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the fish, helped Bmnet to feed the dogs,
and crawled into the council-house after
the white man.

The usual group sat behind the fire;
there were the usual grunts on the entrance
of the stranger. The A. C. agent and the
colonel had "hustled" to some purpose.
They had a supper fit for a king cooking
at the kachime fire— fried fish, caribou
stew, back-fat, beans, and tea and— mar-
vel of civilization— bread!

" Where did you get that ? " asked Bur-
net. But he did n't wait to hear ; he broke



and ate, and poured down draughts of fra-
grant tea, and told of his visit to Monica.
His companions did not seem as surprised
as he expected.

"Oh, we 've been hearing all about
her," said the yoimg man from Washing-
ton, pointing with his thumb over his shoul-
der to the smoking, silent group of natives.

" Of course. They can tell us. I sup-
pose it 's she who 's taught you EngUsh.
How long she been here ? "

" All the time," answered the oldest man
there, a wizened fellow with iron-gray hair.

" By George ! " said Burnet to his com-
panions, " she does n't look older than that
fellow!"

"He 's younger than you think. You
know they age early and die early in this
cHmate. You almost never see a really old
man — except the Shamdns: they have a
soft thing of it and hang on."

" But what do they mean by saying she 's
always been here ? "

" Well, as far as we can make out, Mon-
ica built this village. She came from a
native settlement on the Yukon near the
mouth of the Koyukuk."

" I 'm sure she must be the one they say
the old traders tell about. There used to
be a half-breed woman up here."

" No ; she 's white," said Burnet.

" Well, she may have been white," said
the agent, as though it were a thing that
could be outhved; "but this one I mean
used long ago to be a river-pilot, of all
things, and a damn good pilot, too. Before
there was much traffic — long before the
A. C. Company built the big steamers and
brought up Mississippi men to take charge
—all the pilots on the Yukon were Indians,
except— I 've heard an old miner say —
one woman up by Koyukuk, and she was
the best of them all. Learnt it from the
Indians, you know, and went 'em one
better."

" Where did she come from ? "

" Ask me another."

" What made her come here ? "

"No feller knows, eh?" The A. C.
agent appealed to the natives. They
shook their heads and grunted in unison.

" Why did she leave the Yukon ? "

"They say plague about cleaned out
the settlement," the A. C. man explained.
"She nursed 'em and doctored 'em, and
brought those that pulled through up here,
and made 'em build a new village."



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MONICA'S VILLAGE



29



" She seems to have the knack of getting
some work out of the noble red lazy-
bones," said the colonel ; " makes 'em cut
and haul her wood and bring her water ;
sends 'em out in squads to hunt and Ash—
is n't that what you said ? " he called over
his shoulder.

The old feUow, who seemed to know
most English, nodded gravely.

" Monica heap mad if no plenty fish-
no plenty caribou."

"Sends 'em to a summer camp on the
Yukon when the salmon begin to run, and
sends *em up yt)nder m the hills for moose,
and makes 'em bring everything to her.
You remember those big caches up behind
the settlement ? "

" Yes."

"They 're Monica's— chock-full o' grub,
too. There 's never been a famine in
Monica's village." Among the native set-
tlements a rare distinction, as every man
there knew.

" She knows something about medicine
as well, eh ? " The colonel appealed again
to the gray-haired native. Slowly he took
his pipe out of his mouth and said :

"Yes, Monica cure all sick Indians.
Monica take sick kids her house ; make all
well."

"That 's the way she 's got her hold,
you see. That 's why people of all sorts
bring her offerings, apart from what she
exacts for the general store. I should think,
from what they say, she probably has the
finest collection of furs and ivory in the
North. Gold, too; bucketsful hid away
somewhere under her house, eh ? " The
colonel appealed this time to a young buck
sitting a little apart from his elders. The
other natives grunted, " No," and turned
angry eyes on the youth in disgrace— for
a previous indiscretion, it would seem.

"Bucketsful!" repeated the Washing-
tonian. " That 's the way that kind of thing
is always exaggerated."

"Yes," said the A. C. man, "when it
is n't understated."

" I don't believe it ; too far off the mines."

" I believe it," said Burnet.

"Why? Did you see-"

" I saw gold-scales on the table."

" There may be mines about here," said
the A. C. man, sitting erect suddenly.
" She would never tell." In a low voice
he added : " The Indians, too, are getting
to know — "



"Anyhow, the Birch Creek Diggin's
can't be much farther one way than Kal-
tag is another. When a miner has wan-
dered off the trail he '11 empty out his sack
o* dust quick enough to get a little grub."

