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tightly clutched, and joined in the laugh against himself.

"Whom have I to thank, gentlemen?"

They had come to a pause at the corner, and the man they had rescued
was holding out his hand.

"My name is St. Vincent," he went on, "and - "

"What name?" Del Bishop queried with sudden interest.

"St. Vincent, Gregory St. Vincent - "

Bishop's fist shot out, and Gregory St. Vincent pitched heavily into
the snow. The colonel instinctively raised the stool, then helped
Corliss to hold the pocket-miner back.

"Are you crazy, man?" Vance demanded.

"The skunk! I wish I'd hit 'm harder!" was the response. Then, "Oh,
that's all right. Let go o' me. I won't hit 'm again. Let go o' me,
I'm goin' home. Good-night."

As they helped St. Vincent to his feet, Vance could have sworn he heard
the colonel giggling. And he confessed to it later, as he explained,
"It was so curious and unexpected." But he made amends by taking it
upon himself to see St. Vincent home.

"But why did you hit him?" Corliss asked, unavailingly, for the fourth
time after he had got into his cabin.

"The mean, crawlin' skunk!" the pocket-miner gritted in his blankets.
"What'd you stop me for, anyway? I wish I'd hit 'm twice as hard!"


"Mr. Harney, pleased to meet you. Dave, I believe, Dave Harney?" Dave
Harney nodded, and Gregory St. Vincent turned to Frona. "You see, Miss
Welse, the world is none so large. Mr. Harney and I are not strangers
after all."

The Eldorado king studied the other's face until a glimmering
intelligence came to him. "Hold on!" he cried, as St. Vincent started
to speak, "I got my finger on you. You were smooth-faced then. Let's
see, - '86, fall of '87, summer of '88, - yep, that's when. Summer of
'88 I come floatin' a raft out of Stewart River, loaded down with
quarters of moose an' strainin' to make the Lower Country 'fore they
went bad. Yep, an' down the Yukon you come, in a Linderman boat. An'
I was holdin' strong, ez it was Wednesday, an' my pardner ez it was
Friday, an' you put us straight - Sunday, I b'lieve it was. Yep,
Sunday. I declare! Nine years ago! And we swapped moose-steaks fer
flour an' bakin' soda, an' - an' - an' sugar! By the Jimcracky! I'm
glad to see you!"

He shoved out his hand and they shook again.

"Come an' see me," he invited, as he moved away. "I've a right tidy
little shack up on the hill, and another on Eldorado. Latch-string's
always out. Come an' see me, an' stay ez long ez you've a mind to.
Sorry to quit you cold, but I got to traipse down to the Opery House
and collect my taxes, - sugar. Miss Frona'll tell you."

"You are a surprise, Mr. St. Vincent." Frona switched back to the
point of interest, after briefly relating Harney's saccharine
difficulties. "The country must indeed have been a wilderness nine
years ago, and to think that you went through it at that early day! Do
tell me about it."

Gregory St. Vincent shrugged his shoulders, "There is very little to
tell. It was an ugly failure, filled with many things that are not
nice, and containing nothing of which to be proud."

"But do tell me, I enjoy such things. They seem closer and truer to
life than the ordinary every-day happenings. A failure, as you call
it, implies something attempted. What did you attempt?"

He noted her frank interest with satisfaction. "Well, if you will, I
can tell you in few words all there is to tell. I took the mad idea
into my head of breaking a new path around the world, and in the
interest of science and journalism, particularly journalism, I proposed
going through Alaska, crossing the Bering Straits on the ice, and
journeying to Europe by way of Northern Siberia. It was a splendid
undertaking, most of it being virgin ground, only I failed. I crossed
the Straits in good order, but came to grief in Eastern Siberia - all
because of Tamerlane is the excuse I have grown accustomed to making."

"A Ulysses!" Mrs. Schoville clapped her hands and joined them. "A
modern Ulysses! How romantic!"

"But not an Othello," Frona replied. "His tongue is a sluggard. He
leaves one at the most interesting point with an enigmatical reference
to a man of a bygone age. You take an unfair advantage of us, Mr. St.
Vincent, and we shall be unhappy until you show how Tamerlane brought
your journey to an untimely end."

