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mmmms m mmiiiiMm The While Silence % ;X | a Cold and Mute Witness to Human * Heroism, Devotion and Tragedy * V & * J* 1 m v.v ' ARMEN won't last more than a couple of days." Mason spat out a chunk of ice and surveyed the poor animal ruefully, then put her foot in his mouth and proceeded to bite out the ice which clustered cruelly be tween the toes. "I never saw a dog with a highfa lutin' name that ever was worth a rap," be said as he concluded his task and shoved her aside. "They just fade away and die under the responsibility. Did ye ever see one go wrong with a sensible name like Cassiar, Siwash or Husky? No, sir! Take a look at Shoo kum here, he's"— Snapl The lean brute flashed up, the white teeth just missing Mason's throat "Ye will, w'll ye?" A shrewd clout behind the ear with the butt of tbe dog whip stretched tbe animal in the snow, quivering softly, a yellow slaver drip ping' from its fangs. "As I was saying, just look at 8boo kum here. He's got the spirit. Bet ye be eats Carmen before the week's out." "I'll bank another proposition against that," replied Malemute Kid, reversing the frozen bread placed before the Are te thaw. "We'll eat Shookum before the trip is over. What d' ye say, ftuth?" 1 Tbe Indian woman settled the coffee with a piece of ice, glanced from Male prate Kid to her husband, then at the dogs, but vouchsafed no reply. It was snch a palpable truism that none was necessary. Two hundred miles of un brekep trail in prospect, with a scant ftix days' grub for themselves and none Cor the dogs, could admit no other al ternative. Tbe two men and the wom an grouped about the Are and began their meager meal. The dogs lay in their harnesses, for it was a midday halt, aftd watched each mouthful en viously. "No more lunches after today," said Malemute Kid. "And we've got to keep a close eye on the dogs. They're getting vicious. They'd Just as soon pull a rellow down as not if they get a chance." "And I was president of an Epworth once and taught in the Sunday school." Having irrelevantly delivered himself of thtB, Mason fell into a dreamy con templation of his steaming moccasins, but was aroused by Ruth filling his cup. "Thank God, we've got slathers of tea! I've seen it growing down in Tennessee. What wouldn't I give for a hot com pone Just now! Never mind, Ruth. You won't starve much longer, nor wear moccasins either." The woman threw off her gloom at this, and in her eyes welled up a great love for her white lord, the first white man she had ever seen, tbe first man whom she had known to treat a wom an as something better than a mere c 44 |) • tea r c ( .» t % < ,0 Wf & o\ % * Am % } r WATERS i Stretched the Animal In the 8now, Quivering 8oftiy, box, Animal or common beast of burden. "Yes, Ruth," continued her husband, having recourse to the macaronic Jar gon in which it was alone possible for them to understand each other, "wait till we clean up and pull for the Out side. We'll take the white man's ca noe and go to tbe salt water. Yes, bad water, rough water—great mountains dance up and down all the time. And so big, so far, so far away—you travel ten sleep, twenty sleep, forty sleep"— be graphically enumerated the days on his fingers—"all the time water, bad water. Then you come to great village, plenty people, just the same mosqui toes next summer. Wigwams, oh, so high—ten, twenty pines. Hi-yu skoo kum!" He paused impotently, cast an ap pealing glance at Malemute Kid, then laboriously placed the twenty pines end on end by sign language. Male mute Kid smiled with cheery cyni cism, but Ruth's eyes were wide with wonder and with pleasure, for she half believed he was jqking, and such con descension pleased her poor woman's heart "And then you step into a and pouf! up you go." He tossed his empty cup in the air by way of illus tration and as he deftly caught it cried: "And biff! down you come. Ob, great medicine men! You go Fort Yukon; I go Arctic City—twenty-five sleep—big string, all the time—I catch him string. I say: 'Hello, Ruth! How are ye?* And you say. 'Is that my good hus band?' And I say, 'Yes.' And *you say, 'No can bake good bread; no more soda.' Then I say: 'Look in cache, un der flour. Goodby.' You look and catch plenty soda. All the time you Fort Yukon, me Arctic City. Hhyu medicine man!" Ruth smiled so ingenuously at the fairy story that both men burst into laughter. A row among the dogs cut short tbe wonders of tne Outside, and by the time the snarling combatants were separated she had lashed the sleds and all was ready for the trail. "Mush! Baldy! Hi! Mush on!" Ma son worked his whip smartly and as the dogs whined low in the traces broke out the sled with tbe gee pole. Ruth followed with the second team, leaving Malemute Ivid, who had helped her start, to bring up the rear. Strong man, brute that he was, capable of felling an ox at a blow, he could not bear to beat the poor animals, but hu mored them as a dog driver rarely does —nay, almost wept with them in their misery. "Come, mush on there, you poor, sore footed brutes!" he murmured aft er several ineffectual attempts to start the