The God of His Fathers and Other Stories HTML version

"If I was a man--" Her words were in themselves indecisive, but the withering contempt
which flashed from her black eyes was not lost upon the men-folk in the tent.
Tommy, the English sailor, squirmed, but chivalrous old Dick Humphries, Cornish
fisherman and erstwhile American salmon capitalist, beamed upon her benevolently as
ever. He bore women too large a portion of his rough heart to mind them, as he said,
when they were in the doldrums, or when their limited vision would not permit them to
see all around a thing. So they said nothing, these two men who had taken the half-frozen
woman into their tent three days back, and who had warmed her, and fed her, and rescued
her goods from the Indian packers. This latter had necessitated the payment of numerous
dollars, to say nothing of a demonstration in force--Dick Humphries squinting along the
sights of a Winchester while Tommy apportioned their wages among them at his own
appraisement. It had been a little thing in itself, but it meant much to a woman playing a
desperate single-hand in the equally desperate Klondike rush of '97. Men were occupied
with their own pressing needs, nor did they approve of women playing, single-handed,
the odds of the arctic winter. "If I was a man, I know what I would do." Thus reiterated
Molly, she of the flashing eyes, and therein spoke the cumulative grit of five American-
born generations.
In the succeeding silence, Tommy thrust a pan of biscuits into the Yukon stove and piled
on fresh fuel. A reddish flood pounded along under his sun-tanned skin, and as he
stooped, the skin of his neck was scarlet. Dick palmed a three-cornered sail needle
through a set of broken pack straps, his good nature in nowise disturbed by the feminine
cataclysm which was threatening to burst in the storm-beaten tent.
"And if you was a man?" he asked, his voice vibrant with kindness. The three-cornered
needle jammed in the damp leather, and he suspended work for the moment.
"I'd be a man. I'd put the straps on my back and light out. I wouldn't lay in camp here,
with the Yukon like to freeze most any day, and the goods not half over the portage. And
you--you are men, and you sit here, holding your hands, afraid of a little wind and wet. I
tell you straight, Yankee-men are made of different stuff. They'd be hitting the trail for
Dawson if they had to wade through hell-fire. And you, you--I wish I was a man."
"I'm very glad, my dear, that you're not." Dick Humphries threw the bight of the sail
twine over the point of the needle and drew it clear with a couple of deft turns and a jerk.
A snort of the gale dealt the tent a broad-handed slap as it hurtled past, and the sleet rat-
tat-tatted with snappy spite against the thin canvas. The smoke, smothered in its exit,
drove back through the fire-box door, carrying with it the pungent odor of green spruce.
"Good Gawd! Why can't a woman listen to reason?" Tommy lifted his head from the
denser depths and turned upon her a pair of smoke-outraged eyes.