FOR HE IS A WHITE MAN’S DOG
Two months had elapsed since the mysterious
college boy had passed on north with his dog-team.
Many things could have happened to
him in those months. As Marian sat looking away
at the vast expanse of drifting ice which had been
restless in its movements of late, telling of the coming
of the spring break-up, she wondered what had happened
to the frank-eyed, friendly boy. He had not
returned. Had a blizzard caught him and snatched
his life away? The rivers were overflowing their
banks now, though thick and rotten ice was still beneath
the milky water. Had he completed his mission
north, and was he now struggling to make his way southward?
Or was he securely housed in some out-of-the-way
cabin, waiting for open water and a schooner?
A letter had come, a letter in a blue
envelope, and addressed as the other to Phi Beta Ki.
That was after Lucile’s return. Lucile
had been away to the Nome market with her deer herd
when the first letter had come, but had now been home
for a month. The two of them had laughed and
wondered about that letter. They had put it in
the pigeon-hole, and there it now was. But Marian
had not forgotten her promise to take it with her
in case the boy did not return before she left the
Now, as she watched-the restless ocean,
she realized that it would not be many days before
it would break its bonds. The ice would then
float away to points unknown. Little gasoline
schooners would go flitting here and there like
sea-gulls, and then would come the hoarse voice of
the Corwin, mail steamer for Arctic. She
would take that steamer to Nome. Would the boy
be back by then, or would she carry the mysterious
letter with her? For a long time Marian gave
herself up to speculation.
As she sat dreaming of these things,
she started suddenly. Something had touched
“Oh;” she exclaimed, then laughed.
The most forlorn-looking dog she had
ever seen had touched her foot with his nose.
His hair was ragged and matted. His bones protruded
at every possible point. His mouth was set awry,
one side hanging half-open.
“So it’s you,” she
said; “you’re looking worse than common.”
The dog opened his mouth, allowing
his long tongue to loll out.
“I suppose that means you’re
hungry. Well, for once you are in luck.
The natives caught a hundred or more salmon through
the ice. I have some of them. Fish, Old
Top, fish! What say?”
The dog stood on his hind legs and
barked for joy. He read the sign in her eyes
if he did not understand her lip-message.
In another moment he was gulping down
a fat, four-pound salmon, while Marian eyed him, a
curious questioning look on her face.
“Now,” she said, as the
dog finished, “the question is what are we going
to do with you? You’re an old dog.
You’re no good in a team. Too old.
Bad feet. No, sir, you can’t be any good,
or you wouldn’t be back here in five days.
We gave you to Tommy Illayok to lead his team.
You were a leader in your day all right, and you’d
lead ’em yet if you could, poor old soul!”
There was a catch in her voice.
To her dogs were next to humans. In the North
they were necessary servants as well as friends.
“The thing that makes it hard
to turn you out,” she went on huskily, “is
the fact that you’re a white man’s dog.
Yes, sir! a white man’s dog. And that
means an awful lot; means you’d stick till death
to any white person who’d feed you and call
you friend. Mr. Jack London has written a book
about a white man’s dog that turned wild and
joined a wolf-pack. It’s a wonderful book,
but I don’t believe it. A white man’s
dog wants a white man for a friend, and if he loses
one he’ll keep traveling until he finds another.
That’s the way a white man’s dog is,
and that’s why you come back to us, poor old
dear.” She stooped and patted the shaggy
“I’ll tell you what,”
she murmured, after a moment’s reflection.
“If the fish keep running, if the wild ducks
come north, or the walrus come barking in from Bering
Sea, then you can stay with us and get sleek and fat.
You can sleep by our door in the hallway every night,
and if anyone comes prowling around, you can ask them
what they want. How’s zat?”
The dog howled his approval.
Marian smiled, and turning went into
the cabin. The dog did not belong to them.
He was an old and decrepit leader, deserted by a faithless
master. He had adopted their cabin as his home.
When food had become scarce, they had been forced
to give him to an Eskimo traveling up the coast.
Now, in five days he was back again. Marian
was not sure that Lucile would approve of the arrangement
she had made with the dog, but when her heart prompted
her, she could only follow its promptings.
She had hardly entered the cabin than
she heard a growl from the dog, followed by the voice
of a stranger.
“Down, Rover!” she shouted, as she sprang
to the door.
The man who stood before her was badly
dressed and unshaven. His eyes bore a shifty
“Get out, you cur!” He
kicked at the dog with his heavy boot.
Marian’s eyes flashed, but she said nothing.
“This the post office?” The man attempted
“’S there a letter here for me?”
“I don’t know,” she smiled.
“Won’t you come in?”
The man came inside.
“Now,” she said, “I’ll see.
What is your name?”
“Ben-” he hesitated.
“Oh-that don’t matter.
Won’t be addressed to my name. Addressed
He drew from his pocket a closely-folded, dirt-begrimed
Marian’s heart stopped beating.
The envelope was blue-yes, the very shade
of blue of that other in the pigeon-hole. And
it was addressed: Phi Beta Ki, Nome, Alaska.
“Is there a letter here like
that?” the man demanded, squinting at her through
It was a tense moment. What
should she say? She loathed the man; feared
him, as well. Yet he had asked for the letter
and had offered better proof than the mysterious college
boy had. What should she say?
“Yes,” she said, and then
hesitated. Her heart beat violently. His
searching eyes were upon her. “Yes, there
was one. It came two months ago. A young
man called for it and took it away.”
“You-you gave it to him!”
The man lifted a hand as if to strike Marian.
She did not flinch.
There came a growl from the door.
Looking quickly, Marian caught the questioning gleam
in the old leader’s eye.
The man’s arm fell.
