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|The Faith of Men||Jack London|
Too Much Gold
|Page 5 of 11||
Still they came from below, boat after boat, in endless procession. The uneasiness of Bill and Kink increased. They stole speculative, tentative glances at each other, and when their eyes met looked away in embarrassment. Finally, however, their eyes met and neither looked away.
Kink opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him and his mouth remained open while he continued to gaze at his partner.
"Just what I was thinken', Kink," said Bill.
They grinned sheepishly at each other, and by tacit consent started to walk away. Their pace quickened, and by the time they arrived at their cabin they were on the run.
"Can't lose no time with all that multitude a-rushin' by," Kink spluttered, as he jabbed the sour-dough can into the beanpot with one hand and with the other gathered in the frying-pan and coffeepot. "Should say not," gasped Bill, his head and shoulders buried in a clothes-sack wherein were stored winter socks and underwear. "I say, Kink, don't forget the saleratus on the corner shelf back of the stove."
Half-an-hour later they were launching the canoe and loading up, while the storekeeper made jocular remarks about poor, weak mortals and the contagiousness of "stampedin' fever." But when Bill and Kink thrust their long poles to bottom and started the canoe against the current, he called after them:-
"Well, so-long and good luck! And don't forget to blaze a stake or two for me!"
They nodded their heads vigorously and felt sorry for the poor wretch who remained perforce behind.
* * * * *
Kink and Bill were sweating hard. According to the revised Northland Scripture, the stampede is to the swift, the blazing of stakes to the strong, and the Crown in royalties, gathers to itself the fulness thereof. Kink and Bill were both swift and strong. They took the soggy trail at a long, swinging gait that broke the hearts of a couple of tender-feet who tried to keep up with them. Behind, strung out between them and Dawson (where the boats were discarded and land travel began), was the vanguard of the Circle City outfit. In the race from Forty Mile the partners had passed every boat, winning from the leading boat by a length in the Dawson eddy, and leaving its occupants sadly behind the moment their feet struck the trail.
"Huh! couldn't see us for smoke," Hootchinoo Bill chuckled, flirting the stinging sweat from his brow and glancing swiftly back along the way they had come.
Three men emerged from where the trail broke through the trees. Two followed close at their heels, and then a man and a woman shot into view.
"Come on, you Kink! Hit her up! Hit her up!"
Bill quickened his pace. Mitchell glanced back in more leisurely fashion.
"I declare if they ain't lopin'!"
"And here's one that's loped himself out," said Bill, pointing to the side of the trail.
A man was lying on his back panting in the culminating stages of violent exhaustion. His face was ghastly, his eyes bloodshot and glazed, for all the world like a dying man.
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