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The Flies in Amber

by Robert Dunn

I FIRST mentioned this story on the Sourdough beach, to the crowd of us miners that had landed there before the stampede. The line of talk we had under way drew it out.

We had been arguing about that sentiment you find in the North—the miner's hate of any creature with a white skin who lives domestically with an Indian.

Lots of such outcasts—squaw-men—fished and traded in the creeks about there, and our oratory was bitter. In a country like Alaska, our hard life along with the Indians' shiftless ease sometimes makes you think that a struggle is on to see which race will come out on top. Yet we know just how good a Siwash is. He's a hero at facing danger, has Christian honesty till we corrupt him, and we've all fought his battles against the blows and sneers of Chechawkos. Our respect for him in his place is as big as our hate of him out of it, for a squaw's father and brothers are beasts, too, when a white man rules their shack.

The beach knew that I had been Gail Cresset's partner and had found him in a bad way some Winters before in a valley of the Tordrillo Mountains, which rise out of the Kuskokwim tundras six hundred miles inland from Sourdough; but no details how or why. Out of respect for Gail and the other person concerned, I had never told everything. But as both were then out of Alaska for good, their interests couldn't be prejudiced by a clean breast.

Gail at that time was a clean-skinned boy of twenty, born in Alaska, who had taken his medicine with starving rations and Wintering alone. He hired out for the Summer as horse-rustler to a scientific outfit going to explore the Kuskokwim. Their cayuses fought mudholes and mosquitoes for two months, till one morning in late August a pinto mare back-trailed from camp. Gail started to track her, and though no man was cuter to the tricks of the tundra, it fooled him as it has others as wise. Lost he was, and with no gun.

He prowled about three weeks, the yellow moss sucking away strength and courage, sour blueberries cheating him with hopes of surviving, till he felt he was starving, not being hungry any more. Specks would float before his eyes, which he knew were caribou prancing in the distance, and he would wave a hand at them and laugh, as a man does when he's flattered.

One day he came out of the timber. Across four miles of moss and ponds rose the foothills in a string of shiny black cones. And there, perched in a valley over the gray thumb of a glacier coming down from the big peaks behind, was a cabin with smoke rising from it. On he crawled over the stones of the river boiling out of the ice, to find the shack new and fitted up for three prospectors, but empty, staring empty! Still, he got at a pan of bread on a bench, brewed tea, and, when he felt himself again, explored about. Outside he saw footprints in the moss and followed them back along the shelf above where the glacier is just a hell of gravel cones. And soon the sight of a human figure stopped him as he ran.

It was a woman, bending over in a ragged coat. In one hand she held a narrow white band, in the other a thick disk. Always facing the ice, so that Gail saw only her back, she walked slowly toward him from the edge of a pond. Every moment she stooped, paying out the tape-line, measuring the moss yard by yard. And when she reached the boulder by his side, she stood up straight and bareheaded, her black hair scattered over her shoulders, and, shading her eyes, gazed out on the glacier, throwing forward an arm as if to choose some object there.

Gail choked his wonder and remarked in his quiet way that he guessed that his carcass was the first she'd ever saved the life of. She dropped her reel and grew stiff to the muscles of her neck. She told him to go away, get out, quick! But he had begun his hard luck story, so she listened and he saw the fear die away from her eyes, till she cut in and said, "No pity here," and sighed.

When he was done, she brightened up. "Then you must be a scientist, so you can tell me. How fast do glaciers move?"

Gail gave her that queer, gentle smile of his, and said she had him bad, but that he'd heard them say—nodding to his outfit down in the timber—that some glaciers move thirty feet a day, some forty, and faster in the middle.

"I've been measuring," she went on, pointing to a boulder that hung at a ticklish angle from a cone of ice. "That rock out yonder was thirty feet nearer the mountain yesterday, and that would mean that by next March, the bodies——"

"Look y' here. Whose bodies?" cut in he solemnly.

"My husband and my father are buried in that glacier. Down in the ice, like flies in amber," she told him. "Flies in amber. And I'm waiting here for the ice to give up its dead—until they come out at the moraine—so I can give them a decent burial. I will wait forever, if I must."

