Part 3 out of 3
on the two dogs. "I want my leaders to the fore."
But when she had done this, the displaced animals pitched upon the
aliens. Though Hitchcock plunged among them with clubbed rifle, a
riot of sound went up and across the sleeping camp.
"Now we shall have dogs, and in plenty," he remarked grimly,
slipping an axe from the sled lashings. "Do thou harness
whichever I fling thee, and betweenwhiles protect the team."
He stepped a space in advance and waited between two pines. The
dogs of the camp were disturbing the night with their jangle, and
he watched for their coming. A dark spot, growing rapidly, took
form upon the dim white expanse of snow. It was a forerunner of
the pack, leaping cleanly, and, after the wolf fashion, singing
direction to its brothers. Hitchcock stood in the shadow. As it
sprang past, he reached out, gripped its forelegs in mid-career,
and sent it whirling earthward. Then he struck it a well-judged
blow beneath the ear, and flung it to Sipsu. And while she
clapped on the harness, he, with his axe, held the passage between
the trees, till a shaggy flood of white teeth and glistening eyes
surged and crested just beyond reach. Sipsu worked rapidly. When
she had finished, he leaped forward, seized and stunned a second,
and flung it to her. This he repeated thrice again, and when the
sled team stood snarling in a string of ten, he called, "Enough!"
But at this instant a young buck, the forerunner of the tribe, and
swift of limb, wading through the dogs and cuffing right and left,
attempted the passage. The butt of Hitchcock's rifle drove him to
his knees, whence he toppled over sideways. The witch doctor,
running lustily, saw the blow fall.
Hitchcock called to Sipsu to pull out. At her shrill "Chook!" the
maddened brutes shot straight ahead, and the sled, bounding
mightily, just missed unseating her. The powers were evidently
angry with the witch doctor, for at this moment they plunged him
upon the trail. The lead-dog fouled his snowshoes and tripped him
up, and the nine succeeding dogs trod him under foot and the sled
bumped over him. But he was quick to his feet, and the night
might have turned out differently had not Sipsu struck backward
with the long dog-whip and smitten him a blinding blow across the
eyes. Hitchcock, hurrying to overtake her, collided against him
as he swayed with pain in the middle of the trail. Thus it was,
when this primitive theologian got back to the chief's lodge, that
his wisdom had been increased in so far as concerns the efficacy
of the white man's fist. So, when he orated then and there in the
council, he was wroth against all white men.
"Tumble out, you loafers! Tumble out! Grub'll be ready before
you get into your footgear!"
Dave Wertz threw off the bearskin, sat up, and yawned.
Hawes stretched, discovered a lame muscle in his arm, and rubbed
it sleepily. "Wonder where Hitchcock bunked last night?" he
queried, reaching for his moccasins. They were stiff, and he
walked gingerly in his socks to the fire to thaw them out. "It's
a blessing he's gone," he added, "though he was a mighty good
"Yep. Too masterful. That was his trouble. Too bad for Sipsu.
Think he cared for her much?"
"Don't think so. Just principle. That's all. He thought it
wasn't right--and, of course, it wasn't,--but that was no reason
for us to interfere and get hustled over the divide before our
"Principle is principle, and it's good in its place, but it's best
left to home when you go to Alaska. Eh?" Wertz had joined his
mate, and both were working pliability into their frozen
moccasins. "Think we ought to have taken a hand?"
Sigmund shook his head. He was very busy. A scud of chocolate-
colored foam was rising in the coffee-pot, and the bacon needed
turning. Also, he was thinking about the girl with laughing eyes
like summer seas, and he was humming softly.
His mates chuckled to each other and ceased talking. Though it
was past seven, daybreak was still three hours distant. The
aurora borealis had passed out of the sky, and the camp was an
oasis of light in the midst of deep darkness. And in this light
the forms of the three men were sharply defined. Emboldened by
the silence, Sigmund raised his voice and opened the last stanza
of the old song:-
"In a year, in a year, when the grapes are ripe--"
Then the night was split with a rattling volley of rifle-shots.
Hawes sighed, made an effort to straighten himself, and collapsed.
Wertz went over on an elbow with drooping head. He choked a
little, and a dark stream flowed from his mouth. And Sigmund, the
Golden-Haired, his throat a-gurgle with the song, threw up his
arms and pitched across the fire.
The witch doctor's eyes were well blackened, and his temper none
of the best; for he quarrelled with the chief over the possession
of Wertz's rifle, and took more than his share of the part-sack of
beans. Also he appropriated the bearskin, and caused grumbling
among the tribesmen. And finally, he tried to kill Sigmund's dog,
which the girl had given him, but the dog ran away, while he fell
into the shaft and dislocated his shoulder on the bucket. When
the camp was well looted they went back to their own lodges, and
there was a great rejoicing among the women. Further, a band of
moose strayed over the south divide and fell before the hunters,
so the witch doctor attained yet greater honor, and the people
whispered among themselves that he spoke in council with the gods.
But later, when all were gone, the shepherd dog crept back to the
deserted camp, and all the night long and a day it wailed the
dead. After that it disappeared, though the years were not many
before the Indian hunters noted a change in the breed of timber
wolves, and there were dashes of bright color and variegated
markings such as no wolf bore before.
A DAUGHTER OF THE AURORA
"You--what you call--lazy mans, you lazy mans would desire me to
haf for wife. It is not good. Nevaire, no, nevaire, will lazy
mans my hoosband be."
Thus Joy Molineau spoke her mind to Jack Harrington, even as she
had spoken it, but more tritely and in his own tongue, to Louis
Savoy the previous night.
"No, no; why moos' I listen to lazy mans? It is vaire bad, you
hang rount, make visitation to my cabin, and do nothing. How you
get grub for the famine? Why haf not you the dust? Odder mans
"But I work hard, Joy. Never a day am I not on trail or up creek.
Even now have I just come off. My dogs are yet tired. Other men
have luck and find plenty of gold; but I--I have no luck."
"Ah! But when this mans with the wife which is Indian, this mans
McCormack, when him discovaire the Klondike, you go not. Odder
mans go; odder mans now rich."
"You know I was prospecting over on the head-reaches of the
Tanana," Harrington protested, "and knew nothing of the Eldorado
or Bonanza until it was too late."
"That is deeferent; only you are--what you call way off."
"Way off. In the--yes--in the dark. It is nevaire too late. One
vaire rich mine is there, on the creek which is Eldorado. The
mans drive the stake and him go 'way. No odddr mans know what of
him become. The mans, him which drive the stake, is nevaire no
more. Sixty days no mans on that claim file the papaire. Then
odder mans, plentee odder mans--what you call--jump that claim.
Then they race, O so queek, like the wind, to file the papaire.
Him be vaire rich. Him get grub for famine."
Harrington hid the major portion of his interest.
"When's the time up?" he asked. "What claim is it?"
"So I speak Louis Savoy last night," she continued, ignoring him.
"Him I think the winnaire."
"Hang Louis Savoy!"
"So Louis Savoy speak in my cabin last night. Him say, 'Joy, I am
strong mans. I haf good dogs. I haf long wind. I will be
winnaire. Then you will haf me for hoosband?' And I say to him,
"What'd you say?"
"I say, 'If Louis Savoy is winnaire, then will he haf me for
"And if he don't win?"
"Then Louis Savoy, him will not be--what you call--the father of
"And if I win?"
"You winnaire? Ha! ha! Nevaire!"
Exasperating as it was, Joy Molineau's laughter was pretty to
hear. Harrington did not mind it. He had long since been broken
in. Besides, he was no exception. She had forced all her lovers
to suffer in kind. And very enticing she was just then, her lips
parted, her color heightened by the sharp kiss of the frost, her
eyes vibrant with the lure which is the greatest of all lures and
which may be seen nowhere save in woman's eyes. Her sled-dogs
clustered about her in hirsute masses, and the leader, Wolf Fang,
laid his long snout softly in her lap.
"If I do win?" Harrington pressed.
She looked from dog to lover and back again.
"What you say, Wolf Fang? If him strong mans and file the
papaire, shall we his wife become? Eh? What you say?"
Wolf Fang picked up his ears and growled at Harrington.
"It is vaire cold," she suddenly added with feminine irrelevance,
rising to her feet and straightening out the team.
Her lover looked on stolidly. She had kept him guessing from the
first time they met, and patience had been joined unto his
"Hi! Wolf Fang!" she cried, springing upon the sled as it leaped
into sudden motion. "Ai! Ya! Mush-on!"
From the corner of his eye Harrington watched her swinging down
the trail to Forty Mile. Where the road forked and crossed the
river to Fort Cudahy, she halted the dogs and turned about.
"O Mistaire Lazy Mans!" she called back. "Wolf Fang, him say yes-
-if you winnaire!"
But somehow, as such things will, it leaked out, and all Forty
Mile, which had hitherto speculated on Joy Molineau's choice
between her two latest lovers, now hazarded bets and guesses as to
which would win in the forthcoming race. The camp divided itself
into two factions, and every effort was put forth in order that
their respective favorites might be the first in at the finish.
There was a scramble for the best dogs the country could afford,
for dogs, and good ones, were essential, above all, to success.
And it meant much to the victor. Besides the possession of a
wife, the like of which had yet to be created, it stood for a mine
worth a million at least.
That fall, when news came down of McCormack's discovery on
Bonanza, all the Lower Country, Circle City and Forty Mile
included, had stampeded up the Yukon,--at least all save those
who, like Jack Harrington and Louis Savoy, were away prospecting
in the west. Moose pastures and creeks were staked
indiscriminately and promiscuously; and incidentally, one of the
unlikeliest of creeks, Eldorado. Olaf Nelson laid claim to five
hundred of its linear feet, duly posted his notice, and as duly
disappeared. At that time the nearest recording office was in the
police barracks at Fort Cudahy, just across the river from Forty
Mile; but when it became bruited abroad that Eldorado Creek was a
treasure-house, it was quickly discovered that Olaf Nelson had
failed to make the down-Yukon trip to file upon his property. Men
cast hungry eyes upon the ownerless claim, where they knew a
thousand-thousand dollars waited but shovel and sluice-box. Yet
they dared not touch it; for there was a law which permitted sixty
days to lapse between the staking and the filing, during which
time a claim was immune. The whole country knew of Olaf Nelson's
disappearance, and scores of men made preparation for the jumping
and for the consequent race to Fort Cudahy.
