“Raise the stone, and ye shall find me; cleave the wood, and there am I.”
The stars were shining frostily, in a clear sky, when the Boy crawled out from under his snow-drift in the morning. He built up the fire, quaking in the bitter air, and bustled the breakfast.
“You seem to be in something of a hurry,” said the Colonel, with a yawn stifled in a shiver.
“We haven’t come on this trip to lie abed in the morning,” his pardner returned with some solemnity. “I don’t care how soon I begin caperin’ ahead with that load again.”
“Well, it’ll be warmin’, anyway,” returned the Colonel, “and I can’t say as much for your fire.”
It was luck that the first forty miles of the trail had already been traversed by the Boy. He kept recognising this and that in the landscape, with an effect of good cheer on both of them. It postponed a little the realization of their daring in launching themselves upon the Arctic waste, without a guide or even a map that was of the smallest use.
Half an hour after setting off, they struck into the portage. Even with a snow-blurred trail, the Boy’s vivid remembrance of the other journey gave them the sustaining sense that they were going right. The Colonel was working off the surprising stiffness with which he had wakened, and they were both warm now; but the Colonel’s footsoreness was considerable, an affliction, besides, bound to be worse before it was better.
The Boy spoke with the old-timer’s superiority, of his own experience, and was so puffed up, at the bare thought of having hardened his feet, that he concealed without a qualm the fact of a brand-new blister on his heel. A mere nothing that, not worth mentioning to anyone who remembered the state he was in at the end of that awful journey of penitence.
It was well on in the afternoon before it began to snow again, and they had reached the frozen lake. The days were lengthening, and they still had good light by which to find the well-beaten trail on the other side.
“Now in a minute we’ll hear the mission dogs. What did I tell you?” Out of the little wood, a couple of teams were coming, at a good round pace. They were pulled up at the waterhole, and the mission natives ran on to meet the new arrivals. They recognised the Boy, and insisted on making the Colonel, who was walking very lame, ride to the mission in the strongest sled, and they took turns helping the dogs by pushing from behind. The snow was falling heavily again, and one of the Indians, Henry, looking up with squinted eyes, said, “There’ll be nothing left of that walrus-tusk.”
“Hey?” inquired the Boy, straining at his sled-rope and bending before the blast. “What’s that?”
“Don’t you know what makes snow?” said Henry.
“No. What does?”
“Ivory whittlings. When they get to their carving up yonder then we have snow.”