The Mouse by James Oliver Curwood
"Why, you ornery little cuss," said Falkner, pausing with a forkful
of beans half way to his mouth. "Where in God A'mighty's name did YOU
It was against all of Jim's crude but honest ethics of the big
wilderness to take the Lord's name in vain, and the words he uttered
were filled more with the softness of a prayer than the harshness of
profanity. He was big, and his hands were hard and knotted, and his
face was covered with a coarse red scrub of beard. But his hair was
blond, and his eyes were blue, and just now they were filled with
unbounded amazement. Slowly the fork loaded with beans descended to his
plate, and he said again, barely above a whisper:
"Where in God A'mighty's name DID you come from?"
There was nothing human in the one room of his wilderness cabin to
speak of. At the first glance there was nothing alive in the room, with
the exception of Jim Falkner himself. There was not even a dog, for Jim
had lost his one dog weeks before. And yet he spoke, and his eyes
glistened, and for a full minute after that he sat as motionless as a
rock. Then something moved—at the farther end of the rough board
table. It was a mouse—a soft, brown, bright-eyed little mouse,
not as large as his thumb. It was not like the mice Jim had been
accustomed to see in the North woods, the larger, sharp-nosed, rat-like
creatures which sprung his traps now and then, and he gave a sort of
gasp through his beard.
"I'm as crazy as a loon if it isn't a sure-enough down-home mouse,
just like we used to catch in the kitchen down in Ohio," he told
himself. And for the third time he asked. "Now where in God A'mighty's
name DID YOU come from?"
The mouse made no answer. It had humped itself up into a little
ball, and was eyeing Jim with the keenest of suspicion.
"You're a thousand miles from home, old man," Falkner addressed it,
still without a movement. "You're a clean thousand miles straight north
of the kind o' civilization you was born in, and I want to know how you
got here. By George—is it possible—you got mixed up in that
box of stuff SHE sent up? Did you come from HER?"
He made a sudden movement, as if he expected an answer, and in a
flash the mouse had scurried off the table and had disappeared under
"The little cuss!" said Falkner. "He's sure got his nerve!"
He went on eating his beans, and when he had done he lighted a lamp,
for the half Arctic darkness was falling early, and began to clear away
the dishes. When he had done he put a scrap of bannock and a few beans
on the corner of the table.
"I'll bet he's hungry, the little cuss," he said. "A thousand
miles—in that box!"
He sat down close to the sheet-iron box stove, which was glowing
red-hot, and filled his pipe. Kerosene was a precious commodity, and he
had turned down the lamp wick until he was mostly in gloom. Outside a
storm was wailing down across the Barrens from the North. He could hear
the swish of the spruce-boughs overhead, and those moaning,
half-shrieking sounds that always came with storm from out of the
North, and sometimes fooled even him into thinking they were human
cries. They had seemed more and more human to him during the past three
days, and he was growing afraid. Once or twice strange thoughts had
come into his head, and he had tried to fight them down. He had known
of men whom loneliness had driven mad—and he was terribly lonely.
He shivered as a piercing blast of wind filled with a mourning wail
swept over the cabin.
And that day, too, he had been taken with a touch of fever. It
burned more hotly in his blood to-night, and he knew that it was the
loneliness—the emptiness of the world about him, the despair and
black foreboding that came to him with the first early twilights of the
Long Night. For he was in the edge of that Long Night. For weeks he
would only now and then catch a glimpse of the sun. He shuddered.
A hundred and fifty miles to the south and east there was a Hudson's
Bay post. Eighty miles south was the nearest trapper's cabin he knew
of. Two months before he had gone down to the post, with a thick beard
to cover his face, and had brought back supplies—and the box. His
wife had sent up the box to him, only it had come to him as "John
Blake" instead of Jim Falkner, his right name. There were things in it
for him to wear, and pictures of the sweet-faced wife who was still
filled with prayer and hope for him, and of the kid, their boy. "He is
walking now," she had written to him, "and a dozen times a day he goes
to your picture and says 'Pa-pa—Pa-pa'—and every night we
talk about you before we go to bed, and pray God to send you back to us
"God bless 'em!" breathed Jim.
