THE BOY SCOUTS ON THE YUKON
By RALPH VICTOR Author of "Comrades Series"
Illustrated by RUDOLF MENCL
New York HURST & COMPANY Publishers.
THE BOY SCOUTS By RALPH VICTOR
The Boy Scout Movement has secured a hold on the American boy that is remarkable in its far-reaching effects. It is doing a great work in the development of manliness, self-confidence and physical perfection and is making better citizens out of the members of the organization.
This series will foster interest in the Boy Scout Organization. There is excitement such as every boy's book should contain. There are many and varied experiences, and much worth-while information about out-door sports and camp life, in which the youths take part.
1. The Boy Scouts' Patrol 2. The Boy Scouts' Motor-Cycles 3. The Boy Scouts' Canoe Trip 4. The Boy Scouts in the Canadian Rockies 5. The Boy Scouts' Air Craft 6. The Boy Scouts on the Yukon 7. The Boy Scouts in the North Woods 8. The Boy Scouts in the Black Hills
Illustrated, 12mo, Cloth Price per Volume, 40 Cents
Copyright, 1912, By The Platt & Peck Co.
CHAPTER PAGE I. The "Inside Passage." 9 II. "Swiftwater Jim." 21 III. Into Rough Waters. 34 IV. On Alaskan Soil. 46 V. A New Mode of Travel. 58 VI. The Biggest Bear in the World. 70 VII. Into the Wilderness. 83 VIII. Colonel Snow's Ranch. 96 IX. An Heirloom Returned. 108 X. Building the Camp. 121 XI. At the Mercy of the Pest. 136 XII. Alaska's First Airship. 150 XIII. Down the River to Nome. 158 XIV. On the Seward Peninsula. 168 XV. The Mammoth's Tusks. 179 XVI. Homeward Bound. 189
BOY SCOUTS ON THE YUKON
THE "INSIDE PASSAGE."
"Ar-r-rouse ye—r-r-rouse ye, me merry, merry men," boomed the voice of Gerald Moore, with a slightly Celtic roll of the "r's," as he drummed impatiently on the shutter of the cabin window, while his companion, Jack Blake, performed a similar tattoo on the adjoining window. "Faith, and it was daylight hours ago, and ye don't know what ye're missing."
The shutter slid back, and the pleasant, if rather drowsy face of Randolph Peyton peered forth, and behind his shoulder that of Donald Graeme.
"Daylight, did ye say?" remarked the latter. "It's my opinion it's been daylight all night, for it surely wasn't dark when we retired, and we've only been in bed a few minutes."
The scene was the outside cabin deck of the well-appointed steamer "Queen" of the Alaska Steamship Company, which was plowing her way through the quiet waters of the "Inside Passage," on her way to the land of the Yukon and the Klondike.
The hour was only four in the morning, but the sun was high, and the day in those high latitudes was well begun.
"No regrets, Don, you sleepyhead," said Gerald. "You've already had seven hours' sleep, and on this trip one ought not to go to bed at all."
By this time, Jack had succeeded in arousing his brother, Pepper Blake, and the latter's bunk mate, Dick Wilson, who gazed out a little resentfully, as they threw back the sash, but whose faces quickly brightened at the scene that met their eyes.
"Yes," said Jack, "there's mighty little darkness up here at this time of year, and I suppose Don thinks it's an awful waste of good daylight turning it on while we sleep."
"Ye'll see more than this 'wasted' when ye get further north, and I suppose Don will sit up all night to save it," replied Gerald.
This reference to be cautious and prudent, not to say economical, nature of the canny Scot, raised a laugh, and the four who had been routed out of their bunks, through the energy of Jack, who, brought up in a newspaper office and atmosphere, hated to let anything unusual get away from him, hastily dressed and joined their two chums on the deck.
"I couldn't miss a yard of this scenery," said Jack, "and we've a few things in that line, along our native Hudson, to brag about, too."
The steamer was treading her way through straits and channels among hundreds of islands that fenced these almost lake-like waters from the long swells of the North Pacific. Although it was the latter part of April, early in the year for these latitudes, the influence of the warm waters of the Japanese Gulf Stream could be seen in the bright green of the islands.
On the other side of the ship, the dark green forests that clothed the mountains of British Columbia came down to the very water's edge, and swept by in one majestic panorama.
"There's certainly lots of scenery to the mile," said Rand, drawing a long breath, as he gazed in admiration.
"My grandfather said that is what makes Scotland such a great country," remarked Don, catching at Rand's half-humorous comment, "standing the land up on end."
"Let's give it the Scout's salute," suggested Pepper, with enthusiasm as the laugh over Don's serious remark died away. "There ought to be a great echo in those hills."
"Hold on," cried Jack, catching Pepper's arm as he unshipped his bugle. "I had a talk with the purser last night, and I'm afraid we'll have to 'cut out' the bugle calls on this trip. He says they have an official bugler aboard, for the call to meals and for the salute at landings, and we would interfere with him and perhaps affect the comfort of other passengers who may not be so keen on the early morning hunt for scenery as we."
The Scout discipline and what might be called the Scout ritual, to which the boys had been subjecting themselves for several years, was immediately apparent in the murmurs of approval which greeted Jack's suggestion. To those who have followed the career of the Boy Scouts of Creston on the Hudson, in the preceding volumes of this series, it is scarcely necessary to introduce the young men with whom this narrative starts.
The formation of the Patrol of Boy Scouts, at the suggestion of Colonel Snow, a retired officer of the United States army; a mysterious robbery, and a gallant rescue from the waters of the Hudson, are told in the first volume, "Boy Scouts' Patrol." The second volume leads them into adventures and difficulties incident to an excursion on motor cycles that have come to each of them as a reward for their aid in the rescue referred to which are told under the title of "Boy Scouts' Motorcycles," in the course of which Jack is captured by moonshiners on whom the boys turn the tables. "Boy Scouts' Canoe Trip," brings the chums into conflict with Sound pirates, during a canoe trip along the Long Island shore, and give Pepper and Dick, who are lost in a fog, a chance to help a foghorn operator of the United States Lighthouse Service, out of a very serious state of affairs. "Boy Scouts in the Rockies," the fourth volume, tells of the perils attending a trip into the Canadian Northwest, in search of a lost mine in which they have been given each an interest by the owner, Mr. Royce; their rescue of the latter from enemies who are also hunting the same mine; of hunting among the Indians, and of the rediscovery of the lost mine which has been named Uncas, in honor of their patrol.
The fifth volume, under the caption, "Boy Scouts' Aircraft," relates how their interest in aviation is aroused by the evolutions of a military aviator viewed during a visit to an army post; of the building by themselves of a glider with which they win a contest of these elementary aircraft, the prize being complete airship motors of the highest efficiency. With these engines they equip two aeroplanes and meet with various adventures of a thrilling nature, including an aerial kidnapping and pursuit in aeroplanes, the winning of an aeroplane meet, and the discovery and deciphering of the Narwhal's Tusk, which starts them on their way to Alaska.
The preceding February, the boys had graduated from Highcrest Academy, and some weeks before that event Colonel Snow, who had been for several years on friendly terms with the boys; had been the means of inducing them to form the Scouts' Patrol, and had looked after their promotion to be first grade Scouts, had been in consultation with their parents over a mysterious matter of which they had as yet learned nothing.
One day in March, as the boys were gathered in the club room in Mr. Scott's house, discussing plans for a Scout encampment, of the Patrols of the nearby towns, Colonel Snow entered the gate, and they crowded out on the porch to greet him.
"We were just planning to extend our Scout knowledge and experience by an actual encampment, this summer—sort of 'Spring maneuvres' you know, like the regulars and National Guard," said Rand.
"Perhaps I can offer you something of actual field experience," said Colonel Snow. "That's what I'm here for, and if you have time I've a proposition to make ... rather a cold one, however."
"I-i-ce c-c-cream soda?" inquired Pepper, flippantly, amid reproving frowns from the other Scouts.
"Why, you can't even think of that without shivering in your speech," said Jack, with scorn.
"Don't mind him, Colonel Snow, his appetite is like the poor, it's always with us," apologized Rand.
The army officer smiled indulgently upon the somewhat abashed Pepper.
"Don't lose it, Pepper," said he. "That appetite may prove one of the best of assets in this proposition of mine. How would you all like a trip to Alaska?"
The patrol came to "attention," every member on his feet and for the moment speechless.
"What! the North Pole?" gasped Rand, whose former residence in the Sunny South inclined him to look upon all high latitudes with suspicion.
"Not exactly," replied Colonel Snow, with a laugh, in which all joined as a kind of relief to their feelings. "We shall need neither sleeping bags nor furs nor pemmican. Let me explain the situation. Like all retired army officers, I am subject to call, at times by the government, for services of various kinds, and I am now intrusted with a mission in the Controller Bay region of Alaska, in connection with certain coal deposits and reservations. In our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I secured personally, as an investment, certain timber lands in British Columbia at the headwaters of the Yukon watershed, and my purpose is to cut the timber on these lands, to be eventually floated down the rivers and used in the various mines and mining camps, now being developed in both the Yukon and Alaska territories.
