Over the Chilkoot to Eldorado
WILLARD S. DILL
Of all the romances gilded by the rays of the midnight sun, that of Count Carbonneau will linger longest in the memories of those who followed the trail of ’Q8. In this, his second article, Mr. Dill relates it, along with other delightful reminiscences of the Yukon.
NO REMINISCENCE of the early days in the Yukon would be complete without a reference to its most widely discussed romance. It opens with the docking of the Selkirk.
On the ship’s upper deck stood a gentleman of distinguished aspect, if diminutive physique, who surveyed the welcoming crowd on the wharf with well-bred indifference. He was a swarthy man, with jetblack moustache and alert, bright eyes, one of which was barricaded by a monocle. He wore kid gloves and spats, and his elegant ensemble was heightened by the presence of his valet—a tall, bearded individual, patently conscious of his exalted station.
The dapper little gentleman had already been discovered by the Nugget reporter, who lost no time in approaching the stranger. Casey Moran introduced himself and requested the honor of an interview.
“I am but an ordinary business man,” said the newcomer with just a trace of foreign accent, “unworthy of the paper’s space and your time. It will give me much pleasure, however, to present my card.”
From a handsome leather receptacle, he drew a bit of paste-board engraved with the legend,
M. le Comte Carbonneau Representant
Messieurs Pierre Legros, Freres et Cie
Bordeaux Paris New York
Greatly impressed, Casey bowed. “Just what, sir,” he asked, “is your line?”
“We are the largest exporters of the higher-grade wines in France—-possibly in the world,” the Count told him.
“Well, you should have a good field here, for with percentage added, champagne hits us—I mean the suckers who buy it—at something like forty-five dollars a pint!”
The Regina Hotel was hard by the wharf, and, presently, the Count’s man was entering their names in the register. Then, with the liberality of one whose business is to encourage old vintage consumption, Carbonneau extended a general invitation to repair to the bar. His manner was restrained and free from the slightest hint of ostentation.
After settling the bill, he raised his hat to the assembled company and faded gracefully from the room.
Among those who had enjoyed the Count’s hospitality was Wilfrid Thibaudeau (formerly of Montreal), government engineer in Dawson. To Frank Maltby, manager of the hotel, he said: “I’ve a pretty good memory for faces, and I’m certain I’ve seen that man, before. It wasn’t in France, either!”
“Well, whoever he is,” replied Maltby, “he’ll probably try to land us for a big order.”
He was right. Half an hour after finishing his lunch, the Count had booked the American Trading & Transportation Company, a small adjunct of which was the Regina Hotel, for ten thousand dollars’ worth of the fine wines he carried.
“A fast worker, eh?” suggested “Pop” Lindsay, the general manager, to Ed Wert, manager of the liquor department.
“Almost too fast,” muttered he latter. “He’s cut the price to uch a degree that I’m worried. I
fail to see how he can possibly deliver the goods.” To the Northern Commercial Company the Count booked another order of ten thousand dollars, and Fairbanks, the manager, was equally anxious as to the certainty of getting his wines. The freight and duty alone would ordinarily eat up the vendor’s profit.
But the Count was serenity itself—-until he met Joe Putraw. “Hello, Jules,” cried the latter, with a fraternal
blow on the shoulder. “How’s Mo’real, and St. Lawrence Main Street?”
The Count started, but eyed the other coolly and remarked-
“Pardon, my friend, but I think you have made a mistake. I do not know the locality to which you refer. Nor is my name—”
“Oh, come off! Don’t try that stuff with me!” Joe spoke rapidly in French. “Do you think I’ve forgotten your St. Catherine Street shop and the times you have shaved me?” “Hush . . . for God’s sake!” whispered the other. “Not so loud! Where can we go to talk?” Putraw indicated one of the little cabinets that lined the walls of the saloon, and when drinks had been served, Carbonneau turned to his companion.
“Listen, Joe,” he cried, “we’re both French Canadians, and from old Montreal. That ought to be a bond. Besides, I never played you a dirty trick. Don’t throw me down!”
“What are you up to?” demanded Joe.
“I’ll tell you the whole story . . . There was a certain madame who wanted to buy me a
restaurant on L--Street, a
gay rendezvous it was, too, a gold mine. All I had to do was give up my barbering and promise to marry her. But I couldn’t go through with the last part of the contract. I couldn’t marry that woman! Naturally, perhaps, she turned against me, and although I’d had the authorities pretty well ‘fixed’, I could not hold out against her informing. So I bolted with what money I could raise, and here I am.”
“Doing what?” again demanded Joe.
