“Good Hell! We’re takin’ ye to Bethel and a doctor in ten minutes. A week’s travel as the trail goes, but we’ll save a chunk of ye yet, old man.”
Five days later a broken team crawled over the snow to the Moravian Mission, urged by two men gaunt from the trail, and blistered by the cold. From the sledge came shrieks and throaty mutterings, horrid gabblings of post-freezing madness and Dr. Forrest, lifting back the robe, found Orloff lashed into his couch.
“Five days from Togiak. Two hundred miles in heavy trails,” explained George wearily, as the cries of the maniac dimmed behind the log walls.
Two hours later Forrest spoke gravely as they nursed their frost bites in his room.
“We have operated. He will recover.”
“It’s a sad, sad day,"’ mourned George. “It just takes the taste out of everything for me. He’s a cripple now, eh ?”
“Yes! Helpless! I did not know Father Orloff had many—er—friends hereabout,” continued the doctor. “He was thought to be hated by the whites. I’m glad the report was wrong.”
“Friends be damned,” said the other strongly. “What’s a friend? Ye can get them any place, but where can ye find another enemy like that man?”
Coming down coast from the Kotzebue country they stumbled onto the little camp in the early winter, and as there was food a plenty, of its kind, whereas they had subsisted for some days on puree of seal oil and short ribs of dog, Captain and Big George decided to winter. A maxim of the north teaches to cabin by a grub-pile.
It was an odd village they beheld that first day. Instead of the clean moss-chinked log shelters men were wont to build in this land, they found the community housed like marmots in holes and burrows.
It seemed that the troop had landed, fresh from the States, a hundred and a quarter strong, hot with the lust for gold, yet shaken by the newspaper horrors of Alaska’s rigorous hardships and forbidding climate.
Debouching in the early fall, they had hastily prepared for an Associated Press-painted Arctic winter.
Had they been forced to winter in the mountains of Idaho, or among Montana’s passes, they would have prepared simply and effectively. Here, however, in a mystic land, surrounded by the unknown, they grew panic stricken and lost their wits.
Thus, when the two “old timers” came upon them in the early winter they found them in bomb-proof hovels, sunk into the muck, banked with log walls, and thatched over with dirt and sod.
“Where are your windows and ventilators?” they were asked, and collectively the camp laughed at the question. They knew how to keep snug and warm even if half-witted “sourdoughs” didn’t. They weren’t taking any chances on freezing, not on your tin-type, no outdoor work and exposure for them!