Commencing—The Great Canadian Novel: TRACK OF DESTINY
ON A DULL autumn afternoon in 1880, a man past middle age stood in front of the fireplace in a first-floor sitting room in Batt's Hotel, Dover Street, London. Occasionally he glanced
impatiently at the clock or stepped to the window to look out. The hour was five, and the street unusually quiet save for the clop-clop of horses drawing four-wheel cabs.
The features of this man offered points of interest. They had a faintly Jewish cast, though second glance would have convinced the observer that he was not a Jew; his age was sixty-five, his name Macdonald, his office that of Prime Minister of Canada.
He had greying hair, a large, flexible mouth with curving, mobile lips, thin like the edge of a saucer. They were sensitive lips. The slightly hollow cheeks and shrewd, highly intelligent eyes set far apart under prominently arched brows, were suggestive of daring and seemed to invite disputation; the thick mass of hair was tossed back, baring the right forehead, bringing into definition the longish nose with narrow bridge and bulbous tip; the features presented a curious blending of matured youthfulness and benignant cynicism, and in an age of bearded men Macdonald was clean shaven.
I le had been waiting for perhaps half an hour when he was joined by two other men, with one of whom he exchanged a quick searching glance that appeared to impart to each the same disturbing information, whereat Macdonald shrugged.
“Well, Charles, I was afraid of it; the stars in their courses do not favor us.”
Canadian Minister of and
Tupper, Canadian Minister of Railways and Macdonald’s faithful ally, shook his head. “What did you find, sir?” “Depression. I reached Hughenden at the hour arranged and Lord Beaconsfield saw me at once, but what a change ! He, too. was very conscious of it. Ichabod! Charles, and the glory has departed an old, old man now,
crippled with asthmatic bronchitis and gout. We talked for an hour—a great effort for him at this stage—and only a spark of the former Disraeli is left. I don’t think he can last long. He still likes the idea of our all-red line, but of course can do nothing now. He asked if we had seen Rothschild—I told him that George Stephen was looking after that; then he described how he’d sent Corry—Lord Rowton, y’know— to the baron five years ago for four million pounds in twentyfour hours to buy the Khedive’s Suez Canal shares. The baron, who happened to be eating grapes, asked what the security was, and Corry said, The liritish Government.’ He got the money.”
“And that secured control of the route to India and the Far East," said Tupper emphatically. “Well, we propose to open the other route the other way round.”
“Beaconsfield agreed at once, and referred to our previous talk in 75; also he said that if our party had been in power five years ago when he was at his zenith, he could have provided what backing we needed. It is too late now. One anticipated that, but—well—”
“How does he look?”
“Like some Eastern magician in a fez, a fantastic red dressing-gown and slippers. He still gets affectionate notes from the Queen, but sees practically no one; he reads, dreams and examines his collection of portraits, calling them the Gallery of Friendship. He says he would prefer to live, but is not afraid to die, and that he never hated Gladstone but simply couldn’t understand him. He’s only a mummy now, a dried-up human pod kept alive by the fading vision of former triumphs. It was all rather sad.”
Tupper nodded, and for a moment nothing was said while their minds reverted to the purpose that brought them here. That, too, was a vision. They had landed in England with hopes high, hopes that in past weeks cooled considerably, and Tupper for one experienced a chill in the stuffy chambers of this centre of world finance. British money bags were full, but British eyes turned east rather than west, and the fairy tale of a three-thousand-mile railway through a wilderness of hostile Indians and uncharted mountain ranges did not appeal to Lombard Street. But Macdonald had risked his political life on the construction of that road, and refused to withdraw. Now the vision was encountering the solid unimaginative weight of London, with its power, its bland self-sufficiency, its polite indifference.
“Well,” said Tupper heavily, “if Stephen bumps into the same thing there’s only one thing for it: Canadians will build the road themselves, and Stephen must form the syndicate and subsequent company. Pope, what’s your view?”
Pope, Canadian Minister of Agriculture, agreed at once, then with a smile:
"Sir John, you’ll have to make it sufficiently inviting.” “If he will take it up, that means the Bank of Montreal, too,” suggested Tupper thoughtfully.
“To say nothing of a certain Donald A. Smith.”
At this the Premier put back his head and laughed. “Donald by all means, though perhaps not officially, that is to begin with. John Henry, can you suggest suitable terms with such a syndicate?”
r"pHIS QUESTION, the signal for an earnest conversation, occupied them till came a knock at the door there, and entered two men who completed a Canadian group that had set out from Montreal a month previously. George Stephen was tall with a long loose, graceful body, flowing brown beard and mustache, and large, kindly, intelligent eyes that held a lurking readiness for humor. Now he looked dejected, and observing the gravity of the three already assembled, he frowned slightly. Difficulty was in the air, and only on Macdonald’s face might there have been discerned a faintly satirical tinge. Nodding to the newcomers, the latter resumed his position on the hearth rug.
“Well, gentlemen, after some arduous prospecting along different trails we meet again, and I hope you unearthed more than we have. What about it, Mr. Stephen?”
“Practically nothing, sir.”
“We have learned. Sir John, that your idea of an all-red line from the Atlantic to the Pacific strikes no spark of interest in the city, but a good deal of opposition.”
“H’m,” Sir John murmured, “you discussed it with Baring’s?”
“Very fully, and lunched with Lord Revelstoke.”
“Then you did get something out of it?” chuckled Macdonald. “We should have gone with you instead of elsewhere. Yes?”
“Baring’s knew all about the scheme—they’ve known about it since the first—and won’t touch it. They think it a gamble, and—”
“It is a gamble—yes?”
“Lord Revelstoke holds that one cannot sell shares in a shot in the dark. Very polite, of course, and I like him immensely, but he was quite firm. He did. however, ask if
your Government would guarantee interest on the shares.” “Impossible,” said Tupper firmly, “that was agreed on the way over. The Government is not going to build this line; we desire it done by private enterprise.”
“So I told him, and got no farther.”
“Rothschilds?” asked Macdonald.
“The same thing,” replied Macintyre, “but more so. My impression is that the baron considers us too young, the
whole country too young to embark on such a project. We came away feeling that the Rothschilds were too accustomed to dealing with crusted old kingdoms and European states to entertain business with a youth like Canada. We smelled money all round us, but couldn’t reach a cent."
“The City’s like that,” nodded Stephen, “and I’d like to be back in Montreal. You meet a man here and he seems interested—he is interested, because he can’t teil when your information may not be of considerable use. He listens, he nods, perhaps asks you to lunch, and you talk yourselt dry. Then he asks you to come back in a fortnight. Y ou do come back, then he tells you that, having gone into your proposition very thoroughly, he regrets that he cannot avail himself just now—later on, possibly, but not now. The reason is that anyone having anything to sell brings it to London, and he knows perfectly well that within twentyfour hours he’ll be offered something more to his liking. So there’s no hurry about anything. Oh, Macintyre and I have learned a lot since we got here.” He i>aused and shrugged. “What happened in Downing Street, Sir John?”
Macdonald made a grimace. “Tell him, Charles.”
“Much the same experience as yours: Canada and our affairs are not of present interest in Downing Street, and we weren’t even asked to come back, let alone lunch. We waited three hours for an interview— then nothing. Mr. Gladstone is—”
“—is not Disraeli,” put in Macdonald with a touch of bitterness, “nor is lie Lord Salisbury, worse luck, but pulled with his recent victorv. We were about six months late, but I couldn’t anticipate Disraeli’s defeat. The last time I saw him he was Prime Minister with the country at his feet ; now he’s the dying leader of the Opjxisition in the House of Lords. Well.
I know how it feels to lead an Opposition. Mr. Stephen, it seems that you’ve shot your last bolt?”
“There is one glimmer of support we have heard of, sir.”
“Morton Rose and Company. They’ll participate to a limited extent—perhaps a few millions—if you approve.”
“Did you ever hear of my disapproving of millions?” scoffed Macdonald.
“It’s the British firm, but American dollars.”
At this, Tupper looked a shade uncertain. “What about it, Sir John?”
“Grab them, Stephen, grab them. Nothing else?” “Possibly a little from Holland. That exhausts the possibilities on this side.” “Yet here we are sitting in the middle of the richest city in the world. Frankly, I am astonished.”
THIS SOBERING truth left them all silent. The biggest political and mercantile figures in their own Dominion, they were but
small fry in London, and each underwent the nostalgia born of fruitless effort. Of a sudden Macdonald turned with an exclamation.
"The Grand Trunk is behind all this; I feel it in my bones. What do you think, Charles?”
