And then they had paddled from one end of Disappointment to the other, bay after bay, looking for its outlet; and George got to feeling his secret spot. Toward the end of the search, when they passed their first campsite on the lake, he asked Hubbard to pull into shore. The campsite was where they'd thrown away the caribou hide. It hadn't dried well, was smelling something awful, and was crawling with maggots. But George hopped out and brought the hide down to the canoe.
Wallace had laughed. "Whatever in the world are you going to do with that?" he asked. And George saw that, inside, Wallace didn't have a secret spot yet. Neither did Hubbard. So George said, "We may want to eat this skin some day." Quiet, but he said it. And Wallace laughed again and Hubbard laughed too. Still, Hubbard saw George meant it, so he jumped out and helped wash the skin and put it back in the bag.
As the venison supply got lower the secret inside George grew. He could see something in the future, something coming, and it sure was something the other boys ought to be seeing. But somehow they didn't. Or acted like they didn't. And he liked Hubbard for helping wash the skin off, but it was the kindness he liked. Hubbard didn't really have the secret inside. Wallace didn't either, but he wasn't the leader of the trip, so George thought maybe he could talk a little to him. Maybe he could tell some stories about Indians starving down on the Bay.
Then Hubbard had decided to turn back, and a funny thing happened. Everybody felt good all of a sudden—wanted to talk. It seemed so easy, once the decision had been made. George could tell Hubbard how it hadn't really been his cold feet keeping him awake at night but thinking about the wind holding them down. Once they had shared secrets—once they told each other how they knew they were up against it—why, George figured there'd be no more silence between them. Everything would be easy.
But it wasn't, somehow. Because the wind kept blowing—pinning them down, first on the island, then along shore. The cold weather kept the fish from rising like they should have. And so the men didn't speak any more of how they were up against it, and the secret came back inside. They sat closer to one another around the fire and talked of food, or huddled in the blankets and spoke of days gone by. Each morning they would get up and see the wind blowing, and each evening they would see the store of grub grow smaller. And they all knew inside that if they didn't get started home soon—if they didn't act fast—well, they knew.
But they didn't say anything. They just let the wind blow them across the lake and the waves take them up and down. Steering the last twenty yards, George tried to keep the canoe lined up, but it got swung broadside by the swells crashing onto the bouldery flats. He scrambled out as the waves shoved 'em to shore—the others too—and staggered up to the bushes, dragging the canoe behind.