Track of Destiny
Having failed to borrow money in London for the building of a new Coast-to-Coast railroad in Canada, Premier Sir John A. Macdonald makes arrangements with Canadian financiers and railroad men to have it built.
In Yale, B.C., to which point a railroad has been built from the West Coast, a gambler named Bulldog Kelly plays cards with local characters, among whom is another gambler named Kelly, better known as The Rake. The latter is accused of cheating, but manages to evade proof.
Mary Moody, a charming nurse at the Yale hospital, is assisted each day by a notorious local woman named Molly Kelly. When Big John, a handsome ne’er-do-well, is injured in a fracas, Mary arouses his latent spirit by telling him he’s yellow, but it is Molly who pays his fine and gives him money with which to undertake a small contracting job.
Hell’s Bells Rogers, the location engineer, finds a pass in the mountains through which the railroad may proceed east, and leaves for Spokane to telegraph his superior, Van Horne.
SMOKING a large black cigar, a great black-bearded bull of a man came striding across a new steel bridge. There was a smell of newly-sawn timber, hot rivets and red-lead paint, and he paused more than once to tum a critical eye on the finishing touches now being given. Beneath the bridge floor a river, constricted at this point between steep rocky shores, took its curving dip toward a plunge of thirty feet, and farther down one could follow the broadening stream, flecked with foam sliding past flatter banks thickly grown with poplar, spruce and silver birch. Fiere the waters of the Lake of the Woods moved northward toward Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg.
The big man, wasting no time, forged ahead, accompanied by one younger in a blue flannel shirt and long boots laced tightly to just below the knee. The latter did not speak, and glanced occasionally at his companion as one might at a very superior officer. The other had a brusque, masterful air. Flis vest was open, his unbuttoned collar sagged round a massive column of neck; a broad, strong face and Olympian forehead suggested an admirable mental balance and power of decision beneath his eruptive energy. The cigar angled dominantly from a wide firm mouth, his clothing was much rumpled, his eye held a lurking sense of humor.
“Well,” he jerked out with a backward glance at the bridge, “that’s another link forged between Ontario and Manitoba; Canadian steel, too. A darn sight easier to get across a river than some swamps not far from here. I’m glad it’s a Government job, not mine, but we’ll be taking over soon; one of Sir John’s contributions to the C.P.R. You heard about that sinkhole south of us?” “Down by Savanne, sir?”
“Yes, and a hell-hole of mud.” Van Home shook his big head. “They lost a whole train with a thousand feet of track yesterday. The dump slid to one side, then over it went, sucked in like—well—we’d better look at your siding layout. I’m reckoning on forty-car wheat trains before long.”
HE STRODE ON. following the newly laid and only partly ballasted track. On his right the town of Rat Portage sprawled along the shore of this northeast comer of the Lake of the Woods, and here the rocky wilderness which reached southward 400 miles to Lake Superior showed signs of dipping under the fertile lands of Manitoba, so that at Rat Portage one stood on the boundary line between solid rock and deep rich loam; between timber land and grass land; between the domain of lumberman, trapper, prospector, and that of the future farmer and grazier. It was across this worthless wilderness that the Government was building a section of the all-red line which they would shortly convey to the new company.
It had been a bad country, patched here and there with great muskegs, level moss-covered stretches from which rose the stiffly naked trunks of dead tamaracks, scabrous and cataleptic, whose black roots wove a sodden blanket over the hidden morass; and through this floating blanket one could drive a fifty-foot pole into abysms of slime and find no bottom. Such places were alive with mosquitoes in summer, and loathed by all men at all seasons.
Van Home was now looking at the siding crowded against a hill of gravel. He liked the feel of ties under his feet, and puffed a little when he turned to inspect the curving bay with its flimsy landing stages for canoes and small steamers. From a sawmill came the scream of a circular saw as it tore into dripping pine logs, acres of which were boomed in still water close by. A tall cylindrical black iron burner disposed of the refuse, looking at night like a gigantic torch; and opposite the mill stretched a sandy spit dotted with teepees where thin pencils of pearl-grey smoke climbed into the motionless air. Bark canoes lay on a yellow beach. The contrast rather pleased him—this mixture of ripping saws, steel rails, bridges, and against that, an Ojibway background —but this new present he was now making would soon elbow the apathetic and primitive past out of the picture, and he mentally photographed it with the eye of an artist, tucking it away in a comer of his rapacious brain later to be put on canvas, when he saw hastening toward him a tall agile figure in a disreputable wide-brimmed hat, rusty soutane and on his breast a small gold cross.
The priest waved his hand in gay salute.
“Ah, Monsieur Van ’ome, but I am glad to see you. It was told me on the line you were coming.”
Van Flome smiled back, for here came one of whom he knew much and felt ready to know more.
LACOMBE, the Oblate father, for many years past a 4 figure of distinction in the West, was a man of whom strange stories were told, so that already he had achieved an almost mythical reputation. He would vanish for months till one heard of him as being on the Red River, or a thousand miles west on the Saskatchewan, on the slopes of the Rockies, now in Montreal, now interviewing the Government in Ottawa or across the Atlantic talking to the Pope in the Vatican. A strange man this, restless, quite fearless, an ardent soul, master of Indian tongues, and with an unfailing sense of humor. Today, in the spring of ’82, he was chaplain for the Canadian Government to a thousand navvies on the Lake of the Woods. Van Horne greeted him warmly.
“Come into my car and have a chat.”
Lacombe, glowing with pleasure, followed the big man into the dusty home on wheels in which Van Horne lived for perhaps half the year. It had reached the West from Montreal by way of Chicago and St. Paul to Winnipeg, for as yet there existed no Canadian steel road to the prairie country, and never did its master feel quite so free as when he travelled in this caravansary fitted for his own use and work. In front it had a dining room and small kitchen, in the middle two berths, and the rear half held tables, chairs and sofas that could be converted into beds. There were rolls of blueprints, piles ol dispatches, estimates, engineers’ reports, all the paraphernalia essential to one who represented the driving force of the all-red line; and here with the clicking rail-joints beneath, the sound he loved best, he would labor hour after hour till the night waned, snatch a minimum of sleep, smoke incessantly, swallow his fcxxl like an impatient wolf, and while light lasted spend the forceful day with engineers and contractors. A stranger to fatigue he was; praising, blaming, encouraging, criticizing and damning in a torrential spate of words whose vividness was never unfair, and that communicated to those he dealt with something of his own virile energy and determination. Here, in this car, the throne from which his thunders proceeded, he was more than an ordinary man; he was the central whirling dynamo that pulsated through the whole gigantic project. And always wherever the car went it was heralded by a whisper that sped along the twin lines of steel over which it rolled :
“Van’s coming up the line.”
