Dix is in a bad situation, and not just because of his name. He has wandered off from his camp, and thanks to overcast skies and the loss of his compass, he was been wandering for 3 days.
Having not eaten in 12 hours, Dix questions his senses when he sees a pack of dogs running toward him. With no where to take shelter, they are upon him in no time behaving fiercely, but restrained by muzzles.
They are followed by a dwarf, Cumber and a graceful young woman, Florence. The woman orders the dwarf to take the dogs back to the house, but it is clear he would have preferred to remove the muzzles and allowed them to go down on Dix.
Dix and Florence go back to the house where he meets her sickly uncle. The dying man tells Dix that Cumber is not their servant but is keeping them prisoner there. It seems like the dwarf would be pretty easy to overpower, even for the petite Florence. However her uncle is deathly ill, and she is not even aware that Cumber is actually master of the house.
On the 4th night, Florence’s uncle “dropped into his last sleep. Once Cumber understood his master had gone, he withdrew with his dogs to the farther side of the knoll” leaving Dix to dig the grave. So clearly Cumber knows the old man is dead.
Then how to explain his later comment, “The master has gone to a fair country far to the north.” OK, maybe a poetic way to say he croaked. But then he continues, “Tomorrow I must be off to find him.”
Florence and Dix plan an elaborate and dangerous escape over ice and lakes being chased by the evil rifle-toting dwarf and vicious dogs. However, Dix had ample opportunity in the past four days to dropkick the li’l bastard and have a leisurely return to civilization.
However, that would have denied the reader an action packed-chase through the icy wilds with Florence in a sled and Dix on ice skates. I was never clear what propelled the sled, was Dix pulling it?
Pendexter was not the smoothest of wordsmiths. As far as I can tell, at the end, one of the dogs grabs Cumber’s rifle in his jaws and shoots him, clearing the way for Flo & Dix to escape.
- First published in Complete Northwest Novels Magazine, June 1936.
- Also published that month: Gone with the Wind.
- 2nd story in the collection to feature an evil dwarf.