The Faith of Men
Part 1 out of 3
The Faith of Men
A Relic of the Pliocene
A Hyperborean Brew
The Faith of Men
Too Much Gold
The One Thousand Dozen
The Marriage of Lit-lit
The Story of Jees Uck
A RELIC OF THE PLIOCENE
I wash my hands of him at the start. I cannot father his tales,
nor will I be responsible for them. I make these preliminary
reservations, observe, as a guard upon my own integrity. I possess
a certain definite position in a small way, also a wife; and for
the good name of the community that honours my existence with its
approval, and for the sake of her posterity and mine, I cannot take
the chances I once did, nor foster probabilities with the careless
improvidence of youth. So, I repeat, I wash my hands of him, this
Nimrod, this mighty hunter, this homely, blue-eyed, freckle-faced
Having been honest to myself, and to whatever prospective olive
branches my wife may be pleased to tender me, I can now afford to
be generous. I shall not criticize the tales told me by Thomas
Stevens, and, further, I shall withhold my judgment. If it be
asked why, I can only add that judgment I have none. Long have I
pondered, weighed, and balanced, but never have my conclusions been
twice the same--forsooth! because Thomas Stevens is a greater man
than I. If he have told truths, well and good; if untruths, still
well and good. For who can prove? or who disprove? I eliminate
myself from the proposition, while those of little faith may do as
I have done--go find the same Thomas Stevens, and discuss to his
face the various matters which, if fortune serve, I shall relate.
As to where he may be found? The directions are simple: anywhere
between 53 north latitude and the Pole, on the one hand; and, on
the other, the likeliest hunting grounds that lie between the east
coast of Siberia and farthermost Labrador. That he is there,
somewhere, within that clearly defined territory, I pledge the word
of an honourable man whose expectations entail straight speaking
and right living.
Thomas Stevens may have toyed prodigiously with truth, but when we
first met (it were well to mark this point), he wandered into my
camp when I thought myself a thousand miles beyond the outermost
post of civilization. At the sight of his human face, the first in
weary months, I could have sprung forward and folded him in my arms
(and I am not by any means a demonstrative man); but to him his
visit seemed the most casual thing under the sun. He just strolled
into the light of my camp, passed the time of day after the custom
of men on beaten trails, threw my snowshoes the one way and a
couple of dogs the other, and so made room for himself by the fire.
Said he'd just dropped in to borrow a pinch of soda and to see if I
had any decent tobacco. He plucked forth an ancient pipe, loaded
it with painstaking care, and, without as much as by your leave,
whacked half the tobacco of my pouch into his. Yes, the stuff was
fairly good. He sighed with the contentment of the just, and
literally absorbed the smoke from the crisping yellow flakes, and
it did my smoker's heart good to behold him.
Hunter? Trapper? Prospector? He shrugged his shoulders No; just
sort of knocking round a bit. Had come up from the Great Slave
some time since, and was thinking of trapsing over into the Yukon
country. The factor of Koshim had spoken about the discoveries on
the Klondike, and he was of a mind to run over for a peep. I
noticed that he spoke of the Klondike in the archaic vernacular,
calling it the Reindeer River--a conceited custom that the Old
Timers employ against the CHECHAQUAS and all tenderfeet in general.
But he did it so naively and as such a matter of course, that there
was no sting, and I forgave him. He also had it in view, he said,
before he crossed the divide into the Yukon, to make a little run
up Fort o' Good Hope way.
Now Fort o' Good Hope is a far journey to the north, over and
beyond the Circle, in a place where the feet of few men have trod;
and when a nondescript ragamuffin comes in out of the night, from
nowhere in particular, to sit by one's fire and discourse on such
in terms of "trapsing" and "a little run," it is fair time to rouse
up and shake off the dream. Wherefore I looked about me; saw the
fly and, underneath, the pine boughs spread for the sleeping furs;
saw the grub sacks, the camera, the frosty breaths of the dogs
circling on the edge of the light; and, above, a great streamer of
the aurora, bridging the zenith from south-east to north-west. I
shivered. There is a magic in the Northland night, that steals in
on one like fevers from malarial marshes. You are clutched and
downed before you are aware. Then I looked to the snowshoes, lying
prone and crossed where he had flung them. Also I had an eye to my
tobacco pouch. Half, at least, of its goodly store had vamosed.
That settled it. Fancy had not tricked me after all.
Crazed with suffering, I thought, looking steadfastly at the man--
one of those wild stampeders, strayed far from his bearings and
wandering like a lost soul through great vastnesses and unknown
deeps. Oh, well, let his moods slip on, until, mayhap, he gathers
his tangled wits together. Who knows?--the mere sound of a fellow-
creature's voice may bring all straight again.
So I led him on in talk, and soon I marvelled, for he talked of
game and the ways thereof. He had killed the Siberian wolf of
westernmost Alaska, and the chamois in the secret Rockies. He
averred he knew the haunts where the last buffalo still roamed;
that he had hung on the flanks of the caribou when they ran by the
hundred thousand, and slept in the Great Barrens on the musk-ox's
And I shifted my judgment accordingly (the first revision, but by
no account the last), and deemed him a monumental effigy of truth.
Why it was I know not, but the spirit moved me to repeat a tale
told to me by a man who had dwelt in the land too long to know
better. It was of the great bear that hugs the steep slopes of St
Elias, never descending to the levels of the gentler inclines. Now
God so constituted this creature for its hillside habitat that the
legs of one side are all of a foot longer than those of the other.
This is mighty convenient, as will be reality admitted. So I
hunted this rare beast in my own name, told it in the first person,
present tense, painted the requisite locale, gave it the necessary
garnishings and touches of verisimilitude, and looked to see the
man stunned by the recital.
Not he. Had he doubted, I could have forgiven him. Had he
objected, denying the dangers of such a hunt by virtue of the
animal's inability to turn about and go the other way--had he done
this, I say, I could have taken him by the hand for the true
sportsman that he was. Not he. He sniffed, looked on me, and
sniffed again; then gave my tobacco due praise, thrust one foot
into my lap, and bade me examine the gear. It was a MUCLUC of the
Innuit pattern, sewed together with sinew threads, and devoid of
beads or furbelows. But it was the skin itself that was
remarkable. In that it was all of half an inch thick, it reminded
me of walrus-hide; but there the resemblance ceased, for no walrus
ever bore so marvellous a growth of hair. On the side and ankles
this hair was well-nigh worn away, what of friction with underbrush
and snow; but around the top and down the more sheltered back it
was coarse, dirty black, and very thick. I parted it with
difficulty and looked beneath for the fine fur that is common with
northern animals, but found it in this case to be absent. This,
however, was compensated for by the length. Indeed, the tufts that
had survived wear and tear measured all of seven or eight inches.
I looked up into the man's face, and he pulled his foot down and
asked, "Find hide like that on your St Elias bear?"
I shook my head. "Nor on any other creature of land or sea," I
answered candidly. The thickness of it, and the length of the
hair, puzzled me.
"That," he said, and said without the slightest hint of
impressiveness, "that came from a mammoth."
"Nonsense!" I exclaimed, for I could not forbear the protest of my
unbelief. "The mammoth, my dear sir, long ago vanished from the
earth. We know it once existed by the fossil remains that we have
unearthed, and by a frozen carcase that the Siberian sun saw fit to
melt from out the bosom of a glacier; but we also know that no
living specimen exists. Our explorers--"
At this word he broke in impatiently. "Your explorers? Pish! A
weakly breed. Let us hear no more of them. But tell me, O man,
what you may know of the mammoth and his ways."
Beyond contradiction, this was leading to a yarn; so I baited my
hook by ransacking my memory for whatever data I possessed on the
subject in hand. To begin with, I emphasized that the animal was
prehistoric, and marshalled all my facts in support of this. I
mentioned the Siberian sand-bars that abounded with ancient mammoth
bones; spoke of the large quantities of fossil ivory purchased from
the Innuits by the Alaska Commercial Company; and acknowledged
having myself mined six- and eight-foot tusks from the pay gravel
of the Klondike creeks. "All fossils," I concluded, "found in the
midst of debris deposited through countless ages."
"I remember when I was a kid," Thomas Stevens sniffed (he had a
most confounded way of sniffing), "that I saw a petrified water-
melon. Hence, though mistaken persons sometimes delude themselves
into thinking that they are really raising or eating them, there
are no such things as extant water-melons?"
"But the question of food," I objected, ignoring his point, which
was puerile and without bearing. "The soil must bring forth
vegetable life in lavish abundance to support so monstrous
creations. Nowhere in the North is the soil so prolific. Ergo,
the mammoth cannot exist."
"I pardon your ignorance concerning many matters of this Northland,
for you are a young man and have travelled little; but, at the same
time, I am inclined to agree with you on one thing. The mammoth no
longer exists. How do I know? I killed the last one with my own
Thus spake Nimrod, the mighty Hunter. I threw a stick of firewood
at the dogs and bade them quit their unholy howling, and waited.
Undoubtedly this liar of singular felicity would open his mouth and
requite me for my St. Elias bear.
"It was this way," he at last began, after the appropriate silence
had intervened. "I was in camp one day--"
"Where?" I interrupted.
He waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the north-east, where
stretched a TERRA INCOGNITA into which vastness few men have
strayed and fewer emerged. "I was in camp one day with Klooch.
Klooch was as handsome a little KAMOOKS as ever whined betwixt the
traces or shoved nose into a camp kettle. Her father was a full-
blood Malemute from Russian Pastilik on Bering Sea, and I bred her,
and with understanding, out of a clean-legged bitch of the Hudson
Bay stock. I tell you, O man, she was a corker combination. And
now, on this day I have in mind, she was brought to pup through a
pure wild wolf of the woods--grey, and long of limb, with big lungs
and no end of staying powers. Say! Was there ever the like? It
was a new breed of dog I had started, and I could look forward to
"As I have said, she was brought neatly to pup, and safely
delivered. I was squatting on my hams over the litter--seven
sturdy, blind little beggars--when from behind came a bray of
trumpets and crash of brass. There was a rush, like the wind-
squall that kicks the heels of the rain, and I was midway to my
feet when knocked flat on my face. At the same instant I heard
Klooch sigh, very much as a man does when you've planted your fist
in his belly. You can stake your sack I lay quiet, but I twisted
my head around and saw a huge bulk swaying above me. Then the blue
sky flashed into view and I got to my feet. A hairy mountain of
flesh was just disappearing in the underbrush on the edge of the
open. I caught a rear-end glimpse, with a stiff tail, as big in
girth as my body, standing out straight behind. The next second
only a tremendous hole remained in the thicket, though I could
still hear the sounds as of a tornado dying quickly away,
underbrush ripping and tearing, and trees snapping and crashing.
