“And all to what end?” he demanded, hotly, throwing down the paper, “this disease of the agglutinated dust?”
Corliss yawned in reply. He had been on trail all day and was yearning for between-blankets.
“Here am I, Colonel Trethaway, modestly along in years, fairly well preserved, a place in the community, a comfortable bank account, no need to ever exert myself again, yet enduring life bleakly and working ridiculously with a zest worthy of a man half my years. And to what end? I can only eat so much, smoke so much, sleep so much, and this tail-dump of earth men call Alaska is the worst of all possible places in the matter of grub, tobacco, and blankets.”
“But it is the living strenuously which holds you,” Corliss interjected.
“Frona’s philosophy,” the colonel sneered.
“And my philosophy, and yours.”
“And of the agglutinated dust—”
“Which is quickened with a passion you do not take into account,—the passion of duty, of race, of God!”
“And the compensation?” Trethaway demanded.
“Each breath you draw. The Mayfly lives an hour.”
“I don’t see it.”
“Blood and sweat! Blood and sweat! You cried that after the rough and tumble in the Opera House, and every word of it was receipt in full.”
“And yours and mine.”
The colonel threw up his shoulders, and after a pause confessed. “You see, try as I will, I can’t make a pessimist out of myself. We are all compensated, and I more fully than most men. What end? I asked, and the answer forthcame: Since the ultimate end is beyond us, then the immediate. More compensation, here and now!”
“And rational. I shall look to it at once. I can buy grub and blankets for a score; I can eat and sleep for only one; ergo, why not for two?”
Corliss took his feet down and sat up. “In other words?”
“I shall get married, and—give the community a shock. Communities like shocks. That’s one of their compensations for being agglutinative.”
“I can’t think of but one woman,” Corliss essayed tentatively, putting out his hand.
Trethaway shook it slowly. “It is she.”
Corliss let go, and misgiving shot into his face. “But St. Vincent?”