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ground with my mittens and my sides ached.
"What the devil's goin' on there?" someone cried and slid past me on the path. I
wanted to call to him to look out for the moose, but I couldn't get my breath.
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A deeper shadow fell across me and someone crouched down. "You about done with
that, or do you want to waller awhile longer? Maybe mark your territory?" Lomax
asked.
I looked up at him and hiccoughed.
"Larsson, you bonehead, where do you think you're going, a sauna?" London
exclaimed, and then, "Found him. Yell to Tom to bring his clothes."
They got him dressed, back to the hospital, and into bed by about eight-thirty, just
as the sun was rising.
"Hope this don't give him pneumonia," Tom said. "Did you see his belly? Can't
hardly tell nothin' was there. Sure got better quick. Bet Mary will sure be surprised."
"Never mind h(hic)s abdominal wou(hic)nds, what did his neck look like?" I asked. I
had stayed outside while all of this went on since my hiccoughs were so severe that I
would have awakened the entire ward.
"Kinda blue, a little frozen, hairy," London said, looking baffled.
"Good," I said. I'd have elaborated, but my hiccoughs were constituting a severe
speech impediment.
"My neck needs coffee runnin' down its inside," Lomax said.
"And bacon?" Jack asked hopefully.
I joined the boys in the Klondike Cafe, where eggs could be purchased for a month's
salary apiece and flapjacks were worth more than nuggets of comparable size, due
to the shortage in flour.
"Just think, Lomax, you'll be able to afford 'em soon as you pan some of that out
down there to the claim," Tom said.
"What's (hic) this?" I asked, and had to swallow a lot of expensive coffee to
overcome further spasms.
"Tom ran a test pan from the pit a couple of days ago and got color," London said.
"Good color."
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"Yessir, I bet you got a paddlewheel already at least outta that one nugget," Tom
said.
"Speaking of paddlewheels," I said, rising from the upended log the cafe used for
seating, "I'd better see what's happening with the Bella."
"I'll come with you uh Pat," Lomax said.
"You gonna go with me to get them dogs from Sam, Lomax, or shall I go ahead?"
"I'll be there. Just want to see my buddy Pat here off."
"You're not turnin' tail just when Lomax will be needin' workers are you, young
fella?" London asked. I think he was a little confused about me. He had started
looking at Lomax rather warily.
"Got to, sir. My my mother's sick back home in Indiana," I said.
"How'd you find out? That mail from Fort Yukon was six months old."
"Carrier raven," I said. " 'Scuse me."
The door of the Alaska Commercial Company warehouse was beginning to look like
a theatre billboard. A fresh layer of notices overlaid those of the previous day. The
top one said:
THIS STORE HAS BEEN APPROPRIATED BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE PURPOSE OF
REGULATING THE TRANSPORTATION OF UNPROVIDED PEOPLE, AND IS DECLARED
CLOSED FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES FOR THE DAY. C. CONSTANTINE.
Beneath that:
MASS MEETING WILL BE HELD AT TEN A.M., IN FRONT OF THE ALASKA
COMMERCIAL. COMPANY'S STORE, TO DISCUSS FOOD SITUATION AT DAWSON AND
THE DEPARTURE OF UNPROVIDED PEOPLE ON THE BELLA.
"You don't have to go," Dag said. "You could come out to the claim."
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"I must get word to the authorities about this heinous menace," I reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. 'Spect they'll want to send a squad of cavalry right up
here or ask ol' Blake to investigate the allegation about there bein' vampires on the
premises, eh?"
"I'll make them understand somehow," I said. We were back at my cabin, where I
collected my bag and Dag collected his cat. Loki, knotted beneath the stove, was at
first disinclined to take notice of our arrival but by now had settled back to his
customary place around Lomax's neck. "Oh, Captain uh Mr. Lo "
"Dag, Pelagia. I think of you by your first name your real one. It's a mermaid's
name, did you know that? Means 'from the sea.' "
"And, Dag, that's Scandinavian, isn't it? What does that mean?"
"Day," he said. "So them vampires had better watch out."
"Just in case they think a day by any other name would be as tasty, I'd feel better if
you had this," I said, taking the silver crucifix from my pocket. "I found it under an
avalanche at the top of the Chilkoot Pass."
"Thanks," he said, staring at it curiously before pocketing it. "Us Lutherans don't get
a whole lot of these."
"Well, you needn't keep it if you consider it you know, papist. I was going to give it
to the mounties and ask them to make inquiries and possibly return it to the family,
but then I rather got off on the wrong foot with them."
"Aye. Well, as to that, I've never been a man to scorn whatever works. I'll carry it
while it seems needful and then turn it in. How's that?"
I nodded and stared at my fingers, which I found I was twisting together.
He was finding his boot toes fascinating.
"I guess uh guess I'd better go get them dogs."
"I guess I'd better go to that meeting and get that grub, since the mounties took
mine from you."
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"Yeah, well, we won't leave till after you do, I expect."
"No? Well, see you later then," and we gazed longingly into each other's eyes,
hungry for the alliance our contact had thus far been all too limited to permit.
"Yeah. Yeah, I guess so," he said and impetuously reached out his hand and pumped
mine. "You take it easy, Pelagia. I'll write to you in the states, keep you posted on
stuff to tell the cavalry."
"You do that," I said.
The man was blushing. I supposed if we ever met again, I'd have to don my dance
hall costume once more if I was to get another kiss. At one time I would have been
coy about such things, but at my age, when you meet a man like Lomax, you begin
to think about making opportunity feel welcome by installing big brass door
knockers. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]