“Oh, that kind o’ case don’t take a feller like Corey long.”
“What’s the decision?”
“Prisoner discharged. Charlie Le Gros committed suicide.”
“—by goin’ with his gun to Butts’ shack lookin’ f trouble.”
THE ICE GOES OUT
“I am apart of all that I have seen.”
It had been thawing and freezing, freezing and thawing, for so long that men lost account of the advance of a summer coming, with such balked, uncertain steps. Indeed, the weather variations had for several weeks been so great that no journey, not the smallest, could be calculated with any assurance. The last men to reach Minook were two who had made a hunting and prospecting trip to an outlying district. They had gone there in six days, and were nineteen in returning.
The slush was waist-deep in the gulches. On the benches, in the snow, holes appeared, as though red-hot stones had been thrown upon the surface. The little settlement by the mouth of the Minook sat insecurely on the boggy hillside, and its inhabitants waded knee-deep in soaking tundra moss and mire.
And now, down on the Never-Know-What, water was beginning to run on the marginal ice. Up on the mountains the drifted snow was honey-combed. Whole fields of it gave way and sunk a foot under any adventurous shoe. But although these changes had been wrought slowly, with backsets of bitter nights, when everything was frozen hard as flint, the illusion was general that summer came in with a bound. On the 9th of May, Minook went to bed in winter, and woke to find the snow almost gone under the last nineteen hours of hot, unwinking sunshine, and the first geese winging their way up the valley—sight to stir men’s hearts. Stranger still, the eight months’ Arctic silence broken suddenly by a thousand voices. Under every snow-bank a summer murmur, very faint at first, but hourly louder—the sound of falling water softly singing over all the land.
As silence had been the distinguishing feature of the winter, so was noise the sign of the spring. No ear so dull but now was full of it. All the brooks on all the hills, tinkling, tumbling, babbling of some great and universal joy, all the streams of all the gulches joining with every little rill to find the old way, or to carve a new, back to the Father of Waters.
And the strange thing had happened on the Yukon. The shore-edges of the ice seemed sunken, and the water ran yet deeper there. But of a certainty the middle part had risen! The cheechalkos thought it an optical illusion. But old Brandt from Forty-Mile had seen the ice go out for two-and-twenty years, and he said it went out always so—“humps his back, an’ gits up gits, and when he’s a gitten’, jest look out!” Those who, in spite of warning, ventured in hip-boots down on the Never-Know-What, found that, in places, the under side of the ice was worn nearly through. If you bent your head and listened, you could plainly hear that greater music of the river running underneath, low as yet, but deep, and strangely stirring—dominating in the hearer’s ears all the clear, high clamour from gulch and hill.