Track of Destiny
THE STORY: Having failed to borrow money in London for the building of a railroad from Montreal to the Pacific coast. Premier Sir John A. Macdonald persuades a group of Canadian business men to finance the road.
In Yale, B.C., to which point the railroad has been constructed from the West Coast, a gambler named Bulldog Kelly stages a card duel with another Kelly, better known as The Rake. The tatter is accused of cheating, but manages to evade proof by eating a card in a sandwich.
Mary Moody, 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 offers him money to get away from Yale and undertake a real man’s work.
Hell’s Bells Rogers, the location engineer, finds a pass through the Selkirks through which the new railroad may proceed, and reports in Montreal to the board—William Van Horne, George Stephen and Donald Smith.
Jim Hill, the Canadian-born builder of railroads in the United States, enters. He wants the board to build only as far east as Winnipeg, at which point he proposes to take over their traffic and route it through the United States to the Eastern seaboard. The board members insist that the route must be Canadian, and Hill threatens that he will wreck the project.
On the Bow River in Alberta, Indians gather to make war on the railroad builders, but Father Lacombe persuades them to disperse.
Big John Hickey makes good on a railroad job and at Holt City meets Irish Nell Regan, an attractive woman of questionable character, who causes him temporarily to forget Mary Moody.
Financial difficulties beset the new railroad, until at last the board decides it can ride out the storm only by selling land certificates.
COLL IN G WOOD SCHREIBER, chief engineer for the Government, and John Henry Pope sat in the Premier’s room in the East Block, watching Macdonald’s lace. He had just finished speaking and now leaned back, swinging his pince-nez on a black silk ribbon. There was a wry expression on his usually cheerful countenance.
“Well, Schreiber, you see my side. What’s to be done?’’ “I’m no politician, Sir John.”
“I’ve been one for forty years, and haven’t finished yet,
but I begin to think that steel rails and politics make a difficult combination.”
“Well, sir, as matters stand I can’t picture a stoppage.” “But you’re satisfied they can do it if the money wrere to be found?”
“These land certificates were Donald Smith’s suggestion, weren’t they?”
“I believe so.”
“I thought as much: How many did they unload?” “About ten million. The market wouldn’t swallow any more.”
“Hmph! Or my guarantee either. What’s the total they have spent to date?”
“Van Horne says ninety-five million, of which the Government found fifty-five.”
“All told, four times that original cash grant, eh? And now they want another. How much?”
“Stephen says twenty-two million.”
“Did Donald come to Ottawa also?”
“The sly old fox,” murmured Macdonald with a fleeting smile. “He’s waiting, just waiting, but so can I. We’ll see before long. But we can’t find any more money; the House won’t stomach it. Edward Blake—he knows the fix we’re in—is licking his evangelical chops for a taste of Scots blood.”
“Sir,” said Pope, summoning his courage, “we’ve got to do something.”
“Can we contemplate the C.P.R. going the same way as the Northern Pacific?” asked Schreiber.
“Not a pretty picture,” frowned Macdonald, “not pretty at all. Schreiber, how many miles have those fellows built to date?”
“About fifteen hundred, but actually owned and operated they’ve some three thousand. It’s a record for less than three years work.”
“H’m, a good deal more than my Government would have achieved in the same time; I’ll give them credit for that.” “Sir John,” said Pope earnestly, “I hope you’ll now consent to see Stephen; he’s been waiting for days and everything hangs on the immediate future. Things don’t look too well in the West, but Van Horne is sending in trainloads of farmers, horses, implements, material for houses, everything ready for breaking ground and planting in the spring. It’s a great act of faith.”
“I know it; I quite agree; but I’m in a tighter comer than those fellows realize.”
“Getting back to Stephen,” he continued, “I don’t want to see him. I like him too much, and hate saying no to a man of his sort. Why is it that the nicest people always want the most impossible things?”
“After what took place in Dover Street, do you think you can decline?” objected Pope stoutly.
“Ah, Dover Street! That seems an age ago. Perhaps we were all a bit hypnotized. Schreiber, can’t you say something to help us? You’ve been over the North Shore lately —what about that part of it?”
“Van Home has the job by the throat, Sir John; the rest is only a matter of money.”
“Only! Did you say only? No, certainly we don’t w’ant the Northern Pacific business duplicated in Canada, and I remember something I said about Mr. James Hill to Tupper a year or so ago. I wish Tupper was here now.”
"There’s your man,” interjected Pope, “why not send for him?”
Macdonald looked up sharply. “That’s a comforting idea, J.H. I’ll think of it.”
“And you’ll see Stephen meantime?” Pope seized the favorable moment.
“I will on the understanding that you see him first and tell him privately and beforehand that the Government can do nothing more at present anyway. Get that into his head; don’t let him grasp at a straw, and don’t hurt him more than you can help.”
CTEPHEN was now desperate. Day after day, with ^ Abbott, he had haunted the Parliament Buildings till their long corridors became a Gehenna, testing the political wind, buttonholing friends—persuasive, pleading, urgent, exhausting every effort to secure a personal interview with Macdonald—while this arduous period was punctuated by cypher telegrams from Montreal, and with every hour that passed the peril of the all-red line increased. But Macdonald remained invisible, going to earth like a wary fox. Other men saw him. but not Stephen; he entered and left his chambers by a private door. and. driven by old Buckley, slipped away to Eamscliffe, where none might enter without being summoned.
He was in truth greatly occupied. The Western harvest that year had failed of expectations, the new settlers were alarmed, the Opposition quick to avail themselves of useful ammunition. The Fenian element, backed by many Roman Catholics, resented the appointment of Lord Lansdowne to Rideau Hall, and Macdonald u'as fearful of antagonizing the Roman Church.
Thus when, on December 1, Stephen finally gained audience, he met a man who was perforce looking in many directions at once.
“Well, Mr. Stephen,” Sir John plunged at the point at once, “it appears we are both in difficulties, i am sorry, very sorry.”
Stephen took a long breath. He was utterly weary, but still clung with high courage to his mission. He dared not fail.