But competition at Forty Mile was limited. With the camp devoting
its energies to the equipping either of Jack Harrington or Louis
Savoy, no man was unwise enough to enter the contest single-
handed. It was a stretch of a hundred miles to the Recorder's
office, and it was planned that the two favorites should have four
relays of dogs stationed along the trail. Naturally, the last
relay was to be the crucial one, and for these twenty-five miles
their respective partisans strove to obtain the strongest possible
animals. So bitter did the factions wax, and so high did they
bid, that dogs brought stiffer prices than ever before in the
annals of the country. And, as it chanced, this scramble for dogs
turned the public eye still more searchingly upon Joy Molineau.
Not only was she the cause of it all, but she possessed the finest
sled-dog from Chilkoot to Bering Sea. As wheel or leader, Wolf
Fang had no equal. The man whose sled he led down the last
stretch was bound to win. There could be no doubt of it. But the
community had an innate sense of the fitness of things, and not
once was Joy vexed by overtures for his use. And the factions
drew consolation from the fact that if one man did not profit by
him, neither should the other.
However, since man, in the individual or in the aggregate, has
been so fashioned that he goes through life blissfully obtuse to
the deeper subtleties of his womankind, so the men of Forty Mile
failed to divine the inner deviltry of Joy Molineau. They
confessed, afterward, that they had failed to appreciate this
dark-eyed daughter of the aurora, whose father had traded furs in
the country before ever they dreamed of invading it, and who had
herself first opened eyes on the scintillant northern lights.
Nay, accident of birth had not rendered her less the woman, nor
had it limited her woman's understanding of men. They knew she
played with them, but they did not know the wisdom of her play,
its deepness and its deftness. They failed to see more than the
exposed card, so that to the very last Forty Mile was in a state
of pleasant obfuscation, and it was not until she cast her final
trump that it came to reckon up the score.
Early in the week the camp turned out to start Jack Harrington and
Louis Savoy on their way. They had taken a shrewd margin of time,
for it was their wish to arrive at Olaf Nelson's claim some days
previous to the expiration of its immunity, that they might rest
themselves, and their dogs be fresh for the first relay. On the
way up they found the men of Dawson already stationing spare dog
teams along the trail, and it was manifest that little expense had
been spared in view of the millions at stake.
A couple of days after the departure of their champions, Forty
Mile began sending up their relays,--first to the seventy-five
station, then to the fifty, and last to the twenty-five. The
teams for the last stretch were magnificent, and so equally
matched that the camp discussed their relative merits for a full
hour at fifty below, before they were permitted to pull out. At
the last moment Joy Molineau dashed in among them on her sled.
She drew Lon McFane, who had charge of Harrington's team, to one
side, and hardly had the first words left her lips when it was
noticed that his lower jaw dropped with a celerity and emphasis
suggestive of great things. He unhitched Wolf Fang from her sled,
put him at the head of Harrington's team, and mushed the string of
animals into the Yukon trail.
"Poor Louis Savoy!" men said; but Joy Molineau flashed her black
eyes defiantly and drove back to her father's cabin.
Midnight drew near on Olaf Nelson's claim. A few hundred fur-clad
men had preferred sixty below and the jumping, to the inducements
of warm cabins and comfortable bunks. Several score of them had
their notices prepared for posting and their dogs at hand. A
bunch of Captain Constantine's mounted police had been ordered on
duty that fair play might rule. The command had gone forth that
no man should place a stake till the last second of the day had
ticked itself into the past. In the northland such commands are
equal to Jehovah's in the matter of potency; the dum-dum as rapid
and effective as the thunderbolt. It was clear and cold. The
aurora borealis painted palpitating color revels on the sky. Rosy
waves of cold brilliancy swept across the zenith, while great
coruscating bars of greenish white blotted out the stars, or a
Titan's hand reared mighty arches above the Pole. And at this
mighty display the wolf-dogs howled as had their ancestors of old
A bearskin-coated policeman stepped prominently to the fore, watch
in hand. Men hurried among the dogs, rousing them to their feet,
untangling their traces, straightening them out. The entries came
to the mark, firmly gripping stakes and notices. They had gone
over the boundaries of the claim so often that they could now have
done it blindfolded. The policeman raised his hand. Casting off
their superfluous furs and blankets, and with a final cinching of
belts, they came to attention.
Sixty pairs of hands unmitted; as many pairs of moccasins gripped
hard upon the snow.
They shot across the wide expanse, round the four sides, sticking
notices at every corner, and down the middle where the two centre
stakes were to be planted. Then they sprang for the sleds on the
frozen bed of the creek. An anarchy of sound and motion broke
out. Sled collided with sled, and dog-team fastened upon dog-team
with bristling manes and screaming fangs. The narrow creek was
glutted with the struggling mass. Lashes and butts of dog-whips
were distributed impartially among men and brutes. And to make it
of greater moment, each participant had a bunch of comrades intent
on breaking him out of jam. But one by one, and by sheer
strength, the sleds crept out and shot from sight in the darkness
of the overhanging banks.
Jack Harrington had anticipated this crush and waited by his sled
until it untangled. Louis Savoy, aware of his rival's greater
wisdom in the matter of dog-driving, had followed his lead and
also waited. The rout had passed beyond ear-shot when they took
the trail, and it was not till they had travelled the ten miles or
so down to Bonanza that they came upon it, speeding along in
single file, but well bunched. There was little noise, and less
chance of one passing another at that stage. The sleds, from
runner to runner, measured sixteen inches, the trail eighteen; but
the trail, packed down fully a foot by the traffic, was like a
gutter. On either side spread the blanket of soft snow crystals.
If a man turned into this in an endeavor to pass, his dogs would
wallow perforce to their bellies and slow down to a snail's pace.
So the men lay close to their leaping sleds and waited. No
alteration in position occurred down the fifteen miles of Bonanza
and Klondike to Dawson, where the Yukon was encountered. Here the
first relays waited. But here, intent to kill their first teams,
if necessary, Harrington and Savoy had had their fresh teams
placed a couple of miles beyond those of the others. In the
confusion of changing sleds they passed full half the bunch.
Perhaps thirty men were still leading them when they shot on to
the broad breast of the Yukon. Here was the tug. When the river
froze in the fall, a mile of open water had been left between two
mighty jams. This had but recently crusted, the current being
swift, and now it was as level, hard, and slippery as a dance
floor. The instant they struck this glare ice Harrington came to
his knees, holding precariously on with one hand, his whip singing
fiercely among his dogs and fearsome abjurations hurtling about
their ears. The teams spread out on the smooth surface, each
straining to the uttermost. But few men in the North could lift
their dogs as did Jack Harrington. At once he began to pull
ahead, and Louis Savoy, taking the pace, hung on desperately, his
leaders running even with the tail of his rival's sled.
Midway on the glassy stretch their relays shot out from the bank.
But Harrington did not slacken. Watching his chance when the new
sled swung in close, he leaped across, shouting as he did so and
jumping up the pace of his fresh dogs. The other driver fell off
somehow. Savoy did likewise with his relay, and the abandoned
teams, swerving to right and left, collided with the others and
piled the ice with confusion. Harrington cut out the pace; Savoy
hung on. As they neared the end of the glare ice, they swept
abreast of the leading sled. When they shot into the narrow trail
between the soft snowbanks, they led the race; and Dawson,
watching by the light of the aurora, swore that it was neatly
When the frost grows lusty at sixty below, men cannot long remain
without fire or excessive exercise, and live. So Harrington and
Savoy now fell to the ancient custom of "ride and run." Leaping
from their sleds, tow-thongs in hand, they ran behind till the
blood resumed its wonted channels and expelled the frost, then
back to the sleds till the heat again ebbed away. Thus, riding
and running, they covered the second and third relays. Several
times, on smooth ice, Savoy spurted his dogs, and as often failed
to gain past. Strung along for five miles in the rear, the
remainder of the race strove to overtake them, but vainly, for to
Louis Savoy alone was the glory given of keeping Jack Harrington's
As they swung into the seventy-five-mile station, Lon McFane
dashed alongside; Wolf Fang in the lead caught Harrington's eye,
and he knew that the race was his. No team in the North could
pass him on those last twenty-five miles. And when Savoy saw Wolf
Fang heading his rival's team, he knew that he was out of the
running, and he cursed softly to himself, in the way woman is most
frequently cursed. But he still clung to the other's smoking
trail, gambling on chance to the last. And as they churned along,
the day breaking in the southeast, they marvelled in joy and
sorrow at that which Joy Molineau had done.
Forty Mile had early crawled out of its sleeping furs and
congregated near the edge of the trail. From this point it could
view the up-Yukon course to its first bend several miles away.
Here it could also see across the river to the finish at Fort
Cudahy, where the Gold Recorder nervously awaited. Joy Molineau
had taken her position several rods back from the trail, and under
the circumstances, the rest of Forty Mile forbore interposing
itself. So the space was clear between her and the slender line
of the course. Fires had been built, and around these men wagered
dust and dogs, the long odds on Wolf Fang.
"Here they come!" shrilled an Indian boy from the top of a pine.
Up the Yukon a black speck appeared against the snow, closely
followed by a second. As these grew larger, more black specks
manifested themselves, but at a goodly distance to the rear.
Gradually they resolved themselves into dogs and sleds, and men
lying flat upon them. "Wolf Fang leads," a lieutenant of police
whispered to Joy. She smiled her interest back.
"Ten to one on Harrington!" cried a Birch Creek King, dragging out
"The Queen, her pay you not mooch?" queried Joy.
The lieutenant shook his head.
"You have some dust, ah, how mooch?" she continued.
He exposed his sack. She gauged it with a rapid eye.
"Mebbe--say--two hundred, eh? Good. Now I give--what you call--
the tip. Covaire the bet." Joy smiled inscrutably. The
lieutenant pondered. He glanced up the trail. The two men had
risen to their knees and were lashing their dogs furiously,
Harrington in the lead.
"Ten to one on Harrington!" bawled the Birch Creek King,
flourishing his sack in the lieutenant's face.
"Covaire the bet," Joy prompted.
He obeyed, shrugging his shoulders in token that he yielded, not
to the dictate of his reason, but to her charm. Joy nodded to
All noise ceased. Men paused in the placing of bets.
Yawing and reeling and plunging, like luggers before the wind, the
sleds swept wildly upon them. Though he still kept his leader up
to the tail of Harrington's sled, Louis Savoy's face was without
hope. Harrington's mouth was set. He looked neither to the right
nor to the left. His dogs were leaping in perfect rhythm, firm-
footed, close to the trail, and Wolf Fang, head low and unseeing,
whining softly, was leading his comrades magnificently.
Forty Mile stood breathless. Not a sound, save the roar of the
runners and the voice of the whips.
Then the clear voice of Joy Molineau rose on the air. "Ai! Ya!
Wolf Fang! Wolf Fang!"
Wolf Fang heard. He left the trail sharply, heading directly for
his mistress. The team dashed after him, and the sled poised an
instant on a single runner, then shot Harrington into the snow.
Savoy was by like a flash. Harrington pulled to his feet and
watched him skimming across the river to the Gold Recorder's. He
could not help hearing what was said.
"Ah, him do vaire well," Joy Molineau was explaining to the
lieutenant. "Him--what you call--set the pace. Yes, him set the
pace vaire well."
AT THE RAINBOW'S END
It was for two reasons that Montana Kid discarded his "chaps" and
Mexican spurs, and shook the dust of the Idaho ranges from his
feet. In the first place, the encroachments of a steady, sober,
and sternly moral civilization had destroyed the primeval status
of the western cattle ranges, and refined society turned the cold
eye of disfavor upon him and his ilk. In the second place, in one
of its cyclopean moments the race had arisen and shoved back its
frontier several thousand miles. Thus, with unconscious
foresight, did mature society make room for its adolescent
members. True, the new territory was mostly barren; but its
several hundred thousand square miles of frigidity at least gave
breathing space to those who else would have suffocated at home.
Montana Kid was such a one. Heading for the sea-coast, with a
haste several sheriff's posses might possibly have explained, and
with more nerve than coin of the realm, he succeeded in shipping
from a Puget Sound port, and managed to survive the contingent
miseries of steerage sea-sickness and steerage grub. He was
rather sallow and drawn, but still his own indomitable self, when
he landed on the Dyea beach one day in the spring of the year.
Between the cost of dogs, grub, and outfits, and the customs
exactions of the two clashing governments, it speedily penetrated
to his understanding that the Northland was anything save a poor
man's Mecca. So he cast about him in search of quick harvests.
Between the beach and the passes were scattered many thousands of
passionate pilgrims. These pilgrims Montana Kid proceeded to
farm. At first he dealt faro in a pine-board gambling shack; but
disagreeable necessity forced him to drop a sudden period into a
man's life, and to move on up trail. Then he effected a corner in
horseshoe nails, and they circulated at par with legal tender,
four to the dollar, till an unexpected consignment of a hundred
barrels or so broke the market and forced him to disgorge his
stock at a loss. After that he located at Sheep Camp, organized
the professional packers, and jumped the freight ten cents a pound
in a single day. In token of their gratitude, the packers
patronized his faro and roulette layouts and were mulcted
cheerfully of their earnings. But his commercialism was of too
lusty a growth to be long endured; so they rushed him one night,
burned his shanty, divided the bank, and headed him up the trail
with empty pockets.
Ill-luck was his running mate. He engaged with responsible
parties to run whisky across the line by way of precarious and
unknown trails, lost his Indian guides, and had the very first
outfit confiscated by the Mounted Police. Numerous other
misfortunes tended to make him bitter of heart and wanton of
action, and he celebrated his arrival at Lake Bennett by
terrorizing the camp for twenty straight hours. Then a miners'
meeting took him in hand, and commanded him to make himself
scarce. He had a wholesome respect for such assemblages, and he
obeyed in such haste that he inadvertently removed himself at the
tail-end of another man's dog team. This was equivalent to horse-
stealing in a more mellow clime, so he hit only the high places
across Bennett and down Tagish, and made his first camp a full
hundred miles to the north.
Now it happened that the break of spring was at hand, and many of
the principal citizens of Dawson were travelling south on the last
ice. These he met and talked with, noted their names and
possessions, and passed on. He had a good memory, also a fair
imagination; nor was veracity one of his virtues.
Dawson, always eager for news, beheld Montana Kid's sled heading
down the Yukon, and went out on the ice to meet him. No, he
hadn't any newspapers; didn't know whether Durrant was hanged yet,
nor who had won the Thanksgiving game; hadn't heard whether the
United States and Spain had gone to fighting; didn't know who
Dreyfus was; but O'Brien? Hadn't they heard? O'Brien, why, he
was drowned in the White Horse; Sitka Charley the only one of the
party who escaped. Joe Ladue? Both legs frozen and amputated at
the Five Fingers. And Jack Dalton? Blown up on the "Sea Lion"
with all hands. And Bettles? Wrecked on the "Carthagina," in
Seymour Narrows,--twenty survivors out of three hundred. And
Swiftwater Bill? Gone through the rotten ice of Lake LeBarge with
six female members of the opera troupe he was convoying. Governor
Walsh? Lost with all hands and eight sleds on the Thirty Mile.
Devereaux? Who was Devereaux? Oh, the courier! Shot by Indians
on Lake Marsh.
So it went. The word was passed along. Men shouldered in to ask
after friends and partners, and in turn were shouldered out, too
stunned for blasphemy. By the time Montana Kid gained the bank he
was surrounded by several hundred fur-clad miners. When he passed
the Barracks he was the centre of a procession. At the Opera
House he was the nucleus of an excited mob, each member struggling
for a chance to ask after some absent comrade. On every side he
was being invited to drink. Never before had the Klondike thus
opened its arms to a che-cha-qua. All Dawson was humming. Such a
series of catastrophes had never occurred in its history. Every
man of note who had gone south in the spring had been wiped out.
The cabins vomited forth their occupants. Wild-eyed men hurried
down from the creeks and gulches to seek out this man who had told
a tale of such disaster. The Russian half-breed wife of Bettles
sought the fireplace, inconsolable, and rocked back and forth, and
ever and anon flung white wood-ashes upon her raven hair. The
flag at the Barracks flopped dismally at half-mast. Dawson
mourned its dead.
Why Montana Kid did this thing no man may know. Nor beyond the
fact that the truth was not in him, can explanation be hazarded.
But for five whole days he plunged the land in wailing and sorrow,
and for five whole days he was the only man in the Klondike. The
country gave him its best of bed and board. The saloons granted
him the freedom of their bars. Men sought him continuously. The
high officials bowed down to him for further information, and he
was feasted at the Barracks by Constantine and his brother
officers. And then, one day, Devereaux, the government courier,
halted his tired dogs before the gold commissioner's office.
Dead? Who said so? Give him a moose steak and he'd show them how
dead he was. Why, Governor Walsh was in camp on the Little
Salmon, and O'Brien coming in on the first water. Dead? Give him
a moose steak and he'd show them.
And forthwith Dawson hummed. The Barracks' flag rose to the
masthead, and Bettles' wife washed herself and put on clean
raiment. The community subtly signified its desire that Montana
Kid obliterate himself from the landscape. And Montana Kid
obliterated; as usual, at the tail-end of some one else's dog
team. Dawson rejoiced when he headed down the Yukon, and wished
him godspeed to the ultimate destination of the case-hardened
sinner. After that the owner of the dogs bestirred himself, made
complaint to Constantine, and from him received the loan of a
With Circle City in prospect and the last ice crumbling under his
runners, Montana Kid took advantage of the lengthening days and
travelled his dogs late and early. Further, he had but little
doubt that the owner of the dogs in question had taken his trail,
and he wished to make American territory before the river broke.
But by the afternoon of the third day it became evident that he
had lost in his race with spring. The Yukon was growling and
straining at its fetters. Long detours became necessary, for the
trail had begun to fall through into the swift current beneath,
while the ice, in constant unrest, was thundering apart in great
gaping fissures. Through these and through countless airholes,
the water began to sweep across the surface of the ice, and by the
time he pulled into a woodchopper's cabin on the point of an
island, the dogs were being rushed off their feet and were
swimming more often than not. He was greeted sourly by the two
residents, but he unharnessed and proceeded to cook up.
Donald and Davy were fair specimens of frontier inefficients.
Canadian-born, city-bred Scots, in a foolish moment they had
resigned their counting-house desks, drawn upon their savings, and
gone Klondiking. And now they were feeling the rough edge of the
country. Grubless, spiritless, with a lust for home in their
hearts, they had been staked by the P. C. Company to cut wood for
its steamers, with the promise at the end of a passage home.
Disregarding the possibilities of the ice-run, they had fittingly
demonstrated their inefficiency by their choice of the island on
which they located. Montana Kid, though possessing little
knowledge of the break-up of a great river, looked about him
dubiously, and cast yearning glances at the distant bank where the
towering bluffs promised immunity from all the ice of the
After feeding himself and dogs, he lighted his pipe and strolled
out to get a better idea of the situation. The island, like all
its river brethren, stood higher at the upper end, and it was here
that Donald and Davy had built their cabin and piled many cords of
wood. The far shore was a full mile away, while between the
island and the near shore lay a back-channel perhaps a hundred
yards across. At first sight of this, Montana Kid was tempted to
take his dogs and escape to the mainland, but on closer inspection
he discovered a rapid current flooding on top. Below, the river
twisted sharply to the west, and in this turn its breast was
studded by a maze of tiny islands.
