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
Debouching in the early fall, they
had hastily prepared for an Associated Press-painted
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!
As the winter settled, they snuggled
back, ate three meals and more daily of bacon, beans,
and baking-powder bread; playing cribbage for an appetite.
They undertook no exercise more violent than seven-up,
while the wood-cutting fell as a curse upon those unfortunates
who lost at the game. They giggled at Captain
and the big whaler who daily, snow or blow, hit the
trail or wielded pick and shovel.
However, as the two maintained their
practice, the camp grew to resent their industry,
and, as is possible only in utterly idle communities,
there sprung up a virulence totally out of proportion,
and, founded without reason, most difficult to dispel.
Before they knew it, the two were disliked and distrusted;
their presence ignored; their society shunned.
Captain had talked to many in the
camp. “You’ll get scurvy, sure,
living in these dark houses. They’re damp
and dirty, and you don’t exercise. Besides,
there isn’t a pound of fresh grub in camp.”
Figuratively, the camp’s nose
had tilted at this, and it stated pompously that it
were better to preserve its classic purity of features
and pro rata of toes, than to jeopardize these adjuncts
through fear of a possible blood disease.
“Blood disease, eh?”
George snorted like a sea-lion. “Wait till
your legs get black and you spit your teeth out like
plum-pits mebbe you’ll listen then.
It’ll come, see if it don’t.”
He was right. Yet when the plague
did grip the camp and men died, one in five, they
failed to rise to it. Instead of fighting manfully
they lapsed into a frightened, stubborn coma.
There was one, and only one, who did
not. Klusky the Jew; Klusky the pariah.
They said he worked just to be ornery and different
from the rest, he hated them so. They enjoyed
baiting him to witness his fury. It sated that
taint of Roman cruelty inherent in the man of ignorance.
He was all the amusement they had, for it wasn’t
policy to stir up the two others they might
slop over and clean up the village. So they
continued to goad him as they had done since leaving
’Frisco. They gibed and jeered till he
shunned them, living alone in the fringe of the pines,
bitter and vicious, as an outcast from the pack will
grow, whether human or lupine. He frequented
only the house of Captain and George, because they
were exiles like himself.
The partners did not relish this overmuch,
for he was an odious being, avaricious, carping, and
“His face reminds me of a tool,”
said George, once, “nose an’ chin shuts
up like calipers. He’s got the forehead
of a salmon trout, an’ his chin don’t
retreat, it stampedes, plumb down ag’in his apple.
Look out for that droop of the mouth. I’ve
seen it before, an’ his eyes is bad, too.
They’ve stirred him up an’ pickled all
the good he ever had. Some day he’ll do
“I wonder what he means by always
saying he’ll have revenge before spring.
It makes me creep to hear him cackle and gloat.
I think he’s going crazy.”
“Can’t tell. This
bunch would bust anybody’s mental tugs, an’
they make a mistake drivin’ him so. Say!
How’s my gums look tonight?” George stretched
his lips back, showing his teeth, while Captain made
“All right. How are mine?”
“Red as a berry.”
Every day they searched thus for the
symptoms, looking for discolouration, and anxiously
watching bruises on limb or body. Men live in
fear when their comrades vanish silently from their
midst. Each night upon retiring they felt legs
nervously, punching here and there to see that the
flesh retained its resiliency.
So insidious is the malady’s
approach that it may be detected only thus.
A lassitude perhaps, a rheumatic laziness, or pains
and swelling at the joints. Mayhap one notes
a putty-like softness of the lower limbs. Where
he presses, the finger mark remains, filling up sluggishly.
No mental depression at first, nor fever, only a
drooping ambition, fatigue, enlarging parts, now gradual,
The grim humour of seeing grown men
gravely poking their legs with rigid digits, or grinning
anxiously into hand-mirrors had struck some of the
tenderfeet at first, but the implacable progress of
the disease; its black, merciless presence, pausing
destructively here and there, had terrorized them
into a hopeless fatalism till they cowered helplessly,
awaiting its touch.
One night Captain announced to his
partner. “I’m going over to the
Frenchmen’s, I hear Menard is down.”