"On my way to my mission, this Spring, I intend to take in my sawmill plant and set it up and get ready for next winter's cutting. I shall be obliged to employ about a dozen men to establish the plant, and my experience with you Scouts in the field, in the Northwest, indicates to me that you can be as useful to me as anyone I could pick up. It will also give you a chance to see for the first time a new and growing country, by which you are bound by all the ties of government and flag. I will say at once that I have talked with your parents and your experience with me in Canada has given them sufficient confidence to furnish their consent. The decision rests with you."
The magnitude of the suggestion stunned the boys for the time, but they soon regained their self-possession, and promised an early decision. So it came about that after discussing the matter with their parents they had another talk with the Colonel when final arrangements were made. The boys, who had already banked three dividends from the Uncas mine, now a well paying property, were to outfit themselves, Colonel Snow paying all other expenses to, in and from Alaska, and allowing them fair wages while actually engaged on the sawmill work. Their outfits were selected by Colonel Snow, who had to veto many highly colored and fanciful suggestions of snowshoes, tents, sleeping bags and heavy furs.
"I have an idea," said the Colonel, "that there will be many days when you boys will be satisfied with a thin suit of khaki and even yearn for linen. Even if we should reach the Arctic Circle in winter, you will remember that our latest Arctic and Antarctic explorers have about discarded furs for thick woolens. Above all things, don't forget the mosquito nettings."
The night before the Scouts were to leave Creston they were holding a final meeting at the club-rooms, when Pepper burst forth excitedly:
"N-n-now we c-c-an s-solve it."
"What, your appetite?" asked Jack.
"N-n-no, the ivory mystery."
"What's that; your head?" put in Rand.
"N-n-no," yelped Pepper, whose face now rivaled his locks in color and whose fists were doubled up. "I mean that ivory—that narwhal's horn. We're going to Alaska and we can find that cave."
"Faith, that's so. We might get all that ivory," put in Gerald, with interest.
"I think I heard somewhere, but I'll not be sure about it," suggested the cautious Don, "that there's more than five hundred and ninety thousand square miles in Alaska, and I ha'e me doots that we find it the verra first day."
Despite these gibes, their interest was aroused and the cave, whose mouth was shaped like the ace of clubs, figured not a little in the imaginations of the boys, when, followed by the good wishes of relatives, neighbors and friends, they entrained the next morning like true soldiers in their patrol uniforms, and from the rear platform of the train, sounded the Scout salute to their native town upon their bugles.
Four days later they joined Colonel Snow, who had preceded them, in Seattle, and, after two days of sightseeing in the Washington metropolis, boarded the "Queen," and at ten o'clock at night, steamed out upon Puget's Sound, for their long trip of nearly a thousand miles on the water.
Among the cases of machinery and other freight, traveling in the vessel's hold under Colonel Snow's name, was a long box shaped like an old-fashioned piano case, which had nothing to do with Colonel Snow's enterprises. Despite the fact that it weighed more than half a ton, the boys had clubbed together to pay the rather exorbitant freight charges upon it. Superfluous as it appeared at one time to the Colonel, it was destined to play an important part in the Scouts' adventures in the land of gold and glaciers.
An hour of gazing on the scenic wonders that sped past on the right and left the morning after their departure from Seattle, aroused the boys' appetites, and they were beginning to long for the breakfast bugle call, when Colonel Snow came from his stateroom and bade them a hearty good morning. He had just redrawn their attention to the magnificent land and waterscape, with the remark that Major General Greeley, of Arctic fame, had made ten voyages to Alaska, and on each trip found some new wonder in the "Inside Passage" when there arose a chorus of yells, curses and vituperation from the deck below, and leaning over the railing, the boys saw a man with a pistol in his hand backing away from two who were striking at him with handspikes that they had grabbed from the side of the vessel.
At the same time a youth of about their own age dashed in behind the man with the pistol, and dived between his legs, tripping him up. He doubled up like a jackknife, fell back against the gangway gate, which had not been properly fastened, and shot through it into the tideway, here very swift, and disappeared. The quickly raised cry of "Man Overboard," reached the pilot house, the engine room gong boomed, the screw stopped and the "Queen" gradually lost headway.
The Scouts had joined in the cry which notified the pilot house that a man had gone overboard, but before the "Queen" lost headway and began to back the man in the water had slipped some distance astern. Life preservers and life rings were quickly thrown after him, but no sooner had the derelict come to the surface than it was seen that he was dazed and almost helpless from the effects, probably, of some injury he had sustained as he went through the gangway. Luckily, the gangway gate, which he had pushed out had floated alongside of him on the tideway, and he had retained consciousness enough to grasp one side of it with a drowning man's grip, but was in danger of momentarily losing it. The boys with Colonel Snow at their head had rushed along the upper rail, where Rand began at once to strip off his coat and the soft canoe shoes he was wearing on shipboard, while Gerald followed suit. All the boys, as became trained Scouts, were good swimmers, but Rand pushed Gerald back, impetuously, saying:
"I'm the heavier, Gerald, let me go on this. It may be a fight," and at the same time mounted the rail. As he did so, Colonel Snow seized a long thin line that hung for just such emergencies, on a spike at the rail, threw the knotted loop over Rand's arm and shoulder, saying:
"These are cold waters, and you may need this. If it hampers you, cast it off, and take to the gangplank."
Rand leaped from the rail, with his utmost strength, striving to escape the suction of the now backward-revolving screw, and struck out toward the man whose head was sinking under the surface, although his hands still grasped the gangplank with a feeble hold. With a dozen stalwart strokes, Rand reached the almost unconscious man, threw the loop from his own shoulder over his head and drew it under his arms and placed both his hands firmly upon the plank. Then grasping the bolt staple of the timber, himself, he yelled:
"Pull in; don't back any further," and in a few minutes willing and stalwart hands dragged them toward the steamer.
Already, a lifeboat had been dropped into the water and into this the half-drowned man was lifted, while Rand, himself already numbed by the icy water had to be assisted aboard. He was lifted to the deck amid the cheers of his chums, who rushed him to his stateroom for dry clothing.
"That was a great piece of work," said Captain Huxley, commander of the "Queen." "No professional life saver could have got on the job in quicker time. Those are fine boys of yours, Colonel Snow."
"That's part of their training as Scouts," replied the Colonel, "and it's meant to be practical. That's why I did not interfere with Peyton's attempt at a rescue. But what started this?"
"That's what I'm going to find out, good and quick," replied Captain Huxley. "As usual at this time of year, I've got a tough crowd in the steerage, and I imagine the whole thing started in a poker game that has been running on the engine room deck ever since we left Seattle. Will you go along?"
Accompanied by Colonel Snow and the boys who joined them at that moment, Rand none the worse for his first dip in Pacific waters, Captain Huxley strode down to the engine room, where first aid had been administered to the half-drowned man, who had come to his senses.
"Well, well; if it isn't 'Swiftwater Jim,'" exclaimed the Captain. "Didn't know we had you aboard."
"Wa'al, ye come mighty near losin' me," the patient answered, and then continued. "I come on board just as ye were castin' off last night."
"How d'ye come to get into the water? That hasn't been a very popular element with you in the past; eh, Jim," said the Captain with a grin. "Colonel Snow, let me introduce Swiftwater Jim, an ancient Alaskan that I believe we took over with the territory under the Seward treaty with Russia in 1867, and the oldest 'Sourdough' in any one of the six districts. He's made at least a dozen trips with me. He usually owns the boat going 'out,' but is satisfied with the steerage going 'in'."
Colonel Snow grasped the miner's hand, saying:
"Swiftwater Jim is no stranger to anyone who knows the history of the Alaskan country. Let me introduce some young fellows who are making their first trip."
The miner, whose drying garb was made up of a mixture of the costume of the frontier pioneer and garments of the latest cut, shook hands with the boys as he said:
"I'll pay ye captain, for puttin' me back in the mammoth class, but what I'm lookin' for is the feller that went into the dew after me. That certainly was a few damp moments. I was rattled, but I knew somebody grabbed me just before the light went out."
"Here's the chap," said Captain Huxley, as he shoved the reluctant Rand to the front.
The miner grasped Rand's hand and gazed into his face with a solemn stare.
"Wa'al, wa'al, such a young feller, too. How'd ye do it?" he inquired.
"It's part of our training as Scouts," replied Rand, modestly.
"Scouts, eh?" he cried. "Embreeo soldiers, eh? I heard of them this last trip out to the States. Wa'al, Mr. Peyton, I ain't a goin' to make no fervent speech of gratitood, for ye know how I feel, and I ain't trimmed up to make a more substantial showin' just now, but if you boys is a goin' 'in' as we say, ye'll hear from Swiftwater Jim before ye come out."
"Tell us how it happened, Jim," said Captain Huxley.
"Now, now, Captain, ye know me and ye know I can take care of me own troubles," replied Jim.
