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 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 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 <mly 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 worse, 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 ivas his 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.
In order to save the railroad from bankruptcy, Smith and Stephen lend it $650,000 of their own money—-anil still the contractors and workmen must wait for their money. They endorse notes for another million dollars. They beg Premier Macdonald to advance the additional millions which are necessary, but are pul off. Then comes news of the second Riel Rebellion.
PREMIER was now spreading MACDONALD in a quick spoke grass-fire truth. across Rebellion the prairie. Like a spitting fuse laid Ixtween the rails of the all-red line, the explosive agent ran westward over the Great Divide and on to the Beaver, where Major Steele was prostrated in the R.N.W.M.P. barracks, smitten by fever, fuming at his own weakness.
From his bed he could see beyond the bridge the logwalled buildings w'here gamblers, liquor dealers and thugs plotted riot, and the grim shadow of a riot spread wide. In this nest of lawbreakers crazy fiddles sounded interminably; throughout the hours of darkness, yellow light gleamed from frosted windows over a wilderness of snow, and hither
came Fenian agents down the Columbia from Canal Flats to stoke the smoldering fire. Here was the danger point; here the rock man, station man, timber man signed away his overdue pay, squandering in one reckless night the toil of months. Here he became a potential criminal.
For weeks Dan Mann had tramped the Selkirks, fending off what he knew must happen, his massive figure fighting through piled drifts, appearing at scattered camps at all hours, plastered with snow, icicles tinkling in his short black beard, cajoling, promising, bearing on his Atlas shoulders the hopeless burden or pacification. Messages of encouragement flicked over the wire from Montreal, w'here Donald Smith, Van Home and Shaughnessy waited for some ray of light from Stephen; but these were no more than signals, and the pay car still stood motionless nearly 3,000 miles away.
March was a turbulent month in the Selkirks; and before April came, nature roused herself beneath her crystalline blanket to take a hand in the commotion.
A new force had been at work in these solitudes disturbing their shrouded calm, and through fields of air high above the line, over wastes where had passed only the shadow of the eagle’s wing, now rolled a constant reverberation of blasting. The cushioned thud of dynamite was violating the cosmic balance of the peaks, threatening their stupendous and brittle fragility till, far out of human sight, the
alabaster cliffs and giddy, wind-fashioned cornices quivered, splintered and toppled into sparkling cataracts that took headlong course to the valleys below. As they llowed they grew, they swelled, they widened, gathering from the winter harvest millions of tons that ramix'd down through tall forests, snapping huge trees, scooping up boulders, till in one final plunge they swarmed across the valley floors, burying glacier-fed rivers and mounting by their own impetus far up the opposing slope. Before them rushed a great wind that levelled standing timber with the blast of its fierce invisible breath, leaving only a ruin of mushroomed stumps to tell of what had passed that way.
TN THE MIDDLE of this inclement season an undersized -*• priest riding a large white mule dismounted at Beavermouth Police barracks and, tossing the bridle over the neck of his mournful mount, went in to see .Steele. The big man was on a narrow wooden bed that complained under his restless weight, but at sight of the visitor he put out a welcoming hand.
“We’ve been expecting you, father. How’s Bucephalus?” “Fine, major, fine; both well in spite of the weather. I’m sorry to see you laid out.”
“Only a touch of the old complaint; but it takes hold of one’s bones.”
“Don’t I know that by experience! It made a baby of me a year ago. I saw Sergeant Fury down the line. Who’s the big constable with him with the build of a bull moose?” “That would be Walters.”
“A broth ol a boy, major. It won’t be news to you, but I’ve kept ears and eyes open, to say naught ol my nose, an’ I smell trouble. Your force is too small for what’s coming. Across the bridge just now I picked up something.” Leaning forward, he lowered his voice. “The strike will start tomorrow.”
Steele propped himself on an elbow, fever burning in his hot face. “No, it isn’t news. Goon, father.”
“You needn’t ask how 1 learned it, but there’s the fact. 1 told them they were lunatics cutting their own throats, but they're crazed with Fenian talk and bad whisky. Some aren’t so eager to strike, but they ask what’s the use of working any longer without pay. They’ve no money to send home, and are ashamed to go back East with empty pockets. Can’t you strengthen your force?”
“Not while the Crees are butchering whites on the Saskatchewan,” said Steele grimly, “and Crozier needs every man he can get. No, we must carry it through as we stand. Seen Hickey lately?”
“Two nights ago.”
“I don’t hear anything from him. All quiet up there?” “A lot more than elsewhere. He’s got his crowd in hand. He told me he’d promised to pay them himself if the company didn’t, so they’ve given him two weeks. Is that bluff or can he do it?”
“It’s not bluff. He can, but I hope he won’t.”
“Surely it’s not wise, but it’s a queer thing to find that kind of philanthropy in Rogers Pass. Now what can I do for you, major?”
“Nothing, I’m all right.”
“Don’t be obstinate, you—you big Protestant.”
“Then put a little strength into me, just a little.” “H’m! The Church, my son, is all powerful but—well— first I think I’ll attend to the other mule.”
