To Build a Fire

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A drawing of the man and the dog.

This is an Anglish wending of To Build a Fire by Jack London. This reading is made of words only of Old English and otherwise unknown springs. It keeps the early Latin borrowing of ‘mile’ and name-words such as ‘tobacco’ and ‘Mercury’. Went by Wordwork.

The Writ

Day had broken cold and grey, dreadfully cold and grey, when the man went aside from the main Yukon byway and climbed the high earth-slope, where a dim and little-trodden byway led eastward through the fat evergreen timberland. It was a steep slope, and he stopped for breath at the top, sparing the deed to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the heavens. It was a sheer day, and yet there seemed a shadowy shroud over the sight of things, a slight gloom that made the day dark, and that was owed to the dearth of sun. This truth did not worry the man. He was at home with the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must go by before that blithe ball, bearing south, would but peep above the outline and dip forthwith from sight.

The man threw a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many feet of snow. It was all clean white, flowing in smooth waves where the ice-jams of the freeze-up had set. North and south, as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white, but for a dark hairline that swerved and twisted from about the fir-strewn yland to the south, and that swerved and twisted away into the north, where it sank behind another fir-strewn yland. This dark hairline was the byway – the main byway – that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Path, Dyea, and saltwater; and that led north seventy miles to Dawson, and still on to the north a thousand miles to Nulato, at lastly to St. Michael on Bering Sea, a thousand miles and a half thousand more.

But all this – the riddling, far-reaching hairline byway, the lack of sun from the heavens, the overwhelming cold, and the outlandishness and weirdness of it all – made no mark on the man. It was not as if he was long wise to it. He was a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo, and this was his first winter. The hitch with him was that he was without insight. He was quick and aware in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the meanings. Fifty rungs below nought meant eighty or so rungs of frost. Such truth stirred him as being cold and bitter, and that was all. It did not lead him to dream upon his weakness as a being of heat, and upon man’s weakness overall, fit only to live within set narrow edges of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the thoughtful field of deathlessness and man’s stead in the greater world. Fifty rungs below nought stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be shielded upon by the wielding of thick gloves, earflaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. Fifty rungs below nought was to him nothing but fifty rungs below nought. That there should by anything more to it than that was a thought that never came into his head.

As he went to go on, he spat thoughtfully. There was a sharp, shooting crackle that startled him. He spat once more. And eft, in the lift, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below, spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle crackled in the lift. Indeed, it was colder than fifty below – how much colder he did not know. But the coldness did not weigh. He was bound for the old hold on the left fork of Henderson Brook, where the boys were already. The boys had come over the split from the Indian Brook land, while he had come the winding way to nimb a look at the likelihood of having out logs in the spring from the ylands in the Yukon. He would be in to shelter by six; a bit after dark, it was true, but the boys would be there, a fire would be going, and a hot evening meal would be ready. As for midday meal, he held his hand on the poking bundle under his windbreaker. It was also under his shirt, wrapped up in a handcloth and lying upon his naked hide. It was the only way to keep the crackers from freezing. He grinned heartily to himself as he thought of those crackers, each cut open and sopped in spitch fat, and each wrapping a hearty cut of frizzled spitch.

He dove in among the tall evergreens. The byway was hazy. A foot of snow had fallen since the last slide had gone over, and he was glad he was without a slide, faring lightly. In truth, he bore nothing but the meal wrapped in the handcloth. He was struck, however, at the cold. It truly was cold, he reckoned, as he rubbed his numbed nose and cheekbones with his gloved hand. He was a warm-whiskered man, but the hair on his neb did not shield the high cheekbones and the keen nose that thrust itself harshly into the frosty lift.

At the man’s heels strode a dog, a great inlandish husky, the true wolfdog, grey-fleeced and without any sightly or mindly unlikeness from its brother, the wild wolf. The being was downtrodden from the dreadful cold. It knew that it was no time for faring. Its gut feeling told a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s reckoning. In truth, it was not only colder than fifty below nought; it was colder than sixty below, than seventy below. It was seventy-five below nought. Since the freezing-spot is thirty-two above nought, it meant that one hundred and seven rungs of frost built up. The dog did not know anything about heatmeaters. Maybe in its brain there was no sharp awareness of a shape of sorely cold such as was in the man’s brain. But the wild one had its gut feeling. It felt a hazy but looming dread that quelled it and made it slink along at the man’s heels, and that made it beseech keenly every unwonted shift of the man as if hoping him to go into a fieldhouse or to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire. The dog had learned fire, and it wanted fire, or else to burrow under the snow and cuddle its warmth away from the lift.

