“After all, they can do it.”
“So can we if we’ve a mind to,” said Mac.
“Come on, then.”
The camp tried hard to dissuade them. Naturally neither listened. They packed the Boy’s sled and set off on the morning of the third, to Kaviak’s unbounded surprise and disgust, his view of life being that, wherever Mac went, he was bound to follow. And he did follow—made off as hard as his swift little feet could carry him, straight up the Yukon trail, and Farva lost a good half of that first morning bringing him home.
Just eight days later the two men walked into the Cabin and sat down—Potts with a heart-rending groan, Mac with his jaw almost dislocated in his cast-iron attempt to set his face against defeat; their lips were cracked with the cold, their faces raw from frostbite, their eyes inflamed. The weather—they called it the weather—had been too much for them. It was obvious they hadn’t brought back any dogs, but—
“What did you think of Anvik?” says the Boy.
“Anvik? You don’t suppose we got to Anvik in weather like this!”
“How far did you get?”
Mac didn’t answer. Potts only groaned. He had frozen his cheek and his right hand.
They were doctored and put to bed.
“Did you see my friends at Holy Cross?” the Boy asked Potts when he brought him a bowl of hot bean-soup.
“You don’t suppose we got as far as Holy Cross, with the wind—”
“Well, where did you get to? Where you been?”
“Second native village above.”
“Why, that isn’t more’n sixteen miles.”
“Sixteen miles too far.”
Potts breathed long and deep between hot and comforting swallows.
“Where’s the Boy’s sled?” said the Colonel, coming in hurriedly.
“We cached it,” answered Potts feebly.
“Couldn’t even bring his sled home! Where’ve you cached it?”
“It’s all right—only a few miles back.”
Potts relinquished the empty soup-bowl, and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
When he opened them again late in the evening it was to say:
“Found some o’ those suckers who were goin’ so slick to Minook; some o’ them down at the second village, and the rest are winterin’ in Anvik, so the Indians say. Not a single son of a gun will see the diggins till the ice goes out.”
“Then, badly off as we are here,” says the Colonel to the Boy, “it’s lucky for us we didn’t join the procession.”
When Mac and the Boy brought the sled home a couple of days later, it was found that a portion of its cargo consisted of a toy kyak and two bottles of hootchino, the maddening drink concocted by the natives out of fermented dough and sugar.
Apart from the question of drinking raised again by the “hootch,” it is perhaps possible that, having so little else to do, they were ready to eat the more; it is also true that, busy or idle, the human body requires more nourishment in the North than it does in the South.