"That's where she'll jam," he remarked to himself.
Half a dozen sleds, evidently bound up-stream to Dawson, were
splashing through the chill water to the tail of the island.
Travel on the river was passing from the precarious to the
impossible, and it was nip and tuck with them till they gained the
island and came up the path of the wood-choppers toward the cabin.
One of them, snow-blind, towed helplessly at the rear of a sled.
Husky young fellows they were, rough-garmented and trail-worn, yet
Montana Kid had met the breed before and knew at once that it was
not his kind.
"Hello! How's things up Dawson-way?" queried the foremost,
passing his eye over Donald and Davy and settling it upon the Kid.
A first meeting in the wilderness is not characterized by
formality. The talk quickly became general, and the news of the
Upper and Lower Countries was swapped equitably back and forth.
But the little the newcomers had was soon over with, for they had
wintered at Minook, a thousand miles below, where nothing was
doing. Montana Kid, however, was fresh from Salt Water, and they
annexed him while they pitched camp, swamping him with questions
concerning the outside, from which they had been cut off for a
A shrieking split, suddenly lifting itself above the general
uproar on the river, drew everybody to the bank. The surface
water had increased in depth, and the ice, assailed from above and
below, was struggling to tear itself from the grip of the shores.
Fissures reverberated into life before their eyes, and the air was
filled with multitudinous crackling, crisp and sharp, like the
sound that goes up on a clear day from the firing line.
From up the river two men were racing a dog team toward them on an
uncovered stretch of ice. But even as they looked, the pair
struck the water and began to flounder through. Behind, where
their feet had sped the moment before, the ice broke up and turned
turtle. Through this opening the river rushed out upon them to
their waists, burying the sled and swinging the dogs off at right
angles in a drowning tangle. But the men stopped their flight to
give the animals a fighting chance, and they groped hurriedly in
the cold confusion, slashing at the detaining traces with their
sheath-knives. Then they fought their way to the bank through
swirling water and grinding ice, where, foremost in leaping to the
rescue among the jarring fragments, was the Kid.
"Why, blime me, if it ain't Montana Kid!" exclaimed one of the men
whom the Kid was just placing upon his feet at the top of the
bank. He wore the scarlet tunic of the Mounted Police and
jocularly raised his right hand in salute.
"Got a warrant for you, Kid," he continued, drawing a bedraggled
paper from his breast pocket, "an' I 'ope as you'll come along
Montana Kid looked at the chaotic river and shrugged his
shoulders, and the policeman, following his glance, smiled.
"Where are the dogs?" his companion asked.
"Gentlemen," interrupted the policeman, "this 'ere mate o' mine is
Jack Sutherland, owner of Twenty-Two Eldorado--"
"Not Sutherland of '92?" broke in the snow-blinded Minook man,
groping feebly toward him.
"The same." Sutherland gripped his hand.
"Oh, I'm after your time, but I remember you in my freshman year,-
-you were doing P. G. work then. Boys," he called, turning half
about, "this is Sutherland, Jack Sutherland, erstwhile full-back
on the 'Varsity. Come up, you gold-chasers, and fall upon him!
Sutherland, this is Greenwich,--played quarter two seasons back."
"Yes, I read of the game," Sutherland said, shaking hands. "And I
remember that big run of yours for the first touchdown."
Greenwich flushed darkly under his tanned skin and awkwardly made
room for another.
"And here's Matthews,--Berkeley man. And we've got some Eastern
cracks knocking about, too. Come up, you Princeton men! Come up!
This is Sutherland, Jack Sutherland!"
Then they fell upon him heavily, carried him into camp, and
supplied him with dry clothes and numerous mugs of black tea.
Donald and Davy, overlooked, had retired to their nightly game of
crib. Montana Kid followed them with the policeman.
"Here, get into some dry togs," he said, pulling them from out his
scanty kit. "Guess you'll have to bunk with me, too."
"Well, I say, you're a good 'un," the policeman remarked as he
pulled on the other man's socks. "Sorry I've got to take you back
to Dawson, but I only 'ope they won't be 'ard on you."
"Not so fast." The Kid smiled curiously. "We ain't under way
yet. When I go I'm going down river, and I guess the chances are
you'll go along."
"Not if I know myself--"
"Come on outside, and I'll show you, then. These damn fools,"
thrusting a thumb over his shoulder at the two Scots, "played
smash when they located here. Fill your pipe, first--this is
pretty good plug--and enjoy yourself while you can. You haven't
many smokes before you."
The policeman went with him wonderingly, while Donald and Davy
dropped their cards and followed. The Minook men noticed Montana
Kid pointing now up the river, now down, and came over.
"What's up?" Sutherland demanded.
"Nothing much." Nonchalance sat well upon the Kid. "Just a case
of raising hell and putting a chunk under. See that bend down
there? That's where she'll jam millions of tons of ice. Then
she'll jam in the bends up above, millions of tons. Upper jam
breaks first, lower jam holds, pouf!" He dramatically swept the
island with his hand. "Millions of tons," he added reflectively.
"And what of the woodpiles?" Davy questioned.
The Kid repeated his sweeping gestures and Davy wailed, "The labor
of months! It canna be! Na, na, lad, it canna be. I doot not
it's a jowk. Ay, say that it is," he appealed.
But when the Kid laughed harshly and turned on his heel, Davy
flung himself upon the piles and began frantically to toss the
cordwood back from the bank.
"Lend a hand, Donald!" he cried. "Can ye no lend a hand? 'T is
the labor of months and the passage home!"
Donald caught him by the arm and shook him, but he tore free.
"Did ye no hear, man? Millions of tons, and the island shall be
"Straighten yersel' up, man," said Donald. "It's a bit fashed ye
But Davy fell upon the cordwood. Donald stalked back to the
cabin, buckled on his money belt and Davy's, and went out to the
point of the island where the ground was highest and where a huge
pine towered above its fellows.
The men before the cabin heard the ringing of his axe and smiled.
Greenwich returned from across the island with the word that they
were penned in. It was impossible to cross the back-channel. The
blind Minook man began to sing, and the rest joined in with -
"Wonder if it's true?
Does it seem so to you?
Seems to me he's lying -
Oh, I wonder if it's true?"
"It's ay sinfu'," Davy moaned, lifting his head and watching them
dance in the slanting rays of the sun. "And my guid wood a' going
"Oh, I wonder if it's true,"
was flaunted back.
The noise of the river ceased suddenly. A strange calm wrapped
about them. The ice had ripped from the shores and was floating
higher on the surface of the river, which was rising. Up it came,
swift and silent, for twenty feet, till the huge cakes rubbed
softly against the crest of the bank. The tail of the island,
being lower, was overrun. Then, without effort, the white flood
started down-stream. But the sound increased with the momentum,
and soon the whole island was shaking and quivering with the shock
of the grinding bergs. Under pressure, the mighty cakes, weighing
hundreds of tons, were shot into the air like peas. The frigid
anarchy increased its riot, and the men had to shout into one
another's ears to be heard. Occasionally the racket from the back
channel could be heard above the tumult. The island shuddered
with the impact of an enormous cake which drove in squarely upon
its point. It ripped a score of pines out by the roots, then
swinging around and over, lifted its muddy base from the bottom of
the river and bore down upon the cabin, slicing the bank and trees
away like a gigantic knife. It seemed barely to graze the corner
of the cabin, but the cribbed logs tilted up like matches, and the
structure, like a toy house, fell backward in ruin.
"The labor of months! The labor of months, and the passage home!"
Davy wailed, while Montana Kid and the policeman dragged him
backward from the woodpiles.
"You'll 'ave plenty o' hoppertunity all in good time for yer
passage 'ome," the policeman growled, clouting him alongside the
head and sending him flying into safety.
Donald, from the top of the pine, saw the devastating berg sweep
away the cordwood and disappear down-stream. As though satisfied
with this damage, the ice-flood quickly dropped to its old level
and began to slacken its pace. The noise likewise eased down, and
the others could hear Donald shouting from his eyrie to look down-
stream. As forecast, the jam had come among the islands in the
bend, and the ice was piling up in a great barrier which stretched
from shore to shore. The river came to a standstill, and the
water finding no outlet began to rise. It rushed up till the
island was awash, the men splashing around up to their knees, and
the dogs swimming to the ruins of the cabin. At this stage it
abruptly became stationary, with no perceptible rise or fall.
Montana Kid shook his head. "It's jammed above, and no more's
"And the gamble is, which jam will break first," Sutherland added.
"Exactly," the Kid affirmed. "If the upper jam breaks first, we
haven't a chance. Nothing will stand before it."
The Minook men turned away in silence, but soon "Rumsky Ho"
floated upon the quiet air, followed by "The Orange and the
Black." Room was made in the circle for Montana Kid and the
policeman, and they quickly caught the ringing rhythm of the
choruses as they drifted on from song to song.
"Oh, Donald, will ye no lend a hand?" Davy sobbed at the foot of
the tree into which his comrade had climbed. "Oh, Donald, man,
will ye no lend a hand?" he sobbed again, his hands bleeding from
vain attempts to scale the slippery trunk.
But Donald had fixed his gaze up river, and now his voice rang
out, vibrant with fear: -
"God Almichty, here she comes!"
Standing knee-deep in the icy water, the Minook men, with Montana
Kid and the policeman, gripped hands and raised their voices in
the terrible, "Battle Hymn of the Republic." But the words were
drowned in the advancing roar.
And to Donald was vouchsafed a sight such as no man may see and
live. A great wall of white flung itself upon the island. Trees,
dogs, men, were blotted out, as though the hand of God had wiped
the face of nature clean. This much he saw, then swayed an
instant longer in his lofty perch and hurtled far out into the
THE SCORN OF WOMEN
Once Freda and Mrs. Eppingwell clashed.