NEXT DAY—it was the first of April—work stopped on the Beaver and all through Rogers Pass. A pristine stillness descended on the wilderness as though the mountains in ultimate triumph were closing in to witness the final struggles of the invading snake that till now had refused to die. Deserted rock cuts choked with shining drifts, axes ceased to flash in the standing timber, horses stood idle in their low-roofed stables, blacksmith forges went cold, earthcovered magazines remained locked, and only the cooks with their cookees were busy. In camp, men sat smoking, moodily unable to occupy this unaccustomed leisure, or else tramped down the right-of-way to Beavermouth, where across the bridge credit might still be had, the supply of reputed whisky was unexhausted, and loud-mouthed emissaries from over the border advocated destruction.
Of Big John’s gang, but few deserted him. Dan Mann and Ross himself had come up the line to counsel and encourage. Ross, a much tried official, announced that relief was in sight; two of the directors had put up a million dollars each and would undoubtedly find more. John thought of his $2.000 and smiled. Not worth taking, he concluded. Two millions! He had no conception that in proportion his own offer was the greater, and felt abashed; but he clung to the intention.
It was strange to find this tense affair not unwelcome, since it made him explore his own resources with what he thought were satisfactory results. He had wanted to be one of Van Home’s men after the line went through, and take part in their triumph. Now, to his own surprise, he relished sharing with Van Home and the others this unexpected struggle.
It gave him more time to himself, so he went on reading Lorna Doone to the chapter where John Ridd leads the
attack on Doone Castle, and was poring breathless over this when a second letter came from Montreal.
He read it hungrily. Mary was well but anxious, and Montreal was full of talk that the line was in trouble. Could John Hickey have carried the big tub that John Ridd carried for Maggie? She thought so. Did he like that part of the book where John Ridd hitched himself to the sleigh and pulled Ix>rna away from Doone Castle through the storm? Did that remind him of the Lake of Little Fishes? Would he please write to her often because she missed the West dreadfully, and she sent him some handkerchiefs.
John put the letter into the book and wrote:
I’ve just got yours, and don’t you worry about anything you hear in Montreal as things are all right with us except that pay is a bit late, but that’s nothing. There’s quite a lot of stuff coming down from on top, I mean avalanches. They don’t come as fast as you’d think and slow up just before they quit, and it’s queer to watch them climbing up the other side of the Beaver like as they were trying to get back where they belong. I lost three men in one last week, but they don’t hit right where this camp is built. I learned a lot about snowslides when I was a kid in the Cariboo, and it's useful.
I’m certainly obliged for those handkerchiefs, but they’re much too good for me in a place like this. It’s the first time I ever had my initial on anything except a contract.
I guess I’ll clean up pretty well when things get straightened out. Ross told me that the Mr. Smith you wrote about put up a million dollars to help the company, so I guess he’s kinder than he looks outside. Ross told me too that I could reckon on a solid job when the steel goes through.
There’s another superintendent name of Dan Mann who, I guess, is as strong as I am, maybe stronger. He weighs more but ain’t quite so spry on his feet, and we’re going to have a wrestling match some day but I’ll have to look out he don’t get. a clinch. They say he’s the huskiest man in the Selkirks. We’re good friends.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the book and Loma is certainly line, but John Ridd to my mind is kind of humble when he don’t have to be, and he hadn’t nothing to be ashamed of, being as his family was as old as hers, maybe older. It would have been different if he’d been born right low down and his mother maybe wasn’t a straight woman, then I’d understand his attertude better—1 guess that’s spelt wrong.
I’m just coming to the part you write about, it’s the kind of weather we’re having here in the Pass right now, but I guess there’s no English avalanches. If they marry at the end and I reckon they do if Carver don’t kill John Ridd, I’d like to read the next book if there is one telling how they get along. I’d certainly be interested in that.”
Here he paused, narrowing his agate eyes, listening to the east wind roaring over the Pass. It was a homey sound; he liked it, hoped he would hear it all his life; it was fiiendly and had power in it, but perhaps to others ... ?
“The thing about John Ridd if he marries Lorna is which life is going to be led, for I can’t see him sitting round in store clothes doing nothing, and at the same time she’s liable to get discontented living the way he did in a big farmhouse. How does that strike you, miss?
Well, that’s about all the news. I don’t see many folks round here, mostly engineers and such sort. Hell’s Bells, as they call Major Rogers, blew in last week, and took quite a while to thaw out his whiskers in my shack. He said he dassent crack a smile till they melted or he’d pull the hair out by the roots, and that’s why I shave. He told me about his first trip into the Pass and it sounded rough but nothing special, and he’s certainly pretty smart for his age. Well, so long, miss, and hoping this finds you as it leaves your cordial friend, John Hickey.”
He read this slowly, the longest letter he had ever attempted, wondering not a little at his own temerity and what she would say in reply, then stood at the door investigating the weather.
Ragged clouds with tom fringes were scurrying across from the Great Divide; they gave a promise of rain, which meant a movement on the upper snowíields and more stuff coming down trom on top. The usual course of these avalanches was now indicating itself, and already Rogers had staked out where heavily timbered snowsheds would be needed, over which they might roar without carrying away the track. These would be timber tunnels of prodigious solidity, with sloping roofs strongly anchored to the tilted slopes.
Skies were grey, the air perceptibly milder, and around the camps one could observe that curious shrinkage of snow that signals the approach of spring, when forgotten objects reappear, the bush looks oddly black, and the first chirping of birds breaks the silence among the dark green hemlock tops. This season always made Big John feel restless; quickening his blood and calling him elsewhere, as though the winter stopping place had been used long enough. Now he reckoned on perhaps another four months in the Pass, by which time, according to Ross, the steel should be up and over and moving down the Ulecillewaet to the second
crossing. Somewhere thereabouts it ought to meet Onderdonk. And what then?
