WILLIAM BYRON MOWERY
IN THE FALL of 1929 a rumor drifted out of the far North, out to Edmonton, that a tremendously rich mining field had been discovered in Arctic Mackenzie. Dynamite Bay, the place was called, but apart from a few experts with inside knowledge, no one knew whether Dynamite Bay was the genuine find or just another wild alarum of the mining frontier.
One party which did have authentic data on the field was the powerful Wellington, Parkes & Lovett, Incorporated Mines, with headquarters in Chicago and branch houses in New York, Winnipeg and Toronto. Through their geologists they had kept a close watch on the field and it was Warren Lovett, junior partner in the firm, who first realized that the new district offered them a chance to make an immense “killing.” Lovett was young, alert and brainy. Old Jasper Wellington, founder of the house, was beginning to be slow at grasping new situations; Russell Parkes had gone in for diplomacy and was minister at a European capital. It remained for Lovett to set the stage for his company to
make a thunderous coup in the Canadian Arctic.
One July morning Patricia Wellington, old Jasper’s spirited daughter, swept into the La Salle Street headquarters of the firm.
Whatever else you might think of Patricia, there was no denying she was lovely. Medium tall, gloriously athletic of body, she had a dash and fire that had whirled her to local championships in swimming and tennis. Her eyes were dark and flashing; she had thick black hair, parted in the middle; and her face was as starkly beautiful as an Egyptian profile.
But it was Patricia’s dark eyes that drew your attention and made you love her, if you were big enough to forgive her haughtiness. They were proud eyes, but honest and without guile. If you read very deeply in them, you saw the smoldering fires of rebellion and tragic unhappiness.
“Where’sMr. Lovett?” she asked the telephone girl.
“In Mr. Wellington’s office. But they’re having an important conference, and they gave instructions—” “—-that - they - should - on - no - account - be - disturbed,” Patricia snapped. And with that she started for the door of her father’s room.
The telephone girl and the other three secretaries sent a battery of hostile looks after Patricia. All four of them burned with envy of her luxurious butterfly life. On wintry days when wind-swept Chicago was unutterably dreary and cold, they would see news pictures of Patricia Wellington lounging on a Caribbean yacht or basking under a beach umbrella at some sunny Mediterranean resort. On the rare occasions when she stayed at home for a while, they saw her flashing along Michigan Avenue in her Hispano racer, or read accounts of the younger-set parties that she gave at the Wellington estate up the North Shore.
Now, as the climax to her good fortune, she was going to marry Mr. Lovett, who in a few years more would have complete control of the company in his capable hands.
UNAWARE OF the hostile looks and thoughts that followed her, Patricia hurried on into her father’s office. At a rosewood table across the room, Warren Lovett and Jasper Wellington, an iron-featured old financier of sixty, were leaning over a big white map. The bang of the door caused both men to look up.
“W’here the devil did you come from?” old Wellington demanded. “And don’t you see we’re busy?”
Her father’s tone warned Patricia that he was having a crabbed morning and that site had better spring her idea carefully. In a good many respects he was a tyrannical old Roman with her and her sister, Haría, and their mother.
Lovett got uj) courteously and came across the big room. Only thirty-three, nine years older than Patricia, he was a quiet poker-faced man, handsome in a way, well-gnxnned in a grey business suit. Outwardly he had nothing remarkable about him, nothing except perhaps his poker face—-to explain why it was that he, who had come to Wellington and Parkes twelve years ago as an obscure assistantattorney, was now a partner and a millionaire, with complete mastery of the firm almost within his grasp.
In Patricia’s affection for Warren there was little romance and no passion. A succession of hectic affairs had made her cynical about the love relationship in general. But she did like Warren a great deal, and considered him the ablest man she had ever met. Coming from nowhere, a poor boy from a Wisconsin iron-mining hamlet, he had climbed to the top through sheer ability. Steady, even-tempered, he would probably wear better in the long run than any other man in her wide acquaintance.
Yet there were times, in the secrecy of Patricia’s night thoughts, when the prospect of this loveless mating seemed to violate all her deepest instincts, and she recoiled from the
thought of it. At such times Warren Lovett, that quiet diplomatic man in the grey suit, appeared an utter stranger from whom she must flee at any cost, before the steel jaws of the marriage trap closed upon her.
“What brought you back so suddenly, dear?” Warren queried. “Nothing went wrong up lake, I hope.”
“No, nothing,” Patricia answered. She stood on tiptoe and kissed him in order to whisper hurriedly: “W7arren, I—I want to do something that dad may object to. If he does, help me out, won’t you?”
“If I possibly can,” Warren returned, in his cautious way. They walked on over to the table. As Patricia had guessed the big map was a chart of that Arctic mining field which she had heard so much about. On it she saw a large area of marine blue marked “Great Desolation Lake.” From an eastern arm of Great Desolation a river called “Resurrection” wound northeast in a huge blank region marked “Barrens.”
RESURRECTION RIVER—the name had fascinated “ Patricia since she first had heard it. What sort of country was that Polar land, up there at the top of the world, basking under the midnight sun? And those unknown barrens—what mysteries and adventures were lurking on their silvery rivers and musk-ox prairies?
She looked up from the map. “I hear that you’re going to lead an expedition to Dynamite Bay, Warren.”
“Yes, dear. I’m starting early next week. DeCarie has a plane party waiting for me at Winnipeg.”
“When are you coming back?” she asked.
“I can’t say definitely, but likely within two months.” He touched the engagement ring on her finger and smiled. “I must be back in Chicago by the eighth of October, dearest.”