He had not lighted his pipe, and there was something in his eyes
that shimmered and glistened in the dull light. And then, as he sat
silent, his eyes clearing, he saw that the little mouse had climbed
back to the edge of the table. It did not eat the food he had placed
there for it, but humped itself up in a tiny ball again, and its tiny
shining eyes looked in his direction.
"You're not hungry," said Jim, and he spoke aloud. "YOU'RE lonely,
A strange thrill shot through him at the thought, and he wondered
again if he was mad at the longing that filled him—the desire to
reach out and snuggle the little creature in his hand, and hold it
close up to his bearded face, and TALK TO IT! He laughed, and drew his
stool a little more into the light. The mouse did not run. He edged
nearer and nearer, until his elbows rested on the table, and a curious
feeling of pleasure took the place of his loneliness when he saw that
the mouse was looking at him, and yet seemed unafraid.
"Don't be scairt," he said softly, speaking directly to it. "I won't
hurt you. No, siree, I'd—I'd cut off a hand before I'd do that. I
ain't had any company but you for two months. I ain't seen a human
face, or heard a human voice—nothing—nothing but them
shrieks 'n' wails 'n' baby-cryings out there in the wind. I won't hurt
you—" His voice was almost pleading in its gentleness. And for
the tenth time that day he felt, with his fever, a sickening dizziness
in his head. For a moment or two his vision was blurred, but he could
still see the mouse—farther away, it seemed to him.
"I don't s'pose you've killed anyone—or anything," he said,
and his voice seemed thick and distant to him. "Mice don't kill, do
they? They live on—cheese. But I have—I've killed. I killed
a man. That's why I'm here."
His dizziness almost overcame him, and he leaned heavily against the
table. Still the little mouse did not move. Still he could see it
through the strange gauze veil before his eyes.
"I killed—a man," he repeated, and now he was wondering why
the mouse did not say something at that remarkable confession. "I
killed him, old man, an' you'd have done the same if you'd been in my
place. I didn't mean to. I struck too hard. But I found 'im in my
cabin, an' SHE was fighting—fighting him until her face was
scratched an' her clothes torn,—God bless her dear
heart!—fighting him to the last breath, an' I come just in time!
He didn't think I'd be back for a day—a black-hearted devil we'd
fed when he came to our door hungry. I killed him. And they've hunted
me ever since. They'll put a rope round my neck, an' choke me to death
if they catch me—because I came in time to save her! That's
"But they won't find me. I've been up here a year now, and in the
spring I'm going down there —where you come from—back to
the Girl and the Kid. The policemen won't be looking for me then. An'
we're going to some other part of the world, an' live happy. She's
waitin' for me, she an' the kid, an' they know I'm coming in the
spring. Yessir, I killed a man. An' they want to kill me for it. That's
the law—Canadian law—the law that wants an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth, an' where there ain't no extenuatin'
circumstance. They call it murder. But it wasn't—was it?"
He waited for an answer. The mouse seemed going farther and farther
away from him. He leaned more heavily on the table.
"It wasn't—was it?" he persisted.
His arms reached out; his head dropped forward, and the little mouse
scurried to the floor. But Falkner did not know that it had gone.
"I killed him, an' I guess I'd do it again," he said, and his words
were only a whisper. "An' to-night they're prayin' for me down
there—she 'n the kid—an' he's sayin', 'Pa-pa—Pa-pa';
an' they sent you up—to keep me comp'ny—"
His head dropped wearily upon his arms. The red stove crackled, and
turned slowly black. In the cabin it grew darker, except where the dim
light burned on the table. Outside the storm wailed and screeched down
across the Barren. And after a time the mouse came back. It looked at
Jim Falkner. It came nearer, until it touched the unconscious man's
sleeve. More daringly it ran over his arm. It smelled of his
Then the mouse returned to the corner of the table, and began eating
the food that Falkner had placed there for it.
