departure from Mr. Mannâs store. A huge mountain of a man had dumped a donkey cart full of crates at the entrance. He and Mr. Mann had negotiated a price, money was exchanged, and the man left. It was Angusâs job to lug the crates into the side tent and unpack everything for Mr. Mannâs inspection.
Heâd rather be at school, but there wasnât a school in Dawson, although his mother hoped someone would open one soon. Over the winter, when everything moved slowly because no one had much of anything to eat and nothing much to do, his mother had attempted to teach him herself. She could speak a schoolgirl sort of French and Italian, could read classical Greek and Latin, and could paint amateurish watercolours and embroider a beautiful lace handkerchief. She could also play a simple tune on a piano. She knew nothing of mathematics, or science, or even geography. In short, she could teach Angus almost none of what he wanted to know.
Most of all, Angus MacGillivray wanted to be a Mountie some day. Mounties were not required to embroider or to translate the Iliad from the original Greek.
He hefted a particularly heavy crate and grinned at the sudden image of the police calling upon the only man they could think of, one Angus MacGillivray, to decipher a clue hidden in the writings of Virgil or of Homer.
âYous a good boy, good worker,â Mr. Mann said from behind the wooden counter, mistaking the smile of a boyâs daydreams for enjoyment of his work.
Mr. Mannâs shop was so profitable that he owned two tents. The smaller one had an awning stretched between two poles driven into the mud on either side of a low wooden table where the best merchandise was displayed. Other goods were piled in the back of the tent, where the customers could see them and beckon to Mr. Mann or Angus to pull them out for a closer look. The larger tent, off to one side, mostly contained goods in great quantityâ yesterday there had been case upon case of canned beef, all of it sold by this morningâand stuff waiting to be examined by Mr. Mannâs bargain-hunting eye.
As Angus came out of the back tent for yet another crate, two ladies stepped hesitantly up to the wooden counter. A mother and daughter, he guessed. The younger one looked as if she hadnât had the sun touch her face in her lifetime. He knew a pale complexion was supposedly a sign of good breeding and great beauty, but as his mother was as dark, with black hair and black eyes, as he, Angus, was fair, he never associated paleness with beauty. This woman was as scrawny as a scarecrow on the cornfields back in Ontario, and her washed-out blue eyes flittered around the interior of the shabby shop like an exotic butterfly in a net trying to find its way to freedom. The overabundance of birds and feathers on her large hat had been tossed about by the wind so they now resembled a pair of crows building a nest. Her tiny, delicate shoes were caked with mud. Her dress was very fine, although Angus, whoâd lived closer to a woman than most boys of his class ever would, recognized hasty stitches and mismatched patches on the sleeves and around the hem. But where the young one looked like she might blow away in a middling-strong wind, the older woman was bold and buxom, with a prominent nose that came to a sharp point. She was dressed in a travelling costume of practical tweed, a no-nonsense hat, and heavy boots.
âThis looks quite the place, doesnât it, dear. How exciting; weâre here at last! What an adventure that journey was. You, young man, weâre in search of mining supplies and were told we could find them here.â
Angus gaped. âMining supplies, maâam?â The woman winked at him and dropped her voice to a theatrical whisper. âWeâre in search of people who are buying mining supplies. This looks like exactly the sort of place to locate them.â
Mr. Mann had finished serving one customer, having