Gail stared at her and whistled, being such' a savage. Then with a warmth in his heart he never felt before, he seized her hand and said, "Poor girl!" and asked her why the men fell in. She told him how the three of them had prospected along the face of the range; how flies had killed their horses, forcing them to camp till snow came, and they could draw enough grub on hand-sleds to reach the Tanana. But the day the cabin was finished the two men left her without a word. She tracked them up the glacier to the edge of a crevice. There the snow was all beaten down, and no tracks went farther.

"They was good friends?" the boy asked, frowning—"had had no words between them? Prospectors don't fall like rocks into crevices. What reason had they to quit you? They took no grub? If they've left you here to starve, by God——"

"No, no!" she told him quickly. "There's a year's grub for three in the cabin. But their guns are with them."

"Bad enough without that, too," said Gail, thoughtful. "And you was the last seen them alive? What suspicions have you?"

She studied him awhile, and answered: "I couldn't tell you why they went up there to die, even if I knew. Don't ask me. Never, never, talk of this again, I beg you!" and she began to cry.

Gail started to speak, but she was hitting back toward the cabin. And he followed her.

GAIL knew nothing of "good" women, having seen none, and with the buckskin-trousered sort that sell whisky from sled and saddle he had never improved his chances. Yet what you might call instinct told him that the girl's weathered little face was pure, and he must treat her like she was his sister. He did, though for a week they hardly spoke. She put him off when he tried to cheer her, seeming so taken up with thought of the dead. She cooked, and Gail built himself a bed and shelter with logs and slabs left over from the dead men's carpentering.

He knew that before they sledded out they must live as if they were alone on the moon, seeing no eyes but their own, each hearing the pitch of no other voice. He knew his veins were young and his blood warm; that she was young, too, and in distress. But he was the sort that thought more than he ever said; and at first he fell in the ice—what she knew about it and did no more than wonder how the men wouldn't tell.

So, as they ate, or playing piquet by the slush-lamp at nights, they would just remark on their tally, or how low the sourdough was in the box. And if she softened as she looked across the table at Gail and those high cheek-bones and that snow-tanned skin of his, she never showed it by one blush. Nor did Gail let on, so he said, how the widow's peak on her rumpled forehead, where the hair grew low, seemed each day to belong to a different woman, whom he must learn to know and respect and be decent to all over again.

He had never been in love. He was only half sure what love was. But what man needs to be taught?

So he began to be happy, just thinking of the wait with her till snow came. It seemed that two young ones like them couldn't help being drawn together. All his life up to date became a blank—the fake stampedes he'd all but died on, rows with squaw-men—and he forgot the mystery why her folks died, and overlooked her loyalty to them and what she'd said about staying near the glacier till the bodies should come out. Only for fear of scurvy, he would have looked forward to living there with her the long Winter through, though he knew that the white darkness and the dark snow and the stillness like the inside of a glacier cave, aren't good for the minds of two strong men. But he never even saw the chance of this, since, with no guns and no fresh meat, scurvy was sure to take them. So he built sleds and snowshoes for the trip out, and hauled wood from the timber to keep the stove going.

Meantime October had come. The first snow sugared the hills, melting fast so that they looked like polished jet.

It was a night about the middle of the month that Gail saw the first sign of her sorrows letting up. Their hands did no more than touch over the cards after supper. Gail said hers burned him, and she was slow in drawing back her fingers out of his, and turned her head away. That was all, but he jumped up, excited, and walked up and down the floor.

Some photographs had been tacked in a sort of oval to the logs over the red blankets of her box-board bed. One, he had always noted, was of a big Siwash buck. He stopped before them, and, only half knowing what was in his mind, he said, "Good face that Siwash has."

"You think so?" she answered him, and her voice seemed to come from miles and miles away. "I think so, too."

"And this old white man," he went on, picking out the picture of an old miner with gray hair, "seems like an old-timer." And then, quite forgetting himself. "He was a squaw-man, eh?" he asked her.

"He was my father," she answered him steadily, catching his eyes.

Gail came to and hated himself, trembling and all hot. He thought he might as well have struck her. He was clean out of his skin, but all he could say was: "My father runs the store at Hope City. I never seen my mother, but she was white and decent."

Gail says that never in his life had he spoken her name before^ You know his kind—their mothers are the only straight women they know. They'd as soon cut off their hands as speak of them ordinarily. But he had injured the girl's own flesh and blood, so it was up to him to lay his own as bare, by way of what you might call penance.

