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The God of His Fathers and Other Stories

Grit Of Women
A wolfish head, wistful-eyed and frost-rimed, thrust aside the tent-flaps.
"Hi! Chook! Siwash! Chook, you limb of Satan!" chorused the protesting inmates. Bettles
rapped the dog sharply with a tin plate, and it withdrew hastily. Louis Savoy refastened
the flaps, kicked a frying-pan over against the bottom, and warmed his hands. It was very
cold without. Forty-eight hours gone, the spirit thermometer had burst at sixty-eight
below, and since that time it had grown steadily and bitterly colder. There was no telling
when the snap would end. And it is poor policy, unless the gods will it, to venture far
from a stove at such times, or to increase the quantity of cold atmosphere one must
breathe. Men sometimes do it, and sometimes they chill their lungs. This leads up to a
dry, hacking cough, noticeably irritable when bacon is being fried. After that, somewhere
along in the spring or summer, a hole is burned in the frozen muck. Into this a man's
carcass is dumped, covered over with moss, and left with the assurance that it will rise on
the crack of Doom, wholly and frigidly intact. For those of little faith, sceptical of
material integration on that fateful day, no fitter country than the Klondike can be
recommended to die in. But it is not to be inferred from this that it is a fit country for
living purposes.
It was very cold without, but it was not over-warm within. The only article which might
be designated furniture was the stove, and for this the men were frank in displaying their
preference. Upon half of the floor pine boughs had been cast; above this were spread the
sleeping-furs, beneath lay the winter's snowfall. The remainder of the floor was
moccasin-packed snow, littered with pots and pans and the general impedimenta of an
Arctic camp. The stove was red and roaring hot, but only a bare three feet away lay a
block of ice, as sharp-edged and dry as when first quarried from the creek bottom. The
pressure of the outside cold forced the inner heat upward. Just above the stove, where the
pipe penetrated the roof, was a tiny circle of dry canvas; next, with the pipe always as
centre, a circle of steaming canvas; next a damp and moisture-exuding ring; and finally,
the rest of the tent, sidewalls and top, coated with a half-inch of dry, white, crystal-
encrusted frost.
"Oh! OH! OH!" A young fellow, lying asleep in the furs, bearded and wan and weary,
raised a moan of pain, and without waking increased the pitch and intensity of his
anguish. His body half- lifted from the blankets, and quivered and shrank spasmodically,
as though drawing away from a bed of nettles.
"Roll'm over!" ordered Bettles. "He's crampin'."
And thereat, with pitiless good-will, he was pitched upon and rolled and thumped and
pounded by half-a-dozen willing comrades.
"Damn the trail," he muttered softly, as he threw off the robes and sat up. "I've run across
country, played quarter three seasons hand-running, and hardened myself in all manner of
 
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