The frozen mist of its breathing had settled on its hair in a light dusting of frost, and above all were its jowls, nose and eyelashes whitened by its dusty breath. The man’s red beard and kemp were likewise frosted, but more soundly, the settlings taking the shape of ice and growing with every warm, dewy breath he let out. Also, the man was chewing tobacco, and the bridle of ice held his lips so tightly that he couldn't hurdle his chin when he spewed the mash. The outcome was that a glassy beard of the hue and stiffness of tree-sap was growing its length on his chin. If he fell down it would shatter itself, like glass, into stiff slivers. But he did not mind the limb. It was the fee all tobacco-chewers yielded in that land, and he had been out before in two cold snaps. They had not been so cold as this, he knew, but by the firewater heatmeter at Sixty Mile he knew they had been booked at fifty below and at fifty-five.

He held on through the smooth stretch of woods for sundry miles, spanned a wide flat of shrubs, and dropped down a slope to the frozen bed of a small stream. This was Henderson Brook, and he knew he was ten miles from the forks. It was ten. He was making four miles a stound, and he reckoned that he would land at the forks at half-by twelve. He chose to mark that fall by eating his midday meal there.

The dog dropped in once more at his heels, with a tail dropping hopelessness, as the man swung along the brook-bed. The furrow of the old slide-way was open to see, but twelve thumbs of snow shrouded the marks of the last runners. In a month no man had come up or down that hushed brook. The man held steadily on. He was not much likely to thinking, and right then markedly he had nothing to think about but that he would eat midday meal at the forks and that at six he would be in shelter with the boys. There was nobody to talk to and, had there been, speech would have been hopeless as of the ice-bridle on his mouth. So, he kept steadily to chew tobacco and to grow the length of his elksand beard.

Once in a while the thought brought itself back that it was truly cold and that he had never beheld such cold. As he walked along, he rubbed his cheekbones and nose with the back of his gloved hand. He did this unwittingly, now and then swapping hands. But rub as he would, the tick he stopped his cheekbones went numb, and the following tick the end of his nose went numb. He was set to frost his cheeks; he knew that, and felt a pang of rue that he had not thought of a nose-band of the kind Bud wore in cold snaps. Such a band went over the cheeks, as well, and shielded them. But it didn’t weigh much, after all. What were frosted cheeks? A bit aching, that was all; they were never weighty.

Empty as the man’s mind was of thoughts, he was keenly watchful, and he marked the shifts in the brook, the bows and bends and timber-jams, and always he sharply marked where he put his feet. Once, coming about a bend, he shied shortly, like a startled horse, wound away from the spot where he had been walking, and walked back a few strides along the way. The brook he knew was frozen straight to the bottom – no brook could hold water in that far-northern winter – but he knew also that there were springs that bubbled out from the hillsides and ran along under the snow and on top the ice of the brook. He knew that the coldest snaps never froze these springs, and he knew likewise their threat. They were traps. They hid pools of water under the snow that might be three thumbs deep, or three feet. Sometimes a sheet of ice half a thumb thick shrouded them, and following, was shrouded by the snow. Sometimes there were back and forth sheets of water and ice-sheet, so that when one broke through he kept on breaking through for a while, sometimes wetting himself to the waist.

That was why he had shied in such fright. He had felt the yield under his feet and heard the crackle of a snow-hidden ice-sheet. And to have his feet wet in such a heat meant woe and threat. At the bare least it meant setback, for he would be bound to stop and build a fire, and under its shelter to bare his feet while he dried his socks and moccasins. He stood and read the brook-bed and its slopes, and chose that the flow of water came from the right. He dreamt back a while, rubbing his nose and cheeks, then sidestepped to the left, stepping warily and sifting the footing for each step. Once free of the threat, he numb a fresh chew of tobacco and swung along at his four-mile stride.