“I agree, and after encountering that stone wall, I rather expected what would follow. Stephen, they were willing to build the line for us, and run it—yes. I can see Sir Henry while he laid down his terms—if we did not require them to have the entire road in Canadian territory. That is, they would run through the State of Michigan, then up across the boundary to the prairie country.”
“Which he knew perfectly well we would not have,” snapped Macdonald hotly. “By heaven, we won’t! ’Twould be playing straight into American hands; defeating the whole project, and putting your friend James Hill in strategic control. No, no, he’s thick enough already with the Grand Trunk. I know that you two gentlemen, with Mr. Hill and my political thorn in the flesh, Mr. Donald A. Smith, have shared a good many millions cleaned up on a certain railway deal in the United States not long ago; but that’s your affair, not mine, and what we’re talking about now is a Canadian line with every spike in it a bright red. I defy Mr. Hill to get control of that. At the same time he might be very useful with his money and experience, so I’ve no objections whatever to his joining you. The Opposition would howl, but that’s nothing new. What do you say, Charles?”
Macintyre and Stephen exchanged glances, the Minister of Agriculture began to converse with Tupper in a lowered tone, and presently Macdonald gave his head a characteristic
“Mr. Stephen,” he said, "I am going to make you a proposal. Some twelve years ago I pledged my faith to the people of British Columbia that if they would join the other provinces already in the Federation, the Government would undertake to link them by rail with Eastern Canada. But for that they would have seceded, and, naturally enough, to the United States. I think you are fully informed of this. As you know, I could do nothing till two years ago.
“I understand, sir.” Stephen had a shrewd anticipation of what was now coming.
“Well, we began at the Pacific end—with an American contractor. It was not possible to do otherwise. That coast was cut off from us—no communication through Canada, and California the only source of labor. Also it seemed wiser to break the first ground in the province we were determined to keep under the flag. Mr. Onderdonk is a reputable man, we are safe in his hands, and he’s already at work on the Fraser River. Also we are building from Winnipeg to the Great Lakes—about six hundred miles in all.”
“Out of three thousand, Sir John.”
“About that. As to the remainder, England is evidently not interested, so it is forced upon me that this must be a Canadian enterprise—in contrast to the Grand Trunk. Canada must play her own hand without English aid. Mr. Stephen, if you and Mr. Macintyre and Morton Rose and other of your friends—including James Hill if you like, I’ll take a chance there—will sign a contract to complete this all-red line, my Government will vote you twenty-five millions of dollars in cash, twenty-six million acres of fertile land in the West, and such legislative protection as may be necessary.”
Stephen, feeling his pulse quicken, stared fixedly at the speaker. Macintyre sat motionless; Tupper’s large eyes wbre regarding the two merchants with luminous urgency, and into the quiet room crept the consciousness shared by all that here and now gigantic issues were at stake. The thing was too big to be more than fractionally visualized—all perceived that, and no man could foresee what might not be involved—but it presented an aspect defiantly stimulating that mocked, intrigued and dared all at once. Like
growing pains in the muscles of youth, it invited the un proved strength of a young Dominion. "A big order, Sir John," said Stephen in a voice not quite steady, "and no syndicate could dream of it without con stant Government support."
“I agree fully. I had hoped that we would find assistance in England. Now we’re cast on our own resources.”
"Would you protect such a line from invasion by other roads across the border?” asked Macintyre tersely.
“Certainly,” Tupper assured him, “the object being to create traffic east and west, whereas now it nins north and south.”
“I’m thinking of the mountains,” interjected Stephen, “especially the Selkirk range. From what 1 hear, not one of your Government Surveys —and there are a lotof them—indicates a suitable pass anywhere near the border, so the line might be shoved up north, shoved anywhere, to get through. Also, so far as my knowledge goes, there’s a thousand miles of territory east of Winnipeg and north of Lake Superior which is simply barren rock and would not bring any traffic whatever. How about that? Admittedly the prairie section might pay, but what else?”
Tupper. glancing at his chief, made a gesture. I le was a big man
with a broad, square, immobile face, large confident mouth, masses of dark hair and opulent whiskers trimmed well back from a strong clean-shaven chin. He exhaled rejxjse and a sort of comforting solidity.
"As a Canadian, Mr. Macintyre, do you desire Canada to end on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains?”
“What real Canadian does?”
“Then 1 put it to you that that is the big question. Sir John, Mr. Pope and I have decided that Mr. Stephen and yourself are in the first instance the men we need. The Government will back you to the extent indicated ; you may capitalize a company for what you think desirable. As to the pass through the Selkirks, Mr. Moberly, one of our best engineers, believes that there is one. As to the thousand miles of barren rock, it is through, main line traffic rather than local, that will justify the road. Its political and national effect will be enormous, and it should bring this city of London within two weeks of the Pacific Ocean.” Stephen sat silent, feeling in brain and body an electrical tingle. He was a little breathless. No opportunity here to weigh this matter coolly and cautiously. On the voyage over, he and Macintyre had considered the possibility of drawing a blank in Lombard Street, and their own position in such an event. Now that the blank was drawn, the alternative had in some notable fashion assumed proportions infinitely greater than they could have anticipated. It was concrete, yet nebulous; fascinating, forbidding. He could see a beginning but no end. And Macintyre’s expression told him that exactly the same reaction was going on there.
“Is it too big for you, gentlemen?” asked Sir John in a slightly provocative manner.
Stephen, a proud and high-spirited man, felt the blcxul rush to his face.
“We’ll try it, sir,” he said in an unsteady tone; “we’ll do our best.”
TN THE month of June, 1881, Kelly, The Rake, whose financial prospects were intimately connected with the all-red line, sat on the north bank of the Fraser River,
3(X) miles west of where Apau died, pulling a narrow strip of fine sandpaper between the lightly compressed tips of thumb and forefinger of either hand. His manner was deliberate, he found apparent satisfaction in the feeling of friction, and when the skin which was smooth and white had been reduced to a thin tissue beneath whose transparency the bkxxl was clearly visible, he examined the result with grave approval and drew on a pair of cotton gloves. The Rake being a professional gambler, it was of importance that by touch alone he should be able to determine the pinpoint markings on cards which were practically invisible and t(X) slight to be detected under the horny cuticle of miners and railwaymen.
He was attired in highly polished leggings of black leather, narrow sharp-toed boots of American make with a glossy shine, a white silk shirt with loosely-knotted black silk tie,
a long black frock coat, full at the breast, close fitting over the hips, a garment that reached his knees, and a large black
sombrero hat. His face was sallow and clean shaven, cheeks a shade hollow, his eyes large, dark and scornful. The wide mouth had little pits at the corners of the lips, and his sombre dress and air of thoughtful detachment gave his general appearance a touch of the ecclesiastical.
He sat some thirty feet above the river, his back to the straggling town of Yale, with its irregular ranks of flimsy houses, log shacks, tents, frontier hotels with narrow balconies at first-floor windows, stores, saloons and woodpiles, with here and there a squat stonebuilt structure. This agglomeration, for the most part devoid of paint, displayed every sign of hasty occupation, and stretched perhaps a half mile northeast, ceasing abruptly
where a mountain torrent called Yale Creek established the boundary of the Indian Reserve on which no white man might build. To the southwest along the clay banks it widened till it ended among scattered clearings on the rough shoulders of a rocky mound known, in virtue of its outline, as the Jew’s Nose. On the other flank rose Mount Linhey, dotted with jack pine to its great rounded crown; while still farther northeast the tawny river appeared mysteriously to emerge from a vast rampart of higher peaks down whose scarred flanks coursed transitory cataracts that at this season of the year escaped from hidden recesses in the mountains and leaped to sunlight in argent foam.
Sometimes when Yale enjoyed a quiet night with the wind from the East, one might hear the distant voices of these cataracts blending with the low monotone from the river, which was now sixty feet deep, half a mile wide, and flowed at some six miles an hour. But since Andrew Onderdonk, the American contractor, was building a 200-mile railway through the mountains and had chosen Yale, the head of navigation on the Fraser, for his headquarters, there were but few moments of silence. Now, a hundred yards behind The Rake, a small saddleback tank locomotive was snorting at the head of a train of flat cars from which a gang of Chinese were unloading material. Steel clanged on iron, thevoices of men rose in free profanity, wagons creaked, and from upriver sounded the boom of dynamite where Onderdonk was slowly olasting his way through the formidable gorges of the Fraser.
These sounds, however, woke no answering chord in The Rake, and his slack figure lounged comfortably till he heard a voice close by.
“Hello, Kelly; fingers in good shape?”
