Daily life

With her feet in her hoofs, the sleeves of the bodice rolled up, carrying two wooden buckets where the milk foams, Flossie crosses the yard of the ranch.

Hurricane comes yapping, cramming himself into his legs:

– Peace, eh! you…

The voice is harsh.

The beast goes away, head bowed. She takes three steps, stops, looks aside. No, we don’t call her back. So, sadly, she lies in a circle on the straw.

Mother Goose and her daughters walk by, necks straight, rumps trailing.

His joy is to throw himself through the herd and bark… he lets them go, peaceful.

The wind blows the smell of the mountain, thyme and wild thyme where there are hundreds of rabbits.

The first days, he liked to leap across hedges and streams… He ran under the forest, free from all bondage, letting go of primitive instincts. What rushes and what carnage!

He came home in the evening with a full stomach and bleeding lips.

Yes, but twice twelve months have passed. The habit has come, easy pleasures are no longer pleasures.

Formerly, it was work, fatigue, pain, hasty food, uncertain refuge, the cold that burns the paws, the snow that blinds the eyes, the harnesses that leave a mark on the skin.

Today brings yesterday’s laziness, warm litter from the stable, cool straw from the yard.

Before, the master went out on horseback. We could then run for miles. But the horse remains in the stable and turns idly around the gates of the ranch.

The chickens no longer interest him, nor the ducks he finds stupid. He no longer bites the legs of pigs.

He has fleas, mosquitoes annoy him; my word! it gets fat.

Hurricane-dog is bored to death.

Flossie sets down the buckets, rolls up his sleeves, leaves his curved-point clogs at the door and enters the great room where the stone fireplace takes up the entire back. Water gurgles in a copper cauldron blackened by the flames.

By the fireplace, legs outstretched, Hurricane. He holds in his hand a magazine which he does not read. A bright pink bead follows the collar of his shirt, the cheeks are full, the eyelids heavy.

Obviously he is getting fat too. Hurricane-man bored the same as Hurricane-dog.

Flossie comes and goes, without a word. At times, she looks at her companion, shrugs her shoulders and walks by.

The boy doesn’t move an inch. This impassiveness irritates the young woman.

– There is a round up later , you should go. Roscoe Bread, who was going there, told me this morning that Chas Pete Barnum would be…

He doesn’t even seem to have heard. So Flo comes out, slamming the door moodily.

A round up , the assembled cowboys , the horses which have never known neither the bit nor the saddle, the blond arena that the shirt of the ” mustangers ” stain purple, the dangerous fight, the battle, the beasts which stand up vertical, or kicking, and the man triumphant under the bravos of twenty thousand people! His taste for risk threw him into the adventure, he imposed his will after a diabolical gallop on the mate animal; those from Oregon, Texas, Wyoming applauded his victory.

Yes, but it’s a long way from the ranch to the City. The ride under the sun! He looks for a thousand excuses, but, deep down, he thinks his muscles are less flexible: a disgust rises in him for his inaction.

His ranch is known in the country for his typical Shorthorn, with short horns, his Shropshires with black muzzles and especially his Shire Mares with wide loins and hairy legs.

But he is a ranchman like the other ranchmen , with the difference that the others have gradually raised a fortune and that he, with the help of dollars, has raised modern facilities from the ground.

To give birth to a work of interest. Seeing every day, hour by hour, what the mind has designed come true is a satisfaction.

The pride of traveling on horseback for several miles on a land that is yours, seeing the ears of the future harvest point out … But the dream come true remains the concern of daily life.

Simple bag suitable for singles. Hurricane’s brain is too rich, it thinks like a city dweller and not a peasant and, moreover, now that the main effort is given, it gets bogged down and clogged, useless.

Peace is made in his heart. Flossie is a faithful companion for whom the rustic life should suffice: at least he thinks thus in his selfish manhood.

Today’s calm extinguishes adventures. Flossie is a happy girl, her number came out in the lottery by chance. There is, without his wanting it, a lot of protection in his affectionate friendship. Of love? Not even ; a communion of interests, mutual recognition; she did not rise to him, he lowered himself to her. At the bottom there is the old dancing-girl from Dawson has had a rough chance to meet him.

We are ungrateful when we are happy, unjust too.

As long as it was necessary to face the first difficulties, the collaboration worked; but, after the departure of Gregory Land, taken over by nostalgia for the Far North, they found themselves face to face, each with the other as their horizon.

