This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1904
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

“Why do you have two names?”

“Unookuk, Nulato name. My father big Nulato Shaman. Him killed, mother killed, everybody killed in Koyukuk massacre. They forget kill me. Me kid. Russians find Unookuk in big wood. Russians give food. I stay with Russians–them call Unookuk ‘Kurilla.’ Dall call Unookuk ‘Kurilla.'”

“Dall–Dall,” said the Colonel to the Boy; “was that the name of the explorer fella–“

Fortunately the Boy was saved from need to answer.

“First white man go down Yukon to the sea,” said Kurilla with pride. “Me Dall’s guide.”

“Oh, wrote a book, didn’t he? Name’s familiar somehow,” said the Colonel.

Kurilla bore him out.

“Mr. Dall great man. Thirty year he first come up here with Survey people. Make big overland tel-ee-grab.”

“Of course. I’ve heard about that.” The Colonel turned to the Boy. “It was just before the Russians sold out. And when a lot of exploring and surveying and pole-planting was done here and in Siberia, the Atlantic cable was laid and knocked the overland scheme sky-high.”

Kurilla gravely verified these facts.

“And me, Dall’s chief guide. Me with Dall when he make portage from Unalaklik to Kaltag. He see the Yukon first time. He run down to be first on the ice. Dall and the coast natives stare, like so”–Kurilla made a wild-eyed, ludicrous face–“and they say: ‘It is not a river–it is another sea!'”

“No wonder. I hear it’s ten miles wide up by the flats, and even a little below where we wintered, at Ikogimeut, it’s four miles across from bank to bank.”

Kurilla looked at the Colonel with dignified reproach. Why did he go on lying about his journey like that to an expert?

“Even at Holy Cross–” the Boy began, but Kurilla struck in:

“When you there?”

“Oh, about three weeks ago.”

Peetka made remarks in Ingalik.

“Father MacManus, him all right?” asked Kurilla, politely cloaking his cross-examination.

“MacManus? Do you mean Wills, or the Superior, Father Brachet?”

“Oh yes! MacManus at Tanana.” He spoke as though inadvertently he had confused the names. As the strangers gave him the winter’s news from Holy Cross, his wonder and astonishment grew.

Presently, “Do you know my friend Nicholas of Pymeut?” asked the Boy.

Kurilla took his empty pipe out of his mouth and smiled in broad surprise. “Nicholas!” repeated several others. It was plain the Pymeut pilot enjoyed a wide repute.

The Boy spoke of the famine and Ol’ Chief’s illness.

“It is true,” said Unookuk gravely, and turning, he added something in Ingalik to the company. Peetka answered back as surly as ever. But the Boy went on, telling how the Shaman had cured Ol’ Chief, and that turned out to be a surprisingly popular story. Peetka wouldn’t interrupt it, even to curse the Leader for getting up and stretching himself. When the dog–feeling that for some reason discipline was relaxed–dared to leave his cramped quarters, and come out into the little open space between the white men and the close-packed assembly, the Boy forced himself to go straight on with his story as if he had not observed the liberty the Leader was taking. When, after standing there an instant, the dog came over and threw himself down at the stranger’s feet as if publicly adopting him, the white story-teller dared not meet Peetka’s eye. He was privately most uneasy at the Nigger dog’s tactless move, and he hurried on about how Brother Paul caught the Shaman, and about the Penitential Journey–told how, long before that, early in the Fall, Nicholas had got lost, making the portage from St. Michael’s, and how the white camp had saved him from starvation; how in turn the Pymeuts had pulled the speaker out of a blow-hole; what tremendous friends the Pymeuts were with these particular, very good sort of white men. Here he seemed to allow by implication for Peetka’s prejudice–there were two kinds of pale-face strangers–and on an impulse he drew out Muckluck’s medal. He would have them to know, so highly were these present specimens of the doubtful race regarded by the Pymeuts–such friends were they, that Nicholas’ sister had given him this for an offering to Yukon Inua, that the Great Spirit might help them on their way. He owned himself wrong to have delayed this sacrifice. He must to-morrow throw it into the first blow-hole he came to–unless indeed… his eye caught Kurilla’s. With the help of his stick the old Guide pulled his big body up on his one stout leg, hobbled nearer and gravely eyed Muckluck’s offering as it swung to and fro on its walrus-string over the Leader’s head. The Boy, quite conscious of some subtle change in the hitherto immobile face of the Indian, laid the token in his hand. Standing there in the centre of the semicircle between the assembly and the dog, Kurilla turned the Great Katharine’s medal over, examining it closely, every eye in the room upon him.

When he lifted his head there was a rustle of expectation and a craning forward.

“It is the same.” Kurilla spoke slowly like one half in a dream. “When I go down river, thirty winter back, with the Great Dall, he try buy this off Nicholas’s mother. She wear it on string red Russian beads. Oh, it is a thing to remember!” He nodded his grey head significantly, but he went on with the bare evidence: “When _John J. Healy_ make last trip down this fall–Nicholas pilot you savvy–they let him take his sister, Holy Cross to Pymeut. I see she wear this round neck.”

The weight of the medal carried the raw-hide necklace slipping through his fingers. Slowly now, with even impulse, the silver disc swung right, swung left, like the pendulum of a clock. Even the Nigger dog seemed hypnotised, following the dim shine of the tarnished token.

“I say Nicholas’s sister: ‘It is thirty winters I see that silver picture first; I give you two dolla for him.’ She say ‘No.’ I say, ‘Gi’ fi’ dolla.’ ‘No.’ I sit and think far back–thirty winters back. ‘I gi’ ten dolla,’ I say. She say, ‘I no sell; no–not for a hunner’–but she _give_ it him! for to make Yukon Inua to let him go safe. Hein? Savvy?” And lapsing into Ingalik, he endorsed this credential not to be denied.

“It is true,” he wound up in English. The “Autocratrix Russorum” was solemnly handed back. “You have make a brave journey. It is I who unnerstan’–I, too, when I am young, I go with Dall on the Long Trail. _We had dogs._” All the while, from all about the Leader’s owner, and out of every corner of the crowded room, had come a spirited punctuation of Kurilla’s speech–nods and grunts. “Yes, perhaps _these_ white men deserved dogs–even Peetka’s!”

Kurilla limped back to his place, but turned to the Ingaliks before he sat down, and bending painfully over his stick, “Not Kurilla,” he said, as though speaking of one absent–“not _Dall_ make so great journey, no dogs. Kurilla? Best guide in Yukon forty year. Kurilla say: ‘Must have dogs–men like that!'” He limped back again and solemnly offered his hand to each of the travellers in turn. “Shake!” says he. Then, as though fascinated by the silver picture, he dropped down by the Boy, staring absently at the Great Katharine’s effigy. The general murmur was arrested by a movement from Peetka–he took his pipe out of his mouth and says he, handsomely:

“No liars. Sell dog,” adding, with regretful eye on the apostate Leader, “Him bully dog!”

And that was how the tobacco famine ended, and how the white men got their team.



“Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens.”

It doesn’t look hard to drive a dog-team, but just you try it. In moments of passion, the first few days after their acquisition, the Colonel and the Boy wondered why they had complicated a sufficiently difficult journey by adding to other cares a load of fish and three fiends.

“Think how well they went for Peetka.”

“Oh yes; part o’ their cussedness. They know we’re green hands, and they mean to make it lively.”

Well, they did. They sat on their haunches in the snow, and grinned at the whip-crackings and futile “Mush, mush!” of the Colonel. They snapped at the Boy and made sharp turns, tying him up in the traces and tumbling him into the snow. They howled all night long, except during a blessed interval of quiet while they ate their seal-skin harness. But man is the wiliest of the animals, and the one who profits by experience. In the end, the Boy became a capital driver; the dogs came to know he “meant business,” and settled into submission. “Nig,” as he called the bully dog for short, turned out “the best leader in the Yukon.”

They were much nearer Kaltag than they had realised, arriving after only two hours’ struggle with the dogs at the big Indian village on the left bank of the river. But their first appearance here was clouded by Nig’s proposal to slay all the dogs in sight. He was no sooner unharnessed than he undertook the congenial job. It looked for a few minutes as if Peetka’s bully dog would chew up the entire canine population, and then lie down and die of his own wounds. But the Kaltags understood the genus Siwash better than the white man, and took the tumult calmly.

It turned out that Nig was not so much bloodthirsty as “bloody-proud”–one of those high souls for ever concerned about supremacy. His first social act, on catching sight of his fellow, was to howl defiance at him. And even after they have fought it out and come to some sort of understanding, the first happy thought of your born Leader on awakening is to proclaim himself boss of the camp.

No sooner has he published this conviction of high calling than he is set upon by the others, punishes them soundly, or is himself vanquished and driven off. Whereupon he sits on his haunches in the snow, and, with his pointed nose turned skyward, howls uninterruptedly for an hour or two, when all is forgiven and forgotten–till the next time.

Order being restored, the travellers got new harness for the dogs, new boots for themselves, and set out for the white trading post, thirty miles above.

Here, having at last come into the region of settlements, they agreed never again to overtax the dogs. They “travelled light” out of Nulato towards the Koyukuk.

The dogs simply flew over those last miles. It was glorious going on a trail like glass.