load. But his patience was at last rewarded, and, though whimper ing with pain, they hastened to Jo* , their fellows. No more conversation. The toll or the trail will not permit euch extra** agance. And of all deadening labor* that of the dorthland trail la the worst. Happy la the man who can weather a day's travel at the price of silence, and that on a beaten track. And of all heart breaking labors that of breaking trail is worst. At every step the great webbed shoe Binks till the snow is level with the knee. Then up, straight up, the deviation of a frac tion of an inch being n certain pre cursor of disaster, the snowshoe must be lifted till the surface Is cleaned; then forward, down, and tl 3 other foot is raised perpendicularly for the mat ter of half a yard. He who tries this for the first time, if haply he avoids bringing bis shoes in dangerous pro pinquity and measures not his length on the treacherous footing, tvill give up exhausted at the end of a hundred yards. He who can keep out of the way of the dogs for a whole day may well crawl into his sleeping bag ftith a clear conscience and a pride which passeth all understanding, and he who travels twenty sleeps on the long trail is a man whom the gods may envy. The afternoon wore on, and with the awe born of the white silence the voiceless travelers bent to their work. Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces tnan of his finity—the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earth quake, the long roll of heaven's artil lery—but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the passive phase of the white silence. All move ment ceases; the sky clears; the heav ens are as brass. The slightest whis per seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice. Sole speck of life Journey box, ing across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realises that his Is a maggot's life, nothing more. Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterance. And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him—the hope of the res urrection and the life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence. It is then, if ever, man walks alone with God. So wore the day away. The river took a great bend, and Mason headed his team for the cut-off across the narrow neck of land. But the dogs balked at the high bank. AgalD and again, though Ruth and Malemutc Kid I were shoving on the sled, they slipped' back. Then came the concerted effort. •The miserable creatures, weak from hunger, exerted their last strength. Up, up, the sled poised on the top of the bank, but the leader swung the string of dogs behind him to the right, fouling Mason's snowshoes. The re sult was grievous. Mason was whip ped off his feet. One of the dogs fell in the traces, and the sled toppled back, dragging everything to the bot tom again. Slash! The whip fell among the dogs savagely, especially upon the one which had fallen. "Don't, Mason,'' entreated Malemute Kid. "The poor devil's on its last legs. Wait and we'll put my team on.'' Mason deliberately withheld the whip till the last word had fallen, then out flashed the long lash, completely curl ing about the offending creature s body Carmen—for it was Carmen—cowered in the snow, cried piteously, then roll ed over on her side. It was a tragic moment, a pitiful in cident of the trail—a dying dog, two comrades in anger. Ituth glanced so licitously frqm man to man, but Mule mute Kid restrained himself, though there was a world of reproach in his eyes, and, bending over the dog, cut the traces. No word was spoken. The teams ware double spanned arid the difficulty overcome; the sleds were un der way again, the dying dog dragging herself along in the rear. As long as an animal can travel it is not shot, and this last chance is accorded it— the crawling into camp, if it can, in the hope of a moose being killed. Already penitent for his angry ac tion, but too stubborn to make amends, Mason toiled on at the head of the cavalcade, little dreaming that danger hovered in the air. The timber clus tered thick in the sheltered bottom, and through this they threaded their way. Fifty feet or more from th/ 'j-ail towered a lofty pine. For generate ns it had stood there, and for generations destiny had had this one end in view. Perhaps the same had been decreed of Mason. He stooped to fasten the loosened thong of bis moccasin. The sleds came to a halt, and the dogs lay down in the snow without a whimper. The still ness was weird. Not a breath rustled the frost encrusted forest. The cold and silence of outer space had chilled the heart and smote the trembling lips of nature. A sigh pulsed through the air. They did not seem to actually hear it, but, rather, felt It, like the premonition of movement in a motion less void. Then the great tree bur dened with its weight of years and snow, played its last part in tbe trag edy of life. Masod heard the warning crash and attempted to spring up, but. almost erect, caught the blow squarely on the shoulder. The sudden danger, the quick death —how often had Malemute Kid faced it! The pine needles.were still quiv ering as he guve his commands and sprang into action. Nor did the Indian girl faint or raise her voice in idle wailing, as might many of her white sisters. At his order she threw her weight on the end of a quickly extem porized handspike, easing the pressure and listening to her husband's groans, while Malemute Kid attacked the tree with his ax. The steel rang merrily as it bit into the frozen tr^uk, each stroke being accompanied by a forced, audible respiration, the "Huh! Hub!'' of the woodsman. At last the Kid laid the pitiable • thing that was once a maa in the snow ■f | J* 1 Jar for "wait Out ca bad And travel on bad so skoo ap then pines Male cyni with half con his illus I ye?