"I cast about for my rifle. It had been lying on the ground with
the muzzle against a log; but now the stock was smashed, the barrel
out of line, and the working-gear in a thousand bits. Then I
looked for the slut, and--and what do you suppose?"
I shook my head.
"May my soul burn in a thousand hells if there was anything left of
her! Klooch, the seven sturdy, blind little beggars--gone, all
gone. Where she had stretched was a slimy, bloody depression in
the soft earth, all of a yard in diameter, and around the edges a
few scattered hairs."
I measured three feet on the snow, threw about it a circle, and
glanced at Nimrod.
"The beast was thirty long and twenty high," he answered, "and its
tusks scaled over six times three feet. I couldn't believe,
myself, at the time, for all that it had just happened. But if my
senses had played me, there was the broken gun and the hole in the
brush. And there was--or, rather, there was not--Klooch and the
pups. O man, it makes me hot all over now when I think of it
Klooch! Another Eve! The mother of a new race! And a rampaging,
ranting, old bull mammoth, like a second flood, wiping them, root
and branch, off the face of the earth! Do you wonder that the
blood-soaked earth cried out to high God? Or that I grabbed the
hand-axe and took the trail?"
"The hand-axe?" I exclaimed, startled out of myself by the picture.
"The hand-axe, and a big bull mammoth, thirty feet long, twenty
Nimrod joined me in my merriment, chuckling gleefully. "Wouldn't
it kill you?" he cried. "Wasn't it a beaver's dream? Many's the
time I've laughed about it since, but at the time it was no
laughing matter, I was that danged mad, what of the gun and Klooch.
Think of it, O man! A brand-new, unclassified, uncopyrighted
breed, and wiped out before ever it opened its eyes or took out its
intention papers! Well, so be it. Life's full of disappointments,
and rightly so. Meat is best after a famine, and a bed soft after
a hard trail.
"As I was saying, I took out after the beast with the hand-axe, and
hung to its heels down the valley; but when he circled back toward
the head, I was left winded at the lower end. Speaking of grub, I
might as well stop long enough to explain a couple of points. Up
thereabouts, in the midst of the mountains, is an almighty curious
formation. There is no end of little valleys, each like the other
much as peas in a pod, and all neatly tucked away with straight,
rocky walls rising on all sides. And at the lower ends are always
small openings where the drainage or glaciers must have broken out.
The only way in is through these mouths, and they are all small,
and some smaller than others. As to grub--you've slushed around on
the rain-soaked islands of the Alaskan coast down Sitka way, most
likely, seeing as you're a traveller. And you know how stuff grows
there--big, and juicy, and jungly. Well, that's the way it was
with those valleys. Thick, rich soil, with ferns and grasses and
such things in patches higher than your head. Rain three days out
of four during the summer months; and food in them for a thousand
mammoths, to say nothing of small game for man.
"But to get back. Down at the lower end of the valley I got winded
and gave over. I began to speculate, for when my wind left me my
dander got hotter and hotter, and I knew I'd never know peace of
mind till I dined on roasted mammoth-foot. And I knew, also, that
that stood for SKOOKUM MAMOOK PUKAPUK--excuse Chinook, I mean there
was a big fight coming. Now the mouth of my valley was very
narrow, and the walls steep. High up on one side was one of those
big pivot rocks, or balancing rocks, as some call them, weighing
all of a couple of hundred tons. Just the thing. I hit back for
camp, keeping an eye open so the bull couldn't slip past, and got
my ammunition. It wasn't worth anything with the rifle smashed; so
I opened the shells, planted the powder under the rock, and touched
it off with slow fuse. Wasn't much of a charge, but the old
boulder tilted up lazily and dropped down into place, with just
space enough to let the creek drain nicely. Now I had him."
"But how did you have him?" I queried. "Who ever heard of a man
killing a mammoth with a hand-axe? And, for that matter, with
"O man, have I not told you I was mad?" Nimrod replied, with a
slight manifestation of sensitiveness. "Mad clean through, what of
Klooch and the gun. Also, was I not a hunter? And was this not
new and most unusual game? A hand-axe? Pish! I did not need it.
Listen, and you shall hear of a hunt, such as might have happened
in the youth of the world when cavemen rounded up the kill with
hand-axe of stone. Such would have served me as well. Now is it
not a fact that man can outwalk the dog or horse? That he can wear
them out with the intelligence of his endurance?"
The light broke in on me, and I bade him continue.
"My valley was perhaps five miles around. The mouth was closed.
There was no way to get out. A timid beast was that bull mammoth,
and I had him at my mercy. I got on his heels again hollered like
a fiend, pelted him with cobbles, and raced him around the valley
three times before I knocked off for supper. Don't you see? A
race-course! A man and a mammoth! A hippodrome, with sun, moon,
and stars to referee!
"It took me two months to do it, but I did it. And that's no
beaver dream. Round and round I ran him, me travelling on the
inner circle, eating jerked meat and salmon berries on the run, and
snatching winks of sleep between. Of course, he'd get desperate at
times and turn. Then I'd head for soft ground where the creek
spread out, and lay anathema upon him and his ancestry, and dare
him to come on. But he was too wise to bog in a mud puddle. Once
he pinned me in against the walls, and I crawled back into a deep
crevice and waited. Whenever he felt for me with his trunk, I'd
belt him with the hand-axe till he pulled out, shrieking fit to
split my ear drums, he was that mad. He knew he had me and didn't
have me, and it near drove him wild. But he was no man's fool. He
knew he was safe as long as I stayed in the crevice, and he made up
his mind to keep me there. And he was dead right, only he hadn't
figured on the commissary. There was neither grub nor water around
that spot, so on the face of it he couldn't keep up the siege.
He'd stand before the opening for hours, keeping an eye on me and
flapping mosquitoes away with his big blanket ears. Then the
thirst would come on him and he'd ramp round and roar till the
earth shook, calling me every name he could lay tongue to. This
was to frighten me, of course; and when he thought I was
sufficiently impressed, he'd back away softly and try to make a
sneak for the creek. Sometimes I'd let him get almost there--only
a couple of hundred yards away it was--when out I'd pop and back
he'd come, lumbering along like the old landslide he was. After
I'd done this a few times, and he'd figured it out, he changed his
tactics. Grasped the time element, you see. Without a word of
warning, away he'd go, tearing for the water like mad, scheming to
get there and back before I ran away. Finally, after cursing me
most horribly, he raised the siege and deliberately stalked off to
"That was the only time he penned me,--three days of it,--but after
that the hippodrome never stopped. Round, and round, and round,
like a six days' go-as-I-please, for he never pleased. My clothes
went to rags and tatters, but I never stopped to mend, till at last
I ran naked as a son of earth, with nothing but the old hand-axe in
one hand and a cobble in the other. In fact, I never stopped, save
for peeps of sleep in the crannies and ledges of the cliffs. As
for the bull, he got perceptibly thinner and thinner--must have
lost several tons at least--and as nervous as a schoolmarm on the
wrong side of matrimony. When I'd come up with him and yell, or
lain him with a rock at long range, he'd jump like a skittish colt
and tremble all over. Then he'd pull out on the run, tail and
trunk waving stiff, head over one shoulder and wicked eyes blazing,
and the way he'd swear at me was something dreadful. A most
immoral beast he was, a murderer, and a blasphemer.
"But towards the end he quit all this, and fell to whimpering and
crying like a baby. His spirit broke and he became a quivering
jelly-mountain of misery. He'd get attacks of palpitation of the
heart, and stagger around like a drunken man, and fall down and
bark his shins. And then he'd cry, but always on the run. O man,
the gods themselves would have wept with him, and you yourself or
any other man. It was pitiful, and there was so I much of it, but
I only hardened my heart and hit up the pace. At last I wore him
clean out, and he lay down, broken-winded, broken-hearted, hungry,
and thirsty. When I found he wouldn't budge, I hamstrung him, and
spent the better part of the day wading into him with the hand-axe,
he a-sniffing and sobbing till I worked in far enough to shut him
off. Thirty feet long he was, and twenty high, and a man could
sling a hammock between his tusks and sleep comfortably. Barring
the fact that I had run most of the juices out of him, he was fair
eating, and his four feet, alone, roasted whole, would have lasted
a man a twelvemonth. I spent the winter there myself."
"And where is this valley?" I asked
He waved his hand in the direction of the north-east, and said:
"Your tobacco is very good. I carry a fair share of it in my
pouch, but I shall carry the recollection of it until I die. In
token of my appreciation, and in return for the moccasins on your
own feet, I will present to you these muclucs. They commemorate
Klooch and the seven blind little beggars. They are also souvenirs
of an unparalleled event in history, namely, the destruction of the
oldest breed of animal on earth, and the youngest. And their chief
virtue lies in that they will never wear out."
Having effected the exchange, he knocked the ashes from his pipe,
gripped my hand good-night, and wandered off through the snow.
Concerning this tale, for which I have already disclaimed
responsibility, I would recommend those of little faith to make a
visit to the Smithsonian Institute. If they bring the requisite
credentials and do not come in vacation time, they will undoubtedly
gain an audience with Professor Dolvidson. The muclucs are in his
possession, and he will verify, not the manner in which they were
obtained, but the material of which they are composed. When he
states that they are made from the skin of the mammoth, the
scientific world accepts his verdict. What more would you have?
A HYPERBOREAN BREW
[The story of a scheming white man among the strange people who
live on the rim of the Arctic sea]
Thomas Stevens's veracity may have been indeterminate as X, and his
imagination the imagination of ordinary men increased to the nth
power, but this, at least, must be said: never did he deliver
himself of word nor deed that could be branded as a lie outright. .
. He may have played with probability, and verged on the extremest
edge of possibility, but in his tales the machinery never creaked.
That he knew the Northland like a book, not a soul can deny. That
he was a great traveller, and had set foot on countless unknown
trails, many evidences affirm. Outside of my own personal
knowledge, I knew men that had met him everywhere, but principally
on the confines of Nowhere. There was Johnson, the ex-Hudson Bay
Company factor, who had housed him in a Labrador factory until his
dogs rested up a bit, and he was able to strike out again. There
was McMahon, agent for the Alaska Commercial Company, who had run
across him in Dutch Harbour, and later on, among the outlying
islands of the Aleutian group. It was indisputable that he had
guided one of the earlier United States surveys, and history states
positively that in a similar capacity he served the Western Union
when it attempted to put through its trans-Alaskan and Siberian
telegraph to Europe. Further, there was Joe Lamson, the whaling
captain, who, when ice-bound off the mouth of the Mackenzie, had
had him come aboard after tobacco. This last touch proves Thomas
Stevens's identity conclusively. His quest for tobacco was
perennial and untiring. Ere we became fairly acquainted, I learned
to greet him with one hand, and pass the pouch with the other. But
the night I met him in John O'Brien's Dawson saloon, his head was
wreathed in a nimbus of fifty-cent cigar smoke, and instead of my
pouch he demanded my sack. We were standing by a faro table, and
forthwith he tossed it upon the "high card." "Fifty," he said, and
the game-keeper nodded. The "high card" turned, and he handed back
my sack, called for a "tab," and drew me over to the scales, where
the weigher nonchalantly cashed him out fifty dollars in dust.