“I fancy you know it all, sir, without my telling you.” "Yes. you may assume that, but 1 am forced to say that I can do nothing more. It is not from lack of willingness.” “We have had a very narrow squeak with the Bank of Montreal, Sir John. They seem determined to smash us. It is due to Grand Trunk influence.”
“H’m, I suppose so. Mr. Stephen, were you in my place, you could only say what I do.”
Stephen shook his head.
“I have trouble enough where 1 am, and if the C.P.R. goes down, the bank goes with it. Were it to be known in Montreal that 1 said this, you can imagine the resultpanic.”
"Is the bank as heavily involved as that?”
"Sir John, 1 am its former president. Angus its former general manager; we are both directors of the C.P.R.. and the C.P.R. today owes the bank seven and a hall millions. That is our present and perilous position. My friends, my business associates, practically all Montreal merchants of any substance and thousands of small investors, have taken my word for it that the C.P.R. is sound, but today the line exists on credit and good will. Destroy that and we sink, but not alone.”
“Yet in two and a half years my Government has found you not less than fifty-five millions—a large part of the revenue of this country—against an original promise of twenty-five millions.”
“You have, sir, but who could realize at the outset what we faced?”
“Which was fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate.” Sir John stroked his shaven chin, thinking how haggard the man looked. “Mr. Stephen. I fear I have nothing more to say.”
"Very well, sir”—he made a gesture of despair—“then, failing help from you, my directors have decided to put the road into the hands of a receiver.”
“Did Mr. Smith agree to that?” asked Macdonald with a sharp glance.
“He does agree. Van Home has ten thousand men in the West who must be paid and got back—that is the first step. If we cannot pay them—well ! On the other hand and with your support, we undertake to complete the road in five years instead of ten.”
An icy blast sweeping down the Ottawa River rattled the East Block windows, and Macdonald gave a slight shiver. He felt the weight of those men, pictured them thrown out of work and a hard winter in sight.
“Mr. Stephen, I think you undertake the impossible; anyway the House will not stand for a further grant.” “Then the House will be responsible for national ruin. It is not your fault or ours that I^ombard Street will listen only to vilifications from the Grand Trunk, which are the more savage because it was our intention to prove—because we firmly believe it—that a Canadian railway can best be built and run by Canadians. If your Government is satisfied to play second fiddle. Sir John, I. too, have nothing further to say; I am answered. But believe, always believe that we have done our best. If James Hill occurs to you— well, we would not have had him in our syndicate without your approval.”
The Premier winced a little, then with an odd expression:
“Where is Mr. Smith at the moment?”
“In Montreal, sir.”
“He is—ah—well, I hope?”
Stephen sent him a swift glance.
“Yes, Sir John, quite well, apart from what you can imagine.” He hesitated. “In that connection there is something I have long desired to say; may I take the liberty?” “You may say about Donald what you please.” The mobile lips took on a curve ol amusement. “The things I’ve said about him would surprise you.”
“Then, I doubt whether today there would have been any C.P.R. without him. He does not appear to the public like the rest of us, but—well—you will understand why.” “I’ve heard rumors,” admitted the Premier, smiling, “fairly loud ones, but still rumors, and ...”
Here he broke off, studying Stephen’s strained face and equally exploring his own mind. He needed Donald Smith back in the fold, needed him badly. Donald would never be a political mainspring, but he would prove an excellent barometer. He’d never expect to be Premier—too old now for that—but some day he’d make an excellent High Commissioner; and it would be comforting to have whispering counsel into one’s ear the same suave voice that just ten years ago sent cold chills down one’s spine. Also Donald should pull a good Conservative vote.
“Mr. Stephen,” said he rellectively, “I have, and with reason, the greatest respect for your cousin’s capacity. He is a very remarkable man. In 73 I thought him something other than that, but ten years are ten years, and I believe in the healing efficacy of time.”
“Then you would not be averse to meeting him?” Stephen doubted his own ears.
“On the contrary, it might be an excellent thing if he were not] averse to entertaining a proposition I have in mind.” “What, sir?”
“That he should contest the next Montreal seat as my personal supporter,” said Macdonald smoothly.
There—it was all out, and Stephen glimpsed the end of an enmity that Canada in these day's of stress could ill afford. “Might I intimate something of the kind, Sir John?”
“My dear fellow, don’t intimate anything; put it straight at him. If any'one understands straight talk, he does. On my side, I’ll welcome it. Tell him that. On his side, the best way of welcoming is to do as I propose and come back to the House not as an independent—that kind of member is like a flea in your shirt, you can’t pin him down. Stephen, I believe we’re both a bit tired of being independent of each other.”
“I’ll tell him, Sir John.”
“Now as to the C.P.R., please understand that I can promise nothing, but will cable for Tupper, your very good friend—Pope suggested that—and he should arrive in a fortnight. He’ll want to have your books examined, and be partly guided by what Schreiber says. If on the strength of this, he advises me to take the risk—I wonder if you realize what that means—we will put it to the House, and the thing will turn on what happens there. I cannot say more.”
“The C.P.R. cannot survive till the House meets,” replied Stephen dully. “We are on the brink of disaster ; as we stand, we are now insolvent.”
The Premier shook his head with decision.
“I am sorry, but that is for you and your associates to determine. 1 hope you will find a way out. If you go down, my Government goes with you, so your success means as much to me as to you. Mr. Stephen, I have to step very warily; I can’t be too certain of my supporters.” He rose to conclude the interview. "You talk to Donald, and let me know privately how he takes it. because I hate to see good material unused. Tell him that, too. I’ll arrange that you have a chat with Tupper as soon as he gets here. Good morning.”
Stephen, virtually ruined, went back to Montreal emptyhanded yet faintly hopeful, only to feel the noose tightening round his neck. Van Home was helplessly blasphemous, and Shaughnessy, who had pleaded, promised and prophesied in order to keep creditors at bay, now desperate. At the bank, where the book value of C.P.R. shares had attenuated, the atmosphere became virulent. With Angus. Stephen felt that confidence in themselves had been destroyed. Used to thinking in millions, they could not now lay hands on thousands; the line ivas insolvent, the Selkirks not yet spanned, the North Shore still unconquered.
