A PAGE from the NORTH
Maude Radford Warren
THE WIRELESS STATION, a log cabin deep in snowdrifts, looked like some dark, huddled animal ftxwen in search of shelter.
It was intrenched by a forest of hemlocks, close as a stockade. Cut through them was a long straight route that in the brief summer was a road, but now was merely another stretch of snow over which lay a partly broken trail. The silence was intense, like the cold. It was half-past nine and day was dawning. It crept up slowly, reluctant, grey. But a sudden Hushing color stained the sky! and the sun rose, crimson and then gold, bringing glimpses of shining green in the hemlocks and glinting diamonds on the snow.
“And that,” said the young man, Peter Trent, who stood at the window of the station, "is your North. It is grey or gold, just as you take it.”
He thrust open the door, put out his head and drew in a long breath, wincing a little, for w inter air north of sixty is keen and may feel like fire to southern lungs not wholly acclimatized. Trent, grinning, slammed the door shut. He had the steady eyes and the look of stability and resource that aie the hallmark of every child of the North.
lie glanced around the room that was home to him. The inside of the log cabin had the pioneer look of a man’s haunt where no woman has yet interfered. Against the north wall stood the six-foot table on w hich was set the wireless sending and receiving apparatus. Before it was a broad bench. Against the west wall sat a sheet-iron stove, its base full of glowing four-foot logs; next that a sink with a pump, and above it a shelf of cooking utensils. Next that again was a cupboard, uncurtained, which held a supply of canned food, a bread box, a soapstone, a hot-w’ater bag and various dishes. Against the south wall stood an army cot piled high with blankets and topped with an eiderdown bag. Above it
was a shelf of books; beside it a washstand. Above this, in a sort of shrine, was the silver-framed photograph of a girl. On the east side of the room was a large table, one end of it heaped with magazines, the other covered with a linen cloth that needed washing. Near the table were three or four cheap chairs. There wrere no pictures, no chintzes, no lounging chairs, no cushions; nothing that suggested softness or ease. It wras utterly unlike the lovely, sprawling Eastern house that Trent had always called home; and yet to this bare room he gave the strong loyalty a man feels when he has found his ow n desired niche.
He snapped open his watch; ten o’clock. Clifford, his chief, who took the daylight stretch for this week, would be arriving presently. Trent moved over to the west window which commanded a view of Clifford’s house. Yes, there he stood in the doorway, his parka and sweater unable to conceal his leanness, and there in the window was standing his wife, Mildred, to wave him good-by. Trent left the window abruptly and went to the shrine that held the photograph. He stared at it long and steadily. The girl’s face was lovely, languorous, magnolia-like, her lips smiling. He could almost hear her voice. Her letters always had a way of speaking. Bits of recent sentences came floating into his mind with her delicious drawling intonations.
"Peter, honey, when are you going to send for me? . . . Peter, we could set up a partition in that station and make two rooms of it ... I reckon you underestimate me, darling; you don't knowwhat a wonderful cook I am —out of cans ... 1 hink of the way we could read together in the
long dark evenings ... If the Cliffords don’t play bridge, we could teach them . . . Peter, love can survive separation if it is true love; but why torment love with separation? . . . Honey, when may I come?”
Trent compressed his lipis and turned sharply away from the photograph. \\ hen he and Sallie had parted, six months before, he had meant to come to the North only for a year. His work as a wireless operator was an excuse for the fiction he hoped to write. He was merely going to use the North. And without his know-ing it, the North had got him. This stark magical region was his true background. But it could never be a background for Sallie. The territory north of sixty, he believed, was no place for a white woman. Mildred Clifford seemed happy, but she had been here only for five months or so; not long enough yet to break. The North won the love of most real men, but not, he thought, the love of women.
“I’m not choosing between you and the North, Sallie,” he said aloud. "Some time, when I can bring myself to it, I’ll give up the North.”
He changed his slippiers for moccasins, put on puttees, sweater, parka and mooseskin gloves, and opiened the door just as Clifford came around the comer of the station.
"Your nose is frozen,” he remarked to Clifford, and added, grinning: "It will feel sweet when you get inside.”
