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|Tales of the Klondyke||Jack London|
|Page 3 of 10||
The men-folk did not interfere. Once Dick suggested that she take his oilskins, as her mackintosh was worth no more than paper in such a storm. But she sniffed her independence so sharply that he communed with his pipe till she tied the flaps on the outside and slushed away on the flooded trail.
"Think she'll make it?" Dick's face belied the indifference of his voice.
"Make it? If she stands the pressure till she gets to the cache, what of the cold and misery, she'll be stark, raving mad. Stand it? She'll be dumb-crazed. You know it yourself, Dick. You've wind-jammed round the Horn. You know what it is to lay out on a topsail yard in the thick of it, bucking sleet and snow and frozen canvas till you're ready to just let go and cry like a baby. Clothes? She won't be able to tell a bundle of skirts from a gold pan or a tea-kettle."
"Kind of think we were wrong in letting her go, then?"
"Not a bit of it. So help me, Dick, she'd 'a' made this tent a hell for the rest of the trip if we hadn't. Trouble with her she's got too much spirit. This'll tone it down a bit."
"Yes," Dick admitted, "she's too ambitious. But then Molly's all right. A cussed little fool to tackle a trip like this, but a plucky sight better than those pick-me-up-and-carry-me kind of women. She's the stock that carried you and me, Tommy, and you've got to make allowance for the spirit. Takes a woman to breed a man. You can't suck manhood from the dugs of a creature whose only claim to womanhood is her petticoats. Takes a she-cat, not a cow, to mother a tiger."
"And when they're unreasonable we've got to put up with it, eh?"
"The proposition. A sharp sheath-knife cuts deeper on a slip than a dull one; but that's no reason for to hack the edge off over a capstan bar."
"All right, if you say so, but when it comes to woman, I guess I'll take mine with a little less edge."
"What do you know about it?" Dick demanded.
"Some." Tommy reached over for a pair of Molly's wet stockings and stretched them across his knees to dry.
Dick, eying him querulously, went fishing in her hand satchel, then hitched up to the front of the stove with divers articles of damp clothing spread likewise to the heat.
"Thought you said you never were married?" he asked.
"Did I? No more was I--that is--yes, by Gawd! I was. And as good a woman as ever cooked grub for a man."
"Slipped her moorings?" Dick symbolized infinity with a wave of his hand.
"Childbirth," he added, after a moment's pause.
The beans bubbled rowdily on the front lid, and he pushed the pot back to a cooler surface. After that he investigated the biscuits, tested them with a splinter of wood, and placed them aside under cover of a damp cloth. Dick, after the manner of his kind, stifled his interest and waited silently. "A different woman to Molly. Siwash."
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