" I did n't see any gold, but I saw a
glorious Russian samovah," said Burnet;
"and some copper things that shone like
gold."

" Loot, very likely, from the Nulato
massacre," said the young gentleman with
the historic imagination.

" I can't find out," said the colonel,
"whether she teaches these people to be
Christians."

" I guess," said the agent, " she thinks
she 's got her hands full teachin' 'em to
be men." He had been talking to the old
native again. " They seem to have a vague
idea of God, filtered through from Russian
days, or imported, maybe, by some Indian
strayed up here from the missions. Monica,
they say, *she no like it when the old
people and the children pray to //^r.* "

The colonel looked shocked. "I won-
der," said he, "how she got such a hold
over them." Then, turning to the group
at the back, he added: "Thought you
bucks no think much of women ? "

" Monica no woman."

" What is she, then ? "

Long silence ; then one of the younger
men in the group said something in his own
tongue that reminded Biunet of the sounds
Antoshka had made under similar inter-
rogation. The natives exchanged glances
and nodded. The white men looked at
one another and nodded, too, but with
covert smiling.

" Well," said Biunet to the young gen-
tleman from the capital, " I 'm afraid, after
all, it would n't cure your 'spoiled dar-
lings ' of their high notions if they came to
Monica's village."

" They 've just told you," he answered,
" they don't obey her as a woman. In their
eyes she *s a sorceress."

" Every woman 's a sorceress who
does n't too diligently explain away her
mystery," said the colonel, meditatively.

The next morning the weather was pro-
nounced too blizzardy still, for men who
had learned caution, to hit the trail again.
Burnet was delighted. The moment he
had swallowed his breakfast he made off
and presented himself at Monica's door.



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THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



He stood there in the howling wind, knock-
ing discreetly and discreetly waiting. Pres-
ently the old native with the grizzled hair
came round from behind the house.

" I sell fish to-day," he said. " Come—"

" I want to see Monica."

" Monica no there."

" Where she gone ? "

" Over—" he pointed northward.

"To the Jade Mountains," thought
Burnet, smiling inwardly, "on a broom-
stick." Aloud he said, " She no walk f "

" No. Monica got heap good dog-team."

"What she go for?"

"Metlahk's kid heap sick; Metlahk's
kid die Monica no come."

" Monica gone to nurse a kid ? "

The Indian nodded. " Gone with box."

" Oh, medicine. Does she often do that
kind of thing ? "

The native nodded.

"Man sick, squaw sick, anybody sick,
Monica hitch up team, take box, and—"
he motioned as if indeed she rode the air.

"When she be back?"

The Indian shook his head. "She get
Metlahk's by moonrise."

"Not till to-night?"

" To-night, yes. Me no savvy how long
kid sick."

" Monica stay till kid better ? "

The man nodded. "Till kid better or
till kid—" He shut up his eyes and
dropped his lean jaw, a hideous image of
the common doom.



Burnet turned back toward the kachime,
bending before the sleet, but conscious of it
more for this strange old woman's sake—
this Monica of unknown story. He turned
an instant and looked back at her house,
seeing through the slanting, half-frozen
snow a vivid vision of her, as she had stood
at the door the night before, gaunt, for-
bidding, with that heavy drift of white
hair on her head. Yes, she belonged to
the North now, as she had said, and the
North had set its seal upon her. The arctic
snows had fallen upon this daughter of the
South for too many wintefs ever to melt
or yield to any sun of heaven to the end
of time. Yet she had spoken as the lettered
speak— like the women far away.

What did it mean ? What lay behind ?
What " old, unhappy, far-off things," what
" battles long ago," had made of this proud
spirit a wanderer "on the trail"— one of
those " who will never go home " ? What-
ever the story, whatever the original im-
pulse that had driven this woman forth,
out of her unwillingness to endure some
lot so heavy and so evil, that the hard life
up here was easy by the side of it— at all
events, out of the strange, fierce battle that
it must at first have been, had come for
Monica peace with honor. For no woman
on earth performs more faithfully the
woman's task. Monica is healer, nurse,
protector. Monica is prophetess, not fore-
seeing only : forestalling sickness, woe, and
famine. Monica is Mother of her People.




RESPITE

BY MILDRED I. McNEAL



COME, kindly sleep, from thy far home of peace,
And help me steal a Uttle time from Hfe
For happiness. The storm encroaches not
Where thou art— nor the ugliness of strife.

They war till death— these two strange souls of mine;

Their hate hath blackened yesterday— to-day.
Give me good Lethe's cup, thrice blessed sleep :

I will forget to-morrow while I may.



