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  • 1904
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The Boy pulled his hat over his eyes.

“Guess you won’t mind my stayin’ now?” said Maudie at his elbow, speaking low.

He looked up. “You goin’ to take care of him? Good care?” he asked harshly.

But Maudie seemed not to mind. The tears went down her cheeks, as, with never a word, she nodded, and turned towards the tent.

“Say,” he hobbled after her, “that doctor’s all right–only wanted fifty.” He laid four hundred-dollar bills in her hand. She seemed about to speak, when he interrupted hoarsely, “And look here: pull the Colonel through, Maudie–pull him through!”

“I’ll do my darnedest.”

He held out his hand. He had never given it to her before, and he forgot that few people would care now to take it. But she gave him hers with no grudging. Then, on a sudden, impulse, “You ain’t takin’ him to Dawson to-night?” she said to the constable.

He nodded.

“Why, he’s done the trip twice already.”

“I can do it again well enough.”

“Then you got to wait a minute.” She spoke to the constable as if she had been Captain Constantine himself. “Better just go in and see the Colonel,” she said to the Boy. “He’s been askin’ for you.”

“N-no, Maudie; I can go to Dawson all right, but I don’t feel up to goin’ in there again.”

“You’ll be sorry if you don’t.” And then he knew what a temperature at a hundred and four foreboded.

He went back into the tent, dreading to face the Colonel more than he had ever dreaded anything in his life.

But the sick man lay, looking out drowsily, peacefully, through half-shut eyes, not greatly concerned, one would say, about anything. The Boy went over and stood under the gray blanket canopy, looking down with a choking sensation that delayed his question: “How you feelin’ now, Kentucky?”

“All right.”

“Why, that’s good news. Then you–you won’t mind my goin’ off to–to do a little prospectin’?”

The sick man frowned: “You stay right where you are. There’s plenty in that jampot.”

“Yes, yes! jampot’s fillin’ up fine.”

“Besides,” the low voice wavered on, “didn’t we agree we’d learned the lesson o’ the North?”

“The lesson o’ the North?” repeated the other with filling eyes.

“Yes, sah. A man alone’s a man lost. We got to stick together, Boy.” The eyelids fell heavily.

“Yes, yes, Colonel.” He pressed the big hand. His mouth made the motion, not the sound, “Good-bye, pardner.”

CHAPTER XXII

THE GOING HOME

“Despair lies down and grovels, grapples not With evil, casts the burden of its lot. This Age climbs earth.
–To challenge heaven.
–Not less The lower deeps.
It laughs at Happiness.”
–George Meredith

Everybody on Bonanza knew that the Colonel had left off struggling to get out of his bed to go to work, had left off calling for his pardner. Quite in his right senses again, he could take in Maudie’s explanation that the Boy was gone to Dawson, probably to get something for the Colonel to eat. For the Doctor was a crank and wouldn’t let the sick man have his beans and bacon, forbade him even such a delicacy as fresh pork, though the Buckeyes nobly offered to slaughter one of their newly-acquired pigs, the first that ever rooted in Bonanza refuse, and more a terror to the passing Indian than any bear or wolf.

“But the Boy’s a long time,” the Colonel would say wistfully.

Before this quieter phase set in, Maudie had sent into Dawson for Potts, O’Flynn and Mac, that they might distract the Colonel’s mind from the pardner she knew could not return. But O’Flynn, having married the girl at the Moosehorn Cafe, had excuse of ancient validity for not coming; Potts was busy breaking the faro bank, and Mac was waiting till an overdue Lower River steamer should arrive.

Nicholas of Pymeut had gone back as pilot of the Weare, but Princess Muckluck was still about, now with Skookum Bill, son of the local chief, now alone, trudging up and down Bonanza like one looking for something lost. The Colonel heard her voice outside the tent and had her in.

“You goin’ to marry Skookum Bill, as they say?”

Muckluck only laughed, but the Indian hung about waiting the Princess’s pleasure.

“When your pardner come back?” she would indiscreetly ask the Colonel. “Why he goes to Dawson?” And every few hours she would return: “Why he stay so long?”

At last Maudie took her outside and told her.

Muckluck gaped, sat down a minute, and rocked her body back and forth with hidden face, got up and called sharply: “Skookum!”

