William Byron Mowery
THE STORY: Patricia Wellington, self-willed and spoiled daughter of the wealthy senior partner of a Chicago mining firm, is engaged to marry Warren Lovett, the junior partner. Previously she had been engaged to Craig Tarlton, a young engineer employed by her father, who disappeared after a quarrel with her. Her memory of Tarlton leaves her a bit dissatisfied with Lovett.
To find out what sort of man Lovett really is, Patricia insists upon flying with him to a rich new mining area in the Canadian Northwest where her fiancé hopes to buy up valuable claims at a low price.
At Resurrection River, close to Great Desolation Lake, she finds a settlement of miners. One of them, cheerful Poleon, tells her about the country and the mining prospects. She is stirred and gripped by the elemental wildness of the North, and feels no desire to leave.
She finds that her one-time fiance, Craig Tarlton, is here as a mining inspector. Accustomed to the deference of men, Patricia resents his frigid attitude.
She befriends a sick miner named Former and, because the man insists upon it, takes half his claim as compensation. Tarlton unjustly accuses her of trying to defraud Former of valuable property, and she and he quarrel bitterly, yet she finds him strangely attractive.
Patricia decides to build a lodge for the tent-living men. Warren Lovett opposes her plan. Still vaguely dissatisfied with Lovett despite her “hatred" of Tarlton, and not being accustomed to being balked in anything, she retorts that she’ll not give up her project. “You’ll have to,” states Lovett, “ƒ won't!” retorts Patricia.
HAT WAS the end of their clash —Patricia’s flat and final “I won’t.” Warren Lovett dropped the subject. Without another word about it he
walked back to her tent with her, chatted casually a few minutes, kissed her good night and left.
For a long time after she went to bed that evening, Patricia lay awake, thinking the incident over. She admitted, honestly, that in several respects Warren was altogether right. She was getting herself into a bad tangle here at Dynamite Bay. And her community house was a big gamble. It might work, and it might be an abject failure. She didn’t yet know.
It troubled her badly to realize that she had openly defied Warren and was flying in his face in a very important matter. After all, he was going to be her husband; he loved her; he never made requests without good cause. As his fiancée she owed him loyalty, ought to side with him instead of against him.
And as she lay there thinking, she heard a song coming from down at the bank of Resurrection;
“Oh, p’tile Oiselet, in the Strong Woods,
Your foot is caught in the snare invisible,
The cruel babiche ...”
PATRICIA was checking supplies from Edmonton late in
July when Craig Tarlton and an Indian came past the lodge on their way down to the river. Impulsively, although he merely nodded a cool greeting, Patricia stepped forward.
“We’re planning to have our house-warming tomorrow night, Craig, and I hope you can be in on it,” she said. “The men would want you to come, I know.”
“Sorry,” he refused. “I can’t be at the Bay tomorrow night.” His sharp eyes roved over the litter of goods, over the rambly lodge, and came back to her. “What stumps me about this whole business, Miss Wellington, is this—why
did Warren ever allow you to take it up? I can’t understand
“He didn’t allow me. It was my own idea. In fact he ordered me to—to—I mean—”
“He ordered you to stop,” Craig completed her slip. “Hmmph! So that’s the lay of the land. I’m not exactly surprised. I’ve been thinking that he’s kept you all in the
“About what?” Patricia demanded.
“I believe you’d better ask him. You ought to be on good enough terms with your fiancé for that. So this was your own idea. Hmmph ! I suppose you’re getting a real kick out of it.”
“A kick out of what?”
“Why, out of taking up a new game and giving it a twirl. The humanitarian game. Being Lady Bountiful to three hundred men instead of merely one, Bill Fomier. I’m wondering how long it’ll take you to get tired of this new toy and junk it for something else.”
“Who’s taking up the humanitarian game and giving it a twirl?” she blazed at him. “Who’ll get tired and throw it over? Why didn’t you yourself do this job for these men? You just sat up there in your cabin and did nothing; and then when I pitch in and do it, all you can do is look at my work and make sarcastic remarks!”