"What—is—a—squaw-man?" she asked him slowly, seeing his eyes wet. "I only came North this Spring."

Gail thought a minute, then turned his back to look at the pictures. He said: "A monster, a leper—" But he didn't finish. He'd said enough.

He heard the cabin door close. Turning around, he saw that she was gone.

He ran after her, she stumbling like a shadow through the gravel hills of the moraine where the ice ends. You know the sort of place—as if it were a piece of the world made by God with His left hand, and so ugly He abandoned it. Like one of these big crocodiles of before the flood, only more gigantic, all sunk in and shriveled as if by sickness, with boulders big as a house breaking through the coarse skin. And soon they were swallowed up by cliffs of dirty ice, where gravels rattle down into round blue ponds as they would if shot from a rifle.

She led him to the pot-hole where the river was born, spouting up from under the ice-foot the color of coffee, fighting against boulders all polished and white, that would seem to crash down when you looked at them. And there she stopped in a little fringe of dead grass.

She stooped, and leaned out over the hole. "You want to drown yourself?" Gail shouted over the roar, grabbing her arm and dragging her back as she was losing balance.

She muttered something; Gail didn't exactly hear, but it was like some person's not mattering who or what, but she loved him, loved him. Then, more distinctly, "Yes, drown myself!"

"You don't mean that!" he said, and took her in his arms, and stumbled up through the cones away from the pot-hole. "Forgive me, in the name of God, forgive me!" begged Gail, setting her down, "for driving you to it, for what I said about your father."

But she said: "No, no, not drown myself. It's not for father. I—I—only wanted to see where they'd come out in March. Wasn't that the place?"

"Yes," said he, relieved. " But you won't never see their bodies, with us hitting for the Tanana over the first snow. You know we have no guns, and that means scurvy."

"Scurvy!" she muttered. "I'll risk that. I've told you I'll wait for them till I die—more than ever now."

He thought a minute. " I can't leave you here alone," he said. "You got to sled it out with me, whether you want to or not. Hear me?"

She hid her head in her hands and shivered. "You've got me at your mercy," she answered. "Spare me! Spare me in the name of the dead!"

"The dead is dead for good," he told her, all at once feeling strong and dizzy about his heart. Then, " Girl," he whispered, taking her hand in his, "I love you a'ready. You saved my life from starving; now I save yourn!"

She struggled from him. "You're cursed with the hard thoughts of this land!" she cried. " Once dead, always dead, you think, and the body doesn't matter. I don't believe it!"

He looked her in the eye. " You've never Wintered alone in the North, hey you? " he asked. "It's hell. Men get a worse thing than scurvy!"

"I will never love you!" she said. "Leave me. Go out alone!"

You see, never having loved before, Gail had never been thrown down. The sting of it was new to him, and he felt the smart; so he said between his teeth: "Alone in here, God in His heaven can't keep us apart!"

She cried out that she loathed him—for Gail to leave her there.

That hurt the savage in him just too much. So he struck back: "You ain't told me yet the whole truth about how them bodies died," he said quiet-like, from 'way down in his stomach. "You're the last seen them alive. There's law even in this land. You stay in here and, scurvy or no, I stay here, too!"

She saw those brown eyes of his shake, and her mouth took in one long breath. "Oh, oh!" she gasped. "You think I killed them? I?"

"Then what for else did you try to drown yourself," he said, "when I asked you about your husband?"

She looked him in the eye, and told him that he had the reason wrong.

"And I don't mean it," he laughed. "You know I don't. But if you had killed them, I'd love you just the same!" Then he sobered, and said, "It'll be a devilish Winter, with you half crazy for these dead ones, pretending your love for me is hate. With me burning for you—and the cold and stillness settling on our minds. God can't hold us to account for what we do."

But she had run away, back toward the cabin.

From there on the moraine you can see the river twist away in tangles and small coils on its big bed, where the boulders are round and white and stained with a moss that's red as blood, then twist to where the woods touch the tundra and are purple like a cloud. Gail stood awhile, then looked up the dumb ice avenue, growing white and still under the night cloud. And the steeples of the hills that rose clean from the black drift, through air cold and heady as it is in Autumn, looked down on him; and his heart pounded on, flushing him hot with love and shame.

