair hair, which was in disorder round
her head, formed a halo, an aureole.

[Illustration: "WHEN SHE APPEARED AGAIN I WAS GREATLY EMBARRASSED."]

Her face, indeed, was thin, drawn, and bore a most distressed
expression, but for all that my first glance showed me that it was a
beautiful, a supremely beautiful, girl in whose presence I stood.

When I had removed my capote and outer clothing, she glanced at me, and
I noticed she gave a sigh of relief when she saw that I was a young
man--rough, unkempt, and anything but clean, certainly--but not a
ruffianly bushman, as she no doubt had feared I would prove to be; then
sitting down by her fire, I asked, "Now, what can I do to help you?
What is wrong?"

She looked at me very sorrowfully, tears filled her eyes, she sobbed,
she strove to reply to me; it took same time for her to attain the
power of speech, whilst I regarded her with extreme interest and
sympathy.  At length she murmured, "I am not alone here--my father is
lying in there," and she pointed to the other curtained place.  "He is
lying there very ill--dying, I'm afraid; it is for him that I want
help."

I told her that I was greatly grieved for her, but that, unfortunately,
I knew little or nothing about illness.  I asked if there were no
others camped about there--were they entirely alone?

She assured me that, so far as they knew, there was no human being
within a hundred miles of them, and that the great trouble was, they
had no food,--that they were actually starving!

"Do you mean," I asked, horrified, "that you really have nothing here
to eat?  How long have you been like this?"

She told me that for weeks they had had nothing but salmon and a little
tea; no bread, no meat--nothing but what she had mentioned.  "And for a
sick man," she went on, "what are they?  I have tried to cook this fish
in various ways, to get him to eat, but it is useless; he has had
nothing but tea for many days--he's dying of starvation!"

"And you," I said; "how have you managed?  Have you had nothing but
salmon?"

She replied reluctantly, "Oh, I've done well enough.  I can eat the
fish, and have done so all the time; but now, alas! that too is
consumed!  We are just perishing for want of food--it is dreadful.
What am I to do?  Can you help us?"

I was unbuckling my bag now.  "Come," said I; "cheer up, then.  If that
is all that's wrong, I can soon make it right;" and when I put the
piece of bread and meat upon the rough table, and unfolded the cake of
chocolate, her eyes dilated with eagerness.  She glared at the
provisions as a half-starved dog would do, which completely upset my
equanimity.

"My dear lady!" I exclaimed, "I have plenty.  By God's good providence
I put these things into my bag when I started.  Why, I don't know, but
there they are; pray eat, and let me assure you that I have ample
provisions; eat, and then we'll talk further about what is to be done."

She took the chocolate and scraped some into a tin can, saying, "Ah!
it's not myself I care so much about, it's my poor father: with this
and with this bread he'll recover, I trust--it will save his life,
please God!  And oh! I bless and thank Him for this, and you for coming
to our aid."

Then she took it behind the other curtain, and I heard her endeavouring
to awaken her father, who appeared to be in a kind of swoon, out of
which she was unable to arouse him.

After a while she called me in, and there on a rough couch he lay,
quite insensible.  He was a handsome, grey-bearded man, having an air
of refinement I could see, although he was now so terribly thin and
emaciated, with face and hands so white and bloodless, that he was a
pitiful sight.

His daughter had contrived to raise him on a heap of clothes used as
pillows.  I saw he breathed, but beyond that he looked to be already
dead.

She looked up as I entered, perplexed and alarmed.  "I cannot make him
understand!" she cried, and with a gasp she fell prone upon his bed
herself, and I suppose she fainted.

I was bewildered now; it looked as if they were both in a very serious
state, and I neither knew which to attend to first, or what to do for
either.

I first endeavoured to bring him to consciousness, then I begged his
daughter to try to rouse herself; but for some minutes I called to both
in vain, and I thought they were dead.

There I was, completely at a loss,--I could do nothing but stare at
them.  Was this another horror added to what had occurred to me
already?  I asked myself.  Had I found companions in my solitude only
to see them die before my eyes?  What could I do?

At length the girl stirred, gave a heart-rending sigh or two, and
turning, saw me.  I believe she did not at once understand what I was
doing there; but I spoke gently to her, saying, "I think you are as
nearly famished as your father; let me persuade you to leave him a
while; drink some of this stuff yourself, eat some bread and meat.  I
hope it is only want of sustenance that affects you.  Do as I ask, and
I will stay here and try to bring him to his senses, and to take some
food."

She appeared willing, but unable to move.  I offered her my hand; she
took it, and I helped her into the outer room.  When I saw that she was
trying to take some food I left her.

I had much difficulty in dealing with her father, I tried in many ways;
but at last I forced some chocolate into his mouth with a spoon.  He
swallowed it, and after a little he too revived; intelligence came to
him.  He opened his eyes, gazed wonderingly at me, and asked faintly,
"Who are you?  Where do you come from?  Where is May?"

She was by his side instantly.  "Father! father, dear!" she cried, "we
are saved; this good man has found us.  He has plenty of food, and he
will help us."

At which he, looking alive at last to the state of affairs, muttered,
"Food, did you say, May--food?  Ah! there's plenty to pay for it; give
the man gold, any amount of it, for food--that is worth more than gold
to us, my love!"

"Hush--hush!" she whispered to him, "this is a friend; I know he is a
friend.  Say nothing about gold!"

But he would not be suppressed.  He was taking spoonful after spoonful
of the chocolate now, and munching a piece of bread, and between the
mouthfuls he said to her, "It is delicious, darling.  I am better
already; it is only food I needed, you see?  Get more, dear girl--get
plenty of it; pay this man what he asks for it, only get us food."

I spoke up then.  "Don't trouble, sir," I said, "I have plenty not so
very far from here, plenty of gold too; don't trouble about that, only
eat all you can, and get up your strength for your daughter's sake--she
needs food as much as you do.  What I have fortunately brought with me
will sustain you for a few hours whilst I go for more."

"But where do you live? how did you find us?" he asked, looking at me
fiercely with dark, brilliant, hungry eyes.  "To think what we have
suffered, May, and there was food close to us."

Perceiving that it was useless to discuss this with him, and seeing
that he was taking food and gradually coming to himself, I thought it
as well to leave him.

The girl soon followed, and we drew stools near the fire, where Patch
had been all along stretched out luxuriously.

He came up at once and laid his head upon her lap, showing very plainly
that he approved of her.

As for me, I was in a position hard to describe.  I who had been for
many months away from all refined female society, and for some time
past had been utterly alone, a dog my sole companion, now sat beside a
lovely girl in dire distress, a girl who was without doubt a lady.  I
was sure of that, and was shy accordingly.

Her dress was serge, it was worn and soiled and shabby, a shawl was
round her shoulders, a fox's pelt was round her neck, and she wore
heavy, clumsy mocassins, the beadwork and decorations torn and
tarnished.  Her hands were small and shapely, but they were cut and
bruised, wretchedly discoloured and black with bad usage and neglect.
Her hair was in spite of all lovely, although it was touselled and
dishevelled, looking as if a comb had not been used to it for many a
day.

This girl was very fair, her hair was golden, her eyes were beautifully
blue, she was tall, and though then borne down with toil and trouble, I
could not help remarking that when in health and happiness she would be
a rare specimen of a lovely English girl, than whom not one on earth is
handsomer.

Now here she was, away back in the Yukon territory, surely the most
inhospitable, the most unsuitable, for a refined woman, in the wide,
wide world, many miles from all her fellow-creatures, practically alone
and starving, with a dying father, and not much hope of rescue.  It was
an awful situation, hard enough to describe, impossible to realise.

And here was I, a young fellow with precious little experience of
civilised life, for I had left England when little more than a lad.  I
was diffident, too, with ladies, yet here I was, thrown into her
company, and, as it seemed, looked at by her as her saviour and her
hope!

I saw all I have described, thought all I have said, in a moment, and I
considered at the same time what I was and what this fair lady must
think of me!  I remembered my dress, my dreadfully dirty dress.  My
face was black with soot and grease; I knew my hands were.

You may suppose that in that country, where for eight months of the
twelve every drop of water had to be obtained with difficulty by
melting ice or snow, that most ideas of cleanliness have to be given
up.  Yukon miners, as a rule, do not bother much with soap in the long
dark winter.

We two, seated by the fire, were silent for a while.  I knew well that
I had a serious task before me, and the sooner I started to it the
better it would be, and the weather being then settled, I ought to make
use of it.  Supposing another blizzard should arise, then moving about
outside would not be practicable, it would mean death to all of us.

I felt a difficulty in questioning this girl, and yet I was sure I
ought to know more about her, their position then, what they most
needed, and in what way I had better move.

She sat silently gazing into the fierce fire.  There were several large
sticks of firewood ready to pile on, and a couple of huge knotty logs,
which it would take a strong man some trouble to get there.  I noticed
these and asked her about them, saying that she and her father I
supposed had not been very long alone, or else her father had been but
a short time laid by, as I saw they had a good supply of fuel.

She smiled sadly.  "That is the last of it," she said, "and I'm afraid
I'm not strong enough to chop more just yet--perhaps that'll last till
I feel better."

"You chopped that!  You dragged all that inside!" I exclaimed,
astonished.  "Why, what are you?  You don't look as if you could do
such work.  Is it really true?"

She assured me that it was--that she and her father had been alone
there, entirely alone, since the end of the previous September; that he
was ill then, and that was the reason that they did not go out with the
others of their party when they left.  I believe she wished to tell me
all about it then, but I knew that time was precious, so contrived to
lead her into speaking of her father's illness and his most pressing
needs.  I told her where I was camped, what I possessed, and made her
tell me what I had better bring.  I explained that I had arranged to
start for Dawson, had all preparations made, so that all I would have
to do would be to load my sleigh with provisions and necessaries and
come up to them instead of going down stream to the Yukon--that I
should be some hours on the journey, and that soon after I returned I
trusted to see a very great improvement in her health and her father's.

"Why," said she, almost gaily, "I'm better already.  Can't you see I
am? and so is poor father.  Come and see him before you leave."

I did so.  He was sleeping peacefully, and really already looked
improved.

When I told her all that I possessed, she was quite overcome with
excitement.  Would I bring some of it?  Should I be robbing myself?
Would not I be neglecting my own affairs by devoting time to them? and
many such questions she put to me.

I begged her not to trouble about me--that when I returned I would
explain all, and she would then understand; but as it was all-important
to get what was wanted without delay, I must start at once.

Tears filled her eyes as she thanked me, and called down blessings on
me, at which I laughed, asking her if she had met with strangers in
distress would she pass them by unhelped?  She said "No, she could
not."  "Well, then," I proceeded, "neither can I, so say no more, dear
lady.  I'm going to help you and your father out of this dreadful
strait."

Before I left I chopped a heap of firewood and brought it in, for which
she was very grateful.  Then whistling Patch, I prepared to start.
"Oh! leave me Patch," she begged; "the dear dog will be such company."

I assured her I would willingly do so if I dared, but that Patch had
his work to do; he was a Huskie, trained to draw a sledge; without his
help I could not bring much, so it was necessary that he should come
with me.

She held out her hand to me, saying with a smile, "It's a very dirty
one, but it's the best one I have to offer."

I clasped it gladly, shook it warmly, as I replied, "It's not half as
bad and black as mine, but what can we expect in this awful climate,
this terrible region!"

"Ah! what indeed," said she.

When I had gone fifty yards from the hut I looked back.  She stood
framed in the doorway against the light.  I called to her "Go inside.
Stay there till I return.  I'll not be long; keep up your heart and
your father's.  All will now be well."  Then an idea struck me, and I
cried, "But tell me, what is your father's name and yours!  Mine is
Herbert Singleton, of Blumfield, Bedfordshire."

She answered loudly, but in tones I never will forget, "My father is
William Bell of Hawkenhurst in Kent, and I am Mary Bell--but they
always call me May!"

Then I shouted cheerily, "Farewell, God bless you!" and calling again
to Patch, who was quite reluctant to leave her, I was off.



CHAPTER VIII.

Through the keen air I hurried.  It was light enough.  The aurora was
brilliant.  Whether day or night I did not know, or care.

I was enraptured.  I seemed to be walking on air.  The rough
hill-sides, the ice-clad rocks, I passed over with the agility of a
fawn.  I had companions, my loneliness was ended!

And what company had I found?  A girl who had instantly affected me in
a manner I had never before experienced.

Naturally, after long absence from female society, a man is easily
attracted by almost any member of the fair sex.  I quite understood
this.  But I had never been enthusiastic in my admiration of women.
Indeed I had been, whether from diffidence or constitution I cannot
say, rather averse to their society, and regarded those of my friends
who devoted themselves to them as a bit weak.

I knew this, and yet I felt so elated at meeting this girl so
unexpectedly that I forgot all my former notions, and was so joyful, in
spite of recent occurrences and our terrible surroundings, that I went
on my way gleefully.  The awful cold and my loneliness were clean
forgotten, the long tramp on snowshoes was as nothing, so, almost
before I knew it, I was back at the hut.

Everything that could freeze was frozen, indoors and out.  I built a
huge fire, I cooked a meal for myself and my dog, and I felt so bright
and so exhilarated that I ate as I had not eaten for a long time.  I
rejoiced in my appetite, my vigour, and health, and thanked Almighty
God for His goodness, and not the least for His mercifully causing
us--Meade and me--to economise our food as we had, for now I could
appreciate the value of it, as, of course, I had not hesitated, nay, I
was eager, to share it with the Bells.

To think of that sweet girl in want of food was so distressing, that I
would fain have given her all that I possessed and starved myself,
rather than that she should suffer.

Sitting by my fire resting, I smoked and dreamed--waking dreams--about
my new friends.  I thought lightly of Mr Bell's illness.  I believed it
was merely want of sustenance, as it was with his daughter May.  I
thought of her as May, which was a lovely name.  I considered, I
wondered who they were, what was their history, how they came to be up
there in that awful predicament, in that dreadful country.

Mr Bell had spoken of gold as if they had plenty; I knew what I had,
and this led me to dreaming of what might be.  I pictured May in
England, myself with such a woman as she appeared to be as my wife.  I
thought about all that we could enjoy in England, the comforts and
luxuries that money would obtain there for us, and I fell asleep
dreaming of such things, and slept until Patch roused me.  He had
become impatient at my long nap.

I had slept some hours.  I was pleased, knowing the task I had before
me of hauling a heavy load to the Bells', and then returning without
sleep or rest.  I was not complaining--far, very far from that--I was
indeed rejoiced about it.  But I was wise enough to remember that I
must go sensibly to work--that as their very lives depended on me and
what I had, I must run no risk of breaking down or failing.

There was a quantity of food, principally canned meats and vegetables,
in the cache which Meade and I built up the trees.  I packed the
toboggan with a selection, and with a sack of flour, some sugar,
coffee, a few bottles of bovril, our only bottle of whisky, and all I
could think of suitable for an invalid.  I heaped on joints of venison,
bear meat, and a few frozen birds I had left.  I covered this with the
remnant of the tent, lashed all securely, harnessed Patch, and started
up the creek.

This was really my first experience of hauling a laden sledge.  Patch
was out of practice too, so that for a while we did not get on
pleasantly.

The toboggan answered well.  It sank very little, having a wide base,
but the dry snow piled up before it.  It was, as they say, "collar
work" always.

I had Patch attached by a long trace at first, and I kept closer to the
sleigh.  He would try to go ahead rapidly.  It was surprising the power
of that dog, and the more I called to him to go slower the more he
hurried.  When I had at length forced a halt, I shortened his trace and
lengthened mine, so that I was leader.  Now he paid more attention to
me than his work.  If I slowed up or endeavoured to take it easy he
jumped on me, barking with delight.  No doubt he thought it good fun.

The cold did not appear to affect him in the slightest.  He was well
fed; but even in the real Arctic the half-starved Huskies pay no heed
to it.  They sleep contentedly in the snow, with the thermometer
marking 100 degrees of frost, as I have learned since I came out that
it frequently does on the Yukon.

I next fastened Patch's trace the same length as my own.  By this means
we got on better, for I could put my hand into his collar and guide him
effectually.  This answered usually very well, but when our traces
became entangled, it was no easy matter to extricate them in the
frightful cold.

The actual weight of the load did not trouble us as long as we kept on
the frozen creek, as it was usually level; and after a few hours Patch
was not nearly so full of life and impetuosity, and things went easier.

We camped for an hour when we were half way.  I made some tea; we had
found rather a snug corner amongst some thick pine bushes.

When we reached the hill we had to cross, we had as much as we could do
to pull the toboggan up the steep incline.  Patch worked well; he gave
me the idea that he knew we were nearing our destination, and was
delighted.

So, after many heavy tugs, we reached the top, when I called a halt;
but my companion was for dashing over it, and slithering down the other
side without delay.  By hanging on behind I stopped him, and addressed
him seriously, angrily, at which he looked into my face, then gazed in
the direction of the Bells' shanty, and let out a long-drawn howl.

Here I unlashed the gun and fired a couple of shots, a signal I had
agreed upon with May.

She had been listening surely, for the smoke from the discharge had
barely crept away ere the door flew open and I saw her wave a burning
stick in token that my signal was observed, at which Mr Patch began to
bark and howl melodiously: he fairly yelled with excitement, and I had
difficulty in restraining him from tearing down the hill.

By care and patience we got safely down, and drew our load to the
shanty.  Indeed we drew it inside, for a breeze had sprung up, and it
would have been a risk to handle anything in the open air.

It delighted me to see the pleasure with which my new friend examined
what I had brought.  "What! bovril!" she exclaimed, "and whisky!  Oh,
they will cure father! and sago, rice; and this lovely tinned fruit!
Why, what a stock of things you have; are you storekeeping?  I thought
you were a miner."

I assured her that I was, and nothing more, but that my partner had
been up the season before, had done well, and gained experience, so
that when we came in during the summer we had brought a large stock of
food--larger than was absolutely necessary--in case of accidents.  I
added that I was deeply thankful we had done so, as things had turned
out.  I begged her to use all she could, for her father's good, to say
nothing of her own; and to remember that there was plenty more where
this came from.

Her father was much better than when I first saw him, but he was still
ill and frail.  He welcomed me warmly, clasping my big rough hand in
his thin white ones, saying as he did so, "Welcome back.  I never can
thank you enough for all your goodness.  You have saved my daughter's
life, and I hope, too, I may recover and prove to you my gratitude."

I cut this matter short, begging him to use what I had been so pleased
to bring.

His daughter, being present, went over a list of the dainties, as she
called them, and was quite cheerful, which gladdened Mr Bell, and they
both spoke hopefully of the future.

It was not long before we two had a kettle boiling, food cooked, and
were enjoying what she assured me was the best meal she had eaten in
that region.  Bacon and beans, the staples with miners, had never been
satisfactory food to her father and herself.

Naturally it was a delight to me to be thus familiarly associated with
her.  During my absence she had tidied the shanty, and had also donned
a better dress--that is, a cleaner one--less worn and ragged.  She had
done something to her hair, and had tried to make her hands more
presentable.  Her beauty was, I suppose, enhanced by this, and to me it
seemed that if she was not so thin, and had a little more colour on her
cheeks, and could lose the sad look that seldom left her face, she
would be perfect.

As for me, I had done nothing to improve my dress or looks.  I did get
some snow melted at my place, and rubbed and scrubbed my hands; but I
could not say they were improved, though a portion of the grease and
blackness was gone.

We sat with her father for a while.  He was a smoker, but all his
tobacco was gone: he tried to join me, but could not manage it,
although he was decidedly better.  We propped him up, and he talked
with me, and then of course they wished to know how I came to be in
that part, and how I came across them, and about England; asked if I
knew the part they came from, and said a little about where my people
lived.  He appeared to know our name, having visited in the
neighbourhood, so that we got on well.  He was very feeble, spoke with
difficulty, and his daughter May, as he always called her, helped him
out, finished sentences for him, and described to me what she knew he
wished to tell me.  As for how I came to be in that neighbourhood, that
was easily explained.  I told of Meade's discovery the first time he
came into the Yukon; how he had returned this last summer, and had
brought me with him.  I told how fortunate we had been in getting gold,
and so forth, and generalised a good deal.  I said nothing about
Meade's death--I merely stated that he had left me, that I had been
alone for months, had become heartily tired of it, and had determined
to get to Dawson "somehow" with what I could haul out.  I was making
preparation for this when I heard the shots, which May afterwards told
me she fired every few hours for a week, hoping to attract some one;
but of late she had quite despaired.  They were certain they should
both die.  Indeed, as I knew, when the joyful sound of my gunshots, and
soon after the barking of the dog, roused hope in her, her father had
swooned away, and but for my wonderful advent, and what I had in my
bag, she believed he would not have rallied.

I told her my intention had been to remain at Dawson till spring, then
return to our claim, finish up there with men to help, and go home in
the autumn.

"So I suppose you'll be carrying this out directly?" May asked.  I
shall henceforth call her May, though really at that time I addressed
her as Miss Bell.

"Oh, not now.  No; there is no need.  I've given up the idea since I've
been so fortunate as to find you and your father.  You see, I was only
going to Dawson for the sake of some sort of company.  I have been so
terribly solitary; I have nothing to do there now.  I shall not be so
lonely if you'll allow me to come here sometimes."

"Why, surely," she laughed; "surely, we shall be happy enough to see
you, as often as you can come.  See what good you have done us; look at
my dear father.  I wish you could stay here altogether."

I thanked her, and wished I could; but added that as everything I
possessed was in our dug-out, which I described, it would hardly be
right to leave it entirely unprotected.

They assured me that I need have no anxiety on that score, that
robberies were never committed in that country, and that even if any
one came across my place it would be left untouched.