Now Freda was a Greek girl and a dancer. At least she purported
to be Greek; but this was doubted by many, for her classic face
had over-much strength in it, and the tides of hell which rose in
her eyes made at rare moments her ethnology the more dubious. To
a few--men--this sight had been vouchsafed, and though long years
may have passed, they have not forgotten, nor will they ever
forget. She never talked of herself, so that it were well to let
it go down that when in repose, expurgated, Greek she certainly
was. Her furs were the most magnificent in all the country from
Chilcoot to St. Michael's, and her name was common on the lips of
men. But Mrs. Eppingwell was the wife of a captain; also a social
constellation of the first magnitude, the path of her orbit
marking the most select coterie in Dawson,--a coterie captioned by
the profane as the "official clique." Sitka Charley had travelled
trail with her once, when famine drew tight and a man's life was
less than a cup of flour, and his judgment placed her above all
women. Sitka Charley was an Indian; his criteria were primitive;
but his word was flat, and his verdict a hall-mark in every camp
under the circle.
These two women were man-conquering, man-subduing machines, each
in her own way, and their ways were different. Mrs. Eppingwell
ruled in her own house, and at the Barracks, where were younger
sons galore, to say nothing of the chiefs of the police, the
executive, and the judiciary. Freda ruled down in the town; but
the men she ruled were the same who functioned socially at the
Barracks or were fed tea and canned preserves at the hand of Mrs.
Eppingwell in her hillside cabin of rough-hewn logs. Each knew
the other existed; but their lives were apart as the Poles, and
while they must have heard stray bits of news and were curious,
they were never known to ask a question. And there would have
been no trouble had not a free lance in the shape of the model-
woman come into the land on the first ice, with a spanking dog-
team and a cosmopolitan reputation. Loraine Lisznayi--
alliterative, dramatic, and Hungarian--precipitated the strife,
and because of her Mrs. Eppingwell left her hillside and invaded
Freda's domain, and Freda likewise went up from the town to spread
confusion and embarrassment at the Governor's ball.
All of which may be ancient history so far as the Klondike is
concerned, but very few, even in Dawson, know the inner truth of
the matter; nor beyond those few are there any fit to measure the
wife of the captain or the Greek dancer. And that all are now
permitted to understand, let honor be accorded Sitka Charley.
From his lips fell the main facts in the screed herewith
presented. It ill befits that Freda herself should have waxed
confidential to a mere scribbler of words, or that Mrs. Eppingwell
made mention of the things which happened. They may have spoken,
but it is unlikely.
Floyd Vanderlip was a strong man, apparently. Hard work and hard
grub had no terrors for him, as his early history in the country
attested. In danger he was a lion, and when he held in check half
a thousand starving men, as he once did, it was remarked that no
cooler eye ever took the glint of sunshine on a rifle-sight. He
had but one weakness, and even that, rising from out his strength,
was of a negative sort. His parts were strong, but they lacked
co-ordination. Now it happened that while his centre of
amativeness was pronounced, it had lain mute and passive during
the years he lived on moose and salmon and chased glowing
Eldorados over chill divides. But when he finally blazed the
corner-post and centre-stakes on one of the richest Klondike
claims, it began to quicken; and when he took his place in
society, a full-fledged Bonanza King, it awoke and took charge of
him. He suddenly recollected a girl in the States, and it came to
him quite forcibly, not only that she might be waiting for him,
but that a wife was a very pleasant acquisition for a man who
lived some several degrees north of 53. So he wrote an
appropriate note, enclosed a letter of credit generous enough to
cover all expenses, including trousseau and chaperon, and
addressed it to one Flossie. Flossie? One could imagine the
rest. However, after that he built a comfortable cabin on his
claim, bought another in Dawson, and broke the news to his
And just here is where the lack of co-ordination came into play.
The waiting was tedious, and having been long denied, the amative
element could not brook further delay. Flossie was coming; but
Loraine Lisznayi was here. And not only was Loraine Lisznayi
here, but her cosmopolitan reputation was somewhat the worse for
wear, and she was not exactly so young as when she posed in the
studios of artist queens and received at her door the cards of
cardinals and princes. Also, her finances were unhealthy. Having
run the gamut in her time, she was now not averse to trying
conclusions with a Bonanza King whose wealth was such that he
could not guess it within six figures. Like a wise soldier
casting about after years of service for a comfortable billet, she
had come into the Northland to be married. So, one day, her eyes
flashed up into Floyd Vanderlip's as he was buying table linen for
Flossie in the P. C. Company's store, and the thing was settled
out of hand.
When a man is free much may go unquestioned, which, should he be
rash enough to cumber himself with domestic ties, society will
instantly challenge. Thus it was with Floyd Vanderlip. Flossie
was coming, and a low buzz went up when Loraine Lisznayi rode down
the main street behind his wolf-dogs. She accompanied the lady
reporter of the "Kansas City Star" when photographs were taken of
his Bonanza properties, and watched the genesis of a six-column
article. At that time they were dined royally in Flossie's cabin,
on Flossie's table linen. Likewise there were comings and goings,
and junketings, all perfectly proper, by the way, which caused the
men to say sharp things and the women to be spiteful. Only Mrs.
Eppingwell did not hear. The distant hum of wagging tongues rose
faintly, but she was prone to believe good of people and to close
her ears to evil; so she paid no heed.
Not so with Freda. She had no cause to love men, but, by some
strange alchemy of her nature, her heart went out to women,--to
women whom she had less cause to love. And her heart went out to
Flossie, even then travelling the Long Trail and facing into the
bitter North to meet a man who might not wait for her. A
shrinking, clinging sort of a girl, Freda pictured her, with weak
mouth and pretty pouting lips, blow-away sun-kissed hair, and eyes
full of the merry shallows and the lesser joys of life. But she
also pictured Flossie, face nose-strapped and frost-rimed,
stumbling wearily behind the dogs. Wherefore she smiled, dancing
one night, upon Floyd Vanderlip.
Few men are so constituted that they may receive the smile of
Freda unmoved; nor among them can Floyd Vanderlip be accounted.
The grace he had found with the model-woman had caused him to re-
measure himself, and by the favor in which he now stood with the
Greek dancer he felt himself doubly a man. There were unknown
qualities and depths in him, evidently, which they perceived. He
did not know exactly what those qualities and depths were, but he
had a hazy idea that they were there somewhere, and of them was
bred a great pride in himself. A man who could force two women
such as these to look upon him a second time, was certainly a most
remarkable man. Some day, when he had the time, he would sit down
and analyze his strength; but now, just now, he would take what
the gods had given him. And a thin little thought began to lift
itself, and he fell to wondering whatever under the sun he had
seen in Flossie, and to regret exceedingly that he had sent for
her. Of course, Freda was out of the running. His dumps were the
richest on Bonanza Creek, and they were many, while he was a man
of responsibility and position. But Loraine Lisznayi--she was
just the woman. Her life had been large; she could do the honors
of his establishment and give tone to his dollars.
But Freda smiled, and continued to smile, till he came to spend
much time with her. When she, too, rode down the street behind
his wolf-dogs, the model-woman found food for thought, and the
next time they were together dazzled him with her princes and
cardinals and personal little anecdotes of courts and kings. She
also showed him dainty missives, superscribed, "My dear Loraine,"
and ended "Most affectionately yours," and signed by the given
name of a real live queen on a throne. And he marvelled in his
heart that the great woman should deign to waste so much as a
moment upon him. But she played him cleverly, making flattering
contrasts and comparisons between him and the noble phantoms she
drew mainly from her fancy, till he went away dizzy with self-
delight and sorrowing for the world which had been denied him so
long. Freda was a more masterful woman. If she flattered, no one
knew it. Should she stoop, the stoop were unobserved. If a man
felt she thought well of him, so subtly was the feeling conveyed
that he could not for the life of him say why or how. So she
tightened her grip upon Floyd Vanderlip and rode daily behind his
And just here is where the mistake occurred. The buzz rose loudly
and more definitely, coupled now with the name of the dancer, and
Mrs. Eppingwell heard. She, too, thought of Flossie lifting her
moccasined feet through the endless hours, and Floyd Vanderlip was
invited up the hillside to tea, and invited often. This quite
took his breath away, and he became drunken with appreciation of
himself. Never was man so maltreated. His soul had become a
thing for which three women struggled, while a fourth was on the
way to claim it. And three such women!
But Mrs. Eppingwell and the mistake she made. She spoke of the
affair, tentatively, to Sitka Charley, who had sold dogs to the
Greek girl. But no names were mentioned. The nearest approach to
it was when Mrs. Eppingwell said, "This--er--horrid woman," and
Sitka Charley, with the model-woman strong in his thoughts, had
echoed, "--er--horrid woman." And he agreed with her, that it was
a wicked thing for a woman to come between a man and the girl he
was to marry. "A mere girl, Charley," she said, "I am sure she
is. And she is coming into a strange country without a friend
when she gets here. We must do something." Sitka Charley
promised his help, and went away thinking what a wicked woman this
Loraine Lisznayi must be, also what noble women Mrs. Eppingwell
and Freda were to interest themselves in the welfare of the
Now Mrs. Eppingwell was open as the day. To Sitka Charley, who
took her once past the Hills of Silence, belongs the glory of
having memorialized her clear-searching eyes, her clear-ringing
voice, and her utter downright frankness. Her lips had a way of
stiffening to command, and she was used to coming straight to the
point. Having taken Floyd Vanderlip's measurement, she did not
dare this with him; but she was not afraid to go down into the
town to Freda. And down she went, in the bright light of day, to
the house of the dancer. She was above silly tongues, as was her
husband, the captain. She wished to see this woman and to speak
with her, nor was she aware of any reason why she should not. So
she stood in the snow at the Greek girl's door, with the frost at
sixty below, and parleyed with the waiting-maid for a full five
minutes. She had also the pleasure of being turned away from that
door, and of going back up the hill, wroth at heart for the
indignity which had been put upon her. "Who was this woman that
she should refuse to see her?" she asked herself. One would think
it the other way around, and she herself but a dancing girl denied
at the door of the wife of a captain. As it was, she knew, had
Freda come up the hill to her,--no matter what the errand,--she
would have made her welcome at her fire, and they would have sat
there as two women, and talked, merely as two women. She had
overstepped convention and lowered herself, but she had thought it
different with the women down in the town. And she was ashamed
that she had laid herself open to such dishonor, and her thoughts
of Freda were unkind.
