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&: The White Silence i i A Cold and Mute Witness to Human Heroism, Devotion and Tragedy jjte ARMEN won't last more than a couple of days." Muson spat out a chunk of ice and surveyed the Ipoor animal ruefully, then put her foot ln his mouth and proceeded to bite lout the ice which clustered cruelly be jtween the toos. "I never saw a dog with a higbfa llutin' name that ever was worth a rap," he said as he concluded his task a nd 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" Snap! The lean brute flashed up, the white teeth just missing Mason's throat. "Ye will, will ye?" A shrewd clout behind the ear with the butt of the dog Whip stretched the animal in the snow, quivering softly, a yellow slaver drip ping from its fangs. "As I was saying, just look at Shoo kum here. He's got the spirit. Bet ye he eats Carmen before the week's out." "I'll bank another proposition against that," replied Malemute Kid, reversing the frozen bread placed before the fire to thaw. "We'll eat Shookum before the trip Is over. What d* ye say, Ruth?" The Indian woman settled the coffee with a piece of ice, glanced from Male mute Kid to her husband, then at the dogs, but vouchsafed no reply. It was such a palpable truism that none was necessary. Two hundred miles of un broken trail in prospect, with a scant six days' grub for themselves and none for the dogs, could admit no other al ternative. The two men and the wom an grouped about the lire and began their meager meal. The dogs lay in their harnesses, for it was a midday halt, and 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 fellow down as not if they get a chance." "And I was president of an Epworth once and taught in the Sunday shnol." Having irrelevantly delivered himself of this, 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 corn 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, the first man whom she had known to treat a wom an as something better than a mere HB &: 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 the salt water. Yes, bad water, rough watergreat mountains dance up and down all the time. And so big, so far, so far awayyou travel ten sleep, twenty sleep, forty sleep" he 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 highten, twenty pines. Hi-yu skoo- kum!" He paused impotcntly, cast an ap pealing glance at Malemute Kid, then laboriously placed the twenty pines end on end by sign language. Male mute Kid smiled Avith cheery cyni cism, but Ruth's eyes were wide with wonder and with pleasure, for she half believed he was joking, and such con descension pleased her poor woman's heart "And then you step into aa box, and pouf! up you go." He tossed his empty cup in the dPir by way of illus tration and as he deftly caught it cried: "And biff! down you come. Oh, great medicine men! You go Fort Yukon I go Arctic Citytwenty-live sleepbig string, all the timeI catch him string. I say: 'Hello, Ruth! How are ye?' And you say. *Is that my good hus- band?' Andt 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. Hi-yu medicine man!" Ruth smiled so ingenuously at the fairy story that both men burst into laughter. A row among the dogs cut short the 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 put the sled with the gee pole. Ruth followed with the second team, leaving Malemute Kid, 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 thore, 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 join their fellows. trr red the Animal in the Snow, Quivering Softly. 1 No more conversation. The toll of the trail will not permit such extrav agance. And of all deadening labors that of the northland trail is the worst. Happy is 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 sinks till the snov^TS level with the knee. Then up, straight up, the deviation of a frac tion of an inch being a certain pre cursor of disaster, the snowshoe must be lifted till the surface is cleared then forward, down, and the 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 his shoes in dangerous pro pinquity and measures not his length on the treacherous footing, will 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 with 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 man of his finitythe ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earth quake, the long roll of heaven's artil lerybut 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. Solo speck of life journey ing across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realizes 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 himthe 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. Agaio and again, though Ruth and Malemute Kid were shoving on the sled, they slipped bnek. Then came tho concerted effort. The miserable creatures, weak from hunger, exerted their last strength. LTp, THE TOMAHAWK. WHITE EARTH. MINN. 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- GUlt 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 dovil's on its last legs. Walt 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. Carmenfor it was Carmencowered in the snow, cried piteously, then roll ed over on her side. It was a tragic moment, a pitiful in cident of the traila dying dog, two comrades in anger. Ruth glanced so licitously from man to man, but Male 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 and 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 headv 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 the trail towered a lofty pine. For generations 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 his moccasin. The sleds came to a halt, and the dogs lay down in t*e snow without a whimper. The still ness was weird. Not a breath rustled the frost encrusted forest. The eold and silence of outer space had chilled the heart and smote the trembling lips of nature. A sigh pulsed through the air. They did net 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 the trag edy of Hfe. Mason 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 gave 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 porised handspike, easing the pressure and listening to her husband's groans, wflfle Malemute Kid attacked the tree with bis ax. The steel rang merrily as it bit into the frozen trunk, each stroke being accompanied bv a forced, audible respiration, the "Hah! Hah!" of the woodsman. At last the KM laM the pitiable thing that waa o* a man la the snow. He Stooped to Fasten the Loosened Throng. 