"Look here, Jim," said Captain Huxley, sternly. "You know I'm boss here, so long as you're afloat, and anything of this kind demands investigation. Besides, I don't propose to have a traveling feud on my manifest, all the way to Skagway. Out with it."
"Wa'al, Captain," said Swiftwater, "when I come aboard last night I found among the ruck in the steerage that gambler, Dublin, and a limpy pal of his. We got to playing poker, and the two of them cleaned me out, and because I found them using marked cards they came after me with them spikes. A young feller that was with them jumped on my back, and I went overboard. I'll tend to 'em."
"No, you won't, Jim," remarked Captain Huxley. "From this to Skagway you'll bunk on my deck and keep away from here."
Turning to a couple of the crew, the commander of the "Queen" said: "Bring that Dublin crowd here." The men hurried away, and in a few minutes presented to the astonished eyes of the Scouts their old acquaintances and quasi-enemies, Dublin, Limpy Rae, and Monkey Rae. The latter favored the boys with a look of hatred and a muttered imprecation.
"We ain't done nothin'"—began Dublin.
"That'll do, Dublin," replied Captain Huxley. "You know me of old, and I want to say I should have refused you passage if I had known you were going back to the Klondike. If you start another card game on this boat or get into any other trouble, I'll put you in irons, and hand you over to the authorities when we reach port. I'm not sure that there are not several United States marshals in Alaska, yearning for a sight of you, now."
Dublin turned white, attempted to speak, and then with his companions slunk back into the steerage.
"Why, we saw Monkey Rae trip up this man," said Jack pointing to Swiftwater, "but we didn't know it was Monkey then. It was a cowardly attack."
"Well," said Captain Huxley, "we'll let the matter drop now, unless Swiftwater complains."
"Not me," said the miner, turning away. "I'll see to this myself, later."
"Not here, though," said Captain Huxley, sternly.
"You can trust me, Captain," replied Swiftwater, as he waved his hand to the boys and Colonel Snow, and walked away.
"And now," said the Captain of the "Queen," "I'm afraid we've missed the first bugle blast for breakfast, but I should be glad to have you, Colonel Snow and your young men join my table at meals for the voyage."
This signal honor was highly appreciated by the boys, for at meals they were introduced to several territorial officials, capitalists and army officers, who, with the women of their families, were going in with the advent of Spring in Alaska. The tale of Rand's feat had preceded them, and the poor fellow spent a rather uncomfortable and embarrassing half hour of compliments and congratulations from men whose experience had taught them to appreciate a gallant deed.
Colonel Snow finally came to Rand's rescue by turning the talk to the rescued man.
"A great character, Swiftwater Jim, Captain Huxley?"
"Yes," replied the commander of the "Queen," "and Alaska history is full of his vagaries. He's probably the best equipped prospector and all-round miner in the territory, but it does him no good. He has owned twenty mines, and has made a dozen fortunes and spent them all. Every time he makes a 'stake' as he calls it, he indulges in extravagances that make one doubt his sanity. He went out last fall with fifty thousand dollars in dust, and I dare say will be working for day wages when he gets back in.
"He visited New York on this trip, and caused something of a sensation even there while his money held out. His diversions are innocent, turning largely to investments in food and drink, a tendency born, I suppose, of long privations in the Arctic. His most humorous exploit on this trip was entering the most fashionable restaurant in the metropolis, and ordering fifty dollars worth of ham and eggs, after vainly attempting to make out the French of the bill of fare."
Colonel Snow and the boys laughed, and the former said:
"I presume little of his money is really spent on himself."
"No," said the Captain. "He is the soul of generosity and scatters it right and left. Of course, a good deal of it goes to the leeches who cluster around such characters in the cities. Still, although he has the average pioneer's contempt for Indians and Eskimos he has given liberally to the missions which are civilizing them. He may make another fortune, but I believe he will die poor."
"D-d-did he eat all that order of ham and eggs?" asked Pepper with interest.
"Well, I hardly think so," smiled the Captain. "I doubt if the order was really served. Head waiters of these big restaurants have very diplomatic ways."
"Captain Huxley, what is a 'Sourdough'? I heard you apply the word to Swiftwater Jim," said Jack, on the alert for information.
"The aristocracy of the Alaskan mining camp," replied the officer. "The man who has been at least a year in the territory, and is 'wise' as you boys say, to its methods and manners, and inured to its hardships and its climate. For a time you'll belong to the 'Chee-chak-O' class."
"What is that?" asked Rand.
"The Indian name for what the men on the Canadian ranches called 'tenderfeet,'" replied Colonel Snow.
At this moment the vessel experienced a slight shock, and the dining saloon seemed to rise on a long and gentle undulation, and as gently to sink to an appreciable depth. The motion continued regularly for a few minutes, and Captain Huxley glanced keenly at the guests at his table, with a barely perceptible smile on his face.
A puzzled and rather serious expression came over the faces of several of those at breakfast. Suddenly, Dick exclaimed:
"We're losing a good deal of this scenery," and passed out on the deck, to be followed almost immediately by Pepper and Don. The Boy Scouts had met with a new sensation.
INTO ROUGH WATERS.
The Boy Scouts of Creston, although expert in nearly all water sports, and familiar with the gently flowing Hudson, and the quiet inland tides of bay and Sound, had had no experience as yet of ocean travel. The Alaska trip was the first test of their sailor-like qualities. In the "Inside passage" are two stretches of twenty and forty miles, where the full sweep of the Pacific rollers is felt, and it was while crossing one of these stretches that the "Queen" took on those erratic motions that sent Dick Pepper and Don to the open air so quickly and caused not a few of their fellow travelers considerable discomfort.
Strange as it may seem, none of the other boys were affected by the rough waters, and they quickly followed their chums to the deck to offer aid and comfort. It has always been one of the peculiarities of seasickness that, however important and serious it may seem to the victim, it is prone to arouse ridicule and humorous suggestions in those who are not subject to its attacks, and while Rand, Jack and Gerald did what they could for their unfortunate companions, they could not resist the temptation of an occasional sly reference to their chums' poor qualities as sailors, that under any other circumstances would have driven the combative Pepper frantic.
"Wa' yo tellin' me, hoeny, tha' wa' some great scenery, ovah da'?" suggested Rand, falling into a broad Southern dialect that he used at times.
Poor Dick, whose interest centered in the dark blue of the water beneath him, attempted a glare of indignation with poor results, while Don made no attempt to express the briefest kind of an "opeenion."
"Faith, and this the celebrated mal de mer, is it?" said Gerald, gazing with mock curious interest at his wilted chums.
"That's brutal, Gerald," exclaimed Jack, "seasickness is bad enough, without any of your Celtic High School French."
"Begorra, it's about all of it I remember, and maybe I'll never get a chance to use it again."
"I wish it was catching, like the measles or mumps," gulped Pepper in a fury, "and I'd give it to you all."
"What, French?" asked his brother.
"Naw, seasickness," yelled Pepper, and bolted for his stateroom to be soon followed by his two companions in misfortune. A couple of hours in their bunks with some little attention from their now rather repentant critics, and the steamer having passed again into still water the patients were soon restored to normal health, with, if possible, greatly increased appetities.
Two days later, Jack, who was ever on the alert for something new and had made friends with several of the officers, thus getting the run of the ship, was exploring the lower decks, and walked through the quarters of the third class passengers. These were largely made up of laboring men going "in" for the summer work. A few miners who had spent all their money in the Pacific coast cities, and were going back to try their luck again, and a few of the class whom the police of those and other cities had simply told to "move on."
The steerage quarters were rather dark, and hearing voices Jack stepped aside into a narrow passageway between the bunks to let a couple of men pass. The two turned into the same passageway which concealed Jack, and the latter recognizing the voice of Dublin sank down into one of the further berths as the others sat down on a couple of bunks near the entrance.
"I tell ye it's a better game than the other," said Dublin, "and we're goin' in for anything we can make."
"I'm not strong for any new game that I don't understand," whined the voice of Rae, "and we're in bad on this boat, as it stands. We'll find games enough of our own when we git to Skagway."
"Don't lose yer nerve," said Dublin, "with a good chance to make a stake in sight. These folks is takin' in a lot of fine machinery, and that Yukon country is a long ways from where that machinery is made, and every nut and bolt in it will be worth its weight in coin by the time they've got it in there. All we got to do is to cop off a piston and a valve or two and this army man will be willin' to pay several hundred dollars to get 'em back rather than wait for months to get 'em in from the outside."
"Well," replied Rae, "ye know that stealin' up in this country is bigger crime than murder, and they don't fool with the courts much."
"Aw, this ain't stealin'," sneered Dublin, "it's only kidnappin' and holdin' for ransom. I know just whereabouts in the hold this stuff was stored at Seattle, and that kid, Monkey, of yours, can get at it in ten minutes if he has the nerve. The stuff is not a hundred feet from us, and I can show him tonight how to do it."