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•AT LAST YOU WERE OFF"



COIN' FISHIN'



BY EDWIN L. SABIN



WITH PICTURES BY FREDERIC DORR STEELE



was twenty feet long, and
cost ten cents— a whole
week's keeping-the-woodbox-
filled wages. To select it from
amid its sheaf of fellows
towering high beside the shop entrance
summoned all your faculties and the facul-
ties of four critical comrades, assisted by
the proprietor himself.

"That 's the best of the lot," he en-
couraged, not uninfluenced by a desire to
be rid of you.

So you planked down your money, and
bore off the prize ; and a beautiful pole it
was— longer by three feet, as you demon-
strated when they were laid cheek by jowl,
than that of your crony Hen.

Forthwith you enthusiastically practised
with it in the back yard, to show its capa-
bilities, while the hired girl, impeded by
its gyrations, fretfully protested that you
were " takin' all outdoors."

Your father viewed its numerous inches
and smiled.

You clothed it with hook and line, an
operation seemingly simple, but calling for
a succession of fearful and wonderful
knots, and a delicate adapting of length to
length.



Thereafter it always was ready, requiring
no fitting of joint and joint, no adjustment
of reel, threading of eye, and attaching of
snell. In your happy-go-lucky ways you
were exactly suited the one to the other.

During its periods of well-earned rest it
reposed across the rafters under the peak
of the woodshed, the only place that would
accommodate it, although in the first fever
gladly would you have carried it to bed
with you.

Half the hot summer afternoon Hen and
you dug bait, for you and he were going
fishing on the morrow. Had you been
obliged to rake the yard as diligently as
you delved for worms you would have been
on the verge (for the hundredth time) of
running away and making the folks sorry ;
but there is such a wide gulf betwixt raking
a yard and digging bait that even the blis-
ters from the two performances are totally
distinct.

With a prodigality that indicated at the
least a week's trip, you plied your baking-
powder can — the cupboard was continually
stripped of baking-powder cans, in those
days— with long, fat angleworms and short,
fat grubs ; and topping them with dirt to



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THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



preserve their freshness, you set them away
till the morning.

Then, with mutual promises to "be on
time," Hen and you separated.

"I suppose," said father, gravely, to
mother, across the table, at supper, "that
I need n't order anything at Piper's [Piper
was the butcher] for a few days."

"Whyso?" asked
mother, for the mo-
ment puzzled.

" We '11 have fish,
you know."

" Sure enough ! "
agreed mother, en-
lightened, and glan-
cing at you. "Of
coiu*se ; Johnny 's
going fishing."

From your end of
the table you looked
keenly at the one
and at the other and
pondered. If the
show of confidence
in you was genuine,
how gratified and ^

proud you felt ! But
was it? Father went
on soberly eating;
soul, smiled at you.



•JUST A BULLHEAD!'



mother,
if



as



transparent
in reparation,



and winked both eyes.

You grinned confusedly, and bent again
to your plate. Yes, they were making fun
of you. But who cared! And you had
mental revenge in the thought that perhaps
you 'd show them.

You turned in early, as demanded by
the strenuous day ahead. To turn you out
no alarm-clock was necessary. The sun
himself was just parting the pink hangings
of the east, and on earth apparently only
the roosters and robins were astir, when,
with a hazy recollection of having fished
all night, you scrambled to the floor and
into your clothes.

Mother's voice sounded gently outside
the door.

"Johnny?"

"Yes; I 'mup."

" All right. I was afraid you might over-
sleep. Now be careful to-day, won't you,
dear?"

Again you assured her. You lieard her
soft steps going back down the stairs. She
never failed to make your rising her own,
both to undertake that you should not be



disappointed and to deliver a final loving
caution.

Your dressing, although accompanied
by sundry yawns, was accomplished
quickly, your attire for the day being by
no means complicated. Your face and
hair received what Maggie, the girl, would
term " a lick and a promise," and kitchen-
ward you sped.

To delay to eat the
crackers and milk
that had been pro-
vided was a waste of
time; but you had
been instructed, and
.. so you gobbled them
down. On the kitchen
table was your lunth,
tied in shape con-
venient to stow about
your person. It was
a constant fight on
your part with mo-
ther to make her keep
your Ivmches at the
minimum. Had she
her way, you would
have traveled with
a large basket; and
what boy wanted to be bothered with bas-
kets and pails and things ?