Clifford picked up a handful of snow, threw part of it in Trent’s face, and used the rest to massage his nose. Trent, wratching him warily to avoid a WTestling bout, suddenly stiffened.
“Look there,” he called.
Both men stared toward the north. Far down the trail on the dazzling white appeared a number of black spots. Three of the spiots were larger than the rest. That meant a carriole
drawn by dogs; in front a man breaking trail, and beliind a m^‘Run and see what it is, Pete,” Clifford said. “Ill get
some hot water going.” .
Trent hurried down the trail. Neighborlmess, not curiosity drew him. In the North people are neighbors even if they live a thousand miles apart. As the distance between him and the travellers shortened, he could hear the crack of the driver’s whip, his voice, as he mushed the dogs. Trent could see the red scarf of the man who w as breaking trail. Then he noticed a certain supineness of the figure lying in the carriole. A year before, that would have meant nothing to him, but his recent life had sharpened his powers of observation and deduction. For in the North, where are lacking the soft aids of civilization w hich keep most people from knowing what they are really worth, a man needs his wits to preserve his comfort always and often his life.
Trent ran. When he was within shouting distance, the man breaking trail shouted breathlessly. ^
“My wife; needs hospital; get airplane.
Trent turned and ran back toward the wireless station. An operation, doubtless; something more serious than the little hospital in the Fort could handle. He slipped once and went sprawiing in a snowdrift. It took some time to get used to moccasins, he reflected, but what a bird he was with snowshoes ! He reached the station, dashed open the door and said:
“Cliff, put in a call to Edmonton for an aviator. It’s a sick woman that’s got to be rushed to a hospital.”
“Righto,” said Clifford, his fingers promptly at work. “Could you make out who they were in taking the call?”
“No, I couldn’t,” Trent said, taking off his parka.
“I wonder if they have any money,” Cliff reflected.
“And what diff. does that make?” asked Trent.
“None; we can always get pilots to do charity work in case of need. But they might ask from the other end. After all, Pete, to do a charity with a plane isn’t like sticking your fist in your pocket and giving a small handout. It’s a matter, this distance away, of two or three hundred dollars and risking the pilot’s life.”
CLIFFORD worked at the wireless, while Trent turned down the blankets of the cot. He heated the soapstone and slipped it under the blankets, then he filled the hotwater bag—a gift he had rather reluctantly accepted from his Sallie. Next, from a cannister in the cupboard he brought a drawing of tea, all with a pleasant sense of excitement. Nothing had happened of late to break the long monotony of winter.
Just outside, sounded the mingled clamor of human voices and barking dogs. Trent threw open the door. He still felt a thrill over the arrival or departure of a dogteam, and he liked the picture that stood out against the snow-covered hemlocks. The brownish-white dogs sat on their haunches in front of the long narrow carriole, from which one of the travellers, his snowshoes removed, was lifting the woman. The other was just about to unhitch the dogs. Trent saw him glancing toward a tree that stood beside the shed where the electricity was generated. That was where he w'ould tie the dogs, and the bundle fastened on the foot of the carriole was their food.
The man carrying the woman passed into the cabin, went over to the cot and laid her down. Then he gently removed her outer clothing and lifted her again, while Trent took off the eiderdown covering and opened the blankets.
Carefully they settled the woman.
Trent stared down at a sallow, paindrawn face. She smiled up at them as she felt the hot soapstone. Clifford, who had not turned his head, kept his fingers at work on the key.
So far no word had been spoken. Words are not wasted in the North when there is anything to be done. But now the woman whispered;
“The heat—so good.”
“Have you come far?” Trent asked.
“Quite a way. My name’s Carson,” the man replied. “I have the trading post twenty miles back from here. She’s been sick two or three days now. We didn’t think it was much, but I guess it is appendicitis.”
“Did you travel all night?” Clifford asked.
“Yes. I couldn’t have done it alone, but Johnson, the fellow that’s with me, he fishes
up on a lake near by. He came in, and we thought we’d better try it. They’re his dogs. There was a grand moon.”