Rae, who was more or less of a coward, made further protest, but finally yielded, and the pair slipped out of the passageway and walked away still discussing the proposed scheme. Jack, glad to be released from the rather odorous confinement of the bunk into which he had crowded himself, left the third-class quarters and made for the upper deck.
His newspaper training, of which he had received a considerable amount in the intervals of his school days in the office of his father's paper in Creston, included an acute sense of analysis, and he at once arrived at the opinion that the conspiracy he had heard referred to the freight which Colonel Snow was taking North, and his first impulse was to lay the matter before him for such action as he might see fit to take.
Then a foolish ambition to handle the thing alone, born possibly of that newspaper desire to bring off a "scoop" as an exclusive publication is called, coupled with the usual boyish longing to become a hero, incited him to circumvent the plot singlehanded and alone, prevented him from speaking to either the leader of the party or his chums. In addition, his journalistic training had instilled deeply one of the first rules of the profession, accuracy, and to tell the truth he was rather ashamed to go to Colonel Snow with so little evidence to back up his story, and so he determined to "keep tabs," as he called it, on Monkey Rae, and knowing he could handle that young man physically to capture him redhanded and take him in dramatic fashion before the Captain.
Jack had no doubt that Dublin would carry out any scheme he had in mind at the first opportunity, and that the attempt to get into the hold would be made at a hatchway on the same deck with the steerage. The hold at this part of the ship being filled with machinery and other heavy freight, the hatch cover was not battened down and most of the time was left partially off in order to give a circulation of air through that part of the hold under the steerage.
About ten o'clock that night, Jack slipped away from his companions, and descended to the engine room deck, where he took up his place behind some packing cases, and awaited developments. Nearly all the steerage passengers were in their quarters, for the night was keen and there was little enjoyment in the open air.
An hour passed and Jack was becoming weary of his vigil, especially in view of the uncertainty of the coming of his quarry. Then, from the passageway leading to the steerage a slim figure emerged and by the dim light of the lamp which illuminated this part of the deck, Jack was just able to recognize Monkey, who carried in one hand a hatchet, and something like a policeman's club in the other. Monkey glanced rapidly around the deck, looking for the watchman who at times visited every portion of the ship, but the coast was clear.
Crossing the deck the boy slipped easily between the partly raised hatch cover and the combing, and down the stationary iron ladder into the dark hold. As he did so a ray of light appeared in the hitherto dark hold. Glancing around to be sure that neither Dublin nor Rae were standing sentinel for the young marauder, Jack slipped noiselessly over the deck, and followed Monkey down the ladder.
A glance showed him that what Monkey carried in his right hand was a portable electric light and with this he was carefully searching for the marks upon some packing cases.
Jack tiptoed quietly toward him, intending to take him unawares, failing in his eagerness to make the capture to allow Monkey to make an attack upon the case with his hatchet sufficiently to "clinch" his evidence.
Just as Jack put out his hand to grasp the arm that held the hatchet his foot struck an unseen coil of rope, and he plunged head foremost into Monkey. The latter pitched forward three or four steps and Jack landed on his hands and knees, an accident that probably saved him serious injury, for at the moment the terror-stricken Monkey turned and aimed a furious blow at whatever had struck him.
At the same time he dropped the electric light, which promptly went out as the spring was released, and the hold was in darkness. Jack dared not move for fear of the hatchet, and all he could hear was the loud breathing of the terrified Monkey, who carefully began to grope for the lost lamp. The search was vain, and Jack was slowly backing away from the vicinity toward the ladder, intending to bar Monkey's egress when he heard a movement that seemed to indicate that Monkey was climbing up the piled-up freight. Then there were two loud blows with the hatchet on the deck above them which formed the floor of the steerage quarters.
Scarcely a minute passed before a man with another electric light swarmed down the ladder, and Jack was in the hands of the powerful Dublin. At the same moment, Monkey dropped his hatchet and dashed past them to the ladder, where he hung like his simian namesake, calling shrilly for the night watchman. Jack made an effort to twist himself loose from the hands of Dublin, but in vain.
"What are ye doin' down here, ye thief? Tryin' to get at the cargo? Call the quartermaster there, Monkey."
Realizing the trap into which he had fallen, Jack made no further effort to release himself until he reached the deck above, when he jerked away from Dublin and faced the quartermaster and the watchman. There they were joined by Rae and some of the other steerage passengers.
"Well, well; if it ain't one o' them boy Scouts; them amateur soldiers. Where d'ye find him, Monkey?"
"I seen him hanging round this deck and when he slipped down in the hold with a hatchet and a 'lectric light. I followed him. He jumped onto me and I run back to the ladder and yelled for Dublin, and he come and got him."
"How about this, young feller?" asked the quartermaster. "What were you doin' down that hold this time o' night. Ain't ye one of Colonel Snow's party?"
"I am," said Jack, "and this man's story is a straightout falsehood. It was I who followed this boy down into the hold on information that I got"—
A burst of laughter from both Rae and Dublin interrupted Jack's story, and both men swore vehemently that Monkey had been in his berth up to a few minutes before he had called for Dublin. Jack, recognizing his folly in not having notified Colonel Snow and the Captain of the conspiracy, and also the way in which the tables had been turned upon him in his attempt to "go it alone," said:
"I will explain this thing to the Captain; I think he will understand it."
"I guess you'd better," said the puzzled quartermaster; "but we can't wake him up tonight. I'll see ye up to yer stateroom and you can explain in the morning. And you," he said, sharply, turning to Dublin and Monkey, "you be on hand with your story. Meantime," to the watchman, "put on that hatch cover and lock it."
As early the next morning as possible, Jack sought an interview with Col. Snow and told him the whole story. The latter was greatly interested, but said plainly that Jack should not have undertaken to handle the matter by himself.
The Captain was not so easily pacified. He heard both stories and grinned quietly as both Rae and Dublin tried to make a hero out of Monkey.
"I've told you fellows you're too much in evidence on this boat and I don't want to hear anything more from you until we get to Skagway." Col. Snow's intercession arranged matters for Jack but he did not get off any too easily.
"I haven't any doubt but that your story has a good foundation, but it would hardly go as evidence in a court of law, and even if the Colonel here thought it worth while, I don't suppose he cares to be bothered with a prosecution in courts that are three years behind with their cases. I shall take occasion to draw the attention of the authorities to this crowd, when we reach Skagway, however.
"I should like to say, however, that in a case like this, your first duty was to have informed me, and let me police my own boat. I am the superior officer here, as you know. I understand you belong to that excellent organization, the Boy Scouts, and if I am not mistaken, there is one little line in the ritual devoted to discipline. Good morning." And despite the rebuke which brought the flush to Jack's face, the captain smiled, and shook hands pleasantly.
The story could not be kept from the chums, who were rather inclined to resent Jack's failure to let them take a hand in the capture of Monkey Rae. They rallied Jack not a little on his grand effort at heroism and Rand even dug up an old schoolbook quotation about an engineer who had been hoist with his own petard. The boys took their disappointment out in various good natured gibes, and mock congratulations to "the Sherlock Holmes of the good steamer Queen" were a daily occurrence until the arrival at Ketchikan and new scenes drove the incident from the boys' memories. It was to be recalled in much more serious form a little later.
ON ALASKAN SOIL.
The acquaintance between the Boy Scouts and Swiftwater Jim, which had begun with Rand's rescue of the old Klondiker, ripened before many days of the voyage had elapsed into something like warm friendship and the miner became a wellspring of joy to the young men in the wealth of adventure narrative that fell from his lips and the quiet humor of his views of life. His removal by Captain Huxley, to the saloon deck on which they were berthed, gave them constant opportunity for meeting him, and as the novelty of the scenery and surroundings gradually wore off, they turned more and more to his companionship and plied him incessantly with cross-examination as to the peculiarities of the new land which they were about to enter.
At one time in command of a whaler in Bering Sea waters, his ship had been one of six crushed in the ice of the Arctic sea, the crews of which had been forced to winter at Point Barrow, the most northerly point of the United States, where the government had established a whaling relief station.
The enormous burden thrown upon this relief station by the influx of so great a number of dependents coming from the whalers, who had no means of getting away, threatened starvation for all and only by the greatest good fortune did word reach the government at Washington, which at once took steps for their relief. Lieut. Jarvis of the Revenue Marine Service, who was in the east at the time on furlough, from his ship, a revenue cutter engaged in patroling Bering Sea to protect the seal fisheries, volunteered to make the effort to relieve the starving men, although he was leaving the bedside of a sick wife whom he might never see again. Bering Sea and the Arctic are frozen over six months at a time, and the relief expedition must be made over the frozen tundra and uninhabited snow waste, eighteen hundred miles in extent, from the Seward Peninsula to the "top of the continent," as Swiftwater Jim termed it.
The problem as to how to transport the food for these men over this great expanse of country, barren of trails and almost impassible in places, was solved by Lieutenant Jarvis and his aides. By assembling from the various reindeer stations which the government had established in the Far North, a large herd of reindeer which they drove the entire distance to Point Barrow, they arrived just in time to relieve the hundreds of men who were on the verge of starvation.