In this issue came a demand from the Grand Trunk, now feeling competition in Ontario, that the C.P.R. be made to surrender lines it had acquired; at which, curiously enough, there began to filter into the public mind the first idea that there was something, a quality of vitality, in what they called the C.P.R. spirit; that perhaps the Grand Trunk was less of a national benefactor than it proclaimed itself, and long-distance management open to objections that did not apply to a home-built, home-run system. At any rate, men thought, the new line was putting up such a fight as had never been seen before, and cabled attacks from Lombard Street began to lose something of their sting.
Thus from the seed sown in jealous enmity sprouted the first indications of an unexpected reaction, and in these days of stress the C.P.R. made new and unseen friends among fair-minded men who tired of these assaults and desired to see fair play. The all-red line had, it seemed, fostered a new sense of independence and nationalism, and Canadians commenced to regard it as no small part of their great heritage. Frank Smith, Minister without portfolio, who brought to Macdonald the Roman Catholic vote of Ontario on a Senatorial platter, bombarded his chief with demands for action. Macdonald himself began to realize that he could vacillate no longer; and when Charles Tupper, large and confident, a bulldog for tenacity, hurried across the Atlantic to save his own offspring from the lions, he found the House unexpectedly amenable. Canadians, he decided, were actually growing proud of their all-red line.
On the 9th of February in that year of ’84, Macdonald and Donald Smith were reconciled in a private room of a Montreal Club, burying the hatchet under confluent waters of Clyde and Spey. From the Chairman to the newest pageboy, all knew what was taking place behind that door, but no ear pressed against the keyhole, so none save themselves knew what words were exchanged; but history records that twenty-four hours later Macdonald’s Government loaned to the C.P.R. thirty millions of dollars, of which seven and one-half obliterated the debt to the bank. The ill-fated deposit was released, and life breathed again through the all-red line.
V\7'l 1ISPERING STEVE, holding two pair, king high.
* ’ drew one for a full house, and made it. Thereupon he eyed the pool with lustful glance; it held forty dollars.
“I’m belting ten dollars.” He tried to keep a note of confidence out of his voice.
The Rake for an answer tlirew in his liand, an action immediately followed by George Baird, of Helena, and the other Mr. Kelly, whereupon the winner gathered in his profits with an audible sigh, and not the slightest conception that for those three kings and two jacks he was indebted to the skilful touch of the man on his left.
They had been playing for an hour, and never before in his life had The Rake been forced to question his own art as he was now. Furthermore, he had become grievously disappointed in Bulldog, and began to wonder whether there might not be some shadowy understanding between him and the party from Helena. Such situations were not entirely new, and the double-cross had in his own experience a historical foundation.
As already arranged on the walk back to Holt City, the affair should have been simple enough. Mr. Baird would win for a while, would even be assisted in winning, while a brace of Kellys, though careful not to overdo it, evidenced from time to time such symptoms of inexperience and poor judgment as might best be calculated to encourage the stranger, till at the psychological moment liis opponents displayed signs of desperation.
At this juncture Mr. Baird, having now accumulated considerable wealth, would receive a hand on which airy reasonable man would bet his shirt ; a formidable hand that might, for instance, contain as many as four smiling queens, while simultaneously the party from Yale found himself the recipient of four aces. In such an eventuality one might reasonably expect Mr. Baird to bet his shirt and winnings to date, whereat one would not only see him but raise him till the roll of $3.(XX) lay on the table.
Now The Rake took a gulp of sarsaparilla, and watched the man from Helena out of the tail of his eye. Mr. Baird’s manner was notably calm, his expression vouchsafed nothing, and it had remained like that since the game began. He accepted the invitation with the same poise, asking no questions, volunteering nothing concerning himself. Thus it went for an hour, during which he accumulated the $600 stacked neatly beside him. He did not talk except once when he put a bottle on the table, indicating that its contents were foreign to essential oils—not his own manufacture but the genuine stuff—and expressed polite regret on learning that Mr. Kelly from Sacramento did not use spirits.
Shortly after this, The Rake observed that the expression of Mr. Kelly from Y’ale was becoming flushed. His eyes developed a slight bulge; his proximity to the bottle—which the donor seemed to have forgotten—was proving too much for him, and the beefy face exhibited symptoms that roused a growing anxiety in his silent partner. Bulldog sober was none too bright, but Bulldog drunk was a problem. It appeared, therefore, that what must be done were best done at once, and The Rake blew his nose into a large silk handkerchief, thus indicating that when the deal came round to him the climatic moment would have arrived.
But here again was food for doubt. He could not be certain that Bulldog had remembered, nor did tliat party
even lower the customary eyelid in acknowledgment, so the tension increased, sharpened by the fact that Mr. Baird raked in the next two pots on the strength of successive straight flushes dealt by himself and Whispering Steve.
This was embarrassing though not serious, but matters came to a point when The Rake, shuffling cards and testing their pinpricks with his supersensitive fingertips observed that the chosen victim had pushed back his chair and was folding his money into a neat little packet.
“Well, friend, just one hand more and then we’ll quit. You’ve certainly had the luck this time.”
“Thanks,” said Mr. Baird calmly, “but I have quit.”
“Matter of fact, gents.” Here he snapped a rubber band very neatly around the packet. “I just hate to take any more of your money.”
Bulldog made a choking sound, but The Rake silenced him with a gesture, while Whispering Steve, scenting trouble, sat up straight. Greatly flattered when asked to take a hand, he had made $90. A satisfactory evening !”
“You’re welcome to all you can take.” Mr. Kelly of Sacramento regarded Mr. Baird with a provocative eye, but something was shaking his confidence.
“And it’s kind of customary,” interjected Bulldog roughly, “to give a fellow a chance to get back at you, but maybe you don’t play that kind of game over in Montana.”
Mr. Baird, upending the bottle, replaced it with apparent regret.
“Well,” he said dryly, “I gave you all kinds of chances, but you just sat back and wouldn’t take them. No, sir, I bluffed you cold four times with a l\and as empty as last year’s bird’s nest, so presently I’m allowing there’s one of two reasons for it.”