"Curse me for speaking that way!" he said aloud. "Forgive me, girl;I love you so! We got to live it out the best we can, and keep a hold upon ourselves."

But he was thinking, too, of that Winter sky so like brass it seems you can sound it with a stone; and the one cloud on it, no bigger than your hand, that doesn't move once in a month. You don't act and think then as if you were on earth. You don't think you are on earth. The threads in your brain stretch till they break—and you don't know what you do. Your partner takes a spare spoonful of sugar, and you flare up, and maybe—well, only listen.

Snow fell to stay before November. Gail held himself in better than he anticipated. And her seeming devotion to a memory defied his living love. He couldn't persuade her to sled out, and when he would ask forgiveness for calling her a murderess she fled away from him. There was no more touching of hands. Things went on as before she tried to drown herself. He got to be simply happy again at being in her presence, over the meals and at cards.

It grew to be January. There lay the cabin, a dot in the white darkness on the dark snow; the jet hills white and fluffy, the hellish moraine soft and rumpled like a bedspread, the pot-hole frozen as if it were a mound of slag glass. Clean and even, the glacier swept back to the big mountains, where it hung on cliffs that seemed to be lace from window curtains, though three sheer miles high and snow whipping in smoke from the top. So the cold and stillness covered them like an ocean, as may be at the North Pole on the planet Jupiter. And though the sky was brass, and from ten to three o'clock the sun burned a curve through it, low over the mean timber in the south, Gail felt no need to throw a stone at it.

He got to doubt all he had heard—and knew himself—of the strain of Winter on your mind; of sure scurvy without fresh meat, though every morning he searched his legs for the stains that are its first signs, and exercised regularly hauling wood, often taking the girl with him. Living seemed to have got on a dead center.

Of course it couldn't last. It was the dead center of a boy's top asleep—quietest before it breaks loose and reels crazy. That's always the way with the Winter madness; like the skin stains, it gets into you when you think it's the last thing likely in the -world. And the longest calm leads to the fiercest outburst.

Some telling little things happened, which Gail ought to have noticed, and didn't. First he began to worry again over why the girl had tried to kill herself. Then the mystery of how her folks got in the glacier kept him awake nights—reckoning the day when they'd come out, if the ice moved at the rate of thirty feet, which she said once she had proved it did. He would count over the few times their names had been mentioned. One day, while checking over the grub-sacks, he saw a tag hanging to each one, written in a queer hand, each letter straggly and separated from the next one. He screwed up courage, and asked her if it was her husband's writing. "No," she answered him; "my father's. My husband couldn't write." Then he saw one bag lying apart from the others—a little sack of rice, under the bench, which, as Gail did no cooking, he hadn't noticed before. He started to put it with the grubpile, but she said, "Don't. Leave it there."

"Why?" asked Gail.

"Father poisoned it for killing sables," she told him. "But—but he couldn't get any."

"Poisoned it?" said Gail.

SOMETIMES he got the idea that no bodies were in the glacier. He forgot to look every day for scurvy signs, and felt logy. Often he had a tight feeling around his head, and when she spoke it seemed that they were two persons in the dark, their voices coming from miles and miles, though the slush-lamp was lighted. Their card score, which ran on from day to day, they grew to set too much store by, and once when they argued who was ahead, the girl started to cry. The kick of the top was coming.

She would sit all day sewing buckskin. When he asked her what for, she said that she was making mitts for him, and though he told her the dead men had left plenty, she kept right on. She would ask him how he liked her bread, whether he wanted more fat in the beans; helped him first, and seemed to starve herself.

At last one change in her did worry him. Once, going with the sleds down to timber, he saw her scratching the inch-deep frost from the celluloid window of the cabin, watching him from inside. He waited behind a rock. In a while she came out all muffled up, and started shoeing it up the valley, then out on the glacier, toward where the men had gone in. He said he felt that no power on earth could hold him down on the tundra. He came back early. Some distance from the cabin he saw her rubbing out her tracks in the snow. And when she sighted him, she ran past into the shack, hiding her head, and wouldn't play cards that night.