He laughed, and with an effort put aside his reluctance to speak of his
travels. "When Tamerlane swept with fire and sword over Eastern Asia,
states were disrupted, cities overthrown, and tribes scattered like
star-dust. In fact, a vast people was hurled broadcast over the land.
Fleeing before the mad lust of the conquerors, these refugees swung far
into Siberia, circling to the north and east and fringing the rim of
the polar basin with a spray of Mongol tribes - am I not tiring you?"

"No, no!" Mrs. Schoville exclaimed. "It is fascinating! Your method
of narration is so vivid! It reminds me of - of - "

"Of Macaulay," St. Vincent laughed, good-naturedly. "You know I am a
journalist, and he has strongly influenced my style. But I promise you
I shall tone down. However, to return, had it not been for these
Mongol tribes, I should not have been halted in my travels. Instead of
being forced to marry a greasy princess, and to become proficient in
interclannish warfare and reindeer-stealing, I should have travelled
easily and peaceably to St. Petersburg."

"Oh, these heroes! Are they not exasperating, Frona? But what about
the reindeer-stealing and the greasy princesses?"

The Gold Commissioner's wife beamed upon him, and glancing for
permission to Frona, he went on.

"The coast people were Esquimo stock, merry-natured and happy, and
inoffensive. They called themselves the Oukilion, or the Sea Men. I
bought dogs and food from them, and they treated me splendidly. But
they were subject to the Chow Chuen, or interior people, who were known
as the Deer Men. The Chow Chuen were a savage, indomitable breed, with
all the fierceness of the untamed Mongol, plus double his viciousness.
As soon as I left the coast they fell upon me, confiscated my goods,
and made me a slave."

"But were there no Russians?" Mrs. Schoville asked.

"Russians? Among the Chow Chuen?" He laughed his amusement.
"Geographically, they are within the White Tsar's domain; but
politically, no. I doubt if they ever heard of him. Remember, the
interior of North-Eastern Siberia is hidden in the polar gloom, a terra
incognita, where few men have gone and none has returned."

"But you - "

"I chance to be the exception. Why I was spared, I do not know. It
just so happened. At first I was vilely treated, beaten by the women
and children, clothed in vermin-infested mangy furs, and fed on refuse.
They were utterly heartless. How I managed to survive is beyond me;
but I know that often and often, at first, I meditated suicide. The
only thing that saved me during that period from taking my own life was
the fact that I quickly became too stupefied and bestial, what of my
suffering and degradation. Half-frozen, half-starved, undergoing
untold misery and hardship, beaten many and many a time into
insensibility, I became the sheerest animal.

"On looking back much of it seems a dream. There are gaps which my
memory cannot fill. I have vague recollections of being lashed to a
sled and dragged from camp to camp and tribe to tribe. Carted about
for exhibition purposes, I suppose, much as we do lions and elephants
and wild men. How far I so journeyed up and down that bleak region I
cannot guess, though it must have been several thousand miles. I do
know that when consciousness returned to me and I really became myself
again, I was fully a thousand miles to the west of the point where I
was captured.

"It was springtime, and from out of a forgotten past it seemed I
suddenly opened my eyes. A reindeer thong was about my waist and made
fast to the tail-end of a sled. This thong I clutched with both hands,
like an organ-grinder's monkey; for the flesh of my body was raw and in
great sores from where the thong had cut in.

"A low cunning came to me, and I made myself agreeable and servile.
That night I danced and sang, and did my best to amuse them, for I was
resolved to incur no more of the maltreatment which had plunged me into
darkness. Now the Deer Men traded with the Sea Men, and the Sea Men
with the whites, especially the whalers. So later I discovered a deck
of cards in the possession of one of the women, and I proceeded to
mystify the Chow Chuen with a few commonplace tricks. Likewise, with
fitting solemnity, I perpetrated upon them the little I knew of parlor
legerdemain. Result: I was appreciated at once, and was better fed and
better clothed.

"To make a long story short, I gradually became a man of importance.
First the old people and the women came to me for advice, and later the
chiefs. My slight but rough and ready knowledge of medicine and
surgery stood me in good stead, and I became indispensable. From a
slave, I worked myself to a seat among the head men, and in war and
peace, so soon as I had learned their ways, was an unchallenged
authority. Reindeer was their medium of exchange, their unit of value
as it were, and we were almost constantly engaged in cattle forays
among the adjacent clans, or in protecting our own herds from their
inroads. I improved upon their methods, taught them better strategy
and tactics, and put a snap and go into their operations which no
neighbor tribe could withstand.