THE NEWCOMER was a man of different appearance, shorter, broader, with heavy face, cold eyes and shoulders like a Texas steer. Known locally as Big Mouth Kelly, he held a position of considerable importance, having secured the contract for burying Chinese victims of the China plague—a mysterious malady, little understood. It began in the legs which immediately turned black, then mounted to the heart and carried off its victims in a few hours. It did not attack the whites but was common among Orientals, and since Onderdonk had on his payroll some 5.000 chattering laborers from the Yellow River and $20 was the interment fee, Big Mouth found no cause for complaint. He was reputed at times to be a shade prompt in his official duties, but because no Chink had ever been known to survive an attack of the
been known to survive an attack of the disease, this was hardly a matter for criticism.
“My fingers are all right.”
Big Mouth lit his pipe and nodded affably. “How’s business?”
“Not so bad; how’s the plague?”
“She’s holding up pretty well; four yesterday, and tomorrow looks good. Coming round tonight?”
“Maybe I might. Where?” “Graveyard’s looking for a game at the Stiff’s Rest.”
faint smile. Graveyard, a leading
gave a Chinese merchant of Yale, was an adversary opposite whom he found a definite pleasure in sitting. Here was a player to be respected. Hour after hour he would remain, his sallow features entirely blank, his slanting eyes betraying nothing, always wearing the same conical straw hat shaped like the flattened thatch on a haystack, the same loose blue silk tunic and voluminous trousers. Graveyard, admitted The Rake with frank admiration, passed all understanding at poker. Otherwise and elsewhere he did a large trading business with his countrymen, bought for $12 an ounce amalgam of gold washed from the Fraser, and as a side issue owned a very profitable installation wherewith he distilled a potent liquor from a mash of pounded rice and other ingredients whose identity passed beyond common understanding. It was known as Chinese gin, had a short range, and provided a popular substitute for the genuine and more expensive article.
“I guess I’ll be round. Who else?”
“Sure of that?”
“He says so. I saw him just now; he’s kind of laying for you.”
“Well, there’s room enough.”
The Rake, speaking placidly, set his mind on Bulldog, a rival gambler but of dubious reputation and a bad record; and, lest there be any confusion concerning the tribe of Kelly as represented in Yale in ’81, let it be said that in addition to these three there was Silent Keily who played solitaire day after day, did no stroke of work, yet lived in what Yale called comfort; Molly Kelly, known favorably of all and interested in a house of dalliance where four girls lived not far from the jail; and finally Long Kelly, Molly s man of business, who would have liked the reputation of being a dangerous person but lacked the necessary courage. Between these six lay no bond of relationship or prior acquaintance elsewhere, but as flies to the honey they had gathered on the banks of the Fraser soon after the Macdonald Government in Ottawa accepted Onderdonk s deposit cheque for half a million dollars and turned him loose in the southwest comer of British Columbia.
The Rake was thinking about Bulldog, by general repute a bad hombre, when his attention was drawn to a young man who came unsteadily toward them along the river bank, paused and said in a thick voice:
“Either of you Kellys lend me ten dollars?”
The two regarded him with distant unapproval. He stood a full six feet, had masses of unkempt flaxen hair, blue eyes now decidedly glazed, and the shoulders of a giant. He swayed as he stood, favoring them with a loosely vacuous
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smile. His age might have been twenty-live years, and he suggested a young god gone to seed. The Kellys exchanged a glance of mutual understanding, and The Rake held out a $5 bill with an air of distaste.
"That’ll last just as long as ten, John. Say, why don’t you take a job?”
“I guess I will, maybe next week. Thanks; see you later.”
I íe slouched on, and the benefactor looked after him disgustedly.
"That sort of fellow gives Yale a bad name; can’t drink without fighting. Fact is I know more alx>ut him than he does himself.” "Which ain’t any particular asset to either of you. What is it?”
“Kind of private,” said The Rake suavely. "None of your business.”
The Rake stretched himself and got up, his only real interest being in his profession. He had a remarkable memory, a brain which, were its moral texture differently woven, might have carried him far, and no nerves whatever. Abhorring anything that resembled work, he dressed with care, took pride in jxTsonal cleanliness, never drank intoxicants, and found in cards a pursuit that exactly fitted his discriminating taste. It enabled him to choose his company. Maintaining a natural sense of humor, he found small satisfaction in rooking the stupid or defenseless, but matched himself with pleasure against thost* he considered worthy antagonists, among whom Bulldog Kelly ranked high.
It was now nearly a year since The Rake reached Yale from the Golden Gate, and he had not even been shot at.
THE FRASER RIVER, taking its source among a nest of mountains forming the Carson Range far to the North, debouches into the Pacific some 400 miles to the southwest through a widening alluvial plain a few miles north of the United States boundary. Between its mouth and the Western prairie tower four massive mountain ranges—Coast. Gold. Selkirk and Rocky— this heaven-tossed barrier, so far impenetrable, cutting off the late Crown Colony of British Columbia from Eastern Canada. A little above Yale begins the Fraser Canyon, through which for some forty miles the river finds escape to the sea between precipitous walls that rise abruptly to summits snowcapped for half the year, and here the flood is compressed to narrow tortuous dimensions by prodigious battlements of unyielding diorite.
In a season the Fraser falls low—this is late summer and through the winter, when along its course are exjrosed sand and gravel bars from which fortunes have been won in gold but in early summer, while the upper snowfields are melting and dripping glaciers contribute their icy streams, the river, fed by a thousand roaring tributaries plunging from the high playground of the gods, rises to incredible heights, expands to an extraordinary volume, and, ripping through the canyon, bears in its troubled bosom the detritus of ravished slopes and great trees that avalanches have torn from their rocky foothold.
In such a season the Fraser is uncontrollable. At Hell’s Gate, twenty miles above Yale where two monoliths of granodiorite obstruct its passage, the dood climbs to eighty feet above winter level, hurling in one sharp second of time ten thousand tons of swirling, turbid water toward the Pacific.
To this wild theatre had hurried the gold hunters some twenty-two years previously from across the line, the first Americans to make their mark in that country, many of whom had traversed the Western wilderness from Iowa and Ohio and Illinois on their perilous way, and skimmed wealth from the gulches and river beds of Arizona and California. When that fine frenzy was spent, this high-spirited human tide, which had left embryonic cities in its wake, beat restlessly against the shores of the Pacific till word came that gold had been discovered in the Fraser, when, gathering its old impetus, it swarmed on rotting wharves and, drunk with the old hunger, turned northward in thousands, carried by anything that would float. Those were wild days in Yale, for the
river bars were rich, and ere the best of them had been panned and washed, again from farther North came word of gol(l in the Cariboo whereat once more the Argonauts set out, little guessing that crc Barkervilic became a i~~r man's camp a maddening whisper would reach them from the solitary banks of the subarctic Yukon. That was their Ultima Thule.
Now it is written that on the heels of the man of gold follows his brother of steel, and this brought Andrew Onderdonk in 1880, with a contract in his pocket and the problem of the Fraser canyon in frontof him. There was no other feasible railway route toward the East, and this section of the line, practically a water-level route, had been located through the canyon up the smoother reaches to Lytton, where the Thompson River joined its greater brother, thence up the Thompson to the vast basin where that river was born in the depths of many-armed Shuswap Lake. Only by following the run of water could the Coast and Gold Ranges be crossed by a line of steel.
Onderdonk found the town in a sort of twilight sleep, the aftermath of the second great gold rush of ’61 when Yale was the gateway to the Caribt; District, but at low water there was still won a dwindling amount of dust. New York Bar. Hill’s Bar most famous of all and Sawmill Bar a mile below, were spasmodically worked with pan and rocker, being to some extent re-enriched by every springtime freshet, but the coarse, heavy cream, the lavish accumulation of centuries, had disappeared and one made but an uncertain wage. The bars continued to be sprinkled with whites and Chinamen, and of these the latter did best; they took more care, worked harder, caught finer gold, and made a profit out of aureate gleanings at which the white man shook his head. Gone were the times when in a single day nearly 2,000 excited men swarmed on perilous craft in San Francisco, Sacramento and Seattle, and set out for the golden Fraser; times when the river bed was alive, and all night and all round the clock came the
creak and rattle of grizzlies and rockers. A thousand dollars a shift was then nothing to brag of.
NEXT CAME the discovery that, while the Fraser was good, the gold in its bowels grew coarser higher up; and. thus advancing, glided mile by mile adventurous man, braving rapid, canyon and hostile Indians, working his way northward till among the bristling hummocks of the Cariboo he uncovered a natural mint. Here one might and did win $100 a pan in nuggets from the size of beans to that of walnuts; and toward this isolated amphitheatre near the headwaters of the Fraser pack-trains traversed the dizzy wilderness that marooned it from outside. So great became the traffic, with 5.(XX) miners in Richfield and Barkerville, so insistent the need for transport, that in the early sixties the Cariboo Road was built by Royal Engineers under orders from Whitehall.
