“Didn’t know it till you told me,” growled the Colonel.
“I thought you didn’t. Makes a difference, doesn’t it?”
“You needn’t think,” says the Colonel a little defiantly, “that I’ve weakened on the main point just because I choose to give Nig a few cracker crumbs. If it’s a question between a man’s life and a dog’s life, only a sentimental fool would hesitate.”
“I’m not talking about that; we can get fish now. What I’m pointin’ out is that Nig didn’t fly at you for nothin’.”
“He’s got a devil of a temper, that dog.”
“It’s just like Nicholas of Pymeut said.” The Boy sat up, eager in his advocacy and earnest as a judge. “Nicholas of Pymeut said: ’You treat a Siwash like a heathen, and he’ll show you what a hell of a heathen he can be.’”
“Oh, go to sleep.”
“I’m goin’, Colonel.”
“For whatever... may come to pass, it lies with me to have it serve me.”—EPICTETUS.
The Indians guided them back to the trail. The Colonel and the Boy made good speed to Novikakat, laid in supplies at Korkorines, heard the first doubtful account of Minook at Tanana, and pushed on. Past camps Stoneman and Woodworth, where the great Klondyke Expeditions lay fast in the ice; along the white strip of the narrowing river, pent in now between mountains black with scant, subarctic timber, or gray with fantastic weather-worn rock—on and on, till they reached the bluffs of the Lower Ramparts.
Here, at last, between the ranks of the many-gabled heights, Big Minook Creek meets Father Yukon. Just below the junction, perched jauntily on a long terrace, up above the frozen riverbed, high and dry, and out of the coming trouble when river and creek should wake—here was the long, log-built mining town, Minook, or Rampart, for the name was still undetermined in the spring of 1898.
It was a great moment.
“Shake, pardner,” said the Boy. The Colonel and he grasped hands. Only towering good spirits prevented their being haughty, for they felt like conquerors, and cared not a jot that they looked like gaol-birds.
It was two o’clock in the morning. The Gold Nugget Saloon was flaring with light, and a pianola was perforating a tune. The travellers pushed open a frosted door, and looked into a long, low, smoke-veiled room, hung with many kerosene lamps, and heated by a great red-hot iron stove.
“Hello!” said a middle-aged man in mackinaws, smoking near the door-end of the bar.
“Hello! Is Blandford Keith here? There are some letters for him.”
“Say, boys!” the man in mackinaws shouted above the pianola, “Windy Jim’s got in with the mail.”
The miners lounging at the bar and sitting at the faro-tables looked up laughing, and seeing the strangers through the smoke-haze, stopped laughing to stare.