"But still, though I became a power, I was no nearer my freedom. It
was laughable, for I had over-reached myself and made myself too
valuable. They cherished me with exceeding kindness, but they were
jealously careful. I could go and come and command without restraint,
but when the trading parties went down to the coast I was not permitted
to accompany them. That was the one restriction placed upon my

"Also, it is very tottery in the high places, and when I began altering
their political structures I came to grief again. In the process of
binding together twenty or more of the neighboring tribes in order to
settle rival claims, I was given the over-lordship of the federation.
But Old Pi-Une was the greatest of the under-chiefs, - a king in a
way, - and in relinquishing his claim to the supreme leadership he
refused to forego all the honors. The least that could be done to
appease him was for me to marry his daughter Ilswunga. Nay, he
demanded it. I offered to abandon the federation, but he would not
hear of it. And - "

"And?" Mrs. Schoville murmured ecstatically.

"And I married Ilswunga, which is the Chow Chuen name for Wild Deer.
Poor Ilswunga! Like Swinburne's Iseult of Brittany, and I Tristram!
The last I saw of her she was playing solitaire in the Mission of
Irkutsky and stubbornly refusing to take a bath."

"Oh, mercy! It's ten o'clock!" Mrs. Schoville suddenly cried, her
husband having at last caught her eye from across the room. "I'm so
sorry I can't hear the rest, Mr. St. Vincent, how you escaped and all
that. But you must come and see me. I am just dying to hear!"

"And I took you for a tenderfoot, a _chechaquo_," Frona said meekly, as
St. Vincent tied his ear-flaps and turned up his collar preparatory to

"I dislike posing," he answered, matching her meekness. "It smacks of
insincerity; it really is untrue. And it is so easy to slip into it.
Look at the old-timers, - 'sour-doughs' as they proudly call themselves.
Just because they have been in the country a few years, they let
themselves grow wild and woolly and glorify in it. They may not know
it, but it is a pose. In so far as they cultivate salient
peculiarities, they cultivate falseness to themselves and live lies."

"I hardly think you are wholly just," Frona said, in defence of her
chosen heroes. "I do like what you say about the matter in general,
and I detest posing, but the majority of the old-timers would be
peculiar in any country, under any circumstances. That peculiarity is
their own; it is their mode of expression. And it is, I am sure, just
what makes them go into new countries. The normal man, of course,
stays at home."

"Oh, I quite agree with you, Miss Welse," he temporized easily. "I did
not intend it so sweepingly. I meant to brand that sprinkling among
them who are _poseurs_. In the main, as you say, they are honest, and
sincere, and natural."

"Then we have no quarrel. But Mr. St. Vincent, before you go, would
you care to come to-morrow evening? We are getting up theatricals for
Christmas. I know you can help us greatly, and I think it will not be
altogether unenjoyable to you. All the younger people are
interested, - the officials, officers of police, mining engineers,
gentlemen rovers, and so forth, to say nothing of the nice women. You
are bound to like them."

"I am sure I shall," as he took her hand. "Tomorrow, did you say?"

"To-morrow evening. Good-night."

A brave man, she told herself as she went bade from the door, and a
splendid type of the race.


Gregory St. Vincent swiftly became an important factor in the social
life of Dawson. As a representative of the Amalgamated Press
Association, he had brought with him the best credentials a powerful
influence could obtain, and over and beyond, he was well qualified
socially by his letters of introduction. It developed in a quiet way
that he was a wanderer and explorer of no small parts, and that he had
seen life and strife pretty well all over the earth's crust. And
withal, he was so mild and modest about it, that nobody, not even among
the men, was irritated by his achievements. Incidentally, he ran
across numerous old acquaintances. Jacob Welse he had met at St.
Michael's in the fall of '88, just prior to his crossing Bering Straits
on the ice. A month or so later, Father Barnum (who had come up from
the Lower River to take charge of the hospital) had met him a couple of
hundred miles on his way north of St. Michael's. Captain Alexander, of
the Police, had rubbed shoulders with him in the British Legation at
Peking. And Bettles, another old-timer of standing, had met him at
Fort o' Yukon nine years before.

