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The ice was running when McGill arrived. Had he been two hours later he might have fared badly, for the ramparts above Ophir choke the river down into a narrow chute through which it hurries, snarling, and the shore ice was widening at the rate of a foot an hour. Early in the day the recorder from Alder Creek had tried to come ashore, but had broken through, losing his skiff and saving his life by the sheer good luck that favors fools and drunken men. It was October; the last mail had gone out a fortnight previous; the wiseacres were laying odds that the river would be closed in three days, so it was close running that McGill made–six hundred miles in an open whip-sawed dory.

They heard him calling, once he saw the lights, and, getting down to the water-level, they could make out his boat crunching along through the thin ice at the outer edge. He was trying to force his way inward to a point where the current would not move him, but the Yukon spun him like a top, and it looked as if he would go past. Fortunately, however, there happened to be a man in the crowd who had learned tricks with a lariat back in Oklahoma; a line was put out, and McGill came ashore with his bedding under one arm and a sheet-iron stove under the other. Stoves were scarce that winter, and McGill was no tenderfoot.

They obtained their first good look at him when he lined up with the crowd at Hopper’s bar, ten minutes later, by which time it was known who he was. He had a great big frame, with a great big face on top of it, and, judging from his reputation, he had a great big heart to match them both. Some of the late-comers recalled a tale of how he had lifted the gunwales out of a poling-boat that was wedged in a timber-jam above White Horse, and from the looks of his massive hands and shoulders the tale seemed true. He was not handsome–few strong men are–but he had level, blue eyes, rather small and deep set, and a jaw that made people think twice before angering him, while his voice carried the rumbling bass note one hears at the edge of a spring freshet when the boulders are shifting.

“I missed the last boat from Circle,” he explained, “so I took a chance with the skiff.”

“Looks like you’d be the last arrival before the trails open,” offered Hopper. “I don’t guess there’s nobody behind you?”

“I didn’t pass anybody,” said McGill, and it was plain from his smile that he had made good time.

“Aim to winter here, Dan?”

“I do. Minook told me, four summers ago, that he’d found a prospect near here, and I’ve always figgered on putting some holes down. But it looks like I’m late.”

“Oh, there’s plenty of ground open. You’ve got as good a chance as the balance of us.”

“Any grub in camp?”

“Nope. Ophir was struck too late in the fall.”

McGill laughed. “I didn’t think there would be; but that’s nothing new.”

“Didn’t you bring none?”

“Nary a pound. There’s women and children at the Circle, and there wasn’t more than enough for them, so I pulled out.”

“There’s plenty below,” Hopper assured him.

“How far?”

“We don’t know yet. There’s a boat-load of ‘chekakos’ bound for Dawson somewhere between here and Cochrane’s Landing. They’ll be froze in now, and tenderfeet always has grub. Soon’s we get some more snow we’ll do some freightin’.”

Before he retired that night McGill had bought a town lot, and a week later there was a cabin on it, for he was a man who knew how to work. Then, during the interval between the close of navigation and the opening of winter travel he looked over the country and staked some claims. He did not locate at random, but used a discrimination based upon ten years’ experience in the arctics, and when cold weather set in he felt satisfied with his work. Men with half his holdings reckoned their fortunes at extravagant figures; transfers of unproved properties for handsome terms were common; millions were made daily, on paper.