Mac suddenly sat down on the stool with his head in his hands.
“The Boy hasn’t caught on,” said the Colonel presently, “but he said something this morning to show he was wondering about the change that’s come over you.”
“That I don’t split wood all day, I suppose, when we’ve got enough for a month. Potts doesn’t either. Why don’t you go for Potts?”
“As the Boy said, I don’t care about Potts. It’s Mac that matters.”
“Did the Boy say that?” He looked up.
The Colonel nodded.
“After you had made that chimney, you know, you were a kind of hero in his eyes.”
Mac looked away. “The cabin’s been cold,” he muttered.
“We are going to remedy that.”
“I didn’t bring any liquor into camp. You must admit that I didn’t intend—”
“I do admit it.”
“And when O’Flynn said that about keeping his big demijohn out of the inventory and apart from the common stores, I sat on him.”
“So you did.”
“I knew it was safest to act on the ‘medicinal purposes’ principle.”
“So it is.”
“But I wasn’t thinking so much of O’Flynn. I was thinking of ... things that had happened before ... for ... I’d had experience. Drink was the curse of Caribou. It’s something of a scourge up in Nova Scotia ... I’d had experience.”
“You did the very best thing possible under the circumstances.” Mac was feeling about after his self-respect, and must be helped to get hold of it. “I realise, too, that the temptation is much greater in cold countries,” said the Kentuckian unblushingly. “Italians and Greeks don’t want fiery drinks half as much as Russians and Scandinavians—haven’t the same craving as Nova Scotians and cold-country people generally, I suppose. But that only shows, temperance is of more vital importance in the North.”
“That’s right! It’s not much in my line to shift blame, even when I don’t deserve it; but you know so much you might as well know ... it wasn’t I who opened that demijohn first.”
“But you don’t mind being the one to shut it up—do you?”
“Shut it up?”
“Yes; let’s get it down and—” The Colonel swung it off the shelf. It was nearly empty, and only the Boy’s and the Colonel’s single bottles stood unbroached. Even so, Mac’s prolonged spree was something of a mystery to the Kentuckian. It must be that a very little was too much for Mac. The Colonel handed the demijohn to his companion, and lit the solitary candle standing on its little block of wood, held in place between three half-driven nails.
“What’s that for?”
“Don’t you want to seal it up?”
“I haven’t got any wax.”
“I have an inch or so.” The Colonel produced out of his pocket the only piece in camp.
Mac picked up a billet of wood, and drove the cork in flush with the neck. Then, placing upright on the cork the helve of the hammer, he drove the cork down a quarter of an inch farther.