So Dawson, ever prone to look askance at the casual comer, received him
with open arms. Especially was he a favorite with the women. As a
promoter of pleasures and an organizer of amusements he took the lead,
and it quickly came to pass that no function was complete without him.
Not only did he come to help in the theatricals, but insensibly, and as
a matter of course, he took charge. Frona, as her friends charged, was
suffering from a stroke of Ibsen, so they hit upon the "Doll's House,"
and she was cast for Nora. Corliss, who was responsible, by the way,
for the theatricals, having first suggested them, was to take Torvald's
part; but his interest seemed to have died out, or at any rate he
begged off on the plea of business rush. So St. Vincent, without
friction, took Torvald's lines. Corliss did manage to attend one
rehearsal. It might have been that he had come tired from forty miles
with the dogs, and it might have been that Torvald was obliged to put
his arm about Nora at divers times and to toy playfully with her ear;
but, one way or the other, Corliss never attended again.

Busy he certainly was, and when not away on trail he was closeted
almost continually with Jacob Welse and Colonel Trethaway. That it was
a deal of magnitude was evidenced by the fact that Welse's mining
interests involved alone mounted to several millions. Corliss was
primarily a worker and doer, and on discovering that his thorough
theoretical knowledge lacked practical experience, he felt put upon his
mettle and worked the harder. He even marvelled at the silliness of
the men who had burdened him with such responsibilities, simply because
of his pull, and he told Trethaway as much. But the colonel, while
recognizing his shortcomings, liked him for his candor, and admired him
for his effort and for the quickness with which he came to grasp things

Del Bishop, who had refused to play any hand but his own, had gone to
work for Corliss because by so doing he was enabled to play his own
hand better. He was practically unfettered, while the opportunities to
further himself were greatly increased. Equipped with the best of
outfits and a magnificent dog-team, his task was mainly to run the
various creeks and keep his eyes and ears open. A pocket-miner, first,
last, and always, he was privately on the constant lookout for pockets,
which occupation did not interfere in the least with the duty he owed
his employer. And as the days went by he stored his mind with
miscellaneous data concerning the nature of the various placer deposits
and the lay of the land, against the summer when the thawed surface and
the running water would permit him to follow a trace from creek-bed to
side-slope and source.

Corliss was a good employer, paid well, and considered it his right to
work men as he worked himself. Those who took service with him either
strengthened their own manhood and remained, or quit and said harsh
things about him. Jacob Welse noted this trait with appreciation, and
he sounded the mining engineer's praises continually. Frona heard and
was gratified, for she liked the things her father liked; and she was
more gratified because the man was Corliss. But in his rush of
business she saw less of him than formerly, while St. Vincent came to
occupy a greater and growing portion of her time. His healthful,
optimistic spirit pleased her, while he corresponded well to her
idealized natural man and favorite racial type. Her first doubt - that
if what he said was true - had passed away. All the evidence had gone
counter. Men who at first questioned the truth of his wonderful
adventures gave in after hearing him talk. Those to any extent
conversant with the parts of the world he made mention of, could not
but acknowledge that he knew what he talked about. Young Soley,
representing Bannock's News Syndicate, and Holmes of the Fairweather,
recollected his return to the world in '91, and the sensation created
thereby. And Sid Winslow, Pacific Coast journalist, had made his
acquaintance at the Wanderers' Club shortly after he landed from the
United States revenue cutter which had brought him down from the north.
Further, as Frona well saw, he bore the ear-marks of his experiences;
they showed their handiwork in his whole outlook on life. Then the
primitive was strong in him, and his was a passionate race pride which
fully matched hers. In the absence of Corliss they were much together,
went out frequently with the dogs, and grew to know each other

All of which was not pleasant to Corliss, especially when the brief
intervals he could devote to her were usually intruded upon by the
correspondent. Naturally, Corliss was not drawn to him, and other men,
who knew or had heard of the Opera House occurrence, only accepted him
after a tentative fashion. Trethaway had the indiscretion, once or
twice, to speak slightingly of him, but so fiercely was he defended by
his admirers that the colonel developed the good taste to thenceforward
keep his tongue between his teeth. Once, Corliss, listening to an
extravagant panegyric bursting from the lips of Mrs. Schoville,
permitted himself the luxury of an incredulous smile; but the quick
wave of color in Frona's face, and the gathering of the brows, warned

At another time he was unwise enough and angry enough to refer to the
Opera House broil. He was carried away, and what he might have said of
that night's happening would have redounded neither to St. Vincent's
credit nor to his own, had not Frona innocently put a seal upon his
lips ere he had properly begun.