"And now we'll drink," he said; and later, at the bar, when he
lowered his glass: "Reminds me of a little brew I had up Tattarat
way. No, you have no knowledge of the place, nor is it down on the
charts. But it's up by the rim of the Arctic Sea, not so many
hundred miles from the American line, and all of half a thousand
God-forsaken souls live there, giving and taking in marriage, and
starving and dying in-between-whiles. Explorers have overlooked
them, and you will not find them in the census of 1890. A whale-
ship was pinched there once, but the men, who had made shore over
the ice, pulled out for the south and were never heard of.
"But it was a great brew we had, Moosu and I," he added a moment
later, with just the slightest suspicion of a sigh.
I knew there were big deeds and wild doings behind that sigh, so I
haled him into a corner, between a roulette outfit and a poker
layout, and waited for his tongue to thaw.
"Had one objection to Moosu," he began, cocking his head
meditatively--"one objection, and only one. He was an Indian from
over on the edge of the Chippewyan country, but the trouble was,
he'd picked up a smattering of the Scriptures. Been campmate a
season with a renegade French Canadian who'd studied for the
church. Moosu'd never seen applied Christianity, and his head was
crammed with miracles, battles, and dispensations, and what not he
didn't understand. Otherwise he was a good sort, and a handy man
on trail or over a fire.
"We'd had a hard time together and were badly knocked out when we
plumped upon Tattarat. Lost outfits and dogs crossing a divide in
a fall blizzard, and our bellies clove to our backs and our clothes
were in rags when we crawled into the village. They weren't much
surprised at seeing us--because of the whalemen--and gave us the
meanest shack in the village to live in, and the worst of their
leavings to live on. What struck me at the time as strange was
that they left us strictly alone. But Moosu explained it.
"'Shaman SICK TUMTUM,' he said, meaning the shaman, or medicine
man, was jealous, and had advised the people to have nothing to do
with us. From the little he'd seen of the whalemen, he'd learned
that mine was a stronger race, and a wiser; so he'd only behaved as
shamans have always behaved the world over. And before I get done,
you'll see how near right he was.
"'These people have a law,' said Mosu: 'whoso eats of meat must
hunt. We be awkward, you and I, O master, in the weapons of this
country; nor can we string bows nor fling spears after the manner
approved. Wherefore the shaman and Tummasook, who is chief, have
put their heads together, and it has been decreed that we work with
the women and children in dragging in the meat and tending the
wants of the hunters.'
"'And this is very wrong,' I made to answer; 'for we be better men,
Moosu, than these people who walk in darkness. Further, we should
rest and grow strong, for the way south is long, and on that trail
the weak cannot prosper.'"
"'But we have nothing,' he objected, looking about him at the
rotten timbers of the igloo, the stench of the ancient walrus meat
that had been our supper disgusting his nostrils. 'And on this
fare we cannot thrive. We have nothing save the bottle of "pain-
killer," which will not fill emptiness, so we must bend to the yoke
of the unbeliever and become hewers of wood and drawers of water.
And there be good things in this place, the which we may not have.
Ah, master, never has my nose lied to me, and I have followed it to
secret caches and among the fur-bales of the igloos. Good
provender did these people extort from the poor whalemen, and this
provender has wandered into few hands. The woman Ipsukuk, who
dwelleth in the far end of the village next she igloo of the chief,
possesseth much flour and sugar, and even have my eyes told me of
molasses smeared on her face. And in the igloo of Tummasook, the
chief, there be tea--have I not seen the old pig guzzling? And the
shaman owneth a caddy of "Star" and two buckets of prime smoking.
And what have we? Nothing! Nothing!'
"But I was stunned by the word he brought of the tobacco, and made
"And Moosu, what of his own desire, broke silence: 'And there be
Tukeliketa, daughter of a big hunter and wealthy man. A likely
girl. Indeed, a very nice girl.'
"I figured hard during the night while Moosu snored, for I could
not bear the thought of the tobacco so near which I could not
smoke. True, as he had said, we had nothing. But the way became
clear to me, and in the morning I said to him: 'Go thou cunningly
abroad, after thy fashion, and procure me some sort of bone,
crooked like a goose-neck, and hollow. Also, walk humbly, but have
eyes awake to the lay of pots and pans and cooking contrivances.
And remember, mine is the white man's wisdom, and do what I have
bid you, with sureness and despatch.'
"While he was away I placed the whale-oil cooking lamp in the
middle of the igloo, and moved the mangy sleeping furs back that I
might have room. Then I took apart his gun and put the barrel by
handy, and afterwards braided many wicks from the cotton that the
women gather wild in the summer. When he came back, it was with
the bone I had commanded, and with news that in the igloo of
Tummasook there was a five-gallon kerosene can and a big copper
kettle. So I said he had done well and we would tarry through the
day. And when midnight was near I made harangue to him.
"'This chief, this Tummasook, hath a copper kettle, likewise a
kerosene can.' I put a rock, smooth and wave-washed, in Moosu's
hand. 'The camp is hushed and the stars are winking. Go thou,
creep into the chief's igloo softly, and smite him thus upon the
belly, and hard. And let the meat and good grub of the days to
come put strength into thine arm. There will be uproar and outcry,
and the village will come hot afoot. But be thou unafraid. Veil
thy movements and lose thy form in the obscurity of the night and
the confusion of men. And when the woman Ipsukuk is anigh thee,--
she who smeareth her face with molasses,--do thou smite her
likewise, and whosoever else that possesseth flour and cometh to
thy hand. Then do thou lift thy voice in pain and double up with
clasped hands, and make outcry in token that thou, too, hast felt
the visitation of the night. And in this way shall we achieve
honour and great possessions, and the caddy of "Star" and the prime
smoking, and thy Tukeliketa, who is a likely maiden.'
"When he had departed on this errand, I bided patiently in the
shack, and the tobacco seemed very near. Then there was a cry of
affright in the night, that became an uproar and assailed the sky.
I seized the 'pain-killer' and ran forth. There was much noise,
and a wailing among the women, and fear sat heavily on all.
Tummasook and the woman Ipsukuk rolled on the ground in pain, and
with them there were divers others, also Moosu. I thrust aside
those that cluttered the way of my feet, and put the mouth of the
bottle to Moosu's lips. And straightway he became well and ceased
his howling. Whereat there was a great clamour for the bottle from
the others so stricken. But I made harangue, and ere they tasted
and were made well I had mulcted Tummasook of his copper kettle and
kerosene can, and the woman Ipsukuk of her sugar and molasses, and
the other sick ones of goodly measures of flour. The shaman
glowered wickedly at the people around my knees, though he poorly
concealed the wonder that lay beneath. But I held my head high,
and Moosu groaned beneath the loot as he followed my heels to the
"There I set to work. In Tummasook's copper kettle I mixed three
quarts of wheat flour with five of molasses, and to this I added of
water twenty quarts. Then I placed the kettle near the lamp, that
it might sour in the warmth and grow strong. Moosu understood, and
said my wisdom passed understanding and was greater than Solomon's,
who he had heard was a wise man of old time. The kerosene can I
set over the lamp, and to its nose I affixed a snout, and into the
snout the bone that was like a gooseneck. I sent Moosu without to
pound ice, while I connected the barrel of his gun with the
gooseneck, and midway on the barrel I piled the ice he had pounded.
And at the far end of the gun-barrel, beyond the pan of ice, I
placed a small iron pot. When the brew was strong enough (and it
was two days ere it could stand on its own legs), I filled the
kerosene can with it, and lighted the wicks I had braided.
"Now that all was ready, I spoke to Moosu. 'Go forth,' I said, 'to
the chief men of the village, and give them greeting, and bid them
come into my igloo and sleep the night away with me and the gods.'
"The brew was singing merrily when they began shoving aside the
skin flap and crawling in, and I was heaping cracked ice on the
gun-barrel. Out of the priming hole at the far end, drip, drip,
drip into the iron pot fell the liquor--HOOCH, you know. But
they'd never seen the like, and giggled nervously when I made
harangue about its virtues. As I talked I noted the jealousy in
the shaman's eye, so when I had done, I placed him side by side
with Tummasook and the woman Ipsukuk. Then I gave them to drink,
and their eyes watered and their stomachs warmed, till from being
afraid they reached greedily for more; and when I had them well
started, I turned to the others. Tummasook made a brag about how
he had once killed a polar bear, and in the vigour of his pantomime
nearly slew his mother's brother. But nobody heeded. The woman
Ipsukuk fell to weeping for a son lost long years agone in the ice,
and the shaman made incantation and prophecy. So it went, and
before morning they were all on the floor, sleeping soundly with
"The story tells itself, does it not? The news of the magic potion
spread. It was too marvellous for utterance. Tongues could tell
but a tithe of the miracles it performed. It eased pain, gave
surcease to sorrow, brought back old memories, dead faces, and
forgotten dreams. It was a fire that ate through all the blood,
and, burning, burned not. It stoutened the heart, stiffened the
back, and made men more than men. It revealed the future, and gave
visions and prophecy. It brimmed with wisdom and unfolded secrets.
There was no end of the things it could do, and soon there was a
clamouring on all hands to sleep with the gods. They brought their
warmest furs, their strongest dogs, their best meats; but I sold
the hooch with discretion, and only those were favoured that
brought flour and molasses and sugar. And such stores poured in
that I set Moosu to build a cache to hold them, for there was soon
no space in the igloo. Ere three days had passed Tummasook had
gone bankrupt. The shaman, who was never more than half drunk
after the first night, watched me closely and hung on for the
better part of the week. But before ten days were gone, even the
woman Ipsukuk exhausted her provisions, and went home weak and
"But Moosu complained. 'O master,' he said, 'we have laid by great
wealth in molasses and sugar and flour, but our shack is yet mean,
our clothes thin, and our sleeping furs mangy. There is a call of
the belly for meat the stench of which offends not the stars, and
for tea such as Tummasook guzzles, and there is a great yearning
for the tobacco of Neewak, who is shaman and who plans to destroy
us. I have flour until I am sick, and sugar and molasses without
stint, yet is the heart of Moosu sore and his bed empty.'
