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|The Taste Of The Meat||Jack London|
|Page 2 of 3||
In the early morning he spread a tarpaulin on the ice, loaded it with three-quarters of a ton, and started to pull. Where the pitch of the glacier accelerated, his load likewise accelerated, overran him, scooped him in on top, and ran away with him.
A hundred packers, bending under their loads, stopped to watch him. He yelled frantic warnings, and those in his path stumbled and staggered clear. Below, on the lower edge of the glacier, was pitched a small tent, which seemed leaping toward him, so rapidly did it grow larger. He left the beaten track where the packers' trail swerved to the left, and struck a patch of fresh snow. This arose about him in frosty smoke, while it reduced his speed. He saw the tent the instant he struck it, carrying away the corner guys, bursting in the front flaps, and fetching up inside, still on top of the tarpaulin and in the midst of his grub-sacks. The tent rocked drunkenly, and in the frosty vapour he found himself face to face with a startled young woman who was sitting up in her blankets--the very one who had called him chechaquo at Dyea.
"Did you see my smoke?" he queried cheerfully.
She regarded him with disapproval.
"Talk about your magic carpets!" he went on.
"Do you mind removing that sack from my foot?" she said coldly.
He looked, and lifted his weight quickly.
"It wasn't a sack. It was my elbow. Pardon me."
The information did not perturb her, and her coolness was a challenge.
"It was a mercy you did not overturn the stove," she said.
He followed her glance and saw a sheet-iron stove and a coffee-pot, attended by a young squaw. He sniffed the coffee and looked back to the girl.
"I'm a chechaquo," he said.
Her bored expression told him that he was stating the obvious. But he was unabashed.
"I've shed my shooting-irons," he added.
Then she recognized him, and her eyes lighted.
"I never thought you'd get this far," she informed him.
Again, and greedily, he sniffed the air.
"As I live, coffee!" He turned and directly addressed her. "I'll give you my little finger--cut it right off now; I'll do anything; I'll be your slave for a year and a day or any other odd time, if you'll give me a cup out of that pot."
And over the coffee he gave his name and learned hers--Joy Gastell. Also, he learned that she was an old-timer in the country. She had been born in a trading post on the Great Slave, and as a child had crossed the Rockies with her father and come down to the Yukon. She was going in, she said, with her father, who had been delayed by business in Seattle, and who had then been wrecked on the ill-fated Chanter and carried back to Puget Sound by the rescuing steamer.
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