I could hardly credit this, but as they understood how Meade and I had
come in, and had met so few people, they explained, and declared that I
should be surprised at the good behaviour and honour amongst the
miners, who, whatever other evils they did, had a strict regard for
each other's property.  "Why," said Mr Bell, "I've known thousands of
pounds' worth of gold to lie unguarded, in view of all passers-by, and
it was never interfered with; that was in Alaska, on the American side,
where we know the laws are not respected as they are in Canada; and
here, under the British flag, we're as safe, oh, much safer, than in
England, so far as thieving goes!"

When May and I left him to sleep, we sat by the fire conversing.  It
was then I told her that I had something like 260 lb. weight of gold,
worth, I supposed, £10,000, buried in my dug-out; it would be a serious
matter if it were stolen--to others besides myself.

She whispered to me that they had also in this shanty an immense
quantity, more than I could imagine possible, adding, "When the others
went away they left our share with us, and father and I have got a lot
since.  He was not so ill then, he could help me.  After they went away
he and I worked, as I tell you, and our ground is very rich.  We picked
out as much as I can lift, and there is a dump of pay-dirt, which is
full of finer gold, to be washed in the spring.  But, oh dear! if
father is not better soon I shall despair."

I tried to encourage her.  I said I felt sure that it was only want of
proper food that had made him ill; now that there was plenty, he would
soon be all right.

She shook her head, saying, "Ah! you don't know.  It is not all famine;
he was very bad whilst yet we had food enough.  But I must not
despair."  She tried to speak cheerfully.  "Three days ago we were
hopeless, dying really; yet see how wonderfully, how mercifully we have
been rescued and provided for.  I will hope yet.  Please God, father
will recover, then all will be well!"

I said that was right.  I begged her to look at the bright side of
things, and I continued, "You spoke just now of helping your father to
mine--do you mean that you have actually worked?  Yes?  Not
underground, surely?"

Smiling, she told me she had not actually worked down a shaft at
tunnelling or driving, but that she had done about everything else.
They had been working in a mound beside the creek, had traced the gold
into it along bed-rock, much as Meade and I had.  This mound had gold
in it from the surface, under the nigger grass and moss; it was six to
ten feet thick, and of course always frozen as hard as marble.  They
lit fires before it, then removed the dirt thus thawed.  It was slow
work, consisting principally in cutting firewood and keeping the fires
going.  She had become quite expert with an axe, she assured me.  They
allowed these fires to burn half a day, then raked them away, and
generally found the ground was thawed a couple of feet in.

Often, she went on to explain to me, they found within a few inches of
the rock the gold as thick as plums in a Christmas pudding, and she
declared she knew there was an immense fortune in their claim.

I quite believed all this, for it was like our own experience.

When I looked at her I was not surprised at her ability to do labouring
work.  She was one of those well-built girls that one sometimes sees,
more often in Britain than anywhere, who, having from their childhood
been used to outdoor life, are physically able and as strong as men.

I could realise that when May was in good health her powers would be
fully up to gold-mining or any other work.  Withal there did not appear
to be the slightest sign of that masculine style which is so horrible
to see in women: she was soft spoken, eminently feminine, and one could
not doubt she was in all respects a lady.

She knew all about panning off and cradling, and even sluicing, and
could do them all.  I was of course curious to know how they came to be
where I found them, and how long they had been in Canada, and so forth;
but I was diffident, and I did not like to ask her.  I fancied they had
not been very long from home.

I had been several hours there.  I did not wish to leave, but thinking
I ought to, I went in to bid her father farewell, when they both begged
me to stay a while, and I did linger longer, for I really was in no
hurry.

We had much conversation, which was delightful to me after my long
silence.  I found they had no books; so when I told them of my
possessions they were envious, and charmed when I promised, next time I
came, to bring some with me.  I believe it was this prospect which made
them willing for me to go, as I pledged myself to return in a very few
days.

I left them with a heavy heart, with very great regret.

May asked me again to leave Patch with them; but when I told her that
she had her father to talk with, whilst I had only a dog for company,
she declared she was ashamed of having made so cruel a request.

My journey home was not a pleasant one.  It was very dark, the sky was
clouded, there was some wind and drifting snow.  It was not so cold,
however--it rarely is when the sky is overcast.  But for Patch's
sagacity, we might easily have gone astray.

So long as I kept my mind fixed on Mary Bell, remembered that I was not
now solitary, I did well; but when, tired, cold, and miserable, I
arrived at the hut so drear, so gloomy, I felt dreadful, and for a
while I could barely look about me undismayed.

However, being fatigued enough and hungry, and the big fire making me
drowsy, Patch and I were soon fed and fast, asleep, and forgetting our
troubles and joys.

The following days I passed far from pleasantly.  I sat moping by the
fire, only rousing for food or fuel.  I did not even think of working.

I could not go in to where I had left my poor friend's body to dig for
gold--it was desecration, I thought; so I just sat eating, smoking,
sleeping, and grumbling to myself, and longing for the time when I
considered it would be right to go to the Bells' again.

Certainly this was very simple of me.  I might have been sure they
would have been pleased enough to see me; but, as I have said before, I
was very diffident with ladies, and, I suppose, much more so since I
had lived that isolated life.

However, I could not dismiss May's personality from my mind.  I really
did not try to--it was a delight to think about her.  No matter what I
did, or on what train of thought I was, everything led me to that young
lady.  Her face was always before me, it had such a hold on my
imagination.  Of course I had heard or read about love, the attraction
between the sexes, and so forth, yet I never applied this knowledge to
myself.  I felt, even after the little I had seen of my sweet young
friend, that I could do anything for her, that I would fain secure her
continued companionship; yet, somehow, it never occurred to me to say
to myself, "Bertie, you're falling in love with her; have a care, my
lad."

This is the manner in which I sat mooning by my fire.

I had long since hunted out all our literature and packed it.  I went
through the remainder of our eatables, finding a few things that my new
friends had not received.  What more could I do to pass the weary time?

I could not start for four days at any rate, as the weather became
terrible--wind, snow, and continual darkness.  Not a star or ray of
light was visible when I went outside, as I very rarely did, for
necessaries only.  I can conceive nothing more dismal, nothing more
frightful, than this four days' gale.  It seemed to me the very forest
would be uprooted; the hill shook, inside which I lived.  Alone in that
awful turmoil was torment.  I feared that the whole aspect of the
country would be changed, that I should never find my friends again;
indeed I fancied it was more than probable that they and their frail
habitation must have been swept away.

To live outdoors in such weather, to travel through it, I knew was
impossible, and I wondered if any poor folk were journeying, and I
pictured their sufferings.  I little knew then that there were crowds
of people hurrying into this very part--for I was ignorant that the
news of these great discoveries of gold had already startled the world,
and that all the passes and trails were crowded with folk trying to get
in--and most of them what we call "tenderfeet," men, ay, and women too,
who had never known privations before, to whom the idea of sleeping out
of their comfortable beds had been till recently an event undreamed of.
What they must be suffering I could imagine, and what many are
suffering now, even during the winter of '98-99, who can tell? although
already much improvement has been made.

On the fifth day behold an entirely different state of matters.  The
wind had dropped; the absolute quietness was painful.  I peeped out:
the cold was intense, and all nature was deep imbedded in fresh snow.
The full moon was shilling brilliantly in the south, and the northern
heavens were sown thick with stars, and the sky was cloudless.

Believing that some days of quiet weather were assured, I made ready
for a start.

Our load this time was quite light, and we went off gleefully.  Patch
quite knew where we were going, and made no scruple about his happiness.

Decidedly I was glad to be off, but I had some very grave anxieties.  I
was impatient to know if my friends had weathered the gale.  Having cut
a large supply of fuel and carried it in before I left the last time, I
knew that May had no need to go outside, and so I thought if the shanty
had held together I might find all well.

We soon skimmed up the creek--my dog and I--and camped again in the
pine thicket for refreshment.  Here I shot two black foxes.  They had,
I suppose, scented the meat we had with us, for happening to look
behind me just before we stopped, I saw them in our track.  At first I
thought of slipping Patch after them; then I wondered if I left them
unnoticed whether they would draw nearer, and come within gunshot; but
I soon perceived that they were afraid, although they kept after us, so
I gave up hope of getting them.

When we camped we left the laden sleigh out in the open, thirty yards
away--I had forgotten the foxes.  Patch was in the shelter with me
eating; suddenly he stood up alert.  Fortunately I took him by the
collar instantly, and looking under the branches saw one of the black
beauties on the load, tearing at the cover to get at the meat, whilst
the other was rooting in the snow close by.

Commanding Patch by gesture to lie still, I raised my gun, and from the
rifle-barrel drove a ball through the head of one, and as the other
dashed away I bowled it over with buckshot, with which the second
barrel was charged.

I felt proud of this performance, for I had been talking to May about
black fox-skins, and had promised to get her some.  It was good to be
able to do it so quickly.

They were both very thin, mere skeletons, starving, which was why they
had acted as they did; but their fur was very beautiful, and I tied
them on the load with great content.

Arrived in due time at the hill-top, I fired the gun again, then very
shortly after we drew up at the door, entering with the sleigh as
before.

May met me with a radiant face--shaking my hands most heartily, hardly
giving me time to remove my mitts before she had me by the hand; and
long before I had unlashed my snow-shoes she was praying me to come
forward and see her father, who, she announced, was improving rapidly.

He really seemed to be.  She had rigged up a couch beside the fire, on
which he sat wrapped in a blanket, but looking, as I thought on first
seeing him, quite bright and cheerful.

The books and papers pleased them mightily; it delighted me to see them
so interested.

May looked ever so much better; she had a little colour in her face
now, and in spite of the very terrible storm, which had raged around
their unsheltered hut with still more force than it had around me, so
far as I could judge, and alarmed them greatly, they had certainly both
improved.  We talked incessantly.

I found Mr Bell an interesting man, full of information on many
subjects; his daughter was just like him in that respect.  He was about
sixty, and must have been, when in health, an able, stalwart man.

They begged me to smoke, and I having no objection, started my pipe,
which caused Mr Bell to try again, and this time he succeeded fairly
for a little.

I could, however, see pretty well that he was still very frail,
requiring great care, and I felt half afraid that the excitement of my
visit would harm him.

But what was I to do?  The shanty was but one room: I must either go
altogether, or stay; there was nothing else for it.  I put this to Miss
Bell, who said decidedly that I must stay, that she knew my presence
would do her father good, and he backed her up with much vigour, for
him.  The tears came to his eyes when he besought me to stay as long as
I possibly could.

What could I do, then, but accede to his wishes?  for indeed I did not
wish to go away--far, very far from it.

This shanty was perhaps twenty feet by twelve; the floor was clay.  The
only furniture besides the two beds behind the blanket curtains was a
very rough table of split wood, fastened on to four unbarked stakes
driven into the ground.  The seats were a couple of three-legged
stools, a block or two of wood, and an empty keg.  Of table furniture
there was nothing but some granite-ware cups and plates, some iron
spoons, and a few knives and steel-pronged forks.  Their cooking gear
was a frying-pan, a tin billy, black and battered, and an iron camp
oven.

I perceived they had no bread, only "flap-jacks," a species of griddle
cake cooked in the frying-pan.  I said something about this, which
caused May to say that she could not make bread.

"I'm a first-rate hand at it," said I; "let me make you some."

"It's hardly fair to set a visitor to cooking," she answered, with a
smile.

"Nonsense," I went on; "I'm a good all-round cook, really--I've had
plenty of experience during the last few years; let me show you what I
can do--I'd like to."

Blushing, she agreed, explaining that with a proper stove and the right
appliances she had managed when they were in a civilised country, but
here, she had to confess, she was a perfect failure.

I set to work, much to their amusement, and as I busied myself they
talked to me, and by degrees I got to understand how they came to be in
this terrible predicament.

I learned that their party originally consisted of four besides
themselves: they had come up the Yukon from St Michael's, had rested a
few days at Dawson, and had then continued up the Yukon, and by degrees
had crept up a branch river, always prospecting, and without much
success until they hit on this spot.  Here they had found gold
plentiful.  They all worked hard until winter was near, and it was time
to go out.

The four men were rough fellows, Americans, who had been mining in
Alaska on and off for years--they believed them to be perfectly honest.

They had got gold to about the value of £1000 each during the short
time they had been working, and were anxious to get out and go home to
the States that season, and return the following year.

May and her father were willing enough to depart with them, but when
the time arrived to start Mr Bell was attacked by an old complaint, a
species of fainting fit, which always laid him by for weeks; so for him
to undertake the terrible journey down their river to the Yukon, and
then down that river to Fort Cudahy, which they supposed was the only
way out, and where they hoped to catch the last steamer going down that
year, was impossible.

The men were in a measure sympathetic; they waited a few days, trying
to persuade my friends to risk the journey, but May would not agree.

Yet, if they did not go out then, they knew they would have to winter
there.  Provisions were low; there certainly was not enough to last
them all till spring.  Many and long were the discussions as to what
should be done.

These men being, as I have said, anxious to get out and home, arranged
this plan at last.  They would go, leaving with Mr Bell and his
daughter all the food they had; they would make their way to Dawson,
and then hire Indians or others to come up for them, bringing a good
boat, laden with ample food.  By that time it was hoped Mr Bell would
be able to take the journey.

This seemed to all such a sensible and practical plan that it was
agreed to, and the four Americans left.

It would take four weeks at least before this help could arrive.  It
would have to come before the rivers were frozen, or else a very
different mode of egress must be devised.  Sleighs and dogs are the
only means of winter travel there.

The men left early in October; the rescue party might be expected in
November.

That month arrived.  Mr Bell had recovered; he and May worked at their
claim, being very successful, but as the month went by, and no one
came, they were very despondent.  At the end of that month the river
was solid; no hope was left to them of getting out by boat.  When
December had half gone they felt they were abandoned, and their food
was short!  They ate sparingly; week after week passed; the snow came
and buried them; Mr Bell became feeble--ill; May had everything to do,
wood to cut, cooking to attend to, and her father to nurse.

Their provisions were by that time very short, even the frozen salmon
was nearly exhausted, and they had no means of obtaining another ounce
of anything to eat! and now it was February.

Three days before I reached them they had consumed everything but a
little tea, and were actually starving.

As this sad narrative was ended, I placed on the table what I had
cooked.  "Come, then," I exclaimed, "eat now; let us be thankful I
arrived in time.  No need for any more anxieties, but to get strong and
well, and away from this terrible region."



CHAPTER IX.

Whilst May and I ate, Mr Bell had some oxtail soup, which I had brought.

"How was it that those men did not keep their promise, and send you
provisions and help?" I asked him.

"Well," said he, "I believe I can understand.  They are not bad
fellows, really, but were most anxious to get home to the States.  Two
were married.  No doubt they called at Dawson, and made what they
thought a good arrangement; but they could not stop to see it carried
out.  Very likely the boat was just starting, and it would be their
last chance to get off; they could not delay.  No, I don't think they
neglected us willingly."

"Had you known them long?"

"We fell in with them at St Michael's last June, when we came up the
Yukon.  We did not come here to dig for gold?"

"Why! what on earth brought you then?  Storekeeping?  You puzzle me."

"Oh! no.  I'm a writer and an artist.  I came up for a Tacoma
newspaper--to send articles and sketches out."

I had noticed a few drawings fastened to the logs.  They had interested
me.  May had informed me they were her father's work, and this was the
explanation.

"But you haven't been able to keep up correspondence with
headquarters," I remarked.  "Have you sent anything to them?  Has
anything been published?"

"Ah! that I don't know," he replied.  "We sent some from Circle City
and a few sketches, but since that, nothing.  You see we soon
discovered there was the chance of making more money here at
gold-digging than by newspaper work, and ultimately we got up this
Stewart river."

"Stewart river!" I exclaimed, "what makes you call this river so?  This
is the Klondyke, or a branch of it."

"No! no!" declared Mr Bell, "I assure you it is a tributary of the
Stewart, here."

We had no map, no knowledge at all of the geography of the country.  We
only understood that the Yukon ran through it, having its sources in
the Rocky Mountains to the east, and ending in Behring Sea, in the
Arctic Ocean, to the north-west.  Into this river we believed all other
streams ran.  I assured him that Meade and I came down it from the
east, passing the mouth of the Stewart on the way to Dawson, where we
entered the Thronda or Klondyke, which we ascended for fifty miles or
so; then we came up a branch perhaps forty miles, and there we camped
and had stopped since.

Now, I had come farther up this same stream for ten or twelve miles,
and found them.  "Certainly," I said, "we must be on a branch of the
Klondyke."

Mr Bell was as sure that we were on the Stewart.  We could not settle
it.  I believed that it was, at most, one hundred miles from my dug-out
to Dawson, whilst he declared that from the shanty in which we were
then talking it was more than two hundred and fifty!  It was a puzzle
which we could not and did not clear up then.

After this digression the story of their adventures was continued.
They told me about the gold they obtained before and after their
companions left them, and of the arrangement which was made that they
should register the claim in Dawson on their way down, as they expected
to find there some proper authority, whether Canadian or American they
did not then know.  But I had been able to assure my friends that we
were in Canada, that all the Klondyke was in Canada; it was known to be
seventy miles at least from the international boundary.  This had
pleased them greatly, for they knew the name of William Ogilvy, the
Canadian Government Surveyor, who had been deputed to run the 141st
parallel of north longitude to settle this.

Their party being the discoverers of this rich spot, they expected to
receive large claims along the creek, and Mr Bell declared that he
believed they were all really rich.  "And yet," he went on, "with all
this gold, we should have starved to death but for God's mercy and you."

Then I recounted what Meade and I had done, adding that I supposed we
also were wealthy.

After this we talked about our doings in Canada before we came to this
far northern part.  I told them of my going first to a district back of
Peterborough, in Ontario, with the idea of settling.  It was near
Buckhorn Lake, very pretty and picturesque, with fine fishing and game,
plenty of deer, and so forth, but no place for farming; therefore I
came farther west, through Manitoba--which I did not exactly like--on
to Broadview, in Assiniboia.

This caused them to exclaim, "Why, that is where we went! how strange.
Who did you know there?"

I mentioned the Birds and Fields, the Scotts and Wallises, and I found
they were acquainted with them all.  We spoke of the peculiarities of
the settlers and the district, how promising all seemed to be at first.

By degrees I made out that Mr Bell had been at one time in very
comfortable circumstances in England.  If he had but been content all
might have been well, but his hobby was gardening and farming, and when
he married he went into it.  He had no experience, and did not possess
the gift of money-making, so, naturally, in a very few years he came to
grief.  May was their only child.

Having some artistic skill and literary abilities, he attempted to make
an income by their means.  It was all but a failure.  They dragged on a
precarious existence till May was fifteen years of age, when they had a
windfall, a legacy of £3000.

Next to farming in England, Mr Bell's favourite theme was emigration.
For years he had declared if they had only done that when they first
married they would have been wise and in due time wealthy, and now that
this bit of good fortune had come to them, nothing would do but they
must carry out his scheme.  Friends remonstrated, experienced relatives
tried to dissuade him.  It was useless.

May had received a good education, and had led an outdoor active life,
and her father's plan was that she should go with him to Canada,
leaving her mother at home in the little Kentish village where they had
lived for years.  There she was to remain until they two had made a new
home for her in the Great North-West.

Mrs Bell was not so extremely sanguine, yet having still, in spite of
all, unbounded belief in her husband's cleverness, she was by degrees
led to consider that this would be a wise step, and in the end agreed
to it.

From all I could make out then, and have learned since, Mr Bell had not
been either an extravagant or unsteady man.  He was indeed a great
favourite with every one, and regarded, as indeed he was, as an
exceedingly clever person.  He simply had not the faculty of
money-making, as I have already said.

May and her father emigrated then to Canada in 1892--he declaring, as
he parted sorrowfully from his loving wife, that in less than a year he
would return and take her out to a bright new home in that land of
promise, Manitoba.

May and her father went direct to a village on the Canadian Pacific
Railway, west of Winnipeg, called Carberry.  It was stated by the
railway and steamship advertisements to be situated on "The Beautiful
Plains," and that land was to be had for a mere song close to the
railroad.

On their arrival they found this was an exaggeration: no land could be
obtained except at great price, and although undoubtedly it was a
"plain" there, yet they failed to consider the dead level, most
uninteresting prairie as "beautiful," and only by going "away back"
many miles could they obtain a place within their means.

Then they moved on to Broadview, and liked the look of things there.
Really, it is not so good a part as that round Carberry, but there are
many clumps of wood, called bluffs, and many blue lakelets, sleughs
they call them; there is a more picturesque appearance to its
surroundings which no doubt caused them to prefer it.  At any rate, Mr
Bell at once bought a place, an improved farm, with a decent
frame-house upon it--decent, then, for those parts--and they were
charmed with everything.  It was in the fall when they took possession,
and the fall is certainly the most delightful time of year in that part
of the world.

At once they wrote home, quite elated, to May's mother, telling her
that in the early spring she was to join them, for that the
long-looked-for prosperity had come to them.

Yet before the snow had been swept from the prairie the following
spring all their enthusiasm had vanished!  What with the extreme
loneliness, the intense cold, and the dreadfully arduous work,
labouring work, which they had to do themselves or starve, they
concluded that it would never do to have Mrs Bell there.  The climate,
the labour, the isolation would never suit them or her, that was plain.

In the midst of this sad disillusionment Mr Bell had an offer for the
place and the stock.  He jumped at the chance, and the next time they
went still farther west, to a place called Banff, in the Rocky
Mountains.

They reached there early in the season, and with the enthusiasm with
which Mr Bell went at every new scheme, when they had been there only
three days he wrote to his wife a letter full of the beauty and the
glory of their surroundings; declaring that, at last--no mistake about
it this time--they had found what they were in search of.

He at once bought a piece of land with a little cottage thereon, and
proceeded to start a garden, feeling convinced, he said, that with his
knowledge of horticulture he could raise no end of vegetables and
fruit, which would sell for an amazing price at the great hotel and
amongst the crowd of wealthy visitors who came to that famous
health-resort.

There is no saying but this might have turned out well, although from
what I know myself of the climate up there I think it very doubtful;
but, anyway, this is what occurred.