“Selling wines. See, I have the contract properly signed. I am a man of business, Joe—not a charge upon the town . . .You can ruin me, or you can give me a chance. I ask you to hold your tongue, that’s all.”
“Bien,” said the other. “So long as you go straight, you can trust me. I don’t leak . . . monsieur le comte," he added, with a bow and a grin.
Shortly after this compact was made, the Count met Joe Barrette, who was?to play an important role in his romantic drama. Joe, glad to meet another who spoke his native tongue, undertook to show Carbonneau the workings and took him up to Grand Forks, then at the zenith of its prosperity. The Gold Hill Saloon was packed when the two men entered, and Joe was riotously welcomed from all sides. He was one of the most popular men in the Territory.
An ideal host, he was soon presenting to the Count all the celebrities within calling:—Big Alec Macdonald, known as “The King of the Klondike”; John Erickson, Antone Stander, Inspector Routledge, of the Mounted Police; Frank Phiscator, Clarence Berry and Skipper Norwood—all the miners counting their wealth in millions.
Here the lady enters the story.
AS THE Count followed fT Barrette in to supper, he noticed a woman whose friendly smile at Joe illumined a plain and very Irish face. She was dressed in regulation mining costume— blue jean jacket and pants, and high leather boots. Moreover, she anticipated her sex by many years, for even at that date, her hair was bobbed.
“Dat’s de mos’ bes’ miner in
e camp!” boasted Barrette.
He is Mees Belinda Mulrooney, nd she’ll go down de ladder wit’
0 more troub’ dan—he napped his fingers—“dat! I’ll ive you de knock-down to her fter supper.”
Carbonneau expressed his leasure, and, by dint of judiious questioning, gleaned somehing of the lady’s history from is companion. Belinda had, efore coming to the Yukon, pent ten years as stewardess on he big ocean boats sailing from eattle to Nome. She did a ttle speculating on the side, and ad a good head for business. Of vandal, not a breath. Her name ad never been coupled with that f a man. Indeed, Joe ruefully ;ated that she had no use for íe tribe. But her mine—he axed eloquent.
Miss Mulrooney received the sntlemen with a shy cordiality lat accorded ill with her mascune appearance. Clearly, it was íe Count’s presence that emarrassed her. Never, in all her ide experience with men, had íe met anything like him.
Before parting, Belinda had ivited Carbonneau to visit her ; the mine—an invitation he romptly accepted. Again, Joe arrette acted as his cicerone, and arriving at “26 above,” ley found Miss Mulrooney waiting for them under a lazing sun with a lighted lantern in her hand.
Following her down the ladder, Carbonneau had some fficulty in getting his bearings, and when his hostess aced a pick in his hand, suggesting that he take a bucket earth to the surface and “pan,” he found it no easy isk to loosen the frozen earth at his feet.
“Wise man,” commended the owner. “Dirt is always chest on bedrock, and that’s what we’ve reached now.” In Belinda’s office, the earth was put to the test, and .n eleven cents!
What,” asked the newcomer, “does that mean?”
Follow my estimate,” said Belinda. “At one hundred ins to the bucket, even re cent dirt would give us re dollars; eleven cent dirt ves us eleven dollars, or Hinting one hundred thound buckets, more than a illion dollars!”
“Success!” murmured the Dunt fervently, for he eant it!
They dined with the ¡stress of “26 above” who,
>t unnaturally, all things ■nsidered, made the event
1 excuse to wear a handme new evening gown she id ordered from San Franco. Oh, a woman’s heart at above Belinda’s blue m pants!
Roses lor Belinda
''HE following week found Carbonneau mly entrenched at the >Id Hill at Grand Forks, e went back to Dawson, t before leaving was rnly commissioned that, st what they might, roses re to be sent Belinda sry day At three dollars ih, Barrette managed to J just one daily, from ddock’s hot-house.
3ne month later, the enCement of the first woman ner in the Klondike to unt Carbonneau of Paris s announced, and simple ■parafions were set in tion for the wedding. Belinda decided that this >uld be a quiet visit to the irch. No fuss; no ostenion. But the Count’s ;nds were determined t to the event should be ached a lasting memory.
They formed a committee, engaged the A. B. Hall (Arctic Brotherhood) and arranged a magnificent stag banquet.
Long was the occasion talked about in Dawson. Some twenty-five enthusiastic well-wishers sat down to dinner at the unconventional hour of five p.m. The Count begged the privilege of providing the wine. It was Mumm’s oldest vintage, and was stored in cases under the table. The entire camp being built on a glacier, there was no difficulty in keeping the champagne at a properly low temperature. All that was necessary was to lay it for a brief period on the floor.
