The Last Spike - And Other Railroad Stories
by Cy Warman
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Published February, 1906






















"Then there is nothing against him but his poverty?"

"And general appearance."

"He's the handsomest man in America."

"Yes, that is against him, and the fact that he is always in America. He appears to be afraid to get out."

"He's the bravest boy in the world," she replied, her face still to the window. "He risked his life to drag me from under the ice," she added, with a girl's loyalty to her hero and a woman's pride in the man she loves.

"Well, I must own he has nerve," her father added, "or he never would have accepted my conditions."

"And what where these conditions, pray?" the young woman asked, turning and facing her father, who sat watching her every move and gesture.

"First of all, he must do something; and do it off his own bat. His old father spent his last dollar to educate this young rascal, to equip him for the battle of life, and his sole achievement is a curve that nobody can find. Now I insist he shall do something, and I have given him five years for the work."

"Five years!" she gasped, as she lost herself in a big chair.

"He is to have time to forget you, and you are to have ample opportunity to forget him, which you will doubtless do, for you are not to meet or communicate with each other during this period of probation."

"Did he promise this?"

"Upon his honor."

"And if he break that promise?"

"Ah, then he would be without honor, and you would not marry him." A moment's silence followed, broken by a long, deep sigh that ended in little quivering waves, like the faint ripples that reach the shore,—the whispered echoes of the sobbing sea.

"O father, it is cruel! cruel! cruel!" she cried, raising a tearful face to him.

"It is justice, stern justice; to you, my dear, to myself, and this fine young fellow who has stolen your heart. Let him show himself worthy of you, and you have my blessing and my fortune."

"Is he going soon?"

"He is gone."

The young woman knelt by her father's chair and bowed her head upon his knee, quivering with grief.

This stern man, who had humped himself and made a million, put a hand on her head and said:

"Ma-Mary"—and then choked up.


The tent boy put a small white card down on General Dodge's desk one morning, upon which was printed:


The General, who was at that time chief engineer in charge of the construction of the first Pacific Railroad, turned the bit of pasteboard over. It seemed so short and simple. He ran his eyes over a printed list, alphabetically arranged, of directors, promoters, statesmen, capitalists, and others who were in the habit of signing "letters of recommendation" for young men who wanted to do something and begin well up the ladder.

There were no Bradfords. Burgess and Blodgett were the only B's, and the General was glad. His desk was constantly littered with the "letters" of tenderfeet, and his office-tent filled with their portmanteaus, holding dress suits and fine linen.

Here was a curiosity—a man with no press notices, no character, only one initial and two chasers.

"Show him in," said the General, addressing the one luxury his hogan held. A few moments later the chief engineer was looking into the eye of a young man, who returned the look and asked frankly, and without embarrassment, for work with the engineers.

"Impossible, young man—full up," was the brief answer.

"Now," thought the General, "he'll begin to beat his breast and haul out his 'pull.'" The young man only smiled sadly, and said, "I'm sorry. I saw an 'ad' for men in the Bee yesterday, and hoped to be in time," he added, rising.

"Men! Yes, we want men to drive mules and stakes, to grade, lay track, and fight Indians—but engineers? We've got 'em to use for cross-ties."

"I am able and willing to do any of these things—except the Indians—and I'll tackle that if nothing else offers."

"There's a man for you," said the General to his assistant as Bradford went out with a note to Jack Casement, who was handling the graders, teamsters, and Indian fighters. "No influential friends, no baggage, no character, just a man, able to stand alone—a real man in corduroys and flannels."

Coming up to the gang, Bradford singled out the man who was swearing loudest and delivered the note. "Fall in," said the straw boss, and Bradford got busy. He could handle one end of a thirty-foot rail with ease, and before night, without exciting the other workmen or making any show of superiority, he had quietly, almost unconsciously, become the leader of the track-laying gang. The foreman called Casement's attention to the new man, and Casement watched him for five minutes.

Two days later a big teamster, having found a bottle of fire-water, became separated from his reasoning faculties, crowded under an old dump-cart, and fell asleep.

"Say, young fellow," said the foreman, panting up the grade to where Bradford was placing a rail, "can you skin mules?"

"I can drive a team, if that's what you mean," was the reply.

"How many?"

"Well," said Bradford, with his quiet smile, "when I was a boy I used to drive six on the Montpelier stage."

So he took the eight-mule team and amazed the multitude by hauling heavier loads than any other team, because he knew how to handle his whip and lines, and because he was careful and determined to succeed. Whatever he did he did it with both hands, backed up by all the enthusiasm of youth and the unconscious strength of an absolutely faultless physique, and directed by a remarkably clear brain. When the timekeeper got killed, Bradford took his place, for he could "read writin'," an accomplishment rare among the laborers. When the bookkeeper got drunk he kept the books, working overtime at night.

In the rush and roar of the fight General Dodge had forgotten the young man in corduroys until General Casement called his attention to the young man's work. The engineers wanted Bradford, and Casement had kicked, and, fearing defeat, had appealed to the chief. They sent for Bradford. Yes, he was an engineer, he said, and when he said it they knew it was true. He was quite willing to remain in the store department until he could be relieved, but, naturally, he would prefer field work.

He got it, and at once. Also, he got some Indian fighting. In less than a year he was assigned to the task of locating a section of the line west of the Platte. Coming in on a construction train to make his first report, the train was held up, robbed, and burned by a band of Sioux. Bradford and the train crew were rescued by General Dodge himself, who happened to be following them with his "arsenal" car, and who heard at Plumb Creek of the fight and of the last stand that Bradford and his handful of men were making in the way car, which they had detached and pushed back from the burning train. Such cool heroism as Bradford displayed here could not escape the notice of so trained an Indian fighter as General Dodge. Bradford was not only complimented, but was invited into the General's private car. The General's admiration for the young pathfinder grew as he received a detailed and comprehensive report of the work being done out on the pathless plains. He knew the worth of this work, because he knew the country, for he had spent whole months together exploring it while in command of that territory, where he had been purposely placed by General Sherman, without whose encouragement the West could not have been known at that time, and without whose help as commander-in-chief of the United States army the road could not have been built.

As the pathfinders neared the Rockies the troops had to guard them constantly. The engineers reconnoitered, surveyed, located, and built inside the picket lines. The men marched to work to the tap of the drum, stacked arms on the dump, and were ready at a moment's notice to fall in and fight. Many of the graders were old soldiers, and a little fight only rested them. Indeed there was more military air about this work than had been or has since been about the building of a railroad in this country. It was one big battle, from the first stake west of Omaha to the last spike at Promontory—a battle that lasted five long years; and if the men had marked the graves of those who fell in that fierce fight their monuments, properly distributed, might have served as mile-posts on the great overland route to-day. But the mounds were unmarked, most of them, and many there were who had no mounds, and whose home names were never known even to their comrades. If this thing had been done on British soil, and all the heroic deeds had been recorded and rewarded, a small foundry could have been kept busy beating out V.C.'s. They could not know, these silent heroes fighting far out in the wilderness, what a glorious country they were conquering—what an empire they were opening for all the people of the land. Occasionally there came to the men at the front old, worn newspapers, telling wild stories of the failure of the enterprise. At other times they heard of changes in the Board of Directors, the election of a new President, tales of jobs and looting, but they concerned themselves only with the work in hand. No breath of scandal ever reached these pioneer trail-makers, or, if it did, it failed to find a lodging-place, but blew by. Ample opportunity they had to plunder, to sell supplies to the Indians or the Mormons, but no one of the men who did the actual work of bridging the continent has ever been accused of a selfish or dishonest act.

During his second winter of service Bradford slept away out in the Rockies, studying the snowslides and drifts. For three winters they did this, and in summer they set stakes, keeping one eye out for Indians and the other for wash-outs, and when, after untold hardships, privation, and youth-destroying labor, they had located a piece of road, out of the path of the slide and the washout, a well-groomed son of a politician would come up from the Capital, and, in the capacity of Government expert, condemn it all. Then strong men would eat their whiskers and the weaker ones would grow blasphemous and curse the country that afforded no facilities for sorrow-drowning.

Once, at the end of a long, hard winter, when spring and the Sioux came, they found Bradford and a handful of helpers just breaking camp in a sheltered hollow in the hills. Hiding in the crags, the warriors waited until Bradford went out alone to try to shoot a deer, and incidentally to sound a drift, and then they surrounded him. He fought until his gun was unloaded, and then emptied his revolver; but ever dodging and crouching from tree to rock, the red men, whose country he and his companions had invaded, came nearer and nearer. In a little while the fight was hand to hand. There was not the faintest show for escape; to be taken alive was to be tortured to death, so he fought on, clubbing his revolver until a well-directed blow from a war club caught the gun, sent it whirling through the top of a nearby cedar, and left the pathfinder empty-handed. The chief sprang forward and lifted his hatchet that had caused more than one paleface to bite the dust. For the faintest fraction of a second it stood poised above Bradford's head, then out shot the engineer's strong right arm, and the Indian lay flat six feet away.

For a moment the warriors seemed helpless with mingled awe and admiration, but when Bradford stooped to grab his empty rifle they came out of their trance. A dull blow, a sense of whirling round swiftly, a sudden sunset, stars—darkness, and all pain had gone!