In the flow of the next two stounds he came upon sundry likewise traps. Mostly the snow above the hidden pools had a sunken, toothed look that showed the threat. Once more, however, he had a heart stopper; and once, deeming pitfall, he drove the dog to go on ahead. The dog did not want to go. It hung back until the man shoved it forward, and then it went quickly over the white, unbroken stretch. Startlingly it broke through, flopped to one side, and drew away to faster footing. It had wet its forefeet and shanks, and almost straightaway the water that clung to it went to ice. It made quick goes to lick the ice off its shanks, then dropped down in the snow and started to bite out the ice that had built between the toes. This was a thread of gut feeling. To let the ice to linger would mean sore feet. It did not know this. It only heeded the riddling spur that arose from the deep hollows of its being. But the man knew, having fulfilled deemship on the thread, and he drew the glove from his right hand and helped tear out the ice-bits. He did not bare his fingers more than a stoundling, and was amazed at the swift numbness that smote them. It indeed was cold. He pulled on the glove hurriedly, and beat the hand wildly over his breast.

At twelve the day was at its brightest. Yet the sun was too far south on its winter wandering to hurdle the outlook. The swell of the earth fell between it and Henderson Brook, where the man walked under a sheer heaven at midday and threw no shadow. At half-by twelve, to the stoundling, he landed at the forks of the brook. He was glad at the speed he had made. If he kept it up, he would soothly be with the boys by six. He undid his windbreaker and shirt and drew forth his midday meal. The deed numb no more than a fourth of a stoundling, yet in that short flash the numbness laid hold of the bare fingers. He did not put the glove on, but, instead, struck the fingers twelve sharp smashes upon his shank. Then he sat down on a snow-sodden log to eat. The sting that followed upon the striking of his fingers on his shank quelled so quickly that he was startled, he had had no opening to nimb a bite of cracker. He struck the fingers over and over and withdrew them to the glove, baring the other hand for the sake of eating. He sought to nimb a mouthful, but the ice-bridle hindered. He had lost sight to build a fire and thaw out. He chuckled at his silliness, and as he chuckled he marked the numbness creeping into the bare fingers. Also, he marked that the stinging which had first come to his toes when he sat down was already going away. He wondered whether the toes were warm or numbed. He shifted them inside the moccasins and deemed that they were numbed.

He pulled the glove on hurriedly and stood up. He was a bit frightened. He stamped up and down until the stinging came back into the feet. It truly was cold, was his thought. That man from Sulphur Brook had spoken the truth when telling how cold it sometimes became in the land. And he had laughed at him at the time! That showed one must not be too set about things. There was no misdeem about it, it was cold. He strode up and down, stamping his feet and threshing his arms, until heartened by the eft-coming warmth. Then he drew out lighters and went on to make a fire. From the undergrowth, where high water of the former spring had stuck a stock of weathered twigs, he drew his firewood. Working carefully from a small start, he soon had a roaring fire, over which he thawed the ice from his neb and in the shelter of which he ate his crackers. For the while the cold of rodder was outwitted. The dog drew fulfilling in the fire, stretching out near enough for warmth and far enough away to shirk being singed.

When the man had ended, he filled his smoker and took his good time over a smoke. Then he pulled on his gloves, settled the ear-flaps of his cap fast about his ears, and numb the brook byway up the left fork. The dog was saddened and yearned back toward the fire. This man did not know cold. Maybe all the lifetimes of his forebears had been blind of cold, of true cold, of cold one hundred and seven rungs below freezing-spot. But the dog knew; all its forebears knew, and it had been bestown the knowledge. And it knew that it was not good to walk abroad in such fearful cold. It was the time to lie snug in a hole in the snow and hold for a shroud of cloud to be drawn over the side of rodder whence this cold came. On the other hand, there was no keen warmth between the dog and the man. The one was the work-dredge of the other, and the only strokes it had ever won were the strokes of the whip-lash and of harsh and frightening throat-yells that threatened the whip-lash. So the dog made no work to share its dread to the man. It was not worried in the welfare of the man; it was for its own sake that it yearned back toward the fire. But the man whistled, and spoke to it with the yell of whip-lashes, and the dog swung in at the man's heels and followed after.

The man numb a chew of tobacco and went on to start a new elksand beard. Also, his damp breath quickly dusted with white his kemp, eyebrows, and lashes. There did not seem to be so many springs on the left fork of the Henderson, and for half a stound the man saw no hints of any. And then it befell. At a spot where there were no forebodings, where the soft, unbroken snow seemed to speak to soundness beneath, the man broke through. It was not deep. He wetted himself half-way to the knees before he flopped out to the hard edge.