"'Peace!' I answered, 'thou art weak of understanding and a fool.
Walk softly and wait, and we will grasp it all. But grasp now, and
we grasp little, and in the end it will be nothing. Thou art a
child in the way of the white man's wisdom. Hold thy tongue and
watch, and I will show you the way my brothers do overseas, and, so
doing, gather to themselves the riches of the earth. It is what is
called "business," and what dost thou know about business?'
"But the next day he came in breathless. 'O master, a strange
thing happeneth in the igloo of Neewak, the shaman; wherefore we
are lost, and we have neither worn the warm furs nor tasted the
good tobacco, what of your madness for the molasses and flour. Go
thou and witness whilst I watch by the brew.'
"So I went to the igloo of Neewak. And behold, he had made his own
still, fashioned cunningly after mine. And as he beheld me he
could ill conceal his triumph. For he was a man of parts, and his
sleep with the gods when in my igloo had not been sound.
"But I was not disturbed, for I knew what I knew, and when I
returned to my own igloo, I descanted to Moosu, and said: 'Happily
the property right obtains amongst this people, who otherwise have
been blessed with but few of the institutions of men. And because
of this respect for property shall you and I wax fat, and, further,
we shall introduce amongst them new institutions that other peoples
have worked out through great travail and suffering.'
"But Moosu understood dimly, till the shaman came forth, with eyes
flashing and a threatening note in his voice, and demanded to trade
with me. 'For look you,' he cried, 'there be of flour and molasses
none in all the village. The like have you gathered with a shrewd
hand from my people, who have slept with your gods and who now have
nothing save large heads, and weak knees, and a thirst for cold
water that they cannot quench. This is not good, and my voice has
power among them; so it were well that we trade, you and I, even as
you have traded with them, for molasses and flour.'
"And I made answer: 'This be good talk, and wisdom abideth in thy
mouth. We will trade. For this much of flour and molasses givest
thou me the caddy of "Star" and the two buckets of smoking.'
"And Moosu groaned, and when the trade was made and the shaman
departed, he upbraided me: 'Now, because of thy madness are we,
indeed, lost! Neewak maketh hooch on his own account, and when the
time is ripe, he will command the people to drink of no hooch but
his hooch. And in this way are we undone, and our goods worthless,
and our igloo mean, and the bed of Moosu cold and empty!'
"And I answered: 'By the body of the wolf, say I, thou art a fool,
and thy father before thee, and thy children after thee, down to
the last generation. Thy wisdom is worse than no wisdom and thine
eyes blinded to business, of which I have spoken and whereof thou
knowest nothing. Go, thou son of a thousand fools, and drink of
the hooch that Neewak brews in his igloo, and thank thy gods that
thou hast a white man's wisdom to make soft the bed thou liest in.
Go! and when thou hast drunken, return with the taste still on thy
lips, that I may know.'
"And two days after, Neewak sent greeting and invitation to his
igloo. Moosu went, but I sat alone, with the song of the still in
my ears, and the air thick with the shaman's tobacco; for trade was
slack that night, and no one dropped in but Angeit, a young hunter
that had faith in me. Later, Moosu came back, his speech thick
with chuckling and his eyes wrinkling with laughter.
"'Thou art a great man,' he said. 'Thou art a great man, O master,
and because of thy greatness thou wilt not condemn Moosu, thy
servant, who ofttimes doubts and cannot be made to understand.'
"'And wherefore now?' I demanded. 'Hast thou drunk overmuch? And
are they sleeping sound in the igloo of Neewak, the shaman?'
"'Nay, they are angered and sore of body, and Chief Tummasook has
thrust his thumbs in the throat of Neewak, and sworn by the bones
of his ancestors to look upon his face no more. For behold! I went
to the igloo, and the brew simmered and bubbled, and the steam
journeyed through the gooseneck even as thy steam, and even as
thine it became water where it met the ice, and dropped into the
pot at the far end. And Neewak gave us to drink, and lo, it was
not like thine, for there was no bite to the tongue nor tingling to
the eyeballs, and of a truth it was water. So we drank, and we
drank overmuch; yet did we sit with cold hearts and solemn. And
Neewak was perplexed and a cloud came on his brow. And he took
Tummasook and Ipsukuk alone of all the company and set them apart,
and bade them drink and drink and drink. And they drank and drank
and drank, and yet sat solemn and cold, till Tummasook arose in
wrath and demanded back the furs and the tea he had paid. And
Ipsukuk raised her voice, thin and angry. And the company demanded
back what they had given, and there was a great commotion.'
"'Does the son of a dog deem me a whale?' demanded Tummasook,
shoving back the skin flap and standing erect, his face black and
his brows angry. 'Wherefore I am filled, like a fish-bladder, to
bursting, till I can scarce walk, what of the weight within me.
Lalah! I have drunken as never before, yet are my eyes clear, my
knees strong, my hand steady.'
"'The shaman cannot send us to sleep with the gods,' the people
complained, stringing in and joining us, 'and only in thy igloo may
the thing be done.'
"So I laughed to myself as I passed the hooch around and the guests
made merry. For in the flour I had traded to Neewak I had mixed
much soda that I had got from the woman Ipsukuk. So how could his
brew ferment when the soda kept it sweet? Or his hooch be hooch
when it would not sour?
"After that our wealth flowed in without let or hindrance. Furs we
had without number, and the fancy-work of the women, all of the
chief's tea, and no end of meat. One day Moosu retold for my
benefit, and sadly mangled, the story of Joseph in Egypt, but from
it I got an idea, and soon I had half the tribe at work building me
great meat caches. And of all they hunted I got the lion's share
and stored it away. Nor was Moosu idle. He made himself a pack of
cards from birch bark, and taught Neewak the way to play seven-up.
He also inveigled the father of Tukeliketa into the game. And one
day he married the maiden, and the next day he moved into the
shaman's house, which was the finest in the village. The fall of
Neewak was complete, for he lost all his possessions, his walrus-
hide drums, his incantation tools--everything. And in the end he
became a hewer of wood and drawer of water at the beck and call of
Moosu. And Moosu--he set himself up as shaman, or high priest, and
out of his garbled Scripture created new gods and made incantation
before strange altars.
"And I was well pleased, for I thought it good that church and
state go hand in hand, and I had certain plans of my own concerning
the state. Events were shaping as I had foreseen. Good temper and
smiling faces had vanished from the village. The people were
morose and sullen. There were quarrels and fighting, and things
were in an uproar night and day. Moosu's cards were duplicated and
the hunters fell to gambling among themselves. Tummasook beat his
wife horribly, and his mother's brother objected and smote him with
a tusk of walrus till he cried aloud in the night and was shamed
before the people. Also, amid such diversions no hunting was done,
and famine fell upon the land. The nights were long and dark, and
without meat no hooch could be bought; so they murmured against the
chief. This I had played for, and when they were well and hungry,
I summoned the whole village, made a great harangue, posed as
patriarch, and fed the famishing. Moosu made harangue likewise,
and because of this and the thing I had done I was made chief.
Moosu, who had the ear of God and decreed his judgments, anointed
me with whale blubber, and right blubberly he did it, not
understanding the ceremony. And between us we interpreted to the
people the new theory of the divine right of kings. There was
hooch galore, and meat and feastings, and they took kindly to the
"So you see, O man, I have sat in the high places, and worn the
purple, and ruled populations. And I might yet be a king had the
tobacco held out, or had Moosu been more fool and less knave. For
he cast eyes upon Esanetuk, eldest daughter to Tummasook, and I
"'O brother,' he explained, 'thou hast seen fit to speak of
introducing new institutions amongst this people, and I have
listened to thy words and gained wisdom thereby. Thou rulest by
the God-given right, and by the God-given right I marry.'
"I noted that he 'brothered' me, and was angry and put my foot
down. But he fell back upon the people and made incantations for
three days, in which all hands joined; and then, speaking with the
voice of God, he decreed polygamy by divine fiat. But he was
shrewd, for he limited the number of wives by a property
qualification, and because of which he, above all men, was favoured
by his wealth. Nor could I fail to admire, though it was plain
that power had turned his head, and he would not be satisfied till
all the power and all the wealth rested in his own hands. So he
became swollen with pride, forgot it was I that had placed him
there, and made preparations to destroy me.
"But it was interesting, for the beggar was working out in his own
way an evolution of primitive society. Now I, by virtue of the
hooch monopoly, drew a revenue in which I no longer permitted him
to share. So he meditated for a while and evolved a system of
ecclesiastical taxation. He laid tithes upon the people, harangued
about fat firstlings and such things, and twisted whatever twisted
texts he had ever heard to serve his purpose. Even this I bore in
silence, but when he instituted what may be likened to a graduated
income-tax, I rebelled, and blindly, for this was what he worked
for. Thereat, he appealed to the people, and they, envious of my
great wealth and well taxed themselves, upheld him. 'Why should we
pay,' they asked, 'and not you? Does not the voice of God speak
through the lips of Moosu, the shaman?' So I yielded. But at the
same time I raised the price of hooch, and lo, he was not a whit
behind me in raising my taxes.
"Then there was open war. I made a play for Neewak and Tummasook,
because of the traditionary rights they possessed; but Moosu won
out by creating a priesthood and giving them both high office. The
problem of authority presented itself to him, and he worked it out
as it has often been worked before. There was my mistake. I
should have been made shaman, and he chief; but I saw it too late,
and in the clash of spiritual and temporal power I was bound to be
worsted. A great controversy waged, but it quickly became one-
sided. The people remembered that he had anointed me, and it was
clear to them that the source of my authority lay, not in me, but
in Moosu. Only a few faithful ones clung to me, chief among whom
Angeit was; while he headed the popular party and set whispers
afloat that I had it in mind to overthrow him and set up my own
gods, which were most unrighteous gods. And in this the clever
rascal had anticipated me, for it was just what I had intended--
forsake my kingship, you see, and fight spiritual with spiritual.
So he frightened the people with the iniquities of my peculiar
gods--especially the one he named 'Biz-e-Nass'--and nipped the
scheme in the bud.
"Now, it happened that Kluktu, youngest daughter to Tummasook, had
caught my fancy, and I likewise hers. So I made overtures, but the
ex-chief refused bluntly--after I had paid the purchase price--and
informed me that she was set aside for Moosu. This was too much,
and I was half of a mind to go to his igloo and slay him with my
naked hands; but I recollected that the tobacco was near gone, and
went home laughing. The next day he made incantation, and
distorted the miracle of the loaves and fishes till it became
prophecy, and I, reading between the lines, saw that it was aimed
at the wealth of meat stored in my caches. The people also read
between the lines, and, as he did not urge them to go on the hunt,
they remained at home, and few caribou or bear were brought in.
