The Trail of 98

Robert W. Service
The Trail of '98, by Robert W.

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Illustrated by Maynard Dixon
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Title: The Trail of '98 A Northland Romance
Author: Robert W. Service

Release Date: July 13, 2007 [eBook #22063]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
OF '98***
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A Northland Romance
Author of "The Spell of the Yukon" and "Ballads of a Cheechako"
With illustrations by Maynard Dixon

[Illustration: We were in a caldron of fire. The roar of doom was in our
ears (page 143)]
New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1911
Copyright, 1910, by Dodd, Mead and Company
Entered at Stationers' Hall
The Quinn & Boden Co. Press Rahway, N. J.

The north wind is keening overhead. It minds me of the howl of a
wolf-dog under the Arctic stars. Sitting alone by the glow of the great
peat fire I can hear it high up in the braeside firs. It is the voice,
inexorably scornful, of the Great White Land.

Oh, I hate it, I hate it! Why cannot a man be allowed to forget? It is
near ten years since I joined the Eager Army. I have travelled: I have
been a pilgrim to the shrines of beauty; I have pursued the phantom of
happiness even to the ends of the earth. Still it is always the same--I
cannot forget.
Why should a man be ever shadowed by the vampire wing of his past?
Have I not a right to be happy? Money, estate, name, are mine, all that
means an open sesame to the magic door. Others go in, but I beat
against its flinty portals with hands that bleed. No! I have no right to be
happy. The ways of the world are open; the banquet of life is spread;
the wonder-workers plan their pageants of beauty and joy, and yet there
is no praise in my heart. I have seen, I have tasted, I have tried. Ashes
and dust and bitterness are all my gain. I will try no more. It is the
shadow of the vampire wing.
So I sit in the glow of the great peat fire, tired and sad beyond belief.
Thank God! at least I am home. Everything is so little changed. The
fire lights the oak-panelled hall; the crossed claymores gleam; the eyes
in the mounted deer-heads shine glassily; rugs of fur cover the polished
floor; all is comfort, home and the haunting atmosphere of my boyhood.
Sometimes I fancy it has been a dream, the Great White Silence, the
lure of the gold-spell, the delirium of the struggle; a dream, and I will
awake to hear Garry calling me to shoot over the moor, to see dear little
Mother with her meek, sensitive mouth, and her cheeks as delicately
tinted as the leaves of a briar rose. But no! The hall is silent. Mother
has gone to her long rest. Garry sleeps under the snow. Silence
everywhere; I am alone, alone.
So I sit in the big, oak-carved chair of my forefathers, before the great
peat fire, a peak-faced drooping figure of a man with hair untimely grey.
My crutch lies on the floor by my side. My old nurse comes up quietly
to look at the fire. Her rosy, wrinkled face smiles cheerfully, but I can
see the anxiety in her blue eyes. She is afraid for me. Maybe the doctor
has told her--something.
No doubt my days are numbered, so I am minded to tell of it all: of the
Big Stampede, of the Treasure Trail, of the Gold-born City; of those

who followed the gold-lure into the Great White Land, of the evil that
befell them, of Garry and of Berna. Perhaps it will comfort me to tell of
these things. To-morrow I will begin; to-night, leave me to my
Berna! I spoke of her last. She rises before me now with her spirit-pale
face and her great troubleful grey eyes, a little tragic figure, ineffably
pitiful. Where are you now, little one? I have searched the world for
you. I have scanned a million faces. Day and night have I sought,
always hoping, always baffled, for, God help
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