Nine

Ada pushed open the tent flaps and searched for Knight. He had gone out some time ago to chop wood, and should have been back by now. Crawford, Maurer, and Galle had left them just one week before and Ada was still anxious about being left alone.

Suddenly she saw him, several feet away, lying on the ground, limp and still. Ada felt her heart rise into her throat as she took a step forward. Knight couldn't be dead. If he were dead she would be all alone, and then who would care for her? She took another step and another until she was standing over him, looking into his pale, gaunt face.

Thank God, he was breathing. She knelt over him and tried to wake him. It took a good five minutes — or so it seemed to Ada — but finally he stirred, the life coming back into him. He woke to see her anxious face, pinched and strained, peering down at him.

"I'm all right now, Ada." His speech was halting, his voice soft, but he wanted to reassure her because he could tell she was terrified. "I just felt a little faint."

Confused and frightened, Ada pulled him to his feet. He leaned heavily on her as she helped him into the tent and once there, utterly spent, he crumpled into a pile in his bed. He began to talk to her then, telling her for the first time how ill he was. It was scurvy, as far as he could tell, and it seemed to be getting worse. He had tried to keep it from the others, but Crawford knew, and Maurer a little, but now he could not hide it. His mood was gloomy, as he lay on his bunk, and he told Ada that for the first time he was scared. "I guess we shan't see Nome again," he said darkly.

She told him to stay in bed and rest, and promised that she would finish chopping the wood. She was used to it, she said, and had done that kind of work at home. The last thing Knight wanted to do was lie helpless in the tent while Ada took care of him. But when he found himself too weak to lift his head, he consented.

Ada went outside and took up the axe and began cutting the wood. Afterward, she collected snow for their drinking water, and then she took the map Maurer had left them of his trapline and followed it to his traps to check for foxes. As usual, there was nothing, and she turned back to camp, discouraged.

She had no idea Knight was this ill. No one had told her. Why had they not told her? She couldn't understand, but one thing was clear. Now she must take care of them until he was strong enough to get out of bed. She prayed he would recover enough in a few days to look after her again.