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Contents

COPYRIGHT INFO

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER

The MEGAPACK™ Ebook Series

THE REJUVENATION OF MAJOR RATHBONE

THE MAN WITH THE GASH

A RELIC OF THE PLIOCENE

THE SHADOW AND THE FLASH

PLANCHETTE

BEFORE ADAM

THE IRON HEEL (Part 1)

THE IRON HEEL (Part 2)

A CURIOUS FRAGMENT

GOLIAH

THE SCARLET PLAGUE

WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG

THE UNPARALLELED INVASION

THE STRENGTH OF THE STRONG

THE STAR-ROVER (Part 1)

THE STAR-ROVER (Part 2)

THE RED ONE

COPYRIGHT INFO

The Jack London Science Fiction Megapack is copyright © 2014 by Wildside Press, LLC. All rights reserved. Cover art copyright © Ppeter Hires Images / Fotolia.

* * * *

The MEGAPACK™ ebook series name is a trademark of Wildside Press, LLC. All rights reserved.

* * * *

Special thanks to Todd Montrief for typo reports!

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER

Most people think of The Call of the Wild or White Fang when Jack London’s name comes up—and rightfully so, for these are his two most famous works, and both are classics. It’s an interesting but far less well known fact that London also wrote a substantial body of science fiction and fantasy (before the term science fiction had even been coined!) including The Scarlet Plague, The Iron Heel, and The Star Rover.

Here, then, we collect the complete fantastic work of Jack London…no less than 15 novels and short stories, almost 900 pages of classic reading. Enjoy!

—John Betancourt

Publisher, Wildside Press LLC

www.wildsidepress.com

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Over the last few years, our MEGAPACK™ ebook series has grown to be our most popular endeavor. (Maybe it helps that we sometimes offer them as premiums to our mailing list!) One question we keep getting asked is, Who’s the editor?

The MEGAPACK™ ebook series (except where specifically credited) are a group effort. Everyone at Wildside works on them. This includes John Betancourt (me), Carla Coupe, Steve Coupe, Shawn Garrett, Helen McGee, Bonner Menking, Colin Azariah-Kribbs, A.E. Warren, and many of Wildside’s authors…who often suggest stories to include (and not just their own!)

RECOMMEND A FAVORITE STORY?

Do you know a great classic science fiction story, or have a favorite author whom you believe is perfect for the MEGAPACK™ ebook series? We’d love your suggestions! You can post them on our message board at http://movies.ning.com/forum (there is an area for Wildside Press comments).

Note: we only consider stories that have already been professionally published. This is not a market for new works.

TYPOS

Unfortunately, as hard as we try, a few typos do slip through. We update our ebooks periodically, so make sure you have the current version (or download a fresh copy if it’s been sitting in your ebook reader for months.) It may have already been updated.

If you spot a new typo, please let us know. We’ll fix it for everyone. You can email the publisher at wildsidepress@yahoo.com or use the message boards above.

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THE REJUVENATION OF MAJOR RATHBONE

First published in Conkey’s Home Journal, November, 1899.

Alchemy was a magnificent dream, fascinating, impossible; but before it passed away there sprang from its loins a more marvelous child, none other than chemistry. More marvelous, because it substituted fact for fancy, and immensely widened man’s realm of achievement. It has turned probability into possibility, and from the ideal it has fashioned the real. Do you follow me?

Dover absently hunted for a match, at the same time regarding me with a heavy seriousness which instantly called to my mind Old Doc Frawley, our clinical lecturer of but a few years previous. I nodded assent, and he, having appropriately wreathed himself in smoke, went on with his discourse.

Alchemy has taught us many things, while not a few of its visions have been realized by us in these latter days. The Elixir of Life was absurd, perpetual youth a rank negation of the very principle of life. But—

Dover here paused with exasperating solemnity.

But prolongation of life is too common an incident nowadays for any one to question. Not so very long ago, a ‘generation’ represented thirty-three years, the average duration of human existence. Today, because of the rapid strides of medicine, sanitation, distribution, and so forth, a ‘generation’ is reckoned at thirty-four years. By the time of our great-grandchildren, it may have increased to forty years. Quien sabe? And again, we ourselves may see it actually doubled.

‘Ah! he cried, observing my start. You see what I am driving at?"

Yes, I replied. But—

Never mind the ‘buts,’ he burst in autocratically. You ossified conservatives have always hung back at the coat-tails of science—

And as often saved it from breaking its neck, I retaliated.

"Just hold your horses a minute, and let me go on. What is life? Schopenhauer has defined it as the affirmation of the will to live, which is a philosophical absurdity, by the way, but with which we have no concern. Now, what is death? Simply the wearing out, the exhaustion, the breaking down, of the cells, tissues, nerves, bones and muscles of the human organism. Surgeons find great difficulty in knitting the broken bones of elderly people. Why? Because the bone, weakened, approaching the stage of dissolution, is no longer able to cast off the mineral deposits thrust in upon it by the natural functions of the body. And how easily such a bone is fractured! Yet, were it possible to remove the large deposits of phosphate, carbonate of soda, and so forth, the bone would regain the spring and rebound which it possessed in its youth.

