Back to God's Country and Other Stories
The Honor Of Her People
"It ees not so much--What you call heem?--leegend, thees honor of the Beeg Snows!"
said Jan softly.
He had risen to his feet and gazed placidly over the crackling box-stove into the eyes of
the red-faced Englishman.
"Leegend is lie! Thees is truth!"
There was no lack of luster in the black eyes that roved inquiringly from the
Englishman's bantering grin to the others in the room. Mukee, the half Cree, was sitting
with his elbows on his knees gazing with stoic countenance at this new curiosity who had
wandered four hundred miles northward from civilization. Williams, the Hudson's Bay
man who claimed to be all white, was staring hard at the red side of the stove, and the
factor's son looked silently at Jan. He and the half-breed noted the warm glow in the eyes
that rested casually upon the Englishman.
"It ees truth--thees honor of the Beeg Snows!" said Jan again, and his moccasined feet
fell in heavy, thumping tread to the door.
That was the first time he had spoken that evening, and not even the half Cree, or
Williams, or the factor's son guessed how the blood was racing through his veins. Outside
he stood with the pale, cold glow of the Aurora Borealis shining upon him, and the
limitless wilderness, heavy in its burden of snow, reaching out into the ghost-gray fabric
of the night. The Englishman's laugh followed him, boisterous and grossly thick, and Jan
moved on,--wondering how much longer the half Cree and Williams and the factor's son
would listen to the things that this man was saying of the most beautiful thing that had
ever come into their lives.
"It ees truth, I swear, by dam'--thees honor of what he calls the 'Beeg Snows!'" persisted
Jan to himself, and he set his back to the factor's office and trudged through the snow.
When he came to the black ledge of the spruce and balsam forest he stopped and looked
back. It was an hour past bedtime at the post. The Company's store loomed up silent and
lightless. The few log cabins betrayed no signs of life. Only in the factor's office, which
was the Company's haven for the men of the wilderness, was there a waste of kerosene,
and that was because of the Englishman whom Jan was beginning to hate. He stared back
at the one glowing window with a queer thickening in his throat and a clenching of the
hands in the pockets of his caribou-skin coat. Then he looked long and wistfully at a little
cabin which stood apart from the rest, and to himself he whispered again what he had
said to the Englishman. Until to-night--or, perhaps, until two weeks ago--Jan had been
satisfied with his world. It was a big, passionless world, mostly of snow and ice and
endless privation, but he loved it, and there was only a fast-fading memory of another
world in his brain. It was a world of big, honest hearts kept warm within caribou skins, of