"Yes," she said. "Mr. St. Vincent told me about it. He met you for
the first time that night, I believe. You all fought royally on his
side, - you and Colonel Trethaway. He spoke his admiration unreservedly
and, to tell the truth, with enthusiasm."

Corliss made a gesture of depreciation.

"No! no! From what he said you must have behaved splendidly. And I
was most pleased to hear. It must be great to give the brute the rein
now and again, and healthy, too. Great for us who have wandered from
the natural and softened to sickly ripeness. Just to shake off
artificiality and rage up and down! and yet, the inmost mentor, serene
and passionless, viewing all and saying: 'This is my other self.
Behold! I, who am now powerless, am the power behind and ruleth still!
This other self, mine ancient, violent, elder self, rages blindly as
the beast, but 'tis I, sitting apart, who discern the merit of the
cause and bid him rage or bid him cease!' Oh, to be a man!"

Corliss could not help a humoring smile, which put Frona upon defence
at once.

"Tell me, Vance, how did it feel? Have I not described it rightly?
Were the symptoms yours? Did you not hold aloof and watch yourself
play the brute?"

He remembered the momentary daze which came when he stunned the man
with his fist, and nodded.

"And pride?" she demanded, inexorably. "Or shame?"

"A - a little of both, and more of the first than the second," he
confessed. "At the time I suppose I was madly exultant; then
afterwards came the shame, and I tossed awake half the night."

"And finally?"

"Pride, I guess. I couldn't help it, couldn't down it. I awoke in the
morning feeling as though I had won my spurs. In a subconscious way I
was inordinately proud of myself, and time and again, mentally, I
caught myself throwing chests. Then came the shame again, and I tried
to reason back my self-respect. And last of all, pride. The fight was
fair and open. It was none of my seeking. I was forced into it by the
best of motives. I am not sorry, and I would repeat it if necessary."

"And rightly so." Frona's eyes were sparkling. "And how did Mr. St.
Vincent acquit himself?"

"He? . . . . Oh, I suppose all right, creditably. I was too busy
watching my other self to take notice."

"But he saw you."

"Most likely so. I acknowledge my negligence. I should have done
better, the chances are, had I thought it would have been of interest
to you - pardon me. Just my bungling wit. The truth is, I was too much
of a greenhorn to hold my own and spare glances on my neighbors."

So Corliss went away, glad that he had not spoken, and keenly
appreciating St. Vincent's craft whereby he had so adroitly forestalled
adverse comment by telling the story in his own modest, self-effacing

Two men and a woman! The most potent trinity of factors in the
creating of human pathos and tragedy! As ever in the history of man,
since the first father dropped down from his arboreal home and walked
upright, so at Dawson. Necessarily, there were minor factors, not
least among which was Del Bishop, who, in his aggressive way, stepped
in and accelerated things. This came about in a trail-camp on the way
to Miller Creek, where Corliss was bent on gathering in a large number
of low-grade claims which could only be worked profitably on a large

"I'll not be wastin' candles when I make a strike, savve!" the
pocket-miner remarked savagely to the coffee, which he was settling
with a chunk of ice. "Not on your life, I guess rather not!"

"Kerosene?" Corliss queried, running a piece of bacon-rind round the
frying-pan and pouring in the batter.

"Kerosene, hell! You won't see my trail for smoke when I get a gait on
for God's country, my wad in my poke and the sunshine in my eyes. Say!
How'd a good juicy tenderloin strike you just now, green onions, fried
potatoes, and fixin's on the side? S'help me, that's the first
proposition I'll hump myself up against. Then a general whoop-la! for
a week - Seattle or 'Frisco, I don't care a rap which, and then - "

"Out of money and after a job."

"Not on your family tree!" Bishop roared. "Cache my sack before I go
on the tear, sure pop, and then, afterwards, Southern California.
Many's the day I've had my eye on a peach of a fruit farm down
there - forty thousand'll buy it. No more workin' for grub-stakes and
the like. Figured it out long; ago, - hired men to work the ranch, a
manager to run it, and me ownin' the game and livin' off the
percentage. A stable with always a couple of bronchos handy; handy to
slap the packs and saddles on and be off and away whenever the fever
for chasin' pockets came over me. Great pocket country down there, to
the east and along the desert."

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Online LibraryJack LondonA Daughter of the Snows → online text (page 8 of 20)