"Interesting,” murmured The Rake. “What reasons?”
“You either don’t know a thing or else too much.”
“Go right on, stranger.”
“As for the kind of game we play in Montana, I guess perhaps you’re right. It ain’t like yours; no, not in any sense.”
“By which?” suggested The Rake in colorless tones.
“By which I’m suggesting it’s a straight game; also I know a pair of tinhorn gamblers when—”
At this, Bulldog, cursing fluently, reached for his pocket—but only reached because from Baird’s palm came an unmistakable metallic glint. It was the muzzle of a small six-shooter. Twirling the trigger guard around his forefinger, its barrel described such glittering convolutions as to fascinate the gaze, but of this the owner seemed unconscious, and his hard voice, backed up by the cold grey eye, a square chin and extremely sophisticated expression, compelled attention.
“Tinhorn gamblers, gents, with the exception of you”— here he indicated the breathless Steve—“and it’s wasting my time to try and teach the old folks to suck eggs. I knew you both, knew you from the start; saw you in Yale two years ago, but you didn’t see me. Bulldog, next time you’re down in Helena let me know and we’ll try to teach you something. As for you, Mr. Kelly of Sacramento, I’m kind of disappointed. I was hoping you’d call for sandwiches and eat another ace of spades. Well, so long, gents. See you later—maybe.”
VAN HORNE and Schreiber sat on a boulder on the north shore of Lake Superior, while over them poured a noonday July sun, its rays refracting from innumerable facets of shattered, crystalline granite as though the cut were sprinkled with diamonds. Here the solid rock gaped wide, and furrowing its riven bulk one could count the long drill holes that had tom it asunder.
The bright air burned fiercely as they mopped their streaming faces. Van Horne’s shirt was open, displaying the black hair on his barrel-like chest, his coat hung over his arm and his loose breeches bagged at the
knees; he carried a stick cut from a bushTaking out a cigar, he regarded it dubiously, then shook his head.
“Too hot for that. Schreiber, since you’re inspecting for the Government, I suppose I ought to be more respectful.”
Schreiber, glad of a moment’s rest, only laughed. All that morning he had been striding along beside this puffing human traction engine that pursued its masterful course up the right-of-way, eyes everywhere, missing nothing, firing questions at foremen, contractors and engineers, glorying in the struggle with an adamantine country that provided nothing but toil in a battle of blood, brain and explosives against flinty stone.
Northward lay a wilderness with hardly a stick of timber bigger than tie size; a hundred feet below the boulder where Schreiber sat, the intense emerald green of Lake Superior licked the feet of vertical granite bluffs, its waters translucent under the sun, a thousand feet deep, the coldest water in the world. One could pitch a stone down into a tiny bay floored with pebbles of jasper and agate, their colors lustrous beneath the flashing transparent surface. Across the bay, the newly located line hugged the perpendicular cliff, and here, as on the far distant Fraser, suspended in midair by ropes from the summit, hung men, clinging like insects, drilling holes that when blasted would foim a bench to carry the track. These busy midgets with their Lilliputian hammers and pigmy drills looked amusingly small, impudent and ineffective. Farther south over the inland sea the horizon was empty, a hard blue edge against a hard blue sky.
It had been thus for days past, and Schreiber, a sound engineer, was increasingly impressed by the endless army and its unceasing attack with steel, dynamite and the muscles of men. He knew what it was costing—Van Home left him in no doubt there—secretly admired the faith that inspired it, but wondered where the remaining and necessary millions were to come from. Time and again he put that recurrent question aside. Van Horne wras building the road as and where he saw fit, building it well, and Schreiber’s job was to testify later to what he had seen.
“Better get along, hadn’t we?”
Hoisting up his big body, Van Horne and his companion dived into a ravine. Here Schreiber halted to look round; he could see nothing but solid rock.
“Where are you getting the material to make this fill?”
“We’re not filling it now. Wooden trestles first, filled by a ballast train from the nearest gravel pit later on. That’ll save a lot, also take it off the man and put it on to the machine. It’s the only way I can get this section through.”
SCHREIBER nodded, and for the rest of the day they pushed westward, eating at camps along the line. Fire still smoldered where the air was bitter to the taste. They traversed swamps on corduroy roads that floated, sagged and trembled above a gulf of bottomless slime; they looked down on lonely lakes where the black-headed, whitebreasted loon waked echoes with his ribald laughter; they saw freight vessels moored in deep wrater close under the cliffs, while from their decks horses and bales of hay were snatched up by ropes 200 perilous feet to the summit of those granite bluffs; they saw a dynamite factory where only a year ago the silent Ojibway had trapped the swift brown mink, and a colony of beaver, the original hydraulic engineers oi the North, built their curving dam.
They plugged on. Van Home ate as though stoking a furnace, which indeed he was, conquering the weight of his body with thrusting vigor. Schreiber had become rather silent, being impressed by this army of 9,000 men, the engineers and contractors with whom they spent the night where night found them. He could not imagine this thing losing momentum, he had a sound idea of what it must be costing, and anticipated the time when the all-red line would turn again to Ottawa for aid. Van Home, he concluded,
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did not think at all about money, being too drunk with the lust for construction. He joked, cursed, stuffed food, shot searching questions as from the barrel of a rifle, drank, played cards with his sleep-drugged subordinates into the small hours, and rose ere sunrise, revelling in the prospect of another day.
They were eating lunch in the shade of a forge roofed with cedar bark where a FrenchCanadian blacksmith was sharpening drill steel, when Schreiber said:
“It’s a good thing for you that that last loan got through.”
"We had a bad time,” grinned Van Home, “and George Stephen nearly went crazy. The bank was so hostile—they were up to the neck in it—and he felt personally responsible for letting them in. I couldn't make out what Donald Smith really felt;
I never have yet, but he had his tomahawk out for Jim Hill.”