They have been living next to each other for months and they don’t know each other.

Their two cowardice do not make a courage. Their combined loves do not make a love. They love each other suddenly, out of time. When one wants a little, the other wants more. Caprice of fate at the whims of the day. Their soul is mobile like a flame. They don’t believe in themselves, they seek to create a religion, a faith.

It is an impossible victory that they are pursuing; they prefer to present realities the mirages of a past that distance adorns with a thousand graces.

Facts which, in the past, were unimportant, take on fantastic proportions under the distortion of memory. Only one thing unites them: the dread of the trail .

When one of the two evokes the perilous life, it is like a liberation: they escape, their imagination beats the countryside. The rapprochement is made, intimate.

At winter vigils, a winter at which they laugh, they make the favorite specters emerge from the shadows, or, if they remain silent, each one observing himself knows that the other is thinking of the land that pays .

No more hikes. They will now age side by side, mediocre. They slowly lose their faculties. Already the muscles no longer respond to the effort. The memories themselves will fade, and in their atrophied skulls there will be a gray matter like the gray matter of the hundreds and hundreds of individuals who on the round machine live by scratching the ground, raising ducks. , horses or cows.

“The sweet little existence” smoothly, without violence, surely takes them, every day a bond surrounds them. Soon they will no longer be able to struggle. They are intended to act as andirons by the fireside, with the sole concern of knowing whether the weather will be favorable for sowing or favorable for harvesting.

One night, in the silence of the mountain, rose the call of the wolf. The man jumped up, his heart in celebration, as if to meet a friend… He remained until dawn, standing, his forehead glued to the glass, listening to the voice of the old man. lonely who lives free in the forest.

Hurricane-dog enters, dragging its paws. He goes to sit down in front of his master, then yawns for a long time.

– Do you think it’s gonna last this life?

The dog shakes his ears.

– Today the same as yesterday, tomorrow the same as today.

– Haou, cry the beast.

– If we stay, it’s over, old woman, we’ll never have the courage to go away …

Go? The dog understands this, his bark is joyful. But yes, it’s understood, I caught your thought. Come on, come on, what are you doing here? Are you hesitating now? Don’t be a coward. Yes, the mash assured, the hot straw, I know, I know, but running quivering towards the great adventure, that’s what is marvelous.

And Hurricane-dog pulls Hurricane-man’s jacket with his fangs.

This one stands up mechanically. He stretches out his arms, God! how soft his nerves are! He takes his beaver hat.

True, are we going out? What a godsend! The beast turns and jumps! The rifle too? But then the joy is complete… Yes, but we will be back this evening… and tomorrow will come…

It is also the thought of Hurricane. An irresistible desire to leave possesses him, but he is afraid.

A thousand things keep him here, habits he has acquired and each of which now seems essential to his life.

Yes, but the uncertain, the sun that rises here behind the mountain will rise tomorrow level with the horizon.

You would like to leave, you, I feel it, I know it, but you, what are you giving up?

While I…

He feels sorry for himself, finds himself the most unfortunate of men, he does not have the courage to say: I want to leave because I have had enough, because the wandering beast that is in me cannot live in tether .

A revolt suddenly animates him. What, his soul is so bastardized? Wouldn’t he dare? We’ll see.

– Come on, old man.

Hurricane-dog observes his master. Is the decision final? Probably, since he opens the door. No, since he closes it.

He cannot go away like this, without a word, without a farewell.

Three lines in pencil: ” Flo, my love, I don’t know, I don’t know anymore, I’m suffocating here, I was happy and yet I’m leaving… ”

And here he is outside, his dog at his heels. At the top of the hill, he turns around, his ranch is there, a smoke covers his chimney, in his meadow his animals, his oxen of which he was so proud and his sheep with black muzzles, and his horses with large pasterns … And Flossie ? is it not she who throws her grain to the poultry? His Flossie too, Flossie, good girl, Flossie …

He will be moved.

Hurricane-dog, walking in front, stopped. Will he come back down?

– Yeah, yeah …

– Yes I’m coming.

Hurricane thumbs up the sling of his rifle and begins to move.

Her silhouette disappears behind the high line of pines; it reappears at the bottom of the valley; past the wooden bridge which crosses the torrent, it disappears forever.

And Flossie, having given his grain to the hens, goes up to his room. The same thoughts that haunt Hurricane agitate him. It seems to him that a veil is stretched before his eyes – a curtain that falls as soon as the play is finished.