During that summer they were only preparing their ground; there were
very few returns from it, scarcely any profits, but, as they said, when
the crops and fruit-trees they had sown and planted had come to bearing
the following year, all would wonder at their success.

In the meantime Mr Bell had made some sketches of the grand scenes
around Banff,--they were exhibited for sale at the hotel.  He also
wrote some graphic descriptions of the place; these were published in
newspapers in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and even in Toronto.

At the hotel Mr Bell and May met many of the visitors: there were many
Americans amongst them, who talked, as usual, very "big" of the chances
of making fame and money in their country; amongst them was the
proprietor of one of the leading Tacoma papers.  He was attracted by Mr
Bell's drawings and printed articles, and this resulted in his making
him what May and he considered a most excellent offer of employment.

They were to go still farther west, to this same Tacoma, on Puget
Sound, on the Pacific coast of the United States.

There they were to live; but he was to go about, up and down the
country, making drawings and writing, at what was considered very good
pay.

They were now quite sure they would be settled permanently there; Mrs
Bell was to come out the following spring, and all looked, and was,
bright and promising.

They sold out at Banff, and started afresh under the Star-spangled
Banner.

It will be gleaned from the foregoing that Mr Bell was a "rolling
stone."  The colonies are full of such.  They are common enough in
America especially.

Only a few months after they were settled in Tacoma news came of the
doings in Alaska: I allude to reports of the gold being got there, and
the impetus that the trade of the country was likely to receive.  There
was nothing yet sensational, but it caused Mr Bell to be commissioned
to take what they called "The Alaskan trip."

He did this successfully, returning in the autumn, enthusiastic about
the scenery and the future of that country.  He brought back many
drawings, notably one of Sitka, the capital, and others of the famous
Lynn Canal.

This so gratified his employers that they arranged he should take a
still more extended tour the following season.  He was to cross the
Gulf of Alaska to Dutch Harbour, on Unalaska Island, some 2000 miles
from Tacoma, thence 750 miles north to St Michael's in Behring Sea.

This place lies 80 miles north of the mouth of the Yukon river.  Here
he was to take a river steamer and proceed up the Yukon some 1600 miles
to the Canadian frontier.  He was to describe and picture all he saw.

The proprietors of the newspaper, in the open-handed manner of
successful Americans, proposed that he should take his daughter with
him, on what was considered to be a most delightful pleasure
excursion--which is exactly what it was, up to a certain point.

At St Michael's a number of miners joined their steamer with whom they
became acquainted.

Their talk was gold, gold--always gold.  Our travellers were deeply
interested in all they heard about it.  By-and-by the idea occurred to
them that it would be a grand thing for their paper if they accompanied
one of these parties, lived with them, helped them in their work, and
thus become able to write, from personal experience, about a Yukon
miner's life.

By the time they reached Circle City all was arranged; from there Mr
Bell sent back to Tacoma all he had done, and told them his intention
in his usual enthusiastic style.

They had joined with four of the least objectionable of their
fellow-voyagers.

At Fort Cudahy, which they did not then seem to know was in Canada,
they bought a boat and some food, and ascended the Yukon to Dawson, at
which, although merely a few shanties and a store or two, they were
able to purchase a full outfit of provisions and necessaries,
especially "Alaskan strawberries," that is, pork and beans.

They passed by the Klondyke with scorn, being informed by all that it
bore no gold--that it was just a famous salmon stream, no more.
Indeed, the meaning of its name, Thron duick--Thronda--Throndike--or,
as it has since been changed into, and seems likely to be for ever
called, Klondyke, is "Plenty of fish."

They travelled up the Yukon, sometimes rowing, at others poling or
towing against its swift current.  At every likely spot their
companions, experienced miners, prospected: they found gold everywhere,
but not in paying quantities.

May did not dislike the life, except the mosquito torture.  She had her
own tent, and the Americans were kind and attentive to her, as is
always their habit with ladies.  She had a banjo, she sang nicely, she
was an acquisition: they were proud of having so beautiful a damsel
with them.

This went on until early in July, when, near where the Stewart river
joins the Yukon, they met a party just come down that stream who were
all English, knew something of the Bells' people at home, which made
the meeting agreeable, and they camped together for a couple of days.

The English party owned they had found gold enough to satisfy them, and
showed samples.  It was coarse and nuggety.  This fired the ambition of
the four Yankees, who knew well that, until then, very little such gold
had been got: they also knew that this indicated plenty more where that
came from.  Naturally, they were keen to learn where the Englishmen had
found it.

But the Englishmen would not tell: they vaguely declared it was "up the
Stewart."

In vain our party endeavoured to get some more definite information;
they would only assure them that they believed every tributary of the
Stewart was rich.

May had attracted the attention of one of these men, a young fellow of
the better sort.  For the short time they were together they were very
friendly: he talked much of England, and what he was going to do when
he returned there.

May told him what she would do if she had made her pile as he had.  At
which he told her that she easily could make it, if she would follow
his instructions, and that if she would engage not to tell others he
would give her the route, and ended by making her promise that when she
had made all she wanted, and returned to Kent, she would let him know.

She laughingly gave her word.  So when they parted next day, he
whispered: "Up-stream, about fifty miles, the river forks.  Go up the
branch that trends north-west, follow that for less than twenty miles,
and you'll get gold enough."

All this time Mr Bell had been taking notes and making sketches for his
journal; but when these young Englishmen described their good fortune,
it excited him and caused him and May to desire to do as they had done,
so they arranged to join in with the four Americans, in work and
profit, sharing equally.  May was, you understand, an acquisition, and
could in many ways do as much as a man.  So now there were six in
company, all gold-diggers.

I did not hear many particulars of their journey up the Stewart, only
that they landed and tried for gold frequently, They usually got "a
show," principally of flour-gold, but nothing that looked like a pile
big enough for six.

When they had gone up fifty miles, as they reckoned, a very likely
looking branch went off to the south-east.  The practical men of the
party wanted to ascend it; but Mr Bell, knowing what May had heard,
strenuously opposed this.  Having some little knowledge of geology,
besides the gift of talking well, he made a plausible theory, and soon
got them to agree to try their luck up the north-west stream.

As they proceeded they found gold everywhere, and occasionally a coarse
speck which encouraged them.

One day they were camped beside a creek which joined the Stewart,
perhaps seventy miles from the Yukon.  The miners had gone off
prospecting.  May and her father scrambled up this creek: it was very
picturesque, and he wished to make a drawing.

Whilst he worked with his pencil, May, as usual, poked about the rocks
and bars.  She carried a tin dish always, with which she had learned
dexterously to wash and prospect.

All was quiet, except the murmur of water running over the stones, the
buzz of mosquitos, and the twitter of the humming-birds, who were
darting amongst the flowers which were plentiful along the margin of
the stream.

May having been silent for some minutes, suddenly came to her father,
pale, and looking strangely at him.

He was alarmed, thinking perhaps a snake had bitten her.  She pointed
eagerly, and did not speak.

Going in the direction she indicated, he came to her dish.  Then he,
too, was excited, for the bottom of it was covered with gold--and
coarse gold, too!

For some minutes they could neither of them do much more than stare
with amazement.

"Where, where did you get it?" he asked.

She showed him.  He emptied the gold into the crown of his hat, and,
bareheaded, scooped up another pan of gravel, which he washed, and
found to be as full of gold as hers was.

They were calmer now; but they looked at each other with immense
satisfaction, for they realised what they had discovered.

"May, my dear, we've got gold at last!" he exclaimed.  "Our fortune is
made; but, oh! if we could but let your dear mother know--eh?"

They were both in tears, quite overcome with emotion; but they were
very thankful.

Every one carried a little gold scales, so they soon weighed what they
had obtained.  There were over twenty ounces, worth £70 at least.

That there was plenty more ground like it they made sure by trying
several places around, and all gave splendid prospects.  In an hour or
two they had £200 worth!

Then they hurried back to camp, joyful and grateful.

May said she had much difficulty to calm her father, he was so exalted:
she greatly feared he would have a fainting fit again.

The others were still absent when they reached camp, but soon returned
disheartened: they had found nothing.

May began joking them, and asking if they had found stuff that would go
five dollars to the dish.

They dolefully replied, "No; nor any that would go one dollar, which
would pay--but five cent stuff was all that they could hit on."

"Two dollars!" she cried.  "Oh, that's nothing; that will not satisfy
me."  She laughed as she cried, "Fifty dollars to the pan is about my
figure!"

"Fifty dollars!" one of them replied with a sneer.  "I guess you'll not
get that round this yere region."

Then her father offered to wager that he could lead them to a spot
where they could get stuff as rich as she had said, within an hour.  He
said this in such a jovial way that they saw there was some deep
meaning to it.  And when Mr Bell nodded to May, and she produced the
tin and upset it into a dish, and they saw the shine of the gold, there
was a lively time.

It was late, but light enough; no one could sleep.  All hands rushed up
to the place, each washed a pan of dirt, and every one showed
gold--coarse gold, galore!

No need to describe how they cached their boat, and moved their camp to
the hillside near their find.  How they built the shanty for May and
her father, which we were then in, and hewed a couple of dug-outs for
themselves.

Then for two months they worked away with pick and shovel, dish and
sluice, almost day and night, till they had secured some eighteen
hundred ounces, which gave them about £1000 each!

Then they planned that all should go home together for the winter.
They purposed to secure their claim at the headquarters of the
Government in that region, which they supposed was Circle City, for
they believed then that all that country belonged to the United States.
They intended, however, to stop off at Dawson City to ascertain the
truth.

It was then that Mr Bell took sick, and the rest of the story
transpired which I have already recounted.

Nearly all of what I have so far related was told by May, only here and
there her father added a word of correction or explanation.

For the last half-hour he had not spoken.  May was sitting turned from
him, but I could see his face, and I noticed that he had closed his
eyes: I merely supposed that he was sleeping.

When May ended her story we were silent for a minute.  She turned to
address him; the moment her eyes fell on him, she exclaimed in alarm,
"He has fainted again!  He is dead!"

I was bewildered.  "No, no! not that!" was all I could say; "he is only
sleeping."

Kneeling beside him, she endeavoured to arouse him, but he did not stir.

Again she cried out that he was dead, and looked at me appealingly.

But I had hold of his wrist, I could feel his pulse; it was weak, but I
knew he was alive, and told her it was a recurrence of his old
complaint--bad enough, but not so bad as she supposed.

I brought whisky, forced some into his mouth, and before long we had
the satisfaction of seeing him revive.

May was now blaming herself for having allowed him to be agitated by
our conversation, at which I also felt guilty, for had not my visit
been the cause of it?

We carried her father to his bed; I sat beside him with his sorrowing
daughter for an hour.  He slowly came to himself and knew us, but she
declared that it would be many days before he would be anything like
right again.

It was terribly sad, I felt very deeply for her, yet I could do little
to help; and fancying I would be better out of the way, I began to make
preparations to depart.

When May saw my intention she was strongly opposed to it, and begged me
to remain, prayed me not to leave her there alone, and declared that if
I had any kind feeling I would not think of going.

I cannot remember all she said in her excitement; all I know is, that
it being against my wish to go, I promised to stay a while, and when
her father had rallied more I laid myself down beside the fire and soon
fell asleep, for I was very weary.

When I awoke I persuaded May to take some rest, whilst I sat by him,
and as she was fagged out and quite exhausted she agreed to do so.

Then when he and I were alone he began to talk to me in a low weak
voice.  In vain I begged him to lie quietly, to try and sleep, and get
well for his daughter's sake.  But it was useless, he would not keep
silent; he knew she was sleeping, and declared in an eager whisper that
this being perhaps the only chance that he would ever have to speak
privately to me, he must talk.  What could I do but listen?

"You know that I'm a dying man," were the first words he said.  I was
so overwhelmed with consternation at this, that I did not know what to
reply to him.

"Oh, no!" I said at last; "surely, surely not; think how much better
you are than you were a while ago.  Cheer up, sir; don't allow these
sad ideas to take hold of you.  You'll soon be well and up again, and
ready to start for home."

"Nay, nay, my friend," he murmured; "that will never be.  I shall not
live many days."

As he thus talked to me I was looking at him searchingly, and I
believed that what he said was true.  There was that grey drawn look on
his countenance which I remembered so well on my lost friend Meade's,
and I realised in a flash that I was again to stand by whilst another
died.

There were complications here, too, that bewildered me.  True, I should
not be left alone as I had been before, but what terrible difficulties
I should have to face!  I should have this afflicted, broken-hearted
girl to guard and care for, and what could I do for her?

Of course I am not wishing to convey the idea that I objected to doing
all I possibly could for her.  I felt so heartbroken on her account
that I would willingly have given my heart's blood to help her, but I
felt my ignorance and my incompetency.

All this flashed through my consciousness whilst Mr Bell paused to take
breath.  I endeavoured to make him silent, but he would go on
whispering continually.  He repeated that as May was sleeping, he must
tell me all he could, and he did tell me much, far more than I ever can
repeat.  He assured me he knew he never should recover, that he was
equally sure that I should stand by his daughter after he was gone.  He
begged me to help her out and home to England, and to do my best to get
the gold out too.

I promised, of course.  Even if I had not learned to admire May, I
should have done that--but here in this savage wilderness, although it
was a supremely difficult task I knew, of course I would do my best for
her.

To say I loved her then would hardly explain my feelings; I had not
thought of it in that light.  I only knew that every thought and wish
and aim was centred in her, and I was positively desperate when I
realised what was in store for her, and what my incapability of
efficacious help was.

Certainly I loved her--loved her with my whole heart and soul, but I
did not recognise it then.  I did not analyse, and here her father was
giving her into my care and guidance!

He proceeded slowly, but very clearly, with his observations.  "All my
life," said he, impressively, "I have been unfortunate.  I never made
money.  I have always been in trouble about that.  I'm a
failure--that's what I am.  My dear wife in England is broken-hearted
about us.  She has suffered for years the greatest of all earthly
trials--the want of sufficient money.  She is suffering now, and
waiting, hoping against hope, that we will send for her to join us, or
come home with plenty.  And here, now, at last, we have got money, and
are rich; the hope, the aim of my life is granted, and I must go and
leave it!  Is it not sad?  Is it not wonderfully sad?"

I said it was.  I tried to talk to him as though I believed he might
still hope--but ah! I knew, I knew.

Continuing, he said, "Doesn't it almost seem unjust!  We know that 'He
doeth all things well.'  We know there is One above in whom we have, or
ought to have, perfect trust; and yet, my friend, desiring as I do to
speak with all reverence of Almighty God, doesn't it appear impossible
that He should let me perish just when I have really attained my
object, after all the struggles and trials of life?"

I said it certainly did seem to us poor mortals very strange, but we
just had to trust Him, and I quoted what I had often heard my father
repeat--

  "God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform."


Mr Bell sighed deeply as he agreed with me.  I tried to cheer him.  I
urged him to endeavour to get better, to look at the brighter side of
affairs, for his daughter's sake, at least.  I said, of course, I would
stand by and aid her all I possibly could, with my life if need be.  I
would do all a man could to conduct her safely home to her mother, if
he were taken; but I urged him again and again to try to pull himself
together, and for all our sakes not to give up hope.

He took all I said kindly; he clasped my hand in his, and promised to
do his best, but whispered as we heard May stirring, "It's hopeless,
Bertie Singleton--quite hopeless; but I'll try to hide the truth from
May as long as possible."

When May rejoined us he rallied wonderfully, and in a few hours had
improved so greatly that I said something more about leaving, and again
May begged and prayed me to remain with them, in which her father
joined with her eagerly.

Most certainly I did not wish to leave them, but I was troubled about
the way to stay.  I suggested that I should erect a tent, bank it round
with snow, use the Yukon sheet-iron stove they had, and sleep in it.
With plenty of pine brush, furs, and blankets, I should be all right.
For in a tent, in the way I have described, one can keep warm with the
thermometer many degrees below zero.

We were planning this when she said, "But why not use one of the places
the men made?  Come and see."

Wrapping up carefully and taking a firebrand, we two, and Patch, who
was true to May, and would hardly allow her to move without his knowing
all about it, tramped through the snow to a den excavated in the same
fashion as Meade's and mine.  It was absolutely dry inside--dismal
enough certainly, but to me, used to such a dwelling, it offered a
convenient lair.

May returned to her father.  I built a huge fire in the proper corner,
and soon had a warm burrow for a sleeping-place.  It was close to the
shanty.  If May hammered on her door I should hear it, and be with her
in a moment.

For a week Mr Bell continued to improve; May became quite cheerful.  I
did all I was able to aid them, kept up the fires, thawed snow for
water, cooked, and made matters as pleasant as I could.  We read and
talked, and in many respects we had a happy time.

Plenty of food and firing and sweet companionship satisfied my ideas of
rest then, and I was glad to notice that in spite of all the terrible
surroundings May was looking well and strong.  Mr Bell was able to sit
up and talk cheerfully at times; but, notwithstanding, I noted no
improvement in his appearance, and I feared greatly his daughter had
much to suffer yet.

I did not anticipate immediate danger though, and as I was obliged to
visit my dug-out down the creek for another load, I arranged to go, and
to be absent for two days only.

Since the night when May had slept whilst I sat by her father, he and I
had no private conversation; it was impossible, as she never left the
hut.  But often he looked at me so sadly, perhaps in the middle of
lively talk with her, that I was very much troubled, dreading what was
coming.

The day before I had arranged to start he was busy, just as poor Meade
was, writing--letters apparently.  They seemed to be deeply affecting
him.  He was paler than usual, and struck me as being still more
withered and shrunken.  He looked as if there was but a feeble spark of
life in him, which a breath would extinguish.  How dare I hope that he
would ever gain strength enough to take the terrible journey out?

I knew May noticed this change in him: she begged him to rest, she hung
round his couch, sadly troubled; and for the life of me I could not say
anything to cheer her.  She urged him to give up his writing, but all
that he would answer was, "Soon, my love--directly."

He wrote only a little more after this, then folded the sheet, and with
trembling hands placed it in an envelope and fastened it.  Then he
looked up at her and me.

His eyes were suffused with tears: I never saw so mournful a look upon
a human face.  It affected me deeply.  What did May feel then?  She
glanced at me once only.  I'll never forget that glance.

Clasping her father in her arms, she drew him frantically to her
breast, crying, "Father, dear father, tell me what is troubling you?"

In a loud hoarse voice, speaking more powerfully than I had ever heard
him, he said, "I was writing to your mother, May--bidding her farewell!"

"Farewell!--father.  What do you mean?" she cried.

"My dear, I have written 'Good-bye' to her.  I have finished;
and--now--I must say--Good-bye to you--my darling.  Yes--I'm going to
leave you.  It's all right.  I have--known this--for a--long time.  I'm
going--to die here--May.  I'll never--see dear England--again--nor your
sweet mother.  But I know--where my trust is, May.  I know that--my
Redeemer--liveth.  Tell her--this, dear--we shall meet--in the beyond.
And, May--my dearest--I leave you--in full faith--that you'll--get
home.  God will bless--your journey.  Don't fear.  I leave you--in His
hands--and in those--of this good friend--Bertie Singleton's.  He'll do
his best--for you.  Trust him.  Don't grieve--too much--for me."

During this long, sad, and very solemn discourse, May had fixed a stony
gaze upon him: her face was white as chalk, her eyes were staring
wildly.  She uttered no sound until he ceased to speak; then she gave a
most piteous, woful cry, and sank insensible across the bed, his hand
clasped in hers.

I stepped forward, anxious to render some aid--I knew not what.  He
looked down upon his daughter, then wistfully at me.  "It is well, my
friend," he whispered; "my time has come.  My sands of life have run
out.  I must go!"

I put my hand out mechanically.  He clasped it very tightly, with a
nervous grip, and placed it on May's head, saying most gravely and yet
so trustfully, "I leave her in God's hands--and yours.  I know you will
deal kindly with her, as I know my heavenly Father will.  I can trust
you.  I do.  Farewell, dear friend, farewell!"

As the last words fluttered from his lips he lay back, closed his eyes,
and after he had heaved a few feeble sighs, at longer and longer
intervals, I knew that he, too, was dead!  At which I threw myself upon
my knees beside his couch, utterly unnerved--despondent--desperate.



CHAPTER X.

How long I thus remained silent and despairing I do not know.  I was
aroused by May addressing me.

"See," she whispered softly,--"see what has happened," and she pointed.

"I know, I know," was all that I could utter.

It was a profoundly miserable scene in that far-away shanty.  The rough
walls, the crevices between the logs stuffed with moss and mud; the
earthen floor, worn into holes and inequalities; the huge fireplace,
with its pile of smouldering logs; the dim light from the flickering
slush-lamp; the blanket screen, drawn aside for the sake of air; the
rough couch of leaves and rugs, on which her father was lying; and she,
standing near, with her hands clasped, her face white as that upon
which she gazed, with such a look of woe and despair on it, that it
made me feel what no mere words can describe.

Thus we stood, Patch sitting by the fire, turning his head
occasionally, with the same look he bore when poor Meade died.

We remained in this position until the pent-up feelings of my
distressed companion vented themselves in a moan, so pitiful, so
heart-breaking, that I could not control myself.  I felt I must do
something.  I grasped her by the arm, and exclaiming "Come, come away,"
I drew her to the fire, and made her lie down upon a heap of blankets
that happened to be there.  Then, taking a stool beside her, I
endeavoured to say something to calm her, and to show how deeply I
sympathised with and felt for her.

She remained quite silent.  She neither shed tears nor spoke, but lay
there motionless, with staring eyes, with such an utterly lost look
upon her face, that I began to fear she too would die.

This thought so startled me that I suddenly spoke sharply to her.  I
forget what I said, but it roused her from her lethargy.  Startled by
my exclamation, she regarded me with piercing earnestness, exclaiming,
"What is to be done?  What can be done?"