"But I had plans of my own, seeing that not only the tobacco but
the flour and molasses were near gone. And further, I felt it my
duty to prove the white man's wisdom and bring sore distress to
Moosu, who had waxed high-stomached, what of the power I had given
him. So that night I went to my meat caches and toiled mightily,
and it was noted next day that all the dogs of the village were
lazy. No one suspected, and I toiled thus every night, and the
dogs grew fat and fatter, and the people lean and leaner. They
grumbled and demanded the fulfilment of prophecy, but Moosu
restrained them, waiting for their hunger to grow yet greater. Nor
did he dream, to the very last, of the trick I had been playing on
the empty caches.
"When all was ready, I sent Angeit, and the faithful ones whom I
had fed privily, through the village to call assembly. And the
tribe gathered on a great space of beaten snow before my door, with
the meat caches towering stilt-legged in the rear. Moosu came
also, standing on the inner edge of the circle opposite me,
confident that I had some scheme afoot, and prepared at the first
break to down me. But I arose, giving him salutation before all
"'O Moosu, thou blessed of God,' I began, 'doubtless thou hast
wondered in that I have called this convocation together; and
doubtless, because of my many foolishnesses, art thou prepared for
rash sayings and rash doings. Not so. It has been said, that
those the gods would destroy they first make mad. And I have been
indeed mad. I have crossed thy will, and scoffed at thy authority,
and done divers evil and wanton things. Wherefore, last night a
vision was vouchsafed me, and I have seen the wickedness of my
ways. And thou stoodst forth like a shining star, with brows
aflame, and I knew in mine own heart thy greatness. I saw all
things clearly. I knew that thou didst command the ear of God, and
that when you spoke he listened. And I remembered that whatever of
the good deeds that I had done, I had done through the grace of
God, and the grace of Moosu.
"'Yes, my children,' I cried, turning to the people, 'whatever
right I have done, and whatever good I have done, have been because
of the counsel of Moosu. When I listened to him, affairs
prospered; when I closed my ears, and acted according to my folly,
things came to folly. By his advice it was that I laid my store of
meat, and in time of darkness fed the famishing. By his grace it
was that I was made chief. And what have I done with my chiefship?
Let me tell you. I have done nothing. My head was turned with
power, and I deemed myself greater than Moosu, and, behold I have
come to grief. My rule has been unwise, and the gods are angered.
Lo, ye are pinched with famine, and the mothers are dry-breasted,
and the little babies cry through the long nights. Nor do I, who
have hardened my heart against Moosu, know what shall be done, nor
in what manner of way grub shall be had.'
"At this there was nodding and laughing, and the people put their
heads together, and I knew they whispered of the loaves and fishes.
I went on hastily. 'So I was made aware of my foolishness and of
Moosu's wisdom; of my own unfitness and of Moosu's fitness. And
because of this, being no longer mad, I make acknowledgment and
rectify evil. I did cast unrighteous eyes upon Kluktu, and lo, she
was sealed to Moosu. Yet is she mine, for did I not pay to
Tummasook the goods of purchase? But I am well unworthy of her,
and she shall go from the igloo of her father to the igloo of
Moosu. Can the moon shine in the sunshine? And further, Tummasook
shall keep the goods of purchase, and she be a free gift to Moosu,
whom God hath ordained her rightful lord.
"'And further yet, because I have used my wealth unwisely, and to
oppress ye, O my children, do I make gifts of the kerosene can to
Moosu, and the gooseneck, and the gun-barrel, and the copper
kettle. Therefore, I can gather to me no more possessions, and
when ye are athirst for hooch, he will quench ye and without
robbery. For he is a great man, and God speaketh through his lips.
"'And yet further, my heart is softened, and I have repented me of
my madness. I, who am a fool and a son of fools; I, who am the
slave of the bad god Biz-e-Nass; I, who see thy empty bellies and
knew not wherewith to fill them--why shall I be chief, and sit
above thee, and rule to thine own destruction? Why should I do
this, which is not good? But Moosu, who is shaman, and who is wise
above men, is so made that he can rule with a soft hand and justly.
And because of the things I have related do I make abdication and
give my chiefship to Moosu, who alone knoweth how ye may be fed in
this day when there be no meat in the land.'
"At this there was a great clapping of hands, and the people cried,
'KLOSHE! KLOSHE!' which means 'good.' I had seen the wonder-worry
in Moosu's eyes; for he could not understand, and was fearful of my
white man's wisdom. I had met his wishes all along the line, and
even anticipated some; and standing there, self-shorn of all my
power, he knew the time did not favour to stir the people against
"Before they could disperse I made announcement that while the
still went to Moosu, whatever hooch I possessed went to the people.
Moosu tried to protest at this, for never had we permitted more
than a handful to be drunk at a time; but they cried, 'KLOSHE!
KLOSHE!' and made festival before my door. And while they waxed
uproarious without, as the liquor went to their heads, I held
council within with Angeit and the faithful ones. I set them the
tasks they were to do, and put into their mouths the words they
were to say. Then I slipped away to a place back in the woods
where I had two sleds, well loaded, with teams of dogs that were
not overfed. Spring was at hand, you see, and there was a crust to
the snow; so it was the best time to take the way south. Moreover,
the tobacco was gone. There I waited, for I had nothing to fear.
Did they bestir themselves on my trail, their dogs were too fat,
and themselves too lean, to overtake me; also, I deemed their
bestirring would be of an order for which I had made due
"First came a faithful one, running, and after him another. 'O
master,' the first cried, breathless, 'there be great confusion in
the village, and no man knoweth his own mind, and they be of many
minds. Everybody hath drunken overmuch, and some be stringing
bows, and some be quarrelling one with another. Never was there
such a trouble.'
"And the second one: 'And I did as thou biddest, O master,
whispering shrewd words in thirsty ears, and raising memories of
the things that were of old time. The woman Ipsukuk waileth her
poverty and the wealth that no longer is hers. And Tummasook
thinketh himself once again chief, and the people are hungry and
rage up and down.'
"And a third one: 'And Neewak hath overthrown the altars of Moosu,
and maketh incantation before the time-honoured and ancient gods.
And all the people remember the wealth that ran down their throats,
and which they possess no more. And first, Esanetuk, who be SICK
TUMTUM, fought with Kluktu, and there was much noise. And next,
being daughters of the one mother, did they fight with Tukeliketa.
And after that did they three fall upon Moosu, like wind-squalls,
from every hand, till he ran forth from the igloo, and the people
mocked him. For a man who cannot command his womankind is a fool.'
"Then came Angeit: 'Great trouble hath befallen Moosu, O master,
for I have whispered to advantage, till the people came to Moosu,
saying they were hungry and demanding the fulfilment of prophecy.
And there was a loud shout of "Itlwillie! Itlwillie!" (Meat.) So
he cried peace to his womenfolk, who were overwrought with anger
and with hooch, and led the tribe even to thy meat caches. And he
bade the men open them and be fed. And lo, the caches were empty.
There was no meat. They stood without sound, the people being
frightened, and in the silence I lifted my voice. "O Moosu, where
is the meat? That there was meat we know. Did we not hunt it and
drag it in from the hunt? And it were a lie to say one man hath
eaten it; yet have we seen nor hide nor hair. Where is the meat, O
Moosu? Thou hast the ear of God. Where is the meat?"
"'And the people cried, "Thou hast the ear of God. Where is the
meat?" And they put their heads together and were afraid. Then I
went among them, speaking fearsomely of the unknown things, of the
dead that come and go like shadows and do evil deeds, till they
cried aloud in terror and gathered all together, like little
children afraid of the dark. Neewak made harangue, laying this
evil that had come upon them at the door of Moosu. When he had
done, there was a furious commotion, and they took spears in their
hands, and tusks of walrus, and clubs, and stones from the beach.
But Moosu ran away home, and because he had not drunken of hooch
they could not catch him, and fell one over another and made haste
slowly. Even now they do howl without his igloo, and his woman-
folk within, and what of the noise, he cannot make himself heard.'
"'O Angeit, thou hast done well,' I commanded. 'Go now, taking
this empty sled and the lean dogs, and ride fast to the igloo of
Moosu; and before the people, who are drunken, are aware, throw him
quick upon the sled and bring him to me.'
"I waited and gave good advice to the faithful ones till Angeit
returned. Moosu was on the sled, and I saw by the fingermarks on
his face that his womankind had done well by him. But he tumbled
off and fell in the snow at my feet, crying: 'O master, thou wilt
forgive Moosu, thy servant, for the wrong things he has done! Thou
art a great man! Surely wilt thou forgive!'
"'Call me "brother," Moosu--call me "brother,"' I chided, lifting
him to his feet with the toe of my moccasin. 'Wilt thou evermore
"'Yea, master,' he whimpered, 'evermore.'
"'Then dispose thy body, so, across the sled,' I shifted the
dogwhip to my right hand. 'And direct thy face downwards, toward
the snow. And make haste, for we journey south this day.' And
when he was well fixed I laid the lash upon him, reciting, at every
stroke, the wrongs he had done me. 'This for thy disobedience in
general--whack! And this for thy disobedience in particular--
whack! whack! And this for Esanetuk! And this for thy soul's
welfare! And this for the grace of thy authority! And this for
Kluktu! And this for thy rights God-given! And this for thy fat
firstlings! And this and this for thy income-tax and thy loaves
and fishes! And this for all thy disobedience! And this, finally,
that thou mayest henceforth walk softly and with understanding!
Now cease thy sniffling and get up! Gird on thy snowshoes and go
to the fore and break trail for the dogs. CHOOK! MUSH-ON! Git!'"
Thomas Stevens smiled quietly to himself as he lighted his fifth
cigar and sent curling smoke-rings ceilingward.
"But how about the people of Tattarat?" I asked. "Kind of rough,
wasn't it, to leave them flat with famine?"
And he answered, laughing, between two smoke-rings, "Were there not
the fat dogs?"
THE FAITH OF MEN
"Tell you what we'll do; we'll shake for it."
"That suits me," said the second man, turning, as he spoke, to the
Indian that was mending snow-shoes in a corner of the cabin.
"Here, you Billebedam, take a run down to Oleson's cabin like a
good fellow, and tell him we want to borrow his dice box."
This sudden request in the midst of a council on wages of men,
wood, and grub surprised Billebedam. Besides, it was early in the
day, and he had never known white men of the calibre of Pentfield
and Hutchinson to dice and play till the day's work was done. But
his face was impassive as a Yukon Indian's should be, as he pulled
on his mittens and went out the door.
