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Literary Analysis

• write a two-page literacy analysis essay in APA format
• Analyze the impact of the setting on one literary element of “To Build a Fire.” Focus your essay on one of the following literary elements: plot, conflict, characterization, theme, or mood.
• Please cite evidence from the story using “cite evidence”

To Build a fire by Jack London
5 Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man
turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank,
where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce
timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top,
excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o’clock.
10 There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky.
It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of
things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the
absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack
of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few
15 more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep
above the sky line and dip immediately from view.

The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon lay a
mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as
many feet of snow. It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations
20 where the ice jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south, as far as
his eye could see, it was unbroken white, save for a dark hairline that
curved and twisted from around the spruce-covered island to the south,
and that curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared
behind another spruce-covered island. This dark hairline was the trail—the
25 main trail—that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Pass, Dyea,
and salt water; and that led north seventy miles to Dawson, and still on to
the north a thousand miles to Nulato, and finally to St. Michael, on Bering
Sea, a thousand miles and half a thousand more.

But all this—this mysterious, far-reaching hairline trail, the absence of sun
30 from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it
all—made no impression on the man. It was not because he was long used
to it. He was a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo, and this was his first
winter. The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was
quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the
35 significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost.
Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all.
It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature,
and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow
limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the
40 conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe. Fifty
degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be
guarded against by the use of mittens, ear flaps, warm moccasins, and thick
socks. Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees
below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a
45 thought that never entered his head.
As he turned to go, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive
crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it
could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below
50 spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air.
Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below—how much colder he did not
know. But the temperature did not matter. He was bound for the old claim
on the left fork of Henderson Creek, where the boys were already. They
had come over across the divide from the Indian Creek country, while he
55 had come the roundabout way to take a look at the possibilities of getting
out logs in the spring from the islands in the Yukon. He would be in to
camp by six o’clock; a bit after dark, it was true, but the boys would be
there, a fire would be going, and a hot supper would be ready. As for
lunch, he pressed his hand against the protruding bundle under his jacket.
60 It was also under his shirt, wrapped up in a handkerchief and lying against
the naked skin. It was the only way to keep the biscuits from freezing. He
smiled agreeably to himself as he thought of those biscuits, each cut open
and sopped in bacon grease, and each enclosing a generous slice of fried

65 He plunged in among the big spruce trees. The trail was faint. A foot of
snow had fallen since the last sled had passed over, and he was glad he was
without a sled, travelling light. In fact, he carried nothing but the lunch
wrapped in the handkerchief. He was surprised, however, at the cold. It
certainly was cold, he concluded, as he rubbed his numb nose and
70 cheekbones with his mittened hand. He was a warm-whiskered man, but
the hair on his face did not protect the high cheek-bones and the eager
nose that thrust itself aggressively into the frosty air.

At the man’s heels trotted a dog, a big native husky, the proper wolf dog,
gray-coated and without any visible or temperamental difference from its
75 brother, the wild wolf. The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold.
It knew that it was no time for travelling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than
was told to the man by the man’s judgment. In reality, it was not merely
colder than fifty below zero; it was colder than sixty below, than seventy
below. It was seventy-five below zero. Since the freezing point is thirty-two
80 above zero, it meant that one hundred and seven degrees of frost obtained.

The dog did not know anything about thermometers. Possibly in its brain
there was no sharp consciousness of a condition of very cold such as was
in the man’s brain. But the brute had its instinct. It experienced a vague but
85 menacing apprehension that subdued it and made it slink along at the
man’s heels, and that made it question eagerly every unwonted movement
of the man as if expecting him to go into camp or to seek shelter
somewhere and build a fire. The dog had learned fire, and it wanted fire, or
else to burrow under the snow and cuddle its warmth away from the air.

90 The frozen moisture of its breathing had settled on its fur in a fine powder
of frost, and especially were its jowls, muzzle and eyelashes whitened by its
crystalled breath. The man’s red beard and mustache were likewise frosted,
but more solidly, the deposit taking the form of ice and increasing with
every warm, moist breath he exhaled. Also, the man was chewing tobacco,
95 and the muzzle of ice held his lips so rigidly that he was unable to clear his
chin when he expelled the juice. The result was that a crystal beard of the
color and solidity of amber was increasing its length on his chin. If he fell
down it would shatter itself, like glass, into brittle fragments. But he did not

mind the appendage. It was the penalty all tobacco chewers paid in that
100 country, and he had been out before in two cold snaps. They had not been
so cold as this, but by the spirit thermometer at Sixty Mile he knew that
they had been registered at fifty below and at fifty-five.

