Darmowy fragment publikacji:
The Taste of the Meat
In the beginning he was Christopher Bellew. By the time he was at college he had become Chris
Bellew. Later, in the Bohemian crowd of San Francisco, he was called Kit Bellew. And in the
end he was known by no other name than Smoke Bellew. And this history of the evolution of
his name is the history of his evolution. Nor would it have happened had he not had a fond
mother and an iron uncle, and had he not received a letter from Gillet Bellamy.
I have just seen a copy of The Billow, Gillet wrote from Paris. Of course O Hara will succeed
with it. But he s missing some tricks. Here followed details in the improvement of the budding
society weekly. Go down and see him. Let him think they re your own suggestions. Don t let
him know they re from me. If you do, he ll make me Paris correspondent, which I can t afford,
because I m getting real money for my stuff from the big magazines. Above all, don t forget to
make him fire that dub who s doing the musical and art criticism. Another thing. San Francisco
has always had a literature of her own. But she hasn t any now. Tell him to kick around and get
some gink to turn out a live serial, and to put into it the real romance and glamour and colour
of San Francisco.
And down to the office of The Billow went Kit Bellew faithfully to instruct. O Hara listened.
O Hara debated. O Hara agreed. O Hara fired the dub who wrote criticisms. Further, O Hara had
a way with him--the very way that was feared by Gillet in distant Paris. When O Hara wanted
anything, no friend could deny him. He was sweetly and compellingly irresistible. Before Kit
Bellew could escape from the office, he had become an associate editor, had agreed to write
weekly columns of criticism till some decent pen was found, and had pledged himself to write
a weekly instalment of ten thousand words on the San Francisco serial--and all this without pay.
The Billow wasn t paying yet, O Hara explained; and just as convincingly had he exposited that
there was only one man in San Francisco capable of writing the serial and that man Kit Bellew.
Oh, Lord, I m the gink! Kit had groaned to himself afterward on the narrow stairway.
And thereat had begun his servitude to O Hara and the insatiable columns of The Billow. Week
after week he held down an office chair, stood off creditors, wrangled with printers, and turned
out twenty-five thousand words of all sorts. Nor did his labours lighten. The Billow was
ambitious. It went in for illustration. The processes were expensive. It never had any money to
pay Kit Bellew, and by the same token it was unable to pay for any additions to the office staff.
This is what comes of being a good fellow, Kit grumbled one day.
Thank God for good fellows then, O Hara cried, with tears in his eyes as he gripped Kit s
hand. You re all that s saved me, Kit. But for you I d have gone bust. Just a little longer, old
man, and things will be easier.
Never, was Kit s plaint. I see my fate clearly. I shall be here always.
A little later he thought he saw his way out. Watching his chance, in O Hara s presence, he fell
over a chair. A few minutes afterwards he bumped into the corner of the desk, and, with
fumbling fingers, capsized a paste pot.
Out late? O Hara queried.
Kit brushed his eyes with his hands and peered about him anxiously before replying.
No, it s not that. It s my eyes. They seem to be going back on me, that s all.
For several days he continued to fall over and bump into the office furniture. But O Hara s heart
was not softened.
I tell you what, Kit, he said one day, you ve got to see an oculist. There s Doctor Hassdapple.
He s a crackerjack. And it won t cost you anything. We can get it for advertizing. I ll see him
And, true to his word, he dispatched Kit to the oculist.
There s nothing the matter with your eyes, was the doctor s verdict, after a lengthy
examination. In fact, your eyes are magnificent--a pair in a million.
Don t tell O Hara, Kit pleaded. And give me a pair of black glasses.
The result of this was that O Hara sympathized and talked glowingly of the time when The
Billow would be on its feet.
Luckily for Kit Bellew, he had his own income. Small it was, compared with some, yet it was
large enough to enable him to belong to several clubs and maintain a studio in the Latin Quarter.
In point of fact, since his associate-editorship, his expenses had decreased prodigiously. He had
no time to spend money. He never saw the studio any more, nor entertained the local Bohemians
with his famous chafing-dish suppers. Yet he was always broke, for The Billow, in perennial
distress, absorbed his cash as well as his brains. There were the illustrators, who periodically
refused to illustrate, the printers, who periodically refused to print, and the office-boy, who
frequently refused to officiate. At such times O Hara looked at Kit, and Kit did the rest.
When the steamship Excelsior arrived from Alaska, bringing the news of the Klondike strike
that set the country mad, Kit made a purely frivolous proposition.
Look here, O Hara, he said. This gold rush is going to be big--the days of 49 over again.
Suppose I cover it for The Billow? I ll pay my own expenses.
O Hara shook his head.
Can t spare you from the office, Kit. Then there s that serial. Besides, I saw Jackson not an
hour ago. He s starting for the Klondike to-morrow, and he s agreed to send a weekly letter and
photos. I wouldn t let him get away till he promised. And the beauty of it is, that it doesn t cost
The next Kit heard of the Klondike was when he dropped into the club that afternoon, and, in
an alcove off the library, encountered his uncle.
Hello, avuncular relative, Kit greeted, sliding into a leather chair and spreading out his legs.
Won t you join me?
He ordered a cocktail, but the uncle contented himself with the thin native claret he invariably
drank. He glanced with irritated disapproval at the cocktail, and on to his nephew s face. Kit
saw a lecture gathering.
I ve only a minute, he announced hastily. I ve got to run and take in that Keith exhibition at
Ellery s and do half a column on it.
What s the matter with you? the other demanded. You re pale. You re a wreck.
Kit s only answer was a groan.
I ll have the pleasure of burying you, I can see that.
Kit shook his head sadly.
No destroying worm, thank you. Cremation for mine.
John Bellew came of the old hard and hardy stock that had crossed the plains by ox-team in the
fifties, and in him was this same hardness and the hardness of a childhood spent in the
conquering of a new land.
You re not living right, Christopher. I m ashamed of you.
Primrose path, eh? Kit chuckled.
The older man shrugged his shoulders.
Shake not your gory locks at me, avuncular. I wish it were the primrose path. But that s all cut
out. I have no time.
Then what in--?
John Bellew laughed harshly and incredulously.
Again came the laughter.
Men are the products of their environment, Kit proclaimed, pointing at the other s glass. Your
mirth is thin and bitter as your drink.
Overwork! was the sneer. You never earned a cent in your life.
You bet I have--only I never got it. I m earning five hundred a week right now, and doing four
men s work.
Pictures that won t sell? Or--er--fancy work of some sort? Can you swim?
I used to.
Sit a horse?
I have essayed that adventure.
John Bellew snorted his disgust. I m glad your father didn t live to see you in all the glory of
your gracelessness, he said. Your father was a man, every inch of him. Do you get it? A man.