Patricia did not smile. It was this very matter, this eighth of October, which she herself was thinking about and which had made her decide to go along with Warren on his Arctic trip. With her wedding so near at hand she desperately wanted to overcome the feeling that Warren and she were strangers. She felt confident that two months of intimate association would draw him and her very close to each other and that all her secret doubts about their marriage would be stilled.
The attitude of other girls in her circle, “Oh, take a chance - there’s always Reno, y’know,” was odious to her. Ixxig before her engagement to Warren she had looked around at broken homes, broken ideals, and had made a fierce resolve: “My marriage is going to stick !”
Old Wellington said roughly to her: “Look here, if you’re winding up to say you’re going along with Warren for a little Arctic picnic, you might as well not say it! Warren has business to attend to on this trip and he can’t be bothered. You run along and let us get back to our work.”
His order made Patricia angry. “You run along”—he was always like that. Always treating her as a child or an inconsequential person. As he treated her mother and Haría. Sometimes she wondered whether Warren, too, was going to regard her as a social pet instead of a mate and a life partner.
“But, dad”—she swallowed her anger and wounded pride —“I won’t be a bother to Warren. I’ll keep out of the way, honest.”
“I say no!”
“But, dad ...”
While they argued it back and forth, Warren stood aside, listening to them and thinking swiftly. Because he loved Patricia sincerely, because his love for hef was almost the only honest thing in his climbing, poker-faced life, he wanted her with him for those two months.
But his chief reason for wanting to take her was entirely
cold-blooded. If she was in the far North for the next eight weeks she would have no chance to fly off on some unpredictable whatnot that might delay their marriage or spike it altogether.
Keeping out of the argument he waited until old Jasper had thundered his final “No!” and Patricia had burst into angry tears. As she turned away, he stepped up and took her arm; and at the door he bade quietly:
“Let me handle this, Patricia. You run over to the Tree-Top Club and wait there till I phone you. Don’t worry. In ten days from now you and I’ll be camped on Resurrection.”
STIRRING OUT of a long deep sleep, Patricia reached up, as her habit was, to touch the button that would bring her maid into the room.
Her hand encountered canvas, a canvas wall. Opening bewildered eyes, she looked up and found herself staring at the ridgepole of a tent.
Still only half awake, it took her several moments to place herself and to realize that the small beating surf outside was not the familiar Lake Michigan of her childhood but the sullen voice of Great Desolation Lake.
For a minute or so she lay quiet, with her sleepy thoughts drifting back across the long journey north. Chicago, Winnipeg, Edmonton. Then the long flights, hundreds of miles at each hop, over the Athabasca, Slave and Mackenzie countries, to the Arctic. Then the swing eastward toward the North Magnetic Pole, and at last their goal at Dynamite Bay.
The North so far had keenly disappointed her. No snowy mountains, no romantic rivers with white-water portages, no wild Indians, no half-breed boatmen singing while they worked. At the dismal frontier posts where the planes stopped for gas, the Indians had seemed slouchy and tame, the half-breeds sullen, the white men uncouth. The country itself was unspeakably dreary. Water-logged by marshy lakes, slow rivers and slimy green muskeg, the immense Three Rivers region seemed to her just one huge dismal swamp, a thousand miles of stagnant green ooze that was neither land nor water.
At the other side of the tent her English maid was noiselessly unpacking baggage. Patricia sat up.
“Ellyn, is there any breakfast around this place? Or does a person have to go out and shoot a caribou?”
"Breakfast is ready for miss in the dining tent.”
“I’ll have it here, in my tent. Get one of those Chiwaughimi half-breeds to help you bring it.”
W’hen Ellyn was gone, she slid out of bed in her pyjamas, found a pair of slippers, and stepped over to the flap-door, anxious to see what Dynamite Bay looked like. At the arrival of her party eight hours ago she had been so dog-tired that she had crawled into her blankets without a glance at anything.
Her tent faced the blue loping waves of Great Desolation, where Arctic gulls were wheeling and mewing in the golden sunshine. Along the landwash to her left stood the glistening white tents of her party, and in the shallows the five big red Bel laneas rode at anchor.
To her right a good-sized river, swift and turbulent, flowed into the Bay. Half a dozen dirty-brown tents were scattered along its near bank, but the main prospectors’ camp lay across on the north shore. With a start Patricia realized that this beautiful blue stream was Resurrection River, whose name had caught her fancy in far-off Chicago.
STEPPING OUT into the sunshine, she stared around at the country and tried to catch the tone of it—if it had any tone. At a glance she saw that it was not water-logged and dismal, like the Three Rivers region. From the level lake beach a series of granite swells, timbered with stormgnarled pine, stretched back into the savage hinterland, rising higher and higher till in the distance they became a chain of rocky broken hills that cut like sawteeth into the sky.
The colors of everything were so sharp and cold—the waters a steely blue, the Arctic sky an apple tint, the clouds a pure snow white, the funereal pines a sombre green.
As Patricia’s eyes followed Resurrection River far away into the northeast till it lost itself in a jumble of wild hills, a little shiver went through her; a shiver of misgiving and
fright; a wordless desire to flee back to the familiar country of cities and warm comforts. Fresh and clear, because it was a first impression, the tone of that Arctic land came starkly home to her. In spite of its balmy air and mellow sunshine, she knew that it was a harsh land, severe and pure as its icy blue waters—a forbidding country that tolerated only those who were courageous and strong of heart.
Somewhere a man was singing, in bush French. Patricia listened, followed the words of the old voyageur song:
Oh, p’tite Oiselet, in the Strong Woods,
Your foot is caught in the snare invisible,
The cruel babiche.
You will flutter, you will struggle and die,
Oh, little one . . .
Looking around, Patricia saw the singer, at one of the tents over near the river bank. Sitting on a box labelled Dynamite, he was plucking away at a battered guitar and singing endlessly.