He held on through the level stretch of woods for several miles, crossed a
wide flat . . . and dropped down a bank to the frozen bed of a small stream.
105 This was Henderson Creek, and he knew he was ten miles from the forks.
He looked at his watch. It was ten o’clock. He was making four miles an
hour, and he calculated that he would arrive at the forks at half-past twelve.
He decided to celebrate that event by eating his lunch there.

The dog dropped in again at his heels, with a tail drooping discouragement,
110 as the man swung along the creek bed. The furrow of the old sled trail was
plainly visible, but a dozen inches of snow covered the marks of the last
runners. In a month no man had come up or down that silent creek. The
man held steadily on. He was not much given to thinking, and just then
particularly he had nothing to think about save that he would eat lunch at
115 the forks and that at six o’clock he would be in camp with the boys. There
was nobody to talk to; and, had there been, speech would have been
impossible because of the ice muzzle on his mouth. So he continued
monotonously to chew tobacco and to increase the length of his amber

120 Once in a while the thought reiterated itself that it was very cold and that
he had never experienced such cold. As he walked along he rubbed his
cheekbones and nose with the back of his mittened hand. He did this
automatically, now and again changing hands. But, rub as he would, the
instant he stopped his cheekbones went numb, and the following instant
125 the end of his nose went numb. He was sure to frost his cheeks; he knew
that, and experienced a pang of regret that he had not devised a nose strap
of the sort Bud wore in cold snaps. Such a strap passed across the cheeks,
as well, and saved them. But it didn’t matter much, after all. What were
frosted cheeks? A bit painful, that was all; they were never serious.

130 Empty as the man’s mind was of thoughts, he was keenly observant, and
he noticed the changes in the creek, the curves and bends and timber jams,
and always he sharply noted where he placed his feet. Once, coming
around a bend he shied abruptly, like a startled horse, curved away from
the place where he had been walking, and retreated several paces back
135 along the trail. The creek he knew was frozen clear to the bottom—no
creek could contain water in that arctic winter—but he knew also that there
were springs that bubbled out from the hillsides and ran along under the
snow and on top the ice of the creek. He knew that the coldest snaps never
froze these springs, and he knew likewise their danger. They were traps.
140 They hid pools of water under the snow that might be three inches deep,
or three feet. Sometimes a skin of ice half an inch thick covered them, and
in turn was covered by the snow. Sometimes there were alternate layers of
water and ice skin, so that when one broke through he kept on breaking
through for a while, sometimes wetting himself to the waist.

145 That was why he had shied in such panic.

He had felt the give under his feet and heard the crackle of a snow-hidden
ice skin. And to get his feet wet in such a temperature meant trouble and
danger. At the very least it meant delay, for he would be forced to stop and
build a fire, and under its protection to bare his feet while he dried his
150 socks and moccasins. He stood and studied the creek bed and its banks,
and decided that the flow of water came from his right. He reflected
awhile, rubbing his nose and cheeks, then skirted to the left, stepping
gingerly and testing the footing for each step. Once clear of the danger, he
took a fresh chew of tobacco and swung along at his four-mile gait.

155 In the course of the next two hours he came upon several similar traps.
Usually the snow above the hidden pools had a sunken, candied
appearance that advertised the danger. Once again, however, he had a close
call; and once, suspecting danger, he compelled the dog to go on in front.
The dog did not want to go. It hung back until the man shoved it forward,
160 and then it went quickly across the white, unbroken surface. Suddenly it
broke through, floundered to one side, and got away to firmer footing. It