I think he d have whaled all this musical and artistic tom foolery out of you.
Alas! these degenerate days, Kit sighed.
I could understand it, and tolerate it, the other went on savagely, if you succeeded at it.
You ve never earned a cent in your life, nor done a tap of man s work.
Etchings, and pictures, and fans, Kit contributed unsoothingly.
You re a dabbler and a failure. What pictures have you painted? Dinky water-colours and
nightmare posters. You ve never had one exhibited, even here in San Francisco--
Ah, you forget. There is one in the jinks room of this very club.
A gross cartoon. Music? Your dear fool of a mother spent hundreds on lessons. You ve dabbled
and failed. You ve never even earned a five-dollar piece by accompanying some one at a
concert. Your songs?--rag-time rot that s never printed and that s sung only by a pack of fake
I had a book published once--those sonnets, you remember, Kit interposed meekly.
What did it cost you?
Only a couple of hundred.
Any other achievements?
I had a forest play acted at the summer jinks.
What did you get for it?
And you used to swim, and you have essayed to sit a horse! John Bellew set his glass down
with unnecessary violence. What earthly good are you anyway? You were well put up, yet
even at university you didn t play football. You didn t row. You didn t--
I boxed and fenced--some.
When did you box last?
Not since, but I was considered an excellent judge of time and distance, only I was--er--
Lazy, you mean.
I always imagined it was an euphemism.
My father, sir, your grandfather, old Isaac Bellew, killed a man with a blow of his fist when
he was sixty-nine years old.
No, your--you graceless scamp! But you ll never kill a mosquito at sixty-nine.
The times have changed, oh, my avuncular! They send men to prison for homicide now.
Your father rode one hundred and eighty-five miles, without sleeping, and killed three horses.
Had he lived to-day, he d have snored over the course in a Pullman.
The older man was on the verge of choking with wrath, but swallowed it down and managed to
How old are you?
I have reason to believe--
I know. Twenty-seven. You finished college at twenty-two. You ve dabbled and played and
frilled for five years. Before God and man, of what use are you? When I was your age I had one
suit of underclothes. I was riding with the cattle in Coluso. I was hard as rocks, and I could
sleep on a rock. I lived on jerked beef and bear-meat. I am a better man physically right now
than you are. You weigh about one hundred and sixty-five. I can throw you right now, or thrash
you with my fists.
It doesn t take a physical prodigy to mop up cocktails or pink tea, Kit murmured
deprecatingly. Don t you see, my avuncular, the times have changed. Besides, I wasn t brought
up right. My dear fool of a mother--
John Bellew started angrily.
--As you described her, was too good to me; kept me in cotton wool and all the rest. Now, if
when I was a youngster I had taken some of those intensely masculine vacations you go in for-
-I wonder why you didn t invite me sometimes? You took Hal and Robbie all over the Sierras
and on that Mexico trip.
I guess you were too Lord-Fauntleroyish.
Your fault, avuncular, and my dear--er--mother s. How was I to know the hard? I was only a
chee-ild. What was there left but etchings and pictures and fans? Was it my fault that I never
had to sweat?
The older man looked at his nephew with unconcealed disgust. He had no patience with levity
from the lips of softness.
Well, I m going to take another one of those what-you-call masculine vacations. Suppose I
asked you to come along?
Rather belated, I must say. Where is it?
Hal and Robert are going in to Klondike, and I m going to see them across the Pass and down
to the Lakes, then return--
He got no further, for the young man had sprung forward and gripped his hand.
John Bellew was immediately suspicious. He had not dreamed the invitation would be accepted.
You don t mean it? he said.
When do we start?
It will be a hard trip. You ll be in the way.
No, I won t. I ll work. I ve learned to work since I went on The Billow.
Each man has to take a year s supplies in with him. There ll be such a jam the Indian packers
won t be able to handle it. Hal and Robert will have to pack their outfits across themselves.
That s what I m going along for--to help them pack. If you come you ll have to do the same.
You can t pack, was the objection.
When do we start?
You needn t take it to yourself that your lecture on the hard has done it, Kit said, at parting.
I just had to get away, somewhere, anywhere, from O Hara.
Who is O Hara? A Jap?
No; he s an Irishman, and a slave-driver, and my best friend. He s the editor and proprietor and
all-round big squeeze of The Billow. What he says goes. He can make ghosts walk.
That night Kit Bellew wrote a note to O Hara. It s only a several weeks vacation, he explained.
You ll have to get some gink to dope out instalments for that serial. Sorry, old man, but my
health demands it. I ll kick in twice as hard when I get back.
Kit Bellew landed through the madness of the Dyea beach, congested with thousand-pound
outfits of thousands of men. This immense mass of luggage and food, flung ashore in mountains
by the steamers, was beginning slowly to dribble up the Dyea Valley and across Chilkoot. It
was a portage of twenty-eight miles, and could be accomplished only on the backs of men.
Despite the fact that the Indian packers had jumped the freight from eight cents a pound to forty,
they were swamped with the work, and it was plain that winter would catch the major portion
of the outfits on the wrong side of the divide.
Tenderest of the tenderfeet was Kit. Like many hundreds of others he carried a big revolver
swung on a cartridge-belt. Of this, his uncle, filled with memories of old lawless days, was
likewise guilty. But Kit Bellew was romantic. He was fascinated by the froth and sparkle of the
gold rush, and viewed its life and movement with an artist s eye. He did not take it seriously.
As he said on the steamer, it was not his funeral. He was merely on a vacation, and intended to
peep over the top of the pass for a look see and then to return.
Leaving his party on the sand to wait for the putting ashore of the freight, he strolled up the
beach toward the old trading-post. He did not swagger, though he noticed that many of the be-
revolvered individuals did. A strapping, six-foot Indian passed him, carrying an unusually large
pack. Kit swung in behind, admiring the splendid calves of the man, and the grace and ease
with which he moved along under his burden. The Indian dropped his pack on the scales in
front of the post, and Kit joined the group of admiring gold-rushers who surrounded him. The
pack weighed one hundred and twenty-five pounds, which fact was uttered back and forth in
tones of awe. It was going some, Kit decided, and he wondered if he could lift such a weight,
much less walk off with it.
Going to Lake Linderman with it, old man? he asked.
The Indian, swelling with pride, grunted an affirmative.
How much you make that one pack?
Here Kit slid out of the conversation. A young woman, standing in the doorway, had caught his
eye. Unlike other women landing from the steamers, she was neither short-skirted nor bloomer-
clad. She was dressed as any woman travelling anywhere would be dressed. What struck him
was the justness of her being there, a feeling that somehow she belonged. Moreover, she was
young and pretty. The bright beauty and colour of her oval face held him, and he looked over-
long--looked till she resented, and her own eyes, long-lashed and dark, met his in cool survey.