Through the window, she gazes at the all too familiar landscape, the immutable mountains that block her life. Here, on the trail, Hurricane! So he went out, he has his Winchester and his dog! Come on, so much the better, it is better that way. When he returns, the irreparable will be accomplished. She is a woman, so she has more trouble. A sob ripples her throat, but she stretches her will, all her willpower not to cry.

His luggage is light. On the threshold, she has a glance for all those things which, during two years, constituted her happiness, these nothings to which one becomes attached, small presents, trivialities in which we want to see pledges of tenderness.

No, she can’t leave him like that, that wouldn’t be right. Quickly, two words: “ Friend, do not be sorrowful, forget me. Your: Flossie. ”

A pin. There, on the pillow. Tonight he will find … Poor, poor dear boy.

And Flossie comes down. On a window sill, the cat is sleeping. With her finger she scratches his skull; the beast purrs without opening its eyes. Mother Goose and her daughters cross the yard. On the perches there are chicken skewers. In the stable a horse paws, in the stable a cow howls.

Slowly Flossie pushes the barrier.

– Mush, mush on, boys.

The swirling snow blinds the dogs. In the frozen roots, the animals catch their feet; the tundra is hard to cross, but soon the team will be at the end of their sentence, a mile or two and the trail will resume.

In the meantime, we must watch the grain, avoid blocks of ice, sly holes; you have to constantly straighten the sled and put it back in line; suddenly the copper pads bite into the hardened ground. This is the trail .

– Mush, mush on, boys.

The leader’s bark responds to the man’s prompt; the animals redoubled their ardor, the sleigh made good progress despite the whirlwinds and gusts.

In the shelter, near a thicket of fir trees, the halt.

The man makes a fire, the coffee sings, the dogs, who have eaten their food, form a circle, their nostrils dilated by the smell of bacon roasting in the pan.

– Say, bunch of you …

A gesture. The animals move away, but little by little the circle tightens.

The annoyed boy throws away the can of beans after having emptied it.

The dogs run and argue. The man eats hastily.

– Come on, we don’t have time to laze around. Here, boys.

The harnessed team , on the way!

The sky is a dark gray, the snow is no longer falling, but a fog is rising.

– That’s my luck , growls the yukoner . Hurry up, boys , hurry up.

He snaps the whip, the claws of the huskies scratch the earth. And the sled glides at full speed as the track descends.

They’re going extremely fast. The driver, at the helm, tries to brake. Impossible, they are carried away by the slope, they go, they go like mad.

The track is choked in a pass. On the right, the basalt wall, on the left, sheer, the ravine …

Man and dogs run away …

Suddenly, a shock, screams, a double curse.

There was a collision: a team which was struggling to climb the hill was telescoped by the descending team .

– You couldn’t care, fool.

– Fool yourself, I would have liked to see you there …

In the shadows, shadows move. The injured dogs moan. Each team has several cripples. The drivers instinctively went to their animals, then, furious, they stand up to each other, threatening.

– Brute.

The other responds:

– The same for you.

But these irritated voices can be recognized …

Two cries spring out:

– Hurricane!

– Flossie!

They are face to face, embarrassed, forbidden, awkward.

– It’s you?

– Lady!

– What are you doing here?

– And you?

The answer is embarrassing. To avoid doing it, they fall into each other’s arms.

Hurricane-dog, his mouth crooked, looks like he doesn’t care about the world.

The first outpouring over, we come back to the beasts. The accident is more serious than we thought. Flossie has three killed, one injured; Hurricane, two injured, one of whom must be shot: he has a severed tendon.

– I only have one Labrador, said the girl , sorry.

“It will replace mine,” Hurricane replied.

– You fix things quickly, and me?

– You, you… you may not think that I’m going to leave you on the trail. Get on the sleigh.

– But mine?

– Yours! He’s not worth much. He is seriously stamped. Take what is useful to you. That’s it? Now, please help out.

With the same effort, Hurricane and Flossie push the sleigh to the edge of the ravine; it falls with a rumbling echo echoing.

Flossie disappears under the blankets and fox skins. Only her head is visible… Hurricane borders the young girl.

– Are you comfortable?

– Very.

– So let’s go.

He is going to throw his dogs, but he hesitates:

– By the way, you didn’t tell me where you were going?

– I? Flossie answers quietly, I don’t know.

The answer comes immediately:

– That’s precisely where I’m going!