The door opened and Johnson came in.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve fed the dogs. I’m afraid the leader has sore feet. I sort of thought we ought to put moccasins on him, but we didn’t have much time and I took a chance. Gosh, I’m tired. I didn’t break trail much either. Carson mostly did that.”
Trent watched the two men as they took off their outer clothes and changed their socks and moccasins. A year ago, he reflected, he would not have understood what heroic work it was to break trail for twenty miles by night, even with a moon. He opened a bottle of whisky, while Carson bent down and spoke to his wife.
“How have you stood it?” he asked.
“I’m all right,” she said with a wan smile, but she closed her eyes and her face twitched with pain.
Clifford turned round from his bench.
“It’s all right,” he said. “We’re playing in luck. Dixon is in Fort McMurray. They’re sending him word to fly right up here. He’ll have you down in Edmonton by tonight.”
Carson, his mind relieved, poured whisky for himself and Johnson.
“It’s a pity,” Trent remarked, “there are so few wireless stations from Edmonton to Aklavik.”
Johnson looked at him with the tolerance of the old-timer.
“You can’t hurry the North,” he said.
“It’s a great deal better than it was when we had no wireless at all,” Carson said. “Then people just—people just ...” His voice trailed off as he set down the whisky
glass and looked over at his wife in almost pathetic appeal.
“I’m going to be all right,” she murmured.
“Of course you are,” Trent said. "Will you have your tea clear or with milk in it?”
“Milk—but I don’t know if I should eat before an operation,” she hesitated. “Only, I’m so thirsty and hungry—”
“Sure you can eat,” Clifford interposed. “A little, anyhow. It will be more than three hours before the plane can get here, and five after that, maybe six, before you can get to the hospital. We can heat you up some soup, and Peter has oranges.”
“Oranges,” she murmured. “It’s been a year since I’ve tasted an orange.”
“They went and forgot oranges the last time I had stuff brought up,” Carson said. “And this autumn, I don’t know why, nothing came up at all. We’ve been living mostly on moose meat and rice. Didn’t even have canned milk. It’s given even us men headaches. I don’t wonder she got sick.”
Trent prepared the tea and heated a can of soup, while Clifford said:
“I’m going to duck over to the house and get my wife. You’d like to see another woman, wouldn’t you?”
Her eyes brightened.
“Have you got your wife here?” she said. “It would be a treat to meet her. I haven’t seen another woman in over a year.”
“I’ll get her,” Clifford said. “Besides, I think she has some cornstarch pudding left—floating iairy she called it, or some such fancy name. She’s a great one for putting imaginative covers on things. Anyhow', it tasted good yesterday.”
AFTER he had gone, Trent went to the - cupboard and brought out more cans of soup and tomatoes, meat, a loaf of bread, a pail of butter and another drawing of tea. The traders w'atched him impassively. They understood that if there was food in the place they ware welcome to it. If there had been no food, they would have patiently accepted hunger until such time as the food could be had.
“Sometimes we don’t bother to go to the house,” Trent explained; “or I don’t anyhow, not being married. I sleep here and I always have enough for a snack.”
Carson fed soup to his wife, while Trent peeled an orange for her.
“I’m going to give her this my own self,” Trent said, in answer perhaps to the woman’s glance at her husband’s cooling food. "You eat, Carson, and Mrs. Carson can test me as a nurse.”
Carson sat where he could watch his wife as he ate. She savored the orange gratefully. “My! that tastes good,” she said.
In a few minutes the door opened and Clifford returned with a slim, dark-eyed girl. Vitality and charm poured from her like wine from a pitcher. Throwing off her wraps, she went to the sick woman, knelt beside her and smiled tenderly. They exchanged a long, deep look; the look of wromen who know what it means to follow their men to the rough places of the world, far beyond the last barriers of civilization.
"Do you know what I have for you?” Clifford’s wife said. "I've been raising a little box of lettuce. It’s just the best time in the world to use it now. You’re going to have for your next course, salad and floating island. I've had nurse’s training, so you needn’t be afraid.”
“It’s wonderful,” Mrs. Carson whispered; “and so wonderful to hea, the voice of another woman.”
