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Flush of Gold
by [?]

Lon McFane was a bit grumpy, what of losing his tobacco pouch, or else he might have told me, before we got to it, something about the cabin at Surprise Lake. All day, turn and turn about, we had spelled each other at going to the fore and breaking trail for the dogs. It was heavy snowshoe work, and did not tend to make a man voluble, yet Lon McFane might have found breath enough at noon, when we stopped to boil coffee, with which to tell me. But he didn’t. Surprise Lake? it was Surprise Cabin to me. I had never heard of it before. I confess I was a bit tired. I had been looking for Lon to stop and make camp any time for an hour; but I had too much pride to suggest making camp or to ask him his intentions; and yet he was my man, lured at a handsome wage to mush my dogs for me and to obey my commands. I guess I was a bit grumpy myself. He said nothing, and I was resolved to ask nothing, even if we tramped on all night.

We came upon the cabin abruptly. For a week of trail we had met no one, and, in my mind, there had been little likelihood of meeting any one for a week to come. And yet there it was, right before my eyes, a cabin, with a dim light in the window and smoke curling up from the chimney.

“Why didn’t you tell me–” I began, but was interrupted by Lon, who muttered–

“Surprise Lake–it lies up a small feeder half a mile on. It’s only a pond.”

“Yes, but the cabin–who lives in it?”

“A woman,” was the answer, and the next moment Lon had rapped on the door, and a woman’s voice bade him enter.

“Have you seen Dave recently?” she asked.

“Nope,” Lon answered carelessly. “I’ve been in the other direction, down Circle City way. Dave’s up Dawson way, ain’t he?”

The woman nodded, and Lon fell to unharnessing the dogs, while I unlashed the sled and carried the camp outfit into the cabin. The cabin was a large, one-room affair, and the woman was evidently alone in it. She pointed to the stove, where water was already boiling, and Lon set about the preparation of supper, while I opened the fish- bag and fed the dogs. I looked for Lon to introduce us, and was vexed that he did not, for they were evidently old friends.

“You are Lon McFane, aren’t you?” I heard her ask him. “Why, I remember you now. The last time I saw you it was on a steamboat, wasn’t it? I remember . . . “

Her speech seemed suddenly to be frozen by the spectacle of dread which, I knew, from the tenor I saw mounting in her eyes, must be on her inner vision. To my astonishment, Lon was affected by her words and manner. His face showed desperate, for all his voice sounded hearty and genial, as he said –

“The last time we met was at Dawson, Queen’s Jubilee, or Birthday, or something–don’t you remember?–the canoe races in the river, and the obstacle races down the main street?”

The terror faded out of her eyes and her whole body relaxed. “Oh, yes, I do remember,” she said. “And you won one of the canoe races.”

“How’s Dave been makin’ it lately? Strikin’ it as rich as ever, I suppose?” Lon asked, with apparent irrelevance.

She smiled and nodded, and then, noticing that I had unlashed the bed roll, she indicated the end of the cabin where I might spread it. Her own bunk, I noticed, was made up at the opposite end.

“I thought it was Dave coming when I heard your dogs,” she said.