“‘Call me “brother,” Moosu—call me “brother,"’ I chided, lifting him to his feet with the toe of my moccasin. ‘Wilt thou evermore obey?’
“‘Yea, master,’ he whimpered, ‘evermore.’
“‘Then dispose thy body, so, across the sled,’ I shifted the dogwhip to my right hand. ’And direct thy face downwards, toward the snow. And make haste, for we journey south this day.’ And when he was well fixed I laid the lash upon him, reciting, at every stroke, the wrongs he had done me. ’This for thy disobedience in general—whack! And this for thy disobedience in particular—whack! whack! And this for Esanetuk! And this for thy soul’s welfare! And this for the grace of thy authority! And this for Kluktu! And this for thy rights God-given! And this for thy fat firstlings! And this and this for thy income-tax and thy loaves and fishes! And this for all thy disobedience! And this, finally, that thou mayest henceforth walk softly and with understanding! Now cease thy sniffling and get up! Gird on thy snowshoes and go to the fore and break trail for the dogs. Chook! Mush-on! Git!’”
Thomas Stevens smiled quietly to himself as he lighted his fifth cigar and sent curling smoke-rings ceilingward.
“But how about the people of Tattarat?” I asked. “Kind of rough, wasn’t it, to leave them flat with famine?”
And he answered, laughing, between two smoke-rings, “Were there not the fat dogs?”
“Tell you what we’ll do; we’ll shake for it.”
“That suits me,” said the second man, turning, as he spoke, to the Indian that was mending snowshoes in a corner of the cabin. “Here, you Billebedam, take a run down to Oleson’s cabin like a good fellow, and tell him we want to borrow his dice box.”
This sudden request in the midst of a council on wages of men, wood, and grub surprised Billebedam. Besides, it was early in the day, and he had never known white men of the calibre of Pentfield and Hutchinson to dice and play till the day’s work was done. But his face was impassive as a Yukon Indian’s should be, as he pulled on his mittens and went out the door.
Though eight o’clock, it was still dark outside, and the cabin was lighted by a tallow candle thrust into an empty whisky bottle. It stood on the pine-board table in the middle of a disarray of dirty tin dishes. Tallow from innumerable candles had dripped down the long neck of the bottle and hardened into a miniature glacier. The small room, which composed the entire cabin, was as badly littered as the table; while at one end, against the wall, were two bunks, one above the other, with the blankets turned down just as the two men had crawled out in the morning.