Jordan is a Hard Road
Concluding Instalment of this Strong and Stirring Serial
Sir Gilbert Parker
Author of “The Weavers,” The Right of Way.” "The Money Muster,'' etc.
NATURE HAS HER SAY.
BRIBERY answering blackmail ís not the highest form of diplomacy, but it was successful in the case of Robert Simeon Struthers. who sailed ■from Vancouver on the last sea-voyage he would ever make. Minden had some heart-searching as to the propriety of the course he had taken, but anything likely to injure his daughter caused him to harden his heart. To make her happy was an obsession. That was why he focused his interest upon the Sink-orSwim Mine. Through it she could be provided with an “elegant” husband and a fortune also. He believed in the mine now even more fanatically than Sheldon. So it was that when Sheldon came to him in great anxiety, because of injury to the mine by fire and the break-down in machinery. also in regard to costs of the law suit which, though he had won, were heavy, Minden met him with a cheerful eye.
“How much do you want?*’ Minden asked him, going straight to the heart of the business.
Sheldon hesitated a moment, then he said,“I don’t like telling you,itseems such a big sum. The break-down and the fire and the law costs will eat up ten thousand dpllars, but-”
He paused. There was something on his mind and he hesitated to say it.
3 Minden came to his rescue. “Well, what is it, youngster? Got brain congestion? Out with it! Don’t mind me.”
The young man pulled himself together and returned Minden’s look firmly. “Of course I ought to speak out frankly to you as a partner, buf I feel you’re risking so much on my-”
“I’m risking nothing at all,” inter jected Minden with a chuckle. “I know what I’m doing’. If there’s one dollar in that mine there’s millions, and I saw from the start you’d got to have more money. There’s nothing in working a big mine per.uriously. On your present plan there's a good livin’ and there’s twenty per cent, or more on capital; but another forty thousand put into machinen*, development and hands ’d make the profits three hundred per cent I know what I’m talking about. You want ten thousand dollars for breakdown and the law costs. Settled; you’ve got it Then there's foity thousand dollars that’s wanted for development before we float the Company for five million dollars. Settled; you’ve got it—anyhow you’ll have it in three days.”
Sheidor. wa^taggered. When he could get his breath he said: “It doesn’t seem possible you mean it—but yes. of course, you do. You’re not loaning all this money to the mine without a mortgage on my share?”
“No mortgage if I know it. I want another quarter of the mine; then you and I’ll be goin’ halves, and I’ll think I got it cheap.”
Sheldon’s face lighted. “I’m glad you
said that.” he replied. “By rights you ought to have three-quarters of the mine, because I mightn’t have had anything out of it, if it wasn’t for you. I’m mighty glad you can do it.”
Minden nodded. “So am I. But I am saying this too, son, that as soon as this matter is fixed, you’re goin’ to have ten thousand a year for managing the biz.’’
^HELDON made a protesting gesture 4B>^‘Oh, I don’t mind that for the present! When I’m married though I want more cash. It doesn’t cost me much to live now, but ten thousand dollars a year won’t be too much then, of course.”
“Yes, it doesn’t cost you much to live now,” remarked Minden. “As near as I can figure, you spend ’bout as much as one of your workmen; but you’ve got to have somthing like what you’re worth when you get married. To my thinkin’ you’ll have fifty times what you’re worth when you’re married, Sheldon,” he added meaningly.
A warm, happy look crossed over Sheldon’s face. “Yes, she’s worth fifty times what I am, Mr. Minden,” he replied.
“You don’t think you’ll ever repent marrying a girl like her, seein’ what you’ve come from?” Minden asked, his eyes searching the other’s face closely.
Sheldon laughed happily. “She’s a lady, isn’t she? Is there anything the matter with her manners? When the Governor’s wife passed through, did you see any difference ’twixt her and Her Excellency?”
Minden chuckled. “Goin’ just as easy with Her Excellency as with me,” he answered—"talkin’ as if they were sisters.’’ “Well, that’s being a lady,” answered Sheldon decisively. "What more do you want? I’ve seen a shoemaker as well bred as any royalty.”
“You wouldn’t want to give her up then?” asked Minden lightly, but with an inquisitorial look.