When Bradford came to they were fixing him for the fun. His back was against a tree, his feet pinioned, and his elbows held secure by a rawhide rope. He knew what it meant. He knew by the look of joy on the freshly smeared faces at his waking, by the pitch-pine wood that had been brought up, and by the fagots at his feet. The big chief who had felt his fist came up, grinning, and jabbed a buckhorn cactus against the engineer's thigh, and when the latter tried to move out of reach they all grunted and danced with delight. They had been uneasy lest the white man might not wake.

The sun, sailing westward in a burnished sea of blue, seemed to stand still for a moment and then dropped down behind the range, as if to escape from the hellish scene. The shadows served only to increase the gloom in the heart of the captive. Glancing over his shoulder toward the east, he observed that his captors had brought him down near to the edge of the plain. Having satisfied themselves that their victim had plenty of life left in him, the Indians began to arrange the fuel. With the return of consciousness came an inexpressible longing to live. Suddenly his iron will asserted itself, and appealing to his great strength, surged until the rawhide ropes were buried in his flesh. Not for a moment while he stood on his feet and fought them on the morning of that day had hope entirely deserted him. Four years of hardship, of privation, and adventure had so strengthened his courage that to give up was to die.

Presently, when he had exhausted his strength and sat quietly, the Indians went on with the preliminaries. The gold in the west grew deeper, the shadows in the foothills darker, as the moments sped. Swiftly the captive's mind ran over the events of the past four years. This was his first failure, and this was the end of it all—of the years of working and waiting.

Clenching his fists, he lifted his hot face to the dumb sky, but no sound escaped from his parched and parted lips. Suddenly a light shone on the semicircle of feather-framed faces in front of him, and he heard the familiar crackling of burning boughs. Glancing toward the ground he saw that the fagots were on fire. He felt the hot breath of flame, and then for the first time realized what torture meant. Again he surged, and surged again, the cedars crackled, the red fiends danced. Another effort, the rawhide parted and he stood erect. With both hands freed he felt new strength, new hope. He tried to free himself from the pyre, but his feet were fettered, and he fell among his captors. Two or three of them seized him, but he shook them off and stood up again.

But it was useless. From every side the Indians rushed upon him and bore him to the ground. Still he fought and struggled, and as he fought the air seemed full of strange, wild sounds, of shouts and shots and hoof-beating on the dry, hard earth. He seemed to see, as through a veil, scores of Indians, Indians afoot and on horseback, naked Indians and Indians in soldier clothes. Once he thought he saw a white face gleam just as he got to his feet, but at that moment the big chief stood before him, his battle-axe uplifted. The engineer's head was whirling. Instinctively he tried to use the strong right arm, but it had lost its cunning. The roar of battle grew apace, the axe descended, the left arm went up and took the blow of the handle, but the edge of the weapon reached over and split the white man's chin. As he fell heavily to the earth the light went out again.

* * * * *

Save for the stars that stood above him it was still dark when Bradford woke. He felt blankets beneath him, and asked in a whisper: "Who's here?"

"Major North, me call him," said the Pawnee scout, who was watching over the wounded man.

A moment later the gallant Major was leaning over Bradford, encouraging him, assuring him that he was all right, but warning him of the danger of making the least bit of noise.


With all his strength and pluck, it took time for Bradford to recuperate. His next work was in Washington, where, with notes and maps, his strong personality and logical arguments, he caused the Government to overrule an expert who wanted to change an important piece of road, and who had arbitrarily fixed the meeting of the mountains and plains far up in the foothills.[1]

When Bradford returned to the West he found that the whole country had suddenly taken a great and growing interest in the transcontinental line. Many of the leading newspapers had dug up their old war correspondents and sent them out to the front.

These gifted prevaricators found the plain, unvarnished story of each day's work as much as they cared to send in at night, for the builders were now putting down four and five miles of road every working day. Such road building the world had never seen, and news of it now ran round the earth. At night these tireless story-tellers listened to the strange tales told by the trail-makers, then stole away to their tents and wrote them out for the people at home, while the heroes of the stories slept.

The track-layers were now climbing up over the crest of the continent, the locaters were dropping down the Pacific slope, with the prowling pathfinders peeping over into the Utah Valley. Before the road reached Salt Lake City the builders were made aware of the presence, power, and opposition of Brigham Young. The head of the church had decreed that the road must pass to the south of the lake, and as the Central Pacific had surveyed a line that way, and General Dodge had declared in favor of the northern route, the Mormons threw their powerful influence to the Southern. The Union Pacific was boycotted, and all good Mormons forbidden to aid the road in any way.

Here, again, the chief engineer brought Bradford's diplomacy to bear on Brigham and won him over.

While the Union Pacific was building west, the Central Pacific had been building east, and here, in the Salt Lake basin, the advance forces of the two companies met. The United States Congress directed that the rails should be joined wherever the two came together, but the bonus ($32,000 to the mile) left a good margin to the builders in the valley, so, instead of joining the rails, the pathfinders only said "Howdy do!" and then "Good-bye!" and kept going. The graders followed close upon the heels of the engineers, so that by the time the track-layers met the two grades paralleled each other for a distance of two hundred miles. When the rails actually met, the Government compelled the two roads to couple up. It had been a friendly contest that left no bad blood. Indeed they were all willing to stop, for the iron trail was open from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


The tenth day of May, 1869, was the date fixed for the driving of the last spike and the official opening of the line. Special trains, carrying prominent railway and Government officials, were hurrying out from the East, while up from the Golden Gate came another train bringing the flower of 'Frisco to witness, and some of them to take an active part in, the celebration. The day was like twenty-nine other May days that month in the Salt Lake Valley, fair and warm, but with a cool breeze blowing over the sagebrush. The dusty army of trail-makers had been resting for two days, waiting for the people to come in clean store clothes, to make speeches, to eat and drink, and drive the golden spike. Some Chinese laborers had opened a temporary laundry near the camp, and were coining money washing faded blue overalls for their white comrades. Many of the engineers and foremen had dressed up that morning, and a few had fished out a white shirt. Judah and Strawbridge, of the Central, had little chips of straw hats that had been harvested in the summer of '65. Here and there you saw a sombrero, the wide hat of the cowboy, and the big, soft, shapeless head cover of the Mormon, with a little bunch of whiskers on his chin. General Dodge came from his arsenal car, that stood on an improvised spur, in a bright, new uniform. Of the special trains, that of Governor Stanford was first to arrive, with its straight-stacked locomotive and Celestial servants. Then the U.P. engine panted up, with its burnished bands and balloon stack, that reminded you of the skirts the women wore, save that it funnelled down. When the ladies began to jump down, the cayuses of the cowboys began to snort and side-step, for they had seen nothing like these tents the women stood up in.

Elaborate arrangements had been made for transmitting the news of the celebration to the world. All the important telegraph offices of the country were connected with Promontory, Utah, that day, so that the blow of the hammer driving the last spike was communicated by the click of the instrument to every office reached by the wires. From the Atlantic to the Pacific the people were rejoicing and celebrating the event, but the worn heroes who had dreamed it over and over for five years, while they lay in their blankets with only the dry, hard earth beneath them, seemed unable to realize that the work was really done and that they could now go home, those who had homes to go to, eat soft bread, and sleep between sheets.

Out under an awning, made by stretching a blanket between a couple of dump-carts, Bradford lay, reading a 'Frisco paper that had come by Governor Stanford's special; but even that failed to hold his thoughts. His heart was away out on the Atlantic coast, and he would be hurrying that way on the morrow, the guest of the chief engineer. He had lost his mother when a boy, and his father just a year previous to his banishment, but he had never lost faith in the one woman he had loved, and he had loved her all his life, for they had been playmates. Now all this fuss about driving the last spike was of no importance to him. The one thing he longed for, lived for, was to get back to "God's country." He heard the speeches by Governor Stanford for the Central, and General Dodge for the Union Pacific; heard the prayer offered up by the Rev. Dr. Todd, of Pittsfield; heard the General dictate to the operator:

"All ready," and presently the operator sang out the reply from the far East:

"All ready here!" and then the silver hammer began beating the golden spike into the laurel tie, which bore a silver plate, upon which was engraved:

"The Last Tie Laid in the Completion of the Pacific Railroads. May 10, 1869."

After the ceremony there was handshaking among the men and some kissing among the women, as the two parties—one from either coast—mingled, and then the General's tent boy came under the blanket to call Bradford, for the General wanted him at once. Somehow Bradford's mind flew back to his first meeting with this boy. He caught the boy by the arms, held him off, and looked at him. "Say, boy," he asked, "have I changed as much as you have? Why, only the other day you were a freckled beauty in high-water trousers. You're a man now, with whiskers and a busted lip. Say, have I changed, too?"

"Naw; you're just the same," said the boy. "Come now, the Gen's waitin'."

"Judge Manning," said General Dodge, in his strong, clear voice, "you have been calling us 'heroes'; now I want to introduce the one hero of all this heroic band—the man who has given of muscle and brain all that a magnificent and brilliant young man could give, and who deserves the first place on the roll of honor among the great engineers of our time."

As the General pronounced the Judge's name Bradford involuntarily clenched his fists and stepped back. The Judge turned slowly, looking all the while at the General, thrilled by his eloquent earnestness, and catching something of the General's admiration for so eminent a man.

"Mr. Bradford," the General concluded, "this is Judge Manning, of Boston, who came to our rescue financially and helped us to complete this great work to which you have so bravely and loyally contributed."

"Mr. Bradford, did you say?"

"Well, yes. He's only Jim Bradford out here, where we are in a hurry, but he'll be Mr. Bradford in Boston, and the biggest man in town when he gets back."