From his face they travelled in evident amusement down to the big revolver at his thigh. Then
her eyes came back to his, and in them was amused contempt. It struck him like a blow. She
turned to the man beside her and indicated Kit. The man glanced him over with the same amused
Chechako, the girl said.
The man, who looked like a tramp in his cheap overalls and dilapidated woollen jacket, grinned
dryly, and Kit felt withered, though he knew not why. But anyway she was an unusually pretty
girl, he decided, as the two moved off. He noted the way of her walk, and recorded the judgment
that he would recognize it over the lapse of a thousand years.
Did you see that man with the girl? Kit s neighbor asked him excitedly. Know who he is?
Kit shook his head.
Cariboo Charley. He was just pointed out to me. He struck it big on Klondike. Old-timer. Been
on the Yukon a dozen years. He s just come out.
What s chechako mean? Kit asked.
You re one; I m one, was the answer.
Maybe I am, but you ve got to search me. What does it mean?
On his way back to the beach, Kit turned the phrase over and over. It rankled to be called
tenderfoot by a slender chit of a woman.
Going into a corner among the heaps of freight, his mind still filled with the vision of the Indian
with the redoubtable pack, Kit essayed to learn his own strength. He picked out a sack of flour
which he knew weighed an even hundred pounds. He stepped astride it, reached down, and
strove to get it on his shoulder. His first conclusion was that one hundred pounds were real
heavy. His next was that his back was weak. His third was an oath, and it occurred at the end
of five futile minutes, when he collapsed on top of the burden with which he was wrestling. He
mopped his forehead, and across a heap of grub-sacks saw John Bellew gazing at him, wintry
amusement in his eyes.
God! proclaimed that apostle of the hard. Out of our loins has come a race of weaklings.
When I was sixteen I toyed with things like that.
You forget, avuncular, Kit retorted, that I wasn t raised on bear-meat.
And I ll toy with it when I m sixty.
You ve got to show me.
John Bellew did. He was forty-eight, but he bent over the sack, applied a tentative, shifting grip
that balanced it, and, with a quick heave, stood erect, the somersaulted sack of flour on his
Knack, my boy, knack--and a spine.
Kit took off his hat reverently.
You re a wonder, avuncular, a shining wonder. D ye think I can learn the knack?
John Bellew shrugged his shoulders. You ll be hitting the back trail before we get started.
Never you fear, Kit groaned. There s O Hara, the roaring lion, down there. I m not going
back till I have to.
Kit s first pack was a success. Up to Finnegan s Crossing they had managed to get Indians to
carry the twenty-five-hundred-pound outfit. From that point their own backs must do the work.
They planned to move forward at the rate of a mile a day. It looked easy--on paper. Since John
Bellew was to stay in camp and do the cooking, he would be unable to make more than an
occasional pack; so to each of the three young men fell the task of carrying eight hundred
pounds one mile each day. If they made fifty-pound packs, it meant a daily walk of sixteen
miles loaded and of fifteen miles light-- Because we don t back-trip the last time, Kit explained
the pleasant discovery. Eighty-pound packs meant nineteen miles travel each day; and hundred-
pound packs meant only fifteen miles.
I don t like walking, said Kit. Therefore I shall carry one hundred pounds. He caught the
grin of incredulity on his uncle s face, and added hastily: Of course I shall work up to it. A
fellow s got to learn the ropes and tricks. I ll start with fifty.
He did, and ambled gaily along the trail. He dropped the sack at the next camp-site and ambled
back. It was easier than he had thought. But two miles had rubbed off the velvet of his strength
and exposed the underlying softness. His second pack was sixty-five pounds. It was more
difficult, and he no longer ambled. Several times, following the custom of all packers, he sat
down on the ground, resting the pack behind him on a rock or stump. With the third pack he
became bold. He fastened the straps to a ninety-five-pound sack of beans and started. At the
end of a hundred yards he felt that he must collapse. He sat down and mopped his face.
Short hauls and short rests, he muttered. That s the trick.
Sometimes he did not make a hundred yards, and each time he struggled to his feet for another
short haul the pack became undeniably heavier. He panted for breath, and the sweat streamed
from him. Before he had covered a quarter of a mile he stripped off his woollen shirt and hung
it on a tree. A little later he discarded his hat. At the end of half a mile he decided he was
finished. He had never exerted himself so in his life, and he knew that he was finished. As he
sat and panted, his gaze fell upon the big revolver and the heavy cartridge-belt.
Ten pounds of junk! he sneered, as he unbuckled it.
He did not bother to hang it on a tree, but flung it into the underbush. And as the steady tide of
packers flowed by him, up trail and down, he noted that the other tenderfeet were beginning to
shed their shooting-irons.
His short hauls decreased. At times a hundred feet was all he could stagger, and then the
ominous pounding of his heart against his eardrums and the sickening totteriness of his knees
compelled him to rest. And his rests grew longer. But his mind was busy. It was a twenty-eight-
mile portage, which represented as many days, and this, by all accounts, was the easiest part of
it. Wait till you get to Chilkoot, others told him as they rested and talked, where you climb
with hands and feet.
They ain t going to be no Chilkoot, was his answer. Not for me. Long before that I ll be at
peace in my little couch beneath the moss.
A slip and a violent, wrenching effort at recovery frightened him. He felt that everything inside
him had been torn asunder.
If ever I fall down with this on my back, I m a goner, he told another packer.
That s nothing, came the answer. Wait till you hit the Canyon. You ll have to cross a raging
torrent on a sixty-foot pine-tree. No guide-ropes, nothing, and the water boiling at the sag of
the log to your knees. If you fall with a pack on your back, there s no getting out of the straps.
You just stay there and drown.
Sounds good to me, he retorted; and out of the depths of his exhaustion he almost meant it.
They drown three or four a day there, the man assured him. I helped fish a German out of
there. He had four thousand in greenbacks on him.
Cheerful, I must say, said Kit, battling his way to his feet and tottering on.
He and the sack of beans became a perambulating tragedy. It reminded him of the old man of
the sea who sat on Sinbad s neck. And this was one of those intensely masculine vacations, he
meditated. Compared with it, the servitude to O Hara was sweet. Again and again he was nearly
seduced by the thought of abandoning the sack of beans in the brush and of sneaking around
the camp to the beach and catching a steamer for civilization.
But he didn t. Somewhere in him was the strain of the hard, and he repeated over and over to
himself that what other men could do, he could. It became a nightmare chant, and he gibbered
it to those that passed him on the trail. At other times, resting, he watched and envied the stolid,
mule-footed Indians that plodded by under heavier packs. They never seemed to rest, but went
on and on with a steadiness and certitude that were to him appalling.