“What’s the use of buttin’
in where ye ain’t wanted? As fer
me, them frogeaters can all die like salmon; I won’t
go nigh ’em an’ I’ve told ’em
so. I give ’em good advice, an’ what’d
I get? What’d that daffy doctor do?
Pooh-poohed at me an’ physiced them. Lord!
Physic a man with scurvy might as well
bleed a patient fer amputation.”
George spoke with considerable heat.
Captain pulled his parka hood well
down so that the fox-tails around the edge protected
his features, and stepped out into the evening.
He had made several such trips in the past few months
to call on men smitten with the sickness, but all
to no effect. Being “chechakos”
they were supreme in their conceit, and refused to
heed his advice.
Returning at bed time he found his
partner webbing a pair of snow-shoes by the light
of a stinking “go-devil,” consisting of
a string suspended in a can of molten grease.
The camp had sold them grub, but refused the luxury
of candles. Noting his gravity, George questioned:
“Well, how’s Menard?”
“Dead!” Captain shook
himself as though at the memory. “It was
awful. He died while I was talking to him.”
“Don’t say! How’s that?”
“I found him propped up in a
chair. He looked bad, but said he was feeling
“That’s the way they go.
I’ve seen it many a time feelin’
fine plumb to the last.”
“He’d been telling me
about a bet he had with Promont. Promont was
taken last week, too, you know, same time. Menard
bet him twenty dollars that he’d outlast him.”
“‘I’m getting all
right,’ says he, ’but poor Promont’s
going to die. I’ll get his twenty, sure!’
I turned to josh with the boy a bit, an’ when
I spoke to Menard he didn’t answer. His
jaw had sagged and he’d settled in his chair.
Promont saw it, too, and cackled. ’H’I
’ave win de bet! H’I ‘ave
win de bet!’ That’s all. He just
slid off. Gee! It was horrible.”
George put by his work and swore,
pacing the rough pole floor.
“Oh, the cussed fools!
That makes six dead from the one cabin six
from eighteen, an’ Promont’ll make seven
to-morrow. Do ye mind how we begged ’em
to quit that dug-out an’ build a white man’s
house, an’ drink spruce tea, an’ work!
They’re too lazy.
They lie around in that hole, breath bad air, an’
“And just to think, if we only
had a crate of potatoes in camp we could save every
man jack of ’em. Lord! They never
even brought no citric acid nor lime juice nothin’!
If we hadn’t lost our grub when the whale-boat
upset, eh? That ten-gallon keg of booze would
help some. Say! I got such a thirst I
don’t never expect to squench it proper;”
he spoke plaintively.
“Klusky was here again while
you was gone, too. I itch to choke that Jew
whenever he gets to ravin’ over these people.
He’s sure losin’ his paystreak.
He gritted his teeth an’ foamed like a mad malamoot,
I never see a low-downer lookin’ aspect than
him when he gets mad.”
“’I’ll make ’em
come to me,’ says he, ‘on their bellies
beggin’. It ain’t time yet.
Oh, no! Wait ’till half of ’em is
dead, an’ the rest is rotten with scurvy.
Then they’ll crawl to me with their gums thick
and black, an’ their flesh like dough; they’ll
kiss my feet an’ cry, an’ I’ll stamp
’em into the snow!’ You’d ought
a heard him laugh. Some day I’m goin’
to lay a hand on that man, right in my own house.”
As they prepared for bed. Captain remarked:
“By the way, speaking of potatoes,
I heard to-night that there was a crate in the Frenchmen’s
outfit somewhere, put in by mistake. perhaps, but
when they boated their stuff up river last fall it
couldn’t be found must have been lost.”
It was some days later that, returning
from a gameless hunt, Captain staggered into camp,
weary from the drag of his snow-shoes.
Throwing himself into his bunk he
rested while George prepared the meagre meal of brown
beans, fried salt pork, and sour-dough bread.
The excellence of this last, due to the whaler’s
years of practice, did much to mitigate the unpleasantness
of the milkless, butterless, sugarless menu.
Captain’s fatigue prevented
notice of the other’s bearing. However,
when he had supped and the dishes were done George
spoke, quietly and without emotion.
“Well, boy, the big thing has come off.”
“What do you mean?”
For reply he took the grease dip and,
holding it close, bared his teeth.
With a cry Captain leaped from his
bunk, and took his face between his hands.