They took the trail for town. Potts said, when he passed them, they were going as if the devil were at their heels–wouldn’t even stop to say how the Colonel was. So Potts had come to see for himself–and to bring the Colonel some letters just arrived.

Mac was close behind … but the Boy? No-no. They wouldn’t let anybody see him; and Potts shook his head.

“Well, you can come in,” said Maudie, “if you keep your head shut about the Boy.”

The Colonel was lying flat, with that unfaltering ceiling-gaze of the sick. Now his vision dropped to the level of faces at the door. “Hello!” But as they advanced he looked behind them anxiously. Only Mac–no, Kaviak at his heels! and the sick man’s disappointment lightened to a smile. He would have held out a hand, but Maudie stopped him. She took the little fellow’s fingers and laid them on the Colonel’s.

“Now sit down and be quiet,” she said nervously.

Potts and Mac obeyed, but Kaviak had fastened his fine little hand on the weak one, and anchored so, stared about taking his bearings.

“How did you get to the Klondyke, Kaviak?” said the Colonel in a thin, breathy voice.

“Came up with Sister Winifred,” Farva answered for him. “She was sent for to help with the epidemic. Dyin’ like flies in Dawson–h’m–ahem!” (Apologetic glance at Maudie.) “Sister Winifred promised to keep Kaviak with her. Woman of her word.”

“Well, what you think o’ Dawson?” the low voice asked.

Kaviak understood the look at least, and smiled back, grew suddenly grave, intent, looked sharply round, loosed his hold of the Colonel, bent down, and retired behind the bed. That was where Nig was. Their foregathering added nothing to the tranquility of the occasion, and both were driven forth by Maudie.

Potts read the Colonel his letters, and helped him to sign a couple of cheques. The “Louisville instructions” had come through at last.

After that the Colonel slept, and when he woke it was only to wander away into that world where Maudie was lost utterly, and where the Colonel was at home. There was chastening in such hours for Maudie of Minook. “Now he’s found the Other One,” she would say to herself–“the One he was looking for.”

That same evening, as they sat in the tent in an interval of relief from the Colonel’s muttering monotone, they heard Nig making some sort of unusual manifestation outside; heard the grunting of those pioneer pigs; heard sounds of a whispered “Sh! Kaviak. Shut up, Nig!” Then a low, tuneless crooning:

“Wen yo’ see a pig a-goin’ along
Widder straw in de sider ‘is mouf, It’ll be er tuhble wintuh,
En yo’ bettah move down Souf.”

“Why, the Boy’s back!” said the Colonel suddenly in a clear, collected voice.

Maudie had jumped up, but the Boy put his head in the tent, smiling, and calling out:

“They told me he was getting on all right, but I just thought maybe he was asleep.” He came in and bent over his pardner. “Hello, everybody! Why, you got it so fine and dark in here, I can hardly see how well you’re lookin’, Colonel!” And he dropped into the nurse’s place by the bedside.

“Maudie’s lined the tent with black drill,” said the Colonel. “You brought home anything to eat?”

“Well, no—-” (Maudie telegraphed); “found it all I could do to bring myself back.”

“Oh, well, that’s the main thing,” said the Colonel, battling with disappointment. Pricked by some quickened memory of the Boy’s last home-coming: “I’ve had pretty queer dreams about you: been givin’ Maudie the meanest kind of a time.”

“Don’t go gassin’, Colonel,” admonished the nurse.

“It’s pretty tough, I can tell you,” he said irritably, “to be as weak as a day-old baby, and to have to let other people—-“

“Mustn’t talk!” ordered Mac. The Colonel raised his head with sudden anger. It did not mend matters that Maudie was there to hold him down before a lot of men.

“You go to Halifax,” said the Boy to Mac, blustering a trifle. “The Colonel may stand a little orderin’ about from Maudie–don’t blame him m’self. But Kentucky ain’t going to be bossed by any of us.”

The Colonel lay quite still again, and when he spoke it was quietly enough.

“Reckon I’m in the kind of a fix when a man’s got to take orders.”

“Foolishness! Don’t let him jolly you, boys. The Colonel’s always sayin’ he ain’t a soldier, but I reckon you better look out how you rile Kentucky!”

The sick man ignored the trifling. “The worst of it is bein’ so useless.”

“Useless! You just wait till you see what a lot o’ use we mean to make of you. No crawlin’ out of it like that.”

