“Did you have enough?”
“Plenty. The trout was wonderful and the bacon, too. Weren’t we lucky they had rye bread?”
“Eat an apple,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have something good tomorrow. Maybe I should have made a bigger supper, Littless.”
“No. I had plenty.”
“You’re sure you’re not hungry?”
“No. I’m full. I’ve got some chocolate if you’d like some.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“From my savior.”
“My savior. Where I save everything.”
“This is fresh. Some is the hard kind from the kitchen. We can start on that and save the other for sometime special. Look, my savior’s got a drawstring like a tobacco pouch. We can use it for nuggets and things like that. Do you think we’ll get out west, Nickie, on this trip?”
“I haven’t got it figured yet.”
“I’d like to get my savior packed full of nuggets worth sixteen dollars an ounce.”
Nick cleaned up the skillet and put the pack in at the head of the lean-to. One blanket was spread over the browse bed and he put the other one on it and tucked it under on Littless’s side. He cleaned out the two-quart tin pail he’d made tea in and filled it with cold water from the spring. When he came back from the spring his sister was in the bed asleep, her head on the pillow she had made by rolling her blue jeans around her moccasins. He kissed her but she did not wake and he put on his old Mackinaw coat and felt in the packsack until he found the pint bottle of whiskey.
He opened it and smelled it and it smelled very good. He dipped a half a cup of water out of the small pail he had brought from the spring and poured a little of the whiskey in it. Then he sat and sipped this very slowly, letting it stay under his tongue before he brought it slowly back over his tongue and swallowed it.
He watched the small coals of the fire brighten with the light evening breeze and he tasted the whiskey and cold water and looked at the coals and thought. Then he finished the cup, dipped up some cold water and drank it and went to bed. The rifle was under his left leg and his head was on the good hard pillow his moccasins and the rolled trousers made and he pulled his side of the blanket tight around him and said his prayers and went to sleep.
In the night he was cold and he spread his Mackinaw coat over his sister and rolled his back over closer to her so that there was more of his side of the blanket under him. He felt for the gun and tucked it under his leg again. The air was cold and sharp to breathe and he smelled the cut hemlock and balsam boughs. He had not realized how tired he was until the cold had waked him. Now he lay comfortable again feeling the warmth of his sister’s body against his back and he thought, I must take good care of her and keep her happy and get her back safely. He listened to her breathing and to the quiet of the night and then he was asleep again.
It was just light enough to see the far hills beyond the swamp when he woke. He lay quietly and stretched the stiffness from his body. Then he sat up and pulled on his khaki trousers and put on his moccasins. He watched his sister sleeping, with the collar of the warm Mackinaw coat under her chin and her high cheekbones and brown freckled skin light rose under the brown, her chopped-off hair showing the beautiful line of her head and emphasizing her straight nose and her close-set ears. He wished he could draw her face and he watched the way her long lashes lay on her cheeks.
She looks like a small wild animal, he thought, and she sleeps like one. How would you say her head looks, he thought. I guess the nearest is that it looks as though someone had cut her hair off on a wooden block with an ax. It has a sort of a carved look.