“Great God! George!”
He pushed back the lips. Livid
blotches met his gaze the gums swollen
and discoloured. He dropped back sick and pale,
staring at his bulky comrade, dazed and uncomprehending.
Carefully replacing the lamp, George continued:
“I felt it comin’ quite
a while back, pains in my knees an’ all that thought
mebbe you’d notice me hobblin’ about.
I can’t git around good feel sort
of stove up an’ spavined on my feet.”
“Yes, yes, but we’ve lived
clean, and exercised, and drank spruce tea, and everything,”
cried the other.
“I know, but I’ve had
a touch before; it’s in my blood I reckon.
Too much salt grub; too many winters on the coast.
She never took me so sudden an’ vicious though.
Guess the stuff’s off.”
“Don’t talk that way,”
said Captain, sharply. “You’re not
going to die I won’t let you.”
“Vat’s the mattaire?”
came a leering voice and, turning they beheld Klusky,
the renegade. He had entered silently, as usual,
and now darted shrewd inquiring glances at them.
“George has the scurvy.”
Oi! Vat a peety.” He seemed
about to say more but refrained, coming forward rubbing
his hands nervously.
“It ain’t possible that
a ‘sour dough’ shall have the scoivy.”
“Well, he has it has
it bad but I’ll cure him. Yes, and I’ll
save this whole camp, whether
they want it or not.” Captain spoke strongly,
his jaws set with determination. Klusky regarded
him narrowly through close shrunk eyes, while speculation
wrinkled his low forehead.
“Of course! Yes!
But how shall it be, eh? Tell me that.”
His eagerness was pronounced.
“I’ll go to St. Michaels and bring back
“You can’t do it, boy,”
said George. “It’s too far an’
there ain’t a dog in camp. You couldn’t
haul your outfit alone, an’ long before you’d
sledded grub back I’d be wearin’ one of
them gleamin’ orioles, I believe that’s
what they call it, on my head, like the pictures of
them little fat angelettes. I ain’t got
no ear for music, so I’ll have to cut out the
“Quit that talk, will you?”
said Captain irritably. “Of course, one
man can’t haul an outfit that far, but two can,
so I’m going to take Klusky with me.”
He spoke with finality, and the Jew started, gazing
queerly. “We’ll go light, and drive
back a herd of reindeer.”
“By thunder! I’d
clean forgot the reindeer. The government was
aimin’ to start a post there last fall, wasn’t
it? Say! Mebbe you can make it after all,
Kid.” His features brightened hopefully.
“What d’ ye say, Klusky?”
The one addressed answered nervously,
almost with excitement.
“It can’t be done!
It ain’t possible, and I ain’t strong
enough to pull the sled. V’y don’t
you and George go together. I’ll stay ”
Captain laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“That’ll do. What
are you talking about? George wouldn’t
last two days, and you know it. Now listen.
You don’t have to go, you infernal greasy dog,
there are others in camp, and one of them will go
if I walk him at the muzzle of a gun. I gave
you first chance, because we’ve been good to
you. Now get out.”
He snatched him from his seat and
hurled him at the door, where he fell in a heap.
Klusky arose, and, although his eyes
snapped wildly and he trembled, he spoke insidiously,
with oily modulation.
“Vait a meenute, Meestaire Captain,
vait a meenute. I didn’t say I vouldn’t
go. Oi! Oi! Vat a man!
Shoor I’ll go. Coitenly! You have
been good to me and they have been devils. I
hope they die.” He shook a bony fist in
the direction of the camp, while his voice took on
its fanatical shrillness. “They shall be
in h before I help them, the pigs,
but you ah, you have been my friends, yes
“All right; be here at daylight,”
said Captain gruffly. Anger came slowly to him,
and its trace was even slower in its leaving.
“I don’t like him,”
said George, when he had slunk out. “He
ain’t on the level. Watch him close, boy,
he’s up to some devilment.”
“Keep up your courage, old man.
I’ll be back in twelve days.” Captain
said it with decision, though his heart sank as he
felt the uncertainties before him.
George looked squarely into his eyes.