had wet its forefeet and legs, and almost immediately the water that clung
to it turned to ice. It made quick efforts to lick the ice off its legs, then
dropped down in the snow and began to bite out the ice that had formed
165 between the toes. This was a matter of instinct. To permit the ice to remain
would mean sore feet. It did not know this. It merely obeyed the
mysterious prompting that arose from the deep crypts of its being. But the
man knew, having achieved a judgment on the subject, and he removed the
mitten from his right hand and helped tear out the ice particles. He did not
170 expose his fingers more than a minute, and was astonished at the swift
numbness that smote them. It certainly was cold. He pulled on the mitten
hastily, and beat the hand savagely across his chest.
At twelve o’clock the day was at its brightest. Yet the sun was too far south
175 on its winter journey to clear the horizon. The bulge of the earth
intervened between it and Henderson Creek, where the man walked under
a clear sky at noon and cast no shadow. At half-past twelve, to the minute,
he arrived at the forks of the creek. He was pleased at the speed he had
made. If he kept it up, he would certainly be with the boys by six. He
180 unbuttoned his jacket and shirt and drew forth his lunch. The action
consumed no more than a quarter of a minute, yet in that brief moment the
numbness laid hold of the exposed fingers. He did not put the mitten on,
but, instead, struck the fingers a dozen sharp smashes against his leg. Then
he sat down on a snow-covered log to eat. The sting that followed upon
185 the striking of his fingers against his leg ceased so quickly that he was
startled. He had had no chance to take a bite of biscuit. He struck the
fingers repeatedly and returned them to the mitten, baring the other hand
for the purpose of eating. He tried to take a mouthful, but the ice muzzle
prevented. He had forgotten to build a fire and thaw out. He chuckled at
190 his foolishness, and as he chuckled he noted the numbness creeping into
the exposed fingers. Also, he noted that the stinging which had first come
to his toes when he sat down was already passing away. He wondered
whether the toes were warm or numb. He moved them inside the
moccasins and decided that they were numb.

195 He pulled the mitten on hurriedly and stood up. He was a bit frightened.
He stamped up and down until the stinging returned into the feet. It
certainly was cold, was his thought. That man from Sulphur Creek had
spoken the truth when telling how cold it sometimes got in the country.
And he had laughed at him at the time! That showed one must not be too
200 sure of things. There was no mistake about it, it was cold. He strode up and
down, stamping his feet and threshing his arms, until reassured by the
returning warmth. Then he got out matches and proceeded to make a fire.
From the under-growth, where high water of the previous spring had
lodged a supply of seasoned twigs, he got his firewood. Working carefully
205 from a small beginning, he soon had a roaring fire, over which he thawed
the ice from his face and in the protection of which he ate his biscuits. For
the moment the cold of space was outwitted. The dog took satisfaction in
the fire, stretching out close enough for warmth and far enough away to
escape being singed.

210 When the man had finished, he filled his pipe and took his comfortable
time over a smoke, then he pulled on his mittens, settled the ear flaps of his
cap firmly about his ears, and took the creek trail up the left fork. The dog
was disappointed and yearned back towards the fire. This man did not
know cold. Possibly all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of
215 cold, of real cold, of cold one hundred and seven degrees below freezing
point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the
knowledge. And it knew that it was not good to walk abroad in such fearful
cold. It was the time to lie snug in a hole in the snow and wait for a curtain
of cloud to be drawn across the face of outer space whence this cold came.
220 On the other hand, there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the
man. The one was the toil slave of the other, and the only caresses it had
ever received were the caresses of the whip lash and of harsh and menacing
throat sounds that threatened the whip lash. So the dog made no effort to
communicate its apprehension to the man. It was not concerned in the
225 welfare of the man; it was for its own sake that it yearned back toward the
fire. But the man whistled, and spoke to it with the sound of whip lashes,
and the dog swung in at the man’s heels and followed after.