They had broken the back of the journey now, and could well afford, they thought, to halt an hour or two on the island at the junction of the two great rivers, stake out a trading post, and treat themselves to town lots. Why town lots, in Heaven’s name! when they were bound for Minook, and after that the Klondyke, hundreds of miles away? Well, partly out of mere gaiety of heart, and partly, the Colonel would have told you gravely, that in this country you never know when you have a good thing. They had left the one white layman at Nulato seething with excitement over an Indian’s report of still another rich strike up yonder on the Koyukuk, and this point, where they were solemnly staking out a new post, the Nulato Agent had said, was “dead sure to be a great centre.” That almost unknown region bordering the great tributary of the Yukon, haunt of the fiercest of all the Indians of the North, was to be finally conquered by the white man. It had been left practically unexplored ever since the days when the bloodthirsty Koyukons came down out of their fastnesses and perpetrated the great Nulato massacre, doing to death with ghastly barbarity every man, woman, and child at the post, Russian or Indian, except Kurilla, not sparing the unlucky Captain Barnard or his English escort, newly arrived here in their search for the lost Sir John Franklin. But the tables were turned now, and the white man was on the trail of the Indian.

While the Colonel and the Boy were staking out this future stronghold of trade and civilisation it came on to snow; but “Can’t last this time o’ year,” the Colonel consoled himself, and thanked God “the big, unending snows are over for this season.”

So they pushed on. But the Colonel seemed to have thanked God prematurely. Down the snow drifted, soft, sticky, unending. The evening was cloudy, and the snow increased the dimness overhead as well as the heaviness under foot. They never knew just where it was in the hours between dusk and dark that they lost the trail. The Boy believed it was at a certain steep incline that Nig did his best to rush down.

“I thought he was at his tricks,” said the Boy ruefully some hours after. “I believe I’m an ass, and Nig is a gentleman and a scholar. He knew perfectly what he was about.”

“Reckon we’ll camp, pardner.”

“Reckon we might as well.”

After unharnessing the dogs, the Boy stood an instant looking enviously at them as he thawed out his stiff hands under his parki. Exhausted and smoking hot, the dogs had curled down in the snow as contented-looking as though on a hearth-rug before a fire, sheltering their sharp noses with their tails.

“Wish I had a tail to shelter my face,” said the Boy, as if a tail were the one thing lacking to complete his bliss.

“You don’t need any shelter _now_,” answered the Colonel.

“Your face is gettin’ well–” And he stopped suddenly, carried back to those black days when he had vainly urged a face-guard. He unpacked their few possessions, and watched the Boy take the axe and go off for wood, stopping on his way, tired as he was, to pull Nig’s pointed ears. The odd thing about the Boy was that it was only with these Indian curs–Nig in particular, who wasn’t the Boy’s dog at all–only with these brute-beasts had he seemed to recover something of that buoyancy and ridiculous youngness that had first drawn the Colonel to him on the voyage up from ‘Frisco. It was also clear that if the Boy now drew away from his pardner ever so little, by so much did he draw nearer to the dogs.

He might be too tired to answer the Colonel; he was seldom too tired to talk nonsense to Nig, never too tired to say, “Well, old boy,” or even “Well, _pardner_,” to the dumb brute. It was, perhaps, this that the Colonel disliked most of all.

Whether the U.S. Agent at Nulato was justified or not in saying all the region hereabouts was populous in the summer with Indian camps, the native winter settlements, the half-buried ighloo, or the rude log-hut, where, for a little tea, tobacco, or sugar, you could get as much fish as you could carry, these welcome, if malodorous, places seemed, since they lost the trail, to have vanished off the face of the earth. No question of the men sharing the dogs’ fish, but of the dogs sharing the men’s bacon and meal. That night the meagre supper was more meagre still that the “horses” might have something, too. The next afternoon it stopped snowing and cleared, intensely cold, and that was the evening the Boy nearly cried for joy when, lifting up his eyes, he saw, a good way off, perched on the river bank, the huts and high caches of an Indian village etched black against a wintry sunset–a fine picture in any eye, but meaning more than beauty to the driver of hungry dogs.

“Fish, Nig!” called out the Boy to his Leader. “You hear me, you Nig? _Fish_, old fellow! Now, look at that, Colonel! you tell me that Indian dog doesn’t understand English. I tell you what: we had a mean time with these dogs just at first, but that was only because we didn’t understand one another.”

The Colonel preserved a reticent air.

“You’ll come to my way of thinking yet. The Indian dog–he’s a daisy.”

“Glad you think so.” The Colonel, with some display of temper, had given up trying to drive the team only half an hour before, and was still rather sore about it.

“When you get to _understand_ him,” persisted the Boy, “he’s the most marvellous little horse ever hitched in harness. He pulls, pulls, pulls all day long in any kind o’ weather–“

“Yes, pulls you off your legs or pulls you the way you don’t want to go.”

“Oh, that’s when you rile him! He’s just like any other American gentleman: he’s got his feelin’s. Ain’t you got feelin’s, Nig? Huh! rather. I tell you what, Colonel, many a time when I’m pretty well beat and ready to snap at anybody, I’ve looked at Nig peggin’ away like a little man, on a rotten trail, with a blizzard in his eyes, and it’s just made me sick after that to hear myself grumblin’. Yes, sir, the Indian dog is an example to any white man on the trail.” The Boy seemed not to relinquish the hope of stirring the tired Colonel to enthusiasm. “Don’t you like the way, after the worst sort of day, when you stop, he just drops down in the snow and rolls about a little to rest his muscles, and then lies there as patient as anything till you are ready to unharness him and feed him?”

“–and if you don’t hurry up, he saves you the trouble of unharnessing by eating the traces and things.”

“Humph! So would you if that village weren’t in sight, if you were sure the harness wouldn’t stick in your gizzard. And think of what a dog gets to reward him for his plucky day: one dried salmon or a little meal-soup when he’s off on a holiday like this. Works without a let-up, and keeps in good flesh on one fish a day. Doesn’t even get anything to drink; eats a little snow after dinner, digs his bed, and sleeps in a drift till morning.”

“When he doesn’t howl all night.”

“Oh, that’s when he meets his friends, and they talk about old times before they came down in the world.”


“Yes; when they were wolves and made us run instead of our making them. Make any fellow howl. Instead of carrying our food about we used to carry theirs, and run hard to keep from giving it up, too.”

“Nig’s at it again,” said the Colonel. “Give us your whip.”

“No,” said the Boy; “I begin to see now why he stops and goes for Red like that. Hah! Spot’s gettin it, too, this time. They haven’t been pullin’ properly. You just notice: if they aren’t doin’ their share Nig’ll turn to every time and give ’em ‘Hail, Columbia!’ You’ll see, when he’s freshened ’em up a bit we’ll have ’em on a dead run.” The Boy laughed and cracked his whip.

“They’ve got keen noses. _I_ don’t smell the village this time. Come on, Nig, Spot’s had enough; he’s sorry, good and plenty. Cheer up, Spot! Fish, old man! You hear me talkin’ to you, Red? _Fish!_ Caches full of it. Whoop!” and down they rushed, pell-mell, men and dogs tearing along like mad across the frozen river, and never slowing till it came to the stiff pull up the opposite bank.

“Funny I don’t hear any dogs,” panted the Boy.

They came out upon a place silent as the dead–a big deserted village, emptied by the plague, or, maybe, only by the winter; caches emptied, too; not a salmon, not a pike, not a lusk, not even a whitefish left behind.

It was a bitter blow. They didn’t say anything; it was too bad to talk about. The Colonel made the fire, and fried a little bacon and made some mush: that was their dinner. The bacon-rinds were boiled in the mush-pot with a great deal of snow and a little meal, and the “soup” so concocted was set out to cool for the dogs. They were afraid to sleep in one of the cabins; it might be plague-infected. The Indians had cut all the spruce for a wide radius round about–no boughs to make a bed. They hoisted some tent-poles up into one of the empty caches, laid them side by side, and on this bed, dry, if hard, they found oblivion.

The next morning a thin, powdery snow was driving about. Had they lost their way in the calendar as well as on the trail, and was it December instead of the 29th of March? The Colonel sat on the packed sled, undoing with stiff fingers the twisted, frozen rope. He knew the axe that he used the night before on the little end of bacon was lying, pressed into the snow, under one runner. But that was the last thing to go on the pack before the lashing, and it wouldn’t get lost pinned down under the sled. Nig caught sight of it, and came over with a cheerful air of interest, sniffed bacon on the steel, and it occurred to him it would be a good plan to lick it.

A bitter howling broke the stillness. The Boy came tearing up with a look that lifted the Colonel off the sled, and there was Nig trying to get away from the axe-head, his tongue frozen fast to the steel, and pulled horribly long out of his mouth like a little pink rope. The Boy had fallen upon the agonized beast, and forced him down close to the steel. Holding him there between his knees, he pulled off his outer mits and with hands and breath warmed the surface of the axe, speaking now and then to the dog, who howled wretchedly, but seemed to understand something was being done for him, since he gave up struggling. When at last the Boy got him free, the little horse pressed against his friend’s legs with a strange new shuddering noise very pitiful to hear.

The Boy, blinking hard, said: “Yes, old man, I know, that was a mean breakfast; and he patted the shaggy chest. Nig bent his proud head and licked the rescuing hand with his bleeding tongue.

“An’ you say that dog hasn’t got feelin’s!”

They hitched the team and pushed on. In the absence of a trail, the best they could do was to keep to the river ice. By-and-bye:

“Can you see the river bank?”

“I’m not sure,” said the Boy.

“I thought you were going it blind.”

“I believe I’d better let Nig have his head,” said the Boy, stopping; “he’s the dandy trail-finder. Nig, old man, I takes off my hat to you!”

They pushed ahead till the half-famished dogs gave out. They camped under the lee of the propped sled, and slept the sleep of exhaustion.

The next morning dawned clear and warm. The Colonel managed to get a little wood and started a fire. There were a few spoonfuls of meal in the bottom of the bag and a little end of bacon, mostly rind. The sort of soup the dogs had had yesterday was good enough for men to-day. The hot and watery brew gave them strength enough to strike camp and move on. The elder man began to say to himself that he would sell his life dearly. He looked at the dogs a good deal, and then would look at the Boy, but he could never catch his eye. At last: “They say, you know, that men in our fix have sometimes had to sacrifice a dog.”