The wick of the lamp had burned low when Falkner raised his head.
The stove was black and cold. Outside, the storm still raged, and it
was the shivering shriek of it over the cabin that Falkner first heard.
He felt terribly dizzy, and there was a sharp, knife-like pain just
back of his eyes. By the gray light that came through the one window he
knew that what was left of Arctic day had come. He rose to his feet,
and staggered about like a drunken man as he rebuilt the fire, and he
tried to laugh as the truth dawned upon him that he had been sick, and
that he had rested for hours with his head on the table. His back
seemed broken. His legs were numb, and hurt when he stepped on them. He
swung his arms a little to bring back circulation, and rubbed his hands
over the fire that began to crackle in the stove.
It was the sickness that had overcome him—he knew that. But
the thought of it did not appall him as it had yesterday, and the day
before. There seemed to be something in the cabin now that comforted
and soothed him, something that took away a part of the loneliness that
was driving him mad. Even as he searched about him, peering into the
dark corners and at the bare walls, a word formed on his lips, and he
half smiled. It was a woman's name—Hester. And a warmth entered
into him. The pain left his head. For the first time in weeks he felt
DIFFERENT. And slowly he began to realize what had wrought the change.
He was not alone. A message had come to him from the one who was
waiting for him miles away; something that lived, and breathed, and was
as lonely as himself. It was the little mouse.
He looked about eagerly, his eyes brightening, but the mouse was
gone. He could not hear it. There seemed nothing unusual to him in the
words he spoke aloud to himself.
"I'm going to call it after the Kid," he chuckled, "I'm goin' to
call it Little Jim. I wonder if it's a girl mouse—or a boy
He placed a pan of snow-water on the stove and began making his
simple preparations for breakfast. For the first time in many days he
felt actually hungry. And then all at once he stopped, and a low cry
that was half joy and half wonder broke from his lips. With tensely
gripped hands and eyes that shone with a strange light he stared
straight at the blank surface of the log wall—through
it—and a thousand miles away. He remembered THAT day—years
ago—the scenes of which came to him now as though they had been
but yesterday. It was afternoon, in the glorious summer, and he had
gone to Hester's home. Only the day before Hester had promised to be
his wife, and he remembered how fidgety and uneasy and yet wondrously
happy he was as he sat out on the big white veranda, waiting for her to
put on her pink muslin dress, which went go well with the gold of her
hair and the blue of her eyes. And as he sat there, Hester's maltese
pet came up the steps, bringing in its jaws a tiny, quivering brown
mouse. It was playing with the almost lifeless little creature when
Hester came through the door.
He heard again the low cry that came from her lips then. In an
instant she had snatched the tiny, limp thing from between the cat's
paws, and had faced him. He was laughing at her, but the glow in her
blue eyes sobered him. "I didn't think you—would take pleasure in
that, Jim," she said. "It's only a mouse, but it's alive, and I can
feel its poor little heart beating!"
They had saved it, and he, a little ashamed at the smallness of the
act, had gone with Hester to the barn and made a nest for it in the
hay. But the wonderful words that he remembered were these: "Perhaps
some day a little mouse will help you, Jim!" Hester had spoken
laughingly. And her words had come true!
All the time that Falkner was preparing and eating his breakfast he
watched for the mouse, but it did not appear. Then he went to the door.
It swung outward, and it took all his weight to force it open. On one
side of the cabin the snow was drifted almost to the roof. Ahead of him
he could barely make out the dark shadow of the scrub spruce forest
beyond the little clearing he had made. He could hear the spruce-tops
wailing and twisting in the storm, and the snow and wind stung his
face, and half blinded him.
It was dark—dark with that gray and maddening gloom that
yesterday would have driven him still nearer to the merge of madness.
