Still, as they went forward, they looked back. The Big Chimney wore an air wondrous friendly, and the wide, white world looked coldly at them, with small pretence of welcome or reward.
“I don’t believe I ever really knew how awful jolly the Big Chimney was—till this minute.”
The Colonel smiled. “Hardly like myself, to think whatever else I see, I’ll never see that again.”
“Better not boast.”
The Colonel went on in front, breaking trail in the newfallen snow, the Boy pulling the sled behind him as lightly as if its double burden were a feather.
“They look as if they thought it’d be a picnic,” says Mac, grimly.
“I wonder be the Siven Howly Pipers! will we iver see ayther of ’em again.”
“If they only stay a couple o’ nights at Anvik,” said Potts, with gloomy foreboding, “they could get back here inside a week.”
“No,” answered Mac, following the two figures with serious eyes, “they may be dead inside a week, but they won’t be back here.”
And Potts felt his anxiety eased. A man who had mined at Caribou ought to know.
“We all went to Tibbals to see the Kinge, who used my mother and my aunt very gratiouslie; but we all saw a great chaunge betweene the fashion of the Court as it was now, and of y in ye Queene’s, for we were all lowzy by sittinge in Sr Thomas Erskin’s chamber.” Memoir: Anne Countess of Dorset, 1603.
It was the 26th of February, that first day that they “hit the Long Trail.”
Temperature only about twenty degrees, the Colonel thought, and so little wind it had the effect of being warmer. Trail in fair condition, weather gray and steady. Never men in better spirits. To have left the wrangling and the smouldering danger of the camp behind, that alone, as the Boy said, was “worth the price of admission.” Exhilarating, too, to men of their temperament, to have cut the Gordian knot of the difficulty by risking themselves on this unprecedented quest for peace and food. Gold, too? Oh, yes—with a smile to see how far that main object had drifted into the background—they added, “and for gold.”
They believed they had hearkened well to the counsel that bade them “travel light.” “Remember, every added ounce is against you.” “Nobody in the North owns anything that’s heavy,” had been said in one fashion or another so often that it lost its ironic sound in the ears of men who had come so far to carry away one of the heaviest things under the sun.
The Colonel and the Boy took no tent, no stove, not even a miner’s pick and pan. These last, General Lighter had said, could be obtained at Minook; and “there isn’t a cabin on the trail,” Dillon had added, “without ’em.”