* hus *you un and you the into cut and the Ma as of not hu at , l | , • i in he us of d' of I'd got and her her ly and or a till i j of I » r » As> £4 f 4 V A * -?v < ► i-s ml jO He Stooped to Fasten the Loosened Throng. l But worse than his comrade's pain was | the dumb anguish in the woman's face, , the blended look of hopeful, hopeless query. Little was said. Those of the northland are early taught the futility of words and tbr ^estimable value of deeds. With the temperature at 65 below zero a man cannot lie many min utes in the snow and live. So the sled lashings were cut and the sufferer, rolled in furs, laid on a couch of boughs. Before him roared a fire, built of the very wood which wrought the mishap. Behind and partially over him was stretched the primitive fly— a piece of canvas which caught the radiating heat and threw it back and i down upon him, a trick which meD may know who study physics at the fount. And men who have shared their bed with death know when the call is sounded. Mason was terribly crushed. The most cursory examination reveal ed it. His right arm. leg and back were broken, his limbs were paralyzed from the hips, and the likelihood of internal injuries was large. An occa sional moan was his only sign of life. No hope. Nothing to be done. The pitiless night crept slowly, by, Ruth's portion the despairing stoicism of her race, and Malemute Kid adding new lines to his face of bronze. In fact, Mason suffered least of all, for he spent his time in eastern Tennessee, in the Great Smoky mountains, living over the scenes of his childhood. And most pathetic was the melody of his long forgotten southern vernacular a 0 he raved of swimming holes and coon hunts and watermelon raids. It was us Greek to Ruth, but the Kid under stood and felt—felt as only one can feel who has been shut out for years from all that civilization means. Morning brought consciousness to the stricken man, and Malemute Kid bent closer to catch bis whispers. "You remember when we foregath ered on the Tanana, four years come next l^e run? I didn't care so much for her then. It was more like she was pretty, and there was a smack of excitement about it, I think. But, d' ye know, I've come to think a heap of her. She's been a good wife to me, always at my shoulder in the pinch. And when it comes to trading you know there isn't her equal. D' ye rec ollect the time she shot the Moosehom rapids t6 pull you and me off that rock, the bullets whipping the water like hailstones, and the time of the famine at Nuklukyeto, or when she raced the ice run to bring the news? Yes, she's been a good wife to me, betterin that other one. Didn't know I'd been there? Never told you, eh? Well, I tried it once down In the States. That's why I'm here. Been raised together too. I came away to give her a chance for divorce. She got it. "But that's got nothing to do with Ruth. I had thought of cleaning up and pulling for the Outside next year, her and I—but it's too late. Don't send her back to her people, Kid. It's beast ly hard for a woman to go back. Think of it—nearly four years on our bacon and beans and flour and dried fruit, and then to go back to her fish and cariboo! It's not good for her to have tried our ways, to come to know they're better'n her people's, and then return to them. Take care of her, Kid. Why don't you—but no; you always -fought shy of them and you never toid me why you came to this country, Be kind to her and send her back to the States as soon as you can. But fix it so as she can come back. Liable to get homesick, you know. "And the youngster—it's drawn us closer, Kid. I only hope it la a boy. Think of It— flesh of my flesh, Kid! He mustn t stop in this country. And lf it's a girl, why, she can't Sell my furs. They'H fetch at least five thou sand. Anfl I've got as much more with the company. And handle my in terests with yours. I think that bench claim will show up. See that he gets a good schooling, and, Kid, above, all, don't let bim come back. This coun try was not made for white men. "I'm a gone man, Kid. Three or four sleeps at the best. Vou've got to go on. You must go on! Remember, it's my wife, it's my boy—O God, 1 hope it's a boy! You can't stay by me, and 1 charge you, a dying man, to pull on. "Give me three days," pleaded Male mute Kid. "You may change for the better. Something may turn ire " "No." "Just three days." "You must pull on. "Two days." "It's my wife and my boy, Kid. You would not ask it" , "One day." "No, no! I