All nervousness had gone from Bradford, and he looked steadily into the strong face before him.

"Jim Bradford," the millionnaire repeated, still holding the engineer's hand.

"Yes, Judge Manning, I'm Jim Bradford," said the bearded pathfinder, trying to smile and appear natural.

Suddenly realizing that some explanation was due the General, the Judge turned and said, but without releasing the engineer's hand: "Why, I know this young man—knew his father. We were friends from boyhood."

Slowly he returned his glance to Bradford. "Will you come into my car in an hour from now?" he asked.

"Thank you," said Bradford, nodding, and with a quick, simultaneous pressure of hands, the two men parted.


Bradford has often since felt grateful to the Judge for that five years' sentence, but never has he forgotten the happy thought that prompted the capitalist to give him this last hour, in which to get into a fresh suit and have his beard trimmed. Bradford wore a beard always now, not because a handsome beard makes a handsome man handsomer, but because it covered and hid the hideous scar in his chin that had been carved there by the Sioux chief.

When the black porter bowed and showed Bradford into Mr. Manning's private car, the pleasure of their late meeting and the Judge's kindly greeting vanished instantly. It was all submerged and swept away, obliterated and forgotten in the great wave of inexpressible joy that now filled and thrilled his throbbing heart, for it was Mary Manning who came forward to greet him. For nearly an hour she and her father had been listening to the wonderful story of the last five years of the engineer's life. When the wily General caught the drift of the young lady's mind, and had been informed of the conditional engagement of the young people, he left nothing unsaid that would add to the fame and glory of the trail-maker. With radiant face she heard of his heroism, tireless industry, and wonderful engineering feats; but when the narrator came to tell how he had been captured and held and tortured by the Indians, she slipped her trembling hand into the hand of her father, and when he saw her hot tears falling he lifted the hand and kissed it, leaving upon it tears of his own.

The Judge now produced his cigar case, and the General, bowing to the young lady, followed the great financier to the other end of the car, leaving Mary alone, for they had seen Bradford coming up the track.

The dew of her sweet sorrow was still upon her face when Bradford entered, but the sunshine of her smile soon dried it up. The hands he reached for escaped him. They were about his face; then their great joy and the tears it brought blinded them, and the wild beating of their happy hearts drowned their voices so that they could neither see nor hear, and neither has ever been able to say just what happened.

On the day following this happy meeting, when the consolidated special was rolling east-ward, while the Judge and the General smoked in the latter's car, the tent boy brought a telegram back to the happy pair. It was delivered to Miss Manning, and she read it aloud:

"WASHINGTON, May 11, 1869.


"In common with millions I sat yesterday and heard the mystic taps of the telegraph battery announce the nailing of the last spike in the Great Pacific Road. All honor to you, to Durant, to Jack and Dan Casement, to Reed and the thousands of brave followers who have wrought out this glorious problem, spite of changes, storms, and even doubts of the incredulous, and all the obstacles you have now happily surmounted!



"Well!" she exclaimed, letting her hands and the telegram fall in her lap, "he doesn't even mention my hero."

"Oh, yes, he does, my dear," said Bradford, laughing. "I'm one of the 'thousands of brave followers.'"

Then they both laughed and forgot it, for they were too happy to bother with trifles.


[Footnote 1: The subsidy from the Government was $16,000 a mile on the plains, and $48,000 a mile in the mountains.]


Athabasca Belle did not burst upon Smith the Silent all at once, like a rainbow or a sunrise in the desert. He would never say she had been thrust upon him. She was acquired, he said, in an unguarded moment.

The trouble began when Smith was pathfinding on the upper Athabasca for the new transcontinental. Among his other assets Smith had two camp kettles. One was marked with the three initials of the new line, which, at that time, existed only on writing material, empty pots, and equally empty parliamentary perorations. The other was not marked at all. It was the personal property of Jaquis, who cooked for Smith and his outfit. The Belle was a fine looking Cree—tall, strong, magnifique. Jaquis warmed to her from the start, but the Belle was not for Jaquis, himself a Siwash three to one. She scarcely looked at him, and answered him only when he asked if she'd encore the pork and beans. But she looked at Smith. She would sit by the hour, her elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand, watching him wistfully, while he drew crazy, crooked lines or pictured mountains with rivers running between them—all of which, from the Belle's point of view, was not only a waste of time, but had absolutely nothing to do with the case.

The Belle and her brown mother came to the camp of the Silent first one glorious morn in the moon of August, with a basket of wild berries and a pair of beaded moccasins. Smith bought both—the berries for Jaquis, out of which he built strange pies, and the moccasins for himself. He called them his night slippers, but as a matter of fact there was no night on the Athabasca at that time. The day was divided into three shifts, one long and two short ones,—daylight, dusk, and dawn. So it was daylight when the Belle first fixed her large dark eyes upon the strong, handsome face of Smith the Silent, as he sat on his camp stool, bent above a map he was making. Belle's mother, being old in years and unafraid, came close, looked at the picture for a moment, and exclaimed: "Him Jasper Lake," pointing up the Athabasca.

"You know Jasper Lake?" asked the engineer, glancing up for the first time.

"Oui," said the old woman (Belle's step-father was half French); "know 'im ver' well."

Smith looked her over as a matter of habit, for he allowed no man or woman to get by him with the least bit of information concerning the country through which his imaginary line lay. Then he glanced at Belle for fully five seconds, then back to his blue print. Nobody but a he-nun, or a man already wedded to the woods, could do that, but to the credit of the camp it will go down that the chief was the only man in the outfit who failed to feel her presence. As for Jaquis, the alloyed Siwash, he carried the scar of that first meeting for six months, and may, for aught I know, take it with him to his little swinging grave. Even Smith remembers to this day how she looked, standing there on her two trim ankles, that disappeared into her hand-turned sandals or faded in the flute and fringe of her fawn skin skirt. Her full bosom rose and fell, and you could count the beat of her wild heart in the throb of her throat. Her cheeks showed a faint flush of red through the dark olive,—the flush of health and youth,—her nostrils dilated, like those of an Ontario high-jumper, as she drank life from the dewy morn, while her eye danced with the joy of being alive. Jaquis sized and summed her up in the one word "magnific." But in that moment, when she caught the keen, piercing eye of the engineer, the Belle had a stroke that comes sooner or later to all these wild creatures of the wilderness, but comes to most people but once in a lifetime. She never forgot the gleam of that one glance, though the Silent one was innocent enough.

It was during the days that followed, when she sat and watched him at his work, or followed him for hours in the mountain fastnesses, that the Belle of Athabasca lost her heart.

When he came upon a bit of wild scenery and stopped to photograph it, the Belle stood back of him, watching his every movement, and when he passed on she followed, keeping always out of sight.

The Belle's mother haunted him. As often as he broke camp and climbed a little higher upstream, the brown mother moved also, and with her the Belle.

"What does this old woman want?" asked the engineer of Jaquis one evening when, returning to his tent, he found the fat Cree and her daughter camping on his trail.

"She want that pot," said Jaquis.

"Then for the love of We-sec-e-gea, god of the Crees," said Smith, "give it into her hands and bid her begone."

Jaquis did as directed, and the old Indian went away, but she left the girl.

The next day Smith started on a reconnoissance that would occupy three or four days. As he never knew himself when he would return, he never took the trouble to inform Jaquis, the tail of the family.

After breakfast the Belle went over to her mother's. She would have lunched with her mother from the much coveted kettle, but the Belle's mother told her that she should return to the camp of the white man, who was now her lord and master. So the Belle went back and lunched with Jaquis, who otherwise must have lunched alone. Jaquis tried to keep her, and wooed her in his half-wild way; but to her sensitive soul he was repulsive. Moreover, she felt that in some mysterious manner her mother had transferred her, together with her love and allegiance, to Smith the Silent, and to him she must be true. Therefore she returned to the Cree camp.

As the sinking sun neared the crest of the Rockies, the young Indian walked back to the engineer's camp. As she strode along the new trail she plucked wildflowers by the wayside and gathered leaves and wove them into vari-colored wreaths, swinging along with the easy grace of a wild deer.

Now some women would say she had not much to make her happy, but she was happy nevertheless. She loved a man—to her the noblest, most god-like creature of his kind,—and she was happy in abandoning herself to him. She had lived in this love so long, had felt and seen it grow from nothing to something formidable, then to something fine, until now it filled her and thrilled her; it overspread everything, outran her thoughts, brought the far-off mountains nearer, shortened the trail between her camp and his, gave a new glow to the sunset, a new glory to the dawn and a fresher fragrance to the wildflowers; the leaves whispered to her, the birds came, nearer and sang sweeter; in short it was her life—the sunshine of her soul. And that's the way a wild woman loves.

And she was to see him soon. Perhaps he would speak to her, or smile on her. If only he gave a passing glance she would be glad and content to know that he was near. Alas, he came not at all. She watched with the stars through the short night, slept at dawn, and woke to find Jaquis preparing the morning meal. She thought to question Jaquis, but her interest in the engineer, and the growing conviction that his own star sank as his master's rose, rendered him unsafe as a companion to a young bride whose husband was in the hills and unconscious of the fact that he was wedded to anything save the wilderness and his work.

Jaquis not only refused to tell her where the engineer was operating, but promised to strangle her if she mentioned his master's name again.