Today, the Oblate father, seated in one of the big well-worn chairs, felt that he had been admitted to the inner shrine, and they regarded each other with mutual respect, one the man of the spirit, the other the man of steel counting on the human body, its imagination, courage and endurance.
Lacombe’s tanned face w’as alight with pleasure, his fine features radiated a delightful sense of companionship.
Van Home glancing across the burnished bay, fixed his eyes on the line of teepees.
“Y’know,” he said,
“I’ve sometimes wondered what there is in those fellows to convert, and what difference it would make. Is it worth
all the work? They won’t last long anyway; they’re just a bit of the past. I’ve seen what’s called the educated or anyway civilized Indian, and didn’t like him half as well. It seems to me you’re liable to take from him as much as you can give— which doesn’t sound very Christian on my part.” “You ’ave put to me one ’ard question,” nodded Lacombe gravely, “and so often do I ask that of myself. What ’as ’appened to the sauvage is our fault, your fault and mine.” "I’m not sure I agree with that.”
“Consider one moment. For shall we say a thousand years -—I speak now of my Indians in the West, for I know them better—they lived in freedom; their spirit gods were of the rain, wind, storm and thunder, of the things they knew, that which was manifest, and these they worshipped.”
“Every man’s got to worship something, father,” said Van Home, whose gods were steel rails.
“With that I agree, but consider my Indians. Food is in abundance, the buffalo cover the plains, the tribes are large and strong. Alors, comes the white man with his gun, his ‘stick that kills a long way off,’ also with him the scourge of
new diseases, smallpox he brought, and measles and, most fatal, consumption. Then what ’appens? Fifteen years ago the buffalo are no more, the tribes hungry, and the white man, who was to these poor people something more than human, said ‘Your gods are false gods, they have no power, you must take our God who is all powerful !’ ” He paused, smiling. “Is it perhaps a strange way for a blackrobe to talk?”
“Go on,” said Van Horne seeing that this priest was fair, “But you can’t stop the march of the white man. He means civilization. That’s what I’m doing now—civilizing—but perhaps I don’t look it.”
"Consider this,” said the priest, “it is only ten years since came the hunger moon of the Blackfeet, and all those Western tribes must eatdog, horse, the carcass of the poisoned wolf, moccasins, the hairy feet of rabbits; and now you, the master of a still greater change, will build your road across the prairie among those same people, many of whom have journeyed from Fort Garry in order that they may live alone. There is the danger, my frien’, and I know these sorrowful children of mine in whose hearts still sleeps some spark of the ancient fire.”
HE PAUSED, sighing deeply, but Van Home shook his great dark head. To the railway man it was not important what happened to the Indian, and surely the life of this priest was being wasted to no real purpose. Also time was very precious; but Lacombe, ignorant of his own loquacity, was enjoying himself so greatly that it would be heartless to cut him short.
“Father,” rumbled the deep voice, “let me tell you something: This road is going
through—it must go—and all the Indians that ever let out a warwhoop won’t stop it. If they’re wise they’ll keep out of the way—and that’s where we’ll count on you. It takes all kinds of brains to build a road. There’ll be
trouble here and there, but we reckon on that. We don’t want to hurt anyone, least of all your friends in the West, but human flesh can’t stop steel. According to what you’ve said yourself, those fellows look at the past. Well, let ’em look; but we’re for the future, and that’s the difference. You've told me about the big buffalo herds, but do you know what will make the first freight we haul into Winnipeg over the new track?”
“I cannot imagine that.”
“The bones of those same buffalo to sell for fertilizer—
and we’ll get a good profit. There’s an instance of how the prairie's going to be swept clean of what was once there. Indians included. Instead oi teepees like those on that point, you'll see houses; wheat instead of grass, locomotive smoke instead of prairie fires, and your Indians just a sort of human curiosity on their reserves. It’ll hurt ’em. of course it’ll hurt ’em. and they’ll have less use for us than ever, and I’d like to see you doing work that’ll give a better return. You're missing too much.”
“My frien’,” answered Lacombe gravely, “who can know what he has missed?”
"jCROM A near-by rock cut came a ringing tattoo on the mushroomed head of drill steel, and six sweating Swedes began to chant in unison, keeping time with the descent of ringing hammers. It was the song of a thousand rock cuts from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Drill, ye tarriers, drill !
Drill, ye tarriers, drill!
For it’s work all day With no sugar in your tay. When ye work beyant on the big railway.
So drill, ye tarriers, drill:
Our foreman’s wife she bakes the bread,
She bakes it strong an’ she bakes it well.
But she bakes it hard as the knubs of hell,
So drill, ye tarriers, drill.
Van Home, exhaling smoke like a newly stoked furnace, made a gesture of approval.
“That’s the music for me, father; it means work, progress, a few less shots to be fired, a salute to civilization. Steel, dynamite, brute strength, stupidity, brains, guts, risk, anxiety, money, oats, beans and bacon—that’s what it takes to build a railway, and we’re using ’em all. You really feel you’d like to get back to the Far West?”
“I would like it, yes, but it shall be as le bon Dieu decides.” “Well, we’ll take a hand in it when I go East, and between us all something ought to happen. I’ll let you—” He was interrupted by an alert looking young man who entered and laid a yellow sheet on the table.
“Just in from the end of steel, sir.”
Glancing at it, Van Florne frowned slightly.
“Father, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off; wanted near Regina.”
“But yes, of course.” Lacombe rose at once. “You cannot know how I ’ave enjoyed this talk, of which I myself ’ave done so much. For that you will perhaps forgive me, and it may be we shall meet again. I thank you, my frien’; I shall remember.” He stepped out and down on to the track, and looked up at Van Horne on the rear platform. The eyes of the man of steel met those of the shepherd of the West ; they smiled. A short blast from the engine, and the car moved toward the new bridge. Van Home waved a hand; and the Oblate, after once waving back, stood very still, watching the receding figure as might a wistful boy who has spent a wonderful hour with his chosen hero.