“God bless ye, boy,” he
said. “I’ve cabined with many a man,
but never one like you. I’m a hard old
nut, an’ I ain’t worth what you’re
goin’ to suffer, but mebbe you can save these
other idiots. That’s what we’re put
here for, to help them as is too ornery to help theirselves.”
He smiled at Captain, and the young man left him blindly.
He seldom smiled, and to see it now made his partner’s
breast heave achingly.
“Good old George!” he
murmured as they pulled out upon the river. “Good
old George!” As they passed from the settlement
an Indian came to the door of the last hovel.
a Siwash in your cabin,” said Captain.
“What is he doing there ?”
“That’s all right,”
rejoined Klusky. “I told him to stay and
“Rather strange,” thought
the other. “I wonder what there is to
watch. There’s never been any stealing
To the unversed, a march by sled would
seem simplicity. In reality there is no more
discouraging test than to hit the trail, dogless and
by strength of back. The human biped cannot drag
across the snow for any distance more than its own
weight; hence equipment is of the simplest.
At that, the sledge rope galls one’s neck with
a continual, endless, yielding drag, resulting in
back pains peculiar to itself. It is this eternal
maddening pull, with the pitiful crawling gait that
tells; horse’s labour and a snail’s pace.
The toil begets a perspiration which the cold solidifies
midway through the garments. At every pause
the clammy clothes grow chill, forcing one forward,
onward, with sweating body and freezing face.
In extreme cold, snow pulverizes dryly till steel
runners drag as though slid through sand. Occasional
overflows bar the stream from bank to bank, resulting
in wet feet and quick changes by hasty fires to save
numb toes. Now the air is dead under a smother
of falling flakes that fluff up ankle deep, knee deep,
till the sled plunges along behind, half buried, while
the men wallow and invent ingenious oaths. Again
the wind whirls it by in grotesque goblin shapes; wonderful
storm beings, writhing, whipping, biting as they pass;
erasing bank and mountain. Yet always there
is that aching, steady tug of the shoulder-rope, stopping
circulation till the arms depend numbly; and always
the weary effort of trail breaking.
Captain felt that he had never worked
with a more unsatisfying team mate. Not that
Klusky did not pull, he evidently did his best, but
he never spoke, while the other grew ever conscious
of the beady, glittering eyes boring into his back.
At camp, the Jew watched him furtively, sullenly,
till he grew to feel oppressed, as with a sense of
treachery, or some fell design hidden far back.
Every morning he secured the ropes next the sled,
thus forcing Captain to walk ahead. He did not
object to the added task of breaking trail, for he
had expected the brunt of the work, but the feeling
of suspicion increased till it was only by conscious
effort that he drove himself to turn his back upon
the other and take up the journey.
It was this oppression that warned
him on the third day. Leaning as he did against
the sled ropes he became aware of an added burden,
as though the man behind had eased to shift his harness.
When it did not cease he glanced over his shoulder.
Keyed up as he was this nervous agility saved him.
Klusky held a revolver close up to
his back, and, though he had unconsciously failed
to pull, he mechanically stepped in the other’s
tracks. The courage to shoot had failed him momentarily,
but as Captain turned, it came, and he pulled the
Frozen gun oil has caused grave errors
in calculation. The hammer curled back wickedly
and stuck. Waiting his chance he had carried
the weapon in an outer pocket where the frost had stiffened
the grease. Had it been warmed next his body,
the fatal check would not have occurred. Even
so, he pulled again and it exploded sharp and deafening
in the rarefied morning air. In that instant’s
pause, however, Captain had whirled so that the bullet
tore through the loose fur beneath his arm.
He struck, simultaneously with the report, and the
gun flew outward, disappearing in the snow.
They grappled and fell, rolling in
a tangle of rope, Klusky fighting with rat-like fury,
whining odd, broken curses. The larger man crushed
him in silence, beating him into the snow, bent on
killing him with his hands.
As the other’s struggles diminished,
he came to himself, however, and desisted.
“I can’t kill him,”
he thought in panic. “I can’t go
“Get up!” He kicked the
bleeding figure till it arose lamely. “Why
did you do that?” His desire to strangle the
life from him was over-powering.
The man gave no answer, muttering
only unintelligible jargon, his eyes ablaze with hatred.
“Tell me.” He shook
him by the throat but received no reply. Nor
could he, try as he pleased; only a stubborn silence.