The Cariboo had its day, fortunes were made; in one season it shipped $4,000,000 gold, till presently there ensued the lean inevitable years. Five thousand diminished to five score, only an occasional wagon climbed northward, and old sourdoughs who had wandered back to Yale, sat in the sun talking of past glories; of Frank Laumeister and his camels, of road steamers, of Frank Barnard who, when not driving mules, carried letters on his back for the round trip of 760 miles, and the time when Sergeants Lindsay and McMurphy, handcuffed in turns to Perry the murderer, drove him 380 miles over the Road from Yale to Barkerville thirty hours.
Finally. Onderdonk inherited the lower end of this historic highway, it being only means of getting men and material work higher up the river. Traversing ravines on high causeways of logs crossed and notched to hold them in place, clinging narrow benches blasted in the face of overhanging cliffs, it was at times depressed close to the surface of the tawny river only make an aerial flight over some mountain
flank. Such was the road the Argonauts took with careless laughter, to the bellowing of straining oxen and the raucous voices of rebellious mules; but to Onderdonk, who surveyed it with the eye of the railway builder, it was only a stop-gap. It followed the canyon through which he, tex), must build, but transport over that vertiginous trail would cost too much ere it reached the smoother reaches of Boston Bar higher up. Steam! He needed steam on the Upper F raser, and steam he would have.
At the outset this railway was in general opinion a political gesture; two ribbons of steel over which there could be but little traffic, finishing in a maze of mountains. There was a promise of building from the Atlantic, 3,000 miles away, but British Columbians suspected that this expensive strip of metal was merely to assuage their discontent. Between their territory and the East rose the mountains, unconquered and it seemed unconquerable; all lines of communication ran north and south; British emigrants reached Vancouver Island round the Horn in sailing ships, a three-months journey of no little danger; the week’s news came from San Francisco; the lure of gold had brought countless Americans over the border; Gladstone, 6.000 miles away, was more interested in the disestablishment of the Irish Church than in the future of British Columbia. Such was the state of affairs when Sir John Macdonald embarked on his prodigious political gamble.
Onderdonk knew all this, but being a railway builder and no politician was not much interested, and on his arrival a surge of life animated the wooden skeleton that was Yale, while the resident population shot up to perhaps 2.(XX) and the town became the assembling jxunt for thousands more—a motley army whose entire lack of docility had earned them the satirical sobriquet of Onderdonk ’s Lambs. By shipload he had brought them to New Westminster nearer the mouth of the Fraser, asking only that they be sound and whole, and transferring them in midstream to shallow-draught river boats lest they get ashore and change their minds. But once at Yale he had them.
ALL AFTERNOON a long queue of men T"\ had moved forward a pace at a time through the small office where Onderdonk s paymaster sat behind a counter with trays of small yellow envelopes on either side and a revolver immediately in Iront but out of sight. Behind him a flight of wooden steps descended to a subterranean stone-built vault with an iron door, where the contractor kept his cash. From the advancing queue there were few words, and as it progressed toward the counter the average weekly wage, which ran from $15 to $20, was spent many times over ere the magic envelope was pushed out. Once clear of the office, the pace quickened, features brightened, anticipation achieved a sharp ix>int and money burned in the pocket.
Yale was ready for the occasion, and it did not burn long. Before the sunset glow died on the mountaintops every lamp had been lit down the length of Water Street, the yellow light flooding a trampled road where now surged the jx>pulation of this frontier town. Every house in this straggling line faced the Fraser, while between them and the steep clay banks ran Onderdonk’s recently laid track, over which now flowed in eddies and conflicting currents a jostling human tide of sharply varying character.
From the dance halls, seeking a taste of fresh air, came fair, flaxen-haired, straightbodied girls arm in arm, most of them Germans or Scandinavians, popularly known as the Hurdy Gurdies, with whom for a dollar and a drink one might dance but nothing more; a curious company, still virginal in all this riot, many of them destined for marriage and contented motherhood. One took no liberties with a Hurdy Gurdy. Tipsy men progressing by uncertain stages halted unsteadily to chuck under the chin other girls, more garish, more painted, who confronted them bareheaded, skirts trailing in the dust, dressed in low cut gowns that displayed naked neck and invitational
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Continued from page 28-Stares on page 7
bosoms. These were bold-faced “fluzies” from such establishments as that of Molly Kelly and Sadie, the Jewess.
Siwash women were there, squat and supple of body, with black slanting eyes and pendulous breasts, some from Juneau in far north Alaska and known as the “maneaters”—these three, Hurdy Gurdy, fluzie and man-eater, representing the descending grade of female association in the town of Yale.
Coast Indians with flat, copper-colored faces, greasy black hair and wide thin lips, carried over their shoulders great freshlyspeared salmon from the Fraser; the narrow sidewalk sprang under the tread of American and Canadian engineers; track layers; Britishers in bowler hats, leather leggings and short cut, tight-fitting coats that ended ere they touched the buttocks; teamsters in sombrero hats, corduroy breeches and leather belts; clerks; axemen; Cornish single-handed drillers, known as Cousin Joes; mounted men on bucking cayuses; groups of chattering, yellow-visaged Chinese laborers; blue-eyed, fair-haired Swedes; small, sinewy Italians who took station-work contracts for sections of earth embankment.
One observed, t(x>, Ki Tee and Fee Wong Long, oriental merchants parading in grave sobriety, masking their impressions of the Occidental behind broad, imperturbable features. Straight men these, who, like Graveyard, wore conical straw hats and sold wholesale liquor in stone-fronted stores that faced the river. There were Jewish ]>edlars, leathery prospectors, and, circulating genially among this polyglot assemblage, one uniformed authority in the person of Jack Kirkup, the single arm of the law, in helmet, brass buttons, tight-cut breeches, blue tunic and truncheon. Jack carried no gun, and occupied most of his time in depositing unconscious men behind woodpiles, or the favored ones on heaps of empty gunny sacks.
Payday in Yale !
The packed saloons and gaming houses where proceeded such diversions as poker, faro, chuckluck and three-card monte, buzzed like wasps’ nests, periodically ejecting intoxicated men who gradually disposed themselves for slumber in the softest comers available, their now empty pockets compelling them to give place to others more recently arrived from Onderdonk’s pay office. The sound of fiddles, mouth organs and concertinas mingled with laughter, oaths and the shrill voices of women. Hotels like The Oriental, Cascade House and Palace; saloons such as The Stiff’s Rest, The Rat Trap and The Railroader’s Retreat; Clarke’s dry goods, Uriah Nelson’s, the Jew store, Power’s grocery and Macartney’s drugs, all wooden shells from which the lamplight streamed out in yellow bars that danced across the dusty air—all were doing good business.
Payday in Yale!
THROUGH this assemblage paraded the sombre figure of The Rake immaculate and self-contained, nodding gravely to occasional acquaintances and preserving an air of dignified detachment. In his dark eyes was a look of abstraction, since from various sources the hint dropped by Big Mouth had been fully confirmed, and without doubt Bulldog was camping on his trail. Bulldog, it appeared, had concluded that in Yale there was hardly room for both his rival and himself, and the time had come for one of them to seek some farther, fresher field of activity. Under such circumstances, admitted The Rake, any open hostility was detrimental to their mutual profession, and it was desirable to settle the matter at once.
Bulldog, he considered, was low-grade; he had no finish, was careless about his linen, he boasted too much, carried a gun, cared not whom he plucked, and was from the technical point of view a poor advertisement for the profession. Yale would certainly be better off without him.
In The Stiff’s Rest a long bar with an indented surface filled one side of the saloon, the other being occupied by chairs and tables. The floor lay three inches deep in sawdust. Opening off this was another room
in which stood one small square table and four straight-backed wooden chairs, beside each of which a glazed spittoon gaped invitingly. Here the floor was carpeted; a thin chintz curtain hung from an iron rod screened the single window; a large oil lamp swung from the ceiling by a triple brass chain.
On one wall an unglazed lithograph of President Garfield clad modestly in citizen’s garb and liberally freckled with yellow fly stains, gazed with democratic affability at an equally spotted jx>rtrait of Lord Beaconsfield in Court dress, thus expressing the nationalistic commixture of the jx>pulation of Yale; and in one corner, surrounded by a three-f guard of sheet metal, stood a small tubular iron stove. Such was the only equipment; and this apartment, providing as it did all possible amenities of privacy and comfort, was preserved for the use of gamblers of the higher order; in its privileged seclusion one heard only a muffled reverberation of what went on outside.