"Dear lady," I answered, speaking with deep feeling, "I cannot tell
yet.  We must decide on something.  Can you live on here alone?  I see
by your face that you cannot.  Can you undertake a journey through this
terrible wilderness alone?  Of course you cannot; so we must throw all
false delicacy aside: you and I are here, miles on miles from any other
human beings.  I will do all I can for you, we must work together, so
try to calm yourself and think what will be best."

She looked hard at me, and, I was thankful to see, trustfully; then she
pointed towards the curtain which I had lowered.  "What must be done
with what is there?" she whispered, and she hid her face in her hands
and wept.

I was grateful to see the tears fall, for I knew that to any one in
deep grief tears are a great relief.

When she was calmer I talked gently with her.  "We cannot bury him, the
earth is frozen hard as steel.  His poor body will be quite safe here;
but could you live here with it?" I asked.

May remained silent for some time, sobbing convulsively.  At length she
mastered her emotion, and exclaimed, "No! no! let us go away; cannot we
start now and make our way to Dawson?  I am very strong, I am inured to
cold and hardship--let us go; let us start away from this most terrible
place; let us make our way to England, and my mother.  Oh, my friend,
my dear friend, help me to get home!"

Considering how little experience I had had until quite recently with
mourning and distress, even amongst men, and that I had never had any
with women, I think I acted wisely in encouraging May to discuss and
become interested about this idea of getting away.  I led her to talk,
believing it was the best thing for her.

For an hour or two we discussed the subject in every aspect, until,
indeed, I perceived it was very necessary for both of us to have food
and sleep.

I was delighted to see my dear companion eat a little, but when I
suggested that she should turn into her usual sleeping-place, she broke
down again, declaring that to be impossible.  The position was terribly
distressing, she could not even lie by the fire and sleep, although I
promised to stay by.  She showed perfect trust in me, much as a young
child would, but begged me not to press her to lie down at all there.

I knew that a good long sleep would greatly help her if she could
obtain it, but I could think of nothing to suggest, until she asked me
if I would mind sleeping there alone.  I said "No," but wondered.

"Then," said she, "I think I should rest and sleep if I could be where
you have been--in the dug-out--if Patch could stay with me."

I was surprised, but thankful, therefore we went there together.  I
made a big fire and left her with Patch, to my great contentment.

I slept for long.  When I awoke I thought over the plans we had
discussed; I weighed all the pros and cons, and tried to see the worst
and best of the position of affairs.  I prayed fervently to Almighty
God for help, that wisdom and strength might be vouchsafed both of us;
I prayed that this dear girl, who had in His providence been put into
my care, might be given power and fortitude to bear up against the
afflictions she was now experiencing, and the terrible trials and
adventures she, I knew, had yet to face.

A great measure of peace, clearness of perception, and courage was
bestowed on me; and when May came in by-and-by, I saw that she too had
received refreshment and help, and was more like herself than she had
been for many days.  I lifted up my heart with thankfulness to Him who
had so blessed us.

Her first words were brave and encouraging.  I could understand that
she had weighed and realised, and was not going to give way to useless
repinings, but would be my courageous friend, my trusty companion and
my help, so long as we were together fighting our way through the
innumerable difficulties that we knew beset us.

We cooked breakfast, talked seriously for half an hour, then began to
carry out our plans.

Our first duty was most distressing.  We carried the body of Mr Bell to
the little dug-out I had occupied, and she had slept in.  Here we
deposited it, covering it with a blanket.

May bore up bravely.  I left her alone for a few moments; when she
rejoined me outside she was silent.  We secured the entrance against
bears and foxes with rocks and logs.

I fashioned a cross and fastened it above the door; on it I wrote that
it was the burial-place of William Bell, of Hawkenhurst, Kent, England,
who died February 20, 1897, and a few other particulars.

We next secured the shanty.  Having removed all we wished to carry
away, we nailed a paper to the door stating to whom it belonged, giving
the names of the party and their residences, outside; adding that the
adjacent claim--describing the position of the boundary stakes--was
their property, who were the discoverers of the gold, and that it was
duly registered according to law.

As for the gold, we hid it safely: May had no fear of robbery, even if
any one should wander that way, which was most unlikely, till spring at
any rate.

We packed my sled with the remaining food, apparel, and a few things
she required--some blankets and her tent; then as we found we could
haul the load easily, Patch and I, we opened May's cache and added to
our cargo fifty pounds' weight of gold, which was so much less to
remove later, and so much saved in case bad characters should come
across the place.

May and her father had kept a diary, so by means of the memoranda I had
preserved we were enabled to discover with some certainty not only the
day her father died, but when poor Meade "left."

Mr Bell passed away February 20, 1897, and Meade, November 10, 1896.

There was at this season some daylight; the sky was for some hours
beautiful with sunrise colours--and the twilight lasted, though the sun
was not up for very long.

We welcomed this promise of better times; indeed it was a great change
from the monotony we had so long experienced.

Wrapped to the eyes in furs and blankets, May and I stood for a while
impressed with the scene, whilst Patch, to whom cold made no
difference, gambolled to his heart's content in the dry and powdery
snow.

To us two poor human beings this cold appeared never to vary; it was
intense always.  We had no thermometer really to test it.  We were
rarely annoyed by wind; only once or twice whilst I was at the Bells'
place was there anything approaching a breeze, and then we did not
leave the house.

It was the 21st of February when we started, at noon, Patch and I
harnessed to the sled.  On the summit of the hill we halted to take a
parting look at the scene of so much sad interest to May, and of so
much mingled pain and pleasure to me.  She shed many tears; but I
hurried on, for I knew that her grief, though natural enough, would do
no good, and I did my best to interest her in our surroundings, and
thus allured her to brighter thoughts.

After this we got on famously.  May had a pair of real Indian
snow-shoes, and though out of practice, soon got into the peculiar
stride again.

We arrived all well at my midway resting-place, where I shot the foxes:
here we halted for tea and food.  Out of some pines I shot two brace of
grouse.

It had become night long before we reached my cabin, but the heavens
were ablaze with northern lights, and we could see well to travel.

Very frequently I blazed trees along our course--that is, I slashed
pieces of the bark off with my tomahawk, for I knew when the snow was
gone the aspect of the country would be so changed that it would be no
easy task, especially for strangers, to find their way without such
indications.

We had no adventures, and arrived in due time at my gloomy habitation.
A grand fire was soon blazing, and May was installed mistress thereof.
I showed her all I possessed, and my way of housekeeping.  Then as near
as possible to the entrance we put up her tent substantially, lining it
with blankets; we banked snow high up around it, brought in the usual
layer of pine twigs, lit the stove, and thus made an exceedingly cosy
sleeping-place for me, May rendering most efficient aid.

And now commenced a most singular life, in many ways to me a very happy
one.  Certainly my thoughts reverted often to the past, and I could not
help thanking the good Providence which had blessed me with the company
of this dear girl to fill the gap caused by the loss of my friend
Meade, whose memory was, notwithstanding, very green with me, and whose
absence from this changed aspect of our dugout home was to me
inexpressibly sad.

May was grieving sorely at the loss she had sustained, I saw.  I
admired the way, however, in which she bore up.  She seldom allowed me
to see how she suffered from the discomfort and the misery of the life
she led.  Instead of complaining, she often expressed herself as most
grateful to the Almighty, and to me, for the many comforts and
blessings we had.

I was always grieving, though, that I could do so little to relieve her
during what I knew must be a most miserable time; yet I had one great
satisfaction, which, I admit, completely outweighed all my
discomforts,--it was that I was so intimately associated with her, and
it gratified me to know that I had been enabled to rescue and befriend
her.

For a time I feared that she could be experiencing no atom of pleasure
or comfort, but she frequently assured me that she was perfectly
content, and, knowing that it would be impossible to mend matters for
the present, she looked on the least dismal aspect of the situation and
made the best of it, like the good, wise, girl she was, which made her
lot easier to bear and my burden of anxiety lighter.

With a woman's tact she made the dismal burrow to appear brighter for
her stay in it.  There were few articles for her to manage
with--brilliantly coloured blankets and a few skins of beasts we had
killed was all.  I think it was her sweet presence that, to my eyes,
brightened matters more than anything, though often when I entered in a
morning I saw some fresh evidence of her thoughtfulness and taste.

We passed our days in company, cooking and eating, reading and talking.
Oh, how we talked!  If some person could have peeped in at us when the
slush-lamp was burning brightly, the fire was roaring up the chimney,
and on the rough table an appetising meal was spread, they would have
wondered.  We were far better off, I fancy, than any others were that
winter in the Yukon region.  Certainly I was reconciled to my lot.
Still I felt deeply for and pitied May.

[Illustration: MAY AND I IN THE DUG-OUT.]

Sitting dreamily by the fire one day, talking of our past adventures
and planning our future course, we got on to the subject of Meade.  I
had been narrating how I met him, and how I came to be where I was and
what he had done.  "Where is he now?" asked May.  "Will he come up here
again in spring?"

I said "No--he has gone for good and all; he'll never return to me!"

"What! and left all his gold behind?  You told me he had taken none
away with him."

I was nonplussed, confounded.  I did not know what to answer.  I
hesitated.

"Is there some mystery?" she asked.  "By your look I feel sure there is
some other sorrowful story--you are trying to hide it from me.  Don't
you wish me to know?--Ah!  I see there is.  Believe me, if it is
something sad, I'll try to sympathise with you, as you have with me in
my great sorrow, if that be possible."

I thanked her, assured her that it was a very melancholy story,--then I
told her all there was to tell, even to where I had deposited the body
of my friend; and I explained what his wishes were about his share of
the gold, and that I intended, the first thing after reaching England,
to see his mother and Fanny Hume, and carry them out.

It was a great satisfaction to me that May now knew all.  There was
henceforth nothing hidden from her.  During this close companionship we
had talked on every possible subject,--our past lives, our desires for
our future, our friends and relatives, our hopes and aims,--until we
knew each other perfectly.

Amongst other subjects we had some melancholy conversation about her
father's death, which led to her speaking about his poor remains.  She
felt distressed when she thought of them lying in that place alone, so
terribly alone, and frozen.  "If they were buried in the earth it would
seem more natural," she said once.  "I believe I should feel much more
at ease if that was done."

I promised her if it could be, it should be,--certainly before we left
that region it must be.

"Why can they not be treated in the same way as you have interred your
friend's remains?" she asked.

"There is no such tunnel up on your place--it cannot be done there."  I
shook my head in doubt.  I was thinking, and the matter dropped.

Is it to be wondered that, day by day, as this sweet girl's character
unfolded itself to me, I became more and more devoted to her?  I cannot
tell the moment when I realised that I loved her, when I felt that life
held no greater prize for me than the affection of this, my dear
companion in those vast solitudes.

That she liked me, I believed; that she felt towards me in the least as
I felt towards her, I dared not hope.

Often I gazed longingly at her, yearning for the time when I could
honourably ask her the question which was uppermost in my mind--"Could
she ever love me?"

In all our intimate conversations the subject of love had never been
discussed.  I was not brave enough to broach it, and she never did.
But often, oh! how very often, we two compared notes about our future
plans, how we would live our future lives.  We pledged ourselves to
lifelong friendship; we vowed that, whatever betided us in the years to
come, if, please God, we ever reached home again, we two would ever be
in touch with one another, and would aid each other to carry out the
plans we concocted in that gloomy home we had up near the Arctic Circle.

We each had plenty of money, or should have, if we succeeded in getting
our gold away, and would then have the means to carry out the schemes
we laid.  What good we projected to our fellows! to all poor strugglers
at home!  What philanthropic associations we would help!

May's ideas of a happy, useful life were exactly the same as mine,
which impressed me more and more with the desire, the hope, that we two
might live that life together.

That the dear girl approved of me as a friend, I could not doubt, but
that she had learned to love me I was not vain enough to believe.  How
could she love a rough, uncouth fellow like me, unkempt and dirty?  I
was all that then.  It did not occur to me that she also was very far
from presentable in civilised society.  Her dress, like mine, was one
mass of grease and blackness: the life we led amongst the smoke of the
miserable slush-lamps, the cooking and grubbing, with no free use of
water, and no soap, for neither of us had any left, had caused us to
become very disreputable-looking beings.  However, it was her sweet
face which attracted me.  It never occurred to me to think that for the
rest she was not a whit better dressed or cared for than I was.

Certainly I felt in honour bound to treat this girl with the utmost
deference, yet I often dreaded that my strong feeling for her would
show itself, and then good-bye to much of our content.  For if even,
impossible as I then thought it, she felt the same regard for me as I
did for her, the difficulty of our position would be greatly increased.
Therefore I prayed God to enable me to control myself, and I am
thankful to say He did, until the time arrived when it became possible
for me to speak out plainly.

For a week or two after the death of Mr Bell I always addressed her as
Miss Bell, and she spoke to me as Mr Singleton.  It was stiff and
formal, but I had not the power to suggest any change.  One day,
however, we being both outside, busy at some necessary work, she called
to me to help her lift, or do something for her, and as usual called me
Mr Singleton.  "Oh!" I replied, "pray call me Bertie--it is time that
Mister should be dropped, surely."

She smiled, as she answered, "Surely, surely it is, but you must call
me May."

I being quite agreeable to this arrangement, it was May and Bertie
between us from that time forward.



CHAPTER XI.

Gold-getting at this time was entirely given up: we scarcely mentioned
the subject.

Were we satisfied with what we had obtained?  I believe that we were to
a great extent, for we knew that our claims were valuable, and we knew
we could look to the future proceeds with assurance.

As for May's party's claim, she could do nothing.  She believed it was
safe, legally registered; and the American partners would return in the
spring, and she had all the documents which her father had drawn up to
prove her interest in it.  With my claim it was much the same; I knew I
could prove my title to it.

I believed then that it was only in the tunnel that the golden streak
of gravel existed, and I really had not the courage to go in there to
work alone, and of course I could not ask May to go in with me.  She
would have gone if I had, for she had a great objection to being alone,
which I suppose was natural.  She knew where Meade's body was lying;
she knew where we had got gold, and I showed her my store of it in the
cache.

Three weeks passed, during which we did a mere nothing: we were waiting
till the season was more advanced, when we should have longer days, and
so we made ourselves as contented as we could.  We had planned,
however, that when May had recovered some peace of mind, and had
regained her health and strength, I should go back to their shanty with
my toboggan, and bring the rest of her gold down.

I did this; I made the journey there and back in one day.  She bravely
wished to accompany me; it really was unnecessary, and after persuasion
she consented to remain with Patch for company.  I did not bring all
her gold that trip, for I had formed another plan.  I loaded some of it
on the sled, but I also brought her father's body with me!

I had not told May of my intention, but I knew my scheme would please
her.  It was a melancholy undertaking, but I managed it all right, and
crept silently back, and was able to take my burden into the tunnel
without discovery.  I left it there, came to May's door, and was
welcomed home--it really seemed like home now.

[Illustration: "IT WAS A MELANCHOLY UNDERTAKING."]

I made some excuse about not bringing all her gold, and later, by
manoeuvring, I managed to hew out a niche for the body of Mr Bell close
to Meade's; indeed I got it all done without her guessing anything.
She knew I went out with pick and shovel, and supposed that it was
something to do with mining.  Several days after, I told her what I had
done.  She was very grateful, and went with me to the place, and saw,
with tear-dimmed eyes, where I had laid her father.

Shortly after I made another trip to her place and brought away the
rest of her treasure; and then, in our burrow on the hillside, there
were many thousand pounds' worth of bullion stowed away.

All this time we were seriously talking about how and when we should
get away; but as yet there were no signs of spring, further than
increasing length of daylight.

During this time a very curious thing happened as we sat one evening by
our fire, May and I, talking and planning: she, with a wooden stick we
used as a poker, was stirring the earth of the floor about, when she
exclaimed, "Why, there's a bit of gold!"

It was so, a piece the size of a bean.  I supposed, at first, that I
had in some way dropped it there, but when she stirred the earth again
and found another piece or two, we realised that it was pay dirt that
our floor was composed of!  This set us examining, and we soon
discovered that not only was the earth beneath us, but the very walls
and roof of our abode, full of gold!

We scooped out with pick and shovel a large portion of one side of the
dug-out, we carefully picked over the stuff we moved, and it was
surprising how many coarse pieces we found.  We had several meat tins
full of small nuggets before a week went by, and we piled up before our
door a heap--a dump--of what we knew was rich stuff, ready to be washed
in spring.

However, we two had become so used to finding gold before, that this
experience did not excite us as you might suppose.  We knew we had a
rich claim here anyway, and that May's party had a rich one farther in;
we realised we were well off, had each made a very decent pile, and
were perfectly well aware that what was of most immediate importance
was to get away to arrange for the safety of the gold we had actually
got, and legally to secure our claims.  Our gold-digging, therefore,
was more a pastime than a serious employment--we were eagerly looking
forward to start for Dawson.

To wait till our creek opened in June, then float with all we possessed
down it on the raft to its junction with the Klondyke, where our boat
was cached, seemed at first the only way for us; but could we wait so
long?  No.  We discussed, we projected, we planned, and at last we
determined to pack the toboggan with all that we three could drag, and
depart at once.

I had all my gear ready--May only needed a sleeping-bag, which we
constructed--we cooked a good supply of food, packed all with fifty
pounds of gold, and one bright noon-day we started, as we fondly hoped,
to civilisation and home.

To those who do not know what moving about in winter in that arctic
region means, it may appear strange that we should have made so much
ado about this journey of one hundred miles or so.  If I had been alone
I might have thought less of this undertaking.  If I had had a man for
a companion, or even if we two had had no experience, we might have
gone at it more light-heartedly.  But we not only had the terror of the
journey to face, and well knew that it was likely to be a terribly
arduous one indeed, but we were full of anxiety, when it came to the
point, about the valuable stores and gear we must leave behind us,
above all our great hoard of gold.  As I have explained, the difficulty
had been to decide whether to wait till the creek opened and go down
with all that we possessed, or to leave the bulk behind, trusting to
its safety.  We had chosen the latter plan, for we were impatient, at
any rate May was, to get away from this awful place--to get home, in
fact.  So, putting our trust in God's protection, we started.

Our course was plain, the creek formed an avenue through the trees.  It
was fairly level, though we encountered many ridges and drifts of snow,
which was deep; but the weather having been calm for some time, it had
settled down and packed a little.  Our load was very heavy, and the
toboggan sunk in a good deal.  Patch and I hauled in front usually, and
May pushed, but sometimes, to make a change, she hauled in front; but
breaking the track was generally too hard for her.  What made our load,
probably 300 lb. in weight, still harder to drag was that we could not
pull with our snow-shoes on successfully, so gave them up, then sank
in, often to our knees, sometimes to our waists; and many a time
neither Patch nor I seemed able to get any secure foothold.  As for my
dear girl, she bravely struggled on and did her best to aid us, but
really many times had all that she could do to keep herself from
sinking out of sight in the dry powdery snow.

I don't believe we made three miles the first day.  Our camp that night
was in a clump of stunted pines.  We put up our two tents close beside
each other, lighting a big fire in front which warmed them both, and
really in our sleeping-bags we felt little cold.  May's tent being by
far the larger, in it I ate with her, then turned into my own shelter
for the night.

The following day I believe we made five miles.  We were awfully
fatigued; and having to put up tents, cut bedding, build the fire, and
cook, was no light work after our day's march.  That day I saw many
tracks of wolves and foxes.  I supposed my companion did not notice
them, so I said nothing, for I did not wish to add to her discomfort
the alarm of attacks from wild beasts.  But I have learned since that
she did see them and inwardly dreaded what they meant, yet kept her
knowledge from me lest I should suffer more anxiety.  She just "put her
trust in God," she said, "and hoped He would protect us."

For several days and nights we had perfect weather, cold of course, I
suppose it was never less than 15° or 20° below zero.  Then on the
seventh day--having made, we thought, fifty miles--as we were nearing
the mouth of our creek, it began to blow!  We well knew what that
meant.  The sky at noon was dark as night, the weird mountains were
enshrouded in mists of driving snow.  Down in the sheltered avenue,
where we were struggling along, it was yet a breeze only, but even that
seemed to cut us to our very marrow in spite of our furs and wraps: we
realised that we must halt at once, make shelter somehow, somewhere,
and lie up whilst this storm should last.

There was a high and rocky bank near the margin of the creek.  I donned
my snow-shoes and tramped across the snow to examine it, and
fortunately found a sort of bay or gap between two huge boulders, which
would protect us from most winds, and a big fire across the entrance
would warm the air somewhat.  Here we pitched our tents, and here we
lay for three days and nights whilst the tempest howled past us.

Providentially there was no snowfall, only banks of it were lifted up
and carried past our retreat in clouds, which caused us to dread every
moment that a blast would curl it in on us and smother us.  However,
mercifully we were spared this horror, and on the fourth day the sun
came out as the wind dropped, and we were able to move on.  But it was
awful work: my heart bled for May,--I could not help but show how much
I felt for her.  I could not refrain from exclamations which, I know
now, showed her where my thoughts were, and what I felt.  She, dear
girl, quite understood: for she assures me that during all this
dreadful time her one thought and hope was that in the time to come, if
it should please God to bring us out of these horrors, she would be
able to devote her life to my happiness and consolation in part payment
for what she is pleased to speak of as my devotion to her,--just as if
any man would not willingly risk life and limb for any woman in such a
case---just as if I, with such a girl as May, was not altogether glad
to do anything and everything to help her.

The following day we got to and camped in the cave where our boat was
hidden.  It was with difficulty I found the place, everything was so
deeply bedded in snow,--very different to when I parted those months
before with Indian Fan and Jim.  We had stowed the boat so safely that
it was dry and free from snow, as the cave was.  We camped that night
in it, May taking up her quarters in the boat.

For some time we had not noticed tracks of any kind; but the following
morning, which was bright and calm, I left the cave to May a while, and
tramped down to the edge of the larger Klondyke river to make a survey
of the route, and to discover, if possible, what the prospects were for
our day's work.