But this morning he laughed as he listened to the wailings in the air
and stared out into the ghostly chaos. It was not the thought of his
loneliness that come to him now, but the thought that he was safe. The
Law could not reach him now, even if it knew where he was. And before
it began its hunt for him again in the spring he would be hiking
southward, to the Girl and the Baby, and it would still be hunting for
him when they three would be making a new home for themselves in some
other part of the world. For the first time in months he was almost
happy. He closed and bolted the door, and began to WHISTLE. He was
amazed at the change in himself, and wonderingly he stared at his
reflection in the cracked bit of mirror against the wall. He grinned,
and addressed himself aloud.
"You need a shave," he told himself. "You'd scare fits out of
anything alive! Now that we've got company we've got to spruce up, an'
It took him an hour to get rid of his heavy beard. His face looked
almost boyish again. He was inspecting himself in the mirror when he
heard a sound that turned him slowly toward the table. The little mouse
was nosing about his tin plate. For a few moments Falkner watched it,
fearing to move. Then he cautiously began to approach the table. "Hello
there, old chap," he said, trying to make his voice soft and
ingratiating. "Pretty late for breakfast, ain't you?"
At his approach the mouse humped itself into a motionless ball and
watched him. To Falkner's delight it did not run away when he reached
the table and sat down. He laughed softly.
"You ain't afraid, are you?" he asked. "We're goin' to be chums,
ain't we? Yessir, we're goin' to be chums!"
For a full minute the mouse and the man looked steadily at each
other. Then the mouse moved deliberately to a crumb of bannock and
began nibbling at its breakfast.
For ten days there was only an occasional lull in the storm that
came from out of the North. Before those ten days were half over, Jim
and the mouse understood each other. The little mouse itself solved the
problem of their nearer acquaintance by running up Falkner's leg one
morning while he was at breakfast, and coolly investigating him from
the strings of his moccasin to the collar of his blue shirt. After that
it showed no fear of him, and a few days later would nestle in the
hollow of his big hand and nibble fearlessly at the bannock which
Falkner would offer it. Then Jim took to carrying it about with him in
his coat pocket. That seemed to suit the mouse immensely, and when Jim
went to bed nights, or it grew too warm for him in the cabin, he would
hang the coat over his bunk, with the mouse still in it, so that it was
not long before the little creature made up its mind to take full
possession of the pocket. It intimated as much to Falkner on the tenth
and last day of the storm, when it began very business-like operations
of building a nest of paper and rabbits' fur in the coat pocket. Jim's
heart gave a big and sudden jump of delight when he saw the work going
"Bless my soul, I wonder if it's a girl mouse an' we're goin' to
have BABIES!" he gasped.
After that he did not wear the coat, through fear of disturbing the
nest. The two became more and more friendly, until finally the mouse
would sit on Jim's shoulder at meal time, and nibble at bannock. What
little trouble the mouse caused only added to Falkner's love for
"He's a human little cuss," he told himself one day, as he watched
the mouse busy at work caching away scraps of food, which it carried
through a crack in the sapling floor. "He's that human I've got to put
all my grab in the tin cans or we'll go short before spring!" His chief
trouble was to keep his snowshoes out of his tiny companion's reach.
The mouse had developed an unholy passion for babiche, the caribou skin
thongs used in the webs of his shoes, and one of the webs was half
eaten away before Falkner discovered what was going on. At last he was
compelled to suspend the shoes from a nail driven in one of the
In the evening, when the stove glowed hot, and a cotton wick
sputtered in a pan of caribou grease on the table, Falkner's chief
diversion was to tell the mouse all about his plans, and hopes, and
what had happened in the past. He took an almost boyish pleasure in
these one-sided entertainments—and yet, after all, they were not
entirely one-sided, for the mouse would keep its bright,
serious-looking little eyes on Falkner's face; it seemed to understand,
if it could not talk.
