She blew through the gap of the pass in a whirlwind of vapor, with hand and foot clambered down the volcanic ruin of Chilcoot’s mighty father, and stood on the bleak edge of the lake which filled the pit of the crater. The lake was angry and white-capped, and though a hundred caches were waiting ferriage, no boats were plying back and forth. A rickety skeleton of sticks, in a shell of greased canvas, lay upon the rocks. Frona sought out the owner, a bright-faced young fellow, with sharp black eyes and a salient jaw. Yes, he was the ferryman, but he had quit work for the day. Water too rough for freighting. He charged twenty-five dollars for passengers, but he was not taking passengers to-day. Had he not said it was too rough? That was why.
“But you will take me, surely?” she asked.
He shook his head and gazed out over the lake. “At the far end it’s rougher than you see it here. Even the big wooden boats won’t tackle it. The last that tried, with a gang of packers aboard, was blown over on the west shore. We could see them plainly. And as there’s no trail around from there, they’ll have to camp it out till the blow is over.”
“But they’re better off than I am. My camp outfit is at Happy Camp, and I can’t very well stay here,” Frona smiled winsomely, but there was no appeal in the smile; no feminine helplessness throwing itself on the strength and chivalry of the male. “Do reconsider and take me across.”
“I’ll give you fifty.”
“No, I say.”
“But I’m not afraid, you know.”
The young fellow’s eyes flashed angrily. He turned upon her suddenly, but on second thought did not utter the words forming on his lips. She realized the unintentional slur she had cast, and was about to explain. But on second thought she, too, remained silent; for she read him, and knew that it was perhaps the only way for her to gain her point. They stood there, bodies inclined to the storm in the manner of seamen on sloped decks, unyieldingly looking into each other’s eyes. His hair was plastered in wet ringlets on his forehead, while hers, in longer wisps, beat furiously about her face.
“Come on, then!” He flung the boat into the water with an angry jerk, and tossed the oars aboard. “Climb in! I’ll take you, but not for your fifty dollars. You pay the regulation price, and that’s all.”
A gust of the gale caught the light shell and swept it broadside for a score of feet. The spray drove inboard in a continuous stinging shower, and Frona at once fell to work with the bailing-can.
“I hope we’re blown ashore,” he shouted, stooping forward to the oars. “It would be embarrassing—for you.” He looked up savagely into her face.
“No,” she modified; “but it would be very miserable for both of us,—a night without tent, blankets, or fire. Besides, we’re not going to blow ashore.”