TN THE boardroom of a large office building whose windows overlooked The Place d'Armes in Montreal, were three men. Outside, from the cobbled square, rose a continual clatter of calèches, single horse Victorias with their French-Canadian drivers perched high in front, the rumble of drays on their way to the river, and the grinding progress of horse-drawn street cars. Not far off the bells of Notre Dame were vocal in the twin towers of that great cathedral, and from the harbor came the whistle of ocean steamers clearing for Lake St. Louis, Quebec and Liverpool. The turn of year had reached October, when days are crisply bright and nights cold, and Mont Royal, reddening with early frost, was ablaze with the crimson pageantry of butternut and maple.
On one wall of the boardroom hung a great map made of sections of blue paper neatly pasted together and tacked to a wooden frame. It was eight feet long, about three feet high, representing the northern portion of the United States including Chicago, Spokane and Seattle, also the southerly half of Canada from Coast to Coast.
In the room stood a large table littered with blueprints and i^apers, at which two of the men were talking, one sitting in a reversed chair with his arms folded across its back—a big man, heavily built, with a massive leonine head, short black beard and resounding voice.
“Van, how much track are we laying a day?”
The black-bearded man lit a large black cigar and smoked furiously.
“About two miles. We reached Pile o’ Bones River in August—not quite up to what I wanted, but gcx>d going.” “Why not call it Regina? That’s the official name.” "Because I like Pile o’ Bones better—more descriptive, and the prairie’s white with ’em; buffalo bones, y’know. We’ll use ’em some day.”
“Bring 'em East to sell for fertilizer; they’re full of potash, good stuff. Steve, I bet that’ll be the first freight we carry.” The other man laughed a little.
“Perhaps you’re right: where’s the end of steel now?” “Say seventy-five miles west of that. Next week I’m done with tracklaying for this year, but in a twelve month we’ll be in sight of the Rockies.”
“Not at two miles a day.”
Van Home, emitting a jet of smoke, shook his head.
“I’ll double that.”
“Don’t know yet; but I will. We’ll have to lay track by machinery, not brute strength—I’ve heard of something.” Stephen nodded; he was getting used to this giant’s ways and drew confidence from them.
“You hear that, Mr. Smith?”
The third man turned.
“Aye, I did, and sincerely hope that the statement will not prove to have been exaggerated.”
Thus dismissing the matter, and while Van Home winked at Stephen, he applied himself again to the map. He, too, had a beard, thick and untrimmed. Hairy clumps of brows surmounted a pair of cold and uncommunicative grey eyes “as rocks o’er rivers hang;” he was very correctly dressed in square cut frock coat, dark trousers and a black bow tie; the face was devoid of color, save for the slight shading found in the skin of those who in youth have been much exposed to the weather; and his large bony hands were carefully tended. He was a stickler for etiquette, and his most intimate associates, even Stephen, his cousin, always addressed him as Mr. Smith.
The map seemed to hold him. Presently he put out a broad forefinger and began to trace a fine white line that ran across it from a point marked Callender in the Province of Ontario, continuing northwest, skirting the north shore of Lake Superior till it joined a double line and ran from a Lake port called Prince Arthur’s Landing almost due north to Winnipeg. This north shore section was not a full line but dotted. From Winnipeg the tenuous thread stretched due w'est, and it, too, was dotted soon after passing a place called Regina. Thence the dots persisted over dark blue empty space where only a few wandering streams were indicated, till they reached four ranges of mountains labelled respectively, Rocky, Selkirk, Gold and Coast. Writhing through these like a tortured snake, the last few inches became solid again where they paralleled Fraser River and ended at Port Emory.
South of the International boundary, the Grand Trunk Railway w'as shown entering the United States from the Province of Ontario and ending at Chicago, while from Chicago one could see Hill’s line striking boldly north across the boundary and entering Winnipeg.
“Not regretting your bargain of a few years ago, Mr. Smith?” This from Van Home, whose dark eyes were twinkling.
“No, I consider that on the whole it was fair and satis-
factory to all the parties concerned with it.” He did not turn when he said this, and continued—maps had always held him—to study that vast western territory over which thirteen years previously he had been Chief Commissioner for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For two centuries the more than imperial sway of the great trading company had lasted, to end when the shrewd vision of ] >onald Smith perceived difficulties and embarrassment ahead. His sixth sense had warned him that the Company’s future was insecure and their Canadian kingdom too vast to be held much longer. There was growing local opposition, free traders swarmed into the West, Indians and Metis halfbreeds were restless and insubordinate. Thus, because a certainty seemed worth a dozen possibilities, he persuaded his governors in England to sell their extraordinary but now harassing rights to the Canadian Government, and Smith, the greatest trader of them all, drove his bargain with Macdonald, Premier of Canada. I íe was thankful to sell for OX),(XX) in cash, 50,(XX) acres surrounding those far-flung posts—onetwentieth of all fertile land that might be developed by any future railway through this flowering wilderness of buffalo and prairie grass. Those were the terms; and those, masking his thankfulness and in spite of an awkward hitch caused by one Louis Riel, he exacted. No, he did not regret that bargain.
Thus ended a historic monopoly, for until it was wiped out no other trader than the Company might do business in that immense Western area; all had lain in its 1 :ands, the means of life and death, the price of fur and feather, arms, provisions, clothing. It had been a great autocracy, in its prime perhaps the greatest in any country, and Donald Smith still remained its Canadian head. Queer to look back at the sequence of events that had brought him where he was today; queer to look across at his cousin und reflect that if he himself had not spent those drab years counting muskrat skins in Lachine, only ten miles from where he stood, he would not have been here now sharing in the greatest railway adventure the world has known.
"Jim Hill will be coming in about half an hour,” said Van Home, glancing at the clock. "But there’s another man you ought to see first; you’ve heard of him.”
"And who might that be?”
"Rogers, the fellow Jim lent us; he turned up yesterday.”
"1 shall be glad to meet him. In the matter of that report of his, there is something 1 propose to ask.”
"Well, size him up for yourself.”