charge"— "Only one day. We can shave ft through on the grub, and I might knock over a moose." "No—all right—one day, but not a minute more. And, Kid. don't—don't leave me to face It alone. Just a shot, one pull on the trigger. You under stand. Think of it! Think of itl Flesh of my flesh, and I'll never live to see him! "Send Ruth here. I want to say goodby and tell her that she must think of tbe boy and not wait till I'm dead. She might refuse to go with you if I didn't Goodby, old man. "Kid, I say—a—sink a hole above the pup, next to tbe slide. I panned out 40 cents on my shovel there. "And Kid"—he stooped lower to catch the last faint words, the dying man's surrender of his pride—"I'm sorry—for —you know—Carmen." Leaving* the girl crying softly over her man, Malemute Kid slipped into his parka and snowshoes, tucked his rifle under his arm and crept away into the forest. He was no tyro in the stern sorrows of tbe northlsnd, but never had he faced so stiff a prob lem as this. In the abstract it was a plain, mathematical proposition—three possible lives as against one doomed one. But now he hesitated. For five years, shoulder to shoulder, on the riv ers and trails, in the camps and mines, facing death by field and flood and famine, had they knitted the bonds of their comradeship. So close was the tie that he had often been conscious II If of a vague jealousy of Ruth from tho i first time she had come between. And I now it must be severed by his own han(1 - Though he prayed for a moose, just one moose, all game seemed to have deserted the land, and nightfall found the exhausted man crawling into camp light handed, heavy hearted. An ujt roar from the dogs and shrill cries from Ruth hastened him. Bursting into tbe camp, he saw the girl in the midst of the snarling pack, laying about her with ax ax. The dogs had broken the iron ru e of their mas \ Ttfiij ;v & V, )A \ iv % j? •o' 4 4tr + t -A The White Silence 8eemed to 8neer. ■a ^ rlwblng gnlb . He joined the issue with his rifle reversed. to and tbe hoary game of natural selec tlon wa , played out wltb a „ tJ , e ruth lessness of its primeval environment, R| fle and ax went np and hit or us missed with monotonous regularity, Lithe bodfcs flashed with wild eyes and dripping fangs, and man and beast fought for supremacy to tbe bit terest conclusion. Then the beaten brutes crept to the edge of the Are light, licking their wounds, voicing j their misery to the stars. . l The whole stock of dried salmon had been devoured, and perhaps five pounds of flour remained to tide them over 200 miles of wilderness. Ruth turned to her husband, while Malemute Kid cut up the warm body of one of the dogs, the skull of which bad been crushed by the ax. Every portion was carefully put away, Bave tbe hide and offal, which were cast to bis fellows of tbe moment before. * Morning brought fresh trouble. The animals were turning on each other. Carmen, who still clung to her slender thread of life, was downed by the pack. Tbe lash fell among them un heeded. They cringed and cried under the blows, but refused to scatter till the last wretched bit had disappeared —bones, hide, hair, everything. Malemute Kid went about his work listening to Mason, who was back in Tennessee, delivering tangled dis courses and wild exhortations to his brethren of other days. Taking advantage of neighboring pines, he worked rapidly, and Ruth watched him make a cache similar to those sometimes used by hunters to preserve their meat from the wolver ines and dogs. One after the other he bent the tops of two small pines to ward each other and nearly to the ground, making them fast with thongs of moosehide. II Ruth bad received her husband's last wishes and made no struggle. Poor girl! She had learned tbe lesson of obedience well. From a child she had bowed and seen all women bow to the lords of creation, and it did not seem in the nature of things for woman to resist The Kid permitted her one out burst of grief as she kissed her hus band—her own people had no such cus tom-then led her to the foremost sled and helped her into her snowshoes. Blindly, instinctively she took the gee pole and whip and "mushed" the dogs out on the trail. Then the Kid return ed to Mason, who bad fallen into a co ma, and long after she was out of sight crouched by the Are, waiting, hoping, praying for his comrade to die. It is not pleasant to be alone with painful thoughts in the white silence. The silence of gloom is merciful, shrouding one as with protection and breathing a thousand intangible sym pathies, but the bright white silence, clear and cold, under steely skies, is i pitiless. I An hour passed, two hours, but the man would not die. At high noon the sun, without raising its rim above the southern horizon, threw a suggestion C f dre athwart the heavens, then quick j y drew it back. Malemute Kid roused and dragged himself to his comrade's 8 ide. He cast one glance about him. The white silence seemed to sneer, and a great fear came upon him. There was a sharp report, Mason swung into his aerial sepulchre, and Malemute Kid lashed the dogs into a wild gallop a* he fled across the snow.