The Rake, lounging to the bar, found himself next a short, thick-set man with heavy bluish chin and broad face now slightly flushed. He inclined his head with dignity.
“How’s yourself, Kelly?”
“Usual health—and you?”
“Not complaining. Have a drink?”
The Rake expressed his readiness for a lemon sour and, lifting this syrupy concoction which was devoid of anything remotely resembling a lemon, nodded politely.
Bulldog, hazarding the opinion that business was not what it might be, glanced at the delicate fingertips and suggested a small game, adding it to be more than possible that Graveyard and Big Mouth would make the four; whereat The Rake signified his entire willingness to participate. Already by a slight and apparently inadvertent touch against the other man’s hip, he had become aware of a revolver, a thing he never carried himself. Revolvers, he argued, were apt to complicate matters, and real art should need no such reinforcement.
“Sure,” he repeated, “I’m agreeable. Leaving town, ain’t you?”
Bulldog bridled at once. “Who said I was leaving town?”
“Well, I don’t exactly remember; but that’s what they’re saying—just sort of heard it. Here’s your friends now.”
AS HE SPOKE the merchant came in, wearing his customary wide-sleeved blue silk tunic with seed pearls sewn into the collar band, felt slippers with finely plaited straw uppers, and great conical straw hat. Under this tapering crown, resembling a
candle extinguisher and tilted back so that one marvelled how it stayed in place, his broad yellowish face with its parchment skin was blandly suave, the wide mouth placid. No one had ever seen Graveyard laugh, smile or frown; he neitheu rejoiced nor mourned; he lost and won with exactly the same aspect of frozen unconcern. Making no promise, he betrayed no confidence, and to all men, white and yellow, presented the same undecipherable front.
Behind him tame Big Mouth, who, after a satisfactory day in the Chinese cemetery, situated in a soft, sandy, easily dug patch of ground lower down the Fraser, felt in amiable mood. He was not a highly skilled player, but liked cards and found satisfaction in the company of this evening. Also he liked The Rake, disliked Bulldog, and had a sincere admiration for what might be called the table manners of Graveyard. The immediate future had dramatic possibilities; there was $400 in his pocket, and he reckoned that with care he could last till the climax was reached. This would not, he anticipated, be any ordinary game.
Bulldog put down his glass, and jerked his head toward the inner room. No words were said till the door closed and four packs of well-thumbed cards had been laid on the table.
“Poker?” he hazarded.
“Sure,” nodded The Rake.
“Suit you, Graveyard?”
“Suit me velly well,” agreed a flat voice.
“That’s all right.”
A certain dignity characterized what followed. No chips were employed in this game, for the sound reason that such tokens were of standard size and color; also, being purchasable anywhere, their use might create a vague sense of insecurity, so Graveyard opened proceedings by drawing from some recess in his tunic a flat packet of bills bound wfith yellow tape, which he placed on his left hand. It was a fat packet, so that Big Mouth’s eyes bulged at the sight of it and he saw his own finish, but silence remained unbroken till the others duplicated this action. It was, however, understood that there existed further reserves not yet exposed to view.
“Velly good game tonight,” remarked Graveyard approvingly.
“Cut for deal,” grunted Bulldog.
Big Mouth got that, dealt, and the game began. Silence resumed its sway save for monosyllabic bids, and there became observable on the part of the rivals an atmosphere of diffidence that might have misled a casual observer. But Big Mouth was not deceived. Staying out when his hand was poor, making modest raises when his cards were strong, he kept eyes and ears open, aware that the
two who faced each other were in deadly earnest and more than money stood at stake. Graveyard, playing like an automaton, did most of the winning, but his expression changed not at all.
The Rake wasted no time on Graveyard, whom he admitted passed all understanding; nor did he desire to rook Big Mouth, for w'hom he had a touch of affection; so now he watched the man opposite, awaiting an opening that was hard to find. Nothing crude or inartistic would serve tonight.
His deal, and, feeling experimental, he distributed honestly as the card came, fingertips signalling that Graveyard had a king, Bulldog two knaves, Big Mouth an ace, and himself nothing. In turn Graveyard took three cards, Big Mouth four, thus displaying a lack of finesse, and Bulldog two, which, observed the dealer with faint interest, included a third jack. For himself he took but two, and betting began when he opened for $20. Graveyard on his left saw and raised this another twenty, Bulldog added two double eagles, and Big Mouth with a shake of his head dropped out. In five minutes some $700 was on the table, and the next bid lay with The Rake.
“See you,” said he casually and put up a final fifty.
Graveyard intimated that he also desired to see, and after Bulldog exposed his three knaves, the merchant contentedly produced three kings, whereat an enquiring glance was directed toward The Rake, but that artist only shook his head.
“Too heavy for me,” he murmured. “Your deal, Graveyard.”
FOR THE NEXT three hands he played moderately, losing a little each time but always with the same manner of agreeable detachment, noting that Bulldog was now still more flushed and had lost something of pugnacious watchfulness; so, allowing the silk cuffs to work farther down over his agile wrists, he shot the ace of spades to the bottom of the pack. It was at the end of this hand, which Graveyard won, that with a lightning movement he conveyed the ace to his left sleeve, and in the same instant caught the faintest quiver in the heavy lids. Bulldog had seen it. Bulldog had him !
The next three hands were an agony, and he yielded to a sense that was not so much fear as shame for an artistic failure. The manner of the man opposite was undergoing a perceptible change; his voice had lifted, he played almost carelessly, blinking his lids, hardly glancing at his cards; his mind was elsewhere, he waited till it was again his opponent’s turn to deal and with sharpened eyes followed every slightest movement. If Graveyard had observed anything, he gave no sign, and the situation was too skilfully masked to be grasped by Big Mouth’s slower wit.
The Rake searched his brain with growing anxiety. He dared not touch his pack till the deal came round again, and the ace of spades burned out of sight against his arm. He imagined he heard Bulldog’s rasping demand for an inspection of cards, his insulting triumph at the result. But did he really know? How could one be quite sure? He was earnestly trying to convince himself that it was imagination when, for the first time that evening, he perceived at the comers of Bulldog’s mouth the slightest possible smile. That settled it.
Then in the nick of time, under the pinch of circumstance, inspiration dawned and he thrilled in every nerve.
“Feeling dry, you fellows? What about a drink and sandwiches?”
Graveyard nodded. Bulldog made a gesture of consent. They were all dry, very dry, and this suggestion came at exactly the right time for him, so he fixed a hard eye on The Rake’s pack and, leaning over, pounded on the door.
A head was thrust in, an order given. In a few moments there appeared a bottle that had come round the Horn, a jug of Yale Creek water, three empty glasses, another filled with lemon sour, a plate piled with sandwiches each an inch thick. Set on the table, these were flanked by some $2,000 in notes.
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Continued from page 38—Starts on page 7
“Take your poison, boys,” said the host cheerfully. “Them sandwiches were cut with an axe, but I guess they’re all right. Shut that door, will you, Bulldog? Help yourself, Kelly.”
The merchant, emitting a little grunt, turned his attention to the bottle, and it was in this instant when Bulldog reached toward the door that The Rake achieved salvation. With one hand he selected a massive wedge, while the other in a motion inconceivably swift thrust a card between the gaping slabs of bread. In the next moment he was eating.
There ensued a pause in the conversation. Bulldog, champing steadily, continued to regard his rival’s pack, which to his certain knowledge had not been touched, and felt assured. No card had been slipped in there during the interruption; it was indubitably on The Rake’s person, as it would shortly be a pleasure to demonstrate. This reflection appealed to him greatly. With growing geniality he emptied his glass of raw liquor, took a chaser of water and nodded across the table.
“Ain’t seen much of each other lately, eh?”
“That ain’t my fault, Bulldog. You've been sort of sidestepping me. Any particular reason?”
“Your imagination is sure at work this time. Why should I?”
“That,” said The Rake, “is just what 1 was asking myself. Why should you? Room for us both in Yale, ain’t there? I was talking about you to Big Mouth here only this week, and saying you played the neatest game north of the boundary, which is going some.”
“Excepting yourself. Kelly,” countered the other with increasing gallantry. “No, sir, I ain't in it with you.”
HIS RIVAL, whose sense of humor was beginning to get the better of him, coughed slightly. He was, in fact, making hard going, and his teeth, strong as they were, faltered when at every single bite they encountered a layer of cardboard of unimagined toughness. He had not dreamed that cardboard could be so tough, and these segments, once arduously severed, required an inordinate amount of mastication before they were reduced to pulpy balls that now well nigh choked him. So he sat there with an affable if frozen smile, a violent disturbance in his thoracic region, the muscles of his lean jaws working as never before, his chin lowered to conceal the smothered gulp as each nauseating lump was forced down his protesting throat.
