Jass cleared his throat then said what he had to say. “It’s gonna be real slow getting through that snow, even for you two. I’m just gonna hold you up. If I fall behind, I don’t want you waiting up for me. The trail is clearly marked from here to my cabin. So you go on and I’ll see you there. I got my matches, and if you leave me with a little of the flour and sugar, I can mix them in melted ice and live off that for a week . . . easy.”
Huck looked over at Molly. “Did you hear somethin’?”
“Nope. It must have been the wind.”
“I reckon so.”
Jass was not amused. “There ain’t no wind. There never is when it’s this cold. And I won’t be put off. I won’t let you jeopardize your lives haulin’ a cripple seventy miles through some of the worse country in Alaska . . . and . . . when it’s 102 degrees below freezing!”
Huck threw another thick spruce branch on the fire and waited for the ensuing sparks to die down before speaking.
“Look here, Jass. You gotta know one thing about Huck Finn and Molly Lee McMasters, and that is when we say we’re gonna do something and we give our word on it, then we do it or else we die tryin’.”
“But . . .”
“Ain’t no buts about it. I’ll break trail as best I can. Molly will follow me, and you, Jass, you’ll bring up the rear. The three of us are gonna make it, or the three of us are gonna die together in this godforsaken country. You understand?”
“But what about the baby? You’re gonna chance his life?”
Huck looked to Molly. He wanted her to answer Jass. “John has thrown his lot in with us. He had no say about it, but that don’t matter none. The four of us, and that includes John, are leagued for better or worse. Now do you understand?”
Jass nodded, but said nothing.
“Alright,” said Huck, “that’s good. Now let’s get going. I’ll carry the pack holding the food, I put the gold in there too. Molly, you, as you have been, are in charge of the baby. And Jass, after Molly and I have trampled down the snow a mite, you should have no problem keeping up.”
Jass struggled to his feet, and once steady on his crutches, he looked Huck in the eye and said, “I ain’t movin’ until you hand me that pack. No man is gonna carry my gold for me. Least of all, you, Huck. It weighs thirty-five pounds! If you don’t give me that pack, then you might as well sit back down, ’cause we ain’t going nowhere.”
Huck gave Molly a side glace and she nodded her answer. So Huck shrugged and took off the pack. After handing it over, he said, “Now can we get going?”