He was turning back to close the letter when from the direction of Beavermouth there reached him a faint jx>pping noise repeated several times, at which he stopped, stiffened and listened sharply. It sounded like the bursting of dry pods, but he knew it for distant gunfire.
He gave an exclamation, reached for his revolver, and started along the tote road in a long loping trot.
MILES AWAY, Steele lay on his bed, cursing his weakness, when down the line toward the first crossing sounded a fusillade of shots, then the harsh scream of an engine whistle. Staring across the bridge, he could see knots of men gathering and talking, but nothing more threatening. Save for the constable on duty at the jail crammed with unruly prisoners, he was alone in the barracks and could only wait. He had thought of wiring to Calgary for help, but according to the last reports Louis Riel was now threatening the settlement of Battleford and the Crees were on the warpath. That put reinforcements in the Selkirks out of the question.
Three hours later, Sergeant Fury, a man above middle height with a bulldog face, square shoulders and long powerful arms, came in and saluted stiffly.
“That end of it’s all right now, sir.”
“Where, Fury, where?”
“Down at the end ol track, sir.”
“Exactly what happened?”
“It began when a gang held up the tracklayers, sir. They started out and were getting to work when a mob assembled and drove them back into the yards. Then Mr. Ross got on the engine, put on steam and ran her through the mob; that was at Beaver Canyon where there’s room for the
track and no more. They had to jump for it. They did some shooting hut no one was hit, so I stationed my men and told them to shoot at sight whoever interfered. Then the mob got tired and came back to Beavermouth. They’re across the bridge now. Mr. Ross is on the job at end of track, he’s laying steel again and all is clear there, so I brought my men back here. Hope I was right, sir.”
“Quite right. Where’s Mr. Mann?”
“I heard he’d gone over to the Illecillewaet, sir.”
“Started for the Pass not long ago. He’s not got far.” “Where’s Mr. Johnston?”
“On his way here, sir; he’s bringing the Riot Act.” “We’ve not finished with it yet, Fury.”
“No, sir, that’s my view.”
“Take your revolvers, go across the bridge and arrest any man you recognize as belonging to that mob. Shoot on resistance. Pm sorry to miss it myself, but—well ...” “Very good, sir, that’ll be all right.”
SALUTING AGAIN, he turned on his heel, while Steele propped himself against the window on shaking knees. A hundred yards away, men were clustering like flies around a carcass, and he estimated their number at not less than 600. Now Fury with three constables, among whom towered the gigantic figure of Walters, walked smartly over the timber structure in open order, heads up as though on parade, scarlet tunics glinting with the bright hues of blood.
At this moment, Johnston, the local magistrate, hurried into the room. I íe seemed shaken.
“It looks bad, major; those fellows of yours will be eaten alive.”
“Tough chewing,” grunted Steele. “Got that Act with you?”
“I have, but they’ll never listen to it.”
“So much the worse for them. Stand by.”
The four tunics marched calmly on, to be at once absorbed into the crowd; they were swallowed, assimilated, while the voice of the mob communicated its rasping animal note. Walters’s big shoulders stood out and suddenly could be seen to plunge forward, while round him the crowd foamed and frothed. Steele gave a chuckle.
“Got his man that time. Wait a minute.”
Now a shot, and Johnston felt nervously in his pocket.
“There’s one gone, major.”
“Then come on. We’ll have a look in. I think I can make it.”
Summoning his last vestige of strength, Steele stood upright in his underclothes and snatched a rifle from the rack above the bed. As he did so the crowd parted, disclosing the figure of Walters dragging with another constable a struggling man toward the bridge, while Fury and the fourth Mountie retreated slowly, standing off the rioters with drawn revolvers. In the forefront of this violent tide was a cursing woman in a flaming red dress.
Steele staggered to the door, out and on. Midway on the bridge he levelled the rifle, and at sight of this man who was rumored to be at the point of death, there fell a momentary stillness. His great bare chest, wild hair and fever-flushed face gave him a truly formidable aspect. A derisive yell came from the squirming desperado in Walters’s grasp, and the constable’s huge fist battered him to insensibility with one crushing blow.
Then on the bridge sounded a hollow clatter of hoofs, and there rode up a little priest on a large white mule. Came another pause and Father Fay, rising in his stirrups, spoke out in a voice that belied his stature.
“I’ll excommunicate every mother’s son of ye that moves one step farther,” he shouted furiously. “I mean what I say and ye know it. Get back out of this, ye rapscallions.”
Steele gave a hard smile; his strength was going fast, but the rifle held steady.
‘‘Read the Act, Johnston.”
Johnston read, his voice shaky, while men listened aware that here stood the Church, the Bench and the Police arrayed against them, and as Johnston finished Steele got in his word.
“You’ve heard,” he barked, “and I will open fire on any twelve men found standing together. We’ll mow you down. Disperse and behave yourselves.”
That got home, and in the following silence one could hear the Beaver rushing under the bridge. Father Fay sat upright, eyes sparkling with an unholy lust for combat. Four constables with a senseless man at their feet, ranged themselves without words, revolvers drawn; and Steele, sensing his strength fading, leaned against a timber for supix>rt. Now from behind came running feet, and a big man trotted up panting, feeling in his hip pocket. He had covered eighteen miles of dislocated mountain road in three hours. Steele sent him a welcoming nod.