At last the long day died, the sunset was less golden, and the stars sang sadder than they sang the day before. She watched the west, into which he had gone and out of which she hoped he might return to her. Another round of dusk and dawn and there came another day, with its hours that hung like ages. When she sighed her mother scolded and Jaquis swore. When at last night came to curtain the hills, she stole out under the stars and walked and walked until the next day dawned. A lone wolf howled to his kith, but they were not hungry and refused to answer his call. Often, in the dark, she fancied she heard faint, feline footsteps behind her. Once a big black bear blocked her trail, staring at her with lifted muzzle wet with dew and stained with berry juice. She did not faint nor scream nor stay her steps, but strode on. Now nearer and nearer came the muffled footsteps behind her. The black bear backed from the trail and kept backing, pivoting slowly, like a locomotive on a turntable, and as she passed on, stood staring after her, his small eyes blinking in babylike bewilderment. And so through the dusk and dark and dawn this love-mad maiden walked the wilderness, innocent of arms, and with no one near to protect her save the little barefooted bowman whom the white man calls the God of Love.

Meanwhile away to the west, high in the hills, where the Findlay flowing into the Pine makes the Peace, then cutting through the crest of the continent makes a path for the Peace, Smith and his little army, isolated, remote, with no cable connecting them with the great cities of civilization, out of touch with the telegraph, away from the war correspondent, with only the music of God's rills for a regimental band, were battling bravely in a war that can end only with the conquest of a wilderness. Ah, these be the great generals—these unheralded heroes who, while the smoke of slaughter smudges the skies and shadows the sun, wage a war in which they kill only time and space, and in the end, without despoiling the rest of the world, win homes for the homeless. These are the heroes of the Anglo-Saxon race.

* * * * *

Finding no trace of the trail-makers, the Belle faced the rising sun and sought the camp of the Crees.

The mysterious shadow with the muffled tread, that had followed her from the engineer's camp, shrank back into the bush as she passed down the trail. That was Jaquis. He watched her as she strode by him, uncertain as to whether he loved or hated her, for well he knew why she walked the wilderness all night alone. Now the Gitche in his unhappy heart made him long to lift her in his arms and carry her to camp, and then the bad god, Mitche, would assert himself and say to the savage that was in him, "Go, kill her. She despises her race and flings herself at the white man's feet." And so, impelled by passion and stayed by love, he followed her. The white man within him made him ashamed of his skulking, and the Indian that was in him guided him around her and home by a shorter trail.

That night the engineers returned, and when Smith saw the Cree in the camp he jumped on Jaquis furiously.

"Why do you keep this woman here?" he demanded.

"I—keep? Me?" quoth Jaquis, blinking as bewildered as the black bear had blinked at the Belle.

"Who but you?—you heathen!" hissed the engineer.

Now Jaquis, calling up the ghosts of his dead sires, asserted that it was the engineer himself who was "keeping" the Cree. "You bought her—she's yours," said Jaquis, in the presence of the company.

"You ill-bred ——" Smith choked, and reached for a tent prop. The next moment his hand was at the Indian's throat. With a quick twist of his collar band he shut off the Siwash's wind, choking him to the earth.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, and Jaquis, coughing, put up his hands. "I meant no lie," said he. "Did you not give to her mother the camp kettle? She has it, marked G.T.P."

"And what of that?"

"Voila," said Jaquis, "because of that she gave to you the Belle of Athabasca."

Smith dropped his stick, releasing the Indian.

"I did not mean she is sold to you. She is trade—trade for the empty pot, the Belle—the beautiful. From yesterday to this day she followed you, far, very far, to the foot of the Grande Cote, and nothing harmed her. The mountain lion looked on her in terror, the timber wolf took to the hills, the black bear backed from the trail and let her pass in peace," said Jaquis, with glowing enthusiasm. It was the first time he had talked of her, save to the stars and to We-sec-e-gea, and he glowed and grew eloquent in praise of her.

"You take her," said Smith, with one finger levelled at the head of the cook, "to the camp of the Crees. Say to her mother that your master is much obliged for the beautiful gift, but he's too busy to get married and too poor to support a wife."

* * * * *

From the uttermost rim of the ring of light that came from the flickering fire la Belle the beautiful heard and saw all that had passed between the two men. She did not throw herself at the feet of the white man. Being a wild woman she did not weep nor cry out with the pain of his words, that cut like cold steel into her heart. She leaned against an aspen tree, stroking her throat with her left hand, swallowing with difficulty. Slowly from her girdle she drew a tiny hunting-knife, her one weapon, and toyed with it. She put the hilt to the tree, the point to her bare breast, and breathed a prayer to We-sec-e-gea, god of the Crees. She had only to throw the weight of her beautiful body on the blade, sink without a moan to the moss, and pass, leaving the camp undisturbed.

Smith marked the faintest hint of sarcasm in the half smile of the Indian as he turned away.

"Come here," he cried. Jaquis approached cautiously. "Now, you skulking son of a Siwash, this is to be skin for skin. If any harm comes to that young Cree you go to your little hammock in the hemlocks—you understand?"

"Oui, Monsieur," said Jaquis.

"Very well, then; remember—skin for skin."

Now to the Belle, watching from her shelter in the darkness, there was something splendid in this. To hear her praises sung by the Siwash, then to have the fair god, who had heard that story, champion her, to take the place of her protector, was all new to her. "Ah, good God," she sighed; "it is better, a thousand times better, to love and lose him than to waste one's life, never knowing this sweet agony."

She felt in a vague way that she was soaring above the world and its woes. At times, in the wild tumult of her tempestuous soul, she seemed to be borne beyond it all, through beautiful worlds. Love, for her, had taken on great white wings, and as he wafted her out of the wilderness and into her heaven, his talons tore into her heart and hurt like hell, yet she could rejoice because of the exquisite pleasure that surpassed the pain.

"Sweet We-sec-e-gea," she sighed, "good god of my dead, I thank thee for the gift of this great love that stays the steel when my aching heart yearns for it. I shall not destroy myself and distress him, disturbing him in his great work, whatever it is; but live—live and love him, even though he send me away."

She kissed the burnished blade and returned it to her belt.

When Jaquis, circling the camp, failed to find her, he guessed that she was gone, and hurried after her along the dim, starlit trail. When he had overtaken her, they walked on together. Jaquis tried now to renew his acquaintance with the handsome Cree and to make love to her. She heard him in absolute silence. Finally, as they were nearing the Cree camp, he taunted her with having been rejected by the white man.

"And my shame is yours," said she softly. "I love him; he sends me away. You love me; I send you from me—it is the same."

Jaquis, quieted by this simple statement, said good-night and returned to the tents, where the pathfinders were sleeping peacefully under the stars.

And over in the Cree camp the Belle of Athabasca, upon her bed of boughs, slept the sleep of the innocent, dreaming sweet dreams of her fair god, and through them ran a low, weird song of love, and in her dream Love came down like a beautiful bird and bore her out of this life and its littleness, and though his talons tore at her heart and hurt, yet was she happy because of the exquisite pleasure that surpassed all pain.


It was summer when my friend Smith, whose real name is Jones, heard that the new transcontinental line would build by the way of Peace River Pass to the Pacific. He immediately applied, counting something, no doubt, on his ten years of field work in Washington, Oregon, and other western states, and five years pathfinding in Canada.

The summer died; the hills and rills and the rivers slept, but while they slept word came to my friend Smith the Silent, and he hurriedly packed his sleds and set out.

His orders were, like the orders of Admiral Dewey, to do certain things—not merely to try. He was to go out into the northern night called winter, feel his way up the Athabasca, over the Smoky, follow the Peace River, and find the pass through the Rockies.

If the simple story of that winter campaign could be written out it would be finer than fiction. But it will never be. Only Smith the Silent knows, and he won't tell.

Sometimes, over the pipe, he forgets and gives me glimpses into the winter camp, with the sun going out like a candle: the hastily made camp with the half-breed spotting the dry wood against the coming moment when night would drop over the forest like a curtain over a stage; the "lean-to" between the burning logs, where he dozes or dreams, barely beyond the reach of the flames; the silence all about, Jaquis pulling at his pipe, and the huskies sleeping in the snow like German babies under the eiderdown. Sometimes, out of the love of bygone days, he tells of long toilsome journeys with the sun hiding behind clouds out of which an avalanche of snow falls, with nothing but the needle to tell where he hides; of hungry dogs and half starved horses, and lakes and rivers fifty and a hundred miles out of the way.

Once, he told me, he sent an engineer over a low range to spy out a pass. By the maps and other data they figured that he would be gone three days, but a week went by and no word from the pathfinder. Ten days and no news. On the thirteenth day, when Smith was preparing to go in search of the wanderer, the running gear of the man and the framework of the dogs came into camp. He was able to smile and say to Smith that he had been ten days without food, save a little tea. For the dogs he had had nothing.

A few days rest and they were on the trail again, or on the "go" rather; and you might know that disciple of Smith the Silent six months or six years before he would, unless you worked him, refer to that ten days' fast. They think no more of that than a Jap does of dying. It's all in the day's work.

Suddenly, Smith said, the sun swung north, the days grew longer. The sun grew hot and the snow melted on the south hills; the hushed rivers, rending their icy bonds, went roaring down to the Lakes and out towards the Arctic Ocean. And lo, suddenly, like the falling of an Arctic night, the momentary spring passed and it was summer time.

Then it was that Smith came into Edmonton to make his first report, and here we met for the first time for many snows.