Craig regarded her calmly. “I'm sorry,” he commented, “if I sounded sarcastic. But my remarks, as you’ll learn in time, have the best of reasons behind ’em. However, we won’t quarrel. Good luck to you and this rock-hog den that you've built. Lord knows these poor fellows need a break. I only hope that this idea of yours does work and does hold ’em here. I’ve been able to hold ’em so far, but now I’ll be
He stooped, took up his pack, and went on down to the river edge where the Indian had set a motor canoe to water.
Patricia watched him, wide-eyed. "Now I’ll be gone”— those words sent a fear shooting through and through her. What did he mean by them?
Poleon came panting along with a 500-pound cooking range on his broad shoulders. He set the burden down and mopped his forehead
“My goo’ness, Mees Pat, dis ain’ no kin’ of wedder for heavy portaging, hein?”
Patricia’s eyes were on the motor canoe, which had angled out upon Resurrection and was chugging up stream, toward those misty hills and the illimitable barrens beyond.
“Poleon! Where’s he going? He said he wouldn’t be here tomorrow night.”
“My goo’ness, Craig'll not be back to de Bay for many many night, Mees Pat. He'll be gone for free, mebbe four, moon. He’s starting out to make long field treep, inspecting all de claim in de Resurrection headwater. Mebbe he get back here by Christmas, mebbe no.”
The news struck Patricia like a club blow. “Christmas” . . . She would be home in Chicago long before then. She was never to see Craig again . . Dynamite Bay seemed all at once empty and forsaken. She suddenly realized the stark bald truth—that she had stayed on and on there largely because of Craig. And now he had left her.
1 I 'HE “ROCK-HOG DEN,” the community house on Resurrection, came through tremendously. Patricia had sized up the need of the men unerringly. To watch them come in all tired and spiritless, spend their allotted fortnight in the “warm, clean place” and leave again with belts tightened and courage up—that was the finest experience of her twenty-four years. But for all the success of the venture, she was fearful that when the fur season opened “her men” would abandon their claims and pitch off from Dynamite Bay. She couldn’t blame them. They were in too pitiful a plight. Their clothes were patched and repatched, they were behind in their assessments, and another Arctic winter stared them in the face.
This was the situation on that fateful October eighth—a raw, ugly day with a cold wind whipping down from the Arctic Ocean and a whitecap surf pounding against the
rocj^y shore of Great Desolation—when the mail plane came in from Fort Smith and Patricia learned that her bank account in Chicago was overdrawn by $3,000.
Astonished and angry, she fled to Warren’s tent. He was standing before a chart that hung from the ridgepole, the same big chart she had seen in the Chicago office. Then it had been white, but now it was sprinkled with several dozen squares and oblongs in red. Many times Patricia had wondered what those red splotches meant.
“Warren”—she gave him the bank statement— “they say I’m overdrawn, and I know perfectly well I’m not. They forgot to enter my September allowance.”
Warren did not even glance at the paper.
“They’re right, Patricia, I’m sorry to say. Your credit for September—and for October, too—was not sent in to them. I dislike to tell you bad news, dear, but I must. Your allowance has been cut off. Your father decided that the only way to make you come home was to stop your money.” Patricia stared at Warren, dumbfounded. Her allowance cut off—she couldn’t quite grasp so astounding a fact. Why, her allowance had always been one of the infallible things, like day and night !
“To make me come home?” she echoed when she caught her breath. “But—but why does he want me to come home all that bad?”
Warren toyed with a letter knife on his work table. “Patricia,” he said finally, “you surely must realize that I’m here at Dynamite Bay on business for the company, and that it’s very important business. If my plans go through, the firm stands to make an extremely handsome coup. I presume you know by now, I presume Tarlton told you, that Dynamite Bay is an extraordinarily rich mineral field—” “Wh-aa-tt!” Patricia broke in. For a moment this sudden revelation, settling a question which had plagued her for three months, made her forget all about the allowance. “Rich, extraordinarily — Warren, is that honest?” “It’s honest,” he stated. “The whole story isn’t yet
known, won’t be known till complete surveys have been made ; but we do know positively that the field is of the first magnitude. Some of these silver ores run as high as five thousand ounces to the ton ; and the pitchblende lenses here may prove to be one of the world’s chief sources of radium.” “Why didn’t you tell me this before? Why’d you keep it a secret from me?”