He was mad, and hexed his luck aloud. He had hoped to come into shelter with the boys at six, and this would set him back a stound, for he would have to build a fire and dry out his foot-wear. This was binding at that low heat – he knew that much; and he went aside to the slope, which he climbed. On top, knotted in the underwood about the stalks of sundry small evergreens, was a high-water stock of dry firewood – sticks and twigs mostly, but also greater bits of weathered boughs and sheer, dry, last-year's grasses. He threw down sundry great bits on top of the snow. This made for a groundwork and blocked the young fire from drowning itself in the snow it otherwise would melt. The flicker he made by bringing a lighter to a small shred of birch-bark that he brought from his fob. This burned even more readily than writing-leaf. Setting it on the groundwork, he fed the young fire with wisps of dry grass and with the tiniest dry twigs.

He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his plight. Steadily, as the fireling grew stronger, he boosted the height of the twigs with which he fed it. He stooped in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their knot in the sedge and feeding straight to the fire. He knew there must be no loss. When it is seventy-five below nought, a man must not lose in his first bid to build a fire – that is, if his feet are wet. If his feet are dry, and he loses, he can run along the way for half a mile and build-up his blood-flow. But the blood-flow of wet and freezing feet cannot be brought back by running when it is seventy-five below. No meaning how fast he runs, the wet feet will freeze the harder.

All this the man knew. The old-timer on Sulphur Brook had told him about it the last fall, and now he was acknowledging the rede. Already all feeling had gone out of his feet. To build the fire he had been bound to shed his gloves, and the fingers had quickly gone numb. His stride of four miles a stound had kept his heart pumping blood to the outside of his body and to all the ends. But the flash he stopped, the liveliness of the pump wound down. The cold of rodder smote the unshielded tip of the Earth, and he, being on that unshielded tip, drew the full strength of the blow. The blood of his body shuddered before it. The blood was alive, like the dog, and like the dog it wanted to hide away and shroud itself up from the fearful cold. So long as he walked four miles a stound, he pumped that blood, willy-nilly, to the top; but now it ebbed away and sank down into the depths of his body. The ends were the first to feel its dearth. His wet feet froze the faster, and his bare fingers numbed the faster, though they had not yet started to freeze. Nose and cheeks were already freezing, while the hide of all his body chilled as it lost its blood.

But he was sound. Toes and nose and cheeks would be only licked by the frost, for the fire was starting to burn with strength. He was feeding it with twigs the breadth of his finger. In another stoundling he would be fit to feed it with boughs the breadth of his wrist, and then he could draw off his wet foot-wear, and, while it dried, he could keep his naked feet warm by the fire, rubbing them at first, forsooth, with snow. The fire was a win. He was sound. He bethought the rede of the old-timer on Sulphur Brook, and grinned. The old-timer had been sorely stern in laying down the doom that no man must fare alone in the Klondike after fifty below. Well, here he was; he had had the misfall; he was alone; and he had spared himself. Those old-timers were rather womanish, some of them, he thought. All a man had to do was to keep his head, and he was all right. Any man who was a man could fare alone. But it was striking, the swiftness with which his cheeks and nose were freezing. And he had not thought his fingers could go lifeless in so short a time. Lifeless they were, for he could barely make them shift together to grip a twig, and they seemed far-off from his body and from him. When he handled a twig, he had to look and see whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between him and his finger-ends.

All of which told for little. There was the fire, snapping and crackling and boding life with every fluttering flicker. He started to untie his moccasins. They were spread with ice; the thick Dutch socks were like sheaths of iron half-way to the knees; and the mocassin strings were like rods of steel all twisted and knotted as by some blaze. For a while he tugged with his numbed fingers, then, grasping the silliness of it, he drew his sheath-knife.

But before he could cut the strings, it befell. It was his own sin or, rather, his misdeed. He should not have built the fire under the fir tree. He should have built it in the open. But it had been eather to pull the twigs from the grove and drop them straight on the fire. Now the tree under which he had done this bore a weight of snow on its boughs. No wind had blown for weeks, and each bough was fully laden. Each time he had pulled a twig he had shared a slight stirring to the tree – an unseen stirring, so far as he was aware, but a stirring enough to bring about the fall. High up in the tree one bough upset its load of snow. This fell on the boughs beneath, upsetting them. This unfolding went on, spreading out and overcoming the whole tree. It grew like a snow-slide, and it sank without warning upon the man and the fire, and the fire was blacked out! Where it had burned was a sheet of fresh and mislaid snow.