The man took a chew of tobacco and proceeded to start a new amber
230 beard. Also, his moist breath quickly powdered with white his mustache,
eyebrows, and lashes. There did not seem to be so many springs on the left
fork of the Henderson, and for half an hour the man saw no signs of any.
And then it happened. At a place where there were no signs, where the
soft, unbroken snow seemed to advertise solidity beneath, the man broke
235 through. It was not deep. He wet himself halfway to the knees before he
floundered out to the firm crust. He was angry, and cursed his luck aloud.
He had hoped to get into camp with the boys at six o’clock, and this would
delay him an hour, for he would have to build a fire and dry out his
footgear. This was imperative at that low temperature—he knew that
240 much; and he turned aside to the bank, which he climbed. On top, tangled
in the underbrush about the trunks of several small spruce trees, was a
high-water deposit of dry firewood—sticks and twigs, principally, but also
larger portions of seasoned branches and fine, dry, last year’s grasses. He
threw down several large pieces on top of the snow. This served for a
245 foundation and prevented the young flame from drowning itself in the
snow it otherwise would melt. The flame he got by touching a match to a
small shred of birch bark that he took from his pocket. This burned even
more readily than paper. Placing it on the foundation, he fed the young
flame with wisps of dry grass and with the tiniest dry twigs.
He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his danger. Gradually, as
the flame grew stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he
fed it. He squatted in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their
entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame. He knew there
255 must be no failure. When it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail
in his first attempt to build a fire—that is, if his feet are wet. If his feet are
dry, and he fails, he can run along the trail for half a mile and restore his
circulation. But the circulation of wet and freezing feet cannot be restored
by running when it is seventy-five below. No matter how fast he runs, the
260 wet feet will freeze the harder.

All this the man knew. The old-timer on Sulphur Creek had told him about
it the previous fall, and now he was appreciating the advice. Already all
sensation had gone out of his feet. To build the fire he had been forced to
remove his mittens, and the fingers had quickly gone numb. His pace of
265 four miles an hour had kept his heart pumping blood to the surface of his
body and to all the extremities. But the instant he stopped, the action of
the pump eased down. The cold of space smote the unprotected tip of the
planet, and he, being on that unprotected tip, received the full force of the
blow. The blood of his body recoiled before it. The blood was alive, like
270 the dog, and like the dog it wanted to hide away and cover itself up from
the fearful cold. So long as he walked four miles an hour, he pumped the
blood, willy-nilly, to the surface; but now it ebbed away and sank down
into the recesses of his body. The extremities were the first to feel its
absence. His wet feet froze the faster, and his exposed fingers numbed the
275 faster, though they had not yet begun to freeze. Nose and cheeks were
already freezing, while the skin of all his body chilled as it lost its blood.
But he was safe. Toes and nose and cheeks would be only touched by the
frost, for the fire was beginning to burn with strength. He was feeding it
280 with twigs the size of his finger. In another minute he would be able to
feed it with branches the size of his wrist, and then he could remove his
wet footgear, and, while it dried, he could keep his naked feet warm by the
fire, rubbing them at first, of course, with snow. The fire was a success. He
was safe. He remembered the advice of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek,
285 and smiled. The old-timer had been very serious in laying down the law
that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below. Well, here
he was; he had had the accident; he was alone; and he had saved himself.
Those old-timers were rather womanish, some of them, he thought. All a

man had to do was to keep his head, and he was all right. Any man who
290 was a man could travel alone. But it was surprising, the rapidity with which
his cheeks and nose were freezing. And he had not thought his fingers
could go lifeless in so short a time. Lifeless they were, for he could scarcely
make them move together to grip a twig, and they seemed remote from his
body and from him. When he touched a twig, he had to look and see
295 whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between
him and his finger ends.

All of which counted for little. There was the fire, snapping and crackling
and promising life with every dancing flame. He started to untie his
moccasins. They were coated with ice; the thick German socks were like
300 sheaths of iron halfway to the knees; and the moccasin strings were like
rods of steel all twisted and knotted as by some conflagration. For a
moment he tugged with his numb fingers, then, realizing the folly of it, he
drew his sheath knife.

But before he could cut the strings, it happened. It was his own fault or,
305 rather, his mistake. He should not have built the fire under the spruce tree.
He should have built it in the open. But it had been easier to pull the twigs
from the brush and drop them directly on the fire. Now the tree under
which he had done this carried a weight of snow on its boughs. No wind
had blown for weeks, and each bough was full freighted. Each time he had
310 pulled a twig he had communicated a slight agitation to the tree—an
imperceptible agitation, so far as he was concerned, but an agitation
sufficient to bring about the disaster. High up in the tree one bough
capsized its load of snow. This fell on the boughs beneath, capsizing them.
This process continued, spreading out and involving the whole tree. It grew
315 like an avalanche, and it descended upon the man and the fire, and the fire
was blotted out! Where it had burned was a mantle of fresh and disordered

The man was shocked. It was as though he had just heard his own sentence
of death. For a moment he sat and stared at the spot where the fire had
320 been. Then he grew very calm. Perhaps the old-timer on Sulphur Creek

was right. If he had only had a trail mate he would have been in no danger
now. The trail mate could have built the fire. Well, it was up to him to
build the fire over again, and this second time there must be no failure.
Even if he succeeded, he would most likely lose some toes. His feet must
325 be badly frozen by now, and there would be some time before the second
fire was ready.