Though eight o'clock, it was still dark outside, and the cabin was
lighted by a tallow candle thrust into an empty whisky bottle. It
stood on the pine-board table in the middle of a disarray of dirty
tin dishes. Tallow from innumerable candles had dripped down the
long neck of the bottle and hardened into a miniature glacier. The
small room, which composed the entire cabin, was as badly littered
as the table; while at one end, against the wall, were two bunks,
one above the other, with the blankets turned down just as the two
men had crawled out in the morning.
Lawrence Pentfield and Corry Hutchinson were millionaires, though
they did not look it. There seemed nothing unusual about them,
while they would have passed muster as fair specimens of lumbermen
in any Michigan camp. But outside, in the darkness, where holes
yawned in the ground, were many men engaged in windlassing muck and
gravel and gold from the bottoms of the holes where other men
received fifteen dollars per day for scraping it from off the
bedrock. Each day thousands of dollars' worth of gold were scraped
from bedrock and windlassed to the surface, and it all belonged to
Pentfield and Hutchinson, who took their rank among the richest
kings of Bonanza.
Pentfield broke the silence that followed on Billebedam's departure
by heaping the dirty plates higher on the table and drumming a
tattoo on the cleared space with his knuckles. Hutchinson snuffed
the smoky candle and reflectively rubbed the soot from the wick
between thumb and forefinger.
"By Jove, I wish we could both go out!" he abruptly exclaimed.
"That would settle it all."
Pentfield looked at him darkly.
"If it weren't for your cursed obstinacy, it'd be settled anyway.
All you have to do is get up and go. I'll look after things, and
next year I can go out."
"Why should I go? I've no one waiting for me--"
"Your people," Pentfield broke in roughly.
"Like you have," Hutchinson went on. "A girl, I mean, and you know
Pentfield shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "She can wait, I
"But she's been waiting two years now."
"And another won't age her beyond recognition."
"That'd be three years. Think of it, old man, three years in this
end of the earth, this falling-off place for the damned!"
Hutchinson threw up his arm in an almost articulate groan.
He was several years younger than his partner, not more than
twenty-six, and there was a certain wistfulness in his face that
comes into the faces of men when they yearn vainly for the things
they have been long denied. This same wistfulness was in
Pentfield's face, and the groan of it was articulate in the heave
of his shoulders.
"I dreamed last night I was in Zinkand's," he said. "The music
playing, glasses clinking, voices humming, women laughing, and I
was ordering eggs--yes, sir, eggs, fried and boiled and poached and
scrambled, and in all sorts of ways, and downing them as fast as
"I'd have ordered salads and green things," Hutchinson criticized
hungrily, "with a big, rare, Porterhouse, and young onions and
radishes,--the kind your teeth sink into with a crunch."
"I'd have followed the eggs with them, I guess, if I hadn't
awakened," Pentfield replied.
He picked up a trail-scarred banjo from the floor and began to
strum a few wandering notes. Hutchinson winced and breathed
"Quit it!" he burst out with sudden fury, as the other struck into
a gaily lifting swing. "It drives me mad. I can't stand it"
Pentfield tossed the banjo into a bunk and quoted:-
"Hear me babble what the weakest won't confess -
I am Memory and Torment--I am Town!
I am all that ever went with evening dress!"
The other man winced where he sat and dropped his head forward on
the table. Pentfield resumed the monotonous drumming with his
knuckles. A loud snap from the door attracted his attention. The
frost was creeping up the inside in a white sheet, and he began to
"The flocks are folded, boughs are bare,
The salmon takes the sea;
And oh, my fair, would I somewhere
Might house my heart with thee."
Silence fell and was not again broken till Billebedam arrived and
threw the dice box on the table.
"Um much cold," he said. "Oleson um speak to me, um say um Yukon
freeze last night."
"Hear that, old man!" Pentfield cried, slapping Hutchinson on the
shoulder. "Whoever wins can be hitting the trail for God's country
this time tomorrow morning!"
He picked up the box, briskly rattling the dice.
"What'll it be?"
"Straight poker dice," Hutchinson answered. "Go on and roll them
Pentfield swept the dishes from the table with a crash and rolled
out the five dice. Both looked tragedy. The shake was without a
pair and five-spot high.
"A stiff!" Pentfield groaned.
After much deliberating Pentfield picked up all the five dice and
put them in the box.
"I'd shake to the five if I were you," Hutchinson suggested.
"No, you wouldn't, not when you see this," Pentfield replied,
shaking out the dice.
Again they were without a pair, running this time in unbroken
sequence from two to six.
"A second stiff!" he groaned. "No use your shaking, Corry. You
The other man gathered up the dice without a word, rattled them,
rolled them out on the table with a flourish, and saw that he had
likewise shaken a six-high stiff.
"Tied you, anyway, but I'll have to do better than that," he said,
gathering in four of them and shaking to the six. "And here's what
But they rolled out deuce, tray, four, and five--a stiff still and
no better nor worse than Pentfield's throw.
"Couldn't happen once in a million times," said.
"Nor in a million lives," Pentfield added, catching up the dice and
quickly throwing them out. Three fives appeared, and, after much
delay, he was rewarded by a fourth five on the second shake.
Hutchinson seemed to have lost his last hope.
But three sixes turned up on his first shake. A great doubt rose
in the other's eyes, and hope returned into his. He had one more
shake. Another six and he would go over the ice to salt water and
He rattled the dice in the box, made as though to cast them,
hesitated, and continued rattle them.
"Go on! Go on! Don't take all night about it!" Pentfield cried
sharply, bending his nails on the table, so tight was the clutch
with which he strove to control himself.
The dice rolled forth, an upturned six meeting their eyes. Both
men sat staring at it. There was a long silence. Hutchinson shot
a covert glance at his partner, who, still more covertly, caught
it, and pursed up his lips in an attempt to advertise his
Hutchinson laughed as he got up on his feet. It was a nervous,
apprehensive laugh. It was a case where it was more awkward to win
than lose. He walked over to his partner, who whirled upon him
"Now you just shut up, Corry! I know all you're going to say--that
you'd rather stay in and let me go, and all that; so don't say it.
You've your own people in Detroit to see, and that's enough.
Besides, you can do for me the very thing I expected to do if I
"And that is--?"
Pentfield read the full question in his partner's eyes, and
"Yes, that very thing. You can bring her in to me. The only
difference will be a Dawson wedding instead of a San Franciscan
"But, man alike!" Corry Hutchinson objected "how under the sun can
I bring her in? We're not exactly brother and sister, seeing that
I have not even met her, and it wouldn't be just the proper thing,
you know, for us to travel together. Of course, it would be all
right--you and I know that; but think of the looks of it, man!"
Pentfield swore under his breath, consigning the looks of it to a
less frigid region than Alaska.
"Now, if you'll just listen and not get astride that high horse of
yours so blamed quick," his partner went on, "you'll see that the
only fair thing under the circumstances is for me to let you go out
this year. Next year is only a year away, and then I can take my
Pentfield shook his head, though visibly swayed by the temptation.
"It won't do, Corry, old man. I appreciate your kindness and all
that, but it won't do. I'd be ashamed every time I thought of you
slaving away in here in my place."
A thought seemed suddenly to strike him. Burrowing into his bunk
and disrupting it in his eagerness, he secured a writing-pad and
pencil, and sitting down at the table, began to write with
swiftness and certitude.
"Here," he said, thrusting the scrawled letter into his partner's
hand. "You just deliver that and everything'll be all right."
Hutchinson ran his eye over it and laid it down.
"How do you know the brother will be willing to make that beastly
trip in here?" he demanded.
"Oh, he'll do it for me--and for his sister," Pentfield replied.
"You see, he's tenderfoot, and I wouldn't trust her with him alone.
But with you along it will be an easy trip and a safe one. As soon
as you get out, you'll go to her and prepare her. Then you can
take your run east to your own people, and in the spring she and
her brother'll be ready to start with you. You'll like her, I
know, right from the jump; and from that, you'll know her as soon
as you lay eyes on her."
So saying he opened the back of his watch and exposed a girl's
photograph pasted on the inside of the case. Corry Hutchinson
gazed at it with admiration welling up in his eyes.
"Mabel is her name," Pentfield went on. "And it's just as well you
should know how to find the house. Soon as you strike 'Frisco,
take a cab, and just say, 'Holmes's place, Myrdon Avenue'--I doubt
if the Myrdon Avenue is necessary. The cabby'll know where Judge
"And say," Pentfield continued, after a pause, "it won't be a bad
idea for you to get me a few little things which a--er--"
"A married man should have in his business," Hutchinson blurted out
with a grin.
Pentfield grinned back.
"Sure, napkins and tablecloths and sheets and pillowslips, and such
things. And you might get a good set of china. You know it'll
come hard for her to settle down to this sort of thing. You can
freight them in by steamer around by Bering Sea. And, I say,
what's the matter with a piano?"
Hutchinson seconded the idea heartily. His reluctance had
vanished, and he was warming up to his mission.
"By Jove! Lawrence," he said at the conclusion of the council, as
they both rose to their feet, "I'll bring back that girl of yours
in style. I'll do the cooking and take care of the dogs, and all
that brother'll have to do will be to see to her comfort and do for
her whatever I've forgotten. And I'll forget damn little, I can
The next day Lawrence Pentfield shook hands with him for the last
time and watched him, running with his dogs, disappear up the
frozen Yukon on his way to salt water and the world. Pentfield
went back to his Bonanza mine, which was many times more dreary
than before, and faced resolutely into the long winter. There was
work to be done, men to superintend, and operations to direct in
burrowing after the erratic pay streak; but his heart was not in
the work. Nor was his heart in any work till the tiered logs of a
new cabin began to rise on the hill behind the mine. It was a
grand cabin, warmly built and divided into three comfortable rooms.
Each log was hand-hewed and squared--an expensive whim when the
axemen received a daily wage of fifteen dollars; but to him nothing
could be too costly for the home in which Mabel Holmes was to live.
So he went about with the building of the cabin, singing, "And oh,
my fair, would I somewhere might house my heart with thee!" Also,
he had a calendar pinned on the wall above the table, and his first
act each morning was to check off the day and to count the days
that were left ere his partner would come booming down the Yukon
ice in the spring. Another whim of his was to permit no one to
sleep in the new cabin on the hill. It must be as fresh for her
occupancy as the square-hewed wood was fresh; and when it stood
complete, he put a padlock on the door. No one entered save
himself, and he was wont to spend long hours there, and to come
forth with his face strangely radiant and in his eyes a glad, warm
In December he received a letter from Corry Hutchinson. He had
just seen Mabel Holmes. She was all she ought to be, to be
Lawrence Pentfield's wife, he wrote. He was enthusiastic, and his
letter sent the blood tingling through Pentfield's veins. Other
letters followed, one on the heels of another, and sometimes two or
three together when the mail lumped up. And they were all in the
same tenor. Corry had just come from Myrdon Avenue; Corry was just
going to Myrdon Avenue; or Corry was at Myrdon Avenue. And he
lingered on and on in San Francisco, nor even mentioned his trip to
Lawrence Pentfield began to think that his partner was a great deal
in the company of Mabel Holmes for a fellow who was going east to
see his people. He even caught himself worrying about it at times,
though he would have worried more had he not known Mabel and Corry
so well. Mabel's letters, on the other hand, had a great deal to
say about Corry. Also, a thread of timidity that was near to
disinclination ran through them concerning the trip in over the ice
and the Dawson marriage. Pentfield wrote back heartily, laughing
at her fears, which he took to be the mere physical ones of danger
and hardship rather than those bred of maidenly reserve.