It suddenly occurred to Patricia that it was his singing which had awakened her a little while ago, before she was ready to wake up. If he sang like that every morning, when his tent was so close—
“Hullo, over there !” she called.
The noise broke off. The man arose, looked around, saw her.
“You call me, hein?"
"Nobody but you. Come over here.”
The man came, carrying his guitar tenderly beneath his arm. As he drew near, Patricia saw by his features that though he was no métis (half-breed) he did have a tinge of Indian blood in him. A stalwart big fellow, thirty years old, he was strong and powerful as a bull moose, but he trod with the light step of a Cree woods runner.
At none of the Three Rivers posts had she seen anybody so picturesque as he. Clad in neat caribou-skin clothes, with quilled moccasins and a colorful beadwork belt, he seemed to her like a genuine son of the northern Strong Woods; like a page right out of old voyageur times.
“What’ll you take for that thing?” she demanded, pointing at the cheap battered guitar.
“For dis gee-tar, you mean? My goo’ness, mees, I not sell her, nevair! She fine dandy gee-tar, and me, I’ve carry her ’round wit’ me all over de Nort’, from Labrador Nascaupee to Alaska Porcupine. But I tell you w’at, mees, I’ll len’ her to you w’enever you wan’ to play her.”
Patricia laughed and her anger fled. “You don’t get the point, but no matter.” She eyed the big fellow up and down with amused curiosity. “I say, who are you, anyway?” “Me? I’m Poleon.”
"Napoleon Auguste César de la Salle St. Jacques.” “Good gracious, it’s a wonder you aren’t stoop-shouldered ! What are you, a prospector?”
“Oh, I got wan or two claim stake’ down, back in dere” —he gestured up Resurrection River—“but I don’ care a whole pile ’bout prospecting. A feller wit’ a string of claim, he’s got to work on ’em so much dat ’stead of heem having dem stake’ down, dey got heem stake’ down. And me, I don’ lak dat.”
“What do you do, then?”
“Oh, I hunt wolf, trap, roam.”
Patricia offered him a cigarette, lit one herself to his popeyed astonishment, and sat down on a mossy rock for a chat with the big fellow.
He was so buoyant, so kind and sunny-hearted, that she liked him instantly. Artless as a child in some ways, he was sensitive and intelligent in many others. Particularly she found him to be a mine of information about Dynamite Bay.
The main prospecting field, he told her, lay up Resurrection, beginning at those sawtooth hills and extending northeast into the barrens. “The Bay” was a sort of central
point where the men came to get supplies, recuperate and have a bit of human association.
“I thought there’d be a lot of excitement here, and several thousand men, and all that,” Patricia remarked disappointedly. “But I don’t see any boom at all.”
There never had been any rush, Poleon informed. The city country was far away; the Arctic winter was something that no tenderfoot could face; and expenses were sky-high. All food supplies and equipment had to be brought in by plane, at eight hundred dollars a ton for freightage alone. In the entire field there were only about three hundred prospectors. Thirty or forty of them were from the cities, but the great majority were “northern men” trappers, freetraders, ex-Mounties.
After Poleon had left her, Patricia lit a second cigarette and gazed thoughtfully up Resurrection at those blue hills. Were there really any rich lodes up there? she wondered. Poleon didn’t seem to know for sure. Nor the other prospectors. Nobody seemed to know. Except Warren. He knew, all right, but he was keeping the secret locked within himself.
Just then the mystery hanging over the field seemed of little importance to her. She was too stirred and gripped by the elemental wildness of the country. A queer, formidable land. Even the air, in spite of the bright sun, had a strange little bite to it which she had never experienced under any other sky.
Again that uneasiness and misgiving crept over her, and she felt afraid.
She jumped up from the rock. “Heavens! What’s the matter with me?” she thought. She tried to laugh down her vague prophetic fears of this Arctic country. “Jitters— scram! You're silly !”
She turned and went back into her tent, light-heartedly humming Poleon’s song:
Oh, p’tite Oiselet, in the Strong Woods,
Your foot is caught in the snare invisible,
The cruel babiche . . .
LATE THAT afternoon,
* because Warren had politely refused to allow her to help him with his work,
Patricia asked Poleon to paddle her to the camp across Resurrection. A "slumming expedition,” she called it.
The canoe approached the north shore. The water edge was cluttered with craft of every kind, from slender Indian birchbarks to big Yorks. Back in the scattering timber stood nearly seventy tents, among them a few leather tepees of visiting Indians.
Up the lake beach three hundred yards was a cluster of large cabins—the wireless station, Land Office, Mounted Police buildings and Hudson’s Bay store.
Poleon skirled the canoe deftly ashore, grounded it, handed her out. They walked up the bank.
“Heavens, what a hodgepodge,” thought Patricia, as she glanced down through the camp. The whole place was a
disorganized confusion of tents, smoldering fires, men, canoes and chained-up dog teams.
In comparison with the two Ontario rushes which she had seen, this camp looked gone to seed. No paths, unsightly refuse everywhere, no organization or esprit de corps. And the men moving about here and there seemed half-hearted, discouraged. Over the whole place hung an air of poverty and defeat.
She asked Poleon: “Am I just imagining things or are these men in the dumps?”
“You’re dead right, Mees Pat. Dese feller, dey are on de dumps. You see, dey been here at Dynamite Bay mebbe two, mebbe four year, and all dat tam dey been have to scrape along on leetle or no money, ’cause dey have no chance to trap or trade. Dey Ye real men, dey’re tough outfeet as you never saw, but dey’re jus’ about ready to give op.”
“Why don't they take time off and make some money and get back on their feet again?”
