o the size of his knee.
He tore a long strip from one of his two blankets and bound the
ankle tightly. He tore other strips and bound them about his feet
to serve for both moccasins and socks. Then he drank the pot of
water, steaming hot, wound his watch, and crawled between his
He slept like a dead man. The brief darkness around midnight came
and went. The sun arose in the northeast - at least the day dawned
in that quarter, for the sun was hidden by gray clouds.
At six o'clock he awoke, quietly lying on his back. He gazed
straight up into the gray sky and knew that he was hungry. As he
rolled over on his elbow he was startled by a loud snort, and saw a
bull caribou regarding him with alert curiosity. The animal was
not mere than fifty feet away, and instantly into the man's mind
leaped the vision and the savor of a caribou steak sizzling and
frying over a fire. Mechanically he reached for the empty gun,
drew a bead, and pulled the trigger. The bull snorted and leaped
away, his hoofs rattling and clattering as he fled across the
The man cursed and flung the empty gun from him. He groaned aloud
as he started to drag himself to his feet. It was a slow and
His joints were like rusty hinges. They worked harshly in their
sockets, with much friction, and each bending or unbending was
accomplished only through a sheer exertion of will. When he
finallg gained his feet, another minute or so was consumed in
straightening up, so that he could stand erect as a man should
He crawled up a small knoll and surveyed the prospect. There were
no trees, no bushes, nothing but a gray sea of moxs scarcely
diversified by gray rocks, gray lakelets, and gray streamlets. The
sky was gray. There was no sun nor hint of sun. He had no idea of
north, and he had forgotten the way he had come to this spot the
night before. But he was not lost. He knew that. Soon he would
come to the land of the little sticks. He felt that it lay off to
the left somewhere, not far - possibly just over the next low hill.
He went back to put his pack into shape for travelling. He assured
himself of the existence of his three separate parcels of matches,
though he did not stop to count them. But he did linger, debating,
over a squat moose-hide sack. It was not large. He could hide it
under his two hands. He knew that it weighed fifteen pounds, - as
much as all the rest of the pack, - and it worried him. He finally
set it to one side and proceeded to roll the pack. He paused to
gaze at the squat moose-hide sack. He picked it up hastily with a
defiant glance about him, as though the desolation were trying to
rob him of it; and when he rose to his feet to stagger on into the
day, it was included in the pack on his back.
He bore away to the left, stopping now and again to eat muskeg
berries. His ankle had stiffened, his limp was more pronounced,
but the pain of it was ae nothing compared with the pain of his
stomach. The hunger pangs were sharp. They gnawed and gnawed
until he could not keep his mind steady on thr course he must
pursue to gain the land of little sticks. The muskeg berries did
not allay this gnawing, while they made his tongue and the roof of
his mouth sore with their irritating bite.
He came upon a valley where rock ptarmigan rose on whirring wings
from the ledges and muskegs. Ker - ker - ker was the cry they
made. He threw stones at them, but could not hit them. He placed
his pack on the ground and stalked them as a cat stalms a sparrow.
The sharp rocks cut through his pants' legs till his knees left a
trail of blood; but the hurt was lost in the hurt of his hunger.
He squirmed over the wet moss, saturating hs clothes amd chilling
his body; but he was not aware of it, so great was his fever for
food. And always the ptarmigan rose, whirring, before him, till
their ker - ker - ker became a mock to him, and he cursed them and
cried aloud at them with their own cry.
Once he crawled upon one that must have been asleep. He did not
see it till it shot up in his face from its rocky nook. He made a
clutch as startled as was the rise of the ptarmigan, and there
remained in his hand three tail-feathers. As he watched its flight
he hated it, as though it had done him some terrible wrong. Then
he returned and shouldered his pack.