There I was struck with astonishment to notice numerous footmarks along
the margin.  To be sure they were covered with fresh drifted snow, but
my woodcraft taught me that they had been made recently.  There was a
regular path, which looked to have been much travelled.  Certainly, I
thought, it was a bear-track; and yet, knowing that those creatures
hibernate, I was nonplussed.  Did the Yukon bears behave as others, I
wondered.  Perhaps the St Elias grizzlies do not sleep the winter
through.  Was it wolves?  I looked anxiously; the traces were too
large, and spaced differently to their tracks.  However, there was a
well-used way, and I was greatly troubled.

We had by this time become so used to the toil and hardship of this
mode of travel, that I was not surprised to find May in excellent
spirits when I returned to camp.  The brightness of the morning; the
sunlight on the snow; the brilliant iridescence of the ice-bespangled
branches of the trees, and the broader outlook across the white, wide
expanse of the Klondyke; the knowledge of our having attained the first
stage of our momentous journey safely; indeed, the very finding of the
boat, which was the first link, as one may term it, with
civilisation,--did so cheer the dear girl that she greeted me almost
joyously as she bustled about with our cooking arrangements.  We had
promised ourselves a sumptuous repast on reaching the Klondyke, and I
had fortunately knocked over a brace of grouse the day before, so we
were reckoning on our breakfast.

But I was certainly bothered by the tracks I had seen, and May,
noticing my preoccupied aspect, rallied me thereon.  This made me put
on a brighter look, and in my mind I determined to say nothing, to take
all due precautions, and to put my trust for the rest in the good God
who had protected us hitherto.

When we started on--gaily on May's part, trustfully on mine--we soon
came to this track.  Patch instantly noticed it, and would not move on.
He whined, whimpered, and nosed it; then looking up and down the path,
he whined again.

May was attracted by this proceeding.  I endeavoured to pull ahead,
saying nothing, merely calling to the dog to come on; but she,
perceiving a trail of some kind, hesitated too.  "Is it a bear path?"
she inquired.

"Bears hibernate, you know," was my reply; "they don't make paths like
that in winter."

"It must be caribou, or moose--perhaps there are cattle here, or,
maybe, it's the track of people!"

"People here!--not likely."  I shook my head as I spoke.  "Who would be
here, do you think?--Indians?  Well, that might be, but I fancy they
don't come about here at this season."

"Let us travel along it," said she; "it looks to be an easy way.
Whatever made it, appears to have chosen the smoothest route," for we
could perceive the trail for some distance winding amongst the
scattered timber along the margin of the stream.

Now, my idea was to get as far away from those suspicious footmarks as
possible.  I wished to take to the middle of the creek, and we did so
by-and-by, after I had assured my companion that I considered the level
ice out there promised a better road.  But she was not very easily
persuaded.  I believe she had the idea in her head that this path was
made by human beings, and she had, naturally, a strong desire for the
fellowship of her kind.  As for me, I had no belief in anything but
bears, and as for getting amongst people again--I wanted to, simply
because it was necessary if we were ever to get home; yet I rather
disliked the idea, for I knew well it would be the ending of her sweet
companionship.

I cannot quite truly describe how I felt just then.  Certainly there
was an immense amount of suffering in our life, but I thought little of
my share in it, for was I not suffering with May? and I did not look
forward with entire pleasure to its ending.  Only, for her dear sake,
only to put an end to her discomfort, her misery, I knew what my duty
was, and did it.

We hauled our load out into the wide white lane and travelled down
towards Dawson.  And as we moved slowly, laboriously onwards, I rarely
took my eyes from where I knew that mysterious trail was winding
through the timber.

It was laborious work, truly.  The snow was deep, and it was not
packed.  There averaged three feet of it, then there seemed to be a
heavy crust, and if one broke through that, which we often did, we
found a layer of slush--half-melted snow--sometimes but a few inches
deep, at others a yard or more, and only under this was the solid ice
of the river.  I used to go ahead with my pole and sound where I
thought it looked suspicious.  Often I thus steered clear of
difficulty, and often I did not, for many a time the load, and May, and
I, sunk in to such a depth that it was actually alarming.  She bravely
suppressed outcries and expressions of fear.  She tried to laugh over
these deplorable episodes, and sometimes I saw her gaze longingly on
what she thought was a much better road in there amongst the trees,
but, dear girl, she never tried to argue with me, or even to discuss
the reason for my dislike to it.

Before noon our mocassins and leggings were wet and miserable.  We
ourselves were in a bath of perspiration.  It was difficult to believe
that it was freezing as hard as ever, and only when, after a few
hundred yards of easy going, we halted to take breath, were we aware
how cold it was, by our frozen leg-coverings.

We camped for our mid-day food on a brush-clad point on the south side.
It was absolutely still and clear.  On taking off our snow-glasses the
light was so painfully dazzling that we understood what snow-blindness
meant, and gladly put them on again.  I caused May here to change her
foot-wear, as we were staying long enough to dry our wet mocassins by
the fire.  It was a snug corner we had chosen.  We had a side view both
up and down the Klondyke and across it.

As we sat, as usual talking of our future, Patch suddenly stood up with
bristling mane and gazed across the river.  "There's something over
there," said I; "that's just as he did when we first heard your shots
up the creek there," and we gazed and listened intently, the dog as
deeply interested as May and I were.

I, supposing it was bear or wolf that had thus excited Patch, felt
thankful that we were on the side we were, and got my gun in order.

Patch's excitement increased.  He began to bark.  With difficulty I
restrained him, and made him lie down.  I stopped his barking, but I
could not make him cease growling.  This excited us, and we watched the
opposite shore closely.

May was the first to discover the cause.  Two men were tramping along
the track across the river!--whether whites or Indians they were too
far off to see.

The expression of my dear companion's face at this discovery was
peculiar.  She was flushed with excitement as she said to me, "Come,
let us call to them.  Oh, how splendid to see other people,--to realise
that we are not alone in this dreadful country!"

Laying my mittened hand on her shoulder, I remarked, "Stop--let us
think: they may be friends or foes; we must be cautious.  Besides, what
do we really want?  We know our way, and we have all we need.  It is
satisfactory to know we are in an inhabited land, that is all."

"Oh, how terribly cautious and careful you are, Bertie!" she exclaimed.
"I should like to run over to those two men and greet them.  But you
know best; oh, yes, I'm sure you do, forgive my impetuosity--only it is
so fine to know that we are really going home."

The two men did not notice us--they kept steadily on: we could just see
one was carrying a pack, the other pulling a little laden sledge behind
him.  They were heading up the river, and in due course would cross our
trail, then, perhaps, would follow it, which was a serious aspect of
the case indeed!  They would not only find our boat, but could trace us
to our dug-out, where all was at their mercy.  What could be done?
Nothing.  We could only put our trust in God that all would be well.

I kept silence to May on these points, and hoped that she would not be
troubled by the same fears.

One thing satisfied us both now, and that was that the trail across the
river was really made by people, and from what we saw of the way the
strangers got along it, it was very much better than where we had been
travelling, so with one accord we packed up, and with a will hauled our
sled across the river and hit that trail.

The fresh traces of the men were minutely examined.  The leader had
worn snow-shoes, the other boots--we could see the heel marks.  This
hardly pointed to Indians, nor old hands--for all but the greenest
tender-feet wear mocassins, in the winter there.

This trail was a great improvement; we moved along it quickly--two
miles an hour at least!

We had gone perhaps five miles; it was, we thought, getting on for four
that afternoon; we were resting, when against a rather dense growth of
firs we thought we saw smoke rising.

Now you must understand that we were both in a flutter of excitement
all that afternoon.  We had said little to each other about it, but I
know we felt that we were likely at any moment to meet with some
adventure, pleasant or the reverse.  We were all eyes and ears.  I
could see May glance hurriedly and look intently, now in one direction,
now in another.  Even the dog appeared to be expecting something: as
for me, I knew, of course, that very soon a great change would come in
our lives, my thoughts were occupied with this subject, and I was
trying to think how I should deal with every episode that I could
imagine might arise.  Once or twice before, we had stopped to gaze
around as May or I had cried, "What is that over there?"  But up to the
present it had turned out to be merely a curious stump, or uproot, or
some such bush object.  We were on the _qui vive_.

So we considered for a little that we might be mistaken about this
appearance also.  It might be a wisp of snow lifted by the wind, or
some shaken from the trees by a passing breeze: however, I soon saw
that it was very blue, that it was rising steadily, that it was no
hallucination, and that it was smoke, certainly.

A very momentous time had arrived.  "My dear May," I murmured, "that is
smoke--that means a camp, most likely of white people.  Our lonely life
ends the moment we arrive there."

"Oh, what a good thing!" she cried; "but why look so serious?"

"God knows what will happen to us," said I.  "We may find ourselves
able at once to go on with comparative ease to Dawson and home.  We may
find obstacles in our way--bad characters, who knows what?  But any way
we have up to now, through God's good mercy, been kept from any great
harm, and we will trust Him still."

"Why, of course we will," she interjected: "but why are you so sad?"

"I cannot help feeling sad," I answered, "to know that you and I must
now cease to be what we have been to each other; but remember that I
shall not leave you, nor cease to help you all I can, until I know you
are safe at home in England with your mother.  Whatever comes to pass
during the next few hours, or until that happy time arrives, believe in
me and trust me."

"My dear Bertie, my great friend, what is come to you?  Do you think
I'm going to doubt you, or leave you now?"

"I hope not, indeed, indeed," I interjected.

"Why, amongst these rough fellows," she went on, "as, of course, they
will be, I shall want you beside me more and more.  I shall, I expect,
want your protection and advice more perhaps--though that can hardly
be--than I have as yet needed it."

"And you shall have it, May--be sure of that," said I.

"One thing is certain, though, that whoever they are, whatever kind of
people they may prove to be," she continued, "I shall, as you say, till
we reach home and mother, look to you for companionship and guidance.
So don't look any more like that at me; don't be downhearted now, but
come, let us hurry on and find out what our fate is."

Then on we went.  Within a few minutes we were in sight of a camp.
There were two log-shanties and a shelter or two; a huge chimney
smoking, and other signs of humanity; a couple of figures were moving
about; we had arrived at the haunts of men again!

We had paid little attention to the trail of late, but now noticed that
there were sleigh tracks branching from it here and there--dog's
tracks, men's tracks: here were stumps lately cut, there the traces of
where logs had been hauled out of the bush.  Now we were continually
exclaiming to each other about these wonders.

Patch was excited--on the alert.  When, a little farther on, he heard
dogs barking, it was hard to control him.  It was their noise, I
suppose, that gave notice of our arrival, for we soon descried two or
three persons looking towards us, whilst a couple of fine huskies came
bounding through the snow, looking anything but friendly.  However,
they withdrew as we marched on, and were called off as we got close.
When we at last halted near the first shanty, one man sung out to us,
"Welcome, friends! ye'll be frae Quigly Creek, I'll warrant.  How goes
it there?"

[Illustration: "WELCOME, FRIENDS."]

Oh, the blessed sound! a friendly human voice--a Scotsman's voice!

"Nay," I answered; "I don't know where we're from exactly--up river
somewhere: we've had a pretty hard time of it.  What place is this?"

"This place," the kindly voice made answer; "indeed, we canna give it a
name--it's just the banks o' the Klondyke river.  But ye'll be
prospecting, eh?  Have ye had luck?  We've had a wee bittie.  But
come--come in bye; ye'll be gled o' something hot, nae doot, and the
mistress 'll soon get the kettle on the boil."

"Mistress! is there a woman here, then?  Oh, that is grand!  This lady
here will be so glad of that," is about what I said.

"Ay, indeed, is there a woman!  But who'd have thocht that one o' ye
was ane," he laughed; and then shouted, "Hi, Maggie, lass, see
here--here's a lady till ye;" but addressing us he went on, "But she
isna fit tae' come out into this cold.  Come ben the hoose; we'll soon
mak' a' richt."  With that he led us to the shanty, saying as he did so
to the other men, "Let loose the dog, and see the others keep frae it.
We'll hae to take these freends in, and see to them a while, nae doot."

We were delighted with all this friendliness.  We entered the shanty;
it seemed a palace to us.  The door was thickly curtained inside; there
was a rough wooden floor, an immense fire roaring in the chimney, a
table, chairs, and standing expectant amongst them was a youngish,
nice-looking woman, beaming with good-nature.

"Did I hear ye cry there was a lady here?" she asked the man.  "But
which ane is it?" she went on, looking from May to me.  "Ye're baith
sae rolled and smoothered up wi' claes and skins I canna tell."

Indeed it was no wonder the good soul was perplexed, for we were
dressed pretty much alike, if dressing could be called the furs and
blankets in which we were enveloped.

May's skirt of serge, reaching to her knees, was so torn and ragged,
very much as my frieze wrapper was, which I think reached nearer to my
ankles than hers did to hers.  I wore a cap with ears, and round my
neck some fox-skins were muffled.  She had a hood, a capote, a part of
her outer garment: it was then drawn so closely round her face that
nothing but her sweet eyes were visible.  We had taken off our snow
goggles as we entered.

As our hostess spoke, we drew off our fur gauntlets; this gave her the
clue.  I suppose she knew at once by the hands which was the woman of
us, for she immediately took May by the shoulder, crying, "Ay! come you
in here, I'll tend ye; and Tam," to her husband, "you see till him.
I'll no be lang awa'."

Then I threw off my wrappings and overalls, drew up to the fire, and
gazed around me.  I noted that I was in a good-sized shanty, rough,
certainly, but it was light, for it had a large window by the side of
the door, and there were pots and pans and crockery about, clean and
brilliant, and to my unaccustomed eyes all looked luxuriant.

Our host was busily making up the fire, adjusting the tea-kettle,
fetching in buckets of snow which he emptied into a huge iron pot
hanging in the chimney, muttering as he did so, "She'll be wantin'
water to wash her, my certie--for neither o' them looks to hae seen
soap for a wee while."

I heard him and smiled.  "You're right," said I; "it is some months
since we saw soap, and weeks since we could wash even our hands
properly--this is an awfully dirty country."

"Eh! but it is, man," he forcibly replied; "but I wonder at ye, takin
'a wife wi' ye prospectin'.  Ye're tenderfeet, I daur wager--so are we
for that maitter--but I wouldna tak' my wife into such wark, nay, nay.
It's bad eneuch for her to stop here in this wee hoose, but to tak' a
woman rampagin' through these woods and mountains is no' richt."

He spoke so vehemently, almost angrily, that I could not stop him, but
when he halted for breath, "Hold on!  Hold on!" I cried; "that is not
my wife, nor have I taken her out prospecting.  Hers is a sad strange
story, so is mine.  I found her away back.  I'll tell you all about it
by-and-by.  I can only tell you this now, that Miss Bell--that's her
name--Mary Bell--I must take to Dawson and to England as soon as
possible.  Can you help us?--will you?"

As I spoke my host gazed at me, amazed.  "To Dawson! and hame to
England!  Noo?--the noo?" he cried.  "Is the man daft?  Gude sakes!
d'ye no' ken that it's just impossible to win awa' frae here the noo?
It's too late, or too airly, at this time."

"If money can induce you to aid us--we have some with us, and we'll pay
you almost anything you like to get us to Dawson at least," said I; but
before I was half through the sentence I knew I had made a mistake.

"It's gold, I suppose you mean," the man exclaimed,--rather angrily, I
thought.  "Gold! well, we've got a wee bit oorsels here, and a tidy
claim up this burn.  We'll hae a decent pickle washed out before long;
sae, ye ken, we're no' in need o' yer gold.  If ye'd said grub, now,
that would been o' far mair value, but gold or grub it's a' one, ye'll
no get awa' frae here, my man, till the water opens in June."

"Grub!" I cried; "we've got a bit in our sled outside there, and up
stream there's quite a heap of it yet: if that's all that's needed,
you'll find that right."

"Man, I'm glad to hear it, for grub's mair valuable than gold in these
parts the noo; but I say again, grub or gold, you'll no' get off to
Dawson for a wee!"

"But why can't we get on?" I demanded.  "We've got here; why can't we
get farther?  My companion is just as good as a man; what I can stand,
she can, I believe."

"Man, man, I wonner at ye!" he exclaimed, with lifted hands and eyes.
"D'ye no ken that the river is breaking up fast at this present
moment?--half a mile below here it's a' under water; in a wee while
it'll be just a grindin' mass o' ice and slush, no breathin' thing can
live in it, the strongest boat that's built 'd be groon to powther in a
meenute--and there's nae trail beside the stream.  In the deep o'
winter it's a' richt--ye can pull yer sleds along the ice well eneuch;
and in summer, when the water's open, ye can get along fine; but just
the noo! nay, it's no' possible."

"This is bad hearing," I said; "I don't know what Miss Bell will think.
We did so reckon of being able to reach Dawson, to be in time for the
first boat going down the Yukon: when will that be?  D'ye know, sir?"

"Dawson!  Dawson! what for d'ye want to take your lady freend to
Dawson?  D'ye no understan' that it's no' place for decent folk at
a'--let alane a woman.  But be easy, man, ye're weel aff here, and
ye'll get awa' doon to Dawson lang before the first boat gangs doon,
for ye ken the ice breaks up in these small streams lang before it does
in the big river.  I doot if there'll be a boat leave Dawson till the
end o' June, and some say the middle o' the month o' July!  Be easy
then, and bide a wee; ye're well aff here, and if ye'll let us hae the
grub ye spoke o' the noo, ye'll be far better aff, ay, very far better
than in Dawson waitin'.  But let's see what the mistress and the young
leddy says."

Just then the mistress came in to us for hot water.  As she lifted a
tin of it from the pot she said to me, "Maister Singleton, yer freend
in bye has tell't me o' some o' yer doings and what ye want to do.
Just bide a wee while; we'll tak' time to settle a'.  Ye're a' richt
here; and as for me, I'm pleased eneuch and thankful tae to hae sae
braw a lassie's company, I warrant ye."

"Ay, ay," said Tam, her husband; "that's what I'm sayin'.  Bide a wee."

Patch was at the door, howling for admission.  Said my host, "Well hae
him in, the mistress 'll no' mind," for I had told him a little about
the dog, and the good fellow bounded to me and was happy.

When May returned how changed she was!  Soap and water, comb and brush,
a few simple feminine touches, a fresh handkerchief round her neck, and
behold a figure that fairly dazzled me.

As for me, I gazed at my hands and dress with shame and horror.  Mr
Bain, as I found his name was, saw my discomfiture.  "Come awa' ben,
then!" he laughingly exclaimed; "we'll tak' some hot watter inby, and
see what we can mak' o' you, my freend!"

Part of the shanty was divided off by a screen of blankets, behind it
was their sleeping-place, and here I obtained what I needed very
sadly--a wash.  The sorting of my locks, though, as Bain called it, was
a business: they hung down to my shoulders, and a comb had not been
through them for many days.  Bain lent me a change of clothes, and I
returned to the living-room shortly, to be struck still more at my
love's sweet looks, my darling's loving presence.  Quite a spread of
good things was on the table.  We had of late lived well, thanks to my
stores, but we were hungry now, and our hostess heaped our
plates--earthenware plates, how nice they felt--with all the good
things she had.  There did not seem to be much lack either.

We were joined now by two other men, decent fellows.  One was a
Scotchman, Bain's brother; the other a Canadian from Peterborough,
Ontario.

After this, as we sat around the fire smoking, I told our story.  I did
not say much about the gold; I admitted that we had got some, but made
light of the quantity.  May here and there put in a word or two of
explanation when I came to her entry on the scene, and was not silent,
though I tried to make her so, in praise of me.

It was late, quite late, when I had finished.  May was to have a bed by
the fire; I was to accompany the two young fellows to their shanty and
turn in with them.  "And, d'ye mind," said Mr Bain, as we parted,
"ye'll no be turnin' oot sae verra early the morn's morning.  Yon
lassie 'll tak a lang rest, ye ken, sae sleep sae lang's ye're able, Mr
Singleton, and sae gude nicht."

Patch accompanied me to my quarters, and thereafter made them his.



CHAPTER XII.

"Hae ye ony gold on yer sledge ootby, Mr Singleton?" asked Bain, next
morning; "because, if ye hae," he continued, "I'm thinkin' ye'd better
bring it ben the hoose.  My brither, here, and the other fellow's a'
richt; but ye ken there's a wheen queer characters here aboot, and
there's nae tellin'."

"What! are there more people near?" I asked, surprised, for I had not
noticed other habitations; but I went on, replying to his question
about the gold, and told him that we had some, about fifty pounds'
weight of it, but that May had it with her in her pack.

"Ech!" he exclaimed; "I thocht it was a heavy kin' o' bundle when I
carried it in till her yestreen.  But, man, fifty pounds' wecht! why,
that's worth more than twa thoosan' punds.  Ye have been on to't rich;
we've no got to that here yet.  (I wondered what he would say if he
knew all.)  Ye're askin' are there mony people hereaboot; indeed, then,
there's a good number on the creek--there's twenty camps and
more--maybe fifty men o' a' kinds workin' on their claims; mostly
decent folk eneuch--mony like oorsels, frae the auld country; but
there's a wheen suspicious bodies.  But come awa' in; the lassie's a'
richt, and we'll hae oor parritch."

May was lovely; she and Mrs Bain were evidently the best of friends
already, but she was so greatly changed in appearance that I hardly
dared to address her familiarly.  I don't know that I thought her any
prettier; my admiration of her beauty had been so intense whilst she
was alone with me in rags and squalor, that it could not be very much
increased; but I certainly now regarded her with some awe, and it was
with difficulty I called her May.

I, too, no doubt, was presenting an improved appearance.  Soap is
indeed a great civiliser, and Sandy Bain had shorn off some of my rough
thatch that morning, and May looked at me, smiled, and called out,
"Why, what have you been doing, Bertie? you are looking different!"

"Not so much changed as you are, May," I replied with a laugh.  "You
look just splendid."

She blushed as she said, "Well, come, come to breakfast."