They didn’t dare take time off, Poleon explained. A man had to do fifteen days work a year on each claim he held or it would revert to the Crown. Since most of the prospectors owned ten or more claims it took constant labor and the hardest kind of sacrifice merely to hang on to their holdings.
As Patricia gazed around at the slovenly tents and the raggedy big men, her emotions were a queer mixture of pity and disdain. But mostly she longed to pitch into that camp, organize it, clean it up, set it to rights.
At the first tent they approached, a tall raw-boned prospector was tossing whitefish to his team of huskies. He was in an undershirt and clumsily patched trousers, his hair was unkempt, his face heavily stubbled.
“How you do, Sam?” Poleon greeted. “Mees Pat, dis is Sam Honeywell. Sam, dis is Mees Wellington.”
Continued on page 29
Continued from page 7—Starts on page 5
Honeywell awkwardly offered Patricia his hand, and mumbled: “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” Lacking Poleon’s huge social ease, he was red-faced with embarrassment.
While he and Poleon talked, Patricia glanced curiously around at Honeywell’s home. Here certainly was. life in the raw, an elemental existence—merely a shelter to keep the rain off, a sleeping poke to crawl into, a fire on the ground to cook food with. Inside the tent she saw a box of grub, some blackened pans, a rifle, canoe paddles. A near-by bush was draped with shirts and bandana handkerchiefs which he had just washed. Back of his place his team of big wolfish huskies were tied up, each dog staked separately to keep them from fighting.
LEAVING Honeywell’s tent presently, J she and Poleon went on down through the camp. Poleon kept introducing her to man after man, till finally she had to make him stop. All of them were painfully embarrassed, all stared at her breeches and cigarette, all were respectful in their rough frontier way.
The truth of Poleon’s words, “dey’re tough outfeet as you never saw,” came forcibly home to her. For all their discouragement and raggedy clothes, here were men, real men, the pick of the North. All the weaklings had been weeded out. These Resurrection fellows were tough, were hard.
It was at the east side of the camp that the incident of Bill Fomier came crashing into her slumming expedition like a thunderbolt.
She and Poleon had stopped to watch a group of men whom Lupe Chiwaughimi, the leader of Warren’s six métis, had recruited from among the prospectors. They were rolling drums of airplane gas on to a skiff. Patricia soon noticed that one of the men, a stocky weather-beaten miner, was in bad trouble of some sort. He kept wiping the perspiration out of his eyes, and occasionally a fierce gust of pain swept across his bulldog face.
All at once, as he started to push a drum up the skids, he caved in completely and sank down in a heap on the sand.
Poleon sprang in, rolled off the drum which had fallen back on thá man’s legs, ind slipped an arm under his.head.
“Steady, Bill,” he sootheçl, as the man’s eyes flickered open. “Everyt’ing’s finedandy. Dose drum, dey too much for you to wrassle. Lemme take you back to your tent.” “You won’t do no such thing!” the man refused, weakly. “I can stick it. Soon as this spell kicks over, I’ll cut the mustard okay. I got to, Poleon.”
"Non, non, Bill ! If you jus’ got to have dat money, I’ll take your place for de res’ of dis job.”
Still shaking his head, the man slowly pulled himself together, got up, trudged to the lake edge, soused water over his tousled hair; then came back to the gang and doggedly set to work again.
“What’s the matter with that fellow?” Patricia demanded, as Poleon rejoined her. “Is he drunk?”
"Sacre bleu, non! He seeck, poor Bill is—a terrible seeck man, Mees Pat. It’s inside of heem, here”—Poleon rubbed his stomach. “He can’ get well, nevair. Bimeby, in t’ree or four mont’s, he got to die.” *
“But—but—” Patricia stammered, “a man who’s as sick as that—my heavens, no person should work when he’s so sick he keels over!”
“But Bill got to work, wedder he able or non,” Poleon told her. In a few words he explained Fomier’s plight. Formerly a free trader over Norman way, Bill had been stricken with cancer two years ago. Knowing that his days were numbered, he had left home and come across to Dynamite Bay in. hopes he could make a good strike and so not leave his wife and two little girls penniless.
He had staked five “fine-dandy” silver claims, Poleon said. But now he was going
to lose them. Ile was flat broke, and his assessment for that year was already overdue. He was trying to scrape up a few dollars for grub money so that he could go back to his claims and work off the assessment on at least one or two of them. That was why "he had hired out to Lupe Chiwaughimi that afternoon.
All the amusement of her slumming trip suddenly vanished for Patricia. She faltered, glanced at Bill Fomier. And in that moment, without knowing it, she was turning a corner of her life.
“Go down there and stop that fellow!” she commanded Poleon. “Make him quit working.” She gave the bewildered Poleon a shove. “Go on, bring him up here to me. I want to talk to him.”
TN THE DINING tent around eleven P o’clock that evening, Warren remarked, over the wine and cigarettes:
“Lupe Chiwaughimi told me that you gave a sum of money this afternoon, Patricia, to one of these prospectors across the river. If I may say so, indiscriminate charity like that is never wise.”
“Good heavens, that wrasn’t indiscriminate charity! He’s in an awf’ly bad hole, Warren.”
“But when you give money butright to an individual, dear, you break down his initiative.”
“Initiative be darned!” Patricia burst out, with a touch of anger. “In two or three months he’ll be dead, and what good’ll this initiative do him then? Besides, anybody who’ll work when he can barely stand up— he’s got all the initiative he needs!”
Warren wisely dropped the subject. They smoked for a few moments in silence.
“Warren,” Patricia asked point-blank, almost pleadingly, “why won’t you tell me what you’re really doing here at Dynamite Bay?”