Not that Freda deserved this. Mrs. Eppingwell had descended to
meet her who was without caste, while she, strong in the
traditions of her own earlier status, had not permitted it. She
could worship such a woman, and she would have asked no greater
joy than to have had her into the cabin and sat with her, just sat
with her, for an hour. But her respect for Mrs. Eppingwell, and
her respect for herself, who was beyond respect, had prevented her
doing that which she most desired. Though not quite recovered
from the recent visit of Mrs. McFee, the wife of the minister, who
had descended upon her in a whirlwind of exhortation and
brimstone, she could not imagine what had prompted the present
visit. She was not aware of any particular wrong she had done,
and surely this woman who waited at the door was not concerned
with the welfare of her soul. Why had she come? For all the
curiosity she could not help but feel, she steeled herself in the
pride of those who are without pride, and trembled in the inner
room like a maid on the first caress of a lover. If Mrs.
Eppingwell suffered going up the hill, she too suffered, lying
face downward on the bed, dry-eyed, dry-mouthed, dumb.
Mrs. Eppingwell's knowledge of human nature was great. She aimed
at universality. She had found it easy to step from the civilized
and contemplate things from the barbaric aspect. She could
comprehend certain primal and analogous characteristics in a
hungry wolf-dog or a starving man, and predicate lines of action
to be pursued by either under like conditions. To her, a woman
was a woman, whether garbed in purple or the rags of the gutter;
Freda was a woman. She would not have been surprised had she been
taken into the dancer's cabin and encountered on common ground;
nor surprised had she been taken in and flaunted in prideless
arrogance. But to be treated as she had been treated, was
unexpected and disappointing. Ergo, she had not caught Freda's
point of view. And this was good. There are some points of view
which cannot be gained save through much travail and personal
crucifixion, and it were well for the world that its Mrs.
Eppingwells should, in certain ways, fall short of universality.
One cannot understand defilement without laying hands to pitch,
which is very sticky, while there be plenty willing to undertake
the experiment. All of which is of small concern, beyond the fact
that it gave Mrs. Eppingwell ground for grievance, and bred for
her a greater love in the Greek girl's heart.
And in this way things went along for a month,--Mrs. Eppingwell
striving to withhold the man from the Greek dancer's blandishments
against the time of Flossie's coming; Flossie lessening the miles
each day on the dreary trail; Freda pitting her strength against
the model-woman; the model-woman straining every nerve to land the
prize; and the man moving through it all like a flying shuttle,
very proud of himself, whom he believed to be a second Don Juan.
It was nobody's fault except the man's that Loraine Lisznayi at
last landed him. The way of a man with a maid may be too
wonderful to know, but the way of a woman with a man passeth all
conception; whence the prophet were indeed unwise who would dare
forecast Floyd Vanderlip's course twenty-four hours in advance.
Perhaps the model-woman's attraction lay in that to the eye she
was a handsome animal; perhaps she fascinated him with her old-
world talk of palaces and princes; leastwise she dazzled him whose
life had been worked out in uncultured roughness, and he at last
agreed to her suggestion of a run down the river and a marriage at
Forty Mile. In token of his intention he bought dogs from Sitka
Charley,--more than one sled is necessary when a woman like
Loraine Lisznayi takes to the trail, and then went up the creek to
give orders for the superintendence of his Bonanza mines during
He had given it out, rather vaguely, that he needed the animals
for sledding lumber from the mill to his sluices, and right here
is where Sitka Charley demonstrated his fitness. He agreed to
furnish dogs on a given date, but no sooner had Floyd Vanderlip
turned his toes up-creek, than Charley hied himself away in
perturbation to Loraine Lisznayi. Did she know where Mr.
Vanderlip had gone? He had agreed to supply that gentleman with a
big string of dogs by a certain time; but that shameless one, the
German trader Meyers, had been buying up the brutes and skimped
the market. It was very necessary he should see Mr. Vanderlip,
because of the shameless one he would be all of a week behindhand
in filling the contract. She did know where he had gone? Up-
creek? Good! He would strike out after him at once and inform
him of the unhappy delay. Did he understand her to say that Mr.
Vanderlip needed the dogs on Friday night? that he must have them
by that time? It was too bad, but it was the fault of the
shameless one who had bid up the prices. They had jumped fifty
dollars per head, and should he buy on the rising market he would
lose by the contract. He wondered if Mr. Vanderlip would be
willing to meet the advance. She knew he would? Being Mr.
Vanderlip's friend, she would even meet the difference herself?
And he was to say nothing about it? She was kind to so look to
his interests. Friday night, did she say? Good! The dogs would
be on hand.
An hour later, Freda knew the elopement was to be pulled off on
Friday night; also, that Floyd Vanderlip had gone up-creek, and
her hands were tied. On Friday morning, Devereaux, the official
courier, bearing despatches from the Governor, arrived over the
ice. Besides the despatches, he brought news of Flossie. He had
passed her camp at Sixty Mile; humans and dogs were in good
condition; and she would doubtless be in on the morrow. Mrs.
Eppingwell experienced a great relief on hearing this; Floyd
Vanderlip was safe up-creek, and ere the Greek girl could again
lay hands upon him, his bride would be on the ground. But that
afternoon her big St. Bernard, valiantly defending her front
stoop, was downed by a foraging party of trail-starved Malemutes.
He was buried beneath the hirsute mass for about thirty seconds,
when rescued by a couple of axes and as many stout men. Had he
remained down two minutes, the chances were large that he would
have been roughly apportioned and carried away in the respective
bellies of the attacking party; but as it was, it was a mere case
of neat and expeditious mangling. Sitka Charley came to repair
the damages, especially a right fore-paw which had inadvertently
been left a fraction of a second too long in some other dog's
mouth. As he put on his mittens to go, the talk turned upon
Flossie and in natural sequence passed on to the--"er horrid
woman." Sitka Charley remarked incidentally that she intended
jumping out down river that night with Floyd Vanderlip, and
further ventured the information that accidents were very likely
at that time of year.
So Mrs. Eppingwell's thoughts of Freda were unkinder than ever.
She wrote a note, addressed it to the man in question, and
intrusted it to a messenger who lay in wait at the mouth of
Bonanza Creek. Another man, bearing a note from Freda, also
waited at that strategic point. So it happened that Floyd
Vanderlip, riding his sled merrily down with the last daylight,
received the notes together. He tore Freda's across. No, he
would not go to see her. There were greater things afoot that
night. Besides, she was out of the running. But Mrs. Eppingwell!
He would observe her last wish,--or rather, the last wish it would
be possible for him to observe,--and meet her at the Governor's
ball to hear what she had to say. From the tone of the writing it
was evidently important; perhaps-- He smiled fondly, but failed to
shape the thought. Confound it all, what a lucky fellow he was
with the women any way! Scattering her letter to the frost, he
mushed the dogs into a swinging lope and headed for his cabin. It
was to be a masquerade, and he had to dig up the costume used at
the Opera House a couple of months before. Also, he had to shave
and to eat. Thus it was that he, alone of all interested, was
unaware of Flossie's proximity.
"Have them down to the water-hole off the hospital, at midnight,
sharp. Don't fail me," he said to Sitka Charley, who dropped in
with the advice that only one dog was lacking to fill the bill,
and that that one would be forthcoming in an hour or so. "Here's
the sack. There's the scales. Weigh out your own dust and don't
bother me. I've got to get ready for the ball."
Sitka Charley weighed out his pay and departed, carrying with him
a letter to Loraine Lisznayi, the contents of which he correctly
imagined to refer to a meeting at the water-hole of the hospital,
at midnight, sharp.
Twice Freda sent messengers up to the Barracks, where the dance
was in full swing, and as often they came back without answers.
Then she did what only Freda could do--put on her furs, masked her
face, and went up herself to the Governor's ball. Now there
happened to be a custom--not an original one by any means--to
which the official clique had long since become addicted. It was
a very wise custom, for it furnished protection to the womankind
of the officials and gave greater selectness to their revels.
Whenever a masquerade was given, a committee was chosen, the sole
function of which was to stand by the door and peep beneath each
and every mask. Most men did not clamor to be placed upon this
committee, while the very ones who least desired the honor were
the ones whose services were most required. The chaplain was not
well enough acquainted with the faces and places of the
townspeople to know whom to admit and whom to turn away. In like
condition were the several other worthy gentlemen who would have
asked nothing better than to so serve. To fill the coveted place,
Mrs. McFee would have risked her chance of salvation, and did, one
night, when a certain trio passed in under her guns and muddled
things considerably before their identity was discovered.
Thereafter only the fit were chosen, and very ungracefully did
On this particular night Prince was at the door. Pressure had
been brought to bear, and he had not yet recovered from amaze at
his having consented to undertake a task which bid fair to lose
him half his friends, merely for the sake of pleasing the other
half. Three or four of the men he had refused were men whom he
had known on creek and trail,--good comrades, but not exactly
eligible for so select an affair. He was canvassing the
expediency of resigning the post there and then, when a woman
tripped in under the light. Freda! He could swear it by the
furs, did he not know that poise of head so well. The last one to
expect in all the world. He had given her better judgment than to
thus venture the ignominy of refusal, or, if she passed, the scorn
of women. He shook his head, without scrutiny; he knew her too
well to be mistaken. But she pressed closer. She lifted the
black silk ribbon and as quickly lowered it again. For one
flashing, eternal second he looked upon her face. It was not for
nothing, the saying which had arisen in the country, that Freda
played with men as a child with bubbles. Not a word was spoken.