We sat long over our food, talking and planning.

We made out that Bain, his wife, and the other two came up to Dawson by
way of St Michael's.  They had lived a while previously in Ontario,
farming.  They reached Dawson early in the season; their idea being for
Mr and Mrs Bain to start storekeeping there, whilst the other two were
to work at mining, for they had heard that gold was being found in
Alaska, and although the rush had not set in, they had somehow learned
that large finds were very probable, and they had planned to be amongst
the first to profit by the expected excitement.  But a few weeks in
that queer town satisfied them that they were not suited for that
business or life, and when Bain's brother, Sandy, and the Canadian,
Frank Fuller, who had been up the river looking into the mining,
returned in August, reporting that they had found and secured a claim
which they believed would pay, and described the life up there as much
quieter and easier than in Dawson, they all determined to go and live
together on this claim, and so came up in boats, bringing a good outfit
with them, and some furniture.

They built a couple of shanties apart from the other miners, rigged
themselves up in some degree of comfort, and here they were, doing
pretty well, they believed, but anxious for the waters to open, so that
they could wash their heap of pay-dirt and know exactly what it was
worth.

These were very good people, May and I were sure,--quite trustworthy,
and of the friendliest description; their welcome had been so extremely
warm, and we were indeed thankful that our first encounter with our
fellows had been so fortunate.

Mrs Bain was evidently delighted to have a companion of her own sex:
she told us that, hard as the life was, her greatest trouble had been
that she had no woman near her, and she said things which showed us
that she was quite sure we had come to stay.

Perceiving this to be the case, I knew I had better explain.  "But we
must be moving on, my friend and I," I began.  "We are indeed grateful
for your kind welcome, but we must get on to Dawson, then to
England--we must, indeed.  I know all that you have said, Bain--I
believe that you are correct; still we cannot stay on here.  We must
get on to Dawson; surely there's a hotel, or boarding-house, or
something of the kind there, where we can stay till the river opens."

They held up their hands in amazement.  "Why, what kin' o' daft folk
are ye?  Hoot, toot!" cried Bain; "gae doon to Dawson! gae hame to
England!  it's just no' possible, as I've already tell't ye, Mr
Singleton.  It's no' possible for a man to do it; and for a bairn like
you," turning to May, who certainly just then did not look much like
battling through that wilderness, "it'd be clear shuicide--that's what
it would be.  Nay, nay; ye'll just bide here wi' us till the waters
open."

"But, Mr Bain," quoth May, "I must get home to my mother.  I am strong
and able; surely, surely we can move on."

"It's impossible; no possible, my lassie," he answered her.  "No;
you'll just hae to bide here, as I say, whether ye're willin' or no',
until ye can gae doon stream in boats."

"And when will that be?" she asked, and I replied, for I had heard all
about it before from Bain, and was pretty sure that he was right.  "It
will not be till the end of May, perhaps not till June," I told her.
"Indeed, I hear that often the Yukon is not open to traffic till the
middle of July."

"What a country! what an awful country!" exclaimed May, distressfully.
She looked to me for corroboration of what had been stated, or to
contradict it, but I could only say I feared that our friends were
right.  I added, "However, our intention was to go down to Dawson and
wait for a boat to leave.  From all we hear we are far better off with
these good friends than we should be there, and as they assure us we
can easily get down long before a boat can possibly navigate the Yukon,
I really think we must rest content--nay," I went on, "more than
content; thankful for the good quarters we have come to.  The only
thing is, how can we thus inconvenience these friends?  We must come to
some arrangement about paying them at least, or else you and I, May,
really will start on and camp beside the river for the few weeks that
we must pass up here.  What d'ye think?"

The dear girl looked at me, sadly dismayed; but our host and hostess
declared that I was right, and wise in all that I had said--as to
"pay," however, that was a business question which we would now
discuss.  Mrs Bain would not hear of any discomfort or trouble being
caused by May--she should stay with her as her guest and friend, she
declared; and Bain said he was more than agreeable.  "But, my woman,"
said he to his wife; "it's no' want o' wull, it's just want o' means,
ye ken.  We can buy naething here--there's just food enough to last you
and me and Sandy and Frank till we expect the river will open.  How can
we promise to feed these freends?  It's just that, and only that, which
fashes me."

Here I could simplify matters.  "See here," said I; "on our sled is
food enough for we two for several weeks, and up at our dug-out, that
I've told you of, we have quite a food-supply, enough for a dozen
people for several months.  I will make an effort and go up there and
fetch a load of it.  Will that do?"

"Do? why, of course it will," they replied; "fine that.  In a couple of
weeks or so the upper waters will be free from ice, then twa o' ye can
gang up quite easy and bring your boat down, laden.  So, it's a'
settled.  You, Miss Bell, will stay in this hoose wi' me and my wifie
here; and you, Mr Singleton, will chum up wi' Frank and Sandy; but, of
coorse, oor meals will a' be thegither eaten here."

Thus it was arranged; and after the day's discussion--for we took all
day coming to this decision--May and I, having a moment's privacy,
satisfied each other that it was wisely settled.

Of course I was not idle.  I went to work next day with the men.  The
diggings were about a quarter of a mile from Bain's shanties, on a
little creek running into the Klondyke.  From a couple of hundred yards
above the junction, claims were pegged out for half a mile or more, and
tents and rough cabins were set up along its margin.  It was not
thickly timbered there, and what trees there were they were cutting
down for mining purposes and fuel.  It was very quiet, as most of the
miners were working underground, and had shelters over their shafts and
windlasses--so little was visible.

Heaps of gravel were being piled upon each claim, but it would not be
till summer, when they were washing, that any real excitement would be
seen.  Most of these heaps were reported to be very rich.

The Bains' claim was some distance up the creek.  They had traced the
pay-streak in from a bar on it.  They had not sunk a shaft, but were
removing the entire alluvium down to bed rock.  They had four feet of
pay-dirt, and only about the same quantity of moss, muck, and gravel
from the surface down to it.

They worked in the usual way through the solidly frozen ground, with
fires.  I, being well used to axe-work, went in for cutting the fuel
for the purpose.

The claim-owners were paying as much as ten dollars a-day, gladly, to
any one who would work for them.  There were very few who would do so
for wages, though; so, as I did not reckon to take any pay from our
friends, I felt that May and I were not under so great obligation to
them.  Moreover, the stores we had brought, and the supply we possessed
up-stream, was of the utmost value.

It was a comfortable life we passed now--at least it seemed so to me
after my experience; and May assured me that she was not
dissatisfied--except, naturally, at the delay in getting homewards.
But as that certainly could not be helped, we were both making
ourselves contented.

I met May at every meal, and passed the evenings in her company, but
never alone.  Mrs Bain never went outside the shanty.  But
occasionally, rarely, when it was what we called fine, May muffled up
and came out, when she and I were able to compare notes, and plan.

One very great perplexity we had, was about our gold cached up the
creek.  As yet we had only admitted to our friends that we had the
fifty pounds' weight of it.  We had spoken of our claims, certainly,
and had said how sure we were that they would pay; but they had no idea
of their richness.

May and I talked whenever we had a chance together about this matter:
she was all for telling these new friends and getting their advice.
She was certain that they were perfectly true and trusty.  So was I,
and yet I advised caution.  We could not easily decide.

Mrs Bain was about eight-and-twenty,--a well-read, clever Scotswoman,
and very religious.  She had in Scotland considerable lung trouble.
Ontario had helped her, and now, strange as it may appear, in the
intense cold and dreariness of this Yukon country she had lost all
signs of weakness, and considered herself a strong woman.  Still, her
husband objected to her putting her head outside the place.  "My
woman," he was often saying, "you see to a' things ben the hoose; we'll
see that ye get all ye want--wood, and snow for watter and a' things;
and noo that ye hae this bonnie lassie for company, ye'll do fine."

The weather was quite calm for two weeks after we arrived--cold, of
course, except at midday for an hour or so.  But we could see signs of
spring coming.  The snow was packing; there were bare patches on the
hills and on the creek; the slush beneath the upper layer of snow was
deeper and softer.  I had the curiosity to go out on to the Klondyke,
and I found it very much worse than when May and I were on it.  In
places the ice was burst up, and I realised that it would have been
impossible for us to move along it if we had been unwise enough to
start.  We would surely have had to camp somewhere on the way, and live
in misery, perhaps many miles from any help.  We were very far better
off than that.

A couple of miles up the Klondyke the ice was at this time broken up,
and by the strong current was being piled up on the bars and banks.
Every day made a change, and we saw that we could soon bring our boat
down as was planned.  Therefore the time had arrived when we must make
our journey up to my place, and so it became absolutely necessary that
we two should settle what should be done about the gold.

I fortunately got May outside, and had a talk with her about it.
"Shall I leave it where it is?" I asked, "and trust all will be well;
or shall I try to bring some down secretly?"

She was all for telling the truth to the Bains and Frank, and
bespeaking their help.  I was as certain as she was of their honesty
and integrity, but I knew what a fascination gold has, and I thought it
just possible that the knowledge of our riches might affect them, and
cause them to do something unpleasant, and complicate affairs in some
way.  But May would not hear of this.  "No, no!" she exclaimed; "they
are good, true people.  I say tell them all, and get their help."

We talked this over for some time, and the result was that when we were
gathered round the fire that evening, I made a clean breast of it.  I
told them what Meade and I had found, and what May and her father had,
and that, besides the stock of food which I had told about, there was
this immense quantity of gold, and that the fifty pounds we had with us
then was merely a sample of it.

Our story staggered them, especially our coming away and leaving it
unprotected.  We had, May and I, to go over again and again the history
of our find, and the statement of the actual quantity we had obtained.
We were obliged to explain about the lay of the gravel in which we had
found it, and to give all the information we could about the likelihood
of there being more about both places.

As to this latter point we assured them that we believed the whole
district was very rich.  We told them what we had discovered even
inside my dug-out, and before we separated that night they all became
so excited that I foolishly began to dread they would do something
troublesome.

Such is the effect of gold.  I suppose nothing else could have made me
suspicious of such worthy people.

The following morning there was more discussion and more enthusiasm.
In the end it was settled that Sandy, Frank, and I should go up, taking
two sleds, with Patch and their two dogs, who were trained, to help in
hauling them.  As they knew the Canadian mining laws quite thoroughly,
which we did not, they would help me to mark out our claim properly,
then they would stake out one for themselves--for, as Bain said, "The
moment it is known in Dawson what you have found up there, there'll be
such a crowd o' folk rush up that it'll be better to hae freends
alongside ye than strangers."

This being quite true, we were well pleased.

We also arranged to go on up to May's claim, and mark that out properly
too.  We laid some other plans, which will be explained later on.

The trail up the Klondyke,--which May and I had not used when we came
down, because I fancied it was a bear-path,--it appeared, was the way
by which all the miners went up the river in winter.  It led up to the
head, where for years a little mining had been going on.  During the
time we had been at Bain's several parties had come down it.  Their
reports had not been very favourable.  I had questioned some of them
closely, being anxious to discover if any of them had gone up what I
called Meade's Creek; but so far as I could make out, no one had.  They
described some tracks they saw going up at one place though, which
seemed to me to be ours, and they rather jeered at the idea of any one
having been foolish enough to go there prospecting, as they declared,
as all did then, that no gold, to pay grub even, was to be had, except
clear up at the head of the main Thronda stream.  How little they knew;
and how differently they talk about it now!

We were off at once.  The trail we found fairly good up to where our
boat was cached.  Hereabouts the ice was disappearing from the stream.
We saw we could easily get her out and afloat, which was satisfactory.
We camped there that night.

Turning up Meade's Creek in the morning, it was all but free of ice; we
found the way very bad beside it.  The snow was gone in some places,
but having light loads, we pushed on slowly but surely.

We were, however, very much disgusted to notice the tracks of others
having gone up rather recently.  Had they followed May's and mine, we
wondered?  Had they come to our claim, and found our stores and gold?
I was quite anxious, as you may guess.

Two persons had gone up: one wore moccasins, and drew a sled; the other
wore boots--we saw the heel marks.

This brought to my mind instantly the two May and I had seen when we
were coming down.  I was sure they were the same men's tracks.

Sandy knew them, too.  He said they were all right, and decent
fellows--the moccasins were worn by an old miner he called White-eyed
Williams, and the boots by an Englishman who had come up during winter,
who foolishly, he thought, stuck to knee-high boots.  His name, he
said, was Coney.

Coney! why, that was the name, I remembered, of the young fellow who
had showed us some attention, Meade and me, when we arrived at Skagway.
I wondered if it could be the same.

We hurried on excitedly, full of anxiety, for if they had discovered we
had found gold there rich, there was no telling what they might be
doing.

With our light loads we got on very much faster than May and I did, in
spite of the horrid state of the trail--half slushy snow, half morass;
frozen every night, thawing every day.

On the fourth evening out, when we were camped a few miles only below
our old den, as darkness fell we perceived a fire burning in the
distance.  On investigation we found it to be two men halted on their
way down.  Sandy hailed them.  It was White-eyed Williams and Coney.

I at once recognised the latter; he did not remember me, or our former
meeting.

We sat by their huge fire beside their one little tent, smoking and
comparing notes.  They informed us that they had tried here and there
for many miles up the main river, as they called the Klondyke, and had
had no luck.  They had seen a trail (my trail and May's) coming down
this creek as they passed the mouth of it on their outward journey.
They supposed it was just a couple like themselves who had been
prospecting, and were returning disgusted.  But on their own way back,
unsuccessful, when they noticed the traces again, they followed them
up, just for curiosity, to ascertain what their makers had been doing
up there.

This was intensely interesting to me, you may be sure.

Said Coney, "Not far up from here--we left this afternoon--we came to a
dug-out; near it was the mouth of a big drive, a regular tunnel.  A lot
of work had been done there.  The owners had only lately left--we made
that out; and there was a notice stuck on the door of the shack, who it
belonged to.  We did not force our way into the crib, nor did we try
their pile of pay-dirt, nor enter their tunnel, of course; but you bet
we tried some stuff from the bankside along the creek, and, my word for
it, friends, these fellows have hit on it good!  White-eye and I washed
out a few pans only--see, here's some of it," and he showed a handful
of shining bits.  "Then we marked out a claim, and are hurrying down to
register it, and if you men are wise you'll do the same to-morrow, for,
depend upon it, it is very rich along the creek up there."

I could hardly keep silent, I was in such an excited state on hearing
this story.  Sandy was staring at me, and Frank asked, "What were the
names of the owners of this claim, then, which were stuck on the door?"

"It was Herbert Singleton and Percy Meade," said Coney.

"Well, I'm Herbert Singleton," I exclaimed; "it's my claim where you
have been.  We're on our way there now to bring away some grub, and to
see that all is right."

"Well met!" Coney cried.  "Well met!  Now we shall hear all about it.
We know it's all right up there, but tell us all about it.  Honour
bright, we'll keep it all as dark as possible."

So what could I do but admit that I had a good claim there.  I was as
reticent as I could be, though.  I thanked them for not having
disturbed anything, and begged them for their own sake and ours to say
as little about the place as might be, either on the creek where the
Bains were, or at Dawson, when they reached it.  This they promised
willingly enough.

We stopped with these fellows quite a time, talking things over, and
arranging plans.  We sent a message back to the Bains by them.  I
pencilled a few lines to May, and we left them full of jubilation.

When we were alone we did nothing but congratulate one another upon the
good fortune of our secret being discovered by two men whom my
companions were quite sure were honest fellows, though up to that time
they had been unlucky in finding gold.

Coney, I perceived, was a well-bred Englishman; in conversation he had
mentioned names and places at home which assured me he was that.  But
that country, like every out-of-the-way corner of the globe, holds many
such, many reliable enough and honourable, but also many just
"ne'er-do-weels," and failures of all sorts, who have become blacklegs
and gamblers.  It is never wise to trust any man, certainly not a
fellow-countryman, until you know.

However, this one had said a few things which made me think well of
him, so I did not regret that above our claim, where they had marked
theirs out, we might hope to have decent neighbours; whilst below it,
where, no doubt, Frank and Sandy Bain would stake out theirs, we should
have friends.

We three were off by daybreak the following morning, soon reached our
destination, and found all right and untouched by man or beast.  The
balance of the day we were occupied in examining the surroundings,
pegging the claim out properly, testing the gravel about, and deciding
just where my friends should take their claim.  We passed the night in
the dreary den where Meade and I had spent those terrible days, and
where May and I had sojourned so long.

Little had I dreamed of ever returning to it again.  Surely I had not
imagined it possible to be there again so soon.

Having told my friends about Meade's death, and May's father's, and
where I had deposited their bodies, we proceeded, first thing next
morning, to carry out our plan.  It was to dig a grave on a knoll near
by and bury them decently therein.

To dig this grave it was necessary to proceed exactly as we did in
mining.  We lit a huge fire, when we had chosen the place, and left
Frank to attend to it, whilst Sandy and I went up to May's claim, as we
had all got to call it.

We arrived there late that evening.  We only took our sleeping-bags and
a bit of food with us; Patch hauled them on a sled.  The good old dog
knew the road well.  I have not mentioned him lately--he was still
May's pet and mine, as he was every one's.

Early next morning we marked out this claim, properly too, the size we
knew six people were entitled to.  We rectified the notices on the
shanty door also, and, making no delay, hurried back to Frank.

We found that he had managed to get a grave sunk deep enough during our
absence, and the following morning we reverently disinterred the bodies
of my friends, took them up the hill, and laid them side by side in it.
By May's desire I read the proper service from her own prayer-book,
with which she had entrusted me for the purpose.

We covered them in, raised a cairn of heavy rocks and boulders over
them, and on the summit erected, very securely, a big wooden cross that
we had fashioned for the purpose down at Bain's, and had brought up
with us.  On it we had carved the names and so forth of those who were
interred there.

There, surely, it will remain and be respected for many a day.
Although, no doubt, all the ground about there will be turned up by
miners, they will not disturb the spot made sacred by that grave.

That night we opened our cache, and took our gold from its
hiding-place.  My companions only then appeared able to comprehend that
all was true that May and I had told them.  How they gloated over it!
How they marvelled at it!  As for me, I was more and more thankful at
our good fortune.  For now I felt confident that if God spared our
lives, we should get all safely out, and I had it impressed upon me
more and more that May would learn to love me, and I was looking
forward with hope, with confidence, to the time when she and I, in
England, would enjoy it all together.

I have said little about the state of my mind on this subject.  All I
need say now is, that the more I saw of her, the more I loved her.  My
thoughts were ceaselessly of her, waking or sleeping.  I longed eagerly
for the time when I could tell her of my heart's desire, and beg from
her one word of hope.

There had been no opportunity of late for private conferences, for
love-making.  Many a time I yearned to tell her all, for now that she
had others about her, I felt I could with honour speak to her.  It was
quite different when we were living and journeying alone: then I felt
constrained to be silent.  Yet now that I felt free to tell all, there
was no opportunity.

In that bitter climate, when we happened to be out together, it was as
much as we could manage to discuss pure business affairs; to talk to
her of love would have been impossible, and sadly out of place.  Yet in
spite of all these difficulties, now and again, I know, a word or look
escaped me, against my will perhaps, which showed the dear girl what I
was thinking of; whilst the words of warmest friendship and looks of
love she gave me frequently, led me to believe that when the right time
came I should win her.  I was impatient, but very happy at the bright
prospect before me.

With our two sleds heavily laden with gold and stores we hurried down.
Well, we could not hurry much, for the trail was terrible; the snow was
nearly all gone.  In places it was all that we three and the dogs could
do to move one sled.  Once we had to unpack and portage.  It took us
three days' hard work to get down to our boat, but then we gladly saw
that we could do the rest of the journey in her.  And so we did,
getting down stream in capital time, bringing her and her lading safely
to the beach in front of Bain's shanty early one morning before they
were out of bed.

I need not say we had a glorious welcome.  I need not stay to tell all
we did and said.  My darling was the first to grasp my hand and
joyfully greet me.  Fain would I have clasped her to my heart and told
her then and there how much I loved her, and how I yearned for the time
to come when we should be in deed and in truth all the world to one
another.

It was an exciting time.  We spent all that day stowing away the gold
safely, explaining about our journey, about the claims Sandy and Frank
had marked.  White-eyed Williams and Coney came in to supper; we turned
out some of our eatables and had a glorious time.

And before we separated, Bain said he thought it would be very nice and
proper if we were to render thanks to where we all knew thanks were due
for all the mercies and good fortune that had been vouchsafed to us.
So, having read an appropriate chapter or two from the good old Book,
he prayed a prayer of praise and gratitude, and we all felt the better
for this simple service.



CHAPTER XIII.

Now, quickly, the weather changed and the spring advanced.  We had some
days almost mild, sometimes it rained instead of snowed, often a warm
wind blew.  At any rate it felt warm to us.  Anywhere else, I suppose,
we should have called it winter, but, after our experience, we thought
this prime, for we knew that spring was at hand.

The creek, the Klondyke even, were becoming quite free of ice, water
lay about in pools: certainly every night all was frozen again, but
whenever the sun burst through the mists and murk they thawed, and it
was a teaser to get about.  To travel down them, either by water or by
trail, was simply impossible.

White-eye and Coney, who had been very boastful of the way in which
they intended to go "right off" to Dawson to register their claim, had
to give it up.

We had many interesting discussions during this time about the future
means of travel in that region.  Supposing these gold discoveries were
as great and as extensive as we had reason to expect they would be, we
wondered what would be arranged for easier entrance and exit.  Should
large crowds of people rush in, which we quite expected, how were they
to be fed?  How were stores to be brought?

Bain, a long-headed Scotsman, pronounced dead against the St Michael's
route.  The idea of journeying 1800 miles up the Yukon, after the long
and dangerous voyage of 2750 miles by ocean steamers across the Gulf of
Alaska into Behring Sea, was absurd, he thought, especially as he
averred that the river is only open for about three months, from July
to October, and was then so full of bars, sandbanks, and shallows,
snags and currents, that it is a most hazardous stream to navigate.