But the long winter and tedious wait, following upon the two
previous long winters, were telling upon him. The superintendence
of the men and the pursuit of the pay streak could not break the
irk of the daily round, and the end of January found him making
occasional trips to Dawson, where he could forget his identity for
a space at the gambling tables. Because he could afford to lose,
he won, and "Pentfield's luck" became a stock phrase among the faro
His luck ran with him till the second week in February. How much
farther it might have run is conjectural; for, after one big game,
he never played again.
It was in the Opera House that it occurred, and for an hour it had
seemed that he could not place his money on a card without making
the card a winner. In the lull at the end of a deal, while the
game-keeper was shuffling the deck, Nick Inwood the owner of the
game, remarked, apropos of nothing:-
"I say, Pentfield, I see that partner of yours has been cutting up
monkey-shines on the outside."
"Trust Corry to have a good time," Pentfield had answered;
"especially when he has earned it."
"Every man to his taste," Nick Inwood laughed; "but I should
scarcely call getting married a good time."
"Corry married!" Pentfield cried, incredulous and yet surprised out
of himself for the moment.
'Sure," Inwood said. "I saw it in the 'Frisco paper that came in
over the ice this morning."
"Well, and who's the girl?" Pentfield demanded, somewhat with the
air of patient fortitude with which one takes the bait of a catch
and is aware at the time of the large laugh bound to follow at his
Nick Inwood pulled the newspaper from his pocket and began looking
it over, saying:-
"I haven't a remarkable memory for names, but it seems to me it's
something like Mabel--Mabel--oh yes, here it--'Mabel Holmes,
daughter of Judge Holmes,'--whoever he is."
Lawrence Pentfield never turned a hair, though he wondered how any
man in the North could know her name. He glanced coolly from face
to face to note any vagrant signs of the game that was being played
upon him, but beyond a healthy curiosity the faces betrayed
nothing. Then he turned to the gambler and said in cold, even
"Inwood, I've got an even five hundred here that says the print of
what you have just said is not in that paper."
The gambler looked at him in quizzical surprise. "Go 'way, child.
I don't want your money."
"I thought so," Pentfield sneered, returning to the game and laying
a couple of bets.
Nick Inwood's face flushed, and, as though doubting his senses, he
ran careful eyes over the print of a quarter of a column. Then be
turned on Lawrence Pentfield.
"Look here, Pentfield," he said, in a quiet, nervous manner; "I
can't allow that, you know."
"Allow what?" Pentfield demanded brutally.
"You implied that I lied."
"Nothing of the sort," came the reply. "I merely implied that you
were trying to be clumsily witty."
"Make your bets, gentlemen," the dealer protested.
"But I tell you it's true," Nick Inwood insisted.
"And I have told you I've five hundred that says it's not in that
paper," Pentfield answered, at the same time throwing a heavy sack
of dust on the table.
"I am sorry to take your money," was the retort, as Inwood thrust
the newspaper into Pentfield's hand.
Pentfield saw, though he could not quite bring himself to believe.
Glancing through the headline, "Young Lochinvar came out of the
North," and skimming the article until the names of Mabel Holmes
and Corry Hutchinson, coupled together, leaped squarely before his
eyes, he turned to the top of the page. It was a San Francisco
"The money's yours, Inwood," he remarked, with a short laugh.
"There's no telling what that partner of mine will do when he gets
Then he returned to the article and read it word for word, very
slowly and very carefully. He could no longer doubt. Beyond
dispute, Corry Hutchinson had married Mabel Holmes. "One of the
Bonanza kings," it described him, "a partner with Lawrence
Pentfield (whom San Francisco society has not yet forgotten), and
interested with that gentleman in other rich, Klondike properties."
Further, and at the end, he read, "It is whispered that Mr. and
Mrs. Hutchinson will, after a brief trip east to Detroit, make
their real honeymoon journey into the fascinating Klondike
"I'll be back again; keep my place for me," Pentfield said, rising
to his feet and taking his sack, which meantime had hit the blower
and came back lighter by five hundred dollars.
He went down the street and bought a Seattle paper. It contained
the same facts, though somewhat condensed. Corry and Mabel were
indubitably married. Pentfield returned to the Opera House and
resumed his seat in the game. He asked to have the limit removed.
"Trying to get action," Nick Inwood laughed, as he nodded assent to
the dealer. "I was going down to the A. C. store, but now I guess
I'll stay and watch you do your worst."
This Lawrence Pentfield did at the end of two hours' plunging, when
the dealer bit the end off a fresh cigar and struck a match as he
announced that the bank was broken. Pentfield cashed in for forty
thousand, shook hands with Nick Inwood, and stated that it was the
last time he would ever play at his game or at anybody's else's.
No one knew nor guessed that he had been hit, much less hit hard.
There was no apparent change in his manner. For a week he went
about his work much as he had always done, when he read an account
of the marriage in a Portland paper. Then he called in a friend to
take charge of his mine and departed up the Yukon behind his dogs.
He held to the Salt Water trail till White River was reached, into
which he turned. Five days later he came upon a hunting camp of
the White River Indians. In the evening there was a feast, and he
sat in honour beside the chief; and next morning he headed his dogs
back toward the Yukon. But he no longer travelled alone. A young
squaw fed his dogs for him that night and helped to pitch camp.
She had been mauled by a bear in her childhood and suffered from a
slight limp. Her name was Lashka, and she was diffident at first
with the strange white man that had come out of the Unknown,
married her with scarcely a look or word, and now was carrying her
back with him into the Unknown.
But Lashka's was better fortune than falls to most Indian girls
that mate with white men in the Northland. No sooner was Dawson
reached than the barbaric marriage that had joined them was re-
solemnized, in the white man's fashion, before a priest. From
Dawson, which to her was all a marvel and a dream, she was taken
directly to the Bonanza claim and installed in the square-hewed
cabin on the hill.
The nine days' wonder that followed arose not so much out of the
fact of the squaw whom Lawrence Pentfield had taken to bed and
board as out of the ceremony that had legalized the tie. The
properly sanctioned marriage was the one thing that passed the
community's comprehension. But no one bothered Pentfield about it.
So long as a man's vagaries did no special hurt to the community,
the community let the man alone, nor was Pentfield barred from the
cabins of men who possessed white wives. The marriage ceremony
removed him from the status of squaw-man and placed him beyond
moral reproach, though there were men that challenged his taste
where women were concerned.
No more letters arrived from the outside. Six sledloads of mails
had been lost at the Big Salmon. Besides, Pentfield knew that
Corry and his bride must by that time have started in over the
trail. They were even then on their honeymoon trip--the honeymoon
trip he had dreamed of for himself through two dreary years. His
lip curled with bitterness at the thought; but beyond being kinder
to Lashka he gave no sign.
March had passed and April was nearing its end, when, one spring
morning, Lashka asked permission to go down the creek several miles
to Siwash Pete's cabin. Pete's wife, a Stewart River woman, had
sent up word that something was wrong with her baby, and Lashka,
who was pre-eminently a mother-woman and who held herself to be
truly wise in the matter of infantile troubles, missed no
opportunity of nursing the children of other women as yet more
fortunate than she.
Pentfield harnessed his dogs, and with Lashka behind took the trail
down the creek bed of Bonanza. Spring was in the air. The
sharpness had gone out of the bite of the frost and though snow
still covered the land, the murmur and trickling of water told that
the iron grip of winter was relaxing. The bottom was dropping out
of the trail, and here and there a new trail had been broken around
open holes. At such a place, where there was not room for two
sleds to pass, Pentfield heard the jingle of approaching bells and
stopped his dogs.
A team of tired-looking dogs appeared around the narrow bend,
followed by a heavily-loaded sled. At the gee-pole was a man who
steered in a manner familiar to Pentfield, and behind the sled
walked two women. His glance returned to the man at the gee-pole.
It was Corry. Pentfield got on his feet and waited. He was glad
that Lashka was with him. The meeting could not have come about
better had it been planned, he thought. And as he waited he
wondered what they would say, what they would be able to say. As
for himself there was no need to say anything. The explaining was
all on their side, and he was ready to listen to them.
As they drew in abreast, Corry recognized him and halted the dogs.
With a "Hello, old man," he held out his hand.
Pentfield shook it, but without warmth or speech. By this time the
two women had come up, and he noticed that the second one was Dora
Holmes. He doffed his fur cap, the flaps of which were flying,
shook hands with her, and turned toward Mabel. She swayed forward,
splendid and radiant, but faltered before his outstretched hand.
He had intended to say, "How do you do, Mrs. Hutchinson?"--but
somehow, the Mrs. Hutchinson had choked him, and all he had managed
to articulate was the "How do you do?"
There was all the constraint and awkwardness in the situation he
could have wished. Mabel betrayed the agitation appropriate to her
position, while Dora, evidently brought along as some sort of
peacemaker, was saying:-
"Why, what is the matter, Lawrence?"
Before he could answer, Corry plucked him by the sleeve and drew
"See here, old man, what's this mean?" Corry demanded in a low
tone, indicating Lashka with his eyes.
"I can hardly see, Corry, where you can have any concern in the
matter," Pentfield answered mockingly.
But Corry drove straight to the point.
"What is that squaw doing on your sled? A nasty job you've given
me to explain all this away. I only hope it can be explained away.
Who is she? Whose squaw is she?"
Then Lawrence Pentfield delivered his stroke, and he delivered it
with a certain calm elation of spirit that seemed somewhat to
compensate for the wrong that had been done him.
"She is my squaw," he said; "Mrs. Pentfield, if you please."
Corry Hutchinson gasped, and Pentfield left him and returned to the
two women. Mabel, with a worried expression on her face, seemed
holding herself aloof. He turned to Dora and asked, quite
genially, as though all the world was sunshine:- "How did you stand
the trip, anyway? Have any trouble to sleep warm?"
