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|The Stampede To Squaw Creek||Jack London|
|Page 1 of 11||
When Smoke entered the little cabin on the hillside back of Dawson, he heard a heavy familiar breathing.
"Aw, go to bed," Shorty mumbled, as Smoke shook his shoulder. "I'm not on the night shift," was his next remark, as the rousing hand became more vigorous. "Tell your troubles to the bar-keeper."
"Kick into your clothes," Smoke said. "We've got to stake a couple of claims."
Shorty sat up and started to explode, but Smoke's hand covered his mouth.
"Ssh!" Smoke warned. "It's a big strike. Don't wake the neighbourhood. Dawson's asleep."
"Huh! You got to show me. Nobody tells anybody about a strike, of course not. But ain't it plum amazin' the way everybody hits the trail just the same?"
"Squaw Creek," Smoke whispered. "It's right. Breck gave me the tip. Shallow bedrock. Gold from the grass-roots down. Come on. We'll sling a couple of light packs together and pull out."
Shorty's eyes closed as he lapsed back into sleep. The next moment his blankets were swept off him.
"If you don't want them, I do," Smoke explained.
Shorty followed the blankets and began to dress.
"Goin' to take the dogs?" he asked.
"No. The trail up the creek is sure to be unbroken, and we can make better time without them."
"Then I'll throw 'em a meal, which'll have to last 'em till we get back. Be sure you take some birch-bark and a candle."
Shorty opened the door, felt the bite of the cold, and shrank back to pull down his ear-flaps and mitten his hands.
Five minutes later he returned, sharply rubbing his nose.
"Smoke, I'm sure opposed to makin' this stampede. It's colder than the hinges of hell a thousand years before the first fire was lighted. Besides, it's Friday the thirteenth, an' we're goin' to trouble as the sparks fly upward."
With small stampeding packs on their backs, they closed the door behind them and started down the hill. The display of the aurora borealis had ceased, and only the stars leaped in the great cold, and by their uncertain light made traps for the feet. Shorty floundered off a turn of the trail into deep snow, and raised his voice in blessing of the date of the week and month and year.
"Can't you keep still?" Smoke chided. "Leave the almanac alone. You'll have all Dawson awake and after us."
"Huh! See the light in that cabin? And in that one over there? An' hear that door slam? Oh, sure Dawson's asleep. Them lights? Just buryin' their dead. They ain't stampedin', betcher life they ain't."
By the time they reached the foot of the hill and were fairly in Dawson, lights were springing up in the cabins, doors were slamming, and from behind came the sound of many moccasins on the hard-packed snow. Again Shorty delivered himself.
"But it beats hell the amount of mourners there is."
They passed a man who stood by the path and was calling anxiously in a low voice: "Oh, Charley; get a move on."
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