Prince stepped aside, and a few moments later might have been seen
resigning, with warm incoherence, the post to which he had been
A woman, flexible of form, slender, yet rhythmic of strength in
every movement, now pausing with this group, now scanning that,
urged a restless and devious course among the revellers. Men
recognized the furs, and marvelled,--men who should have served
upon the door committee; but they were not prone to speech. Not
so with the women. They had better eyes for the lines of figure
and tricks of carriage, and they knew this form to be one with
which they were unfamiliar; likewise the furs. Mrs. McFee,
emerging from the supper-room where all was in readiness, caught
one flash of the blazing, questing eyes through the silken mask-
slits, and received a start. She tried to recollect where she had
seen the like, and a vivid picture was recalled of a certain proud
and rebellious sinner whom she had once encountered on a fruitless
errand for the Lord.
So it was that the good woman took the trail in hot and righteous
wrath, a trail which brought her ultimately into the company of
Mrs. Eppingwell and Floyd Vanderlip. Mrs. Eppingwell had just
found the opportunity to talk with the man. She had determined,
now that Flossie was so near at hand, to proceed directly to the
point, and an incisive little ethical discourse was titillating on
the end of her tongue, when the couple became three. She noted,
and pleasurably, the faintly foreign accent of the "Beg pardon"
with which the furred woman prefaced her immediate appropriation
of Floyd Vanderlip; and she courteously bowed her permission for
them to draw a little apart.
Then it was that Mrs. McFee's righteous hand descended, and
accompanying it in its descent was a black mask torn from a
startled woman. A wonderful face and brilliant eyes were exposed
to the quiet curiosity of those who looked that way, and they were
everybody. Floyd Vanderlip was rather confused. The situation
demanded instant action on the part of a man who was not beyond
his depth, while HE hardly knew where he was. He stared
helplessly about him. Mrs. Eppingwell was perplexed. She could
not comprehend. An explanation was forthcoming, somewhere, and
Mrs. McFee was equal to it.
"Mrs. Eppingwell," and her Celtic voice rose shrilly, "it is with
great pleasure I make you acquainted with Freda Moloof, MISS Freda
Moloof, as I understand."
Freda involuntarily turned. With her own face bared, she felt as
in a dream, naked, upon her turned the clothed features and
gleaming eyes of the masked circle. It seemed, almost, as though
a hungry wolf-pack girdled her, ready to drag her down. It might
chance that some felt pity for her, she thought, and at the
thought, hardened. She would by far prefer their scorn. Strong
of heart was she, this woman, and though she had hunted the prey
into the midst of the pack, Mrs. Eppingwell or no Mrs. Eppingwell,
she could not forego the kill.
But here Mrs. Eppingwell did a strange thing. So this, at last,
was Freda, she mused, the dancer and the destroyer of men; the
woman from whose door she had been turned. And she, too, felt the
imperious creature's nakedness as though it were her own. Perhaps
it was this, her Saxon disinclination to meet a disadvantaged foe,
perhaps, forsooth, that it might give her greater strength in the
struggle for the man, and it might have been a little of both; but
be that as it may, she did do this strange thing. When Mrs.
McFee's thin voice, vibrant with malice, had raised, and Freda
turned involuntarily, Mrs. Eppingwell also turned, removed her
mask, and inclined her head in acknowledgment.
It was another flashing, eternal second, during which these two
women regarded each other. The one, eyes blazing, meteoric; at
bay, aggressive; suffering in advance and resenting in advance the
scorn and ridicule and insult she had thrown herself open to; a
beautiful, burning, bubbling lava cone of flesh and spirit. And
the other, calm-eyed, cool-browed, serene; strong in her own
integrity, with faith in herself, thoroughly at ease;
dispassionate, imperturbable; a figure chiselled from some cold
marble quarry. Whatever gulf there might exist, she recognized it
not. No bridging, no descending; her attitude was that of perfect
equality. She stood tranquilly on the ground of their common
womanhood. And this maddened Freda. Not so, had she been of
lesser breed; but her soul's plummet knew not the bottomless, and
she could follow the other into the deeps of her deepest depths
and read her aright. "Why do you not draw back your garment's
hem?" she was fain to cry out, all in that flashing, dazzling
second. "Spit upon me, revile me, and it were greater mercy than
this!" She trembled. Her nostrils distended and quivered. But
she drew herself in check, returned the inclination of head, and
turned to the man.
"Come with me, Floyd," she said simply. "I want you now."
"What the--" he began explosively, and quit as suddenly, discreet
enough to not round it off. Where the deuce had his wits gone,
anyway? Was ever a man more foolishly placed? He gurgled deep
down in his throat and high up in the roof of his mouth, heaved as
one his big shoulders and his indecision, and glared appealingly
at the two women.
"I beg pardon, just a moment, but may I speak first with Mr.
Vanderlip?" Mrs. Eppingwell's voice, though flute-like and low,
predicated will in its every cadence.
The man looked his gratitude. He, at least, was willing enough.
"I'm very sorry," from Freda. "There isn't time. He must come at
once." The conventional phrases dropped easily from her lips, but
she could not forbear to smile inwardly at their inadequacy and
weakness. She would much rather have shrieked.
"But, Miss Moloof, who are you that you may possess yourself of
Mr. Vanderlip and command his actions?"
Whereupon relief brightened his face, and the man beamed his
approval. Trust Mrs. Eppingwell to drag him clear. Freda had met
her match this time.
"I--I--" Freda hesitated, and then her feminine mind putting on
its harness--"and who are you to ask this question?"
"I? I am Mrs. Eppingwell, and--"
"There!" the other broke in sharply. "You are the wife of a
captain, who is therefore your husband. I am only a dancing girl.
What do you with this man?"
"Such unprecedented behavior!" Mrs. McFee ruffled herself and
cleared for action, but Mrs. Eppingwell shut her mouth with a look
and developed a new attack.
"Since Miss Moloof appears to hold claims upon you, Mr. Vanderlip,
and is in too great haste to grant me a few seconds of your time,
I am forced to appeal directly to you. May I speak with you,
alone, and now?"
Mrs. McFee's jaws brought together with a snap. That settled the
"Why, er--that is, certainly," the man stammered. "Of course, of
course," growing more effusive at the prospect of deliverance.
Men are only gregarious vertebrates, domesticated and evolved, and
the chances are large that it was because the Greek girl had in
her time dealt with wilder masculine beasts of the human sort; for
she turned upon the man with hell's tides aflood in her blazing
eyes, much as a bespangled lady upon a lion which has suddenly
imbibed the pernicious theory that he is a free agent. The beast
in him fawned to the lash.
"That is to say, ah, afterward. To-morrow, Mrs. Eppingwell; yes,
to-morrow. That is what I meant." He solaced himself with the
fact, should he remain, that more embarrassment awaited. Also, he
had an engagement which he must keep shortly, down by the water-
hole off the hospital. Ye gods! he had never given Freda credit!
Wasn't she magnificent!
"I'll thank you for my mask, Mrs. McFee."
That lady, for the nonce speechless, turned over the article in
"Good-night, Miss Moloof." Mrs. Eppingwell was royal even in
Freda reciprocated, though barely downing the impulse to clasp the
other's knees and beg forgiveness,--no, not forgiveness, but
something, she knew not what, but which she none the less greatly
The man was for her taking his arm; but she had made her kill in
the midst of the pack, and that which led kings to drag their
vanquished at the chariot-tail, led her toward the door alone,
Floyd Vanderlip close at heel and striving to re-establish his
It was bitter cold. As the trail wound, a quarter of a mile
brought them to the dancer's cabin, by which time her moist breath
had coated her face frostily, while his had massed his heavy
mustache till conversation was painful. By the greenish light of
the aurora borealis, the quicksilver showed itself frozen hard in
the bulb of the thermometer which hung outside the door. A
thousand dogs, in pitiful chorus, wailed their ancient wrongs and
claimed mercy from the unheeding stars. Not a breath of air was
moving. For them there was no shelter from the cold, no shrewd
crawling to leeward in snug nooks. The frost was everywhere, and
they lay in the open, ever and anon stretching their trail-
stiffened muscles and lifting the long wolf-howl.
They did not talk at first, the man and the woman. While the maid
helped Freda off with her wraps, Floyd Vanderlip replenished the
fire; and by the time the maid had withdrawn to an inner room, his
head over the stove, he was busily thawing out his burdened upper
lip. After that he rolled a cigarette and watched her lazily
through the fragrant eddies. She stole a glance at the clock. It
lacked half an hour of midnight. How was she to hold him? Was he
angry for that which she had done? What was his mood? What mood
of hers could meet his best? Not that she doubted herself. No,
no. Hold him she could, if need be at pistol point, till Sitka
Charley's work was done, and Devereaux's too.
There were many ways, and with her knowledge of this her contempt
for the man increased. As she leaned her head on her hand, a
fleeting vision of her own girlhood, with its mournful climacteric
and tragic ebb, was vouchsafed her, and for the moment she was
minded to read him a lesson from it. God! it must be less than
human brute who could not be held by such a tale, told as she
could tell it, but--bah! He was not worth it, nor worth the pain
to her. The candle was positioned just right, and even as she
thought of these things sacredly shameful to her, he was
pleasuring in the transparent pinkiness of her ear. She noted his
eye, took the cue, and turned her head till the clean profile of
the face was presented. Not the least was that profile among her
virtues. She could not help the lines upon which she had been
builded, and they were very good; but she had long since learned
those lines, and though little they needed, was not above
advantaging them to the best of her ability. The candle began to
flicker. She could not do anything ungracefully, but that did not
prevent her improving upon nature a bit, when she reached forth
and deftly snuffed the red wick from the midst of the yellow
flame. Again she rested head on hand, this time regarding the man
thoughtfully, and any man is pleased when thus regarded by a
She was in little haste to begin. If dalliance were to his
liking, it was to hers. To him it was very comfortable, soothing
his lungs with nicotine and gazing upon her. It was snug and warm
here, while down by the water-hole began a trail which he would
soon be hitting through the chilly hours. He felt he ought to be
angry with Freda for the scene she had created, but somehow he
didn't feel a bit wrathful. Like as not there wouldn't have been
any scene if it hadn't been for that McFee woman. If he were the
Governor, he would put a poll tax of a hundred ounces a quarter
upon her and her kind and all gospel sharks and sky pilots. And
certainly Freda had behaved very ladylike, held her own with Mrs.