“Good for you, Hickey, but it’s all right; they’ve had enough. Over their heads first time. Fire, Fury!”
Four revolvers spoke as one in a language not to be misread. Beneath their singing bullets the mob dissolved like rabbits seeking their warrens, and Steele wijx-d his burning brows. He felt happier.
“Fury, take your men and make a patrol. If there’s any insolence, make an arrest; if there's resistance, shoot. Hickey, give me an arm, will you; I’m weak as a baby.”
He had nearly reached barracks when a young man came running toward him, waving a yellow slip.
“Just in this minute for Mr. Ross, major; I thought you’d better see it.”
Steele took the sheet dizzily, but the words swam before his eyes. He motioned to the priest.
“Never rains but it pours. Read it, father.”
“Pay car leaving Winnipeg today will arrive end of track April 7th, Shaughnessy,” chanted the man of God in a triumphant voice. “Now why the divil couldn’t that have come one hour ago?”
VAN HORNE, who had come to Ottawa like a gale of wind, sat with Stephen in the rooms of the Minister of Railways, his face full of power and determination.
“There’s the situation,” concluded Pope heavily. “I don’t know if it’s possible— that’s for you to say—but if it is done I’ll guarantee that Sir John will be a good deal impressed. Also it should strengthen him in the House.”
“Just exactly what do you want?” demanded Van Horne, realizing that now the boot was on the other toot.
"Two field batteries with all equipment and the Montreal 65th Battalion set down on the prairies in the very shortest possible time,” said Pope succinctly. "You do that and we’ll see. So far the Northwest Mounted have saved Prince Albert, but the whole of Duck Lake region is terrified. Settlers, missionaries, Indian agents and telegraph operators are on the run for Police or Hudson’s Bay posts, and Irvine must have support without delay. It’s the chance of your life.”
Transport of troops ! Van Home leaped at it—an old story to him, for had he not seen it on the Michigan Central twenty years ago when, as an expert seventeen-year-old telegrapher, he wanted to have a hand in the American Civil War. Unable to withstand the excitement of passing troop trains, he enlisted, only to be demanded back as indispensable by a cold-blooded superintendent; but he remembered enough of that experience to put one pointed question to this anxious minister.
“Do I have a free hand—no bossing by any officers?”
“Free as you like, it’s your railway,” said
Pope promptly. “But you’ll have to feed ’em en route. Can you do it?”
There was a movement, a chair pushed back, a door slammed, Van Home vanished. Hurtling to Montreal, he flung himself into another chair, one of authority, and the brain of the man—clear, masterful, rejoicing in its own congenital ability—set to work. The hundred miles of open gaps on the North Shore were known to a loot. No steel there, only half-driven tunnels, half-built trestle bridges, half-completed embankment. But the shores of Lake Superior were still girdled with a belt of ice. and there he perceived a highway ready to his purpose.
In forty-eight hours his trains pulled out from Quebec and Kingston stuffed with men and guns and ammunition, while from Montreal a third train carried the 65th Regiment, and soon thereafter troops left from Toronto. At the first gap they were vomited on to the solid ice and marched under granite cliffs to the next section of the snake that could not die: another gap and they tramped the right-of-way or were pulled in straw-covered sleighs. Where the track was laid, they travelled, jolting over frozen rails on open flat cars, the first tourists to inspect the grandeur of this solitary scene. Everywhere was found food ready in abundance at construction camps. At Nipigon they swarmed into waiting troop trains that roared north and westward past Winnipeg, Brandon and Regina, till on the tenth morning from Kingston they came to attention beside their guns at Qu’Appelle in the country of Louis the Rebel, while through those days and nights the wire sang with orders from Van Horne and a fascinated public followed their progress across a continent.
It was a race with the coming of the prairie grass, when new fodder would give Indians and Metis a still more dangerous mobility.
■V/TEANTIME Father Lacombe had not been idle. In the cab of an engine he thundered from Calgary, and at daybreak lifted the flap of Crowfoot’s lodge to the secret astonishment of that weathered chieftain. Raising a hand in ancient salutation, he entered and sat cross-legged.
“How! My friend, I am very lonely and could not sleep, so have come again to visit you.”
Crowfoot’s graven features conveyed nothing but dignity. “You are welcome, Arsous-kitsi-rarpi, but how come you at this hour?”
“In the thing that eats black stones and drinks water on the iron road, and not as before when there was no road. It is much faster now, taking two hours instead of twelve. We grow older and wiser, you and I, while many things happen under our eyes.”
“You have not eaten?”
“I had thought to eat with my friends the Blackfeet,” said Lacombe smoothly.
The old man made a sign, and food was brought by a silent squaw who disappeared at once, leaving the flap open so that from where he sat gnawing deer flesh the Oblate could see a semicircle of pointed teepees with their crossed poles and a thread of smoke climbing through. The snow had yielded to early Chinook winds that sucked it up as by magic, leaving no moisture, and at the roots of the long brown prairie grass one discerned the first fine threadlike shoots of new herbage that soon would stretch out of sight. Movement set up among the lodges, tall blanketted braves strode gravely from one to the other. Lacombe realized that his coming was common knowledge, but not till Crowfoot had finished his second pipe did the visitor speak.