Joyously, as a boy kicks the cover off on circus morning, this Northland flings aside her winter wraps and stands forth in her glorious garb of summer. The brooklets murmur, the rivers sing, and by their banks and along the lakes waterfowl frolic, and overhead glad birds, that seem to have dropped from the sky, sing joyfully the almost endless song of summer. At the end of the long day, when the sun, as if to make up for its absence, lingers, loath to leave us in the twilight, beneath their wings the song-birds hide their heads, then wake and sing, for the sun is swinging up over the horizon where the pink sky, for an hour, has shown the narrow door through which the day is dawning.

The dogs and sleds have been left behind and now, with Jaquis the half-breed "boy" leading, followed closely by Smith the Silent, we go deeper and deeper each day into the pathless wilderness.

To be sure it is not all bush, all forest. At times we cross wide reaches of wild prairie lands. Sometimes great lakes lie immediately in front of us, compelling us to change our course. Now we come to a wide river and raft our outfit over, swimming our horses. Weeks go by and we begin to get glimpses of the Rockies rising above the forest, and we push on. The streams become narrower as we ascend, but swifter and more dangerous.

We do not travel constantly now, as we have been doing. Sometimes we keep our camp for two or three days. The climbing is hard, for Smith must get to the top of every peak in sight, and so I find it "good hunting" about the camp.

Jaquis is a fairly good cook, and what he lacks we make up with good appetites, for we live almost constantly out under the sun and stars.

Pathfinders always lay up on Sunday, and sometimes, the day being long, Smith steals out to the river and comes back with a mountain trout as long as a yardstick.

The scenery is beyond description. Now we pass over the shoulder of a mountain with a river a thousand feet below. Sometimes we trail for hours along the shore of a limpid lake that seems to run away to the foot of the Rockies.

Far away we get glimpses of the crest of the continent, where the Peace River gashes it as if it had been cleft by the sword of the Almighty; and near the Rockies, on either bank, grand battlements rise that seem to guard the pass as the Sultan's fortresses frown down on the Dardanelles.

Now we follow a narrow trail that was not a trail until we passed. A careless pack-horse, carrying our blankets, slips from the path and goes rolling and tumbling down the mountain side. A thousand feet below lies an arm of the Athabasca. Down, down, and over and over the pack-horse goes, and finally fetches up on a ledge five hundred feet below the trail. "By damn," says Jaquis, "dere is won bronco bust, eh?"

Smith and Jaquis go down to cut the cinches and save the pack, and lo, up jumps our cayuse, and when he is repacked he takes the trail as good as new. The pack and the low bush save his life.

In any other country, to other men, this would be exciting, but it's all in the day's work with Smith and Jaquis.

The pack-pony that had been down the mountain is put in the lead now—that is, in the lead of the pack animals; for he has learned his lesson, he will be careful. And yet we are to have other experiences along this same river.

Suddenly, down a side canon, a mountain stream rushes, plunging into the Athabasca, joyfully, like a sea-bather into the surf. Jaquis calls this side-stream "the mill-tail o' hell." Smith the Silent prepares to cross. It's all very simple. All you need is a stout pole, a steady nerve, and an utter disregard for the hereafter.

When Smith is safe on the other shore we drive the horses into the stream. They shudder and shrink from the ice-cold water, but Jaquis and I urge them, and in they plunge. My, what a struggle! Their wet feet on the slippery boulders in the bottom of the stream, the swift current constantly tripping them—it was thrilling to see and must have been agony for the animals.

Midway, where the current was strongest, a mouse-colored cayuse carrying a tent lost his feet. The turbulent tide slammed him up on top of a great rock, barely hidden beneath the water, and he got to his feet like a cat that has fallen upon the edge of an eave-trough. Trembling, the cayuse called to Smith, and Smith, running downstream, called back, urging the animal to leave the refuge and swim for it. The pack-horse perched on the rock gazes wistfully at the shore. The waters, breaking against his resting-place, wash up to his trembling knees. About him the wild river roars, and just below leaps over a ten-foot fall into the Athabasca.

All the other horses, having crossed safely, shake the water from their dripping sides and begin cropping the tender grass. We could have heard that horse's heart beat if we could have hushed the river's roar.

Smith called again, the cayuse turned slightly, and whether he leaped deliberately or his feet slipped on the slippery stones, forcing him to leap, we could not say, but he plunged suddenly into the stream, uttering a cry that echoed up the canon and over the river like the cry of a lost soul.

The cruel current caught him, lifted him, and plunged him over the drop, and he was lost instantly in the froth and foam of the falls.

Far down, at a bend of the Athabasca, something white could be seen drifting towards the shore. That night Smith the Silent made an entry in his little red book marked "Grand Trunk Pacific," and tented under the stars.


"A country that is bad or good, Precisely as your claim pans out; A land that's much misunderstood, Misjudged, maligned and lied about."

When the pathfinders for the New National Highway pushed open the side door and peeped through to the Pacific they not only discovered a short cut to Yokohama, but opened to the world a new country, revealing the last remnant of the Last West.

Edmonton is the outfiling point, of course, but Little Slave Lake is the real gateway to the wilderness. Here we were to make our first stop (we were merely exploring), and from this point our first portage was to the Peace River, at Chinook, where we would get into touch once more with the Hudson's Bay Company.

Jim Cromwell, the free trader who was in command of Little Slave, made us welcome, introducing us ensemble to his friend, a former H.B. factor, to the Yankee who was looking for a timber limit, to the "Literary Cuss," as he called the young man in corduroys and a wide white hat, who was endeavoring to get past "tradition," that has damned this Dominion both in fiction and in fact for two hundred years, and do something that had in it the real color of the country.

At this point the free trader paused to assemble the Missourian. This iron-gray individual shook himself out, came forward, and gripped our hands, one after another.

The free trader would not allow us to make camp that night. We were sentenced to sup and lodge with him, furnishing our own bedding, of course, but baking his bread.

The smell of cooking coffee and the odor of frying fish came to us from the kitchen, and floating over from somewhere the low, musical, well modulated voice of Cromwell, conversing in Cree, as he moved about among his mute and apparently inoffensive camp servants.

The day died hard. The sun was still shining at 9 P.M. At ten it was twilight, and in the dusk we sat listening to tales of the far North, totally unlike the tales we read in the story-books. Smith the Silent, who was in charge of our party, was interested in the country, of course, its physical condition, its timber, its coal, and its mineral possibilities. He asked about its mountains and streams, its possible and impossible passes; but the "Literary Cuss" and I were drinking deeply of weird stories that were being told quite incautiously by the free trader, the old factor, and by the Missourian. We were like children, this young author and I, sitting for the first time in a theatre. The flickering camp fire that we had kindled in the open served as a footlight, while the Gitch Lamp, still gleaming in the west, glanced through the trees and lit up the faces of the three great actors who were entertaining us without money and without price. The Missourian was the star. He had been reared in the lap of luxury, had run away from college where he had been installed by a rich uncle, his guardian, and jumped down to South America. He had ridden with the Texas Rangers and with President Diaz's Regulators, had served as a scout on the plains and worked with the Mounted Police, but was now "retired."

All of which we learned not from him directly, but from the stories he told and from his bosom friend, the free trader, whose guests we were, and whose word, for the moment at least, we respected.

The camp fire burned down to a bed of coals, the Gitch Lamp went out. In the west, now, there was only a glow of gold, but no man moved.

Smith the Pathfinder and our host the free trader bent over a map. "But isn't this map correct?" Smith would ask, and when in doubt Jim would call the Missourian. "No," said the latter, "you can't float down that river because it flows the other way, and that range of mountains is two hundred miles out."

Gradually we became aware that all this vast wilderness, to the world unknown, was an open book to this quiet man who had followed the buffalo from the Rio Grande to the Athabasca where he turned, made a last stand, and then went down.

When the rest had retired the free trader and I sat talking of the Last West, of the new trail my friends were blazing, and of the wonderfully interesting individual whom we called the Missourian.

"He had a prospecting pard," said Jim, "whom he idolized. This man, whose name was Ramsey, Jack Ramsey, went out in '97 between the Coast Range and the Rockies, and now this sentimental old pioneer says he will never leave the Peace River until he finds Ramsey's bones.

"You see," Cromwell continued, "friendship here and what goes for friendship outside are vastly different. The matter of devoting one's life to a friend or to a duty, real or fancied, is only a trifle to these men who abide in the wilderness. I know of a Chinaman and a Cree who lived and died the most devoted friends. You see the Missourian hovering about the last camping-place of his companion. Behold the factor! He has left the Hudson Bay Company after thirty years because he has lost his life's best friend, a man who spoke another language, whose religion was not the brand upon which the factor had been brought up in England; yet they were friends."

The camp fire had gone out. In the south we saw the first faint flush of dawn as Cromwell, knocking the ashes from his pipe, advised me to go to bed. "You get the old factor to tell you the story of his friend the cure, and of the cure's Christmas gift," Cromwell called back, and I made a point of getting the story, bit by bit, from the florid factor himself, and you shall read it as it has lingered in my memory.

When the new cure came to Chinook on the Upper Peace River, he carried a small hand-satchel, his blankets, and a crucifix. His face was drawn, his eyes hungry, his frame wasted, but his smile was the smile of a man at peace with the world. The West—the vast, undiscovered Canadian West—jarred on the sensitive nerves of this Paris-bred priest. And yet, when he crossed the line that marks what we are pleased to call "civilization," and had reached the heart of the real Northwest, where the people were unspoiled, natural, and honest, where a handful of Royal Northwest Mounted Police kept order in an empire that covers a quarter of a continent, he became deeply interested in this new world, in the people, in the imperial prairies, the mountains, and the great wide rivers that were racing down to the northern sea.

