“How do you go?” asked the Colonel, as the two millionaires began putting on their things.
“We cut across to Kuskoquim. Take on an Indian guide there to Nushagak, and from there with dogs across the ocean ice to Kadiak.”
“Oh! the way the letters go out.”
“When they do,” smiled Dillon. “Yes, it’s the old Russian Post Trail, I believe. South of Kadiak Island the sea is said to be open as early as the first of March. We’ll get a steamer to Sitka, and from Sitka, of course, the boats run regular.”
“Seattle by the middle of March!” says the General. “Come along, Dillon; the sooner you get to Seattle, and blow in a couple o’ hundred thousand, the sooner you’ll get back to Minook.”
Dillon went out and roused up the dogs, asleep in the snow, with their bushy tails sheltering their sharp noses.
“See you later?”
“Outside? No, sir! Inside.”
Dillon swore a blood-curdling string of curses and cracked his whip over the leader.
“Why, you comin’ back?”
“Bet your life!”
And nobody who looked at the face of the Yukon pioneer could doubt he meant what he said.
They went indoors. The cabin wore an unwonted and a rakish air. The stools seemed to have tried to dance the lancers and have fallen out about the figure. Two were overturned. The unwashed dishes were tossed helter-skelter. A tipsy Christmas tree leaned in drunken fashion against the wall, and under its boughs lay a forgotten child asleep. On the other side of the cabin an empty whisky bottle caught a ray of light from the fire, and glinted feebly back. Among the ashes on the hearth was a screw of paper, charred at one end, and thrown there after lighting someone’s pipe. The Boy opened it. The famous programme of the Yukon Symposium!
“It’s been a different sort of Christmas from what we planned,” observed the Colonel, not quite as gaily as you might expect.
“Begob!” says O’Flynn, stretching out his interminable legs; “ye can’t say we haven’t hearrd Glad Tidings of gr-reat j’y—”
“Colonel,” interrupts the Boy, throwing the Programme in the fire, “let’s look at your nugget again.”
And they all took turns. Except Potts. He was busy digging the remaining gold-grains out of the crack and the knothole.
A CHRISTIAN AGNOSTIC
“—giver mig Rum!
Himlen bar Stjerner Natten er stum.”
It was a good many days before they got the dazzle of that gold out of their eyes. They found their tongues again, and talked “Minook” from morning till night among themselves and with the rare passer up or down the trail.
Mac began to think they might get dogs at Anvik, or at one of the Ingalik villages, a little further on. The balance of opinion in the camp was against this view. But he had Potts on his side. When the New Year opened, the trail was in capital condition. On the second of January two lots of Indians passed, one with dogs hauling flour and bacon for Benham, and the other lot without dogs, dragging light hand-sleds. Potts said restlessly: