“But you can’t, Muckluck. You can’t find the trail.”
“I tell you before, I not like your girls. I can go in winter as good as summer. I can hunt!” She turned on him fiercely. “Once I hunt a owel. Ketch him, too!” She sniffed back her tears. “I can do all kinds.”
“No, you can’t hunt Orange Groves,” he said, with a severity that might seem excessive. “But I can’t let you go off in this snowstorm—”
“He soon stop. Goo’-bye.”
Never word of sweeter import in his ears than that. But he was far from satisfied with his conduct all the same. It was quite possible that the Pymeuts, discovering her absence, would think he had lured her away, and there might be complications. So it was with small fervour that he said: “Muckluck, I wish you’d come back and wait till morning.”
“No, I go now.” She was in the act of darting forward on those snow-shoes, that she used so skillfully, when some sudden thought cried halt. She even stopped crying. “I no like go near blow-hole by night. I keep to trail—”
“But how the devil do you do it?”
She paid no heed to the interruption, seeming busy in taking something over her head from round her neck.
“To-morrow,” she said, lowering her tear-harshened voice, “you find blow-hole. You give this to Yukon Inua—say I send it. He will not hate you any more.” She burst into a fresh flood of tears. In a moment the dim sight of her, the faint trail of crying left in her wake, had so wholly vanished that, but for the bit of string, as it seemed to be, left in his half-frozen hands, he could almost have convinced himself he had dreamt the unwelcome visit.
The half-shut eye of the camp fire gleamed cheerfully, as he ran back, and crouched down where poor little Muckluck had knelt, so sure of a welcome. Muckluck, cogitated the Boy, will believe more firmly than ever that, if a man doesn’t beat a girl, he doesn’t mean business. What was it he had wound round one hand? What was it dangling in the acrid smoke? That, then—her trinket, the crowning ornament of her Holy Cross holiday attire, that was what she was offering the old ogre of the Yukon—for his unworthy sake. He stirred up the dying fire to see it better. A woman’s face—some Catholic saint? He held the medal lower to catch the fitful blaze. “D. G. Autocratrix Russorum.” The Great Katharine! Only a little crown on her high-rolled hair, and her splendid chest all uncovered to the Arctic cold.
Her Yukon subjects must have wondered that she wore no parki—this lady who had claimed sole right to all the finest sables found in her new American dominions. On the other side of the medal, Minerva, with a Gorgon-furnished shield and a beautiful bone-tipped harpoon, as it looked, with a throwing-stick and all complete. But she, too, would strike the Yukon eye as lamentably chilly about the legs. How had these ladies out of Russia and Olympus come to lodge in Ol’ Chief’s ighloo? Had Glovotsky won this guerdon at Great Katharine’s hands? Had he brought it on that last long journey of his to Russian America, and left it to his Pymeut children with his bones? Well, Yukon Inua should not have it yet. The Boy thrust the medal into a pocket of his chaparejos, and crawled into his snow-covered bed.