Chief Wills acted as toastmaster, and proposed the
only toast of the evening: “Our Guest,” coupling with the Count’s name that of his brideelect. Carbonneau, always graceful and fluent, simply surpassed any previous efforts in his reply. No one remembered exactly what was said, but all were agreed that the speech was a knock-out.
The wine was served from pint bottles, which would nearly have filled two glasses. But the large staff of waiters—almost equal to the number of guests—• became infected with the prevailing spirit of prodigality, and after serving one person, threw the bottle away! Each guest was served from a fresh bottle, when champagne sold by the case, and wholesale, for fifteen dollars a pint!
Speeches and song ("often indistinguishable one from the other) followed in a rising tide of gaiety until about three a.m., when a variation occurred. Little “Tib” (Thibaudeau, government engineer) thought that for his sins, he had suddenly been stricken blind. Disregarding the assemblage, he fell on his knees and sobbed out a contrite prayer to heaven. Many of those present wept with him in sympathy, until it was proven that his inability to see had resulted from the melting of a candle overhead, on his glasses!
The chairman pounded on the table with the blunt end of his axe but no one heeded. Skipper Norwood heaved his four hundred pounds to the table and tried to make a speech. Fancy, and the Count’s liberality, took him back to his quarter-deck, and converted Jack Lithgow and Joe Barrette, both swarthy of countenance, into two bloodthirsty pirates.
“Mr. Chairman,” he cried, “if I were to see those men climbing over the bow of my ship, I’d take no chances, I’d shoot!”
Cheers, vociferous and prolonged, shook the room.
At five a.m., precisely twelve hours after the banquet had started, the company dispersed.
Belinda Mulrooney and Count Carbonneau were married two days later at the little church at Grand Forks. A wedding breakfast followed, at which a fewintimate friends were present to wish them the customary, if somewhat ineffective, conjugal felicitations.
Then, they left for Paris, and parts unknown.
Paris at their Feet
NONE can state that Carbonneau lacked imagination, nor that he failed to give it a loose rein. One of his first tasks, after engaging the most luxurious suite in the hotel, and taking the precaution of introducing himself as a Klondike millionaire, was the purchase of a magnificent pair of white Arab horses, a handsome victoria, and harness profusely ornamented with gold. The effect of this Oriental splendor was further enriched by an Egyptian driver, and a footman of the same nationality. It was this latter’s part to leap from the box when the carriage stopped, and unroll a gorgeous crimson velvet carpet, which preserved miladi’s feet (accustomed to rubber boots and the muck of a mining camp) from corruption by thç streets of Paris.
Continued on page 46
Over the Chilkoot to Eldorado
Continued from page 12
Many ladies of position left cards upon the Countess, and obsequious lackeys brought her sheaves of invitations. Putative millionaires vied with one another to secure the attendance of this interesting foreign couple, and functions increased in magnificence and number.
For every one accepted, the Count extended two in return, and before long their lavishness caused some alarm to the practical Belinda. True, she had handed a very large sum of money to her husband, but equally true—it was vanishing with magical swiftness. So, she approached him, timidly, on the subject of their departure, and to her immense relief, the Count signified his entire willingness to return immediately to Canada.
This amiable agreement to his wife’s wishes, cannot be claimed as consideration on the part of Carbonneau. Peeping behind the scenes and anticipating the story, we find that he had already had enough of Paris. A dark cloud was threatening his horizon, and he was never one to seek a storm. Messieurs LeGros et Freres had looked soberly to their contract, and discovered that no payment was demanded from their representative until a second shipment had been made, but in view of dark hints as to Carbonneau’s insolvency why, they reasoned, should they send good money after bad? In other words, why make a second shipment? They had been unable to see the Count while he was in Paris, and were forced to the conclusion that he was a shrewd and slippery person. Reluctantly, they took their losses, having made their “representative” a gift of the finest consignment of wines that had, up until then, ever found its way into the Yukon!
To evade Legros, Carbonneau was anxious to leave France. Before departing for Marseilles, he made a last, magnificent gesture by presenting to his retinue of servants the entire driving equipment ■—horses, carriage, gold-mounted harness and all!
The Inescapable Triangle
AT MARSEILLES, they were joined by Belinda’s younger sister, whom she was educating at a most fashionable French institution of learning. Marianne was Belinda’s opposite in every particular. Beautiful, easy of manner, cultivated, she possessed a finesse that appealed strongly to her brother-in-law. The ocean voyage was much less turbulent than on the way over, so opportunities for intimacy were not lacking.
