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Where Northern Lights Come Down O’ Nights
by [?]

The Mission House at Togiak stands forlornly on a wind-swept Alaskan spit, while huddled around it a swarm of dirt-covered “igloos” grovel in an ecstacy of abasement.

Many natives crawled out of these and stared across the bay as down a gully came an Arctic caravan, men and dogs, black against, the deadly whiteness. Ahead swung the guide, straddling awkwardly on his five foot webs, while the straining pack pattered at his heels. Big George, the driver, urged them with strong words, idioms of the Northland, and his long whip bit sharply at their legs.

His companion, clinging to the sled, stumbled now and then, while his face, splitting from the snap of the frost, was smothered in a muffler. Sometimes he fell, plunging into the snow, rising painfully, and groaning with the misery of “snow-blindness.”

“Most there now. Cap, keep up your grit.”

“I’m all right,” answered the afflicted man, wearily. “Don’t mind me.”

George, too, had suffered from the sheen of the unbroken whiteness, and, while his eyes had not wholly closed, he saw but dimly. His cheeks were grease-smeared, and blackened with charred wood to break the snow-glare, but through his mask showed signs of suffering, while his blood-shot eyes dripped scalding tears and throbbed distressfully. For days he had not dared to lose sight of the guide. Once he had caught him sneaking the dogs away, and he feared he had killed the man for a time. Now Jaska broke trail ahead, his sullen, swollen features baleful in their injury.

Down the steep bank they slid, across the humped up sea ice at the river mouth and into the village.

At the greeting of their guide to his tribesmen, George started. Twelve years of coast life had taught him the dialect from Point Barrow south, and he glanced at Captain to find whether he, too, had heard the message. As Jaska handed a talisman to the chief he strode to him and snatched it.

“Oho! It’s Father Orloff, is it? D—- him!” He gazed at the token, a white spruce chip with strange marks and carvings.

“What does it mean, George?” said the blind man.

“It’s a long story, Charlie, and black. You should have known it before we started. I’m a marked man in this coast country. It’s Orloff’s work, the renegade. ‘Father,’ he calls himself. Father to these devils he rules and robs for himself in the name of the Church. His hate is bitter, and he’d have my life if these watery-livered curs didn’t dread the sound of my voice. God help him when we meet.”

He shook his hairy claws at the hostile circle, then cried to the chief in the native tongue:–

“Oh, Shaman! We come bleeding and weary. Hunger grips us and our bones are stiff with frost. The light is gone from my brother’s eyes and we are sick. Open you the door to the Mission House that the ‘Minoks’ may rest and grow strong.”

The Indians clustered before the portal, with its rude cross above, and stared malignantly, while the chief spoke. At the name of his enemy the unsightly eyes of George gleamed, and he growled contemptuously, advancing among them. They scattered at the manner of his coming, and he struck the padlocked door till it rattled stiffly. Then spying the cross overhead he lifted up and gripped the wood. It came away ripping, and with wails of rage and horror at the sacrilege, they closed about him.

“Here, Cap! Bust her in quick!” He dragged Captain before the entrance, thrusting the weapon upon him, then ran ferociously among the people. He snatched them to him, cuffing like a bear and trampling them into the snow. Those who came into the reach of his knotty arms crumpled up and twisted under his feet. He whirled into the group, roaring hoarsely, his angry, grease-blackened face hideous with rage. The aborigine is not a fighting machine; for him the side-step and counter have no being. They melted ahead of his blazing wrath, and he whisked them, fleeing, by their garments, so that they felt the stamp of his moccasined heels.