"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 56 A Difficult Decision p584~586

Denhard shook his head, which didn’t surprise
MacDonald. He expected opposition from the man.
“Mr. MacDonald, we can’t just leave ‘em!” said the third
mate heatedly.
MacDonald held the tin cup of luke warm coffee in his
hands trying to pretend that it was hotter than it
actually was. “We’re not leaving them Denhard. My first
responsibility is to what’s left of the crew and the
Eskimos. As soon as we reach safe and stable ground,
we’ll send out a search party.”
“And by then it might be too late,” said the third mate.
“And how do you know it’s already not!” said
MacDonald with anger. He didn’t enjoy the thought of
Jon Mason and the others dead but he couldn’t ignore
the possibility either. “You don’t think that Lak’s men
couldn’t have already finished them off?”
Denhard cocked his head to the side and looked at the
ground like a child who has no answer.
“When we can make a safe camp and secure some food,
we’ll send out a search party,” said MacDonald. “I don’t
want to hear anymore about it.”
“Yes sir.”
“Now, how are our people holding up?”
“Not good sir,” said Denhard. “Some of ‘em are sick,
like a bad cold or something, I guess. I ain’t no doctor, Mr.
MacDonald nodded, influenza most likely, brought by
one of the crew. He certainly couldn’t imagine it the other
way around. The Eskimos didn’t handle disease very well.
“How many?”
“The two wounded men and Ed and six of the Eskimos
have down with it.”
“That many and so fast?” said MacDonald. It had been
less than two days since their encounter with Lak’s men
and everyone had been well within reason considering
their circumstances.
“Yes sir, that fast.”
MacDonald sighed. “All right, Denhard, do your best to
keep those that are sick separated from everyone else.
That might help.”
“It won’t be easy sir, especially with the Eskimos, you
know how they are.”
“I know Denhard, just do the best you can.”
“Yes sir. Any idea as to when we might reach land?”
MacDonald shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s hard to say but
if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say less than a week. Could
be more though.”
“I don’t think we can stretch our rations much more
sir,” said the third mate.
“Well, we’re gonna have to, until we can shoot some
game. Which reminds me, make sure we have some
rations put aside for hunting parties if we have to send
them out.”
“Yes sir.”
MacDonald rubbed his eyes. “Get some sleep Denhard,
we’re moving out in five hours.”
“Yes sir.”
Five hours, thought MacDonald. How many would be
alive to go?