Upon the back porch, where you had
stationed them in minute preparation, had
been awaiting you all night the can of bait
and the loyal pole. You seized them. Pro-
visioned and armed, you ran into the open
and looked expectantly for Hen.

Froni Hen's house came no sign of life.
You whistled softly ; no Hen. Your heart
sank. Once or twice before Hen had failed
you. Affairs at his house seemed to be not
so systematized as at yours.

You whistled louder; no Hen. You
called, your voice echoing along the still
somnolent street.

"All right," suddenly responded Hen,
sticking his head out of his window.
He was not even up!
You were disgusted. One might as well
not go fishing as to start so late and have
all the other fellows there first; and you
darned "it" gloomily.

After seemingly an age, but with his
mouth full and with other tokens of haste,
Hen emerged from the side door.

" Bridget promised to call me and she
forgot to wake up," he explained.



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COIN' FISHIN'



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Had Hen your mother, he would have
been better cared for. But, then, house-
holds differ.

At last you were off, your jacket, neces-
sary as a portable depository, balanced
with lunch, and the can of worms snugly
fitted into a pocket, over the hard-boiled
eggs; your mighty pole, become through
many pilgrimages a veteran, sweeping the
horizon ; and your gallant old straw, ragged
of contour and prickly with broken ends,
courting, like some jaunty, out-at-the-
elbow, swash-buckler cavalier, every pass-
ing breeze.

As you and Hen hurried along, how you
chattered, the pair of you, with many a
brag and " I bet you " and bit of exciting
hearsay! How big you were with ex-
pectations !

" By jinks ! I pity the fish to-day ! " ban-
tered " Uncle " Jerry Thome, hoe in hand
in his garden patch, stiffly straightening to
watch you as you pattered by.

You did not answer. Onward stretched
your way. Moments were precious. Who
could tell what might be happening ahead
at the fishing-place ? Busier cackled the
town hens, into view rolled the town's sun,
from town chimneys here and there idly
floated breakfast smoke. The town was
entering upon another day, but you— ah,
you wire destined afar and you must not
stay.

To transport your pole, at
times inclined to be unruly, with
its line ever reaching out at mis-
chievous foliage and its hook
ever leaving butt or cork and
angling for clothing, was an
engineering feat demanding no
slight ingenuity. The board
walk, which later would be
baking hot, so that the tender
soles of barefooted litde girls
would curl and shrink and seek
the grass, was gratefully cool,
blotched as it was with damp-
ness from the dripping trees.
When the walk ceased, the road
lay moist and velvety, the path
was wet and cold, the fringing
bushes spattered you with dia-
monds, and the lush turf, ooz-
ing between your toes, gave to
your eager tread.

Rioted thrush and wood-
pecker and all their feathered



cousins; higher into the silver-blue sky
climbed the sun, donning anon his golden
robes of state ; one last impatient halt, to
extract your hook from your coat collar,
and now, your happy legs plashed knee
over with dew and clinging dust, you had
reached your goal.

You and Hen were not the first of the
day's fishermen. As the vista of bank and
water unfolded before your roving eyes you
descried a rival already engaged. By his
torn and sagging brim, by his well-worn
shirt, by his scarred and faded overalls,
draggling about his ankles and dependent
upon one heroic strap, you recognized a
familiar. It was Snoopie— Snoopie Mitch-
ell, who always was fishing, because he
never had to ask anybody's permission.

Snoopie's flexible life appeared to you
the model one.

" Hello, Snoop ! " called you and Hen.

" Hello ! " responded Snoopie, phleg-
matically, desisting a moment from watch-
ing his cork, as he squatted over his pole.

" Caught anything yet ? "

"Jus* come," vouchsafed Snoopie.
"They ain't bitin' much. But yesterday
— gee! you ought to 've been here yester-
day!"

No doubt ; that usually was the way
when you had to stay at home.

You tugged your bait from its tight



<^-



^-^\>



•BITIN* AGAIN?"



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34



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



lodgment ; you peeled off your coat and
tossed it aside as you would a scabbard ;
with feverish fingers, lest Hen should beat
you, hopeful that you might even outdo
Snoopie, you unwrapped your gallant pole
of its line, and selecting a plump worm,
slipped it, despite its protesting squirms,
adown the hook.

The favorite stands at this resort were
marked by their colonies of tinware— bait-
cans cast away upon the grass and mud,
some comparatively bright and recent,
many very rusty and ancient, their un-
fragrant sighs horrifying the summer
zephyrs. You sought your stand and
threw in.

From his stand Hen also threw in.