“That’s what I’m always afraid of.” arswered Sheldon. “I don’t want to give her up. but I might have to if she took a fancy to someone else.”
“Then why don’t you marry her at once?” queried the other.
"Because I want the mine to be steadied down to its work and going strong, so that she won’t see any trouble in my face as there was in it to-day.”
Minden smiled. "That’s right, son, that’s right; you’ve got the hang of the thing. You be good to her always likt that. I guess you can get your marriage license out. With the fifty thousand dollars I’m going to pay for another quart“ -share, you can bet that mine'll run with greased wheels — like a snake down a hole.”
“Well, I think you’re right,” answered Sheldon.
“Then go and see the lady and fix the day,” urged Minden, “for you never car. tell what’ll happen. Better take thing.when the fit’s on. I’ve got a fit on for the
Sink-or-Swim. and you’ve got a fit on for the finest girl ever was; then let’s act while it’s on—while it’s on.”
They shook hands with a great swing and parted. Minden looked after the athletic figure with pride in his eyes. “There’s a lot in good blood,” he said. “You can breed men same as you breed animals."
This conversation occurred at the City Hall within the Mayor's office.
A S MINDEN stood ruminating on the departure of Sheldon upon a mission which brought bàck vividly the boisterous joy of his own courtship twenty-five years before, a misshapen figure in the open doorway of the room disturbed his vision.
“Well, Kernaghan, what brings you here? Isn’t the cheque all right?” he said, remarking the green-looking paper in Kernaghan’s hand. He saw it was a cheque he had given Kernaghan the day before for some casual work.
"Aw, Mr. Mayor, sir,” answered Kernaghan sadly, “I took this cheque to the bank, an’ they sez to me this morning, ‘Put your name on the back of it,’ they sez. ‘I’m not paid for doing that,’ sez I. ‘Well, you’ll get no money unless you do,’ sez they to me. An’ there I stood in the arly marn.in’ with my strength not come full, writin’ me name on the back of a cheque. Then what d’ye think happened? I was just passin’ it in, an’ they was countin’ out the money behind the bars of the cage, where they k#p it, when in comes the \our.g Doctor, and what d’ye think he ■»aid? He wasn’t lookin’very well. Shure, he always had a kind word for me no matter what time o’ day it was, but in he comes an’ just nods to me. Then he goes to the counter. ‘I want to see Mr. Bristow’ he sez—that’s the Manager, you know. Just then Mr. Bristow comes into the cage behin’ the bar?. ‘Good morning.' he sez to the Young Doctor. ‘Good morning. Bristow,’ sez he. 'Here’s a pretty baa business.’ sez he. ‘ What's that?’ sez Mr Bristow with a sharp look. ‘Prince’s Bank is gore,’ ?ez the Young Doctor. ‘It closed it’s doors this rnarnin’. I have a telegram. Ten cents on the dollar I s pose,’ sez he; ‘an I had five thousand dollars in it?”
T THE name of the bank, Minden * paled, and a sort of film came over his eyes. Hi? har d had been in his beard as he listened to Kernaghan,' ar.d at the mention of the bank-câtastrophe the fingers clutched the beard so that his lower lip was dragged into an involuntary grimace of tmture. That was all. He stood rigid ar.d dazed.
"Prince’s Bank! Prince’s Bark—an you suie that ? what the Young Doctor -aid?" he asked hu-kily.
”A\v. it’s Prince’s Bank in Winnipeg, all right." answerr ’ Kernaghan. “There’s no mistake about that. It’s the same that’s or. this cheque you give me yisterday. Am I to be lo?in’ it, Mr. Minden? Is it that Continued on page 94. Jordan is a Hard Road
Continued from page 34.
I’m not to have me money because the bank’s broke?”
Minden reached out and took the cheque.
“Of course whin the Young Doctor spoke up like that to that man in the cage,” continued Kernaghan, “they grabbed the money they was paying out to me, an’ put it back in the till. So what was 1 to do but bring that back to you.”
Without a word Minden took from his pocket a handful of bills. Counting a number of them he handed them over to Kernaghan. Kernaghan took them eagerly; but seeing the strange troubled look in Minden’s face, he said:
“Would it be hurtin’ you, Mr. Minden, the breakin’ of that bank? Had they anny great stacks of your money? Shure, the Young Doctor’s losin’ five thousand dollars—you didn’t have that much in the bank, did ye?”