At last, disgusted and baffled, he bade him resume
the rope. It was necessary to use force for
this, but eventually they took up the journey, differing
now only in their order of precedence.
“If you make a move I’ll
knife you,” he cautioned grimly. “That
goes for the whole trip, too.”
At evening he searched the grub kit,
breaking knives and forks, and those articles which
might be used as means of offence, throwing the pieces
into the snow.
“Don’t stir during the
night, or I might kill you. I wake easy, and
hereafter we’ll sleep together.”
Placing the weapons within his shirt, he bound the
other’s wrists and rolled up beside him.
Along the coast, their going became
difficult from the rough ice and soft snow, and with
despair Captain felt the days going by. Klusky
maintained his muteness and, moreover, to the anger
of his captor, began to shirk. It became necessary
to beat him. This Captain did relentlessly,
deriving a certain satisfaction from it, yet marvelling
the while at his own cruelty. The Jew feigned
weariness, and began to limp as though foot-sore.
Captain halted him at last.
“Don’t try that game,”
he said. “It don’t go. I spared
your life for a purpose. The minute you stop
pulling, that minute I’ll sink this into your
ribs.” He prodded him with his sheath knife.
“Get along now, or I’ll make you haul
it alone.” He kicked him into resentful
motion again, for he had come to look upon him as an
animal, and was heedless of his signs of torture so
thus they marched; master and slave. “He’s
putting it on,” he thought, but abuse as he
might, the other’s efforts became weaker, and
his agony more marked as the days passed.
The morning came when he refused to arise.
Klusky shook his head.
“Get up, I say!” Captain
spoke fiercely, and snatched him to foot, but with
a groan the man sank back. Then, at last, he
“I can’t do it.
I can’t do it. My legs make like they von’t
vork. You can kill me, but I can’t valk.”
As he ceased, Captain leaned down
and pushed back his lips. The teeth were loose
and the gums livid.
“Great Heavens, what have I
done! What have I done!” he muttered.
Klusky had watched his face closely.
“Vat’s the mattaire?
Vy do you make like that, eh? Tell me.”
His voice was sharp.
“You’ve got it.”
“I’ve got it? Oi!
Oi! I’ve got it! Vat have I
got?” He knew before the answer came, but raved
and cursed in frenzied denial. His tongue started,
language flowed from him freely.
“It ain’t that.
No! No! It is the rheumatissen. Yes,
it shall be so. It makes like that from the
hard vork always. It is the cold the
cold makes it like.”
With despair Captain realized that
he could neither go on, dragging the sick man and
outfit, nor could he stay here in idleness to sacrifice
the precious days that remained to his partner.
Each one he lost might mean life or death.
Klusky broke in upon him.
“You von’t leave me, Mistaire Captain?
Please you von’t go avay?”
Such frightened entreaty lay in his
request that before thinking the other replied.
“No, I won’t. I
made you come and I’ll do all I can for you.
Maybe somebody will pass.” He said it
only to cheer, for no one travelled this miserable
stretch save scattering, half-starved Indians, but
the patient caught at it eagerly, hugging the hope
to his breast during the ensuing days.
That vigil beside the dying creature
lived long in Captain’s memory. The bleak,
timberless shores of the bay; their tiny tent, crouched
fearfully among the willow tops; the silent nights,
when in the clear, cold air the stars stared at him
close and big, like eyes of wolves beyond a camp fire;
the days of endless gabblings from the sinking man,
and the all pervading cold.
At last, knowledge dawned upon the
invalid, and he called his companion to his side.
Shivering there beneath the thin tent, Captain heard
a story, rambling at first, filled with hatred and
bitterness toward the men who had scoffed at him, yet
at the last he listened eagerly, amazedly, and upon
its conclusion rose suddenly, gazing at the dying
man in horror.
“My God, Klusky! Hell
isn’t black enough for you. It can’t
be true, it can’t be. You’re raving!