Merely apply this process, in varying measures, to the rest of the anatomy, and you have what? Simply the retardation of the system’s break-up, the circumvention of old age, the banishment of senility, and the recapture of giddy youth. If science has prolonged the life of the generation by one year, is it not equally possible that it may prolong that of the individual by many?

To turn back the dial of life, to reverse the hour-glass of Time and run its golden sands anew—the audacity of it fascinated me. What was to prevent? If one year, why not twenty? Forty?

Pshaw! I was just beginning to smile at my credulity when Dover pulled open the drawer beside him and brought to view a metal-stoppered vial. I confess to a sharp pang of disappointment as I gazed upon the very ordinary liquid it contained—a heavy, almost colorless fluid, with none of the brilliant iridescence one would so naturally expect of such a magic compound. He shook it lovingly, almost caressingly; but there was no manifestation of its occult properties. Then he pressed open a black leather case and nodded suggestively at the hypodermic syringe on its velvet bed. The Brown-Sequard Elixir and Koch’s experiments with lymph darted across my mind. I smiled with cherry doubtfulness; but he, divining my thought, made haste to say, No, they were on the right road, but missed it.

He opened an inner door of the laboratory and called Hector! Come, old fellow, come on!

Hector was a superannuated Newfoundland who had for years been utterly worthless for anything save lying around in people’s way, and in this he was an admirable success. Conceive my astonishment when a heavy, burly animal rushed in like a whirlwind and upset things generally till finally quelled by his master. Dover looked eloquently at me, without speaking.

But that—that isn’t Hector! I cried, doubting against doubt.

He turned up the under side of the animal’s ear, and I saw two hard-lipped slits, mementoes of his wild young fighting days, when his master and I were mere lads ourselves. I remembered the wounds perfectly.

Sixteen years old and as lively as a puppy. Dover beamed triumphantly. I’ve been experimenting on him for two months. Nobody knows as yet, but won’t they open their eyes when Hector runs abroad again! The plain matter of fact is I’ve given new lease of life with the lymph injection—same lymph as that used by earlier investigators, only they failed to clarify their compounds while I have succeeded. What is it? An animal derivative to stay and remove the effects of senility by acting upon the stagnated life-cells of any animal organism. Take the anatomical changes in Hector here, produced by infusion of the lymph compound; in the main they may be characterized as the expulsion from the bones of mineral deposits and an infiltration of the muscular tissues. Of course there are minor considerations; but these I have also overcome, not, however, without the unfortunate demise of several of my earlier animal subjects. I could not bring myself to work on Hector till failure had been eliminated from the problem. And now—

He rose to his feet and paced excitedly up and down. It was some time before he took up his uncompleted thought.

And now I am prepared to administer this rejuvenator to humans. And I propose, first of all, to work on one who is very dear to me—

Not—not—? I quavered.

Yes, Uncle Max. That’s why I have called in your assistance. I have found discovery capping discovery, till now the process of rejuvenation has become so accelerated that I am afraid of myself. Besides, Uncle Max is so very old that the greatest discretion is necessary. Such crucial information in the whole organism of an age-weakened body can only be brought about by the most drastic methods, and there is great need to be careful. As I have said, I have grown afraid of myself, and need another mind to hold me in check. Do you understand? Will you help me?"

* * * *

I have introduced the above conversation with my friend, Dover Wallingford, to show by what means I was led into one of the strangest scientific experiences of my life. Of the utterly unheard-of things that followed, the village has not yet ceased to talk upon and wonder. And as the village is unacquainted with the real facts in the case, it has been stirred to its profoundest depths by the untoward happenings. The excitement created was tremendous; three camp-meetings ran simultaneously and with marvelous success; there has been much talk of signs and portents, and not a few otherwise normal members of the community have proclaimed the advent of the latter-day miracles, and even yet their ears are patiently alert for the Trump of Doom, and their eyes lifted that they may witness the rolling up of the heavens as a scroll. As for Major Rathbone, otherwise Dover’s Uncle Max, why he is looked upon by a certain portion of the village as a second Lazarus raised from the dead, as one who has almost seen God; while another portion of the village is equally set in its belief that he has entered into a league with Lucifer, and that some day he will disappear in a whirlwind of brimstone and hell-fire.

But be this as it may, I shall here state the facts as they really are. It is not my intention, however, to go into the details of the case, exccept as to the results regarding Major Rathbone. Several contingencies have arisen, which must be seen to before we electrify the sleepy old world with the working formula of our wonderful discovery.

Then we shall convene a synod of the nations, and the rejuvenation of mankind will be placed in the hands of competent boards of experts belonging to the several governments. And we here promise that it shall be as free as the air we breathe or the water we drink. Further, in view of our purely altruistic motives, we ask that our present secrecy be respected and not be made the object of invidious reflections by the world we intend befriending.