“Why, dear”—he tried to appear surprised—“I’ve already told you a dozen times. I’m here to find out the facts about this place. You see, the formations back in those hills and barrens are all hard rock, not placer stuff. Hard rock takes extensive trenching, diamond-drilling and big scale assay work before valuations can be made. A few rich pockets have been found, true enough, but—”
“Don’t!” Patricia stopped him. “You’re not talking honest with me, Warren. You’re evading—hedging.”
“Why, Patricia. That isn’t a very nice thing to say, d’you think?”
“Maybe not, but also it’s not very nice of you to be so evasive with me.”
“I’m not evading—”
They dropped that subject, too. The silence again. After a long time Warren remarked, eyeing her narrowly:
“I found out, just this afternoon, that there’s a former acquaintance of yours here at this place.”
Patricia looked up in surprise. “Of mine? Who?”
“You remember Tarlton, don’t you? Craig Tarlton?”
Patricia started so violently that she spilled a portion of her wine on the tablecloth. “Here—at Dynamite Bay—Craig
Tarlton?” she gasped.
Aware of Warren’s eyes upon her, Patricia fought to hide her confusion. She was ashamed of the telltale red which had leaped to her cheeks, but her emotions were in such a whirl that she could not help herself. Craig Tarlton was here! She would meet Craig, see him once more! Here in the Arctic she had suddenly run across him, after giving up the expectation of ever seeing him again.
In a few moments, when she could speak evenly, she asked: “What’s he doing here in the Arctic?”
“He’s the deputy mining inspector for the Resurrection district, I understand.” —
Patricia was thunderstruck. So obscure a job in so remote a territory: she could
hardly believe it. The world, then, must have beaten Craig. All his brilliance, all his young genius, had come down to this—a routine hack job at a wretched salary.
Or was he a beaten man? It might not be so. He did strange things, Craig Tarlton.
As soon as she could get away she started for her tent, to escape Warren’s questioning eyes and be alone, where she could think more calmly. Her thoughts were still swirling dizzily. Craig was here. She was going to meet Craig again, after the long years. Dam ! Why had she blushed so furiously at the mere mention of his name, with Warren reading her confusion like an open book?
AT THE DOOR of her tent she stopped, stood wavering, tom by a desire to find out something more about Craig—where he was living, how long he’d been at the Bay. Could she somehow manage to meet him and make that meeting appear accidental?
Her thoughts leaped to Poleon, her standby during most of that day. Poleon could help her. Whirling impulsively, she hurried down to the bank of Resurrection.
Poleon was brewing tea over an open fire in front of his tent. Patricia accepted a cup, chatted casually for a few moments, then led around to her topic.
"Poleon, I hear that your mining inspector is a man called Craig Tarlton. D’you know, he used to be connected with my father’s company.”
“My goo’ness, dat so? W’en was dat?” "Five—no, six years ago. He was one of our geologists, the youngest and most brilliant man on our staff. In fact, he headed our Winnipeg department. I met him at one of our house parties when he came down to Chicago, and after that I— I saw him once or twice. How long has he been here?”
"Four year, come fall.”
Patricia shut her eyes in blinding despair. Four years of buried exile, four long years at this Arctic outpost—it meant that the world had beaten him.
She could have sobbed at the contrast between his early genius and his obscurity now. That monumental treatise of his on the Archaeozoic rocks of upper Huron—it had led to the discovery of the earliest known forms of life on earth; and he had written it at the age of twenty-three! And that radio "divining rod’’ which he had perfected while on her dad’s staff—the patent leases on it had brought in three million dollars for Wellington, Parkes and Lovett since the time he had flung contemptuously his invention at them and resigned and vanished.
As she recalled his sharp honest eyes, his compassionate heart, his brilliant intellect that roved and struck like quick lightning, she prayed that he was not entirely beaten but could “come back.” It would be tragic ! for so splendid a man to go down and out.
I "Poleon, is he around here now? Where : does he live?”
Poleon gestured across Resurrection. “He live op dere beyon’ de camp. Right now I t’ink he doctoring Bill Fomier at Bill’s tent.” "Take me over there, Poleon,” she asked recklessly. “I want to. Craig and I were . . . I’d like to see him again. Won’t you?” "Sure, sure,” Poleon agreed. “You being ole frien’s, I bet he lak to see you, too.” They floated Poleon’s patched canoe, skirled across Resurrection, landed on the north bank, and walked back through the group of trees behind the prospectors’camp.
Poleon pointed at a large cabin up ahead. Nestled in a little hollow between two granite swells, it was half-hidden by a clump of minaret pines.
"Dat’s hees cabane dere, Mees Pat.” Patricia stopped. "You needn’t go on with me, Poleon,” she bade. She wanted to see Craig alone, not knowing what might break between him and her. "Go back to Sam Honeywell’s tent and wait for me, won’t you, please?”
When Poleon was out of sight, she stepped behind a rock for a dab of powder and a hasty pat at her hair. Then she went on toward the cabin, with slow hesitant footsteps.
SIX LONG hectic years had not been long enough to put Craig out of her mind and heart. Through the many men and love affairs of those six years, the flavor of Craig Tarlton had lingered with her like the tang of wild grapes, sharp and unforgettable.
The little hollow was bare of timber except at the upper end where the cabin stood. Carpeted with reindeer moss, it was a riot of flower colors. Under the perpetual sun, blue saxifrage and lupine and Arctic poppies had sprung swiftly into blossom, seizing their few short weeks of summer to grow, bloom and seed.
