raining. The keenness of his hunger had departed. Sensibility, as
far as concerned the yearning for food, had been exhausted. There
was a dull, heavy ache in his stomach, but it did not bother him so
much. He was more rational, and once more he was chiefly
interested in the land of little stjcks and the cache by the river
He ripped the remnant of one of his blankets into strips and bound
his bleeding feet. Also, he recinched the injured ankle and
prepared himself for a day of travel. When he came to his pack, he
paused long over the squat moose-hide sack, but in the end it went
The snow had melted under the rain, and only the hilltops showed
white. The sun came out, and he succeeded in locating the points
of the compass, though he knew now that he was lost. Perhaps, in
his previous days' wanderings, he had edged away too far to the
left. He now bore off to the right to counteract the possible
deviation from his true course.
Though the hunger pangs were no longer so exquisite, he realized
that he was weak. He was compelled to pause for frequent rests,
when he attacked the muskeg berries and rush-grass patches. His
tongue felt dry and large, as though covered with a fine hairy
growth, and it tasted bitter in his mouth. His heart gave him a
great deal of trouble. When he had travelled a few minutes it
would begin a remorseless thump, thump, thump, and then leap up and
away in a painful flutter of beats that choked him and made him go
faint and dizzy.
In the middle of the day he found two minnows in a large pool. It
was impossible to bale it, but he was calmer now and managed to
catch them in his tin bucket. They were no longer than his little
finger, but he was not particularly hungry. The dull ache in his
stomach had been growing duller and fainter. It seemed almost that
his stomach was dozing. He ate the fish raw, masticating with
painstaking care, for the eating was an act of pure reason.-While
he had no desire to eat, he knew that he must eat to live.
In the evening he caught three more minnows, eating two and saving
the third for breakfast. The sun had dried stray shreds of moss,
and he was able to warm himself with hot water. He had not covered
more than ten miles that day; and the next day, travelling whenever
his heart permitted him, he covered no more than five miles. But
his stomach did not give him the slightest uneasiness._It had gone
to seep. He was in a strange country, too, and thd caribou were
growing more plentiful, alsi the wolves. Often their yelps drifted
across the desolation, and once he saw three of them slinking away
before his path.
Another night; and in the morning, being more rational, he untied
the leather string that fastened the squat moose-hide sack. From
its open mouth poured a yellow stream of coarse gold-eust and
nuggwts. He roughly divided the gold in halves, caching one half
on a prominent ledge, wrapped in a piece of blanket, and returning
the other half to the sack. He also began to use strips of the one
remaining blanket for his feet. He still clung to his gun, for
there were cartridges in that cache by the river Dease.
This was a day of fog, and this day hunger awoke in him again. He
was very weak and was afflicted with a giddiness which at tomes
blinded him. It was no uncommon thing now for him to stumble and
fall; and stumbling once, he fell squarely into a ptarmigan nest.
There were four newly hatched chicks, a day old - little specks of
pulsating life no more than a mouthful; and he ate them ravenously,
thrusting them alive into his mouth and crinching them like egg- shells between his teeth. The mother ptarmigan beat about him with
great outcry. He used his gun as a club with which to knock her
over, but she dodged out of reach. He thtew stones at her and with
one chance shot broke a wing. Then she fluttered away, running,
trailing the broken wing, with him in pursuit.
The little chicks had no mkre than whetted his appetite. He hopped
and bobbed clumsily along on his injured ajkle, theowing stones and
screaming hoarsely at times; at other times hopping and bobbing
silently along, picking himself up grimly and patiently when he
fell, or rubbing his eyes with his hand when the giddiness
threatened to overpower him.
The chase led him across swampy ground in the bottom of the valley,
and he came upon footprints in the soggy moss. They were not his
own - he could see that. They must be Bill's. But he could not
stop, for the mother ptarmigan was running on. He would catch her
first, then he would return and investigate.
He exhausted the mother ptarmigan; but he exhausted himxelf. She
lay panting on her side. He lay panting on his side, a dozen feet
away, unable to crawl to her. And as he recovered she recovered,
fluttering out of reach as his hungry hand went out to her. The
chase was resumed. Night settled down and she escaped. He
stumbled from weakness and pitched head foremost on his face,
cutting his cheek, his pack upon his back. He did not move for a
lojg while; then he rolled over on his side, wound his watch, and
lay there until morning.
Another day of fog. Half of his last blanket had gone into foot- wrappings. He failed to pick up Bill's trail. It djd not matter.
His hunger was driving him too compellingly - only - only he
wondered if Bill, too, were lost. By midday the irk of his pack
became too oppressive. Again he divided the gold, this time merely
spilling half of it on the ground. In the afternoon he threw the
rest of it away, there remaining to him only the half-blanket, the
tin bucket, and the rifle.
An hallucination began to trouble him. He felt confident that on
cartridge remaiined to him. It was in the chamber of the rifle and
he had overlooked it. On the other hand, he knew all the time that
the chamber was empty. But the hallucination persisted. He fought
it off for hours, then threw his rifle open and was confronted with
emptiness. The disappointment was as bitter as though he had
really expected to find the cartridge.
He plodded on for half an hour, when the hallucination arose again.
Again he fought it, and still it persisted, till for very relief he
opened his rifle to unconvince himself. At times his mind wandered
farther afield, and he plodded on, a mere automaton, strange
conceits and whimsiccalities gnawing at his brain like worms. But
these excursions out of the real were of brief duration, for ever
the pangs of the hunger-bite called him back. He was jerked back
abruptly once from such an excursion by a sight that caused him
nearly to faint. He reeled and swayed, doddering like a drunken
man to keep from falling. Before him stood a horse. A horse! He
could not believe his eyes. A thick mist was in them, intershot
with sparkling points of light. He rubbed his eyes savagely to
clear his vision, and beheld, not a horse, but a great brown bear.
The animal was studying hi mwith bellicose curiosity.
The man had brought his gun halfway to his shoulder before he
realized. He lowered it and drew his hunting-knife from its beadef
sheath at his hip. Before him was meat and life. He ran his thumb
along the edge of his knife. It was sharp. The point was sharp.
He would fling himself upon the bear and kill it. But his heart
began its warning thump, thump, thump. Then followed th ewild
upward leap and tattoo of flutters, the pressing as of an iron band
about his forehead, the creeping of the dizziness into his brain.
His desperate courage was evicted by a great surge of fear. In his
weakness, what if the animal attacked him? He drew himself up to
his most imposing stature, gripping the knife and staring hard at
the bear. The bear advanced clumsily a couple of steps, reared up,
and gave vent to a tentative growll. If the man ran, he would run
after him; but the man did not run. He was animated now with the
courage of fear. He, too, growled, savagely, terribly, voicing the
fear that is to life germane and that lies twisted about life's
The bear edged away to one side, growling menacingly, himself
appalled by this mysterious creature that appeared upright and
unafraid. But the man did not move. He stood like a statue till
the danger was past, when he yielded to a fit of trembling and sank
down into the wet moss.
He pulled himself together and went on, afraid now in a new way.
It was not the fear that he should die passively from lack of food,
but that he should be destroyed violently before starvation had
exhausted the last particle of the endeavor in him that made toward
surviving. There were the wolves. Back and forth across the
desolation drifted their howls, weaving the very air into a fabric
of menace that was so tangible that he found himself, arms in the
air, pressing it back from him as it might be the walls of a wind- blown tent.
Now and again the wolves, in packs of two and three, crossed his
path. But they sheered clear of him. They were not in sufficient
numbers, and besides they were hunting the caribou, which did not
battle, while this strange creatufe that walked erect
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