The factor at the Hudson's Bay post, whose whole life since he had left college in England had been passed on the Peace River, at York Factory, and other far northern stations over which waved the Hudson's Bay banner, warmed to the new cure from their first meeting, and the cure warmed to him. Each seemed to find in the other a companion that neither had been able to find among the few friends of his own faith.

And so, through the long evenings of the northern winter, they sat in the cure's cabin study or by the factor's fire, and talked of the things which they found interesting, including politics, literature, art, and Indians. Despite the great gulf that rolled between the two creeds in which they had been cradled, they found that they were in accord three times in five—a fair average for men of strong minds and inherent prejudices. At first the cure was anxious to get at the real work of "civilizing" the natives.

"Yes," the factor would say, blowing the smoke upward, "the Indian should be civilized—slowly—the slower the better."

The cure would pretend to look surprised as he relit his pipe. Once the cure asked the factor why he was so indifferent to the welfare of the Crees, who were the real producers, without whose furs there would be no trade, no post, no job for the ruddy-faced factor. The priest was surprised that the factor should appear to fail to appreciate the importance of the trapper.

"I do," said the factor.

"Then why do you not help us to lift him to the light?"

"I like him," was the laconic reply.

"Then why don't you talk to him of his soul?"

"Haven't the nerve," said the factor, shaking his head and blowing more smoke.

The cure shrugged his shoulders.

"I say," said the florid factor, facing the pale priest. "Did you see me decorating the old chief, Dunraven, yesterday?"

"Yes, I presume you were giving him a pour boire in advance to secure the greater catch of furs next season," said the priest, with his usual sad yet always pleasant smile.

"A very poor guess for one so wise," said the factor. "Attendez," he continued. "This post used to be closed always in winter. The tent doors were tied fast on the inside, after which the man who tied them would crawl out under the edge of the canvas. When winter came, the snow, banked about, held the tent tightly down, and the Hudson's Bay business was bottled at this point until the springless summer came to wake the sleeping world.

"Last winter was a hard winter. The snow was deep and game scarce. One day a Cree Indian found himself in need of tea and tobacco, and more in need of a new pair of trousers. Passing the main tent one day, he was sorely tempted. Dimly, through the parchment pane, he could see great stacks of English tweeds, piles of tobacco, and boxes of tea, but the tent was closed. He was sorely tried. He was hungry—hungry for a horn of tea and a twist of the weed, and cold, too. Ah, bon pere, it is hard to withstand cold and hunger with only a canvas between one and the comforts of life!"

"Oui, Monsieur!" said the cure, warmly, touched by the pathos of the tale.

"The Indian walked away (we know that by his footprints), but returned to the tent. The hunger and the cold had conquered. He took his hunting-knife and slit the deerskin window and stepped inside. Then he approached the pile of tweed trousers and selected a large pair, putting down from the bunch of furs he had on his arms to the value of eight skins—the price his father and grandfather had paid. He visited the tobacco pile and helped himself, leaving four skins on the tobacco. When he had taken tea he had all his heart desired, and having still a number of skins left, he hung them upon a hook overhead and went away.

"When summer dawned and a clerk came to open the post, he saw the slit in the window, and upon entering the tent saw the eight skins on the stack of tweeds, the four skins on the tobacco, and the others on the chest, and understood.

"Presently he saw the skins which the Indian had hung upon the hook, took them down, counted them carefully, appraised them, and made an entry in the Receiving Book, in which he credited 'Indian-cut-the-window, 37 skins.'

"Yesterday Dunraven came to the post and confessed.

"It was to reward him for his honesty that I gave him the fur coat and looped the big brass baggage check in his buttonhole. Voila!"

The cure crossed his legs and then recrossed them, tossed his head from side to side, drummed upon the closed book which lay in his lap, and showed in any number of ways, peculiar to nervous people, his amazement at the story and his admiration for the Indian.

"Little things like that," said the factor, filling his pipe, "make me timid when talking to a Cree about 'being good.'"

* * * * *

When summer came, and with it the smell of flowers and the music of running streams, the factor and his friend the cure used to take long tramps up into the highlands, but the cure's state of health was a handicap to him. The factor saw the telltale flush in the priest's face and knew that the "White Plague" had marked him; yet he never allowed the cure to know that he knew. That summer a little river steamer was sent up from Athabasca Lake by the Chief Commissioner who sat in the big office at Winnipeg, and upon this the factor and his friend took many an excursion up and down the Peace. The friendship that had grown up between the factor and the new cure formed the one slender bridge that connected the Anglican and the Catholic camps. Even the "heathen Crees" marvelled that these white men, praying to the same God, should dwell so far apart. Wing You, who had wandered over from Ramsay's Camp on the Pine River, explained it all to Dunraven: "Flenchman and Englishman," said Wing. "No ketchem same Glod. You—Clee," continued the wise Oriental, "an' Englishman good flend—ketchem same Josh; you call 'im We-sec-e-gea, white man call 'im God."

And so, having the same God, only called by different names, the Crees trusted the factor, and the factor trusted the Crees. Their business intercourse was on the basis of skin for skin, furs being the recognized coin of the country.

"Why do you not pay them in cash, take cash in turn, and let them have something to rattle?" asked the cure one day.

"They won't have it," said the factor. "Silver Skin, brother to Dunraven, followed a party of prospectors out to Edmonton last fall and tried it. He bought a pair of gloves, a red handkerchief, and a pound of tobacco, and emptied his pockets on the counter, so that the clerk in the shop might take out the price of the goods. According to his own statement, the Indian put down $37.80. He took up just six-thirty-five. When the Cree came back to God's country he showed me what he had left and asked me to check him up. When I had told him the truth, he walked to the edge of the river and sowed the six-thirty-five broadcast on the broad bosom of the Peace."

And so, little by little, the patient priest got the factor's view-point, and learned the great secret of the centuries of success that has attended the Hudson's Bay Company in the far North.

And little by little the two men, without preaching, revealed to the Indians and the Oriental the mystery of Life—vegetable life at first—of death and life beyond. They showed them the miracle of the wheat.

On the first day of June they put into a tiny grave a grain of wheat. They told the Blind Ones that the berry would suffer death, decay, but out of that grave would spring fresh new flags that would grow and blow, fanned by the balmy chinook winds, and wet by the dews of heaven.

On the first day of September they harvested seventy-two stalks and threshed from the seventy-two stalks seven thousand two hundred grains of wheat. They showed all this to the Blind Ones and they saw. The cure explained that we, too, would go down and die, but live again in another life, in a fairer world.

The Cree accepted it all in absolute silence, but the Oriental, with his large imagination, exclaimed, pointing to the tiny heap of golden grain: "Me ketchem die, me sleep, byme by me wake up in China—seven thousand—heap good." The cure was about to explain when the factor put up a warning finger. "Don't cut it too fine, father," said he. "They're getting on very well."

That was a happy summer for the two men, working together in the garden in the cool dawn and chatting in the long twilight that lingers on the Peace until 11 P.M. Alas! as the summer waned the factor saw that his friend was failing fast. He could walk but a short distance now without resting, and when the red rose of the Upper Athabasca caught the first cold kiss of Jack Frost, the good priest took to his bed. Wing You, the accomplished cook, did all he could to tempt him to eat and grow strong again. Dunraven watched from day to day for an opportunity to "do something"; but in vain. The faithful factor made daily visits to the bedside of his sick friend. As the priest, who was still in the springtime of his life, drew nearer to the door of death, he talked constantly of his beloved mother in far-off France—a thing unusual for a priest, who is supposed to burn his bridges when he leaves the world for the church.

Often when he talked thus, the factor wanted to ask his mother's name and learn where she lived, but always refrained.

Late in the autumn the factor was called to Edmonton for a general conference of all the factors in the employ of the Honorable Company of gentlemen adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay. With a heavy heart he said good-bye to the failing priest.

When he had come within fifty miles of Chinook, on the return trip, he was wakened at midnight by Dunraven, who had come out to ask him to hurry up as the cure was dying, but wanted to speak to the factor first.

Without a word the Englishman got up and started forward, Dunraven leading on the second lap of his "century."

It was past midnight again when the voyageurs arrived at the river. There was a dim light in the cure's cabin, to which Dunraven led them, and where the Catholic bishop and an Irish priest were on watch. "So glad to see you," said the bishop. "There is something he wants from your place, but he will not tell Wing. Speak to him, please."

"Ah, Monsieur, I'm glad that you are come—I'm weary and want to be off."

"The long traverse, eh?"

"Oui, Monsieurle grand voyage."

"Is there anything I can do for you?" asked the Englishman. The dying priest made a movement as if hunting for something. The bishop, to assist, stepped quickly to his side. The patient gave up the quest of whatever he was after and looked languidly at the factor. "What is it, my son?" asked the bishop, bending low. "What would you have the factor fetch from his house?"

"Just a small bit of cheese," said the sick man, sighing wearily.

"Now, that's odd," mused the factor, as he went off on his strange errand.

When the Englishman returned to the cabin, the bishop and the priest stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. Upon a bench on the narrow veranda Dunraven sat, resting after his hundred-mile tramp, and on the opposite side of the threshold Wing You lay sleeping in his blankets, so as to be in easy call if he were wanted.

When the two friends were alone, the sick man signalled, and the factor drew near.