He sat and cursed--he had no breath for it when under way--and fought the temptation to sneak
back to San Francisco. Before the mile pack was ended he ceased cursing and took to crying.
The tears were tears of exhaustion and of disgust with self. If ever a man was a wreck, he was.
As the end of the pack came in sight, he strained himself in desperation, gained the camp-site,
and pitched forward on his face, the beans on his back. It did not kill him, but he lay for fifteen
minutes before he could summon sufficient shreds of strength to release himself from the straps.
Then he became deathly sick, and was so found by Robbie, who had similar troubles of his
own. It was this sickness of Robbie that braced Kit up.
What other men can do, we can do, Kit told Robbie, though down in his heart he wondered
whether or not he was bluffing.
And I am twenty-seven years old and a man, he privately assured himself many times in the
days that followed. There was need for it. At the end of a week, though he had succeeded in
moving his eight hundred pounds forward a mile a day, he had lost fifteen pounds of his own
weight. His face was lean and haggard. All resilience had gone out of his body and mind. He
no longer walked, but plodded. And on the back-trips, travelling light, his feet dragged almost
as much as when he was loaded.
He had become a work animal. He fell asleep over his food, and his sleep was heavy and beastly,
save when he was aroused, screaming with agony, by the cramps in his legs. Every part of him
ached. He tramped on raw blisters; yet even this was easier than the fearful bruising his feet
received on the water-rounded rocks of the Dyea Flats, across which the trail led for two miles.
These two miles represented thirty-eight miles of travelling. He washed his face once a day.
His nails, torn and broken and afflicted with hangnails, were never cleaned. His shoulders and
chest, galled by the pack-straps, made him think, and for the first time with understanding, of
the horses he had seen on city streets.
One ordeal that nearly destroyed him at first had been the food. The extraordinary amount of
work demanded extraordinary stoking, and his stomach was unaccustomed to great quantities
of bacon and of the coarse, highly poisonous brown beans. As a result, his stomach went back
on him, and for several days the pain and irritation of it and of starvation nearly broke him
down. And then came the day of joy when he could eat like a ravenous animal, and, wolf-eyed,
ask for more.
When they had moved the outfit across the foot-logs at the mouth of the Canyon, they made a
change in their plans. Word had come across the Pass that at Lake Linderman the last available
trees for building boats were being cut. The two cousins, with tools, whipsaw, blankets, and
grub on their backs, went on, leaving Kit and his uncle to hustle along the outfit. John Bellew
now shared the cooking with Kit, and both packed shoulder to shoulder. Time was flying, and
on the peaks the first snow was falling. To be caught on the wrong side of the Pass meant a
delay of nearly a year. The older man put his iron back under a hundred pounds. Kit was
shocked, but he gritted his teeth and fastened his own straps to a hundred pounds. It hurt, but
he had learned the knack, and his body, purged of all softness and fat, was beginning to harden
up with lean and bitter muscle. Also, he observed and devised. He took note of the head-straps
worn by the Indians and manufactured one for himself, which he used in addition to the
shoulder-straps. It made things easier, so that he began the practice of piling any light,
cumbersome piece of luggage on top. Thus, he was soon able to bend along with a hundred
pounds in the straps, fifteen or twenty more lying loosely on top of the pack and against his
neck, an axe or a pair of oars in one hand, and in the other the nested cooking-pails of the camp.
But work as they would, the toil increased. The trail grew more rugged; their packs grew
heavier; and each day saw the snow-line dropping down the mountains, while freight jumped
to sixty cents. No word came from the cousins beyond, so they knew they must be at work
chopping down the standing trees and whipsawing them into boat-planks. John Bellew grew
anxious. Capturing a bunch of Indians back-tripping from Lake Linderman, he persuaded them
to put their straps on the outfit. They charged thirty cents a pound to carry it to the summit of
Chilkoot, and it nearly broke him. As it was, some four hundred pounds of clothes-bags and
camp outfit were not handled. He remained behind to move it along, dispatching Kit with the
Indians. At the summit Kit was to remain, slowly moving his ton until overtaken by the four
hundred pounds with which his uncle guaranteed to catch him.
Kit plodded along the trail with his Indian packers. In recognition of the fact that it was to be a
long pack, straight to the top of Chilkoot, his own load was only eighty pounds. The Indians
plodded under their loads, but it was a quicker gait than he had practised. Yet he felt no
apprehension, and by now had come to deem himself almost the equal of an Indian.
At the end of a quarter of a mile he desired to rest. But the Indians kept on. He stayed with
them, and kept his place in the line. At the half-mile he was convinced that he was incapable of
another step, yet he gritted his teeth, kept his place, and at the end of the mile was amazed that
he was still alive. Then, in some strange way, came the thing called second wind, and the next
mile was almost easier than the first. The third mile nearly killed him, but, though half delirious
with pain and fatigue, he never whimpered. And then, when he felt he must surely faint, came
the rest. Instead of sitting in the straps, as was the custom of the white packers, the Indians
slipped out of the shoulder- and head-straps and lay at ease, talking and smoking. A full half-
hour passed before they made another start. To Kit s surprise he found himself a fresh man, and
long hauls and long rests became his newest motto.
The pitch of Chilkoot was all he had heard of it, and many were the occasions when he climbed
with hands as well as feet. But when he reached the crest of the divide in the thick of a driving
snow-squall, it was in the company of his Indians, and his secret pride was that he had come
through with them and never squealed and never lagged. To be almost as good as an Indian was
a new ambition to cherish.
When he had paid off the Indians and seen them depart, a stormy darkness was falling, and he
was left alone, a thousand feet above timber-line, on the backbone of a mountain. Wet to the
waist, famished and exhausted, he would have given a year s income for a fire and a cup of
coffee. Instead, he ate half a dozen cold flapjacks and crawled into the folds of the partly
unrolled tent. As he dozed off he had time for only one fleeting thought, and he grinned with
vicious pleasure at the picture of John Bellew in the days to follow, masculinely back-tripping
his four hundred pounds up Chilcoot. As for himself, even though burdened with two thousand
pounds, he was bound down the hill.
In the morning, stiff from his labours and numb with the frost, he rolled out of the canvas, ate
a couple of pounds of uncooked bacon, buckled the straps on a hundred pounds, and went down
the rocky way. Several hundred yards beneath, the trail led across a small glacier and down to
Crater Lake. Other men packed across the glacier. All that day he dropped his packs at the
glacier s upper edge, and, by virtue of the shortness of the pack, he put his straps on one hundred
and fifty pounds each load. His astonishment at being able to do it never abated. For two dollars
he bought from an Indian three leathery sea-biscuits, and out of these, and a huge quantity of
raw bacon, made several meals. Unwashed, unwarmed, his clothing wet with sweat, he slept
another night in the canvas.