“Yes, I was sorry for Stephen, too. So was Sir John; he told me about their meeting, Of course Tupper turned the scales, backed up by Frank Smith. This road was his idea first of all, though people don’t seem to know it; he made a great speech in the House in 79. But Sir John will get most of the credit, and I admire the way Tupper lets him have it. That commissionership—he didn’t want it really; too much for him to do here. All round he was certainly the strongest man in the Cabinet. He isn’t a political acrobat and has a different kind of brain, and while there’s no jealousy in Sir John, I think he’s aware of that. People trust Tupper; he doesn’t depend on—well—mesmerism. If this road goes through—I mean financially—it’s largely due to him.”
“What you had last winter won’t finish it. From what I’ve seen already, you’ll spend nearly twenty million on this North shore alone; then you’ve got the Selkirks. I’m not talking now' as a Government official but as one engineer to another, and you needn’t worry' about my report.”
“I never worry about anything—too busy,” grunted Van Home, “but can you picture it not going through? Some things are too big to stop, and this is one of them. I’m a builder, Schreiber; it’s in my blood. I’ll build till I drop.”
So they came past Red Rock where the Nipigon slides down through trout-haunted reaches from the Height of Land, past Steel River to Prince Arthur Landing; and there at the head of the Great Lakes. Schreiber saw' a big black-hulled, white-cabined, Clyde-built steamer, with Scotch boilers, disgorging settlers’ families for the prairies; while out of dusty box cars from Pile o’ Bones, the garnered harvest of the West poured its golden stream into a giant elevator. The grain slid through the cars’ bottoms through a shute on to a travelling belt, thence to a bucket hoist that scooped it up and dumped it into the top of a large boxlike building that held one million bushels.
Van Home dipped a hand into the yellow stream; and the feeling of this hard, finely ix)lished river gave him a thrill. It seemed alive, as indeed it was.
“Schreiber,” said he gravely, “that is the best w'heat in the world because it comes from farthest North. The farther north you go the better it is. I believe it would grow' in the Arctic circle. It’s hard wheat, and in England they’ll use all they can get to mix with their softer stuff. You can see what that means to us, with millions of acres out there waiting for the plow'. That’s why I’m rushing this road—to speed the plow. This elevator’s too small, we need one twice the size.”
SCHREIBER saw', and he. too, was impressed, but could not rid himself of fhe scene of the last two weeks. And the heights of the Selkirks were still unclimbed. I íe admired Van Home, he knew he wras in
the company of a great man, and felt anxious for him.
“Yes,” he admitted, "if your company ¡ doesn’t go broke first. That’s what we’re ail ( afraid of; it’s no secret.”
“Can Macdonald allow us to go broke?”
“I don’t know—that’s not my end of it. I’m no politician—but he’s got much more , on his mind than this road. Your lot lays I siege to him in Ottawa expecting that he’ll drop everything else. Well, he can’t. Affairs ¡ pull him both ways, and it’s his job to I remember his party always.”
“The road was his idea, not ours.” objected Van Home stoutly, “and, what’s more, Stephen has promised it’ll be finished next year, which is five years ahead of time. Macdonald and Tupper were both satisfied with that, so I can’t see your Government going back on us now'. If it does—well—”
He shook his big head. He was not acclimatized to money troubles; in years of railway experience across the line he had none of them; also he believed that if a thing was big enough and sound enough it w'as bound to go through. Also he wTas exhilarated with Stephen’s success at Ottawa a few months earlier, and felt drunk with the lust for construction. He pinched the hard grains that meant so much and put every anxiety out of his head.
“Better come West with me and have a look at the Selkirks. They’re not so bad as you may think. We’ll pick up Rogers; he’ll amuse you. I’ve seen Fleming’s report, and we have his technical blessing.”
“I’m sorry, but I must go back. I’m | overdue in Nova Scotia.”
“Then why not take that new steamer of ours?”
Schreiber nodded. They shook hands, and Van Home turned westward up the Kaministiquia, sitting on the rear platform of his car, watching the river through which Wolseley’s expedition had dragged their clumsy boats fourteen years previously, with Redvers Buller in command of his freshwater brigade. He went on over the great muskegs near Savanne while the springing | track yielded under the train’s weight and rose behind it in a long gentle wave. The muskegs, he thought, still looked a bit hungry. So to St. Paul and out to the Coast. Jim Hill had reached the Coast first, admitted Van Horne, and nearly wrecked his road in the attempt to min his former associates: but that affair was over now, and one could smile at it.
By sea to Victoria and across to Port Moody. Here Van Home spent some time surveying those shallow shores and restricted waters, then he betook himself nearer the open sea and made up his mind at once. Gastown, they called that village—a collection of wooden shacks clustering round a small sawmill—but it fronted a noble harbor. From deep water close to shore, the land rose gently to a plateau crowned with gigantic trees, the superb growth of a thousand years, their huge boles thirty feet in circumference, standing mile after mile like the columns of some endless cathedral. Northward across the Inlet towered twin peaks like sleeping lions. One reached the open sea through a channel of deep water, safe entrance to the Inlet: and this spot, secluded yet approachable, spacious and impressive, seemed to Van Home to fill all his needs, and here he visioned the terminus of the all-red line. It was as though nature had set her seal of approval on his efforts, so then and there he christened it Vancouver in memory of the British mariner who first explored these coasts now nearly a hundred years ago. He liked that name, it sounded bold and strong.
Starting back toward Montreal, his spirits were high, but sobered a little when he inspected Onderdonk’s work up the Fraser. It was Government work, and though he said nothing at the time, and greatly liked Donk, it fell short of his own standards of safety and permanence. The Government,
to save money, had permitted things he himself would not have approved, and since this section was, on completion, to be incorporated in the all-red line, he realized that it would call for the expenditure of further millions. The track was laid nearly to Lytton, and a train could lx got over it, but that, he privately concluded, was all one could say.
Time pressed hard; only a year and a half now remained to redeem Stephen’s promise; so at Lytton, where Donk’s work would end. Van Horne committed himself to further millions and started construction eastward.
Now through the Selkirks by pony train. A hard trip, but its difficulties enthused him the more, so, gathering in his turbulent wake Rogers, whose unfailing if sardonic optimism well suited the occasion, he climbed the gorge of the Illecillewaet over a villainous trail and came puffing to the Pass.
C TARING at the heights overtopping this ^ new gateway, lie shot ribald remarks at Rogers concerning his first report, while he marked the courses of rock slides and avalanches, knowing full well that with such things the all-red line must shortly deal, then travelled down the valley of tlx Beaver on a horse that buckled under his weight. Thus, by Golden, up the Kicking Horse to Big 11 ill—eating, smoking, laughing, a technical Jupiter, his mind pitching ahead to the day when the last spike would be I driven, and Schreiber’s observation returning with discomforting frequency. Money! From what he had now seen, it would require more than twenty-five million to complete the road, and of how that might lx found he had no idea whatever. Stephen’s job anyway.
They were ascending the slopes of Big 11 ill when a young man stepped in front and lifted his arm.
“Wait, you fellows; we’re going to shoot!” Van Horne dismounted and lit his usual cigar. He was weatherbeaten and disreputable in attire. On the Beaver his trousers had given out, and he now wore a pair from a contractor’s store which, too small in girth, had been slit and laced, thus providing a homemade expansion joint that he asserted was both practical and comfortable. Grunting with relief, he seated himself and regarded the young man.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your job?”
“I’m bossing a rock cut for Dan Mann.” “Where’s Dan now?”
“Two miles east. What’s your name, stranger?”
John gave a gasp. “Oh !” he exclaimed. “I didn’t—”
“That’s all right,” chuckled the stranger. “Pretty young to boss a cut, aren’t you?” “I’m twenty-six,” said John, now red to the temples.
“You’ll get over that. IIow much do you weigh?”
“ ’Bout two fifteen, sir.”
Van Horne scanned the big frame with satisfaction. He liked big men when they were wel. built, and the proportions of this one pleased him. There was, too, something in the cold candor ol the blue eyes that he found attractive, so very shrewdly he made a rapid estimate of this young giant’s possibilities. and decided that here was the sort that in the right hands could be made of permanent use. It was a habit of his during construction to keep a sharp watch for those lie would need after the tracklayers moved on, and he considered only the cream of thousands who came to play their transitory part.
John, aware of this scrutiny, pulled himself together. He had often heard Van Horne talked about, often wondered what sort of man this demigod might be. They all did that, all through the mountains, but only a few of the contractors and engineers had ever seen him. Now here he was in the flesh with his damp hair plastered down on the great domelike head, shirt open, the same kind of shirt that John himself wore, socks sagging loosely over his ankles, beard untrimmed, with sunburned neck and gaping
breeches, but for all of it, emanating something instantly recognizable—the peculiar air of force, mastery and decision that was Van Home’s chief characteristic. Then and there John resolved that here was the man he would like to work for always.
“Hickey, when this job’s finished, what then?”
“I guess I’ll stick to the road.”
“Rogers, you might think about that.”
The other man, who was chewing hard, said nothing but nodded, while John’s pulse gave another jump. Rogers. Old Hell’s Bells. Two demigods on the same day ! He had seen Rogers once in the distance talking to James Ross when it was raining hard, but even so he should have recognized those* widespread whiskers. He was leaner than one had expected and looked something like a very determined piece of dried sinew. John hoped he would say “Hell’s Bells,” but nothing happened, and just then the blast went off. He counted three shots, which was right, and another slice of Big Hill went crashing into the valley. He gave his chin a jerk.
“All clear now, sir.”
‘‘Want to stick to the road, eh, Hickey?”
“I guess so. There’s nothing else round here and I like the mountains; I was raised in ’em.”
“Well, perhaps the road will stick to you. Come on. major.”
He heaved himself up and, with Rogers riding like a featherweight beside him, was soon out of sight. John stood looking after them with a sort of awe. He had an odd feeling that, with Van Home at the other end, life would somehow be different.
BIG JOHN was on a side hill watching two powdermen at work. They came along, one with a sack of dynamite on his shoulders—twenty-five cylinders in greasy yellow paper, a foot long and thicker than a candle—the other with two coils of fuse under his arm. On the upper side of the cut were five holes each fifteen feet deep, stopi^ed with wooden plugs, and to these they applied themselves, knocking out the plugs, swabbing the holes, pushing into each four of the yellow sticks, ramming them firmly home with a wooden rod.
The side of the fifth and last stick being slit, one of the men cut a twelve-foot length of fuse, thrust one end of it into a cap an inch long, put the cap between his teeth and crimped its edges hard, grinning at his mate as he did so. This deadly combination was now thrust home, leaving the end of the fuse a few inches above ground, and the hole tamped tight with earth to the surface. Finally the exposed end of the fuse was split, revealing its core of black powder, fine as dust.
The two worked deliberately, while John regarded them with a critical eye, glad that nitroglycerine was out of date and dynamite had taken its place. The oil, as they called the former, was a sticky and semifluid sort of jelly that one poured into the hole from a can; it was liable to explode on slight concussion, so that in earlier days on the Fraser whole teams of mules with their drivers had been distributed in fragments when the wagons bumped too heavily over a rocky road. But dynamite, more solid, substantial and less sensitive, was made of impregnated sawdust. It was apt to freeze and then it became dangerous, but it could be readily thawed out not too close to a fire, and in zero weather if only a stick or two was needed, the powder man very often carried them inside his shirt from the earthcovered magazine.
The caps being exploded by the burning fuse, in turn setting off the dynamite, were far more perilous, since they contained fulminate of mercury, and the powder man was provided with pincers to crimp them. But these invariably got lost, so he used his teeth instead, knowing full well that without exceeding care the top of his head would instantly be removed. John, though now hardened, always felt relieved when that part of it was over.
To load five of these deep holes took half an hour, and he waited expectantly, reckoning that they should lift 200 cubic yards out
of the cut. This would leave very little to. finish the contract—his first contract—so he sat on a boulder and began to smoke, thinking of many things. This job done, he would have over $1,000 and be in shape to tackle something bigger.
It had been a hard winter on Big Hill— snowfalls alternating with rain, then frost, then milder weather, and in early summer there came a torrential rush from the heights. The bush was sodden, the tote road a morass. One became, however, inured to this. Soaking clothes were hung on a rope to be donned half dry next morning, and the sleeping camps had a sharp acrid smell in which the fumes of tobacco were hardly noticeable. Those structures were well built and tight, so the men, being sure of a dry mattress, did not fare so badly, but the “blanket stiffs” in haphazard shacks along the line proved less fortunate. Their bodies were never dry.
Now the steel was being laid westward from Holt City, and men talked of where it might meet Onderdonk coming east. Below Big Hill one could descry the line, most of it graded, some of it even with ties spaced out. These had been hewn on the spot. The lower slopes were scarred with gaping cuts, and far down where location ran beside the Kicking Horse, one followed the right-of-way out of sight—a clean curving swath running between palisades of tall, straight spruce.
A FAMILIAR view, but John never tired of it. At Yale one had been shadowed by mountains through which the Fraser seemed miraculously to escape, but those, though less high, looked formidable; while here, where one worked in them, they became more human, more intimate, homey and comfortable, unfolding all kinds of unexpected vistas and moods so that however often one glanced in a certain direction, new angles and reaches, new depths and heights continually presented themselves.
He felt that way whenever he stared up the valley of the Yoho which lay straight north from Big Hill. It was invitational, giving him a sense of space and distance; it was mysterious, the sort of place where things began, while on the Coast everything came to an abrupt end—the mountains, the Fraser and all else. Since he reached Big Hill he had not been 200 yards off the rightof-way, and now it came to him that he wanted to live in this country always. It promised something.
He was happy here; he had shaken off his former restive sense of inferiority, and began to think less, or perhaps differently, of Mary Moody. That had gone hard at first. The picture of her followed him on the tramp eastward, but it got more dim when he met Nell Regan; and. setting Nell against Mary, he assured himself that Mary was no man’s woman.
But Nell, and he could not shut his eyes to this, was too friendly to many men. She was more than fond of himself, withholding nothing whenever he went to Holt City. But never to him had she hinted at marriage, and sometimes she would draw away and look at him with an expression he could not decipher. He could not imagine himself living with her always, could not trust her enough foi that, but her heart was recklessly generous and she seemed the only woman in the world who cared.
The life he now led was physical in the extreme. He read no books or pa]x*rs, thought of nothing but the work, dropjx*d to sleep the instant he reached his bunk, yet it was interrupted at odd unexpected moments by mounting desires that choked him, and for their satisfaction he turned to Nell. She fascinated and disturbed him.
The powder man was straightening up over the last hole. He lit a strip of birch bark, holding its flame to the split fuse, that replied with a spitting flash as it began to burn, writhing like a wounded snake. Now he ran to the others in turn, and one could see them spitting till the powder had burned down out of sight, and the solid undisturbed rock surface leaked smoke at five points through invisible apertures.
The two walked back a hundred feet, where John joined them. There was plenty
of time, the fuse being rated to bum at two feet a minute, and they stood without speaking as one always did when waiting for a blast, till under their feet came a dull knock as though a prisoned Titan had struck upward with a giant hammer. With this the first shot went off. followed at once—so well had the fuse been measured—by the other four in one mighty heave, and amid these explosions it seemed that the side of the cut had been jolted from its parent body and shifted forward.
Now a vast creaking sound of splintering, a sharp unmistakable smell of burned powder that one could taste, and 400 tons of rock tilted massively into the gulf below.
John knocked out his pipe, went down into the cut and nodded approvingly. The : granite had been carved like cheese, leaving 1 j little for the rock men to do in cleaning up, I : and, better still, the floor of the cut now lay ' a shade below grade, ready for ballast, ties ! and rails. A neat job!
“By gosh.” said the powder man. spitting out the sharp taste and biting off a chew of tobacco, “we lifted her that time.”
John grinned at him. Good jxnvder men were born, not made, and Dan had sent him a jewel.
I “Well, that cleans her up. You’ll find lots more of it in Rogers Pass.”
“When are we moving, boss?”
“Next week; you can hang round till jthen.”
“Got another contract?”
“Yes, bigger than this; about ten thousj and yards of rock and twice as much earth. I’ll let that out in station work.”
“Pretty cold up there in winter, ain’t it?” “1 guess about the same. It’s no higher; maybe more snow.”
“So long as it isn’t rain. I don’t care. Had to strike matches on my tongue last week; driest place 1 could find.”
TOIIN LAUGHED and moved on, feeling J triumphant and free for the next few days.
' Dan Mann had spoken favorably of him to James Ross, the big contractor, Ross beckoned him into the private car, and John, for the first time, sat in a great leather chair in what he considered a palace on wheels. He felt enormously pleased. Ross offered him a cigar which he smoked, his pulse leaping, his lips oddly dry while he gazed at this jxitentate with undisguised curiosity, wondering how a man reached that position and just what took him there. When Ross asked him to have a drink, he shook his head, which, though he couldn’t know it, had a good deal to do with his getting the contract. So now he was about to move on and up, and since Nell Regan had no intention of leaving the hotel business, that affair would come to an end. He didn’t know whether he was glad or sorry.
But he must see her again before he left, also he wanted to deposit his money in a safe place; so he tramped back to Holt City, told her what lay ahead, and was disconcerted when she took it very coolly.
“Going to be a big contractor, eh?”
“I’m going to try,” said he. “It’s a fine chance.”
“When are you starting?”
“We’re moving up the line next week. Say, you could find a job up there, too; better come along.”
Nell laughed at him.
“You’re not the only one who’s got a contract. I’ve got one with Cold and Hot. They’re sticking here; say there’s more money in it.”
“Not much, there isn’t. The trains will be rolling right through Holt City pretty soon with not a thing to stop ’em. This’ll be just a way station with a siding and section house.” “Well, I don’t know about that. Anyway 1 don’t care; I’m staying. Now we’ll have a drink to your luck.”
“I guess not. Nell, thanks just the same. I’ve never had a drink with you, not once."
Her eyes turned suddenly and darkly bright.
“It sounds as though you were a bit tired of me, John. Is that it—got tired and moving on? Or maybe you’ve got some other girl on the string?”
“Aw, say, you’re talking through your I
hat; there isn’t anyone else and you know it.” “Or maybe you’re superior now you’ve got a bigger contract?” Her breast was growing stormy.
“That’s all wrong,” he expostulated, wondering what was the matter with her. “You’ve been better to me than any woman ever was, bar none, but I’ve got to move on.
I can’t help it; I'm aiming at big things and now’s my chance.” He blurted this out. thinking at the same time how attractive she was, the more so in her anger; the sort of woman any man would desire, especially as he might never see her again.
“You don’t want to marry me anyway.” he added. “You’ve never said a word about it.”
“That’s right, too. I never said it because I don’t want to marry any man. but I loved you and I love you now. I guess you don’t understand. If I was roped to a man. I’d get tired and quit. It hurts sometimes to feel that, but it hurts more when one like you just sort of waves a hand and says thanks, and goes off. Do you think I want any thanks?”
“I didn’t come here to—”
“Yes, you did, but you didn’t know how a woman like me would take it. Well, you know now. I wish I was dead.”
She hid her face and began to sob. John sat rooted for a moment feeling brutal and helpless, then put his arm round her.
“Say. Nell, don’t take it like that; there’s no harm done.”
She sobbed the more. A door opened, Coldwater put his head in and vanished with lifted brows. Being a man of experience with women, particularly of this sort, he allowed nature to take her course. It had happened before. John heard a laugh from Ilotwater in the next room, flushed deeply and reached for his hat. At this instant Nell looked up and at once her arms went round him.
“John, you big fool!” She was laughing and crying at once. “You big fool kid, did you think you were going to get away like that?”
Her arms tightened, the rich lips sought his. the warm strength of her body reached him. and they stood locked, straining till she lifted her dark head and looked straight into his eyes.
“You don’t know a thing about women, do you?”
“No.” he said chokily, “but I love you.” “Then why didn’t you tell me that before?” She brushed the tears from her eyes. “Sure I've been good to you—that’s all right—but before the next woman does the same thing you’ve got to have one drink with me. If you don’t. I’ll come right on to your next job and bring it.”
CHK LOOKED as though she meant it— ^ she did mean it—and John was deeply troubled. He had left drink alone for more reasons than he could remember, good and sufficient reasons. It hadn’t paid; he didn’t need it; a lot of things he wanted much more, and he feared the next taste of it. The struggle went on in him.
“Scared. John? Scared of me. too? Not big enough man to take a drink and kiss good-by?” Then with a curious tone and the odd expression he had sometimes detected: “You oughtn’t to be scared of
“What do you mean by that?” said he, wondering if she had heard anything about the days in Yale.
“Nothing, nothing at all.” She turned away, her strong white arms now thrusting him back. “Well, good-by. Better not come here any more.”
“I’ll have a drink.” he countered desperately, aching to hold her again.
“Forget it; I’ve quit, too. Have it with some other girl: plenty along the line.”
“But I want to, I tell you I want to. Come on !”
“Pretty cold-blooded parting otherwise, ch? You see that now?”
“You’re right. Nell; I was a fool.”
Again she kissed him full on the lips, went out and came back with a bottle.
“I guess we’ll say good-by upstairs. John. Coldwater's next door."
They went up, his heart pounding, and she stood for a moment at the window, her back j to him, not speaking, staring out as though j unconscious of his urgent presence, till like a ; woman who throws all to the winds, she ran j to him.
Later they came down—the liquor in John’s brain and the girl’s arm in his to steady him. He felt strange, but not content or triumphant. His throat burned, his face was hot, the world hazy. A laugh came from Coldwater as they went out. The air tasted good, and he gulped it in. Nell was talking and laughing, but he did not follow what she ; said, and they took the best road, the one following the banks of the Bow near the track. Not many about now, and those they passed saw nothing unusual in the two. They knew her better than John did.
He Iried to walk straight, but took irregular steps, now a short one, now a giant stride over some phantom obstacle, whereat he both smiled and frowned. Something had gone wrong, so, breathing deeply and squeezing his lids tight, things around began to steady, memory got to work, and it seemed that no harm was done after all. Also he felt comforted to know that, having drunk a lot of whisky, he really didn’t like it. so from now on he’d leave the stuff alone.
He had decided to explain this but not just yet when he made out two figures, a man and a girl. Swaying a little, he halted, still balanced by the supporting arm, and with drunken gallantry made a wide, sweeping salute.
Then it appeared that a clean cold wind blew straight through him, and he stood staring into the wide-open eyes of Mary Moody.
It lasted no time. The man with her drew her aside; they passed on, leaving him turning his head slowly, mouth open.
“What’s the matter with you now?” asked Nell sharply.
“One of the engineers and Nurse Moody. I She got here last week. Straighten up. I'm tired and we’re going back now. You don’t ¡ have to be in camp tonight.”
John, filling his lungs again, felt a sort of knock at the base of his brain like the knock of a blast. Now he was caught in a blast, with big stuff raining down all round and no shelter. Of a sudden he stood erect, terribly sober. Mary Moody !
He looked at the other girl, puzzled, distant, as though she were new to him. frowning, his jaw projecting like a ram. He wanted time: time and solitude for something that would have to be done very quickly. Then in a flash he hated Nell like j poison.
‘.‘Get out !” he barked. “Get out of this. I’m through.”
He walked on with no backward glance, now master of his body but slave of a tortured mind. Mary Moody ! A face from the past ! The last woman he had expected to i find here, and in Yale she always happened to see him when at his worst. Shaking his head like a bewildered hound, he cursed himself. But, again, why after two years should he take the sight of Mary Moody like this? He had never meant anything to her, so what did it matter after all? He had made money—was about to make more— was shaping some day to be a big railway man. and owed nothing as far as he could see to anyone except himself. This he found comforting. It diverted his thought to another channel, and instinctively he felt in his hip pocket.
No money was there.
He searched all his clothing. No money ! In a wave of anger, he knew who must have it. Drunk or drugged—then robbed. In a cold sweat he considered what he might do. The police? He could not establish anything. No one in Holt City Hotel knew of it when he went there; he hadn’t to his knowledge shown it, or spoken of it; he couldn’t even prove it had left his own camp. So that’s what it had cost him to say gcxxi-by to Nell. To be Continued