An interval of suspense ensued. The
placid water was full of delightful possi-
bilities. What glided therein that might be
caught! You besought your bobber with
a gaze almost hypnotic; but the bobber
floated motionless and obdurate.

" Snoopie 's got a bite ! "

At the announcement you darted ap-
prehensive glances in Snoopie* s direction.
•You were greedy enough to harbor the
wish— but, ah!

"Snoopie 's got one! Snoopie 's got
one!"

Snoopie's pole had energetically reared
upward and backward, and, as if at its
beckoning, something snudl, black, and
glistening had popped straight out from
the glassy surface before and had flown
high into the brush behind.

Snoopie rushed after, and Hen and you
discarded everything and rushed, too.

"Just a bullhead!"

So it was, and quite three inches long.

Snoopie ostentatiously strung it on a bit
of cord and tethered it, at the water's edge,
to a stake. Then he threw in again and
promptly caught another.

Somehow, Snoopie invariably did this.
He was lucky in more respects than one.

From each side Hen and you sidled
toward him and put your bobbers as near
his as you dared.

" G* wan ! " objected Snoopie, with shrill
emphasis. "What you kids comin* here
for ? Go find your own places. I got this
first."

Presentiy, to your agony, Hen likewise
jerked out an astonished pout.

" Ain't you had any bites yet ? " he fired
triumphantly at you.



" How deep you got your hook ? " you
replied.

Hen held his line so that you might see.
To miss no chances, you measured accu-
rately with a reed. Once more you ad-
justed your cork, moving it up a fraction
of an inch, and you spat on your baited
hook.

Again you threw in, landing your now
irresistible lure the length of your pole
and line from the shore.

" Quit your splashin' ! " remonstrated
Snoopie. "I had a dandy bite, an' you
scared him away. Dam you! can't you
throw in easy ? "

The ripples caused by your bobber
widened in concentric circles and died.
You watched and waited. A kingfisher
dived from his post upon a dead branch,
and rising with a minnow in his bill to
show you how easy it was, dashed away,
laughing derisively.

With a quick exclamation. Hen swished
aloft the tip of his pole.

"GoUy! but I had a big nibble! He
took the cork clear under I " he cried.

You wondered fiercely why j'^w could n't
have a nibble.

As if in answer to your mute prayer, your
bobber quivered, spreading a series of little
rings. An electric thrill leaped through
your whole body, and your fingerS tight-
ened cautiously around the well-warmed
butt, which they had been caressing in
vain.

" I *ve got a bite ! I 've got a bite ! "
you called gleefully.

Hen and Snoopie turned their faces to
witness what might take pl^ce.

Then your cork was stricken with inter-
mittent palsy, and then it staggered and
swung as though it had a drop too much.
Your sporting blood aflame, you bided the
operations of the rash meddler who was
causing this commotion.

The cork tilted alarmingly, so that the
water wetted it all over. With a jump and
a burst of pent-up energy (no cat after a
mouse could be quicker), you whipped the
heavens with yoiu* great pole ; but only an
empty hook followed after.

" Shucks ! " you lamented.

" Aw, you jerked too soon I " criticized
Snoopie.

" Dam him ! he ate all my bait, any-
how I " you declared. " See ? "

With utmost speed you fitted another



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COIN' FISHIN'



35



worm and very smoothly let down exactly
in the same spot.

Scarcely had the cork settled when it
resumed its erratic movements. Its per-
secutor, whatsoever he might be, was a
persistent chap.

" Bitin' again ? '' inquired Snoopie, not-
ing your strained attitude.



You abandoned your pole ; you plunged
after him. Upon hands and knees you
wallowed and grappled with him. With
fish instinct, he was wriggling for the deeps
and safety. You grasped him. He slid
through your clutch. You grabbed at him
again and obtained a pinching hold on his
tail. He broke the hold and was off.




•IT 'S NOTHIN* BUT A SNAC!"



You nodded ; the moment was too vital
to admit of conversation.

" I got him! I got himl I—"
You had exulted too soon. Out like a
feather you had whisked the meddlesome
fellow, but in mid-air, unable to maintain
the sudden pace, he parted company with
the impaling steel. Down he dropped, and
while the lightened hook went on without
him he dived into the shallows where mud
meets water.



*' (iet him I " shrieked Snoopie.

" Get him ! " shrieked Hen.

Desperately you scooped up the slime.
Once more you had him. He stabbed you
with his needle-like spines, but you flinched
not. You hurled him inshore and tore
after, not allowing him an instant's respite.

There! He lay gasping upon the drier
bank. He had lost, and out of his one



Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 4 of 120)