“Five thousand dollars*—five thousand dollars, well, yes, I had that much, Patsy,” replied Minden in a low voice. “Get out, Patsy. I got some business to do.”
Patsy made for the door, but suddenly came back. “I don’t think I'll take the monney, Mr, Mayor,” he said.* “I’ll not be needin’ it. Shure, I’ve got plenty somej where.”
Minden took him by the shoulders and * turned him round. “Be off with you. Patsy,” he said. "D'ye think that’d save me if I was in trouble?”
Patsy pocketed the money. "Aw well, ’ he remarked without any ulterior thought —“aw well, if you’ve lost a lot of monney, hure.you always know where to get more, as you got what you lost.”
A moment afterwards, seated in his chair at the mayorial desk, Minden raised his head from a long reverie, and repeated Patsy Kernaghan’s words: “Shure, you always know wherè to get more, as you got what you lost.”
IF THE bank had failed, then he was, in the language of the West, stony-broke; for very lately he had removed from his bank at Montreal all the money he had to Prince’s Bank at Winnipeg. Ten cent on the dollar! What would that mean to him now? That which was to be a fortune for his girl and Sheldon, where would it be? If Prince’s Bank was gone, then his girl’s future was in danger. There was the hotel of course, but that on a sudden sale, would never bring what he paid for it; for the success of the Rest Awhile temperance hotel was due to his own notorious personality, and right well the public knew that If what Patsy Kernaghan had said was true, all he had left was the temperance hotel; and the mine would be gone and the fortune it promised.
A stupefying gloom settled upon him. until Patsy Kernaghan’s words came to his mind, “You always know where to get more, as you got what you lost” How had he got what he lost? By the robbery of trains, by breaking the law, by the highwayman’s methods; by the life which he had put forever behind. Yet here it was taring him in the face with its dreadful allurement and the drag of ancient habit, the perilous joy of criminal enterprise. With a strange apprehensive, yet furtive look in his face, on which a light was playing such as pjays through a crevice upon the grim architecture of a cave, he left the City Hall and went into the street There he met the Young Doctor, who had evidently regained his composure.
“You’ve heard what’s happened about Prince’s Bank?” the Young Doctor que¡+tioned.
“I’ve heard,” Minden answered calmly. “I had five thousand dollars in it, and I suppose it’s all gone,” remarked the Young Doctor. “It took a lot of making, that five thousand. I hope you haven’t lost much?”
“Net so much that I can’t replace it.” answered Minden with a strange smile, and passed on.
The Young Doctor’s eyes followed him. "I don’t like the look of his face,” he said to himself. “It seem9 to hide a lot and yet it betrays a lot, too. I suppose that he hadn’t all of his eggs in one basket, anyhow.”
INDEN’S face, as the Young Doctor had seen it, was the mirror of his mind. Everything was-in disorder there. All his plans and hopes were overturned; a blow had fallen which splintered into fragments the edifice so carefully builded during the past months. He had thought himself saved by the sacrifice of Calvary, and since his conversion it had not seemed too hard, his emotions being what they were, to steer the narrow way; but all at on in the presence of his ruined hopes, he saw by the flames which burned up his designs. Bill Minden of old beckoning him back to the dark trail of th« past.
The night of the day when he learned of the ruin of Prince’s Bank, he walked the prairie with a smouldering fire in his brain, with a sullen remorse and despair coursing through his being. He had thought he was “saved by the blood of the Lamb,” but in the black passions possessing him now,» he knew that he had only, as he said to himself, felt good, not been good. He realized now he was not good in the sense that the class-leaders in the meeting-house understood it. -In his agitated courses on that night of destiny he passed the meeting-house. The prayermeeting was ending, and the prayerpeople, as he had called'them, were sing ing a hymn to close their exercises—
“There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from ¡mmanuels reins.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood. Lose all their guilty stains."