“It is in my thoughts,” he began obliquely, “that those who live to the north and have not seen what we have, are thereby the poorer.”
“That may be so, but there is much that I would be content not to have seen. My eyes are tired with that which is strange.”
“Yet, my friend, it is not possible to close
them yet.” Here the priest drew a whiff from
the proffered pipe, restoring it ceremoni-
ously. “And such things cannot be pre-
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“The coming of the iron road?” asked Crowfoot grimly. “I would have been glad to stop that.”
“You would like it, then, taken away?” “Not unless the buffalo come back.”
“In that you are wise,” nodded La combe, “for how shall the buffalo return? We are becoming old men, you and I, to whom buffalo are only dreams of our youth. Now there is something else, and news has reached me that the Metis, with the Crees who were once your enemies, are killing the whites on the Saskatchewan. Runners have also come from the camp of Poundmaker, your adopted son, with the same story; but if they had seen what you and I have seen, these matters would not be.”
“The Crees were always fools, and what man shall answer lor the son of another?” “You speak truth, but we do not wish to have even fools killed.”
“The blood of a Cree brings no sorrow to the lodges of the Blackfeet,” rumbled Crowfoot cynically. “What else lies in your mind, Arsous-kitsi-rarpi?”
“My tongue is straight, and I will speak. I am told that some of your young hunters also talk of fighting, and I would save them. The thing that taps at the end of the wire tells that many white men, are on the way here with many guns from the rising sun. Some of these guns are so heavy that they are drawn by horses on strong travois; when they speak it is like thunder, and they kill more than two miles away.”
The black eyes regarded him fixedly. “You, the Man of Good Heart, tell me this?” “Have I yet told that which did not prove to be true? Listen now, my friend of many years, and what I say is for the ears of Poundmaker and your young braves. I do not desire to see anyone killed. The whites came with the iron road that could not be stopped, and it has gone on over those mountains we can see even to the Bitter Water. This road is bringing those who will take vengeance for their brothers and sisters who lie dead on the Saskatchewan. Some of them may perish, but for one that falls a hundred will step forward to take his place. This is what I came to tell you. I have spoken.”
Crowfoot set his beady eyes on the priest and reflected deeply, for here sat the one man who gave all, asking nothing, and the word of such was not to be put aside.
“What then would you have me do, Arsous-kitsi-rarpi?”
“It is well that, with myself putting down your speech, you write to the Great Chief in Ottawa a letter he will be glad to receive. Then I will go north to the camp of Ermine Skin and tell him that I have talked with you.”
“I will do that after calling a council.” Such was the burden of their conversation, exchanged suavely with considered pauses and no haste while the sun grew warmer and snowy peaks on the western horizon gleamed like distant bergs stranded in a clear blue sky, till at high noon Lacombe went off with a historic document in his pocket. Later, after days and nights of hard riding, he dismounted in the coulee where the wiliest of all the Crees had gathered his warriors. Here, close by Bear Hill, Ermine Skin heard words of wisdom and followed the man of peace to the camp of General Strange, not far off. Challenged by a sentry, the father gave at hazard his own name, which happened to be one of the passwords of the 65th Montreal, who were not ignorant of this priestly medicine man, and the truculent Cree, awed by the array of force, swore loyalty to the Crown.
It was the beginning of the end of Riel’s rebellion. Big Bear surrendered on July 3, and the rebellion died away on the prairie.
PEACE IN the Selkirks and on the plains, but no peace in Montreal, whither Stephen returned exhausted, empty-handed.
Van Home had done good work, so good that the Gemían General Staff asked for details, which amused him greatly; Canada was given its first glimpse of what the all-red line would ultimately mean; but Macdonald, now besieged with appeals for help from mined settlers and meeting with bitter opposition in his projected franchise changes, seemed deaf to all petitions. Stephen wired to Minister of Railways Pope that no blame must be attached in the case of serious catastrophe; Van Home, driven desperate, haunted Schreiber’s office; Donald Smith felt in his pocket again, found something of value and handed it to the Company. But long overdue millions in the shape of oftrenewed notes were piling up, the stability of the greatest bank in the country was undermined, and the line was about to be smothered beneath its own unhonored promises to pay.
But work on the line, inspired by dogged faith, supported only by tottering credit, did not cease: the North Shore gaps were closed, and in May an unbroken track ran to the Columbia. Now the Cabinet, under pressure, guaranteed an advance of a million. It vanished like a drop in the river, whereat Macdonald, finally cornered, introduced a measure of relief carrying a loan of five million dollars and authority to place fifteen million more of first mortgage bonds, which brought from the hostile Blake a speech in the House surpassing all previous vindictive attacks.
Weeks dragged out with nothing done, min was in the air, and Stephen, recalling his first fine enthusiasm, found it acid in his mouth. His own future was pledged, he had never acted except in good faith, but secretly he felt himself liable to prosecution for involving his bank, and never had a man of honor faced a more bitter trial. Sitting in the Strangers’ Gallery with Van Home, he listened to long debates, Macdonald now being absorbed in his Franchise Bill, realizing that the crash must inevitably come before many days passed and he was doomed to be written down as an irresponsible visionary. He longed to change places with the navvy, who would lose only some hard-earned pay and not a reputation in the world of men.
