There is no silence so fearful, so breathless, so searching as the night silence of a wild country buried five feet deep in snow. For thirty miles or so, north, south, east, and west of the small, half-smothered speck of gold in Pierre Landis's cabin window, there lay, on a certain December night, this silence, bathed in moonlight. The cold was intense: below the bench where Pierre's homestead lay, there rose from the twisted, rapid river, a cloud of steam, above which the hoar-frosted tops of cottonwood trees were perfectly distinct, trunk, branch, and twig, against a sky the color of iris petals. The stars flared brilliantly, hardly dimmed by the full moon, and over the vast surface of the snow minute crystals kept up a steady shining of their own. The range of sharp, wind-scraped mountains, uplifted fourteen thousand feet, rode across the country, northeast, southwest, dazzling in white armor, spears up to the sky, a sight, seen suddenly, to take the breath, like the crashing march of archangels militant.