The man was shaken. It was as though he had but heard his own doom of death. For a while he sat and stared at the spot where the fire had been. Then he grew swithe calm. Maybe the old-timer on Sulphur Brook was right. If he had only had a way-sithe he would have been in no plight now. The way-sithe could have built the fire. Well, it was up to him to build the fire over anew, and this next time there must be no fall. Even if he won, he would most likely lose some toes. His feet must be badly frozen by now, and there would be some time before the other fire was ready.

Such were his thoughts, but he did not sit and think them. He was busy all the time they were going through his mind, he made a new groundwork for a fire, this time in the open; where no two-timing tree could wipe it out. Next, he gathered dry grasses and tiny twigs from the high-water floaters. He could not bring his fingers together to pull them out, but he was fit to gather them by the handful. In this way he found many rotten twigs and bits of green moss that were unsought, but it was the best he could do. He worked steadily, even gathering an armful of the greater boughs to be brooked later when the fire gathered strength. And all the while the dog sat and watched him, a set yearning wistfulness in its eyes, for it looked upon him as the fire-bringer, and the fire was slow in coming.

When all was ready, the man reached in his fob for another bit of birch-bark. He knew the bark was there, and, though he could not feel it with his fingers, he could hear its crisp rustling as he fumbled for it. Fond as he would, he could not clutch hold of it. And all the time, in his awareness, was the knowledge that each eyeblink his feet were freezing. This thought lead to put him in a dread, but he fought back on it and kept calm. He pulled on his gloves with his teeth, and threshed his arms back and forth, beating his hands with all his might upon his sides. He did this sitting down, and he stood up to do it; and all the while the dog sat in the snow, its wolf-besom of a tail curled about warmly over its forefeet, its sharp wolf-ears pricked forward keenly as it watched the man. And the man as he beat and threshed with his arms and hands, felt a great flood of lusting as he looked upon the being that was warm and sound in its earthy shroud.

After a time he was aware of the first far-away marks of feeling in his beaten fingers. The slight tingling grew stronger till it unfolded into a stinging ache that was harrowing, but which the man welcomed with fulfillness. He stripped the glove from his right hand and fetched forth the birch-bark. The bare fingers were quickly going numb anew. Next he brought out his bundle of swevel lighters. But the dreadful cold had already driven the life out of his fingers. In his work to split one lighter from the others, the whole bundle fell in the snow. He sought to pick it out of the snow, but lost. The dead fingers could neither feel nor clutch. He was sorely careful. He drove the thought of his freezing feet; and nose, and cheeks, out of his mind, bestowing his whole soul to the lighters. He watched, brooking the seve of sight in stead of that of feeling, and when he saw his fingers on each side the bundle, he shut them – that is, he willed to shut them, for the wires were drawn, and the fingers did not heed. He pulled the glove on the right hand, and beat it madly on his knee. Then, with both gloved hands, he shoveled the bundle of lighters, along with much snow, into his lap. Yet he was no better off.

After some handling he wrought to bring the bundle between the heels of his gloved hands. In this way he bore it to his mouth. The ice crackled and snapped when by a heast work he opened his mouth. He drew the lower jaw in, curled the upper lip out of the way, and shaved the bundle with his upper teeth in order to split a lighter. He won in having one, which he dropped on his lap. He was no better off. He could not pick it up. Then he thought of a way. He picked it up in his teeth and rubbed it on his shank. Twenty times he rubbed before he won in lighting it. As it flared he held it with his teeth to the birch-bark. But the burning brimstone went up his nostrils and into his lungs, making him cough fitfully. The light fell into the snow and went out.