Falkner loved to tell the little fellow of the wonderful days of
four or five years ago away down in the sunny Ohio valley where he had
courted the Girl and where they lived before they moved to the farm in
Canada. He tried to impress upon Little Jim's mind what it meant for a
great big, unhandsome fellow like himself to be loved by a tender slip
of a girl whose hair was like gold and whose eyes were as blue as the
wood-violets. One evening he fumbled for a minute under his bunk and
came back to the table with a worn and finger-marked manila envelope,
from which he drew tenderly and with almost trembling care a long,
shining tress of golden hair.
"That HERS," he said proudly, placing it on the table close to the
mouse. "An' she's got so much of it you can't see her to the hips when
she takes it down; an' out in the sun it shines
The stove door crashed open, and a number of coals fell out upon the
floor. For a few minutes Falkner was busy, and when he returned to the
table he gave a gasp of astonishment. The curl and the mouse were gone!
Little Jim had almost reached its nest with its lovely burden when
Falkner captured it.
"You little cuss!" he breathed revently. "Now I know you come from
her! I know it!"
In the weeks that followed the storm Falkner again followed his
trap-lines, and scattered poison-baits for the white foxes on the
Barren. Early in January the second great storm of that year came from
out of the North. It gave no warning, and Falkner was caught ten miles
from camp. He was making a struggle for life before he reached the
shack. He was exhausted, and half blinded. He could hardly stand on his
feet when he staggered up against his own door. He could see nothing
when he entered. He stumbled over a stool, and fell to the floor.
Before he could rise a strange weight was upon him. He made no
resistance, for the storm had driven the last ounce of strength from
"It's been a long chase, but I've got you now, Falkner," he heard a
triumphant voice say. And then came the dreaded formula, feared to the
uttermost limits of the great Northern wilderness: "I warn you! You are
my prisoner, in the name of His Majesty, the King!"
Corporal Carr, of the Royal Mounted of the Northwest, was a man
without human sympathies. He was thin faced, with a square, bony jaw,
and lips that formed a straight line. His eyes were greenish, like a
cat's, and were constantly shifting. He was a beast of prey, as much as
the wolf, the lynx, or the fox—and his prey was men. Only such a
man as Carr, alone would have braved the treacherous snows and the
intense cold of the Arctic winter to run him down. Falkner knew that,
as an hour later he looked over the roaring stove at his captor. About
Carr there was something of the unpleasant quickness, the sinuous
movement, of the little white ermine—the outlaw of the
wilderness. His eyes were as merciless. At times Falkner caught the
same red glint in them. And above his despair, the utter hopelessness
of his situation, there rose in him an intense hatred and loathing of
Falkner's hands were then securely tied behind him.
"I'd put the irons on you," Carr had explained a hard, emotionless
voice, "only I lost them somewhere back there."
Beyond that he had not said a dozen words. He had built up the fire,
thawed himself out, and helped himself to food. Now, for the first
time, he loosened up a bit.
"I've had a devil of a chase," he said bitterly, a cold glitter in
his eyes as he looked at Falkner. "I've been after you three months,
and now that I've got you this accursed storm is going to hold me up!
And I left my dogs and outfit a mile back in the scrub."
"Better go after 'em," replied Falkner. "If you don't there won't be
any dogs an' outfit by morning."
Corporal Carr rose to his feet and went to the window. In a moment
"I'll do that," he said. "Stretch yourself out on the bunk. I'll
have to lace you down pretty tight to keep you from playing a trick on
There was something so merciless and brutal in his eyes and voice
that Falkner felt like leaping upon him, even with his hands tied
behind his back.
He was glad, however, that Carr had decided to go. He was, filled
with an overwhelming desire to be rid of him, if only for an hour.
He went to the bunk and lay down. Corporal Carr approached, pulling
a roll of babiche cord from his pocket.