"I tell ye," said Swiftwater Jim, in telling the story to the boys, "I have never seen anything on earth since that looked so good as them deer. There we was, a dirty, unsightly mob so near to death that we had lost about all resemblance to humanity, and not a single human feelin' left for each other. It was every man for himself and mighty little that he could do, then.
"That feller Jarvis was the man for the job. That relief expedition was received very much as I hear explorers are met by the savagest tribes of Africa, and if it hadn't been for the nerve of those three officers at the head of it, they would have lost their lives and the provision they had brought would not have lasted three weeks. But those fellows took command at once; headed off a mutiny, distributed the provisions daily and for months ran that gang, made up of the off-scourings of the seas, by reg'lar army discipline.
"For the months before the ice broke up, and vessels could come after us, he governed with a mighty stiff hand, and every man who was fed by government relief, and thay wan't nothin' else, was compelled to live up to regulations of cleanliness and daily exercise, which is the only thing that will save a man's health in that deadly Arctic climate where the bill o' fare is only about one line long, and a healthy body is the only thing that will save a man's mind from that deadly depression that ends in insanity. When the ships come finally, that mob of whaler men was cleaner and healthier than they ever were in their lives before and they had a mighty lot of love and respect for Jarvis and the officers with him.
"It was about the biggest sacrifice a man ever made, that voluntary trip of Jarvis, and I believe that Congress, after thinkin' a long time about it finally acknowledged it by votin' him some kind of a medal. As for me I hain't been able to look a poor little reindeer in the face since."
With his vessel a splintered derelict in the ice of the Arctic sea, Swiftwater had taken to mining and had covered a good part of Alaska in his wanderings.
Col. Snow had noticed with considerable interest the growing intimacy between his young charges and the miner and had taken occasion himself to have several talks with the ancient "sourdough" as Swiftwater insisted on calling himself. The Colonel had found among the army officers returning to their posts in the North several old friends of his army days and had taken the opportunity to make some inquiries as to the miner with evidently satisfactory results. These army officers Col. Snow took occasion to introduce to the Boy Scouts and the element of courtesy that is a strong feature of the West Pointers' character showed itself in the consideration given the boys by these grizzled men, several of whom had won their spurs during Indian outbreaks in the West and later learned the stern demands of war in Cuba and the Philippines.
Their journey was enlivened by many a good story of camp and field and incidentally the officers evinced a strong curiosity in the organization of the Boy Scouts about which they asked many questions.
The day the "Queen" arrived at Ketchikan, the first port in Alaska, Col. Snow, after starting the boys on a sightseeing trip through the town, put in some time in company with Swiftwater Jim in the office of the United States Commissioner, who is practically a local judge. When all had returned to the steamer that night, Col. Snow called the boys together in the big saloon of the vessel for a talk.
"You know," said the army officer, "that after I have seen you and the machinery disembarked in Skagway, I must leave you to carry out my mission to Controllers Bay and Valdez, and that I shall not be able to join you in the Yukon Country until later in the summer. It has been my purpose, of course, to place you in charge of a competent manager who will really command the expedition the rest of the way until the machinery is installed on the timber land that I intend to exploit. Of course you will be furnished with sufficient expert Indian labor to assist in navigating the streams over which this freight must be transported, for there are no roads, and water at this season of the year is the only transportation available. What do you think of Swiftwater Jim for commander-in-chief, guide, philosopher and friend to this expedition?"
"B-b-bully," exclaimed Pepper, adopting the vernacular of an ex-President.
"The very man for the place if I understand what we are to do," commented Rand.
"Faith, now we will see Alaska; and what we don't see, Swiftwater is the man to tell us about," cried the enthusiastic Gerald.
"Well, if we can get him," said the cautious Don, "there's nobody we'd like so well."
"I might as well tell you that it's all arranged," said the Colonel. "He was the best man I could find for the work I want done, and I took the first opportunity to arrange with him; but at the same time I am glad that you are all so well satisfied.
"I must have you understand that Swiftwater will be the leader of the party and in all things you will be under his direction. I do not think it will be necessary for me to tell you that the discipline will be perhaps a little more strict than it has been in the ranks of the patrol at home, and while it will not be on an unrestricted army basis, there will be some resemblance and I shall trust to your experience as Scouts to induce in you cheerful acquiescence."
"It will be something like a campaign then," suggested Dick.
"It will be a good deal like a campaign," smilingly replied the Colonel, "and while there will be much that is enjoyable and novel, there won't be much peaches and cream about it. Plunging into a wilderness as you must, you leave behind all the comforts and most of the sanitary safeguards of civilization, and it is absolutely necessary for the preservation of your health that you adopt certain rules of diet and comfort."
"Do we have to diet?" inquired Pepper, doubtfully, whose mind reverted to certain milk and porridge days, imposed after an orgy of green fruit and its consequent painful disturbances.
"I didn't use the word in the sense that you mean, Pepper," said Col. Snow. "There will be plenty to eat and I hope well prepared, but you must govern yourself as to how you deal with it. Food in most parts of Alaska is a costly proposition, but I guess we shall have enough to go round unless the wild life increases your already healthy appetites."
"I hae ma doots," said Don, falling into his Gaelic-accented English, as he often did when he seemed to be wrestling with a problem, "if yon appetite of Pepper's can increase much wi'out straining the capacity."
"Look after your own appetite," said Pepper, growing red, "I read once in a book that four thousand years of oatmeal porridge, three times a day, had wiped out every appetite and spoiled every stomach in Scotland."
"There, there," admonished Jack, "that'll be about all of that. You fellows are about even now. The smallest sort of an appetite may prove to be an inconvenience before we get out of Alaska."
"I want to say, Colonel," said Rand, rising and facing the army officer at "attention," "that I think I speak for the whole patrol when I promise in their names the most earnest fidelity and strict attention to rules and regulations until our mission up here is finished."
"Yes, yes," echoed the Scouts, springing to their feet and saluting the Colonel, who also rose and returned it with a smile of acknowledgment. At the same moment Swiftwater Jim entered the saloon.
"Young men, your commander," said Colonel Snow, waving a hand toward the miner. With one accord the patrol turned toward the grizzled Alaskan and saluted. Jim turned red with pleasure and waved a knotted hand in recognition.
"Glad to see ye, boys, but salutin' won't be necessary ev'ry time we meet. I used ter be satisfied on shipboard if a man jumped about a foot high every time I spoke real serious, but I guess we can get through this job without much loud bossin'. I simply want ter sejest that I ain't very good at argying, so I hope we shan't have much of that."
One by one, the boys shook hands with the miner in token of fealty, and from that time until the steamer reached Skagway spent several hours a day with him in what he called his "first class in gettin' on the job." The most of this work included thorough instruction in the geography of Southeastern Alaska and Southern Yukon territory, the Colonel's land being located in the Canadian dominions. Especially was their attention drawn to numerous waterways as shown on the maps, which must form the highways for all transportation during the summer time, and knowledge of whose location, size and tributaries formed a man's best safeguard in this almost pathless wilderness.
A visit was paid to the hold, this time with the captain's permission, to enable Swiftwater to estimate the amount of freight that was to be handled and the best way of distributing it among the transports. The boys went with him to learn something of their new duties in this connection.
"I move," said Rand, "that that earnest young sleuth, Mr. Jack Blake, be appointed guide to this expedition to the dark and creepy hold. He knows where everything is, for he has fallen over it all, I hear."
"He might meet Monkey Rae," said Dick with a mock shudder, "then think of the carnage."
Dublin and the Raes, fearing Captain Huxley's possible report to the authorities at Skagway, had "jumped the ship" as the commander of the "Queen" expressed it at Ketchikan, the first port of call in Alaska, and Dick's fears were therefore groundless, but Jack, who had learned the lesson of taking a joke goodnaturedly grinned feebly, and readily dived into the hatchway and down the ladder. The electric lights had been turned on, and the hitherto Egyptian darkness of the hold had vanished. They readily found their consignment, and the miner went over it carefully.
"What ye got here?" he asked, kicking the heavy case before referred to, which the boys had brought along on their own initiative. "Pianny? Don't believe we need any pianny, up Yukon way. There's plenty piannys in Alaska, now, but I remember the first one that was brought in. It's up in Dawson yet. It was brought in on the first rush in '98. Cost four hundred dollars in the States and two thousand dollars to haul up from Skagway. The last time I heard it, it was being mauled by a feenominon, who had a patent pianny-playin' wooden arm on one side, and it sounded like a day's work in a boiler factory at one end and a bad smash in a glass pantry at the other. I heard some o' them educated Cheechakos talkin' about art, but I didn't care for it much."
"It isn't a piano," said Gerald as the laugh subsided. "It's a little enterprise of our own, and is to be put in storage in Skagway until we're through with our work."
"Wa'al," replied the guide, as he tested its weight, "we don't have to handle it then, and that's something of a load off my mind."