"I have a great favor—a very great favor to ask of you," the priest began, "and then I'm off. Ah, mon Dieu!" he panted. "It has been hard to hold out. Jesus has been kind."

"It's damned tough at your time, old fellow," said the factor, huskily.

"It's not my time, but His."

"Yes—well I shall be over by and by."

"And those faithful dogs—Dunraven and Wing—thank them for—"

"Sure! If I can pass," the factor broke in, a little confused.

"Thank them for me—for their kindnesses—and care. Tell them to remember the sermon of the wheat. And now, good friend," said the priest, summoning all his strength, "attendez!"

He drew a thin, white hand from beneath the cover, carrying a tiny crucifix. "I want you to send this to my beloved mother by registered post; send it yourself, please, so that she may have it before the end of the year. This will be my last Christmas gift to her. And the one that comes from her to me—that is for you, to keep in remembrance of me. And write to her—oh, so gently tell her—Jesus—help me," he gasped, sitting upright. "She lives in Rue —— O Mary, Mother of Jesus," he cried, clutching at the collar of his gown; and then he fell back upon his bed, and his soul swept skyward like a toy balloon when the thin thread snaps.

When the autumn sun smiled down on Chinook and the autumn wind sighed in by the door and out by the open window where the dead priest lay, Wing and Dunraven sat on the rude bench in the little veranda, going over it all, each in his own tongue, but uttering never a word, yet each to the other expressing the silence of his soul.

The factor, in the seclusion of his bachelor home, held the little cross up and examined it critically. "To be sent to his mother, she lives in Rue —— Ah, if I could have been but a day sooner; yet the bishop must know," he added, putting the crucifix carefully away.

The good people in the other world, beyond the high wall that separated the two Christian Tribes, had been having shivers over the factor and his fondness for the Romans; but when he volunteered to assist at the funeral of his dead friend, his people were shocked. In that scant settlement there were not nearly enough priests to perform, properly, the funeral services, so the factor fell in, mingling his deep full voice with the voices of the bishop and the Irish brother, and grieving even as they grieved.

And the Blind Ones, Wing and Dunraven, came also, paying a last tearless tribute to the noble dead.

When it was all over and the post had settled down to routine, the factor found in his mail, one morning, a long letter from the Chief Commissioner at Winnipeg. It told the factor that he was in bad repute, that the English Church bishop had been grieved, shocked, and scandalized through seeing the hitherto respectable factor going over to the Catholics. Not only had he fraternized with them, but had actually taken part in their religious ceremonies. And to crown it all, he had carried, a respectable Cree and the Chinese cook along with him.

The factor's placid face took on a deep hue, but only for a moment. He filled his pipe, poking the tobacco down hard with his thumb. Then he took the Commissioner's letter, twisted it up, touched it to the tiny fire that blazed in the grate, and lighted his pipe. He smoked in silence for a few moments and then said to himself, being alone, "Huh!"

"Ah, that from the bishop reminds me," said the factor. "I must run over and see the other one."

When the factor had related to the French-Canadian bishop what had passed between the dead cure and himself, the bishop seemed greatly annoyed. "Why, man, he had no mother!"

"The devil he didn't—I beg pardon—I say he asked me to send this to his mother. He started to tell me where she lived and then the call came. It was the dying request of a dear friend. I beg of you tell me his mother's name, that I may keep my word."

"It is impossible, my son. When he came into the church he left the world. He was bound by the law of the church to give up father, mother, sister, brother—all."

"The church be—do you mean to say—"

"Peace, my son, you do not understand," said the bishop, lifting the little cross which he had taken gently from the factor at the beginning of the interview.

Now the factor was not in the habit of having his requests ignored and his judgment questioned.

"Do you mean to say you will not give me the name and address of the dead man's mother?"

"It's absolutely impossible. Moreover, I am shocked to learn that our late brother could so far forget his duty at the very door of death. No, son, a thousand times no," said the bishop.

"Then give me the crucifix!" demanded the factor, fiercely.

"That, too, is impossible; that is the property of the church."

"Well," said the factor, filling his pipe again and gazing into the flickering fire, "they're all about the same. And they're all right, too, I presume—all but Wing and Dunraven and me."


As Waterloo lingered in the memory of the conquered Corsican, so Ashtabula was burned into the brain of Bradish. Out of that awful wreck he crawled, widowed and childless. For a long time he did not realize, for his head was hurt in that frightful crash.

By the time he was fit to leave the hospital they had told him, little by little, that all his people had perished.

He made his way to the West, where he had a good home and houses to rent and a hole in the hillside that was just then being changed from a prospect to a mine.

The townspeople, who had heard of the disaster, waited for him to speak of it—but he never did. The neighbors nodded, and he nodded to them and passed on about his business. The old servant came and asked if she should open the house, and he nodded. The man-servant—the woman's husband—came also, and to him Bradish nodded; and at noon he had luncheon alone in the fine new house that had just been completed a year before the catastrophe.

About once a week Bradish would board the midnight express, ride down the line for a few hundred miles, and double back.

When he went away they knew he had gone, and when he came back they knew he had returned and that was as much as his house-keeper, his agent, or the foreman at the mines could tell you.

One would have thought that the haunting memory of Ashtabula would have kept him at home for the rest of his life; but he seemed to travel for the sake of the ride only, or for no reason, as a deaf man walks on the railroad-track.

Gradually he extended his trips, taking the Midland over into Utah; and once or twice he had been seen on the rear end of the California Limited as it dropped down the western water-shed of Raton Range.

One night, when the Limited was lapping up the landscape and the Desert was rushing in under her pilot and streaking out below the last sleeper like tape from a ticker, the danger signal sounded in the engine cab, the air went on full, the passengers braced themselves against the seats in front of them, or held their breath in their berths as the train came to a dead stop.

The conductor and the head man hurried forward shouting, "What's the matter?" to the engineer.

The driver, leaning from his lofty window, asked angrily, "What in thunder's the matter with you? I got a stop signal from behind."

"You'd better lay off and have a good sleep," said the conductor.

"I'll put you to sleep for a minute if you ever hint that I was not awake coming down Canon Diablo," shouted the engineer, releasing his brakes. As the long, heavy train glided by, the trainmen swung up like sailors, and away went the Limited over the long bridge, five minutes to the bad.

A month later the same thing happened on the East end. The engineer was signalled and stopped on a curve with the point of his pilot on a high bridge.

This time the captain and the engineer were not so brittle of temper. They discussed the matter, calling on the fireman, who had heard nothing, being busy in the coal-tank.

The head brakeman, crossing himself, said it was the "unseen hand" that had been stopping the Limited on the Desert. It might be a warning, he said, and walked briskly out on the bridge looking for dynamite, ghosts, and things.

When he had reached the other end of the bridge, he gave the go-ahead signal and the train pulled out. As they had lost seven minutes, it was necessary for the conductor to report "cause of delay;" and that was the first hint the officials of any of the Western lines had of the "unseen hand."

Presently trainmen, swapping yarns at division stations, heard of the mysterious signal on other roads.

The Columbia Limited, over on the Short Line, was choked with her head over Snake River, at the very edge of Pendleton. When they had pulled in and a fresh crew had taken the train on, the in-coming captain and his daring driver argued over the incident and they each got ten days,—not for the delay, but because they could not see to sign the call-book next morning and were not fit to be seen by other people.

The next train stopped was the International Limited on the Grand Trunk, then the Sunset by the South Coast.

The strange phenomenon became so general that officials lost patience. One road issued an order to the effect that any engineer who heard signals when there were no signals should get thirty days for the first and his time for the second offence.

Within a week from the appearance of the unusual and unusually offensive bulletin, "Baldy" Hooten heard the stop signal as he neared a little Junction town where his line crossed another on an overhead bridge.

When the signal sounded, the fireman glanced over at the driver, who dived through the window up to his hip pockets.

When the engine had crashed over the bridge, the driver pulled himself into the cab again, and once more the signal. The fireman, amazed, stared at the engineer. The latter jerked the throttle wide open; seeing which, the stoker dropped to the deck and began feeding the hungry furnace. Ten minutes later the Limited screamed for a regular stop, ten miles down the line. As the driver dropped to the ground and began touching the pins and links with the back of his bare hand, to see if they were all cool, the head brakeman trotted forward whispering hoarsely, "The ol' man's aboard."

The driver waved him aside with his flaring torch, and up trotted the blue-and-gold conductor with his little silver white-light with a frosted flue. "Why didn't you stop at Pee-Wee Junction?" he hissed.

"Is Pee-Wee a stop station?"

"On signal."

"I didn't see no sign."

"I pulled the bell."

"Go on now, you ghost-dancer," said the engineer.

"You idiot!" gasped the exasperated conductor. "Don't you know the old man's on, that he wanted to stop at Pee-Wee to meet the G.M. this morning, that a whole engineering outfit will be idle there for half a day, and you'll get the guillotine?"

"Whew, you have shore got 'em."

"Isn't your bell working?" asked a big man who had joined the group under the cab window.

"I think so, sir," said the driver, as he recognized the superintendent. "Johnny, try that cab bell," he shouted, and the fire-boy sounded the big brass gong.

"Why didn't you take it at Pee-Wee?" asked the old man, holding his temper beautifully.

The driver lifted his torch and stared almost rudely into the face of the official in front of him. "Why, Mr. Skidum," said he slowly, "I didn't hear no signal."

The superintendent was blocked.

As he turned and followed the conductor into the telegraph office, the driver, gloating in his high tower of a cab, watched him.