"And, how did Mrs. Hutchinson stand it?" he asked next, his eyes on
"Oh, you dear ninny!" Dora cried, throwing her arms around him and
hugging him. "Then you saw it, too! I thought something was the
matter, you were acting so strangely."
"I--I hardly understand," he stammered.
"It was corrected in next day's paper," Dora chattered on. "We did
not dream you would see it. All the other papers had it correctly,
and of course that one miserable paper was the very one you saw!"
"Wait a moment! What do you mean?" Pentfield demanded, a sudden
fear at his heart, for he felt himself on the verge of a great
But Dora swept volubly on.
"Why, when it became known that Mabel and I were going to Klondike,
EVERY OTHER WEEK said that when we were gone, it would be lovely on
Myrdon Avenue, meaning, of course, lonely."
"I am Mrs. Hutchinson," Dora answered. "And you thought it was
Mabel all the time--"
"Precisely the way of it," Pentfield replied slowly. "But I can
see now. The reporter got the names mixed. The Seattle and
Portland paper copied."
He stood silently for a minute. Mabel's face was turned toward him
again, and he could see the glow of expectancy in it. Corry was
deeply interested in the ragged toe of one of his moccasins, while
Dora was stealing sidelong glances at the immobile face of Lashka
sitting on the sled. Lawrence Pentfield stared straight out before
him into a dreary future, through the grey vistas of which he saw
himself riding on a sled behind running dogs with lame Lashka by
Then he spoke, quite simply, looking Mabel in the eyes.
"I am very sorry. I did not dream it. I thought you had married
Corry. That is Mrs. Pentfield sitting on the sled over there."
Mabel Holmes turned weakly toward her sister, as though all the
fatigue of her great journey had suddenly descended on her. Dora
caught her around the waist. Corry Hutchinson was still occupied
with his moccasins. Pentfield glanced quickly from face to face,
then turned to his sled.
"Can't stop here all day, with Pete's baby waiting," he said to
The long whip-lash hissed out, the dogs sprang against the breast
bands, and the sled lurched and jerked ahead.
"Oh, I say, Corry," Pentfield called back, "you'd better occupy the
old cabin. It's not been used for some time. I've built a new one
on the hill."
TOO MUCH GOLD
This being a story--and a truer one than it may appear--of a mining
country, it is quite to be expected that it will be a hard-luck
story. But that depends on the point of view. Hard luck is a mild
way of terming it so far as Kink Mitchell and Hootchinoo Bill are
concerned; and that they have a decided opinion on the subject is a
matter of common knowledge in the Yukon country.
It was in the fall of 1896 that the two partners came down to the
east bank of the Yukon, and drew a Peterborough canoe from a moss-
covered cache. They were not particularly pleasant-looking
objects. A summer's prospecting, filled to repletion with hardship
and rather empty of grub, had left their clothes in tatters and
themselves worn and cadaverous. A nimbus of mosquitoes buzzed
about each man's head. Their faces were coated with blue clay.
Each carried a lump of this damp clay, and, whenever it dried and
fell from their faces, more was daubed on in its place. There was
a querulous plaint in their voices, an irritability of movement and
gesture, that told of broken sleep and a losing struggle with the
little winged pests.
"Them skeeters'll be the death of me yet," Kink Mitchell whimpered,
as the canoe felt the current on her nose, and leaped out from the
"Cheer up, cheer up. We're about done," Hootchinoo Bill answered,
with an attempted heartiness in his funereal tones that was
ghastly. "We'll be in Forty Mile in forty minutes, and then--
cursed little devil!"
One hand left his paddle and landed on the back of his neck with a
sharp slap. He put a fresh daub of clay on the injured part,
swearing sulphurously the while. Kink Mitchell was not in the
least amused. He merely improved the opportunity by putting a
thicker coating of clay on his own neck.
They crossed the Yukon to its west bank, shot down-stream with easy
stroke, and at the end of forty minutes swung in close to the left
around the tail of an island. Forty Mile spread itself suddenly
before them. Both men straightened their backs and gazed at the
sight. They gazed long and carefully, drifting with the current,
in their faces an expression of mingled surprise and consternation
slowly gathering. Not a thread of smoke was rising from the
hundreds of log-cabins. There was no sound of axes biting sharply
into wood, of hammering and sawing. Neither dogs nor men loitered
before the big store. No steamboats lay at the bank, no canoes,
nor scows, nor poling-boats. The river was as bare of craft as the
town was of life.
"Kind of looks like Gabriel's tooted his little horn, and you an'
me has turned up missing," remarked Hootchinoo Bill.
His remark was casual, as though there was nothing unusual about
the occurrence. Kink Mitchell's reply was just as casual as though
he, too, were unaware of any strange perturbation of spirit.
"Looks as they was all Baptists, then, and took the boats to go by
water," was his contribution.
"My ol' dad was a Baptist," Hootchinoo Bill supplemented. "An' he
always did hold it was forty thousand miles nearer that way."
This was the end of their levity. They ran the canoe in and
climbed the high earth bank. A feeling of awe descended upon them
as they walked the deserted streets. The sunlight streamed
placidly over the town. A gentle wind tapped the halyards against
the flagpole before the closed doors of the Caledonia Dance Hall.
Mosquitoes buzzed, robins sang, and moose birds tripped hungrily
among the cabins; but there was no human life nor sign of human
"I'm just dyin' for a drink," Hootchinoo Bill said and
unconsciously his voice sank to a hoarse whisper.
His partner nodded his head, loth to hear his own voice break the
stillness. They trudged on in uneasy silence till surprised by an
open door. Above this door, and stretching the width of the
building, a rude sign announced the same as the "Monte Carlo." But
beside the door, hat over eyes, chair tilted back, a man sat
sunning himself. He was an old man. Beard and hair were long and
white and patriarchal.
"If it ain't ol' Jim Cummings, turned up like us, too late for
Resurrection!" said Kink Mitchell.
"Most like he didn't hear Gabriel tootin'," was Hootchinoo Bill's
"Hello, Jim! Wake up!" he shouted.
The old man unlimbered lamely, blinking his eyes and murmuring
automatically: "What'll ye have, gents? What'll ye have?"
They followed him inside and ranged up against the long bar where
of yore a half-dozen nimble bar-keepers found little time to loaf.
The great room, ordinarily aroar with life, was still and gloomy as
a tomb. There was no rattling of chips, no whirring of ivory
balls. Roulette and faro tables were like gravestones under their
canvas covers. No women's voices drifted merrily from the dance-
room behind. Ol' Jim Cummings wiped a glass with palsied hands,
and Kink Mitchell scrawled his initials on the dust-covered bar.
"Where's the girls?" Hootchinoo Bill shouted, with affected
"Gone," was the ancient bar-keeper's reply, in a voice thin and
aged as himself, and as unsteady as his hand.
"Where's Bidwell and Barlow?"
"And Sweetwater Charley?"
"And his sister?"
"Your daughter Sally, then, and her little kid?"
"Gone, all gone." The old man shook his head sadly, rummaging in
an absent way among the dusty bottles.
"Great Sardanapolis! Where?" Kink Mitchell exploded, unable longer
to restrain himself. "You don't say you've had the plague?"
"Why, ain't you heerd?" The old man chuckled quietly. "They-all's
gone to Dawson."
"What-like is that?" Bill demanded. "A creek? or a bar? or a
"Ain't never heered of Dawson, eh?" The old man chuckled
exasperatingly. "Why, Dawson's a town, a city, bigger'n Forty
Mile. Yes, sir, bigger'n Forty Mile."
"I've ben in this land seven year," Bill announced emphatically,
"an' I make free to say I never heard tell of the burg before.
Hold on! Let's have some more of that whisky. Your information's
flabbergasted me, that it has. Now just whereabouts is this
Dawson-place you was a-mentionin'?"
"On the big flat jest below the mouth of Klondike," ol' Jim
answered. "But where has you-all ben this summer?"
"Never you mind where we-all's ben," was Kink Mitchell's testy
reply. "We-all's ben where the skeeters is that thick you've got
to throw a stick into the air so as to see the sun and tell the
time of day. Ain't I right, Bill?"
"Right you are," said Bill. "But speakin' of this Dawson-place how
like did it happen to be, Jim?"
"Ounce to the pan on a creek called Bonanza, an' they ain't got to
"Who struck it?"
At mention of the discoverer's name the partners stared at each
other disgustedly. Then they winked with great solemnity.
"Siwash George," sniffed Hootchinoo Bill.
"That squaw-man," sneered Kink Mitchell.
"I wouldn't put on my moccasins to stampede after anything he'd
ever find," said Bill.
"Same here," announced his partner. "A cuss that's too plumb lazy
to fish his own salmon. That's why he took up with the Indians.
S'pose that black brother-in-law of his,--lemme see, Skookum Jim,
eh?--s'pose he's in on it?"
The old bar-keeper nodded. "Sure, an' what's more, all Forty Mile,
exceptin' me an' a few cripples."
"And drunks," added Kink Mitchell.
"No-sir-ee!" the old man shouted emphatically.
"I bet you the drinks Honkins ain't in on it!" Hootchinoo Bill
cried with certitude.
Ol' Jim's face lighted up. "I takes you, Bill, an' you loses."
"However did that ol' soak budge out of Forty Mile?" Mitchell
"The ties him down an' throws him in the bottom of a polin'-boat,"
ol' Jim explained. "Come right in here, they did, an' takes him
out of that there chair there in the corner, an' three more drunks
they finds under the pianny. I tell you-alls the whole camp hits
up the Yukon for Dawson jes' like Sam Scratch was after them,--
wimmen, children, babes in arms, the whole shebang. Bidwell comes
to me an' sez, sez he, 'Jim, I wants you to keep tab on the Monte
Carlo. I'm goin'.'
"'Where's Barlow?' sez I. 'Gone,' sez he, 'an' I'm a-followin'
with a load of whisky.' An' with that, never waitin' for me to
decline, he makes a run for his boat an' away he goes, polin' up
river like mad. So here I be, an' these is the first drinks I've
passed out in three days."
The partners looked at each other.
"Gosh darn my buttoms!" said Hootchinoo Bill. "Seems likes you and
me, Kink, is the kind of folks always caught out with forks when it
"Wouldn't it take the saleratus out your dough, now?" said Kink
Mitchell. "A stampede of tin-horns, drunks, an' loafers."
"An' squaw-men," added Bill. "Not a genooine miner in the whole
"Genooine miners like you an' me, Kink," he went on academically,
"is all out an' sweatin' hard over Birch Creek way. Not a genooine
miner in this whole crazy Dawson outfit, and I say right here, not
a step do I budge for any Carmack strike. I've got to see the
colour of the dust first."
"Same here," Mitchell agreed. "Let's have another drink."
Back to Full Books