Belinda, fair-minded and clean-souled, was delighted that the two persons she loved best in all the world had found one another congenial. The idea of jealousy had never occurred to her, except, perhaps to fear that the Count and Marianne would be jealous of one another. It was still summer—as summer is to be found only in the Yukon—when she reached Dawson; her heart was overflowing with happiness, and her purse with emptiness, and the thought of getting back to work was inspiring.
The Count talked largely of the palace he was going to build, but, meanwhile the party registered at theMacdonald Hotel, a new and pretentious building erected by Big Alec Macdonald, and almost immeddiately were swept into a whirl of welcoming entertainments.
Belinda plunged into her mining operations with characteristic vigor, leaving her husband and sister very much to their own devices. The inevitable happened, as was patent to everyone, even Belinda, herself.
With the passing of summer, and Marianne’s return to France, her burden lifted. Somewhat previous to the girl’s departure, the Count had interested himself in a new “discovery” in the Fairbanks country, on the southern side of the border, Marianne had no sooner left than he proposed to go to the new location and examine the prospects. Belinda, eager to help in any way, and to distract his thoughts from her sister, readily assented to his going. Handsomely, she staked him.
Two weeks later, a party of sourdough miners came to Dawson from Fairbanks, over the Forty-mile trail. They brought mail, and the Countess Carbonneau
looked for a letter from her husband. She was disappointed, so sought out one of the arrivals and asked for news of the Count.
“I ain’t seen hide ner hair of ’im,” replied Black Sullivan, in answer to her question. “But I understood he travelled right on, by the S. S. Cudahy and went through to Nome.”
Nome! Belinda turned pale but her words were brave as she thanked the man and went home.
Suddenly, she thought of the cable, ajid hurrying to the office of the Company, sent a message to the Agent at St. Michael’s. Accompanying her enquiry was a description of her husband, for she surmised that in the circumstances, he would travel under an assumed name.
That night, she received a reply; a man answering her description and registering under the name of “Pierre Blais” had registered at St. Michael’s, and booked a passage for Seattle on the “President Lincoln.”
And a month later, a miner who had been to “the outside” for a holiday and knew nothing of the painful circumstances surrounding the Count’s departure, told how, as he came west to “Frisco,” he had stopped of at Chiuau, Mexico, meeting that gentleman in company with a beautiful young girbwhom he called “Marianne.”
The Price ol Cleanliness
IN A country where money was made on so prodigal a scale, prices were proportionately high. In view of this, the Federal Government allowed its officials a bonus in addition to their salaries. But even so, careful management was required to balance a budget.
The Territorial Secretary handed two valises to a barefoot boy, who carried them two short blocks to a hotel. The charge was two dollars! One apple cost twenty-five cents. Oranges once sold for ten dollars a dozen. Laundry was proportionately expensive.
As time went on and conditions became more stabilized, some careful M.P. (in the Opposition most likely) suggested that the living allowance might be abolished, or at least cut down. In 1905, the Government sent a man out to the Territory to investigate. He did not flaunt his badge of office, but rented a cottage and settled down as an ordinary tenderfoot might have done. None suspected his mission, and none can say what his report might have contained had the fob swing incident not taken place.
The newly-arrived sleuth sent a small parcel to the laundry. In due course, it was returned with a charge of $7.00. The official was indignant.
“There’s some mistake,” he protested. “You could buy the stuff for that.”
The driver took a twenty-five cent cigar from his mouth and observed that he didn’t fix the prices, but that seven bones was what he intended to collect. His determination may have been influenced by the fact that he—and all other drivers —worked on commission. They vied bitterly with one another in securing business, and all sorts of tricks were perpetrated in order to take the other fellow’s trade. In summer, when the steamers were running, more than one driver has earned between four and five hundred dollars a month!
Not many weeks ago, while reviving old times with George Black, M.P. for the Yukon, we were speaking of good old Mrs. Blank, who, in her sixties, went to Dawson and established a hand laundry. I, myself, saw her the day she left the country with seventy thousand dollars on her person!
But to return to the Government Official and what he believed was a holdup .. . Said he,
“You’ve charged me one dollar to wash a pair of duck pants that only cost a dollar to buy. That’s sheer piracy . . .
I won’t pay it!”
“Right!” said the driver, picking up the parcel. “I’ll take the stuff back. If you want it, you can come for it and carry it home!”
Which is the ignominous course the proud official was forced to follow.
Ten dollars will buy more to eat now than it did twenty years ago in the Yukon. Consider the price of eggs. As spring crowded winter out of the Yukon, the cold-storage variety dropped in price to $1.50 per dozen. Everyone had their eyes turned toward a newer shipment— “the latest eggs,” they were called—
which would be brought in stove-heated caravans over the ice, and which would retail at twenty-five cents apiece. Nor is that the worst. A certain enterprising lady—wife of a Mounted Policeman—decided to experiment with a few chickens, hoping to induce them to live through the winter and lay. The chickens obliged her, and for all the eggs she could acquire, she received the dignified sum of six dollars a dozen.
