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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XVIII THE EMPTY FLOUR-BAG
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 When it was getting dark Andrew and Carnally gave up the useless search. A red glow, flickering1 among the spruce trunks, guided them down the pass, and they saw Graham's figure, black against the firelight, as they approached the camp. He was standing2 up, looking out for them, but they came on in silence and after a quick glance at their faces he turned away and busied himself getting supper. He knew they had failed and words were superfluous3.  
They ate the small bannock he took from the frying-pan, and Andrew glanced about the camp when he had lighted his pipe. Graham had been at work while they were away, laying down spruce branches and raising a wall to keep off the wind. It was warm beside the fire, and the place looked comfortable.
"There wouldn't be much to complain of if we had enough to eat," said Andrew. "It's surprising how soon one gets grateful for such a shelter as this, and I believe I've slept as soundly in the snow as I ever did in bed."
"I tried to fix things neatly4, though I wouldn't have been sorry if I'd wasted my labor," Graham replied and glanced at Carnally. "It struck me we might be here a day or two."
Carnally's smile was rather grim.
"It's very likely. S'pose I ought to play up to[Pg 189] Allinson, but he's put it a notch5 too high. I've been doing some hard thinking while I was on the hill. We're certainly up against a tough proposition."
"You're still convinced the grub is here?"
"That is a sure thing—all we have to do is to find it; but it's going to be a big job. I expect both of you want me to talk?"
Their willingness to hear his views was obvious.
"The trouble is," he explained, "you can get down from the neck a number of different ways—there are the spurs one could break a trail along and there are the ravines. We may try them all before we strike the right one; but we'll have a better chance if we work up instead of down."
"Why?" Andrew asked.
"Because the packers would start from the low ground, and the benches look different from below."
"Do you think Mappin told them to pick any particular place?"
"I've been figuring on that. He's learned something about the ground, and my idea is that the provisions are dumped in a hollow that looks like a good road up to the gap; that is, as you would see it from the creek6. What we don't know is where his boys would strike the ice. It might be anywhere within three or four miles."
Andrew knit his brows.
"It's a puzzling question and we have only a day or two to find the answer. The worst of it is that we're worn out and famishing; I feel that my wits would be quicker if I could come at it fresh from a square meal."
"No, sir! A man's brain is keenest when he's working on short rations7."
"I believe that's true," Graham said.
[Pg 190]"Our rations," contended Andrew, "couldn't be much shorter; but I couldn't think of anything intelligently as I stumbled along through the snow to-day. And yet——"
He broke off, remembering that once or twice of late he had become capable of a strange clarity of thought, accompanied by an unusual emotional stirring. It had passed, but it had left its mark on him. After all, it was in the stern North that he had first seen things in their true proportions; it was there that the duty he had vaguely8 realized had grown into definite shape, and Leonard's treachery to Allinson's had been clearly perceived. Moreover, he had somehow gained a new and unexpected sense of power. Then as the fire blazed up he glanced with sudden interest at the faces of his comrades. They were worn and haggard, and Graham's was stamped with lines of pain; but there was something in them he could best describe as fine. Hunger and toil9, instead of subduing10 the men, had given them new strength and an elusive11 dignity. Andrew remembered having seen that puzzling look in the lean, brown faces of tired and thirsty soldiers as a brigade went by through the rolling dust of the African veldt. It had been flung back, shattered, from a rock fortress12, and was pressing on, undaunted, to a fresh attack. Andrew's heart had throbbed13 faster at the sight, and he now felt something of the same thrill again; but these things were not to be spoken of.
"Well," said Carnally, "I might feel content if I thought Mappin was as hungry as we are; but there's not much fear of that. The blasted hog14 has sense enough to keep out of the bush; going about the country getting his hands on other men's money pays him better. He's no use for eating supper behind a bank[Pg 191] of snow; the Place Viger and the Windsor in Montreal are more his style."
This was far from heroic, but Andrew laughed; the
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