ABELL tinkled; the door opened, closing with a sharp slam, and Donald Smith regarded with interest an individual concerning whom he had heard much of late. Rogers’s skin had the color of old leather; regardless of fit, he was wearing a rough readymade suit he had bought in Spokane; and, standing there with the weightless poise of the woodsman, jaws working at top speed, he stared with frank curiosity at the two men whom he had never seen before. He evidenced no particular recognition of their importance or authority, but regarded them exactly as he would any other human beings; his eyes swerved to the map, then back to Smith’s rugged features. Smith extended his hand, felt a grip like that of a steel claw, winced slightly. Stephen, with amusement in his eyes, made the same discovery and saw diversion in prospect.
"Sit down. Cigar?” Van Horne pushed over one of his potent black cylinders.
"Don’t mind if I do.” Rogers bit off the end, spat it out and struck a match on the seat of his trousers quite unabashed by Mr. Smith’s frozen stare. He took a chair, stretched his legs and waited complacently until the oracle spoke.
"It was a great relief to get that wire of yours from Spokane, major, and we’re glad to see you here.”
“That’s all right, sir, that’s all right; a pleasure to send it.”
“It came at a time when Ottawa was giving us a little trouble by insisting on a
line within a given distance of the boundary.”
Rogers, nodding, winked at Van Horne, who was drawing a caricature of Smith on the blueprint.
“Well, from Van’s message I gathered you were up against it, and took a chance. Glad to be of use. I’ve known engineers who weren’t.”
Van Horne’s expression betrayed nothing, but at the word “chance” Mr. Smith fingered the edge of his beard.
“Major Rogers,” he spoke with deliberation, "not having engineering knowledge myself, there is something I do not understand in this matter, and I’d like to be enlightened.”
"That’s what I’m here for, gents.”
“Then I am led to believe—pray correct me if I am wrong—that when you sent that first telegram, the one from Spokane, you had explored the pass from the west and were satisfied as to its practicability so far as you had gone?”
“You bet I was!”
“But you had not established its feasibility on the eastern side?”
Rogers shook his head. “No, sir, I hadn’t, and if you’d been there yourself you’d have known why.”
“I was otherwise engaged,” said Mr. Smith stiffly. “But what I desire to know is how, not having been over the entire ground, you could report that the east side was also feasible?”
“Well, now, that’s a fair enough question, and as a matter of fact if you’re bent in pressing me down to it, I didn’t actually know a darn thing about it. But I felt it, and my experience as an engineer told me the rest. What I did know was that you fellows were in a fix, and since then I've proved the east side, too. Hell’s bells, what you kicking about? What do you suppose an engineer is for, anyway?”
This, delivered with complete and casual assurance, produced its effect. Van Home went into an explosion of laughter, Stephen was wreathed in smiles, while Smith for an instant hesitated between dignity and surrender till over his dour features crept a fractional softening, faint and fleeting as a gleam of wintry sunlight that tints for a moment some stony hillside to a warmer hue.
“Y’know, Mr. Smith,” said his cousin comfortably, “the major’s not the only one who’s taking chances in this affair. Tell us more about it, Rogers.”
FACING the big map, the engineer began to talk. Now on his own ground, he talked well; what he said carried a conviction of which he was entirely unaware, and one seemed to see him at his work.
“I’ve made no real survey, mind you,” he concluded, “not even a triangulation yet, but my altitudes are all safe, and we’ve distance enough to make the grade. That won’t be two per cent anywhere, which is a lot better than the maximum on the Northern Pacific. It’s going to cost a pile of money. That’s your business, not mine, also it’s cheaper than going away round the Big Bend. Plenty of room in the pass to marshal trains, but you’ll need a lot of snowsheds. This pile of rock—it’s a big one—I’ve called Syndicate Mountain after you three because it’s got triple peaks; and,” he added with a sidelong glance at Smith, “it’s cold on top.”
“There’s no syndicate now, major, but a board of directors,” said a dry voice.
“Then call it what you like. It’ll be there for a long time to come; it’s permanent.” “You had, I am led to believe, a somewhat trying trip?” Smith, bracing himself against profanity, inclined his head gravely.
“My nephew Albert, who came with me, decided it was no garden party. The Indians weren’t so bad—for Indians—though they ate too much; but going was tough and the devil’s club straight out of hell as you’d expect. Here’s about where little Alec, one of the Shuswaps, fell into an ice crack and pretty nearly stayed there. The ice, I mean the glacier Alec got wedged in about forty feet down—we pulled him up with spliced
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tumplines—is about five hundred feet thick. Up near the top of Syndicate there’s a ledge about the size of this table though not so smooth where w'e stayed all night, but you couldn’t sit down for long or you’d freeze your—say, do you always keep a room as hot as this?—and from there we could see right into the Upper Columbia valley. After my first wire I went round through Northern Idaho, up the Moyie to Wild Horse, then up the Kootenay and down the Columbia to the mouth of the Kicking Horse, where 1 met Aylmer—that was nearly opposite this eastern end of the pass, the part you’re kicking about—and when I’d checked his elevation, I knew it was all right. You see, there was distance enough to make the grade; that’s the imixirtant point.”
“And approximately, major, how far did you travel on this circuit you mention to get from one end of the pass to the other?”
“Not so far, perhaps five hundred miles. I don’t look at it that way; it’s not the distance but the time it takes. You raft a ! couple of hundred, walk some and ride the ! rest.”
Smith nodded, being himself no stranger to journeys of this kind, and regarded their visitor with growing approval. Rogers, having chewed his cigar to bitter shreds, declined another and reverted to his plug.
“I suggest, gentlemen, that in view of the —er—unusual circumstances connected with its discovery, w'e name this pass after Major Rogers—that is, of course, with his consent. Major, what do you say?”
“That’s all right and—well—thanks.” “You will go down in history, major.”
“I nearly went down w'ith an avalanche into the Illecillewaet a while ago,” grinned Rogers, entirely unimpressed. “How long am I wanted here? I’d like to get back.” “Tomorrow if you’re so restless,” grunted Van Horne, eyes twinkling, “but first I’ve a complaint in about you.”
“I’m told you feed your men badly and drive ’em too hard.”
“Van, what are you talking about? You ought to know’ me by this time. The West is full of fellows who drop in with all they own tied up in a bandanna handkerchief. They do a day’s work, then get boots, blankets, clothes and heaven knows what till it takes a pack train to move ’em; but any man who can’t travel as fast as I do, gets fired.”