“Ugh!” The Boy’s face expressed nausea at the thought.

“Yes, it is pretty revolting.”

“We could never do it.”

“N-no,” said the Colonel.

The three little Esquimaux horses were not only very hungry, their feet were in a bad condition, and were bleeding. The Boy had shut his eyes at first at the sight of their red tracks in the snow. He hardly noticed them now.

An hour or so later: “Better men than we,” says the Colonel significantly, “have had to put their feelings in their pockets.” As if he found the observation distinctly discouraging, Nig at this moment sat down in the melting snow, and no amount of “mushing” moved him.

“Let’s give him half an hour’s rest, Colonel. Valuable beast, you know–altogether best team on the river,” said the Boy, as if to show that his suggestion was not inspired by mere pity for the bleeding dogs. “And you look rather faded yourself, Colonel. Sit down and rest.”

Nothing more was said for a full half-hour, till the Colonel, taking off his fur hat, and wiping his beaded forehead on the back of his hand, remarked: “Think of the Siege of Paris.”

“Eh? What?” The Boy stared as if afraid his partner’s brain had given way.

“When the horses gave out they had to eat dogs, cats, rats even. Think of it–rats!”

“The French are a dirty lot. Let’s mush, Colonel. I’m as fit as a fiddle.” The Boy got up and called the dogs. In ten minutes they were following the blind trail again. But the sled kept clogging, sticking fast and breaking down. After a desperate bout of ineffectual pulling, the dogs with one mind stopped again, and lay down in their bloody tracks.

The men stood silent for a moment; then the Colonel remarked:

“Red is the least valuable”–a long pause–“but Nig’s feet are in the worst condition. That dog won’t travel a mile further. Well,” added the Colonel after a bit, as the Boy stood speechless studying the team, “what do you say?”

“Me?” He looked up like a man who has been dreaming and is just awake. “Oh, I should say our friend Nig here has had to stand more than his share of the racket.”

“Poor old Nig!” said the Colonel, with a somewhat guilty air. “Look here: what do you say to seeing whether they can go if we help ’em with that load?”

“Good for you, Colonel!” said the Boy, with confidence wonderfully restored. “I was just thinking the same.”

They unlashed the pack, and the Colonel wanted to make two bundles of the bedding and things; but whether the Boy really thought the Colonel was giving out, or whether down in some corner of his mind he recognised the fact that if the Colonel were not galled by this extra burden he might feel his hunger less, and so be less prone to thoughts of poor Nig in the pot–however it was, he said the bundle was his business for the first hour. So the Colonel did the driving, and the Boy tramped on ahead, breaking trail with thirty-five pounds on his back. And he didn’t give it up, either, though he admitted long after it was the toughest time he had ever put in in all his life.

“Haven’t you had about enough of this?” the Colonel sang out at dusk.

“Pretty nearly,” said the Boy in a rather weak voice. He flung off the pack, and sat on it.

“Get up,” says the Colonel; “give us the sleepin’-bag.” When it was undone, the Norfolk jacket dropped out. He rolled it up against the sled, flung himself down, and heavily dropped his head on the rough pillow. But he sprang up.

“What? Yes. By the Lord!” He thrust his hand into the capacious pocket of the jacket, and pulled out some broken ship’s biscuit. “Hard tack, by the living Jingo!” He was up, had a few sticks alight, and the kettle on, and was melting snow to pour on the broken biscuit. “It swells, you know, like thunder!”

The Boy was still sitting on the bundle of “trade” tea and tobacco. He seemed not to hear; he seemed not to see the Colonel, shakily hovering about the fire, pushing aside the green wood and adding a few sticks of dry.

There was a mist before the Colonel’s eyes. Reaching after a bit of seasoned spruce, he stumbled, and unconsciously set his foot on Nig’s bleeding paw. The dog let out a yell and flew at him. The Colonel fell back with an oath, picked up a stick, and laid it on. The Boy was on his feet in a flash.

“Here! stop that!” He jumped in between the infuriated man and the infuriated dog.

“Stand back!” roared the Colonel.

“It was your fault; you trod–“

“Stand back, damn you! or you’ll get hurt.”

The stick would have fallen on the Boy; he dodged it, calling excitedly, “Come here, Nig! Here!”

“He’s my dog, and I’ll lamm him if I like. You–” The Colonel couldn’t see just where the Boy and the culprit were. Stumbling a few paces away from the glare of the fire, he called out, “I’ll kill that brute if he snaps at me again!”

“Oh yes,” the Boy’s voice rang passionately out of the gloom, “I know you want him killed.”

The Colonel sat down heavily on the rolled-up bag. Presently the bubbling of boiling snow-water roused him. He got up, divided the biscuit, and poured the hot water over the fragments. Then he sat down again, and waited for them to “swell like thunder.” He couldn’t see where, a little way up the hillside, the Boy sat on a fallen tree with Nig’s head under his arm. The Boy felt pretty low in his mind. He sat crouched together, with his head sunk almost to his knees. It was a lonely kind of a world after all. Doing your level best didn’t seem to get you any forrader. What was the use? He started. Something warm, caressing, touched his cold face just under one eye. Nig’s tongue.

“Good old Nig! You feel lonesome, too?” He gathered the rough beast up closer to him.

Just then the Colonel called, “Nig!”

“Sh! sh! Lie quiet!” whispered the Boy.

“Nig! Nig!”

“Good old boy! Stay here! He doesn’t mean well by you. _Sh!_ quiet! _Quiet_, I say!”

“Nig!” and the treacherous Colonel gave the peculiar whistle both men used to call the dogs to supper. The dog struggled to get away, the Boy’s stiff fingers lost their grip, and “the best leader in the Yukon” was running down the bank as hard as he could pelt, to the camp fire–to the cooking-pot.

The Boy got up and floundered away in the opposite direction. He must get out of hearing. He toiled on, listening for the expected gunshot–hearing it, too, and the yawp of a wounded dog, in spite of a mitten clapped at each ear.

“That’s the kind of world it is! Do your level best, drag other fellas’ packs hundreds o’ miles over the ice with a hungry belly and bloody feet, and then–Poor old Nig!–’cause you’re lame–poor old Nig!” With a tightened throat and hot water in his eyes, he kept on repeating the dog’s name as he stumbled forward in the snow. “Nev’ mind, old boy; it’s a lonely kind o’ world, and the right trail’s hard to find.” Suddenly he stood still. His stumbling feet were on a track. He had reached the dip in the saddle-back of the hill, and–yes! this was the _right_ trail; for down on the other side below him were faint lights–huts–an Indian village! with fish and food for everybody. And Nig–Nig was being–

The Boy turned as if a hurricane had struck him, and tore back down the incline–stumbling, floundering in the snow, calling hoarsely: “Colonel, Colonel! don’t do it! There’s a village here, Colonel! Nig! Colonel, don’t do it!”

He dashed into the circle of firelight, and beheld Nig standing with a bandaged paw, placidly eating softened biscuit out of the family frying-pan.

It was short work getting down to the village. They had one king salmon and two white fish from the first Indian they saw, who wanted hootch for them, and got only tabak.

In the biggest of the huts, nearly full of men, women, and children, coughing, sickly-looking, dejected, the natives made room for the strangers. When the white men had supped they handed over the remains of their meal (as is expected) to the head of the house. This and a few matches or a little tobacco on parting, is all he looks for in return for shelter, room for beds on the floor, snow-water laboriously melted, use of the fire, and as much wood as they like to burn, even if it is a barren place, and fuel is the precious far-travelled “drift.”

It is curious to see how soon travellers get past that first cheeckalko feeling that it is a little “nervy,” as the Boy had said, to walk into another man’s house uninvited, an absolute stranger, and take possession of everything you want without so much as “by your leave.” You soon learn it is the Siwash[*] custom.

[Footnote: Siwash, corruption of French-Canadian _sauvage_, applied all over the North to the natives, their possessions and their customs.]

Nothing would have seemed stranger now, or more inhuman, than the civilized point of view.

The Indians trailed out one by one, all except the old buck to whom the hut belonged. He hung about for a bit till he was satisfied the travellers had no hootch, not even a little for the head of the house, and yet they seemed to be fairly decent fellows. Then he rolls up his blankets, for there is a premium on sleeping-space, and goes out, with never a notion that he is doing more than any man would, anywhere in the world, to find a place in some neighbour’s hut to pass the night.

He leaves the two strangers, as Indian hospitality ordains, to the warmest places in the best hut, with two young squaws, one old one, and five children, all sleeping together on the floor, as a matter of course.

The Colonel and the Boy had flung themselves down on top of their sleeping-bag, fed and warmed and comforted. Only the old squaw was still up. She had been looking over the travellers’ boots and “mitts,” and now, without a word or even a look being exchanged upon the subject, she sat there in the corner, by the dim, seal-oil light, sewing on new thongs, patching up holes, and making the strange men tidy–men she had never seen before and would never see again. And this, no tribute to the Colonel’s generosity or the youth and friendly manners of the Boy. They knew the old squaw would have done just the same had the mucklucks and the mitts belonged to “the tramp of the Yukon,” with nothing to barter and not a cent in his pocket. This, again, is a Siwash custom.

The old squaw coughed and wiped her eyes. The children coughed in their sleep.

The dogs outside were howling like human beings put to torture. But the sound no longer had power to freeze the blood of the trail-men.

The Colonel merely damned them. The Boy lifted his head, and listened for Nig’s note. The battle raged nearer; a great scampering went by the tent.


A scuffling and snuffing round the bottom of the tent. The Boy, on a sudden impulse, reached out and lifted the flap.