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 the inestimable 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 down upon him, a trick which men 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 bis 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 as he raved of swimming holes and coon hunts and watermelon raids. It was as Greek to Ruth, bat the Kid under stood and feltfelt as only one can feql who has been shut oat for years from all that civilization means. Morning brought consciousness to the stricken man, and Malemute KM bent closer to catch his whispers. "You remember when we foregath ered on -the Tanana, four years come next Ice 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. Bat, 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 yon know there Isn't her equal. D' ye rec ollect the time she shot the Meosehorn rapids to pull you and me off that rock, the ballets whipping the water like hailstones, and the time of the famine at Nuklukyeto, or when she raced the ice nm to bring the news? Yes, she's been a good wife to me, letter*n 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 Tm here. Been raised together too. I come away to give her a chance for divorce. She got it. "But that's got nothing to do with Ruth. I bod thought of cleaning np and purimg for the Outside next year, her and Ibut it's too late. Don't send her hack to her people, KM. It's beast ly hard for a woman to go back. Think of itnearly four years on oar bacon and beans and floor and dried fruit, and then to go back tocher fish and cariboo! It's not good for her to have tried oar ways, toyme to know tbey'pe bettcr'n her people's, and tnen return to them. Take care of her, KM. Why dont yon-bat Wff alwofa fought shy of them, and you never told 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 youngsterit's drawn us closer, Kid. I only hope it is a boy. Think of itflesh of my flesh, Kid! He mustn't stop in this country. And if it's a girl, why, she can't. Sell my furs. They'll .fetch at least five thou sand. And 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 him come back. This conn try was not made for white men. "I'm a gone man, Kid. Three or four sleeps at the best. You've got to go on. You must go on! Remember, it's my wife, it's my boyO God, I hope it's a boy! You can't stay by me, and I 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 up." "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 it through on the grub, and I might knock over a moose." "Noall rightone day, but not a minute more. And, Kid. don'tdon't leave me to face it alone. Just a shot, one pull on the trigger. You under stand. Think of it! Thina of it! 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 the boy and not wait till I'm dead. She might refuse to go with you if I didn't. Goodby, old man. "Kid, I sayasink a hole above the pup, next to the 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 sorryfor you knowCarmen." 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 the northland, but never had he faced so stiff a prob lem as this. In the abstract it was a plain, mathematical propositionthree 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 of a vague jealousy of Ruth from the first time she had come between. And now it must be severed by his own hand. 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 up roar from the dogs and shrill cries from Ruth hastened him. Bursting into the camp, he saw the girl in the midst of the snarling pack, laying about her with an ax. The dogs had broken the iron rule of their mas- ters and were rushing the grub. He joined the issue with his rifle reversed, and the hoary game of natural selec tion was played out with all the ruth lessness of its primeval environment. Rifle and ax went up and down, hit or missed with monotonous regularity. Lithe bodies flashed with wild eyes and dripping fangs, and man and beast fought for supremacy to the bit terest conclusion. Then the beaten brutes crept to the edge of the lire light, licking their wounds, voicing their misery to the stars. 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 tho dogs, the skull of which had been crushed by the ax. Every portion was carefully put away, save the bide and offal, which were cast to his fellows of the moment before. Morning brought fresh trouble. Tho animals-were turning on each other. Carmen, who still clung to her slender thread of life, was downed by the pack. The 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 Vvith thongs of moosehide. Ruth had received her husband's last wishes and made no struggle. Poor girl! She had learned the lesson of obedience well. From a child she- had bowed and seen all women bow to tho 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 bandher own people had no such cus tomthen 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 had fallen into a co ma, and long after she was out of sight crouched by the fire, 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 pitiless. 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 of fire athwart the heavens, then quick ly drew it back. Malemute Kid roused and dragged himself to bis comrade's side. 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 bis aerial sepulchre, and Malemute Kid lashed the dogs into a wild gallop as he fled across the snow..