In the early morning he spread a tarpaulin on the ice, loaded it with three-quarters of a ton, and
started to pull. Where the pitch of the glacier accelerated, his load likewise accelerated, overran
him, scooped him in on top, and ran away with him.
A hundred packers, bending under their loads, stopped to watch him. He yelled frantic
warnings, and those in his path stumbled and staggered clear. Below, on the lower edge of the
glacier, was pitched a small tent, which seemed leaping toward him, so rapidly did it grow
larger. He left the beaten track where the packers trail swerved to the left, and struck a patch of
fresh snow. This arose about him in frosty smoke, while it reduced his speed. He saw the tent
the instant he struck it, carrying away the corner guys, bursting in the front flaps, and fetching
up inside, still on top of the tarpaulin and in the midst of his grub-sacks. The tent rocked
drunkenly, and in the frosty vapour he found himself face to face with a startled young woman
who was sitting up in her blankets--the very one who had called him a tenderfoot at Dyea.
Did you see my smoke? he queried cheerfully.
She regarded him with disapproval.
Talk about your magic carpets! he went on.
Do you mind removing that sack from my foot? she said coldly.
He looked, and lifted his weight quickly.
It wasn t a sack. It was my elbow. Pardon me.
The information did not perturb her, and her coolness was a challenge.
It was a mercy you did not overturn the stove, she said.
He followed her glance and saw a sheet-iron stove and a coffee-pot, attended by a young squaw.
He sniffed the coffee and looked back to the girl.
I m a chechako, he said.
Her bored expression told him that he was stating the obvious. But he was unabashed.
I ve shed my shooting-irons, he added.
Then she recognized him, and her eyes lighted. I never thought you d get this far, she informed
Again, and greedily, he sniffed the air. As I live, coffee! He turned and directly addressed
her: I ll give you my little finger--cut it right off now; I ll do anything; I ll be your slave for a
year and a day or any other old time, if you ll give me a cup out of that pot.
And over the coffee he gave his name and learned hers--Joy Gastell. Also, he learned that she
was an old-timer in the country. She had been born in a trading-post on the Great Slave, and as
a child had crossed the Rockies with her father and come down to the Yukon. She was going
in, she said, with her father, who had been delayed by business in Seattle, and who had then
been wrecked on the ill-fated Chanter and carried back to Puget Sound by the rescuing steamer.
In view of the fact that she was still in her blankets, he did not make it a long conversation, and,
heroically declining a second cup of coffee, he removed himself and his heaped and shifted
baggage from her tent. Further, he took several conclusions away with him: she had a fetching
name and fetching eyes; could not be more than twenty, or twenty-one or -two; her father must
be French; she had a will of her own and temperament to burn; and she had been educated
elsewhere than on the frontier.
Over the ice-scoured rocks and above the timber-line, the trail ran around Crater Lake and
gained the rocky defile that led toward Happy Camp and the first scrub-pines. To pack his heavy
outfit around would take days of heart-breaking toil. On the lake was a canvas boat employed
in freighting. Two trips with it, in two hours, would see him and his ton across. But he was
broke, and the ferryman charged forty dollars a ton.
You ve got a gold-mine, my friend, in that dinky boat, Kit said to the ferryman. Do you want
Show me, was the answer.
I ll sell it to you for the price of ferrying my outfit. It s an idea, not patented, and you can jump
the deal as soon as I tell you it. Are you game?
The ferryman said he was, and Kit liked his looks.
Very well. You see that glacier. Take a pick-axe and wade into it. In a day you can have a
decent groove from top to bottom. See the point? The Chilkoot and Crater Lake Consolidated
Chute Corporation, Limited. You can charge fifty cents a hundred, get a hundred tons a day,
and have no work to do but collect the coin.
Two hours later, Kit s ton was across the lake, and he had gained three days on himself. And
when John Bellew overtook him, he was well along toward Deep Lake, another volcanic pit
filled with glacial water.
The last pack, from Long Lake to Linderman, was three miles, and the trail, if trail it could be
called, rose up over a thousand-foot hogback, dropped down a scramble of slippery rocks, and
crossed a wide stretch of swamp. John Bellew remonstrated when he saw Kit arise with a
hundred pounds in the straps and pick up a fifty-pound sack of flour and place it on top of the
pack against the back of his neck.
Come on, you chunk of the hard, Kit retorted. Kick in on your bear-meat fodder and your
one suit of underclothes.
But John Bellew shook his head. I m afraid I m getting old, Christopher.
You re only forty-eight. Do you realize that my grandfather, sir, your father, old Isaac Bellew,
killed a man with his fist when he was sixty-nine years old?
John Bellew grinned and swallowed his medicine.
Avuncular, I want to tell you something important. I was raised a Lord Fauntleroy, but I can
outpack you, outwalk you, put you on your back, or lick you with my fists right now.
John Bellew thrust out his hand and spoke solemnly. Christopher, my boy, I believe you can
do it. I believe you can do it with that pack on your back at the same time. You ve made good,
boy, though it s too unthinkable to believe.
Kit made the round trip of the last pack four times a day, which is to say that he daily covered
twenty-four miles of mountain climbing, twelve miles of it under one hundred and fifty pounds.
He was proud, hard, and tired, but in splendid physical condition. He ate and slept as he had
never eaten and slept in his life, and as the end of the work came in sight, he was almost half
One problem bothered him. He had learned that he could fall with a hundred-weight on his back
and survive; but he was confident, if he fell with that additional fifty pounds across the back of
his neck, that it would break it clean. Each trail through the swamp was quickly churned
bottomless by the thousands of packers, who were compelled continually to make new trails. It
was while pioneering such a new trail, that he solved the problem of the extra fifty.
The soft, lush surface gave way under him; he floundered, and pitched forward on his face. The
fifty pounds crushed his face in the mud and went clear without snapping his neck. With the
remaining hundred pounds on his back, he arose on hands and knees. But he got no farther. One
arm sank to the shoulder, pillowing his cheek in the slush. As he drew this arm clear, the other
sank to the shoulder. In this position it was impossible to slip the straps, and the hundred-weight
on his back would not let him rise. On hands and knees, sinking first one arm and then the other,
he made an effort to crawl to where the small sack of flour had fallen. But he exhausted himself
without advancing, and so churned and broke the grass surface, that a tiny pool of water began
to form in perilous proximity to his mouth and nose.