“I—ah—wasn’t absolutely sure till just recently.”
■pATRICIA knew he was lying. He had known the truth before he ever came to the Arctic. But in those moments she did not pause over his lie. She was thinking in excited rapture, of what his revelation meant in the lives of these Resurrection men. Their claims really were valuable ! They weren’t working, starving, making their great sacrifices all for nothing! And Bill Fomier’s silver claims, which Craig himself had selected and staked for Bill—what rich claims those five must be ! Over on the Mackenzie, Bill’s wife and little girls would not be left destitute in the savage North.
“Now, dear,” Warren went on in his patient, logical fashion, “this community house of yours broke into my plans very badly. Your whole project here runs counter to the best interests of Wellington, Parkes and Lovett at Dynamite Bay. Personally I had nothing to do with cutting off your allowance. I merely kept your father informed of the situation, as I was duty-bound—”
“I won’t go !” she burst out. “Lock here, are you going to stand for this? You’ve got money, lots of it. You can advance me what I need. It's not much. Only a few hundred a month. Will you or won’t you?”
Her sharp question put Warren on the spot. He dared not make good the allowance, for she would use the money to keep the community house operating. Already that Rock-Hog Den, plus the quiet word which Tarlton had passed out to the prospectors last summer, had stalemated him for three exasperating months.
Warren made a swift decision. If he stood firm, Patricia would have to go home. Doubtless she would be furious with him. She might even break their engagement. But with patient effort he probably could mend that broken engagement. Certainly anything was better than for her to stay on at the Bay. She would keep that Den running, to his great damage. And Tarlton would eventually return, likely join forces with her. If those two ever got together, she would be Tarlton’s.
“Dear,” he said firmly, “I have to say No.”
“All right, keep your money!” she blazed. “I’ll manage without it. D’you know what I think of you, Warren? You fall short of honesty all along the line.”
WJ ARREN did not argue. Argument would only make r V hejangrier.
“Pilot Odron,” he informed her rather sharply, “is getting one of the Bellancas ready now to take you south. In half an hour—that’ll give you time to change clothes— I ’ll send the Chiwaughimi métis around to help Ellyn pack your things and strike your tent.”
White-faced with anger, she stared at him for a long moment. An impulse shot into her mind.
“Maybe you think you can get by with a raw trick like that, Warren Lovett!” she defied fiercely. “I’ll show you something!”
She whirled on her heel, made for the door and dashed out into the rain.
Warren stepped over to the flap-front and watched her as she ran down toward the bank of Resurrection. Her threat puzzled him, and he could not imagine where she was going. But neither question worried him very much. In the last analysis he held the power.
Going back to his work table, he wrote a strategic letter to her mother, intending to send it along with Pilot Odron so that it would reach Chicago as soon as she did.
As he was finishing the note, Lupe Chiwaughimi appeared at the tent door.
“M’sieu Lovett, come here. Look-see.”
Warren stepped over, looked where the métis was pointing. What he saw gave him a staggering surprise. Where Patricia’s tent had stood, there simply was no tent. It had vanished, magically, as though the ground had swallowed it.
Down toward the bank of Resurrection, a dozen husky prospectors, with Patricia’s slender figure in their midst, were hurrying toward a big York at the water edge. Everybody in the group was carrying something—trunks, suitcases, a cot, tent and poles.
“What’s happened, Lupe? Where’s she going?”
The métis gestured across the stream. “She moving over dere. Over near dat beeg château.”
“What! Why, she’d never—that’s preposterous!”
Lupe shrugged his shoulders. “Well, dere she goes, don’ she?”
“But—but what’s the idea?”
“I dono. I jus’ hear her say somet’ing ’bout ’beating you to de jomp.’ ”
“Why didn’t you stop her, for heaven’s sake?”
“It happen too queeck. Dat Poleon feller and dem utters, dey jus’ come to her tent all sudden and peeck op de whole place and walk off wit’ it. Sneep-snap—jus’ lak dat !”
Y\THEN POLEON and the men had VV repitched her tent in the pines near the Den, Patricia sat down on a steamer trunk amid the litter of her baggage and took thought.
It was characteristic of her to act first and weigh the consequences afterward.
