“Now let us ease up,” Corliss advised, as they slipped into an eddy and drifted with the back-tide under the great wall of rim-ice.
“Who would think it mid-May?” She glanced up at the carelessly poised cakes. “Does it seem real to you, Vance?”
He shook his head.
“Nor to me. I know that I, Frona, in the flesh, am here, in a Peterborough, paddling for dear life with two men; year of our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, Alaska, Yukon River; this is water, that is ice; my arms are tired, my heart up a few beats, and I am sweating,—and yet it seems all a dream. Just think! A year ago I was in Paris!” She drew a deep breath and looked out over the water to the further shore, where Jacob Welse’s tent, like a snowy handkerchief, sprawled against the deep green of the forest. “I do not believe there is such a place,” she added. “There is no Paris.”
“And I was in London a twelvemonth past,” Corliss meditated. “But I have undergone a new incarnation. London? There is no London now. It is impossible. How could there be so many people in the world? This is the world, and we know of fact that there are very few people in it, else there could not be so much ice and sea and sky. Tommy, here, I know, thinks fondly of a place he calls Toronto. He mistakes. It exists only in his mind,—a memory of a former life he knew. Of course, he does not think so. That is but natural; for he is no philosopher, nor does he bother—”
“Wheest, will ye!” Tommy fiercely whispered. “Your gabble’ll bring it doon aboot oor heads.”
Life is brief in the Northland, and fulfilment ever clutters the heels of prophecy. A premonitory tremor sighed down the air, and the rainbow wall swayed above them. The three paddles gripped the water with common accord. La Bijou leaped out from under. Broadside after broadside flared and crashed, and a thousand frigid tons thundered down behind them. The displaced water surged outward in a foamy, upstanding circle, and La Bijou, striving wildly to rise, ducked through the stiff overhang of the crest and wallowed, half-full, in the trough.
“Dinna I tell ye, ye gabbling fules!”
“Sit still, and bail!” Corliss checked him sharply. “Or you’ll not have the comfort of telling us anything.”
He shook his head at Frona, and she winked back; then they both chuckled, much like children over an escapade which looks disastrous but turns out well.
Creeping timidly under the shadow of the impending avalanches, La Bijou slipped noiselessly up the last eddy. A corner of the bluff rose savagely from the river—a monstrous mass of naked rock, scarred and battered of the centuries; hating the river that gnawed it ever; hating the rain that graved its grim face with unsightly seams; hating the sun that refused to mate with it, whereof green life might come forth and hide its hideousness. The whole force of the river hurled in against it, waged furious war along its battlements, and caromed off into mid-stream again. Down all its length the stiff waves stood in serried rows, and its crevices and water-worn caverns were a-bellow with unseen strife.