The month of June drew to a close; July came in with the furnace heat that so often smites the Ottawa Valley. The river lay a burnished mirror, but Parliamentary chatter went on — and on, while Shaughnessy, haggard and distraught, staved off from hour to hour the bankruptcy that threatened. Finally on the 20th the bill became law, and three men gathered in Montreal, staring at each other with incredulous eyes, while a fourth, seated in a large leather chair, stroked his silvered beard, nodding contentment.
“Gentlemen,” said he after the conversation had ranged wide, “I’m thinking at the moment not of the C.P.R. but Sir Henry Tyler and the Grand Tmnk Railway. It is now 9 p.m. here, therefore 2 a.m. in England, so Sir Henry is doubtless asleep and will not get the news until tomorrow morning. I should like to see him receive it.” Mr. Smith relaxed into a wintry smile. “No doubt it will be delivered with the cup of tea in bed— an effeminate English custom which I do not follow—and possibly he will not fancy his breakfast. Mr. Stephen, have you made any immediate plans?”
“Yes. The Monievidian sails for Liverpool this week and I am sailing on her. I have already cabled Tupper, who will get busy at once sounding the market, and tomorrow I am calling a bank meeting. Go on, Van.”
“Ross has been wired that the pay car starts at once with all arrears of wages up to date. It’s the second time it’s late, but I guess they’re used to that. You, Tom.”
“I’m looking forward to writer’s cramp from signing cheques instead of promissory notes.” said Shaughnessy with a strange expression. “Is it really true?”
1 rPHEY exchanged smiles. At first when the news arrived Van Home took it boisterously as became his resilient nature, then sobered at the knowledge of all that remained to be done: and over them all had now descended a curious calm ot reaction. The burden that bowed them so low was removed only to be succeeded by the nostalgia of a success that today seemed unaccountably tasteless. In a curious fashion, this long hoped-for easing of the load created an abnormal situation, and though the chains that had clanked for so many months were struck away, the seared and burning sores they inflicted were still unhealed. Those marks must endure.
“First mortgage bonds,” ruminated Mr. Smith in a contemplative tone, “being a prior charge on the entire assets of the Company, should now appeal to sound people like Barings. In my opinion, they will bring something like par value.”
“With thirty millions to repay to the Government within twelve months?” objected his cousin. “We’re lucky if we get eighty.”
“More, I think, Mr. Stephen, considerably more than that. Gentlemen, it is—ah— interesting to recall the fact that at this time last week the Company was within three hours of bankruptcy. Well, well !” “Why bring that up?” growled Van Home.
“Because I find a certain satisfaction in the comparison that you no doubt are unconsciously sharing. Comparisons, Mr. Van Horne, are not infrequently instructive.
I am convinced that all along Sir John has been privately resigned to the inevitable necessity for coming to the rescue, but would not act till the hour struck and he had to admit that we could not possibly do more ourselves. It is quite imaginable that he found a certain satisfaction in watching our efforts, especially mine, but the moment his relief measure was introduced—the 30th of April was it not?—he committed himself. Now the fact that this measure remained before the House was of great assistance in enabling Mr. Shaughnessy to placate our creditors, since its withdrawal would have meant the defeat of the Conservative party and Sir John’s political destruction. .Sir John, believe me, had no intention of being destroyed.”
“That’s right enough,” admitted Shaughnessy, “the old fox knew what he was about all the time.”
“Yes, I think so; also he relied upon our perception to grasp this, and that is why during these past few months I personally did not feel the anxiety I had last year; also it justified me in—ah—proffering certain financial aid from time to time. I shall look forward with considerable interest to my next meeting with Sir John, and, speaking very privately, I have volunteered to contest the next election in Montreal West as his personal supporter. Well, Mr. Stephen, we wish you every success in England, and I suggest that no offer under ninety for the bonds be entertained.”
Within a fortnight the Montreal papers announced that Lord Revelstoke, on behalf of Barings, had become a purchaser at ninety-five for the fifteen million dollars worth of bonds, and Shaughnessy began to sign cheques instead of promissory notes.
Eagle Pass, November 8, 1885. “Dear Miss,
You’ll certainly think I’m a long time answering your last letter, but quite a lot of things have happened round here. I’m kind of glad you feel the way you do about John Ridd and that it’s all right they got married, and she would have felt the same if he hadn’t been a yeoman farmer but just a blanket stiff that moseyed round from one job to another. Some day I’d certainly like to talk with you about that book. When do you reckon you’ll be coming West again, for I guess I’m here in the mountains for the rest of my life?
Well, miss, starting back a bit, I got through my contract all right and cleaned up six thousand dollars that’s in the bank right now; then Ross said he wanted a man who could smell a gravel pit under two feet of
moss, so he gave me a ballast engine and some flats and a plow and started me in on that. I like it fine. When the flats are loaded and spotted for dumping we hitch the loco to the plow so it slides from end to end over the flats and scrapes the gravel off both sides. Of course the flats are braked hard, so they stay put. It’s pretty slick work if I do say so. We’ve got a steam shovel to load the flats.
Well, miss, yesterday I saw the last spike driven and it wasn’t as exciting as you’d think, being just a standard iron spike out of the keg. It was like this, Van Home had come up with a carful of big bugs from the East and I saw them all. A lot of them had beaver hats, but not Van Horne or Ross or Dan Mann. Dan hadn’t any hat. There was a tall man with a long square beard, that was Fleming, and Tom Wilson had told me about him the evening before we hit the Lake of Little Fishes, and your friend, Mr. Smith, who put up the million, his beard was white, and Hell’s Bells and a lot of tracklayers and my gang and a waterboy.