Now to work. I at once sent for my traps and took up my residence one of the suites adjoining Dover’s laboratory. Major Rathbone, dazzled by the glittering promise of youth, yielded readily to our solicitations. To the world at large, he was lying sick unto death; but in reality he was waxing heartier and stronger with every day spent upon him. For three months we devoted ourselves to the task—a task fraught with constant danger, yet so absorbing that we hardly noted the flight of time. The color returned to the Major’s pallid skin, the muscles filled out, and the wrinkles in part disappeared. He had been no mean athlete in his younger days, and having no organic weaknesses, his strength returned to him in a most miraculous manner. The snap and energy he gathered were surprising, and lusty youth so rioted in his blood that toward the last we were often hard put to restrain him. We who had started out to resuscitate a feeble old man, found upon our hands an impetuous young giant. The remarkable part of it was that his snow-white hair and beard remained unchanged. Try as we would, it resisted every effort. Further, the irascibility which had come with advancing years still remained. And this, allied with the natural stubbornness and truculency of his disposition, became a grievous burden to us.

Sometime in the early part of April, because of a red-tape tangle at the express office regarding a shipment of chemicals, both Dover and myself were forced to be away. We had given Michel, Dover’s trusted man, the necessary instructions, so did not apprehend any trouble. But on our return he met us rather shame-facedly at the entrance to the grounds.

He’s gone! he gasped. He’s gone! he repeated again and again, in his distress. His right arm hung limp and nerveless at his side, and it required no little patience to finally come to an understanding.

I told him it was the orders that he mustn’t go out. But he bellered like a wild bull, and wanted to know whose orders. And when I told him, he said it was time I should know that he took orders from no man. And when I stood in his way he took me by the arm, so, and just squeezed tight. I’m afraid it’s broken, sir. And then he called Hector and went off across the fields to the village.

Oh, your arm’s all right, Dover assured him after due examination. Just crushed the biceps a little, be kind of stiff and sore for a couple of days, that’s all. And then to me, Come on; we’ve got to find him.

It was a simple matter to follow him to the village. As we came down the main street, a crowd before the post office attracted our attention, and though we arrived at the climax, we could easily divine what had gone before. A bulldog, belonging to a trio of mill-hands, had picked a quarrel with Hector; and as it had been impossible to balance the second puppyhood of Hector with a new set of teeth, it was patent that he had been at a miserable disadvantage in the fight that followed. It was evident that Major Rathbone had intervened in an endeavor to separate the animals, and that the roughs had resented this. Besides, he was such a harmless-looking old gentleman, with his snow-white hair and patriarchal aspect, that they anticipated having a little fun with him.

Aw, g’wan, we could hear one of the burly fellows saying, at same time shoving the Major back as though he were a little boy.

He protested courteously that the dog was his; but they chose to regard him as a joke and refused to listen. The crowd was composed of a low breed of men, anyway, and they jammed in so closely to see the sport that we had hard work in cleaving a passage.

Now, nibsy, commanded the mill-hand who had shoved Major Rathbone back, don’t yer think you’d better chase yerself home to yer mammy? This ain’t no manner o’ place fer leetle boys like you.

The Major was a fighter from the word go. And just then he let go. Before one could count three it was over; a swing under the first rufffian’s ear, a half-jolt on the point of the second one’s chin, and a shrewd block, with fake swing and swift uppercut on the jugular of the third, stretched the three brutes in the muck of the street. The crowd drew back hastily before this ancient prodigy, and we could hear more than one fervently abjuring his eyes.

As he arose from drawing the dogs apart, there was a cheery twinkle in the Major’s eye which disconcerted us. We had approached him in the attitude of keepers recovering a patient: but his thorough sanity and perfect composure took us aback.

Say, he said jovially, there’s a little place just round the corner here—best old rye—a-hem! And he winked significantly as we linked arms like comrades and passed out through the petrified crowd.

From this moment our control was at an end. He always had be a masterful man, and from now on, he proceeded to demonstrate how capable he was of taking care of himself. His mysterious rejuvenation became, but would not remain, a nine days’ wonder, for it grew and grew from day to day. Morning after morning he could be seen tramping home for breakfast across the dewy fields, with a fair-fill game-bag and Dover’s shotgun. In previous years he had been a devoted horseman. One afternoon we returned from a trip to the city to find half the village hanging over the paddock fence. On closer inspection we discovered the Major breaking in one of the colts which had hitherto defied the stablemen. It was an edifying spectacle—his gray licks and venerable beard the sport of the wind as he dashed round and round on the maddened animal’s back. But conquer the brute he did, till a stable boy led it away, trembling and as abject as a kitten. Another time, taking what had now become his customary afternoon ride, his indomitable spirit was fired by a party of well-mounted young fellows, and he let out with his big black stallion till he gave them his dust all the way down the principal street of the drowsy town.

In short, he took up the reins of life where he had dropped them years before. He was a fiery conservative as regards politics, and the peculiarly distasteful state of affairs then prevailing enticed him again into the arena. A crisis was approaching between the mill-owners and their workingmen, and a turbulent class of agitators had drifted into our midst. Not only did the Major oppose them openly, but he thrashed several of the more offensive leaders, nipped the strike in its incipiency, and in a most exciting campaign swept into the mayoralty. The closeness of the count but served to accentuate how bitter had been the struggle. And in the meantime he presided at indignant mass-meetings, and had the whole community shouting Cuba Libre! and almost ready to march to her deliverance.