When they came up, they were several times nearly being wrecked, and
they passed half-a-dozen boats and scows fast on sandbanks, where they
most probably still remained.

I had fully described the way Meade and I, with our two Indians, had
reached the Klondyke.  A road over the White Pass I knew could be made
with comparative ease, and from what we had heard of the Chilcoot Pass,
that, too, might be made available for traffic.

Skagway, the landing-place for the White Pass, was on tidal water, open
always; it was easy to land people and goods there.  Then the distance
across the pass being only about forty-three miles to the head waters
of the Yukon, say Lake Bennet, it did appear that must be the best road
in.  As for the Miles Cañon and the White Horse Rapids--the only
serious obstacles on the way thence to Dawson--we considered that with
very little engineering skill, and but small outlay, they would be
overcome, either by tramways or short canals.  Seeing that the distance
from Victoria, on Vancouver Island, to Dawson _viâ_ St Michael's is
altogether about 4500 miles, and _viâ_ Skagway and the White Pass is
but 1600, this did seem common-sense.

We had amongst our acquaintances on this diggings one or two Canadians
who had been about this region for years.  They were always talking
about a route "all Canadian."  All these landing-places I have
mentioned are in American territory.  We dispute that certainly.
However, the Yankees are in possession, and it is quite possible that
they will continue to be so.

But it seemed to Bain--and I certainly agreed with him--that the
Canadian route they talked of had very little advantage, if any, over
the White or even the Chilcoot Pass.  Their idea was to make Telegraph
Creek, which is in Canada, 150 miles up the Stickeen river from Fort
Wrangel, the port for this country.  They said that it had been already
long used for traffic with the Cassiar gold mines, and asserted that
there is a trail from it to Teslin Lake, down which there is good
navigation to the Hootalinqua river, and so to the Yukon and Dawson.
The distance from Victoria they supposed to be about 1500 miles.

But here, it seemed to us, were exactly the same difficulties, if not
greater ones, than on the other routes.

Bain, who appeared to have studied the geography of this region before
they entered it, having had the opportunity of examining the best maps
available in Victoria, was strong in the opinion that the Canadian
Government should, and would ultimately, build, or cause to be built, a
railway from a really undoubted Canadian port, all through Canadian
territory, to Dawson.

If this goldfield proved to be what we expected, it would have to be
done some day.  His idea was that there should be a railway from Fort
Simpson, in Canada, where there is open water all the year round for
ocean ships, to Teslin Lake, about 400 miles in.  Indeed, he went so
far as to maintain that this railway should be continued right down to
Dawson, for only by this means could the country be properly developed.

No roads for teams could ever be satisfactory.  The forage for cattle
having all to be imported would alone cause this to be so.  On the long
journey animals could do little more than haul their own food.

Certainly, if easy roads were made across the passes, if steamers were
put upon the lakes, if ways were made for getting past the cañons and
rapids, large quantities of stores could be taken in during three or
four months of open water.  But he stuck to it, that only a railway
will do all that must be done, if this Canadian Yukon country is to be
exploited as it deserved to be.  Quartz reefs rich in gold were already
known to exist.  Copper had been found too--there appeared to be
immense deposits of it.  Coal existed also, and it is recognised that
the supply of wood fuel for mining and domestic purposes will soon run
short--a most important consideration, perhaps the most important of
all.  These reefs and copper and coal mines cannot be worked without
heavy machinery, which cannot be handled or conveyed in by waggon or
sleigh, neither can the products of these mines.  A railway, and only a
railway, could solve the problem.

Whether one will "pay" or not is quite another matter.

In California, Australia, and those parts of Canada in which gold has
hitherto been found abundantly, causing a large influx of people, the
result has been that many who have made much or little have remained
there, settling on the land or going into business, and so permanently
developing the country.

In the Yukon this can never be.  Gold especially, and copper, and
probably some other metals, are alone the product of the country.  Land
being absolutely unproductive, and the climate terrible, no one will
make a permanent home there.

With such discussions, and much beside of purely local interest--such
as how Bill the Butcher's claim was looking, and if Tom the Tinker had
found any coarse gold in the hole he had last sunk, or what the chances
were of Mississippi Sam and his partner the Baltimore Oriole finding
good gold up at the creek-head where they had gone prospecting, when
they may be expected back, and so forth,--with such topics of interest,
I say, as these the time passed quickly.

The increased heat of the sun was perceptibly lessening the snow on the
ranges, the creeks were rising, the ice had disappeared, or was piled
on the banks, where it was thawing rapidly.  There was a great change
perceptible--a change which was a source of constant interest to all of
us; and to May and me it was a very great relief to see the road
gradually opening for us to get away.

During this time we had become pretty intimate with "Coney."  I learnt
his proper name, found him a very genial companion--one very like my
poor lost Meade--and I liked him; so did we all.

He had been unfortunate, and had not found a payable claim until now;
and even now, the one he and White-eyed Williams had marked above us,
though it promised well, had yet to be proved.  However, his hopes were
high, and I could not help giving him every encouragement.  Knowing I
was going home to England, he was most anxious that I should take
letters from him to his people--nay, that I should visit them; and I,
arguing that if not all right, he would hardly have done this,
concluded that he was a reliable man.  Bain thought as I did, and it
resulted that I, with May's entire accord, put all the affairs
connected with our claims into their joint-hands--_i.e._, Bain's and
Coney's--to manage for us.

Late in May there were many more evidences of spring.  The nigger-grass
had sprouted: I well remember May's delight with the first green blades
I took her.  A few days after, on bare patches amongst the snow, I
found a few lovely flowers; we had no idea of their names, but spring
had come, and we were charmed.

There was plenty of water now to wash with; there was plenty to wash
the heaps of wash-dirt, and the results were good.  I, being handy with
tools, made them a cradle, or rocker, and some sluice-boxes.

There was much movement at the diggings: every one was busy on top, and
the change from the drear monotony of the terrible winter was giving
place to cheery looks and hopeful faces.  One could tell that the
arrival of running water had been made much use of in another way; for
we hardly recognised some of our acquaintances, since they had been
able to wash their faces successfully and put on clean clothing.

That May had the knowledge of what was in my mind respecting her, I
believed; but she carefully avoided giving me the opportunity of
telling her about it.  Why, she cannot even now explain, but so it was.

Towards the end of May the sun had much power: no snow was lying in the
open, but the land was in a terrible condition; the deep grass and
moss, saturated with water, was a perfect morass, all but impossible to
get through on foot.  The trails between the shanties and to the
diggings were mere ditches.  Those who had not good rubber or
waterproof boots, or, better still, _muclucs_--which is the native name
for mud moccasins, the soles of which are made waterproof with seal
oil--were in a bad plight; for the water was icy cold, and we believed
that there would soon be much sickness amongst these unfortunates.  We
noticed, however, that the miners were very good to each other.  If one
was known to be badly off for foot-gear, food, or clothing, those who
were better supplied shared with and helped them.

So far as we could judge, they were all a very decent, friendly crowd
of men.  We heard of no quarrels or rows amongst them, and saw none of
that roughness and dissipation with which such gatherings are generally
credited.

It is true there was no whisky there at all; all hands were by force
teetotallers.  Tea, strong and often, was drunk in gallons by every one.

We were impatient.  The days passed very slowly with me and May, for we
were longing to be off; but every one assured us that, even if we were
then at Dawson, we should not be at all advanced, as we must wait there
till the middle of June at least.  No boat would yet start to descend
the Yukon.  Many who were said to know all about it declared it was
often July before one could get away with safety.

But on the 1st of June we determined to wait no longer; and, after much
discussion, we stowed our gold and what furs and gear we wished to
bring home in our boat, which we had recaulked and repaired, and,
accompanied by Frank and Coney, we embarked.

It was with mingled feelings we did so.  Undoubtedly we were glad
enough to be really on our way to England.  But to leave the Bains was
not pleasant: we regarded them, and they still are, amongst our truest
and best of friends.  Besides them, there were several other good
fellows to whom we had become attached.  Naturally, all were down to
the water's edge to see the last of us, and to give us good wishes for
our journey; nearly every man of them from the old country gave us
letters and messages for their friends at home.  We had a big bundle of
the former, which we were pledged to deliver personally.

We brought Patch with us.  May would not hear of parting with the dear
dog until it was absolutely necessary.

We started at daybreak.  The current was swift, and the river was clear
of ice; but along its margin much was still piled up, besides logs and
rubbish.  By noon the water had risen considerably, and was floating
this stuff off, making it unsafe to travel; so on a sort of knoll or
island in the stream we camped.

At night, in the mountains, and at the heads of streams, frost holds
sway, then the flow of water is arrested.  But when the sun's heat
melts the snow and ice up there, the body of water is increased and the
current accelerated.

We met several parties coming up the river--very hard work they had.
The rush had begun already there.  On the fourth day we reached the
Yukon and Dawson City.

As we neared the main river we had still more evidence of the rush.  A
very different state of things existed to that when we came up, and we
met large numbers pushing up the Klondyke.  We passed numerous camps,
and heard from some of them wonderful accounts of what was being done
up the tributaries of that river.

The topic was gold, naturally; but we also heard much about "grub,"
which appeared to be with many quite as important a subject.  There was
a scarcity of it, all declared, and there would be until the St
Michael's boats arrived.

Small heed was paid to us: a few remarks were made about May, wonder
was expressed at her being up there; but all were so absorbed in their
own affairs that they took little interest in us, which was precisely
what we preferred.

Dawson was all alive too.  The river front was still encumbered with
ice, but we were assured that it was dissolving rapidly.  In places men
were building boats or repairing them, in others they were stowing
outfits into them: there were no idlers.

We landed just below the last shanty, and camped.  Then Coney and I
marched into the town.  I was anxious to discover the store where I had
found that nice Englishwoman when I went there before to buy the canoe.
I had planned to speak to her about obtaining decent quarters for May.

I soon found the place, and had little difficulty; for after I had told
this lady a portion of my darling's history and a few of her
adventures, she begged me to bring her in and let her see her, any way.
This I did at once; and they had hardly met before I was informed that
May was to stop there until the boat sailed, which, we had ascertained,
would be a week from the day we arrived.

Reports from down river, from Cudahy, had been received in some way,
and were favourable.

There was only one steamboat at Dawson preparing to go down; very few
were going in her.  The captain was anxious to make a rapid passage, as
he knew there were crowds of people at St Michael's, ready to pay big
prices to get up.  This just suited us, and I quickly secured our
berths.

The Government official at Dawson--some called him governor, some
colonel, others inspector, or commissioner--we found to be an
exceedingly affable and kindly gentleman.  Although he appeared to be
overwhelmed with work, he gave me and Frank and Coney an hour of his
time, during which he put all the business connected with our claims in
order, and advised us what to do about the gold we had with us.  Thus
in two days after we got to Dawson City everything was settled, and we
only had to pass the time as best we could until our noble ship should
begin her journey out.

We had brought a canoe down with us for my companions to return in, as
it would have been impossible for them to get our heavy boat up against
that powerful current.  We sold her to a party who had just come in
from Lake Teslin: they had been camped there all winter.  We obtained
150 dollars for her!

May being comfortably placed at the store with a very kind and
hospitable hostess, we three men did Dawson--that is, we visited
various stores, and examined their stocks and prices.  There were
plenty of fancy things--queer ornaments, toys, and such-like--which one
wondered should have been brought up, whilst of real necessities there
did not appear to be a very great supply.  The prices were enormous: we
made very few purchases.  We looked in at some of the saloons, saw what
was called "life," and, being disgusted with it, concluded that up on
the mines was far better for comfort and for pocket.

On the third day Frank and Coney, having had quite enough of it,
started up the Klondyke for home.  They took Patch with them: we could
not take him down with us, and to have brought him home to England
would really have been cruel--he would soon have died here.  It was
grievous saying farewell to that true and trusty friend.

Our parting with all of them was quite affecting.  With these three,
dog and men, was severed all connection with the horrors we had both
experienced on the Klondyke and the Stewart.

With tear-dimmed eyes dear May turned her face from the Yukon, rushed
down to the sea, and murmured--

"Now a new life begins for you and me, Bertie, my friend; but oh! how
impatient I am to be off to England and my mother!  How slow everything
moves--everything but that great river!"

"A new life indeed," I responded, "and, please God, a happy one."  And
I wondered if part of hers would be passed with me.  I wondered, and I
hoped, and longed to ask her what she thought about it.

Dawson City was at that time merely a couple of strings of rough shacks
and shanties, interspersed with all manner of tents and temporary
shelters.  One row of buildings ran parallel with the Yukon, and was
called Front Street; the other, some distance behind, had no name then.
All this part was on a low alluvial flat, said to hold gold enough to
pay for working.  The so-called streets were mere lines of
rubbish-heaps and bog-holes.  It was bad enough then; later, in the
great heat of summer, pestilence would be sure to come, all said, for
there was no attempt at sanitary arrangements.  There were several
large stores.  Some had substantial warehouses attached to them: here
everything was supposed to be supplied.  All were of wood, naturally;
some had iron roofs, some canvas, and some were covered with turf.

Every other building was a saloon, a restaurant, or a hotel.  These
latter had the grandest, gaudiest names.  There was the Métropole and
Grand, the Queen's, the Victoria, the Rossin House, and the Windsor.

The others, especially the saloons, were very fancifully christened.
There was the Nugget, Woodbine, Mascotte, the Holborn Restaurant, the
Elephant and Castle, and Delmonico's!

All were of logs, or sods, or slabs; many were built of old meat-tins,
covered with sacking or even tarred paper!

There were a few women about.  Many of these places were "run" by
women.  The less said about many of them who were famous then the
better.

Naturally everything for sale was fearfully expensive, and gold-dust
was the only currency.  Every one carried gold about in a little
buckskin bag called a sack: you see it sounded big to speak of a "sack
of gold."  On making a purchase, one handed one's sack to the
storekeeper; he weighed out the amount, on the basis, then, of $17 per
ounce.  It was considered "bad form"--rather mean--to watch him too
closely.  What were a few grains of gold in those flush, glorious times?

Fortunately, we did not need to make many purchases.  Our clothing was
rough enough, truly, and terribly dilapidated, but every one was in the
same condition: to have dressed better would have made us remarkable,
and we desired to avoid notice.  We could replenish our wardrobes in
Victoria.

The headquarters of the mounted police in Dawson were very complete and
substantial log buildings.  They were kept in such perfect order that
they were an amazing contrast to the rest of the town.  The good old
British flag flew over them constantly, too.

Having arranged with the captain of the steamer that I could occupy my
cabin on board after my friends had left, I found myself in clover.  I
took my meals ashore, as I had discovered a decent place where a fairly
good meal could be had--fair, that is, for the Klondyke--for one
dollar.  It was usually a plate of pork and beans, with a piece of pie
made of dried apples or peaches, washed down with a basin of what was
called coffee.  Sometimes salmon was to be had, and once I struck bear
meat, and once stewed cariboo venison.

I saw May every day.  We rarely went out together.  There was really
nothing she cared to see, and as all the roads and trails about this
frontier town were simply impassable with mud, and slush, and knee-deep
water-holes, there was no pleasure in a walk.  Another reason was that
women--ladies--being so rare there, her appearance on the street was
the cause of some excitement: people would waylay us simply, I knew, to
gaze with admiration on her sweet face.  May disliked this so much, and
of course I did, therefore she hardly went outside her quarters during
the week we were in the town.

With the help of Frank and Coney I had carried our gold on board the
boat, and had stowed it amongst our furs and blankets.  By the advice
of the commissioner I had informed the captain about it--he knew him to
be a trusty fellow.  We had kept the actual amount of it secret, which
he and many others were anxious enough to know.  The result of this
was, of course, that we were credited with possessing as many millions
as we had thousands: that mattered little, for if we had had nothing,
every one would have reported us to be a mass of coarse gold and
nuggets.

Robberies of anything but food, and those very seldom, were never heard
of.  All seemed to have perfect confidence in the honesty of the crowd.
We Britishers and Canadians believed that it was in consequence of the
presence of the splendid body of mounted police.  No doubt they had
much to do with it, but the Canadians are a law-abiding people, and the
bulk of the foreigners had evidently great respect and confidence in
the British flag and British law.  The diggers, however, would have
risen to a man to repel and punish any one found pilfering or
gold-stealing.  A species of lynch law had prevailed in that region for
years, and the effect on the whole had made for good.

It was on the twelfth day of June that the steam whistle howled at
daybreak, and our boat's bell clanged ceaselessly for an hour--how they
do love noise over there!--and I brought May and her bundles on board.

The entire population of Dawson City came to the water's edge to see us
off, and yell their good wishes to us.

Then as the red sun arose across the yellow river, the stern-wheel
began to beat the turbid stream, the ropes were cast off, and we were
away.

May and I were at last started for England and home!



CHAPTER XIV.

Our vessel was a curious affair.  The hull was a long, square-ended
barge.  In this was the engine which worked the huge wheel astern.  On
the deck a large cargo could be carried; over that were cabins, ranged
along both sides, with the dining-room between.  A railed passage--a
balcony--surrounded the vessel on this deck outside the sleeping-rooms,
and above all was the hurricane deck, where the passengers mostly
passed their time.

The cabins were remarkably clean and comfortable: a Chinaman looked
after them.  Our food was excellent--considering.

The boat being "light," we were expected to make a record passage
down--twelve days, the captain said; but it all depended on the state
of the ice in the lower river.

There were only a dozen passengers besides ourselves--some of them were
returning "sick," others because they were "sorry" they had come.  Four
or five were reputed to have made their piles.  These were very silent
men: they spent their time smoking, expectorating, and playing poker.

There was an American and his wife--Californians--who were very genial
and superior: they were excellent company.  There were also a young
Englishman and an elderly Scotsman.  The Americans were bound to San
Francisco to buy goods: they had wintered in Dawson, and were returning
later with their stock, and were going into storekeeping in Dawson in
an extensive way.  The Englishman and the Scot had done very well on
Bonanza Creek: they owned they had made enough to live in Britain as
they pleased.

We did not stop at Fort Reliance; it is all but abandoned, and has been
so for years.  That is where the first whites settled in that region,
and it is from this point that most of the places have been
named,--Forty, Sixty, Twelve Mile Posts were supposed to be these
distances from Reliance.  The Yukon is here five hundred yards in
width; there are but few islands, and the current is regular.

At Forty Mile Post our boat was tied up for a few hours.  This place is
a small repetition of Dawson, although, I believe, a much older
settlement: it is on the south side of Forty Mile river, which here
joins the Yukon.  It has several restaurants, billiard-halls, and
bakeries, a blacksmith, and an opera-house!

On the north side of the river lies Cudahy, a smaller collection of
stores and shanties.  It has no opera-house, and would, in consequence,
be unhappy but for Fort Constantine, which was established in 1895.  It
is a station of the mounted police, who have several fine log
buildings, so well cared for that they lend an air of civilisation to
the place.

From here to the boundary line between Canada and the United
States--the 141st parallel of west longitude--there is nothing worth
noticing.  The Yukon there is about the same width as at Reliance, but
soon after entering American territory--_i.e._, Alaska--it widens
considerably.  It continues thus for about one hundred miles, the banks
on either hand being high and steep, with fine mountains inland.  This
portion is known as the Upper Ramparts.

Circle City we touched at.  It had been a village of importance before
Dawson existed.  The Klondyke rush had taken away most of the
inhabitants.  We found it all but deserted.  Here we took in wood for
fuel, and heard with pleasure that the ice had left the river for a
long distance down.

After this there are 150 miles of very much wider river, but it is a
network of channels amongst small islands.  Huge piles of ice were
still to be seen on many shallows.

At Fort Yukon, which lies north of the Arctic Circle, we found hard
winter reigned; but the river was free of ice.  It is 380 miles below
Dawson.  The stream is said to be seven miles wide here.  The
navigation is most perplexing, as the channel shifts continually.

On the fifth day we came to floating ice, which extended from shore to
shore.  We moved slowly after it.  It was drifting down at the rate of
five miles an hour.  During the short nights we tied up to the bank.
At daylight, no ice being visible, we went on full speed until we
overtook it.  This continued till we were ten days out; then we came to
a solid mass of ice, which was not moving.

Our captain, a bit of a philosopher, reckoned he had foreseen this
delay and made light of it, but it was annoying to us.

There were no dwellings, no signs of human or any other life here,
nothing but the dismal pine-clad river banks, where, being so far
north, it was still deep winter.

We were stuck here four days.  We were not a very lively party.  Cards
kept a few employed, and there were a few books on board.  There were
also a number of newspapers of the previous September.  These were full
of interest to some of us.

On the fourth day, suddenly, with an awful roar and turmoil, the ice
broke up and started.  We soon had clear water and went ahead again.
No further stoppages occurred, we pushed on, and eighteen days from
Dawson we reached the delta of the Yukon.

Here, the land being low and flat, and indeed then completely
overflowed, we appeared to be on the open sea.  We had to go eighty
miles north through this to reach Fort St Michael, where our voyage in
the stern-wheeler ended.

The few miserable settlements, trading-posts, and Indian rancheries
which we had passed, or stopped at for firing, were all so perfectly
uninteresting and monotonous that it is useless to even name them.  The
few inhabitants were generally busy in some way about the salmon.  That
fish was the all-absorbing topic here, as gold had been farther up.

We met but one vessel going in.  She had been fast in the ice all
winter, since the previous September!  She was slowly pounding up
against the strong current with so much of her cargo that was
unconsumed during their long detention.  What she had left was
principally household furniture and whisky!--which would not feed the
hungry.

Near St Michael's the mosquitoes discovered us, for it had now become
intensely hot.  Those pests stuck to us persistently until we were well
out to sea.

May and I during this tedious time had become very friendly with our
American fellow-passengers, Mr and Mrs Parker.  May was so constantly
with that lady that I had few opportunities of even a word with her,
which made me quite unhappy.  I fancied, foolishly, that May's past
affectionately friendly way with me had ended, that she had changed,
and that now that we were with others, and my help not so necessary,
she was gradually forsaking me.