He could detect among the singers the voice of Mrs. Finley. He knew that rapt, rather piercing, falsetto tone which had in it the loving passion of the fanatic. He knew now that his own guilty stains had never been washed away; that he was still Bill Minden who had defeated the law and been defeated by the law. He had an impulse to enter the meeting-house and standing up before these real Christians blurt out his repudiation of all he had said and done in the name of religion and of all religion had done for him—as everyone and he himself had thought
It was as though the Bill Minden of ola was whispering in his ear. He had the most curious illusion that he was standing outside himself; as though, indeed, he had an astral body, and that the Bill Minden who had been notorious on a continent was telling the Bill Minden who had ruled the town of Askatoon and kepi a khan for the wayfarer, that he had for months been in a trance, was the victim of an aberration.
As he passed on, the singing growing fainter, two hands seemed knocking at the door of his mind. One was that of the little misshapen Celt, Patsy Kernaghan, who had said: “If you’ve lost a lot of money, shure you always know where to get more, as you got what you lost.” The other hand was that of a man in Vancouver—Jim Starboard, a criminal friend of old days—who had written a week before, telling him of a train that would be carrying a half million dollars to the next steamer for Japan. Starboard had suggested that they should hold it up at a station where it was due at midnight. The passengers would be asleep, the express-van would only be guarded by two men, and the game would be worth the risk. Jim Starboard had. in his day, been almost as expert as Bill Minden, and had been even luckier in escaping the penalties of his crimes.
"^JOW, AS Minden paced the prairie, all * ^ that Starboard had written kept besieging his brain. At first there was only confusion. He was tossed between the waters of the harbor and the sea. He had been in harbor now for a whole eloquent and peaceful year; but now the sea of ancient habit and elementary passion fell uponthe breakwaters which his resolutions had erected; and at last it swept them away. Beyond everything else he had wished to see Sheldon and his daughter married, and to feel that the girl owed to him her fortune—some compensation for his being her father. For Sheldon to lose all now, for his girl not to have what he had planned -for her—the inevitable, the indispensable thing—was a torture to his storm-tossed brain. As the night wore on, he heard a voice from Vancouver forever saying to him: “There’s a way, there’s a way!"
Yes, with it all, something that had come to him out of his new life kept holding him, as a child lightly holds the hand of one it trusts. In sudden emotion he fell upon his knews in the stubble and prayed. He did not know what he said. It was the cry of the agonized, unstable nature of one who in its natural bent towards wickedness was strong with the selfishness of the materialist; the emotions of a character vain, irresponsible and weak, if kind and generous.
His strivings were of no avail. Nothing came to help him; there was no response to his call. It was as though he had only appealed to the Power beyond, because he could say, when another crime would be added to his record, that he had prayed for graco to resist, and it had failed him. Who can tell! Such dual personalities have their own tragedies. Grimly he rose from his knees as dawn touchai the hills. He saw the faint glimmer of saffron, then turned bis back upon the eastern sky and faced the mountains in the West.
A few hours later he sent a telegram in language which only Jim Starboard could understand. It was not adressed in Starboard’s own name. A few hours later still he sent a letter addressed to Starboard to an hotel at a railway station about eighty miles west.
IN ASKATOON things moved smoothly on. A few people had been hurt by the failure of the bank, and no one had the faintest idea of how much it had meant to Minden. He went his way as usual, and only two people in the place had the faintest idea that something was deeply disturbing his mind. Only the Young Doctor saw some subtle change in him, something that lay secluded in the depth of his eyes; while Cora Finley, seeing his face pale attributed it to some slight illness which table delicacies could cure.
Minden had promised Sheldon that he would give him a cheque for fifty thousand dollars within three days. On the morning of the third day he handed it to him, laying: “Good luck to us, and don’t waste it! It’s cost a lot.”
After Sheldon left his office to deposit the cheque in the bank, Minden sat long at his table in a kind of dream. At length something like a smile came upon his face; the trouble which had hovered over it for days passed away, and he said aloud :
“That’s settled it! He’s got the cheque, and he’s got to have the money. I can’t go back on that."
It would take several days for the cheque to go to the hank on which it was drawn at Montreal, and the money would be there if all went well.