In truth, he rioted about the country like a young Nimrod, and administered the affairs of the town with the wisdom of a Solon. He snorted like an old war-horse at opposition, and woe to them that ventured to stand up against him. Success only stimulated him to greater activity; but, while such activity would have been commendable in a younger man, in one of his advanced years it seemed so inconsistent and inappropriate that his friends and relatives were shocked beyond measure. Dover and I could but hold our hands in helplessness and watch the antics of our hoary marvel.

His fame, or as we chose to call it, his notoriety spread till there was talk in the district of running him for Congress in the coming elections. Sensational space-writers filled columns of Sunday editions with garbled accounts of his doings and of his tremendous vitality. These yellow-journal interviewers would have driven us to distraction with their insistent clamor, had not the Major himself taken the matter in hand. For awhile it was his custom to occasionally throw an odd one out of the house before breakfast, and invariably, when he returned home in the evening, to attend similarly to the wants of three or four. A pest of curiosity-mongers and learned professors descended upon our quiet neighborhood. Spectacled gentlemen, usually bald-headed and always urbane, came singly, in pairs, in committees and delegations to note the facts and phenomena of this most remarkable of cases. Mystic enthusiasts, long-haired and wild-eyed, and devotees of countless occult systems haunted our front and back doors, and trampled upon the flowers till the gardener threatened to throw up his position in despair. And I veritably believe a saving of ten percent on the coal bill could have been compassed by the burning up of unsolicited correspondence.

And to cap the whole business, when the United States declared war against Spain, Major Rathbone at once resigned his mayorship and applied to the war department for a commission. In view of his civil war record and his present superb health, it was highly probable that his request would be granted.

It seems that before we can foist this rejuvenator upon the world, we must also discover an antidote for it—a sort of emasculator to reduce the friskiness attendant upon the return to youth, you know.

We had sat down, though in seemingly hopeless despondency, to discuss the difficulty and to try and find some way out of it.

You see, Dover went on, after revivifying an aged person, that person passes wholly out of our power. We can impose no checks, nor in any way can we tone down whatever excess of youthful spontaneity we may have induced. I see, now, that great care must be exercised in the administration of our lymph—the greatest of care if we should wish to avoid all manner of absurdities in the conduct of the patient. But that isn’t the question at issue. What are we to do with Uncle Max? I confess, beyond gaining delay through the War Office, that I am at the end of my tether.

For the nonce Dover was so helpless that I felt not a little elation unfolding the plan I had been considering for some time.

You spoke of antidotes, I began tentatively.

Now, as we happen to know, there are antidotes and antidotes, and yet again are there antidotes, some as a remedy for this evil and for that. Should a babe drink a pint of kerosene, what antidote would you suggest?

Dover shook his head.

And since there is no antidote for such an emergency, do we assume that the babe must die? Not at all. We administer an emetic. But of course, an emetic is out of the question in the present case. But again, say for one suffering from uxoriousness, or for an hypochondriac, what remedy should be applied? Certainly, neither of the two I have mentioned will do. Now, for a man, melancholy-mad, what would you prescribe?

Change, he replied, instantly. Something else to withdraw him from himself and his morbid brooding to give him new interest in life, to supply him with a reason for existence.

Very good, I continued, jubilantly. You will notice that you have prescribed an antidote, it is true, but instead of a physical or medicinal one, it is intangible and abstract. Now, can you give me a similar remedy for excessive spirits or strength?

Dover looked puzzled and waited for me to go on.

Do you remember a certain strong man of the name of Samson? also Delilah, the fair Philistine? Have you ever noted the significance of ‘Beauty and the beast’? Do you not know that the strength of the strong has been wilted, dynasties been raised or demolished, and countless nations plunged into or rescued from civil strife, all because of the love of woman?

There’s your antidote, I added modestly, as an afterthought.

Oh! His eyes flashed hopefully for an instant, but dismay returned as he shook his head sadly and said, But the eligibles? There are none.

Do you recollect a certain romance of the Major’s when he was quite a young man, long before the war?

You mean Miss Deborah Furbush, your Aunt Debby?

Yes; my Aunt Debby. They quarreled, you know, and never made up—

Nor spoke to each other since—

O yes, they have. Ever since his rejuvenation he has called there regularly to pay his respects and ask for her health. Sort of gloats over her, you see. She’s been bedridden a year now; have to carry her up and down stairs, and nothing the matter except simple old age.

If she’s strong enough, Dover hazarded.

Strong enough! I cried. "I tell you, man, it’s genuine senility—nothing in the world to guard against but a very slight valvular weakness of the heart. What d’ye say? Get a couple of months’ delay on his commission, and start in on Aunt Debby at once. What say, old man? What say?

Not only had I grown excited over this solution of our difficulty, but I had at last aroused his enthusiasm. Appreciating the need for haste, we at once gutted the laboratory of all essentials and took up our abode at my home, which, in turn, was just over the way from Aunt Debby’s.