We were always in company, that is true, but she was never alone.  It
was rare now for her to call me Bertie, and I observed a look on her
sweet face when I called her May which caused me to think she did not
like it.

Yes, I was very miserable.  I was jealous of her close association with
Mrs Parker, I was jealous of the kindly way in which she spoke to that
lady's husband.  I was very absurd, I know.  I was poor company then
for myself, or for any one.

May had really changed very little in appearance, although she seemed
to me to grow in beauty daily.  With more civilised appliances, a few
improvements in her dress, she became, in my eyes, the picture of all a
girl should be.  I longed to tell her this.  I was annoyed, impatient,
irritated at the obstacles which prevented me.

May always had a sad expression.  Could one wonder at it?  She was, I
knew, still grieving over her lost father, and was anxious, filled with
apprehension about her mother when she had heard the sad story she must
tell her.  I longed to help, to sympathise with her, indeed to be all
in all to her, as I fancied I had been during that awful time up
country.

It was very foolish, very preposterous of me, I am aware.  I should
have realised that such companionship could never be again, unless she
became my wife.  Really I knew it, and that is why I was so unhappy,
and, as I see now, so stupid, for I then feared that she never could be
that.

This state of matters continued until towards the end of this portion
of our journey.  It had grown so unbearable that I had become somewhat
reckless.  I really felt that I must put an end to it in some way.  It
actually came into my mind that I had better, on arriving at St
Michael's, put her safely on board a ship bound for Victoria and return
to Dawson and our claims up the Klondyke.

I said so to May one afternoon in the presence of Mr and Mrs Parker.  I
spoke as if I had all but determined to do so.  She turned pale, then
red.  She did not speak, but she looked at me so eagerly, so
imploringly, so frightened, that I was puzzled.

I was so abominably stupid that I attributed her expression of alarm to
her fear of losing my help and guardianship.  That she should be
grieved at the mere prospect of parting with me, never entered my thick
head that afternoon.

I said that I believed I should be better employed in looking after our
interests up the Yukon than in going home in ease and luxury.  "I'm
sure you'll do very well and comfortably without me now, Miss Bell," I
declared.

At this nasty speech the dear girl looked at me so surprised, so very
sorrowfully, that I half regretted what I had said.  She kept silence
for a little.  "Have you forgotten your promise to your friend Meade?
and to my poor father?" she asked me.

I replied, with difficulty, I admit, I was so dreadfully down-hearted
and distressed, "Oh! you will do all there is to be done for Meade, I'm
sure, as well, nay, better than I can, and so that I know all will be
carried out as he wished, that promise will be kept; and your father's
desire will be carried out too if I see you off safely from this
country--and that I will do, most certainly."

"Are you in earnest, Bertie?"  She seemed to be amazed.

I assured her that was how I felt then,--that I thought it would be
much better so.

May was silent again.  Shortly she arose and walked slowly to her
cabin.  I fancied I observed a tear trickling down her cheek as she
left us.  "She is thinking about the past," I said to myself.

That same evening, later,--indeed it was getting towards midnight--the
sun had long set, but its brilliance was still in the sky--it did not
leave it the whole night through at that season,--I was on deck, as I
supposed alone, the steamer was pressing onward to the ocean down the
rapidly flowing river, here quite broad.  The distant mountains in the
west and north towered up, violet, from a bank of rose-tinted mist,
soft as carded wool.  Here and there ice-clad peaks were still gilded
by the sun, which was far down behind them, whilst the moon was riding
full behind me.  I was in deep distress, broken-hearted, yet I have a
clear remembrance of the scene on which I gazed that night.

As I leant upon the rail and pondered upon what I and May had said
earlier in the day, what our adventures together had been in the past,
and what I had been foolish enough, as I at that moment considered, to
imagine might be possible in the future, I was down-hearted and
exceeding sad.  My heart went out to May, I dwelt long and fondly on
thoughts of her, but I could see no ray of hope, and could think of no
reason why she should ever regard me as more than a friend; whilst I
was longing, yearning, beside myself with love of her.  "Yes, oh! yes,"
I muttered to myself, "it is far better that I part with her,--far
better, indeed, that I return to my work away back in the north."

There was much vibration in the vessel.  These craft are at best very
fragile, very shaky.  The beating paddle-wheel astern made so much
noise that perfect quiet could not be attained anywhere on board.

I was somewhere amidships, the stillest spot that I could find, yet I
heard no footsteps, and had no idea that any one was near me.  Lifting
up my eyes to heaven, I ejaculated something--I don't know what--some
exclamation of despondency at the prospect of the life that I was
contemplating in the Upper Yukon; but I do remember that I ended with
the words, "And no May there!"

As I uttered them a hand was laid softly on my arm.  I turned round
hastily, and there my darling stood, gazing at me steadily, with
tear-filled eyes.  "Bertie!" she exclaimed, "Bertie, what do you mean?
What ails you?  Are you unwell?  Are you in some new grief?  What do
you mean by crying out 'and no May there'?  Tell me, my friend, my very
dear friend, what is amiss, what you mean?"

I was speechless for a little while.  What could I say?  I only stared
at her distraught, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and I could not
prevent my looks showing what I felt.  "Oh!  May, May!" I murmured at
last, "do you not understand?  Do you not comprehend the misery that I
am suffering?"

She was silent.  She leant on the rail beside me, fixing her gaze upon
the crimson glow beyond the mountain range.  She was perfectly still
and speechless.

My agitation was very great--she and I were at last alone.  I knew that
the time had come when I must speak out.  It was, I felt, now or never,
yet my tongue refused to form a sentence; the thoughts that were
whirling through my brain refused to be turned to words.  For several
minutes we two looked straight before us, seeing nothing, and were dumb.

But in course of time I was able to speak; it was slowly and in broken
sentences.  "May," I began, "my dear friend May--my dearest friend--you
are going home--shortly we must part.  I am broken-hearted about it.
You were such sweet company to me up in that fearful north; we have
been through such awful scenes together.  To me, though, they were the
happiest times that I have ever known, or ever expect to know.  I would
willingly go back there, and end my days there, if you could be with
me; but that being impossible, I have really, and truly, and seriously
thought of late that it would be better for me to go back there alone,
for I believe I should be happier in the scenes where you and I have
dwelt together, where the memory of your dear presence will for ever
cling, than at home in England separated from you."  Then I was silent
again.

Shortly after this outburst May asked me why we must be separated; why,
if her companionship was so necessary to my happiness, I could not have
it easier and better in England than in Alaska?

What was I to reply to this?  I muttered something, and she went
on--"Have we not laid our plans and schemes for our future lives?  Are
we not going to carry them out?  We are well off now as regards money.
We believe we can do all we wish, thank God.  What, then, is troubling
you?  Why this sadness, this unhappiness?  Why do you speak of parting
company and ending it all, and adding a greater--yes, I will admit it,
a greater grief to me than any I have to bear, by talking thus of
putting an end to the life together which we have contemplated with so
much delight?"

"Why--why do I do this, May?" I cried excitedly.  "Why?  because I love
you--love you.  Do you understand why, now?  Don't you know that you
are all the world to me, and more?  Don't you comprehend that the
entire future is dark and dreadful to me, because I love you, yearn for
you, and have no hope of winning your dear love in return?  That is the
reason, May.  Now you know this secret of my heart."

Again my dearest was speechless for some time: I saw the tears
dropping, dropping from her sweet eyes; fain would I have clasped her
to my heart and dried them, but I dared not.

"Bertie," she said then, softly.  "Yes; now I know your secret.  But
why? oh, why are you so sure that you cannot win my love?"

I glanced at her bewildered.  She turned to me, and I saw in her dear
eyes a look I cannot describe, but I understood it.  I was overcome
with the joy of it, enchanted at the knowledge that suddenly flashed
through my intelligence.  I did not, could not, stop to analyse, but I
knew she loved me.  I knew that all my fears were follies, and that all
my greatest desires, my fondest hopes, were granted, and that May was
mine!

What I said or did then I have no clear recollection; only this, that I
seized my beloved's hands and drew her to me as she laid her head
confidingly on my shoulder and whispered softly in my ear, "Dearest,
don't you know I love you?"

We remained on deck together for a long while.  For my part I was in
the seventh heaven of delight and thankfulness.  I could not find words
to make my darling understand how great my joy was.  I could but kiss
her and draw her to my heart, whilst she murmured again and again to me
the joyful words, "Bertie, my dearest, best of friends, I love you."

We parted only when the sun was about to rise above the north-eastern
ranges.  I went below, a gloriously happy man.  I went to my berth
rejoicing that never-to-be-forgotten morning on the Lower Yukon in
Alaska.

To our fellow-passengers we believed that there could be no apparent
change in us when we all met; but to me and to May how different all
things seemed to be.  When I glanced at her across the breakfast table,
and saw the love-light in her eyes, I knew that she was, as I was,
filled with gladness unspeakable.

We hardly had three words together that morning, she was with Mrs
Parker all the time; the whole forenoon she kept away from me.  I hung
around, smoked my pipe persistently, hoping every moment that she would
join me--my face, I'm sure, showing my discontent.

She came at last, saying, "Don't you understand, my love, that we
cannot be exhibiting to all these people what we are to each other?  We
must not expose ourselves to their remarks.  Be patient; my thoughts
are always with you."

"But why need you be with Mrs Parker always?" I enquired.  "Surely no
one will be scandalised if you and I walk the deck together, or sit
beside each other.  We used to do so three days ago; why cannot we do
so now?"

"True," answered my sweetheart with a loving smile; "but we were not so
self-conscious then.  We know now what we are to one another; let us be
patient."

Of course I was so full of rapture, so intensely pleased, that every
syllable my dear one said to me had my immediate acquiescence.  "Oh,
yes," said I, "I will be patient; but why should not people know?  Why
don't you tell Mrs Parker of our happiness?  She is a good woman, I
feel sure, and if she knew the state of matters she would advise and
help us.  Don't you wish that you could tell the Bains and Sandy, eh?
How delighted they all would be."

May did not tell me then, but afterwards she did, that Mrs
Bain--woman-like--had discovered my darling's secret and mine also, and
had prophesied to her what would happen "some day."

Not long after this I perceived May and Mrs Parker side by side,
talking together intently, with so absorbed an aspect that I guessed
what was their subject easily.

After supper that evening Mrs Parker, catching me alone, congratulated
me, declaring that she had made up her mind about us before the boat
left Dawson; and felt honoured that May had, at last, confided in her.
She assured me that in all her travels, and amongst all her
acquaintances, she had never come across a sweeter girl than May Bell.

So, thereafter, May and I had many a sweet hour together, contrived by
this kind Yankee friend, who, having plenty of wit and common-sense,
arranged for us.

I fancy every person on board knew that we were lovers by the time we
landed at St Michael's.

This place is an irregularly built village on an island of the same
name.  It consists of a few large warehouses--Russian buildings--a few
log and frame houses and stores, and, when we were there, many shacks
and temporary huts and camps.

It is perfectly treeless, but the grass-covered rolling downs were so
like the prairies of Manitoba that May and I were impatient to go
ashore and feel soft green sward beneath our feet again.

Several large sea-going ships and steamers were alongside the wharf or
anchored in the roadstead, and there were numerous river-boats loading
and preparing for their passage up to Dawson.

It was very evident, even before our boat touched land, that there was
considerable excitement here.  We were the first people down that
season; this caused a crowd--all the inhabitants it seemed--to meet us,
eager for our report.  They swarmed on board before we were made fast,
vehemently demanding information.  "Was it true?"  "Was gold being got
as they had heard?"  "Was there any left?"  This was the burden of
their interrogations.

There were wild-eyed fellows amongst them, who tackled every man of us
almost savagely.  There were women, too, just as anxious to hear what
we could tell.  Some of these latter got hold of May, and the captain
was surrounded by a clamouring mob.  They hardly gave him the chance to
make his ship fast.

He referred them to the miners on board for information.  He
particularly indicated me--then I was attacked with a vengeance.
Questions poured upon me.

The intelligence I gave sent most of the crowd half-cranky with
delight.  At once they were for dragging me ashore and treating me with
all the grog and good things the place contained.  They declared that
nothing was too good for me, for what I had told them satisfied them
that they were not too late, that all the gold was not yet extracted
from the Klondyke!

As for May, I saw her being haled ashore by her female admirers, and
she was looking quite alarmed.  So soon as I could get my besiegers to
listen I begged them to let me go to her.  They did so, but they all
accompanied me, and were then for both of us accepting unbounded
hospitality.

It seemed that our captain had let out that we had a lot of gold on
board.  We could not, and did not, deny this, but when it came to
questions about the amount we answered mysteriously.  That was enough;
they were certain that the captain had been right when he put our
treasure down as worth several millions!

It was some time before we could break away from these enthusiasts.  Go
where we would they followed us, each wanting a private word or two.
It was an exciting time truly.

There was one fine steamship leaving for Victoria that very evening.
With difficulty I got on board, interviewed her commander, a first-rate
English sailor, and secured our passages.  The Parkers did the same.

This ship, a well-known Victoria trader, had brought up a full to
overflowing complement of passengers.  She was returning empty for
another lot.

We heard that Victoria, Vancouver, and all the inland towns of Canada,
all the American cities on Puget Sound, with San Francisco and all
California, were half-mad about these wonderful finds reported on the
Klondyke.  The latest news from Eastern Canada and the States, from
Britain, and indeed from all the world, was that vast crowds were
coming.

We heard such stories, such wild, astounding stories about the doings
up where we had come from.  Such exorbitant fortunes that had been
made, such heaps of gold-dust, such nuggets, buckets full of them!
flour-barrels full! kegs heaped up with them!  We were told that in
some of the creeks the precious metal was so plentiful that men had
picked up piles in a few hours--that there was plenty for every one who
could but reach the Klondyke!

It was in vain that we assured them that we knew nothing of such
occurrences,--that we were sure it was mostly gross exaggeration.  No
one would listen to this; they said we were trying to deceive them, to
hide the truth from them, for that it was well known we ourselves had
so much gold with us that we were multi-millionaires already, and were
hoping and scheming to make ourselves richer still.  It was no use our
arguing, our disclaiming--they knew far better than we did.

We hardly heard a word about how the swarms, bound in, were to be fed.
They knew that every ship had reached the port with heavy cargoes of
food, they knew that the stores and warehouses here were full, but
scarcely any one appeared to have an idea of getting it up to where the
gold existed.  They had very much to learn.

With some scheming we managed to get our gold transferred to this other
ship; then we sailed at midnight.

This was a _real_ steamship, flying the British ensign, manned and
served in proper British style.  We had excellent quarters, a capital
table--my darling girl and I were in the lap of luxury.

I need not particularise much about this voyage.  We had good weather,
bright, clear, and not so cold, for our 750 miles passage across
Behring Sea to Dutch Harbour on the island of Unalaska, the most
important of the Aleutian chain.  Its mountains were capped with
eternal snow, but the greenness of the lower land was very charming.
Many vessels were lying here, as it is a supply station for the sealing
and whaling fleets.

Here we remained but a few hours.  We then entered the Gulf of Alaska,
where a strong gale and a heavy sea was our fortune, as we steered
almost due east, for 2000 miles, to Victoria.

Arrived there, we found an excited crowd to meet us.  Newspaper men
interviewed us, and the accounts they printed of what we had said and
done, and of the amount of bullion we had with us, astonished, thrilled
the world--_and us_!

We only remained two days in Victoria, at my old quarters at Bella
Rocca.  During that time we had to give full particulars to the
authorities about Meade's and Mr Bell's deaths.  We delivered our gold
to the Bank of British Columbia, feeling great relief when it was safe
at last.  We replenished our wardrobes, and became again decent-looking
and civilised members of society.

May cabled to her mother from Victoria--she merely announced that she
was safe and well and on her way home.  She also wrote to a relative,
begging her to break the awful news she had to tell to her mother, as
we both thought this would be better than May arriving and suddenly
telling her dreadful story.

During our voyage from St Michael's to Dutch Harbour, May and I had a
quiet time, and we endeavoured to plan our future movements.  My desire
was that we should be married in Victoria.  I believed it would save
much trouble and misunderstanding.  But she would not agree to this.
She declared that only at her mother's home would she become my wife.

We went on board the Yosemite late one evening, and were in Vancouver
early the following morning, and about noon the same day left by the
C.P.R. for Montreal.

At Vancouver we parted with Mr and Mrs Parker, who were to take the
boat bound south for San Francisco.

There were many tourists on our train, old-country folk and Americans.
The conductors were genial and polite; the porters attentive and
kindly; the meals were excellent in the dining-car; the beds were
wonderfully comfortable.  It was a truly enjoyable trip we had through
the Selkirks and the Rockies.  We gazed with sad interest at the
scenery about Banff, then we bowled across the prairies past Broadview,
where the train, stopping for an hour or so, gave us the opportunity of
greeting a few old friends.  After five days' travel we arrived at
Montreal, stayed at St Lawrence Hall for two days, then went on board
the Allan steamer Parmesian, and sailed for home.

It appeared that the good folk of Victoria must have told the people on
the Yosemite about us, and they must have passed the story on to the
officials of the C.P.R at Vancouver, for every one seemed to know where
May and I had been, and what our experiences were, also the amount of
gold we had brought out with us.  Every one was attracted to us: we
were famous, and had to answer no end of questions, and repeat again
and again the story of our adventures.

We heard, and read subsequently, much about ourselves that was true
enough, much that we certainly did not recognise.

There was the same experience on board the Parmesian, old and young
seemed to be proud to hold a few minutes' conversation with either of
us; but my dear girl was undoubtedly the heroine.

May had become splendidly well.  She was very cheerful, too.  I did my
best to keep her from dwelling upon sorrowful memories.

When we reached England she was, as I was, thankful indeed; but now
that she would be so quickly with her mother, she became very
low-spirited and anxious.  She dreaded, yet longed for, the sad
meeting.  She feared the effect upon her of what she had to say.

I accompanied her south as far as Maidstone, where a cousin met her,
and she left me to hasten to her mother's arms.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Since that day three months have elapsed.  A week ago there was a
wedding at Chart Sutton, where Mrs Bell has been residing since her
husband and her daughter went to Canada.

On our wedding-day Mrs Bell had sufficiently recovered her health and
peace of mind to be present at the ceremony.  My two brothers were with
me, and many of May's friends.  Meade's mother and sister came, so did
Fanny Hume.

We have bought a little place near the sea, at Bexhill, in Sussex; that
is where our home is to be.

There is some talk of my going out to the Klondyke in 1898.  I think it
is my duty.  My wife is dead against it.  She has made me promise, at
all events, to wait until reports can be received from Bain and Coney.
They are due in June.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

At the end of June 1898 a letter came to hand from Bain.  It was
written in March, and was brought out by the "Yukon Kid," a famous
half-breed, on his dog-train, over the White Pass to Skagway.

Bain reported that soon after we left they sold their claim at a good
price; then they all moved up to Meade's Creek and built a comfortable
cabin.  Sandy Bain went down as far as St Michael's, bought a good
outfit of stores, and was luckily able to get them up to Dawson by an
early boat.

May's partners returned.  They came in over the Chilkoot Pass, also
bringing a good supply of food.  They were grieved to hear of what Mr
Bell and his daughter had suffered, and of the sad events that had
ensued.  They declared that they had made what they felt satisfied were
reliable arrangements for their relief and rescue as they passed
through Dawson the previous autumn.  They approved of the way in which
May had left the claim, and recognised Bain's and Coney's right to
receive her share of the gold they obtained, which they promised to
hand over at the proper time.  The claim was looking still most
prosperous.

Meade's Creek was staked out for miles above "discovery"--that is, our
claim, Meade's and mine--and for some distance below.  So was the creek
upon which May's party's claim was situated.  Trails had been cut, and
on each creek a store or two had been started.  A log church had been
erected on Meade's Creek.  Service was held by volunteers almost every
Sabbath.

About the gold, Bain had very good news to tell.  The dump which we had
left had been washed.  It was very rich.  They had hired men to work
for us, who had already got out another heap that looked to be as full
of gold as ever.  They had knocked away most of the hill in which we
had our dug-out and our tunnel.

Bain's own claim looked well.  They had already secured such an amount
of gold, that he and his wife had serious thoughts of coming home the
following autumn, leaving Frank and Sandy to go on mining, or to sell
out when they got an offer good enough.  He finished the business part
of his letter by suggesting that I should await further reports before
starting for the North-West again--that is, if I had any thought of
coming.  There was also some information about the route in by Skagway,
on which he said great work was being done.  A road for vehicles was
completed, bad places had been bridged, &c.  A railroad was commenced
over the White Pass, and by the spring of 1899 it was confidently
expected that it would be completed to Lake Bennet, the head of the
navigation.  Steamboats had been constructed to traverse the lakes and
rivers.  Stores, bunk-houses, and shelters had been erected along the
trails.  A tramway had been constructed round Miles Cañon and White
Horse Rapids, and vast quantities of stores had fortunately been
brought up from St Michael's, so that no great fear of starvation
existed.

An aerial wire-way, which he thought little of, had been erected over
the Chilkoot pass.  It carried no passengers, only merchandise and
stores.

Thus it appeared that as in this short time such immense improvements
had been made in the way in to the Klondyke, we might expect in a year
or two to be able to go in and out with speed and comfort in summer and
autumn.  But during the long and terrible winter there would be no easy
way until a railroad was established.

There was an enclosure from Mrs Bain to May.  She sent her loving
messages, and hoped before her missive reached her she would be May
Singleton.  Which is exactly what she is.

Patch was flourishing--every one's favourite.

So I end our story.  We are waiting for the latest news from Meade's
Creek.  But if no more gold is obtained from our claim on the Klondyke,
we have reason to be well content, and to be thankful to the Giver of
all good for His bounty to us.



THE END.



PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.





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