Do you mean to say that you let those poor devils
die like rats while you had potatoes in your cabin,
fresh ones? Man! Man! The juice
of every potato was worth a life. You’re
“I ain’t. No, I
ain’t. I hate them! I said they should
crawl on their bellies to me. Yes, and I should
wring the money out. A hundred dollars for von
potato. I stole them all. Ha! ha! and
I kept them varm. Oh, yes! Alvays varm
by the fire, so they shall be good and fine for the
“That’s why you left the
Indian there when we came away, eh? To keep
“Shoor! and I thought I shall
kill you and go back alone so nobody shall make for
the rescue. Then I should have the great laugh.”
Captain bared his head to the cold
outside the tent. He was dazed by the thought
of it. The man was crazed by abuse. The
camp had paid for its folly!
Then a hope sprang up in him.
It was too late to go on and return with the deer;
that is, too late for George, and he thought only of
him; of the big, brave man sitting alone in the cabin,
shunned by the others, waiting quietly for his coming,
tracing the relentless daily march of the disease.
Why didn’t the Jew die so he could flee back?
He had promised not to desert him, and he could not
break his word to a dying man, even though the wretch
deserved damnation. But why couldn’t he
die? What made him hang on so? In his idle
hours he arranged a pack for the start, assembling
his rations. He could not be hampered by the
sled. This was to be a race he must
travel long and fast. The sick man saw the preparations,
and cried weakly, the tears freezing on his cheeks,
and still he lingered, lingered maddeningly, till
at last, when Captain had lost count of the days,
he passed without a twitch and, before the body had
cooled, the northward bluffs hid the plodding, snow-shoed
figure hurrying along the back trail.
He scarcely stopped for sleep or food,
but gnawed raw bacon and frozen bread, swinging from
shoe to shoe, devouring distance with the steady,
rhythmic pace of a machine. He made no fires.
As darkness settled, rendering progress a peril,
he unrolled his robe, and burrowed into some overhanging
drift, and the earliest hint of dawn found him miles
Though the weather was clear, he grew
numbed and careless under the strain of his fatigue,
so that the frost bit hungrily at his features.
He grew gaunt, and his feet swelled from the snow-shoe
thongs till they puffed out his loose, sealskin boots,
and every step in the morning hours brought forth
He was tortured by the thought that
perhaps the Indian had carelessly let go the fire
in Klusky’s cabin. If so, the precious
potatoes would freeze in a night. Then, if the
native rebuilt it, he would arrive only to find a
mushy, putrifying mass, worse than useless. The
uncertainty sickened him, and at last, as he sighted
the little hamlet, he paused, bracing his legs apart
He searched fearfully for traces of
smoke above Klusky’s cabin. There were
none. Somehow the lone shack seemed to stare
malignantly at him, as he staggered up the trail,
and he heard himself muttering. There were no
locks in this land, so he entered unbidden. The
place was empty, though warm from recent habitation.
With his remaining strength he scrambled up a rude
ladder to the loft where he fumbled in the dark while
his heart stopped. Then he cried hoarsely and,
ripping open the box, stuffed them gloatingly into
pockets and shirt front. He dropped from the
platform and fled out through the open door, capless
and mittenless; out and on toward the village.
His pace slackened suddenly, for he
noted with a shock that, like Klusky’s cabin,
no smoke drifted over the house toward which he ran,
and, drawing near, he saw that snow lay before the
door; clean, white, and untrodden. He was too
dazed to recall the light fall of the night previous,
but glared blankly at the idle pipe; at the cold and
“Too late!” he murmured
brokenly. “Too late!” and stumbled
to the snow-cushioned chopping block.
He dared not go in. Evidently
the camp had let George die; had never come near to
lift a hand. He was afraid of what lay within,
afraid to face it alone. Yet a dreadful need
to know pulled him forward. Three times he approached
the door, retreating each time in panic. At last
he laid soft hands upon the latch and entered, averting
his eyes. Even so, and despite the darkness
inside, he was conscious of it; saw from his eye corners
the big, still bulk that sat wrapped and propped in
the chair by the table. He sensed it dazedly,
inductively, and turned to flee, then paused.
“Ye made it, boy! It’s
the twelfth to-day.” George’s voice
came weakly, and with a great cry Captain sprang to
“Bout all in,” the other
continued. “Ain’t been on my feet
for two days. I knowed you’d come to-day,
though; it’s the twelfth.”
Captain made no reply, for he had
knelt, his face buried in the big man’s lap,
his shoulders heaving, while he cried like a little