“It’s quite true,” said Mac harshly; “we all kind of look to you still.”

“Course we do!” The Boy turned to the others. “The O’Flynns comin’ all the way out from Dawson to-morrow to get Kentucky’s opinion on a big scheme o’ theirs. Did you ever hear what that long-headed Lincoln said when the Civil War broke out? ‘I would like to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.'”

“I’ve been so out o’ my head, I thought you were arrested.”

“No ‘out of your head’ about it–was arrested. They thought I’d cleared Scowl Austin off the earth.”

“Do they know who did?” Potts and Maudie asked in a breath.

“That Klondyke Indian that’s sweet on Princess Muckluck.”

“What had Austin done to him?”

“Nothin’. Reckon Skookum Bill was about the only man on Bonanza who had no objection to the owner of o. Said so in Court.”

“What did he kill him for?”

“Well,” said the Boy, “it’s just one o’ those topsy-turvy things that happen up here. You saw that Indian that came in with Nicholas? Some years ago he killed a drunken white man who was after him with a knife. There was no means of tryin’ the Indian where the thing happened, so he was taken outside.

“The Court found he’d done the killin’ in self-defence, and sent him back. Well, sir, that native had the time of his life bein’ tried for murder. He’d travelled on a railroad, seen a white man’s city, lived like a lord, and came home to be the most famous man of his tribe. Got a taste for travel, too. Comes to the Klondyke, and his fame fires Skookum Bill. All you got to do is to kill one o’ these white men, and they take you and show you all the wonders o’ the earth. So he puts a bullet into Austin.”

“Why didn’t he own up, then, and get his reward?”

“Muckluck knew better–made him hold his tongue about it.”

“And then made him own up when she saw—-“

The boy nodded.

“What’s goin’ to happen?”

“Oh, he’ll swing to-morrow instead o’ me. By the way, Colonel, a fella hunted me up this mornin’ who’d been to Minook. Looked good to him. I’ve sold out Idaho Bar.”

“‘Nough to buy back your Orange Grove?”

He shook his head. “‘Nough to pay my debts and start over again.”

When the Dawson doctor left that night Maudie, as usual, followed him out. They waited a long time for her to come back.

“Perhaps she’s gone to her own tent;” and the Boy went to see. He found her where the Colonel used to go to smoke, sitting, staring out to nowhere.

As the boy looked closer he saw she had been crying, for even in the midst of honest service Maudie, like many a fine lady before her, could not forego the use of cosmetic. Her cheeks were streaked and stained.

“Five dollars a box here, too,” she said mechanically, as she wiped some of the rouge off with a handkerchief. Her hand shook.

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s all up,” she answered.

“Not with him?” He motioned towards the tent.

She nodded.

“Doctor says so?”

“—-and I knew it before, only I wouldn’t believe it.”

She had spoken with little agitation, but now she flung her arms out with a sudden anguish that oddly took the air of tossing into space Bonanza and its treasure. It was the motion of one who renounces the thing that means the most–a final fling in the face of the gods. The Boy stood quite still, submitting his heart to that first quick rending and tearing asunder which is only the initial agony of parting.

“How soon?” he said, without raising his eyes.

“Oh, he holds on–it may be a day or two.”

The Boy walked slowly away towards the ridge of the low hill. Maudie turned and watched him. On the top of the divide he stopped, looking over. Whatever it was he saw off there, he could not meet it yet. He flung himself down with his face in the fire-weed, and lay there all night long.

Kaviak was sent after him in the morning, but only to say, “Breakfast, Maudie’s tent.”

The Boy saw that Mac and Potts knew. For the first time the Big Chimney men felt a barrier between them and that one who had been the common bond, keeping the incongruous allied and friendly. Only Nig ran in and out, unchilled by the imminence of the Colonel’s withdrawal from his kind.

Towards noon the O’Flynns came up the creek, and were stopped near the tent by the others. They all stood talking low till a noise of scuffling broke the silence within. They drew nearer, and heard the Colonel telling Maudie not to turn out Nig and Kaviak.

“I like seein’ my friends. Where’s the Boy?”

So they went in.

Did he know? He must know, or he would have asked O’Flynn what the devil made him look like that! All he said was: “Hello! How do you do, madam?” and he made a weak motion of one hand towards Mrs. O’Flynn to do duty for that splendid bow of his. Then, as no one spoke, “You’re too late, O’Flynn.”