IN THE dead of night a stranger visited Minden in-his office coming by the back garden, as Sheldon had come. After a long interview the stranger’s last words were:
“Yes, I’ve got it clear. Listen and see if I have. The Syndicate is to place at once, through half a dozen sources, fiftv thousand dollars to your credit in the Laurentian Bank at Montreal. As Mayor you’ve got to pay a visit to Forthright in the mountains and attend a banquet there —that fits in fine and dandy. You’re to take the eleven o’clock express back to Askatoon. and at Goldmark Station you’re to leave it. without being seen except by the conductor that’s in with us. You’re to wait there for the train from the East. At Goldmark the job’s to be done by you and me. All you want is the fifty thousand; and I’ll take all I can for the Syndicate. Then you’re to get to Askatoon in your own way afterwards, and I’m to make tracks my ówn way; Have I got it right?”
Minden nodded. “You’ve got it, Jim. Settled.”
“I knew you’d come back to us, Bill.” the other said. “You was the greatest war-boss that ever faced the guns. We all take off our hats to you. That was a great game of your playing ‘Saved’ and. preachin’ here at Askatoon; but I don’t see what you was driving at You’ve done it in style, but I don’t git it”
“You don’t have to git it,” was Minden’s reply. “You couldn’t if you tried.”
The other prepared to go, and opened the door. The room was as dark as the night and he could not be seen from outside. “Well, good-bye.i Bill,” he said. “This ain’t the first time we’ve been in harness together an’ it won’t be the last neether.”
They shook hands, Jim Starboard disappeared, and the door closed.
“You’re wrong. It is the last time, Jim. I’ve got sense enough to know that It’s the last, last time of all. If it comes off. I'm off East or Weet; it if doesn’t come off—no, it’s got to come off! I’m risking it for her, an’ I know I’m risking her too; but it’s too late to turn back. I got to go on with it now. It’s the last, last time though, so help me God!”
SOME ONE MUST PAY.
IT SEEMED as though the foot-hills 1 vrere in rebellion against the mountains and that hundreds of ruined regiments were breaking in blind disorder upon the plains. Never, perhaps, had the long escarpment of the Rockies known such a storm, or the plains beer swept by a wider flood. Like some red native of the northern wilds who mutilates himself in frenzy to show how much the human frame can bear, so on this night, Nature, the benign mother, ravaged her own bosom, tore out her own eyes, shrieked the agony of her own making— abandoned, merciless, a cynical, sinister hag. It seemed as though she made this massive turmoil in sheer contempt of all human order by sheltering in her cloak of storm one reckless man who, having shamefully sinned and repented of his sin was again returning to the sins he had forsaken.
In all the days of all the years he had lived. Bill Minden never had such an opportunity for carrying out his dark purposes; and at Goldmark Station, in the savagery of the tempest, the thing was done which Starboard and himself had planned to do.
The man who takes refuge with the devil must pay the devil’s fees; and the man who robbed the train at Goldmark found, as the night went on, that Nature. which had given hi mthe shelter of the storm, in derision made him the victim of the storm. In the hours when he worked the linemen's hand-car, as had been arranged, over the rails, up the grade and down the incline through the foothills and out upon the prairie, he was punished by a thousand whips of rain and wind and hail, until at last he reached the point where he must forsake the hand-car and take the trail to his home in Askatoon.
TT WAS just before the break of dawn * that, like one who had been man-handled by an army, with haggard, bloodless face, .and deep sunken eyes, with matted hair and beard and a hand that clutched his chest in pain, Bill Minden crawled up the stops of his back garden into his office, and from there through the silent hallway upstairs to hi9 bedroom. There, moan ng to himself, he hid safety under a loosened board of the floor the »yaking clothe* he wore. Then he put oui another suit and hung the garments on a chair, as though he had taken them off for the night. This done, he crawled into bed, having drunk half a tumber of raw whiskey to check the terrible cold which had seized his lungs. For a long hour he suffered greatly; then, as dawn spread, he rang the bell.
A half hour later the Young Doctor was by his bedside, and when he turned away from it to meet the sharp inquiry of Mrs. Finley’s eyes, the look in his face could give no hope to any anxious friend of the Mayor of Askatoon. Outside the door of the bedroom one word he used to Cora Finley sufficed to send the color from her face.
“Preumonia,” he said.