“Got your bandage on? Come here.”

Nig brisked in with the air of one having very little time to waste.

“Lord! I should think you’d be glad to lie down. _I_ am. Let’s see your paw. Here, come over to the light.” He stepped very carefully over the feet of the other inhabitants till he reached the old woman’s corner. Nig, following calmly, walked on prostrate bodies till he reached his friend.

“Now, your paw, pardner. F-ith! Bad, ain’t it?” he appealed to the toothless squaw. Her best friend could not have said her wizened regard was exactly sympathetic, but it was attentive. She seemed intelligent as well as kind.

“Look here,” whispered the Boy, “let that muckluck string o’ mine alone.” He drew it away, and dropped it between his knees. “Haven’t you got something or other to make some shoes for Nig? Hein?” He pantomimed, but she only stared. “Like this.” He pulled out his knife, and cut off the end of one leg of his “shaps,” and gathered it gently round Nig’s nearest foot. “Little dog-boots. See? Give you some bully tabak if you’ll do that for Nig. Hein?”

She nodded at last, and made a queer wheezy sound, whether friendly laughing or pure scorn, the Boy wasn’t sure. But she set about the task.

“Come ‘long, Nig,” he whispered. “You just see if I don’t shoe my little horse.” And he sneaked back to bed, comfortable in the assurance that the Colonel was asleep. Nig came walking after his friend straight over people’s heads.

One of the children sat up and whimpered. The Colonel growled sleepily.

“You black devil!” admonished the Boy under his breath. “Look what you’re about. Come here, sir.” He pushed the devil down between the sleeping-bag and the nearest baby.

The Colonel gave a distinct grunt of disapproval, and then, “Keepin’ that brute in here?”

“He’s a lot cleaner than our two-legged friends,” said the Boy sharply, as if answering an insult.

“Right,” said the Colonel with conviction.

His pardner was instantly mollified. “If you wake another baby, you’ll get a lickin’,” he said genially to the dog; and then he stretched out his feet till they reached Nig’s back, and a feeling of great comfort came over the Boy.

“Say, Colonel,” he yawned luxuriously, “did you know that–a–to-night–when Nig flared up, did you know you’d trodden on his paw?”

“Didn’t know it till you told me,” growled the Colonel.

“I thought you didn’t. Makes a difference, doesn’t it?”

“You needn’t think,” says the Colonel a little defiantly, “that I’ve weakened on the main point just because I choose to give Nig a few cracker crumbs. If it’s a question between a man’s life and a dog’s life, only a sentimental fool would hesitate.”

“I’m not talking about that; we can get fish now. What I’m pointin’ out is that Nig didn’t fly at you for nothin’.”

“He’s got a devil of a temper, that dog.”

“It’s just like Nicholas of Pymeut said.” The Boy sat up, eager in his advocacy and earnest as a judge. “Nicholas of Pymeut said: ‘You treat a Siwash like a heathen, and he’ll show you what a hell of a heathen he can be.'”

“Oh, go to sleep.”

“I’m goin’, Colonel.”



“For whatever… may come to pass, it lies with me to have it serve me.”–EPICTETUS.

The Indians guided them back to the trail. The Colonel and the Boy made good speed to Novikakat, laid in supplies at Korkorines, heard the first doubtful account of Minook at Tanana, and pushed on. Past camps Stoneman and Woodworth, where the great Klondyke Expeditions lay fast in the ice; along the white strip of the narrowing river, pent in now between mountains black with scant, subarctic timber, or gray with fantastic weather-worn rock–on and on, till they reached the bluffs of the Lower Ramparts.

Here, at last, between the ranks of the many-gabled heights, Big Minook Creek meets Father Yukon. Just below the junction, perched jauntily on a long terrace, up above the frozen riverbed, high and dry, and out of the coming trouble when river and creek should wake–here was the long, log-built mining town, Minook, or Rampart, for the name was still undetermined in the spring of 1898.

It was a great moment.

“Shake, pardner,” said the Boy. The Colonel and he grasped hands. Only towering good spirits prevented their being haughty, for they felt like conquerors, and cared not a jot that they looked like gaol-birds.

It was two o’clock in the morning. The Gold Nugget Saloon was flaring with light, and a pianola was perforating a tune. The travellers pushed open a frosted door, and looked into a long, low, smoke-veiled room, hung with many kerosene lamps, and heated by a great red-hot iron stove.

“Hello!” said a middle-aged man in mackinaws, smoking near the door-end of the bar.

“Hello! Is Blandford Keith here? There are some letters for him.”

“Say, boys!” the man in mackinaws shouted above the pianola, “Windy Jim’s got in with the mail.”

The miners lounging at the bar and sitting at the faro-tables looked up laughing, and seeing the strangers through the smoke-haze, stopped laughing to stare.

“Down from Dawson?” asked the bartender hurrying forward, a magnificent creature in a check waistcoat, shirt-sleeves, four-in-hand tie, and a diamond pin.

“No, t’other way about. Up from the Lower River.”

“Oh! May West or Muckluck crew? Anyhow, I guess you got a thirst on you,” said the man in the mackinaws. “Come and licker up.”

The bartender mixed the drinks in style, shooting the liquor from a height into the small gin-sling glasses with the dexterity that had made him famous.

When their tired eyes had got accustomed to the mingled smoke and glare, the travellers could see that in the space beyond the card tables, in those back regions where the pianola reigned, there were several couples twirling about–the clumsily-dressed miners pirouetting with an astonishing lightness on their moccasined feet. And women! White women!

They stopped dancing and came forward to see the new arrivals.

The mackinaw man was congratulating the Colonel on “gettin’ back to civilization.”

“See that plate-glass mirror?” He pointed behind the bar, below the moose antlers. “See them ladies? You’ve got to a place where you can rake in the dust all day, and dance all night, and go buckin’ the tiger between whiles. Great place, Minook. Here’s luck!” He took up the last of the gin slings set in a row before the party.

“Have you got some property here?” asked the Boy.

The man, without putting down his glass, simply closed one eye over the rim.

“We’ve heard some bad accounts of these diggin’s,” said the Colonel.

“I ain’t sayin’ there’s millions for _every_body. You’ve got to get the inside track. See that feller talkin’ to the girl? Billy Nebrasky tipped him the wink in time to git the inside track, just before the Fall Stampede up the gulch.”

“Which gulch?”

He only motioned with his head. “Through havin’ that tip, he got there in time to stake number three Below Discovery. He’s had to hang up drinks all winter, but he’s a millionaire all right. He’s got a hundred thousand dollars _in sight,_ only waitin’ for runnin’ water to wash it out.”

“Then there _is_ gold about here?”

“There is gold? Say, Maudie,” he remarked in a humourous half-aside to the young woman who was passing with No–thumb-Jack, “this fellow wants to know if there is gold here.”

She laughed. “Guess he ain’t been here long.”

Now it is not to be denied that this rejoinder was susceptible of more than one interpretation, but the mackinaw man seemed satisfied, so much so that he offered Maudie the second gin-sling which the Colonel had ordered “all round.” She eyed the strangers over the glass. On the hand that held it a fine diamond sparkled. You would say she was twenty-six, but you wouldn’t have been sure. She had seemed at least that at a distance. Now she looked rather younger. The face wore an impudent look, yet it was delicate, too. Her skin showed very white and fine under the dabs of rouge. The blueness was not yet faded out of her restless eyes.

“Minook’s all right. No josh about that,” she said, setting down her glass. Then to the Boy, “Have a dance?”

“Not much,” he replied rather roughly, and turned away to talk about the diggin’s to two men on the other side.

Maudie laid her hand on the Colonel’s arm, and the diamond twitched the light. “_You_ will,” she said.

“Well, you see, ma’am”–the Colonel’s smile was charming in spite of his wild beard–“we’ve done such a lot o’ dancin’ lately–done nothin’ else for forty days; and after seven hundred miles of it we’re just a trifle tired, ma’am.”

She laughed good-naturedly.

“Pity you’re tired,” said the mackinaw man. “There’s a pretty good thing goin’ just now, but it won’t be goin’ long.”

The Boy turned his head round again with reviving interest in his own group.

“Look here, Si,” Maudie was saying: “if you want to let a lay on your new claim to _anybody_, mind it’s got to be me.”

But the mackinaw man was glancing speculatively over at another group. In haste to forestall desertion, the Boy inquired:

“Do you know of anything good that isn’t staked yet?”

“Well, mebbe I don’t–and mebbe I do.” Then, as if to prove that he wasn’t overanxious to pursue the subject: “Say, Maudie, ain’t that French Charlie over there?” Maudie put her small nose in the air. “Ain’t you made it up with Charlie yet?'”

“No, I ain’t.”

“Then we’ll have another drink all round.”

While he was untying the drawstring of his gold sack, Maudie said, half-aside, but whether to the Colonel or the Boy neither could tell: “Might do worse than keep your eye on Si McGinty.” She nodded briskly at the violet checks on the mackinaw back. “Si’s got a cinch up there on Glory Hallelujah, and nobody’s on to it yet.”

The pianola picked out a polka. The man Si McGinty had called French Charlie came up behind the girl and said something. She shook her head, turned on her heel, and began circling about in the narrow space till she found another partner, French Charlie scowling after them, as they whirled away between the faro-tables back into the smoke and music at the rear. McGinty was watching Jimmie, the man at the gold scales, pinch up some of the excess dust in the scale-pan and toss it back into the brass blower.

“Where did that gold come from?” asked the Colonel.

“Off a claim o’ mine”; and he lapsed into silence.

You are always told these fellows are so anxious to rope in strangers. This man didn’t seem to be. It made him very interesting. The Boy acted strictly on the woman’s hint, and kept an eye on the person who had a sure thing up on Glory Hallelujah. But when the lucky man next opened his mouth it was to say:

“Why, there’s Butts down from Circle City.”