He tried to throw himself on his back with the pack underneath, but this resulted in sinking both
arms to the shoulders and gave him a foretaste of drowning. With exquisite patience, he slowly
withdrew one sucking arm and then the other and rested them flat on the surface for the support
of his chin. Then he began to call for help. After a time he heard the sound of feet sucking
through the mud as some one advanced from behind.
Lend a hand, friend, he said. Throw out a life-line or something.
It was a woman s voice that answered, and he recognized it.
If you ll unbuckle the straps I can get up.
The hundred pounds rolled into the mud with a soggy noise, and he slowly gained his feet.
A pretty predicament, Miss Gastell laughed, at sight of his mud-covered face.
Not at all, he replied airily. My favourite physical-exercise stunt. Try it some time. It s great
for the pectoral muscles and the spine.
He wiped his face, flinging the slush from his hand with a snappy jerk.
Oh! she cried in recognition. It s Mr.--ah--Mr. Smoke Bellew.
I thank you gravely for your timely rescue and for that name, he answered. I have been
doubly baptized. Henceforth I shall insist always on being called Smoke Bellew. It is a strong
name, and not without significance.
He paused, and then voice and expression became suddenly fierce.
Do you know what I m going to do? he demanded. I m going back to the States. I am going
to get married. I am going to raise a large family of children. And then, as the evening shadows
fall, I shall gather those children about me and relate the sufferings and hardships I endured on
the Chilkoot Trail. And if they don t cry--I repeat, if they don t cry, I ll lambaste the stuffing out
The arctic winter came down apace. Snow that had come to stay lay six inches on the ground,
and the ice was forming in quiet ponds, despite the fierce gales that blew. It was in the late
afternoon, during a lull in such a gale, that Kit and John Bellew helped the cousins load the boat
and watched it disappear down the lake in a snow-squall.
And now a night s sleep and an early start in the morning, said John Bellew. If we aren t
storm-bound at the summit we ll make Dyea to-morrow night, and if we have luck in catching
a steamer we ll be in San Francisco in a week.
Enjoyed your vacation? Kit asked absently.
Their camp for that last night at Linderman was a melancholy remnant. Everything of use,
including the tent, had been taken by the cousins. A tattered tarpaulin, stretched as a wind-
break, partially sheltered them from the driving snow. Supper they cooked on an open fire in a
couple of battered and discarded camp utensils. All that was left them were their blankets, and
food for several meals.
From the moment of the departure of the boat, Kit had become absent and restless. His uncle
noticed his condition, and attributed it to the fact that the end of the hard toil had come. Only
once during supper did Kit speak.
Avuncular, he said, relevant of nothing, after this, I wish you d call me Smoke. I ve made
some smoke on this trail, haven t I?
A few minutes later he wandered away in the direction of the village of tents that sheltered the
gold-rushers who were still packing or building their boats. He was gone several hours, and
when he returned and slipped into his blankets John Bellew was asleep.
In the darkness of a gale-driven morning, Kit crawled out, built a fire in his stocking feet, by
which he thawed out his frozen shoes, then boiled coffee and fried bacon. It was a chilly,
miserable meal. As soon as it was finished, they strapped their blankets. As John Bellew turned
to lead the way toward the Chilcoot Trail, Kit held out his hand.
Good-bye, avuncular, he said.
John Bellew looked at him and swore in his surprise.
Don t forget, my name s Smoke, Kit chided.
But what are you going to do?
Kit waved his hand in a general direction northward over the storm-lashed lake.
What s the good of turning back after getting this far? he asked. Besides, I ve got my taste of
meat, and I like it. I m going on.
You re broke, protested John Bellew. You have no outfit.
I ve got a job. Behold your nephew, Christopher Smoke Bellew! He s got a job! He s a
gentleman s man! He s got a job at a hundred and fifty per month and grub. He s going down to
Dawson with a couple of dudes and another gentleman s man--camp-cook, boatman, and
general all-around hustler. And O Hara and The Billow can go to the devil. Good-bye.
But John Bellew was dazed, and could only mutter: I don t understand.
They say the baldface grizzlies are thick in the Yukon Basin, Kit explained. Well, I ve got
only one suit of underclothes, and I m going after the bear-meat, that s all.
Half the time the wind blew a gale, and Smoke Bellew staggered against it along the beach. In
the gray of dawn a dozen boats were being loaded with the precious outfits packed across
Chilkoot. They were clumsy, home-made boats, put together by men who were not boat-
builders, out of planks they had sawed by hand from green spruce-trees. One boat, already
loaded, was just starting, and Kit paused to watch.
The wind, which was fair down the lake, here blew in squarely on the beach, kicking up a nasty
sea in the shallows. The men of the departing boat waded in high rubber boots as they shoved
it out toward deeper water. Twice they did this. Clambering aboard and failing to row clear, the
boat was swept back and grounded. Kit noticed that the spray on the sides of the boat quickly
turned to ice. The third attempt was a partial success. The last two men to climb in were wet to
their waists, but the boat was afloat. They struggled awkwardly at the heavy oars, and slowly
worked off shore. Then they hoisted a sail made of blankets, had it carry away in a gust, and
were swept a third time back on the freezing beach.
Kit grinned to himself and went on. This was what he must expect to encounter, for he, too, in
his new role of gentleman s man, was to start from the beach in a similar boat that very day.
Everywhere men were at work, and at work desperately, for the closing down of winter was so
imminent that it was a gamble whether or not they would get across the great chain of lakes
before the freeze-up. Yet, when Kit arrived at the tent of Messrs. Sprague and Stine, he did not
find them stirring.
By a fire, under the shelter of a tarpaulin, squatted a short, thick man smoking a brown-paper
Hello, he said. Are you Mister Sprague s new man?
As Kit nodded, he thought he had noted a shade of emphasis on the MISTER and the MAN,
and he was sure of a hint of a twinkle in the corner of the eye.
Well, I m Doc Stine s man, the other went on. I m five feet two inches long, and my name s
Shorty, Jack Short for short, and sometimes known as Johnny-on-the-Spot.
Kit put out his hand and shook. Were you raised on bear-meat? he queried.
Sure, was the answer; though my first feedin was buffalo-milk as near as I can remember.
Sit down an have some grub. The bosses ain t turned out yet.
And despite the one breakfast, Kit sat down under the tarpaulin and ate a second breakfast thrice
as hearty. The heavy, purging toil of weeks had given him the stomach and appetite of a wolf.
He could eat anything, in any quantity, and be unaware that he possessed a digestion. Shorty he
found voluble and pessimistic, and from him he received surprising tips concerning their bosses
and ominous forecasts of the expedition. Thomas Stanley Sprague was a budding mining
engineer and the son of a millionaire. Doctor Adolph Stine was also the son of a wealthy father.