“No, sir.” he repeated, feeling the last of them descend to regions of darkness, “not excepting myself. You’re the artist, I ain’t in your class, and that’s a fact.”
Bulldog shrugged. This interlude of silky palaver had begun to make him uncomfortable. There sat The Rake with a card up his sleeve quite aware that he had been detected yet seemingly deluding himself with the hope that artificial compliments would save his neck. His face was almost cheerful, his manner that of one who without a care in the world faces the future with equanimity. Big Mouth, who had seen nothing, quite failed to interpret this interchange, was openly puzzled, while Graveyard’s sphinxlike countenance looked blank as mid-ocean. Now there was just one thing that Bulldog waited for, and The Rake played straight into his hand.
“You fellows want any more grub? No? Well, it’s my deal.”
At top speed he distributed twenty cards, and was examining his own with customary ecclesiastical gravity when the other man laid down his hand, face up. plucked the revolver from his pocket and thrust forward his heavy shoulders.
“This game is crooked. Come on, Kelly; I’ve got you.”
“Crooked?” breathed The Rake with childlike astonishment.
“Sure it’s crooked. There’s a card up your sleeve. Come on; it’s a showdown.”
The Rake said it slowly, almost with an air of regret. Graveyard stared at him sideways, wide lips slightly compressed, while Big Mouth’s brow was deeply wrinkled. Loathing Bulldog and admiring The Rake, he felt greatly troubled. Those fishy eyes must have spotted something.
“Sure? Quite sure?” The Rake was now smiling a little.
“Gimme those cards, you fellows, all of them.” Bulldog sorted them into suits, face red, eyes with growing heat, then, triumphantly: “Where’s the ace of spades? Kelly, you tell me that !”
“Ain’t it there? Why, no, neither it is. Ain’t swallowed it, have you, Bulldog?”
“You know dam well it ain’t. By gosh, I've got you this time! Been laying for you quite a while, too.” He was on his feet, revolver up. “Take off that parson’s coat —quick !”
“Laying for me? Now just think of that,” said The Rake smoothly. “Look here. Maybe you know more about that ace than I do. Didn’t save it over from my last deal, did you? An’ how about your own coat?”
Bulldog, glaring at him, nearly choked. His right hand gave a jerk, and it was at this moment that the bland voice of Graveyard spread soothingly over troubled waters.
“Velly stlange thing no ace of spades. Each Kelly say other Kelly have it. I think best both Kellys take off both coats and be slearched by Big Mouth. Pelhaps take off shirts, too. That fix it.”
They stood stripped to the skin. There was no ace. President Garfield gazed across through his nebulae of fly stains at the spotted features of Disraeli while the room was thoroughly searched, till finally Big Mouth, crawling from beneath the table, shook his head.
“Guess you were off that time, Kelly. I ain’t got it, nor Graveyard: it ain’t on you fellows an’ nowhere else in the room. Strikes me there’s a sort of apology about due—but where in heck is it?”
Bulldog did not answer. He reclothed himself, gathered in his stakes, put out a hand to the Chinaman, who thereupon returned the revolver, and made for the door. Fingering the knob, he hesitated, then sent The Rake one extraordinary look. His jaw was a little pushed forward and on one side, his mouth slightly open; he was like one who, having struggled vainly against a higher intelligence, is ultimately bemused, and his eyes held the faintest hint of grudging admiration.
PEARSON, the local magistrate, was a man of quiet authority and broad understanding of human nature as found in Yale, whose population regarded him with universal respect; and the town, considering the chameleonlike variety of its citizens, was surprisingly law-abiding. Pearson administered justice with wisdom and toleration, the men of Yale knew to a fraction how far they might go, and this condition of mutual goodwill could be estimated by the fact that one qf the most popular local figures was Jack Kirkup, the sole constable in the place. There were no murders; drunkenness was not a malfeasance so long as it avoided damage to property and person; and certain feminine establishments were accepted as part of the general mechanism of life, provided they kept within reasonable bounds and did not advertise.
In Yale, therefore, one observed a social order admirably adapted to the varied demands of the period, flexible in its working, humane in its theory, and accepted by all. The liquor laws of the province imposed license for sale, but were otherwise elastic;
the Indians remained minors in the eyes of the Government and could not be sued; the fine for disorderliness was $50, for selling liquor without a license $150, and the jail was roomy and comfortable. The situation, in short, might have been likened to that of a volcanic area, where through innumerable small fissures in the earth’s thin crust its internal pressure is relieved by scattered geysers and hot springs, their ebullition ensuring a general surface equilibrium without the danger of any major eruption. Yale had its own pressure vents and they worked to general satisfaction.
Socially, however, Pearson was constricted. For friends he had Onderdonk and his wife; also Harrington, the company doctor, affectionately known as the man j butcher, who performed major operations with entire aplomb and a great shortage of ' surgical equipment. When thus engaged lie ¡ wore a large bloodstained leather apron, and his gory appearance provided the foundation for much local mirth. With Harrington was Michael Hagan, owner and editor of The Inland Sentinel, Yale’s weekly sheet, a journal that kept its ear to the ground, faithfully reflected local opinion of whatever color, and published advertisements with terse excerpts from outside news. There was no telegraph wire to Yale from the larger world.
Hagan, with the aid of one youthful “devil,” himself produced the entire contents of every issue, did his own composing, and strained his muscles over a hand-operated, single-platen press to which history was attached. It had been brought by the Jesuit Fathers from France to Mexico some 2(X) years previously, the first press that ever reached the Pacific coast; later being sent northward to San Francisco, thence to the Fraser in the gold rush of ’62, when it was transported by Steve Tingley 400 miles up country to Barkerville in the Cariboo. Here it remained till the gravel beds had been washed out, when in the ’70’s it was carted back to Yale. In all these journeys its massive levers and thick iron castings had defied accident and rough usage.
One evening when these four men were playing whist at the contractor’s house, Pearson, between games, took from his pocket a copy of the Ixrndon Truth, just arrived by way of California.
“Donk,” said he, “here’s something that ought to interest you.”
Smiling a little, he began to read a stinging article attacking the Canadian project of an all-red line. Here was a mad project, maintained the writer, and one might sooner subscribe to a scheme for the utilization of icebergs ... as forbidding a country as any on the face of the earth . . . frostbound for seven months in the year . . . fifty railways would not galvanize it into prosperity ... a delusion, of which the promoters were gamblers ... let British capital beware !
“A pretty gloomy outlook, eh?” said Donk. “Who wrote it?”
“Henry Labouchere, the editor, I fancy. It sounds like one of his blasts. He’s a sort of j printing-house firebrand, and makes a i specialty of exposing what he takes to be frauds. That’s where your railway comes in. Incidentally, he wants to abolish the House of Lords. He was re-elected to the House of Commons last year.”
“Very kind of him, too. Hagan, there’s an opening for you.”
THE EDITOR laughed. “Thanks, I’ll use it next week, but y’know, from the i newspaper angle I can quite understand.
¡ Anyone who went by hearsay and didn’t know this country would write in the same fashion. Pure ignorance, nothing else, and that English crowd isn’t interested in our affairs; we’re too far away.”
“I can imagine who put him up to it,” suggested Pearson.
“The lot that have their money in the j Grand Trunk, and from what I read else; where they’re getting savage. They think ; their monopoly in Canada is threatened and want to queer the market. What do you say. Donk?”
“This thing is a pretty long shot, judge,
we’ve got to admit that, and Macdonald has backed himself against 400 miles of mountain ranges. When we built the Northern Pacific there were four millions of people west of the Missouri. What’s the total population of Canada today?”
“By the last count, just that number.”
“And in British Columbia how many?”
“Perhaps twelve thousand, not more,” put in Harrington. “That’s what I read in Victoria last month. What do you reckon the whole thing—I mean completed—is going to cost?”
Donk shook his head. “Ask me something easier. Call it three thousand miles of rails —that is from coast to coast—at, say, well, not less than an average of thirty thousand a mile; roughly a hundred million. Big figures, eh?”
“You’re not building up the Fraser for that.”
“Net much ! Some of my section will cost a hundred and fifty thousand a mile and more, and I haven’t got the worst of it. What it really means is that Macdonald is risking a hundred million dollars—it will amount to that before he’s finished with it— to prevent twelve thousand British Columbians from joining the United States. There’s an Imperialist if ever there was one.”