Halfway up the hollow Patricia came to a granite boulder with the words “Arctic Circle” chiselled into it. A little thrill went through her. Suddenly reminded, she glanced at her wrist watch. Twelve o’clock, midnight—and the sun shining as goldenly as ever on the poppies and blue saxifrage ! A strange region, this Arctic land. “As certain as day and night” was a common saying throughout the w'orld; but that axiom did not hold in this country. Day and night, those two infallibles, were not infallible here.
Stepping gingerly across the Arctic Circle, she went on to the cabin.
No one answered her knock. She rapped again. No answer. The door was open, so she stepped upon the threshold of Craig’s home and looked inside.
The cabin was a one-room affair, but big and airy and light. Patricia caught the sweet smell of sawed pine logs, of which the cabin was built, and the rather pleasant odor of much pipe-smoking. In one comer stood a table holding a microscope in a glass cage, delicate scales in another cage, a small assay outfit, an array of chemicals.
On the floor beside the table there was a full box of dynamite. A wdng-broken thrush, its wing neatly splinted and bandaged, was hopping along the window ledge, pecking at bread crumbs which Craig had put there for it.
Through the south window she glimpsed a man coming up the little hollow, a tall rangy figure carrying a satchel like a doctor’s. With a gasp she fled for the door. But she was too late. From the wood’s edge the man looked up and saw her in his doorway.
Intensely mortified that he had caught her intruding, Patricia mustered up what courage she could, walked down toward the granite rock, and defiantly waited.
In the weird slant light of the midnight sun, Craig came on toward her. Often she had fancied meeting him again, but never had she imagined that it would be in so far a land and so strange a place as this poppy hollow in the Arctic.
Beside the boulder that marked the Arctic Circle, Craig confronted her. One long glance at his face, and all Patricia’s fears about his being a man defeated went crashing to the ground. No man with those penetrating eyes, with that air of personal might, could possibly be defeated. He was still Craig Tarlton, steadier and more mature than when she had known him, but otherwise not greatly changed.
His outdoor life had made him hard and lean and virile. Summer sun and winter blizzard had weathered his face to a dark bronze. As usual in the old times, he was bareheaded. The black waves of his hair awoke a storm of memories—a canoe, moonsilvered water, the night sounds of the wilderness, her fingers caressing those ripples of his hair.
"How d’you do?” Craig said coldly, as though to a stranger. His sharp observant glance travelled from her face to her big diamond ring, to her dainty boots, and back again to her face.
Patricia fought down her trembling emotions. "I—I’m sorry I intruded,” she stammered. “I was—I wanted a drink of water, and no one answered my knock.”
"Or were you slumming, as you were this afternoon in the camp?” he asked.
The ease with which he spiked her lie made Patricia angry—at him and at herself. She hated people who could read her, and Craig was reading her through and through. "Yes, I was. I was slumming,” she
snapped. “I wanted to see whether you’d gone native or not.”
“And what did you conclude?”
“I concluded that you hadn’t.”
“Thanks,” Craig said dryly.
She waited for him to say something more. To invite her into his cabin. But he did not. There was no warmth or friendliness whatsoever in his attitude, no remembrance at all of those twenty days at God’s Lake. Surely this meeting had brought that hauntingly beautiful interlude back to him. As she met his eyes she was suffused with shame, anger, humiliation. How could he stand there and look at her so coldly, as though he and she had never seen each other before?
SHE STROVE TO make him talk to her.
“I’ve always wanted to ask you, Craig, why you resigned from our staff so suddenly.
I was thunderstruck when I heard about it,” she confessed candidly. “I came back from Italy wanting to see you and to apologize for my picking that quarrel of ours. But you were gone. I know that you had a run-in with dad, Craig, but why did that keep you from writing to me?”
“I saw no reason for writing you, Miss Wellington. You broke our engagement, you ordered me to forget about God’s Lake. Well, I did.” He paused a moment, then added: “If there had been any commitment between us, I would not have allowed the relationship to lapse so easily. But there was no commitment. You and I know that we kept those three weeks entirely innocent— though if we should tell that to anybody else they-would undoubtedly laugh.”
He dismissed the whole subject with a curt gesture, so curt indeed that Patricia dared not broach it again.
She made a last despairing bid for a token of warmth from him. “Craig, we don’t have to be enemies, do we, because we once were —were friends?” She wanted to tell him how bitterly she had regretted that quarrel and how she had moped for a year afterward. But pride kept her from confessing that. “I’ve often thought about you, Craig, and tried to find out something about you. What have you been doing since you left Winnipeg that time? Mr. Parkes told me something about a metallurgy process which you invented and which made you a great deal of money. You went out West, didn’t you?” Craig answered with laconic briefness. “Yes. West. Vancouver. That was a zinc-separation process. Yes, the syndicated patent rights brought in about a million and a half, I believe.”
Patricia wondered what had become of that million and a half. His cabin showed that he had no money at all now except his meagre salary. Why had he flung away a second fortune, to the last cent? What had happened to him out there on the West Coast?
Just then she did not pause over these questions. She was too cut up by his coldness toward her. Her intuition told her that this coldness was not a pose, that God’s Lake was dead for him and had been dead for years. Though he saw her engagement diamond, he was not even interested enough to enquire who her fiancé was.
“By the way,” he asked abruptly, “why did you give Bill Fomier that five hundred dollars this afternoon, Miss Wellington?” “Why—why, because I wanted to.”
“Why did you want to?” he insisted. “Because, well ...” She groped for words to explain her irrational act. She herself did not fully understand the strange feelings which had gripped and shaken her to the depths that afternoon in Bill Fomier’s tent. “I don’t know why I did, unless . . . Well, I saw him faint while he was working, and then Poleon told me about his sickness and his family and the fight he’s putting up. So I—I just had to help him out a little.” “In return for that money, Fomier wrote you out a paper giving you part interest in his claims, did he not?”