She had flounced across Resurrection out of angry impulse—to show Warren that he wasn’t going to load her forcibly into a plane and send her away; but now that she saw how drastic was her step, she wished she hadn’t taken it.
Here she was, across the river, in the men’s camp, cut 'off from her own party, openly defying Warren. If he didn’t come over and offer to make peace, a pretty jam she’d be in! She’d have to go to him, knuckle under, take his terms.
Looking back across those three months, she realized that she had unknowingly walked into a trap and now was bogged down in bad trouble. Hazily she saw the basis of that trouble. She was trying to live in two utterly different worlds. Trying to live on both sides of a river at the same time. On one side lay the Rock-Hog Den, Craig Tarlton, Bill Former, her independence, her new-found happiness. On the other side lay Warren, the company, her family, her Chicago life.
On the lake shore across Resurrection a plane motor started up, drumming out its powerful ratt-tt-tatt-tt-tl. Dashing the tears from her eyes, Patricia stepped outside and listened, oblivious to the rain that beat upon her shoulders and wetted her black silky hair. That ship was warming up for flight. It must be Pilot Odron’s plane, getting ready for the flight south. Warren must still be confident that he could force her to leave for Chicago that day.
Her guess proved right. A few minutes later a big sturgeon-head pushed off from the opposite shore and butted across Resurrection, bringing Warren and the six Chiwaughimis and seven other men of Warren’s party.
V\7’ ONDER ING why he had fetched so * ’ large a crew, Patricia slipped back inside her tent and began straightening her baggage around as though she calmly intended to stay where she was. But inwardly she was storm-tossed, tom two ways. Go—stay—she couldn’t decide. But she had to decide. Ratt-tt-tatt-tt-tt—that
plane was waiting for her. She had to make up her mind. No more drifting, no more putting off decision “till tomorrow.”
Warren’s big party stopped outside her tent. Warren came in alone. Beneath his politeness he was sharp and peremptory.
“Patricia, Odron tells me that he’ll have to take off within thirty minutes if he’s to make Fort Smith before dark.”
“Well, let him take off,” Patricia snapped. “I’m not holding that plane by the tail!” “Try to be reasonable for once,” Warren said tartly. He gestured around at the tent. "You know as well as I do that you can’t live in a place like this with cold weather coming on. And living over here in this prospectors’ camp, alone—it’s ridiculous!” Patricia thought to herself: “He’s right. It’s worse than ridiculous. But he’ll have to meet me halfway. I won’t let him dictate to me.” She realized now that he had brought along that big party not only to pull down her tent but to smash any of her prospector friends who tried to interfere. Through the flap-front she noticed that the thirteen men were armed with oars, clubs, and tent stakes, and that three of the Chiwaughimis carried rifles.
“Furthermore,” Warren added, “I won’t allow you to keep up this charity work of yours any longer. Good heavens, don’t you yet understand that the more you help these men, the longer they’ll hang on here and refuse to sell their claims?”
Patricia’s eyes opened wide. “Why—why you talk as though you want to see them squeezed out and forced to leave.”
“To put it harshly, yes,” Warren stated. Backed up by that armed party out there, and confident that he could force her to go home, he dropped his evasion and told her some blunt facts. “These men own
practically all the valuable deposits up Resurrection. As things stand, they refuse to sell. Tarlton advised them to hold out, and this château of yours has bolstered them up. Originally I expected to get through with my business here in eight weeks, but I’ve been here three whole months and in that time I’ve been able to buy only a few dozen claims—”
“Those red squares!” Patricia cried. “Those red places on your chart !”
“I can buy up silver claims here for a hundred dollars,” Warren announced, with a ring of elation in his voice, “that’ll be worth a hundred thousand in time. Think about that ! And about these platinum and cobalt deposits. And the radium lenses. Can you imagine a more magnificent set-up than the company has got here?”
“A hundred dollars,” Patricia repeated jerkily. “A hundred dollars—for three or four years of hard work.”
“But these fellows can’t do a thing with their claims. Mining operations require a heavy initial outlay and a long wait for returns.”