DONALD SMITH, recovering from the shock, was forced to smile behind his beard for something about this blasphemous and very capable stranger was now appealing to him strongly. He knew that type, though hitherto in his experience they had been restrained to the point of awkwardness in the presence of high authority. Rogers’s eyes were roving about, moving boldly from man to man, for here he was in the very heart and brain of the all-red line, and these were the presiding gods whom thousands of men obeyed. Smith knew nothing about railway construction, nor did Stephen, which made their presence the more suggestive. They represented other forces without which railways could not be built. But Van understood all that was involved.
“Any more questions—er—gents?”
“I think,” said Smith, “that you have informed us fully - of what we desired to know.”
“Can I ask one, though it’s not my business; it bothers me.”
“Then why do you want Jim Hill in your crowd? You think I take chanceswell, they’re nothing to what you’re running. I know’ Jim, but now I’m working for you, not him.”
“Major Rogers,” replied Smith distantly, “you surprise me.”
“Maybe I do, but it’s nothing to the jolt that’s coming pretty soon.”
“Perhaps Rogers w ill explain just what he
means?” put in Stephen suavely. “He must have some reason for it.”
“You bet I’ve a reason.” He stepped across to the map, laying a finger on the dotted line north of Lake Superior. “That’s what I’m driving at; that’s where you reckon to go through?”
“All settled,” said Van Horne. “What about it—any objection?”
“Keeping the whole darn road in Canada, eh?”
“That, major, is our fixed intention,” announced Mr. Smith.
“Well, Jim won’t like it. I íe wants all the prairie traffic he can lay hands on for his Winnipeg-Chicago line to turn over there to Hickson and the Grand Trunk. He’ll have worked it all out with Hickson before this. I don’t know anything about freight rates—not my country—but I do know Jim, and he’s not taking backwater from any Canadian road, and if you put through that north shore line—”
“Major Rogers,” interposed Smith with dignity, “you may leave it to us to choose our own associates and decide our own policy. I have known Mr. Hill for years. After Mr. Stephen and Mr. Macintyre formed the original syndicate—which later transferred its rights and obligations to the present company—Mr. Hill and I joined them. I had had satisfactory, I may say very satisfactory, business dealings with him previously. An American citizen now', but none the worse for that, and no man in Canada has had his railway experience. I tell you this, hoping to put the facts clearly in your mind. The Prime Minister knew them and approved.”
“Well, sir, it’s your funeral not mine. I reckon you’re thinking about that St. Paul and Pacific deal, and Jim was certainly on the spot with his skinning knife that time, but it’s enough to break an engineer’s heart to see what often happens to a road after he’s done with it. That’s Jim all over ! Call it experience if you like, but what’s clear to me is that you’re likely to have the experience and Jim the darned railway when it comes to a showdowm. He’ll rip you up the belly the first chance he gets,” continued Rogers, now secretly wondering whether he was going too far, “also he was figuring on building into Southern British Columbia, but that new pass you’re so suspicious about will choke him off there, so—”
“Mr. Hill has just arrived, sir,” said a voice at the door.
Rogers subsided with an audible gasp and the subject of his exordium came in—a tall man w'ith long black beard, angular frame, thin, rather mobile face and restless eyes. 1 le wore square-toed boots and was carelessly dressed. Nodding to the three, he seemed faintly surprised at the sight of Rogers. Then a sharp glance at the map.
“Well, gentlemen? How are you, major?” Smith inclined his grizzled head : there was a pause, and perceptible tension in the room Hill gave a dry cough.
“Major, I hear you’ve been busy in the Selkirks. How do they compare with the Cascades?”
“A big country, Mr. Hill, and the Cascades are only foothills: it’s a rougher country, tor), but I’ve got a fine pass.” “We’ve christened it after the discoverer,” said Smith with dignity.
HILL GAVE a nod; he was much interested in that pass, but not how it might be christened. Van Horne and Stephen exchanged a look, while Rogers kept shooting quick little glances at the four, one after the other, eyes screwed up, hoping that they might get down to business before he felt forced to go. He wanted to hear what they had to say and was curious about the general situation because to him it had the makings of trouble. He knew Hill better than they did, knew that he resented opjxjsition, had a temper and was masterful, and it would be
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worth something to see him up against that granite-faced Scot with the silky voice, precise manner and fixed air of authority.
A few moments passed in talk that revealed nothing till the situation became strained, and Smith, indicating the engineer, made a gesture seen only by Van Horne, who swung round in his chair.
“Know anything about fossils, major?” “No; how could 1? Seen ’em in a rock cut now and then, that’s all.”
“Never had time; I work for my living.”
“Now, look here, what are you driving at? Can you see me sitting down to play chess?” “Poker?” grinned Van Horne.
“That’s more human if it’s a straight game, but you never can tell.”
“Then come round to my house tonight.” “Careful, major, or he’ll skin you,” laughed Stephen.
“He can’t get more than I’ve got, which isn’t much; also I’m on his own payroll. What time will the trouble begin, Van?” “About ten o’clock.”
“I’ll be there; so long, gentlemen.”
Rogers got up, looked about in a curiously deliberate and comprehensive fashion as though trying to make some kind of forecast as to what was about to happen, then went off. Hill took another hard stare at the map and the atmosphere of the four sharpened insensibly. Now these men had become serious, they were measuring their thoughts, each keenly aware of the weight of circumstance.
“Anything new these last few weeks?” Hill presently asked of Van Home with an assumed touch of carelessness that was far from what he felt. “I’ve been too busy to get up to Canada.”
“Probably nothing you don’t know already. The end of steel has passed Pile o’ Bones and we’ve talked over that north shore question with Ottawa. Stephen saw Tupper about it not long ago.”
“What few surveys we’ve made—they’re only traverses and triangulations—show heavy work, heavier than anything we’ve struck yet. Along the lakeside there’s two hundred miles of solid rock. Well, we always knew that.”
“Stephen put the whole thing to Tupper —of course we can’t submit any real estimates yet—and Tupper says it’s up to us. j The matter of cost evidently isn’t the main point.”
“What is the point?” said Hill dryly.
“The Prime Minister maintains that every foot of this line must be on Canadian soil as originally planned, or his Government won’t support us.”
Hill’s face hardened perceptibly.