The grade was all ready and we could see Onderdonk’s men working up the Pass slamming down rails as fast as they could and spiking, while we were doing the same till there was just twenty feet left open. Everyone was kind of quiet and quit talking so you could hear nothing but those last two rails getting sawed to length, and someone told me that Onderdonk’s rails had come right round South America to the Fraser to get there to Eagle Pass in the Gold Range. It seemed a long way to come.
Well, miss, when the rails were sawed off, Onderdonk’s gang took one end and mine the other and laid them in place, then someone hands Mr. Smith a hammer and old Hell’s Bells takes a spike and holds it right where it ought to go, and looks up at Mr. .Smith like as he was scared for his knuckles.
I guess Mr. Smith is seventy years old and then some, but he gives Van Home a sort of frosty little smile, takes a kind of half swing and darned if he doesn’t come down fair and square as if he’d done it all his life, while Hell’s Bells sat right there and laughs.
I was kind of surprised, but he drove her home good and tight into a spruce tie with an eight-inch face, which is standard. No one said a word while he was swinging, and Hell’s Bells was certainly relieved over his knuckles. The weather was dull and rainy, but I guess it’s going to turn colder.
Then someone started cheering, but Mr. Smith didn’t tum a hair, he keeps just as quiet as a January muskeg and says he thinks the whole job is very well »done, and Van Horne allows that anyone who travels over that road will pay full fare, and right there they called the place some Scotch name that I can’t spell, but it’s chalked on a board so I’ll copy it out. Then the crowd from the East got aboard the private car with Onderdonk’s gang of friends and started for the West, with a lot on the back platform and us fellows waving our hats and it started to rain. I ain’t quite used to the steel being down, but I guess that’ll come. Some fellows say right now that Onderdonk’s road isn’t up to our standard.
I’m keeping this letter to send back on Van Horne’s train when she comes through.
I don’t suppose you ever met a gambler in Yale called Kelly the Rake. He blew into my camp last night pretty hard beat and wanted to borrow ten dollars. I let him have five and it’s a gift.
The name of the place is Craigellachie. Dan told me it’s something the Montreal crowd used to say to each other when the pay car couldn’t go out, but is nothing like what we said in Rogers Pass when she didn’t turn up. Van Home’s train is due tomorrow, so I’ll send this along. After the spike was driven Ross asked me if I wanted to be a roadmaster and look after a piece of track for keeps, and I said yes and where, and he said anywheres round here, so I’m going back to the east end of Rogers where my contract was and I know the ground. It’s kind of tricky for avalanches but I always find them interesting, and when I told him that he laughed and said he’d fix it with Van Home.
When you write please send to Mr. John Hickey, Roadmaster C.P.R., Rogers Pass C.P.R.. Selkirk Mountains, B.C. Hoping this finds you well, your true lriend,
John Hickey, C.P.R.”
“My fingers are kind of stiff. In case you don’t know, that word I copied means see her through or something like that.”
NEARLY A year had gone by since Van Home and Donald Smith stood on the ground that is Vancouver, and there was now being hacked out of big timber a fitting terminus for the all-red line. This embryonic city by the sea was still little more than a clearing among vast trees that for centuries had grown on the slopes, absorbing sweet influences of sun and rain and salty breeze, while monstrous roots gripped the earth ever more strongly, brown trunks took on the proportions of cathedral columns and a hundred feet in air spread a confluent canopy through which the sky appeared as a checkerwork of distant blue.
At the water’s edge sprawled single story sheds, sidings, boarding houses; farther along the shore smoke rose from other clearings where new citizens of the West reared their axe-built homes, sawmills hummed the year round, ships were already steaming through the Narrows from San Francisco and Seattle with freight to feed the line, silk and tea were moving across the Pacific as the first reminder of trade to be done with the Orient. In these expansive hours, men began to look back on construction days as something of a dream.
Vancouver was bourgeoning to uncouth strength, raw, gawky, awkward, restless with growing pains, sniffing the Pacific, while along the line ran a reshuffle of humanity as the snake that did not die sloughed off what it no longer needed and settled down to a more ordered but not less vital life. Yale relapsed into a wayside village of a few hundred inhabitants scattered through hundreds of flimsy wooden shells with gaping windows and idly swinging doors, past which Van Horne’s trains thundered up the Fraser gorge, watched impassively by scattered Chinamen in conical straw hats who still won a day’s wage from the river’s ravished bars.
Through the mountains it was the same. Deserted construction camps were swallowed again by rampant bush, tote roads were overgrown, trails obliterated under the suave sequence of seasons, as though nature, yawning, recaptured her own again save the tiny fraction that man had wrested from her for his usage. One could see the line being readjusted, smoothed, fortified, titivated and manicured. Rock cuts were scaled and widened so that their walls held no overhanging menace, grasshopixx timber trestles replaced by solid embankments or spanned with steel. Ballasting was continuous, and hungry steam shovels scooped their way into hills of gravel. At intervals were erected water tanks—huge barrel-like, steelstrapped affairs balanced on stilts, each with a pump sucking at a mountain stream. Divisional points, stations, repair shops, roundhouses where Van Horne’s steel stallions ranged in concentric order to be groomed, greased and garnished. Every few miles a section house.