The next day when the boy Scouts awoke they found the vessel anchored in the picturesque harbor of Skagway, the end of the "Inside Passage."
A NEW MODE OF TRAVEL.
Their stay in Skagway was brief. It was the point of parting between Colonel Snow and his young charges, as it was necessary for him to hasten a way westward to another part of Alaska on his mission, which would occupy some weeks. The boys parted with him reluctantly and with some little feeling of homesickness, but he promised to join them as early as possible and assured them that he had placed them in safe hands, with ample means for their return to Skagway should sickness or accident befall them.
Except for the brief glimpses of native and local Alaskan life which they had obtained during the stoppages of the steamer at Metlakatla, in the Annette Islands, a reservation set apart by Congress for the now civilized Tsimpsean Indians, a tribe which, with their devoted missionary head, William Duncan, immigrated from British Columbia to secure, it is said, greater religious liberty, and at Ketchikan, a thriving town, the boys here gained their first real impressions of Alaskan conditions. They found Skagway a town of about fifteen hundred people, set in a great natural amphitheatre surrounded by mountains capped with perpetual snow. It is connected with the outside world by a cable to Seattle, and by other parts of Alaska by telegraph, and has electric lights and a telephone system. A fine school building and several churches that reminded the young Scouts of many Hudson river towns, and wiped out the last remaining evidences of homesickness, were among the attractions, and the sight of a real railroad equipped with locomotives, cars, shops and station were among the marvels found where they had expected to find a wilderness.
It was from this town that thousands of prospectors and adventurers started in 1897 and 1898 in the rush to the Klondike, and Swiftwater told them many stories of the terrible winter trip over the White Pass in those years in which hundreds of men lost their lives and thousands of horses were killed.
With Colonel Snow they made one or two trips into the surrounding country, visiting the nearby Chilkat and Chilkoot villages, during two days that Swiftwater had gone over to White Horse in Yukon territory, at the other end of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, a distance of 112 miles, to make arrangements for boats and Indian guides and boatmen to carry their machinery into the wilderness. The boys were greatly interested in this first near view of Alaskan Indian life in the two villages which they visited, and in comparing the natives with the Indians with whom they had been associated in their trip to the Canadian Rockies. The Alaskan Indians were shorter in build, more squatty in figure and broader faced than the Crees and the other Southern red men. Jack, who had been poking about into the various corners of the first village, which were composed of huts and sod houses, came back with a look very like disgust in his face.
"I say, Don," he exclaimed, "for goodness sake don't do anything to get adopted into this tribe," referring to an episode of their journey in search of the lost mine, when Don had for obvious bravery been made a fullfledged Indian.
"Sure, I'll na do anything to deserve it; it would be naething to be proud of. They do not look much like our friends in Canada."
"There are two points in which I find they are identical," said Jack.
"What are those?" asked Rand, "color and clothes?"
"No," replied Jack, "dirt and dogs. The dirt must have been here when the Indian came onto this continent, but I've wondered whether the Indian found the dog when he came here or the dog found the Indian. They seem to have been inseparable ever since."
"D-d-do you s'pose they have dog days up here so near the pole?" asked Pepper.
"Begorra, it looks to me as if all days might be dog days around here," suggested Gerald, who was surrounded at that moment by at least a dozen of the hundred animals in the village.
"You would be surprised to know," said Colonel Snow, "that the dog is really the most important animal, except perhaps the reindeer in our Northern possessions. Little of this country would have been explored or settled except for his good services. There was a time when as much as two thousand dollars has been paid for a good dog up here."
The Indians were persistent peddlers, offering the handsome baskets, hats and blankets which they are peculiarly skilful in making, and the boys would have loaded themselves down with souvenirs had not Colonel Snow suggested that they would have plenty of time to supply themselves before they left for the south again.
Two days later, Swiftwater Jim, having returned from White Horse, and the freight having been taken from the steamer's hold, it was placed on cars of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad; the "piano case" as it had come to be called having been put in storage until their return, and early in the morning of a June day the boys bade farewell to Colonel Snow and boarded the train for White Horse.
The journey required nearly six hours, but the first half was a stiff climb to the top of the pass and through such magnificent scenery of mountain and gorge that the boys scarcely noticed the passage of time, beguiled, as it was, with thrilling tales by Swiftwater Jim, with the story of the fight of the Argonauts against the winter horrors of this same trail in the early days of the great gold rush.
They arrived at White Horse about four o'clock in the afternoon, and were met by six halfbreed Indians headed by a well-known guide of that region known as Skookum Joe, who spoke good English and greeted Swiftwater as an old friend. He had been charged with securing the crews for the two boats that Swiftwater Jim was to use in the trip, and he introduced the men whom Jim greeted in the "pigeon" Siwash of that section, used as a means of communication with the natives who do not speak English.
"I send up river for um," said Skookum Joe, "Dey know dat country. Good work when no rum; rum, no work," referring to the prevalence of the liquor habit among the Indians since they have come into contact with the whites.
"This here is going to be a traveling lodge of the Cadets of Temperance, especially so far as natives is concerned," said Swiftwater Jim, "and consequently everybody will work on this voyage."
As the cases of machinery were removed from the cars they were opened and the assembled parts as far as possible taken to pieces. These the Indians wrapped in heavy canvas, making convenient bundles or "packs" for handling, and obviating the necessity of transporting the heavy material of the cases. Bundled together the entire freight was transported by teams to the water front, where were tied up two commodious shallow flat-bottomed boats into which it was loaded. To this was added provisions sufficient for two months, which Swiftwater had contracted for on his previous visit to the town, and sundry tents, tools and blankets.
Much of the clothing with which the boys had provided themselves had been left at Skagway as it was not needed for the present season. As it was necessary to pay duties on the machinery which had been brought from the United States into the Canadian territory, and to give bond for the two arms and personal equipment which was to be taken into the woods, but eventually returned to American territory, Swiftwater visited the Custom House, and while there introduced the Scouts to the Commissioner of Customs, who spent part of the remainder of the afternoon in showing the boys the town and the natural beauties surrounding it.
Among other places they visited the barracks, where they were introduced to the small squad of Northwestern Mounted Police, the splendid organization maintained by the Canadian Government for the preservation of order in its western and northwestern possessions. Its members are recruited from among ex-soldiers of the British army, with a reputation for hardihood and intrepidity second to none.
The station squad, composed of four members, received the boys cordially, and showed considerable interest in the organization of the Boy Scouts in the United States. Major McClintock, head of the station, apologized for the necessity of registering the young men at the barracks as police regulations required.
"This is a vast and wild territory, and we police, who are responsible for law and order here are few and far between. It is necessary for the safety of all that we know as far as possible just who the people are who come into Yukon territory. Besides, this country is a refuge for hundreds of men who find life unpleasant in more civilized sections, and we must keep them under supervision. By the way, I have just received notification from the United States marshal at Ketchikan that three queer characters dropped off the steamer from Seattle there and were heading for the Klondike, and would probably pass through here, and he asks us to keep an eye on them. Thus far I have seen nothing of them."
"Dublin, Rae and Monkey," exclaimed Rand.
"Oh; you know them, do you?" said Major McClintock.
"Jack here knows them very well," said Dick with a grin.
"Chance for more detective work, Jack," urged Rand.
"Faith, he might join the Mounted Police," cried Gerald. "Major, won't you give Jack a chance with your troop?"
The boys joined in the laugh, and Jack, who had begun to enjoy the joke on himself, told Major McClintock of their various encounters with the three men, and all that was known of their careers.
"Well," said the officer, "we'll keep a sharp eye out for them."
The head of the Mounted Police, who seemed very familiar with the Boy Scouts of Great Britain, told them something of the great organization in England headed by General Baden-Powell, with whom he himself had served in South Africa.
As they bade him good night the Major said that the jurisdiction of his post extended over the territory to which they were going, and that some time during their stay there one of his patrols would call on them.
At an early hour the next morning, Swiftwater and the boys went down to the boats, aboard which the Indian crews had passed the night, and were there joined by Skookum Joe, who was to go with them as far as the mouth of the confluent upon which Colonel Snow's land was located, at which point he was to join a steamer running on down the Yukon River to Dawson.
They floated out upon the swift current of the Lewes River, which many miles further away is joined by the Pelly to make the Yukon, the Behring Sea, some eighteen hundred miles away.
The passage down the Lewes was comparatively easy except for the rapids through which the Indian boatmen guided the flat-bottomed craft by long steering oars, one at each end and one at the side. Swiftwater had placed himself and Jack, Don and Gerald in one boat, and assigned Skookum Joe and Rand, Pepper and Dick to the other.
The run through the small canyons and the rapids was an exciting one to the boys, who were unused to such rough waters, where it seemed almost impossible at times to avoid the dangerous rocks that reared their heads above the current. By Swiftwater's direction the boys were allowed to take a hand at the oars at times, beside the Indian oarsman, to accustom them somewhat to the ticklish navigation of the rivers. While they found the navigation something new, their previous experience in canoe work had taught them sufficiently "the feel of the water" to make them fairly useful.