By this time we had the whole operation at the ends of our fingers, so were able to proceed with the utmost dispatch. But we were very sly about it, and Major Rathbone had not the slightest idea of what we were up to. A week from the time we began, the Furbush household was startled by Aunt Debby’s rising to give her hand to the Major when he made his usual call. A fortnight later, from a coign of vantage in my windmill, we saw them strolling about the garden, and noted a certain new gallantry in the Major’s carriage. And the rapidity with which Aunt Debby breasted the tide of Time was dizzying. She grew visibly younger, day by day, and the roses of youth returned to her cheek, giving her the most beautiful pink and pearl complexion imaginable.

Perhaps ten days after that, he drove up to the door and took her out driving. And how the village talked! Which was nothing to the way it gabbed, when, a month later, the Major’s interest in the war abated and he declined his commission. And when the superannuated lovers walked bravely to the altar and then went off on their honeymoon, it seemed that all tongues wagged till they could wag no more.

As I have said, this lymph is a wonderful discovery.

THE MAN WITH THE GASH

First published in McClure’s Magazine, May, 1901.

Jacob Kent had suffered from cupidity all the days of his life. This, in turn, had engendered a chronic distrustfulness, and his mind and character had become so warped that he was a very disagreeable man to deal with. He was also a victim to somnambulic propensities, and very set in his ideas. He had been a weaver of cloth from the cradle, until the fever of Klondike had entered his blood and torn him away from his loom. His cabin stood midway between Sixty Mile Post and the Stuart River; and men who made it a custom to travel the trail to Dawson, likened him to a robber baron, perched in his fortress and exacting toll from the caravans that used his ill-kept roads. Since a certain amount of history was required in the construction of this figure, the less cultured wayfarers from Stuart River were prone to describe him after a still more primordial fashion, in which a command of strong adjectives was to be chiefly noted.

This cabin was not his, by the way, having been built several years previously by a couple of miners who had got out a raft of logs at that point for a grub-stake. They had been most hospitable lads, and, after they abandoned it, travelers who knew the route made it an object to arrive there at nightfall. It was very handy, saving them all the time and toil of pitching camp; and it was an unwritten rule that the last man left a neat pile of firewood for the next comer. Rarely a night passed but from half a dozen to a score of men crowded into its shelter. Jacob Kent noted these things, exercised squatter sovereignty, and moved in. Thenceforth, the weary travelers were mulcted a dollar per head for the privilege of sleeping on the floor, Jacob Kent weighing the dust and never failing to steal the down-weight. Besides, he so contrived that his transient guests chopped his wood for him and carried his water. This was rank piracy, but his victims were an easy-going breed, and while they detested him, they yet permitted him to flourish in his sins.

One afternoon in April he sat by his door,—for all the world like a predatory spider,—marvelling at the heat of the returning sun, and keeping an eye on the trail for prospective flies. The Yukon lay at his feet, a sea of ice, disappearing around two great bends to the north and south, and stretching an honest two miles from bank to bank. Over its rough breast ran the sled-trail, a slender sunken line, eighteen inches wide and two thousand miles in length, with more curses distributed to the linear foot than any other road in or out of all Christendom.

Jacob Kent was feeling particularly good that afternoon. The record had been broken the previous night, and he had sold his hospitality to no less than twenty-eight visitors. True, it had been quite uncomfortable, and four had snored beneath his bunk all night; but then it had added appreciable weight to the sack in which he kept his gold dust. That sack, with its glittering yellow treasure, was at once the chief delight and the chief bane of his existence. Heaven and hell lay within its slender mouth. In the nature of things, there being no privacy to his one-roomed dwelling, he was tortured by a constant fear of theft. It would be very easy for these bearded, desperate-looking strangers to make away with it. Often he dreamed that such was the case, and awoke in the grip of nightmare. A select number of these robbers haunted him through his dreams, and he came to know them quite well, especially the bronzed leader with the gash on his right cheek. This fellow was the most persistent of the lot, and, because of him, he had, in his waking moments, constructed several score of hiding-places in and about the cabin. After a concealment he would breathe freely again, perhaps for several nights, only to collar the Man with the Gash in the very act of unearthing the sack. Then, on awakening in the midst of the usual struggle, he would at once get up and transfer the bag to a new and more ingenious crypt. It was not that he was the direct victim of these phantasms; but he believed in omens and thought-transference, and he deemed these dream-robbers to be the astral projection of real personages who happened at those particular moments, no matter where they were in the flesh, to be harboring designs, in the spirit, upon his wealth. So he continued to bleed the unfortunates who crossed his threshold, and at the same time to add to his trouble with every ounce that went into the sack.

As he sat sunning himself, a thought came to Jacob Kent that brought him to his feet with a jerk. The pleasures of life had culminated in the continual weighing and reweighing of his dust; but a shadow had been thrown upon this pleasant avocation, which he had hitherto failed to brush aside. His gold-scales were quite small; in fact, their maximum was a pound and a half,—eighteen ounces,—while his hoard mounted up to something like three and a third times that. He had never been able to weigh it all at one operation, and hence considered himself to have been shut out from a new and most edifying coign of contemplation. Being denied this, half the pleasure of possession had been lost; nay, he felt that this miserable obstacle actually minimized the fact, as it did the strength, of possession. It was the solution of this problem flashing across his mind that had just brought him to his feet. He searched the trail carefully in either direction. There was nothing in sight, so he went inside.

