Two men working with absolute precision and in perfect harmony can achieve amazing results, and by the time Jerry and Scovil’s brief spat ended, Red Mack and Pete the Dwarf had already unpacked, taken care of their mules and horses, and were in the process of spreading their blankets. Jerry immediately began ordering.
»Your berth is over there, Scovil; and here’s yours, girl. It’s time for both of you to rest.”
Nancy hadn’t even moved from where she’d been when Aiken pulled her off the horse. Now he protested in his usual calm tone. »But I undress in them?»
“Pooh!” said Jerry. »Pull your boots off your feet and wrap yourself in your blankets! Do you think we carry a dressing room among our camping supplies? Hurry up — you have work tomorrow.”
“Work?” repeated the girl in wonder.
His father gradually moved closer. A short distance away, Red and Dwarf set up their own sleeping places, and their lantern cast a dim, fluttering light on the group. But the lighting was so clear that Jerry could make out the unmistakable signs of hobby on Scovil’s face.
»Work? Of course!” repeated Jerry. »Don’t you know that on field trips everyone follows the customs of the Indians? The women do the work, and you have plenty to look after four men. Wrap yourself in your blankets; you need your sleep.»
John Scovil let out a sound resembling a suppressed giggle. After standing in silence for a moment, her daughter leisurely went to her bed and felt it carefully.
«The ground is too rocky and gravelly», he scolded, »and too hard. There’s no way I could sleep there.”
»What are you doing then?» asked Aiken.
»I sit awake.»
»You don’t do that. Boots off and blankets! Otherwise I’ll wrap you in your boots.»
A dim twinkle came into Nancy Scovil’s eyes.
“Father,” she said, her voice shaking a little, “are you going to let that — man — touch me?”
A strange explosion-like sound came from Scovil’s throat.
Surely it couldn’t have been suppressed laughter.
“Dear child”, he replied, making a gesture of submission, “you can see that I am helpless in the clutches of this outcast”.
“I had to, Miss Nancy—that’s the main thing,” Aiken insisted, snapping his fingers.
The girl would correct it.
»This is both absurd and impossible,« he said coldly. »I will sit tonight on this stone and rest if I see fit. That’s the end of it.”
“Big mistake,” corrected Jerry. »It’s not even the beginning. I count to three. If you start getting ready to lie down at that time, I’ll help you.»
»You mean that you would dare to force me with violence?»
»Father, if you are a man, you will stand between him and me!»
»Darling, I am unarmed. How could I protect you from that scoundrel?”
“If only I were a man — for just one second,” cried Nancy Scovil.
»You don’t dare!»
But, looking neither happy nor angry, Jerry suddenly snatched him from the rock and carried him as formally as possible to the sleeping place he had assigned him, laid him on it, and then wrapped him in blankets as if he had rolled up a floor mat.
As he approached, by the twinkle in the girl’s eyes, he had expected resistance, but as soon as he picked Nancy up, the latter turned into a corpse and did not move hand or foot. Like a corpse, Jerry laid her down on the blankets and twisted her round and round until she was wrapped up like a cot. And at the end of it all, Jerry found himself staring into expressionless, calm eyes that were looking through him and behind him—perhaps at the cold stars shining above.
“Good night!” wished Jerry Aiken. »And when you hear my squealing in the morning, jump out of those blankets – just by jumping!»
Nancy said nothing. His face was similar to that of a devout Hindu meditating on Nirvana. As Jerry Aiken turned away, John Scovil’s expression caught his attention. It was the beginning of a broad smile that widened until the fat man’s face was completely covered, and ripples of silent joy spread ever wider like the ripples raised by a stone dropped into water.
»I mean!» called Scovil quietly.
Jerry went to him.
“Good boy,” began Scovil, “I must apologize. I have been blind — bawling like a little boy whose toes have been trodden on — but now my eyes are opened. Jerry, you are a great man!”
And his big, fat hand hid Aiken’s slim, brown fingers.
»I guessed you’d adjust in time,« replied Jerry with a laugh. »It’s a shame that I had to allow the men to hold you a little rough when we left, but I couldn’t reveal to them that the whole thing was pre-arranged.»
“After this,” muttered Scovil, almost tearfully serious, “I’ll follow you wherever you take us—without the slightest resistance.” Jerry, I didn’t think that was possible! But I’ve seen it happen!”
“Don’t remember that,” said Jerry. »Get some rest! This is just the beginning. Don’t be offended if I yell at you sometime tomorrow.»
»But what’s the use of all this if he never objects?
He has no more guts than a poodle!»
“Mr. Scovil, I’m like death,” assured Jerry. »All I need is time.» And he went out to the berths of both the guides.
The latter had spread their blankets almost close to each other and were now both half lying down. Their boots stood by as they sat smoking the last pipe of the day. The lantern burned brotherly between them. Two true, scornful eyes stared grimly at the approaching Jerry. But without cursing, he sat down on a nearby rock and smiled at them.
»So, boys,» he began, »you have done your job well. The beginning of the trip went smoothly.»
»And», continued Jerry, »if everything continues like this, you might get quite a reward when our work is done».
Mack and Pete’s heads turned towards each other, they glanced at each other silently; but neither of them said anything.
»And so», finished Jerry, »good night to both of you».
He got up, but Red Mack called him back, his voice cautiously quiet. He returned.
»I have only one thing to say,« said Mack thoughtfully.
»And that’s the next one», continued Pete-Kääpiö. »Be as hard as you want on that fat gentleman, but don’t crush the girl anymore! That’s all!”
But Jerry waved his hand in warning.
“Empty nonsense!” he cried. »That’s exactly what he needs. He’s like a mustang, guys. Needs bridle and spurs at the same time. Yes, I know women. They are like an open book if you know the language in which they are written.»
“Then—” Mack began fiercely, but Pete cut him off with his deep voice.
“In for a penny in for a pound. But, my friends, before you deal with this matter, you might want to write a new ending to your book about women. Goodbye!”
»If you have any sub-remarks to make,» snapped Jerry cheerfully, »I’ll use them with pleasure. Goodbye.”
When he was gone, Pete the dwarf muttered, almost like a snarl, “How long are we going to put up with it, Mack?”
“My whole right arm was shaking when I kept from bumping into him,” replied Red Mack grimly. »Did you see how he grabbed the girl off the rock?»
»And how did he wrap her in blankets like a sack of oats?»
“Strange that the girl didn’t make a sound,” said Mack. »Perhaps the tenderfoot is right. Perhaps he really needs such treatment.»
»Ugh!» Pete the dwarf shook his stout shoulders in restrained excitement. »You don’t know women at all, Mack. Very likely it’s your face that keeps you away from them — I don’t know. But no woman would scream or make noise after realizing that it is of no use at all. I like you Miss Scovil — Variety girl look? He’s just not like that! He’s got blue blood, that’s what I’m saying!”
“And he knows a man of honor when he sees him,” added Red Mack. »When that worthless dog dragged him from the horse to the ground, he turned completely around and looked at me!»
“Really?” snapped the Dwarf.
And with a giggle she slipped into her blankets. He knew very well that that alluring look was made on him and not on Mack. What girl would look twice at Mack’s ugly face? But if the partner-parka didn’t understand, then why make him unhappy? However, the Dwarf giggled at that insane thought until he fell asleep.