Pepper, who always threw a good deal of enthusiasm into anything he attempted to do, was barely saved from going overboard several times, and when once left alone with the side oar, succeeded in dipping the blade under a piece of hidden rock and was thrown by the swift motion of the boat high in the air, alighting somewhat breathless on the mass of tarpaulined freight in front of him, luckily without serious injury. The oar, however, went by the board and was lost.
"Wh-wh-what was that?" gasped Pepper, as he got his wind again and began to caress his ribs where the oar handle had struck him.
"I've only got one guess," laughed Dick, "but I should say it was the bottom of the river," while Rand sarcastically suggested that it wasn't part of the business of this expedition to try and clear the channel of the Lewes.
It was eight o'clock in the evening, and the sun in that high latitude was still visible when the boats reached the mouth of the stream known as Gold Creek, which entered the Lewes from the southeast. It was some miles up this confluent that Colonel Snow's land lay, and by direction of Swiftwater the Indian boatmen skilfully rounded the batteaus out of the current of the Lewes into the Creek and into a little backwater formed by a projecting sandy point between the two streams. Here the water was fairly deep, and as no trees came down to the water's edge two of the Indians held the boat up to the bank, while the third sprang ashore with coils of rope and two long iron stakes which he drove deep into the gravel and sand, and tied the stern and bow of the boat to the bank. The other boat was fastened the same way, and Swiftwater, springing ashore and stretching his long legs, cried: "All ashore; we'll make camp here, tonight."
THE BIGGEST BEAR IN THE WORLD.
As soon as the Boy Scouts had set foot on land Swiftwater drew the boys about him and assigned certain of the camp duties to each, directing the Indians, however, to the heaviest tasks of "making camp." A large number of stones were gathered at the highest point of the sand and gravel, and a rough fireplace constructed. Two of the Indians, under the direction of Rand were sent across a short strip of meadow, which intervened between the point and the adjacent forest, for a supply of firewood. Rand took his rifle along under Swiftwater's direction, for protection, and with the suggestion that he might see something worth shooting, although he was enjoined not to meddle with moose or caribou.
"Not that I think ye'll see any," said Swiftwater, "for they're mighty scarce here, but it's a poor time of year for the meat. Still, there's a few cats and other varmints in this section of the country that don't like strangers, and they make it lively for you."
"Do the cats belong to the Indians?" innocently inquired Jack, remembering the aborigines' fondness for dogs.
"I never seen an Injun that cared to keep one of 'em longer'n he could let go of it," said the miner. "I'm talkin' of lynxes and the lou'g'rou (loup garou), the Injun Devil, that is still pretty thick in this country."
The Indians who had come with the expedition were no exception to fondness for dogs, and had brought two shaggy, short-eared, long-nosed brutes with them that had never barked or uttered a sound except to snarl at any stranger who came near them and absolutely refused to make friends with anyone. One of these accompanied Rand and the two Indians into the woods and began nosing around in the bush and underbrush, while the two men were engaged in cutting light wood into short lengths and tying it together in bundles.
They accumulated nearly two hundred pounds apiece; loads that Rand doubted their ability to lift, much less carry to camp. They were about ready to start back when there came from a thicket forty yards distant a shrill scream that sounded like a child in distress. At the same moment the yelp of a dog was followed by a succession of snarls and screams so nearly human that Rand started toward the thicket crying:
"Quick, the dog is worrying a child."
"Na, cat; killum malamute," and with his axe in his hand the Indian rushed ahead of Rand into the thicket.
As Rand entered the brush the sounds of the struggles and the snarls and screams were intermixed with the loud commands of the Indian to the dog. Rand raised his rifle as he burst through the brush after the guide, and saw the dog and a mass of gray fur mixed up in a writhing rolling combat that tore up the grass and raised a cloud of dust and mold and leaves. Before he could get a chance at a shot the Indian had dashed in and with a single blow of his axe had ended the fight.
When the dog's owner succeeded in separating the dog from the dead animal, no small task, for the former was made furious by the wounds he had received, Rand saw the prey to be a short, heavy creature with stumpy tail and tassled ears.
"Wild cat," muttered the Indian, turning the dead animal over with his mocassin, so that its formidable claws could be seen, "easy killum dog."
Examining the wounds of the dog, which were not serious, he pointed to the cat and administered several severe kicks to the dog, which ran snarling toward the camp, while the guide picked up the body and returned to where his companion stood fastening his bundle, having apparently taken no interest in the contest. There was a short exchange of gutterals and then each of the Indians stooping down placed a band of strong cloth around his forehead, slipped it under the cord around the wood, and, with the aid of his companion, easily raised it to his back and walked off to camp as if it was a burden of no moment.
"Well, I see ye met up with a cat," said Swiftwater, as Rand and the Indians returned, "and at that ye only got the smallest of the tribe."
"If the others can fight any harder than this specimen, I don't believe I want to meet any of them. I thought there was a child in the thicket."
"Lots of these cat varmints have voices jest like a human. Ye can't tell a panther from a squallin' child sometimes."
Bacon, canned beef, potatoes and coffee had already been brought from the boats and the Indians soon had a rousing fire which soon heated the stones to red heat. Three of these had been joined together to make a sort of three corner oven and into this the potatoes were placed, while over another portion of the fire the bacon was fried and the coffee boiled.
A large tarpaulin had been brought ashore and spread upon the sands, and upon this, or upon stones placed thereon, the party seated themselves and ate their repast from tin or thin wooden plates. A day of excitement and vigorous exercise had furnished them with strong appetites and the rather coarse food of the camp was greatly relished.
Arrangements for the night had been made by raising a large tarpaulin over one of the boats upon several of the crossed bars, forming a sort of shelter under which were spread several of the light mattresses that were part of the equipment; and Swiftwater directed that the Scouts should all "turn in" to this improvised barracks together, while he and Skookum Joe retired to the other boat. The Indians were given several small canvas coverings known in the army as "dog tents," and were to sleep around the fire, which one of them was delegated to replenish during the night.
The attraction of the big campfire and the beautiful clear sky overhead filled the boys with aspirations to "camp out," and they were rather inclined to grumble at Swiftwater's orders compelling them to sleep on the boat.
With the growing soldier spirit of the Scouts, they resented being coddled, as Gerald chose to express it, and he voiced the sentiment of the patrol when he said:
"Why can't we sleep by the fire, Swiftwater? I feel as if I was being sung to and then tucked in same as I used to be at home."
"Ye'll have camping out enough before ye're through with the woods; and I'm not going to take any chances with all that tundra over there, and that swamp back beyond of starting the season with six fine cases of malaria on my hands. Until ye're a little better acclimated and a little more hardened, it's better for ye to sleep with a board or two under you."
The good sense of the old scout's argument as well as a fine appreciation of the miner's thoughtfulness for their welfare led the boys to at once acquiesce, and Rand voiced their appreciation.
Although it was early in the season, and the insect world had hardly awakened to life, there were a sufficient number of mosquitos about to remind the boys of Colonel's Snow's injunction regarding the supply of nettings, and Jack, after several vigorous slaps, murmured sleepily:
"Gee, that certainly sounded like a voice from home."
"They've got the good old Jersey accent," replied Jack.
"Straight from the Hackensack meadows," said Rand, referring to the once most favored habitat of the mosquito in the East.
"I hae ma doots," said Don, "if that is a mosquito I killed just noo. I think it was some new kind of night bird."
How long he had been asleep Jack did not know, when he was aroused by the growling of the two dogs on the shore, and crawled out from under the tarpaulin. The night was clear, and there was a fine starlight. In the East there was the faintest glimmer of dawn. The fire on shore had died down, but the embers still shone. The Indian who had been on watch had risen from his seat and followed the dogs, which had run growling up the strip of sand toward the meadow which lay between the water and the woods. Evidently there was some game in sight, and Jack crawled back under the tarpaulin and grasped his rifle, a Remington repeater. He did not arouse any of the others as he had really seen nothing, and was a little sensitive to possible ridicule.
He ran up the gangplank and stepped ashore. The other Indians were still asleep and Jack took the trail of the sentinel, whom he could dimly see in the distance.
The latter turned as he heard Jack's footsteps on the gravel, and waited for him.
"What is it?" asked Jack.
"No know," replied the Indian, "maybe bear, dogs no fight, only growl."
Dimly through the dawn Jack could make out a black mass lumbering slowly down through the meadow toward them. The dogs ran around it in circles, merely growling and offering no attack. At a word from the Indian, however, they ran in snarling on the animal, which stopped, and with a loud "woof" reared up on its haunches, showing an enormous height.
"Bear; shootum," cried the Indian, who had only an ax with him. Jack raised his rifle and fired, and as the bear dropped on all fours fired another shot.
The animal let out a snarling cry, and, grasping one of the dogs which had ventured within reach of its enormous paws, squeezed the life out of it before it could let out a cry. The Indian gave a yell and ran in on the enormous animal, and with a well-directed blow of the ax split its skull open between the eyes. At the same time Jack, as a precaution, fired another shot into the creature's open mouth, and it rolled motionless on its side.