“What about building from Canada to I the Soo, meeting me there and giving me a i chance to pick up some freight?”
“There is at the moment no intention of considering such a proposal,” wedged in the cool tone of Donald Smith. “It is not necessary, we have not the money, and it would divert us from our main objective. We will undertake the Lake Superior section as soon as the line is well into the prairie, and we can earn something by carrying wheat to the head of the Great Lakes, thence eastward by water in the open season. It is possible that later we might build from Canada to meet you in Michigan, but that depends on circumstances which do not yet arise. This, Mr. Hill, is our final intention.”
“You count on holding all that prairie traffic for the C.P.R.?”
“We’ll need every pound of it and we’re starting with bones,” grunted Van Horne.
“You haven’t seven months open navigation in those lakes, and when they freeze up, where are you? You’ll have a prairie road with its nose in the air and its tail in a block of ice four hundred miles long. What’s the sense when you can use my road from Winnipeg all the year round?”
“Your road, Mr. Hill ! That’s exactly the point. Sir John won’t hear of it, and we do not intend to broach the matter again,” said the grey-bearded Scot.
“Which is queer talk from a big shareholder in that same road.” Hill was bridling visibly.
SMITH, now folding his gnarled white hands, looked peacefully unprovoked, a strange man, feared by many and loved by none and with a guarded remoteness difficult of penetration. He had been through the mill, and arrived where he stood by iron purpose and an orgiastic appetite for work. Still a youth with downy chin, he had been shipped by Simpson, whom he later succeeded as the Head of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada, from the muskrat storehouse in Lachine to the chilling mouth of Saguenay; and soon after that Simpson, an autocrat of bloodless disposition with no love for the imperturbable youngster, shunted him still farther down the Gulf to Mingan, north of Anticosti. Returning thence without leave because he was threatened with snow-blindness, and arriving unexpectedly in Montreal to be doctored, Simpson sent him off to Labrador in a sort of commercial penal servitude.
This rigorous if unfair discipline, coupled with the stark nature of life on that rockbound inhospitable coast, had much to do with the making of the man. At Rigolet on Hamilton Inlet, Smith possessed his soul in patience, traded with Eskimo and Montagnais, started the first canning of salmon, grew potatoes and melons under glass, saving his money till in six years he was chief trader in the district. Then nothing could hold him back. Now he lived in Montreal, a prince among merchants, very wise and baffling, with a courtliness of manner and speech that was perhaps a carefully cultivated reversal of the color of the old wild life and punishment taken without a whimper. He could believe a thing without feeling it. Behind this screen of suavity his undeviating mind pursued its ordered course; and as the explosions in the cylinder of an engine are not perceptible in the smooth rotations of its flywheel, so the unquestionable fire that must have glowed in this man could not be distinguished behind the suave momentum of his later existence. And he had always loved a contest.
Opposite to him sat Hill, builder and buccaneer of raihvays, and it must have been that here and now these two were aware of the approaching cleavage. Hill also loved a contest, was inured to them, and for him the lengthening line of new steel rails was the fairest thing on earth. But they must be his own rails.
What had persuaded him to join the original syndicate two years previously was his association with Smith in a group that bought from Dutch bondholders a derelict railway that died ere it reached Winnipeg from the south and the United States. This scoop shortly meant millions. Outside criticism about the transaction was caustic, but the millions definite. Then when the thing lay safely in strong hands, a wizard touch was applied by Hill, the line extended to Winnipeg and those rusty rails became a gold mine.
The far-away Dutchmen could not grasp the promise of the future, and it was no concern of Farley, the American receiver, to enlighten them. Also the grasshoppers—Hill always smiled when he thought of them— had helped a lot, it being credibly reported in Amsterdam that the Canadian Northwest was being overrun by these winged pests; but the curious fact remained that in the very week when the bargain was struck, every grasshopper vanished and a year later Hill’s trains were pulling into Winnipeg. That single transaction made five millionaires at one stroke; but, reflected Hill, looking across at Smith who was now part owner
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I of the all-red line, such things didn't happen ! twice in a lifetime. Also did this man expect to ride two horses at once? In his former associates he now saw rivals, and why had he sent Van Horne and Rogers to work for these men?
“If I run my roads into the Western country, Canada won’t hold it any longer than she would a streak of lightning,” said he truculently.
“Mr. Füll apparently overlooks the fact that our charter protects us against invading lines from the South.” murmured Smith, grey eyes examining the ceiling.
“Folks in the West won’t stand that for long; too many Americans in there already; they’re going in fast via Winnipeg and over my road. too. I’ll Americanize the West before you know it.”
STEPHEN and Van Home held silence, content to let the argument take its course, backing Smith against all comers. Smith was watching Hill with a growing discomfort of which he evidenced no sign whatever, and only became the more polite. It was true that he had a lot of money in Hill’s road, but more in the C.P.R.. and now his balanced mind turned to the future. It was awkward, but only one thing remained to be done, and he had a sort of satisfaction in the clash he now anticipated. Rogers had been right after all.
“Mr. Hill, with your permission I will speak quite plainly. You have already been assured that the Government will consider nothing but an all-Canadian line whatever the cost; it is a national matter and we have eight years in which to finish it.”
“You’ve got more time than money,” snapped Hill. “And how much is your road going to cost?”
“That we cannot tell, but we do know that Sir John will not stop half-way. His hands are on the plough. If he wavers the Conservative party will be defeated, and if this line does not go through as at present planned, British Columbia will undoubtedly withdraw from Confederation and secede to the United States, which will then control the entire Pacific Coast from Mexico to Behring Sea. That is unthinkable. There is more involved in the original contract we signed in London and in which you became a silent partner, than any of us fully realized at the time, but we intend to see it through, i That is our position.”
“What does the Bank of Montreal say?” asked Hill roughly. “How long will they back you, and if this road goes smash, doesn’t the bank smash, too?”
“You will excuse me,” put in Stephen with curtness, “if I do not discuss bank matters here.”