“Butts?” repeated the Boy, with little affectation of interest.

“Yep. Wonder what the son of a gun is after here.” But he spoke genially, even with respect.

“Who’s Butts?”

“Butts? Ah–well–a–Butts is the smartest fellow with his fingers in all ‘laska”; and McGinty showed his big yellow teeth in an appreciative smile.

“Smart at washin’ gold out?”

“Smarter at pickin’ it out.” The bartender joined in Si’s laugh as that gentleman repeated, “Yes, sir! handiest feller with his fingers I ever seen.”

“What does he do with his fingers?” asked the Boy, with impatient suspicion.

“Well, he don’t dare do much with ’em up here. ‘Tain’t popular.”

“What ain’t?”

“Butts’s little game. But Lord! he is good at it.” Butts had been introduced as a stalking-horse, but there was no doubt about Si’s admiration of his “handiness.” “Butts is wasted up here,” he sighed. “There’s some chance for a murderer in Alaska, but a thief’s a goner.”

“Oh, well; you were sayin’ that gold o’ yours came from–“

“Poor old Butts! Bright feller, too.”

“How far off is your–“

“I tell you, sir, Butts is brains to his boots. Course you know Jack McQuestion?”

“No, but I’d like to hear a little about your–“

“Y’ don’ know Jack McQuestion? Well, sir, Jack’s the biggest man in the Yukon. Why, he built Fort Reliance six miles below the mouth of the Klondyke in ’73; he discovered gold on the Stewart in ’85, and established a post there. _Everybody_ knows Jack McQuestion; an”–quickly, as he saw he was about to be interrupted–“you heard about that swell watch we all clubbed together and give him? No? Well, sir, there ain’t an eleganter watch in the world. Is there?”

“Guess not,” said the bartender.

“Repeater, you know. Got twenty-seven di’mon’s in the case. One of ’em’s this size.” He presented the end of a gnarled and muscular thumb. “And inside, the case is all wrote in–a lot of soft sawder; but Jack ain’t got _any_thing he cares for so much. You can see he’s always tickled to death when anybody asks him the time. But do you think he ever lets that watch out’n his own hands? Not _much_. Let’s anybody _look_ at it, and keeps a holt o’ the stem-winder. Well, sir, we was all in a saloon up at Circle, and that feller over there–Butts–he bet me fifty dollars that he’d git McQuestion’s watch away from him before he left the saloon. An’ it was late. McQuestion was thinkin’ a’ready about goin’ home to that squaw wife that keeps him so straight. Well, sir, Butts went over and began to gas about outfittin’, and McQuestion answers and figures up the estimates on the counter, and, by Gawd! in less ‘n quarter of an hour Butts, just standin’ there and listenin’, as you’d think–he’d got that di’mon’ watch off’n the chain an’ had it in his pocket. I knew he done it, though I ain’t exactly seen _how_ he done it. The others who were in the game, they swore he hadn’t got it yet, but, by Gawd, Butts says he’ll think over McQuestion’s terms, and wonders what time it is. He takes that di’mon’ watch out of his pocket, glances at it, and goes off smooth as cream, sayin’ ‘Good-night.’ Then he come a grinnin’ over to us. ‘Jest you go an’ ask the Father o’ the Yukon Pioneers what time it is, will yer?’ An’ I done it. Well, sir, when he put his hand in his pocket, by Gawd! I wish y’ could a’ saw McQuestion’s face. Yes, sir, Butts is brains to his boots.”

“How far out are the diggin’s?”

“What diggin’s?”


“Oh–a–my gulch ain’t fur.”

There was a noise about the door. Someone bustled in with a torrent of talk, and the pianola was drowned in a pandemonium of shouts and laughter.

“Windy Jim’s reely got back!”

Everybody crowded forward. Maudie was at the Colonel’s elbow explaining that the little yellow-bearded man with the red nose was the letter-carrier. He had made a contract early in the winter to go to Dawson and bring down the mail for Minook. His agreement was to make the round trip and be back by the middle of February. Since early March the standing gag in the camp had been: “Well, Windy Jim got in last night.”

The mild jest had grown stale, and the denizens of Minook had given up the hope of ever laying eyes on Windy again, when lo! here he was with twenty-two hundred letters in his sack. The patrons of the Gold Nugget crowded round him like flies round a lump of sugar, glad to pay a dollar apiece on each letter he handed out. “And you take _all_ that’s addressed to yer at that price or you get none.” Every letter there had come over the terrible Pass. Every one had travelled twelve hundred miles by dog-team, and some had been on the trail seven months.

“Here, Maudie, me dear.” The postman handed her two letters. “See how he dotes on yer.”

“Got anything fur–what’s yer names?” says the mackinaw man, who seemed to have adopted the Colonel and the Boy.

He presented them without embarrassment to “Windy Jim Wilson, of Hog’em Junction, the best trail mail-carrier in the ‘nited States.”

Those who had already got letters were gathered in groups under the bracket-lights reading eagerly. In the midst of the lull of satisfaction or expectancy someone cried out in disgust, and another threw down a letter with a shower of objurgation.

“Guess you got the mate to mine, Bonsor,” said a bystander with a laugh, slowly tearing up the communication he had opened with fingers so eager that they shook.

“You pay a dollar apiece for letters from folks you never heard of, asking you what you think of the country, and whether you’d advise ’em to come out.”

“Huh! don’t I wish they would!”

“It’s all right. _They will._”

“And then trust Bonsor to git even.”

Salaman, “the luckiest man in camp,” who had come in from his valuable Little Minook property for the night only, had to pay fifteen dollars for his mail. When he opened it, he found he had one home letter, written seven months before, eight notes of inquiry, and six advertisements.

Maudie had put her letters unopened in her pocket, and told the man at the scales to weigh out two dollars to Windy, and charge to her. Then she began to talk to the Colonel.

The Boy observed with scant patience that his pardner treated Maudie with a consideration he could hardly have bettered had she been the first lady in the land. “Must be because she’s little and cute-lookin’. The Colonel’s a sentimental ol’ goslin’.”

“What makes you so polite to that dance-hall girl?” muttered the Boy aside. “She’s no good.”

“Reckon it won’t make her any better for me to be impolite to her,” returned the Colonel calmly.

But finding she could not detach the Kentuckian from his pardner, Maudie bestowed her attention elsewhere. French Charlie was leaning back against the wall, his hands jammed in his pockets, and his big slouch-hat pulled over his brows. Under the shadow of the wide brim furtively he watched the girl. Another woman came up and asked him to dance. He shook his head.

“Reckon we’d better go and knock up Blandford Keith and get a bed,” suggested the Boy regretfully, looking round for the man who had a cinch up on Glory Hallelujah, and wouldn’t tell you how to get there.

“Reckon we’d better,” agreed the Colonel.

But they halted near Windy Jim, who was refreshing himself, and at the same time telling Dawson news, or Dawson lies, as the company evidently thought. And still the men crowded round, listening greedily, just as everybody devours certain public prints without ceasing to impeach their veracity. Lacking newspapers at which to pish! and pshaw! they listened to Windy Jim, disbelieving the only unvarnished tale that gentleman had ever told. For Windy, with the story-teller’s instinct, knew marvellous enough would sound the bare recital of those awful Dawson days when the unprecedented early winter stopped the provision boats at Circle, and starvation stared the over-populated Klondyke in the face.

Having disposed of their letters, the miners crowded round the courier to hear how the black business ended–matter of special interest to Minook, for the population here was composed chiefly of men who, by the Canadian route, had managed to get to Dawson in the autumn, in the early days of the famine scare, and who, after someone’s panic-proposal to raid the great Stores, were given free passage down the river on the last two steamers to run.

When the ice stopped them (one party at Circle, the other at Fort Yukon), they had held up the supply boats and helped themselves under the noses of Captain Ray and Lieutenant Richardson, U. S. A.

“Yes, sir,” McGinty had explained, “we Minook boys was all in that picnic. But we give our bond to pay up at mid-summer, and after the fun was over we dropped down here.”

He pushed nearer to Windy to hear how it had fared with the men who had stayed behind in the Klondyke–how the excitement flamed and menaced; how Agent Hansen of the Alaska Commercial Company, greatest of the importers of provisions and Arctic equipment, rushed about, half crazy, making speeches all along the Dawson River front, urging the men to fly for their lives, back to the States or up to Circle, before the ice stopped moving!

But too many of these men had put everything they had on earth into getting here; too many had abandoned costly outfits on the awful Pass, or in the boiling eddies of the White Horse Rapids, paying any price in money or in pain to get to the goldfields before navigation closed. And now! here was Hansen, with all the authority of the A. C., shouting wildly: “Quick, quick! go up or down. It’s a race for life!”

Windy went on to tell how the horror of the thing dulled the men, how they stood about the Dawson streets helpless as cattle, paralysed by the misery that had overtaken them. All very well for Hansen to try to relieve the congestion at the Klondyke–the poor devils knew that to go either way, up or down, as late as this meant death. Then it was whispered how Captain Constantine of the Mounted Police was getting ready to drive every man out of the Klondyke, at the point of the bayonet, who couldn’t show a thousand pounds of provisions. Yet most of the Klondykers still stood about dazed, silent, waiting for the final stroke.

A few went up, over the way they had come, to die after all on the Pass, and some went down, their white, despairing faces disappearing round the Klondyke bend as they drifted with the grinding ice towards the Arctic Circle, where the food was caught in the floes. And how one came back, going by without ever turning his head, caring not a jot for Golden Dawson, serene as a king in his capital, solitary, stark on a little island of ice.

“Lord! it was better, after all, at the Big Chimney.”