"If you don't mind you might tie my hands in front instead of
behind," suggested Falkner. "It's goin' to be mighty unpleasant to have
'em under me, if I've got to lay here for an hour or two."
"Not on your life I won't tie 'em in front!" snapped Carr, his
little eyes glittering. And then he gave a cackling laugh, and his eyes
were as green as a cat's. "An' it won't be half so unpleasant as having
something 'round your NECK!" he joked.
"I wish I was free," breathed Falkner, his chest heaving. "I wish we
could fight, man t' man. I'd be willing to hang then, just to have the
chance to break your neck. You ain't a man of the Law. You're a
Carr laughed the sort of laugh that sends a chill up one's back, and
drew the caribou-skin cord tight about Falkner's ankles.
"Can't blame me for being a little careful," he said in his
revolting way. "By your hanging I become a Sergeant. That's my reward
for running you down."
He lighted the lamp and filled the stove before he left the cabin.
From the door he looked back at Falkner, and his face was not like a
man's, but like that of some terrible death-spirit, ghostly, and thin,
and exultant in the dim glow of the lamp. As he opened the door the
roar of the blizzard and a gust of snow filled the cabin. Then it
closed, and a groaning curse fell from Falkner's lips. He strained
fiercely at the thongs that bound him, but after the first few minutes
he lay still breathing hard, knowing that every effort he made only
tightened the caribou-skin cord that bound him.
On his back, he listened to the storm. It was filled with the same
strange cries and moaning sound that had almost driven him to madness,
and now they sent through him a shivering chill that he had not felt
before, even in the darkest and most hopeless hours of his loneliness
and despair. A breath that was almost a sob broke from his lips as a
vision of the Girl and the Kid came to shut out from his ears the
moaning tumult of the wind. A few hours before he had been filled with
hope—almost happiness, and now he was lost. From such a man as
Carr there was no hope for mercy, or of escape. Flat on his back, he
closed his eyes, and tried to think—to scheme something that
might happen in his favor, to foresee an opportunity that might give
him one last chance. And then, suddenly, he heard a sound. It traveled
over the blanket that formed a pillow for his head. A cool, soft little
nose touched his ear, and then tiny feet ran swiftly over his shoulder,
and halted on his breast. He opened his eyes, and stared.
"You little cuss!" he breathed. A hundred times he had spoken those
words, and each time they were of increasing wonder and adoration. "You
little cuss!" he whispered again, and he chuckled aloud.
The mouse was humped on his breast in that curious little ball that
it made of itself, and was eyeing him, Jim thought, in a questioning
sort of way, "What's the matter with you?" it seemed to ask. "Where are
And Jim answered:
"They've got me, old man. Now what the dickens are we going to
The mouse began investigating. It examined his shoulder, the end of
his chin, and ran along his arm, as far as it could go.
"Now what do you think of that!" Falkner exclaimed softly. "The
little cuss is wondering where my hands are!" Gently he rolled over on
"There they are," he said, "hitched tighter 'n bark to a tree!"
He wiggled his fingers, and in a moment he felt the mouse. The
little creature ran across the opened palm of his hand to his wrist,
and then every muscle in Falkner's body grew tense, and one of the
strangest cries that ever fell from human lips came from his. The mouse
had found once more the dried hide-flesh of which the snowshoe webs
were made. It had found babiche. And it had begun TO GNAW!
In the minutes that followed Falkner scarcely breathed. He could
feel the mouse when it worked. Above the stifled beating of his heart
he could hear its tiny jaws. In those moments he knew that his last
hope of life hung in the balance. Five, ten minutes passed, and not
until then did he strain at the thongs that bound his wrists. Was that
the bed that had snapped? Or was it the breaking of one of the babiche
cords? He strained harder. The thongs were loosening; his wrists were
freer; with a cry that sent the mouse scurrying to the floor he doubled
himself half erect, and fought like a madman. Five minutes later and he
He staggered to his feet, and looked at his wrists. They were torn
and bleeding. His second thought was of Corporal Carr—and a
weapon. The man-hunter had taken the precaution to empty the chambers
of Falkner's revolver and rifle and throw his cartridges out in the
snow. But his skinning-knife was still in its sheath and belt, and he
buckled it about his waist. He had no thought of killing Carr, though
he hated the man almost to the point of murder. But his lips set in a
grim smile as he thought of what he WOULD do.