Hill pushed his chin into his black beard ; he had gone farther than he had intended. Admittedly he was up against it, against a determined Government and men with a purpose. But if they had talked like this to begin with he’d never have joined the syndicate, and it was odd to one of his piratical nature that they should be so unmoved by possible profit, so anchored to a vision. Two Scots Canadians, one American Dutchman! He glanced at them under lowered lids, while the chimes ol Notre Dame struck the hour. Van Home’s pencil was making little jabs at the blotter, Stephen smoking, staring through smoke at the big blueprint, Donald .Smith examining with 1 apparent interest his own broad, well! tended fingernails, and all waiting for their j American associate to speak. The vision I seemed to have altered Van Horne’s nationality.
“You’ve become a pretty good Canadian,
“Yes,” he rumbled, “I’m that now; it will do for me.”
There was a certain finality about this, and Hill, who had no intention of showing his hand yet. thought it better to leave.
“Well,” he said. “I’ll think it over; got to go south this evening, but I’ll be in Montreal next week and come in.” Then, pausing at the door, the suppressed anger of the man I broke out in a flame.
I “Van, if you build that Lake Superior
section I’ll get even with you if I go to hell for it and shovel coal !”
He stalked out. leaving in his wake a pool of silence that remained unruffled till Van Home gave one of his plutonic laughs.
“Mad as a wet hen. eh? I’ll bet he’s gone to talk to the Grand Trunk.”
“That,” agreed Mr. Smith, “presents itself to me as a reasonable assumption, and brings up another matter we should discuss. Gentlemen. I am a little disturbed about our future finances; and you, Mr. Van Horne spend money very fast.”
“It costs more a mile to spend it slowly, and we’ll be near the mountains next year.” “But with the mountains in front and the unconquered north shore behind, how much money are we going to need in the coming twelve months?”
“Better get Shaughnessy in,” suggested Stephen.
VAN HORNE’S purchasing agent and strong executive appeared from the next room. He had broad brows, a roundish face and pointed chin, a goatee and incipient jowl. Abrupt and explosive in manner, his blue-grey eyes were formidable to his subordinates till they learned how kind a heart and high integrity lay behind them. He held a cigar between finger and thumb of the left hand, with the other thumb hooked into his waistcoat armhole, and gave an instant impression of competence.
“Tom,” said Van Horne, “Mr. Smith has brought up the matter of financing the next twelve months.”
“How much road are you going to build?” “All I can and more.”
“Yes, I know, but.how much?”
“Well, not less than six hundred milps; we’ve done four hundred and fifty this year.” “Which cost us two and half million a month. Is any of that six hundred on the north shore?”
“What’ll that cost a mile?”
“God knows, but ten to twenty times the prairie work.”
“Then call it all forty thousand dollars a mile on the average—say twenty-five to thirty millions.”
Stephen whistled. He was a shrewd man, bold of action, and manager of the Bank of Montreal, across whose counters flowed the commercial life blood of Canada, and of which his cousin was a director. Their combined weight and high standing had swung the bank to the support of the new company, but only they themselves were seized of the magnitude of this affair.
Used to dealing in big figures, he found in this railway business an all-absorbing fascination; it picked him up and possessed him, it fired his enthusiasm. He talked of it by the hour to his friends and brought them into the fold; he dreamed of steel rails; the virus entered his veins and he saw settlements become villages, villages expand to towns and towns take on the similitude of coming cities. Beside him slaved Van Florne, the driving force, drunk with the lust of the bom builder; and at Van Home’s elbow was Shaughnessy, quick like a steel trap, longsighted, a master of detail, herding his supply trains from the South to keep moving those twin lines of steel that were now midway across the continent. Such was the triumvirate, and behind them a grizzleheaded Scot of formidable mien.
“Twenty-five millions is a lot of money,” repeated Stephen.
Van Horne, realizing that some of the North Shore line would cost ten times forty thousand a mile, looked grave. Of course they knew all this all the time, but now that the time approached when the thing must be faced it looked the more disturbing. Macdonald’s Government had found twentyfive millions, in addition to which another thirty had already been spent. Instinctively he glanced at Donald Smith; in such moments as these it was only natural.
“Mr. Smith. I wish that you and Sir John had made it up.”
“That.” said the elder man flushing very faintly, “that, sir, will come in due time
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when he realizes that we are necessary to each other, but it has not come yet.”
“I have heard not officially, but indirectly,” ruminated Stephen, ‘‘that if you were willing to contest the next available seat as Sir John’s supporter, he would not be averse, and it might make the Government more friendly.”
‘‘Scotch lamb as a burnt offering on the Conservative altar, eh?” sniggered Van Horne. His restless pencil made a lifelike sketch, with the Premier as high priest, and an ancient ram with a beard very much resembling Smith’s and throat extended to the knife. This he pushed over to Stephen, who thrust it into his pocket, smiling. ‘‘Couldn’t you get some more cash out of your Dutch friends, Mr. Smith?”
THAT gentleman was now exceedingly angry, but it showed only by the slightest color in his lined cheeks. Most of his money was in the Hudson’s Bay Company; he rode two difficult horses at once and secretly ached to be back in the House of Commons; but that was his personal affair and he resented anything that in the slightest degree impinged on privacy. Now, however, with his habitual custom of remaining silent on that which touched him most nearly, he only looked the more remote.
“We’ll have to finish this road in less than eight years or go bankrupt,” broke in Stephen, “also I’d give something to be sure just where Hill stand?.”
“Climbing the fence,” scoffed Van Horne, “you’ll know soon.”
They considered this possibly dangerous combination of Hill and the Grand Trunk. Now that rival rails were actually pushing westward, the Grand Trunk, owned in England and operated at leisurely long distance in Canada, was hostile. Their directors had never understood Canada and the Canadians, nor did it seem that that mattered, but today, nauseated at the prospect of competition, they were damning the new enterprise in the money markets of the world. Canada was their pitch and theirs only, and it was not without their knowledge that Labouchere’s diatribe had enlivened the pages of Truth. The three in the boardroom at Place Dame were aware of all this, but still more firmly they clung to the vision of the all-red line.
“If Hill tries to break us he’ll probably smash himself,” went on Stephen quietly, i “and I doubt il he’s such a fool.”
“At the same time, gentlemen,”—here Mr. Smith felt for the end of his beard in reflective fashion—“it is an eventuality that, speaking very privately, we are bound to consider, and should he go so far as to sell his shares—let me see; they are not in his own name, I believe; at least they were not.
' Mr. Shaughnessy perhaps could tell us?”
1 “No, sir, they are not.”