In a few seconds he had the table cleared away and the scales set up. On one side he placed the stamped disks to the equivalent of fifteen ounces, and balanced it with dust on the other. Replacing the weights with dust, he then had thirty ounces precisely balanced. These, in turn, he placed together on one side and again balanced with more dust. By this time the gold was exhausted, and he was sweating liberally. He trembled with ecstasy, ravished beyond measure. Nevertheless he dusted the sack thoroughly, to the last least grain, till the balance was overcome and one side of the scales sank to the table. Equilibrium, however, was restored by the addition of a pennyweight and five grains to the opposite side. He stood, head thrown back, transfixed. The sack was empty, but the potentiality of the scales had become immeasurable. Upon them he could weigh any amount, from the tiniest grain to pounds upon pounds. Mammon laid hot fingers on his heart. The sun swung on its westering way till it flashed through the open doorway, full upon the yellow-burdened scales. The precious heaps, like the golden breasts of a bronze Cleopatra, flung back the light in a mellow glow. Time and space were not.

Gawd blime me! but you ’ave the makin’ of several quid there, ’aven’t you?

Jacob Kent wheeled about, at the same time reaching for his double-barrelled shot-gun, which stood handy. But when his eyes lit on the intruder’s face, he staggered back dizzily. It was the face of the man with the gash!

The man looked at him curiously.

Oh, that’s all right, he said, waving his hand deprecatingly. "You needn’t think as I’ll ’arm you or your blasted dust.

You’re a rum ’un, you are, he added reflectively, as he watched the sweat pouring from off Kent’s face and the quavering of his knees.

W’y don’t you pipe up an’ say somethin’? he went on, as the other struggled for breath. Wot’s gone wrong o’ your gaff? Anythink the matter?

W—w—where’d you get it? Kent at last managed to articulate, raising a shaking forefinger to the ghastly scar which seamed the other’s cheek.

Shipmate stove me down with a marlin-spike from the main-royal. An’ now as you ’ave your figger’ead in trim, wot I want to know is, wot’s it to you? That’s wot I want to know—wot’s it to you? Gawd blime me! do it ’urt you? Ain’t it smug enough for the likes o’ you? That’s wot I want to know!

No, no, Kent answered, sinking upon a stool with a sickly grin. I was just wondering.

Did you ever see the like? the other went on truculently.

No.

Ain’t it a beute?

Yes. Kent nodded his head approvingly, intent on humoring this strange visitor, but wholly unprepared for the outburst which was to follow his effort to be agreeable.

You blasted, bloomin’, burgoo-eatin’ son-of-a-sea-swab! Wot do you mean, a sayin’ the most onsightly thing Gawd Almighty ever put on the face o’ man is a beute? Wot do you mean, you—

And thereat this fiery son of the sea broke off into a string of Oriental profanity, mingling gods and devils, lineages and men, metaphors and monsters, with so savage a virility that Jacob Kent was paralyzed. He shrank back, his arms lifted as though to ward off physical violence. So utterly unnerved was he that the other paused in the mid-swing of a gorgeous peroration and burst into thunderous laughter.

The sun’s knocked the bottom out o’ the trail, said the Man with the Gash, between departing paroxysms of mirth. An’ I only ’ope as you’ll appreciate the hoppertunity of consortin’ with a man o’ my mug. Get steam up in that fire-box o’ your’n. I’m goin’ to unrig the dogs an’ grub ’em. An’ don’t be shy o’ the wood, my lad; there’s plenty more where that come from, and it’s you’ve got the time to sling an axe. An’ tote up a bucket o’ water while you’re about it. Lively! or I’ll run you down, so ’elp me!

Such a thing was unheard of. Jacob Kent was making the fire, chopping wood, packing water—doing menial tasks for a guest! When Jim Cardegee left Dawson, it was with his head filled with the iniquities of this roadside Shylock; and all along the trail his numerous victims had added to the sum of his crimes. Now, Jim Cardegee, with the sailor’s love for a sailor’s joke, had determined, when he pulled into the cabin, to bring its inmate down a peg or so. That he had succeeded beyond expectation he could not help but remark, though he was in the dark as to the part the gash on his cheek had played in it. But while he could not understand, he saw the terror it created, and resolved to exploit it as remorselessly as would any modern trader a choice bit of merchandise.

Strike me blind, but you’re a ’ustler, he said admiringly, his head cocked to one side, as his host bustled about. You never ’ort to ’ave gone Klondiking. It’s the keeper of a pub’ you was laid out for. An’ it’s often as I ’ave ’eard the lads up an’ down the river speak o’ you, but I ’adn’t no idea you was so jolly nice.

Jacob Kent experienced a tremendous yearning to try his shotgun on him, but the fascination of the gash was too potent. This was the real Man with the Gash, the man who had so often robbed him in the spirit. This, then, was the embodied entity of the being whose astral form had been projected into his dreams, the man who had so frequently harbored designs against his hoard; hence—there could be no other conclusion—this Man with the Gash had now come in the flesh to dispossess him. And that gash! He could no more keep his eyes from it than stop the beating of his heart. Try as he would, they wandered back to that one point as inevitably as the needle to the pole.