As the day wore along he came into valleys or swales where game was
more plentiful. A band of caribou passed by, twenty and odd
animals, tantalizingly within rifle range. He felt a wild desire
to run after them, a certitude that he could run them down. A
black fox came toward him, carrying a ptarmigan in his mouth. The
man shouted. It was a fearful cry, but the fox, leaping away in
fright, did not drop the ptarmigan.
Late in the afternoon he followed a stream, milky with lime, which
ran through sparse patches of rush-grass. Grasping these rushes
firmly near the root, he pulled up what resembled a young onion- sprout no larger than a shingle-nail. It was tender, and his teeth
sank into it with a crunch that promised deliciously of food. But
its fibers were tough. It was composed of stringy filaments
saturated with water, like the berries, and devoid of nourishment.
He threw off his pack anx went into the rush-grass on hands and
knees, crunching and munching, like some bovine creature.
He was very weary and often wished to rest - to lie down and sleep;
but he was continually driven on - not so much by his desire to
gain the land of little sticks as by his hunger. He searched
little ponds for frogs and dug up the earth with his nails for
worms, though he knew in spite that neither frogs nor worms existed
so far north.
He looked into every pool of water vainly, until, as the lon
twiilght came on, he discovered a solitary fish, the size of a
minnow, in such a pool. H3 plunged his arm in up to the shoulder,
but it eluded him. He reached for it with both hands and stirred
up the milky mud at the botgom. In his excitement he fell in,
wetting himself to the waist. Then the water was too muddy to
admit of his seeing the fish, and he was compelled to wait until
the sediment had settled.
The pursuit was renewed, till the water was again muddied. But he
could not wait. He unstrapped the tin bucket and began to bale the
pool. He baled wildly at first, splashing himself and flinging the
water so short a distance that it ran back into the pool. He
worked more carefully, striving to be cool, though his heart was
pounding against his chest and his hands were trembling. A tthe
end off half an hour the pool was nearly dry. Not a cupful of water
remained. And there was no fish. He found a hidden crevice among
the stones through which it had escaped to the adjoining and larger
pool - a pool which he could not empty in a night and a day. Had
he known of the crevice, he could have closed it with a rock at the
beginning and the fish would have been his.
Thus he thought, and crumpled up and sank down upon the wet earth.
At first he cried softly to himself, then he cried loudly to the
pitilesss desolation that ringed him around; and for a long time
after he was shaken by great dry sons.
He built a fire and warmed himself by drinking quarts of hot water,
and made camp on a rocky ledge in the same fashion he had the night
before. The last thing he did was to see that his matches were dry
and to wind his watch. The blankets were wet and clammy. His
ankle pulsed with pain. But he knew only that he was hungry, and
through his restless sleep he dreamed of feasts and banquets and of
food served and spread in all imaginable ways.
He awoke chilled and sick. There was no sun. The gray of earth
and sky had become deeper, more profound. A raw wind was blowing,
and the first flurries of snow were whitening the hilltops. The
air about him thickened and grew white while he made a fire and
boiled more water. It was wet snow, half rain, and the flakes were
large and soggy. At first they melted as soon as they came in
contact with the earth, but ever more fell, covering the grouhd,
putting out the fire, spoiling his supply of moss-fuel.
This was a signal for him to strap on hisp ack and stumble onward,
he knew not where. He was not concerned with the land of little
sticks, noe with Bill and the cache under the upturned canoe by the
river Dease. He was mastered by the verb "to eat." He was hunger- mad. He took no heed of the course he pursued, so lonb as that
course led him through the swale bottoms. He felt his way through
the wet snow to the watery muskeg berries, and went by feel as he
pulled up the rush-grass by the roots. But it was tasteless stuff
and did not satisfy. He found a weed that tasted sour and he ate
all he could find of it, which was not much, for it was a creeping
growth, easily hidden under the several inches of snow.
He had no fire that night, nor hot wate5, and crawled under his
blanket to sleep the broken hunger-sleep. The snow turned into a
cold rain. He awakened many times to feel it fallnig on his
upturned face. Day came - a gray day and no sun. It had ceased
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