All had worked well for Minden’s plans, and all had worked ill for Minden himself; His racked and fevered body paid in its agony, second by second, for every dollar which Starboard had carried away to cover the fifty thousand dollars in the I.aurentian Bank which the nefarious Syndicate had placed to his credit. Not for hours after the train had left Goldmark Station were the armed, gagged guard* of the express-van, in which the money was carried, found, and released. Two had been taken from behind, and a third in his excitement had seen only a masked man and a pistol. His explanations were incoherent.
It had all been perfectly done, and Askatoon had no suspicion of its Mayor. Hundreds of its citizens passed and repassed the Rest Awhile Hotel as three anxious days went on. Prayer meetings were held; resolutions of sympathy by public "bodies were passed. The Young Doctor har almost to force his way to and from Bill Minden’s home, so emotional and pertinacious were the people who waylaid him.
All that he would say was, “Where there’s life there’s hope;” but from his mind hope had vanished.
One man, far away at the capital— Terrance Brennan, the railway millionaire—had a very strong suspicion that the greatest train robber of modern times had bien at work again ; but when his detective ; informed him that Bill Minden was dying, there was nothing to do.
A T THIS moment for a detective to have breathed the suspicion of Minden’s complicity in Askatoon would have made the victim of a partisan populace.
Askatoon had nothing but gratitude and affection for Minden. Open-handed and open-hearted he had lived among them. Among them he had found “peace"; to them he had given greatly; over them he had ruled with a rose branch and not a rod of iron. When Mrs. Finlev told Minden in one of the momenta when he waa free from agony that there were hundreds of people outside the Rest Awhile Hotel praying for hia recovery, sending him their best wishes, he whispered: “That’» good ! That’s good ! If it’ll only last me out. then she’ll remember me kindly."
Mrs. Finley’s eyes flashed; she saw deeper than anyone except the Young Doctor.
“You can live if you want to,” she said. “You know you can live if'you want to. You’re not fighting; you’re giving in to it."
They were singing a hymn eutaide the hotel. How well he knew it! How deep a part it had played in his life!
“There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we may tee it afar-”
“If they’ll only feel like that till I’m gone!” he whispered, a cloud upon his face—a wan, wasted, despairing look. No hope, no faith shone in hia eyes; his house of life was crumbling, and he knew it; and in a sense he was glad. Now and again when Cora entered the room his eyes followed her with a hungry look, in, which there was the only gleam that lighted the darkness of hia last days. When she spoke to him or took his fevered hand, the glimmer of a defiant joy atole into his eyes; and as he sat hour after hour while the pain tore him and the hand of penalty tugged at his body to dismember it from the soul, in his mind he was saying: “She’ll be all right; she’ll be all right.’*
To the appeal of members of the Grace Church class meeting, who wished tA^ftme and pray beside hia bed, the YounpCoctor gave a sharp denial.
“You’ll only hasten the end,” he said. “He’s all right; he’s one of you. He knows the way Home. He’s not fit to listen or to speak, and I won’t have it"
So it was that when the end came suddenly, and the knowledge of its coming spread in Bill Minden’s mind like a flash of flame, he drew himself up, and with a last flicker of light through his glazing eyes towards Cora, who sat beside his bed, he whispered: “Could you kiss me, little gal?"
swimming eyes she kissed his rough, bearded cheek and lowered him to the pillow again with her arms at his shoulders and her hands under his head. A light shone in his face for a moment, then a shadow crossed over it and his lips moved. None could hear what he said, except perhaps Mrs. Finley, who was bending over him.
Once more he turned his sightless eyes to the girl, and his fingers fluttered toward her. As she took and pressed them gently, the Young Doctor turned away from the bed with a sigh, for in that moment Bill Minden had gone upon his greatest venture.
“What was it he said?" asked the Young Doctor later.
“He said, ‘Mercy, mercy, Lord have mercy’,” she replied.
“He didn’t need to ask that," remarked Cora, weeping. “He found mercy at the Camp Meeting.”
“Perhaps, perhaps," remarked the Young Doctor as he closed his pocket medicine case and prepared to go. “ ‘But , Jordan is; a hard road to travel’ as the hymn says.”
I 'HE TRUE story of the Sink-or-Swim Mine, and how it came to flourish is j not known. The man and woman who i own it would not be happy if they did | know. Neither would have accepted prosI perity at the price. They are not dead, I however, and people pay such debts one ! way or another.