Such were his thoughts, but he did not sit and think them. He was busy all
the time they were passing through his mind. He made a new foundation
for a fire, this time in the open, where no treacherous tree could blot it out.
330 Next he gathered dry grasses and tiny twigs from the high-water flotsam.
He could not bring his fingers together to pull them out, but he was able to
gather them by the handful. In this way he got many rotten twigs and bits
of green moss that were undesirable, but it was the best he could do. He
worked methodically, even collecting an armful of the larger branches to be
335 used later when the fire gathered strength. And all the while the dog sat
and watched him, a certain wistfulness in its eyes, for it looked upon him as
the fire provider, and the fire was slow in coming.

When all was ready, the man reached in his pocket for a second piece of
birch bark. He knew the bark was there, and though he could not feel it
340 with his fingers, he could hear its crisp rustling as he fumbled for it. Try as
he would, he could not clutch hold of it. And all the time, in his
consciousness, was the knowledge that each instant his feet were freezing.
This thought tended to put him in a panic, but he fought against it and
kept calm. He pulled on his mittens with his teeth, and threshed his arms
345 back and forth, beating his hands with all his might against his sides. He
did this sitting down, and he stood up to do it; and all the while the dog sat
in the snow, its wolf brush of a tail curled around warmly over its forefeet,
its sharp wolf ears pricked forward intently as it watched the man. And the
man, as he beat and threshed with his arms and hands, felt a great surge of
350 envy as he regarded the creature that was warm and secure in its natural

After a time he was aware of the first faraway signals of sensations in his
beaten fingers. The faint tingling grew stronger till it evolved into a stinging
ache that was excruciating, but which the man hailed with satisfaction. He
355 stripped the mitten from his right hand and fetched forth the birch bark.
The exposed fingers were quickly going numb again. Next he brought out
his bunch of sulphur matches. But the tremendous cold had already driven
the life out of his fingers. In his effort to separate one match from the
others, the whole bunch fell into the snow. He tried to pick it out of the
360 snow, but failed. The dead fingers could neither clutch nor touch. He was
very careful. He drove the thought of his freezing feet, and nose, and
cheeks, out of his mind, devoting his whole soul to the matches. He
watched, using the sense of vision in place of that of touch, and when he
saw his fingers on each side the bunch, he closed them—that is, he willed
365 to close them, for the wires were down, and the fingers did not obey. He
pulled the mitten on the right hand, and beat it fiercely against his knee.
Then, with both mittened hands, he scooped the bunch of matches, along
with much snow, into his lap. Yet he was no better off.

After some manipulation he managed to get the bunch between the heels
370 of his mittened hands. In this fashion he carried it to his mouth. The ice
crackled and snapped when by a violent effort he opened his mouth. He
drew the lower jaw in, curled the upper lip out of the way and scraped the
bunch with his upper teeth in order to separate a match. He succeeded in
getting one, which he dropped on his lap. He was no better off. He could
375 not pick it up. Then he devised a way. He picked it up in his teeth and
scratched it on his leg. Twenty times he scratched before he succeeded in
lighting it. As it flamed he held it with his teeth to the birch bark. But the
burning brimstone went up his nostrils and into his lungs, causing him to
cough spasmodically. The match fell into the snow and went out.

380 The old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of
controlled despair that ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a
partner. He beat his hands, but failed in exciting any sensation. Suddenly he
bared both hands, removing the mittens with his teeth. He caught the

whole bunch between the heels of his hands. His arm muscles not being
385 frozen enabled him to press the hand heels tightly against the matches.
Then he scratched the bunch along his leg. It flared into flame, seventy
sulphur matches at once! There was no wind to blow them out. He kept his
head to one side to escape the strangling fumes, and held the blazing bunch
to the birch bark. As he so held it, he became aware of sensation in his
390 hand. His flesh was burning. He could smell it. Deep down below the
surface he could feel it. The sensation developed into pain that grew acute.
And still he endured it, holding the flame of the matches clumsily to the
bark that would not light readily because his own burning hands were in
the way, absorbing most of the flame.