“Too late?”

“Had a job in your line….” Then suddenly: “Maudie’s worth the whole lot of you.”

They knew it was his way of saying “She’s told me.” They all sat and looked at the floor. Nothing happened for a long time. At last: “Well, you all know what my next move is; what’s yours?”

There was another silence, but not nearly so long.

“What prospects, pardners?” he repeated.

The Boy looked at Maudie. She made a little gesture of “I’ve done all the fightin’ I’m good for.” The Colonel’s eyes, clear again and tranquil, travelled from face to face.

O’Flynn cleared his throat, but it was Mac who spoke.

“Yes–a–we would like to hold a last–hold a counsel o’ war. We’ve always kind o’ followed your notions–at least”–veracity pared down the compliment–“at least, you can’t say but what we’ve always listened to you.”

“Yes, you might just–a–start us as well as you can,” says Potts.

The Colonel smiled a little. Each man still “starting”–forever starting for somewhere or something, until he should come to this place where the Colonel was. Even he, why, he was “starting” too. For him this was no end other than a chapter’s ending. But these men he had lived and suffered with, they all wanted to talk the next move over–not his, theirs–all except the Boy, it seemed.

Mac was in the act of changing his place to be nearer the Colonel, when Potts adroitly forestalled him. The others drew off a little and made desultory talk, while Potts in an undertone told how he’d had a run of bad luck. No doubt it would turn, but if ever he got enough again to pay his passage home, he’d put it in the bank and never risk it.

“I swear I wouldn’t! I’ve got to go out in the fall–goin’ to get myself married Christmas; and, if she’s willing, we’ll come up here on the first boat in the spring–with backing this time.”

He showed a picture. The Colonel studied it.

“I believe she’ll come,” he said.

And Potts was so far from clairvoyance that he laughed, awkwardly flattered; then anxiously: “Wish I was sure o’ my passage money.”

When Potts, before he meant to, had yielded place to O’Flynn, the Colonel was sworn to secrecy, and listened to excited whispers of gold in the sand off yonder on the coast of the Behring Sea. The world in general wouldn’t know the authenticity of the new strike till next season. He and Mrs. O’Flynn would take the first boat sailing out of San Francisco in the spring.

“Oh, you’re going outside too?”

“In the fahll–yes, yes. Ye see, I ain’t like the rest. I’ve got Mrs. O’Flynn to consider. Dawson’s great, but it ain’t the place to start a famully.”

“Where you goin’, Mac?” said the Colonel to the irate one, who was making for the door. “I want a little talk with you.”

Mac turned back, and consented to express his opinion of the money there was to be made out of tailings by means of a new hydraulic process. He was going to lend Kaviak to Sister Winifred again on the old terms. She’d take him along when she returned to Holy Cross, and Mac would go outside, raise a little capital, return, and make a fortune. For the moment he was broke–hadn’t even passage money. Did the Colonel think he could—-

The Colonel seemed absorbed in that eternal interrogation of the tent-top.

“Mine, you know”–Mac drew nearer still, and went on in the lowered voice–“mine’s a special case. A man’s bound to do all he can for his boys.”

“I didn’t know you had boys.”

Mac jerked “Yes” with his square head. “Bobbie’s goin’ on six now.”

“The others older?”

“Others?” Mac stared an instant. “Oh, there’s only one more.” He grinned with embarrassment, and hitched his head towards Kaviak.

“I guess you’ve jawed enough,” said Maudie, leaving the others and coming to the foot of the bed.

“And Maudie’s goin’ back, too,” said the sick man.

She nodded.

“And you’re never goin’ to leave her again?”

“No.”

“Maudie’s a little bit of All Right,” said the patient. The Big Chimney men assented, but with sudden misgiving.

“What was that job ye said ye were wantin’ me forr?”

“Oh, Maudie’s got a friend of hers to fix it up.”

“Fix what up?” demanded Potts.

“Little postscript to my will.”

Mac jerked his head at the nurse. With that clear sight of dying eyes the Colonel understood. A meaner spirit would have been galled at the part those “Louisville Instructions” had been playing, but cheap cynicism was not in the Colonel’s line. He knew the awful pinch of life up here, and he thought no less of his comrades for asking that last service of getting them home. But it was the day of the final “clean-up” for the Colonel; he must not leave misapprehension behind.

