“Not at all,” Corliss answered. “We’ve bored each other till we were pining for some one to come along. If you hadn’t, we would soon have been quarrelling, wouldn’t we, Miss Welse?”
“I don’t think he states the situation fairly,” she smiled back. “In fact, we had already begun to quarrel.”
“You do look a mite flustered,” Harney criticised, dropping his loose-jointed frame all over the pillows of the lounging couch.
“How’s the famine?” Corliss asked. “Any public relief started yet?”
“Won’t need any public relief. Miss Frona’s old man was too forehanded fer ’em. Scairt the daylights out of the critters, I do b’lieve. Three thousand went out over the ice hittin’ the high places, an’ half ez many again went down to the caches, and the market’s loosened some considerable. Jest what Welse figgered on, everybody speculated on a rise and held all the grub they could lay hand to. That helped scare the shorts, and away they stampeded fer Salt Water, the whole caboodle, a-takin’ all the dogs with ’em. Say!” he sat up solemnly, “corner dogs! They’ll rise suthin’ unheard on in the spring when freightin’ gits brisk. I’ve corralled a hundred a’ready, an’ I figger to clear a hundred dollars clean on every hide of ’em.”
“Think so! I guess yes. Between we three, confidential, I’m startin’ a couple of lads down into the Lower Country next week to buy up five hundred of the best huskies they kin spot. Think so! I’ve limbered my jints too long in the land to git caught nappin’.”
Frona burst out laughing. “But you got pinched on the sugar, Dave.”
“Oh, I dunno,” he responded, complacently. “Which reminds me. I’ve got a noospaper, an’ only four weeks’ old, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.”
“Has the United States and Spain—”
“Not so fast, not so fast!” The long Yankee waved his arms for silence, cutting off Frona’s question which was following fast on that of Corliss.
“But have you read it?” they both demanded.
“Unh huh, every line, advertisements an’ all.”
“Then do tell me,” Frona began. “Has—”
“Now you keep quiet, Miss Frona, till I tell you about it reg’lar. That noospaper cost me fifty dollars—caught the man comin’ in round the bend above Klondike City, an’ bought it on the spot. The dummy could a-got a hundred fer it, easy, if he’d held on till he made town—”
“But what does it say? Has—”
“Ez I was sayin’, that noospaper cost me fifty dollars. It’s the only one that come in. Everybody’s jest dyin’ to hear the noos. So I invited a select number of ’em to come here to yer parlors to-night, Miss Frona, ez the only likely place, an’ they kin read it out loud, by shifts, ez long ez they want or till they’re tired—that is, if you’ll let ’em have the use of the place.”
“Why, of course, they are welcome. And you are very kind to—”