But next morning he touched bedrock, when he looked at his legs. There was the brown splotch on the calf—scurvy! That woke him up. He saw that to keep alive and healthy must count more than human love and homage to the dead. He seemed to be falling out of a dream. He said that the love of life hit him strong and sudden, as it does when you're camping on a river bar in Spring and discover floods are on you. But the ailment dulled him, and that day he put off telling the girl about it, and started for the timber. Again she watched him through the window frost, and he hung behind the rock. Again she came out on snow-shoes and headed up the glacier. A quick feeling took Gail, so fierce he couldn't choke it, and he followed her; up past the pond where they had first met, out on the ice to where the boulder had been balanced, which of course had vanished long ago.

She was cleaning the snow from a yellow rock full of queer square holes when he came up behind her; and then she dug in the glacier as if looking for a crevice.

He blurted out that he had scurvy, and that so must she; how they must hit right out for the Tanana, or, said Gail, "We won't be accountable to God for what we do. You ain't been for several days."

She only trembled and closed the lids of her blue eyes. "Every day you've followed me!" she whispered hoarsely. "Oh, you are cruel, cruel!"

"You're about to give in to me, about ready, girl," he said. Then shouted: "By heaven! you've got to!"

And with that she fell all of a heap in the snow.

She sobbed his name, his full name—Gabriel; and as he leaned over her, she cried that she loved him, that she saw now she had loved him all along; was sure now that the bodies would never come out of the ice; and they would leave for the Tanana tomorrow.

He took her in his arms, unwound the muffler from her face, and kissed her, kissed her there in the cold, their lips all cold, I guess—kissed her everywhere.

She was laughing as they shoed back to the cabin. She told Gail that it had been a fight all along to keep caring for the dead, because she thought she ought to. She said he didn't know women, or he should have seen that her very coldness meant she loved him—though she didn't know it herself. "You fool!" she laughed.

I don't know how the next hours passed with them. Such happiness is no business of mine. I know that such happiness isn't right for Winter in the white darkness on the dark snow. Gail told me—"Oh, we only talked of what was ahead of us in the world." And Gail was honorable, so I believe him.

Next morning he hit out early to bring kindlings from the timber, for they were to travel to the Tanana all above tree-line, leaving the next day after. He ran ahead of his sled, singing. The air was warmer, the brass faded from the sky, which was full of lamb's-tail clouds. In there, storms are rare, but terrible when they come, for snow generally falls at night, almost through starlight. Gail was thinking of the dead men's foresight in building the cabin sheltered by the hills, when, near the edge of a small pond, a root caught a thong of his shoe, so that he stumbled and fell. Rising to his feet, he felt his hand slip over something in the snow, smooth as if greased. He pulled it out—a red leather blankbook, or diary, you might say. He opened it and started to read, turning from page to page. Soon his face lighted up. "The old man's journal," he said aloud. "Her father's." And then he read some entries like, "Roan lost four hours." "Killed a bull moose, horns in velvet." "Chelthan away all night, hunting."

"Who's Chelthan? " he asked. And then he saw another entry. His eyes and hands grew stiff as ice. He swore as he read it the second time:

I give him the pizened rice this morning. But the man smelt it. I'll have his life yet.

Gail clapped the book into his pocket and hiked back to the cabin as if the devil were behind him. He found the girl outside the door, loading a sled, and took a grip on himself.

"I found this here down on the tundra," he said breathless. "Guess you know it, too."

"My father's!" she said quick. " Give it here!" and tried to take it from his hands.

"I ken read the handwriting," he said with a chill in his voice. "I see how he tried to 'poison sable.'"

Shaking all over, she asked him what right he had to read it.

"Who a better, girl," he said, "than I who love his daughter?"

"Let me have it!" was all she answered, closing her wide eyes and holding out her hand.

He made no move, just looked gently at her and shook his head. "Why ain't you told me in all these months, girl? Why ain't you told me last night?" he asked, his throat filling. "I wouldn't hey loved you any the less. We could 'a' borne the stain together, girl. Why ain't you told me that the old man killed your husband?"

"I didn't know!" she cried. "I wasn't sure. I only suspected. Father hated him—yes, from the day last June we ran away and were married. I was waiting for the bodies, to make sure—to clear my father."

"Couldn't you put two and two together?" said Gail, showing her the entries in the diary, as their white breaths mingled.

When she had read them, Gail said: "Chelthan—funny name! Was your husband a Swede? I figure it he was lured up the glacier, and in the fight they both fell in."