“I had thought as much, and should he sell them would it not remove a weak joint in our armor? I am second to none in acknowledging Mr. Hill’s past support, but the matter now wears another complexion. Also it appears that our position at Ottawa might actually be strengthened. Sir John, so far as I know—pray correct me if I am wrong— never intimated that he objected to a Canadian-born but Americanized citizen being with us at the outset, and like ourselves he expected Mr. Hill to be useful, but I can quite imagine that for political reasons the present situation does not appeal to him. No, gentlemen, I cannot conceive that Mr. Hill is any longer a real asset to our company, and his natural area is the development of the Great Northern, a road that cannot view our progress with any satisfaction whatever.”
“I agree,” nodded Stephen, “did you ever read the debate in Congress dealing with the ; construction of that line ten years ago?” j “I heard of it, but recall no details.”
“You were up in Manitoba, but it struck me so much that I made a note of part of it, because Macdonald had just promised that Canada would build an all-red line from Coast to Coast. I’ve got it here,” and he took a sheet from his pocket and read, smiling: “ ’This road will seal the destinies
of the British Dominions west of the ninetyfirst meridian. They will become so Americanized in interests and feelings that they will in fact be severed from the new Dominion, and their annexation but a question of time.’ That was the blessing Congress gave the Great Northern.”
“And very interesting, too,” murmured Mr. Smith. “I often found cause for diversion in historical prophecies when read in the light of subsequent developments, and I think it may be said that we are doing our best to negative the expectations of that particular Congress. Thank you for enlightening me. Mr. Van Horne, have you anything to bring up, anything, for instance, that would make Mr. Hill’s apparent intentions more difficult of fulfillment?”
“I have, and we can’t dodge it much longer, but it means a lot of money.”
“Let us forget the money aspect.”
“I want a fleet of lake steamers.” grinned the big man, now pacing the room again, “that’ll fix him for all time.”
“Really! Now that strikes me as an attractive departure. Yes, I think I know what you are about to say.”
“We’ve talked it over carefully,” put in Stephen, “and I think he is quite right. Next year the line from Winnipeg to the Great Lakes will be open—by the way the Government has asked us to finish it for them—and—”
“Fed up with muskegs,” chuckled Van Horne, “and I don’t blame them either. Go on, Steve.”
THEN we’ll haul grain to Prince Arthur’s Landing if—it’s a big —we can get it down through Lake Huron in our own ships. Look here.” He went to the wall map. putting a finger on a spot called Owen Sound. “We can buy the road running there from Toronto, also as you know we’ve got an option on the Ontario and Quebec from here to Toronto, which means—”
“Exactly,” interrupted his cousin with a benignant inclination of massive head, “pray do not trouble to explain further; it means that from the heart of the prairie country we can then ourselves deliver grain to ocean-going vessels in this harbor of Montreal. Gentlemen, that is excellent; it appeals to me very much, and Sir Hugh Allan will also be delighted.”
“Then we get the boats!” Van Horne was smiling broadly.
“I will strongly support such a course— but what boats? They would naturally have to be constructed for you.”
“I haven’t come to that yet.”
“Permit me to suggest that you order Clyde-built boats of Scots steel with the best of Scots boilers, and spare no expense in securing the best. From salt water they would, of course, have to pass through the canal system to reach the Lakes. Yes, I like the idea, and do not cut your estimates too close; nothing, gentlemen, can be built too well for our service. A poor ship is worse than no ship at all, as I always warned the governors of my company in London, and the best workmanship and material are, of course, Scots. Now, is there anything else to be considered?”
“It’s just occurred to me,” said Stephen, in a queer tone that was a little choky but oddly impressive, “that if that works—and it’s got to work—is there any reason why later on we shouldn’t carry our own salt water trade both east and west?”
Van Horne, halting abruptly in his stride, gazed fixedly at the speaker. Smith’s cold eyes had opened wider; he, too, was gazing, while Shaughnessy sat as though galvanized, quite rigid, with pencil poised in mid-air. Not one of them said a word but their minds expanded to the wider vision. The flag of The Line flying round the world! That held them. They saw phantom ships flying phantom red ensigns steaming down from the horizon into fairy ports; and now almost furtively they looked at each other, silenced by the power of that vision, searching each other as though to ask whether, indeed, they were big enough men to put it into being. Was the Prime Minister of Canada strong enough to stay with them?
In that moment the walls of the boardroom faded away ; they became voyageurs into an ever widening and beckoning world.
“Well,” exploded Van Home with the violence of an overcharged boiler, “why not, why not?”
“Gentlemen,” nodded Mr. Smith, “I, too, am not a little attracted to the idea. It has its points, many points, and in my opinion Sir John’s views would be entirely favorable; but I would not broach the matter to Sir Hugh Allan or the Grand Trunk, and in the meantime our energies will be fully occupied. There is nothing else to be attended to?”
“Haven’t we earmarked enough money for one day?” Stephen’s voice was highpitched and a shade nervous.
“Possibly that is the case, and if you’d care to walk round by Dorchester Street, I should appreciate your company. Good morning, gentlemen.”
He marched out very erect, Stephen beside him. Shaughnessy, after one sharp look at his chief, retired to his own office, whereupon Van Horne, lighting a fresh cigar, resumed his vigorous patrol with eyes bright and jaws set.
Scanning the big blueprint, he sent for an
Atlas and focused on the Pacific Ocean. Then back to the print. Port Emory! He stared dubiously at Port Emory, Onderdonk’s starting point. It didn't strike him as being a great national terminal; it would involve providing an ocean harbor where the Fraser vomited its turgid flood between low' alluvial banks, and he wanted a real harbor, a tidal one with good anchorage and deep water close to the shore. That carried him to a Pacific inlet round the comer from Port Emory with a narrow' entrance that expanded nobly to a four-mile-wdde bay. Mountains were indicated to the north. He fastened on this. Probably no dredging would be necessary there.
Now' his broad finger travelled eastward, slowing down as it crossed the Selkirks while he smiled, thinking of Rogers; now' on through the Rockies, along the Bow River to the prairie and over as far as Pile o’ Bones. No trouble about that section; nothing to hold up the all-red line.
He began to nod slowly, slowly, till with an abrupt gesture he wheeled, returned to his great table and plunged into work like a man inspired.
To be Continued