“I wanted Maudie to have my Minook claim—-“

“Got a Minook claim o’ my own.”

“So I’ve left it to be divided—-“

They all looked up.

“One-half to go to a little girl in ‘Frisco, and the other half–well, I’ve left the other half to Kaviak. Strikes me he ought to have a little piece o’ the North.”

“Y-yes!”

“Oh, yes!”

“Good idea!”

“Mac thought he’d go over to the other tent and cook some dinner. There was a general movement. As they were going out:

“Boy!”

“Yes?” He came back, Nig followed, and the two stood by the camp-bed waiting their Colonel’s orders.

“Don’t you go wastin’ any more time huntin’ gold-mines.”

“I don’t mean to.”

“Go back to your own work; go back to your own people.”

The Boy listened and looked away.

“It’s good to go pioneering, but it’s good to go home. Oh-h–!” the face on the pillow was convulsed for that swift passing moment–“best of all to go home. And if you leave your home too long, your home leaves you.”

“Home doesn’t seem so important as it did when I came up here.”

The Colonel fastened one hand feverishly on his pardner’s arm.

“I’ve been afraid of that. It’s magic; break away. Promise me you’ll go back and stay. Lord, Lord!” he laughed feebly, “to think a fella should have to be urged to leave the North alone. Wonderful place, but there’s Black Magic in it. Or who’d ever come–who’d ever stay?”

He looked anxiously into the Boy’s set face.

“I’m not saying the time was wasted,” he went on; “I reckon it was a good thing you came.”

“Yes, it was a good thing I came.”

“You’ve learned a thing or two.”

“Several.”

“Specially on the Long Trail.”

“Most of all on the Long Trail.”

The Colonel shut his eyes. Maudie came and held a cup to his lips.

“Thank you. I begin to feel a little foggy. What was it we learned on the Trail, pardner?” But the Boy had turned away. “Wasn’t it–didn’t we learn how near a tolerable decent man is to bein’ a villain?”

“We learned that a man can’t be quite a brute as long as he sticks to another man.”

“Oh, was that it?”

* * * * *

In the night Maudie went away to sleep. The Boy watched.

“Do you know what I’m thinking about?” the sick man said suddenly.

“About–that lady down at home?”

“Guess again.”

“About–those fellas at Holy Cross?”

“No, I never was as taken up with the Jesuits as you were. No, Sah, I’m thinkin’ about the Czar.” (Poor old Colonel! he was wandering again.) “Did I ever tell you I saw him once?”

“No.”

“Did–had a good look at him. Knew a fella in Petersburg, too, that–” He rested a moment. “That Czar’s all right. Only he sends the wrong people to Siberia. Ought to go himself, and take his Ministers, for a winter on the Trail.” On his face suddenly the old half-smiling, half-shrewd look. “But, Lord bless you! ’tisn’t only the Czar. We all have times o’ thinkin’ we’re some punkins. Specially Kentuckians. I reckon most men have their days when they’re twelve feet high, and wouldn’t stoop to say ‘Thank ye’ to a King. Let ’em go on the Winter Trail.”

“Yes,” agreed the Boy, “they’d find out–” And he stopped.

“Plenty o’ use for Head Men, though.” The faint voice rang with an echo of the old authority. “No foolishness, but just plain: ‘I’m the one that’s doin’ the leadin’–like Nig here–and it’s my business to lick the hind dog if he shirks.'” He held out his hand and closed it over his friend’s. “I was Boss o’ the Big Chimney, Boy, but you were Boss o’ the Trail.”

* * * * *

The Colonel was buried in the old moose pasture, with people standing by who knew that the world had worn a friendlier face because he had been in it. That much was clear, even before it was found that he had left to each of the Big Chimney men five hundred dollars, not to be drawn except for the purpose of going home.

They thought it was the sense of that security that made them put off the day. They would “play the game up to the last moment, and see–“

September’s end brought no great change in fortune, but a change withal of deep significance. The ice had begun to run in the Yukon. No man needed telling it would “be a tuhble wintah, and dey’d better move down Souf.” All the late boats by both routes had been packed. Those men who had failed, and yet, most tenacious, were hanging on for some last lucky turn of the wheel, knew the risk they ran. And now to-day the final boat of the year was going down the long way to the Behring Sea, and by the Canadian route, open a little longer, the Big Chimney men, by grace of that one left behind, would be on the last ship to shoot the rapids in ’98.