“Oh, it wasn’t so bad,” said Windy cheerfully. “About the time one o’ the big companies announced they was sold out o’ everything but sugar and axe-handles, a couple o’ steamers pushed their way in through the ice. After all, just as old J. J. Healy said, it was only a question of rations and proper distribution. Why, flour’s fell from one hundred and twenty dollars a sack to fifty! And there’s a big new strike on the island opposite Ensley Creek. They call it Monte Cristo; pay runs eight dollars to the pan. Lord! Dawson’s the greatest gold camp on the globe.”

But no matter what befell at Dawson, business must be kept brisk at Minook. The pianola started up, and Buckin’ Billy, who called the dances, began to bawl invitations to the company to come and waltz.

Windy interrupted his own music for further refreshment, pausing an instant, with his mouth full of dried-apple pie to say:

“Congress has sent out a relief expedition to Dawson.”


“Fact! Reindeer.”

“Ye mean peacocks.”

“Mean reindeer! It’s all in the last paper come over the Pass. A Reindeer Relief Expedition to save them poor starvin’ Klondykers.”

“Haw, haw! Good old Congress!”

“Well, did you find any o’ them reindeer doin’ any relievin’ round Dawson?”

“Naw! What do _you_ think? Takes more’n Congress to git over the Dalton Trail”; and Windy returned to his pie.

Talking earnestly with Mr. Butts, French Charlie pushed heavily past the Boy on his way to the bar. From his gait it was clear that he had made many similar visits that evening. In his thick Canadian accent Charlie was saying:

“I blowed out a lot o’ dust for dat girl. She’s wearin’ my di’mon’ now, and won’t look at me. Say, Butts, I’ll give you twenty dollars if you sneak dat ring.”

“Done with you,” says Butts, as calm as a summer’s day. In two minutes Maudie was twirling about with the handy gentleman, who seemed as accomplished with his toes as he was reputed to be with his fingers.

He came up with her presently and ordered some wine.

“Wine, b-gosh!” muttered Charlie in drunken appreciation, propping himself against the wall again, and always slipping sideways. “Y’ tink he’s d’ fines’ sor’ fella, don’t you? Hein? Wai’ ‘n see!”

The wine disappears and the two go off for another dance. Inside of ten minutes up comes Butts and passes something to French Charlie. That gentleman laughs tipsily, and, leaning on Butts’s arm, makes his way to the scales.

“Weigh out twen’ dollars dis gen’man,” he ordered.

Butts pulled up the string of his poke and slipped to one side, as noise reached the group at the bar of a commotion at the other end of the saloon.

“My ring! it’s gone! My diamond ring! Now, you’ve got it”; and Maudie came running out from the dancers after one of the Woodworth gentlemen.

Charlie straightened up and grinned, almost sobered in excess of joy and satisfied revenge. The Woodworth gentleman is searched and presently exonerated. Everybody is told of the loss, every nook and corner investigated. Maudie goes down on hands and knees, even creeping behind the bar.

“I know’d she go on somethin’ awful,” said Charlie, so gleefully that Bonsor, the proprietor of the Gold Nugget, began to look upon him with suspicion.

When Maudie reappeared, flushed, and with disordered hair, after her excursion under the counter, French Charlie confronted her.

“Looky here. You treated me blame mean, Maudie; but wha’d’ you say if I’s to off’ a rewar’ for dat ring?”

“Reward! A healthy lot o’ good that would do.”

“Oh, very well; ‘f you don’ wan’ de ring back–“

“I _do,_ Charlie.”

He hammered on the bar.

“Ev’body gottah look fur ring. I give a hunner ‘n fifty dollah rewar’.”

Maudie stared at the princely offer. But instantly the commotion was greater than ever. “Ev’body” did what was expected of them, especially Mr. Butts. They flew about, looking in possible and impossible places, laughing, screaming, tumbling over one another. In the midst of the uproar French Charlie lurches up to Maudie.

“Dat look anyt’in’ like it?”

“Oh, _Charlie!”_

She looked the gratitude she could not on the instant speak.

In the midst of the noise and movement the mackinaw man said to the Boy:

“Don’t know as you’d care to see my new prospect hole?”

“Course I’d like to see it.”

“Well, come along tomorrow afternoon. Meet me here ’bout two. Don’t _say_ nothin’ to nobody,” he added still lower. “We don’t want to get overrun before we’ve recorded.”

The Boy could have hugged that mackinaw man.

Outside it was broad day, but still the Gold Nugget lights were flaring and the pianola played.

They had learned from the bartender where to find Blandford Keith–“In the worst-looking shack in the camp.” But “It looks good to me,” said the Boy, as they went in and startled Keith out of his first sleep. The man that brings you letters before the ice goes out is your friend. Keith helped them to bring in their stuff, and was distinctly troubled because the travellers wouldn’t take his bunk. They borrowed some dry blankets and went to sleep on the floor.

It was after two when they woke in a panic, lest the mackinaw man should have gone without them. While the Colonel got breakfast the Boy dashed round to the Gold Nugget, found Si McGinty playing craps, and would have brought him back in triumph to breakfast–but no, he would “wait down yonder below the Gold Nugget, and don’t you say nothin’ yit about where we’re goin’, or we’ll have the hull town at our heels.”

About twelve miles “back in the mountains” is a little gulch that makes into a big one at right angles.

“That’s the pup where my claim is.”

“The what?”

“Little creek; call ’em pups here.”

Down in the desolate hollow a ragged A tent, sagged away from the prevailing wind. Inside, they found that the canvas was a mere shelter over a prospect hole. A rusty stove was almost buried by the heap of earth and gravel thrown up from a pit several feet deep.

“This is a winter diggins y’ see,” observed the mackinaw man with pride. “It’s only while the ground is froze solid you can do this kind o’ minin’. I’ve had to burn the ground clean down to bed-rock. Yes, sir, thawed my way inch by inch to the old channel.”

“Well, and what have you found?”

“S’pose we pan some o’ this dirt and see.”

His slow caution impressed his hearers. They made up a fire, melted snow, and half filled a rusty pan with gravel and soil from the bottom of the pit.

“Know how to pan?”

The Colonel and the Boy took turns. They were much longer at it than they ever were again, but the mackinaw man seemed not in the least hurry. The impatience was all theirs. When they had got down to fine sand, “Look!” screamed the Boy.

“By the Lord!” said the Colonel softly.

“Is that–“

“Looks like you got some colours there. Gosh! Then I ain’t been dreamin’ after all.”

“Hey? Dreamin’? What? Look! Look!”

“That’s why I brought you gen’l’men out,” says the mackinaw man. “I was afraid to trust my senses–thought I was gettin’ wheels in my head.”

“Lord! look at the gold!”

They took about a dollar and twenty cents out of that pan.

“Now see here, you gen’l’men jest lay low about this strike.” His anxiety seemed intense. They reassured him. “I don’t suppose you mind our taking up a claim apiece next you,” pleaded the Boy, “since the law don’t allow you to stake more’n one.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the mackinaw man, with an air of princely generosity. “And I don’t mind if you like to let in a few of your particular pals, if you’ll agree to help me organise a district. An’ I’ll do the recordin’ fur ye.”

Really, this mackinaw man was a trump. The Colonel took twenty-five dollars out of a roll of bills and handed it to him.

“What’s this fur?”

“For bringing us out–for giving us the tip. I’d make it more, but till I get to Dawson–“

“Oh!” laughed the mackinaw man, “_that’s_ all right,” and indifferently he tucked the bills into his baggy trousers.

The Colonel felt keenly the inadequacy of giving a man twenty-five dollars who had just introduced him to hundreds of thousands–and who sat on the edge of his own gold-mine–but it was only “on account.”

The Colonel staked No. 1 Above the Discovery, and the Boy was in the act of staking No. 1 Below when–

“No, no,” says that kind mackinaw man, “the heavier gold will be found further up the gulch–stake No. 2 Above”; and he told them natural facts about placer-mining that no after expert knowledge could ever better. But he was not as happy as a man should be who has just struck pay.

“Fact is, it’s kind of upsettin’ to find it so rich here.”

“Give you leave to upset me that way all day.”

“Y’ see, I bought another claim over yonder where I done a lot o’ work last summer and fall. Built a cabin and put up a sluice. I _got_ to be up there soon as the ice goes out. Don’t see how I got time to do my assessment here too. Wish I was twins.”

“Why don’t you sell this?”

“Guess I’ll have to part with a share in it.” He sighed and looked lovingly into the hole. “Minin’s an awful gamble,” he said, as though admonishing Si McGinty; “but we _know_ there’s gold just there.”

The Colonel and the Boy looked at their claims and felt the pinch of uncertainty. “What do you want for a share in your claim, Mr. McGinty?”

“Oh, well, as I say, I’ll let it go reasonable to a feller who’d do the assessment, on account o’ my having that other property. Say three thousand dollars.”

The Colonel shook his head. “Why, it’s dirt-cheap! Two men can take a hundred and fifty dollars a day out of that claim without outside help. And properly worked, the summer ought to show forty thousand dollars.”

On the way home McGinty found he could let the thing go for “two thousand spot cash.”

“Make it quarter shares,” suggested the Boy, thrilled at such a chance, “and the Colonel and I together’ll raise five hundred and do the rest of the assessment work for you.”

But they were nearly back at Minook before McGinty said, “Well, I ain’t twins, and I can’t personally work two gold-mines, so we’ll call it a deal.” And the money passed that night.

And the word passed, too, to an ex-Governor of a Western State and his satellites, newly arrived from Woodworth, and to a party of men just down from Circle City. McGinty seemed more inclined to share his luck with strangers than with the men he had wintered amongst. “Mean lot, these Minook fellers.” But the return of the ex-Governor and so large a party from quietly staking their claims, roused Minook to a sense that “somethin’ was goin’ on.”

