Bucky Severn by James Oliver Curwood
Father Brochet had come south from Fond du Lac, and Weyman, the
Hudson's Bay Company doctor, north through the Geikee River country.
They had met at Severn's cabin, on the Waterfound. Both had come on the
same mission—to see Severn; one to keep him from dying, if that
was possible, one to comfort him in the last hour, if death came.
Severn insisted on living. Bright-eyed, hollow-cheeked, with a racking
cough that reddened the gauze handkerchief the doctor had given him, he
sat bolstered up in his cot and looked out through the open door with
glad and hopeful gaze. Weyman had arrived only half an hour before.
Outside was the Indian canoeman who had helped to bring him up.
It was a glorious day, such as comes in its full beauty only in the
far northern spring, where the air enters the lungs like sharp, warm
wine, laden with the tang of spruce and balsam, and the sweetness of
the bursting poplar-buds.
"It was mighty good of you to come up," Severn was saying to the
doctor. "The company has always been the best friend I've ever
had—except one—and that's why I've hung to it all these
years, trailing the sledges first as a kid, you know, then trapping,
running, and—oh, Lord!"
He stopped to cough, and the little black-frocked missioner, looking
across at Weyman, saw him bite his lips.
"That cough hurts, but it's better," Severn apologized, smiling
weakly. "Funny, ain't it, a man like me coming down with a cough? Why,
I've slept in ice a thousand times, with snow for a pillow and the
thermometer down to fifty. But this last winter it was cold, seventy or
lower, an' I worked in it when I ought to have been inside, warming my
toes. But, you see, I wanted to get the cabin built, an' things all
cleared up about here, before SHE came. It's the cold that got me,
wasn't it, doc?"
"That's it," said Weyman, rolling and lighting a cigarette. Then he
laughed, as the sick man finished another coughing spell, and said:
"I never thought you'd have a love affair, Bucky!"
"Neither did I," chuckled Severn. "Ain't it a wonder, doc? Here I'm
thirty-eight, with a hide on me like leather, an' no thought of a woman
for twenty years, until I saw HER. I don't mean it's a wonder I fell in
love, doc—you'd 'a' done that if you'd met her first. The wonder
of it is that she fell in love with me." He laughed softly. "I'll bet
Father Brochet'll go in a heap himself when he marries us! It's goin'
to happen next month. Did you ever see her, father—Marie La
Corne, over at the post on Split Lake?"
Severn dropped his head to cough, but Weyman say the sudden look of
horror that leaped into the little priest's face.
"Marie La Corne!"
"Yes, at Split Lake."
Severn looked up again. He had missed what Weyman had seen.
"Yes, I've seen her."
Bucky Severn's eyes lit up with pleasure.
"She's—she's beautiful, ain't she?" he cried in hoarse
whisper. "Ain't it a wonder, father? I come up there with a canoe full
of supplies, last spring about this time, an'—an' at first I
hardly dast to look at her; but it came out all right. When I told her
I was coming over here to build us a home, she wanted me to bring her
along to help; but I wouldn't. I knew it was goin' to be hard this
winter, and she's never goin' to work—never so long as I live. I
ain't had much to do with women, but I've seen 'em and I've watched 'em
an' she's never goin' to drudge like the rest. If she'll let me, I'm
even goin' to do the cookin' an' the dish-washing and scrub the floors!
I've done it for twenty-five years, an' I'm tough. She ain't goin' to
do nothin' but sew for the kids when they come, an' sing, an' be happy.
When it comes to the work that there ain't no fun in, I'll do it. I've
planned it all out. We're goin' to have half an arpent square of
flowers, an' she'll love to work among 'em. I've got the ground
cleared—out there—you kin see it by twisting your head
through the door. An' she's goin' to have an organ. I've got the money
saved, an' it's coming to Churchill on the next ship. That's goin' to
be a surprise—'bout Christmas, when the snow is hard an' sledging
good. You see—"
He stopped again to cough. A hectic flush filled his hollow cheeks,
and there was a feverish glow in his eyes. As he bent his head, the
priest looked at Weyman. The doctor's lips were tense. His cigarette
"I know what it means for a woman to die a workin'," Severn went on.
"My mother did that. I can remember it, though I was only a kid. She
was bent an' stoop-shouldered, an' her hands were rough and twisted. I
know now why she used to hug me up close and croon funny things over me
when father was away. When I first told my Marie what I was goin' to
do, she laughed at me; but when I told her 'bout my mother, an' how
work an' freezin' an' starvin' killed her when I needed her most, Marie
jest put her hand up to my face an' looked queer—an' then she
burst out crying like a baby. She understands, Marie does! She knows
what I'm goin' to do—"
"You mustn't talk any more, Bucky," warned the doctor, feeling his
pulse. "It'll hurt you."
"Hurt me!" Severn laughed hysterically, as If what the doctor had
said was a joke. "Hurt me? It's what's going to put me on my feet, doc.
I know it now, I been too much alone this last winter, with nothin' but
my dogs to talk to when night come. I ain't never been much of a
talker, but she got me out o' that. She used to tease me at first, an'
I'd get red in the face an' almost bust. An' then, one day, it come,
like a bung out of a hole, an' I've had a hankerin' to talk ever since.
He gave an incredulous chuckle, which ended in a cough.
"Do you know, I wish I could read better 'n I can!" he said
suddenly, leaning almost eagerly toward Father Brochet. "She knows I
ain't great shucks at that. She's goin' to have a school just as soon
as she comes, an' I'm goin' to be the scholar. She's got a packful of
books an' magazines an' I'm goin' to tote over a fresh load every
winter. I'd like to surprise her. Can't you help me to—"
Weyman pressed him back gently.
"See here, Bucky, you've got to lie down and keep quiet," he said.
"If you don't, it will take you a week longer to get well. Try and
sleep a little, while Father Brochet and I go outside and see what
When they went out, Weyman closed the door after them. He spoke no
word as he turned and looked upon what Bucky Severn had done for the
coming of his bride. Father Brochet's hand touched the doctor's and it
was cold and trembling.
"How is he?" he asked.
"It is the bad malady," said Weyman softly. "The frost has touched
his lungs. One does not feel the effect of that until spring comes.
Then—a cough—and the lungs begin literally to slough
"That there is no hope—absolutely none. He will die within two
As he spoke, the little priest straightened himself and lifted his
hands as if about to pronounce a benediction.
"Thank God!" he breathed. Then, as quickly, he caught himself. "No,
I don't mean that. God forgive me! But—it is best." Weyman stared
incredulously into his face.
"It is best," repeated the other, as gently as if speaking a prayer.
"How strangely the Creator sometimes works out His ends! I came
straight here from Split Lake. Marie La Corne died two weeks ago. It
was I who said the last prayer over her dead body!"