Not only to the thousands who were going, to those who stayed behind there was something in the leaving of the last boat–something that knocked upon the heart. They, too, could still go home. They gathered at the docks and told one another they wouldn’t leave Dawson for fifty thousand dollars, then looked at the “failures” with home-sick eyes, remembering those months before the luckiest Klondyker could hear from the world outside. Between now and then, what would have come to pass up here, and what down there below!

The Boy had got a place for Muckluck in the A. C. Store. She was handy at repairing and working in fur, and said she was “all right” on this bright autumn morning when the Boy went in to say good-bye. With a white woman and an Indian boy, in a little room overlooking the water-front, Muckluck was working in the intervals of watching the crowds on the wharf. Eyes more experienced than hers might well stare. Probably in no other place upon the globe was gathered as motley a crew: English, Indian, Scandinavian, French, German, Negroes, Chinese, Poles, Japs, Finns. All the fine gentlemen had escaped by earlier boats. All the smart young women with their gold-nugget buttons as big as your thumb, lucky miners from the creeks with heavy consignments of dust to take home, had been too wary to run any risk of the Never-Know-What closing inopportunely. The great majority here, on the wharf, dazed or excited, lugging miscellaneous possessions–things they had clung to in straits so desperate they knew no more how to relax their hold than dead fingers do–these were men whose last chance had been the Klondyke, and who here, as elsewhere, had failed. Many who came in young were going out old; but the odd thing was that those worst off went out game–no whining, none of the ostentatious pathos of those broken on the wheel of a great city.

A man under Muckluck’s window, dressed in a moose-skin shirt, straw hat, broadcloth trousers, and carpet slippers, in one hand a tin pail, in the other something tied in a handkerchief, called out lustily to a ragged individual, cleaving a way through the throng, “Got your stuff aboard?”

“Yes, goin’ to get it off. I ain’t goin’ home till next year.”

And the face above the moose-skin shirt was stricken with a sudden envy. Without any telling, he knew just how his pardner’s heart had failed him, when it came to turning his tattered back on the possibilities of the Klondyke.

“Oh, I’m comin’ back soon’s I get a grub-stake.”

“I ain’t,” said another with a dazed expression–a Klondyker carrying home his frying-pan, the one thing, apparently, saved out of the wreck.

“You think you ain’t comin’ back? Just wait! Once you’ve lived up here, the Outside ain’t good enough fur yer.”

“Right!” said an old Forty-miler, “you can try it; but Lord! how you’ll miss this goll-darn Yukon.”

Among the hundreds running about, talking, bustling, hauling heterogeneous luggage, sending last letters, doing last deals, a score of women either going by this boat or saying good-bye to those who were; and Potts, the O’Flynns, and Mac waiting to hand over Kaviak to Sister Winifred.

The Boy at the open window above, staring down on the tatterdemalion throng, remembered his first meeting with the Big Chimney men as the Washington City steamed out of San Francisco’s Golden Gate a year and a month before.

Of course, even in default of finding millions, something stirring might have happened, something heroic, rewarding to the spirit, if no other how; but (his own special revelation blurred, swamped for the moment in the common wreck) he said to himself that nothing of the sort had befallen the Big Chimney men any more than to the whipped and bankrupt crew struggling down there on the wharf. They simply had failed–all alike. And yet there was between them and the common failures of the world one abiding difference: these had greatly dared. As long as the meanest in that crowd drew breath and held to memory, so long might he remember the brave and terrible days of the Klondyke Rush, and that he had borne in it his heavy share. No share in any mine save that–the knowledge that he was not among the vast majority who sit dully to the end beside what things they were born to–the earnings of other men, the savings of other women, afraid to go seeking after better lest they lose the good they have. They had failed, but it could never be said of a Klondyker that he had not tried. He might, in truth, look down upon the smug majority that smiles at unusual endeavour, unless success excuses, crowns it. No one there, after all, so poor but he had one possession treasured among kings. And he had risked it. What could a man do more?

“Good-bye, Muckluck.”

“Goo’-bye? Boat Canada way no go till Thursday.”