“That was merely ... He refused to take money outright, it hurt his pride; so I let him make that arrangement with me. He believes I meant it.”
“Do I understand that you were just playing Lady Bountiful to him? That your
five hundred dollars were, ah, angel money?” “What do you mean?” Patricia demanded, i In his sharp questions she felt some lurking suspicion of her act. What under heaven did he suspect her of?
Craig said: "Anyone who’s connected
with the Wellington company or who’s of the Wellington blood—I simply can’t imagine ’em being bountiful to anybody, or having a speck of human sympathy for any person. Especially for a poor illiterate rock-hog like Bill Fomier. What did you do with the partnership agreement that Bill wrote you?”
“I’ve got it with me. Here.” She fumbled in the back of her vanity case. “But what are you driving at? I don’t get you.”
“Well then, get this,” he said, with a sternness that awed her. “Bill Fomier is facing death; those claims are all he’s got on earth, all that stands between his family and complete destitution. For anybody to euchre him out of them or edge them away from him—I can’t think of a more heartless and mercenary thing to do.”
The reason for all his sharp questions burst upon Patricia like a bombshell.
“You mean,” she gasped, “that I—I’m trying to steal those claims of his?”
“I don’t know whether you are or not. You may not be. On the other hand, Warren Lovett may have put you up to this job. For Bill’s sake I’m taking no chances. If you’re on the level, how about tearing up the partnership agreement that Bill gave you? Here and now.”
Patricia went white in the face with furious anger. She had never been so insulted in her life.
“Why you—you hound!” she raged at him. “If I were a man, I’d—I’d fight you. I’d hammer you till you—you— You’re a liar! You’re a low-down—low-down—Say it’s a lie! You won’t?”
She drew back her hand and gave him a stinging slap on the cheek.
“That’s what I think of you—and your lying suspicions!” She tore Bill Fomer’s paper to bits and flung the pieces in his face. “Don’t you ever speak to me again! Don’t you ever even look at me again! I h-hate you!”
TN THE STORMY, event-filled days that A followed, Patricia made up her mind half a dozen times to flee from Dynamite Bay and return home. “Get away from Craig. Three thousand miles away.” That was what her good sense warned her.
But each time that she came face to face with leaving, she found it utterly impossible to tear herself free. The hands of a sick man, Bill Fomier, held her there. The hands of three hundred men, those homeless and disorganized prospectors, were reaching out to hold her there. And then, above everything else, Craig.
At Bill’s tent and in the main camp she met Craig frequently. Every encounter was a terrific emotional upset for her. Toward him her feelings were all chaotic. She told herself, and with a good deal of truth to it, that she hated him; but she could no more stop thinking about him and brooding about him than she could stop breathing.
Poleon came to her tent one morning, much worried.
“Mees Pat, Bill Fomier is going back into de barren to hees claim. He’s in no kondeetion to make dat long hard canoe treep. It’s : two hondred mile. I’ve argue’ wit’ heem, but1 he won’ listen. Mebbe he listen to you.” Patricia shook her head. She herself had pleaded with Bill yesterday and had failed to budge him. Bill stubbornly insisted that he simply must get back to his claims and work on them, at least for a couple of months. There were other prospectors near by to watch after him, he argued. And he would come back to the Bay before winter shut down.
"Is he still planning to leave today, Poleon?”
“Oui. Jus’ as soon as he gets baggaged op.” “All right. You go over and help him pack. If we can’t stop him from going, the next best thing is to see that he gets there in short order.”
She sent Poleon across the river, and
started down the land wash toward Warren’s tent.
Never a person to do anything by halves, she had made a thorough job of helping Bill Fomier in the past two weeks. Everything that she could do to make his last months a little more sunlit, she had done. She had given him money to send to his wife and little girls over near Norman, and that had made Bill enormously happy. At the Hudson’s Bay store she had bought him a fine outfit—food, new clothes, medicine, tobacco, everything. And the partnership agreements which Bill kept writing out and giving her—she had vengefully put them into envelopes and sent them to Craig, via Poleon.
She found Warren at DeCarie’s tent, going over a mass of reconnaissance charts with the geologist.
“Warren,” she requested, “I’d like to have one of the Bellancas for a few hours today.”
“May I ask why, dear?”
“I want to fly Bill Fomier back to his claims. And also I’d like to see the barrens.”
Warren studied a moment. , “I wish I could believe that this will be the end of your—uh, charity work with that prospector, Patricia.”
“It probably will be,” Patricia answered, nettled at his total lack of pity for a helpless, stricken man. “The chances are that Bill won’t come back to the Bay alive.”
“Very well,” Warren gave in reluctantly. “Pilot Odron can take you.”
Patricia thanked him, left, hurried out to find “Bing” Odron.
Within an hour Poleon and Bill came across Resurrection, with Bill’s outfit, to the waiting plane.
Odron taxied out upon the Bay, took off, circled for altitude, and lined away up river.
WITH EAGER eyes Patricia looked down, past Odron’s shoulder, at the landscape below. For fifty miles up stream the region was hilly and partly timbered, but then the trees dwindled, vanished; the hills smoothed down to wavy rolling tundra; and the Bellanca sailed out upon the illimitable Arctic plains.
Basking under the perpetual sun and shining everywhere with silvery lakes, the country was beautiful beyond anything that Patricia had imagined. Barrens, that land? It was anything but barren! Across the tundra there were caribou everywhere, pasturing in herds of thousands. Ducks, geese and brant were flying from water to water in clouds. And the poppies—broad sheets of yellow far beneath her—were blooming by hundreds and thousands of acres.