395 At last, when he could endure no more, he jerked his hands apart. The
blazing matches fell sizzling into the snow, but the birch bark was alight.
He began laying dry grasses and the tiniest twigs on the flame. He could
not pick and choose, for he had to lift the fuel between the heels of his
hands. Small pieces of rotten wood and green moss clung to the twigs, and
400 he bit them off as well as he could with his teeth. He cherished the flame
carefully and awkwardly. It meant life, and it must not perish. The
withdrawal of blood from the surface of his body now made him begin to
shiver, and he grew more awkward. A large piece of green moss fell
squarely on the little fire. He tried to poke it out with his fingers, but his
405 shivering frame made him poke too far, and he disrupted the nucleus of
the little fire, the burning grasses and the tiny twigs separating and
scattering. He tried to poke them together again, but in spite of the
tenseness of the effort, his shivering got away with him, and the twigs were
hopelessly scattered. Each twig gushed a puff of smoke and went out. The
410 fire provider had failed. As he looked apathetically about him, his eyes
chanced on the dog, sitting across the ruins of the fire from him, in the
snow, making restless, hunching movements, slightly lifting one forefoot
and then the other, shifting its weight back and forth on them with wistful

415 The sight of the dog put a wild idea into his head. He remembered the tale
of the man, caught in a blizzard, who killed a steer and crawled inside the
carcass, and so was saved. He would kill the dog and bury his hands in the
warm body until the numbness went out of them. Then he could build
another fire. He spoke to the dog, calling it to him; but in his voice was a
420 strange note of fear that frightened the animal, who had never known the
man to speak in such a way before. Something was the matter, and its
suspicious nature sensed danger—it knew not what danger, but
somewhere, somehow, in its brain arose an apprehension of the man. It
flattened its ears down at the sound of the man’s voice, and its restless,
425 hunching movements and the liftings and shiftings of its forefeet became
more pronounced; but it would not come to the man. He got on his hands
and knees and crawled toward the dog. This unusual posture again excited
suspicion, and the animal sidled mincingly away.

The man sat up in the snow for a moment and struggled for calmness.
430 Then he pulled on his mittens, by means of his teeth, and got upon his
feet. He glanced down at first in order to assure himself that he was really
standing up, for the absence of sensation in his feet left him unrelated to
the earth. His erect position in itself started to drive the webs of suspicion
from the dog’s mind; and when he spoke peremptorily, with the sound of
435 whip lashes in his voice, the dog rendered its customary allegiance and
came to him. As it came within reaching distance, the man lost his control.
His arms flashed out to the dog, and he experienced genuine surprise when
he discovered that his hands could not clutch, that there was neither bend
nor feeling in his fingers. He had forgotten for the moment that they were
440 frozen and that they were freezing more and more. All this happened
quickly, and before the animal could get away, he encircled its body with
his arms. He sat down in the snow, and in this fashion held the dog, while
it snarled and whined and struggled.

But it was all he could do, hold its body encircled in his arms and sit there.
445 He realized that he could not kill the dog. There was no way to do it. With
his helpless hands he could neither draw nor hold his sheath knife nor

throttle the animal. He released it, and it plunged wildly away, with tail
between its legs, and still snarling. It halted forty feet away and surveyed
him curiously, with ears sharply pricked forward.

450 The man looked down at his hands in order to locate them, and found
them hanging on the ends of his arms. It struck him as curious that one
should have to use his eyes in order to find out where his hands were. He
began threshing his arms back and forth, beating the mittened hands
against his sides. He did this for five minutes, violently, and his heart
455 pumped enough blood up to the surface to put a stop to his shivering. But
no sensation was aroused in the hands. He had an impression that they
hung like weights on the ends of his arms, but when he tried to run the
impression down, he could not find it.