“Yes,” she said stoutly,
“I gave it to him. Why should I not?
He offered no real proof that he was the right person,
it is true-”
“But neither have you,”
Marian hurried on. “You might have picked
that envelope up in the street, or taken it from a
wastepaper basket. How do I know?”
“What-what sort of a boy was it?”
the man asked more steadily.
“A good-looking, strapping young
fellow, with blue eyes and an honest face.”
“That’s him! That’s
him!” the man almost raved. “Honest-lookin’,
yes, honest-lookin’. They ain’t
all honest that looks that way.”
Again came the growl from the door.
Marian’s eyes glanced uneasily
toward the pigeon-hole where the latest blue envelope
rested. She caught an easy breath. A large
white legal envelope quite hid the blue one.
“Well, if another one comes,
remember it’s mine! Mine!” growled
the man, as he went stamping out of the room.
“Old Rover,” Marian said,
taking the dog’s head between her hands.
“I’m glad you’re here. When
there are such men as that about, we need you.”
And yet, as she spoke her heart was
full of misgivings. What if this man’s
looks belied his nature? What if he were honest?
And what if her good-looking college boy was a rascal?
There in the pigeon-hole was the blue envelope.
What was her duty?
Pulling on her calico parka, she went
for a stroll on the beach. The cool, damp air
of Arctic twilight by the sea was balm to her troubled
brain. She came back to the cabin with a deep-seated
conviction that she was right.
She was not given many days to decide
whether she should take the letter with her or leave
it. A sudden gale from the south sent the ice-floes
rushing through the Straits. They hastened away
to seas unknown, not to return for months. The
little mail steamer came hooting its way around the
Point. It brought a letter of the utmost importance
While in Nome the summer before she
had made some hasty sketches of the Chukches, natives
of the Arctic coast of Siberia, while they camped on
the beach there on a trading voyage in a thirty-foot
skin-boat. These sketches had come to the notice
of the ethnological society. They now wrote
to her, asking that she spend a summer on the Arctic
coast of Siberia, making sketches of these natives,
who so like the Eskimos are yet so unlike them in
many ways. The pay, they assured her, would be
ample; in fact, the figures fairly staggered her.
Should she complete this task in safety and to the
satisfaction of the society, she would then be prepared
to pay her way through a three years’ course
in the best art school of America. This had
long been a cherished dream. Marian’s eyes
shone with happiness.
When she had read the letter through,
she went for a five-mile walk down the beach.
Upon returning she burst in on her companion.
“Lucile,” she exclaimed,
“how would you like to spend the summer in Siberia?”
“Fine! Salt mine, I suppose,”
laughed Lucile. “But I thought all political
prisoners had been released by the new Russian government?”
“I’m not joking,” said Marian.
Marian did explain. At the end
of her explanation Lucile agreed to go as Marian’s
traveling companion and tent-keeper. In two weeks
her school work would be finished. It would
be a strange, a delightful summer. Their enthusiasm
grew as they talked about it. Long after they
should have been asleep they were still making plans
for this, their most wonderful adventure.
“But how’ll we go over?” exclaimed
“Gasoline schooner, I suppose.”
“I’d hate to trust any
men I know who run those crafts,” said Marian
Lucile considered a moment.
“Native skin-boat, then.”
“That would be rather thrilling-to
cross from the new world into the old in a skin-boat.”
“And safe enough too,”
said Marian. “Did you ever hear of a native
boat being lost at sea?”
“One. But that one turned
up at King’s Island, a hundred and fifty miles
off its course.”
“I guess we could risk it.”
“All right, let’s go.”
Marian sprang to her feet, threw back
the blankets to her couch, and fifteen minutes later
was dreaming of a tossing skin-boat on a wild sea
of walrus monsters and huge white bears.
Her wild dreams did not come true.
When the time came to cross the thirty-five miles
of water which separates the Old World from the New,
they sailed and paddled over a sea as placid as a mill-pond.
Here a brown seal bobbed his head out of the water;
here a spectacled eiderduck rode up and down on the
tiny waves, and here a great mass of tubular seaweed
drifted by to remind them that they were really on
the bosom of the briny ocean.
Only one incident of the voyage caused
them a feeling of vague unrest. A fog had settled
down over the sea. They were drifting and paddling
slowly forward, when the faint scream of a siren struck
their ears. It came nearer and nearer.
“A gasoline schooner,” said Marian.
The natives began shouting to avert a possible collision.
Presently the schooner appeared, a
dark bulk in the fog. It took shape. Men
were seen on the deck. It came in close by.
The waves from it reached the skin-boat.
They were passing with a salute, when
a strange thing happened. Rover, the old dog-leader,
who had been riding in the bow standing well forward,
as if taking the place of a painted figurehead, suddenly
began to bark furiously. At the same time, Marian
caught sight of a bearded face framed in a porthole.
Involuntarily she shrank back out
of sight. The next instant the schooner had
faded away into the fog. The dog ceased barking.
“What was it?” asked Lucile anxiously.
“Only a face.”
“The man who wanted the blue envelope; Rover
recognized him first.”
“You don’t suppose he knew, and is following?”
“How could he know?”
“But what is he going to Siberia for?”
“Perhaps to trade. They
do that a great deal. Let’s not talk of
it.” Marian shivered.
The incident was soon forgotten.
They were nearing the Siberian shore which was to
be their summer home. A million nesting birds
came skimming out over the sea, singing their merry
song as if to greet them. They would soon be
living in a tent in the midst of a city of tents.
They would be studying a people whose lives are as
little known as were those of the natives in the heart
of Africa before the days of Livingstone.
As she thought of these things Marian’s cheeks
flushed with excitement.
“What new thrill will come to us here?”
her lips whispered.