“Yes, sah,” the Colonel thundered again, “all that have got good fightin’ blood in ’em, like you and me. ’Tisn’t as if we came of any worn-out, frightened, servile old stock. You and I belong to the free-livin’, hard-ridin’, straight-shootin’ Southerners. The people before us fought bears, and fought Indians, and beat the British, and when there wasn’t anything else left to beat, turned round and began to beat one another. It was the one battle we found didn’t pay. We finished that job up in ‘65, and since then we’ve been lookin’ round for something else to beat. We’ve got down now to beatin’ records, and foreign markets, and breedin’ prize bulls; but we don’t breed cowards—yet; and we ain’t lookin’ round for any asylums. The Catholic Church is an asylum. It’s for people who never had any nerve, or who have lost it.”
The Colonel turned about, wagged his head defiantly at the icy hills and the night, and in the after-stillness fell sound asleep in the snow.
THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE
“—paa dit Firmament
Den klare Nordlyslampe taendt....”
Innocently thinking that they had seen Arctic travelling at its worst, and secretly looking upon themselves as highly accomplished trailmen, they had covered the forty-one miles from Holy Cross to Anvik in less than three days.
The Colonel made much of the pleasant and excellent man at the head of the Episcopal mission there, and the Boy haunted Benham’s store, picking up a little Ingalik and the A. C. method of trading with the Indians, who, day and night, with a number of stranded Klondykers, congregated about the grateful warmth of the big iron stove.
The travellers themselves did some business with the A. C. agent, laying in supplies of fresh meat, and even augmenting their hitherto carefully restricted outfit, for they were going far beyond the reach of stores, or even of missions. Anvik was the last white settlement below Nulato; Nulato was said to be over two hundred miles to the northward.
And yet after all their further preparation and expense, each man kept saying in his heart, during those first days out from Anvik, that the journey would be easy enough but for their “comforts”—the burden on the sled. By all the rules of arithmetic, the daily subtraction of three meals from the store should have lightened the load. It seemed to have the opposite effect. By some process of evil enchantment every ounce grew to weigh a pound, every pound a hundredweight. The sled itself was bewitched. Recall how lightsomely it ran down the snowy slope, from the Big Chimney Cabin to the river trail, that morning they set forth. The Boy took its pretty impetuosity for a happy augury—the very sled was eager for the mighty undertaking.