Do it ’urt you? Jim Cardegee thundered suddenly, looking up from the spreading of his blankets and encountering the rapt gaze of the other. It strikes me as ’ow it ’ud be the proper thing for you to draw your jib, douse the glim, an’ turn in, seein’ as ’ow it worrits you. Jes’ lay to that, you swab, or so ’elp me I’ll take a pull on your peak-purchases!

Kent was so nervous that it took three puffs to blow out the slush-lamp, and he crawled into his blankets without even removing his moccasins. The sailor was soon snoring lustily from his hard bed on the floor, but Kent lay staring up into the blackness, one hand on the shotgun, resolved not to close his eyes the whole night. He had not had an opportunity to secrete his five pounds of gold, and it lay in the ammunition box at the head of his bunk. But, try as he would, he at last dozed off with the weight of his dust heavy on his soul. Had he not inadvertently fallen asleep with his mind in such condition, the somnambulic demon would not have been invoked, nor would Jim Cardegee have gone mining next day with a dish-pan.

The fire fought a losing battle, and at last died away, while the frost penetrated the mossy chinks between the logs and chilled the inner atmosphere. The dogs outside ceased their howling, and, curled up in the snow, dreamed of salmon-stocked heavens where dog-drivers and kindred task-masters were not. Within, the sailor lay like a log, while his host tossed restlessly about, the victim of strange fantasies. As midnight drew near he suddenly threw off the blankets and got up. It was remarkable that he could do what he then did without ever striking a light. Perhaps it was because of the darkness that he kept his eyes shut, and perhaps it was for fear he would see the terrible gash on the cheek of his visitor; but, be this as it may, it is a fact that, unseeing, he opened his ammunition box, put a heavy charge into the muzzle of the shotgun without spilling a particle, rammed it down with double wads, and then put everything away and got back into bed.

Just as daylight laid its steel-gray fingers on the parchment window, Jacob Kent awoke. Turning on his elbow, he raised the lid and peered into the ammunition box. Whatever he saw, or whatever he did not see, exercised a very peculiar effect upon him, considering his neurotic temperament. He glanced at the sleeping man on the floor, let the lid down gently, and rolled over on his back. It was an unwonted calm that rested on his face. Not a muscle quivered. There was not the least sign of excitement or perturbation. He lay there a long while, thinking, and when he got up and began to move about, it was in a cool, collected manner, without noise and without hurry.

It happened that a heavy wooden peg had been driven into the ridge-pole just above Jim Cardegee’s head. Jacob Kent, working softly, ran a piece of half-inch manila over it, bringing both ends to the ground. One end he tied about his waist, and in the other he rove a running noose. Then he cocked his shotgun and laid it within reach, by the side of numerous moose-hide thongs. By an effort of will he bore the sight of the scar, slipped the noose over the sleeper’s head, and drew it taut by throwing back on his weight, at the same time seizing the gun and bringing it to bear.

Jim Cardegee awoke, choking, bewildered, staring down the twin wells of steel.

Where is it? Kent asked, at the same time slacking on the rope.

You blasted—ugh—

Kent merely threw back his weight, shutting off the other’s wind.

Bloomin’—Bur—ugh—

Where is it? Kent repeated.

Wot? Cardegee asked, as soon as he had caught his breath.

The gold-dust.

Wot gold-dust? the perplexed sailor demanded.

You know well enough,—mine.

Ain’t seen nothink of it. Wot do ye take me for? A safe-deposit? Wot ’ave I got to do with it, any’ow?

Mebbe you know, and mebbe you don’t know, but anyway, I’m going to stop your breath till you do know. And if you lift a hand, I’ll blow your head off!

Vast heavin’! Cardegee roared, as the rope tightened.

Kent eased away a moment, and the sailor, wriggling his neck as though from the pressure, managed to loosen the noose a bit and work it up so the point of contact was just under the chin.

Well? Kent questioned, expecting the disclosure.

But Cardegee grinned. Go ahead with your ’angin’, you bloomin’ old pot-wolloper!

Then, as the sailor had anticipated, the tragedy became a farce. Cardegee being the heavier of the two, Kent, throwing his body backward and down, could not lift him clear of the ground. Strain and strive to the uttermost, the sailor’s feet still stuck to the floor and sustained a part of his weight. The remaining portion was supported by the point of contact just under his chin. Failing to swing him clear, Kent clung on, resolved to slowly throttle him or force him to tell what he had done with the hoard. But the Man with the Gash would not throttle. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, and at the end of that time, in despair, Kent let his prisoner down.

Well, he remarked, wiping away the sweat, if you won’t hang you’ll shoot. Some men wasn’t born to be hanged, anyway.

An’ it’s a pretty mess as you’ll make o’ this ’ere cabin floor. Cardegee was fighting for time. Now, look ’ere, I’ll tell you wot we do; we’ll lay our ’eads ’longside an’ reason together. You’ve lost some dust. You say as ’ow I know, an’ I say as ’ow I don’t. Let’s get a hobservation an’ shape a course—

Vast heavin’! Kent dashed in, maliciously imitating the other’s enunciation. I’m going to shape all the courses of this shebang, and you observe; and if you do anything more, I’ll bore you as sure as Moses!