He knew that when Carr returned he would not enter at once into the
cabin. He was the sort of man who would never take an unnecessary
chance. He would go first to the little window—and look in.
Falkner turned the lamp-wick lower, and placed the lamp on the table
directly between the window and the bunk. Then he rolled his blankets
into something like a human form, and went to the window to see the
effect. The bunk was in deep shadow. From the window Corporal Carr
could not see beyond the lamp. Then Falkner waited, out of range of the
window, and close to the door.
It was not long before he heard something above the wailing of the
storm. It was the whine of a dog, and he knew that a moment later the
Corporal's ghostly face was peering in at the window. Then there came
the sudden, swift opening of the door, and Carr sprang in like a cat,
his hand on the butt of his revolver, still obeying that first
governing law of his merciless life—caution, Falkner was so near
that he could reach out and touch Carr, and in an instant he was at his
enemy's throat. Not a cry fell from Carr's lips. There was death in the
terrible grip of Falkner's hands, and like one whose neck had been
broken Carr sank to the floor. Falkner's grip tightened, and he did not
loosen it until Carr was black in the face and his jaw fell open. Then
Falkner bound him hand and foot with the babiche thongs, and dragged
him to the bunk.
Through the open door one of the sledge-dogs had thrust his head and
shoulders. It was a Barracks team, accustomed to warmth and shelter,
and Falkner had no difficulty in getting the leader and his three mates
inside. To make friends with them he fed them chunks of raw caribou
meat, and when Carr opened his eyes he was busy packing. He laughed
joyously when he saw that the man-hunter had regained consciousness,
and was staring at him with evident malice.
"Hello, Carr," he greeted affably. "Feeling better? Tables sort of
turned, ain't they?"
Carr made no answer. His white lips were set like thin bands of
"I'm getting ready to leave you," Falkner explained, as he rolled up
a blanket and shoved it into his rubber pack-pouch. "And you're going
to stay here—until spring. Do you get onto that? You've GOT to
stay. I'm going to leave you marooned, so to speak. You couldn't travel
a hundred yards out there without snowshoes, and I'm goin' to take your
snowshoes. And I'm goin' to take your guns, and burn your pack, your
coat, mittens, cap, an' moccasins. Catch on? I'm not goin' to kill you,
and I'm going to leave you enough grub to last until spring, but you
won't dare risk yourself out in the cold and snow. If you do, you'll
freeze off your tootsies, and make your lungs sick. Don't you feel sort
Six hours later Falkner stood outside the cabin. The dogs were in
their traces, and the sledge was packed. The storm had blown itself
out, and a warmer temperature had followed in the path of the blizzard.
He wore his coat now, and gently he felt of the bulging pocket, and
laughed joyously as he faced the South.
"It's goin' to be a long hike, you little cuss," he said softly.
"It's goin' to be a darned long hike. But we'll make it. Yessir, we'll
make it. And won't they be s'prised when we fall in on 'em, six months
ahead of time?"
He examined the pocket carefully, making sure that he had buttoned
down the flap.
"I wouldn't want to lose you," he chuckled. "Next to her, an' the
kid, I wouldn't want to lose you!"
Then, slowly, a strange smile passed over his face, and he gazed
questioningly for a moment at the pocket which he held in his hand.
"You nervy little cuss!" he grinned. "I wonder if you're a girl
mouse, an' if we're goin' to have a fam'ly on the way home!
An'—an'—what the dickens do you feed baby mice?"
He lowered the pocket, and with a sharp command to the waiting dogs
turned his face into the South.