“You’ll hear a lot from me,” Mildred Clifford said. “Have you a radio? No? It’s out of order? Then guess what I heard last night—that women are again wearing long dresses for the afternoon and evening. A long way from our trousers, eh? And the latest thing in necklaces is to have about ten strings of graduated pearls about the neck. I would rather carry a weight in my hands than round my neck, wouldn’t you?”
The men exchanged a smiling look which meant that women were just children after all. The women exchanged a look that meant that women know how to cover over with trivialities the deep things they feel, and that men are as easy to deceive as infants.
Clifford took his place before the wireless apparatus. Mildred ministered to the sick woman, while Trent and the traders talked by the question-and-answer method. Trent, through wireless, w'as m touch with the world; the traders had not been away from
their station since before freeze-up time. Through wireless, the Far North is one long Main Street, and Trent could give them news of the sick missionary at Aklavik, of the triplets that had arrived at Fort Resolution, of the prospector who had got bushed up near Hay River and still believed he was digging up mountains of gold. He told them about prices of fur and prices of fish.
“Well,” Carson said, "it just shows I’ve got to get a good radio. I've got a small trap line, and only last week I took a couple of cross-foxes, fine pelts they were. There was a fellow came up with dogs last week, and I let those skins go for twelve dollars under the market price. That just shows.” From time to time, Carson went over and spoke to his wife. Once, as she dozed, he whispered to Mildred:
“Is the trip in the plane going to be terribly hard on her?”
“I’ll give her a hypodermic before she starts,” Mildred replied; “that’ll help. Are you going with her?”
He shook his head. “I can’t afford that, I’m afraid.”
“Never mind,” she said comfortingly. “You will stay here, of course, until the operation is over. They will send you news of her by wireless. It’ll be all right. Maybe there wouldn’t be room to take you, anyhow.”
Clifford turned his head.
“There wouldn’t,” he said. "A Mother Superior who is visiting the Grey Sisters here is going back, and so is a policeman. They have luggage; so the pilot has a full load.” “Fine,” said Mildred. “She’ll do better for your wife than you could. She’ll take care of her right to the door of the hospital.” Carson looked relieved. When he went back to his seat beside the fire he said to Trent:
' “I can’t think why she gave out this way. She wasn’t raised to hard work; she used to be a school teacher and didn’t know a thing about a stove hardly when we were married. Hut she certainly has taken hold like a good one. It isn’t as if she overdid; she’s only done what she has ever since we were married.”
'“TRENT thought of Sallie. When they had parted, she had known less about a stove even than a schoolteacher. She was a lovely lily of the field and he wanted to keep her that way. He did not want her hands to look as Mrs. Carson's did; she must never be sallow and work-worn and lonely and enduring.
“I suppose Mrs. Carson will be staying in Edmonton for the rest of the winter?” Trent said.
Carson looked at him, surprised; partly Ixcause in the North one man does not often intrude into another’s affairs, and partly because it had not occurred to him that his wife would not be back before break-up time. Trent flushed a little under the look, while Mrs. Carson said:
“I want to get home as soon as I can.”
Mildred smiied at Trent, but when she 8|X)ke her voice liad an edge that belied the smile.
“Women have a way of wanting to get home, Peter.”
And home, Mildred had told him more than once, meant to a woman of the North the place where her man was. That was a sentimental viewpoint. 1 lome was not home unless a woman was content in it, and he felt certain that Sallie and the North could never be related. A woman’s love for a man did not make home. There were plenty of other factors to lx* considered. What would Sallie do in a place where there was no plumbing, where potatoes only matured three years out of five, when* the cherries and apples and oranges she loved had to be imported, where a piano was a luxury, where ice stayed in the river till June and snowfell in September, where neighbors were few and far between, doctors and nurses and hospitals hard to come at? The baby of one of the Mounted Policemen had died because it could not weather the cold. He remembered stories he had heard of women who had died in childbirth because of the in-
efficiency of half-breed mid wives. There were many stories of trappers and prospectors wrho had lost their lives by their claims or trap lines through cold or accident. The North could be inhospitable. No; his Sallie must bloom only in a temperate clime.
The talk went back to the world of men. The traders were relaxed and interested despite their anxiety for Mrs. Carson. They were surprised when Clifford announced that it was past twelve o’clock.