And, through their fathers, both had been backed by an investing syndicate in the Klondike
Oh, they re sure made of money, Shorty expounded. When they hit the beach at Dyea, freight
was seventy cents, but no Indians. There was a party from Eastern Oregon, real miners, that d
managed to get a team of Indians together at seventy cents. Indians had the straps on the outfit,
three thousand pounds of it, when along comes Sprague and Stine. They offered eighty cents
and ninety, and at a dollar a pound the Indians jumped the contract and took off their straps.
Sprague and Stine came through, though it cost them three thousand, and the Oregon bunch is
still on the beach. They won t get through till next year.
Oh, they are real hummers, your boss and mine, when it comes to sheddin the mazuma an
never mindin other folks feelin s. What did they do when they hit Linderman? The carpenters
was just putting in the last licks on a boat they d contracted to a Frisco bunch for six hundred.
Sprague and Stine slipped em an even thousand, and they jumped their contract. It s a good-
lookin boat, but it s jiggered the other bunch. They ve got their outfit right here, but no boat.
And they re stuck for next year.
Have another cup of coffee, and take it from me that I wouldn t travel with no such outfit if I
didn t want to get to Klondike so blamed bad. They ain t hearted right. They d take the crape off
the door of a house in mourning if they needed it in their business. Did you sign a contract?
Kit shook his head.
Then I m sorry for you, pardner. They ain t no grub in the country, and they ll drop you cold
as soon as they hit Dawson. Men are going to starve there this winter.
They agreed-- Kit began.
Verbal, Shorty snapped him short. It s your say-so against theirs, that s all. Well, anyway,
what s your name, pardner?
Call me Smoke, said Kit.
Well, Smoke, you ll have a run for your verbal contract just the same. This is a plain sample
of what to expect. They can sure shed mazuma, but they can t work, or turn out of bed in the
morning. We should have been loaded and started an hour ago. It s you an me for the big work.
Pretty soon you ll hear em shoutin for their coffee--in bed, mind you, and them grown men.
What d ye know about boatin on the water? I m a cowman and a prospector, but I m sure
tenderfooted on water, an they don t know punkins. What d ye know?
Search me, Kit answered, snuggling in closer under the tarpaulin as the snow whirled before
a fiercer gust. I haven t been on a small boat since a boy. But I guess we can learn.
A corner of the tarpaulin tore loose, and Shorty received a jet of driven snow down the back of
Oh, we can learn all right, he muttered wrathfully. Sure we can. A child can learn. But it s
dollars to doughnuts we don t even get started to-day.
It was eight o clock when the call for coffee came from the tent, and nearly nine before the two
Hello, said Sprague, a rosy-cheeked, well-fed young man of twenty-five. Time we made a
start, Shorty. You and-- Here he glanced interrogatively at Kit. I didn t quite catch your name
Well, Shorty, you and Mr. Smoke had better begin loading the boat.
Plain Smoke--cut out the Mister, Kit suggested.
Sprague nodded curtly and strolled away among the tents, to be followed by Doctor Stine, a
slender, pallid young man.
Shorty looked significantly at his companion. Over a ton and a half of outfit, and they won t
lend a hand. You ll see.
I guess it s because we re paid to do the work, Kit answered cheerfully, and we might as well
To move three thousand pounds on the shoulders a hundred yards was no slight task, and to do
it in half a gale, slushing through the snow in heavy rubber boots, was exhausting. In addition,
there was the taking down of the tent and the packing of small camp equipage. Then came the
loading. As the boat settled, it had to be shoved farther and farther out, increasing the distance
they had to wade. By two o clock it had all been accomplished, and Kit, despite his two
breakfasts, was weak with the faintness of hunger. His knees were shaking under him. Shorty,
in similar predicament, foraged through the pots and pans, and drew forth a big pot of cold
boiled beans in which were imbedded large chunks of bacon. There was only one spoon, a long-
handled one, and they dipped, turn and turn about, into the pot. Kit was filled with an immense
certitude that in all his life he had never tasted anything so good.
Lord, man, he mumbled between chews, I never knew what appetite was till I hit the trail.
Sprague and Stine arrived in the midst of this pleasant occupation.
What s the delay? Sprague complained. Aren t we ever going to get started?
Shorty dipped in turn, and passed the spoon to Kit. Nor did either speak till the pot was empty
and the bottom scraped.
Of course we ain t been doin nothing, Shorty said, wiping his mouth with the back of his
hand. We ain t been doin nothing at all. And of course you ain t had nothing to eat. It was sure
careless of me.
Yes, yes, Stine said quickly. We ate at one of the tents-- friends of ours.
Thought so, Shorty grunted.
But now that you re finished, let us get started, Sprague urged.
There s the boat, said Shorty. She s sure loaded. Now, just how might you be goin about to
By climbing aboard and shoving off. Come on.
They waded out, and the employers got on board, while Kit and Shorty shoved clear. When the
waves lapped the tops of their boots they clambered in. The other two men were not prepared
with the oars, and the boat swept back and grounded. Half a dozen times, with a great
expenditure of energy, this was repeated.
Shorty sat down disconsolately on the gunwale, took a chew of tobacco, and questioned the
universe, while Kit baled the boat and the other two exchanged unkind remarks.
If you ll take my orders, I ll get her off, Sprague finally said.
The attempt was well intended, but before he could clamber on board he was wet to the waist.
We ve got to camp and build a fire, he said, as the boat grounded again. I m freezing.
Don t be afraid of a wetting, Stine sneered. Other men have gone off to-day wetter than you.
Now I m going to take her out.
This time it was he who got the wetting and who announced with chattering teeth the need of a
A little splash like that! Sprague chattered spitefully. We ll go on.
Shorty, dig out my clothes-bag and make a fire, the other commanded.
You ll do nothing of the sort, Sprague cried.
Shorty looked from one to the other, expectorated, but did not move.
He s working for me, and I guess he obeys my orders, Stine retorted. Shorty, take that bag
Shorty obeyed, and Sprague shivered in the boat. Kit, having received no orders, remained
inactive, glad of the rest.
A boat divided against itself won t float, he soliloquized.
What s that? Sprague snarled at him.
Talking to myself--habit of mine, he answered.
His employer favoured him with a hard look, and sulked several minutes longer. Then he
Get out my bag, Smoke, he ordered, and lend a hand with that fire. We won t get off till
Next day the gale still blew. Lake Linderman was no more than a narrow mountain gorge filled
with water. Sweeping down from the mountains through this funnel, the wind was irregular,
blowing great guns at times and at other times dwindling to a strong breeze.
If you give me a shot at it, I think I can get her off, Kit said, when all was ready for the start.