By McGinty’s advice, the strangers called a secret meeting, and elected McGinty recorder. All the claim-holders registered their properties and the dates of location. The Recorder gave everybody his receipt, and everybody felt it was cheap at five dollars. Then the meeting proceeded to frame a code of Laws for the new district, stipulating the number of feet permitted each claim (being rigidly kept by McGinty within the limits provided by the United States Laws on the subject), and decreeing the amount of work necessary to hold a claim a year, settling questions of water rights, etc., etc.

Not until Glory Hallelujah Gulch was a full-fledged mining district did Minook in general know what was in the wind. The next day the news was all over camp.

If McGinty’s name inspired suspicion, the Colonel’s and the ex-Governor’s reassured, the Colonel in particular (he had already established that credit that came so easy to him) being triumphantly quoted as saying, “Glory Hallelujah Gulch was the richest placer he’d ever struck.” Nobody added that it was also the only one. But this matter of a stampede is not controlled by reason; it is a thing of the nerves; while you are ridiculing someone else your legs are carrying you off on the same errand.

In a mining-camp the saloon is the community’s heart. However little a man cares to drink, or to dance, or to play cards, he goes to the saloon as to the one place where he may meet his fellows, do business, and hear the news. The saloon is the Market Place. It is also the Cafe, the Theatre, the Club, the Stock Exchange, the Barber’s Shop, the Bank–in short, you might as well be dead as not be a patron of the Gold Nugget.

Yet neither the Colonel nor the Boy had been there since the night of their arrival. On returning from that first triumphant inspection of McGinty’s diggings, the Colonel had been handed a sealed envelope without address.

“How do you know it’s for me?”

“She said it was for the Big Chap,” answered Blandford Keith.

The Colonel read:

“_Come to the Gold Nugget as soon as you get this, and hear something to your advantage_.–MAUDIE.”

So he had stayed away, having plenty to occupy him in helping to organise the new district. He was strolling past the saloon the morning after the Secret Meeting, when down into the street, like a kingfisher into a stream, Maudie darted, and held up the Colonel.

“Ain’t you had my letter?”

“Oh–a–yes–but I’ve been busy.”

“Guess so!” she said with undisguised scorn. “Where’s Si McGinty?”

“Reckon he’s out at the gulch. I’ve got to go down to the A. C. now and buy some grub to take out.” He was moving on.

“Take where?” She followed him up.

“To McGinty’s gulch.”

“What for?”

“Why, to live on, while my pardner and I do the assessment work.”

“Then it’s true! McGinty’s been fillin’ you full o’ guff.” The Colonel looked at her a little haughtily.

“See here: I ain’t busy, as a rule, about other folks’ funerals, but–” She looked at him curiously. “It’s cold here; come in a minute.” There was no hint of vulgar nonsense, but something very earnest in the pert little face that had been so pretty. They went in. “Order drinks,” she said aside, “and don’t talk before Jimmie.”

She chaffed the bartender, and leaned idly against the counter. When a group of returned stampeders came in, she sat down at a rough little faro-table, leaned her elbows on it, sipped the rest of the stuff in her tumbler through a straw, and in the shelter of her arms set the straw in a knot-hole near the table-leg, and spirited the bad liquor down under the board. “Don’t give me away,” she said.

The Colonel knew she got a commission on the drinks, and was there to bring custom. He nodded.

“I hoped I’d see you in time,” she went on hurriedly–“in time to warn you that McGinty was givin’ you a song and dance.”


“Tellin” you a ghost story.”

“You mean–“

“Can’t you understand plain English?” she said, irritated at such obtuseness. “I got worried thinkin’ it over, for it was me told that pardner o’ yours–” She smiled wickedly. “I expected McGinty’d have some fun with the young feller, but I didn’t expect you’d be such a Hatter.” She wound up with the popular reference to lunacy.

The Colonel pulled up his great figure with some pomposity. “I don’t understand.”

“Any feller can see that. You’re just the kind the McGintys are layin’ for.” She looked round to see that nobody was within earshot. “Si’s been layin’ round all winter waitin’ for the spring crop o’ suckers.”

“If you mean there isn’t gold out at McGinty’s gulch, you’re wrong; I’ve seen it.”

“Course you have.”

He paused. She, sweeping the Gold Nugget with vigilant eye, went on in a voice of indulgent contempt.

“Some of ’em load up an old shot-gun with a little charge o’ powder and a quarter of an ounce of gold-dust on top, fire that into the prospect hole a dozen times or so, and then take a sucker out to pan the stuff. But I bet Si didn’t take any more trouble with you than to have some colours in his mouth, to spit in the shovel or the pan, when you wasn’t lookin’–just enough to drive you crazy, and get you to boost him into a Recordership. Why, he’s cleaned up a tub o’ money in fees since you struck the town.”

The Colonel moved uneasily, but faith with him died hard.

“McGinty strikes me as a very decent sort of man, with a knowledge of practical mining and of mining law–“

Maudie made a low sound of impatience, and pushed her empty glass aside.

“Oh, very well, go your own way! Waste the whole spring doin’ Si’s assessment for him. And when the bottom drops out o’ recordin’, you’ll see Si gettin’ some cheechalko to buy an interest in that rottin’ hole o’ his–“

Her jaw fell as she saw the Colonel’s expression.

“He’s got you too!” she exclaimed.

“Well, didn’t you say yourself that night you’d be glad if McGinty’d let you a lay?”

“Pshaw! I was only givin’ you a song and dance. Not you neither, but that pardner o’ yours. I thought I’d learn that young man a lesson. But I didn’t know you’d get flim-flammed out o’ your boots. Thought you looked like you got some sense.”

Unmoved by the Colonel’s aspect of offended dignity, faintly dashed with doubt, she hurried on:

“Before you go shellin’ out any more cash, or haulin’ stuff to Glory Hallelujah, just you go down that prospect hole o’ McGinty’s when McGinty ain’t there, and see how many colours you can ketch.”

The Colonel looked at her.

“Well, I’ll do it,” he said slowly, “and if you’re right–“

“Oh, I’m all right,” she laughed; “an’ I know my McGinty backwards. But”–she frowned with sudden anger–“it ain’t Maudie’s pretty way to interfere with cheechalkos gettin’ fooled. I ain’t proud o’ the trouble I’ve taken, and I’ll thank you not to mention it. Not to that pardner o’ yours–not to nobody.”

She stuck her nose in the air, and waved her hand to French Charlie, who had just then opened the door and put his head in. He came straight over to her, and she made room for him on the bench.

The Colonel went out full of thought. He listened attentively when the ex-Governor, that evening at Keith’s, said something about the woman up at the Gold Nugget–“Maudie–what’s the rest of her name?”

“Don’t believe anybody knows. Oh, yes, they must, too; it’ll be on her deeds. She’s got the best hundred by fifty foot lot in the place. Held it down last fall herself with a six-shooter, and she owns that cabin on the corner. Isn’t a better business head in Minook than Maudie’s. She got a lay on a good property o’ Salaman’s last fall, and I guess she’s got more ready dust even now, before the washin’ begins, than anybody here except Salaman and the A.C. There ain’t a man in Minook who wouldn’t listen respectfully to Maudie’s views on any business proposition–once he was sure she wasn’t fooling.”

And Keith told a string of stories to show how the Minook miners admired her astuteness, and helped her unblushingly to get the better of one another.

The Colonel stayed in Minook till the recording was all done, and McGinty got tired of living on flap-jacks at the gulch.

The night McGinty arrived in town the Colonel, not even taking the Boy into his confidence, hitched up and departed for the new district.

He came back the next day a sadder and a wiser man. They had been sold.

McGinty was quick to gather that someone must have given him away. It had only been a question of time, after all. He had lined his pockets, and could take the new turn in his affairs with equanimity.

“Wait till the steamers begin to run,” Maudie said; “McGinty’ll play that game with every new boat-load. Oh, McGinty’ll make another fortune. Then he’ll go to Dawson and blow it in. Well, Colonel, sorry you ain’t cultivatin’ rheumatism in a damp hole up at Glory Hallelujah?”

“I–I am very much obliged to you for saving me from–“

She cut him short. “You see you’ve got time now to look about you for something really good, if there _is_ anything outside of Little Minook.”

“It was very kind of you to–“

“No it wasn’t,” she said shortly.

The Colonel took out a roll of bank bills and selected one, folded it small, and passed it towards her under the ledge of the table. She glanced down.

“Oh, I don’t want that.”

“Yes, please.”

“Tell you I don’t.”

“You’ve done me a very good turn; saved me a lot of time and expense.”

Slowly she took the money, as one thinking out something.

“Where do you come from?” he asked suddenly.

“‘Frisco. I was in the chorus at the Alcazar.”

“What made you go into the chorus?”

“Got tired o’ life on a sheep-ranch. All work and no play. Never saw a soul. Seen plenty since.”

“Got any people belonging to you?”

“Got a kind of a husband.”

“A kind of a husband?”

“Yes–the kind you’d give away with a pound o’ tea.”

The little face, full of humourous contempt and shrewd scorn, sobered; she flung a black look round the saloon, and her eyes came back to the Colonel’s face.

“I’ve got a girl,” she said, and a sudden light flashed across her frowning as swiftly as a meteor cuts down along a darkened sky. “Four years old in June. _She_ ain’t goin’ into no chorus, bet your life! _She’s_ going to have money, and scads o’ things I ain’t never had.”

That night the Colonel and the Boy agreed that, although they had wasted some valuable time and five hundred and twenty-five dollars on McGinty, they still had a chance of making their fortunes before the spring rush.