“Thursday, yes,” he said absently, eyes still on the American ship.

“Then why you say goo’-bye to-day?”

“Lot to do. I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Her creamy face was suddenly alight, but not with gratitude.

“Oh, yes, all right here,” she said haughtily. “I not like much the Boston men–King George men best.” It was so her sore heart abjured her country. For among the natives of the Klondyke white history stops where it began when George the Third was King. “I think”–she shot sideways a shrewd look–“I think I marry a King George man.”

And at the prospect her head drooped heavily.

“Then you’ll want to wear this at your wedding.”

The Boy drew his hand out of his pocket, threw a walrus-string over her bent head, and when she could see clear again, her Katharine medal was swinging below her waist, and “the Boston man” was gone.

She stared with blinded eyes out of the window, till suddenly in the mist one face was clear. The Boy! Standing still down there in the hurly-burly, hands in pockets, staring at the ship.

Suddenly Sister Winifred, her black veil swirling in the wind. An orderly from St. Mary’s Hospital following with a little trunk. At the gangway she is stopped by the purser, asked some questions, smiles at first and shakes her head, and then in dismay clasps her hands, seeming to plead, while the whistle shrieks.

Muckluck turned and flew down the dark little stair, threaded her way in and out among the bystanders on the wharf till she reached the Sister’s side. The nun was saying that she not only had no money, but that a Yukon purser must surely know the Sisters were forbidden to carry it. He could not doubt but the passage money would be made good when they got to Holy Cross. But the purser was a new man, and when Mac and others who knew the Yukon custom expostulated, he hustled them aside and told Sister Winifred to stand back, the gangway was going up. It was then the Boy came and spoke to the man, finally drew out some money and paid the fare. The nun, not recognising him, too bewildered by this rough passage with the world even to thank the stranger, stood motionless, grasping Kaviak’s hand–two children, you would say–her long veil blowing, hurrying on before her to that haven in the waste, the mission at Holy Cross.

Again the Boy was delaying the upward swing of the gangway: the nun’s trunk must come on board. Two men rushed for it while he held down the gang.

“Mustn’t cry,” he said to Muckluck. “You’ll see Sister Winifred again.”

“Not for that I cry. Ah, I never shall have happiness!”

“Yes, that trunk!” he called.

In the babel of voices shouting from ship and shore, the Boy heard Princess Muckluck saying, with catches in her breath:

“I always knew I would get no luck!”

“Why?”

“Ah! I was a bad child. The baddest of all the Pymeut children.”

“Yes, yes, they’ve got it now!” the Boy shouted up to the Captain. Then low, and smiling absently: “What did you do that was so bad. Princess?”

“Me? I–I mocked at the geese. It was the summer they were so late; and as they flew past Pymeut I–yes, I mocked at them.”

A swaying and breaking of the crowd, the little trunk flung on board, the men rushing back to the wharf, the gang lifted, and the last Lower River boat swung out into the ice-flecked stream.

Keen to piercing a cry rang out–Muckluck’s:

“Stop! They carry him off! It is meestake! Oh! Oh!”

The Boy was standing for’ard, Nig beside him.

O’Flynn rushed to the wharf’s edge and screamed at the Captain to “Stop, be the Siven!” Mac issued orders most peremptory. Muckluck wept as excitedly as though there had never been question of the Boy’s going away. But while the noise rose and fell, Potts drawled a “Guess he means to go that way!”

“No, he don’t!”

“Stop, you——–, Captain!”

“Stop your—-boat!”

“Well,” said a bystander, “I never seen any feller as calm as that who was bein’ took the way he didn’t want to go.”

“D’ye mean there’s a new strike?”

The suggestion flashed electric through the crowd. It was the only possible explanation.

“He knows what he’s about.”

“Lord! I wish I’d ‘a’ froze to him!”

“Yep,” said Buck One, “never seen that young feller when he looked more like he wouldn’t give a whoop in hell to change places with anybody.”

As O’Flynn, back from his chase, hoarse and puffing, stopped suddenly:

“Be the Siven! Father Brachet said the little divil ‘d be coming back to Howly Cross!”

“Where’s that?”

“Lower River camp.”

“Gold there?”

“No.”

“Then you’re talking through your hat!”

“Say, Potts, where in hell is he goin’?”

“Damfino!”

THE END