What do you know about it? Stine snapped at him.
Search me, Kit answered, and subsided.
It was the first time he had worked for wages in his life, but he was learning the discipline of it
fast. Obediently and cheerfully he joined in various vain efforts to get clear of the beach.
How would you go about it? Sprague finally half panted, half whined at him.
Sit down and get a good rest till a lull comes in the wind, and then buck in for all we re worth.
Simple as the idea was, he had been the first to evolve it; the first time it was applied it worked,
and they hoisted a blanket to the mast and sped down the lake. Stine and Sprague immediately
became cheerful. Shorty, despite his chronic pessimism, was always cheerful, and Kit was too
interested to be otherwise. Sprague struggled with the steering-sweep for a quarter of an hour,
and then looked appealingly at Kit, who relieved him.
My arms are fairly broken with the strain of it, Sprague muttered apologetically.
You never ate bear-meat, did you? Kit asked sympathetically.
What the devil do you mean?
Oh, nothing; I was just wondering.
But behind his employer s back Kit caught the approving grin of Shorty, who had already caught
the whim of his metaphor.
Kit steered the length of Linderman, displaying an aptitude that caused both young men of
money and disinclination for work to name him boat-steerer. Shorty was no less pleased, and
volunteered to continue cooking and leave the boat work to the other.
Between Linderman and Lake Bennett was a portage. The boat, lightly loaded, was lined down
the small but violent connecting stream, and here Kit learned a vast deal more about boats and
water. But when it came to packing the outfit, Stine and Sprague disappeared, and their men
spent two days of back-breaking toil in getting the outfit across. And this was the history of
many miserable days of the trip--Kit and Shorty working to exhaustion, while their masters
toiled not and demanded to be waited upon.
But the iron-bound arctic winter continued to close down, and they were held back by numerous
and unavoidable delays. At Windy Arm, Stine arbitrarily dispossessed Kit of the steering-sweep
and within the hour wrecked the boat on a wave-beaten lee shore. Two days were lost here in
making repairs, and the morning of the fresh start, as they came down to embark, on stern and
bow, in large letters, was charcoaled The Chechako.
Kit grinned at the appropriateness of the invidious word.
Huh! said Shorty, when accused by Stine. I can sure read and spell, an I know that chechako
means tenderfoot, but my education never went high enough to learn me to spell a jaw-breaker
Both employers looked daggers at Kit, for the insult rankled; nor did he mention that the night
before, Shorty had besought him for the spelling of that particular word.
That s most as bad as your bear-meat slam at em, Shorty confided later.
Kit chuckled. Along with the continuous discovery of his own powers had come an ever-
increasing disapproval of the two masters. It was not so much irritation, which was always
present, as disgust. He had got his taste of the meat, and liked it; but they were teaching him
how not to eat it. Privily, he thanked God that he was not made as they. He came to dislike them
to a degree that bordered on hatred. Their malingering bothered him less than their helpless
inefficiency. Somewhere in him, old Isaac Bellew and all the rest of the hardy Bellews were
Shorty, he said one day, in the usual delay of getting started, I could almost fetch them a rap
over the head with an oar and bury them in the river.
Same here, Shorty agreed. They re not meat-eaters. They re fish-eaters, and they sure stink.
They came to the rapids; first, the Box Canyon, and, several miles below, the White Horse. The
Box Canyon was adequately named. It was a box, a trap. Once in it, the only way out was
through. On either side arose perpendicular walls of rock. The river narrowed to a fraction of
its width and roared through this gloomy passage in a madness of motion that heaped the water
in the center into a ridge fully eight feet higher than at the rocky sides. This ridge, in turn, was
crested with stiff, upstanding waves that curled over yet remained each in its unvarying place.
The Canyon was well feared, for it had collected its toll of dead from the passing goldrushers.
Tying to the bank above, where lay a score of other anxious boats, Kit and his companions went
ahead on foot to investigate. They crept to the brink and gazed down at the swirl of water.
Sprague drew back, shuddering.
My God! he exclaimed. A swimmer hasn t a chance in that.
Shorty touched Kit significantly with his elbow and said in an undertone:
Cold feet. Dollars to doughnuts they don t go through.
Kit scarcely heard. From the beginning of the boat trip he had been learning the stubbornness
and inconceivable viciousness of the elements, and this glimpse of what was below him acted
as a challenge. We ve got to ride that ridge, he said. If we get off it we ll hit the walls.
And never know what hit us, was Shorty s verdict. Can you swim, Smoke?
I d wish I couldn t if anything went wrong in there.
That s what I say, a stranger, standing alongside and peering down into the Canyon, said
mournfully. And I wish I were through it.
I wouldn t sell my chance to go through, Kit answered.
He spoke honestly, but it was with the idea of heartening the man. He turned to go back to the
Are you going to tackle it? the man asked.
I wish I could get the courage to, the other confessed. I ve been here for hours. The longer I
look, the more afraid I am. I am not a boatman, and I have with me only my nephew, who is a
young boy, and my wife. If you get through safely, will you run my boat through?
Kit looked at Shorty, who delayed to answer.
He s got his wife with him, Kit suggested. Nor had he mistaken his man.
Sure, Shorty affirmed. It was just what I was stopping to think about. I knew there was some
reason I ought to do it.
Again they turned to go, but Sprague and Stine made no movement.
Good luck, Smoke, Sprague called to him. I ll--er-- He hesitated. I ll just stay here and
We need three men in the boat, two at the oars and one at the steering-sweep, Kit said quietly.
Sprague looked at Stine.
I m damned if I do, said that gentleman. If you re not afraid to stand here and look on, I m
Who s afraid? Sprague demanded hotly.
Stine retorted in kind, and their two men left them in the thick of a squabble.
We can do without them, Kit said to Shorty. You take the bow with a paddle, and I ll handle
the steering-sweep. All you ll have to do is just to help keep her straight. Once we re started,
you won t be able to hear me, so just keep on keeping her straight.
They cast off the boat and worked out to middle in the quickening current. From the Canyon
came an ever-growing roar. The river sucked in to the entrance with the smoothness of molten
glass, and here, as the darkening walls received them, Shorty took a chew of tobacco and dipped
his paddle. The boat leaped on the first crests of the ridge, and they were deafened by the uproar
of wild water that reverberated from the narrow walls and multiplied itself. They were half-
smothered with flying spray. At times Kit could not see his comrade at the bow. It was only a
matter of two minutes, in which time they rode the ridge three-quarters of a mile and emerged
in safety and tied to the bank in the eddy below.
Shorty emptied his mouth of tobacco juice--he had forgotten to spit--and spoke.
Pobierz darmowy fragment