Breakfast eaten and the slim camp outfit lashed to the sled, the men turned their backs on the cheery fire and launched out into the darkness. At once began to rise the cries that were fiercely sadcries that called through the darkness and cold to one another and answered back. Conversation ceased. Daylight came at nine oclock. At midday the sky to the south warmed to rose color, and marked where the bulge of the earth intervened between the meridian sun and the northern world. But the rose color swiftly faded. The gray light of day that remained lasted until three oclock, when it, too, faded, and the pall of the Arctic night descended upon the lone and silent land.
As darkness came on, the hunting cries to right and left and rear drew closerso close that more than once they sent surges of fear through the toiling dogs, throwing them into short-lived panics.
At the conclusion of one such panic, when he and Henry had got the dogs back in the traces, Bill said:
I wisht theyd strike game somewheres, an go away an leave us alone.
They do get on the nerves horrible, Henry sympathized.
They spoke no more until camp was made.
Henry was bending over and adding ice to the bubbling pot of beans when he was startled by the sound of a blow, and exclamation from Bill, and a sharp snarling cry of pain from among the dogs. He straightened up in time to see a dim form disappearing across the snow into the shelter of the dark. Then he saw Bill, standing amid the dogs, half triumphant, half crestfallen, in one hand a stout club, in the other the tail and part of the body of a sun-cured salmon.
It got half of it, he announced; but I got a whack at it jes the same. Dye hear it squeal!
Whatd it look like? Henry asked.
Couldnt see. But it had four legs an a mouth an hair an looked like any dog.
Must be a tame wolf, I reckon.
Its damned tame, whatever it is, comin in here at feedin time an gettin its whack of fish.
That night, when supper was finished and they sat on the oblong box and pulled at their pipes, the circle of gleaming eyes drew in even closer than before.
I wisht theyd spring up a bunch of moose or somethin, an go away an leaveus alone, Bill said.
Henry grunted with an intonation that was not all sympathy, and for a quarter of an hour they sat on in silence, Henry staring the fire, and Bill at the circle of eyes that burned in the darkness just beyond the firelight.
I wisht we was pullin into MCGurry right now, he began again.
Shut up your wishin an your croakin, Henry burst out angrily. Your stomachs sour. Thats whats ailien you. Swallow a spoonful of sody, an youll sweeten up wonderful an be more pleasant company.
In the morning, Henry was aroused by fervid blasphemy that proceeded from the mouth of Bill. Henry propped himself up on an elbow and looked to see his comrade standing among the dogs beside the repleinshed fire, his raised in objurgation, his face distorted with passion.
Hello! Henry called. Whats up now?
Frogs gone, came the answer.
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