The next day they went eight miles out in slush and in alternate rain and sunshine, to Little Minook Creek, where the biggest paying claims were universally agreed to be. They found a place even more ragged and desolate than McGinty’s, where smoke was rising sullenly from underground fires and the smell of burning wood filled the air, the ground turned up and dotted at intervals with piles of frozen gravel that had been hoisted from the shafts by windlass, forlorn little cabins and tents scattered indiscriminately, a vast number of empty bottles and cans sown broadcast, and, early as it was, a line of sluices upon Salaman’s claim.

They had heard a great deal about the dark, keen-looking young Oregon lawyer, for Salaman was the most envied man in Minook. “Come over to my dump and get some nuggets,” says Mr. Salaman, as in other parts of the world a man will say, “Come into the smoking-room and have a cigar.”

The snow was melted from the top of Salaman’s dump, and his guests had no difficulty in picking several rough little bits of gold out of the thawing gravel. It was an exhilarating occupation.

“Come down my shaft and see my cross-cuts”; and they followed him.

He pointed out how the frozen gravel made solid wall, or pillar, and no curbing was necessary. With the aid of a candle and their host’s urging, they picked out several dollars’ worth of coarse gold from the gravel “in place” at the edge of the bed-rock. When he had got his guests thoroughly warmed up:

“Yes, I took out several thousand last fall, and I’ll have twenty thousand more out of my first summer clean-up.”

“And after that?”

“After that I’m going home. I wouldn’t stay here and work this way and live this way another winter, not for twenty millions.”

“I’m surprised to hear _you_ talking like that, sah.”

“Well, you won’t be once you have tried it yourself. Mining up here’s an awful gamble. Colours pretty well everywhere, and a few flakes of flour gold, just enough to send the average cheechalko crazy, but no real ‘pay’ outside of this little gulch. And even here, every inch has been scrambled for–and staked, too–and lots of it fought over. Men died here in the fall defending their ground from the jumpers–ground that hadn’t a dollar in it.”

“Well, your ground was worth looking after, and John Dillon’s. Which is his claim?”

Salaman led the way over the heaps of gravel and round a windlass to No. 6, admitting:

“Oh, yes, Dillon and I, and a few others, have come out of it all right, but Lord! it’s a gamble.”

Dillon’s pardner, Kennedy, did the honours, showing the Big Chimney men the very shaft out of which their Christmas heap of gold had been hoisted. It was true after all. For the favoured there _was_ “plenty o’ gold–plenty o’ gold.”

“But,” said Salaman, “there are few things more mysterious than its whereabouts or why it should be where it is. Don’t talk to me about mining experts–we’ve had ’em here. But who can explain the mystery of Minook? There are six claims in all this country that pay to work. The pay begins in No. 5; before that, nothing. Just up yonder, above No. 10, the pay-streak pinches out. No mortal knows why. A whole winter’s toiling and moiling, and thousands of dollars put into the ground, haven’t produced an ounce of gold above that claim or below No. 5. I tell you it’s an awful gamble. Hunter Creek, Hoosier, Bear, Big Minook, I You, Quail, Alder, Mike Hess, Little Nell–the whole blessed country, rivers, creeks, pups, and all, staked for a radius of forty miles just because there’s gold here, where we’re standing.”

“You don’t mean there’s _nothing_ left!”

“Nothing within forty miles that somebody hasn’t either staked or made money by abandoning.”

“Made money?”

Salaman laughed.

“It’s money in your pocket pretty nearly every time you don’t take up a claim. Why, on Hunter alone they’ve spent twenty thousand dollars this winter.”

“And how much have they taken out?”

With index-finger and thumb Salaman made an “O,” and looked shrewdly through it.

“It’s an awful gamble,” he repeated solemnly.

“It doesn’t seem possible there’s _nothing_ left,” reiterated the Boy, incredulous of such evil luck.

“Oh, I’m not saying you may not make something by getting on some other fellow’s property, if you’ve a mind to pay for it. But you’d better not take anything on trust. I wouldn’t trust my own mother in Alaska. Something in the air here that breeds lies. You can’t believe anybody, yourself included.” He laughed, stooped, and picked a little nugget out of the dump. “You’ll have the same man tell you an entirely different story about the same matter within an hour. Exaggeration is in the air. The best man becomes infected. You lie, he lies, they all lie. Lots of people go crazy in Alaska every year–various causes, but it’s chiefly from believing their own lies.”

They returned to Rampart.

It was decidedly inconvenient, considering the state of their finances, to have thrown away that five hundred dollars on McGinty. They messed with Keith, and paid their two-thirds of the household expenses; but Dawson prices reigned, and it was plain there were no Dawson prizes.

“Well,” said the Colonel in the morning, “we’ve got to live somehow till the ice goes out.” The Boy sat thinking. The Colonel went on: “And we can’t go to Dawson cleaned out. No tellin’ whether there are any proper banks there or whether my Louisville instructions got through. Of course, we’ve got the dogs yet.”

“Don’t care how soon we sell Red and Spot.”

After breakfast the Boy tied Nig up securely behind Keith’s shack, and followed the Colonel about with a harassed and watchful air.

“No market for dogs now,” seemed to be the general opinion, and one person bore up well under the news.

But the next day a man, very splashed and muddy, and obviously just in from the gulches, stopped, in going by Keith’s, and looked at Nig.

“Dog market’s down,” quoted the Boy internally to hearten himself.

“That mahlemeut’s for sale,” observed the Colonel to the stranger.

“These are.” The Boy hastily dragged Red and Spot upon the scene.

“How much?”

“Seventy-five dollars apiece.”

The man laughed. “Ain’t you heard the dog season’s over?”

“Well, don’t you count on livin’ to the next?”

The man pushed his slouch over his eyes and scratched the back of his head.

“Unless I can git ’em reasonable, dogs ain’t worth feedin’ till next winter.”

“I suppose not,” said the Boy sympathetically; “and you can’t get fish here.”

“Right. Feedin’ yourn on bacon, I s’pose, at forty cents a pound?’

“Bacon and meal.”

“Guess you’ll get tired o’ that.”

“Well, we’d sell you the red dog for sixty dollars,” admitted the Boy.

The man stared. “Give you thirty for that black brute over there.”

“Thirty dollars for Nig!”

“And not a–cent more. Dogs is down.” He could get a dozen as good for twenty-five dollars.

“Just you try.” But the Colonel, grumbling, said thirty dollars was thirty dollars, and he reckoned he’d call it a deal. The Boy stared, opened his mouth to protest, and shut it without a sound.

The Colonel had untied Nig, and the Leader, unmindful of the impending change in his fortunes, dashed past the muddy man from the gulch with such impetuosity that he knocked that gentleman off his legs. He picked himself up scowling, and was feeling for his gold sack.

“Got scales here?”

“No need of scales.” The Boy whipped out a little roll of money, counted out thirty dollars, and held it towards the Colonel. “I can afford to keep Nig awhile if that’s his figure.”

The stranger was very angry at this new turn in the dog deal. He had seen that Siwash out at the gulch, heard he was for sale, and came in “a purpose to git him.”

“The dog season’s over,” said the Boy, pulling Nig’s ears and smiling.

“Oh, _is_ it? Well, the season for eatin’ meals ain’t over. How’m I to git grub out to my claim without a dog?”

“We are offerin’ you a couple o’ capital draught dogs.”

“I bought that there Siwash, and I’d a paid fur him if he hadn’t a knocked me down.” He advanced threateningly. “An’ if you ain’t huntin’ trouble–“

The big Colonel stepped in and tried to soothe the stranger, as well as to convince him that this was not the party to try bullying on.

“I’ll give you forty dollars for the dog,” said the muddy man sulkily to the Boy.


“Give you fifty, and that’s my last word.”

“I ain’t sellin’ dogs.”

He cursed, and offered five dollars more.

“Can’t you see I _mean_ it? I’m goin’ to keep that dog–awhile.”

“S’pose you think you’ll make a good thing o’ hirin’ him out?”

He hadn’t thought of it, but he said: “Why not? Best dog in the Yukon.”

“Well, how much?”

“How much’ll you give?”

“Dollar a day.”


So Nig was hired out, Spot was sold for twenty dollars, and Red later for fifteen.

“Well,” said the Colonel when they went in, “I didn’t know you were so smart. But you can’t live _here_ on Nig’s seven dollars a week.”

The Boy shook his head. Their miserable canned and salted fare cost about four dollars a day per man.

“I’m goin’ to take Nig’s tip,” he said–“goin’ to work.”

Easier said than done. In their high rubber boots they splashed about Rampart in the mild, thawing weather, “tryin’ to scare up a job,” as one of them stopped to explain to every likely person: “Yes, sah, lookin’ for any sort of honourable employment till the ice goes out.”

“Nothin’ doin’.”

“Everything’s at a standstill.”

“Just keepin’ body and soul together myself till the boats come in.”

They splashed out to the gulch on the same errand.

Yes, wages were fifteen dollars a day when they were busy. Just now they were waiting for the thorough thaw.

“Should think it was pretty thorough without any waitin’.”

Salaman shook his head. “Only in the town and tundra. The frost holds on to the deep gulch gravel like grim death. And the diggin’s were already full of men ready to work for their keep-at least, they say so,” Salaman added.

Not only in the great cities is human flesh and blood held cheaper than that of the brutes. Even in the off season, when dogs was down, Nig could get his dollar a day, but his masters couldn’t get fifty cents.



“Die Menchen suchen und suchen, wollen immer was Besseres finden…. Gott geb’ ihnen nur Geduld!”

Men in the Gold Nugget were talking about some claims, staked and recorded in due form, but on which the statutory work had not been done.

“What about ’em?”

“They’re jumpable at midnight.”

French Charlie invited the Boy to go along, but neither he nor the Colonel felt enthusiastic.