Here and there across the tundra long ridges of grey rock and green rock stuck up like backbones. It was along these outcroppings of old pre-Cambrian strata that the men had staked their claims. Occasionally Patricia glimpsed an antlike figure waving up at the ship, or spotted a tent in lee of a slope, with a thin blue thread of camp smoke spiraling upward.
Awfully scattered those prospectors were. Awfully lonesome and bleak their lives were. That was her main thought as she gazed down— how cheerless and lonely those men must be.
At Bill’s claims, two hundred miles from the Bay, they landed on a small lake, put Bill off, helped him set up camp, instructed a neighbor prospector to visit him once a day, and then started back for Resurrection mouth.
On that return trip a scheme took shape in Patricia’s mind. In a small way Bill Fornier’s plight had given her a bit of insight into the hardships of the other prospectors. She had caught a glimpse, if only a pinhole glimpse, of how the other half of the world lived. For the first time in her life she had come face to face with hard work, sickness, deprivation, mute suffering; and those things had begun to take on reality.
Now her plane trip, with its kaleidoscopic pictures of the mining field and the harsh lives of those Arctic prospectors, immensely broadened her vision. She believed that she I saw a certain sphere in which just a little
help from her would be a very great boon to those three hundred men.
Poleon had said that when they could no longét bear the loneliness back at their claims, they came in to Dynamite Bay to . recuperate. But, she asked now, what under heaven did the Bay offer them when they did come in? A bleak tent, a sleeping poke on the ground, and, in winter, ice and snow and cold. Their visits did not really hearten or refresh them.
She thought of what Sam Honeywell had once told her:
“Miss Pat, I ain’t had a decent shave in three year, or a real Saturday night hogscalding since I forgit when. Every day in the year I’ve got to cook my own grub, build my own fires, and do all my camp chores on top of a heavy day’s work at my claims. Mud, ice, snow, cold and work—that’s our round. If I could jest crawl into some warm clean place and lay there for a spell, with nothing under the sun to worrit about, I could hitch up the old belt ag’in and go back to them dumed hills and rip the silver gizzards out of ’em !”
V\7HEN SHE GOT back to the Bay she YV made a vow to herself: “I’m going to see that these men get that warm clean place,” she said. And to that vow she added: “I’m going to show you, Craig
Tari ton, that I’m not the worthless snooty creature you think I am.”
She set to work thinking out some way to meet the general needs of those men. It was a hard job, for she had never done one practical thing in her life. But she stuck with it till she hit upon what she considered a fine solution.
Yonder in the trees behind the camp she would build a log château big enough to accommodate sixty or seventy men, the average number at the Bay at any one time. They would live there, during their visits, and do away entirely with their miserable tents. The principal feature of the château would be its main room, or large central hall, where by day the men could lounge, hobnob, play games and swap their tall yams, and where at night they could spread out their sleeping pokes.
The house would also have an entrance way for snowshoes, rifles and other gear, a room for bathing and shaving, and a kitchen where the cooking would be done for the whole outfit.
At Poleon’s tent one evening she confided her plan to Poleon and Sam Honeywell. With his usual buoyant optimism Poleon declared it a “fine-dandy” idea. Sam Honeywell, however, shook his head dubiously.
“Your idee’s got hoss sense to’t, all right,” he said. “But see here, Miss Pat, most of us rock-hogs are figuring on gitting back to the fur path this winter. We got to. We’re broke. It’ll be a God’s miracle if they’s fifty men at the Bay when fur gits prime this fall.”
Patricia did not heed his objection. She reasoned that her plan would put new heart into the men and hold them at the Bay, or at least hold a large part of them. Merely to know that a warm cheery home was always there, ready and waiting, would take the edge off their hardships.
WASTING’ NO time, she plunged headlong into her enterprise, throwing into it all her pent-up fiery energy. She herself had not the faintest notion of how to go about building a house; but Poleon, who had lived all his life in the North and could do almost anything, proved a capable lieutenant.
Under his direction, a gang of twenty-five prospectors cleared a site for the big lodge, cut trees in the near-by hollows, worked the logs into shape and started laying the foundations of the building.
After making innumerable lists of the supplies and equipment needed, Patricia finally pared the order down to a five-ton minimum and sent out to Edmonton for it.
All this, the work and the supplies, she paid for with her own money, writing cheques against her allowance account in Chicago.
Until Poleon and his men were actually at
work, she was able to keep her plans a secret from Warren. But one evening, when he and she were taking their usual walk down the lake shore, he spoke to her about it.
“You’re wasting time, money and expectations on a project that’s doomed to fail,” he said. “By the middle of November there won’t be three dozen prospectors in this whole field.”
“I don’t believe it. They’re not ordinary prospectors. They’re Northern men. They can stand a lot if only they have an occasional let down.”
Warren flicked a sand rose with his cane. “Dear, I’ve had a world more experience with prospectors and mining camps than you, and you ought to take my advice. Even if these men were sure to stay and your project was sure to work, I’d still have to object to it.”
“Well—uh,” he evaded shiftily, “you’re! getting yourself into a bad jam here, Patricia. You don’t realize it, but 1 do. You're getting yourself all tangled up. You ought to drop this project of yours at once.” “Drop it? With the building already going up and the supplies on the way here from Edmonton? Why, that’d make me look like a fool !”
“Patricia, in the matter of that Fomier prospector, I let you have your own way. But in this matter”—he spoke very firmly, the firmest he had ever spoken to her—“you really must listen to me. I can’t allow you to carry your plan any farther.”
“I think I’m doing right,” Patricia argued stubbornly. “Unless you show me I’m doing wrong I won’t stop, and that’s that.”
“You’ll have to.”
To be Continued