Rasmunsen rolled the chopping-block into the cabin and carried in the eggs. He went about it quite calmly. He took up the hand-axe, and, one by one, chopped the eggs in half. These halves he examined carefully and let fall to the floor. At first he sampled from the different cases, then deliberately emptied one case at a time. The heap on the floor grew larger. The coffee boiled over and the smoke of the burning beefsteak filled the cabin. He chopped steadfastly and monotonously till the last case was finished.
Somebody knocked at the door, knocked again, and let himself in.
“What a mess!” he remarked, as he paused and surveyed the scene.
The severed eggs were beginning to thaw in the heat of the stove, and a miserable odour was growing stronger.
“Must a-happened on the steamer,” he suggested.
Rasmunsen looked at him long and blankly.
“I’m Murray, Big Jim Murray, everybody knows me,” the man volunteered. “I’m just hearin’ your eggs is rotten, and I’m offerin’ you two hundred for the batch. They ain’t good as salmon, but still they’re fair scoffin’s for dogs.”
Rasmunsen seemed turned to stone. He did not move. “You go to hell,” he said passionlessly.
“Now just consider. I pride myself it’s a decent price for a mess like that, and it’s better ‘n nothin’. Two hundred. What you say?”
“You go to hell,” Rasmunsen repeated softly, “and get out of here.”
Murray gaped with a great awe, then went out carefully, backward, with his eyes fixed an the other’s face.
Rasmunsen followed him out and turned the dogs loose. He threw them all the salmon he had bought, and coiled a sled-lashing up in his hand. Then he re-entered the cabin and drew the latch in after him. The smoke from the cindered steak made his eyes smart. He stood on the bunk, passed the lashing over the ridge-pole, and measured the swing-off with his eye. It did not seem to satisfy, for he put the stool on the bunk and climbed upon the stool. He drove a noose in the end of the lashing and slipped his head through. The other end he made fast. Then he kicked the stool out from under.
When John Fox came into a country where whisky freezes solid and may be used as a paper-weight for a large part of the year, he came without the ideals and illusions that usually hamper the progress of more delicately nurtured adventurers. Born and reared on the frontier fringe of the United States, he took with him into Canada a primitive cast of mind, an elemental simplicity and grip on things, as it were, that insured him immediate success in his new career. From a mere servant of the Hudson Bay Company, driving a paddle with the voyageurs and carrying goods on his back across the portages, he swiftly rose to a Factorship and took charge of a trading post at Fort Angelus.