For the sake of my mother—

Whom God have mercy upon if she loves you. Ah! Would you? He frustrated a hostile move on the part of the other by pressing the cold muzzle against his forehead. Lay quiet, now! If you lift as much as a hair, you’ll get it.

It was rather an awkward task, with the trigger of the gun always within pulling distance of the finger; but Kent was a weaver, and in a few minutes had the sailor tied hand and foot. Then he dragged him without and laid him by the side of the cabin, where he could overlook the river and watch the sun climb to the meridian.

Now I’ll give you till noon, and then—

Wot?

You’ll be hitting the brimstone trail. But if you speak up, I’ll keep you till the next bunch of mounted police come by.

Well, Gawd blime me, if this ain’t a go! ’Ere I be, innercent as a lamb, an’ ’ere you be, lost all o’ your top ’amper an’ out o’ your reckonin’, run me foul an’ goin’ to rake me into ’ell-fire. You bloomin’ old pirut! You—

Jim Cardegee loosed the strings of his profanity and fairly outdid himself. Jacob Kent brought out a stool that he might enjoy it in comfort. Having exhausted all the possible combinations of his vocabulary, the sailor quieted down to hard thinking, his eyes constantly gauging the progress of the sun, which tore up the eastern slope of the heavens with unseemly haste. His dogs, surprised that they had not long since been put to harness, crowded around him. His helplessness appealed to the brutes. They felt that something was wrong, though they knew not what, and they crowded about, howling their mournful sympathy.

Chook! Mush-on! you Siwashes! he cried, attempting, in a vermicular way, to kick at them, and discovering himself to be tottering on the edge of a declivity. As soon as the animals had scattered, he devoted himself to the significance of that declivity which he felt to be there but could not see. Nor was he long in arriving at a correct conclusion. In the nature of things, he figured, man is lazy. He does no more than he has to. When he builds a cabin he must put dirt on the roof. From these premises it was logical that he should carry that dirt no further than was absolutely necessary. Therefore, he lay upon the edge of the hole from which the dirt had been taken to roof Jacob Kent’s cabin. This knowledge, properly utilized, might prolong things, he thought; and he then turned his attention to the moose-hide thongs which bound him. His hands were tied behind him, and pressing against the snow, they were wet with the contact. This moistening of the raw-hide he knew would tend to make it stretch, and, without apparent effort, he endeavored to stretch it more and more.

He watched the trail hungrily, and when in the direction of Sixty Mile a dark speck appeared for a moment against the white background of an ice-jam, he cast an anxious eye at the sun. It had climbed nearly to the zenith. Now and again he caught the black speck clearing the hills of ice and sinking into the intervening hollows; but he dared not permit himself more than the most cursory glances for fear of rousing his enemy’s suspicion. Once, when Jacob Kent rose to his feet and searched the trail with care, Cardegee was frightened, but the dog-sled had struck a piece of trail running parallel with a jam, and remained out of sight till the danger was past.

I’ll see you ’ung for this, Cardegee threatened, attempting to draw the other’s attention. "An’ you’ll rot in ’ell, jes’ you see if you don’t.

I say, he cried, after another pause; d’ye b’lieve in ghosts? Kent’s sudden start made him sure of his ground, and he went on: Now a ghost ’as the right to ’aunt a man wot don’t do wot he says; and you can’t shuffle me off till eight bells—wot I mean is twelve o’clock—can you? ’Cos if you do, it’ll ’appen as ’ow I’ll ’aunt you. D’ye ’ear? A minute, a second too quick, an’ I’ll ’aunt you, so ’elp me, I will!

Jacob Kent looked dubious, but declined to talk.

’Ow’s your chronometer? Wot’s your longitude? ’Ow do you know as your time’s correct? Cardegee persisted, vainly hoping to beat his executioner out of a few minutes. Is it Barrack’s time you ’ave, or is it the Company time? ’Cos if you do it before the stroke o’ the bell, I’ll not rest. I give you fair warnin’. I’ll come back. An’ if you ’aven’t the time, ’ow will you know? That’s wot I want—’ow will you tell?

I’ll send you off all right, Kent replied. Got a sun-dial here.

No good. Thirty-two degrees variation o’ the needle.

Stakes are all set.

’Ow did you set ’em? Compass?

No; lined them up with the North Star.

Sure?

Sure.

Cardegee groaned, then stole a glance at the trail. The sled was just clearing a rise, barely a mile away, and the dogs were in full lope, running lightly.

’Ow close is the shadows to the line?

Kent walked to the primitive timepiece and studied it. Three inches, he announced, after a careful survey.

Say, jes’ sing out ‘eight bells’ afore you pull the gun, will you?

Kent agreed, and they lapsed into silence. The thongs about Cardegee’s wrists were slowly stretching, and he had begun to work them over his hands.

Say, ’ow close is the shadows?

One inch.

The sailor wriggled slightly to assure himself that he would topple over at the right moment, and slipped the first turn over his hands.

’Ow close?

Half an inch. Just then Kent heard the jarring churn of the