Her buyers, for the most part, were wealthy patients in the hospital, and this at a time when the output of gold for the camp had dropped fifty per cent.
Swift Water Bill
BEFORE leaving the subject of eggs, there’s the story of a loveFs horrible revenge!
“Swift Water Bill” figured on the voters’ list as William Gates. He had earned his sobriquet by refusing to shoot some rapids with a crowd of merrymakers. In Dawson, his affections were caught and held by a girl whose charm was more conspicuous than her constancy, and after a brief period of responsiveness, she turned Bill down, cold.
One winter’s day, she came into a restaurant where Bill was sitting, and ordered a couple of fried eggs. The morose William had a sudden thought. With a quiet smile of triumph, he sneaked out of the room and hunted up the proprietor. His noble rage had developed into a plan for revenge.
Said Bill to the proprietor: “How
much are your eggs?”
The proprietor named a startling sum. “How many of ’em have you got!” demanded Bill.
“About five dozen.”
Bill bought them all, and returned to the dining room in time to enjoy his .victim’s disappointment. She cancelled the balance of her order and set forth to another caravanserie.
Bill repeated his operation. He bought another few dozen eggs at a price that would have sustained a family of Orientals for a year. The inconstant lady was determined to have eggs. Bill was equally determined to thwart her intention, and he followed her from place to place until he had cornered the entire market.
But he won—at the cost of several thousand dollars!
The Public Administrator
ONE of the most picturesque posts in the Yukon, and one productive of the greatest number of human interest stories, was that of Public Administrator. From him—if he would tell it—you could always learn truth that was stranger than fiction.
In a country the population of which comprised wanderers from every corner of the earth, and whose family connections—if any—were likely to remain unknown, it was necessary that there should be an official to take charge of the “estate” of those dying intestate. Many such deaths were reported; a miner might be killed in a shaft by a cave-in a dance hall girl might be caught in a fit of the blues and take an overdose of acid a drink-crazed roustabout might revenge himself upon a bar-tender by slaying him with a bottle ... a hillside hermit might be found frozen to death in his lonely shack . . . and each of these had, probably, some kind of estate. In any case, it was the immediate duty of the police or coroner to inform the Public Administrator, who automatically became possessed of the effects of the deceased.
Bill Newlands was Dawson’s Public Administrator at one time, and his clerk was Charlie Shannon. It is difficult now to think of the Hon. William Newlands, Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan, and Charles Shannon, a valued official in the Department of the Interior at Ottawa, as presiding over this weird Government emporium.
One scarcely can imagine the heterogeneous assortment of articles that accumulated in the official store-room. Or, more properly, one can scarcely mention anything that the collection lacked. There was every conceivable kind of impedimenta that characterizes a human menage; articles masculine, feminine and neuter. Jewelry, clothing, firearms, hardware, suit-cases, bicycles, canned goods, groceries, snow-shoes, miners’ tools, books, furniture—to say nothing of odd sums of money, letters and gold dust.
Government officials and their friends came to regard this “olla podrida” as a sort of convenient second hand shop, where real bargains could be had for the asking. Picture a daily occurrence;
One customer was a young bank clerk with an English accent and a title, but once removed, of which we seldom heard.
“They tell me,” he began, “that only in rare cases are you asked for an article you can’t produce. This is going to be one of the cases—What’ll you wager that you haven’t what I want?”
“Five dollars,” said the P.A. promptly.
“What's your fancy, stranger? ’ asked the other.
“You know, there’s to be an amateur show to-morrow night,” replied the customer, “and in order not to miss a trick, I’m looking for a pair of opera glasses.”
Charlie Shannon disappeared for a
moment and returned with the article in question. The glasses bore the name of a famous German firm. 1
“Pass over your five,” laughed the P.A.
“Oh, fifteen will cover the order.”
“Make it ten.”
“No. Twelve-fifty ... no less.”
“Right. Thanks, old boy ... So long!”
A big Swede enters and enquires about a side of bacon. He is followed by a Pole who wants a meat-axe; then comes a dainty little dancer looking for silk stockings, a miner pays a good price for a lady’s diamond ring . . . and so it goes.
Strange sights were seen under the midnight sun.
(This is the second of a series of three articles by Mr. Dill. The first appeared in M acLean’s for September 15. The third will appear in an early issue. The Editor.)