He dreamed quaint dreams, broken by the chilling lash of spray from the strokes of the others, as they drove the craft back against the wind, and he only partly awoke from his lethargy when George wrenched him from his seat and forced him down the rough trail toward warmth and safety.
Soon, however, the stagnant blood tingled through his veins, and under the shelter of the bluffs they reached the village, where they found the anxious men waiting.
Skilful natives had worked the frost from Sullivan’s members, and the stimulants in the sled had put new life into Barton as well. So, as the three crawled wearily through the dog-filled tunnel of the egloo, they were met by two wet-eyed and thankful men, who silently wrung their hands or uttered broken words.
When they had been despoiled of their frozen furs, and the welcome heat of whisky and fire had met in their blood, Captain approached the whaler, who rested beside his mate.
“George, you’re the bravest man I ever knew, and your woman is worthy of you,” he said. He continued slowly, “I’m sorry about the fight this morning, too.”
The big man rose and, crushing the extended palm in his grasp, said: “We’ll just let that go double, partner. You’re as game as I ever see.” Then he added: “It was too bad them fellers interferred jest when they did—but we can finish it up whenever you say,” and as the other, smiling, shook his head, he continued:
“Well, I’m glad of it, ’cause you’d sure beat me the next time.”
The Mission House at Togiak stands forlornly on a wind-swept Alaskan spit, while huddled around it a swarm of dirt-covered “igloos” grovel in an ecstacy of abasement.
Many natives crawled out of these and stared across the bay as down a gully came an Arctic caravan, men and dogs, black against, the deadly whiteness. Ahead swung the guide, straddling awkwardly on his five foot webs, while the straining pack pattered at his heels. Big George, the driver, urged them with strong words, idioms of the Northland, and his long whip bit sharply at their legs.
His companion, clinging to the sled, stumbled now and then, while his face, splitting from the snap of the frost, was smothered in a muffler. Sometimes he fell, plunging into the snow, rising painfully, and groaning with the misery of “snow-blindness.”
“Most there now. Cap, keep up your grit.”
“I’m all right,” answered the afflicted man, wearily. “Don’t mind me.”
George, too, had suffered from the sheen of the unbroken whiteness, and, while his eyes had not wholly closed, he saw but dimly. His cheeks were grease-smeared, and blackened with charred wood to break the snow-glare, but through his mask showed signs of suffering, while his blood-shot eyes dripped scalding tears and throbbed distressfully. For days he had not dared to lose sight of the guide. Once he had caught him sneaking the dogs away, and he feared he had killed the man for a time. Now Jaska broke trail ahead, his sullen, swollen features baleful in their injury.