It seemed, too, that out of the mingled multitudes who fashioned the line there had by some invisible process been sorted that human fraction of the whole essential for its maintenance, as though in the building certain men had built some part of themselves into it, a part that remained incorporated and could not or would not withdraw when construction days were over. It remained fused into the now living organism, and the line through its articulate length was now sheathed with it, much as a nerve is sheathed with protective continuous tissues. These men understood the line; it meant much to them; it was the biggest, most formidable, exacting, exasperating and fascinating thing they had ever known; it demanded all they had, giving in return nothing but work, danger, hardship and an odd conviction that they were doing right to stick to it. And that, strangely enough, seemed sufficient.
AMONG them was Big John. Without knowing it, he had been explored, dissected, at many an odd hour, and watched in those of emergency. With Ross he had had talks, blunt and searching, when he bared the essential stuff of which he was made and left it naked to the keen eyes of a judge of men. There were no compliments. Ross, looking at the work, would say it was not so had; and John, glowing, would vow to do better next time.
Before winter moved round again, he enlarged his shack—it was now the shack of a roadmaster—at the east end of the Pass, building on another room for an office with windows east and west so that he could see up and down the grade. The company supplied furniture and he thought it a palace. He had forty trackmen under him and his own jigger, a velocipede on rails, driven by a sort of vertical walking beam that one gripjxd and swung and went crisping along at twenty miles an hour on the level. He sat it as one would a horse, loving the thin drone of cast iron on steel, delighting in his strength when he put his back into it and the thing lurched forward as though alive.
During that winter of ’85 he felt that for the first time he was at school, with many things to learn. No real traffic came as yet through the Pass, though the road was making money as far as the foothills, and lie saw the track assailed by dangers that deepened his protective instinct. It was his hit of line, and no harm would befall if he could help it. He lost men in avalanches, and dug out warm corpses from a tangled matrix of snow, ice, boulders and splintered timber; there were rock slides started by swollen streams that ran wild on the upper slojx's; these he thought not so bad since they sometimes gave warning ere they came.
In February he had a long letter from Mary. In conclusion she said :
“I so much wish I could see you and have a long talk. Pm so proud of your progress. Can’t you take a holiday and come to Montreal? I know quite a lot of people here now, but you’re my best friend. Remember that. I think you’d be glad you came, that is if I am right in my thoughts, but can’t explain any more on paper. Write me all about everything. I won’t be content with just a bit of it. Always your friend,
HE READ this several times and stared at his ceiling of cedar scoops. Now he knew—no man could mistake it—she loved him but would not say so in a letter. Incredible! Something jerked in his mind back to Yale hospital, with Mary plastering his cut face and Molly holding a bloody basin. Mary felt nothing for him then— that he deemed impossible—but what must his mother have felt? She was his mother. Instinct backed by countless little things that memory had presented to him in these later years, assured him of this; but now for the first time a horrid doubt obtruded its ugly head.
Frowning a little, he took from the cigar box the copy of the will of Molly Kelly sent him by Hagan of the Inland Sentinel.
“I being of sound mind and ... all I die possessed . . . my dear son, John Hickey, late of Yale . . . Big John . . . wishing . . . had . . . better mother . . . loved . . . too much to tell ...”
Was James Hickey really his father? This, swimming in from nowhere, took violent possession. It shook him. In body he was nothing like James Hickey—hair, eyes, build—none of him. Had Hickey banished his wife because—because he, too, knew that, then fathered and lent his name to another man’s offspring? Was that why he had always avoided speaking of her? Was he, too. shielding someone from the other half of the truth?
John covered his face and groaned. Who was he?
He groped about, a drifting giant, feeling
for some kind of anchorage. Mary didn’t know to whom she was writing. No one knew. Now the man’s childlike simplicity instructed him that in such a case only one thing remained to be done: she had asked to be told all—all about everything. He went at it grimly, shattering his heart’s desire with every word.
“. . . so if you don’t answer this I'll understand all right. I should have told you about Molly as soon as I heard, but couldn’t see mysell doing that and reckoned I could work into a position where it wouldn’t matter who I was, and kept on thinking about you and didn’t know how to quit.
; There’s room for a lot of thoughts up here in Rogers Pass, but I guess I reached too high, anyway I can’t prove anything about my father and Molly’s will I got from Hagan in Yale, don’t mention him, and you know what he was. I feel mean about this, meaner than you’ll ever know, so don’t answer if you don’t want to. I’m sending back that book because John Ridd knew who he was.
There’s a pile of difference between us now. Yours respectfully,
The line was not yet formally opened and nothing would be moving east for some days, so he had thoughts of going to Beavermouth on the velocipede to ]X)st the letter but changed his mind and gave it to the operator at Stony Creek to be sent on, then tried to forget and counted the days till her answer might be expected. Two weeks with luck; three at the most. But the telegrapher at Stony Creek handed the envelope to a section hand on his way to Beavermouth, and two miles past the bridge some vagrant boulders swooping across the track took final charge of both man and letter, hurling them 2,000 feet into the Beaver. That swollen stream in turn bestowed the corpse on the greater Columbia, when it began a journey round the Big Bend to the Arrowhead Lakes. But John knew nothing of this, To be Concluded