The old-timer on Sulphur Brook was right, he thought in the while of hindered hopelessness that followed: after fifty below, a man should fare with a sithe. He beat his hands, but lost in stirring any feeling. Forthwith he bared both hands, drawing off the gloves with his teeth. He hooked the whole lot between the heels of his hands. His arm-thews not being frozen let him to hold the hand-heels tightly upon the strikers. Then he rubbed the bundle along his shank. It flared into fire, seventy swevel strikers at once! There was no wind to blow them out. He kept his head to one side to shun the smothering smoke, and held the blazing bundle to the birch-bark. As he so held it, he became aware of feeling in his hand. His flesh was burning. He could smell it. Deep down below the top he could feel it. The feeling grew into ache that grew sharp. And still he brooked it, holding the fire of the lights unwieldly to the bark that would not light readily as his own burning hands were in the way, soaking up most of the fire.

At last, when he could brook no more, he jerked his hands asunder. The blazing lights fell sizzling into the snow, but the birch-bark was alight. He started laying dry grasses and the tiniest twigs on the fireling. He could not pick and choose, for he had to lift the firewood between the heels of his hands. Small bits of rotten wood and green moss clung to the twigs, and he bit them off as well as he could with his teeth. He worshipped the fireling carefully and stiffly. It meant life, and it must not starve. The withdrawal of blood from the outside of his body now made him start to shiver, and he grew more stiff. A great bit of green moss fell straight on the little fire. He worked to poke it out with his fingers, but his shivering build made him poke too far, and he rattled the heart of the little fire, the burning grasses and tiny twigs sundering and shattering. He sought to poke them together anew, but in spite of the depth of the deed, his shivering made away with him, and the twigs were hopelessly strewn. Each twig gushed a puff of smoke and went out. The fire-bringer had lost. As he looked unfeelingly about him, his eyes lucked on the dog, sitting over the wrack of the fire from him, in the snow, making restless, hunching shifts, slightly lifting one forefoot and then the other, shifting its weight back and forth on them with wistful keenness.

The sight of the dog put a wild thought into his head. He bethought the tale of the man, stuck in a blizzard, who killed a steer and crept inside the body, and so was kept. He would kill the dog and bury his hands in the warm body until the numbness went out of them. Then he could build another fire. He spoke to the dog, bidding it to him; but in his speech was a weird mark of fear that frightened the being, who had never known the man to speak in such way before. Something was wrong, and its leery makeup felt threat – it knew not what threat but somewhere, somehow, in its brain arose a foreboding of the man. It flattened its ears down at the ringing of the man's speech, and its restless, hunching shifts and the liftings and shiftings of its forefeet became more marked but it would not come to the man. He came on his hands and knees and crept toward the dog. This unwonted bearing once more stirred mistrust, and the being sidled nimbly away.

The man sat up in the snow for a bit and fought for calmness. Then he pulled on his gloves, by means of his teeth, and came upon his feet. He looked down at first so to soothe himself that he was truly standing up, for the lack of feeling in his feet left him unlinked to the earth. His stiff standing in itself started to drive the webs of mistrust from the dog's mind; and when he spoke leaderly, with the hue of whip-lashes in his voice, the dog yielded its wonted troth and came to him. As it came within reaching length, the man lost his cool. His arms flashed out to the dog, and he beheld earnest shock when he found that his hands could not clutch, that there was neither bend nor feeling in the fingers. He had lost sight for the while that they were frozen and that they were freezing more and more. All this befell quickly, and before the being could have away, he wrapped its body with his arms. He sat down in the snow, and in this way held the dog, while it snarled and whined and fought.

But it was all he could do, hold its body wrapped in his arms and sit there. He grasped that he could not kill the dog. There was no way to do it. With his helpless hands he could neither draw nor hold his sheath-knife nor throttle the being. He freed it, and it sank wildly away, with tail between its legs, and still snarling. It stopped forty feet away and looked over him searchingly, with ears sharply pricked forward. The man looked down at his hands so to unearth them, and found them hanging on the ends of his arms. It struck him as weird that one should have to use his eyes so to find out where his hands were. He started threshing his arms back and forth, beating the gloved hands upon his sides. He did this for five stoundlings, strongly, and his heart pumped enough blood up to the outside to put a stop to his shivering. But no feeling was kindled in the hands. He had an inkling that they hung like weights on the ends of his arms, but when he worked to run the thought down, he could not find it.

A sound fear of death, dull and overbearing, came to him. This fear quickly became sharp as he grasped that it was no longer a bare thread of freezing his fingers and toes, or of losing his hands and feet, but that it was a thread of life and death with the weird against him. This threw him into a fright, and he went and ran up the brook-bed along the old, dim byway. The dog locked in behind and kept up with him. He ran blindly, without goal, in fear such as he had never known in his life. Slowly, as he ploughed and wallowed through the snow, he started to see things again – the slopes of the stream, the old timber-jams, the leafless aspens, and the heavens. The running made him feel better. He did not shiver. Maybe, if he ran on, his feet would thaw out; and, anyway, if he ran far enough, he would reach shelter and the boys. Without qualm he would lose some fingers and toes and some of his neb; but the boys would nimb care of him, and keep the leavings of him when he landed there. And at the same time there was another thought in his mind that said he would never come to the camp and the boys; that it was too many miles away, that the freezing had too great a start on him, and that he would soon be stiff and dead. This thought he kept in the background and spurned to think on. Sometimes it shoved itself forward and besought to be heard, but he thrust it back and sought to think of other things.

It struck him as weird that he could run at all on feet so frozen that he could not feel them when they struck the earth and bore the weight of his body. He seemed to himself to shoot along above the land and to have no tie with the earth. Somewhere he had once seen a winged Mercury, and he wondered if Mercury felt as he felt when shooting over the earth.

His belief of running until he reached shelter and the boys had one weakness in it: he lacked the strength. Sundry times he wavered, and lastly he stammered, crumpled up, and fell. When he sought to rise, he lost. He must sit and rest, he deemed, and next time he would only walk and keep on going. As he sat and won back his breath, he marked that he was feeling rather warm and lithe. He was not shivering, and it even seemed that a warm glow had come to his breast and stem. And yet, when he reached his nose or cheeks, there was no feeling. Running would not thaw them out. Nor would it thaw out his hands and feet. Then the thought came to him that the frozen bits of his body must be spreading. He sought to keep this thought down, to foryet it, to think of something else; he was aware of the frightful feeling that it brought, and he was afeared of the fright. But the thought upheld itself, and stood fast, until it yielded a sight of his body wholly frozen. This was too much, and he made another wild run along the way. Once he slowed down to a walk, but the thought of the freezing spreading itself made him run again.

And all the time the dog ran with him, at his heels. When he fell down another time, it curled its tail over its forefeet and sat in front of him looking at him strikingly keen and steady. The warmth and soundness of the being maddened him, and he hexed it till it flattened down its ears yieldingly. This time the shivering came more quickly upon the man. He was losing in his fight with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides. The thought of it drove him on, but he ran no more than a hundred feet, when he stammered and tilted headlong. It was his last fright. When he had eft-found his breath and handling, he sat up and housed in his mind the dream of meeting death with loftiness. However, the dream did not come to him in such footing. His thought of it was that he had been making a clod of himself, running about like a chicken with its head cut off – such was the likeness that came to him. Well, he was bound to freeze anyway, and he might as well take it becomingly. With this new-found frith of mind came the first glimmerings of drowsiness. A good belief, he thought, to sleep off to death. It was like being numbed. Freezing was not so bad as people thought. There were lots worse ways to end.

He dreamt of the boys finding his body next day. Shortly he found himself with them, coming along the byway and looking for himself. And, still with them, he came about a wend in the way and found himself lying in the snow. He did not belong with himself anymore, for even then he was out of himself, standing with the boys and looking at himself in the snow. It indeed was cold, was his thought. When he came back to the States he could tell the folks what true cold was. He drifted on from this to a dream of the old-timer on Sulphur Brook. He could see him rather openly, warm and lithe, and smoking a theet.

"You were right, old hoss; you were right," the man mumbled to the old-timer of Sulphur Brook.

Then the man drowsed off into what seemed to him the most lithe and fulfilling sleep he had ever known. The dog sat siding him and holding. The short day drew to an end in a long, slow twilight. There were no hints of a fire to be made, and, besides, never in the dog's life had it known a man to sit like that in the snow and make no fire. As the twilight drew on, its keen yearning for the fire overcame it, and with a great lifting and shifting of forefeet, it whined softly, then flattened its ears down in readiness of being chidden by the man. But the man held speechless. Later, the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept near to the man and hooked the smell of death. This made the being bristle and back away. A little longer it tarried, howling under the stars that leaped and tumbed and shone brightly in the cold heavens. Then it went and loped up the byway in the bearing of the shelter it knew, where were the other food-bringers and fire-bringers.