“But you—you could pay a fair price, Warren. The least you can do, in justice, is to offer a decent wage for their years of—” Warren brushed her words aside. “We won’t argue about that. Please get ready to leave for Fort Smith.” He went out and she heard him order his men: “All right, baggage this place up and get it across the
He was interrupted by another voice. Poleon’s voice. Angry and challenging.
“Jus’ wan meenit! You don’ baggage dis place op onless Mees Patricia say so. You don’t load her into no plane weelly-neelly, lak if she was some squaw-siche or métise.”
PATRICIA flew to the flap-front, scared at the prospect oí a knock-down fight. Poleon and three prospectors had come across from the Den, while she had been talking with Warren; and they were standing belligerently between Warren’s party and her tent. Sam Honeywell, with a canoe paddle in his hand, was edging around to join Poleon and the other three.
“Poleon!” she cried. "Don’t start trouble !”
“No, he’d better not!” Warren agreed curtly. “You men, get her tent down.”
One of the Chiwaughimis stepped up, took hold of a tent stake. Poleon pushed him away. The mélis snarled and struck Poleon in the face. Poleon swung at him and hit him on the jaw, a pile-driving wallop that lifted the metis clear off his feet and stretched him cold.
“Put dem rifle away!” Poleon bellowed at the three who had guns. “You start any shooting and de whole outfeet of you will land in de Police butter-tub on your ear!” One of Warren’s men sidled around behind Sam Honeywell, crashed the unsuspecting Sam on the head with an oar and laid him out. The other eleven men rushed upon Poleon and the three prospectors like a hostile wave.
Patricia screamed as the fight broke wide open in a twinkling. Thupp—smash—it was a fierce, hot mêlée of struggling men; of clubs, rifles, tent stakes and swishing oars; of grunts and oaths; of men sprawled on the wet ground; of sickening blows with fist and oar and club.
Against the heavy odds the three prospectors were overwhelmed at the first rush. They were knocked down, knocked cold, trampled underfoot. Only Poleon, standing at the flap-front and brandishing a tent stake, was still on his feet.
‘‘Allons!" he kept bellowing. “You come a-near dis tent, and I’ll knock de whole pack of you colder’n a dead dog’s nose!”
Over at the community house the alarm had been sounded. Out of the place poured a fair-sized riot—half a hundred prospectors, leaping out of the windows, surging through the doors, snatching up clubs and stones and tent pegs as they raced for the battle.
They hit the place like a demolishing tornado. Outnumbered four to one, Warren's men were slugged, knocked down, swept under, obliterated. Two or three survivors
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escaped and ran for the sturgeon-head, with a dozen prospectors chasing them . . .
THAT NIGHT Patricia called a meeting in the community house. She told the men what Warren had said to her about the richness of the field. Told them she had declared war on the company. Reminded them that she was living on their side of Resurrection now. Told them that she was as penniless as they, but that she was going to stick there and fight. Were they going to sell out or stay?
Her sincerity and her fire stirred them out of their discouragement. Crowd psychology and their shame at the thought of letting her down, did the rest. From all over the big room came shouts: “We’ll stick till h—
freezes!”—“Bet your boots, Pat, we’re hanging on!”—“First feller that sells a claim, he gits tarred and feathered!” Patricia wrote out a pledge, binding each man not to sell one square inch of his holdings. All the men there signed it. She wrote out two other copies, to send back into the barrens for the absent prospectors to sign. Last of all she dashed off a third copy and sent it across Resurrection to Warren, for him to read and ponder on.
ELLYN, Patricia’s maid, could not stand up to the Arctic. With the coming of raw weather she wilted, and Warren had to ship her back to Chicago. Patricia stayed.
Warren was hammering methodically at the discouraged prospectors—and getting results. Half a dozen of the city rushers sold
out to him and were whisked out to Fort Smith before the others caught on. Spot by spot, the red on his chart grew.
Across the river, Patricia fought the best she could. Warren had tried to resume friendship, had taken care of her overdraft, built and furnished her a cabin. She was not deceived. Under her direction the men cut huge cords of stove wood, laid up whitefish for the dog teams, netted lake trout for themselves. When the caribou migration was on she sent a big hunting party northeast to the barrens, and they brought back meat to last all winter. Food and fuel were thus looked after.