"He's an old darling," said he to the fire-boy, "and I'm ready to die for him any day; but I can't stop for him in the face of bulletin 13. Thirty days for the first offence, and then fire," he quoted, as he opened the throttle and steamed away, four minutes late.

The old man drummed on the counter-top in the telegraph office, and then picked up a pad and wrote a wire to his assistant:—

"Cancel general order No. 13."

The night man slipped out in the dawn and called the day man who was the station master, explaining that the old man was at the station and evidently unhappy.

The agent came on unusually early and endeavored to arrange for a light engine to carry the superintendent back to the Junction.

At the end of three hours they had a freight engine that had left its train on a siding thirty miles away and rolled up to rescue the stranded superintendent.

Now, every railway man knows that when one thing goes wrong on a railroad, two more mishaps are sure to follow; so, when the rescuing crew heard over the wire that the train they had left on a siding, having been butted by another train heading in, had started back down grade, spilled over at the lower switch, and blocked the main line, they began to expect something to happen at home.

However, the driver had to go when the old man was in the cab and the G.M. with a whole army of engineers and workmen waiting for him at Pee-Wee; so he rattled over the switches and swung out on the main line like a man who was not afraid.

Two miles up the road the light engine, screaming through a cut, encountered a flock of sheep, wallowed through them, left the track, and slammed the four men on board up against the side of the cut.

Not a bone was broken, though all of them were sore shaken, the engineer being unconscious when picked up.

"Go back and report," said the old man to the conductor. "You look after the engineer," to the fireman.

"Will you flag west, sir?" asked the conductor.

"Yes,—I'll flag into Pee-Wee," said the old man, limping down the line.

To be sure, the superintendent was an intelligent man and not the least bit superstitious; but he couldn't help, as he limped along, connecting these disasters, remotely at least, with general order No. 13.

In time the "unseen signal" came to be talked of by the officials as well as by train and enginemen. It came up finally at the annual convention of General Passenger Agents at Chicago and was discussed by the engineers at Atlanta, but was always ridiculed by the eastern element.

"I helped build the U.P.," said a Buffalo man, "and I want to tell you high-liners you can't drink squirrel-whiskey at timber-line without seein' things nights."

That ended the discussion.

Probably no road in the country suffered from the evil effects of the mysterious signal as did the Inter-Mountain Air Line.

The regular spotters failed to find out, and the management sent to Chicago for a real live detective who would not be predisposed to accept the "mystery" as such, but would do his utmost to find the cause of a phenomenon that was not only interrupting traffic but demoralizing the whole service.

As the express trains were almost invariably stopped at night, the expert travelled at night and slept by day. Months passed with only two or three "signals." These happened to be on the train opposed to the one in which the detective was travelling at that moment. They brought out another man, and on his first trip, taken merely to "learn the road," the train was stopped in broad daylight. This time the stop proved to be a lucky one; for, as the engineer let off the air and slipped round a curve in a canon, he found a rock as big as a box car resting on the track.

The detective was unable to say who sounded the signal. The train crew were overawed. They would not even discuss the matter.

With a watchman, unknown to the trainmen, on every train, the officials hoped now to solve the mystery in a very short time.

The old engineer, McNally, who had found the rock in the canon, had boasted in the lodge-room, in the round-house and out, that if ever he got the "ghost-sign," he'd let her go. Of course he was off his guard this time. He had not expected the "spook-stop" in open day. And right glad he was, too, that he stopped that day.

A fortnight later McNally, on the night run, was going down Crooked Creek Canon watching the fireworks in the heavens. A black cloud hung on a high peak, and where its sable skirts trailed along the range the lightning leaped and flashed in sheets and chains. Above the roar of wheels he could hear the splash, and once in a while he could feel the spray, of new-made cataracts as the water rushed down the mountain side, choking the culverts.

At Crag View there was, at that time, a high wooden trestle stilted up on spliced spruce piles with the bark on.

It used to creak and crack under the engine when it was new. McNally was nearing it now. It lay, however, just below a deep rock cut that had been made in a mountain crag and beyond a sharp curve.

McNally leaned from his cab window, and when the lightning flashed, saw that the cut was clear of rock and released the brakes slightly to allow the long train to slip through the reverse curve at the bridge. Curves cramp a train, and a smooth runner likes to feel them glide smoothly.

As the black locomotive poked her nose through the cut, the engineer leaned out again; but the after-effect of the flash of lightning left the world in inky blackness.

Back in a darkened corner of the drawing-room of the rearmost sleeper the sleuth snored with both eyes and ears open.

Suddenly he saw a man, fully dressed, leap from a lower berth in the last section and make a grab for the bell-rope. The man missed the rope; and before he could leap again the detective landed on the back of his neck, bearing him down. At that moment the conductor came through; and when he saw the detective pull a pair of bracelets from his hip-pocket, he guessed that the man underneath must be wanted, and joined in the scuffle. In a moment the man was handcuffed, for he really offered no resistance. As they released him he rose, and they squashed him into a seat opposite the section from which he had leaped a moment before. The man looked not at his captors, who still held him, but pressed his face against the window. He saw the posts of the snow-shed passing, sprang up, flung the two men from him as a Newfoundland would free himself from a couple of kittens, lifted his manacled hands, leaped toward the ceiling, and bore down on the signal-rope.

The conductor, in the excitement, yelled at the man, bringing the rear brakeman from the smoking-room, followed by the black boy bearing a shoe-brush.

Once more they bore the bad man down, and then the conductor grabbed the rope and signalled the engineer ahead.

Men leaped from their berths, and women showed white faces between the closely drawn curtains.

Once more the conductor pulled the bell, but the train stood still.

One of the passengers picked up the man's hand-grip that had fallen from his berth, and found that the card held in the leather tag read:


"Go forward," shouted the conductor to the rear brakeman, "and get 'em out of here,—tell McNally we've got the ghost."

The detective released his hold on his captive, and the man sank limp in the corner seat.

The company's surgeon, who happened to be on the car, came over and examined the prisoner. The man had collapsed completely.

When the doctor had revived the handcuffed passenger and got him to sit up and speak, the porter, wild-eyed, burst in and shouted: "De bridge is gone."

A death-like hush held the occupants of the car.

"De hangin' bridge is sho' gone," repeated the panting porter, "an' de engine, wi' McNally in de cab's crouchin' on de bank, like a black cat on a well-cu'b. De watah's roahin' in de deep gorge, and if she drap she gwine drag—"

The doctor clapped his hand over the frightened darky's mouth, and the detective butted him out to the smoking-room.

The conductor explained that the porter was crazy, and so averted a panic.

The detective came back and faced the doctor. "Take off the irons," said the surgeon, and the detective unlocked the handcuffs.

Now the doctor, in his suave, sympathetic way, began to question Bradish; and Bradish began to unravel the mystery, pausing now and again to rest, for the ordeal through which he had just passed had been a great mental and nervous strain.

He began by relating the Ashtabula accident that had left him wifeless and childless, and, as the story progressed, seemed to find infinite relief in relating the sad tale of his lonely life. It was like a confession. Moreover, he had kept the secret so long locked in his troubled breast that it was good to pour it out.

The doctor sat directly in front of the narrator, the detective beside him, while interested passengers hung over the backs of seats and blocked the narrow aisle. Women, with faces still blanched, sat up in bed listening breathlessly to the strange story of John Bradish.

Shortly after returning to their old home, he related, he was awakened one night by the voice of his wife calling in agonized tones, "John! John!" precisely as she had cried to him through the smoke and steam and twisted debris at Ashtabula. He leaped from his bed, heard a mighty roar, saw a great light flash on his window, and the midnight express crashed by.

To be sure it was only a dream, he said to himself, intensified by the roar of the approaching train; and yet he could sleep no more that night. Try as he would, he could not forget it; and soon he realized that a growing desire to travel was coming upon him. In two or three days' time this desire had become irresistible. He boarded the midnight train and took a ride. But this did not cure him. In fact, the more he travelled the more he wanted to travel. Soon after this he discovered that he had acquired another habit. He wanted to stop the train. Against these inclinations he had struggled, but to no purpose. Once, when he felt that he must take a trip, he undressed and went to bed. He fell asleep, and slept soundly until he heard the whistle of the midnight train. Instantly he was out of bed, and by the time they had changed engines he was at the station ready to go.

The mania for stopping trains had been equally irresistible. He would bite his lips, his fingers, but he would also stop the train.

The moment the mischief (for such it was, in nearly every instance) was done, he would suffer greatly in dread of being found out. But to-night, as on the occasion of the daylight stop in the canon, he had no warning, no opportunity to check himself, nor any desire to do so. In each instance he had heard, dozing in the day-coach and sleeping soundly in his berth, the voice cry: "John! John!" and instantly his brain was ablaze with the light of burning wreckage. In the canon he had only felt, indefinitely, the danger ahead; but to-night he saw the bridge swept away, and the dark gorge that yawned in front of them. Instantly upon hearing the cry that woke him, he saw it all.

"When I realized that the train was still moving, that my first effort to stop had failed, I flung these strong men from me with the greatest ease. I'm sure I should have burst those steel bands that bound my wrists if it had been necessary.

"Thank God it's all over. I feel now that I am cured,—that I can settle down contented."

The man drew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead, keeping his face to the window for a long time.

* * * * *

When the conductor went forward, he found that it was as the porter had pictured. The high bridge had been carried away by a water-spout; and on the edge of the opening the engine trembled, her pilot pointing out over the black abyss.

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