“Pete,” Clifford suggested, “you’d better go down to the river and watch for the plane. It’ll be due any time now. Tell the pilot we’ll have something for him and the mechanic to eat.”
“I’d better get the dogs ready to start,” he said. “I’d forgotten about that mile or so we’ll have to take to the river. It seemed so comfortable here, I almost thought we were all through.”
“I’ll take the police whistle along,” Peter suggested; “then after the plane’s come and I’ve started back, I can save you a lot of time by blowing it when I’m within earshot. Dixon will probably want to hurry back.”
“You’d better take a thermos bottle of soup and one of tea and some sandwiches,” Mildred said. “Dixon may not think he’ll have time to come up to the station.”
“I reckon you’re right,” Trent agreed.
He got himself ready to start, took the food and went out. He looked up anxiously at the sky. It would be tough luck if a storm was blowing up, but there seemed to be no danger signals. Fine day for walking, he reflected as he hurried along. Mrs. Carson certainly had enjoyed that soup and the oranges. Trent felt a proprietor-like glow of satisfaction, almost as if he had grown the fruit for her sake. At the end of a few hundred yards, the trail turned to the river. It was well marked here, and Trent was glad of that, not because he cared what the going was under his own feet, but because the dogs could make good time in carrying Mrs. Carson down to the river.
As Trent sped over the trail, he felt as if he were flying. What was there about this Northern air that gave such zest to mere existence; to the ordinary round of work and to three meals a day of food that certainly could not boast of variety !
TL-TE RACED down to the river, passing, on the high bank, boats that had been drawn up for the winter, a storehouse and a couple of tool sheds. Some half-breed children were tobogganing down the hill; others were skating on the river. As Trent watched them, he heard, far above, the faint drone of an airplane. The children pointed excitedly and ran to the ice, where they clustered in a chattering group. Trent looked up at the blue Fokker, its shining sides flashing in the sun. It circled slowly, coming closer to earth. Then the pilot banked steeply twice, and came down softly on the ice, settling on his skids with almost no bouncing. Trent felt like cheering as he ran toward it, pursued by the children.
The pilot stepped down, followed by his mechanic. He pushed back his cap and goggles and stood smiling at Trent, a sturdy young man with grey-green eyes. He flexed his fingers and rubbed at his nose. The mechanic, a slim Englishman, stamped once or twice and nodded at Trent.
“Have a good trip?” Trent asked.
“Fine,” the pilot said.
“Can you come up to the station for lunch?” Trent invited.
“No; we’ll have to beat it back as soon as possible. I see you’ve got thermos bottles. If we can have them, then we’ll service the plane and get off. I’m not so sure of the weather.”
They got inside the plane, out of range of the worshipful children, and the pilot and mechanic drank the tea and soup and ate the half-frozen sandwiches, while Trent told all he knew of the case of Mrs. Carson.
“That means,” the pilot said, “that I don’t dare land at Cooking River and then drive her the twenty miles to the hospital. An hour’s delay might matter—to say nothing of the strain on her. I’ll have to
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land on the river in Edmonton, and I certainly dislike those bridges. Eve always said, however, it can be done ninety-nine times out of a hundred. This will be one of the ninety-nine times.”
Trent leaped out of the airplane. As he crossed the ice, he saw, coming down the bank, a group of the Grey Sisters, the escort of the mother superior who was going back to Edmonton. Not far behind walked two priests, their long black robes swinging widely. Below the bank stood a Mounted Policeman. At the top of the bank, Trent met a prospector with a dog team who was on his way to the wireless station. He would make better time than Trent could, so he was entrusted with a message and the police whistle.
When Trent got back on the ice, the pilot and mechanic were beginning to work on the airplane. The mechanic ran up the bank to one of the sheds, which he unlocked, and getting out a drum of gasoline, he rolled it down the bank and out uix>n the ice, the children running after him. Meanwhile the pilot examined his engine, and then climbed on top of the plane. When the drum was opened, he siphoned in the gasoline. Just as he had filled his tanks, the carriole appeared on the top of the bank. Carson guided it carefully down a trail that wound gradually to the river. By the time he reached the airplane, it was ready to start. The Mother Superior and the Grey Sisters stood beside the door. The policeman was chatting with the mechanic, the children were clustered together, and the priests stood at one side.