What with fighting Warren, holding the men in line, running that big house, planning meals, keeping quarrels down and spirits up, she was the busiest she had ever been. And the happiest. At last she really had a worthwhile job to fling herself into.
Her association with the men was the most delightful part of it all. Their comradely “Howdy, Miss Pat,” or simply “Momin’, Pat,” made her feel like a seasoned “Northern man.” When snows fell at night, she always found the paths around her place shovelled clear the next morning. Half the men there were in love with her—she was not particularly flattered at this, realizing how starved they were for woman’s company—but from only one of them did she ever receive an unwelcome advance.
Toward the end of October, Sam Honeywell came in to the Bay, bringing back one of the pledges which she had sent up
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Resurrection for the men to sign. As Patricia scanned the long list of names, she was astounded to run upon Craig’s signature.
Instantly she was all eagerness. “Why, Sam”—he had brought the paper to her cabin—“did Craig actually sign this? What did he say, Sam? Did he make any comments about my war on Mr. Lovett?”
Sam scratched bis head. “I ’member he said 'Hmmph’; ’fact, he said ‘Hmmph’ several times. He was plenty surprised, all right, but I don’t ’member him saying anything in perticular.”
Patricia didn’t know what to make of Craig’s “Hmmph’s.” His signature on her pledge looked like an admission that he had judged her wrongly. And surely he realized by now that she was in dead earnest.
But she refused to do any wishful thinking. Craig’s cold aloofness had cost her bitterly enough already.
With the November Moon-of-HardeningIce, Resurrection froze over for its long winter sleep. Shore ice stilled the beating surf of Great Desolation and crept out and out into the Bay until at last the whole great lake lay dead and quiet.
This December Moon-of-Flying-Hoar; frost was a black period for Patricia. As the Big Dark came on and the Arctic winter clamped down, it seemed to her that all light ¡and warmth and life were vanishing from the earth. She became panic-stricken at the cosmic forces being unleashed. Surely the end of the world couldn’t be more appalling than this. Sometimes she doubted whether she was still on the same earth as before. The sunny Mediterranean, the flower gardens at Kingston in Jamaica, the lazy peace of Lake Michigan in its happy moods— could those exist on the same globe with this frozen, storm-tom, darkened land?
The hopelessness of her struggle against Warren plunged her into a bottomless despair. Strange moods preyed on her. The only girl on Resurrection, one girl among 300 men, she hungered for the companionship of her own sex. With the drawing near of Christmas she was seized with a terrific homesickness, and in the privacy of her cabin she cried for Haría, her mother, her girl friends, and the familiar round of holiday parties that were cheerily going on in far-away Chicago.
ON THE DAY before Christmas she left the community house near mid-afternoon and started for her cabin. A gathering storm was beginning to lash the pines and send the snow crawling and seething about her feet. This blizzard, she could see, was different from previous ones. Its tone was deeper, throatier; it was massing its strength more slowly and ominously.
Halfway between the Den and her cabin, a sudden call came out of the rising moan of the wind:
Patricia stopped in her tracks, dead-short. “Treeshia”—that was the name which Craig had given her, at God’s Lake; his own name for her. No other person on earth called her that.
She whirled. Twenty yards out in the gloom a tall rangy figure was looming up, coming toward her. Because of his heavy fur clothes she was not sure of him at first,
but as he drew near she could no longer doubt. “It is—is he!” she breathed.
He trudged up to her, snow-plastered, weariness written on his face.
“Hullo,” he greeted, shaking back his parka-hood and standing bareheaded before her. He looked her up and down, sharp-eyed as always, but his former scorn and suspicion seemed gone now. “Hmmph ! You, wearing Eskimo togs ! And you, here, in the dead of an Arctic winter !”
Patricia fought to keep her voice steady. “I didn’t know that you—when did you get back to the Bay?”
“Twenty minutes ago. Poleon and I. We brought Bill Fomier. He’s up at my cabin. Poleon is up there with him.”
Patricia started. “Oh-hh!” From Craig’s tones she knew that Bill was dying. Bill had worked at his claims till he dropped, and they had brought him in to the Bay to die.
Tears sprang to her eyes. “Can’t I do something to help, Craig? Can’t I see him, nurse him?”