The shots and the cries of the Indian had aroused every one on the two boats, and Swiftwater and Skookum Joe came running over the sands, rifles in hand. By this time the early dawn of the high latitude had rendered all objects visible, and the boys had also joined Jack and the Indian, who was circling cautiously around the huge brute, trying to ascertain the fate of the dog, which was still clasped in the death clutch of the now motionless animal.
"Ha," exclaimed Swiftwater, "a kodiak, and a corker; the biggest one I ever saw. You fellers were lucky to get him on the first shot, for that breed can make an awful mess if they start to fight. Hey, Skookum, catch hold and let's flop him over."
Having satisfied themselves that the bear was dead, the miner and the guide, with the aid of the Indians, moved the enormous mass which, with the Indian's blow, had slumped down upon its hindquarters. With the greatest difficulty they succeeded in straightening it out. The Indian dog had been squeezed into a shapeless mass, and, ascertaining this, the Indian gave it no further attention for the time being.
"Mighty good thing you had a softnosed bullet in that rifle," said Skookum, pointing to the gaping wound in the breast of the bear. "That spread, and did the business right away. A steel jacketed bullet would have gone straight through and would not have done so much harm. Then you might have been where the dog was."
Jack, who had been seized with a sort of buck fever after he realized what he had shot, was trembling with excitement as he received the almost envious congratulations of his friends.
"Begorra, we'll courtmartial you and drop ye from the Patrol," said Gerald, "if ye insist grabbing all the glory for yourself this way. Why don't you let us know when you are going out after adventures?"
"Yes, this is the second time that you have gone knight-erranting by your lone," said Dick, "and I can see nothing for it. If this Patrol of Boy Scouts is to get any chance to make a reputation it will have to put Mr. Jack Blake on a leash, and tie him to our wrists when we lie down to sleep."
"Weel, if that big bear or whatever it is, is really dead, ye've certainly made a better job of it than ye did with Monkey," exclaimed Don, and, with the laugh that followed, poor Jack felt that the ridiculousness of that episode on the steamer had been practically wiped out.
Swiftwater and Skookum measured the huge brown carcass that lay stretched on the sand before them, and found it to be nearly ten feet from tip to tip. They guessed its weight to be about eight hundred pounds.
"That's about the limit," said Skookum, "tho' I did hear of a skin once that measured thirteen feet."
"Well, Jack," said Swiftwater, "you've killed the largest meat-eating critter, in the world—carnivorous I think ye call it. There's none bigger than the big brown bear of Alaska. Some say he isn't so fierce as the grizzly, but he is nearly twice as big, and there's certain seasons that he'll fight at the drop of the hat, as the sayin' goes. I never see one so far from the coast before. He's called a kodiak because he hangs out down on Kodiak Island and on the Alaska and Kenai peninsulas."
"Yes," said Skookum Joe, "he likes salmon better than a Siwash, and he set on the river bank and fish for himself all day long."
"Smellum salmon," spoke up one of the Indians, pointing to the fire where some skin of the rough, Indian smoked fish had been thrown by the aborigines the night before.
"Wa-al," said Swiftwater, with a grin at the Indian, "I reckon they could 'smellum' some o' that seal oil o' yours down to Seattle."
The Indians set swiftly to work while the boys looked on curiously, and soon had the enormous brown hide of the animal off the body. The latter they cut up and such portions as were available they put aboard the boats. A few steaks were cooked for the boys for breakfast, but, as Swiftwater suggested, they found the meat dry and tough and very lean. The Indians seemed to relish it, however, and the remaining dog ate enormously.
Swiftwater promised Jack that as soon as they reached their destination he would arrange for the proper curing of the skin which he could have as a trophy.
"No," said Jack, "that goes to the Patrol for the floor of our room back in Creston, and if there is any glory attached to this matter that don't really belong to that Indian with the ax, I shall be glad to hand that over to the Patrol."
As they had all been aroused so early, Swiftwater gave orders for an immediate start up Gold Creek as soon as breakfast was over, that they might get in a long day and possibly reach their destination before night. Just as they were aboard and were about casting off, one of the Indians who had disappeared for a time came running down to the water with a small bundle of fur in each hand. One was the skin of the wild cat killed the night before; the other the skin of his dog crushed to death by the bear that morning.
INTO THE WILDERNESS.
Skookum Joe, equipped with a dog tent and some provisions, had been left on the point of the junction of the Lewes River and Gold Creek, to await the arrival of the down-river steamer of the Yukon and White Pass Railroad Company to arrive that day, and he waved them a friendly farewell as the Indians slowly poled their boats out into the stream. The current of Gold Creek was by no means as swift as that of the Lewes, and, while Swiftwater Jim took command of one boat, Rand was made captain of the other. Both boats had been built with narrow walking boards along the sides after the manner of the celebrated pole boats that plied on the Mississippi and its tributaries in the upstream journies in Lincoln's time. One of the boys was told off to work with the three Indians in each boat for short stretches at a time, thus placing two men on each side with poles about twelve feet long, while the commander of each boat with a long oar gave an occasional impulse to the direction in the way of steering, although little of this was necessary. Two of the pole men would start at the bow of the boat, placing their poles on the bottom of the creek and walk the full length of the "running board." As they reached the stern, two others would start at the bow and walk down the boat while their predecessors returned to the bow.
The Indians seemed to be able to continue this performance without intermission, and feel no fatigue from it, but the Scout who was detailed to aid the Indians soon found himself suffering from a peculiar aching in the side and back, that Swiftwater described as the "Siwash Curve," due entirely to the fact that the white man in poling up a river would exert himself in a way that the average Indian considered unprofessional, and would try to hold back, thus adding to the "white man's burden." He insisted that the white man usually got over this after the first day's work, and tried to make it pleasant for the Siwash ever after. He limited the trick of each boy at the pole for the first day to one hour, and he himself and Rand took their own turns at the poles to relieve the aching and untried muscles of the younger Scouts. Soon after leaving the sandy banks and tundra of the lower stream, the creek began to wind its way through dense forests of spruce, poplar and oak with the ghostly bark of the birch lighting up the dim that marks the tangled wildwood of more southern climates, showing how little the sunlight of these northern climes penetrated the overshadowing canopy.
"Fine woods for huntin'," remarked Swiftwater to Jack, as they poled slowly up stream, "also for travelin' in winter. Bresh won't grow very far in from the streams this far north. Great country for garden stuff howsomever."
"Do you mean to say that vegetables will grow this far north?" inquired the interested reporter.
"Finest garden sass in the world in some sections. Why, there's a valley between the Yukon and the Tanana, three hundred miles north of here, that can grow anything but bananas and cocoanuts. I'm told they grow bigger potatoes and cabbages, and carrots and other plain, ordinary cooking vegetables up there within a couple of hundred miles of the Arctic Circle than they do down in Oregon, where every man's truck patch looks like the floral hall at the county fair when I was a boy."
"How can anything ripen in the short summers up here?" asked Don.
"All vegetation has got to have light, and the more it has the harder it will grow. Sun up here is on the job all the time. Reminds me of the year that I started out to be star performer with old John Robinson's circus back in Injianny. Got up at three a. m. to help feed the animals and hosses, and assist the chef in the cook tent; waited on table for the canvas men and other nobility from six to nine a. m., 'doubled in brass' as the sayin' goes, with the band, by carryin' the front end of the bass drum in the gra-a-nd street parade, wore a toga as a Roman senator in the great entree, handled jugglin' and other apparatus durin' two performances, and at midnight helped to take down the big top. The other three hours I had to myself. I don't mean to say that the sun up here in the summer time performs all those gymnastics, but he works the same number of hours and everything up here that wants to live must keep right up with him. Ground is frozen twenty feet deep, and thaws out about eighteen inches in the summer time. That furnishes moisture. Consequently, grass and vegetable are on the jump all the time, working twenty hours a day, and they manage to mature. Oats and other grains that have to grow long stalks, I understand, however, never top out."
The work of poling the boats up stream was varied at times by what Swiftwater described as "canal work." At stretch where the banks of the stream were reasonably high and precipitous, and the water of considerable depth close to the shore, the three Indians in each boat fastened themselves tandem to a long cable stretched from the bow of the boat to the shore, and towed the craft for miles at a time, while one of the boys with the long steering oar kept the bow away from the shore and headed up stream. This method was considerable relief from the steady poling which told perceptibly upon the back and shoulders of the novice, and it formed a method of rest for the Indians. The progress was about three miles per hour, and the boys alternately spent considerable time ashore, walking along the banks and occasionally relieving one or two of the Indians in the harness. The miner on the occasion of these tows spent most of his time ashore, directing the Indians and making frequent excursions into the neighboring forest with one or the other of the young Scouts, examining the timber and pointing out the peculiarities of the different trees. He carried with him a repeating shotgun, and was constantly on the lookout for game, both birds and mammals.