Carson lifted his wife. The pilot and the mechanic spread the blankets on the floor of the Fokker, and Trent and Carson somehow got the woman inside. Her face was tense with suffering, but she managed to smile at Carson.
"I’ll soon be back,” she said: “don’t worry about me.”
“Don’t come till you’re in fine shape,” he said. “Take the train to Waterways, and Johnson and I will come down with the dogs to meet you.”
Carson kissed her and they exchanged a long look of love and faith. Then Carson jumped out of the plane and he and Johnson mushed away with the dogs. The Mother Superior climbed into the airplane and sat at Mrs. Garson’s head. The policeman squeezed in, and then the mechanic. The mechanic shut the door, the priests and children stood well back, and then the pilot started the plane. Trent watched it skidding across the ice for perhaps an eighth of a mile, and then slowly rising and turning southward for its long flight. Then he went up the bank and along the trail toward the station. He found himself thinking of the look that Carson and his wife had exchanged. Their love was as real as his own
and Sallie’s, and for all they knew they might be parting for ever. But they didn’t think they were. It was as if they defied ordinary chances. They did not know what fear was.
T-JE WENT over to Clifford’s house to tell ■L -L Mildred that Mrs. Carson was safely off. He found her in the kitchen.
“Come in,” she called. “I thought I’d get those traders a real meal. Mrs. Carson is off, is she?”
“Yes; I hope she’ll stay in Edmonton all winter.”
Mildred looked at him with snapping eyes.
“We’ll fight if we go on with this subject,” she said. “What you need is your day’s sleep. You’ll never get it if you go hack to the station. Those men will be talking their heads off. Co into our room and lie down.”
“All right,” Trent said : “but it does seem to me a cowardly thing for a trader like that to pick out for his wife a sehtx>lteacher, not used to drudgery and loneliness and bring lier up here where site hasn’t seen another woman for over a year.”
“You are leaving out of it. the single but jxiwerful fact that she and lier husband are in love,” Mildred said. “Peter, no woman deeply in love wants her man to be a coward for her.”
Usually, when Mildred argued with Trent her voice was sharp, but now it was soft and her eyes were misty.
“Love,” Mildred said, “would transform any country for a woman if only she cared enough. When I look over at the station and remember that Cliff is there, the birds are singing and the world is green.”
She held open the bedroom d;x>r, and silently he passed in. He threw himself on the bed and stared at a picture on the wall :
Ix>ve and Life. It represented two figures, the strong one leading the weak one over a stony path. He must lx* the strong one and lead Sallie away from the hard places of the world. He fell asleep before he could finish the thought. All during the afternoon he slept soundly. When he awoke and looked at his watch it was eight o’clock. He rose and went into the living room. A lamp burned, but it was turned low. There was no light in the kitchen. Of course; Mildred would be with the men in the station, waiting for news of Mrs. Carson. Beside the lamp was a note from Mildred, saying that some supper was waiting for him in the oven of the kitchen stove. He found and ate it, grateful for her thought of him, for he was hungry after his long fast. Then he went to the wireless station. As he opened the door, Mildred cried:
“Peter, they’re in Edmonton. Mrs. Carson is in the hospital this minute. They had an ambulance out on the ice, waiting.
I Dixon land«! marvellously -right between the bridges and just opposite a good road for the ambulance. Isn't it wonderful? He is on the job for us, at the wireless. They telephone him from the hospital and then he has the news sent on.”
“She's in the hospital now, and the doctors are going to operate at once,” Clifford added. “But they assure us there isn't any special danger.”
Carson was sitting beside the table, his right hand clenched.
“It’s mighty kind of them to take so much trouble,” he said.
The wireless sounded loudly and Clifford went back to the key, Carson watching eagerly. Presently Clifford turned.
“Yes; it’s about Mrs. Carson,” he said. “The operation is going on now. She took the ether well, and everything is going tine. It would have been dangerous if she had arrived even a day later, but as it is you’ve no reason for anxiety.”