“There’s nothing that can be done,” Craig said. He moved around so that his body sheltered Patricia from the wind. The storm was lashing them in the face with icy pellets and lapping snow spume over their rackets. "Bill is in no pain. I’ve shot him full of drug. Maybe it’s better you don’t go up there; your visit might rouse him. In a minute I’m going back and relieve Poleon. I can do everything necessary.” He tapped a packet he was carrying under his arm. “I brought you a Christmas remembrance, • Treeshia. From the barrens.”
Her heart pounded madly. “Treeshia”— he had called her that again! And he was giving her a Christmas present. Were the heavens caving in? Was she dreaming?
There was nothing more than friendship in Craig’s attitude. Nothing more than a cordial esteem such as he might have shown toward anybody whom he respected. But friendship and esteem from him—that was riches enough.
“Won’t you step over—my cabin—a cup of tea?” she invited hesitantly, not knowing how far to presume on his friendliness.
“I can stay only a minute, but I’d be glad,” he accepted.
'T'HEY WALKED together to her cabin -L and went inside, out of the rising storm. Craig laid his present on her cot and looked around at her home. Dainty and feminine, with curtained windows, cretonne colors and the cosy warmth of a girl’s touch, it was a great contrast to his own stem bachelor cabin up the hollow.
“You’re actually living over here!” he said. “On this side of Resurrection. Sam Honeywell was the first to tell me. I laughed at him. But then others told me.”
In a kind of daze Patricia set two cups and saucers on her little table. For Craig to be there in her cabin, having tea with her, was like a wish-bom miracle. An hour ago the Bay had been unutterably empty, the storm frightening; but now Craig was back, and the Bay did not seem lonely nor the heavens black and lowering.
She managed, “Why did you laugh, Craig, when Sam told you that I’d moved across the river?”
Craig gestured at the Arctic storm outside. “This is no place for a butterfly. That’s what I thought you were. I thowght that there wasn’t anything to you except your social rank and your dad’s money. Well, I made a cruel mistake. I wish I could tell you how sorry I am, Treeshia, for my remarks about ‘Lady Bountiful’ and ‘the humanitarian game.’ You were sincerely trying to help these men, and I—well, I was just blind.”
“I didn’t mind much what you said,” Patricia lied. Her hands trembled, she spilled a trickle of tea as she poured the cups full.
“One other thing,” Craig added, brushing a hand across his tired eyes. “It’s been on my conscience. That time I suspected you of trying to cheat Bill Fomier. I apologized once, but in the light of what’s happened since, I see that my suspicion was positively
“Yes, it was!” Patricia blurted out. “It hurt me awfly, Craig. But I don’t mind that either, now.”
While they drank their tea he asked her a few questions about the Den, about the prospectors; but he gave no indication that he cared to pitch into the fight. He mentioned the possibility of going back to the barrens after the holidays and finishing his inspection work.
As he set down his cup she insisted;
“Please, Craig, let me go up to your cabin and take care of Bill. You can lie down and sleep here for a few hours. You’re all worn out.”
Craig shook his head. “It’s my job. Bill seems to feel easier if I’m with him. I think I’d better go now. Poleon is in bad shape, after our trip.”
Y\7HEN THE DOOR closed behind him Y* Patricia ran tó the north window of her cabin, scratched a clear place on the hoarfrosted pane, and watched him till he was swallowed up in the wind-tom gloom.
For the first time, as she stood at the curtained window, she permitted herself to believe that God’s Lake could be resurrected between Craig and her. For the first time she admitted to herself—it broke over her irresistibly, an engulfing flood—that she was wildly and blindly in love with him. He, her first lover, had been her only lover. All those others had been pale substitutes for the image graven on her heart.
A long time after he had vanished in the twilight, she awoke from her tumultuous thoughts and turned to the cot where his Christmas present lay. It was a large deerskin packet, laced with babische and smelling of campfire smoke.
Fumbling hands untied the thongs, and spread open his gift. Furs ! Indian-made. A complete winter outfit for a girl—kamiks or small boots lined with rabbit fur, hudulik or trousers, a netsuk or blouse with parka-hood attached, and gloves of dark gleaming otter.