She did not answer him.

"Why should your old man kill him?" he said gently. " You ain't told me yet."

"Wait!" said the girl, catching her breath. "Wait! If you love me, Gail—love me—don't ask me yet! Not till we've started. On the way home."

He took her in his arms and carried her into the cabin, not feeling how all her limbs were trembling, and laid her on her bed.

He walked the floor a while, his head down between his shoulders, looking now and then at the pictures nailed there above her. "Girl," he said, "it's all over and we're saved. Starting to-morrow, it's a case of marry at the first sky-pilot—or a claim-recorder's office would do, eh, girl?"

She turned her back to him on the bed, burying her head.

"Let's get rid of these," he said, leaning over her. "Sight of them only brings to mind what has near ruined us both, but now is buried and forgotten." And with that he ripped the several photos, including those of her father and the Siwash, from the logs.

First he tore up the father, and the pieces fell on the bed into her hair. But the picture of the Indian stuck in his hand. It turned him into stone. His face grew darker than the snow outside, as his lips moved over and over, reading what was written on the back of it:

Chelthan, my husband.

"Siwash! Leper!" he yelled, grinding his teeth.

She rose up and stretched out her arms to him. She begged him to have mercy, to have mercy on her, for Gail to have mercy—to kill her if he must.

He only backed off from the bed as you might from a cage of snakes, tearing the photo into little bits with his strong fingers; and then ground them into the floor with his heel.

"Your old man was dead right! I should have done the same," he said from down in the cellar of his soul. "I should have killed him, too!"

She called Gail's name, rising to seize him about the waist.

He shook her off.

The girl laughed and cried all at once. "How could I know you'd hate—father'd hate—me for marrying Chelthan? How'd I know what a despised crime it is? And when I first learned from father, and he wouldn't speak to me, of course I stood by Chelthan. I saw we just came in here to get rid of him. But I'd never believe that father'd kill him till I saw the body. And then"—she choked—"when you told me—after I'd begun to love you—what—what a monster I was—of course I wanted to kill myself—in quick shame—they still had souls and were my flesh—and in love for you—so strong I hated you!"

"Why didn't you kill yourself?" Gail sneered. "I wish you had!"

She looked into his eyes a minute, where the whites had grown bluish and bulgy, and fell sobbing on his feet, twisting herself about his ankles. He watched her a while, and then untangled his legs from her, and stepped over and away, as you might out of a quicksand.

"I told you what you was," said Gail, careless-like. "You're dirtier than any squaw-man, for you're a woman! Keep in your pest-house here. Don't you follow me!"

She lay there, her long hair spread out on the floor from the black point of her widow's peak. She lay still, having fainted. Gail stopped at the door, where he said that something seemed to burst inside his head.

"Girl, good-by," he told her very slowly. "I guess the madness has got me, too. It ain't my fault now, what I do, either, girl." And he said he felt of his eyes, and found them all wet.

HE CLOSED the door softly, and fell into his snow-shoes. Up to then he'd held himself in; now he broke loose. It was snowing, and in the North that change from the clear cold suffocates you. He hit up the valley on the run, past where he once had seen her measuring, and dashed out on the glacier. He didn't know where he was going, nor why. But he steered straight for the place where she confessed she loved him. He was sure where it was, but couldn't find the rock—the yellow rock covered with square holes, you remember. He couldn't understand, either, how he found his way so easily and felt so safe in the storm.

His mind was clear as ice. He started down the glacier, counting his strides out loud: "Four, five, six,"—six feet to a step, you know. He must have missed the yellow rock long ago, the ice couldn't have moved it so far in one day. "Eight, nine—" and just then the snow boiled down from about his head, and the moon jumped out bright, making the mountain look like a lighted castle. And there was the yellow rock about a step in front of him!

He calculated faster than he could help, he said, something like this: "That rock's moved fifty feet in a day, out here in the middle where the ice flows faster, and we've been figuring on thirty—wrong all along. At that rate, it would mean the bodies"—and he reckoned like lightning—"the bodies should be out at the pot-hole NOW!"

