Polaris of the Snows

Charles Stilson

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"North! North! To the north, Polaris. Tell the world—ah, tell them—boy—The north! The north! You must go, Polaris!" Throwing the covers from his low couch, the old man arose and stood, a giant, tottering figure. Higher and higher he towered. He tossed his arms high, his features became convulsed; his eyes glazed. In his throat the rising tide of dissolution choked his voice to a hoarse rattle. He swayed. With a last desperate rallying of his failing powers he extended his right arm and pointed to the north. Then he fell, as a tree falls, quivered, and was still. His companion bent over the pallet, and with light, sure fingers closed his eyes. In all the world he knew, Polaris never had seen a human being die. In all the world he now was utterly alone!

He sat down at the foot of the cot, and for many minutes gazed steadily at the wall with fixed, unseeing eyes. A sputtering little lamp, which stood on a table in the center of the room, flickered and went out. The flames of the fireplace played strange tricks in the strange room. In their uncertain glare, the features of the dead man seemed to writhe uncannily.

Garments and hangings of the skins of beasts stirred in the wavering shadows, as though the ghosts of their one-time tenants were struggling to reassert their dominion. At the one door and the lone window the wind whispered, fretted, and shrieked. Snow as fine and hard as the sands of the sea rasped across the panes. Somewhere without a dog howled—the long, throaty ululation of the wolf breed. Another joined in, and another, until a full score of canine voices wailed a weird requiem.

Unheeding, the living man sat as still as the dead...

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