Bolting the cabin door, she took off her other clothes and put on these new ones. They fitted as though they had been made for her. The furs were exquisitely matched, the workmanship flawless. The whole outfit was the most beautiful ensemble she had ever seen.
As she stood in front of her mirror and lifted a hand to stroke the soft fur of her parka, she caught the cold sparkling fires of the engagement diamond on her finger. Her hand dropped like a flash. The sight of the ring broke into her happy thoughts like a jarring discord. Forgetting all about her new clothes, she stared down at her hand, at Warren’s ring. Not until that moment had she fully realized its meaning. She was engaged to Warren, was going to marry him, live with him; he would be her husband, the father of her children. That’s what the ring meant.
It suddenly seemed a hateful thing, that beautiful diamond—a symbol of a loveless betrothal. She wanted to get it off her hand and end the lie. She couldn’t marry Warren. The very thought was repugnant, even sinful.
She whirled around, caught up her gloves, lifted her snowshoes from their wall peg . . .
Y\7HEN SHE ENTERED Warren’s
’ ’ cabin across the river and walked over to his desk, he surveyed her in the light of the gasoline lamp.
“New clothes, dear! And what pretty ones—on you! Where did you get them, if I may ask?”
“Craig brought them to me as a Christmas present,” Patricia said frankly. “He came back to the Bay this afternoon, he and Poleon.”
Lovett winced. Patricia read the thought in his mind—she was wearing clothes which Craig had brought her.
“I hated to come here, Warren,” she said hastily, pretty badly tom up by what she had to do. “I hate to tell you this, but I’ve got to. We can’t go on as we are. It’s impossible.”
Warren started a little. “What’s impos-
“Our engagement, Warren. I want to end it. Please, this isn’t any sudden decision. For months I’ve been realizing that I didn’t love you enough to marry you. I should have told you before now. But I just drifted along and put off facing the truth.”
Reluctantly, knowing that she was taking a fraught step, she slipped their engagement ring trom her finger and laid it on Warren’s
She looked down at the floor, unable to meet Warren’s eyes. In those moments, when she needed to remember his dishonesty with her and his cold-hearted campaign against these defenseless men, she seemed to forget those bad things and remember only the occasions when he had done her a kindness.
After a time she heard him say slowly, “On Christmas Eve, Patricia.” He reached out and picked up the ring and turned it over in his hand. “This isn’t a very pleasant Christmas present to give a man, dear.”
The hurt in his voice tugged at Patricia.
“I—I didn’t stop to think about that. Oh, I’m sorry! I never stop to—to think about anything.” She burst into tears. “Forgive me, Warren. I didn’t mean to be so heartless.”
Y\7r ARREN stood steady under the blow, *V as though he had half expected it and was in a measure prepared. Only for an instant had he yielded to emotion. “On Christmas Eve, Patricia”—those words had come from his heart; words of pain. But immediately he had clamped down and become his sternly repressed self again, the poker-faced self that she intensely disliked.
“Tell me, Patricia—how much did Tarlton’s return to the Bay have to do with your decision to break our engagement?” “Nothing!” she denied.
“Tarlton likes you, doesn’t he?”
“He does not! He brought me these clothes because—well, as an atonement for some unjust things that he said to me last fall.”
“I’m glad to hear this. I’d be even gladder if I could feel sure that he is not going to show you any attentions at all.”
His mysterious tone alarmed Patricia. “Why shouldn’t he show me attentions?” she demanded. “What are you driving at?” “Did it ever occur to you, dear, that there’s a dark place in the two years that Tarlton spent on the West Coast? I mean, in his private life out there.”
Patricia drew back in sudden fright. She herself had often wondered about those two Vancouver years. Not that she had ever doubted Craig. She knew that he was as honest as daylight, that he had never harmed a human being in his life. But in Warren’s eyes she read that Warren had found out some secret about Craig and was springing it on her now.
“What is it you know?” she cried. “You’ve been probing around in his past! You’re afraid of him; you’ve been trying to dig up something about him. What’d you dig up? What’d he do there at Vancouver?” “If I probed into his past, it was only to protect you. I don't like the duty of telling you this, but I’m compelled to. Tarlton is married.” (To be Continued)