Eppingwell besides. Never gave the girl credit for the grit. He
looked lingeringly over her, coming back now and again to the
eyes, behind the deep earnestness of which he could not guess lay
concealed a deeper sneer. And, Jove, wasn't she well put up!
Wonder why she looked at him so? Did she want to marry him, too?
Like as not; but she wasn't the only one. Her looks were in her
favor, weren't they? And young--younger than Loraine Lisznayi.
She couldn't be more than twenty-three or four, twenty-five at
most. And she'd never get stout. Anybody could guess that the
first time. He couldn't say it of Loraine, though. SHE certainly
had put on flesh since the day she served as model. Huh! once he
got her on trail he'd take it off. Put her on the snowshoes to
break ahead of the dogs. Never knew it to fail, yet. But his
thought leaped ahead to the palace under the lazy Mediterranean
sky--and how would it be with Loraine then? No frost, no trail,
no famine now and again to cheer the monotony, and she getting
older and piling it on with every sunrise. While this girl Freda-
-he sighed his unconscious regret that he had missed being born
under the flag of the Turk, and came back to Alaska.
"Well?" Both hands of the clock pointed perpendicularly to
midnight, and it was high time he was getting down to the water-
"Oh!" Freda started, and she did it prettily, delighting him as
his fellows have ever been delighted by their womankind. When a
man is made to believe that a woman, looking upon him
thoughtfully, has lost herself in meditation over him, that man
needs be an extremely cold-blooded individual in order to trim his
sheets, set a lookout, and steer clear.
"I was just wondering what you wanted to see me about," he
explained, drawing his chair up to hers by the table.
"Floyd," she looked him steadily in the eyes, "I am tired of the
whole business. I want to go away. I can't live it out here till
the river breaks. If I try, I'll die. I am sure of it. I want
to quit it all and go away, and I want to do it at once."
She laid her hand in mute appeal upon the back of his, which
turned over and became a prison. Another one, he thought, just
throwing herself at him. Guess it wouldn't hurt Loraine to cool
her feet by the water-hole a little longer.
"Well?" This time from Freda, but softly and anxiously.
"I don't know what to say," he hastened to answer, adding to
himself that it was coming along quicker than he had expected.
"Nothing I'd like better, Freda. You know that well enough." He
pressed her hand, palm to palm. She nodded. Could she wonder
that she despised the breed?
"But you see, I--I'm engaged. Of course you know that. And the
girl's coming into the country to marry me. Don't know what was
up with me when I asked her, but it was a long while back, and I
was all-fired young--"
"I want to go away, out of the land, anywhere," she went on,
disregarding the obstacle he had reared up and apologized for. "I
have been running over the men I know and reached the conclusion
"I was the likeliest of the lot?"
She smiled her gratitude for his having saved her the
embarrassment of confession. He drew her head against his
shoulder with the free hand, and somehow the scent of her hair got
into his nostrils. Then he discovered that a common pulse
throbbed, throbbed, throbbed, where their palms were in contact.
This phenomenon is easily comprehensible from a physiological
standpoint, but to the man who makes the discovery for the first
time, it is a most wonderful thing. Floyd Vanderlip had caressed
more shovel-handles than women's hands in his time, so this was an
experience quite new and delightfully strange. And when Freda
turned her head against his shoulder, her hair brushing his cheek
till his eyes met hers, full and at close range, luminously soft,
ay, and tender--why, whose fault was it that he lost his grip
utterly? False to Flossie, why not to Loraine? Even if the women
did keep bothering him, that was no reason he should make up his
mind in a hurry. Why, he had slathers of money, and Freda was
just the girl to grace it. A wife she'd make him for other men to
envy. But go slow. He must be cautious.
"You don't happen to care for palaces, do you?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"Well, I had a hankering after them myself, till I got to
thinking, a while back, and I've about sized it up that one'd get
fat living in palaces, and soft and lazy."
"Yes, it's nice for a time, but you soon grow tired of it, I
imagine," she hastened to reassure him. "The world is good, but
life should be many-sided. Rough and knock about for a while, and
then rest up somewhere. Off to the South Seas on a yacht, then a
nibble of Paris; a winter in South America and a summer in Norway;
a few months in England--"
"Most certainly--the best; and then, heigho! for the dogs and
sleds and the Hudson Bay Country. Change, you know. A strong man
like you, full of vitality and go, could not possibly stand a
palace for a year. It is all very well for effeminate men, but
you weren't made for such a life. You are masculine, intensely
"It does not require thinking. I know. Have you ever noticed
that it was easy to make women care for you?"
His dubious innocence was superb.
"It is very easy. And why? Because you are masculine. You
strike the deepest chords of a woman's heart. You are something
to cling to,--big-muscled, strong, and brave. In short, because
you ARE a man."
She shot a glance at the clock. It was half after the hour. She
had given a margin of thirty minutes to Sitka Charley; and it did
not matter, now, when Devereaux arrived. Her work was done. She
lifted her head, laughed her genuine mirth, slipped her hand
clear, and rising to her feet called the maid.
"Alice, help Mr. Vanderlip on with his parka. His mittens are on
the sill by the stove."
The man could not understand.
"Let me thank you for your kindness, Floyd. Your time was
invaluable to me, and it was indeed good of you. The turning to
the left, as you leave the cabin, leads the quickest to the water-
hole. Good-night. I am going to bed."
Floyd Vanderlip employed strong words to express his perplexity
and disappointment. Alice did not like to hear men swear, so
dropped his parka on the floor and tossed his mittens on top of
it. Then he made a break for Freda, and she ruined her retreat to
the inner room by tripping over the parka. He brought her up
standing with a rude grip on the wrist. But she only laughed.
She was not afraid of men. Had they not wrought their worst with
her, and did she not still endure?
"Don't be rough," she said finally. "On second thought," here she
looked at his detaining hand, "I've decided not to go to bed yet a
while. Do sit down and be comfortable instead of ridiculous. Any
"Yes, my lady, and reckoning, too." He still kept his hold.
"What do you know about the water-hole? What did you mean by--no,
never mind. One question at a time."
"Oh, nothing much. Sitka Charley had an appointment there with
somebody you may know, and not being anxious for a man of your
known charm to be present, fell back upon me to kindly help him.
That's all. They're off now, and a good half hour ago."
"Where? Down river and without me? And he an Indian!"
"There's no accounting for taste, you know, especially in a
"But how do I stand in this deal? I've lost four thousand
dollars' worth of dogs and a tidy bit of a woman, and nothing to
show for it. Except you," he added as an afterthought, "and cheap
you are at the price."
Freda shrugged her shoulders.
"You might as well get ready. I'm going out to borrow a couple of
teams of dogs, and we'll start in as many hours."
"I am very sorry, but I'm going to bed."
"You'll pack if you know what's good for you. Go to bed, or not,
when I get my dogs outside, so help me, onto the sled you go.
Mebbe you fooled with me, but I'll just see your bluff and take
you in earnest. Hear me?"
He closed on her wrist till it hurt, but on her lips a smile was
growing, and she seemed to listen intently to some outside sound.
There was a jingle of dog bells, and a man's voice crying "Haw!"
as a sled took the turning and drew up at the cabin.
"NOW will you let me go to bed?"
As Freda spoke she threw open the door. Into the warm room rushed
the frost, and on the threshold, garbed in trail-worn furs, knee-
deep in the swirling vapor, against a background of flaming
borealis, a woman hesitated. She removed her nose-trap and stood
blinking blindly in the white candlelight. Floyd Vanderlip
"Floyd!" she cried, relieved and glad, and met him with a tired
What could he but kiss the armful of furs? And a pretty armful it
was, nestling against him wearily, but happy.
"It was good of you," spoke the armful, "to send Mr. Devereaux
with fresh dogs after me, else I would not have been in till to-
The man looked blankly across at Freda, then the light breaking in
upon him, "And wasn't it good of Devereaux to go?"
"Couldn't wait a bit longer, could you, dear?" Flossie snuggled
"Well, I was getting sort of impatient," he confessed glibly, at
the same time drawing her up till her feet left the floor, and
getting outside the door.
That same night an inexplicable thing happened to the Reverend
James Brown, missionary, who lived among the natives several miles
down the Yukon and saw to it that the trails they trod led to the
white man's paradise. He was roused from his sleep by a strange
Indian, who gave into his charge not only the soul but the body of
a woman, and having done this drove quickly away. This woman was
heavy, and handsome, and angry, and in her wrath unclean words
fell from her mouth. This shocked the worthy man, but he was yet
young and her presence would have been pernicious (in the simple
eyes of his flock), had she not struck out on foot for Dawson with
the first gray of dawn.
The shock to Dawson came many days later, when the summer had come
and the population honored a certain royal lady at Windsor by
lining the Yukon's bank and watching Sitka Charley rise up with
flashing paddle and drive the first canoe across the line. On
this day of the races, Mrs. Eppingwell, who had learned and
unlearned numerous things, saw Freda for the first time since the
night of the ball. "Publicly, mind you," as Mrs. McFee expressed
it, "without regard or respect for the morals of the community,"
she went up to the dancer and held out her hand. At first, it is
remembered by those who saw, the girl shrank back, then words
passed between the two, and Freda, great Freda, broke down and
wept on the shoulder of the captain's wife. It was not given to
Dawson to know why Mrs. Eppingwell should crave forgiveness of a
Greek dancing girl, but she did it publicly, and it was unseemly.
It were well not to forget Mrs. McFee. She took a cabin passage
on the first steamer going out. She also took with her a theory
which she had achieved in the silent watches of the long dark
nights; and it is her conviction that the Northland is
unregenerate because it is so cold there. Fear of hell-fire
cannot be bred in an ice-box. This may appear dogmatic, but it is
Mrs. McFee's theory.