“You’re right,” nodded Harrington, “and I hope he pulls it off. We’re not really part of anything else yet; more like something washed up on the shores of the Pacific. The rest of Canada looks east and south, while we look south and west. We’re not sentimentally Canadians in spite of Federation; we’re not Americans—I believe British is the word.”
“This country is worth the gamble,” said Hagan stoutly.
“I agree,” nodded Donk; “more than worth it, and if the man who wrote that article would come out here, I’d like to show him round. He’d see things differently. British Columbia is just as rich as the American west. There’s gold, lots of it— Doc, they’ll be getting gold here by one method or another for the next hundred years, and the mountains haven’t yet been scratched; fine forests—I don’t know of better timber anywhere, and I’ve seen a lot; plenty of rich soil in sheltered valleys; and all you need is men. Well, you’ll get ’em s(x>ner or later. I’m not saying this because I’ve got a Canadian contract. I believe it! At the same time, construction at this end is costing so much that I’ve had orders from Ottawa to cut mv outlay to the bone. It isn’t fair to the work and I don’t like it, but the Government is getting anxious about money. As the result, this section of the road won’t be what I’d much prefer to make it.”
There was something impressive in his manner as he sat there—young, courageous, with a confident look in his large intelligent eyes that always conveyed a readiness to smile. The son of an Episcopal bishop and himself with the bearing of an aristocrat. Onderdonk was always very particular about his personal appearance no matter what the circumstances. A handsome man with a well-shaped nose, broad high forehead and thick brown hair, he conveyed force, assurance and a large charitableness that showed itself in all that affected his thousands of employees.
Backed by D. O. Mills, an American millionaire, he had landed in Yale a man of reputation from the construction of the sea walls at San Francisco, where he came into conflict with Dennis Carney, noted riot leader of the Pacific coast; and even before that he was an engineer for J. J. Hill, the master railway builder of the continent. He knew what naked country looked like as God left it and before man took it over, and in British Columbia he found no deserts. His opinion, therefore, was to be respected.
“I’m told that Van Home is laying two miles of track a day across the prairie from Fort Garry.” put in Harrington hopefully. “That’ll soon make a hole in it.”
“Perhaps, but a hole at the easy end. He’s got the Rockies and Selkirks in front of him.”
Pearson gave a shrug. “The worst has yet to come.”
“Moberly—you know him, the Government engineer, a sound man—knows the mountains better than anyone.” said Donk. “He says the mountains can be traversed.” “By mountain goats, perhaps.”
“Well Moberly is rather careful what he says. Ever met J. J. Hill?”
“No. but I'd like to.”
“You know he’s in the syndicate?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Ever hear of a Major Rogers?”
“The chap they cali Hell’s Bells?”
“That’s the one. Hill has sent him from our side of the line to take charge of the mountain division. It starts up at Kamloops and if there’s a short cut through the Selkirks Rogers will find it. That’s one of two men Hill has supplied—two very good men. Van Horne is the other.”
THERE FOLLOWED a pause while there came to his friends a curious sense of isolation. What if Rogers didn’t find it? There was, of course, the long way round by following the big bend in the Columbia, but from all they could hear the Government would have none of that, and insisted that the all-red line keep close to the boundary or no support would be given. So what would : happen if Hell's Bells got stalled in the j Selkirks? Here they were on the edge of the | Pacific, sweating over the tail end of a line that might never be completed; here they were at the disposition of authorities they had never seen and financiers of whom they knew little. A queer situation! Some invisible power came to a decision, and they acted accordingly. There was nothing else to it.
“Doesn’t Hill want to build into the prairie himself?” asked Hagan suddenly. “Doesn’t he want the western wheat traffic?”
Donk nodded. “He told me so years ago.” “Then why is he cutting his own throat by backing this new scheme?”
“I don't know.” Here he hesitated a moment. “Perhaps he’s gambling it will never be completed, and counts on using what is built to feed his own lines.”
“A cheerful outlook, eh? I learn that the Hudson’s Bay Company is making trouble in England, while Donald Smith, who is their Chief Commissioner out here, is in the syndicate too. A queer business, as I see it. I’d give something to know just what’s going on inside; ’t would make a good article.”
“Don’t throw any monkey wrenches into the machinery yet,” grinned Donk. “Hot, isn’t it? Let’s sit outside.”
They took chairs on the broad verandah | and sat at ease, each man busy with his own thoughts. They were joined by Mrs. Onderdonk. “Andrew,” she charged the doctor, “you must get another nurse. That girl is killing herself.”
“Certainly, as many as you like, but what’s the use? They all get married in a month or so.”
“I mean the sort that no man would want to marry.”
There was a laugh at that, and they were thinking of Mary Moody with her tender hands and smiling lips and fine courage in her steady hazel eyes. The angel of Yale they had named her, because she moved like a kind of human spirit of mercy with something in her gaze that healed. Harrington called her his right and left bower, and used to glance up at those calm features, a little averted, while her one hand held a chloroform-soaked pad on the face of an unconscious man and her left fingertip counted the pulsations of his numbed heart. But where that slight body got its unfailing strength, he could not tell.
“Please God, she won’t get married,” he murmured. “However, things are bet ter than they were. I’ve got more help—local help.” “Who from, doctor?”
“Molly Kelly,” said he in an odd tone. “Oh!”
“She came in last week and offered three hours a day. I jumped at it. She’s worth three ordinary women, Mrs. Onderdonk. She has no nerves, she’s kind and—and—” “Understands men, doctor; why don’t you say it?”
“You’re quite right. On her own ground Molly is— well we all know what she is, but take lier away from her business, if you call it that, and she’s another woman.”
Mrs. Onderdonk glanced at her husband, who looked interested, but had, it seemed, nothing to say in this matter; then at the judge, whose expression she thought unusually benignant. He was nodding to himself, but there came no opinion from that quarter. I lagan had his head on one side, a trick of his, and was grinning openly, whereat she decided that she must get in a word on behalf of of decency.
“But, doctor, to put it mildly, there is a predatory and dangerous woman. I know all about it, and that she has never been arrested— and, judge, why not?”
“My dear lady, I cannot have her arrested unless she is disorderly or allows disorder and becomes a public nuisance. But she is not, that is, in the eyes of the law. Nor is she predatory. I was talking to her one day when she said it amused her to see men making fixtls of themselves. It sounded as though— well that she felt vindictive about something that had happened to herself, Sadie, the Jewess, on the other hand, is quite different; I’ve fined her the maximum several times.”
“For allowing disorder only, but not her horrible trade.”
“Exactly, and again there is nothing in the statutes of British Columbia to stop her trade so long as she behaves herself. Molly knows that as well as 1 do, and would not allow a man to be robbed in her house, while I think that the other woman would—and share the proceeds.”
Harrington picked up the Inland Sentinel. “Judge, 1 agree with you, and here’s another side to it.” He read:
“The party who sent the gift of fruit and ice to the Accident Hospital last week is most gratefully thanked. This present was very much appreciated, and added quite a lot to the comfort of the patients, whose weary hours were thereby greatly cheered.”
“The party,” he added, “was Molly Kelly, and she asked that her name be not mentioned, but I’m quite safe here.”
MRS. ONDERDONK made a soft little noise and a gesture none could mistake, “I’m glad,” she said, “very glad. Now I’ve a sudden feeling that I’d like to come back here in fifty years and see what the place is like.”
“You wouldn’t find much in Yale except ghosts of the past,” grinned her husband. “No, you’d better not.”
“Well, I'd have a look at Yale, and this house if it was still standing, then go to Victoria and Esquimalt.”
“And Port Moody?” suggested Hagan provocatively. “You’d love Port Moody.” “No,” said Donk, “it won’t be Port Moody. The line won’t end there—too far up Burrard Inlet and nothing much in the way of a harbor. That won’t be the terminus.”
“Gastown is an ambitious hamlet from all I hear,” chuckled Pearson.
The others laughed, the village in question being a tiny wooden settlement, also on Burrard Inlet but nearer the open sea, that had just been burned to the ground: it took its name from the bombastic loquacity of one, Captain John Deighton, principal citizen and owner of a small sawmill.
“Well, why not?” Donk was quite serious. “I’ve known stranger things happen in the making oí a country.”
The three—judge, editor and doctor—went off down the crooked road that led toward the river. The night was fine, the mountain rampart to east and north looked darkly massive beneath the stars. On their right the Fraser raced toward the sea; twinkling lights scattered about on the Jew's Nose palpitated like an overflow of sparks from the central illumination in Yale itself. The noise had lessened a little, but there was still enough to express the jubilation of payday. This would last through the morrow and dwindle out on the next mor-
row’s morn when, with heads sore and pockets empty, a thousand men of many nations would reach again for shovel and hammer, pick and bar, fire, steel and dynamite. Some would be killed, others maimed, but they did not ask or care why they were doing thus or what would happen afterward. All they knew was that some politicians had decided to build a railway, and it was their job.
