“I think you must come and see us at Holy Cross—eh? Come soon;” and then, without waiting for an answer: “The Indians think these flitting lights are the souls of the dead at play. But Yagorsha says that long ago a great chief lived in the North who was a mighty hunter. It was always summer up here then, and the big chief chased the big game from one end of the year to another, from mountain to mountain and from river to sea. He killed the biggest moose with a blow of his fist, and caught whales with his crooked thumb for a hook. One long day in summer he’d had a tremendous chase after a wonderful bird, and he came home without it, deadbeat and out of temper. He lay down to rest, but the sunlight never winked, and the unending glare maddened him. He rolled, and tossed, and roared, as only the Yukon roars when the ice rushes down to the sea. But he couldn’t sleep. Then in an awful fury he got up, seized the day in his great hands, tore it into little bits, and tossed them high in the air. So it was dark. And winter fell on the world for the first time. During months and months, just to punish this great crime, there was no bright sunshine; but often in the long night, while the chief was wearying for summer to come again, he’d be tantalised by these little bits of the broken day that flickered in the sky. Coming, Andrew?” he called back.
The others trooped down-hill, dogs, sleds, and all. There was a great hand-shaking and good-byeing.
“You come Pymeut?”
“I should just pretty nearly think I would.”
“You dance heap good. Buttons no all done.” He put four little ivory crows into the Boy’s hands. They were rudely but cleverly carved, with eyes outlined in ink, and supplied under the breast with a neat inward-cut shank.
“Mighty fine!” The Boy examined them by the strange glow that brightened in the sky.
“Oh no, can’t do that.”
“Yes!” Nicholas spoke peremptorily. “Yukon men have big feast, must bring present. Me no got reindeer, me got button.” He grinned. “Goo’-bye.” And the last of the guests went his way.
* * * * *
It was only habit that kept the Colonel toasting by the fire before he turned in, for the cabin was as warm to-night as the South in mid-summer.
"Grasshoppah sett’n on a swee’ p’tater vine,"
The Boy droned sleepily as he untied the leathern thongs that kept up his muckluck legs—
"Swee’ p’tater vine, swee’ p’ta—“
“All those othahs”—the Colonel waved a hand in the direction of Pymeut—“I think we dreamed ’em, Boy. You and me playing the Big Game with Fohtune. Foolishness! Klondyke? Yoh crazy. Tell me the river’s hard as iron and the snow’s up to the windah? Don’ b’lieve a wo’d of it. We’re on some plantation, Boy, down South, in the niggah quawtaws.”