The Boy had jumped up nimbly. “I told you his father has a lot of furs.”
“No,” says Nicholas; “this belong white man.”
“Ha,” says Mac excitedly, “I thought I’d seen it before. Tell us how you got it.”
“Me leave St. Michael; me got ducks, reindeer meat—oh, plenty kow-kow! [Footnote: Food] Two sleeps away St. Michael me meet Indian. Heap hungry. Him got bully coat.” Nicholas picked it up off the floor. “Him got no kow-kow. Him say, ’Give me duck, give me back-fat. You take coat, him too heavy.’ Me say, ‘Yes.’”
“But how did he get the coat?”
“Him say two white men came down river on big ice.”
“Men sick.” He tapped his forehead. “Man no sick, he no go down with the ice”; and Nicholas shuddered. “Before Ikogimeut, ice jam. Indian see men jump one big ice here, more big ice here, and one... go down. Indian”—Nicholas imitated throwing out a line—“man tie mahout round—but—big ice come—” Nicholas dashed his hands together, and then paused significantly. “Indian sleep there. Next day ice hard. Indian go little way out to see. Man dead. Him heap good coat,” he wound up unemotionally, and proceeded to put it on.
“And the other white man—what became of him?”
Nicholas shrugged: “Kaiomi,” though it was plain he knew well enough the other lay under the Yukon ice.
“And that—that was the end of the fellows who went by jeering at us!”
“We’d better not crow yet,” said Mac. And they bade Prince Nicholas and his heathen retinue good-bye in a mood chastened not by prayer alone.
“There is a sort of moral climate in a household.”—JOHN MORLEY.
No idle ceremony this, but the great problem of the dwellers in the country of the Yukon.
The Colonel and the Boy made up their minds that, whatever else they had or had not, they would have a warm house to live in. And when they had got it, they would have a “Blow-out” to celebrate the achievement.
“We’ll invite Nicholas,” says the Boy. “I’ll go to Pymeut myself, and let him know we are going to have ’big fire, big feed. Oh, heap big time!’”
If the truth were told, it had been a difficult enough matter to keep away from Pymeut since the hour Nicholas had vanished in that direction; but until winter quarters were made, and until they were proved to be warm, there was no time for the amenities of life.
The Big Cabin (as it was quite seriously called, in contradistinction to the hut of the Trio) consisted of a single room, measuring on the outside sixteen feet by eighteen feet.
The walls of cotton-wood logs soared upward to a level of six feet, and this height was magnificently increased in the middle by the angle of the mildly gable roof. But before the cabin was breast-high the Boy had begun to long for a window.