460 A certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him. This fear quickly
became poignant as he realized that it was no longer a mere matter of
freezing his fingers and toes, or of losing his hands and feet, but that it was
a matter of life and death with the chances against him. This threw him
into a panic, and he turned and ran along the old, dim trail. The dog joined
465 in behind and kept up with him. He ran blindly, without intention, in fear
such as he had never known in his life. Slowly, as he plowed and
floundered through the snow, he began to see things again—the banks of
the creek, the old timber jams, the leafless aspens, and the sky. The running
made him feel better. He did not shiver. Maybe, if he ran on, his feet would
470 thaw out; and, anyway, if he ran far enough, he would reach camp and the
boys. Without doubt he would lose some fingers and toes and some of his
face; but the boys would take care of him, and save the rest of him when
he got there. And at the same time there was another thought in his mind
that said he would never get to the camp and the boys; that he would soon
475 be stiff and dead. This thought he kept in the background and refused to
consider. Sometimes it pushed itself forward and demanded to be heard,
but he thrust it back and strove to think of other things.

It struck him as curious that he could run at all on feet so frozen that he
could not feel them when they struck the earth and took the weight of his
480 body. He seemed to himself to skim along above the surface, and to have
no connection with the earth. Somewhere he had once seen a winged
Mercury, and he wondered if Mercury felt as he felt when skimming over
the earth.

His theory of running until he reached camp and the boys had one flaw in
485 it: he lacked the endurance. Several times he stumbled, and finally he
tottered, crumpled up, and fell. When he tried to rise, he failed. He must sit
and rest, he decided, and next time he would merely walk and keep on
going. As he sat and regained his breath, he noted that he was feeling quite
warm and comfortable. He was not shivering, and it even seemed that a
490 warm glow had come to his chest and trunk. And yet, when he touched his
nose or cheeks, there was no sensation. Running would not thaw them out.
Nor would it thaw out his hands and feet. Then the thought came to him
that the frozen portions of his body must be extending. He tried to keep
this thought down, to forget it, to think of something else; he was aware of
495 the panicky feeling that it caused, and he was afraid of the panic. But the
thought asserted itself, and persisted, until it produced a vision of his body
totally frozen. This was too much, and he made another wild run along the
trail. Once he slowed down to a walk, but the thought of the freezing
extending itself made him run again.

500 And all the time the dog ran with him, at his heels. When he fell down a
second time, it curled its tail over its forefeet and sat in front of him, facing
him, curiously eager and intent. The warmth and security of the animal
angered him, and he cursed it till it flattened down its ears appeasingly.
This time the shivering came more quickly upon the man. He was losing in
505 his battle with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides. The
thought of it drove him on, but he ran no more than a hundred feet, when
he staggered and pitched headlong. It was his last panic. When he had
recovered his breath and control, he sat up and entertained in his mind the
conception of meeting death with dignity. However, the conception did

510 not come to him in such terms. His idea of it was that he had been making
a fool of himself, running around like a chicken with its head cut off—such
was the simile that occurred to him. Well, he was bound to freeze anyway,
and he might as well take it decently. With this newfound peace of mind
came the first glimmerings of drowsiness. A good idea, he thought, to sleep
515 off to death. It was like taking an anesthetic. Freezing was not so bad as
people thought. There were lots worse ways to die.

He pictured the boys finding his body the next day. Suddenly he found
himself with them, coming along the trail and looking for himself. And, still
with them, he came around a turn in the trail and found himself lying in the
520 snow. He did not belong with himself any more, for even then he was out
of himself, standing with the boys and looking at himself in the snow. It
certainly was cold, was his thought. When he got back to the States he
could tell the folks what real cold was. He drifted on from this to a vision
of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek. He could see him quite clearly, warm
525 and comfortable, and smoking a pipe.

“You were right, old hoss; you were right,” the man mumbled to the
oldtimer of Sulphur Creek.
Then the man drowsed off into what seemed to him the most comfortable
530 and satisfying sleep he had ever known. The dog sat facing him and
waiting. The brief day drew to a close in a long, slow twilight. There were
no signs of a fire to be made, and, besides, never in the dog’s experience
had it known a man to sit like that in the snow and make no fire. As the
twilight drew on, its eager yearning for the fire mastered it, and with a great
535 lifting and shifting of forefeet, it whined softly, then flattened its ears down
in anticipation of being chidden by the man. But the man remained silent.
Later the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept close to the man and
caught the scent of death. This made the animal bristle and back away. A
little longer it delayed, howling under the stars that leaped and danced and
540 shone brightly in the cold sky. Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the
direction of the camp it knew, where there were other food providers and
fire providers.

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