The answer came rushing back:
“Thank God! Am starting north tomorrow. Love and a million kisses. Wait for me.”
Folsom came. Neither ice nor snow, neither winter seas nor trackless wastes, could daunt him, for youth was in his heart and fire ran through his veins. North and west he came by a rimy little steamer, as fast as coal could drive her, then overland more than fifteen hundred miles. His record stands unbroken, and in villages from Katmai to the Kuskokwim the Indians tell of the tall white man with the team of fifteen huskies who raced through as if a demon were at his heels; how he bored headlong into the blizzards and braved January’s fiercest rage; how his guides dropped and his dogs died in their collars. That was how Folsom came.
He was thin and brown, the marks of the frost were bitten deep into his flesh when, one evening in early March, he drove into Nome. He had covered sixty miles on the last day’s run, and his team was staggering. He left the dogs in their harnesses, where they fell, and bounded through the high-banked streets to Lois’s cabin.
It was growing dark, a light gleamed from her window; Folsom glimpsed her moving about inside. He paused to rip the ice from his bearded lips, then he knocked softly, three times.
As he stood there a gentle north wind fanned him. It was deadly cold, but it was fresh and clean and vastly invigorating. There was no malice in it.
At his familiar signal he heard the clatter of a dish, dropped from nerveless fingers, he heard a startled voice cry out his name, then he pressed the latch and entered, smiling.
“The science of salesmanship is quite as exact as the science of astronomy,” said Mr. Gross, casting his eyes down the table to see that he had the attention of the other boarders, “and much more intricate. The successful salesman is as much an artist in his line as the man who paints pictures or writes books.”
“Oh, there’s nothing so artistic as writing books,” protested Miss Harris, the manicurist. “Nothing except acting, perhaps. Actors are artistic, too. But salesmen! I meet lots in my business, and I’m not strong for them.”
Mr. Gross smiled at her indulgently; it was an expression that became him well, and he had rehearsed it often.
“The power to sell goods is a talent, my dear Miss Harris, just like the power to invent machinery or to rule a city, or—or—to keep a set of books. Don’t you agree with me, Mrs. Green?”
Mrs. Green, the landlady, a brown, gray woman in black, smiled frigidly. “You’re so original, Mr. Gross,” said she, “it’s a pleasure to hear you, I’m sure.”
Gross was an impressive talker, due to the fact that he plagiarized office platitudes; he ran on pompously, dropping trade mottoes and shop-worn bits of philosophy until young Mitchell, unable longer to endure the light of admiration he saw in Miss Harris’s eyes, rolled up his napkin to the size of a croquette and interrupted by noisily shoving back his chair and muttering under his breath: