Track of Destiny
THE STORY: Having jailed 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 latter 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 yelloiv, 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 lake 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 braiders, Ind 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.
Premier Macdonald lends another thirty million dollars and the work proceeds. Bulldog Kelly plays cards with one
George Baird, and trouble is narrowly averted. William Van Horne meets John Hickey and tells him to stick to the road and the road will stick to him.
John finishes his first contract and takes a bigger one, and visits Nell Regan. While walking together, they meet Mary Moody and John is shocked when the latter spurns him. To make matters ivorse, he finds that his money is missing and thinks that Nell robbed him.
When John meets Mary Moody she is quite cordial, however; and to complicate matters still more, Irish Nell returns to him the $500 which he thought she had stolen, explaining that she was just taking care of it for him.
John learns that the notorious Molly Kelly, who once offered to assist him financially, is dead—and that she was lus mother! John inherits $1,500 from her. He offers to lend it to the new railroad, but is advised against doing so.
Meanwhile, Louis Riel is fomenting a revolt of Indians and halfbreeds.
A STINGING DAY, with Montreal deep in snow;
ZA in the city along the principal streets, men Y V shovelled it off the sidewalks into eight-foot-high embankments. Through these were cut narrow passages opposite office and shop doors so that vehicles might set down their passengers within reach of the pavement. Along the constricted streets horses drew innumerable open sleighs like landaus on runners, with buffalo robes and high box-seats where perched French-Canadian drivers with cracking whips, rugs tucked round their legs, and round fur caps beneath which their breath spouted into the frosty air like jets of steam. There came a constant jangle of bells, the roofs of buildings were buried in snow, the motionless air was bright, keen, sparkling.
This was what Van Home saw and heard when, pacing the board room, he halted impatiently at a window to look out. As usual he was smoking, and now and again would turn dubiously toward Shaughnessy, who sat at the large central table concentrated over a sheaf of papers, periodically glancing up without words, running his fingers through his crumpled hair, and concentrating again. The manner of the two expressed uncertainty, almost foreboding.
“Well. Tom,” said Van Horne, with a shrug of big shoulders, “it’ll be over soon, and for one I’ll be glad of it. If the Government takes over the line, and I don’t see how they can avoid it, you and I will be asked to stay on and finish up. We must not go back to the States leaving a half-done job, so I suppose we’ll have to. Hullo; here they are now.”
A private sleigh drawn by two blooded horses had pulled
up, two men got out, and Donald Smith entered accompanied by Stephen. They wore long coats of plucked beaver, with glossy otterskin caps and fur gauntlets. Stephen’s face was pale and drawn, he looked almost haunted. Smith’s cap had earfiaps fastened by a black silk ribbon under his chin, giving him the grotesque appearance of a bearded patriarch in a bonnet; his eyes held a glint, and frosty spots blossomed delicately in his lined cheeks. Drawing off the gauntlets, he rubbed together his large, white, bony hands.
“Good morning, gentlemen. We have a very fine day, have we not? I hardly remember a morning when I found the air more invigorating. My principal objection to winter in Labrador was that the low temperatures there were too often accompanied by wind, which made them trying; the effect was to rob the body of its envelope of radiant heat, as Professor McLeod of McGill University puts it. Well, Mr. Vice-President, shall we get to business?”
“We’d better; there’s a good deal to be settled. Isn’t Angus coming?”
“No,” said Stephen, “he can’t. But I’ve talked things over with him and he’ll approve any action we take, however drastic.”
“Macintyre came to see us yesterday, and his manner was such that Í knew at once why he came. It was not unexpected.”
“Cold feet?” said Van Home sharply.
“You are quite correct, sir,” nodded Mr. Smith. “Not to burden you with unnecessary details, Mr. Macintyre feels that his directorship of the C. P. R. becomes embarrassing; he argues that—”
“That since he controls the Central Canada from Pembroke to Brockville and it’s been a money-maker from the start, he’s not going to risk an alliance with a road which in his view is heading straight for the rocks,” interrupted Van Horne forcibly. “Also the wholesale woollen business needs all his spare time. I can hear him say it.”
“He did not express himself in precisely that fashion, but I am disposed to agree with your analysis. Gentlemen, our little company is going through the sifting process of time. First, James Hill and now Duncan Macintyre have been eliminated, but I believe”—he sent the three a penetrating though slightly quizzical glance-—“that the finer and more valuable material has survived. Mr. Macintyre is resigning his directorship to—to warm his feet in wholesale woollens; he prefers, therefore, not to attend this meeting, and we will receive formal notification of his resignation in due course.
“Also we must find someone to take his place,” suggested
Stephen. “That might wait, too. It won’t be easy or perhaps advisable at the moment.”
“I regret the occurrence,” said Smith, looking anything but downcast, “and it is a poor policy to change horses while crossing a stream, but perhaps this one was not pulling his weight. He will not, however, throw any of his shares on the market; that is agreed.”
“I can’t quite see him doing it at forty-two,” blurted Van Home cynically. “Come on, Tom, out. with it; give us the worst and get it over.”
CHAUGHNESSY nodded soberly. He had reduced a dozen sheets to one. and now sat with this in his hand; he knew, they all knew, that it epitomized the situation of the all-red line and was the forecast of disaster. The work of scores of thousands of men and ninety millions of money were here presented in a few bloodless figures, cold, brutal, inescapable. He hesitated before putting them into words, but this was a board meeting of the greatest private undertaking in the Dominion—indeed at that time in the whole world—and routine procedure must be followed, however downhill the road. His face was tense and tired. Stephen looked more and more exhausted. The burden so buoyantly assumed that day in Dover Street more than four years past, was sharply testing his unflagging courage. Already he had shouldered more and greater risks than he would have countenanced on the part of any other man, but there still remained in his finely modelled features a suggestion of weary humor, as though in the present extremity he had caught a gleam of light and found in it a touch of secret comfort. Van Home looked lighting mad; he was in open revolt; and of the four, only the expression of Donald Smith was quite unreadable, lie resembled, as it were, a courtly iceberg. Whatever he might be feeling, that he guarded; nor was it remotely possible to decipher what was taking place behind the granite of his countenance and the metallic glitter of those cold grey eyes.
"Gentlemen.” began Shaughnessy, “our cash resources were, as you are aware, exhausted some two months ago, and since then we have been living on credit. The markets are more against us than ever, and it has not been possible to place any further shares. Next week there will be due the guaranteed dividend on our issued capital. The amount required is six hundred and fifty thousand dollars, for which we have not one dollar available.”
"Dear me.” said Mr. Smith, “what an unfortunate situation. Mr. Van Home has evidently spent money much faster than we can find it. Yes, Mr. Shaughnessy, pray proceed.” “There is the matter of wages. Our Montreal salaries have not been met. and, much worse, for the very first time the pay car has not been sent out. The wage bill and other debts of a similar kind amount to about half a million. In addition, there is the bank obligation—”
“A little over four million, sir; to which add various acceptances of about one million more, given for supplies and construction material.”
“I must put it on record now,” interjected Stephen, “that it is impossible to use the bank any further. Many millions have been advanced to other clients on the security of C.P.R. shares held by them. The bank has reached its ultimate limit, and will have to face a run if we crash. That—well, that’s next on the programme.”
Mr. Smith, who had counted these depressing items, ticking each off on a broad finger as though he had not known them for weeks, now elevated his bushy brows:
“In round figures then, we might put our present urgent liabilities at six and one-half millions?”
“A lot of money,” rumbled Van Home.
“It is indeed a large sum, an exceedingly large one,” agreed Mr. Smith. “My cousin has something to tell us about the situation in Ottawa,” he added.
“There isn’t much,” said Stephen quietly, “but here it is: I made every effort to get in personal touch with Sir John, but could not. I did see John Henry Pope, Frank Smith and Schreiber. They were sympathetic, but that’s all. It seems that Sir John is working out some federal franchise voting scheme and thinks of nothing else, and Pope can’t pin him down; it’s always ‘tomorrow.’ The Minister of Marine— McLellan—swears he’ll resign from the Cabinet if the Government gives us any more help; and if he should, Sir John is afraid of losing Conservative support in Nova Scotia. Mackenzie is not as antagonistic as one might expect, but Blake is camping on our trail with his hatchet ready. He’s vindictive because the line is so nearly through in spite of him and he may have to swallow what he said about our not earning enough to buy axle grease. Roughly, that’s how things stand in Ottawa. If Sir John was determined I believe the party would see him through, but he simply refuses to come to any decision. He won’t face the facts.”
“Mr. Van Home, how many miles have we now completed?” put in Smith.
“With what we’ve bought and what we’ve built, just two thousand six hundred: that’s not counting Onderdonk.” “And the north shore section should be finished—when?” “In May; not later.”
“And as rice-president in general charge of the work, how,
in your opinion, can the situation best be handled for the immediate present?”
\7\AN HORNE gave a snort.
* “I expected you’d ask that. There’s only one thing: Paid or not paid, keep the men on the job somehow. Make it easy for them to get in, hard to get out. Walking’s pretty tough in the Selkirks just now. Isolate ’em; freeze ’em in tight. They can’t do much work—the snow’s too deep for that—but work isn’t the most important thing at the moment. I told Ross all about it and what to do, before he went West last week. This morning he wires from Beavermouth that there’s no real trouble yet, but the tough element is getting a bit restless.”
“Major Steele is in charge of the police there?”
“He is, and I’m glad of it.”
“I remember him very well at Fort Garry in ’sixty-nine. Ile was a good officer though little more than a youth, and a very powerful man. On occasions I have seen him shoulder a barrel of pork weighing four hundred pounds and carry it across a portage. My impressions were most favorable.”
“He’ll be able to handle that crowd if he’s left there,” said Van Home briefly, “but I’m not so sure that he will be left.”
“You think he may be called to the prairies?”
“It’s quite possible. Louis Riel seems bent on making trouble; he shouldn’t have been allowed back in the country.”
“In my opinion, Louis is mad.”
“I don’t doubt it, sir, but he’s dangerous. Well, what about our ten thousand men expecting their money?”
“That, Mr. Van Home, is very much to the point, and perhaps we have wandered a little; but, equally, we have many thousand shareholders expecting their guaranteed dividend. Which would you say comes first?”
“Does it matter—since we can’t pay either?”
“I think it does,” affirmed Mr. Smith smoothly. “Having had a certain business experience I’d give the shareholders the preference. 11 is a matter of comparative value; that is, value to us. If this dividend is actually passed, the company is unquestionably mined, no question lies there; we antagonize countless invisible clients the world over, and the—
—ah—the repercussion would be fatal. That, I feel, is much more perilous than keeping our own employees waiting a while longer, and—”
“My stars!” exploded Van Horne, “you talk as though the dividend could be paid.”
Mr. Smith took out his silk handkerchief, dabbed the tip of his nose, glanced at Stephen and received from him a slight nod:
“It can and will,” said he
calmly. “My cousin and I came to a mutual decision on the way here this morning, so perhaps he will tell you the rest.” “We agreed,” began Stephen in a weary tone, “that while we have any private resources at all, nothing humanly possible must be left undone to save the situation. We feel there’s more at stake than the successor failure of some three thousand miles of line. It isn’t entirely honor, though our honor comes into it; it’s more a matter of personal responsibility. since a great many people have become shareholders because—well, my cousin and I gave them the lead. During the last year we have been deeply conscious of that, and, all things considered, it seems there is just one thing to do. Here it is.”
He handed Shaughnessy an envelope.
“What’s this, sir?”
“Our joint personal acceptance for six hundred and fifty thousand dollars at three months,” put in the grey-bearded Scot, “for which it is arranged that the bank will furnish cash; and if it can be managed, which I doubt, we prefer that nothing of this be known outside these walls. Will you please instruct your staff accordingly. For security we are prepared to take the Company’s undertaking to repay at the due date,
by which time this tension should be over.” Here he gave his head a little tilt while the faintest suggestion of a smile softened his rugged features. “I am not a man given to superlatives, Mr. Van Horne,” he continued, “and my view of compliments is that they do but pander to a type of intelligence we estimate inferior to our own—I have in fact an inherent antipathy against those who employ them—but permit me to say that Mr. Stephen and I are greatly impressed by the work you and Mr. Shaughnessy are doing. Mr. Shaughnessy seems to have paid our way without any real cash whatever for weeks past, if I may so express it. As to this matter of wages, it must of necessity wait for the present; we must lean »on our contractors and mercantile friends a little more heavily while Mr. Stephen returns to Ottawa and tries again. I would accompany him did I not feel that the—shall we say—restoration of amicability between Sir John and myself is of so recent a date that I
would regret to appear to be using it at so early a moment. Now I must attend a meeting of my own company, so pray excuse me. But first”—here he put on his otter-skin cap— “if you. Mr. Van Horne, would kindly fasten these ear flaps—ah, thank you. Good morning, gentlemen.”
HE WENT out with a firm step, very erect, encased in nut-brown beaver hide, gauntlets tucked under his arm. From the window Van Horne saw him step nimbly into his sleigh and be whirled off with a silvery jingle. Stephen, who had not moved, was leaning back, his face strained like that of one near the limit of endurance; Shaughnessy had opened the envelope and w-as staring at the note.
A strange moment, and one that brought its inevitable reaction. None of them felt triumphant, and there presented itself the question of w-hether those invisible shareholders were after all worth such a personal sacrifice. Could Van Home have had his way, they might fish for themselves and he would pay his men; those were his promptings; but always when in contact w-ith Donald Smith one w-as aware of a sort of emanation that exuded from him suggesting an uncommon, uncanny instinct for affairs that could not go
wrong. One felt that he knew, not by any process of reason or elimination, but simply that it was his nature to be correct in judgment. There moved no soul in his expression, no fire of ambition had ever been visible in those eyes. He remained foreign to enthusiasm, impulse or regret: he was often unreadable to those who thought they knew him best; but he had unflinching courage and a peculiar power of selectiveness, as though surrounded by delicate, retractile tentacles that sent him automatic signals should they touch what had better be avoided.
‘‘I don’t very well know what to say”— Van Horne’s voice breaking a long silence was a little ragged— “but you’re doing a fine thing. Steve. I hope you’ll be rewarded.”
Stephen gave a tired smile.
“That’ll come when the last spike is driven and not before. Smith and I look at it this way: The Govern-
ment’s got to help us. Macdonald knows that perfectly well; they all know it. but won’t admit it. That’s why he dodges me. It’s unthinkable that any Government should see Onderdonk through, yet let founder the company that’s building the greater part of the same line—without which Onderdonk’s work is in the air and British Columbia on its hind legs again. Smith and I believe that the best way to force Sir John, to make him see how desperately the case stands, is to do what we’ve done, though that’s not the principal reason for it. I f we lose our money—well ...” Suddenly he got up and gave his head a shake as though ridding it of unwelcome thoughts. His eyes brightened, his face assumed its habitual expression of pleasure and satisfaction with life, and he became once more the man to whom they were accustomed, the high-spirited optimist whose friends were legion.
“Well, now it’s done I’ll go back to Ottawa feeling better; I don’t believe that Old Tomorrow can hold out much longer.”
/"^OLD IT might be in Montreal, but colder still in Ottawa J with a northwest wind howling down river over the mountains north of Hull. In his study at EamsclifTe, Macdonald gave an involuntary shiver, poked the fire into stronger life, and addressed himself to Joseph Pope, his private secretary. Pope was a young man. under thirty, with wiry hair, sensitive intelligent face, an alert manner, and of great devotion to a chief for whom he felt something like worship. When one wanted to see the Prime Minister one first satisfied Pope, which placed him in a ¡position of peculiar intimacy and one that he never misused.
A few weeks previously, Macdonald had returned from another visit to England, after being feted as one whom Britain delighted to honor. He dined with the Prince of Wales at Sandringham and at Windsor with the Queen; he had been created a G.C.B.; he had talked with Gladstone about the all-red line and Imperial Federation, and came away rather chilled by the contrast from Disraeli, with whom years previously he had formed a mutually simultaneous friendship. Now Disraeli was dead. Landing at Montreal, he was welcomed with two miles of flaming torches, a banquet, and he made a brilliant speech, lauding the National Policy of protection and the C.P.R. So on to the realities of Ottawa, where the cheers, the heady adulation, the clamor of shouting multitudes faded out and he faced trouble.
"Anything pressing tonight. Jot'?”
"Wire just in from Mr. Dewdney, sir.”
Dewdney, Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories, was a product of the Northwest. In the early ’sixties lie had built the first trail into the newly discovered placer mines of the Cariboo, and was a Member of the British Columbia Legislature, the sittings of which body he refused to attend. A man of the open, he affected the dress and appearance of the prairie scout of former days, and wore long black locks reaching unshorn to his wide shoulders.
"What’s the matter with Dewdney now?”
"He telegraphs for general instructions.”
"About what? Am I supposed to know all about everything?”
"He says the Indians are restless and fears they may leave their reserves. He’s afraid of rebellion, sir.”
"Then wire him to get his hair cut.”
The young man chuckled, whereat his chief sent him a benignant smile.
"In a way. I’m sorry I got you into politics. There’s nothing new or fresh or invigorating about them; one sees things coming too far off. Now take this Riel business: It’s just the same story over again, and I’m partly to blame for it. Before we bought out the Hudson’s Bay Company in Manitoba we should have told the Metis we were going to chop up the country. Now in Saskatchewan it seems we’re doing the same thing, and those same Metis are again frightened about their land.”
“Here’s another memo on that matter, sir.”
"Read it; my eyes are tired.”
"It’s part of a letter from Bishop Grandin. The Metis, he says, ask for land scrip to give them title; also that the Government sell a certain amount of land and use the proceeds for schools and hospitals they want established, also for farm implements and seed. The bishop says that if this had been done, he’s sure there wouldn’t be any trouble.” "H’m! Well, if I were a Metis I don’t believe I’d be half as reasonable. I’ll look into it. Any more memos?”
“You told me to mention Father Lacombe and Archbishop Taché.
“Quite right: I’ll give you letters to them tomorrow.” “You said that last week, sir, and, if you please, the week before. I have a note of it,” ventured the young man, daring greatly.
“Did I, Joe, did I really? My memory must be going. Make another note. Where is Grandin at the moment?” “Prince Albert, sir.”
MACDONALD tossed back the lock of greying hair that overhung his forehead, and thought hard. There was one man who could be very useful in the Northwest during this anxious hour, but a sense of pride made it impossible to call on him. Curse the Northwest !
“Anything more from the Department of Interior in this connection?”
“Yes, sir, a note by Mr. White that he has been requested to send Major Steele from the C.P.R. to assist Police Superintendent Crozier at Prince Albert, but does not think it wise on account of expected strikes on the railway. Mr. Van Horne has particularly asked that Major Steele be left where he is for the present.”
“Cheerful outlook, isn’t it? Arrange that Mr. White sees me in the Council Chamber tomorrow at noon.”
“I will, sir. And Mr. Stephen called today; he had already seen John Henry Pope, who referred him to you.”
“Yes, I know. You’d better refer him back to Mr. Pope; if he objects, tell him it’s a matter for the Department of Railways. He won’t believe you and neither would I in his place, but tell him anyway. Well, go on.”
“The Sudan expedition, Sir John?”
“Hah! The Sudan! Thank God for something one can
smile over. Strike that off altogether. I’ll speak to Mr. Pope about it tonight. Is that all?”
“Mr. Goldwin Smith’s letter in The Week —you told me to remind you.”
“Well, you have. Is that all?”
“Yes, sir; I think Mr. Pope is coming with Mr. Schreiber now.”
“Then good night, Joe. I’m glad you’re so young; we old political w'arhorses need the enthusiasm of you colts to encourage us.” Pope and Schreiber came in, brushing feathery snowflakes like swansdown from their coats, and he grinned at the sight of them.
“Messrs. Castor and Pollux, my salutations.”
“What’s that, sir?” asked Schreiber, puzzled.
“Don’t you remember the inseparable pair, reputed sons of Leda by a swan—which gallant bird was credibly reported pt the time to be Zeus himself who had assumed that form for the occasion? Well, gentlemen, sit down. J. IT., from your joint appearance,
I’d say you ’ve been thinking of our friends in Montreal.”
“Tell him. Schreiber.”
“Sir John knows as well as I do.”
“Ye—es, perhaps you’re right; Mr. Stephen is back in Ottawa and aching to see me?”
“That’s it, sir.”
“What is the present position of the C.P.R?”
“How the devil did they pay that dividend? I thought 1 was dreaming.”
“Donald Smith and Stephen paid it.” “Eh!”
“It’s quite true, Stephen told me himself; they wanted it kept quiet, but that proved impossible.”
“They took more than half a million from their own pockets !”
“They did, sir.”
Macdonald, who was now pacing the room with nervous vitality, halted and stood gazing into the fire. His features, losing their former quizzical expression, were sober, and he remained for a moment without speaking. The visitors exchanged glances.
“I wish Disraeli were alive,” said the Premier, in a grave tone. “It would make a great difference. He had vision, imagination, he would have helped; but instead we’ve got that grumpy old lion of Hawarden who can’t see past his own Roman nose. There’s a great gulf between those two. Disraeli was flexible, self-adjustable, but Gladstone— well, speaking of Gladstone suggests the Sudan business. What do you think, John Henry?”
“I was talking to White about it today. He’s against any Government action; thinks it leaves the door open to possible future embarrassments, and says the public is quite unprepared for any move by Ottawa. Also he says there may be need for our militia much nearer home.”
“In the Northwest?”
POPE NODDED. “White has also heard privately from the United States that if we send troops against the Mahdi there will probably be another Fenian invasion, this time on the prairie provinces. On the other hand, a lot of our militia colonels are volunteering and producing the wrong impression in England, which is unfortunate.”
“Then why not a volunteer battalion composed entirely of colonels?” chortled Macdonald. “I’d send Edward Blake and Goldwin Smith with them. Blake could and would exhort the troops, while Goldwin advocated Egypt’s political union with the United States. No, I’ll have nothing to do with it. Gladstone has got himself into a proper mess by his own crass obstinacy, and can pull his own chestnuts out of the fire. We’ve no dispute with either Khedive or Mahdi, who. by the way, seems a tough nut to crack: the Northwest is far more serious for us. The hirsute Dewdney of the Samson locks says the Metis are going to rise. What’s your idea, Schreiber?”
“It’s hard to say, sir. They’re natural wanderers, practically nomads and not
I farmers. The Metis are being stirred up by the land sharks to demand their scrip, then the sharks will swallow them; what’s paid for scrip will go in whisky, and they’re left no better off. There’s no question that Fenian agents are busy on the C.P.R. and making some impression since wages are overdue. The whole West is restless and I think trouble is brewing. Men will ask why they don’t get their wages when they hear that the company has paid a dividend; it’s natural enough when Onderdonk’s men are getting theirs as usual.”
“So you gentlemen think I ought to see George Stephen? Frankly I don’t want to; I like him too much.”
“It’s serious, Sir John.”
“Hmph! and for me, too. Twenty-two million last year, wasn’t it?”
“Yes; without which there wouldn’t now be any C.P.R.”
“But Stephen then assured me that that would see them through, and I believed him.”
“He had no intention of misleading you.
I sir.” volunteered Schreiber. “It’s the North Shore that’s done it—heavier work than the Rockies or even on the Fraser, with not enough timber for one decent-sized trestle. Van Home has done all humanly possible— one must give him the credit for that—he’s even built dynamite factories.”
“Credit—yes—but he wants cash. Oh, I know what’s at stake. I’ve gambled with the Conservative party foi Imperial reasons, but, as you two very well know, the party is nervous and restless, especially in Quebec.” “Stephen and Smith can’t carry it alone, Sir John.”
“I fancy not. It’s curious how often when national affairs come up I have a consciousness of that same Mr. Smith. This time he has put his hand into his own pocket, and I’m glad it’s a deep one. Schreiber, do you repeat that all those last millions have been spent?”
“They have, sir, and more.”
“I wish Tupper were here again, but I can’t do that twice. Gentlemen, with that Russian war scare looming up, and Tyler doing his best or worst, we can’t borrow money in England. On my word, I don’t see w’here it’s coming from.”
“I wish we could afford to forget that British knight,” ruminated Pope. “He would not have got his title were he not at the head of a Canadian railway.”
“A railway in Canada would be more correct, J. H. Got any C.P.R. stock yourself?”
“A little, but paid too much for it.” “Hang on, you’ll be all right. If those two put up six hundred and fifty thousand, they won’t lose it for lack of a bit more; and as for Tyler—oh, wait a minute.” He took a paper from a drawer and looked at it smiling. “I wanted some powder to put under our British knight, so the Finance Department dug this up for me. Gentlemen, the Grand Trunk has owed the Canadian Government nearly four million sterling, not dollars, plus interest, for the last thirty years. It was used for what they called a Canadian road with its terminus in Chicago. I think I’ll shoot that at him.”
“Which brings us straight back to George Stephen,” said Pope stubbornly. “He’ll have to be told yes or no.”
“John Henry, in some former existence you must have been a slave driver. I ’ll think about it. Curse it, I wish I could stop thinking.”
At this confusing announcement the two exchanged a glance and rose to go. He made no attempt to detain them. They had accomplished nothing, and Schreiber, who was in closest touch with those slaving for the all-red line, had a pang of regret.
LEFT TO himself, Macdonald looked * slightly hurt. Given to procrastination, he approached any decision by circuitous routes, making tentative sidetrack excursions, testing the wind and observing with extreme shrewdness the attitude of others who might be involved in the same affair. He found satisfaction in this procedure, and his intentions, like those of Donald Smith, Continued on page SO
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were unreadable to the last moment; but while in Smith they found concealment under an expressionless exterior, with Macdonald the screen was provided by the diversity of his manner and the vagaries of his quizzical speech. The difference was that between nature and art.
Now he fondled his chin for an abstracted moment, made another survey of the Ontario map. jotted down a few additional notes, then drew the heavy curtain and stood again at the window gazing into the northwest. This was a habit of his when the day’s work had been put aside, and, measuring the distant sweep of the Laurentians, many reflections came to him in these moments of silence.
Tonight he thought of Disraeli. Like Disraeli he had made friendship between French and English, and like him labored to cement Great Britain with her colonies. There were other similarities; the oriental nose, the lonesome curl on forehead, the jauntiness and eyes of fire, the oft-changing expression scarred with strange lines, the personal charm, the love of power and contempt for money. All these they had shared, and the memory of Disraeli moved him deeply.
Then, with mind vaulting back to his own land-and the all-red line, he pictured the old Hudson’s Bay post of Fort Garry now reborn as Winnipeg and a thriving city; Brandon shipping hard Manitoba wheat to Van Home’s elevators on Lake Superior; Pile o’ Bones now Regina, a forwarding point for fat prairie-fed cattle instead of the skeletons of buffalo, their predecessors; Calgary sprawling out along the Bow River, humming with land speculators, new settlers, traders, adventurers, the East hustling the ancient West out of its way with every crude violent element that makes for progress, whoever might be hurt in the making. He saw the all-red line straddling the Great Divide, twice leaping the conquered Columbia and now thrusting its twin steel ribbons up through Rogers Pass. On the other side, Onderdonk advancing, feeling for the magic touch when steel would meet steel and the metal girdle be rivetted tight.
It was his dream, his and Tupper’s, but had he strength enough to run the full course? Once tasting Parliamentary defeat, he felt no readiness to repeat that bitter dose, yet as matters stood he must perforce bulldoze his party into further support or go down to final ruin, buried in a ravished treasury under a mountain of rusty rails.
Now, curiously enough, there appeared to him, summoned from mysterious regions, a phantom figure exactly like that of Donald Smith. It had eyes of grey steel, features of granite, a beard of silver wire, the verisimilitude of the man himself, reproduced in those physical substances which his personality most suggested, a robot form, imperturbable and undefeatable. Macdonald was not thinking of Smith at the moment, simply this individual presented itself, and, contemplating the grim apparition, the Premier instead of being alarmed felt unaccountably fortified.
Nodding in a friendly fashion to the Ottawa, he left the window, took out a pack of cards and began his favorite game of solitaire. He looked a little wom, but almost happy.
TN WEEKS that followed, a tall well•Igroomed man with anxious eyes and haggard face, became familiar in the corridors of the Parliament Buildings. George Stephen, haunting the place in his determination to meet the Premier, buttonholed senator after senator member after member, but met only with evasions. The matter lay with Macdonald, with him alone; and Stephen, a proud man of position, wealth and authority, assumed in vain the cloak of the suppliant. He was pleading a high cause, but the plaint fell on deaf ears,
the price of C.P.R. shares sank lower and lower, day by day the noose tightened.
It seemed that 2,000 miles of steel rails had become magnetized and drawn to themselves countless helpless human particles that stuck there, incapable of escape and doomed to be swallowed in one prodigious ruin for which he, carried away by unwise enthusiasm, was mainly responsible. To what siren song had he listened that fateful day in Dover Street?
This tense period found Macdonald distraught with uncertainty about the West. Père Lacombe, friend of the Blackfeet, was squatting day after day in Crowfoot’s lodge, arguing, persuading, while the old blackeyed chief smoked his pipestone “puagun,” deliberating whether he should join hands with the Crees, his ancient enemies, and wipe the prairie clean of interloping whites. His fighting men with the short guns under the blankets stood ready. There was a sharp skirmish at Duck Lake; the Mounted Police saved the settlement of Prince Albert from the Metis and their savage allies; and all through the Upper Saskatchewan country, canvas-topped wagons, packed with women and children while the men rode behind, trailed over the plains seeking security in some flimsy prairie settlement.
Aware of this, watching his own weighty problem being further displaced from the public mind by every wild rumor from the West, Stephen reflected bitterly that were there not an uncompleted gap of a hundred miles on the Lake Superior section, Van Horne could in less than one week transport troops from Montreal to the affected area. But the gap yawned, and Lake Superior was fringed with a thirty-mile belt of clear-blue ice.
It was not until the first week in April that Frank Smith convinced the Premier that this matter was going too far, and Stephen finally entered room 95 of the House of Commons. Facing the man he sought, he found it hard to speak, so heavily did the burden weigh on him. Finally it came in a flood.
Macdonald sat listening, the blandness of his features conveying nothing.
“Sir John, the time has arrived when personal interests count not at all. We have reached the parting of the ways.”
“What ways, Mr. Stephen?”
“Success or bankruptcy. We have strained every individual effort, and—”
“I was much impressed to learn that you and Mr. Smith had put up nearly three quarters of a million to pay that dividend,” said Macdonald sympathetically. “It was a fine gesture.”
“That is not all.”
“It is a very great deal of money for any two men.”
“Mr. Smith suggested and I agreed that while we had left a dollar of our own, the C.P.R. must not be allowed to crash.” “That sounds very drastic, Mr. Stephen.” “We have also endorsed a five-month note for another million. We felt that we were honorably bound to do so. Merchants have been too long unpaid ; Shaughnessy has been renewing notes till the paper wore thin, and only by his efforts have those notes been withheld from protest. In that and other ways he had accomplished marvels, and—” “You two found another—million!” repeated Macdonald in an odd tone.
“Yes, but it is not enough. A strike may break out in the Selkirks at any moment. The largest merchants in this country cannot discount our paper at the banks; not even at my bank where my private fortune is pledged to support the company,” he added bitterly. “The C.P.R. is in existence today solely on good faith. Contractors big and little, manufacturers, farmers, all whom we do business with, have kept us from bankruptcy because they believe we are straight men. Never have I known such an example of trust. Ross told me that one small contractor in the West actually offered to lend ¡
us two thousand dollars when we already owe him five. There’s a sample ! And if the line goes down, I go with it. I am ruined both in spirit and fortune; the Montreal staff is working without pay, and how they live, God knows. For myself, I have reached the limit of endurance; I’ve had warnings of which none know but myself; but I’ll fight to the last. Any business man would call Smith and me a pair of fools. Perhaps we
are, but we have tried to build a Canadian | line from one ocean to the other.”
‘T believe that, Mr. Stephen, on my soul I I do,” said the Premier earnestly. “But my position is—”
“Well, Sir John, if your Government allows the C.P.R. to go to the wall, we shall feel that we have done our best: but if this situation could have been anticipated four years ago in Dover Street, you would have assured us of your support. Now we affirm that we have not had what we could reasonably expect.”
“We’ve found you fifty-five millions instead of the originally agreed twenty-five.” "You have—and if you can prove that any and all of us have not at all times consistently acted in the best interests of the line. I withdraw my request for more help. None of us realized what we were tackling.”
■V/T ACDONALD smiled faintly.
IVJ. “There at last is something we can agree on.” He paused, studying the man’s face. Stephen might have passed under the Inquisition; not only his features but the highly strained mind exhibited signs of torture. He was on edge; he personified mental anguish, and the fineness of his sensibilities inflicted on him the greater capacity for suffering. “No, we didn’t anticipate this because we couldn’t, but, Mr. Stephen, with every recognition of what you have done and are doing, a man in my position is pulled many ways at once. I cannot be sure of party support in going farther, and were my party defeated, where would we stand? I have not forgotten ’seventy-three.”
“This is not a parallel case, sir.”
"Not as a matter of economics, but as a party issue—yes.”
“If the line is not completed. British Columbia will secede.”
“Victoria. B.C., elected me to Parliament in ’seventy-eight when Kingston, my old constituency, declined with thanks, so I think I am safe out there,” said Macdonald dryly. "Also B.C. was not in Federation when their first threat of secession was made, and they realized that the line must ultimately be finished, some time, somehow. But were I not to be in office when that is accomplished, it would be the heaviest blow of my life.”
"You admit this, yet do nothing? At that Montreal banquet you announced that no achievement in Canadian history surpassed the building of the C.P.R. Well, Sir John. I am one of the builders, and the market price of our shares is thirty-five and no buyers; I fail to see anv achievement there.”
“I have not stated that I will do nothing,” replied Macdonald, hating to see this man suffer, “merely that I cannot do it now— today. While we sit here, the West, thanks to Louis Riel, is like tinder awaiting a match. There lies my first anxiety—and responsibility.”
“Nothing will do more to establish the West on a sound basis than the completion of the line,” maintained Stephen firmly. "Transportation spells civilization the world over. If the North Shore section were through, we could land troops in Calgary four days after leaving Montreal.”
“Yes, I fully agree, but my hands are tied till I hear from General Middleton. He went west a week ago to take command, and—” “Went west by an American line—Hill’s line, the enemy of the C.P.R.—to save the Canadian prairie!” interrupted Stephen acidly.
“Touché—you have me there—but this unrest must be scotched before I think of anything else. The Metis have seized Government stores, captured an Indian agent with threats of torture by the Crees, and | terrorized the country round Prince Albert. You know what has happened at Duck Lake? I have begged Father Lacombe to keep the Blackfeet pacified—and he’ll do it if anyone can—and behind all this is the Fenian party threatening invasion from the United States. Mr. Stephen, try and see that I. too. am a greatly burdened man; I cannot move before the West is in order, and—”
At this moment young Joseph Pope i
entered, very tense, a yellow slip in hand.
“I apologize, sir, but this has just come in; you should have it at once.”
Macdonald glanced at the telegram. His brows went up, his face hardened into a mask on which furrowed lines were suddenly and deeply graven, he seemed strangely aged.
“Stephen, it is what I feared! The Crees have butchered two priests, our Indian agent Quinn, and killed Cowan, a Mounted Policeman: Cowan’s heart they left impaled on a stick. There has been a massacre of whites at Frog Lake, and Fort Pitt has surrendered to Big Bear. The West is in a blaze !”
The visitor made a despairing gesture and left the room. In the corridor he encountered the Minister of Railways hurrying to join his chief, and Pope halted.
“Bad news! You’ve heard it?”
“Well, I thought of you at once, and there’s just an off chance if you can snatch it. If your people could possibly rush some militia into the Northwest without using Hill’s lines, it might improve your prospects. We can’t send our troops through the United States. I won’t promise anything, hut that’s what occurs to me.”
He hurried on, leaving Stephen with a sudden wild thought that quickened his pulse, when hastening to the Parliamentary telegraph office he flashed off a wire.
“Van Horne, on line between Montreal and Toronto. Drop everything. Join me here at once. Most urgent.”
To be Continued