He cut down to the moraine, wallowing through the fresh snow, sliding over the gravel cliffs, across the solid ponds. At the frozen hill where the river had boiled up, he scraped the snow from the top. The ice was clear, and he could look clean through it. He saw the thing, the Siwash, just as she said—like a fly in amber. He lay face up, an arm crooked over his head as if to ward off a blow, and the legs curved together, as a dead fish rests frozen in a pond.

The face—Gail said its teeth showed in the cat-snarl you give when a man sneaks behind you and runs cold fingers down your back. But the fingers here were steel, and the grin so much the happier, for, touching the neck was a sort of scarlet globe, and on the surface of it, like a flaw in a big ruby, the shiny end of a dirk handle. He looked harder. 'Way down, slowly coming out of the moraine, was a hand, a white hand, stiff like it was made of ivory, reaching out to the knife and blood.

Then the storm shut in, and he grabbed his head again, for he was seeing red. He swore the body moved, was alive and fighting to get up at him—this beast that had grafted like a fungus on the body of the girl he loved. Let Gail at him first! He must have dug with his finger-nails or knife down through the rotting ice, for he remembers yanking it by the feet, ripping it out of the case it fitted so nicely. Next he knew, he was blind and choking, fighting for air, like a rat in a pit—crazy. To rise and breathe, he must trample what was under him; and so, fighting and stamping, he struggled up through the snow.

You've never killed a man—no? Never lost your temper, shot at him and missed,—yes? Well, then, you know how you feel on the rebound. You're as meek as you were angry, as scared and pitiful as you were dancing-red. And Gail had the Winter-madness, hadn't he, and a grudge that may well make a monster of a man for good?

He remembers sitting in the snow, looking at the body and thinking: "Now I'm even. I done my job—the duty o' my nature. And the old coward stuck you from behind, too, you cuss. Poor fool, you knew no better. And you looked like a good Siwash.—I done this for you, girl, for you. God help me, but I love you!"

You see, Gail was still mad to talk like that. But could he help it? I've never been in love. I don't know how crazy it can make you. A queer thing—love!

He started to crawl back to her in the cabin, up out of the snow-cones. He was weak as broth, and the blizzard was spouting drifts, cutting his neck in sheets of snow. Before he got to the edge of the moraine the drowsiness strangled him, and he lost hold upon his head.

IT MUST have been before the storm broke, that I saw the light of their cabin from down on the tundra. When that science outfit had reached Hope City again, they reported having lost Gail. I was working in the store for his father, and so got their dog-team. We knew that when Gail couldn't find that outfit he'd hit for the mountains, and whatever of him was left would lie along the face of the hills, to be found by hitting northeast from the head of the south fork. It was a bad trip alone, breaking trail, and two of the dogs died, which is neither here nor there.

Somehow I knew it was his cabin before I opened the door. I found the girl still senseless on the floor. When I brought her to, it was pitiful the things she said, stumbling to the window, pointing out and wailing Gail's name.

I hunted an hour before I found him, and was nearly all night bringing him to. I try to forget the next few days before we hit out for the Tanana. Gail and the girl would talk to me as if their hearts would break, but not a word to each other. I learned all—perhaps I wouldn't have acted as I did if I'd been wise at first. They both looked like creatures hid in a cave—I've seldom seen beings farther gone from scurvy.

The storm cleared the third day, and I shot a caribou. You know how meat cleans the blood and a new face clears the foolishness from two Wintering alone in the white darkness on the dark snow.

But no miner will tell you that all Gail's coarse work was foolish. Ought I to reconcile them? I guess not. Gail was my partner, and the living taint was still with us. But maybe no degradation is too low not to have its redemption. And if your hands be put to blood, doing of the ugly job may win it—I don't know. Happiness is hard to choke when you've suffered for it.

Each hardly moved from his sled the three weeks going out, till we hit the Tanana camps. The first night, living in the Recorder 's tent, I saw Gafi and her talking. That was enough for me. I took a job of burning up on the creeks and lit out.

When I came back in the Spring the Recorder said they'd left for down river almost at once. I had never told him. After the break-up, the first steamer from St. Michael's brought me a letter. I opened it before I knew it was from her. Perhaps I would have, anyway. It said that she and Gail were leaving for the States for good, because they couldn't face any of us in the North any more. " Gail seems to be losing his memory of all that happened. Should I remind him? I can't!"

Well, if he does—but in the States they may look at things differently. And sometimes I still think of Gail as my partner.