Carson drew a long sigh.
"It certainly is strange to have anything wrong with her,” he said.
Mildred got out a pack of cards, and she and 'Irent and the traders played, while Clifford sat before the wireless. For a long hour lie sent and took messages from this and that station. Every few seconds Carson fixed his eyes on the back of Clifford’s head, but he asked no questions. 11 was more than an hour before Clifford pulled off his headpiece and said, smiling:
“It’s over; she’s back in bed, comfortable. They’re going to send us another message in the morning.”
“Fine,” Mildred said, “and now we must think of beds. 1 know you two rr.en are dead for sleep, and it’s time for Cliff and me to tum in.”
From outside came the sound of voices, the jingling of bells and the neighing of a horse.
"Hello,” Clifford said, “that’s one of Micky Ryan’s freighting teams. I wonder what he’s doing over here this time of night.” He opened the door. Two of Ryan’s drivers were stamping on the snow, between them a small woman.
“Here she is, Cliff,” they called; “and we’ve got to beat it to the stables. Cheerio.” The small figure carne forward, stumbled past Clifford and entered the cabin. She was wrapped from head to foot in a long buffalo coat, such as Mounted Policemen sometimes wear. A woollen scarf was over lier head. She threw this aside and showed a pair of dark, languorous eyes, and red lips parting in a quivering smile. As Clifford closed the door behind her, she held out her arms to Trent.
“1— I had to come, Peter.”
Trent did not move. It was Mildred who ran to the newcomer and embraced her.
“It's Sallie,” she cried: “you darling. However did you get here? You didn’t fly?”
OH, NO,” Sallie replied, breathlessly, her eyes still on Trent’s blank face. “You see, my Uncle Gordon gave me a bond for Christmas. It looked like good trousseau money, so I pawned it and took the train as far as Edmonton. I came tourist to save money, but 1 didn’t have enough to hire an airplane. 1 came by train to Waterways, and then l heard of Mr. Ryan’s freighting teams. 1 told the drivers they certainly had to take me as freight. I had a hard time persuading them, but I did.”
"Gosh, that must have been some drive,” said Johnson, admiringly; “those Ryan drivers never bother to put up a break against the wind. A dog team would have been more comfortable though a lot slower.” “Why, you resourceful child,” Mildred cried.
She shot an indignant glance at Trent, who was still standing, tranced. The traders, feeling a certain tenseness in the situation were looking fixedly at the floor. Sallie went on, brightly:
‘P-Peter said people had to lx: resourceful up—I mean down — North. It took us ten days to come. Every fifteen miles we changed horses at the Ryan shelters. We did thirty miles a day. It was lots of fun.
I-I loved it. I didn’t freeze my nose or my ears, and that is more than Peter can say when he first came.”
Her voice was brave, but her face quivered and tears were in her eyes. Trent took her in his arms. The traders coughed and shuffled their feet.
“My girl,” Trent said at last; “you know how glad I am to see you. You win, Sallie. Well find a padre somewhere and get married. Then as soon as Cliff can get a substitute in my place, well go home.”
Sallie withdrew from his arms.
“That’s not winning; that’s losing,” she said. “Peter, if you are going to give up your job, I shall go home alone tomorrow. I wanted to use the rest of my trousseau money for—for curtains and cushions. I brought along a curtain for the cupboard. But if you resign from the job, why - why I resign from you, Peter.”
There was absolute silence in the cabin.
Johnson was blushing deeply and his fists were doubled; Carson rose and stared out of the window. Mildred moved over to the bench beside Clifford and put her hand in his. Trent was unaware of all of them. He saw only Sallie. An obstinate core in him suddenly melted. This slim girl he loved had just endured a journey more strenuous than any he had ever undertaken. Her body might apjxiar delicate, but her spirit gave her the strength she needed. He knew that Sallie could do, through love, the hard thing she wanted to do far more safely than the easy thing he asked of her. She was stronger for the moment than he was, because she was fighting for him as well as for herself.
“You win, Sallie—your way,” he said, his voice broken.
The little stiff figure relaxed; tears came into Sallie’s eyes, and she whispered:
“I’m going to cry in a minute. I’ve got home.”