“What’s going on? Are you attached to this woman?”
Nazaire sat on his cot, putting on his socks and pants.
“How’s it going to end? Are you gonna bring her home with you?”
“No,” Nazaire said. He swayed from one foot to the other, an ambushed animal.
Raoul leaned into Nazaire and whispered, “No one’s gonna accept her. What’re you thinking?”
A wave of blood trickled up Nazaire’s face.
“Let me disabuse you of your grand ideas. She’ll never be happy on a farm, raising your children.”
Raoul stood with clenched fists, turned and slammed the cabin door behind him.
Nazaire wanted to run from the cabin and make his way to the Golden Flats. Stand outside and yell for Tait to come out. What would he say if he saw her? Would she even care?
He touched his hand to his mouth and took away blood, the top lip pulsing.
Inside, his stomach fought a tug-o-war. What to do? Which way to turn? All he knew for certain was he missed his children.
Nazaire walked from Broussard’s cabin to one of many tributaries of the Klondike River. He needed to clear his head, and the gurgle of the water calmed him as he stood, staring at the surface of the stream. The current moved in gentle swirls, twisting in spirals that swayed near the further edge. Somehow the water formed designs, odd twists.
It was not water at all he was looking at, but the discarded ginger hairs from a musk ox, some twenty pounds of wet floating hair each beast left behind when it crossed water.
These soft guard hairs from the undercoat coiled in the water, formed twin wreathes and elongated, the design remarkably like Victoria’s swan barrette with wings spread out on either side. He walked across the shallow stream and grabbed a handful of the guard hairs, felt their silk, and he knew. He knew, he must dismiss thoughts of Tait Negg and return home to his children and his farm. This was where his heart lay.