Something of the sort had been running through Pearson’s mind when, 300 yards from Donk’s hospitable house, he perceived a prostrate figure stretched limply under a jack [line. The man was big, young, very fair and very drunk. He lay on his side, breathing slowly, heavily, eyes shut, left cheek pressed into the dry moss, his great muscled breast hardly stirring beneath a torn shirt.
“Who is this, Hagan?”
Hagan looked at the man and shrugged. “Known as Big John—a general favorite and good-for-nothing.”
“Working for Donk?”
“No, he works for naught but his own detriment. Most of us have had a try at him, but it’s no use.”
“Too bad. Big fellow, eh?”
“Yes, a big fellow, which is all you can say ior him. He’s all right here, ptxtr devil!” said the judge, and walked on.
T-JOURS LATER Big John sat up, put a finger to his left cheek and drew it away sticky with bkxxl Looking at the sun, he reckoned it was ten o’clock; looking at Yale, he knew it to be Sunday morning.
Concerning the previous night he remembered certain points quite clearly. He had won some money at the Railroader’s Retreat, and got comfortably drunk but not so drunk that he could not get about. He had met Jack Kirkup, who advised him to go home. After that he went to the Rat I Trap and drank Chinese gin, then over to [ Molly Kelly’s, where a girl he knew was I leaning out of an upper window. She waved to him. But when he went in at once he ran ; up against Molly herself at the bottom of the stairs. He showed her his money, but she wouldn’t touch it and told him to get out. They argued for a while, but she held her j ground and when he tried to push past she ¡ called Long Kelly and another man he ' didn’t know and they threw him out. He j had landed on his face against a nail in the ! sidewalk, and now it was hurting.
After that he wasn’t so sure what hap¡ pened except that he dreamed he was dead of blood-poisoning, and a lot of devils came floating down the Fraser on logs and carried him up to the top of the Jew’s Nose and were piling rocks on him, and just then the judge and Hagan came along and said, “You can’t do that before the inquest, which we’ll have right here.” So they had one with a Chinese jury all wearing straw slippers and conical hats, with Graveyard as coroner. Graveyard smoked opium all the time. Then the jury put their heads together and brought in the verdict—that he was better dead than alive, being of no use to anyone. Beyond this, his memory did not now carry him.
Now his cheek and jaw were aching and sore to the touch, so he went to the tumbledown shack he occupied halfway up the Jew’s Nose, put his head in a bucket of water, and looked at his face in a broken bit of glass tacked against the wall. There was a tear in his cheek an inch long. “Bloodpoisoning.” he said to himself, and felt frightened. He didn’t want to die that way.
“Better dead, being no use to anyone.” He fell to thinking about this, and didn’t like it because he could lick any man in Yale when sober. He glanced about this cabin where he lived. Some old-timer had built it twenty years ago in the Cariboo rush. The roof sagged, the walls leaned inward, the floor lifted in obtuse angles. In the corner ! was a framework of six-inch jack pine with ! flat cleats nailed across, a straw mattress, a floursack stuffed with hay that made a pillow, and three five-point Hudson’s Bay blankets, a small cast-iron stove, a table, two wooden chairs, two windows with three panes broken, a gold pan, some pictures from
Continued on page 54
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the Illustrated London News of twenty years before pasted on the wall. Outside, a pile of empty cans crawling with flies.
But because he wanted to live and get even with Molly, who had been standing him off since she came to Yale nearly a year ago. lie decided to have the man-butcher fix his face before it was too late. So he swaggered downhill again. The hour was nearly eleven o’clock, with Yale still sleeping off the effects of the night’s orgy, and he did not meet many people on the way to Donk’s hospital—a small wooden building behind Water Street. There were water barrels on the roof for use in case of fire—about the only building where this precaution had been taken, though half of Yale had gone up in flames but a few months previously. It was painted, and had a verandah where patients could rest, and looked clean, and generally one got a strong smell of chloroform. Big John knew the place well from outside, had seen many a man carried in there and not a few carried out, but had never entered it himself. Also he knew Mary Moody by sight—they all did—but had never spoken to her, because he reckoned that nurses were different and not interested in men like other women or they wouldn’t be nurses. So he hung about for a while, and when he did go in was confronted by a slight figure in white cap and large white apron.
She looked at him sharply. “Yes? Oh, your cheek !”
“Got something in it,” he rumbled. “Maybe it ought to be washed out. Doctor around?”
“No, he’s gone up the line.”
“Well, I’ll come back.”
“You’ll sit right down here,” said the young woman, putting a cool finger on the hot cheek. “You don’t need the doctor; I’ll do it.”
“Molly,” she called, “Molly, bring a basin of hot water and some lint.”
BIG JOHN, unprepared for this, gave a gulp and sat up, while the young woman, moving quickly and quietly, opened a cupboard and took out a book, then pen and ink. He was aware that her eyes turned to him more than once. Now Molly came in from another room, also in cap and apron, bring water and lint, and at sight of him gave an exclamation. Hurriedly she put down the basin.
“Been sort of careless, ain’t you?” This with a queer little laugh.
“Where did you get that?”
“Outside your place last night.”
“Oh!” she compressed her lips, sending the girl a quick sideways look. “I’m hoping you’ll have more sense next time. Here you are, miss.”
Mary flushing a little, nibbled her pen. “Your name, Mr.—?”
“Name is Big John,” put in Molly quickly. “I know him; it’s all right.”
“John what? I’ve got to put it in the book.”
“Hickey,” said he, “John Hickey.” “There, Molly, you thought he didn’t know his own name. You live here, Mr. Hickey?”
“I guess I do, between here and the Cariboo.”
“Twenty-five,” said he, wondering what it was all about.
She finished writing, closed the book and smiled.
“I have to keep track of all the new patients like this, especially when the doctor’s away. What’s the matter, Molly?” “Nothing. Miss Mary, I’m all right. Wha—what about his cheek; is it poisoned?” “I don’t think so, but we’ll see in a minute. Put your head back, Mr. Hickey —yes, like that.”
He bent his big neck, felt something very
delicate and soft like a strong butterfly j against his burning face—her fingertips. She pressed back the edges of the cut and he felt cold Yale Creek water squirted into the wound. Then a probe. Her face was very close to his, and though their eyes did not meet, his blue ones stared into hers of hazel. It was like looking into one of those quiet little lakes one finds in a bush country, where the wind doesn’t reach and there is muskeg and tamarack. He had never been so close to this kind of girl before. She had a very fair clear skin; he noted the fineness of it and the whiteness of scalp from which the brown hair, not quite covered by the cap, sprang with such luxuriance. She was, he thought, the cleanest girl he had ever seen.
But what was Molly doing here? The last time he saw Molly, not more than twelve hours ago, she had her hair curled tight, face painted, lips like flame, bare arms, a diamond bracelet, a lot of rings, a moonstone necklace with twisted gold links that hung right down between her breasts. Then she was calling to Ix>ng Kelly and others to throw him out. Now she had no paint, her hair was donc in a knob behind, no toughness, a white apron, and was watching him fixedly with an expression he had never caught before. It seemed she wanted to speak, but just didn’t. Then Mary put some plaster in narrow crosswise strips, and before she straightened up took one square searching stare right into his eyes. All he saw was a depth of pity.
“I think that’ll do now,” she said briskly. “There was some sand, but it must have bled enough to carry away everything else, which is lucky for you. Leave the plaster on till it comes off of itself; there shouldn’t be any mark. Thanks, Molly. You’d better boil that lint in fresh water; we’re rather short.”
“How much?” said J'ohn.
“Oh, nothing. I’m paid by Mr. Onderdonk. and Molly isn’t paid at all.”
“Well,” he blurted, “well—thanks.” “Come back if it begins to hurt. Good morning, Mr. Hickey.”
“Same to you,” said he, and stalked out. She looked after him with interest. “What a tremendous fellow.”
“Yes, miss, he is big.”
“He works on the railway?”
“He should, but don’t. It’s no use talking to him, either; he won’t stick at anything.” “What’s the matter?”
“Most everything that could be,” said Molly, fingering the edge of her apron. “Maybe he has too many friends.”
It was on the tip of the girl’s tongue to say “not of the right sort,” but she checked it just in time. One learned and saw so much in Yale that one didn’t talk about. Molly herself, for instance.
“Perhaps when he was a boy he didn’t have a chance,” she said softly.
`To be Continued